Coping Through Carping

Today, thanks to my ever-patient and forgiving wife, I learned something about myself and other people. To be fair, this is a lesson I’ve learned more than once before, albeit via other media. But I think I can sum it up for my own future reference right here:

Sometimes, people just need to complain, and I need to let them do that.

They’ll look to their friends, coworkers, neighbors, and compatriots to support them and even participate in the beef sessions.

My own gripes — especially the written ones — are typically wrapped around some constructive purpose. When displeased with the service I got at a local bike shop, I wrote ’em up and achieved some satisfaction from knowing that at least my experience would be available online for someone else to learn from. Even when verbally spouting off at work about work, I’m looking for the root cause, documenting the signs to watch for next time for the sake of prevention, re-thinking the reaction strategy, etc.

But that’s my method of coping. Most people bellyache about something as means to just deal with it. I learned this slowly over the course of my relationship with my girlfriend, then wife (same person). Her method was to blow off steam by griping, and it frustrated me that I could never fix the problem, until she made me realize that I couldn’t, shouldn’t, and trying to would be futile. Part of the reason that I’m having this issue with others’ gripes now is that she is more flexible that I am — she’s more or less stopped moaning in my direction. But that hasn’t really helped me grow to the point where I can accept a complaint for what it is — just a complaint. I need to come to grips with the fact that

I’m the freak here.

It seems most everyone else gets the matter off their chest and moves on. I mistake the fuss for a symptom instead of the treatment it really is. And I need to realize that in the process of other people’s complaints, they’re going to say things that aren’t true or even nice or are definitely out of character for them — things that I have a hard time letting slide on grounds of consistency, accuracy, or objectivity. But I need to learn to let it go for the sake of the coping through carping.

Bürgerfest 2009’s Best Bandnames

Now that the Bürgerfest 2009 has come and gone, I want to share with you my favorite band names and genre descriptions from the actual, official Bürgerfest 2009 program. These are all real. Even the typos, if there are any.

Band Name Genre Description
Hongkong Tits Bavarian Rock’n Roll
Midlife Crisis Rock
pet us to deeth noise pop
sullen silence Indie
Röckl Pop, Jazz und Rock mit bayerischen Texten
Senna Hoy Anarcho Deutschrock
Fanfara Kalaschnikov Balkan-Speed-Brass-Rock aus Rumänien
Chicken Shakers Rock’n Roll
Brittipoppers Britpop von Oasis bis Beatles
Coffin Factory Rock & Pop
Michael Sings for Papa Joe Joe Cocker Coverband
Motherfunkers 100 prozent Funk
VierUndOane Ü30/Oldienight, Rock, Pop, Oldies
Rockomotive Breath
Robn Roll 2 Gitarren – unzählige Hits
The All Migthy Guys Rock, Pop, Lehrerband vs. Schüler
Jearsy Bon Jovi Coverband
Sunny Bottom Boys Hilly-Billy, Bluegrass, Rockabilly

Who could resist a weekend of that? Can’t wait to see what they roll out next year.

Bürgerfest 2009 “pot”pourri

Neupfarrplatz Bierbank 1

Neupfarrplatz Bierbank 2

It’s a sunny Sunday morning (oops, it’s 13:00 now…still feels like morning at least…) and we’re enjoying the gentle waltzy bounce of horns and accordions making its way along the maze of streets to our building from the stage erected out in front of the Colosseum. Yesterday we tried to navigate the throngs of Bürgerfesters with varying degrees of success. We started off gathering on Haidplatz, collected visitors from as far away as Weiden as well as some locals and decided we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get some falafel from the Jerusalem Imbiss’ stand on Neupfarrplatz (their “restaurant” is over on Obermünsterstraße, not far from Suzie Wong’s, if that’s your scene). Seems lots of the surprisingly large group were new to the concept of Falafel. This was my first falafel since having returned from Budapest, and I wanted to compare. Sadly, I think I have to agree with Monet that the Hummous Bar in Budapest was better (of course, Obermünsterstraße is a heckuva lot more convenient…). Fortunately, I think everyone who tried it, liked it, even if it was a little drippy.

From there we marched around the Platz a bit until I spied a table with just one little old lady holding down the fort. We quickly overpowered her and set up camp, where we remained for the next four hours or so. This surprised me. I thought for sure we’d get up, mosey, wander, check out other parts of town, other stages with different music, etc.…but it was not to be. Half the group would get up for a round of beers and when they returned, the other half would seek out some snacks, and when they were done, they were thirsty, so they’d go wrangle up some more drinks, which inspired half #1 to get some more food, ad infinitum.

Or, well, about 10pm. At that point we shuffled off to Domplatz to watch a presentation of the history of the Dom projected onto the Dom with color coding used to focus our attention on the aspects verbally mentioned during the narration. Great concept, but alas, the execution was a little iffy. The text wasn’t loud enough, and it was rather heavy on the echoes, and there were tons of ecclesiastical and architectural terms being tossed around over our heads, and besides — most of the locals didn’t seem all that interested in it and they talked through most of it. I would love to see this presentation again, but on my computer, so that I can rewind and look up the words I need extra help on.

Oh, and besides the friends and coworkers new to us as of last night, we also got acquainted with a couple of little characters I like to refer to as “Groß und Klein.” See the last picture here in this post. I was pleasantly suprised to learn last night that people in Britain also know them as #1 and #2 — I didn’t know they were called that outside of the U.S.

In non-Bürgerfest news: has anyone tried that new (to us) roast of Aldi Süd Kaffee called “Gustoso?” We brewed our first batch of it today and it was really excellent. We use the French Press method. I expect it would be just as yummy used with a fancy machine to make espressos or cappucinos and stuff.


Why does the stage within earshot always suck the most?

It’s festy time again here in Regensburg. This is the second time in two weeks we’ve suffered through Sweet Home Alabama / Werewolf in London / the awful Kid Rock fusion of the two has been within earshot of our apartment.

This time it’s Bürgerfest. Coming home from work late night (it was another 10-hour day…not fond of those), I noticed a klezmery sound coming from the extreme east end of our island. Turns out it was a Shantelly-kind-of-band — lots of horns with plenty of Eastern European intricacy. They even whipped out a fancy version of Hava Nagila before I got thirsty and we headed back to the apartment through the crowds enjoying the craprock. No really, it was bad. Think Zydeco-flavored renditions of that awful Inner Circle song “Sweat” from 1992 done by dudes in Tracht but with Rasta wigs on.

Not making that up.

Asus EeePC 701 4GB Xandros WPA

It’s working, IT’S WORKING MUHUHAHA!

Feel free to ignore the alphabetic soup in the title.

I’d been bugging everyone I know with a netbook for a few months now. We bought a very slightly used one before our trip to Berlin, but oddly, I couldn’t get the wireless networking working in the hotel (though it was working at home on our WEP-secured network). Then we took it with us to Budapest, and it was working at the free wireless network cafe at the Nürnberg Hbf…but not on the WPA-secured network at the hotel.

We got back from Budapest last week. Took the netbook over to Matthias and Tammy’s for dinner last night, hoping to figure out why it would work on our wireless network at home, but apparently no one elses’.

Today some googling helped me find my answer: the drivers supplied for the on-board Atheros WLAN card don’t work (entirely)!

Follow the advice here (http://wiki.eeeuser.com/wpa_default_xandros?s=wpa%20psk) to get rid of the default drivers and install replacement ones. Worked for me. I switched over our network here at home to WPA. After replacing the drivers, I can connect to our WPA-PSK-secured network. This post is the proof.

Can’t wait to take it over to Tammy & Matthias’ place (or another wifi hotspot with WPA security) to verify.

Mushroom Crostini

This came out of my high school cookbook and it was something special. We were looking for something carby and savory to have with salad for dinner and gave this a try. Turns out, we were nearly licking the plates. These mushrooms would probably be fantastic smothering a steak or chicken breast, folded into an omelet or as a base for a creamy pasta sauce.

1 baguette, day old and sliced into 1/2 inch slices
2 T butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb mushroom, sliced
1/2 t dried thyme
1 T Madeira wine
1/2 c chicken or vegetable broth
1-2 T fresh parsley or chives, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400° F (200° C). Arrange baguette slices in one layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until golden.

Heat a skillet to medium-low and add olive oil and butter. When butter starts to foam, add onion and cook until transparent. Add garlic and mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid evaporates. Add thyme, wine and chicken broth and bring to simmer, stirring until mixture is reduced by two thirds. Remove from heat and stir in parsley or chives and salt and pepper. Mound a heaping spoonful of mushrooms on top of each crostini.

Curry Chicken Salad

I’m trying to make sure all of my recipes are in one, easy-to-find place, so several of them might be coming up at once. I found this one here and adapted it to our tastes. I generally don’t like creamy ‘salads,’ i.e. chicken salad, potato salad, macaroni salad (*shudder*), but the addition of curry here is really lovely. We like to eat this during the summer on croissant sandwiches.

1/4 c mayonnaise
1/2 c plain yogurt
5 tsp curry powder
1 T lime juice
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts, poached and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 c red seedless grapes, halved
1/2 c salted roasted cashews, coarsely chopped

Whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, curry, lime juice, honey, ginger, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add chicken, celery, grapes, and cashews and stir gently to combine.

Sauerkraut Paprikash

I will eat anything that includes sour cream. It is literally my favorite food. Since I’ve come around to sausage and sauerkraut and I have way too much paprika, this looked like the perfect recipe. I’ve made some alterations, so here’s the original and below is what I actually did.

2 T butter
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T hot paprika
1 lb Polish sausage, sliced
3 small potatoes, medium dice
2 T fresh chopped dill
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 c chicken broth
2 16 oz cans sauerkraut, drained and rinsed
3/4 c sour cream

1. Melt the butter in a dutch oven and add the onion, garlic, and paprika. Cook over medium heat until the onion is quite soft, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Add the sausages and potatoes and cook for a minute to begin rendering their fat. Add the dill, caraway seed, broth, and water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Add the sauerkraut and stir to combine well. Continue simmering, covered, for an additional 15 minutes. Add a little water (no more than 1/2 c) if it looks like there’s not enough liquid or the sauerkraut begins burning to the bottom of the pot.

4. Add the sour cream and simmer just until hot; avoid letting the liquid boil once it’s added. Serve immediately.

Four days in Budapest

Love those four-day weekends!

Jewish Quarter

Day One (Thursday):
We got up really early (partly to finish packing) and took the train out to Nürnberg via the BayernTicket. We transferred at the Hauptbahnhof to the U2 subway line and caught our plane with plenty of time to spare. It would seem that the people behind the BayernTicket always seem to know just what the most convenient train times are — and set those trips up to be EC/IC/ICE. That forces us BayernTicket travelers either to take a train too close to departure for comfort or get moving much earlier than otherwise would be necessary. Oh well.

We took a taxi from the airport. The taxi stand guy said 4800 HUF, but the driver politely insisted upon 5000 HUF upon arrival. Guess who won? At least it was less than one euro. But still, it’s the principle of the thing that annoyed me there.

our hotel

Our hotel on the south side of Pest was a little hard to find on foot (the first time, before we figured out the tram system, coming from the subway station), but easy for our taxi driver. We got checked in, dropped off the stuff we didn’t need to schlep with us and moseyed north along the river a bit. We found a tourist info office, got a free map (not the world’s greatest for small, innercity pedestrian streets and the metro/tram lines are not clearly marked marked at all) and kept going north into the Jewish quarter. We sought out the Hummous Bar for a falafel and hummous lunch — thank you Frommer’s — this place was awesome. Great lunch, which introduced us to skhug. We are so going to make our own. If you have a recipe, please share it with us.

Dohány Synagogue

Peacock Menorah (blue)

Dohány Synagogue

From there we continued to the world’s second biggest synagogue (it is the largest one in Europe). We took the last guided tour of the day in English and visited the attached museum. It was short, and kind of expensive, but our guide was informative and open to questions. The tour included a visit to the museum, which was beautiful and interesting and somber and moving all at the same time in a very simple way.

For dinner: we sought out cheap Indian at Bombay Express (oh how I miss the former Bombay Express restaurant near our old apartment) near Oktogon. Also good, as far as cafeteria-style Indian goes. Cheap and tasty, if a little weird. We’re not used to Indian food in that setting.

Day Two (Friday):
Castle District

After breakfast, we walked north from our bridge to the Chain Bridge and crossed it on foot. Took a funicular from there up to the top of a hill featuring some churches and government buildings in their own little town. The view down to the rest of Buda and across the river to Pest is fantastic. We had lunch at a cafeteria apparently unbeknownst to tourists; it was practically hidden (thanks Frommer’s!) and there was no English anywhere, but the chef spoke German, so that saved us.

We split up that afternoon after (relatively) expensive, fancy coffee at the Gerbaud coffee house. It was overrated, according to Frommer’s, which was an accurate assessment, but it was right there and it felt nice to be a little fancy. I was in search of a network cable since I couldn’t get our laptop working with the WLAN at our hotel; the ladies shopped. I found nothing, took a nap and waited for them to come get me.

For dinner: back to the Oktogon area for a great duck-themed dinner at M. What a great meal at an odd little restaurant. Frommer’s gets the credit once again. I’m glad we heeded their advice for every evening meal to get a reservation — each time, it was absolutely necessary.

Fisherman's Bastion

Inside Fisherman's Bastion

We had:
Elderberry sodas to drink

cold cucumber soup
cabbage soup with duck
salad with duck breast

duck breast with redwine-raspberry sauce and mashed potatoes
lamb-filled cannelloni
gnocchi veneziana (gorgonzola sauce!)

and to finish it off: banana cheesecake. The bananas were great, but sadly, it was a ricotta/Italian style cheesecake. We were hoping for NY style. Could have been worse!

Day Three (Saturday):
Took the subway out to Hero’s Square and walked around the park there. There was some kind of food and drink market there, but it didn’t really ever look like it was in full swing. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of the flea market, but found it had been cancelled (more on that later). Instead we headed back into down and tried to visit a very small museum dedicated to the life and works of Miksa Róth — but after tromping around in intense heat and numerous detours due to construction in the area, we arrived several hours before they opened (Frommer’s kind of left us hanging there a bit). So instead we checked out the outside of the Parliament buildings. We didn’t want to pay for a tour that would have been free to European Union passport holders and didn’t want to feel like chumps asking for them to waive it given our residence permits for Germany. We’d decided that in preparation for the feast awaiting us that night, that none of us really needed a full lunch. So we went back to the Hummous Bar to split a falafel plate.

Sarah got tired and needed a nap, and Monet and I made our way back to the Miksa Róth house. It was worth it just for the peace and quiet. Aside from the caretakers, we were the only ones in the place the whole time. It was eerie, standing in the artist’s home, his bedroom, his living room, admiring the furnishings and mementos and in general the 1880s atmosphere INSIDE the apartment and casting a glance just outside the window to the world of 2009’s construction projects and KFC just down the street towards the train station. Then Monet and I made our way back to the hotel to do a little touristy shopping (your postcards came from that expedition), pick up Sarah and ask the hotel to confirm our reservation at an AYCE restaurant way out at the end of one of the subway lines.

That was kind of an adventure itself; when we got off the subway, we found the restaurant immediately, but were dismayed to see busloads and busloads of people waiting out in front of it. It looked like there was a troupe of Polish tourists and some kind of racing team who had also made their reservations there that night. But you know what? They sat us on time and the food and drinks were of good quality and amazing quantity. Soups, salads, breads, prepared dishes, meats and fishes grilled to order, dancing chefs and waitresses putting on a show, live 3-piece fiddle-bass-guitar music, and desserts galore. Absolutely worth it. Frommer’s for the win!

Buda Castle by Night

Freedom Bridge to Fancy Hotel

Flea Market Booty

Day Four (Sunday):
We went back to the flea market a second time and hit pay dirt. Monet haggled a bit over some ceramics, but Sarah and I just marveled over the spread and selection. We rewarded ourselves for our perseverence with a trip back to the Hummous Bar for one last lunch and were astounded to find that it was on the same street as the M restaurant from Friday night, near the Franz Liszt house. Our gracious hostess there seemed a little disappointed that we wanted the exact same meal as the previous two days, but why mess with perfection? She also gave us the scoop on the skhug.

Our hotel kindly let us check out and store our bags with them (even with claim checks, which was nice) until it was time for our departure. And they even arranged a taxi trip for us to the hotel. This time, the price was exactly as quoted. But this time, it was a grandmotherly-type lady and what appeared to be her private vehicle (no meter, no radio, etc.). But the ride was smooth and easy and though she spoke little or no English, she was a safe, conservative driver who seemed pleasant and smiled a lot and we liked that.

In summary:
Budapest is very easy on the eyes and mouth, even if a little rough on the nose at times in certain areas. Our Frommer’s Budapest & Best of Hungary guide rarely let us down. We marveled at the language even as we were continually bewildered by it. After three full days though, I was ready to return to home to Regensburg. Monet is a travel trooper, never once needing a nap or even a break from eating (how does she do that?!). Sarah did a great job in the prep work. I did my best to look up and snap photos; we read in the book that if you don’t keep your head pointed up, you’ll miss a lot of Budapest, and I certainly found that to be true.

Here’s the slideshow: