Category Archives: random

Glimpses of Munich #4: Flaschenöffner

When I started this project I had no intention of sticking to historical places, but rather to try and keep it random.  Keeping that in mind, I present the Flaschenöffner.

Tourists are always looking for the best place to drink when in Munich and I can tell you with great certainty that it is probably the Hofbräuhaus or Augustiner Keller that you should be visiting.  The problem in saying that is midnight will come around and you will be looking for “just another beer.”  There are several options at this point, but sadly this too shall pass.  At three in the morning you find yourself either calling it a night or searching for a rare bar that is still open and will serve you in the state that you find yourself in at this hour.  It is at this point where I would recommend stumbling your way to the Flaschenöffner for another few CREW Republic beers.  When they throw you out it’s 5am…so go watch the sun come up on the banks of the Isar.  Don’t forget to grab a beer for the road, after all it IS the bottle opener.

The Flaschenöffner is only a five minute walk from the Marienplatz or a short U-bahn (U1 or U2 to Fraunhoferstrasse) ride if it is still running at that point.  There also happens to be a tram stop right there (tram 18 or N27).  Anyways, the address is:  Fraunhoferstraße 37


Happy Thanksgiving, I’ll be at KFC if you need me

However, I won’t be at KFC very long.  My wife and I will be hurrying in order to get to a concert of a French band, Uncommonmenfrommars.  Technically, I believe 3 of the 4 members have American passports as well as French…so you could say I’m celebrating Thanksgiving with other Americans…er, so.

Anyways, Thanksgiving has always been a weird time of year to be an expat.  These days all the relatives chime in via Skype, but it’s certainly not the same experience.  I was serious when in the headline I wrote that we’re going to KFC…because, well, that’s as close as I’m going to get to a thanksgiving meal on a Thursday which is also a work day…and unlike Germans and most American expats, I don’t just move holidays.

I also just wanted to mention my friend’s blog, @ …he’s an American expat as well, but not a tour guide.  He teaches English and American culture…and watches a heck of a lot of American football, which is what I get to avoid by being here instead of with my family in Minnesota. 

Happy Thanksgiving, hope everyone has a wonderful day…

Winter in Munich

This was the first Christmas spent wi th my parents since 2002, so Christmas was nice…New Year’s Eve we spent at the Fest hall of the Hofbraeu Haus…so…THAT was nice…

Other than that, I’ve been mainly doing Neuschwanstein tours lately.  Looking into other prospects…

I need to completely re-do my private tour page as those msg’ing are asking the impossible.

January is oddly warmer than December.

Petra and I got new phones as well as new Kindles for Christmas, so that’s pretty awesome.

A couple days ago I became the “Mayor” of Neuschwanstein on Foursquare…

Random photos I take with my new phone are uploaded to photobucket automagically (see link on the left)




IMG_0370 IMG_1639

This is a very random post.  Sorry.  I’ll be less random next time…well, okay, maybe not.

Back from Spain

We’re back in Munich from a long weekend in Spain.  I love Spain…ever since I first visited Spain in 1997 I’ve loved the place.  That first trip may not have been perfect, but at least in my mind, over the years, I’ve made it out to be perfect. 

 Alcocebre 1997

On that trip, most of the time I spent in a small town called Alcocebre, which is on the East coast of Spain.  I stayed with a host family, who are from Madrid (mas o menos) and spend their summers in Alcocebre for the wonderful life on the sea with nice sandy beaches and great seafood.  From there we traveled to Peñíscola, Teruel, Sigüenza, Madrid, Segovia, La Granja palace, El Escorial, and places in between.  It being my first time in Europe, I fell in love with the place.


 Teruel, 1997

Peniscola, 1997

Peniscola, 1997

Segovia, 1997

Thirteen years have gone by since that summer and finally I had the opportunity to visit Spain again, this time with my wife.  As a wedding present, my Uncle Bob and his wife Susan invited us down to spend a long weekend at their house in Javea.  Javea is vaguely similar to Alcocebre in that it is a beach town on the coast of Spain, but this was a very different experience.


This time it was mainly relaxing, sight seeing only as a side.  For me, that’s a huge change from our normal vacation which is pretty non-stop.  It was great, however.  We got to spend a good amount of time with Bob and Susan, had some wonderful food, and met some very nice and interesting people. 


Javea is a much larger town than Alcocebre…or at least than Alcocebre in 1997 anyways.  Javea is much more expat friendly than anything I’m used to and DEFINITELY more expat friendly than Alcocebre was.  Spain is still Spain, though, and the Chopitos (fried baby squid) won me over once more.

Next time I think we’ll head to Málaga

Oktoberfest 2010

Hey everybody, I’m currently sobering up from the Oktoberfest last night.  This year I went more than any other year I think…every Sunday and one Saturday.  Usually I’ll go one weekday and one weekend…hmm.


I had plenty of oxen sandwiches & beers…was quite thrilled with the “historic” section of the Oktoberfest…definitely the best beer I’ve had on the Wies’n…wish they’d produce it every year.  Partied in the Hippodrom with my buddy Andi from down at Neuschwanstein as well as the Radius crew over at the HB tent…all in all, I had fun.






Anyways,  tours have been going great lately, and I’ve been kept busy with and


In a few days I’m off to Spain for a long weekend, to soak up some sun (hopefully).  We’ve never flown ryanair, so we’re a little skeptical, but well…gonna give it a try.

A guide to Minnesota for Germans

For months now I’ve been meaning to get together some information for all the friends and in-laws coming over for my American wedding.  This same information might be useful for anyone visiting Minnesota, but the focus here will be on things that may be useful for them.  So, friends and family, help has arrived:

First of all, lets start with some basic facts about Minnesota.

The normal abbreviation for Minnesota is MN (might be useful even later in this post).

The word Minnesota comes from the Dakota name for the Minnesota River: Mnisota. The root mni (also spelled mini or minne) means, "water". Mnisota can be translated as sky-tinted water or somewhat clouded water.

Minnesota is about 225,181 km2, almost the same size as the former West Germany.

Minnesota only has just over 5.2 million people in total.  You can compare that to Germany’s 81.8 Million…or for a direct size comparison, West Germany in 1990 had 63 million…again, for the same area.

About 3.3 Million of those people live in what is known as the Twin Cities metro area, (Minneapolis and Saint Paul) which is by most people’s standards one big city.  That makes it somewhere between Hamburg and Berlin as far as population.  Below you can see where Minneapolis/St. Paul is in relation to Owatonna at the bottom.  It is about a 45 minutes to an hour drive.

Map picture

The large majority of residents are of German or Nordic descent, but ethnic diversity has increased in recent decades.

Politically, the state is known for its moderate to progressive politics and social policies, civic involvement, and high voter turnout. Minnesota ranks among the healthiest states, and has a highly literate population.

Minnesota is known as the land of 10,000 lakes, although technically it has 11,842 lakes, making Minnesota over 8.4% water.  Germany is about 2.4% water.  Minnesota has 90,000 miles of shoreline:  more than California, Florida and Hawaii combined.  Besides the lakes, Minnesota also has 6,564 (69,200 miles) natural rivers and streams.

Since Minnesota has all of this water (much of which is prime breeding ground for Mosquitoes), we also have more bugs than Germany.  You have never experienced the amount of mosquitoes that Minnesota is going to unleash on you, good luck with that.  Although our state bird is the common loon, many in Minnesota will argue that it is really the mosquito…alternatively known as a “blood sucking skeeter”.

The Weather

Minnesota gets the extremes on both ends.  We can have –40C in the winter and 40C in the summer.  For early July, I would be prepared for anything from 15C to 40C.  There is a fairly good chance of rain at some stage while you’re in Minnesota.

The Beer

At the wedding itself, I recommend sticking to Schell’s or Schell’s dark.  I’m hoping they’ll have the Zommerfest out and widely available when I get there.  Alternatively, Leinenkugel’s is excellent beer to try as well.  One thing to note is that there is a huge variety of beers in America…and I mean HUGE.  Even if you’re not a beer drinker here in Germany, you may find yourself drinking a few over there.  Alcohol percentages are the same for the same type of beer. (lagers are usually around 5% by volume, same as Germany, ales are typically weaker).  One thing you will not find is mixes.  If you try to order a radler in MN, they might die of laughter…as no one mixes with beer there.  If not a fan of beer at all…try the sodas, I recommend Mountain Dew…I REALLY recommend Mountain Dew…

Sight seeing

The first place most people think of to send visitors is, sadly, a mall.  However, it is possibly the coolest mall you’ll ever see, and definitely worth a visit even if you’re in the state only for a few days (hell, even hours…as it’s very close the the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport).  The Mall of America is the 2nd largest mall in the world (behind the West Edmonton Mall) and includes an entire amusement park in its center…foods of all types, and easily better deals than you’ll find anywhere in Germany.  It’s easy to get in, get out, and find your way around…there’s just no excuse in my mind as to why you would miss it.

Especially since the wedding is in Owatonna, a visit to another store is in order and that store is Cabela’s.  Cabela’s is a massive hunting, fishing, and outdoors-related store.  Again, even if you have no interest in buying anything…this is entertainment.

For things to do and see in Minneapolis, have a look here.  Also, a very up-to-date and interesting source of what’s available while you’re in MN, this time in magazine format, have a look here.

The state Capitol building, in St. Paul, is worth seeing…

Minneapolis and St. Paul each have one major church worth visiting.  Minneapolis has the Basilica of Saint Mary and St. Paul has the Cathedral of Saint Paul (Minnesota) National Shrine of the Apostle Paul.  Both were built in the early 1900’s.

The Minnesota Zoo is, in my opinion, far and away better than any of the German zoos (I really like zoos in general, even German zoos…).

While in Owatonna, I would recommend stopping at the mineral springs park and having a look at the origins of the city. 

You could also try out a round of Disc golf there.  Hell, Owatonna also has 4 regular golf courses if you want to golf.  I HIGHLY recommend a round if you’ve never tried.  Brook tree was my home course…used to play up to 5 days a week.  Let me know if you want to…

Other things in the area:

One thing that Petra and I are definitely doing while we’re there is going to The Wisconsin Dells.  The dells has everything from some of the world’s largest water parks to a pretty awesome mini golf, to Ripley’s believe it or not…to circus world…to waterskiing shows…it’s a whole city of (mostly fun) touristy things to do.  Could be a real American experience for ya.

For all your amusement park needs, head over to Valley Fair .  I love Valley fair, some of the best roller coasters in the country. Always a good time…similar to a Six Flags and better than pretty much anything in Germany.  (though there are two parks over by NRW that I’d like to check out)

Although I went to high school in Owatonna, my original home town is down the road (35 miles) in Albert Lea.  If you want to see my hometown, I’m sure I could try to give you a tour…as long as you don’t expect to see a big white castle at some stage.

For a really beautiful drive, highway 61 along the Mississippi is the way to go.  I would recommend driving from La Crosse (WI) to Winona (MN), stop by the top of a bluff.  Below you can see highway 61 running on the left (west) side of the Mississippi river between La Crosse and Winona.

Map picture

Camping.  Now, the German idea of Camping and the American idea of camping are two completely different things.  Perhaps if you’ve seen enough American movies you might understand…but if you want the true experience, stop by my Aunt and Uncle’s camp ground and spend a couple nights.  You can find their place at:  Camp Maiden Rock

What’s most important is that you let me know as soon as possible what you want to do or ideas you have for your trip!  I am not a mind reader, but if I’m told what you’re planning I can help.  My resources in Minnesota can be quite impressive…try me.

I’m sure I forgot some places and things to do…but I can always add more later…or not.  Anyways, here’s a good start.

[Listening to The Apers album You Are Only As Strong As The Table you dance on]

Notes from Munich

The high temperature yesterday (May 18th, 2010) was 48F.  Despite this, it seems half the damn town was wearing shorts.  I find that retarded.

Crowds at concerts in Germany want to drink beer and stare, dancing is not allowed.  Then again, if you try to dance, beer flies all over everyone else…I see that a lot too.

When will the bus company in Füssen learn that they need two buses MINIMUM, not maximum?

I know biking is extremely popular with tourists here in Munich, but I’ll never understand why.

I should look into being a professional photographer.  Weddings on weekends and keg parties during the week, with completely different hourly rates.

Our landlord now apparently has decided (after 8 weeks) that we don’t need cable and should just use DSL.  The cable company will pay for the complete installation and it would be an upgrade to the building, so this whole fiasco just pisses me off.

I’ll continue this another time, maybe I should get back to that Vienna rant.

[Listening to Ozzy Osbourne‘s album Prince Of Darkness (Box Set)]

Still waiting for a phone & internet connection

If any of you think Germans are efficient by nature, you obviously haven’t been to Germany…certainly haven’t lived here.  They’re no faster or slower than Americans, except there is absolutely no customer service culture here so that any time you’re dealing with customer service, it may be months.

Anyways, it’ll be 6 weeks on Thursday since we ordered our phone & internet connection at our new apartment and a major part of my excuse as to why I haven’t continued my series on Vienna is that I haven’t been online…which isn’t completely true, as I’m connected, just with a crap connection from a 3G stick.  I just wanted to say that I’m still alive and doing tours…just well, not REALLY online.  It kinda sucks.

Moving, but just to the other end of the building

First off, I’d like to say that yes I will be continuing the series on Vienna, I just took a break for no apparent reason…which slid into an actual reason.  The reason for the last week for no posts was that we’ve been moving…and since we have a LOT of crap, it takes quite a lot of work.  I’m writing this while I still have no internet access.  However, later today I should be able to upload this since we have a UMTS stick that will give us internet access while we wait for a cable connection.

That’s right, we’re ditching DSL and going to cable.  When I moved to Germany (to Seefeld for a couple years), we got DSL through T-online (Deutsche telecom), it took them nearly 6 weeks to hook it up.  When I moved to Munich, we decided to switch to one of the new offers that were MUCH faster than we had before and yet about 1/3 the price. We went to a company called m-net.  That took over 9 weeks to hook up because T-online control all the DSL lines and have to hand them to the other companies as slow as they can physically do it.  SO, that brings us to the current move where we decided to try the only other option, so that T-online has nothing to do with it, and that is cable (Kabel Deutschland).  However, since our building isn’t hooked up to cable yet, they said it would take 2+ weeks to hook up…if this is true, they’re still the fastest option!  Anyways, for half the money we were paying we’re going from 16mbit to 32mbit and so we should be happy once it’s connected.

To get us through the couple week wait, this UMTS stick should do the trick, it’s a lil expensive, but at least I can stay connected…the last time (the 9+ week wait), I nearly went insane (arguably I have gone insane, but really, it is debatable).

So, we moved…the new apartment is in the same building, though. It’s about 30 square meters bigger than our last place, which means we have a 2nd (small) bedroom for guests.  More importantly, we not have space for a DISHWASHER!  For anyone that has our old address, the new one is the same without the B.

[Listening to Angelic Upstarts‘s album Blood On The Terraces]

(I happen to be going to the Angelic Upstarts show tonight, so this is fitting)

EDIT: this was written yesterday, April 1st.  I didn’t get online long enough to post this, apparently.   I’ll post pics of the new apartment in a couple days.  It’s Petra’s birthday weekend, that’s my new excuse, work with me here…

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Garden Gnomes

One of the most common question themes I get on tours, probably the most asked, is this:

“What are those little shacks with the little gardens?  Do people live there?”…”Is that where poor Germans live?  …like, their slums?”…

It’s okay, you don’t have to worry.  That’s where the term “garden gnome” comes from!  There are hundreds of thousands of small German people that mostly keep to themselves and live in their own separate communities preferring to live solely amongst their own kind.  Since it is not politically correct to pick on the little people, they are rarely in the news….anyways, click here for further information on the little guys.



[Listening to NOFX from the album Concerns of a GOP Neo-Phyte (]

A bat in the throne room

Yesterday’s tour was not the greatest, I’ll admit.  The bus drivers decided they would try to do everything as chaotic as possible which meant a hell of a lot of pushing by everyone…and not a lot of fun.

The weather, around 40F, wasn’t bad at all…and when the group was in the throne room, there was a bat flying all over.  Yes, it was a real bat, and no, I don’t think everyone saw it.  The thing is, when I tour Neuschwanstein,  I’ve seen it hundreds of times and I’m not looking at nor paying much attention to what the tour guides say or do.  Anyways, I was entertained for 2 minutes…and it made my day.  In a huge room like that, it’s fun to see a bat.  A bat for Christmas.

Munich’s new main bus station

Recently in the news here in Germnay, there has been quite a lot of speculation as far as the relaxing of laws which restrict bus services within Germany. Since 1931 long haul bus services have been restricted, except those that travel to and from Berlin. Currently, only companies that apply for a special Deutsche Bahn (usually just referred to as DB) approved permit can get around the ban.

One of the questions I get most is "where can I get a bus to ____, since buses have to be cheaper."…well, there really aren’t any at the moment, but there could be soon. The new coalition government of the CDU and FDP plan to change the laws and allow bus companies to compete on a level playing field, apparently. Currently, bus companies are claiming they could offer prices at least 30% ceaper than DB’s trains.

I like cheap prices and all the options I can get…(ask anyone that has ever been on one of my tours…), so I like the idea, though it will certainly shake things up.

If this goes through, the new bus terminal in Munich will see a hell of a lot more traffic than it was today. This afternoon I decided it was finally time that I go and have a look at this new bus terminal which has been open since September. It’s located about a 5-10 minute walk from the main train station, just up the road. It was dead quiet around there, but the building looks good at least.

Here’s some pictures from today:

…and finally…the view from the main bus station to the main train station in Munich:

This is where it's at...although both Bing and Google haven't updated their maps

[Listening to One Man Army from the album She Wants Me Dead]

Wikipedia’s featured picture

As usual, I wake up and I have a look at the BBC news, then check twitter out, then facebook…and then wikipedia. Today’s featured picture on wikipedia is of the Frauenkirche. It’s one of the few places I would say every visitor to Munich absolutely has to go to see. At the same time, it’s not a personal favorite, but it is one of the symbols of Munich.

A few facts:

Capacity: 20,000
Length: 109 meters (358 ft)
Width: 40 meters (131 ft)

The Frauenkirche, today it's Munich's cathedral (but only recently)

(this is my own picture, which is better than wiki’s, in my opinion)

[Listening to: Done Reckoning – Avail – Wrecktrospective (0:-1)]

Answers to Monday’s trivia questions

1. For nearly 60 years the mayor of Munich has been tapping the first keg at the Oktoberfest, what brand of beer was that first keg?

Hofbräu (in 1950, which was the first year the mayor tapped the first keg starting the tradition,  the tent had a price dispute with Spaten…)

Me, rating HB beer a few years back

2. Is there any part of the famous glockenspiel at the New Town Hall in Munich that has anything to do with a plague?

Not one single part of it, sorry free tours. The fictitious plague of 1517 is just that, fictitious.

Munich's famous glockenspiel

3. How did Emperor Ludwig IV the Bavarian die?

While bear hunting, at the age of 65, he had a stroke…remember, this was back in 1347! He’s my all time favorite Wittelsbach for many reasons, including these…

Ludwig IV(this picture is of a cenotaph to Ludwig IV which is located in the Frauenkirche)

4. Where are the hearts of the Wittelsbach dynasty? (the royal family of Bavaria)

Altötting…in the Gnadenkapelle (Chapel of the Miraculous Image).

The Gnadenkapelle in Altötting

[Listening to: Unite – Randy – Wrecktrospective (2:25)]

An actual smoking ban in Bavaria?

The numbers are in and although the press conference is in 20 minutes, it looks pretty clear.

I’m currently seeing 13.9%…which sounds pretty darn good to me.

EDIT: results below…these are the numbers of German citizens in Bavaria that signed the petition for a real smoking ban.




[Listening to: Dumb reminders – No Use For a Name – Live at the backstage, Munich (2:47)]

Bavaria: smoking or non?

For the first several years living here I dealt with more smoke than you could possibly believe…people would light up and blow smoke right at my food.

In the last couple of years Bavaria has been kinda strange. First, there was a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars…but it was A: not enforced, and B: ignored pretty easily with a loophole allowing for “smokers clubs” (which included a lot of restaurants).

Then, the conservative government (CSU) decided to go ahead and relax the smoking laws allowing for more people to smoke wherever the hell they want. That brings us to the big petition that is going on right now getting 10% of Bavarian citizens to force the state govt to re-ban smoking (and hopefully outlaw smoking clubs). There’s one more day left…and it looks to be close…

If you know of any Bavarian that hasn’t gone down to their local Rathaus and signed the petition, please…drag them there in the next 24 hrs (Munich’s Rathaus is open til 8pm today and tomorrow).

I’ve had a LOT of tourists visit and say how wonderful it is that they can breathe in the HBhaus or any of the other beer halls, where in previous years they couldn’t..

BTW: I have nothing against you smoking, just as you probably have nothing against me eating mexican food and farting up a storm, but not in confined spaces, please.

For those playing the home game, here’s a few links:

TT forum, in English

Live updates of the vote in Munich (as the thing is over, this link is now dead)

…and this is the one from the organizers, only in German (sorry)

Trivia Questions

Here’s a couple trivia questions for my readers:

1. For nearly 60 years the mayor of Munich has been tapping the first keg at the Oktoberfest, what brand of beer was that first keg?

2. Is there any part of the famous glockenspiel at the New Town Hall in Munich that has anything to do with a plague?

3. How did Emperor Ludwig IV the Bavarian die?

4. Where are the hearts of the Wittelsbach dynasty? (the royal family of Bavaria)

If you just know the answer to one of them, then just answer one…that’s cool. Otherwise, I’ll give the answers on Friday.

[Listening to: T.N.T. (Live) – AC/DC – Backtracks (3:53)]