Friday, October 12, 2007

Move over WHEATIES...

The last few weeks have been as busy as those preceding. Since I last posted, I participated in “Net Leman” – a volunteer cleanup of Lake Geneva and its shores with Alcoa employees including my friend Vivienne from Crossroads and my new friends Jason, Kelly, and their daughter Lily. (I’m 4th from left with my super short haircut).

The following day, Jason, myself, and about 18 other Geneva-living expats headed to Mont Chauffé near the village of Abondance, France for a day hike. It was a nice fairly leisurely hike of about 5 hours. The lot of us headed back to a small outdoor café in Abondance near the river coming out of the mountains for a post-hike beer.

The following weekend, after going out to Annecy to look at old bikes for Jason and Kelly, Jason and I rode out to the Col de la Croisette; he was on a full-suspension mountain bike. It was the clearest I’ve seen the area since moving here; I could see Mont Blanc like it was in my backyard from the top since there was virtually no fog at the summit.

Fast forward to this past weekend (5-Oct-07 to 7-Oct-07) when Alex, Rodolfo and I headed to Munich for Oktoberfest. Barely making our train after a meeting at work on Thursday, we arrived in Munich at 1a.m. Friday. Alex’s boyfriend Tobias had to work Friday, so we were on our own. I woke up early on Friday to go for a run. Less than 1km from Tobias’ house there was a beautiful, expansive park with loads of jogging trails, green areas, trees, ponds, beer gardens, flower gardens, etc. It stretched over different parts of the town with several bridges linking the different areas. It was a great run. It started to rain about 5 minutes into my 1 hour run, but once you’re wet, you just keep going. It was very refreshing, rewarding even. Besides, I had to earn my right to drink the following day at Oktoberfest. Getting back to the apartment, I found Alex and Rodolfo still sleeping. Once I roused them, we headed to the city center where we walked around the open-air mall. Rodolfo got some Birkenstocks, Alex an iPod. Then we had sushi. Sushi in Munich, go figure. Later that evening, we met Tobias for a drink at a Mexican joint. So far, I was wondering if I was in Munich or back home. Then we went to a Ratskeller: a traditional Bavarian (Bavarian, not German as I was consistently reminded) restaurant in the basement of the New Rat House (city hall) located in MarienPlatz. Rodolfo and Tobias ordered a shank of pork that was about as big as the Maß' (pronounced Mäss – the ß is a double “s”) we would drink from the next day. After dinner, we headed back home, time rest up for Saturday’s Oktoberfest. Waking up in waves from 7a.m., we had our Bavarian breakfast of Weißwurst (white sausages made from very finely minced veal and fresh bacon with parsley) sans skin - you peel it off, sweet mustard, and pretzels. Oh, and beer too. Becks Gold. Move over Wheaties, we have a new contender, a new breakfast of champions. Not surprisingly, it was quite delicious. Finally on our way by 9:30, we rushed to try to get to Oktoberfest in time to make it into one of the 15 tents before they all filled up. No such luck. When we arrived, not only were all of the tents full (each holds thousands), but the beer gardens outside the tents were all full…except for the four seats in the Paulaner beer garden, which we promptly claimed as ours. Thus the festivities began about 10:30 with radlers (half beer, half lemonade) for each of us. Not bad, but not what we came to Munich for. So, after that, down to business, it was beer for us from then on. The Paulaner beer garden was fun. Crowded, loud, full of exuberant (translation: thoroughly entertaining, but ever-so close to annoying) Italians. Admittedly they livened up the atmosphere to everyone’s enjoyment, but they kept trying to slam their Maß’ together in an all-but futile effort to break them. They actually did break two. But, they were so drunk they were replaced by a new wave of Italians about every hour. We hung out in the Paulaner beer garden for several hours. Everyone had a ½ chicken; except me. I was not to be bothered by lunch at this point in the day. I had beer to drink. After all, that is what I came to Munich for; to have 5 Maß’. (For a point of perspective, these Maß’ are 1 Liter: think ½ of a 2 Liter of soda). Having had enough of the Paulaner beer garden (and myself having had 4 Maß’), we proceeded to try to get in the tent. No such luck. Sadly it took over an hour to find out that we would not get in the tent. Plan B, or was it C or D, who knows, the day was very dynamic; so again, we set out to walk around and try to get in a tent. No luck again. They were all full, and there was no getting in unless you had a reservation (they open reservations 10 months in advance). Figuring that we were not going to get in a tent, we decided to head to a new beer garden to have the 5th Maß I had much earlier set out to consume. This time around we were not so lucky. All of the beer gardens seemed to be full too. Scheiße, what to do? Not quick to give up, we did find one garden: the Spaten House with again, 4 empty seats (this time way in the back) which we promptly occupied. Along with my 5th Maß, I did order a ½ chicken this time. It was delicious. Delicious I tell you. So having accomplished what I set out to do, my day felt…mmm, complete? Far from it. We had to get in a tent! So we tried again, only to learn once more that they were all full (we had hoped some of the thousands who had been there since 9a.m. would leave freeing up space for us to get in – yet again, no such luck). On the verge of calling it quits, we heard from Tobias’ friends that they could get us in the Spatenbräeu tent. No luck at the front door. Again feeling defeated, we walked around the side where we discovered the reservation entrance. Tobias was sure we would not get in since we did not have reservations, but what did we have to lose? Nothing right. And so we proceeded to walk right in the back door. Everyone except Rodolfo, who was stopped by the guard. Where are you from, they asked him. Mexico. Sing a Mexican song then. After a few off-key bars, they took pity on him and let him in. So now we were all four inside the allusive tent. We could breathe a collective sigh of relief, smile a collective smile, and join Tobias’ friends at their table. And join them we did. Singing, dancing, drinking more beer. It was all I expected and more. It was a blast. I’m quite certain I’ve never seen so many people getting along, having a good time, celebrating, singing, dancing, laughing; to say it was unique is an understatement. The band played a mix of traditional Bavarian songs (e.g., "Ein Prosit" / or: Cheers) and 70’s American rock. Working on getting up a video of our table during “Smoke on the Water”. After hours of signing, dancing, etc., it was time to call it quits. I had 8 confirmed Maß’. Maybe 9. Who was counting anyway? Headed back home, Rodolfo and I found two Maß’ outside the tents (you were not allowed to take them outside of the tents), and walking past the roller-coaters, Ferris wheel, etc. (who rides these things I kept thinking to myself) we thought, cool, free souvenirs. Just at the gate of the festival, two cops stopped us, politely thanked us for hand-delivering the Maß’ to them, and proceeded to reclaim them. We eventually ended up with our souvenir Maß’ at the end of the night. (I actually got one from – ironically enough – a group of drunk Italians who left one behind at a McDonald’s outside of the festival grounds). Miraculously I felt fine the next day. Someone must have been praying for me. Sunday was another long day of travel back to Geneva.

This week we had a great fondue at Church last night (Thursday) and all-in-all the week has been uneventful until today (Friday) at lunch. I went out for one of my many daily lunch-time bike rides. Only this time I got two flats. In one ride! Unheard of. I’ve flatted once ever prior to this in all my years of road cycling. What are the chances? Anyhow, the long and short of it is that I didn’t have enough patches, tubes, or air to fix the second one. I had to walk 8km back to work; in my socks (you can’t walk that far in cycling shoes, especially carbon-fiber soled ones). Needless to say I arrived back at work a few minutes late, tired, and with very sore feet. In fact I had to cancel a hike planned for this weekend as I have a huge blister on my left foot; I will still go biking tomorrow though. Reminds me of the time I went for a “quick 50 mile ride” with Wray and his friends after about my second week of work at G&G only to end up being picked up by Tim at about 1p.m. in Maryland about 30 miles from work, fearing the worst, changing into Tim's old golf clothes in the parking garage, working all day without having taken a shower, then heading to Athens in the midst of D.C. Friday night traffic for a mountain bike race the next morning.

This coming week we have a big week at work as there are meetings all week with Panelists and other attorneys involved in the domain name game. Should be fun, tiring to be sure since work does not stop despite our attending many meetings, but fun nonetheless to finally meet some of the people we correspond with via email in person. A plus tard. - B