September 30, 2010
A day on the train yesterday and a quick night in Zurich is the final chapter of this years european escapade. I had always heard how expensive it was here, and even finding a cheap hotel for one night turned out to be probably three times more than any night has cost on the rest of the trip, but I figured it was just hotels or something. I realized when passing the Burger King in the train station and seeing the big sign advertising the Whopper for 14.50 Francs (when 1 Franc = 1 US Dollar) that it was the case with everything. Maybe its a good thing I only have the quick night here just because it was my only flight option (I could only manage a flight into Amsterdam and out of Zurich in order to use SkyMiles for the flights.) So the night was mostly wandering Old Town trying to find dinner a little too late and being turned away just as each restaurant's kitchen closed. I have to give a shout out to the Restaurant Swiss Chuchi. I had stopped there as their kitchen was closing, the guy pointed me toward some places that were open but I asked if he knew of anyone open that served Swiss food. He didn't so I wandered on. Ten minutes later he saw me still wandering and called out "Hey you want some Swiss food?" and waved me in. That made my night. To cap it off, I found a little schlager bar a few blocks away that was even playing schlager I had never heard in Germany. But like all things, the trip has to come to an end, so time to pack up the laptop and head to the airport... As much as I miss my bed and the waves, I'm not ready to go back.
Posted by Jon Berry at 1:13 AM
September 28, 2010
Well that's one way to send off my Oktoberfest time with a bang. Yesterday at Fischer-Vroni was absolutely nuts. Because of it growing big like the Bräurosl Sunday, there was a lot of discussion about how early to get there. We ended up going in the midday and were fine getting in - doors looked like they were still open even a couple hours later. The Fischer-Vroni tent is about a half or a third the size of the Bräurosl tent, and is known for its grilled fish - we didn't partake in that, and opted for the traditional pre-drinking weißwurst instead (though we saw plenty going for the fish!) The party was slow getting started, but by early evening was in full swing; and things got more festive as usual as the music moved from more traditional songs to schlager. Our group sort of accidentally fell apart somehow, and I also managed to get caught up in a bunch of drama, so it was a bit of a strange and wild night. Maybe a bit rocky, but sometimes the best boat trips are. No regrets for staying longer this year and getting to experience it.
Posted by Jon Berry at 6:05 AM
September 26, 2010
I've always wanted to go to a football (soccer) game in Europe, but for whatever reason, just never have; so I was determined to make sure I did on this trip. As usual, if anything, my only regret is not doing it sooner. Soon after getting to Munich, I discovered that FC Bayern wasn't their only team; and most people turned up their nose when I mentioned them (I heard the word "spoiled" a few times.) It seems FC Bayern is the rich team for people who live outside of Munich, while TSV 1860 is the local scrappy working-man underdog team. Maybe similar to a Yankees/Mets, except with the animosity toward each other of the Yankees/RedSox. I really had hopes of finding someone to go to one of two FC Bayern or one 1860 games while here, but by yesterday I still couldn't get anyone to, so that days FC Bayern game was my last chance. I knew the game was sold out but hoped to just scalp a ticket, though not sure how easy that would be with my feeble German. The U-Bahn ride there was nuts. I expected crowds, but this was sardines - and for a long time. But I got there and tried to survey the scene of how tickets were being sold. There didn't seem to be many; I gave up with the few at the pedestrian bridge and walked toward the stadium and ran across an older man holding one ticket. I stopped him and he named a price - I could see it was in an area I wanted to be in so I just went for it. To anyone used to European football/soccer, this will sound silly - but the biggest thing I noticed was the lack of any announcer during the game. And no music interludes during play stoppages and no commercials either. The crowd took care of the energy, with the center section of the Südkurve singing non-stop the entire game. In fact, the lack of advertising really surprised me - the walls along the field were covered in ads, and there were some amazing looking ads on the field in forced perspective that when viewed by a camera must appear to be the product logos in normal perspective, but to the eye in person it was just a strange trapezoid of color. Otherwise, all the advertising in the arena was just the Allianz logo. Even the jumbotrons were fairly small with no sponsor ads around them, and only saw one sponsored message on them. Another interesting thing I havent seen (yet) in the US is that you buy a credit card in order to purchase food and drink - I'm sure the stadium ends up winning on this one, because I didn't see any way to get refunded credit left on your card after the game. On the other hand, transactions were fast and easy because no cash ever traded hands at the food counters. The big difference I appreciated most was that after the game, there was no push by ushers to get you to leave. Food and beer stands were still open and selling (and selling plenty). People lingered in their seats or in common areas and there was no mad crush to exit the stadium. The crowd was still huge at the U-Bahn even by the time I got to the train - go figure that letting the crowd take care of itself ends up being a more orderly and controlled exit. Overall, it was a great experience and am only sorry I took so long to make it happen, but now I have some background for next time, which I hope there will be.
Posted by Jon Berry at 6:58 AM
September 25, 2010
Knowing that Friday was forecast to be the last day of good weather for a while in Munich, my friend Richard and I went to the Wies'n grounds to check out the historical Oktoberfest section they opened this year in commemoration of the 200th anniversary. It included some horse races, a big feature of the original Oktoberfest wedding celebration as well as through most of the years of the fest until recent years. It also had traditional livestock exhibits and several rides (a lot of them self-powered) and attractions from different eras, as well as quite a few tractors and steam engines that reminded me of the fair my Dad used to take me to in Berryville Virginia when growing up. The change in weather came a little sooner than expected, and we ended up hiding from the rain in one of the tents with a beer for a good bit of the time, until it finally let up enough to brave the rain. It didn't seem to dampen the spirits of most who continued on (including the rollercoasters and rides) as if there was no rain at all.
Posted by Jon Berry at 1:19 PM
September 24, 2010
I spent yesterday just wandering some of Munich, which always surprises me in how compact it is. When on trams or subways you feel like its a lot more spread out; but when wandering, you find you've traveled half the city in a short walk. Its been summer-like all this week (changing tomorrow), so windows are open and people are out in the parks or in any outdoor space or cafe they can find. I started near the Art Museum and wandered through Konigsplatz and through other parks and promenades, at one point coming upon a makeshift Michael Jackson memorial. Then on through town eventually to the point in Sendlinger Tor where I met my friends Kai, Heinrich and HP for schnitzeltag! 'cheap schnitzel night' in a local biergarten. (Who knew there were so many varieties of schnitzel?!) I have a feeling in about 48 hours that I will really be missing these warn days and nights...
Posted by Jon Berry at 6:24 AM
September 23, 2010
some shots from my night last night in Munich - a very locals kinda night with friends at their traditional "stammtisch" (a tradition of meeting at the same table every week); and then to a birthday party for a bartender I only know a little, so I was hesitant to go to at first, but glad I did. It was quite the production, though I sensed that it was also very typical and full of local customs and traditions. I was also struck by something else I've noticed at other parties here - the food spread was a significant feast. I love that unlike in the US, where you try to not be seen eating at parties and may discreetly nibble here or there, people here are not shy about indulging in a big plate. Its kind of refreshing to see something like that be no big deal. I capped my night with a stop at my favorite schlager bar which is always interesting on a weeknight during Oktoberfest - just a few locals in their lederhosen and dirndl who have likely come from the Wies'n grounds but are not yet ready to go home. I can't blame them.
Posted by Jon Berry at 5:06 AM
September 22, 2010
Taking a detour from Munich to Vegas; this is some recent work from several weeks ago, but I'm finally getting around to posting it after having time to edit the reel together on the train from Paris to Munich. The last day or so in Munich has been what I'm calling a "maintenance day" anyway, having barely left the apartment aside from a trip to the grocery store and staying in to do work, laundry, etc., so there isn't much to post trip-wise anyway. Anyway, this was a project for the folks at E! Entertainment Television: a graphics package for "Holly's Guide to Vegas," a web-based interstitial series to compliment the reality series "Holly's World." The package called for a definite "bling factor" to match the host and location, but because an episode could be on shopping or amusement parks and not just nightclubs or casinos, it had to be generic enough to work with those. You can check out the video reel here:
Posted by Jon Berry at 7:29 AM
September 21, 2010
Since we skipped our traditional after-Bräurosl ride on Sunday, I went back to the Wies'n grounds after dinner on Monday with my friends Richard, Markus, and Manfred for a night of wandering the grounds and riding rides. As Monday had been mostly a 'recovery' day, I don't think any of us had much interest in wandering into any tents or even entertaining the thought of a beer other than with dinner. We started with a ride that has been part of Oktoberfest since 1924 and hasn't changed: an odd cross between a carousel and a typical centrifugal force ride, complete with a live band. Its relatively tame, but surprisingly disconcerting. From there we hit the 5-looped OlympiaBahn, the giant ferris wheel, and eventually made our way to the one ride that has been my nemesis for years: the Star Flyer (in the next to last pic). Its nothing more than the normal swings ride you have at every amusement park everywhere - except, oh, a few thousand feet higher. The guys assured me it was no big deal, and in fact the ride itself was pleasant. It was just the thought every ten seconds or so that the tiny chain the size of a dogleash holding me thousands of feet up could snap any minute and send me off into the nearby cathedral that kept jogging a true sense of fear the whole time. I took a little comfort in their agreement afterward that it was scarier for them than they remembered. (By the way, versions of this ride are coming to US theme parks next year, though I have a hunch they'll have some overdone safety harnesses that will be a little more comforting.) After getting our legs back, we stopped at a new ride this year - the Rocket. Similar to the Star Flyer, but with long cars that seat six... oh, and it spins you sideways to be upside down every now and then. We stared at it a while and finally seemed in agreement that we'd ride it... another day.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:43 AM