Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Only in Bavaria

Even though the fall mornings are cold, I've been riding my bike to work when I'm on the early shift. There aren't too many more good days for cycling left until winter comes and I want to take advantage of the little bit of exercise and cross-training that I'm getting. Every time I ride my bike instead of driving, it's also that much less carbon I'm putting into the atmosphere. Because I have such a short commute (2.5 km to one building and 3.4 to the other), my rides to work and home are rather uneventful. But this morning I saw something very funny.

I rode by a house that had several stuffed deer heads with antlers displayed outside above its second floor (first floor to the Europeans) balcony. There is nothing unusual about antlers displayed the outside of a house here. But the person whose house I passed had an interesting use for his hunting trophies--he used them to dry his shirts. On each set of antlers there were two shirts on hangers, one on each side. Most people here would have used a standard drying rack or clothesline, but this guy decided to go for the Creative Uses For Antlers Award. I can just imagine the conversation between the man who shot the deer and his wife:

Wife: Those deer heads with the antlers are totally useless.
Husband: No they're not. They're perfect for air drying my shirts.

I wish that I had a camera with me to photograph those shirts hanging from the antlers. I'll just have to keep the vision of them in my head. Only in Bavaria...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bella Italia

On Monday I got back from an 8-day trip to Lake Garda in Italy. The weather was sunny and warm, though the mornings were refreshingly cool. Our apartment was on the small side, but had everything that we needed. We were outside the town of Sirmione, on the very southern part of the lake. Most of our days were spent hanging out by the pool or lake, which was about 300 meters from our apartment. The pool at our apartment complex wasn't heated and was rather chilly. Brrrr! But the lake water was warmer and very pleasant. Lake Garda was surprisingly shallow, at least our little part of it was. I could walk out for over 100 meters before the water was over my head. There was also a small playground across from the apartment complex, where we played some basketball or football (soccer). Overall it was a very relaxing vacation. We went out for pizza once; but the pizza wasn't as good as that at our local pizzeria in Garmisch (which is owned by Italians). On the other nights we cooked our meals in the apartment. The ice cream was fantastic! Italians make the world's best ice cream. We decided to stay for another three days, but as we were making a reservation, we saw a weather report which showed lots of rain over the next four days. We decided that if it was going to rain, we may as well be at home. 

The area where we stayed is famous for its amusement parks. There are three big ones in the area: Gardaland, Movieland Studios, and Canevaword (also known as Movieland Water Park). Movieland and Canevaworld are owned by the same company and you can get a special 2-day ticket that's almost a "two days for the price of one" deal.  Here's how I rated them:

1. Canevaworld: No waiting in lines for the different rides, which was a definite plus. The Crazy River inner tube ride was the most fun ride. It wasn't very crowded the day we went there because the day had started off fairly cool. 

2. Gardaland: Had the best roller coasters and rides in general, but long waiting times for the various good rides. I was too scared to try Blue Thunder, which was a suspension coaster. Magic Mountain was a fun coaster with two loops and two corkscrews. 

3. Movieland Studios: The smallest of the three parks. Most of the attractions got you wet. There were also long waits to do some of the rides. Their main roller coaster was fun, but over almost as soon as it started. 

One thing that I really like about European amusement parks is that you're allowed to bring your own food. In US amusement parks it's streng verboten (strictly forbidden) to bring your own food into the parks. At all three parks were able to pack nice picnic lunches and buy little treats. The food in European amusement parks is also not a big ripoff like in the States. The prices were the same or slightly higher than they would have been for the same food at a restaurant in town. The whole idea of going to an amusement park in Europe is to have a good time without going broke. 

There were a few things that I found a bit different. One was that when I was looking online for places to stay, I noticed that hotels in the area cost a lot more than apartments. You can really save money by staying in an apartment and cooking most of your meals. I've found over the years that Italian hotels aren't that nice. An Italian three-star apartment is much nicer than a three-star hotel.  Sheets and towels also aren't included with an Italian apartment like they are in Germany or Austria. You either have to bring your own or pay for each set of sheets and towels. We brought our own. Even though it's now the 21st century, most of the toilets at the amusement parks were holes in the ground surrounded by a little porcelain. You'd think that with the relatively high ticket prices of these parks (but still much lower than an equivalent amusement park in the States), they could afford to get out of the Dark Ages and upgrade the commodes. 

I got in two short (about 5 km) runs during my trip. There is a small path along the lake shore. Even though it was short, it had all sorts of terrain: grass, dirt, pebbles, wooden bridges, cement, cobblestones, and a little bit of asphalt. I would have run more, but I slept in too late most mornings. If I wasn't out the door by 9, it would have been too warm to run. But I wasn't a total slug because I walked around the amusement parks, played ball, and did a little swimming. I had to do something to burn off all the ice cream! 

I have the rest of the week off. Then it's back to work on Tuesday, which is also when the kids go back to school in Bavaria.