Saturday, September 10, 2005

God Bless the USA

Last night was "America Night"—the American scholars presented their vision of America to the Russian fellows. After much debate about what to do, we prepared a potluck dinner, played American music and then played a game of Jeopardy with US-, German-, Russian- and orientation seminar- related questions.

Being a protégé of the Martha J. Taylor School of “everything looks better with an American flag in it,” I brought flag toothpicks and small flags with me from the States. I think they added a fun flare to the table. The Russians seemed pleased with the overall effort and commented that we dispelled belief that Americans only buy pre-packaged food.

Luckily the evening progressed without me needing to recite the American pledge of allegiance in German. Germans (and Russians as I have learned) aren’t big on such displays of patriotism. I think my bizarre talent (thank you Fr. Warg☺) would have given a new meaning to the term “shock and awe!”

As a most important side note, I would like to thank everyone who has left comments on the blog. I have tried to reply to as quickly as possible, but Internet is expensive in the hotel. Please bear with me—more emails and more pictures on the blog are guaranteed as soon as I get an apartment.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

On the Road Again!

It has been another couple of days since I last wrote, so here’s an update:

Monday’s highlight was a party in our honor at the Russian consulate in Bonn. First we met with the consul general (which was videotaped—very KGB). Next, we sat front row at a Russian folk music concert and then enjoyed a reception with former and current diplomats in Bonn. The specialty of the night was Salmonka (sp??), a Russian stew/soup with meat, pickles, green and black olives, dill, lemon and sour cream. I tried it (minus the meat) and it was quite good!

Tuesday’s program highlight was the cathedral in Cologne. One the priests took us beneath the cathedral to see the Roman ruins that lie under the main part of the cathedral. As an extra special treat, he took us to the top of the cathedral, where we could walk on a catwalk on the roof (I decided that watching the bats flying around inside was safer!) My cultural tour of Cologne continued afterwards when I met up with Torsten, with whom I had worked with at the Embassy. He explained the importance of Koelsch beer in Cologne and how drinking a liter after exercising is actually healthy because you replace nutrients lost while working out (yeah, OK!!;-))

Wednesday morning we all said goodbye to Bonn and headed for Berlin. The trip took about 8 hours by bus. The final stretch into Berlin was especially interesting because you could see the abandoned guard towers and military installations from the Cold War. As soon as I unpacked I headed for the falafel stand under the Friedrichstrasse train station, the place I remember having the best falafel last time I was in Berlin. As I munched on my sandwich while looking at the Brandenburg Gate, I decided that this will definitely be a great year! Afterwards I tried to explain the finer points of a chai tea frappachino to the guy who runs the Starbucks near the Gate. I think I got a mix of coffee and chai. It was actually pretty good, but I now have yet another mission while in Berlin—introduce the city to the chai crème frappachino!

Over and out!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The trials and tribulations of the German train system-- all for the love of gummi candy!

The big plan for Saturday was to travel south of Bonn to Knoblenz where I could buy wild berry fruit juice gummi candies—the best gummi candy in Germany!

Mistake #1 was paying for a ticket for the slow train and accidentally getting on the faster one. This turned out to be a non-issue because the conductor never came by for my ticket. I got to Knoblenz and had a great time—found the gummi bear store and then took a chair lift to a fortress above the city where you could see the Rhein and Mosel Rivers converge. There was also a museum in the fortress that was running a Haribo gummi bear exhibit—it tied in well to the main theme of the day☺ The exhibit contained furniture and clothing made out of Haribo gummi candy!

The next part of my plan was to take the train to Linz where I would get off and go back to Bonn via boat. But while on the train I realized that I had missed the last boat so the conductor sold me a ticket from Linz to Bonn.

Enter train mistake #2—I did not purchase a ticket to the main Bonn train station, but rather to some suburban station that required me to metro back into town…oops! Long story short, I didn’t realize the mistake until I was 15 miles north on Bonn at the Cologne trade center.

The moral of the story is that when you think it is weird a train that is supposed to connect two cities along the Rhein is no longer following the river, you would be correct!

The happy ending of the story is that I now have 5 kilos of gummi candy in my hotel room☺