Friday, August 31, 2012

Surfing Munich Style

On our second full day in Munich, we went to the Englische Garten park, which a big park located in the city center. It's partly known for being home to the Chinese (Tower) Beer Garden. We hit up the beer garden and then decided to go back to the old part of the city via a nice walk through the park. About five minutes into our walk, we came to a bridge that crossed over a section of a small river/stream. What I saw was like a human soup of floating Germans going down stream. When you look at the picture, keep in mind that these people are floating towards you at a decent speed:

...and the other direction as they head away from you (Note the Locks of Love attached to this bridge. They're pretty much everywhere I go now.):

If the river of humanity isn't unusual enough, we came to another spot where some creative folk had rigged up a few bungee cords to a tree and were "water skiing" on a small board. The better folks would partly submerge themselves and the board so that they were pulled down the river while still holding onto the cord. Once the cord was fully extended, and using the momentum of the passing water, they popped up out of the water and shot upstream on the board. This photo makes it look like water skiing but they were actually moving from the right to the left at a pretty good speed.

So, human soup and guys river water skiing using bungee cords instead of a boat or jetski? Yep, I guess that's okay. But wait, it gets better. Just two more minutes up the river and we came to this:

Yep. People were SURFING the river! It's was pretty f'ing amazing because I would have never expected to see surfing in the middle of Europe at least a few hundred miles from the closest beach.

Apparently, there's a semi-natural bottom feature that results in a standing wave functioning something like a FlowRider, which are somewhat common at water parks. The surf spot is located just a few feet downstream from a bridge where the water comes out a fairly quick pace.

From what I understand, people have been surfing this spot since the 1970s. They may have been surfers but the scene was much more skateboard style in that everyone waited on one side of the river or the other for their turn. Each person would go until they fell and then the next person would drop in. It was much less aggressive than most of the ocean surfing that I've seen and, therefore, appealed to me more.

A shot of the crowd watching from up on the bridge. My guess is that there were around 200 people or so just hanging out watching. It was pretty cool.

Surfing. Munich style. Whoda' known??? Photoshop out the trees and you could almost believe that this scene is somewhere in the ocean:

John, who's an avid surfer, told me that riding the wave would take a little getting used to for him but that it looked fun. Hell, I wanted to try it but I'm guessing that it'd take a bunch of tries to get decent. First, you'd have to learn how to drop in like a bomb drop into a halfpipe on a skateboard, then you'd have to learn how to keep your balance on the wave, and then you'd have to learn how to make turns. That's a lot, but, with the skateboarding-like vibe of the place, something that I'd probably like to try. How about you? Are you up for a session?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Munich Part 2

This post is Part 2 of my short trip to Munich last weekend. For Part 1, click here.

My friend John John and his girlfriend Stacey successfully made it to Germany and met up with us at the apartment. I was surprisingly happy to see them (not in a bad way) and it made me realize how much I miss so many people in my life. Moving all over the world is great and all but it sure makes for a lot of people to miss. In other words, it was great to see them again!

The center of Munich is pretty amazing. There are a lot of the historical buildings and, in some ways, it reminded me of the older parts of Barcelona with its small, curvey cobblestone streets. We wandered around for a couple of hours checking everything out, including the impressive Rathaus (city hall). Hey Rowdy, is that you on the left???:

There's a tradition in Europe to go all out for Bachelor and Bachelorette parties where they'll dress up the bride/groom in some silly outfit while the rest of the group wears some other outfit. You can see the groups on weekends in the center of lots of towns. One of the things that the bride or groom needs to do is sell items to "earn money" to pay to get back home, to buy drinks, or whatever. The things for sale are usually small bottles of alcohol, condoms, or some other silly trinkets, which are sold for a "donation" of a euro or two. It's kinda' silly but, overall, it's (usually) the outfits that really make it awesome. To see a couple of funny photos, check out the photo at the bottom of this story from back when I was in Granada two years ago and the middle photo in this story from when I went to southern France to visit Carcasonne and some other castles.

Anyway, this group (sans great outfits) approached John while we were walking around and got him to buy some stuff. He didn't have any change so he ended up buying a few candy bars and gave the guy five euros (John's a generous guy!):

John really wanted to go to the Hofbrauhaus, which is apparently the classic beer hall to visit when you're in Munich. Since my tastes go more towards wine, it's not something that I probably would have done if they weren't with us...

...but, as with most opportunities that I just say yes to, it ended up being a great experience. They've got a live band playing traditional, regional music and a food menu that was full of interesting things to order. And, best of all, the prices were relatively cheap, especially when you consider that the place caters mostly to tourists. Our dinners were delicious and it's one of the handful of tourist sights that's definitely worth visiting. Thanks for the recommendation JJ!

I didn't know it when we went in but John had a secondary motivation for the visit. I guess that a bunch of years ago, he visited Munich and the Hofbrauhaus and took a photo that's been in a frame in his bedroom ever since. He wanted to recreate the photo on this trip. What he didn't know is that Stacey had brought with her the original photo, which you can see next to John in the updated version:

I think that I really like Munich and Bayern (the state in which Munich is located) in general. The people are friendly, the scenery is great, and GIANT soft pretzels are available everywhere (!!!), including Saturday evening at the Hofbrauhaus: well as Sunday afternoon in the Chinese Beer Garden:

Yep, it's carbo-lover's paradise! Actually, the food and drink at the Chinese Beer Garden (confusingly enough, located in the Englisher Garten city park) were equally as good and, even better, they had Apfelwein on tap! What a combo -- pretzels and Apfelwein!

After leaving the Chinese Beer Garden, we walked through the park back towards the center of town. I was amazed at what we saw in the park, but I'll write about that in the next story. From there, we went to the BMW Museum, which, again, is another story.

The BMW Museum is across from the Olympic Park with its Olympiturm tower. JJ and Stacey really wanted to go up in the tower to see the view. I'm glad that we did it as the view was spectacular. This photo is looking towards the center of Munich and the Alps beyond on the horizon:

 We managed to squeeze a lot into our day for sure. I have to hand it to John John and Stacey for their ability to fight off jetlag and power through the city bus tour, drinking in the park, a full museum, and a trip up in the tower, among other things! Klase!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Munich Part 1

A couple of months ago, my long-time friend John John let me know that he would be going to a wedding in Austria towards the end of August. He and his girlfriend would fly into Munich, stay there for a couple of days, and then come to Stuttgart for a couple of days before going on to the wedding. I figured that it was as good of an excuse as any to go to Munich so we contacted Esther, a friend that used to live in Barcelona and went to stay one night with her, her boyfriend Toni, and their new baby.

This post (Munich Part 1) is a quickie and covers the first half of the weekend (with Esther and Toni) while Part 2 is the second half of the weekend (with John and Stacey).

After arriving via carpooling on Friday evening, Esther and Toni took us over to wander around the 1972 Olympic park. For me, it's Munich's version of New York's Central Park and it's pretty impressive with rolling hills, a lake, the left-over stadiums, and the iconic Olympiaturm tower. In this photo, you can see the tower with the BMW headquarters building to the right and one of the original Olympic structures (the curvy, pointy building in front of the tower):

The night we were there, and I'm guessing all summer, they had a carnival-style event happening. Diana, of course, got her beloved corn on the cob (keep your hands away from the opening!) and we walked the whole park. It seemed pretty busy probably because there was a concert, an open-air movie, and some fireworks all scheduled for the evening. Hmm...Munich might turn out to be a pretty interesting city...

(By the way, an editorial note. I've greatly reduced trying to eliminate random people when taking photos. I think that it might make the photos more interesting if you can (also) see some of the people who happen to be there. Let me know if you agree or not.)

Artsy-fartsy, after-sunset photo of BMW and the Olympiaturm tower through an opening in one of the Olympic structures:

Everyone was starved so we went out to a local Chinese-food place and filled up on carbs. It was more of an Asian-food restaurant with some Vietnamese and Thai dishes as well. Yummy!

The next morning we woke up to a local bakery assortment (more carbs!!!). The reason why I show this photo is because breakfast included fresh-baked, Bayern-style PRETZELS!!! Woo-hoo! And, yes, here in southern Germany, they put butter on the pretzels. I've grown to love that too...

After breakfast we went to the Schloss Nymphenburg, which is a large palace complex a few miles from the city center. This lovely fixer was originally built in the second half of the 17th century as a summer residence for the ruling family of Bavaria. The building, which reminded me a lot of Ludwigsburg, is giant and the grounds around it are even...gianter! Oh, in case you're wondering, I didn't see any of the namesake peeps...maybe you've got to go back at night???

We walked around the grounds for about an hour but it was, believe it or not, way too hot to be out in the sun. This has only happened maybe two times since I arrived to Germany in March. Have I mentioned that, unlike California, the weather is NOT a reason to visit Germany??? Anyway, we high-tailed it out of there and went for some ice cream at a small but very busy place right down the street. From there, it was back to check in at our airbnb-rented apartment and to wait for JJ and Stacey.

A big hug and an even bigger thank you to Esther, Toni, and baby E (shortened to protect the innocent!). We had a great time and can't wait to do it again maybe real soon??? Hmm...secrets are fun!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Meersburg Zeppelin Museum

This story should probably be filled under my Random tag because coming across a Zeppelin museum while in Meersburg was just that. Down one of the side streets, high up on a plain-vanilla building was a small, hard-to-read sign that said "Zeppelin Museum":

What? As in THE Zeppelin airship probably best known for a very unfortunate accident that took place in New Jersey in 1937? Yep, the same company that designed and built the Hindenburg - right here in Meersburg? I just couldn't wait to hand over my money to the nice old lady at the museum (I even got a student discount for showing my German class I.D.!).

The view inside the Meersburg Zeppelin Museum from the front entrance:

How excited was I to find out that the Constance area was home to the world-famous Zeppelin company? VERY!!! It turns out that Zeppelin's headquarters and production facility are just a few minutes southeast of Meersburg on the same shore of Lake Constance. Getting to see where the Hindenburg was built and where they now build blimps would be on par with when I got to go the aircraft repair facility in Frankfurt. Next visit for sure!

The "theater" area of the museum with a video loop about the history of the Zeppelin company and the airships they've produced over the years. Oh and, bonus, the video was in English!

The museum is small but packed with interesting stuff. It was basically a personal Zeppelin-obsession-on-display as opposed to something official by the company. They had a lot of items that were used on the various ships over the years and even some pieces of the structure of one of them.

The woman working the front desk was excited that I was learning German and she gave us a brief tour and explained some of the items in the museum. She only spoke German but she spoke very clearly and slowly for me and I was able to ask questions and get the answers then translate her information into Spanish for Diana. I was thrilled since five months ago I didn't know more than three words in German and there I was having a conversation with someone! Woohoo!

Another view of the museum including a couple of seats from one of the Zeppelin airships:

Okay, so you might not be as excited about this as I am/was but it was pretty damn cool. How random is finding a museum about something as famous as Zeppelins in a tiny little town that you just happened to visit on the recommendation of some friends that you were staying with? Super.

Not only should this be filed under Random, it should be filed under the "Always say YES" tag. I love trying to always say yes to every offer at all times and this simple museum reinforces my desire to continue to say yes.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Our visit to Constance was a quick one (just two days) but we were able to squeeze a lot into the trip. Considering that we arrived around mid-day on Saturday, we saw and did quite a few things. Our friends recommended that we use our second day to go to Meersburg, which is about 15 minutes away from Constance via a ferry. I've been on ferries in Seattle and when I went to Goto Island near Nagasaki but those are more like buses or trains in that they're just for people. I really think that this is the first time that I've ever been on a ferry that carries both people and cars.

Folks getting their bikes situated and the bridge raising just before set out from Constance:

Constance (or Konstanz in German) is on a peninsula in Lake Konstanz while Meersburg is on the northern shore of the lake. The ferry runs between the peninsula and Meersburg about every 15 minutes or so. It was fun (and relatively cheap) to take the quick trip. Diana likes boat rides much more than I do. I don't hate them but I also won't actively seek them out. I knew that, just like when we were in Hamburg, she'd want to take the opportunity to go to sea.

Meersburg is a village that's divided into upper and lower parts. This photo, taken from the small-craft harbor, shows the new castle on the edge of the upper part and some of the many wine-growing fields (including some Pinot Noir!!!) that run through the area:

The highlight of the town, other than the beautiful views of the wineries and the sea, is the 7th-century castle located in the upper-area:

Ringing the old castle is small medieval village that has a bunch of half-timber buildings and other trad architecture. It's very cool to walk down such old streets. (Writing this story just reminded me of going to another very-scenic medieval town, Toledo, which is near Madrid.)

A view down one of the main streets in Meersburg with the old castle in the upper-middle part of the photo:

Each time I visit one of these towns, I'm reminded over and over about how current-day shopping-and-entertainment-center designers use many of the same characteristics of these towns. Narrow, twisting streets you can't see the other end of, low overall-height buildings, and artsy style facades. Meersburg's got all of that. I really liked this photo of Diana buying a pretzel at this quaint bakery that demonstrates some of the qualities that you'd see at any newer, outdoor shopping area, but this one is many hundreds of years old:

Just like in Constance, Meersburg has their own unusual sculpture in their harbor. They were both done by the same guy and this one also serves up pubic hair. From what I understand, the artist portrayed some of the town's notable figures from the past. I can only imagine how happy these folks would be if they were alive today and could see themselves represented here.

I really liked Meersburg. It's a little small so I don't think that I could live there but it was very nice to visit. Actually, after this trip, I found that southern Germany has started to grow on me. Of course, it's the beginning of August so we'll have to wait for winter to roll in for me to really get a feel.

Outside the old castle looking towards the drawbridge and some of the old (upper) part of Meersburg:

A note about something that I didn't know until I was reading about Meersburg for this story. Franz Anton Mesmer, the guy who's name forms the basis for the English word mesmerize, is from the area. Apparently his grave is just outside of town. I wish I would have known so that I could have gone to pay my respects. Oh well, maybe next time.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


I'm convinced that Diana's got friends pretty much everywhere in the world. I have the travel map on the right side of the blog where I keep track of all the places I've been. I really think that I need to have a "Diana Friend Map" to keep track of that. Anyway, this past weekend we boarded the train in Stuttgart for a trip through the hills of southern Germany to Lake Constance to visit more of her friends.

Constance, or Konstanz as it's called in German, is on the northern shore of Lake Constance (Bodensee, in German), which joins Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. The town of Constance is divided by a small finger of Lake Constance. This chance feature of it's geography resulted in the middle-ages part of the city center having almost no damage during World War II as the Allied Power wanted to avoid accidentally bombing Switzerland. Crossing a bridge from the German-side of town towards the Swiss-side of town:

The historic core is a big tourist draw and people from all around come during the summer to enjoy the city and lake. I saw people out sailing, windsurfing, and, brrrrrrrrr!!!, swimming! My friend John John's taken me kite surfing a few times back in Oceanside. I think that if I lived near here, that'd be the sport I'd pick up. This view from the top of the Constance cathedral with Germany out to the left and Switzerland out to the right of the lake:

This photo, also from the cathedral, but now facing Switzerland, is of the historic part of Constance. If you look carefully, you'll see a red crane almost to the left side of the picture about 2/3s of the way up. This crane pretty much marks the border and you can follow out towards the right along a line of buildings that tend to be taller than the surrounding buildings. That's the southern German border with Switzerland.

As I mentioned, Constance had almost no damage during the war. There are lots and lots of old buildings with very cool, old architecture. This one, with the dramatic facade, is currently a hotel:

I was amazed at how many buildings were from the 1400 and 1500s. On one narrow residential street, we stuck our heads into a door where there was clearly construction going on. As anyone who's ever done home renovation can tell you, you never know what you'll find until you start tearing the place apart. Well, what if the house you were working on is 600 years old? More power to this guy!

This is one of many streets in Constance with cafes and outdoor seating. What I really like about this photo is how each building has, right above the second story windows, a sign that shows a year, a name, and a cool logo. The one on the blue building is from 1489. I couldn't figure out what they are but I'll continue to ask until I find out and then I'll update the story.

At about 3pm or so, we were down by the waterfront where there were a group of 20-somethings all dressed in traditional, southern-German clothes. Dressing like this has always been most popular in the area around Munich but has gained in popularity throughout southern Germany over the past five or six years, or so I've been told. These guys were making their parents proud by drinking in the street and generally having a good time.

One of the more unusual things that I saw during the trip was this statue of Imperia. Imperia's got quite a rack and is most unusual for her apparent comfort showing off her pubic hair. From what I understand, the statue is based on a book and Imperia represents the "ladies of the night" who spent time in Constance during the Church Council of 1414-1418. She's holding naked versions of the pope and emperor from the time. What a great welcome into the Constance Harbor!

Since we were right on the border with Switzerland, I wanted to take the opportunity to add another country "to the list". I generally only count a country when I've spent more than a few minutes there but what the heck! Number 18, here I come!

We walked the three or four blocks until we came to the closed border check point. As with all of the European Union, there's no fence and no border guards. You just walk/drive right in. It took about ten minutes for us to reach the center of Kreuzlingen, which is the Swiss town right up against Constanz. There really wasn't anything going on there as it was later on Saturday afternoon. It did remind me a little of the border of Tijuana (Mexico) and San Diego (United States) because of the number of Swiss folks that I saw going back into Switzerland with bags of stuff that they had bought in Germany, where I'd image the prices are cheaper.

We only spent about an hour walking around but I did seize the opportunity to open up a Swiss bank account at a local branch of Credit Suisse. Now all I have to do is make some illicit money that requires hiding in the account, but that's just details...

On the way back to Constance, I saw this weird red thing that looks like a giant can opener or something. I had to go right up to it to finally figure out that it's a fire hydrant. Honestly, I was happier for those few moments when I visualized some Swiss folks opening their giant cans of Swiss Miss on the community can opener.

Thanks to our lovely hosts Hubertus, Charo, and their two daughters for putting up with us and for showing us around! By the way, this was taken at a cafe in Constance that specializes in gourmet hamburgers. I very much enjoyed, but very much sweated, my way through an amazing habanero burger. Fortunately I took the photo before!

Can I just mention one more time how awesome it is to have friends in so many places in the world. You better be warned though, if we haven't come stay with you yet, we're probably on our way!