Tis the Season

11/28/2010

I like this whole once a week thing… Just consider the amount of photos you get this way.

I’m sick again. This time though, I can hardly taste anything and my m’s are turning into b’s and n’s into d’s. This is enough of a bummer at home, but when I have to speak a foreign language, it pretty much sucks. Ah well, new country, new bugs, plus stress. I guess it makes some sense. But dont worry, I’m gonna go get a check up this week to make sure it isnt strep.

Alrighty then, I have an entire week to catch you up on! Lets work our way backwards, shall we?

Yesterday I went on a trip to Friedrichshafen and Constance with Studentenwerk. Friedrichshafen is where all the Zeppelins were produced in the first half of the 20th Century, so naturally there was a museum there for us to visit. It was a rather disappointing museum though, I was expecting more history, and it really failed to grab my attention. In fact, the mini playground was probably the best thing about it.

After the museum, Becca (another girl from Minnesota) and I wandered around the city for a little while. We ate at a Thai restaurant for lunch, and for the first time in almost three months, I actually had something spicy. Delicious.

After a couple of hours in Friedrichshafen, we had to meet up with our group to take a Catamaran across the Bodensee to get to Constance. Inside felt almost like being in an airplane, which was slightly disconcerting. The Bodensee is a huge lake though, it took us almost 50 minutes to cross it.

In Constance, we went to the Cathedral (I’m beginning to understand the ‘they all look alike’ arguement…) and then wandered around the Christmas Market. It was quite a bit larger than the one in Freiburg, and it was quite easy to spend two hours simply wandering around. You’d need an aerial photograph to capture the entire thing. Its quite easy to fall in love with Christmas in Germany.

We took the train to get there this time, it took roughly three hours, but it was broken up quite nicely because we had to switch trains roughly every 45 minutes. I like traveling by train, its so practical here.

Okay then, enough with yesterday, time to move onto the other big event from last week: Thanksgiving. Since Thanksgiving is a purely American holiday, none of my European friends had ever celebrated it before.

My last class on Thursday finishes at 2pm, I came home immediately and cooked non-stop until about 7, and my friends came over at 8. The kitchen in my flat would probably be described as a “kitchenette.” Its got one oven, four electric burners and a sink. It was not intended to cook for 10 people. It was an adventure.

I cooked my mom’s roast chicken, potatoes and carrots, as well as stuffing. The chicken turned out great, but for some reason, despite being in the oven for 2.5 hours, the potatoes and carrots werent fully cooked. The stuffing however, was almost a complete disaster. It was a food network recipe, and I can now tell you that it called for way too much chicken stock. In fact, it was so bad, that it was almost but not completely unlike any stuffing I had ever seen. Dont get me wrong, it tasted exactly like stuffing should, but it was mush.

Long story short, I ran to the store and bought crunchy italian breadsticks, which I broke up into the stuffing and then cooked it on the stove top for an hour to boil away as much water as I could. It turned out great. Whew.

At like 11 ish one of my friends left to go home, but immediate ran back, pounded on the door and yelled “ITS SNOWING!” I can not think of a better way to end my Thanksgiving dinner than with a snowball fight. The snow was perfect, it wasnt too cold or windy, and was a great way to end the night. As much as I hate winter, there is something about the first snow that is always kind of exciting.

I can think of no better way to have spent Thanksgiving away from home. Despite undercooked potatoes, and almost disastrous stuffing, I hosted my very first Thanksgiving ever. It was a lot of fun.

I didnt know that throwing a dinner party was so stressful though, ugh.

Going back another two days, I should tell you about Tuesday. The Christmas market in Freiburg opened this last Monday, so Tuesday evening my friends and I went to go check it out. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to charge my camera beforehand, but my friend Danija from Latvia was smarter than I was, and brought her camera along as well.

You cannot go to a Christmas market without having Glühwein. Glühwein, according to Wikipedia, is kind of like a mulled wine. Its warm and spiced and served in glass mugs with scenery screened onto the front. You pay a deposit when they give you these glasses, but I kept mine anyways.

After the Weihnachtmarkt (that’s its name in German), we went to see HARRY POTTER!! I was kind of really excited, something that I dont think the Europeans quite understand. There was no real hype about the film here, at least nothing that could ever compare it to how things are in the States. I think my excitement made up for the lack of the others’.

We saw the film in German, even though they were offering it in English, because a couple of my friends understand German better than they do English. I was actually pretty impressed with the voices, the only disappointing one was Snape, but I dont think Alan Rickman’s voice can be replaced. Overall, I thought they did a good job. I really want to see it in English though…

I think that’s pretty much it for the fun stuff. Academics-wise I have a 3 page paper and a 45 minute presentation to prepare for one class next Monday (the 6th), and then a 15 minute presentation for a different class the week after that. I’m dreading the 45 minute presentation because I simply hate that class, but once I’m done with that, then I dont have anything to do for that class until January. I’m gonna make this work. I have to. Ugh.

Good news though! I had an essay due last Monday, and besides a couple grammar corrections (surprisingly few, actually), the only comment that my professor wrote on my essay was “Excellent.” The other girl who also wrote an essay is a native German, and she got some negative feedback that I did not, which, as bad as it may sound, made me feel pretty good about myself. To me, it means that despite language barriers, I can still write a good essay when it comes to argument, evidence and reasoning.

Happy Thanksgiving, early Hannukah, and I hope you found some great deals on Black Friday! The Germans think you’re crazy for getting up at 3 or 4 in the morning to go shopping, but hey, what do they know?

Dinner and Dancing

11/21/2010

It’s been a week since my last post, and it was definitely a good week.

On Tuesday, my friends and I went to see the movie “Wall Street” with Shia La Buff (i have no idea how to spell his name…) and it was actually pretty good. Then, because I looked it up on imdb afterwards, I watched another film by Oliver Stone, W. Now that’s an interesting movie. Its hard to believe we had eight years of that. But anyways…

There has been a series of lectures and exhibits here in Freiburg this fall to comemorate the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Baden’s Jews to Gurs, a french concentration camp. Wednesday night I went to a lecture at the University about the small group of resistance at the University. I think I should emphasize the word small, because they really didnt do much except get themselves imprisoned or killed.

But anyways, the guy finished his lecture and then asked for questions from us, and the old guy sitting next to me immediately raised his hand.Now, to set the tone here, this guy reeked of whiskey and taco bell, and his face was an entirely remarkable shade of red. He raised his hand and told the professor that the lecture he had just given was awful, and that he had completely ignored the theme of the eveneing. Even though I didnt know this guy, the fact that he was sitting next to me was enough to make me want to curl up and disappear from embarrassment.

Thursday, we went Irish dancing. There’s an Irish pub here in Freiburg and every Thursday evening they have Irish dancing, and it was really really fun. Now when I say Irish dancing, I know the first thing that popped into your head was river dancing, where your upper body is completely still and your legs do all the kicking and tapping… nope! Basically it was like line dancing, remember in gym class when we had to do doe-si-doe and grape vine? That’s what it was like except to irish music and much more fun than gym class ever was. It made for a great evening.

Friday, my friend Marc from Barcelona made us a traditional Catalonian dinner. Various types of sliced meat like Chorizo and such, and bread with a spread of olive oil and tomato. Oh, and let’s not forget the Sangria. It was tasty.

Because my group of friends is from so many different countries, we thought it would be a cool idea to have one of us cook a traditional dinner each week. This friday was the first one, from Catalonia, next week is my turn. I’m so excited to cook a legitimate Thanksgiving dinner. I’ll let you know how that goes in my next blog post.

Back to Friday evening. After dinner, a little too much Sangria and watching Intercollegiate Quidditch on youtube, we went to a house party in Vaubon. It was a good night.

If you’ve ever lived in a US college dorm, having different organizations or groups put fliers into your mailbox advertising their events is nothing new to you. Its nothing new to the Germans either. So Friday night when we saw a flier advertising an American themed party on Saturday, I knew immediately that we had to go. The flier claimed that if you dressed up as an American, you could get in free…. they made me pay. Apparently Americans are all cowboys and 50’s style greasers. Who knew.

It was a fun party though, the music was probably some of the best I’ve heard while abroad (although that might have something to do with the fact that it was all solely American music…) and people were dancing. I love dancing. The one funny thing about it was the decorations.

You’ll notice that the picture on the left is normal enough, the word “Party” spelled out with mini American flags, but its the photo on the right that I want you to take a good look at. I think they got a little confused with the last letter of USA. Last time I checked, there was no E in USA.

I can only come up with one good reason for this pretty big mistake. In German, the letter A is pronounced ‘ah’ while the letter E is pronounced ‘eh’. Now, say USA, it’s a lot closer to ‘eh’ than ‘ah’ isnt it. But still, if you’re having a themed party, you should at least be able to spell that theme correctly. Seeing USA spelled USE was probably one of the best things I’ve seen in my entire 2 1/2 months here.

We walked back to StuSie last night at 2am. The trams here stop running at 12:30, which is probably one of the dumbest things ever.

I just remembered, yesterday afternoon I met up with a guy from my Borders class because he’s giving a presentation on American westward expansion and wanted to hear what I had to say about it. We didnt talk too much about westward expansion, but I did learn that during the Second World War, there were some Nazis in his family, some of them took refuge in the Church and an Uncle was murdered by Hitler for being a part of the July 20th 1944 assassination attempt (to jog your memory, think Tom Cruise in Valkyrie). That’s a pretty interesting group of people.

We had coffee outside, and by the time I left, I was so cold that when I got home I wrapped myself up in a blanket with a glass of tee and shivered for about an hour.

I hope this blog was long enough for you, seeing as it’s roughly 1000 words…

And as always, more photos are on my facebook.

Milano

11/14/2010

I went to Milan for the day yesterday. The bus left Freiburg at 6:15 in the morning, we got to Milan at about 11:30, left Milan at 6:30 and got back to Freiburg at about Midnight. It was a long, but pretty great day.

The drive to Milan was just as gorgeous as the city itself. The bus took us down through Basel, Switzerland and then through the Alps into Italy. Some of the vistas were simply breathtaking. Unfortunately, it was rather hard to get a good picture out of the bus windows. This photo is a view from behind the rest stop. Fun fact: rest stops in Switzerland charge 1 Euro to use the bathroom. Bottom line, Switzerland is an absolutely gorgeous country.

Because there are so many mountains, there are equally as many tunnels. I’m not talking about the “hold your breath till we get to the other side” tunnel, no, these ones last for miles. The longest one we went through lasted approximately 15 minutes, and was at least 10 miles long – slightly longer than the equivalent of driving from Sibley to the Mall of America except completely underground. The fact that it has its own wikipedia page should be enough to clue you in to how big it was. It was rather impressive.

We got to Milan at about noon, and took a quick tour of some of the more notable landmarks like the Sforza Castle and the cathedral and such. This was probably my least favorite part of the trip, just because the people giving the tour had obviously just taken notes off of Wikipedia.The buildings themselves however, were very impressive

The Cathedral was gorgeous, and inside above the pews hung artwork depicting various religious scenes. My only problem with seeing Cathedrals and such is that I really do not have any idea what I am seeing. It’s all so pretty, and obviously has a purpose, but I have no frame of reference to understand exactly what that purpose is/was. I feel kind of lost in churches, honestly.

I like the Freiburg Münster Cathedral more than the one in Milan, it feels more like a church and less like a museum.

After the tour, we got about four hours of free time to ourselves. A girl from the Ukraine and I spent that time enjoying pasta, trying to find a flea market and basically just wandering around the city. We never did find the flea market, because google maps was retarded, but we walked around a part of the actual city, not just the old main part. It’s always interesting to see how people actually live in cities that are so defined by their history and their symbolism.

Besides pasta, I had a cannoli from a small cafe and a small panini. The whole panini thing is a story in itself. There are a lot of people around the main tourist attractions who try to rip you off by giving you something like a bracelet or bird seed for the pidgeons for free, and then once theyve given it to you, they make you give them a couple euros. Basically, its just one giant scam. So when Kateryna got a glass of wine at a cafe and the waiter put a plate of panini appetizers on the table as well, we were slightly wary. In fact, we just kind of stared at them for a little before deciding screw it, and ate them. They were delicious, and actually free.

Milan transforms at night. While the city was gorgeous during the day, the atmosphere changed perceptively once the sun went down. It was only then that I really got a feeling of being in a different country. It’s really too bad that we had to leave at around 6:30pm.

I am so used to only speaking German when in public, that it took a conscious effort not to speak in German when ordering food and such. I am also so used to always being able to communicate with people here in Germany, that not understanding a word of what was being said was actually slightly frustrating.

I dont ever want to leave Europe. Here’s an idea, lets all just move to England. Then, you can still speak English, you are only an hour or two from the continent and who knows, you might even pick up the accent. Do I really have to come back to Minnesota? You got snow yesterday, I get sunny and 50F.

I can think of no better way to spend 50 Euros and a Saturday than a trip to Milan. I had an absolutely amazing time.

I took a lot more photos while I was there, they’re all on Facebook.

I want to travel everywhere. I want to go to Rome, to France, Prague, Austria, England, Ireland, every single German city I can possibly manage, and everywhere else that I didnt mention just because there are too many places to list. I want to travel while everywhere is so close to me.

I’m going to Konstanz in two weeks and Nuremberg in three.

I’m just taking it easy today because I have to catch a tram tomorrow at 5:45 am. It’s totally worth it though, because by noon I’ll be in Milan, Italy. I’m writing this blog now because I want to be able to devote my next one solely to my trip to Milan. I’m pretty freaking excited.

Good news, everyone! I did well on my first essay! They don’t really do grades the way we do at home, so the fact that my Professor told me that I did a good job and clearly understand the texts is pretty much as good as it gets, and that’s pretty dang good. There were of course grammatical errors, but he said that in this case, he had no problem with that. Success!!

To put things in more perspective for you, this essay was the very first one I have written here, it was for an upper level seminar and there was absolutely no prompt or argument to the assignment. I had to simply write an essay about three texts (two in german, one in english) and then write an essay about pretty much anything. I’m just thrilled that he didnt tell me to think about dropping the class or something. One essay down, two more to go.

My grandparents sent me an amazing package. Chunky peanut butter, lawry’s salt and chili mix. Oh, the delicious things I can cook. I’m making peanut butter pasta tonight! Yummm

Let me just outline my next couple weeks for you. In two weeks I have another essay for a different class, two weeks after that I have a 15 minute presentation on religion in the USA and then the week after that I have another 15 minute presentation on Diasporas and Ghettos. If this was all in English, I wouldnt be stressing, but, well, it’s not.

I’m going to Nuremberg three weeks from tomorrow.

I finally got my printer on Wednesday! If you dont know this story, let me tell you why this news is so exciting. About a month ago, I ordered a printer off of Amazon.de and had it delivered here. Two weeks later I got a slip in my mailbox saying that since I wasnt here to pick it up, the guy had given my package to someone in my building to then give to me. The only problem with this was that I had no idea who this guy was, and he wouldnt answer any of my attempts to get a hold of him. Long story short, two weeks after he first got my package, I finally got a note from him in my mailbox telling me how to pick it up. Ughhh

 

In 1940, Joseph Goebbels released a film called “Jud Süß,” a film whose sole purpose was to manipulate its audience into a vehement hatred of the Jews. Though this film has been forbidden in Germany since the end of the second world war, I watched it a couple months ago at home. The reason why I tell you this is because there is a new movie that plays once a week at a small theater here in Freiburg called “Jud Süß – Film ohne Gewissen” which literally translates to Jew Süß – A Film Without a Conscience. It is a German film that follows the life of the man who played the main role in the 1940 film, Ferdinand Marian. It was really, really good.

I’m sorry that there are no subtitles, but let me reassure you that the actor who played Joseph Goebbels was very good. Honestly, it was a very odd experience to watch something like that among a solely German audience.

It took me 4 hours to write a 1 1/2 page essay that would have taken me maybe a half an hour if it was in English. I’m in for a tough semester…

I had a cold again this week, I blame it on the weather.

The weather here is starting to get somewhat chilly, but there’s no threat behind it. I dont know if this makes any sense to you, but you know how even the warm days in late October and early November have a kind of crispness to them? Like they’re saying that you should enjoy the warmth while it lasts because it sure as hell is gonna get cold? Here in Freiburg, the warm days that we have been having have none of that crispness, it almost feels like a Spring day. I dont know if that made any sense… but it does to me if thats worth anything?

I saw a Will Ferrell movie the other day with some friends. I had kind of expected the films to be in English with German subtitles. Nope! It’s difficult to follow along, and though I understand what’s going on, a lot of the humor goes slightly over my head. One thing that I had absolutely no problem understanding was Harry Potter.So I may be just a little bit excited… Oh, and I’m reading the Sorcerer’s Stone auf Deutsch. Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen.

Just a reminder, since you all back in the States had daylight savings time this morning, we’re back to being 7 hours apart.

Sorry if it feels like the blogs are getting shorter, by the time I’m done with classes and reading and everything, the last thing I tend to want to do is to write a blog. I will however continue to post at least one a week, hopefully even twice. Next Saturday I go to Milan, so that should be a nice change of pace, yea?

I FOUND DR. PEPPER!!!! Sometimes its the simple things that make my day. YAY DR PEPPER!

Look! Pictures are back! Haha

Halloween was really fun. No one really dressed up or anything, and everyone who is not American doesnt understand why we trick-or-treat. My halloween started off pretty random, okay, really random. I was walking to Penny Markt to pick up some last minute groceries and two German guys who were walking in front of me turned around and were like, “You’re in a seminar with us, arent you?” Just in case you were ever wondering, the Germans do actually really like David Hasselhof. Part of it is definitely because he thinks he made the Berlin Wall come down single-handedly though. After a couple beers at one of their places, we went to the StuSie Halloween party. I had a good night.

We were talking about where we had traveled and I said Israel. “Are you Jewish?” Yeppp. Tell you what, I’m used to answering the question “If youre Jewish, why German?” when I’m at home, but now I can say I was asked that by a German and in German while in Germany. They were disappointed to hear that when you ask the average American about the Germans, the first thing they think of is Nazi Germany. “Its sad that they only know us for 12 years out of 2000.” Definitely a conversation that I was not expecting, but was very interesting nevertheless.

I never did end up getting those groceries…

Sunday mornings here suck. It’s not only because all the shops are closed and I cant get groceries, but mainly because a church somewhere around here rings their bells for literally a half an hour every freaking Sunday at like nine in the morning. As I lie in bed half asleep listening to those stupid bells, I have to make a conscious effort not to get up, find whoever is responsible and strangle them. I know this probably sounds over-dramatic, but its just so obnoxious and so completely unnecessary that it makes me mad when I’m lying in bed trying to sleep.

Its like in My Cousin Vinny when he goes downstairs at his hotel and asks the guy if that train goes by every day at 5am. Gosh, I love that movie.

You know what’s worse than Sundays? All Saints Day. I just assumed that like our public holidays at home, banks and schools are closed, but most shops are still open, you know? Nope! Everything is closed. Bummmerrrr. I guess this is just practice for christmas… lovely.

Did you know that Daylight Savings Time is on different days on different continents? My planner that I bought in the States before I left says that it ends next week (the 7th) but here it ended on the 31st. I didnt know that Saturday night though, so my friend and I made a bet that whoever was right had to buy the other one a shot next time we went out. Turns out we were both right. That’s a dumb system.

Writing two 15 page papers is going to be difficult… I have an essay for my secularization class due this coming Saturday and I wanted to get a head start on it this afternoon. It only has to be about one page long but even so, it took me forever to take what I wanted to say and make it come out in a legitimate, grammar-edited academic manner.

As you can see, this simple task required every single weapon in my arsenal. I’ve got to admit, the paragraph I got is a darn good paragraph. I’d call that a success.