Thursday, March 31, 2011

Meters II

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Today our apartment moved into the modern age of radiator meter-reading - they removed all the liquid-based meters (which I discussed here previously) and installed these very fancy new digital meters! I am ever hopeful for the day our meters can be read somewhere centrally rather than in our apartment, but hey, baby steps. They pulled a cable-guy-style annoyance by announcing that they would be here sometime between 8am and 5pm to do it, so there were people home all over the building - coincidentally on the same day that our water was cut off for part of the day due to construction! How does that happen?!

Anyway, I look forward to seeing what these new meters do. I figure they must be more accurate than the liquid-based ones, since sometimes the liquid just evaporated out of them. I doubt that's going to save me a ton on my heating bills, but one can hope. :)
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Regenbogen!

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Heidelberg just had what may be the brightest rainbow I've ever seen! Unfortunately this also happened to be the day I forgot to put the memory stick back in my camera, so I could only get 2 photos of it - and as I was afraid it would get dimmer or disappear any time, I didn't hunt around for a better vantage point. But, it's still pretty amazing!

From a slightly better spot when it was less bright:
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Do you go to the doctor auf Deutsch?

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Fellow expats living in Germany: when you go to the doctor, do you conduct the appointment in German or English?

I have to admit that even after four and a half years here, I don't feel I could talk about a problem with a doctor in German without having to talk around something or leave something out because I don't feel I can completely explain it in German... and with health, you don't want to mess around. I'm happy to talk to the staff, nurses, and whoever else and fill out all the forms in German (okay, if the form has a complicated question, I will switch to English to respond), but with the doctor, I just don't think I can pull it off. It really makes me feel like a jerk to go in there and demand my own language, but I still think it's better than leaving without being sure I explained the problem correctly.

If you do conduct your appointments entirely in German, how long did it take before you felt you could do that?
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Monday, March 28, 2011

DDR Stamps!

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One of the more interesting things I've noticed at our big department store, Galeria Kaufhof, is that you can buy stamps there. Not stamps for postage, but stamps for collecting. Usually somewhere near the books, you can find big tubs filled with hundreds of postmarked stamps, or small sheets with various themes - animal stamps, stamps from various periods, etc. I always figured philately was more of a niche market and not something you could find in a department store. I don't collect stamps but I like to look at them in the store if I'm waiting for someone and have a little time to kill.

A while back, my husband noticed this and decided to buy me a sheet of East German stamps. You can get 50 of them for 4 EUR and some of them are pretty awesome. I love the design from that period. Here's a selection.

DDR Hippies!


I love these architectural ones, especially the bottom one with the old buildings in front of the new.


I think these Fernsehturm ones are my very favorites!



I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them now since I'm not a collector, but they're fun to look at. I actually was going to buy a sheet of Third Reich ones for my dad once, since he's one of those WWII history buffs. But, somehow, it really seemed wrong to be buying something all Hitlery like that, so I didn't. They do have those too, though.

I wonder if anyone will ever google Hitlery and find this blog.
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Heidelberg Crime Watch

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A girl from my husband's work was walking home around 11pm along the main, well-lit road between Neuenheimer Feld and Handschuhsheim when she was mugged. Mugged as in, they didn't just grab her bag and run, but they came up behind her, and when she turned around because she thought she heard something, they hit her so that she fell down, then held her down to steal her bag and ran. It happened so fast and the person concealed themselves enough that she didn't even know if it was a man or woman.

Everybody was pretty shocked to hear the story. I think we're all pretty complacent because you never hear of anything like this happening. Everyone gets their bike stolen, but to get knocked to the ground and mugged!? That's awfully violent and personal. So we were all even more surprised to hear that when she called the police, they told her there's been a rash of crimes just like this in that same area, and that sometimes they even target bikers. I don't know about you but I always figure I'm safe on my bike.

In Boston, when there were nasty crimes like this in the area of our work/school, there would be notices up on the boards and via email about it, but apparently they don't do that here. So, I'm doing it here just in case any fellow HeidelbergerInnen are reading. Careful out there!
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Groceries

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Today while I was in line at Rewe, I looked over my grocery pile on the conveyer belt to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. I had only fresh fruits and vegetables, cold cuts, and dairy products. Then I noticed the guy in front of me's pile. He had only fresh fruits and vegetables, cold cuts, and dairy products. Huh. So I checked out the guy behind me. He had only fresh fruits and vegetables, cold cuts, and dairy products.

Maybe I'm a totally average German shopper now.
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Construction and More Spring!

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The Neuenheimer Landstrasse has been under construction for about 10 months now. Although this means more construction noise for us, and the sidewalks all blocked off and piled in construction junk, it's actually more good than bad. The road is closed to thru traffic. Since it was a very busy road, this is heavenly. When there's not major construction noise, it's very peaceful with minimal traffic noise, and it's super-easy to cross. Before it sometimes took several minutes to cross the road because of the traffic, and it was unpleasant for bikes too, since there is no bike lane. Supposedly this project is going to add a bike lane to the road, which is pretty surprising because the road seemed too narrow already and there is a row of trees on the sidewalk that prevents doing much there. But, this photo I took a couple of days ago shows that they are actually widening the sidewalk. The old curb is in the foreground, and you can see the new curb beyond and how it compares to the old one.


The project will make our lives a little extra weird this week as we received notice in our mailbox yesterday that for bit of time this week (length and exact hours sadly not specified) we will actually be unable to get in and out of our building because they'll be sawing the road open right in front of it. Whoa. On the good side, sometimes some pretty interesting equipment is involved. A couple of days ago I came out to discover a giant (GIANT) spool of wire being threaded into a big hole in the road, which was kind of cool.

You might have seen headlines in the news about the moon being really close and bright last night. Here's what it looked like in Heidelberg. I was a little lazy taking this photo, but it really does look bright.



And, on to my favorite topic, the return of Heidelberg's best season, SPRING! (Fall remains my favorite season overall. However, HD really rocks spring.)

Signs of spring:

A view of our castle from the Philosophenweg, with blooming trees all around! Spring comes first to this hill (where we are standing to take this picture) because it's south facing, and they took full advantage of this, planting neat trees and gardens all over it.

Is this idyllic or what? This little garden is also along the Philosophenweg, high above the Neckar.


Tee hee.


Tulips! We planted some tulip bulbs in our little box last fall but none are blooming yet. I hope they come up soon because I can't wait to see what color they will be.


Little white flowers!


Huge line for ice cream! I think this is Heidelberg's most popular Eiscafe since it's so close to the river, but my favorite is still Venezia in the Darmstaedter Hof. They used to be the cheapest, too, but sadly they've raised their prices to a Euro per scoop.


AUGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH


Our new rabbit overlords.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring!

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Remember these freebie bulbs we got on our trip to the Netherlands last year? They're back!



I have to hand it to the Dutch for cultivating something that can bloom even in our ratty little garden box. The hyacinths are on their way up too. Yay!
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Monday, March 14, 2011

CRINGE!

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(click to enlarge)


German store windows are generally pretty fun to check out. Shops take great effort to display things that are not really that interesting to look at on their own - like pharmaceuticals or crutches - in some kind of eye-catching way. Sometimes, though, it just gets cringe-worthy. Witness above the Hirsch Apotheke's "Gans ohne Allergie" display on Heidelberg's Hauptstrasse. Geese with allergy-fighting pharmaceuticals. For those of you who don't speak German, it's a pun: this would be the German equivalent of a shop window with teddy bears, Claritin boxes, and a big sign saying "Stay bear-y allergy-free!" Gack!! Still, I love our variety of Apotheken, so I salute you, Hirsch, and all your goofy geese.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Oh yeah, some maintenance news!

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By the way, I suddenly realized yesterday that it had been well over a year since I last updated my blogroll! Check it out on the right if you are looking for more expat blogs. If you don't see yourself but think you should, let me know. I went through my Reader looking for expat blogs I'd added in the last year or two, but I follow a LOT of blogs and it's easy to miss something.

Also, I thought my poor old layout was starting to look stale, so I updated that while I was editing everything. The new background is graffiti from inside Heidelberg's Student Prison. I'm not totally in love with the new layout, but the generic Blogger options are pretty limited and I'm simply not willing to put more time into layout than what I can get by just clicking a few Blogger buttons. I wouldn't mind your opinion on readability, though, if you're someone who actually reads the blog directly rather than through a reader.

Finally, if you're interested in joining our yearly expat meetup, voting is on right now for a location! The nominees include Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, and Magdeburg. If you have a blog come over and register at our forum and get your vote in for location! Right now the two leaders are tied - you'll have to go there to find out which ones they are. :)
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My Friendly Neighbors

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Over the past week, we all got to witness some very, er, neighborly behavior in our elevator. It started with a note from the Hausverwaltung asking us to all please not trash the elevator, and to ask anyone doing construction work in our apartments to please not trash the elevator. (I never actually saw the elevator trashed in the days prior to the note, so I don't really know what brought this on.)

A couple of days later, the letters to the right appeared. Apparently the top note, written anonymously, was not originally posted in the elevator, but left in the mailbox of one of the building's (very nice) dog owners. The letter is pretty damn bitchy, telling her that her dog is getting the elevator and building dirty all the time and that she knows for sure it must be that particular dog (our building is bursting with dogs). The recipient of the note wasn't about to let herself get harrassed in this manner without responding. She posted the letter for all to see, calling out the anonymous letter-writer for leaving it her box and stating that her dog was not responsible for all of the things the original letter accuses him of. Both notes stayed up for a few days!

Fun stuff!

We described this to a German friend who reports it is common to have people in your building with nothing better to do than to take the German habit of looking out for societal order to an unfortunate extreme. In her own building she had a retiree accuse her of keeping a bike in her apartment! Oh the horror! First, it's perfectly allowed to keep a bike in your own apartment, and second, my friend doesn't have a bike. Thinking back, one time a neighbor asked me in the elevator if I had a gray cat. I thought she was just curious, but now I wonder if there could have been some cranky spin on it.... (I do not have a gray cat, but there was one that wandered around outside our building a lot.)
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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Hajo!

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Same procedure as every year - we ended up staying right here in Heidelberg and watching our usual Faschingsumzug (parade). We met up with a friend at her place first and then watched from the Bergheimerstrasse. Alas, our friend was not nearly as excited as I was to go watch the parade. Although she had agreed to join us for it, I fear she finds herself among the German majority who hate this stupid childish holiday. Childish or not, I love parades! Even just on my way to her place I got a little burst of excitement watching the police start putting up traffic cones and fences to block off the parade route. Oh boy! Parade! She was too grown up for it though, and dragged her feet as much as possible so we missed the first third or so of the parade. Life-Tipp: You can do things with your friends, or you can do things your way, but sometimes those two are not the same. ;)

Since we arrived late we couldn't really get close. There were far more people on the Bergheimerstrasse than I expected! I remember watching from there the first year we were here and there weren't nearly as many people. Perhaps it was the great weather, which we have been enjoying for days in an incredible streak. GTFO winter!

Here are a couple of the pictures I got from my distant perch on a stoop. Also, you might enjoy this Wikipedia link that lists all the various Narrenruf, the things that people call out at these Fasching festivities. In Heidelberg it's Hajo! Apparently these things are really town-specific, which is so awesome. Pipe up Fasching-haters and tell me why you can't find anything to love about this holiday. :) Would I want to be on a vomit-carpeted Cologne train right around now? No way, but it's not all so bad. I prefer the traditions that are more southern - the freaky witch masks and the idea of chasing winter away. The Heidelberg Fasching seems to combine some of that and some other stuff like the old guys in goofy hats (which are ubiquitous on TV at this time of year).





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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

What are you doing for Karneval/Fasching/Fasnet/Fastnacht/Whatever?

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Every year we have some vague yet grand ideas about exciting places to go for Karneval/Fasching - but we haven't actually left Heidelberg for it again since the first year we were here. Usually it just creeps up too quickly and we're left thinking, "Karneval is today?!" This year it falls a bit later and we have a little more time to end up still deciding to do nothing but catch a few cruddy hard candies at the Heidelberg parade. I've actually started to recognize some of the people in the parade because they're in it every year! Every year we consider going to Rottweil, but it takes a while to get there. This year we also considered Mainz, which is a big Karneval town and only about an hour away by train. But, there's that - the train. Having had class there during big party times, I know what those train rides are like. FULL, and TRASHED! I think I might be getting too old to feel like dealing with the drunk train.

I don't know. What are you doing? Any ideas?
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