A Tour of Europe though its Instructional Signs.

So, I’m studying to be an Architect, right?  I am constantly drawn towards any aspect of design.  And for me, I thoroughly enjoy the art of “instructional signage.”  These purely pictorial elements give a direct command with just a glance and I am always amazed how the designs themselves can vary so greatly, yet still convey the same message.

I was first introduced to this “art form” after watching an episode of BBC’s Top Gear, where they interviewed Margaret Calvert who co-designed all of Britain’s road signs.  Since then, I have been noticing humorous signs enforcing funny rules everywhere.  Now, in the States at least, the signs are standardized across all 50 states, but in Europe, they change quickly, while passing from town to town or country to country.

Here is what I found:

Barcelona had quite a variety of signs.  The warnings are serious, but the pictures are humorous!

watch out! Architecture!

electrocution, no swimming

no music?


Barcelona and Istanbul had construction signs I had never thought of before.



Salzburg‘s signs were very considerate.

Nice hat.

Sprinklers. Save your camera.


London and Croatia‘s text signs were lost in translation or tampered with.

I’m not sitting there!

No pooing?

Copenhagen and Paris have some funny signs!

Copenhagen.  Don’t drive in       the harbor!  Can you see the guy walking on the ice?

Paris.  The cane is a nice detail.  This crossing sign was for blind citizens, but it had no texture.


Italy‘s signs enforced funny rules and the symbols were very different.

No eating on the monuments, camping, or bare-chests?!

Watch your head!  Pericolo=Danger!

Torino’s subway warning.

Don’t touch.


The one sign I saw everywhere was to clean up after your pets. There was so much diversity between the signs, but they all conveyed the same message.




Parma, Italy


May your next trip be well informed and full of humor.

Happy Travels!

Bavaria, Baby!

Over the next three weeks, I will be staying with my cousins in Germany and Austria until my mom meets up with me in Austria, to bring me home.

31 May to 12 June 2012.

The train from Florence to Munich is always a relaxing yet stressful experience. For some reason I’m always afraid I got on the wrong train, but once the conductor checks my ticket, I can sit back and do… nothing. It’s great. Barb met me at the Ulm train station and we had a somewhat epic run down the platform into a warm embrace moment. It is always fun to have someone waiting for you at the station.

Since lunch is the main meal of the day in Germany, we enjoyed a light bread-meat-cheese dinner.

1-6 June. Friday to Wednesday. Staying with Cousin Barb.

Cousin Barb and her family live in the town of Laupheim, about 15 minutes from Ulm. That afternoon, Barb gave me a little tour of the town, while we did errands. The supermarket (I found an ice cream named after me–see picture), Pet’s school, the Bäckerei, and a subtle tribute to Laupheim’s most famous resident, Carl Laemmle. I never knew that the founder of the Universal Motion Picture Company was from the same town as some of my family! Who knew! Laemmle also owned a movie theater called Nickelodeon, which I assume the Universal owned TV channel is named after.

That afternoon, Barb showed me her vast recorder collection. I was quite impressed by how many sizes there are. and so large too?

Finally the weekend, and the family decided to take a drive down to the Bodensee aka. The Lake of Constance. The shore of the Bodensee is shared by three countries: Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, but we stayed on the German side. After a short drive to the sea, we visited the church Birnau, a very decorative Rococco style church. The walls were dripping with carvings and little angels. This is also the location of the origional Honigschlecker (honey licker) statue that my Opa recreated.

After a picnic on the grass outside of Birnau, we visited the town of Meersburg. Here, we visited two beautiful castles, one old and the other very old. We put our feet in the sea and enjoyed the warm sun while we had it — rain was in the forecast for the rest of the week. Next, we took a boat to the Blumeninsel Mainau (The Flower Island of Mainau). With a castle at the top of the hill, the surrounding grounds were covered with flower gardens. Whenever a new rose is germinated, the creator has the honor of planting it in the Minau’s rose garden. The island also had a large green house filled with beautiful butterflies.


I joined the family for mass on Sunday morning. It was a nice change from the very stiff Italian mass because we got to actually sing worship. That afternoon, just as the weather had predicted, it rained; but Ber was brave and decided to do a barbecue anyways. I got to sample many German sausages. He told me to never tell a person from Munich that he put a weisswurst on the bbq.

Tante Git came for lunch today. yummy… Lasagna.

This afternoon, Barb took me to the Castle Sigmaringen. The tour was all in German, but I got an interesting booklet to read in English and I could actually understand a bit of what the guide was saying! At the end of the tour, we walked through the Armory which included a huge collection of medieval and foreign armor. It was pretty cool.

Pet is fascinated by rockets and outer space. He just lights up when we talk about it and he loves going to visit Laupheim’s planetarium. This morning, the planet of Venus was going to pass between the earth and the sun, a “Venus Transit,” so we got up very, very early to go see it just as the sun was rising.

Barb had to go to work that day, so I stayed behind to pack up my things before her sister, my cousin Mar, would come to pick me up.

6-12 June. Wednesday to Tuesday. Staying with Mar and Wolf.

Wednesday. continued.
Mar is a teacher for a university in Ulm that is built in an old abbey that has one of the most beautiful libraries. The University of Wiblingen is a school of medicine and the library is fantastic. The library is also rococo in style and has an amazing mural on the ceiling and many statues throughout.

It was a bavarian holiday making this weekend a four-day weekend! We slept in and took a slow drive down to the Alps. Barb and Wolf have a little hutte nestled in the mountains. We stopped at a ruined castle on the way down and then had an early dinner at a perfect outdoor restaurant. So relaxing.

The hike up to the hutte took about an hour and was tough work! With the aid of hiking sticks, I was able to push myself and my big travel backpack up the mountain. The hut is a simple one room cabin with an outhouse. It was rustic living that weekend for sure. No running water, no electricity. Just a small spring outside and a gas tank for the lamp and stove.




Friday, we went for a walk to a little farm and rest stop for hikers. We enjoyed fresh milk, cheese, and holunder (elderflower) water, along with an amazing view of the mountains. On the walk back to the hut, it started to sprinkle, slowly getting heavier and heavier. I had a little rain jacket on which was ok at first until, suddenly, it started to down pour! I think there was even some hail! I just stood there laughing. I was soaked through and I got to walk for an hour back to the hut to a fire and dry clothes. Even though I was cold and wet, I was so happy. Such a beautiful place. Most beautiful in the world.

Wolf was very proud of himself as he hung all of my clothes up over the little pot belly stove to dry. It was quite the contraption.

While walking through one of the villages near the hut, we stumbled upon a Kneipp Pool. This form of Hydrotherapy was developed by bavarian monk Sebastian Kneipp and involves submerging different parts of your body in ice water and then allowing them to return to room temperature. A Kneipp Pool had been installed along one of the hiking trails, so, we had to try it. Snow melt had come down from the peaks and was directed into this circular pool. As you walk through the mid-calf deep water, you must fully bring your foot out of the water before you take the next step. It was pretty funny looking, but it felt very good.

Wolf’s mother came over in the late morning to try and teach me how to make something that my Oma had made for me when I was little.. I asked for Semmelknoedel in Metzelsupp (bread dumplings in a Butcher’s broth) however, she had never heard of such a combination (maybe it’s an American combination). Semmelknoedel is made from day old bread, formed into balls and boiled. Usually, they are served as a side to meat with gravy. Metzelsupp is one of the best broths made from a left over bone. The marrow seeps out while cooking and really warms you up.

That afternoon, the town of Ulm was holding an open house of the fortress Bundesfestung. This 9 kilometer polygon fortress completely surrounds the cities of Ulm and Neu-Ulm and is one of the largest working fortresses in the world. Constructed in the 1850s, after the invasion of Napoleon Bonaparte, it housed many armies throughout many wars, and still holds a small post of the German military. Tours were given through many subterranean bunkers used for defense and storing weapons. I really enjoyed touring the actual fort. One huge ramp wound its way around the pentagon shaped building and up to the roof. We passed huge rooms where soldiers had lived. We also learned that after WWII, these rooms were used as temporary housing for refugees. It was cramped living, but it also had an amazing view of the city of Ulm.

I went with Maria to work today and after lunch, Tante Git came to pick me up for the afternoon. We went to downtown Ulm to do a bit of last minute shopping before I was to leave Germany. Yet again, we got caught in the rain. Mar met us later for afternoon coffee. We all headed back to Mar’s house where Tante Git taught me to make Schupfnudeln (potato noodles).

I miss the food in Germany. Mar always wanted to make something special for me, but it was the typical food that my Oma cooked for me when I was little, that is special for me. I miss the home cooking, the bags of inexpensive marzipan, the honey (Germany has the best wild mountain honey), the schupfnudeln, dampfnudeln, semmelknoedel, pretzels, oh, how the list goes on. Some people rave about Italian and French food, which is excellent, don’t get me wrong. But for me, I choose German food.

Up early. A train to catch and lots of crying on the platform! I’m going to miss them. Next stop Austria.

Buon Natale! Frohe Weihnachten! Happy Christmas!

15 December 2011: Thursday

This evening we had a school Christmas dinner at a nice trattoria near the Medici Chapel in Florence. We dined on antipasti, eggplant parmesan, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and panettone. Everything was tastey and the company was great. I sat with Madel and a friend of hers that was visiting Italy from a study trip to Sweden. I knew that she also went to Cal Poly but it was not until I met her that I realized that she is roommates back at Cal Poly with one of my best friends from high school! It is so funny how small our world is!

17 December 2011: Saturday
Gelato: Crem de Grom + Tiramisu

19-22 December 2011: Mid-Terms

A week full of studying and little sleep. Not much different then finals week at Cal Poly. I had my Florentine Architecture midterm on Monday, Grammar and History of the Renaissance midterms on Thursday.

Wednesday was “d-day;” the day my final design for the Uffizi Gallery exit was due. The exit had to include a café and also fit into the historical context of ancient Florence. For this project, I was thinking a lot about what the renaissance was. The Renaissance is a re-birth of classical ideals. I studied the evolution of proportions and styles, and then added a third phase to the evolutionary tree. Following the styles of Mies van der Rohe, I developed this project: –>

23 December 2011: Friday
Gelato: panettone and mandarin (Italian Christmas combination)

She is here! My mom arrived last night to visit me in Florence! This had been the longest time I have ever been away from my mama! 4 months is too long. With the end of my last final on Thursday, I practically ran to the train station of pick up my mom.

Today, we walked around to see all of the sights and I gave my mom a thorough lecture of Florentine architecture. We visited the Palazzo Vecchio and David, the Ponte Vecchio, we bought her a pair of leather gloves.

In the evening, we hiked up the hill to the Piazalle Michelangelo. The city of Florence had set up a beautiful frosted Christmas tree in the Piazalle. For dinner, JC, Sar, and I took her to Gusta Pizza for some real Florentine Pizza!

24 December 2011: Saturday and Christmas Eve

We slept in and in the afternoon, we went to the central market to buy some food for our Christmas Eve dinner. She had so much fun looking at all of the strange cuts of meat, cheeses, and vegetables. For dinner, I made meatloaf patties and green beans. Sar joined us and made us one of her wonderful Tiramisu! I was even able to find “A Christmas Story” online to continue our tradition of watching it every Christmas.

After dinner and presents, we took an evening stroll through the streets and made our way to the Duomo for Christmas Eve mass. It lasted 2 ½ hours! More then a Sunday mass, there was an hour of singing and verse reading before mass began. Led by our favorite archbishop of Florence, we enjoyed the smell of incense and the revealing of baby Jesus (in my opinion the best part)! I had never seen the Duomo so full! It was such a fun experience!

25 December 2011: Christmas Day

Buon Natale! (meaning “good birth” or Happy Christmas in Italian).
Mom, JC, and I got on the train this morning to visit my family in Germany again! This time, we are staying with my mom’s cousin Mari and her husband Wolf (daughter of my Tante Git, sister of Barb). The train ride was so beautiful, just like the one to Vals. This time, we went through Austria, past Insbrook. We arrived in Ulm in the evening, just in time for Kasespatzle!

26 December 2011: Monday

Today is the feast of St. Stevens and a state holiday in Bavaria. We took the morning easy. JC and I explored the yard around Mari and Wolf’s house. They have five pet peacocks! We had fun looking for and collecting the tail feathers of the beautiful male peacock. They also have two geese and tons of chickens running around their yard.

For lunch, we went to my Tante Git’s house for a post-Christmas supper and then ventured through the town where my grandma was born. We enjoyed good conversation and more Christmas cookies then any one person should consume.

I tried a new type of cookie who’s recipe comes from my great grandma. Made from the Quince fruit. This fruit-roll-up type cookie has a sweet, yet bitter, taste and is so tasty!

27 December 2011: Tuesday

Up early today to tour Munich. We began the day at Schloss Nymphenburg. Home to King Ludwig I and birthplace of King Ludwig II (he later built Schloss Neuschwanstein). This palace is a simple version of Versailles in Paris, but the frescoes and paintings will give Versailles a run for its money. King Ludwig I began a collection of portraits called “The Gallery of Beauties.” This collection included 36 portraits of the most beautiful women the king had ever met; from a cobbler’s daughter, to some of the noblest women in Bavaria.

We continued into the center to find a very old cemetery. Everyone from my mom’s side of the family is buried here. It was such a creepy cemetery, with vines growing over the tombstones and the overgrown trees blocking the sunlight and casting strange shadows on the dirt path. We explored all of the sights in the center (rathaus, St. Peters, Frauenkirche) and had bratwurst and beer at the Victualienmarkt.

Our last stop of the day was at the Olympic park and BMW Welt! The Olympic park had three pavilions made of fabric lofted over a large open space. BMW Welt (World) is the museum and factory for the BMW cars. The museum and showroom was designed by architecture firm Coop Himmelb(l)au. This space was fantastic with different platforms and spaces for soaking in the beautiful automobiles. We even saw some original vintage cars, including the BMW Isetta.


Dinner was in a traditional Munchener restaurant. We ate schnitzel and spatzle!
The drive home after was full of excitement. Wolf is not afraid of the road! On the autobahn, he pushed the car to 190 km/h. That is about 120 m/h. The fastest I have ever been in a car!

28 December 2011: Wednesday

This morning was lazy and so was the afternoon. All we did was eat today! My Uncle Mich came from Stuttgart to visit my mom and we had a wonderful brunch of meat, cheese, eggs, and pfannkuchen (German pancakes).

We kept eating at Uncle Mar’s house. Gert made some wonderful desserts and we enjoyed coffee with whipped cream! Tante Git, Barb, Tante Wilt, and another Wolf joined us! In our family, we like to count names. The same names tend to show up over and over again throughout a family tree. Names like Rupert, Martin, and Hugo are uncountable in our family!

This evening, we drove into Ulm to visit a German Medieval festival. We drank gluhwein (like mulled wine) and ate some hot snacks. It was so cold that night! To fight the cold, the festival supplied hot wooden baths that people could pay to sit in. Weird if you ask me. But people were enjoying it.

29 December 2011: Thursday

Our last day in Germany. We took the drove down to the Allgau again to play in the snow today! Wolf and Maria have several traditional wooden sleighs and we had so much fun flying down the snow-covered hills. We had a picnic lunch of liverwurst and pretzels with hot apple juice! The Alps were covered with clouds most of the day, but around 13:00 the clouds began to lift. We could see deep into the Alps as the snow began to fall. It was so beautiful and JC’s first time seeing falling snow.


Dinner at Barb’s with Schupfnudeln (long potato noodles) and sauerkraut.

Tomorrow we head to Salzburg. I am sad that we must leave Germany so quickly! I feel so welcome here. I’m falling in love with Bavaria.

Berlin. A return to Deutschland.

I love Berlin! It’s not a city for the vacationer, but for the traveler. What is the difference? A person on vacation is looking for a relaxing time, to be pampered. Berlin is for the traveler. It is a city full of different foods and people, a terrible history and a fascinating present and future.

26 October 2011: Wednesday

We got into Berlin late, so we did not do any exploring. We spend time looking around our huge hostel and planning out our next few days. Our hostel is in what was East Berlin, the communist sector. I found it interesting that you can still see some parts of the communist rule around the city. According to Rick Steves, the people of Berlin voted to keep the communist crossing signals in East Berlin. When you walk into West Berlin, the signals change design.

This was my first time staying in one of these hyper-hostels and we met many interesting people. For example, the four of us were staying in a six-person room and we had one other guest staying with us. Rob was from the Netherlands. Just picture him, long black hair, leather vest, a total 50-year old rocker. I later found out that he is in an underground rock band, meeting up with his German band mates before they start their tour of Europe. I am so thankful that we had Fran traveling with us!

27 October 2011: Thursday

This morning we took the metro to the longest bit of Berlin wall still standing. It has been turned into the east side gallery; artists have painted murals all along the wall, reflecting on the time under communist control.

By now it was time for lunch and we had the best german fast food! Bratwurst and Fries!!!!! It was so good! If you are ever in Berlin, you must stop at Konnopke’s Imbiss. Situated under a railroad track, I was told by a local Berliner that this restaurant has been open since before WWII. It was even able to stay open in the communist sector during the cold war. Yum! I want some now!

This afternoon, we visited the Berliner Fernsehturm TV tower. This tower was built under the control of the Nazi party. There is a ironic story associated with this tower: Since the Nazi party rejects religion, it is interesting that when the sun is shining, a cross is reflected off of the ball of the tower!

We walked past the rathaus and to the Swiss embassy by architect Rem Koolhaas. We could only see the outside, but this building still shines with the smooth modernism that is swiss. We saw the Berliner Dom (Berlin’s Protestant Cathedral-like church), the Neo-Classical Altes Museum, and had fun sampling all of the International foods that have invaded Berlin. Fran was happy to eat Asian Takeout at Happy Noodle while JC and I were overjoyed to have Boba Tea!

This night, we went into the Pergamon Museum. This unique museum gets its name from the temple that was deconstructed in Turkey and taken, stone by stone, here to Berlin where it was reconstructed within this museum. There were many huge, ancient facades and countless artifacts dating back to antiquity.

28 October 2011: Friday

This morning we took a tour of the Reichstag. This building holds the meeting room of the new German Republic. The original building was built during the first German Republic, it was almost destroyed during the Nazi take over, and has been recently restored with a new dome by British architect Norman Foster. The dome is made of glass with ramps winding up the inside. An audio tour took us through the history of the German government, surrounding architecture, and the design of the dome. The glass construction represents the transparency of the new Republic.

We walked through the Tiergarten park, enjoying the fall colors, past Brandenburg Gate, to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews by Peter Eisenman. This memorial was very cool. Hundreds of concrete blocks rise out of the earth at different heights with the earth sloping down, creating a forest of concrete for an entire city block.

We met up with my roommate Kat, who was traveling during PLP break from Vienna to Berlin and we took her to the yummy Konnopke’s Imbiss for Bratwurst again!

29 October 2011: Saturday

Today was a very thought provoking day. We walked from the hostel through the city center to Daniel Liebskind’s Jewish Museum. I think that the museum building itself was so cool and brilliantly designed. Unfortunately the exhibit on Jewish culture took away from the impact of the museum itself.

Liebskind, a Polish Jew, was born just after the end of world war two and grew up in its aftermath. He moved to America when he was a boy and became an architect. He has been using his skills as an architect to create some very impactful museums (also one in San Francisco).

The original building for the Jewish Museum still stands with Liebskind’s metal “scar” stretching out behind it. There are several axis used to create the shape of the building. Between the axis, the “voids” become moments of contemplation. The Holocaust Tower is a tall, unheated room with just one light source, used to remember the victims of the Holocaust. The garden of exile holds 49 trees on columns with the floor at an angle giving a very disorienting feeling, the same feeling given to the refugees as they escaped to their new home. And the Memory Void held thousands of faces cut out of metal. This art installation was to represent the innocent victims of the war. You are able to walk upon the faces; you are forced to trod lightly, with the metal pieces overlapping and banging together… just watch the video…

This museum’s architecture was fabulous. I now understand why all of my professors are always raving about it.

For lunch, we found a Schwäbisch restaurant (food from Bavaria). I was so excited be cause I got everyone to try Käsespätzle!!! It was so good!

We hurried to the Neues Museum, museum of Egypt and antiquity, to see the bust of Nefertiti, before going to the Typographies of Terror Museum (TTM). The TTM was absolutely fascinating. It went in depth into the rise and fall of the Nazi party. It explained how the party gained so much popularity throughout Germany and put faces behind its leaders. It is so interesting how the party pulled Germany out of a depression after WWI while secretly destroying so many lives. The new pavilion that houses the TTM was built on top of the foundation of the original headquarters for the SS. A must see museum in Berlin.

30 October 2011: Sunday

Kat met us at the hotel this morning and the five of us took the train out of Berlin to the town of Dessau. The Bauhaus, school of Architecture was established here by German modernist architects Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rhoe (#3 on my list of favorite architects). Cal Poly sent five architecture students to study here for two quarters and we were excited to visit them and see the renowned school.

They met us at the train and gave us a tour around the small and quiet town of Dessau. It was Sunday so many things were closed. There is a very large theater in Dessau that is said to fit the entire population of Dessau (over 40,000 people). I was told that Hitler planned to make Dessau the new capital of the Nazi regime and therefore began building some very large, but now unnecessary, projects.

We had lunch in a small beer garden and spend several hours talking and laughing. We ate Bratwurst, kartoffelsalat (potato salad, but German and amazing), fresh bread, and an apple tart. We wandered slowly back to the train, enjoying the fall leaves and crisp air.

31 October 2011: Monday

Our flight left very early this morning from Berlin, arriving in Milan at 8am! We took the bus into the Milan center, exploring the beautiful Galleria and the Milan Duomo. The Galleria is a glass covered shopping center dating back to 1865 and selling the top Italian clothing like Gucci and Prada, and housing The Seven Stars Galleria Hotel (the only 7 star hotel in the world!) Also, there is a mosaic of the crest of Torino, a bull. For good luck, you are to step on the bull, just like Fran is doing. That spot in the floor is worn through to the concrete below!

The Duomo gathers its elaborate gothic style from the French. This cathedral is also home to many catholic relics including recently dead popes and cardinals (I could even see their hair poking out from under their death masks… weird if you ask me).

We had lunch at a bakery called “Princi.” It is a local favorite and we had to push our way to the bar to order the yummy and fresh focaccia bread! The train home was smooth and relaxing after our fun trip.


23 August 2011.

Gelato: Praline + Tiramisu

Today, Tante Elk and I left Bavaria to stay with my Uncle Mich. Uncle Mich lives outside Stuttgart in a sustainable house (more later). Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg.

After an easy morning of trying to fit everything back into my suitcase, Uncle Mich and my cousin Peti came for lunch at Tanta Git’s. I was sad to leave, On the way to Uncle Mich’s house, we stopped at the Blautopfbut hopefully we will be able to return for Christmas! Tanta Git is so nice and made sure I was well fed! I don’t think I ever stopped eating while in Germany!

On the way to Uncle Mich’s house, we stopped at the Blautopf (Bowl of Blue) Lake. This lake is very unique. The Blau river sinks beneath the earth some 1200m to the north-west and resurfaces at the Blautopf. Uncle Mich told me that the scientists do not know how deep into the earth the river actually goes because strange things happen to the divers and instruments that go in too deep. Some blame this on a “water ghost” or mermaid creature. There is even a statue of said mermaid sitting on the edge of the lake. Water is very clear and becomes a beautiful and deep blue. A monastery was built next to this beautiful lake and houses some great fresco and one of the most extravagant iconic altars I have ever seen. The altar has several panels that can move, all depicting the story of Christ.

Once home, I met my Tante Gert and was given a tour of the house. Uncle Mich and Tanta Gert own a packaging and binding company and Uncle Mich was so proud to show me how the machines work. For dinner we ate Raclette (this involves layering meat and potatoes with cheese. The cheese becomes melted when your personal cooking pan is placed on this fancy heating surface. So Good!)

**Architecture Nerd Info**
Uncle Mich’s house is very unique for Germany. It has no heating or air conditioning and is very sustainable. Many of the surfaces are unfinished, giving the house a comfortable, yet modern feel. The windows all face to the west to allow the house to be heated in the cold winters. The windows also have shades to keep the house cool in the summer. The floor to ceiling windows gave us a great view of the sunset and the amazing lightning storm that took place that night.

24 August 2011.

Today was the day of being a tourist. We all met up with Uncle Mich and Tante Elk’s half sister Nel.
She was so friendly to me and so excited to show me around Stuttgart. We began by taking the train into the city center. We took a very long walk through the Rathaus, a fabulous department store (it could give Galeries Lafayette in Paris a run for it’s money), past an indoor market, wine festival, Modern Art museum, and two palaces! I was very surprised by this city! It is so beautiful, has a great and extensive history, and is home to some of the largest German brands! These brands include: Mercedes Benz, Ritter Sport Chocolate, Hugo Boss, and Porsche. Stuttgart is also home to the tallest TV tower in Germany and the next largest beer festival after Oktoberfest in München!

**For my “Top Gear” boys: K1 + K4**

The best part for me was visiting the Mercedes Benz Museum! Not only was the architecture of this building amazing, but so were the cars! The museum took us through the history of the automobile and the many, many models of cars produced by the Benz Company. Did you know that Mr. Benz was the first man to patent the automobile? I thought is was very interesting how the museum showed how Mercedes Benz rules over almost every class of car; from luxury, to working, to racing! I would defiantly recommend a visit!

25 August 2011

An early car ride to the Stuttgart airport. Tante Elk just left me to fly home to America. I sit here, waiting, for my flight to Firenze, Italia!

Family + Return to the Allgäu

21 August 2011. Family.

Today I met even more of my German family! With my Tante Elk and Tante Git, we joined family for a very nice lunch in the town of Roggenburg. The restaurant was part of a monastery and I ate spätzle and fish (with the head still on!) It was very yummy! I was able to meet my Great Uncle Mar for the first time! along with seeing my Great Tante Wil again and meeting many more of my mom’s cousins. It was so great to see my Oma’s three siblings together! They are so cute. We had so much fun talking story and laughing at plays-on-words (Elk had to explain them to me) and old family stories. We must be related because we all have the same dry sense of humor.

After lunch we drove to my Uncle Mar’s house where we all sat in the garden and ate desert. Uncle Mar’s wife owned a bakery and made us home-made ice cream and the best Apple Strudel ever! Tante Elk and I could not stop eating the delicious desert.

22 August 2011. Return to the Allgäu.

Barb picked me up again for another adventure in the Allgäu, but this time we did not go as far south. The hills were just as green and we would see the Alps off in the distance. We stopped in a very cute town, Wangen, for “lunch” consisting of local meat, cheese and tasty deserts. We ate lunch at the Fidelisbäck Bäckeri** where I have now discovered a new desert to add to “the tastiest desserts ever” list (after Tiramisu and Sticky Toffee Pudding): Bienenstich. This dessert consists of a very light and not too sweet cake with a sweet cream between. But, the best part is the crunchy toffee and almond coating that is on top! It is sooo good. We ate it too quickly!

The rest of the day we spent at a local swimming hole. This lake was very interesting because it was not clear at all, but it was very refreshing. Barb told be that ancient trees began to decompose in the lake causing the water to stay brown and foggy. The “scum” that forms on the bottom is the same stuff that is used in mud baths and what people pay hundreds of dollars to have smeared all over their bodies in places like Baden Baden. The dark color of the lake and the warm weather kept the water at a comfortable 70F.

** Fidelisbäck Bäckeri is a very famous bakery that is owned by a distant relative. Tante Git told me that the owner is her cousin’s cousin. Made me realize how small our world really is! Also, Bienenstich translates to “Bee Sting.”

For My Mom. Humors of the German Language.

There are many words in Germany that sound very funny. My favorite is the word that means “to travel/ride.” The word is spelled Fahrt. Just say it and you will know why I would sit in the back of the car and start giggling every time we passed an autobhan off-ramp saying Ausfahrt. I got some very strange looks from my German relatives! Ha Ha!

München + the Allgäu

19 August 20ll. Munich.
Gelato: koko (coconut)

Thursday we spent the day in Munich (München). Taking the train through the German countryside is very relaxing! The trains are always on time, unlike the ones in California. We arrived in Munich just before noon and in time to see the giant glockenspiel (cuckoo clock) strike 12:00. It was so fun to hear all of the tourists cheer as the wooden knights lanced and Bavaria, in blue and white, was victorious!

We ventured through St. Peter’s church to the Victualienmarkt and Beer Garden. We found wonderful pretzels. We ate our lunch outside of the Frauenkirche “Woman’s Cathedral”. This cathedral was the former stomping ground of our current Pope Benedict XV. There is an interesting story that goes along with this cathedral. There is a large black footprint in the middle of the foyer. The legend says, that as the church was being built, the devil came inside. As he stood in the center of the foyer, he looked up and could see no stained glass (because they were hidden behind the pillars.)

Toby, Mar, Anni, Avi, and Mel

The devil stamped his food in excitement, leaving the footprint in the stone, because what good was a church with no windows? Yet, as he stepped forward, the windows appeared and the devil turned and fled.

Even though it was a very warm day in Munich, I had such a great time exploring and doing touristy things! My cousin Mel even told me that it was fun for her! She said that she had visited Munich many times before, but she had never looked at this great town through the eyes of a tourist or an architecture student! Once home, we had a great family BBQ on the lawn of my Tante Git’s house.

20 August 2011. The Allgäu.

Friday was my favorite day in Germany so far, despite the fact that I fell and scraped my knee! My mom’s cousin Barb and her family picked up my aunt and I to visit southern Bavaria. This area, the Allgäu, is so beautiful! The green rolling hills of Germany suddenly turn into the rough and rugged Alps. King Ludwig II of Bavaria grew up in the castle Hohenschwangau and also built his fantasy castle, Neuschwanstein, which is perfectly situated in the foothills of the Alps. Both castles rise up above the surrounding towns and forest.

Gab and her husband Pet

Before touring the castles, we visited the town of Buching, a five-minute drive from the castles, to see the quaint town where my Opa was born. His family has lived in this area for generations and worked in the farming and tree harvesting. We found the site of his home along while meeting my mom’s other cousin Gab, who still lives in Buching. There is a beautiful site of the Alps and Neuschwanstein from Gab’s yard. The green fields are filled with cows and their farmers. (It is said that the cows of the Allgäu are more beautiful then the women. haha) I had never met my cousin Gab before, yet, she told me that she recognized me right away; that I looked just like my mama.

We toured Neuschwanstein first. After a long hike (on the hottest day in Germany for 20 years) we finally reached the castle that is clad in a beautiful marble and sandstone. King Ludwig II built this castle to honor his favorite composer, Richard Wagner. Every wall is covered with gorgeous frescos and tapestries depicting Wagner’s stories of “Tristan and Isolde” and “Persival and Gawan.” King Ludwig II was only able to live in his new castle for a few weeks. After vigorously taxing his people to build his extravagant castle, the King was mysteriously found dead in a lake not far from the castle.

Hohenschwangau was my favorite castle. King Ludwig II grew up in this castle and was always a dreamer. He brought his telescope to the Hohenschwangau castle to survey the construction of his new Neuschwanstein castle. Hohenschwangau as not as fantastical of a castle as Neuschwanstein, but it still depicted many of the folk stories of Bavaira and lookes over the beautiful Allgäu. One of the most interesting treasures in this castle is a loaf of bread from the King of Russia. This bread is now over 120 years old. Yum.

Me, Pet, Ber, Barb, Jan, and Tab!

On the way home, we stopped at the Wieskirke. This beautiful UNESCO world heritage site is decorated in the most extravagant rococò style. The architect went overboard with gold leafing and cherubs, yet it is so peaceful and quiet. The only sounds are the footsteps of visitors on the tile and the soft bells of the cows in the fields around the church. This church was a must see for me because my Opa helped restore this church after it was bombed during WWII.

(have your volume up to listen to the cow bells!)

An amazing day ended with an amazing dinner! Käsespätzle!

Arriving + Ulm, Germany

16 August 2011.
Gelato: Cappuccino + Tiramisu

My Aunt and I have made it to Germany! We flew with Swiss Air form LAX to Zurich, Switzerland and then to Stuttgart, Germany. We had a very nice time relaxing on the plane and the flight seemed much shorter then 11 hours it actually took! I don’t know why my mom and I have never visited Germany before, but I know I will return many more times! I feel very comfortable with these family members I have never met before!

Germany is made up of many counties. My family is from an area of Bavaria that borders Baden-Württemberg. Schwabia (southern Germany) is culturally different from northern Germany and they speak Swabish, a softer form of German, compared to the High-German spoken in the North.

I am staying in a small town that is located south of Ulm. My Great Aunt (Großtante) lives in the house that was built behind the house where she and my Grandma (Oma) were born. She lives downstairs while her son and his family live upstairs. Her son’s children (I will call them cousins) are a little bit younger then me and speak wonderful English! It has been so much fun comparing our cultures! There are so many stereotypes that they learn from American Television and wonder if they are true.

18 August 2011. Ulm.
Gelato: Ananas (Pineapple) + Banane (Banana)

Today my cousins, Tab and Mel, took me to the town of Ulm. Ulm is not in the state of Bavaria, but in Baden-Württemberg. The towns of Ulm and Neu-Ulm sit of either side of the Danube River and stretches about the size of San Luis Obispo. It has many great shops and a wonderful history. We walked through much of old Ulm, seeing the beautifully painted Rathaus (City Hall), a new public library, the Schiefeshaus, and soaked our feet in the Danube River. In the center of Ulm is a great Lutheran church called the Ulmer Münster. There is a plaza in front of the Ulmer Münster that is now home to a new civic center designed by the Architect Richard Meier. If you know Richard Meier, he designed the Getty Musium, you know that he usually creates large, modern, white structures. However, I think that this new building fits in very nicely with the gothic style of the Ulmer Münster because it uses many of the same forms.

Atop the roof of the Ulmer Münster is a sparrow holding a piece of straw. This bird has now become a symbol for the city of Ulm. The story goes, while the people of Ulm were building the city, they were trying to bring a log into the city, however, the log was too wide to fit through the main gate. So the builders watched the sparrow, or Ulmer Spatz, carry some straw to the home he was building. To bring the straw through the door of his home, the sparrow turned the straw sideways so that it could fit the short way through the door! Amazing!

The Ulmer Münster is known for being the tallest church in the world because it has a tall spire measuring over 500 feet, so my cousin Tab and I had to climb up. We finally made it up the 768 steps to the top step and watched the people below! The climb to the top gave such a great view of Ulm and the red-tile roofs that radiate from the city center. Such a wonderful day getting to know my family!

**Also, My class and I all made it safely to Florence, Italy on the 25 August. It has been such a busy two weeks, but more posts will be coming soon. We have found a great apartment between Santa Croce Cathedral and The Duomo in the old center of Florence. Language classes start tomorrow! We are all slowly finding our way through the narrow streets and having lots of fun. Ciao!**