Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Twist in the Story

So we had a delightful time in Germany and were ready to head back to Edinburgh first thing Monday morning. I was ready to get back into my routine, since just the week before I had been in the US. I had papers to grade and loads of legal work to get caught up on. And then an Irish guy in the lobby utters the forbidden words to me: Ash Cloud.


I thought that was over a month ago!

Au contraire!

Not only were our flights canceled, but our airline -- the infamous Ryanair -- wouldn't allow us to rebook. They said they would, but when we tried (and tried and tried and tried), their system wouldn't work to get us rebooked on the next flight. I have a hunch that they purposely looped people through their website so they wouldn't have to pay hotel costs and fees. Just a hunch!

So we were left to our own devices.

Our devices led us to hiring a car in Munich and driving all the way to Amsterdam where we caught an overnight ferry to Newcastle, England. Hence, my recent travels didn't just call for a plane, a train, and an automobile. They also included the underground metro, a bus, and an overnight ferry.

And by the way -- if you haven't looked at a map lately, check out where Munich and Memmingen are in relation to Amsterdam. Not close. Try 800 kilometer drive. Combine that with the cost of gasoline over here = potential headache.

Anyway. Upwards and onwards. I've now been to Amsterdam! I have set foot in the Netherlands, and I liked it.

Amsterdam was such a vibrant, energizing city. We arrived a bit after 9pm in Amsterdam, checked into our hotel, and went in search of something to eat. MBA didn't have a good feeling about what would be open at 10 pm. To his surprise, we had a lot of options. Not only did we have options -- but they were swinging! Live jazz bands. Loads of funky, eclectic hole-in-the-walls. Plus, loads of "coffee shops." But that's not my thing.

We ended up at a little Dutch diner, which was half full at 10 pm on a Tuesday night. The waitress spoke beautiful English -- a nice surprise since we were in no way prepared for speaking a lick of Dutch. After asking for a recommendation, we were blessed with an amazing classic Dutch meal. We had a plate full of vegetables -- three scoops of mashed potatoes, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, leeks, carrots, and green beans -- a dish of meat stew in gravy, and a side of homemade apple sauce. It was way more than I could eat, but it was delicious, and the combination of the three dishes was great!

MBA and I then took a stroll along the canals and around the blocks surrounding our hotel before calling it a night. Because our ferry left the following afternoon, we wanted to make sure we could hit the ground running come morning. And hit the ground running we did!

Check out how much this building was leaning -- completely normal for Amsterdam!

First things first, we went out for Dutch pancakes for breakfast. Dutch pancakes are crepes with loads of interesting toppings and fillings. You can choose from sweet or savoury. We both opted for savoury. No need for a sugar crash when you only have one day in Amsterdam! I enjoyed a massive apple and bacon pancake -- quite the combo!

After our breakfast we went on a walking tour laid out in the local tourist map (which was a really good map!). The two things I wanted to see in Amsterdam were the Anne Frank Museum and some Van Goghs. And of course the romantic canals!

We arrived at the Anne Frank museum right after its opening time and went right in. I definitely recommend arriving early to the museum. As we were exiting the museum, there was quite a long line to get in. So go early!

And I definitely recommend visiting the Anne Frank Museum. I've been to both the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem and the Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C., yet something touched me differently about Anne's museum. The story of one little girl and her life hidden within the walls at 267 Prinsengracht was sad and captivating. Multiply the strength, the struggles, the stories times 6 million and its beyond overwhelming to comprehend. Digesting just one story that unfolded in one location, and there's a simple but profound empathy one experiences. Clearly, I think people should remember the Holocaust and learn from it by visiting all kinds of memorials for its victims. But a visit to this captivating hidden of home of Anne Frank personalizes things -- for that reason, you should definitely visit this museum when in Amsterdam.

The rest of the day we wondered the romantic streets and canals. Here's just a small glimpse of the coolness we saw in Amsterdam:

 Rembrandt's Former Home

Next stop: the ferry!

Thursday, May 27, 2010


After we visited the small Alpine villages in south Bavaria, we headed into Munich for the remainder of the weekend. The city has well-connected public transport and their subway system was easy to navigate.

The heart of Munich

MBA and Scott at Weisses Brauhas

I actually really liked German food! We didn't have one bad meal. Impressive! Here are the establishments we checked out for meals in Munich:

Weisses Brauhaus


Augustiner Brauhaus
(this one is a bit more out of the center of tourist stuff but the food was incredible! Think dumpling and meat in a mushroom cream sauce. Yum!)

I know Scott's eating a salad in the above picture, but for the most part -- forget about eating green vegetables while in Bavaria. It's just likely not going to happen.

People were also pretty friendly. At Weisses, the lady sitting next to us was in town from Cologne for Church Day. She was ready to chat, but our German wasn't up to par and her English was a bit difficult to decipher. She recommended we visit the new Synagogue in Munich the next morning, but at first we thought she was recommending a church for us to visit. At least we all tried!

Saturday night in Munich

City Hall

The Jewish Museum and Synagogue

The exterior of the museum was covered in English and German quotations. The selection of transcripts they picked was quite odd. I expected their to be an element of remorse and sorrow ... or perhaps information about the gravity and severity of the Holocaust. I imagine its still difficult waters to wade though for Munich.
The Synagogue

Any of my friends that read Hebrew care to translate? Start from the right and go left. 

City Hall

Probably similar to Kilt Shops, but these storefronts were everywhere!

My favorite Munich door.

Ludwig's Residenz

While cold and not very populated, biergartens were everywhere.

 Gardens at the Residenz

 Although I already mentioned these guys to you, one more picture couldn't hurt anything. This escapade really perked up our visit to Munich.

Strangely, this is one of the things to see while in Munich. It's a massive alien. Hmmm....

The Isar River - it originates in the Alps

Parliament Building

A square that hosted quite a bit of Nazi activity

Overall, Munich was enjoyable but it's not a place I'm in a rush to go back to. There was nothing overwhelmingly alluring about the city. Instead, I'd want to get out into the countryside and explore more of the small Alpine towns and then head into Austria. Now that sounds like a plan!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

“There is an art of which every man should be a master—the art of reflection. If you are not a thinking man, to what purpose are you a man at all?” —William Hart Coleridge, 1789-1842, abolitionist and Anglican bishop of Barbados

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Bavarian Alps Part 1

Recently, MBA and I have had a dear friend visiting. This dear friend also wanted to do a bit of traveling outside the UK. Since he happens to speak German, we thought: what better place to go for a weekend away than Bavaria?!?!?

Last Friday we flew into Memmingen, Germany and hit the ground running!

Our first stop was Ottobeuren to see a basilica:

Interior of the Basilica

Late Baroque Altar

And the creepy part of the basilica. There were six of these! Weird huh?

This is a picture of the Ottobueren's city center. We picked up a pretzel here!

This was the kind of view we had as we drove through Bavaria. Gorgeous!
It was a bit cloudy that weekend, so we never saw the tops of the Alps. It was MBA's first time to the Alps, so that kind of stunk for him. However, it was still beautiful!!!

That first evening we stayed in a small Alpine village called Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Now that's a mouthful!

It was a charming little village nestled in between two very large mountains. That evening I was introduced to Swabian Noodles, also referred to as Spatzle. If you're ever headed to Bavaria, make sure to take a taste of these noodles. They were delicious!

After a hearty breakfast the next morning, we headed out to explore the area. Our first stop was Ettal:
The Ettal Abbey

Isn't this beautiful?

The interior was stunning. No picture will replicate anything close to its splendor.

 During the winter of 1940-1941, Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived at this monastery. Like Bonhoeffer, many of those at the Ettal community were involved in the conspiracy to kill Hitler. It's also alleged that Bonhoeffer wrote Ethics while at this monastery.

Next, I had the guys drive me through Oberamaggau. Only 4 kilometers from Ettal, this small town is world-known for its production of the Passion Play put on every ten years since 1635 (more or less!). We just so happened to drive through this little town on the opening day of its months-long season of the Passion Play.

Next, we headed off to see Ludwig II of Bavaria's extravagant castles. This was his vacation home. 

The Herrenchiemsee:
The style of the building was to mimic Versaille.

Ludwig supposedly never received guests at this home. It was only him and his servants at this castle.

 Our friend Scott

Grounds of Ludwig's Vacation Home

 We then headed off for Schloss Neuschwanstein.
 We drove along this gorge on our way and just had to get out and take a look. 

Enjoying the view!

The Neuschwanstein Castle
Then, we were headed up that mountain! The officials at the castle said it would take 40 minutes to walk up it, and the guys decided we should see if we could beat the time. 20 minutes later and soaked in sweat, we proved to the officials that their time could be beaten.

From the parking lot, we also saw this castle.

Here's a close-up. As it was really foggy and started raining pretty hard, I unfortunately don't have many pictures of the castle that don't include my hand in them (an attempt to keep the water off the lens!).

Fun fact about this castle: it was the inspiration for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle.

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