Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Best Halloween costume goes to... the "German Shepard" :)
P.S. They offer dirndls too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Deep tissue massage for a sports injury - just say "no"

When I run, my knee sometimes hurts. This is caused by me running on the insole of my foot (for fear that if I run normal, I might sprain an ankle - seriously, this is my most re-occuring nightmare).

Friends of my family, the K's, inspired me to go to a chiropractor for (painless) help with my knee... However it seems the only way to fix a knee is to do lots of inner leg exercises and then have a chiropractor do a deep tissue/sports massage on the muscle. Btw - deep tissue/sports massage means ripping the quad muscles apart so that they can re-align. Imagine the joy of getting your muscles ripped apart every week for 15 min. Pain galore! Apparantely, the best fix is to dig the elbow into the part of the leg that is the most tense and ask the patient to flex their muscle. If that doesn't rip apart the muscle, then rolling your arm over the leg with max. pressure also rips apart the muscle (this sounds fun, huh?).

My chiropractor does a great job otherwise. However, my leg is sooo sore and I have 3 more weeks of it. Does this get better?

I highly recommend saying "no" to deep tissue massages.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dracula's castle: in needs of a new business plan

There is lots of hype around Dracula's castle (i.e. Bran castle), however it turned out to be a huge disappointment. It also is much in need of a new business plan or marketing campaign.

Background: The castle was built in medieval time (1377) as a fortress to defend the Transylvanian valley from the Ottoman Empire. It was built in the traditional Transylvanian style, which is much simplier than the well-known medieval architecture of W. Europe. In later years, the parts of the royal family spent summers there. Vlad Tepes (i.e. Vlad the Impaler or Dracula) never actually lived in the castle.

Nowadays: The castle is an imposing site from the outside. It's situated on a piece of rock on top of a hill. Inside it is quite a disappointment. The rooms are almost bare, with the exception of a 600 year old bed and matching cupboards. There are only a few placards telling of the castle's history. The legend of Dracula (the most famous aspect of the castle) is only mentioned in 1 room.

O& I decided the castle needed a better business or marketing plan. Here are our ideas:

1. (3rd place option) Change the marketing to manage (lower) expectations of tourists. State that the castle has little tie-in to Dracula. Dracula's castle website is very misleading.
2. (2nd place option) Change the marketing to manage expectations. Add tour guides to the castle to explain the history of the Transylvania and the castle. Include more furniture and "period pieces" in all the rooms, which should represent how life in the castle was lived.

3. (1st place option) Increase the Dracula image at the castle. Include tidbits from the book and life of Vlad the Impaler in all rooms. Include aspects about the life of peasants at this time. Bring in furniture to showcase what the castle would have looked like if the Dracula story was true. At the same time, redesign the town to make it more "dracula themed" and tourist friendly (currently, the only "Dracula-friendly" part of the town was a bar offering a haunted house). There are wonderful hiking trails around the castle - these should also be displayed. Lastly, the castle should have Halloween activities happening everyday in October. Neuschwanstein and Sleepy Hollow are examples of towns/castles who have done a wonderful job re-creating themselves to become a top tourist destination.

Any other ideas?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Destination: Bucharest & Transylvania, Romania

In May of last year, I visited a friend in the southern part of Romania. The trip was amazing - I met many great friends and returned with fabulous shoes. However, I didn't accomplish my 2 major goals in going to Romania: 1) to visit Dracula's castle and 2) to see where gymanstics was born (Bela's gym).

This last weekend, I returned to the northen part of Romania with goal #1 in sight. My friends O & M were excellent tour guides. We saw sites within Bucharest & I learned many random facts. We saw the 1st snow of the season at the King's summer palace (Castle Peles)! I bought amazing boots. Hanging out with O & M was wonderful. And we visited Dracula's castle. All in all, the weekend was great.

12 random facts about northern Romania:

1. The Parliament Building (pic above) is the 2nd largest building in the world after the Pentagon. It is built with only Romanian material.

2. In 1999, Donald Trump offered to purchase the Parliament building for $2B. He wanted to turn it into the world's largest casino. At the time it was valued at $4B, so the Romanian government turned him down even though the building is over 50% empty and costing taxpayers millions to maintain (it's only 95% finished).

3. Micheal Jackson was the only person to speak to a crowd while standing on the balcony in front of the Parliament house. He said "Good morning Budapest" instead of "Good morning Bucharest." Ironically, Madonna did the same at her concert 3 weeks ago.
4. Lifting the windshield wipers on cars and twisting them in an odd manner is the Bucharest way of saying "you did something wrong in parking." (see pic to the right)

5. Walking in Bucharest is like being in an obstacle course. Cars park in every spot possible, especially blocking the sidewalks. Stray dogs are everywhere. And there are huge puddles when it rains. Avoiding all 3 and keeping dry shoes in the rain is an adventure.

6. "Probably the best ever" - the slogan for Carlsberg beer - is branded on everything (see pic to the right). Who else hadn't heard of this slogan?
7. Romanian shoes are amazing, especially the high heels! Romanian women are impressive. They walk miles in their high heels.

8. The 1st King of Romania was German. The Romanians recruited him to be their king. He built his summer palace of all German material. His grandson is the now the King, but was exhiled when he was 16, during the Revolution. He grew up in France, and has now demanded his castles be returned to him.

9. Architecture in the Bucharest and mountain areas is very cute and distinct. There are lots of steeples on the houses and distintive wood-work (see pic to the left of Castle Peles).

10. When driving in the Transylvanian mountains, it is entirely possible to encounter: sheep, cows, horses, and dogs all crossing the road. They have the right-of-way and don't like moving.
11. Dracula's castle is over-rated and needs to be re-branded (more on that in another blog). Also, locals don't hang garlic outside their houses to keep vampires away.

12. Romania is composed of 3 parts: Transylvania (northwest), Maldiva (northeast), and the south. This is the 2nd time in history that the 3 parts have been combined into 1 country.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Saw my 1st snow of the season in Romania!

Pic = Castle Peles (King's summer home) in Transylvania, Romania. Temp = 1 degree Celsius.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Halloween has arrived!

Halloween is my favorite holiday! The history behind Halloween fascinates me. I also love the leaves changing colors, the crisp air & sunny days, and wearing fall clothes (wearing cute warm-weather clothes outside with freezing is possible).

Halloween is just now gaining popularity in Germany (most Germans celebrate Karnival instead). However, I'm guaranteed some trick 'r treaters as I live in a town which houses a US military base. Also, there is a huge Halloween party at Frankenstein's castle (1-hour from my apt). Tickets sell-out months in advance. I plan to go. Now I just need to find a costume...

Pic above shows the pumpkin display at the neighborhood supermarket.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A "one size fits all" approach to medicine

When I first moved to Germany, I dreaded going to a doctor because all the doctor's that I'd encountered had a "one size fits all" approach to medicine.

In 2007 during my 2nd month in here, I got sick. Doctor 1 diagnosed me with bronchitis, but could only give me 3 days worth (6 x 250mg) of amoxicillin. As a person who was born in the 1980's in the US when doctor's prescribed antibiotics for everything and caused immunity to them, this does nothing for me. However Doctor 1, by law, was not able to give me more meds. So I got better for a couple days, then got worse. Onto Doctor 2 - a specialist (the 1st doctor, a generalist, was not allowed to prescribe me more meds). Doctor 2 gave me the same meds. So again I got better then worse. I went back to Doctor 1, pleaded with him, and walked away with 5 days of meds... enough to get me back to the US where I could be treated. All in all, I was sick with bronchitis for 1 month and I'm sure that "treatment plan" upped my immunity to amoxicillin.

I definitely don't promote handing out medicine for every problem. But I also don't promote this "one size fits all" philosophy when applied to medicine. It is dangerous and can cause more harm than good from which comes my dread of going to the doctor here. The most frustrating thing is knowing a state-of-the-art US military hospital is less than 0.5 km from my apt. However, I'm not allowed to go there since I don't have access to the base.

Now I have a new doctor team (husband & wife). They take into consideration the advice of my US doctor, who knows my medical history, when treating me. I really appreciate this. Especially last week when I got sick. The new doctor understood how to treat me. All doctor's should follow suit.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Walking in stilettos @ work

Hundreds of IT tickets are logged each day at my company asking for IT assistance. However recently, a colleague logged a "special" IT ticket requesting that IT fix the stairs in the car park because they are too difficult to walk up/down in stilettos.

These stairs should be absolutely no problem to walk up/down with the stilettos (I'm allowed to say this as I wear stilettos everyday to work). The metal grates occupy only the stairwell area of the garage. A practiced stiletto wearer would only walk on their toes when going up/down stairs so the stiletto part should not hit the floor, much less get caught in the grate. Plus, the holes are really small.

Below is the (rough) translation of her email exchange with IT.

IT Ticket Subject: Steel banister in parking building is dangerous
Description: This morning I almost had an accident again in our parking building in front of the MPS building due to the dangerous steel banister. For all people who wear high heels it is not possible to pass the banister due to the grates. Could you please cover these grates?

Reply from IT:
The metal grate flooring on the garage stairs are there to prevent ice from forming on the stairs in the winter. I suggest that you wear a 2nd pair of flat shoes to work and use these to walk up/down the garage stairs. If you still would like to request that the metal grate flooring be changed, please contact the building maintenance team.

Reply from lady:
In my opinion, the metal grates are not necessary for safety. Why can’t you install other flooring, as seen on ramps AB&C? The option of wearing a 2nd pair of flat shoes to work is unacceptable. In addition, all the parking places on the lower floor are taken by 7:45. So women are compelled to park on the upper floors. Perhaps you could create a certain number of parking places designated solely for women on the lower floor?

Reply from IT:
Ramps AB&C are closed in the winter as they become icy and are unsafe. Your idea of parking places for women was rejected by security.

Reply from lady:
I find this solution unacceptable and plan to notify the worker’s union. Hopefully they will take care of this situation.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A line for the men's toilet... but not for the women's

Oktoberfest was the first time that I ever saw a line for the men's toilet, but not for the women's. This was very impressive!

Do you think this phenomenon happened because there are more women's toilets (nice work to the organizers!) or because men's lederhosen takes a while to undo or something else?

Check out my Dirndl!

After attending 3 Oktoberfests where I wished that I was wearing a dirndl, I finally got one! (see pic above). I received excellent advice in selecting one... I especially love the blue & pink colors.

Dirndls are very complicated, and take ~10 min to put on. There are 3 main parts:
1. the little shirt (which is a midrift stopping right below your chest)
2. the dirndl main part (which is zipped up, then has a lace-up part on the outside)
3. the apron

Really nice dirndls can cost between 700-1,000EUR*. Cheaper ones can be found at C&A or at Halloween stores in the US (although these aren't the real ones). There are strict "Bavarian drindl wearing" laws, which stipulate that dirndls can only be worn during Oktoberfest or on a religious holiday. No Halloween wearing is allowed. :( Although, I'm all for dress-up with them around the apartment!

*Lederhosen are even more expensive since they're made of soft leather and have gorgeous designs sewn into them. Apparantely ledershosen are even more complicated to put on. And "washing" them is done by brushing them with a brush (no water). The guys look very cute wearing them!

Oktoberfest with no injuries!

Apparantely many family & friends thought that I would get hurt at Oktoberfest. Or so I guessed this based on emails:
"...dont get glass smashed into your body this time!"
"...please let me know how Oktoberfest is, and of the disasters if any."
"...remember to bring a first aid kit for any injuries."
"...try to avoid the drunk Italians with steins!"

I really do appreciate all the concern expressed for my well-being during Oktoberfest. However, I don't understand why everyone seems to have the idea that I would get injured... Any ideas? :)