Monday, January 25, 2010

Give my regards to Broadway

Not that I've ever been though, except in passing.  However, I had once dreamed of taking a trip up to the 'Big Apple' to do nothing more than spend every waking hour going from one show to another.  Over New Years my dream came true... with a few exceptions.

New York was replaced with the bustling city of London, Broadway was exchanged for the West End, and a never ending list of shows was cut down to 3... but only to provide time for exploration. When my friend and I decided to meet in London over the holiday the only logistics we spent hours going over was that of trying to narrow down the list of shows we wanted to see.  With the vast amount of shows available, it proved nearly impossible to to put a limit on them.

In the end we decided on three perfect shows, and felt no regret for not having time to see any others. Our first was a 4 person murder mystery/comedy called 39 Steps, which was based off of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  Les Miserable was the second of the London productions we saw, and were blown away with.  I'm not sure if it was because of the revolving stage, the songs (that I've been guilty of singing in the shower on occasion), the cast, or the storyline itself - but we were left amazed.  I'd see it over and over if I had the opportunity.  Even Wicked, which was the 3rd show we saw, paled in comparison.  (Although we tried our hardest not to compare since the two shows were completely different). Needless to say, the shows alone made the entire trip worth it.

It's funny how some dreams don't always happen in the way you would have expected - instead they turn out even better.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Romantic Road

I've never been good at coming up with names for things.  My creativity as a child ranged from naming my teddy bear "baby" and my doll "doll".  And I'm not too sure it's a quality of mine that's gotten better with age.  But, I can't take credit for the name of one of the world's most scenic roadways, which would be on par with my creativity level.  The Romantic Road was named such by someone well before my time. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which I've previously stated my love for, is one of many stops down the roughly 250 mile stretch of highway in Bavaria.
Since I've started to grow tired of visiting R.o.d.T each and every time I go "home" (gasp), my mom suggested I branch out a bit and see what else the Romantic Road had to offer.  More specifically, she suggested I visit Dinkelsbuhl, which is the closest village to us after Rothenburg. Plus, she stated it had the best Christmas Market in the area.

My mom had to work, so the trip to Dinkelsbuhl consisted of my brother and me.  We left 11:00am, which is usually unheard of when it comes to my 14 year old brother who sleeps in until noon (at least) when at all possible. But since we had other things we wanted to do in the afternoon, we more specifically being I, we left early enough to spend a few hours absorbing the sites of the village.

We arrived in Dinkelsbuhl 45 minutes later and made an A-line to the Christmas market.  My brother was just as excited as I was, since he had never had the Christmas market experience.  That excitement quickly left when we found that the market didn't open until 2:pm.  It was cold. Very cold. And there were only so many shops to enter in order to stay warm, as the village was less commercialized than Rothenburg.  We found enough to do to keep us occupied for an hour before we decided that the market just wasn't worth another hours wait.  One day, when it's much warmer, I'll have to give Dinkelsbuhl a second chance - because in all honesty, we let the cold keep us from truly appreciating its charm.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Every year around Christmas my mom would tell us about when she went to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve as a child.  Although I've never been Catholic, the way she spoke about going to Mass and then coming home to find all her presents under the tree gave me a strong desire to experience it too. 

Last year when my sister came to visit we had every intention to go to a midnight service, but when 11pm on Christmas Eve rolled around, neither of us wanted to bundle back up and leave the warmth of my house.  Instead we laid around my laptop to watch White Christmas.

In the cute town of Ansbach where my mom lives, the 'midnight' service (in what I believe to be a Protestant Church) happened to be at 10pm.  From the start of the day we all experienced one ordeal after another. In the afternoon I was facing the prospects of having to go to the Christmas Eve service on my own, and my desire to go was waning by the second. When 9pm rolled around, however, my mom was feeling well enough to join me and gave enough enthusiasm to shake me from my funk of no longer caring about going.

As we walked into the giant stone cathedral, sat down on padded pews and helped ourselves to free blankets to warm ourselves with, we watched the last bit of the rehearsal. The program started with the choir and congregation singing Christmas hymns, followed by a reading of Luke 2, and few songs by the choir.  The preacher then stood on his podium for what felt like 40 minutes, since I don't speak German, and spoke to the congregation about... something.  While he spoke I thought about how great it was to experience my first version of a midnight service in Germany as those around me (including my mom who actually understands the language) laughed at the preachers jokes. Once he concluded everyone joined in singing Stille Nacht with the overhead lights dimmed and the Christmas trees prominently on display.  It was nothing short of a magical moment, and one I'm sure I'll look back on for years to come.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Little America

Many, many people ask me when I'll either: a) visit, or b) move back to the States.  My new response to them will now be: "why bother when all I need to do is go into Germany to get my American fill!"

My first trip "home" (aka. my mom's house in Germany) was in October.  At that point I had been in Europe for a year and a half and had fallen in love with the continent.  I also accepted the fact that no matter where I went, besides the UK, everything but certain TV shows, movies and songs broadcast on radio and television would be in a language foreign to me.

I was not ready, that first trip home, to feel like I was outside of the continent.  But, just like a tornado dropping a 1000 lb cow at your doorstep, it struck me when I turned on the car radio - I was not in Kansas Germany anymore.   The DJ was speaking in English... American English with American news.  I looked at my mom, I looked at the radio, I looked at my mom again, I looked out the window - just to try to figure out where in the world I was.

Over Christmas I got a temporary pass to go onto all army bases within Germany, since my mom is now a contractor at one of the on-base medical centers. I stared wide eyed at the civilian family members in their sneakers and sweatshirts, each one speaking with highly distinct American accents.  I watched in shock as large cars drove down the narrow streets. But the biggest surprise came when we went to a commissary on another base.  It was, what I dubbed, little America.  As soon as we reached the parking lot a giant black SUV drove past us with a large Raiders sticker on the window.  The commissary was the size of 4 football fields, housed a range of disgusting fast food chains (which I haven't missed), and had the army equivalant of a Super Walmart.  Needless to say, with the prospect of hundreds of items for sale in US dollars with no additional tax, I ran to the doors.

Although living near Little America has it's perks and may squash fleeting moments of nostalgia, I'm quite grateful I live in an area where it actually feels like I'm in Europe.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

You know your family is addicted to chocolate when:

your tree was decorated with Germany's finest.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Nurnberg Lebkuchen

Trains aren't like what they used to be.  Once upon a time, or so I am told, trains were the mode of transport within Europe.  For the common backpacker trains still are the best option, thanks to the Eurail passes.  But for those of us who live in the continent, prices have sky rocked- leaving us no choice but take the quicker option which doesn't cost much more (or drastically less, if using a discount airline).  So I flew into Nuremberg to go "home" for Christmas, thus cutting down my travel time by 4 hours.

Despite the sub-freezing temperatures I still stated "the Christmas market" when my mom asked me what I wanted to do as soon as she picked me up.  20 minutes later we were parked and in the city center for a nose chilling hour.  We would have stayed longer, especially since there was so much more to see, if it weren't for the fear that our fingers were going to fall off due to frostbite.
But our purpose in going was satisfied.  See, I was told by a friend before I left for Germany that I had to eat a lebkuchen for her.  Honestly, I hadn't a clue what type of cookie she was talking about, but told her I would anyway.  She then gave specific instructions that I eat a fresh one straight from the heart of Nuremberg.  Always wanting to appease family and friends, especially when it involves me eating food, I made sure to fulfill her wishes.
Lebkuchen, so I discovered, is a peppery, flaky yet chewy, ginger-like cookie.  They come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and flavors.  I quickly opted for the chocolate covered one which I found to be quite tasty, although my mom wrinkled her nose in disgust after taking a bite. So, I was left with the unfortunate task of eating the rest on my own... which I did gladly. 

Before I end, I would just like to leave a word of caution.  Do NOT, under any circumstances, attempt to eat a lebkuchen if it has been packaged.  They're horrendously disgusting, which I learned when I tried one at my mom's house later that day.  So the specific instructions my friend left with me, I pass on to you: only eat a fresh one straight from the heart of Nuremberg.  Otherwise, you'll be highly disappointed.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Why we're told to never say never

On the afternoon of March 5th 2008 as I was surrounded by 5 stuffed-to-the-brim, over weight suitcases that were ready to load into the car, my dad asked once more: "are you sure you don't want to take my extra poncho?"   "No," I responded as I rolled my eyes in disgust, "I have no more room".  "Besides," I thought, "there's no way I'd be seen dead in something as tacky as a poncho."  And I held true to my word, until a few days after I bought my bike when I found myself in a store, soaking wet, purchasing a dark blue poncho.

Later that year as the weather grew colder I proclaimed to the world to those around me that as soon as the temperatures reached the freezing point, I'd be off my bike and would only go from point A to B by tram, bus or metro.  When the tulips started blooming in the spring I realized that I had biked through the past few months, bitter cold and all.

Then we jump forward to today, January 4th, 2010 when I found myself in another of the ongoing list of "nevers" that I've been racking up for years. Two and a half years prior to this afternoon I was researching my soon-to-be home and came across a photo of bikes piled high with snow, to match the winter white backdrop of the rest of the city. I not only stated, but vowed on my life ... nearly, that I would never, EVER, ride my bike surrounded by a blanket of white or (heaven forbid) while the snow was actually falling!  That scene went through my head multiple times as I rode home crossing partially frozen canals while snowflakes fell on my head and snow crunched under the wheels of my bike.

And now, as I type this, with you dear reader as my witness, I resolve to never say never again!