The End

We are back in the US!

On Sunday morning 4:30am we got up at the grandparents house and 1.5 hrs later we arrived at the airport in Munich. No problems during check-in and all flights appeared to be on time. After a quick breakfast (white sausages!) and good-byes we went through security and headed to the gate for our flight to Frankfurt. Soon after we arrived there, we heard about troubles at Frankfurt airport where freezing rain caused flights to be delayed/cancelled. Unfortunately our flight was affected and we needed to be re-booked on a flight that did not go through Frankfurt airport.

Selecting a new flight and getting the tickets took a few hours. Just before noon we took off on a United flight into Washington D.C. After another three hours lay-over we continued to Albuquerque and arrived at 9:15pm – 5 hours after our scheduled arrival.

For the last days in Germany we stayed mainly in Aichach (where the grandparents live), because the temperatures, icy conditions and snow made it difficult to go on longer trips.

On Saturday we had Oma’s (grandma in German) birthday party with 30+ guests (they are all looking at photos projected on a screen):

birthday party

We had a really good time in Germany. Pia got to play Sorry or Monopoly every evening of the trip. She learned a lot about Germany and she saw things differently now that she’s a bit older.

Thanks everybody for making this happen and giving us such a warm welcome!

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What should I do?

It snowed the whole night and we were greeted with a nice amount of snow this morning. This changed our plans for today, because traffic was really bad all around and we did not want to spend endless hours in the car on icy roads.

We spent time at the house, had lunch close by and went to the Fun Park one more time to get some exercise. Pia also recorded herself on the iPad. Here’s one of the nuggets from this morning – is this really my daughter?

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Deutsches Museum

The 2nd part of our Wednesday afternoon we spent in the Deutsches Museum (“German museum”). The museum is known all over the world for its incredible science and technology collections.

Deutsches Museum entrance

We arrived just before 3pm and had two hours to explore before the museum would close at 5pm. The museum is huge – no – HUGE. The brochure for the museum says that it covers 51,000 square meters. That equals an area of 61,000 square yards. If an American football field is 6,400 square yards, it gives you an idea how big the museum is.

In 2 hrs you can barely scratch the surface of all the exhibitions. We decided to see as much as possible instead of spending a long time in individual exhibitions. We learned about ships (that’s a ship’s propellor behind Pia):


We learned about planes (no, you could not get into the cockpit):


We saw one of the biggest, working guitars in the world – you were allowed to play it and sit in the body of the guitar to hear and feel the sounds:


There was also a model factory for red building bricks that produced miniature bricks (Pia will bring one to class):


No less than 3 floors were dedicated to space exploration, the solar system and astronomy in general:


solar system

However, the most exciting experience was the demonstration in the high-voltage unit. We heard it in the hallways from far away, because it was so loud. During the demonstration they showed mini lightning strikes, which simulated real lightning strikes, just not as powerful. They hit a church, a car and finally a wooden stick that represented a tree. Each strike was followed by a really loud “BANG”, just like real lightning is followed by thunder. When they hit the stick, it burst into thousands of smaller wood pieces – they looked like tooth picks.

The 2 hrs flew by and the loud speaker announced that we had to leave the museum.

When I (Tobias) went to school we took several field trips to the museum. In fact, most students in Bavaria get to go on a field trip to the museum. Maybe you should talk to your principal about a trip?!? 😉

If you are interested, here’s a brochure that talks a bit more about all the available exhibitions and shows some floor plans: Deutsches museum leaflet (PDF document).

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A birthday in Munich

It was grandma’s 70th birthday today and like so often she wanted to spend it with a day in Munich. We left late morning and drove to a parking garage in the city center close to the Viktualienmarkt (a traditional, all year round market where you can buy almost anything). It was right under the Schrannenhalle, a collection of shops selling gourmet foods and all items “kitchen”. We browsed around for a while and I (Tobias) was tempted to bring samples of everything with me, but I knew that I would not be allowed to import most of the stuff back into the US.

In the basement of the same building was a dedicated Milka (a famous chocolate maker) shop. We’ve never seen so much chocolate in one place. Chocolate bars with flavors we’ve never heard of, 4.5 kg Toblerones, Bavarian dresses in purple, … – everything was there. Pia could not believe her eyes (those are all Milka chocolate bars with different flavors behind her and we only shot 1/4th of the entire shelf):


We had lunch a the pretty famous Andechser am Dom where the walls are plastered with photos of famous people visiting the place. No, they did not take our photos …

After lunch grandma and grandpa went strolling around the city while Pia and I headed for the Deutsches Museum (“German Museum”).

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Pia dreamed of getting some German skiing in before we left on our trip. I had checked the weather report and talked to family and the chances were very good: I heard that temperatures were above freezing and that most skiing areas did not have enough snow to allow for skiing. The situation was the same when we arrived.

Just a few days ago things changed and we woke up to snow one morning. The same we called talked to uncle Marcus and he confirmed that there may be a chance to get Pia on the mountains.

On Tuesday 1/15 we left early in the morning and met Marcus at his home in Steinebach/Worthsee. Pia did not bring any skiing equipment, but we managed to get pants from Elke, gloves from the other Tobias, a jacket from Elke/Marcus’ neighbors, etc. All that was left were ski, boots, poles and a helmet, and that was something we would get in Brauneck, our skiing destination.

At 11:15 we had all the rental equipment and the skiers were ready to take off. Pia posed in front of the map showing all the runs and they opted for a 3-hrs ticket:


Moments later they were on the gondola heading for the top of the mountain:


I did not join them but instead took a hike up the mountain to get to the Reiser Alm for lunch. Took about 30 mins and the walk was really nice (see below). At the restaurant, people looked a bit surprised when I took out the laptop and started reading about Hadoop …


My brother took a bunch of photos while they were up on the mountain and the following ones are from him (including the video).

We had gorgeous weather and not only up on the mountain. Given that it was the middle of the week and “normal” people were at work (thanks, uncle/brother Marcus for taking the time off) there was not a lot of traffic on the lifts and Pia/Marcus did not have to wait at all queuing up. They got a lot of skiing done in the 3 hrs.



Apparently the highlight was a helicopter taking off right in front of them (another skiing needed air-lifting). You can see Pia in the video below at the bottom right of the frame:

At 2:30pm we met up again and warmed up with soup and coffee. A bit over an hour later we were back home at Elke/Marcus place and Pia played with Lisa and Tobias before we had dinner there. We left just as it started snowing again.


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On a separate note …

Tobias: I hear there is a new ice-skating rink opening in the La Vida subdivision. All joking aside, below is our living room as of Sunday afternoon. Looks like a pipe burst and water ran into the house for a few days. It was damned cold recently in Santa Fe. Luckily Oakley was there to take care of it.

Living Room

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Water under Tower

For lunch we went to a really old restaurant in Munich today. It was called “Alter Wirt” and it opened in 1417!!! I had my usual Schnitzel again. (Tobias: yes, this place is almost 600 years old. It was renovated a few times since it opened, but it’s still in the same spot as always. Google+ page for the restaurant).

Then we went to the place where the Olympic Summer Games of 1972 took place. Here is a view of the park:

Inside the park was the SeaLife show (Tobias: link). We saw all sorts of fish from different places all around the world. You could even touch some of them. My favorite fishes were the big carps. I also like the octopus, the jelly fish and sea turtles.

Here are some pictures and videos:




And finally we went up to the top of the Olympic Tower. It took only 35 seconds to get to 190 m (Tobias: ~ 570 feet). We could not go outside, because it was very icy and the door was locked. So we went to the restaurant one floor below, got a piece of cake and a drink. The restaurant spins slowly. Maybe you can see it below (Tobias: Pia is in the restaurant. Her feet are on the floor of the restaurant (rotating) and her shoulders are against the wall (standing still):

in front of the olympic tower

When we went back to the car we stopped at the BMW place (Tobias: BMW headquarters, factory, museum, exhibition). I sat in a few cars:


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Snow, Soccer and Swimming

When we woke up in the morning we were surprised to see everything covered with snow. It was very cold. So that day the winter got back into Germany. I might go skiing with my uncle Marcus next week.

After we had breakfast we went to my cousin’s soccer game. We had to drive for an hour to Kaufering (Tobias: map). He was a really good soccer player.

Once the soccer game was over we went swimming at the pool next door. It had the biggest water slide and I went down the slide about 10 times (Tobias: photo of the slide). It was so much fun. One of the tricks I did, I went down on my knees and dove into the pool at the end. It was much faster than going on your back or tummy.

After swimming we drove around for about 45 minutes to find something to eat. We ended up at a very big furniture store where there was a restaurant on top and had lunch there.

Tobias: I never realized this before: Germans actually take weekend trips to furniture stores – seriously! My parents live in the countryside and still have about a dozen of HUGE furniture stores within a 30 min driving radius. The one we went to yesterday is spread over 4 floors, each floor occupying two football fields. If you can’t find your home supplies or furniture there, it does not exist! The stores are smart and combine the shopping experience usually with a (cheap) restaurants. That allows a German couple or family to browse for a few hours and get food at the same time. And people are happy to do so, especially on weekends.

In the evening we played Monopoly again. My grandpa and I won, but he had more money than me. I always have to read the cards when somebody lands on one.

Tobias: This was a really tricky one: “Einkommenssteuerrueckzahlung” (yes, this is one word. It translates to “Income Tax Refund”).

Tobias: She did almost perfect here. I said “it’s not good” at the end, because I landed on my dad’s street with a hotel …

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Asparagus and hops

Tobias: Today we did not do anything exciting that was worth sharing with everybody else (unless you like to hear about shopping). I decided to give Pia a break and add a short “guest post” with some interesting information about the area. I’ll concentrate on two agricultural items that are unique to the surroundings.

Asparagus: Do you like asparagus? What do you think of when you hear the word asparagus? Most likely you thought of a long, green spring vegetable. In fact only the young shoots of asparagus are eaten by us. Once the shoots get older, they turn hard and no longer make for a good vegetable. But did you know that not all asparagus comes in green?

What our region here is famous for is the white asparagus. People from far, far away will come here during asparagus season to sample the delicacy. Once it is harvested the asparagus (called “Spargel” in German) looks like this:


Quite different from the green asparagus – isn’t it? The reason why our asparagus here is so white is because the shoots stay hidden from the sun for most of the time they grow. The green asparagus shoots on the other hand grow above ground mainly. Take a look at this photo where you can see two people harvesting the asparagus:


It grows inside those mounds on the fields and as soon as the tip of the asparagus shoot peeks outside the earth, the farmers will cut them and they are ready for consumption. If you look carefully, you should be able to see some of the tips peeking out. In spring you can drive here for miles and see one asparagus field after another.

Hops: The second plant this region is famous for is the hop plant (it’s called “Hopfen” in German).

Hops flowers are one of the main ingredients for beer. For the longest time the vast majority of hops required for the German beer production came from this area. There is still a lot of hops grown here, but now there are also other areas throughout the world where this plant is grown.

What’s unique about this plant, is the way it is grown. Farmers build “hop yards” to help the plants grow much larger than they would grown normally. They build a grid consisting of wire and big wooden poles. The height of the structure is about 20 feet. Here you can see a tractor inside a hops field (clicking on the picture will show it bigger):



In the summer time you can again drive for miles through an artificial forest made from hop plants.

When it is time to harvest the flowers, they will look like this:



A big machine will drive through the hop yards, grab all the flowers from the plants and collect them. The flowers will be sent to breweries where they become (with other ingredients) beer.

PS: Pia’s legs are fine today …

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A slow day

Today I slept a lot, but was still tired. I think it is because of the time difference. We took it easy today.

In the morning we stayed at the house. Then we went to the “Fun Park” (Tobias: descriptionmap). At first the park was not open. We arrived too early. We decided to go and eat lunch first.

I had this:

And in this video you see that cars drive very fast. In some places of Germany you can drive as fast as you want. Unlike in Santa Fe where the limit is 75 mph.

After lunch we went back to the “Fun Park” and it was open. This is what I did in the park:

2 years ago when I went to the same park and climbed up the volcano the next day I could not move, because my legs were very sore. Let’s see how I feel tomorrow …

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