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Posts Tagged ‘germany’

Spring is finally starting to come out of hiding here in beautiful Munich. Goodbye negative temperatures, snow, and frozen hair (deciding to head out into the cold with wet hair wasn’t one of my brightest moments).

As soon as the sun makes even the slightest appearance, the once desolate Munich comes to life. The Englischer Garten is always buzzing with activity with the slightest rise in temperature. Families are out having picnics at the Biergartens, friends are having BBQs, people are out walking their dogs, pushing strollers, jogging, biking, playing sports. My personal favorite pastime on a gorgeous day is to ride my bike to my favorite spot by the lake and read…and dog watch, naturally.

The public squares, especially the prized center of Munich, Marienplatz, are bustling with so much activity it’s often times almost impossible to get anywhere in the midst of the crowds. Especially if you’re caught in front of the Rathaus-Glockenspiel at 11 am or 12 o’clock noon (and 5 pm, except in winter). Good luck trying to get anywhere fast during those 15 minutes of music and little dancing figures.

When in Munich, the Rathaus-Glockenspiel must be experienced for stereotypical tourism’s sake, but trust me, one time is all you need. Remember that when you go to grab your video camera.

When the sun is out, the mood of the city changes, and I can’t help but to think that there couldn’t be a more beautiful city to live in. People walk and ride their bikes everywhere here. And when I say everywhere, I mean, everywhere. I’ve never seen a city’s bike paths structured so well.

And every restaurant, Biergarten or not, is packed with outdoor seating, where locals can soak up the sun and enjoy an afternoon beer. In fact, drinking a beer with lunch, or even breakfast, is very normal in Bavaria and not just saved for college football tailgates.

The Biergarten culture is not only a Bavarian tradition that one must experience, it is the perfect atmosphere in which to spend a sunny afternoon. While traditional Bavarian food is served, such as Brezn (large breaded pretzels), Obazda (cheese cream with onions and paprika powder), and Wurstsalat (thin, cold sausage slices served with onions) – many people bring their own picnic and just purchase beverages at the Garten, which of course is typically Bier.

Now, there are two main types of Bavarian beer: Helles and Weißbier. The first, which literally means “pale”, is the most popular and is brewed from only three ingredients, as controlled by the Reinheitsgebot (purity law): water, barley, and hop. Simple, delicious, and stronger than one would initially anticipate. As this is the only Bier served at Oktoberfest, that should be enough to attest to this beer’s effect on people after one too many Maß.

The second, Weißbier, which literally means “white beer”, is brewed from barley and wheat. To really blend in with the locals, be sure to only be caught drinking Weißbier out of a tall, slender glass. The reason for this is it accentuates the bouquet of the beer, but I just think it looks cooler.

The next step is to purchase a traditional Dirndl or Lederhosen. For the ladies, the Dirndl consists of three main parts: the blouse, the dress, and the apron. However, there is a plethora of different styles, colors, and lengths. If you wish to go for a more traditional route, pick a dirndl that hits at or below the knee. The next step is the apron, which often matches the color or design of the Dirdnl itself. Mine, for instance, is brown with green stitching and embellishments, so I chose a green apron. The last part is the blouse, which comes in an array of fits and styles, from displaying your entire chest for the world to see, to conservative, sleeved, and high cut. Some have collars, some cinch in the middle, and some can go off the shoulder as mine does. Traditionally these blouses are white, but there are now “fashion dirndls” which to me look a bit tacky and more like a halloween costume. They are often shorter, in brighter colors, with a shinier type of fabric, and worn with black blouses.

For the men, Lederhosen are more simple. With the literal translation being “leather pants”, that is exactly what these are. Leather pants, with suspenders. The Lederhosen can vary in length, from to the knee like David is wearing below, to more relaxed and looser fitting shorts. Typically, a checkered button up shirt is worn underneath; I’ve seen them in green, red, and blue. Plain white is also worn and is more traditional. To complete this ensemble, one needs tall, usually cream/white colored socks, and when it’s cold, one can wear a traditional wool embroidered jacket over top. To go all out, sport a traditional hat as well, and you’ll be ready to fit right in here in Munich, Bavaria.

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Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest with David, Kaleena, and our new friends!

Time to play catchup. Let’s start with September, September 17th to be exact, the first day of Oktoberfest. Throughout the 17-day festival, I consumed way too much Festbier (the tasty brew that’s only served at Oktoberfest) than my liver should be able to handle, while donning my traditional dirndl and befriending the equally intoxicated Germans at my table. Needless to say, I miraculously came out alive by the end of it all with some priceless memories in tow.

I also began my first Deutsch language course. I knew going into it that German was not the easiest language to pick up, but I didn’t expect it to be as hard as it was. Everything from the spelling, to the pronunciation, to the grammar, oh goodness, the grammar, the words that are spelled the same but mean different things depending on the context and the pronunciation. Basically, German equaled one big fat headache for the first few weeks. But then, like magic, everything suddenly fit into place.

More Oktoberfest...

My German still sucks, of course, but at least I now have a better understanding of the structure of the language and usually can comprehend what people are saying; forming a correct sentence in response is still another story. Now that I’ve formally broken up with the idea that I could actually be fluent by the end of the year, my goal is to be able to comfortably hold a conversation without needing to immediately cry “Langsam bitte!” (“Slow please!”). Luckily, the kids I work with are ages 2 and 5, and while the 5 year old frequently corrects my German, I can, for the most part, comfortably communicate with them in their mother tongue.

It’s now been six months since I moved to Munich – and it took long enough, but I can finally say that I’m starting to feel at home here. These negative degree temperatures are currently turning me into a hermit, though, and has me seeking out every opportunity to hide under a blanket or to drink something hot and frothy, while anxiously waiting for Germany to defrost.

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So this past week, I experienced the German club scene for the first time. I randomly met a fellow Au Pair at the family’s sports club – and she turns out to be my neighbor! – so I finally have someone to accompany me on my nighttime adventures.

It was a Wednesday night; yes, a Wednesday. And this was not a Dollar Beers kind of night, to all of you Oregon ducks out there. It was a lets-get-messed-up-and-go-dancing-until 6am kind of night. Most parties don’t even get started here until 2 am, and that’s even pushing it as a bit early. Luckily, people were semi-reasonable and showed up a bit early for the Wednesday club scene; we arrived at club 089 at around 1 am, and it was

Club 089

packed. Kaleena and I each paid 4 euro for a tiny bottled beer and shuffled into the crowd. Unrecognizable techno and house music blared through the speakers, littered with old school U.S. hits here and there – think Haddaway’s “What Is Love.” From my observations, people seem to actually dance here in Germany, as compared to the let’s-have-sex-on-the-dancefloor style that has taken over the States. There were a few down and dirty couples scattered throughout the place, but for the most part people were just enjoying the music and having a good time. Including Kaleena and I – we had the best time dancing and meeting Munich locals – so much fun that we stayed out until about 5:30am. When we left, the place was still packed, allowing those that remained a few more hours to get their dance on.

Bob Beaman Music Club

The next experience – and the more authentic German experience in my opinion – came on Friday night. We showed up at Bob Beaman Music Club around 1 am. Unlike the 3 euro cover at 089, the Friday night scene had upped it to a whopping 10 euro – which I hear is cheap compared to some other clubs in the area. The outside courtyard was packed, so we figured it would be even better inside. Well…we were wrong. We walked inside only to find about 5 or 6 scattered dancers, and about 10 more creepily standing on the wall watching. Hmmm, this is what we paid 10 euro for?! Since we already made the long trek there – including walking, the U-bahn, and a taxi – and had also paid a non-refundable 10 euro, we decided to make the best of it. Too bad the music creeped me out.

Have you ever listened to the voice of a hypnotist, maybe on T.V. or on the radio, and recognized the voice to be low, repetitive, and slow? Well, put that voice to a repetitive techno beat and there you have the music we were listening to. Apparently, this style is called Minimal Techno, and was largely developed in Germany during the 2000s, popularized by labels such as Kompakt and M-nus. Regardless of the genre’s popularity here, I can’t quite understand its appeal. I looked around at Bob Beaman’s to see fellow club goers moving their arms in weird directions and twerking their bodies back and forth. This made for some interesting people watching. And despite my apprehensions, I decided to embrace my environment and engage in this new dance style. I jumped up and down, moved back and forth, waved my arms, and I fit right in. Before I knew it, I was

Bob Beaman Music Club

having a fantastic time – and this was not due to my initial people watching entertainment, but from my own participation. My fun was momentarily interrupted, as I noticed that the creepy guy that had been lurking in the corner and staring in my direction for over an hour had finally decided to make his move. He slowly inched closer until, without words and with a completely blank expression, he attempted to grab my hand and dance. I decided to entertain his attempts for a short time, but his lack-luster dancing and blank stare eventually bored me to tears; I locked eyes with Kaleena, gave her the “save me” look, and she swooped in for the win. Free at last. We danced for a few more hours in this club where the ceiling lit up in neon colors, changing every few seconds, making me feel that I might as well be on some kind of illegal substance even though I was completely sober, excluding the single beer from the beginning of the night. What a trip, and what a grand old time out on the town in my new hometown of Munich. And maybe, before I know it, I’ll have this Minimal Techno dance style down to an art, allowing me to fit in as a local, that is until I open my mouth and attempt to speak the few words of German that I actually do know.

Another walk home in the early hours of the morning, watching the sun rise slowly and gracefully in the distance, led to the commencement of yet another successful night out.

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An Excursion

Have you ever heard of the small German town of Memmingen? Yeah, I hadn’t either, until yesterday when my host family and I took a day trip there to visit family friends. The small city is only an hour drive from Munich, yet upon our arrival I felt as if we had traveled back in time. Munich is beautiful, yes, and the architecture is a style that presents itself in an old fashioned way, but in actuality it is fairly new. Although Munich dates back to the 12th century, it was almost completely destroyed during WWII, leaving behind only four original structures. Thus, the city was almost entirely rebuilt to reflect its previous existence.

But Memmingen dates back to the 5th century, developing over the course of centuries, and finally becoming part of Bavaria in 1802. Strolling through the narrow, cobblestone streets, the sights surrounding me awoke memories of my time spent in Siena, Italy last year. Although Italy and Germany are two entirely different countries, the small, quaint medieval town surrounded by ancient city walls brought about a familiarity of something I had come to know so well last year. While I love Munich, these little hidden gems of cities always capture me in a way that no large city can.

Unfortunately, there is not much to do in Memmingen other than to explore the streets and snap photos of the old churches and other buildings. There is an H&M, where I used every once of self control not to go into, and some other shops, but that’s it. The nightlife seems non-existant at best, but Memmingen is a charming stop for a quick day trip.

The evening commenced with a beautiful lightening storm in the distance, illuminating the night sky as we looked on in enchantment.

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