Posts Tagged ‘munich’

I miss my favorite foods, my favorite restaurants. And my mom’s cooking. I’ve found it interesting that one of the things I miss most about home isn’t home itself, but the food! There are some things that Europe just can’t replace.

For example, Mexican food. Which has been a struggle, I love Mexican food…except for chorizo. I can live without that. If you don’t know what chorizo is, then you don’t want to know. Trust me.

The lack of authentic Mexican cuisine here in Germany has been wearing on my longing taste buds. And it’s not just Germany, it’s Europe in general. I kid you not, I have searched hi & lo for mexican restaurants in many of the countries I have visited, and there has [almost] always been one of two results: terrible food, or there isn’t even a single Mexican place to begin with. There’s only so much brezn and potato salad I can handle. So, when I discovered two burrito spots in Munich that actually had decent food, I jumped at the chance to try them out.

First up is Pure Burrito, which my friend Genevieve introduced to me. Located between U-bahn stops Sendlinger Tor and Goetheplatz, it offers a set up similar to Chipotle, a Mexican-American chain restaurant, as it is made directly in front of you, so you can choose exactly what you want. Most of the staff either speaks perfect English, or are actually from the States, and with the type of music they play – rock, oldies, and thankfully not techno – it almost feels like you’ve been transported back to a place in the States. Choose your protein (sorry veggies, no tofu for you), black or pinto beans, roasted peppers, rice, lettuce, guacamole (although their version is more of an avocado paste) and either mango, mild, medium, or spicy salsa. They even have cheddar cheese and sour cream, two of my favorite ingredients and probably two of the hardest to duplicate here in Germany. It lacks Mexican rice, but other than that, I can’t complain. It doesn’t quite make my spicy scale, although anything spicy is near impossible to find in Germany. But, it’s cheap enough, at €4 for a small burrito and €6 for a large, and they offer takeout or eat-in. This will definitely suffice until I get home.

Next is Condesa, a little hole-in-the-wall place right around the corner from the Münchner Freiheit bus station. Now this place feels authentic, right down to the Spanish speaking staff, music, and decorations. It’s tiny, but the walls are painted bright colors and the atmosphere is nice. And with real Mexican rice, refried beans, sour cream and guac – and even spicy salsa, this place lands at the top of my list. The ingredients taste extremely fresh, making me feel healthier than I probably actually am, but that’s okay. They offer tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and salads. Choose your protein – vegetarians just get extra veggies, and randomly, potatoes – and then they do they rest, with rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, salsa, and sour cream. This is also an eat-in or take-away spot. And lucky for me, this place is only a five minute bike ride from where I live. Let’s just say Condesa might have a new regular.


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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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Last weekend, I went up to Berlin to visit my boyfriend, David. We’ve lived in Germany (he in Berlin, I in Munich) for over seven months now, so I’ve had the opportunity to visit Berlin frequently and have gotten to know the city well enough to feel at home whenever I’m there.

To clarify, Berlin and Munich lie on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Munich is lovely, pristine, and orderly. Berlin is grungy, dirty, and a little weird. David’s host dad described it perfectly: “Munich is beautiful, Berlin is sexy.”

It’s not uncommon to see an entire block of buildings covered from top to bottom in graffiti. Perhaps Münchners consider this to be vandalism, but to Berliners, this is art. And to me, it is beautiful. The art of tagging in Berlin is a culture all its own, consisting of many accomplished artists who display their work for the public to admire. Some have their own trademark, where they leave the same picture in various locations throughout the city. Others are completely random, a little graphic, and at times offensive, but so outrageously creative that I can’t help but to admire these anonymous artists anyway. To me, this “vandalism” is what gives Berlin its character, its personality, and this personality is why I love this place so much.

It is a massive city and is a melting pot of numerous cultures from around the world. This is another reason I adore this city: its diversity. Here, there is no normal. Everything and everyone is so different that being more abnormal is the norm, if that makes sense. Berlin makes weird cool (think Portland, OR, but with more graffiti, more grunge, and less hipster).

One of my favorite areas of Berlin is the Turkish district – it’s by far one of the most eclectic spots, full of hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants, including Santa Maria, the best (and only) good Mexican place we’ve found (thanks to a rec from my Berlin-native host mom) in all of Europe. Berlin likes vegetarians, too, so in return I like Berlin even more. I’m surprised by how many vegetarian options are available in such a *stereotypically* meat-loving culture.

Berlin also offers a fantastic range of museums, from renaissance art to Check-Point Charlie. Near Berlin’s Museum Island (it’s exactly what it sounds like) is a flea market that mostly sells leftover junk from estate sales. However, if you’re lucky, you can make an awesome find, such as this vintage 1930s camera I picked up this past weekend. Of course it’s not in working condition anymore, but for 30 euro I couldn’t pass it up. Among these estate sale leftovers are local artists selling their handmade work, ranging from photography, to paintings, to jewelry, to pottery.

So what about the nightlife? Just to name a few, there’s the death metal bar, a place called Cake, or Havana, which is where David and I ended up last Friday night. The draw for us was the Salsa room.  Havana is made up of multiple dance floors – electro, top charts, hip-hop, salsa – so there’s something for everyone.

Berlin may not be the city I decided to call home when I moved to Germany, but over time it has given Munich a run for its money. Berlin has nothing on the Englischer Garten and Bavarian beer, though, and Oktoberfest wins Munich some major brownie points. And where else can you see a man walking down the street wearing Lederhosen in the middle of the day.

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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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The Theatinerkirche

This weekend, I decided to take advantage of the long anticipated and unfortunately short lived summer weather to do some overdue exploring of the city. My tour began at Odeonsplatz, home of Feldherrnhalle, the Theatinerkirche, and the Hofgarten, just to name a few. Freshly off the u-bahn, my ears perked up to live classical music playing in the distance. I followed these sounds until I stumbled upon an outdoor concert in the Hofgarten, complete with grand piano, string bass, cello, and violin. They were playing selections from The Phantom of the Opera. This gave me the opportunity to nerd-out in full force, as I have always had a particular love for classical music. I sat in the grass, eyeing the beautiful surroundings as I listened to the music. This is one thing I especially love about Europe – classical music is everywhere. It is appreciated in a way I haven’t experienced in the States.

Makeshift Orchestra Concert

The concert concluded, so I began to wander aimlessly, open to whatever I came across next. Lo and behold, I stumbled upon yet another musical showcase, except for this time it was an orchestra rehearsal taking place outdoors in the courtyard of the Munich Residenz, the former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs. Chairs were set up, so I took a seat in the back and listened in pure enjoyment and fascination.


My curiosity led me next to a small, bustling street full of shops and bakeries. Snapping photos and exploring the area, a feeling of contentedness engrossed me as I reminded myself that this beautiful place is now my home.

Next on the tour was Marienplatz, located in the heart of Munich and home to the famous Glockenspiel. Also a famously overcrowded tourist hot-spot, my time here was short lived as the crowds became distracting and annoying.


So far, my favorite location in Munich is the Englisch Garten. If you ever get a chance to visit Munich, this should be one of your first stops! Devote at least a few hours to touring the area; it’s absolutely enormous and an easy place to get lost – which is part of the fun, in my opinion. Every inch will feed your visual appetite, so you won’t be disappointed if you make a wrong turn.

I took a leisurely bike ride through the garden, stopping along the way to read for a few hours and soak up some sun. I was surrounded by others who were reading, sketching, napping, playing sports, chatting, and simply enjoying the weather. Rain or shine, I’ve decided that this will be a place I visit regularly, either by bike, on a jog, or by just walking through and appreciating my surroundings.

Nektar Beach

That evening, I joined my host family at Nektar Beach. When I spoke to Sven on the phone and he told me where to meet, I pictured some kind of beach area by the river where people could swim and lay out. In actuality, Nektar Beach is a swanky manmade “beach bar” that is also a restaurant and a nightclub. The ground of the outdoor area is entirely made of sand, except for the wooden walkways leading to the indoor club. I arrived to the family

My host family and I - at Nektar Beach

relaxing on reclining couches atop the sand, the parents enjoying drinks with a family friend, and the kids running around playing with the other children there. I plopped down on one of the couches and ordered a beer – this one was actually half beer and half limeade – a refreshing reward after my 4 hour bike ride.

The following day, the weather proved itself to truly be summer. Sven, Claudia, Tristan, Jolina, Bailey (the dog), and I gratefully piled into the car and headed to a lake

Lunch on the lake

about 40 minutes outside of Munich, anxious to enjoy the rare summer day. When we arrived, we had lunch at a restaurant located right by the lake, offering gorgeous views of our surroundings. The afternoon was spent enjoying the water and sun – although our time at the lake was cut short as the kids grew restless. Jolina considered this lake to be the ocean – “the

To swim, or not to swim...

ocean isn’t heated like the pool” and “I don’t want to swim because of the whales and sharks in the water.” We all plopped back in the car and instead spent the rest of the afternoon at the sports club pool, which is located down the street from the house.

That evening, Sven put me in touch with a student that used to work for his company. As she is around my age, we ended up meeting for a drink. One of her friends joined us a bit later. I’ve loved everything about Munich so far, but one big thing that has been missing is friends and spending time with people my age. As I don’t start at the language school for another month, it’s been difficult to meet other people, so it was great to be introduced to some people my own age. It seems like things are slowly starting to come together in this new world of mine, and as time goes on, I feel that I am finally starting to build a life here.

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As my parents drive me to the airport, it finally hits me – I’m actually leaving for an entire year.

Although I have been imagining this new life in my head ever since I signed my Au Pair contract, it somehow never quite felt real. But here I am. Plopped into the middle of a new city and a new life for the next year to come. And I couldn’t be happier.

The neighborhood

My journey goes rather smoothly until I arrive in Frankfurt and get held up at customs – then in security (I’m one of the lucky few to be searched, and the guard is unfortunately quite thorough in her investigation). This leaves me with 5 minutes to get to my gate.  Panicking, I start in an awkward jog as my bags only allow me to produce a sort of sped up waddle. In my rush, my laptop slips out of my grip and onto the pavement. I have no choice but to keep moving, hoping for the best and that my computer still functions.

As I exit the airport, my new host-family, Sven, Claudia, Jolina (5 yrs) and Tristan (2 yrs), greet me with smiles and open arms, the kids holding a homemade sign that reads “Welcome Hannah,” which makes me feel at home already.

My home for the next year

We arrive at the house and I look around in delight as we walk into their beautiful living room with large double doors that open onto the patio. I am then lead downstairs to my room, and my jaw drops. My room is straight out of a magazine, coordinated with white, reds, and oranges atop modern white furniture. I essentially have my own little apartment in the basement of my host-family’s home, complete with my own bathroom and entryway.

That evening, we eat dinner on the patio and I begin to converse with the kids and get to know them a bit better. I brought them each coloring books, a pink princess one for Jolina and a car one for Tristan, and they are a huge hit. The kids want to begin coloring immediately, and I join in while enjoying dinner and talking with the parents. As the kids move inside to play after dinner, I remain on the porch with Sven and Claudia, enjoying a refreshing German beer and talking into the night.

My Room

As I finally wander to bed, I sink into a deep sleep with a smile on my face. Despite my apprehensions, today turned out to be a lovely experience, and it is only the beginning.

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Hello all! Welcome to my blog that will track my adventures, discoveries, challenges, and everything in-between during my time spent in Munich, Germany this coming year.

To those of you who may not know, I will be spending the next year of my life living with a German family and caring for their two children – these are people I couldn’t feel luckier to be working for.  I can already tell it is going to be a fantastic year and I feel blessed to have come into contact with them.  They live in a beautiful home in the heart of Munich, one of the most charming cities I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.  I am thrilled to call this place my home, and my departure date is now no more than two short weeks away.

…which has left me in a bit of a panic.  Those that know me well know that I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to take care of every last detail.  In some areas of my life, I prefer to go where the wind blows me and find it exciting not having a plan or a known sense of direction – but not when it comes to packing, especially when it means packing up my entire life for a year and moving to a foreign country.  What ever will I do if I run out of my favorite curl cream?!  Those with unruly hair can sympathize with me on this one.  Yes, I know its not the end of the world if I forget something or run out of anything, especially since it’s not like I’m moving to the North Pole or the middle of the Amazon Rainforest  – but alas, I like to feel prepared.

So here I am, at the two week mark.  So far, I have managed to make every kind of appointment I can imagine, from the dentist to a hair cut.  I am also scrambling to perfect my resume in the slight chance that I come across an amazing online editing gig that I can work on from my own computer in Munich.  Not to mention, I am leaving behind some of the most beautiful people I have ever known, whom I feel honored to call my family and friends – which means I need to make time to partaaay it up with them before I leave.

14 days. 336 hours. 20, 160 minutes until my life as I know it changes in every single way possible.  It’s scary and intimidating. But it’s also exciting – I’m ready to embrace this new chapter and see where it will take me.  As I exit the college life and finally enter the real world, I am about to embark on a journey that will change and shape who I am – and that my dear friends, is pretty damn exciting.  Hello, Europe!

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