Friday, December 26, 2014

We Named a Human

Oh hey.

And Merry Christmas and all that.

So, I actually gave birth to a human person boy individual 18 days ago.  If you were wondering. 

Also, we decided to name him Hadrian.

People have asked us, "Why?" So I thought, since I was in the mood, I would write a list of reasons here since there were quite a few (seemed like it to me, at least).

Reasons We Named Our Child Hadrian
  • One of the naming category possibilities we both were interested in was Classical history or mythology.  Hence, a name of a Roman emperor made it to the list.
  • Hadrian was actually one of the five "Good Emperors" of Rome, so that was a plus.  Personally, I am a big fan of Marcus Aurelius, one of the other Good Emperors (or maybe even the best emperor), but Marcus seemed too popular a name.
  • Relatedly, Hadrian isn't a popular name (aka, in the top 600).  This was appealing.
  • The historical Hadrian was known for being a traveler - wanting to visit all of the provinces of Rome.  The newly born infant Hadrian is similarly a traveler, having been to 10 countries in utero.
  • The historical Hadrian was also known for being interested in learning about and respecting all the different cultures within the Roman empire; even adopting their traditions.  And, well, I don't know, I guess that meant a lot to us since we've had these years over here in Germany and Denmark.   There are a couple big lessons we've learned on this adventure, and one has been how big and diverse the world is, how little we know about it, how you can never assume that just because you've always done something some way does not mean it's the best way, and how we have so much to learn from other cultures.
  • Of those ten countries we've been to while he was in utero, a few of the destinations had particular signigance to the historical Hadrian.  First, Scotland and northern England with his famous wall.  Second, to Rome (obviously) and seeing Hadrian's tomb (Castel Sant'Angelo) and the Pantheon which he reconstructed.  And third, our trip to Andalucia where Hadrian was born.
  • Hadrian's famous summer villa was named Tivoli.  And Tivoli is the name of the great, famous park in Copenhagen and practically a symbol of Denmark itself.  Ask any Dane.  Serious.
  • Hadrian means "Dark."  Sure, that's not the nicest meaning on the surface, but I think it's appropriate in a way since our Hadrian was born during the darkest part of the Scandinavian winter.  And here, the dark time of the year is also the coziest (hygge) time, so it doesn't have a super negative connotation - actually it has a rather warm, loving kind of feel to it.  Go figure.
  • It's an H name.  I'm partial.
  • It's a three-syllable name (that isn't a long name).  This was a near-requirement for me since Paul was going to claim the last name.  Paul's last name is really short - needed some balance.
  • It's not a weird name - as in, like, a name with a completely random spelling or some mash-up like "Tridger" or "Ahliver" or whathaveyou.  
  • Aaaaaaaaaaaand that's all I can think of.  

But you know what?  Even with all those reasons, it was still hard to announce it.  A name is a big deal - they mean a lot.  It was (is) way more stressful than I thought it would be to choose one.  I still find myself feeling uncomfortable about naming this kid without his input, still have moments when I consciously call him "baby"  or "little one" instead of Hadrian because it still feels weird.

But we had our reasons!  And I hope this can be considered a "good name" for a good kid.  I promise, little Hade, we really put a lot of time and thought into this!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Bremen, Bremen

In November 2012, we had a trip to Paris all planned - plane tickets, hotel reservation, train tickets.  But, by then we also had learned we'd be moving to Denmark and would have to pay around $2000 for residency permits.

So, Paris was off.  We ate the price of the plane tickets (which, in Europe, were not horribly expensive) and hotel reservation fee.  But we still had our regional train tickets in Germany that we were going to use to get to the airport.

After some research, we figured out that the farthest we could get on our tickets was around a four hour train journey to Bremen in the state of Bremen.  We'd heard it was a lovely city and feeling our usual sense of adventure around Thanksgiving, we set off early Saturday to check it out.

First off, the old town was like a very cute version of Lubeck - all North German brick and half-timber details.  We didn't really have a plan, just wanted to walk around and grab a bite somewhere, which isn't our usual MO.  But, I have to say, it was just a nice, laid-back day and we saw some memorable things.

First, of course, was seeing the famous Brementown Musicians statue near the cathedral.  It became a game throughout the day to find small, decorative details around the city featuring a rooster, cat, dog, and donkey - on the lanterns, shop signs, fencing.  I believe by the end of the day we'd gotten to around 52 Brementown Musician sightings.

We also took slow strolls down through the uber-adorable Schnoor district and, my favorite area, pictured here, Böttcherstraße.  It was a long, winding brick-lined street with crooked chimneys and leaning walls - probably the most legitimately Diagon-alley-looking place I'd ever seen.   

We stopped into a bon bon shop and watched them make candy and also chose a little restaurant so we could try some Bremen specialties.

I ended up getting a flammkuchen - kind of like a pizza with very thin crust, onions, and bacon.  Paul got Pinkel und Kohl - Pinkel being a special type of wurst for the area and and kohl being some steamed greens.  

Two thumbs up.

We knew we had a long train ride home, so we began walking back to the station around 4pm, passing quite a number of hammer-dulcimer street musicians.  These guys were the jazziest bunch we saw.  Hammer dulcimer jazz band, huh.  It worked though.

Bremen stands out in my memory since it was the last real trip we took to explore Germany before we moved to Scandinavia.  It was a short visit with a long travel time, but it was still worth it.  We had the freedom, we had the train tickets.  And like we always tell each other when we're trying to get ourselves out the door, we never regret making memories.  Getting out into the world, seeing new things, learning more about how big and diverse and good the world is - we are always happy we did it.

I'm counting down the days until my third anniversary of living in Europe by recapping trips that I never got around to highlighting.  You can see the list of trips (and links to them as they are written) here.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Eight weeks pregnant...

 Aaaaaaand seven months later, same dress, additional tired face...

Short-torsoed women of the world, I am with you!  

(But I am only with the ones of you who also get stretch marks.  If you don't get stretch marks, then we can't be friends.)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saxony: Because You Always Should Go Somewhere in October

Signs in German and Sorbish
In October 2012, we suspected we would be moving to Denmark within a few months and so decided, very last minute (very uncharacteristically) that we would rent a car from our Northern German home and drive down to Saxony.


Since we lived up on the Baltic Sea, this meant about a six hour drive to Dresden which, since we are Americans, barely qualified as an actual road trip.  :-)    (People use emoticons a lot in Denmark.  It's rubbing off on me.)

So why Saxony?  Well, that was the German state where Paul lived a decade ago and where he really learned to speak German (and love Germany).  This, interestingly enough, meant that he learned German with what is considered to be the most "southern hick" accent possible and earned him a lot of funny glances when we tried to set up our bank account in northern Mecklenburg a decade later.  

Aaaaanyway, we knew we had to go to Saxony, so we did.  And it was real, real lovely down there, especially in October when all the leaves were changing.  I'm sorry I didn't write more about this trip before because I'm sure I could tell you a lot of stories, but what I can say two years on is that I remember it was beautiful, relaxing, and interesting to get a feel for this rather unique region.  

On to the pictures.

Our first stop was a small town named Bautzen which was also the first place Paul lived in Germany, so it seemed appropriate.  It was one of my favorite places we went because it's also the capital city for the Sorbish people, who have their own language, culture, and history very distinct from the Germans and Poles surrounding them.  Everything in Bautzen was in both German and Sorbish, like this map here.

I actually already knew the name Bautzen before Paul even mentioned going there.  Bautzener Senf (a brand of mustard) comes from the town and is pretty much the German mustard.  And mustard is, at least my impression, the most important condiment in Germany because it's the only thing you get with bratwurst.  And always the bautzener variety - very sharp, not at all like the bright yellow sweeter/sour Frenches I grew up with.

It's an acquired taste, I'll admit, but once it clicks, you'll never want anything else.

And all that is why this next picture exists.  I made it my personal mission to get a sandwich with Bautzener senf on it while we were actually in Bautzen.

It was really. really. good.

The next day was all about Dresden.  We went out to the Saxon-Switzerland National Park, south of the city, to see the famous Bastai Bridge, built up across these incredibly high and steep pinnacles.  

This picture does not quite capture the precipitous cliff-like drop on either side.

And off in Dresden, we took our time wandering the old city to see the Semperoper, Zwinger, Frauenkirche, and cashed in our ticket reservations for the Green Vault (which was pretty spectacular).

For being so horribly firebombed in the WWII, Dresden really has rebuilt in such beautiful ways.

Recreating a photo taken ten years previous...we just need to get a scan of the old one now to compare.

Our third day was a long driving loop through the Erzegeberger mountains along the Czech/German border, winding through small villages where Paul had lived in the past.

These dried garlic and onion braids were on sale in the town square market of Annaberg-Buchholz

The view near Paul's old apartment in Annaberg-Buchholz

"Luck-up" which, in Saxony, is a common greeting.  Since there are so many mines in the Erzeberger mountains, people would wish each other a good day with this phrase since you wanted people to be lucky and come back up out of the mines safely.

Paul's Last Apartment in Freiberg

Seiffen, the famous little woodworking village where nutcrackers were invented (and practically anything else traditionally "Christmas").  This little octagonal church is sort of the symbol of the region.

On our drive back home, we took our time by only taking the back roads north and, on a whim, took a couple detours through Meissen, home of German porcelain, and Wittenberg, home of Martin Luther's 95 Theses.  

That church behind me, ground zero for Protestantism, was a fantastically nerdy way to end a fantastically awesome road trip down through eastern Germany and around the beautiful state of Saxony.

I'm counting down the days until my third anniversary of living in Europe by recapping trips that I never got around to highlighting.  You can see the list of trips (and links to them as they are written) here.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

I Think We're Gonna Be Okay

 Today I went to a baby shower.  It was for me.

I'm generally the kind of person who tries to avoid situations where people do stuff for me (probably to the point of being obnoxious about it).  I try to keep my birthday on the quiet, for example.  I don't know why...  I always really enjoy the parties I go to for other people and really cherish the times when others have given me, say, surprise birthdays (my "Double-Dos" Birthday--yes, I still remember, Dani-- is one of the most purely joyful memories of my life).  So, I was trying to figure it all out and I think it's because I worry that sometimes people may just be doing something for me because they feel obligated to, not because they really want to?

I guess I'd rather be a want to kind of friend in the minds of others rather than a have to

I don't mean to blabber on with excessive navel gazing here.  I just want to say that, well, I try not to expect much, socially I mean, because I'm afraid that if I expect a lot then I will just end up discovering that I don't have many (any?) want to friends and that discovery would just destroy me.  I'd rather not try to figure it out sometimes, just in case.  Safer that way.

So, back to this baby shower.  For me.

I...almost cried.  A lot?  I'm pretty sure I did a really good job of hiding it.  But from the minute I walked in the door, I just felt overwhelmed with everything everyone had done.  So many small details and big details.  Taking the time to order decorations that were internationally shipped in so they were in English (and because Baby Showers aren't really a thing in Europe).  A homemade pin for me to wear and a designated spot on the comfiest chair.  Quizzes printed on themed paper.  Italian cake (!).  Oreo(!!) cupcakes (!).  Lemonade (!).  Games that were weeks in the planning.  Even presents!

I just sat there, looking around at those who came and who spent the time and money to make this beautiful thing ... for me, and feeling so darn grateful for them.  And undeserving of so much. 

I live far, far away from my family.  From my sisters.  From, well, the people who, in "my culture" would traditionally be the ones to throw me something like, well, a baby shower.  Paul and I, in a way, we've come to see ourselves as being a little bit on our own over here.  But when I was told that they had tried to make a real American-style baby shower for I learned that we're not alone and that there really are people here who care about us.  Who actually take time out of their own busy, crazy, amazing lives to do things like make themed party gift bags in our honor.  Who will bike all the way across town to go to a party that I'll be at-- ... maybe even because I'll be there.  Who freely and happily offer to let us borrow things like entire cribs or car seats or piles of baby clothes or just good, plain advice.

I guess I learned that, just maybe, we might have want to friends afterall.

And right now, right now especially, that means more than anything in the world to me.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Athens: We Look Ecstatic in Every Picture

To see those shoes in person...a long-time personal goal.
The very first thing we did after arriving in Athens...was find our hotel.

But.  The very second thing we did after arriving in Athens was go to the Parliament in front of Syntagma Square for the express purpose of seeing these guys with the pleats and the high stepping and the pom-pom shoes.

I...just.  I can't explain how happy this made me.  It was completely irrational, I know.  But, it remains a fact that I was just beside myself with joy watching these Greek guards and their tights and garters.  Plus, what is even more amazing is that the trip never had a low point after that.

It was magical.  Athens was magical.  Even when most of the city of Athens is pretty much mostly this...'s also the place that was these...

Athens.  Man.  What a great place.

Then, of course, there's the Parthenon and the Acropolis.  Being up on the Acropolis (which we randomly got into for free!) ranks way, way up there on my list of life-changing moments.  I was actually surprised at how, just, overwhelmed I felt walking up through the Propylaea and getting that first, up close, look at the Parthenon (the PARTHENON!).    I don't know.  It's's so very, very old.  And so very, very much happened there.  

I remember sitting on the rooftop of our hotel that night with a couple of drinks and just having a fantastic view of the Acropolis all lit up at night and thinking, "Yes.  That is amazing. I am seeing something amazing right now."

Another highlight was taking a tour through the old Agora, Mars Hill, and Hadrian's Temple of Olympian Zeus.  Just so...much...history.  So. Much. History.   I....just.....gah.  I'm really bad at writing about Athens because it was so amazing and life-changing.

Paul on Mars Hill (Because how could we not?)

Ritual Dancing down the Panathaneic Way
Aaaaaaanyway, another day we took a bus down to Cape Sounion to see the Temple of Poseidon.  It was real interesting to get out in "real Greece" a bit (it looks a lot like...Central Utah?) and just take our time wandering along a cape and alongside the Aegean Sea.

I even brought my swimming suit and changed in some scrubby bushes next to a resort hotel just so I could swim a bit in the Aegean.

Cape Sounion
Temple of Poseidon
We also took quite a few walks through the old parts of the city, finding the first (modern) Olympic stadium and spending a morning in the amazing Archaelogical museum as well.  We ate our fill of souvlaki while we were at it, too.

Olympic Stadium

But ultimately, the thing I wanted to do the most at the end of every day was walk back and see the Acropolis again and again and again.  

And I did.

I'm counting down the days until my third anniversary of living in Europe by recapping trips that I never got around to highlighting.  You can see the list of trips (and links to them as they are written) here.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Danish Name Law

It's not really a huge deal in continental Europe, but something that has surprised a lot of expats we've met are the Name Laws, particularly if those expats are expecting a baby.

Generally, the name laws are set up to make sure parents don't give their children horrible, weird, embarassing names (so they say...) - or otherwise try to be like celebrities.  So, I can get the point.  The problem is that sometimes, say, if you're from Bali, you may want to name your child a Balinese name...and chances are that there aren't so many of those on the "approved list"

Apparently, the Danish Name Law is one of the strictest ones around (according to the New York Times).  And this hasn't been especially comforting to think about, even when (after scrutinizing the law's entire book-length text) I know that it technically doesn't apply to us since we aren't Danish citizens.

But even if we're technically exempt, we will still have to get a special letter of approval from the local parish which we need to be able to get our name certificate which we need to get an international birth certificate which we need to get a passport for the fetus.  Soooooooooo...I just don't want to have to come up with a water-tight, legal argument to bring to the nice little parish person in charge of names to convince them that yes, even though we aren't Danish, our choice of the name Whateveritwillbe is okay because it isn't weird in America.

Because the thing is that we LIKE names that will be weird in America!  Like, one of my approval criteria has been something like "Has this been in the top 1000 names, ever?"  If the answer is yes, well...then...things aren't looking so good for that name in my mind.

Anyway, I'm just rambling now.  The real reason I wanted to write this is because one night when I was freaking out about the minuscule possibility that we would have to defend our choice of Noneofyourbusinessrightnow as a name to some random Danish person, Paul was like, "Well, let's just look at what kind of names are on the list and maybe it will make us feel better."

So, now I present to you some of our favorite officially approved Danish (boy) names:

  • Tuna
  • Them
  • Ajo
  • Legolas
  • Alp
  • Amen
  • Army
  • Bi
  • Bum
  • Texas
  • Curd
  • Ditz
  • Eke
  • Eg
  • Emo
  • Frosti
  • Hack
  • Ho
  • Ion
  • Jazz
  • Jerk
  • Kid
  • Law
  • Mass
  • Math
  • Merlin
  • Mock
  • Miso
  • Moowgliie  (I don't just makes me laugh)
  • Nail
  • Neck
  • No
  • Or
  • Oz
  • Rejer (it means shrimp?)
  • Rot
  • Seat
  • Slim
  • Sic
  • Smokey
  • Snake
  • Snoopy
  • Syv (means Seven?)
  • Toto
  • Turf
  • Vile
  • Woo
  • Yo
  • Yoda
  • Zippy

So....I'm not that worried anymore.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Munich: Probably Should Go Here Under Less Sad Circumstances

Even Paul's reflection in the window is a sad face.
The most recent memory I have of Munich is sitting in a hotel room crying while attempting to eat an entire bag of cheddar and sour cream chips and drink two cans of root beer in under thirty minutes.

It was unpleasant for so many reasons.

See, the thing was...I had just dropped my parents and sister off at the airport and they had brought us American snacks that we weren't going to be able to fit (or carry-on) in our backpacks for our own later flight home.  That should explain both the crying and the binge drinking.

Two years earlier, Munich was originally dumb since it was the place we said goodbye to Paul's family as well.  I remember leaving them in a little family hotel room near the train station, giving last-minute directions to the airport, as we left to catch our overnight train back home to northern Germany.

It was the wooooorrrrrrst.

Munich is THE WORST.

But it's so unfair because, I mean, if all these pictures I have of Munich weren't drenched in the tears of eternal woe, then Munich would kind of look like THE BEST.

I mean, really, it has a lot going for it.  There are a gabazillion churches, for example.  And all of them have an interesting story - example: legit Roman-era mummies on display?  I know this, because I've been through the first 85% of the Rick Steve's Munich Walking Tour twice now.

Also, there's this outdoor market area that's always been gorgeous with its maypole and chestnut trees and adorable stalls selling handwoven baskets and bratwurst (different stalls...not the same stall.  Though maybe I just didn't see that one.)  

Or there's the Englischer Garten - this gigantic and gorgeous park with a lazy-river style canal you can just float along (or surf, in particular spots).  Want to picnic?  Find a spot in a giant, amazing meadow.  Want to go horseback riding?  Sure thing!  Want to ride a segwey while eating weisswurst?  You find it there.

There are palaces and art museums and opera houses and biergartens, and dirndl shops (one of my life goals is to own a tailored, green dirndl...).  It's actually a really nice city.

...if it wasn't actually the worst city in the world!

The real point I'm trying to make here is that...we need to go back sometime.  Munich needs some redemption - and dag nabbit, I want to finally finish that Rick Steve's Walking Tour!

I'm counting down the days until my third anniversary of living in Europe by recapping trips that I never got around to highlighting.  You can see the list of trips (and links to them as they are written) here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Neuschwanstein and Environs



We're back from Spain.  But right now I'm going to talk about Germany.  I just feel like it.

So, you know about Neuschwanstein, yes?  Of course you do.  Even if you don't think you do, you actually do.  You just don't know that's what it's called.  Have you seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?  Then you know.  Have you seen any Disney movie with the opening credits part that shows a castle with some sparkly arch drawn over the top and the music goes all, "Deeeee naaa na na na naaaaaaaaaaaa?"  Then you know Neuschwanstein.  

I'm just going to call it "Castle" for the rest of this post, actually. It's annoying to type Neuschwanstein.

So, we've been to Castle two times now, once in May 2012 with Paul's family and once in June 2014 with my family.  Why?  Because you have to go see Castle if you're anywhere near it.  Because it's Castle.

Here's the thing though.  Both times there has been something off with Castle.  

In 2012, it was half in scaffolding...

In 2014, we were there during an epic torrential downpour (that only stopped when my family was inside Castle, of course).

But regardless, a visit to Castle is always great.  Because even in scaffolding or hurricanes, the views around it are still beautiful.

Paul told me that I had to be sure to note that his Dad spoke the following words from the outlook near Castle's main entrance:  "This is the most beautiful place in the world."

So.  There you go.

Really quickly though, I want to leave off by saying that the area near Castle is also very lovely and has quite a few sights to see.

For example, there's the uber-Baroque Wieskirche about a 45 minute drive north.  It stands alone, surrounded by dairy cow pasture (and the cows have the bells around their necks!).

Or there's all the little villages that showcase the region's propensity to paint lovely scenes on their buildings...

But mostly, it's just a really nice place to go for a drive through the Alps and into the foothills...

Finally, I would like to end this post by dedicating it to our two rental vans from 2012 and 2014: Diesel-beast and Mom.  I am so glad we didn't damage either one of you.

I'm counting down the days until my third anniversary of living in Europe by recapping trips that I never got around to highlighting.  You can see the list of trips (and links to them as they are written) here.
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