Sunday, January 25, 2009

I’ve seen highway signs for Bruchsal since we came to this region of Germany but never made it a priority to go there. With B’s parents here a couple of weeks ago, I decided I wanted to see at least one city I hadn’t been to.

We didn’t see too much of the city because it was still freezing cold. The schloss (palace) there seems really nice though. I’m looking forward to taking the whole family in the Spring.

bruchsal schloss 1813 2

bruchsal schloss dragon_1827

Here’s a shot from the back…

bruchsal schloss 1855 2

Since we weren’t sure what else to do in Bruchsal, I took them to Bad Wimpfin. I still highly recommend Lukulos am Blauen Turm, the Greek restaurant right behind the tower. The view from the terrace out back is spectacular (in any season I think).

tower_1909 2

view from restaurant 1916 2

Just installed some stuff from Windows Live Essential, including “Windows Live Writer”, the editor I’m using to create this post. If it works like I hope it will, I can write my posts offline, including pictures, and publish them in one fell swoop.

I’m adding a picture of Sophia, Matron Saint of her daddy’s attempts to stay current. IMG_0924

I just confirmed that it works. I had to tweak the size of the picture to be consistent with the blogger settings, but I think I’ll try switching to this editor for a while.
Signore Coffee...

I must admit I was not overwhelmed with joy when B and I opened one of our Christmas presents (from ourselves to ourselves - B handled the details with Santa). It was a coffee maker from Tchibo that requires little coffee capsules instead of the usual filter etc. B saw my disappointment and told me that the coffee is cheap and that you can make all kinds, just like in Tchibo cafés. "Great!" I thought, I now get to pay a fortune for mediocre coffee that used to cost me pennies. As readers of this blog know, I hate getting worked over by "the Mann", as he's called here in Germany (especially when he's masquerading as an Italian {Tchibo is a German company}). After using it for a few weeks, I have to admit, it's pretty cool. First of all, the coffee is pretty cheap: about 20 cents a cup. B can use it to make her foofy Cafe Machiatos (foam and all) and I can whip up a pretty mean espresso in a minute or two (including letting the machine warm up). The coffee is simply excellent. Since B was spending 3 Euros a day or more to support her morning habit at a café close to her German course, I figure I'm coming out ahead Euro-wise.

Yesterday we went to the Tchibo store to buy coffee and saw that they offer a sweet little rack for easy access to our morning boost.
By the way, in Germany, I've almost never seen the packs of powdered sweetener so common in the US, e.g., Splenda. From what I can tell, a lot of folks use little sweetener tables or liquid (like my Grandma used when I was a kid). I've gotten used to the tablets (even with the unreliable dispenser) and now prefer them to all the other types {I take three!}.
Finally, it's a bit ironic that Starbucks set out to create the European café culture in the States as they're now strong here and I think their style has influence many Continental cafés (I've seen knockoffs all over the place). I'm still amazed that almost wherever I go (Seattle, Orlando, Berlin, Heidelberg, Paris, Barcelona), there are long lines at Starbucks.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mayberry, Germany...

Imagine being a woman who lost a designer purse she adores (purchased on her honeymoon) containing:
  • 500 Euros in negotiable instruments
  • Many credit cards
  • Her driver's license
  • Other stuff you can't even remember.
Now imagine being her husband...

Today while B picked up Emily from school, her purse fell out of the car. Although Sophia (our four year old) saw it, she didn't mention it because she thought maybe it was just a purse that looked like B's (arrrrrg!). B retraced her steps for the entire afternoon, to no avail, arriving back home in tears. As she approached our door, our neighbor came out and told her that her purse was at city hall! A city worker found it lying on one of Walldorf's busiest streets and took it there. Since our phone is unlisted, they called our neighbor!

Only in Germany (or maybe Mayberry)!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We're nationwide...

Bought a great
ZZ Top album, so I've got Texas on the brain. We've also rejoined the ranks of the interconnected global village. After months of fighting with Arcor and waiting for T-Comm to get the lead out, we're online again and even have a phone.

Now that it's over, I must admit that I rarely missed either. I think I was more frustrated with the lack of motion on the part of the telecom companies involved. Anyway, will try to blog a bit more often now that we're online.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Capitale de Noël…

As we’ve done countless (literally) other times, we took our current guests, B’s Mom and Dad, to Strasbourg, France. We planned to leave about 11:00 on Sunday but my skills at coercing this band of inveterate dawdlers into some semblance of punctuality failed miserably: We left at about 1:30.
We made great time on the way there, arriving in about an hour. After parking the van, we began walking around near the cathedral in subzero temperatures. The first time we went to this incredible city it was also cold, so we’ve made sure to avoid it in the winter ever since; our mistake. Unbeknownst to us, Strasbourgh is the “Christmas Capital”. We’re not sure of the scope of this assertion; it could refer to Alçase, France, Europe or the world, but there was definitely a lot of Christmas cheer still in the air. Much to our chagrin, we didn’t make it for the Christmas market there. We won’t make this mistake next year.
The best part of the trip for me was that we stayed after dark, something we’ve never done before. In compensation for the frostbite in my nether regions, I took some great night exposures (in my opinion). My Mother-in-law had already been; my Father-in-law, like us, is now in love with this city. If you haven’t seen Strasbourg at night, you haven’t seen Strasbourg.
On the way back home, we stopped at Glashaus in Bad Schönborn for mussels. I still very, very highly recommend this place. For my money, it’s the restaurant with the best vibe in the Heidelberg area.

Friday, January 02, 2009

New Year's Eve on ice...

We decided to stay home on New Year's Eve this year and I'm glad we did. Although it was freezing cold, it rained all afternoon. That evening, all the streets and sidewalks in our area were a sheet of ice. We had the traditional (for B's family anyway) dinner of lentils, made by my father-in-law. They were off the charts. We stuck closer to the traditional time this year, eating at around 23:00.
I mentioned this last year, but Germans love shooting off fireworks on New Year's. You hear random smatterings of smaller munitions all day. At midnight, Walldorf sounded like it was under siege. In Rio, most people enjoy the organized fireworks displays on the beaches so my father-in-law was most impressed by the broad participation in the festivities by our neighbors. For my money, the best New Year's celebration in the world is still Rio. This year, 2 million people once again crowded onto Copacabana beach to welcome 2009.
We went out on the veranda off Robert's room to watch our neighbors light up the sky. The evening was low key but enjoyable nonetheless. We drank our share of wine, Champaign and Hefeweizen, thankful for our second year in Germany and looking forward to our third.
We contained our festivities to sparklers. As you can see from the long exposure below, the girls had a ball!
Kulture in Karlsruhe...

On Tuesday, I took the in-laws to the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe. I happened upon this place when I first visited Germany in 2006. I tried to take my parents there in September, but was rudely reminded that museums are closed in Germany on Mondays. This time, I got this flock of nats herded at 9:30 so we'd be at the museum when it opened. I won’t disclose all my secrets for forcing cariocas to be punctual, but threats were definitely involved.The museum used to be a palace and houses a collection that spans pre-Egyptian history to the present. There was a special exhibition on heroes that we didn't see as the "normal" collection more than sated our appetite for culture in the two hours we toured it.The Hitler pin cushion was one of our favorite items from the WWII collection.
I'm pretty impressed with the museum's collection. In a few places, they have interactive exhibits like the masks below. On the downside, they don't translate the exhibit descriptions (most world class museums at least translate into English as well as the local language). Interestingly, they let you take pictures (without flash)
The museum has a tower you can climb if you have the gumption. The view from up there isn't too bad. I liked the view of the staircase.
Afterward, we stumbled around the part of Karlsruhe near the museum, warming ourselves up with espresso and hot chocolate. We noticed in the museum (and on the street lamp posts) that Karlsruhe used to be Carlsruhe. That afternoon, I took my father-in-law to Ladenburg. We walked around this quaint little town and then walked to the Neckar. Without really trying, I took what I consider one of my best portrait shots. Thank you Canon.The one below lacks technical excellence, but is amusing nonetheless.