The streets are walkable again! Edinburgh festival round-up

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The festivals are over, and Edinburgh is starting to shake off its hangover and get back to work. There are still plenty of tourists in town, but nowhere near the numbers of the past three weeks. It’s nice to be able to stroll around without being constantly stuck in a crowd.

That said, I was surprised to find myself really enjoying the festivals this year. It’s hard to predict if I’ll be able to enjoy things without Scott, since everything brings up memories and feels different without him, especially everything about life in Edinburgh. And sometimes, a wave of grief will hit, and I’ll find myself crying as I wander around George Square trying to decide what I want for dinner and wishing I could tell Scott about the covfefe stand. But the wave will pass, and later I’ll be clapping along to 9 to 5 at Margaret Thatcher Queen of Game Shows.

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The book festival held its place as my favorite again this year. Continue reading

Edinburgh Festival Fringe reviews 2013, part 3

Big Purple CowSo much to see, so little time. The Fringe is exhausting us with its entertainment possibilities. What will life be like when there aren’t hundreds of live shows to choose from each day? Here’s what we’ve seen in the past week:

Tig Notaro ***** Tig was probably the performer we were looking forward to the most, and she did not disappoint. Tears of laughter.

Janeane Garofalo **** Somehow I managed to not even notice her on the Fringe schedule until last week, but luckily tickets were still available. Well worth it.

Rich Hall **** Until recently, the name Rich Hall reminded me only of Sniglets. Continue reading

Edinburgh Festival Fringe reviews 2013, part 1

waiting for Pajama Men

Since we’ve been happily soaking up other people’s reviews and recommendations for Fringe shows, we thought it’d be nice to offer up our opinions as well (plus blogging about things is a great way to not forget them right after they happen). Here’s what we’ve seen so far, ordered (roughly) from favorite to least favorite.

Pajama Men **** I loved this show. It starts out with a series of seemingly random sketches that gradually reveal themselves to be part of one big story arc. Don’t have too many whiskies before going into this one or you’ll find it hard to follow.

Scotsman Best of the Fringe **** Loved this afternoon opportunity to see a handful of funny comedians (not as redundant as it should be) all in one show. I think the line-up might be different each week, but we saw these guys:  Continue reading

Edinburgh in August: diving into the Fringe

George Square during the Fringe

What Oktoberfest is to Munich, the Festival Fringe is to Edinburgh: that time of year when all the tourists show up. Edinburgh more than doubles in population during August as visitors and performers from around the world flood in. The Old Town is packed with street acts and revelers. Hundreds of buildings around the city turn into venues for performances. Theater, dance, music, spoken word and comedy are the main types of entertainment you’ll find at the Fringe, with comedy dominating in recent years. But the Fringe hardly has a lock on your entertainment options in this city Continue reading

Going on in Munich: July 2010

As usual, my travel schedule will be calming down with the heat of summer, so I’m on the lookout for local fun here in Munich. After a very rainy June, the entire city is excited to sit outside under the chestnut trees and drink beer, but there are actually other fun ways to entertain oneself in the city of beer gardens, too.

Munich Filmfest (until July 3). The Filmfest started last week but you can still catch the end of it – movies are playing through Saturday. There are several international categories, and you can find plenty of films in English or subtitled in English. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a director’s talk, too.

Soccer Watching (until July 11). The World Cup is being viewed pretty much everywhere in Munich. Most biergartens and restaurants offer screens large and small. There’s a big screen set up for the German games at Bordeauxplatz, and at Wittelsbacherplatz you can find Siemens Soccer City.

Open Artist Studios (July 10-11). During Kunst im Karrèe dozens of artists open their Schwabing studios to the public. My feet ached after two days of pounding the pavement last year, but it was worth it. I recommend checking out the artists in advance (online or get a catalog) so you can target the ones who look most interesting to you.

Christopher Street Day (July 17-18). It’s almost time for the annual invasion of Marienplatz by racing drag queens. More gay pride fun than you can shake a big, throbbing stick at.

Tollwood (July 1-25). Hippie shopping, international food, and lots of concerts. This year’s highlights include the Pet Shop Boys, Norah Jones, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and, uh, Michael Bolton.

What will you be doing this July?

Drag queens, Jesus freaks, and lots and lots of artists

It’s been just another wonderful summer weekend in Munich. I’m really happy to be spending some time at home these days.

The first super fabulous event that occupied my weekend was Kunst im Karrée. For two days over 70 artist studios were open for visitors in and around the neighborhood of Schwabing. It was an excellent opportunity not only to see great work and talk to some very interesting artists, but also to peek inside some beautiful, beautiful private studios and apartments in one of Munich’s most sought-after neighborhoods. The artists were definitely more friendly and talkative the first day than the second, understandably so when you think about how long their days lasted.

The second event of the weekend was the Christopher Street Day celebration that took over central Munich, delighting locals and confusing tourists. Today we caught the tail end of the high heel competition, featuring local drag queens at their fiercest.

Oh yeah, and apparently there is some sort of gigantic conference of Jehovah’s Witnesses going on in Munich. There were scores of them all over the city. I wonder how they liked the drag queens.

Cheap summer fun in Zurich

This weekend we grabbed our perpetually-packed suitcases and headed to Zurich to visit friends. The weather was what most people call “gorgeous”, and we made the most of it by spending time in and around the lake (and on the roof deck).

Lake Zurich is the part of Zurich I miss most, especially during the summer. The view is unbeatable (Zurich’s charming skyline in one direction, snow-capped Alps in the other), and the water is so clean and clear it begs you to get in and swim around. The lake is surrounded by badis, areas where one can swim, sun, drink crappy beer, etc. for around a CHF 6 entrance fee. But if that’s too steep for you (and you can live without a changing room), you can also just jump into the lake for free in many areas.

And if you’re looking for more free fun in this ridiculously expensive city, this summer you can wander around admiring its latest city art display: painted plant pots. In the same spirit that brought cows to Chicago* and Mr. Potato Heads to Providence, Zurich has decided that this year, giant pots were the way to go. At first I didn’t like them very much, but they grew on me over the course of the weekend. I think the penguin one was my favorite.**

And now, after five back-to-back trips, I think I’ll stay home for awhile. I’ve been missing Munich.

* Actually Zurich did the cows before Chicago did. Zurich also did teddy bears a few years back.
** Notice how all the penguins are wearing suits, except for one with a mohawk and a t-shirt that says “Lech mich”.

Scavengers in the Biergarten

In case you were wondering what summer in Munich is like, it’s simple: all biergarten all the time.

These photos are from the biergarten at Seehaus, in the middle of the English Garden. This beer garden distinguishes itself from the millions of others in that 1) it’s on a lake and 2) it has a wider selection of food than most other beer gardens. Not that this matters to those who bring their own food along, something you are allowed to do in all of Munich’s beer gardens as long as you purchase beverages there. Just make sure to sit in the self-serve beer garden area, rather in the fancier restaurant area that most beer gardens have (usually denoted by tablecloths, silverware, or other fancy stuff on the tables).

Biergartens are great for people-watching, from the drunken bachelor parties collecting tags from panties to the older Germans with their pimped-out picnic tables (complete with fancy table cloths, cutting boards, and centerpieces). The bums walking around scavenging for leftover food and beer make you think Munich might not be such a bad place to be homeless (but just in the summer). As the crowds thin out at night, the ducks come to compete with the bums for the leftover pretzels.

Beer gardens tend open around 11 am and close much earlier than their attached restaurants, usually between 9 and 11 pm.

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