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.

Friday.
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?

Saturday.
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.


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Sunday.
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.

Monday.
Tante Git came for lunch today. yummy… Lasagna.

Tuesday.
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.

Wednesday.
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.

Thursday-Saturday.
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.


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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.

Sunday.
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.

Monday.
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.

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

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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
Munich

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.


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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.


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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.

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!**