partners

Die Hochzeitsglocken läuten!

This weekend, I’m going to my first German Hochzeit, or wedding.  My partner-in-crime Jenny is getting married in a wedding which is actually spread over two days.

A multi-day wedding is not uncommon in Germany, because you have to do a legal portion of the marriage in an official place and those are often not open on weekends.  In this case, there’s a small ceremony in the morning on Friday at the Altes Rathaus and a nice formal lunch at the city’s Ratskeller.  Then on Saturday, there’s a much longer, slightly more casual, definitely bigger party at Jenny and Robert’s home.

This is the first time I’ll experience a German wedding, and Jenny’s shindig doesn’t hit all the “traditional” marks because Jenny and Robert are fairly untraditional people, in the best possible way.

There are dozens of different wedding traditions in Germany, and no two weddings are exactly alike.  Here’s some of what I’ve learned about German weddings so far:

Bachelor and Hen Parties Are A Big Deal.  Whenever I’m in a city- any city, anywhere in Europe- I’ve been able to spot the pre-Wedding parties.  Bachelorette parties are often referred to here as Hen parties, which amuses me greatly.    For Bachelor parties, the groom-to-be often has to wear a ridiculous outfit.   For Hen parties, the bride-to-be often has little trinkets or baked goods or small items that she has to sell to passers-by, ostensibly for money for beer.    Group costumes and themes are common.  I’ve seen parties where every member is dressed in a nurse outfit or in a hot-cop outfit.  I’ve seen pirates and bunny ears, ballerina dresses and traditional tracht (Dirndls and lederhosen.)

Matching shirts are a popular choice.  And you can always spot them.  The look like this.  Or this.  Or this.

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In some cities, the party moves around on a BierBike.  This isn’t traditional, but it’s often hilarious.

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Engagement rings aren’t a big deal. Germans don’t do diamond engagement rings.   The concept of an engagement ring is fairly new to Germany, and some couples do it but it’s not expected here like it is in the US.   The bride and groom have matching wedding bands which are worn on their right hands.  Single guys take note:  Married women in Germany wear their wedding rings on the right hand, not the left hand!

Lots of couples do a traditional Polterabend.   A Polterabend is a party where everyone brings old dishes to break in order to wish the couple well, drive away bad spirits, and so forth.

A car procession after the ceremony is traditional.  You can always spot the days that there’s a wedding in town because there are cars with bows or bridal bouquets fixed to the hood sitting in front of the Rathaus.  After the wedding, a car procession drives through town honking their horns, and others honk back to wish the couple good luck.

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After tomorrow, I can’t really call Jenny my partner-in-crime anymore.  She has a new partner-in-crime for the rest of her life.  And I have a new partner-in-crime waiting for me to get back to Florida. I can’t wait to hear about Jenny’s continuing adventures with Robert!

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Image by Stephan Wiesner- https://www.facebook.com/sportportraits

Have you ever been to a German wedding?

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Hot Air Ballooning Over Bavaria

We interrupt this barrage of travel posts to bring you a post about something that I did a little closer to town.  Thanks to my partner-in-crime Jenny and her fiancé Robert, I had the opportunity to go hot air ballooning.  They wanted to try this, and if enough people joined in, the balloon company would come to us instead of us going to them.  Arrangements were made, weather was checked, and on the very last Saturday in May, the balloon company traveled to us in the afternoon.

The first order of business was setting up.  We were all enlisted to help set up the balloon and basket.  The actual balloon was packed into a giant canvas bag.  Most of the material is a very lightweight nylon, but the material closest to the hot air burners is a slightly more flame retardant canvas blend.

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First the balloon has to be inflated.  It’s connected to the basket, and pulled out over a large field.

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I large gasoline powered fan is used to begin the inflation of the balloon chamber.  Two of us had to hold the mouth of the balloon open at first.

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After enough  inflation is done with the fan, the flame jets can be used to heat the air inside to give it lift.

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The burners actually have very fine control-  they can do hotter blue flame or cooler (but more visible and thus cooler looking) yellow flame.

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Lift off was quite subtle-  there’s no acceleration like an airplane.  One minute you’re on the ground, and the next you simply aren’t on the ground any more. Once we were aloft, the navigation was simply based on which way the wind was blowing.  The blue vehicle with the white trailer is the balloonist’s partner following along from the ground.     They kept in contact via nearly functional radios.

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Once we were fully aloft, the view was pretty spectacular.  There was, surprisingly, no wind noise at all because we were moving at the speed of the wind.  It was very quiet, except for the occasional use of the burner to adjust our altitude.  It also wasn’t cold, to my surprise, because of the burners.  Incidentally, the plume of steam coming up from the ground in the far distance is a nuclear power plant.

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In this part of Germany, there are really only a few larger cities.  Most of Bavaria is really just villages of various sizes surrounded by fields of crops.  This was only fifteen or twenty kilometers outside of the center of Regensburg.  I’m not actually sure what village we’re looking at in this photograph.  From above, they all kind of look alike.

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This field, I am told, is where the Battle of Regensburg took place in 1809.  This is where Napoleon was shot in the ankle, apparently.

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Fields of solar panels are a common sight in Germany.  I didn’t realize until we were directly above one that sheep sometimes graze in between the panels.  Much easier than using a lawnmower around the solar panels, I imagine.

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Just after we passed the field of solar panels and sheep, two trains passed, one in each direction.  The first one was a longer Munich to Prague commuter line, and the next was a shorter commuter train which probably only went from Landshut to Munich.   The furthest wagon to the left is the engine, and the second from last is a two level wagon with upper deck seats.  The other three wagons all contain compartments of six seats each, which is much less fun than the double-decker wagon, but is much much quieter.

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After a while in the air, we had to look for a place to land.  This is the tricky part-  you have no steering other than the wind, and you want to avoid crops and powerlines.  Ideally, you need another field of just-grass.   While we were looking for a place to land, we passed fairly low over this village.  Lots of people came out to wave at us and shout things.   Most people are kind of fascinated to see a hot air balloon, particularly one this close.

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As we approached an ideal landing spot, the sun was low on the horizon and we got some pretty neat perspectives.

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After landing successfully at the edge of a crop field, we were joined by some neighborhood children who wanted to watch us break down and pack the balloon.

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Once the enclosure was completely deflated, the balloonist scrunched it together to prepare it to go back into the canvas bag.

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Last, but certainly not least, our wicker steed was ready to be disassembled and put back into the trailer.  This is the point at which a carload of random dudes wearing Lederhosen pulled up and helped us muscle the thing back into the trailer.  Bavaria is a ridiculous and hilariously fun place at times.

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Have you ever been up in a hot air balloon?

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Document Neupfarrplatz in Regensburg

In Neupfarrplatz, one of the largest main squares of Regensburg, there is a big church called the Neupfarrkirche.   Tucked behind that church is a triangular metal structure containing a door.  The door contains a stairwell that goes down into Document Neupfarrplatz, an exhibit made of an archaeological excavation beneath the square which occurred between 1995 and 1997 .  The exhibit isn’t open all the time.  There are tours at set times, and you have to go to the Tabak shop across the way to buy your tickets before the tour.  It’s only €5, for a one hour tour in German.

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Once you get to the bottom of the stairs, you’re in a large chamber with pathways leading off in other directions.  There is a set of tunnels which comprise part of a ring shaped underground air-raid shelter built around 1940.  These first two pictures show part of that structure.

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Looking down the hall from the air raid shelter hallway, you can see part of the main chamber at the foot of the stairs.

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Inside that first chamber are three glass cases containing small items from three different time periods of the excavation.    The first is a bronze figurine of the Roman god Mercury, from the second or third century A.D.

This statue is believed to have stood on the house altar of a high ranking Roman official.  This location was the Roman camp Castra Regina around 179 A.D.  Castra Regina was a fortified military base, and I’ve posted photos of the old fortress walls before.  The remains of Castra Regina lie here, six meters below Neupfarrplatz.

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This pointy fellow is a bronze figurine of the high priest Aharon from the 15th century A.D.  This is from the medieval Jewish quarter, which also stood in Neupfarrplatz after the Roman Empire.  Southern Germany’s biggest Jewish community prospered here from the 8th century until February 21st, 1519, when the Jews were driven out of the city.    At the time of the expulsion, around 80 Talmudic scholars lived here.

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After the explulsion of the Jews in 1519, the synagogue was demolished.  A wooden chapel was dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Zur Schönen Maria) at this location soon after.   The chapel became a center for mass pilgrimages.  The next  item pictured is a silver sign of pilgrimage from around 1520.

So much money was generated by the pilgrims that the foundations of a new larger Neupfarrkirche were set in 1540.  This is where the names Neupfarrplatz and Neupfarrkirche come from-  Regensburg became Protestant in 1542 and the pilgrimage church was reconsecrated as “Neue Pfarre,” the new parish church.

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Opposite the bronze and silver items encased in glass is a walkway supported over part of the excavated structure.  These were cellar rooms – the archway goes to another room which had been converted several times.

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One of the more spectacular things found during the excavations were these 624 gold coins, buried around 1388.

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Next to the gold coins is a golden ring with the star-and-moon seal of the medieval Jewish community of Regensburg.

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This archway contains stairs which used to lead to the surface.

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Above the stairs is a “window” embedded in the surface of Neupfarrplatz.  The window cost around €25,000 to install.

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Here’s the window from above ground-  the people at this cafe probably don’t realize they’re sitting almost directly above hundreds of years of history.

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Opposite the Neupfarrkirche is a white marble structure which shows the layout and position of the original medieval Jewish synagogue prior to it being destroyed in 1519.    This artistic representation of the old synagogue was created in 2005 by the Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan.  It was designed to be a “Place of Encounter, ” a symbol of Christians and Jews living together.  Hebrew lettering engraved in the space where the Torah was kept spell out the word “Misrach” to point to the east, toward Jerusalem.

The white marble is directly in front of an ice cream cafe, so it’s a popular place for people to sit and snack with friends on a sunny day.

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So a Roman, a Rabbi, and a Protestant walk into a bar…   I’m just kidding.

Have you ever been to an archaeological excavation?

What on earth is a pizza-burger?

While I was traveling the weekend before last, I saw a commercial for a food called a Dr. Oetker PizzaBurger. It was part pizza and part burger and it was entirely fascinating.

My friends, my happy friends, I have tried the PizzaBurger so you don’t have to.  I have thoughts.

Is it a pizza or is it a burger?  Which phylum of junk food does this fall into?   The box says “2 burgers,” but I think it has more pizza-like qualities than burger-like qualities.  Here, let me show you.  This is the box:

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Inside the box, there are two sleeves, each containing one “burger.”  The burger is both the top and bottom half, which you put in the oven, like so.

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After about twelve minutes at 220 Celcius, this is how it looked.  To me, this looks like two small pizzas.    There’s nothing burgerlike about them except the shape-  no meat patty, no wilted lettuce, no burgeriffic condiments.

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However, the next step is to put the two parts together with their gooey cheese bits touching.  It was roughly burger-shaped, but it was pizza-flavored.  It turns out that the bun is the one thing that’s burgerlike-  even after being baked in the oven, it’s soft and fluffy like a good hamburger bun should be.  Alas, a burger is not made by fluffy buns alone.

My opinion:  I think it’s just an interesting new form factor for pizza, and not a burger at all!

Sure was tasty, though.

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Have you ever tried a PizzaBurger?  What do you think- is it a pizza or is it a burger? 

Misplaced

A friend of mine wrote a short post this week on a certain blue-backgrounded social network about the fifteen year anniversary of the passing of a mutual friend. I realized immediately afterward that another funereal anniversary had just passed us by without my realizing it.  Someone very special to me passed away eighteen years ago.  Eighteen years and six days, actually-  the anniversary slipped by without me realizing it this year.

This surprised me.  In the beginning, it was never far from my mind, and for the first five or ten years I always tried to do special things on the anniversary of her death.  More recently though, the dates slide past without notice, and without as much pain.  I guess that’s a good thing, in the grand scheme of things, but it still makes me feel a bit like I’ve misplaced something.   My mind is built on tangents, though, and thinking about this led me to think about Johannes Kepler.

Bear with me here, I promise there’s a point.

J-Kep (shut up, I can call him J-Kep if I want to) came to Regensburg in 1628, and became ill soon after.  He died on November 15, 1630,  at the age of 58, and was buried here. Regensburg is swarming with things named after Kepler.  There’s a memorial house and museum, on a street named Keplerstraße.  There’s also a pretty nifty memorial for him near the Bahnhof which I wrote about two years ago.  There’s a pharmacy named after him, and some other places around town as well.    The one thing that you won’t find in Regensburg, however, is Kepler’s grave site.

Although he was buried here, the grave site was lost when the Swedish army destroyed the churchyard in 1633, during the Thirty Years War.  Kepler’s self-authored epitaph survived:

Mensus eram coelos, nunc terrae metior umbras
Mens coelestis erat, corporis umbra iacet.
I measured the skies, now the shadows I measure
Skybound was the mind, earthbound the body rests.

More than anything else, this makes me really want to find his grave site.   I know it’s not something I could ever really do- I’m not a mapmaker or a scholar or a historian-  but I hate to think of Kepler as simply having been misplaced, like we’ll find him next to some spare change between the couch cushions.

What’s the last thing you misplaced?  Did you check between the couch cushions?