Bayern

Repatriation Day

Bayern

Today is the day that I leave Germany. I’m not leaving forever, because I have friends here. After today, though, I won’t be a resident of Deutschland. I’m heading back to Florida.  My plane out of Frankfurt is actually scheduled to depart at the exact minute this post is scheduled to go up.

While this is a travel day for me, I thought it might be fun to give my friends an idea of what my Floridian  life will be like, geographically speaking, courtesty of http://overlapmaps.com/.  I’ve noticed that Europeans who have never been to the United States seldom have any real idea of just how expansive the US really is.  Americans who haven’t traveled here are similarly bereft of clue when it comes to scale, which is part of what makes these maps so much fun.

Here’s an example to illustrate that point.  This conversation actually happened between me and a colleague back in the US:

Colleague:  Hey, can you go to the data center to look at this server?
Me: The data center is in Frankfurt.  That’s three hours away.  I might be able to get there by tomorrow, if I leave now, go home, pack a bag, and manage to catch the next train out.
Colleague:  …so that’s a no, then?

First up in our map fun:  South Florida, overlayed onto the region of Bavaria I currently live in.   While these distances are not exact, I can say that Munich roughly overlays where Miami is, and Regensburg roughly overlays where I will be living.

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These next two are just fun:  Germany overlaid onto Florida, and Florida overlaid onto Germany.

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…and just for giggles, the United States overlayed across all of Europe.  The US is a big place.  I lived in the US for my entire life before 2011, and I still haven’t seen nearly as much of it as I have seen of Europe.   I’ve gotta get on that.

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Which is bigger?  Your home town, or the place you live now?

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Regensburg Tourism

Earlier this month, I spent an afternoon checking out a bunch of the touristy things I can do without leaving Regensburg.  There’s a lot to see and do right here, and I didn’t want to leave it all unseen before I moved back to the US.  I started with a river cruise.

There are many great river cruises on the Donau (Danube) river, but I specifically wanted a short touristy river ride.   I found one that runs every hour or so during tourism season and runs about 45 minutes for the cost of eight and a half Euros.  At a touch after 11 in the morning, I set sail on the good ship Johannes Kepler.

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It’s rather interesting to see the Stone Bridge from this perspective.  I’ve been all over the surface and around the temporary construction walkways, but this is the first time I was ever underneath the bridge.  By the way, pay attention to that tower with the clock faces on it.  We’ll climb that later!

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Being on the tiny river cruise showed me things about Regensburg that I had never seen before.  For example, I didn’t realize that the villa of King Maximilian II was just walking distance down the river.

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I don’t know who Klara is, but I really hope she had a nice birthday.

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After we docked, I walked a short distance down the riverfront to the Schiffahrtsmuseum, or shipping museum.  Entrance was just three Euros.  The museum itself is contained inside two very old and beautifully restored ships.   The one pictured here is a paddle steamer.

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What would a museum be without tiny models?

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This is part of the engine room of the Ruthof, the paddle steamer which houses this part of the museum.  This stuff is absolutely huge.

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Once back on land, I finally managed to get a photograph of the Boat Captain.  I don’t know this gentleman’s story, but I see him walking around town from time to time.  He’s usually wearing all white, and he’s always  got epaulets on his jacket.  I’ve always wanted a photograph of him, but he was always walking in the other direction.

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I took a very brief detour at the Historic Wurstkuchl to grab some sustenance before I continued on my tourism day. So tasty!

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Next, I went to the museum next to Regensburg’s famous Stone Bridge.  Most of this museum is free, but there’s a tower here which can be climbed for another two Euros.

“Historic stairs” means they’re really old and rickety and made of wood, I guess.

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The top part of this tower used to be someone’s living quarters.  These are the rooms inside.

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The benefit to living at the top of the historic stairs is the view-  this is looking East from the tower.

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This is the view North from the tower.  When the bridge is not being renovated, this must be a fantastic people-watching view.

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Here’s the Western view.  This picture was taken during HerbstDult, hence the ferris wheel visible in the distance.

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One of the more interesting things about climbing the tower is seeing the mechanism that drives the clocks.  This tower has clock faces on three sides, and they’re all driven by a single mechanism.  This amazing little gearbox has long rods which connect to each clock face, and the electric motor beneath.    One motor for all three clocks.

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After climbing down from the tower, I walked around the free part of this museum for a few more minutes.  I’ve always liked that the Wappen, or coat of arms, for Regensburg is a shield with two crossed keys in it.

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Next on my tourism day was  walk up the street to the Kepler Memorial House.  Johannes Kepler lived in Regensburg at the end of his life, and he fell ill and died in this city.  His old house is a museum now, with an entrance price of two Euros and twenty cents.

J-Kep says science is cool!

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They could probably stand to give his bust a good cleaning.

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The entire museum was in German, so I didn’t get much out of the description cards, but I still liked seeing the old equipment in glass cases.

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This globe is utterly fantastic.  Back in those days, they really took the whole “here be sea monsters” thing very seriously, I think.

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After I was done at the Kepler House, I walked over to the Dreieinigkeitskirche, one of Regensburg’s many, many churches.

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Here’s that key logo again.

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…and again with the keys!

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I’m always a little bit fascinated by the incredibly old glass you find in places like this.  These windows are not as crystal clear as modern glass, but the effect is kind of charming.

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While the inside of this church is nice, that’s not why I was here.  I came to the church because for another two Euros, you can climb the tower.  I’ve been meaning to do this one for three years.  This is another place that wasn’t built for tourism-  they actually taped Styrofoam to one of the beams to prevent tourists from knocking their heads.

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This is another historical stairway, I think.

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Near the top, there’s a sign asking that you don’t touch the bell.

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It’s quite tempting, though.  This is an amazing old church bell.

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Why do I climb all these towers?  For the views, of course.    This is what the city’s main cathedral and the other clock tower look like from this church tower.

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Panning a little bit to the left, you can see another very, very old tower.   This city’s full of ‘em.

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On my walk to the next touristy location in my day, I stumbled across some furries having a date.  At least I think that’s what was going on here.

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For my last stop of the day, I went to the Regensburg Historisches Museum, for an admission price of five Euros.  The last time I was there was the first full day I was in this city, back on November 13, 2011.  At the time, I knew absolutely no German at all, so I was completely lost.  It turns out that even with some knowledge of the language under my belt, the museum didn’t seem all that different to me.

I didn’t remember seeing these stained glass windows last time, though.

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I did remember seeing the Jewish headstones before.  There have been several Jewish settlements over the centuries in this city, and most of them have been forced out or simply eradicated.  Some of the old headstones survived and were brought to the museum.

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A big medieval city demands big medieval swords.

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I said before that museums love their models, and this is another fine example of that.

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Here’s what I spent on my tourism day, not including food:

€8,50 – River Cruise
€3,00 – Schiffahrtsmuseum
€2,00 – Museum and tower next to the Stone Bridge.
€2,20 – Kepler Memorial House
€2,00 – Dreieinigkeitskirche Tower
€5,00 – Historisches Museum

Grand total:  €22,70.   Not bad for an entire day out, with sun, boats, stairway climbing, history, and culture.

Have you ever been a tourist in your own town?  What did you see?

 

Last Looks

The last time I was in Hamburg, back in late March, I spent some time with Sarah and Tobias.  After lunch, they walked me back to the U-Bahn, and as we said our goodbyes, I had a flash of realization- after that moment, I might not ever see either of them again in my lifetime.

I know it seems like a negative point of view, but it’s a simple truth: In just thirty days, I will be leaving Germany. Sure, I’ll travel to Europe again in the future, but I probably won’t be in Hamburg again.

After that realization, I started noticing it in other places.   Sometimes it’s silly (will this be the last time I buy a fricking heavy six-pack of water from the Getränkemarkt?) but usually it’s a little more bittersweet.

I saw this image in one of those ridiculous Buzzfeed lists, and the sentiment is exactly what I’m talking about, even if the image they chose is terrible:

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For the last six months, I’ve been thinking a lot about the transition back and about what I’m leaving behind here.  I started making these comparisons in another post a while back, but I’ve got more.

Some of it isn’t great.

  • I won’t miss riding with patient zero on the bus.  Every time the temperature drops even the tiniest amount, there’s hacking and coughing and sniffling like you would not believe.
  • I won’t miss the smokers everywhere.  Standing at the bus stop.  Walking through the city.  I can smell it from half a block away.
  • I won’t miss the crazy spin-art vomit stains on the sidewalk at the end of every weekend.  Most Germans can hold their beer, but this is a college town and Universities are where people test their limits, and then spill those limits all over the sidewalk before passing out.  Walking through the city on a Sunday morning can be a little bit like walking though a slightly squishy minefield.
  • I won’t miss the fucking cobblestone.  I haaaaate  cobblestone.  No, seriously-  cobblestone is charming when you first arrive, but it’s hell to walk on for long periods of time.    I can’t begin to count the number of times that my ankle has turned a bit on a cobblestone step.  It’s a miracle I haven’t injured myself in all this time.
  • I won’t miss the specific style of outdoor chairs that you find at beer gardens and restaurants with outdoor seating.  See the crossbar halfway up the back?  Those things always dig into my back.   Seriously, they’re the least comfortable seats in the universe.  How to people sit on these for hours?  Oh, right:  The beer functions as a muscle relaxant.damnchairs
  • I won’t miss the random people who seem to do nothing all day except hang out in front of the Bahnhof, or in front of the park directly opposite.  Every city I’ve visited has these people- they’re around the train station with a beer in hand.  Often, it looks like they’re sleeping there, in front of the station.  It’s such a waste-  I won’t ever understand people who don’t have the desire to go other places and do other things.
  • I won’t miss the way Germans line up for things.  At the bakery, or waiting to board a bus, or a train, there’s never a single simple line.   If you’re trying to get off of a bus, you generally have to push through the people waiting to get onto the bus because they don’t stand to one side to let people through.   Germans, by and large, are terrible  at lining up for things.    It’s usually a large cluster of people with no real sense of order.
  • I won’t miss my shower plunger.  I have a standard wood-handled rubber plunger, of the type commonly associated with toilet issues.  This particular plunger has never been used in a toilet, however.  The drain of my shower has been finicky for as long as I’ve lived here, and I keep the plunger in my shower so that whenever I find myself ankle deep in not-draining water, I can plunge the shower drain for a minute and things will even out.  This happens at least once every few weeks, and has for as long as I’ve been here.  I’ve tried the local equivalent to Drano, and I’ve tried a few other things without much success.  I won’t miss having a shower that backs up at random intervals.

But there are things I will  miss.

  • I’ll miss having a vibrant concert scene just one hour away, or three, or six.  Many of my trips have started with concert plans.  I’ve been to the Royal Albert Hall in London twice now.  Many of the bands I want to see play in Berlin, or Cologne, or Hamburg.  Sometimes they even come to Munich or Nuremberg.    The concert scene is a little more dead in Florida, alas.
  • I’ll miss this view, as seen from Neupfarrplatz in the Regensburg Altstadt:
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  • I’ll miss the Deutsche Bahn.  From Regensburg, a single train will take me to Prague in four hours.  Salzburg in four hours.  Berlin in six hours.  Frankfurt in three hours.  Anywhere else in continental Europe is within reach, as long as I’ve got the time.  The trains here are fabulous.
  • I’ll miss my crazy-fast Internet.  The picture below is a photograph of my screen when I did a speed test.  I’ve never used anything this fast back in the US.  I know it’s possible, but in South Florida, it’s mostly DSL and Comcast cable broadband, and it’s nothing like the blazing fast speeds I’ve been enjoying here for the last three years.
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  • I’ll miss the dogs everywhere!  Germans take dogs with them on the bus, on the train, into restaurants, and pretty much everywhere that will allow it.  Little dogs wearing sweaters are just adorable, and they always make me smile.
  • I’ll miss the bakeries.  The bread and pastries and pretzels here are beyond compare.  Apfeltaschen and Butterbreze and Kurbis Krusti… nom nom nom.
  • I’ll miss the scalp massages that are a regular part of any haircut here, during the shampoo portion of the visit.  When you get a haircut in the states, they’ll wash your hair but they never linger  on the shampooing like they do here.  It’s really heavenly.
  • I’ll dearly miss a few very close friends.    My social life in Germany has been fairly limited, but I have made a few friends who will be part of my world in some fashion for the rest of my life.  I’ll be back to Germany to see them.

Of course, all the things that I will and won’t miss have their balance:  Things that I’m really looking forward to back in the United States.  In just thirty days, I’ll have access to some really wonderful things.

  • I’m looking forward to screens on my windows so I can open them without getting those little bugs that like my laptop screen so much.  And no more indoor mosquitoes when it’s warm!
  • I’m looking forward to electronic dishwashers.  After three years of hand-washing everything, it’ll be nice to just let the machine do it.
  • For that matter, I’m looking forward to having an actual in-sink disposal unit again.  I don’t have that here.  If I have something that I need to dispose of here, I have only two real options:  The trash or the toilet.  Yes, I’ve actually flushed away expired apple sauce here.
  • I’m looking forward to having a full sized kitchen again.  My refrigerator here doesn’t even come up to my waist.  The freezer is roughly the size of a shoebox.  I have roughly ten inches of counter space in the form of a drainboard.  There are four cabinets overhead for dishes and food storage alike.    It’s more of a kitchenette.
  • I’m looking forward to Golden Oreos.  And other cookies.  While Germany excels in cakes and pastries and other baked goods, they really can’t seem to figure out cookies.  With a few very limited exceptions (primarily Oreos and Subway cookies,) I’ve been profoundly disappointed with the cookies here.  I’m looking forward to that American cookie aisle in the grocery store again.
  • And while I’m on the subject of the grocery story, I’m looking forward to shopping on Sundays!  Or after 8pm, for that matter.    I’m so tired of having to do all of my grocery shopping in the two hours after work or on Saturday afternoons.  I miss the flexibility of being able to do whim-based grocery shopping at 2am on any random Thursday!
  • I’m looking forward to having a car!  Right now, when I do my grocery shopping, I have to limit myself to what I can carry in a single trip.  I miss being able to get a ton of groceries and load them into my car.   I miss being able to travel to places that are outside of public transportation range without walking or biking to get there.
  • I’m looking forward to American-style customer service.  Sometimes it can almost be a mythic challenge to get the attention of a waitress here.
  • I’m looking forward to reliable cellular signal again.  The only place I ever had weak signal in South Florida was the men’s room at work.  (And let’s face it, that’s the one place I really don’t want to take a call anyway.)  Here, on the other hand, I see my phone drop down to Edge speeds all the time-  on the way to or from work, on the train, or just walking down the street on a sunny afternoon.
  • I’m looking forward to video without significant Geo-blocking.  I can’t count the number of times a friend has posted a link to something on Ye Olde YouTubes, and I’ve clicked the link to see this little angry-maker:
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    Annoying, isn’t it?  GEMA is a music licensing entity whose sole function seems to be making Americans so angry that they want to kick puppies.  To get around it here, you need to use data redirection techniques-  either a browser plugin or a VPN.    The same thing applies to Pandora, to Netflix, to Hulu.  Even the Daily Show and the Colbert Report geo-block now, although they didn’t when I first arrived to Germany.    Geo-blocking is a pain in the butt, and I’m glad that I’ll have less of it to deal with.
  • I’m looking forward to being able to go about my day to day life without needing translation help.  I’m looking forward to being able to sign an apartment lease without someone parsing the bullet points for me.  I’m looking forward to being able to understand all my junk mail without bringing it to a friend to review.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing my family! I have a three year old niece and I’m going to be back in time for her fourth birthday.  I’ve only been there for a handful of the days of her life so far, and I’m looking foward to changing that.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing my friends again, and I’m looking forward to having brunches at the Moonlite Diner, lunches with my coworkers, movie dates with my favorite girl… I can’t wait to get back to my life.

This post has changed pretty drastically from where it started.  I originally intended to talk about the emotional impact of leaving a place, and I wound up just making another bulleted list.  I guess for the poignant emotional stuff, I’ll have to turn the floor over to the inimitable Peter Cincotti.  This is the song that has been playing in my head for the last few weeks, and it’s almost exactly how I feel: 

What do you look forward to the most when you go home?

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Nepal Himalaya Pavilion

Not far from Regensburg is a Nepalese temple and garden called the Nepal Himalaya Pavilion.

The Pavilion was originally constructed in Hanover for the 2000 World’s Fair Expo, which ran from Jun to October of that year.  The Nepalese exhibit was incredibly popular, with about 3.5 million visitors during the 2000 Expo.  After the World’s Fair concluded, the Pavilion was dismantled, transported here, and then reconstructed.  It reopened in 2003, and opens seasonally every year.

Most of these pictures don’t have commentary from me, because I don’t have much more to add.  This was a nice garden, and a lovely way to spend a few hours.

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The brightly colored cloth hanging from the pavilion are prayers.

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First, he got the disk spinning with the long pole.

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Next, he used the spinning disk as a giant pottery wheel.

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The entrance to the China Garden part of the Nepal Himalaya Pavilion.

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Nice hooters, eh?

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Shakey rope bridge!

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…Fighting the urge to walk in the opposite direction here…

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Have you ever been to the Nepal Himalaya Pavilion?  How about Nepal?