A Day Trip to Freiburg


I kept it relatively local last weekend after I decided to cancel the planned weekend in Nuremberg. It was a knee jerk reaction to the stories about the train strike that happened earlier in the week (although I was later assured that I would not have had to worry on the weekend). It’s fine, though. There was an important meeting on Monday that I didn’t want to come anywhere remotely close to missing, so it worked out in the end.

It also gave me a chance to finally explore Freiburg a little, which I had not yet visited despite how close it is. It was a quick but fun trip and I certainly didn’t want to spoil the tour I’m getting of the city next month. The train ride from Basel to Freiburg is pretty short, clocking in at just around an hour (there are fast trains but I was cheap). When I got to town, I was completely inundated with the feel of a university town. There were people tabling. It brought me back to my hippy UCI days.

I started at the big farmers market in the Münsterplatz. It was lunchtime, so I fell in with my aforementioned habit and lined up at a food stall where they were selling some wurst that smelled delicious. Also, the Historic Merchants’ Hall looks like the Rathaus in Basel!



I walked walked around the farmers market aimlessly for a while before going inside the cathedral.


Now, I didn’t mean to do this, but I ended up going from one market to another and quickly found myself at the Freiburg Christmas market. The Christmas market takes quite a few blocks of the city and, most important, is the first time in my 2018 Christmas tour that I have encounted rosé glühwein. It was an achievement of pure basic status and I’m beginning to think that I’m not ironically basic, but actually basic.



After some window shopping and actual shopping, I also knocked out chimney cake from my Christmas market to-do list. It was pretty amazing.

From the Christmas market, I continued my explorations of the old town and saw some of the city’s canals along the way.


My next destination was actually Schlossberg Hill and it took quite a bit of walking in one direction before I realized that I was going in the absolute wrong direction. After re-directing myself, I found the hill and made the climb up the hill. It was sweaty, and not pretty, but as you can tell from the photos, the view was worth it. I may taken a long contemplation break to think about what I had done, but at least I felt like I worked off a small part of that chimney cake, right?


I made my way down and was going to stop by one of the city’s big breweries, but ultimately decided against it (mostly because it was crowded). I did run into more canals and even met Freiburg’s famous crocodile along the way.


Having bypassed the brewery, I did realize I was a little cold, so I ended up warming up at a cafe for a while with some hot chocolate.


The cafe actually took more time than I expected, so I had to make my way back to the train station for my train back to Basel. It was starting to get darker around the time, but I did catch some good lighting on the way out.


So, there we go, it was a quick but fun tour around Freiburg, which is a very charming and cute city. I’ll actually be back there next month for soccer and have been promised a tour of the city, but I also had fun exploring on my own. This was a somewhat quick post, but I wanted to get this one in and hopefully queue up one more in between the long list of things I need to do before I fly back to the US tomorrow. At least I have Elvis Costello to keep me company through all this, right? While packing…not the flight. That’d be weird.


Exploring Munich

I love Munich. Granted, my memories of Munich from ten years ago mostly consist of the Narnia-like hostel/campground we stayed at, where we ate delicious sausages, played Machiavelli with strangers and sat around a campfire every night. We were such stereotypical backpackers.



I mean, look those young fools.

Needless to say, despite the fact that we are apparently now too old to stay at the Tent (also, Chris would never stay there), I was very excited to come back. This time around, our tour Munich was planned around Oktoberfest, but we still managed to get a surprising amount of things done. Because hotels were incredibly expensive for the weekend, we stayed at a hotel near the airport. It meant that getting to and from town was a bit of an adventure each day. It wasn’t that hard to get there; it just took a while.



We spent a lot of our time on Saturday at and around Marienplatz, which is the main town square with town hall. We got there just after 11 and managed to just miss the glockenspiel performance. We walked around the square and then made our way to the Frauenkirche (the big church that looks like onions). We didn’t go into the church for whatever reason, but we did make sure that we got a picture of Chris next to the model of Munich that really upset Andrew for whatever reason ten years ago.


From there, we walked to a small square a few minutes away, where there is an ongoing memorial to Michael Jackson.


We got back with a few minutes left before noon, so we and many other people waited for the glockenspiel performance to start. As the clock struck, it seemed a little Black Mirror-esque to see many people staring at a clock with their phones up, especially since it took a few minutes for it to start.


Other than Oktoberfest, we saw a few other churches and stayed primarily around the old town for the day. The first was St. Michaels Church, which Chris was excited to find out was a Jesuit Church.


The second was a church, Asam church, which we saw much later in the day that was very small but incredibly ornate.



Beyond that and our failed attempt at doing a walking tour in the late afternoon, our Saturday was more centered around Oktoberfest and recovery from Oktoberfest than anything else.

Our Sunday was met with some failures. Despite the fact that we had what we thought was a pretty early start, we didn’t get into the city center until after the 10:45 walking tour we wanted to join left. Our second option was to spend a foodie day and eat our way around the Viktualien Market. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday and most of the food stalls were closed. We had some weisswurst for breakfast and briefly considered, but ultimately did not go to Eataly Munich before deciding to just do our own walking tour of Munich.


The maypole of Viktualien Market and some Pokemon hunters.

On our way out from Marienplatz, we passed by a small street, which is one of the few things that I did remember from our tour ten years ago and had wanted to find again. It’s a small and unassuming street with a large bronze streak down the middle. The street was a path that people would take so that they would avoid having to give to salute Nazi guards. It is a simple yet powerful homage to resistance.


From there, we walked to Feldherrnhalle and made our way to the nearby Hofgarten.



From there, we walked over to Englischer Garten, which is a pretty large park in the middle of Munich. We walked around in the middle of the park a little bit. From my Rick Steves marathoning, I correctly thought that this is the park that people surf in and we eventually did find the surfers. This marks the second time since I got here to Europe that I’ve seen people surf in places that aren’t the ocean.


We made our way back out of the park and to Siegestor, which is a large triumphal arc, and through what must have been a university area of town before Chris got us to an Alice in Wonderland-themed ice cream shop, which we ate before our lunch.



We had lunch reservations, so we could actually have a non-Oktoberfest Bavarian meal. Our reservations were at Ratskeller Munich, a historic beer hall under town hall. The food was hearty and delicious. I had the pancake soup and spicy sauces (that weren’t ~too~ spicy, but were still delicious). Chris had potato soup and absolutely delicious pork knuckles. We ate well and were pretty full the rest of the day.





We left for the airport from there, stopping first at our hotel to pick up our luggage. We somehow made it to the airport with a lot of time to spare. It was enough time for me to convince Chris that we definitely needed a second Oktoberfest beer stein and then to win a free glass of sparkling wine. Overall, it was a fun trip to Munich.


Oktoberfest 2018


We survived Oktoberfest. It’s always been one of those annual events that I never thought I’d attend and then quickly became a bucket list item for my year here in Europe.

The first thing I was told when I told people that I was going was that we absolutely had to dress up because it wouldn’t be fun without it. We were also told that most people there would be dressed up. We didn’t believe this at first while we were waiting for the train and no one else was dressed up, but eventually saw that about a third of the people wandering Munich over the weekend were dressed up. I guess the alternative would have been that we would have stood out just a bit.



After exploring Munich a little in the morning and early afternoon, we made our way over to the festival grounds. Chris was told in advance that Oktoberfest is a “state fair on crack.” I guess what I expected consisted of rows and rows of beer halls. That was there, as well as rides, food booths, souvenir booths, and games.






We had some time before our reservation, so we wandered around the Oktoberfest grounds for a while. Our ultimate goal was to find a ride that Chris would be able to ride. We were eyeing the Ferris wheel and slowly inched our way towards it. Unfortunately, the line was “miss our reservation” long, so we skipped out on that and opted for the least offensive looking roller coaster. It was fast, fun, and we were a little dizzy at the end.



After we stumbled off the ride, we made our way back to our tent for our reservation. You can only get beer at a table and those tables get packed fast. You can reserve spaces or try to wing it and get in, but it’s hard to do the later. We were too late to the game to get an evening reservation, which is why we went during the day. Choosing a tent is also apparently a big deal. I knew we would have been absolutely miserable in one of the larger tents, so I looked for a small/medium tent. The one we ended up in was pretty intimate. It couldn’t have fit more than 50 people. It was perfect for us.



In addition to our liters of beer, we also got some food. We got obzada, which is a spicy bavarian cheese dish and weisswurst (white sausage). The white sausages looked a lot less appealing than they actually were. You eat them with this delicious sweet honey, too.



We hung out there for about an hour eating food, working on our beers, and listening to music that sounded like German Jimmy Buffett. It was a lot of fun, but we couldn’t do more than one of the beers each. Chris couldn’t even finish his. I had to.

We wandered around Oktoberfest a little while longer and bought one of the heart-shaped cookies that we saw everywhere. We wanted the one that just said “Sorry” but they didn’t have it in the smaller size. Instead, we got the “Alles gute” cookie.


We eventually left Oktoberfest because we wanted to try to make it back to Marienplatz in time for a 4 pm tour of Munich. I don’t know if many people leave Oktoberfest early to go on an organized history tour of the city, but that is what makes us special. Unfortunately, they capped out of space just as we got there. I think it was for the best, though. I was not wearing the right shoes for all of the walking we had done and would not have been happy at the end of the 3 hour tour of Munich.

Instead, we wandered around the Old Town for a little while. We had dinner reservations for 7, but ended up heading back to the hotel a little earlier than that because we were still not hungry at all and had beer headaches. We ended up dining on the not-Pringles from Migros and spending the night watching BoJack Horseman on Netflix.

Oktoberfest was a lot of fun at the end of the day, but we didn’t end up lasting as long there as we planned. Had I known that we wouldn’t have spent ~too~ much time at Oktoberfest, I would have swapped our Saturday and Sunday and spent our long day touring the city. It all worked out, though. We missed out on the walking tour (but did our own) and, more sadly, missed the Viktualien Market when the food stalls were actually open. We’ll save it for the next time we’re in Muncih.


On the Steps of the Palace(s) in Potsdam


Let’s start with this. I am fine now. I guess there’s still a few trips to the dentist left for me (ugh), but the pain is gone and I’m almost at pre-chipmunk cheeks. Unless you ask Chris, who says that my cheeks are naturally chipmunk-like.

Anyway, before I left for Switzerland, one of my colleagues said that I absolutely must make Potsdam one of my stops and visit for the Potsdam Schlossernacht (Castle Night). Potsdam is about 30 minutes by train from Berlin and is where a number of Prussian kings lived until the early 20th century and is the home to a number of castles and palaces. To get there, I took an early flight to Berlin and then took the train to Potsdam. I got off at the closest train station to my hotel, which was actually still quite a walk to the hotel.

Before meeting with my colleague, I wandered around the old town, which was filled with cute boutique shops and restaurants and saw the Brandenburg Gate of Potsdam (which, unfortunately was under reconstruction). I even got some curry wurst for lunch.


Once I met my colleague, we did a part walking/part driving tour of Potsdam. We parked near the St. Nicholas Church and the film museum.




Potsdam, is an interesting blend of old and new. A lot of the very colorful buildings around the city have only just been fixed up over the past 15 years. As it was explained to me, the resources to build up the city after World War II weren’t there until recently.

My favorite part of the city, which is the Dutch Quarter. As you may expect from the name, this part of the city takes on a lot of Dutch architecture. It was one of the king’s way of attracting residents from the Netherlands. Had Sunday not been chaotic, this is where I thought about getting lunch and hanging out on Sunday. We stopped at a cafe for some chocolate drinks and to take in the neighborhood.



We walked around town a little more before jumping back into the car and heading over to the Sancoucci Park for the festival. Potsdam Schlossernacht is a big annual festival when the Sansoucci Park (with all of Potsdam’s castles) is opened up and illuminated for the evening. There are performances, musicians, readings, and a lot of costumes. The night culminates in fireworks that I, due to aforementioned tooth pain, did not make it to. There were also people in 6 meter tall dresses that we were somehow unable to find in the big park.


The park is kind of huge, a lot bigger than I thought. Like, houses four palaces sort of big. We started at the entrance, which is where Sanssouci Palace is. We weren’t able to go inside, but we did look at the grave of Frederick the Great, whose wish was to be buried with his dogs.


The castle, of course, is best seen from the bottom of the stairs, where you can see all of the vines and fig trees leading up the castle.


From Sansoucci, we made our way to the geese, which would march along the street following their leader. It was kind of adorable.These were cute geese too, not the scary and aggressive kind from back home.



We then made our way to the Chinese House, where they had a pretty cool exhibit remembering some of the great women of history. I couldn’t read the German biographies of all of the women, but I recognized a few of them. From there, we went to the Chinese House, which isn’t really influenced by actual Chinese culture, but more the romanticized idea of what China was like. It was still pretty cool though.



There was a very interesting surreal performance going on, as well. Most of the stuff going on was in German, so I don’t actually know what was going on, but the costumes were pretty cool.


We had dinner and wandered around some more. We watched some radio hosts make a bunch of political jokes while dressed in costume and watched a musician play piano for a while (there was even a proposal mid-performance). The whole set up was actually a lot of fun, language barrier aside. I got some translations, so I did understand some parts of it.

And most of the people in costume were the performers at the event, there were some festival attendees who also came in costume. I, of course, had to get a picture. They had a lot more swag than I did.


Unfortunately, some parts of the park were not open during the festival that I guess had been in previous years. For example, we were unable to visit the Roman baths while we were there. The people at one of the gates did let us sneak out of the event temporarily to see the Neues Palace, which looked a lot closer to the rest of the festival than it actually was. It’s fine, I guess all the weekend walking can be considered my “long runs”?


Once we got back to the palace, we made our way to another palace, the Orangerie, which I guess had been under renovations until pretty recently. It required going up a lot of steps, but the view and the palace were both worth it. There was a band playing in that area, so it was a lot more crowded than it was in other parts of the event, but we did make our way up there without losing each other.



The Orangerie was where they were doing the big readings. We sat and watched a pretty well-known actress do some poetry readings. I guess the poetry was kind of hilarious, but it was in German. It was still fun to watch and, more importantly, was a welcome break with all the walking and the tooth pain. We spent quite some time there and by the time we were out, it was starting to get dark enough to see parts of the park illuminated.



It was around this time that the tooth pain, slow face swelling, 5 am wake up call, and twelve miles of walking started to wear down on me. If it is any indication of how bad I was feeling, we passed by a food stall serving those spiral potatoes that they have in Seoul and I didn’t even stop to get one. Although the fireworks were just around the corner, I needed to go home, so made our way outside of the park and I got dropped off back at the hotel.

All in all and despite everything that went down on Sunday, the day in Potsdam was a lot of fun. It didn’t hurt that I had a good travel companion for the day.


Change of Plans

Sometimes the best laid plans go severely awry. The plan for the weekend was to visit Potsdam for its big castle festival. I spent the day on Saturday with a colleague of mine and got a wonderful tour of the city before we attended the festival. The plan was to spend the day on Sunday wandering Berlin before flying back to Basel.

The days preceding, I was suffering from tooth and jaw pain that I ignored because it was no different from the pain I get periodically from the fact that I grind my teeth.

And as the pain got worse, the plan went from leaving Potsdam early for a Berlin tour to spending a very low key day in Potsdam before heading to the airport. Then it went to me looking for trains back to Basel so I could get to a clinic in Basel. Then, when I woke up with half of a swollen face, it was a scramble to find an English speaking clinic in Berlin. If I couldn’t, it was the first train back to Basel.

I had trouble finding one online that was open on Sundays, but the people at the pharmacy at the Berlin HBF were incredibly nice and sent me with an address to a dentist I could go to.

After all was said and done, it was 11:30. I had a clean bill to take the plane back, but by that time, I was exhausted, hungry and a little disoriented from the numbing stuff they used when they did the work on me. I could have spent the next four to five hours wandering Berlin as planned, but I didn’t want to explore Berlin looking like a sad chipmunk. My colleague offered to let me stay with her until the flight, but I didn’t really want to impose. Besides, what I think I really needed was to sit on a train, play MarioKart and listen to podcasts

So, here I am, writing to you from hour two of the seven hour train ride from Berlin to Basel. It’s been an eventful day for sure.

I will post about Potsdam and the festival, which were both so much fun (toothpain aside), later this week.