Munich’s Hirschgarten: A ‘How-To’

Shane says that if I were to have a superpower, it would be the power of awkwardness.

I have the uncanny ability to make any seemingly normal situation perfectly awkward. How? I’m not entirely sure, but I can generally feel it coming on, and the more I try to make the situation less awkward, well, naturally the more awkward it gets. Why do I mention this? Because my superpower was in full force a few weeks ago when we tried the Hirschgarten.

Turns out, there’s a particular *fLoW* of events, and, as a Hirschgarten newbie, I managed to navigate them all incorrectly.

So, please accept my gift – a ‘how-to-avoid-feeling-like-an-idiot-and-successfully-get-a-beer’ guide to the Hirschgarten.

Technically, the Königlicher Hirschgarten (aka Royal Deer Garden) is a large park west of Munich city center, but it’s renowned for its beer garden that holds up to 8000 people (in non-coronavirus times). This makes the Hirschgarten the largest beer garden in Bavaria, and it’s speculated that it may be the largest in the world.

So, about that beer…

Register your contact details.

Typical coronavirus procedure these days. You can register on paper, but they also encourage you to register online and scan the QR codes around the garden to keep better track of who was actually where. It’s a big place, ya know!

Self-service or table-service?

We opted for self-service, but table service is also an option. Just look for the tables with yellow napkins.

What type of beer?

Augustiner, Franziskaner, or Hofbrau?

Helles, dunkle, or weissbier?

You’ll need to decide before you commit to a line. The primary beer of choice is the Augustiner helles, which flows like water from the most prominent beer stand (Schränke 1). If you’d prefer Hofbrau, then you’ll have to opt for table service, and dunkles, weissbier, and non-alcoholic drinks are served from a separate stand.

Stand 2 with less popular drink options.

Grab a glass…

If you’ve opted for the helles, then grab a glass! Half and maß (1 liter, ‘mahss’) glasses are available in cabinets adjacent to the beer line. For dunkels, weissbier, and non-alcoholic drinks, the glass is provided when you order.

Give it to the beer man and keep on moving!

Approach the counter, hand over your mug, and the lovely beer man will serve you up! The Augustiner beer is served out of traditional wooden kegs, which I thought was super cool, but don’t linger too long! The beer man will scold you for holding up the line. Also, if you want a radler (part juice, part beer) then serve the juice yourself from the tap as you first approach the counter, then pass along your glass.

Oh, and its cash only!

Claim a spot!

Success! You’ve managed to get your beer! Now, just claim a spot under the chestnut trees and enjoy. Be sure to take a loop around, though. There is a souvenir stand, a space for live music, and (of course) a deer garden!

Deer in the Royal Deer Garden.
A live band in the time of corona!

Tip: Be careful how you hold your maß!

Good: by the handle.

Bad: with your hand through the handle.

Those bad boys are heavy, and I ended up with bruises between my thumb and pointer finger!


It wouldn’t be a true beer garden experience without food. Traditionally, you’re allowed to bring outside food but not outside drinks. You’ll see this a lot, where groups bring elaborate picnics (table cloth and flowers included!), so feel free to pack a snack. Otherwise, check out the self-service food stands with ribs, currywurst, frits, pretzels, obatzer kase (highly recommended), and other various salads. For dessert? There’s ice cream and an entire sweets stand. You’re bound to find something.

Refill? Then wash & repeat!

I won’t lie. The first maß goes down too quickly. Need a refill? Rinse your glass out at one of the many wash stations and head back to the counter!

Practical Info:

How to get there: From Munich Hbf, grab an S-bahn (1 – 4, 6, or 8) to the Hirschgarten stop. From there, it’s ~10 – 15 min walking.

Cost: Entrance to the Hirschgarten (park and beer garden) is free. 1L beer is €7.40, and food prices vary, but aren’t unreasonable. For example, we paid €5.50 for a large pretzel and obatzer dip. The self-service food and drinks are cash only, but an ATM is available within the garden.

Opening Times: The beer garden is open from 11:00 – 24:00.

Rating: ✅ (Highly Recommended!)

The Hirschgarten has been our favorite beer garden so far. The atmosphere is relaxed and cheery, it’s in a beautiful park, there are tons of options for food and drinks. If you’re looking for a true Munich experience, this is worth the effort!

If you don’t want to go to the beer garden, the park itself is also very nice. Lots of playgrounds, BBQ areas, and open spaces to relax on a warm & sunny day.

Now that the weather has cooled off, I guess we will have to wait until next spring to go back. Until then…




September Joy Report

Yes, I’m a day late.

I just wanted to make sure I incorporated the entire month of September for the most accurate reporting, ya know?

Anyway, quick update on Munich life, then on to the joy report!

It’s been in the American news lately that the numbers of coronavirus cases in Europe are increasing, which I can confirm. The cases in Munich have risen to more than 50 per 100,000 people, which puts us in the ‘red’ zone, triggering more restrictions. As of last week, the new restrictions limit gatherings to 25 people, there can be no more than 5 per table (it used to be 10) at restaurants/beer gardens, there is a ban on to-go alcohol sales after 9 pm, and masks have to be worn outdoors in high-traffic areas. Germany is trying hard to avoid a 2nd full lockdown, so hopefully, this will help. Selfishly, I want it to work because they haven’t yet canceled the Christmas markets, so there’s hope!

Enough coronavirus, back to the joy!

Shane is officially working!

The number one joy of September! In my last post, I detailed the headache it took to get here, but we’ve arrived and that’s all that matters!

The traditional ‘leaving for my first day of work’ picture

We celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary!

And we were able to make a day trip to the mountains. I’d call that a double-joy-whammy.

Leutasch Gorge, outside of Mittenwald, Germany

Giant pretzels and obatzter dip

I finally got my hands on a pretzel bigger than my head, and thanks to my keen-eyed husband, we discovered Obatzter dip. He just happened to notice that everyone coming back with a pretzel had some “orange dip”. So, when I went to get a pretzel, I was explicitly told not to come back without whatever that dip was. Turns out, it’s DELICIOUS (obviously). It’s essentially a Bavarian beer cheese made with Camembert cheese, butter, paprika, and beer.

Big everything at German beer gardens.

Chillie and The Cat

I say “the cat” because we’ve asked her name three times. It’s “typical Bavarian” (according to our landlady), and we just can’t remember it. Anyway, Chillie and the cat belong to our landlady, who lives above us. Naturally, we can’t resist an animal, so we have befriended Chillie the chihuahua and the cat. The best part of these two? Chillie bugs the living daylights out of the cat, but the cat just takes it – until she doesn’t, then she taunts Chillie from above.


I’ll say this was more of Shane’s joy, as I could really care less. Regardless, we can actually watch NFL on TV here! The commentary is in German, but actually that’s not a bad thing. Shane’s new goal is to learn enough “football German” to be able to yell at the TV in a bar.

Honorable Mention:


aka Bavarian for ‘hello’! It’s one of those words that once you know it, you hear it everywhere. Now I feel like I’m part of the club. 😜

It’s been a strange year, but hopefully you were also able to find a little joy in September! October – here we come!

Honorable mention #2: smush-face Meatball.



The Truth about Moving to Munich

I’m just going to come out and say it. Moving to another country is nothing like the movies.

Sure, you can sell your things, pack your bags, and take off for that new life abroad, but generally speaking, you won’t be staying longer than 90 days or legally working without some sort of residence permit. Of course, all of this depends on which country you are trying to enter and which country you’re a citizen of.

We thought our most recent move (from the Netherlands to Germany) would be a piece of cake! I mean, the hard part is over right? We were already living in Europe – ironically, 40 minutes from the German border. Boy, were we wrong. So, in light of full expat-life transparency, I want to chronicle the time, energy, and frustrations it took to become legal & employable residents of Germany.

TLDR (this might get boring):
  • Moving internationally isn’t as easy as it seems.
  • Tip #1: Give yourself more time than you think for all the paperwork/permits. Check the consulate websites for specifics.
  • Tip#2: Expect to wait. A lot. Send in the papers then try not to think about it.
  • Tip #3: Save copies of your applications, confirmations, receipts – anything related to the process. You never know when you might need proof.
  • Tip #4: Ask about an international liaison within your company/university.
  • Tip #5: The Munich Foreigner’s Office is notoriously bad. I highly recommend this blog post for tips on getting an appointment.
  • Tip #6: Don’t give up! Once you’re in your newly adopted country it’s worth it.

Let’s start at the beginning. Finding a job.

The easiest way to gain legal, long-term residency in another country is to line up a job or educational program ahead of time. In our case, Shane received job offers from the universities (NL & DE) before we moved, and this was our starting point.

Tip: Sometimes countries offer a ‘look for a job’ residence permit.

For example, the Netherlands has a zoekjaar (search year) permit, which allows recent graduates or scientific researchers to live in the Netherlands while applying for jobs in the Dutch labor market.

Now, this is where it might get a little boring, but I wanted to describe it in detail for full disclosure and our own posterity. No offense if you skimm. 😜

30 Oct 2019

Shane applied for the postdoc position.

19 Dec 2019

He’s got a Skype interview, baby!

13 Feb 2020

Munich bound for Shane’s in-person interview.

14 Feb 2020

Happy Valentine’s day to us because HE GOT THE JOB!

This is where things start to go sideways.


Our experience moving to Germany was impacted by the coronavirus restrictions put in place by both the Netherlands and Germany. Had these restrictions not been in place, then theoretically this process would have been a lot faster. I’ll try and make the distinction as I go.

12 Mar 2020

The Netherlands imposed the first round of coronavirus restrictions.

17 Mar 2020

Germany imposed a travel ban as part of their coronavirus restrictions, which includes the immigration of all ‘non-essential’ workers.

19 Mar 2020

The paperwork begins! 9 multi-page documents (in German) were sent to Shane via email to start the contract process. Yes, it took over a month for the university to make contact and start the hiring process. Intended start date: 01 May 2020.

23 Mar 2020

The paperwork was returned so the contract could be made and Shane was sent a letter of intent, which can be used to apply for a temporary work visa.

Tip: Apply for a temporary visa at your local consulate before you travel.

Under normal circumstances, Americans (among other non-EU countries) are allowed to enter Germany for 90 days visa-free, BUT this does not give you the right to employment.

Applying for a temporary visa at the consulate before moving is the easiest way to avoid employment delays. In our experience, the websites can be misleading especially regarding entry-visas vs work-visas. For us, the entry visa was not needed but the work visa was. The consulate website should have specific information for each country of origin. Our experience was similar in the Netherlands so I assume EU countries follow roughly the same rules.

Lucky for us, the German consulate in Amsterdam closed indefinitely once the travel restrictions were imposed. 😑 What should have been a relatively straight-forward process became exponentially more complicated. According to the consulate, our (Shane’s) only option would be to apply for a German residence permit (which automatically gives work privileges). This is handled at the local level.

aka We needed to move to Germany during a pandemic.

Shane updated the university – their response? New start date: 01 Jun.

A month later than originally planned (because of Covid-19 restrictions) we moved to Munich! New start date: 01 July.

28 May 2020

We’re here! In Munich, that is.

02 Jun 2020

The registration paperwork was sent to the local authorities. This is step 1 to obtaining a residence permit. Due to the coronavirus backlog, there was a 4 to 6 week waiting period for confirmation.

Munich Tip: Registration is not generally completed via mail. Normally, you would make an appointment at the District Administration Office (also known as KVR).

Due to coronavirus, this wasn’t available at the time. We were also unaware the Munich KVR is notoriously bad. Like, worse than DMV bad.

The line outside KVR. They may have an online appointment system, but it’s not reliable. People take their chances and just line up outside.

Anyway, why do we even need to register?

First, it’s illegal not to. If you move you also have to report your change of address.

Second, as a new resident of Germany, you get your tax identification number after you register. You also can’t apply for your residence permit, open a bank account, start a cell phone contract, etc. until you can supply proof of registration. So we applied and we waited! New start date: 15 July

25 Jun 2020

The “Whights” receive proof of registration via snail-mail! Bittersweet, since they spelled our name wrong. Regardless, Shane applied for the residence permit online (normally an in-person appointment) via the KVR contact form and immediately received an email confirmation with a Fiktionsbescheinigung, which implied we can legally stay in the country and Shane could start working.

At this point, he’s also been put in contact with a person from the university who can act as a liaison. They can’t legally speak for you, but can provide guidance and make phone calls on your behalf (in German).

26 Jun 2020

HR rejects the Fiktionsbescheinigung as proof of legal working status. Turns out, the email confirmation only lets us stay in Germany past our 90 days without penalty as part of the coronavirus measures. New start date: 01 Aug.

07 Jul 2020

After an update with the liaison (who has been beyond helpful!), there’s more bad news. It can take up to 8 weeks for the Foreigner’s Office branch of KVR (the Ausländerbehörde) to receive your online application and invite you for an in-person application appointment. During this appointment, they take biometrics and issue the paper (& official version) of the Fiktionsbescheinigung. Until the paper Fiktionsbescheinigung has been issued, there is no legal right to work.

The application was submitted on 25 Jun 2020, putting the 8-week mark at 20 Aug 2020. New start date: 01 Sep.

20 Aug 2020

Can you guess? No word from KVR, so Shane contacted his liaison again.

The week of 24 Aug 2020

After 3 days of trying to call the Foreigner’s Office on behalf of Shane, the liaison got through. Turns out, all KVR contact is should go through the contact form – where Shane originally submitted the application – but it seems that the contact form submissions are not (or very infrequently) checked.

Essentially, we waited 8 weeks for nothing.

Over the course of the week, after multiple phone calls, a few emails, and a letter from Shane’s boss essentially pleading for someone to take his application, Shane’s application was in the hands of an actual human being. They would be in contact soon with an appointment date. And, no. You definitely don’t get a choice in your appointment day and time.

Munich Tip: Call! Call! Call! Call!

*September 2020* Expect to get an automated messaging (in German) that will hang up on you regardless of what number you press, but hang in there! Eventually, the line will open up. You’ll get a different automated message (still in German), but this time when you press a number you’ll be put through to a person.

01 Sep 2020

Shane’s appointment was scheduled! … for 2 weeks later.

15 Sep 2020

After the longest 2 weeks of waiting EVER, Shane’s KVR appointment was a success! He has a Fiktionsbescheinigung and can legally work!

He’s legal!
21 Sep 2020

327 days after he applied and 143 days later than expected, Shane is officially a postdoctoral researcher!

Off to his first official day of work!

Unfortunately, the story isn’t quite finished. I’ve now applied for my own residence permit (as family), but that’s the thing. We’ve waited this long just to APPLY. We’re still waiting on a decision which can take up to 12 weeks. We don’t expect any issues, but in the meantime, we can’t make any definite plans to visit home or move to Ecuador until we have fully established residency in Germany.

Regardless, we’re both *temporary* temporary residents of Germany, Shane’s back to work, and we couldn’t be more relieved!

A much deserved celebratory maß.

Living abroad has it’s upsides – the job, the lifestyle, the experiences – but it’s certainly not as easy as it may sometimes seem. It it worth is? Absolutely. Are there struggles? Definitely, and I think it’s good to be honest about it.

To anyone going through residency struggles, hang in there and may the force be with you. 🤪🤞



Mittenwald, Germany & the Leutasch Gorge

There was a time, shortly after we moved to Munich, where I genuinely (and naively) thought that we jussst might get to take a weekend trip for our anniversary. But, ya know, life happens. Instead of a weekend trip, we hopped a train south, to Mittenwald, Germany, for a hike I’d been eyeballing – the Leutaschklamm!

Mittenwald itself is a terribly cute town nestled in the Karwendel mountain range, just 20 minutes by train past Garmisch-Partenkirchen – home to Germany’s tallest peak. Mittenwald is famous for violin making, frescoes, and hiking and is the headwater of the Isar River (that runs through Munich).

Mittenwald Bahnhof (main train station).
Mittenwald center.
A nod to it’s violin heritage.
Mittenwald, Germany

The outdoor possibilities from Mittenwald are extensive, but we came for one thing – the Leutaschklamm (Leutasch Gorge)!

There are 3 routes through the gorge – the Red, Blue, and Green. The Red Route (the Koboldpfad, or Leprechaun Path) takes you to your first photo spot – the Panoramic Bridge, which straddles the gorge below. It’s obviously a very Instagrammable spot, as evidenced by the line of guys waiting to take pictures of their significant others on the bridge… including Shane. Hey, it was our anniversary – he indulged me!

The Blue Route (the Klammgeistweg) takes you deeper into the gorge. Afraid of heights? Perhaps this isn’t for you. A majority of the path is this see-through metal grate walkway above the gorge! Slightly unnerving at first, but really cool once you get used to it. You’ll also get to hop across the German / Austrian border along the way.

It’s all fun and games until you see a dent in the walkway…
See Shane in the distance?
Germany to the left, Austria to the right!

The final route is the Green Route (the Wasserfallsteig), which takes you into the gorge. The pathway ends at a 23 m (75 ft) waterfall that was loud, but hard to see. Regardless, the walkway to the waterfall was worth it!

The entrance to the waterfall. It’s a one way, narrow path so, right now, masks are required.

And, a day in the German / Austrian mountains wouldn’t be complete without a beer hut. Mittenwald has it’s own brewery – notice the mountain on the beer bottle is the same as the mountain in the background!

Practical Info:

How to get there (Mittenwald): Easy – by train! There is a regional DB train from Munich to Mittenwald. Bonus: this route qualifies for the Bayern Ticket, so it only cost us €32 euros round trip for 2 people. You can travel with up to 5 people on one ticket, which drops the price to only €10.60 per person for a day of unlimited travel in Bavaria.

Distance from Munich: ~1 h 45 min by train and ~1.5 h by car.

Hike Direction: From the train station, follow the brown signs for the Leutaschklaam. You can’t miss it!

Difficulty: Easy. It’s really more of a walk than a hike, and very family friendly with interactive information signs along the way.

Time: All routes, ~2 – 2.5 hours.

Tip: The waterfall path costs €3 per person. Bring cash.

Rating: ✅ Highly Recommended*!

*unless you’re looking for a challenge.

Based on the easy access & cool views, I definitely recommend this trip – especially if you’re looking for an easy day outside of Munich. And, since the walk doesn’t take up you’re entire day, you have the added bonus of exploring Mittenwald. If you’re looking for a more challenging adventure, perhaps the Leutaschklaam isn’t for you, but Mittenwald is the starting point for a number of other hikes, including a via ferrata.

All in all, I’d say it was a successful 4-year anniversary!



Kranzhorn Mountain Hike, Germany (& Austria!)

We may not get to *actually* travel much this year, but I can at least say I’ve been to Austria twice! ANNDDD technically I’ve walked across the border, so if that’s not an adventure then I don’t know what is.

View over the Kranzhorn Alm. Not quite the summit.

We’re pretty lucky to have two friends from Groningen also living in the Munich area, so when Theresa invited us for a weekend hike, we obviously said yes. This week’s trip was unique because the mountain straddles the border of Germany and Austria. At the summit, if you look to the left, you’ll see Schieben, Austria. If you look right, you’ll see Windshausen, Germany.

The summit (1366 m), looking left over Austria.
The summit, looking right over Germany.

Technically speaking, this was an easier hike than our Ehrwald adventure. Wide, clearly marked paths, no bolted metal cables required. It lulls you into a sense of hiking security… but be prepared for a sore butt the next day. The first ~1.5 hours are nothing but up!

The mountain can be approached from either side, but we started our adventure in Nussdorf (aka ‘nut village’), Germany. This (less traveled) route starts directly from the small (free) parking lot towards the Kranzhorn Alm. The more popular route begins on the Austrian side, in Erleberg (with paid parking). The path is mostly through the woods, and although you’re constantly going up, it’s never too steep. We were even passed by several mountain bikers and power-hikers.

The two best parts?

You walk between Germany and Austria!

As I said before – walking across country borders makes me feel cool. The borders are marked by these painted rocks, so keep an eye out!

Blue and white for Bavaria, red for Tirol.
The beer hut, Kranzhorn Alm, has a petting zoo with the fluffiest chickens I’ve ever seen.
Black and white fluffy chickens!

One thing you can’t miss – the summit crosses.

You’ll find a cross on almost every summit peak in Bavaria (and Tirol), which are predominately Catholic states. The summit crosses started in the 1400s but picked up steam in the 19th century when mountaineering became more popular. The cross was obviously a religious symbol (as the mountain peak is closer to Heaven), but also a sign that the mountain itself had been summited. For some, a picture next to the cross is proof you made it all the way up.

We may not be religious, but I certainly think they make for lovely photos.

A third cross, on the Austrian side, for a smaller peak.

Since the Kranzhorn straddles the border, the summit actually has two crosses – one for Germany (the wooden one) and one for Austria (the metal one). Unfortunately, a picture of both at the same time was practically impossible, given the small summit area.

The Austrian summit cross.

And don’t worry. If all that hiking makes you hungry, the Kranzhorn Alm has got ya covered.

Practical Info

How to get there: Check out here (for Windshausen) and here (for Erlerberg) parking / starting info. Windshausen was only ~ 1 hour drive from Munich.

Distance from Munich: By car, ~1 hour. ~2 hours with public transportation (train + bus) .

Hike Direction: Head for Kranzhorn Alm (follow the fork/food symbol!)

Difficulty: Easy. Suitable for beginners or families – nothing special required!

Time: 3 – 4 hours, depending on your speed and how long you linger at the top.

Rating: 🧡 (if there’s time)

Not ‘highly recommended’ simply because there’s no convenient public transportation option. If you have a car and are looking for an easy day trip to the mountains, then definitely check it out!

Wednesday is our 4 year anniversary (!) and the mountains are calling us! So, until then…



Germany: Three Month Impressions + August Joy Report

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in Munich for three months. Even harder to believe that Shane still isn’t working, but that’s a post for another day (I don’t have nice things to say, and we need the good karma). A month into our German expat adventure, I wrote about my (our) first impressions. Now that we’ve been here for three months, I thought I’d do it again with an added bonus – the joy report! I’m certainly a ‘glass-half-full’ kinda gal, and I really enjoyed writing my July Joy Report, so I think this will be a thing now.

Anyhow, let’s begin.

3 Month Impressions:

Let’s begin with a follow-up.

I actually enjoy the recycling.

I saw someone on Reddit the other day asking the Munich sub if everyone really had 7 bins (yes, I say ‘bin’ now).

“7 bins?! No way. Oh wait…. I just counted. Yes, 7 is correct.” – said everyone.

We don’t have 7, but we do have 5 (regular trash, compost, paper, glass/aluminum/plastic, & returnable bottles). It was annoying at first, but now I’m all for it. We take the regular trash out once every two weeks, we get to compost even though we’re in the city, and just about all plastic in Germany is recyclable.

*pats self on back*

A ‘recycling island’.

Groceries and toiletries are cheaper.

We’ve been consistently €20 under our grocery budget each week. 🙌 Works out well when you’re still waiting on a salary.

We are buying comparable things, organic if it’s available, but probably the main difference is in the price of meat. We were shopping at an organic butcher in the Netherlands, but we’ve not found one near us. I’m speculating, but a lot of the produce (and meat for that matter) are relatively local, which may also contribute to the lower prices. The EU mandates ‘country of origin’ labeling and a lot of the products available to us are from Bavaria or neighboring states.

The weirdest thing we’ve tried so far? Handkäse (hand cheese). I love a block of good cheese, but “sour milk cheese” just didn’t cut it.

One thing we can’t find? Peanut butter. It’s a true tragedy.

Toiletries are also 50% cheaper than in the Netherlands, except ibuprofen. Here, you have to buy it in an Apotheke (pharmacy). It’s over the counter, but has to be distributed by a pharmacist and was €4 for a box of 20 400mg tabs. For comparison… the same box was €1.79 at the grocery store in the Netherlands. For a country that loves beer, their painkillers are hard to find…


Grocery store cashiers are LIGHTNING FAST.

You know in America how sometimes it feels like the cashiers were trained to go as slow as humanly possible, or where you have a particularly chatty cashier – both of which slow down your whole transaction? Oh, and remember how in America someone else bags your items for you?

Sorry Americans, you won’t survive a German grocery store cashier.


You literally need a strategy. Produce takes a little longer to scan since they have to weigh it first so…

Pro-tip: bottles and heavy things on the belt first, followed by produce (which gives you time to get the heavy things in your bag), cold items, and finally the ‘breakables’. And just go ahead and have a separate tote bag ready for those chips – then you can snatch them up before it’s too late.

Biking isn’t a social activity.

There are plenty of bike lanes (at least in Munich) and everything feels very safe, but it’s certainly not a social activity. In the Netherlands, it was strange to bike single-file. Part of the biking culture was the chit-chat on the way to your destination, and the rules dictated that you could ride side-by-side. Here, you can only ride side-by-side in a park, otherwise, you should be single-file. Going for a leisurely bike ride (instead of a walk, for instance) isn’t as fun because you can’t really talk.

The plus side, as I said before, the city is very bike-able which is nice because we don’t HAVE to rely on public transportation. It makes the city feel much more available.

The downside, everyone uses these Dyno bike lights which use the power of peddling to turn on the lights. Naturally, the bike I bought was wired incorrectly (the best we can guess) because I peddle and nothing happens, but as soon as I brake the light comes on. 🤦‍♀️ We didn’t want to take it to a bike shop just yet and went searching for some battery-powered lights. They are so expensive! €15 for a front and backlight, which as I type this does not sound like a lot, but in the Netherlands, you could get a similar set for €5, so it hurt my heart a little. Oh well.

A bike adventure through the English Gardens to the Isar River.

Still working on German…

But we’re getting better! I’d say we’re at the phase where we are learning as much vocabulary as possible. We’re starting to be able to understand and reply in basic scenarios (at the grocery store, at the beer garden, etc.) and our (very) basic reading comprehension has improved. We randomly get a newspaper twice a week, and while I’m not reading full articles, I can at least distinguish the headlines now, and I call that a win!

My take-away impression?

We still don’t have a true impression.

Since Shane hasn’t been able to work yet, it really feels like we’ve just spent a very lovely summer as tourists in Munich. Sure, we’ve had to figure out the grocery stores and changed phone numbers (phone plans are also cheap, btw), but ultimately we aren’t truly ‘living’ here yet. We haven’t had to navigate the work/life balance, we can’t open a bank account until we have a steady salary, and we can’t partake in any social benefits (aka insurance) until we have residency. So, we haven’t done things like figure out the doctor or the dentist. As of now, we have a wonderful impression of Munich, but can’t really speak to what it’s like to actually “live” in Germany.

Fingers crossed that this changes soon! I would love to report otherwise.

Now, on to the…

August Joy Report!

(I make no apologies for my use of exclamation points in a joy report.)

I finished my first web development course!

After starting the blog, I became more and more interested in web development. The blog inspired me to want to know the ins and outs of how I am actually presenting you this information. While I am by no means ready for professional employment, I completed my first 54-hour course and would confidently say I have a good foundation. Who knows, maybe in a few years I’m building science-based websites instead of working in a lab.

We finally swam in the Isar River!

Two weeks ago we accidentally stumbled upon an excellent Isar River swimming spot, right in the heart of Munich. Friday of last week was more than likely our last truly HOT summer day, so we packed a cooler and biked 35 min back to that spot, and boy oh boy was it a great time! The river & the sangria were cold, the sun was hot, the people watching was great, and I feel like I’ve taken a big step towards becoming a true Münchner.

We went to the Mini-Hofbräuhaus!

Yes, a mini version of the big Hofbräuhaus exists – in the English Gardens!

I highly recommend a bike for this adventure, depending on where you live, because the Mini-Hofbräuhaus is located in the “wild” part of the English Gardens – aka the ‘not easily accessible by foot’ area. Do you like dogs? Well then you’ll love this place as it’s super dog friendly. Added bonus – the beer prices are lower than the main HB in the city center (€7.40 vs €9.20 for a liter).

Speaking of beer…

We can buy Oktoberfest beer in the grocery store!

I’ve yet to figure out if this is an annual thing, or if this is special for Covid times. Regardless, if we can’t participate in Oktoberfest this year then at least we can try the beer.

If the 0.5L bottles aren’t enough, you can grab a 2L bottle instead.

And finally,

We’ve been to the Alps twice!

We’ve had two hiking opportunities, one was a little harder than the other, but both were fantastic, and it’s nice that the Alps are only an hour (to hour and a half) drive from Munich. First up was Ehrwald, Austria – which I blogged about here – and our 2nd trip was to the Kranzhorn mountain (blog post to come).

The Seebensee in Ehrwald, Austria.
Overlooking the Hut on the Kranzhorn mountain, Austria & Germany (it splits the border!).

Honorable Mention:

My favorite German-words-of-the-month: Mietwagen (pronounced “meat wagon”, lol) which means ‘rental car’ & Sehenswürdigkeit (pronounced “seyens-wor-dig-kite”) which means ‘attraction’, or literally ‘something worthy to see’.

Until our next Sehenswürdigkeit (yes, I realize I used this incorrectly)…



Summer in the City, Munich

Remember that time I was super excited to move to THE Oktoberfest city and then it was canceled for the first time since WWII?

Oktoberfest is the largest Volksfest (folk festival) in the world and generally brings in ~1.5 billion euros from tourists each year. Until we moved here, we didn’t realize that there’s more to Oktoberfest than your average American probably assumes. Yes – the giant beer tents are the main attraction, but the festival grounds also have carnival rides, food vendors, and some cultural events. It’s essentially a State Fair on steroids. The festival takes place in the Theresienweise, which is a massive 420,000 sq. m (4,500,000 sq. ft.) area just outside the old town. You can really feel the vastness of the festival grounds when it’s empty.

Empty Oktoberfest grounds. It looks so sad.

As you might expect, the smaller Oktoberfest vendors were predicted to be the hardest hit from the cancellation. So, in an effort to give the city a little post-lockdown pep-in-it’s-step and a chance for the vendors to make some money, Munich has come up with a solution – Sommer in der Stadt (Summer in the city)!

Summer in the city is essentially a decentralized volksfest, and to be clear, it’s a “non-traditional event” and “not a replacement for Oktoberfest”. From the last week of July through the first week of September, pop-up beer gardens, concerts, craft vendors, food vendors, and carnival rides are scattered around the city. So, on Saturday we decided it was time to go see what it was all about.

There are three main festival locations – the Theresienwiese (the Oktoberfest grounds), the Köningsplatz, and Olympia Park. It seemed fitting to start at the festival grounds (and they were the closest), so that’s what we did.

Have you guys heard of Assumption Day? Yeah – neither had we.

Clearly, we aren’t Catholic, but the state of Bavaria is, and Saturday was a public holiday for the Assumption of Mary – aka the day it was assumed that Mary went to Heaven. Thank you, Munich Reddit, because otherwise, we would have no groceries – all the shops (including the grocery stores) were closed on Saturday (and are always closed on Sunday). I bring this up because I think this contributed to the underwhelming feeling we had when we excitedly made it to the fairground Saturday afternoon. There wasn’t much going on…

I did get a picture with the Bavaria Statue, though.

Post-coronavirus Tip: You can climb up the Bavaria Statue for a nice view of the fairgrounds!

I say post-coronavirus tip, because it’s closed until further notice. Very disappointing.

In case you didn’t notice, there is no shade in the Theresienwiese, and it was HOT on Saturday, so we carried on. It was just… alright. 😂

To be fair, it was a holiday, it was very family-friendly, and we didn’t make it out to Olympia Park, which was the primary location for the cultural events. I think I also had higher expectations based on pre-corona festivals. I will also give the city of Munich a lot of credit for ensuring a safe festival environment. There were never too many attractions in one area and the programs are very spread out over time. For instance, we learned after the fact that the hand-made craft mini-festival was on the Thursday and Friday prior, naturally.

I did manage to get another photo-frame picture, and we ate a chocolate-covered banana. So, it could have been worse.

Saturday wasn’t all-for-not, though. We managed to finally see the Isar River! I’ve been wanting to go swimming in the Isar, but it’s about a 40 min bike ride from our house, so we just haven’t done it yet. We didn’t swim on Saturday, but luckily there was an open kiosk with cold beer and plenty of space for people watching.

View from the Reichenbachbrücke (bridge).
The Isar has a walking path that extends the length of the river. FYI, masks are not required outdoors in Germany but social distancing is requested.
View from the Wittelsbacherbrücke.

Oh, another Assumption Day tip? Check your train times. Apparently, when Mary goes to Heaven the S-Bahn doesn’t run like normal. Our typical 15 min trip turned into an hour. Partly, because we had to take the tram, which is slower. Partly, because despite getting on the tram in the direction of home, we ended up going in the opposite direction. Still not quite sure how that happened… oh well.

Still no news on Shane’s job. Fingers crossed for an update soon!



Hiking in Ehrwald, Austria

If I could insert googly-eyes, I’d do it.

I know we’ve only been in Munich for 2 months, but I’ve been dying to get to the mountains. So, when a soon-to-be-whenever-Germany-lets-Shane-finally-work (ugh) colleague invited us to tag along on a day trip to the Alps, we jumped at the chance. So, last Friday we headed (only) an hour and a half south to Ehrwald, Austria.

The hike starts at the Ehrwalder Almbahn – the village’s cable car – and loops around the mountain, following signs to the Seebensee (Seeben Lake). Head around the lake and take the path straight ahead (and up) to the Coburger Hütte (hut) for some refreshments and a nice view of the next lake, the Drachensee. To return, backtrack past the Seebensee and keep right following the signs for the Almbahn. Finally, a left on to the Immensteig Trail cuts down the mountain and back to the parking lot.

Sounds easy enough, right?


Can you spot me? (Photo thanks to Justin & Alice)

“It’s rated as difficult, but it’s only 800 m of elevation gain, so it can’t be that hard!”

From the 800 m elevation gain (~2600 ft), 12.5 km distance (~7.5 mi), some scrambling, and some “oh shit” moments – this route earns it’s difficult rating, but man, it was worth it!

Ehrwald village in the background.

The hike itself started out easy enough. Were my quads already burning? Sure. Was I embarrassingly out of breath after a whole 5 minutes? Absolutely. Regardless, we trudged on, my lungs figured out this whole ‘altitude’ thing, and we headed for the Seebensee.

The start.
Up we go!

It may have “only” been a total of 800 m in elevation gain, but I swear the first half of the hike was nothing but up. It was one of those experiences where you can SEE the top, but the top never seems to get any closer. Luckily, there were some built in break spots with phenomenal views – which you needed to start the next portion of our “probably not that difficult” adventure. The scrambling. At least there were cables, right?

Started from the bottom now we’re here. -Drake. (Literally, we started at the parking lot in the photo.)
Mountain-mounted handrail cables.

After about 3 hours (from the start) we arrived at the first lake – the Seebensee! The water was incredibly clear and there were lots of people – families with small children included – sunbathing and swimming. Obviously, there was an alternate route to the Seebensee…

Seebensee – Coburger Hütte straight ahead!

At this point, we were hot & had been promised a hut with beer. We didn’t realize it yet, but we could literally see our destination. We had a little more work to do first…

An unexpected bonus? COWS! Free-range cows with giant bells! Apparently this is a ‘thing’ in the Alps. Sheep & cows are put out to graze wearing bells so their owners can find them again later. Too bad for you if you’re a sleepy cow – in this area, the bells were constantly ringing. For a while, you could only hear them, but we did eventually get close enough for a cow-photoshoot. They obviously see humans all the time because they didn’t give two shits about us.

Can I pet dat cowwww?
Caught in action.
My masterpiece. What a beauty.

I digress. Onwards and upwards to the hut! Thanks to my one track mind (nooo… not beer. Fanta, actually, with a beer accouterment. Does that make it a two-track mind?), I forgot to take a proper picture of the Coburger Hut. From above you could see the second lake, Drachensee. We intended to go swimming, but honestly it was kind of chilly up there! By the time we were properly refreshed we were also properly cold, so we skipped the swimming.

The hut from below.
The Drachensee from the hut.
View over the Seebensee from the Coburger Hütte (1910m, ~6250 ft).

After that, it was time to turn around! It was another ~2 hours back to the car. I think at this point, everyone was happy to be on flat ground for a while… little did we know we were going to be scrambling straight down the side of the mountain with those cables again.

Photo thanks to Alice.

So, note-to-self: Trust the hike ratings. It was certainly a difficult hike, but if you’re feeling fit and confident in your feet then it’s by no means unmanageable. Honestly, going up and down with the cables felt a little sketchy at first (especially going down), but you get the hang of it and it’s really fun! I would absolutely recommend this hike, and do it again.

Here’s a link to the hike on Komoot. And if you’re considering it, here’s what you can expect on the Immensteig Trail (at the end of the hike). Conversely, you can just be surprised, like we were. 😜

If you’re interested in the Seebeensea and the Coburger Hütte but a difficult hike isn’t for you, then I recommend checking out the official tourism website. They list all the trails and their difficulty.

Our group – Us, Josh, Alice, & Justin.

Until our next mountain adventure –