Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Da' Goose!


Goose.  What a weird meat!  

Last night we finished off our dinner clean-up carving what looked like roast beef off a bird's skeleton.  It tastes like a turkey-flavored pork chop covered in crisp turkey skin.    Huh.

But, I'm inordinately happy to have two large jars of rendered goose fat in the fridge and there's a pot on the stove of simmering goose broth on the make.

Happy Boxing Day!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas, from the Hunns

Christmas Market on Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin

It's our second German Christmas and all we can think about is how much we're going to miss them in the future.  The kinderpunsch, the schokofrucht, the thueringer bratwurst, heissen schafskaese--oh man!  Or, just walking around the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market in Berlin and seeing that gorgeous Tannenbaum in front of the German Cathedral.  The advent concerts at our big, old Marienkirche every weekend leading up to Christmas--listening to brass ensembles and women's choirs, or singing along to Christmas songs that I've never heard before, but now love...  So much to love!  So much to miss!

Since the final days of our last Christmas in Germany are here then, this will be the last post I do for a while.  We really need to focus our energy on squeezing every drop of Christmas out of the atmosphere here as possible.  So it's off to buy our Christmas goose and enjoy every church concert we can get to!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Caspar David Friedrich and Me

Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog (1818),  Caspar David Friedrich

Here's a story:

Once upon a time, I was in college.  And I loved college.  I loved it so much.  I loved everything about college.  Especially thinking.  I loved that it was my job to think, to listen to what others thought, and then to think about that, and afterwards, just walk around and think some more.

And, during this time, I fell in love with Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Deeply.   Every night I would grab my book of Emerson essays -- "Nature" "Self-Reliance" "The American Scholar" "The Poet" -- and just walk and walk and walk while reading and reading and reading.

On the cover of that book was this painting -- Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog -- which perfectly captured the Romantic, Transcendental philosophy I was so in love with.  It was a philosophy about finding Truth (capital T) in nature and about being True (capital T) to yourself.  About figuring out who you really were and bravely choosing to be it, even if everyone around you thought you were crazy or wrong.  About learning to be alone and about learning to question the crowd.

I loved Transcendentalism.  I still do.  And I loved that painting.

And I went into a PhD program vowing to write a dissertation about how much I loved Transcendentalism and that painting.


Six years later, I've unexpectedly found myself living one hour away from a small city named Greifswald where there is a statue of the artist Caspar David Friedrich.  He was born there and he painted there.  When Paul's family was visiting us, we visited the chalk cliffs on the nearby island of Ruegen, which was the setting for many of his early works.

Chalk Cliffs on Ruegen (1818), Caspar David Friedrich

A couple months later, I found myself in Dresden, where Caspar David Friedrich had moved to later in life to paint.  And, just a few miles outside of the city, we visited a national park, known for its strange stone formations.   We drove up a mountain and set off on a hike, at one point looking out across a valley of stone pillars and I realized where I was.  I was standing where the wanderer stood in that painting.  

I had become the wanderer above the sea of fog--the symbol chosen by historians to represent the philosophy I loved.


There has never been a day when I've regretted leaving my PhD program.  I knew when I was leaving that it wasn't the experience I had been looking for or needed.  I didn't love the Emerson or Transcendentalists of my advisers in Boston because they taught them as played-out, boring, old, irrelevant white men as opposed to the hip, new trends in the field like transnationalism (which, hey, is interesting, but not my thing).  Well, they may have been old white men, but dag nabbit, they were my old white men and I loved them!

So, with that in mind, I'm so grateful I randomly ended up where Caspar David Friedrich was born and painted his Romantic worldview because it's reminded me, after I thought that all the spark and joy I got out of Transcendentalism had been crushed by cynical English professors, that I still love thinking like that wanderer above the sea of fog.  I still love reading Emerson and Thoreau and Whitman and Peabody and Hawthorne.  I still love thinking.

So thank you, Caspar David Friedrich, for your paintings.  And thank you, Mecklenburg-Pomerania and Saxony, for inspiring him and me.

Woman Before the Rising Sun (1820) Caspar David Friedrich

Thursday, December 20, 2012

That One Time? In May?

So, there was this one time? Seven months ago?  Where we traversed all of Germany for a week with Paul's family?

Yeah, it was a lot of traveling.  And yeah, it was our first time trying an overnight train.  And yeah, we maybe didn't know that an overnight train meant we'd be shoving Paul's parents, sister, brother, and brother-in-law into a tiny, pitch-dark compartment in the middle of the night to sleep nose-to-back with four other strangers on two-inch thick sleeping pallets.  Also, there was snoring.  Also, no one slept more than two seconds, I'm pretty sure.

But kudos to them for sticking with us.

Even after leaving them alone in the middle of a foreign city while in a state of unshowered exhaustion for two and a half hours while we drove 60 miles away to pick up the rental van that the company forgot to have waiting for us.

Kudos! In-laws!

Or after we once made them eat lunch at an IKEA because said rental van was so, so big that we were terrified at the thought of trying to maneuver it around anything less than an interstate off-ramp and a massive, open parking lot.

Did I mention kudos to them?

Or after leading them on three-hour long (probably, I don't actually remember) death marches walking tours of various German cities -- oh, even though one member of the group had essentially thrown his/her back out the week before and was using a cane.  (What were we thinking?!?!)

The kudos.  They are yours.

Or being treated to not-so-tasty renditions of goulash, fish, and pizza at various points of the journey.

Or the cold, cold cave that is our springtime, non-heated apartment.

Or a five-alarm couple meltdown at the van drop-off in Munich where Paul just wouldn't park the dang thing in the only open space right in front of the Police Department garage and have done with it (let the rental company deal! It's their fault!) and Heidi just wouldn't understand that we couldn't just park the dang thing in full view of the Police Department in a spot that wasn't for parking!

Heyyyyyyyy.  Kuuuuuudddddoooooosssssssss.

But guess what?  Even though so many kudos were given to their long-suffering that we are still in kudo debt....we did manage to end up doing and seeing some really amazing things.

(And the quarkballs we found by the castle at the end maybe made up a little bit for the bad fish and pizza experiences...I hope)

So stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Går til Danmark (Going to Denmark)

Personalized German Chocolate Bars? Yes.

At the end of November, we went to Berlin.

We'd planned, way back in the summer, to go to Berlin at the end of November to catch one of the budget flights to Paris for our anniversary.  But, instead, we took our Paris money and our Berlin-bound train tickets and went, instead, to the Nordic Embassies.

Around 1000 euro and some eye and fingerprint scans later, we had officially applied for residency in Denmark.

We're moving there in February for probably around three years (surprise!) where we will learn to appreciate the art of smoked-fish open-face sandwiches and the proper way to pronounce the word for smoked-fish open-face sandwiches.

May the European invasion continue!

More important than applying for silly things like "legal" "residency" though, we took the time between our visit to the Embassies and our 6pm train home to go see the Egyptian collection at the Neues Museum; find, visit, and get lost in the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (sobering, truly); and try a really nasty and poorly executed currywurst.   To top it all off, we also got to make our very own chocolate bars at the Ritter store.  Paul's flavor was "crunchy" (almonds, hazelnuts, muesli) and mine was "banana split" (strawberry chips, banana chips, and almonds).  

And now I can say that all my Berlin dreams have come true (minus the nasty currywurst).

And I can also say "My name is Heidi" in Danish: Jeg hedder Heidi.

So, I guess things will work out alright when we head a few more degrees north.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Oh hey.

Good to see you again.  It's been a while.

So...lots going on over here--it being Christmas and living in Germany and all.

Like this thing going on literally around the corner from our house.  Yes, this photo is of the exact thing happening.  It's not some random stock photo from 2002.  There's all kinds of awesome going on there, and that awesomeness continues down a very, very long street and spills out into the harborwalk where there are carnival rides out the whalahoola.

Also, Aquabaum is back in play at Aquahaus.  And we bought our mistletoe from the mistletoe vendors.  Tomorrow is the first advent, so, you know, there's also the advent wreath and candles to get ready.  And the advent calendar of course.

Ohhhhh, and we also didn't go to Paris.  We essentially traded a week there for three years in Denmark.

Dead serious.

More later...when my final projects are done, and the sugar cookies are done, and the Christmas parties are done.   There's a lot to tell.

Till then, you can look at more pictures of the Christmas Market around the corner and feel envious.  And, if you'd like to feel retroactively envious, you can review last year's German Christmas by clicking here.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ciao, Italia!

It's been nine months since we went to Italy.  NINE months.  And yet, I still want to spend time talking about it and posting pictures to remember everything.  Because, you know, this blog is one of the ways we remember our good times - an interactive photo album of sorts.

But I realize, nine months on, that I really do need to move on to other news and other trips.  Since we took this picture, we've traveled through Bavaria, gone to Athens, attended a sister's wedding in the U.S., and toured across Saxony.  And, in two weeks, we'll have the pièce de résistance, our trip to Paris.

So, I suppose it's time to say goodbye to Italy, though I never really got to tell or show you much about my favorite city (for overall feeling), Venice.  And I never got to really write about the hilarious passive-aggressive hotel notes we encountered ("Where are you from?  RUDELAND??")--actually maybe that's just aggressive-aggressive.  Or recount the time we sat in the Frari Basilica, away from the tourist glut near San Marco's gondola stands, and take in Titian's Assumption of the Virgin, not in a museum, but as the altarpiece it was always intended to be.

Or tell you about the tiny, little pizza shop off the Campo Santa Maria Formosa that we went to for lunch every day we were there.  No chairs, standing-room only.  We ordered pizza by weight -- "un etto!" -- and it was where I tried my first egg and asparagus.  

Or, maybe talk about finding a mask and costume shop one night when we were lost (that's what you do in Venice, you get lost.  It's the number one activity.), filled with silks and velvets and porcelain masks -- and we could never find it again.

Or about that last night we had in Italy, where we bought our final gelatto, and walked along the promenade, across the bridge of sighs, watching the gondolas and traghettos and vaporettos go by, as the sun set over the beautiful, old city.

But, it's time to say goodbye to Italy now.  Just for now.


And hey, at least we got this mask!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Reformation Day

Happy Reformation Day!

Hope everyone took some time yesterday (Oct 31) on this important holiday in Germany to think about Martin Luther and how the protestant reformation has affected our lives today -- everything from the religious landscape of the world to its influence on modern democracy.  

Oh, and we also celebrated another minor holiday too...

as Pippi (Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim's Daughter) Longstocking
a Ha(i)rry Potter

Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Paul!

Yeah, we may use apple-scented tea candles instead of birthday candles.  Yeah, our lighter may have stopped working so we never lit the candle.  Yeah, we may not own a cupcake pan so we made blueberry bread instead of the traditional muffins.

But, that's how we roll here at the Aquahaus, and it's a party here today.

Friday, October 26, 2012

So Cool It's Not Cool

So, Paul came home yesterday.  And I asked him aaaaaalllllll about his adventures.

And then he was like, "You know that one night we got a tour of the Museum of Natural History?"

And I was like, "Yeah..."

And then he was like, "We ate there!"

And I was like, "Whoa!  Neat!"

And then he was like, "Guess where I ate in the museum?"

And I was like, "...The cafeteria...?"

And then he was like:


And then he was like, "But...I brought you some whoppers?...?"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

News Lately's what's been going on this week.

Paul is somewhere awesome.

And, in this awesome place, he is staying at THE WILLARD  (yes, it has its own wikipedia page).

And at THE WILLARD, he gets to order breakfast through room service--because there is no other option.  A butler person wheels it in with its fresh berries and fresh sqeezed orange juice and lifts domes off of plates of pancakes that are dusted with powdered sugar and gold.

Then Paul lounges around in a fluffy white robe and fluffy white slippers and pays six bucks an hour for the internet (ha!  I have him beat on something!).  After a bit, he gets to go eat four course dinners and privately tour the Smithsonian. You know, for some casual fun.

Also, eating in the conservatory room of my most favorite restaurant of the universe, the Old Ebbitt Grill.

Also, every night costs what is equivalent to 1/15 of our annual salary.  That is no joke.   See proof below.

If we had to pay for this ourselves...we wouldn't.  Because
it's not possible.

Meanwhile!  I've been staying at THE AQUAHAUS.  Where my breakfast is homemade granola and yogurt eaten out of the bowl I used yesterday for breakfast but didn't wash because what's the point?  I've been lounging around in my pajamas because I haven't left the house for two days on account of homework and the sentiment "what's the point?"  

It's a good thing Paul is coming home tomorrow because I don't know how much longer I could sustain a diet of chicken nuggets and candy bars.

I swear I say this every time, but next time we're springing for a +1 on the plane tickets.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We Will Survive

Thanks to a package we got yesterday, we can now tell you with confidence that we will survive (and flourish) another six months here.

This can of pureed pumpkin, however, barely survived the trip.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Italy Series: Arriving in Venice

We took the train from Ravenna to Venice.  Before our trip, I didn't realize that Venice is an island within a bay and surrounded by smaller neighborhood islands (Venice suburbs).  Surprise! 

We rode over the only bridge linking the island with the Italian mainland and walked out to see that (no, seriously) the roads are all canals.  Or, more simply, there are no roads.  None.  I thought there might be one or two maybe.  With carriages or something touristy.  Nope.  I knew that there were canals in Venice.  I wasn't prepared for how surreal it was to see absolutely no land-based motorized vehicles. 

We found the Venetian version of the bus station (Vaporretto boats) and hopped on the line that ran through the grand canal to St. Mark's Square.  We passed churches and old warehouses and mansions and bridges.  There were construction boats and fire boats and police boats and taxi boats on the way.  And, of course, the gondolas.

Did you know that gondolas are very oddly shaped?  I thought they were just black canoes with pointy curved ends.  But, really, they look crooked.   The ends lean away from center and they all look riiiiight on the verge of capsizing.  I'd never seen anything like it.

From St. Mark's Square we had to follow directions to find our hotel.  Street names (or rather, path names) in Venice are more like suggestions that change every twenty feet and not every alleyway has one.  Our directions went something like this:  

1.  Find St. Mark's Square, since that is something that is easy to find.

2.  On the north facing wall of the Doges' palace, to the right, there are two roads (they meant alleys).  Take the second, darkest, scariest-looking one.

3.  Turn left at the place where the road widens.

4. Cross the crooked bridge over the third canal.

5.  Follow the sound of the accordion player until the song ends.

6.  Turn right and take 147 steps while whistling "O Sole Mio"--this is very important.

7.  Find the man in a black cape and bird mask.  He will lead you to the door that only opens for the pure in heart.  

8.  Clap twice.  And wait five minutes.  We will come and meet you on the third stone stair.   

We actually found it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Italy Series: Ravenna

No one goes to Ravenna.  Unless you're on a bus tour or something and it's part of some larger package deal.

And you're like "It says we're going to...Ravenna?  Whatever.  Let's just eat some pasta and wander around until we can get back on the super fun bus again."

But here's the thing.  Ravenna is this secret cool place that people don't fully appreciate for what it is.

If you're a weird Byzantine history we know, however, that Ravenna was essentially the last capital of the Roman Empire, and the first western capital of the Byzantine Empire.

So, it's full of all sorts of interesting and beautiful things!

(Like mosaics!  Mosaaaaicsssss!)

(Besides, we got a room with this 17th century marble tub in the bathroom.  Win!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Black Dot Day


Exploring days are called "Black Dot Days" here at the aquahaus.   They're days where we go see something new and then, when we get home, we put our black sticker dots on the giant map of Germany in the living room.  It's pretty much the most exciting thing we do.

So, for our anniversary yesterday, Paul planned a coastal train ride on this 125 year old original steam engine. I saw them shoveling the coal!  COAL!  They really used it!  And the train actually made that Ch-ch-ch-ch-Woooo-Wooo sound!  

My favorite part was when we went through a little street in a village and everyone on the sidewalks were taking pictures and waving.  You just can't help but smile and wave back--maybe like the Queen of England, even.

We rode it out to hike around Heiligendamm, the first German bath resort (founded in 1785).  With everything painted a bright white, right on the beach, and isolated in a forest, I could understand how this started that craze for German baths we read about in all those regency novels (So-and-so is ill and has gone to Germany to take the water, etc. etc.).

Riding the train home, we stopped in Bad Doberan to see the best preserved example of brick Gothic architecture.  Luckily, Bad Doberan was never bombed in the wars and the monastery lands around the minster were kept intact so the church stood in beautiful fields and parkland at the base of a tree-covered hill.

The inside made this the winner of all the churches we've seen in northern Germany, especially since so much of the decorations and so many of the windows were original from 1300.

And if that wasn't enough, we saw some 14th century tombs for the queen of Denmark, the king and queen of Sweden, and this insaaaaane baroque tomb of the Duke of Mecklenburg with life-sized mannequin-like statues of them standing on their rebuilt palace porch.


It was like a giant "BOO-YA" from the past.

I mean, right?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Four: A Nice Sturdy Number

17 September 2008
Paul and I have been married for four years, as of today.

Four sounds nice, doesn't it.  Fouuur.  It just sounds like a good, hearty, solid number.  True, in German, it comes out something like "fear" (vier), which isn't so we're just going to ignore that and stick with the English for now.

We're going exploring today--one of the things we do best.  And we'll probably eat some pancakes at some point, because who doesn't want pancakes on their anniversary? (no one)  We're also going to eat at the fancy French restaurant around the corner because our gift to each other this year was a pair of plane tickets to Paris in November.

Turns out that Paris in mid-September is "the most expensive and crowded time anyone could possibly visit."  And right about the time we read that, Thanksgiving on the Seine started sounding super romantic.

You know, wedding anniversaries...they're important and everything, but sometimes I feel like they're a bit arbitrary.  Almost as if they are days to help our families and friends keep track of our commitment rather than for us to mark "THE DAY" (that something...was supposed to change?)  Well...the thing is...there was no huge change in our feelings or relationship to each other between the day before we got married and the day after.

We were already married before we were married, so to speak.

So, around this time of year, I find myself thinking of other anniversaries--other days that marked even bigger moments between us, that not many (if any) other people even knew about.

One example?  Well, I met Paul almost exactly nine years ago, when I was 19 years old.  I was sorting old manuscripts in the library archives and he came through with our boss to be introduced as the newest employee.

Or, there's the day five years and one month ago, when we were sitting on the porch of a little rental cabin in Oregon at 3am and Paul said, "You know...I feel like I could ask you to marry me right now.  Is that crazy?"  And I said, "Nope."

So, I guess September 17th, and maybe all wedding anniversaries, don't have to be just about that single marriage ceremony...Maybe a better way of thinking about it is realizing that they can act as a symbolic celebration days for all the anniversaries within each relationship.

With that, then, Happy Fourth (Fifth, Fifth and a Half, Sixth, Six and a Quarter, Sixth and a Half, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth) Anniversary to us!
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