Tuesday, October 31, 2006

My First Experience with a German Tradition...it was a good one!

My entire building (10 apartments) is really nice and friendly and I've met almost everyone in the first week living here. That being said, my upstairs neighbor Boris turned 30 today and I learned about a German tradition. When an unmarried person, male or female, turns 30, they have a ceremony. I don't know the German name right now but it is called the equivelant of brooming. Friends of the birthday person organize and advertise the event and everyone gathers in the evening in front of the governor's house (more of a historic downtown building which is huge but I'm not sure if the governor actualy lives there) and throws "trash" on the steps. In this case, the trash consisted of cat litter (clean), bottle caps (lots) and rice (continuously added). See photo. The birthday person is responsible for sweeping up all of the trash. Boris' friends came up with a gradually increasing broom plan. He started with a tooth brush, moved to a nail brush, a bath tub cleaning brush and finaly a real broom. In order to upgrade his broom he had to complete three tasks from a list that one of his friends made. Said friend appeared to be the organization behind the event. In addition, Boris was to take shots at random intervals. Most of the tasks involved interaction with the passerby as we were in the center of town. The first task he completed involved unclasping a woman's bra. Lucky for Boris the first woman he asked agreed. Another task involved dancing with a woman, this one took him three tries to complete. At one point he had to do 5 push-ups, so on and so forth. Eventualy he got to the biggest broom and was given trash bags to seriously clean up the mess. Once he was done everyone got wine for a toast. It was an entertaining evening that was worth standing in the cold for half an hour for. I will not forget this!

Monday, October 30, 2006

IKEA and updated apt. photos

IKEA opens at 9:30, we arrived at 9:45. I told Patrick that we should go early and he would for sure get a good parking spot. This proved to be false. There are 1,200 parking spots at IKEA according to Patrick and we were prob in #1,000 (no joke) 15 minutes after the store opened! A few people had even checked out already. Who gets in and out of IKEA in the first 15 minutes the store is open!?!...Freaks, that's who. Bad parking spot aside, it was about to be a good day at IKEA. Keeping in mind that all IKEAs follow the same floor plan, showroom on top, warehouse and little things at ground level and you instantly go upstairs on entering, we decided to enter the exit as Patrick wanted to check out scratch and dent. I had a list of things to buy and normally feel like the scratch and dent room is a waste of time. However, we were in our neighbor's apartment the other day and they informed us that all of their IKEA furniture was scratch and dent so I was inspired. On my list was a wardrobe (German apartments do not have closets) and as we walked out of the room I noticed one much cooler than the one I planned to buy for half the price. I was going to buy the 35 Euro model and this one was regularly 80 down to 16. I needed it and we bought it then disassembled it in the lobby and loaded the car. It is a good thing Patrick does not drive a Smart car as this had a bit of trouble fitting into his station wagon as it was. The car was loaded and the hatch was open so we could not do the rest of our shopping (my list was abandoned for now) until we took it home and unloaded. That is what we did. We went back for IKEA take II...the first thing on my list was this cream colored table I had seen twice before. It is the kind that expands in size and since I am planning on bringing Thanksgiving to Germany, this seemed like the right thing. Besides it was marked down from 200 to 50 (not scratch and dent). I couldn't quite convince Patrick it was necessary on the previous two trips but today it was one of the main reasons we went to the store...there were none left. The floor model sat lonely under the sign. I was attached and deflated. But wait, scratch and dent to the rescue, the floor model was moved over, I stood by it and waited as they priced it and then Patrick fought off a woman as I found a cart to move it on. This time we were able to fit it in the car w/o a hitch, lock it up and complete our shopping. The table is still in the car as it is awkward and heavy to move but we won't have to build it and we will have it for Thanksgiving. Now all we need are a dozen chairs. After spending the better part of the day at IKEA we officially live in our apartment now. The old tenant came and singed the paperwork and dropped off the keys. Furniture, a kitchen, even some curtains and our apartment is on its way to becoming our home.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Today is the day

Today it hit me, for the first time since I've been here I was overwhelmed by a sense of longing for my home. I don't know if it is that approaching holiday called Halloween that I so love and Germans don't celebrate or skimming Facebook and seeing what friends are up to or really talking to friends from home. Being the weekend, I was able to catch a few people online inspite of the time shift. Either way, today marks my first feelings of indecision and regret of my choice to spend a year here. On top of everything, today was also the day when the former tenant finaly removed all of her stuff from the apartment. It should have been a day to celebrate to feel like we actualy are here in our home with our stuff and set up in a functional manner not just piled in awaiting its permentnt location when space is avaliable. In actuality it was incredibly anticlimatic. I guess I may just take a bubble bath and go to bed early tonight.

A journey through Magniviertel in photos...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

My new favorite bakery

I had my first German Pretzel today. It was from a shop called Back Factory (Bake Factory) and it was delicious. Think of a soft pretzel but totaly fresh and made with dough that's more like bread than cardboard. At the Back Factory, everything is baked on site which means it is also really cheap! I also bought a mozzarella and tomato sandwich on a nice crispy roll to save for later. In addition to fresh food and cheap prices, Back Factory has slushies!!! This was the first slushie machine I've seen in Germany. It was early and cold so I didn't get one but soon I will have a pretzel and a slushie for lunch and be a happy girl :) Overall, German bakeries are noteable. First of all they small delicious, second we don't have the same type of bakeries in the US and third they are the best way to start your day. I look foward to a hot chocolate and crossiant on my walk to work in the winter.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Chicago in London

Advertisements in London claim America's sweetheart is playing Roxy Heart in Chicago the musical. I'm not sure that Ashlee Simpson is exactly America's sweetheart but I was excited to see her West End performance. Since I spent 5 months in London a few years back I knew how to buy tickets to a musical via TKTS. Approaching the board my dreams of Ashlee Simpson in London were deflated, the only seats left to the 8pm showing were single seats. It was not about 3pm. Then I noticed a flyer advertising the 4:30pm showing, checked with the ticket salesman to be sure Ashlee would be performing in this and asked if two seats were avaliable together. Aparently he had 2 in the front row of the stalls. I didn't remember which seats were stalls but figured the front row of any section should be decent and this was my only shot to see the show. We had an hour to kill so ice cream in Leichester square seemed like the best way to spend our time. When we arrived at the theatre I was suprised at its size, much smaller than I expected. The stalls, I quickly learned, were on the floor and row AA is directly in front of the stage. I could touch the stage with my feet while seated. The orchastra was not in a pit but on the stage so the show would take place about 2 feet in front of our seats. I was beyond excited to have seats this good to any show. When the show began Patrick was imediatly convinced of my choice by the girls' costumes. Ashlee impressed me. She may not have been the strongest voice on stage but to make the transfer from pop star to stage performer is impressive. And to think her beginings were clouded with stories of lip singing. She was so close, I could see the tattoo od cherries she has on her ankle. In the end of the show Roxy and her new stage partner give out roses to the audience and Ashlee handed me one. HAHA it is kind of pathetic but yes I still have it :) These are the nights memories are made of.

Smoking Update

After a bit of reserach conducted by Patrick, I learned that lung cancer is on the rise in the U.S. I also learned that there were about 45,000 cases in Germany and 172,000 in the U.S. in 2005. Adjusted for population, the numbers were almost exact; .056% in Germany and .057% in the U.S. Hopefuly the recently inacted smoking laws in the U.S. will show results in the near future. Maybe soon, Germans will realize the unpleasantries of second hand smoke and reduce exposure.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Smokers Heaven

If there's one thing Germans aren't it's smoke free. Smoking is allowed EVERYWHERE and cigarettes can be purchased in all sorts of shops, cafes, bars and even on the side of buildings from dispensers. I think cigarets may be the only thing (other than prostitutes) one can buy on a Sunday. Germans recycle the most random stuff and even stopped using alumnium cans to better the environment but somking not a problem. I wonder if the lung cancer rate in germany is much higher than the US...Wikipedia here I come.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Was ist das?

Das ist Doner (two dots should be over the o). The pronunciation sounds like dooner. This is the most popular fast food in Germany. I heard all about it before I even left America as my German friends were craving it more and more as their return home drew closer. One day I walked into a room of German students in Rhode Island naming all of the Doner shops in Braunschweig. It seemed to go on forever as they all knew of different shops and assorted sauces. Essentially every doner starts with heated bread. It's thicker than a pita and more dense than American sandwich bread. The bread is either in the triangle form seen here or oval shaped. The oval is nicer when it comes to keeping the contents of the doner inside. The meat is either lamb or chicken, occasionally you will find ground beef, and always shaved off of a rotating heated poll in front of you. I had both the lamb and chicken thus far and this picture if of lamb as the chicken is quite greasy (fat is involves so it does not dry out on the pole). The usual veggies include kraut (red and sour), onions, lettuce and sometimes tomatoes and at least two sauces, the type of which varies by shop. I was lucky today as I found a shop that had lettuce and tomatoes and green peppers and plain white yoghurt. I also agreed to "tomato" sauce which was more of a curry sauce but quite delicious. I never order onions or red kraut but the normal kraut adds a nice crunch to the sandwich. I have yet to finish a whole donor (I've had 4 total) and hear it takes time and practice. I'm not sure I will ever get there nor do I care too. Want to split one with me?

Under Construction - The story of my days

So this is what the kitchen looks like at present. German apartments do not come with a kitchen as an American would expect it to look. When I moved in the room was a white box with a bit of tile on the wall and a light (but the former tenant owns the light and she will soon be removing that too). Luckily we were able to find someone who wanted to get rid of their kitchen so we now have the makings of a functional kitchen. The room itself is quite spacious but the setup is opposite the one of the kitchen we removed the furniture from so it is presenting quite a logistical issue. A saw may be required. For now I am working to paint the cabinents that pinkish color you see as all were a honey shade of wood straight out of the 80's. I do love the 80's but only in fashion not on a daily basis in the kitchen. Speaking of giving the kitchen I need to get myself in gear as I have to have all renovations finished and dry by tomorrow morning. That's when we call in the troops and the saw and solve those previously mentioned space issues. I hope everything works out!