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!

From the looks of it, it’s been a good 7+ weeks since my last real update. I’ve just been testing you to see if I had any real readers left, and according to the comments on the last post, I have at least 5, so that’s enough reason for a new post I suppose! Well it certainly has been a busy several weeks at that, and we have some big plans coming up too, so I’d better get as much out now as possible.

The first big adventure was a quick weekend trip to Brussels, Belgium (home of Dr. Evil, if you recall) with a couple workmates having found some cheap Dr. EvilLufthansa flight specials. Before leaving for the trip I had to give myself another geography lesson as a reminder of exactly what part of Europe I would be headed to – for the life of me I couldn’t picture Belgium, much less Brussels, on a map. Turns out it’s the little country nestled to the West of Germany, Northeast of France, and to the Southwest of The Netherlands with a short bit of coast line on the North Sea, just a short hop over to the UK. After looking at the map I had an “oh yeah, I knew that” moment as I realized, oh yeah, I knew that. Brussels, the country capital is just to the north of the very middle of the country, which I found out later, is deeply and bitterly divided across an east-west line based on how the different regions prepare mussels with french fries, the country’s most popular and official national food.

Brussels, it turns out, is also the official capital of the European Union, as that’s where the European Parliament meets. You can see pictures of the EU buildings the Brussels Weekend photogallery – they’re the huge silver, reflective glass and DSC02785.JPGsteel buildings constructed among otherwise Gothic and Baroque architecture of the rest of the city (ok, I just made that up – I don’t know how the rest of the city would be classified architecturally, besides “old”). You can imagine that has ruffled some feathers in Brussels and elsewhere as to what the European Union represents: is it a union of many of the oldest modern (“oldest modern”? What does that mean?) civilizations on earth that should be represented by traditional cultures and architecture, or is it a coalition of ultra-modern countries that are banding together to fight for relevancy in a world dominated by American pop-culture, and increasingly by Asian commerce and trade. I don’t know much about the EU, but one thing I do know is that they don’t know the answer to that question themselves. I made that question up just now, by the way – feel free to use it if you’re looking for a topic for a thesis or dissertation in European Studies. 😉 Oh yeah, you may recall in one of my first posts about my trip to Strasbourg, France in which I called it the European Union Capital. Apparently I was mistaken, as any Belgiumer will tell you that the dinky town of Strasbourg may have a couple insignificant EU buildings, but the real EU headquarters and buildings, no matter how shiny and garish, are in Brussels.
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This is just a quick post to let anyone who is still following know that we’re still doing well over here, and at the moment I’m posting from a B&B in the heart of Tuscany, Italy (Toscana to the locals). I’m on a painfully slow dial-up connection, as the Italians apparently haven’t discovered hi-speed Internet yet. I have a report to make from my trip a week and a half ago to Brussels, Belgium where some co-workers and we stumbled upon the ‘Weekend of Beer’ festival. But more exciting, though, was an opportunity that popped up mid-last week for me to travel with Alisha’s european team as the driver/mechanic for a whole week of racing in Germany and Italy. We spent last weekend in Nurnburg, Germany for a quick World Cup race, then spend a day driving through Germany, Austria, and into Tuscany, where we are now. We’ve made it through 4 stages of racing so far with 3 left to go by Sunday when the race ends in Florence. We’ll hop aboard a night train to get back to Munich so I can go into the office on Monday, then hopefully we’ll find the time to make more updates (with lots of pictures!) soon there-after.

New Photo Albums:

Three epic weekends in a row, that is. Or, at least, three adventuresome weekends in a row. When I left off last time, we had just finished a ride down to and around Tergensee lake (or more properly, that’s probably Tergen Lake, since see = lake) at the beginning of a 3-day weekend. We had train tickets booked for Salzburg for the next day, just over the Eastern border in Austria. We decided to try the whole “Europe by backpack” thing, so we packed up our backpacks so we could carry everything with us on our bike. Then we found a hostel online so we could see what communal-living hostel-style is like. After our 2 hour DSC02548.JPG Sunday morning train ride, we arrived in a dreary Salzburg and made our way a couple miles through town to the hostel. From the outside, it was not really unlike a normal, smallish hotel. We checked in and went to our room, and that’s where the differences pick up. We were in an 8-bed dorm room with four bunk beds, shared with 3 British guys. The average hostel seems to be about $20/night/bed, so for one or two people it is a good deal. Once you start getting to 3, 4 or more people, it might be getting more expensive than a cheap hotel. But the services there were very nice. There were several large groups of student-aged people and a few big families, so there were always lots of people coming and going and congregating and whatnot.

So we immediately got our cycling gear on and set out with a map of the area in search of some mountains to climb (that was the easy part – finding them). It was perfect weather – sunny, low 70’s, not a could in sight, so I didn’t bother to bring anything besides by light wind vest. Alisha always carries her rain jacket, which turned out to be a very wise decision. We got to our first climb pretty quickly. Salzburg is in kind of a flat valley, so once you get out of town you can find any number of small roads that put you straight up into the Alps. DSC02516.JPGOnce again, I ran out of gears very quickly, and grinded (ground?) my way up for a couple kilometers while Alisha sped on ahead, still using her straight (racing) cassette (i.e. her gears don’t go as low as mine). But once we got up to the top of the first climb and were officially into the mountains, the roads was very pleasant; winding around and through the mountains, running along the edges of vast ravines, through rock tunnels and around valley lakes. Following our topo map, we found our way onto some dirt and gravel trails that were much more fit for mountain bikes, but we continued on anyway for maybe 8 miles on the dirt tracks. That’s when the ride turned into an adventure though, along the likes of The Odyssey or Shakelton’s expedition into the Antarctic.
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OK, maybe “epic” is a bit dramatic, but it certainly has been an full and eventful week, and yes, it did include some epic portions. First off, though, I would like to thank Anke, my German co-worker in Cary, once again for providing some very useful feedback to my “Dining in Deutschland” post a couple weeks ago. She wrote me and offered some insights and answered a couple lingering questions. Most importantly, as you all may have noticed, I’m making sweeping generalizations the way people eat and live here, while I’ve really only experienced a small percentage of a single town in a single state (well, a couple towns). I guess this would be akin to a visitor to the United States driving around and eating in Alabama for a week, then concluding that in Boston and San Francisco there is a Bojangles on every corner, fried chicken it the mainstay of American diets, and it is considered customary to wear NASCAR hats at dinner (sorry to my faithful Alabama readers, I could have just as easily used NC! 😉 ) For example, the bier Prost+THUD is generally reserved for bars and biergartens, and you give a much more civilized “cheers” in real restaraunts. And getting water, Anke’s reasoning is “I can go to the bathroom and get water out of the sink, why would I ask to pay for it!?”, and I can’t say I can argue with that one. But the heavy knife usage at the table stems from the cultural value that is taught to all German children that you are always to have both hands on top of the table while dining – it is rude to have hands under the dinner table. So as long as you have both hands on the table, you might as well give them something to do, like push food around and slop gravey on meat with your knife!

But onto the last week. I think I mentioned that Alisha arrived last Monday, and we’ve been busy busy busy since then. In addition, I started German lessons 3 times a week last week, so that takes up quite a bit of time in the evenings. But last Thursday we took the night out and went up to the Munich Olympic Park in the north of the city for a free rock concert and some fireworks. We took the U-Bahn up to Olympic Park, and as we got closer to the park and the train got more and more crowded, I realized this was going to be more than a small show and fireworks display. My suspisions were confirmed when we got off the U-Bahn and walked towards the parks and saw 10’s of thousands of people in the park with a full size carnival/fair going on, complete with a giant ferris wheel, rows of art and food vendors, and lots of lights and noise. We wondered through the park a bit, tried to see what band was playing on the main stage but couldn’t really see through the crowds, so just found an open spot on a hill to wait for the fireworks, which were spectacular when they came. More interestingly, I think, though is the several bits of history behind the construction of the Olympic Park. First, if you go there, you’ll notice that it is constructed on several quite large hills, whereas the surrounding areas of Munich are relatively flat. Turns out, after much of Munich was destroyed by the Allies in WWII (and over 200,000 citizens killed in this city alone, btw) they dumped all the rubble and debris into a big open area north of the city. There was so much debris it made several sizeable mountains, so at some point during reconstruction they decided to turn the mountains of rubble into a park, so they covered it with dirt and grass, planted trees and made several lakes. Then Munich was chosen for the 1972 Summer Olympics, so they made the entire Olympic Village on the site of the former WWII trash pile. I guess that’s called turning a negative into a positive, eh? Of course, unfortnately we all know what the 1972 Munich Games are most famous for now though….. Another interesting fact about the park, though, is that the suspended translucent tile roof that spans all the buildings through the park is (or was, I don’t know about now) a world record for largest roof. As you can tell from the picture it’s quite magnificent.
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Well, technically a Sunday Morning Post, but I really meant to write this last night! Big news now is that I’m back online, so between that and Alisha arriving tomorrow morning (after having not seen her in over a month, despite what the Watauga Democrat says), I will once again be complete. I decided to move my computer into the bedroom closer to the main street to see if I could pick up any open hot-spots, and sure enough, as soon as I turned it on the little Mac asked me if I wanted to join the open WLAN network. Sure I do – free, high speed internet! I don’t know where it’s coming from, but I have two guesses, and with either one I should be safe at least until our DSL connection is installed. The name of the network is “WLAN” and it is open and unencrypted, so that means it’s either 1) a cafe or coffee shop across the street giving away access, or 2) a personal network that has not been protected, as it should be. But I’m not worried because if someone has set up a wireless network and has neglected to rename it from the default “WLAN” and has not encrypted it, I doubt he can tell I’m leeching off of him, so I don’t think I’ll end up like this guy.

Anyway, I’ll try to catch everybody up on the last week of events, as well as update the photogalleries. I’ll go backwards, starting with my excellent bike ride yesterday afternoon. I took my bike down the Isar River, the main river running from South to North out of the Alps though the city, to the suburb of Gr√∫nwald. All in all I rode about 3 hours, and for at least 2 of those hours I was on dedicated bike or bike/walking paths, with no cars in sight. The bike path network is really amazing here – it is very developed and you can ride for miles and miles, from town to town without ever riding on a main road. It’s even better for mountain bikers because for every mile of paved bike paths, there’s probably 2 more of cinder/dirt paths suitable for mountain or cyclo-cross bikes. I had to take a couple short stints on the cinder paths, and my road bike handles them fine for the most part. But I was abrubtly reminded that I was, in fact, riding on 3/4 inch wide tires inflated to 120psi when the bike completely washed out from under me going around a slight turn on the cinder path. But hey, I can’t complain about some small dirt scratches when Alisha finished a 7 day stage race with 7 stiches in her knee last week, and was caught in 2 crashes in a high-speed criterium in Charlotte last night.
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While I’m not yet a European or German dining expert, I’ve been to enough restaurants and biergartens by now to compile quite a considerable list of minor and major differences from dining here and in the US. The differences range from minor changes in the way the bills are calculated, to obvious cultural differences between the continents.

Let’s start with the basics – seating and server etiquette. For most cafes, bars, biergartens and smaller restaurants, the seating is all self-serve. No waiting for a hostess, just grab what you see. I went to a giant biergarten last week that was very busy and might have Paulaner Bierhausbeen considered “up-scale”, and we were seated there, because otherwise I think you would have been lost in the crowd. But for the most part, after you seat yourself, it is up to you to get the attention of the server; they will not come running over to you as soon as they see they have new patrons. Along the same lines, you will not get a “how’s everything taste? Can I refill your xxx?” in the middle of the meal. If you need anything else, you’ll have to flag them down, and it’s not considered rude to doso. Then at the end of the meal, they will not bring you your bill automatically – again, it’s something you have to ask for. This can be rather nice sometimes, but can be a pain if you’re in a hurry.
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UPDATE: See full photo-gallery of Perlacer Forst here

For those of you who don’t sprechen sie duetsch (or l√∞ fran√flais …. or el espanól), the title of this post is commending Lance Armstrong’s outstanding final time trial victory earlier today, which will pave the way for him to ride into Paris tomorrow to claim his 7th consecutive Tour de France win. Helluva feat, and an excellent performance today. The time trial was great to watch, as Lance was down to Iban Basso, who has been in 2nd overall in the race for a couple weeks, at the first time check, but proceeded to blow by everyone, winning the stage and beating local hero (here in Germany, that is) Jan Ullrich by 23 seconds. It was a heartbreaking performance for Michael Rasmussen, who has been riding in 3rd place overall for some time now. Going into the stage, he had 2:12 on Ullrich in 4th, and as Ullrich is a former time trial world champion, Rasmussen was going to have to have a perfect ride to keep that gap open over the 55km time trial to stay on the podium. He had anything but a perfect ride, though, experiencing 2 crashes and 4 bike changes….. he slipped to 7th overall in the race, and Ullrich jumped into 3rd overall.

In the time trial, there were 4 Americans in the top 8, and there will be 3 Americans in the top 10 overall after tomorrow’s (mostly ceremonial) stage ending in Paris. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming years with Lance retiring. Not that cycling is by any means popular in the US, but at least with Lance’s fame, people were aware when the Tour was going on, and whenever Lance took the lead. Not to mention, it’s on OLN 23 hours a day, and a lot this year on Discovery Channel/TLC due to Discovery Channel taking over sponsorship from USPS for Lance’s team. But I don’t think the other 3 or 4 big Americans in the race, George Hincappie, Bobby Julich, and Floyd Landis, have what it takes to be the “next Lance”, and will therefore probably never become household names in the US. Tyler Hamilton might have had that opportunity, and he got a following during and after last year’s tour because he came off as a completely humble and all around “good guy”, but he got busted for doping, so he’s 1) out of cycling for a couple years, and 2) out of the running for ever being an iconic figure in American sports.
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UPDATE: See full photo gallery of the ride here.

OK, after much stalling (an entire week’s worth actually), I’ll finally post about the bike ride I did last week in the Bavarian Alps foothills. After all this time, though, the post may be a bit underwhelming!

So as I’ve mentioned several times already, last Thursday my department at work did a “team event”, which consisted of taking the train south of town and riding in the shadows of the Alps for about 50 miles. We all met at about 8:40AM at an S-bahn (above ground train) near our work place. There were over 40 of us, so we split into two groups, the first group taking the 9:00 S5 train south of town. The outbound trains were pretty empty at this point since most people are commuting into town at that hour. So there was plenty of room for our bikes – in fact, the first and last cars on all the trains are designated as bike-cars, and they have several seat sections removed where you can lean your bikes several deep.

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