furtech: (Eurofurence)
Finally!

I finished packing and eating (read: stuffing into me) the last of the fruit and snacks from the trip and wandering over to the train station. I think one reason this trip felt so relaxing is that I planned for extra days to arrive and leave, so there was no frantic rushing around. Best vacation I've had in years and one of the first I can remember where I actually got back home feeling refreshed.

returnflight

The flight back was wonderful: I lucked out by having an empty seat next to me, so I could spread out my stuff and really enjoy the trip. As you can see above, I had everything I needed for a twelve hour flight: a great book (the Wool Omnibus), tunes (my ancient iPod) and snacks galore.
furtech: (Eurofurence)
After having a late breakfast at the Marketplace, I headed out to the Leipzig Zoo. As much as I might mock the teeny size of the Best Western Room, the second best part of this hotel (after price-- cheap!) is location. Five minutes to downtown Leipzig and under a ten minute walk to the zoo.

LeipzigZoo2013
Full Flickr Set Here

I try to get to any zoo at about 1pm: this is about the time most zoos feed the animals. If there is any time that they will be awake and active, this is it (the sweet spot is 2-3pm). So if there is an animal you love to watch and won't be satisfied with a furry, snoozing lump-- ask the keepers when that animal is fed. They will be glad to tell you and you will see them pace, eat, food-politic and then some.

I was hoping to see the maned wolf out and about-- but it was a lump. Visible, but just a reddish bump of fur behind a tree. Apparently they feed them at some odd-hour, because this creature did not move an inch the entire day (I kept checking back-- first thing in, during the day and on the way out after 5pm!).

I then bee-lined to the hyenas. After African Wild Dogs, hyenas are my favorite animal to watch. One nice thing about going to a zoo alone: you can dawdle as long as you like without driving friends crazy because you want to spend hours just watching a certain animal...

The hyenas did not disappoint! They had just gotten their food and the hierarchy politics were in full swing: there were two animals who were clearly dominant, plus a shifty-looking third who was not. Of course, this latter animal was the most interesting to watch. She (or he) had a nasty wound on her neck: clearly she had transgressed at some point. She would sneak down to the food pile-- which at this point was mostly turnips and other vegetables-- and, after giving the other two a quick scout, would nose around and triumphantly skitter off with a turnip. She was especially triumphant when she found an unclaimed caulifower. Love her.

Hyena

I had lunch at the restaurant at the back of the zoo, which overlooked the Savannah area of the park. Very relaxing meal except for having to share with the local wasps (what is it with all these wasps in Germany? The locals just ignore them as they bodly eat their food!?!).

I walked through the new, big exhibit, Gondwanaland: this is a huge greenhouse of a habitat that houses open-air tropical plants and animals under a gigantic dome. Humid, but very nicely done. The catwalks are pretty cool.

When I passed by the hyenas again, they were napping. Two of them had decided to snooze right up against the big glass wall, to the excitement of passersby. They acted like they *enjoyed* the attention: they would stretch luxuriously and ignore the many snapping cameras and glass-tappings. Best zoo hyenas I've ever seen! What hams!

Hyenas

About this time the zoo was closing, so I headed out. I walked past the still-sleeping maned wolf and back to the hotel. After all that walking, I took a rest. I ended up not going out to eat, but rather eating all my snacks and fruit from the marketplace: most of it I could not take on the plane the next day anyway.
furtech: (apache-r0ndo)
Thanks to a Really Useful Post by a Trip Advisor user (great travel site, BTW), I knew that Tuesday would be market day in Leipzig! (The other day is Thursday) Open air markets are one of the great pleasures of the German cities I've visited. You wander them and snack on fresh fruit and bread. One more reason I think Los Angeles is just too darn big.

Leipzig082613Tuesday
Leipzig2013Tuesday

Leipzig's market is wonderful: plenty of beautiful fruit and vegetables; cheeses and meats; plants and flowers. There were baskets of mushrooms, too. Oddly, they looked like a type of boletus mushroom, which I thought were (as a species), "edible, but not palitable." I'm guessing this variety is delicious, from the amount they were selling.

The highlight of the market (also pointed out on Trip Advisor) was one vendor selling fresh bread. Really, really fresh: they had a portable iron oven that her husband was baking country bread in. As you would imagine, bread hot and crisp from the oven is *amazing*. I got a loaf of steaming bread, stopped by the salami vendor and got some European ham (for my American friends: it's more like prosciutto than American ham). Bit of cheese from another vendor, raspberries from a nearby stall and a Coke Lite from the curry shop and I was set for lunch.

Lunch

Near the market, I saw an interesting breed of dog: he was gorgeous! He looked like a large, black schnauzer, but with a smooth coat. His owner was very proud of his dog and happy to let me snap pictures of him. Friendly and intelligent dog. Any guesses anyone?

Leipzigdog

I wandered over to Thomaskirche: this is the church were Bach spent his last 25 years. The acoustics are reportedly amazing and groups and singers book time in there just to experience this sound. While I was inside, there was a soloist practicing. I consider myself lucky to have heard him: heavenly. I think more churches and cathedrals should have music playing during the day: organ or singers or choirs. These structures seem to come to life with music! Transformed from dusty shells to living structures. The soloist was higher than a tenor: I am thinking that there are not catratos any longer...what would he be called? (<--I am counting on readers being sophisticated and not rude-- thanks!)

After this I wandered through some of the malls and ogled at the stores. One toy store had a great selection of Schleich figures. Plus, the great Irish explorer, "Marc O'Polo" had a shop, too!
furtech: (Eurofurence)
I'm not a good traveller. I love to explore and walk-- but left to my own devices I would just as easily slouch in my hotel room all day watching foreign television and reading my books. Having travelled with someone more spontaneous last year (Hi, Tracy!), I vowed not to slouch this time.

Leaving Magdeburg was sad: I went one last time to my favorite deli and had my favorite meal there: watermelon, spiced raw pork sausage and a Coke Lite. The train was efficient as ever and I got to Leipzig in the early afternoon.

Leipzig2013Monday
Full Flickr Set Here


I stayed at the Best Western Leipzig, which was literally across the street from the train station/mall. Very convenient! I have to say, though, that this was the smallest hotel room I've stayed in outside of Japan. You can see in one picture the narrow entrance hallway...and then realize that the room-proper is not much wider than that! Plus, teeny bathroom. The toilet had to be angled such that you could actually sit on it and close the door. They were -almost- successful. Still, the room was both clean and cheap-- I'd much rather spend the money saved on good food and cheezy souvenirs!

I have been to this city several times, but never explored it much. Mostly sticking to the Bahnhof (train station) and the attached mall. Honestly: the city never looked very interesting, even on travel sites. Still, it was certainly convenient and warranted a day or two. At the very least there is a nice zoo in town.

Surprise, surprise: Leipzig is wonderful. I can't believe we never explored before-- a mere five minute walk took me to the city center where there were even bigger shopping areas, a lot of restaurants and a beautiful market square.

I spent the afternoon shopping for snacks and fruit, plus exploring the music/dvd section of the local Saturn store (kind of a German Best Buy). I love foreign versions of Broadway musicals and was able to find several: Mamma Mia; Der Konig Der Lowen (Lion King); Wicked (Der Hexen Von Oz); Starlight Express. Somehow they all sound more martial sung in German...especially the Lion King!

The DVD section was interesting as always. Often, films are released in foreign territories that never see release in the US (even some US-made shows!). There was a live-action Marsupilami; a live-action Ace Attorney (Phoenix Wright!); a lot of schlock...and Polizehund Muchtar! (<--for Tracy!).

The one boggling thing I saw in the DVD area was a whole section dedicated to Terence Hill and Bud Spencer . I am familiar with both actors...but I had *no* idea they were so popular in Germany! I also had no inkling that they were long-time partners, best-friends and directed/produced/acted in over twenty films together! Fascinating!

After a short nap (and more Wool), I fought down my agoraphobia and went out for dinner. Good move, too: I tried a well-known place called Barthels Hof . Oh, my. Everything was superb: the basil soup was creamy and tasted of fresh basil; the pork was tender and flavorful; the dumplings were (typically) plain-- but perfect for soaking up the delicious gravy; the saurkraut was excellent. Even the dessert was unique and wonderful (so much so that I completely forgot to take any pictures).

I wanted to get a few activity points to work off some of that meal, so I wandered the city center. For a Monday night, the place was surprisingly active.

The highlight of my evening was coming upon a busker playing the saxaphone. He picked a perfect location: the mellow tones echoed down the street. His music was freeform-- yet seemed to set a mood and paint a aurel picture. I am not usually a fan of free-form jazz, but his music was magical-- the best I can do to describe it is to say that it sounded like the soundtrack to every noir film ever made. He even had a CD for sale and I bought it. I'm used to CD's from buskers being nothing like what I hear in the street-- they are usually studio jobs with pop songs and such. I was thrilled to find that this was not the case with Winfried Vollger: the CD was recorded on the street-- and sounded *exactly* like the performance that had so mesmerized me that night. So excellent.
furtech: (Eurofurence)
This was my second year of the EF Snack Exchange. Outside of the Pawpet Show, this is easily my favorite event. People are encouraged to bring their favorite snacks (or even just weird food) from their country. There is an amazing amount of variety: you get a good idea about how many different countries are represented at the convention!

ef2013snackexchange
Fully Annotated Flickr Set Here

This year I brought Skittles, XXX-hot Cheetos, Pop-rocks and Butterfingers. Next year I will be earlier and more organized (instead of just throwing the food out in any available space! Embarrassingly sloppy!).

The Finns win again for having the least-palatable snacks: Pantteri and its nastier brother, Leijona. These are bitter-licorice "treats". When I asked what flavor it was, he simply replied, "Road". And yes- it tasted like what I imagine licking a freshly tarred street would be like. He was kind enough to give me the leftovers so I could show my friends back in the states. He also brought a bottle of the pure element that is one of the main ingredients of these candies: Ammonium Chloride. I dipped a finger and tried it this year (wasn't brave enough last year): it tastes like what I imagine licking a dirty cat box would taste like. The Finns have a good sense of humor about all this and I love them for that.

It was interesting to compare snacks made in different countries. For instance, American Skittles are distinctly different from British Skittles (American skittles are intensely sweet, while the British version is more pleasantly sweet).

There were cookies galore (mostly wonderful) and some new-comers: dates and treats from Saudi Arabia (omg dates) and canned Dolma.

The Italians (or were they Hungarians? I need to take better notes) were my favorite: rich, sharp cheeses and salamis. He served the cheese (kind of like an aged Parmesan) with a dollop of honey. Incredible. He also brought a jar of a home-made cabbage-ish-something. Despite it's Kim-chee appearance, it was mild and almost (but not really) sweet. I really liked this. I think his mother made it...

The photos in the set are annotated or have cards identifying them, so take a closer look!

The Austrians brought a bottle of a beerenauslese wine that was -very- nice. They also pointed me to the grocery store across the street where they bought it. I went over and found the same winery also makes a trockenbeerenauslese that I bought and brought home (can't wait to try it!).
furtech: (Eurofurence)
On Friday the convention was in full-cry: people and costumes everywhere. Friday was the day of the International Snack Exchange: one of my favorite events of the con (and one that merits its own post).

ef2013friday
Full Flickr Set Here

We had dinner at a nearby Hungarian restaurant. I've noticed that ethnic restaurants evolve to fit their host countries. This Hungarian restaurant (which got good reviews) had a decidly Tuetonic styling to it. And the food was as good as the reviews (very).

Today was also the day of the fursuit parade. This year was less-organized than in past years where there was a distinct path, line of costumers and beginning/end. This route was longer and had cut-offs, so costumers were all over the place (and security scrambled admirably to do their work). Apparently the Mayor came out to meet the 'suiters and extol the city's love for the convention and the furries. The police even called out extra forces...to protect the costumers! So many citizens had turned out to see the spectacle that the police had to use crowd control to direct traffic and keep the parade on-track. As I said-- I'll miss Magdeburg!
furtech: (apache-r0ndo)
My flight from SFO to LHJ was blissfully uneventful. I had the Wool Omnibus on my kindle (along with other great books), an iPod filled with songs and audio books and a seat near the restrooms. I read two chapters of the Wool Omnibus, then promptly fell asleep for five hours.

Arriving in Frankfurt Airport was like a homecoming. Have I mentioned I love Germany? I'm still puzzled as to why so many people assume one only visits Germany for business...they were genuinely surprised to hear it was for a vacation...Fresh baked breads, pretzels, and so much efficiency.

EF 2013 SFO to LHJ collage

Full Flickr Set Here

I got to Magdeburg proper in no time at all and checked into the hotel. I got lucky again: a handicap room. Lucky because just before the trip I'd wrecked my leg, so these facilities were actually a boon for me.

It's a shame the convention is moving to Berlin. I have grown to like Magdeburg quite a lot: it's a beautiful city, on a river, with a decent zoo. The Ottokaiserfest is the best RenFaire I've ever gone to (open at night!) when it over-laps with the convention. Also, I know how to get there by rote. I will certainly miss the shopping mall and market that is right across the street: there is a giant toy store, electronics/dvd store, drug stores, travel stores and a very large market.
Having settled into the hotel, I marched across the street to get my supplies: German Meusili; Coke Lite; apples; Nic-Nacs and a few other things. Foreign countries are the few places I actually -enjoy- shopping: I like to see the different products, American foods (usually different in some way), foreign gadgets. Of the latter, the winner this year was the banana slicer: so precise-- very Deutsch.

Interesting finds: Sauerkraut juice (did not try).

Also, R0ndo brand coffee! (Bought a slab for the label. Very amused.)

Stopping in at the Pawpet room, I saw new and old friends in various states of disarray. Plus, all the hard-working team behind the show. Great to see everyone again!

PS: Yes, I know this picture (from an ad at the Frankfurt airport) has nothing to do with the convention-- but visually it's probably what most people think the airport looks like when a furry convention comes to town:
furry carousel
furtech: (apache-r0ndo)
I managed to scrape together the money for Eurofurence again. Love Germany, love this con. This time I tried something different: flying out of SFO and staying at my sister and BiL's place for a few days before and after. Big difference: much less stress because anything I forgot I could still get in SJ. Also, dogs stayed at dog-sister's place, so were less stressed than if they'd just been boarded (their regular boarding place is great, but still a boarding place).

latosj

Full Flickr Set Here

The trip started well: food and more food. A friend highly recommended a place in Buttonwillow, CA to stop and eat at. A bit early in the trip, but he raved about this place. He was right. The pulled pork was delicious on its own...and the salsa that came with it (served on the side!) was also perfect-- a pleasant burn, deep flavor. But the PIE! Oh, the peach pie was the best I've had in decades. Crisp texture, deep flavor and a perfect crust. So good we're making a roadtrip -just- for this pie. 100 miles and worth it!

Same friend also got tickets to the Ikea Crayfish Party . I'd never heard of it, but they sell out fast. Thank goodness there was more than just crayfish- which has too low a ratio of reward-to-effort. Eat, eat, eat.

A big bonus was getting to meet Don Knuth and his wife, Jill (who were part of the group). He wrote the seminal book, The Art of Computer Programming. Anyone who has taken a college-level computer class has seen this book; it is so far out of my ken that I have to take their words on this. Not only is he a really nice guy, but he brings a unique take on current events. I could listen all day, week, year to him. My friend was also able to get him to autograph another seminal work: an early writing sale-- to Mad Magazine. Read his Wiki: wicked sense of humor!

I also got to visit a friend who's back to working at Apple: like most large, hip tech companies, they have wonderful food-services. The seared ahi sandwich is...wonderful. It's no wonder I gained four pounds even before leaving the country. This, despite a bunch of hikes with the dogs in the hills around SJ.
furtech: (Eurofurence)
Nightmarket
Here's the complete, annotated Flickr set!
Running concurrently with (but separately from) EF was a "historical" festival called the KaiserOttoFest Magdeburg. The event is touted as a seriously historical affair, but really is about as historically accurate as a typical American RenFaire.

What set this event apart from its American counterparts is the Nightmarket: the faire stays open until about midnight and is lit almost exclusively by candles, torches and braziers. I can't describe how cool it is to wander in the near-darkness and visit the stalls selling their wares lit only by that golden flame-light.

The food was equally amazing: fire-roasted lamb, sausages and pork and savory turnovers and all manner of beer and wine.

beersellers

All of this happens in the shadow of the great church and cathedral buildings, which add to the atmosphere.

music
furtech: (Eurofurence)
Nightmarket
Here's the complete, annotated Flickr set!
Running concurrently with (but separately from) EF was a "historical" festival called the KaiserOttoFest Magdeburg. The event is touted as a seriously historical affair, but really is about as historically accurate as a typical American RenFaire.

What set this event apart from its American counterparts is the Nightmarket: the faire stays open until about midnight and is lit almost exclusively by candles, torches and braziers. I can't describe how cool it is to wander in the near-darkness and visit the stalls selling their wares lit only by that golden flame-light.

The food was equally amazing: fire-roasted lamb, sausages and pork and savory turnovers and all manner of beer and wine.

beersellers

All of this happens in the shadow of the great church and cathedral buildings, which add to the atmosphere.

music
furtech: (Eurofurence)
Nightmarket
Here's the complete, annotated Flickr set!
Running concurrently with (but separately from) EF was a "historical" festival called the KaiserOttoFest Magdeburg. The event is touted as a seriously historical affair, but really is about as historically accurate as a typical American RenFaire.

What set this event apart from its American counterparts is the Nightmarket: the faire stays open until about midnight and is lit almost exclusively by candles, torches and braziers. I can't describe how cool it is to wander in the near-darkness and visit the stalls selling their wares lit only by that golden flame-light.

The food was equally amazing: fire-roasted lamb, sausages and pork and savory turnovers and all manner of beer and wine.

beersellers

All of this happens in the shadow of the great church and cathedral buildings, which add to the atmosphere.

music

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