Walkscore.com is a fun interactive tool that allows you to view the ‘walkability’ of a neighborhood: the density of shops, restaurants, and other points of interest. Walkability is a big factor for me when choosing a new neighborhood. I love being able to step outside and be somewhere interesting (rather than in the middle of suburbia or urban sprawl). If I can people-watch from my living room window, even better.
Our apartment in Zurich (walkscore of 48 out of 100) was a little too far into suburbia for my tastes, even though most of the basics (grocery stores, public transport, restaurants) were less than a 10-minute walk away, and the city center was about a 20-minute walk away. It also had the benefit of being a 15-minute walk from hiking trails, forest, and a gorgeous view of the city and the lake, features which don’t earn it any points the way that the walkscore is calculated.
The neighborhood of our Munich apartment will be a move in the right direction, with a walkscore of 72. Ideally it would be even higher (and we did view a couple apartments in more happening neighborhoods), but this place was a good compromise when we considered apartment size, proximity to the city center, transportation options, and other factors that are important to us.
Our address in Milan had a glowing walkscore of 88, and it was definitely my favorite neighborhood I’ve ever lived in to date. But I’ll try to keep an open mind and let our new Munich neighborhood (where we will be taking up residence in January) grow on me.
The walkscore technology is far from perfect (making mistakes such as categorizing hotels as grocery stores, for example), but it seems to do a good job on the relative walkability of all the neighborhoods I entered into it.
What’s your neighborhood’s walkscore?
One day our apartment hunt brought us to this building in the hip neighborhood of Schwabing, Munich. As I contemplated having to include the sentence “just look for the Statue of Liberty holding a hoagie” in directions to my apartment, Scott realized that we were at the wrong address for the apartment showing. Whew.
We spent most of last week searching high and low for our next address. After hearing horror stories about how tight the market is right now for renters in Munich, we were pleasantly surprised to find that there were, in fact, a couple apartments (a) available, (b) in our price range, and (c) not located in the far outskirts of the city.
We were also really happy to find a place with a built-in kitchen. The standard German rental apartment traditionally comes with nothing in the kitchen – no cabinets, no oven, no fridge, nothing. It is up to the renter to purchase and install her own kitchen, and to remove it when she leaves (or to sell it to the following renter). Apartments also come without closets or light fixtures, unlike in the US where these things (and kitchens) come standard. Italian apartments are usually as bare as the German ones, whereas Swiss apartments often come with installed kitchens but no lights or closets (does any country besides the US understand the joy, convenience, and saved wall space of built-in closets?).
Our reluctance to invest in multiple major appliances severely limited our apartment choices in Milan, and somewhat limited them in Munich. On the complete other end of the apartment-stuff spectrum, the fact that we own any furniture at all would have caused serious problems had we tried to rent a place in Limerick. According to the relocation agent we spoke with there, almost all apartments are rented out not only with full kitchens and light fixtures, but they are fully furnished down to the beds, tables, wardrobes and chairs. Although I am happy to use a hand-me-down oven, I can’t say that I was thrilled with the prospect of an apartment containing used beds…
As part of our search for the perfect apartment in the perfect neighborhood, we have spent a lot of time this week standing on street corners puzzling over maps. Trying to figure out which direction to explore next, which streets might have interesting stuff on them, which areas near the apartment we have yet to see…
On many occasions, a friendly local has seen us with our map and stopped to ask if they could help us find something.
I think I love Munich already.
Maybe my memory is failing me, but I don’t recall the German train workers ever going on strike when I lived in this country in the 90s. These days the German trains are going the way of the French and Italian, with multiple strikes in the same month. A 48-hour one started this morning, conveniently coinciding with a big old snow storm. It’s being called “the biggest train strike in German history”. Extra cars on the road plus snow and ice… makes me happy to just stay here. Not that we could go anywhere anyway, since rental cars are all booked.
We had to cancel plans to go visit friends in another city, and instead are just hoping to make it back to Zurich in time to catch our flight to the US.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… the cheesy pretzel.
First, Zurich’s version:
A dry, almost stale pretzel which has been sliced opened, buttered, and filled with a couple of cold slices of cheese (which, as you’ll notice, are nowhere near pretzel-shaped, leaving one with many bites that include only cheese or buttered cheese).
And now the Bavarian version:
A giant, fresh pretzel with… you’ll never believe this was possible… cheese MELTED ON TOP OF IT! All I can say is yum yum yum yum yum yum yum. I know what I’ll be living off of for the next year.
You might also notice that this Bavarian giant cheesy pretzel costs less than the regular-sized Swiss cheesy pretzel, proving that this amazing technology isn’t even cost-prohibitive. I’m considering offering a scholarship to some Swiss bakers to come up here and study the top-secret cheesy pretzel methods of the Bavarians. Any takers?
Posted from Munich.
After two years here, I finally made it to the Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate factory in Kilchberg, just outside of Zurich. You can’t actually go inside the factory (which may or may not be run by Oompa Loompas), but you can (1) walk by it and breathe in its insanely chocolaty smells, and (2) visit the factory outlet chocolate shop.
30 minutes later, and all my Christmas shopping was done.
The factory shop has limited opening hours, so check the schedule before you go. To get there, take bus 165 from Bürkliplatz to the Schooren stop, about 10 minutes away. The bus runs as infrequently as every half hour during the day; check out sbb.ch for specific schedule info.
Posted from Thalwil.
Even when one has the luxury of full-service movers (paid for by a kind and generous employer), there’s still plenty to stress about before they arrive and while they are packing. What can’t we live without for 2 months? Is it all over in the “safe” corner? Where are my shoes? Don’t let them pack up the trash! Or the shoes I was planning on putting on! Dammit, where’s my cell phone charger? What the hell is he trying to say?* Did we run the dishwasher? Empty the tea kettle? Was that ceiling lamp here when we moved in? Help, that dust bunny is trying to eat me! Can blackberry jam be poured down the sink? Did he just say they broke the bed frame?
*This one applies particularly when the movers speak a version of Swiss German that you’ve never even heard before.
I’m obviously guilty of blog neglect these days. Most of my energy has been going into (1) getting ready for last Friday’s art opening (which went really well) and (2) getting organized for the move. We’re preparing to say goodbye to the vast majority of our belongings for about two months while we wander the world mooching off of friends and relatives.
International moves don’t necessarily involve two months without stuff, but they often do. Especially for intercontinental moves. Not only can shipping take quite a while, but there can be delays in import paperwork, finding a new home, etc. (I believe “dock worker strike” was the official reason for an additional 2-week delay when we moved from the US to Italy, for example.) But clearly the short overland distance between Zurich and Munich should mean smooth sailing for us this time, right? Well, maybe, except we elected to do things the hard way. Goodbye, stuff!
We enjoyed some delicious fondue for our last dinner at home. It looks lovely with the flowers I received at my art opening, doesn’t it?
OK, back to deciding what things I can’t live without until 2008…