Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Once every five years.

Last Saturday we had a bit of a snowstorm here in Dresden, or better said (at least by my definition) a blizzard. This picture was taken at around 10 in the morning, and it kept right on snowing like that well into the evening. I'm not sure how late because I turned the day into a movie-n-junk food extravaganza, the culmination of which was falling asleep on the sofa around 8 in the evening.
So, the big question is, will we have snow on Christmas? The better part of the nearly one foot of snow which fell on Saturday has already melted (that's the beauty of living in this not so extremely cold part of Germany, although the downside is having to put up with all the slush and crud all over the sidewalks). Yesterday I was informed that in Dresden there's snow on Christmas only about every five years. Just a bit east of Dresden, in Görlitz, they have snow on Christmas once every 3 years I think it was, and in the west, in Düsseldorf, they have snow on Christmas only once every 20 years!! This is due to the various climates in these different regions of Germany.

The other big question is: how in the heck do I get my bike out of this ridiculous mess? Good thing I'm not one of those whackos who ride around in the snow, so I don't have to worry about the answer to that question until the spring.

It's beginning to look a lot like...

This should give you an idea of what a Christmas market here looks like, this is a smaller one on Hauptstraße in Dresden. I like this one better than the super famous, somewhat overdone and overpublicized Striezelmarkt on the Altmarkt because it doesn't exhaust you, the people aren't as pushy and flipped out, and they have nicer regional crafts and treats. The Striezelmarkt might be over 500 years old, but it's full of a lot of commercial junk and the shoppers are so Christmas-ed out that they're a bit like lemmings. Though I do love the spectacle of it.

Another spectacle, the larger than life Christmas pyramid, also on Hauptstraße, near Albertplatz. This thing mesmerizes me, with its lights and moving parts. To give you an idea of the size, a person is probably as tall as that light in the front, which on a normal tabletop pyramid, would be a mere candle. Oooh, this thing is really fantastic. What I'm wondering is, where do they put it the rest of the year? Do they dismantle it? How much does something like this cost, if a normal tabletop model runs around 60 Euro?

Another regional specialty, like the Christmas pyramid, is the Schwippbogen, or in English, Schwibbogen. These items are usually made of wood, and the authentic ones come from the Erzgebirge region. Apparently, back in GDR times, these things were made regionally, but mostly sold in the west, because they were too expensive for the locals. I guess this was somehow overlooked by authorities. Maybe the approximately 20% of the total production which they sold inside the GDR was convincing enough for the authorities.

The star in the window is also a typical Christmas decoration you'll find here. Not flashing, moving or playing music, it's much more understated than American Christmas decorations.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

As this photograph makes painfully obvious, all I really think about are my cute bunnies and delicious beverages.

These preoccupations got me into some trouble a while ago when I accidentally spilled some orange juice (and it was really only orange juice, I swear) on my keyboard, destroying its functionality on the right side. As you can see, I feebly attempted to remove some keys and clean the bad boy up, as was detailed on the internet, only to not be able to put the keys back on. Oh well, they didn't work anyway, before or after the cleaning. But yesterday, after buying a snazzy new (or so I thought) keyboard on ebay, I took computer and keyboard to my friendly neighborhood PC specialists. They got everything up and running, and when I went to pick up poor little lappy, they told me my snazzy new "i" key didn't work! Argh! But, specialists that they are, they fixed it! The moral of this story: buyer beware! And delicious beverage drinker, beware even more!

A bicycle update: someone keeps moving my bike around, which is really making me paranoid. I'm not riding my bike a lot lately, for assorted reasons, here I'll just say it's too cold, which is part of it. And, I just discovered the other day that someone stickered my bike too! This is cool, so anybody who wants to sticker my bike some more, go right ahead. I was thinking of stickering it myself, but didn't for fear that somebody might steal it, rending my efforts useless. And in other news, the Sprick is still missing. I worry about her fate, and I especially miss her fashionable and functional basket.

And still other news: I have to pat myself on the back because I got a job as an art teacher! So finally, I'm actually using that expensive college education of mine, it doesn't just make me feel good any more!

Friday, November 25, 2005

If the Wee bun in the oven flipped you out...
look at the other things Little Wee does in the name of art!

But she always gets a treat after her selfless performances!

By the way, happy Thanksgiving! (and no, a turkey will not be replacing the bunny in my oven, but a delicious vegetarian spinach pie will)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

I love Putzi.

Thursday evening, on my way home from work, the air was filled with the magical scent of peppermint. At first I asked myself, "am I dreaming?", then I took a good long whiff of the air, and, lo!, I was not. The air was truly full of the delicious pepperminty smell of Putzi children's toothpaste. I am lucky to live with the Putzi factory just behind my house, and sometimes when I open my windows, my apartment is filled with the fresh smell of toothpaste.
Unfortunately, the fresh smell of peppermint in the Neustadt is also often counteracted by the smell of beer and vomit on the streets, which is just a bit disgusting. Maybe I'm getting old, but all this beer drinking and puking is pretty disgusting. And, god, sometimes you can't even walk down the street with all these puking beer drinkers standing around. But I guess that adds to the flair of this place, and if they weren't there, what would I have to complain about? Honestly, it might just be a bit boring. And knowing how annoying it is to not be able to walk down the street in the evening makes sunny weekend mornings when the streets are empty and the birds are singing and the shops are all just opening and the people are waking up that much more enjoyable. (The only problem is all the dried puke on the sidewalk from the night before.)

Friday, November 04, 2005

I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it.

Maybe there's something in the water here, or maybe it was just Halloween, or maybe it was that White Stripes concert in Berlin last week, but something strange is happening!
It seems to have struck Little Wee as well.

Or maybe it's that Frauenkirche that's got me all wound up. The church is finished, and the consecration was last weekend. I heard that it was open to the public on Sunday night from about 11:30 until 5 on Monday morning and about 15,000 people streamed through in that night alone, in groups of about 400, with 20 minutes to look around the inside of the church. Unfortunately, we showed up a bit too early for the festivities and thought it had just been a rumor that he church would be open. Oh well, it was pretty cold to stand outside in a long line anyway.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Great. I think I have avian flu.

I'm sure you've heard all about how bird flu has recently been found in Turkey, and when you look at a map, that's not really all that far from Germany. But since I neither work with nor eat chickens, I guess my risk goes way down, so maybe I just have a cold. It could be traced back to my biking from class to class yesterday, when the temperature in the wee morning hours was just hovering around 2 degrees celsius. Or maybe I picked something up from one of my students or at the university. Regardless, now's the time to put my knowledge of home remedies from not one, but two countries to use. Here in Germany, a very common thing to do if you have a cold, or more specifically, a sore throat, is to slap a scarf around your neck immediately. I don't know if this has any scientific background, but it sure is comforting to wear a scarf around the house, and last winter when I had a nasty sore throat and wore a scarf overnight, my sore throat did go away. Last night I had a sore throat, too, and forgot to wear a scarf. I slept with the heat on in my cozy room under a quilt my mom made, and that seemed to do the trick, too. And at the moment, I'm eating some steamy vegetable soup. The real home remedy in the United States is to eat chicken soup (I think research really has been done on this, and chicken contains some chemical that helps you get better faster), but since we've already established that I don't consume anything that has or had eyes (except potatoes), that's off limits. So instead I just made some soup with carrots, zucchini, tofu, red pepper, some little noodles, peas and some broth, and this also always seems to help clear my airways. Now if only I had a vaporizer to steam up my room at night, I'd be as good as new tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

This was the trip home, fortunately, the week in Barcelona wasn't quite as turbulent as this.

Too bad Don Limpio wasn't on the flight, too! This name I can understand, it means Mr. Clean in Spanish, as he is dubbed in the United States, but why is he called Mr. Proper in Germany??

The trip was more like this, relaxed and nice. This is in the town of Sitges.

And here's that wild and crazy Sagrada Familia church that everybody was asking me about before I went. It's been being built now for almost 125 years, and they'd like to have it finished in 2050.

Here's why I really went to Spain. They really seem to like bunnies in Barcelona, we saw many for sale as pets at a street market.

Wait, is that person stealing from the cactus garden? Whoever that was came back to Germany with about 2 sacks of cactus starts...

In case I forgot the way home, Colón was there to show me the way. Or maybe the way to India?

This is a neat kind of advertising (I guess) by the shops in the town center of Igualada.

And these little guys can be seen around Barcelona.
A bit like some of the serial graffiti here in Dresden,
though there isn't as much in Barcelona.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Vote? But how?

That's how. So on the left you can see what a German ballot looks like, a big sheet of paper on which you draw an "x" in the circle next to the party or candidate you wish to vote for.
On the right you can see how we vote in Michigan (it's different from state to state). We still have the famed punch cards, which gained their notoriety in the 2000 presidential election. You see, you have to first put the card into the voting machine, and there's a book attached with holes in the middle. You use the holes as a guide, through which you shove that little metal apparatus (on the right, that's for an absentee voter like me, in the real voting booth it's a pin attached to a cord so you can't steal it) to make a hole in the spot that corresponds to your vote. Of course, to the left and right of the holes are pages which you have to leaf through to see all the different candidates and proposals. As an absentee voter, you don't have the advantage of the book, you just have a brochure, and must find the corresponding number for your candidate or proposal vote on the card and make the hole without the help of a guide. Which one of these systems makes more sense to you?
(thanks to Dietmar for the ballot! this is an invalid one from the 1st district in Dresden, with the name of the candidate who died on it) For all of you in the 1st voting district here in Dresden, have fun voting on Sunday! I hope this whole mess gets sorted out afterwards!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Vineyards, grapes, wine, and onion cake

Sunday last weekend was so nice, it was a perfect day to go for a stroll in the woods and around the vineyards in Radebeul.

It was a surprise to come across a couple towers like this. My students tell me that they were built as a part of a health spa that used to be located in Radebeul. It's possible that they even looked about like this when the spa was up and running, because some were built as ruins, as it was a fashionable thing to do at the time.

Up at the top of that hill is where we went. To the right is a restaurant (Spitzhaus) where you have a really nice view of Radebeul and Dresden.

But to get there you have to climb all these steps! Unless you take a car and drive around the other side of the hill, but that's no fun.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The NPD stole my bike.

It's possible. The place where my bike was stolen is also a place where there were many NPD posters hanging. This is the only place in the city of Dresden where I've seen NPD posters hanging. Granted, I haven't been to every little corner of the city looking, but I get around a bit. Usually you see them in the little villages near town, where almost 10% of the people voted for the NPD in the last state election a year ago. Unemployment there is really high, and people are frustrated, but come on, there must be a better solution. The NPD is the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands, which translated means "neonazis". Word for word it's the National-democratic party of Germany, but, well, we all know what that means. Anyway, there were NPD posters hanging, but when I went out today on my photographic mission to get pictures of campaign posters, the NPD ones were notably missing. At least those guys were clever enough to hang the posters really really high up, but still, someone went out and got them! Then I saw one ripped in half lying on the street. Whoever did this, thank you. Then I came across a pile of posters that had been torn down , flipped one over, and it gave me a chill. I touched an NPD poster with my foot. I need to wash. I photographed it quickly and flipped it right back over.

So it's election time in Germany. This is no normal election, as you've probably heard, I guess Gerhard Schroeder didn't have a majority in parliament any more, so after a referendum and some stuff like that, they decided to have a special election. So maybe there'll be a new chancellor after this Sunday (but it's not directly an election for chancellor, the voters are voting for parties, they can vote for 2). Another thing that's cool about German elections, they're on Sunday, when everybody has a day off, so they have time to go vote. And the weather seems like it'll be rainy, which is also good for an election, because I read an article in which it said that fewer voters go to the polls on a sunny election day. But half of Dresden won't be voting anyway, because the NPD candidate in that election district had a stroke on the square in front of the city hall a couple weeks ago and died, so that district will vote in 2 weeks. So maybe the election will be decided in the east! That has Edmund Stoiber's panties up in a bunch!! Ed is a member of the CSU, the Bavarian partner of the CDU (Christian Democratic Union), and he's pretty darned conservative. Let's just say I really like the graffiti onBautzner Str. that says "Stoppt Stoiba!" haha. Oh man. This whole thing is complicated. On Sunday I too am tagging along to the polls. I can't vote, but I really want to go into the voting booth! I know, everybody feels powerless and everything (I've voted in the last American presidential elections, I know what powerless feels like), and is really cynical about voting, but please go and at least try to bring down the NPD's percentage!

ha! The joke just got funnier!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

This is my dwarf. He doesn't have a name, I just really wanted a dwarf and picked this guy up at the flea market last summer. He makes a nice kitschy way to start a tour of my apartment for those of you who haven't yet had the chance to make the journey over the big pond and see my rockin' pad in person, or who visited before I moved last year.

The entry... A look into the living room...
Hey Little Wee! Here's the dining room. the kitchen...

The bathroom...

aaah! there's an octopus in there!

There's a bedroom, too, but it's pretty boring, so that's all!