A Travellerspoint blog

Snow, glüwein and xmas cheer, Bavarian style.

'ALMOST' A WHITE CHRISTMAS

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ho ho ho

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Here are some photos from my Christmas. It wasnt quite the white xmas I had in mind. But I made the most of it.
I spent one night in Marienplatz.

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I hung out with friends at one of the many little standing tables in the square. The air was cold, my nose and ears were being nibbled by old man frost himself, but the rest of me was warm. My hands being heated from the mug of warm glüwein whose steam rose into my face and melted my breath before it froze on my beard and mostache.

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The square was busy from the markets, many makeshift wooden stalls selling christmas themed handicrafts and warm food and drinks.

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The sound of carols filled the air and I was taken by the clarity of the sound reverberating off the buildings. As I looked up to the buildings for the speakers I noticed on the balcony was a choir giving a live performance! If it started to snow at this moment it would have been perfect.
But alas, it didnt.

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The markets sell traditional food and drink including the classic glühwein, a sort of mulled wine served warm and often in different flavours. The Marienplatz ones are the most famous in München and very touristy. So one night I took my bike and did a tour of all the markets I could reach.

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On Wittelsbacherplatz the was the Mittelaltermarkt. Once you passed through the giant bundled stick fence, everything on the inside was designed to look as close as possible to a market from the Middleages. You could buy food and drink served in ceramic crockery,also armor, weapons, clothes, games etc. all from this period.

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The Chinese Tower Markets in the English gardens had a live band and horse and cart rides and lots of cool handicrafts like pupets and marionettes.

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The Schwabingermarkts were the best as far as art and craft were concerned as this is the bohemian suburb of München and where I happen to live. The quality of the art was amazing, it was true 'fine art' as compared to the craft at most of the other places. I gained more than a few interesting ideas from roaming around here.

I also visited the famous markets at Nuremberg which were way too overcrowded and the non touristy but beautiful markets in Bad Tölz.

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I travelled from Bad Tölz to a small villiage called Benediktbauern to see the snow and be shown around my friends hometown. If the snow wasnt going to come to see me in München then I would go and visit it. I also had the chance to experience a traditional, German family xmas.

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Everything was covered in white but there was no snowfall while I was there.

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The snow on the ground, though it looks magical, is around two weeks old and as such more like ice, slippery, wet and sharp. I wasnt even able to make snowballs out of it. Boo hoo. But I did some sledding,

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and watched the sun set over a snowy landscape...

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Merry Xmas to all, and to all a good night.

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Posted by Travesty 07:21 Archived in Germany Tagged events Comments (0)

Faschingsdienstag

THE CARNIVALE HITs TOWN!

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The locals it Fasching but most would know it as Carnivale!

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The most famous Carnival events are take place Vennice and New Orleans, the largest is in Rio de Janeiro and in Deutschland the best (and one of the biggest in Europe) is in Cologne. But I had to work so I was in München and I think that wikipedia put it best when they said,

"In the East and South of Germany and Austria carnival is called Fasching and especially Munich developed a special kind of celebration."

and special it was.

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Initially, I was annoyed at having to work on this day and it was hard to walk the city streets and talk about serious stuff like Hitler and the Nazis when people were walking past in fancy dress and throwing confetti at me and my group...

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but we all had fun people watching and at the end of the tour I hooked up with my Fasching Posse.

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As we were all on a budget and heard about the long waits for expensive beer at the festival we retreated to my humble abode to work our way through a carton of Augustiner Helles from the supermarket.

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I did my tour in my Fasching costume, much to the amusement of my group, and it was at my place that we made some improvised costumes. And the very least we were facepainted.

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And then, out into the fray!

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The main event takes place in the Victualienmarkt but the whole city centre became one massive street party!

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As we meandered our way in we would see more and more people dressed up.

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This one was the funniest costume Ive ever seen in my life!!!

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Although I had a backpack full of beer we called in to buy a few more, predicting that we were going to be in for the long haul.

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Marienplatz was packed! There were food stands and bars set up along the sides of the pedestrianized streets and a stage set up in every square.

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We started to make our way through the crowd in the general direction of Victualienmarkt, every now and then in a clearing we would stop and set up camp.

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I could drop the backpack and distribute a fresh round of beers and we would hang out and people watch and take photos.

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I bought a Krapfen, which is like a filled donut and is a traditional sweet at the Carnivale. Flavours like tiramisu, coffee, black forest cake, custard, etc, etc.

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Victualienmarkt was so packed the polizei had set up a barricade and were not letting anyone in, so we thought we'd be sneaky and go around the block to the other side...

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but it was just as packed so we headed back to Marienplatz to hook up with more people.

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About this time the beer had worked through me enough that if I didnt find the gents I would explode all over the street.

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I was so desperate that I went into Burger King to use their toilets. Alot of people had the same idea and they had a guard inside managing people in and out of the lou's.

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All I can say is I'm glad I'm a guy because the line moved quickly.

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We enlarged our posse and as it was starting to get dark and cold we headed into the Hofbräuhaus...

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where the warm hall, jovial melodies of the Oompah band, friendly, drunken people, and at last a seat wecomed us.

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Matt and I went on an adventure through the HBH to the upper rooms where other parties were going on in rooms that as far back as 1920 were used by Hitler for public speaches.

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Then came the stagger home, followed by more beers, then sleep....zzzzzz

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Posted by Travesty 07:15 Archived in Germany Tagged events Comments (0)

They say all roads lead there....

A SIDE-STEP TO ROME

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Ubiquitous in Roma is the symbol S.P.Q.R. which stands for "the Senate and the People of Rome".

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I joined forces with Tianni and Marie as we had a week to roam around Rome. (pun bad, but intended). We managed to see everything we wanted in this time. That includes all the main, 'must see' tourist attractions and a bit of 'off the well beaten path' discoveries.

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So, my impressions of Roma?

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Well, many PEOPLE dont smile and dont come across as being too friendly and some were just outright rude! But those that were friendly are what I expected from 'traditional Italian hospitality'. They were wonderfully accomodating, flattering (without being sleezy) jovial and treated us a honered guests with smiles and warm welcomes, the best of which would sing, dance and make jokes as though we were all long time friends. Unfortunately these types were a minority.

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There were many people at the big tourist attractions SELLING junk like flowers, brollies, awefully tacky and badly made souvineers and other such stuff that we found very annoying, especially their persistance (some wouldnt take NO for an answer no matter how many times you said it or how many different languages). But I figure their just trying to make a living like everyone else. Why do they all seem to be Middle Eastern?

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THE TRAFFIC is just plain scarey. All road rules seem to be at peoples decretion and even if you cross the road at a pedestrian crossing with a little green man, you still take your life into your own hands. And from what I heard the cabbies will take any chance to rip off foreigners.

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THE TRAINS are efficient and regular, though very dirty, always covered in graffiti inside and out and are usually pretty packed (prime hunting ground for pickpockets). This is because there are only two underground train lines for the whole city of 4 million! They are digging a tunnel for a third train line but so far it has taken 11 years, because, wherever they dig they stumble across ancient Roman ruins and have to stop and send in archeologists etc. to inspect and clear the sight before they can continue to dig.

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You see, Rome as we know it today is built on the ruins of the past. In the past the river Tiber would flood on a regular basis and carry with it sand and silt, which slowly buried the city of Rome after its downfall when it fell to ruins. As a result, to this day discoveries are made on a regular basis and many more secrets remain buried. Remember, Rome wasnt built in a day!

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THE FOOD! Oh, dear. This is perhaps my greatest dissapointment. The pizzas, are folded in a cool, take-away, sandwich style but are very unimaginative when it comes to toppings and most would only have two or three toppings max and never go to the edge. They were usually served just warm enough to be cold before you finish. Pasta was mediocre and overpriced. Coffee was small, expensive and never served hot. The best coffee I had was in a coffee shop that overlooked the Pantheon, it was huge, hot, tasted great, came in a handleless mug like a soup bowl and a price tag of €7.00.

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As far as BEER goes, I have no complaints. The most common local brew (also the oldest and most popular) is Peroni a really refreshing larger that is served colder than German beer. It is tasty and cheap, most places sold tallies for about €2.50.

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There was a severe lack of MUSIC, I dont know what I expected, maybe Im used to all the street performers and buskers in Munich. The only people we came across were guys dressed up as Roman soldiers that charged €5 to have your photo taken with them and others that dressed as Roman statues or Egyptian Pharoes and didnt move until you gave them money.

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We took the advantage of tours there and I think it was well worth the cost as we got more out of the sights than we ever would have had we gone on our own. I would like to highly recommend 'Romaround Tours', we did a tour of the Colluseum and Palatine Hill with them one day,

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then the Vatican Museum and Saint Peters Basilica the next day

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then again with them to the Catacombs,

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Circus Maximus, the 'Mouth of Truth' and on to Michelangelos 'Moses' the following day. The amount of history, the age of everything and the sheer magnitude and number of masterpeices that were created here is staggering!

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There were literally ruins just lying around! Archeological wonders that were not considered good enough to salvage or re-use.

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The cathedrals were representations of the wealth of the church and the magnificence of all that is Holy. The quintessential zenith of art and architecture! I felt ever so humble within those lofty, hallowed walls.

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To stand infront of original works by the Masters of the Renaissance blew my mind, I barely resisted the urge to reach out and touch the canvas or stone and indulged instead in the less harmfull act of leaning in to give it a good sniff (I often get in trouble in galleries etc. for doing this but I love to smell things and this is obviously something that a picture of these works cannot provide. Yet?).

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Of course, as with all places I have travelled it is great fun (and free) to just sit around and people watch for a while. It gives one a chance to rest your feet and mind, relax and absorb everything.

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The Famous 'Trevi Fountain' where they sung 'three coins in a fountain' in 'Roman Holiday'.

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Inside the Pantheon, an architectual wonder that has never been repeated, lies the actual resting place of the great Raphael (no, not the Ninja Turtle)!

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Ancient maps of the, then known world, with of course Rome in the center all all roads leading there.

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Everywhere you look, amazing statues,

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ancient ruins,

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beautifully ornamented facades and when you stop to take a break from mankinds amazing acheivements then every now and then nature steps in to show you one of hers.

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So long, from ROMA!

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Posted by Travesty 08:10 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

The violent birth of 2008.

WHY FIREWORKS ARE ILLEGAL IN AUSTRALIA

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My new years eve consisted of a pub crawl with music, lots of alcohol, shisha's and insane fireworks shared with 65 other party people and not only was it all free but I got paid for it!

Thats right, I was working as a guide on a NYE PubCrawl. It was......a borderline nightmare, actually. But saved from becoming so by the spectacle of the completely disorganized mayem that marked the birth of 2008.

After handing out a complimentary bottle of sekt (sparkling wine) to everyone we followed in the direction of the fireworks, that we could already hear, prematurely exploding. Out on Leipoldstraße in both directions as far as I could see were people waiting for the countdown to midnight.

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Actually, alot of them were already setting off their bought fireworks, either from impatience, excitement or simply a fast watch.
I dont think anybody really knew when the year officially changed over. Without the aid of a large clock or official city fireworks everyone just set off their own when their timepiece said so. The result random countdowns heard up and down the street and the accompanying firework display was something that I can only assume and hope that is the closest to actually being a war zone that I will ever be!

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These were not the precision timed pyrotechnicks that we see at a safe distance and set up and planned by experts as in Australia. Or the innocence and short lived, childlike fun of a sparkler. This was chaos and maddness!

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Rockets were shooting up from the ground, mounted in bins, bottles and any device that could be found, stable or not. They shot in random directions and exploded at random times and though none came closer than 3 meters to me I still was compelled to duck. That alone made the air ablaze with sparks, as for the ground...

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Chinese style crackers were going off at peoples feet and under cars and in bins. Every now and then a group of people would scatter leaving a large clearing around a small, colourfully painted, cardboard box with an assortment of holes in the top and a lit fuse. From this device a flurry of fireworks would shoot out for the next couple of minutes or so.

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The street was not even blocked to traffic as cars slowly made their way through the smoke and sparks, windows wound up hiding the either excited or terrified occupants inside.

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On and on and on, the fireworks went and just when I thought they were dying down, another volley would be set off. I was waiting to hear the scream of someone who copped a firework in the face or someone running down the street on fire to which I fleetingly wondered how to say "drop and roll!" in German. It never happened though, damb! I mean thankfully.

Posted by Travesty 08:54 Archived in Germany Tagged events Comments (0)

All Hallows Eve

BEWARE, THE PUMPKIN KING!

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All Hallows Eve or Halloween as most know it is still slow to catch on here in Germany and is mostly commercial, shops sell costumes and some shop fronts are dressed in 'spooky' themed stuff and I did see some jack-o-lanterns, but, unfortunately, no 'trick or treating'. However, I did get into the spirit (pun intended), at a friends Halloween party.

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I noticed my local supermarket was selling 'Halloween' pumpkins for about €2.50 and they were huge! Later, whilst trying to figure out what costume I could make from my severly limited wardrobe, it struck me. I would carve my first pumpkin and go as 'The Pumkin King'!

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I bought the best 'head shaped' pumpkin I could find and lugged the huge and heavy thing home. Anticipating a large mess, I utilised my bath for the carving. Now, where do I start? Never having done this before I just had to make it up as I went.

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I cut a hole in the top and scooped out the guts. I realise now why these are sold as 'Halloween Pumpkins' because they are mostly already hollow, just with a mess of seeds in the middle and certainly no good for eating.

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I cut a large hole in the bottom with which to insert my head, this also made it easier to scoop out the inside.

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Working out which was the best side for the face I sat it on my head to test it. As I couldn't see anything with it on, I had to take photos. It occured to me now that it was still very heavy and being too small to rest on my shoulders, my neck would be taking the weight. So I scooped out more of the inside to make the walls thinner.

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Then, satasfied with with the weight and how it sat on my head I began to plan the face. This was the hardest part. Trying to line up the eye sockets so that I could see out of them.

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It took a couple of attemps and I ended up with some randomly placed holes that were misplaced eyes. I ended up with well placed eyes that allowed me sterio vision with a little peripheral vision and a wicked grin.

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Now, to complete the costume, a pinstripe suit with waistcoat and a green garbage bag cut into a kermit style neck collar, this was to stop any residule pumpkin getting on my spiffy suit. I painted my black, leather gloves with skeletal hands in gouache.

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And a bit of spooky makeup so that when I removed the head I still had some kind of costume. I wasn't gonna wear that thing ALL night and drink my beer through straws! I had to use gouache for the makeup which worked surprisingly well.

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With my outfit completed and ready to head to the party aftr a couple of priming beers I decided to wear the pumpkin all the way there! This became more and more interesting, as I had never been to this guys place and ended up getting a little lost in the subway.

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But many people in their mundane routine with glazed over, eyes on the transit system got a giggle out of the Pumpkin King wandering around. I even had a few photos of me taken, though I used to that from my mustachio anyway. I enjoyed the anonymity and didn't dare take it off until I got to the party. Though I got into the habbit of lifting my hat/lid and politely bowing to the ladies I passed or anyone that tried to keep a straight face, which always made them crack.

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The party rocked, by the way.

Posted by Travesty 13:40 Archived in Germany Tagged preparation Comments (0)

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