Monday, July 13, 2009

A German Barbecue

Yesterday, Benny and I slept in a bit and then got up to go to church. Colleen wanted to join us, so we met at Marienplatz under the golden statue of Mary at 10:15. We chose to go to St. Peter's Catholic, as it was right near the central square and seemed rather welcoming. We scooted past the tourist crowd in the back and took a seat in an empty pew. Of course the service was all in German and some Latin, but we still had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful architecture, stained glass, frescoes, and of course, the music. The choir was amazing and the organ was beautiful as it filled the huge space. As people went up for communion, we slipped out the side door and wandered for a bit.

We made our way to one of the gates at the end of the old city and took a few pictures there. Benny and I had discussed going to the Residenz Museum, but decided that we'd rather go to the main square, watch the glockenspiel and go back to Grafelfing. So, we watched the glockenspiel, which Benny had not yet seen, and left Colleen with a walking tour group in Marienplatz, and went back to Grafelfing. We managed to time it so that we arrived back in our neighborhood right when the annual wine festival was beginning for the afternoon, so we stopped in to sample the wine, have a bratwurst sandwich, and listen to the band warm up. After taking our glass back for the deposit, Benny and I headed back to the house for an afternoon nap and listened to a RadioLab podcast. The cat joined us for the afternoon nap, so that was kind of fun. After our naps, we put our shoes on and got the soda out of the fridge downstairs so that we could meet Petra (from the library), since she had agreed to take us to the barbecue.

So, we met Petra just outside of her car and rode with her to pick up Dr. Veltze and were then on our way to Lyme, Amanda, Colleen, and Mary's place, where their landlord had graciously agreed to host a German style barbecue for us. What an amazing spread of food! He cooked pork chops, chicken legs, and lots of sausage and pork belly on the grill. His wife had made huge bowls of potato salad, green salad, sauerkraut, tziki (sp) sauce (the Greek yogurt sauce for dipping), and roasted red peppers. Petra had brought lots of freshly baked bread, including pretzels, for us to share. And we all contributed drinks, although the landlord had a case of beer that he provided, which several people enjoyed. The family dog, Popalina, was a lot of fun and thoroughly seemed to enjoy the extra attention.

The weather was nice and warm for most of the afternoon, although the rain started to fall just as we were finishing dinner. So, we moved to the covered patio where we enjoyed coffee, espresso, and lots of dessert until almost 10:00. The conversation and cultural exchange was wonderful, as the landlord, Herr Igenher, had lived in Canada for several years and traveled quite a bit, and Dr. Veltze relayed some of her stories of traveling in South America. There were lots of laughs and jokes, and we discovered that despite some cultural differences, food seems to be the great equalizer and icebreaker.

When all of us seemed to be winding down, we went home, with Petra dropping Dr. Veltze off before going back to Grafelfing. We got home around 10:30 and headed straight to bed. Our last Sunday in Munich was a wonderful mix of relaxation and experiencing the culture in a way that most tourists never get to.

A Day in Prien am Chimsee

On Saturday, we woke up early to catch the train to the Hauptbanhof, so we left the house a little after 7:00. When we arrived at the Hauptbanhof, we met the group and before the train was scheduled to leave, picked up a pastry and two cups of coffee. We were still waiting for Dr. Veltze at 8:30 and the train was scheduled to leave at 8:45. So, Colleen called her landlady and found out that she had left. Dr. Veltze arrived at 8:40, but there was not enough time to get to the platform before the train left. Apparently, all of the clocks in her house had stopped for some reason, so she didn't realize what time it was until it was too late. So, we waited around the train station for an hour for the next train.

After riding the train for about an hour, we arrived at Chimsee. From there, we took a small older train to the ferry landing and took the ferry to Frauen Islen, the women's island, where the convent was located. The island was on the lake and the ride was beautiful with the mountains that surrounded the lake. We all enjoyed watching the sailboats on the water and the birds flying and swimming around.

When we arrived at the island, we decided to eat lunch first, since we were eating as a group and the money we had paid ahead of time was paying for our meals.
The restaurant had a beautiful view of the lake and mountains and we sat out on the patio. Everyone got wonderful food and most people shared. Mary had a yummy homemade pasta with cheese, bacon, and cabbage that came in an iron skillet that was beautifully hand forged. I ordered a spinach pasta with roasted veggies and a cream sauce, which I shared with Benny. Amanda ordered fish and a salad, and she shared the potatoes that came with her meal with Benny. Tiffany and Shea ordered a penne pasta with tomato cream sauce and side salads. Since Tiffany didn't like the salad dressing, she shared that with Benny also. So, Benny ended up sampling a bit of everyone's meal and shared my dessert, a wonderful iced coffee. Some of the others ordered fantastic looking cakes and Shea ordered a banana split, that was beautiful with berries and whipped cream.

After lunch, we walked around the island and Benny and I poked in some little pottery shops along the coastline. We also explored the exterior of the convent, that has been on the island for almost 500 years. When we were tired of walking, Benny and I found a bench along the water and watched the ducks and boats go by. We wrote the last of the postcards that needed to be written and mailed and sat there until it started to sprinkle rain. We found a little alcove beside the ferry landing where we stood until the rest of the group gathered for the ferry back to the mainland. Despite the rain, we enjoyed our time on the island and had a fantastic day.

We took the ferry back and a few of us decided to walk back to the main station instead of waiting on the small train. So, we got to see a little of the town and visit while we waited for the others to arrive. We took the train back to Munich and arrived back at the Hauptbanhof around 7:30. Lyme, Amanda, and some others wanted to go to Marienplatz, so Benny and I joined them for a little while and visited at a restaurant, but we left earlier than the others since we were tired. We got back to the house around 10:00, spent some time with Alegra and the cat, and went to bed.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Day at the English Gardens

On Friday morning, Benny and I got up about our usual time, but took our time getting ready, checking email, and catching up on reading we'd both been wanting to do. When we were ready, we took the train to Pasing to pick up some breakfast pastries (I had an apple cinnamon pastry and Benny got a strawberry one, which we shared, and he got an apricot filled doughnut)and coffee and headed back to the train to go to the English Gardens.

We took our breakfast to the English Gardens and found a nice spot on the lake to eat and watch the ducks and swans. It turned out to be a beautiful day with a nice breeze, so we walked around all different areas of the gardens, finding some waterfalls, grassy areas where kids were playing, and a nice path along the river. We ended up heading over to the Residenz Museum area, mostly to see what was over there and decided that we'd come back and do the museum on Sunday. When we started getting hungry for lunch, we walked back to the English Gardens and got food at the Chinese Tower area. Benny ordered Bavarian meatloaf and I had potatoes and sausage, and we split an order of cabbage. You can see the meatloaf pictured here; it's actually more like bologna and most people, we've discovered, eat it on a sandwich.

After lunch, it started to sprinkle rain a bit, so we walked back to the station and went to Marienplatz, instead of going to Olympia Park as originally planned. We did a bit of shopping in Marienplatz, and stopped to pick up the tea infuser we'd seen before at the JA Henckles store. We went back home after that, since we had a little bit of grocery shopping and some other errands to do on the way. We picked up some more bread, lunch meat for picnic lunches, cheese, and a few snack items, like crackers and cookies, at the grocery store. We also had to get some razor blades for Benny's razor, which we found at the grocery store. We did a snack supper of cheese, salami, and some other items, and had a few hours of down time before going to bed.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Day in Wasserburg

Yesterday we got up and ready early so that we had time to make breakfast before we headed to the train. We left the house about 7:50 to catch the 8:10 train, only for me to realize part way there that I’d left my train pass at the house (yes, again!). This time, I turned around and went back for it, none too happy with myself. When we were off again, this meant catching the 8:30 train, with no time in between at Pasing to stop at the ATM and get some fruit, which we had originally planned to do. When we arrived at Pasing, we literally had to run to catch the bus to the library so that we would be there at the appointed 9:00 to ride with the group and library faculty to Wasserburg.

When we arrived at Wasserburg after an hour or so charter bus ride through the country and past the soccer arena, we did a group tour of the historic medieval city, with some of the group doing the English tour and most of the library faculty doing the German tour. Petra and Ursula joined us for the English tour, as well as Carolina, so it was fun to get to know them a bit better. (Pictured here is Petra and Lyme.)We saw several inner courtyards, some sights along the river, and some historic buildings with frescoes. We also saw the guest house where Mozart stayed a few times on his trips to and from Salzburg. Since Wasserburg is located on a peninsula, we had some incredible views of the town and river at higher points along the trip.

When the tour was over, we all gathered at a traditional German restaurant where I had schnitzel and Benny had sauerkraut and sausages. We forgot to take pictures, as we were enjoying the company so much, but they were both delicious! Ursula and Carolina both ordered a strawberry and basil cream parfait for dessert, which they let us sample, and it was very tasty. I’ve heard of people using basil in desserts, but will now have to try it myself after tasting this!

Many in the group went on a boat ride after lunch, but Benny and I opted for the walk along the sculpture path along the river. The pathway goes most of the way around the peninsula and has a variety of modern and post-modern sculptures installed, so that’s what you see pictured here. There were many more pictures of the sculptures than I could post here. We also found a small antique/flea market in a little corner of town, a few tea and coffee shops, and some gelato. We both ordered a scoop of gelato on a cone, Benny getting lemon soda flavor and me with cappuccino, and headed back to the river to enjoy the cool treat and a beautiful view. After finishing our gelato, we met up with a few others from the group and sat by the river to wait for the rest of the group to gather before leaving.

We left Wasserburg around 5:00 and returned to the library around 6:00. Petra offered to give us a ride back to Grafelfing, as she lives a few houses over from our home away from home. So, we took her up on that and were back at the house in no time. After fixing dinner of bread, tomato, cheese and salami, we did a few things online and I wrote the abstract for my paper. We visited a little with Petra and her mom, gave her the tea we’d picked up for her during the day, and went to bed. All in all, a lovely day!

Bavaria travels and a great anniversary!

So here it is…the one and probably only guest blog entry by Benny McFalls. Allyson with a strange sense of unworried anticipation has given me access to the blog for the posting of what went down on Wednesday July 8th.

We both got up and got ready for the day. I, of course, shaved that morning because it was our anniversary and I could think of no better present for my wonderful wife than a clean shaven husband. Allyson did the school thing, and I decided I would spend my day visiting Neuschwanstein and the other Ludwig castles in Bavaria. I looked into traveling out on my own or going with one of the various tour groups and finally decided tour group was a better idea. With simplicity being the main reason I chose a tour group, so I was able to go with a group and not have to worry about train connections, tickets, or really anything other than having a good time. I meet the group around 9ish at the M√ľnchen Hauptbahnhof station. I got there a little early, so I snagged some additions to my lunch I would have for the day. Forgot to take a picture, but imagine a really good cheese roll and you will get the idea.

After leaving the station, we had a 50 min train to our first connection and then a hour train ride to end of the line in Fussen. In Fussen, we took a bus for another 15 minutes to the base of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles. Enter the fun walking part of the tour. Our group walked for about 30ish minutes to the top before the castle and saw Mary’s bridge (this is the popular photo spot of the side of the castle). The official tour began around 2:30 and lasted about 40 minutes. What surprised me the most about the castle was the level of opulence and level of modernization evident in the castle. No section of wall, floor, or any other part was not handcrafted or adorned with some fancy something. In terms of modernization it was built in the late 1800s and had running water, central heat, and during building the used steam power to operate most building equipment. The one downside to this trip, I had been told, was you spend all day to get out there and then have maybe an hour or so of time to see things before you begin the return trip. While this was true, it was still a very worthwhile trip and I would do it again. Our guide was a great addition in his ability to add information to the back-story on who King Ludwig II was.

Started back on the trains, and everything was pretty uneventful aside from conversations with other people on the tour and my loaning of art supplies to another tour guide leader who was on our train. The kicker of the tour was on our last train back when I decided to sit in one of car rooms with a Germany family going to Munich. They spoke about as much English as I spoke German, but we somehow managed to make pretty descent conversation. Of all the car rooms to pick and all the Germans I could get...guess who I got to sit with…that’s right…the Jehovah Witnesses. Apparently, there is a big international Jehovah Witnesses convention in Munich at Olympia Park Thursday through Sunday and they were on their way there. The couple and their two kids were quite funny though and I got my very own JW track in German. They did mention or something but I just said I was American and didn’t understand.

Got back home about 7:45ish, cleaned up, and left the house to do what a McFalls does best…eat. It was our anniversary dinner and we were hungry, so we went a around the block to a very cute pizza/Italian place. We split a green salad in a neat curved bowl and a pizza (prosecuttio, artichoke, mushroom).

Allyson had prosecco and I had a weisbeer with the meal. We finished everything off with a very yummy tiramisu. Claudio, our waiter, was awesome, as Petra had told us he would be.

Came back home tired and crawled in the bed. Overall, it was an awesome day with lots of history, food, and little to no rain.

All of that works in my book.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Finishing touches at the library

Yesterday, Benny and I got up and ready. We had breakfast of Nutella sandwiches and apples and Petra dropped us off at her shop, from which we walked the rest of the way to the train. When we arrived in Pasing, I left Benny there to explore and I went on to the library, with the understanding that he would meet me later for lunch.

When I arrived at the library, I had about an hour to put some finishing touches on my rough draft of the paper before we went on a tour of the library at 11:00. Our tour was directed by a former director of the library who was instrumental in helping to develop the historical collection of the library, with some of the holdings dating back to the 1800s. He showed us the museum upstairs, which we had all seen, but he pointed out some of the interesting pieces, such as one of the first printings of the Robinson Crusoe books, and also told us a bit more about some of the illustrators highlighted in the exhibit. After that, he took us to the stacks, in the basement of the castle, where they hold approximately 580,000 books in over 130 different languages. The shelves are rather intriguing, as they move at the push of a button, so that they are stored essentially spine to spine, so that there is not a lot of room taken up between shelves for walking room. He shared with us several interesting facts about the library collection, including the fact that the collection is entirely dependent upon donations, primarily from publishers, and private donors.

Additionally, most of the historical collection was made up of the donations of a few private donors who had an interest in childrens books, such as fairy tales or adventure stories. Some of the books are popular titles, such as Alice in Wonderland and Mary Poppins. He also shared with us some titles which were popular in other countries, but when an attempt was made to publish them outside the country of origin, the popularity did not continue to the outside countries. Some of the most interesting books in the historical collection were those that were novel (pardon the pun) for their time, including one of the first interactive books with sound (made with a series of bellows, pipes, and strings) and those with movable parts. There were also some of the first color illustrated books, which he explained were done by hand by primarily women in a small publishing house.

When we left the stacks, we went upstairs to a small room that housed the table where Jella Leppman, the founder of the International Youth Library, sat with colleagues to orchestrate the beginnings of the library. There was also a series of books by Eric Kastner, a very popular childrens book author, as well as posters from the movies that were based on his books.

When we finished the tour, it was time for lunch, so I found Benny outside and we went to the cafe. Lunch was calamari stuffed with rice, parsley, and covered in a creamy tomato sauce, or gnocchi with fresh Parmesan cheese and tomato sauce. I ordered one of each for us, and both were very tasty. I forgot to take pictures, though, so no photos of the food.

After lunch, we went back to the library, where Benny took some pictures of some of the exhibits and did a bit of reading before I was ready to leave. We left the library and went to Marienplatz, where we found the botanical gardens again (which Petra has since informed us are the old ones, she says the new ones are much more impressive) and I had hoped to take Benny to the beer garden there. However, due to the slight rain, it was closed, so we walked through Marienplatz and explored some of the stores, a church, and saw the glockenspiel, although it was not going off at the time we saw it. We did find the JA Henkles store, which was a lot of fun, since we have some of their kitchen tools at home. We discovered a whole array of items we hadn't seen at home, and before we leave, we may pick up a few things from there.

Leaving Marienplatz around 6:00, we went home by the S6 and had dinner of salami, tomato, and brie sandwiches on some crusty and yummy rolls that we'd picked up at the discount bakery. Benny had also chosen what we thought was a cheese pretzel, but we discovered that it also had salami and pineapple, so it was a wonderful addition to the meal also. (The great thing about being here is that we can walk off all of the carbs we eat during the day, so I don't feel badly at all for eating all that bread!) We visited with Petra and the girls a bit in the evening (they were all watching the Michael Jackson funeral), and put together a tentative itinerary for Benny for his time here. At about 10:30, we finally went to bed, knowing that it would be another early morning.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Benny's Arrival

Yesterday, I got up early and put some finishing touches on the rough draft of my paper before getting ready. I emailed that with the bibliography to Dr. Veltze and then took a shower and got dressed. I left the house a little before 9:00 and went to the Pasing station. I had to pick up an extension ticket to add to my regular ticket to get to the airport and back again, which cost 9 E (way cheaper than a cab). I picked up some breakfast, a raisin sticky bun from the discount bakery and a cup of coffee, and a pretzel as a treat for Benny. I went back to the station and caught the S8 train to the airport around 10:00.

On the way to the airport, I started reading the book from Andrew Fusek Peters that I purchased at the poetry conference. It's about a group of skateboarding detective kids and is very well done. There's a definite British flair to the conversation and some of the word choice, but it just makes it that much more interesting. I think that my students are sure to enjoy this series of his, especially some of the boys.

I arrived at the airport around 11:00 and found my way to the terminal where Benny's flight was due. I spent the next hour or so reading some more of the book and watching the arrivals board, looking for updates on Benny's flight. It arrived a few minutes after the scheduled arrival time of 12:25, but soon, Benny was coming through the gates. It was great to see him after so many days apart and we spent a lot of time walking to the ticket booth for the S-bahn and catching up. After purchasing the tickets for him to ride the train and bus for the time that he's here, we found our train back to Pasing. About midway through the train ride, the driver came over the intercom and said something in German and everyone got off at the next stop, so we piled off as well. It seemed that there was something wrong with the train. So, we regrouped and found another train going to Pasing and got on that one. When we arrived at Pasing, we went down to the station floor and I showed Benny some of the stores and we picked up an S-bahn map for him. Then we got back on the train to go to Grafelfing.

When we got off at Grafelfing, we took Benny's things to the house and were greeted by a wary Alegra. She was not at all sure about Benny, although she remembered me. Once we got Benny's things upstairs, he unpacked a bit and dozed on the couch some. Later, we went on a walk to the grocery store and bought a few things for breakfast and dinner; tomatoes, salami, bread, mozzarella and brie, apples and a soda that looked interesting. When we finished at the grocery store, we stopped by Petra's shop, where we chatted and offered our approval of the new window decorations. On the way home, we stopped by the park and looked at a few restaurant menus. Once back at the house, we unpacked the groceries, fixed some dinner, and enjoyed eating together again.

When Petra got home later that evening, we went downstairs and visited with her for an hour or so, chatting about what Benny would do and sharing funny stories about the dogs and our lives. It was 9:30 when we finished talking to Petra, and since Benny hadn't slept much on the plane, he went to bed and I stayed up a bit longer to finish up some blog postings. I didn't really take pictures yesterday, but I will have more to post.