EXPATS AGAIN! Experiencing other cultures while enriching our global view.



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Munich, Germany
I am married to the love of my life and am finally able to shower him with all of the attention he deserves. I am now retired and living the life here in Europe. I am an American, he is an Australian, and this is our second overseas address. The first was Shanghai, China and now Munich, Germany. Come along and live the life with us as we continue our adventure of discovering all Europe has to offer.

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Monday, June 29, 2009


This image shows Angela Merkel who is the the ...Image via Wikipedia

Since I am not yet able to speak German, much less than read German, I rely on Der Spiegel, an international newspaper that gives me German news. It isn't always the news I yearn to read and it isn't comprehensive, by a long shot. But, it does, interestingly enough, give me a German perspective.

So, when I read the headline, "Does the U.S. Still Care About Germany?" it piqued my interest. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Washington last week to receive an award for her contributions to trans-Atlantic relations.

It seems the Chancellor was a bit disturbed by the fact that not many U.S. politicians were there at the ceremony while she received her award. Only Alan Greenspan, who is no longer in office, and a Republican senator who left the senate last year to head a foreign policy think tank, Chuck Hagel, were the only politicians present. It seems that out of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, only one bothered to come to see Ms. Merkel.

Does "Europe look to the U.S while America looks elsewhere," as the article stated? I don't know, but I find it fascinating to read about my country from Germany's eyes. In fact, the article went on to say that Merkel hardly mentioned Germany, and in fact, presented herself as European and declared that they speak with a "single voice, 500 million people strong."

That's a bit much, even for me to buy, to be truthful. As far as I know there is no single country called Europe and Europeans are not that united to speak with a single voice. Point in fact, France did not support, nor send troops to Iraq. So, I think it's strange that Germany's Chancellor wants to align herself with a united Europe when it is to her advantage to do so, but will likewise declare German independence from Europe when it suits her.

Just my observation. I look forward to finding out more about America through Germany's (Europes?) eyes....

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Thursday, June 25, 2009


When we first moved here, I was delighted to find small gardening plots dotted within the city of Munich. From what I could tell, the were very small, maybe 20' x 20', plots of land that looked like they were used as weekenders for people who probably lived in apartments in the busy city of Munich.
Each little garden had a small wooden house on it. (The wooden house would be considered the size of a garden shed in America. ) I'm sure it stored all of the rakes, hoes, and gardening equipment. There were small fences around each tiny plot of land and all of the plots were enclosed in a gated-community, of sorts.

I've done a little research since first moving here and I've learned that they are called Kleingartens (small gardens) and they appear in clusters at various locations in the suburbs and further out from the city. We have seen them near the grounds of the Nymphenburger Palace and along train tracks near the Ammersee. They crop up in the most unlikely locations.

They cost $12,000 euros each to lease, at the start, and then they have ongoing fees of less than $500 euros a year. Not cheap, by a far shot, and as far as I can tell, they are maintained with extreme care. Some have tidy rows of such vegetables as cucumbers, lettuce, radishes, beans, and tomatoes. Some are totally filled different varieties of plants and seasonal flowers. But all are nicely cared for and look to be well-tended.

All of these gardens are part of an association and each association has different rules for what is allowed or not allowed. It is quite common for the association to require that at least 50% of the land be used for planting. They are not allowed to have BBQ's or other parties in their Parzelle (parcel?). That rule must apply to some, but not to all because on my last bike ride I saw a tent on one plot and loud music was blaring out of it from a boom box. So much for peace and serentiy in your Kleingarten--at least that one!

Supposedly, there is an extremely long waiting list, so long that an expat will most likey return home before their name comes up.

I think it is a lovely answer to tight, cramped city living. It allows those so inclined an opportunity to do something other than container gardening in their apartment or on their balcony. It gives them access to fresh air and a chance to practice using their green thumbs.

They are quaint, unobtrusive, and I suspect since they are hard to come by, very envied. Likewise, in today's economy, they most likely provide fresh produce at a less than market price. How could you go wrong?

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Monday, June 22, 2009


What is it with shoes, anyway? (Do you like them?)

Please, tell me now, if I should wear them or not because shoes are very important, you see, to a woman's wardrobe and without the "perfect pair,"... well.... then.... you just aren't well put together then, are you? And if you aren't well put together then.... "Sacre bleu!," I don't know.... the world will fall apart? .....You will be ostracized by the fashionistas of the world? (Does anyone have any real idea who these people are and where they hang out? Because, I for one, would hate to offend them, above all others, with my less than, "put together look.")

Do you think them too absurd or over the top? For they must be the "perfect pair" for being well, you know, shhh...."put together. " They just "must be," because they cost a pretty penny, I can tell you. Ok, just 160 Euros, but then, we're not poor, are we? So why shouldn't I go all out and make my feet, uh... Stylish? Well-heeled? (sorry, I just had to do it.) Unconventional? The embodiment of fashion? The epitome of whatever it is that I must be the epitome of? I guess?

I found these lovelies in Vienna, but of course!

You don't think they'd be sitting around in Dillards, Targets, or Bloomingdales, do you? They are, for heaven's sake, European and you all know what that means, don't you?

Well, for one, it means that they are, undeniably chic. Need you ask any more? I think not my footwear wearing friend! Remember, it is of utmost importance to always be chic and therefore, to be no less than chic . And that my fellow stylish stilleto sister, is tantamount!

Do not be deceived. Oh contraire. Chic is not trendy and;therefore, trendy is not chic. There! Now, are you now much clearer on this significant designer truth? I hope so!

"Mon Dieu!"

Here is another pair that "caught my eye," just today, in fact. They are a bit more than the $160.00 Euros, but hey, who's counting? For just $777.00, you too can have these Manolo Blahniks and then just think of all of the fun you will have

I've recently learned that these pointed beauties have been dubbed, "Witches shoes." Makes sense, doesn't it?

But did you know that Carlos Santana is in the shoe business? He isn't just another talented musician, our guitar slinging crooner. No, he now has a shoe line called "Carlos by Carlos Santana." Clever, isn't it?

I wonder if he knows that these pointed-toe shoes are referred to as, "Witches shoes?"

Afterall, he's the one who cut, "Black Magic Woman."

Now THAT should be my true life's goal...to be a Black Magic Woman. With these babies I could make ,"Boil, boil, toil and trouble," aplenty, don't you reckon?

Really though, value for money, the next pair has stolen my heart. A real bargain at $775.00 and just imagine all of the couture apparrel I can purchase to go along with them? The mind absolutely reels at the unending possibilities. I must drag out my recent issue of Vogue and get busy mixing and matching before someone else does it first. I would just die if I wasn't first, well, maybe not die really, but I would stomp my Manolo Blahniks, that's for sure.

I'm going to leave you dear readers with one last thought and one last photo of one of my, "have ta haves." The thought is this: Cripe...I've forgotten the thought already! This brings me to my next thought. I turn just shy of (ahem..ahem...), I cannot even force it out of myself to tell you what age I will turn soon. Most of you who read my blog already know what age I will be in August and anyone else who is reading will just have to guess. Back to my second point,

I'm not a teenager. For Blahnik's sake, I'm not in my 30's or 40's anymore! Yet, I, like so many women my age are succombing to all kinds of Black Magic just so we can look "put together."

I know you're one of them. l know you can fool some of the people some of the time, but I am certain that these shoes, price be damned, have your name on them too. C'mon, admit it. You are just as vain as I am and you wouldn't be caught dead in a pair of Eccos, Clarks, Birkenstocks, Easy Spirits, or Borns, now would you? The body shudders to even think such a thought. You know I love you. Would I ever steer you wrong?

Oh, and the real meaning of "VOILA OU NOUS EN SOMMES!" I'll just let you try my latest language translater tool: http://www.leo.org/ and find out for yourself...... you diva you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Ever have one of those moments when reality is, well, just plain surreal?

I mean, like when you are just going about your everyday business and then, WHAM! What you thought was happening, isn't really happening anymore? You know, it becomes a blip in the program-- a quark in the universe--a WOOOOW moment that steals your breath away and you are, in an instant, transported into some kind of a parallel universe?

It happened to me just this week while acting as an unofficial tour guide through Germany into Austria with my Austrailian mother-in-law. Truly, it was an experience I will never forget for as long as I live and one that will surely linger in my memory forever.

It all began after a whirlwind tour of Vienna, Austria. We had spent two amazing evenings enjoying dinner out and a Mozart concert one evening, and a Beethoven concert the next. Another day was spent at the Albertina studying the brushstrokes of the Masters. Rembrandt, Matisse, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Klimt, Munch, Picasso, and on and on, ad infinitum. One could have spent weeks exploring this mammoth museum, we spent one day packing it ALL in.

However, I found that not one of these, "once in a lifetime, " experiences could match what was about to come.

Remember when I said that, "I was stolen away to another dimension," or something like that? Surely enough, it began as Jaci (my mother-in-law) and I were descending the down escalator to the U-2 (subway) in central Vienna after nine hours of sight-seeing (on foot, mind you).

Jaci entered the escalator first, and I followed a few stairs behind her. About three-quarters of the way down the escalator, we began to hear the faint sounds of the "Weiner Walzer," or better known in English as the Viennese Waltz. The music was being piped in to the underground subway from speakers overhead.

Once off the escalator and back on terra firma, my 78 year old mother-in-law starts to regress into a child-like waif and the next thing I know she is flitting from side to side with an imaginary partner waltzing her way through the hustle and bustle of people that make up the underground in a large city like Vienna.

I am just a few steps behind her, still waiting for MY descent from the escalator when a man rushes hurriedly along beside me and jumps off the escalator only a step or two in front of me. I blinked my eyes to discover that his reason for rushing past me was to mimic my (did I say 78 years old? Strike that, young) mother-in-law.

Now, he is precisely behind her and at this very moment she is unaware that he is shadowing her every dance move. Now, I wish you were with me at the moment she turned around. You would have loved to have seen the look on her face when she twirled about, while still gliding to and fro to the music in time to discover a dashing (handsome?) man imitating her dance steps!

I can tell you, it was priceless--that look, it was. But that wasn't what transported me--not yet, anyways.

In one fell swoop, he took her in his arms and swept her off her feet (literally) to the strains of Johann Strauss. Reminiscent of an episode of "Dancing With the Stars," I envisioned Bruno Tonioli's face in distinct shock as I witnessed the couple rotating first clockwise, and then counter-clockwise, to the tempo of the great Viennese Waltz.

Glimpsing out of the corner of my eye, around the underground, I saw a crowd swiftly gathering in a large circle. Every face was now grinning from ear to ear. It was all I could do to grab my camera and click away before the moment was gone.

I tell you, it was so surreal, so impromptu, so passionate, these two star-crossed dancers, that you just had to see it to believe it!

And now, you can....

The "Waltzing" stranger in the middle of Vienna's underground swooping my mother-in-law off her feet!

Another shot of the dashing fellow, smiling for the camera, as he whisks her away.

I tell you, she could of laid that old white hat on the floor and she and I could have spent another whole week in Vienna with the crowd that gathered as they danced blissfully unaware of everyones' amazement and delight.

And then, like Antonio Banderas in "Zorro," he bowed at the waist and dissapeared.....

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cheers and Best Wishes!

One of the great things about living in Munich is the plethora of parks and stately avenues that dot the city. It's not all beer gardens and bike paths as you may have been led to believe by my previous posts. We find that spending time outdoors is one of our more favorite pastimes and I believe the reason lies in the fact that the outdoors is made so accessable to us. The building to the left is the Residence and it marks the beginning of the English Gardens that is Munichs' version of Central Park. The next photo shows the procession of trees that lead to the park's entrance. Steve and I took Jaci to the restaurant that sits next to the Garden and I shot these photos frome their outdoor patio.

We had a leisurely afternoon enjoying the sunshine and listening to music that was being played by wandering minstrels. It was a perfect afternoon and we all immersed ourselves in the view.

Steve and his mum are discussing the menu choices here at our favorite Italian Trattoria that just happens to be about a quarter of a mile from our home. It was Uncle Fred's last night in Munich and we celebrated his upcoming birthday. The offerings were either in Italian or German so we all had to engage our waiter in our usual pantomine in order to understand what it was that was being offered. It wouldn't have mattered, everything was delicious.

Here is a photo of my dish, "Linguine with White Truffles." It was melt in your mouth delicious. It was our first time at this restaurant, but it certainly won't be our last. I have a feeling we will become regulars. It is small, but friendly and the restaurant has an outdoor eating area that faces the small street in Pasing. Many locals eat there and it is always bustling with activity. Jac and Fred were happy with our choice and we had great fun toasting to Fred's upcoming birthday.

Since moving to Germany, I have decided to keep a list of the wines we try and rate them in the hopes that when we return to the states, I can fill our container with wine. It was a good idea, except the government puts a restricition on how much wine you can take out of the country. So, I guess we'll have to do our share of sampling the local wines for our friends and family back in the states. You are all welcome to reap the benefits of my research. Here is Steve with a huge grin on his face as we open a bottle of white wine. All I can tell you is that it won the highest rating of any of the wines we have tried. It is Italian and it is called Cavalchina Custoza (2005). It was highly recommended by our waiter and three of us at the table shared two bottles. You might be able to find it at your local wine shop. I promise you won't be sorry.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


The Black Forest in Germany has always held magic for me, at least in my imagination. I imagined it to be heavy with pine trees, so heavy that a person would find it difficult, if not impossible, to navigate their way through the forest. I wasn't too far off in my imaginations for the Black Forest is very thick with tall pine trees. But there are also lakes, waterfalls, rivers, hills, mountains, and resorts. The photo below was a Bed and Breakfast right on the lake. What an ideal spot for a get-a-way!

The Black Forest, or Scharzwald as the Germans' call it, is really a wooded mountain range in southwestern Germany. It is bordered by the Rhine valley to the west and to the south. The highest peak, Feldberg, has an elevation o f1,493 meters, or 4,898 feet. It is rectangular in shape with a length of 200 km (120 mi.). The Danube begins in the Black Forest.

The main industry is tourism. The Black Forest ham comes from here as well as the Scharzwald Gateau (Black Forest Cake) made with chocolate cake, sour cherries, and a sweet cream cheese filling.

For my uncle, it was the interesting name of the beer that held his interest. Here is a closeup below.

A rather unfortunate name for a beer, wouldn't you agree?

Here we are soaking up the sun on the side of the lake waiting for our afternoon meal.

It wasn't all lakes, mountains, and food. There were some shopping areas as well in the Black Forest and we had to hold Fred back from purchasing these bright neon green kicks. Sometimes you just have to say, "No!"

There were castles to conquer--this one in Feldburg, Germany.

Poor pets to rescue!

Romantic gardens to explore!

Sadly, a poor damsel in distress!
And an occassional tired swimmer that needed rescuing. (I wish!)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sky High in Switzerland

Our trip from Munich to Switzerland took us to Altdorf (on the right and also the home of William Tell) through the Klaussenpass, on of the highest peaks and passes in the Swiss Alps.

A German and an Aussie up in the Swiss Alps! Both of the guys humored me and allowed me to take this photo of the wearing a hat I can only say I've seen on the yodelers on Ricola commercials. They seem happy enough in spite of my demands!

This is what you find at the top of Klaussenpass; a tiny chapel. No doubt a place of great joy when your realize you've made it to the top~

According to legend, the border between Glarus and Uri was drawn in 1315, after long disagreements. The two cantons agreed that at first cockcrow, two runners would start from Altdorf and Linthal, respectively, and the border would be where they met. The people of Glarus decided to feed their cock well, so that it might be sympathetic to their cause, while the people of Uri gave theirs nothing to eat at all. The result was that the Glarus cock overslept, while the Uri one, driven by hunger, crowed exceptionally early, and the runner of Uri crossed the entire Urnerboden before the Glarus runner even set out. On the pleading of the Glarus runner, the man of Uri agreed to let him carry him back uphill as far as he could, and the present border between Uri and Glarus is where the Glarus runner fell dead.

Jaci on the left, Steve in the middle, and Fred on the right. They were meandering around the waterfall and stretching their legs after a long car journey.

We were greeted to the Alps by a cow and once we were near the summit, this dog introduced us to the peaks of the mountain range. He was walking with his owner and carrying her basket and I just couldn't resist taking his photo.

Here is a church and a few homes that were dotted throughout the valleys. Once we reached Klaussenpass we were told we were at a height of 6,400 feet! Now that was remarkable and the hairpin turns were ghastly and no one wanted to look down. But the most amazing thing was that people were making that trip up the mountain range on their bicycles. Now, Steve has a new goal

More scenery of the Alps. this photo was taken at about 3,000 feet so you can imagine there was a lot more down below.

We were told that the road we were on was just opened about ten days before we got there. The ice caps on the Alps are melting and the water falls were in full force. I'm glad we went when we did.

Here are some Swiss Lads playing football (ok, soccer). Look how the two on the left are posing for the camera, what a hoot!

Last, I want to share this video with you.
Click on the link below:

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Can You Say, "Moo?"

What a friendly face, don't you agree? As it so happens, this kindly bovine was the first to greet us in the hills at Quarten. Standing on the side of the road, she and her pals were doing what cows do (chewing their cuds, I'd imagine) and watching the cars roll gently by. She didn't know that the paparazzi was in town, but she gave me her most photogenic view and CLICK, she became the star of my blog. I couldn't imagine a more attractive ambassador to the Swiss Alps than her. Throughout the day we were greeted by many cows sporting bells around their necks while grazing high up on the grassy hillsides. And am I glad for that! Without them, Toberone, Lindt, and Cadbury would just not be the same!

So much has been written about the Swiss landscape that it hardly bears repeating that it is one vista after another. With it's mountains, hills, rivers, and lakes, there is hardly another place on earth that bears so much beauty in one location. A very small country considering that it is only 220 kilometers, or 137 miles from north to south. At Lake Maggiore palm trees grow at 630 feet above sea level and just 65 miles away, the 48 mountain peaks rise 13,120 feet above sea level and are capped with snow all year long.

It was at this plateau in the pre-Alps that we took our first steep drive and Uncle Fred began to worry about our five-point turn on the steep slope we shared with the grazing cows. It was just the beginning of Fred's worries, unfortunately, I don't know which he stressed over more; the Alps or the Auto Bahn. Both were treacherous.
It wasn't long before we reached Mulehorn and parked the car to stretch our legs near the Walensee where we watched as children dove into the crisp, cool waters of the Alpine lake from a three meter diving board. What fun! Nearby were sailboats and wind surfers out for what certainly had to be one of the warmest days since the beginning of Spring. From here we traveled on in our journey to Filzbach. Our dear Uncle Fred was taken by the countryside and at every turn exclaimed, "By gosh, just look at how beautiful this view is!" We were still a few miles from our destination for the evening so Steve decided, as he usually does on occasions like this, to take the "road not taken" and "explore."

There were two shots that I missed on this bit of our journey that I wish I could share with you. In Filzbach we spied a tractor that had just stopped mowing the grass on a hillside. The remarkable thing was that it was perched at the top of an incredibly steep hillside at an incline of nearly 85 degrees. Everyone in the car was plain gobsmacked! It defied gravity and how it didn't tumble end over end down the precarious precipice, we could not fathom.
The next shot I wish I had been prepared for was of an elderly man in Molls pulling an ox cart steeped with barrels of hay down a twisting, hillside. He held each handle of the cart behind him while taking baby steps down the path. Again, another gravity defying feat I wish I could have documented, for no one would have believed it.

Speaking of witnessing unbelievable sights, there is one event I did document that still has me scratching my head and asking myself, "How does he manage it?" I'm referring to my Uncle Fred's uncanny ability to strike up a conversation with a total stranger from a foreign land resulting in a friendly hug or a handshake.

Here he is with a Swiss Miss in Amden who was out with her dog raking cut grass from her field to store in her silo for the cows this coming winter. She was quite taken with his charm and willingly obliged to have her photograph taken with him. Abandoning her work just to have the privilege of posing with an American who advises her to, "Keep smiling and to just put one foot in front of the other, is Inga. Incredible!

Speaking of incredible, you wouldn't believe the spot I found for the perfect tee shot. Too bad a couple of Swiss guys who were nearby and taking a moments rest
previously claimed it for a perfect location to do their gliding. Standing dangerously close to the edge is my hubby Steve and his mum, Jaci, on the summit of the best golf tee I've ever seen.

I had to wonder....just where the woman's tee would have been placed?

It was getting on in the day and Hotel Rossli at Murg was our final destination for the day. Hotel Rossli is nestled lakeside amongst seven peaks of the Alps. It's striking splendor was our days' unexpected gift. If you are ever remotely in the vicinity, you will not want to miss this experience.

Our hotelier was waiting for our arrival where she greeted us and then invited us to help ourselves to her garden where she guided us to her cherry tree atop her garden. There we gathered ripened cherries from the tree still warm from the sun-kissed afternoon. They were the most juicy cherries we have ever tasted.

Here is a photo of Fred, Jac, and Steve under the cherry tree overlooking the Walensee tucked snugly between seven peaks of the Alps.

As the day wore down, daylight was quickly turning into evening. We were able to enjoy the last glimpse of the sun as it set between the mountain peaks, leaving a rosy hue over the lake...... Little did we know what lay ahead.