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?

Wrong.

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.
Drachensee.

Until our next mountain adventure –

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

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

Munich Guide: Blutenburg Castle

Technically, Schloss Blutenburg.

We take a lot of walks these days. Well, honestly, we’ve taken a lot of walks since March when the coronavirus restrictions started. Shane is still unable to work due to coronavirus delays, so we’re still walking! Lucky for us, we have a new neighborhood to explore, and Schloss Blutenburg happens to be within walking distance!

Duke Albrecht III, the Duke of Bavaria-Munich, built Blutenburg as a hunting lodge in the west of Munich. The castle, located between two arms of the River Würm (which runs through Pasing, our town) dates back to 1432. He also built it to house his secret wife, a commoner named Agnes Bernauer. Unfortunately, their marriage was discovered by the Duke’s father, who declared Agnes a witch and had her murdered – thrown off a bridge into the Danube River, to be exact – in 1435.

Over the years the castle has been in the hands of many (the Duke’s second oldest son and some private leases), but eventually fell into dis-repair. In the 1970’s, an association was formed to restore the castle, and it’s now open to view, with a small museum, a cafe, and most famously, the International Youth Library which houses over 500,000 children’s books in 130 languages.

Practical Info:

How to get there: from Munich hbf, catch one of the many S-bahn trains to Obermenzing bf. From there, you can take a bus (#143) to the Blutenburg stop, or walk ~20 min. If you’re in the Pasing area, I recommend walking. The walk follows the river and there are signs to guide you.

Cost: Free! €3 to visit the museum.

Opening Times: Daily, until 6pm. The chapel closes at 5pm (summer months) and 4pm (winter months).

Rating: 🧡 (if there’s time)

If you’re in the Pasing area, it’s certainly worth the walk. If you’re looking for something a little ‘off the beaten path’ then this is also for you.

Tschüss,

Whitney

Munich: A Shwitastic Guide!

22 days.

That’s how long it took for me to get around to buying a cheese pretzel (käsebrezel, as I now know). This may seem insignificant (which, ok it is), but I love cheese and I surely love that cheese on a pretzel – ERGO – this is an unacceptable situation.

My pretzel antidote is part of a bigger concern: not taking full advantage of our new city. It’s easy to get caught up in the routine of life, especially with everything going on in the world today. As a way to hold ourselves accountable, I’ve created a ‘Make the Most of Munich’ map – a Munich bucket-list, some might call it. Without further ado…

Icon Color Key (i.e., our recommendations):

⚪️ Yet to visit. [grey]

🛑 Eh, it’s ok to skip this. [red]

🧡 If there’s time, check it out. [orange]

✅ Highly recommend! [green]

If you’re curious about something, check out each icon. I’ll be updating as we adventure, so you’ll find links to our experiences here!

Have we missed something? I’m always interested in ‘hidden gems’ or unique experiences. So please, let us know what we’re missing!

Tschüss,

Whitney

Feature image icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

Hello, Munich!

Tot ziens, Holland. Willkommen in Deutschland!

Moving day, 27 May 2020.

We did it, we made it to Munich!

Before I start, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge current world events – specifically the Black Lives Matter protests happening in America right now. As an American living abroad for the foreseeable future, to be honest, I feel a weird sense of disconnect. Maybe it’s the distance, maybe it’s jadedness. Black Americans being unnecessarily killed by law enforcement, for me, falls into the same category as school shootings: it happens far too often, people get angry, social media explodes, time passes, people forget, but nothing actually changes. This is inexcusable. Watching from afar though, this time feels different. It feels like people – all kinds of people – are finally fed up and mobilizing for change. As an American abroad, it’s hard to know what you should do in this situation, how can you help? As I mentioned at the end of my previous post, living abroad has instilled a sense of responsibility to understand other people’s viewpoints and acknowledge that the way I perceive the world can be vastly different from how you do. What we (Whitney & Shane) sometimes forget, is that sense of responsibility to learn should also include America. How we, as two white middle-class individuals, perceive America is vastly different than other communities. So, we’re reading, listening, watching, and broadening our perspectives to do our small piece to break the cycle. Black lives matter. People of color matter. What keeps happening in America is, without debate, wrong. If you’re an expat like me and feeling a little lost on how to support, a fellow expat and travel blogger has compiled a great post with a list of resources. It’s 2020, basic human rights – life, safety, healthcare, food – shouldn’t be a debate.

{insert clever segway}

Yeah, ok – I don’t have a clever segway. Back to the move!

Yes, that’s a big truck. No, Meatball did not ride in the back.

A lot of dominoes needed to fall for this move to be successful. We are, after all, in a pandemic and Europe still has some restrictions in place. Step one was to get to Leer, Germany – just over the border, about 40 min away from Groningen. Technically, the border between Germany and the Netherlands never closed, and we heard that people were still allowed to cross for gas & groceries (it’s cheaper in Germany), so we hoped for no problems and no problems we had (step 1 ✓)! Well, border problems I should say. We rented a cargo van. We got a small box truck (step 2 ✓). As you can see from the picture above, we had more than enough space…

Fun fact: my first time driving in the Netherlands was when I drove our (automatic) rental car from Groningen to Leer! Someone should really learn how to drive a manual car… OK but not really ’cause is 2020 and why do they even still exist?!

We rented an automatic. Obviously.

We did run into a small border problem on the way back into the Netherlands. Shane was stopped in the truck by border control. No worries, we had printed Shane’s job contract and our apartment lease as proof of essential travel. Where were those papers? In the front seat of my car about 10km ahead. 😑 All in all, it was ok. They asked to see the inside of the truck and Shane’s (now expired) residence permit. I guess since we were actively trying to leave their country they were cool with it. With minimal delay, we were back in NL (step 4 ✓), loaded & cleaned (step 5 ✓), and said goodbye to Oostersingel 72A (step 6 ✓)!

It’s ~8.5 hours from Groningen to Munich, and since we had the cat, we decided to stop a little over halfway. Luckily, as of 15 May, hotels were allowed to host tourists again, so we didn’t have to sleep in the truck on the side of the highway (step 8 ✓) and Meatball got to have her first hotel experience (fluffy duvet covers blew her mind). We were on the road early the next morning and arrived at our new home in Pasing (Munich) around mid-day.

Our new apartment building!

I’ll be honest, we were slightly nervous about the apartment: ~30 m2 (300 sq ft.), basement, only one sink – in the bathroom. Remember all that space in the truck and how it didn’t look like we had much stuff? Well, pack that into this apartment and we were slightly overwhelmed. But, we did as you do on moving days – drink beer and eat pizza as you unpack – and by the time everything was put away and organized it didn’t seem so small anymore!

Before…
and after!

We’re just about a week in, and I think we’ve found our groove with the kitchen. We were doing dishes by hand in our old apartment, so no real change there. And because the sink is right next to the kitchen area it doesn’t feel inconvenient. We cook all our meals, so there was some concern over the hotplate, but it’s been fine. The smallness honestly doesn’t bother us, but what may get old after a while is the lack of natural light. We get some indirect light from the window, but the view is blocked by a retaining wall. For now, it’s summer and the weather is lovely so we are using it as an excuse to be outside. Overall, the positives outweigh the negatives – the apartment has been recently renovated, our utilities are included, we have GREAT internet, covered bike parking (👍), and we are about 10 minutes walking to Pasing ‘city center’ (30 minutes to Munich city center by tram or S-Bahn). Ecuador has been postponed due to coronavirus until at least early 2021, so until we have a better timeline, this apartment will be fine!

Long story short, we’re on the way to becoming German residents!

This weekend we will be heading out to our local market and (if the weather cooperates) our first biergarten! Stay tuned for our first impressions of living in Bavaria!

Tired but unpacked.

Auf Wiedersehen,

Whitney

48 Hours in Munich, Germany

I don’t know about you guys, but I need a mental break from the coronavirus news. We’re not on full lockdown here in the Netherlands, but bars, restaurants, and gyms are closed, public transportation has been reduced, and people are encouraged to work from home. Long story short, it’s all anyone can talk about.

So, for a little mental re-charge, I want to talk about our trip to Munich!

Previously, I raved about our mode of transportation, and Shane finally admitted why we went to Munich. I guess it’s time to talk about the city itself!

The Marienplatz: the central square of Munich.

Day 1:

I dropped off my honey at his interview (literally, I walked him there) and headed out for a day on my own –

aka: Strong Independent Woman Day!

Tip: Use the public transportation – it’s cheap!

The LMU campus is about 20 minutes by subway (U-bahn) outside of the city center, near the suburb of Martinsreid. I bought an unlimited day ticket (buses, tram, U-bahn (subway), and S-bahn (above ground train)) for €7.80 – a single trip ticket is €3.30, so this quickly pays off.

If you’re part of a group it’s even cheaper. An unlimited group day ticket for 2 – 5 people is €14.80 TOTAL. It’s a steal!

First stop:

The Residenz

Cost: €14 (combo ticket)

Tip: If you arrive from the Odeonsplatz U-bahn station, walk up the stairs, go straight, then take a left to find the entrance.

If you get distracted by statues and a garden and happen to walk up the stairs and take a right then you’ll find yourself in the Hofgarten and walk a very long perimeter to eventually get back to the entrance. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

The Residenz is the former royal palace for the Bavarian monarchs, and it is split into two sections: the residence (with the royal apartments) and the treasury (with the crown jewels). You’ll need to buy the combo ticket if you want to see both. If you’re just going for that Instagram-able shot, then you only need to visit the residence side, as it has the the Antiquarium – the oldest and most impressive room (built in 1568).

Lucky enough to have it to myself.
A room fit for a Bavarian King!
Unlike the crown jewels in London, they let you get right up to the glass!

Royal palaces make me hungry (ok, fine – everything makes me hungry), so

Take a people-watching snack break in the Max-Joseph-Platz

Cost: Free!

Just outside the entrance to the Residenz is the Max-Joseph-Platz. It was sunny that day, a rarity in February (especially in the Netherlands), so I grabbed a snack and did as the locals do – sat in the sun!

Tip: For a quick snack head to the nearby supermarket, Rewe.

Or, if you want a fancy looking pastry, I drooled over (and later regretted not purchasing) the pastries in the window at Maelu.

Pretzel #1 with a Spezi – a lemonade + cola combination. Odd as it was, I’d drink it again.

Recharged, I headed on to my next destination.

Hi-Sky Munich

Cost: €14.50 (adults)

Let me just say: I LOVE me a good observation wheel. You know what’s even better? When you get the entire gondola to yourself. Dreams do come true!

Did I set up my Go-pro and take a million shameless selfies? You betcha!

Shane HATES. H.A.T.E.S. observation/ferris wheels. He was more than happy for me to take full advantage of my strong independent woman day and tick this off my Munich list. Which, I did, and had a grand ‘ole time with beautiful views of the city from one side and the mountains from the other.

and finally

Viktualienmarkt

Cost: Free to visit, €4.50 1/2L beer, snacks vary.

Located just around the corner from the Marienplatz is the Viktualienmarkt – a 200 year old farmer’s market smack in the city center! Today, you can find flowers, herbs, cheeses, veggies, SO MUCH FOOD and beer. A hungry tourists dream!

After the observation wheel, I headed back to city center to wander for food and genuinely stumbled on this market by accident… and then didn’t leave.

Tip: Take enough selfies and a kind stranger will offer to take your picture for you! 😆

Day 2:

Strong Independent Woman Day was grrrreat!, but it was nice to have my travel partner back the next day. Especially, since he spent the entire previous day interviewing – it was time to enjoy the city!

We intended to do a walking tour, but we got a later start than anticipated so missed the 10am start time. Instead, we started at the history museum.

Munich Stadtmuseum

Cost: €7 (all exhibits), €4 (permanent exhibits only)

If you’re into learning about the city’s history, then start here! Not only will you discover what’s “Typical Munich”, but there is an excellent exibihit on the rise of National Socialism and Munich’s role in the rise of Hitler.

Fun Fact: the old town of Munich is shaped like a cross bow!

Hofbräuhaus

Cost: €9.20 L beer, meals vary.

Ok, lets face it. After 2 hours of history and Nazi history at that, it was time for a drink! And you don’t got to Munich and not visit the most famous beer hall!

I will say I was underwhelmed by the facade. I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t that. The inside made up for it though.

Tip: Don’t be shy – just walk in and find an empty spot!

We had a great time here! There was such a festive feeling, even for the middle of the day on a Friday in February – February 14th to be exact! ❤️ It was a little pricey compared to some of the other beer halls, but you’re also paying for the experience.

The hall was originally built in the late 1500s, and opened to the public in the 1820s. It was here (as we learned in the Stadtmuseum) in 1920 that the National Socialist Party held a huge public meeting and Hitler gave his first address. Most of the hall was destroyed during WWII and has since been restored, but the main hall survived.

Ok so I won’t lie. The rest of our day was visiting beer halls. I’m not sorry about it either!

Löwenbräukeller

Cost: €7.80 L beer, meals vary.

The Löwenbräukeller (bräukeller, meaning brewery) first opened it’s doors in 1883’s with an architecturally (for the time) impressive building. Shortly thereafter, it became the first brewery in Munich to provide tablecloths and napkins, and patrons didn’t have to rinse out their own beer glass!

In my opinion, the atmosphere here was ‘fancier’ than the Hofbräuhaus, but still relaxed. There was also a huge outdoor area, which would be nice in the warmer months.

It was slightly further from the Marienplatz, which was reflected in the beer prices, and they had delicious red cabbage & potato dumplings so you really can’t ask for much more.

Augustiner-Keller

Cost: €7.90 L beer, meals vary.

I’m just going to come out and say it. This one was my favorite.

First – The beer hall reminded me of Game of Thrones.

Second – Pretzel baskets lived on the table. You pay at the end for what you eat. Dangerous? Yes. Delicious? Also yes.

Pretzel count: 3. Not pictured: #4.

Third – We found out that Shane got the job AT THIS VERY SPOT!

Photobomb gold.

It’s cozy, it’s festive, it has a huge beer hall and garden, and easy to find (near the hauptbahnhof). A perfect way to cap off the night.


And that is how we spent 48 hours in Munich! Obviously, there is a ton we didn’t see. If we had another day, I would suggest taking a walk through the English Gardens or the Deutsches Museum (science and technology).

Tip: Free city center walking tours are available daily.

We love a good walking tour – you can learn something before you go spend the rest of your time in the beer halls! 😉

As of May 1, 2020 we will call Munich our new home – so until then…

Auf Wiedersehen,

Whitney

The adventure continues!

Six years ago, we moved to the Netherlands so that I (Shane) could complete a PhD.

Last March, I completed said PhD. Since that time, I’ve searched for a postdoc position while working as a freelance science editor. Why such a long job search? Well, there are a couple of issues:

  1. My research interests are very specific.
  2. I need a long-term position; most postdocs are 1-2 years, which complicates Whitney’s ability to find a job.
  3. The location needs to have options for Whitney to work (i.e., biotech).

As you can imagine, these stipulations have severely limited my options and, to be perfectly honest, caused me to reconsider my academic ambitions. Nonetheless, we persevered (I say we because Whitney continually supported and encouraged me) and we finally have good news to share –

I got a postdoc position!

Image result for the cat's out of the bag gif
Get it? The cat’s out of the bag…

In her last post, Whitney covered our recent train trip to Munich. What she purposely omitted from this story was that the trip wasn’t all fun and games (don’t worry, she’ll have a ‘fun times in Munich’ post soon enough).

In truth, I had an interview at Ludwig Maximilian University. To keep a long story short, the interview went well and I accepted the position!

Got the offer while we were still in Munich.

Safe to say, I am very excited for this position. Not only does it meet all of the requirements I listed above (my specific research interests, longer-term, and a good location), but it also fulfills additional ‘wants’ of mine. I’ll try to keep this as short as possible as I explain:

During my PhD, I studied how adaptation to the local environment can influence patterns of speciation and biodiversity. More specifically, I studied how visual adaptation affects behavior.

Why is this important?

Well, if you think of our our day-to-day lives, we humans are greatly influenced by our visual perception of the world. Vision influences the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, the mates we choose, and whether or not we step in front of that on-coming bus. Thus, it’s not too much of a stretch to think that similar processes are important to other animals.

To this point in my research career, I have worked exclusively in fish model systems (threespine sticklebacks, zebrafish, African cichlids), as they are very amendable to studies of visual perception and behavior (fish have similar visual systems to humans). Obviously, it would make sense to continue within fish-based research for a postdoc position, as this plays to my expertise and comfort. However, postdocs are a time to expand and learn new techniques. Thus, we come to my new position at LMU.

I will continue to explore how the local environment influences visual perception and corresponding behaviors, but will expand to incorporate other sensory systems and aspects of neural anatomy. Excitedly, this project will not be fish-based, but focus on the Heliconius butterflies of Central and South America. Evolutionary biologists have studied these butterflies for nearly 150 years and, much like the African cichlids of my PhD, Heliconius represents a large radiation of multiple species that have adapted to differing environments. Thus, this project will challenge me to learn a new model system and to incorporate new variables into my research (e.g., chemosensory perception and the anatomy of the brain).

Image result for heliconius
image courtesy of: Wikipedia

The most exciting part of this project? It’s mostly field-based! Though I didn’t include this as a ‘requirement’ of a postdoc position, it was a strong desire. I’ve completed a fair amount of fieldwork over the past ten years (in British Columbia, Tanzania, and Corsica) and was hopeful I could continue to do. So, after a few months of organization in Munich, it’s off to Ecuador! Best of all, Whitney and Meatball will join!

That’s right, the whole clan is moving to Tena, Ecuador for 18-24 months!

At this point, details are still being worked out. For now, we know that I will start in early May and that we will need to find temporary housing in Munich. In ~July, we will move to Ecuador. Whitney has given her official notice at work and will finish up at the end of April. We’re not exactly sure what she will be doing in next ~2 years, but we’re hopeful she can find a remote position or, at the very least, work as a science editor as I have done for the past 6-7 months. Regardless, she’s not going to miss the opportunity to live in the rainforest for two years. After fieldwork, we will return to Munich for the remainder of the position (~2 more years), which should give Whitney ample employment opportunities (biotech is well-represented in Munich).

So, after a long period of relative quiet, the pace of life has picked up dramatically. Per tradition, we celebrated my new position with a trip to ‘t Pannekoekschip.

We’ve also started learning Spanish (we’re ignoring German language requirements for now) and will soon need to find apartments in Munich and Ecuador. As more details develop, life is sure to become even more hectic. Nonetheless, we’re excited. We’ve been anxiously awaiting our next move for a long time, so it’s fun to know that it’s finally happening!

Stay tuned for more updates. Up next, Whitney has plenty to say about her ‘independent woman day’ in Munich while I was interviewing.

Until next time,

Shane