May 11, 2014: Eurovision!

For those of you who don’t know, last week was the Eurovision Song Contest.  This is a three night event (spread over five days) where the majority of countries in Europe enter a song from their home country and compete.  The contest has a reputation of having some really terrible entries.  For example: Ireland 2008 and Ukraine 2007.  Now don’t get me wrong, some of the entries aren’t that bad.  Most are just really mediocre pop songs pandering their usual four-chord, key-changing tunes to the masses, trying to be as unoffensive as possible.  And hey, there are actually some pretty decent songs as well, one of my favorites being Finland 2006.  That being said I did actually enjoy myself whilst watching the contest due to two major factors: 1. Friends and 2. Booze

 

We ended up playing a drinking game in both the semi-finals and the finals to ensure we would enjoy this year’s Eurovision.  And to my knowledge, everyone did.  We brought snacks and booze and made snarky comments where snarky comments were due.  We danced along with the more poppy tunes and made fun of most of the ballads.  We groaned with every key change and every four-chord song and we shouted for our favorite countries to go through to the finals/get enough points to beat the competition.  And through it all, Austria won with their entry, which isn’t a bad song at all, but I really didn’t think it was the best one in the mix.  And the dead last losers, I’m sad to say, was France with their mustache song (apparently the entire song is about him wanting to have a mustache, but it’s catchy and more memorable than some of the other songs.)  So upon the results we had the winner (or the highest placing representative we had there, which turned out to be Hungary) take a shot of strawberry vodka (less nice than it sounds) and the loser had to drink a dirty pint, which consisted mostly of off brand Jager (not nice at all) and milk.  Yum.

 

Honorable mentions (at least in my opinion) go to:
Poland
Hungary
Latvia
Iceland

 

Overall I would say it was a nice way to spend most of the week.  Unfortunately I didn’t do much outside of that, especially considering how much it rained all week.  Here’s hoping it stops raining so much, even though I should probably rest up a bit.  Soon I will be going to Siegen with the Verband.

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May 4, 2014: May Day!

So we are officially in May now and let me just say, time has flown by so quickly!  It really makes me sad to think that I only have three months left in Germany before going back to finish up my Masters.  But before I get sentimental, let me talk about what I’ve been up to!  Apparently in Germany May 1st is the equivalent to their Labor Day, so in celebration of such a holiday, naturally most people don’t have to work.  Instead, what I learned you are actually supposed to do, is acquire a wagon or trailer, buy massive amounts of beer and load up said trailer, go outside somewhere, and drink until you can’t stand up straight.  It’s a pretty good holiday by any university student’s standards, if I say so myself.

 

In order to properly celebrate such an important day, Donald and I went to a small village about 40 minutes or so away from Erlangen with several of his friends from class.  There were six of us in all, but we met two later on for whatever reason.  The reason why we decided to go to such a small place was that they were hosting a beach volleyball tournament.  At first I was a bit wary of the idea: spending the afternoon with  a group of people who I didn’t know all speaking German and playing a sport I haven’t touched in over five years… well there was beer involved and Donald really seemed excited about it, so I decided to break out of my comfort zone once more and give it a go.  And overall, I’m really glad I did.  I met some really nice people, and we managed to come in 4th in the tournament.  Granted there were only 10 teams, but we only really had one seasoned player on our team.  And with our final match opponents’ matching shirts in the last round, how could we really beat color coordination like that?  However, if we had had a chance to practice a bit before hand, I’m sure we could have done better.

 

Other notable events from Thursday was the beer and the food.  We got there around 11 and started drinking some of the local beer (Hofmann beer for those interested).  It was the earliest I have every started drinking, and I will have to say, I’m not the biggest fan.  I still took it pretty easy until later in the evening, but something about my American brain just doesn’t see the point of getting drunk that early in the day.  I can understand having a beer or something with your lunch, but I don’t want to make drinking my only goal of the day.  Not that I am complaining.  People getting drunk so early in the day and continuing to down more beers throughout the afternoon provided me with some class entertainment, well with the exception of the older drunk guys who somehow thought it would be fun to attempt to play volleyball resulting in what can only be described as the most boring game ever.  The only bad bit of the day would have to be the drunk guy who, very early on, decided to play on the of the playground equipment and then proceeded to fall off head first within the first 10 minutes of his arrival.  We are pretty sure he had a concussion and soon enough an ambulance came to take him to the hospital.

 

Friday and Saturday were kind of rainy and cold, so they ended up being lazy days.  There’s nothing really spectacular or interesting to note here.  However, the weather on Sunday was spectacular.  And not wanting that to go to waste, Donald and I decided to go for a bike ride all the way to Forchheim, which is about 20km or 12 1/2 miles away from Erlangen.  And even though it is only one stop away from Erlangen on the RE train, I had never been there before outside of a weird train incident on my way back from Bamberg.  So after a really excellent breakfast, we started off on the hour long journey.  The bike trail we chose took us through the western part of Erlangen, over the river, and ran right by the Main Donau canal.  And because we decided not to go through a bunch of little towns, we had the most amazing scenery on the trip there and back.  There were meadows with all sorts of plants and flowers for miles.  We could see the little villages in the distance with the Frankische Schweiz (small hills in Franconia) dotting the horizon.  The sky was a brilliant shade of blue with little puffy clouds much like the ones in Toy Story.

 

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Once we made it to Forchheim, we walked around the small town for awhile looking for a nice place to eat.  Forchheim is a pretty typical small Franconian town, at least architecture wise.  We ended up sitting outside of the city hall at what was the busiest restaurant in town.  The rest looked deserted and not wanting to end up like those people in Hostel, we decided not to try one of the ghost town eateries.  The place was nice, and after biking 20 km to get there, we really appreciated the food and beer, but the atmosphere was what was really nice (ie. being surrounded by all of the old Franconian buildings).  After that we walked around a bit more in order to try and find a nice postcard for my wall, with no luck seeing as it was a Sunday and everything was closed anyway.  Then we made the long journey back.  By the time we got back to Erlangen, I must say, I was pretty sore.  I would love to do a weekend bike trip somewhere, but I honestly don’t know if my body is up for it just yet.  Or my bike for that matter.  But we will see in due time I suppose.

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After that I met with one of my American friends and made her a typical southern U.S. meal consisting of fried chicken, peas and carrots, buttermilk biscuits, and bread pudding.  I must say, I have found a pretty good and pretty simple bread pudding recipe as well.  I might try and include it in the recipe section if I ever get the motivation to update that section of the site.  But it was her first time trying bread pudding and she seemed to like it well enough.  I know I sure did, heh.  And that is about all I’ve done this weekend.  I have no real plans for next weekend outside of a birthday party.  I may end up taking a day trip somewhere, either by bike or train, seeing as I have so little time left here which has made me realize I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of my traveling list…  Oh well, guess that means I’ll just have to come back, heh.

April 27, 2014: Śmigus-Dyngus

So this brings me to Easter Monday, which isn’t typically celebrated in American, but it is here in Germany.  The day started when Frau Arneth (the lady in charge of my program and who looks after me) came and picked me up at around 11 to go on a day out.  It was quite nice to get to spend some time with her since I don’t see her terribly often.  And she is a really sweet lady who kind of reminds me of my late granny in both physical features and demeanor.  Anyway, she picked me up and we drove around and through several small towns in order to see the fountains of each village which are typically decorated for Easter.  Despite most of the villages we drove through not having much done to their fountains, we did see several nice ones with their hollowed out painted egg shells and garland laced around the fountains.  It was quite interesting to see all of the fountains even though Frau Arneth kept saying how disappointing they all were this year.  After driving around for a while we stopped at a beer garden in Schwarzachtal to have some lunch.  It was typical beer garden fare.  I had a wiener schnitzel and a side salad.  It was pretty nice and the service was very quick.  Then we went hiking it what is called the Little Grand Canyon in the Frankische Schweiz.  For those of you who don’t know, they are just several little foothills of what I can only assume to be a part of the Alps to our South.  The hills are not even as large as those you might find in northern Alabama, but they are nice nonetheless.  And the Little Grand Canyon is a hiking trail (well more like a walk) through the small canyon made by a small river.  Given that it is such a small and calm looking river, it is pretty impressive how deep it actually is.  It’s a shame I didn’t get any pictures though, but it was nice.  And the weather was pretty nice as well.  So after our hour or so walk along the river and through the canyon, we headed back to Frau Arneth’s house to have so coffee and cake.  It was there that I met some of her family and we talked about a whole host of subjects, including marijuana, heh.  And eventually it was time for me to head back home so that I could meet up with some friends to do an Easter egg hunt in the sculpture garden on the “Berg”.

 

But first, we had to celebrate Easter Monday the Polish way, which meant Śmigus-Dyngus.  For those of you unfamiliar with the holiday it mostly involves guys pouring water over girls as a superstitious way to ensure girls will get married some day.  There has to be some sort of innuendo I’m missing here.  And since one of my best friends over here is Polish, well, we had to make sure she would get married some day.  So make shift water guns in hand, we made our way to Ela’s.  After ringing the doorbell we finally saw her coming down the stairs, rain jacket on and water bottle in hand, prepared for the soaking of her life.  After two rounds of water fights, we all finally headed up to the berg, about an hour and a half late and drenched.  But there was still a good 30 minutes or so of egg hunting before everyone was too drunk to do anymore.  It was pretty fun running around finding eggs, especially with all of the drunk people.  See the game was to have one person hide the eggs (the winner from the last round) and then everyone else had to take a shot of something, spin around on a stick 10 times, and then go.  I thought I was going to fall even though I decided against the shots.  I did, however, get into it (as I do sometimes get unreasonably competitive when there is a competition).  I ended up kneeing a stone wall and having a massive bruise, but I kind of deserved it for pushing one of my friends out of the way to get the egg.  Potato.

 

After that we decided to meet up with Tom in the park because he had not yet partaken in the fun that is Śmigus-Dyngus.  So on the way back we found a stream and filled our water bottles with some water and got ready for our sneak attack.  And sadly, as we crept up on Tom, we realized he had his phone out and we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to douse him until he had put it away.  But by then he had caught on and started running.  We then had to work together to corral him like a pack of hungry lions would do to a gazelle.  We still didn’t drench him as much as we had wanted to, but it was fun.  And he later got a hold of Donald’s water bottle and chased Ela and I to the square.  Several people looked at us as we squealed from the frigid water, but it was fun.  After that Donald, Tom, and I went to a nearby Donner place and we ordered what had to be the biggest pizza I have ever seen.  We struggled to eat it all between the three of us.  It was good though.

 

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As for the next two days we met Donald’s uncle and cousin who came to visit him in Erlangen.  It was pretty nice.  There was a lot of eating, drinking, and socializing, so it was pretty relaxing.  We also found some pretty good places to eat in Erlangen and Nuremberg.  I think the most interesting thing we had to have done was go visit the courtroom where they had the Nuremberg Trials.  And while the room was arranged differently than it originally was in the ’40s and ’50s, we still got to see where the Nazis were actually tried.  We also got to read detailed information about not only the trials, but also the defendants, attorneys, prosecutors, and judges.  There was even a brief exhibit on the Tokyo Trials, which was pretty interesting as well since no one really discusses the war criminals in Japan.  After the museum and lunch we walked around the historic part of Nuremberg.  Since his uncle didn’t feel up to walking up to the castle, we stayed in the square and visited a couple of churches.  We also saw a folk music band playing outside of one of the restaurants which also had an entire pig roasting in an oven.  We then made our way to a small cafe by the river and sat there for awhile and chatted.  It was nice and relaxing, and I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten so well for two days straight!

 

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Outside of that it was not a terribly eventful week.  On Friday Ela and I took a bike ride to try and find some lakes we wanted to visit on Saturday.  After getting lost for a bit we ended up taking a trail up this large hill and overlooking a beautiful valley with meadows and small villages dotting the ground.  We cycled around for a bit longer before deciding to picnic in a meadow.  After lunch we cycled up another big hill and made our way to Neunkirchen, which is a small town not terribly far from Erlangen.  It was nice, but we didn’t stay long before making our way back.  The on Saturday Donald, Tom, Ela, and I did end up going on a bike ride to the lakes we tried to find the day before about 45 minutes away.  We also took stuff to grill and even had chocolate and marsh mellows for dessert.  The only thing missing was the graham crackers.  And while most of the ride to the lakes was pretty uneventful, we began to have a bit of bad luck as we neared the lake.  While crossing a field Donald’s bike chain snapped in two, leaving us with either two options: we take a bus back home or we devise a way of towing him to the lake.  We went with the latter, or course.  Using two bike locks and the back of Tom’s bike, we made it safely there and even towed Donald all the way back to Erlangen in this manner, getting the most bizarre looks from people we passed.  Overall it was a pretty nice day.  I only had two complaints: I forgot to bring my swimsuit so I couldn’t go swimming and ticks.  We somehow managed to not get them all over us, but we did find a couple roaming around on our blanket, causing me to be quite paranoid the rest of the outing.  And while there were some light gray towering clouds threatening us with their rolling thunder, we stayed for quite a while before deciding to head back home.  And it didn’t even rain on us!

 

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April 20, 2014: It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown!

I know I have been doing a terrible job of writing every week as of late, and really, I have no excuse.  But let me try to amend that by doing some catching up.  My plan is to be completely caught up by Tuesday of next week.  So hopefully I will write like mad until I get there.  And hopefully I will remember everything I’ve done…

 

Going to Saas Fee for a week of skiing was awesome, but unfortunately going meant that I missed the entire first week of classes.  Well,  more like the entire first Monday of classes.  Yes, that means that I only have real classes on Monday, with my belly dance class late in the evening and my poi class happening to fall on a Thursday.  Before you think I am super lazy and actually did this on purpose, let me explain.  I actually signed up for six classes, but the others were wait listed by the time I got to it and sadly, I did not get in those other classes.  I thought about branching out and taking some in the English department here, but that didn’t pan out either.  So I just decided not to worry about any of it (like I was going to anyway) and devote my time instead, to earning money and using that money to do a bit more traveling.  As for my classes, I like most of them, especially the belly dance and the poi class.  I also really like my German dialects class and have even managed to make some friends in there.  Although I do have a hunch that foreign students tend to have some sort of gravitational effect on other foreign students considering two are from Brazil and one other girl is from the Ukraine.  My other two classes… well it’s going to take some convincing to go back.  The literature class is rather boring, and to be perfectly honest, now that I have access to the materials online, it really makes me not want to go.  I really only decided to take the class in order to get an overview of the various literary movements in German literature for my comps next year.  The other class has the potential for being interesting, but I don’t think I like the professor all that much.

 

That aside I had a pretty awesome week.  We kicked off that last Sunday by meeting Ela and staying all afternoon in the park, juggling, talking, eating ice cream, and playing guitar.  It was also the first time I had seen Ela in about a month because she had to go back to Poland for awhile.  It was nice.  As for other things I did that week, I spent a lot of time outside, especially juggling, since the weather was so great, and I also spent a lot of time riding my bike to random places.  I also realized that the forest behind my dorms goes back way farther than I had originally thought.  I also watched some movies and caught up on Game of Thrones.  We also had a barbecue, which originally was in a park, but was moved after the police came and told us, along with several others, that we are only allowed to grill in non-grass areas, which really takes half of the fun out of it.  So we moved to Ela’s and grilled out in her courtyard.  We had sausages, pork chops, several veggies, and some grilled feta.

 

And of course I can’t talk about this week/weekend without mentioning Easter!  And let me just say, Easter is a pretty big deal here in Germany.  Not only do they get the actual holiday off, but they also get the Thursday and Friday (Green Thursday and Good Friday) before, as well as the Monday after (Easter Monday).  So we had a pretty long weekend (not that I didn’t already, heh.)  And on Sunday, not only was it Easter, but it was also Ela’s birthday!  Our small celebration started off around 2 when we went to the aroma garden and had wine and cake (which I made the night before.  It was some sort of sponge cake with cream filling and I topped it with some mandarin oranges.)  It was very nice.  But having our luck, soon dark gray clouds loomed over our heads, with Tom and Ela assuring us that it wasn’t going to rain, or at least according to the Norwegian weather forecast.  We decided to pack up anyway, not wanting to ruin the second half of our tasty confection.  We had almost completed our 10 minute walk back to Ela’s, when the heavens opened up and drenched us with buckets of water.  The cake was okay though, so don’t worry.

 

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Grumbling about the rainy weather and promising to write the Norwegian weather forecasters a nice letter, we made it back to Ela’s and made an early dinner consisting of pasta, feta, tomato sauce, tomatoes, onions, garlic, zucchini, and mushrooms.  We all ate until our stomachs groaned and still somehow managed to have leftovers.  And since by that point the sun was shining, we decided to go out and play Frisbee and juggle.  However, we did decide to stay close to shelter considering the torrential downpour earlier.  So we found a nice square right beside Ela’s and stayed there until dark.  We continued to drink our wine and cherry vodka (from Poland!) and we eventually finished off the rest of the cake.  There was also a bit of tree climbing involved since Tom took every tree’s presence in the square as a challenge to his tree climbing abilities.  After it had gotten dark we watched a couple of movies, one of which was the basis for the American remake, Dinner for Schmucks.  You can watch the trailer for the original French version here.  Then that was about it for the day.  I think we might have ended up watching something else as well… maybe Death at a Funeral?  But the details are getting a bit fuzzy and we have watched several movies together recently.  Unfortunately I can’t seem to keep them straight.

 

And that about sums up the first part of my Easter holiday.  I will get to posting the few photos I have later on and hopefully I can catch up on my blog!  Until then!