Thursday, November 29, 2012

Germany: Day 7

The last one! Finally!

I thought we had planned enough time in to get to the airport and board our 9:50am flight with time to spare.

Yeah. I didn't. (Spoiler alert: we did not miss our flight. Obviously. But it was still way stressful.)

The train ride up to the airport took waaaaay longer than I thought it would so we didn't actually arrive at the airport until 8:30. Then we got lost trying to find the Delta check-in desk. Then when we finally found it and got in line, every single Delta employee except for one decided they were going on break. Seriously. Then we got in the long line to turn in our tax-free reimbursement form (since I spent tons o' money at one particular shop on a nativity for myself and presents for others.)
My feelings about it are thus: 1. My family. 2. My nativity. 3. Everything else.

Then they wouldn't take our form because we had forgotten to go to customs first. So then we had to go get in the customs line, then return to the tax reimbursement line. Then we had to get in the passport check line. Then we had to get in the security line.
Did you count? Altogether we waited in 6 lines for an hour and a half. And if you don't know it already, waiting in line is about the worst possible thing to do if you are stressed about getting somewhere on time. Especially if it meant you could be stuck in a foreign country for who knows how long.
On the train on our way to the airport

But we finally made it back to our gate at 9:30 - 20 minutes before we were scheduled to take off. Luckily the gate was just beyond the security checkpoint and there was still a long line waiting to board (another line!), so we were able to get right on the plane without having to run through the airport.
Needless to say, by the time we got on board we were frazzled, but the 9 hour flight was fairly enjoyable. I'm telling you, regional flights should do things the way international flights do.
We arrived in Atlanta about 1 and promptly went and bought McDonald's for lunch and rejoiced at being back in the good ole USA.
Our next flight was quick and we arrived in Raleigh about 7pm - (1am in Munich.) We originally planned to drive straight home (a 90-minute drive) but changed our minds at the last minute and decided to stay over at Seth's parent's house in Raleigh. Probably a wise decision, since we were barely awake enough to make it to their house.
Although T was very happy to see us that night, she spent the next few days punishing us for leaving her for a week. Refusing to nap, waking up 5 or 6 times a night, temper tantrums all day long. It took us a rather long time to get back to our routines.

Other things we wanted to remember about Germany that didn't quite fit in anywhere else:
All of the sidewalks were created for both pedestrians (the square side) and bicycle riders(the smooth side). I think I forgot to stay on the correct side of the path almost 50% of the time we were there and probably made a few Germans annoyed with me. Whoops. Luckily I never got run over.
The Hauptbahnhof - the main train station of Munich. This area is for the regional trains that go from city to city. This is the platform we came in on when we traveled from Stuttgart to Munich, and it's also the main platform that you have to walk through to get to the more local trains.
This is more what a platform for a local train looked like. By the end of the week Seth and I were old pros at figuring out where to go.
Munich has statues of lions everywhere. It's sort of their "thing." This particular one is from a set of four that lined a street right outside the Munich Residenz. See the shiny gold part? You are supposed to rub it for good luck.
Each lion represented something different - love, wealth, good weather, and something else I forget. (This is the one for good weather.) Our tour guide also claimed that it was the German tradition to only rub three of the four. To rub all four meant you were greedy and would get nothing.
Seth in our hotel room watching his new favorite German tv show. As best he could figure out, it was about two rival gangs of teenagers. Very dramatic, lots of fighting. I usually napped while he watched this.

Other items I took note of:
Everyone dressed very well. Lots of scarves and skinny jeans and nice shoes. I don't know if this was more of a German vs. American thing, or a big city like Munich vs. redneck Fayetteville thing, but I always felt slightly under dressed in my jeans and sweatshirt.
It's very rare to see someone jaywalk. You do not cut across the street, you use the crosswalk. Also, if the pedestrian signal is red, no one walks across. You wait till it's green. Apparently Munich is the 4th safest city in the world and the policemen are bored so they even go after jaywalkers.
The amount of people that smoke. HOLY COW. I must have breathed in more smoke during that week in Germany than I have in the past year here in America.
If you ever go visit Dachau memorial site, go to the little cafe and order one of their chocolate croissants. It was hands down the best chocolate croissant I've ever had. I ordered 2 or 3 more from other places in Munich to try and find one that was similar, but nothing could compare.

Oh Germany. It's only been a month but we are already wishing we could go back. You were the best.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Germany: Day 6

This was our last full day in Germany and we didn't have much planned.
Originally we had wanted to take a tour of the BMW factory but were unable to reserve a ticket in time, so instead we decided to wander around Munich and then do some shopping.
We went over to St. Peters and decided to climb the tower to get some nice views of the city.
306 steps to the observation deck, and I walked every one of them (albeit very slowly).
I did of course get passed up by every single other person climbing the tower that day, but I made it to the top eventually. Also I think Seth was secretly pleased he was with his pregnant wife because it meant he could take lots of breaks with me on the way up and not look like a wimp.
In spite of the thick fog the views were still incredible. Directly in front is the New Townhall. To the left with the orange roof and 2 towers is the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).
I'm told on clear days it's possible to see the Alps in the distance but obviously we did not get to see that.
A better view of Frauenkirche. The street leading away to the left is Kaufingerstrasse and it is a major shopping area. This road also leads to the Hauptbahnhof.
A better view of New Townhall. Theatinerkirche (my favorite yellow building) is just beyond it. To the right of that with the orange and green roofs is the Munich Residenz.
Looking down into the Marienplatz.
After we'd had enough of the views, we made our descent and then went over to the Viktualienmart, a farmer's market that has been around since the 1800s.
View from St. Peter's of the Viktualienmarkt. All the little green roofs and the white awnings are the shops. You can see the blue and white maypole in the center.
It was a very picturesque place to stroll through. In addition to the usual fruit and vegetable stands, they also had breads, pastries, jams, juices, spices, honey, cheeses, meat and fish for sale, as well as a beer garden and other restaurants/cafes. They also were starting to put out little booths of Christmas decorations. If I lived here I would go and buy delicious food every day.
Sadly this is the only picture we took down in the market itself. If you're wondering what I am doing, I'm consulting my guidebook because they had a few recommendations of where to eat in the Viktualienmarkt. We settled on a little soup kitchen. The whole menu was in German so I picked a soup that had one German word I knew - kartoffel (potato) and it turned out to be potato, sausage and onion soup and it was of course delicious. Seth picked another one at random that I think was a kind of vegetable soup with lots of greens and cabbage in it. Also delicious, but not as delicious as mine.
After that we went and looked at all the shops and bought some souvenirs. Actually I should say, Seth followed me around while I went shopping and I had a fabulous time.
We took a little nap at our hotel and then went out to eat. We decided to try a restaurant called Weisses Brauhaus - a fairly well-known place in Munich with a reputation for good beer and good food.
Going out to eat in Germany is a bit different than America. Most of the places we went to had big tables or long benches and if it's particularly crowded you will share tables, especially if there are only two of you. Also you do not wait for someone to seat you. You walk in and find a spot and sit down and the waiter will come round eventually to get your order. This can be tricky when it's very full and busy. Sometimes the waiter will help you find a spot, but for us that meant we had to find one who could speak English.
Random picture of us on top of St. Peter's
This was actually the 2nd time we were going to try Weisses Brauhaus. The first was on Sunday after we got back from Dachau and after wandering into the restaurant and not finding any waiter (or at least one that spoke English) or a sign telling us where to wait to be seated, we left in confusion.
But by Wednesday night we were feeling more confidant in our German restaurant skills so we gave it another go. We went in, wandered around, found a waiter who directed us to possibly the only two empty seats in the middle of a long row of people, took off our coats, got some English menus and after a few minutes I decided I could not handle this place and told Seth we had to get out of there right now.
Being around so many people in such a tight space makes me really nervous and claustrophobic and I can't think or talk, and I didn't want to spend my last night in Germany in such a state.
So we left and went to the same restaurant we had retreated to on Sunday - Zum Spockmeier. Much fewer people, less frazzled waiters, smaller tables and benches. And SUCH GOOD FOOD. This is me about to eat the most delicious steak and potatoes and green beans I have ever eaten in my life. EVER. I am not exaggerating. And I ate all of it. My mouth thanked me but my belly did not.
It was possibly the best part of my trip to Germany.

Seth got something called Escalope, which is basically Schnitzel but with fried cheese on it as well. Also extremely delicious, though nothing could compare with my meal.
Then we went back to our hotel and finished packing for our plane ride home in the morning.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Party Weekend

Because hanging out with two 1-year olds is my idea of a good time.
We were able to babysit our niece for the weekend and it actually was pretty entertaining to watch the two of them hang out with each other.
They ate snacks together.
Played outside.
Went to the library.
Watched a little Blue's Clues. (and turned my house into a tornado zone of toys.)
And in general just had a great time.
We miss you B!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Germany: Day 5

Tuesday was Museum Day. We went to The Deutsches (German) Museum. It is (according to Wikipedia) the "world's largest museum of technology and science." You can imagine that Seth was most looking forward to this excursion, and it did not disappoint him.
Only about half the signs in the museum had an English translation in addition to the German one, but luckily for me Seth knew pretty much what every little gadget was and explained it to me with great enthusiasm.
Really, if you are going to an engineering and science museum, it is best to bring someone like Seth along. Even if you have no interest in the subject (for example, me), it is hard not to find everything exciting right along with him.
This was one of his favorite things: a 2-story piston. I believe it was used on a boat. He made me stand there for perspective.
I should probably have Seth write about this, because we have several pictures of stuff and I have no clue what they are or why we took them...
We watched a 20-minute presentation on electricity that was pretty awesome, despite the fact that it was all in German. Shooting lightning through glass and around an insulated ball with a man inside and other crazy things. It was very loud and we had to cover up our ears.
We also watched a glass-blowing presentation that was also all in German. Unfortunately the only question the presenter asked during the entire time was directed to me and once again, in my surprise, all my German phrases flew out of my head and I said "uhh...English?" Luckily he did know English and after answering his question (with the wrong answer, of course) he moved on. By now I was used to making a fool of myself though, so it didn't faze me too much.
We spent about 6 hours there and only saw maybe a third of everything. Seth said "Next time we come to Munich, let's spend all five days in this museum."
The ideal vacation for that man. But not for his wife.
I think the traveling and walking and being 6 months pregnant were finally catching up to me because I was really dragging on this day. I sat down a lot while Seth wandered around the rooms looking at everything. We went back to our hotel around 4 and I took a nap.
We didn't want to sit down to another long, heavy meal of German food that day so we picked up some pastries to eat for dinner (and also some gelato that was absolutely delicious) and then went out to an art museum for the evening, the Alte Pinakothek.
We walked up these stairs because we weren't sure where the elevator was and didn't want to look for it.
Worst. Decision. Ever.
After recovering from that, Seth and I enjoyed strolling through the museum. They had some very beautiful and impressive paintings (if you can't tell, this one was about 20 feet high). In contrast to the German Museum, we were able to see just about everything in only an hour or two.
Of course we spent about half the time laughing at the ugly women and babies and joking about other things.  I don't think we are really art museum kind of people.
Not respectful at all.
But it was still nice and I am glad we went. We bought a souvenir here for T, a little book with the names of colors all in German.

I promise I only have two more posts to write about Germany and then I will never mention it again.

Well - that last part is only a maybe.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

An update on my firstborn

And now a little break from Germany so I can talk about my favorite subject: my daughter.
These are her latest accomplishments.
Saying (and signing) "all gone" after every bite.
Figuring out how to unwrap all the toilet paper off the roll before her mother notices.
Naming parts of the body. She also knows her head and her hands and her chin. I am working on her knees next. Seth, meanwhile, is trying to get her to point to her xiphoid process.

I wonder which one of us will succeed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Germany: Day 4

On Monday we went and saw a couple of the palaces in the city of Munich.
First up was the Nymphenburg Palace.
The tour of the inside was kind of short and boring in my opinion, but that's because the real draw of Nymphenburg Palace are the grounds.
Unfortunately for us, it was very cold and very foggy all morning. I am kind of regretting now not venturing out into the grounds a little more, but at the time the thought of venturing out into that thick wet fog was completely unappealing.
This was the central pavilion - the main room in which the other wings of the palace branched off of. No flash photography was allowed so these pictures are a terrible representation of what was a breathtaking room.
Seth leaned up against a sign detailing the elements of the room to steady his shot and one of the museum guards freaked out on him and told him he wasn't allowed to touch anything. Obviously that makes sense when it comes to 17th and 18th century art and furniture, but we thought it was a bit silly to be forbidden to touch the modern day plastic sign. She, however, certainly did not think it silly and sneakily followed us around the rest of the time we were there.
Actually my favorite part was a little side exhibition showcasing some of the carriages used by the royal family.
These things were bedazzled.
 And since this is Germany, they also had fancy sleds for the winter.
Fancy sleds with fighting babies on them.
We ate lunch at a little cafe around the corner and then made our way over to the MΓΌncher Residenz (Munich Residence). This was the only time we had difficulty navigating the public transportation system, but after going to three different tram stops and getting on two wrong trains, we finally made it.
The Antiquarium. Named because this was where many antique statues and paintings were housed. The Residence was mostly destroyed during World War II. Most of it has been reconstructed, but some areas were redone more simply than what was originally there. They are still working on parts of the palace to this day and probably will be for some time.
Dutifully listening to my audio tour. This was in the Shell Grotto.
The grotto was ruined by the bombings of WWII. People didn't have the money to donate to its reconstruction but they were able to gather shells to recreate this part - most of these shells were gathered by the German people in this region.
The grand staircase leading up to the King's public chambers. There's not really a good sense of scale here but this was seriously huge. It intimidated me.
The ceilings in some of these rooms would make you gasp when you walked in the door.
Seth and I unfortunately didn't get pictures of our favorite rooms since we were not allowed to use flash photography and anything we took was just a blurred mess.
Seth's favorite room was the reliquary room. He loved that all the fancy ornate glass bottles and boxes had shriveled gray fingers and hands and bits of wood inside. In my opinion, it was gross and kind of fascinating.
The royal family's personal chapel.
My favorite room was a little worship room next to this chapel that was bright blue with gold inlay all over the walls and ceiling. I think I could have stayed in there and stared for hours, but the Palace was about to close and a museum guard pointedly walked in there and started eyeing us so I didn't.
The last room you walk through, the Hall of Portraits.
After we finished up at the Munich Residence we went back to our hotel because 6 months pregnant and a full day of walking meant I was exhausted. After a little nap we went out to a restaurant I had read about on the internet - Kartoffelhausen (House of Potatoes). Seth got the schnitzel with fried potatoes and I got broccoli-potato cream soup and fried potatoes with cheese, onions, ham and bacon. I forget the German name for it. It was so so delicious and I wish they had a place like that here.
If you're wondering, we did gain a few pounds from this trip.