Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Munich: Probably Should Go Here Under Less Sad Circumstances

Even Paul's reflection in the window is a sad face.
The most recent memory I have of Munich is sitting in a hotel room crying while attempting to eat an entire bag of cheddar and sour cream chips and drink two cans of root beer in under thirty minutes.

It was unpleasant for so many reasons.

See, the thing was...I had just dropped my parents and sister off at the airport and they had brought us American snacks that we weren't going to be able to fit (or carry-on) in our backpacks for our own later flight home.  That should explain both the crying and the binge drinking.

Two years earlier, Munich was originally dumb since it was the place we said goodbye to Paul's family as well.  I remember leaving them in a little family hotel room near the train station, giving last-minute directions to the airport, as we left to catch our overnight train back home to northern Germany.

It was the wooooorrrrrrst.

Munich is THE WORST.

But it's so unfair because, I mean, if all these pictures I have of Munich weren't drenched in the tears of eternal woe, then Munich would kind of look like THE BEST.

I mean, really, it has a lot going for it.  There are a gabazillion churches, for example.  And all of them have an interesting story - example: legit Roman-era mummies on display?  I know this, because I've been through the first 85% of the Rick Steve's Munich Walking Tour twice now.

Also, there's this outdoor market area that's always been gorgeous with its maypole and chestnut trees and adorable stalls selling handwoven baskets and bratwurst (different stalls...not the same stall.  Though maybe I just didn't see that one.)  

Or there's the Englischer Garten - this gigantic and gorgeous park with a lazy-river style canal you can just float along (or surf, in particular spots).  Want to picnic?  Find a spot in a giant, amazing meadow.  Want to go horseback riding?  Sure thing!  Want to ride a segwey while eating weisswurst?  You find it there.

There are palaces and art museums and opera houses and biergartens, and dirndl shops (one of my life goals is to own a tailored, green dirndl...).  It's actually a really nice city.

...if it wasn't actually the worst city in the world!

The real point I'm trying to make here is that...we need to go back sometime.  Munich needs some redemption - and dag nabbit, I want to finally finish that Rick Steve's Walking Tour!

I'm counting down the days until my third anniversary of living in Europe by recapping trips that I never got around to highlighting.  You can see the list of trips (and links to them as they are written) here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Neuschwanstein and Environs



We're back from Spain.  But right now I'm going to talk about Germany.  I just feel like it.

So, you know about Neuschwanstein, yes?  Of course you do.  Even if you don't think you do, you actually do.  You just don't know that's what it's called.  Have you seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?  Then you know.  Have you seen any Disney movie with the opening credits part that shows a castle with some sparkly arch drawn over the top and the music goes all, "Deeeee naaa na na na naaaaaaaaaaaa?"  Then you know Neuschwanstein.  

I'm just going to call it "Castle" for the rest of this post, actually. It's annoying to type Neuschwanstein.

So, we've been to Castle two times now, once in May 2012 with Paul's family and once in June 2014 with my family.  Why?  Because you have to go see Castle if you're anywhere near it.  Because it's Castle.

Here's the thing though.  Both times there has been something off with Castle.  

In 2012, it was half in scaffolding...

In 2014, we were there during an epic torrential downpour (that only stopped when my family was inside Castle, of course).

But regardless, a visit to Castle is always great.  Because even in scaffolding or hurricanes, the views around it are still beautiful.

Paul told me that I had to be sure to note that his Dad spoke the following words from the outlook near Castle's main entrance:  "This is the most beautiful place in the world."

So.  There you go.

Really quickly though, I want to leave off by saying that the area near Castle is also very lovely and has quite a few sights to see.

For example, there's the uber-Baroque Wieskirche about a 45 minute drive north.  It stands alone, surrounded by dairy cow pasture (and the cows have the bells around their necks!).

Or there's all the little villages that showcase the region's propensity to paint lovely scenes on their buildings...

But mostly, it's just a really nice place to go for a drive through the Alps and into the foothills...

Finally, I would like to end this post by dedicating it to our two rental vans from 2012 and 2014: Diesel-beast and Mom.  I am so glad we didn't damage either one of you.

I'm counting down the days until my third anniversary of living in Europe by recapping trips that I never got around to highlighting.  You can see the list of trips (and links to them as they are written) here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Seks år i dag (Six Years Today)

Hello there.

We're actually in Seville right now.  Right now. As you are reading this! The internet told me that I should get Paul a present that was wood, iron, or candy.  So I got him Spain.  I'm sure you can follow that logic.

But I thought I'd schedule this little notice to go up on our sixth anniversary, even though we're away.

Because this is something that should be noted.  I have been officialmente married to Paul for six years, officialmente partners for seven and a half years, officialmente friends for eleven years,  Muy officialmente romantico aaaaaaand that fake Spanish is going to stop now.

(I can't help it.  Because Spain.)

But seriously though, I don't get serious on this here blog because it's all public and junk.  I guess I just want to say that, well, I'll never be able to adequately say what Paul means to me (cliche.  always try and always sound so cliche.)  But, what I do know is that anyone who ever actually sees us together knows a bit what I'm trying to say.

We're just real good together, you know?  Paul is my best friend - and you can tell when you see us. Paul is the handsomest human to walk the earth - and you can tell when you see me look at him.  We're a team, we got each other's backs.  We respect each other's dreams and feelings and opinions and don't try to squash each other into stereotypes or expectations.  We're real, complex, human individuals to each other - we fascinate each other.  We just get it.  We're good at us.

So, six years.  Best six years of my life, you know.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bornhom: The "Sunny" Island

We interrupt this recap of Dunns-Come-to-Germany 2012 to do a quick post about our trip to the island of Bornholm this last weekend.

We signed up to go on a little three day jaunt with the university's International Club because 1) they always plan really great things for a really super price and 2) we really wanted to go see this Bornholm place because it's just kind of an odd Danish duck.

Bornholm actually lies to the southeast of Sweden and is closer to Poland than Denmark.  In it's history, it's been part of various countries, but always seems to wind up back in Denmark, even though, if you believe our proud Bornholmsk tour guide, most residents really feel as if their little island is more like it's own country than part of anything else.

Plus, Bornholm is a rocky island.  I know that sounds...underwhelming...but no other place in Denmark looks like this.  A lot of the time I felt like we were back on the Oregon coast than halfway across the world.  It was so wonderful to see crashing waves and tidepools again.

Finally, Bornholm is famous for being the sunniest place in Denmark.  Which is why it rained practically the entire time we were there.


After driving over the bridge into Sweden and then taking an incredibly fast catamaran ferry to the island, our first stop was the Bornholm Technical Museum.  Which was a strange name, I thought, since it was explained as a private museum where people donated their collections of things.  Sounds boring.  Actually, it was so incredibly fun because you were free to climb on, pick up, tinker with, try on, and really figure out anything you wanted to.  In one room there was a wall of old gramophones that I could wind up and actually use to play antique recordings.  Or a fully functioning 19th century kitchen where I could use old-timey egg beaters and hand-cranked grinders.

Really.  I would go back in a second.  It was a giant playground of history.

Tea cup collection.  About 10000 of them.

In the WWII collection

Check THAT off my fantasy list

The next day we spent driving around Bornholm and learning about the island's different natural landscapes, villages, and churches.  We went to the echo valley - which is famous for...echoes.

Took a stroll around the village of Sveneke to check out the glass works, chocolatiers, caramel shops, and the infamous home of Danish licorice (nasty, nasty.  It's still nasty.)

And ended at the famously round Ols Church. (It was very awesome).

 On our last day, we had the chance to visit the beach with the softest sand in the world - Dueodde Beach on the far southern tip.  Seriously.  It's famous for its soft sand.  And the reputation is totally deserved.  I could have walked along that beach all day, it was so incredibly nice.

I pretty much just wanted to stay here for 8 more hours

But, we had a lunch appointment to make at one of the famous Bornholmsk fish smokers where we shared a super-Bornholmy meal, including a super-Bornholmy smoked herring.

I'm usually overwhelmed by smoked meat, but I have to admit that the herring was pretty fantastic.  I'd have a couple more in my life, no problem.

Then it was back to the ferry, back to Sweden, and then back to Denmark.  We've had two days back to work now but tomorrow we head off on another, longer trip.  So, stay tuned for more travel reviews in a week and a half or so.

I'm counting down the days until my third anniversary of living in Europe by recapping trips that I never got around to highlighting.  You can see the list of trips (and links to them as they are written) here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, or German Disneyland

It's So Cuuuuuuuute
The day we drove into Rothenburg wasn't, shall we say, the smoothest travel day.  We started off the morning in Freiburg exhausted from a surreal overnight train experience, ended up getting kicked out of the seats at Starbucks because all of us had not ordered something (my boycott is still going strong two and a half years later, Starbucks!), trying to get our rental van but being told that they actually didn't have the right size (They said, "But we have this nice car you can take!" and we were like, "We...reserved...the big van...because we needed a big van...?  Why in the world would we reserve a giant van if we really only wanted a little car?!), driving an hour away to get another van, and then starting our 7 hour drive through the Black Forest to get to Rothenburg.


But lovely insanity out in that Black Forest area, if you wanted to know.

And when we got to Rothenburg and checked into our amazing hotel right in the heart of the old town, everything was forgiven.  Because, if you want to be in the cutest little German town of Disney-esque adorability, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the place to go.

Adooooorrrrrrable.  And I'm holding a Rothenburger pastry translated as a "snowball"

Not going to lie.  Rothenburg was the best.  Just a great city for strolling and exploring.  Really just feeling Germanish, you know?  Both nights we ate under the chestnut trees in a little biergarten, drinking our apfelschorle and ordering halves of chickens and bratwursts.  Days were spent browsing streets, checking out museums, and appreciating all the little things that you notice in a place that's been around for nearly 1000 years.

Can't say enough about Rothenburg so, predictably, I won't say much more...

I'm counting down the days until my third anniversary of living in Europe by recapping trips that I never got around to highlighting.  You can see the list of trips (and links to them as they are written) here.

Monday, September 8, 2014


In May 2012, part of our Paul-Family-German-Tour involved visiting Leipzig, a city Paul had lived in nearly ten years previous.  I have to admit that I was ignorant of all things "Leipsch" until Paul took us on an epic tour covering everything from Napoleon, to Goethe, to Bach (who, as a native of the city, is kind of a big deal there).  

First up was the Völkerschlachtdenkmal, or The Monument to the Battle of the Nations, erected 100 years after allied troops defeated Napoleon's army in 1813.  Have to say, it was pretty impressivo and quite gigantic.  Climbing the 500+ steps to the top filled my exercise quota for about a month.

We walked around on a little Paul-guided city tour that afternoon and saw the old City Hall, various interesting streets with fond memories attached, the church where Bach was organist, and finally ended up at the Auerbachs Keller restaurant, built in the 1500s and where Goethe sets a part of Faust.

Please notice my extremely weird bang comb-over and that I'm rubbing Faust's toe for luck as he is shown some sights by Mephistopheles.

I think I can safely say that this was the best meal we had on the entire two week trip.  So if you're ever in Leipzig, I can't recommend it enough,  I mean, I tried, but there are only so many recommendation websites I can submit to, you know?

Pleased Dunns

I'm counting down the days until my third anniversary of living in Europe by recapping trips that I never got around to highlighting.  You can see the list of trips (and links to them as they are written) here.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Stralsund and Rügen

One day in May 2012, we took Paul's family a couple hours to the east to see the white cliffs on the island of Rügen and have a half day in the coastal city of Stralsund.

It's good I'm writing about this because these aren't really places that your average tourist would have ever heard about (and so I may have forgotten about them in the future), but in Germany (particularly former East Germany), they're pretty well known as holiday destinations.

Rügen especially, with its small national park protecting its chalk cliffs, was very popular, particularly in the 19th and early 20th century, as a place to "take the air" and visit the seaside.  Maybe comb the beach for some of that ubiquitous Baltic amber always washing up on shore.

And for us, living so much in the city with no car, getting out to see forests and beaches and a serious lack of concrete was just a wonderful relief.

We made our way back to the mainland and Stralsund for the express purpose of seeing the new Ozeaneum aquarium.  Because, I mean, Paul and the whole marine biology thing and Paul's brother and his whole marine biology thing.  It was just going to happen.

And really, if you randomly find yourself in Mecklenburg-Pomerania, you should go see the Ozeaneum.  It's fancy.

I'm counting down the days until my third anniversary of living in Europe by recapping trips that I never got around to highlighting.  You can see the list of trips (and links to them as they are written) here.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Lübeck: Because Marzipan

Our first trip to Lübeck, another Northern German city near(ish) to where we used to live, was actually in February, before Italy 2012, but apparently I just never got around to writing about it.  We went again in May 2012 with Paul's family but I have no pictures from that trip!  

This is all just an apology mostly to Paul's family that my post about Lübeck only has us in the pictures.  So...sorry Paul's family...  but maybe seeing these ones will help you remember things.

ANYWAY, we went to Lübeck, a city famous for a couple things.  It has seven incredibly tall church spires, is a UNESCO World Heritage site for having really nicely preserved examples of Brick Gothic architecture and just being ...super old, and for inventing marzipan* (which, if you have spent any time in northish Europe around Christmas, you get that this is a big deal).  

Holsten Tor, one of the old city gates, is on the German 2-Euro coin

Would you like some marzipan peaches?  Or marzipan potatoes?  Or marzipan carrots?  Perhaps to make some marzipan stew?  And on and on and on...

Well, since we were in the land of marzipan, we had to buy some.  So we bought an amount proportional to how much we actually enjoy eating marzipan...

So, the real great parts of Lübeck then, to us at least, aren't so much sugary-almond-paste-related but rather more old-old-churches and old-old streets related.

What's so surprising is that Lübeck suffered from a lot of bombing raids in WWII and even though some of the big churches were completely gutted, the spires all stayed up...as unstable as they were.  You can still see a lot of lean on many of those towers and the steel supports that have been added since the 40s to keep them up.  In one church, there was a great memorial to the destruction of the bombings and violence of WWII where they left the main tower bell exactly in the same place it fell and shattered after a raid.

Finally, Lübeck is famous for its little gangs or medieval side-streets that still can be explored.  They all wind back into inner courtyards where, a lot of time, you come across little gardens surrounded by tiny, awesome houses.  I wish I had more pictures of what the hidden inner-workings of the gangs looked like, but we felt too bad taking pictures of what were essentially people's front yards.

But that didn't stop us from taking pictures of entrances!

My final story from Lübeck comes from the second time we ate at the Schiffergesellschaft (say it.  I dare you.) - a restaurant/pub built in 1401.  I told Paul to order anything from the menu and I'd share it, completely trusting his sanity.  Imagine my horror when he said that he wanted the Aale in Gelee.

What. the. heck.

I just gasped and practically yelled, "WHAT?!  Nooooooo. What?  Really?! ....noooooooo..." and he was like, "Yeah!  Sounds good!"  And since I had told him I would share anything he chose, I was totally cool with it (That is not at all the truth, I don't even know why I typed that lie.)

After the waitress left I was like, "Paul!  Do you know what Gelee is?!  It's ASPIC!  Eels in ASPIC!" and then I watched as the color drained from his face.  Because he had thought it was eels and some kind of fruit jelly (gelee/jelly)!  And darn it but that waitress totally did bring Paul exactly what the menu said - Eels in Aspic, nicely preserved in a little french canning jar.

And he actually ate the entire thing.  (I. did. not. eat. one. bite.)  I think at that point it was all about preserving his honor.

So, that's the end of my Lübeck review and since we ended with the Schiffergesellschaft restaurant, I will leave you with this final restaurant ad from our visit.

You're very welcome.

*So, the story goes that there was this really bad famine and the only food the people had was a bunch of sugar and almonds (oh no! how horrible!  Actually... I can think of a much worse situation than having huge amounts of sugar laying around but...we'll just go on).  So, someone figured out how to make sugary almond paste that could be shaped and dyed to look like loaves of bread.  Everyone loved it way more than real bread.  And they lived happily ever after.

But also...marzipan was more likely invented in Persia hundreds of years earlier so....yep.

I'm counting down the days until my third anniversary of living in Europe by recapping trips that I never got around to highlighting.  You can see the list of trips (and links to them as they are written) here.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pisa: As Requested

We're going a bit out of order here but there was a special request for Pisa so here we go!

When my parents and little sister came to visit us (and...a lot of Europe), we ended up flying from Paris to Pisa and taking the train from there to our hotel in Florence.  Sure, we could have just flown direct to Florence, but 1) this was cheaper and 2) PISA!

So, it was a quick taxi ride from the airport to the Field of Miracles, where leans the famous tower - and a lot of other cool things that I had no idea existed.

First thing I need to say, though, is that the leaning tower of Pisa was just mind-blowing.  I fully expected to be a little underwhelmed, seeing as everyone knows about it and has seen pictures.  But really, to walk through the gates into the Campo and actually see it practically falling over...  And it's so tall!   And there are people on it!  And it's so...lovely!  10 out of 10, leaning tower of Pisa.

One thing I didn't know before we went was that the tower is actually the bell tower next to the cathedral next to the baptistery next to the walled and roofed cemetery (filled with dirt brought all the way from Jerusalem which, if you were buried in it, reduced you to a skeleton in one day! As the advertising went.).  And all are done in the same, unique architectural style: Pisan Romanesque.

We have the circular baptistery, cathedral, and (bell) tower.
(And the tiiiiny sliver of what looks like a wall to the left is the cemetery.)
Gonna be honest, we spent about forty-five minutes here, max.  So we aren't super experts or anything.  But, it was definitely a trip highlight even then.

Afterwards, we walked to the train station.  I think some of our tour group (aka my family) didn't particularly appreciate the fact that what was touted as a 25 minute walk (with our backpacks) was actually more like 40 minutes. But we made it and it was an experience, dag nabbit!

Tally and Mom Schlepping Their Packs Through Tuscany

It was a really fun, winding walk through the back streets and markets of a Tuscan town - and a great introduction to Italy for my family.  All those narrow streets and wooden shutters were such a contrast to the grand, wide boulevards of post-Hausmann Paris we'd been through just that morning.

And so ends my mini-review of our mini-stop in Pisa, Italy.

I'm counting down the days until my third anniversary of living in Europe by recapping trips that I never got around to highlighting.  You can see the list of trips (and links to them as they are written) here.

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