Monday, April 8, 2013


January 26, 2013
On one of the weekends Tristan came to visit, we took a trip over to Freiburg (which is the closest large town in Germany) to see the city and to see Tristan's favorite soccer team, Bayer-Leverkusen, compete. The city itself isn't a big tourist destination; however, it's location at the edge of the Black Forest makes it a good starting out point for travels there -- though it was (and still is) far too cold for long nature trips.
We arrived in the early afternoon, and wondered the quaint streets.

The architecture is typical of the Baden-Wutemburg region of Germany (and Alsace for that matter)
 It reminded me a little of Mulhouse (which isn't surprising considering their proximity (about 45 minutes by car, according to google)). However, Freiburg is more like what Mulhouse would be like if more of it had been preserved.

We eventually made our way over to a local brewery to try out the local beer. 

It was tasty.

After that wandered around the city more, stopping to get snacks of NordSee and Bratwurst. Nomnom. 

Also, I met a pony. Most countries have people who beg with their dog; Germany has people who beg with their pony. We gave some change in exchange for a picture. 

The Cathedral and sausage stand.
After we'd finished, it was still a bit early to head to the game. So we went to a bar we'd read about online. Then it was game time!
Me and the mascot of the opposing team (Freiburg's).
The game ended in a draw, but we had fun anyway -- eating bratwurst, drinking beer, and freezing our hands off. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

UPDATED: France: the laziest country on Earth

Today, I had planned to go to Germany to do some shopping and kill the time I have before Tristan gets here (he took a later train because of the expense of Easter weekend). I was going to go to NordSee for lunch and then buy food for dinner and more yarn and basically wonder around killing time because I have nothing better to do (well, I probably do but I'm in a kind of boredom loop because I haven't worked since Tuesday because I get Wednesdays off and then my two morning classes were cancelled (I was told in advance! How crazy!) and then my noon class was cancelled when I emailed my adviser to remind her that I was coming and then I showed up to my afternoon class only to find that there was no one there.)
Anyway, so I get ready and go to the bus stop to catch the bus (after looking up times on the website). I am going to take the 12:57 bus. 12:57 comes around, no bus. 1:00, no bus. 1:05, I'm getting nervous-- what if the buses are cancelled? But why would they be? The weather is fine. Could they be on strike? But wouldn't they have said something on their website, in big letters? 1:10, no bus?! So I pull up the website on my phone, scroll over to the news where it says in little tiny letters that the "offices" are closed from Friday through Monday. Which is kind of ambiguous, but I haven't seen a single bus, and my bus is 20 minutes by now. Seriously? This is the bus service! You can't just cancel it for 4 days! For a holiday that lasts one day? Really?
And now that I think about it, the school has been oddly silent today and looks kind of closed up. So they are taking 4 days too. But Kathy, you say. American schools often get a week of vacation near Easter. Your right they do. But I'd like to remind you that French schools take 2 week vacations every 6 weeks. It's a wonder they ever get anything done.
Mostly I'm angry because now I don't get to have NordSee for lunch. :(
Here are some pictures of other wonders I'm missing out on:

Silly waving rabbits

Awesome Bunnies in an awesome pet store.

Really positive scales that are kind of insulting to others that speaks English  because Germans are a little bit too willing to use English at the expense of their own language.

Guess what else was closed on Friday? If you guessed EVERYTHING. You win the prize of knowing that your country is better than France. I realize this is an itty-bitty town, but I really don't understand why the grocery store couldn't be open on this day (which I know realize is Good Friday). French people aren't religious! So why on earth are they observing a religious holiday? Why would the supermarket be closed on Good Friday? In fact, France has this whole "laiicite" thing which is like the separation of church and state only to a really crazy extent. Like you aren't allowed to wear any religious symbols on public property (especially schools): i.e. no cross necklaces, no yarmulkes, no burkas or head scarfs. The idea being that in order to guarantee equal treatment your must appear to be all the same. In reality, this is rather unequally enforced. Like small symbols like cross necklaces aren't very noticeable and therefore are allowed (I have seen a few of my students wearing them). Yet, they put up a Christmas Tree in the school and apparently can't bring themselves to work on a holiday that most probably don't celebrate anyway. It makes no sense. Also, everyone is taking off today (Monday), too. Probably because they already get Sunday off and it's "not fair" that they don't get an extra day off for the holiday. (I'd like to point out that this means the Grocery Store has been closed 3 out of the last 4 days!). 
Anyway, since this whole Good Friday off thing took me totally by surprise, I had no food. So Tristan and I were forced to order Dominos for dinner (thank god they stayed open!). NOMNOM

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Snow in Spring?

The view out my window yesterday when I woke up. Yes, that is snow.
 Yesterday, when I woke up, there was snow on the ground. I found this shocking, because it is supposedly spring. Then I woke up this morning...

Even more snow! And it snowed steadily all day, though not much more accumulated. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Munich and the Last day of our Christmas Vacation Trip

January 3, 2013

The next day, we planned to take pictures of the main of attractions of the town, most of which we'd already seen. But it never hurts to see them again! We made sure to make it to the Rathaus by noon because that's when the old clock did it's animatronic dance.

We were a bit early, however, which resulted in the purchase of a really silly Munich Oktoberfest drinking hat. 

Yeah, it's pretty silly.  
Tangent: I totally saw a kid wearing a hat like this today when I was walking to the grocery story. I almost believe I hallucinated it because it was really weird. He nodded at me like, "yeah, I see you've noticed my hat. Isn't it awesome?"  It was weird.

Anyway, the whole cuckoo-clock-like thing was a little underwhelming. But considering when it was made, I can see why it is considered to be so amazing. 

This building, like many buildings in Germany, was rebuilt after the war.  And it was rebuilt a little cheaply, so it looks a little silly up close. But anyway, much better than some other places that had to be rebuilt where they just gave up and went with a "modern" (i.e. ugly cheap 60/70/80s) look (*cough* Mulhouse *cough*).

YOU SHALL NOT PASS! - We also call this the Gandolf hat.
After getting lost, even though we had already been there and going in a complete circle (which I blame on Tristan. Just kidding, love you Tristan.) We finally ended up here: 

This is where the "Beer Hall Putsch" (ie the first time Hitler tried to take power happened, I think.)
That night we spent a lot of time at Saturn (which is like the German Bestbuy) because Tristan wanted to buy some German cds and they had this deal going on. And after that, we finished up at Augustiner where we had a beer and yummy sausage meal. It was a great end to a wonderful vacation.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Neuschwanstein Castle

January 2, 2013
The next day, we got up early to take a train to Fuessen, a small but quaint town along the "Romantic Road." Fuessen is the local of Neuschwanstien Castle, our intended destination. Unfortunately, by the time we got on the train every seat was already taken, so we had to stand for the hour and halfish train ride to Fuessen. On the way, I played a bit with a Russian baby (Russian's were everywhere. New Years is their biggest holiday, so maybe that's why?) by showing him my new stuffed rabbit Renata (whom you may have noticed in some of my other photos).
Finally we arrived, and though it wasn't snowing, there was snow on the ground. You have to take a bus from the city of Fuessen to the area where the castle is, and the way they have it set up is that the buses leave the train station a few minutes after the train arrives. There was pretty much a mad dash for the buses and we didn't want to be caught up in that and also we were hungry. So we popped into an "Asian" food restaurant where we got delicious chicken stir fry.
Then we went back to wait for the bus, where we got a quite nice seat. When we arrived, we decided that rather than taking hike up the front path (or taking a carriage, because that was an option), that we would go around to the lift which would take us to a neighboring mountain. We weren't sure if it was running, and if it was, how much it would be, but we saw this as a kind of compromise because Tristan had really wanted to go to Zugspitze which is the tallest mountain in Europe, and you can take a watchamecallit to the top. This way we would get to see the alps from up high and get to see the castle: a win-win. (And neither of us care about the inside of castles because furniture is boring.)

So we took the forested path, following the signs toward the lift. 

This was a sort of abandoned logyard.

Along the river, padding through the snow, we listened to "Concerning Hobbits"  (if you'd like to listen: click here) because that just seemed appropriate somehow.
When we reached the lift we found that they were charging something like 17 euro per person to go up (keep in mind, we only paid 25 euro for us both to get to Fuessen in the first place, this was way too much for us). The views from the bottom were stunning anyway. 

At this point, we decided to keep heading the direction (rather than retracing our path) we were going in order to find some way up to Neuschwanstein (see map below for clarification).

I don't know what you are talking about. I am an excellent Paint artist. 
As we walked back towards the castle, we took lots of pictures...

Unfortunately, the position of sun made it rather difficult to capture the castle well.

Finally we began to climb up: 

 Eventually, it became clear that we would have to turn around (which would have been a long long walk) or we would have to cross the river (okay, it was more of a creek or stream).  It wasn't too wide, but we didn't want to get our feet wet, so the plan  was to cross by scurrying over the rocks. This turned out to be a lot easier said then done. We spent a considerable amount of time picking out the best path. across. Then, Tristan went first. Once he got about half way across, he hit a bit of a dead end, and decided that the best plan would be to leap. Yeah, not such a great plan. He slipped on the slippery wet rock and fell into the water twisting his ankle in the process. Otherwise unharmed though wet, he climbed out of the river. Then it was my turn to cross. When the going got tough, I decided I'd rather have wet feet then fall in the water, so I opted to just step in the water to get across. The water was cold, but less so than you would expect from water on snowy mountain.

The creek, before Tristan fell in. 
Upon crossing we found ourselves are a path that was supposed to lead up the mountain. Even though Tristan had an injured ankle and we were both somewhat wet, we decided to keep going. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately?), we soon reached a gate that was only in German but that Tristan said something along the lines of "if you take this route during the winter you will die." So after imagining what harm could befall us if we tried to climb around the gate, we decided to give it up. 

By the way, there is another castle in Fuessen
Once we were back to the bus stop, we had to get in line to wait for the next bus and there was a lot of attempted cutting and generally douchey competitive behaviors by certain parties (possibly because of the seating situation on the train on the way. But once the train came, it turned out their were plenty of seats. 
All in all, it was a beautiful enjoyable day and I was glad to go in the winter when the mountains were so pretty and the area was generally less tourist logged. 

I leave you with a picture of me wearing a giant pretzel on my head later that evening at Hofbrauhaus. You're welcome.

"Well, that's quite annoying"

This is sort of a continuation of my last post about France. The quote is from one of my favorite teachers to whom I told this story. My internal response was "You're telling me! This happens all the time!"
This morning, I had a class at 8 am. I hadn't heard anything from the professor, so honestly, I kind of had this feeling that it would be cancelled. But I dragged myself out of bed at 7:30 anyway to go to class. When I arrived, the teacher (my adviser) exclaimed "Oh! I forgot you were coming today!" And I was like *sigh*. Then she said that she wasn't planing to do anything that day because reasons, and she would ask if anyone wanted to go work with me instead of doing nothing. Of course, NO ONE DID. I didn't even want to -- it's a lot of pressure to take kids who gave up fun for you. Also, another teacher who also routinely cancels class (but at least usually informs me a few hours beforehand) tells me his 12 o'clock class is cancelled. This is not a surprise to me because I think I've taught a total of like two classes of his since Christmas. All in all, I am teaching 5 of my twelve hours this week (granted 5 of them were cancelled in advance, but I picked up and extra class, so I should have taught 8 hours).
 Anyway, I am of two minds about this whole cancelling classes (at the last minute thing). On one hand, yay! No class! I think it's probably human nature to like being told "you don't have to work today" (and I still get paid, by the by (thank god! or else I would be screwed.)). On the other hand, let's face it, I already have too much time on my hands. And work is kind of like working out: before you do it, you are like *pout, pout, I don't wanna go. Sweeepies*, but then you go and it makes you feel good. Also, the fact that I'm constantly having classes cancelled completely kills my work ethic in terms of preparing things for the classes which I know are routinely cancelled. I generally think of a back up plan (which is usually one of the various games I have devised and found) and then arrive and see if the teacher suggests something for me to teach, then I might wing it (which works surprisingly well). But it makes me feel lazy and like I'm not doing a particularly good job at this job.

Unrelated picture. Yesterday I went to Germany. Just across the river there is a smallish mall that has a huge (Walmart-sized) supermarket, and also this really cool pet shop. Awesome fluffy parrot says hello!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Munich: New Years Eve, and New Years

December 31, 2012 cont.:
Once we arrived back in Munich, we had dinner (at KFC, again, I believe!) and prepared ourselves to celebrate New Years Eve. We didn't really want to go out, because the idea of spending the night in an overcrowded bar or something didn't really appeal. We ended up hanging out together in the hostel and going out a bit later to Burger King to get a milkshake. By that time (around 10:30, maybe?), the whole city was in full celebration mode, what with drunk people playing with fireworks and what not. Over milkshakes we discussed New Year's Resolutions, and even though I think they are kind of stupid, at Tristan's insistence I resolved to be able to run a half marathon by June (lol, that's not going to happen. The whole running in the freezing cold didn't really stick) and also to finish the 100 push up program by the end of year (and let's be honest, this isn't going great either, but I'm working on it). Tristan resolved to be able to read All Quiet on the Western Front in German by the end of year.
We initially planned to walk around the town a bit after our milkshakes -- but the fireworks were kind of freaking one of us out (*cough* me *cough*) so we just went back to the hostel where we shared a beer (which we refrigerated by putting it on the windowsill!). Then we went down for the last count down before New Years which was televised in the hostel common room. If I thought there were too many drunk people playing with fireworks BEFORE it struck midnight, I certainly thought that something was going to catch on fire or someone would get hurt afterwards. It seemed like everyone had fireworks, and they were being set off all of the city. We poked our head's outside the door (which is pretty much as far as I was willing to go) and the streets were total anarchy. Tristan thought it was fun, so I let him go frolic in the street. And I may have been overreacting, but I DID see a firework blow up in a girl's face because it was the type that was supposed to launch and she didn't let go of it. Honestly, I was thrilled when it was all over. Thank God for Southern California's dry, flammable climate. I prefer fireworks to be in the hands of sober professionals.

January 1, 2013

The next day, we set out to explore Munich. For some reason, we started in the outskirts. Our first stop was the Olympic Stadium and BMW museum thing which ended up being a bit a failure because both were closed -- but it was still nice to see the buildings.

Next, we took the sBahn over to the soccer stadium: 

It also had a rather pretty view of the mountains in the distance, which this picture does not capture at all. 
We went back into the city and decided to go to the aforementioned Hofbrauhaus which is probably the most famous beer hall in Munich and probably the world (and everyone knows, Munich is all about beer). It's now a chain with restaurants in places as far flung as Las Vegas and we'd already been twice? in Berlin but that doesn't mean it isn't cool to go the original.It was opened there in 1569 and originally brewed it's beer for the Royal Residence.

One thing that is cool about this beer hall, is that they have women who carry around baskets of HUGE pretzels that you can buy to have with your beer. Nomnomnom. After spending quite sometime there, we walked across the plaza to go to Augstiener am Platzel, which is another beer hall where we shared yummy sausage with yummy mashed potatoes and I had a Radler (which is half beer, half lemon-lime soda, which sounds weird and possibly disgusting -- but is actually really yummy). 

This is where we ended our night because apparently drinking beer in the evening makes you really sleepy. It was a lot of fun. I guess you could say that we celebrated New Year's on New Year's Day.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


December 30. 2012
The next day. we took the train to Munich. We arrived in the early afternoon, napped, had dinner at a sushi restaurant, and  then we took a nice walk around the darkened city, and that was about it. (Also, there was a really large number of Russian speaking people in Munich, possibly because of New Years?) 

December 31, 2012
The next day, we bought a regional rail pass (25 euro for the day for two people, which is an excellent deal) and took the train to Salzburg (around 2 hours away). We'd watched The Sound of Music on our way to Berlin and we decided it would be a lot of fun to go. 
The train ride itself was beautiful. The Alps are truly breathtaking. 

Salzburg is right on the border of Austria and Germany (much how Basel is on the Swiss-French-German broder). This is why we could use our German rail pass. But like Basel and Weil am Rhein and Saint Louis, there were already some subtle, but noticeable cultural differences. For instance, German shops and restaurants seem much more willing to employ borrowed English words in signs and names of things. In Austria, the names of foods were almost always translated into German (rather than just using the English word).We arrived in the early afternoon, and walked from the train station to the old town.

I may have hopped a low fence to take this picture. But who can resist taking pictures with unicorns?
We started out in this garden, which may look familiar -- though I'm sure it is much more beautiful in spring and summer. 
This scene may be familiar to fans of The Sound Music

Then we walked around other parts of the old town.

\We saw the river...
And Mozarts Geburthaus (ie. the house where Mozart was born), also Spar which is a kind of grocery store. Can you imagine: the birth home of a famously brilliant composer is now partially a supermarket? Ahh, Europe. 
Then we walked up towards the castle, though we opted not to pay the fee for the lift and entrance fee. It was really expensive. Austria had prices that were almost Switzerland status! We also sent some post cards, which cost a (relative) fortune.

Pretty views...
By this time, we were really hungry. We looked around for a bit for somewhere to eat. After considering NordSee (which is a sort of Long John Silvers -- fast sea food), we ended up at Burger King  because we didn't know how NordSee worked. Apparently, everyone else in Salzburg decided they wanted to go there too, because it was packed. I looked for a seat (because they were all full), and Tristan waited in line.
Here, one of the most amusing and shocking things in Salzburg happened, though I wasn't a direct witness. A middle aged American man, apparently, cut to the front of the line to ask the already terribly frazzled workers if this Austrian Burger King took DOLLARS (And  he did so by taking out dollars and waving them in worker's face)*. Yes, the Austrian Burger King, whose nearest neighbor also uses Euros takes Dollars. --- NO, of course they don't! Why would they? *facepalm* This is why people think that Americans are full of themselves and obnoxious. Such an embarrassment to American's, and, let's be honest, to the human race in general. 

*Note: Tristan is one of the most pro-America people I know, so you can assume this story is not the slightest bit exaggerated to emphasize stupidity.

After lunch, we walked around the city a bit more. There was a live performance and their were still things to do and look at.
Finally, as a conclusion to our time in Salzburg we walked up to the nunnery in Salzburg that is the nunnery in The Sound of Music:
Recognize this gate? 

Though the nunnery required a bit of a hike, the view well worth it! The alps were beautiful, as always. 
One our way back to the train station, we picked up two Stiegal's (an Salzburger beer) at a tourist shop. The owner was quite friendly and assured us that like in Germany (and in France, though I believe it is technically, if never enforcedly, illegal) having a beer on the street is fully within our rights. 
As we walked back, there was some sort of staging of a battle with fake cannon fire from the castle and from fortresses on the hill and fake military forces on the street (perhaps this is some sort of tradition where New Year's Eve becomes sort of a national holiday? We didn't know why.). It was a bit after 5, and the sun was already setting. 

We got on the next train to Munich, where we celebrated New Years. To be continued...

"You come to this class every week?"

For heaven's sake, woman! I've been coming to this class (YOUR class) every week for over 5 months! How could you still be forgetting this? ajsfhadskfh. baaahhhhhhhhhh
I'm so glad that even though I've spent the last few months being pretty bored during the weeks, at least my presence is appreciated. Wait? People routinely forget about me? Cancel classes without informing me? Tell I should do a lesson on a specific topic 2 minutes before class starts?

As the panda says: "We need to talk," France
That is all.

Monday, March 18, 2013


December 27, 2012

We woke up in Berlin, took the sBahn to Alexanderplatz for one last early lunch at Dolores (a burrito place) before our train. By the time we arrived in Hamburg, it was the early evening and it was already getting dark, so we didn't have much time to see anything. Though we did walk down the shopping street that ran from our hostel to the Rathaus (town hall). The Christmas market was still set up and there were people everywhere (I guess the day after second Christmas is a big shopping day in Germany?). It was immediately clear that Hamburg has a lot more money than Berlin.

December 28, 2012
The next morning we started out by walking around the various docks. Hamburg is very picturesque:

This is where the sun was at noon --- so yeah, we were pretty far North.
This is the Rathaus (town hall).

After we finished seeing the docks, we did some more wandering around the shops. There were all sorts of expensive stores: Mont Blanc, fancy antique book sellers, fancy purse sellers.

This was at the Apple store. The displays for the info about every item were iPads because rich. 

Tristan chases a duck friend.
Unfortunately, though it was sunnyish, it was pretty windy. So it was really cold. So we ended up heading back to the hostel.
That night we went out in Reeperbahn, which is the district of Hamburg that has a lot of bars and nightlife. And it is also the district where the Beetles first preformed.
Our favorite bar was "the sailor bar" which had slightly older clientele and played cool music and also claimed to be the place where the Beetles first performed.

December 29, 2012
The morning of the third day, we weren't really sure what to do. So after a lunch at Burger King, we went to IKEA and walked around.

Where this happened.  They say "Take me home, country roads" by John Denver. I don't know why, but it was fun.
After a nap and a bit more wandering around the city and eating dinner we went to Miniatur Wunderland  which was an AWESOME miniature railroad. 

This was their restaurant.
The crazy thing about it was that you could easily forget it was about a railroad. It was all so complex and amazing. They even had the cars rigged up to move in some areas. 

There were several "lands": Germany, Hamburg, Switzerland, USA, and Scandinavia and they plan to add a few in the future. The photos don't do it justice, but alas, that's all I have.

This was part of the Germany land, I think.
 Also, it becamenight every 15 minutes (if I remember correctly) and it would stay dark for a few minutes which gave you a chance to see the cool things that lit up.

This was part of Switzerland. The alps took up two floors of the building!
One of the most amazing parts of the exhibit was the Knuffigan Airport (which doesn't really exist), which had planes that actually took off! On schedule!
The accurate schedule
Minatur Wunderland: Modelbahn as a piece in the "Modelbahn" (miniature railroad)

America was a little disappointing because it was focused on the parts of America Europeans seem the most fascinated with: The deserts and westerns.

They had a bay filled with actual water and a remote control boat in Scandinavia

So as you can see, we were completely taken with the Minatur Railroad. I would definitely go back, and I would definitely place it as one of the coolest things to see in Europe. 

And then we saw Neuwachstein Castle.