Monday, October 25, 2010

Magdeburger Wochenende

I've spent the past two weekends in Magdeburg with my "sister-from-another-mister," Annika. Magdeburg about a two hour regional train ride from Leipzig, but only an hour with the InterCity train. I bought a Bahn discount card, so I now get 25% off all my train tickets (win!)

Magdeburg is, as they say here "eine schönes Stadt" (a lovely city) and I'm really glad I got to spend as much time there as I did last summer. Now when I go there I feel so at home!

Aside from all the Germany's Next Top Model (with Heidi Klum!)-watching and cake-eating, Anni and I attended her friend Sabrina's Hochschule (sorta like college, I think?) graduation. It was awesome 'cause afterward there was champagne and brötchen (little sandwiches.)

The inimitable (and very pregnant) Frauke!

Meine Mädels und ich. 


After the graduation ceremony we went out for ice cream. People, AMERICA NEEDS SPAGHETTI ICE! It's amazing. Basically, ice cream jammed through something like those Play-Doh toys that make the long thin noodles... placed on top of a blob of whipped cream and topped with amazing stuff. In this case: hazelnuts, chocolate and liqcour (sp?) sauces, and something delicious and crunchy.
Seriously, spaghetti ice is DIE HAMMER. (Die Hammer is a saying here that amounts to like... I dunno, "the bomb" or something. I love it.) 

On Sunday we had lunch at Opa and Oma's house. Opa made Ente... which means... duck. Yes, I ate duck. I'm not proud. But I also did not want to offend Opa. It wasn't terrible... it sort of tasted like a cross between a steak and a turkey, or something. Best of all, there was cake at the end of the tunnel. One of the best (and worst) parts of living in Germany... the proliferation of cake. Cake, cake everywhere. And it's always delicious. 

I'm looking forward to a fun and busy week... dinner with Tracy & Melinda tonight, and bike rides probable tomorrow due to class cancellation. Pumpkin carving Wednesday with Erin and a "house meeting" (so "Real World") with my roommates Thursday. LONDON (!!!) on Friday for Halloween celebrations. Got to figure out what to wear. I really want to just paint on a Mexican Day of the Dead face but I think I have to go as a flapper because the theme is "The Beautiful and the Damned," which I personally thought was a boring book. Oh well.

More again after London weekend. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Now our lives are changin' fast...

I'm listening to the newest Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs... it's so bloody brilliant. I just found out they're playing two gigs in Germany (both West, unfortunately...) one in Dusseldorf, the other Munich. At 33€ a pop plus travelling expenses, this venture will not be cheap. However, I think they're definitely worth it. Plus it might be nice to see Munich through soberer eyes than I did for Oktoberfest. I couldn't tell you a single thing about the place if it weren't for the photos I took. Apparently there is a train station there?

And a church?

So, last night was that thing for Montags Demonstration, and despite all my preparatory research and excitement, I completely forgot about it and didn't go. Instead I went to see Gunther Von Hagen's "Körperwelten" (Bodyworlds, to English speakers...) at the Kohlrabizirkus here in Leipzig. In addition to the raddness of the name of the venue (Kohlrabizirkus? Really? So awesome.) the exhibit was highly intriguing. Although slightly creepy, it was mostly just incredibly informative. It's sort of easy to separate yourself from the idea of "dead bodies" when they look more like an art exhibit. Although the one that I think was meant to emulate Harry Potter riding the Nimbus 2000, but with his face peeled back and his own organs as the broomstick was actually a bit scary.
The remainder of the night was split between cooking and eating dinner at home w/ my friend Melinda, and going out to a bar called 4 rooms with Annika (who was in town for Körperwelten) and her friends Caro and Andi. I'd been to 4 rooms before with the ERASMUS students and it was LOUD and packed and dancey. Last night though it was quiet and chill, and we were even treated to free Pilsner Urquell beers. Pretty toll.

Today was an absolutely lovely day. I met up with my friend Melinda in the Alte Messegelande and we explored the  flohmarkt (flea market) for about 20 minutes, as it was wrapping up when we got there. Somehow I had it in my head that a flea market in Germany would be completely different and totally amazing compared to the flea markets in the states. How wrong I was. Aside from the fact that there were some interesting DDR/Soviet pins and stamps and coins, it was just exactly the same, by which I mean somewhat boring, musty, strange and grimy.

After the flea market we walked over to Das Völkerschlachtdenkmal (Memorial for the Battle of the People) which is a really cool monument to a Napoleonic battle here in Leipzig. Apparently 2013 is the 100 year anniversary of the completion of the Monument, and I think the 200th anniversary of the actual battle and they're currently sandblasting the stone in order to get the monument ready for celebrations. In any case, the monument is really neat. It's gigantic, flanked by trees that are a gorgeous golden hue at the moment, and set behind a massive reflecting pool.

After a thoroughly enjoyable visit to the vlkschltdnkml, we hopped on a tram in search of food. We only went 3 or 4 stops before hopping off at a döner place I've been eyeing for a while. Luckily for us it was: 1. open, and 2. CHEAP. I got a falafel (2€) and some halloumi (2€) and of course, a Coke.
I absolutely love Coke in Germany, I think it tastes tons better than at home because they use sugar and not corn syrup to sweeten it.

Halloumi, for those out of the loop as I once was, is fried cheese (the 3 rectangular things that look kind of like french toast sticks) and it is DELICIOUS. Actually, the whole meal was delicious. LOOK AT IT! How could you go wrong???

We stopped at the Eisträumerei (something like  the "Ice Dreamery," a clever play on words, methinks.) after our billig döner and got some coffee and kugels. Kugels = scoops, BTW. I went for cherry and chocolate. Good choice.

All in all, a most successful and lovely, sunny Sunday. Can't wait to see what the week has in store... classes start tomorrow! I'll be back soon to tell all about it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Wir Sind Ein Volk

This weekend my fair city of Leipzig celebrates the 21st Anniversary of the Montags Demonstration. In 1989 there was a massive protest in the square in front of Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church) where a group of 320,000 East Germans gathered to peacefully protest the Communist government and the separation of East and West Germany. These peaceful Monday night protests were held for many weeks, led by Nikolaikirche's Protestant preacher Christian Führer.The anti-Communist citizens of Leipzig took to the streets on October 9th with a chant of "We Are The People," protesting the oppressive government and demanding the reunification of Germany and the freedom of democracy. Other German cities (such as Berlin) immediately followed suit, and a month later the Wall had fallen. It wasn't until the next year (1990) that Germany was officially one single country.

Montags Demonstration, Leipzig, October 9, 1989

Nikolaikirche Denkmal (St. Nicholas Church Monument)

Though I credit having Annika (my sister-from-another-mister & German foreign exchange student) living with us when I was in high school as being the catalyst for my interest in German language and culture, I am probably discounting a major factor for my interest, which is the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Wall came down when I was in first grade and was probably the first political action I was ever keenly aware of. I can actually remember seeing newspaper and television images of this happening, and it must have had a profound effect on a six year old me to see hundreds of thousands of people claiming their freedom and peacefully reuniting their country. I can't ever know what it must have been like for those who were there on those nights; at the Nikolaikirche on Oct 9th or in Berlin on November 9th when the Wall came down; they must have experienced a sense of exhilaration so powerful that even imagining it gets me choked up. This year is the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of German Reunification. The German people seem to have an extremely tense relationship with their past- the second World War colors their view of themselves and their country to this day. To me, though, the fact that they earned their freedom through solidarity and peaceful protest is profoundly moving and inspiring and keeps me fascinated with this place and it's people. 

The Day the Wall Came Down, sculpture outside of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library

Over the fondue pot...

Tonight my lovely mitbewohnerin (roommate) invited me to eat dinner with her and a group of her friends. It was so sweet of her to invite me, and the fondue was absolutely delicious. But unfortunately, I am still an absolute failure in social situations with Germans. My German speaking abilities are so rudimentary that it's laughable and inevitably embarrassing. I do think they give me a break... I try to make it clear I haven't studied all that much German and that I've only been here for a few weeks. Yet I still find my cheeks burning whenever someone asks me what, presumably, is a very simple question. Something like "Where do you come from?" can trip me up so much it's ridiculous. I know it's my problem entirely, and that no one is judging me harshly for not understanding... but having to ask "Wie bitte?" (pardon me?) 3 times when someone asks a third grade level question is just not cool. 

Last night I had a conversation at the kneipe (bar) with my friend James about stepping outside ones comfort zone... that it's important to do so because otherwise one finds themselves trapped in a very staid existence. I heartily agree, and therefore found it important to accept tonight's invitation to dinner with 7 German speakers rather than booking it to a place where I could speak English with other Americans. It was sort of difficult, and I couldn't really understand the nuances of the conversations, but I could get the general idea. It's nice to hear a stream of conversation and be able to pick up one out of every four or five words. I feel like I'm improving despite myself and I think being in just that sort of situation is exactly what I need. Despite how embarrassing it can sometimes feel.

Language barrier aside, things have been going well here in Leipzig. I couldn't be happier. I have a room in a really lovely apartment with two other girls, I am enrolled in some very awesome classes at the Universität (one of which is a pedagogic class!) and I have made friends with some truly wonderful people. I have nothing to complain about. I just hope my German speaking/understanding picks up more quickly than it has been so far.