Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


If cathedral towers are like mountains, I climbed the equivalent of Mt. Everest this weekend. B and I visited Cologne with family and walked around the "Dom" and by the Rhine river. We ate lunch at a place that served sausage and beer by the meter. Since neither of us is able to eat or drink that much, we stuck to light meals so we could get to the top of the Dom afterwards.

The Cologne cathedral is the third tallest in the world. Some of the old statues by the cathedral entrance and sides are being renovated so lighter pieces of stonework stand in contrast with the darker parts.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday, August 22, 2008


One method of vertical transportation unknown to Americans is called a paternoster. A paternoster consists of multiple elevator cabins strung together on a chain, like beads on a rosary - hence the name "paternoster", which is Latin for "our Father". The elevator continuously moves in a circle carrying people upward and downward.

Since this was a unique experience, B looked up all paternoster rides possible in Germany and found a total of 8 just within the Goethe university in Frankfurt. We took the U-Bahn to the main university building and at first located two paternosters but they were not running. A student saw that we were disappointed and pointed out another one down the hall.

It's a cheap thrill and fun to hop into the small cabin (2 passengers only), be carried up six floors, move sideways to the "down" direction and hop off in time. Signs both inside and outside the cabin assure you that going sideways through the attic part and the basement part is perfectly safe. A commonly held myth is that the cabins turn upside down as they move through the top and the bottom.

We strolled through Frankfurt the rest of the day,took a couple of shots of the Old Opera theater and strolled down to the Main river before heading back home. Frankfurt is full of surprises - yesterday, we visited the Palmengarten, a beautiful botanical garden in the Westend part of the city and took a lot of pretty flower pictures.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Can You Pass the Salt Please?

I have heard now from a couple of people that the water in Germany contains very little iodine and fluoride and that it is recommended to buy salt that contains both. Has anyone come across this as well? Supposedly, the recommended dose for adults of iodine is 150mg.
Apparently, too little iodine can cause thyroid and hormone problems. Mineral water can be supplemental too in a diet low in iodine.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Parlez Vous...

When I talk to expats, I come across two schools of thought - those who want to learn German and those who don't. Members of the first group will take the six-week course prescribed by the company or organization that moved them here. They will make attempts to order their own food and find their way around. Members of the second group also take up language courses but then they just retreat back into their safe, litttle bubble and say: "What's the use - I am moving back in x years anyways." They will usually first speak in English to natives before using their acquired German skills.

Since I learned four languages very early on in life, it is difficult for me to remember how long it takes to master a language well enough to feel confident for use in everyday communication. But I have become aware of how essential it is to bridge cultural differences. Of all aspects of a culture (politics, religion, economics, etc.), the most important aspect for an expat to understand is language.

I think, if you have had the choice to move to Germany and you see it as an adventure, the adventurous spirit needs to include using German skills at every opportunity to understand the culture. If, however, you are an unwilling/trailing spouse or partner or you were thrown into the situation of living here, the argument could be made that you do not need to force yourself to embrace the language, especially if you have no talent for it.

I have conflicting thoughts about learning different languages. Once you understand a different culture and a different way of life, it messes with your identity. When you learn about an advantage one culture has over your own, you grow dissatisfied unless that benefit is easily exported. I have not yet found a country where I have enjoyed all the benefits of a multi-cultural life.

I have a concrete, but trivial, example: I love to eat German bread. In the US, not even the most artisan or hand-made bread in the supermarket comes close to German bread. I would have to go out of my way to find German bread (usually made by a German baker) or bake it myself. This is just one tiny aspect of German culture that has not been successfully exported but it is a quintessential part of German culture and it makes for thousands of discontented German expats in the US.

My point is, what do we as willing/unwilling expats take away from the experience? Is giving up part of our identity worth the adventure?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rhine in Flames

Yesterday, we went on a bus tour organized by the American Women's Club that started out with stops in the small towns of Bacharach and Winningen and included a 2-hour boat trip on the Mosel. The weather was perfect for cruising but there wasn't that much to see along the way. After the boat trip, we sampled wines in a nearby vineyard. Most of them were Rieslings which both B and I found to be too sweet for our palate.

The highlight of the day were the "Rhine in Flames" fireworks over the Ehrenbreitstein fortress where the Mosel and Rhine rivers meet. We found a good spot on the riverbanks (Koblenz side) and waited three hours for the fireworks to start but they were well worth the wait. In the meantime, we ate a couple of bratwursts and drank a couple of beers as there were food booths lined all along the river.

At the start of the show, the fortress was lit up with red flares all over. I tried getting pictures but they wouldn't turn out. I just used video to capture a small portion during the fireworks display. We got home by 3am and fell into bed.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Rain in Spain

Even bloggers have vacations - I went to Spain. And since I was visiting family, I don't have many pictures to post.
I was in a very remote part of Spain, off the beaten path and away from the usual tourist crowd. Extremadura is a region not much frequented by tourists probably because there are no beaches and no all-inclusive resorts. But the vino tastes great and the sun shines every day... no rain until October or so.