botched trip to Munich, but we soothed our nerves with heat and moisture

I think it’s fair to say I travel more than most people. A quick check of the ol’ passport shows that I have very few blank pages remaining. Our annual residence permits for Germany take up two pages each, per year, meaning 6 pages (and counting) alone devoted to Germany, and I’ve got stamps from:

  • my travels into and out of China (via Hong Kong, which yields additional passport stamps)
  • Romania (coming up this week, yet again)
  • England
  • Mexico
  • the occasional EU entry stamp from Amsterdam or Frankfurt
  • entry stamps to the U.S. from Chicago or JFK

So, when my passport is full, I can’t travel anywhere requiring a passport stamp anymore, right?

In an effort to pre-empt a problem in this regard, Sarah and I planned a day off for me (yay for comp time) to visit the only place we can take care of it — the consulate general in Munich.* This page shows that they’re available 5 days a week (sounds great so far, right?). Read a little closer and you find out that that’s only 3 hours a day. And not on the last Wednesday of the month, on German *or* American holidays. And Sarah found out via email exchanges with the staff that the passport service is actually closed to the public all day *every* Wednesday, not just the last Wednesday of the month, like it says on the website. So we carefully planned the trip for a Wednesday and then also adjusted it to today (Thursday) after she learned of the Terrorist-Infuriating Secret Wednesday Hours Plan.

And we thought we had all bases covered.

We arrived just fine, underwent the airport-like metal detection, probably got bomb-sniffed without our knowledge, took a number and waited patiently. When they called our number, guess what? The machine that prints additional passport pages was broken.

Dag Nabbit!

So we resigned ourselves to returning sometime after Christmas. Sarah even had to remind the clerk guy that he’d be closed on the Wednesday directly after Christmas. What a pain.

But we were looking forward to consoling ourselves at the 1. Schwabinger Kartoffelhaus, and that almost did the trick. All would have been right in the world again, had the new-looking Starbucks in the Munich central train station been open to serve us the Frappucinos we’d already set our hearts on. We’d noticed it upon on arrival, and decided to try it out on the return leg of the trip. But as we approached, we saw it wouldn’t open for like another two days or so.

Argh!

Things were just not working out today. We decided to console our minds and bodies with an invigorating and relaxing round of sauna and steam room at the gym and are now pooped and ready for a good night’s rest before my triumphant return to the office for one more work day prior to another week in Romania.

While we were waiting for the *Altstadtbus* to work its way through the throngs out on Bismarckplatz, Gesandtenstraße, and Neupfarrplatz (and who could blame them — it was a nice night to be out enjoying the town), I used the tripod Sarah gave me for my recent birthday to snap these night shots of the Dom. Turned out better than I expected.

1. Schwabinger Kartoffelhaus

The Joint

Hohenzollernplatz 4
80796 München-Schwabing
Phone: +49 89 – 30 36 77 Fax: +49 89 – 29 65 40

Cliff

We liked the Kartoffelhaus back when it was still located off of Marienplatz. But having a Bayern-Ticket means its location just a bit more removed from “downtown” Munich is also no big deal. I had the Strapacska (a skillet of potato spätzle with sour cream, feta cheese, and bacon chunks), which was excellent as usual. Sarah and I continually fight over which of us will get to order this dish (we hate to both get the same thing).

Sarah

I’m glad this is documented. Next time we go (and there’s always a next time), I get the Strapacska next time.

If you like potatoes, there is something here for you. Potatoes in every possible permutation. Always yummy.

Bread Pudding

In an effort to explain the difference between the meanings of ‘pudding’ in American and British English, Cliff and I took a trip to wikipedia, where we learned more about pudding than I ever thought possible. And there, nestled among the (surprisingly diverse) lists of puddings, was bread pudding. So I searched out a recipe — and it turned out fabulous!

3 cups milk, scalded and cooled
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup brandy or water
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
8-10 slices dry bread, cut into bite-sized chunks
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325°F. Scald (heat to just before boiling) milk and set aside to cool – milk must not be hot when used. Cover raisins with brandy or water and set aside.

Combine brown sugar, cinnamon and allspice in a large mixing bowl. Add bread chunks and pour melted butter over bread. Stir bread and brown sugar mixture until bread chunks are well coated (the butter helps the sugar stick to the bread). Place half of the bread chunks in a greased 9×13. Drain the raisins and sprinkle them over the bread in the pan. Add other half of bread mixture to pan.

Combine egg, salt and vanilla in a bowl and beat for one minute. Gradually beat cooled milk into egg mixture. Pour egg mixture over bread chunks and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Sprinkle any brown sugar that didn’t adhere to bread over the top and bake for 50-55 minutes.

Knock-knock-knockin’ on Christmas’s Door

This is so weird. I just can’t explain the German obsession with this song.

This was taken this evening at the Lucreziamarkt (am Haidplatz), just a few minutes ago. It **proves** (despite the whole Hasselhoff thing) that they are not making bad choices with regard to music just to be “ironic.”

Because there just aren’t enough Italian restaurants around here…

At Matthias’ suggestion, we went out last night to San Daniele, a local Italian restaurant in a part of town we rarely frequent.

It was dang-darn good — much better than most of the Italian restaurants around here. They’re all just OK. This was noticeably better.

Gifts for the person who has everything?

Many of you may be wondering what to get the person who has everything and needs almost nothing this time of year.

Ever thought about the person in the opposite situation?

the Honor e-Card we sent her after completing the transactionMy mom asked for a donation made to Heifer International in her name this year, instead of acquiring more stuff (and those of you who know my parents know that they already have nice stuff and no shortage of it). I thought that was an excellent idea, so this year, instead of opera tickets or stuff for their various residences or gift certificates of any kind, we got her a llama. She won’t have to feed it, groom it or clean up after it, but someone else surely will be glad to.

I personally would much rather see something like this addressed to our department at work rather than the usual annual competition to see who can get the most (meaningless, yet ubiquitous) Christmas cards from our suppliers.

Here’s a blurb about the organization lifted directly from that e-Card that went out to my mom:

Heifer International is a nonprofit that alleviates hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation through gifts of food and income producing farm animals and training. These animals provide a source of protein, such as eggs and milk, for children and generate income for families through the sale of animal products. Since 1944 Heifer has helped over 4 million families in 125 countries become self-reliant. Each family “passes on the gift” by giving one or more of its animal’s offspring to another family in need.

I really like the renewability built in at multiple levels — recipients get a gift that keeps on giving to them and others and in turn. You don’t have to spend much at all. You can provide a family with a flock of geese for $20, or pool your resources with other donors by contributing toward the cost of a larger purchase like a heifer (hence the name), a goat, or a water buffalo. This feels good.

San Daniele

The Joint

Prüfeninger Schloß Str. 2
93051 Regensburg
Germany
phone: +49 941 / 30 75 999 fax: +49 941 / 30 75 997

http://www.sandaniele.de

Cliff

We’d gotten food (carry-out) from here once before, since good friends of ours live in this part of town. I was surprised at the quality of the food in comparison to the prices — it was a good ratio. I had the carbonara (same as when I’d had carry-out, back in the day) because I just can’t turn it out. I like to say it’s for consistent evaluation, but I’d be full of it. And I really was yesterday, because I didn’t realize that the Insalata Piccante I ordered was big enough to be a meal in and of itself. Oh yes. This was a nice evening…with the possible exception of the sommelier, who seemed like he had an attitude problem. Everything else was great.San Daniele

Sarah

Fabulous! Thanks for the rec, Matthias! In a town overcrowded with Italian restaurants, this place is a stand-out. I had the Mushroom Risotto and a glass of Lambrusco. It was wonderful – high praise, because risotto dishes are easy to mess up if the cook isn’t paying attention. After the meal, on Matthias suggestions, Cliff and I shared an order of profiteroles (chocolatey cream puffs). Again, Matthias knows best. YUM!

Part of the reason I think San Daniele can offer such great food at reasonable prices is that they are located a little ways outside of the Altstadt – about a 7 minute drive from our apartment. Therefore, they don’t have to pay the high rent for location. I don’t mind the trip to eat like this.

La revedere, pardners…

I thought I was done writing about Romania yesterday morning when I submitted my post, knowing I wouldn’t have much time left to write yesterday evening.

But something happened last night that was too surreal not to write about. And since I’ve got over 45 minutes here to kill at the airport in Iasi, and amazingly, they offer free WLAN in at least one of their two gates, I had to post about this.

Last night I took Orhan, my German-guy contact here in Romania also visiting Iasi (never mind that he’s based 13 hours away by car in a different city, he’s someone I know from Regensburg and he’s here) along with another German transplant to Iasi out to dinner. Last time I was here, they took me out to dinner. They were very nice and I was pretty under the weather then, so this time I wanted to return the favor. I let them choose the venue.

They picked “Little Texas.” I was skeptical. But there were spurs and Dream Catchers and other authentic bits of the American Southwest hanging on the walls and the likes of Gene Autry doing “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” being piped out the Muzak. It was seasonably surreal.

I am seriously considering re-booking my next trip over to Little Texas — not only are they a pretty decent TexMex restaurant (best I’ve found anywhere in Europe so far, though after the yucky place near where I work and two crummy-at-best Mexican joints in downtown Regensburg, I’d given up trying), but they are also a hotel and conference center! My room at the Unirea is nice (and I’ve stayed there twice), and I am pretty sure that I am booked there again for my next trip, but at Orhan’s advice I am seriously considering making my next stay in Iasi at Little Texas (the big question will be whether I can convince Siemens Travel Services that it’s necessary). If I tell them Ol’ Gee Dub requires it for Homeland Security purposes, that might fly. I’m in it for the advertised “Full American Breakfast.”

Little Texas

The Joint

Stradela Moara de Vant 31
Iasi, Romania 700376
Phone: +40.232.272545 Fax: +40.232.272545

http://www.littletexas.org

Oh my goodness. I never would have believed it, but this place has the best TexMex I’ve ever had in Europe. Bar none.

I am seriously thinking about trying out their hotel facilities on my next trip to Iasi instead of staying at the Hotel Unirea (my “usual” pad, you might say).

See you later this month, Romania

So, I just realized I haven’t posted while on this current trip yet. Here goes.

I would have taken some pictures, but like an idjit I forgot to transfer my camera to my carry-on baggage on the morning I departed (I run into trouble when it’s time to change jackets for the season, or when doing a luggage transition). It was a little hectic due to a habitual lack of preparedness on my part mixed with a dash reluctance to come back here. I like to travel, but like Bob Seger (yuck), I prefer that my travel agent/wife accompany me.

Oh well, I’ll be back here for an even longer stay in about 10 days. Even then, with a camera, I’m not sure there’ll be much to photograph. This town is pretty dreary. There’s potential all around (the town hall is lit up nicely at night), but the communist buildings (you can spot them with no trouble at all) really bring down an otherwise kind of charming town. Plus, I spend all the time I can in the office, not because I’m a Company Man® or whatever, but because I’ve got so much to teach these guys in the limited time I have with them. Anything I don’t cover thoroughly enough with them in person, I will have to teach them via telephone or NetMeeting from my office at home in Regensburg.

Tonight will be a late night at the office because their “local boss” (a guy I know from Regensburg who moved to Romania a couple years ago) is flying in tonight. Then it’s a **very** early flight tomorrow morning out to Timisoara where I change planes and head home to Munich, get picked up by the shuttle service, and conveniently dropped off at work in the afternoon for the remainder of a meeting where I’ll probably be hanged in effigy. Don’t want to miss that.