Saturday, November 28, 2009

Here's a bunch of pictures, kind of out of order, covering the food and adventures over the past few weeks. If you're interested in seeing an apartment we liked, see previous post below.

Above, a view from the bus stop on a rainy day.

Esther and I at our favorite place for pizza, "La Mamma".

The booths serving brats and gluhwein are just starting to pop up for the Christmas season. Last night, Nov 27, a band played along side.

It never takes Rascal long to find ways to be a Rascal.

This is Esther's apple strudel with cream and vanilla ice cream, served at the mountain hut. It was definitely as good as it looks.

Storm has found her sleeping corner.

On her walks, Storm loves wading into the alpine river. It has a blueish/green color, I guess because of the glacier up on the Zugspitze peaks.

In between German and Italian meals, we found an all-you-can-eat rib dinner.

This meal was served at a mountain hut after an hour hike. It was amazing!

One of the frescoed buildings in Garmisch pedestrian zone.

From Left To Right: DUNKLE WEISSE !!! (Can you tell that Storm likes Beer??)

More and more Christmas decorations are going up in town.

I look horrible, but the bratwurst is in focus!

A welcome sign during a hike.

Apartment we like

A few weeks ago we viewed an apartment we like. We're hoping to settle here, and working on our patience as the housing office is taking a while with people out on leave. It's not a huge rush, but we're really missing easy yard access with Storm. Sometimes it gets us down.... but the food sure helps! So here's some pictures of the apartment. Please see the other post about food/adventures... That combination sure helps to cheer us up while we wait for permanent housing (and our real BED!!)

The yard is really nice, plenty of room for grilling and hillbilly golf!

The dining/living room windows face south and west, which is great for light and sun.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Laundry and other adventures...

Living in Germany for 30 days now has had it's ups and downs. There are wonderful things about being immersed in a different culture and there are difficult and frustrating times as well. We are having a hard time with learning when things are open. First you have the American amenities on the base that all have different hours-some daily, some most days and others only certain days. Then there are the German stores and restaurants. Some things close in the afternoons, others don't open till evening...trying to find an early dinner at 4pm is a challenge and hoping to find an open store after 8pm is nearly impossible. I think this is part of what they mean when they tell you it will take 6 months for you to start feeling comfortable. It will take at least that long for us to figure out when things open and close. In the mean time we are trying to stay flexible...but we are more used to the stores and restaurants being flexible 24/7-not us.

Laundry is a different subject here too. Staying in our temporary apartment-our "ferienwohnung"-is I guess comprable to staying in a vacation condo in the States. We are responsible for all of our own cleaning and laundry. The landlady will clean our bedding for 5 euro a set (that is $7.50) or we can do it ourselves. BUT we can't use her facility. So she recommended I take our laundry to the Waschsalon-German style laundromat-that is a couple of blocks from our ferienwohnung. So, I did. I packed up our dirty clothes, towels, etc. in a suitcase and rolled it down the street to the only-German-speaking wasch-frau at the Waschsalon. Upon learning that I knew as much German as she knew English, she proceeded to put my dirty clothes in the washing machines for me (wierd), put in the soap and run them (3 loads). She instructed me to come back in one hour. I was confused by this point but willing to go with it-practicing the art of flexibility-so I left and came back an hour later. She had moved some of my things by then to the dryers so I quickly went through to make sure nothing shrinkable had made it in and then moved the rest myself. Once things were set, she started the dryers (at what heat, I have no idea) and told me to sit and wait. So I got out my wordsearches-thank you 3rd grade teachers!-and proceeded to wait. 15 minutes later I was pulling my warm, dry clothes out and folding them nicely into the suitcase. I then went to the counter and waited for the wasch-frau to take my money. I didn't know how much it would cost, so I was prepared for anything. She got out her calculator and added up 3 loads of wash and 2 dryers running for 15 euros. WHAT? Could that possibly be correct? Ok...being flexible, I paid her (all in coins b/c she wouldn't take my 20 euro bill) and left with my clean laundry. I cannot describe the feeling of shock I had walking the 2 blocks back home realizing that I had just spent $30 on 3 loads of laundry!!! THIRTY DOLLARS!!! Unbelievable. A few days later a friend on base told me that there are laundry facilities on the base camping grounds that take quarters that I can use. So, my second laundry experience was packing the suitcase, taking the bus, walking on base to get American Dollars from the ATM (you can choose Euros or Dollars), walking to the campgrounds, finding the laundry, putting my bills in the change machine, starting 3 loads of laundry myself, putting them in the dryer myself, and then folding it and returning home. All of this for less than $5...go figure. A little more effort and a TON of savings. Some things will just always be better in the States. :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Language Issues

Something that I have learned is that German students take 6-7 years of English class, so many of them understand and/or speak English. The problem is more that I don't understand any German-yet. There is a Rosetta Stone Language program at the garrison library. I haven't started it yet, but hope to before the end of the week. Ben has been great at translating important things and at communicating with German waiters, shopkeepers, etc. Also, our current landlady is German with as much English as I have German-so Ben has been asking for help from collegues when he needs help communicating with her. Most Americans here don't seem to bother much with the German language, but I am looking forward to learning a new feels very helpless to not be able to communicate basic things with people. I will often get comments or questions about Storm when we walk and it is so awkward to try and express that I only speak English when someone is looking eagerly at you to respond to whatever they just said. I am trying to learn phrases, but when I have to use them I just freeze up...or I want to respond in Spanish, which is the only foreign language I know. Isn't that funny? Someone speaks to me in German and I want to answer them in Spanish-if I can pick up on what they said in the first place. HA!

Have you ever been in a restaurant with someone that you know so well that you don't even have to talk much b/c there isn't much to be said-especially if he is your only friend on the whole continent...well, that is Ben and I every night at dinner. And normally, I would enjoy a little eavesdropping to pick up on local interests but when they are speaking German, that is out of the many meals, we sit quietly, chatting about our days, making plans and me, trying to pick out words or phrases I recognize that I can ask Ben to translate-if he can. I wonder if I will ever be good enough at German to eavesdrop in the restaurants here...? Should that even be my goal? haha Maybe not. ;)


So we have been here in Garmisch, Germany for 11 days-it seems longer than that even though several of those days were spent mostly just trying to stay awake. The first adjustment to conquer was definitely the time change. An 8 hour change from Utah time was significant. For instance, it is 9am as I write this but in Utah it is 1am. Try telling your body to be awake and stay awake for another 12 hours when it is used to being in deep REM...Ben was better at that than I was, but then again he had to be at work Monday morning after our Sunday arrival...and I have always needed more sleep than him. ;) Anyway, by now, we are in good shape. I have even gotten up before 8am the last few days and left the house with Ben for work-oops, does that sound braggy? (Any The Office fans out there?)

So now that we have adjusted our sleep schedules, we are still adjusting to not having our own place. The apartment we are in is a comforatable enough place for a one week vacation spot, but to live in....not so much. So we have resorted to sleeping on the futon which is more comfortable than the bed and cannot wait to have our first shipment of goods arrive with REAL pillows...they have these feather pillows here that you have to bunch and bunch just to get like a 1/2 inch of height out of them. I don't mean to complain, but I think I'm gonna need some serious chiropractic care if our own pillows don't arrive soon. ;)

Not having a car yet has been interesting. Our apartment is about a 20-30 minute walk to the base (where Ben works, computer/internet access, commissary/grocery, PX/shopping, library) so we have had to figure out other modes of transport b/c the walk is just a little too far for some of the back and forth our schedule has required. One of Ben's co-workers has lent us 2 bikes which are awesome, but in the rain/snow, we have learned to use the bus which is much more efficient. I still walk the dog during the day, giving us both exercise, as long as weather allows. Most rainy days it clears up by afternoon so that hasn't been a problem. There are tons of pedestrian only walkways even besides the shopping district in Garmisch, which is only 2 blocks from our apartment.

Storm and I have been having fun finding new places to walk. They have a walking/bike trail right by the river that reminds me of the Ogden River Parkway. It has little covered bridges that cross...very pretty, quiet and perfect for our walks. We may have arrived a little too late in the season to get any real hiking in before winter really sets in-especially with our limited clothing options at this point.

Yesterday and today we had appointments to start looking at long term housing. We looked at a very large house in Garmisch that is old, not at all updated and too big for our little family. So that won't work. We also saw an apartment very close to Ben's work that we liked. It is a ground floor and basement apartment with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, new wood/laminate floors and a fenced yard for the dog to roam in. The bedrooms are "snug" so we would have to make that work with our furniture but the living room space, kitchen, bathrooms and guest space are all great. The patio has a mountain view and there is plenty of light. There is a faint smell of smoke from the previous tenant, but we think that if the landlord takes out his curtains and we put our own up that might help with the smell. So far it is our best option. We are anxious to get into our own place but don't want to jump the gun, either.

Another adjustment has been not having internet in our apartment...I didn't anticipate that since most hotels, B&Bs, etc in the states have wireless. But, there is a cafe on base (where I am now) and a pub close to base that have free wireless so I am figuring out their hours and how best to lug our new (bigger) laptop around safely and efficiently. I guess I have been spoiled. :) But since we don't have a phone yet the internet is our best connection to friends and family in the states, so it is pretty important to work something out...and I think we have. The bus runs from 1 block from our apartment right to the gate of the garrison where the cafe is. So, if I load the laptop up in the backpack (that we had to buy when we got here b/c Ben's messenger bag wasn't cutting it) and hop a bus, I can sit and drink tea and enjoy my happy connections to home. :) Hopefully that will mean more frequent blogs.

Speaking of connections to home, we have German Cable TV in the apartment but the only english channels are MTV and CNN, so we are either learning all about world weather and politics or we are watching disturbing music videos or reality TV shows-so the TV is not often on...which is pretty typical since we didn't have Cable TV in Utah. It is helping me to learn some German, though...the commercials crack me up!

The last adjustment is the fact that we are eating dinner out everynight, which is fun but a lot of work finding good places to eat and then changing it up often enough. There are plenty of restaurants around and we have returned to some of our favorites a couple of times. There are a couple of good Italian places in Garmisch-and I had really good pizza for the first time since our Philly trip in July. The German cuisine has been like American cuisine in that if you are in a good restaurant, you may get some really good food, but if you are in a bar/cafe you may get great drinks and ok food. Ben is, of course, loving the beer, while I am learning to drink hot tea with dinner or Coke with no ice or tap water if we are in an American-friendly place. :) There is a McDonalds in town, and I hate to say we have been there a couple of times-but it is the only take out place we know of and sometimes we just want to sit home and watch a movie instead of enjoying the long lingering dinner experience that is common in Europe. Eventually we will be in our permanent housing and will be able to cook-also, we will have a car so we can buy more groceries to take home-now it is whatever we can carry, which isn't much.

Be sure to comment and ask questions-there are lots more things I want to blog about, but I am curious what kinds of questions you have that I can answer. I'm sure I am leaving out plenty of things.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Settling in in Germany

We made it! I'm not sure how this post will turn out, as we're trying to attach pictures from a new laptop, at a new WiFi spot here on the small Army base in Garmisch. Ourselves and the animals all arrived safely, smoothly, but very worn out. Our last week or so has been adjusting to the new time (much harder from UT than the East Coast), getting our personal lives in order, and keeping track of our animals as they also adjust to apartment life! Below is a pic from our balcony of the Zugspitze and the Alpsitze mountain peaks.

And below is our apartment from the outside.

Here is Ben's new office building:

And here's a quick picture of the pedestrian zone in Garmisch.

Sorry for the short post- we're still settling in. Much more to come!!

Ben and Esther