Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I’m a München?



It was a cold and rainy morning, so early in fact that the nearby homeless people had not starting begging for change yet. We had gotten up and packed our things in less than thirty minutes in order to have enough time to find the bus station, bus, and get settled. However, once we reached the bus station we realized two important things: (1) being we had absolutely no idea where our bus was; and (2) we had absolutely no idea how to go about finding our bus. We wandered around a bit, going back and forth, checking and re-checking signs. Our comfortable cushion of time slowly dwindled down to an almost urgent situation. About the time I was ready to hit the freak-out fan Dr. Husband decided to look at a side street that appeared promising. Lo and behold, our bus was parked right there.

We boarded and were hit with the realization that we would be traveling in comfort (except that it was exceedingly stuffy and warm, is this why the train was 30 Euro more a person?). After a little over two hours we reached our destination – Munich! We weren’t too enthused when we saw it was still rainy and cold in Munich despite the sunshine we were promised, but we were excited nonetheless. Since it was very early when we arrived, we decided to do things Hobbit style and get second breakfast. It didn’t take long for us to realize the café culture in a large metropolitan German city like Munich is completely different than a small (German-speaking) Austrian city. We also noticed the inordinate amount of Shisha, and Kabob places near our Hotel. While this wasn’t upsetting, it was not what we wanted at 10am. After we procured second breakfast (latte macchiatos and very tasty crossants!) it was about time to our friend at the Hostel where he was staying. We waited outside for a while then decide to check inside where he had been waiting for us.

Now that our Fellowship was complete, it was time to explore Munich. Our first stop was Augustiner-Keller (biergarten). The food and the beer there are very good, but the atmosphere of the garden is the impressive feature. We had very traditional German soups. It is one of the largest beer gardens in Munich, and while thankfully it wasn’t very crowded when we were there, it was really something to see. I think if we go again however, we will do self-service so our waiter doesn’t take his espresso break in the middle of our meal. All in all it was a wonderful experience and I definitely recommend it. As a side note, I participated in a ritualistic stag/bachelor party leg waxing…of the groom. He was wearing Lederhosen. I’m not sure how frequently this happens but I like to think I am truly one in a million now.


Next we journeyed to Altstadt (old town) where we found the rest of the tourists in Munich. It was really busy and crowded, however that is where many of the old churches are located. They are not to be missed! To name a few: Frauenkirche, Heiliggeistkirche, and Bürgersaalkirche. These buildings had some of the most breath-taking craftsmanship and art I have ever seen. The pictures don’t do them justice. We also went to the Hofbräuhaus (Hofbrau beer house). This place is certainly better visited in the winter due to more indoor seating; however after visiting Augustiner we were not nearly as impressed (and the pretzels weren’t free like they were at Augustiner-Keller). However, because Hofbräuhaus was built as an extension to the brewery in 1589, I have now drunk in a beer hall older than America! Check that off the Bucket list. After a bit of wondering around and checking (and cross-checking maps) we found a place to eat.
Yada, yada, yada the next morning we slept in a bit and journeyed to Altstadt again to do some more sightseeing. We went to the München Residenz (palace of the Bavarian monarchs and House of Wittelsbach). It cost 7 Euro to go in, but it was really an amazing place with a lot to see. Again the pictures do not do justice. It definitely awakened in me a desire to see Castles while we are here! We decided to call it an early night after walking 5 miles around the city. We got up early the next morning to catch our bus back to Innsbruck. Our bus was much more easily found this time around, however the return trip took an extra two hours due to construction. We decided to buy groceries on our way home and ended up with some weird Austrian dessert thing for dinner (Mohnnudeln).

Overall, the Munich experience was a positive one. I learned a lot about myself, and I learned a lot from myself. We will definitely be going back.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

IKEA the Bully

I am not even sure where to begin. My feelings and emotions are so tangled and twisted when it comes to the subject. IKEA did things to me. Bad things. This is only made worse because everyone always talks about how wonderful IKEA is. No it’s not. You’re a liar. IKEA is a liar. And I hate them. I hate them so much. Won’t stop me from going back there to get more cheaply priced goods. But isn’t that how most dysfunctional relationships work?

Immediately after setting foot in Innsbruck and quickly getting acquainted with our apartment we walk 1.4 miles (which felt further due to jet-lag) to IKEA. We are hopeful and naïve. Thinking IKEA would take care and love us. And it seemed that they would. Until we found out the soonest delivery date for our bed and futon was two days. We weren’t excited about this news, but maybe it would be like camping?

Surely our tired bodies wouldn’t complain once we put them to rest. Our Friday morning delivery time comes and goes and we hear nothing from IKEA. Dr. Husband decides he wants to walk down there and find out what’s going on. They put him to the side and didn’t tell him anything. So after a time he decides to walk back.

That night we prepare ourselves for another night on the floor, when suddenly our chime goes off. A man speaks to me in rapid German, all I say is
            “IKEA?”
            “Ja, IKEA.” He says.

I am elated. I knew IKEA wouldn’t let me down. Dr. Husband goes and helps the man bring the offerings to our apartment. But something is wrong. Some things are missing. We are led to believe more things might be coming later. But we mostly console ourselves that we have a mattress to put on the floor to sleep on. Nothing else comes that night. This was Friday.
 
Monday rolls around and I walk to IKEA again with a hand written note in German explaining that all of our items were not delivered. I am told Wednesday and a time, triumphant I return home.


Wednesday rolls around and nothing.

Thursday we both returned to IKEA with the same note. We are told we would get delivery service that day. But do not know a time. We decide to use the internet in Dr. Husband’s office, and while we are there we get a call from IKEA. We are told the items would be delivered between NOW and within FOUR HOURS. So we IMMEDIATELY return to our apartment and wait. Like we had be doing for days! Six hours later Dr. Husband gets despondent when IKEA hasn’t shown or called. He decides to walk down to a corner where he may get Wi-Fi service to distract himself. He says that while he is down there he sees men in a GLS truck pulling into random driveways and circling around.
            “IKEA?” He asked.
            “Ja, IKEA.” They said.

He leads them to our apartment like the Pied Piper with the rats, or mice, or whatever those vermin were. We are excited once again. Maybe IKEA just couldn’t find us those other times – it really does care. Then we check our items – one short.

Since it is just the futon cover I decide to go down to IKEA the next day (a Friday) to gather our missing sheep and lead him home. Alas, when I get to IKEA on Friday my sheep is not in this pasture. It’s in the warehouse a ½ mile away. Taking the word of a girl speaking broken English I get on a bus and miss my stop. Funny thing, if you are not sure where you are going you end up walking more (this is because of all of the doubling back you have to do). I finally make it to the warehouse and gather our last item. I think about catching a bus but alas, the bus stops on this side of town do not have maps, so I’m not sure where I would have ended up. I decide to start walking. Eventually I make it home carrying the 15 pound futon cover the entire way back – at least 3 miles.

I am tired and sore but happy to be done with this saga. That is until I find out Dr. Husband missed the delivery of our table and chairs and coffee table (because he was once again on the corner trying to get Wi-Fi). Ironically, these were also IKEA items that we had ordered from Amazon.

So we had to pick those up at the local model train station / place you go to pick up missed deliveries (?), over a ½ mile away. We wait patiently while someone buys a remote-controlled truck so we can pick up our final sheep. Although I think, I would have rather picked up a sheep because I don’t think it would have been nearly as heavy as the things we carried for a ½ mile. It was really heavy. And stupid. And then we drank and built our furniture for hours.

All in all, 2/10 would not repeat.

Beer/Bier

Something you have to understand about Austrians and their beer is that it is life. Similar to Ambrosia and nectar to the gods, beer is the lifeblood of the people. You will see 80 year old women smoking a cigarette and having a beer at 10 o’clock in the morning on a Tuesday (we actually saw this). And that is okay. That is normal.

I have only seen one drunk person in the park (and he was homeless). So, that makes me believe that Austrians have a wooden leg that they pour the beer into – because they seriously drink all the time. Dr. Husband and I went out to an “Irish pub” and a group of four guys sitting next to us had six 0.5 liters of beer in the time it took us to drink three each, and I only knew they were drunk because they starting singing drinking songs. It was kind of like a dream come true.

Beer here is about the same price as soda, sometimes cheaper, even if you get a 0.5 liter of it, and if you got soda it does not come with ice. This makes the choice much easier to make on hot summer days in August. Or alternatively, since this is Austria, the choice is even easier when it is 58 and raining in August. Or really, any other time. Every beer I’ve had here has been amazing. You can get beer anywhere. There is a place here that sells beer 10 feet from a child care service. And that is okay. That is normal.

What is not normal is finding chilled beer in the grocery store, and I think that is some B.S. Because it makes you have to wait to drink your beer once you get it home (or you drink it warm). Turns out, a lot of the beer is pretty good warm too!

This is my first post about beer, but I am sure I will be writing more in the future.



 BSD

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Things I’ve Noticed Thus Far/Sprechen Sie Englisch?

Of all the emotions I expected to feel during my first few days in Innsbruck (sexy and cliché ones like: excitement, fear of the unknown, boastful of my American swagger and girth, and unease at a different culture), shame was definitely toward the bottom of the list. I knew intellectually that most of Europe spoke at least some English, but I didn’t comprehend what that would mean for me. What it means is my transition here has been much easier than it could have been. Most customer service people and servers speak passable if not very good English. They are also (for the most part) kind and patient while we try to practice our German with them. It is very easy to feel out of place when you do not even understand basic greetings and questions. It is also very humbling to have a person who is close to ten years younger than you explain how to order a bed in her second language (or possibly third) when you can barely ask if she speaks your language in her own country. This is even after a couple months of trying to learn some basic German. Let’s just say that after this experience I will have more sympathy non-English speakers in America because that ish is scary, yo.


There are a number of things I have noticed thus far about the culture here that I find different in good/bad ways. I did not expect the multitude of cafes and culture surrounding all of them. They are very different than the US and you will have a very hard time if you don’t understand two basic things: 1)Do not be in a hurry when going to a café and 2) You will never see your server again if you are shy. Number one is pretty self explanatory. From what I have seen in Innsbruck, there is usually one to three servers for indoor and outdoor seating. They are usually busy especially if you are in a touristy part of town. It will take a while to even get your drink order let alone your food order. It is preferable if you know your entire order when they come by if they are busy. You must chillax. Enjoy the scenery. Look at the menu so you are prepared when they do come by. Talk to the people you are with. My second point is if they come by and you need more time to look and decide, you may have to flag them down for more service. This is not considered rude. It is very different than America, and it is not necessarily bad. It is definitely relaxing and you never feel you are pushed out of your seat to accommodate the next guests. However, it can be very off putting to people accustomed to the service in America.    

One thing I really like about Innsbruck is the lack of waste in the packaging of products and the ready availability of recycling. I was super concerned when I saw one bin for our entire apartment complex’s (11 apartments!) garbage. However, it is expected you sort through your garbage into the different recyclables, biodegradables, and landfill items. This makes your waste much smaller than just doing recycling and garbage. Also the packaging is less conducive to waste such as the toothpaste we purchased only had a small film over where the toothpaste came out of the tube and the garbage bags only had enough paper around them to keep them from unrolling.


One thing I don’t really care for is the amount of shopping you have to do over here. You seriously have to go to the grocery store every other day, and if you do not have a car that means you are hoofing it to the grocery store and carrying things back every other day. I mostly complain because they sell beer by the 0.5 liter and six of those bad boys are heavy. A lot of other items are heavy as well. The bread (and a lot of other items) here don’t have the same preservatives as in the US so while that makes them super tasty it also means you’re going back more frequently if you don’t want to eat super stale/bad bread. The produce here is pretty cheap and tastes amazing so there is that. In addition, beer is literally the same price or cheaper than soda. I haven’t had a soda in close to a week, but you can bet your sweet bottom I’ve had a beer almost every single day! My people!   

Monday, August 11, 2014

Guest Post: Exploring Innsbruck: The (budget) Grocery Store Edition


- Dr. Husband

Some things are not always what they seem.

As luck would have it our apartment is only a 10-minute walk from a large grocery store and small mall. It works as any supermarket in the states would, aside from bringing your own bags and ensuring you keep 1€ for the shopping carts. I was happy to see a large produce section for a Target like store, as well as learning new words for things like Peaches and Blueberries.

Happy seeing grapes were only 2,99€/kg (or about $0.80/lbs) we picked some up. Bread, produce, cheese, and beer are slightly cheaper while meat and eggs (3,50€ per dozen! We are a long way from free fresh eggs in Georgia) are more expensive.

A few hours later, we prepared our first little meal in our (currently unfurnished) apartment. We had a nice plate of baguette, cheese, salami, blueberries, and Zipfer – an Austrian beer. Everything was quite good despite one thing: the grapes tasted like strawberries! Have we traveled to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory where they are now experimenting with fruit?

Perhaps my taste buds got lost during the 6-hour time zone change. I took a swig of my beer and went for another grape. Alas, strawberry flavor once more. We enjoyed the rest of our dinner and thought nothing of it except that it was rather strange.

Making coffee the following morning, I went into the refrigerator to investigate this grape situation again. There it is in big bold letters right on the front of the blueberry package – “Moyen: Strawberry”. Mystery solved, sorry Hardy Boys.

Some things are not always what they seem…until you read the packaging, and then they are.


BSD note: I read the packaging in the store but thought it was a mistranslation. They seriously looked like grapes. Look at the picture!

The Incredibl(y)e (Long) Journey/Willkommen in Österrich


Our journey abroad started about the same way most trips to the airport do… with incredibly overpriced beers. Seriously what is up with the food/beverage situation in airports? Afterwards, we walked to our gate to await boarding and departure to Düsseldorf, Germany, where we would catch a flight to Munich. It was exciting to hear the conversations around us spoken in German. How exotic! How interesting! Oh how my perception of the world was about to change! My culture shock began when the stewardess directed me to the side of the plane I would be sitting in a string of incomprehensibly quick German. Luckily, she was pointing so I deduced what she meant. I was excited to see what the food offerings would be on the flight. Would we get strudel? Weinerschnichel perhaps? You can imagine my surprise and slight disappointment when we got to choose between mac and cheese (as the entre!) and chicken strips with “south western” sauce. I think my mac and cheese was better than Dr Husband’s chicken. There were also some sort of cold potatoes au gratin, cheesecake with strawberry sauce, roll, and spreadable brie cheese. Something I found very interesting was not that the sodas were served without ice (although I was expecting that), although if you ordered a soda you would get a small glass and that was it. However, if you ordered a beer you got the whole can! It was amazing! My people!

 The plane ride itself was… uncomfortable. The seats were too small and close together to do any satisfactory sleeping. I may have gotten 2-3 hours of sleep and Dr Husband may have gotten 1-2. We did the best we could to get up occasionally and stretch our legs by going to the bathroom. We also drank a lot of water, and I set my watch to European time before we left so I had an idea of when we should be trying to sleep. We were served a breakfast of strawberry yogurt, deli meat, cheddar cheese, and roll about two hours before we landed which was about 6:30 in the morning! One excellent thing about the flight was the entertainment. There were many movies and TV shows to choose from to watch. I watched Anchorman 2 (which I feel asleep during the last 15 minutes) and The Lego Movie, which I had already seen but wanted to watch again because I am 14 years old. Dr Husband (being the gand ol’ age of 28) watched more critically acclaimed movies such as 12 Years a Slave and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

After we landed we had just enough time to get a coffee for me and a cappuccino for Dr Husband, and to go to the bathroom – which really made me realize we weren’t in the US anymore. The bathrooms are just different: the stalls have more privacy for one, and you will know if a door is locked (i.e. someone is in a stall), similar to the way airplane and port-o-potties work. There is a color associated with the locking mechanism. However, the buttons on the wall of the stall made me feel the way Stalone’s character in Demolition Man must’ve felt upon encountering the three seashells. I figured it out quickly, but it was definitely a reminder that I was out of my element!


Once we finally got to Munich we walked about a mile (seriously) with our entire luggage (this included 4 large roller suitcases, 1 small roller, 1 backpack, a briefcase, and a large hand bag) to the “totally easy to find” bus/taxi rendezvous. Once there we waited 40 minutes for an estimated 25-30 minute wait to board our taxi bus to begin the final leg of our journey. After dropping a few of our other passengers off at nearby villages we were dropped off in Innsbruck near where our apartment should be. Luckily, our landlord was here to meet us or who knows where we would have ended up as our apartment is not visible from the street at all.

P.S. The above picture is after our 8.5 hour flight from Ft. Myers to Dussledorf. Not bad, right?