My Life in Munich

With the New Year comes a new world - living in a foreign country. Who knows how long we'll be here - hopefully long enough for me to learn some German and see a lot of Europe.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Congratulations Chris and Loredana!

Well, the big day has been and gone, and I am now a Mother-in-Law!

We all had a wonderful day. After a week of storms the big day dawned warm and clear. By the time we were getting the Groom and Groomsmen dressed, we knew we were in for a heatwave.

In what may be an historic moment, the Bride actually arrived EARLY!!!! and looked stunning. The ceremony went smoothly, despite the heat. Then on to photos in the park and the reception.

Interestingly, the highlights of the day for me were the 'little things' - the Groomsmens' tissue runs to the couple, Dana mopping the perspiration from Chris' face with aforementioned tissues during the homily, the suggestion by the chauffeurs of the gorgeous park for the photos, Rhonda and her magic minty foot cream and the little kids, who danced their hearts out and had a wonderful time. I couldn't believe we had 2 year olds still going strong at 11pm!

Congratulations again Chris and Loredana. We love you both and wish you a long and happy life together.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Grüß vom Oktoberfest

I'm not sure who it was who called his Circus 'The Greatest Show on Earth', but I can tell you that he was NEVER in Munich in the last 2 weeks of September. Yes, that's correct - Oktoberfest is held at the end of September (usually finishing the first weekend of October), because the weather is better.

To be completely honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. Hundreds of thousands of visitors descend on the city for these 2 weeks and I'm not really a beer drinker, so I had some doubts. Not any more - this festival ROCKS, seriously.

I was brave, and bought myself a dirndl (yes - there will be a photo) and we booked ourselves for the opening Sunday, and an Internations event on the following Thursday. We then received another invite for the second Wednesday - well, I guess I need to get value for money from this dirndl purchase.

IT WAS AMAZING. It exceeded all my expectations. Yes, there were drunken idiots, but the were also fun rides, fun songs (and standing on the seats to join in is expected!) lots of great food and drink and mostly friendly people. I was rather glad to have a dirndl to wear - there are times when I'd rather be taken for a 'local' than an Aussie - and it is such a fun way to dress; so feminine.

In all, I ended up going to the Wiesen 7 times in the 17 days. 4 times specifically to attend in a 'tent' and 3 times for rides and to visit the Historical display they put on this year for the 200th anniversary. And I can't wait for next year.

Friday, 20 August 2010

MuKnits on Safari - the Hunt for the Wollmeise

Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm doesn't feature in most Travel Guides to Germany. I could only find it in one of my guides to Bayern, and then it was only a single paragraph. But this small town, just half an hour by train from Munich, with a population of under 25 000 is a Mecca for wool lovers and devout knitters. Pfaffenhofen is the home of Wollmeise, a wonderful, hand dyed wool. And this wool is only available at this one store in Bayern, a few craft markets and - if you're very lucky and very quick - from her online store once every few weeks.

This week has been Sale Week at Wollmeise, so an intrepid group from the MuKnits Sunday S&B decided to head out for a day trip. Armed with wool, needles, lots of cash and a calculator, we set out from Munich Hauptbahnhof just after lunch on Wednesday. It must have been an amusing sight to others on the train - 9 women and 1 man, knitting together as we sped through the German countryside.

At the store, we were greeted with the sight of SO MUCH WOOL! Shelves and more shelves and baskets all bulging with colourful wooly goodness. So much wool and colour it was almost overwhelming. Some headed straight for the Lace yarn, others for the 100% Merino. A short while later, we took advantage of Claudia's generously sized shopping bags and started collecting. Except for Pernille, who had captured the lace skein of her dreams, and was sitting in a corner petting it!

Later, we sat outside and I practiced my German on some very patient visitors from Köln. We knitted for a while, had coffee and delicious chocolates with wicked fillings. And then, all of a sudden, it was time to leave.

So we set out for home, 10 of us with many shopping bags between us. I don't think we totalled it all up - I'm sure we'll do a rough count next Sunday - but we all came home with at least one new stash aquisition. We again attracted attention on the train home - a young boy seemed quite fascinated with what we were all doing. As we knitted our way back, eager to finish Works-in-Progress so we could start ASAP on the new stuff.

Crazy knitters on the train!

And we made it safely

The wonderful striped awning - with seats outside for knitting, coffee and cake for added stamina!

Look at all that Yarny Goodness!

Even the bathroom is worth visiting!

My Haul!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Same, but Different

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, a day when I've always done my best to attend Mass, or at least an ashes service. For the past 7 years, this hasn't been a problem - teaching in a Catholic school meant that Mass was part of the program on Holy Days. But this year, no school and our regular English speaking Mass centre only had a service at 7:30 (didn't even check if it was am or pm, just not a good time either way)

So - in the spirit of adventure that I am trying to cultivate - I checked the website of the Archdiocese of München und Freising to find a Mass somewhere. I ended up deciding on 11am at St. Peter's (Alte Peter - the oldest church in Munich), as it worked in best with other plans.

Armed with my 'Mass for Travellers' booklet that Chris so thoughtfully provided, I arrived just as Mass started. And I realised that - though Mass is essentially the same everywhere you go - there are also many differences, and not just in language.

The interesting thing with German is that, at times, it is very similar to English. When the Priest starts with:
In namen des Vaters
und des Sohnes
un des Heiligen Geistes

it's pretty obvious what he's saying. Following the Gospel was not so easy though.

The biggest difference was the Church itself. As I said earlier, St. Peter's is Munich's oldest Church, built originally in the 12th Century. It is incredibly ornate - the art work on the walls and ceiling can be quite distracting when you're there for Mass not sightseeing. There is only one altar - old style, against the wall - so that the Priest said the Eucharistic Prayer with his back to the congregation. It also has an altar rail, so when we went up for the ashes and communion, we knelt along the rail, rather than just walking up the aisle to stand in the centre in front of the Priest.

All in all, an interesting experience. I am considering going in to Mass there more often on weekdays so that I can learn the main prayers in German. From what I can see, there are many Masses each day during Lent, so I should be able to get there once or twice each week.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Let's talk Doughnuts!

In many countries, it is traditional to eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. This is a long tradition, dating back to when all the eggs, butter and milk had to be used up before Lent.

In Munich, it is different. Here, the traditional pre-Lent treat is the doughnut. Krapfen, as they are known, come in many different varieties. The basic krapfen is sugar coated and filled with apricot jam. But who wants to stop with basic. You can get chocolate (of course, we are in Germany!) berry filled, many with liquor added to the cream (prosecco and rum are favoured)

So, as a favour to you, I have done my best to sample as many varieties as possible in the past few weeks. Below are some favourites!

There's your basic Vanilla glazed.

And basic chocolate.

Tirimisu is always yummy.

Almond and Caramel.

But the definite winners are:

Himbürger - filled with raspberry puree and cream, glazed with jam.

And the king of them all - Schwartzwalder (Black Forest) - chocolate cream filling, with choc icing and a cherry on top.

Monday, 25 January 2010

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time!

'Climb up, eat, drink and sled down' - it sounds like fun, doesn't it.
Forget simple facts like: I've never sledded before, it's a 2.5km walk up, we climb over 400m in that time, the path is covered in snow and ice, and there are other people sledding down as we walk up.
So we set out on Saturday. In Munich, the weather seemed to be fine, but as we drove, especially after our friendly GPS sent us off the autobahn and through a succession of small Tyrolean villages, the fog had us a bit worried. But, as we crossed into Austria, the fog cleared and the sun shone down on us.
After a fairly hair-raising drive up a narrow road, we arrived at the carpark at Schneeburg. We were meeting others (10 cars in total made the journey) so we headed inside for coffee to warm ourselves and wait. When all - or most - had gathered, we started up the hill(?????) to Kala Alm.
It was a strenuous climb for me - I am quickly discovering the limits of my fitness, but eventually we made it to the top. Kala Alm is a cute, wooden inn and the sunny day ahd us sitting outside on the wooden benches for lunch. Heaps of traditional Bavarian/Tyrolean food - thick soups, goulash and sausages, washed down with beer and wine.
After final fortifications with 'Willy' (a traditional Austrian pear schnapps), we were ready to head back down again. We collected our sleds and had a few practice runs on the small rise just above the Inn. Then off we went!
I am so glad that there is no video footage of my efforts at sledding! It seemed like I had no control of the sled as I careered downwards. At least twice, I was sure I was going over the edge and into a large tree. And I had no idea at all how to steer, so I ended up in many smowdrifts.But we made it down, and there was hot chocolate at the carpark Gasthaus to warm me up.

Guess what - we're palnning another sledding trip for next week. Thjis time, we're going somewhere with cable cars, so we spend less time climbing and more time sledding!

We started with coffee in the carpark Gasthaus, to prepare us for the trip

And we started to walk up to the Kala Alm!

And we kept walking - it was pretty!

And we finally made it!!!!

The scenery made the journey worthwhile.

Prayers in case?

Food for the journey.

And extra fortification against the cold!

Ready to set off!

Safely back at the start point.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

WInter in the English Gardens

I love the English Gardens. This immense park runs for miles from the inner city to the outskirts of Munich. There are walking paths, cycle paths, lakes and streams and even a couple of Beer Gardens.
Last Friday I needed to get outside for a while, even though it was freezing, for some fresh air, so I headed down to one of my favourite areas, near the Monopteros - a Greek style pavilion on a small hill.
We had lots of snow last week - over 15 cm total - and so the gardens were completely white. As it was after school time, there were many youngsters there, with their sleds, having a great time.

The cafe at the Universität entrance

View looking away from the City

The Eisbach (Ice Stream!) - the branch of the Isar that runs through the Gardens

Sledding at the Monopteros

View towards the City

Another view of the Eisbach

Eisbach again - in the far distance, you may see that there are people SURFING in the river. Did I say it was -5C at this point!

Flock of geese

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Lots of Snow

I know that for many people, snow is just a part of winter. But for an Aussie like me, snow is a rarity. The weather people did threaten us with a blizzard over the weekend, which didn't eventuate here in Munich. But we have had snow falling all day yesterday and now again this morning, so we have a lovely blanket of snow now, about 10cm deep.

The view from our balcony.

The pedestrian mall across the road - view from the balcony on the other side of the apartment.

Me - out and about in my new snow gear!

My footprint in the snow. Just because I could.

It's so cold any water left out will freeze!

Just like 'real' Christmas trees should look. Some little fir trees in next doors yard.

Not our car - but what happens If you park on the curb overnight.

And you shouldn't leave your bike out, either!

The friendly neighbourhood snow plough. These guys are out every few hours when it snows heavily, like yesterday.