Munich Whisky Festival

Last night we visited the Munich Whisky Festival. That is, we paid a hefty 15-euro entry fee for the privilege of hanging out in a hot, crowded exhibition space with a whole lot of whisky salesmen. There was a line to get in, the coat check was full, and at times the room was so loud you could hardly have a conversation with the person next to you. But somehow it managed to be fun, anyway. Must have had something to do with the whisky.

Naturally Scotland was well-represented, as was Ireland and the US (the flatscreens showing a constantly-running Jack Daniels commercial reminded me that I still haven’t blogged about our trip to that distillery way back in November). Even Germany had a booth or two, and we learned a bit about Bavaria’s oldest whisky distillery, which is just now turning 25. Other forms of alcohol, such as tequila and rum, were also represented, though they didn’t get any of our attention.

While a couple exhibitors were offering free tastes, mostly visitors were charged per glass (prices ranging from 3 to 20+ euros) to sample the goods. Although I’m still a philistine when it comes to whisky, I did find a couple new ones to like. I already knew I was a fan of Talisker; there was also a delicious Rosebank something something and another yummy something from Laphroaig (so, you know, if you’re ever coming over to our house and wondering what you should bring along…).

We are now the proud owners of this bottle, which wasn’t exactly cheap, but we’ll pretend it’s an investment or something. Mmmmm, so smoky. Now I guess we need to get some proper whisky glasses…

The Munich Whisky Festival is on once a year for a weekend. It runs through tomorrow, so you still have a chance to make it if you hurry.

Finally, a stock market that can hold my interest

Home again after a lovely Easter weekend in Berlin. One of our stops this trip was the Brokers Bierbörse, a relatively normal bar with a small twist Рbeer prices vary over the course of the evening based on demand. Prices are displayed on flatscreen TVs around the bar, and you pay the price listed at the time you place your order.

The highlight of the evening, naturally, was the market crash.

I’ve got friends in low places

We just got back from a long weekend in the Netherlands, visiting friends in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. The trip was a fabulous mix between catching up, sightseeing, eating, drinking, and relaxing. I highly recommend convincing some of your friends to move to this country, too.

We started out in Rotterdam, a city I’d never been to before. Much of the city was destroyed in WWII, but it still had some charming older style buildings in parts. The newer buildings were pretty impressive, too. Like Amsterdam, Rotterdam was full of gorgeous architecture, new and old. And the Indonesian dinner we had was delicious.

Next it was Kinderdijk. No, I can’t pronounce that. This area is a World Heritage Site, and gosh am I glad someone thought to preserve it. The thatched-roof windmills are so picturesque it hurts. We enjoyed a lovely stroll and went inside the one windmill that is open to the public.

Then it was on to the adorable town of Delft for lunch, afternoon wandering, and Belgian beer drinking. It was a market day, so the town was lively and animated. Plenty of canals, churches, and narrow houses. I’m starting to recognize some trends in Dutch urban planning.

Amsterdam was the trip’s grand finale. We didn’t do much in the way of tourism here this time, although we did have lunch with a fabulous view from the top-floor restaurant at the new library – something I would definitely recommend for tourists. It’s as least as much fun as the Sex Museum.

More photos from our trip on my Flickr.

In which I achieve Bavarian culinary genius with the aid of my freezer

Before we even moved here I had noticed the vast superiority of Bavarian cheesy pretzels to their Swiss counterparts. But never did I dream that a yet more delicious version of cheesy pretzels existed.

Let me back up a bit and tell you about our freezer situation. Unlike in the US, freezers do not seem to be considered an essential kitchen feature in much of Europe. In Zurich, our freezer was about the size of a shoe box, and could hold a couple ice cube trays and about one package of frozen food. The entire refrigerator was smaller than what you would find in a typical college dorm room in the US.

Here in Munich, the refrigerator that came with the apartment didn’t have a freezer at all. Obviously this wouldn’t do at all, as ice is a staple of my diet. So we bought a freezer. It’s still small compared to what you would find in an American home, but it’s freakin’ huge compared to what we had in Switzerland. So to celebrate its arrival, I went for a long stroll through the freezer aisle at the grocery store, marveling at all the exciting stuff that was now available to me. Frozen berries, frozen veggies… what’s this? Frozen pretzel dough? Into to the cart!

OK, now cheesy pretzels from the bakery are one thing, but cheesy pretzels fresh out of my own oven, with melting cheese oozing all over the place, are a little slice of heaven.

Expat blogger poised to take German TV by storm

This Friday evening, March 14th, Ian in Hamburg will dazzle the German TV audience with his American (well, Canadian posing as American) pizza-baking skills on the Pro7 show Galileo. Groovy, huh?

I read Ian’s account of the taping (parts 1, 2 and 3) with delight, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the finished show compares with his behind-the-scenes stories.

I’m usually not such a fan of the show Galileo, which claims to be a science show while performing such groundbreaking experiments as ‘Who’s really superior, men or women? We put this age-old mystery to the test in our ultimate smackdown to prove once and for all which sex is the best by… timing a man and a woman washing dishes. You won’t believe the stunning results!’ I wish I were making this up. Oh, and at least once a week the show features gratuitous footage of a meat-processing plant.

But all that aside, I’m really looking forward to finding out who wins the ultimate international pizza-baking contest. Then we can finally all stop arguing about it.

Strike 2! Or is it 3? I’ve lost count…

In an effort to give their country more of an Italian feel, German train workers will most likely be striking again starting at midnight tonight (with no planned end scheduled, so this is actually less fun than an Italian strike). The train strike includes the S-Bahn in Munich, but the U-Bahn, trams, and buses should be running normally.

The good news is that you are still likely to be able to get where you are going, just far less frequently. Some useful information:

March 10th, edited to add: Strike averted! S-Bahns were running as usual this morning. But for how long…?

Butt too big?

Then you might want to pick up the latest issue of AssCompact magazine!

Urban is the new Black

When I lived in Germany in the 90s, I was somewhat bemused to learn the term ‘Black Music’. This basically referred to any and all music performed by African-American artists. The term was used on posters, in advertisements, and in clubs. A ‘Black Music’ party or CD could include everything from Janet Jackson to Naughty By Nature, all part of the same genre due to the skin color of the performers. Coming from a nice liberal east-coast college, I was more than a little shocked by the terminology. Would you put Handel and Rammstein in the same musical category?

Today I don’t see or hear the term ‘Black Music’ around Munich much. But the show MTV Urban? It’s all about the Black Music.

Munich: where the beer is strong and the men wear Lederhosen

You didn’t really think the city of Munich was going to make us wait until autumn for a beer festival, did you?

The Starkbierfest, or Strong Beer Festival, take place every year for a few weeks during Lent. Drinking beer doesn’t count as breaking a fast, you see, so rumor has it that the monks invented this weighty beer as a form of nourishment to consume when they were fasting for Lent. The ‘strong’ in the beer’s name is supposed to refer more to its gravity than its alcohol content, but at around 8% it’s not the weakest beer out there, either.

Various local breweries open their banquet halls for the Starkbierfest, but the only one we’ve been to so far is the one at the Paulaner brewery. Some friends had a table reservation for Saturday, and naturally we took them up on this offer to get to know the local culture a bit more intimately.

In order to claim a reserved table on the weekend, you have to arrive by 2pm. The entire scene at this hour was entirely civilized – just like at a large restaurant which seats 2,000 people. There was live music, heavy German food, and, of course, a lot of Starkbier, served in liter krugs.

A couple hours later, the band changed from one with a tuba to one with guitars, and the audience started showing signs of life. Slowly, at first – only a couple lone dancers popped up at a table here and there. A couple popular songs were played which got the whole room singing along. And then, all of a sudden, it seemed like everyone was dancing on the benches. Everyone.

The band took breaks from time to time, during which some revelers took the opportunity to power-nap.

The crowd got bigger and bigger, and we had to get a little defensive of our prized seats whenever someone in our party got up. I can’t really blame people for trying to poach a table spot – those krugs were heavy. Not exactly something I’d want to drink out of while standing around mingling.

Speaking of drinking beer, naturally we did a lot of this, but I have to admit I only had one Starkbier before switching to the Helles. Starkbier is fine in small doses, but it’s too sweet for my tastes.

There seemed to be more people wearing Lederhosen and Dirndls than not, making me wonder if we’re going to have to break down and get our own Bavarian clothing to wear to such events. What do you think?

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