24 December 2004

I'm Feeling at Home

I was in England for less than 4 hours before I was called a 'wanker'.

22 December 2004

Why is everything different.... in England?

So we're getting ready to take a short trip to England to see some friends and use some of the massive amounts of vacation we get working in Germany.

Before preparing for this trip, I had often wondered why things were needlessly different in the USA from the rest of the world. Usually I tell myself it is the relative isolation of America by the Atlantic & Pacific oceans, which often meant separate development efforts for things like TV and mobile phones.

While getting ready for this short jaunt over to the Great Britain, I wonder how is it that it is so different from the rest of Europe? Granted, it is an island that was isolated for a long time, but for a few ceturies now ships have reduced that isolation and more recently planes have made England seem even closer to the mainland. Much more so than the isolation of the US.

So, in case you are wondering, here is my short list of why England is weird compared to Germany (and this is before I have even arrived there).
1) They drive on the left. I'm sure it is a hard habit to change, so much so I am not even going to try it.
2) They don't use the Euro. Man, changing money bites. It was only a few weeks ago that we could stop worrying about it in our new home, but now we get to do that again.
3) Different shaped electrical plugs and voltage. I'm sure the weirdo plug is because the voltage is 10-20 V higher than Germany (the books aren't consistent), which was probably a good thing back when most electrical items couldn't handle something different. But the battery charger for my camera can handle anything from 110-240V, so I'm covered, except that the plug won't fit in the darn holes, with either the US or European plug converters. So we have to try to track a new one down before we leave. Woo Hoo!
4) They speak English. After hearing all mostly German for the last 3 months, I have to dust off the ol' brain and try to remember English, and remember that the English people, unlike Americans, say things like lorry, tube, quid, colour, tyre, rationalise, hoovering, and Bangers & Mash. Heck, bitter is a noun there. They probably don't say things like 'heck'.
5) Their comedy shows are 5000% better than anything coming out of the states in recent years. (This is a separate rant... How the hell can Fox create such good shows and cancel them after just a few episodes? How can they throw away greatness when it is the palm of their hands? Are they just blind to the fact that they have had some excellent, non-reality show, programs in the last few years that they didn't properly give a chance to? I swear they wouldn't keep the Simpsons after the 1st season if it started running in this day and age. Rant off)

Of course, this reminds me of some of the silly questions people ask me about Germany. But I'll save those for a later date.

19 December 2004

Germany vs. America

I am asked often, what is the biggest difference between living in Germany versus living in the USA.

I always need to clarify one thing, and that is "Apart from the fact that everyone is speaking German and everything is written in German?" Usually the questioner says "yeah" so I answer...

Fizzy water.

18 December 2004

Christmas Decorations in Germany

It is a only a week until Christmas here in Germany (and everywhere else, now that I think about it) and just like in the USofA, there are quite a few decorations. Like in America, there is municipal decoration here, which isn't that different from the USA, but we also have Christmas Markets here (as I have mentioned earlier) which is an added touch here. On the other side of things, are people's personal decorations. The private homeowner in Germany doesn't get all Clark Grizwold and Tim Taylor with Christmas decorations. Maybe a few modest displays of lights... But what is really freaking me out is all of the "Santa hanging out of a window on a rope" decorations. Maybe in Germany, Santa doesn't slide up & down the chimney, maybe instead he just uses a grappling hook and sneaks in the window like a common cat burglar. Whatever the reason, these "Santa hanging on a rope" decorations are everywhere. And sometimes he looks pretty miserable (or maybe he looks like he is in an action movie, like the house is moving at 300 miles per hour and he is hanging on for dear life with the top-secret plans for the death star in his pocket)

Do we have those in the states this year or is this somthing straight out of Germany? They are everywhere. Sometimes there are multiple Santas on the same building! It is crazy! One building has so many I was reminded of the SWAT team rappelling down the building in that last part of the Blues Brothers movie. Too bad I didn't have my camera, because I know you don't believe me.

17 December 2004

Our New Apartment

The View from Our Balcony
Originally uploaded by allanimal.
Since a few people have asked, here is the view from our new apartment's back balcony. Yes, back balcony. There is a front balcony too, but the view doesn't have nearly as many swans and rivers.

Our Apartment
Originally uploaded by allanimal.
And this is our apartment building from across the Neckar.

14 December 2004

Signs in Heilbronn, pt. 2

Signs in Heilbron, pt 2
Originally uploaded by allanimal.
Here is the second installment of interesting signs in Heilbronn. Germany is using supposedly "international" and "language-independant" signs, so it is inherently obvious what the sign means.

I am still trying to figure out this one.

Cars falling into Lava?
Beware of Sinkholes?

I dunno, and didn't much care since I was on my bike at the time - obviously, being on a bike and the picture shows a car, it doesn"t apply to me!

12 December 2004

Bad Wimpfen Weihnachtsmarkt

Bad Wimpfen Weihnachtsmarkt
Originally uploaded by allanimal.
This is a small portion of the huge and "old world" Christmas Market in Bad Wimpfen, a cute little town just up the river from Heilbronn.

St. Nick and his "helper"
Originally uploaded by allanimal.
Saint Nick and his young, sexy blonde "helper" were handing out treats to children. Immediately after I took this picture, the kid said something that translates roughly as "I got an ... apple" in kind of a Charlie Brown voice. I also like Santa's armed guards.

Smoked Salmon
Originally uploaded by allanimal.
This year's Christmas Market in Bad Wimpfen had something to do with Finland, and in the Finnish section of the market, they were smoking salmon. And by smoking, I mean that they were treating & preserving the meat with smoke, not rolling it up and inhaling salmon fumes. Anyway, I thought it was pretty cool, and I wonder how they keep the pegs from burning off.

10 December 2004

Burg Hohenzollern

Burg Hohenzollern
Originally uploaded by allanimal.
On one of our last free days with a car, we decided to go visit this nice castle. Of course, you can't drive all the way to the castle, and they always put these darn castles at the top of big hills for some reason, so we had a nice, long, exhausting climb to the top.

Children at Burg Hohenzollern
Originally uploaded by allanimal.
The castle (and Christmas market inside) was defended by a crack team of children manning a cannon.

Allan at Burg Hohenzollern
Originally uploaded by allanimal.
Of course, the castle has a great view of the surrounding countryside.


07 December 2004

Der Räuber Hotzenplotz

Originally uploaded by allanimal.
The title character from a great German children's book, seen lurking in Tübingen.

06 December 2004

Tübingen, Germany

Tübingen, Germany
Back when we had a car, we drove down to Tübingen, a university town south of Stuttgart, to see what we could see. It actually turned out to be a nice, but cold, day and we got a great view of the beautiful town.

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01 December 2004

Halloween in a Pinch

Jeannette For Halloween
Originally uploaded by allanimal.
OK, so it is a month late, but we actually dressed up for Halloween this year, despite its lack of celebration here in Germany. We had to make due with the minimal stuff we had with us or could scrounge up on the spur of the moment. So....

Jeannette was a cat for halloween. (Note her tail is not relally visible.)

allan at halloween
Originally uploaded by allanimal.
And I was a Weihnachtsbaum (aka 'Christmas Tree'). Really.