Deutschland and beyond

Living in Germany

Pre-Christmas (by Mom)

This is the last of the family updates, and it’s out of order. Sorry. Chronologically, this one should come first but then the rest all fall into place. It’s been nice and easy having ‘guest bloggers’; now I’ll have to go back to actually writing and updating. Anyway, here’s mom’s take on our few days before Christmas:

Whew!  I wasn’t quite sure if we were going to make it to Germany for Christmas this year.  But on the day we flew out, they had just re-opened the Frankfurt airport, so I knew all was well.

Maura and I had an uneventful flight after that.  We caught our connection in Amsterdam, although I wish our layover had been longer- I would have loved to have done some shopping at that airport.   We landed in Frankfurt, connected with Tim and Cala, but  looked frantically for our luggage for 2 hours. Fortunately, those scanning baggage claim tickets saved us and Maura would be able to see Germany (she packed her daily contacts in her checked suitcase)  Off to the train to Wurzburg to see Colleen!!

We found our way to the hotel, settled in and Colleen came over after her lacrosse practice.  We headed off to a quaint pub/restaurant for dinner, where I took her suggestion and had currywurst, and the rest dined on schnitzel (veal,) and pasta and toasted  the holidays with their great beers. Off to slumber early as it was a long day.

Wednesday we had planned to attend an authentic Christkindl (Weihnachts) market and we definitely weren’t disappointed.  The weather was perfect, cold and a little snow to add to the atmosphere, just like Chicago. We walked around the market, enjoyed some Gluhwein, Cala found a place for chocolate crepes, and did some souvenouir shopping for friends back home. Colleen’s friend Jessie was arriving that day, so she went to meet her at the train station while we continued shopping. Our plan was to meet at 3:00pm at the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, Würzburg’s Residenz.


This is one of the most important Castles in Europe (so they say about all of them, don’t they?). Built in 1720-1744 based on the design by Balthasar Neuman  with help from L.von Hildebrandt and M.von Welsh of Mainz. Not destroyed in 1945 were the magnificent staircase with its self-supporting vault and the brilliant ceiling painting by the Venetian artist G.B Tiepolo. Also known for its ornate stucco ornamentation by A. Bossi. This is also the site where they were filming the 3 Musketeers with Orlando Bloom, Colleen does claim a sighting of him during the production (not claim, it really happened. And I ran into him and his wife Miranda Kerr at our outdoor market. My only celeb sighting but pretty awesome).

On our way back to the hotel, we opted to stop for coffee/hot chocolate at a cute little place. We warmed up, then headed back out into the cold, back to our hotel.  We asked at the desk for dinner recommendations and they suggested a great Italian restaurant within walking distance.( No wonder the people are thin, they do walk a lot, but their one bad vice is smoking!) Everyone was able to find something on the menu that tempted their tastebuds, as well as dad,  though he wouldn’t quite splurge for a 50 Euro bottle of red wine, which led us to out last stop for the evening, a very nice Rathskellar. We did indulge in a very nice red (can’t quite remember the name) but the bottle was intriguing (note from Colleen: I’ll look for a picture but all of the wine bottles here in Franken are shaped differently than normal ones- see here if you’re really curious).  The shape reminded me of a fatter Hershey syrup container, short and fuller in the middle, but the wine was delicious, the conversation was constant and the company was priceless!  Back to the hotel to get ready for Christmas.

(for real continuity, you can refer back to Cala’s blog from here, if you’re desparate). I’ll add in pictures when I can; unfortunately the wi-fi on my laptop isn’t working but once I move (Feb 1st!) it’ll all get settled. Some brief updates other than the move:

– currently working on my mid-term report for Fulbright. It’s due by the end of the month (whoops)

– successfully applied to grad schools and am waiting to hear back

– teaching is going well. We dont start our new semester until the end of February so I’m on the same schedule until then.

– We’re working on getting a few scrimmages/practice games scheduled for lacrosse which would be awesome

– I have no idea where I can watch the NFC championship tonight (it doesn’t start until 9pm here.. uh oh). But  GO BEARS!


January 23, 2011 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Post-Christmas (by Dad and Moe)

Alright, Maura claims to have a decent amount of input in this post, I’ll let you judge for yourself. Also, fair forewarning: Dad talks a LOT about art and history. I’ll let you know where to cut off and skip ahead to. Enjoy all the pictures he included as well!

Enjoying some German beers

I was able to see the white German countryside on our 3 hour train trip from Wurzburg to Munich the day after Christmas. My 5 companions all slept while we stopped at every little burg along the way. Our hotel was only 2 blocks from the Bahnhof (hey – I’m getting pretty good with this translation lingo). First stop in Munich was the local bierhalle (Schneider-Weisse). Maura like the weissbier and the hefeweissbier and even the dunkel. We ventured out to dinner near the South Gate (Sendlingertor) while Cala entertained us. She insisted on learning to count to ten in German. After multiple attempts and many corrections from Fraulein O’Connor, Cala got beyond fuenf (five) without laughing out loud and made it to zehn. Then she tried counting in French. Now we were the ones laughing as she grunted her way to dix. We all agreed she should stick to Spanish. Dinner at Ocui (open cuisine) was perfect. There are separate stations for pasta, stir-fry, salads, and beverages. Our adopted daughter Jessie stayed in the girls’ room – a forced quad. She won the single bed. The O’Connor girls all slept in the double bed and fought for covers all night. They were not happy until extra blankets were borrowed from an empty room.

Monday, Dec.27th: Cala and Jessie took the train to Dachau. Maura and Colleen visited churches, churches, and more churches.

at the Residenz

There was a beautiful white stucco church, churches with lots of stainglass windows, more churches that were bombed in WWII, and some more churches. Colleen and Maura also visited three out of the four gates of the city, and climbed the stairs of the Alter Peter, which provided a phenomenal view of Munich no matter where you looked. Karyn and I had a wonderful day at the Residenz – the former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs (and here’s where you stop reading until the next paragraph, unless you’re a history buff). The Wittelsbach rulers used it as their residence and seat of government until 1918. The antiquarium (66 metre banquet hall with wall and ceiling frescoes and end-to-end statues) is over 500 years old. The architecture, interior decorations, and works of art range from early Baroque to Rococo to NeoClassical. The 4 hour short tour covered less than half of the 120 rooms. The royal treasury (schatzkammer) next door is 10 amazing rooms of jewelry, crowns, tiaras and many priceless religious items confiscated from the local monasteries since the time of Charlemagne (he be dead in 814).

St. George slaying the dragon

I especially liked the gold and enamel statue of St. George slaying a ruby and emerald dragon atop a gilded box decorated with opals, agate, chalcedony, pearls, and many other precious stones (1597). For history buffs, the cross of Queen Gisela of Hungary is in perfect condition – commissioned for the tomb of her mother Gisela of Burgundy, Duchess of Bavaria who died in 1006 and was buried in the Niedermunster (Abbey) in Regensburg.
After a siesta (Cala and I adopted a few Spanish customs), the group convened at THE Hofbrauhaus for a Happy Hour. The place was packed, the oompa band was playing, and nonstop prost, cheers, salud, na zdrowie, and a rare ege’sze’ge’re from Prague.

At the Hofbräuhaus

No matter what we ordered, most of the beers were served in the traditional one liter glass steins. It may have taken Cala 2 hours, but she finished her bier! Stumbling through deserted streets on a very cold winter night, we found our way to Cafe Osteria La Vecchia Masseria – ranked the #1 Italian restaurant in Munich by Lonely Planet. Plain wooden tables, a waiter with a sense of humor, and great food. Ravioli, pizza margherita, penne gorgonzola, and even lamb chops were excellent – with red wine of course.


December 28th– Karyn, Cala and I (Maura- I think the rest is supposedly by Maura) took the afternoon and went shopping around Munich. We found store after store full of scarves. We were also touristy and went into the little tourist shops to get gifts that say Germany. The one store that seems to be quite popular around Germany is H&M (here I- Colleen- will mention that H&M is actually a European store, not American). Every other block there would be an H&M: women’s, men’s, or both. Jesse and Dad walked up to the Alte Pinakothek – the art museum spanning the 14th to 18th centuries of “Old Masters”. (again, art and history. this is obviously by Dad. proceed to next paragraph)


A great way to spend a very cold day wandering through the Reubens, Rembrandts, Durers, a few old Italians, and even one El Greco (The Disrobing of Christ).The special exhibit was a group of 12 paintings from the city of Amsterdam’s Historical Museum. They were group portraits peculiar to the Dutch 17th century with their traditional black outfits, white collars and wide brimmed black hats with a tall crown (capotain) often decorated with ostrich plumes.The rare group painting of women displayed the black puritan style with immensely detailed white lace collars.Very austere. Needed a splash of color from Giovanni Battista Tiepolo – he of the fresco ceilings of the throne room in the Royal Palace of Madrid and the massive ceiling in Wurzburg at the New Residenz (1744) above the famous entrance staircase (Treppenhaus). Cala FAILED to mention this (english) guided tour through many many cold rooms which was one of the highlights of Christmas. Maybe all that bratwurst has dulled her memory.

(back to Maura?) Later that night we met up with Colleen’s old friend Basti, from the German exchange program way back in high school. We went to an Italian place with what I would have to say was the best pizza in Germany! After a brisk 4km walk, Colleen and Jesse went out with the guys “for an early night”. Cala’s definition of early is 11pm, so she started calling the Bavarian polizei at 2am to track them down (not really). I cannot say any more since she is a wonderful travel companion – but all ended well.

The next day we split up (none too soon!). Karyn, Colleen, Jessie, and myself took the train to Koln, and Cala and Tim took the train to Frankfurt for their flight home the next day!

January 15, 2011 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment