All Beered up to a GoALLLL!!

Being a pre- iPad generation has its advantages, you actually know what a television box is, and for some, the television is regarded as a prominent family member that owns the rights to designated space in homes and comes with marked ‘do-not-move-me’ territory.  Some of us also know how this black-and-white box had evolved in shape, size, look and form over the years, from its humble beginning of being just a big jumbo, perhaps a Philips, in the centre of the living room to the current hand-held versions that get lost so easily in our overstuffed hand bags and  back packs.

If you go back in time, to the mid-90, years before the Kardashians hit the mainstream, there was a popular show called Globe Trekker (The Lonely Planet). This is an adventure travel television series where I felt I was Aladdin on a magic carpet, observing from above, shouting to Ian – 'watch out for that greasy food', 'don’t jump into the freezing lake you eejit' and, 'are you sure you want to bungee jump?'. 

It was also through this series that I formed some of the items on my to-do list. One of these was to visit the fairyland castle which a young king known as Ludwig II of Bavaria, also known as the mad king or fairy tale king, built and lived in. Neuschwanstein Castle. Ludwig II was the closest living fairy tale king for me. I was charmed by his daringness to be different, his respect for art and music and I just had to see this great madness that history talks about for myself. According to history, Ludwigs II aimed to replicate medieval architecture, mainly the Romanesque, and to pay homage to the operas of Wagner. Wagner was his favourite composer, and well, that’s a name I recognise from learning music days too.

Train reservations . Train tickets printed . Phone charger & clothes packed . Euro & credit cards in my wallet .  Es arrived from the US .  Michaels Sp. advice for Munich & Oktoberfest first-timers’ sealed .  Now, we are all set to go wild. 

First, stop Munich. Munich is 560KM from Bonn or 400KM from Frankfurt, Munich is the largest city in Bavaria and third largest in Germany. The name is derived from the term Munichen which means “by the monks”. This dates back to the days when the monks of the Benedictine order who ran a monastery that later became the old town of Munich. Like its other rich European city counterparts, Munich also is home to numerous museums, theatres, and universities (we walked where Einstein once walked). It is also the home of the BMW head office and the widely celebrated Oktoberfest. Munich has an interesting history that goes beyond the cobble-paved walkways, great composers, breweries and the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel, and I would highly recommend that you read about it before coming to Munich or join a walking tour like we did to appreciate the sights and flavour of its culture and people. And as for vegan food – there are plenty of options, we tried the cuisine from Bodhi before setting out for a treat to hear the music of a great composer, Vivaldi.

Around Munich

Next stop, Oktoberfest. Remember Michael’s advice on do’s and don’ts . Oktoberfest is an annual 3-week folk festival for all ages. The highlights include a travelling funfair for families, lots of local Munchen beer (for sale) from famous breweries, a display of decorated horse carriages & floats of breweries and lots of brass bands and music. The main attractions for me were watching the visitors dressed in traditional Bavarian outfits, the girls/ladies had beautiful hair-dos and of course the gigantic beer filed mugs. I had always wanted a mugshot with one, and the rain that morning didn’t stop us from getting to the tents for that shot. While there is so much fun and entertainment here, the basic rules of common sense apply. Here’s one I put up for first-timers in no order:
·         be dressed as a how Bavarian would be for the fest 
·         be aware of who is next to you 

Inside a beer hall

·         touch nothing that doesn’t belong to you 
·         if you do, wake up from your dream, apologise and move on 
·         know where the restroom is for ‘litter’ in all forms 
·         do not order lime juice unless you want to be famous in the tent 
·         you'll never be alone, join in the fun with any table 
·         if you are from out of town, know where your hotel is 
·         pay and tip the waitress, it’s not free beer. 

Did you follow the rules?

In the end, Dirndl for this visit , but for the next visit, a big .

@ Arena Allianz
Next. Football tickets .  Directions to the Allianz Arena .  The teams playing were FC Bayern Munich and FC Koln. Both wore red.  I was in blue, Es in white and since we were the only two non-German looking fans, we were forgiven for not wearing their colour. We sat with the visitors, cheering for Koln. They welcomed us instantly and even more when we told them we arrived from Bonn. FC Bayern Munich 1, then FC Koln 1, the first round of celebration beer thrown onto us in excitement. I read that in Europe, football could either unite, break or create walls and war. Being there I felt that intensity as I watched the passionate fans turn away when a free kick was awarded to the home team. Final score 1-1. We left happy together with the thousands who had their own versions of celebration.

Finally, it’s time to visit the home of the famous king of Bavaria. But before that a stop for some coffee to fuel up. My coffee shot is one which we had very early in the morning at a quaint café located in Hotel Sonne in Fussen

Large Booster

It was pretty much early, cold and wet when we arrived in Fussen (a small town approximately 130KM away from Munich). The city, at 6am, was still pretty much taking it easy for the moment. Though the hotel was serving only their in-house guests at that hour, the friendly manager on duty must have heard our recusant tummies growling loudly for a hot brew. We were served, and grandly I must say. The aroma was so stimulating that it refreshed us instantly. We would have stayed here longer for the warmth, but we had caught the local bus to the ticket centre in Hohenschwangau.

Leave early and wear good non-slip pair of footwear because the uphill trek from Hohenschwangau to the fairy castle is a good 45-minutes one. For us it was on a wet path (it rained just before) with trails of horse poo that you’d need to watch out for. 

In Fussen

We tried racing against the horse-drawn-carriages, but the horses beat us flat. Walking, cycling or horse carriage rides are the only options to go to the castle. Get there even earlier if you want to take the carriage, the queues are long. Keep your cameras and handphones ready at all times, the sights and panoramic views get more breathtaking with each step uphill. The Hohenschwangau Castle and lakes are some of the shots not to be missed from the top.

Worth the walk up

After burning a good number of calories, the cake waiting up there is the impressive and magical castle - Neuschwanstein. As I write this, I feel like I am once again in that fairyland. Three items checked. I need that Aladdin here again.  ✔✔✔

Another view

Update Oct19: Added photos

Vitamin Doppelespresso, Keep the Spin On.

A few weeks ago, I introduced you to my perfect-7, the Mississippi. Some days I am chattier than others and today is one of them. As such, my blog takes us back to last year, to Deutschland where there are so many more places, people and of course great coffee to talk about and this, trust me, is going to take me forever to get to the finish line.

Laundry and hotels. These were two essentials that got me a little anxious when I was in Bonn. I will tell you why. 

Now, a lovely city like Bonn has plenty of hotels, but hotels were fully reserved even before my trip had been decided on due to events that were going on in Bonn and in the cities nearby. So, I couldn't secure a reservation at the same hotel for the entire trip. Therefore, I stayed at different hotels, on different days, in the same town, depending on the room availability. Does this sound fun to you? Yes? Actually it was not.  

I usually am game for a nomadic adventure, but after the 3rd check-in-unpack-pack-checkout in the same city, the moving got less exciting than it was in the beginning. My colleague Miro who on the other hand arrived in Bonn (during the same period) without a reservation (due to late travel request), even had an interesting NYPD-like encounter at the hotel where he stayed. His comical illustration of those events will forever be one of our dinner time conversations. Ding-Dong, Ding-Dong! I am still amused. If nothing else was available, as Libor suggested, there is always a place in Königswinter. Now that little town away from Bonn is a charm! Definitely a good choice to stay at. At the end all worked out well, we all survived! We each had a roof, and the city went about doing just great to host those events.

I usually am game for a nomadic adventure, but after the third check-in-unpack-pack-checkout in the same city, the moving got less exciting than it was in the beginning. On the other hand, my colleague Miro who arrived without a reservation had an interesting NYPD-like encounter at the hotel where he stayed. His comical illustration of those events will forever be one of our dinner time conversations. Ding-Dong, Ding-Dong! (catch up with me if you want to know more about this.) Anyway, I am still amused. If nothing else was available, as Libor suggested, there is always a place in Königswinter. Now there's a charm! Definitely a good choice and at the end all worked out well, all survived! All had a roof, and the city went about doing just great to host those events.

Taking in the Godesburg
Laundry needs brought me to a neighbourhood called Bad Godesberg, the municipal district of Bonn. Here is a bit of history I googled: Up until 1999, while Bonn was the capital of West Germany, foreign embassies were located in Bad Godesberg. Today some of these buildings are still used as consulates or embassy branch offices. This neighbourhood, just like the rest of Bonn is a squeaky clean, green and warm. 

My first visit to Bad Godesberg was on the hotel staff’s recommendation when I enquired about coin-operated laundry facilities. So, after work, 'got on the train, got off at Bad Godesberg station. Once there, a short flight of steps up and I am in another delightful and important landmark. When I arrived, I was welcomed by a nice row of inviting outlets. The laundry, the reason for this trip, though not a coin-operated one was closed.  This could only mean one thing, I’d be back again and again and yet again – not only for laundry but also for the leisurely walk up to Godesburg (castle on the hill),  weekend lunch, weeknight dinner and to visit the weekend morning market.  I even convinced my sister who visited me for a few days from the US to explore this little municipal and she came back with loads of magnificent photo shots and a good selection of not-so-easy-to-get fruits back in Malaysia, both left me awed.

Wake me, shake me!

I found a couple of exquisite yet not-so-expensive restaurants and boutique cafes in this neighbourhood, one of which served the best almond croissants. The coffee here was also satisfying. My order for that morning was a fine black one with warm milk. Truly a local flavour! Just as the brightly lit cafe, their staff wore brightly lit smiles as they served everyone. The coffee was a little stronger than what I usually would have liked to have, but that’s me. The snow-flaked croissant, mama mia! The best on the planet. Together, both the coffee and croissant complimented the perfect sunny day outside. The picture here shows only a glimpse of the croissant on the right.

The wake-me-up coffee is as essential as a calm-me-down beer in Germany and here in Bonn is where I got into the habit of reinforcing an afternoon coffee in my routine, all over again. The best part of this is after that cuppa I could still sleep at night!  Most of Germany has a fantastic coffee selection but I like the traditional hot cappuccino the best, it’s worked out to have a pretty consistent taste.  We, or at least the GECO team, didn’t have to go too far in search of one in the afternoons, Nona was our key to the crucial daily question: - Meet you at Nona’s?

Justus, Christian, Saby :  Models-trees-sun
and perfect! 
We don’t know where Nona is today. It’s however confirmed that she hasn’t magically turned herself into a hedgehog; therefore, she is not hibernating in the cold. But she is indeed perfecting the game of hide-and-seek, and since we haven't found her yet, we miss her coffee. Well, on second thoughts maybe, just maybe,  she is taking a break and hibernating from Team-GECO’s he-man-coffee requests. So, until we get the perfect team photo with her, some of my teammates have agreed to be the models to show you how a coffee truck looks and a glimpse into their mid-day routine. As for Nona, come back and brew ‘em the best and express some over to the rest of the team who are offsite. Saby says his coffee needs to be E-ticketed ones these days, for which Nona would very quickly add a couple of extra shots of Espresso into the mix. For those who are wondering, Nona is the cheerful coffee truck owner at the DHL head office site in Bonn who knows everyone's coffee preference.

And tomorrow is another work day. No break for now, but that's not going to stop us from counting those stars to reach Delphi. See you next week in Munich.

Sail Me Home Oh Sweet Mama.

Traffic, crowds, food, and stalls. Some have arrived here early. The smoked-smell of freshly grilled chicken or the Ayam Panggang and Satay linger in the air. The Asr prayers in the background accompany the rest of the traders as they set up their stalls. In the Muslim calendar, this is the holy month of Ramadan. We are at home, in Malaysia.

Setting-Up and Boy I am lost in Dessert-land

If you are like me and love to explore sweet delicacies, especially the once-a-year rarities, you are heading towards the right direction - to find that bliss, to a Ramadan Bazaar.  This is the time of the year when one would always get spoilt for choice of Kuihs (sweet traditional Malay desserts). There are many treats like the fast selling Kuih Pelita (layered coconut and rice flour dessert presented in cute banana leaf based holders), Ondeh-Ondeh (tiny mouth sized green-pandan rice flour balls filled with melted palm sugar wrapped around shredded coconut and a variety of Kuih Lapis  (multi-colour layered rice flour cake).

These food bazaars are temporary ones permitted by the local Municipal Council for licensed traders or hawkers to carry out small businesses during the Ramadhan month while giving both local visitors and tourist the opportunity to sample a bit of Malaysia during the Muslim fasting month. In Kuala Lumpur, these traders usually operate between 4 pm until just about after the Maghrib prayer, around 7.30-ish. The size of the bazaars varies depending on the location. To maintain and encourage recycling efforts and to ensure the hygiene and quality of the food among the traders, the local councils organise various competitions and conduct regular quality inspections.

If you are in the larger cities in Malaysia, you don’t have to go too far in search of a food bazaar. The crowds and traffic backlogs are general indicators that you are closing in on one of them. And if you still haven’t visited one yet, then it’s about time! You may think I am exaggerating when I say this is the best place for Kuih-hunting, but come and see for yourself, you wouldn’t disagree after. The food options are plenty for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, and they are at affordable prices.

I am sure you realise by now I have the softest spot for anything sweet and if you are trying to reach me on the weekend at 4 pm during the Muslim fasting month, try locating me at one of these busy bazaars.

Sweetness is infectious and lucky for us it’s is not only in the form of Kuihs but also in the friendly smiles offered in exchange as you pass each stall and in their warm replies as you curiously ask about what each item is and how much they cost. It is also in the generous amount of fruit pieces Atiq cuts up for the watermelon juice; in the young cheerful-spectacled girl at Putrajaya Sentral Station who never fails to keep aside a Kuih Pelita packet even if I almost always arrive after her closing time to pick it up. She may not realise, but with that, I sailed home smoothly.

Lets Detox the Water-Melon Way

A freezing cold coffee on a hot day is a tempting call. That’s precisely my coffee today. Its origin is unknown, but I learned from the stall operator it’s a local one and that’s all I need for now. I saw her put in 2 large bags of freshly opened ice cubes into the pre-mixed coffee and gave it an even bigger stir until the mixture blended well with the ice. Trust me, mixing those involve a lot of muscle work. According to the Kakak (sister), she had prepared the mixture at her home earlier today. The result is a full strength cold local coffee with a high dose of sugar and condensed milk. I am riding so high on energy now, I feel like I can run a quarter marathon not only this weekend but on every weekend during this Ramadhan month, until we reach the month of Syawal, that’s when our Muslim friends celebrate the Eid or as we call it the Hari Raya Aidil Fitri here.

Ice-Iced Coffee!

To all readers all over the world, my sincere wish and prayers for peace everywhere. Those stars are not too far within our reach.

Have a great fasting week and enjoy your coffee after.