Monday, November 28, 2011

The Traveler Returns

     So I was excited about being up to three blogs in only eleven days of the month...but then, you know, you blink, and there are three days left in November and you haven't posted a blog. And by you, I most definitely mean me. Maybe I'll crank another one out by Wednesday just to prove a point. But then again, maybe not.

      But before you condemn me too harshly, I have excuses! Oh, do I have excuses!

      Started off with a weekend in Salzburg with this lovely lady.

      Followed by a whirlwind ten-day trip in the great beyond to play maid of honor for this awesome wedding,

The happy couple: David and Katie Runkel

visit some family,

and help this guy celebrate his birthday. 

     And as of yesterday evening, I am back in the Fatherland.

     As always returning from any sort of home-related activity, it's a flurry of mixed feelings coming back to Munich. I know I'm incredibly fortunate to be living here in Germany, but it's always with sadness that I say goodbye to family and Nate and always sets me into a day or two of self-pity. That combined with the last remnants of the nasty cold/ear infection I developed on my flight OVER to the states a week and a half ago has given me a couple quiet evenings in before I resume normal activity, accompanied by some chocolate and giving me the chance to update you lovely people on my life. The sad, sad state of my bank account also is encouraging me to stay in perhaps a little more, or at least find fewer money-spending outlets of fun; let's just say I haven't been paid in about two months and my bank account is...well, let's just say I could barely afford the train ticket home from the airport. Fingers crossed that 1 December is good to me.  And I will say that coming back to my house, my room, my clothes, and my kids(!) was really nice.

      All that aside, and before jumping into the daunting task of two and a half week's worth of updating, let me just say that it was so, so (so, so, so, so, so, so, so, etc.) nice to see everyone I saw when home last week! If you weren't among those people, please don't take it personally: it wasn't really a social trip but really just for the purpose of Katie's wedding. Even my parents were only included so I had a bed to sleep in. (Okay, just kidding on that one.) But really, so nice to those I got to see! And a huge congratulations to Katie and David on their marriage! So happy for you guys!
      So now let's jump back about 16 days to the day following my last blog, when I hopped on a train at Munich's Hauptbahnhof (main train station) and headed to Salzburg. It's about a two-hour train ride from here, for the welcome price of 21 euro, so I bought a toffee nut latte and a brownie at the train station Starbucks and enjoyed my train ride thoroughly, even getting all of my homework done en route. (And disclaimer: I don't go to Starbucks regularly. I, in fact, make it a rule only to get it in large transportation hubs that lack any cultural identity. Those being airports and train stations. So shh.)

      I debarked (is that a word?) from the train in Salzburg, and I can tell you, the grass literally gets greener when you cross into Austria. Don't ask me why. Planning to meet my fellow Salzburg explorer, Andrea (a good friend of Nate's from college and therefore, a friend of mine!), at our hostel after her train got in, so, having a couple hours to kill, decided to find the hostel and then maybe head into town a little. Silly Laura. Construction on one of the bridges closest to the train station added like 45 minutes to my walk to the hostel (I can read a map and follow directions, but when you're lacking one and the other is no longer valid, well, it can happen to anyone, right?), and when my walk back trying to find a shorter way was nearly as long, I decided to just wait for her there. Fortunately we rendezvoused quite easily (helps that there's only one lobby outside the train tracks), and headed to our hostel, finding it much more easily this time as I had considerately eliminated all the ways not to take. Upon finding our room (pleasantly clean and large and homey, and as this was my first hostel stay, will probably ruin all others for me in the future) and stowing our backpacks, we headed out into the chilly night air to find sustenance.

  Salzburg is beautiful. The walk down to the center of town and across the Salzach river is a gorgeous one, filled with cute little shops, lights, restaurants.

     We ended up settling down for some Indian food, beer, and chatting (not as good as my favorite Munich restaurant Sangeet...or Manas (<3) in LA for that matter, but definitely hit the spot) at a cute little restaurant called Zum Mohren just up the street from Mozart's birth house. After another stop at Zum Eulenspiegel for a glass of wine, we headed back to our hostel at around midnight, assuming that for hostel-stayers we were grandmothers, time-wise. But to our surprise, our room was filled with four very-fast-asleep-sleepers, so we as quietly as possible changed and got into bed. (Note: said sleepers were not nearly so considerate when they arose the next morning at like 7 AM...loudly.)

      The next morning we paid our 3 euro or so to get in on the breakfast provided by the hostel: typical German/Austrian fare of rolls, cheese, cold cuts, yogurt, muesli, and juice. Thus fortified, we headed out into the foggy morning (almost freezing to death--we'd been at breakfast in our shirt sleeves since the heat was turned up so high, but outside it was a mere 33 degrees or so.)

      The rest of the day (and by day I mean sunlight hours. Definitely an important distinction, temperature-wise) was taken up by some good old-fashioned sightseeing, from the river to Mozartplatz to the Festung Hohensalzburg (Salzburg Fortress--no better way to get Ein feste burg stuck in your head for a whole day then literally seeing one) and a trek along the whole Mönchsberg hill in a quest to find the University of Redlands house (ordered street numbers aren't as much of an established concept in Austria as in Germany, evidently). Very tired of walking, we collapsed into the Augustiner Bräustübl at around 3 and wined and dined (beer'd and...something'd?).

      I will also say that any such walking excursion as ours is greatly aided by the purchase and consumption of some glühwein. Preferably as early as possible. Fortunately we were aware of such a concept.

Hope this isn't like Starbucks where they put your name on the cup...

Mozart was not that hot.

Washing out my beer mug! I don't know why. Tradition.
City from above
      Upon leaving the beer hall, we planned on visiting a few other things (by visiting I mean walking past), but as soon as the chill wind ripped through the coats we wore, we hightailed it to the nearest cafe for a cappuccino to recover. Plan B swiftly became heading back to the hostel as quickly as possible to avoid hypothermia, and there await further developments and my 21:15 train. Making it back without further mishap, we enjoyed the warmth and wifi of the hostel until it was time for me to head back to the train station. Ride home was uneventful with the somewhat annoying exception of a fellow caught with a ticket under someone else's name...a non-German speaker, he basically preached to the compartment for literally an hour about how it wasn't his fault. So obnoxious. For once not an American though. For once.

    Remainder of the week was fairly uneventful. Choir rehearsal, trip to the movies, out to breakfast. Wednesday I accompanied Cliona to a birthday party of one of her little friends, and stayed the whole two hours chatting with the German mummies. A little nervewracking but actually quite fun (helped by the pastries, cappuccinos, and champagne. Umm, did my parents get to drink alcohol while I played at playdates? Has this been going on all along?) It was very interesting to be in a home other than mine (and this one technically an entirely German home) and talk to German people! Still one of the hardest things to do; it just isn't that often I find myself in a situation to sit down and chat with Germans. The champagne helped.

      The next morning I awoke dark and early to take off for the airport and my 7 AM flight to Los Angeles (via London). A shout-out to my awesome friend Matt who picked me up at 4:30 AM--I wouldn't do that for someone I'd only known a month!

     Since this is an au pair blog and not a life blog, I'll avoid exhaustive detail about my trip other than to say that the wedding was truly a wonderful event, despite the rain and cold, and it was so worth the time/money/effort/etc. to be there for it.

Happy couple at the reception! (That's me on the right.)

       And believe it or not, that's pretty much it. I'll tell you that having made three overseas flights in the last three months, avoid any American airlines and stick with European. American Airlines makes you pay for booze. Umm, what? And British Airlines has impressively good food. Ruminate on that. 

     And though Thanksgiving's over, since I wasn't cool enough to post ON Thanksgiving ('cause I was celebrating, obviously), here:

Things to be thankful for this year:
1. As always, that I'm warm, well-fed, and healthy
2. My loving family back in the states, and getting to see them last week
3. My friends throughout the world!
4. Getting to spend Thanksgiving with Nate and his friends in a country I never even imagined I'd visit
5. Having the chance to spend a year living in a country I've always dreamed of living in
6. My cool new leg warmers and Russian spy gloves
7. That it's only three weeks till Nate comes to visit for Christmas and New Year's
8. That I get Christmas in GERMANY
9. For Katie and David, their beautiful wedding, and the life they're starting together
10. For you, the awesome people who read my blog!

And an excerpt from one of my favorite poems, since I feel it's apt for this time of year and Katie's wedding:

"...let us rejoice not because our friendship has flooded us and nourished us
river lands whose abundance is food for all desire...
nor because we have so much height many confuse our eyes with stars
nor because the flags flap in the windows of citizens who have been happy for a hundred years, to have life and little things to defend
nor because rooted in poetry we have the rights to the words words that form and deform the universe
nor because we weep without ridicule and know how to laugh
nor because we smoke and drink as always
let us rejoice because the director of fire and poets
love that floods us as light floods all solid space between the stars and planets
love commands today that my friend will marry."
--from Poème lu au mariage d'André Salmon, by Guillaume Apollinaire

     Post will come later in the week. It's now officially Christmas market season in Munich, so if you're lucky I'll visit one soon and give you the scoop.

     Happy Thanksgiving, all!

1 comment:

  1. Dad here: I missed your blog entries. Thanks. I (we) appreciate the effort. Thank you for blogging in person, too. It was soooooo beautifully surreal to see you on that speck of sand in time. I'm thankful that we got to see you and hug you and kiss your rosy cheeks!