Thursday, October 31, 2013

That awkward moment...

when you try to decide what language you're going to use at the restaurant and accidentally use some weird hybrid that is not decipherable in either.

For example, several months ago I asked for "vass-tur" instead of either water or Wasser. Sigh.

I don't do that so much now but I do get to the point where I still don't have the vocabulary I need.

A positive about this term is that I'm back in German classes at my university after having five months off from university German. In those five months, I learned a lot about German culture, history, and art through other classes, but all in English. I did take some lower level semi-touristy German classes and had about three Volkshochschule classes before my current class started.

I'm super excited because we just learned about splittable verbs, modal (helping) verbs, and the command form. I can say more complex sentences now with the confounding prefix at the end of the sentence -- some verbs like to split off for their own adventures in German! I can now call people up, say that I need to clean up my house, etc. I can also tell people to do things (haha, I shouldn't let this one go to my head).

I was thrilled, for example, to be able to tell the lady at the Halloween festival we attended to literally "cut You Formal more please," which she took as "cut that more please" so I could share the naan in more pieces with my friends. I'm not sure if I said it grammatically but she knew what I meant so that was a success!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chocolates of a different sort at Rewe!

Or, I might call this: Christmas just got a bit more steamy!

I saw these goofy Christmas chocolates molded into the form of a saucy, chocolatey lad and lass in festive attire.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Some Hallo-weenies!

I saw a cute recipe for "mummified" hotdogs for Halloween. Since I was going to attend a Halloween party I thought I'd give them a try and bring them as a treat.

The recipe is really easy; click here to see it. All it requires is hot dogs and crescent rolls. I bought both and made my own mummy dogs. I lack any domestic ability and they turned out well and people at the party thought that they were fun. If I made them again, I might want the crescent rolls to be a bit colder so they'd be easier to cut, but beyond that, it was easy.

Ready to be baked.

Baked. Got a bit well done.
The one thing that gets me about the original recipe is that the author says that these are part of a healthy meal. I'm not sure on which planet a meat concoction filled with sulfates covered in high fat pastry is healthy, but once I let go of that skepticism, I thought these were quite fun to make and take to a party.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween Escapades

I was invited to a Halloween party hosted by some Americans this past weekend. The party was a fun mix of Germans, expats, students, professionals, etc. We dressed up in crazy costumes, brought creepy snacks (I made "mummy" hotdogs), and later paraded through town as a strange entourage with a Roman, zombies, vampires, a genie, a tiger, a ninja, a nerd, a murderous clown, and more.

I think that this was one of my favorite costumes. It was one of those small backpacks that organizations give away and the guy wearing it wrote the Pi sign on it. I laughed because it looked like a last-minute costume, for sure.

After we left the party and headed to the bar, we experienced the craziness that is Kaiserslautern on weekend nights. Usually I'm out of town so I don't head out to the bars. We passed by the American police from the Air Force. They help police the area because half of the problems (at least) come from the Americans who live here. Fair enough, eh? They didn't need to intervene on this situation, but it was definitely a bunch of drunk service members acting stupid: some guys started doing pushups in the street.

At the bar, I was talked into a light saber battle. My opponent had a few to drink and was narrating the fight in German (he's not German though). Later we had a conversation and he recited his schedule in German. I teased him and told him that I just did all of this in German class. I'm not sure why we were having the conversation, but I'm sure it made sense to one of us.

Batman showed up and was interested in the light saber battle so we gave him a turn.

Batman vs. "Rub Me for Luck; I'm Irish."
I then talked to his friend, Superman. I told Superman that his costume looked a bit like kids' pajamas.

Most of our group had enjoyed enough fun so we started  home. A bunch of German guys we passed were offended that we were celebrating Halloween already. I think they had that idea confused with the German rule for celebrating birthdays. In Germany, it's considered bad luck to celebrate your birthday before the actual day. Since Halloween is an American holiday, I think we can celebrate it whenever we feel like it. The guys said it wasn't Halloween yet and our German friend told them that at the bar we visited it was. Everyone has an opinion here and isn't afraid to share it with strangers! Sometimes it's hard to get used to, but if someone is being obnoxious, you can just flap your hand at them and ignore them.

It was a fun night and a bit wild and silly.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pfalz on Tour: Visiting the Meisterschule für Handwerker

Kaiserslautern is located in the German state of Rhineland-Pfalz and today, as part of the district association for the area, some local institutions opened their doors for a behind-the-scenes look into what they do.

My friend and I checked out the Meisterschule für Handwerker, (Master School for Handworkers) which sits behind the Museum Pfalzgalerie. The Meisterschule is a technical school where students can learn many different arts and skills from auto repair to masonry to welding and it opened its doors to the public for an open house.

We were allowed to tour the grounds and watch students work. We saw some blacksmiths working metal over a fire; some future mechanics working on cars; and even saw some guys sitting on top of a wooden structure, doing an adult version of pattycake and singing their traditional song! It was really interesting, and very, very local.

We also talked to some people. Stopping by the welding room, we were greeted by one of the teachers. He asked my friend in German if he could answer any questions. She told him that we don't speak a lot of German but could understand. He promised to use his very best Hochdeutsch ("high German," or the official language; around here, many people speak Pfälzisch, which is a dialect, and can be somewhat difficult to understand for newbies).

We didn't get super far in German so the friendly teacher offered to speak English instead and gave us some interesting information. He said that the school teaches many different things and that anyone in Germany can attend, for free. There is no age limit; a 15 or a 65 year old can attend.

We thanked him for the interesting information and continued touring the grounds. I found a station where one can purchase a medallion with Kaiserslautern's crest on it. I handed over a euro and the teenagers heated up a metal disc and then stamped it with the logo. They stuck it in some water to cool it down, polished it with a brush, and handed it to me with a smile.

Farther ahead, there was some singing. We came upon this wooden frame with men singing and doing an adult version of patty cake on top of it as it rotated. This was a traditional activity where the journeymen have their own traditions, such as songs and claps, depending on their trade. They also have particular colors and styles of dress, or Tracht. There's a lot more to the history of all of this; here's an article to read more.

It's funny to see guys in traditional uniforms with tennis shoes!
After this, we took a tour through the masonry school. I especially liked the owl sculpture. Some of the stone plaques were for sale (though the owl wasn't).

Statue in process, with markings.

It was a really interesting visit. Germany is renowned for its apprenticeship program that creates some highly skilled craftsmen. This was a wonderful experience to see where future journeymen are trained.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

What do I spy with my huge googly eye?

Whoa! Peep these peepers! I stopped by a gift store in the Friedrichshein neighborhood and saw these crazy, huge googly eyes. Aren't they great?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Restaurant review: Kerwan Restaurant, Saarbrücken

Kappenstraße 16
66111 Saarbrücken

I ate here earlier this year, in the spring, so this review won't be incredibly thorough and I'll stick to the major remembrances.

First of all, I was rather desperate for some Lebanese cuisine at that point since besides Mexican food, it's my favorite. Lebanese food is in short supply where I live. I arranged a trip with a friend to Saarbrücken to see the castle and have lunch at Kerwan so I could get my "fix."

We sat outside in a pleasant side street where the restaurant is located. I didn't go inside the restaurant, so I can't comment to that. Service was slow and somewhat inattentive, which is unfortunately not rare in Germany. It is always surprising to me when a waitress will take an order from one table and then actively ignore her other table that hasn't been checked on in quite some time. I'm not sure if I ever will become accustomed to this.

Anyway, I ordered an appetizer platter with hummus, baba ghanoosh, and some falafel. It was all okay. It wasn't as delicious as some of the things I've eaten in Dearborn, Michigan, but that bar was set high so I won't hold it against Kerwan too much. However, the one thing that was incredibly odd was that we were served a bread that was similar to panini bread instead of the traditional Middle Eastern pita bread. It was a strange experience! I prefer pita bread.

The odd, grilled bread.
My friend ordered a platter that was basically a big pile o' meat. He said the meat tasted good but the salad was not to his liking as it appeared to be lacking any type of dressing. This is unusual for Germany, as usually the salads are just drenched with dressing.

The pile o' meat platter that I am too lazy to edit so it's the right orientation.

I would rate this experience as so-so. It was very difficult to get our waitress's attention as she was not very attentive. The food was mostly okay and the price was moderate. However, I can't say that I would rush back.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review: Crazy Candystore in Heidelberg: Heidelberger Zuckerladen

Heidelberger Zuckerladen
Plöck 52
Heidelberg, Germany
Mon - Fri: 12:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Sat: 11:15 am - 3:00 pm

Any candy store that features a window display of a mannequin in an old fashioned dentist's store is probably going to be a strange place. Heidelberger Zuckerladen certainly fits the bill!

 My friend, who lives in Heidelberg, knows I like weird and offbeat things so during the Heidelberger Herbstfest, she suggested that we stop in to the Zuckerladen. The store was really packed because of the festival, but the few things that I did see were definitely odd. The store is small, cramped, old, and of course, odd odd odd!

There were candy models of the mouth/teeth, creepy Barbie doll displays, rude Lebkuchen, and much more. You know those gingerbread-looking hearts with sweet sayings on them in German? Those are traditional Lebkuchen. This candy store had non-traditional Lebkuchen with sayings like a**hole (in German) on them. They would be good for a crude gag gift, for sure.

We didn't stay inside very long because the store was so crowded. I hope to stop again during a less busy time to get my fill of weird displays and naughty candy.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cafe review: Kaffee-Kultur, Kaiserslautern, Germany

Rosenstraße 24
Hours: Monday - Friday 0900-1800; Saturday 0930-1600

I've walked by Kaffee-Kultur many times and have been curious about the cafe, but most of the time it was closed and even had the shades drawn. I was curious about the place and was happy to visit with a friend one afternoon when I was out of work early.

The cafe is pleasant inside and very bright with white walls and cheerful orange chairs. One downside to these orange chairs is that most are the bistro style and are quite tall. I never feel comfortable/secure in these (and even worse when I'm at a bar and that's the seating style -- that's just trouble waiting to happen!). There were several tables with normal height chairs so we gave those a try.

We both ordered hot chocolates. They tasted good and service was pleasant. I noticed that on the menu there are coffees, teas, hot drinks, different breads, homemade desserts, and breakfast.

Kaffe-Kultur is a bright and cheery cafe that would be a nice place to meet with small groups (if one were to snag the shorter tables/chairs). The only downside is that it closes early -- at 6 pm -- so it would not be well-suited for the after-work crowd.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Even better yet: Bernd is Brot der Woche

Bernd das Brot is this crazy cartoon/puppety, grumpy anthropomorphic bread who has his own show that plays on tv. Whenever I'm in a hotel room in Berlin and it's later at night, I get to see my old crotchety friend Bernd. I'm not sure if he's a Berlin area fixture, but I haven't seen him the limited times I've watched tv in SW Germany.

Anyway, when I was at Wasgau I saw the sign that said he's the bread of the week. It was really funny...and disconcerting in a way. I mean, he's a made up character, but isn't it a bit weird to eat him?  Even worse, he looked really tasty!! Maybe he's so grumpy because he has a constant fear of being eaten.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Affirmative bread

Rewe, a chain supermarket, has American style bread.

It's positive!


It's American Sandwich brot!

That's a lot of exclamation marks!


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Flea markets, racing, and more

Today was soooo busy, but fun. Now I'm tired and sore, sore, sore.

This morning, I strolled downtown to check out the farmers' market. There was both curly and flat leafed kale this week -- score! I couldn't resist buying some curly leaf kale, even though I don't really have room in my fridge right now. That's an entirely unusual situation, but the lack of fridge room is because I'm having 20 people over tomorrow for a potluck.

In addition to the farmers' market, I checked out some "flea markets" that were set up as well. They were run by various charities and clubs. I wonder if they were set up because it's the Kaiserslautern kerwe week, since they are not a permanent feature.

A sweet lady at one of the flea market booths was telling me about stuff for sale after I asked her a few prices (we were both speaking German). I picked up a candy bar because it had Raphael's angels on it and I didn't realize what it was. I put it down, then she said something which I didn't catch/understand, and she smiled and dropped it in my bag. This is what tends to happen when I speak German with people: I do okay for a bit, then get confused, and then the person helping me gives me something or does something nice for me (usually). That's pretty good reinforcement and really kind of the person helping me, isn't it?!

After that, I hurried home to get ready to head out for a community 5K run/race. I'm not in shape but I knew I could at least walk that far because I trek that much or more almost every weekend during my travels. It was a super family friendly event; people even brought their dogs, which was cool (but seeing so many dogs in prong collars was not so cool). It was really fun and I was impressed by the work put into it. There were tons of community booths, a live band, a haunted house, pumpkin decorating, temporary tattooing, and even zombies to harass runners. 

Look! Star Wars peeps. The costume of the guy in black was funny because his "tank" on his back was made from an old suitcase or vacuum cleaner.

?? Mile Run. At the starting gate.
 The race itself was very enjoyable. The weather was just perfect with a sunny sky and a temperature of somewhere around 20 degrees Celsius. There were a lot of dogs enjoying the race too. I talked to one guy about his dog, who was really interesting looking -- something that was a Chow mix but didn't have the blocky Chow head or thick body. The owner told me that they purchased a DNA test on the dog for $50 and found out this huge list of mixed breeds he was. I didn't know that such a thing was available so inexpensively at the consumer level; it's really cool!

I also saw another guy walking a Pomeranian who was so tired that he had to pick up the dog (who looked really relieved after that!). It was pretty funny to see a tough, muscly dude carrying a fluffy little dog. Seeing all those dogs made me miss having a dog somewhat. However, I then snapped back to reality and remembered that I wouldn't be the right person to own a dog because I work/go to school/travel so much. Even poor Moo the Cat doesn't get as much undivided attention from me as he'd like.

One of the many dogs in the race.
 Toward the end of the race, I stopped for a wine tasting. Man, do I ever love living in Europe! I don't know that US races would do that. Even with stopping to try wine and talk to a dog owner, I did the 5K in 45 minutes. That wasn't too bad for someone who's totally out of shape, didn't practice ahead of time, and took time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

I had volunteered to help with clean-up. I was already a bit sore from the race and after an hour of stooping to pick up trash, I was really sore. However, it was quite awesome to enjoy the view of my work (and the work of others, of course!) when it was all cleaned up. Better yet was that there were two leftover pumpkins who needed a home. I happily scooped them up. I hope to have a friend who's from the UK over to try her hand at a really American activity. I'll carve the other pumpkin; I want to give it and some candy to my neighbor's daughter. They're German, so I'm not sure if they celebrate Halloween. Even if they don't, I'm sure she'll enjoy the treat.

Following the race and pumpkin rehoming, I drove home and worked on cleaning the house and cooking for a potluck I'm hosting tomorrow. So far about 20 people have RSVPed. I'm rather excited about that; I always enjoyed having people over to my house that I owned in the US. I love a party atmosphere and I'm looking forward to recreating it here in Germany. A small snag is how small my apartment is; we'll just have to get cosy.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Just not feelin' it but Tony the Tiger is

This picture isn't good because I took it at night on a cell phone, but believe me, its content in real life is totally AWESOME. This is from the upper floor of the Primark store in Saarbrücken. Primark is kind of like an Old Navy/lower end H&M and has inexpensive clothes. I saw one in Frankfurt but it was a complete madhouse so I didn't even try to do more than poke my head in.

Anyway, at this Primark, there is a PAIR OF ADULT SIZED TIGER PAJAMAS (or is it a costume?). Oh my goodness, they were completely awesome. I wanted to buy a pair but alas, the store was closed. Then I remembered what happened the last time I wore some footie pajamas, so maybe it wouldn't be realistic to buy a pair.

However, I do still want to visit Primark. Maybe the Saarbrücken store won't be so busy?


On not feelin' it: I don't know what's up, but I just haven't felt like writing lately. I've been tired and I have tons of things to catch up on, both at home and with writing. I finally finished the art class I was taking and received the grade today: an A. I was excited to have a week off from class, and it has been a busy one. I'm having around 20 people over this weekend for a party so preparations for that have taken up all week. My next class starts this upcoming week so I'll say goodbye to freedom again.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Getting a massage at the German massage place: hilarity ensues, or it doesn't

Whenever I get into a situation that spirals out of control in a way that's so ridiculous that it's funny, the music below plays through my head. I had such an experience earlier this week.

On my day off, I decided to get a massage by someone recommended by a friend. My friend didn't think that the guy really speaks English, but said I should go anyway. Since I've been working on my German a bit, I figured I could make an appointment without too many troubles.

Imagine trying to make a massage appointment with a man who's basically like a hyperactive squirrel. He doesn't really speak English and I am halting in German. I said that I needed an appointment (in German) but I think he was so freaked out about dealing with an English speaker that he asked for help.

He enlisted the help of one of his clients who speaks better English. Said client is in the middle of a massage so I get waved to the back of the practice and ask a man who's laying on the massage table and only wearing underwear if he can help me make an appointment. We all agreed on a time.

I don't think that I would have seen a client in situ in the US (at least I don't think it would have, or at least the masseuse there would have probably had me talk through a cracked door and I wouldn't see the other client). Though honestly, if the masseuse just slowed down what he said and listened to me a bit more I think we could have made the appointment without help. I'm thankful for the other client's help. He didn't seem phased by this at all. At least he was wearing underwear! I'm trying to adjust to the German lack of hang-ups with partial/full nudity. However, I just wasn't expecting the situation to happen this way. I had practiced the phrases I would say in German before I went there. After all, how hard is it to make an appointment; I'm almost at the A2 level. That got shot out the window. Doesn't that make you think of the adage, "it takes a village?" I thought it took a village to raise a child, but apparently it also takes one to make an appointment.

As for the massage itself, it wasn't really what I prefer. When it was my turn, the masseuse utilized a client who was in another room as an interpreter for a bit. I told the masseuse, "wenn Sie sprechen langsamer, ich verstehe mehr" (when you speak slower, I understand more). He had left the curtain to my room open and was going to commence working on me. I knew the other client was in another room, and I am still a bit prudish/American, so I told Mr. Masseuse, "bitte mit die Tür nicht öffnen" (please with the door not open). Yes, that's not the most grammatical way to put it, but it still makes sense and I couldn't remember the word for closed. See? I know enough German to communicate my wishes, just not in an elegant way.

I was on a table under this crazy heat lamp thing; I almost felt as if I were at a tanning salon! After turning off the lamp, he draped a heat pack over my back. I have a feeling that Lucifer did him a solid and let it heat up on his sidewalk a bit before handing it over. It was rather hot, especially on bare skin. I have a reasonably high pain tolerance so I just dealt with it. 

I couldn't believe how fast he did the massage strokes. At one point, there was disco music playing on the radio and I swear that he used that to keep time! So, while it wasn't the worst thing ever, it was still a rather odd situation so I think one visit there suited me just fine. The awkward thing is that I ran into Mr. Masseuse two days later when I was out with friends. He hollered to me to ask how I was feeling and I spoke German back. See, dude? If you just listen, I can tell you what needs to be said.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Visiting Frankfurt after the Book Fair

After the visit to the Frankfurt book fair on Saturday, I walked around Frankfurt a bit lot (my legs are still sore). My first stop was Römerberg, part of the Altstadt (Old Town). It's a charming square with what look to be 15th/16th century buildings. They are actually modern reproductions as the area was bombed heavily during WWII. The tourist information office is on the right side (or north side) of the square.

Römerberg, Altstadt Frankfurt
I walked north to the next square, which is where Paulskirche (Paul's Church) sits. I was excited to see this church in person because I learned about its importance this summer during my history classes. Paulskirche was the site of the National Assembly's first meetings and where the first constitution of Germany was written. Unfortunately, those efforts in 1848/1849 were not successful because of interference by Prussia, the Austrian Empire, and some of the other German states. Anyway, Paulskirche was also destroyed in WWII and has since been rebuilt and is now a forum for public events instead of church services.

Road in front of Paulskirche
I didn't go inside the building since it was closed for the day, so I continued north through the pedestrian zone, past tons of stores and restaurants. My next stop was the Kleinmarkthalle, an indoor food market with fabulous offerings. I felt like a country bumpkin brought to the big city as I admired the dried lavender, hummus, and cheeses at various booths. Of course, there are also many vegetables, fruits, and meat available, among other things. I restrained myself and only bought some sort of sheep's cheese spread and some hummus to eat the next day since I planned to go out for dinner.

Kleinmarkthalle, exterior
Kleinmarkthalle, interior
After that, I knew I wanted to try some Frankfurter Apfelwein. It's a local favorite and I was excited, because I generally like wine and I haven't yet found a fruit wine that I didn't like. Well, this was actually more like a cider (alcoholic) and I definitely did not care for it! I kept trying it, just to be fair. I ended up giving the glass almost full back to the waitress when I retrieved my pfand (deposit for the cup). I felt bad about that but I just couldn't drink the slightly bitter drink.

Frankfurter Apfelwein: nicht für mich!
After some more walking around, I decided to head south to Sachsenhausen, a district with many restaurants. There was a Persian restaurant I wanted to try, but alas, even after I made the hike down there, it was closed! I was disappointed, especially after all of the walking. I picked up a falafel/salad plate at a take out place but it just wasn't the same.

However, the upside is that I saw a bar named after the ever creepy Struwwelpeter. Our friend Pete is not a German relative of Edward Scissorhands; instead, he's Shock Headed Peter, who didn't groom himself well enough (hence the long, nasty finger nails) and as a result, was unpopular. Yay for cautionary German tales! Holy crow, are the rest of the Heinrich Hoffman stories freaky and/or super frightening, such as the kid who won't stop sucking his thumb so a tailor cuts it off. Eek!

I thought my legs were done for the day so I finished my meal and walked to grab a train. I saw one station decorated with these statues:

What a way to end the day :)

Monday, October 14, 2013

This man has been causing English speakers issues

This statue in Frankfurt looks so innocent...until the English speaker tries to pronounce the person's name. The subject of this statue is Johann Wolfgang von Göthe, a very famous German author born in Frankfurt.

To English speakers, we usually hear his last name as "Gerta." However, there is no letter r in his name. My German teacher explained to me how the o with an umlaut becomes an r sound (at least to the ears of those whose first language is English). I still don't get it. It just "is" and we all must make peace with it!

Also, if a person is typing and doesn't have access to the umlaut on the keyboard, she can add an e after the letter. That also explains why Göthe's name is also written as Goethe.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Roadside candy machines: Frankfurt

I saw this gem when I was in Frankfurt for the book fair. Someone spray painted "Ich!" (I! in English) on it.

There's even a view of the Main River behind it.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A visit to the Frankfurt Book Fair

I just motored home from a trip to Frankfurt for a visit to the Frankfurt Book Fair and some city exploring. The Frankfurt Book fair, or Buchmesse in German, is the biggest trade book fair in the world. According to the book fair's website, there are 7500 exhibitors who visit from more than 110 countries. The first three days of the fair are limited to trade professionals and the last two days, on the weekend, are open to the general public.

I was curious about the fair; I had read about it in the US and thought that since I live about an hour or so from Frankfurt and I had some free time this weekend, it would be a good trip to make. I bought a ticket and was pleased to see that it also included a public transit ticket throughout the Frankfurt region. That wasn't a bad deal for 17 euros.

The fair took up most of the Messe, or the exhibition hall in Frankfurt, and that place is HUGE. It reminds me of an airport in many ways; it even has those moving sidewalks. Just like the airport, the Messe seems to offer almost unlimited walking.

The event itself is huge, too. Even though it's a trade show, the general reader can very much enjoy it too. Keep in mind that most of the books will be in a foreign language -- mostly German (yeah, duh); after all, this book fair is held in Germany. There is also a huge selection of foreign publishers; there were books in French, Spanish, Asian languages, Portuguese, etc.

I was most impressed by the reproductions of illuminated manuscripts. One booth featured a demonstration of a woman sewing the spine of the vellum pages! Her colleague was hand stamping leather bookmarks and handing them out.

There were also a great section with some beautiful art books. I was thrilled to look over the prints and recognize many of the art pieces or at the very least, the art period, all thanks to the art history class I'm finishing now.

Some of the booths had gifts like post cards, little notebooks, and cards for sale. One booth was selling these unusual cardboard cutouts, about the size of a book.

The book fair didn't offer just books; there were also discussions, author talks, and even a cooking show!

In addition to the cooking show, the other "show" was people watching. It seems that about a third of the attendees were teenagers dressed in costumes. It made more sense once I found out that the Book Fair even hosts a cosplay championship. Wonders never cease! (Okay, I feel really old writing that.)

Kids these days! They have tails.
All in all, it was a very interesting (and exhausting) day. Even for those only read English books, it's still worth a visit to look at the art books, flip through some books in Turkish, and even better yet, people watch.

Frankfurt Buchmesse is this weekend! (Book Fair)

This weekend is the Frankfurt Buchmesse, or book fair. It's a huge, internationally recognized book fair. In fact, I remember reading about it while I was living in the US. It's big and included on the list with the New York book fair.

Here is the website with more information, in English:

That's it for what I'm going to write now, but I'll definitely have more to say about it after the visit!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review: Yolicious Frozen Yogurt, Heidelberg, Germany

Yolicious Frozen Yogurt
Ziegelgasse 26
69117 Heidelberg

During our escapades the weekend of Heidelberger Herbst, we stopped by Yolicious for some frozen yogurt. Just off the main pedestrian zone, it's a small shop with limited seating, mostly appealing to the takeout crowd (not unusual for frozen treats, of course).

The store has simple offerings: regular frozen yogurt with toppings, parfaits, and smoothies. In addition, the store has some beverages available, including warm drinks like cappuccinos and cold drinks like bottled water.

There is just one flavor of yogurt (yogurt flavored, of course!) with a wide assortment of toppings. I ordered in German and meant to order the cheesecake, but got a little confused when I was asked something else and ended up getting blackberries. It was totally my fault - I thought I could order two toppings and I must have overrode the original topping or something. That's what I get for trying to use German!'

Either way, it tasty. I really liked the tartness of the yogurt and how it wasn't overly sweet. The blackberries were plump and delicious. I recommend this store for a nice yogurt treat with options of natural, fresh toppings, or, for those who can't help themselves, candy alternatives.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Things I do not like

Here's a bit of randomness. There are many, many things that I ~do~ like, but today...

Here are some things that I do not like:

1. Feet.

2. Mudpuppies.
3. Walking on grates or things that wobble as one walks on them (I will usually skirt these).
4. Receiving/giving hugs.
5. Public displays of affection (holding hands is okay/slightly juvenile, but full on tonsil searching? Ew, no one wants to see that!).
6. Eating fish and most meat.
7. When people are mean to other people and/or animals.*
8. When people carve into trees (i.e. initials) and put love padlocks on bridges, etc. (damages nature/public property, is juvenile, and not cool in my book).
9. Insincerity.

*it is not mean to make one's cat wear a costume that embarrasses the cat

Monday, October 7, 2013

Moo helps some more with homework

I'm just finishing up my Art History class. I don't know that I've ever spent so much time on a class before! This was an online class and it was read, read, read, then write, write, write all the time. I'm good at both, especially considering that this isn't my first (educational) rodeo; it's degree #3 for me. However, I foster a bit of an attitude about spending so much time on homework at this point because I also work full time and I don't need this degree -- it's just for personal enrichment.

I was whining in my head about spending a Saturday night at home and doing homework instead of attending a festival and watching fire spinners. Moo decided he would help me with homework to improve my mood. That involved climbing on me, putting his Moo bottom in my face, blocking the view of the laptop, changing the settings on my laptop since he was standing on the keyboard, trying to send my mom an email, and so on. I kicked him off my lap/laptop, so he jumped back on the couch from the other side. He then proceeded to paw at my expensive textbook (to make a "nest") and sat on the page I was trying to read. He is not the most helpful cat, but he thinks he is!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Going to quit my job and become an artist

I was doing research at the Pfalzgalerie for my Art History class and made a quick sketch of Carl Spitzweg's painting, Zeitungsleser im Hausgarten (newspaper reader in the garden).


Zeitungsleser im Hausgarten (Spitzweg)
Carl Spitzweg, Zeitungsleser im Hausgarten, ca. 1860.

Around the Wherever, Study of Zeitungsleser, 2013.

I think this sketch shows incredible talent and I should quit my day job and become an artist.

Or not.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Heidelberg: traffic lights even for the bike lanes!

Heidelberg is a city with many, many bikers. The sheer number of university students is a contributing factor. During a recent visit, I noticed that the bike lane even had its own small traffic light at an intersection. Cool, huh? Not all intersections are like that.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fall at the Gartenschau, Kaiserslautern

Every fall, the Gartenschau (literally, "Garden show") puts together a thematic exhibit with pumpkins and other fall accoutrements. The Gartenschau is one of Kaiserslautern's main tourist attractions (besides the football/soccer stadium). As a giant park with lovely gardens, it's a pleasant place to visit for both residents and guests. Much of it is catered toward children, with a huge playground and even a skateboard park. Of course, one mustn't forget the huge display of dinosaur statues, too.

I stopped by for another annual event: the giant pumpkin contest. Local farmers truck in giant pumpkins for a competition. The winning pumpkin was 650 kilograms, or 1,433 pounds - what a big Bessie that one was. There was even a (friendly) unofficial competition between two of the entrants. It was a competition of who could grow the longest squash. It cracks me up how people will complete over seemingly anything!  A bonus of the weighing pumpkin fest is that it's outside of the Gartenschau's gates and is free to attend.

This week, I visited the Gartenschau itself. There were many pumpkin displays and 3D pumpkin sculptures; this year's theme was the (American) West.

The Gartenschau is open until October 31. There is a large playground, a skateboard park, snack stands, a gift shop, dinosaur sculptures, putt putt golf, and even a small restaurant up the hill. It makes for a nice visit.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Beneath the pavement: what German city streets look like when exposed

(Giggle) This sounds like some sort of investigative reporting piece. Alas, I am not that advanced; I'm just nosy.

Have you ever wondered what German streets look like below the street level? There is road construction throughout town now so of course I had to check it out (and take a picture). I had heard that German roads (and especially the Autobahn) are really deep. Indeed, it looks as if the top layer is at least 8 inches deep (by my rough estimate, eyeballing it). There is even a layer below that. I'm too lazy to look up how deep the pavement goes, but it's deeper than it tends to be in the States.

In my home state, Michigan, even though we get a lot more freezing and thawing than my little corner of Germany does, the depth of our paved roads is horribly pitiful compared to German roads. Perhaps that's why we have to repair them so often? Maybe Michigan should invest in higher quality roads with fewer repairs. Or, we just need to wait for winter and enough snow to fill in the potholes, I guess.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pfälzisch Question Answered

I went out to dinner with some colleagues from another part of our institution and one member of the group is from this area and speaks the local German dialect, Pfälzisch. I had heard what sounds like (in English) "doe" being said around here and was curious about that. Our dining companion said that it's like the word "da" but they say "do" (I forgot to ask how it would be spelled so I'm guessing there; maybe it has an umlaut) and it means "there."

So, "do" you go.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How to search for Deutsche Bahn and bus connections in English

Even though my German is slowly (and painfully!) improving, I still don't enjoy navigating many of the public transportation websites for information about connections. My translation skills are weak and I have found that the English versions of the sites leave a lot out.

I have a really lazy solution: I usually figure out my trips using Google Maps. Under Get Directions, I click on the "By Public transit" image and type in my beginning and end points. It's great; I get the times, names and numbers of the buses/trains, and about how long it will take to arrive. I can choose timetables based on when I want to leave or arrive. Even better yet, the results are all in English!

Many readers might already know about this. It's a helpful hint to take a lot of the work out of finding directions, especially on public transportation.