January 10, 2010

B ack at Russ' office for our regular weekend trip to let Bailey run free in the surrounding area and to get Internet to post here. Still working on Internet at home, but this week, appliances took priority. After the last serveral weeks, I will never take this for granted, for it is a beautiful, beautiful thing (especially when filled with yogurt, Fanta and beer!):

I was certain we'd long run out of chones before we ever got appliances, but thankfully Russ' visa came through just in time! In an effort to further understand our appliances, Russ dutifully read the obviously-translated-via-google-translate instruction manual, which had it's fair share of redundencies (and an apparent fixation on fire):

Bailey was also instrumental in helping supervise the new appliances. She inspected everything for us and was transfixed watching the front-loading washer spin.

yes, that's her head in the washer ...

Not feeling my best this week, I stayed in and neglected my German lessons more than I should have. Next week I will push myself to get out more, interact more and get through more lessons. I can't tell you how disheartening it is to try to get something across to a salesperson when you have such limited knowledge of their language. Speaking of which ...

I almost forgot to recount the story about the other Americans at the restaurant we ate at in Köln and my general thoughts on being, well, American. They lumbered into the back of the restaurant (I'll let you fill in their physical descriptions here) and practically demand to know where an ATM was. The waiter repeats "ATM?" Thinking repeating himself and saying it louder will help, the man tries again, with the same question. Apparently, a light comes on and he tries a different tactic: "a cash machine?" Aha. The waiter takes him out front and points out the way. First of all, what did he not understand about ATM standing for "automated teller machine," which is, by golly, English? I know I'm a bit anal when it comes to travel and I generally don't like to go anywhere I can't speak at least a few phrases in that language to get by, but it just irks me when Americans have the attitude this man had and expect to be catered to when in someone else's country. These are the same kinds of people who return from said travels and recount how Europeans "hate Americans" (hmm, I wonder why). After they left, I smiled with the knowledge that we had interacted with our waiters entirely in German, even if I did ask for my beer incorrectly.

We must head home and start dinner soon, so I'll leave this week with a collection of snowmen from the park this week (wish I'd had a camera when we spied one on a street corner with appendages made from used fireworks!). I love how the kids embrace the winter weather here!

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische (lovely, aren't they?!)

Happy 2010!

January 03, 2010

It has been a great New Year so far here in Germany (aside from Russ working so much!). We were very generously invited to the home of Russ' coworker Ziad's flatmate for NYE - an architect who's place is her huge, beautiful converted office (see background of photo above). Rita welcomed us into her intimate dinner party of nine and were immediately served things I was told were "German speciality," including some kind of sausage and potato salad. Included in the dinner fare was some of Ziad's Lebonese (via Nice, so he speaks French and Arabic; impressive) specialities as well - and this was just the first course. Then there was the cheese course and two cakes - a spice one and an amazing lemon one. Intermixed was an adundance of wine and champagne. German, French and English flew around the table and everyone was getting up to dance when their favorite songs came on.

When the countdown was close, we all went out to the balcony with glasses of champagne, preparing to watch, unbeknownst to us, an amateur fireworks display by adults and 3-year-olds alike. We counted down, in German of course, and kissed our fellow party-goers while the warzone began beneath us. We watched as fireworks shot up and bounced between buildings, then exploding in the trees. How every house on the block (or at least our little balcony) did not go up in flames was beyond us. Russ' British coworker probably summed it up best: " Those Germans are bloody mental!" See some of the craziness below.

(The street filled with fireworks being set of, rockets shooting past our perch on the 4th floor and small explosives being set off just across the street)

It's worth noting that on our way to the "club" (really just a small cafe with tables pushed out of the way), we witnessed a very small child leaning directly over over a rocket set into a bottle to light it. We anticipate that said child will untimately end up with the playground nickname "patchy" due to loss of an eye.

With everything closed on January first, we decided to go sight-seeing to Köln (Cologne to you Americans), with at least seeing the Kölner Dom on our list - the largest and most impressive cathedral in Germany. Thanks to our handy German guidebook, courtesy of Tara and Chris, we also located some places to eat nearby. I even called to ask if they were open for the holiday and whether they allowed dogs - all in German (go me!). Since it was snowing pretty hard all day and the Boss wasn't allowed in the cathedral, we did just a little bit of walking, had dinner (inside, with Bailey dog!) and a hot chocolate and headed home.

The ornate entryways to the great cathedral

The massive organ pipes high on the cathedral walls

The height of the cathedral was amazing!

One of the many beautiful stained glass windows

Looks like the snow is back with us for a while, with the radio claiming "richtig winter" (real winter) is finally upon us. Bailey is adjusting to the snow nicely, especially now that she's discovered it's edible! Today was a perfect Sunday in the park, the trees all white, kids sledding and making snowmen. I'm already a convert to "seasons" - and fully embracing the farewell of year-round CA sunshine. I'll leave you all with some lovely shots from Nerotal from this morning ...