Friday, July 28, 2006


Grüss Gott! Today, as you see, I have titled my wee post dreiundzwanzig. What’s that you ask? Well, it is the number 23. You have witnessed previously my delight in the abundance of compound words in the German language, and numbers are no exception. Translated literally, dreiundzwanzig is three and twenty.

When I first moved here, you can imagine the processing power involved in deciphering numbers when they were spoken to me. Usually, these occurrences involved strangers wanting me to give them some amount of currency in exchange for goods or services. If something costs €27,35, I heard sebenundzwanzig fünfunddreizig (seven and twenty, five and thirty). First, I had to translate the words I was hearing, and then I had to push the numbers around in my head a bit. Either that, or just dump the entire contents of my wallet onto the counter and cry. Don’t be sad for me.

Nowadays, I’ve gotten the hang of the numbers game. But, that is not the point of this little anecdote. The point is, I’ve got dreiundzwanzig days left here in Munich. In preparation for my impending homecoming, I have been busying myself with collecting reasons to hate it here. If I collect enough solid evidence to prove that Munich is the worst place ever, it will only sweeten the pot that I call sweet home San Francisco. So here we go, dreiundzwanzig reasons that I hate Munich.

1. There is a little step outside my apartment building onto the sidewalk. Today, as I was leaving said apartment building, I lost my footing, and did a face plant off the steps onto the sidewalk, right in front of a group of moving men. I’m certain I was falling in slow motion, and they witnessed the whole thing, shouting, UUUUUHHHHHHHOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWW. After my landing, I jumped up quickly, raised my hands in the air (picture a Mary Lou Retton dismount), and shouted “I’m OK, THANKS!” The moving men, I’m sure were laughing (you can read all about Schadenfreude in a previous post I hate that step now, a lot.

2. Wurstsalat. It’s a salad made of meat. What the fuck?

3. Dog shit. Everywhere. Clean it up people, we do not need to fertilize the sidewalks. Seriously.

4. When you are sick, you have to speak to a pharmacist. There are no over-the-counter medicines. There are some things you just want to take care of yourself. I’m sure you understand.

5. Apparent shortage of applicator tampons. Sometimes OB is not “the way it should be.” I will spare you further commentary.

6. Pickles with sugar in them.

7. This week I went to the public baths three times. The weather has been really hot, and the swimming pools are great, except that two times out of three, I got slammed with balls (of the large rubber variety, of course). The first time it happened while I was in the pool, and today it happened while I was laying out on the lawn reading a book. After knocking the wind out of me and giving me a giant rubber ball welt, the “culprits” wave at me (without apologizing) as if to say “please throw that ball back to me so I can slam you again.” Shut up. I hate you people. Get your own ball.

OK, seven reasons are enough for now. If I come up with any more, I will let you know. Of course, there are many things that I will miss about this God forsaken place, but I will save that list for another time…. Except to say that one thing I will miss very much is the ability to travel relatively easily and inexpensively. Which of course is a swell lead-in for which to share a bit about my most recent trip.

Lisa and Frank just left a few days ago after their second visit since we have been living here. They started and ended their trip here in Munich, and for the chunk in between, they traveled down the Croatian coast. I met up with them for five days in Dubrovnik.

Most guidebooks like to repeat that George Bernard Shaw once said, "If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik." I don’t really know if it is heaven on Earth, because I imagine that heaven has a lot of stuff that you can’t get in Dubrovnik, but I will agree that it was pretty great. They also have a lot of cats there, which means it must be good.

About two minutes after Frank and Lisa arrived, they rushed me out to buy a snorkeling set, and we ventured out to the beach. The water was amazingly clear. I fell in love with snorkeling. I want to wear my snorkel everywhere now, like on the U-Bahn. I even love the word, “snorkel”. We snorkeled several times during our stay. Say that five times fast.

Another interesting excursion we took was to Mostar, Bosnia. The Mostar Bridge area of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Of course, the bridge was destroyed during the Bosnian War, but has since been repaired to its original splendor, as they say. One interesting thing about Mostar is that there is still a lot of war damage--pretty much everywhere you look--bombed out buildings and the like. They are working on it. I went in there like some kind of tardy war photographer (the war ended in 1994), with my trusty digital point-and-shoot. This made me realize two things, 1. I am so fortunate to be so ignorant about the realities of war, and 2. People are resilient.

I guess things here in Munich weren’t so bad after all.

Please proceed to the photo portion of this blog. Thanks for reading.

Dubrovnik has perfectly preserved city walls that fortify the old city. There is a path along the top of the walls, so you can walk them and look down into the old city. Here are a few photos from the walk. This first one shows all the red rooftops.

This was taken from one of the lookout towers on the wall.

A view to the fountain below.

Sunset as we were decending the wall back into the old city.

This was my first view of one beach, just a few minutes after arriving in town.

This cat liked to hang out on the terrace of the apartment we rented, so I named him Our Cat.

This is a Bosnian kitten. He lives under this car in Mostar.

A view of Mostar and the old bridge.

A derelict house in Mostar.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sheep Thrills

It’s Fussball-Weltmeister time…. That’s right folks, the World Cup. In a country where nationalism has been generally frowned upon for the last, oh, 60 years or so, it is an interesting time to be here. The German flags are flying, and crowds will spontaneously erupt into songs where “Deutschland” is the predominant, if not only, lyric. Of course, there are footy fans from the world over, all with their own flags, songs, and women donning (or conspicuously missing) varying degrees of dress in feeble attempts to distract their football-crazed counterparts from the issues at hand. The women, by the way, seem to do the most cheering after the game is over, when the footballers remove their jerseys on the field. A little something for everyone, I suppose. I figure Todd and I are pretty much broken up until the festivities are over.

I did go to see the US get knocked out of the cup by Ghana. The game was in Nuremberg, and I have to admit that it was really fun being there. There were a ton of Americans, also waving flags and showing their colors. So Sarah and Mas, if you happen to be reading this, I titled this series of photographs on your behalf… “America! Fuck Yeah!”

What is there to say about this one, really?


Todd's Shades....

American Legs....

American Baby....

A tense moment....

Fuck Yeah!

I guess we're just sheep after all....

Speaking of sheep…as you may or may not know, I recently spent some time in Scotland on a very long walk. By very long, I mean 73 miles in 4.5 days from Fort William to the heart of the Highlands in Inverness. It rained every single day of our walk, and one day, it even hailed. I felt a true sense of relief to be walking in May, Scotland’s driest month.

Monika, my walking partner, champed it out, in spite of the blisters on her feet, which reached double digits. At one point, we had been walking for hours on a country farm road, in the rain, when a tour bus driver pulled over and offered us a ride. I assure you, we looked that sad and pathetic. Still, we limped on (OK, Monika limped and I just walked along beside her moaning… Uhhhhhhhhhh…. Uhhhhhhhhhhhh. You have to fill the time somehow).

One aspect of this trip that will stay with me forever is the sense I got of being a traveler. As we walked in these remote areas of Scotland, we could go sometimes hours without seeing another living soul. The folks we did see often reappeared several times throughout the walk, as they were also stupid enough to bypass a car rental. People worried about other walkers when a day went by without seeing them. We shared dinners and drinks in tiny villages with people we met along the way. We developed a taste for single malt scotch. I learned to appreciate American songs as sung by a tone-deaf German girl with a low aptitude for retaining lyrics. I nearly perfected the fine art of sheep photography. And, I got to remove a tick from my hand and then continue on my journey waiting for the onset of Lyme disease or encephalitis.

After our walk, we stayed in Inverness for a few days, where we did get smart and rent a car. We got a good feel for the Highlands, and saw lots of ruins, castles, distilleries, and even a pre-historic gravesite.

From Inverness, we parted ways, and I ventured on to Edinburgh. There, I was finally greeted with some sun, and spent a few days exploring the city. Here are some photos from my adventure.

Exhibit A: Sheep...and there are more where this came from....

A cool old boat by Loch Lochy....

This was a fovorite moment from the hike. After a day of rain and hail, and challenging mountain hikes, we walked down into this lovely farm area, and the sun magically appeared!

One of many long, wet, roads....

A short break overlooking the Loch Ness. No monster, just another lake, really....

Loch Lochy....

The ruins of Urquart Castle....

The Elgin Cathedral ruins....

At the Glen Fiddich distillery....

Finally, as you might know by now, Todd and I (plus fish and jojo) will be back in the states toward the end of August. So I ask you now, if you ever, EVER see me wearing an American flag again, please exercise your god-given right to bear arms, and shoot me. America! Fuck Yeah!


Thursday, May 25, 2006

War ich Italianer

It’s been a while since my last post. I guess I’ve been uninspired to write, but that doesn’t mean my thoughts haven’t been turned toward home as of late, because, well, they have. As I contemplated these very words, I decided to take a look at my previous posts, and reflect on what has been close to one year in Munich. I can’t believe it’s been this long.

Anyway, as I was perusing the old posts, I noticed a theme. That theme is Italy. I wondered to myself, and now to you, how would my life be different if we moved to Italy instead of Germany….

• I’d have purple teeth instead of a beer belly.
• I’d be complaining about the lack of fashionable “big girl” Italian clothing instead of complaining about German food.
• I’d say Merda instead of Sheisse
• I’d be chasing cats down sidewalks instead of dodging dog Sheisse.
• I’d be thanking god every time I made it across the street alive, instead of laughing at the locals who refuse to cross at a red light, even when there are no cars to be seen.
• My cat would wear Versace instead of Lederhosen.

I could go on. Instead, as you may have guessed, I have some photos to share. Cinque Terre means “5 lands” in Italian, and this is where we found ourselves the weekend before last. These lands hang off cliffs into the sea, and are connected by hiking trails making it possible to walk from town to town. When we had enough walking, another fun thing to do in this region of Italy is eating. Liguria is the home of pesto and focaccia. Todd enjoyed the fresh fish. I enjoyed that the food wasn’t German. We had a real nice time.

The little town we stayed in was Manarola. Here’s how it looks from above.

And here’s our train station.

And here we are on trail. Notice how cool Todd is.

And another shot of the scenery....

We met many cats during our trip, but only this one made the cut, because he was our favorite. I call him Leonardo.

On Sunday night, we took the wrong train, and ended up far away from where we needed to be. It was about an hour till the next train, so we sat outside and had a glass of wine. Lucky us, because we got to see the moon rise—and it was doing some crazy stuff. It really was this orange. And it was HUGE.

We took a boat out to the town of Portovenere. There was this cool castle/fortress thing built on the rocks. We wandered around it a bit, but we don’t know a thing about it…and we don’t care.

As if all this talk of Italy isn’t enough, tomorrow morning I am leaving to go to Scotland! Monika and I will arrive in Fort William on Friday, and begin hiking the 73-mile Great Glen Way to Inverness. We figure it will take us 4.5 days, with our longest hike culminating at 18 miles. Monika is worried about blisters. I am worried about getting my old and tired ass out of bed every day. The lovely hostess at the guesthouse in the town of Drumnadrochit, where we will have one overnight on the trail, informed me that there was hail and rain today. I have a feeling that this is going to be a lot of fun.

I hope to be in touch soon, with pictures of Nessie, or maybe even her head (I’m bringing my Swiss Army knife, just in case).

Später Leute...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


The tale goes something like this, a young and lovely Jackie Kennedy mischievously told her husband to say “Ich bin ein Berliner,” during his famous speech in West Berlin.
The punch line is, of course, that to the fine people of Berlin, a Berliner is actually a jelly doughnut, and not a person from Berlin. Well, this is falsch, President Kennedy did not mince his words, but the story is cute regardless. You can read about it here.

I, of course, have a reason for mentioning this story. You see, Fasching was last month (I am a bit tardy on my updates). Fasching is the German celebration of Carnivale. The official food of Fasching seems to be Krapfen, and Krapfen, at least here in Bavaria, is the word for jelly doughnuts. It is probably more accurate to say “filled” doughnuts, but that is neither here nor there.

Anyway, if the word Krapfen alone is not enough to inspire appetite in even the staunchest of Atkins followers, then I imagine you are not alone. Still, the Krapfen explosion raged on, and in every bakery, café, and grocery store were a plethora of Krapfen to choose from. Another interesting point that deserves your attention is what I (incorrectly, mind you) lovingly refer to as “Krapfenschmuck.”

Amusingly, perhaps, the German word Schmuck, means jewelry. Very different indeed from the Yiddish insult most of us are familiar with. Schmuck can also mean decoration, for example, Weinachtsschmuck are Christmas decorations. So, the Fasching Krapfen are typically very colorful and often rich in adornments. I like to call the said adornments “Krapfenschmuck.” Please be aware that if you say “Krapfenschmuck” to a German, they will not know what the hell you are talking about, and will probably, in fact, think you are a schmuck.

So, to get on with it already, one morning I was buying a Milchkaffee and Breze (latte and a pretzel) when I came across the most interesting of “Krapfenschmuck.” Sitting innocently before me among the baked goods was a jelly donut with a syringe on top. “Hmmmm,” I think to myself, “this is kinda strange.” I went on with my day, but I couldn’t get that goddamn Krapfenschmuck off my mind. What is the meaning of it? Days passed. I started peeking in bakery windows. I noticed other bakeries too were using syringes as Krapfenschmuck.

I email my friend, “What the hell is up with you people decorating your Krapfen with hypodermic needles?”

Her response (I’m paraphrasing): “We use those to decorate all kinds of pastries and canapés, etc. Krapfen are nice!!!”

Turns out, when I said “hypodermic needle” she thought I meant “toothpick with a flag on it.” Such are the intricacies of international communication, I suppose. Anyway, I broke down and bought a Krapfen…. See for yourself….

And just so you can sleep tonight, inside the syringe was a little squirt of “Limes” a fruity vodka concoction, that you can inject into the Krapfen yourself. How fun is that?

As for Fasching, I missed the German celebrations, as Steve was in town, and we took a short trip to Sicily. Here are a few photos from our trip:

Steve demonstrating how he likes to eat Gelato....

Palermo, one of two major cities in Sicily and the first stop on our tour....

The temple at Segesta, built in the 5th century BC by the lazy and ancient Elymians--the temple was never completed....

The sun setting over Trapini on our way up to Erice....

Steve spotted this agency while we were in Trapini....

We attempted to go wine and olive oil tasting, yes, attempted. The countryside was pretty anyway....

Our last evening was spent in Taormina. We arrived just in time to catch the end of the Carnivale parade....

Here is Taormina during the day.....

And another view with Mt. Etna in the background....

We took a gondola down to the beach.....

This is a cute and dirty Italian beach cat. I call him Giuseppe....

I think Guiseppe makes a good stopping point for today. I hope you are all well. Happy spring!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

No city like the city...

Today I have no funny German words for you, but a funny story about German beliefs. It seems that here in Germany, there is a strong belief that one can get indeed very, very ill from cold moving air. Turn on a fan, air conditioning, or even, on a sweltering summer day, try opening a window in a room full of Germans, and watch them squirm. It seems to be a common belief that moving air causes respiratory infections, and all kinds of ailments. It has even been suggested to me that a bladder infection might be caused by cold air coming in contact with the abdomen when warm shirts are not long enough to be tucked in on cold winter days. I have searched long and hard for a word describing the illness caused by cold moving air to no avail. If any of you reading are familiar with such a word, please do let me know.

Speaking of illness, some of you are aware of my proclivity to stiff necks and muscle spasms. Well, in December my problems started acting up again. I eventually went to my doctor to try and fill a prescription that has worked for me back in the states. She gave me Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen! Sigh. Then she told me to make sure I avoid getting drafts on my neck at night….

Anyway, in spite of my pain in the neck, Todd and I have been making the most of our time here with a bit of travel. The weekend before last, we were in Venice. We rented a fancy BMW (when in Bavaria….) and after a drive through the Alps, and about six hours later we were in Venice. Venice is a crazy beautiful place where the streets are canals, and there are boats instead of cars. Other curiosities include:
1) the fact that the city is in fact sinking, and
2) that the city was apparently built with no grid.
(One might not realize that one is a control freak until they arrive in Venice and try to get from point A to point B. Remember, one travels to Venice to revel in the romance of it all, and glimpse a bit of Italian history. I tried to remember this on the many, many occasions that I exclaimed, “Oh great, now where the FUCK ARE WE???” Eventually, as we continued to hit dead ends in the middle of narrow walkways, I replaced this phrase with, “Isn’t this ROMANTIC?” Holiday restored, break-up averted, good-time had by all. See, I really am a romantic at heart.) Here are some photos from the trip....

The Italian alps through the windshield

Almost there...

Where the fuck are we now? Oh yeah, romance on the Rialto bridge

a Venitian taxi stand

this shirt is sooooo AWESOME

a cool-looking canal

The trip to Venice was a bit of a holiday for us before Todd left for the month on assignment in Toulouse. So far, things are going well for him in France, aside from a little cold (He probably caught a rare French draft.). Tomorrow, I am hopping on a plane to Barcelona, as is our friend Vicky. Todd and his friend Jeff are hopping in a car and driving to Barcelona (about a three or four hour journey from Toulouse). The hope is that by some miracle we will converge in Barcelona and then do whatever it is one does in Spain. Stroll the streets, admire the architecture, partake of food and wine, and… what else is there? I’ll report back when we return.

So back to the neck. The ibuprofen wasn’t quite doing the trick. When I reached the point that I was pretty much paralyzed from the shoulders up (better than the other way around I imagine) I forced my way back into the doctor’s office unannounced and tried again to get the medication I needed. She sent me to an orthopedist/chiropractor. I walked into his office, he gave me an adjustment, took a look at what was going on, and sent me on my way with a prescription for muscle-relaxers. After two days, I was feeling better already. While he was treating me though, we got to talking, and he asked where I was from. California is my typical response. He then asked “Which part of California?”
“San Francisco,” I replied.
“Oh, ‘The City’?” He countered.
“Yep,” sigh, “that’s the one.”