Thursday, June 25, 2009

Still Moonwalking

Okay I am not going to go on and on about how I think Michael Jackson was a freak. Nor am I going to place judgement on him. When I heard the news today of his passing I taken back to the 80's and being a huge fan at 9 years old. Now I am 36 and a lot has happen since then with Mike. Some great and some very questionable. And it would be easy to highlight and weird and unusual but I would rather share with you one of my favorite memories of Michael Jackson.

At 9 years old, at a time before the Internet and Facebook, Michael came onto the scene and was everywhere, and doing things no one else was doing, including the Moonwalk. The Moonwalk was the coolest thing to me and my friends. I can remember always having the loafers on so I could Moonwalk up and down the hallways of my house. Sounds silly now, but it was the 80's and that is what you did.

Here is a Pepsi commercial Michael Jackson did back in the day:

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Germany Part 3

Hello once again with what has become a much anticipated blog post. With a crazy weekend of behind us I must say that it was even better than I could have imagined. Now that was the first three days, there was eight days left!

So moving right along we left Garmisch and headed back to Shane and Buffy's house in Lampertheim. On our way home we did get passed by a Lamborghini and yes it left us standing even though we were doing around 125mph or so. Gotta love the Autobahn. When we arrived in Lamperthteim I could feel the weekend catching up with me and Nicole felt likewise. We were happy to relax and get some much needed sleep. The next day we slept in and it felt great. Buffy suggested we go to a local mall and peruse a little. I went because I was promised some excellent pizza and excellent pizza I got. Yeah I know, at the mall, weird huh. It was from a place were you pick the slice you wanted and then they would put it in an open fire oven then serve it piping hot. I got the seafood slice which had octupus on it....super good! Funny side note is that the German mall seemed to get its cues from the American blueprint of malldom. The big difference is a lot of folks had their dogs with them, yeah you can take your dog just about anywhere in public including the mall. As we left, Buffy was wondering what we wanted for dinner. So I offered to cook something up for them, it was the least I could do for them openning their place to us for the week. Buffy talked about making a capresie salad so I decided to make some homemade Alfredo sauce over some German pasta or Spätzle with chicken. And of course some locally bought crusty bread. I must say Buffy and I worked well together in the kitchen and kicked out some tasty eats. We retired for the evening watching some TV then bed we would need the sleep because tomorrow was going to be a full day in Frankfurt.

Now before I get into the day of Frankfurt I must explain to you why today was pretty special to me. In 1963 my Dad enlisted in the Army and was assigned to Frankfurt, Germany in the 3rd Armoured Division. I can remember my Dad telling me about all the fun he had while he was stationed there for four years. I always thought it would be fun to return there for him. Well today was that day. So Buffy dropped us off at about in Frankfurt at about 9:15am. Yeah it was fairly early so we grabbed some pastries and they were super tasty. We walked around the main area called Römerberg, which is shown in the picture above. It is the central square of the old town in Frankfurt. Also in the picture is Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Fountain of Justice) which we thumbed through our book we bought to guide us around town. It had over twenty different points of interest for the town and we kind of used them to lead our adventure for the day.

One of the first things we did on our walking tour was head down to the Rhine River. They had some great bridges and walking paths along the river. After crossing the Rhine we toured a church,Dreikonigskriche and it was great because we were the only ones in there touring. To be honest during our trip to Germany I spent a lot of time touring churches. Proud to announce never got struck by lighting once. We proceeded down to the large pedestrian path along the river and walked down and enjoyed the beautiful Frankfurt skyline. The next building we were going to see was the Messeturm which is one of the tallest buildings in all Europe. Although before we could get there we decided to make a pit stop at the train station. Which we were greeted by this sign while heading to the bathroom or water closet.

Yeap that is right you have to pay to go to the bathroom. This is pretty common at all public bathrooms or bathrooms just off the Autobahn. This one at the train station was .70 euro. Pretty steep but if you have to go you tend to pay without considering the cost. As we were walking down to the bathroom we were approached by a young kid from America and he said, "You mean you have to pay to go to the bathroom?" We replied , "Yes" Were he replied, " No way I would rather hold it." Good luck to him.

It was a long walk but we did make it to the Messeturm building. It was super nice and quit tall. It is so big in fact that it is so big it has its own zip code. Unfortunately it wasn't open for tourist or anything so we just walked around the building and noticed one of the coolest sculptors we have seen yet.

As we walked into the heart of Frankfurt we headed to the next point of interest which was the Old Opera House or Alte Oper. After walking all day we decided to take a much deserved break and sat down at the fountain. It was also almost lunch time and it was fun to see all the suits waiting for their lunch dates.

Okay that was enough rest so we headed back out and headed into the main market area in Frankfurt which is know as the Zeil. It was very interesting to say the least. First of all it was pretty busy for a weekday and it was littered with some of the most high end retail in Frankfurt. By this time I was being told by Nicole that it was time for lunch. So since we knew we were going to have a big dinner we decided to just go to good old McDonalds. This is always interesting when you are in a different country. First of all it is quit expensive compared to any average sit down restaurant nearby. Also if you want more than one ketchup packet your going to pay for it buster. I know and don't even get me started on the "no ice" issue in Germany. I was told someone lost the recipe years ago.

After lunch we decided to get out of the main retail area and headed to our next point of interest which was the Eschenheimer Turm. This was pretty easy to get to considering it was pretty tall and not far from where we had lunch. I must say it was pretty cool but the traffic surrounding it was kind of crazy so it was had to actually get to it. After that we starting walking and walking and walking. Which then led to complaining which led to a mild argument on where we were exactly going. While at a light a sweet German lady on her bike asked us if she could help us. We told her we wanted to head to the river. Her response was to head "down" Down? Yes down, so she pointed us correctly and eventually we did find our way back and soon everything started to to look familiar. One in particular was one of the main focal points of Frankfurt the Imperial Cathedral Saint Bartholomeus's Cathedral (Dom Sankt Bartholomäus). This church was not much on the outside but was very nice inside. It is another structure that was rebuild after 1944 but there was still some items in the church that dated back to 1400.

After touring the Cathedral we ended back at Romer or the place we began. This was eight hours later and I was a little tuckered out. So we decided to wait for Buffy to pick us up but that wasn't for about 45 minutes or so. So I decided to get some Starbucks and was surprised to be waited on by an American barista. Nicole deiced to get a Mango ice cream cone. I should've went with a cone too, but oh well. It was a long day in Frankfurt and I have to say it was sure fun to visit a place that my Dad once was and always talked about. Overall it was a nice city filled with a lot of history and pleasant people.

Now on to dinner. This dinner was something I have be anticipating since I arrived in Germany. The place is called Waldgeist and it something you would never believe to see in Europe or Germany for that matter. It is the home of super sized food. Here check out the menu. And when I say super sized I mean super sized. For instance I ordered the giant burger and here it is:

Now I am always up for a great eating challenge but this kicked my butt. Nicole and Shane split a 1/2 kilo schnitzel and they could only finish about half also. Overall I highly recommend, if you are in Germany, to check this place out it was great!

Again if you haven't seen the complete catalog of pictures you can visit them here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Germany Part 2

Hello again, I am sorry this post was not sooner, but I have been busy with organizing the pictures from the trip. So let me give you my impressions of Germany after spending a few days in Munich. First of all, Munich is one of the more high end cities of Germany so it is definitely tourist friendly. With that said I must say I could've spent a few more days there and had a few more liters but there was more to see and do in Dutesland.

The next leg of our trip was one of the more anticipated parts for Nicole and I. It was our trip to and tour of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles. We were so excited because we have seen countless pictures of the Neuschwanstein castle, but believe me once you see it you realize the pictures just don't do it justice. Since both of the castles are pretty much across from each other you can by tickets and tours to both which was nice. We toured the Hohenschwangau Castle first and it was very beautiful and filled with many gifts to King Maximilian II of Bavaria.

Once we were done at Hohenschwangau we headed down the road and began our journey to Neuschwanstein Castle. Nicole and I opted to take a bus up and it was super crowded and well I can't really go into it here but lets just say it was filled with a lot of tourist from other countries east of Europe. The bus dropped us of short of the castle so we could go out on Marienbrücke (Mary's Bridge). Unfortunately it was way too crowded for me so I decided to opt out. Shane and Buffy went out and got some great pictures of the castle from bridge.

The tour of the castle was incredible, unfortunately you are prohibited to take pictures inside but it was very over the top. As a matter of fact there is a cave in the castle. That is right a cave, it was completely unexpected and very weird. Come to find out that King Ludwig died before the castle was ever finished. I encourage you to read about what led up to his disappearance and death in a Munich lake. Lets just say the lake was shallow and the King was a great swimmer. Nevertheless the Castles were amazing and the view from the mountain was just crazy awesome.

After a long day of touring and walking it was time to head to our hotel which was in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Our drive to Garmisch was incredible to say the least. We got to drive pretty much through the Bavarian Alps. It was breathtaking, and something I had never imagined in a million years I would be seeing. Before we reached our hotel I was able to grab some shots of the Partnach River. Thanks for stopping off Shane.

We did finally reach our hotel, and by now my neck was pretty sore by all my rubbernecking. The hotel was called Hotel Forsthaus and it was super nice and very American friendly since it caters to a lot of vacationing military families stationed in Germany. Our room was very cozy and breakfast was included which is rare at German hotels. Now the late night German TV was another story.

The next morning we headed to one of my favorite places in all of Germany, Zugsptize. Zugspitze is the highest point in all of Germany (2,962 metres (9,718 ft). It also has an incredible view of the Bavarian Alps and the city valleys below. So as we arrived I wasn't worried much about the trip up to the summit until I was waiting for the tram to pick us up and take us up and up and up some more.

I was nervous and excited at the same time and was wondering if my shorts and short sleeve shirt would be warm enough at 9,718 ft. As we headed up I was fine until I did what I swore I wasn't going to do. Look down. Yeah I know, don't look down and you will be fine right. Well I couldn't help it and I am glad i did because it was amazing.

When we reached the top it wasn't as cold and I thought so the shorts were fine. I did notice the air is much thinner and it made my walk up the steps to the lodge a little harder than I thought. Once we got outside and were able to see the mountains it seemed like a painting you would see on a wall but never in real life. We wanted to be able to walk in the snow and hang out on the slopes so we took another short tram down to where people, in the winter months, would normally be skiing. Once down there we were greeted to about four feet of snow in spots. This was crazy to consider but we are up about 10,000 ft. As we walked around you realize how small you are compared to the mountain tops. We did have some fun while we were up there and enjoyed playing in the snow.

After wading through the snow we decided to head back up to the main building. When we got up there it gave us a very beautiful vantage of the small towns below. After buying some souvenirs we headed back down and it was certainly not as scary as going up that is for sure.

This concludes part two of our Germany trip. When you see us next we will wondering the streets of Frankfurt and eating a hamburger big enough to feed a family a ten.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Germany Part 1

How do I begin to tell you about Germany. I hesitate to even try to trivialize the beauty I saw daily. I figure I would just take you day by day and post some pictures along the way to guide you through a vacation of a lifetime. I will be, later in the week making available the complete catalog of pictures.

To really appreciate the first day(s) of the trip I have to let you know that on Thursday, May 21st I was awake at 7am EST. This is important to context later on. It was a hectic day of getting everything ready and making sure we didn't forget anything. Our flight was at 7:45pm so we called a cab and made it to the airport in plenty of time to just chill until we boarded. I was hopeful with having a late flight that I would be able to sleep on the plane. I was dead wrong. So I didn't sleep all night. That's right I stayed up watching in-flight movies. My favorite of the evening was "The Express" not a bad flick to be honest. With the six hour difference we arrived in Frankfurt, Germany at 10am their time or 4am our time. So already I am already close to being up 24 hours.

Frankfurt airport is huge, so it took us a little while to navigate through customs and make our way to the train station. Thanks for the flight attendant who liked my Lance shirt for her great directions to the train station. Nicole went in and got the tickets to Mannheim which only cost 45 euro for both of us. By the way, the dollar sucks so it made things more expensive.

Once we arrived in Mannheim is where I really started to realize this is not Kentucky. It seemed like we were in an episode of the Amazing Race. We didn't have a cell phone but Nicole did have her brother's (Shane) number in case we had to call him. Which we did because we were worried that we may have gone the wrong way because we waited at the train station for a while. We did call Shane, on a pay phone no less thanks T-Mobile, and he told us he had to work late so he would be up shortly. Once he arrived it was certainly a relief and eased our worries a little about being four thousand miles away from home.

Some of my first impressions of Germany at this point was I was startled by the number of people who were riding their bikes. Even in the train station and airport there where people on bikes. Although I noticed that a lot those people where also smoking so I guess it balanced itself out. I was also impressed with the variety of different colors of people's hair. Nothing to scary but certainly interesting. At this point I realized I was going to stand out a little. Started to get the, "Fat Guy In A Little Coat" feeling. Yeah Germans for the most part are pretty fit folks. Although I think my Lance shirt got me the most dirty looks oh well I guess they are not really fond of him. Sorry Jan Ullrich.

Back to the trip. For the record by the time we arrived to Shane and Buffy's apartment in Lampertiem at a about 1pm. So I had officially be up for 24 hours plus and to be honest I wasn't feeling it much. Nicole was able to sleep a little on the plane so she was doing fine also. So before we headed to Munich we stopped by to have Doner for lunch. What is Doner you ask? Click here to learn more. It was a great little bite and really not too bad considering all we had up to that point was crummy airline food.

To tell the story of our Munich trip I must start of by saying Nicole's brother Shane just recently bought a BMW 135i convertible and I was soon to find out that it wasn't a bad little vehicle on the Autobahn. The Autobahn is a great way to get around in Germany for one reason, no speed limit. Now it is not all like that but most of it was and well lets just say Shane was afraid to open her up every once in a while. Once I think I noticed him at about 150+ mph or 241 kph. We did stay around 120mph the whole way down. Although their were people passing us like we were standing still. I was loving it and nervous at the same time.

Once we arrived in Munich I was starting to feel the effects of being up for a day and a half. So when we got to our hotel I did lay down for a quick little 45 minute nap. Although not a minute longer because there was important business to be had that night. What business? How about dinner at the Hofbrauhaus to enjoy some German food and great beer. When we got there it was huge and there was plenty of beer drinking going on. We had to go the third floor just to get a table to eat.

Once we sat down we were greeted by a waiter that thankfully spoke English and guided us through the menu and the variety of beer choices. Lets just say I had two liters of delicious beer. I was in heaven and have to admit never thought I would be having a beer in Munich at the Hofbrauhaus. So once we left there I was feeling pretty good but not drunk. Although I think everyone was taking side bets on whether I was going to fall down the steps on our way out of there. I will let you know I didn't fall. So as we were walking back to the hotel Shane got a call from the couple who was meeting us in Munich, Matt and Kim. They are friends of Shane and Buffy and they called to let us know they where at a bar a block up from the hotel. Once we arrived it was very crowded but a nice little bar. The name of it was Macchiato and they loved American music because they played it all night. As a matter fact the bartender bought us shots of Jagermeister also. Which did not help the fact that I was slowly getting drunk. As we stumbled back to our hotel room we where so wanting some greasy Denny's but no luck. Finally at about 2am I finally got to sleep. You do the math, it was the longest I think I had stayed up since I was a kid.

The second day in Munich we woke up at and immediately headed to Starbucks. I know how predictable but I needed some coffee and well go with what you know I always say. Although the effects of the prior evening where definitely taking its toll on some of the folks. As for Nicole and I we where doing just fine. As we headed out into the sunny streets of Munich I immediately began to take pictures of everything I saw. It was certainly one of the more richer areas of Germany as well as the most touristy areas we visited. Almost all of the old city was pedestrian and bike only. Which made getting around very easy. One of the first things we did was check out the was Frauenkirche. We tried to just walk in and as you can see by Shane's expression below. We didn't have much luck at first.

As we walked towards the front of the church we saw the entrance and a line to buy tickets. Tickets to walk to the top of one of the onion doomed towers. Didn't look that high no sweat, I mean just take the elevator up right? Wrong, yeah no elevator it was a spiral stairwell all the way up. This wouldn't be bad if you where the only one walking up and down. But that is not the case so as you walk up there are people walking down and well lets say at this point I was wishing everyone would had used a little deodorant. We did make it to the top and the view was great.

As we made it through most of the city we came across of the highlights of the day for me. It was Viktualienmarkt. This was the best outdoor market I have ever seen in my life. Some of the most unique and fresh food from local merchants. For a foodie like me I was in heaven and ready to load up a basket and cook all night! They had everything including some of the best looking meats and cheeses I have ever seen.

The next spot we checked out was the Residenz Palace. Which is broken down into two museums. I was actually excited about touring this place considering I saw it on a travel show I watched prior to coming to Germany. It was certainly very beautiful.

A little to pretty for a building that was built in 1385. As we walked through the museum we had handheld audio wands to guide us. And a reoccurring theme as they talked about what was in each room was that it was not original and that most of the building was lost in the the great fire of 1944. The great fire? LOL... Come to find out that almost all the items and rooms were replicas of the original. I just found it funny how they described the war as the great fire. About half way through Shane came up to me and reminded me of a great family guy episode which addressed this:

As the day grew long we decided to start looking for somewhere to have dinner. Matt and Kim wanted to head to a steakhouse. We looked and to avail so we headed towards the Hofbrahaus and noticed a Hard Rock Cafe right next to it. Since the four of them are pretty tired of the German food they jumped at the chance at some American fair.

Once we finished dinner and bought some Hard Rock souvenirs, including a pin for Nicole's mom who collects them, we headed across the street to night two of the Hofbrahaus. This time we lucked out and was able to get an outdoor table. I of course ordered a beer but Nicole opted for some dessert. She got the Apple Strudel and it was super delicious. As the night came to a close on our last night in Munich I must say I was very pleased with the trip so far.

This ends part one of a multiple part series of our Germany trip. Whats next? Stay tuned and find out.