Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Summer's Last Hurrah

      This last week has been what the Germans refer to as Altweibersommer: Indian summer. The temperature has averaged about 75 F (24 C I should be saying; I'm awful at thinking in celsius). It's been clear, incredibly blue skies with just a touch of a breeze, and the leaves on the trees are just starting to turn into the colors of fall. The slant of light makes it clear it isn't summer anymore, but it really felt like it this week! I confess I'm really looking forward to my first genuine fall. California does changing leaves pretty well, but the weather sort of just goes from hot-hot-hot to grey and boring winter weather, skipping the fall altogether. I think this desire for a real autumn comes from a Theodore Roethke poem, but I'm excited nonetheless.
      I tried to take full advantage of the weather while it was here: learning from the Germans! Unlike us spoiled Californians, the Europeans don't take their good weather for granted: their weather is unpredictable and unreliable, so when its nice, they drop everything to hike, sunbathe, and barbecue.

      The week was pretty straightforward. Notable things include Kilian's violin lessons, which will have their third installment this Thursday, Kilian's football, and Cliona's dancing. To briefly summarize:

  •       Kilian has been dying to play violin based off of his love for a popular children's TV show called "Little Amadeus," about Mozart's adventures as a kid. It has naturally about .1% basis in fact, but includes a lot of instrument playing and incorporates a lot of Mozart compositions. Lessons so far consist of identifying parts of the violin and being able to pluck the strings, but he seems to be having a lot of fun, even if most of the noises emanating from his practice sessions make my ears hurt. I take him to these lessons and he's too shy to go in by himself so I get to sit in and read/watch.
  •       After his disastrous first week at fußball, things have looked up immensely. He was talked in to going a second week to give it the old college try at the very least, and ended up loving it, so looks like he's in it to win it now. I think this Friday will be week 4, but he's at least figuring out how things work!
  •       Cliona started a dance class two weeks ago, led by one of the ladies at her kindergruppe. I can tell you that if you ever need some entertainment, go to a dance class of 2- and 3-year-olds. It is HILARIOUS. On our way this week we somehow lost her tights out of the pram, so she did her half hour session in an undershirt, pink tutu, and pink underwear (at least it matched!). She also has the skinniest little chicken legs ever and I spent the session just waiting for her underwear to fall off as she rain around, but thankfully we made it through. Anyway, the half an hour of "dance" consists mainly of these ten little girls running in not-very graceful-like-a-bird circles, arms flapping and shrieking with excitement. Everytime one would head over to her mom, all the others would take advantage of the idea and do the same, so during that half hour I think Cliona ran back to me about 15 times, to get a drink, laugh, be cool like the other kids, et cetera. It was hilarious.

     Saturday was a gorgeous day (as indeed the whole weekend was), so I headed out to Neubiberg for the afternoon. Neubiberg is the nearest little suburb to Waldperlach, though it's technically a town of its own, being just on the other side of the city limits from us. Kilian goes to a playgroup down there so I know the area a bit, so I took a couple books and rode the bus down to the Rathausplatz, the city hall plaza. The city hall is a gorgeous old building in a lovely plaza with trees, fountains, benches, cobblestoned paths, and other old buildings, and it was lovely to sit there and read without children screaming around! A few pictures: 

Neubiberg Rathaus
Plaza outside the Rathaus

      After a couple hours and a couple books (One Day and The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, in case you were wondering. I know. You weren't.), I headed down to the main road to get some ice cream. Germany has what are known as Eiscafes, ice cream cafes, which serve--you guessed it--ice cream. Nothing similar to a Cold Stone or anything like that, they're actually genuine cafes with menus that have tons and tons of ice cream options, from ice cream sundaes to banana splits to soda floats to fruit ice cream assortments to crazy inventions like these (thanks, Google):
Eis Pizza

Eis spaghetti

      I don't know why the US hasn't caught on to these. Though I suppose another way to get everyone obese isn't really necessary. But really, these cafes are lovely. You can also get normal pizza or pasta if you're so inclined/so boring. Anyway, I sat down with a Eisschokolade (basically a hot-fudge sundae without the hot) and a cappuccino and continued reading, until I heard little, vaguely familiar voices screaming, "Laura, Laura!" Anne and Michael had bribed the kids with ice cream to get them to go to the Baumarkt (building store, where you'd buy paint or carpentry things) with them, so they all sat down with me and had our ice cream in the hot afternoon sun. Upon heading home, I discovered the bus back to my house came only once an hour on weekends, and I'd missed it by about three minutes. It's only about 2 and a half kilometers back to my house, but my shoes were giving me blisters. Luckily for someone of my awesomeness (read: weirdness), the sidewalks where I live are pretty wide and well-paved, so I read the whole way home. Yes, while walking. It was lovely. I recommend the second book I mentioned, by the way. Look it up.

      Sunday I basically read in the sun all day. It was lovely. The family came home early afternoon and we barbecued for dinner. This generally consists of grilled vegetables, wurst (sausages) for the kids, lamb or steak for Anne and Michael, and fish for me. Sometimes there's a nice, well-cut salmon filet or something, but quite often it's an entire fish. I say this not to shock you portion-wise (it's trout, so pretty small), but that it's a whole fish. As in, with eyes and fins and tail and skeleton and eww. I'm still working on quelling my nausea as I quickly decapitate said fish after grilling and hide its head (and accusatory eyes therein) under the aluminum foil. I'm such an American. 

      Monday was the Tag der Deutschen Einheit, and thus a holiday! This holiday is similar to our 4th of July, celebrating the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990. Sort of a dull day, but the reason they chose this as their freedom celebration is because the anniversary of the wall falling, November 9, is also the anniversary of Kristallnacht, not really a day anyone wants to be celebrating. Though similar in purpose to our independence day, there aren't celebrations like ours: no fireworks or anything like that. There's a huge parade every year in the capital city of the German state presiding over the Bundesrat (the constitutional body representing the states), though this year it defied tradition and took place in Bonn, the former capital of West Germany, instead of in Düsseldorf, the actual capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia. In Munich, however, the only evidence of the holiday was that all the stores were closed and there were people out sunbathing everywhere. 
      I headed to the English Gardens to read and enjoy the sun for a few hours. It was gorgeous out, so definitely more naked men (and even a few women!) than usual. Some photos: 

Temple to Diana in the Hofgarten
View of the temple with pillars of Theatinerkirche in the background
Isar River in the English Gardens
Sunbathers in the Gardens; temple to Apollo in background
Guy tightrope-walking across the river...why, I don't know
      The gardens are really wonderful. The bulk of the Isar runs elsewhere; it's small channels that are funneled into the gardens, making manageable, four-feet-deep-and-ten-feet-wide little streams that run throughout the park, with just enough current you can float along peacefully (or drunkenly, if that's your preference) downstream. 
      At about 3:30 I headed back into the main square to meet a couple of friends to go check out the last day of Oktoberfest. We only stayed about three hours, but managed to drink some beer and get a lot of pictures. I went last week, of course, but I wanted to see it in the daylight so I could get a better perspective on it. Some more photos (a photo-heavy entry, I'm afraid, so hope that's a good thing?):

Famous Olympic Rings rollercoaster

      And with that, Oktoberfest is over for another year. To finish off the night, we headed off to an Indian food restaurant near Odeonsplatz and ate way too much delicious Indian food. Perfect ending to a holiday weekend. 

Yes, I know I look about 15 in this photo. There's no such thing as underage drinking in Europe so it doesn't matter. Ha!

BLOGS ARE SO LONG! If you've kept up to this point, I salute you! I swear I'm almost caught up. 

      I had my first language class today, which really ended up being a lot of fun. The class is 9-12:15 Tuesdays and Thursdays from now until December 1, so really a pretty significant amount of time for the measly 140 it costs (not that I pay for it anyway--love being an au pair!). I take this class through the Munich Volkshochschule (community college, basically). The class meets near Karlsplatz, one of the main U-Bahn/S-Bahn stations. Interlude--Karlsplatz is what is called an Einkaufspassage (shopping passage). On street level you see a lovely fountain and a lot of streets, but underground is basically a mall. So weird. I'm sure New Yorkers are unimpressed, but California could never figure something like that out. Anyway, I found the bulding where my class was at about 8:49 (victory!), realized I really had to use the restroom, and had to head back into the passage to find a bathroom, putting me back at the class at about 8:59:50. So much for being early. Anyone who knows me is chuckling at another Laura-really-has-to-use-the-bathroom story...shh. 
       To my surprise, I was not only the only American in the class, I was the only native-English speaker and the only North American! My class consists of twelve girls/women, nine of whom are au pairs (myself included). Four come from the Ukraine, two from Russia, one from Poland, one from Romania, one from Italy, one from Argentina, and one from Japan. I've never been in a foreign language class (or any class, for that matter) in which the students don't share a language. In any language class in the states, if people don't understand a word/concept, the teacher will eventually, best intentions aside, switch back to English to explain. Not so in this class. It's 100% German, even when explaining unfamiliar concepts, which is so much better for thinking in the language. The three-hour class went quite fast, with a lot of introduction activities and discussions. I will say that it's tremendously hard to understand German spoken with an Italian accent (so many vowels! Everywhere!) as well as Ukrainian, but we'll see how I do. I certainly held my own in the basic speaking, and several of the girls were astonished I was from the USA; they'd thought I was a native speaker (with a five-year-old's education, I guess; maybe it was an insult?)
       We had a twenty-minute break for coffee/snack (the class is located conveniently above a bakery/coffee house). I talked with the Romanian girl and the Polish woman during the break, both of whom wanted to speak English with me to practice. I understand the desire, but I'm there to learn German! I don't want to practice my English! My English is plenty good without talking to other people in it. I'll work on being more firm about that. Oddly enough, I feel sort of good about having homework to do for Thursday. (I am, at my core, a perpetual student.)

       The rest of the day was grocery shopping, cleaning out the fridge, hanging up laundry, and playing with kiddos. Two more days of my Indian summer (is that politically incorrect now? Probably) remain, then this weekend the temperature sinks into the low 40s and about a solid week of rain is forecast, so I'll soak up the sun while I can! I'll leave you with a silly kid photo, as is becoming the norm. Have a great week, everyone! Hard to believe tomorrow marks the end of my fifth week here. I so appreciate your readership and support--I'm having a blast here but I miss everyone back at home and would love to hear from all of you!



  1. Ohhhh I had lots of chuckles with this one! LOVE this last photo of Cliona! Pops is pressuring me to finish so he can read; I'm going to have to go back and reread more carefully. Interesting about the language class and not have a shared language--not what I would have predicted!

  2. Dad says, "You had me laughing OUT LOUD at the trout's accusing eyes! This is such an amusing blog entry! That your language class has no English speakers is such a bonus. To be surrounded by all these foreigners--wow, you're lucky in any language. And as to your ? re. myriad photos, they are telling their 1000 words beautifully, so keep'em coming, but whatever you do, keep realizing they are nothing without your delightful concomitant narrative."