Sunday, November 1, 2009

Auf Wiedersehen, Munchen

Last night we had a small Halloween party at Steph and Michael's apartment. It was in lieu of my birthday and also an excuse to make pumpkin soup from the insides of the very first jack-o-lantern that Michael carved. Unfortunately, I did not take any snapshots of the guests (slipped my mind!), but I did take some pre-party photos.

On the menu: pasta salad, apfel (or apple) cake, hazel nut muffins, Haribo gummy candy of every kind and foiled chocolates shaped into skulls. The highlight of the evening was the gluehwein and lebkuchen. Gluehwein is a hot spiced wine traditionally served in the winter time. It has hints of different spices like cinnamon and cloves. I imagine it is what Christmas would taste like if it were served in a mug. It is blood red in color and distinctly sweet. It goes perfectly with lebkuchen, a traditional Christmas cookie pillowy in texture and spicy in flavor as well, somewhat like gingerbread though it is not made with ginger. It is covered in chocolate...which makes it even more desirable.

Everyone spoke some if not fluent English at the party, so I wasn't completely lost in the discussions. Some have visited the U.S. before while some would like to one day. They were particularly interested in cross country road trips in American cars. Driving in Europe in a Ford was "decadent" as one guest from Switzerland put it. This is mainly due to the high gas prices and bigger gas tanks. The next time he is in the U.S., he's going to rent an SUV. Hummers are "sweet" as he put it.

Today was the last full day I had in Munich. After a delicious chocolate muesli and apfel cake breakfast, Steph, Michael and I hopped into the car and drove to Wasserburg and Chiemsee - two very picturesque towns just outside of the city. We walked the cobblestone streets, marveled at the 15th century church in the center of the town square and ate cheesecake over a cup of milchkaffe at an English-themed pub. It wasn't dense like your typical Cheesecake Factory fare. It was light, lemony, airy and melted within seconds in my mouth. It was, needless to say, heavenly as cheesecake always is.

I must admit, today was not one of those educational days when I usually want to know why a place was historically significant and what important person lived in which important house. It was more a day for taking pictures, soaking in the last moments of my vacation and to put it plainly, just walking around. I did a lot of this at Chiemsee, a large freshwater lake in Bavaria. Trees were turning yellow, orange and red; leaves were falling like snowflakes, water was lapping, the moon was in the sky, ducks sailed by and I stood alone on a pier. And there go the violins....

So my last day in Europe. Fourteen days of pure bliss all bottled up in a memory. I accomplished what I set out to do: wake up on my thirtieth birthday in Paris. The rest of the days were spent in Germany and I wouldn't have had it any other way. London is my second home, Munich is now my third. I will miss this world outside of my world. Some day I will want to feel, see and taste it more. I still have a lot of growing up to do...and more swings to dream on.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Short & Sweet

Tonight is our last night in Paris. Tomorrow we have an early start back to Munich (a 900 km or 560 mile drive) and considering it is nearly 1am, I think it would be wise to make this short and sweet and head to bed. I want to write more and will. Soon.

Here are some garden pictures to share as you wait. This one is courtesy of Mr. Claude Monet's home in Giverny. It's no wonder the man was one of the greatest living artists of our time. Anyone who lived there would be inspired to make great art and live it as passionately as he did. Monet died at the age of 86.

Michael & Steph on the famous Japanese bridge that inspired "Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies" (1899)

The gardens

Monet's house

His beloved water lilies

Monday, October 26, 2009

Paris - Day 2

What an exhausting, but wonderful day. My 30th birthday finally arrived. Tonight I'll just leave you all with a picture that illustrates how happy I am to be alive and to be in Paris. It was taken in Luxembourg Gardens this afternoon.

Tomorrow we are off to Monet's garden in Giverny. I will have more to talk about. Until then, bon soir!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Paris - Day 1

Food. That's all I have for tonight. It's my first night in Paris and all I have are pictures, not much to talk about yet. But I did have a very delicious foccacia bread type of pizza with cheese, tomato and zucchini as a late lunch. Steph, Michael and I sat on a bench munching and reminisced about gypsies and mugging incidents during past visits to the city.

We've settled in our apartment located in the first district, quite central to the shops and some landmarks. It is a cozy place with splashes of blue curtains and a cherry red couch on white wooden floors. There are two rather interesting King Tut bust lamps on either side of my sofa bed. For 150 EURO per night this place isn't bad compared to hotels within the same area. It will be our humble abode for the next three days.

Tomorrow we are planning to go to an open air market that sells antique and vintage wares. Then off to the landmarks: Eiffel Tower, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris Opera, and possibly the Louvre. Somewhere in between I hope to visit a patisserie and feast on pistachio macarons and buttery sweet madeleines. After all, it's my birthday and I'll cry if I want to ... just let it be over confectionary delights worthy of Marie Antoinette!

I've never been up to the Eiffel Tower. I think I may go alone up there tomorrow, considering my 8-month pregnant friend and her concerned husband. Hopefully, the view from the top will be so overwhelmingly stunning that I'll forget the very tired label of this place as the city of l'amour. I say, make it the city of perfectly made croissant chocolat and impeccably, effortlessly dressed people.

Or it could simply just be the place where I start a new decade, a new beginning in my life. Yes, my thirtieth autumn -- in Paris. I quite like that.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I must admit, I have lost count of the days of my trip. I'm not sure if it's Day 5 or 7? Nevertheless, I'm back in Munich from my 3-day trip to Bamberg.

Bamberg? How would I describe it. Some words that come to mind: quaint, lovely, peaceful, rivers, antiques, smoked beer. It is an idyllic European town, the kind that you imagine when you think of what a European city would look like. Misty cobblestone streets, a castle on a steep hill, bakeries at every corner and all of this drenched in the kind of history that is either written on the wall or come from stories told by the locals over a pint of beer. I was fortunate enough to have a local tour guide in Ursula.

Most of our time was spent in downtown or Old Town Bamberg and the outlying city of Hallstadt where she makes her home. On my first night, we had pizza at a local restaurant with her family and friends. They are a warm, welcoming bunch and spoke enough English for me not to feel completely out of place. Out of all the non-English speaking European countries I've been to, I must say, Germans speak more English or at least try to than most. In some ways, I wish I had at least tried to speak German aside from "hallo," "bitte," or "danke schon." I have learned some random words, however. Things like "ausfahrt" for car exit and "tag" for day. Some words sound similar to how they're pronounced in English. My 2-year's worth of Italian and another 2-year's worth of Spanish help very little here, unfortunately. If only I had taken Latin, my life would be somewhat easier.

We walked through a "dom" or cathedral in Old Town. The high ceilings, altar, pews and chapels were mesmerizing. I am by far not an art historian, so I won't even attempt to describe what era they came from, although the church was completed in the 13th century. There were cherubs, saints, the Blessed Virgin, clouds, darkness and light -- all painted, carved or sculpted so ornately, one would think one was gazing into heaven or at least close to it. Would European cathedrals be any less stunning? I think not. One minor detail I nearly forgot: Pope Clement II is buried at Bamberg Cathedral. It is the only site which boasts a papal burial outside of Italy and France.

After browsing in and out of antique shops, stopping sporadically in front of rivers and panoramic views of the city, we had a delightful curry wurst lunch with pommes at a small cafe frequented by University of Bamberg students. I made a mental note to bring curry powder home. Who knew curry could taste so good on a hotdog and some ketchup?

In the evening, Ursula and her friend Marida took me around Bamberg at night. Our first stop was at a Chinese buffet at a local restaurant. I'm not one for buffets, but the food was fresh, not too greasy and not too salty. Two nights in a row, I had schnapps once again with my meal. It tasted like apple juice, in all honesty. This coming from someone who has not had a drop of liquor since she arrived in Germany! But later that night, after a short jaunt around the foggy, beautifully eerie Bamburg Castle on the hill (peppered with Ursula's true stories of medieval witch burnings), I had the famous smoked beer of Bamberg called Schlenkerla's Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier from the famed Heller Brewery. A mouthful, yes, and so was the beer. It had faint notes of smoked ham. I must admit, I sipped it like a timid lady, complete with giggles and a scrunched up face that would make anyone laugh. However, I am proud to say that I drank it to the last drop. I did it for Germany! I did it for the girly girl in me!

So after picking up some handsome handmade wooden Christmas ornaments the next day and an elegant Swiss watch for my mother's 52nd birthday (which, incidentally, was 3 days ago) I said goodbye to the lovely city of Bamberg and even lovelier friend Ursula, packed my bags, boarded the train and headed to my home base in Munchen.

It is almost 2am on the eve of this milestone of my life and my iPod is going to alarm in 3 hours, so I must say gute nacht for now. Steph, Michael and I are going to get an early start on the autobahn. It will be the last road trip of my 20's. Destination: France.

We're off to Paris, darling.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Munchen - Day 2 & 3

My days have been filled with endless feasts for the palate and the eyes. It is my third time in this city and it never ceases to amaze me. I'm writing at nearly 2am and would like to explain why I state what I've stated, but these flannel pajamas I have on and this soft pillow I'm leaning against are too comfortable to ignore. So to bed I go. I leave you with some highlights. A picture is a worth a thousand words. A few hundred (or thousand) will appear on this page tomorrow or in the coming days. I'm off to Bamberg on Friday, a city about a two-hour train ride from Munich to visit my mother's friend Ursula, and *fingers crossed* there will be internet access!

So, enjoy.

Starnberger See (Starnberger Lake)


A Sausage Stand in Viktualienmarkt

A Carnival Ride at Mariahilfplatz

Monday, October 19, 2009

Munchen - Day 1

The flight from LAX to London Heathrow was quite uneventful, apart from my desperate attempt to reach over to grab my neighbor's motion sickness bag. I left L.A. with one of my rare but annoying migraines. The first hour was hellish as I squirmed in my window seat trying to decided whether I should disturb the couple blocking my way to the aisle. I regretted my decision to choose this spot I was in and swore to never ever choose a window seat again. But I survived the trip, nonetheless. British Airways doesn't have the greatest selection of inflight movies, by the way. The "Dark Knight"? C'mon. That came out ages ago. I was looking for "Coco Chanel." I settled in with my iPod touch and listened to music until the last hour in the air.

The view over London was beautiful as expected. I saw Buckingham Palace, the Thames and possibly Top Shop and again regretted not scheduling my trip so that I'd spend a few days in jolly ol' England. This was okay, though, in the end. Munich and Paris were my destinations -- and rightfully so. There is a time for England and a time for the rest of Europe, afterall.

After going through customs at Munich International, I picked up my 24 kg bag (yes, I went over the weight limit, but I did not get charged) and a few other bags from the baggage claim area and proceeded to the exit. I was met with the warm, smiling faces of my dear friends Michael and Stephanie. After excited embraces and patting Steph's eight-month old pregnant tummy, we hopped into the car and drove off to their cozy little apartment in the city. We had a pasta dinner and the best home made apple strudel courtesy of Michael's mom, an avid baker.

Currently, as I type this, it is about 12:30am and I am munching on Milka Knusper Kugeln made with Espresso. They're delectable chocolate balls made with a crisp center rolled in cocoa powder. Surprisingly, I'm not wired and jet lag has gone after just one day. I think I'm on Euro time now. I'm falling asleep. So this is it for today. Good night folks.