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.

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