Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cranberry bread

Today I was on snack duty for choir and so I made some cranberry bread - one with and one without walnuts. Cranberry bread is bread in the same sense that banana bread is bread; ie not very. It was very well received and as always people seem surprised it was vegan (why does everyone assume assume vegan=inferior). Since a couple of people have shown interest in the recipe I thought I would add it here. The original was from "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" and I made some minor adaptations to make it vegan.

Cranberry bread.

In a saucepan put in 2 cups of fresh cranberries, 1/2 cup sugar and 4 desert spoons of orange juice (If you are using an actual orange also put the rind in - I admit I just used Tropicana extra pulp juice). Over a low-medium heat cooked stirring until most of the berries burst. This will take about 5-7 minutes.

In a bowl make the dry ingrediants: 2 1/2 cups wholemeal flour, 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tsp baking soda and 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, a pinch or two of salt. Add the wet: 1/2 cup soy milk (or rice/almond/etc), 1/2 cup canola oil . and mix through. Add the cranberries and mix.Stir through walnuts here if you wish. Finally (just before putting in the oven) add 2 desert spoons of vinegar - this will react with the baking soda/powder and make it fluffy.

Bake in 375 F oven for about an hour.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Curry and Cobbler

Last night Laurie and I had Jessica and Jenny over for dinner. The plan was to make the yummy curry that I made for girls night with Jessica so she would know how to make it (she had previously asked for the recipe). It went well except there was perhaps too much tumeric. For perpetuity here is the recipe (this makes enough for 6 or 5 really big servings I would think):

Eggplant, chick pea and lentil curry

Brown rice
an onion diced
few cloves garlic chopped fine
an eggplant cubed (about 1-2 cm on each side)
various seeds which must include caraway and fennel dry roasted
various spices must include cumin, turmeric. Recommend also cinnamon, coriander and ginger
can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup red lentils

1. Put on brown rice
2. Start to sweat and fry onion in olive oil and after some time add garlic and eggplant.
3. Dry roast (in a pan with no oil) the seeds till they smell great and are slightly browned.
4. Add seeds, spices, hot water, chick peas and lentils.
5. Cook cover on a medium heat for around 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

I also had bought rhubarb the day before and had strawberries which due to stupidity on packing methods for freezing had to be used all at once so some sort of baked fruity thing was on the agenda. Looking through the "Vegetarian cooking for everyone" given to Laurie and I by his parents I found the American classic of the cobbler. It is like a crumble but the crumble mixture has no oats and is slightly more cakey. Really easy to make. I admit mine (below) is a veganised version. This was more than 4 people should eat but after seconds we managed to pull it off.

Fruit Cobbler:

Mix up some flour (1/4 cup), brown sugar (1/2 cup), citrus juice (1-2 tbsp) and cinnamon (1 tsp) with 6-8 cups of fruit cut up, and put in the bottom and then you dot on lumps of cobbler batter to form an uneven topping. Batter is flour (1 1/2 cups), baking soda (1/2 tsp), baking powder (1 tsp), s baking soda (1/2 tsp), baking powder(1 tsp), salt (1/2 tsp) alt (1/2 tsp), sugar (1/3 cup), oil (1/2 cup), vanilla (1/2 tsp) and soy milk (1/2 cup).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Macular Degeneration and the morality of fats

My great Aunt Dot has macular degeneration and so my family for a while now has been interested in the possible effects of diet on this condition (not only for her but also because there is a genetic component and I sure as hell don't want to go blind).

For ages I have been told that olive oil is the best fat and otherwise we should have butter as it is "pure" whatever that means. Vegetable oils are absolutely prohibited. It seems that the evidence is shaky and inconsistent. What is a vegetable oil anyway if olive oil isn't considered. We were all under the impression that canola oil was bad.

After some internet research I believe we were mistaken. Yes, there was a study in the US which had a link between some vegetable fat consumption and increased risk but it including in that list fats that were partially hydrogenated (particularly nasty industrial procedure) which is not a factor in Australia. Indeed similar studies in Australia did not had the same conclusion. There seems to be conflicting evidence. There is a lack of clarity in what is deemed "vegetable oil".

Anyway, all fat is bad some are worse than others is the only consensus. Factors that were brought up in numerous places is how unsaturated the oil is and whether it contains omega-3 and/or omega-6.

I have included some website links. The first is from the Medical Journal of Australia.

Lots of good stuff there but here is a snippet:

In the Australian Blue Mountains Eye Study, a cross-sectional population-based study, a borderline statistically significant increased risk of early AMD with higher total fat intake (OR, 1.6; P trend = 0.08) and monounsaturated fat intake (OR, 1.5; P trend = 0.05) was found. There was also an increased risk (OR, 2.7; P trend = 0.04) of late AMD with higher cholesterol intake (animal fat).29 Although vegetable fats as a group were not investigated, they found polyunsaturated fats, which are derived mainly from vegetable fats, to be protective (OR, 0.4; P trend = 0.07) for late AMD. More recently, results from another Australian prospective cohort study found no relationship between polyunsaturated fats (vegetable fats) and incident cases of AMD, but found omega-3 fatty acids to be protective for early AMD (OR, 0.4; 95% CI, 0.2–0.8).30

Based on the limited data from the US, there has been publicity in Australia urging people to avoid vegetables oils, particularly margarine, arguing that they cause AMD and encouraging people to eat butter (a saturated animal fat) instead. With the limited, often conflicting, information regarding fats and the risk of AMD, there appear to be no grounds to support any such public health message at this stage. However, it still remains clear that saturated fats are the main dietary cause of high blood cholesterol levels, and groups promoting heart health strongly recommend limiting saturated fat intakes. Saturated fats are found in mainly animal fats and in some plant oils (coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter). This message is still particularly pertinent for people concerned about AMD, given the possible links between CVDs and AMD outlined above.

Thus, while it is desirable to advocate a public health message of a low-fat diet in general, a specific recommendation regarding certain fats and AMD is not based on consistent findings at this stage.

Another one this time from America.


Late in 2001, Dr. Seddon and her colleagues at Harvard University reported another startling finding about nutrition and AMD. They found that people whose diets have the right ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have less macular degeneration than those whose diets are skewed. The real bombshell, though, is that most of us are eating skewed diets--very skewed diets. We get five times more omega-6 than we should and hardly any omega-3 at all. Since omega-6 and omega-3 compete with each other in our bodies, what little omega-3 we get hasn't got a prayer of protecting our retinas, which is one of its jobs. It turns out that the rods and cones of our macula need a certain amount of omega-3 to function properly. This may be a major reason that so many of us are winding up with accumulated waste in our maculae and AMD.

Fatty acids are fat molecules found in saturated fats such as butter and in unsaturated fats such as safflower and olive oil. We all know by now that if we eat large quantities of saturated fats, we'll clog our arteries and we'll wind up as candidates for a heart attack. As a result, many people have turned to vegetable oils for a healthier diet. But large quantities of common vegetable oils--like corn, safflower, and soybean oil--may increase our risk of macular degeneration because they are chock-full of omega-6 fatty acids.

You don't have to eat fried food or use lots of vegetable oil in your cooking to be getting too much omega-6, because these oils are key ingredients in just about every commercial food product on the market, especially low-fat foods such as crackers, sports bars, and microwave popcorn. I recently checked every label in a food mart and found that the only products in the whole store that didn't contain omega-6-rich vegetable oils were the ketchup, mustard, and relish. Everything else that came in a box, bag, can, or package contained omega-6 oils, including the Ben & Jerry's ice cream. To reduce your omega-6 consumption, therefore, you need to avoid packaged foods with vegetable oil listed in the ingredients.

Our Heroes: Olive, Canola, Fish, and Flaxseed Oils

The right ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is 3:1, which means that we need to consume approximately three times as much omega-6 as omega-3. So what oils should we use? The answer is monounsaturated oils, such as olive and canola oil for their omega-6 fatty acids, and fish oil and flaxseed oil for their omega-3 fatty acids.


For cooking, use good-quality olive or canola oil. These oils contain high levels of oleic acid, a monounsaturated oil that tolerates heat and light much better than polyunsaturated vegetable oils do, so cooking won't significantly degrade its nutritional content. If you have a recipe that calls for another oil, check with your health-food store. Some of the companies that produce high-quality olive and canola oils also have lines of oleic-rich safflower, sesame, almond, corn, and peanut oils that you can use, especially for baking.

Another American one which had some interesting things to say about dairy and meat (and again says, for omega reasons put canola as "good").
It has:

The Bad
Of the food sources, intake of beef, pork, or lamb as a main dish increases the risk of macular degeneration. More than 1 serving/week of beef, pork, or lamb as a main dish is associated with a 35% increased risk of macular degeneration as compared with less than 3 servings/month. A high intake of margarine is also significantly related to an increased risk of macular degeneration. 1 serving per day of high-fat dairy food (whole milk, ice cream, hard cheese, or butter) increases risk of macular degeneration progression by 1.91 times. 1 serving per day of meat food (hamburger, hot dogs, processed meat, bacon, beef as a sandwich, or beef as a main dish) increases risk of macular degeneration progression by 2.09 times. 1 serving per day of processed baked goods (commercial pie, cake, cookies, and potato chips) increases risk of macular degeneration progression by 2.42 times.

A really good argument to go veg (with no dairy).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Loose Ends

So I guess I have just lost puff. The holiday has ended but the blog unfinished. There are still several days not covered. I can't be bothered with photos so you will have to imagine.

I can't remember where in Vienna I left off. Laurie and I did not achieve maximum touristing efficiency there anyway. We had a little of the not-another-grand-building syndrome. Walk ten seconds in pretty much any direction anywhere in the old city in Vienna and you see some grand building. It is very much "look at us we are the capital of a massive empire at the turn of the 20th century" (or is it 19th - I mean around 1900 in case of confusion). Unfortunately almost every site has some part they are either restoring or cleaning. There is scaffolding with pictures of the building behind on top everywhere. I don't think anyone has seen the entirety of St Stephan's at the same time for many years.

Laurie and I went to the Belvedere which is a grand residence. It also is an art gallery - we reckoned we would only manage one site and here we could kill birds with one stone as the saying goes. There were also gardens here (though not very extensive). These gardens were of the manicured, pebble path variety with plants forming patterns. Laurie reaffirmed he would not make a good 19th gardener by remarks such as "I hate pebbles, even dead grass is better". We both prefered the grounds at Nymphemburg - something more woody which you could even get lost in.

We then went to London. Here we stayed with Julian which was great. He took us on a walking tour of the city center one day and the next we all went up to Cambridge (where he was for a year).

I really like the center of London. It has a mix of old and new. Dynamic and alive and at the same time filled with a rich history. I prefer this to have an old city and then the business side separate.

Going the Cambridge was fun. The main activity was punting along the Cam river. Being England it was raining alot but we were prepared and sheltered under bridges and ate a picnic in the boat. Although the individual parts are very pretty I actually prefer Chicago - I like a main quad.

Anyway that is a rushed conclusion to our Europe trip.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Vienna - assorted photos and monday

Laurie mentioned our quest for washing. We were very smelly- or at least our clothes were. Here is a photo of the green washing machine place with huuuge dryers.

On Monday we met up with Andy who was the singing teacher at Zell. We met at Demel with is a Konditorei which once provided sweet baked goods to the emperor. They claim to still e using the same recipes. Inside you can see parts of the kitchen area. We saw...
After cake (which was indulgent and good) we all went to the chapel for the old townhall. It has two alters as displayed in the photo below. One is anglican and the other old catholic (a sect that splintered off the catholic church in response to the pope saying he was infallible about a century ago. It was originally two separate chapels - one for the town hall and one of some guy who lived next door but then the town hall bought his place and tore down the wall between. The organ here is own of the oldest in the city. Andy was singing in a concert here and waned us to see the place and attend some of a rehearsal as we left for London before the concert occurred.
Laurie mentioned horses - I think. There are a lot here. The smell of poo can sometimes be overpowering. I enjoyed this scene though.
The horse drawn carriages as a symptom of the important and omnipresence of tourism stuff. Another are the Mozart concerts with the corresponding dudes dressed up trying to sell you tickets - in particular outside Stephan's Dom. Most have the same red coat and wig. In the back of this photo you can also see a souvenir shop which seems appropriate.
Shall post more on Vienna soon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Arrived in Vienna

It is now Monday morning and we are posting from a Starbucks in the heart of the Hofburg (Imperial Palace) in Vienna. There are horses and carriages everywhere. After a ridiculously long final concert at Zell (we broke for an interval after a 2h 40min first half, starting at 8pm) we were kindly given a lift by a guitarist (and computational physicist!) at the Seminar who lives on the outskirts of Vienna. This saved us a train ride. We spent about half an hour at his place (next to corn and sunflower farms, very picturesque) as he told us what to do in Vienna and while we waited for his harpsichord, spinet and seven guitars to arrive back in the van which was coming from Zell. Once those arrived safely, he gave us a lift to the edge of the underground network, from which it was a short ride to our hotel (next to the historic part of town). It was urgent that we wash clothes so we rushed to one of the few laundromats we could find by Google (further hindered by it being Sunday and everything being closed). Green & Clean was very bright and efficient, and had extremely large dryers---photos to come---although the purely German signage was very frustrating to one American tourist we found pacing around waiting for his clothes to finish. In the mean time we had ice cream at a little Italian gelateria and 1 Euro pizza at a local turkish-kebab place; clearly we were not in the touristy part of town. By the time we got back to our hotel it was lateish and rainy, so we didn't set out again that night, although perhaps we didn't have enough to eat as I woke up at 6 am hungry. Nothing is open in Europe at 6am --- perhaps reasonably --- although after some searching I found a bakery, ate a croissant and a coffee, and went back to sleep for a bit. Now it is 10 am and sunny, so we will ascend the Stephansdom! We will be meeting Andy (the singing teacher) for lunch and to hear part of a rehearsal for a concert of his in an apparently antique and curious church with a very unusual organ. More news to come. Oh also while Kate was sleeping I looked up Australian politics and was pleased to see the shine come off Tony Abbott a few notches. Byee!

Saturday, August 7, 2010


"About time" I hear you say. And you are right but forgive us as we have been very busy rehearsing and it amazing how tiring making music can be.

We had one jam packed day of touristing in Salzburg. (I don't know why this is blue and underlined - blogger is sometimes a little mysterious.)

In the morning we went up to the large fortress on the hill which was constructed over many centuries but certainly has a medieval feel. We walked up instead of the almost vertical railway (which we took back down). Besides being of interest in of itself. From the fortress there are great views of Salzburg below. Here is one of the few Kate AND Laurie photos. We learnt on the audio tour that Salzburg was named after the salt deposits nearby, that were fundamental in the success of the fortress (never successfully sieged - it was only once surrendered and that was to Napoleon) as salt (Salz) was the major preservative.

A comment on the audio tour. In order have tours in several languages simultaneously they had head sets which could be programmed to different languages and even a kids orientated version, and then forty people would go to the same rooms at the same time and hear their version. I am undecided in whether I think this is very smart and practical or saddened by the technologising of it all. People should perhaps just cope with the german (they are in Austria after all).

These photos are out of order so later you will see an organ which is in the fortress. It has no keyboard. Initially it could only play an F major chord and then later they added the barrel which allows premade tunes.

Below is a picture taken at the end of our day. We saw a free filming of La Traviato, filmed at the Salzburg festival in 2005. It was very good. Unfortunately very little of the italian was translated to german so the plot made little sense. Wikipedia helped us out there. That organ I promised you:
One of the places we saw was a lovely little cemetery. Laurie likes fonts as probably you are aware. The following photo was taken because of the font.
Wandering the streets is an important touristing activity, especially since we were a little sick of museums and the like. There are very strict rules in the Old Town for signs and shop fronts. Even McDonalds must uphold them. Overall Salzburg is a nice place but a little too touristy for its own good. It is hard to escape to souvenir and mozart kugel shops. That said we also experienced some gems - like the coffee house in the style of Viennese coffee houses that was frequented by Constanze (Mozarts wife) after his death when she lived in Salzburg with her second husband. It is still around and, I think, very much as it was then. Also the high hills on the edge of the city center are effectively free of development. We enjoyed walking through paths, seeing woods, cows and older houses. We did see some of the locations for sound of music. It didn't interest me much, I am glad we didn't do a tour.

Very quick Zell update

Very quick blog as I'm late for a rehearsal. Here is me at the (first of four, rest to come) final concert playing cembalo in a passacaglia by Schmeltzer.

We visited Schaerding on the free afternoon on Weds, a baroque town on the river Inn (the border between Germany and Austria). Here you can see Germany:

Here is us in the town square, with Christophorus:

Here is the mighty Pram:
and here is the Schloss:
Must dash

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Zell 1

I promise I will go back and fill in the blog gaps some time soon. Salzburg with photos will come. However for the moment I will just say a few words about the music seminar in Zell an dem Pram. It is very free-form. Laurie and I had be told this before otherwise it might have been a shock. You get one lesson a day and the rest of the time you need to organise small projects with other participants. I am singing in a 5-person a capella group for some Italian song and Laurie is also included for a 6-person song, this one in English. One of the guitar players organised a guitar, two sops and one alto piece - he even typed up the parts on a computer music program from the facsimile so it would be (much) easier to read. My sight singing is not quite at the level of others but everyone is very patience and helpful. I am trying to learn stuff in my free time.

Solo singing wise I am doing a few songs with transverse flute, all Bach of course. Two of them I had prepared though not as much a I should have before coming. The third is new to me. I am currently listening to it on repeat via youtube for fast track learning. Laurie and I will also do a Bach duet from the wedding cantata o organ accompaniment (I hope - this is still in process of organising).

Laurie is playing not just with me but is in demand - there are only 3 piano/harpsicord/organ students. There is also a lady here who is a wiz at accompanying and is doing that exclusively I think. She is often helping at the singing lessons. I will let Laurie talk about his program later for himself.

The place itself is great. It is designated as a learning centre I think and more specifically for music. It has many practise rooms as well as a big hall with stage. Photos will come I promise.My only complaint is the the church next door ring bells every 15 minutes. A higher pitched ring for each 15 past the hour (4 of them on the hour) and I slightly lower pitch from how many hours in 24 hour time. This runs throughout the night. I know this because the first night our window was open and I guess I must not have been very tired as I heard them at 12 (when we went to bed), 1, 3, 5, and 6. At 6 everyone is woken up as there is an extended playing. Clearly they believe in early mornings here.

Anyway I should go practise.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thursday & Friday 2

Thursday was relatively uneventful, so it gets put together with Friday in our preparations to leave Munich for Salzburg. On the way home we went via the Johann-Nepomuk-Kirche, a tiny church on Sendlinger Strasse right near the language school. It had a strange rock motif on the outside as if at the sea, and was covered with golden decorations on the inside, including the following scary statue of Fate, and above it a statue of an angel holding a framed painting at a precarious angle, as if to drop it on visitors; very odd.

Here is our little apartment in Munich on Thursday morning, just after Kate's expert cleaning job. She constantly surprises me with her packing prowess; we still fit all our stuff into two carry-on sized suitcases (plus a backpack) despite buying in Munich: jeans and a jumper (for me), a jumper and two umbrellas (for Kate), a pillow, four thick German textbooks (from the language school), and various knickknacks.

Our last day of German school was a little sad as there were several of us leaving, but we all had fun. Particularly good was a discussion about attitudes to work and careers. A young Japanese woman in our class was explaining how she worked as a paralegal from 8am to 9pm, usually six days a week, with only an hour (or actually half hour) break, and only two weeks (actually one) of annual leave. This prompted the young Italian in our class to exclaim loudly "Mamma mia, questa non e una vita", followed by much head-shaking as to how such a work schedule was even possible. He admitted that Italians worked till eight in the evening or so, but only after a four hour siesta. We ended with a game of Tabu (like Pictionary except you describe the word verbally without using a few specified other words) where we did distinctly better than we had in the first week.

After a leisurely lunchtime (leaving it a little late to set off for the train station) we rushed to the Hauptbahnhof for the 3.27 train. We arrived at 3.15 but there were long ticket queues, so we went to the automatic ticket machine. We were going to buy the standard Munich-Salzburg ticket except that the nice Deutsche Bahn man at the machine advised us instead to get the "Bayern Ticket", which allows you travel as a pair to anywhere in Bavaria for only 27 euros together, including Salzburg (counted as on the border). We then rushed to the platform and got on the train with two minutes to spare. Unfortunately when the conductor lady got to us, it transpired that the Bavaria Ticket was not valid for the express train we had taken, so the DB man had been truthful but misleading. She was very nice though and let us just make up the difference. Before we knew it (about an hour and a quarter) we were in Salzburg and it was raining, just as we thought we had escaped the Munich rain. We got the bus to our hostel (actually very new and flash), which is right near the old part of town. You can see here the medieval Festung (fortress) Hohensalzburg) from our hostel, just on top of a beautiful construction site.

Not wanting to waste a moment, we set out and visited the Mozart Wohnung, apparently the best of the several Mozart themed museums in Salzburg. It is in the quite fancy apartment where the Mozart family moved once Mozart was 20 or so and had experienced considerable success overseas. I was most surprised in the museum's exhibitions by how Mozart's temperament differed from his father's --- Wolfgang happy-go-lucky and brilliant but inattentive, Leopold strict and pushy but supportive to a fault, ultimately getting into extreme debt through Wolfgang's lifestyle and frequent trips. It was a little sad to discover that Leopold is thought to have been buried in an unmarked spot in the general Salzburg cemetery. Perhaps it is the curse of child stars everywhere to never fully grow up. (I believe the split infinitive is accepted correct practice nowadays, and the available alternatives for this sentence were significantly worse. Here is Mozartplatz in the old city (only erected about 50 years after his death; Mozart and Salzburg never really loved each other while he was alive).

As you may have read, finding good food in Munich had been a bit of a challenge if we didn't eat at home, but no such trouble in Salzburg (possibly because of the number of tourists). In the north of the historic district we found Spicy Spices, a charming little vegetarian/vegan eatery full of Bio (organic) hippy produce that you can buy and take home with you. (It seems very common in Germany and Austria to have eateries with randomly mixed German/English in their titles and menus; hence "Weine, Biere und Hot Drinks", "Smoothies --- 100% Pure Frucht", "Kaffee To Go" and so on; also a travel agent with "Oesterreichs einziges echtes Last Minute" or some such). I spent much of the time puzzling what "Gewuerze" were on some of the many hippy writings on the wall, but I felt very silly to learn later that it meant "Spices".

Wednesday 2

We went to Schloss Nymphenburg - the summer palace of the house of Wittelsbach (rulers of Bavaria).

It was outside the city - or at least on the outskirts when it was first built but is now well inside - about a 10 minute tram ride from the central station.

The castle is filled with elaborately decorated rooms and the like. More important are the extensive grounds filled with winding paths and pretty little bridges. After taking the audio-guided tour of the 20 or so rooms open to the public inside the castle we wandered the grounds. It was very peaceful and atmospheric. Spotted around the grounds were 4 small "mini-castles" which are large house in size. These were used for entertaining I believe. One of them had a room filled with mirrors. There also was a fad for Chinese style decoration in many places. Interestingly although some of the wall furnishings were imported from the Orient, it was supplemented by dutch tiles made to look Chinese.

Now for some photos:

The ceiling in the main auditorium. Such magnificent ceilings have inspired Laurie and me to get some nice big poster and put it on our ceiling at home. Below is a picture of the castle from far down the main canal thing. Most of it is hidden behind the trees.
We have many photos of our wanderings through the woods. Below is one which we thought was particularly picturesque.
Finally this slightly silly one. Only one of the mini-castles had a kitchen. It had decorations in the Chinese style but for whatever reason the tiles were not perfectly laid. Quite postmodern really.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Monday and Tuesday 2

On Monday there were a few more students in class, taking it up to twelve, but otherwise it was fun to get back to learning German. We went again to Prinz Myshkin for lunch, a cool vegetarian restaurant across from the language school, and one of the few good eating places we have found here.

In the afternoon, we were going to go to the Alte Pinakothek (old art gallery) but Kate's shoulders hurt from our silly pillows at home. Germans have a bizarre notion of bedclothes. On our first day we slept with the bedsheets as given---if you could call them that. The bed had an ordinary fitted sheet, but on top it had no sheet, only two polyester quilts with corduroy/flannelette style quilt covers, and two huge square pillows, also with corduroy covers, which were extremely thin and pliable---not at all springy or supportive. The main problem on the first night was the heat of the quilts, which we solved by removing the polyester quilts and using the quilt covers, turned inside out, as bedsheets. I had planned to go to a shop and buy an ordinary sheet, but of the four or five shops I tried, all had this same strange combination of an 80x80cm pillowslip with a 200x130cm quilt cover, described as a set of bedsheets! So there was no advantage to us buying a new copy of the same silly sheet arrangement.

Our workaround worked tolerably well until Sunday night, after which Kate had a terrible neck ache from the unsupportiveness of the pillows. This as well as the rain caused us to postpone the art gallery by a day. Instead, we ambled around for a bit and on the way home went via Kik Textil-Diskont, a clothes shop near our apartment. And when I say discount, I mean discount! I got new long jeans for 5 euros and a woollen jumper for 6 euros, which was good as I had been getting pretty cold in the rain. More importantly, Kate got a springy pillow for 2 euros, which has solved the neck problem, and I got a set of watch batteries for 1 euro, which was good as the 5 euro watch Kate had bought me from the Turkish district had stopped working. I thought I had broken the watch in trying to replace the battery but Kate managed to fix it. Success!

Here is the beer garden we visited on Sunday night (I seem to have muddled my place in the photo stream). Pretty, no? It had a statue of somebody von Paula, the founder of the Paulaner Braeuerei some time in the seventeenth century.

Here is Kate the elite watch repairer, fixing the watch I had broken with a pair of tweezers.

On Tuesday we finally made it to the Alte Pinakothek, which was worth it for the collection of Rubens paintings alone. Here is "The Last Judgement" (or some such), a six metre tall painting which has pride of place in the gallery's central room (which was built especially for it).

They had some wonderful paintings by Raphael, Leonardo, Rubens and Rembrandt, but after that it went down a bit, and also I tired a bit of all the religion; perhaps a religious education would have made some of the pictures more interesting to me. Still definitely worth a visit if you're in Munich, and it's mercifully not like the Met where you feel you can only properly see 1% of the museum at once. Oh, there was a (temporary) exhibit by some modern German dude downstairs, which we walked into and beheld about three entirely black paintings. We were about to leave anyway but the nice man at the door informed us we needed to buy an extra ticket on top of the museum entry fee in order to see these black paintings. I felt a little sorry for him, as it was not at all signposted that you needed to buy an extra ticket, and I expect of the people who stumbled into the temporary exhibition very few would have realised or intended to buy the extra ticket, especially once they saw the first few paintings. We went home early to try to make up for some poor sleeps earlier; also the joys of home cooked food only increase in a city such as Munich.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sunday 2 (recall we arrived on a Sunday)

Always out for a saving, I saw in the guidebook that entry to the Pinakothek der Moderne was only 1 euro on sunday (normally 6 or something like that). Since modern art is not really our thing, Laurie and I decided that if we went we should go on sunday - there may only be 1 euro worth of entertainment.

So - as you may guess - we went on Sunday. It was better than we expected. This was not because of the paintings but the design section and the architecture section. In the architecture section they had displays about the reconstruction process of various buildings. Many of these were in Munich which was hard hit during the world wars by bombs.

The design section was an eclectic array of stuff - cars, wicker chairs and also stuff for the home. Below was one of the displays:

Laurie particularly liked the collection of old computers. Here is the compulsory photo of some old macs. Don't worry there are about ten more on the camera for later perusal.

After the Pinakothek we went rode around and then went up St peter's church to enjoy the clear weather and the view it would allow us. Below is a photo of the very gold interior of St Peters. Must run to class...

Rant about German food

This entry does not pertain to any particular day or occasion but rather is a collection of thoughts about German food.

Firstly since Laurie and I are vegetarian our perspective will differ much from the norm. Everywhere is meat and when there is not meat there is cheese. It is amazing how many places boast having vegetarian options that are entirely cheese-based. Vegetables are like some endangered species.

At our beloved Discount Bakerei there are rolls that are filled - it is meat or three slices of cheese (sometimes both) with a slice of cucumber and a slice of tomato side by side. Last night for dinner we bought a filled roll and two plain ones for dinner and split the filling. It is sad to see a cheese sandwich with a slice of cucumber.

All hope is not lost though. Various ethnicities have eateries with more vegetarian friendly options. There are many Italian places - though here there is also Cheese. Doner kebab places are also dotted around. We had a cheap chinese yesterday for lunch which was fine though ironically "nothing worth writing home about". Even at traditional German places you can get side orders of potatoes and of sauerkraut to get a vegetarian meal by omission. Best of all is the vegetarian restaurant pretty much across the road from the school. It even has vegan meals (labeled by v on the side).

Thankfully beer is vegetarian and cheese-less. We can partake of this very munich repast. I don't understand how anyone can drink a whole liter on their own. Laurie and I often share the half liter option and that seems more that enough for a sitting.

I must warn all that the milk is that horrible UHT stuff. Everywhere! At every coffee store it is what they use. It is good that I had pretty much switched to black back in America or I would have found it bad here.

Anyway even about the food.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Saturday 1

On Saturday we visited the memorial site of the infamous concentration camp at Dachau, a small town on the outskirts of Munich. We went along with a tour group of about 20 people, which was a good idea as it helped to understand the significance of the things we were seeing.

Here is the entry gate which shows the Nazi regime's empty claim that hard work at the camps would be rewarded. Apparently the limited nature of the tours given by the Nazis to the Red Cross meant that this camp was recognised as an accepted "labour camp" by them until the early 1940s, even though it was set up in the 1930s and the brutality of the camp had been clear from the start.

Here is a sculpture made for the site of the new memorial to commemorate the victims. There are also individual memorials for each nationality and religion.

Here is a statue outside the site of the Dachau gas chamber, which was built later on in the war. The man's posture symbolises freedom and defiance, and the inscription translates roughly as "To honour the dead --- to warn the living".

On the way home from the train station we walked via the Beethovenplatz, which was quite disappointing to me; the most Beethoven-related feature there was not a plaque or a statue but rather the following cheesy real estate advertisement:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Friday 1

Kate is currently impressing everyone with her German, as we take a internet break from our Sunday travels. More on that later, though, as the blogging deficit is to be made up...

On Friday we did some window shopping after class at the Kaufhof ("buying hub", a department store) and had a Mozart-Kugel (chocolate marzipan confection) of which there will doubtless be copious numbers later at Salzburg and Wien. We proceeded to the Muenchner Stadtmuseum (City Museum) where they had an amazing exhibition of antique and bizarre musical instruments. First, the "Orchestrion", a street music-playing contraption by some nineteenth century Viennese:

Here is Kate with a rather threatening Thai drum.

I also got to revisit my horn playing youth with the various crooked models on show (technical term---a "crook" is the removable tube from the centre of a non-valved French horn which allows you to change the natural key by substituting a longer one).

We had dinner at a charming little Trattoria whose owners switched idly between Italian, German and English (even while speaking to the same people). Serving wine out of a carafe added considerably to the cool factor. I had an eggplant pizza and Kate had a vegetable calzone which was unfortunately more cheesy than desired.

On Thursday afternoon on a whim we had bought tickets to the Bayerische Staatsoper, one of the best opera companies in Germany. They were playing Così fan tutte on Friday night, but the only tickets left were ones either with no view or no seat. Naturally we picked the no seat option... more on which later. We arrived at the Nationaltheater at about 6.10, but after some toing and froing to find the Abendkasse (evening box office) we were told by one of the ushers that it was 7.10 (ten minutes late!). After frantically rushing to the door and being puzzled by how few people there were, it transpired we were in fact fifty minutes early, so the usher had been either a jerk or incompetent for some reason. It was good though that we got a chance to walk through the almost obscenely grand front halls of the opera house. Kate and I felt quite underdressed in our sneakers and T-shirts compared to the other attendees---much more formal than in Sydney. I found the busts of opera composers and conductors that they chose to include in the main hall quite puzzling. Of the composers, half were Italian (Puccini, Verdi, and ... Bellini (?!)) and the other half were German. Not only was there no Mozart (maybe no Austrians wanted, but then why the Italians?) but Beethoven was sat next to none other than Carl Maria von Weber (at which I think he would be quite offended) and the German side was rounded out by Carl Orff (ok, but...) and Werner Egk (?) (who?!). Not a great show. Anyway, the opera itself was better (although with unfortunate asynchronisation between orchestra and singers on occasion---surely this is not rocket science) and very funny, especially to someone like me who had not really concentrated when hearing it before. The German surtitles were much easier to make out than the Italian singing, which I guess shows that we have not learnt absolutely nothing. We were particularly proud, though, to spot two empty spots a level below and opposite our standing spots, which had got quite hot during the first half, so we went and took them after interval and enjoyed a great view for a fraction of the price. The only problem was the very low floor which caused pins and needles of my legs until I realised you could pull out a stool for this very purpose. Overall an excellent evening---no photos by the theater's request but I'm sure you can find some online!

Wednesday 1

We forgot to blog about Wednesday because it was in the last batch of photos. In the morning we had our customary muesli and rolls at Starbucks:

In the afternoon we went to the Alte Pinakothek, Munich's grand old art gallery, but unfortunately we mixed up the days and thought it was open later than it actually was. It turned out well though as we spent a lovely afternoon biking through the Englischer Garten. This is a stretch of grassy fields, forests, streams and a lake just north of the city (and larger than the city centre). It was quite hot that afternoon and we resolved to come back for a swim one day. Here is one of the little streams you can swim in:

We stayed till dinner time, at which point we went to a beer garden beside the huge Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) in the middle of the gardens. Not too much for vegetarians, but the Bratkartoffeln (roasted potatoes) and Sauerkraut went well with a half-litre Radler (summery beer/lemonade mixture).

In the evening we had ein Eis (ice cream) from an overpriced cafe in the Marienplatz, opposite the picturesque Rathaus (old town hall):

Thursday 1

Above is the discount bakery. It is high time it appeared in this blog. It is near the language school. Everyday pretty much we will buy something here - so cheap and so tasty. German bread is so far superior to American bread it doesn't make sense to compare. Sometimes for breakfast we get a roll each from here and share a bircher muesli and filter coffee from the Starbucks where we can use the internet. Yes, you read correctly, bircher muesli from Starbucks.

We decided to go the the Deutches Museum. It is a museum of science and industry (well mainly industry). Unfortunately Laurie's left thong broke. The bit that goes between your toes and some of the foam near it broke off. I was going to say it wasn't that surprising as they were cheap things from CVS (a pharmacy in Hyde park) but Laurie just informed me they were a whole $8!

Anyway, we had picked the right museum to visit that day. I was inspired, if I say so myself, and suggested we keep them on with a rubber band. I remembered that Eraser (also known as a rubber) was Radiergummi in German so I guess Radier was rubber and asked the shopassistant if he had any Radierband. He looked a little confused and asked if I wanted a Gummiband. Oh well, I was close - the logic was right. He pulled out a big box filled with rubber bands of all different shapes and sizes and fussed about finding the best one. At most places we would be lucky if they had any. Below is Laurie. If you look carefully you can see the rubber band.

The Deutches Museum was very interesting. They had a large section on ships that Dad would have loved. I almost felt guilty being there and him not. They also have there the first submarine built by the Germans. It was used as the test one and for training during the first world war. Apparently the allies had originally required it to be destroyed but Oskar von Millar, the curator, convinced them it could be on show has been on display sine the 1920s. It was effectively destroyed anyway as it is cut open so you can see inside.

As always we try to find photos of the silly and unusual. Below is a device for saving people in shipwrecks or generally overboard. A very different pair of trousers.

After the museum we went home for pasta and general relaxing. It stormed. I read some maths. Here is a photo of the view of the railway and a vacant block from our apartment.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tuesday 1: An introduction to beer

Laurie's first post. Hooray!

On Tuesday we set out straight after class and had lunch at a little cafe under Altpeter (the old St Peter's church in Munich). Nearby was a shop we thought sold souvenirs but which turned out only to have devotional figurines of various sorts, including very large crosses and statuettes (alongside the customary huge beer mugs with lids). The cafe was good though, having vegetarian and even vegan options (a rarity in dairy-loving Munich so far). Here is Kate enjoying her bunte Salatplatte.

We proceeded to the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum, a funny four-storey building in a little alley way which contains exhibits of the history of beer making and drinking. After finding our way up little twisty staircases they had various objects from early beer makers in Munich, including this surprising six-pointed star exhibit. Apparently the six pointed star was seen (by the very non-Jewish early Munich beer brewers) as a magical symbol whose special powers would prevent the beer from being spoiled while it was brewed. There are also stars on the beer mugs.
They also had a video explaining the history of beer from the early Sumerians to now (complete with entertaining historical reenactments of early civilisations), narrated by an avuncular German man very good at rolling his r's who explained admirably the strange process of creating malt (put wheat on large floor, wet it, sweep it into piles, let it germinate and then dry it out).

I lied a bit because after class, instead of going straight to the cafe, we stayed a little at the language school to get bikes. We paid 50 Euros for two bikes for a week, which was probably a reasonably good deal, but the bikes themselves are the cruddiest piles of metal ever to hit the Munich streets---no gears, wheels slightly off center, foot stands that don't hold the bike up, and tiny handle bars. On the plus side, it's good exercise having to pedal all the way up a hill without gears, and no one is likely to steal these bikes. Here we are at the Isartor, one of the three main gates of the old city remaining (dating back to the 1300's):

Finally we went to a beer garden next to the Viktualienmarkt (huge open air market) and had our first taste of Munich helles Bier (surprisingly good for someone who doesn't like beer):