Berlin bust

So my trip to Berlin has been a little bit of a bust. To start, my Airbnb was a bit farther out of the main core area than usual. It took me almost 40-45 minutes from central station to maneuver down to Neukolln, supposedly a hip and trendy area of Berlin. I’d read all about it and said it was the new area–I just didn’t realize, that when they said new, they were meaning, it will be really hot in about 5 years. Getting there too, usually I get things almost to a T when catching trains, not getting turned around, etc, and every platform I came to, the train I was supposed to get on was just pulling off. Needlesstosay, it was annoying to get to the airbnb, and then once there, the owner had trouble buzzing me in, so I had to call her 4 times before she let me in properly (hello–don’t buzz for a split second, there’s no way I can catch the door!)

Then, I had to lug everything up 4 flights of big stairs to the apartment. But, once there, it was really nice. She had decorated it nicely and it was spacious and comfortable–and not shared. I actually thought it was a share when I rented it (I’m 99% sure it said share), so it was a nice surprise that it wasn’t.

I explored Berlin and saw the new Jewish Memorial site, well new to me since I haven’t been to Berlin since 2002. I was able to see the Brandenburg Gate finally as it was behind scaffolding as well before. I walked miles around the sites, and saw the Berlin Wall again, went to the DDR Museum to see life in East Berlin, did a walking tour through the city, ate great food, and the Jewish Museum. Bad luck continued with a torrential downpour of rain and sleet, it was miserable!

Also, the big dome that you can register to go in and see of course was closed for 5 days.. the exact period that I was there.

I did get to have a reunion with a couple of ladies I met back in Peru in 2013, and we had a great dinner and catch up. The great thing about traveling around the world is all the people you meet to reconnect with in various places around the world all over again!

Marburg reunion with Judith

2001 remains to be on of my most cherished years of life. This was the year, I met a great group of international students, with whom I connected with and felt so included as I’ve never felt before. As a group, we did so many things during that year, and I think of it often.

Judith is a prized friend from that group, and I traveled to Marburg to see her and her growing family. I was here 5 years ago during their wedding, and now they have two adorable children, who were so fun to meet! This year has been a lot of babies among my friends, so I can’t yet say that I love all children, but I’ve been lucky to feel a connection and enjoy seeing my friends’ babies. It will be even more fun to watch them grow up!

I ended up arriving a little early, and got a taxi to Judith’s. On the way, we passed a refugee camp, and Judith was telling me stories of what changes have been happening in Germany since the migrations have occurred. The demographics of Germany have definitely shifted noticeably, so it will be interesting to see what happens in the future.

We got to visit for a while until the baby sitter brought the twins home. I was wondering if they would be scared because I wasn’t speaking German (well only baby German), but they seemed to take a liking to me after I gave them each a princess chocolate tin with a zipper cap so they can put things in it. I saw a quick resemblance to me, as Lina tore into hers and began devouring the chocolate. I felt a sense of pride when Hanna too, began enjoying hers. I knew from then on, we will always be able to connect over chocolate. :)

By the afternoon, we were fast friends and Hanna even demanded me to blow dry her hair after her bath — she also wanted me to rub lotion on her, but I definitely have my limits.
We had an amazing visit catching up, going to dinner at the castle for more catching up and the Stadtfest (Town Festival). After an ice cream we headed back home for the evening.

The next day, Judith and the girls and I all went to their communal garden to get vegetables for our dinner. They have a plot that has all sorts of things from herbs, to pumpkins, to carrots. We picked up some huge zucchini and then brought everything back for our dinner prep.

We then went on an amazing bike ride all together, on e bikes. The girls were in tow behind Ulf, and we rode through the town hills, up to the tower that has a huge LED symbol on it, the symbol of the (Saint?), but is also the tower inspiring Rupunzel’s famous story. This LED lights up when a phone number is dialed, so you can signal to someone you’re thinking of them. Also, whenever a baby is born, the nurse’s are able to blink the light too. I thought it was a very unique thing to have in the city.

My time in Marburg was again so great, and reconnecting with a dear friend is the best time ever spent.

Full Day of Driving along the Bodensee

This morning, we got up to take our full long day journey to Freiburg, completely on the other end of Germany. We had originally wanted to go through Switzerland, but in typical Swiss fashion, they required an expensive sticker for our car—and apparently it was only available in an annual pass at nearly $100. Considering that the cost of our lunch would be about that too, we opted to forego Zurich for lunch, and plan a route that took us on the north side of Lake Constanz, going through various towns and then up to Freiburg. Our first stop—Lindau Island.

Coming into Lindau Island, you cross over a bridge to a small island town that is situated on Lake Constanz. We stopped initially on the street to try street parking, yet it was only available for 30 minutes, so we then went ahead to the car park over on the side near the train station. We parked the car and headed back into town starving for a good lunch.

We stopped at the Swiss Hotel—a seemingly fitting compromise for our exchange of not being in Switzerland for lunch that afternoon. I had the best chicken finger salad, which was very large. I was very happy with my meal after having had so many heavy meals before—it was good to have some salad finally!

We enjoyed sitting facing the lighthouse and the water and people watched as we devoured our lunch. We then walked around the city and followed various patheways that ended up showing us really how small the island was. You could walk from one end to the other in probably 30 minutes, so luckily, we felt like we’d seen everything by the time we felt we should leave in order to see the Zepplin Museum and learn about the Hindenberg Flight.

We got back to our car and headed on to our next stop, the Zepplin Museum in Friedrichshafen. We arrived just in time to get parked and get our discounted tickets to view the museum at half price since we were coming so late. We were told about an hour to an hour and half should be sufficient for our visit, but I felt pretty rushed. I did want to see more about the actual accident, which wasn’t the centerpiece—it was more supplemental in nature where the museum, rightfully so, focused more on the German engineering that played a huge role in the world’s Aviation history.

After our rushed visit, we were on to our next stop, Meersburg. Coming into Meersburg, we ran into traffic along the BCH as I’ll call it—the Bodensee Coast Highway (like our PCH). We followed this along the whole route since Lindau, and being able to see the beautiful lake on one side and the vineyards on the right side was so peaceful. When we parked, we walked over to the boardwalk to stroll along the waterside and see potential restaurants for dinner. Unfortunately, the one that Robert had found that we were looking forward to ended up being closed, so we had to find another option. We weren’t really that hungry at the time, so we decided to explore on foot first before committing to our dining for the evening.

This lead us down the boardwalk, back up the one street in, up to the castle and other areas that had wonderful look outs over the lake. We weaved our way back down and happened upon a really quaint restaurant that looked good.

We got a soup, and then shared an order of what I believe to be Venison (not my favorite), with Swabian noodles . It was pretty good, and I’m glad we didn’t get more than one dish as it was plenty of food.

After dinner, we continued on our drive which was crowded again. It seemed as it was getting darker that we were really missing some beautiful scenery as we could tell the mountains were big surrounding us, and we could see the trees of the Black Forest getting thicker and thicker. I’d be curious to see what we drove through that night!

We arrived safely in Freiburg and the AirBnb was absolutely perfect. We got the car parked in the garage which was scary as I had to park it in a tiny spot that is angled upward as it’s on a lift in case someone wants to park below, they can lift my car up and park below. We were on the absolute top floor with no elevator, but it was an adorable apartment that was with the angled roof and the awesome german windows that allow you to open them wide open and let fresh air in. We had all the skylights open and enjoyed a cool breeze complete with the babbling creek just at the end of the street. It was a success on airbnb for sure.

Biking through Innsbruck 

Today we decided it would be fun to do a little bike tour throughout Innsbruck.

We were able to find a place to rent our bikes, and thankfully they allowed us to park our car there while we biked around the city. We had a map provided by the rental company, and started exploring Innsbruck by bike. This is by far the best way to explore a city.

We were able to find great bike paths throughout the city that passed by huge mansions being hugged by their neighboring mansions. The tree-lined streets brought a home town feel in this majestic surrounding landscape which seemed like a backdrop to a movie.

We decided to ride for two hours initially, but extended it to three as we wanted to explore more.

We ended up having sushi for dinner as a change of pace from our German heavy meals, and while the sushi was decent, it did make me miss my accessibility to fresh sushi in so many areas in Austin!

After our dinner, we roamed around downtown exploring the old town some more and Robert enjoyed (another) ice cream for dessert :)

Day in the Black Forest town of Freiburg 

Our first morning in Freiburg, we headed out to the old city. Our walk was wonderful–all along the river that we heard the previous night. The air was clean, crisp, and just perfect. We found a nice bakery that we got some pastries to start our morning. The OJ was great–usually I have a hard time finding regular tasting OJ, and this hit the spot. We sat at a bench at the entrance gate of the old part of town and watched passer byers hurry off to work / school etc.

After our breakfast, we headed in, and found our way down such quaint streets lined with buildings and greenery hanging above us. We stopped at one shop called ‘Collage’, and it had the coolest items in it. We spent a long time just going through all the curated stuff that got our imaginations pouring for projects and such. We then wandered down the way and came into a huge plaza with the Muenster Church. There was the hustle and bustle of setting up stalls for food items going all the way around. We explored the fresh fruits, cheeses, honey, sausages, vegetables. Everything looked great.

We opted to have fresh sausages in bread for our lunch–in typical German fashion.

We continued wandering down the streets and explored the whole town looking at the shops and getting lost in the side streets. There’s a university in the town, so that gave the town a very laid back, unique feeling. All on our way home, everyone’s riding their bikes, sitting by the river and playing games or having a beer together. It really has a great feel.

The next day, we planned to go to Baden-Baden, based on research and personal recommendations, and we were a little stumped as to why. It was nice, and clean, and typically picturesque, however, it felt very old…like what Monte Carlo I would imagine to be. After searching for lunch after the original spot was closed, we had a nice lunch (albeit we had to move because of smokers), but overall the lunch was a great way to start our exploration of the city–and to find out why people recommended it!

We walked throughout the main shopping street, then headed up the mountain to some wonderful fields and took great pictures in a meadow. We continued on and winded back down the mountain and got dropped back into the main street again. I guess we did it all–and we were fine with going back, as comparitively, we really enjoyed Freiburg better anyway!

Once back in Freiburg, we found dinner at a recommended (yelp) shwarma place, and it was quite good. Everyone was out and about watching the soccer matches, so it was fun people watching while we ate. Robert then got a gelato and we headed home for the evening. Freiburg was a really great place!


Drive on the Romantic Road to Innsbruck

This morning we got to the car rental place to pick up our car for the next week. Everything went mostly smoothly, and we were in our Ford B-max little european car! Driving manual was a little stressful being in the city, but after about 15 minutes of traffic and tight corridors or cobbledstreets, we were out of Munich and on our way south to Innsbruck.

First, however, we drove the Romantic Road toward Neuschwanstein Castle, the fairy tale like castle in Bavaria. We had beautiful weather, and the scenery was breathtaking. It was actually very fun to do the drive this time rather than going by train, and being able to take pictures from different vantage points by car was really great.

We made our way to the parking area and started our hike up the hill to the castle. Unfortunately, Mary’s bridge was closed yet again (it was also closed 5 years ago disappointingly so), which is such a shame, as this was the main view that you get to see of the castle that’s so beautiful. The hike was very nice up hill in the shade of the trees, and we arrived at the front of the castle. The tickets were already sold out for the day, but me having already been inside, I knew we weren’t missing much–it’s really the outside and position of the castle that is so beautiful in my opinion anyway. Why they don’t finish the castle and create hotel rooms for people to stay in? That would be an incredible use of all the space that currently sits completely unfinished.

After a while of hiking and walking around, we headed down to Innsbruck, Austria. In order to drive legally in Austria, you have to have a sticker in the window called a Vignette. They said when we cross the border, we’ll see signs for this and we can buy a 10-day pass. The total was about $10, which was very fair.

As we left the castle area, we went through winding roads. I thought I saw an EU sign which made me think we just crossed the border, and then immediately on my left I saw a little gas station, completely common, and there was a sign on the ground that said Vignette. I about slammed on the breaks and peeled into the gas station in order to get the sticker. I can’t imagine how many people would miss this due to the subdued nature of the signage. Luckily, we weren’t one of them, and were on our way with our legally driveable car in Austria!

Austria is definitely beautiful. And being able to drive around was great as the scenery was so breathtaking from rolling green fields, to high mountains surrounding little villages along the way. Innsbruck ended up being a lot bigger than I realized, and with our unlimited data plan, we were able to find our hostel quickly.

We were a little nervous during check in as we smelled smoke, and the hostel looked more like a prison, but it sufficed. Innsbruck lodging is of course expensive, so this was a good alternative. With the use of the car, it was easy for us to get around. That evening, we went to a Himalayan restaurant and had a great meal that was very decent in price. We enjoyed walking around the Old Town as it was quite lively with people outside eating in front of cafes and restaurants.

We found a cafe to have a famous Sacher Torte, and enjoyed our slice of chocolate cake outside people watching as they strolled the streets of Old Town. It was a truly European evening. After a wonderful evening, we headed back to the hostel and had a great night sleep.

Day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Before this trip, Mom had a friend / relative who was traveling through Europe roughly at the same time as me, and recommended that this little town was a must-see. So, I added it to our itinerary as a day trip! We started the morning out and got our Bayern Day Pass that let us use regional trains all day. We got a quick bite to eat at the cafes at the train station, and then got aboard our train to reach Rothenburg ob der Tauber around lunch time.

The journey passed through some beautiful landscapes of the rolling hills of this part of Germany. Several farm like pastures and grape vineyards speckled the landscapes that were cleanly manicured like felt. The gentle rocking of the train made me sleepy, but we had a transfer right in the middle of our trip, so we stayed relatively alert.

When we arrived, we walked about 10 minutes before arriving at the ‘entrance’ to the walled city. I’d remembered just then that it was a walled city, so I immediately got excited of our adventure here. Stepping through the first gate, you are instantly beamed back in time walking atop cobbled stone streets lined with the wood beam architecture that you think of in fairy tales.

Shops also lined the streets selling everything from souvenirs, to fresh bread, to gelato. We started looking for lunch, and ended up at a bread house and got some freshly made pasta with house made bread. It was a delicious meal that we were able to eat in the square while listening to a concert being performed. Unfortunately, it was a bit overcast, but it kept us cool during our exploration of the town.

After lunch, we zig zagged up and down all the streets inside the walls. It was a great place to explore and take pictures. It was simply the most stunning little village that you could imagine. We’ve actually lucked out with the crowds–while there are quite a bit of tourists, it’s not overwhelming at all.

We spent the whole afternoon just enjoying our stroll, and came upon a bakery selling the infamous Schneeballen (snow ball) which was like a cross of a funnel cake hardened into a ball dipped into chocolate.

We then headed back to the train station to catch our train home. As we awaited the train, it was delayed by 20 minutes.. then by 40 minutes, so we took a different route home. Thankfully, we really were able to make it home almost the same amount of time by going the different route.

Once we got home, we were quite hungry and had previously made reservations at the Afghani restaurant around the corner. While we missed our reservation, they didn’t seem to notice (or care), and we had an amazing lamb dish with my favorite Mantu dumplings. Robert’s first experience to Afghani food was a success!

Robert joins the fun!

This morning, I went to the train station to pick up Robert. The train arrived mostly on time, and it was great to see a familiar face from home in Munich! We reunited, and then headed off to our hotel to drop off our baggage nearby. Amazingly when we went to check in, our room was already available for us! This was really convenient as we were able to set down our bags and get settled in, before heading out for the rest of the day.

We then went back to Marienplatz to meet up with Johannes for a welcome Bavarian lunch for Robert. Johannes picked out a restaurant for us to go, and we had some great Bavarian food to welcome Robert. After our great lunch, we bid farewell to Johannes and headed out to look at some shops. After a little while, it began to rain, so we headed back to the hotel to rest a little before dinner.

That evening, we headed back out after a great nap and we crossed a river, and saw a little family of ducks crossing. One duckling got a bit separated, and got caught in the rush of water and started being swept away from the family. We watched and cheered him on to get back to the rest, but suddenly a black crow-like bird flew above, and swept down to the water as if to pick him up. Thankfully, he wasn’t taken, and we continued to watch and cheer him on while we peddled furiously upstream. Finally he made it to the same are the family had gone, so hopefully he was reunited.

We found a cute little restaurant called Hans im Gluck, where the inside looked like a forest with birch wood tree trunks everywhere throughout. After a really great hamburger and fries with an amazing dipping sauce. It was like a french onion dip, and I do not understand how we do not have something like this back home. It makes total sense. We all love French Onion Dip with Ruffles, why would we not eat it with our fries!!?

Reunion with Johannes

My arrival into Munich was easy. Johannes and I went to grad school together and it had been 10 years since seeing each other last. Luckily, we were able to visit this trip.
After a grueling flight aboard with several screaming children, a nauseated passenger in front of me who forced her window shade open the entire flight while everyone was trying to sleep, I landed safely in Munich and quickly found the Lufthansa bus to take me to Johannes’ apartment. After being let in and visiting for a bit, he went off to work and I was able to take a much needed nap–though not too long to make sure I could get on the time zone.

After showering and resting, I headed out to Marienplatz to look around and wait for Johannes to finish work. We then went to Viktrualmarkt biergarten to have a drink with his girlfriend Anne. We enjoyed our chatting about various topics including the upcoming presidential debate as well as the whole refugee crisis and its effect on Germany. Real light hearted stuff :)

We then went for a traditional Bavarian restaurant and got some great dishes. After our great dinner, we walked home and enjoyed a nice evening with some rain, but mostly dry walk home. I was indeed ready for a great nights sleep the following day.

And that I did. After an amazing slumber, I headed out for the day to check out the residenz museum and gardens. I enjoyed beautiful weather and cello music in the gardens. I shopped around a little and enjoyed a day of leisure.

When Johannes was done with work, we went to get bikes for a bike ride. We spent the whole evening exploring the northern part of Munich up to the Olympic park, stopped for currywurst for a snack, then continued on to a palace to see the grounds there. It was a great bike ride.

That evening we searched for some sushi and found a restaurant to try out. When we arrived he said they weren’t serving anymore that evening. So in Japanese I looked at the chef and asked if he was Japanese. He was and then I broke out with pleas of asking if we could just have some leftovers and such, but despite impressing everyone in the restaurant, my efforts failed :(. So we had to find another place nearby. That ended up being pretty good too, but the other one looked like a good place too!