January 26, 2013: A Night of Firsts…

But first, what I did before the excitement that was Saturday.  Most of this past week I have been a weird sort of half sick.  I definitely wasn’t 100%, but I didn’t really feel all that terrible.  Just fairly tired and I had some sinus issues.  The only time where I just felt awful was when I would first wake up in the morning, but it generally wore off after about an hour or so.  Normally that would mean any sane person would take it easy for the week.  Not me.  While I was pretty lazy on Tuesday, I typically take the stance that when I am ill that I’m going to feel bad no matter what.  So I can either feel bad and be cooped up at home or I can be somewhat productive.

 

With that being said my week itself has not been all that exciting.  I managed to go to all of my classes this week, with the exception of that one 8:15 class I gave up on a long time ago.  I did some studying for all of those exams I’m not actually taking, but hey, I do want to learn the material seeing as it could be useful in the near future when my comps role around.  I watched the Truman Show, which I have to say, I enjoyed very much and also tried out a new recipe for Greek chicken pasta (which I think needs a decent amount of tweaking, but I was told my attempt was tasty).  I also went to a party on Thursday night with some friends.  It was to celebrate not only a birthday, but also my friend’s completion of her Master’s thesis!  It was pretty nice and my German got a decent work out, but only after constantly insisting on speaking German instead of English.  If I could only change my accent to something else so they didn’t automatically know I am American… I also managed to fix my bike.  Again.  This time it was only the back light that wasn’t working though.  It was really a pretty easy fix, I just had to go to E-werk to borrow some tools.  Sadly there wasn’t much juggling to be done this week since the only night it was scheduled to be on turned out to be a lie.  There was some sort of miscommunication actually, but we made the best of it by going and having a few beers and chatting.  I would like to note that apparently I was a weird child because I had imaginary friends growing up.  Only me and two other people I’m friends with (one in the States and the other here) had them.  Yes, I’m done diverging.  I also got my glasses in this week.  While everyone has been really nice about them, I don’t think I really care for them yet.  It will probably take some getting used to, because I’ve never worn such obvious glasses.  But to sum up what I think of them, the day I got them I put them on and then proceeded to wear my cardigan around all day so I could really throw my new librarian look together.  I think someone even said I look like a geography teacher…  I suppose you can be the judge here.

 

glasses

 

So I guess from most people’s perspective, it’s been another pretty uneventful week.  Don’t think it was bad, because it definitely wasn’t that.  I’m just not really feeling up to making this bit interesting.  So hopefully if you aren’t bored/already asleep at this point (go you for making it through a pretty mundane first two paragraphs!) Now, onto this weekend filled with firsts!

 

Saturday morning/afternoon was a pretty lazy day for me.  I still haven’t been 100% (even as I’m writing I’m not) so I decided to take it easy before the awesomeness that was Burns Night.  It was actually more of a general celebration of Scotland (read: another excuse for an international party with a bit of a cultural flair).  This means that I got to try Haggis, which I must say, really gets a bad rep in America.  For those of you too lazy to read the wiki page, Haggis is essentially sheep innards cooked inside the animal’s stomach with some other things thrown in.  While we actually had canned Haggis instead, and while it both looked and smelled a bit like dog food, it was actually quite tasty.  It was served, of course, with ‘Neeps and Tatties (mashed turnips and mashed potatoes), which you are apparently supposed to eat all three together.  It really made the Haggis a lot less strong, which was probably a good thing considering how much was put on my plate.  As long as I managed not to think about what exactly I was eating though, there were no problems.  Oh, and let’s not forget the Scottish whiskey.  It was probably some of the best whiskey I’ve ever had.  I had originally brought some coke to mix with it, but it probably would have been a criminal offense to ruin such a good whiskey.

 

Haggiscandles

 

Haggis

 

On top of that there was live music (guitar and accordion provided by our hosts) and some Scottish dancing.  Now, in a room full of completely sober adults learning these dances probably wouldn’t have taken any time at all.  They weren’t terribly complicated.  However when alcohol is added to the equation, well we come up with a different formula altogether.  It’s something like: number of people x complexity of task + alcohol = hilarity ensuing shortly thereafter.  Essentially everyone was having too much fun to really get the dances right, but that’s all that really matters in the long run.  Oh, and we did manage to get a bit of fireworks in at one point.  See, candles and drunk people are always a dangerous combination (see equation above).  One of the party-goers had a bit of a brain glitch when she thought that several of the candles on the table were a bit too close together.  Grabbing the first thing she saw, she threw it on the flames, not realizing that it was in fact beer.  The flames erupted in front of her, but luckily they did not last for very long before petering out.  It was quite a fantastic end to our dancing, I must say.

 

Scotmusic

 

Apart from that it was much like any other party.  There was drinking, dancing, chatting, and general merriment.  Then something amazing happened.  It started to snow.  And not only was it snowing fairly hard, it was also sticking!  This was a pretty exciting moment for me, because in Alabama, snow is fairly uncommon.  Not to say that it never snows.  I does maybe once every two years.  It’s just never all that much and it melts pretty quickly.  So when we get snow in Alabama, it is a huge deal.  (To give you an idea, I remember sticking snow in my freezer as a child in a sad attempt to save the magic for later.)  This is why I decided to run outside while it was snowing, sans coat, to play in it for a bit.  No, I wasn’t even that drunk.  After getting thoroughly excited and making people promise to play in it with me if there was enough, I went back to enjoying the party.  By the time everyone had left and we had done a bit of cleaning up, Tom, Donald, and I decided to play in the snow, despite how tired we all were at this point.  No regrets.  We had a small snowball fight followed by an attempt at a five tier snowman, or as I like to refer to him as, the snowman centipede.  It was my first time attempting a snowman more than a foot tall.  And while I did my best to help, Donald and Tom’s snowman building skills were far superior to mine.  I managed to roll out a decent looking head.  Too bad for us though, when we tried to get it on top of the fourth torso (which was already over 6ft at this point) Tom dropped the head and we just settled for what we had.  Sadly it didn’t last very long.  Shortly after our pictures it toppled over, but it was well worth it to me.  Dream fulfilled.  Now the next time we get a good snow we will have to attempt an igloo.  Here’s hoping anyway.

 

Scottishnight

*Special thanks to Camille for the photos!

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Pictures from Last Weekend

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A nice group shot of everyone

 

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Super delicious dumpling things

 

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Lot’s of (awesome) dancing of course

 

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And of course the next day hooping

 

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And of course juggling (which I can’t really do yet)

January 19, 2014: I’m Skipping the Obvious Czech Puns

So for this weekend as well as last I haven’t really gone anywhere spectacular for 2 main reasons.  The first being that I am trying to save up some money to go to an awesome sounding juggling convention at the end of February in a tropical oasis which lies somewhere in the middle of the sweltering cities of Dresden and Berlin, encased in a 26 degree paradise.  Yeah, I’m pretty pumped, I just hope I can get the money worked out.  The second reason I’ve been staying in Erlangen is that there have been/ are going to be several cultural events (read parties) hosted by some of my international friends.  This past weekend was Czech night, and this coming weekend will be Scottish night, but more on that next weekend.

But before detailing the fun times, I am going to talk about my ever so boring week.  My belly dancing class is back to meeting after the long break made even longer by the fact that January 6 happened to be a holiday in Bavaria, and so my class was deferred for a whole other week.  I really enjoy that class and even though it is on a Monday, it is easily the highlight of my school related week.  Despite the fact that Tuesday was miserable and rainy, I managed to make it to my evening class, even though it was pretty boring and I would have probably been okay overall skipping it.  Now Wednesday is where my plans of going to all of my classes (save the 8:15 one on Thursday that I’ve just decided I’m not going to make it to, period) sort of derailed.  I went to my Morphology class that morning and I have a decent break in between that and my Syntax class, so I decided to go to the grocery store.  I would like to say here, my bike was perfectly fine before going inside Kaufland, but once I got out and started to make my way home, something wasn’t right.

That’s when I realized my back tire was completely flat.  I have no idea what happened while I was shopping.  Maybe I ran over something in the parking lot, maybe it was just old, maybe some tire popping gnome decided to have a go at my bike, I don’t know.  I will say that the third option is significantly more fun to imagine, even though it is less than probable, so I’m going to go with that one instead.  So I spent the next 20-25 minutes limping my bike home with what I can only imagine was one of the sourest expressions my already bitchy resting face could muster (it probably rivaled the time I went through London Heathrow, although there is less documented proof of last Wednesday).  After getting back and making myself some lunch, I decided that I was just going to sit this Syntax class out.  The combination of several small annoyances compounded by the fact that I would either have to walk or take a bus to class just made me decide a nap was a much better idea.

On Thursday I decided it was time for me to man up and attempt to fix my back tire myself.  Armed with my meagerly equipped pink tool kit left to me by the previous occupant of my dorm and the experience of about 15 minutes worth of youtube DIY videos, I set out to nip this in the bud in hopes of making my 1:15 class.  I actually started by checking the valve, and it seemed like a piece was a bit loose, so I pumped up the tire again and tightened the valve.  I even took it on a test drive around the block.  Everything seemed to be in order and I could walk away proud of having fixed my bike on my own.  I went upstairs and ate a victory lunch (read a sandwich) and went back downstairs to head to class only to find that my tire was again, completely flat, foiled again by those deviant tire destroying gnomes.  It was at that point I gave up on going to class again and set out to try and fix my bike for good.

Unfortunately I still didn’t have all of the right equipment for the job, so I set off to find the key for the bike room in my dorm which has a lot of the tools one my use to fix a bike, as the name suggests.  Well, none of the key holders were at home it seemed, so I decided I would go ahead and take the back wheel off, that way if the threatening gray sky above decided to open up and drench both me and my bike I could retreat to the safety of my room and work on it there.  So 10 minutes go by with my bike turned upside down, back wheel still firmly attached to the frame and me standing there hopeless with my borrowed wrench in hand.  All of that youtube training I had endured laid with my tattered dreams of fixing my bike seeing as I did not even have the upper body strength to loosen a few lug nuts.  After washing up my manky hands I called a friend who then proceeded to do everything within about 15 minutes.

Much of the rest of my day/week was pretty uneventful.  I did a bit of hooping and I also somehow managed to get in some reading for my comps, which loom ever nearer.  Friday I met up with some friends and we went to Dunkin’ Doughnuts and chatted for a decent portion of the afternoon.  I had a giant cup of coffee so I was pretty jazzed the rest of the day.  That night I went to Czech night, which was both a cultural experience as well as a party.  It was a bit more of one than the other, I’ll let you decide which one ultimately trumped the other.  But there was some Czech food and booze.  I am not 100% sure what the food was, but there was sauerkraut and some sort of tasty dumpling with bacon inside.  There were also plenty of non-Czech snacks people could munch on.  I think one of my favorite parts was learning a Czech dance.  It wasn’t terribly difficult in theory, but if you get a bunch of somewhat drunk people dancing what I can only describe as a fast paced shuffling waltz on a tiny dance floor… Well, let’s just I would have probably been better off standing on my partner’s feet.

It was nice though to get to see so many people I hadn’t gotten a chance to see since before the break.  I need to make a bit more of an effort to hang out with some of these folks.  I also got to meet some new people and although I feel like there was a bit of drama going on between various people, I managed to have a hell of a good time.  The best part of all of this was the fact that the next morning I did not wake up hungover and I still got to enjoy a beautiful almost spring-like day.  I won’t go into too much detail, but there was a bit of juggling and piano playing involved.  It was just a really nice Saturday.

As far as Sunday goes, I somehow managed to sleep until 11.  But upon seeing what a glorious day it was yet again, it seemed that a bit of hooping/juggling in the Schlosspark was in order.  We ended up drawing quite a bit of attention from the passers-by, which was nice, but sometimes the extra attention makes me a bit more nervous and more prone to messing up.  I think there are going to be some pictures/videos (?) of Sunday on facebook because some friends happened to be in the park as well and they were snapping away as we practiced.  We shall see in due time I suppose and if there are any good ones I happen upon I will post them.  And to top off an already superb weekend, I had a girls night with two of my friends which included more Belgian chocolate, raspberry glühwein, some sort of tasty Belgian alcohol, and a sappy movie (The Lakehouse in this case.)  So all in all it was a nice, mostly laid back weekend, but I really enjoyed it I must say.  So until I get a hold of some pictures from this weekend!

January 13, 2013: It was a Hard Day’s Night

So this weekend has been a pretty good adventure, but nothing too exotic as I mostly stayed in the Erlangen area.  There was a decent amount of juggling, hooping, and even fire poi, the last being something I could only watch seeing as my brain can’t quite translate the inner workings of poi to something my arms can do.  If I were to add fire to the equation, well, let’s just say that I would be visiting the hospital here again all too soon.  Although it was quite cold, I did really enjoy watching my friends enchant passers-by with their spinning flames.  It made me almost wish I had a fire hoop, but then I remember how many times I’ve accidentally slung my hoop sans flames and decide that maybe I should stick to LED if I want something pretty.

Then Saturday, which upon reflection was quite the eventful day indeed, I started by riding my bike with a friend all the way to Fürth, which for those of you who don’t know, it’s a bit over 15 km from Erlangen.  Originally the plan was to bike, then after looking at the weather we were a bit skeptical that it wouldn’t rain on us.  That’s about the the time we decided to just take a train.  But by the time we got to the train station we felt a bit more optimistic.  So, we turned around and began our long journey.  Now the google map directions looked quite intimidating with something like 27 different steps.  However, it actually wasn’t all that complicated.  Germany just has this habit of roads changing names pretty often and for no particular reason.  It should have taken about an hour to ride there, but we ended up taking about and hour and 45 minutes because we stopped so often to make sure we were on track still.  It was nice though, just a bit chilly.  I would love to do it again in the spring when things are a bit less gray.

Sadly we never made it to our final destination in Fürth (the American food store).  We were maybe two minutes away when I look back to check on my friend only to find that the front part of her bike has fallen to pieces.  I am not entirely sure what happened to warrant such an epic fail, but the point is that the bike would no longer roll due to the fact that the front plate covering the wheel and come loose and proceeded to reattach itself to the wheel of her bike.  This meant we had to take the wheel off in order to get the plate off and possibly have a chance of limping it back to the train station where we could return to Erlangen.  The funniest part of all this is the fact that there were two guys in a truck watching us the entire time, eating and pointing as we struggled with our meager muscle mass and never once offering us any sort of help.  Finally an older man craned his neck out of his upper story apartment to see what all the commotion was about and then yelled to another man, who I can only assume what his son or at least acquaintance, to help us.  I am pretty glad he did because there was no way we were going to get that wheel off on our own.

After finally managing to get to the train station and riding back, we decided to eat some dinner.  We mostly just chatted for a bit after that, so it was nice and relaxing.  But that is not the end of my day.  At about 9:30 I met some people and we went to one of the Irish pubs in Erlangen.  It was really nice with the live Irish music, but it was sadly a bit crowded.  We managed to get some seats after a bit and we just talked and enjoyed the music.  After awhile we decided to go to another Irish pub, which ended up being a bit less crowded, but there was live music there as well.  It was pretty nice and everyone was pretty friendly.  Drunk yes, but at least they were all pretty happy about it.  There was a sort of almost fight between friends, but the manager got in there and cooled things down quite a bit.  At some point though, we must have entered a time warp because before I knew it, it was around 6:00 in the morning.  Amazingly enough we all made it back home safely and before the sun rose.

As for Sunday, much of it was spent in bed nursing a hangover.  I think 23 is about the age where your body really starts to punish you for late night fun.  I spent most of the time either feeling like I was going to toss my cookies or hating the sun for existing as it peeked through the large gap in my curtains.  Oh well, it was fun and I think totally worth it.  I did managed later in the afternoon to meet some friends in the Schlosspark to do some hooping.  There were a decent amount of people there doing all sorts of other things, most notably walking/bouncing on these cable lines.  It was fun, but I wasn’t really performing at peak levels due to the night before.

Other than that it has been a lot of reading and watching That Mitchell and Webb Look on youtube.  British tv never ceases to entertain me.  On that note, I would like to share a sketch that I watched the other day which was totally my reaction to realizing that when people write ‘x’ after things, it’s not a typo, it’s a kiss.  I know, potato.  I did know that it could mean kisses, but I’ve only ever seen it written with ‘o’s and only really either jokingly or by small children.  Anyway I laughed a good bit so maybe you will too.

January 4, 2014: The New Year and I don’t Know What Day it is Anymore

So I guess I need to share what New Year’s is like in Germany, for those of you who have never experienced it before.  I can sum it up in about one word: dangerous.  The amount of drunk people shooting off fireworks in city squares surrounded by both buildings and crowds of people is too damn high.  I don’t think there are quite as many restrictions here as there are stateside.  I felt like I was having World War II flashbacks I never had.  It was all pretty festive though.  The energy was nice, and hey, I only heard sirens about 3 times in the 45 minute span I was actually outdoors.  I ended up heading to the E-werk to watch some legit fireworks, which I must say, were pretty impressive.  I felt like it was the grand finale most places put on for the 4th of July in the U.S., but for 10 minutes.  They just kept on going with the awesomeness.  After they had shot enough of their money into the air and watched it explode into a million different colors and lights, we were left with a thick hazy smog coating the ground and remnants of the exploded shells which littered the ground.  About this time we decided to head to a bar and drink for awhile, which we did.  It was nice and a more laid back New Year’s than what I typically do.  I am ready for my Erlangen folks to come back though!

So that being said I will briefly recap what I’ve done since then, even though it’s not terribly exciting.  I went to Fürth to find the American food store (even though I think it might just be sweets from what I read online).  Sadly they were not open and won’t be back until the 6th.  I’ll be interested to go again because there is an appalling lack of peanut butter related candies here.  Then yesterday I went to Nürnberg and the Dokumentations Museum (read Nazi museum) in the old Congress hall they were building.  It was pretty interesting, even though I knew a lot of what they had there already.  It was a bit of a confidence boost doing the audio-tour in German and understanding almost everything, except when Hitler spoke.  I don’t know why, but for some reason I can not understand him, ever.  Maybe my brain just doesn’t comprehend crazy.  Anyway, it was neat to see the plans the Nazis had for Nürnberg and what was left of them (many of their plans just didn’t get finished, and some were destroyed after the Allies won).  I highly recommend spending the 3 Euros and seeing it though.

That really about does it for this week, and subsequently catches me back up on my blog.  I would like to talk about New Years resolutions for a bit though.  I’ve been toying with several ideas for some, mostly involving traveling.  I think just as a general goal I want to cross off some more European countries from my travel bucket list.  I know this is a bit of an obvious one, but I’ve already been over here for four months and I haven’t gone outside of Germany.  I need to fix this.  As far as places I want to visit, I probably need to trim down the list a bit to make it possible, but here are some general places I want to go to:

Berlin
Hamburg
Dresden
Stuttgart
Bruges
Amsterdam
Strasbourg
Paris (mayhaps)
Zürich
Barcelona
Porto/Lisbon
Venice/Rome/Florence/Verona (really anywhere in Italy)
London
Edinburgh/Glasgow
Athens
Istanbul
Croatia (not sure on an exact city)
Poland (mayhaps)

If I could somehow manage that list, I think I would be pretty set.  We’ll see.  Step 1: find a way to make a bit more money over here. Step 2: find people to go with me.  A bit of a less exciting resolution, actually read more for my comps, which are looming ever closer.  I haven’t quite decided on a third one, but it will probably involve some form of self improvement.  We’ll see.  As for you guys, what are your New Year’s resolutions?

January 1, 2014: I was born in Düsseldorf and that is why they call me Rolf

Before I catch up on the backlog, I suppose I should address the fact that it is indeed a new year.  That can mean all kinds of fun and exciting things, and promises I might make to myself with no real intention of keeping.  To be honest though, I have only really ever made kind of vague resolutions with are overall beneficial to keep, but also realistic.  I think I’m usually pretty satisfied by the end of the old year.  But honestly, I don’t really have anything I want to make a resolution for this year.  I’m not saying there aren’t things that I can’t improve on or things I should do, but I just don’t feel like any of those really need a resolution.  I’ve really learned a lot, not just in 2013, but since I’ve started college.  It has taken a lot for me to get to this point in my life, and it may be the fact that I am currently in Germany on what could be considered a prolonged summer break, but I am pretty happy.  Not only have I managed to surround myself with some really good people back home in America, but I’ve also found some really awesome friends here in Germany.  I really look forward to the places I will go and the adventures I will have in 2014.  Most of all I will look forward to spending these moments with both new friends and old.  Now that I’ve gotten all of the sappiness out of the way: Düsseldorf, and the insanity there.

 

Let’s just say the first afternoon in Düsseldorf was pretty cool.  We got in around 3:30 to our hostel and settled in.  Then we walked around for a bit looking for a Japanese ramen restaurant that one of my Japanese friends here recommended.  We were not disappointed.  Despite what you may initially associate with the German city, Düsseldorf has quite a bit of an Asian population, thus a bit of a little Japan.  Regardless of whether or not our original destination was open, we would have been able to easily find another Asian restaurant not even half a block away.  The noodle bar we went to was, however, open so there was no need to look for another place.  Of course, like most good restaurants, the place was small and there was a small line of people outside of the door when we got there.  There really wasn’t much of a wait and it would have run quite smoothly if there was not a very disrespectful customer inside.  I felt kind of bad for the hostesses trying their best to make everyone happy.  The lady was upset because they would not reserve a table for her or her family (who was not there at the time) and they politely asked her to wait while they seated the other customers waiting and ready to eat.  I know this may not be a common practice, but I can see the argument being made.  Instead of being a rational and patient person, the lady then proceeds to get rather upset and then flat out lie to the hostess, saying her family is no longer going to be joining her.  After about five minutes of this, they finally seat her, and who should walk in but her family, who she claimed was not coming so they had to accommodate more people where she sat.  It was just a bit odd I think.  I don’t understand people sometimes.  The food and the general atmosphere was pretty good though.  I had (I think) shiyo ramen with egg and a Kirin beer.  It didn’t take long to get our order and it was positively delicious.  Sadly I couldn’t finish everything, but it was worth getting a taste of Japan while I was there.  After we ate we walked around for a bit more and then decided to call it a day.

 

The next morning we ventured out to the edge of the city to a little part of the town called Kaiserswerth which is the oldest part of Düsseldorf and has the ruins of an 800 year old castle by the Rhein.  It was a bit of an adventure finding the ruins, but we got to see most of the town, including some churches and an old hospital.  The ruins themselves were pretty interesting.  There was a bit of history there to read.  Turns out the town was first settled in the 700s and was originally supposed to be the site of a monastery.  The castle was first built in the 1100s, but most of the ruins date from about the 13-14th century.  The castle was actually destroyed in 1702 after the war with France when they reoccupied the area.  After walking around for a bit we decided to get out of the cold and rain and had some coffee at a nearby cafe.  Then we proceeded to go back to the city and walk around there a bit more.  It was nice, but a bit crowded.  The main shopping area had thick crowds, possibly due to the end of the year sales.  Then we decided to head back to the hostel for a bit of a rest.

 

This is when shit got real.  Despite our luck with previous hostel roommates, we were not so fortunate this time around.  The middle aged Dutch man who greeted us upon our return smelled vaguely of cigarettes and booze.  I was willing to overlook this, because who am I to judge?  Then he opened his mouth.  He started by asking where we are from, and of course we said America.  Then after telling us that wasn’t a place, and then repeating this utterance once more after we said we were from the U.S., he was finally satisfied with out answer of Alabama.  Then he told us he was from the smallest country in Europe.  Our first guess: Luxembourg.  Then after an embarrassingly long list of countries much smaller than his own, he admitted he was from the Netherlands.  What had at first seemed like a start to an interesting conversation quickly took a turn for the worse.

 

After making all sorts of assumptions based on the fact that we are from the conservative South, he begins to talk about Michelle Bachman, and no, not about her politics.  After admitting that she is a bit crazy, he then says that all of that does not matter because she is so hot.  Okay, a little creepy but nothing to get too upset over.  Then he goes into a tirade about how women are either bitches or goddesses, I guess depending on how they look.  I was starting to get really uncomfortable at this point, and my main defense against something like this is to tune said person out.  But it was a bit difficult.  He kept calling me pet names and trying to get me back into the conversation where he proceeded to talk about women in such a disgusting way.  I’ve never felt like such a second class citizen as I did then.  And while he never directly called me a bitch, you could see it seething through his eyes as he looked at me and coating his words.  This was even before he started talking about gay men, and how there were just too many in New York City.  I am not sure how New York City or gay men came into play, but there he was asking both me and my friend how we felt about the gay people in New York City and getting offended when we said we had no problem with them.  Then the conversation shifted back to women as this sexist, homophobic man began to explain his problem with homosexual men.  Apparently he thought it so abnormal to be able to look at a woman and not feel any sort of sexual desire for the cosmic being standing in front of him.  Now, reading that sort of thing does not do it justice.  It felt extremely rapey to me and at this point I was really uncomfortable.  After somehow managing to escape this horrid man’s soap box, we walked around the town and found a place to eat.  It wasn’t anything special, but it was nice all the same.

 

Then we headed back to the hostel where I stayed in the lobby for most of the evening, waiting for the guy to go to sleep.  My friend and I had a plan, he went to the room first and I waited by a window in the lobby where I could see our room.  He gave the thumbs up if the man wasn’t there, and a thumbs down if he was.  It was thumbs down.  So I ended up playing on my kindle and drinking a beer in the lobby of the hostel until I decided to go to bed.  Luckily the guy was asleep already, but that did not stop me from sleeping with a nail file clenched tightly in my fist for the entire night.  Even with this sad excuse for a weapon, I still managed to sleep decently.

 

The next morning we got up early to catch our 6 hour bus ride back to Erlangen.  There were some traffic jams along the way, but nothing too terrible.  The only reason why I am bringing this part up is because we did see one interesting thing on the way back.  I was talking to my friend and looking out the window, when what do I see?  This huge, hairy ass belonging to a slightly overweight man.  The most interesting part (more interesting than being confronted with a naked ass staring you and hundreds of other cars down as you navigate a busy highway) was the fact that his pants were nowhere in the equation.  Funnily enough no one on the bus quite knew what they were seeing at first.  Everyone just got really quiet as we all tried to comprehend the fact that we just got mooned while driving down a highway, the everyone burst into laughter at the absurdity of the situation.  It was like this man’s ass connected this bus full of strangers, if only for one second.

December 31, 2013: Eau de Cologne

After the Bonn experience I was pretty excited that the hostel in Cologne was first of all, not in the ghetto, and second of all, actually open.  After a bit of a rest, it was time to hit up the chocolate museum.  Yes, you heard me right and you should be jealous.  It is as awesome as it sounds.  Although there was the usual “boring” stuff associated with museums like how chocolate is produce (and of course along with that came the guilt trip due to the poor working conditions, but they at least got that out of the way early on).  There was also a place where you could taste the chocolate in the different stages of productions, which if you know how I cook, you’ll know that I found this particularly interesting.  Then on the second floor we were able to see how they actually produced the chocolate as well as its cultural significance through the years.  My favorite part of the second floor was, of course, the chocolate fountain where we got to try some fresh chocolate.  My friend actually yelled at me to stop reading about the machinery that I couldn’t eat, and get my butt over to the chocolate fountain, or the real reason we paid 6 Euros to visit the museum.  On the third floor they had some older advertisements and commercials, which was pretty cool.  Oh, and there was an old vending machine that we got to use.  Sadly it wasn’t free, but it was worth it.  The shop was also pretty awesome, heh.

After that and a bit of a rest (and only a bit more chocolate) we walked around and found a nice little Irish pub to have dinner in.  It was kind of weird how empty it was, I guess only because it was the night before Christmas Eve, but there were only a couple of other people in there.  The food was good and the beer was a bit strong, and the old cook kept talking to me in a strong dialect of German.  I just always laughed it off and nodded.

The next couple of days were a bit less adventurous, due to the fact that Germany was closed for the 24th and the 25th.  No, that wasn’t a typo, when it is a holiday here, only the most important of goods and services are open.  Sadly we were not able to make it to the store in time to buy the ingredients to make a decent dinner on Christmas (there was a kitchen in the hostel we could use), so Christmas dinner consisted of cheese sandwiches and beer from the vending machine downstairs.  There were gummy bears and some chocolate for dessert, but let’s not get carried away here.  Not to say my Christmas was bad.  We walked around the city and went into the cathedral, which is pretty breathtaking to say the least.  Its intricately carved facade towers over the square below.  I’m just amazed at the amount of detail that went into it.  The inside was equally impressive, most notably the stained glass windows.  They were so intricate and detailed.  It was an impressive feat of architecture made even more impressive by the fact that it was built before modern machines.  We also happened upon an archaeological dig site with the remains of what must have once been a house.  After seeing much of the city (albeit a much deserted looking city) we called it a day.  I think that night I ended up watching the Matrix in German (and also my first time all the way through.  I know, shame on me).

The next day was much the same, walking around and eating college kid food.  We found a nice little park and just sort of relaxed there for awhile.  Then we chanced upon a cafe that was actually open.  This meant we got some nice warm food and drink, even though it was a bit overpriced.  It was really nice considering most of the trip we have not really had the chance to cook our own meals, and thus relied a good bit on nutella and sandwiches.  Then we decided to take it easy and managed to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas on my kindle.  Sadly this was the only real Christmas special I was able to watch because for some reason, there is an appalling lack of Christmas related program on German television.  Oh well, I did also watch Jurassic Park in German that night.

 

The next day we got up a bit early so that we could see if the National Socialist museum was open, and luckily for us, it was.  Not to give anyone the idea that it was a happy fun experience, but it was very informative and something anyone who has any sort of interest in German culture should experience.  The building itself was used as a headquarters for the S.S. (If I remember correctly) but the basement was used as a prison and even worse, as a means to torture said prisoners.  There was writing all over the cell walls, which were mostly packed full of prisoners until they were either let go, sent away, or killed.  The stories that these writings told were often heart breaking, and several people were holding back tears, if not openly crying.

 

The upper floors had more to do with the history of the National Socialists.  It was also pretty informative, but owing to the fact that there were no English translations written like there were in the basement, I didn’t dwell too long.  My friend sadly had to rely on me to know what anything was saying.  This is sad not because he doesn’t know German, but because I often forget that he doesn’t know it, or even better, I don’t realize that it’s German anymore.  I can’t tell you how many people have asked him a question in German and I’ve just stared at him like, well are you going to answer her?  Then after about five seconds of this painfully awkward silence, it clicks that that was German and I need to translate.  I am a potato.

 

But I digress.  At the end of the museum we met an old man who worked there.  He was… interesting to say the least.  After he realized we were from America, and more specifically Alabama, he started talking about the Civil War and slavery.  It was quite impressive how many of the details he knew, and embarrassingly enough, he probably knew more than I did.  Of course after awhile the topic turned to Hitler and the Nazis.  He had some very interesting facts, despite saying some things that were bordering sympathy towards the Nazis.  Apparently the National Socialists were somewhat obsessed with old legends like Atlantis and finding the Holy Grail.  They even sent people to go and try to find these things.  Also, the “old” part of the city of Cologne, which everyone thinks was rebuilt according to their original plans before the war, was actually rebuilt according to the Nazi plans for the area because there were no records prior to that.  Several of the traditions during Carnival were also changed/created by the Nazis according to this man.  Before Hitler men used to be the dancers, but because that was considered too homosexual, they changed it to women dancers.  He also said they started the tradition of wearing costumes while viewing the parade.  Oh, and the founding of the city was apparently based on its own “Holocaust” (his words, not mine).  Before Caesar converted to Christianity, he took over the city and had all of the original inhabitants killed.  So he was pretty interesting to talk to.

 

And that about wraps up Cologne.  I’ll have to post the pictures for it later, seeing as my camera is now completely dead and I have to get the pictures from my friend.