Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Culture Shock

                                                              
Yep, we're experiencing textbook culture shock.  Different sources provide anywhere from 4 to 6 "Steps."  We'll go with the four steps/phases:
  • Honeymoon Phase
  • Negotiation Phase
  • Adjustment Phase
  • Mastery Phase
I believe that we're currently in the "Negotiation Phase."  After our recent weekend trip to Strasbourg and Colmar, France, we came "home" to a place we don't consider home yet.  No AC, no screens (thus many flies and bugs), none of our stuff (still on a ship somewhere), scarcely stocked kitchen, one car (the Yaris is still on its way), dirty and dusty house, and a laundry process that takes 5+ hours (no kidding).  The language barrier has been tough too.

HOWEVER, this was to be expected and we're fully aware that most people experience this frustration when moving.  Our stuff will come, our car will come, our house will get clean, I'm putting up screens on the windows, we are buying an AC unit, and we're figuring out the laundry process.  

Our Memorial Day weekend trip to France was fantastic and those posts will be forthcoming.  In all reality, there's too much to see, too much to do and too little time to waste on the "Negotiation Phase," thus we're planning to go straight to the Mastery Phase ASAP.  :-)


Monday, May 21, 2012

Weinwanderung

Sunday afternoon we spent the day "wine wandering" through vineyards and tasting wine. We took Gizmo on his first train ride to where we would start our trek. The Esslingen Winery, in the medieval town of Esslingen, holds this festival every year.  Their vineyards line the hillsides overlooking the town.  It was a beautiful sunny 85 degree day, so I think everyone that lives within an hour of the town came out for the wine.

                                                      


We started out at the bottom of the vineyards to buy our wine glasses that hang from our necks (very convenient!).  You then follow a path through the vineyards to six different stations.  At each station you can buy different wines and snacks.  There are picnic tables set up at each station, but you have to get pretty lucky to snag one of those!




When we got lucky enough to find a table at the 3rd station, a German family sat down with us.  First, it was just the two parents that sat down.  They were probably in their 70s.  The wife didn't speak any English, and the husband spoke very little English.  That didn't stop him from talking!  He kept telling us that he learned English 65 years ago in school.  After that, we really didn't understand much of anything...he always started with, "You help me!"  His wife kept laughing and shaking her head.  I think it was the wine and the heat!  Luckily, their two daughters came and sat down with us.  They spoke English well enough to have a good conversation.  One of the daughters is taking a trip to a ranch in Arizona.  We told her to prepare to be hot! The family was so nice.  They kept filling our glasses with wine and feeding Gizmo under the table.  (We didn't have the heart to tell them no!)


                              
                              

We made our way to the last station and were pretty tired at that point.  The trail was up and down hills going in one direction, so of course in order to get back to the train station we had to walk the entire length of the trail.  Kyle got on Google maps and estimated that we walked about 8.5-9 km.  I know that's not a lot to you marathon runners out there, but you normally don't drink wine when you run!
                   

                              

Tomorrow we'll finally be moving into our house!  Our stuff won't arrive for another couple of weeks, but we'll have a little bit of loaner furniture to hold us over.  We're very anxious to feel like we actually live here instead of living out of a hotel, and Gizmo is really excited for his first fenced in yard!


Tübingen

We didn't go on any big trips this past weekend, but we see some great sights close to home! Just 15 minutes south of our house (that we'll be moving into tomorrow) is a beautiful, quaint town called Tübingen. When you think of a town in Germany, this town is probably what you picture. The town itself dates back to the 6th or 7th century, but even before that there is evidence of a Roman settlement dating back to 87 AD. The medieval old town lies at the center. A marktplatz is the center of the old town where markets and festivals take place. Timbered buildings and sidewalk cafes surround the open space. The most impressive building is the rathaus, or city hall, which is covered by frescoes.

The Rathaus Towers Over the Marktplatz
Marktplatz with Some Live Music
Stiftskirche (Collegiate Church/Cathedral)


The Neckar river runs through the town. It's a shallow, lazy river where people like to row and ride paddle boats. There's a quiet park on a long, skinny island in the center of the river.

The Neckar River
View from the Island on the Neckar


Tübingen is a college town, so of course that means good shopping and a lot of good places to eat! We ate at a brewery right on the river called Neckarmüller Braueri (brewery). We had a great view of the river along with our great food and beer. I had really good fish with a mango-pineapple chutney, although I thought I ordered turkey :)


A park near the University of Tübingen where students practice tight rope walking while drinking beer and grilling out.

View Upstream of the Neckar River from a Popular Biergarten
The restaurant we dined at, Neckarmüller Braueri, along the river.

If you come visit us you'll definitely get a tour of this town!

 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Triberg and the Black Forest


Saturday Kyle and I took a trip to Triberg and the Black Forest.  It was a USO tour and was well worth it!  We had a great tour guide that lives in a small village in the Black Forest, so she took us to places that are off the beaten path that we wouldn't have been able to see on our own.  We started off visiting the work shop of a master wood carver. Unfortunately he is one of only three left in the Black Forest.


We then went to visit a bee keeper at his farm.  He showed us the hives, and some people on our tour held one of the boards of honeycomb full of bees.  I did not partake in that.  (Didn't have my epi-pen with me :)  We got to sample some of the stuff that they make like honey rum, honey beer, honey gummy bears, and of course, honey!  Wandering around on their farm were ponies, chickens, cows, goats, and cats.  I think they were kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies of the Black Forest (in a good way!).

The bee keeper's farm
We stopped to have lunch at a generations old family farm.  Everything we ate was produced at their organic farm.  We had homemade bread, Black Forest ham, cheese, and pickles.  We even did some schnapps tastings of their homemade schnapps.  The grandma did the tastings with us and took us to see the backyard garage distillery.  It seemed a bit moonshine-ish, and it really warmed you up on the way down; especially the sweet potato schnapps.  That was a bit rough!

Nothing like the Black Forest ham from Kroger!
After lunch we went to see the shop of a cuckoo clock maker.  He did a little demonstration for us and told us about the process. He does absolutely beautiful work.  Cuckoo clocks were invented in the Black Forest.  This was the first time that the thought, "I need a cuckoo clock" ever crossed my mind.


We had some time to wander around the small mountain town of Triberg.  The first stop for Kyle and I was at a cafe to eat none other than true Black Forest cake.  It was definitely a lot different that the kind I've had in the US, but very tasty.

The quaint town of Triberg
Right at the edge of town is Germany's tallest waterfall.  We climbed up to the top.  Everywhere you looked was another gorgeous photo-op.  I think Kyle took probably 80 pics of just the waterfall.  I can't wait to go back in the winter.   The fall freezes over and they do a light show.  Sounds pretty amazing!
Happy 5 year Wedding Anniversary!
 After such a busy weekend with Munich on Friday and the Black Forest on Saturday, Kyle and I still had enough energy to go back for the last day of Spring Fest in Stuttgart on Sunday.  The USO had several tables reserved in Grandls Hofbrau tent.  Last week we spent most of the time wandering around the fest, so this time we spent most of the time in the tent listening to the bands and enjoying half chickens and Hofbrau hefeweizen.  Nothing like chicken and beer for Sunday brunch, but I guess its 5 o'clock somewhere.

Do I look German yet?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Munich


First Trip to Munich



Friday, Kyle took a day off before he starts his real work schedule so that we could take a day trip to Munich (Munchen in German).  The day started of with a drive on the autobahn, which was a trip in itself.  This was the first time either of us had been on the autobahn for any length of time, and it was kind of nuts.  Luckily, Kyle did the driving.  In and around busy areas there ARE speed limits, but once we got out of Stuttgart the speed limits were gone (except for this HUGE, really annoying construction project.)  It was a gorgeous drive through pine covered mountains and rolling green farmland.   We even saw the Alps on the horizon as we neared Munich.    Kyle maintained a speed of about 85-90 mph on the no speed limit stretches, and we still were passed many times as if we were Ma and Pa out for a Sunday drive.  The cars flew past so fast it was really startling.  It took a while for me to stop gasping as cars flew by, scaring the crap out of me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love driving fast, but this was pretty unreal.  (We were very pleased at the smooth, unshaking, and quiet ride of the new Jetta :-)

The first thing we did once we got to Munich was of course, have some sausage and beer.  I read about a really fabulous open air market, so we headed in that direction for lunch.  There were vendors selling great looking produce, meat, cheese, flowers, wine, etc.  After checking out the market, we wanted to see the main attractions in Munich since it was our first of hopefully many trips there.  We did a self-guided walking tour to see all of the sights.  We took our time strolling through the streets and plazas, stopping at outdoor cafes and biergartens on the way.  

Some dried chilis at the Viktualienmarkt (famous Munich market)
Outdoor biergarten at the Viktualienmarkt
The Neues Rathaus at the Marienplatz and Lori inside the Courtyard
Alter Peter
Church of Our Lady ("onion domes" are the city's trademark)
Germany's most famous beer hall: the Hofbräuhaus
Inside the Hofbräuhaus
Our favorite part of the day was walking through the English Garden, which is much more than a garden.  It’s more like New York’s Central Park with walking and biking paths, ponds, streams, and people-watching galore.  It was a beautiful 85 degree day in the middle of a string of cold, rainy days, so everyone was out with their friends.  There were people playing soccer, tanning, riding bikes, playing guitars, and swimming in the stream.  There’s a part of a river that runs through the park where there is always a big wave because of the currents.  Surfers line up there to take their turn riding the wave in the middle of a land-locked city.

Surfing in Munich at the English Gardens
Chinese Pagoda--Great Stopping Point for Rehreshments
Dog Playing Fetch into the River
We’re definitely going to need to go back to Munich many times to be able to see everything that we want to see.  Saturday for our 5th Wedding Anniversary we headed to Triberg and the Black Forest.  Sunday we’re heading back to Stuttgart for the last day of the Spring Fest.  More pics and stories on those trips are coming soon!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Shopping and Dining in Stuttgart

Lori long since decided that she needed a Dirndle (the traditional Bavarian dress worn by women at beer fests), so we made an evening of it and went shopping in downtown Stuttgart.  We were really amazed about how alive and active the city was.  There were thousands of people shopping, eating ice cream, carrying around their various beers, and just wandering around.  They had even set up a temporary skateboard ramp:

                                                                   

We stopped to have dinner at an incredibly busy restaurant with 80% of their seating outside.  Our German is still terrible, so we essentially did an "eenie meenie miney mo" and pointed at something.  I ended up with some tasty maultaschen (essentially German style ravioli), while Lori had a nice pork loin steak.  It worked out :-)



Apparently, there's some type of festival, concert, or show going on downtown.  Tonight, it was an animated film festival.  They set up a huge screen in the centralized park and people sat on benches, blankets, and the grass watching with beers in hand.


As for the dirndle?  She found one!  More pictures to come...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Frühlingsfest!

This weekend Kyle and I got to partake in our first real German experience- Stuttgart's Frühlingsfest, or Springfest.  It is like a smaller version of the Oktoberfest, but in the spring.  The fest was like a state fair on steroids complete with roller coasters, sausages, lederhosen, and of course beer!  As you enter the fest it is a sensory overload with all of the lights and the smells.  This is what you see as you first enter the fest.


Kyle and I went with our friends Charles, Ingrid, and their daughter Lilly.  We were all craving some wurst, so we hit a food tent right away.  Kyle and I both had a curry wurst, which is a bratwurst with ketchup and curry powder.  Delish!  The five year old, Lilly, went straight for the foot long rotwurst served on a whole baguette. Needless to say she didn't finish!  A little bit later we each had chocolate covered fruit on a stick.  Sorry, we devoured it before Kyle could get a pic!


Curry Wurst
Incredibly Cute Picture of Lilly Attempting a .5 Meter Wurst

After wandering around the fest taking in the sights, smells, and a Ferris wheel ride, it was time to sample some of the famed German fest beer.  We had a round in a more natural looking area of the fest while listening to some good old fashioned Oompah music.  Here is our first fest beer.  Prost!


We walked around the market part of the fest where they sold everything from soap to dental tools.  (Yes, Kyle bought a dental tool.)  Then we decided it was then time for one of the three huge beer tents. (From the inside, you would never guess that the beer tent was a temporary structure.)  We met up with a few more people and continued to eat and drink.  The thing to eat at this beer tent was a roasted half chicken.  It was delicious and juicy, and of course salty to make you drink more! The main course of our fest meal was beer, which is served by the liter. My beer was as big as my head!



They even had a beer ride to keep the little ones occupied and to buy their parents some more time.


After the fest, the ladies and kids headed home (don't worry, we were on public transit) while the guys headed for the go-kart tracks.  At this indoor track, the go-karts did not have governors to keep the speeds down, making it much more fun than the go-karts next to the putt-putt that eight year olds get their kicks on.  Kyle said he giggled like a little school girl!  (I'm thinking he needs to take me to this place...I didn't want to nose in on the bro time :)  And in typical German fashion, at the track is a bar.  Sounds safe, right?  We've heard from many people that Germany is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

We're hitting the fest again on Sunday with a group from the USO.  It will be the last day of the fest, so it should be pretty awesome!