I’m assuming you all can read. You can, cant you? I mean I understand if you prefer blocks of texts to be broken up by pictures, but I’m assuming that your mind can recognize the shapes and patterns that make up writing. You can? Good, because there are no pictures in this post. Sorry. If you want to look at pictures, I found a nice childrens storybook for you to read. You’re welcome. You could also go back and read some of my older posts and comment them and tell me how awesome you think my life is and how jealous you are that you arent here with me in Germany and how much you appreciate the wonder that is my writing style. Just giving you some options.

Update: I swear I just wrote this all in good fun… I should have realized that with primarily family reading this, changing my writing style to goof off would just make people worry, not what I was going for. So there you go, I hope that makes you feel better, mom and dad.

Now that we’ve sorted that out, you might be interested to know that I started two new classes this week. Both of them have approximately 500 students, it’s kind of insane.

The first class is an overview of history. What kind of history you ask? Normally, that’d be a very legitimate question to ask, but not in this case. This course is an overview of all history. Yepp, all of it. Here’s how it works: four weeks of Antiquity, four of the Middle Ages and four of the early to modern Era. Three professors, one for each section and a multiple choice test at the end. Win.

Seven weeks in and I would kill for a bag of Cheetos, a White Castle hamburger, a jar of peanut butter, a Dr Pepper and some Vegetable LoMein. Wanna send me a care package?  I dont know how well White Castles or LoMein would ship, but you should try everything once, right?

You know, just because I like something in a restaurant doesnt necessarily mean that I like it when I make it. Case and point: Tortellini. I thought it would be hard to mess up spinach tortellini in cream sauce, turns out its hard to mess up because it really cant get much worse.

I bought a basil plant at the grocery store a couple days ago. At this point, the simple fact that I used the words “at the grocery store” should clue you in to the pure quality that is my basil plant. I’d get up and take a photo of it so you could appreciate the pathetic-ness that is my basil plant, but then I’d have to delete the entire first paragraph of this blog that I had so much fun writing. I feel like I need to name it. Ideas?

Update: My basil plant’s name, courtesy of Amy Balto, is Basil as in Bah-zel, as in pretend you’re English, or are going on a vacation to Basel, Switzerland.

People are busting out the winter coats all over the place. Parkas, hats, gloves the whole shebang. I even saw a girl with her entire face wrapped in a scarf like it was -10°F when it was really just 45. Pshh. We havent even had a frost yet, these people need to slow down.

I dont have class on Monday because of a holiday I didnt even know existed in the first place. That’s right, I dont have class because of All Saints Day. Apparently, this holiday is the reason Halloween is sometimes called All Hallows Eve, but I think I’ve always been so distracted by free candy and fun costumes that I never really bothered to think about why I got to dress up and ask my neighbors for free candy. That’s my kind of holiday.

Take a moment and think of all the poor European kids who will never know the pure joy of trick-or-treating. Although they do talk about going to foreign countries like we talk about going up to the cabin. Maybe that makes us even.

I hate thinking of titles for my blogs. I hate titles. They suck. They never sound as good as you want them to and require far too much thinking.

Also, check out this blog because I think she’s funny, and I think you may also think she’s funny. It’s not like I  know her or anything, I just stumbled on it (you’ve heard of stumbleupon, right? If you havent you should check that out too, it’s addicting).

Happy (Almost) Halloween!

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I went to a Flea Market with another girl from Minnesota this afternoon. It was held at Messe Freiburg which is basically one huge convention center. The Flea Market filled up one entire hall, it took us almost two hours. There were plenty of tables with the kind of crap you can expect from any Flea Market, but I was surprised by how much stuff was actually really cool.

I havent been to many Flea Markets in the States, but based on the street fairs and such that I have been to, these places arent known for selling military memorabilia and old currency. Maybe just because it’s Germany and Europe’s history is so much longer and more involved than anything you find in the States, but there were multiple vendors selling old postcards, photos, literal stacks of banknotes (because in the last century Germany has gone through 4 different types of currency), medals and tons of books. I wish I had all the time in the world to just look at the books and pictures, to study the medals and to read the postcards.

I didnt buy much, but what I did buy, I am absolutely in love with. The first thing I bought was a book called “Der Sieg in Polen” or ‘The Victory in Poland.’ Published 1940, it goes day by day through the four weeks of the polish campaign and includes photos for each week. The very end of the book thanks Russia for being such a good ally and then ends with the words ‘the final victory belongs to us’ “Der Endsieg gehört uns.” As a sidenote, the man who wrote the introduction, General Field Marshall Keitel, was hanged at Nuremberg.

The other two things I bought are just as exciting for me. The first thing I bought was a 5 Reichsmark Nazi banknote. Its is pretty amazing shape for currency that is 68 years old. I dont think I have a dollar bill that is that crisp. The picture of the young Aryan boy on the front of the bill is rather striking. The Master Race embodied, right? Notice the stamp in the bottom left corner with the eagle holding a swastika… so exciting.

Maybe you noticed from the title, but I’m now a millionaire. Well, I would have been in 1923, although even my ten million wouldnt have been enough to buy one US dollar. Now that’s what I call hyperinflation. My ten million marks only cost me one euro, it was just something I had to buy.

The girl that I was with bought four Harry Potter books in German, pretty freaking legit.

Be proud of me, there was one table selling an Iron Cross from WW2 and I didnt buy it. I didnt even ask how much it cost. Arent you proud of me? I am.

The whole reason I wanted to go to the Flea Market was because I googled it to see what it was like and one of the first things that popped up was an article about a guy selling WW2 memorabilia. I knew I had to go.

There was a full on carnival going on in the parking lot outside of the convention center. Fun houses, ferris wheels, cotton candy, the whole shebang. The only difference was instead of selling foot long hotdogs, they sold wurst.Dont let that yellow mustard fool you, German mustard is spicy mustard. Always.

I know I sounded freaking scared of my semester in my last post, but I actually think I can do it. On thursday, I had my Pflichttutorat (basically discussion session) for my Borders class and every week we are go over how to research and write papers and get help on our final papers. Basically, its a how-to class for Uni. Now, to make it clear, this tutorat isnt because I’m an international student. Everyone in my class has to go to it. The reason is, the Proseminar is a lower level class, so a lot of the other students are new at the Uni level, but theyre still native Germans.

I’m going to come home bilingual.

The kitchen that Sarah and I share is white. The walls are white, the counters are white, and the floor is a wholly unremarkable shade of gray. Therefore, we decided to color things up a bit. What do you need to add color to a kitchen? Why, finger paint of course.I dont think you ever outgrow finger painting. Moral of the story, after hand-prints and footprints, splatter painting and face painting, we now have a much more colorful kitchen wall, door decs, and a hand-printed under side of a table.

Jackson Pollock meets, well, pure artistic genius is how I would describe this masterpiece. It’ll be worth millions some day, I swear : )

I think this is my longest blog by far, but for once I had a number of different photos to show you. Normally before I write a blog I have to consciously make sure I take photos to include, but not this time. In fact, I had to cut some out. All the photos I’ve taken over the last couple days are on facebook though.

I’ve been in Germany for a full six weeks, how insane is that?

Have you ever written a 15 page academic paper in a foreign language and been told that if there are grammar mistakes, it will be returned without a grade? Or had to read 30 pages in Frakturschrift? Or how about be the only person in your upper level classes who isnt a native speaker of the language? I think it’s safe to say that I am in for a difficult semester.

My first class yesterday translates to “A secular era? Global history of religion in the 19th and 20th century.” It’s fascinating. The context in which we will be discussing America later in the semester is that of the rise of the “fundamental christianity” that is so strong right now. He repeatedly described it as “fundamentalism.” I think this class is going to be fascinating. The reading that I have to do for this class however, is a little less exciting. That binder is my reader for this seminar and it’s freaking huge. Good news is, it only cost me 20€, and that’s the only book I need to buy for the entire semester. I have about seventy pages in two articles to read for Monday.

The other class I had yesterday translates to “Borders as a historical category.” Basically, the class is about different types of borders (geographical, social, cultural and epochs), how they function, what they represent and how they effect the way people live. The amount of writing I am going to have to do for this class is insane. I have to write essays, summaries, a presentation, a test and last but definitely not least, a 15 page paper. I’m honestly slightly scared of this class. Oh, and did I mention the fact that I have a 30 page reading to do in Frakturschrift for Monday? Frakturschrift, if you didnt click on the link in the first paragraph, is the kind of German font you saw in old photos and in old books. Why not, I mean what the hell, reading texts in a foreign language in a difficult font from over a hundred years ago sounds like the kind of adventure I signed up for when I got on the plane to Frankfurt. Oy vey.

Now we’ve gotten to the point where I get to make you feel really bad about the American higher education system. Imagine you’re sitting in a upper-level history lecture at the UofM and your professor hands out an article for you to read and then discuss with your classmates. Now imagine that you look down at the article and realize that it is written completely in Spanish, with no translations whatsoever and that your professor just assumes that you can not only understand what you are reading, but are also able to have a well thought out discussion on the topic. There is no way a professor could get away with something like that, right? In Germany, they can not only get away with it, but it is simply part of the deal. Not only is my textbook for my borders class in ENGLISH, but multiple texts in the reader for both of these classes are in English as well. How are Americans supposed to compete with this when the majority cant even speak another language?

The reason for the bilingualism here is that there is simply more available research done in English speaking countries than German speaking ones. Though it makes some sense, it was definitely not what I was expecting when I signed up for German seminars. It also presents a whole new type of challenge. When reading German texts, I learn the words that I dont know while reading and then can use them to discuss or write about what I read but when it is written in English, I need to research the correct German words on my own in order to discuss it in German.This is a lot harder than it sounds…

I went to go buy the readers for these two classes earlier today and ran into a guy who is in my Borders class. I mentioned the fact that I am from the States and he was surprised. Apparently, my German accent is pretty legit. I’m shocked that he didnt guess though, because no matter how good my accent is, my actual German is VERY rough compared to a native speaker like himself. It was nice to get that kind of compliment though, I mean, vocab you can learn, but accents are completely different.

I have one new class tomorrow morning, and then a discussion group for my Border class on Thursday. Hopefully, everything continues to work out.

Now, I think I can honestly say that I’ve saved the best photo for last. After picking up my readers this afternoon, I stopped by a discount store to look at scarves. Walking in to find the cash register, I noticed these: At least those socks looks comfy…

 

 

Yesterday I had mincemeat cake and real English tea, you know, with milk in it. How posh. At risk of sounding ignorant and stupid, I had always assumed that mincemeat was, well, meat. Turns out its just like mixed fruit, almost like haroset.

The Germans are really casual about liquor. They served Sekt (sparkling wine) at the welcome speech last week, and then after a tour of the city the other day, we were given Kirschwasser (cherry schnapps). Have you ever been on a normal tour and then been given liquor? Only in Germany…

The tour guide spoke only in English, which was kind of a bummer, but his English was really funny. The guy could not say V. Did you know that Freiburg was founded as a Willage in a Walley?

I know I said that I wouldnt write more nerd things after last week, but I just cannot help myself. The main street of downtown Freiburg is called Kaiser-Josef Straße. Its a wide street, lined with shops on either side, has got trams running up, down and across it and the southern end is crowned by Martinstor, one of two remaining old city gates. There was a 12 year period when this street wasnt known as Kaiser-Josef Straße however, because from 1933-1945, Kaiser-Josef Straße was Adolf-Hitler Straße.

These two pictures are of the same street, the same tower but in very different times. The photo on the left was taken during the 1930’s, and the photo on the right is one I took earlier this afternoon. There are some architectural differences, as Freiburg was heavily bombed a few years after the photo on the left was taken, but it is clearly the same place. Cant get much more real than that.

Just a thought in passing: Why does the dollar freaking suck so much right now?

I’ve begun to cook a lot more. For dinner the other day, I made sauteed zucchini with garlic and shallots and angel hair pasta. Then, because I have leftovers, but not enough to make an entire meal out of, I made garlic bread. Delish.

I dont know why Friday evening was so special, but apparently it meant enough to someone here that they sponsored a rather impressive fireworks display over the lake in my backyard. Basically, I got to watch a very legitimate fireworks display from my bedroom window. It was the first time I was happy windows here dont have screens.

Fun Fact: Germany has some of the strictest privacy laws in Europe. Because of all the personal privacy infringements over the last century here in Germany (Nazi Gestapo, East German Stasi), the launching of Google’s Street View here this November is causing some fuss. The launch is going ahead as planned, but I just think it’s interesting that there is so much concern over something that to me seems like such a non issue.

One last nerdy thing. In my last blog, I mentioned the tour guide making excuses for a man named Martin Heidegger. Completely on accident, I stumbled across a free documentary about him, his philosophy and his Nazi involvement. Just something I found interesting.

Winter semester starts tomorrow and I’m somewhat stressing out about it… Wish me luck!

I went on a tour of the Uniseum this evening. To clarify, the Uniseum is a museum devoted entirely to showcasing Uni Freiburg’s 550-some year history. It was rather interesting, but I had a hard time understanding the tour guide. Maybe its because she’s not a natural German speaker, but I think I just don’t know that kind of vocab, which is a problem because that’s the kind of vocab I’m going to need. Oh well… I’ll learn it quick starting Monday.

There were a couple things that were very interesting to me, so I’m gonna go in chronological order. The basement level of the museum is comprised solely of old arched masonry rooms that were built and/or updated during various eras of the University’s existence. The fact that the walls of the original university here are older than anything in the States is really amazing to me. I mean, before Columbus was even thinking of Nina, Pinta or Santa Maria, the University here was already teaching students Theology, Law, Medicine and Philosophy.

Jumping ahead about 500 years, the exhibits that they had on the University during the Third Reich were what I really found to be interesting. I found it fascinating to see a Nazi armband or swastika that could have once belonged to any one of the 80 or 90 year old men that I see on the street every day. The reason this stamp is so interesting, and why it was the only photo I sneaked (admittedly badly, sorry its so blurry) during the tour is that this stamp was the stamp of the University Cashier’s Office. Basically what this means is that had I been a student at Uni Freiburg between 1933 and 1945, every time I paid the University anything, they would stamp it with this swastika. To think that the institution that I researched, applied to and am attending was once an extension of the Nazi Party is honestly somewhat mind-blowing.

I have a book at home called “The Nazi Conscience” which is a book about the more academic side of the Nazis, propaganda, literature, culture and how it was used to take the Germans down the path we now know so much about. The author spends a considerable amount of a chapter discussing a man named Martin Heidegger who was a notable philosopher and professor at Uni Freiburg. He was also a Nazi. The tour guide mentioned his affiliation with the Nazis but then in practically the same sentence said that since he quit his post as head of the University in 1934, he wasnt really that bad. She even went on to say that it is an accepted fact that he even had “a Jewish friend.” I think that is a pretty slick way of trying to rationalize the continued esteem with which the academic community still wants to hold Heidegger. Every Nazi knew a Jew, in one of his most notorious speeches, Himmler acknowledged that every German had a “decent” Jew, but simply knowing a Jew doesn’t save you from the label of Nazi. Any man who at any time can be quoted as saying “The German people must choose its future, and this future is bound to the Führer” is irredeemably a Nazi in my book. I feel like that is a reasonable basis of judgment, don’t you?

The other thing that I thought was interesting was that they actually addressed the rather awful role that some Uni Freiburg trained scientists and doctors had in the Camps. The medical experiments with pressure are the focus of that part of the exhibit as you can see from the photo.

The museum website has a photo gallery of all the different exhibits, and the caption for this photo on their website translates to this, “The discrimination and dismissal of academic staff and students for racial and political reasons, opposition of Freiburg professors, laborers, medical tests on humans and the devastation of war are many, often contradictory facets of the Freiburg University’s history.” I mean, that pretty much gets their point across, dont you think?

I know it will probably sounds pretty repetitive and maybe slightly insensitive when I say this, but I really am getting such a thrill out of the fact that I am living in this history now. I’ve loved studying the Nazis (especially the people in charge, like Speer) every since I can remember (well, Speer has only been in the last couple years), and I want to spend the rest of my life studying them, but it was not until I got here that I was able to understand how much I am fascinated by it. The Germans I see on the street all have a story to tell, and I want to hear it. I wish there was a tactful way to ask people what their family did or saw. I love stories, but those go far beyond any others, and I will probably never get to hear them. I’m so in love with what I am learning, I want to spend every minute looking and reading and talking about it.

Now that I got that out of my system, the next blog I write will be more focused on life here and such, which I know is what you’re really reading this for anyways.

Saturday night there was a party for international students sponsored by the Uni. It was 5€ for a buffet of International foods and then there was live music and a DJ and a cash bar. It was really fun to dance and hang out and have a couple drinks. We left the MensaBar at about midnight or so and then went over to the UniCafe to meet up with some other people. It was just a really fun night.

I finally met another Jew my age on Saturday night. I saw a hamsa on his keychain and it went from there. It’s nice to finally know that I am not the only Jew here; I wasnt so sure for a little while there. There must have been something with Saturday night because I also met a girl who graduated from Highland Park in 2008 and knows a couple people from home that I do. It’s a freaking small world.

Sarah and I went on a hike through the Schwarzwald this afternoon. It was supposed to be an opportunity for international students to meet families from the Freiburg area but there were about fifty students and two families. Ah well.It was really beautiful to be up in the mountains though, and something I have yet to experience here. Everything was so green and the trees were so tall and the place where we had cake and tea (paid for by the Studentenwerk!) was really cute and picturesque. It was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Have you ever heard of Slacklining? Basically its like tight rope walking except with a nylon web an inch or two thick strung not so tightly between two trees. It’s really cool to watch, and hard to do. The reason that I mention it, is because on Friday Sarah and I went to the Seepark to read and hang out and a couple guys were Slacklining there. Sarah does it back in England so she asked if we could give it a go. The guy who was doing it was really good, and Sarah was doing pretty alright herself. I would have enjoyed it more had there not been a ton of prickly horse chestnuts on the ground around the ropes. It was like jumping on a cactus every time you fell off.

That’s one thing that there is a ton of here, horse chestnuts. I had no idea what they were for the longest time and then Sarah told me they were called Conkers (there’s some crazy English game that they play where they string a shoelace through them and swing them at the other person’s Conker). But anyways, they fall out of trees here quite randomly and if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time you get hit in the head. They look really cool though, and when I say theyre everywhere I mean I wouldnt be surprised if you told me Freiburg only planted Horse-Chestnut Trees.

I thoroughly embarassed myself at the bank the other day. I went to go deposit a check that I got for my birthday and in order to deposit something in dollars I had to fill out a special form. Normally when forms want you to write your address they simply say “Adresse” but the bank doesnt want to make things so simple and asked for “Anschrift.” Basically, I wrote the wrong thing down twice and then finally he explained it further and I just felt retarded. I guess it’s a mark of success that this is one of the few occasions where I have really embarrassed myself. There is no way that I am lucky enough for it to be the last time…

I just watched a couple episodes of the new-ish tlc show Sister Wives. What the efff

I was going to wait and post this blog tomorrow so that I may have had a little more to write about, but then I realized that today was 10/10/10 and so I kind of felt obligated to just go ahead and post it. Yea… I’m just that cool I guess.

I just got back from Sarah’s birthday party. She’s French in case the number of Sarahs here is confusing. It was fun, we baked her a cake and it was nice to drink wine instead of beer. There is a wine here that is only available for three weeks out of the year because it is really new and therefore tastes just like juice. Delicious, although very sweet. Tasted rather like honey or figs or something.

I met a guy from Finland this evening. Apparently his dad subscribes to a Scandinavian newspaper that is published in our area (Mid-West) every month or so. It was really quite interesting to talk to him because even though we are from entirely different parts of the world, Minnesota shares so much with that region that he was quite easy to talk to.

Except for with my flatmate, and rather often with her too, I speak only German. With the amount of international students I am meeting, there is no guarantee that they speak English but it is fairly safe to assume that they know German. Its great to know that I can spend an entire evening carrying on a conversation with people from France, England, Spain and Finland in a language that is none of our mother tongues.

I had to drop off a form at the History Department yesterday and while I was there I picked up a couple flyers with info on lectures, readings and tours open to the public and almost all free of charge. The only one that costs anything is a tour of the different places in the city that still show traces of damage from bombings in WW2. That, I can already tell, is going to be 5€ well spent. The other ones that look quite interesting have to deal with the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Baden’s Jews to Gurs. There are some seminars in the next week or so that I cannot wait to go to.

It’s amazing because when I learn about this stuff at home, its just German history, but when I’m here it seems so much more real. Maybe because I am living here in this city and so therefore, I am so involved in its present history that I also am drawn to its past. Its fascinating, and I really cannot get enough of it. If there was ever any trace of doubt that history is what I wanted to spend my life studying, that tiny, minuscule sliver of doubt is gone. History is my passion, and I am living smack dab in the center of it.

In the Uni, there is this plaque with all the names of the students who fought and died in WW1 and then a separate plaque beneath it for the victims of the Holocaust and the NS regime in general. I mention this because I think it is important to note that though there were certainly students who died fighting in WW2, their names are nowhere to be found. The German Army, not the SS or Sonderkomandos but the regular Army, lost roughly 2.8 million soldiers, surely some of them studied at Uni Freiburg. This is just something I noticed, and it sparked my interest. It’s always the small things that say the most about big issues.

My flatmate and I have been waging a steady war on our kitchen. Yesterday, we cleaned all the cutlery, the glasses, plates and bowls. Today we cleaned the oven, floor, table(we took the ugly plaid tablecloth off) and stove top. We’re like bona fide cleaning ladies. After working up an appetite last night I made the most delicious and amazing thing ever. Potatoes, onions, spinach, summer sausage and pepper. Nom nom nom nom.

Orientation is pretty much over. For the next week or so there are occasionally little tours and such that we can go on, but the lecture orientation part is over. Thank G-d. It was really boring.

Today, part of the lecture was an introduction to student organizations. All but one of them were Christian organizations. There are no Jews here. None. Zero. It’s not even mentioned. I’m so used to being places where there are always other Jews, but it’s just not part of the conversation here. Not that I feel threatened or have noticed any anti-Semitism, its just ambivalence. Like we’re not really here. It’s definitely different.

Some of the state holidays here include All Saints day, Corpus Christi, Ascension, and I even get 5 days off in June for Pentecost. Outside of some Wikipedia searches I just made, I have no idea what any of those holidays are. Probably just more excuses to eat Chinese food and go to movies or something.