Thursday, February 28, 2008


So yesterday I went to Café Lolo, one of the cafés in Saarbrücken with the best reputation for torte...I had Herrentorte, a chocolate torte with thin layers of white cake, chocolate cream and marzipan, with a thin, hard dark chocolate shell. Then, today during one of my free hours I went to the nearby Café Steigleiter, in the interest of research, as they also have a fine reputation, where I had a Marzipan-Preiselbeertorte...sooo good. This is going to kill me, but I feel like I have to live it up while I'm here.

I just wonder why bakeries in the US have such different offerings? Why is the bread all so mushy? Why can't you get a good dark loaf? And why don't we bake with marzipan? Or make German Kuchen? (No! There's no way to translate it! it's not cake, it's not pie...Torte is similar to what we think of as cake.)

But then again, they don't know what pie is.


I was with a friend yesterday who got a new car, and said it was actually designed for an American market. Musing on the differences between European and American cars, he said "Someone told me that Americans need so many cupholders because they spend so much time in their cars." I agreed, adding that the distances are in general bigger so we spend more time commuting and traveling by car.

Then I told him, we also have drive-through coffeeshops, which he didn´t really understand the concept of. I said, you know, like the McDonalds Drive-Thru, except for coffee. He got that. Then I said we also have drive-through banks, which he really thought was hilarious! "What? You mean you drive up to a window to do your banking? To get money out?!"

Yup, we are an unusal breed, we Americans...

Monday, February 25, 2008


Friday my roommates and I set off on a grand road trip to the north of Germany...Hamburg! It was about a six hours' drive, and when we arrived my dear friend Klara had a delicious lunch waiting for us. We then went into town, walked around a bit, had coffee, went to a museum, and got ready for our night out on the town...

Hamburg's Reeperbahn, the main drag of the red-light district, is famous for its good bars and clubs (and, of course, other establishments...). It is actually a really safe area though, and if you're female or under 18 you can't even enter the most red-light of the red-light streets. We went to a concert and then were out dancing until Saturday morning was definitely one of the most fun nights I have had so far here in Germany!

Saturday, after three hours of sleep, we had breakfast and then went out on the canals of Hamburg in a rented four-person canoe.

I am not going to lie, we were a bit too low to the water for my comfort. And I warned one of my roommates that if one of my sisters had paddled like that during a family canoe trip (dragging the paddle) I probably would have hit her. :) But we made it, and it was a unique way to experience the city.

Then we went back into town, had more coffee, went to a museum, went to the theater, came back to Klara's and played Apples to Apples (Äpfel to Äpfeln) and went to bed. Sunday Klara was helping with the vote in Hamburg, so we explored the harbor area and the old part of the city on our own. We did a little boat tour, had a Fischbrötchen and then got ready for the big drive home.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

das Wetter

Yes, I read that Star Tribune headline today: "Another Day in the Deep Freeze."

Just to let you know, we have crocuses popping up. And pussy willows budding. And ice cream trucks drawing hordes of children. Not that that's normal in February...but I am enjoying it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

And there was light...

I bought a light for my bike today so that I could bike to the pool after sunset. I joined a swim team, biked to training and back. I'm proud of myself. :)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Spaß = Fun

The picture above is the four of us in my WG--we had a Valentine's cocktail party on Thursday, which was a lot of fun.

Other highlights of the week:

Monday night I went to a lecture about the Wirtschaftswunder, the "Economic Miracle" of Postwar Germany, the transformation from rubble to a successful economy. The speaker concentrated her research on the top managers in Germany's biggest companies, who made money during the war (weapons, etc) and after a few years in jail continued in post-war Germany. Interesting topic. We often don't think of what a business war is.

Wednesday night I went to a lecture on Turkey and Germany. It was so information-packed I don't even know how to condense it here... One current issue is the headscarf ban being relaxed (did you know headscarves are banned at universities in Turkey? I didn't...). If you haven't read about this, look into some of the BBC Articles.

Also, the prime minister of Turkey spoke in Cologne earlier this month and made a comment which has drawn huge criticism: (read more)

“Assimilation is a crime against humanity. I may think differently from Merkel on this matter but I explicitly declare that nobody can dictate to the Turkish community to assimilate”

In school this week I did some really fun lessons on the Grammys. I played the five songs nominated for Record of the Year, did some vocab with them and they voted on their favorite. If you have any awesome ideas for me for this week, pass them along...

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Nancy, France (roughly pronounced: non-C)

Today I met my friend Lexie and her friend Julia in the beautiful French town of Nancy, which was about 2 1/2 hours by train from Saarbrücken. Nancy is famous for its Art Nouveau buildings, and for its makeover in the 18th century (under Stanislas "the Magnificent").
These pictures, above and below, are from the Place Stanislas, an 18th-century square with beautiful wrought-iron railings. It was a gorgeous day and everyone was taking advantage of the sunshine, whether sitting in cafés, on benches, or walking through the nearby park. It was in the fifties, and really felt like spring!

Mmm...patisserie...every time I go to France I eat lots of pastries! Today I had a really good escargot, a snail-shaped, cinnamon roll-ish piece of heaven.

I took this picture down a main shopping street in Nancy. Does anything strike you? All of a sudden it hit me that everyone was wearing black. Really. In France in general.
While chatting with my friends about how well Europeans dress, Julia revealed her theory to me: Americans are in their cars too much. We don't walk in the city so much, so it's not as important what we look like. Here, where you walk to work, to go grocery shopping, to get your haircut, to run countless errands...and maybe we just don't dress so stylishly because of that? Still doesn't explain why we wear sweatpants outside... Please let me know if you have any thoughts on this.

We also went to the fabulous, gorgeous Art Nouveau-style Restaurant Excelsior. This is Lexie's beautiful dessert, with the regionally typical mirabelle fruits on top. She made fun of me because I always take food pictures. But what's more important than food? :)

By the way, I bought some good cheese to bring home...I hope it didn't stink up the train...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Karneval, Fasching, Fastnacht...this is party time in this region of Germany. (We in the Saarland even got a week and a half off of school!)

The most famous celebrations are in Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz. Fasching is called the fünfte Jahreszeit in this region, the "fifth-season", because it is so important.

Carnival week started on Thursday, which is called Altweiberfastnacht, with the tradition of women cutting off mens' ties at work! Then there are balls and parades all leading up to the biggest party--the street festival on Rosenmontag. It ends with Ash Wednesday, so it's like the last hurrah before people used to fast during Lent. Accordingly, this holiday is not celebrated in the North of Germany, which is predominantly Protestant.
I went to Frankfurt on Sunday and then down to Mainz Monday morning. The train was filling up with crazies the closer to Mainz we got! My friend Molly and I dressed up like clown cooks...
We got good spots for the parade, conveniently close to a Wurst stand, a Bretzel stand, and a Glühwein stand. :) As the various floats rode by they yelled Helau! and the crowd answered Helau! back at them. (It sounds much like the English "hello"!) They also threw candy into the crowds.

These are all different floats that allude to various current events:

This one refers to the new smoking ban:
"Wir müssen draussen bleiben!" We have to stay outside! :)

This one, you can maybe see, is a blood-doping cyclist!

This float is called "Fat Children" and refers to the fact that even Germany has a growing problem with fries-eating, computer game-playing children...

German female athletes are bringing in more trophies than then men...
This model of the German Reichstag (parliament building) says: Above every circus is a cupola.

A Commentary on Global Warming
More random fun pictures!
Molly, me, Ben, Brittany

below: gross, the aftermath

Me with one of my roommates, Matthias

After the parade there were street dances

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Today I drove to Verdun, France with one of my friends from school, a student teacher who teaches French and Geography.

This is probably going to be one of the most difficult blog posts for me to write because it is so hard to put into words what I feel going to such a place, and it is hard to put impressions into words, and pictures don't do it justice. After reading so much about World War I, seeing movies and having courses, I had really wanted to visit this place. I didn't really know what it would look like today--a landscape that had been turned into no man's land because of heavy shelling and trench warfare. Somehow it was odd to be there on a sunny, snowy day. But it was very quiet, and there weren't many other visitors, so I appreciated having time to reflect.

The Battle of Verdun took place from February 1916 to August 1917, along a front 124 miles long (200 km), and resulted in the death of 400,000 Frenchmen, almost as many Germans and a few thousand American soldiers. I was really surprised that you can still see how the war changed the landscape--almost 100 years later! People have compared the post-war trench areas to the face of the moon--deserted, bare, huge craters from bombs...but if you see detailed pictures you also see body parts, machinery pieces, barbed wire, tree remains...just horrible.
Below is the Ossuary of Douaumont, built to house the remains of about 130,000 unidentifiable bodies of French and Germans killed during the battle. There are small windows along the wall of one side, where you can look in and see bones. It's horrible. Just the thought of so many bodies turned up in the dirt.
The Tower is shaped like a shell and has four crosses on it. In front is a national cemetery with 15,000 crosses.
Then we stopped at the memorial for the city of Fleury-devant-Douaumont, a small village which was completely destroyed with the war, and changed hands sixteen times between the Germans and the French. I thought this memorial was really, really well done. They had markers where the streets used to be, where there had been a baker, a blacksmith, a farmhouse, and you could walk across this unnerving-ly wavy ground and just imagine what had to have happened here.

The pictures don't do it the ground is full of bomb-holes.