Thursday Dec 14, 2006

Those Crazy Bavarians

I just got back from what has become my annual Christmas trip to Regensburg. It was very nice to be back in Europe again. It's the first time I've left the US since my trip in December 2005. Since I've had a little time to readjust to living in the states, I thought it might be interesting to make note of the things that struck me as interesting.

  • I LOVE DRIVING IN GERMANY!!! It is simply the most satisfying experience. The drivers are predictable; the roads are good; the cars are manual; the speed limits are missing. It just doesn't get any better.
  • I'm surprised how surprised I am at the prices in Germany. It's amazing how quickly one comes to accept the outrageous cost of living in the Bay Area as normal. Wandering through the grocery store in Germany was better than Disneyland. It was all I could do not to buy everything in sight.
  • I almost cried, I was so happy to see my friends, the little blue arrows. On divided roads in Germany, there is a white arrow in a blue circle that points to the correct side of the median. Here in the US, I never know if I'm headed up the wrong side of an avenue without doing some detective work.
  • The one thing I really missed from the US, though, was the meanings of the line colors. In the US, one-way roads have white lines, and two-way roads have yellow lines. In Germany, the colors of the lines have a completely different meaning (which I can't remember at the moment), which constantly left me wondering whether I could use the left lane, or if it would contain oncoming traffic.
  • I'm a but surprised how quickly I got used to being able to turn right on red. When I first moved back to the US, I was sure that I would never be able to bring myself to turn right on red again. During this trip to Germany, though, I found myself chafing at not being able to do it.
  • The pizza is not as good as I remembered. It might be because my wife and I found a fantabulous pizza place here in the Bay Area (Applewood), or it might be because we are remembering the pizza in Italy. Either way, the pizza in Germany was not the mana that we remembered it to be.
  • On the other hand, German Christmas cookies are better than I remembered. I was tempted to leave my clothes behind and fill my suitcases with cookies.
  • Every time I drive over the Eisenerbrueke (the "iron bridge") into Regensburg, the view of the cathedral and the Steinenerbrueke (the "stone bridge") is breath-taking. I don't think I'll ever get tired of it.
  • When I moved to Bavaria, I noticed that it took me a while to get used to the different way that the people there look. In particular, it took a while before I was able to see the Bavarian women as pretty. Once that happened, though, I somewhat lost my taste for American women. Now that I've been back in the states for a year, I found that I have rediscovered American prettiness without losing the ability to appreciate the Bavarians. Lucky me; pretty girls on both continents!
  • Bavaria finally feels like home. While we were there, we never reached the point of not feeling like foreigners. Now that we've been away a little while, going back feels like the most natural thing ever. Walking around the Regensburg Altstadt or Stieglmeierplatz in Munich during this trip, I finally didn't feel like a tourist.
  • I can't express how satisfying it was to be able to have a nice, long meal without having the server rush the courses and hand me the bill before I'm ready. As if to make a point, last night the waiter at Spago, where they should know better, served us our entrees the second we finished with our appetizers. Doesn't anyone take time to digest in this country?
  • While in Regensburg, my wife and I went with some friends to a performance of the Nutcracker Suite by a Russian ballet troupe. To promote the study of ballet, the performance also included local ballet students filling minor roles. My wife and I were shocked to see that nearly 100% of the local ballerinas (they are all girls) were blonde. Coming from the US, that's just weird looking.
  • The Christmas tourism industry is picking up in Bavaria. For three years in a row now, the Hexenagger, Prague and Regensburg Christmas markets have been consistently bigger and busier. The Nuremberg Christmas market also appeared to be busier, but this was my first time to be there while it was raining, so I can't make an honest judgement call.



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