Monday, 16 November 2009

Sunday in Munich

Sunday is a quiet day in Munich.

It was not raining (at first), and arriving in the late morning, one might have high hopes of engaging in productive activities... such as searching for new and exotic yarns to smoosh and to buy. Or things.

Munich Airport (voted Europe's Best Airport), it is the simplest and least ridonkulous airport into which I have ever, ever flown. I may endorse moving here; E should be encouraged by many close friends that German will not be impossible to learn (ahem). Already, thanks to Dawny, we know not to sing the first verse of Deutschland uber alles, so we are well on our way to assimilation.

On the train into the city, a Portuguese lady made friends with me (so that I could help her with her luggage off the train, since she had apparently purchased an entire newsagent/grocery store and packed it into her second suitcase). She has lived her for 36 years and likes it much better than her time in London. She will be going home for Christmas, and her mother collects magazines for her. She has 25 people in her family for whom to buy presents. She prefers Lufthansa to AirBerlin, and she doesn't approve of EasyJet at all.

My best decision of planning this trip (since I have failed, failed, failed to research either my yarn or beer options on my own) was to elect to not stay at the conference hotel, the Hilton Munich Park. It is in a park. My Hilton points would have increased, along with my proximity to Platinum level. But it would have been sooooo dull and 20 minutes from the centre! My 'super secret' hotel from is directly across the street from the Hauptbahnhof (Central Station), and it is a 5 minute walk to where the ice rink will be and where shops are open (but not on Sundays).

On Sundays, everything is closed. Except shops in the Central Station. The sushi bar there does not take credit cards. You must spend > euros5 in the quick shop or you get glared at until you manage to add enough Snicker bars and gum to make up the difference. Hauptbahnhof Starbucks is the speediest Starbucks I have ever seen.

Upon venturing up out of the subway, the first sign was at least recognisable. It is next to the Starbucks (but it does look a little older).

Despite shops being closed, there are loads of people walking in the city on a Sunday, and it seems that Germans, like the French, save Sundays for family. This is such a lovely concept that more of the 'developed' world should adopt, and it makes one not too traumatised to miss one day of manic spending. Unfortunately, there is yarn to yearn for...

It was approximately 34 minutes after leaving my hotel (for Sunday constitutional after 3.00am start to day) before the first person asked me for directions. It is slightly less comfortable when you speak nothing of the language (well, other than 3 numbers and hellos/goodbyes -- not enough time to coordinate appropriate language prior to trip), but the repetition of this phenomenon wherever I go makes me think that my attempts to follow E.M. Forster's endorsement of immersing oneself into the place one is visiting, has relatively successfully developed (I cannot locate the precise quote, which makes me cross -- so shall have to re-start reading A Room with a View and A Passage to India again.). My travel game is to figure out my bearings, navigate shortcuts, and find local shops and restaurants -- basically to see how quickly I can become (or give the illusion of) a pseudo-local. One has to think of something amusing when one is a solo traveller so much of the time.

The medieval section of the city is still delineated by gates, although they may be rebuilds since the city was pretty devastated after WWII. The 'Americans' were in charge of rebuilding Munich, and the history lecture by a tourist representative at our conference indicated that this was extremely fortunate since, unlike the other rebuilding forces, they did make efforts to recreate the city as it was. E says, in Britain's defense for its reconstruction strategies in other cities (including unfortunate Norwich), that the US was the only country to emerge from The War not fiscally devasted, so their efforts could afford to be cavalier. Either way, the result in Munich is lovely.

For example, Lisa (my New Jersey friend, who works for a London university and who crosses my path quite frequently) and I are not sure that the gates might be one of these rebuilds. The plaque looks old, but the main body of the walls looks new. This newness continues down quite a bit of the main High Street, with only a few obviously old buildings remaining -- e.g., The Rathaus (to L).

'Rathaus' means 'town hall' and is usually the prettiest building in Germanic cities. Munich's Rathaus clock tower has a ginormous glockenspiel (the green bit in the photo). It plays at 11am and noon each day, and at 5pm in the summer (it is no longer summer). Unlucky friends will be forced to watch my hand-held video of the glockenspiel during lapses in Christmas conversation.

It is quite fantastic with tilting knights (with armor and on horses), dancing peasants and other little twirling figures. However, it is slightly dangerous to be a tourist doing an impression of a goose in the rain for this event when the Kristkindlmarkt (Christmas market) is being set up; the men driving the forklifts are not delicate in their attempts to get on with their work, and you know they must want to just forklift all tourists in the backs of their oblivious little knees.

It is important to point out as well that this part of Germany takes its identity from its history. They are Bavarians first, hence the reason that the Bavarian knight always wins in the glockenspeil tournament :) The region is the Bavarian Free State (a remaining privilege from falling on the correct side in earlier conflicts -- the tourist lecture said it was granted by Napoleon, but this is not what Wikipedia says).

The city of Munich was (according to the history lecture, not wiki) was ruled first by Henry the Lion, who built a bridge over the river Isar next to the Benedictine monastery. He apparently wanted tolls (Why else would you build a bridge? The French built one into Wales...). This occurred in or before 1158, as this is the first date the city was mentioned in literature. 'Munich' comes from the old Germanic word Monche (with two dots over the 'o', but I do not know how to force this into blogger's html), which means 'monks'. The symbol of the city is still a monk, and he is everywhere from drain covers to over doors (not terribly easy to see in this picture, but he has cute red shoes!). It is more likely that he is holding a Bible, but if you just glance, it might look like a stein of beer.

In order to fully appreciate the city's long religious and brewing history (and on the recommendation of CAMRA Peter), I located an Augustiner pub off the main street and had a lovely repast, after visiting the Frauenkirche (since my 3am start hadn't really inspired much hunger until the smell of lovely snaussages hit my nosey). Its name, Augustiner am Dam, refers to its proximity to the Kirche.

Due to current building height restrictions, The Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady stands out in the skyline of the city, even after 500 years. The whiteness of the interior gives it an almost sterile atmosphere, but this in no way detracts from its beautiful quietness. Bosses on the ceiling are not as intricate (nor probably as numerous) as Norwich Cathedral's, but the spans do seem much more regular -- possibly since it is 300 years younger than Norwich's.

Bratwurst and sauerkraut is nicely accompanied by eine Weissbier. An interesting fact to note is that sauerkraut is not only fabulously healthful, but also apparently as effective as Viagra in its functional benefits (from a Kings College London study). Not to be rude, but my sausages were longer and thinner than one expected, especially compared to Texas German Bratwurst, although the flavours are pretty similar. But the beer is definitely better...

The Augustiner brewery is Munich's oldest independent producer. Beers are sold in .50 l or 1.0 l. One litre is rather a lot of beer. I only ever had Weissbeir on this trip, but next time adventuresomeness will win out -- as the wiki article has made me regret not having some Helles or Dunkles.

As it is winter, darkness descends quite thoroughly by 4.45pm, and since my energy was flagging after the early start, I managed to make it through the entire book that was my 'trip' book. You just can't win -- when I bring 3 books, I don't have the energy to read more than 2.784 pages per night and have hence wasted the luggage weight comparable to a new pair of shoes. sigh

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


Admittedly, the lottery has not come in yet. This is a shame, but not terrifically shocking since I have never bought a lottery ticket in my life.

And I do seemingly have to continue my attendance at work if my paycheck is to arrive in its monthly manner. sigh

So, whilst crafting (NOT to be confused with 'arts and crap') is not yet my prime time-consuming activity, it is indulged in quite a bit -- between Gu & Fru puddings [in place of Nutella, I am now using promotional sale specials at Sainsbury's and Waitrose to justify my addiction -- kind of like Alcoholics Anonymous with coffee & ciggies... but this is much less odoriferous.].

As may have been noticed before in previous Making-and-Doing episodes, it is particularly pleasant and focussed to craft when Clare comes out to La Village. This generally leads to a fair sense of accomplishment (unless one has not got one's spinning wheel working, and one has to find something like carding wool to look industrious). Clare is always industrious and Makes-and-Does at a remarkable rate (as evidenced by her blog and Flickr accounts and by the blur of all photos of her).

After several failed attempts at getting my own spinning started once I got my brake band rigged with a champagne cork (similar to L, but really not...), it appears that failure was due to my insistence that the wheel go in a counter-clockwise direction. [It is supposed to go clockwise... Hence breaking of all attempted fibre batts and many leader strands; and much fruitlessly vociferous berating of wheel.]

His Lordship also enjoys crafting, and has his own techniques and everything. Generally his assistance involves locating, from the vastness of the couch the precise spot where my yarn ball resides, and planting himself squarely on top of the smooshiness. Occasionally, though, he just commandeers a project. (Whatchu lookin' at, Willis?)

This project, with His assistance, is now finally finished -- about 2 months later than planned (frown). The second one (in white) is well underway. It is a raglan pattern knitted from the top down; having never knitted a raglan before, the pattern was simple but everyone at knitting was intrigued at how it would be difficult since they are used to knitting raglans from the bottom up. It is a really fun pattern, and for this second rendition, a method for monitoring cables appropriately and more accurately has been devised.

It may be possible to crochet a wee green edging on the white version cardi so as to match... the newest booties! Tiny is just sometimes too much -- squeeeee![This is why i need to craft full-time. Dang the need for money and responsible behaviour.]

Dave the Train finally has his small tea cosy... he is reported to have worn it on his head during the final Beer Festival Planning meeting. And another one is now commissioned by Dave. Need to figure out RNLI pattern for this one, as is for Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

And the Big Knitting has been developing, too.

First, we started with a large fabric strip ball (created with the Singer assistance of E. He is a much smoother treadler than Herself.).

Then we cast on (a little trickier and fiddlier than one would think with materials similar to ginormous crayons).

One does not recline on the sofa whilst wielding these implements. Personally, I find it easiest to stand behind sofa using pillows as props for needles ends. If one happens to be watching a musical of some derivation during creative industrious activity (such as South Pacific or The King and I or Moulin Rouge), one can also sing and dance about a little bit and alarm people who may happen to be sat in the room. This behaviour generally makes them not want to cause any problems. Although, it would be nine times cooler if the singer/dancer were wearing a Snuggie...

Because I decided not to spend my valuable crafting time hemming the edges, there is a great deal of stringiness on the edges, but at the moment, it is pretty cool (as it is not currently on a floor) and secondly, i think the strings will be vaccummable and mostly go away if it is ever put on a floor. However, the current size of the remaining ball makes me suspicious that this will either be: a decorative pillow cover or a patch in a larger patchwork rug.

As if collecting yarn weren't enough, I have further forced my hoarding onto E in the form of corks (slightly more understandable to him). He built a frame for me last year, but there has only now accummulated enough to create the finished product!

And, finally -- it is probably not very good to admit excessive gloating and pride over activity at a church. But I am quite elated with my waxing project of the moment at St. Clement's.

Only the choir stalls and the back two rows (both sides of the aisle) have been done so far. In the photo to R, the floor beyond the heating pipe has not been tackled yet.

In L photo, is compare and contrast -- the dull bit is the dry wax prior to buffing. One really might ought to wear ear protection as the ringing took about 30 minutes to stop on Sunday.

But now with my clever brushes, let the tackling commence... on Saturday.

Friday, 6 November 2009

A Witching Moon

Perhaps it is not honestly the moon which is making things loony. But perhaps it is.

There is postive insanity and then there is just plain vexing stupidity.

Either way, if one could just sit and look at the moon for a while, things would be calm and good in one's head. There have been so many gorgeous cinematographic-quality moons over the past week, and they cannot be simply have been ordered for All Hallows, All Saints, and All Souls. But it is tres cool that they have coincided. Even though la lune is now on the wane, the nights are still unbelievably bright.

The moon, though, seems to be having an effect on many things, including:
* politicians (a continuing saga)
* Human Resources personnel
* the running of buses and trains
* property 'management' companies (also ongoing saga -- nothing to do with moon, but rather hair colour and grey matter)
* my hair

I am aware that there are many complaints in and about Obama-land, but reporting on them is not nearly as entertaining as the British approach. Self-deprecating humour and an eloquent debatory approach (which E refers to as Radio Argue) just make my day.

Human Resources seems to require proof that I am allowed to work in this country, despite their having a two-year-old copy of my work documentation which expires in 2012... So we have now wasted 3 more pieces of paper (because you have to have a copy of the outside cover of a passport, you know. That isn't a completely anonymous image or anything.)

As it is now Saturday morning (I started blog last evening, but was forced away from computer for evening excursion), it is my strong hope that my bus-riding does not go as last week's in which I ran for bus three times (with granny trolley and in wellies). The busses were early, I swear. Stopping a bus in the dead middle of the village (to great annoyance of other motorists, most certainly) is not recommended, but it is the sign of a kind-hearted (albeit grumpy) driver; it was amusing, and completely against Health & Safety, to leap onto bus as it is still moving. And I was grateful. And standing in heels for an hour and a half on a late and crammed train is not recommended, either.

Also as it is Saturday morning, it is noteworthy that the washing machine is going (on what is, if figures are correct, the 8th load of laundry since Tuesday evening). After 2 weeks of ineptitude, our property 'manager' managed to have a washing machine delivered (Sunday) AND finally installed (Tuesday). Jones/Strain genes really particularly useful when services are required from unintuitive creatures.

Finally, the hair. This was definitely due to the full moon. After months of waffling about bangs (aka, fringe), the scissors came out two weekends ago and approximately 1.5 tentative inches were sacrificed to the Waitrose bin liner. On Tuesday (in celebration of washer installation), a further 4 inches cavalierly bit the dust. E has been slightly suspicious throughout this manifestation of madness, but change seems to be accepted now. No photos as of yet.

(This really is an attrociously and not a relaxed- and/or thoughtfully-written piece, but one has to get back into things somehow)

Other things that have been going on:
  • 32nd Norwich Beer Festival -- E volunteered 114 hours last week. Herself volunteered only 4 evenings, 7.30-10.00. Donations from our hours going to Anthony Nolan Trust (leukaemia) -- same charity as the dragon boat races.
  • Craftiness -- this really needs its own blog...
  • The Great Waxing of 2009 -- this is my project of the moment at St. Clement's. Having imported (in my luggage) some Murphy's Oil Soap, washed portion of floors in Cinderella-style two Saturdays ago and applied wax the following day. Last Saturday involved complete failure to buff floors with lambswool pad on floppy drill attachment. However, (following a great philosophical debate) my new (!) drill buffing brushes arrived yesterday; and (after removing the dust which will have accumulated in mediaeval manner over the past two weeks) the waxing shall commence in approximately 1.5 hours! One thing that may shock my American readers -- should any remain -- is that Murphy Oil Soap is a) not sold in the UK and b) completely unknown. Perhaps my surprise is funny in a dense sort of way, but because those Irish ladies in an old commercial seemed to know about it. This is not the Irish ladies, since that one is not on YouTube :(
  • November's First Friday Five -- on which there was knitting and commentary
  • The Beginning of Rugby Season (i think there are about 4 rugby seasons per year)
Now must run (in very bad writerly style) so as to make it to bus... because we all know how that goes.