the romance of heidelberg

A quick internet search about the city of Heidelberg leads to a slew of results about Romantic Heidelberg. For example: “Fall in love with Romantic Heidelberg” or “Heidelberg: Germany at its most romantic” or “Visit many romantic places in Heidelberg.” The way the word “romantic” is tossed around conjures up images from a cheesy greeting card: couples walking hand-in-hand, candlelit dinners, a bed of rose pedals, hearts and red silk.  Romantic may be a good descriptor for Heidelberg, but I’m not sure it’s primarily that kind of romance.

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cinque terre, italy

Last year Julius and I went spent the Pentecost holiday in Cinque Terre on the western coast of Italy. The Cinque Terre National Park is home to 5 colorful little fishing villages perched upon rocky cliffs and terraced hillsides over the deep-turquoise hued waters of the Ligurian Sea.

The five villages are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. We stayed in Corniglia, the village in the center of the five, which is the only one that isn’t directly on the sea. It sits high up on a hill and is only accessible by climbing many, many stairs. We loved staying in Corniglia, because the day-tourist crowds aren’t as heavy there as in the other four villages, it has a great panoramic view of the ocean and the neighboring villages, and it offers good access to the hiking trails.

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Corniglia is called the turtle village. From the sea, you can see how the main part of the village (on the right) looks a bit like a turtle shell on top of the hill.

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rail tripping: hiking at tegernsee

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Our new boots!

After we’d decided that we wanted to take more trips to the mountains, we made the next logical decision to say that we’d also like to hike in the mountains. With that in mind, we invested in some good hiking boots.

And before breaking in our new boots, we just headed off to a nearby destination in the Alpine foothills and decided to hike. Not the smartest idea… Julius had the blisters to prove it.

Again, on a Sunday afternoon, we headed out from Munich to another place within an hour away.

Our destination? The Wallberg at Tegernsee.

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rail tripping: murnau

As winter turned to spring this year, my husband and I said, “we live so close to the Alps, and who knows for how long… we must go, and often!” Really, in about an hour, we can be surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes. So we decided to take some day trips. Road tripping, but with the train. Rail tripping.

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Landscape hanging in the Lenbachhaus

First up? Murnau. Ever since I had visited the Lenbachhaus in Munich, where the Blaue Reiter art is on exhibit, I’ve wanted to visit the home of Gabriele Münter in Murnau, where she and Kandinsky and their posse lived and painted. The house is a museum, and is the birth place, so to speak, of the Blaue Reiter movement. The surrounding landscape and local culture provided their inspiration. When you see the explosions of color on canvas depicting the village of Murnau and the mountain panorama there… you just want to go see the real thing!

So, off we went on a Sunday afternoon. It was a glorious, sunshine-y day! Continue reading

honeymoon in dresden

No wasting time on apologies. I’m back in the blogosphere and going to do a couple of catch up posts, then I’ll try to stay more on top of things.

This post takes us back to October. Fall break for the schools in Bavaria.

Let me first back up to mid-August, though. Right after our wedding, there was just no time to jet off some place for a honeymoon. Some folks expressed pity. I didn’t really mind. Instead of spending a ton of money on a 10-day honeymoon in Europe like lots of couples, we were just moving to Europe (which is expensive enough). And, there would be time enough for a nice trip in the months to come.

Furthermore, the time following our wedding in the States was full: packing, partying, saying goodbyes, moving abroad, coping with jet lag, bureaucracy, parents visiting, another wedding reception, apartment hunting, moving in, Julius starting to teach, me starting to job hunt, etc. And the whole time, I still didn’t regret not having a honeymoon, but… let’s be honest, that’s enough change in a 2-month time span to make anyone need a BREAK!

So, fall break was rolling around at the end of October, and the funds weren’t there to take the delayed honeymoon in Italy we would have liked, but we decided a long weekend away was definitely in order. And where did this long weekend take us?

The romantic, exotic destination in former East Germany, the capital city of Saxony… Dresden! Continue reading

a day at glentleiten

Drive just an hour south of Munich to the Glentleiten Freilichtmuseum and you go even further back in time… a DSCN6186hundred years or more! The museum is comprised of a large area of land and old Bavarian houses, barns, workshops and mills that have been picked up from their original locations and reconstructed and restored on the museum grounds. It’s a place to learn about the historical life and culture of rural Bavaria. Continue reading

destination: füssen

Füssen gets a lot of tourist traffic because it has the nearest train station to the most popular “fairy tale” castle of crazy King Ludwig II, Schloss Neuschwanstein.

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Schloss Neuschwanstein

To American tourists, the castle is best known as “the Sleeping Beauty Castle,” since it inspired Disney’s designs for the Disneyland princess castle. Neighboring Neuschwanstein is a smaller castle, Schloss Hohenschwangau, built by Ludwig I. Scads of tourists on a whirlwind tour of Europe get off at the station in Füssen, board a bus straight to Schloss Neuschwanstein, visit one or both palaces, then head back to Munich all in a day. I have done the day trip to Neuschwanstein TWICE myself!

According to this news story, in 2013, a record 1.52 million people visited Neuschwanstein! Up to 6,000 people visit daily. I have experienced a wait time of several hours there. Once you get inside the castle though, because it was never completed before Ludwig’s death, there isn’t all that much to see. You only get about a 20 minute tour. In my experience, the guides usher you through at a pretty quick pace, don’t encourage questions or lingering, and before you know it, you’re out of there. So when guests come to visit from abroad, I’m usually not to keen on taking this day trip again.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I visited once, but for me, it isn’t worth the money to go again and again. Anyway, the really spectacular thing about the castle is the view from the outside. It is situated perfectly in the Bavarian Alps above the Alpsee (lake), and walking/hiking around is really a treat.

Since my parents were here in September and wanted to see the castle, we decided to not just do the typical day trip, but to spend a little more time in Füssen and experience more of the town itself and the surrounding area. Continue reading

the apartment hunt

I am pleased to write that finally, as of last Friday, four and a half long weeks of apartment hunting came to an end! We will move into our new home this weekend. Julius and I are lucky that the first three weeks of our search occurred before he started his school year, because apartment hunting takes quite a bit of time and mental and emotional energy!

some peculiarities about apartment hunting in Germany (and particularly Munich):

Figuring out the system. Apartments are listed to rent on this internet site, where you set up an account, create a profile, enter search criteria, view listings and contact owners/realtors directly through the site or via phone. When you spend a lot of time on this web site, you learn what to look for, how to spot scams, when new listings often appear, etc. We looked at lots of other apartment web sites at the beginning, but found out pretty quickly that most other search engines don’t actually have their own unique listings; rather, they almost all link you over to immobilienscout24.de.

The Munich housing market. Munich is one of the most expensive cities in Germany and affordable housing is hard to come by. Continue reading

conquering the kreisverwaltungsreferat

This is the first post of an informational series: German Bureaucracy Guide — the story of how it worked for me and helpful tips for other Ausländer on the journey.*

Officially a Resident

It is only my 5th day since arriving in Munich, and I am proud to say that I already have my residence permit! This is a great big multi-step bureaucratic hurdle that I crossed in one jump — despite the jet lag — on my first full day here.

After a proper German breakfast (read: long and relaxed), we headed to the Munich Kreisverwaltungsreferat (KVR). This is a local government office that deals with citizens’ issues like drivers licenses, hunting and fishing licenses, IDs, passports, birth and marriage certificates, name changes, elections, and (among many other things) immigration. It is an enormous place!

Our first stop was the Bürgerbüro — the citizen’s office — where you register with the city upon first arrival. We got there late morning and the place was already packed, so we pulled a number and, seeing that we had a while to wait, went next to the Ausländerbehörde — the foreigners’ registration office. We walked up to the counter, told the lady that I was there for a residence permit, she checked over my documents and then told me what we already knew: I needed to register (anmelden) with the city first. Still, she handed me the necessary application form and confirmed that I had all of the needed documents with me.

Back in the Bürgerbehörde, we filled out forms, waited for my number to be called (about 3 hours total), played tic-tac-toe and did some people watching as they were called in and out of the four offices there. I eventually timed the numbers as they ticked by — from 160 to 170 in about 14 minutes — and reckoned it would take at least another hour to get to number 204. We should have brought books to read!

The people watching was interesting though. Continue reading

making the move

Because there is a little thing called my wedding coming up in TWELVE DAYS, I have hardly had time to think about the fact that I am moving back to Germany in TWENTY-TWO DAYS. But it’s true. And amidst all of the wedding-related arts and crafts and busy shopping trips and ironing of table cloths, this fact has been nagging at the back of my mind.

Life, once again, has to be pared down into a few suitcases, a carry-on bag and a personal item. I went through this process two years ago, and it was relatively painless; however, this time it isn’t for “just one year,” and so the task seems somehow more difficult than before.

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