Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What the hole?

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Construction continues along the Neuenheimer Landstrasse on the north side of the Neckar, across from the Altstadt.  The road closed to thru traffic in May 2010, but is now being totally closed off one section at a time for complete resurfacing. The project is supposed to be finished next month. They aren't just redoing the road and sidewalk - some other changes have been popping up, too.  In a couple of places, stone columns have been built up on the ends of stone walls.  And speaking of the stone walls, a few weeks ago these mysterious holes appeared at regular intervals in the tops of the walls.  The reason for the holes, which are about a foot (30 cm) deep, still isn't clear to me.  Any guesses?


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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friendly Frau Dietz

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The lovely Frau Dietz was kind enough to interview me this week for her Friendly Friday series.  Go check it out to hear me go on about names, what I do and don't like about Germany, and all my favorite places we've visited - then be sure to have a look at all the other great interviews she's done!

Thanks again, Frau Dietz! :)
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Schwaebisch Hall!

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Last month, a couple of friends of ours from the US came to visit with their 10-month-old son. They rented a car, which gave us the opportunity to do something we haven't done in a while (d/t finances) - visit a new German town! We went down to Schwaebisch Hall, which is an easy jaunt down the Autobahn from Heidelberg.

Schwaebisch Hall Jul 11

We arrived and easily found a parking garage, then had a quick bakery lunch and wandered around town.  We were lucky to have beautiful weather!  Schwaebisch Hall sits on the River Kocher, which is infamous between my husband and I as the place where we capsized in a canoe only days after arriving in Germany.  The town is full of half-timber houses and also includes a couple of covered bridges!  The bridges lead to a small island in the river where you can find a round open-air theater painted with Shakespeare verses all the way around in English and German.  The biggest landmark in town is St. Michael's Church, which sits atop a hill and many, many stairs on a platz shared with the Rathaus, a fountain, and a variety of pretty buildings.  We admired all this, then had some Spaghetti Eis - a must-do for any visitor to Germany, of course! In all, it makes for a pleasant day trip if you're nearby!  Check out the photos!
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Family Visitors

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A quick question for those of you who live on a different continent from your family:

Do you have any family members who still refuse to come visit you? Do you find this hurtful, and if so, have you ever broached the topic with them? What are their reasons for not visiting you? Do they still expect you to visit them often despite their refusal to do the same amount of work only in the opposite direction? Do you feel this is fair since you made the decision to live where you do? Are these people with whom you get along very well otherwise?
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Monday, August 22, 2011

You Are Invited

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Behind the scenes, a group of Germany's English-speaking expat bloggers has been planning our 2011 yearly meetup (sometimes known as the WEBMU) - in Cologne from October 21-23! If you're interested in speaking English all weekend with a bunch of expats, you are invited! The agenda is going to include all kinds of fun things such as Mexican food, Dom or city tours, Koelsch-drinking, and the annual TQE Queer Expedition (all welcome!)!  Cliff of Regensblog has been working to expand our web presence so I'm happy to link you now to a new site sharing information about our community and meet-ups - check in there for more information, and if you're a blogger, register on our forum!

I've been to several of these meet-ups in the past and it's a great weekend away with people who know how to small-talk. Consider joining us!

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

No more Imbiss

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In this spot there used to be a little Imbiss (food stand) in a trailer.  It was owned by an older woman, was a little grody, seemed to be open at random times, and always had a stand full of curled-up, faded Heidelberg postcards sitting out front.  I walked or biked past it nearly every day but I never really saw it very busy even though it was well-located right by the Neckarwiese.

Last December the owner of the Imbiss passed away, and it needed to be relicensed for operation.  Apparently, Heidelberg had no plan to grant this license.  Her family scrubbed it until it was spick-and-span, put out petitions to keep it open, set up a Facebook page, and campaigned from the trailer.  Sadly I never got around to taking a photo of it during this time. 

Unfortunately (for them - I have to admit to not patronizing the place more than once or twice), they were not successful in their efforts.  One day the trailer disappeared and was replaced by this cross, which reads "RIP Traditions Imbiss".  The cross was also gone one day later.  In the background: one of Heidelberg's many, many cigarette vending machines!
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Monday, August 15, 2011

A Real-Life Meme Hits Heidelberg

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The word "meme" usually brings the internet to mind, but a real-world meme recently hit Heidelberg.  It's the most subtle of PDAs - you and your very special forever sweetie romantically get someone to carve your names or initials on a padlock, then you lock it onto a local feature - often a bridge, where you can then symbolically toss the key into the water and make out a little bit before going on your merry way.

The first place I saw this was Cologne, one of the most well-known places to put up public locks o' love.  Since then I've seen people on Facebook post pictures of this being done in Rome and Bamberg.  A few months ago, they started showing up on the Old Bridge in Heidelberg.  There's really nothing good on the bridge to stick locks on - no chain-link fencing or ornate looped carved details.  Desperate that their relationships could be headed for disaster if they don't make this gesture in some famous location, they started sticking locks on these tiny little metal bars that you can find on the corners of the little look-out points along the bridge.  Our bridge doesn't have a lot of space for locks and it's already mostly taken up.  I wonder what happens then?  Are these things usually cut off by the police to make room for more couples to prove via lock that they care?  Does cutting them off spell doom for the lovers?

Wikipedia has a list of places you can perform this ultimate gesture of romance - but they don't seem to know where it really started, except that it might have been China.  They are, if nothing else, very photogenic, like shrines!  If you want a space on the bridge in Heidelberg, better hurry, we're running out.
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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sign with a crossed-out woman and child

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Recently we've had multiple guests from the US ask us what these signs are all about.  If you don't have any general idea, it appears to be a sign indicating that women and children are not allowed!  But, fear not, Germany loves women and children as much as any other country.  This sign indicates the end of the pedestrian zone!  It means that beyond this sign you're now sharing the street with cars, so look where you're going.  In a very brief search I can't find a US equivalent online, although it's possible there is one.  We don't have very many pedestrian zones, though.

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Monday, August 08, 2011

German vs. American Audiences

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Our apartment is kind of a dump and everyone knows I love to complain about it, but it does have one major advantage - location!  We are lucky enough to be within walking distance of Karlstorbahnhof, the only venue in Heidelberg that bands I like seem to come through.  Man, I would have killed to be within walking distance of a good venue in Boston, where I remember at least once having to leave a show well before it was over because public transit was about to shut down and a taxi would have been too far out of the budget.  Boston had a lot more shows I wanted to see than little Heidelberg manages, but if it weren't for Karlstor there wouldn't be any! And since it's so easy to get to, we've been to almost as many shows here as in Boston.

I have noticed a difference between audiences here and back in the US, and I'm wondering if this is a local peculiarity or something bigger.  In the US, audiences seem to get much more involved in the performances, but also exhibit much more casual and potentially distracting behavior.  An American audience will dance more, sing along more, cheer and whistle more, and generally provide a lot more encouragement to the musicians.  They'll also wander in and out of the venue during songs, in front of you, or spend a whole song shouting to a friend and completely ignoring the music.  A German audience bops along a little bit but is eerily silent while music is being played.  Songs are followed by mostly just clapping and maybe a little scream here and there.  On folk singer Sam Amidon's blog I once read him wonder what was the deal with audiences here and he didn't know how to take it. (Alas, I can't find the entry now - maybe it's gone.)  When we saw Menomena perform, halfway through the show the bassist called the audience "respectfully boring"*.  It's a little awkward, although I know this isn't a phenomenon exclusive to here.  Seeing George Clinton perform at the ultra-nerdy University of Chicago was probably one of the most awkward moments of my life. ;)

I just discovered that there's a nicely-done YouTube video of the Menomena show we went to last November, so I even have a little example to share with you all - the first video is Menomena performing at Karlstor last November, and the second is them performing in New York on the same tour.  (I chose that video because it, like the first one, is also professionally produced so a better comparison sound-wise.)  In the second video you hear a lot more extra audience action - chit-chat, screaming during solos, singing along.  Not so much in the German one.  (One example to compare is a keyboard solo at around 2:30 on both videos.) One the one hand, I enjoy being in an audience that I know isn't going to ruin my favorite song by talking over it or singing along badly.  On the other, being in a quiet audience that does nothing to feed the band - I always had the impression that audience feedback makes the show better - feels kind of uncool.  Oh cultural differences, you just pop up everywhere.

Menomena at Karlstorbahnhof, Heidelberg, November 2010


Menomena in New York City, October 2010


Sadly, if you didn't see Menomena live before the end of 2010, it's not the same anymore - Brent Knopf, the tall short-haired blond guy in the videos - left the band in January and I don't think they're performing the songs he leads anymore. Bummer!

What's your experience with German and American audiences? Is my experience too limited to make a comparison?

*But in the end they liked us well enough to pull out a second encore, something they didn't do anywhere else according to setlist.fm. :)
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