arcanamundi: (I'm so adjective I verb nouns!)
( Feb. 21st, 2009 12:20 pm)

One down.

First, a shout-out to

[ profile] brokenmellcifer who wrote up a little German-for-travel survival guide that worked way better for me than the ones I found online (I do not need a paragraph on how to get a mietwagon!). I promise that when I grouched that everyone who knew German seemed too busy being clever about it in their comments to throw a girl whose phrasebook has been lost a rope, I didn't have the intention of passively aggressing for help, I was just being cranky! But I was awfully glad to have it. This morning I said "Darf ich haben meine ich...out there? [pointing at the lobby]" to a breakfast room attendent and I was very proud of myself. I'm sure it was still pidginy, but I'm getting better! And last night I said "Entschuldigung Sie, ich spreche keine Deutsche" to my taxi cab driver and then followed it up with "Ich VOLLEN sprechen Deutsche und ich lernen, aber..." and then I showed him the address of the hotel written in my book. He was duly charmed. And it beat the hell out of previous cab rides. And I think I'm going to be functional in basic walking-aroudn German by the end of the month for sure. SO THANK YOU GIRLHEART.

Finally, a picture of delicious German food! Too bad my white balance is so off, but it will give you some proof that my day ended well  last night– this is the “light” 7.50 Euro “evening plate”. What! My favorite thing was the Braunschweiger (which I actually recognized thanks to Daphne's comment on facebook - no clue on the name of the rest of them, I need a little visual guide to all the German meats, because there are like, hundreds thousands and so far they're all delish. I could live on frikadelle). Braunschweiger is like a liverwurst pate and it’s WAY better than it sounds. I didn’t manage to try out the other sausage pate looking thing that had the same spreadable texture as the Braunschweiger  but was bright red. Going to have to work my way up to it on account of being pretty sure that's mostly congealed blood and oats and I am scared that it's still red instead of black like most blood pudding. Implies a certain rawness. And there were a couple varieties of prosciutto-like ham, translucent and chewy and sticky – one smoked, the other not. There were also a bunch of different varieties of salami, sausage, ham, etc.  There was a wedge of soft blue, a wedge of a soft dill havarti, two slices of gouda, three or four slices of emmenthal, a few slices of another soft, mild sandwich cheese. Also a bunch of sweet grapes, and a little bowl of pickle salad, and a dish of butter and a basket of bread. It was SO MUCH MEAT. I ate some and put the rest in a Ziploc and stuck it in the minibar fridge to make a sammich tomorrow assuming I can find a bäckerei.

YesterdayI had my first (probably not the last, though let’s face it – three months is a long rope) misadventure. To wit: I got on the wrong train on my way out of Braunschweig. Oh yeah. Now, you may be thinking to yourself: oh, man, I thought she was smarter than that. At least I hope you are. But friends, here is the deal: I was supposed to get on a train that would go from Braunschweig to Magdeburg, then change and get on another train that goes to Erfurt. My train was supposed to leave at 3:10. I bought the ticket at 3:00. I busted over to the right platform (the numbers are huge) and it was about 3:05. A train was already there and waiting, and with five minutes before mine was to leave, I figured it had to be my baby. I got on and to be sure, asked the elderly chick and the young chick in the car: “Das ist für Magdeburg?” Jä, jä. OK then. I sat down for the 45 minute ride. But 45 minutes in, and there was no sign of Magdeburg. I didn’t get too worried because every time we passed a station the sign in the station said that the train was going to Magdeburg. Some day.

When I only had 10 minutes left to make my connection I asked the guy across the car from me (we were the only two on the train)  if I was on the right train by showing him my ticket and saying “Das ist?” Nein, nein, he laughed. Somethingsomethingsomething SCHNELL, something NICHT SCHNELL bahahahaa!” which is how I figured out that I’d jumped on a slow train that happened to be headed to the same destination as the wicked fast train that would show up more or less the instant the slow one choo-chooed off. I know the word schnell because my friend Kathryn in Boston called her giant ancient Oldsmobile "DAS ROADBOOT" and liked to say "Das Roadboot ist schnell! Das Roadboot ist schööööen." Awesome.

When we got to Magdeburg the first thing I did was check the departures timetable to find out if there was another train out to Erfurt. One. In two hours. So I stopped and got a coffee and a donut in the train station cafeteria.


I had to try to get my ticket reissued so I didn’t have to pay for another one, and nobody at the ticket office there spoke any English at all, so I got out my little Langenschein and strung together various words until the lady either understood me or just kind of figured it out while I was saying things like “I have mistake! I am not having fast train in Braunschweig and number two train is now not in here.”  while waving my ticket. But she did reissue it, which was nice of her. And then I had to wait an hour and a half for the train, which would be the last train out there from Magdeburg for a long time, and I made sure I was on it. I stood on the platform a long time. I took a bunch of pictures.

 The train was packed. An old dude came up and started talking to me in German and I said I didn’t understand and didn’t speak German and he looked exasperated but I made the help yourself gesture to the other seats and he had a seat and we spread our luggage out (which was easy, I had a backpack, messenger bag, and suitcase, and he had three bags also) and got comfy. I started typing and noticed that he seemed to be looking at my laptop an awful lot. I got out my dictionary and looked up a word and said: “Däs ist argerlich?” Is this annoying?  And he laughed and said something I didn’t understand at all (the big problem with venturing sentences in German? Is that then people answer you in German.) I erred on the side of caution and also laughed and just watched downloaded United States of Tara episodes instead of writing.  It is good to not annoy your seatmate. And later on when the train made a big lurch he dove after my water bottle for me. He accidentally grabbed some guy´s foot instead of the bottle on the first attempt, and this cracked him up big time, and for nearly an hour after he'd suddenly start giggling and I knew that he was laughing about it again. I do that too. Sweet!

My lack of German is making this whole traveling across Germany and Vienna thing kind of predictably difficult and a little stressful in places, but I kind of suspect it’ll get better as I move further south (I love Munich and didn’t have any problems there - as long as people are patient and not immediately going into I HATE FURRINERS mode it's all good) and after actually screwing something up yesterdaz and managing a couple of mission critical conversations without any English, I’m starting to think of my little Langenscheit dictionary as a trusty critter. Much better than having a phrase book, considering that most of my action isn’t really phrasebooky. Thanks to Mel's crash course in essential German for travel, I expect to be able to actually get lunch out of a cranky old German lunch lady by the end of the week (previous attempt: FAIL, also attempt to get something from a deli after the archive one night: FAIL. The Braunschweigers are not a patient lot, and I think they might not be real crazy about Americans. On account of how we tried to wipe their city off the map. Literally. On the 14th and 15th of October 1944. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not sympathetic. Braunschweig was a Nazi capital. Munitions manufacturing, location of a camp called a  Ausländerkinder-Pflegestätte in which thousands of children, 100,00-200,000  CHILDREN -- died. They were the imprisoned children of non-Aryan forced laborers. So you know what? I don't feel bad for Braunschweig, which was once a pretty evil place.

And now it is really, really, really ugly. It’s pretty much late 40s, early 50s architecture, but of a kind of bleak and blocky Eastern European variety.  It seems like it’s all about what’s been lost.  I wasn’t sad to get the hell out of there.  Fairly depressing. Bye Braunschweig! Sorry I’m not sorry my country bombed the hell out of you back in the day of the Nazi!

I arrived at the hotel and checked into this room:

I took some pictures, got the internet sorted, ordered that vesperplatte from room service for dinner (lunch having been an awfully long time ago), and then realized that the noise I’d identified as someone vacuuming (a weird action at 10 pm, but whatevs) was in fact the elevator engine. Oh HELL no. I called down to the desk and said: give me another room, this one is right next to the elevators. And they were like SURE! And then they put me in Murder Central. You know. What they call it on CSI. Last room on the hallway, closest to the fire exits. Also, it has no internet access, it’s too far from the wireless point. I imagine my crappy choice of rooms is the ancillary price I’m paying for booking the room for 40 Euros a night instead of the 100+ they usually go for. The hotel actually seems to be pretty full despite it being low season.  It’s very nice. I’m not that vexed by the WLAN non-access though – I have a ton of work to do, and I always get more done when it’s not *always* available – and I can access the internet from the bar, lobby, breakfast room, etc.

I’ll say this for murder central: it is QUIET.  I snuggled into the feather duvet and pillows and slept for 9 straight hours. I haven’t slept so well in weeks.

Got up and came downstairs for breakfast. Ate 3 (three!) bowls of fruit salad – my whole body was like GIMME MORE THAT.  Delicious coffee. Little plate of cholesterol and mystery meat protein sausage and eggs.  I’m planning on walking around for a few hours and then coming back to the hotel to catch up on work at the desk in my hotel.

Interesting room features:

Not just a bible. Also the teachings of Buddha!

These pillows in meine neue zimmer reminded me of fortune cookies and that whole “in bed” thing we used to suffix to the ends of the fortunes after we read them, when we were in high school. Does everyone do that, or was it just us?

In Braunschweig:

There is a giant shopping mall inside this. Big huge deluxy shopping mall. Weird.

Hello my pretty:

My favorite thing about getting a manuscript from a non-archival library is that the librarians are impressed you can read them.

The architectural equivalent of whimsical German footwear:



In German libraries you can get GAMES - my dad would love this. My dad's collection of German board games is even bigger!


And also you can be scared to death by Germanic ART in the magazine room on the way to the manuscripts:

Guess what it is. No really! Guess!

Forgot to post this before - it's the German equivalent of Judge Judy. Isn't she adorable? She has a dimple just like my mom. In fact, this is pretty much what my mom would look like if she dyed her hair bright red and had a rounder face and was willing to wear reading glasses. But my mom has very definite ideas about older women who dye their hair bright red. I think it can be summarized as OH PLEASE.

Bis später!
arcanamundi: (comfy bed)
( Feb. 21st, 2009 05:21 pm)
I left the hotel and wandered, hoping I'd find a laundromat and/or a grocery store. Status of mission: FAIL. Status of finding .07 pencil leads, a few postcards, some gummi bears, a small box of strawberry milk, and my very favorite and the best face powder in the whole world - which for some reason is 20 Euros cheaper in Germany than it is in France and the USA? WIN.

My hotel is right around the corner from a bridge that has things built on it, old-timey style.

I saw this graffiti on a bunch of abandoned/charred/boarded up/etc. buildings. I looked it up: NAZIS GET OUT. Not sure if the buildings became Nazi squats after being burned, or if they were burned because they were Nazi squats. Also: can we really credit a bunch of racial supremacist skinhead gutterpunks with the word "Nazi"? Because these skinheads can't find their way down a street without having to stop to scratch their ass and have a smoke every 50 meters or so. I speak from witnessing.

Taken from inside the church that is still standing on one side of the bridge.


Tea shop window.

Seriously, I have no goddamn idea, and I'm not sure the Germans did either. Everyone looked confused. From what I've read Erfurt has a lot of history tied up in the plague, and I am pretty goddamn sure this thing is supposed to be covered in buboes. It's next to the rathaus.

Coolest rain gutter ever - bless my ultrazoom for carrying my eye that far up:

International Headquarters of the Mystical Masonic Brotherhood of the Lollipop Guild:

I like the idea that a tourist who can't read German while it's whizzing by might think there was information on this streetcar and chase it down the street.

Not that you really need it. Everything you might want to see in Erfurt is glomped together and can be had within a half hour's walk.


This little one reminded me of my niece, who has a dollbaby stroller just like it:


I always kind of thought these two would end up dating:

Germans sure do love their CLOWN SHOES.

I saw a huge crowd of people around a little catering trailer that said "Brat." While of course one might first suspect the locals are indulging in a little traditional public humiliation slash deterrence, this is a meat trailer.

Of course. I forgot the words "Ich mochte ein bratwurst, bitte" in my slavering passion for a steaming, charred brat - but fortunately for me the bratman is an old hand with tourists and just laughed and handed me a bun. And I'm thinking dude, bun? And then he mimed how I should open my bun and stand and wait for my turn to get one. You hold out your little round bun and the other guy sets a foot long brat in your three inch bun. I know that sounds like a dirty joke, but it's totally true:

You might be thinking right now "I am going to introduce the hot dog bun to Germany and be revered as a life-changing innovator!" but actually, no. They would not thank you for that at all. Because as I observed after breaking my brat into parts that fit in the bun and eating it like a sammich, THIS IS NOT HOW YOU DO IT. The bun is just a handle for the brat, which you eat on either end. When you get to the middle, you might eat the few inches of brat left with your fingers, or sammich style, letting the bread kind of clean your mouth by giving the brat grease someplace to go. And it's really good bread - it looks like wheat bread but tastes slightly rye, and it was yum. Technically you then feed the rest to the fat, happy geese that live next to the bridge where the bratman parks the bratmobile, but screw that, I ate mine.

The goose is like OH NICHT DU DIDN'T!

Despite the fact that not two hours hence I'd devoured a bratwurst and a bun, after walking around for awhile I was hungry AGAIN so I thought I'd get a cup of soup. I walked into a restaurant that had a soup sign. People said things to me in German I didn't understand. I did my little Entschuldingun Sie, ich spreche nicht Deutsche und verstehe nicht, aber... [consults Langenscheidt dictionary] ich wolle die tomatesuppen, bitte. Magic! Until it turned out to be deeply evil soup.

The fog is on the lens and comes from being outside-inside  and me wanting to capture the presence of the Redi-Whip before it melted. Boy did it taste bad. If I was going to make it at home, my best guess would be:

Hypothesized Recipe für die German Tomaten Souppen!
2 small can-leins of tömatö pästen!
Ein (1) c. bälsämicliche vinegären!
Ein täblespöönen of Salten!
Die täblespöönies - sechs (6) die Sugären!

Directions: Mix and heäten-üppen! Garnish with giant splööch of Redi-Whip (I am totally serious, I licked a bit of it just to see if it was foamy sour cream or what, and it wasn't, it's Redi-Whip) and chopped chives!

Wow. Really super unbelievably gröss. I think it was the sweetest sourest reddest tasting thing I've ever tasted. I made it through about four spoons before my tummy announced imminent revolt and issued a cease and desist order. I would have liked a cold beer to placate it, but the bar wench was having a shrieking, hysterical nervous breakdown in front of some elderly chap, so I just quietly plonked down my three euros and scooted back to the hotel. I am so happy that tomorrow is Sunday. I am going to do NOTHING. I am going to LOLL ABOUT. I am going to be completely indolent. There may be some typing. I may do some typing, yes. BUT THAT IS ALL. And possibly some handwashing. The jeans are going in hotel laundry, though. I have learned from bitter experience that handwashing jeans is kind of a recipe for eventual expulsion from polite society.

Bis später!


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