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.

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