Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vacation planning

This August Ryan and I are using our generous European vacation allowance (the German legal minimum is 24 days) to visit Ireland and Scotland, with a quick stop over in London. We've chosen to forgo our beloved Rick Steves this time around, even though we love his books, because of the crowds at his recommended sites. The plan is to fly into Dublin for a few days, then hit the west coast of Ireland, drive over to Belfast, take a ferry to Scotland, visit the highlands, hit Edinburgh for the theater festival, and then train to London, visit our friend Bonnie, and then fly back to Frankfurt. This amounts to a lot of planning.

While scouring the internets, Rough Guides, and Lonely Planet, I've discovered a few travel tips I thought I'd share.

Car rental: Stranraer, the Scottish village at the end of our ferry ride, only has a Hertz rental car. I originally used the English website (with the "" ending) and got a reasonable price. But when I tried to order the car, I had to enter my country of residence (Germany) it took me to the German website and doubled the price! I emailed tech support thinking this had to be a mistake. But no, apparently they hate German people. (My interpretation, not theirs). Luckily I found which is a US-based consolidator. They got me a much lower price from that same Hertz rental in Stranraer. (And they are Rick Steves-approved.)

My second travel tip is this interesting article from The Boston Globe about what makes a vacation enjoyable. The findings are rather surprising. A short, novelty-filled vacay is better than a month long expedition. Maybe Americans are on the right track after all with the two-week vacation? Not that I'm trading in any of my days...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Die Jungs

Day 8 of the World Cup...everywhere I Yesterday I saw a woman walking around in a soccer ball bra...can't take much more of this...everyone is talking incessantly about "die Jungs" (the boys)....Die Jungs in South Africa....did you see die Jungs?...At least the coach of the German team is kind of attractive. Jogi, take me away from all this soccer, once and for all....

As they say, "Jogi hat die schönste Frisur" (Jogi has the best haircut). P.S. Joachim= Jogi's full name.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Little Children and Pregnant Women Should Not Watch

Wow. I never thought about teaching my students to swear. Maybe I should be taking notes.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup Fieber

our local cafe displays some flags

The World Cup kicked off last Friday afternoon in South Africa. I, like the vast majority of Americans, have never paid much attention to the World Cup, but in Germany it is very hard to ignore. Games are played daily at 1:30, 4:00, and 8:30, and its being shown everywhere. There is a huge public viewing screen on the square near my office, and every cafe (even the tiny wurst stand near our house) has a flat screen TV. This is also the only time you see the German flag. Europeans aren't really "patriotic" in the American sense of the word. Most of the time the cities are flagless, but when World Cup comes around, they sure make up for it. Windows, cars, doorways, everything is draped in flags. And we are representing as well, with a flag on our car, one on our balcony, and several extras for decoration. I mentioned to some German friends that the patriotic atmosphere is rather like the Olympics, and one replied, "No, its not. The world cup is much more important!"

Until last week I didn't know much about soccer, but my soccer-loving husband helped me fill out a bracket for work and explained the various rounds and rules, which turned out to be very helpful professionally. All my students wanted to know the English terms like "group phase" and every class wanted to discuss the teams. I put Germany as the winner in my bracket, and expected a few brownie points for this, but all the Germans I've talked to were reserved about their own odds, many betting on the Netherlands, Argentina, or Brazil. There was also a fair amount of trash-talking the US, but after our amazing tie on Saturday, that's quieted down a bit.

For now the World Cup has taken over our lives. Ryan is in heaven....I am trying to muster enthusiasm. We'll see how that works out.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"This candy is pretty good...for being communist"

playing "The Viking Game" at the campground. Teams throw wooden blocks and try to knock the other team's forts down.

Last weekend we went camping with Ryan's coworker, Dirk. He's a really funny guy and owns about every piece of outdoor equipment imaginable. We drove to Pahna, a campsite in Thuringia, in the former East Germany. All of the other invitees were East German or "Ossis" like Dirk. There was a lot of joking about local dialect, and local expressions, but people were very helpful in explaining things to us Americans. At one point Dirk asked Ryan what time it was and Ryan said "viertel nach zwei" (quarter after two), and Dirk replied "viertel drei?" and Ryan said "nein, viertel nach ZWEI" and Dirk went on to explain that in his dialect you could said "quarter three" which meant quarter after two. His friend Claudia insisted that this was "sehr logisch" (very logical), while Ryan and I maintained that it made no sense.

We had another educational moment as we sat around the BBQ one night (no campfires, boo!) and another friend, Daniel, produced a shiny gold bag, and all the Ossis went wild. Daniel said to me in English "Katy, you do not look excited." And I asked "What is it?" He tried to explain "It is east german candy from our childhood, it is chocolate but also this Knäckebrot." (Knäckebrot is a really terrible German version of crackers. Its kind of like a ghetto Triscuit.) But Daniel was anxious for me to try his favorite candy, and I have to say it was not bad. I expected it to be like Nestle Crunch, but it wasn't as sweet, and more cracker-y in the middle. Daniel watched me closely and asked, "Is it AWESOME?" And I told him that yes, it was awesome. Ryan and I were discussing it later and talking about how all these people grew up under communism, and Ryan uttered "This candy is pretty good...for being communist." Communist chocolate is pretty similar in flavor to Hershey's chocolate, which should really tell us something.

As far as the rest of the weekend, it was really fun, though of course very different from camping in the US. As I mentioned, no campfires, and therefore no s'mores. Also we had to check-in to the campsite and fill out forms, put a tag on our tent, and take special keys to get in and out for parking and to the bathrooms. Also we were given both trash and recycling bags. That could all be expected. But what surprised me was how well-appointed the campground was. Not only did they have real bathrooms, but also showers, and a tiny kitchen. I don't know what the point of the kitchen is when you're camping, especially since the campground had its own restaurant and bakery. But that's Germany for you.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Updates Galore!

Last night Ryan and I celebrated our 2 year anniversary of living in Germany. I bought a bottle of champagne and some lamb steaks and we reminisced about how terrified we were the first few days living here. Now Germany is just normal to us. Well, minus a few things....

Lena won Eurovision on Saturday night! I was, and continue to be, totally shocked. I guess people are sick of sappy ballads and would rather see a cute girl dancing like a maniac. Personally I was pulling for Belarus:

W I N G S ! ! !
In other news, German Flashcards, a good site for improving your German, taught me something super useful today:Sentence of the Day:

Ich habe Angst davor, dass Roboter eines Tages ein Bewusstsein entwickeln und die Menschheit vernichten.

I'm scared that robots will become self-aware one day and exterminate the human race.

You don't know how many times a day I need to express that exact sentiment.

And finally, funny student story of the week. I have a very advanced student, and I'm always trying to challenge her with new vocabulary and slang. We were discussing "vegetarian" and "vegan" and so I decided to teach her "flexitarian". I asked her to guess what it might mean. She looked at me very seriously and said, "It sounds to me like a person with no moral character." My students are awesome.