September 30, 2008

home again

Sorry I should have posted sooner - its never good to leave a last post of getting on an airplane or starting a trip somewhere without a followup to say you made it home! But yup, I'm home. As always, its good to be home, and the weather couldn't be more perfect. We even had an earthquake. Kind of ironic considering that we had one right as I was leaving for New York a few weeks ago. What more could I ask for? Maybe a full fridge. There's a business idea for someone... See, I'm rambling. Still readjusting. Life is good.

September 29, 2008


A few slivers of the more traditional side of Amsterdam for a last glimpse from here. But the journey is finally over. Another amazing life experience that I'm glad you came along on. As odd as it sounds, it honestly makes traveling alone seem less lonely to share the trip via the blog. I'll have lots more pics and stories to post over the next few days, so theres plenty more to come - but our plane is boarding, so this makes for the last post from this side of the ocean.

September 28, 2008

the other way

Like in Prague, I decided yesterday to wander away from the central tourist area and see a different side of Amsterdam. I took a friends advice and wandered to and through the Eastern Docklands area of town (where he lives). Its an area that used to be shipyards and railyards, but since the 90's has been turned into a really thriving neighborhood of mostly residential space and a great collection of architecture. The weather was nice and everyone - I mean everyone - was out. I always find it nice how much Europeans find ways to enjoy the outside rather than staying in, as it seems we are inclined to do in the States. Life here always seems to focus toward the street rather than the living room. I met up at one point with Jan-Willem and Ben for a beer on a dockside, and they treated me to a home-cooked Dutch meal. While in Berlin, my friend Allen asked me if my travel inspired me design-wise. I couldn't really answer him, because the historic and beauty of Europe fascinates me, and anything visual surely goes into the brain and you may never know exactly how it is coming back out in your work; but walking through such a modern neighborhood I found that I really did feel inspired in a way that felt more related to my design. All in all, it was a great day - and another proof of the rewards of going the other way.

September 27, 2008

September 26, 2008

braurosl in motion

I'm in Amsterdam now, but before I switch gears completely from Munich, I got a chance on the flight here to put together some short clips I took during Braurosl Sunday at Wies'n (Oktoberfest). These are just a taste, but I figured it might give you a hint of what the festivities are like and the general singing to schlager music atmosphere of the place. Its not possible to capture the full fun of the place, but since the singing thing is such a foreign concept to Americans, I wanted to try. Keep in mind that in most of the clips, everyone is standing on tables and benches (as am I). Here's a link to the clip:
  • YouTube: Braurosl Sunday at Wies'n (Oktoberfest)
  • September 25, 2008

    in stone

    Yesterday I stumbled across an amazing accidental find that my father will probably appreciate more than anyone. Tucked away in the middle of the neighborhood I've spent most of my time in while in Munich is a huge - and unbelievably beautiful - cemetery. Surrounded by high walls and small gates, its easy to miss - I first walked in thinking that it was a park. But the tombstones and gravesites are unlike anything I've ever seen in the US. Nearly all of them are striking - you can't tell in the pics, but they are huge - all at least 6 if not 10 feet high; but also because many are beautifully elaborate. And yes, it was a little spooky. Kind of in a way that its so beautiful a place that it becomes surreal, and also because some of the headstones that feature the head of a person truly seemed to be peering right at (or into) you. The landscaping seems very naturally, not obviously groomed, which just adds to both its beauty and creepiness. Most dates seemed to be in the 17 and 1800s. In telling my friend Richard about it later, he said that that cemetery used to be outside of the gates of the city, and some of the walls are so high in places because of the plague - walling it off in an effort to keep those who died from the plague from spreading it outside the walls. I didn't see any Berry's, but did see one for a Familie Von Bary. Whether thats any connection, I'll have to ask my Dad. If you've ever checked out my Dad's blog (linked at right) Dad is into geneology and DNA tracing (no I don't understand any of it either). But he also visits a lot of cemeteries, sometimes photographing every headstone and posting them online for people to find. This led to an article a few weeks ago in the Woodmen of the World magazine (because of the WoW headstones he posted) that I think really captures my Dad well, both in the words and photos (notice the red crocs). Here's a link to the article. For me, finds like these beat a stroll through a museum any day.
  • Woodmen of the World magazine: Cemetery Man
  • September 24, 2008

    night side

    Most of Monday and Tuesday were work days; I hardly left my hotel room, which is probably okay, especially for Monday since it was cold and rainy and a good day for recovering from Sunday! Still, its hard to spend so much time in my room when traveling because I feel like I'm wasting the time wherever I am, but I have to remind myself that being able to work while traveling is what makes the travel possible in the first place. Last night my friend Richard met me after finishing some work late and we wandered out to the Oktoberfest grounds for a bit. We checked out the Hofbrau tent - very different and nowhere near as fun as the Braurosl Sunday; and we took in a rollercoaster. I also had my first Hax'n Semmel - I dont know what it was - some sort of meat sandwich, but it may have been the best thing I've ever had here. Yum. An interesting point in the night was in the Hofbrau tent when an older German man sort of attached himself to us when he realized we were Americans, trying to tell us how much he loved Americans. Despite his drunken German speech, Richard said it sounded like he was essentially saying that 'both the Russians and Americans got rid of Hitler, but the Americans gave us food'.

    September 22, 2008

    prost! ii

    At Oktoberfest, Sunday in the Braurosl tent is the main event (technically they are tents, but you'd never know it. The "tents" are massive permanent-seeming buildings that go up in the summer and come down in November). It was a very early morning, getting to the tent around 9am to meet my friends Richard and Marcus. While the tram there was empty, once on the grounds the crowds were already streaming in, and entering the tent at 9am, it was already nearly full. A lot of bleary eyes at our table. It was hard to fathom a beer, but a plate of weisswurst helped get things off to a good start. It was still a few hours before the band arrived, and that's when the party really got into full swing. Most of the time is spent standing (and jumping and dancing) on the benches and tables. It was fun to know and recognize so much of the schlager and be able to sing along, but obviously my favorite was when they played "the Lasso song" from the post below (as I call it) throughout the night - much to Richard and Marcus' amusement to see me somewhat knowing the dance as well. (I shot a couple short videos to give you a taste of the songs; I will try to post those later.) As the night ended, the group left the tent and I was forced on a couple crazy german rides to cap the night (forced, I tell you!). Again, an amazing and exhausting day, but fun like I can't begin to explain, and can't ever express how lucky I feel to be able to have made the friends I have here and share experiences like this.

    September 20, 2008


    Munich is in full swing today as Oktoberfest (Weis'n) officially opens, but it sure is different from the unseasonably warm weather we had last year. Yesterdays slight warming was fleeting and today was just plain cold. I haven't been feeling great, so I mostly took it easy and stayed in knowing that I have an early and long day tomorrow. I hope my legs don't get too cold in my lederhosen!

    September 19, 2008

    the joy of schlager

    One of the things I love about Germany, though I notice it more in Munich than in Berlin, is schlager music. Schlager is this corny but festive music style that encompasses old traditional music as well as current schlager which is more techno or dance oriented or influenced. Now I'm only writing my impressions of it, so I could be wrong - I'm not pretending to really know anything about it. But it essentially seems to be 'party music'. It's what fills the beerhalls at Oktoberfest, and what you find in bars like the one I was in last night. And when some songs come on, everyone starts singing with em and suddenly the whole bar is boisterously singing. One song that brought that reaction last night was "Komm hol das Lasso raus" which I think means something like 'get your lasso out'. A check on YouTube brought up a homemade video of German soldiers dancing to it. To me, it seems like a perfect expression of how pervasive and joyful schlager is in German culture. (The cowboys and indians dance that goes with it only makes it even funnier to me). Still its not the songs as much as the group experience, which I can only wish you could experience for yourself. I always like to say that when Americans drink, they fight; but when Germans drink, they sing. There's just no way not to smile.
  • YouTube: Komm hol das Lasso raus