Monday, August 25, 2008

The Little Things

So, we have been here 3 weeks today and things are seeming to get better each day.  We still do not have our belongings which left a week before we did.  This is the last thing that we are waiting for.  This shipment has a reinforcement of clothes, (I am so sick of my 2 pairs of jeans and washing Nate's underwear every other day; this is not good for my consumerism as all I want to do is go shopping!), our bikes, cooking utensils, MY HAIR PRODUCTS (I hate frizzies), the computer, the transformer, our DVDs, books, etc.  In all truth though, it's showing me how much I can really live without. Oh......lots of deep soul searching while I am here.  Please God, help me to be a good student!

It's been raining off and on in the typical central European summer weather pattern.  Every time it rained it smelled like the country (read: manure) to me.  Recently however, the smell seems to have dissipated, that or I've gotten used to it :).

Going grocery shopping is difficult, but getting easier.  I tend to buy things that have English or at least Spanish instructions on how to prepare them.  It takes me forever to decipher a food label.  This is the tipping point, I have to learn German.  D'oh!

Meat is scary.  It's Germany, right? So LOTS of meat, all mixed and mushed into sausages.  But what's in that sausage?  Is is beef? pork? chicken? veal? who knows?  Your best guess is something from a pig, be it bacon, pork, ham or feet, they love their piggies here.

One popular dish here is called Leberkäse, literally translated it is liver cheese.  However, it does not contain liver nor cheese, discuss......
It's mostly "schweinefleisch", yes, swine flesh.  Really tough to eat when its read that way.  Nate loves it and thinks it tastes like a glorified hot dog.  Eh, close enough.  I really wish I knew how to cook better. 

Another detail about Germany is that you cannot buy over-the-counter medicines anywhere except these special stores called apothekes. They are virtually on every corner, but you cannot self-diagnose, look over your options and then pick one, no.  The following is a true story:

I went up to the counter today, where I spoke to a pharmacist (I think), 
"Enchuldigung, Sprechen sie Englisch?"
"Yes a little bit." [of course]  I tell her the symptoms.
"Um, yes, I need a medicine for upset stomach..."
"Um, well, yes, but um, after you eat, you have to go to the bathroom......uh [at this point I'm making lots of gestures, I'm sure you can imagine me, making churning movements with my hands in the abdomen area]....I NEED SOMETHING FOR DIARRHEA!"  Well, I didn't actually shout it, but it felt like it having to say it aloud.
"Oh yes, I understand."And then she goes into the back room, which is filled with drawers to the ceiling, and gets the medicine for me, this tiny little bottle of drops. OOOOOOK.  When I got home and looked at it more closely, it's more for irritable bowel syndrome or dyspepsia.  Sigh.  The language barrier.  Thank you Tower of Babel and human pride! Grrr!

You can't just say "I would like some [discreet, name-brand] Pepto-Bismol please."  After all, they do not have any of the brands I'm used to, the only one I recognize is Bayer.  It's so embarrassing. Though the pharmacist does give me directions in English as best they can, I have to remember it.  Maybe its good medical practice, and Americans already self-diagnose probably too much, but so much for privacy!  And we Americans LOVE our privacy.  I can't wait to get something really personal, like a yeast infection or something.

Just so you know, and are not worried, Nathan and I do not have diarrhea (yet), but I'm trying to stock up on the essentials: medicine for headaches, upset stomach, antibiotic cream, cough syrup, etc. Please pray that we NEVER get sick while here. :)

 Anyways, that's usually what I do most days, go grocery shopping or apotheke shopping, clean, do laundry, cook and try to pick up German on TV.  I can't wait until Merissa gets here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

In Search of Kaffee

Nathan and I are total coffee snobs.  I'm sure most of you knew that.  And like most snobs, we have our preferences and think that they are the best.  It seems that most europeans prefer their coffee robust, meaning dark roasted and (in our opinion), burnt.  Both Italy and France roast their coffee this way, and Germany likes what its neighbors like.

Unfortunately we are Americans and we like our roast light, acidic and highly caffeinated.  Well, at least Nate and I do.  So searching for a cup of coffee that we prefer has been a bit trying.  We did find this place, the San Francisco Coffee Company, a German chain with an American, west coast, bay area theme.  The coffee is not bad (but still catering to German tastes) and most mornings you could find us at the downtown location pictured above.  Bonus: the menu is in English! 

There is continued hope, though!  At the famous Dallmayr shop (like a royal delicatessen), they have coffee beans from all over the world, including our favorite Ethiopian origin beans.  When we went to order the light roasted beans, the woman behind the counter raised her eyebrows and said in a wary voice, "It's very strong....", and Nathan and I couldn't be happier.   

The search for half and half however, is useless.  

Pictures of the Hofbräuhaus

This is the most famous beer hall in Munich.  It seats 4,000 (but there are larger ones!), is full of tourists and "it's Oktoberfest all year".  There is an oompah band playing in the last picture.  Interestingly enough, Hitler used to frequent this place with his newly formed German Workers Party in the 20s.  Apparently Munich is where the Nazis sort of began... 

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


So, we move into our new flat tomorrow.  I'll post some pictures as soon as I can take them.  We are living in Haidhausen which is a little neighborhood in eastern Munich.  As you may or may not have noticed, German words are like English sentences without spaces, they are so loooong!  Our street name is one of those, and it's awesome.  We will be living on Schneckenburgerstrasse.  Schnecken. Burger.  Strasse.  It's just fun to say and it's one of the few German words I have down.

I think I will be the most excited about this new place.  To be perfectly honest, it's been a difficult week for me.  I am experiencing culture shock and tend to get lonely during the day while Nate's at work.  There is no one to really talk to, except the few homeless people who ask for money, and would you believe it, they can even do it in English--and eloquently to boot. Good thing I'm from Santa Cruz and am used to it.  

But with the flat, a place to call "home", I can finally stop living out of my suitcase, my belongings will be delivered (including the all important bikes) and I can go grocery shopping, thus making me feel more independent.  

I think I need to go to a biergarten, order a mass,  and do what the Bavarians call "guanteln"--a tradition of mumbling complaints about anything and everything into your beer.  Actually, one of our first days here, Nathan and I had lunch in Viktualienmarkt's biergarten, and there was some old man shouting in German.  At first I thought he was drunk (probably right on the money there), and yelling at someone in particular, but nobody seemed to care and he just went right on cursing.  Entertaining actually. 

Monday, August 11, 2008

Marienplatz and the Underground

So, Munich is named for the medieval site "zu den Munichen" or the place of the little monks and so, as you can see above center, a little monk is still Munich's symbol today. 
This is the city center, Marienplatz, full of shops and restuaurants, it still has a gilded statue that one of the princes put in place just after the black plague, it's still there!  (be sure not to touch it!!! :)

Medieval Buildings

This is Frauenkirche (Cathedral of Our Lady), Munich's largest church, with only it's twin towers escaping WWII bombings.

This is the Rathaus or City Hall.
And their sometimes freaky gargoyles/waterspouts.

Englischer Garten

These pictures are in the English Garden, this is a huge green space similar to Central Park in NYC. People come here to jog, walk, ride bikes, picnic, play soccer or make out in the bushes.

This was a guy surfing on the river Isar.  It was pretty cool, but because it's so narrow he didn't get very long rides.

Friday, August 8, 2008


I was not being shy.  Nathan has the laptop at work and I can hardly check my email let alone blog.  Besides, it has been crazy here.  

First we arrive and it's cloudy and raining.  Then we are trying like mad to get our resident permit, a local bank account (so we can rent an apartment), an apartment itself,  register as a resident of Munich (yes it's different), a work permit for Nate, shipping/customs, wire transfer from our bank and a local phone number.  These things are all tied to one another too--can't get an apartment without a bank acct, can't get a bank acct without an address, can't get an apartment without a wire transfer of money, can't get a wire transfer period from our stupid bank.  Also, we are waiting to see if the German government will recognize my last name as York because my passport has my maiden name (the addendum in the passport which changes my name to York may not be sufficient).  Ugh.  What a nightmare.  Thank you government bureaucracy.  Needless to say, those of you who think that moving abroad is romantic, and it is in a sense, and this all WILL get better, it's also a pain in the ass.

Ok, enough complaining.  It really is beautiful here.  The past few days have had cloudless skies and warm weather.  It's summer, so this place is hopping with people and there really are locals who wear their lederhosen and feathered fedora hats whilst chugging ein Maß (read: mass) and eating sausage!!!  I wish I had pictures to show you, but in classic Shera style, the USB cord I need to transfer pics to the blog are packed in the air shipment held up in customs.  D'oh! 

I'll post pictures as soon as I can, sorry everyone.  I miss you, please feel free to call and talk with me in English! I miss it so!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

We made it!

Okay, this is Nate writing...Shera is being shy :) So this is our blog where we plan on posting updates/photos of our time in Munich. We arrived last night around 5:30pm, and then rode the train from the airport to the city center where we checked-in to our hotel near Rosenheim Platz. The hotel is okay (long-term hotel with little kitchenette), but we will hopefully find an apartment soon, as we are looking today! We will have intermittent Internet access from our current apartment, so please be patient if you leave a message and we can't get back to you right away.