Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The "Superpost": A year in pictures... much to look back on after one year. Luckily I take an insane amount of photos and I can relive lots of the memories via visual aid. :) Here are some highlights:

September: moving in to this beautiful neighborhood, enjoying the warm September weather at Mauerpark, visiting friends and having friends visit, walking to cafés, having a beer or cake...
October: biking around the city, cooking lots, going to the markets, doing work at the archive, giving a talk at Bochum and at the FU, sharing pumpkin-carving traditions with Americans and Germans...
November: the days start getting darker...library time, cooking time, getting to know new friends, going to the theater...
December: sister time! Christmas markets, Glühwein, baking gingerbread, more Christmas markets and more Glühwein, jogging with Elisabeth, December rain (blgh), Christmasy window displays, Jessica's New Year's visit, German breakfasts, concerts, bakeries, restaurants...
and in December Michael and I also went to Switzerland...which was too cute but also too expensive...

...and we traveled to Dresden with Elisabeth...for the greatest Christmas market of them all...
so yeah, I guess December was a good month. :)

January: going to more plays, the first dusting of snow, cooking with new root vegetables from the market...
Feburary: a little more light snow, seeing movies at the Berlinale Film Fest, seeing the Berlin basketball team play, seeing fairy tales, eating Butterbretzel...
March: the weather started to warm up, some flowers coming up, Michael's birthday, jogging in Tempelhof, friends' visits...
April: Berlin half marathon, the leaves came out of nowhere, film archive visit, Michael's team winning trivia (some 300 EUR), wine tasting, eating out on the balcony, grilling at Tempelhof, Spargel season, warmer and lighter evenings...
and in April my mom and mormor also came to visit and we traveled in the Rhine region, drinking lots of good Riesling, hiking, admiring the castles by boat, with visits to Mainz and Frankfurt...
May was busy...starting with the First of May party in Kreuzberg, then a 10K run, a quick visit to Hamburg, the German swimming championships, Michael's sister and cousin coming to visit...
and June got even busier...swimming at Prinzenbad, Berlin triathlon, bachelorette and bachelor parties for friends, 48 Stunden Neukölln...

and my parents' visit: time in Berlin with travels to Rügen, Hamburg, Lübeck, Amrum and back.

July:  Fourth of July picnic at Tempelhof, swimming at Müggelsee, Jessica's visit and other Michigan friends coming for the summer, and the awesome hike in the Sächsische Schweiz

and August...which was recent so I won't repost pictures. :) But it's been hard to say goodbye to all the new friends we made this year, and all the places that have become part of our day-to-day.
Auf Wiedersehen!

Monday, August 13, 2012

goodbye Schnitzel - Felix Austria

almost 11 months later...same restaurant for our-to-last meal as for our first meal in Berlin :)
I way overdid it at dinner (I think my stomach expanded while in the Black Forest) and got dessert...Kaiserschmarrn. So good...Like big fluffy eggy pancakes with rum-soaked raisins, a dusting of powdered sugar and plum compote on the side. lecker :)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

the big day: eine deutsche Hochzeit

On Saturday at 2:00 pm we went to the church for the wedding ceremony. It was a Catholic ceremony, so many of the texts and the format of the service were rather familiar. The bride's family is very musical, so there were great pieces, and the bride's sister even planned a surprise song for the end of the service. It was really beautiful, and I would say at the church it was very similar to American weddings, except they don't do the bridesmaids/groomsmen thing. They just each have one witness (Trauzeuge). The groom chose to wear a suit and not even a tie (which I guess was pretty radical...). Everyone greeted/congratulated the couple, and we had a glass of Sekt. Then they drove off in an old Mercedes decorated with flowers and we all walked to the reception at a nearby hotel, next to a park overlooking the city. First we all sat down and had Kaffee und Kuchen around 4:00 pm (I'm loving German weddings already...). At this point they already cut the wedding cake (Hochzeitstorte) and people had that with the other cakes - many other different kinds of traditional homemade cakes. I sampled a few...too many. I also think many of the children had a sugar rush. :)
After Kaffee und Kuchen people walked out in the rose garden nearby, and took some pictures. They also took a huge group photo of everyone there. (we don't do this - right?) And this is also when the bride threw her bouquet into the group of single women. (No garter equivalent in Germany for the men). Then people had some punch...and then dinner was served: first two appetizer courses at the tables (melon with black forest ham, and then Maultaschen) and then a large buffet with three different kinds of meat, fish, potatoes, vegetables, and of course Spaetzle...The food never ended, or the wine and beer either. It was all so much and so generous. The father of the bride gave a toast, and the bride's sisters sang, and then after dinner there was a little "program" with a quiz game about the couple (I guess there are often games involving the guests, but they didn't want that), and puppet show (which was hilarious). I think the dance started a lot later than it would have in the States (maybe around ten or midnight?). They had dessert at some point as well...and the couple did a dance together, and later a friend of the groom's who is a reggae DJ played. It turned into a great party that quieted down at 3:00 when they made us turn off the music, and then at 4:00 after one last drink. What a party!

 Another interesting German tradition: they also give money as gifts (no such thing as a wedding registry at Target here...), but they "deliver" the money in super creative ways. The mother of the bride told us there are even whole books about it in Germany, how to do "money origami." Funny, huh? So they fold it into little birds, or flowers, and then wrap the "present"  in plastic cellophane. Someone gave them a little house made out of plaster, that they would have to break open for the money. Another a little "beach house" that was decorated with a money-bird, a money polo shirt, money chairs...Stuff like that. :) Really funny!
look for the money hidden in the gifts above

Friday, August 10, 2012

the Standesamt and recovery day

More German wedding traditions...So on Friday morning we got up early and left the beautiful Burg (where some of the partiers were still sleeping), and drove to the town of Villingen, where the bride is from (and the groom nearby - they have known each other a long time and have been together eight years!), for the civil service. In Germany you have to have a civil marriage, and the church marriage is optional.For our friends, who were having a church wedding, going to the Rathaus (city hall) was just a formality, and they treated it informally.  Their witnesses ("best man" and "maid of honor") were there, and a few friends. We were lucky to be able to sit in on the little "ceremony." Usually I don't think there is much of an audience, if any besides the witnesses. It did surprise me a little that the parents didn't go. There was some civil servant who read a little thing about them, and they made short vows, and he pronounced them legally married. The whole thing took 20 minutes. Afterwards we had breakfast at a café in town and then headed to a spa-swimming pool in the Black Forest for a "recovery day" (as part of the five-day-festivities).

 Here are a few more pictures from the cute little town of Villingen:

 So then we went to this pool, called the Badeparadies Schwarzwald, or "Bathing Paradise Black Forest". It's a brand new pool complex, with three areas: a kids area with water slides, a "Palm Oasis" with some cocktail bars (no children allowed), and a "Wellness" Area with saunas. I have never really been to a spa before - and I think "spa" culture is really different in the US and Germany - but I really enjoyed it. There were areas where you could go outside and have this forest panorama and sunbathe, and the main pool also had an outdoor section with a bar. So fancy. I've never been in anything like this. Michael thought the whole palm tree "biodome" thing was pretty hilarious. It was really nice though. It was a little expensive (26 EUR/person for the day), but everything was super clean and it's only maybe 2 years old so everything was also very new feeling. And the saunas had staff doing "pour-ons" every half hour. I did two of them. They close the door, pour on various aromas and ice and get it really hot, then fan the hot air around the room. Germans sauna naked, and mixed naked (men and women together). Probably the most extreme, even for Europe. :) So that's a bit of a culture shock for us. It was really great though, and definitely nice (also for the bride and groom) that they planned this low-key, relaxing day into their wedding plans. It was a group of maybe 10-12 friends who came with to the pool/sauna. Afterwards we headed back to Villingen to be ready for the wedding the next morning. :)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"Scherben bringen Glück": Polterabend, a German wedding tradition

 So after our day in Tübingen we drove through the windy mountainous Black Forest roads to Schramberg, where Philipp's mom now runs a Gasthof-Restaurant on top of a mountain next to castle ruins. Amazing. I will run out of adjectives like "amazing" pretty quickly here. :) The restaurant has an outdoor terrace with great views over the valley and forest, and the hotel rooms were super cozy. They generously hosted us (three Americans plus other friends and Philipp) for two nights at the Burgstüble, and they hosted the "Polterabend" party for the couple Thursday night.

Polterabend is a traditional party held before the wedding, traditionally the night before, but sometimes a week or so before. Friends and family bring porcelain and ceramic and break it at the doorstep of the couple (or the bride's parents' house, or whatever). I guess often they just say the date and friends and colleagues can also come by who maybe aren't invited or can't come to the actual wedding celebration. Anyways, people bring a bag of dishes and throw them and break them on the ground. The groom has to sweep it up (or sometimes they do it together), and someone usually comes by once or twice and dumps out or scatters what he has already swept together. :) True Schadenfreude. It was great! So German! Really a fun tradition. Oh, and you can't bring glass. There is a saying "Scherben bringen Glück", or "shards bring luck", but not glass or mirrors. So it was all porcelain or ceramic.

Below is a little video from when we went out to dinner Wed night. Philipp's stepfather is obviously used to these super scary windy narrow roads! 
Oh and I didn't mention...before the party got started on Thursday I managed to sneak in an 11-mile run, which was sooo much fun, but so challenging. In Berlin I get no altitude. It was probably some of the most scenic landscape I've ever run in. First down the cliff, past a little chapel in the forest and more castle ruins, down to the town of Schramberg, then along a little river for a flat section, then back up with a super steep climb back up. It was funny because there was a man biking. I came up behind him, and it was so steep running was more efficient than biking. (He was also probably about 65! biking up a mountain!) I said something to him about how steep it was, and he said, ja ja and that he would probably see me again at the next turn-around. And sure enough, it flattened out, he passed me, then I passed him again... :) Funny. Out in the middle of nowhere in the forest.

 People playing some hacky-sack in the castle ruins during the party.

 For the party they grilled and had beer, and lit a little fire. Some friends played guitar, we got to start meeting family and other friends. It went late into the night and then some people camped in tents in the castle ruins.