Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Germany – Day 5 - Frankfurt

I was done with conference activity, so I hopped on a train to go hang out in Frankfurt. I had no plans and nothing I HAD to do, so I just thought I’d check it out at my own pace. I got off the train and quickly found my hotel. Much to my happy surprise, I found out this hotel did NOT have a beer vending machine, but DID have a Pringles machine!!!

I hopped on the Hotel’s wifi and found out the top 12 things to do in Frankfurt. I plotted out a couple of cathedrals to check out. I went over to St. Paul’s Church – very cool and has these creepy little manicured trees in front of it. Cool church.

Then I went over to St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral, constructed around 1356. It’s a really ornate church that lets you go up a super long spiral staircase (324 steps to the observation deck). I climbed and climbed and climbed and eventually got to the top, where a guy got mad at me for not having a cigarette lighter for him. But at least there’s a wonderful view from the top.

Then I went to the Römerberg – the old town square. It’s a pretty cool city square that houses the old and new town halls and is a pretty touristy place to hang out and buy tchotchkes and snacks. 

I didn’t actually go into the Goethe House and Museum, but it was worth heading over there and seeing what the neighborhood was like. Quaint little place.

I love zoos. So sometimes, when I’ve got time to burn, I go to the zoo in whatever city I’m in. The Frankfurt Zoo is kind of unique because it’s in the middle of the city. Which kind of creeps me out when you think about it. There’s your apartment, and then 50 feet away are lions with a fence that I would NOT consider high enough if I lived there.  I saw some cool stuff here at this zoo, though. Some of my most favorites were the Aye Aye, the Lori, the Golden Lion Tamarin, the Pygmy Marmoset, and the Klipspringer (which I keep thinking of as the Rumspringa). I also watched a chimpanzee finger his own ass in various acrobatic positions for far too long, along with a small crowd of horrified people. Hilarious.

But my all-time favorite story from the zoo is when I walked past the Vultures and Condors. Cool creatures, with a bad reputation for being creepy. Well, I happened to walk by their cage at feeding time. How does one feed an Egyptian Condor? You simply take a FIVE GALLON BUCKET FULL OF LIVE FLUFFY YELLOW BABY CHICKENS and dump it out in its cage. Then with one stab each, the condor systematically and efficiently spears/kills each scrambling chick and when that’s done, they begin stripping all the flesh off the tiny bones.  

I was fascinated by this, but the children who walked up at the wrong time and witness this massacre dropped to the ground screaming. Such a hilarious thing to witness. All of it.

After the zoo, I walked over to the Eschenheimer Tower, but I didn’t eat in the fancy restaurant at the bottom of it.

Since it was close (and on the list) I walked through the Hauptwache and had a nice Dönner Kebob and a beer out on the pedestrian part of the street and watched people go buy. The Hauptwache is one of the most fun shopping and food areas of the city and I was right in the heart of it.

On the way back to my hotel, I popped by the Old Opera House for a nice photo. It’s a really pretty area.

As it turned out, I ended up doing 8 of the 12 things on the “must see” list. Hahaha. I’m very efficient when I don’t have any plans, as it turns out. Tomorrow, I saw it was going to rain, so it seemed like it was going to be the perfect time to hit the Museum district to crank out some more “must see” things in Frankfurt.

But, I still had to eat dinner! I have no idea how, but amazingly, this entire trip, I didn’t have a single bite of schnitzel. I popped online and found out where I needed to eat schnitzel in Frankfurt. I found a place that known for its schnitzel with some magical Grüne Soße (green sauce), and also for its Apfelwein (apple wine/hard cider) in the south part of the city. I headed over to Apfelwein-Wirtschaft Fichtkränzi for some delicious dinner.

They were confused that I would be eating in this giant beer hall alone, but they shoved me between a couple of people and the server who spoke very good English made sure I was taken care of. I, of course, ordered some Apfelwein, which was delicious and wonderfully sour, and also found what I was looking for on the menu: Frankfurter Schnitzel mit grüner Sauce & Bratkartoffeln. The green sauce is a mixture of sour cream, boiled eggs, some spices and NO LESS THAN seven kinds of herbs (apparently, they’re pretty serious about the minimum number of green colored herbs you put in this sauce. Well, they nailed it, because this stuff is insanely good. Not just on the schnitzel, but also the potatoes. I was so full when I left. I wanted to also try a regional favorite, Handkäse (hand cheese), but I couldn’t fit it in my belly at that point. I’m only human. I would recommend getting green sauce everywhere you go in Frankfurt, but I would also absolutely recommend Apfelwein-Wirtschaft Fichtkränzi for a great dinner.

I lied, I had room for gelato.

And then I went back to the old opera house to see it all lit up at night.

Time for bed.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Germany – Day 4 – Bad Nauheim

The next day, conference, conference, conference…

I said good-byes and headed back to the hotel for a nap. It was a long day. I slept later than I wanted, and sprung into action to try to get dinner before places closed. The bar I ended up at first had just stopped serving food, but they sent me to a nice pizza place down the street. 

Adria Ristorante was just what I needed. My German is bad enough that the person got confused at what I was asking. But my Italian is slightly better and the woman working was amused that I was able to converse in Italian with her much better than I was in German. Hahaha.

I ordered a Solo Mio pizza (yes a whole one) and a beer. They brought out a small bruschetta appetizer for me which was a really good representation of how good the food was going to be.

The pizza came out a short while later and smelled wonderful. Spinach, salami, and garlic (and cheese, obviously). I had to eat the first few bites with a fork until it cooled off enough to pick up like a normal person. This was a great pizza. I ate the entire thing and impressed the Italian lady working there. She pressured me pretty good to get some grappa, but I declined. I still had to make it home from a part of town I was very unfamiliar with. Although, after eating that entire pizza, I needed to walk as far as possible. It ended up being a few miles in the dark, late at night. Hey, I’m still alive, so it worked out well, right?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Germany – Day 3 – Bad Nauheim

When I walked to the conference the next morning, I realized the creepy walk in the park during the pitch black night was actually an stunningly beautiful 1 mile walk in a park past a pond and golf course and past a stream and up a dirt path in the woods. 

Conference, Conference, Conference….

The evening reception involved drink tickets and unlimited food. I accidentally ended up with an alcohol-free beer, which was a waste of a ticket and of my time (but not to worry, the bar took cash, as well).

The reception may have also involved a segway obstacle course. Which, after a few rounds of alcohol-full beer, sounded like a great idea. Thankfully, there are no evidence pictures of me riding these insane contraptions steered by wizardry.

Finally, a beautiful walk through the creepy park back to the hotel to find that vending machine…

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Germany – Day 2 – Oberferrieden

We woke up and had a “traditional” Bavarian breakfast. I use the quote mainly because I couldn’t tell if Joe and Yanni were making this up as an excuse to pound liters of beer for breakfast. Yanni’s mother got up early to make us a wonderfully delicious home-made breakfast before we headed out on our adventures. A traditional Bavarian breakfast includes playing yodeling and oom-pa-pa Bavarian music loudly on the stereo, eating weisswurst (white sausages), large pretzels with sweet mustard, potatoes, and this amazing cheese spread called “Obatzda”. Obatzda is a Bavarian specialty that combines two-thirds aged Camembert and ones-third butter. Apparently, everyone’s grandmother makes it differently by adding a little of this and that, so you’ll never get the same one twice, but it’s truly delicious and I plan to make this myself. It’s life-changing cheese (but then again, which cheese isn’t?!?!?!?!) Then, as I said, there are liters of beer involved. In the morning. It was going to be a long day.

We hopped in the car and headed over to Burgthann, another small village with a cool castle-like structure. We climbed all the staircases and took lots of photos of the view. Really beautiful country here in the hillls of Bavaria. As Joe and I were walking past a random doorway, these women were getting ready to open some sort of shop inside. They yelled at Joe and somehow talked us into moving this bookcase/desk thing for them. The thing had to have weighed 500 pounds or more. Neither of us were expecting that kind of effort, but they were sweet little ladies and Joe and I are chivalrous strapping young men who were smart enough to fake like it was as light as a feather. Hahahaha
We continued the drive to the Ludwig-Donau-Main-Kanal (Ludwig Canal), which links the Danube basin with the Rhine basin. This doesn’t sound impressive, but when I explain what it is, it will get exponentially more impressive. King Ludwig I (not the “mad” one build this canal between 1836 and 1846 and used horses to pull barges full of goods more than 60km in the hills of Bavaria. Sounding more impressive? It’s gets more impressive when I focus on the word “hills”. The hills were a bit of an engineering challenge since canals generally need a flat area to traverse, since pulling barges up waterfalls isn’t ideal. So King Ludwig moved MASSIVE amounts of earth to basically “fill in the gaps” between hills. Think about how much dirt you’d have to re-locate to fill in a gap between two small mountains, now multiply that by like 100 mountains. NOW, it’s impressive. There are  number of cute tiny locks and dams along the route, but it’s really a neat engineering feat. The canals are basically abandoned, but a few times  a year, during festivals, they break out a team of horses and pull the 70 year old “Elfriede” boat up and down the canal for fun.

That was about all the time I had for fun this morning as I had to catch a train to go to my work conference. I thanked Yanni’s lovely, generous, and hospitable parents for everything. Then we walked the five blocks back to the train station, so I could head back to Frankfurt. Yanni and Joe even accompanied me part of the way, so they could have some fun time after touring me around Bavaria. Seriously, thank you both so much, Yanni and Joe, I can’t wait to see you two again. Possibly next year during conference time!!!!

I made it to my hotel and was amused to find these hilarious pillow sculptures they made on my bed. I was pretty underwhelmed with their work on these. I’ve seen waaaay more impressive towel, pillow, and blanket sculptures at other places. But let’s be honest – I don’t usually stay at places fancy enough for any sore of sculptures to make appearances, so I shouldn’t complain or make fun. Hahaha

I’ll point out two additional weird things about my hotel, however: The buttons on the elevator aren’t in any real order. I understand the words for basement and lobby don’t start with the same letters in German as they do in English, but at least the numbers should be in a consistent order. Bizarre.

I also found out (when I pushed the wrong button on the elevator) that my hotel has beer in the vending machine in the basement. Hard to complain about THAT…

There was a quick happy hour at the conference hotel, so I walked down this creepy dark path for a mile to drink some drinks and network with some really smart people. You don’t care about the conference, I assure you.