Archive for March, 2010

Where Have All the Irish Gone?

Ross is gone and work is duller for it. To top it off, Roisin left today as well. I’m running low on Irish friends though for some reason I’m meeting more English people these days. At least I still have the Irish pubs (limited authenticity and all) like Shamrock’s where I went as usual last night and among other things said goodbye to Roisin.

When I got to the pub, I saw that instead of the normal karaoke night, they were instead going to be showing the Manchester United versus Bayern Munich soccer game first. I didn’t mind though I shouldn’t have been surprised as the game was a really big deal. Bayern ended up winning, something the Germans in the bar were thrilled about and the British less so. Inside I said hello to Michael, Lydia and Adam, who were all very much enamored of the game, and got myself a Strongbow.

At one table I recognized a group of Finnish girls but didn’t know any of them well enough to say hello, so I just watched the game for while. Happily, it wasn’t long before Roisin came in, though it was a tad bittersweet as Read more…

Categories: Germany, Personal

The Last Hurrah: Ross Says Goodbye To Munich In Style

The weather seems to have taken a turn for the worse, which is especially unfortunate considering that we have a four-day weekend coming up. There were hints of bad weather, afternoon showers and the like, all weekend, but I really hope the forecast is wrong in its prediction of snow this Friday.  Luckily, the weather held out pretty well this past weekend, Ross’ last in Munich. It feels like it went pretty much non-stop from Friday through last night, not so much several different events, but one long party with occasional restroom breaks.

It all started on Friday. Since his friend was staying over, Roberto took the day off work. I was jealous a bit just because it was so warm and nice out. At work I met the new science writing intern, Claudia’s replacement, a French fellow named Simon. He seems nice enough and I’m glad to have someone to share the workload with, we shall see how it goes. Around two in the afternoon I was chatting with Ross when Lars, the big boss, came down and asked if we were interested in going to a beer garden around four, drinks on him. Surprised but pleased, Ross said yes, and the whole group carpooled to Garching at four. Unfortunately, the amazing weather had taken a turn for the worse, with clouds rolling in and rain starting to speckle the ground. On the bright side, I did see a rainbow, which always puts a smile on my face. At the beer garden, Lars bought us all drinks, giving me a mass (liter) of beer as I walked up. The fifteen or so people there sat under a shelter outside, drinking and reminiscing about Ross and other interns of the past. The owner was in a hurry to close up as beer garden weather time was definitely over so we all had to drink up quickly. Feeling pleasantly light-headed, I went back to my apartment to drop off my bag, and then went into the city to meet Kerre.

Our original plan had been to go the English Garden but as the weather was decidedly against that, we changed those plans in favor of a bar. Though we wandered around for a bit (including into a yarn store Kerre was delighted to find) we somehow ended up at Killian’s just because it was an easy choice. Kerre was hungry and ordered pizza bread with a garlic dip, it was quite tasty. After my mass of beer I was in a drinking kind of mood, as was Kerre, so we ordered a tequila shot each and a Strongbow cider (I’m definitely enjoying cider more since Munich). We had a good time chatting and sharing anecdotes before going on the train, she to get her bike, me to go to Ross’ goodbye dinner. Actually Ross apparently saw us at the train station but we didn’t see him. Leaving Munchner Freiheit, I made my way to the scene of my birthday dinner, Tem Thai, where Ross, Colleen, Claudia, Roberto, and many others from work sat to celebrate Ross’ time at ESO and say goodbye. It was a fun evening: Colleen and Ross sang Claudia’s theme song (the word Dia sung to the tune of Zombies), I had good Thai food, Claudia managed to get stuck in the table for ten minutes, and three hours just whizzed by. We all headed home afterward; saddened to think we won’t hear Ross’ cheerful “what’s the crack?” around us anymore.

Ally had pushed back our Neuschwanstein trip until after the break, so my original plan was to sleep in. Alas, my body disagreed, so I arose around eight, went for a brief run, and then, after saying hello to Roberto and his two friends while they ate a hearty, sausage-filled German breakfast, went into town to run a few errands and buy some things for people back in the U.S. It didn’t take very long, so I went back to Garching to relax, sitting on a bench outside and reading. I hadn’t gotten through many pages before Ross texted me about hanging out in town. I was surprised he was up so early on a Saturday (one in the afternoon), but I quickly assented and once more rode in to town. I met up with Ross and Fraser at Burger King. We tried to figure out what to do, as we left and went to Rewe to get beer for the night. Fraser was excited to find a Rewe so close to his place, as it’s cheaper than Kaufhof. He got a crate of twenty beers and he and Ross and I walked back to his place to drop it off. While we were there I gave Ross his going away present, a beer stein (metal cap and all) with a bas-relief of the Munich skyline around it. He seemed pleased with it, as I’d hoped he would be, combining as it does a souvenir of his time here, and a practical tool for one of his favorite pastimes (drinking).

The three of us left the apartment, but as we couldn’t figure out anything in particular to do, retired to a pub, Hackerpshorr house, famous in a quieter way as Hofbrauhaus for its beer. It was nice enough to sit outside, though it took the waitress twenty minutes to notice us out there. Sorcha joined us a little bit after we sat down and we had a talk about bees and ants for some reason. After our first beer, the wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped so we retired inside for (despite my reservations about the idea) another two beers, and discussions on everything from bizarre “Lord of the Flies” style experiments (proving how boys and girls are both mean, just in different ways) to a detailed discussion of how certain European accents are amazingly helpful in romantic pursuits in America (Ross and Fraser are now planning a trip, possibly to Austin, Texas though I tried to convince them it’d be even better in Seattle and easier in Tucson).

By the time we were ready to go, my head was, if not swimming, at least paddling in a kiddie pool, and it was already evening. Though I hadn’t intended it this way when I went in to town, we weren’t going to meet up again until later, so I once again went back to Garching for a short visit before turning around to go back to Fraser’s for dinner. I barely missed the train I wanted and had to wait a full twenty minutes for the next one, eventually arriving a little before half past eight at the flat, where I said hello to Sven and Mauritz, and hung out with Fraser and Ross (who was drinking out of the stein I noted) and waited for pizza. We amused ourselves on the Internet, looking at girls we had once dated, watching soccer clips that made Fraser quite pleased, and listening to music. Fraser also had to fix the disco ball, which was having trouble spinning until he could adjust the wires. The pizza arrived and we ate up quickly, finishing mere moments before Barbara arrived, signaling the beginning of Read more…

Categories: Germany, Personal

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Spring has arrived in force in Munich. The snow is gone, the temperature rises and the Sun is making regular appearances for the first time since I arrived. It’s a wonderful change, and makes me eager for summer. On the downside, I still work indoors so mostly all I can do is look at this beautiful weather from my desk. I look forward to taking advantage of the weather this weekend though, even though the forecast calls for rain. At work I’ve had some more of my work get published (though as part of an institution like ESO, there’s no name credit). I wrote this story about galaxies, and am reasonably pleased with how it turned out.

I’ve kept busy outside of work as well. After Tuesday’s fun, I thought Wednesday would be an evening in, but instead, Barbara came out to Garching and we went to Lokito’s (famed for the worst Mexican food I’ve ever had) for a beer, then got another and enjoyed the cool evening air. I attempted to read the Dutch translation of The Lost Symbol and did an excellent job, no matter what Barbara might have to say about my accent, my pronunciation, or my general ineptitude.

On Thursday, after working all afternoonon packing up press releases to help the student packer (as an intern, I go where I’m told), I was happy to leave a little early, following Ross out a little before five. I went home and relaxed a bit, and when Roberto came back, met his Welsh friend who is staying with us for the weekend. I didn’t get to talk to him much though because I was on my way out for Toytown, Ross’ last one.

Ross had asked his friends to vote for this week’s event to be at Cocktail House, near Munchner Freiheit, because it’s much closer to his place. We obliged and that’s where I went. I arrived a little before nine, and didn’t see anyone I knew, so I bought a beer and sat in a comfy chair to await the arrival of others. The bar was pleasant, with lots of wood, typical background music, and a 50 page drink menu that raised my eyebrow with its complex and extensive list of drinks.

The first I saw I knew was Jamie, who breezed by so quickly he didn’t see me, so I followed him up to the bar and said hello. He didn’t want to get too girly a drink, so he bought a strawberry daiquiri, with a cherry and melon on the rim (notice my subtle use of irony). Our waitress, whom he referred to as his future wife, seemed unsurprised by his choice. Fraser and Sven walked in not long after. Fraser graciously purchased a round of whiskey sours for me and himself (a taste I’ve acquired recently) and teased Adam, who had come by, for the salad of his mojito.

The bar had started to get a little more crowded in typical Toytown fashion. Out of nowhere, a woman squeezed into our circle and asked to join our conversation. She introduced herself as Molly and said she is the head coach for Germany’s national women’s lacrosse team. As Europeans aren’t very familiar with the sport, she and I explained to the others how the game of nets on sticks works. She pointed out some of the members of her team she had brought (ostensibly to learn English) and Jamie asked his usual tactful questions about them. It was interesting for me to hear from an American who’s been in Munich for a year and a half since she’s experienced quite a bit more of life here than I expect to (including a hilarious story of waking up in the English Gardens alone after sleeping there with a bunch of her team).

Ross showed up, almost tearful over Read more…

Categories: Germany, Personal

Wine and Sing

With Claudia gone, I find I have to work a lot more, but unfortunately not always on things I would like. There’s a new guy starting next week (coincidentally named Simon, although I believe he is French) and I look forward to being able to share some of the load again. I’ve been doing a lot of Photos of the Week captions (like this one), which isn’t too bad, but I’m more excited about the longer releases I am writing right now, and the ones I worked on earlier that are finally coming out soon. I took a much-needed relaxing night for myself on Monday, but yesterday went into town for the weekly karaoke night at Shamrock’s.

When I arrived, Gemma and Rolly had just pulled up on bikes, apparently it had taken them an hour, impressive, especially when Gemma pulled out a nearly finished bottle of red wine from her bag and said she’d started drinking it when they had left. We went in together and I saw Adam, an English guy I had met once or twice, and said hello, but other than that, there were not a lot of people I recognized in the bar. Gemma was kind enough to buy me a drink and I settled near my usual spot and watched the band that had been playing pack up their stuff. Luckily I didn’t have long to wait for more people I knew to arrive. Ross showed up, earlier than I had expected him, apparently boredom drove him from his apartment. We got stools and sat down but no sooner had we begun to talk that I saw Anni, the Laplander, and some of her Finnish friends stroll in. We said hello (as usual I got confused over the hugging versus European double-kiss issue) and they wandered off to get drinks. Ross and I chatted about his excitement over his last week, then Sorcha came in to the bar and joined us, telling amusing stories about their weekend out (apparently it involved lots of vodka and Red Bull). The bar was quite crowded as the karaoke began, the usual mix of good and bad song choices (and good and bad singers) filling the air. Kristyn came into the bar, looked surprised to see Ross, but soon joined us to catch up on what had been going on in our respective lives.

Roisin wandered into the bar, and it was nice to see her although the rest Read more…

Categories: Germany, Personal

Oh Vienna: A Head Without a Body, A Weekend Without Peer, Great Companions Without a Doubt

March 22, 2010 2 comments

“Vienna is a head without a body.” So begins the Vienna chapter of my Rick Steves guide. But exploring the city of Freud and Wagner this weekend was a treat from head to toe for Ally, Kerre, Roisin, and me. Our whirlwind trip somehow managed to be both full of activities and extremely relaxing. Even spending the night sitting in a train on the way back to Munich quickly becomes another fond memory from a weekend full of them.

I wanted to make sure that I got to the train on time, so I left work a little after one in the afternoon, going with Ross who was stopping in Garching to go to the post office. Arriving at Hauptbahnhof with plenty of time to kill, I looked at all the different train destinations and thought about other places I might like to visit. Around three, I met up with Kerre, quickly followed by Roisin, and with Ally arriving just a few minutes before the train was due to leave. Luckily, finding a place for all of us to sit wasn’t too difficult and we all got comfortable for the slightly over four-hour ride ahead. The girls had mostly only briefly met each other, Ally and Roisin hadn’t met at all before, but pretty soon, we were all chatting like long-time friends, telling funny (and occasionally embarrassing stories) and assigning specific dance moves that we might use in a club. The train made a couple of stops on the way to Vienna, after Salzburg, I broke out my surprise, beer for Kerre and I, min-bottles wine for Ally and Rosin (I had planned ahead, no sooner had Ally said she didn’t like beer than wine was sitting in front of her). It was something I had learned was totally normal on German trains during my first weekend here, when I visited Salzburg with Simon, and I think it was well-appreciated now. I showed the girls the Rick Steves chapter I had printed out for the weekend and we all spent a while absorbed with his brilliance and thinking aboutt what we might want to do in town. Among the discussion of life stories, experiences in Germany, and education and work (An M.S., an M. Eng., and two younglings still in university) we decided to liven things up with cards. At first we tried using Kerre’s cool pirate deck, but as it only had 49 cards in it for some reason, turned to my deck. Everyone was impressed with Kerre’s shuffling skills, so much so that it took us a minute to remember we had to pick a game. We played Hearts, which is perfect for four people and a lot of fun (especially when you’re winning of course). The luck of the Irish was not with Roisin alas, though she did nearly shoot the moon accidentally a few times. Before we could finish the game however, we had arrived at Westbahnhof, Vienna (or Wien, pronounced “veen” in German/Austrian).

I had done quite a bit of research on hostels a couple of weeks earlier and picked the Westend Hostel because it was close to the station, fairly cheap, came with free breakfast, and had lots of good recommendations from other 20-somethings. It only took a few minutes to walk there (stopping briefly along the way for Ally to get excited about Kentucky Fried Chicken) and we stepped into the large building, which gave off that real European hostel feel of modern convenience overlaying a very old-fashioned structure. After checking in, we walked up a flight of stairs to our room, which had four sets of bunk beds in it and bathroom inside. There wasn’t anyone else staying there that night, which seemed like a plus, especially with the one bathroom. That’s one of the perks of traveling during the off-season, along with a cheaper rate to stay. We made up our beds with the provided sheets (I finally learned how a duvet works) with me on one bottom bunk and Roisin above me, and Kerre taking the other top bunk above Ally.

Our meal on the train had consisted of chocolate eggs from Ally and gummy peaches from Roisin, along with the wine and beer, so we were feeling rather peckish. We didn’t want to go too far from the hostel that night, so we asked the desk clerk for a recommendation and he told us that the best Read more…

Categories: Germany, Personal

A Quiet Week of Classic Rock and Ping-Pong

With Claudia gone, I’ve been having to take up slack of her work, which isn’t always very enjoyable, since it often consists of tedious checks on various websites for updates and clippings to save. Nonetheless I am getting more writing work at the same time so I’m reasonably content.

This week I took it easy, partly because of stress and partly to save up my energy for the weekend. Even so I went out on both Tuesday and Thursday. Tuesday I met with Chan and her sister Marie at Killian’s where we listened to two guys play a variety of classic American rock and folk songs. They were pretty good, and one of the singers had this strange ruffled shirt that definitely added to the experience. Marie wanted to stay but Chan was feeling antsy so she and I headed over to Shamrock’s for their karaoke night. It was a good time for me, talking to Roisin (who said she would just me, Kerre, and Ally for Vienna), Annabelle, Kristyn, Katherine and all the others. Wednesday was very quiet and I fell asleep early, waking only when Ross called me asking for directions to Shamrock’s (apparently he’d been trying to find it for nearly an hour). Thursday morning, both he and Colleen came in late and regaled me with stories of their evening out involving beer hall owners, champagne, and a bleary-eyed fatigue they couldn’t really hide. I left work a little early so that I could have time for Roberto to give me a haircut. He did an excellent job and I’m quite pleased with how it turned out (and with not having to pay 12 Euro for it). I headed off for the usual Toytown event, this time somewhere called Marie Antoine House Bar (or MAH Bar).

The place is apparently a hostel or apartment building and the bar was correspondingly small and limited. What made it worthwhile was the large game room next door, with foosball and ping-pong. Kerre and Brooke challenged me to a game and even though it was two on one, I beat them handily. As always, many of the women there were Au Pairs, and it turns out five of them were Finnish. I got to know some of them a little bit, and learned about Finland, which was very interesting to me seeing as how most of my knowledge of that country comes from the Monty Python song. There were surprisingly few people I knew there that night, although I did catch up with Roel and Barbara for a while. I was already yawning and thinking about getting up early to pack the next day by 11:30, so I took my leave and headed home.

Today I’m finishing up my work for the week and cutting out early, around 1 to go to the train station and get started on my awesome Viennese weekend. Expect a lot of writing (and a lot of pictures) come Monday and Tuesday.

Categories: Germany, Personal

Indian Food, Nymphenburg, Kids Clubbing, St. Patty

I went out for Indian food three times this week, which is a bit surprising since while I will certainly eat Indian food, it is far from my favorite. The latest time was Friday, when, after work, Roberto, Ross and I shared some wine, then went to Claudia’s goodbye dinner, which was a lot of fun, although I didn’t know many of the people there. Actually it turned out that one here for a short while from Chile actually live right downstairs from me and Roberto. Though some people wanted to go out for a drink after dinner, I begged off and went home. Not only was I completely exhausted, but I had to get up early the next morning.

Bright and early Saturday morning I trudged through the snow and rode to Marienplatz to meet Ally. After a bit of confusion over the best route, we got onto the tram for Nymphenburg, in our delayed, but worth the wait second touristy outing together. All in all, Nymphenburg was impressive (and certainly more cheerful than our somber, if fascinating visit to Dachau). Nymphenburg, once the summer home of the ruling family of Bavaria (and still home to them today) was impressive, in the gaudy, slightly overwhelming way rococo and baroque art can be. The ponds and lakes in front of the palace were mostly frozen, but still boasted dozens of ducks, geese and swans (and I learned Ally apparently hates geese and swans). Only some of the rooms were open to the public but Ally and I both enjoyed looking at the Gallery of Beauties (King Ludwig’s collection of portraits of beautiful women ranging from poor peasants to princesses, mostly brunettes), and some of the art was very nice, though I admit a weakness for neoclassical depictions of gods and allegories. The beds as always were amazingly small, it makes me imagine wars of pygmies and ballrooms filled with overdressed children.

The palace complex wasn’t all open since it was winter (and we will definitely be going back when the weather warms up), but we also visited Amalienburg, the hunting lodge built for one of consorts of the rulers, from which she could shoot pheasant scared up by dogs from the roof. It was like a rich, rococo, white trash heaven, with dog houses under gun racks, dripping stucco with dead animals and guns depicted, a hall of mirrors with more stucco art (“I love the naked woman with the fat belly,” Ally commented), and of course a bed chamber with a slightly saucy depiction of Vulcan making arrows for Cupids to shoot. The other area open was the carriage museum, where we could see the almost grotesquely overdone carriages and sleighs used by rulers, including the never-used wedding coach of Mad King Ludwig II (whom my tour book implied had something going on with the composer Richard Wagner, pictures of whom were included in the gallery, and on whose wedding day the king apparently bawled his eyes out. The upstairs of the building had a neat collection of porcelain, which Ally found much more interesting than me as she apparently loves mugs, and tea, in a way I had thought only possible in bad caricatures of the English. I was surprised how little time it had taken to see everything, though I suppose compared to the Residenz, which  I had visited earlier in my trip, every museum seems small.

Ally was cold and feeling the need for caffeine, so we went back to Marienplatz and went to a small coffee shop, chatting and drinking our beverages for a while, then made plans to meet up later and to go out. I was feeling very motivated, so I took the train to Garching and went to the gym for a while, which was refreshing, and ate a hearty chicken nugget dinner (I love having a microwave again). There was some sort of invitation-only party that some of the group was going to, so instead of the usual meeting up at Fraser’s, I made a vodka and bitter lemon mixture to go and met Ally a little after ten by the Rathaus. We shared the drink (there was plenty) and walked around downtown, window shopping, discussing things she would buy (perfume, jewelry, shoes) and things I would buy (cologne, video sunglasses, iPhone, although stuff I liked she seemed fairly keen on as well). At first forgetting the close proximity of McDonald’s, we at one point used the public restrooms in the U-Bahn, and they were not only the grossest bathrooms I have seen in Germany, but they ranked pretty high on the all-time list as well. Luckily, we did then find a McDonald’s, which, say what you will about its bad points, does at least keep cleanly restrooms. By 11:30 we were both feeling ready to go out and I figured we’d catch up with everyone soon, so we took the train to Kultfabrik.

I’ve heard Kultfabrik compared to a nightclub amusement park, a meat-market for German teenage clubbers, Hell-on-Earth, and a pleasant diversion from real-life. All I can say is that the huge collection of bars, clubs, restaurants, and venues making up the few blocks of Kultfabrik must appeal to a lot of people because every place (and there must have been dozens) was packed. It was nice to change-up to something new though, even if I was disturbed to see obvious 15, 16, and 17-year-olds drinking and dancing in nightclubs at midnight condoned, I’m more Puritan that I want to be sometimes. Ally and I met Barbara (and her random, briefly made “friend” Solomon, “like the skis!” Ally exclaimed) who was still hungover from the night before, but I told her a hair of the dog that bit her would help her headache and gave her some of my drink (I was right, she told me later it worked well).

Eventually we met up with Mauritz, Ross, Fraser, and Jamie, and though the first place we tried was Read more…

Categories: Germany, Personal