Monday, August 30, 2010

Stood up

For my birthday some of my friends grouped together to give me money to get some drum lessons (not that I really need them of course given my already excellent drumming skills, but it would be ungrateful not to accept them). A local drum school was found in a very convenient location for me (above a Starbucks!) and I was booked in to have my first lesson this evening. I turned up expectantly at the given location, but no drum teacher appeared! I waited and waited, but still no-one turned up to teach me how to perfect my drumming. I phoned the teacher, but got no answer. Eventually I had to accept that I'd been stood up.

Later on I did get a message from the drum teacher. Apparently all lessons had to be cancelled due to "location problems" - whatever they may be!? I'm not sure whether these "problems" can be solved, but I may have to find myself a new drum school.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fringe round-up

I thought I'd quickly round-up the shows I've been to see at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, to which I went twice over the last week. This is more a reminder of what I went to see than any attempt to give proper reviews of the shows (like the last couple of years) - I will mainly be using phrases such as "it was funny", with maybe a sprinkling of my favourite adverbs "quite" and "very", so the level of review will not be particularly insightful.

The first trip was last Tuesday, and first up on the bill was As It Occurs To Me (or AIOTM [AIOTM] as it is know by all the cool kids). This is Richard Herring's sketch show that's performed in front of a live audience (of geeks - and how true that was!), but then gets put out unedited in podcast form. This was the first performance of it outside of its two previous London runs. I very much enjoyed the show, although prior to it had been worried about it's quality given the fact that Richard Herring had been tweeting about how little time he'd put into writing the script (it's normally written in a huge rush in the day or so prior to the performance, but this one had been cutting it even finer than normal!) If you'd never listened to the podcast before the whole thing should be complete nonsense, but there were a few AIOTM (AIOTM) newbies in the audience and even they seemed to go along with it and enjoy everything too. It was fun to see how it worked live on stage compared to my normal method of listening to it via the podcast - one problem with the live performance though was that I couldn't make out some bits (which I expect were picked up by the microphone) when the audience were laughing or cheering, plus Richard's Scotch accent could become unintelligible at times. At the end, of course, we had the return of the dead Tiny Andrew Collings, and also the real Andrew Collins, which provided the highlight that all the regular fans of the show were after. Another highlight was Tam Dalyell and Susan Boyle's duet of "(I've Had) The Time of My Life".

Next up I went to see the follow on to a show I saw last year: Two Episodes of Mash - which consists of selection of short sketches. Last year we'd seen this show with a pretty small audience, but the room was far fuller this time round. It was enjoyable show with a consistently good level of jokes - often you could see the punch line coming, but it was still very amusing to see how it would be delivered, or whether it would be subverted in some way.

The day was capped off with seeing spoof hospital radio DJ Ivan Brackenbury. I'd noticed this show in the Pleasance on several previous years and had seen it get consistently very good reviews, but had never been to see it. This time Tim Binns (the comedian behind the character) had decided to just do a best bits show as he was also doing a another show with a new character. I should have been to see this show in previous years, because the very good reviews were well justified. Essentially the act consists of giving shouts out to, or requests for, hospital patients with various ailments and then playing an (in)appropriate song based on that. This sounds like it may get a bit same-y and repetitive and just descend into bad punning, but it's done in such a good and likeable style, and with such good timing, that I was laughing along all the way through.

On Saturday a crowd of us went through for some birthday celebrations for me. We kicked things off with the mildly amusing Big Comedy Breakfast featuring three stand-ups (Marc Burrows, Sarah Pearce and Barry Ferns). It's quite hard to do comedy at midday and the audience generally weren't really ready for laughing hard, but each set had it's moments and a memorable joke or two. One of my friends even managed to make a name for himself during the set (he bonded with Barry over both their parents poor choices of first names), and I was closely beaten in an audience game of rock-paper-scissors and denied a chance to play TME (Tape Measure Extension - although it's a game I have played myself in the past). The show has also given further amusement to a friend of mine who was being told about one of his officemates spending the weekend "canoeing".

This was followed by Itch: A Scratch Event in which a variety of comedians/performers are given a stage to try out some new material such as a sketch, mini-play, or character - it's a different line-up during the festival, so you don't know who you're going to see. This was good value show and provided some interesting and funny performances - we did get told at the end who all the performers were, but I can only remember that the first sketch had Simon Munnery in it, and the Segue Sisters did a couple of song. I'd recommend going to this show in the future as there's a decent chance that you'll see at least one thing that's really good, and it's definitely value for money.

Finally we went to see The Roaring Boys Will Set you Free, which had a 5 star review in Chortle! The main premise was that depression had driven Danny, one of the two performers (Danny and Jonny), to start watching The One Show, which he soon realised was a source of unending mundanity and had to be stopped. We then saw him formulate a plan about how it could be stopped and his attempt to carry it out. I don't think we got quite the show that got the 5 star review (there was not corpsing from the performers), but it was still a very fun and funny show. There was a level of audience interaction that worked very well and added to the show, rather than making anyone in the audience feel awkward or picked on. There were several songs too (the theme of their show is still stuck in my head several days later) mainly performed by Jonny and based around his failed romance. Despite the premise being routed in depression it's a very upbeat show with a lot of energy, which rubs off on the audience.

That's my round up for this year. There was obviously a lot of stuff I couldn't see that I'd have liked to, but there's always next year.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Decadal survey

Today is the last day of my twenties. The weather's been glorious and I should have been out frolicking and cavorting, making the most of my final flush of youth, but what have I been doing instead? I've been inside on the internet writing blog posts is what! I don't deserve to be young if I'm going to waste the opportunities it gives me in such a flagrant way.

Anyway, I should probably thank my twenties. They've given me a couple of degrees, one of which enables me to be called Dr. They've seen me move from London to Glasgow - in fact I've lived the majority of the decade in Scotland. They've seen me visit far flung parts of the world as part of my job. And they've seen me buy, and then move out of, my (part) own flat. There are many other smaller things as well from my recent life (chosen because I've blogged about them), for example learning to kayak, snowboard, buying my own bike, learning(ish) to drum and being in a band, and probably far too much drinking (but that's probably brought about some of the most fun times even if my own memory of several is vague).

What could my thirties bring? Well if many of my friends are anything to go by it seems that 30 is pretty much the time to get married. Buying a house is also on the list, but as I said that's something I got our the way earlier in a way. There are also kids. But, who knows? I'll settle for getting a few more scientific papers written for now. And hopefully this'll be the decade in which I get to actually detect some gravitational waves.

[P.S. if you managed to get to this post looking for information on the US Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey 2010 (probably more likely now I've written this postscript) then sorry, this isn't what you're looking for - instead maybe try here and here for US perepctive, and here or here for more UK oriented views.]

Balloch to Tarbet

Yesterday my girlfriend and I did our first cycle ride for a while (not counting our recent cycle round Munich) on our bikes - I forgot to blog about our last ride some time last month from Glasgow down to Lochwinnoch, which was a good, but quite tiring ride.

This ride was actually a rather tame ride, which was fine giving that we weren't feeling too energetic. We decided to do the West Loch Lomond Cycle Path starting at Balloch (which we got the train to) and unsurprisingly heading up the west bank of the loch. It in part just follows a path along the A82, occasionally splitting off from the road, but after Inverbeg it seems to mainly be along what must have formally been the main road along the loch before the A82 was built - you can see it in this aerial photo. We had a nice lunch in Luss, which was surprisingly quiet giving that it was a reasonably pleasant afternoon in the middle of August. We made it all the way to Tarbet in pretty quick time, even at a relatively slow pace, as it's only a 16 mile ride. Our plan was to get the 18:01 train back to Glasgow from Arrochar, but struggled to find the station (we were there in plenty of time, so this wasn't too much of an issue) - we went all the way into Arrochar, and almost beyond, before we found out that the station was actually half way back to Tarbet. We found it in the end and had enough time to go for a pint in the nearby pub. Due to just going along a main road it wasn't the most fun ride, but it's probably better as part of a slightly more challenging route.

Munchen Glad-to-be-bach 3: Too Much Luxury

On the morning after the wedding we again managed to make it up just in time for breakfast at the hotel. I think I wasn't feeling too bad, although there was definitely some hangover there. At around midday we left the hotel and got taxis back to Plattling - not everyone who'd been with us on the way out was heading back at the same time though. Our return train to Munich was huge - a double decker with loads of carriages - so we had plenty of space to spread out. Why they'd not put on such a train on the Friday afternoon when we'd been travelling out I don't know! This time there were no unexpected stops.

For the next couple of days in Munich we were going to be staying in the Sofitel - a very fancy hotel (if you left your shoes outside you room at night someone would take them away to be cleaned overnight!), that my girlfriend had managed to get on a cheap deal from and which a some other friends had also decided to stay at. It was right next to the hotel, so was easy to find when we arrived. We didn't get too much time to indulge in the luxury to start with through, as a couple of my friends had to leave for the airport that afternoon and wanted to see at least a bit of Munich before they left. We wandered into the centre of town towards the Frauenkirche (Munich's main cathedral) and found a place to have lunch next too it. Most people had the roast pork, but I decided to go for a wurst dish that sounded quite nice (as far as my translation of the menu went), although didn't realise until it turned up that the sausages were boiled in a bizarre oniony vinegarette - it was ok, but not something I'd go for again. Luckily one of my friends wasn't able to finish her pork and crackling, so I was able to clean her plate.

After lunch our two departing friends had to head back to the station, so the rest of us went back to the hotel. Getting back there we realised how tired we still were after the exertions of the wedding the day before, so managed to fall asleep for a couple of hours on the extra large and comfy bed. That evening those of us that were left met up again and headed to the Löwenbräu beer garden, which is set in a pretty park (it's pretty if you can avoid the few local alcoholics that hang out there). It was a nice evening, warm with clear skies, so we were able to sit outside for a couple of hours with a Maß or two and a flammkuchen.

The next day my girlfriend and I decided to go exploring on our own by hiring a couple of bikes. Last year during Oktoberfest I'd done a bike tour, so I basically followed the same route we'd taken in that tour. After taking a slightly convoluted route we got to the Englischer Garten and had a look to see if any surfers were about again - there weren't any. We headed up back passed the Chinesischer Turm and out the north of the gardens. We then headed along towards the Olympic Park (home of the 1972 Summer Olympics). We had lunch (I had Currywürst) at the restaurant at the base of the Olympic Tower and then went up the tower itself, which has a great view of Munich. By this time the weather wasn't great - it was overcast and had started raining lightly, so we actually didn't get that great a view (the postcards seem to suggest that on a good day you can see out to the Alps) - last time when I went up it was similar weather.

From the Olymipic park we travelled further west to the Schloss Nymphenburg, an impressive Palace with massive gardens. We briefly wandered into the gardens and had an ice cream (not that the weather had really improved to make ice cream particularly appropriate), but didn't stay long as we needed to get our bikes back and meet up with others. We headed back toward the station where we'd hired the bike, taking a brief detour through the Hirschgarten (the biggest beer garden in Munich) - last year we'd stopped here for a drink, but this time decided not too (it was very quiet anyway, and the rain didn't make it that appealing).

After returning our bikes we decided to take advantage of the spa in our hotel. It was all very fancy with a bizarre shaped swimming pool. We decided to avoid the sauna though, being as it was
in the "Nude area" and us being prudish Brits.

The evening we decided to try to complete our visiting of the four major Munich brewery pubs (Hofbräu, Augustiner, Löwenbräu and Paulaner) by going to the Paulaner bräuhaus. This place had a reasonably small beer garden (although still massive by UK standards) and was described in our guide books as being "cosy" - it wasn't what you might term cosy, i.e. small, over here, but was very nice inside. Despite speaking pretty much no English the waitress managed to tell us that we were in on the all-you-can-eat buffet night - almost everything on the menu was done in buffet form for only €12.90 (or there abouts). We all decided that was the best way to go, along with another Maß. It was all very good - roast pork, wurst goulash, beef, fish, chicken and even plenty of vegetables - but general overindulgence from the previous few days meant none of us quite made the most of all the food on offer. However if you are in Munich on a Monday night I'd very much recommend it as the place to go.

The next day was my girlfriend and my last day in Munich - our flight was about 6pm that evening - but we tried to see a bit more of the city before we left. We walked from our hotel to the River Isar, where we'd previously been to the Deutsches Museum, and crossed to the Müller'sches Volksbad - a public baths - were we had lunch in the cafe. We then walked through a park along the Isar towards the state parliament building - the Maximilianeum. From here we walked to the Friedensengel (Angel of Peace), and then headed back across the river towards our hotel. We did get caught in quite a downpour on the way back, but managed to shelter in a department store. We got back to the hotel and sadly said goodbye to the luxury to head back to our normal lives.

That was it for our trip. We had an uneventful flight back and no-ones bag got lost. It was really nice to be able to see Munich again (and not with the Oktoberfest crowds about) and of course the reason for the trip, the wedding, was fantastic. The next holiday will be to Nice next month (although, airport strike willing, we're going to another wedding in a couple of weeks time in Cork), which I'm very much looking forward to.

Munchen Glad-to-be-bach 2: The wedding

Here's a follow-up post to my earlier Munich post.

Following a day of exploring Munich it was time to head to Auerbach for the wedding. There were a few of us planning on getting the train from Munich to the wedding location, but we had to wait until early afternoon until our whole group had arrived in Munich (not that we were in a particularly good state to have actually done anything in the morning). When at the station we went to get special Bavarian tickets, which each allowed 5 people to travel and only cost just under €30. After some help from one of the station ticket agents, we managed to negotiate the various screens on the ticket machine and come away with enough tickets for us all to travel. A good start to the journey at least. After this we took over a station cafe for a couple of hours, whilst waiting for our the final arrival to join our group from the airport. During the wait two of the best men (there were three in total, but the other one had travelled out separately) took this time to go over there speeches and I got a sneak preview of one.

By 3:20, once everyone had arrived, we were able to get a train to Plattling, from where some lifts onwards to our hotels had been organised. The train was quite busy, especially the front half of it (which would prove to be telling later on), but we just about managed to all get seats (one of our group decided to sit on the floor, but it wasn't entirely necessary). The journey was going smoothly until we pulled in to Landshut where everyone seemed to be getting off our carriage. Initially we thought that this was good - we'd be able to stretch out round the carriage a bit - but it soon became apparent that we probably should be getting off too (a man had tried to explain this in German to us, but we'd not really been able to understand a word of his explanation). On getting of we realised what was happening - the train was splitting in two with the front half carrying on to where we wanted to go and the back half that we'd been in heading back to Munich! However due to our tardiness getting of the train there was absolutely no way we, with all our luggage, could squeeze onto any of the front carriages. So we had to call ahead and say we'd be delayed about an hour and a half waiting for the next train. Luckily the station we were at had a bar in it, so we were able to occupy ourselves there by having a beer.

We were able to squeeze onto the next train and eventually got to Plattling. The group then split as half of us were staying in Auerbach (where the wedding ceremony was taking place), whereas the other half, myself included, were staying in Hengersberg (which was the where the reception was taking place - and in my opinion therefore the sensible place to stay). We got a lift from the bride and therefore got a bit local information on the drive. Our hotel was a nice place called the Hotel Erika.

After getting settled into our room it was soon time to head through to Auerbach for the evening for some pre-wedding celebrations. Auerbach is a small and pretty village (farming and hunting country) where the bride is from, and where a lot of her family still live, so we got to meet many of them - and also some of the brides ponies. It seem that it's a Bavarian tradition that on the evening before the wedding guns should be fired to scare off any bad spirits - the bride and groom were wearing traditional Bavarian dress of a dirndl and lederhosen respectively. So, to this end we had a lot of explosions being set off during the evening, but rather than guns being fired we had milk churns - milk churns with gun powder added, then a plastic football wedged in the top, and then the bottom being lit, firing the football 50 metres or so and making a very loud bang. Unfortunately the bangs didn't scare off the many mosquitos. There was also beer.

The next morning we were up in time for the hotel breakfast and decided to have a quick walk around Hengersberg before having to head to the wedding. The weather was sunny and hot, with only a few clouds in the sky - perfect wedding weather. It's a small town, and therefore there's not a great deal to see. We walked up to a church, which had a good view over the town, and then back to the small town square where we had an ice cream. It was then back to the hotel to get our wedding gear on.

We arrived in Auerbach just before the first part of the wedding took place - the official state bit involving signing of papers and such - during which time we went for a quick drink (although I stuck to diet coke for the time being) in the local pub/hotel/butcher shop. Then came the church ceremony part of the proceedings. This was the first Catholic wedding I've been to and I was quite worried that it could last quite a while, and I didn't know if I'd be able to make it through awake - the vast majority of it was also going to be in German. I needn't have worried - we were having to stand up and sit down so many times, and there were many hymns sung and readings given, that it would have been hard to catch any sleep. I thought the highlight of the ceremony (other than the fantastic looking bride and groom) was the singer (a friend of the bride), who had a great voice - there was also a very good choir and band (we couldn't see the choir and band as they were above us, and when I first heard trumpets with the choir I thought it might be recorded until I saw one of then pocking over the balcony above my head). During the ceremony there had been several people dressed in full lederhosen sitting at the back of the church. Just before the end of proceedings they all got up and filed out - the reason became apparent when we all got out. On leaving the church there were more load bangs - the lederhosen-ed group all had big pistols (wood and metal with a big blunderbuss-like end) that they were firing into the air - this went on for about 10 minutes. There was the standard photo time and then time to head to the reception - the bride and groom had a special white Citroën 2CV to take them there.

The reception, back in Hengersberg, was held in a big converted barn and courtyard - from the outside it looked slightly like a building site as not everything seemed completed, but once inside the courtyard it looked great. There was an Oompah band and lots, and lots, of cake - I think having cake at the start of a German wedding reception is another tradition. Chocolate cake, cake with fruit on it, and all very nice too, but quite light, which was necessary given the amount there was. The groom then had to tap the first beer barrel and the drinking could properly begin!

The whole reception was great. After spending a while in the sun in the courtyard listening to the band, socialising, drinking a few beers from the barrel, and trying not to eat too much cake, we headed inside for the meal and speeches. It's not normal in Germany for there to be best men speeches (in fact I don't even know if they really have best men), but seeing as this was a multi-national wedding we had them. These were only read out in Enlgish, as none of the best men were particularly well versed in German, but they all went down very well (each of the best men had there own take on the groom from the different times of his life that they'd known him) and the bride was able to translate some of the most salient points. The groom also gave a speech, but this time in both English and German, which was very impressive and very well pitched - it got a lot of laughs in both languages. Later in the evening there was a surprise "speech" - as a way of getting round the dual language problem some of the brides friends has put together a silent play enacting out how the couple met and got together. It was very well done and everyone enjoyed it. The beer flowed quite readily the whole night - and despite apparently later that evening telling my girlfriend "I don't like dancing or singing" I was quite eager to get on the dance floor and was energetically throwing myself (and her) around, occasionally causing some near misses with other dancers, and singing at the top of my voice to the cheesy, but wedding-appropriate, band - without too much persuasion we got them to play 99 Luftballons. Not content on just having beer (which was all free) we had to end the night with rounds of schnapps (the only booze that wasn't free) - I can't say that it was particularly good, but I did manage to keep it down. I forget if this was before or after we did the limbo-ing! Unsurprisingly my memory of the end of the night becomes vague-to-non-existent, but my girlfriend managed to guide me back to the hotel despite my "outer wibbles" which threatened to wibble me into a river.

As I've already said, and without wanting to sound too gushing, it was a great day and the perfect way to celebrate the newlyweds.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Newly discovered pulsar

Today it was announced that Einstein@home has made it's first discovery (a public version of the paper can be found here) - unfortunately not a gravitational wave signal (as it was initial designed to solely search for), but a radio pulsar spinning at 41Hz with the snappy title of J2007+2722. This is still very exciting news as it's "...the first time an astronomical object has been discovered by this kind of distributed-computing project,". In brief pulsars are neutron stars, which are the ultra dense, rapidly rotating, remnants of stars several times more massive than our Sun leftover after they have ended their normal life via a supernova explosion.

The Einstein@home project was set up in 2005 as a distributed computing effort (like the more well known SETI@home, which has a screen saver that searches for extraterrestrial life in radio data) to make use of the public's spare compute cycles to search for gravitational waves from pulsars using data from the LIGO gravitational wave detectors. It's since become one of the largest distributed computing projects there is. The sensitivity of data from the LIGO detectors is currently such that the chances of Einstein@home finding a gravitational waves from an unknown pulsar are quite slim (although more sensitive data in the next few years will give far higher chances), so it was decided a couple of years ago to turn some of Einstein@home's computing power towards searching radio data for pulsars.

Surveys with large radio telescopes are the prime way of finding pulsars (although some can also be seen in other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum) - radio data from these surveys is searched to look for regularly spaced pulses, although these can be weak and the pulse time of arrivals at the telescope will be dispersed over different observation radio frequencies. The spacing of the pulses will also change due to the Doppler effect as the Earth revolves and orbits the Sun, or also if the pulsar is itself in orbit around another star in a binary system. For pulsars in extreme orbits, where the objects are very close together and circling each other with periods of minutes to hours (the current smallest binary orbital period for a pulsar is about 2 hours), the Doppler effect can be very large and cause the pulse spacing to change rapidly. Standard radio pulsar search techniques, which assume that the pulse spacing is only slowly varying, have a hard time time finding these objects. The Arecibo radio telescope has been conducting many surveys over the last few years, but there hasn't been the computing power to exhaustively search this data for these extreme binary pulsar systems. It is data from these surveys that has now been passed to Einstein@home, which is able to use it's large computing power to search for many different sizes of changing pulse spacing, included the rapid changes caused by the extreme systems.

Since starting searches for radio pulsars in Arecibo data with Einstein@home it has been able to find almost 120 pulsars that had previously been known about (although none are in extreme binary systems). However, this new announcement is for a pulsar that had not previously been known about - Einstein@home was the first search to find it! Using this initial discovery they were then able to get follow-up observations using the Green Bank radio telescope to confirm the pulsar signal and further study it. The pulsar itself isn't the most exciting object - it's not in a binary system, but it is reasonably rare as it's an isolated recycled pulsar. A recycled pulsar is one that has been "spun-up" from a slow spin-rate (probably about 1Hz, or one rotation per second) to a much faster rate by accreting material from a companion star (gravitationally pulling material from the other star onto itself). The only way for a pulsar to have a rotation rate as fast as this newly discovered pulsar is either for it to have been "recycled", or for it to still be spinning fast after it was born - this pulsar is slowing down it's rotation rate very slowly indicating it has a weak magnetic field, which generally is expected to not be the case for young, newborn, pulsar i.e. it must be an old, and therefore recycled, pulsar. However, as we saw above for a star to be recycled it must have had a binary companion, which from looking at the pulse spacings we know is not the case for this pulsar - so what's up? There are other known recycled pulsars that are isolated, i.e. not in a binary system, and it is thought that the system must have been disrupted due to the companion star going supernova and kicking it's own remnant out of the systm.

Anyway, this is the first discovery and it's a great boost to the Einstein@home project. Hopefully this will get more people to sign up. It should lead to more pulsar discoveries (maybe at the rate of a couple per year) and possibly some in extremely fast orbits. Ultimately we obviously hope that Einstein@home will also give us some gravitational wave discoveries.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Top of the league

I knew that the Championship season started today - or at least that's what I thought - but when it came to watching the results come in this afternoon I was surprised to see that Watford weren't playing. "Did we have a Sunday fixture?" I thought, but teletext (yes I checked that before going to the internet as I had the remote control to hand) told me "no". Further teletext-ing showed me that in fact the league started last night without me knowing, and Watford had been playing away to Norwich as the first game. Not only that but we won 3-2. That meant that up until the about 4:45pm today Watford have been top of the league! Unfortunately now that more fixtures have been played we're back down to 8th - 6 teams got a better goal difference than us, and one (Crystal Palace) seem to have got above us due to starting earlier in the alphabet. Hopefully we can restore our place at the top next week, when I know we will be playing on Saturday in a 3pm kick-off against Coventry (although we play Aldershot in the Carling Cup on Tuesday).

Friday, August 06, 2010

Munchen Glad-to-be-bach

The other day I arrived back from my second trip to Munich. The first was time was last September for Oktoberfest (which for some reason I didn't really document on this blog) and this time was also to commemorate a wedding, but that of my friend rather than between Ludwig I and Princess Therese.

My girlfriend and I arrived in Munich a couple of days before the wedding (which was actually taking place in the brides home village of Auerbach) to have a bit of a holiday - as our guide we'd bought this book to give us the low-down on things to do whilst there. Our plane arrived in Munich quite late, and unfortunately without my girlfriends luggage (the reason for which was obviously due to my baggage curse - although my bag arrived with no delay), so our first night just involved getting to our hotel and sleeping rather than drinking any beer (we would make up for that later in the trip). Our hotel for the first part of the trip was the very pleasant Kings's Hotel "First Class" (only the best for us!), located close to the main train station, and also opposite from the aptly named boobs table dancing club.

Our first day mainly revolved around waiting for my girlfriends bag to arrive (which due to reasons beyond anyone's comprehension took far longer to get from Munich airport to the hotel than should be physically possible). However, we still managed to get out and about and see a lot of sights. The first use of our travel guide was to find a good place for brunch - we ended up at a place near the university district - I ordered the "Ham and Eggs" from the menu, but my girlfriend was more adventurous and went for "2 Ei im Glas", which with my very basic grasp of German was able to translate as "2 Eggs in a glass", but we were still a bit confused as to what it would be like. The service wasn't the most lighting fast that it could have been, but I eventually got my food, and echoing our baggage arrival my girlfriend had to wait quite a while longer for hers - which was indeed 2 eggs in a glass (an ice cream dish by the looks of it). Despite the wait the food was good and the place was very nice.

Following this we explore a bit before checking back at the hotel for the bag situation. We walked through towards the university and into the Englischer Garten, to the Chinesischer Turm and then checked to see if there was anyone doing any surfing (there an artificial wave at one point on the stream that runs through the garden, which from last years trip I found out that people surf on) - there was only one surfer and he seemed to be struggling to stay on his board for more than a second or two. We then headed back to the hotel via the Hofgarten and Residenz - during which time I tried to act as tour guide by part-remembering information a real tour guide has told us during my last visit.

The bag had not arrived! So we went out again to meet up with some friends (nursing hangovers from the excesses from the Hofbräuhaus from the night before) also out for the wedding and then go to the Deutsches Museum - this is one of the worlds largest science museums, so naturally I wanted to go. It is a massive museum, with far too much to see in one afternoon visit. Our first plan was to try and see a massively scaled version of a cell that they have, but I managed (unintentionally) to get us waylaid in the physics section. I was very impressed with the displays they had (a large number of which, although not all, had English explanations below the German versions) especially the detail and quite technical information that they gave - this definitely wasn't a dumbed down museum, and probably wouldn't really be the kind of place to take small children, but I thought it was great. We did eventually find the cell, then went on to see the astronomy exhibits and just before closing managed to see an Enigma machine.

Again on returning to the hotel the bag had still not arrived, so pre-going out for the evening we had to head to the clothes shops. Given that we'd already been on our feet all day, and hadn't eaten since brunch, this was quite an arduous task (going to the shops is arduous enough for me at the best of times). We were then able to head out for dinner and drinks. We met up with the others at the Augustiner bräuhaus for dinner and had a couple of half litre of their Helles beer, and despite their overindulgences the night before our friends decided that it would be a good idea to go back to the Hofbräuhaus (who's other famous patrons included Hitler) - so that my girlfriend and I could see it of course (although I did go there last year). The Hofbräuhaus is very impressive and must be one of the largest pubs in the world, even so it was packed (on a Thursday night) as we had to sit outside in the internal courtyard. We decided that it wouldn't be right not to have a couple of litre Maß's and play some drinking games. We made it home somewhat worse for wear, but did find that the bag had finally arrived.

I'll try and soon write more about the trip (maybe just updating this post or in subsequent posts), but I'll leave it for now - you'll have to wait for the exciting stories of how not to get a train to Plattling, the joys of an Anglo-Bavarian wedding, and how we managed to complete collection of drinking at the four of the big Munich breweries.

[The blog title is a hilarious play on words based on the German place Mönchengladbach, which to be honest prior to looking it up on wikipedia I had incorrectly assumed was part of Munich, but is in fact quite far from Bavaria in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia - the title was too good to pass up though, so it stays as it is.]

I've now written up some more of the trip:
Part 2: The Wedding