Archive for the 'Wurzburg' Category

15 Hours and 4 Trains Later

I left Wurzburg early on the morning after the inauguration of President Obama.  Every newspaper had my President on the front page and even though I had been feeling a bit disconnected watching everything from Germany I also felt so proud of my country.  You see that guy; you see that, yea I voted for him, that’s my President!
Wurzburg to Munchen
The train was lovely, as all the German trains have been.  Automatic doors everywhere, signs in German, French, and English, and some of the nicest bathrooms I’ve ever seen on a train.  I settled in and read my book and a coffee, once we arrived in Munich I would switch to a train to Bologna and then another train for the short ride to Parma.
We stopped rather abruptly at a small town I don’t recall the name of; a woman got on and sat next to me.  Instead of starting again we stayed.  Twenty minutes passed.  They made a few announcements in German.  The nice woman next to me told me there was a problem with the “thing” and they were fixing it.  I’m pretty sure she meant the engine.  Forty minutes passed, another announcement, everyone grew still and no one made a sound.  I followed their lead and stared out my window wondering what the hell had just happened.
After a while the woman informed me a man had committed suicide by jumping in front of the train.  Oh.
We arrived at 11 instead of 9:30 and left the silent mourning for a stranger we all shared and tried not to think too much about it.  I had missed my connection so I went to get a new ticket and another coffee.
Munchen to Verona
They gave me new tickets and a voucher for 25 Euro off my next trip with them as an apology for the delay.  It felt weird to receive money because I was ‘inconvenienced’ by a man killing himself.
Verona to Milano
We were late arriving in Milan, I missed my connection but just took the next train heading there.  I had been feeling strange about going back to Italy while wanting to be in Berlin.  Would I get there and get sucked back into my love of everything Italian and not be able to leave? At that moment it didn’t seem so.  Compared to Germany the station was a mess, everyone seemed a bit more disheveled albeit in a very fashionable Italian way.  I knew I could just get on the next train to Milano without getting a new ticket, Italy didn’t care as much about that sort of thing.
The train was gross.  At one time this type of train was so exciting and new for me but now I just wondered what had ever appealed to me about it.  None of the three bathrooms I tried had toilet paper and instead of flushing there was just a giant hole where you could see the tracks whizzing by below.  And all the windows were smudged or had names carved into them.
Milano to Parma
I had been thinking and talking all about how great Italy was but once we were reunited it felt like an awkward car ride home from the airport where you start talking about the weather to someone who used to know everything about you.  Eavesdropping on conversations had lost it’s thrill and it was great to understand everyone again but something felt off.
Parma was warm compared to Germany.  I walked from the train station to my Sisters, with no need for directions.  Once I arrived it was hugs and stories, a plate of dinner ready for me, and a glass of wine before collapsing into bed with thoughts of what could come next flowing through my head.  Then I realized I hadn’t taken any photos today.

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


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