Monthly Archives: March 2012

Familiar faces

Katie and I were ecstatic to have my twin sister and brother-in-law in town this past week. Kim and Bill arrived early Saturday morning and just left this morning, taking with them both German and Danish memories.

We met them at the airport on Saturday, complete with an unnecessary sign that read “Kim and Bill” (we were excited to see family for the first time in three months). We took the train into town, dropped their luggage at our place and hit the streets, making the 2.5-mile trek from Schwabing to the Marienplatz. We made a beeline for the Viktualienmarkt and feasted on brats, pretzels and beer.

I counted to three in German before taking this picture. I think it threw off the timing of Bill's smile.

We took the Metro back to our place so that Bill and Kim could take a much-needed nap. As fate would have it, it rained while they were napping — the only rain we would see for their entire trip. We spent the evening in Schwabing and took them for Indian food at Dhaba, our favorite neighborhood eatery.

We spent Sunday biking around the English Gardens. The Munich transportation system — the same one that operates the trains, trams and buses — also operates a bike rental service. They have bikes scattered throughout the city and, after registering online and putting a credit card on file, all one has to do is call the number on the bike, punch in a code and they’re off. You can rent a bike for the entire day for just 15 Euros (20 dollars). It was a gorgeous day and we were able to bike all over the gardens. We stopped at four different beer gardens (having a drink at two of them) and even spent some time laying out on a blanket with hundreds of other Munchkins. It was a perfect German afternoon. We spent the evening back at our place where Katie made us some delicious turkey fajitas.

We had a bit of a scare late that night. Kim began to get significant stomach pains in the early evening and they intensified as the night wore on. At about 12:30 a.m. we decided to take her to a hospital, fearing that it might be her appendix. Katie called Munich’s emergency number and, because Kim’s condition wasn’t life-threatening, they encouraged us to call a taxi. So we called a cab. As soon as we hung up with the cab company, Bill and Kim started to walk down the single flight of stairs to get to our front door. By the time they got there, the cab driver was pulling up to the door! We’re fortunate enough to have a hospital just blocks away from where we live, so it was a short ride. Katie — who really came to the rescue this night with her German skills — handled all of the paperwork at the clinic’s ER. It wasn’t long before Kim was wheeled into an exam room. To make a long story short, we believe Kim ended up having a ruptured ovarian cyst (something she’s had before). The local doctors ruled out appendicitis with an ultrasound and blood work. It was welcome news as the last thing we (especially Kim) wanted was to have emergency surgery in another country. Going on a trip to Munich only to have an operation done followed by days of bed rest is not an ideal vacation. And despite how wonderful we’ve heard German healthcare is, when the nurse says, “I think she will have her appendix lost tonight,” in broken English, part of you starts to panic.

The hospital itself seemed very barren and lacking patients. It was actually a little creepy. Ever the opportunist, I did manage to snap a few photos with our iPad.

Scene of a horror movie? Or our local hospital? Hmmm ...

Despite the lack of action, we were at the hospital until about 4:00 a.m. We all had flights to Copenhagen, Denmark the next day and had to be up somewhat early. Katie had an earlier flight than all of us (our trip to Denmark was based around Katie having to be at a three-day conference) so she got the least sleep of any of us, but we all managed to catch naps on the plane so that we were able to hit the ground running once in Copenhagen.

We’ll dedicate a future post entirely to the Copenhagen trip (although if you’re antsy you can see some photos we posted online). But for now I will say that it’s an expensive city with a rich history, beautiful waterways, an abundance of cafes/restaurants and a comforting Seattle/San Francisco feel to it. As for its priciness, the good news is that with a little bit of research you can find affordable dining options. The four of us had an amazing time. Katie’s conference went really well, Kim, Bill and I had fantastic weather for our days touring the city, and the four of us enjoyed two fun nights in the city.

A picture of us in front of the Nyhavn boardwalk.

We traveled back to Munich on Wednesday. Kim, Bill and I were back home around 5:30 p.m. and Katie made it in around 11:30 p.m. Weary from travel, we spent that evening indoors and enjoying some much-needed rest.

On Thursday, their final day in Europe, we went back to the Marienplatz to walk around some more and see some of the shops. We also popped in St. Michael’s church before swinging over to the Hofbrauhaus for a liter of beer. We thought about staying for dinner, but decided to take them to the good old Wasserman instead. They got to taste Schnitzel for the first time (they liked it) and have a few final glasses of German beer.

Prost!

This morning came early — a 3:45 a.m. wake-up call to be exact — as Bill and Kim had to make a 6:40 a.m. flight. I rode with them halfway to the airport before seeing them off on their final train. After a couple of big hugs we said our good-byes and I made the lonely walk back to the U2 train to head back home, somewhat surprised at the homesick pain in my heart. It was a feeling that reminded me, despite this trip of a lifetime and the wonderful time we’re having, how nice it will be to return home next year.

And thus ended a week we’ll never forget — nor will we forget any of the days or weeks we get to spend with family and friends that come to visit us. Our trip out here is as much a life opportunity for us as it is for those who come visit. It’s also a nice touch of home for Katie and I who are spoiled with how much we’re used to seeing family. It was good to see familiar faces.

And speaking of familiar faces, five hours after saying good-bye to Kim and Bill, we welcomed our friend Jeff who will be staying with us for the weekend. The forecast is for cold and rain, but Jeff came for the beer and food, so we should be okay.

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Brussels, Belgium

Brussels. It’s a city with a split personality disorder if there ever was one. From the French language to the German influences to the Flemish roots, Brussels comes across as a city that lacks one true identity. Of course, the more positive way to put that is that it’s a city with an incredible amount of diversity — in language, culture and personality. When making this observation to a local man, he commented that Brussels was more like an American city in that regard — full of people from all walks of life.

The notion of diversity extends to the city layout and the quality of its streets and buildings. The central station appears well kept and somewhat new. But the 15-minute walk to Brussels’ main tourist attraction – the Grand Place – takes you down roads that seem somewhat unkept and crowded. The Grand Place and the surrounding area is majestic and leaves no doubt to the visitor that he or she is in Europe. But just a few blocks west of the central square is an area that feels quite rundown and almost unsafe. There’s also a tremendous amount of graffiti in Brussels, something that always causes a city to lose style points in our book.

With that said, we had a wonderful time in the city considered to be “Europe’s capital” (it’s where the European Union’s headquarters are). We arrived on Monday night (an experience we’ve already blogged about) and left first thing on Thursday morning.

Katie had to work all day on Tuesday, so I made the journey into town around 10 a.m. and did as much sight-seeing as I could before meeting Katie back at the hotel before dinner. I immediately walked to the Grand Place, the aforementioned “central square,” one of Europe’s better-known plazas. It reminded me of Munich’s Marienplatz. It’s surrounded by numerous cobblestone side streets filled with shops and cafes. It was sunny for both of our days in town, which meant crowds of people eating and drinking on outdoor patios.

The Grand Place is Brussels' most popular tourist destination.

I walked north through an indoor, two-block gallery of chocolate, jewelry and ornament shops before making my way to the St. Michael and St. Gudula cathedral. I grabbed a quick lunch at one of the many cafes and then topped it off with a Belgian waffle for dessert. Most people load the waffle with ice cream or whipped cream, and then various fruit or candied toppings. I just wanted a plain old waffle. And it was fantastic. The only thing I can think to compare it to is those french toast sticks that Burger King sells as part of their breakfast menu. It’s sweeter than a normal waffle and no sugar is needed. It was super delicious.

After scarfing down the waffle, I made my way to the Brussels Comic Strip Museum. For those who don’t know, I used to be obsessed with comics. I collected them as a kid (still have my entire collection) and used to make my own comics (still have all of those, too). So when I heard that Brussels had a very popular museum dedicated to the invention and history of the comic strip, I knew I had to check it out.

It’s moderately priced (eight euros / 10 dollars) and is definitely an interesting exhibit. But it wasn’t as large as I thought and it ended up being more of a shrine to Belgian cartoonists. I did learn that the Smurfs were invented by a Belgian, along with Tin-Tin.

Afterwards I walked through the Brussels Park (a small park to the east of the Grand Place). I was probably there a couple of weeks too early. The trees weren’t budding yet and the pathways looked a little beaten and unkept. I’m guessing it’s a site to see in the late spring and summer.

Brussels Park with a shot of the Palace of Justice in the distance.

I swung by the Royal Palace before making my way back to the train station to return to the hotel. I met up with Katie and joined her for a work dinner. She and a colleague were meeting with another gentleman and they were kind enough to invite me along. We went to a place called “Le Bourgeois,” one of a dozen cafes with outdoor seating just off of the Grand Place. We sat outside under the heat lamps and had a wonderful meal of — get this — mussels. That’s right. We had mussels in Brussels. We had read about them and how they’re the popular thing to try when visiting the city (complete with a side of french fries — or “frites”). But Katie and I aren’t huge seafood fans and we would have gladly passed on them if it weren’t for the urging of her colleague. So we each tried our own pot of mussels. Mine were flavored in tomato sauce and Katie’s were flavored with garlic. They were much better than we thought they would be. They take on the flavor of whatever they’re cooked in. They’re quite filling, too. Once you get past their somewhat chewy texture, they’re actually not bad. We’re glad we tried them.

"Le Bourgeois." A great place for mussels in Brussels.

The following afternoon Katie was able to set aside a few hours to take a trip into the city herself. I walked her along the same path as the day before, only this time we also went a little west of the city center to see the city’s canal. We’ve written about how rivers can really make city’s shine, so we thought this canal might be more of the same. Unfortunately, it’s somewhat rundown and didn’t have any of the charm that we’ve seen in other cities. To be fair, it’s a canal and not a river. But still … we thought that a lot more could be done with such a long stretch of water.

I convinced Katie to try one of the Belgian waffles (mainly because I wanted another one) and she convinced me to try a full-loaded one. So we got one with vanilla ice cream, strawberries, bananas and chocolate sauce. It was one of the greatest desserts I have ever had. Check it out:

It was as delicious as it looks.

After walking around some more we made our way back to the hotel for a dinner meeting that Katie had. One our way back Katie picked up some authentic Belgian chocolate and I grabbed a few bottles of Belgian beer. Speaking of the beer — it’s strong! I think the lowest alcohol content in any of the beers we tried was 7 and some were in the 9 to 10 range. My favorites were Orval and Westmalle (both Trappist beers) and Katie was partial to the Leffe Blonde. We also tried Lambic beer, a brew unique to Belgium that’s made using the region’s wild yeast. It’s a very bitter/sour beer that tastes a lot like a cider. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t something either one of us could drink multiple glasses of in one sitting.

Our favorite Belgian beers!

As always, more photos can be found on our Flickr page.

We’re back in Munich now and enjoying the company of my sister, Kim, and brother-in-law, Bill, who arrived earlier this morning. We walked around Munich this afternoon and enjoyed brats and beer for lunch. The plan is to grab some Indian food for dinner before making a trip to the Marienplatz to visit some of the beer halls.

More stories as they happen!

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Foogled

You know what it means to be Googled, right? It means someone used Google to look something up about you – to research your past. Well an interesting experience on Monday had us coining a new term – Foogled – and it’s something that people do to themselves (or, perhaps more precisely, something that Google does to them). Here’s a full definition:

Foogled (FOO-gulled): When a piece of knowledge or information acquired from Google proves to be completely wrong, usually causing the acquirer undue stress and inconvenience. 

Allow me to explain …

We’re currently in Brussels right now. Well, to be more precise, we’re currently in a small town called Ruisbroek, just outside of Brussels (I’ll explain in a minute). Katie had to come here for two days of meetings and I happily tagged along. After going through the normal price-hunting exercise of finding the cheapest airfare, we booked flights for Monday afternoon and Thursday morning. Then we had to find a hotel. We turned to our trusted friend, Hotels.com, to begin our search. We noticed prices were a bit higher than what we’re typically used to seeing in the heart of a European city, but a few hotels stood out. One of those was Best Western South. It had an attractive sticker price and free Internet — which is about as picky as we get.

Because we didn’t want to blindly book the room without knowing where it was in relation to the city center, we turned to another trusted friend, Google Maps. We pulled up a map of Brussels, zoomed into the heart of the city and then searched for “Best Western.” Four or five hotels popped up, including “Best Western South,” which, understandably, was the southern most hotel. It was a 10-minute walk from the central train station and main plaza. It was perfect.

Just to be sure, though, we went to Best Western’s corporate website and searched for hotels in Brussels. The Best Western South came up and we took the address from that page and pasted it into Google Maps. The same location popped up. We even asked Katie’s colleague who knows the area well. We sent him the hotel name and he told us that he thought it was fine. We were good to go. Right?

Wrong.

When we landed in Brussels we took a 20-minute train ride into the city and then set out to walk to our hotel. We found ourselves a bit turned around so we asked a line of cab drivers near a hotel where the Best Western South was. None of them had heard of it, nor had they heard of the address. So we walked into the hotel and asked the concierge. He had never heard of it, either. This is when we started to worry. Cab drivers, as knowledgeable as they’re supposed to be, can be surprisingly unsure of their own cities in Europe (everyone uses GPS). Not concierges. It’s their job to know.

So I had the concierge Google the hotel and suddenly we were looking at the same map and location as we were when we booked the room. The concierge, putting the same faith in Google Maps that we had, simply shrugged and wrote down the hotel’s phone number in case we wanted to call them.

We went back out to the cab line and decided that it would be best to have someone drive us there. It was only a short distance and it was getting dark. Our cab driver looked at the address, was predictably puzzled and decided to call the hotel. We overheard a conversation in French that ended with the cabbie turning to us and saying, “I know where to go.”

Away we went. Minutes into the drive we could tell something was amiss. We seemed to be heading in the exact opposite direction that Google Maps had told us to walk. Five minutes passed. Then ten minutes. We got onto one highway. Fifteen minutes. We exited the highway. Twenty minutes. We got onto another highway. At this point I said, “Another highway?” and the cab driver responded in broken English, “Yes. Next time you stay south of city you should take train further south before getting in cab.”

South of the city? Where was he taking us? We soon found out. As he slowly exited the highway at what we can only describe as a pit stop (complete with a gas station and Autogrill), we saw a sign with an arrow that read “Best Western.” We looked in the direction of the arrow and there it was. A building that looked more like a barn than a hotel. The Best Western South.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Best Western South.

We paid the cab driver and went inside to check in, unsure of how we ended up on the side of a highway. While Katie was giving the receptionist our information, I went to the lobby computer to double-check the address on Google Maps. It was showing me what we saw the week before when we booked the room. So I tried something different. I went back to the Best Western website, found our hotel, and instead of copying and pasting the address into Google Maps I clicked on their own map (which seemingly would have been the easier thing to do in the first place, but we’re just so used to using Google) and sure enough – it was indicating that the hotel was just off the highway in the town of Ruisbroek. Ruisbroeck?! Where were we?

I’ll tell you where we were. We were more than a 20-minute car ride to the edge of Brussels. There was no train or bus stop at the hotel. And walking was impossible.

That’s when we started to shift our anger toward Google. We had been Foogled. How could they do this to us? We’re never using Google Maps again! In truth, we don’t know enough about Google Maps to know who’s really to blame. Is it Google? Or is it the hotel? We would assume the latter since 1) Google is usually pretty dead-on with their maps, so why would this one be any different, and 2) the hotel probably gets their fair share of accidental customers with this strategy.

Regardless, we were Foogled. We put our faith in the Google system and it failed us.

Now, as it turns out, the hotel has suited us just fine. It’s really a nice hotel with a good continental breakfast, great Internet and a friendly staff. It’s very new and very clean. We also learned that the reason this hotel’s price stood out, in addition to its location, was because of a major conference going on in Brussels that had driven up downtown hotel prices (300+ Euros per night compared to the 89 Euros we were paying). Those cost savings alone would justify any cabs we had to take. And finally, it turns out that we weren’t stranded on the side of the highway. I learned that with just a 20-minute walk to a bus stop and then a 40-minute bus ride we could get into the heart of the city.

How did I learn that?

How else? Google Maps! Looks like our grudge didn’t last too long. (Although I started to doubt Google Maps when I made that 20-minute walk to the bus stop yesterday. The two photos below are from the path I had to take. Part of me was convinced I was going to get lost never to see gummy bears again. Oh, and Katie.)

Look for another post soon about our time in Belgium. Here’s a sneak preview: the beer is awesome!

I don't see a bus stop. Or a real road. Or any people.

Now this is getting weird.

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True March madness

What is true March madness? Setting an alarm for 2:45 in the morning in order to watch Indiana take on New Mexico State. That’s right. It’s actually 3:30 in the morning right now and my Hoosiers are up 29-20. Thanks to the Slingbox we bought last month, we’ve been able to watch all of the NCAA tournament games. Well, at least the games that aren’t on in the wee hours of the morning. But with Indiana in the tournament for the first time in forever, I wasn’t going to miss the game. If they can build up a big enough lead, I’ll go back to bed after the first half.

We also watched Marquette knock off BYU earlier in the night. It’s weird to experience the madness of March in a country where no one really gives a hoot. Thank goodness for things like Skype and Twitter to stay connected with people back home – and, of course, Slingbox, which allows us to watch the games in the first place.

In other news … Katie and I booked a trip to Brussels for next week. She has to be in Belgium for several work meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday. We’ll leave on Monday afternoon and come back on Thursday morning. I’m looking forward to partaking in my fair share of waffles, chocolate and beer. Some of the best beer in the world hails from Belgium. I even promise to try the dark stuff if they tell me it’s really, really good! Not sure exactly what we’ll see when we’re there. We need to research the city a bit more and a lot of it will depend on how much free time Katie has.

When we get back to Munich after the Belgium trip, we’ll have just a couple of days before my sister, Kim, and brother-in-law, Bill, arrive. They’re here until the 29th and their stay will include a two-day excursion to Copenhagen, Denmark! Really looking forward to that.

Other than that, Katie and I are enjoying the arrival of spring in Munich. We’ve had weather in the 50’s and 60’s the past few days and it’s shaping up to be a really nice weekend. We’re putting our bikes to good use, too. Although I got us into a bit of a pickle this week when I locked Katie’s bike to someone else’s bike at the grocery store. I was unable to reach the bike stand from behind the bikes, so I walked around some bushes to try locking the bikes from the front of the stand. Well, by the time I got there I wasn’t paying attention to the bikes I was locking up (they all look the same over here). I ended up locking Katie’s bike to someone else’s bike (instead of mine). We were in the store for a good 20 minutes so it’s conceivable the woman had to wait the entire time. Since Katie speaks the language, she had to bear the brunt of her anger (and not-so-nice words). I just laughed it off and apologized.

I’m also putting the keyboard Katie bought me to good use. Right now I’m working on a lot of Concert for Life stuff. With so many visitors coming between March 23 and the time we leave for Milwaukee, I won’t have as much time to plan for the show in the weeks leading up to it. So I’m doing what I can now.

Finally, you may have noticed that we started a Visitor’s map in addition to our Travel map. And we added a photo of us with our friend Leah who visited us earlier this week. It’s from our trip to the Hofbrauhaus. We got to the Marienplatz early enough to see the famous glockenspiel, too. It normally goes off only at 11:00 a.m., but in the warmer months it can also be seen at Noon and 5:00 p.m. It was actually a little underwhelming, but neat nonetheless. Not sure why people come from all over the world to see it, but to each their own.

Tons of tourists turn out every day to see the glockenspiel in the Marienplatz.

This blog is much longer than I ended it to be. The second half of the Indiana game just started (too close of a game to turn in early). I’m going to cheer them to victory before heading back to bed.

More soon!

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Rainy Sunday

Greetings from cold, rainy Munich! Mother Nature’s German friends can’t make up their mind. We keep see-sawing between 50’s and sunny and 30’s and rainy. Today it’s the latter. Ever mindful of what’s going on back home, we do keep our eye on the Milwaukee weather. From what we can tell, we picked the wrong “winter” to miss! We hope you’re all enjoying the mild March.

Despite today’s dreary climate we still made the 20-minute walk to Leopoldstrasse to see Munich’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. It lasted about 20 minutes and wasn’t terribly impressive. Perhaps the weather had something to do with that. But we also wonder if St. Patrick’s Day in Germany isn’t as big of a deal as it is back in the States. Since Ireland isn’t some “faraway magical place” for Europeans and with the heightened since of national pride that exists over here, it’s possible that people don’t get that caught up in celebrating someone else’s culture. Perhaps St. Patrick’s Day in Europe is celebrated primarily by those with Irish roots.

It was too wet for the camera, so I was unable to take pictures of all the dancers, flute players and people dressed as if they were going to a Robin Hood theme party. We did manage to score an Ireland key chain and some mini Guinness flags. I also opened up to Katie about my fear of Irish dancers (it’s the matching hair that creeps me out).

We’re back at our apartment now awaiting the arrival of our friend Leah. She was in Zurich for a couple days on business and decided to make a two-day stop in Munich before heading home. I sure hope the weather clears up for her, although tomorrow’s forecast appears to be more of the same. A city like Munich is best seen by walking around or by riding a bike — both of which are hard to do when it’s cold and rainy.

Leah will be our second visitor in as many weeks. Last week we enjoyed the company of Kate, the younger sister of a college friend. I took Kate to the Marienplatz on Monday night while Katie stayed back for a conference call. She met up with us later and the three of us went to the Hofbrauhaus. During the day on Tuesday Kate went to see the Dachau concentration camp, which is just outside of Munich. It’s definitely on our list of places to see. Later that night we had dinner at the Wasserman in Schwabing. Kate got to see the English Gardens on Wednesday and we joined her for lunch at the Chinesischer Turm beer garden (one of Munich’s most popular).

It was nice to have an English-speaking friend for a couple of days.

That’s all for now. We’ll be tuning in to Selection Sunday tonight to see what bracket spots Marquette and Indiana land in. We’re also ready to enjoy two weeks of a six-hour time difference with all of you back home. Germans don’t set their clocks ahead until March 25.

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Lost in translation

Thought I would share an experience from tonight that was either an example of conversation lost in translation or the lower standard of customer service in Germany. As to the latter, Katie and I have noticed that many people here — whether working at a restaurant, a grocery store or a call center — simply aren’t as thorough when providing customer service. They’re not blatantly rude. They just seem to believe that it’s not part of their job to go out of their way to help their customers.

We’re currently hosting our first visitor — Kate, the younger sister of my college buddy Jeff. Kate is studying in Rome for the semester and is on her spring break. She was in Berlin before Munich and leaves tomorrow for London. Her friends weren’t interested in visiting Munich, so they hung back in Berlin. They’ll all reconnect in England tomorrow night. After a fun night at the Hofbrauhaus last night, we thought about staying in tonight and having a nice home cooked meal. But in the end we decided to take Kate to our favorite local restaurant, the Wasserman — another opportunity to have an authentic German meal.

When it came time to order drinks, I opted for a nice, ice cold glass of Pepsi. (I was still digesting the beer from the night before.) When the drinks came, I was handed mine and told by the waitress that it was “cola light” — or Diet Pepsi. Here’s how the conversation proceeded from there:

Me: “Cola light? Oh, sorry. I ordered a regular Pepsi.”

Waitress: “This is cola light.”

Me: “Right. But I ordered a regular Pepsi. Um, ‘cola normal.'”

Waitress: “No, this is not cola normal. This is cola light.”

Me: “Okay, but I asked for a regular Pepsi.”

Waitress: (Looks both confused and annoyed.)

Katie: “Matt, maybe you should try the drink. It could be a regular Pepsi.”

So I took a tiny sip and determined it was in fact Diet Pepsi. So I turned back to the waitress.

Me: “Yeah, this is cola light.”

Waitress: “Yes.”

Me: “But I ordered a cola normal. Can you take this back and bring me a regular Pepsi?”

Waitress: “I can’t do that. You already took a sip of this one.”

Really? I proceeded to tell her that I only took a sip to see if it was regular Pepsi or Diet Pepsi. I told her that it wasn’t what I originally ordered. She looked at me disapprovingly and said, “I’ll have to check with the bar to see if we can get you a new drink.”

So if I hadn’t taken a sip they would have given me a new drink? What would they have done with the old Diet Pepsi? Given it to someone else? It’s almost as if she wanted me to take a sip so that she could stick me with the drink. I don’t mind Diet Pepsi, so I could have just kept it. But I also know that a glass of soda costs a restaurant all of one penny. So what’s the big deal if they pour me a new glass?

The entire time that dialogue was going on, Katie was interjecting in German and explaining what I was trying to say in English. But the waitress still seemed to not understand. At the end of it all, we honestly couldn’t tell if the waitress was just really, really confused or if she was simply not wanting to deal with such high-maintenance customers.

In the end I was given my glass of regular Pepsi, which hopefully no one spat in along the way. And when my salad came with dressing (I hate dressing and forgot to ask them to put it on the side), I kept my mouth shut and forced down the food I was given rather than ask for a new one.

The moral of the story? Order beer.

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Two months in

This coming week Katie and I will celebrate two months as Munchkins. (And I do mean celebrate. We’ll find any excuse to go out for dinner and beer.) Time continues to go by incredibly fast. Even this past week which was rather uneventful flew by.

This past week wasn’t entirely without news, though. We bought bikes! We figured we’d shell out a few hundred Euros to increase our transportation options for the rest of our stay here and then sell them back to the same shop when we leave. In the end, it will be cheaper than if we had rented them. We also took this as an opportunity to scout out the local hospital for when Katie inevitably breaks her 11th bone. And she taught me how to say “hospital” in German — Krankenhaus!

You can get around in Munich pretty easily on a bike. Many of the roads have dedicated bike paths or lanes and drivers and pedestrians are used to weaving around people on bikes. We took advantage of the nice weather (upper 50’s and sunny) and biked throughout the city, including our first visit to the English Gardens. We only pedaled through a portion of it and loved what we saw — a giant pond, man-made canals, a few beer gardens with live bands playing for beer-drinking, pretzel-eating patrons, acres and acres of land and hundreds of people. We even stopped to watch a dozen or so people in wet suits who were surfing at a point in the canal where the water looked more like a rapid. We’ll take some pictures once things turn a little greener and give you a blog post dedicated entirely to the gardens.

I also just finished a feverish exchange of emails with a guy in Munich who’s selling his keyboard. After trying (unsuccessfully) for two months to find a place with a piano where I could play for free, I finally decided that I would have to buy an electric keyboard. I found one on Toytown Germany – a community/news website for Germany’s English-speaking crowd – and talked the guy down to a price I could afford (you know, for an unemployed house husband). Just like the bikes, we’ll sell it back before we leave unless I fall in love with it and bring it back home with me. It’s supposed to have some pretty impressive recording capabilities and instrument sounds, so that could keep me quite busy.

This morning Katie and I went to our first English-speaking Mass in Munich. We traded in the architectural splendor of the century-old churches we had been going to for a service we could actually understand (well, that I could actually understand — Katie did just fine at the German services). The Mass we went to today was on the fifth floor of an old office building. The congregation was a melting pot of English speakers from throughout the world. As far as we could tell, we were the only Americans in the room (there were about 50 people total). Despite its humble appearance (we felt like we were in the bingo room of a neighborhood community center), the people running the parish did an impressive job of transforming the room into a worship space. The music was quite good (two guitars and a pianist), the parishioners were friendly (we were identified as “newbies” and kindly welcomed) and the homily was enjoyable. We plan on trying out a few other English-speaking services — they’re all part of the same “mission” — but anticipate going back to today’s location soon.

Tomorrow we welcome our first official visitor (not counting the people from Katie’s work who have come out for conferences). Oddly enough, we’ve never met her. She’s the younger sister of my good college friend, Jeff, and she’s making a two-day stop in Munich during her semester abroad (she’s studying in Rome). We told her she could crash at our place to save on lodging costs. One of the sights-to-see on her list is the Hofbrauhaus and something tells me we’ll gladly join her there on Monday or Tuesday night. : )

Guten nacht!

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