Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Monthly Instagram #4 - English Garden Stroll

Late afternoon sun in the English Garden, captured by k8astar.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

City Life

A couple of weeks ago my husband was under the weather. In order to justify our Sunday Netflix binge, and enjoy some of the last sunny Autumn days October has to offer, we took a little walk down the Isar.

It doesn't take a lot of effort, we just walk out of our front door and there we are. We moseyed Southwards a bit, passing the old homies playing giant chess, and the Anti-Fa kids hanging around at the beginning of the stone steps built on the edge of the river.

We found a nice spot at the base of the Wittelsbacherbrücke to sit and soak up some rays. We watched dogs run around and play, a guy practicing fire dancing (without the fire - just with the stick thingys), couples in tracht sitting on the edge of the river eating take out.

All of this is precious to me.

Sometimes I wish we had a bigger apartment, sometimes I get annoyed when they decide to construction work anywhere around us, but I would be miserable if I couldn't live in the middle of the city. I'm a bit of a homebody, so being able to step outside of my door and feel that I'm in the middle of everything is everything.

A friend of mine, who lives with her two kids and husband near Röcklplatz once said 'I'd rather live small in the city, than big in the country our suburbs'. I couldn't agree more.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

I Didn't Go To Octoberfest This Year

I confess, I skipped the Wiesn this year. Partly because I just wasn't feeling it, and partly because I'm on a kind of detox where I consume no gluten, dairy, alcohol or caffeine (and pretty much lose my will to live). It goes without saying that Oktoberfest ohne Bier geht einfach nicht.

When we were in California this summer, we went to the Gravenstein Festival. A local annual fair celebrating the apple harvest. It's full of music, fattening and delicious food, activities for kids and crafts. I asked my parents, who have lived in their town for 20 years, if they like to go. "We went for the first few years when we moved up here, but after you go a few times, you get the idea" was my Dad's response.

That's a little how I feel about Octoberfest right now. I highly doubt that my Wiesn days are over, I just felt like skipping it this time around.

What I will never stop loving, however, is all the people walking around the city dressed in tracht, as if it was the most normal thing in the worldIt's so convivial and festive, and totally unique to this town.  That was enough for me this year.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Refugees Welcome

I'm sure you've heard or been following the news about the recent refugee influx to Germany.

We wanted to see it for ourselves so a couple of weekends ago we volunteered one evening at Hauptbahnhof.

Being at the train station as train load after train load of people arrived really reminded me how different experiencing something is rather than reading about it in the news.

All the trains coming from Salzburg or Budapest (or wherever) were arriving in the part of the train station where you usually catch the BOB. As people got off they were guided to a large room (I forget what it's called, it's the now defunct ticketing area) where they waited to get checked out or cared for in one of the medical tents. After that, they were then put on a bus and sent to one of the, well, camps where they'd stay until they were sent to another part of Germany (read about that process here).

We were assigned to the food station. As people disembarked (you could tell when a train arrived by all the applause) they passed by a clothing station where they could sift through donated clothes and shoes, and then on to our food station where we passed out sandwiches, fruit, cookies, hygiene supplies, coffee, tea, etc.

The effort was full of heart but a little chaotic. This tsunami of volunteering emerged completely spontaneously and as time goes on I think it's getting a bit more coordinated. I'm too old and cranky to deal with that kind of disorganization (I was muttering something along the lines of 'damn hippies' by the end of our shift). So my plan is to wait to do more volunteering when the initial wave of euphoria passes, but there is still a shit ton more to do (with some established processes), and then help out.

An example: Donations were not coordinated, people were just coming to the train station and dropping off any and everything. Someone brought us a raw ear of corn and a kohlrabi (?!?!?). Four very small coffee canisters had been set up to provide coffee and tea as, literally, THOUSANDS of people disembarked (I think the weekend we volunteered around 12,000 people came in). It was nuts and we were constantly running out. Someone needed to put a phone call into Starbucks and ask them to donate those giant vats of coffee and tea (as well as offer them a great marketing opportunity to Germanys newest residents!)

All that aside, it's been nothing short of amazing to see Germany and everyday people really rise to the occasion, and it felt good to be a part of that.

Mr. Wahlmünchnerin has continued to be involved. He was horrified and embarrassed by reports of Neo-Nazi arson attacks on newly built refugee shelters. I feel many Germans, aware of their nations dark past, have an irresistible urge to counter it any way they can when the opportunity arises. In fact, he's volunteering today and has joined the Facebook group Nerds 4 Refugees who has built a website to coordinate donation and volunteering needs in real time.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


I've been half looking for a new coffee shop to meet people and perhaps to do some work. I used to go to Munich 72 right near the Deutsches Museum, which I could get to on foot in under 5 minutes, but they have shut down operations at the location. Wah wah.

So when a friend and colleague suggested Loretta Bar on Müllerstrasse, I was intrigued. I'd noticed the cheery yellow awning, and funky furniture every time I rode by on the #27 Tram.

It didn't disappoint. It was hipster-y and cool without being übertrieben and the wifi is free! This could very well be my 'get out of the house' fall/winter work cafe.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

I Miss Munich

When people find out I'm from California, they sometimes assume I live in Munich under duress or out of some kind of obligation (z.B. I'm a trailing spouse).

I love California. I'm a third generation Californian and the place is in my bones. As far as I'm concerned it is the best state and the only place worth living in the U.S.


The car kills me.

I'm writing this from Norcal (Northern California to those of you not in the know). Once a year, we set up operations in my parents guest house in the funky little town of Sebastopol in the Sonoma wine county region about an hour north of San Francisco.

It's got all California has to offer: the ocean, incredible food, Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco nearby, liberal politics, funny people, amazing landscapes, In-N-Out Burger. In short, we're livin' the dream.

The thing is, you have to drive to all of these things, and I HATE it.

I'll try and spare you the rant, but in the 1960s through the present, shitty decisions were and have been made about public transportation throughout the Bay Area. That means, where we are in the North Bay there is no practical public transportation option to get to San Francisco or Berkeley/Oakland. They are planning a 'Smart' train that will go from Cloverdale in Sonoma county to Larkspur in Marin county, where you'll be able to take a boat (a boat!) over to San Francisco. In other words, you'll be able to take a 2-3 hour trip to a destination that should take about 50 minutes.

Indulge me for two more paragraphs about Bay Area public transportation.

The situation gets even worse if you want to go from the North Bay to the East Bay. Last week I went into Berkeley to attend a Pam Slim workshop (for another post). I made plans with a dear friend to meet for brunch an hour before. She came in from her town of Walnut Creek to meet me there. Unfortunately for us there was a big truck accident on the Richmond bridge. This meant I had to sit in standstill traffic for over an hour until it was cleared. My friend sat in the restaurant as long as she could and then had to leave. I barely made it to my workshop in time.

Everyone gets stuck in traffic jam from time to time, even in Europe. What frustrates me here is the utter lack of options. Could I pull over and hop on the S-Bahn? No. Could I jump out of my car and take a bike? No. No, no, no. I just had to suck it up and sit there motionless in the blazing sun, while a friend who I rarely get to see sat in a restaurant by herself for an hour.

Last paragraph on this! A friend visiting from New York is staying with friends in Oakland. Trying to figure out how she can get here without a car is literally impossible. She can't even take the boat! Well she could, but she'd have to take the boat to San Francisco, then switch boats to get to Larkspur. I could drive an hour and pick her up at the Richmond BART I suppose, but still a lame solution.

Folks, we are talking about distances similar from going from the Munich Flughafen to Starnberg, all of which you can do with the U-Bahn and S-Bahn. If you need to go a little further you can hop on the BOB or a regional DB. The point is you aren't fucking stranded or held captive in horrific traffic. Even if you're in paradise, being stranded or tyranized by an out of control, automobile-centric country sucks.

So back to the title of this post. I miss Munich. What do I miss specifically?

Being able to walk out of my door and walk a along a gorgeous river for hours that is almost completely removed from any and all car traffic.

Meeting a friend for coffee or lunch during the week and it rarely taking longer than 20 minutes by foot, bike or public transportation.

Walking to the market to pick up groceries every day.

Competent service, not always friendly, but competent.

Public spaces likes parks and beer gardens that aren't compartmentalized from the rest of the city. Where you can meet single friends, married friends, or friends with kids, all without having to think about parking, planning to avoid traffic or complicated directions.

Not having a car.

Going for days without seeing ugly parking lots and eyesore strip malls.

Urban planning that confirms my value, centrality to society and worthiness as a human being.

Lingering over a meal at friends house, enjoying a pleasant buzz from probably too much wine and not worrying about having a designated driver.

I'm sure I'll get back to Munich and start missing a lot about California (no planning for rain! friendly service!)  I've accepted that this is my lot in life.

I was having sporadic daydreams about moving back to California before we left. But this trip put the kibosh on that. It's really driven home how important to me these quality of life items are. They don't sound particularly sexy, but man do they make a difference in the day-to-day.

Sorry, guess I didn't spare you the rant.