~ Prague ~

After 6 months spent moving, saying goodbyes, weeping, changing, accepting, and experiencing every emotion you can imagine both separate and apart, L and I finally got the chance to take a holiday together and explore. We picked Prague. Quick train or plane ride from Munich, different language and culture than our new country, and a LOT of coaxing from our friends and families telling us how magical and intriguing it is there. DONE! Lets go!

We had never travelled together like this, in a city foreign to us both, navigating maps, trains, connections to our flat, food?! It’s something that can test a couple, any pair of travelers and I had no idea what to expect. It’s one thing to marry someone, take vows, say to one another you will be and will do things for the rest of your life together… its entirely another thing to put those words into action.

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The truth is, once we got going and made it through some stressed moments of train connections and seating arrangements, we were blissed out to be on an adventure. No amount of singing raucous drinking stag parties on the Alex train, and kids sitting in the aisles on mini seats crowding the 80 degrees and windows open was going to stop our ride!!! (OK! I had some nervous nauseous moments, NO it wasn’t all glamorous but….. we made it).

The flat was all we needed, kind of weird, nothing fancy, and challenges that made us laugh more than anything. Water pooling on the floor from a faulty shower design, a loft bed that trapped the heat making it impossible to sleep? The weekend was in the midst of a European heat wave so there was nothing to do but stay out exploring late, come home when the cool night had started and begin it all again in the morning. Nothing could kill our adventurous and free spirit, after the months of hard work and transition we had experienced.

Artisan Cafe Bistrot Prague, located : Vejvodova 1, Prague 1, Old Town, Czech republic.

I discovered a beautiful trait in L that we share in common : we do NOT like to follow the crowds. We do NOT want to use the maps, and the tour guides and go where they ALL are going…… we both want to explore and get lost on the back streets. This was a relief!! I spent days leading up to our trip thinking I had to create a booklet of places to go – see – swim – explore – eat, and I had come up with not much at all. Once there, we looked at all the tours of people swarming together and we immediately hoofed out of the main squares and went seeking local treats and refuge. We found this sweet small bakery on a perfect corner, that is family owned and locally farmed ingredients! We stumbled upon it, and it was an immediate favorite. The cakes were dynamic and delicious, the coffee perfect and the location is tucked in town while you look out at all the sweet curving streets, and interesting people coming around the bend. A true gem.
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Beer flows cheaper than water in this city, seems to be a trend in all of Europe that I am getting used to. In this city in particular, I was struck with the delicious lightness of the beer and the sweet simple snacks they pair with it in the bars and cafes. The home of Pilsner Urquell and the original Budweiser, which I actually prefer on this side of the world, go figure!! It also kept us cool in the heatwave summer weekend, and sweet on eachother as we walked the streets exploring.

food & Love

‘We should look for someone to eat and drink with, before looking for someone to eat and drink.” ~ epicurus

One highlight of this trip was a magical restaurant that L found while searching on our phones while getting lost on the streets, east side of the Charles Bridge. There were no crowds around and many sweet windows to look into, shops to explore. It was surreal having no work to do, nowhere we had to be. We were hungry, and he wanted to take a chance on a small space, no signage, with Italian fare from Sardinia. It was un-believeable. It is the kind of place you go to everyday? Maybe 3 times a week, definitely all the time if you live here as a local. Run and worked by family members, also cooking the food in the kitchen, small tables with this incredibly dynamic seablue wall painted like you are dining next to the ocean. Its a meal you will fall in love with, especially if you are seated across from one you love. And this moment I captured expresses all things I hold dear, my love for him, my love for nourishing soul loving simple food in season, simple but flavorful ingredients that make you moan with delight, and the depth of turquoise in the background, a color that will always light me up.

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There is food.  And then there is the food you share, the food you cook to share, and when you share that food it truly matters how you feel for that person or persons in your life. Our emotions in life, our feelings for one another come together when we eat and provide for one another, never doubt the power of that connection. It can be as simple as popcorn or snacks together, to a 5 course meal you’ve been saving months to afford but the message is the same — be certain to share food with those you love, and express your love through sharing nourishing joyous meals together. You will never forget those tastes, those flavors, or those people, if you have true connection through the meals and food you choose to eat together.

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On this trip, I fell in love with my husband again, I saw him outside of our crazed life and transition and I saw him completely. I imagine in a great partnership this happens again and again as long as you remain connected. I see now and continue to see that as much as we want to imagine marriage as the perfect dress, the ring, the ceremony, that ‘DAY’ that one day? The true marriage and bliss and relationship comes from everything that begins after that. It is a rollercoaster. It is unpredictable. It is very raw and you will find yourself experiencing things and feelings you had no idea would be part of this new promise to your partner. But, there is strength in that challenge, and in this trip to Prague I felt the reward. He did as well. And we continue to have so many beautiful things in common, one of the highlights being a visceral connection to nourishing food shared together, and a deep appreciation for providing and sharing that with others.

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At the end of our trip, we walked into the train station in Prague, waiting for our departure time, and were struck by am impromptu chorus singing in the old hall. The singing, the voices and the harmony were enough to seal this first international adventure with a loving note. Words will not do this scene justice, the songs they sung acapella I knew well from my chorus days and these voices confirmed the love, the adventure and the pure trust I have in this new treasure of a man and what we have chosen. Sometimes things are a sign? Other times we read into them and create a sign, and in this case I could not care less. We are compatible travelers, we have opportunity, and possibilities of countries, cities, mountains, streams on this side of this world are endless. Ill take that. No time like the present! I intend to immerse in what I have right here right now.

I look forward to sharing more. Stay tuned, and love the food you have and those you keep close.

With love,

R

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a few of my favorite things

Its been 4 months in this new land, world… life abroad. Things that happen in my day to day have become commonplace and I realized today that I want to capture them, write them down and remark on them before they become the norm for me here in Munich.

There are so many subtle differences, and some much larger, in the way the people live here in this city compared to what I am used to. I have had the privelege of living in 4 pretty significant U.S. cities and feel like I have a good basis to compare the flow of life as we know it to the German ways here in Bavaria.

#1 — The Walk.

Tonight as we stepped out the door to take a long evening walk along the Isar River, I realized this act is one thing that is new and becoming common to my husband and I that people back home do not tend to do. The people here in Munich very purposely set time aside to walk together, in groups, as couples, with friends, and they walk for a very long time. They all do it. You say, “Shall we go for a walk this evening?” or “Wie werden heute Abend fur Einen spaziergang?” Especially on Sundays!! That is the day that everything is closed, all the main businesses, and the locals go for walks, to church, to the biergaartens and to eat in restaurants. The most striking thing about this, is that the idea and the act itself is so wonderful……they are being so purposeful about connecting with their family, friends, loved ones, colleagues, whomever and I wonder, “WHY did I NOT take long walks and stroll around with the people I loved more?” It is such a wonderful idea. The Englisher Garten in Munich spans from the city center to the upper northeastern limits, and is larger than Central Park in New York. The trees now in Spring, moving into Summer are lush and full, shading the city from view and creating this incredible green path that makes you feel as if you are in the mountains, the wilderness, anywhere but the bustle of a major international city.

pathway through the Englisher Garten

The Isar River runs parallel to many paths of the Englisher Garten and flows noisily in parts, with a relaxing sound of rushing water. Being away from the Pacific Coast, the sights and sounds of this natural area in the city is comforting on a daily basis.

#2 –Children run wild.

“Who’s child is that??”…. mmmm, no really…. WHOM do you belong to??? I find myself thinking maybe everyday? Of course, this is purely from observation at this point but I can tell you that its hard to identify the parents of kids on the street, in the grocery store, on the tram or the train, and that’s because often these parents are not present. Kids are blocks away before anyone is worried about them, they run and often bump into you with no spacial sense, and they are genuinely having the time of their lives. You see them riding the tram in pairs or solo. It’s striking because coming from the U.S I am used to parents keeping the kids close, having a general sense of fear and, hovering maybe? Not all parents are this way, but I feel confident pointing out that here in Munich most or ALL of the parents are the opposite of hovering and the kids seem to be working it out just fine. I’ve talked to enough people on both sides now, American and German, to be convinced this is a cultural difference and I’m impressed with this freedom of development.

#3 — Dog is King!

dogs best friends

On my runs I have made it a game to look at the dog and then find the person associated with that dog, its not obvious, its actually a very challenging game. The dogs are not on leash, I think I have seen a total of 12 leashed dogs in my time here (and Munich is a dog city, so thats saying a lot) The public transportation allows dogs on at all times, just buy them a ticket, monthly or a year long pass, and your furry friend gets to go everywhere. It makes me smile so large. It is hard on dogs to be in cities, on streets, no doubt there is some stress associated with learning escalators as your daily commute on 4 paws…….BUT, to be with your owner, your pack? To be able to travel freely beside them in your home town, that is remarkable. When it is hot, the dogs cool in the Isar river and run around greeting one another on walks. I am sure there are rules, there are always strict rules in Germany, and I may not be able to interpret them all with my limited language ability at this point. But as a visitor to a new country and even if you were to pass through on vacation, you would be stunned by the relationship to dogs here. Its a major metropolitan city, full of international businesses, expats and multiple cultural representations and the dogs hold their own, and then some. I have so much respect for that. To have a pet, a pup, is a huge responsibilty and can be a hardship with a job living in a large city. Dogs are loved and respected here, things are right. I am in love with that.

3 of my favorites and so many more to come.

Words are finally coming to me more easily in German, the life is beginning to be life, and not just a visit. I am here. I belong here, this is what I am and where I go for now. L and I are happy, even dealing with the good-byes and the loss we suffered with this move.

The beauty of a new place, of intrigue and education of a new culture and people, there is nothing you can trade for that. We are both so thankful and incredulous when we come home at the end of the day.

More to come….

with love,

R

What’s in a name?

Naming something, anything, is such a huge responsibility. A name means so much, it’s the first thing you say, first thing that comes out of your mouth when you introduce this thing, this whatever it may be, and you want it to make an impression. It should have meaning.

Naming a blog was not easy, have you tried it? Seriously! AND — have you checked out the world-famous blogs, and their creative roll-off-the-tongue names? Intimidating! It took me forever to land on a name for a writing platform, and granted, those who know me the best are aware that I love to process, analyze, brainstorm and break apart words, meanings and any angle they can be interpreted. Forever. I am a creative person, and a lawyers daughter……..pair that with a skilled procrastinator and you get a blog that has been waiting to come to life and a platform waiting for my voice for a year or more.

SO here we are. Its Atlas & Arugula and I love it. I had many “What’s??” from people closest to me and those whose opinions I value but when it came down to it, one of the things I could NOT STOP THINKING ABOUT was Arugula. I LOVE ARUGULA! Have you ever had it? When you get it fresh, in-season, organic, you take one of the raw leaves and bite down into it and…… this incredible thing happens…… pepper, like the natural table seasoning we use so frequently? Yeah that one, it explodes in your mouth and BOOM, it makes anything you have spicy and GREEN! Can’t beat that. Such a simple looking plant, and such a truly incredible flavor.

I teach people about nutrition, about what to put into their bodies to heal themselves, learn how to celebrate food as an experience and I try my hardest to put all colors of the rainbow onto their plates. If not all the colors, I will settle for green. Leafy greens on the plate, that can make even the saddest greasiest road trip meal seem like digestion heaven with leafy greens accompanying it down the tubes. As you can see, I am into greens! And then when asked, my favorite leafy green? Arugula. Hands down!

Atlas is an ode to my traveling, culture loving self. When my husband and I found out about this new adventure opportunity to live in Germany for his job, I was stunned. I knew that I had met the guy for me and had just started the thought process around staying in Seattle, about living in a city for a long time, “settling down”, being okay with one place for a while. I have moved a lot in my life, and thought I was set. And….. he gets this job offer. I am pretty sure when all was said and done I actually laughed out loud that we were moving across the sea, stunned by his adventurous leap of a career move and a boat load of possibility for us that I could never have anticipated.

Atlas travels, Arugula you need on your plate at all times! And, if you don’t know what I am talking about well…….go get some…..and then get back to me.

Arriving in Munich, one of the biggest most intimidating challenges for me was how to navigate the grocery store. Its my favorite place to shop, the place I feel most comfortable, and could spend hours investigating, and I understood not one sign or label. I started to read numerous blogs about the ways in which ingredients and measurements and things that are so familiar become so mystifying:

“yeast is something different here, get the right one or baked goods don’t rise!!”

“can anyone else tell the difference between baking powder and baking soda? where do I get these 2 and what are the exact German translations! Help!”

Turns out one of the most abundant things to buy here and eat that is green is << ARUGULA >> called Rucola in German. Seriously? I read into things and I placed meaning on this immediately! MEANT TO BE!  Arugula grows just across the border from us in Italy and from when I landed in February to this day in May, we have had that green grace our plates, meals, eggs, oatmeal, you name it for 3 months straight. It is organic, it is delicious and the only difference I would point out is that here, they do not care to cut the stems! You get the leaves, and you get the rest of the plant they pulled out with no manicuring of the stems, do that at home. We are eating like rabbits, and I couldn’t be happier. Arugula is not something you grow bored of if you like the shock of true flavor in your food. Yes there are those of you who may not care for this flavor or green but you most likely didn’t have it in an incredible way, I would be up to challenge you for a re-try and I will serve it to you, with delight.

In our janky hotel room, I learned to use basic ingredients and tools to create new recipes to keep us nourished and happy. One of the beauties I discovered is from a food blog I follow religiously called Smitten Kitchen. I have altered it on occasion by adding arugula and also have used cauliflower/arugula combo based on whats on hand:

Broccoli Parmesan Fritters from Smitten Kitchen

adapted from the smittenkitchen recipe

Cauliflower Arugula Fritters -- Finished Delight

One of the first dishes I made in our incredibly comfortable “hotel” living stay, and L devoured them in minutes. So easy to make and you can get creative each time with any veggies and leftovers in your fridge. Don’t forget to add the leafy greens!

Much love and gratitude go to my friends, family, and loves who heard me talk over and over about my blog and my thoughts and ideas before actually pressing the “SEND” button on the name and the execution of this public place to be in touch with you. You are made of patience!

It can only go up from here 😉

More soon…..  With Love ~ R

A Dream Come True

We have arrived. It is February of this year, Munich, Germany. I’ve been apart from my new husband for 6 weeks, and I am finally reunited with him after so much distance, in our new ‘home’ our new life across the sea.

Traveling into the city on the S-bahn, one of the local trains, my hefty bags packed to the brim with every last drop of US goods I could muster. Our temporary home is a a hotel in the city, which is part of our extensive relocation package offered by his new company. Everything to me is new, unfamiliar, exciting, a dream come true……. to live in Europe, beginning a new phase of our life together. The seats on the train, how the people dress, the signs, all that is foreign here is exciting to me. I’m a blank slate, so happy to be with L again, and so open to all possibilities!

We arrive at the hotel and I am both elated and exhausted. We are set up to live here until we find a permanent flat in Munich, which we have heard from everyone is extremely difficult and competitive. Add in the fact that we don’t speak the language and are new to every way this country processes things, we feel truly like fish out of water, as if anything we do could be the wrong way or we will miss some crucial detail. Fortunately we have help with this as well, part of our relocation, and an agent to visit flats with us. Tomorrow, we see a flat together, no down time when I arrive.

Our room is on the top floor with a small kitchen and mini fridge, a couch, TV, table to eat, all the necessities to exist, nothing fancy. The decor is 70’s-esque with weird red carpeted floors and a staircase leading to a loft like bedroom, gold accents, a sad but functional kitchen. Large windows and a balcony, but the snow is falling so going outside and sunning is less than likely.  L has been  here 6 weeks without me, and I have heard some of his frustrations but I am blissed out, I am optimistic……  I have NO clue what time zone my body’s on at this point so you could give me a haystack to lounge on and I would think it was the shit!

The first weeks together are a blur, even those first days. we had an appointment to see a flat together on Sunday after I arrived, it wasn’t even 24 hours that my feet had touched the ground. Jet-lagged and dazed, I followed L as my trusty navigator around the city on the train system and he pointed out everything and anything he had discovered, so eager to talk, to share with me what he’s learned and to speak English finally, getting to express himself which he hasn’t been able to do for a month. He gave me directions, showed me where the trains go to and from, feeding me Butterbretzels which are buttered pretzels people eat like chips here ( the soft ones I’m used to  at carnivals or sporting events back home). Looking back now, I retained basically nothing he instructed to me in those first few days!  I was so overwhelmed.  Now that we have been here a couple of months, those places, the train connections, the directions to get here and there are all coming together and I no longer get lost.

Days crept into weeks in our live-in hotel apartment, and the excitement and romance started to wear thin. The work of living in a new country and spending your days acclimating to the language, the ways of the culture, the people, and protocol regarding documents, visas, requirements to be in the country permanently was chipping away at the dreamy story I had created in my mind. For the first time since September of last year when L and I made the decision to embark on this adventure together, I found myself sitting in the reality of what this all means, the reality of what we had done and where we were, what we left behind to make this happen.  It was hard, it was not romantic or dreamy, it was real. And where I was sitting, to reflect? …… My plastic pleather couch that sticks to your skin when you sit on it, and a couple cheap chairs you would find in a classroom. No comforts, no family, no familiar language, all possessions we hold dear slowly traveling across the ocean in a shipping container. A whole lot of change, all at one time. I never was one to do things lightly.

Glamourous Living

Glamorous Living

Our new digs, our “Live-In Hotel”. In truth, I should have thought harder about the meaning of the words “Live-In Hotel” when this offer came to light, but I wasn’t thinking, I was in full on “we are moving, just react” mode. It means…. wait for it….. you LIVE IN A HOTEL! Now, if you are being offered a job in your field already making 6 figures, from a long line of royalty, or made of money than maybe, just maybe the hotel you live in will offer you all the comforts you need to feel that its an actual “home”. For most people, its probably going to be a Hyatt, or some other form of mid level live in arrangement. In our case, we began living our first days and weeks in a new country in the equivalent of Motel 6 in the US, and that is being kind. As the weeks wore on and the place became more and more challenging, I watched people check into this hotel on the weekends and for vacation, by choice?!?!?! Why did you choose THIS hotel over others in Munich for your comforts? You must be crazy, constantly buzzed on German cheese and beer OR oblivious. I came so very close to telling them to turn around and leave, spend your money elsewhere.

The staff in this establishment were a saving grace, sweet and helpful. They were the only great part, and I felt bad for them, working there. They always offered help and assistance when I pushed a little, and you could usually get what you needed whenever you needed it (extra pillows, cleaning service, laundry assistance, extra glasses or dishes etc.) If they wouldn’t or couldn’t help you with something they seemed sincere enough in their apologies.

Cleaning service was done for us, 2x per week and that included things like dish soap and the toiletries that you need to exist in the day to day. You don’t think about these things, but when acclimating to a new country, the daily stuff you don’t have to struggle to buy you are grateful for. So, the small household goods they provided was a relief. Sometimes, the floor was vacuumed, sometimes the glasses were washed, every other time the bed was made? Sheets were the same as the ones we left before……. definitely inconsistent, and I say this because well, should it be consistent? I’m happy to clean my own house, I love cleaning, I admit I have high standards but I ALSO feel so weird about someone else cleaning my things. So here we were caught in a kind of-whatever I feel like-jank ass weekly-cleaning service. Its strange to feel powerless and know you have no place because where you live is not yours, and you have no say. You just follow the rules.

Before I arrived, my husband had asked for an electric hot water kettle which never made it to his room. He gave up on trying but knew that was not my style so I called until they sent one up. The guy was friendly, gave me the kettle and the base with a smile. As he left, I went to set it up and noticed, the base was white and the kettle was a different color. Sure enough, not for the same product, did not work. Not to worry, I phoned again. He comes upstairs an hour later apologetic and embarrassed with a new white plastic kettle and base. I was thrilled to finally have hot water that I didn’t heat from a small pot on the stove! (it really is the little things sometimes, I am easily pleased) I filled water from the tap, plugged in the kettle and waited. I set up our tea, poured in the hot water with excitemen and then…… huge flakes of what appeared to be torn paper bits floated in our cups! The water was more filthy and full of debris than when I put it into the hot water kettle. I looked inside and it had a metal part sitting in the water,  it was clear it was old. In Munich, the water has calcium in it which binds to everything at very hot temperatures. In this case, we were offered tea with large bits of old calcium floating in the cup. Back to the pot on the stove!

Our bed. The bed story is epic, I don’t think my writing can do it justice.  To say it was weird would be so unfair. It was a see-saw. The mattress was a strange shape because it fit in a corner they had actually carved in the wall, so it was queen size with the corners cut off at the top. The mirrors as the headboard went up to the ceiling with strange 70’s gold like paint spatter on the actual mirror itself. The first couple days seemed fine, then……I got sick, a true nasty cold, and things got worse. Each night L and I had a tough time sleeping and spent most of our time tossing and turning, not feeling rested in the mornings. I thought it was my sickness, which was incredibly uncomfortable, then I thought it was my sadness and getting used to being in a new place, I blamed him, the new diet we had, I thought of every excuse possible. One night we were sitting up in bed reading and L says,”I think the bed is tipping backwards, is that possible? Its at a weird angle.” I thought that was a strange thing to say, usually beds that suck dip in the middle, but dipping down at the headboard? At this point, sleep was terrible for both of us, and even after my cold had gone I had a lingering sinus pressure and discomfort that was new to me, which I again came up with a myriad of self diagnoses to explain it away. I said,”Lets swap our pillows to the foot of the bed, it can’t be any worse than how we’ve been sleeping so far, right?” and he agreed. BOOM! We slept through the night. Best sleep since we arrived?!!? The freaking bed was tipped with our heads lower than our feet, no wonder everything was draining into our faces and noses at night, all the blood rushing to our face?! Pillows remained at the foot of the bed, and we were saved from sleeping like bats for the remainder of our stay.

One of my favorite challenges was doing our laundry. They had a large laundry room in the base of the hotel and the prices were not cheap. The dials on the machines are in German with strange symbols for the cycles nothing like US washers and dryers. The temp is in Celcius and the warmer your water, the more likely you will have calcium issues that can damage your clothes over time. Who knew doing laundry could be such an ordeal? Add in that these machines like to eat your coins, with no explanation as to why, and your most basic daily task becomes an adventure. I had the machine eat my money, twice, and show no signs of starting up or working. One time I put it on a cycle I thought I recognized, felt proud of myself, and returned to my clothes soaking in water that had started to smell. I felt low wanting to freak over something as simple as doing our laundry but there were days that not understanding those most basic instructions made me feel crazy!

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If nothing else, the experience of living in this hotel rather than just passing through and getting to return to what you call home, has taught me about being a foreigner and what others go through everyday, all the time. It is an incredibly humbling and isolating feeling to have your basic needs like buying groceries, cleaning clothes, finding a bathroom, asking for assistance or help, boiled down to difficult or impossible because of a language barrier. When I was alone in the hotel trying to find ways to get these tasks done, I was amazed at how hard they were in those first days and weeks and how much longer I had to work to understand a phrase or memorize how to say something in order to get what we needed. And….. it made me tired, it broke my spirit some days, it made me want to quit. Everyday I felt thankful for the experience of being uncomfortable, of being freaked out, because I have gotten to lead a comfortable life and this was a window into what it is for others their whole lives. I hope no one lives their whole life in this jank-ass hotel though, I don’t wish that on anyone 😉 there are so many other alternatives, now that we are here and we have our barrings.

More to come, so much more to share with you, with love…..  ~ R