Munich Marathon

It’s marathon season. You need not look any further than your Facebook feed for proof of that. Seeing several of my friends post photos of themselves or their friends basking in their own marathon or half-marathon completions made me wish that I had gone through with one this year. I came close, actually. Back in the spring when I was starting to log some decent mileage, Katie and I found out about the Munich Marathon and thought it would be perfect. But the reality of our travel schedule (and visitors) eventually made me think I wouldn’t have the time to dedicate to training. (And there’s nothing worse than running a marathon without the right training.)

But I digress …. The point of this post is to show a few pictures from today’s Munich Marathon that Katie and I, while not official participants, decided to check out as fans. The weather and course could not have been more ideal for long distance runners. The Munich course is very flat and takes runners through the picturesque English Gardens, the famous Marienplatz and ends by passing through Olympic Park. Coupled with a runner-friendly 55-degree day — a perfect Autumn day, if you ask us — it probably made for an ideal marathon. I mean, if you’re going to run 26+ miles, you might as well do it on a flat course with cool temperatures.

Runners crossing a bridge in Munich’s Olympic Park.

All runners — for the full marathon, the half marathon and the 10K — finished in the Olympic Stadium with their final 400 meters taking place around the same track that once hosted the finale of the Olympic marathon.

Inside Olympic Stadium where all of the races finished.

Katie and I shared a brat and radler (half beer, half lemonade) and sat in the sun-soaked stands as we watched the three-hour finishers (the race started at 10 a.m. and we got there around 1 p.m.). We stayed for an hour in order to see the finishers of the half-marathon. That race began at 1 p.m. and the winner sprinted by — darting in and out of marathon finishers — at about 2:10 p.m. So the runner was going at a pace just over five minutes per mile. Not too bad.

One moment that stuck out for both of us was seeing a man stumble with about 200 meters to go. He had to be helped to the sideline by his three co-runners. As he was in the process of being laid down on the ground, the female runner he was with quickly — without missing a beat — unsnapped the time chips from the shoes of her friends and went on to finish the race while her two friends tended to the fallen runner. This meant that the three runners who didn’t technically cross the finish line would still have a registered finishing time — and that all four of their times would be equal. About 10 minutes after this happened we watched as the woman returned with three medals — one for each of her friends. It was a cool thing to see.

You know what else was cool to see? All of the marathon finishers with pretzels and weiss beer. That made me wish even more that I had run the race.

This man did not understand why I was taking his picture.

There was one other thing that stood out today. Later on, after we left Olympic Park, I biked into the Marienplatz to meet a friend of mine for a beer who recently moved to Munich. I rode down the traffic-free Leopoldstrasse because it was still blocked off for the race. But the only runners I saw were the back-of-the-pack few who were struggling to finish the race. The crowds were more or less gone and in the distance  you could see big trucks beginning to pick up the street dividers. But here these runners were, still chugging along, determined to meet their goal of a completed race. I found myself shouting words of encouragement, knowing that the path ahead of them likely seemed uphill and long. I admired their strength and determination. It reminded me that most runners in these races run them to finish them. Their race time isn’t as important as crossing that finish line.

I hope all of the runners from today’s race feel proud of what they accomplished. And if nothing else, I think they’ve officially convinced me to give marathon #3 a go next year!

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Today was a day of much-needed rest for the people of Munich — and their livers. That’s because today – for the first time in over two weeks – there was no Oktoberfest to attend. After 16 straight days of beer, pretzels, sausage, music, lederhosen and dirndls, the world’s greatest festival has come to a close.

Katie and I made it out to the Thereisienwiese grounds on four separate occasions and loved every second of it. Oktoberfest (also known locally as “Wiesn”) is just as we remembered it from our 2010 trip and this year was even better given our company and, of course, our choice of attire:

Becoming more and more German with each passing day (and beer).

I tell everyone that Oktoberfest is essentially the Wisconsin State Fair, but with beer tents. When you’re outside of the tents, you’re surrounded by food vendors, games, rides and merchandise kiosks. The grounds are laid out in the shape of a ladder, with two main streets and several smaller connecting streets (the rungs of the ladder, if you will). The festival itself is free to attend, too. Unlike similar festivals back home, which charge an entry fee, Oktoberfest has no cover charge.

The beer tents themselves aren’t tents at all. They’re actually massive buildings that can hold up to 10,000 (drunk) people. And get this — they aren’t permanent structures. These buildings are constructed every year (they begin in the summer) and torn down as soon as the festival ends. If you go to the grounds in the winter or spring you’ll see nothing but an empty plot of land. I’m not sure of the logic behind that, but it’s how they do it.

The Paulaner beer “tent.”

It’s upon stepping inside of a tent that you feel as if you’re at Oktoberfest. Your eyes are greeted with thousands of happy, loud, friendly, mostly-drunk people standing on top of tables singing along with a 10+ person band playing in the middle of the room. The band is usually playing American and British hits from multiple decades over the past 50 years, making it quite enjoyable for English-speaking attendees. There’s little room to maneuver and the tents can get quite hot. You have to get there super early (by 3 p.m. on the weekdays and 10 a.m. on the weekends) if you want any chance of finding an open table. We actually preferred standing along the outer rails where it was a little cooler, so arriving to the grounds in the evening hours was not a problem.

Welcome to Oktoberfest.

Each of our visits was a little different. For our first trip we took my mom and step-dad during one of their nights in Munich. The four of us crammed into a picnic table outside of the Augustiner tent and feasted on a dinner of roasted chicken, sausage and fries. We washed it down with a couple of shared Maß’s (“mass’s” — the big glasses that hold a liter of beer). Then we walked around the entire fair before stopping for apple strudel and roasted cashews. This was the night that Katie and I debuted our German ensembles.


We returned a couple of days later with our friends Dan and Leah who came to Munich after a few days in Rome. We got to the Fest late that night and, because it was our first chance to really talk with them since welcoming them to Germany, we opted for another outside table — this time at the Schottenhamel tent — so we could enjoy our beers in an environment conducive for conversation. The Schottenhamel tent is the festival’s most famous. It’s where the mayor of Munich famously taps the first keg and gives permission to all of the other tents to start selling beer. This tent held only 50 people back in 1867 — now it holds around 10,000!

The following two visits — on back-to-back nights — had a slightly different feel. By this point Katie’s good friend, also named Katie, had made it to Munich in surprise fashion. (By the way, major props to Katie for going to Oktoberfest on her first night in town despite the jet lag!) The five of us spent both nights in the tents — the Hacker-Festzelt tent on the first night and the Hofbrau tent on the second night — and passed the hours by belting out American songs, meeting fellow lederhosen- and dirndl-wearing locals, and toasting (“prosting”) everyone in sight. We had little issues getting into a tent on Monday night (though the tables were still jam packed), but when we went back on Tuesday night, the entire festival seemed twice as crowded. It took us a good 20-30 minutes of waiting outside of the Hofbrauhaus tent before we were let in. We almost left the festival because every tent had crowds of people waiting outside trying to get in. We learned, though, that if you wait long enough, they eventually let new people in.

Leah, Dan, Katie, Katie and I in the Schottenhamel tent on Monday night.

The two Katies thought it would be fun to try out some of the rides. The first night we rode one of those “Giant Drop” like towers which actually offered a pretty nice view of Munich. It probably would have been even better during the daytime. The following night I got dragged onto one of those Haunted House rides where you sit in a car riding through total darkness while things jump out at you. It’s even more intense with a few beers in your system.

I also discovered the most delicious pork sandwich I’ve ever had — the Schweinesteak. It’s a grilled piece of seasoned pork served on a roll. And it’s delicious. I had one on the first night and two on the second night.

One other thing. I know the alcohol has something to do with it, but the people at Oktoberfest — regardless of where they come from — are all so friendly. It’s pretty amazing that so many people (6.4 million came to Oktoberfest this year) can come to one small plot of land for the sole purpose of drinking and do so in such a relatively peaceful manner. Of course, there are fights here and there, but for the most part it’s very orderly.

I hope that 2012 won’t be the last time Katie and I get to experience Oktoberfest. But having been five times in the past three years will last us for quite a while. And as fun as 2010 was, being able to share it with friends and family made the 2012 version that much better.

As always, more pictures are on our Flickr page.


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Rothenburg, Germany

If you ever ask someone to recommend a really “German-looking” town to visit, chances are they’re going to tell you to go to Rothenburg. It’s a well-preserved medieval town about a 2.5-hour drive northwest of Munich. We made the trip last week with my mom and step-dad, spending about four hours walking around the city.

Don’t let the term “medieval town” influence too much of what you think of it. It’s not like a castle town from “Game of Thrones.” It’s essentially a quaint, traditional German town with a medieval city wall surrounding it. Arched passageways, cobblestone streets and alleys that twist and turn throughout the town heighten its charm. We felt as if we had stepped into a Disney cartoon (think “Pinocchio”).

A town Hansel and Gretel would have been proud to call ‘home.’

We spent a good hour strolling through the streets, visiting the main Marktplatz square, popping in a couple of stores (where Jim and my mom bought a beautiful sketch of the town by a local artist) and taking dozens of pictures.

Eventually our stomachs told us it was time for lunch. Katie – who has yet to fail when it comes to finding good restaurants in Europe – let us to a place called “Burgerkeller” (no, they don’t sell burgers). It’s a tiny basement restaurant run by a very kind man who serves as both host, waiter and cook (or so it seemed). Now, we’ve had a lot of German food this year. A lot. And this was, by far, the best German food we have had. We each had something different – roasted pork, spicy sausage, fresh salad and wiener schnitzel – and everything was better than any earlier version we may have tried elsewhere. It was all so fresh and delicious. Of course, I washed my meal down with a weiss beer, enjoying a Bavarian brew I hadn’t tried before: “Herrnbrau.” The owner was kind enough to let me keep the glass.

After lunch we continued our exploration of the town. We popped in St. Jacob’s cathedral, the largest church in the town, and marveled at the church’s 500-year-old wooden altar. Afterwards, Katie and my mom spent some time in the Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas store. This was a must-visit for Katie and she found a few more ornaments for our tree. While they were shopping, Jim and I visited the morbid-but-cool-sounding “Medieval Criminal Museum.” It was a couple floors of old torture machines and exhibits on “medieval forms of law enforcement.” This included iron maidens, executioner swords and chairs with spikes on the seat. The museum was of particular interest to him given his legal career. We both commented on how happy we are that the law has evolved from what it used to be!

No visit to Rothenburg would be complete without strolling down to the town’s most photographed spot (and one of the most photographed spots in all of Germany). It’s just a few steps off of the main square and is an image that Katie and I have seen on numerous guide books and travel posters.

No, we’re not at Disney World.

On the walk back to the car we stopped for a couple of snowballs. Well, “schneebällen,” to be exact. These little pastries are a Rothenburg invention. They’re essentially just strips of dough clumped into a ball and then coated in various toppings. I thought they were pretty good, especially the hazelnut one.


It was a delicious way to end our quick visit to the most German-looking town we’d ever been to (although Riquewihr – located in France, ironically – is up there).

More photos from Rothenburg are on our Flickr page.

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Zugspitze (gesundheit!)

There are three things I have been meaning to write about — our trip to the Zugspitze mountain peak, our visit to Rothenburg and, of course, Oktoberfest. But I didn’t want to cram them into one, giant post, so I’m breaking them up.

We went to the Zugspitze with my mom and step-dad when they were out here last week for a 5-day visit (which came on the heels of a few days on their own in Barcelona). It was so much fun to have them out here for that week and they certainly did and saw a lot. On a personal note, I really enjoyed the one-on-one time with both of them. I don’t get to see either of them very often even when I’m in the States, so I relished the opportunity to hang out with them.

The Zugspitze was something Katie told me about months ago when we first got to Munich. She said it was something we absolutely had to do before the year was up. It’s the highest point in Germany, way up in the Bavarian Alps. It’s part of the Wetterstein Mountains and sits a lofty 2,962 meters (almost 10,000 feet) above sea level. It sits just south of the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, about an hour and a half from Munich.

We rented a car and drove to the Zugspitze’s own train station in Garmisch (which is separate from the town’s central train station). Getting up to the peak requires a ticket (not cheap — about $60/person — my mom and step-dad generously treated us to our tickets) that allows you to take the train one way and the cable car the other way. All passengers, though, have to take the train from Garmisch to the Eibsee (a very cool mountain lake) since the cable car starts there. Once you’re at the Eibsee, you can choose which vehicle you take in which direction. From there the train takes about 45 minutes to get to the base of the peak whereas the cable car takes about 10 minutes.

Since we had a car, we drove to the Eibsee (otherwise it’s another 30-minute train ride from Garmisch to Eibsee) and decided to take the train up and the cable car down. We heard that taking the train up was better for people who might experience altitude sickness and that it offered a better view. The downside to taking the cable car down is that there’s often a long line, but we were lucky in that regard.

As the train climbed, we were treated to some breathtaking views of the Eibsee.

The Eibsee. (I bet the water was really cold.)

Once we reached the base of the peak we found ourselves in the midst of a small visitor’s center, a nice cafeteria, a smaller coffee house and a church. This point is just beneath the main peak, but still offers incredible views looking north.

We think the vehicles had something to do with smoothing out the ski slopes.

We grabbed a quick lunch in the cafeteria, checked out the church (small, quaint and with an amazingly beautiful crucifix) before taking the 3-minute tram ride up to the top of the mountain. It was during this point that we noticed hikers who were taking the extremely vertical-looking path up to the top of the Zugspitze.

The tram is faster.

Once we made it to the top, we had to climb a couple of flights of stairs before we were out on the observation deck. Words cannot describe the beauty of what we saw at that point. To be so high up and looking DOWN at everything around you isn’t something you get to experience every day. I was high up in the Andes Mountains when I hiked to Machu Picchu back in 2004, but that was only 8,000 feet. This was another 2,000 feet above that! It was a mostly sunny day (we needed our sunglasses!) and they said that visibility was about 120 kilometers. On really clear days they say you can see all the way into Italy.

Needless to say, we got plenty of photos:

It was surreal to be looking DOWN at the top of a mountain.

Looks like the Paramount movie icon.

On top of the world!

After walking around for awhile, we ducked into a small restaurant for some coffee to escape the cold (it was freezing up there). After that we walked over to the tram, waited for about 10 minutes, then took a brisk 10-minute ride down to the Eibsee where we hopped in the car and headed back for Munich. We stopped in Garmisch on the way back and spent a few minutes walking around the town.

The Zugspitze was an amazing experience. To anyone who has an appreciation for nature (and the extra money to spend), I would say it’s a must-see. The world just seems a little different when you’re that high up. Since we’ve done it, there have been several occasions where we’ve looked at the Alps in the distance and said, “Can you believe we were at the top of that?”

It was an experience we’ll never forget. You can see more photos on our Flickr page.

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A surprise visitor

We have a lot to catch everyone up on. Since we last blogged, we have been to Liechtenstein, Rothenburg and the Zugspitze mountain peak, as well as made return trips to Neuschwanstein castle and Salzburg, Austria. We also went to an amazing High Mass at St. Michael’s (for the feast of St. Michael) and have been to Oktoberfest three times. My mom and step-dad were out here for a week and our friends Dan and Leah are just wrapping up several days in Munich.

Again — lots to catch you up on!

But while I work on uploading photos and writing down all that we’ve seen, I have to share this video. Yesterday, our good friend (and Katie’s longtime friend) Katie Cary made a surprise visit to Munich. Well, I knew she was coming, but Katie had absolutely no idea. We decided to keep it from her so that we could pull off an epic surprise for the girl who claims she can’t be surprised. Naturally, we captured it on video. It’s pretty fantastic.

Here’s the link in case you don’t see it below.

More to come!

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Barcelona, Spain

We spent this past weekend in Barcelona, Spain, where we met up with my college roommate, Dave, and his wife (and also a college friend of mine), Kelly. They came to Europe to celebrate their five-year wedding anniversary — their first time back on the continent since their honeymoon. We also met up with Dave’s good friend, Jeff, and his wife, Melissa. The two of them are from the States, but they’ve been living in Dublin, Ireland, for the past 18 months. It was fun to spend a couple of days with fellow ex-pats!

We flew into Spain on Vueling, a Spanish airline that seems to straddle the line between mainstream carrier and low-budget. It was a pleasant trip without incident. We’d definitely use them again if the price was right. We then caught a shuttle bus from the airport into the heart of Barcelona where we met up with Dave and Jeff and were escorted to our apartment.

The place they picked out was on a tiny pedestrian street just off of the famous La Rambla boulevard. It was spacious, came with three bathrooms and a kitchen, and had a pretty sweet view of the hustle and bustle below.

The side street of our hotel, with La Rambla street in the distance.

Shortly after dropping off our bags we made our way to a flamenco show to take in a nice Spanish dinner while watching classic Spanish dancing. Both the food and the dancing were great — a little touristy feeling, but great nonetheless. It’s definitely a popular thing to do when visiting the region.

We followed up the entertainment with some gelato before heading back to the apartment for some down time.

The following day we set out for the famous Sagrada Familia by way of a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city. The church became the life’s work of a local Catalan architect by the name of Antoni Gaudi. He worked on it from 1883 until his death in 1926 (he was tragically killed by a city tram). And get this — because the church uses only private donations to fund its construction, it’s still not done! 130 years after breaking ground, the building is still far from complete (they say it’s about 60% done).

But that doesn’t prevent visitors from enjoying what’s already there. Two of the building’s three exterior facades are finished (Passion and Nativity — only Glory has yet to be built). Each facade depicts scenes from the Bible and Jesus’s life that fit either of the three themes. The Passion facade is very plain and modern looking, whereas the Nativity facade is very intricate and “busy.” I liked the style of the Passion one better.

All of the statues on the Passion facade carry solemn, pained expressions.

Within the building, it’s impossible to take your eyes off of two main features: the stained glass windows and the tree-trunk-like columns that rise up to meet the ceiling just like a tree’s trunk would meet the branches and leaves above. It was the effect Gaudi was going for and he pulled it off perfectly.

The view looking straight up.

The stained glass windows are everywhere. Their patterns may not be the most complicated I’d ever seen, but the light that shone through produced a richness of color I’m not sure I’ve ever seen with stained glass before. It was a beautiful thing to see in person.

These look even better in person.

I also really liked the crucifix that hung over the altar and the massive choir lofts that sat on either side of the church near the back. The church became a minor basilica in 2010 after Pope Benedict XVI made a visit — pretty interesting considering the church is barely half done. We each had to pay 18 Euros ($23) to get in, but we felt better about it once we were told that the money goes to help finish the church. Every little bit helps, I guess.

After grabbing a sandwich nearby, we hopped back on the bus and rode around a good chunk of Barcelona. We eventually hopped off at the Plaza de Espana where we sat on the steps for a few minutes and enjoyed the amazing view of the city below. The plaza itself is down at the bottom of the hill where we were dropped off, but we spent our time on the hill just outside of the national art museum.

All of us with the Plaza de Espana in the background.

We rode the bus back to the waterfront where we walked up La Rambla street and back to the apartment. Dinner that night was at a tapas restaurant called Taller de Tapas. We saw a few of them in the city, so it’s some type of franchised establishment. But the food was reasonably priced and very delicious. I hadn’t had tapas in quite some time and had forgotten how much fun it is to order a little bit of food at a time and try a variety of things.

The next day we walked around the old city of Barcelona and made our way to the beach. Dave and Kelly had already been earlier in the week, but Katie and I wanted to see it for ourselves. We didn’t go in the water, but we had a nice lunch on the sand and enjoyed some people watching. The boardwalk that’s right off the beach is very clean and paved, making it easier for people to get along the beach whether they’re walking, jogging or biking.

It was a cloudy day, but still warm enough for the water.

At this point Dave and I indulged our wives and let them window shop for a few hours as we slowly made our way back to the apartment. Katie and I looked and looked and looked for an ornament to add to our collection, but we couldn’t find anything. We looked on other days, too, and even at the airport — but nothing. Barcelona became the first city where we didn’t buy an ornament. So I’m going to take the two corks I saved from the wine we had at one of our dinners and make them into something I can hang on our Christmas tree. I’m sure Katie will love that … : )

Later that night we walked to a restaurant Katie read about online called Cerverceria Catalana. There was a 45-minute wait for a table when we got there (and this was at 9:15 p.m. — so still kind of early for dinner) so we grabbed a drink around the corner while we waited. And boy am I glad we waited. The food was even better than the night before and probably a little cheaper. I think the best thing from this night were the veal sandwiches and the baked camembert cheese. Delicious!

Katie and I left the next morning, but managed to sneak in a walk back to the Plaza de Espana before flying out. We liked that area because it was very laid back and offered awesome views of the city below. From down in the plaza itself, you can get some pretty nice views of the national art museum that sits at the top of the hill.

Looking up at the art museum from the Plaza de Espana.

There you have it. It was a quick visit highlighted by the Sagrada Familia and the amazing local food. You can see more photos on our flickr page.

Spain was country #14 for the year. The hope is to drive through Liechtenstein for lunch tomorrow (it’s on the way back to Munich) to give us #15. Not sure if we’ll get to our goal of 20, but 17 or 18 for sure.

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Where is September going?

Our whirlwind September is flying by. We started the month with a few days in the States where we wrapped up a two-week visit back home.

We followed that up with an awesome 10 days with my brother, Mike, which included a trip to Prague, a visit to the Andechs monastery and brewery (one of the oldest in the world), a return visit (for me) to the Dachau concentration camp memorial site, lots of biking, beer and cards, and a memorable late night of NFL football. He was the last of my siblings that will be visiting this year (we welcomed Kim in March, Amy in April and Ben in June) so his departure was especially sad. I’ve really enjoyed the one-on-one time I’ve had with my brothers and sisters this year.

Just hours after Mike flew home to Chicago, Katie and I boarded a plane to Barcelona for a quick weekend visit to Spain. We met up with our friends Dave, Kelly, Jeff and Melissa. I won’t go into detail on Barcelona just yet — look for a blog post sometime this week! But I can tell you right now that my favorite three things from the trip were seeing the Sagrada Familia basilica (it has to be seen in person to be believed), enjoying a casual afternoon in the Plaza de Espana and the delicious, filling and surprisingly affordable tapas. They were so good!

Today was a Munich maintenance day and tomorrow we hit the road again for a trip to Switzerland. Katie has two work meetings on Thursday — one in the morning near Geneva and one in the evening in Basel — and another potential meeting on Friday. If time allows, we’ll make our return trip through the tiny country of Liechtenstein. Either way, we’ll be back in Munich for the latter half of the weekend.

Look for updates along the way, including photos and a blog from our Barcelona visit. We hope all is well back in the States!

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Prague, Czech Republic

This past weekend we rented a car and made the 3.5-hour drive to Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic and one of Europe’s most visited cities.

Getting there from Munich is a breeze. It’s a simple drive along a couple of highways that takes you through a beautiful part of eastern Germany. We had to pay $15 for a 10-day toll sticker in the Czech Republic, but other than that, our costs were just the car rental and gas. We even found free parking on the street that our hotel was on.

The view from our room at Hotel Angelis.

We stayed at Hotel Angelis, a couple of miles outside of the city center, but right next to a tram stop that took us into the heart of the city. After dropping our bags off late Friday evening (Katie had to work so we got in late), we immediately headed to the Old Town for dinner at a place that Katie found online called Mlejnice. They offer a large menu of mostly traditional Czech food, including beef goulash, roasted chicken and gnocchi. It took us a couple of wrong turns to find the place, which is tucked away in a narrow alley off of the main square. But once there, we were in heaven. Not only was the food fantastic, but the atmosphere was authentic and the prices were unbelievable. Entrees were in the $5-10 range, starters were between $3-5 and beer was only $2 for a half liter! It turns out that Prague is an extremely affordable city for those of us using the USD/Euro.

After dinner we strolled through the city’s main square and over to the St. Charles bridge before stopping at a nearby bar for another drink and some cards.

The following day we grabbed breakfast at the hotel before taking another tram line to Prague Castle, which is allegedly the biggest castle in the world. After ascending a long but not-too-steep set of stairs to get to the main gate, we were greeted with a fantastic view of the city.

Looks kinda German!

Once inside the castle walls, we couldn’t take our eyes off of St. Vitus Cathedral, the centerpiece of the castle and a true masterpiece. The outside of the cathedral was littered with mosaic tiled pictures and gargoyles. But I think we were most mesmerized by the stained glass windows within the church itself.

The St. Vitus Cathedral is the centerpiece of Castle Prague.

The colors looked even more magnificent in person.

From there we made our way outside of the castle where we stopped for this incredibly mature photo:

Classy Americans.

After a bit more walking — which included a stop for lunch and shopping for a Christmas ornament — we found ourselves at the Old Jewish Cemetery. It’s the most crowded gravesite you’ll ever see. With some 12,000 visible tombstones and an estimated 100,000 individuals buried there, it’s amazing that it only covers one major city block.

At this point our legs were getting a little tired and we decided to make our way back to the tram stop so that we could stop by the hotel before dinner. Our return hike took us past the city’s famous Astronomical Clock Tower and the Church of Our Lady before Tyn. Both buildings are impressive to look at and for just $5 (well, $2.50 if you say you’re a student) you can take an elevator to the top and get some awesome views of the city and the Church of Our Lady.

Looks like something Walt Disney would have been proud of.

We eventually made it back to our hotel and changed for dinner. We went to a place called U Spirku, just next door to Mlejnice from the night before. We stuffed our faces with more Czech food and beer, again for a bargain price, and then made our way to a local night club called Starsky and Hutch (awesome) where we finished the night with some more beer and cards.

We hit the road first thing on Sunday morning. On the way back we stopped in the town of Regensburg for a quick 30-minute waking tour (and some gelato). We were back in Munich by early evening so that we wouldn’t miss a minute of the Bears and Packers games. Mike went to bed happy after his Bears took care of the Colts. Our Packers struggled against the 49ers and started their season 0-1. Both teams play again on Thursday night, which will actually be 2:20 a.m. our time on Friday. The plan as of now is to watch it if we can figure out a good way to stream the game online (it’s on the NFL Network, so our Slingbox doesn’t do much for us).

A few pictures from the Prague trip are on our Flickr page. Enjoy!

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Back to Europe!

Katie and I were scheduled to take a non-stop flight from Chicago to Munich tonight at 8:20 p.m. That is, until we got a call that said our flight had been cancelled due to the ongoing labor strike in Germany by Lufthansa workers. Our options were to take the same flight tomorrow night or to still take a flight tonight, but a non-direct flight (through Frankfurt) that included a 3-hour layover and a 2-hour delayed departure. We chose the latter due to the fact that my brother, Mike, is also flying out tonight (on LOT Airlines).

We’re keeping our fingers crossed that nothing else changes. The last thing we want is for Mike to beat us to Munich and have nowhere to go.

Our return to Europe comes after an awesome two-week stay in Milwaukee. We’ll be back again in late October and stay through my sister Beth’s wedding. Then we’ll have a final month or so in Munich before coming home for good in December.

As for Mike’s trip, we’ll be going to Prague (Czech Republic) this weekend and filling the rest of his time with our standard Munich favorites — Sheepshead, pretzels, biking and beer. Oh, and sightseeing.

More as it happens!

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Back to Milwaukee!

First things first — a happy birthday to Katie! Or as they say in Germany, “Zum Geburtstag!” She turned 27 yesterday, which seems much more appealing than the 31 I’ll be turning in a couple of weeks. We celebrated with a very German dinner of beef/pork goulash, pretzels and weiss beer. (How awesome is it that my wife, for her birthday dinner, wanted beef, pork, pretzels and beer?) We followed dinner up with cards at the Hofbrauhaus. In the words of Katie, it was “a perfect evening.”

As for those aforementioned couple of weeks, they’re going to be spent in the States! It seems like just yesterday I was writing a blog about our trip home in April (and all of the restaurants we were dying to get to). It’s hard to believe it’s already been four months since that trip. But as it is, Katie and I have a 9:20 a.m. flight tomorrow morning to London where we’ll catch a connecting flight to Chicago. We’ll touch down in the early afternoon giving me plenty of time to make an 8:15 p.m. showing of The Dark Knight Rises. (Sure, it will technically be 3:15 a.m. my time when the movie starts and 6 a.m. when the movie ends, but that’s why they make Mountain Dew.)

Our trip home will be highlighted by visits with friends and family — especially our nieces and nephews — and it promises to be a non-stop couple of weeks. I’m not sure if we’ll update the blog when we are in town, but for sure once we’re back.

Speaking of being back, my brother, Mike, will essentially fly back with us to Munich — just on a different flight. He scheduled his trip to Munich to take place right after our visit home, so we’ll get a couple of bonus weeks with him. His trip to Germany will also include a weekend visit to Prague which we’re all very excited for. That city comes up in so many conversations when asking people to name their favorite European destination. After Mike’s visit, we’ll head to Barcelona for a weekend with our good friends Dave and Kelly who are making the trip from Minneapolis. Our friends Jeff and Melissa will also be meeting us there (they live in Ireland right now). About a week after Barcelona we’ll welcome my mom and step-dad for a few days who will be taking their own trip to Barcelona prior to their Munich visit. Our friends Dan and Leah will be coming out a few days. And all four of them will be making trips to Oktoberfest!

So even though it’s only August 16, I know that it’s going to be the middle of October rather quick. We have a busy couple of weeks at home followed by a busy September.

Of course, we’ll try and keep you updated on it all. But for now, expect a period of inactivity as we enjoy the sights and sounds of beautiful Milwaukee.

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