Friday, April 30, 2010


It often happens that I will walk past several bakeries, being very indecisive, and then come home empty handed. I tell myself I will go out later to get bread and that it's not that big of an effort. My neighborhood, as nearly any corner of Munich, has loads of bakeries. It seems streets here are typically hairdresser, restaurant, pharmacy, bakery - repeat.

That being said, the bakeries are not created equal. Especially for an elitist bread snob like myself.

The issue is... I think I'm among the few that doesn't love bread. I know, everyone comes and tells me how much they love it, and they go on and on (especially about the pretzels). It has to be really special or really good for me to consider it. I only like certain breads and not the kind that looks like a sponge (you know, the brown one that all of the senior citizens enjoy that they serve up with the obatzda at the biergartens).

To make matters worse I've been forced to get creative. My go to place for bread across town (at the train station) has not had my favorite Tomato Ciabatta / Tomate Panne the last couple times I've been, which is slowly becoming less and less often. Not all is lost though. There is an incredible bakery called Obori in Haidhausen that has answered my wishes.

Epi, Fougasse, baguettes, and of course delicious and gorgeous pastries... they have them all. The Japanese women that own the shop even bring the politeness that is at times lacking here. Even more reason to continually go back.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

life is wonderful

Did you see this John Lewis ad yet... it's so sweet. That little crawling baby is absolutely gorgeous.

Isn't life wonderful?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Auer Dult

It's the time of year again... lots of kitschy tschotskes for sale amidst carney rides and German fair foods at Mariahilfplatz.

The vendors tend to be the same with many of Munich's antique shops being represented. I always appreciate the paper products - old maps, photos, and occasionally interesting books.

I spotted some chairs similar to the ultra Bavarian looking ones at the Alpentraum. With a couple layers of bright paint they could be modernized in no time. They were 65€ each or 4 for 200€... that is if you can resist the temptation to purchase that lovely antler chair next to it. I don't even know where someone would get inspiration to make that monstrosity.

I didn't leave empty handed though. I bought Josh + Mieka a couple of soft pretzel squeak toys. I'm really looking forward to visiting them in June!

Monday, April 26, 2010


Apologies for not responding to emails or writing. Our internet was out this past week, which was interesting, because we also get our TV through internet cable and therefore it was back to less technological entertainment - lots of radio, baking, and the occasional DVD. It was actually kind of nice.

I was able to get more photo editing done and recreate one of the amazing desserts we had in Phnom Penh. They have this really great café called Friends, which helps to give the youth training in preparing and serving food, so they have a marketable skill. I'll write more about it once I get to Cambodia, but it was so fantastic that I bought their cookbook.

The cake is a coconut lime concoction that is served with one of my favorite fruits - passion fruit (Maracuja auf Deutsch). As always I stuck to smaller portions.

We also had tons of passion fruits in the Maldives, so it takes me back to a couple of my favorite locales. Their fruits are enormous compared to what I can get here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stranded Tourists

Since I interact a lot with tourists and the travel industry, I am always hearing stories about people stuck on their holiday - or seeing it for myself. It's probably fair to say many of those won't be visiting the city they are stuck in again anytime soon, if they are able to help it.

Yesterday, virtually my entire group complained about the hotels inflating their rates. One man was originally paying 125€ / night and they increased the prices to 300€ / night. It's not as if every hotel is overbooked since many vendors couldn't even get to the large builders exhibition.

I checked rates myself - right now a room at the Mandarin Oriental costs as much as, or even less than a Holiday Inn! That is ridiculous.

Truth be told I'm slightly sad I'm not trapped in Iceland. I love that place.

(How do you like the vintage Mount Vesuvius photos? It last erupted in 1944. I'm not sure when these photos are from)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Delhi revisted

One of my favorite aspects of our trip to India was our driver. He was so incredibly sweet and one of the only people that didn't expect things from us.

He tried his hardest to speak English, even though he struggled. Whenever we had a new guide we would tell them how great the driver was and offer compliments to tell him, which were unfortunately brushed off. He attempted to narrate things and I'll never forget seeing men carrying a corpse covered in marigolds while others followed behind. He simply said, 'that's death'.

Somewhere in my notebook I have written that the driver was paid 3,200 rupees ($70 USD) a month. He told us that after being curious how much I paid for my custom tunics. It certainly is very humbling.

I could only offer so many 'dhanyavaad' (thank yous). We showed him our appreciation for everything with a large tip. I was honestly sad we had to part ways.

There were several other things I didn't write about before:

- 'Use Dipper at Night' (flash your lights when overtaking) and 'Blow Horn' on the back of nearly every truck along the roads. They were all very colorful and interestingly decorated.

- The Hanuman (monkey) temple. We had seen this temple throughout our stay in coming and going, but we had yet to visit. Right before we left for Nepal we were able to go on what happened to be one of the most holy days in the Hindu faith - Vijaya Dashami, which is the culmination of the 9 nights 'Navratri'. The city was surprisingly very calm and quiet - no honking or crazy traffic.

- At the temple I received a Kalava / nada chhadi bracelet, for Dasara Navaratri, to remove bad fate and evil. I continue to wear it even today.

- Everywhere we read about how awful the Indira Gandhi Airport is, however we were very shocked, because it wasn't awful at all. There were a variety of food options, books in English, air conditioning, and they are even well organized with a separate Hajj terminal.

- It never occurred to me that safety measures weren't in effect more - from scaffolding and buildings that appeared very unstable to babies without car seats. I kept thinking about how many people most likely die from preventable accidents. Unfortunately with so many motorbikes and not so many helmets that has to be a fairly regular occurrence. The thought of reincarnation must give Hindus a sense of peace.

And a funny side note... I was walking down the street after we moved into our new apartment and were getting settled back in Munich.

The kitchen guy was installing everything, but he needed me to go pick something up, so I was walking past my favorite Indian restaurant. Out comes one of the men that works there and he said, 'I thought I saw you walking past'. It was so sweet of him to pop out and say hi. He wanted to know where I had gone for the past few months. I was excited to tell him I had actually visited India. It was definitely one of those it's great to be welcomed back moments.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Fatehpur Sikri + Agra

We set out early in the morning for Fatehpur Sikri. I was surprised to see so many people sleeping virtually everywhere along the roadway. At times it was difficult to look past the poverty to see the beauty of the culture. I kept dwelling on how the poverty could permeate, what it has to do with caste, and how education and tradition collide.

Other interesting things along the journey included: a 'frozen semen bank', children tending to new born goats at the side of the road, and a misunderstanding with our driver - he was saying 'Germany flying back', but it sounded like 'Germany playing dead' and we couldn't figure out what he was talking about. He kept repeating it.

Our final guide was picked up right before we reached Fatehpur Sikri. As soon as he heard that I also give tours he was going on and on about things he thought we'd have in common. Unfortunately having the same profession is where the similarities stopped.

He kept welcoming us to his home and saying if he visited us that we'd treat him the same and that in the Hindu faith a guest was like a God and therefore we should be treated accordingly.

Then he started with some emotional blackmail about how difficult it was being a guide and supporting everyone. He could not believe that I don't get commissions from taking tourists to my favorite places and he felt that I should at least get lunch at a restaurant. The surprising thing was he said he received only a 2% commission from the places he took tourists, which converted is basically 5¢ on $1 USD.

Random notes + photos:
- From Fatehpur Sikri to Agra we passed many fields of wheat, millet, and potatoes. Closer to the city center is dense smog.

- Agra totally thrives on tourist money from the Taj Mahal. In some ways it's good - for example they are trying to cut down on emissions in the area, and therefore people are shuttled to the area. In other ways it's bad - the people are forced to depend on tourists, because 70% of production was moved elsewhere to cut down on the emissions.

- The double pricing is so steep at the Taj Mahal that foreigners are charged 750 rupees ($15 USD) vs. 50 rupees ($1 USD) for locals.

- There is an enormous list of things that are not permitted at the Taj Mahal, including: gum, anything with a USB, books, ipods, lighters, video cameras, and tripods.

- We arrived during a Hindu holiday, so there were tons of families. It took us by surprise when so many people wanted their photos with us. People would literally grab our arms and at one point an entire family surrounded Stefan. I could not stop laughing as I saw them migrate his direction to include him in their family photo.

- The Taj Mahal really can't be captured in photos. It's definitely a striking piece of architecture that glows. It looks like a painting from afar.

- Seeing all of the colorful saris reminded me of confetti. I love the clothing and how it looked against the stark white marble or against the green grass and red pathways.

- Our guide was a bit over the top in wanting us to get photos taken. He suddenly turned into photographer and was racing around from the perfect vantage points. We have some very kitschy photos.

- We were given shoe covers to help preserve the marble.

- The line to get into the Taj was enormous and we definitely didn’t have time. We peered into the cut marble to see inside and then ventured to the back and went in the exit. I felt awful doing so, but I preferred doing that as opposed to using the foreigner excuse and skipping people as our guide suggested.

- There are beautiful gemstones inlaid into the marble and the man power and work that was required to built it is certainly a testament to love. It required 22,000 people and 22 years to complete.

- We really struggled with people instantly thinking that we were rich. It's difficult, because the standards of living are so different as are our priorities and opportunities.

- The begging street children typically targeted me, I assume because I'm a woman, while the sales people always went to Stefan. It's interesting to see that dynamic.

What is your view? Is it fair to charge guests differently, simply because people can afford it? Tourists are using and abusing their resources, yet the thought of charging foreigners more money here would be considered discrimination. Is it redistribution of wealth and therefore, OK?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

sign of the times

After all of the travels it's back to work. I guess work and travel have become synonymous in my world, but never the less I was able to join tourists on their vacation to Salzburg.

It's been a long time since I visited - September to be exact.

That was right before we left for our trip... when I decided it would be fun to take my husband to work and had a crazy awful group, which included the wandering off guy (who by the way was left at Neuschwanstein the next day), and the entire group showing up to the meeting point a good 15 minutes late, which is impressive since they all had marked maps and weren't traveling together.

We made it to the train with about a minute and a half to spare. Thankfully someone took to pushing the Grandma in her wheel chair through the city or we never would have made it. Stefan ended up schlepping some woman's bag of beers back to the train station so we could make it on time, because she decided they were too heavy. They drank their beers on the train and didn't even offer Stefan one for all of his troubles.

All in a day's work. When working with the public, various cultures, or those with so so English skills that sometimes feign understanding nothing surprises me anymore, but it's also the reason I love what I do.

Today I did get an unexpected surprise - one glaring sign of the times. So many stores have closed.

Yes, there are several new places that have opened, but there are plenty of empty store fronts. I'm not really sure I can complain, because I did only partake in window shopping at a lot of them - the gorgeous rose shop (Gerhard Swarovski Rosentury) with the wedding gown made of fresh flowers - gone.

The egg shop... downsized. Don't worry, it is still there, but now those windows that seemed to go on and on filled with beautiful painstakingly decorated eggs doesn't have the same affect in such a small window.

I try not to make a big deal out of the things that people wouldn't know they are missing, but today was different.

I love seeing how the city changes - the scaffolding comes off the cathedral, when an archeological dig is going on, or where the horse carriages will be moved to accommodate whatever is new, but I am surprised the winter was so harsh to so many stores. I know that's the nature of business and new shops will hopefully fill the vacant spaces, but it's a real bummer that this economic crisis has taken its toll on the independent shops - and beautiful ones at that.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Here's a bit about Oslo before I get back to India and our around the world adventure.

Once again, we were blessed to know people that live or have lived in the city, so they could offer us some local tips, which we took to heart. I will include those at the bottom, because they were awesome.

Random observations:
- Surprisingly Oslo isn't that big - just under 600,000 people live there.
- For being so small it's really diverse.
- Yes, it's truly crazy expensive. We read that even workers with seemingly basic jobs receive something like 15€ / hour. A great way to save money is to go on Easter weekend when all of the Norwegians are in the mountains skiing and many of the stores are closed!
- You probably have never seen so many blondes in your life.
- The trend appears to be wearing skinny pants with skimmer shoes and tucking your pants into your socks. I kid you not. I won't be taking part in this even if it trickles down my way.
- With a knowledge of English and German it was, at times, easy to decipher written words - not so much when they were spoken.
- I forgot how much I love Scandinavian TV... they put under titles on and don't dub out the people. It's pretty exciting to have TV from home - all the time.
- For being such a peace driven city it seems so contradictory that they are harboring a known terrorist, because they don't deport those that could face the death penalty.

We spent our days enjoying the blue skies, brisk breeze, and having the city virtually to ourselves, except of course for the sea gulls.

-The city is easy to wander around and has a great network of public transportation ranging from a subway, tram, bus, and boat.
- Buy a "flexi-kort" at any Seven 11 or Narvesan or Deli Delucca...they are 190 kr (24€), and give you 8 rides. Its crazy expensive if you buy a one way trip on the bus...and they don't sell the flexikorts on the bus so you have to buy ahead of time at one of the convience store shops.

- Aker Brygge - While being a bit touristy I actually really like seeing what they are doing with the harbor area. There are plenty of restaurants and interesting architecture in this area.

- Vigeland Parken - The Sculpture Park - the world's largest sculpture park made by one artist. The figures have every emotion you can think of and are often intertwined in every possible way. Angry boy is one of the most beloved here.

- Nobel Peace Center - a great place to read about the Laureates and the book shop is really interesting... it has everything about war, peace, movements, and migrations.

- Munch Museum - This is one of Norway's most famed Artists and a collection of his emotion driven symbolist paintings, drawings, and prints.

- Opera House - This is very beautiful and interactive. I appreciated all of the angles and how it appears as if it's coming out of the harbor.

- Viking Ships at Bygdøy - unfortunately this was closed for our visit, so we went to Hemma Hos instead.
- Walk around Bygdøy towards Paradiso or Huk (both beachy areas)
- Folkemusuem - outdoor museum with Norwegian architecture and traditional dress.

- United Bakeries - a good place for traditional bøller (roll with chocolate or raisins)
- Gødt Brød - sandwiches
- BIT - sandwiches
- Åpent Bakeri - salads, sandwiches, etc.
- Pascal - chocolates + other confections. This is also where Bill Clinton ordered a decaf cappuccino. Unfortunately it was closed during our visit.
- Bolivar Cafe - a favorite place for lunch.
- Frognerseteren - a traditional restaurant in the mountains.

- Delicatessen - Tapas in Grunerløkka. They don't take reservations, so go early and put your name on the list.

- Cafe Hemma Hos in Bygdøy - a cosy cafe with great food.
- Olivia - Italian with nice outdoor seating.
- Hell's Kitchen - beer + pizza in Youngstorget.

- Bogstaveien - street with lots of Scandi brands. Check out the The Shoe Lounge.

And just to give you an idea of how expensive things are, here is what 40€ will get you at the grocery. We stayed in an apartment, so we had means of cooking, although we didn't cook much... if you call heating up tomato soup cooking.

I wish that Wasa would have the same rosemary salt flat bread available here in Germany. They had German on the package, so hopefully I'll find them at a grocery closer to home!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Tomorrow we're back to being wandering nomads with a long weekend in Oslo. If it's anything like other Scandinavian cities that we've visited I'm certain that we will love it. Harbor cities always have a special place in my heart - and it's home of the Nobel Peace Prize!

I'm interested to see just how expensive it is too, because that's always the first thing people say when you mention Oslo.

Thankfully we have some tips from locals and our apartment has a kitchen so we can hit up great restaurants or cook dinner if we see fun things at the grocery. Don't you just love visiting foreign grocery stores?

Hope you have an exciting weekend!