Munich


For some reason (peer-pressure!) I signed up for the 10km München Stadtlauf (City Run) when I ran this morning. My company, Infineon/Qimonda, is a major sponsor, so they give free entry to all employees and have a courtyard reserved just for us for pre and post race, so I joined several workmates in the run. The plan was to run at least 10km total in the weeks coming up to the event, but I completely botched that, running only about 6km last Tuesday, but nothing else of significance in the past 3 months or so. So as of 8:00 this morning, I was just hoping to start out slow, stay consistent and be able to finish. Well, I did exactly that, running almost perfect 1k splits and ended up with a 50:42…. That’s about 19 minutes slower than my personal best from college, so I’m figuring that’s just under 30 seconds extra for each pound I’ve gained since then, and that way it almost sounds reasonable!

I actually did have a good time though, and unsuriprsingly, the event was excellently run (no pun intended). There were >10,000 people signed up for the 10k, but everything went very smoothly, no waiting in huge lines or getting caught in crowds. It was chip-timed as all the big races are now, and as soon as you finish you give your chip to a dude with a computer, he scans it, and immediately prints out a result and time card for you. And it was also cool because we received our race packets in the mail last week, and they included the race t-shirt that everyone wore, which were bright orange and a nice, light silky material. That way, everyone who paid was wearing the same shirt, so it cuts down on “race bandits”, or those crazy people who like to run for the fun of it, and will enter a race without paying or getting a real result. Plus, it just looks cool to have thousands of people running through the trails in the English Garden wearing the same thing.

Arguably, the highlight of the race morning was walking out of the chute after the race, and being greeted with an ice cold Weissbier! Only in Germany!

Bier, small
And you gotta’ give it up for this guy, running the 1/2 marathon race, in full lederhosen, while pushing a stroller (but bucking the dress code!).

IMG_0132-small.jpg

Hope everyone had fun – it was a good way to spend my last weekend in Germany. Time to cheer on Deutschland in the upcoming quarter-finals game with Argentina on Friday!

Update: Here I am hanging out with some of my Spanish friends after the race.

P1030025.JPG     P1030021.JPG     P1030024.JPG

I went over to Hofbräuhaus last month with a couple guys for a going-away party for a colleague who was making a 2 month trip to our office in Portugal. While there, we ran into our work group’s Team Assistant, who happens to be French, with her friends and parents, who were visiting Germany for the first time since she moved here 10 or so years ago. Anyway, we went over to their table for a drink, but most of them were already three sheets to the wind.

Inevitably, the topic of politics, and more specifically, American politics, came up. Hey, this should be fun, I thought – I’m up for a little Bush-bashing with a table full of drunk Frenchies! I was completely taken off guard, then, when the father challenged my positions on American policies and politics more severely than anyone else in Europe has. It’s not that he was an ardent Bush supporter or anything, but he was very hesitant to pass judgement on what was going on in America. He said that since he’s not in America and doesn’t know its people or is involved in its government, he is unwilling to criticize what he doesn’t know enough about. He was confident that Americans are able to take care of our own government by ourselves and democracy in action (or democracy inaction, as Jon Stewart is fond of noting) will prevail for the best solution.

I mentioned this to another French coworker, and he said that’s quite typical for French people. They are very opinionated and vocal about what goes on in France, but are generally very reserved about speaking out about politics in other countries where they are not fully informed of local situations. So mark this up as another typical European stereotype many American have that turns out to be flat wrong (in addition to my assumption that I would always be able to tell a Brit apart from and American, and certainly a German apart from a Brit, given their accents – both of which have been proven false). Remember that next time your Congressman tells you to pour your French wine down the toilet (that you already paid for, mind you) or that we should be eating patriotic Freedom Fries.

Hofbraeuhaus small

À votre santé, mon ami!

Allianz StadiumSo, unless you’ve been living in a cave…. or, uh…. in the USA, you know that the World Cup started today, or the WM, Weltmeister, here in Germany. The month long, 32 country tournament kicked off tonight with the opening ceremony and the first match in Munich’s brand new Allianz Stadium. So since tickets for the games in Munich sold out about 3 years ago, what better way to watch the game than at one of Munich’s largest biergartens!

I took off work a little early and headed to Augustinerbrau Keller with my friend Andrew. It was a bit crowded, but we manged to find a place to stand for the 2 hours and peer over other’s shoulders while Deutschland beat up on Costa Rica, 4 to 2.

IMG_0003.JPG

After a nice game of football, it’s time to fill up on some good Chinese food, where, of course, you must take the requisite picture with the enthusiastic group of Asian tourists decked out in native German soccer gear.

IMG_0019.JPG

Afterwards, I headed to Marienplatz, Munich Center City, about 3 blocks from my apartment, where the victory celebration was in full swing. What was fun about the celebration though, was that it was more of a welcoming party for all countries and cultures, rather than a victory celebration for Germany on opening night.

Of course we had our German partiers:
IMG_0029.JPG IMG_0047.JPG

But there were also contingents from Mexico:
IMG_0034.JPG IMG_0043.JPG

Brazil:
IMG_0041.JPG

various European countries:
IMG_0033.JPG

and Iran:
IMG_0032.JPG

And while wandering through the crowd I heard lots of people speaking English, many of them American English, I didn’t see a single US, England, or Australian flag….

Oh well – check out the rest of the pictures in the gallery, and check back later for more World Cup adventures, including a view from the Dutch perspective, as I visit Amsterdam next weekend!

Grrrr….. All this talk about spring and eating outside and everything must have jinxed the whole city. We woke up Tuesday morning to 5 more inches of snow!! It snowed most of the day, but was very wet and most of it is gone now, at least in the city. This now makes officially 6 months of snow in the 9 months we’ve been in Munich. Actually, though, it has gone by pretty quickly. When I think back, and look back at all the photo albums from last summer, we really crammed in a lot of outdoor-time in the few months of good weather. Here’s to hoping that this is the last snowfall of the year, and maybe we can start enjoying some outdoor biergartens by the end of the month!

This is what it looked like in the city Tuesday morning (I fogot my camera before leaving for work, but ganked this picture off of someone’s Flickr gallery)

Snow in April

But after 9 months of hearning nothing but complaining and excuses about the weather from all sorts of Germans, I finally got a rational and reasonable response yesterday at lunch. I asked a fellow engineer about snow in April, expecting to get the usual “oh no, this is highly unusual”, but instead got: “Well, I suppose there’s always the distinct probability of snow into April. I guess it’s just that most people are tired of the long winter, and wish for Spring to show up to get outdoors.” So, upon hearing that rationale, I decided to suck it up and return to my usual stoic disposition, and quit complaining about the weather myself.

I did get another shock on Tuesday morning, though. Upon seeing the snow outside, I checked my watch to see what the date was and was greeted with an unplesant message. Apparently as I was adjusting my watch last week for daylight savings time, I accidentally changed the day read-out to German abbreviations, instead of English. So on Tuesdays, or known as Dienstage over here, instead of “Tue”, I get this:

Die

DIE!! AAAHH! 😉

Finally, got some major changes done to the site. First, the photo gallery is back up and working. In the process of upgrading, I hope to have made the gallery more attractive and easier and more fun to navigate. One of the reasons it took so long was trying to get all the layout bugs fixed for Internet Explorer. Everything worked swimmingly in FireFox, Safari, Opera, and Camino, but it looked like crap in Internet Explorer!! And according to my blogGet FireFox! statistics, 60-70% of you are still using IE instead of FireFox – so get the with the program, do yourself a favor, and get FireFox! But the 2nd reason for the delay was getting everything transferred to my new domain name – joelion.com. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been automatically redirected from the old URL, thalions.com/blogs/joe. Ideally, all the old links to the thalions.com/blogs/joe site should redirect properly to the new address, but you should probably update your bookmarks or RSS feeds anyway. Also links to pictures are different and pictures embedded in previous posts are mostly broken, for now at least. Since I bought thalions.com a couple years ago, and now Alisha uses alishalion.com for her site, I thought I’d go for the trifecta and snatch up joelion.com before I become big and famous and someone ends up stealing it from me.

Anyway, enough of that boring business. Not much else to report, but I did put up another photo album of my trip to the Starkbierfest last week at the Paulaner bier hall. Now the German’s aren’t going to get any awards for creativity when it comes to naming their beers. I’ve mentioned the most popular beers before – Helles, CIMG1323_smWeiss, and Dunkel. Those words literally mean “light”, “white”, and “dark” in English. Now to add to that list is a special brew made only once a year, Starkbier. Or, AKA known as “Strong beer”. How creative! Starkbierfest is kind of like the Spring version of Oktoberfest, but instead of everyone gathering at the carnival grounds, it’s up to each brewery to stage their own festivities at their own bierhalls. And as I mentioned, starkbier is only brewed once a year for this event, so you can’t get it any other time. That’s probably a good thing too, since it contains a good bit more alcohol that the other normal beers, and it’s drank in 1 Liter size steins of course. A couple/few of those will put you under the table for sure. (more…)

So I spent much of my last post complaining commenting on the weather around here. Well parhaps I spoke too soon because this weekend has been great, hinting that Spring may be around the corner. By great I mean it’s been sunny, at least, and temperatures have been above freezing. So I took advantage and went for a run in the English Garden and found almost all of Munich had the same idea. The park was full of people running, walking, riding, eating, but no nude-sunbathing (not yet, at least). The lakes are still frozen over, so while there is not ice hockey being played as there was last time I visited, there were groups of dogs enjoying the smooth lake to chase ducks and geese across the water!

For a little aside here, I’ll remind anyone who missed all my posts from last summer that when the weather is good here, most dining seems to take place outdoors. Between the time I got here in July and when the weather started going bad in November, probably 80% of my meals were outside, either in a garden or park, or in an outdoor seating area. Most cafes and restaraunts put tables all over the sidewalk or in adjacent squares to their location, and it makes for pleasant dining. Also, as I mentioned in the last post, European’s seem not to mind standing outside in freezing temperatures, as long as they had a group of people, and food and drinks. Well, with temperatures soaring into the low 40’s today, the cafes apparently have collectively decided it is time to break out the outdoor tables and chairs! As evident from this picture of a cafe at the end of our block, the locals seem to be more than happy to once again start eating outdoors again!

Spring Dining
I also have another short video to show. I had the pleasure of joining an Irish friend and his family at a local Irish Pub to watch a rugby game between Ireland and England. As you could imagine, tensions were running high and after 78 minutes of play (i.e. 2 minutes left), and hundreds of pints of Guiness from the bar patrons, Ireland was down by 4 points. Well, Ireland pulled together and marched down the pitch for a clutch touchdown with 1:30 left in play, and I had my camera ready to catch the reaction from a hundred drunk Irish hooligans!

I think I read somewhere that something like 90% of the blogs created in the last 3 years are now considered dead; i.e. having no posts or updates in the past 3 months. If my blog isn’t dead yet, it’s certainly on lifesupport, so the goal of this blog now is simply to keep close friends and family informed and occasionally entertained and to serve as a semi-permanent, online, searchable archive of our travels, experiences, pictures, thoughts, all that jazz.

So anyway, I’ve added a new photo gallery of some recent snow and a very cold and snowy St. Patrick’s Day festival. Also, my brother Todd and his girlfriend Becca spent a week here in Muinch over their Spring Break. They left 70+ degree weather in Raleigh (and returned to 80+ degreesǃ∂.) to spend 8 days in the cold and snow. The first weekend ofIMG_0178.JPG their trip, Southern Germany was slammed with the largest snow storm in 20 years, dumping over 20 inches of snow in downtown Munich. The snow made it a bit difficult to do all the normal tourist stuff, and we even made a foolish attempt at taking the Die Bahn (regional train) for a day trip to the Linderhof castle. I was thinking “what’s a little snow to a 50 ton train?” I failed to account for ice downing trees and debris on the tracks, and we ended up stranded for 6 hours in a Munich suburban train station before finding a cab back to town. By the next day the tracks were cleared, and they managed to escape to Vienna for a few days, where the weather was at least slightly warmer and there was considerably less snow.

The weekend after they left, there was an early St. Patrick’s Day celebration downtown. I kind of overslept though the parade, but did make it to part of the after-parade party. A St Pattycouple days of rain had cleaned out most of the snow, but by Sunday afternoon it was well below freezing again and the snow arrived just in time for the Irish jigs on the main stage. There was still a pretty good crowd, because one thing I’ve noticed about Europeans (taking experience from Munich, Austira and Prague though the past few months) is that they don’t mind standing around outside in freezing temperatures and horrid conditions, as long as they are with a big group of people and have something alcoholic to drink. In this case it was cold beer, but around Christmas the drink of choice was Gluwein, a very tasty heated, spicy red wine drink.

(more…)

Well I guess it’s time for what has become my monthly update. To start off with several bits of exciting news. When we came to Munich in July with my company, the plan was to stay for 6 months then return to the US. But as I’m sure you’ve noticed from my blog posts, we have enjoyed our time so much over here that when my company offered us the chance to stay for another six months, we jumped on it – so we will be residents of Munich until mid-summer 2006! This will be a great chance for me to continue working with some great engineers at the Infineon headquarters, but Alisha is also taking full advantage of the opporunity and has gained a spot on a professional cycling team from Austria called Elk Haus. She has lots more info on her blog, so be sure to read up on that. She has quite a schedule already, including a month in Australia, a week in New Zealand, and 3 weeks in California, and that’s just through the end of March!

So for now, instead of recounting ad-nauseum one adventure or another that we’ve had, i’m just going to point out several new photo galleries that I’ve added or updated recently. I’ve written descriptions for each gallery, so I’ll just copy/paste those here too. Speaking of adventures, though, 2 galleries that are still missing are our Paris anniversary trip and a weekend trip I took to Prague last weekend. Beteween those two trips I have about 350 pictures, so I’ll have to figure out which ones I want to put online. So in the meantime, enjoy these!
(more…)

Just a quick note – Munich and the surrounding area got its first snow of the year last night. By mid-morning there was 1-2in. 2-5cm. on the ground. The temp is hanging right around freezing so it’s a bit wet and probably won’t hang around too long.

Apart from that, Alisha’s parents are in town visiting for about a week. They arrived Tuesday morning and have been super busy since then exploring the city. We have a busy weekend planned with trips to Dachau and Olympic Park and a 5k/10k road race on Sunday in East Munich (Alisha and her dad are doing the 10k – you can geuss which one I’m doing!). Then on Monday we’re going to try to get out of town and take a look at one of the most majestic castles in Europe, the Newschwanstein.

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve fallen quite behind in making updates. Truthfully, I’ve been avoiding starting new posts because they are quite time consuming – between writing, editing, yammering on and on about nothing, adding pictures, etc, it takes a couple hours just to get one post up. So, hopefully I can either find the time to do some more big updates, or maybe I just have to contain myself and write faster and shorter. At the least, I will get some more pictures up, especially from our anniversary trip to Paris.

In the meantime, be sure to check out Alisha’s newly redesigned blog, which she is being more faithful in updating that I am.

By the way – you’ll see the GuestMap has been re-enabled below, so if you’re reading this and still haven’t left your mark, nows the time to do it!

Don’t get your hopes up though – this is just a filler post so this info doesn’t get lost in the minutia of the Belgium post I just made (be sure to check that one out too if you haven’t been here in the last, oh…. 2 months 😉 ). Just a heads up that Alisha and I are still doing great, and I still have lots to report and much more coming up. In the meantime, be sure to check out the photo galleries with the following updates:

  • Brussels Weekend – A weekend trip to Brussels, Belgium with some co-workers. See the full report in the previous post.
  • Giro della Toscona – I got to spend a full week with Alisha’s team in Tuscany, Italy acting as the team mechanic/driver. We had a great time and it gave me the chance to watch a 6 day road-race first hand, which I haven’t been able to do yet with my work and with Alisha’s busy travel/race schedule.
  • Oktoberfest – An extended stay in Munich wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the world’s most famous beer festival: Oktoberfest! I had the opportunity to make several trips, and will report on it later, but in the meantime enjoy the pictures.
  • Der Lange Nacht – This is certainly one of the more mundane photo-galleries so far, but what the hey. We partook in the annual Munich event Der Lange Nacht der M√∫nchener Museen (The Long Night of Museums), a night long tour where over 90 museums and cultural centers in Munich open their doors for visits using just one entry ticket.

Also coming soon to the photo-gallery are pictures from a weekend trip we just returned from to Lindau on Bodensee – a magnificant little island town on a lake (the “Boden-see” or Boden Lake) were we spent our one year wedding anniversary – October 23, 2005! We had a relaxing time. Well…. if you call a 5 hour ride spanning 4 countries “relaxing”, that is. But no – it was great, but next weekend is going to be even better for a belated anniversary trip. We’re taking advantage of a German public holiday next week (i.e. a free day off work) and are taking a long weekend trip to Paris for 5 days! We’re looking forward to it very much, and I’m sure we’ll have plenty to report, including pictures of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Moulin Rouge and more.

In the meantime, it is Fall in Bavaria. The weather is getting nippy and the fall colors are here. Actually, the weather in Munich is almost identical to that in Boone. Weather.com shows that Boone is about 2 degrees warmer in the summer and 2 degrees colder in the winter, so we feel almost like we’re at home. Even moreso than the weather, when you go down into the foothills of the Alps, the scenery is DSC03250amazingly similar to the North Carolina mountains. In fact, on a bike ride last weekend at the base of the Alps, Alisha and I were riding along a curvy country road with an old wooden split-rail fense on one side and bright orange and yellow leaves falling all around, and at the same time we both said “this looks so much like North Carolina”. If I had taken a picture, even a true Boonie would have had a hard time distinguishing that location from a spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

So, check back later this week for pics from Lindau, and maybe another post about Oktoberfest or something. Otherwise, we’ll be in touch after our Paris adventure!

Next Page »