April 30, 2004

Allergy Season

Spring has sprung and pollen is in the air. Today is perhaps one of the nicest days we've had in Hamburg since we got here. The sun is shining, the temperature is perfect, and the flowers are all in bloom. Unfortunately, along with that comes my allergies. And wouldn't you know it, as soon as the allergies kick in we run out of kleenex. But I can't complain too much. The park today was gorgeous and Scout made friends with a big black dog. And I had pizza for lunch. So it's been a good day.

Posted by Shelby at 05:21 PM

Here's Something I Won't be Doing

It's Natural Infant Hygiene! To summarize, you should eschew diapers completely and rely on reading the baby's elimination cues, thus rushing to hold them over the potty or a bowl. This process is called "peeing the baby." What's even better is that you make a sound (the article suggests "ssssss") to associate with the peeing so that the baby learns to pee when he hears the magic word. Hey, that sounds familiar. Isn't that the way I trained Scout to pee outside?

via Jennifer Weiner

Posted by Shelby at 11:41 AM

April 29, 2004

Sink the Sub

Hooray for my husband! He bought me a brand new wireless card that (so far) is MUCH more reliable than my old one. I guess he got sick of me complaining about my dropped connection every 5 minutes. The squeaky wheel gets the new network card.

We had a substitute in my German class tonight, and it made me appreciate Matthias, our regular teacher, all the more. Katharina, our substitute, was nice enough, but it was clear she had never stepped into a classroom of beginners before and had definitely over estimated our abilities. Our class basically went like this the whole night:

Teacher: [something in German]
Students: [blank look]
Teacher: [same thing in German]
Students: [blank look]

I quickly came to realize that Matthias has a gift for explanation. If we don't understand what he's saying, he instantly comes up with another way to say or describe it, or he'll draw on the board or use his hands. This type of explanation works really well.

Our substitute, OTOH, was a little more obscure. And she kept asking US for explanations. For example, we had an interaction that went like this:

Teacher: (in German) What is a Bungalow?
(note, the German word for Bungalow is the same as the English word for Bungalow)
Students: [blank look]
Teacher: A bungalow?
Student 1: Ein haus? (a house?)
Teacher: Ja (clearly expecting more)
Me: Ein kleines haus? (a small house?)
Teacher: Ja (clearly expecting more)
Students: [blank look]

Okay lady, give me a friggin' break here. I can tell you what a bungalow is in the United States, summed up in three words: A Small House. But as you may have noticed, neither I nor any of the other students in the room are German, and obviously we have no idea what a German bungalow is or how Germans distinguish bungalows from other small houses. She finally drew a picture of a house with a pointy roof, then a house without a pointy roof. And there's your German lesson for today--a bungalow is a small house without a pointy roof.

It was frustrating, and the evening pretty much went on like this. We did kill a good 45 minutes by reading long passages aloud in our halting, stuttering, beginner way. Then we killed some more time doing an audio exercise with the cd included in the book. By the time 7:30 rolled around, there was a palpable sense of relief from both the students and the teacher.

I hope Matthias never leaves us again.

Posted by Shelby at 10:43 PM | Comments (2)

Well That Was Weird

I wrote the last blog entry yesterday, and then as I was trying to post it, my internet connection went down and never came back reliably. I tried again a couple of times and then assumed that the entry had been eaten. Then this morning, there it is--posted twice! Hunh.

Posted by Shelby at 12:54 PM

April 28, 2004

A Suspicion Confirmed

One of our next-door neighbors is American! I have the windows open today because it's such a beautiful day and heard all of this clunking coming from the porch area that's walled off from ours. And I heard two women's voices, both distinctly American. In fact, one sounded like she was from the South and the other sounded Midwestern. So I finally screwed up my courage to investigate and popped out on the porch and asked "Are you American?" Turns out they are, and the neighbor's husband is German and in fact owns one of the businesses in our building (their other partner in the business lives here too). And am I good or what--one of the women (a visiting cousin) is from Florida while the neighbor is from Ohio. They also have a baby who looks a little younger than Seana (probably 18 months) and Kevin has seen them in the hallway. In fact, last night he heard the neighbor talking to her son about Scout in English so we strongly suspected that they were Americans. They're assembling a playhouse for the little boy, so that explains all the noise.

Posted by Shelby at 05:00 PM

April 27, 2004

Shelby Potter

Your Years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Family Line
Dated Weasley Twins
You are well known for Excelling in Quidditch
Percentage of student body you shagged - 6%
How do the staff and students feel about you *giggle blush*
This QuickKwiz by lady_ameily - Taken 28574 Times.

Excelling in Quidditch??? Considering I can't even walk my dog without tripping over her, I don't think I would be all that great at Quidditch.

Hat tip to Finian

Posted by Shelby at 10:17 PM

Full Tummy

Somebody in this apartment has a very full tummy and unfortunately it's not Scout.

I just had the BEST lunch. I had a craving for Chinese so I went down to our local Chinese booth in the mall food court on the Gansemarkt. I'd been there once before and really liked it, so I don't know why I have never gone back. Anyway, I now had a slightly better understanding of what the menu said--before I didn't know the difference between rice and noodles or the words for beef or chicken. So I was much better equipped this time around.

After much deliberation I chose some fried noodle and vegetable dish that promised to be mild (I made the spicy mistake last time). Luckily I could order by number, but as soon as I opened my mouth, my American-ness became apparent. A guy in his mid-20s took my order and then said, "You're from the States, no?" I admitted that I was from California. "Where?" he said. "San Jose." "Oh, my brother lives in Palo Alto!" Now for those of you not in the know, Palo Alto happens to be about 20 minutes away from San Jose (and is home to Stanford, where I get all of my medical care). So that was a pleasant coincidence.

My noodle dish came out looking like the Yaki Soba our old church makes for Japanese festivals. That's a good thing. One taste later, I was in love. It was deeeeeelicious! Of course, part of that is that I was absolutely starving, but it really was good. They give you a little skewer of chicken covered in a peanut sauce that is to die for, and I normally am not big on peanut sauces. It was really good.

Kevin, if you're reading this, plan on a late dinner. I had a huge lunch, and it was goooooood.

Posted by Shelby at 04:08 PM

A Meme for Today

So, letís say that by the time you die youíll write three books: (1) an autobiography, (2) a novel, and (3) a self-help book. What would their titles be?

1) (autobiography) You'll Never Believe What Just Happened To Me

2) (novel) As it so happens, I am working on a novel right now. I'd share the title with you but it's so brilliant and witty that I fear someone else will steal it*. So you'll just have to buy it on the bestseller shelf.

3) (self help book) Take A Little Responsibility: How to Stop Blaming Everyone Else for Your Problems

Okay, #3 isn't so much a self-help book as it is a gift book.

Hat tip to Swirlspice

*Actually I'm just afraid someone will read it and say "that's the stupidest title I've ever heard" and then not only would my feelings be hurt, I'd be stuck without a title when it took me long enough to come up with this one.

Posted by Shelby at 02:07 PM

April 26, 2004

Initial Pictures

Kevin has put up some initial pictures of the multitude we took on our trip. Go see me lugging a sled of Edam cheese!

Posted by Shelby at 10:56 AM | Comments (2)

April 25, 2004

A Dutch Journey

I'm following the itinerary of our cruise ship but my memories are not so fresh anymore so I'll just have to do the best I can. We usually stopped at 2 towns a day with tours each time. The brochure warned about plenty of walking and being in good physical condition. I worried for a while about if I would be able to keep up and have the stamina to make all of the tours. Then Kevin saw some of our fellow passengers and said "I don't think you're going to have a problem." Of the 120 passengers aboard, we were the youngest by easily 30 years. In fact, my parents were among the next youngest group. There were two people in wheelchairs even though the brochure clearly stated that no wheelchair access was available and that the tours took places over cobblestone roads. So I didn't have any problem making it through the trip.

This entry is rather long so I've put it in the extended entry below.

Our first stop was the fishing village and former seaport of Enkhuizen. The village was very quaint and we had a nice walking tour. We ended with a veritable jog through the Zuiderzee Museum, an open air museum where traditional houses had been relocated and people lived in them wearing traditional outfits. Unfortunately we ran through the museum in order to spend time waiting on the boat. I really would have liked more time there.

It the afternoon we docked at Hoorn, one of my favorite villages on our trip. According to the itinerary, Hoorn is the birthplace of the man who was the first to round Cape Horn, naming it after his home village. We stayed at Hoorn for the night and my family decided to eat dinner off the ship in a local restaurant. Our guide had recommended a restaurant, but when we found it there were two restaurants there, so we kind of randomly picked one of them. It turned out to be one of the best meals I've ever had. Each dish from the kitchen was exquisite. For anyone visiting Holland, I recommend an overnight stay at Hoorn.

The next morning found us in the tiny village of Marken, which was isolated on an island until a generation ago. The houses were quite quaint and picturesque and there was even an old woman in traditional dress offering pictures and a look inside a typical house. The house had a very tiny bed in the wall, and we later learned that the Dutch basically sleep sitting up. Marken also is the home of wooden shoes and while we found wooden shoes all over Holland, the prices there turned out the be the best. Kevin and I got a small, child's size pair for decoration. I really liked Marken, but my dad felt he could have skipped it. Thinking back, I probably would have given it up to spend more time in...

Home of the round cheese, Edam was a very cute little village. Unfortunately our walking tour through its streets was so truncated we didn't even have time to drop into a shop to look at a set of dishes my mom liked. I don't remember much about Edam except that it was cute and I wished we had more time there.

The afternoon brought us to Volendam, another quaint, cute fishing village. No guided tour here, which was too bad. Then Kevin, my mom and I made the unfortunate decision to take an optional tour to another open air museum and a cheese farm. The museum was rather cheesy but we did get our first look at the inside of a windmill and we saw a demonstration on how wooden shoes are made, which was interesting. The cheese farm was a quick 5 minute explanation before we were shuffled into the little shop to taste and buy cheese. It was good but very touristy. In fact, as we were walking out of the shop we noticed that there was an identical shop next to ours where they shunted the next group of visitors so that each group had a shop to themselves. Hmmm. Kevin and I made the most of the visit by seeing the very cute sheep and goats. In the meantime, my dad toured Volendam on his own and said that once he got past the main tourist drag he really enjoyed the village. In retrospect, we could have skipped the optional tour.

Arnhem and Paleis Het Loo
Arnhem, home of the disasterous allied attempt to secure major bridges in Holland to defeat Nazi Germany (as chronicled in the movie "A Bridge Too Far") was so interesting it made no impression on me at all, except for the part where they pointed out the bridge too far. From Arnhem we headed by bus to the Paleis Het Loo, or royal palace. The Paleis was pretty much your basic palace--series of rooms with impressive tapestries and really expensive furniture. It did have a great library. More impressive were the gardens outside. I'm not much of a garden person but Kevin really enjoyed his time there.

Another little village that failed to make much of an impression on me. We had free time here and climbed a hill to a street that looked like our very own Monckebergstrasse. That is, a pedestrian only avenue with stores of all sizes lining the edges. We met up with my folks at a cafe and decided to have another dinner in town rather than on the boat (the boat food left a lot to be desired). Unfortunately, the restaurant we chose was nothing like the one in Hoorn, but it was still nice.

Here we finally got to see windmills. Despite the insistence of our annoying Cruise Director, it wasn't until the end of the trip that I finally saw that I expected Holland to look like--that is, windmills and tulips. Kinderdijk is a collection of 16 windmills and is a closed community--people actually live there (some for 10 generations) and the windmills are in working condition should they ever be needed to drain the water from the canals. One mill was open to the public and we got to take another tour, seeing the cramped living spaces and windmill workings.

Rotterdam? We visited Rotterdam? The itinerary says we did but I have absolutely no recollection of it. Okay, as Kevin is reminding me now, we did drive through this modern city and it had some ugly architecture. Other than that--eh, not so much.

Delft, home of the famous Delftware ceramics, was (once again) quite cute. First we visited the Delft factory where, obviously, Delftware is made. Delftware is that intricate blue painting on white ceramic dishes and stuff. I find it unattractive, but it was interested to see the painters at work. Strangely enough, there was an enormous reproduction of Rembrandt's Night Watch done in blue on Delft tiles, and there was an artist working on another large display. Kind of strange, but whatever. In the city of Delft itself we skipped out on the guided tour and took our own tour. There we visited the Old Church, where Vermeer is buried (or where he has a stone in the floor at any rate) and the New Church where the royal family is buried, including the Queen Mum Juliana who had died only 2 weeks prior to our arrival. I like Delft a lot and could have spent more time there.

The Hague
The next day we headed to The Hague. We had a brief guided tour that included stepping into a courtyard of some big impressive buildings and being told that there were over 100 cameras and sharpshooters watching us. We also walked past the building housing Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring, which is not on display. We then got back on the bus and drove through The Hague with the guide pointing out things like "That's where Milosevic is being tried" and "That's where Milosevic is being held." Ehhh, okay.

Keukenhof Gardens
Finally on the very last stop of our trip, we get to see tulips. There were a few tulip fields visible from the bus, but the bulk of our flowers were at the Keukenhof Gardens. This place was amazing. The guide said that it was like Holland's Disneyland and he wasn't kidding. There had to be over 2,000 people there, in this very large park (70 acres) devoted to varieties of tulips and other amazing flowers (7,000,000 of them). It's difficult to describe so I'll just have to wait until Kevin finishes the picture pages.

And that was the whirlwind tour. I liked the cruise a lot and found it to be a very convenient way to see Holland. The advantage was that we only had to unpack once and our hotel followed us around everywhere we went. Although the boat did not cover very much physical distance, it was definitely worthwhile to take the cruise. Overall my main complaint would be that I wished we had spent less time in some places and had more free time in others. I'm glad that we saw so much though, and had a wonderful time at it.

Posted by Shelby at 08:30 PM

April 23, 2004


I'm going to have to write about this trip in sections, so here's my first installment: Amsterdam.

The Van Gogh Museum
If you're a museum buff, Amsterdam has a LOT to offer you, and the Van Gogh Museum definitely does not disappoint. It's packed and the lines are huge, so do yourself a favor, buy your ticket from your hotel desk, and bypass the line to waltz right in. Highly recommended.

There is a large collection of Van Goghs, as you might imagine. They are divided up by the year painted and his location at the time. You can really see the progression of his work culminating in his genius. One thing I was surprised about was how versatile his work was. You always see the same basic Van Goghs--Starry Night, Haystacks, etc. in the style he painted in later in his career, but he experimented with different styles throughout his career as a self-taught artist. He started out with very dark colors in the Dutch style until he realized that was out of fashion. His paintings are moving and excellent and this museum is a must-see.

There also was a very interesting exhibit on an upper floor about how they study paintings. Most artists reused canvases, and by x-raying the canvas they can determine what was painted underneath it. They also showed examples of how artists painted on both sides of the canvas. It was actually very interesting. There was other art in the museum besides Van Gogh but nothing remarkable.

The Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum, or the National Gallery, is another must-see. It contains a large number of Dutch and Flemish paintings including Dutch masters like Rembrandt. Home of Rembrandt's incredible "Night Watch," I would have loved to spend another couple of hours there exploring everything. There are also a few Vermeers and I got to experience firsthand what the Big Deal about Vermeer is. His paintings really are different in ways that are hard to describe. They are very evocative and amazing. And in case you were wondering, "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is in the Hague and is not on display. Unfortunately they found asbestos in the Rijksmuseum and have moved only a fraction of their collection to a temporary exhibit hall, so we didn't get the full experience. Still, it was very impressive.

The Anne Frank House
This was the most moving experience of our trip. You get to visit the actual rooms where Anne and her companions hid for two years before being betrayed to the Nazis. The house is set up in a great way, with one path through the rooms instead of people crawling up and down the steep stairs (practically ladders) in all directions. There were a number of displays including her actual diary as well as other documentation. The Diary of Anne Frank became one of my favorite books when I read it in Jr. High and her story has stayed with me throughout my life. The house is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Canal Boat Tour
Amsterdam is built entirely around canals and the best way to see it is by canal boat. We had an hour long tour with the benefit of a running commentary in English and it was really interesting to see Amsterdam from the water. It was funny to see houses leaning due to the unstable ground they were built on.

Red Light District
We took a short walk through the red light district and it was far less scandalous than I expected it. As you walk down the street there are dozens of store windows with women in Victoria's Secret sitting there looking bored. And the thing that got me is that there were women in all shapes and sizes and ages. A little something for everyone. There was a pervading smell of pot, but the street wasn't littered with junkies like I expected it would be.

Amsterdam is great. I wish we'd had more time (and more energy) to explore and one day I hope to go back.

Posted by Shelby at 08:20 PM

One With The Force, I Am

:: how jedi are you? ::

Posted by Shelby at 07:33 PM

April 22, 2004

And First, a Funny Story

Phew! I am exhausted. What a vacation these last 11 days have been. It started with a Saturday-Sunday-Monday visit to Amsterdam, then cruising around Holland visiting several local ports each day on our river cruise ship, landing back in Amsterdam on Sunday, where we took the train back to Hamburg with my parents in tow. Monday was in Hamburg, Tuesday was a whirlwind trip to Berlin, and yesterday was Hamburg again though I was so tired I missed the day's activities. My parents left at some ungodly hour this morning and our vacation has officially ended.

There's lots to write about, of course, and I'll be working on it over the next few days. In the meantime, Kevin has some reviews over at his blog. I'd point you to the specific entries but his blog has a strange glitch that causes individual entries to appear blank (the same thing happens with the comments). A workaround for the problem is to hold down the mouse button and highlight the blank area, and the text will appear. Or you can just access the entries from his main page (link above).

But first, a funny story. On the last night of our cruise, a very strange thing happened to me. The boat had three levels of cabins and ours, 218, was on the middle floor. That night I had been particularly tired and fell asleep like a rock pretty early. Then sometime in the middle of the night I woke up and found myself in the hallway. In my pajamas. Carrying a ball point pen. Sleepwalking. Very confused and disoriented, I had the presence of mind to remember my room number, so I walked up and down the hallway looking for it. I walked the length of the hallway twice before I realized I was on the wrong floor. And that I was barefoot. Holding a pen. I walked up the stairs and found my room, which was the first room past the stairs. I briefly considered trying my pen in the lock to see if it worked like a key, but quickly discarded that idea. I knocked on the door a few times but Kevin was totally out and the way the cabins were designed the door was very muffled. I knew I wouldn't be able to wake him up. I had no choice but to go to the front desk. Sheepish and embarrassed, I approached the night clerk and said, "I believe I've locked myself out of my room." He didn't bat an eye--totally professional--as if seeing people in their pajamas, barefoot with bed head, holding a pen, were something he encountered every night. He let me back into the room, much to my relief. As I walked in Kevin sat up and said "Where did you go?" All I could say was "I don't know!"

Thank God I was wearing sensible pajamas!

Posted by Shelby at 11:11 AM | Comments (2)

April 18, 2004

Fear Not, I Have Returned!

Blank blog! Sad! My blog is set to display only the last week's entries and since it's been over a week since I blogged, well draw your own conclusions.

Our trip to the Netherlands was AWESOME! Full updates later. My parents are still in town and we're entertaining so I won't get to full blogging mode for another couple of days.

And you'll be happy to know (or for some of you, disappointed) that the only pot I smoked in Amsterdam was the secondhand smoke coming from some 65 year old guy sucking down a joint as we boarded the streetcar. He then dropped it on the ground like any other cigarette (still burning), and I couldn't quite get over the fact that he dropped half a roach, unsmoked!, on the ground like that. But I guess you can do that sort of thing in Amsterdam.

Hope everyone had a happy Easter!

Posted by Shelby at 05:48 PM

April 09, 2004

Vienna Pictures!

Kevin has finished the page of pictures from Vienna.

Tomorrow we leave for our weeklong cruise through the rivers of Holland. We are meeting my parents in Amsterdam and the cruise starts Sunday (Easter). This should be an awesome trip. So no blogging until a week from Monday. Enjoy the Vienna pictures and I'll see you when we get back!

Posted by Shelby at 08:27 PM

April 08, 2004

New Dress

I bought a new dress yesterday. Dress shopping was interesting. There was surprisingly little to choose from. I had to really hunt for it. Well I guess it isn't dress season. I ended up buying it at a small boutique type shop but it didn't cost any more than it would have at the department store, so that was okay. Figuring out my size was a challenge but after some trial and error I finally found one that fit and is attractive.

Posted by Shelby at 11:15 AM

April 06, 2004

Here's An Idea--Turn It Off

Today was uneventful. The weather was alternately lousy and beautiful. It would pour rain for 5 minutes, then the sky would clear and be blue with fluffy white cloud, then 10 seconds later, total downpour. I slept most of the day--I think making up time from the Vienna trip.

I was very irritated in class tonight, however. I was a little worried when I got there because it was 6:00 by my watch and I was the only person there. Class is supposed to start at 6. But soon enough Tang, the Chinese woman, arrived and then our teacher did. It looked like we were going to have a class of 2 until The Chinese Guy Who's Always Late came in late and the Columbian Woman I Want To Throttle came in even later.

So we were off to a nice class, when a cell phone rings. And of course it's an obnoxious singsongy type of ring. The Columbian woman then gets out the phone, which is quite loud. She then answers the phone in class, has a little chat, then hangs up. To her credit I believe the word school came up (she speaks only Spanish) and she did look annoyed. So hopefully that was that. Ha. We should be so lucky. Half an hour later, the phone rings again. This time she just hangs it up, but a few seconds later it rings again and what does she do? That's right. Answers the phone in class and proceeds to have a little chat again.

I was dumbfounded. I find many cell phone users to be irritating in general, but this even more so. Don't want the person to call back? Here's an idea--turn the phone off! I can't think of any reason why she would need her phone to be on during class. Okay, I can think of a few, but they only involve medical crises, and I tell you she's no doctor (in fact, she's a hair stylist). And even if you do for some reason need your phone on--say you're waiting for an organ transplant and need to be available at all times--put the phone on vibrate, sit by the door (not all the way across the room), and when the phone rings leave quickly and cause as little disruption as possible.

Apparently basic etiquette is beyond some people. I mean even if the phone rings, at least go outside of the classroom to have a conversation. That's rude, sure, but not nearly as rude as holding a conversation in class. Particularly in a class of 4 people where it is entirely disruptive. I just don't see why she couldn't turn her phone off for an hour and a half and return calls when the class was over. And it was clear from her conversation that the disruption was unnecessary.

I just don't get the sense of entitlement that some people with cell phones have. As if the world is just going to stop and wait for you to take this call. I have a friend who is a family therapist and he says that he even has clients who take phone calls and have conversations during therapy. How pathetic is that? I mean what is so pressing you can't wait an hour for? And somehow these cell phone users seem to think that they become invisible and silent while on the phone, as if the rest of us don't hear or see them while they chat. Not to mention the phenomenon of Cell Yell. I absolutely hate people who take up my time with their rudeness.

I'm so irritated.

Posted by Shelby at 08:29 PM | Comments (3)

April 05, 2004

Raise Your Hand If You Speak English

Ah, Vienna--wonderful. We had a great weekend. Due to my very poor memory I don't recall all of the things we visited but Kevin's doing the pictures and I'll comment on them once I get a list. Don't ask about the memory thing--it's one of my heart drugs and is a pain in the ass.

The weather there was beautiful and warm. Our cute hotel was very centrally located and we were able to walk just about everywhere. My feet held out pretty good, but I think my poor circulation takes its toll as well. I wasn't able to get to the art museum which disappointed me but I guess I'll just have to go back.

The one thing that struck me the most when we went out and joined the throngs of people on the streets was how much English I heard. There were American tourists everywhere. There was English everywhere. All of the signs were in German and English, all of the menus were in German and English (except for one tiny little restaurant), everyone was walking around speaking English. I haven't heard so much English since I left California.

And now, some myth debunking and some speculation. Before I came to Germany, everyone said, "Everybody in Germany speaks English." I even said it myself--after all, everyone knows that everyone in Germany speaks English. Well I'm here to tell you that this is just Not True. Everybody in Germany does not, in fact, speak English as I'd been lead to believe. Oh sure, everyone knows one or two English words. Everyone in America knows a few German words too, like Autobahn, or German phrases like, "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" and "Ich bin ein Berliner." However, this does not constitute knowing a language.

Germans all take English in school, but this also does not equate to knowledge. Germans who went to college usually do speak some degree of English. These are not, however, the people I interact with every day. The people I interact with (store clerks, food workers) speak very little, if any English. Trying to communicate with our cleaning ladies has been an exercise in agony every time they've come.

So visiting Vienna, where it seems that everyone really does speak English, was a bit of a surprise for me. I have simply gotten used to not hearing English unless it's coming out of my own (or Kevin's) mouth. And it made me wonder, why is there so much English in Vienna and none in Hamburg?

Well here's my speculation part. Hamburg, being in the Northeast section of Germany, is really not a tourist destination, particularly for English-speaking tourists. Hamburg is not really near anything except perhaps Berlin which is about 2 hours away. You can hit Hamburg on your way to Denmark, but basically if you come here you have made a separate trip. Southern Germany is very easy to get around and you can go from city to city (or village) with little effort, but Northern Germany is just not like that. Therefore, a city like Hamburg just doesn't cater to English-speaking tourists. So we have very little English. Very few signs in English, very few English menus, and absolutely no English being spoken on the street.

So that brings up the question: where would I rather be? In a city with a lot of English, or in a city with next to none? I think both have their advantages and disadvantages. In Hamburg it is very scary and often frustrating to not speak the language and to have little help. On the other hand, I'm absorbing much more German than I would have if I had English translations everywhere, and I feel that I'm getting a more authentic European experience. So I would say I like Hamburg, but Vienna sure was appealing.

Update: Kevin tells me that come summer I'll see plenty of English-speaking tourists. I guess it's still too cold and rainy for Americans these days. So we'll see what happens. In a couple of months I may be changing my tune entirely.

Posted by Shelby at 05:14 PM | Comments (1)

April 02, 2004

Vienna or Bust

Tonight we're headed out for a weekend in Vienna. I've been wanting to see Vienna for years so I'm very excited. Early this morning Kevin picked up our rental car to take Scout to the Hundehotel (kennel) where she will be staying. No, we're not driving to Vienna. The car is just to get Scout there and back. Hamburg has no kennels in the city limits so you have to get out into the country to board your dog. Strange.

No blogging for a couple of days. See you Monday!

Posted by Shelby at 12:52 PM | Comments (1)

April 01, 2004

Please, Ask Me a Question

Think I'm friendly and approachable? So does everybody in Germany.

Today I went shopping. I need a new dress for my upcoming cruise and for a friend's wedding, and I thought I would go to Karstadt where I could swing by Lush as well.

First there was facing my subway fear. I have the worst sense of direction in the world and coupled with a crappy memory this makes for a very difficult time finding my way onto the right street from the subway. I was going to Hauptbanhof Nord, a trip we've made at least a half a dozen times, but can I remember which way to go? Nope.

Oh I made it on the train okay, it was getting off that was the problem. Kevin told me when I see a particular sign, go the other way. Okay, sure. So off I went the other way. Then I came to a fork in the tunnel. Left? Right? Uh, how about Right. Then, another fork in the tunnel. Left? Right? Uh, how about Right again. Wrong, and wrong. I ended up across the street and around the corner of where I wanted to be. The only reason I knew which way to go then was that the last time I tried this trip myself I came out at the exact spot.

I then had to walk down a long boulevard crowded with shoppers. There were your usual people handing out flyers, signing petitions (I think), and begging for money. Other people were striding right by these folks and not being bothered at all. I tried to effect a confident demeanor and walk right on past, but no luck. I got stopped by everyone.

And to make things worse, not one but two people asked me for directions! Am I wearing a sign that says "Please ask me a question?" In both cases I opted for the "Ich weise nicht" (I don't know) rather than the "Ich spreche kein Deutsch" (I don't speak German). But the sad thing is that even if I did speak German, I surely couldn't have helped these people.

This type of thing happens to me all the time. I guess I should be flattered. I must look non-threatening and intelligent. Maybe I'm wearing a sign that says, "Be my friend!"

As for the dress, well, in technical writing we have a saying: "Fast, Cheap, Good--Pick two." I've come to realize that dress shopping is the same: "Attractive, Reasonably Priced, In Your Size--pick two." So I struck out at Karstadt.

I then got lost in the maze of the subway station again. Picked the wrong tunnel, backtracked, inexplicably ended up on the street, backtracked, picked the wrong tunnel again (in fact, I later realized it was the wrong tunnel I picked the first time), and found the correct tunnel only to see my train pull out of the station as I was halfway down the escalator. *sigh* Well, at least I made it!

Posted by Shelby at 07:41 PM