I met with my tandem partner to practice German. I've been wanting to practice pronunciation so we worked on words like Eichhörnchen (squirrel), hören (to hear), and some other umlauted words. I don't think I'm ever going to get ö, ü, and r correct in German. I've given up on ever saying that it's humid outside because an umlaut makes all the difference and can dramatically change what you're trying to say (German speakers know what I mean on this one).
It's been about the two year mark since tandem partner A. and I've started meeting. She's helped me immensely with German and any errors are mine, despite her excellent tutoring. A. is pleased with her progress in English and I'm impressed. She uses many idioms and employs a wide understanding of English. I highly recommend that those learning a new language practice conversation regularly with a native speaker because it enforces what one learns in the classroom.
I took off Friday and headed to Darmstadt for a seminar in the evening. I was feeling as if I could use a mini vacation so I decided to explore the city and meet some locals.
I ate lunch at Djadoo, a Persian restaurant that offers a buffet lunch for about 10 euros. I won't lie; this lunch was part of the reason for taking the day off. The other more pressing reason was that I was feeling a little burned out so a day off seemed a good way to refresh myself. Anyway, I was able to snag a table inside at this handsome restaurant. I think it would've been even nicer to sit on the terrace under the umbrellas. If you'd like to do that, make a reservation. The buffet was tasty with various rice and sauce dishes, plenty of them vegetarian. There were sauteed vegetables, salad with dressings, and a few desserts. My favorite was the eggplant dish. I tried the ghormeh sabsi, which I also eat at home (from a tin), and it was good but a bit more citrusy than I usually enjoy.
After lunch, I took a short walk to Waldspirale, a housing development designed by an Austrian, Friedensreich Hundertwasser. It undulates over a whole block, and is mostly apartments with some businesses scattered throughout. For those interested in art and architecture, it might be worth stopping by to view the building.
I wasn't done with viewing architecture; my next stop was Mathildenhöhe, an Art Nouveau artists' colony, reached by a pleasant 20 minute walk across town. I am enraptured by Art Nouveau and enjoyed my time very much. I visited the museum, which is somewhat small, for 5 euros, and admired works from the artists who were in residence in the early part of the 20th century. I also stopped by the lovely Orthodox church on-site and basked in its opulence.
Afterward, I stopped by the bustling downtown area to look around before the seminar that had brought me to Darmstadt. It's a typical German downtown with chain stores but does also have a palace, a theater, and other amenities, and was very busy.
The next item on my itinerary was the seminar, held in a suburb. It covered optimal body alignment for both everyday living and for sport and performance. I was chosen as someone to work on at one point and I unintentionally turned my session into a stand-up comedy routine, with full support from the teacher. He's from Ohio originally so we joked about Ohio-Michigan rivalry. I made sure to tease him about "The" Ohio State University. Yes, really, that's how the university refers to itself -- always with "The" in front of the name (I find this practice silly and pretentious.)
The other participants had been shy and demure; I am neither, so we definitely had a lively session. One of the ground rules of using this method is that one has a head and a body. The teacher started to ask if I had a head. I told him that I definitely had a mouth. At first the other students were a bit shocked by our bantering (they were mostly Europeans and seemed rather serious) but they really seemed to get into it and clapped loudly at the end. I hadn't set out to be so raucous but since the teacher encouraged it, why not?
That night, I stayed with an architect. Man, the theme really was architecture on this trip! We had a nice chat and the next morning he made a lovely German breakfast.
I then met another Darmstadter for a hike at the Freizeitpark am Oberwaldhaus, which cracks me up a little bit at its name. It's a "free time park." Heaven forbid that one goes there when one should be doing something else! I enjoyed a nice chat with the woman who showed me around and I even navigated us successfully back to the parking lot after she missed a turn (I'm usually quite good with navigating, even in new places).
I really enjoyed Darmstadt, which I hadn't expected to enjoy to that extent. I'd recommend it to those who enjoy architecture. Oh yes, and I'd also recommend it to those who enjoy Persian food, too, as there seem to be several Persian restaurants in town!
The next day, my coworker hosted a potluck for my friends. We all had a great time and she was happy to meet some new people. She enjoyed it so much that she offered to host again! How sweet is that? I love to introduce the people in my life.
It was an excellent week, filled with architecture, friends, and new experiences.