Thursday, August 11, 2016

Peace


The last few blog posts were quite dark because we really live in a weird and quite disturbing time at the moment and sometimes it needs a bit of writing to process the events. When I finished the latest one though, I really felt that this was enough now and that it is time to think and write about good things again and so I do today. 

To get things started lets go back in time a bit ... to the beginning of 2014. The fall / winter 2013 had been a total blast touring with the Biff for a bit and starting off what would end up being a whole new life. 
The first few months of 2014 though were then painfully quiet. I remember well that from New Year's Eve to Easter I went almost nowhere. I was simply at home in Munich, went to work and lived day after day. And it was horrible. I felt like the famous black panther behind bars ... pacing day in day out. I hated it. I felt trapped and at some point I was considering to go to the airport just to smell the kerosene, the smell of freedom. 
Later that year up from April / May I was back on the road including the first half a dozen trips to Scotland and it made me happy. Traveling made me happy. Yet ... I was still pacing. I always called it my nomadic blood, because l just could not sit still and be homebound - at least not without suffering. 

Two years later life is very different. It is not that I do not like traveling anymore. I certainly do and there will be a LOT of touring in the second half of the year - lots of airports, hotels, gigs ... road life at its best, but there is still a big difference: I am not pacing anymore. 

The place in the picture at the top of this post is called "Rest and be Thankful". It is a mountain pass in the West Highlands between Tarbet and Loch Fyne. It's a magical place and very symbolic, because that is basically what I am doing at the moment. I am resting and I am thankful.
Scotland took the nomad out of me. When I am at home I am not feeling behind bars anymore. I just feel at home. 


I am not romantic and I am not wearing pink glasses. Life is still  ... life .. with lots of obstacles - old and new ones.  I am also still me ... with all my weaknesses and fears and insecurities. Also everything they tell you about Scottish summers is true. I gave in today and had the heating running for the better time of the day. 


But still - I stopped pacing and I am enjoying the peace and quiet in me. A lot. 

...



Ah wait! When I said, I write a happy blog post next, I also said I would write a review about "Ellipsis", didn't I? Well here it is:

This album is fucking awesome. It is everything. For the very unlikely case that you are a reader of this website and still did not buy this yet, do it now. 


At a bit more differentiated note:

There are two main types of great music for me
1) music that is me - like a vital part of me. Kind of symbiotic. 

2) music that is opposite me - like the best friend you need to talk through things. The person you love and trust and that you need for providing a different perspective on things than your own view

Both types are equally important but the perception is very different. I could not live without the one or the other.

Biffy were always type 1). From the very first moment of me listening to them the music they make was like a piece of myself. I cannot even explain why exactly it is like that, but it just is.
A new album of a type 1) band is a nerv wrecking experience because musicians are people and they evolve and change and there is always the risk that the evolution tiers you apart, that the emotional symbiosis gets lost.
We could hear a few songs from the new album before release and I had more than a bit hope due to those teasers that I would be fine, but nothing is replacing the process of hearing the album in one piece the first time. I did that on the radio with the BBC listening party just before release and it was great. It was such a relief because ... yep: still a piece of myself - no level of separation.

That night had also one of the sweetest moments of listening to music that I had in a good while and it came at the very end. The last song .... "In The Name Of The Wee Man" had me very literally in tears, shivering of goosebumps .. that special feeling only an extraordinary great song can give you. I am convinced this is one of the 5 best songs they ever made and it makes me god damn happy that it exists. 


A few folks said that the album is less tight than the others, the songs more loosely connected and presented in a slightly odd order. I would not fight this impression. I just think a great album reflects the state of mind of the people who made it at the point of creation. And just like for all of us there are times when you kind of settle into a situation and there are times when life goes upside down. Both has good and bad sides, both are natural parts of life. The important thing is that the music is true to it. Sounds easy but is not because for that you need to be aware of yourself and strong enough to put yourself out there. I certainly feel that the Biff achieved exactly that with Ellipsis and that is why although it is technically really very different it is also still so very recognizably THEM.

Bring on Bellahouston .... MON THE BIFFY! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Close to home

I guess in the meantime more or less everyone got the news about the horrible tragedy that hit Munich on Friday evening, but especially for the not German friends who might have not heard too much detail here a quick summary:

A few minutes before 6 pm on Friday July 22 an 18-year-old boy started shooting people in and in front of a McDonald's restaurant at Hanauer Straße in Munich, crossed the street heading towards and then inside a shopping mall still shooting. He ended up killing 9 people and injuring over a dozen more - mostly (but not only) teenagers his age and children younger than him. He managed to escape at first but when the police later made contact with him he killed himself. 


What is known so far is that although he is from a German-Iranian family the horrible attack has NO religious background.
The boy was born in Germany and lived with his family in a nice area in central Munich (an area I could not effort). He was filmed communicating with a bystander who was yelling at him from a balcony and he answered in accent free German insisting he was German.
The shooter was treated for psychological problems, had trouble at school and with other teenagers his age and was fascinated by a shooting where a teenager killed former classmates and teachers in small German town a few years ago. Books about kids on killing sprees and articles about similar motivated and executed attacks were in his room.


So basically we look at an attack planned and executed by a mentally very sick person that finally snapped. What we do not have is the classical political / religious terror attack.  I cannot stress this enough. It does not make a difference for the families who lost their loved ones, it does not help the innocent children in hospital traumatized and wounded and their parents, but it does make a difference for the city of Munich, for Germany. (* please see update about Ansbach a bit below)


Because it was not clear from the start what was going on and traumatized, shocked people are very bad witnesses and could not properly report facts the police treated the event as a terror attack until they knew better and put the city under something like a lock down. Public transport was stopped, people were asked to stay home or find a safe place, main hubs in the city were evacuated especially since spontaneously rising waves of panic made people "hear" shots everywhere (there were no other shootings in the city anywhere in the end). I personally got the impression the police did the exact right thing, but I was not in Munich (later more on that) and I leave that in the end for those to judge who experienced it first hand.

This time Germany was "lucky" (as far as lucky goes with so many dead and injured) and it was not a terror attack, but it gave everyone quite a taste of how that case of emergency would look like and it was very scary ... even from the distance just staring on the news unfolding on the screen.


*Update 1: Only hours after I posted a Syrian refugee killed himself and injured 12 people in the city of Ansbach, Germany, with a bomb in his backpack. He arrived in Germany over 2 years ago - well before the main wave of refugees - and made several suicide attempts (not involving others) before, had a record with the police and his application for asylum was denied. The reason for him being still in Germany is the active war situation in Syria. He had tried to enter a small music festival but turned away when he realized he would not pass the mandatory bag check at the entrance and so brought his bomb to explosion a few meters down the road in front of a pub.

So far the general summary ... now a few more personal words. My story here begins the night before. I was on the phone with my sister. We had no chance to properly talk since a while and were catching up. One of her questions was how I feel in Glasgow and if I was still enjoying it thinking it was the right thing to do to move here ... even now with the Brexit shit (and it is big bad shit). I told her that was I was still very happy with my decision and that I love my flat and my life here and Glasgow and that I was not really homesick BUT that I would kind of love to go to the OEZ as I used to do Friday after work and go for a little shopping tour in all the familiar stores and buy some of my favorite things.

I was talking about exactly THAT shopping mall where less than 24 hours later people would die from bullets randomly fired at them.
THAT shopping mall is only 5 minutes walk from my old apartment in Munich where I lived for 12 years. Fridays used to be my home office days where I would finish work just before 6 and get out of the door and do all my weekend shopping at the mall between 6 and 8 pm when the shops would close. I loved doing that ... it would kick off my weekend.

If I would not have moved away a few months ago the likeliness I would have walked right into the shooting is almost 100%.  It was exactly the right weekday at the exactly right time of the day and he even entered the mall through exactly the entrance I would always use and injured and killed people right in front of my favorite store and on the escalator and stairs I used hundreds of times to go to the downstairs grocery store.  

IF ....

Don't get me wrong. I am fine. Absolutely nothing happened to me and I am no victim here and thankfully as far as I know also no one I personally know. I was very lucky.
But what happened was that my sister and I both had our weak knees moment at some point that evening which she put into words:  "You could have been on the floor of  that mall now - dead."

For quite a long time the fear that this could be a terror attack was very real also. We all are aware that in the end every moment something like this could unfold basically anywhere but a situation like that adds a good portion of reality to it. You immediately feel a strong wish to grab the children (in my case my nieces) and hide at the safest place you can find and wait with them there until mankind comes back to sense again .. at least a bit more than just the now. I am half seriously considering some village hidden away in the Highlands at the moment.

BTW ... If you feel the same and I guess lots of you do then think for a moment of all the refugees we look at as "a danger" for our culture and economy and what ever. The very most of them are just like you ... they press their children against their chests and RUN for their lives. So before you get irrationally scared by a tired faced family because of the man having a dark beard and the woman probably covering her hair just think for moment of that cold hand grabbing your own heart when smelling some real danger in the air ... and then try to mentally add some very real falling bombs to that picture. Just saying ... 


Update 2: I still stand to these words after Ansbach. The thing is that attacks like these make the majority of the refugees to victims again together with us. They try desperately to escape the terror but can't really. It also robs them off what they need most: humanity and hospitality and hope.
That is btw exactly the goal of terror ... to make you feel trapped and powerless and separate and divide people by fear. 


Back to the big IF.

As you know I did a lot of thinking before I moved to Glasgow. It was one of the biggest forks in my life path and the decision was hard to make for me because it brings uncertainty, change, a loss of routine and security. Just ... security ... what even is that?  Now just imagine I would have decided that I am too fearful to make that move and had decided for security, normality, routine. That "security" would have had me walking right into the arms of the shooter. 

We are not secure. Never. Life is fragile and short and happiness is even more fragile and just in the moment. That is on one hand the scariest learning ever but then again it is the most liberating as well. If nothing is "secure" then why hold back, why not taking the leap of faith and at least try to do what you would love to do?
I do not mean to act dumb or reckless obviously but I mean trying to live life for the fullest whatever that means for you personally.



PS: I think the next blog post I write is a review of Biffy Clyro's new album "Ellipsis". Not that it would need another review and especially not one written by a helplessly biased person like me, but I so desperately want to write a silly happy blog post as soon as possible. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

We're on a hell slide ... help us, help us!



At the peak of a windy but wonderful evening in Belfast, Northern Island, on June 25 2016 I was singing these words (9/15ths by Biffy Clyro) back at my favorite band from the top of my lungs taking them very seriously and literally. Obviously guitarist Mike Vennart playing a few arm lengths away from me felt the same thing in the same moment because he posted this after the show:

Mike Vennart ‏@Vennart  Jun 26
Most cathartic version of 9/15s I've ever played tonight in Belfast.

I will try not to write too much about the political background of what is going on in the UK. I could but it all cost me so much nerves and energy since the referendum that I spent almost all day today in bed / on couch sleeping. I simply could not take it anymore.

Here my position in very short bullet points.

  • I am an EU citizen living in the UK and I am obviously and logically in the REMAIN camp. I am also aware that almost half of the citizens of the UK are as well (in the meantime maybe even more than 50%). 
  • I do not think everything is great in the EU and how the EU works - far from that - but I strongly believe that leaving the EU is the most stupid idea ever - for the society, for the economy, for every single citizen of the UK and especially for the youth. The effects will be overwhelmingly negative. 
  • There will be no awesome and special deal for the UK - the EU has zero interest in allowing this. Believing there would be one just shows that lots of people including politicians do not understand where the UK stands in a bigger context. They should probably listen more to some of those pesky EU immigrants that seem to be such a thread .. they can offer valuable outside perspective just as these weird folks called experts, too. 
  • Yes, I am very worried for my little self because me living in Glasgow is based on EU laws and regulations and I am worried about the economical impact as it will directly influence my work life and career.
  • I have not given up the last bits of hope as the referendum is not binding. Only a parliamentarian mandate for the PM to invoke Article 50 will be binding. I hope that will never happen although I am aware that this is not a big hope. 
  • I rather live in an independent Scotland that is part of the EU as in an united Great Britain outside of the EU. Is that even an option? I do not know at this moment (depends very much on the position the EU will take on this). Did I want this to be the options I might have to consider? Absolutely not. 
  • To everyone that read the horrible news about the outbreak of xenophobia in the UK towards all kind of people (white with accent, of color with and without accent) and is worried about my well being:  I am fine. The Glaswegians are as friendly as always. I had only one person making a comment and that was my regular taxi driver who always takes me to the airport and he was actually worried what it all means for me and if I was alright. 


I could write a lot more .. for example what an absolute MESS the two biggest UK parties are and how disgusting UKIP is or how incredibly irresponsible the politicians are acting in this situation. I could also give a lecture about parliamentarian vs direct democracy. I mean .. I have a master degree in political science ... and I chose that topic for a reason when I started university, but I want to focus on something else. Something bigger:

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE???????

It is not just what is going on in the UK. I mean ...  How the hell is Donald Trump a serious presidential candidate? How can we let thousands of people drown in the Mediterranean sea? How can we have hundreds of thousand people in refugee camps under terrible conditions? And how could we let it get so far that millions of people need to leave their destroyed homes saving nothing but their lives .. if they are lucky? Who had the weird idea that said people are a threat and not the victims? How is racism, hate and xenophobia acceptable behavior? How it is a thing that you can get shot at a rock n roll show or dancing with your friends in a night club? Why do people still judge other people for who they love? How do we still allow big companies to destroy our planet and pretend evoking earthquakes (as one example) is a good idea? How do we have a significant concentration of military forces at the Eastern European border of the NATO and it is not even properly in the news? Why could I spend days extending this list nightmare by nightmare, horror story by horror story? How did we end up on this hell slide????

You know, I am learning a lot at the moment and it is probably the first time ever I am sad about learning something. At school in Germany you hear about the Nazis a lot. Questions I never really found answers for despite the many history lessons were  "How could this happen? How did the majority of people not see what was going on? Why did the people who were understanding it not doing more to stop it?" 


I now understand that those people likely felt as helpless as I do now. Communication seems to be pointless, discussions are leading nowhere, lots of people seem to be out of reach of arguments with closed minds and hearts. 


I have no solution, no smart ideas how to stop it. Leading with example is probably the only thing ... trying to be kind to the person next to you, practicing humanity, tolerance and inclusion - and being clear and outspoken about it.

Simon said down from the stage on that windy Saturday last week: "Music makes everything better." He is right - it really does. And it brings people together in the best way possible.

That said .... I will go to bed now, listen to "Medicine" a couple of times and despite all the things that are frightening and sad at the moment I will keep counting down the days to the release of "Ellipsis". We can't let the darkness win and take away the things we love and looking forward to. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Leaving



I checked in for my flight today. I am leaving Glasgow. For Germany.  

Taken out of its real context this would be when at the "Goodbye Deutschland" TV show the sad trombone sets in and then a dramatic melody starts playing in the background to indicate drama and failure. 
Well - not so much. The music that is soundtracking my departure from Scotland sounds way more like this:



For all German readers: Click here for Warner Music Germany to watch the video.

And no, I'm not homesick or in any other type of trouble. I'm just leaving Glasgow for three days to travel with the one and only Biffy Clyro to  ... Münster. It's so immensely considerate of them to play this one-off-out-of-the-blue gig in Germany in exactly the city where my family lives (and I used to live many years) and to choose the weekend when my niece has her 3rd birthday, too. Thanks guys, well done! 


All excitement aside (and I am very very very excited because new songs and all that) I thought about leaving Glasgow and how that feels when I typed my passport data into the airline booking system. That is one of the most usual things for me to do as traveling is part of my nature and routine, but it felt different because now I am equally excited about going away as I am about coming back and that is surely new to me. 

I also realized that my last blog post was a lot "and then I did this and then I did that" but not much about my emotional state - besides marking the points of my biggest desperation when I was emotionally hitting ground during the packing process. 
Now the first month in Glasgow comes to an end and I am trying to figure out how I feel. I had very good days, normal days and also a few not so good days just like everyone has. Everything - all the small things of daily life - still feel very new but get slowly more and more normal and I like it. 

Last week though the weather was really nice and and after work I hopped on a train to watch the sunset over Arran - something I always wanted to do after seeing it a couple of times from the train or bus. I know that for everyone who grew up here it is completely normal to be close to the sea but for me it is not. For me it is almost surreal and going to the beach just BECAUSE I CAN was amazing. I love it so much. 
There are also a few more things that I love: being close to people I like a lot, the gorgeous flat I scored, the fab gigs I already went to in the short time I am here, walks around the Botanic Gardens and the River Kelvin, being just a few minutes away from a pretty decent record shop, very fast broadband, fresh nan bread and unlimited access to Irn Bru. And the sky. The sky is simply amazing especially in the evenings.
So today when checking in for that flight I came to the conclusion that I am happy. Small word, big deal. It is not like "Bring the Champagne" type of happy, but a general change of vibe and it changed in a very good way. That might wear off one day, maybe it won't - at least not totally. We will see  ... for now I take it as it is and it feels like I did the right thing. 

Lots of people in the last few months / weeks said something like "You are really brave" or "That's a courageous thing to do."  I can tell you that right now it does not feel like this (anymore). I am sitting on my sofa wrapped in my fave blanket eating nachos with guacamole and typing this blog post. It definitely does not need any courage for that at all. It is obviously just half the story though because I definitely had severe doubts and panic attacks along the way and was everything but fearless. 
In hindsight that was another round of proof that what is in our head is usually way more scary than most of real life (there are exceptions - I went through some of them and I wish that to no one).  The scenarios our brain can come up with when it does not know what happens next can be very, very frightening. Uncertainty and fear are evil twins. 

I think that the point is not to become more courageous or fearless but to take your own fears seriously and resolve them as good as you can (I did a lot of that in the last few months in Germany) and then ... move past it. That costs a lot of energy, but there is no other way to initiate change. And there is no progress or improvement without change.

I will finish with some lines from a letter my friend, the wonderful German-Croatian author Marica Bodrožić, sent me a few days ago. It is a bit sad that I need to translate her stunningly beautiful German into my clumsy English but I'll give my best as her words might encourage the one or the other to make a decision along the way: 


"Only very few can do that (following a new life path / initiate change), instead most people are holding on to the old things, to the old patterns around them and when then all the old disappears (And it has to. It is its job to do so) they still cling to it and that brings misfortune, grief, loneliness and forlornness." 


And nobody wants that, right? 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Catching Up

I did not write about the move for such a long time that I have trouble to figure out how to do it. I need to find a healthy middle between just posting "Made it" and writing a book. So let's try.

I think I left you when I got the "go" for my flat, didn't I? Feels a lifetime away.

The commute between Glasgow and Munich went for another round after that and it felt weirder and weirder - like living two parallel lives. Every time I went back to Munich I just slipped back into my old life with all the familiar things around me and Glasgow felt so far away. Same for the other way around .. barely out of the airport Glasgow felt normal and Munich far away. Transition times are strange and emotionally draining.

It was mid March when I came back here (Glasgow) to pick up my keys and get the flat ready to move in. While I was in Munich I had tried to plan the furnishing but that is quite difficult without a floor plan and exact measurements. That's why getting all the hard facts was the first thing I did when I had the keys and went to the flat. My flat is magical though (in many ways) - it shrinks inside your head. When I was in Munich and tried to plan in my memory it seemed to be small and I was so not sure if everything would fit in and I planned for various scenarios panicking I would not get it all set up properly. When I came back into the place for real I realized it is really big. I think now we look at about 70 qm while my studio apartment in Munich had a bit more than 40 qm (and only one big room). It is definitely the biggest place I live in since I moved out my mom's age 19. I might finally do some adulting ... kind of.

When I was here to furnish timing was everything because I had only one week to get basically everything done and so I had phoned the Ikea customer service beforehand to see if my plan would work and they said yes. And here is how I did it:
Monday - keys and measuring
Tuesday - a good half a day at Ikea to buy basically everything (except for that Oliver Bonas bedside table which HAD to happen and did).
Wednesday - running places for getting internet set up organized and such things
Thursday - Getting everything delivered from Ikea
Friday - Getting everything build by Ikea assembly service
Saturday - Another shopping trip to Ikea with my lovely friend Emma for lamps and all those many wee things & flying home

That all happened and also lots of cleaning (it was pretty clean but you want your bathroom done by yourself) and sitting on the floor in the empty flat trying to get a feel for it and realizing this is home now. 


Crazy thing is ... the plan worked 100% and I am super impressed with the service culture here. Germany is always praised for being efficient, but in direct comparison things are REALLY good here as well and in some cases even better. Virgin wins anytime against Deutsche Telekom and the Job Center where I had to apply for my NINo beats every German public institution when it comes to waiting times and quick processes. I was in and out in minutes. PLUS ... everyone so far is friendly and helpful. I did not expect beforehand to be so pleased with those things, but I really am.
But back to Ikea ... I had another delivery this week with more lamps, chairs, coffee tables and some more smaller stuff that I of course assembled myself, but for the big stuff I had booked the before mentioned assembly service. That is not cheap, but so worth the money. It took the two guys about 3.5 hours to build a king size bed, a 5 chest drawer, a small table with chest for the hall, an expendable dining table, a TV bench, 2 bookshelves, 4 CD shelves, a sleeper couch, a sleeper chair, an office table and an office chair. Magical. Just try to think of how long that would take a normal person and how much nerves that would cost. I did not regret it for a second.

Once the flat was ready I went back to Munich to work and pack. That I think was the worst part of the whole process. I am my father's daughter. I am all for adventures as long as my base is okay and my home is nice and comfy. If that is not the case I am not in a good place and when you pack all your stuff to move across Europe that of course consequently breaks up home and packing is not "comfy" in any way. I was also extra stressed because the movers picked my stuff one day earlier up than planned. It was pretty horrible and there were tears and lots of last minute questioning if this was the right thing to do well knowing it was too late for any plan changes. I worked day and night - literally. I also went to see my local friends to say good bye and that is always emotional as well. I felt exhausted on every level at the end of this.


Shit got real when my old flat was empty and the real estate agent came and I handed her my keys. After twelve long years in the same flat (16 in Munich) I left the house with a bag and a huge suitcase and no chance to go back in. Scary.
For the last night in Munich I had booked myself and my sore bones a fancy hotel in the city center and that was very smart. That huge and super comfy bed was worth a million - as well as the final Schnitzel dinner with friends and the next day pizza lunch with my colleagues before I went to the airport.
The trip itself felt like just another flight to Glasgow and I had to remind myself there was no flight back. Strrrrrange,
I arrived Thursday night (31/3) and on Saturday my boxes arrived (37 of them) and with it the second round of a shitload of work and making a flat a huge mess. I dreaded it so much that we escaped to a gig (Chvrches / Twilight Sad) and to Ayr. I really needed the sea to take a deep breath and gather some energy for that final phase. 

In the meantime (two weeks) - while working full time again btw - all boxes were unpacked and everything found its new place. Some smaller things like hanging my art still need to happen but other than that I am done.
At the moment I am sitting wrapped in my comfy blanket on the couch watching Download Festival bits from the past years over my super fancy high speed broadband on TV. The flat is amazing - I was really SO lucky -  and I am very happy.

So far ... life is good and I love to be here.

PS: Appropriate and amazing soundtrack for this transition chapter was and is the fantastic new album by Frightened Rabbit fittingly named "Painting Of  A Panic Attack" - I had my fair share of those over the last months. Interestingly enough the record is mostly about being away from Glasgow - so kind of reverse action.
I had the pleasure to attend the album launch instore here in Glasgow and after years and years of trying and failing for diverse reasons FINALLY my first proper Frabbits show in Dunfermline and ... it was so damn good. I am still buzzing. Can't wait for the proper tour already! 




You know what is great as well?  NO MORE GEMA BLOCKED YOUTUBE!  (Sorry to all German readers who might not be able to watch this.) 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Pittsburgh Guest Blogger Event


Today’s post comes from Erin of Don't Forget To Eat - a wonderful travel, food, health and lifestyle blog - and is part of the Pittsburgh Guest Blogger Event 2016.  I am very honored to participate in this amazing blog exchange although I am not Pittsburgh based (but still and always in Pittsburgh love). You can see my post over on From Farm To Turntable, where I talk a bit about the massive life and lifestyle change I am undergoing just now.


When we got the project started I told Erin, that I am suffering because I could not travel to Pittsburgh in a long time and that I see the city changing on social media but cannot see all the new things and visit all the new places especially in Pittsburgh's super fast developing restaurant scene. So to ease my pain Erin wrote this little guide for me - and YOU - who hopefully come to Pittsburgh soon or want to explore some great new restaurants in town: 

5 New(ish) Places To Eat In Pittsburgh This Spring


Pizza Taglio


This isn't the newest of the new restaurants on this list, but it is fantastic and I hope it will be here for a long time to come. If you love a true Italian pizza, then this place is for you. They serve Roman-style pizzas and also offer a few starters, desserts, and coffee. Pizzas are to be ordered one per person and hopefully you'll be there with a few people who don't mind sharing because all of the pies on the menu sound delicious. My personal favorite is the Carbonara - a white pizza with pecorino bechamel, pork cheek, and egg yolk. My husband prefers a classic Margherita with tomato, mozzarella, and basil. The food is simple and delicious, the atmosphere is casual, and you can BYOB.

Prairie


If you've been missing Verde, well, Prairie is nothing like it, except for the fact that it's in the same location and has the same owners. The new restaurant serves dishes from the American Heartland. The menu is nothing if not comforting.
I always loved brunch at Verde, so I'm excited to see a brunch menu for Prairie as well. My husband is going to fall in love with the Pecan French Toast. I'm stoked for the new cocktails like the Woodford Lil' Mule. (But maybe if I ask nicely I could get the bartender to make me one of those fabulous Verde margaritas?)
There's no lunch menu for the winter, but one should be coming this summer. For now, though, a stop in for dinner will have to do. I don't think you'll be disappointed as the menu features things like Bacon Wrapped Bison Meatloaf, Grown Up Grilled Cheese, Cider Braised Pork Shoulder, and Kettle Corn.


Muddy Waters Oyster Bar


Oysters in Pittsburgh? Yes, that's right. And from everything I hear, they are amazing. I haven't made it here myself yet, but I cannot wait to pop in for dinner. You can get raw oysters from the East Coast and West Coast purchased per oyster or by the dozen or even as a tasting where you get to sample each of the oysters on the daily menu.
If raw oysters aren't your deal, then you'll be excited to hear that Muddy Waters also offers hearty Southern fare like po' boys, shrimp and grits, and gumbo. Plus, the cocktail menu includes classics like the Sazerac and Ramos Gin Fizz.





Smallman Galley

"Pittsburgh's chef incubator" is home to four restaurants from up and coming local chefs. Each restaurant will be in the Galley for 18 months. They are in charge of every detail of their restaurants. On Mondays, the chefs learn from industry leaders. And during their last six months, the folks who founded Smallman Galley help the chefs find a permanent location in Pittsburgh.
Current restaurants are Josephine's Toast, Aubergine Bistro, Provision PGH, and Carota Cafe. Josephine's Toast offers the oh-so-popular avocado toast, meal-size toast plates with meats and veggies, and sweet items like a classic brioche French toast.


Adolfo's Italian and Venezuelan Cuisine

Why open an Italian and Venezuelan restaurant? What do the two cuisines have in common? Well, if you are Adolfo Vaccarello it doesn't matter - the two cuisines are part you. Adolfo's father is Italian and Adolfo was raised in Venezuela so opening a restaurant in Bloomfield featuring the two cuisines was a no-brainer. 

Adolfo's is a great place to take a group because the menu is so varied and it's all delicious. Nowhere else will you find a dessert menu that features both Tiramisu and Torta Tres Leches with confidence that both will be fantastic. And if you think that's a tough choice, what about the food that comes before it? Lasagna or Arepas? Cochino frito or chicken piccata? They're all options. Over the course of your meal, you can mix and match Italian dishes and Venezuelan ones. Just have fun and enjoy your complimentary glass of sangria.



Here are all blogs that participate in the Pittsburgh Guest Blogger Event - check them out for TONS of awesome blog posts: 

Harvest + Bloom // Yes, Wear That! // jelly jars // Glam and Graffiti // To The Streets // In Pursuit // Pittsburgh & Pearls // Beezus Kiddo // Goodness Madness // Last Minute Panic // Steel City Intrigue // Crank Crank Revolution // Amanda Narcisi // Pittsburgh is Beautiful // From Cats to Cooking // Yum Yum PGH // Breelicious Bites // Parmesan Princess // Coffee & A Blonde // The Steel Trap // Wavy Alabaster // everybody loves you… // Eat with Emily // Don’t Forget to Eat // Sloping in the Sky // From Farm to Turntable // Secrets in the Wall // Red Pen Mama // Feedback Soup // The AP Collection // Blog Or Die PGH // Pittsburgh Happy Hour // Friendly Fitness Foodie // Small Town Dad // Josh’s World // Geeky Sweetie // Sean’s Ramblings // Lunges, Long Runs and Lattes // Try it and You May! // lil Burghers // Orange Chair Blog // Ya Jagoff // Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents // Melissa Firman

Sunday, February 28, 2016

House Hunters International

In my last posting I promised to tell you a little more about the process of moving to Scotland and specifically about the "joy" of house hunting:  

On Tuesday nights we have a show on TV that is called "Goodbye Deutschland" and is about people who decide to leave Germany to live in a foreign country. Sometimes you have perfectly normal people doing logical things like a young doctor and his wife and kids moving to the North of Sweden because they pay young doctors really well there. They plan, they move, they settle in with some ups and downs and all is good. This is kind of nice but does not make too exciting TV and so most of the people going expat on the TV show are chaotic human beings who randomly choose a spot on the map, pack their things and go to a place where they have no job and do not speak the language. Usually they have no money left after moving to make it all a bit more thrilling and of course there is a lot of dramatic music in the background. I hate-love this show. 

Everyone who knows me a little also knows that I like to plan out my next steps and that I am good with it. So to no surprise I am planning this move to Scotland for a long time already and every time I went through my to-do-list I was like "I need to organize this because we aren't at Goodbye Deutschland here." When it comes to the basics it is pretty easy to beat most folks in the show though. I do speak the language. Well, let's say I understand most Scottish (took a good while but I am getting there) and I do speak English. I also have a job. I am really well prepared with all the boring stuff like bank, insurances, pension funds, move logistics and budgeting, too. I hate Excel but god damn ... I make good use of it at the moment. 

I also tried to plan the most crucial piece of the puzzle a bit ahead and that was finding a new home. It is hard enough when you try to move within your own town but if you try to do so in a different country it becomes a real challenge.
I started the process a few months ago by staring at Rightmove adoring flats I could not rent because my move was still many weeks away. My idea was that this would help me to figure out what I could get for my budget and where. And it worked. Kind of.  

The thing is just that moving in the UK is a pretty short notice thing. Most flats are available right when they go online or become available within the next max 4 weeks. That is different from Germany where all is a bit more planned ahead. So for example the viewings for my flat are next week although it becomes officially available not before May 1st (I move for April 1st but I have to leave time for renovations which is much more in tenant responsibility than in the UK). That is how far in advance it often goes in Germany. 

So looking at Rightmove told me I would need to go to Glasgow in February if I would want to rent from March / mid of March, which I wanted because a bit of overlap helps tons with the logistics and so I did. 
Before I flew to Scotland I collected a whole bunch of paperwork like landlord reference, work reference, character reference, work contract, last three pay slips, a few utility bills, scanned copy of ID and passport, certificated translation of my German credit history report and score. These things are important if you want a flat and even more important if you have no credit history in the UK and the referencing companies have trouble tracking you down. We are not at "Goodbye Deutschland" here ;) and I had researched that before and it indeed helped. I also knew about the energy efficiency rating scale, council tax bands, broadband readiness, utility costs and I also know Glasgow quite well. House hunting should be a piece of cake, you'd think, with all this ... .

A few days ahead of travel I started to shortlist properties and to call letting agents. Forget emailing them - almost no one ever answers. Sadly between me calling and me traveling I saw a lot of places on my list becoming let agreed because house hunting in the UK is really a day to day thing, but I still had a few appointments for viewings set and I had the Rightmove app on the phone to get all interesting new entries. Oh ... and one thing is important to say:
Against all odds I was looking for unfurnished flats although UK citizens barely ever rent unfurnished, but I am German. German people NEVER rent furnished. It is not usual here and the idea of sleeping in someone's bed and napping on someone's couch creeps us out. We also do not buy as easily as UK people because buying property especially in big cities in Germany is completely unaffordable. Cultural differences ... 


On Monday the 15th I finally started my viewing marathon. It was sunny and I was full of optimism. The first flat was not located too badly ... a few blocks away from the Kelvingrove Museum down towards the river. Not the nicest place in Glasgow but still okay. The flat was freshly renovated which was great but although it had two bedrooms I swear it was not bigger than my one room studio at the moment. I was bumping into walls all the time. The house itself was also not in a good shape and smelled damp. So maybe  ... not so much.
Next stop was a flat I had high hopes for. It was just in my range still and in a pretty high scale city center apartment building. When I arrived I was really excited about how central it was. If I would rent this one I would never ever need to join the taxi queue again. Then the letting agent opened the door and what I had to see there cannot be unseen. Two student boys were still living in the apartment (they were not home) and the whole place was knee high covered in rubbish. There was no place to put your foot on. While me and the other people attending the viewing were standing there jaws dropped the panicking letting agent said something about potential and deep cleaning but this got irrelevant latest when we opened the door to a poo covered (I am not kidding) bathroom. We all ran outside. It took me hours and lots of soap and intense hand cleaning before I could eat again and I had lots of high voltage drinks to make sure my body was clean from the inside, too.


The next day I started with a fresh portion of good spirit and went to a place close to St. George's X.  The flat looked bright and big on the pictures. I got out of the subway and smiled down Great Western Road towards Squid and Whale and walked on. One block, two blocks, three blocks. Hmmm ... there it was - a fairly well maintained apartment building, 10 min walk from the subway. The flat in this case was really bright and big, BUT ... the house was surrounded by quite big high rise buildings and although just minutes walk away this was not pretty West End anymore at all. I am no chicken but it was not a good place to be at day and I could not even picture going down there alone by night. I will also work from home and the "quiet" in the description did only count with closed double glazed Windows because almost right above the house was the M8 which made for a beautiful sight also. Not. 

At this point I started to panic because new offerings were dropping in only very very slowly that week, too. The next day I decided I had to start to look at furnished apartments as well to maybe find a home for the first six months and to keep looking while living in Glasgow already and so I expanded my search.
One place was in a good location but it was really run down because the poor flat was obviously seeing new tenants every six months. At least the letting agent there was nice and gave me tons of helpful information. I also scheduled one more viewing in for Saturday - my last possible day to find something. It was a flat in a good West End location and although it was furnished it looked doable, but as you can imagine the timing creeped me out. Last minute is not my style really. 


I kept looking. One highlight was for sure a big furnished flat right on Byers Road. That is no location I would want to do long term but for the first few months? Why not. Well .. well .. The house was great but the flat looked like a bulky waste landfill. I carefully asked the letting agent if the sacks of rubbish and all the broken furniture like the stranded wreck of an office chair would be removed. He said "No."  Okay. After a little break he told me that no tenant had ever complained and that this would rent in no time. Right. Good for you, letting agent. I lost it though when I looked in one of the bedrooms and was greeted by a dead cockroach that had done its last breath on the dirty mattress and was now rotting there on its back with its tiny feet pointing to the ceiling.
The afternoon was a bit better because the little flat in Thornwood I viewed was surprisingly cozy (and unfurnished) and I liked the neighborhood a lot. It was not exactly perfect but much better than all the other places and so I kept it on the list. 


When I met with a friend for drinks and dinner in the evening my balance sheet for the week did not look good. I had nothing anymore on the list than the not really right Thornwood place and the furnished place to view on Saturday with no guarantee I would get it if I would like it. I tried to make "Plan B" and "Plan C" to not freak out and I admit if I would have not had my loved ones - family and friends - supporting me over the week and cheering me up there would have been lot more tears and panic. They also encouraged me to take the leap of faith if the situation could not be resolved while I was in Scotland.

Little did I know I was only one sleep away from pure magic. 


Friday morning I woke up with no plans for more flat viewings. I was just looking forward to meet my friend in the afternoon and to watch Aidan Moffat's movie at the Barras in the evening.
While I had breakfast I decided to update my Rightmove search one final time. And there it was. THE FLAT ....  that beautiful flat. Unfurnished, freshly renovated, tenement building, high ceilings, dark wooden floors, walk in wardrobe, beautiful new bathroom - and in my budget. I looked at the address and made weird shrieking noises because I was staring at a dot on the map right behind the Botanic Gardens 5 min away from one of my fave AirBnB places to stay at in town.
I called  the letting agent and she said they would get the keys only Friday night and there were no viewings at the weekend. That is when I went full force and high speed explained my situation and begged for mercy. Thankfully she had a heart and agreed to meet me at the flat on Saturday 11.30 am.

The rest of the day was wonderful. I spent quality time with my friend, watched an amazing movie ("Where You're Meant To Be" - go watch it!) with friends at the wonderful Barrowlands.  I enjoyed the live set of Aidan Moffat and his special band for the movie and event including James Graham of The Twilight Sad. There were lots of laughs and hugs and it was all I love so much about Glasgow. 


Saturday then I went to see the furnished flat and it was really okay. Then I stopped at the Smile Cafe on Queen Margret Drive, which is the best place in the city for real Italian coffee, and had a chat with some lovely local ladies. I told them that I was trying to move to the neighborhood and they sent me with crossed fingers to the viewing.
I walked down to the flat along the Kelvin Walkway. It is SUCH a beautiful neighborhood really. In front of my house I waited for the letting agent. She arrived and we tried to get in. It was like in a movie. There was me being really desperate and none of the keys worked. We had to ring doorbells and then fighting TWO big doors before we finally made it after 30 minutes into the flat. It was still as beautiful as on the pics. It was just IT and so I of course applied. 


On Sunday I went back to Germany and on Monday evening I got confirmation - the landlord had accepted my application. THE FLAT is mine.

I will go back for a week mid March to pick up my keys and organize things and then right after Easter I move. I have found a new home - the place to live and it is all I wanted.

HAPPY END :)   


Ready for summer - the communal garden of my new house: