Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Munich, With Sleep

Part 2 of our Europe trip, which I promise contains more pictures and fewer words than Part 1.

Having gotten some much needed sleep, we ventured out into Munich the next day. We had planned this day only very loosely, figuring we might not be too ambitious after the flight. We had some places we generally wanted to see, but no particular timetable.

Our first stop was the bakery closest to our hotel. Sadly the photo above is not that bakery. It is a bakery in Munich though, so that's pretty close!

Our normal morning fare is bagels, but we had no luck at all communicating that concept to the staff. We ended up just picking something out of the display case - a little squarish piece of bread that seemed similar. Then we tried to get some cream cheese but apparently this is an unknown concept as well. But they redeemed themselves with the butter - no stupid little cup of faux-butter but rather a quarter stick of buttery goodness.

It turned out that our bagel-like object was some kind of magical bread that must've had the approximate caloric content of an entire turkey. We each at a little 6 ounce chunk of bread… and then literally forgot to eat lunch. After that Wendy took to calling it “Dwarven stout bread.”

After that we wandered around town a bit, ending up in a local market. They had a brass band playing, which apparently does not preclude beer drinking. We stayed for a while and ended up talking to a group of tourists from Minnesota because they saw my Anoka State sweatshirt.

Then more wandering to several churches and buildings in the area.

Finally, back to the Neue Rathaus to see the Glockenspiel – basically a mechanized merry-go-round that reenacts scenes from local history.

By midafternoon the Dwarven stout bread was wearing off, so we headed out the famous Hofbrauhaus. It’s probably the classic beer hall, dating back to its origin as the royal brewery of the Kingdom of Bavaria. It’s actually still owned by the Bavarian state government, which says something about their priorities. They do a damn fine job of it too!

Like many of the restaurants in Bavaria, it’s basically a big room full of communal trestle tables. So we walked in, found a nice looking table and asked the occupants if we could sit there. In our ignorance we didn’t realize that it was a “Regulars” table, with a sign and everything, so tourists weren’t supposed to sit there. But they said we could, so we got a prime seat right in front of the band. The regulars at the table were all dressed in classic Bavarian outfits, and had wooden spoons that they played along with the band, and occasionally on the each other’s asses (see photo!) We got a big pork knuckle with potatoes, and a big stein of beer. Yep, pretty much a Bavaria overload.

After that we headed off to the Englischer Garden. It’s a pretty huge garden, sort of a Central Park style setup. The major difference is that the surfing is much better than Central Park.

It’s not the best surfing in the world, but then Munich is not very close to the ocean so I guess you take what you can get. It is quite popular. There doesn't seem to be any official organization, but the unspoken rules are quite effective. There's a line of people on the shore waiting to use the wave. Each person uses it for a short time and then washes downstream so the next can take a turn.

So that was about it for the day. But a few other random photos…

Home Alone, Munich edition


Wendy’s maiden name translates as “Strength of the Wild Boar”, so we had to get a photo with this awesome boar sculpture.

So… Bacchus spitting endlessly on some poor kid? Sure, why not, sounds like a great fountain!

Big bike!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Europe 2015 Trip

So yeah, we went to Europe! Um, about, 5 16 months ago. I'm lazy, deal with it. Anyway had been 7 years since our trip to Peru, which was out last time out of the country, so it was time. I’ll just note ahead of time that part of why I’m writing this is to remind myself of the whole experience, so it might be overly detailed and a bit boring. Too damn bad, it’s my blog. Feel free to just look at the pictures, I won't be insulted.

Our first stop was scenic… Iceland!

Well, actually just the airport. Honestly it was not my favorite airport ever. That might have been related to the dense overcast, driving wind, rain, 40 degree temperatures, and firsthand experience we got with that weather while slowly stepping down a staircase on the tarmac. Also, the bathrooms are far from the gates. Really far. I suspect that they actually ran a tunnel to Heathrow so they could share bathrooms, but they keep it a secret because they want to keep selling flights. Ah well, I needed to stretch my legs anyway.

Soon enough we were crammed back into cattle class for a few more hours, and then arrived in Munich. I had heard that the best way to avoid jet lag is to not sleep on the flight so that you can adjust quickly when you get there. It seemed sensible, so when we finally landed in Munich I had been awake for about 24 hours straight. It was mid-day, but I really just wanted to find the hotel, drop my backpack, change clothes, and take a nap. I whipped out my copy of the trip plan, which conveniently organizes our whole trip for distracted and exhausted travelers, and looked up our hotel.

Whereupon Wendy says, “Oh no, that’s not the hotel. I changed it.”
I was nonplussed. ”You changed it but didn’t put it in the trip plan?”
She said, ”I thought I updated the plan, but I guess not.”
“Well, that kind of misses the point of the trip plan, but OK. What’s the new hotel?”
”I don’t know.”
”You don’t know... OK, where is it?”
”I don’t know.”
”Would you recognize the name?”
”So we have a hotel somewhere in Munich, but the only thing we know about it is that it’s not the one we have written down?”
”Great. That’s just great.”

Cue the giant facepalm. Regrettably there is no photo of that. I will say it took some effort to remain calm at that point. For lack of better ideas we hopped a train to Marienplatz, the tourist center of town, and spent the ride trying to figure out where we were going to stay. Thankfully there was an Apple store right at the Marienplatz train station, and we were able to use their free wireless to get into Wendy’s email account. After much dinking around she was able to ascertain that our hotel was… the one written down in the trip plan. So all of that running around and stress was pointless. Cue the second giant facepalm.

At this point we were both hungry, and I was feeling in need of a drink to drown the shame of our inauspicious start. So we plonked ourselves down at the touristy restaurant right in the middle of the plaza. This is when Wendy’s love affair with Bavarian cuisine began – it’s all meat and potatoes! I tried to out-Bavarian her by ordering beer and sausages. I think we both won.

The Marienplatz has the New Town Hall bordering it. You can tell it’s the new town hall because it’s only 107 years old. Really it’s just a baby, it might get up and wander off at any time. The actual German name for it Neues Rathaus. It amuses me to no end that they keep the politicians in a “Rat Haus.” I also has a mechanical glockenspiel in the tower - basically the 19th century version of a Disney ride. Thankfully they did not play It's a Small World on repeat.

That night we walked around near the river, and happened into a street festival with a number of bands and vendors. Surprisingly, all of the music was sung in English. In between songs the bands would talk in German, but then always sing in English.

We were lucky enough to wander up to one of the churches just as a Gothic choir was about to start singing. So we sat and admired the church, thinking that now for sure we’d get some classic German music. Nope, they sang in English too. You’d think it was an English language music festival! Anyway, after a bit of wandering about we headed back to home base for some real sleep.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Utah Socks

One of the unavoidable downsides of canyoneering in Utah is the sand. There’s just no avoiding it. All my canyon clothes have a slight red tinge to them. Typically it’s not too bad, except that of course you end up with dunes of the stuff in your shoes, and thus lots of sand ground into your socks. I generally rinse mine out in the tub before subjecting the washing machine to that abuse. Here’s the results of rinsing a single pair of socks in the bathtub.

That’s pretty ridiculous, right? You’d think they were made of sand, which I guess they kind of were before the rinse.

Despite that, there’s still more sand in those socks. You never really get it all out. So I have a couple pairs of sacrificial Utah Socks that take the abuse so that other socks may remain clean-ish.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mesa Creek Trail

Partway up the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway is the Mesa Creek Trail (that’s #505, if you’re wondering). We decided to take a quick side hike up the trail to see what we could see. At first we saw some mud. Then we saw a guy setting up for a wedding.

Then we saw a lot of mud, and some dogs. So overall, a pretty good side trip!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Cloudy Fall Day

So, back to September. After wandering around Wining in Palisade, we headed up to the mountains to see some leaves. Of course it was cloudy, snowing, and generally unpleasant. But it actually turned out to be a good day for photos.

And hey, some bonus photos of Wendy & I standing around!

Creeping Through the Canyon

I meant to post this after my earlier set of canyon photos, but forgot. Whoops

! Anyway, this is my favorite shot from that trip. I believe this was in Arscenic. It’s not the darkest or twistiest part of that canyon, either!

Bonus photo, this one from Slideanide.

Canyoneering at Poison Springs

Last weekend I gathered the Canyon Crew and headed off to Utah again. This time to an area charmingly named Poison Springs. Despite the name it’s actually a nice area – as evidenced by the bizarre crowding. Usually we’ll see at most one other group all weekend, but this time there were about 10 cars there, and a bachelor party of 11 guys!

No matter, we still managed to do three canyons in two days.

The canyons in the area are named in keeping with the “poison springs” theme.

On Saturday we descended Arscenic, followed by Slideanide. Then on Sunday we jaunted down the road to the Irish canyons and descended Shillelagh.



More photos on Smugmug, but I'll throw a few of myself in here because… ego, I guess.

Looking down past my own leg there. This was standing on a ledge about halfway down a rappel.

I believe this is the second drop in Shillelagh, but I could be wrong.

Slideanide, maybe?

Standing in Arscenic Arch

Screwing around while other people get down an unusually long elevator downclimb.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wine Lesson

After we got our impromptu roadside grape lesson we continued on to do some wine tasting. It was remarkably empty – we were the only people at any of tasting rooms. I suspect that was because it was 10 AM on a Friday, but I can’t be sure. Anyway, we had a nice time, tasted some wine, bought some wine, and rolled up to our third stop at Mesa Park Vineyards.

We walked in, and once again were the only customers there. There was one older gentleman cleaning up a bit, but he dropped that and came over to greet us immediately. He only introduced himself to me, which was kind of weird. I thought maybe he was a raging sexist – turns out he had reasons which will become clear later. Anyway, we chit chatted a bit about cleaning up the tasting room from a party, the ubiquitous fruit flies, and the festival the prior weekend.

Usually this is when the tasting room hosts start pouring some wine. Instead he started giving us even more in-depth information about his wine – which kinds of grapes were planted where, when they planned to harvest and why. Then he opened up the door to the back and started pulling down binders and showing us the analysis of the grapes Brix sweetness, the acidity, how they’d been changing over the season and compared to the prior year.

It was quite an education, and I was quite interested, but I couldn’t believe he was taking all this time. I kept expecting him to go pour some wine so he could go about his day. But no! He took us around back of the building and up the outside stairs so he could point out the different plots on the vineyard! Then he started explaining how the cold air from uphill was expected in the next couple of days, which would probably take a lot of water out of the grapes. Then he talked about watering strategies to avoid splitting the grapes, and the tradeoffs in chilling the grapes during harvest.

Finally, Wendy suggested we go taste some wine. So we head downstairs, he pours us a bit and we’re back on script. We sip and make appreciative noises, he pours another wine. Then he looks at Wendy and says “So you do think you still want those two tons of grapes?”
Cue confused looks. “Uhhhh…. I think you may have us confused with somebody else?”
“You’re Hillary, from [some other winery], right?”
”No… not really…”

Anyway, it turns out that at the prior weekend’s festival he had struck a deal to sell two tons of grapes to another winery. But that was a week ago, so he didn’t entirely remember what the buyer looked like. We happened to walk in at just the time they were supposed to meet, so he assumed that Wendy was their buyer Hillary, and I was just some guy she brought along. Hence why he didn’t introduce himself to her – they had “already met” the prior weekend. And also why we got a super-detailed rundown on his grapes – you’d want to know about them before buying 4000 lbs, right?

And that’s how we got our second grape education for the morning and only wasted some of his time. Of course we bought a bottle of wine, too. If you’re ever in the area, I suggest you swing by Mesa Park and tell them Hillary sent you.

And with that, here’s a completely unrelated photo of some pretty leaves!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Grape Shot

This year we started our leafing trip by going to Colorado’s wine country, Palisade. You know, to get properly loosened up. It turns out most of the wineries don’t open until 10 AM, which left us with awkward post-breakfast, pre-wine time on our hands. So we stopped to take some photos of some of the vineyards.

The vineyard’s manager spotted us and stopped by to make sure we weren’t causing trouble. Since we we’re such fine, upstanding citizens he gave us an impromptu lesson in grapes, netting, and how to recognize FBI agents who went to West Point (hint,  looks for the giant West Point ring). He also gave us a small bunch of wine grapes. For some reason I was expecting them to taste “wine-y”, but they’re actually just a more awesome version of regular grapes. They’re a bit smaller, much sweeter, and have crunchy little seeds in the middle. Honestly, I don’t know why they sell the other kinds in grocery stores.

Anyway, this is one of the shots I took before the guy showed up. Wendy saw it and said “Grape shot, hon!”, so that’s where the title came from.

Once Upon a Time

With a bit of planning and a bit of getting up early, we caught some nice light. And then a lucky cloud bank, too! Anyway, I think it looks kind of like a story book valley, hence the title.