Friday, April 27, 2012

Adventures in April: A Recap

    Well, it's April 27, and as tomorrow morning I shall be gallivanting off into adventure (sounds a lot more exciting than it is, I promise you), I shall gainfully attempt to give you a final April blog before going. Ready, GO!

    That being said, now I need to figure out what I actually need to say! Pause whilst I run back to my penultimate entry:

    Geschafft (achieved!). The last two weeks have been, as is fairly customary in my life, fairly hum-drum and typisch, punctuated by brief spurts of incredible excitement!

    I won't keep you hanging. Remember that girl I talked so much about two blogs ago? Yes, of course you do, devoted blog readers! (Her name's Andrea and she's a friend from California, a Fulbrighter in Vienna, and generally just an awesome person. Yes, I know you already knew that. Don't worry.) Anyway, just two weeks after we had excellent Viennese adventures, the tables were turned and she came to visit me! Though sadly 'twas for a mere 25 hours and 48 minutes (like almost exactly), it was a great time and a much-needed (and very welcome!) pick-me-up from the doldrums my mood's been spending a lot of time in lately.

   So last Friday she got a rideshare from Vienna and arrived at the bus stop just outside my house at about 6 o'clock in the evening, and we set off to do what little sightseeing we could that evening! Which wasn't much, I'll be honest; our sights (and tastebuds) were much more oriented toward the promise of Indian food for dinner rather than some old churches.

   I'll interject briefly to say that unlike a lot of American tourist attractions (Vegas, NYC, and LA, to name a few), European tourist-y cities, as beautiful as they are, only really live up to (and often exceed) their potential when the conditions are good. A tip for all you future travelers: save your European trips for the summer, don't waste your time sightseeing in the rain, and once the sun sets, you're better off absorbing culture in a pub than outside trying to explore. Pretty much every city I've been to lacks a lot of charm in the rain/cold/dark.

     So instead of attempting to shove much Munich culture down Andrea's throat, we headed for my favorite Indian (and favorite in general, too) restaurant and settled down to a couple hours of pigging out. This place is freaking delicious. Not terribly cheap, but definitely worth the money, in my opinion! Once sated on chicken tikka masala, bombay potatoes, and garlic naan, we headed out (into the pouring rain, ughh) to meet Leigh at the nearby Hofbräuhaus. Leigh and Andrea have been fated to meet several times before, but tragic (not really) circumstances always intervened, so it was nice to finally have it happen!

     The Hofbräuhaus is, let's be honest, one of the great tourist traps in Munich, but it's also a hell of a lot of fun, and has excellent beer, food, and is always a comfortable 75 degrees inside (and occasionally warmer), very welcome when it's drizzly and COLD outside. We settled in for a comfortable evening of probably too much beer and chatting, only occasionally interrupted by the rather pathetic flirtation attempts of the Italians sitting next to us.

    At a fairly reasonable hour, we braved the U-Bahn home (my host family kindly consented to let Andrea crash with me for the night) and slept in far too late the next day (Saturdays rock).

    Fortunately for us, the tourism gods smiled upon our day, and the sun was out and shining, while not warmly, per se, at least comfortably. We packed Andrea's stuff, printed out her train tickets, and headed out to see the city.

   Though I'm sure it would eventually get old, it's a lot of fun playing tour guide! I also realized that I've had a sad lack of visitors here in Munich (ahem, that's to all of you! I'll show you around too! Seriously!), and the last time I really got to play tour guide and point out all the main, fun attractions was back in September! When, let's face it, I was still more of a tourist than anything as well. Since we only had about 6 hours before Andrea's train took off, we stuck to the main things (the nice thing about Munich is that most things of great interest are contained with about a two square kilometer area, so one can be a very efficient tourist when one so desires. Not that I recommend only visiting Munich for six hours at a time, but it is doable!). We started off with panini and coffees (the weather (and the temperature inside) was kind enough to permit iced drinks!) at San Francisco Coffee Company, took a look around Odeonsplatz, site of the 1933 Beer Hall Putsch, then headed into the Hofgarten and on through the Englischer Gartens.

   As I said, the weather obliged. It was gorgeous out, and the gardens were, while definitely not full, offering a decent amount of sunbathers and sporters. We stopped to see the surfers, headed out into the main gardens, meandered down the Isar, admired the Monopteros, and bought ice cream cones from a conveniently placed little balloon-festooned cart (I couldn't resist that rhyme, sorry).

Some photos (which, yes, are all on my facebook as well. Sorry for the repetition.):

Temple to Diana, Hofgarten

Sunbathers on the Isar



    After pausing to admire the oom-pa band at the Chinesischer Turm, we hopped quickly on a bus and an U-Bahn to get down to Marienplatz. We dutifully popped into a couple of churchs (the cathedral and St. Michael's, to be exact), sneakily side-tripped into an H&M, and wended our way back to the beer garden at the Viktualienmarkt. If you need a refresher course, the Viktualienmarkt is Munich's open-air market, dating back to very early 1800s, and a wonderful place to go to find exotic cheeses, oils, spices, fresh fruits and vegetables, and so on (though I'll give you the fairly obvious caveat that the prime location adds a euro or two to the average price). The beer garden there, if I recall correctly, is the only state-run beer garden in the city, so it has the advantage of serving beer from all of the breweries (which sounds not that exciting, but in Munich, every restaurant/beer garden is linked to just one brewery, so all the beer available there will only be, for example, varieties of Augustiner beer). It's also huge, and excellently located! Tables with tablecloths indicate the restaurant section, but cloth-less tables are for picnickers, and you buy your beer and bring whatever food you have along! We'd purchased some strawberries from a street vendor and had those along with our beer (remember: in Germany, beer goes with everything. I'll also, just to enforce the point that beer is always acceptable, tell you that this beer garden opens at 9 AM.).

     Though I don't spend a whole lot of time in beer gardens (the seasons and weather is to blame, not any personal prejudice), the atmosphere there is really special. The thing Americans hear (and dread) about Germany is that when there's not a table available, it's not only acceptable, it's expected to ask to sit at someone else's table. This happens in restaurants, cafes, and everywhere, really. At a beer garden, especially a popular one on a beautiful day, if you don't have the nerve to ask someone to scoot a little bit, you're going to be drinking standing up. We found a corner of a table across from a middle-aged German couple and settled down with our goodies. The fun part about sitting with strangers + alcohol? You can hardly help but make friends with the people around you. We had an excellent time conversing with the couple across from us, visitors from Karlsruhe, and our conversation ranged from how Munich is gemütlicher (an untranslatable word running along the lines of comfortable, home-like, kinder to the spirit) than Vienna, how the politics in the US scared us, to the things one learns in a beer garden! (And this was all in German. Score us!) When they left, their place was taken by a trio of young French and Spanish businessmen, who wanted to hear all about what it was really like being singers. It was definitely a fun experience. 

    Alas, all good things come to an end, and we finished our beers, bid farewell to our new friends, and headed off to the main train station to deposit Andrea on her train back to Vienna. I rounded off the evening by reading at Hugendubel's and then heading home.

    The week since has been fairly unexciting, but there's one important part. On Monday, the temperature was about 55 degrees. On Tuesday, it poured the entire day and stayed in the 40s. On Wednesday, we broke 60 degrees. But oh, Thursday and today have been GLORIOUS. It's currently a beautiful 74 degrees and I got a sunburn sitting out with my cappuccino. Oh spring, how I love thee! 

    I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's jump back to Monday. April 20th marked the beginning of a joyous Munich tradition (in my opinion, at least): Frühlingsfest! This festival of spring runs for two and a half weeks in late April and early May, and is a miniature version of Oktoberfest (also on the Theresienwiese). There are beer tents, carnival rides, incredibly unhealthy and delicious food offerings (cotton candy, crepes, roasted nuts...), and people in dirndls and lederhosen soaking up the ambience. I almost wish I could have gone to Frühlingsfest before taking on Oktoberfest; it's much smaller and less intimidating. 

    So Monday night, I met with Leigh and Daniel and we set out to enjoy the sights of Frühlingsfest. An hour or so passed in the Hippodrom tent, with quite a few Maßes (Bayrisch for a liter of beer; the only size beer comes in at festivals) and half a roasted chicken to split between us, listening to the band play old German favorites like Sweet Caroline, Bad Romance, and YMCA. Seriously. There were also, of course, several thousand rounds of Ein Prostchen (a beerhall standard for everyone to cheers; check out this video if you've never heard it: ). Then we headed out into the night, had some crepes, and even went on a terrifyingly spinny ride that probably wasn't the greatest idea after all that beer. It was an excellent night.

Beer + pretzels + lederhosen = love. Germany is so simple. 

Hippodrom Festzelt

I may have to go back and buy one of these
Post-spinning ride 

     Wednesday night was another adventure into the depths of Bavarian culture. If you're a football fan at all (that's football by the rest of the world's standards, not America's), you probably are aware the championship is swiftly approaching, and Wednesday night the Bavarian team, FC Bayern, played their final match against Real Madrid to see who will head to the championships. So like good Münchners, headed out to a beer garden to watch the televised match, liters of beer in hand. Though I will be the first to admit my knowledge of soccer is pretty slim, I can follow what's going on. And it's pretty fun being plunked into the domain of one of the greatest football teams! I trust you know the results right now, but I'll tell you that FC Bayern won on eleven-meter kicks and will go on to play Chelsea in the Champions-League final in three weeks. Huzzah!!

Terrible dark picture just post the final kicks.

   In kiddie news: all is well. I'm currently waiting for Anne to bring Kilian and his best friend Ben over so I can watch them while she goes to dancing with Cliona. Cliona has nearly mastered riding her bike WITHOUT training wheels (at 3 1/2! I'm sold on Laufrads, man. 3 and a freaking half.). My host dad took a short day yesterday after a trip to the dentist so we helped him put together Kilian's grown-up bed and spent a good hour at the part watching Cliona practice. What a champ! There have been a lot more food squabbles lately; my host mom has decided that we're spoiling the kids by giving them various hot meals for dinner (you may recall the Germans believe in only one "hot" meal a day, and theirs is lunch), so now all they're permitted is toasted ham-and-cheese sandwich or bread and cheese. Makes prep easier for me, but when the kids won't eat it...well, it's a little frustrating. I'd be sick of it too, so I really can't blame them. Kilian and I had a fight last night while I was babysitting; we were playing checkers before bed, and when he realized I'd trapped both of his remaining pieces, he started crying about how I always win, et cetera et cetera, so I put the game away (sore losers are ANNOYING, even if they're six), which prompted several "I HATE YOUs". Always fun to hear. Luckily I've basically learned the secret to dealing with kids is actually talking to them, so we got it worked out and him put to bed in relative harmony. (No new photos, sorry.)

    Two weeks ago I got the chance to have dinner with Leigh's cousins and their kids, who were here visiting! It was a lot of fun, and way too nice to be with a normal family (not that my host family isn't great, but as sell-out as it is to say, I miss American families). They're also blog readers of mine, so a shout-out to the Dunns! It was wonderful to meet you, and I hope you have a great stay in Deutschland! 

    Shout-out number two: Chapman is presenting their opera this weekend, and I'm so sad I can't be there! Congratulations, all of you! Go see it, everyone else!

    As I mentioned waaaaay up at the top of this entry, tomorrow I take off for a long weekend (Tuesday is Germany's labor day, so four day weekend, here I come!) of choir rehearsal at a hotel/resort place a couple of hours outside of Munich. Don't know many details yet, but hopefully will be a successful weekend! I'll keep you posted. 

    Now it's upstairs to greet the kiddies. See you all in May!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Deutschland: The List Edition

     So sue me, but I'm feeling too lazy to write a genuine blog. I promise, I'm saving all my good stories for a final end-of-April post! In the meantime, enjoy these random compilations. There are sort of a lot, so feel free to peruse as you like:

Five Items You Probably Won't Find at an American McDonald's
1. Beer
2. Baked Camembert with cranberry sauce
3. Shrimp McWrap
4. Cornetto McFlurry
5. McCroissant

10 Things that Will Never Catch on in America
1. Payment for newspapers on the "honor system"
2. Not tipping in restaurants
3. Postal workers delivering mail on bikes (even in the rain. And snow)
4. Closing the entire city for any and every religious holiday
5. Brotzeit : bread and cheese for dinner. Every day.
6. Drying clothes on lines instead of a dryer, then having to iron EVERYTHING.
7. Trials that are judged by a judge and no jury. (Ever. Isn't that weird?)
8. Everyone speaking at least one foreign language
9. Bringing your own basket to the store. (& just walking to the store.)
10. All shops being closed on Sundays

10 Things That Really Should Catch on in America
1. Laufrads (bikes without pedals for little kids)
2. Sorting trash into glass, paper, compost, and hazardous waste
3. Bookstores providing comfortable seating for more than 5 people (to you, B&N)
4. Adding tax to individual items on menus so it's easier to split checks
5. Not having a problem with people wanting to split checks
6. Riding bikes almost everywhere
7. The trash service comes in the morning before the trucks and put your cans on the street for you
8. Ruhezeit -- no loud music, mowing lawns, etc. from 12-2 every day so kids can nap
9. Beer as an acceptable beverage at all hours. Even with breakfast.
10. Taking two hours for a meal. And for coffee.

5 Things I Will Never Understand
1. Not teaching kids to read until they're 6 or 7 years old
2. That elementary school goes from 8 AM to 11 AM every day (and that's all. What?)
3. That you have to pay for ketchup at McDonald's
4. Why the people who invented German thought der, die, and das were necessary
5. Why people don't drink water. And why "still" water is gross.

10 Things Americans are Way Better At
1. Free, cold, automatically-refilled water at restaurants
2. Free restrooms
3. Cheap food
4. Throwing away cigarette butts
5. Not smoking in public places
6. Separation of church and state (which, to be fair, Germany definitely isn't even trying for)
7. Choice of fast food
8. Going to the gym
9. Streets wide enough for cars to pass each other
10. Good television shows

10 Things Germans are Way Better At
1. Public transportation
2. Alcohol regulation (read: no open-container laws)
3. Cheap alcohol
4. Delicious bread
6. Throwing away everything but cigarette butts
7. Gun control/crime control/general safety
8. Availability of ethnic food
9. Taking advantage of beautiful weather
10. Health insurance/maternity leave (guaranteed your job back up to three years after child's birth)

12 British v. American Words I Most Frequently Screw Up
1. bin (trashcan)
2. pants (underwear)
3. trousers (pants)
4. stabilisers (training wheels)
5. boot-skates (roller skates)
6. rocket (arugula)
7. cappie (baseball cap)
8. tomAHto (tomAYto)
9. tracksuit (sweats/sweat pants)
10. soother (pacifier)
11. nappy (diaper)
12. mobile (cell phone)

5 American Songs Germans Love
1. Sweet Caroline
2. Hit the Road, Jack
3. Sweet Home Alabama
4. Summer of '69
5. Hotel California

5 Bavarian Foods That Will Never Be Popular Outside of Germany
1. Leberwurst (liverwurst)
2. Leberkäse (beef, pork, bacon, onion meatloaf, kind of)
3. Obatzda (horseradish garlic camembert dip)
4. Knödel (large bread dumplings served in beef sauce)
5. Steckerlfisch (a whole fish with a stick through it cooked over an open fire)

6 Biggest Munich Breweries
1. Augustiner
2. Hacker-Pschorr
3. Hofbräu
4. Löwenbräu
5. Paulaner
6. Spaten

5 Grossest/Least-Favorite Au Pair Chores
1. Emptying the "Bio" trash (old food from the week. Sort of like carrying around the contents of a garbage disposal.)
3. Hanging up washing. Specifically the other-people's-underwear part
4. Wiping kiddie bums/holding kiddies whilst they perform urgent bodily functions in public places
5. Being farted on by kids. Okay, not a chore, but it happens so frequently it should be.

10 Food Items I Desperately Miss
1. Fat-free milk
2. Cheap Mexican food
3. Black beans
4. Cookies (Germans rock at pastries but are AWFUL at cookies.)
5. Reese's peanut butter cups
6. Sushi that is a) cheap and b) not served on a conveyor belt
7. Cheddar cheese
8. Good breakfast cereals
9. Brown sugar
10. Doritos

5 Top Milka Flavors
1. Toffee
2. Vanilla pudding
3. Whole hazelnut
4. Chocolate-covered lentil
5. Oreo

5 Things I've Found in my Purse
1. Dead flowers that were "for Mami und Papi!"
2. About 10 acorns Kilian found at the park and insisted were hazelnuts
3. Any one of Cliona's four "Hazi" stuffed rabbits
4. A pacifier (no longer, thank goodness)
5. Chunks of pretzel from who knows how long ago

5 Dumbest Reasons Kilian has Thrown Temper Tantrums
1. He didn't like his birthstone (that was today. Seriously.)
2. Cliona found her mom's keys and he didn't.
3. There was ham sticking out of the side of his sandwich.
4. I successfully caught him with "Look, a distraction!"
5. Cliona got more juice than him.
Weisse spargel

Unusual Produce Commonly Found at the Market
1. Leeks
2. Rhubarb
3. Currants (Johannisbeeren)
4. Watercress
5. Dragon fruit
6. White asparagus (Which I think looks like...well, I'll let you decide)

10 Most Amusing German Names
1. Jürgen
2. Moritz
3. Bernhardt
4. Ansgar
4. Florian
1. Leonie
2. Sylke
3. Sabine
4. Marijke
5. Ulrike

4 Fashion Choices that are Only Acceptable in this Country
1. Shorts with nylons
2. Moustaches that are obviously created with a curling iron
3. Colorful silk scarves on men
4. Socks with sandals

Okay, that's all I've come up with! A wonderful week to you all--I promise another blog before May!
Super concerned  with the fate of whatever cartoon character they're watching

Pretty girl on the way to the park

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Weekend in the Country (of Austria)

    As you may recall, my last post was written (or published, rather) upon the eve of my departure for a weekend visiting my dear friend and fellow Californian Andrea, a Fulbrighter in Vienna, for Easter, to be followed by a day hopping around Salzburg with fellow Californian and Münchner Leigh. Okay, so I've been back for nearly a week, but hey, it's taken nearly that long to recover from such a fun weekend! I'll stop enticing you with hints about how fun it was and just get straight to the stories.

     Let's back up eight days. Dark and early last Friday morning (5:10 AM, to be precise), I awoke to the cheery sounds of dear Eric Clapton singing Wonderful Tonight (my phone has a limited amount of very random music from its previous owner), crawled out of bed and into the shower, and 50 minutes later was whisked away on the bus to meet my ride at a distant U-Bahn station, heavy backpack in tow. Just to be entirely accurate in setting the scene, it was pouring rain. Meeting my ride (a pleasant Slovakian man in his late-20s) went smoothly, and we set off, along with two fellow riders, to Vienna. Four hours (and several naps) later, we were deposited at the southernmost U-Bahn station on the Vienna public transport system, and an hour-long U-Bahn and Straßenbahn adventure later, I arrived at Andrea's beautiful apartment in the heart of the second district of Vienna.

    Let me tell you, as fun as traveling and seeing new places is, one of the best parts of traveling is when you can go to a place entirely new and be welcomed by a wonderful friend! It makes it seem so much more homey than wandering dismally around a strange city with a backpack and guidebook in tow.  Andrea's apartment is GORGEOUS, and I was welcomed with snacks and drinks and my own key for my stay.

    My decision to visit on Easter weekend meant that of course Andrea had a plethora of church choir rehearsals and services to attend, so before her first obligation we headed out for a short sightseeing tour, beginning with lunch at a super cute, friendly, and delicious cafe near Karlsplatz.

Beautiful friend!

The friendly waitress who took this insisted on clearing the table first so the picture would look nicer without our dishes on it. She was super cool.

     After a delicious lunch of salmon and potatoes (in Austrian dialect, literally earth-apples), we headed out to see the city (whilst walking conveniently in the direction of Andrea's church, which, you know, just happens to be the largest and famous-est cathedral in the whole city...NBD). Sadly the weather was less than ideal (read: cold and far wetter than is ordinarily enjoyable), but we pushed bravely onwards and wended our way through Karlsplatz, past the opera, and down Kärtnerstraße to Stephansplatz and the beautiful Stephansdom.


Stephansdom reflection in the glass windows of shop-across-the-street-whose-name-I-cannot-recall

Blurry interior of the cathedral

    I accompanied Andrea to her choir rehearsal and stayed to watch for twenty minutes or so, then headed out to see some of the city on my own. Armed with an eleven-year-old guidebook pilfered from the bookshelf in my room, I set off to see what I could, doing my best to follow a suggested walk around the inner city and planning to head over to walk along the Donau (Danube) for a bit before heading back to Andrea's apartment to sort out a (so I thought) small problem preventing me from withdrawing any money.

Pestsäule (plague pillar) built by Emperor Leopold I when the plague struck in city in 1679 

View of the City Hall across the park

Yes, at concerts in Vienna there are flying ballerinas (note upper right corner)

Oh hey there, Maria Theresa

Austrian parliament

I love you Munich, but Vienna's Rathaus may sort of have the edge on yours

Martenitsi! Friendly piece of Bulgaria in Vienna

Votivkirche, built in celebration of a failed assassination attempt


Monument to honorable German soldiers

Hey there Danube!

Pretty blue and beautiful


When I walked down an island path only to find this at the dead end...I wasn't brave enough to jump across

Gorgeous church that came out of nowhere upon crossing the river (mainly because I was heading west when I'd thought I was heading east...)

     At around 8 PM, tired and starving (the banking hiccup sent me about my day with a whopping 50 cents in my pocket), I walked back to Andrea's apartment and sat down to call the bank and sort out the issue, which I assumed was a standard I-hadn't-used-my-debit-card-in-four-months-and-they'd-forgotten-I-was-in-Europe problem, generally easy enough to sort out.

     However, ten minutes with a bank representative later, I realized the problem was more complex than I'd thought. It appears there had been a security issue with somewhere I'd used my card and the bank had, ever so helpfully, shut down the card altogether. "Don't worry," said the helpful bank representative, "a new card should be arriving at your residence sometime soon." This very helpful and reassuring to someone currently about 6000 miles away from her "residence."  I tried further to extract a PIN number so I could use my credit card (most places don't accept credit cards in Europe, and if they do, they generally require a PIN number), and was told, also helpfully, that it was a security issue to give out numbers over the phone so they would mail said PIN number to my residence. It was about then I realized I was effectively without ANY money in a foreign city. I panicked for a couple hours until Andrea came home and kindly made me some delicious (American!) macaroni and cheese, then we called my parents, who kindly and almost immediately deposited money in Andrea's bank account for her to withdraw for me. So thankfully, all's well that ends well. If it had come down to it, at least I had purchased my train ticket to Salzburg online and in advance, so I could have at least gotten home, but it would have been a rough three days without ANY food. I'm just so thankful it happened staying with a friend, not alone somewhere! 

    Problem solved, we went to sleep. The next day dawned again rather disagreeably, weather-wise, and after promising to meet Andrea at the end of her rehearsal (oh the joys a musician experiences during Easter weekend!), I set off to experience the joys of the Naschmarkt, Vienna's huge open-air market, spanning almost a kilometer-long stretch down the center of one of the busiest streets. The sheer amount of people in a famous European city on a holiday weekend made it more of a slog than anything, but I got to see all the cool food and goods for sale, and even picked up a 5 euro "cashmere" (yeah right) scarf for my pains.  Afterwards I meandered back down to meet Andrea, stopping to see the opera house on the way. We headed out for nourishment at the same cafe as the day before, this time drinking the most amazing chai latte I have ever had in my entire life x 23498274583. Like, seriously. If you are planning on visiting Vienna, please call me or Andrea so we can tell you how to find this latte. 

Viennese opera!

Terrifying look on my face due to trying to center that. Taken outside of the apartment where Mozart wrote Figaro, by the way, but wasn't much to look at.

   After a flurry of rain forced us back to Andrea's for a lazy afternoon of haircuts, pasta, and Modern Family, Andrea headed out for her evening rehearsal and service, and I lazed around for awhile, then headed out to watch the Easter Vigil service Andrea was singing in at the cathedral. To keep that explanation brief, I do not think there is ever an excuse for a three-hour service, but it was pretty nice regardless. And I got holy water thrown at me by a cardinal, so I feel like it was a win. The first portion of the service was all conducted by candlelight (a cathedral full of several thousand people all with candles is a fairly impressive sight, even if that coupled with occasionally scary organ music and huge chandeliers does feel slightly like something out of a horror movie), and at the end when the cardinal gave the various versions of "Christ is risen" in several different languages, I was just about the only person to give the English answer, but I did it! We headed home sleepily in the wee hours of Easter morning.

    Much too early the next morning alarms went off, and we headed off in our respective directions: Andrea to more church and I to the train station to catch my train to Salzburg to meet Leigh.  After a hurried U-Bahn ride I arrived at the main train station far too early (the way I like it; I treat train travel like plane flights, time-wise) and settled into my cozy seat with my chocolate croissant, hoping to manage to nap the 2 hours and 45 minutes to Salzburg. But alas, 'twas not to be. Though I had intentionally chosen a seat in a "quiet" compartment, a tourist family from Italy? Greece? Spain? chose to ignore the fairly-easy-to-understand icon all over the compartment of a finger on lips (is that fairly universal or is it just me?) and let their four-year-old child talk at the tops of its lungs, scream, cry, howl, and run maniacally up and down the aisles. THE ENTIRE TRIP. I was less than pleased. But regardless, I arrived promptly at 11 in the train station in Salzburg, amid flurries of snow that had been slowly coating the ground throughout the train ride.

     Leigh and I met up without a hitch and walked into the city to catch a late Easter mass at the Salzburg Cathedral, randomly hearing a guest high school choir from Pennsylvania sing for the service. (Bogoroditsye Devo for communion on Easter? Is that really a good choice?) I'm getting pretty good at faking my way through a German Catholic church service. We ventured out into the snow for a while, walking through a beautiful snowy little graveyard and visiting a couple churches, and then the cold got the better of us and we headed into a little Indian/Austrian/Italian restaurant (the same Andrea and I visited in November, as a matter of fact), and holed up there for the next three hours or so.

Altar at the Salzburger Dom

Snowy fortress

Süß little snow graveyard

Pretty little city

    We met up with an old friend of Leigh's at the restaurant and spent the rest of the day together, doing what true Europeans do when the weather's bad. Stay inside and drink cappuccinos. After a brief excursion up a hill to see the city from above, we headed into a comfy little cafe for cappuccinos and Kaiserschmarrn (delicious Bavarian funnel cake-like concoction with raisins, nuts, applesauce, powdered sugar, und so weiter). From there we ventured briefly into the nearby gardens of Schloss Mirabell, famous for being where the Do-Re-Mi scene of Sound of Music was filmed! 

Do mi mi, mi so so, re fa fa, la ti ti! 

    After that we headed to a incredibly smokey but small and friendly Belgian bar to meet another of Leigh's friends, and we stayed and socialized for an hour and a half or so before Leigh and I headed back through the cold to the train station to catch the last train back to Munich that night. 

    And there you have my adventurous Austrian weekend! Though I'll be the first to admit my views of cheap plane travel in Europe were completely false, I'm slowly learning there are ways to get around it. Total transportation costs to and from Vienna and Salzburg: 49 Euros. Win! 

    And now here I am back in Munich, enjoying a full week behind me of rain (and a full week ahead as well). Oh spring, where have you gone? Nothing much new to report except to look forward to a weekend retreat with my choir in the Black Forest, coming up in a couple more weekends. In the meantime, a happy easter to you all!