Monthly Archives: July 2009

Eating ice cream can be a dangerous activity

It was a gorgeous hot summer day today. Since the weather is highly unpredictable here in Bavaria, especially as close to the mountains as we are, I decided that today was a day for swimming. Rosebud and I caught the bus that goes from our neighborhood to the town of Benediktbeuern, because there’s a nice public outdoor swimming pool there.

Originally my plan was to take pictures of Rosebud at the pool; not only because of the cute baby factor, but because the backdrop is equally stunning. From the pool grounds, you can clearly see the mountains (possibly even the Zugspitze in Garmisch, the highest peak in Germany; it’s about a half hour to the southwest of Benediktbeuern). But as my friend Jane often says, “plans are made to be changed.”

Rosebud and I arrived in Benediktbeuern, outfitted with our typical baby gear and also our swimming gear. On the way to meet up with our friends who were going swimming with us, Rosebud and I stopped for ice cream.

Ice cream. It’s always good, on a hot summer day or even a bitterly cold winter day (trust me on this one – when I lived in Wisconsin, there was something thrilling about eating ice cream when the temperature outside dropped below zero). Here in Germany, many ice cream cafés offer Italian-style gelato. It’s creamy and flavorful, and I don’t think as sweet as most American-style ice creams. Some of my favorite flavors are Bacio (hazelnut), Straciatella (chocolate chip), Quark (like yogurt) and Amarena (cherry with a vanilla base).

At one of the main corners in Benediktbeuern, there is such an Italian ice cream café. I parked Rosebud in the shade, by a bench lined with a hedge. I stepped up to the window, and ordered a dish of yogurt ice cream for Rosebud (creamy and tangy, not too sweet) and a waffle cone of perfection for myself: one scoop of grapefruit and one scoop of fresh cherry. Those who know me well know that I am extremely fond of citrus, especially grapefruit. It was sublime. The cherry was delicious too, a sweeter compliment to the tart grapefruit ice cream.

cherry and grapefruit ice cream cone, and a dish of yogurt ice cream for Rosebud

cherry and grapefruit ice cream cone, and a dish of yogurt ice cream for Rosebud

Anyway, I sat down with Rosebud. She’s at that age where she wants to assert her independence; at the moment, this means controlling the spoon. Since she was in her stroller and since we were going swimming, I figured why not let her try to eat her ice cream all by herself? She had a marvelous time, pointing the spoon the wrong way round, glopping bits of ice cream on the ground (miraculously not getting her own clothes dirty) and more often than not, actually getting some ice cream in her mouth. It was too cute.

Mom, I can feed myself!

Mom, I can feed myself!

Want some?

Want some?

Then, she decided that the hedge needed some of her ice cream. She scooped some ice cream from her dish, and started to give it to the hedge. She did it again. And, at this point, I started laughing hysterically. She started laughing because I was laughing. I reached for my camera to get a picture of this moment.

And then.

Disaster struck!

Due to my frivolity, I dropped my camera which struck the brick pavement. When I heard the thud, I thought to myself, “Oh, that can’t be good.” I managed to snap one last picture, but there’s a shadow from the lens cover. And alas, the lens no longer retracts properly. This camera, a Nikon Coolpix, has been my trusty sidekick for awhile. I hope that we can find another camera that we like as well as we did this one.

The last picture

The last picture

We do have a wonderful video camera, which has the ability to take still images. I’ll be using that in the meantime, but in terms of taking photographs, it’s just not the same!

Ahornboden and Eng Alm

In mid-May, our friend Mia took Aunt K., Rosebud and me on an amazing hike in Austria, in part of the Karwendel region. Specifically, we visited Ahornboden, which is part of a protected nature area. The valley area is called “Ahornboden” because of the maple trees (Ahornbäume) that grow there.

We had excellent weather for most of the day, which made the views that much more impressive. As you’ll see from the pictures, the views were just breath-taking.

Ahornboden and Eng Alm

Ahornboden and Eng Alm

The area is also know for its Alm, or alpine pasture. This one is called the Eng Alm. It has a little farming village which is well known for its cheese; here you can read about the Almdorf Eng, or alpine pasture town, in German. There is also a restaurant/café and inn which you can read about here.

Alpengasthof Eng

Alpengasthof Eng

Here’s a map of the valley and its mountain peaks:
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We were very lucky that the weather was clear when we arrived. We bought some of the locally made cheese on our way to the mountain path for our lunch. Mia said that the cheese tastes the best right there in the area! She’s absolutely right about that. We had some of the cheese leftover, so I brought it home with me. It wasn’t quite as tasty as it was up in the mountains.

Anyway, I could not get over the natural beauty of the valley.
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We walked along a stream bed and stopped to have our lunch. As you can see from the pictures, there was still some snow that had not yet melted. We couldn’t continue along this particular trail because the Spring water runoff had damaged a footbridge crossing the stream.

Melinda, eating lunch by the stream near Eng Alm

Melinda, eating lunch by the stream near Eng Alm

Look how clear the stream water is! I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such pure, clear water in a stream before.
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Since we were unable to continue on this path, we headed back down to the pasture area, and went up a steeper path. Along the way, I found a nice tree where I could nurse Rosebud. I think this is probably the greatest altitude at which I’ve nursed my baby.

nursing Rosebud at high altitude

nursing Rosebud at high altitude

We were fairly high up at this point. We even heard some yodelers on the other side from where we were standing in this picture! My sister joked that we were too kind to arrange yodeling for her, on her alpine trek. The yodeling did make our hiking adventure feel that much more authentic and memorable. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting to hear real yodeling on our hike.

looking at the valley below (Ahornboden/Eng Alm)

looking at the valley below (Ahornboden/Eng Alm)

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Soon, the weather started to change, as it so often happens in the mountains. I enjoyed seeing the clouds drift in, seeming to hug the mountains.
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We hiked up a bit further. Along the way, I took some pictures of the Enzian flower (called Blue Gentiana in English). It really is this vibrant blue shade. DSCN3486An interesting note about Enzian – in Bavaria (and presumably, parts of Austria), you can get an alcoholic spirit that is flavored with Enzian; it’s very bitter and has a strong herbal flavor – definitely an acquired taste.

We reached this sign post; as you can see in the picture, we hiked with Rosebud in our baby carrier. We took turns carrying her; she loved being able to look around. I figure that it must have been a stimulating day for her.

Auntie K and Rosebud in the Karwendel

Auntie K and Rosebud in the Karwendel

We climbed just a bit higher past the post, but it was getting cloudier. We took this as a sign to head back to the valley below. Here’s one of my favorite pictures of the day, as the clouds were moving in ominously:
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Once we reached the valley, we stopped in a café and enjoyed some local pastries. I enjoyed the homemade Apfelstrudel, and Mia had a dessert that looked amazing. I don’t remember what it was that she had, but it was a typical Austrian dessert. When I have a chance to ask her, I’ll make a post about it. As we walked back to the car, we noticed the gap in this maple tree trunk – of course, we had to put Rosebud there and take some pictures.

Rosebud sitting in between the trunk of an ancient maple tree

Rosebud sitting in between the trunk of an ancient maple tree

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I hope you’ve enjoyed going on this virtual hiking adventures through the pictures I’ve posted. I am eager to return to this area to hike more of the paths and enjoy the natural beauty. I also can think of several family members and friends I’d like to bring to this part of the Karwendel. If you visit us, I will gladly take you – just be sure to pack your hiking boots!

Ahornboden (Karwendel, Österreich)

Ahornboden (Karwendel, Österreich)

Tasty Pastry

Of course, when you are living in a new place, it is imperative that you explore your surroundings through its food.

Today I stopped by our local bakery to buy some rolls (called either Semmeln or Brötchen, although Semmeln is more commonly used in Bavaria). I decided to buy myself this delectable treat:

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It’s a cream puff filled with Bavarian cream and sour cherries. I can’t even begin to describe how tasty it was.
Rosebud was pretty excited by this pastry as well. She helped me eat it, and in fact, got upset when I would stop to take a bite myself.

Don your hiking boots and take a walk with me to Mürnsee

Mia told me that it rained pretty much every day in June, and that the temperatures were cool; so far, that trend seems to be continuing into July. I expected it to be much the same yesterday, but contrary to the weather forecast, the afternoon was gorgeous. Rosebud and I set out on a walk from our house in Ostfeld (Bad Heilbrunn) to the little town of Mürnsee. The path we went was a little over five kilometers one way, so it ended up being quite a long walk.

Here’s a map of the path we walked:

We headed first toward Ramsau. When we got there, we stood by the roadside for a few minutes to admire the cows. Rosebud learned that cows have huge tongues, and that they are very noisy when chomping down on the grass. She was very interested in observing them.

Hey mom, let's look at the cows. (in Ramsau)

Hey mom, let's look at the cows. (in Ramsau)

We enjoyed the countryside and we walked along the farm fields from Ramsau to Reindlschmiede.
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It was a gusty afternoon, so at times our hair looked like this:

Mom, look at my hair!

Mom, look at my hair!

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Most of the walking paths are also farm paths. They’re clearly marked so you know where you are going, and these signs also describe the terrain of the walking path.
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I admired this barn:
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Finally we reached Reindlschmiede. I had to take a picture of this gorgeous Bavarian home.
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I also loved this sign post, because it shows the relationship Reindlschmiede has with the surrounding area.
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The sign is written in traditional Blackletter, sometimes referred to as Fraktur in German after the font name. As a general rule, German is no longer written in this style but you’ll still see things written this way. I’ve noticed that this is especially true in the south, where we live.

Of course, we need another cute Rosebud picture. I took this one peering through the netting of her stroller, which gives this picture a neat effect.

Hi, Mom.

Hi, Mom.

After walking through Reindlschmiede, which is essentially a cluster of houses, we headed west toward Mürnsee.
Now, generally speaking, if a town has the word “See” in it, you can expect that there will be a lake. I was hoping to sit awhile next to Mürnsee’s lake. I was confused when I didn’t find a lake. I did see this…

Mürnsee Pond, I mean, Lake.

Mürnsee Pond, I mean, Lake.

…and then realized that this was the infamous Mürnsee Lake. So much for getting to enjoy a sunny summer afternoon by the lake.

We walked a bit further in Mürnsee and discovered this field, right next to the volunteer Fire Station:

Home, home on the range, where the deer and the Bavarian cattle play...

Home, home on the range, where the deer and the Bavarian Cattle play...

Yes, you are seeing that right – it’s a teepee! This is not what you expect to see on a stroll through upper Bavaria. It got me thinking, though. You just never know what hidden treasures you’ll discover in a small town.

We thoroughly enjoyed our walk, which took a leisurely three hours. Next time, I’ll think about looking at a map ahead of time so that I can indeed find a pretty lake.

Living Between Two Lands

During the month of June, we were busy vacationing back in the States. Usually one thinks of a vacation as a time of relaxtion, but I wouldn’t exactly call our visit to the US relaxing. It was a lot of fun, though, and we feel like we pretty much saw everyone. We traveled through Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and upstate New York. We went to my younger sister’s wedding and visited family and friends in various places. We also attended my ten-year college reunion. All told, we drove about 4,500 miles. Rosebud, I am happy to report, did beautifully. We stopped as needed so she could get out and stretch or practice walking while holding our hands.

It’s very strange, though, to be living between two lands. As soon as I returned to Indianapolis, I was so happy to be in a familiar environment. I was happier still to be with our good friends and enjoy their company. And yet, I felt a bit of culture shock, being back in the Midwest. Going throughout my mind was the thought “it’s so different from Bavaria”. For example, I felt slightly self-conscious and dismayed when I forgot my canvas shopping bag one day. I’d never forget to pack my shopping bag here in Bavaria! American sandwich bread is not the same as a hearty loaf of German country bread. Gas was a lot less expensive, and I felt like I was driving slowly on the highway. But after a day or two, I easily fell back into the slightly faster-paced lifestyle I am used to in the US.

And then, here I am back again in Bavaria. The moment I stepped foot in the Munich airport, I realized I was yet again, at home. I quickly slipped back into the German language and habits. We went grocery shopping soon after arriving, and suddenly it was back to buying Schinken, Quark and other unique German products. Even the country air smells different here than it does in the States.

Going back and forth between cultures can be jarring, but I think with time, it becomes easier to move between worlds. One of the side effects is that to some degree, you sometimes feel like you don’t quite fit in with either place. Or perhaps, you are looking for something that doesn’t exist in the other culture. In Germany, I sometimes want an inexpensive, bottomless cup of (weak) American coffee. But wouldn’t you just know it, that while I was in the States, I craved the super-strong black German breakfast coffee.

While I was in Indiana, I visited with my friends Mary Ann and Paul. Mary Ann is a German teacher like me, so she knows what it is like to have your feet in two places. One Monday afternoon, Mary Ann and I took Rosebud for a walk, and we spoke German the whole time. We usually speak German with each other, so that wasn’t unusual. I did, however, have this odd sensation that there should have been the mountains, or a pasture with cows around me as we were walking. Even though I speak quite a bit of German when I can in the US, I still have a strong and powerful association with the language and the lands where it is spoken.

I guess that’s one of the most amazing and wonderful things about speaking another language – wherever you end up speaking it, somehow it brings that whole set of memory associations along with it. This can make you feel wistful, because you do crave this or that food or place that goes along with the language. But ultimately, the language serves as a bridge between places and gives you a deeper understanding of cultures and people as a whole. Having been back in the United States, I came to appreciate and understand my own culture better, as well as my adopted culture in Bavaria.