Expat haiku: Time Traveling

I used to wear heels.
But cobblestones trump fashion.
Baby steps, in flats.

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Our first Furth Fest: Michaelis Kirchweih

Entrance to the Michaeliskirchweih

The entrance to the Kirchweih–where delights for all the senses await you.

Only a 15 minute drive from Herzogenaurach, we decided to check out the fest in Furth. This long-established festival takes place right in the heart of the city and takes over several blocks for more than a week. During that time, the streets are full of food tents and beer gardens, carnival rides, vendors selling everything from leather belts to kitchen tools and an ever-evolving cast of characters worthy of hours of people watching. In short, this was heaven for a State Fair-loving girl like myself.

Beer gardens in Furth during the Kirchweih

Dozens of beer gardens pouring local brews line the streets and invite you in for a mug (or two.)

One of the most curious parts of the festival? The carnival rides. Much more than mere bumper cars and mini-coasters, they were also a time capsule of recent Americana. Each one was decorated with airbrushed pictures of celebrities, movies and TV shows from the 80s and 90s. A carousel featured scenes from Kindergarten Cop. Seriously. Another one included a 10-foot-tall Jennie Garth. And then there was my personal favorite:

Home Improvement-themed carnival ride in Germany

Old TV shows–and their stars–never die. They live on in Germany. Because nothing says excitement and frivolity like remembering episodes of Home Improvement. Also, is he giving her bunny ears?

It was also an opportunity to reinforce stereotypes. Because there, in all his glory, was David Hasselhoff, larger than life and greeting all from the street. I guess he really *is* big in Germany.

David Hasselhoff

Don’t hassle the Hoff, indeed.

The following weekend, we headed back to the festival to watch the parade. Apparently it’s kind of a big deal and is shown on television with (they say) hundreds of thousands of people tuning in. Not knowing what to expect, we arrived very early. We didn’t really know the route, but had a general guess. So we staked out a spot that seemed to have good viewing and waited. And waited.

We stood there for quite some time, second-guessing ourselves for choosing a spot that seemed far closer to the end of the route than the beginning. But finally our instincts were rewarded with the perfect place to view the giant balloon release.

Balloon release

Furth’s official colors of green and white take to the sky to kick off the parade.

So here’s the most important thing I learned about (hopefully all) German parades. While in the U.S. it is common for the parade walkers to throw candy to the children watching, we got other better things. Our outstretched hands were filled with  balloons, sausages, beer and soup! It was like Costco on a Saturday morning out there!

Parade soup

The soup, handed out by one of the parade walkers. It was chickeny with little crunchy croutons floating in it. Delicious.

The parade itself is a celebration of agriculture and the harvest and all the area farms and breweries. Dozens of clubs in traditional attire represented families/clans/towns in Bavaria. Each one had slightly different–but equally beautiful–variations of dress.

Furth parade marchers

Marchers proudly showing their traditional dress.

Furth parade participants

Some even marched with a mobile maypole.

The “Floats” consisted of wagons pulled by horses. The wagons were either 1) full of wooden kegs of beer or 2) full of people showing aspects of traditional farm life or 3) full of seasonal vegetables and fruits, artfully arranged.

Traditional aspects of farm life in the Furth parade

Demonstrating the ways of yore.

The entire parade was just so wholesome. It really made me feel like I had stepped back in time a bit. Well, that and David Hasselhoff. That helped too.

Olde Time bike

And really, what parade is complete without an old-timey-bike guy?

 

Bring on the Bratwurst! The neighborhood festival

The lovely and generous Eva, who runs the bed and breakfast where we are staying, invited us to a small festival at her church in Zuchwil, just down the road.

Zuchwil, Switzerland church festival

Though small, the congregation put on a great spread.

There was a buffet table with awesome sausages, potato salad and sides for a donation of a few Swiss Francs. We had to wait for the grill to finish, but it was well worth it.

dinner in Zuchwil, Switzerland

Hurry up grill! Bring on those bratwursts!

There was also a tent with, what I think were cocktails, and tables set up with bake-sale goodies. It was hard to pick, but we landed on two chocolate-and-hazelnut cupcakes that did not disappoint.

Swiss bake sale table in Zuchwil

You can’t make a bad choice at the bake sale table–and you don’t need to speak German. Just point and hand over your money.

Unfortunately, we missed Eva’s performance in the early evening when she and a group were singing gospel songs, but we did make it there in time for this. Not your standard church music program, but it made my night.

Packing list for European travel

I’m a big believer in minimal packing when possible. Lugging suitcases and tripping over piles of clothes and shoes in a small space is not my idea of a good time. But we will be in Switzerland for four weeks. The weather is a bit unpredictable and the climate changes with the elevation.

So my plan is to streamline when I can, but not have to do laundry more than once a week. Here’s my packing list:
1 skirt (can double as swimsuit cover up)
3 pairs of pants (one converts to Capri length)
1 pair yoga pants (for sleeping)
3 short sleeve t shirts
1 button down shirt
2 long sleeve shirts
2 cardigans
3 tank tops (use one for sleeping)
1 hoodie
1 running skirt
1 pair ballet flats
1 pair trail shoes
1 pair sneakers
A weeks worth of socks and underwear
1 infinity scarf

That’s it! I doubt I’ll use the running skirt for running (though I’d like to) but if there are any hot and steamy days, I can wear them in place of shorts. I have a mix of cotton and technical fabrics and everything is in a neutral color so they can all be thrown in the wash together and I can endlessly mix and match.

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A Better Bike Trailer That’ll Make You Say, Weehoo!

Now THIS is a bike trailer!

Red Tricycle

If you’ve put long bike rides on hold because your kids are too young to bike alongside you or big trailers are too clunky to tote on a major ride, you’ll dig this cool bike trailer that makes family bike outings a cinch. Called a Weehoo, this trailer is great for kids of all ages and biking abilities and is easy to set-up and pull along. Now, go find those bike shorts and rediscover your inner weekend warrior.

WeehoooWhat it Does
Weehoo is a bike trailer that lets kids pedal, sleep, eat, drink, enjoy the scenery and, most importantly, be with you, while you ride. While traditional bike trailers leave kids looking like ancient Pharoahs, being toted in an enclosed litter, the Weehoo is designed to look and act just like a real bike, so kids can get some exercise and be out in nature, all while safe and secure.

weehoo side by sideWhy You’ll Love…

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The in-town small town

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Photo from thebirdtown.com

Last weekend I ran a race in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. Considered a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis, I had never really spent any time there (I grew up in another first-ring suburb. Hey Roseville!) so it was at the invitation of a co-worker that a few of us signed up for the Birdtown 8K.

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Friends and finishers of the Birdtown 8K

It turned into quite the eye-opener for me. Not only did the mayor run the race–in a kilt, which he promised to do if a certain number of runners signed up–but everywhere you turned you heard the excited greetings of friends and neighbors bumping into each other. It seems like everyone knew everyone else and there was a real feeling of community support that, unlike other, bigger suburbs, wasn’t united solely by kids’ sports.

The race was fun, the day was beautiful, (And the co-worker-hosted after-party? Stellar. Apparently the carrot I’m willing to run for is the promise of pastries and a Bloody Mary bar.) and I got to explore a bit of Robbinsdale. The race toured around two lakes and their parks as well as main street.

That’s the kicker. Robbinsdale has a wonderful, small-town feel main street. Something my hometown sorely lacked. Because the town was established in its own right before the post-WWII sprawl and housing boom, it maintains the character of the past. And the community has clearly embraced it. Anchored by some very popular, very progressive restaurants like Travail and Pig Ate My Pizza, it seems that Robbinsdale could be the new sleeper destination for hipsters ready to put down roots and have families.

Running commentary

City Running Tours

From City Running Tours

I’ve recently been doing my best to re-up my fitness level. I’ve signed up for a few 5K races around town and been jogging around the neighborhood (Yup, that person on the sidewalk flailing like Phoebe on “Friends”? That’s me.) Going down the Internet rabbit hole looking for running routes, I found this company: City Running Tours. They give tours of great U.S. cities by creating a 5K route that showcases the historic and off-the-beaten path landmarks.

They have tours in many major cities, including New York, San Francisco, Portland, Austin, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Minneapolis. (I would like to proudly point out that the photo for the Minneapolis route is the only city that uses a brewery.)

City Running Tours at Fulton Brewery, Minneapolis

From City Running Tours

Prices start at about $25 and go up to around $40 for beer tasting runs.

 This seems like the perfect thing when traveling when you might not want to run alone for fear of getting lost and the guides carry all your stuff so you don’t need to worry about having your phone/wallet/keys/water with you.

I think the next time I travel for work I might just do a little urban exploration at a slightly faster pace.

From City Running Tours

From City Running Tours