Thursday, January 29, 2009


I'm pretty busy at the moment, so things will either be slow on the blog, or they'll pick up the pace as I seek ways to put off the stuff I really need to do. In hopes that it will be the former, here's some intermission entertainment from 1985 West Germany. I'm sure you'll enjoy it. ;)


Monday, January 26, 2009

Basel, Burg Hohenzollern, and Tuebingen

I'm a little short on time at the moment, but have a bunch of pictures from Mom's visit to share!

Basel Jan 09

We went to Basel with her on Saturday. She chose it as a foreign country excursion over Strasbourg, as they have a very nice tourism website! It was supposed to be warmer than Heidelberg there that day but was actually noticeably colder. Still, it was very pretty and the weather didn't stop all the throngs of people from taking their Saturday walks and doing their Saturday shopping!

Burg Hohenzollern Jan 09

On Wednesday, we planned a trip to Burg Hohenzollern and Tuebingen. This sounded great theoretically but somehow time ran short quickly! We rented a car as it's really the only good option for getting out to the castle, but it took us until we were all in dire need of a restroom and lunch to get there. So we had lunch and didn't drive up to the castle until afterward. Then there was a walk up to the castle from the parking lot, and the trails were closed because of ice, so we had to use the more circuitous driving path. To go inside you must follow a tour which was a little under an hour long and a bit on the expensive side. It was only in German but they gave mom an English book to read to follow along. The rooms were very ornately decorated, and not in the gross angel-fart sort of way, but nice. In the end, we didn't get to Tuebingen until just before sunset! We had a walk around there and Mom had her first Spaghetti Eis (despite the cold weather).

Tuebingen Jan 09

It was very cute, although I don't think we ever found the super student-friendly neighborhood while we were there (if there is one - it's a university town but a little on the conservative rich side, like Heidelberg). So it didn't strike us as as cool as Freiburg!

Mom's trip home was thankfully much less eventful than her trip here - not a single cancellation and only minor delays. Whew. However, the same day she flew out a friend of mine had a delay getting her connection in Frankfurt due to fog - and ended up spending a full day waiting for the next plane to Cairo. So I got to visit with her up there and finally seen the Roemerberg without a festival in the way of all the cute buildings. :)

Monday, January 19, 2009

guest blog - germany toilettes and more...........

the toilettes in Germany - what can I say, there are pros and cons. More pros, however, such as THEY ARE THE CLEANEST RESTROOMS I HAVE EVER BEEN IN! so clean, and nice, private stalls, no chance for anyone to peek in and they are situated a good distance away from the eating areas, how nice for the people sitting next to restrooms. The only cons would be, there are not a lot of them and sometimes you have to pay, but they is definitely on the low side, since they are so impressively clean!

Sunday we went and had lunch at a German restaurant. I had steak sirloin with caramelized onions and fried potatoes and brussel sprouts, both with bacon - very American in name only! Portions and flavor were mouth-watering and the potatoes -omg! yum!!

then we were off to the castle overlooking Heidelberg. That was awesome, too, and I stood there imagining knights and damsels walking the courtyard and Kings and Queens eating large roast pig at the tables!! Our tour guide was funny, too. We took the stairs back down and stopped at a kaffee shop to warm our tummies and our hands/feet. I had a slice of cake. So far, the cakes I have had have been yummy to look at but lacking in taste. Disappointment there. So- good to look at or good to eat!? :-) I choose - good to eat!

Today (Monday) I find unacceptable changes to my flight itinerary, so it could be another interesting trip home on Thursday. I call and tell them I cannot go as they plan for me and my only other option is Frankfurt to Amsterdam to Houston to Des Moines. So, after the fear of being stranded in Amsterdam left me, I decide I would rather try that then have to spend the night in Houston, so.........

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Guest Blog: Mom

after an eventful flight here and an unexpected stop at London's Heathrow airport, I finally arrive here in Heidelberg. Since I have never been out of the US before, anything and everything is new and awesome to me! The train stations, the train rides, all of the little shops in the train stations, the river, the cute - cute- did I mention cute? houses and buildings - and the pedestrian walk. Not to forget the most awesome - all the wonderful looking pastry/bakery shops!! I love breads, and they all look fabulous here. yesterday we took the train to Basel, great shops, great buildings, the river, the people, a fabulous fabric store which I would put in my back pocket to take home if possible and more cute buildings.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Heidelberg in Winter & Handschuhsheim

Here's hoping Mom makes it to Frankfurt today. If she does, there may be not so much blogging from this direction. In the meantime, here are some recent photos of the area to enjoy!

Heidelberg Dez 08 & Jan 09

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Another Mom Update

Mom's sleeping in London tonight.

Mom Update

Seventh phone call: In London. Foggy. Flight delayed at least 3 hours. Cell phone doesn't work in Europe. Pay phone is costing $11 for 3 minutes. Tell her not to call anymore unless her flight number changes.

The internet is now telling me her flight won't leave London until after 6pm - that's 7pm our time. This has now effectively shaved a full day off her German vacation (and possibly some days off her life due to stress!). And did I mention it's snowing today? There's no wind, just big fat flakes covering everything. They broke the ice on the Neckar and big snow-covered chunks are floating downstream. Everyone I saw out walking today was grinning to themselves and whipping out cameras. As it so happens my mom loves snow. This would have been a great day TO VISIT THE SNOW-COVERED CASTLE WITH MY MOM HALLO AIRLINES

I think my mother is going to move in.

She's on her way to come visit, but I doubt after this experience she will ever want to see the inside of an airport again - so I guess she'll be stuck in Europe!

Her plan was to connect through Houston and arrive in Frankfurt at 9:15am today. Everything seemed fine - I Skyped with her a bit before she left the house. Then the phone calls began.

First phone call: Flight to Houston has been grounded for mechanical reasons. Waiting to be re-routed as they want to do the international passengers last.

Second phone call: Re-routed through Dallas. Now going to arrive in Frankfurt at 7:15am.

Third phone call: Who knows why, but re-routed through Chicago. Now going to arrive in Frankfurt at 11am.

Fourth phone call: In Chicago. Wants to know if Euros should be purchased at the airport exchange counter. I say no. Layover turns out to be five hours long, not three hours as stated when they booked her for this route.

Fifth phone call (after 1am here): Flight to Frankfurt has been mysteriously cancelled. Of course they wait until the last second. In line to be re-routed. If she can't be, then she will have to stay overnight in Chicago.

Sixth phone call (2:30am here): Re-routed through Heathrow with arrival in Frankfurt at 5pm.

Thankfully there have been no further phone calls and Flightview shows her plane over the Atlantic near Ireland. Whew. Now for the Heathrow adventure. That airport is not fun to travel through, and just recently Damon's family missed their flight from there because of the general logistical madness. I don't even know if Mom's cell phone is usable in Europe so if something goes wrong there, hope the pay phones take US currency! (And sort of doubt it!)

This will be Mom's first time out of the United States! This could mean some good guest posts, so everybody hope she'll be interested in doing some.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Weather from the Rheinland-Pfalz

And maybe a little something else too:


Sunday, January 11, 2009

We Survived the Great Freeze of 2009


This is our third winter here, but it's the first one that we've seen ice all the way across the Neckar! (Note everyone out for a Sunday walk! Everybody was taking photos of the ice, too!)
As a result, the water upstream from the ice was incredibly still. Beautiful!

Found this blog today; the writer says he is 49 years old and this is the first time he's seen the Neckar frozen. According to a guy quoted here, it hasn't frozen this much since 1963 - although then it was much more frozen.
The police would like to warn you that it's thin ice and neither you nor your dog should walk on it. ;)
Sadly, tomorrow the forecast shows temperatures going back above freezing during the daytime, and I guess they'll have to start getting boats back through here again soon.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Bourgeois Pig: I Hardly Knew Ye

I was really excited a couple of years ago when we found this little shop/gallery called the Bourgeois Pig* on a side street near the Heiliggeistkirche. Places like it were a dime a dozen in Chicago and Boston, but Heidelberg was really hurting for interesting shops with, well, stuff I actually had a taste for. The fact that it had a gallery which introduced us to local artists we really liked (like these two) was a super cool bonus. The other bonus was that it was so friendly. Come on, I know I'm not the only one out there with a little complex about walking into places I know are hipper than I am. But I always felt welcome there. A couple of times when we went in they mentioned there were going to be events that evening and we should stop by. Every time, I ended up getting caught up in something else that night and not making it back. I always meant to blog about them, too. Well I finally am, but...

Now it appears they are closing* and I feel like I've been taking for granted all this time that I was eventually going to make it to events there, make it to the next gallery show, use up the rest of a gift certificate I got from there. Argh! They're having a final show and a whole week of parties. I guess this is my last chance to go, but I feel a bit lame only finally showing up now. (Here comes that complex again.) And now Heidelberg is going to have a big freaking void again in the cool store/gallery department. I've been to several other galleries here too but haven't like any of the others as much. Why, Bourgeois Pig!?

I need to move to a bigger town!

*Clicker beware; something in the code on these pages kills my internet connection. (Pie Pants, have you been working with them? ;) )

Thursday, January 08, 2009


It snowed on Monday, and amazingly some of it has stuck all the way through today! This was no big deal in other places I've lived, but in Heidelberg, it really doesn't snow that often, and it sticks even less often. It's a welcome, pretty break from the otherwise brown, brown, brown Heidelberg winter.

Snow can reveal some weird things, however. There are stairs connected to our terrace which join it with all the other terraces on our side of our building. In addition to lots of bird and paw prints, there were also shoe prints in the snow. They came from upstairs, pointed onto our snowless terrace, and then went back up the stairs. Er...?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Metric System

Two and a half years in, I'm still kind of a dope about the metric system. It's not converting within the system - that is so mercifully easy and makes me sort of hate the imperial system. It's just having an idea of the sizes. I know what a centimeter looks like thanks to having it on the other side of all my rulers growing up. I have a good idea of one meter, since it's so close to one yard. And thanks to all the drinks I've had at restaurants, I'm pretty clear on 0.2 and 0.5 liters! I've also successfully revamped the way I think about temperatures and centigrade weather temperatures are good enough for me now without having to make any conversions in my head. Still have to whip out the converter feature on my cell phone for oven temperatures, though.

But when it comes to other things I have big problems! The restaurant is 200 meters that way? God help me - you might as well say how many miles it is, both are too abstract for me. Please tell me number of blocks or landmarks! People have also asked me how many meters away something is. Not a clue unless it's 3 or fewer meters away. I still can't remember my height in centimeters, either, although I've got my weight in kilograms down. I've got no idea about kilometers per hour, although I know that 300 km/h is a fast train! My grasp on grams - for instance, being able to say how many grams an apple weighs - is still sketchy.

This week has a cute metrics guide for those with similar problems:

Go here to see the whole thing, since it's cutting off on the side of my blog.

And, who loves Atom? We (the US) should use metrics because "Canadians will think we're smart! Or, at least, they will think we are not as dumb!"

Atom and His Package, "(Lord It's Hard to Be Happy When You're Not) Using the Metric System":

And speaking of the US, and while I'm on YouTube, I think you should watch this! :)


Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Music Post, 2008

I'm a little late on the Music Post this year.

Last year I shared my favorites from 2007, both German and non-German, and then threw in a retrospective of favorites from the previous ten years too. This year I think I'll stick with just my favorites which were released in 2008, as that's self-indulgent enough as it is, eh? Unfortunately I don't think I ended up with any big German favorites this year, so it's hard to keep this topical to the blog this time, except to say I guess I am mostly preferring non-German music at the moment.

The music embedding I used last year, imeem, still doesn't seem to have caught on. I didn't really want to go with youtube because they take up so much space and because I don't really care if there is video, but it seems to be something everyone is more comfortable with, so I will go with that anyway. So, disclaimer, I don't know anything about the videos and some of them are just junk to go in the background so the song can be shared. Just ignore the pictures and listen. :) The genres I give are just a general guide and/or warning if you hate particular genres.

Best of 2008!

Jukebox the Ghost (American, pop) - Under My Skin

The Presets (Australian, electronic) - Kicking & Screaming

"My People" is another good one on this album.

Animal Collective (American, pop?) - Water Curses

Passion Pit (American, pop/electronic?) - Sleepyhead

The Dodos (American, pop) - Fools

Fleet Foxes (American, folk) - Mykonos

Paavoharju (Finnish, experimental?) - Kev├Ątrumpu

Pop Levi (British, pop) - Never Never Love

Portishead (British, electronic?) - We Carry On

Daedelus (American, electronic) - Hrs:Mins:Secs

Ratatat (American, electronic?) - Imperials

Santogold (American, pop?) - L.E.S. Artistes (XXXChange Remix)

TV on the Radio (American, rock) - Golden Age

I'm not sure if this is really my favorite from the album - "Family Tree" and "Lover's Day" were also in contention - but I love the dancing cops in this video, so I went with it!

Vampire Weekend (American, pop) - The Kids Don't Stand a Chance

That's the actual recording, but I recommend watching the Blogotheque version, which is awesome (just like about everything on Blogotheque):

I couldn't get a video for any Simon Bookish - but he had a great album this year. Hercules and Love Affair's "Blind" is great, but the video is so awful I couldn't include it (I couldn't find one without the official video).

Please share some of your favorites from 2008! I'm always looking for some new stuff to listen to.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy New Year!

We rang in the new year at a friend's house in Kirchheim, officially a neighborhood of Heidelberg that really feels more like a little town in its own right. The whole place was completely iced over, giving new meaning to having a good slide!* We ate his homemade pakoras and brownies, sampled wines he brought back from a Christmas trip to the Schwarzwald, then went out to the street around 11:40 to start lighting some fireworks.

We could hear banging all around, but on our quiet little residential street we were the only ones making racket and we were starting to feel a little guilty about it. Then midnight came, and suddenly the street was full of people, lighting fireworks of their own or just stepping out for a second to acknowledge the new year. It was nice to be out in a smaller neighborhood where we could set off fireworks, watch other people's and still get some of the feeling of pyrotechnic insanity without being along the Neckar, where we've spent the past two years, fearing for our eyeballs and other burnable exposed areas. It's fun, but it's scary.

After all the festivities were over we found ourselves a little bit stuck in Kirchheim. The tram had stopped running, the wait for an S-Bahn was 1.5 hours, and we'd just missed the Moonliner bus too. All the cabs that went by were taken. We started walking to the next bus stop just to have something to do while waiting, but when we got there, there was no Moonliner sign on our side of the road at all and we were starting to question ourselves. Then, a cab showed up that was free!! He picked us up and was clearly feeling chatty. He went on and on about how lucky we were to be picked up and all the cabs were busy. Damon noticed his German didn't sound native, and asked him where he was from. He gave us a hint: the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner came from his country. Embarrassingly, we struck out on that one. So he gave us another hint: "Many countries want to go to war with my country." Damon didn't catch it and asked him to clarify which countries. "The Americans want to go to war with my country." Well, we got it this time: Iran. We don't know if he could tell we were American or not - we only spoke German with him and it's hard to say whether our accent is obvious. Anyway, we said we hoped it didn't happen and he rambled on about there being whackjobs in charge all over the place, but in the end we all hope it's just big words. What a way to ring in the new year, eh?**

*Prior to midnight, Germans wish each other a "good slide" into the new year. The same word, Rutsch, is used to warn you to look out because of slipperiness, or "slide risk".
Another funny note on the ice: our friend is from India and has lived there and in Singapore, but never anywhere cold, until now. This was his first experience with walking on ice and he said it felt like everything was covered in oil! It never occurred to me to wonder what it must be like to feel ice under your feet for the first time.

**I'm feeling asterisky today. In another weird moment, we were pondering the new year and it occurred to me that I really don't like the number 2009 and have kind of a bad feeling about it. I realize this makes me sound crazy but I don't really think of it any different than liking/not liking a color or song or name. I said I felt a little funny about the number and our host said, "I was just thinking the same exact thing!! I don't like this number at all." Um, spooky? Here's hoping there's absolutely nothing bad, funny, or unlikable about 2009! :)