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):

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Monday 1

So on Monday we left Starbucks and went to the Residenz. Copying straight from wikipedia:
The Munich Residenz (German for "residence") is the former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs in the center of the city of Munich, Germany. The Residenz is the largest city palace in Germany and is today open to visitors for its architecture and room decorations, and displays from the former royal collections.

Lots of rooms of great magnificence including a chapel and portrait gallery of ancestors. Amazingly the windows were all closed and it was very stuffy - particularly on the second floor. I bet Maximillian would not have suffered it.

Gilded rooms are fine but more interesting were the treasures now stored there. Below is a statue of St george and the dragon. It is gold - not that you would know with all the precious stuff covering it - bit of a waste really. They must have had way to much money.

There is also one of the largest collections of relics anywhere. Nothing like having a bone of a saint to intercede between you and God. Also below contains, I swear its true, part of the cross and the crown of thorns.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One last photo

We can only do so many pictures in one post. There are more photos that didn't make the blog cut.

I mentioned a few posts ago my zombie like status on the first day. I decided I didnt want large amounts of cheese (or meat obviously - being vegetarian) in whatever was my dinner. This is not that that hard in Munich as there are many eateries from various cuisines. So far we have spied Doner kebab shops, many Italian places, and Indian, Chinese restaurants and even an Afghani restaurant.

I wanted falafel! After searching in a major touristy section we stumbled across a nice Doner kebab shop. The owner was sweet with little English. We ate at a nearby fountain.

Photos from the first day

Busking the way it should be... how the hell did they get the grand in?

Amazing car we saw in our traipses. We have walked so much. Public transport is for the lazy - our apartment is not more than half an hour from the school which is in the southern part of the city center. We now have quite crappy bikes to allow even more movement.

It is a good thing we packed light as we walked around till we found our apartment On the way we passed the Sendlinger Tor (gate). Here I am with the map of the city trying to guess where should go now we were leaving the area it maps (recalling distant memories of google maps and where the apartment was in relation to other stuff).
All these pictures are in reverse order - this is Sendlinger Tor from the city side.
A pretty courtyard found by going through arcades. We stumbled upon it. It is close to the language school so I am sure we will come back some day for beer and lunch. Note the two cabin luggage bags - besides my handbag this was all we packed!

Monday, July 19, 2010

First days in Munich

Back again - now using starbucks internet. Wi fi in cafes is not common here.

The language school is very fun and our teacher is very good. Laurie and I are in the same class. Today we looked at colours and adjective declension.

Most galleries are closed on Mondays so Laurie and I plan to go to the Residenz today. Hopefully we can fit it in.

First days of Munich

We arrived yesterday safely in Munich, We picked up the key to the apartment at a hotel near the central station. There we also got a map with the apartment marked. Unfortunately there was a gap between the city map and this one. However by remembering vaugely where the apartment was and some luck we managed to walk there. (the directions where given in terms of public transport which we were too adventurous/stingy to use).

Unfortunately Laurie only got 2-3 hours sleep on the plane and I none. Furthermore my nose decided it wanted to leak continuously. This made for a very zombie like experience.

Everything was closed with the exception of some of the restaurants. Every supermarket and pharmacy closed. This made buying daily supplies difficult. Near centeal station stuff was open and by the end of the day we had made it back to buy stuff.

Must go as people want this computer...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Final preparations

We leave today and we are in the final wave of stuff to do. Bag packing is almost done. We have one carry-on rolly bag which we will check in and another one which we will carry on. Not bad for two people. We are taking with us two backpacks from kathmandu which stuff themselves in a pocket. They are now in stuffed form but then if (who am I kidding - when) we buy stuff it can go in backpacks. The longest flight is only 7 hours! Flying between Australia and America makes everything else seem short. Sleep a bit and watch a movie and you are done.

I am excited!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book for the plane

As part of the preparations I thought I should go get myself something not too serious for the flight and waiting times in the airports. I was partially inspired by the $5 voucher I got for signing up as a member at Borders when I bought the Austria travel guide. It had to be used by 24 July!

Long story short I got Terry Pratchet's "Small gods" for a whole 38 cents!

In other news Laurie and I have bought travel insurance. I highly recommend squaremouth as a comparison website.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Accommodation finally all booked

The title says it all. It is amazing how long it takes. So many websites. That said the pain of doing this without the internet is too much to contemplate - go technology!

I think we did it rather cheaply in the end. The interesting thing was how on average places in Salzburg are more expensive than in Vienna. I have added as links the websites of the hotels involved for your stickybeaking fun.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

First blog post of my first blog ... what to say? I guess an outline of the following weeks is a good place to start. Laurie and I will be leaving next Saturday for Munich. There we will stay for 2 weeks - language school in the mornings and touristing in the afternoons (or vice versa depending on the school schedule). After that we go to an early music seminar in Zell an der Pram, stopping at Salzburg for 2 nights on the way. Next is Vienna for 3 nights - probably jam-packed with tourist stuff. Finally we are staying for a few days in London at our friend Julian's place.

We are currently in the hype of organizing the final touches to the practical side of the trip. Only yesterday did we decide to go via Salzburg. We have tried to book accommodation there but not heard from the hostel there yet. Similar accommodation situation in Vienna.

Plan for today: Buy a guide to Austria. I know websites have a lot but there is nothing like flipping through a paper copy.