October Joy Report

So, October was…going!

Honestly, with the job and residency drama behind us, we’ve just chugging along this month. Getting into our new routine, appreciating the mundane daily life, enjoying the fall weather and colors. And then the unexpected happened. My trivial October joys were greatly overshadowed by one event – the loss of my cousin, Tony, who took his own life on October 17th. And while that is in no way a joyous occasion, my cousin, despite his decision, was a joyful kind of guy – at least that’s how I knew him.

So, with that in mind, my first October joy.

Tony.

Photo credit to Cassandra (graciously taken from his Facebook page).

I’m not entirely sure where to begin. I suppose a short family history – Tony is one of four Milani children, who are cousins on my mom’s side of the family. My mom’s dad was in the US Air Force, and the family moved a lot. So, it was normal that our extended family ended up all over the US and sometimes the globe. My sister and I are the youngest of the 8-cousin bunch, so we looked up to our older cousins, especially since we only got to see them every now and then. As life goes, you grow up and you grow apart, but in 2009, at a long-overdue family reunion, we all reconnected. After that, with the help of Facebook (and Snapchat and any other cat-meme sharing social media platform), our cousin crew was back-in-action and this time for good.

Now to Tony. I swear, he’s the funniest of the crew, and this was no small task. Joey, his brother, smashed cake in his own face when we were kids, which made him the funniest in my book for a long time. I think that Tony’s ‘funny’ came from his complete authentic self. When we were together, he always seemed to be unapologetically who HE was – caring, empathetic, genuine, loving. SO SO loving. Which also might have been a detriment – he was the kind of person that would give so much of himself to others, he could forget to give back to himself.

One vivid example – when Shane and I went home to celebrate our wedding in North Carolina, I remember showing Tony the montage of our Croatia wedding photos and being surprised to look over and find him teary-eyed. Granted, the photographers picked Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and someone was “cutting onions” nearby – so it wasn’t totally his fault (😜), but it was totally Tony. He was so happy for us and so happy for our family to be together.

A family photo
Tony is far left, holding the small child above his head…

Tony is married to Cassandra, and they are both in the US Air Force and constantly on the move. One thing I never told him (them) – they were our family ‘goals’. They’re adventurous, open-minded, and made the best of their situations. Mostly, for us as two travel-loving, abroad-living people who might have kids one day, they showed us that you CAN still do it. With four boys in tow, they didn’t stop traveling and exploring, and we’re grateful for their example.

Oh, and Tony was fluent in at least 3 languages. So… cool cool cool, cousin. I’m only a lot bit jealous of his language skills.

You hear this a lot, but life’s too short to hold grudges. Life’s too short to not reach out to that person you’ve been missing. Life’s too short to not be who you truly are, do what makes you happy, and take way too many pictures! Obviously, there’s more to Tony’s story than what meets the eye. So, I’d like to end this piece by saying please – if you’re struggling, reach out to someone. Honesty is hard, but life is worth living even if it may not feel like it at the moment. I wish that Tony’s story hadn’t ended, but all I can do now is learn from it and honor him by remembering all his wonderful qualities.

Tony was a vet. If you’re American and know someone who might benefit from the National Veterans Foundation ‘Stop Veteran Suicides’ crisis line then please, pass on this information, or you can make a donation.

2016

Fall colors!

Covid cases have been rising in Germany. So much so that we are heading into a month long lockdown starting today (2 Nov). We haven’t been DOING too much since the weather turned colder and rainier. Beer gardens and outdoor spaces at restaurants have been mainly closed for the winter and we’re not to keen on indoor activities at the moment. So, while Shane’s at work, I’ve been taking a lot of walks! We both agreed that the fall colors in Munich have been much more dramatic than in the Netherlands. Obviously, there are different types of trees here (lots of chestnuts), but they just POP!

Stoop views.

Honor system potatoes and squash

Do you remember how I said there were honor system pick-your-own flowers back in the summer? Well, this has transformed into grab-your-own-squash-and-potatoes! I’m excited to see if there is a winter pick-your-own variety.

This stand (called the “Potato Hut” offered regional potatoes, squash, and halloween pumpkins.

We got our real residence permits!

It took about 4 months to get an application appointment, and less than 4 weeks to receive our official cards in the mail. No more worries until 2022!

and finally…

This.

I have no words for it. I don’t know how to describe it. Why is a realistic looking mannequin holding a dragonfly displayed in a glass case on Shane’s campus? The world may never know. Literally. There’s no description plaque. If anyone out there knows why this man is on LMU’s Biocampus, please explain!

Honorable Mention

Budenzauber.

A dreamlike-unreal effect caused by lighting and appropriate decoration, which the stalls create at a Christmas fair.

That’s a mighty specific translation!

The Christmas markets in Munich are officially cancelled, so I guess I’ll have to make my own budenzauber this year. In the meantime, I hope everyone is able to find their own little slice of joy, and if you can – share it! You never know who might need a boost. ❤️ Tony.

Tschüss,

Whitney

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.

NFL on TV

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:

Servus!

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.

Tschüss,

Whitney

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.

DISCLAIMER

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. 🤪🤞

Tschüss,

Whitney

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…

Relatedly…

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.

THEY THROW THINGS OFF AT THE SPEED OF LIGHTNING PLEASE JUST GIVE ME TWO MORE SECONDS SO YOU DON’T SMUSH MY CHIPS AND…. nevermind. Smushed.

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)…

Tchüss,

Whitney

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!

Tschüss,

Whitney

Munich Guide: Pasing

It occurred to me the other day that I’ve been so focused on experiencing (and sharing) Munich city center, that I haven’t talked much about our little neck of the woods – Munich, Pasing!

Pasinger Marienplatz.

Pasing is a district in west Munich and feels like a city of its own (because it originally was). It has a lively center, it’s own official city park, and even it’s own version of the Marienplatz. To top it off, it’s easily accessible from (as I’ve dubbed it) big-Munich. You can be Marienplatz to Marienplatz in 30 min by tram or by bicycle, or 15 min on the S-bahn. Pasing is also ~20 min by bike to the LMU campus where Shane will work, so essentially, we chose to live in Pasing for the location.

Tell you more about Pasing? Gladly!

It has a mini-Marienplatz.

Technically called the Pasinger Marienplatz.

Pasing is growing quickly – construction is king right now.

As I mentioned before, Pasing once was an independent city. The Marienplatz in Pasing, inaugurated in 1880, was originally designed to mimic the Marienplatz in big-Munich. In 1938 Pasing was annexed by the Nazis to become part of Munich, and the central square was renamed to avoid any confusion. The square has been redesigned over the years with the addition of trams and adjusted traffic patterns, so it doesn’t feel so prominently central anymore, but it’s nice to see.

It has the 4th busiest train station in Bavaria,

number one being Munich Hbf.

The current train station.
The old train station with the Arcaden (the mall) in the background.

Despite not being a true square, this part of town feels much more ‘city center’ than the Marienplatz. The main station used today was built in the 1950s, but if you exit the station and turn right you’ll find the Alter Pasinger Bahnhof, the old station. Built in 1847-48, it’s the oldest surviving railway station in Upper Bavaria (according to the plaque on the building) and now houses (to my nephew’s delight) a restaurant called Alex. They had a pancake brunch menu so I expect Alex (the restaurant) must be good. I suppose Alex the nephew isn’t so bad either… even more so if he made me pancakes. I digress.

It has it’s own Maypole,

or Maibaum in German.

I love these maypoles! A quick history, in case you’re unfamiliar (as I was). The hoisting of the maypole is a spring-celebration tradition in Germany & Austria, but they aren’t unique to these areas. Variations on the tradition also occur in places like Belgium, Denmark, and Sweden. In Germany, the tradition dates back to the 16th century where villages would strip a tree to create the pole then decorate it with village symbols. Each year on May 1st, the pole was erected (manpower only!), the keg was tapped (Maibock), and a party to celebrate Spring ensued (May Day)! The tradition carries on today, but not every city (or village) will erect a new maypole every year. For instance, the last maypole in Pasing was raised in 2017.

It’s also tradition to steal the maypole of neighboring villages. This seems a little hard to imagine given their size but as May 1st approaches, villages will organize community watches to keep their maypoles safe! As recently as 2017, a group from the town of Neufinsing managed to steal big-Munich’s maypole! Their ransom? A life-long table at Octoberfest. This was denied, so they settled for the traditional meal and free beer on May Day.

The Pasing maypole is located at Wirtshaus Franzz. How it ended up here, I’m not so sure, but they have a beer garden so you can reward yourself for the effort.

Speaking of beer gardens…

You’ll find no shortage in Pasing!

A plus side to getting a little bit out of big-Munich? Beer prices drop. You can expect to pay €3.60 for a half-liter, €7.90 for a whole. Do expect to pay in cash, though, or have a minimum charge of ~€10 to pay by card.

You can walk off the beer in the Stadt Park,

(aka: the city park)

I really enjoy Munich’s city parks. They are all over the place, and you genuinely feel like you’ve escaped the city. The Pasinger Stadtpark is no exception. The Würm River runs through the park, which makes for an excellent swimming spot for humans, doggies, and beavers!

Pick some flowers along the way,

I don’t know if this is unique to Pasing, but there are multiple honor system pick-your-own flower fields! We’ve seen fields with a flower mix, tulips, and now sunflowers. As the sign says, Wir dürfen gepflückt werden (we can be picked!). Just drop some change in the bucket and pluck away!

and visit a castle!

Blutenburg Castle. I’ve blogged about it before. It’s a lovely walk (or bike ride) if you’re in the area. You’ll find signs for Blutenburg in city center or as you leave the North entrance of Stadtpark.

and lastly… when you’re in Pasing you can visit

The MALL!

Ha! Now, if you’re really into malls or shopping then get yourself on out to Pasing, because the Arcaden has everything you could ever want! The only reason it’s on my list is that 1) we haven’t lived somewhere with a mall in a very long time and 2) we go there every week because that’s where our closest grocery store is. I will say they have a very impressive food court, which includes Five Guys. Also not something we expected to see here.


Practical Info:

How to get there: From Munich Hbf, take any of the S-bahn trains to the Munich-Pasing station, or hop on tram 19 or 29.

Cost: Obviously, it’s free to explore the area! Beer & food & mall goodies not included.

Opening Times: Most everything is closed on Sunday (as is much of Bavaria), otherwise, the hours for restaurants/beer gardens are pretty standard and close around 23:00. The Arcaden is open from 9:30 – 20:30 daily, except Sundays.

Rating: 🧡 (if there’s time)

Obviously, I give it a personal rating of ✅✅ for living, but if you have only a short time in Munich I would prioritize other things. Although, it may be worth considering a hotel or Airbnb in Pasing versus the city center to save on accommodation cost, but still be well connected.

Still need convincing? Pasing has built in trampolines. Game. Changer.

Tschüss,

Whitney

A Week of Happies (no crappies!)

Sorry for the language, but 2020 is a sh*t show.

I mean, now Kayne is running for President? I just can’t. And Shane’s job? It was supposed to start in May and now we’re looking at September (more on that in a later post). Thanks, Corona!

My sister and soon-to-be brother-in-law taught us a game: Happies and Crappies. We played it a lot when we were in Asia as a way to reflect on our experiences. It’s simple – everyone says one good thing (a happy) and one bad thing (a crappy) from their day. Between this game and a fellow expat’s recent blog post (June’s Joy Report), I was inspired to switch up my content.

I’m ditchin’ the crappies and offering up five happies from this past week!

One: This street name.

…as an English speaker.

I read it as ‘dumb ass strasse’. Yes, I realize that it’s actually a name (Dumas-strasse), but it makes me laugh every time.

Two: Meatball turned 15!

Well, roughly. I adopted her a decade ago, this week! Don’t worry, she’s still a spring-kitty-chicken, which brings me to part 2a. Her ramp! I mentioned before that our window leads out to a retaining wall, so she can’t actually get outside, but can see through the grate and enjoy the breeze through her whiskers. Now that she has a ramp, she goes up and down approximately 200 times a day – most of those being in the wee hours of the morning.

Three: The first meeting of the Ecuador crew!

Shane was hired alongside another postdoc, Lucie! Eventually, when we’re allowed to go to Ecuador, the three of us will move together (I have dubbed myself an honorary lab member) and Lucie and Shane will be the project leaders. The number of new coronavirus cases in Munich are staying very low (knock-on-wood), so we were able to check out city center, have some drinks at the Hofbräuhaus, and talk about Ecuador!

Four: Our local swimming spot.

No offense, Groningen, but Munich knows how to have a summer! We’ve had sunshine and warm temperatures, which means I’ve been dying to do some river swimming. Apparently, you’re not a Münchener until you’ve swam in the Isar River, but that’s ~40 min bike ride away from our house. We’ll do it one day, but for now we’ve found a closer option. In about 15 minutes, we can be swimming in the Würm River.

Five: We joined the climbing gym.

It’s been 3.5 months, but we’re finally back in climbing action! Also a testament to how well Germany has handled it’s containment of COVID-19.

Fun Fact: Our gym is called Einstein Boulderhalle after (obviously) Albert Einstein who lived in Munich as a child.

Honorable mention:

I’ve learned 2 new German words recently, which have quickly become my favorite: schmutzig (dirty) & schlussel (key). It’s something about that ‘sch’ sound at the beginning that makes it fun to say! 🤪


It’s’ easy to focus on the bad these days. Hopefully my happies brought you a smile, or at the very least, inspire you to think of your own happies!

Tschüss,

Whitney

Munich Guide: Olympia Park

Our trip to Olympia Park was an accident.

Ok, kind of. I mean it was on ‘the list’ and we did intentionally bike there, but our original plan was to go swimming in the Isar river. That plan was foiled once we looked at the radar. So instead, we decided to check out Olympia Park, which offered some shelter in case a thunderstorm rolled through. To be honest, there’s a lot more to this park than I expected. Despite the name, it never really clicked that this was where the 1972 Olympics were held. Yes, its a big (and beautiful) park, but it’s also home to all of the old stadiums!

As I mentioned, the park complex itself is quite large, 850,000 m2 to be exact, and the general layout and architecture were inspired by the Bavarian alpine hills – lots of blues, greens, and natural landscaping. The leisure activities seem quite endless. Today, you can tour the stadium complex, take a walk (or bike ride) through the park, sunbathe by the lake, see a movie outdoors, or drink a beer in one of the beer gardens, to name a few. Here were our highlights.

The Olympic Tower

I would venture to guess that the most noticeable feature of this park is the Olympic Tower, which was built in 1968. Yes, you can go up! No, we didn’t – thanks to the coronavirus most tourist attractions with small spaces are still closed. It’s still nice to enjoy, even without going up, and can act as a homing-device while you wander as it’s centrally located.

The Olympic Stadium

We didn’t realize that you could tour the old Olympic stadium. Actually, we were on our way home – we had biked a full circle around the park when Shane suggested to at least go look through the gate. As we were gawking from the outside, I noticed that a couple was walking INSIDE. If we had taken ~30 sec to look around instead of straight ahead we would have noticed the entrance. Regardless, we got in and it was great! You can do a self-guided tour (with free audio guide) or a guided tour. We opted for the self-guided tour and the whole stadium essentially to ourselves.

Olympiaberg

A nice view of the Olympiaberg from inside the stadium.

Interesting fact: the Olympiaberg (Olympic mountain) is man-made. It’s actually built from the rubble created from the bombings during World War II. Now, at 56m (183ft) tall, it’s one of the highest points in Munich. 56m doesn’t sound that bad until you bike it, which we did. The view was worth it, though.

Proof that we biked to the top.

The Park

Obviously, it’s better in person.

Don’t miss out on the park itself! There are tons of well-maintained paths for pedestrians, bikes, scooters – you name it! After you’ve conquered the “mountain”, take a left as you come down the path. The fields there have a great view of Munich and you’ll run smack-dab into a beer garden! After admiring the view (and refueling on beer & curryworst), you can follow the paths to the other side of the park and look at the old Olympic Village. I suggest looking from a distance though, because the old village is now used as student housing!

Tip: Walk the lake path.

We didn’t, and should have because Munich’s Walk of Fame is there (similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame). It started in 2003, and now has over 100 hand-prints and signatures from German and worldwide celebrities.

Olympia-Alm Beer Garden

The Olympia-Alm beer garden started off as a beer kiosk during the Olympics in 1972. Now, it’s the highest beer garden in Munich – a whole 564m (1850ft) above sea level! At max-capacity (during normal times), it can hold up to 200 people, putting it in the ‘small’ beer garden category – the largest can hold 8,000. If this doesn’t suit, then there are others, for instance the Beer Garden at the Coubertinplatz.

Tip: Order at the counter and it’s cash only.

1972 Massacre Memorial

During the Olympics, a Palestinian terrorist group attacked the Israeli team. They took 11 athletes as hostages. All the athletes and one West German police officer were killed. The end goal was to secure the release of 234 Palestine prisoners being kept in Israeli jails. Today, there is a memorial to the massacre, and it’s worth the quick stop to hear the story and learn about the victims.


Practical Info:

How to get there: From Munich Hbf, take the U2 to Hohenzollernplatz. From there it’s a ~15 min walk, or catch Bus 59 to Ackermannbogen then a 5 min walk into the park.

Cost: Visiting the park/Olympiaberg is FREE! Of course, some of the attractions have costs: the tower (€9), the stadium (€3.50), Olympia-alm beer (€3.20 / 0.5L).

Opening Times: The park itself is always available. Attractions closing times vary: the tower (23:00), the stadium (16:00), Olympia-alm (22:00).

Rating: ✅ Highly Recommended!

Olympia Park is huge, and we really only scratched the surface. Nearby, are the BMW Welt (showroom) and BMW Museum. Between those two attractions and the park, it would be easy to spend an entire day in this area of Munich. Did I mention there is a Rock Museum and an aquarium out there too? Something for everyone!

Tschüss,

Whitney