August 13, 2009

Tomorrow we’re touring Nuremburg pretty early (read: 9 a.m.; I am on vacation after all), and I want to sleep a lot, so I’m going to keep this post short.

We went shopping down in Ansbach today. The shopping district was beautiful, I thought. The narrow-ish cobblestone streets probably don’t seem terribly romantic to the people who work there every day. However, I’m starting to recognize that good-looking architecture makes me really happy. See below.

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This was the sight that greeted us once we stepped away from the parking lot. I’m tempted to vote that Woodland mall adds some stone walls and turrets to its design, although I’m not sure how good they’d look with the rest of the buildings ….

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There weren’t too many people when we got there, but this is the most open, square-like part. The shops were mostly on the right-hand side. We stopped in a music store and tapped a few djembe and struck a few glockenspiel. Also checked out the H&M and found this fantastic navy blue pea coat with belt and many pockets and random details for Steve. He didn’t buy it, but I suspect we will be returning to make the acquisition.

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This church was also right by the square. To the left and behind, if you’re looking at the first picture.

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The interior. Grace told me there were many churches like this (only bigger) in Nuremburg, but I was already feeling awed. I wondered the not-so-original thought that maybe modern churches could use a little more beauty.

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One of the streets in the shopping district. We poked our heads in toy shops and antique stores before having some ice cream.

Ansbach and Bad Windsheim 025Another random shot.

After dinner, we headed out to Bad Windsheim to check out the Franken-Therme (geothermal salt spas). It was a fantastic two and a half hours.  There were five pools, and as you moved away from the lockers they got increasingly salty. Most of them had places in the pools where you could sit or lie down and get massaged by water jets. My favorite, however, was the second-most salty pool, which was indoor (dim) and the warmest. Soft music played in the background, orange light globes hung from the ceiling, and a pink/purple light shown from the center of the bottom of the pool. The water was salty enough that you could relax completely and you would just float above the water. Dad referred to it as the “womb room.”

They had an even saltier one outside. The wooden steps leading down to the water were partly crusted in salt, as were the rocks around the edge of the pool. You could stand and feel the rocks between your toes, but it was much easier to just float on your belly or back and paddle about lazily.

I thought vaguely about the possibly of treating our pool back home with salt instead of chlorine.


August 12, 2009

Today was suhgood and lazy. I stretched out of bed at about eight forty-five, and after a quick shower toddled off to the bakery with the fam to pick up some pastries. By the time Eowyn had finished pulling apart and eating her nut-filled pocket of flaky and buttery goodness, we had to leave for Illesheim to meet up with Michael over his lunch break. We were allowed on the military base after showing our passports and having our car searched.

We ate sandwiches from Frau Fischer’s bakery in Illesheim in Michael’s office on base. See fig. 1.

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Michael’s patient didn’t show up, so he got to show up around the dental clinic and the base at large. I felt American when the smell of pizza and the sight of Subway in the base food court made me think “home.”

Back in Marktbergel, I read The Name of the Wind for a while. Have finally got myself entirely stuck in the story, and I don’t doubt I will be finished with the book soon.

Went for a bike ride through Marktbergel and out into the cornfields. I took my camera and meant to take pictures. Marktbergel is settled in a valley, and thickly forested hills sprawl above and past the cornfields and harvested wheat fields. Drop dead gorgeous. Also: yellow-painted stucco house in Marktbergel with flowers all over the balcony and walls and porch and courtyard and fence. Will try to take pictures of both next time I go biking.

We went to Colmberg for dessert after our dinner at the apartment with Patty (neighbor and army wife with two kids, Amelia and Delilah). Colmberg is about fifteen minutes away and has a fantastic medieval castle overlooking it from a hill. The castle is now family-owned and serves as a restaurant and hotel. We walked on cobblestones past buttressed, fifteen-foot tall stone walls. The tower keep could be seen ever-present above the walls, and we had dessert in the upper courtyard just feet away from it (and from the playground … Eowyn was restless).

The inside of the castle was my fav. The floor and ceiling were of old, dark wood panels, and the decorations included stuffed falcons and piles of deer racks and bear-skin rugs. There were open rooms with tables, dim lights, wooden pillars, and long rafters. Upstairs, there was also a small chapel with mullioned windows and a creaky floor, and another room piled with seemingly forgotten furniture. A couple of massive wardrobes with carved lion heads for handles, painted boxes, a stuffed peacock with a full tail of feathers, old wooden benches and chairs. Steve and I wandered down some of the hotel hallways and found fantastic little alcoves with couches, tables, bookshelves stuffed with green and brown book collections, painted ceramic stoves, and fur-covered stools. It was dark when we went outside, and I almost died when we leaned over the castle wall and looked down on lamp-lit Colmberg.

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The tower keep.

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Colmberg from the castle wall.

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Another shot of the castle. More of the inhabitable parts.

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In the lodge-like hall.

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In the chapel.

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The more fantastic wardrobe.

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Some freaking awesome creaky stairs that led to the hotel hallways.

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A base of pitted cherries and cherry liquor under vanilla and chocolate ice cream, topped with unsweetened whipped cream and a cookie.

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The fam at table.

I already want to go back.

I will have to post briefly if I’m to get any sleep after staying up late reading The Name of the Wind. (It’s good so far. A lot of classic fantasy elements, but quite well done. One of the most interesting things, however, is how Judeo-Christian the religious history is.)

Yesterday was Linda’s birthday, and we had a late breakfast of bread, jam, cheese, and coffee at the Jaeschke house. A contingency of Armstrong boys walked to the Plus supermarket in Erlangen to pick up food for Jon and Linda’s dinner. Prices were in euros and weight in kilos, and I had no idea how much the lemons or chicken or strawberries cost. We saw Jon  and Linda off when we got back to the Jaeschkes; they’re honeymooning in Switzerland.

Mr. Jaeschke gave us a tour of Erlangen in the afternoon. Erlangen is a university town small enough to feel comfortable to my suburbia self and compact enough to feel like a city. Most people got about by bike or on foot, and a lot of the streets were cobblestone. The original town was planned in baroque style with a small castle, and we toured the gardens behind the castle, the square in front, the churches nearby. (The Reformed [Presbyterian] church had a raised pulpit that you had to climb stairs to get in to, and it reminded me of the ship-haul pulpit in Moby-Dick with the rope ladder.) Most of the buildings were only two or three stories tall, giving Erlangen an open feeling, and the buildings were old and well-worn. Mr. Jaeschke casually pointed out a door to an apothecary shop that was older than the USA.

We ate dinner at the Jaeschkes; leftover beef burgandy from the wedding. I realized that Mrs. Jaeschke has a classic and fantastic Irish accent when speaking English. Also, I found their family dynamic very familiar and entertaining. My personal favorite was watching Johannes, the oldest son, at dinner. He fidgeted and looked as if he had heard Mr. Jaeschke’s conservative rant on the European Union a couple thousand times, and when Johannes tried to mention the good things about the EU, his mother quickly contradicted him.

Today we met with the Jaeschke parents and Johannes and his wife, Susanna, at Wuerzburg to tour the Wuerzburg Residenz (manse of the prince bishop). It was one of the most gorgeous houses I’ve ever seen. Note the following pictures, but I couldn’t take pictures inside the manse or in the chapel. You may also want to check out the virtual tour here.

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The fountain and side of the front facade. The manse was constructed in a generation’s time and has a uniform baroque style.

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A shot of the back facade from the garden.

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Note the sneaky statue under the pyramidal tree.

After a sleepy afternoon and dinner, all of us went walking to the neighboring village of Ottenhofen (about 0.8 miles away from Marktbergel). The village houses all have fenced-in courtyards with dusty tables and tractors and dogs and stucco walls with roses and pear trees climbing up them. The cemetery was gorgeous too, with plots of planted flowers before square slabs or polished wooden crosses. A row of community watering can stood by one of the doorways into the cemetery, and apparently the villagers water the flowers for their own family graves.

And now I’m uber tired, but I wanted to mention that there was a WWII exhibit in the Wuerzburg Residenz that Mr. Jaeschke walked us through. Really odd to see models of bombed out Wuerzburg and get a guided tour by a man who remembers digging through the rubble of Nuremburg and tasting his first chocolate from an American soldier during reconstruction.

DSCF9434I am now safely seated on Miq and Grace’s couch, red-tiled roofs and white and tan stucco walls in sight outside the window. I feel rather exhausted from all of the wedding festivities, but it was all gorgeous and almost everything went fabulously (could I speak in more generalized and un-meaningful language?).

The plane trip was mostly good. I admittedly felt trapped and greasy after seven hours in an airbus flying overnight from Detroit to Amsterdam. In spite of my limited space and well-endowed sebaceous glands, I enjoyed reading the last half of The Dubliners by James Joyce. I feel snooty and ridiculous saying I enjoyed it a whole lot, but I did. Something deft and inconspicuous about his descriptions and plots.

By the way, English is the biggest language on the signs in the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. I finally felt like I was in Europe once we landed in Munich. I only remember the “Push” signs on the doors being in English, and all the German signs and glass walls reminded me of the Bourne films.

Upon arrival in Marktbergel, we stayed up until after midnight (German time) making five batches of chocolate chip cookies for the wedding reception. We had four or five people wedged into the apartment kitchen with the windows closed (because most German houses don’t have screens and the mosquitoes are pretty bad). We, of course, discussed  men and women and marriage in the sauna-like kitchen.

The wedding was held in the largest cathedral in Erlangen, at which Linda’s great-great-great-ish-grandfather was minister. Most of it was in German, but Linda’s father (who is a short, bearded fellow with a fantastic accent named Christoph) translated some of it. Very nice. Beforehand, I greeted people, handed out programs, and said I didn’t speak German, you know, a couple of times. As one of the groomsmen, I sat (yes) in front of the church. Also: we sang songs like “Everlasting God” and “Amazing Love” as a congregation throughout the service.

There was a champagne and cookie reception right afterward — or rather, the champagne was immediately after. Aaron and I walked through the streets of Erlangen back to our car to get all the cookies we baked the night before.

So, I’m getting tired of writing. Let’s try this in time line:

3-4 p.m. — We took pictures right outside the church. More informal than most American wedding photoshoots. All the other guests just stood around drinking champagne and talking.

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4 p.m. — Cake and coffee reception at a different church about three blocks away from the cathedral. Linda’s mom, Sarah, baked nine of the many, many cakes available for consumption.

The time line gets a bit sketchy, as we fell behind schedule. More pictures were taken afterward, and a lot of people went outside to walk around or get fresh air. Aaron and I ran around looking for a wireless Internet connection so I could download a driver for my laptop and import the 875 pictures my mom and Aaron had already taken of the wedding.

We had appetizers afterward. All of the deserts had been whisked away and the buffet table had been replenished with a wide array of pickled peppers, meats in sauces, and pasta salads. And then the buffet table was laden with main courses (before the night was over, we also had a desert course and a cheese course; the fact that I ate anything today is a miracle). The beef burgandy was delish.

There was a “program” then, where many of the guests performed songs or skits, or they made the bride and groom do fun tasks. The songs and skits were originals satirizing Jon and Linda’s relationship and foibles. The duet that Linda’s parents sang was especially enjoyable.

After dessert, there was a wedding video and then dancing. The cheese course came out sometime around 1:30 a.m., and we finally left the reception around 2 a.m. Apparently Jon and Linda stayed until about 3 a.m.

Note: Totally culturally shocking to see nice church girls between the age of 18-21 carrying around bottles of Radler beer. I had images of the college girls from my church carrying around beer bottles and smirked to myself.

This morning we went to Linda’s parents for a while and hung out with the Jaeschkes. Returned to Marktbergel and took a walk in the village. It looked fantastic. Will have to take pictures later, but for now here’s a shot of Eowyn with some local chickens.


And Grace and Eowyn in an alley.


So, I haven’t even started packing yet, but I thought I would post a list of essentials I’m pretty sure I’ll forget. Ahem.

1. Dave


2. Molly


3. Abishai


4. The Den


5. The shelf


6. The lane


I suppose I shouldn’t take too long contemplating the soon-to-be lost comforts of home. Have some correspondence to write and clothing to launder. Would also vacuum my room tonight, except the ‘rents have already gone to bed.

Among other things I’m leaving for the day of.

Dream Journal

July 15, 2008

During last semester, I started scribbling down my dreams in a notepad I kept on my bed head. I got out of the habit with the start of summer, but I’m thinking about getting back to it.

It seemed like a good way of keeping track of my issues. The night I spent dueling Lord Voldemort with Dan and Steve points to either ego or identity problems, I’m not sure. My prejudice against skateboarders ended up with one getting run over by a Disney bus…although the skateboarder wasn’t fazed, apparently. Too many video games and action movies led to a dream where my family and I were running cross country with a boy and girl we were trying to keep away from a terrorist group; and, yes, calling the police was not an option.

Anyway, last night, after a short dream where I was training in Germany with sister, her bf, and some annotations on Jane Austen’s literary genius, I found myself in Grand Rapids, watching my best friend’s brother fold his laundry. Said best friend’s brother had recently got back from military duty in Kuwait, and he had ousted and moved into his little sister’s room (never mind that Eliza doesn’t have her own room…and the walls aren’t neon pink). Well, he left the neon pink paint, left the doll table, and left the white carpet which somehow left pink sunspots on my vision whenever I looked at it.  Hanging on the neon pink walls, though, were two statues of scorpions, one of which was accompanied/morphing into Buddha. He said he liked my sense of vision.

Not even sure what that means.