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

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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

deco on a budget

I wrote several weeks ago about the challenges of apartment hunting in Munich and introduced you to our small (very empty, very white) attic apartment. Since moving in at the end of September, we’ve been busy making our place into a (colorful) home. We were lucky to get several major pieces of furniture from family: our dining table, bed, desk, and a cabinet. Julius already had bookshelves, and I brought… basically nothing for the apartment. I came to Germany with three suitcases containing clothes, shoes, two framed pictures, several books, and a couple of small, packable keepsakes. We considered having some larger things shipped from the States, but in the end, decided it wasn’t worth the cost.

So, we still needed a lot of things to make the apartment functional and attractive and cozy! We had wonderful friends and family give us generous monetary gifts for our wedding, so we had a budget, and a long list of things to buy. I think every couple setting up house together for the first time and every family that moves overseas and leaves their possessions back home is probably overwhelmed, even intimidated by their list when they total up all that they need. Where do you begin? And how do you find affordable things?

A few items had to be purchased right away. Our place didn’t have a refrigerator, so we placed an order for one immediately. We also needed a washing machine. eBay.de was the place for these. Both were “buy it now” items (no anxious betting), and the refrigerator shipped as a new item, while the washing machine just had to be picked up in Munich.

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When it comes to Ikea furniture, there’s something satisfying about saying, “We built that!”

Our first big shopping adventure was a trip to Ikea in Eching. We spent several hours on the web site ahead of time, making a list of things we wanted to see in person, and writing down the item numbers for things that we already knew we wanted. We ended up bringing home two shelves, a cabinet, a sofa, a chair… and a ton of little things (trash cans, kitchen items, etc.) Then we got to assemble it all! A second trip to Ikea a few weeks later was in order and we got dressers. They just have everything — even things you don’t know you need — and its all pretty affordable.

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Our updated kitchen cabinets

 

 

We’ve also found deals at our nearby Baumarkt (home improvement store). We got several lamps there on clearance. This is also a good place to buy brooms and mops and buckets and toilet paper holders. We also wanted to paint our kitchen cabinets and got all the necessary supplies and some much-needed advice there!

My favorite place to score deals on home items though is the Flohmarkt (flea market)! Continue reading

oktoberfest nostalgia

The 2014 Oktoberfest has come to an end, and the stats are in!

As reported by Bayerische Rundfunk (BR), this year 6.3 million guests attended and consumed 6.5 million liters of beer, 48 calves and 112 oxen. They smuggled 112,000 mugs out of the tents. There were 2,205 police interventions at the Oktoberfest, but the police seem happy to report that they intervened proactively, which prevented many criminal offenses this year. The Bavarian Red Cross stitched up 700 wounds and treated 600 patients for alcohol poisoning. BR reports that guests traveled to Oktoberfest from all over the world, mostly from Australia, USA and Italy, but also in large numbers from Egypt, Chile, India and South Africa.

Munich residents are breathing a sigh of relief today that the millions of guests have gone home again. It’s hard to play host to that many people for two whole weeks. (It’s also hard to board the subway and have to stand with your nose 5 cm away from someone’s armpit.)

Because we’ve just moved and have been living out of boxes during this time, the last thing we needed was more commotion in our lives. Nevertheless, we were invited to join some friends at Oktoberfest, and we were happy to trade the chaos at home for a different kind of chaos at the Wiesn for one afternoon!

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Greeting the Wiesn last Thursday

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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

how to look at art: the lenbachhaus

Munich is a city with art. In my previous year living in Munich, I had been to both the old and new Pinakothek art museums on multiple occasions and was overwhelmed by the size of the collections housed there. Sensory overload is inevitable. In such a large museum, I tend to take my time at the beginning, but an hour in, I start to walk more quickly, observe less closely and, ultimately, I don’t really see the art that comes later in my visit. After a 3-hour art museum visit, some highlights stick out in my memory, but regarding most of the artwork, I’m unable to say much other than “it was pretty…” Well, it turns out that this isn’t the best way to experience art. You just can’t see it all in one visit, and you shouldn’t try to. (My husband would argue that you can spend an entire museum visit sitting at one painting.) We recently visited an art museum in Munich that I hadn’t been to before: the newly renovated Lenbachhaus. The floor plan of the Lenbachhaus doesn’t draw visitors through a tour of the entire collection of centuries of artwork, but rather invites you to focus on an area of interest. So, no traipsing through the entire 19th century gallery to get to the specific 20th century collection you actually came to see.

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Franz Marc’s “Blaues Pferd I”

And if you’re visiting Lenbachhaus for the first time, the collection to see is Der Blaue Reiter — The Blue Rider. Der Blaue Reiter was a group of early twentieth century artists centered in Munich, and the collection at the Lenbachhaus, acquired in 1957 from one of the artists herself (Gabriele Münter), is the largest Blauer Reiter collection in the world. This is “local art” — first exhibited in Munich a century ago, seen today in Munich at the Lenbachhaus. The subject matter is also not far from home. Several of the artists painted together in Murnau, a Bavarian village about 70 km south of Munich early in their careers. I was most drawn to Kandinsky and Münter’s vivid, colorful works from Murnau. 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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some steps to marriage

In my last post, I wrote about some of the sight-seeing and fun things I did while in Munich at the end of May/beginning of June. One other great big event also happened! Julius and I had our civil wedding ceremony in Germany!

During the ceremony

This is one step along our path to marriage – and, like all other parts of our journey – it is more complicated because of the international aspect.

We’ve been asked by many Americans why we chose to do it this way. The shortest most pragmatic answer is that it de-complicates the immigration process considerably.

If you’d like to know more, you may read on…

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time really does fly when you’re…

In my last post, as the end of my last semester was weighing down on me, I shared about some of the things that were on the horizon back then. It was crazy! There at the end, within a 3 day time frame, I graduated, moved, packed and then left for Germany. That will make time fly!
With my family at graduation

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