Here are some things that I learned in Germany that don’t quite fit into my travel diary. Fun facts interspersed with pictures that didn’t fit some where else.
– Germans say, “Prost,” when toasting. Allegedly, you must look into the eyes of the person with whom you are toasting or you will be plagued by 7 years of bad sex.
– You may not realize this, but Germany wasn’t even an official country until the late 1800s. Munich was part of Bavaria. Bavarians have considerable regional pride and many of them fly the Bavarian flag instead of the German flag. Kind of like Texas.
– The German trains run on an honor system. They only spot check for tickets, so you could go months riding for free before you get busted. Jenny told me the fine is actually less than the amount for a month-long pass, so that sounds like a great plan to me.
– Schnauzers are an iconic dog in the country. On all the “No Dogs Allowed” or “Keep Dogs on Leash” signs, the schnauzer silhouette is the one used instead of a Labrador. I didn’t actually see a single live schnauzer until I got home to the US.
– While shopping, I noticed several high end store selling “American Mashmallows.” These stores are equivalent to West Elm or Crate & Barrel. These were not the Jet-Puffed Kraft marshmallows that most of us use; they were actually bags labeled “American Marshmallows.” My German friend Anne explained that advertisers in Europe really push marshmallows as something Americans constantly eat. They get wine and cheese, we get marshmallows. This doesn’t seem fair.
– I talked to some Australian girls on a four month world tour who told me enthusiastically that they did the “American tour” a few years ago. This is evidently going to New York and then flying cross country to LA. Because this is the best representation of the average American.
– Germans eat with both hands: one hand holds the fork and the other the knife. You keep both utensils in your hands as you eat. They can spot Americans because we cut a piece of food, put down the knife, change fork hands, and then put our free hands in our laps. Pay attention next time you eat dinner and you’ll see what I mean.
– In one of the underground train stations after dark, Jenny pointed out the classical music playing through overhead speakers. Evidently, Munich had a problem a few years back with hoodlums hanging out in train stations at night and rabble rousing. They figured out that if they piped in classical music, shenanigans decreased and people behaved.
– They seem unaware of the 50 Shades of Grey controversy over there. I envy them.
– Next time: business as usual back in the US and candy experimentation.
Note: If you’re here everyday, you’re probably tired of me saying this. I’m not actually in Germany any more, but I’m writing on delay thanks to some connectivity issues while I was there. Just be cool.
The last day of vacation is always bittersweet. You’re still there, but you can already see this trip getting smaller, further away.
I’ll be honest with you, that last insight is paraphrased slightly from a line in Dawson’s Creek. That doesn’t make it less true, though. I mostly remember my last day in Germany in impressions and flashes.
I’m thinking of a dark-paneled biergarten with actual foliage hanging from the ceiling, and I’m thinking of the two much older men sharing our table there who commented that I eat my food like an American because I eat with a hand in my lap. It sounds dirty when I re-tell it now, which is probably how they meant it at the time but I was too excited about my food to care.
And what food was that? Spaetzle. This is like mac and cheese on steroids. They put some anemic cucumbers and tomatoes on the side of the plate as if that might some how balance a bowl of cheese and noodles bigger than my face.
I’m also thinking of European breakfasts, which always feel like an event. Bread, eggs, jelly, cold meats, cheeses, yogurt, sugary black coffee… breakfast feels more like a leisurely stroll through all the best foods. You can’t leave Europe without having Nutella for breakfast. Unless you are having off-brand organic Nutella. That will also work in a pinch.
And you always think about the things you didn’t do and you think, “oh, next time,” even though you know there probably won’t be a next time because there are so many other place to visit. Like, I didn’t go to this famously huge biergarten called Hofbrauhaus, which is really touristy but well known. I don’t feel particularly bereft, but it’s still an unturned stone.
I spent much of my last day shopping for souvenirs with my friend Anne (not pictured, which is a shame because you would like her). Anne towed me around the Old City and enthusiastically pointed at things that I should embrace as quintessentially German. Naturally, the thing that really excited me was German editions of The Hunger Games.
We looked for suitable gifts for my three year old nephew. Anne encouraged sweet children’s books and wooden toys. I found the perfect thing but I couldn’t fit in my suitcase. When in doubt, always go with sharks.
I also snuck in one last tourist thing: I watched the glockenspiel. I informed Anne we would need to watch this at 5 PM in the square and she was bemused. She was kind of like, “You mean you don’t have medieval clocks with mechanical dancers that move in time with chiming bells thanks to meticulous clockwork?” And I was like, “Amerian, remember?”
Then I met Jenny for dinner at the kind of Italian restaurant where the wait staff just recites the nightly specials for you rather than giving you a menu. It’s like paying someone to eat in their kitchen with a few other strangers. Also, they had an enviable refrigerator.
It seems like one should drink beer in one’s last night in Germany, but I’m really just a wino at heart. Prost, Deutschland. It was fun.
Even though this is the end of my travel diary, this isn’t the end of my German inspired posts. We haven’t even scratched the surface with Mad King Ludwig II, and there’s an overflowing bag of candy just begging to be taste tested for blog purposes only. In the meantime, I’m still slightly jetlagged and would like some sleep. Excuse me while I curl up with my furry little German dog.
Note: I’m technically home. Due to some connectivity issues while in Germany, Im behind in posting. Still catching up.
Near the island that houses Ludwig II’s tribute to Versailles, there is another island that is home to a Benedictine abbey founded in 772. The nuns there have had many years to determine the most important things in life. You’ll be pleased to know that one of those things seems to be beer and liquor because they make their own. We actually spotted a nun in the wild, habit and all, and I acted like a two year old spotting on a dog on a sidewalk. “Nun!” I squealed as I pointed. Jenny proposed we split up to explore after that. Weird.
I’d like to say that after a day spent ogling the finery of a king obsessed with his own wealth that we then spent the afternoon on the nun’s island quietly contemplating the deeper truths of life. This is a lie. We made an effort to peruse the pretty walking trails, but all roads lead back to biergartens. At least this biergarten is holy. I think?
(Not pictured: An elderly woman sitting at the table behind us by herself, sipping coffee and happily noshing on a big slice of cake. She’s my hero.)
Since I’m a good Catholic girl, I felt it was my duty to support the nuns in the best way I knew how. No, I don’t mean that I got blitzed in the biergarten. Give me some credit. I bought some of their liquers in their giftshop, of course. Spoiler alert, Dad, you’re getting a few of these for your liquor cabinet. And attention to my college friends coming to the beach for Memorial Day: you are going to be submitted to a test taste for the scientific purposes of this blog. Bring your taste buds and sense of adventure!
To prove I didn’t just spend the whole afternoon turning water into wine (which Jesus is totally cool with, by the way, Mom), here’s a gallery of the beautiful flowers cultivated on the island.
Tomorrow: My last few German memories. Sadface.
A note: As I posted yesterday, I’m actually back from my trip. Due to wifi connectivity problems, I’m a little behind in posting my travel diary. Let’s just pretend I’m still there. I know I’m pretending it anyway.
Earlier in the week, I visited Neuschwanstein and documented my trip to the Cinderella castle with a twitter spree. The next day, Jenny went with me to visit another of the infamous Ludwig II castles– Herrenchiemsee (Heron-kim-zee). Thanks to my ongoing difficulty with German pronunciation, I mentally refer to this one as Harrenhal, like it’s on Game of Thrones. Ludwig built this palace on an island with a lovely view of the Alps. It’s a reasonable day trip from Munich, so we packed a picnic lunch and hopped a train to the suburbs.
A short history lesson: in the mid-1800s, Ludwig II took the Bavarian throne and went a little mad over building elaborate castles. I’ll write a lengthier post about him later because he fascinates me, but in the short term, all you need to know is that he relentlessly spent money he didn’t have in the name of creating fanciful castles from his imagination. He built three during his reign, though only one is actually completed. Neuschwanstein(the Cinderella castle) is one of the unfinished, and Herrenchiemsee is the other one. He finished a few rooms in both and they are elaborate enough to leave you wondering exactly how much he was going to bankrupt the Bavarian people in the name of architectural magic.
Herrenchiemsee is his ode to Versailles, the opulent home of the French kings and queens before they were beheaded for totally disregarding the horrible conditions of the people they lead in support of their belief in the divine right of kings. Ludwig seems to have overlooked the part where they ended up with their heads on pikes because he built this whole palace to honor their memory because he so admired what they accomplished over there in pre-Revolutionary France.
It’s not an exact copy, but I did have a weird sense of deja vu throughout the tour. I don’t have any photos of the interior because the palace forbids cameras, but the whole thing played out like an early version of fandom run amok. You know those Star Wars or Star Trek fans who build really elaborate models of the ships or the robots or whatever and spend thousands on replicating the costumes with gadgets that actually light up and all that? This is the kind of thing they might build if they lived in a time before modern pop culture and had the coffers of a king. Ludwig actually replicated full rooms, including the gilded and fabulously gaudy Hall of Mirrors, and there are enough portraits and statues of Louis XIV that one might suspect Ludwig of having a crush. He even called himself “The Moon King” because he saw himself as a sadder and more morose version of the Sun King. I like to imagine Ludwig sighing over fanfiction he wrote about himself and Louis; he might title his story. “The Moon Chases the Sun: An Impossible Love Story in 15 Parts.”
Since I can’t show you pictures of the inside, here are some pictures of the impressive mythological fountains in the courtyard leading up to the palace.
This is the first fountain you see upon entering the grounds.
Pretty basic until you realize the figures surrounding the statue at the top are humans gruesomely morphing into frog people.
As it turns out, this fountain portrays the story of some goddess who came to a village with her children begging for water and the villagers refused her. Then she got pissy and revealed her true form and turned them all into frogs. Seems fair, right? Anyway, I think we can conclude from this that Ludwig had a large chip on his shoulder.
I don’t remember the story with this one. She just looks arty, right?
There were a couple more fountains with very impressive spouts.
Jenny and I noticed a dearth of American tourists at this one and an unusually high population of German day trippers. My boyfriend Rick Steves doesn’t even mention it in his guide. We decided the remote location on an island in a German suburb makes it less appealing to tourists with less time in the country and more attractive to locals looking for a pleasant getaway.
I fear I was becoming blase about castles at this point because after touring a palace resplendent with gold encrusted mirrors and porcelain chandeliers worth more than my employer’s net worth, I told Jenny it was “just okay.”
Tomorrow: Nuns having fun!
Okay, I’ll let you in on a secret- I actually got home from Germany yesterday. Yup, a secret among you, me, and anyone who can find me on the Internet. Due to problems with wifi and some timing issues, I’m not actually done chronicling my journey. I’m planning to get through a few posts this weekend to make up for that.
Today, thanks to my general jet lag and malaise, I present: food porn! Mom, this is a term I did not actually make up. This is an accepted term for gratuitous food pictures.
Decided to try something different and tweet my trip into Bavaria to see Neuschwanstein Castle today instead of writing a full blog about it. Check out my twitter @mdabski, scroll down to where I call it Neufchâtel Castle and work from there. I’m with a tour called Mike’s Bike Tours: quick bike tour to Swan Lake, lunch at an Alpine cafe, magic show with tour guide, hike to castle, and then castle tour. Great tour, FYI. Also, I am alone today so there are no real pictures of me. Just assume I was really there.
For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, I’ve tried to copy screenshots of my tweets below. Not sure how well it will turn out since I’m blogging from my phone.
I did tweet 2 videos that you won’t be able to see unless you go to twitter. Links to those videos below.
Guten Tag! Apologies for weird formatting and spelling errors. Blogging from the iPad is proving a challenge because it keeps autocorrecting me.
I am here and quite jet lagged! The flight was unremarkable. Watched Batman, ate pasta, goggled at drunk ladies next to me who had a Bridesmaids moment when the flight attendant wouldn’t let them use the first class bathroom… the usual.
I’m a bit too brain dead to provide much commentary today, so here are some snapshots from our afternoon of sightseeing. Jenny took me for a stroll around downtown Munich, also known as Altstadt, to help familiarize me with the area.
We started at Viktualienmarkt. This is German for open air market stuffed with local cheese, produce, and food stands. If I lived here, I might be more likely to eat veggies all the time. They all look delectable.
Jenny then directed me toward the sausage stand. This town is a sausage fest in a good way. We had bratwurst semmel, which is essentially pork sausage in a bun. This is a great way to eat hot dogs for lunch and feel fancy.
After fortification, we set off for typical tourist stuff: old buildings, clock towers, manicured gardens that used to be the king’s backyard and so on. I was most impressed by this church, Theatiner Kirche. My travel boyfriend Rick Steves doesn’t even mention it, but I thought it striking. I might be breaking up with Rick over this. And would you look at that sky?
After walking forever and ever until I felt like I might just walk back to the US and crawl into my soft bed, we made it to the English Gardens, which is like Central Park but with more nude sunbathers and patches of daisies. You know what you don’t think you will find in an English Garden in Germany?
A Chinese pagoda. Jenny says the Chinese gifted it to the Germans. No one does this anymore, and it’s a shame. World Peace might be easier if we were all still donating buildings and oversized statues. Anyway, the pagoda stands over the Chinese Biergarten, and this is where Jenny made me drink a beverage the size of my head. I suppose I didn’t exactly fight her on that point. We drank Radler, light beers with lemon soda. This is an excellent way to make your jet lag seem funny.
This is Jenny with our empty mugs. She’s quite small, so you can assume she did not drink both.
We also saw these lions that are allegedly good luck if you rub them as you walk past. I’ll let you know if I meet a modest German heir with a killer smile and a reading habit who falls in love with my awkward post-airplane hair and whisks me off to his chateau in Bavaria.
We are now cooking dinner. To be fair, Jenny is cooking dinner and I am helpfully choosing songs on my iPod that fit the mood while drinking white wine and snacking on bits of real German Gouda. We will be trying Spargel, white asparagus that make the Germans crazy this time of year.
They look like fingers in that picture. Hopefully, they don’t taste like fingers.
Tomorrow we head to Salzburg where I will hopefully be better rested and more interesting in my prose. Now excuse me, I need to choose a broody song to match the feeling of the chard pasta Jenny is sautéing.
I find myself with some extra time in my travel prep this morning, so here’s a bonus travel post to start your afternoon. I’ve previously written extensive rules for traveling which you can see here. Today’s list: airplane essentials!
Item #1: Appropriate moisturizers for skin and mouth. You dry out like a prune on trans-Atlantic flights and I mean to look glowy when I land. I can’t afford the fancy stuff, but Neutrogena works okay for me.
Item #2: Sanitizer. I prefer the variety than I can spray, and this one is non-toxic if I accidentally drink it. That’s unlikely to happen, but you never know. Anyway, planes are notorious for germs and I refuse to spend my vacation laid up at Jenny’s apartment.
Item #3: Playlist designed especially for this trip- “Germany-Wanderlust.” I started off choosing dreamy, broody songs and then I started picking Britney Spears songs. It should be an interesting listen. Important for blocking out sounds of unruly children and loud talkers. Not pictured: headphones! Essential!
Item # 4: Snacks! I don’t trust airline food, so it’s always good to have a plan B on a long flight. I actually have a stash of Luna bars for this reason, but these cookies photograph better.
Item #5: Trashy reading for take off and landing. I always go for Entertainment Weekly for this purpose. Not pictured: iPad loaded with entertaining yet easy books: Insurgent by Veronica Roth and the latest Cassandra Clare entry in her Shadowhunter series.
Item #6: Gum! Good for popping your ears if that is a problem for you and also good to freshen your breath before landing if you don’t have a toothbrush handy. Don’t worry, Mom, I will only chew it long enough to serve its purpose and then I will spit it out. I will not look like a cow chewing cud like you warned me I might.
Item #7: Podcasts for times when the playlist doesn’t cut it and I feel like getting educated. I like This American Life, Stuff You Missed in History Class, RadioLab, and a few others. I also downloaded some specific to Germany and German history.
Other items not pictured:
– Cardigan sweater: the plane will eventually be cold and I will be ready for it. Doubles as a blanket in a pinch.
– Airbourne chewable supplements. More germ combat.
– Medications. Just because they lose your bags doesn’t mean you can’t keep your body heathy. Ditto extra underwear.
– Hair holders. For when I inevitably give up on looking cute.
– Make up. For when I decide I do want to be cute.
– Glasses. For when my contacts give up on everything.
That’s just about it for the carry on list. Other suggestions in comments?
My German odyssey begins tomorrow, and I’ve spent much of tonight making final preparations. Here are some last minute things I did:
Last American Meal for Nine Days: bbq pork taco with queso dip
Last Minute Baked Goods for Hosts: Unicorn Poop Cookies. Assuming German Customs allows this in the country, I’m giving my hosts techni-color sparkly sugar cookies in thanks for their hospitality. There’s enough food dye and edible glitter in these to make my holistic-medicine-loving cousin lose her marbles. You might think this an odd choice, but my friend Jenny enjoys unicorns and I enjoy a good baking challenge. Recipe here.
Last Picture of Loyal Schnauzer: My neighbor and friend N will dog-sit for Heidi in my absence. N encouraged me to take my little monster with me so she can see her “Mother Land.” We tried to ask Siri of the iPhone if schnauzers are common in Germany and Siri told us she can’t look for things in Germany. I think Siri is way more helpful to Zooey Deschanel and Samuel Jackson in those commercials than she will ever be to me.
Last minute panic attack: Do I have three copies of my passport? Is three enough? Did I write down Jenny’s phone number? AM I SURE? What if someone steals my laptop while I’m gone? Should I leave it at N’s house? What if the whole building burns down? Is it too late to get an external drive and then take all my files with me? Probably too late, right? What if my plane crashes and I lived my last day at work at my job instead of spending time with family like I always say when people play the “Last Day on Earth” game? What if my parents fight with N about who will get custody of my dog if I die? What if that weird thing in Heidi’s mouth explodes while I’m gone? Did I remember to put her flea meds on her? Did I count my pills to make sure I have enough? Is my jacket heavy enough? I should bring a sweater, right? Why do my sweaters smell strange? DO I HAVE BLACK MOLD?
You can see that I desperately need a vacation. Good thing I leave tomorrow. Next stop: airport!