Sunday, April 24, 2011

Visiting My First Castle!

On Saturday we visited my first real castle!  Other than my girl Cinderella's of course :)  It's actually considered a Palace, but I'm counting it as my first Castle :)

King Ludwig II's original idea was to have a copy of Versailles Palace in honor of King Louis XIV of France.  They began construction in 1878 and it was never finished because the King ran out of money.  The palace was intended purely as a monument and had no practical function.  In fact, the King only spent a few days in the palace.  He planned on spending 10 days there every September, but after his first stay, he was found dead in Lake Starnberg (the lake we live on!).  To this day no one knows the cause of his death...suicide, murder, or accident. 

We toured the Palace and unfortunately you are not allowed to take any photos inside :(  It was incredible!  All of the floors were made out of real marble and the walls were made out of a fake marble that is actually more expensive than real marble (and can be colored to your choice).  Almost everything was covered in gold, but it was all gold leaf, therefore there was only about 5 lbs of gold combined in the entire palace.  The Palace has not been touched since the King died, so we got to see some of the unfinished area's as well. 

Here are a few pictures that we took of the outside!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Getting Along With The Germans

Someone at work gave Rick this book the other day, called "Getting Along With The Germans". 

Here are a few things that I found quite amusing and so true about Germany:

"Dogs are welcome in all public eating establishments, but your credit card might not be."
We were heavy credit card users in the US.  We put everything on our credit cards so we could collect points for either cash back or airplane miles.  (No worries, we always paid it in full every month).  So when we got here and found that most places don't accept credit cards, we had to get used to carrying a lot of cash at all times!  For example, we bought a washer and dryer for about 1000 Euro, and had to pay cash!!  Now we have found the "EC card" which is basically just a debit card from the bank, and a lot of places will take that.  No benefits other than convenience.  

"In every German there is a hidden Policeman"
Germans do not hesitate to tell you if you've done something wrong.  It doesn't matter if you've parked in the wrong spot, or forgot your child's hat on a chilly day, they'll let you know.  Luckily we haven't run into this issue yet, or maybe we have and just didn't understand because they were speaking German...oh well :)

"In Germany it takes ten times longer to pay for a meal as it does to order, have it prepared, and consume it"
After eating out probably 5 times, we have finally learned to ask for the check as soon as we're done eating.  You can put your silverware in the proper "I'm finished eating" position, you can be sitting outside in the rain (this actually happened to us) waiting for the bill, but unless you ask for it, they won't bring it.  In the US we used to complain that we would be rushed during a meal, here is the complete opposite!! 

"Of the 595,000 bags of potato chips delivered daily to grocery stores, not one single bag contains plain salted chips.  However, 594,999 bags contain "paprika-flavored" potato chips.  One bag contains cheesies, delivered by mistake."
Hilarious, considering how picky my husband is!  They even sell paprika flavored pringles!  Gross!!

Those are just a few of the "funnies".  I was cracking up reading this book, because there were so many things that I could relate to!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Trash, Trash, and more TRASH!!!

One thing that drives me crazy about Germany is the way they do trash!  I'm all for recycling, don't get me wrong.  In Minnesota we had a recycling container that was the same size as our trash can and we filled it up, usually overflowing for a twice a month pick up.  We put as much as we could in there, milk jugs, cereal boxes, papers, cans, bottles, etc.  What we didn't put in there was stuff with food on it.  Baby food jars that were empty, but still have some food in the inside, yogurt containers, empty butter containers, etc.  Here's my problem.  Here in Germany you have to separate everything.  Ok, so it shouldn't be a big deal to separate your cans from your bottles, or your boxes from your plastic jugs.  But we have to put all plastics (even used yogurt containers...yuk!) in one container.  Paper in another (napkins, paper towels...ugh), glass in another one (cleaned out, no lids), food goes in one all on its own (I can't even talk about this one, I'll gag!), and then there is "restmuil" for everything else (diapers, old socks...whatever). 

We live in an aparment building with 6 apartments.  We are the only ones with kids.  Thank God Drew is potty trained so we only have enough diapers for 1 kid.  But in our "community" garbage area, there is 1 can for restmuil and they come once every 2 weeks!  Everything else comes about once a month!  It's madness!

I'm not describing it very well, because reading this does not make it sound that bad, but it truly sucks!  I'm loving Germany and especially loving our little town of Starnberg, but this garbage thing drives me crazy. 

Here is a picture of our trash set up in the kitchen...5 trash cans!!!  Plus a diaper pail in Anna's room!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Silly Americans...

It's funny to see the perception of Americans from the German point of view. I was grocery shopping the other day and came across these cookies that were simply called "American Style Cookies". So I bought them, I just had to know what an "American Style Cookie" was! Rick and I did the taste test and sure enough...they were Chips Ahoy Cookies! So the next time you enjoy a Simple Chips Ahoy, know that it's what the Germans believe to be "American Style Cookies"!!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A couple of pictures...

We spent the morning riding our bikes along Starnbergersee (Starnberg Lake).  It was a beautiful day and a great bike ride with some wonderful photo opportunities!

Here are Drew and Anna ready to see the world from the bike trailer

A view of the Alps...I never get tired of looking at the mountains!

The City of Starnberg from across the lake

At First Glance...

So we've been in Germany for a month now, and I'm surprised at how much we've done and learned so far!

We've traveled to Austria and Switzerland for a few days, Rick worked, the kids and I explored! We moved into our new home, got our air shipment after about a week and a half, and our sea shipment after about 4 weeks. Living out of a suitcase for almost a month is not fun! Rick had a business trip to Amsterdam and I stayed home with the kids and got around on my own for 4 days (which sounds pathetic, but it wasn't easy!).

We've learned so much this first month! When we first arrived in Germany we went to the grocery store just like we would anywhere. A wallet full of credit cards, maybe a dollar or two in cash, and a cart full of groceries! What we learned is that credit cards are not "everywhere you want to be"! Stores here do not accept credit cards, cash only! After we were finally able to pay for our groceries, we realized that bags are not provided! You can buy them in the store, or bring your own, but they will not give you bags for free! I thought bagging your own groceries sucked, but now I have to bag my own groceries in my own bags! What's next, pay for my cart? Oh yeah, you have to do that too! 1 euro for a cart. You get your euro back when you return your cart, but if you don't have the Euro, no cart for you!

I could go on and on about things that are so different here! Some good, some bad. So instead of rambling, I'll make a list!

Thinks that I DON'T like about Germany:
Paying for my shopping cart
Bagging my own groceries
Remembering to bring bags every time I go shopping
Not being able to get tap water at a restaurant
No ice at restaurants...and if you ask for some, they give you 2-3 cubes
Water costing about 3 Euro per glass at restaurants
No kids menus
Having to go to 5 different stores to get what's on your "one stop shop" like Target
No Mexican food
Separating all of our trash...we literally have 5 trash cans in our kitchen, not joking!

Things that I LOVE about Germany:
Public Transportation
Walking everywhere
Bike trails and bike parking everywhere you go
The dogs! Dogs are everywhere, they are so friendly and accepted in stores, restaurants, etc.
The pizza! Salami pizza is to die for!
That beer is the same price as coke or water in restaurants
The people, they are so friendly and helpful and genuine!
The weather (so far at least)
The cars, you see nice cars everywhere
The autobahn-at first I thought it was going to scare me, but it's very entertaining. We typically drive about 90 in the middle lane and cars will fly past us! Then you'll enter a town and everyone obeys the law and goes the speed limit...then you'll see the no speed limit sign and everyone takes off! But people are very good drivers despite the speed. You don't see people changing lanes like crazy, the fast drive on the left, slow on the right.
The perfect concrete potholes!
The wine and cheese selection

I really could go on more, but you get the point. My list of things I like is longer than the list of things I don't, so I think we're off to a good start. At first glance, Germany is a little scary, but once you realize the language only SOUNDS mean, and the autobahn is not a death trap, it's pretty great! Yes, we miss our families and friends so much, and we are looking forward to having visitors and visiting "home"!