Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My sister's fully equipped kitchen

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Three places to vacation (8)

My sister and her boyfriend own a farmhouse with some acreage in the country in the vicinity of Landau in Lower Bavaria. My sister and I took the train to this out of the way part of paradise.

The two-story white-washed stucco house sits at the edge of the woods down a dirt road on a hillside surrounded by all kinds of fruit trees. There is a huge barn and a ramshackle but charming outbuilding, and from all the eaves petunia baskets are suspended that lend the building its cheerful character. There is a staircase that reaches the second floor from the outside. The railing is fashioned of decorative lattice work.

The living quarters are still in a state of remodeling. Many of the windows already have stained glass installed with sometimes very intricate patterns. A number of the rooms have new fireplaces that look as if they might have sprung right out of a house Harry Potter's friends might occupy.

My bed was a king size air-mattress that lost its air over-night while I was sleeping, and sometimes I had sunk so deep into the collapsing form that I nearly rolled onto the floor. No matter, I had a pump with which to replenish and solidify the structure.

My sister and boyfriend called the main room the "Rittersaal" (knight's hall). It was huge. They had their bed in it and a place to watch movies on a television set. There was no TV because they couldn't get good reception there and the cable would cost an arm and a leg to install.

The kitchen was the place where we spent much time because the cherries were ripe and the huge baskets of fruit had to be dealt with. The candles were lit in the kitchen when I came down for my 70th birthday. Flowers greeted me, and there were several presents including a book by Bill Bryson "Notes From a Big Country" and also the obligatory Salmiak-Pastillen that my sister always remembers to give me as a little inexpensive present because I had once told her that I loved their taste. When I was a child I would put those little pieces on the back of my hand to form a star-shape and lick that black star until it was all gone. The flat pieces taste a bit like licorice.

We spent some wonderful days at the house. It rained a few times. My sister's boyfriend's business is making candles which he sells at Christmas time at various markets in the vicinity of Munich.

I helped with the candles by sticking the wick into the metal forms before the wax is poured in. We took hikes through the wheat fields and watched the dog, an Akito named Goku, race through the woods and return and disappear again. I watched how the bread starter dough is made and how there is really nothing to it other than that it is very time-consuming. It seems--no not just seems--I had another experience of a lifetime.

Leaving the place was as enchanting as getting there. As evening fell the fireflies lit up and saw us drive away with a twinkle and a glimmer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Three places to visit (7)

The first thing to do was purchase a three-day pass for the subway. The Munich subway is very efficient and a means of transportation that makes it possible for my sister not to need a car. Wherever you need to go in Munich, you can reach it by public transportation. Since my sister works, I spent a better part of the following three days fending for myself. I went grocery shopping. I went downtown to look for sales items and just to mingle with the population.

The Viktualienmarkt is a daily market where you can buy anything from fresh fish to meat to beer to vegetables and much more. Any small consumer goods may be purchased there. I went there mainly because the place is great for people-watching. I bought some mushrooms and a few other insignificant items for the next day. For lunch I had intended to eat at the Marienplatz and listen to some street musicians. I sat down at a table of a restaurant that had extended its space outdoors to part of the open area to watch the famous glockenspiel that plays around lunchtime.

But my plans to eat at that restaurant were foiled when a waiter came out to tell me that I couldn't sit there because I was by myself. He said that at lunch people could only sit there when they were in groups of at least four people per table of four. I protested. The table didn't have any sign on it saying "reserved." So the waiter quickly made up some scrap paper signs in his handwriting. I had no choice but to get up and leave. I will never recommend that restaurant to anyone. The nerve. The waiter wanted to have it easy. He wanted to make more money by telling individuals that they had no place there.


I took advantage of my three day pass every day. I enjoyed the people. I enjoyed the weather. I enjoyed looking at the Armani and Prada window displays. Munich is a beautiful city. I watched an archaeological dig in progress. The sign on the fence said that the purpose for this dig was to find any remnants of a synagogue that had stood in the middle of Munich in the 1300s.

The last of the three days when I went back to the subway I noticed workmen put up birch trees to decorate the mall. I asked one of the workmen what this was for. He said that it was for a holiday Fronleichnam. The day was Jun. 22. I can't imagine that the birch branches would still look fresh on Jun. 26.

I couldn't walk for long during that time because of my wrenched knee. So I went home in the early afternoon every day and watched pseudo court television similar to Judge Judy. I wanted to see how "Richterin Barbara Salesch" and "Richter Alexander Hold" were different from our American TV dramas. And they were very different.

The two shows had the same format. It appeared that the trials looked more like informal discussions than like the jury trials I was familiar with on American TV. There seemed to be an almost complete lack of procedure. At least I couldn't see anything like the typical objections and interjections you'd expect on American court TV. The cases were not trivial cases as you would see when you watch Judge Judy; some of them were murder trials. It was interesting. I have no idea whether these reenactments reflect what an actual German trial would look like. All I know is that both Barbara Salesch and Alexander Hold have a law degree and experience in real court rooms.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Three places to vacation (6)

Leaving Meldorf took some special arrangements. The day I was scheduled to leave I found out that the regional train company was on strike. There had been no announcement on television nor at the railroad station. It really isn't even a real railroad station anymore. There was no attendant to leave a note for potential travelers. So anyone wanting to catch the train had to find out how it was by waiting for the train that never came. I was told the engineers were striking because they wanted to make the same amount of money as those that were employed by the state railroad.

It turned out that a classmate was going back to a town near Hamburg, and he offered me a ride to Hamburg-Altona. I was saved from grief. I accepted and had a very pleasnt ride with a former classmate and his wife whom I hadn't seen for over 50 years.

I had reservations for a night train to Munich. This train was a train that also took cars (automobiles) along. So before I boarded I watched how the many cars that were queued up drove up the ramp to be fastened securely with heavy locking devices. Being able to take your car on the train is very convenient for those who don't want to take the long trip by car and who still want to use their own car at the destination. Many night trains have that provision in Germany.

I found my reserved space fairly easily. In Germany, it is easy to find the rail car for the space that you have reserved because there is a diagram of the train on the platform to show where the space for the particular car you reserved is going to be located.

As compared to the train from Offenburg to Hamburg, the sleeping accommodation this time was much more comfortable than the concrete hammock that left me sleepless on that leg of the trip. This time my bed consisted of the top bunk of a compartment that contained six bunks. A clean sleeping bag and a blanket were provided. Fortunately only three of the bunks were occupied.

Getting up to the top bunk was a challenge. I had hurt my knee at some point during the trip, I can't even remember when, and so climbing up that narrow ladder, and bending my knee caused some pain. But once I was up there, I curled up continuing with "Begraben" by Elena Sender. There were little lamps for reading that made it possible not to disturb fellow travelers.

The ride was less stressful than the one that had taken me to Hamburg. However it arrived an hour late the next morning, and the announcer related to us passengers that we should all check our belongings because apparently pickpockets had taken valuables from some of the passengers. I wasn't worried because all my belongings had been kept on the top bunk right next to me. When I checked I found out that nothing was missing.

I got off the train at around 8:00 AM. But now I had to figure out how to get in touch with my sister. She works at the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. I had not been able to tell her ahead of time when my train arrived because I didn't have a cell phone. I didn't want to call from the Hotel (too expensive) and I only got the reservation the day I arrived from Offenburg. What made things more difficult was the fact that my sister was at her house in the country over the weekend when I was in Meldorf. To make a long story short. I had to notify my sister that I had arrived.

I looked around for a telephone. But I didn't have a phone card for this station. This phone didn't have a provision for coins. So I ate breakfast first, and then I exited the railroad station and looked around for an Internet cafe. There was one right across the street. The attendant told me that I could just use a computer and pay for the time I used up later. Somehow that arrangement did not seem very honest. I am not sure why this place didn't have a card similar to the Internet cafe at Ile d'Yeu where you paid ahead of time for an hour's use.

I wrote Rena an e-mail saying that I had arrived, and I got an answer right away that she had gotten my message and that I should telephone her because she was on her way to the railroad station. So, I still needed to use the phone. There were phones at the Internet cafe. I was told I was just supposed to get into a booth and I would pay later. Again I had this feeling that there was something fishy going on. But none of the phones worked. What was this place about? What kind of accounting did they do?

So I had to go back to the railroad station and find the pay-phone. I was able to buy a phone card at the tobacco store. Does that seem logical? I did reach my sister. She was in the U-Bahn about four stations away. I told her where I was waiting. After about 15 minutes she walked past me and I called her name. We had found one another.