Friday, May 19, 2006

Business Trip

I began questioning the sense of my 3-day business trip when, by 11am on Monday morning, I had already been on a subway, train, plane, bus and in an automobile! But despite a crazy beginning, I had a very productive and fun journey! After landing in Bonn, I went straight to a meeting at the German academic exchange service(DAAD.) Then it was back to the train station and off to Heidelberg. I have been to Heidelberg twice before, but enjoyed the picturesque town and scenic Philosopher's Walk (Philosophen Weg) just as much as last time. Here are some pictures from my walk on the Weg:

Alison and Kevin (another fellow and her husband) were kind enough to let me spend the night at their place, and then I was off to Stuttgart on Tuesday morning. I had two brilliant meetings at the Institute for Foreign Cultural Affairs (IFA) and then it was on to Ulm.

As I have mentioned before, I was an exchange student in Ulm during high school-the trip which really started my Germany adventure. As I strolled around the cathedral, along the Danube and through the Fishermen's Quarter, I was quickly reminded of how marvellously quaint yet liveable the town is. What surprised me though, was proportion of the city that I really don't think I had ever seen before. During high school, I must not have strayed more than 2 streets in any direction from the center of town. 2 streets got me to a Müller, an ice cream shop, a cool jewlery store and a Pizza Hut. For my first trip abroad I think that I was about all I needed or could handle. Matthias had recommended a wonderful restaurant for dinner. Tuesday was "innards" night (no joke) at the Drei Kannen historical brew house, but I stuck with cheese spätzle (surprise surprise.) I would rank the spätzle in the top 5 that I have ever had, though the best still comes from the kitchens of Unterweiler and Wedding.

Wednesday morning is market day at the cathedral, so I strolled through the aisles and enjoyed the sights and smells of ripe strawberries, blossoming flowers, freshly baked bread and smoked meat (yes, even the meat smelled good in the moment:-)) The sun was out, the old people chatted, children ran around working on a school project and the church bells tolled--life was good!

Wednesday afternoon, I had another couple meetings, this time at the Goethe Institute in Munich. Then, by 5pm, I was back on a train and steaming towards Berlin. The German countryside really is spectacular. Green hills and plains that stretch as far as the eye can see are dotted at the moment by fields of intensely yellow flowers. Throw in the occasional town with red-roofed houses and a church with a giant steeple and you've got a scene worthy of a postcard.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

You really don't want a tip, do you?

I had a great trip down south and will write more once I upload some pictures.

For now though, an amusing anecdote. My train got in at midnight so I took a cab home from the station. I tell the driver my address and he immediately repeats/imitates what I said and says "you're an American, aren't you? I could tell because you speak German like your mouth is full of chewing gum." WHAT! I asked him how the British sound and he said they also have a strong accent but don't sound like they are chewing a big wad of gum. I've heard many American jokes and criticisms, but sounding like we are chewing gum while speaking German is a first!

We chatted a bit more and I told him that I had just returned from the part of Germany where Schwabisch is spoken and that I found that very difficult to understand. He said he was a Berliner and then launched into a heavy Berlin accent. I know there are regional dialects in the States, but I swear they are more difficult to understand here! In the last 72 hours, I've heard Schwabisch, Bavarian, Berlin and Friesland (on tv) accents. Add in an impossible accent from Cologne/Dusseldorf and I would be totally done!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Wie bitte?

Come again? What was that?

The longer that I am in Germany, the more I have enjoyed catching the nuances of the language in comparison to English. Some differences I understand better than others, but they are all amusing.

1. From the movie “Dirty Dancing”

English version: “No one puts Baby in a corner.”
German version: “Baby belongs to me.”

WHAT!? You can’t change “No one puts Baby in a corner.” That is "THE" line in the movie. Plus, the moment is about Baby’s liberation, not Johnnie taking back a possession. As a side note, in the scene where Baby is touching Johnnie’s chest to feel his heart (aaawwww), his heart makes a different sound in the German version of the movie. No joke!

2. I have been buying flowers for my balcony and have also been amused to see the differences in flower names.

“Snap dragons” are called “Lion’s Mouth”

“Pansies”/Violas translate roughly into “little step mothers” (“Stiefmuetterchen”)

“Forget me not” flowers are called “Vergiss mich nicht.” That’s the same, but I think it sounds cuter in German, which is why I brought it up:-)

3. Food translations are probably my favorite.

“Cool Ranch” Doritos are called “Cool American” Doritos. First of all, I am in favor of any product that is called “Cool American.” It is good for public diplomacy;-) Second, I don’t know how you could translate “Ranch dressing” into German. I’ve never given much thought to what Ranch actually is. I guess it is technically an herb dressing, but “Creamy Herb” Doritos sounds too fancy.

Philadelphia cake… I don’t know what this is. My grocery store sells it. It looks like sponge cake with Philadelphia cream cheese on top, but I haven’t bought any. Come to think of it, maybe it is like a Tasty Cake (think frosted Twinkie if you are not from Philly.) It does kind of look like a Tasty Cake. Hmmm…

Philadelphia pizza… I don’t know what this is either, but my local pizza shop makes it. Philadelphia doesn't have pizza, it has cheese steak sandwiches!

“American” dressing… a friend says this is Russian dressing or Thousand Island. I suppose one could ask why we call it “Russian” dressing. Do French people really have “French” dressing?

I will be in Bonn, Heidelberg, Stuttgart, Ulm and Munich until Wednesday. But I am sure these insightful comparisons will be enough to keep you satisfied until I get back;-)