Archive for January, 2009

and everything changed

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The next day I woke up and had a quick breakfast before jumping on the U Bahn to go to the East Side Gallery.  The introduction page of my guide book to Berlin says this is not a beautiful city this is a city that has been through so much that it seeps from each space.

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The East Side Gallery is a remaining part of the wall that’s been left for artists to use as a canvas.  I took about 298749874 photos:

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Then I went to Berlin

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Although a bit sleepy from the train, I was really excited and so blown away by the Berlin Hbf station that I had to document the occasion.

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With map and camera in hand I headed to my hostel, the Back Packer in the Mitte (or center) area of town.

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After getting my bed (which was 20 Euro for a bed in a room of 4 beds), my locker, and a bit organized I was out on the town for a look around.

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For dinner I went to a great little Russian place called Gorki Park that I found in my guidebook, boasting great eats for cheap.  I got onion, mushroom, and spinach perogies with a yogurt scauce and a Russian beer which was pretty tasty.

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Then I was off for a drink at the Oscar Wilde Pub a self proclaimed hub of ex-pats and English speakers, which on a Sunday night was pretty empty, however I was able to chat a bit with the bartender and he said on Saturdays there’s a lot of Americans that now live in Berlin.

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After my first half of a day in Berlin I was feeling pretty confident and didn’t consult my map before heading back to the hostel so I ended up taking a long slightly round about way back.  It was actually quite a lovely stroll and I found these lit up trees.

Barbara’s Birthday

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After a lazy morning we hopped on the train and rode out to the Museum im Kulturspeicher where we saw a great exhibit about Gabriele Munter, Wassily Kandinsky, and the “Der Blaue Reiter” (The Blue Rider) Group.

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Print by Munter and Kandinsky in Germany with their cat.

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Afterwards Barbara and I walked back into town and went to a beautiful cafe.  It felt like a really classic place, a bit of an Austrian vibe, and beautifully decandent coffees and desserts.

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I had apple strudel (which came with a light vanilla cream to pour on top) and Barbara had a refreshingly not too sweet slice of cheese cake.

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Later that night we went to an amazing live show of ‘La Banda Brassa’ which is a band from Barbara’s region.  She was explaining to me that even though they are singing in German it’s a different dialect than in Wurzburg so most people don’t know the lyrics, not just me.

Well it was truly one of the best shows I’ve seen, the first thing these guys did was play their version of german techno (mind you this is with tuba, trumpet, drums) which was hillarious.  Then after playing their set to a packed and dancing crowd; myself, Barbara, and friends included, they were given two or three standing ovations and started to play some classics I could sing along to.  “Around the World” by Daft Punk, really amazing in brass! And my personal favorite “Waterfalls” by TLC.  Can’t top that! Hopefully I’ll have pictures soon, I opted out of bringing my camera and instead brought a disposable.  And also wunderbar, the band did a birthday shoutout for Barbara!

Frankonian Wine, Pumpkin Soup, and Barbara turns 25

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Frankonian Wine at the supermarket.  Barbara and I went and bought some groceries and she made me a delightfully low key supper.  As I’ve mentioned, I love going to markets in other countries as I think you can learn a lot about a culture by seeing where and how they get their food.  At this place which claims to be the market for every generation (Barbara said they recently redid the place to include large signage for the elderly community nearby).  I enjoyed the huge selection of seeds and wasn’t sure what to think about all the weight watchers products which are apparently really popular.

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The next day we had lunch and a different Mensa, apparently there are 6 in Wurzburg for all the colleges and people of lower incomes to share.  A decent meal for 3 euro in a really clean place that promotes a sense of community was pretty wonderful (hey USA, get on it).

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Then we walked into town and admired the many Wurzburg churches along the way.  Above in red is the Market Square Church and that gorgeous yellow building in the center of the photo below is the Library, another favorite thing to see in every city I visit.  Oddly enough the last four or so I’ve seen have been similar shades of yellow.

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Then in celebration of Barbara turning 25 the next day we went out for a nice meal in Wurzburg.  More Frankonian wine, the best pumpkin soup I have ever had, and German wurst with potato balls (apparently a specialty in the area), and a wonderful salad.  Plus for dessert we shared a plum crepe. Wunderbar!

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Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby.

When I first arrived in Wurzburg one of the things I noticed was these condom ads everywhere.  When I asked Barbara about them she said new ones are up all the time, no big deal, just a reminder to be safe with some statistics about the spread of AIDS.

I am trying not to be one of those people that travels to Europe and then comes back to the states and is so disgusted by all that is American and can’t stop talking about how much better everything is in Europe.  I know there are great differences in every place and I try to appreciate them rather than constantly compare them.  Having said that; America sucks at Sex Education and most European countries are much better.

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Condom machines are in front of most pharmacies; instead of in a sleazy bar bathroom (usually only the mens!?) or inside the planned parenthood.  These machines are not just in big cities either, this one below is in San Giovanni and it was one of many in the tiny town.

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I know I’m mosty just ranting here, but I wanted to share my thoughts.  Below I’ve listed some statistics and links to great articles I’ve stumbled across concerning sex, sex education, etc.  They are far more eloquent in their rants.

http://www.npr.org/

http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/

http://nymag.com/

http://www.unesco.org/

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On the Dutch Model, which teaches children at a young age to openly dicuss and ask questions (SO THEY KNOW) about sex:

To some critics who argue that “talking about sex gives children the wrong idea,” Jos Poelman of the Foundation for STD control has one answer. “Face the facts. We have the lowest number of teenage mothers [in Europe], and Dutch students do not start having sex at a younger age than their foreign counterparts.”

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Also Dan Savage is pretty much amazing and his podcast is free so if you don’t already listen to it you should start!

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove

Wurzburg

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After a long rest from my flight Barbara took me to her school, where I enjoyed a nice coffee while she met with a professor.  Then we were off to the Residenz, where the Prince Bishop of Wurzburg used to live.  We walked around the garden and admired the ice sculptures that had formed around the fountains.  It was quite lovely.  dsc_0472

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Some very lovely trees.  The one below seems sewn together.

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Barbara on the oldest bridge in Wurzburg.  The statues are from 1720 but the original bridge was built in 1120.  Barbara was telling me that Prague and Wurzburg have a long standing argument over who has the older bridge.  1120.  America is a giant toddler.

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My Friend Barbara

I’ve arrived in Germany!

After I got to Frankfurt and figured out how to call Barbara from a German pay phone I was on a train to Wurzburg where Barbara met me at the train station.  Wurzburg isn’t a huge city but it has wonderful public transportation, very friendly people, and Barbara was telling me even though there are a lot of young people there’s hardly any crime.  “It’s like a village even though it is larger.”

I met Barbara in Italy when I was studying at Il Sillabo.  She’s fluent in Italian and was working at a school outside Florence for about 5 weeks before returning to Wurzburg to finish school.  Now it is near impossible to explain a person in one blog post so I will use photos and my favorite Barbara story.

Around the time Barbara and I went to Rome, just after meeting each other we came across the inevitable question; “Why Italy?” Well it turns out Barbara is a very Italian name and Barbara’s mother named her after a little Italian girl she used to care for so besides that connection (and loving the culture and language) there was also a room in her house.  “We call the room Italy.  Since I was little, because it is where we keep our things for the beach and we would go to Italy for summer vacation.”  Now the room is still filled with storage things, skis, etc.  But the whole family still calls it Italy.

“I have to go to Italy and grab something real quick”

“I think it’s in Italy”

“I forgot we put our bikes back in Italy, I’ll go get them”

Isn’t that fantastic?  I certainly love it, and to hear Barbara tell of it and see her smile grow. it’s really quite nice.  Not only is she a very sweet person, all of her friends have been kind too.

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The first day I was a bit jet lagged so we just took a walk along the river and stopped at a park to walk across the pond.  The day before I arrived they got snow, Barbara says that Wurzburg usually doesn’t get much but this year it’s been colder than usual.  We went to the Mensa later (more on that in another post) for dinner where I met Ande, Barbara’s boyfriend.  Then I fell sound asleep in my comfy little bed next to the heater and slept soundly for the next 10 or so hours.

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I can’t tell if it’s jet lag or if something really life changing is about to happen

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From Florence to Frankfurt

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Frankfurt Airport

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Seatac Seattle to JFK New York

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Logan Airport Boston (the only airport I’ve ever seen with large rows of white rocking chairs)

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Boston to Dublin

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Dublin to Frankfurt

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Frankfurt Train Station

Wonderful Visits

Well my visit back to the states was quick. I’m already back in Europe and it feels like I just left Italy. Being back in the states was nice, seeing my friends and family was wonderful.

Here are some highlights:

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Whitest Christmas I’ve ever had on Whidbey, and most productive scarf making week of my life.  Turns out being snowed in ain’t so bad.

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Hanging out with Liam, my nephew.  He kept pretending to take my picture then telling me I looked like Mikey Mouse.  It was so great to see him, my niece Annexea and my Brother Leaf.

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My Mom at our family friends for Christmas dinner.  Notice her festive Christmas lights necklace (which is available at Caseys Crafts of course!).

The clouds on my flight to New York were stunning.

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So was the view of the NYC skyline from Alyson and Este’s Apartment.

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Oh America I missed you.

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The best part was seeing all my wonderful friends!

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And of course a big shoutout to Layla and Isabella in Brooklyn and Rosa in Somerville.  I’m really glad my friends own cats.

dsc_0332Home Cooked meals including Mama Mushalla’s Quesidillas, Alyson’s Roasted Red Pepper and Polenta, Ross’s Pancakes, Triple E’s potato pizza, and (above) Amanda’s Mac and Cheese!

Walking around Boston and Cambridge bookstores was also fabulous.  No photos of those though.

And of course playing in the snow with everyone, which seemed to follow me everywhere I went.  First in Washington where it was out of control, then in NY a little bit, and then a snowstorm in Boston out of nowhere.  Wonder what the weather will be like in Germany.

THANKS EVERYBODY!

For more photos of friends and good times check out my facebook or my flickr in a few months when I get around to putting them up.


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