|Okay, I know I'm behind in getting all my pictures from Germany up, but among all those pictures is one that goes along perfectly with the topic of a Telegraph article I just came across. (Although I do like to read the Electronic Telegraph, I came across the article via Towleroad via Kinja's gay blog guide.)
At any rate the article is about a new device that German women are attaching to their toilets to scold their husbands, boyfriends and sons into peeing sitting down, something that is apparently a big obsession among German women. In the WG in which I lived this summer, there were signs in both bathrooms admonishing male users to sit down to pee. I even saw a similar sign in the restroom of one of the restaurants in L?neburg. I can say this freely now since I'm not close enough for Wiebke et. al. to hit me, but when I had to pee, I did so standing up, confident in the fact that I was behind a closed and locked door. Hearing some electronic voice would have made me even more adamant about peeing standing up, not because I'm worried about being thought a wimp (the German for which, as the article points out, is "Sitzpinkler" or someone who sits to pee), but because it's my body, damn it. I agree with women's right to choose, so they'd better agree with my right to choose also.
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.
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.
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 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 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!"
|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.
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 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.
|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.|
|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.|
|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).
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, 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.
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 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.)
|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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
|Today was a long day school-wise since I had three classes, compared to two most days and only one Thursdays. The most interesting was literature. I hadn't finished the second chapter of Currywurst yet and figured I'd get to the classroom a bit early to try to read more. Well as it turned out I was a bit late instead as one of the things I hadn't understood yesterday was that the professor had moved up today's class by half an hour. Still I was earlier than another of the Americans who also hadn't gotten that.
Still class went better today. Professor Werner led us through some key points, and I was quick enough to catch what he was looking for a couple times and answer correctly. "Sehr schön" he says whenever someone says something he likes.
Today was my first literature class, and unlike yesterday, I really feel behind. I'm behind on the reading (Die Entdeckung der Currywurst by Uwe Timm), and I don't understand everything the professor or the other students say. Reinhard Werner, the professor for the class, is very nice and does try to make sure we all understand (only by explaining in German though since again the first language of half the students is not English), but I'd be stopping the class too often if I asked about everything I didn't get. Luckily discussion today is not about the book but about why people read, what people should read and what makes a good reader, with a copy (in German, of course) of an excerpt of a lecture Vladimir Nabokov gave about what makes a good reader. (Real-time reading and comprehension auf Deutsch -- I'm starting to feel like some of my reading intervention students last quarter at Stivers!)|
Today was the first day of classes. I'd been a bit worried about being in Track IV, which is the most advanced, but no longer. I understand just about everything and feel comfortable talking. One of the other Americans seems to be struggling a bit. Beside Americans we have some people from Spain and Mexico in the class, so there's absolutely only German to be used, although the Spanish speakers do know some English.
My second class is about German government and is taught by a German grad student whose writing her doctoral thesis on American students' perceptions of Germany and how they are affected by participating in overseas programs. She speaks very good English, and the class is in English since some students are Track I (no prior German experience). The class is fun enough but very slow. Americans don't know anything about Europe.
|Today has been a quiet day, the first in a week where I haven't had to set my alarm. I slept late, until about 11, and then got my dirty clothes together to do some laundry. I'd been warned earlier in the week to save my 50-cent pieces as they are the only that the washing machines will take. I ran into Wiebke in the kitchen and asked her to show me where the washers were. They're down in the basement and there are about eight of them, alongside one dryer and a lot of drying stands. Germans, environmentally and energy conscious as they are, not to mention thrifty, tend not to use the dryer. It costs 1,50 € to do a load of laundry, and the washer, a Miele Professional WS 5426/MC13, has a ton of settings unlike those on American models. Wiebke recommended choosing the 40 degrees Celsius setting. The washer first shows you the temperature of the water as it heats up, and then finally shows minutes remaining. After a few minutes, I knew to come back in 25 minutes.
I had 9,00 € worth of 50-cent coins, so I could have done three loads of laundry if I'd wanted. With whites and colors separated I had two loads, but having packed enough underwear for 10 days, I can last a couple more days on whites. Since all the drying stands were full of clothes left to dry in the damp, cold basement, I made the not-so-thrifty American decision just to wash the colors and splurge on drying them. I timed my third trip to the basement perfectly with the end of the dryer's cycle, opened the door, and found my clothes still rather damp, especially the shirt collars. Still I'm glad I splurged for the dryer because I can't imagine how long it would have taken my clothes to air dry. My shirts are hanging on a bit of extension cord I rigged up in my room, and the collars are still damp several hours later.
I've spend the day relaxing, working on these blog entries and doing some reading in German of the local Lüneburg paper, the university paper and the weekend edition of Die Zeit that I picked up at the Hamburg Bahnhof. Reading in German is a tedious process because there are so many words I either have to look up or just decide to make assumptions about. I did stop by the kitchen to fix a snack for lunch and was astonished to see the dish washing indicator had spun forward two people since my turn last night. If it gets spun back to me by tomorrow already, I might just have to call an MTV Real World-style house meeting and propose that we each just wash our own dishes. I probably shouldn't do that on my third day here, but I'm not going to spend 40 minutes every day washing other people's dishes.
I'm off to walk downtown. On our way back last night, we passed a café whose name I recognized as one I'd come across during my pre-travel planning, a place that is supposed to have WiFi access. If it does I will try to post this week's entries. Otherwise they'll have to wait until I can get on the Internet at school tomorrow. (It turned out that the place had an AOL Internet station but not WiFi, so I'm posting this Monday from school after all.)
Today we met Eva downtown for a walking tour of Lüneburg. Another gray and cool day, but at least not a rainy one. Saturdays it seems that everyone in Lüneburg comes downtown to go shopping. I got to Am Sande, one of downtown's main streets, in time to buy some bread and detergent, which I'd forgotten to buy yesterday, and a pastry for breakfast. Eva walked us around the perimeter of downtown, pointing out each of the three main churches whose steeples serve as landmarks and showing us particular shops and restaurants. We walked to the historic harbor, small but from which the salt that made Lüneburg rich was shipped. Most of the buildings in Lüneburg are very, very old, a rarity in German towns, most of which were bombed during World War II. On the edge of town, at the edges of the underlying salt deposits, many buildings lean one way or another or sometimes both ways, with windows and roofs made crooked by the slowly-shifting ground underneath. I took a picture of a gate whose two posts had shifted so much over the years as to bring the gate's two halves together. Lüneburg's town hall (Rathaus) is also unique in that instead of tearing it down and rebuilding it as each new architectural style came into vogue, Lüneburg simply added on new parts in each style.
The tour over, we were again left to our own devices, but Eva had strongly encouraged us to spend the afternoon and evening in Hamburg. I'd misunderstood about our student passes getting us free transportation to Hamburg (only in Lüneburg unfortunately), but a schones Wochenende pass good on slow (local) trains throughout Germany costs only 28 € and is good for up to 5 people. After some logistics (dropping stuff off at home, making minute trips to the grocery, etc.) we all made it to the Bahnhof (train station) and onto a train to Hamburg, a trip that took only half an hour. Right around the corner from the Bahnhof is the Kunsthalle, Hamburg's art museum, which was hosting a special exhibition of Max Liebermann's garden paintings (very beautiful and very popular). After the museum, we took the S-Bahn to the Reeperbahn, Hamburg's well-known erotic district, full of bars and shops and theatres catering to every sexual interest. We walked from there to the river and along the harbor, stopping to eat at a pub there. We continued on to the ruins of a church on Ost-West Straße. Then pretty much tired out, we U-Bahned back to Reeperbahn for a last look at Hamburg's seedy district, surprised to find many older German couples looking at the sites there as dusk fell. We returned to the Bahnhof, missing a train to Lüneburg by only a few minutes, which gave us the greater part of an hour to explore the train station. We got back to Lüneburg around 11 and started walking home by way of downtown (busses stop around 8PM, although you can call a flat rate taxi for 2,50 € per person if you're willing to wait 30 minutes or so). We ended up deciding we were too tired to hit any of the many bars or cafes that were still open, instead heading for home and beds after about a 15-minute walk.
I'd known before I left this morning that it was my turn to wash the dishes, and when I made it back tonight, there were dishes all over the kitchen. Mind you, I haven't yet eaten a meal in the kitchen, having used so far only a glass, but I figured, okay, I'll pitch in for international harmony, so I spent 40 minutes before bed washing everyone else's dishes. I wasn't sure whether to throw away the potatos and rice that had been left in two pots on the stove, ending up making an executive decision that it's not good to throw away other people's food. (The space allocated to each of us for food storage and respecting each other's food was part of the rules I learned the first night here.) I did feel some satisfaction after dishes were put away and I spun the indicator forward to Conny.
|Today was orientation day for the July session students. I knew that but hadn't gotten the exact time or place, expecting my buddy to tell me or that it would be in my information packet. However, it wasn't, and Wiebke had no idea about it either. She left a message with someone last night but apparently never heard from them. I got myself up by 8AM, got ready and headed over to campus before 9. I found the building in which the USAC office is and even used my German to ask a woman in the building if she could tell me where the orientation is, but she couldn't. I sat around for a bit, then went exploring some more, found the student union, bought a Coke, looked at bulletin boards, picked up some local and campus newspapers, went back to the USAC office, waited some more and felt generally frustrated. By 9:40 I was leaving the building, not quite sure where I was headed, when Eva Vosshagen, the program director, was walking up, a bit surprised to see me. Orientation was at 10 in building 16. We went back up to her office, and she gave me the orientation materials to look over while she checked e-mail. She was very friendly and told me I should call her "du" and not "Sie" (my roommates had also asked me to use the informal "du").
The orientation meeting itself wasn't particularly interesting, nothing earth shattering but just a chance to get to know Eva, to get our class schedules and to get our health cards and our university IDs, which get us free public transportation in Lüneburg. Mary, a June/July student who is working in the USAC office at the university, gave us a campus tour. It was rainy and cold, so I didn't take any pictures. We ate lunch at the Mensa (cafeteria). I got a salad and some meatballs with rice for a few Euro. The university has a decent library, which we may use but not borrow books from since it takes too long to get a library card. The university also has two computer labs, one Windows and one Mac, that are open weekdays until 10pm, Saturdays until 2pm and not at all on Sundays (a far cry from the plentiful and 24 hour labs at Wright State where most students also have computers and net access in their rooms or homes). On campus is a bookstore, that unlike American college bookstores sells only books, no school jackets or sweatshirts and no school supplies, which are sold in a separate store above the Mensa. The campus also has a bank with ATM (we checked, and our cards do work here, thankfully) and a small Aldi's.
We also took the bus downtown (it's only a 10 minute walk, but we were lazy). Downtown Lüneburg is full of shops and restaurants along pedestrian-only cobblestone streets. Mary went on to the train station to go to Bremen to visit a friend for the weekend, and the rest of us headed to Lüneburg's premier department store, Karstock. I bought a nice jacket with pockets and a hood onsale for 30 €, and another student got a cell phone for 50 € (including 15 €'s worth of minutes). I might get a cell phone too if I can find a somewhat better deal. With a cell phone in Europe you can receive calls for free without counting against your minutes, and you can send SMS (text) messages to each other more cheaply than talking. It's a good way to stay connected considering we don't have phones in our rooms. (Some of the WG's do have shared phones but the Germans can be somewhat sticky about letting foreigners use them as the costs are high and some foreign students have left without paying their share sometimes.)
We split up and went our separate ways. I walked around downtown for a bit more, buying one of the books I'll need for my literature class, and then took the bus back home to drop stuff off at my room and to transfer more pictures to a CD and a CompactFlash card before heading to the campus to do some stuff on the Internet. I had a little trouble finding the computer lab again, and a nice German professor, seeing that I was lost, tried to help, but to him "lab" means a place where a professor is giving a lecture, not a room in which students use computers on their own. Finally we got that misunderstanding cleared up. The Windows room was busy but had one computer left, but the reason it was left may have been that its Internet access kept disappearing after about 5 minutes. I rebooted it once and got access back but after the second time I gave up. I was about to leave with I saw the empty room next door full of unused iMacs (the original versions). However special characters such as forward slashes, at signs, and single quotation marks are not marked on German Mac keyboards as they are on German Windows keyboards and furthermore sometimes turn out to be in different places. Luckily I have some experiences with Macs so I could open the Tastatur (keyboard) control panel to figure out what was were. I checked and answered a few e-mails, and I uploaded some pictures, but I didn't have time or the energy to set up blog pages. An interesting man did venture into the Mac room before I left, perhaps because the Windows room was full and he saw me working. He asked if I could help him, and I said that I'd try but that my German wasn't very good, whereupon he switched to English. He's a native German who works in Texas but had returned to Lüneburg for his daughter's graduation. He'd never used a Mac before, but I was able to get him going in Internet Explorer. I can only assume he was used to German keyboards because he didn't need any more help.
My last stop was to the campus Aldi's, which closed in an hour at 8. I'd been clever enough to pack two empty plastic Kroger bags, which I'd brought with me this afternoon. I got inside the Aldi's, only to discover that carts were outside. However, they had a one-way turnstyle so I couldn't get back outside without going all the way around. I ducked under the bar for carts, drawing some stares, but I'm a stupid American so I didn't mind. I found the carts outside, each of which was chained up to the next, each locked with a device requiring 1 € deposit to unlock it. Luckily I had a single 1 € piece; otherwise I'd have been out of luck. I went back inside with my cart and selected various necessities, including cheese, milk, cereal, generic Nutella, jam, cookies, white chocolate, Goldbären (German gummi bears), spaghetti and sauce. I got in line, put my stuff on the belt, had my bags out, and then had to race to get everything bagged as the checker scanned it. She won and pushed the rest of my stuff into my cart. I paid and then moved over to the areas where the other slow shoppers sorted out their stuff and bagged it. (I never liked Aldi's in the US because they don't bag stuff, and I don't plan on using Aldi's again when I return to the US.) I didn't buy a whole lot of stuff, just 15 €'s worth, but I could barely fit it in my two bags. Carrying it was another thing. This stuff was heavy, and American plastic grocery bags are meant for lifting stuff from the cart to the trunk and then carrying stuff from the garage inside to the kitchen. The handles were quite stretched out, and I had to rest a few times on the way from Aldi's in the center of campus back to my apartment. I think next time I'm going to splurge and buy a few new bags at the supermarket downtown and take the bus from downtown home (luckily a bus stop is just opposite my apartment building).
Today was our last day in Berlin, and so we had to have all our luggage packed, ready to store in one room while we went on our final outing, to the Schloss Charlottenburg. I also left my backpack in the room since it was rather full, inadvertantly leaving with only a 64MB CompactFlash card in my camera, which got full fairly quickly as I hadn't downloaded pictures yesterday to my computer. I spent some time at various points this morning reviewing and deleting some pictures to make room, but later, once we were finally in Lüneburg, I found no pictures at all on this card, something that's happened before when I've tried to delete pictures using the camera. Part of it is karma because I illicitly took some pictures at the Schloss despite strict rules against doing so.
The Schloss was built as the residence of the Electress Sophia Charlotte, whose husband Freidrich I after her death was crowned first king in Prussia. He and later their grandson greatly expanded the palace, trying to compete with the emperor in Vienna and with the kings of France. The palace was heavily damaged during World War II, but unlike its counterpart in former East Berlin was saved from a push to demolish it, instead undergoing renovations that continue to this day. The Berlin state lottery contributes part of its earnings to cultural organizations including the foundation restoring the Schloss. The foundation spends money buying on the art market pieces formerly belonging to or similar to those owned by the royal family, for example a few years ago purchasing for $1.5 million a silver mirror that had made its way to America.
After the palace tour, we had a little time to walk in the huge park along the Spree River behind the palace, and then we went to lunch at another Italian restaurant. Then it was off to collect our bags and take the U-Bahn to the Zoologisher Garten station, where we caught an ICE train to Hannover, riding first class because of some scheduling/overbooking problem. First class seats have individual seat-back entertainment too, similar to that on Northwest, but with fewer selections and technological gizmos. In Hannover we switched to a local train headed for Hamburg, back down to second class, which is a bit more crowded and has no footrests or TVs.
In Lüneburg our group finally broke up, each of us being met by buddies who brought us to our living quarters. I have a room in a Wohngemeinshaft (WG), which is a shared student apartment. My room's on the first floor, and my building's a block from the edge of campus, so I'm pretty lucky. Some of the other students are farther from campus or have fourth floor attic rooms. My WG has four women (five normally, but I'm staying in one woman's room while she travels this summer) and one man. Weibke, one of the women, was there to show me around and explain the rules. The first and most important rules had to do with recycling; garbage is sorted not just into trash and recyclables, as is sometimes done in America, but into five different groups! Other rules are that roommates share in cleaning common areas of the apartment, rotating by week, and in washing dishes, each taking a turn in washing all the dishes.
It was only about 9PM when I was left to my own devices. I had snacks and water in my backpack, a good thing because stores in Lüneburg close by 8 at the latest (I found out later that some other students either didn't eat til the next day or were offered leftover moldy bread; one guy did have a roommate who cooked for him). I did venture out to explore a little, but I came home fairly quickly, feeling cold since I didn't have a jacket. I'd expected summer, but right now in Lüneburg it's more like late fall in Ohio, cold, gray and rainy.
This morning's main event was a tour of the Jewish Museum, which of course does tell about the Holocaust but is really about more than that, documenting a thousand years of Jewish history in Germany. Jews faced discrimination since the time of the Roman empire, in which they were often forced to be the tax collectors, responsible themselves for paying any taxes others failed to pay. Later Jewish Germans had to pay separate additional taxes for the right to continue living in the towns in which they'd always lived. After unification the German emperor forced Jewish newlyweds to buy unpopular ugly China from his porcelain company. Finally in the Weimar Republic Jewish Germans received full equal rights, only to face the horrors of the Nazis and the Holocaust lass than twenty years later. Two parts of the museum, the Garden of Exile and the Holocaust Tower, were designed by its architect Daniel Libeskind offer visitors a glimpse of what was felt by those who escaped the Holocaust and by those who perished in it.
The weather in Berlin has been generally cooler than in Ohio this time of year but shares the feature of a lot of rain at unexpected times. Today being a rainy day, instead of proceeding directly to the Synagogue as planned, the group first went to an Asian/Indian restaurant, hoping the rain would subside. Meals in Germany take a long time, in part I suppose because Germans don't like to rush during meals and in part because the wait staff has no incentive to provide efficient service since tips are built into the cost of the meals. Since it was after 3 when we got close to being done with lunch and I didn't care to go to the afternoon's optional trip to the Soviet War Memorial, I ventured out on my own, wanting to go to the Schwulesmuseum (the gay museum). (Others in the group also went out on their own, to limited success; some tried to get into the Pergamon, which has fantastic exhibitions of Greek and Roman antiquities, only to be turned away because of the lines.)
Although it too gets a mention in Frommer's guide to Germany, the Schwulesmuseum doesn't even get close to the scale of the Jewish Museum. Instead of its own building by a famous architect, the Schwulesmuseum has a few sets of unconnected rooms downstairs and upstairs off a back courtyard on Merhingdamm in a poorer part of Berlin known as Kreuzberg. Downtstairs the museum did have an extensive exhibit on the French gay philosopher Michel Foucault, and upstairs some interesting works by gay artists were displayed, but the museum does not yet have the history of homosexuality mentioned by Frommer's. The friendly woman at the museum did explain to me that they plan an expansion by next June to include that history.
Having some time to spare, I went to Berlin's gay district, Nollendorfplatz, where I found a big gay bookstore, Bruno's, at which I bought some gay German magazines and some gay German books. I also found a nice bar/café with free WiFi, so I sat and enjoyed a große Coke while I uploaded my Pride Dinner pictures (it's hard to keep a blog updated with such limited Internet access).
As I mentioned earlier, football is huge in Europe, especially tonight because the Germans were to play the Czechs. Some of us had agreed to meet at the Sony Centre at Potsdamer Platz where people could watch the game for free on a huge TV screen. I got there at the agreed time, 6:30, and found a huge line stretched along the building. No sign of the others, so I got in line alone. Some of the others finally found me, we waited in line a bit and then decided to do what many Germans were doing, which was to leave the line, move to the front and try to push our way in. That wasn't very successful, and we were afraid it was going to start raining, so we left Potsdamer Platz and went back to the sidewalk bar on Friedrichstrasse where we'd been Monday, arriving just in time to get first row seats and missing by seconds a downpour. The service wasn't terrific, and I ended up with a Berliner Pilsner that confirms I don't really like beer instead of the sweet stuff I'd had before, but by blurting out that I also wanted a schnitzel I also got dinner half an hour before the others in the group who stupidly insisted on getting menus. We had a good time though, meeting some German businessmen hosting a couple colleagues from their English office. Everyone was happy when the Germans scored a goal, and then I couldn't keep from laughing every time afterwards the Germans had near misses, bouncing the ball off the side or top of the net. The Czechs ended up beating the Germans 2-1, ending German hopes for the title.
|Today we woke up early enough to meet at the hostel's offices in order to eat breakfast at 7:45, crowded and European style but not bad. I had bread with cheese and a kind of bacon, bread with Nutella (a chocolate/hazelnut spread Europeans love that I last had in Belgium a few years ago), a hard boiled egg, and some strawberry yogurt mixed with Muselix. That may seem like a lot, but I burned those calories away on the walking tour of Berlin we went on next.
Our guide was not Iris but a English-speaking man who works for a company offering walking tours of Berlin and nearby sites. He was pretty cute, and I thought at first he was British, but he's actually German. Our tour was mainly in former East Berlin and included many sites of former Imperial buildings that either had been torn down by the Communists after World War II, had been or were in the process of being renovated since German reunification, or had been replicated or were being considered for replication. For example, the former Imperial palace had been exploded by the East Germans in the 50s, but now people want to rebuild it, although the government doesn't have enough money yet to do so. Another example is Museum Island in the Spree river, on which five museums had been donated to the German people by the Imperial royal family, heavily damaged during the war, left to languish for decades and now are being renovated. Among other things we also got to see the Brandenburg Gate (but were shooed off by police in preparation for a state visit by the Governor General of New Zealand), a short remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall, and Checkpoint Charlie. Our guide told us of how as a college student in Berlin in 1989 he was part of the crowds of West Berliners to go out and greet the East Berliners who'd finally gained the right to travel to the West.
After the tour we lunched at Café Adler, by Checkpoint Charlie, and then went to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, which documents the story of the Wall and the many people who escaped over it or were killed trying. Afterwards, people split off to do different things. One girl and I went to Potsdamer Platz, to a Dunkin Donuts that had Internet access for 1 € per hour. I'd transferred pictures to a CD and to a CompactFlash card, hoping to upload from one or the other to my site, but we had access only to monitor, keyboard (German! in a different enough layout to be frustrating) and mouse, so I could only check my e-mail and send a few brief messages home. Later I figured out that the huge Sony complex in which we were in had free WiFi access.
This evening we all went to the Berliner Philharmonie, in a building near Potsdamer Platz which I (and others) thought was quite ugly outside but beautiful inside. The Großer Saal (bigger hall) in which the Philharmonie performed (and apparently also the Kammermusiksaal in which another performance that same night occurred) are unusual in that they have seating on all sides of the orchestra, including behind. Before the concert Kathryn, one of our June session students and a music major, gave us a small presentation about the two pieces to be performed, Beethoven's piano concerto number 5 and Schumann's symphony number 3. Tonight's performance was a Benefizkonzert des Bundespräsidenten, and the president of the Federal Republic of Germany was in fact present, giving a short speech and getting a standing ovation. In Ohio standing ovations are fairly common with Daytonians standing up for any and everyone. Apparently not so in Germany, since after the Beethoven, the Germans clapped long enough to recall pianist Radu Lupu back to the stage five (yes 5!) times but did not stand for him. Berliners, also unlike Daytonians, know not to clap between movements of a piece, something Kathryn specifically instructed us about during her presentation.
Although the plane landed in Amsterdam at about 6AM, I hadn't slept any because to me that was just midnight. Around 11PM EDT or 5AM in Amsterdam (and Germany, the same time zone) the flight attendants served a light breakfast, I suppose to trick our bodies into accepting it was morning, something mine wasn't inclined to do, despite seeing the daylight.
The Dutch immigration officials seemed very laid back compared to American ones. The guy who stamped my passport didn't even ask me anything. Getting through customs last December on St. Croix was much more of a hassle, and that was for an American citizen traveling from one American territory to another.
My layover in Amsterdam was two and a half hours, and while I was too jittery to sleep, I didn't feel like hassling trying to go the city and back. Instead I spent my first Euros, 1,75 € for a 75cl bottle of Evian, marked in both Dutch and French, I suppose for both Belgium and the Netherlands. Sitting at the gate for Berlin wasn't boring though. I eavesdropped as best I could on some German businessmen, and I watched a cute American kid who sat across from me and flexed his arms lifting his backpack up and down with his wrists.
The flight to Berlin was crowded but I was so tired I did manage to sleep a bit. At Tegel I was surprised to find that the baggage claim for my gate and its neighboring gate was right next to where we disembarked, very convenient. I thought about hassling with my luggage on a bus and the U-Bahn but splurged on a taxi (15,90 € instead of 2 €). The taxi drove past Kaiserdamm 82, however, and had to do a U-turn. I hadn't realized until then that addresses in Germany work differently than in America. Kaiserdamm 81 and 82 are next door to each other, not across the street from one another.
It was just as well that I had used a cab because I would have been pissed to have walked from the U-Bahn stop to Hotel Pension Gribnitz, the offices for which are on the 4th floor (5th floor American-style; Europeans don't count the ground floor), only to find that our group was staying in apartments around the corner from the U-Bahn. The man who answered the intercom, even though I'd said I was with the Lüneburg USAC group, had me come all the way upstairs with my luggage, then told me where we were staying and led the way back downstairs without even offering to carry a bag. I'd been warned not to have more luggage than I could manage on my own, but this was the first sign of the different expectations Germans and Americans have for customer service.
Although we are to have private rooms in Lüneburg, in Berlin we were set up four people to a room, two keys per room. Not having flown on the group flight, I was the first to arrive. I took a shower and soon afterwards was surprised by people arriving, people who turned out to be June session students who were going on the Berlin tour. They were tired from having gotten up early to travel from Lüneburg but were not jet-lagged so they went off to explore, and I took a 4-hour nap before dinner.
Our Leiterin while in Berlin was Iris (pronounced auf deutsch like "ear-rhys") Heine, who is one of the German as a foreign language professors at Lüneburg. She's 36 and seems to deal pretty well with a bunch of college students, some of whom are used to Germany and want to head off in a million directions and others of whom don't have any idea what is going on. This evening, we went to eat dinner at an Italian restaurant down the street from the apartments. Our budget is 20 € per person for each meal, excluding alcohol which we must buy on our own, and that pays for quite a lot of food.
After dinner we took the U-Bahn and a double-decker bus to the Reichstag. Also part of our pre-paid tour package is a daily public transportation ticket, which costs around 5 € and is good for U-Bahn, S-Bahn and busses until 3AM the day after it's validated. Going to the Reichstag in the evening was good because it wasn't crowded, atlhough there were a fair number of people there. The security to enter the building was high, with X-ray machines and a series of double glass doors controlled by the guards. We were allowed only on the roof terrace, the interior of the dome there being closed for renovations. Up there we did what all the people there, German and otherwise, did, which is to take tons of photos.
Afterwards I headed out with a group of girls who were going to the Irish Pub to meet Donovan, one of my roommates, who'd already seen the Reichstag and had gone there to watch the England vs. Slovakia football game (part of the European football championships, apparently held every four years). I'd surrendered my room key earlier, since I was napping and others were exploring, and I wanted to be sure to be able to get back in easily, and also I still had enough energy to do some more exploring. We walked, going through the Brandenburg Gate, along the Unter des Lindens and down Friedrichstrasse for a bit, until we realized we were lost, waited while one of the girls who had a German cell phone called for directions, and finally took the U-Bahn and S-Bahn til we got to the right place, arriving in time to see the English score two goals and to get our pictures taken with a happy and drunken Englishman, after which the group decided to leave the Irish Pub and walk/U-Bahn some more back to an outdoor bar on Friederichstrasse which had a big screen TV. There I had some German beer that wasn't half bad, perhaps because it was laced with some kind of syrup.
|Starting with this entry, I'll be posting about my trip to Germany. Because I don't have reliable Internet access, I'm writing these entries on my laptop as I have time and then will post them when I can. I'm going to post them on the days they are about, not on the days I actually get connected.
I've traveled countless times before, on business and for pleasure and even once to Europe, although that wasn't quite the same as this trip. I don't remember the first business trip I took, so I can only assume that it wasn't very traumatic. Of course, while there are downsides to business travel there are upsides as well, such as expense accounts that cover phone calls from the plane, luxury hotels, drinks before, during and after meetings, etc.
Today in Detroit I had a brief layover, and so I pulled out my iPaq 3955 and stuck my SanDisk SD WiFi card in it to see if there was WiFi in the terminal. There was, but the provider wanted $7 for 24 hours of access. Now, if I were a businessman on an expense account, I might not think twice about that, but I'm a college student, albeit a privileged one, and so I did think twice. If they had wanted $1 for an hour's access, I probably would have gone for it. I guess they count on there being many more business people than students flying.
Technology does eventually makes its way down to the masses, however. The plane to Amsterdam featured individual seatback entertainment, an LCD screen with a remote control in the armrest, allowing each traveler to choose among channels offering movies, news, TV shows, music and flight information. Not quite bug-free though. When I first tried to access mine, it crashed, displaying a Linux boot screen. After it was up again, I tried one of the neatest features, a map showing the plane's position and various flight statistics; it froze when I tried to use the zoom feature on the map. However, two other pretty nifty features did work. One was a jukebox allowing you to select songs from many types of music, and another was a pretty good selection of movies which you could pause, rewind and fast forward. Some had soundtracks in multiple languages. I watched part of House of Sand and Fog in German, making me realize how limited my realtime German skills are. Of course improving them is what this trip is all about.
|I posted an ad on a German gay site. The site's similar to gay.com but of course is auf Deutsch. I'll let you find the ad on your own, but you can see mein Profilcover below (profile covers are a cool feature the German site has that gay.com does not):
Here's what it says:
In June I'm traveling from Dayton, Ohio, USA to Lüneburg, Lower Saxony, Germany in order to be an exchange student at University of Lüneburg. If you live in Lüneburg and want new friends, contact me.
Today I received an unexpected e-mail from a student at Universität Lüneburg. Actually, getting the e-mail was unexpected but that it was from Lüneburg was not because I'm going to go to Germany for several weeks this summer.
As I intimated at the end of my post about observing at Stivers, I've been thinking about being able to teach German in addition to or instead of English. In Ohio at least, you have to have a bachelor's degree in a subject in order to be able to teach it, which means that my minor in German wouldn't be enough. I looked into what it would take to major in German in addition to English/Integrated Language Arts, and I wouldn't need that many more classes. So I'm going for it, putting off graduating for a year and taking the additional classes I'll need.
If you've checked my classes pages, you know that I've taken classes every summer since returning to college. Wright State doesn't offer German classes beyond 201/202 in the summer, which makes sense given the lack of demand. However, Wright State is a part of the University Studies Abroad Consortium, as is Universit&aauml;t Lüneburg. So I'll still be taking classes this summer, but I'm going abroad to do it.
Of course studying in a foreign country is a great experience for anyone, especially someone who wants to become fluent in a foreign language. Meine Deutschsprachkenntnis ist nicht schlecht, but several weeks of having to speak German all the time should improve it a lot. I've been to Europe once before, to Belgium, France and the Netherlands in the summer of 2001, but that was as a tourist, and I got by on English. I did speak some French in Paris, but for some reason most people I spoke to told me to just speak English. I doubt that will be happening in Lüneburg (unless I tried speaking French there).