So hey all! I meant to post at least a little hello before the Christmas madness hit, but let's face it, I was doing more exciting things (sorry). So before I get too distracted, Frohe Weihnachten! Guten Rutsch! Und ein schönes neues Jahr!
So, not that 2012 isn't cool and all (and let's face it, having spent 9 hours longer there than most of you, oh do I know it), but let's sliiiiiiide back into 2011 for the sake of some recapping. To be totally honest, I've no idea where I left off with my last blog (and no, I don't feel like going back and rereading it. Boring!), so my arbitrary starting point for this will-be-way-too-long entry is 2 1/7 weeks in the past to when Nate arrived for Christmas!
This all feels so far in the past I won't bore you with too much detail. (I mean, I could remember it all if I tried. Tried hard. Is it really worth it?) Sparing too much gory detail, Nate flew in midday on Monday of the week before Christmas, and we tried our best to take full advantage of our before-Christmas time to do fun stuff! My family took off for their holiday in Ireland, so we had the house to ourselves for nearly the whole week. My family is so cool. The most impressive part is that they agreed to--nay, offered us--this situation before they'd even met either of us! Good thing we're so cool and trustworthy.
|Happy, Christmas-y room! Ignore my creepy boyfriend.|
Speaking of snow, there's been some! Not on Christmas, sadly, but there were a couple of good days of it the week before, and a veritable snowstorm (remember, California girl) on New Year's Eve! None of it lasted too long, but there was enough to make Nate shovel the sidewalk. Hehehe.
|Not very inviting-looking playground|
|Walking by woods on a snowy...morning?|
Before we jumped headfirst into Christmas celebrations, there was some Hanukkah celebrating to be had! Lacking a real menorah, Nate handily crafted one out of tin foil, and we lit candles for at least four of the appropriate nights, complete with Hanukkah stories and history lessons (for me, obviously). We enhanced said holiday obversation with some homemade latkes as per Nate's mother's recipe! Sadly our eyes greatly exceeded the capacity of our stomachs, but being starving college students at heart, we managed to finish all of them. Cholesterol food baby = ow.
|SO MUCH OIL|
|These weren't actually burnt. My camera wanted to fool you.|
Other fun activities included Indian food consumption, a lot of church visiting, an evening at the opera seeing La Boheme, and even ice skating at Karlsplatz! I think we each fell once. Not bad for being a combined 20 years out of practice or something like that. And last but not least, lots and lots (and lots) of glühwein consumption. We wised up after a couple of nights and bought the premade bottles at the grocery store (with amaretto shots already included) and heated them up with our own additions of cloves, cinnamon sticks, raisins, and clementines. NOM.
|Standing over the ice rink! Note my amazing 1 euro earmuffs!!|
|Blurry shot of the pit at the Bayerische Staatsoper.|
Wow. Here I thought I was doing well and I'm not even up to Christmas yet. Oy. Breathe, Laura. Breathe. Here, look at this happy picture of the Christmas box my mother sent me!
|Homemade chex "TV" mix, Funfetti and Ghiradelli mixes, ginger chews, Burt's Bees. There were socks and scarf too at one point. I absconded with them pre-photo.|
Our Christmas plans have been, since about last April, to head up North to Leipzig for Christmas to spend the big celebration with our good friend, Johann Sebastian Bach. Nate and I spent most of the evening of the 23rd packing up as much food (that being a lot of turkey sandwiches, apples, bananas, trail mix, oatmeal, and cold pasta. My mom should be proud) as we could get our hands on in anticipation of our 8 o'clock ride up to Leipzig with a fellow I'd contacted via the internet (not as sketchy as it sounds, I promise). Until, that is, I received a response email from our ride at about 10 PM, saying he'd been calling me all day and due to car trouble, wouldn't be making the trip on the morrow. A frantic internet search discovered a train ticket that, thank goodness, is a magical multi-person anywhere-in-Germany-for-40-euros, so we swiftly purchased a train ticket and headed off to finish preparing for our trip.
The next morning we headed off to the main train station to catch our first train at about 10:45. Our total trip took three trains and about 6.5 hours, but we survived (barely)! We arrived safely in Leipzig and made it to our hostel by around 5 PM.
|Rough estimate of train route to Leipzig|
I hadn't really thought about the fact that this would be my first trip to the former DDR (East Germany). While it wasn't a phenomenal difference, it was definitely interesting. The wall fell in 1989, which seems to me like a long time ago (based probably only on the fact I don't remember it), but that was a mere 22 years ago. Really not that long. The building style is different, the attitude is slightly different. The apartment/suite we stayed in was a lot more reminiscent of Nate's apartment in Sofia than anything I'd seen in Munich. Granted, Munich is really in a class of its own as far as quality of German cities (#4 in worldwide quality of living survey!), but I think there were differences aside from that, too.
Back to the real world. Our hostel ended up being an apartment more than anything else: couches, kitchen, bathroom, stove. Very impressive, if a little sketchy. We had plans to head immediately to the first service at the Thomaskirche (Bach's former church!), but I foiled plans by erupting into tears at the prospect of not being home on Christmas/Eve, so we pushed our plans back by a few hours so my endlessly patient boyfriend could attempt to make me feel better. Without going into too much detail, though I'd figured it would be sad to not be home for Christmas, I in no way anticipated how sad it would be. I was something of a wreck. Fortunately I have a wonderful boyfriend who baked brownies and apples and even watched Love Actually with me and let me play him Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand Christmas songs.
We finally headed out to catch the first service at 10 PM. Add a midnight chant service, a Christmas morning service, a Christmas evening service, and a second Christmas service to that mix, and we had a pretty ridiculously churchy weekend. Best services were the two morning ones, which each featured a cantata from Bach's Weihnachtsoratorio, with the world famous Thomanerchor boys' choir and the Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra. I had to convince Nate not to lie on Bach's grave (on the altar) and kiss it. Just kidding.
|The Big Guy|
|Bach's stained glass self, between the windows of Jesus and Martin Luther. Heros of the Lutheran Church FTW.|
|Is that really appropriate?|
The rest of our time in Leipzig was largely uneventful. We survived a 52 hour trip with only one restaurant meal (Christmas dinner, at my insistence. Which was Indian food, in case you were curious.), subsiding the rest of the time on coffee, oatmeal, and cold pasta. Leipzig as a city isn't that nice, but the main old city center is quite pretty, with lots of cool churches and squares and historical buildings. We stopped in for a time at the Zeitgeschichte Forum, a free museum dedicated to the history of the city (and Germany as a whole) after WWII. I was utterly fascinated by stories of the Berlin Wall and East Germany when I was a kid (weird, I know), so I dragged us in and we spent a warm couple of hours in there. At around 3 we headed to the train station and met our ride home, and four hours later or so, we were safely back in Munich.
|Mendelssohn! And his women?|
|Don't ask. I have no idea.|
|Mendelssohn's house! And Nate, pretending to be cool.|
|Augustusplatz, with the Paulinerkirche on the left and the Gewandhaus and Operahaus on either side of the plaza.|
|Cool Leipzig monument by night|
Post-Christmas and New Year's!
Thankfully we made it back to Munich in time to set out the big Santa presents for the kids to come back to (in background of first picture, waaaaaay above). Kilian got a pirate treasure island Playmobil set and Cliona got a Playmobil dollhouse. Most exciting. My family very sweetly got Nate and I tickets to a concert of the München Camerata, a string orchestra that played lots of beautiful Vivaldi and lots of other more obscure Baroque music, so we missed their return home, but saw them the next day. They took off again to spend New Year's in Alsace, so we once again had the place to ourselves! Though there was indeed a wonderful amount of relaxing (and watching How I Met Your Mother, if the truth be told), we pulled it together and headed over to Salzburg for the day on December 30th.
Though it was pretty darn cold and snowy most of the day, we managed to see a lot of cool sites, including accidentally sneaking into a museum exhibit in the Residenz palace (and thus saving 6 euros apiece. It seriously was an accident. We just went in the wrong way when trying to get out of the cold). A hike up to the fortress and along the hills proved incredibly beautiful, with amazing views of the snowy Alps surrounding us. We headed down later, numb-footedly, and briefly visited the Schloss Mirabell and gardens, then headed back to have a bite of food before catching our 9PM train back to Munich.
New Year's Eve day dawned snowy and cold. It snowed wildly almost the entire morning, but then sadly dwindled to rain by about 5 PM. In our attempt to save money, we made a huge dinner and drank a lot of wine, then headed out to find some festivities at about 9 PM. Wandering around through various public displays found us in the Marienplatz come midnight, where masses of drunken people (most of whom seemed to be Italian, oddly enough) stood shooting off fireworks in all directions and tossing bottles every which way. In the pouring rain. It was a little cold but quite amusing, and we even lucked into a drink of champagne from some jolly fellows standing near us. We continued ringing in the New Year by conversing in a lot of random languages with people in the subway station, and eventually meeting up with a couple of people from a town about 3 hours away, who convinced us to accompany them to a club they'd heard about. While our walk there told about 45 minutes longer than it should have, it was good fun, and I got to practice my German most of the way there as well! Club adventure proved fairly short-lived, and by about 4:15 AM or so we found ourselves back on the U-Bahn, heading for home.
I won't go into detail about what happened after that, but if you're my Facebook friend, you already know.
|Only surviving picture of us on New Year's Eve. Who's the guy? No idea. A girl offered to take a photo of the two of us, and Nate, friendly fellow that he is, insisted the girl's boyfriend be in the picture too.|
Anyway, Happy New Year, officially! I'll interject to mention that the German way of wishing someone a happy new year is to wish them a Guten Rutsch: literally, a good slide, that being from this year to the next! Cool? Methinks! We celebrated by sleeping in until like 2, heading weakly out to photograph some churches and cool buildings Nate had wanted to see for a while (apply to him for the pictures. Ahem. Ahem.), then spending a relaxing evening in watching too much TV and eating homemade lentils and rice.
The next day was, sadly, time to return Nate to the airport, so I headed dejectedly home alone, but rather more happily, my family had returned while we were at the airport, so I was greeted with soup and chocolate. Much better.
And here I am! Anne and Michael have the week off, so I have fairly little to do other than merely collect the kids from kindergarten, and unfortunately pretty much everyone I know is still home for Christmas, so this will be probably a rather quiet week. Which I could use, frankly. I will attempt to be better at updating my blog in the new year!
Best wishes to all of you for a happy and successful 2012!
|And here, the closest thing I have to a picture of kids.|