Archive for the 'HowTo' Category

08
Oct
08

What to do in Munich (before or after Oktoberfest)

There are only a few hours left to Oktoberfest. It’s ok for you to enjoy your last liters of beer, but it’s also maybe time to figure out what to do, when the party is over. Given that you’ll stay a bit more in Munich, of course: otherwise, farewell, fellow tourist.

Munich is considered a big city in Germany (actually the country’s third biggest urban concentration), and as such has a lot to offer in terms of job opportunities, entertainment and life in general, throughout all seasons of the year (believe me).

For starters, well, people may get mad at me for this, but I’ll be honest: there is ALWAYS a festival going on, and a festival, in Munich, means pretty much… to have a beer with your friends, outside.

Now I’m gonna talk about festivals. If you want to jump to the normal stuff, please do.

In the beginning of March, there’s the Starkbierfest (strong beer party). It’s pretty much the same as Oktoberfest, if you go to Paulaner’s main pub, for instance. Only much more dangerous because it’s still winter, and the beer is very strong. So, odds are you’ll get yourself overdrunk trying to get warm.

Later on, somewhere in May, there’s the StuStaCulum. It’s a festival held in the middle of the city’s largest student dormitory. It’s veeery cheap (3 euros for all the 4 days), and there’s a huge schedule of music concerts (rock, reggae, pop, hip-hop, …), art expositions and even theater, if I’m not mistaken. And beer. And food. It’s a bit warmer, and a very nice place to meet new people, people you know already, drink beer while eating an apple, you know, this kind of stuff. I particularly like this thing, better than Oktoberfest.

Tollwood 2008 (also Eurocup final)There wasn’t even enough time to get depressed, and there comes Tollwood, a “hippie” market with lots of handmade jewelry, clothes, even with a Navajo tent selling crazy native stuff (the creepy vendor really looks like a Navajo). Lots of music and theater as well, though a bit expensive. It’s located inside the Olympiapark, a very pleasant park. Of course there is food and drinks as well, but as it’s a hippie event, you’ll only find “natural” or “bio” stuff: bio burger, bio yakisoba, bio whatever. Another good place to get together with friends, talk, get a new job… walk around, alone…

After a short break, comes Oktoberfest, which I don’t want to write about again. Not now.

And as autumn goes by, and winter comes again, a variety of Christmas markets pops out in every square. And Winter Tollwood starts (yes, it’s true), this time at the same place where the Oktoberfest is held, Theresienwiese. Because it gets kind of chilly, people prefer drinking hot chocolate or, mostly, hot wine, to make small get-togethers a bit more cheerful. And to avoid getting too depressed with only 8 hours of sunlight on a day.

Hum this is getting real big. But I’ll go on.


Other than the festivals, as I mentioned before, there is a bunch of things you can do to enjoy life a little bit. I’ll mention my favorites:

Olympiapark - bicicleta1) Go to Olympiapark walk, talk, jogging, ice skating, swimming, play tennis, sit on a bench by the nearly frozen lake and watch the swanns and ducks drifting slowly in the water, fast asleep. The stars and the moon are also worth a look, with the Olympiaturm and the BMW building in the foreground… careful not to get frozen yourself. Early in the evening, near the sunset, it’s nice to climb one of the hills and watch everything change, a dark blue mantle slowly taking over the skies.

2) Go have a drink by yourself. Specially if you are in Schwabing, you’ll be able to find a decent pub within less than 1 kilometer from you. It’s expensive, but it’s somehow pleasant.

3) Go visit a museum/art gallery. There are so many, and they are very easy to find specially if you take the bus 100, a special line that stops by almost every museum and concert hall in town. You can visit one of the three Pinakotheken (old, new or modern), the Deutsches Museum (technical stuff), the Residenz (beatiful concert hall near downtown), Prinzregententheater… oh, it’s usually better to visit these places on Sundays: many of them cost only one euro then.

4) Go to a smaller pub, listen to live music. Unterfahrt Jazz Club is a place I liked a lot. Actually, and unfortunately, the only one I’ve been to. Twice.

5) Look for the Ostbahnhof, Kultfabrik or whatever, if you feel like dancing with lots of people. The big parties are all held over there, except for another place called Backstage, which I would say is a bit more… alternative. Not a good a idea to leave alone, drunk, when it’s raining. You might get very lost.

6) I forgot to write something about the Englischer Garten. But… I just won’t. It’s a big park, but by far NOT my favorite. Sorry, Englischer Garten… you lose. Big time.

That was pretty much it. Only thing I forgot is to mention that walking without a very well defined destination can be fun. Sometimes you find a hidden park, hidden garden, hidden policeman finding you suspicious… always a good adventure. Also a good opportunity to enjoy european architecture, and the curious contrast of sometimes finding tall buildings right next to something more than 500 years old.

A good opportunity to enjoy yourself. Or die trying…

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29
Sep
08

How to survive the Wiesn (also known as… Oktoberfest)

You might want to jump to the tutorial itself.

And last weekend came the time of the year, when everybody remembers you exist, everybody remembers your name, everybody becomes your friend, every friend becomes your best friend.

Your phone starts ringing frenetically. You get e-mails. People flood you on Skype, MSN Messenger, Facebook, Orkut, MySpace.

Everybody invites theirselves to your place. And they really show up, no matter what.

If you live in Munich, or lived there for long enough, you know what time of the year this is. It’s time to see hordes of men and women behaving like… hm, sorry: misbehaving. Yup.

It’s time to see the masses zig-zag walking, like a big human wave, seen from above (I’ve tried this, it’s no funny joke). It’s time to maybe not have all that fun, if you don’t drink enough; watching your friends acting foolishly, though, really might pay off.

The Wiesn (Oktoberfest) starts every year in the end of September, and lasts three weeks.

A city that normally has ~1.3 million inhabitants is visited by a couple of millions more. Not really shocking to me, for a certain reason, but this would get too personal. Well the thing is, the old people and the old city really get rocked on. Music is everywhere, mainly during the evening (yes, workdays are on too). Great opportunity to listen to the sweet voice of drunkenness, echoing the most poetic compositions like “PAAAM PAARAM PAM PAM PAAAAM PAAAAAAAM” (Seven Nation Army, The White Stripes). Although this is a italian, modified version. Oooh yeah.

Alright, special tips:

1) You might want to make your bed reservation (or call your “”dearest friend””) with some anticipation. Remember that you’re not the only one into alcohol and stuff. In case you choose to call the friend, keep in mind that it might happen for you to share a 10m² room with 7 other people. Specially if your friend is just a poor student.

2) It’s important to EAT as well. Beer is cool, but it’s not food. No matter what beautiful, emotional bavarian story about real beer you’ve been told. HOT: if you like chicken, have a bite at the Munich Central Station: you’ll find out that, astonishingly, you can eat twice as much with the same money you’d spend at Beerland;

3) If you’re a girl, watch out. Men are already very suspicious in every way, in all they do, when it concerns women. Drunk guys only get worse. Even drunk girls get dangerous. Birds get dangerous. Don’t trust your own shadow, really. Be sure to go with people you know, and to kick persistent guys in a certain spot without thinking twice. Don’t feel guilty: alcohol is a terrific pain killer.

4) Sleeping is also good. Not on the street. Not on the sidewalk, not in the bus/tram (I know you’ll miss the last metro at 2AM, I know everything about your kind). Go ahead and snore at your friend’s place. Snore your heart out at the hostel/hotel/motel/pension. It’s good for the body to remember how it feels like, to have more blood than alcohol running in your veins. Assuming you’ll stop drinking while you’re asleep, though. Oh, in case there are 7 other people sleeping with you, don’t worry: it’s more comfy, after all September/October is not that warm anymore, so nothing like a bit of human warmth.

5) Munich is very, very very very, walkable. Of course you don’t need to be dumb enough to walk 7km at 3am in the morning, but hey, you should be able to get a place to crash in a 3km radius of the Theresienwiese (where your objective is). Come on, you can do 3km in less than half an hour, and Munich is totally plain. This way it’s possible to avoid the crowds in the metro, and do some exercise, think about life, you know, this old man kind of stuff.

Waitress6) If you go, and you’re not really a big fan of beer, you won’t like it. It’s expensive (~8 Euros) and you simply can’t have anything but 1 liter beers. Theoretically, it’s possible to order soft drinks and even water. I heard Stephen Hawking has a bet on this one, even bigger than his bet about the Higgs’ Boson. But one thing is certain: you’d make the waitress… unhappy. And no, you don’t want to disappoint her. She’s able to lift weights beyond your imagination. And your car with the other arm.

7) Get there EARLY. Mainly if you want to go on the first day. Get there right after sunrise, otherwise you won’t get in. Look at the bright side: you can stop at the supermarket the day before, and buy some beers to endure the boring waiting hours. This way you’ll be already warmed up for the party.

8) About languages: the italian weekend (the second weekend) is not a joke. It really gets full of italians. But the official language continues to be the burping and the impossible-to-understand (Google -> unintelligible) “:P blrrblablabl :P :P”, so if you followed step 7 and warmed up, don’t worry. For the talkers, English is usually fine. I’ve seen even germans talking in English between themselves: after some hours they simply lose the hability to recognize their own compatriots.

9) Keep close watch to your belongings. It’s not very unusual to get robbed in and/or outside the tents. There is always a bunch of sober and evil bastards walking around.

10) If you don’t get drunk enough, you’ll keep weird (yet, unique) memories about the world’s biggest outdoor party, and laugh at your friends, and carry them home, become (even more) sour, and eventually write a stupid tutorial called “How to survive the Wiesn”. Therefore…

11) Stop reading this and GO DRINK BEER! What else could you do, in a time like this?… Be happy, even if just for a short moment, even if it’s artificial happyness…

12
Sep
08

Prague: like a table full of cakes (1)

First of all, this short description (like a table full of cakes®) was obviously not originally spoken or written by me. It’s too good and summarizes too well. Writing names would go against my writing rules so I’ll just write thank you, and the person will know, I’m sure. Maybe… well ok I’m not so sure…

Life moves forward, usuallyIt all started like all the travels I’ve made: from nowhere. Let’s take the chance and walk through my usual steps when going somewhere new.

STEP 0: WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?

I was already “pregnant” with the idea of going to Prague for some time, for a reason or another. Everybody talks about Prague, and everybody’s been to Prague. Not me. But one sentence wouldn’t get out of my head: “Don’t you dare to leave Europe before visiting Prague”. I think it was because of this threatening tone, you know, I hate being threatened. Makes me feel challenged.

STEP 1: THE FOURTH-DIMENSIONAL ISSUE (time, for the non-nerds)

The idea was set. The opportunity, though, came in a random weekend. As usual, Thursday came. Then came Thursday evening. And Thursday late evening. And Thursday waaay late in the evening, also known as Friday waaay early in the morning. And holy crap, tomorrow (rule number zero: it’s tomorrow only after you sleep and wake up®) is Friday and it’s gonna feel even worse to sit here and do nothing!!! How’s my bank account doing? Oh, not negative? Let’s go to Prague!

STEP 2: THE WHITE-COLLAR BUSINESS

Game! Another trip with no planning or decent management coming on. And no one I’d really like to, or could, invite, as usual (the name of this page is no coincidence). There we go, Friday afternoon, buy some strange currency known as “crowns”, check some maps, check if the city is walkable (I’ll be more specific about this further on), check train schedules. … oh, book a room. Yep, done.

You could probably notice that this is not really the smart way of traveling, neither the cheap way. But I did it my way. Frank Sinatra could, why can’t I?

Bahnsteig

Saturday morning, here we go. I like to be very punctual, so I almost missed the train, as always. You know, one minute is too early, the other is too late… life is about these little adventures. Anyways, there I am, trying to pick a cabin to spend the next 6 hours of my life. Do you feel the weight that this decision had?

Nah, too many old people. Nah, no seats. Nah, some girl and some weirdo who are probably a couple. Nah, it’s not empty. Nah, I want to sit by the window. Nah, I want to sit near the door. Nah, too many kids shouting. I love kids but if I have no intimacy with them, it only makes me feel depressed, not to be able to play along.

I’ll admit I was looking for an empty cabin. Of course such things don’t exist for Einsteins like me, who jump in the train in the last minute. So I went back, asked the girl if the seat was free and sat there, facing the german weirdo.

Yep. Here we go. Youhoo.

Are we there yet?…

I turned to the girl and she was asleep. Weirdo was reading, and after all he wasn’t so weird, he was just german. With a sense of fashion (which is something very, very dangerous). I liked the sleeping idea, and crashed.

For long trips, you should always take something to eat with you. I always take twice as much, it’s my growing up phase. So I had a bite, then slept again, then read, then had another bite, then had a little discussion about leaving the window open or not, about if the train was going directly to Prague or not. Final score: the german could find out that I am a moron and the girl was not german. The girl could find out that I can also talk, other than just snore almost directly on her right ear, and that the guy was german. I found out that she had unbelievably pretty eyes, and that I was starving more and more by the hour. Growing up phase.

Another important point of the discussion that I might have forgotten to mention was that no, the train wasn’t going directly there and we needed to take a bus, then another train. So everybody gets out, I notice that the girl who probably hates me is carrying a 200kg corpse inside her bag and fail to have the wonderful idea of being nice and helping her carry it, you know, same story all the time. And everybody gets in again. In the bus.

After a very exciting ride through the border between Germany and Czech Republic, little Nobel prize here finally finds an empty cabin in the train. Got my 3 seconds of satisfaction. Then, started thinking and thinking again. But destiny had something else planned for me, and it came in the form of a blond girl carrying a corpse in a bag. It sort of kicked me out of my thoughts, her shy request to join me. This time I was more like a gentleman and helped her lift the dead relative (or probably ex-boyfriend) up to the bag compartment.

You know, it’s all very stupid. You plan it, and go, all by yourself. You make this face, that you’re already a grown up and nothing can shake you. But in reality you’re always dying to talk to someone. Geez, was it great to talk to that girl. She was actually a local, from Prague, studied Medicine and was going back home after a 2-week intensive German course. We were, against all odds, able to talk quite well and even have a few laughs. She was really lovely, I can’t forgive myself for not remembering her name. I remember only that she said it was a danish name, well I could even speak it correctly, but I forgot.

Time went really fast this time, and the party wasn’t over yet. Wait, don’t get me wrong, not yet. In a certain stop another woman came in. And shortly afterwards, two old men, who looked like they came from India. Bingo, I’m getting good at this game. Suddenly we switched to English, and everybody joined the conversation. I learned quite a bit about indian geography and lots about the last 128 years of their lives, about their grown up children, about their grandsons, the weird guys who married their daughters, you know, old man talk.

I ended up proposing (not to the lovely, cute girl to marry me, but…) to everyone that we could have a beer when we arrived in Prague. Their reaction was a bit funny, if I may say. But I let things be and kept talking.

In the end, we all said goodbye, nice to meet you, “don’t worry young man, you’re smart and I’m sure you’ll make the right decisions”, bye, success with your Medicine studies… and no beer of course. Hum. Guess you can’t have it all, all the time.

I still met the guys from India in the station, because we all needed a map. And another lesson was learned: you don’t make friends as fast as you would like, specially on a train.

You know what? I’ve written a lot already, and we barely got to the final destination! It was supposed to be a highlight reel and I sort of got carried away. Where are those pills anyway?

So, I’ll take my right as this place’s greek god, and publish this story in two posts.

09
Sep
08

How to identify different languages – exclusive tutorial

OH MY GOD. Important update: the video to exemplify the chinese language was of EXTREMELY BAD TASTE, and I’M SORRY ABOUT THAT. I thought it was only an innocent toilet ad… I only saw what it’s really about 5 min ago. So, if you give it another try, I made sure it’ll be less traumatizing this time!

Prague, just lovelyHello. If you’re reading this, I must say I already admire you for such a huge lack of something more important to do, that almost (I said almost) gets close to mine.

I should probably be nicer to you for reading this, but hey, it’s just a bad taste joke, as always…

This is hopefully the first of a series that is gonna put some light in a very curious matter: what’s all the food Fernando eats used for? Howcome is he so damn thin given that he’s the worst couch potato, home-seater that I know?

This is one of the MANY theories that are being carefully, analitically and mathematically thought in my head. Enjoy.

Last weekend (means: somewhere in June 2008) I went to Praha, or Prague. It was my first and hopefully not last visit to Eastern Europe, and really unforgettable. And also my first full-immerse experience with a slavic language.

Czech people are amazingly nice, the girls are beautiful and, best of all, almost all of them speak English (phew!). BUT, it doesn’t change the fact that I couldn’t understand a n y t h i n g that was written right before my eyes. Although they use the “normal” alphabet, and not the cyrilic, the words doesn’t have neither latin or greek or germanic or anglo-saxon roots. In other words: it makes me want to cry, not to understand what’s written in the walls.

Along with the first disappointment, came something familiar: when spoken, czech sounds like, sounds pretty much like… russian, to me. And then I could introduce this new category of language in my database. And, while taking a walk in a “zahrad” (park!) I got the idea of maybe making a video tutorial. Turns out I’m too shy, then I’ll just write.

Enough blabla. Let’s get to what matters.

JAPANESE – KOREAN – CHINESE
It seems very complicated, but it’s actually very simple.

Chinese people simply can’t say the sound of “R”. It simply doesn’t exist in their language, and therefore is not known. Other than that, the intonation is very, very important and modifies the meaning of words and sentences completely, instead of only stating a question or an affirmative sentence.
If you watch this stupid video you’ll also notice, the abnormally high occurrence of “tch”, “sh” and what not. No toilets this time, promise!!!

Japanese people, on the other hand, simply can’t say anything with “L”. And they tend to reinforce the strength of the “replacing” sound, “R”, rather enfatically. My name, for example, would be pronounced “Ferunando”, and Elaine, for instance, would be “Eraine”. Actually, I was thinking right now: if you’re a native english speaker, you won’t be able to make the right sound of “R”. To understand what I mean, please refer to this stupid video. As a bonus you can see that brazilians also have a typical accent when speaking English (I’m not alone in this world). Intonation is also important, it’s even possible to mean “yes” with a simple “hmm” or my favorite “OSU!”.

As of korean, let’s see… I’m sorry, I’m able to differentiate when hearing because I know a little japanese, so, when it sounds like japanese but I can’t understand a word, means it’s korean :P. But maybe you could notice, that the korean writing is very distinguished (lots of little circles and little vertical lines), while japanese and chinese characters not only look a lot alike, they also have many characters in common.

By the way the korean video I’ve linked is a very sweet story, I bet you girls would like it. You can also like it if you’re a boy, I’m gonna allow that for now.

PORTUGUESE (Brazil/Portugal) – SPANISH
Well I’ve heard a lot in Europe that Portuguese sounds more beautiful and sweet than French. I appreciate that a lot, mainly because it’s not a secret that I find the French language really gay at times (and I’m learning it anyways).

But this idea is generally about brazilian Portuguese; portuguese Portuguese is spoken A LOT faster and with very different intonation. Ok, in this video, they’re speaking kinda slow, but you can notice something interesting: they speak some words unbelievably fast, while the rest of the sentence is more “hearable”. Yes, it’s difficult also for me to understand.

Brazilian Portuguese uses exactly the same words, rules and vocabulary (with very, very few exceptions) but is, generally, spoken a little bit slower and more constantly throughout the sentence. Something easy to notice in both is the very frequent “ão” finishing. Just as a curiosity, many words in English that finish with “ation” can be translated to Portuguese by replacing this termination with “ão” and minor modifications: passion – paixão, termination – terminação, institution – instituição. It’s usually really hard for foreigners to speak this thing, and always very funny to try to teach them :).

Spanish: it’s spoken VERY differently in each country of South America, and also in the different regions of Spain (I’m intentionally ignoring the dialects). But my rule is: you don’t really have to open your mouth to speak Spanish. I think it’s kinda ugly, well, figure out yourself and maybe we can discuss it sometime. One thing that you can notice, when comparing with Portuguese, is that Spanish “lacks” many sounds. That’s why, generally, it’s a lot of trouble to eliminate the accent from spanish people learning Portuguese, and easy for brazilians/portugueses/some african to pick up Spanish.

RUSSIAN – BULGARIAN – CZECH – POLISH – SLOVAKI – …
Well, well, well. This is still very tricky to me.

I can currently, with some luck, identify Russian, because I’m trying to learn and every week a friend of mine from Romania teaches me something new (he’s having Russian lectures). Can’t be that hard, after I saw that people pick up the phone and say “alô!” exactly like I’ve done all my life, really can’t be that hard!

But it’s really, really difficult to differentiate between the many slavic languages only by hearing them. They sound absurdly alike, the words have pretty much the same roots and therefore are written and spoken with small differences, in my opinion almost like different accents of one big common language.

Cyrillic characters seem impossible, but they are actually not so many, and it takes no time and very little effort to memorize most of them, so you can read stupid things like “Passport”, “Rachmaninov”, “Dostoievski” and so on. I got started trying to decode the title of a music CD…

I plan to learn Russian in the near future, because it’s a UN language and the plan is to speak them all except Arabic and Chinese (hehe…). I think that, once you speak one of the languages above, you should be more able to differentiate between them. But for us, poor western mortals, it takes a lot of effort.

ROMANIAN – ITALIAN
Well for those that don’t know, people from Romania are all sort of my latino brothers. Yeah, yo, ‘sup Rodriguez, Martinez… hehe, mexican friends, please don’t burn me, you know I love you all and, one thing that you don’t know: I love your food as well, and oh god I love tequila… but don’t tell anyone.

Where was I anyway? Oh. Romanian sounds for times pretty much like Italian to me (I’m so trustworthy on this that I think Greek is like codified Spanish, then be careful while trusting me on anything). Indeed, Romanian is somehow related to the Rhaeto-Romance family of languages, which were spoken in ancient Rome. It’s a latin language in all aspects, even closer to Latin then my beloved Portuguese.

Using my dirty trick as always: I can say it’s Romanian when it sounds like russian people speaking Italian or vice-versa, and I get one or other word (from the Italian part of course). But don’t be disappointed with me so quickly… remember that Romania is surrounded by slavic countries and has Hungary on the left side, so of course there is a lot of influence already absorbed by the locals. The easiest one is to notice that romanians say “yes” exactly like russians do: “da”!

As of Italian, mama mia, è molto facile parlare senza dire qualcoza di troppo. Capiche?
… ok just kidding, I couldn’t resist! Here is a decent example.
… geez I lost all the few friends I had after this, I can feel it!…

This is it for now. It took a lot longer than I thought, but in the end doesn’t look so bad, does it?
I hope you have fun reading this, and maybe use it in your next trip. If you got this far, please write some feedback, feel free even to offend me, it’s ok… mainly after the last update (September 8th).