Thursday, February 14, 2008


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I think I jinxed us with my post about our beautiful weather. The sun never came out today. According to the weather website I check it should be like this tomorrow as well but then beautiful on the weekend.

It is a bit strange to talk about the weather on a blog post. But I find that once you actually have weather you end up talking about it. I suppose we shall have no end of conversation topics once we move to Indiana this summer.

The gray skies today made me think about the festivals that are held throughout the winter months, trying to warm us up and bring color into our lives. We just finished with Karneval, here in the Rheinland area of Germany. There were too many pictures to post on the blog so I am providing links to two Picassa web albums. I think you will be impressed with the amount of color involved in the 6 day festival.

Karneval starts in November (11/11 at 11:11) but other than a kick-off event, most of the Karneval events are held in private residences. It really starts on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. We were still in Utrecht at the time of the official start (11:11 of course) but we traveled back to Bonn that evening, changing trains in Köln. We were possibly the only people on the train not in costume.

On Sunday, the people of Bonn stormed the Rathaus (see photos here). After being turned away several times and returning with more and more soldiers, the prinzenpaar (royal couple) finally succeeded in winning the keys to the city until Wednesday when all would return to normal.

On Monday, we went to Köln to see the huge Rosenmontagzug (see photos of Monday's parade here). It was extremely cold and it rained off and on while we were there. We watched about 2 hours of the parade and then I asked someone how long the parade lasts ... 5 hours or so was the answer. Arlo and I decided that we were cold and hungry enough to be satisfied with what we had already seen. All through the parade, people throw things into the crowds. We came home with a large bag of candy, a small stuffed Karneval clown and several flowers. (No roses even though it was Rose Monday ... I got tulips and a carnation).

We've discussed Karneval at length in my language class. I learned that this is, historically speaking, a time when a person could say anything they wanted without fear of recrimination. This explains the predominance of politically motivated floats in the parade.

During my last language class, we had a debate as to whether Karnaval is good or bad. On the negative side, were arguments about the excessive alcohol consumption and the greediness of people when it came to gathering the throws from the parades (to the exclusion of looking out for children), the amount of trash that is on the streets during this time period and the extra workers needed to police the streets and man the hospitals, and the lack of meaning of the festival seeing it only as an excuse to exhibit behaviors that would be otherwise socially unacceptable.

I couldn't help but see this as a "Bah Humbug!" argument. There seems to be a similar argument regarding all of our winter holidays: Thanksgiving is just about food, Christmas is too commercialized, Valentines Day is a "Hallmark Holiday." I've been reflecting on this a lot and I think that we get out of any holiday or celebration what we put into it. I hear people talking about the commercialization of Christmas and, after having it explained to me, I can see what they are talking about. But somehow it doesn't affect me. I enjoy putting myself out there for people and I get a lot of reward. I saw the same in the German people at Karneval. These rather stoic and reserved people were friendly and outgoing to an outsider (me).

Happy Valentines Day!

Well, it is my first attempt at crochet and my first attempt at writing with embroidery. So it is a bit lopsided and the writing is a bit wobbly. But I am happy with it as a first attempt. Jennifer of Craft Sanity linked to this blog with the pattern. And it was Jennifer's idea to embroider the candy heart sayings. I hope you all have a wonderful Valentines day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Beautiful Day

We have had the most amazingly beautiful weather for almost a week. This past Saturday we walked up to Kreuzberg where we had this gorgeous view of the city. The tall spire in the center of the photo is the Munster in the center of the pedestrian zone city center. We walked for about 3 and a half hours (there, around and back).

On our way up, we walked through a graveyard (beautiful old trees). Arlo added to his mathematical site collection with the gravestone of Felix Hausdorf.

Here is the church and proof of our gorgeously clear sky.

And this is the view of the penitent stairs. This portion of the church is only open on Easter Sunday when pilgrims go up the stairs on their knees, in prayer. You can see the ornately painted ceiling in this photo. This ceiling is throughout the entire church.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Well ... It's February Already!

I guess you can all tell that posting to my blog everyday was not on my list of New Year's Resolutions. Hopefully, I still have a reader or two left out there. This post is not about anything but rather everything. I have gathered a smattering of photos that represent the last two months of my life. Here we go ...

Things I've knitted:

Poor Arlo had no scarf to call his own. He had been using an old wool scarf in a blackwatch plaid that I have had since my travels to Scotland back in the early 90s. I knit him this doubleknit scarf that is 8 feet long. He can wrap and wrap and then wrap some more.

I knitted these fingerless gloves for my sister, Karen, and her husband, Joe. The pattern was based off of Kristen's fingerless mittens pattern but I added a partial thumb. I could not hand make all of my Christmas presents this year but I'm glad I chose Karen and Joe as recipients since they gave Arlo and me hand made gifts this year. That was a fun, bonding, coincidence.

This is the baby jacket that I knit for Isobel -- Sheri and Ron's GORGEOUS baby.

I knit this bauble for Carolein -- the secretary at MPI. She has been an amazing resource and friend to Arlo and me this year.

And finally, for myself I knit my first successful sweater. This is my third sweater. The first was made from free yarn that just did not match my skin tone. Nor was the variegation in the yarn suitable for anything other than a crazy animal print. It was great practice and a good lesson in how a sweater is put together. The second sweater looks fantastic ... spread out on the bed, but definitely not on me. I've been wearing this new sweater all the time. It is quite snuggly and warm. Plus I love the color.


I have felt that I've needed to learn to cook all over again. Recipes that I love in the U.S. seem to not work very well here. Many ingredients that are commonplace and inexpensive in the U.S. are not available or extremely expensive. Okay, maybe not extremely but more expensive than I want to spend on food. We would much rather spend Arlo's salary on travel. The two categories of food that I miss the most are Chinese food and Mexican food. In theory, one can get Chinese food here in Germany ... but I haven't had any that tasted good. There are no Mexican restaurants. I have found a pan-latino grocery store ... but I'm not really sure what to do with most of the items ... and again, it is expensive.

My friend Daniel and his wife Gabrielle invited me over to learn how to make Tamales. They had brought mole and some chilies from Mexico.

My kitchen does not have enough light to really photograph the cooking experience well. But here is the best photograph of my version of Orange Chicken. The frozen version from Trader Joe's had been a go-to meal in our busy life in Tucson. I found myself craving it. So with much experimentation, I figured out the batter for the chicken (egg whites and cornstarch) and I made a sauce with orange juice and hoisin sauce (available in the asian food store).

Carolein (at MPI) invited me over to her house during her Christmas holiday in order to make a Goose. We cooked most of the day on St. Nikolaus Tag (6 December). Arlo and Carolein's husband arrived after work. Carolein's parents also joined us. We really enjoyed being a part of a German family celebration.


Since I've last posted, Arlo and I have been to Münster (Conference for Arlo), Ireland (Christmas and New Years with Sheri and her family), Darmstadt (Arlo's first invited talk), Mainz (on our way back from Darmstadt), Nijmegen (to visit Eric and Mette on our way to Utrecht), and Utrecht (Conference for Arlo).

This was our first overnight trip within Germany. It turned out to be a nice trip. But it sure did not start out that way. I picture myself a strong, confident traveler ... but this trip tested me in such a way that I had difficulty regaining my confidence on further trips.

The second day of the trip went much better than the first (I'm still not quite ready to talk about the first day). I wandered through the city and saw lots of old things. We also went through the Münster Christmas market. It was slightly different from the market in Bonn. It was a lot more crowded. We had a fantastic drink ... an 'After Eight.' This was a shot of a mint liquor in a hot chocolate. That drink alone should be enough to wipe the difficult experiences on the first day from my mind.

Old Tower ... part of the medieval wall.

Evening view of the main pedestrian street. (There are so few people because everyone is in the market that is off this street.)

We had been planning on spending Christmas and New Years with Sheri and her family since we first decided to move to Germany this year. I loved getting to see my friend and meet her beautiful daughter. I got some quality kitty time as well (the Gress-Wingrove clan have 4 cats in the house).

Here's Isobel. We're standing in front of Sheri and Ron's house.

I had one tourist goal for our trip. I wanted to see New Grange. I've tried to get to New Grange twice before. This first time, we didn't even get out of the bus station in Dublin. The last time we got to the site a few minutes after the last tour had left. And this time ... this time ... well, this time we arrived in plenty of time ... but all of the remaining tours were sold out.

A kind docent told us of a road we could drive on that would get us close enough to take the picture above. Along this road is another passage tomb that has not been excavated in modern times. We could not go inside (gate blocking the entrance). But we could wander around the site. This is where the following picture was taken.

Arlo and I took a few day trips into Dublin. We went to the Guinness Storehouse (which was a much different tour that I had taken back in 1993) and to the Kilmainham Gaol where the political prisoners during Ireland's path to independence were held. This tour was just as fascinating as I remembered.

We also took an overnight trip to Waterford. This is a port city ... but not a coastal city. So we took a city bus down to a coastal town so that I could see the ocean.

Arlo gave his first invited talk at the Technische Universität Darmstadt. The editor of the journal that accepted his first paper is a professor here. When he found out that Arlo was in Germany he invited him to give a talk.

While Arlo was giving his talk, I wandered through the city. Darmstadt was Germany's epicenter of Art Nouveau. It was a residence town during the prince-elector system in Germany. Like Bonn, the residence has been converted into a main University building. And the town was nearly leveled during WWII. So there is quite a mix of architecture around. Here are some of the photos from around town.

View of church through Herren Park that borders the University.

Art Nouveau wedding tower for the emperor Ludwig.

View from the Residence gate towards to old city hall.

Tower that was once part of the medieval wall. The copper top was added in the 1700s.

The next day (after Arlo's talk in Darmstadt) we needed to travel through Mainz to return to Bonn. We decided to take a long layover there.
A view of the Mainz Dom.

The facade of the Gutenberg Museum.

We spend most of the day in the Gutenberg museum. It was a fascinating exhibit not just about the man and his printing press but about the history of printing both in Europe and Asia.

Arlo registered for another conference in Utrecht. This is in the Netherlands so this was our first trip outside of Germany within continental Europe. We have friends in Nijmegen so we journeyed there first. It was fantastic to see them and we were able to save a night's hotel cost.

Eric walked us around the university (where Mette works as an Art Historian).

So this was a bit of an awkward photo to take. But I never really understood what was meant by "red light district" and I suppose it is possible that some of you don't either. Those red lights are in big picture windows that have a girl in them. Along the lines of a department store display window. This is in Nijmegen and is much smaller than the red light district in Amsterdam (so I've been told). I'm sure that Utrecht also has such a place, but I did not see it.

Arlo did not get to see much of Utrecht as he was busy in a conference the entire time. He had two dinners in the city center (with me the first night and as part of the conference the second) so he only saw the city at night. Our hotel and the university were off to the east of the old city center.

Right in the center of the old part of town lies the Dom. This is a protestant church now. Interestingly enough, the church is only the choir of the original cathedral. The nave was destroyed by a tornado several hundred years ago. So the tower below is separate from the rest of the church.

I was unable to stand in such a way to get the entire tower. I did however climb it.

This is the view from about 95 meters up the tower. This is not quite the tippy top ... but as high as one can go and actually stand on a balcony. You can see the two canals that run through the city center.
A pretty cherry tree in the cloister garden.

Canal view

We have gotten used to dogs being allowed EVERYWHERE in Germany. They are in restaurants and in department stores as well as anywhere else that people go. Well ... Utrecht was a cat town.

This fellow was in the restaurant that we ate dinner in out first night. He seemed to be recommending the salmon to everyone.

Although, he might have preferred herring since he is a dutch cat. Eric joined us on the second day of Arlo's conference. He convince Arlo to try the (raw, pickled) herring that is a dutch specialty. I had a small taste of Arlo's but chose the Chicken Satay for myself. Eric says that when you buy this as street food (imagine living somewhere where it is safe to eat fish as street food) you hold it by the tail and eat it -- bones and all. In the University Refer one is normally more civilized.

Local Ventures:

We spent quite a bit of time at the Bonn Christmas Market. It was the place to meet up with friends, listen to music, eat fun food, and make a wish list. Most towns in Germany have a Christmas Market during December. Occasionally they have a special theme.

Siegburg is the town at the end of the streetcar line that passes in front of our house. I had heard that they had a medieval christmas market. So we went to see.

Here is a woodworker using a foot pump to turn his lathe.

Here I am eating Räubersfackeln (robber's stick) we are still unsure as to what type of meat this was. As I ate it I thought it was chicken. But we've heard all sorts of things from pork to horse meat. I have no idea. It was really good though.

Speaking of good ... the bread that we bought was made in these stone ovens. It was fantastic.

This fair was a challenge to my German skills because they were using archaic words. (Just like we would at our Renaissance Faires). For instance instead of things costing 1 Euro they would be 1 Teil (one piece). We ate a lot of amazing food (including some apple fritters that were the best apple thing I have ever eaten) and saw some entertaining stage shows. Arlo even bought me a Christmas present while we were there (a pretty hair clip). We were there on a Sunday afternoon. I understand it was really pretty at night since they did not use any electricity ... so there were candles everywhere.

January was a busy month for us. In addition to our trips to Darmstadt/Mainz and Nijmegen/Utrecht we had to use the coupons that had been given to us when we registered with the city upon arrival in Bonn. They expired at the end of 6 months.

We used the free Bonn Theater tickets to see La Boheme at the Opera house.

We used our Bonn Orchestra tickets to see the National Youth Orchestra at Beethoven Halle.

Both of these performances were amazing. We also used our free tickets to several of the museums in town.