Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Rothenburg, Munich, Oktoberfest & Oberammergau 02.10.2009 - 07.10.2009

Our latest trips were to Wurzburg, Rothenburg, the Bavarian side of Germany, Oberammergau, Munich, and to Oktoberfest for the last day of festivities during the 16-day celebration. We were greeted by our friends Nic & Alison who flew into Frankfurt on Saturday (the 3rd) and continued on after we headed back north for a trip of their own through Switzerland, the south of France, and Italy. It was so nice to see them and share our lives with them for a short time. We have no photos from Wurzburg where we stopped to meet our friends and have a Greek lunch.

A very European chic photo of the adorable city of Rothenburg.
Here we are walking along (literally!) the city wall of Rothenburg. Some of the charm in this Bavarian town is that the wall that surrounds the city is still very functioning and the city itself has gone relatively un-ruined like much of the German landscape during wartime.
We stopped off for a local dessert that looked just like pieces of left-over pie dough, deep fried with powdered sugar (or your choice of topping). I wouldn't say it was delicious, but for .90 Euro, who can beat the experience?!
The color in this photo is a bit off... I realize... but look behind through the window to see a better look of the displays of these egg-y treats.
Here we are standing on one of the many walk-streets in the town of Rothenburg. It's quite cute and obviously caters a great deal to tourists.
The city wall...
The celebrating begins! This very day of October the 3rd marked 20 years of unification between the west and east sides of Germany. The west side isn't too thrilled, but the east, very. Rothenburg had a marching band throughout the city we happened to stumble upon on our way back to the cars.
These photos are definitely out of order! This is a photo of a castle-like estate that someone obviously built to live in (it's probably not very old) but sits in the valley of these gorgeous mountains behind. This photo taken on the last day just before heading back up north in Oberammergau.
This is the mountain peak I was talking about. It looks almost like a small Half-Dome. This gives a better angle of where that castle-looking house is located in the bottom right. There's a cross at the top that can't be seen very well in this photo... but keep scrolling down...
Here's yet another photo of that hill and you can somewhat make out the cross here. This city is known for being religious, as there was a promise in history that the people of Oberammergau promised to put on a Passion of the Christ play if they were spared from the bubonic plague. Well, 360+ years later, and this tradition remains... with half of the city residents performing in the play every 10 years! Next play, exactly 1 year from when we visited in the first 2 weeks of October, 2010. People from all the churches we attended in LA and Chicago are sending people to see it. It's such a gorgeous drive to get there and such a beautiful countryside... my favorite landscape of nature so far in all of Germany! Bavaria is a real treat.
Final fact about Oberammergau: there is a German military base nearby. We saw 3 fighter jets in the time we were there! Very cool stuff.
Here's the very building they hold that passion play in. It looks pretty newly constructed and already has the 2010 banner on the front. I'm not sure if they hold church services in between the 10 years, but I'm sure it's used somehow. I was kind of hoping for something a little more Shakespearean-theatre-esque... but alas, it's just a big fat auditorium.
This is the Munich Rauthaus (city hall) at the center of town. We took the train from our hotel (about 4 km. away) and landed in the dead center. There were lots of backpackers and young people as well as all age groups. It was certainly a town that college students like to visit, though. It's very lively, as you can see from the mounds of people at the bottom of the photo. The weird thing... if you walk just 1-2 blocks in any direction from there, there are empty sidewalks. It's the happening place!
A more dramatic view of the Rauthaus in Munich.
Our adventure into the "tents" of Oktoberfest! These were the "one size fits all" size they offered us so kindly. No one went thirsty...
The bretzel stands outside I was quite fond of.
Polizei!
Some food that I was so alarmed by that a photo was necessary. EEEHK!
A disturbing carnival ride at Oktoberfest. Those are full grown adults risking their lives on a carnival ride that went at least 3 times higher than ones at amusement parks (that don't move and aren't constructed by a few nuts and bolts to be unscrewed again just days later). We considered this a death trap and made the decision to stay alive a bit longer.
Compare the ride you see now to the photo above... same one! scarrrrry!
Lifting weights and consuming unnecessary calories. I guess you only live once, right? Well, we only planned to visit Oktoberfest once, too! Check that box, done.
Alison appears to be posing for a photo I was unaware we were supposed to be "cute" for. I decided the other approach: pretend as though you will never eat again and inhale the pretzel with a few intense bites. Successful mission, indeed.
Some of the dancers and celebrations going on all around us in the smoke-filled, lung-disturbing, bodily-odorous room.
We were positioned quite close to the band in the room about the size of a football stadium.
Alison again posing with a better view of the enormous pretzels we managed to consume all of, with the help of our incredible counterparts.
On Saturday the 3rd, we witnessed these fireworks to show the unification of the two sides of Germany in an impressive show!
Excited our camera can take such decent photos of flying fire.
The story here: this famous castle is the inspiration of the Disney Cinderella castle. It was located about 20 miles from Oberammergau and we visited this as our last stop on our way back north (and said goodbye to our friends here, too). We only viewed the outside and hiked to see it up close... but did not enter. Originally we bought tickets to have a guided/forced tour through the castle for 35 minutes and 9 Euro each (making that about a quarter per minute each! times 4 people...)... but then we decided to get refunds even though they have a big sign that states they do not allow refunds. We were told after we spent the $36 to get a tour for us 4 that we also had to either walk up the hill that would take about 40 minutes, pay to take the bus and still have to walk up 15 minutes, or take a horse carriage for a fee as well. Man... the cost of fun. We chose to walk since our English tour was to start in 1 hour from the time we purchased tickets. Okay, fine. We walked all the way to the top in less than 20 minutes, realized the castle was so new having first started construction in the late 1800's and set back down the hill to get our money back. As nice as it looked, it was just not charming enough to convince us that it was worth $36 to see the inside that is likely to look as new as the outside. I think we'll just go to Disneyland instead. Ha!
While a complete ripoff, the Neuschwanstein castle is striking. They consider this the most photographed point in Germany and is visited by lots of people annually. The original king who had this built was declared insane for bankrupting Germany to build this. Now, I don't believe they're sad about the loss... producing $9 a person just to visit it!
Here's the journaling I've been doing:
Frietag 02.10.2009 (day 18) -- with contributions from Ray making his writing debut!
Friday was a day of ping pong. After spending an hour or so at the office catching up on email, we headed to a local mall (about 20 minutes away) for some “real life” lessons with our German tutor. What did 5 hours get us at the mall? Lotion… and that’s it (plus the Chinese food we had for lunch). At 3 p.m., we rushed back to the office so Ray could make a call back to Chicago… then headed back to the town with the mall to visit Toom (the largest grocery store in the area, and the only one that carries refried beans). If you’re counting, that’s day #2 at the same grocery store. We’re a little obsessed with buying food—but generally never more than 10 Euro at a time. After securing some incredibly good cheap cookies and more beans, we headed home… just in time to find that Chicago had been eliminated as the 2016 Olympic city. Happy to see Rio & South America finally host a summer games, we were sad to think about all the friends and family that would have visited us in Chicago had the games been held there. I guess it’s nice we didn’t have to pay more taxes, either. But… oh the fun it would’ve been! After a smorgasbord dinner, we are packing and getting ready for a weekend in Bavaria with our friends Nic and Alison. Overpriced drinks and food, here we come! (for the record, every real German we told that we’re going to Munich for Oktoberfest laughed at us while following that with a lecture on how much money we’ll spend on something that is worth only a quarter of the price).

Samstag 03.10.2009 (day 19)
What a fun day! Today marks two things: the connecting of the east and west sides of Germany (fall of communism), and our friends Nic & Alison coming to visit! We left our place shortly after 8 this morning to head through Frankfurt south to meet them in a town called Würzburg. This town is known for its very baroque castle… but we weren’t super impressed. The area was cute, but the castle itself seemed rebuilt and not too charming in terms of age and detail. We ate lunch at this great Greek restaurant where we consumed plenty of potatoes and had our first beers of the day… dunkel beer = dark beer. Off we went after lunch to another town called Rothenburg—located on the Romantic Road drive. We walked the streets and walked on the town wall (stairs lead up to the steep, narrow walkway that looks down on houses below). This town was inspiration for the movie Pinocchio and scenes from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang were shot there. There were lots of people and we saw a band playing in the city center, tables everywhere, and desserts. We sampled a “snowball” ourselves (missing the German term…) which seemed to be pie dough strips deep fried with a topping of your choice. After walking the town and checking out the Bavarian-esque culture, we headed further south to München. The normal Autobahn and stops for water closets… and finally the town that will tomorrow present us with the delicious melodies and indulgences of Oktoberfest. We went to our respective hotels and then met again for a dinner and short taxi to a recommended restaurant-- Bachmaier Hofbräu. Many people dressed in Dirndls, Lederhosen, and leathery-strapped capri pants. Our dinner was excellent. On our table: steak with fried egg, potatoes of many shapes and forms, Bavarian potato salad, more potatoes, more processed meat, and pasta arrabiata with grilled onions and jalapenos. That was possibly the best pasta arrabiata I’ve ever had… at a place you’d never think had decent food to begin with. In addition to our beers, we were happy campers. The trudge back to the taxi, then to our hotels… as we were driving to our hotel, we saw two separate firework shows to celebrate the unification of Germany 20 years ago this day.

Sonntag 04.10.2009 (day 20)
The morning started slowly. Nic & Alison were getting used to the time change while we slept in a bit. A quick breakfast, then out the door of our Euro Suites hotel to the train station to meet them in the center of Münich. We found our ways onto the train, went a few stops and were dropped off in the center of town at the Rauthaus = town hall. The buildings surrounding were pretty, the place was packed with many young backpackers, and tourists dressed in Bavarian clothing. We met up with Nic & Alison and headed back to grab some food before heading to the Oktoberfest festivities… the last day of the 16-day celebration for the year! We walked a few blocks from their hotel to the carnival madness. Booths everywhere selling brats, ice cream, all things delicious, and beer. In to the first beer tent we went… and then out. It was pretty packed. We went into another one and sat down to have a drink and very large pretzel. The pretzel was probably equivalent to half a loaf of bread. It could’ve used dipping sauces, but we were happy with our salty snacks. There were bands in the tent playing Bavarian music and everyone seemed to know the dance motions and words. Surprisingly, there were not as many Americans as I imagined. We saw lots of Italians, Americans, Germans, and even some Canadians! Out of that smoky-filled tent and a trip to the water closet later, we headed out for some snacks (ice cream, brats, fries…) and into another tent. We walked out through the carnival and saw some incredible rides. None of those rides seemed safe or a good idea. I have a photo of one swing ride that had to be at least 10 stories tall. We headed back to the Marriott for some TV and resting before heading out to a Trattoria for dinner at the city center. A fun but tiring day landed us back on the train and to our hotel for a good night’s rest. We can now check Oktoberfest off the list of places to visit.
Montag 05.10.2009 (day 21)
This morning we met Nic & Alison again for some sightseeing in the Bavarian countryside (about 30 miles north of the Austrian border… bummer! Another weekend I guess…). We found a road stop to grab some quick pastry breakfast and headed towards the inspiration (castle) for Disneyland’s Cinderella castle. Along the way, we stopped off to grab some goods at the local grocery store and refuel ourselves by walking around the little town of Oberammergau. Our old church back in Redondo Beach and even some new churches we’ve checked out in Chicago all plan to have people visit that town in October of 2010 when the “Passion Play” is performed over a 2-week period. The city itself is known for putting on the play every 10 years as a promise that they made back in history. After the hour walk around the town, we headed to the Disney castle. We grabbed some brats, pizza, and chicken nuggets before heading up the hill to buy the spicy 9 Euro tickets (a piece) to view the inside of the castle for 35 minutes. And even then, we had to either pay for a horse carriage, a bus, or walk up the hill that they estimated to be 40 minutes. Well, we walked. It might have taken 20 minutes, but that is being generous. It was a short walk. When we got to the top, we weren’t impressed much. It was a castle about 100 years old (foundation first set in 1869) and it looked new. Having seen some really charming, 800+ year old castles, we weren’t interested in staying for the tour we paid for. Back down the hill on foot to get our refunds before heading back home… the lovely 6+ hour drive. Sad to see my friends leave, but excited they were able to find time in their vacation to see us. They’re off to Switzerland and all through the south of France before ending in Paris late next weekend. We originally hoped to make it to Paris for dinner with them before they left, but we are strapped next weekend and 3 weekends in a row of intense driving is just wearing on us. Great weekend… now on for a short work week!

Dienstag 06.10.2009 (day 22)
The generosity of the people here amazes us. Every day we go into work, someone either welcomes us with food, treats, or comes in to talk with us in depth about what we’ve been up to the past weekend. Today we had two people come in that are always generous, Karston and Manuela, who offered treats and great conversation. We couldn’t ask for a better situation with better people. German homework started our morning. Our lessons resume tomorrow and we have to catch up with what we’ve been slacking on! We met the India managing director today and we had a nice lunch with him and Lothar at a Chinese food restaurant in Werdohl. Delicious! We had a package of our mail arrive at the company today and spent a good deal of time sifting through. It was a nice treat to get some of our magazines: Forbes, The Economist, NEA Today, and Everyday Food. I was practically drooling on the pages of some of the dishes. I am reminded that I need to try and make polenta soon. It’s always so delicious and it reminds me of the sweet corn ravioli from my favorite restaurant in Redondo Beach – Coyote Cantina. I used to order sweet corn ravioli from them… absolute heaven on a plate. An afternoon of reading magazines (and being condemned for them being in English…) and Ray phoning the company web developer in the states and our work was over. After work, we set out to find some spices for curry tomorrow night. I’m stuck on a recipe from the Martha Stewart magazine that arrived from the states today. We also (finally) got our second Vodafone card working which means we can both be on the Internet at the same time! Imagine that. It only took 3 weeks and the store was 1 mile away with the answers we needed in minutes to get things up and running. We had the best Mexican food for dinner (refried beans, tortillas, salsa, jalapeños) and relaxation. German lessons tomorrow at 9 a.m. I better get some rest so I can install that thinking cap first thing mañana…wait… that’s Spanish…

Mittwoch 07.10.2009 (day 23)

Today was a productive day (that feels good!). We had German lessons for 4 hours and finally got hooked up to the Internet at work—so now I can regularly update photos without wasting our home-Internet cards. Yahoo! I’m still feeling a bit under the weather and that’s not too enjoyable… but I’m a survivor. Our German lessons went okay. Ray and I are starting to get the hang of saying some of the sounds (finally!) and words are coming out faster when we say them. While conjugating verbs is another thing, at least we are proud of a small accomplishment. We had plenty of homework we didn’t really understand because they were of verbs we had never seen before and we were to put together mixed sentences and conjugate the verbs accordingly. But, German isn’t like English in the sense that the sentences are always constructed in the same general order. On a side note, Ray has been very excited about his recent discovery: there is a website online called www.germanwings.com that offers $19 flights (excluding taxes and various other ways they rip you off) to a list of places in Europe and there are a few lists to choose from. The catch is that you have to “blind book” the trip and after you book and pay for it, they tell you what the location you are going to is. If you’ve already been to a city and want to exclude that from the list, you can for $2.50 each location, each way. Since there were two German cities in the mix we had already visited, we excluded them for $20 extra. It’s quite a fun idea and Ray’s been researching, booking the hotel and transportation for when we visit this unknown place. Well, he knows the place, but I don’t. Since we’re in town this weekend for my birthday, we’ll celebrate late next weekend instead and it will be a mystery to me! We’re flying out of Cologne which is about 1-1.5 hours away driving. We leave Thursday the 15th and arrive back in Neuenrade on that Sunday the 18th. I love surprises and I’m excited (but Ray isn’t so good at keeping secrets and I’m afraid that since we still have a whole week before we head out, I’ll find out somehow). Tonight we’re making homemade curry for dinner and possibly getting some haircuts. That should be a learning curve challenge! Good day. I hope tomorrow and our German lessons then will be as successful as today. In case you’re wondering… I miss a few things: American television, my pillow (and bed), obviously family & friends, guacamole, and Tropicana orange juice.
Until next week... B

2 comments:

Solange, Nik and Caitlin said... [Reply to comment]

I love your post and all your detailed journaling. It's amazing how many things you guys are able to see right now! I am so excited for you. We miss you so much and can't wait till you're back in the states so we can visit you in Chicago (Germany's a bit out of our price range). It's so cool and Nic and Allison were there to have Oktoberfest fun with you. I'm dying to know about your secret destination! Have a fabulous birthday weekend. Lots of love,
The Rohde's

Brandy said... [Reply to comment]

I love you guys. Period.