March 28, 2004

Long Time, No Blog

My Internet connection has been unreliable lately and actually I just haven't thought much about blogging, hence my absence. But now I'm back in action!

Thursday night was the last class for Eren, the woman from Istanbul. Kevin met up with me after class and although he wasn't planning on it, he ended up going out with us. We had a nice crowd, Matthias (our instructor), our two Englishmen for whom Thursday was their last class also, Tang and her husband (who isn't in the class but who joined us haplessly) and me and Kevin. We squeezed around a small table in a bar and had a nice evening.

Kevin had the misfortune to sit by one of the Englishmen, Bernard, who turned out to be very chatty (like incessantly so). They talked airplanes (he works for a British airline), cars (he drives a Jaguar, of which he's quite proud), living in a suburb of London, Rugby, Cricket, and Football (soccer). There was quite a discussion about soccer. Bernard stated with conviction (more than once) that he felt that the U.S. would become a soccer contender if we only had a good team.

(On a side note, I disagree. We've had good teams before and it still remains unpopular. In fact our women are among the best in the world and our league still went bankrupt. It's a strange phenomenon that practically every kid in America plays this sport and then abandons it at age 13. But anyway...)

Overall it was a good evening. And it was a good thing Kevin showed up because I had forgotten my purse. We ended up at a bar the Englishmen frequent regularly, it being right by their hotel (the Marriott, where my parents will be staying when they visit), and they were known there. Apparently known as very generous people. When the bill came in it was around 65 Euros. We paid in what we ordered without really putting in extra, but when the bill was paid off it was 95 Euros, and we didn't get change. Pretty good for a country that doesn't tip.

Friday night we headed to the Hamburger Dom, a carnival held 3 times a year for the last 666 years. Yes, the sign said "666 Years." It was chilly but fun. The Dom is just like your basic American carnival with the notable absence of animal and craft exhibits and those lines of booths selling everything from Ginzu knives to hot tubs. They have these mini-sit down restaurants specializing in wurst and we had our first German Bratwurst (sans bun, of course). The funny thing about Germans is that they seem to be really parsimonious about ketchup. There was practically a gallon sized squeeze bottle of mustard on every table, but a serving of ketchup cost 10 cents. They're the same way at fast food restaurants and french fry booths too. Apparently ketchup is a premium here in Deutschland. Too bad, because I like my wurst with ketchup and due to some confusion in ordering it came plain. Our fries came with ketchup, however, so I dipped in there.

And the Germans serve their fries differently as well. Whatever toppings you get (ketchup and mayo being the most popular, but also cheese, sour cream, and exotic things like tzaziki sauce) come right on top of the fries. They then include the cutest little plastic cocktail fork to eat your fries with. I often notice when I order fries that I am the only one eating them with my fingers. They probably think I'm some kind of barbarian.

The Dom also lacks that most luscious category of American carnival food: Deep Fried Everything. No funnel cakes, no elephant ears, no fried Twinkies. Too bad, since I like me some funnel cake every 5 years or so. In exchange, they have large candy displays featuring a preponderance of chocolate and candy dipped fruit. I'm not sure how they do this because it all looks like plastic, but it looks pretty good nonetheless. I mean hey, if you can't have deep fried Twinkies (which yes, I'm dying to try), you might as well have some chocolate strawberries. I intend to get some the next time we're there. The Dom is within walking distance of our apartment which is nice.

This is getting long. More of our weekend activities in the extended entry below:

One more thing about the Dom and then I'll stop talking about it. Well, two. And then I promise--no more Dom (which is pronounced "Dome," by the way). The first is the impressive rides. Like any carnival, these rides are made to be disassembled and ported to other locations. The German rides are much more impressive than the American counterparts, however. There is a full-sized drop tower, two full-sized roller coasters, and believe it or not, a log ride with actual water. We rode the tall ferris wheel and the go-karts, which were on a wooden track that looked like it was as old as I am. Both were a blast.

And the other thing about the Dom is something I discovered last time we went to the Dom in 2001, the "Ich Liebe Dich" cookie heart. Every candy booth sells these gingerbread hearts with various sayings in frosting, the most popular being Ich Liebe Dich (I love you). Here's a picture of me with my Ich Liebe Dich heart cookie in 2001. As the picture shows, the heart comes on a ribbon and you wear it around your neck. The picture from 2001 is just how I looked on Friday if you add a couple pounds, cut 4 inches off of the hair, and enlarge the cookie to the next size up (apparently Kevin loves me more in 2004 than he did in 2001). If you're not in love you don't have to miss out on the cookie-fest. You can get a variety of sayings from "Greetings from the Hamburger Dom" to "Men are Pigs."

Saturday we went to a special printing exhibit at the Museum Der Arbeit (the Museum of Work). There was a room with lithograph art (alas, no Hund Art) and a lot of printing presses and bookmaking things from the years. We saw what was supposed to be a printing demonstration but turned out to be a demonstration of cleaning the press (or at least that's all we stayed for). More impressive was the woman working the Linotype machine. For those of you not in-the-know (like, uh, me) old printing was done by hand by setting letters of individual type (which we got to experience on our Anniversary trip to the SF Center for the Book). The Linotype machine revolutionized that. Rather than setting individual letters you type on the machine and it then molds a lead line of type (Line-O-Type) for you, all spaced out and everything. It's quite an impressive machine, with about 10,000 breakable pieces. After the Linotype we explored the world of rubber (the building used to be a rubber factory) and then watched a lithograph printing demonstration (still, not as impressive as the linotype).

Today (Sunday) we went to Miniatur Wunderland. Note that these pictures are from Kevin's first visit. It's a giant, and I mean giant, model railroad layout with everything from Hamburg in miniature to the "U.S." (or their interpretation thereof) to generic villages and mountains. It was impressive, sure, but I couldn't believe how many people were there. When we walked in there had to be, no joke, 300 people there. We could hardly get up to the rails to see the exhibits. The crowd thinned out some, but I couldn't believe how many people would come to see a model railroad. Apparently it's a bigger thing than I thought.

My favorite part of Miniatur Wunderland were the little viginettes of death and destruction--like in one river there was a body under some rocks with two scuba divers upstream and an ambulance on the banks with bystanders. Underneath a graveyard there was one layer of tombs and a bottom layer of a torture chamber including a man on a rack, a mad scientist, and a skeleton trapped behind a wall a' la Cask of Amontillado. I also liked the billboards in "Las Vegas." One was an Ikea ad that said (in English) "Come and see our stool samples" (pictures of stools, of course), and my favorite, a picture of Family Circus with the caption "A waste of perfectly good ink since 1960."

Boy, I need to blog more often to avoid these monster entries!

Posted by Shelby at March 28, 2004 07:46 PM