Fridays are a different schedule. First all the tracks meet together at 8:30 (ugh, especially since class isn't until 10:15 the other days) for weekly exams, proctored today by one professor who happens to teach the one class of the day, conversation, after the exam period. The grammar test wasn't too bad, at least I feel pretty confident about it. For the lit test I had to bullshit some, a skill I'm pretty good at in English but need to practice in German.
The conversation class is three and a half hours minus a twenty-minute break, but it's only once a week. It's all the tracks together, so the vocabulary is easy. The toughest part for me is understanding the non-American speakers. German in an American accent is easier for me to get than German in a Spanish accent. In this class I finally met the Russian student about whom the others had been gossiping, saying she loves to hear herself talk. It's true.
We were to have a followup orientation meeting but four students traveling to Poland whined enough to get it rescheduled. Their train was the same time as mine though since I met them at the station. The trip to Hannover was uneventful although the train was 10 minutes late. I still had time to get an authentic bratwurst which I washed down with a Coke.
The train to Köln was packed. That didn't matter since I had a reserved seat, but, as on the train to Hannover, someone was in my seat. I got a window seat though. One thing I hadn't seen before was the special contraption they have to wheel up to the door of the train to enable a person using a wheelchair to get on. Quite a big deal. I wonder how he'll get off, if he goes to a small station.
A woman came through the car to do a survey for Deutsche Bahn. After interviewing the man seated next to me, she turned to me. I tried to decline, auf Deutsch, but she said we could do the survey in English, so I acquiesced. However, when we got to my reason for traveling, she didn't understand "gay pride" and had no more questions after I explained Schwulenfest auf Deutsch.
Germans like to use their cellphones on the trains, and they don't mind being loud. "Bist du da?" yelled the businessman as his connection was broken near Hamm (Westfalen).
On the train I had time to read more closely the gay magazine "Männer Aktuell" I'd picked up in Berlin last week. One thing I noticed was an interview with 20-year-old German singer Alexander Klaws. Just like interviews in American gay mags like the Advocate or Out. "I like all my fans, but sorry, guys, I'm 'super-hetero.'" However there was an interview with gay singer Jimmy Sommerville, who is not only still alive but only 43. Who knew?
In Köln I made the mistake of taking the U-bahn from the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) to Heumarkt, where my hotel is along with the main festivities this weekend. Not only did it require tranfering lines but I also got on going the wrong direction, requiring getting off and backtracking a bit. After I did get to the hotel and checked in, I walked over to the square where there were lots of people and stands (kind of like a big queer Oktoberfest), and as I walked along the streets through all the crowds I was almost to the Dom (cathedral), which is right by the Hauptbahnhof. It seemed farther on the map.
A gray wet day in Germany, nothing unusual except that there are rainbow flags around the city and lots of tour groups consisting of only men. Lots of other tourists too, but still a lot of fags, many from America, too.
I spent an hour and a half at the Dom. Guided tours were booked up a week in advance, but for 1 € I got a nice trifold guide explaining the various chapels and windows. I like King Ludwig's windows best. They're little more than 100 years old though. Climbing the tower shows how out of shape I am. It reminded me that when I was in Paris at the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame it was gray and rainy too. Paris is a prettier city though, even in the rain.
I got a little lost but with the map and some luck, I got to Breite Straße, one of several pedestrian-only shopping streets but the one that headed towards Beligisches Viertel, a square which was supposed to, according to Fodor's, have a good but cheap restaurant called Green Card. I found the square, a bit run down, but not the restaurant, so I headed back from whence I came and had lunch at one of the many sidewalk cafés. Apple iced tea (yuck!) and a tuna sandwich (okay).
I wandered around the shops, making my way to the shop which sells the only echt Kölnishes Wasser (authentic eau de Cologne). We'd read about it in one of my German classes. It started raining but I finally got to Checkpoint, the city's gay and lesbian info office, which conveniently happened to be just across from my hotel. Stopped in my room for a brief nap.
Then I headed to Museum Ludwig, which normally has a great Picasso collection but has lent it to a museum in Munich in exchange for a collection of works by the Blue Rider group, painters who worked together in Munich in the first decade or so of the 1900s until disbursed by the First World War. I think I probably enjoyed their work more than I would have Picasso's so it worked out.
The way to the museum was already full of stands and people eating, shopping and celebrating but after a couple hours at the museum the streets were even more packed. I ate a few things, watched people and went back to the hotel for another brief nap. When I returned to Heumarkt, site of the main square, it was even more packed. I followed others pushing their way through, got a drink (by the way, Germany is like New Orleans with open containers everywhere including on the U-Bahn) and then found a spot by a fenced off stairwell from which I could see Jimmy Sommerville, who most definitely is still alive and very popular among gay Germans. No pictures though as this time I left the camera in the room.
I slept late but only til 10:30 since checkout was at 11. Luckily the hotel was able to check my bag, so I didn't have to carry it during the parade. I got some fries with mayo and found a place along the wall by the U-Bahn, just coming off the Deutzer Brücke (bridge), over which the parade would pass just after starting on the other side of the Rhine. Next to me was a 60-year-old grandmother from Turin who thinks gay pride in Köln is better than Karnevale. She was very talkative and made friends with everyone around us. The place was packed and kept getting more so. On the street were a few city police trying to keep people on the curbs and on the side of the U-Bahn tracks were a few U-Bahn police trying to keep people from sitting or standing on the fence. The police were good natured and realized their job was almost futile. On the street most big floats had people walking alongside to keep people back, a good thing especially with some of the monster tractors pulling some of the floats.
The parade lasted two full hours, and that was just to cross the Rhine, not to finish the very long route through the city. Many of the floats and people are similar to what you'd see in America, but not all. However, I thought the annual parade in Columbus was pretty big or even the last March on Washington I went to, but Cologne Pride is bigger, much bigger. Unfortunately I had to go since I have school in Lüneburg tomorrow. I pushed through crowds to get my backpack at the hotel and then pushed through crowds to walk to the Bahnhof (even so not a bad walk at all).
I got in on the wrong end of the car and had to struggle past people to get to my seat, which was the very last (first?) row. A woman was in the window seat already and lied to me when I asked, saying my seat was the aisle one. No biggie but still. Aber wirklich nicht. I noticed that my Hannover-Lüneburg said "fenster" but my Köln-Hannover said "mitte." Oops.
I got another brat at my now standard spot in Hannover Hbf. The train to Lüneburg was ganz voll.
An hour between Lüneburg and Hannover. Would it be worth coming to Hannover for a day?
Today my literature class went to Hamburg to see the places there that are featured in the novel we're reading, Die Entdeckung der Currywurst. Another American named Donovan and I are the only USAC students in the class; the others are Spanish students who as part of the Erasmus program have been in Lüneburg three fourths of a year already. Professor Werner asked Iris, the instructor of the Advanced German class Donovan and I are in, if we could leave early so we got to the Lüneburg Bahnhof by noon.
Donovan and I understood that we were to meet the other students, take the 12:29 train to Hamburg and meet Professor Werner on the platform there. The only thing was we couldn't find any of the other students. Fairly confident that we'd understood correctly, I went ahead and bought a ticket a few minutes before the train arrived, and off we went. We were still a bit unsure when we got off in Hamburg but soon saw the others getting off the train and then were met by the professor.
The spots on today's tour were new to me, but I've only been to Hamburg once, so it's not hard to go places there I've never been. We walked away from the river, ending up at Bruderstraße, where the fictional Lena Brücker lived. A friend of Professor Werner's owns a café on Bruderstraße, and we stopped there for refreshments and to discuss the book. Not far is the Großneumarkt on which Frau Brücker had her currywurst stand, not a very busy place this afternoon but pretty and sunny. We found a shop nearby selling what it claimed was the original currywurst, so a few of us tried some. Then it was off to the Gänsemarkt, where something in the book happened (I don't know what) and where there's a statue of the famous German author Lessing. Our last scheduled stop was to Dammtorstraße and the war memorial of 1876, which Frau Brücker and the book's narrator visit. It shows a company of marching soldiers and says, "Germany must live, and we die if we must." The narrator points out that two of the soldiers are smoking pipes, and we found them.
From there we walked to (I think) the Lombardsbrücke, near which stands a villa mentioned in the book. After that we were officially done with sites from the book, but the group wasn't quite ready to break up. Professor Werner wanted ice cream so we went to a nearby stand to get some (I abstained, still full from currywurst), and then we walked through a nearby park (featuring Planten un Blomen, as stated in low German) to the Japanese gardens. By that point the group was tired, so we headed back to the Bahnhof and home to Lüneburg.
Wednesday nights are karoake nights in the Old Dubliner pub in Lüneburg. I hadn't gone the week before but decided to tonight. Gay bars are a tricky thing since one doesn't want to get there too early. Not so with straight bars, or at least this one. I arrived fashionably late at 10:30 (which would be early for a gay bar) and the place was packed with people standing everywhere. I got a Smirnoff Ice (the one brand of "gay" drinks ala Zima that I can reliably find in Germany) and finally found a few USAC students at a table to one side. Ronnie sang, as you can see from the picture I took.
|Tonight was supposed to be the English/German students night at the Old Dubliner so I went back. I might not have if it had been scheduled to start after the busses finished for the day. I would have been pissed if I'd walked only to find, as I did, that it was actually the night before!
I took the bus back uptown, past my WG, to the Uni to check e-mail. I ran into Donovan and Alejandro, who also were checking e-mail before joining some of the other USAC students to watch Spider-man 2 auf Deutsch. This was after the last bus so we ending up walking back downtown and then across the river to Lüneburg's modern metroplex. Here you buy tickets for reserved seats, as at a play or the opera; you can also buy beer, unlike the Berlin opera at least (The small art house I went to my first weekend in Lüneburg doesn't have reserved seats though). That didn't keep the crowd from pushing in a mad rush once the doors opened to get to their assigned seats, perhaps to ensure not missing the half hour of ads and trailers. The seats are red, plush and comfy. After the trailers the curtains close, the lights come up and two waiters come in to walk the rows and sell ice cream and other snacks to people in their seats.
Spider-man 2 was good. Having seen the first episode in English probably helped me to follow the plot, but my understanding of verbal German is improving. Plus this wasn't a particularly complex movie.
The movie got out after 11, and with standing around talking and indecision about whether the girls wanted to take a taxi home it was 12 before I did get home. Not good considering I wanted to study some for my 8:30am test tomorrow.
I decided to go to Frankfurt rather on the spur of the moment. I want to go to München but am saving that for next weekend when I can leave earlier on Friday. This weekend I was going to go to a small village in the Lüneburger Heath to visit my language partner (a single working mother whom I've met exactly once) but she hadn't replied to my e-mail by Friday afternoon so I didn't know where to go or if she still wanted me.
I thought about going to Bremen, which is only an hour from Lüneburg, but it's north and thus probably also cold and rainy, and it's also smaller than Frankfurt. I could get to Frankfurt by 8pm, which was earlier than to Köln last week, so Frankfurt was it.
There was an IC going from Lüneburg through Frankfurt with no connections, but taking an IC to Hannover where I could catch an ICE was faster, even waiting 40 minutes in the station. I thought about getting another bratwurst from my favorite stand but got a Döner instead, which turned out to be a good decision.
I couldn't get reserved seats this time, buying my ticket less than an hour before the first train (I couldn't get reserved sests for Sunday either though). It wasn't a problem on the train to Hannover, but the next train was so packed there were students sitting on the floor between cars. I kept walking and found one platz frei in a compartment with 5 other students.
(One was a cute blond guy studying from a notebook presumably labeled with his name, Hilmar Hoenes. Turns out from his conversation later with another boy next to him that he is in the navy, preferring it to the air force for his public service and education.)
Figured out how to get to Konstablerwache via the S-Bahn on my first try (more luck than skill). Found a cheap hotel (50 €) nearby with a shower and phone but no toilet or TV! Walked along the Zeil (the big shopping drag) from Konstablerwache to Hauptwache and back. Found the gay bar recommended by Fodor's as a starting point, and it's not bad, with Internet, tables, light, magazines and interesting people. (Adam is an interesting German combination of the Advocate and Playgirl (soft-porn) for gays.)
I set my alarm to get up at 9am because I wanted to get out and do stuff when things opened at 10, but it was just as well because I heard a commotion outside my door shortly after I woke up. I went to use the toilet, and the chain was stuck down, with water running in the bowl and a light spray coming from the tank above. I had to go so I went ahead and used it, but then I couldn't flush. What a dump! That confirmed my decision to move to a nicer hotel, no matter what the cost.
I showered, packed, left my key and walked up GroßeFriedbergerStraße to where it meets Schäfergasse and asked at the Best Western Hotel Scala if they had rooms available. Not only did they, but I could get my key and put my bag in my room right away and the room cost only 67 € and included breakfast the next day! I don't know how the Potsdamerhof stays in business.
I left my bag and set out. I'd gotten a Frankfurter Karte last night that entitled me to use public transportation for a day as well as half off at the museums so I decided today would be museum day. The first place I hit was the Goethe Haus and Museum. Apparently Goethe was born in and grew up in Frankfurt. Most of the Altstadt was destroyed during World War II, so just about all the buildingns there today are reproductions, including the Goethe Haus. His family wasn't poor. The house wasn't big but had four stories and a garden. The landings in the house were big, taking up, as the guide sheet said, almost a third of the house's space, but it made the house pleasantly open and light. The attached museum was interesting, showing paintings and sculptures of and by Goethe's friends, including perhaps his most important friend, the young duke of Saxe-Weimar.
Next to the Goethe Haus is the Volkstheater, which this summer is doing an adapted production of Molière's Amphitryon. I'd read about it in the literature I'd picked up at the tourism office and thouht about going, but stumbilng upon the box office made up my mind. Performances are normally in an open air theatre at the Dominikanerkloster, but in case of inclement weather are held in the theatre next to the Goethe Haus. The woman who sold me the ticket marked on my map where the other site was but seemed to think tonight's performance would be inside.
After the Goethe Haus I'd intended to visit the Dom St. Bartholoméus, technically not a cathedral but nonetheless where many Holy Roman Emperors were crowned. I got lost -- Frommer's is right when they say the map the tourist office at the Bahnoff sells isn't worth the 0,50 € they charge. Part of why I got lost was probably that this weekend is the Ironman competition and many of the streets were blocked off by barriers lining the route of the race. There were tons of Ironmen and their fans around. I bought a good map for 3,50 €, much bigger than I needed but with all the streets in the Altstadt in it. I was near the river so I bought a Nutella ice cream sundae and walked over the Eisern pedestrian bridge.
There I landed on Frankfurt's Museum Way (Schaumainkai), along which many of the city's museums overlook the Main. Today a big flea market was set up in the street. Today the weather was also up to what has been normal during my stay in Germany, no matter how much people here say summers are usually much nicer, and that is cool and rainy. I'd decided not to carry my umbrella, so I ducked into a covered bus stop during one downpour and listened to the big crowd around me talk about how tired they were of the rain. When it let up some, I put up my hood and walked to the Liebighaus, a sculpture museum recommended by Frommer's. I was practically the only person there and was outnumbered by museum matrons watching me to make sure I didn't deface statues. This was the best of the museums I viisited in Frankfurt. In particular I really liked one Greek sculpture of a discus thrower. It also struck me how similar Christians in the Middle Ages were to the ancient Greeks and Romans in creating art to pay homage to their gods (and looking at the art, I'd count the blessed virgin mother as just as much of a god as Hera or Athena).
I hit a couple other museums on my way back up Schaumainkai. The Museum of Architecture is going to be closed starting next week for a month of renovations and was charging reduced rates for two exhibits. I didn't spend a lot of time there but it was good to escape the rain. I spent more time in the Museum of Applied Arts, which had collections including some very modern ceramics created by an Israeli artist from industrial scraps (pretty enough, but art?), lots of old furniture and tapastries and china, a special exhibit of enamel art ("enamel" is "email" auf Deutsch, which confused me at first since "email" auf Deutsch also now means e-mail too), and an exhibit on modern industrial design (my Braun toothbrush is a work of art). Before leaving the south bank of the Main, I stopped at an outdoor stand to get a glass of Apfelwein, for which Frankfurt is apparently famous. I took a picture of the sign to remember it, and the stand's proprieter thought at first I was a spy for a competitor, until he heard me talk and realized I was a tourist.
I walked back across the Eisener bridge and noticed that the Dom's tower was covered with ads, each of which at the bottom somewhat apologetically stating that it was helping to pay for the Dom's renovation. I stopped at the Café am Dom across the street from the Dom for a große Coke (warm, ugh!) and a croque monsieur, and then headed over to the Dom, where because a baptism was taking place tourists couldn't enter the sanctuary. Having just seen the Dom in Köln last week, I really wasn't impressed by the faux Dom in Frankfurt, but it was worth a stop.
I walked down to the Alte Brücke, thinking there might be stairs down to the small island beneath it in the Main (there were, but the gate was locked). Made for some good pictures though. I walked back towards home and then walked along the Zeil, Frankfurt's big pedestrian shopping street, lined with big name department stores, along the walls of which are street vendors with their wares on blankets. I went into the big Gallerie Kaufhof, not to buy anything but to go upstairs to look out its windows over the Hauptwache. Next it was back to the new hotel for a nap before the play.
The woman was right, and the performance was indoors. My cheap 18 € ticket was in the 16th row, the first under the balcony and the start of the cheap seats. A group of older women sat next to me. They were worried about tall people sitting in front of us, unnecessarily as it turned out. There was no one in the two rows before us and lots of empty seats to the right for several more rows. The performance was obviously meant for outdoors as actors came in from behind us and from doors to the side. The play was more difficult for me to understand than a movie about Spider-Man, but I got the majority of it. Some of it was funny without language, for example, with Mercury, the gods' messenger, coming in on roller skates.
|I was tired, so I decided not to try to do anything in Frankfurt today. I got up at 9, went downstairs for the included breakfast (pretty good spread, similar to the hostel in Berlin except without a crowd and a nicer ambiance - I got a table overlooking the square), and then went back upstairs to lounge in bed and watch TV until 11:30, when I got up to pack and check out.
I thought briefly about walking to the train station since it was sunny and nice and then decided to be lazy and take the S-Bahn the three brief stops. It was very convenient this time. On Friday I walked under half the station getting to the S-Bahn platform and then got out on the wrong end at Konstablerwache. This time, by luck, not skill, I took all the right escalators and ended up right in the middle of the Bahnhof without much walking. I used one of the numerous and convenient terminals to look up trains, and it turned out that taking the IC from Frankfurt to Lüneburg would take exactly the same time as using an ICE to get to Hannover more quickly but then waiting on the same IC to go from Hannover to Lüneburg. So I have a nice window seat with few people around me and a train ride of four and a half hours, lots of stops but no connections.
Lots of people got on the train in Gießen, not entirely filling the train but being rather loud. I wonder if the train will become as full before Hannover as it was coming down on Friday. (As it turned out the seat beside me was empty the whole way.)
Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe was a pretty big station, with a big building and lots of people getting off and on.
Usually the conductor needs to see your ticket only after you first board and then remembers having seen your ticket. When a new conductor boards the train he or she announces "Personalwechsel" (personnel change) and everyone has to show tickets. Today the conductor who did that said "schönes Reisen" (roughly, have a nice trip) after seeing each person's ticket, a nicer touch than just "Danke."
4 minutes late getting into Nordheim, after an unexplained 4-minute pause in the middle of nowhere after Göttingen. By Alfel only 1 minute late though. Partly out of hunger but more out of curiousity I walked back through six or seven cars to the diner car to get lunch. The other cars were more full than mine. Lunch was okay but expensive -- little roasted würste, ein Brötchen and a 0,5L Coke, cold though, for 7 €.
A boy who boarded at Hannover played a computer game by Westwood Productions whose opening featured a picture of the Statue of Liberty against a red sky full of airships each marked with a Soviet hammer and sickle.
The busses were still running when I got to Lüneburg but the two that go by my WG weren't due to arrive for half an hour (just one bus per hour on Sundays). I could have walked home in that time but it was cold and wet and part of why I left Frankfurt at noon instead of later was to be able to take a bus from the Bahnhof.
During the week I usually ate lunch at the Mensa (German for cafeteria), partly because it was cheap but also because it was a good opportunity to eat authentic German food. Some of the other American students were a bit finicky and thought the food unappealing. I did get a bit tired of Kartoffeln (potatoes) and so opted today for noodles, which were quite tasty. If you look closely at the picture, you may notice that my beverage was a strange mix of orange and carrot juices (only in Germany?), which tasted much better than it sounded.|
|I was tired of the gray and wet today so I decided to treat myself to a nice dinner and a movie. I went to Sin Nombre, the Spanish restaurant that is also allegedly a gay bar, though there was no evidence of that at 6pm. I had a somewhat hard time deciding what to get. I asked the waiter what a certain wine drink was, and he said it was white wine with soda, so I got that. It wasn't bad. I got a tomato soup to start, which the waiter served without a spoon. He was very embarrassed when I asked for a spoon (Entshuldigen, aber ich brauche einen löffel). I got some sort of chicken dish with asparagus, which was pretty good. A girl in our cultural differences class this afternoon had said how much she disliked the asparagus her roommate's mother had served; maybe that put me in the mood for it. After dinner I was brought a coffee drink with whipped cream even though I hadn't ordered anything, perhaps as recompense for the lack of spoon earlier. I drank most of it since I was cold, but it confirmed that I don't like coffee.
Afterwards I wandered a bit on my way to the Movie Palace where 8 Frauen (a French film, 8 Femmes, that I saw and really liked last year) was showing. On the way I saw some graffiti on a T Mobile phone booth on Am Werdet that said, "Nazis verpißt euch! (Nazis, piss off!)" I hadn't realized that there were Nazis in Lüneburg to be pissed off.
The movie had German titles, noting the German actresses (famous actressess apparently) speaking each part (but not singing).
|Dinner at an Italian restaurant, outdoors although it was a bit cold, under an umbrella so the rain (and it did pour down rain later) didn't matter. Spagetti with turkey, kind of like tetrazini, although the turkey wasn't like turkey one gets in America. Good though.|
|Normally Thursdays are free but conversation class this week is split into two parts, half today and half tomorrow, to let people leave earlier tomorrow for travel. Today's isn't til 15.45 so I came downtown for lunch, this time at the Glockenhof restaurant on a quiet square off the beaten path. I ordered the special, Seelachsfilet, which translates as filet of coal fish, whatever that is.|
I completely forgot to study Konnektoren for this morning's test, having concentrated on Konjunktive I. I think I did great on the part about Der Vorleser though.
No one wanted to be in conversation class since everyone had travel plans and everyone knew that class ran long yesterday. I did my Referrat first, and people didn't seem too bored. The last person to go was a Spanish girl whom no one could understand.
On the way to Hannover a group of guys travelling together sat next to me. One sat on his bag in the aisle, and looked at me when I laughed at him. He moved to a seat in front of the other guys and spent the trip turned around looking at them to talk with them. The guy sitting right next to me stank and pulled out a leftover Currywurst sandwich to eat, reminding me of what Steffi said in government class the other day about Europeans having different standards than Americans do about what foods must be refrigerated.
Before Uelzen a women nearby moved, perhaps annoyed by their noise, and the rest moved to the two sets of facing seats. In Uelzen a bunch of cute soldiers got on, filling the rest of the empty seats.
In Hannover I got a bratwurst at my usual stand and then had to pee, so instead of waiting to get on the train I paid 0,60 €. I guess taxes in Europe don't fund public restrooms.
The train from Hannover to München was ganz voll, but I finally found a seat in the very last row of the last car, again in smoking, right between two smokers. Lots of people got off at G?ttingen, the first station after Hannover, leaving me with the seat next to me empty, making the rest of the trip fairly comfortable, albeit intermittently smoky.
South of Hannover are modern windmills generating electricity from the air. It's lots hillier in this part of Germany, with lots of tunnels. Würzburg was pretty.
It was really nice that the Maritim hotel is only a block from the Bahnhof. The neighborhood is full of sex shops and theaters, but the hotel is nice, and the Bahnhof is convenient for subway connections.
I took the subway to what I thought would be close to the Englischer Garten. It was still light and very nice out. I got off at Odeonsplatz, and by the time I got to the Garten, street lights were on and it was dusk, but not yet very dark. I was a bit unsure about walking in the park after dark, but there were tons of people around, including at least one old lady with a walker by herself. I walked and walked but couldn't find the Chinescher Turm, where Fodor's recommended biergarten is, and was getting tired so I finally crossed the park and turned around. Leaving the park near where I'd entered I came across soldiers with raised rifles in front of a blocked off street and a big building behind barricades. That's right, the friendly local American consulate.
My plan for the day was to hit the two most important museums, a few gay shops and see a play or the opera. The two museums were the Residenz, formerly the palace of the dukes, electors and kings of Bavaria, and the Deutsches Museum, a huge collection showing the histories of various technologies.
The first shop was in my neighborhood, near the Bahnhof. Not that different from the Q, really. I wanted to buy another German gay magazine but not to carry it all day so I didn't get anything here. I was going to take the U-bahn to Marienplatz and went underground intending to catch a train but after walking a ways saw a sign above a stairway for Marienplatz, so I went up and found myself on a pedestrian shopping street. I also noticed how hot it was out. It's really summer in Munich.
I found World of Music, the place Fodor's recommends for buying tickets. It was crowded and very noisy though, and as my German listening skills aren't always sharp even in a quiet place, I opted to leave, heading to the Residenz. Part of or at least next to the Residenz is the Bayerishes Staatsschauspiel, or the Baverian State Theatre (for plays, as opposed to operas or other things). For 31 € I got a third row ticket to the evening performance of Drei Mal Leben, a play I'd never heard of but figured couldn't be that bad.
The Residenz is enormous. Considering that the Wittelsbachs ruled Bavaria for hundreds of years without interruption and you realize how much time they had to build and remodel. Audio guides are included in the cost of the tickets (and I got a student rate ticket), cool handheld computers on which you punch the number of the exhibit about which you want to hear. I cheated and listened in English. I got lost a few times and deviated from the official sequence, but it didn't really matter since you could hear about wherever you were. After a couple hours I was getting tired of being on my feet so I found my way to the treasury, which has an impressive collection of crowns, jewels, portable altars and much more. I was surprised that there were only paste jewels on some of the crowns because the Wittelsbachs had auctioned off jewels in the 1930s and 50s, well after the last king had been deposed in 1918. I wonder why that was allowed.
After finishing the treasury, my back was really aching. I went back to Marienplatz and was lucky among the throngs of tourists to find a table in the shade at Woerner's Café, at Weinstraße across from the Rathaus. I had a spaghetti ice cream and eine großes Cola, perfect for einen hei?en Sommer.
Sitting looking at the free map I got from the hotel I couldn't find the Deutsches Museum but did find it on the map I ripped out of the gay guide last night. A hotel gives out maps that don't include one of the city's main attractions?!
At any rate the Deutsches Museum is on an island in the middle of the Isar river. By the time I got there it was starting to sprinkle, normal weather this summer for Deutschland and fune for being inside a museum. The museum is huge, too large to see in two hours. One exhibit I made a point of stopping at was on die Br?der Wright, who I of course know as a Daytonian but still wanted to see. Other exhibits I went through at least parts of were on erergy, chemistry, musical instruments, vision, water, tunnels, bridges and trains. Part of the museum's appeal is supposed to be its many hands-on exhibits (turn a crank to operate a model generator, press a button to spin a colored disk so your brain imagines new colors on it) but I was disappointed that quite a few of these exhibits were not working. Some showed a Microsoft Windows error auf Deutsch and others just had a sign saying "nicht funktionierend." Not a good thing for a country supposedly known for engineering and quality. Still I stayed til closing time, 17:00.
By then it was pouring down rain but I managed to find the right subway and bus to the Chinesischer Turm and its surrounding biergartens. I'd been smart enough finally to look on a map in the subway. Too bad Fodor's didn't point out that busses go through the Englisher Garten.
I tried to order a Lowenbrau since it was a local beer I could remember, but they didn't have it. I got some normales helles bier instead. I also got the Würziges Schweinenackensteak mit knusprige Kartoffelspalten und feurige Barbeque-Sauce.
There was one more gay shop I wanted to see, which was open until 20:00, late for Germany, especially on a weekend. Then I ended up going directly to the play, no time for a nap. They make you pay 1,80 € for a program, after already having paid 31 € for a seat.
I understood most of the play, which turned out to be an adaptation of a French one by Eugen Helmlé, featuring two couples. The play was entertaining, but almost as entertaining was the game the audience plays afterwards with the actors, who were called back onstage by applause five times, appearing in several permutations, the same sex couple version earning even more applause (I saw it coming since the couples had already swapped partners for one round of applause).
|I decided again to take an earlier train. Checkout time at Maritim Hotels is 11am (one bad thing about them - checkout at the Best Western in Frankfurt was noon) so I got to the Bahnhof shortly thereafter. My train was at 12:55, but there was a train leaving at 11:45 going to Ausberg where I could get on a train that would have me to Lüneburg by 6, which would ensure me a bus ride home. My reserved trains would get me home by 7, probably in time for the last bus but not for sure (so long as the train was on time I could have gotten the 7:10 bus but the train I did take was 10 minutes late).
The train to Augsburg was pretty full, but I found a seat without too many problems, next to a smoker, of course. The train from Augsberg wasn't very full but had a lot of reserved seats. I found one next to an old man, this time not in smoking.
In Munich before getting on the train I'd bought two bottles of water and one ice tea, not wanting to pay an Bord prices. I was also in the mood for a pretzel and found some sliced in half and spread with some sort of cream cheese and chives. Very tasty later on the train.
About 20 minutes out of Augsberg, just after ticket checks and pretzels, we came to a very fast stop, not for long, but still it made me wonder what we were trying to avoid hitting. Or maybe it was to throw someone lacking a ticket off the train.
I finished writing and settled down for a nap when we pulled into Würzburg, where lots of people got on, including on person who had a reservation for my seat, damn it. I found another seat in the same car though, a reserved aisle seat which luckily belonged to a man who had taken the window seat behind it and therefore was ther to say that I could have his reserved seat. It was in the smoking section though.
In the book I'm reading, Der Vorleser, I've reached the part where Hanna is on trial. That reminds me that Iris, my German teacher here, used the word "der Prozess" to talk about general processses and not just to refer to courtroom trials. Last year during a presentation on the process of moving to Germany I'd been corrected, rather rudely, by a classmate who came from Poland when I used "Prozess" in that general way.
At Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe I overheard a couple who took a pair of reserved seats talking about how on IC trains if the people didn't take their reserved seats at the station it indicated the seats were then up for grabs. Sure enough a few minutes later, another couple came to claim the seats.
Today for dinner I was thinking about the Ratskellar but there was no one there. Instead I went to the Elrado steakhouse, also on the Rathaus square. I really enjoyed the Riesling and the steak, even if one can get both in America. (By the way, wine by the glass is Schoppenwein, literally by the mug, and actually brought in a mug-sized carafe and poured into a wine glass.)
After dinner I went over to campus to use the computer lab during off-peak times. The Windows lab was still full, which makes sense since it features fast newer machines, but I didn't mind since I brought my laptop to the Mac lab, disconnecting one of the vintage 1999-era iMacs from the net as I'd seen some of the German students do during the day. After half an hour though, the lab monitor came in the room, noticed my laptop and reprimanded me for breaking the rule. What rule? I told him I'd seen other students using their own laptops. He pushed the door back and pointed to the sign there. "Keine Laptops." From my prior life in IT, I know how such rules might come to pass, but as an end user now, all I can say is "Scheiße!"
|Today was my last lit class since the professor is out of town tomorrow. I really didn't feel very comfortable with this class at the start, mostly because reading auf Deutsch was so difficult but also because following along in class as well as trying to make any sensible comments was hard as well. Now that the class is over I feel much better. Reading Der Vorleser wasn't quite so difficult, even ohne Wörterbuch (without a dictionary), although I still miss some things, for example in this book what exactly Hanna was accused of having done. But I got the big surprises and was confidant enough to be able to talk about the theme of the book.
I went to see Mona Lisa Lacheln today. I'd wanted to see Mona Lisa Smile since I saw the previews. I thought it'd be interesting to see if Julia Robert's laugh sounded the same auf Deutsch (es war ganz anders). It was at the small cinema downtown, and I noticed that the tickets here, as at the multiplex across the river, have assigned seats too. I went ahead and sat in my assigned place since this theatre used the clever idea of having a diagonal aisle so that two seats in each row, including my seat, had no seat directly in from of them. Still it was funny to see an older German couple come into an almost empty theatre and carefully seek out their assigned places, across the aisle from me. A girl after them just sat down in front, probably not in her assigned spot.
After the movie it was pouring down rain, but I walked for a bit anyway, unsure what I wanted to eat. I found a place call Le Petit, on Am Stint, the street on the harbor (yes, Lüneburg has one, albeit very small). I thought briefly about ordering some kind of Scandinavian dish they had but settled instead for Schnitzel "Jäger" (hunter) style.
I learned that waitresses may address drunken customers mit "du" instead of the formal "Sie," although that may have been because the man so addressed was a regular.
The restaurant had a cat, who sat at the table next to me and licked himself while the men at the bar nearby discussed things, including, if I made it out correctly, the origin of Currywurst.
After dinner I had another glass of wine and read the Landeszeitung für die Lüneburger Heide, ein Niedersächiches Tageblatt. They had an article commemorating the 60th anniversary of Hans-Alexander von Voß, father of a local pastor, Ellen Ringhausen, who took part in the attempted assassination of Hitler. Actually he died on November 8th, 1944 but July 20th was when the assassination attempt took place. His son-in-law, Gerhard Ringhausen, is a professor at Universität Lüneburg.
Another article was about the 100th birthday of East German author Uwe Johnson, who wrote Jahrestage.
"Bitte im Sitzen pinkeln" reads the sign in the WC even here, proving that women in Deutschland have an obsession in attempting to control how men piss. I wonder if they really believe men follow their instructions.
Today was the final exam for my German government class, 7 questions requiring short answers on things such as the election of representatives to the Bundestag, the three pillars of the European Union and reasons existing EU countries would want new members. Not terribly difficult.
I had to do laundry, so I timed it so I'd be done in time to take the last bus downtown at 8:11. It stays light until almost 10, so I spent some time walking around taking pictures. I got some good ones of a couple of the churches, the Rathaus and the old town wall (both sides). I wanted to get a Döner kebap at the place Donovan had recommended and that we'd walked by on the way to Spider-Man 2, but I couldn't find it. As it turned out I had detoured just before I'd reached to take pictures of one church, but I found it when I looped around again. The kebap was good but not as good as the one with paprika I got at the Hannover Hauptbahnhof.
The Döner place was around the corner and up the street from Am Stint, the harbor-front street with Lüneburg's nightlife, including karaoke on Wednesday nights at the Old Dubliner. My second week in Lüneburg I'd come at what I thought was an early time, 10:30, and the place was packed already. This is my last week, so I decided to go again, but I arrived at 9:30 this time, well before any crowd and before the cover charge even. It picked up and was its usual crowded, smoky self soon after 10 though.
Today was the first day of summer in Lüneburg, not the first day with any sun, but the first that's been sunny all day and hot, something I've never been in Lüneburg.
There was a small USAC going away picnic in the Kurpark, and I saw shirtless boys in the grass, something I'd also not seen in Lüneburg yet, as well as kids playing in the fountain, including a completely naked little boy of 4 or so.
Today was also my room check, to make sure I hadn't damaged or stolen anything. The woman turned on each of the three lights and counted every photo, postcard and poster on the walls (the normal occupant had tons!). Like I'd steal just one photo. I'm also expected to wash the sheets sometime after I get up tomorrow but before I turn in the key in the afternoon, as if I didn't have class tomorrow.
I went shopping for a few last souvenirs and then went to see Swimming Pool, which I've seen auf Englisch/Französich but not auf Deutsch. It will be my last film auf Deutsch for a while, especially without subtitles in English.
Today was a good day for eating out. It was my last chance to eat at the Ratskellar, and there were a fair number of people there but not too large a crowd so I went for it. I was joined by a loud group of Americans. ("Do we want to sit under the umbrella? I don't give a shit. Do they have Budweiser?") Luckily they stopped only for a drink, not dinner.
Traveling with three bags requires a taxi. Yesterday I took the train from Lüneburg to Hamburg, and trekking through Hamburg Hauptbahnhof with two bags on my shoulder and one on wheels wasn't working, so I figured out how to balance the larger shoulder one on the rolling suitcase, which worked fine until the middle of the crosswalk to the hotel when it all tipped over. That's when I decided that today I'd taxi to the airport instead of going via S-Bahn.
It was only 20 €, well worth it, and everything seemed to be going fine. The first glitch, a slight one, was that I arrived at the terminal too early to check in. I'd come early because I had to check out at 11 and figured I'd check the bags for the flight and hang out for a while. However it turns out that 2 hours before the flight is not just the recommended arrival time but also the earliest at which one is allowed to check in. So I waited 40 minutes and then with the other earlybirds walked over to check in, at which point we discovered the second glitch. Our flight to Amsterdam was cancelled.
Mad rush to the ticket counter and then a 40-minute wait while they figured out what to do with us. There was a group of Americans here for a family reunion, and they too were told, as I was, that they couldn't get home until tomorrow. One of the women turned out to have been from Dayton originally. We're flying to Amsterdam on a later flight today, and then we'll take an 8am flight tomorrow to Detroit. They go on to Denver, and I of course go home to Dayton.
After a nice lunch and some wine (The great thing about wine is that after a couple of glasses you don't care about flight delays) it was time finally to go through security, but then I still had an hour and a half to go. 2,50 € for a 0,5 l Coke. Perhaps the Zug wasn't that expensive after all.
The hotel KLM provided was of course at the airport (actually a 15-minute shuttle ride away). They also paid for dinner at the hotel, a rather sparse buffet, but I was hungry so I had some salad, soup and fish.
Then I took the shuttle back to the airport and caught a train to Amsterdam's central station, a quicker trip than the shuttle between airport and hotel actually. I'd been to Amsterdam before, but it was fun to walk around and see all the strange things to see. For example, some modern hippies sit on the sidewalk banging pots and sticks, apparently earning enough spare change from this music to pay for their "coffee house" habit.
|I was up early today to get to the airport and through security in time for an 8:00 flight. I was surprised, having gone through the security check (X-ray machine for my luggage, metal detector for me) run by the Dutch, to learn that the United States runs its own such security at gates for American-bound flights, supplemented by personal interviews, and not just the "Did you pack your bags yourself" questions but also questions like "Do you have your WorldPerks frequent flier card?" I didn't have it, just the number, which the security agent actually didn't need, but he let me through anyway.
After everyone's personal interviews, we got to wait in our own secured lounge and soon hear an announcement that boarding will begin shortly, families with small children first and then WorldBusiness travelers, which today, because of yesterday's travel glitch, includes me. People started to congregate near the door, and wait, and wait, and 20 minutes later, the next travel glitch: boarding is delayed while a technical problem with the plane is worked on. 20 minutes later and an announcement that it's not likely the problem can be fixed but another Airbus A330 is available. Finally another announcement that the new plane is in fact available but at another gate, to which we were escorted, en masse behind a roped off path through the terminal, with guards every ten feet whose job was presumably to ensure that we didn't pick up any nail clippers on the way to the new gate.
After another hour we finally boarded, and thus I retained my coveted business class seat, entitling me to luxuries such as a mimosa before takeoff. My seat had a remote-controlled leg/footrest and two lumbar controls that could be set to vibrate. A flight attendant took our orders for breakfast, and I went for the omelet with bacon. I get a big tray of fruit and yogurt and pastries and say, sorry, I'd ordered the omelet, only to be told that yes, but this was the first course and the omelet would come later, which it did, quite tastily. If that wasn't enough food, World Business Class travelers are invited to get up during the flight to help themselves to snacks in the galley. My seat mate got a big chocolate bar and ordered a glass of red wine, which, she said, goes with chocolate. I figured, why not, and followed suit. I guess Northwest still makes a profit (does it make a profit?) despite giving away shitloads of food and alcohol because most World Business Class passengers pay a thousand dollars extra for their tickets.
After the really pleasant flight across the Atlantic (this direction the interactive maps that didn't work so well back in tourist class on the flight over worked fine), it was back to travelers' hell. Of course you have to claim your checked luggage to haul it through Customs in case they want to look through it, and Northwest kindly unloaded our flight's bags onto two separate conveyor belts, making finding bags a fun game. Luckily after the 40 minutes or so it took to get my bags, the Customs agents didn't care to ask me many questions or to ask me to open my bags. I rechecked my bags and was directed by the friendly gate agent to the commuter terminal (by the way, this time I did take a picture of the cool tunnel between the terminals) where I could catch a 3:20 flight to Dayton, or so she said.
I got to the commuter terminal, waited in line, talked to the overworked gate agent, asked what time my flight would land in Dayton and was told 6:30. It doesn't take 3 hours to fly from Detroit to Dayton (well, actually it takes longer), but the 3:20 flight was full, something this gate agent couldn't tell me since she didn't even know there was a 3:20 flight, despite its being listed on the board above and behind her. I asked her if she could get me on the 3:20 flight, she said what flight, and I said turn around and look up. She played with the computer, said she didn't know what was wrong and that I'd just have to take the later flight, at which point I finally threw a hissy fit, asking to speak to her supervisor, who said she wasn't pleased with my attitude. I said sorry, but I wasn't going to wait in the airport for 3 hours just because her employee couldn't work the computer and that it wasn't my fault my plane was late, causing me to miss my flight. She said it wasn't her fault either, to which I said, true, as an individual it wasn't but that as a representative of Northwest it was. ("Not my fault"?! Whatever happened to "I'm very sorry for the inconvenience we've caused you"?) As it turned out, because of all of the problems with Northwest flights, the 3:20 flight was in fact full, but the supervisor placated me by giving me a meal voucher for lunch. As with yesterday a bit of wine (and whine?) helps one to care less about flight delays, a good thing because the later flight turned out also to be delayed, its pilots stuck in Cincinnati waiting for a late plane to fly to Detroit.
Another bright note though is Tonya, the sole flight attendant on the plane to Dayton after it finally took off. She not only apologized to all the tired passengers for the inconveniences we'd suffered but said that despite the flight's being only 30 minutes that she was going to serve rum and Cokes to all those who wanted one, and would we please hit our call buttons if we did. She had to laugh out loud at how quickly we hit our buttons.