Monday, October 27, 2008

Road Trip - Destination Salzburg

Salzburg Rooftops

We decided to take a little road trip on Saturday. To Austria. Doesn't that just sound sooo European? A tiny little day trip - to another country??!! I'm really getting my Julie Andrews on these days. First hiking the alps and then visiting the city of fair Maria and die Familia VonTrapp. Unbelievably, Thomas has never seen the movie so he has no idea why I keep belting out songs in town squares. La - a note to follow... So, we hit the road around nine and were in Salzburg around 11. Hard to beat.

We did the requisite trip to the Fortress HohenSalzburg where I had one of those "duh" moments while reading a museum placard. Salzburg literally means "Salt Castle" so named because of the Salzach river on which the town was settled and along which ships transported - duh - salt. We also did the standard stop and gawk outside the house where Mozart was born.

The rest of the time we spent wandering through the narrow cobblestone streets, peeking in (or more accurately) drooling over the ship windows. The amount of chocolate condensed into the old city is both belly bursting and mind blowing. Thomas unexpectedly, and quite unconvincingly, professed a great love for all things operatic the moment he saw the Mozart chocolate store. I think I could have gotten him to agree to season tickets for The Met in exchange for Eine Kleine Chocolate Box. Unfortunately, he's on a one month chocolate moratorium so he had to settle instead for a Wurst in a cozy Austrian eatery.

On the way home we stopped to poke around in several small towns one of which had a family run restaurant that just happened to be serving home-made warm apple strudel with fresh whipped cream. And that leads us to our...

German Lesson for the Day
Those of you who know my limited German skills know I have a fondness for making up new German words to suit a situation. For instance, a nap is a Knipper. A snack is a Geschnibble. And warm apple strudel is Schmecklich. Geschmack being the German word for "taste." Schmecklich being the Alexia word for tasty. Used in a sentence - Warmes Apfelstrudel is sehr, sehr schmecklich.
Note: schmecklich can also be used to describe German soccer player Michael Ballack.
End of Lesson

On the way home we stopped a Chiemsee to watch the sunset. All in all a perfect road trip.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Seehaus Biergarten

View to the Seehaus from across the lake

What's one to do on a sunny Sunday with the whole day stretched ahead of you? Waste the day away in a Biergarten. Obviously. And that's just what we did. Nestled in the heart of the English Garden, the Seehaus Biergarten is theeee place to be seen. And you better get there early if you want a seat. Which, fortunately, we did. Giant pretzels, giant beers and great people watching. Really, what more can you ask for?

Water, water everywhere and lots of beer to drink

Jamaica does Munich

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Auer-Dult Market

I spent last Saturday rummaging around one of Munich's oldest markets Auer-Dult. With a history tracing back to the Middle Ages, the market has morphed into part fair/ part flea market. It only happens three times a year so they try to pack in as much as possible. You can find everything from a Biergarten to a ferris wheel to wool socks to antique buttons. There are vendors selling vintage goods that run the gamut from pure kitsch to once in a lifetime finds. This is nicely balanced by vendors selling new kitchenware, pots, pans and my personal favorite the "BursteMann" or Brush Man. You would not believe the assortment of hair brushes, brooms, veggie scrubbers, bottle brushes this man purveyed. If it had a bristle on it - he had it. I just think it would be so cool to sit in a bar and when asked the inevitable question of "what do you do?" reply with a straight face, "I'm a BursteMann."

Treasure or trash?

My favorite stall. Vintage kitchen stuff merchandised perfectly.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Seventh Swan Sob Song

As I was out partaking in my daily constitutional yesterday, I scrutinized the sights and the sounds of the lake as is my wont. Our lake is inhabited by a huge goose population, a colony of ducks and six beautiful swans. Swans, as all girls who have weathered the love-lorn teen years know, mate for life. Our lake swans carve out separate areas of the lake for themselves careful to maintain a suitable distance from other couples. And even though the male and female can be quite a distance apart at times, it is always easily discernible who is with whom.

Except yesterday. Yesterday there was one swan who seemed to always be alone, drifting in the middle of the lake. It was so unusual that I stopped and did a pairing up of couples. Two. Four. Six. And Seven. The swan did not have a partner.

Maybe it was the overcast day, maybe it was the first hint of homesickness, but I was so touched by that lone swan. I created this whole story in my head about how he had lost his beloved life companion one crisp fall night when she unknowingly swallowed a plastic six pack tab some hooligans had tossed into the water (recycle people!). All this poor swan wanted, nay desperately needed, was a compassionate ear to help hold his pain. The other swans ignored him and the ducks wanted nothing to do with him. Not even the uncool Emo ducks who hang out on the fringe of the lake where they probably smoke reed all day. Futilely the lone swan would swim toward a group of ducks only to have them turn tail and paddle off in another direction. Again and again. It was heartbreaking. Simply heartbreaking. I worried about the cold weather approaching. Who would keep him warm at night? Could I make a nest out of an old wool blanket and nestle it in some bushes? Can you get more teen-motional than that? I nearly cried I tell you.

When Thomas got home I shared the sad plight of the Seventh Swan with him and then I did something really pathetic: I told him that I was that Seventh Swan. We were as one. Floating alone in a lake full of people who ignore us. Surrounded by ducks who don't speak our language. Without family. Without friends. Facing a long, lonely winter ahead. Yeah, so then Thomas pretty much felt like crap too. That kind of made me feel better.

I went to the lake today to check on my Soulmate Swan and imagine my surprise when I counted TEN - yes ten swans. Divide by five and you get TWO. Every swan had a partner! So now I figure the real story probably went something like this. Big Swan Partner Swap this weekend. Maybe Sienna Miller isn't the only one who thinks monogamy is over-rated. Really, shouldn't swans be able to give in to their animal instincts once in a while? And now I think the Swinger Seventh Swan got into town a few days early so he could get a head start on scoping out the other bloke's birds. Pig.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Absentee Ballot

Just got back from walking my absentee ballot to the post office. It cost me $5 Euro to mail! Maybe I should use my tax relief check to fund the postage. You gotta' give to get. Uneventful except that the woman serving me turned to her co-worker and said "New Jersey is in England right? I should post to England?" Thankfully my German was good enough to understand and correct her that it should be posted to the US not the UK. My German was NOT good enough to understand when she asked me if I wanted a receipt. Twice. Baby steps.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Trabi Trip in Dresden

Thomas and I spent the weekend in Pirna/Dresden visiting with his parents. Dresden (pictured in the blog header) is simply beautiful. I am awed every time I visit. First that such beautiful architecture was conceived then built by human hearts, minds and hands. Second, that anyone could destroy such beauty. And third, that it is being so painstakingly restored in a world that increasingly seems to only value what is new. I'm already excited to go back in December to visit the oldest Christmas market in Germany.

It was a quiet weekend filled with lots of Mom's home cooking - sauerbraten, schnitzel, and cakes (multiple). We had a nice bike ride and a short wander with an amazing view of the Elbe to help burn off the calories.

Fall Leaves

Lookout Point

View of the River Elbe

For my last birthday, Thomas' parents gave me a gift certificate for a city tour in a Trabant, an German automobile that I have a sweet spot for. It's sort of the quintessential DDR car that enjoyed up to an 8 year waiting list (take that MINI) in its heyday. After waiting that long for a car, people never got rid of them often driving them for 20 years or more. As a result it's still quite common to see them on the roads today. Thomas' first car was a Trabi. I think he bought it for 100DM and a case of beer. While it's hard to imagine Thomas in any vehicle that can barely go 60 miles an hour I guess he had to start somewhere.

I wussed on getting behind the wheel (gear shift on steering column, clutch pedal the size of a bar of soap) but Thomas was only too happy to jump in the driver's seat and take a walk down memory lane. The tour wound through the city with the guide's voice crackling through the radio pointing out historical landmarks. It reminded me thoroughly of driving in my father's Karmann Ghia as a child. Thankfully, we didn't have to get out an push this one. The best part was watching the people's faces as a stream of Trabis passed by. Certainly a much smaller scale than MINI Takes the States but the same smiles, waves and stares.

Trabi Happy

Thomas' First Love

Trabi Roaming The Streets of Dresden

Monday, October 6, 2008

Step Away From the Nutella

One of my goals before I arrived was to get back in shape. The three months living in temporary housing prior to our departure meant living with the bare necessities, lots of dining out and a few extra pounds that found their way into my saddlebags not my check-in bags.

I was doing okay. Alternating yoga with walking around the lake by our place. Lots of salads and whole grains. And then IT happened. Our home was invaded by a jar of Nutella. Bought with the good intentions of treating a guest to her favorite breakfast spread, the sweet hazelnut concoction quickly became a bad nightmare. Now, I've never been one to harbor a chocolate addiction and I've had Nutella on several past occasions without incurring disastrous results but there was something different about this jar. This jar talked!

Every single time I went into the kitchen it would start in on me. "Alexia, why are you ignoring me? I miss you. I won't hurt you - I promise. If you skip the bread it's really not that many calories. Just one spoonful. A small spoonful. Pleeeeez?" I was defenseless against this thing. I've had a spoon dangling out of my mouth ever since.

Anyway, you know how when you make fun of someone mercilessly it always comes back to bite you in the butt? Well, my friend KMOH is an incredibly talented creative person, a small business entrepreneur and, despite the fact that she favors wearing house slippers to NY photo shoots during blizzard weather, I have a great deal of respect for her. Until the day she pulled out the pedometer.

Looking to get rid of a few extra pounds, she'd committed to walking 10,000 steps everyday. All well and good. But when every trip to the bathroom was followed with a step count "28 there and 30 back. I think the extra two steps were to the sink," it wasn't long before we were mocking her endlessly. "I need to get a refill on my coffee. If I take two giant steps and three baby steps does that count as 7 regular steps?" Or, "If I sprain my ankle and I'm on crutches, do I get to count three steps for every one?" You get the idea.

Well, guess who bought a pedometer? Yup. But in fairness to me, the last time I saw KMOH she looked awesome so I figured maybe there was something to it. Sign me up for the 10,000 step program. And may God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change - especially if it's my waistline. I finally sat down to program the pedometer and all was going well. You have to put in your height, weight, age, etc. All standard, no surprises. Then I got to the body fat analyzer. You have to hold your thumbs at contact points on the pedometer and then it assigns an icon to your profile.

There are five icons ranging from a stick figure up to a big round blob. I'm thinking I'm going to hit icon 3 which is metz a metz. Ummm no. Up pops the little fatso icon. I'm thinking are you kidding me? It's not that bad. Is it?? Curses on Nutella and all gooey sugar substances everywhere. Oh, and while I'm at it, those warm Bavarian pretzels too.

I quickly scan the directions again. It says to get better results I should lick my thumb pads before making contact with the analyzer. I stick both thumbs in my mouth entirely and quickly go to the loo because it never hurts to get rid of a little water weight. Back from the bathroom (12 steps in case you were wondering) and now with fully wet hands, I throw back my shoulders, hold my breath and try again. No luck. I am icon five. I am Beachball Pinhead.

Beachball Pinhead at Lake - note Oktoberfest Beer

I am so depressed. The only thing that can possibly make me feel better is... Wait did you hear that? There it is again. Louder this time. Can you not hear that??

As soon as I get the spoon out of my mouth, I'll go for a lap around the lake. Okay, okay four laps. That's 9,865 steps in case you were wondering.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Buchstein and Kaiserschmarrn

Last Sunday was beautiful so Thomas, his twin brother Steffen and I drove to Tagernsee to hike a small alp called Buchstein. I asked Thomas before we left the house if I should pack lunches for us and his response was, "No, it's not like it is in the States." Whatever that means...

What that means is at the top of most of the popular hiking trails there will be a Gasthaus that serves warm meals and cold beer. Our mountain did not disappoint with a "hutte" straight out of the Sound of Music.
While I was busy spinning in circles doing my best Julie Andrews impression, Thomas was busy ordering the most decadent dessert on the menu - Kaiserschmarrn.

Kaiserschmarrn or "the Emperor's mishmash" is a caramelized pancake that is split into pieces while frying, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and served hot with applesauce on the side. It is beyond delicious. Had I known that it was waiting at the top when we started the hike, I would have considered (albeit briefly) running to the top. Run up. Roll down. The recipe follows. Plan your penance before consuming.

1/4 cup rum
1 cup whole milk
5 eggs
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
applesauce for serving

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the milk, eggs, white sugar, vanilla, and salt. Gradually whisk in the flour to make a smooth batter.
  2. In a large skillet melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Pour the batter into the skillet and cook 5 to 6 minutes, or until the pancake has set and the bottom is golden brown. Turn over the pancake and cook 3 minutes, or until this side is also golden brown. Using a spatula or two forks, tear the pancake into bite-size pieces. Drizzle in the melted butter and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Turn up the heat to medium high and use a spatula to gently toss the pieces for 5 minutes, or until the sugar has caramelized. Sprinkle with additional confectioners' sugar and serve with apple sauce.