Tanzania Holiday 1: Intro and Arrival in Arusha

It didn't take long for Frau A and I to decide what we wanted to do on our Honeymoon: a safari.  But when & where?

Due to her crazy job, we had time only at year-end (3 months post-wedding).  We wanted three weeks for the trip.

We considered a number of things to determine the specific destination(s).  Most importantly, where would we get the "best" viewing of animals?  Mid-December is the short rainy season in northern Africa, and that changes the ability to see wildlife (the grass is higher for animals to hide, and water more abundant so animals don't cluster around watering holes).  The Great Migration (Kenya and Tanzania) is not really active at this time of year either -- it is too close to the birthing period in late January / early February -- so wildebeest vs crocodiles was out.

Even without the Great Migration, safari operators and others we spoke to said that Tanzania would provide the best experience, so we chose that over tempting options in Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, and others.

There are lot of national parks, conservation areas, and game reserves in Tanzania alone (see map below). 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

We heard that the "northern circuit" would have the densest game viewing -- these are a series of parks near the border with Kenya.  The easiest flight from Munich went through Qatar to Kilimanjaro, a little east of the parks.

Qatar is obviously working to be a key transportation hub for destinations in Africa and Asia (we flew through there for our Maldives vacation too).  They have a TCBY (frozen yogurt) open late, so we love to kill the layover there! 

We wanted a bit of beach (relaxation) time too.  Zanzibar is the largest and most popular option, which is why we went the other direction and chose Mafia Island, further south along the coast.  There's a marine park there too!

Our final itinerary started us in the smaller parks of the northern circuit, moving east to west.  First up was
Arusha National Park, then Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and on to Serengeti National Park.  Finally, from the airstrip in the Serengeti, we would fly to Mafia Island (with a bunch of stops in between).

There was one especially unique aspect of this trip:  a "walking safari" in the Serengeti.  There are over 120 firms licensed in Tanzania to do game drives in the park.  Only 3 of them are licensed to walk customers in designated "wilderness areas".  We reserved three days of walks in Serengeti N.P., to be followed later by game drives.

Enough about the planning - on to the trip!  Upon our arrival at the Kilimanjaro airport, a driver picked us up and we drove to the Karama Lodge outside the town of Arusha.  The weather was quite hot, but not too humid.

Karama Lodge has 22 thatched cabins set on a hillside in the woods.  They use local materials as much as possible.

Since things grow so quickly there, they use wood boilers outside to heat water for showers (morning & night only).

After we stashed our packs in the cabin we walked around the grounds, "warming up" the cameras with flowers.

Just downhill from the central building/lodge is a pool.  We skipped this, but it looked tempting in the heat.

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

The next photo is the back side of the central building.  The windows are at a seating area near a small bar.

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

Here's the view from those windows (photo below).  You can't see it in the picture, but you would see Mt. Meru if you stuck your head out the window and looked sharply left.  Nearby Arusha National Park is tomorrow's destination.

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

There was a make-shift Christmas tree in the lobby, a nice reminder of the time of year.

We grabbed a seat near the open window and enjoyed the cooling evening air and nice view.

Of course we also had to investigate the local beer options.  The bar had four possibilities:

We opted for the Kilimanjaro and Serengeti, both lagers.  Both were great after a long trip (Serengeti a bit nicer).

From here we'll take you through each day on the trip -- expect a LOT of photos in the coming blog posts.
Stay tuned.

And finally... this was our honeymoon.  For the wedding, instead of registering for physical gifts (e.g., china, silverware, etc.), we registered different parts of this Tanzanian safari.  For this blog post, we wish to heartfully thank:
   -  Jaclyn F, for the car service to Munich airport.  It really got the trip off on the right foot.  THANK YOU!
   -  Aunt Annie and Uncle Jack, for the nights here in Karama Lodge.  The cabin on stilts was fun!  THANK YOU!
   -  Ronnie and Jan M, for the high-capacity camera memory card.  Wait 'til you see all the photos... THANK YOU!
   -  Ted and Teri K, for the high-capacity camera memory card.  Hope you enjoy the pics on the blog.  THANK YOU!
   -  Uncle Bill, for the high-capacity camera memory card.  We used almost every gigabyte!  THANK YOU! 


Wedding Week - Part 4

After a fun week of visiting friends, luncheons and rehearsal dinners, and the wedding ceremony itself, we could take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the festivities. 
When we first talked about the wedding, we both immediately thought "wouldn't it be fun if we could bring Oktoberfest to Charleston?"  Well, we couldn't do quite that, but we did bring some Bavaria to the festivities. 
We held the reception back in Charleston, at the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. Not only is a beautiful and historic venue, but we also thought it would be pretty cool to offer a dungeon tour at our wedding reception!  So, during the cocktail our, the guests had a tour of the dungeon, where pirates and confiscated British tea were held and also where you can see the only remaining parts of Charleston's old city walls. I had no idea Charleston was a walled city, or that the water used to come up to the building. 

One of our hopes was to figure out how to get hops and good German beer. Luckily our wonderful florist and caterer were able to come through for us!  We decided to offer a selection of Munich beers - a Weihenstephaner helles, a Paulaner Weissbier, and a Franziskaner Dunkelweissbier. 

And of course some mini pretzels to snack on before the reception began. 

While our guests enjoyed beer and pretzels and a tour of the museum, Herr J and I stopped at our hotel to change into our Bavarian party clothes. 

Our bartender gets into the spirit, thanks to some dirndl and lederhosen aprons Herr J found online. 

However, my favorite party favor he found online was the Maβ coozy, lederhosen style.  (Luckily he saved one for me, and it took a trip to Oktoberfest this year)

Again, Sara, our awesome florist somehow divined from my explanations and random Pinterest ideas exactly what I envisioned for simple centerpieces... of course in Maβ glasses. 

Luckily the lebkuchenherzen we had shipped over arrived at the last minute and we were able to put them out on the table as decorations and more fun Bavarian things to take home. 

The father of the bride and ushers. 

Two of my favorite things about the room were the two fireplaces on each end, and the gorgeous caribbean blue ceiling that you can see in the mirror. 

And one of the moment's we'd been eagerly awaiting....the cake. Again, another example of a wonderful vendor who was able to create exactly what we wanted from what I'm sure was a very poor description.  If anyone in the Charleston area needs a cake (birthday, wedding, otherwise), I highly recommend our baker Tammy at Cakes by Kasarda... especially the "moist chocolate" flavor.  If you're getting married in the area, it's worth a visit to sample her cakes. We were blown away by the taste and by the presentation.  This was my first cake tasting ever, though Herr J had been with friends and to the wedding expo with his brother. So, when she brought out little slices of several types of cake, and then a plate of scoops of several frostings, and yet another plate of several fillings....well, I thought that was the normal way cake tasting went and was pretty excited for the next one. Though I did think it would be hard to top her cake - at least 3 flavors were the best example of that flavor cake I've ever tasted. 
Herr J tried to warn me that we should probably just cancel the other appointment and book Tammy, but I thought cake tasting was fun. As usual, he was right. The next place just brought out different samples of pre-frosted and assembled cakes. And they all had pretty much the same frosting and taste and I was wishing we'd skipped it.  
I will say that choosing the cake was really difficult, but we got exactly what we wanted thanks to Tammy's tasting where we could mix and match. And when I was having trouble deciding between the American buttercream that was just too sweet and the Swiss buttercream that could be a tiny bit sweeter, she suggested that she often just blends the two. So, we created a cake with perfect frosting and were able to alternate layers of cake - alternating vanilla and almond on the bottom tier, alternating vanilla and strawberry (and she blends fresh strawberries into the batter), and chocolate on top. I don't remember if the chocolate is mixed with vanilla or not....we'll see when we next visit my parents and take it out of the freezer! 

A toast by the best man...

... and the maid of honor.  We realized with a laugh when they signed the marriage book as witnesses for us that we chose well...between the two of them, we have attorneys licensed to practice in at least 3 states. 

And then it was time for the dances. First, father and daughter.

 And then our first dance together.

And then, time to eat!  When we started this process, I was a little worried we wouldn't find German food. I'd found what looked like a good German restaurant in town, but it had closed. And caterers mostly focused on Asian, Mexican, or Southern food.  Had we gotten married 3 hours west in Spartanburg (home of the BMW plant), I think we would have had a plethora of options for Bavarian food. But, luckily my father found a local caterer who said "you want to do Oktoberfest for your reception? We've never done German before, but that sounds fun!" And when she came back with a proposed menu based on internet research, she said that the one dish that kept popping up as classic German food was this thing call currywurst.  
In the end, we went with our favorite German dish (actually Schwabisch, not Bavarian), zwiebelrostbraten and käsespätzle. For those who haven't had the pleasure, it's basically steak with fried onions on top. It's often served with a beer sauce and with käsespätzle, which I like to call German artisanal mac and cheese. Yum!  

And we did have a sausage and sauerkraut bar. They found some great bratwurst and served it on a bun with mustard or as currywurst. And did a realy good job with the sauerkraut. We also had some green asparagus, rice pilaf, and baked apples.  We weren't sure how it would work, but Cru Catering did a fantastic job. They also managed to serve incredibly tender steak, which is always a big risk to cook for such a large party. 

I think we should have practiced cutting the cake - I had no idea it would be so difficult to get the slice out of there! 


One thing that was difficult to find in Germany for an American wedding was a cake cutter. I'm not well versed enough in German weddings to know if a ceremonial cake cutter isn't normally used, or if the cutting of the cake just isn't a big thing (or the cake itself).  In any event, when we described to a sales lady at a big kitchen store what we were looking for, she said they didn't carry anything like that, but they did have a ceremonial knife for cutting stollen. Dresdner stollen, to be precise. We figured it was pretty cool and sword-looking and we could combine another German state into the mix, so why not?
Apparently this is a replica of the Giant Dresden Stollen Knife, which was 1.6 meters long.  Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, was said to love holding festivals. In 1730, he held a magnificent baroque festival for which he commissioned an 1.8 ton (18 yards long by 8 yards wide) stollen (traditional Christmas cake).  It took 8 horses to bring the stollen to the table and in order to cut such a cake, he had a 12 kg silver knife forged. 
After going into the Saxon treasury and surviving the November Revolution, it was lost after being hidden away from the advancing Red Army at the end of World War II. 
After much research, a replica was created and they market more manageable sized versions.  Next Christmas, we'll be cutting our stollen in style and remembering our wedding day. 

We had the chance to catch up with family and friends, some of whom we hadn't seen in too long.  And to learn something new about some....for example that our cousins knew every song and every dance....we were impressed!

A little more dancing before the night ended. 
And the last minute gummis we'd ordered to replace the favor bags that hadn't arrived.... 

....but luckily arrived the morning of the wedding!
After the reception ended, we went up to the rooftop of the Vendue Inn for a drink with friends.  
We then returned to the hotel, just to add a little more laughter to the week.  After we'd finally cleared off everything we'd left on the bed in our haste to get ready, we finally went to bed. I thought it was strange the duvet was wet, but it seemed to just be water, and it wouldn't surprise me if I left a wet towel or spilled water on it or something like that. Not 5 minutes later I jump up as something wet starts coming out of the ceiling. The mystery of the wet duvet is solved by the water leaking out of the vent in the ceiling. Luckily they had a vacant room across the hall and we just slept there - in a nice clean and uncluttered room. 
The next morning we hurried to pack everything up and met some Dallas friends at High Cotton for breakfast before we all headed out of town. 
I can't say enough about the food in the area. There are so many great restaurants around, and not only in downtown Charleston. Here's a sampling of the wonderful breakfast. 
Johnny Cakes
 Biscuits and Cornbread (with sweet butter)

Chicken and Waffles
Corned beef and hash
shrimp and grits
And one of the most thoughtful (and tasty) gifts we've ever seen.  My oldest friend (we go back to 3rd grade) came to the wedding. She's a pretty excellent baker and cookie decorator and she left a box of homemade love heart cookies for us at the hotel.  And she took the time to look up a bunch of different love sayings in German to write on the hearts. So cute! And they were really tasty, melt in your mouth shortbread kind of cookies. 
With full bellies and a few hours before I had to fly out for business meetings (sad to leave my new hubby, but he was flying home the next day), we decided to go back to Frankie's Fun Park for some mini-golf. We didn't have time for golf the day we drove the go-karts.  
This time, with wedding rings!

I've always been pretty terrible at air hockey, but I think getting married changed that. Best air hockey performance of my life!
We finished up the day with this crazy Speed of Light game they have. We took a video of some other people playing it. You compete against each other and earn points for hitting the lighted buttons. I think you get more points depending on how quickly you hit them in a row and may lose points for mistakes. And then there's a bonus round to hit as many as you can in a short time. It's out of control and addictive and fun. 
And then Herr J dropped me at the airport and I spent the week in New York.  We had a friend getting married the following weekend in another part of Germany, so I flew into Frankfurt. Coincidentally another friend from London was attending the wedding and flying in from New York, so Herr J picked us up in Frankfurt and we all went to the wedding. 
And when we finally returned to Munich that Sunday, we dropped off the rental car and had our first meal in Munich as husband and wife and had our first Oktoberfest beer of the season. A lovely evening at Augustiner am Dom

dining on our favorite zwiebelrostbraten!

A huge thanks to all of our family and friends who travelled to celebrate with us, and to all of our amazing vendors who made this work for two crazy people trying to arrange a wedding by phone and internet. And to our wonderful pastor who was willing to work outside the box and did many of our pre-wedding counseling sessions by Skype.  With everyone's help, we had our dream wedding!

All photos of reception by Marni Rothschild.

Wedding Week - Part 3

It seems like the wedding was ages ago, but it is Valentine's Day after all, so maybe pretty good timing to post some photos from the actual wedding. 

We had a relaxing morning with friends - Herr J caught up with a friend over some more barbecue and I joined the Dallas crew for a good southern breakfast before heading off to the salon.  This time with a request for less hairspray and hopefully no repeat of the prior night's massive tangles.

(All further pictures by the talented Marni Rothschild)

Getting ready in the church library, with all the challenges of laces and bows to tie!

It was so much fun to see the final product of everything we'd selected. We did it all over the course of a few days in May, so we weren't quite sure if everything would turn out as we had in mind. But everything was perfect, including the bouquets with hops and edelweiss and other green and white flowers. 

And of course hops boutonnieres for the men.  Herr J and I so enjoyed our trip to the Hallertau Hopfenland that we wanted to include some hops in our wedding flowers. It was a good thing we had a September wedding, as our amazing florist, Sara, was able to find them in season from somewhere in the US. Interestingly, the US (Oregon or Washington) hops have much larger flowers than the Hallertau hops. Not sure if it was just the different variety, or if decorative hops typically are larger than beer hops. 

And there's an edelweiss flower thrown in there for some good Alpine measure. They were available, so why not?

We hurried to take some family and bridal party pictures before I had to be sequestered away from Herr J's sight. My mother was on lookout duty, trying to spot the groom's car. 

Yet another thing we guessed on and worked perfectly was Herr J's tie. I had in mind that it was the right color, but couldn't really compare the two when we bought his tie. And I couldn't explain to him why I thought pale blue and white were good colors without telling him how my dress looked. 

relaxing, and waiting.....

...and finally it's time to head to the sanctuary. My maid of honor is trying to deal with the huge train. 

Getting my game face on!

What I found out later was that while my father and I were waiting to be told it was OK to enter, Herr J and his brother were waiting at the altar, wondering if everything was going OK. I guess we came in a verse late on the processional. Oops! Sorry for the added stress, Herr J, but I hope you knew I wouldn't miss it!

While Herr J and I were pretty happy that day, I'm not sure anyone was more happy than my parents!

And the first husbandly duty is to carry that heavy train!

Two of my gorgeous bridesmaids!

And the new in-laws. 

The wedding party

I love my bouquet! The funny thing is that we attended a wedding the following weekend in Germany. They had edelweiss in their flowers too - it was only because of seeing them in my own bouquet that I could answer everyone's question of "What are those alien-looking furry flowers?"  I guess I'd only seen drawings of edelweiss, not the real thing. I knew the shape, but thought they were smaller and definitely not furry!

After the ceremony, we headed back into Charleston to get ready for the reception.  We took a few photos around the historic district. 

And a Bavaria-meets-Charleston one

Then we headed back to the hotel for a quick change before the reception. More fun, more Bavaria to follow!

Until then, wishing everyone a happy Valentine's Day!

- Herr J and Frau A



Feb032013 doesn't get Oktoberfest

This post has been sitting in the "to do" list for a while... and even though it's long past Oktoberfest 2012 it must be written.'s coverage of Oktoberfest 2012 was sloppy.  To be precise, the photos were fine (some actually quite nice) but the captions were crap.  Some were outright misrepresentations, and some were just poor English -- but in every case you'd expect better.  (Schnitzelbahn's English isn't spotless by any means, but wouldn't CNN reach for a higher standard?  After all, we don't get paid for this!)

We're guessing that an unpaid intern wrote the captions after some Google searches!  Or maybe they just took content from German news agencies and used Google translate?  (It's almost certainly the latter, because a few photos showed German celebrities or soccer stars who don't mean much to a U.S. audience.)  Let's take a look at the issues:

First, notice the "featured" item in the lower half of front page called "Photos: Oktoberfest beer festival is back".  This was the link to their series of photos on the CNN website.

To start, Oktoberfest is not technically a "beer festival".  Beer plays a central part (to be fair even Wikipedia calls it a "festival celebrating beer") but it is definitely NOT a beer festival.  There are no tastings or exhibits on brewing, no competitions, crowning Ms. Beer 2012, etc..  Just tents where lots of beer is served. The first Oktoberfest was in celebration of the crown prince's wedding, and for the greater part of its history Oktoberfest has been about agriculture and horse races, dancing and rides.  Are the summer fairs in the U.S. "cola festivals" because of how much is Coke and Pepsi is consumed?

The next photo described guys wearing "mock lederhosen".  Wrong.  The three pictured here are actual  lederhosen.  Wouldn't "mock" lederhosen be made from something other than leather?  These look legit to me.  To be pedantic:  traditional lederhosen are made from deer, so these may not be authentic to the extreme.  But by far, most lederhosen sold in German shops today are from goat, but they are still "real" lederhosen. 

The next photo describes "typical Oktoberfest badges".  These are not "typical" at all!  Lebkuchenherz are typical, but these are NOT lebkuchenherz (just made to look like it).  These are pins are sold in only one tent (Schottenhamel).  Schottenhamel waitresses used such pins as nametags, then Schottenhamel started selling versions to the public a couple of years ago.  So these pins are neither popular nor typical.  I think it's poor reporting to try and elevate a photo into something "typical" when it's not, when there are so many other traditional things to show.

The photo below says "police officers wait for the opening parade to begin".  This could technically be correct, but it's doubtful.  These policemen are standing at the entrance to the Wiesn (Oktoberfest grounds) where the opening parade will end.  And judging by the crowd, the parade has already started on Sonnenstrasse, and everyone is waiting for the parade to arrive at the fairgrounds.  Perhaps pointing this out is nitpicking, but we're seeing a consistently low quality of describing reality.

For the next photo, this may also be English-teacher type grading, but "Bavarian dressed man"???  What does that mean?  Bavarian men also wear Ralph Lauren khakis, suits and ties, Levi's jeans, and soccer jerseys.  Would a "Texas dressed man" be in cowboy boots?  What about jeans and a Cowboy's jersey?  It's just cheap journalism.

The next photo has more D- English.  The woman below is wearing a dirndl.  Or a traditional Bavarian dress.  But not a "Dirndl dress".  Are they also serving bier beer, bratwurst sausage, and playing fussball soccer?  I wonder what my friends who attended Medill would say.

OK, last example below.  The description says "waitresses of the Spaten brewery...".  This is incorrect on a number of accounts.  First, this is the parade cart for the Schottenhamel beer tent.  The people on the parade carts (usually horse-drawn) are mostly family members and friends of the family that owns the Schottenhamel tent.  Sure, they might invite waitresses to be on the cart, but the cart is about the proprietors of the tent.  Schottenhamel happens to have an agreement to serve Spaten beer -- Spaten itself does not have any waitresses, unless they have a restaurant at the brewery.  They brew the beer, and Schottenhamel serves it... and the waitresses are not the focus of the parade carts.  How many errors is that?


There was at least one other photo caption that used the phrase "Bavarian Dirndl dress".  (Sigh)  Oddly enough, a different photo said "a woman serves Hendl".  Hendl means chicken in German... but they didn't translate it, whereas they felt the need to say "Dirndl dress".  I wonder why?  (And they capitalized both German nouns... again, why?)

I much prefer positive posts, but this was necessary to show how reality and what you see/read are not always aligned.  It's a fun fair in any case, but be careful about what you read about it!


Seen in Munich...

Want to stay true to your trachten on the slopes?

Angermaier has Ski "Lederhosen" for you!




Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a happy holidays, wherever you are and however you're celebrating!


from the Münchener Freiheit Christmas market


Friday Photo Favorite: Leopard

A final Friday Photo before we head off on our long-awaited honeymoon.

We'll be stalking these guys!


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