Saturday, March 23, 2013

Super cute gift, but it devolves into plant cruelty

My friend's cat wanted to extend his cat hospitality to Moo, so he sent his owner over with a gift for Moo, a flat of cat grass.

Apparently the kitty couldn't help himself, though, and helped himself to the 'grass before it came here, so Moo received a flat with some seeds ;)

I laughed and laughed about it; that was so cute. It makes me think of someone baking a cake to welcome the new neighbor and deciding to have "just one piece," but by the time the person is ready to present the cake, there is nothing but crumbs left.

Since there were seeds in the flat, I have been growing a new batch of the cat grass. I am teasing the plant, though; the shoots of grass were literally growing toward the sun, slanting as they did so. Every day I turn the flat around. They don't know that one day Moo will be eating them!!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Nerdery at Technische Universität Kaiserslautern

Friends and I were walking through the grounds of  Technische Universität Kaiserslautern to reach some of the trails in the woods. One friend pointed out the utter nerdery of the math building: instead of being numbered normally with its building number 49, it was labeled with 7^2.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Diagnosis: a bad case of Engrish

I saw this mug on base, in the bathroom. It has so many things goin' on...not to mention that someone left her coffee mug in the bathroom...ick.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Verkaufsoffener Sonntage in Kaiserslautern: biker kitties, marching bands, oh my!

This past Sunday was Kaiserslautern's Sunday shopping day, Verkaufsoffener Sonntage. It's a special event because stores usually aren't open on Sundays. The previous trip to Otterberg for their special Sunday shopping day was cute for how small and community-minded it was. Kaiserslautern's shopping day was like a big party; it was raucous and fun!

I met some friends in town in the middle of a cacophony of marching bands, seated bands, and even singers among the main shopping blocks. There was even a giant Easter bunny running around, handing out balloons. E and I wanted a picture with him, because why not, but he was hopping along so fast that we couldn't catch him (Alice in Wonderland feeling, perhaps?). Then we realized we probably looked a bit silly as grown women chasing down the Easter bunny so we let it be.

As we were walking along, we were drawn into a circle of listeners for a marching band. I loved the band's outfits; the musicians looked like a cross between the Muppets, Hello Kitty, and bikers. It was hilarious; they were wearing Muppet-like fur in hot pink and fluorescent green and some of them had frog eyes on. I do love street marching bands so we hung out for a while and enjoyed their festive music.

Hello Kitty and the Bad Frogs were the band. I prefer to call them Muppets Meet Hello Kitty and Kermit, but whatevs.

Very Muppet-like costuming, but with a touch of leather.

Then we ran across a bread cart. German bakeries have some very awesome bread products and often the street bread carts are just as good too. This bread cart was crazy; it had chocolate-covered pretzels (which didn't appeal to me, but I've only started to enjoy chocolate) in addition to regular pretzels, rolls, etc. E bought a roll and we even had a picture with the bread vendor. He was very sweet about it, playing along and letting us pretend that we were the bread sellers. I whispered to E afterward that he probably thought that we were tourists. On thinking about it more, I told her that I guess we kind of are tourists, though I personally have no set "expiration" date for living here.

We visited some stores and tried to dodge the developing rain showers, while enjoying some more marching band music from another band. I pondered the idea of there possibly being a war among the bands, with the music version of a dance off "war." Since we were tuckered out from shopping and bopping to music, we said adieu. On my way home, I was totally chuffed to see that the crazy frog/kitties band had joined up with another band and they were parading together. There was peace between the bands and it was a festive, but wet day.

 This is the band that united later with the other one. They're marching through an older, small part of town that survived the bombing; on the left is the town's only remaining half-timbered building which houses Spinnrädl (the Spinning Wheel), which serves yummy Pfälzisch regional food and is reasonably priced for being a nicer place.

This is why I (usually) avoid German supermarkets...

...because I might buy food like this. I made a stop at Lidl to buy vegetables and frosting (for cupcakes for coworkers, and I didn't find something that would work, btw). I did buy some vegetables, but I was also super naughty and bought the things pictured. I generally try to avoid buying such things, even though they're delicious; bread has too many carbs; juice has too much sugar; and animal products (the cheeses) aren't so great for a person, either. Let's not even get started on the "cereal," which is chocolate flavored pockets filled with what amounts to Nutella, which makes it more of candy than cereal.

Instead of having access to such wonderful foods, I usually shop at the commissary, which stocks mostly American products, which aren't as tasty as these German equivalents so I'm a bit better behaved when I shop on base.

Super sweet sticker lady

On my way to German class tonight, I decided to try some pizza from a place that had received some favorable reviews. They have good Chicago-style pizza, I heard, so I decided to try it.

As I was picking up my pizza, the lady working there was so sweet. She asked me if I had their frequent buyer club card and I told her I didn't. She gave me the card and started to put one sticker on it. Then, watching a gentleman depart the store, she leaned in and whispered that she was going to give me more stickers but she had to sneak them because her boss was going out the door. It has hilarious; she gave me four stickers instead of just one. I told her that I would sneak out of the store afterward. It's rather silly because her boss had already left, but it fit with the goofiness.

After how kind she was to me, I was disappointed to find that the pizza wasn't that good. Since the service was good I hoped to be able to add the restaurant to my map of places to stop if I'm out and about. I really like to visit and recommend places with good food and service. Unfortunately, the crust of the pizza was good and reasonably true to Chicago style, but the sauce was not good at all. It hardly had any taste and was that greasy, barely seasoned style. The cheese wasn't so great, either. Drat! 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Say it ain't so! The Pferdemetzgeri

I was on an exploratory stroll in Kaiserslautern when I came across this meat shop:

I am still very much a beginner in the German language, but I knew that Metzgerei means butcher's shop.

My German teacher taught me early on that Pferd means horse, because it's my very favorite animal (Moo takes a second; sorry, Moo!).

I saw this sign and thought, say it ain't so! I asked in class and it is, indeed, a horse meat market.

However, I am not against people eating horse meat. To each his's not something that I would do, but the one meat I will eat on occasion is pork and many people in the world won't eat that, either.

There has recently been a huge scandal with Ikea; horse meat was found in meatballs labeled as beef and there was a big uproar. Horse meat is probably healthier than cow meat is (it's a very lean meat), but it's a contamination issue if it's not on the label. Also, I could imagine that there are others out there who are okay with eating Bessie the Cow but don't want to eat Black Beauty the horse.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Otterberg Oh My Goodness: Shopping on Sunday

A poster for Verkaufsoffener Sonntag, or Sunday Shopping
In Germany, pretty much everything except for restaurants and some gas stations are closed on Sundays. Stores previously would close in the early afternoon on Saturdays, but now that is changing a bit. Laws used to require this but they've been relaxed a bit so Saturday hours, as well as weekday hours, are a bit longer (Kaufland was open until...gasp...9 pm when I stopped by once on a weeknight, but most stores close around 7 p.m.).

Even though stores are usually closed on Sundays, sometimes there are special Sundays when stores in a town will be open. It's actually kind of a big deal and it seems to be quite the novelty. Sometimes there are a special events planned in conjunction with the Sunday openings.

Last weekend, Otterberg was having such a weekend. Since it is only a 10 minutes' drive from home and I had seen many posters to advertise it, I decided to check it out to see what the fuss was about.

Otterberg is a smaller town with about 7,000 residents. The downtown is only a few blocks long and is accessed from the west side of town with a confusing roundabout. The roundabout is confusing because it's so small that it's not incredibly apparent that it's a roundabout until one is almost on top of it. The center part is just bricks that are a different color than the road around it. Most roundabouts have a curb around the middle but this one doesn't.

Anyway, after navigating the roundabout, I parked and visited the stores. There weren't many to see but I stopped by a book/gift store, walked by an appliance store, and poked my head in a shoe store. In one of the squares, there were some food booths set up with crepes, flammkuchen, and of course, sausages. There was also a carousel and even an organ grinder playing a street organ (I was hoping for there to be a monkey as well but I was disappointed on that one).

I stopped at the yarn store that also sold tea. A cute kid was blabbing in German to the store owner, who was smiling and listening to him the way only an indulgent adult can. She handed him some chocolates and sent him on his way. I smiled  about the interlude and she told me something in German. I got the gist of it that he's a kindergartner and is a nice kid so I smiled and nodded. Of course I looked like a ninny when I went to buy some tea later and didn't understand everything she said so she had to tell me in English so it must have been obvious I didn't understand everything she said about the kid. Oh well. As part of the special Sunday shopping event, the store owner gave away a gift with purchase so I received a candle holder and votive.

On my wanderings I also stopped by the church, Abteikirche, which is the Abbey Church. Its foundations have had a tumultuous history -- literally! There was originally a Cistercian monastery but it was toppled after unrest in the region. The Abteikirche was built later. Catholics and Protestants shared the church but squabbled over it so in 1708, a wall was erected between the Catholic area (in the transept) and the Protestant part (in the nave). The wall wasn't removed until 1979.

I enjoyed the day out, including the visit to the church with the interesting and divided history. Otterberg is quite small but they had a nice showing for their Sunday open shopping day.

Handles on the door to the Abteikirche. They have animal motifs.

Cute half-timbered building, a good place to get glasses.

Another building with body parts on it.
Gee, I wonder what services this business offers?

Altes Stadthaus (Old Town House/Hall)

Grocery Shopping as a Cultural Excursion...or Something Like That

McEnnedy brand food at the German supermarket, Lidl. It's supposed to be "American" food (see the Statue of Liberty?) but isn't what Americans would usually consider American food ;) For example, this is a the regular refrigerated section. Aren't milkshakes supposed to be frozen? In this blog post, I take my friends to see some "real" American food at the commissary on base.

When I moved to Germany, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to learn more about German life and culture. I had come over as a tourist about five times before and was keen to learn more about everyday life. The cool other thing I didn't realize, however, is that I would also learn more about life in other countries and I would also share knowledge about life in the US with non-Germans.

I have been hanging out with a very nice couple from the UK and we have been going on many fun adventures around town as well as farther afield. We've had fun comparing notes about living in Germany; it's nice to meet some people who are in the same boat of adjusting to life in a foreign country.

We have also been sharing information about our own countries. I've lived in England before, so I have a basic feeling for it, but my friends haven't been to the US before. They had many questions for me, which I mentioned before. I told them about many of the "fine" US "delicacies" (very tongue in cheek here, of course!) including green bean casserole and Cool Whip.

Since seeing is believing, I invited them to join me and visit the commissary on the military base. A substantial percentage of the groceries is American products. My friends aren't eligible to buy anything at the commissary, but they were allowed to visit with me.

I laughed when they immediately gravitated to the peanut butter. That is something that's difficult to find in German grocery stores and people don't eat it much here (they seem to use Nutella, a hazelnut/chocolate spread, instead) so I don't think my friends run across it in the grocery stores off base. My friend was impressed at how many varieties the store sold.

I showed them Cheez Whiz in a can. They were so surprised by it that I bought a can for us to eat as a snack later. It's completely frightening to me, even though I grew up seeing it on the grocery shelves (and it even showed up in the house once in a while). I hope I don't take several years off my friends' lives by feeding them such a processed "treat" ;-)

We moved on to Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, which is a very necessary ingredient for the typical American Thanksgiving dish, green bean casserole. We all agreed that even the promotional picture of the soup didn't make it look the least bit appetizing. I personally think that the finished product of green bean casserole isn't that good, either.

When we reached the freezer section, I showed them Cool Whip, which apparently isn't available in the UK.  My friends also noticed some mint chocolate chip ice cream, which they have been pining for. Usually just mint ice cream is available here, so I bought a container for us to enjoy later (but maybe to eat at a later date from the Cheez Whiz; I could only imagine the stomach ache such a combination would induce!).

I was out of diet root beer so I picked up a case of my favorite brand, A&W, which I am so glad that the commissary carries. I try not to drink pop often but I do love a root beer here and there. Root beer is not available in German stores and most Germans don't like it when they do try it. Some have said that it tastes like "Mundwasser," or mouthwash. On our way home, I offered some root beer to my friends. One friend drank it before when she visited North America, so she happily accepted a can and offered a sip to her husband. I wish I could have recorded his expression; he thought it was awful. When I told him that some Germans have said it tastes like mouthwash, he heartily agreed. Man, I wish I could find mouthwash that tastes that awesome!

Isn't it funny how something that we're completely accustomed to can be completely foreign to someone else? I've always found it really enjoyable to share and enjoy differences, as well as similarities, with my friends from different countries, and this grocery store visit was a good way to do that.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Queen and 3 lions say it's okay for my friends to be here

I've made some new friends since I've moved here, which is great. They also happen to be expats. I've found it's usually easier to make friends with other expats, but not for also wanting to become friends with locals. Friends and I have discussed this; we don't think it's really so much that locals aren't interested in new friends or making friends with foreigners. It seems more logical that people who are from the area are already more settled in their lives and have existing friendships. Expats are all in the same situation of starting their lives anew, so to speak. They also have the common experience of existing to life in a new country and may find commonality with others in the same situation.

After having that discussion, my British friend showed me his passport and proudly thumbed to a page with a quote from the Queen. Being silly, he said that it was basically a note from her saying that it was okay for him to be here.

I have a friend from India and I was wondering who wrote a similar note in his passport. Of course there wasn't a note from the Queen, but there were three cool looking lions on the cover of his passport.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

They love me...they really love (to advertise to) me

Moo offered to help me read it but he doesn't really know how to read.

When I first moved into my apartment, I noticed that many neighbors were receiving advertisements in the mailboxes, but I wasn't. I felt a small pang of jealousy. I felt like such an outsider; why wasn't I being advertised to?! Maybe I'd like to know when avocados are on sale, too! Okay, maybe I didn't feel quite that estranged, but I was curious about what was on offer at the local stores.

Something must have changed because I started receiving adverts, stuffed into the mailbox hole on the building. I knew that I was really becoming integrated into German society when I started receiving the Wochenblatt, which is the weekly journal that covers local stories and upcoming events,  and is entirely in German. Sure, I can barely read any of it, but some day I'll be able to and if a particular story looks good now (with my beginner's grasp of German), I can also translate it online.

However, there is a downside to receiving all of these adverts: I then have to recycle all of them later and the paper recycling pick ups aren't that often. Darn!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In my head, none of this makes sense

I had a horrible headache last week; seriously, by the time it was over, I was physically exhausted and felt as if I'd been through the wringer. During the headache from Hades, a German worker came in and was looking for the other department. He asked us something and I was incredibly confused. It kind of was English, then kind of...wasn't. My head hurt so much that I thought I wasn't hearing correctly until I asked my coworker about it later and she told me that it was a mix of German and English. Phew! I thought I was losing it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

No...nä! Being a naysayer in Pfälzich German

To be successful in learning a language, it is very important to immerse oneself in the language. Moving to the area of interest and listening to native speakers is very helpful. However, since language is a dynamic construction with almost a life of its own, it can also be confusing to hear the language in practice.

One reason for this is regional dialects. German, which I am currently learning, is full of many dialects, to the point that sometimes native speakers from different parts of the country can barely understand each other (again, the poor Bavarians come to mind; no one outside of Bavaria reports ease in understanding them).

I'm still very much a beginner in German, but I can hear some of the differences in the regional dialect of where I'm living, in the Rhineland-Pfalz. For example, speakers here say that "ch" sound more like a "sh" sound where in Hochdeutsch (the "school book" type German), that sound is more of like the sound of "loch" in Scottish. For a native English speaker, the "ch" sound from Hochdeutsch can be very difficult to learn and get right. Even when a person feels that she has it perfect, someone will of course correct her (not that this has happened to me or anything ;) I am tempted to adopt my local area's "sh" sound, such as saying ich like ish, but then again I would prefer to speak what is accepted as "standard" German. Plus, my very patient German teacher worked so hard with me to develop the "ch" sound that I feel that it would be best to put it to use.

Another regional sound I've heard is what sounds like "nay," which confers the negative. People use it instead of the traditional "nein" for no. I was curious about this; after all, in German, there are different ways to express the negative: nein, nicht, and nicht. I asked the teacher from the German class I am taking. She said that "nay" is part of the Pfälzich regional dialect and it's like saying "nein." I asked how to spell it and she noted that there are different ways but she suggested "nä." She said it's also common for people to say it like "nä nä nä." 

In contrast to all the no no nos I've heard, there is also the common "ja ja" that people here say, which is like saying "yeah, yeah" in agreement. It has been interesting to see the actual language in action, for sure.

Friday, March 8, 2013

SWK Utilities and der Gartenschau

I received some really cool mail this week: it was an offer from SWK, who is my utility company, and they are offering an annual pass to the Gartenschau (literally, garden show, which is a flower garden and strangely enough, dinosaur sculpture park) and to the Japanese Garden for only 25 euros for both!

I had considered buying an annual membership to the Gartenschau anyway, and it was about 40 euros. When I received the flyer in the mail, I thought it was even better so I stopped by the Gartenschau's office and bought a pass. To sweeten (har de har har) the deal even more, they gave me a coupon for a free ice cream at the 'schau and a free tea at the Japanese Garden. How nice, eh? I'm thrilled to be living in a city with attractions and offers like this.

Anthropological Research for Make Benefit the Glorious Nation of the US

I've met a very nice couple from the UK, and we have been hanging out lately. We went out last night for dinner and they had me in stitches.

It turned into Ask an American night; it was hilarious! In conspiratorial tones, they asked me if indeed people in the US ate some weird dish involving sweet potatoes and marshmallows. Oh yes, I warned them, people do, but it's much more of a Southern thing, even though I recently ate a German cafeteria on a US base version of the dish. My friends also asked about what I determined to be ambrosia salad. E thought it was made with sour cream, but an Australian had prepared the dish for her (why, I have no idea) so I said that person was waaaay off if it was sour cream.

I had to explain Cool Whip to my friends and that conversation segued into talk about green bean casserole. My friends were absolutely horrified by it: canned green beans, cream of mushroom canned soup, and French's fried onions on top. I shared their sentiments.

I've lived in a London suburb 12 years ago and picked the brains of my friends about British life when I lived there, so I really didn't have any new questions for my friends. They were willing to help me out after grilling me about the US. I would still like to know who on earth would eat Christmas pudding. It's rather terrifying to me.

I'm feeling like Napoleon here...

As part of the saga of moving to Germany, movers have been to my new apartment four times now and I will need to have them back a fifth time. This doesn't even include further visits if I buy any furniture that needs to be delivered (which is almost certain; I have no couches!)

I had the movers out to bring: my unaccompanied baggage (basically a small shipment of clothes, my bike, etc.); loaned furniture for the duration of my stay here; short term loaned furniture (which was supposed to come at the same time as the longer-term loaned furniture); and my household goods.

I had the unaccompanied baggage and household goods shipped the second week of December. The UB came here at the end of January before I even had my apartment so I had the moving company store it until the apartment was ready. My household goods were supposed to arrive 15 February so I didn't ask for short-term loaner furniture. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the ship it was on broke down and the delivery was going to be about a month later!

I had been sleeping on a loaned air mattress. While it was very nice, I didn't want to sleep on an air mattress for a month. I called my employer's Transportation Office and then the Furnishings office to beg for a set of loaned furniture until my own stuff came in. Of course I was admonished because I should have asked for the short term loan furniture to be brought the same time the long term loaner furniture was brought. I patiently explained that my own furniture was supposed to come the same day so I hadn't asked for anything to be loaned. I jumped through a few more hoops, like getting a letter from Transportation to say the furniture was delayed and I also had to drive to the base in person to beg for furniture. I will tell you this: working with these departments makes one humble (and often frustrated).

It all worked out, though, and I had a bed to sleep on for a week. Then, just because it's the way things go, I found out that my furniture was here and had it delivered today. I still have the short term loaned furniture, which I now must schedule a time for it to be picked up. I only had it for a week. Had I known it would've been that short of time period, I wouldn't have gotten it. Egads.

And, on to why I'm feeling like Napoleon here, and no, I don't want to conquer anywhere! I've had two different German movers exclaim what a small apartment I have. Really?My apartment is 750 square feet and has two bedrooms (one bedroom is tiny, for sure). I just shrugged my shoulders and told them it's just me so why would I need anything bigger!

The whole thing is funny. People have commented on what a big car I have (it's a sedan, and not a big boat by any means, but not a little roller skate car, either). I think I'm about ready to tell people that because my car is so "big," I thought that I should live in a "small" apartment ;)

Moo thinks the apartment is just right. BTW, what's for dinner?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Now this is what I'm talkin' about!

I went shopping at Real, which is like a (super) Walmart, at least in terms of the relative products and lower prices (though I have no meter on how the German chain treats its employees). While there, I spotted a vacuum cleaner box that I found somewhat funny:

I thought: how great would that be to laze around on the couch while some dude did your housework for you?

Then I thought, maybe he's her significant other and he's being passive aggressive and trying to interrupt her nap by vacuuming. He looks as if he's smirking.

I'm hoping it's the former situation. Then again, it could just be the box of a vacuum cleaner.

You say potato...I say crooked berry.

I am taking a German class from the adult enrichment program. Even though I've had lessons in the past year and this is a basics class, it's a nice refresher for me. What's really nice is that the teacher is from this area and has an extensive knowledge of it.

There is standard German, which is called Hochdeutsch, and it is what would be learned in school. That is the focus of the class. However, in the German language, there are regional dialects and varieties, just as there are in other languages. In this area, which is called Rhineland Pfalz, the Pfälzisch dialect is spoken. Our teacher is filling us in on some of the differences.

For example, the standard word for potato is Kartoffel. However, one of our classmates said her neighbor called it a "Grumbeer," and was confused. Our teacher told us that it's the local word for potato and it literally means "crooked berry." That's not bad, eh? However, most people would just call it a Kartoffel.

And, the poor Bavarians (those in Bavaria, which is the south of Germany): I've heard Germans from all over say that they can barely understand the folks from their because their regional accent is so strong.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Un chien!

Look! Un chien!

I love that it's a French Bulldog and that this picture is from Paris. It's perfect.

Also, I love street posters. There so  many interesting, odd, and even funny ones.

Happy me! in Paree (Paris)

This weekend marked two months of my arrival here. How did I commemorate those two months of living in Germany?

I took a trip to Paris with some friends.

Well, okay, we planned the trip and it just happened to be this weekend, and I wouldn't throw some sort of celebration just for being here. That would just be silly.

It was such a change to spend a weekend in Paris, even though it was only 2.5 hours away by high speed train. I feel as if I'm starting to stumble settle into German life and am getting my bearings (well, for the most part). There are many rules, laws, customs, etc. here to follow, but (for the most part) they make things very orderly, safe, and (usually) pleasant.

I am becoming accustomed to living within those parameters (they're not bad, just different, and can sometimes have a steep learning curve) and am starting to shift my brain toward working within the  German language.

Then we took a trip to Paris.

My poor brain! I know a few phrases of polite French but was unable to conjure up most of them when needed, or if I did conjure them, the phrases ended up being half in French, half in German in my head so I just spoke English instead because none of it would have made sense. I'm grateful that Spanish took a back seat for this trip. I think my head would have split if I had four languages bouncing around at once in there.

In addition to the language mess, I also felt totally overstimulated by Paris.

People thinking nothing about littering, en masse? Eek! Why aren't people sweeping the streets in front of their houses?! (In all fairness, though, it has to be super hard to keep stuff clean in such a populous city that's also teeming with tourists but has a finite number of trash bins). Oh, and the snogging and carrying on! Yeck. I'm so anti-romantic, but I could imagine that even mushy people would get sick of seeing people kissing all the time. Yes, Paris is romantic, but don't block pedestrian traffic to examine your loved one's tonsils, please!

There were things that I really have been missing, as well. Holy crow, there are stores that are open past 6, 7, or 8 pm? They are open until 10 pm? GASP.  They are open on SUNDAY? THANK GOODNESS!!!

FREE TAP WATER, and I didn't even have to ask for it (usually I don't dare)?? I almost cried tears of joy.

It was fun comparing notes with my friends, who are both not from Germany but who are living here as well. They've been here longer than I have and also felt culture shock. We had a great time, but were all happy to be returning to our orderly environments in Germany. It feels peaceful after the hustle and bustle (and PDAs).

This trip wasn't a roller coaster but we did feel as if we had ridden the carousel a few too many times.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

To Paris we go: getting there via high speed train

This weekend, some friends and I decided to take a trip to Paris. We booked tickets with Deutsche Bahn. From Kaiserslautern, driving would have taken about four hours. The high speed train that we booked takes about two hours. It's called the ICE (Inter City Express) or the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, in French). I can see why it's so fast; at one point, the speed was 300 kilometers per hit (280 mph).

Taking the train definitely is not cheap; it was about €140 for roundtrip tickets. Air fare actually might have been cheaper with a discount carrier such as RyanAir. However, from Kaiserslautern, taking the train is the most convenient and easy way to travel to Paris. It's a mile walk to the train station and then a restful ride on the train for me. Also, the sooner you book, the cheaper the ticket is. I paid quite a bit because I booked less than a week previous to my trip. I would not suggest driving into Paris itself; traffic and parking are both crazy. Therefore, the train is a much better choice.

Seats are comfortable on the train and some even include a table set in the middle of four seats, which is great for friends traveling together. The train also includes a dining car and we were surprised at how reasonably priced the food was, especially for train food. The train can be quite packed, especially on weekend.

It's definitely a very pleasant and fast way to get from Germany to Paris.

Such sites await in Paris. Too bad their weather was just as cloudy as Germany's was when we went!

Monday, March 4, 2013