Sunday, January 25, 2009

Knitting, Phoning, and Ice Skating in Munich (not simultaneously)

Photos of the Karl gate and The Traveller, and then the iceskating rink at Karls Platz along a close-up of the helper skating bears.

Dealing with phones in Europe can be...challenging. And expensive. If you have internet access, Skype video calling is free to another computer with Skype. If you're willing to deal with mixed call quality, you can also use Skpe-Out for a VOIP call at a low price (no subscription required, just $10 pay as yougo.) You can also rent a phone, but I never have, so I can't say anything about it.

If you don't have good/ cheap internet access or if you need a European cell phone number, check out (They are one of many such providers, but I have used them with some success.) There you can buy various phone services, including unlocked phones, international access numbers, and international Pay-as-you go SIM cards for a country or a region. I wouldn't say the phone I bought was all that sturdy--it broke when I dropped it after a year--but it wasn't expensive and did the trick. (You can only use your phone from home if it is a tri or quad band, as Europe, North America, and other continents use differing band widths. Or if your phone company has an international plan--which tends to be pricey.)

Because I wanted a German phone number--for singing in Germany it's helpful--I bought a Vodaphone SIM card from Telestial. Overall I've been pleased with Vodaphone (parent company of Verizon, for you corporate types), although there have been some speed bumps on my telephone ride. I have a Call-Ya (pre-paid/ pay as you go) account. It can be a pain: when you run out of money, it will add 2 euros but once that's used up, it won't let you call or text, or even receive a call or text, even though that is free. Topping up is easy (buy at Tabak store) if you're in Germany; otherwise not. But supposedly I can pick up voicemail out of the country and the number will be mine forever--as long as I keep money on it and use it occasionally. We shall see.
As mentioned, after I killed off my previous cheapie by dropping it, I bought another phone at a Vodaphone store, without a contract. NB: If you do buy a cell phone in Munich (or anywhere else for that matter), be careful and shop around. Nearly every place will quote you a different price. When I bought my current one, a cute hot pink number (the guy apologized that they only had pink, but hey, I LIKE pink), I heard prices between 49 and 119.

Vodaphone's warranty is great and they stand behind it. Despite the fact that I got the phone at a low price, when it stopped working--wouldn't charge or turn on for me--they replaced it with another adorable pink one, just like my old phone. The new phone is working fine. The photos on this post, as well as the previous one, all come from it.
On to knitting: a number of my friends and relatives are knitting mavens. (I was one once, too, but with tendinitis, I've had to hang up the knitting needles, although my fingers still itch in that direction and I occasionally give in). I went on a yarn hunt for N.--she had run out of a beautiful German yarn 3/4 of the way through a blanket--and found Laniolo, a marvelous store run by the knowledgeable Katharina Ritter. Hers was the only store here in Munich that carries the brand N. was looking for, and Frau Ritter recognized the yarn style. Unfortunately, she didn't stock it, as it didn't suit the needs of the local market. I took a picture of the store for my friend, T., who "collects" interesting knitting stores, but the lighting wasn't all that hot. So instead, here's a link to Lanaiolo:

What I'm reading: The December issue of Analog, a great sci-fi/ fantasy magazine that I've been hooked on since I was 12.

What I'm listening to: Outdoor chordal accordion pop tunes and Andes band music (a four-man group with wood flute, bass, percussion, guitar, and vocals) in different parts of the Marienplatz. Nice. They were far enough from each other that they didn't compete all that much.
Next time: A great new music concert I went to a few days ago...
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