Monday, October 17, 2011

Cruise on the Western Mediterranean: The MSC Fantasia

Sorry for the delay....there was a Cruise, Moving, Pneumonia, Taking the Eldest to College, Starting High School....

Before we left Europe, I thought it would be good to check out a few countries that we had missed....well I had missed, anyway!  Our furniture was on its way back to New Jersey, so why not spend some time on vacation.

We chose the MSC Cruise line because they had an itinerary we wanted but also kids cruised free!
We were on the MSC Fantasia which entered service in 2008 and can hold up to 3959 passengers. She is 1093 feet in length, 125 feet wide and has 18 Decks.  It is a European cruise so almost all of the announcements were made in English, German, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

 Pool on the rear deck.

Some lounges...

 The crystal staircase. 

At night...

 The upper deck...

Next:  Our first Stop...Tunisia!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Things I will miss...

Vanilla sauce
Tassimo Latte Machiatto
Süsstoff (sweetener)
Cheap Beer (sometimes cheaper than a Coke!)
No speed limits on the autobahn
Good drivers
Hikes in the Frankische Schweiz
Skiing in the Alps
Not having to pay when people text you
Apple Strudel
Good Public Transportation
Bike Paths
Dogs in the mall
Bavarian Countryside
Easy access to many other countries
New friends

Friday, June 24, 2011

I can't wait for:

Cold Stone Creamery
Library with the drop off box
Garbage Disposals
Ice Makers
Big Freezers
Free Water at Restaurants
Big Parking spaces
Cheap Gas
Diet Snapple Ice Tea
Shopping on Sundays
Shopping after 8:00 at night
Mexican Food
More than one choice of movies in English at the theater
Panera Bread
Waiters who bring you the check
Chocolate Chips
Proper Brown Sugar
Pumpkin Pie
Seeing family
Old Friends

Monday, June 13, 2011

Silk Painting: Erlangen

One of my friends here in Germany, Jeanette, likes to teach Silk Painting.  I had painted a scarf depicting Nuremberg last time and this time I wanted one that depicted the town we live in, Erlangen.  I did a preliminary sketch of the layout and she came up with a final design.  It depicts scenes from Erlangen with flowers from the botanical gardens in the background.

Closeup of the Schlossgarten.  The Schloss (Castle)was built in 1700 and is now used by the local University.

For the 1000th year anniversary of Erlangen, Artist Isolde Kunath created giant "pins" to commemorate notable historical places and monuments in the city.  

The World War I Memorial:

The Headquarters of Siemens in Erlangen, known as the Himbeer Palast (Raspberry Palace) due to the color of the bricks.The Siemens AG central was moved after World War II from Berlin in the undestroyed city of Erlangen.  Erlangen was also easily reachable by canal and highway.

Neustädter Universitätskirche in Erlangen.

Every June Erlangen hosts the Bergkirchweih, and annual fair and beer festival in ErlangenGermanyThe Bergkirchweih starts on the Thursday before Pentecost at 5PM. The opening ceremony called "Anstich", which is carried out by the town's mayor, takes place in a different beer cellar every year. Thousands gather to watch the opening spectacle hoping to get one of the free beers from the first barrel. Twelve days later the last beer barrel is buried in the cellar where the next Anstich will take place. The Bergkirchweih area is located in the northern extremities of the town of Erlangen and is roughly a kilometer long (0.6 mi). It contains beer cellars, booths and rides - a huge Ferris wheel is the Berch's traditional landmark.

With its wooden benches under elms, chestnuts and oaks it is the biggest Open-Air-Biergarten of Europe with more than 11,000 seats.
The Bergkirchweih has taken place since 1755. . Roughly a million people - about ten times the town's population - visit the event, making the Bergkirchweih the third biggest fair in Bavaria after the Oktoberfestin Munich and the Gäubodenvolksfest in Straubing.

Depiction of beer at the "Berg":

Flowers from the Erlangen Botanical Garden:

Flowers from the Erlangen Botanical Garden:

A view from Erlangen looking toward Buchenbach across the meadow.  Sometimes sheep graze there!  Our house is sort of behind the trees on the left.

Pin commemorating the "Knight's Academy", an educational institution for the sons of the nobility.

Bonus: This is one I did of Nuremberg:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fun with

Can you guess what these pictures are?
Note that each picture is created out of the letters in the title of the photo.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

German Nationalism

This cartoon is kinda true...

Normally you only see German flag during the Soccer World Cup or maybe on German Reunification Days.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Field Guide to German English Speakers

When I moved to Germany, I wanted to learn some German of course, so I took 3 classes of German. However, often I don’t know enough German to communicate what I need, and since I live in a University town many people speak English. However, it is important to know what level of English they know so you can know how to talk to the person. To determine what type of English Speaker you have spotted, ask them the following question:

“Sprechen Sie Englisch?”
(Do you speak English)

Depending on the answer, you will know what you are dealing with. If the answer is:

1. Nein!

Name:bureaucratius nonhelpfulus”.
Description: They can’t or won’t speak English. Get out your phrase book. They will look askance at your German.
Environment: Large Instutions, such as the Post Office or the Bank.

2. Nein, schlect.

Name:deutschius speakerus”.
Description: They haven’t learned English. Try your German, they will try very hard to understand you.
Environment: The Doctor’s office personnel, aside from the Doctors.

3. Ein Bisschen

Name: “unconfidentius speakerus
Description: They know a little English, but more than they think. If you stick to talking about what they sell, you may be okay.
Subtype:colleagueius fetchicus” If you overwhelm them, they will fetch a colleague who they think speaks better English.
Environment: Large Stores, such as Saturn or Staples.

4. A Little

Name: “prettygoodius speakerus
Description: They actually speak English fairly well but won’t admit it. You can speak about what they sell/do with no problem.
Environment: Large Stores, such as OBI.

5. Yes

Name:confidentius speakerus”.
Description: They can speak English very well.
Environment: Owner-owned stores, Doctors, people who work for large companies.

6. Of Course!

Name: “overconfidentius speakerus”.
Description: Why wouldn’t I speak English? I can’t believe you even asked.
Environment: High End stores, such as Tommy Hilfiger.

7. Bonus Type of speaker

Name:Sneakius speakerus”.
Description: Recognize that you speak English from your conversation with the people with you or your terrible German Accent, even though you ask for “Zwei Hamburgers” answer you in English. Seem to be happy that their English has come in handy even though they are working retail.
Environment: Fast Food places, Grocery Store.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Beware of Frogs!

Evidently it is "Toad Migration Season" here in Germany...They put up signs so you will be aware of possible Toads crossing the road. 

Toad Sign

Around 250 toad fences are registered across Germany – along the sides of roads which cross the migratory routes the amphibians take to reach their breeding ponds. These save at least half a million toads, frogs and newts each year.

Toad Fence

 Each ten or 15 metres along the fences, which themselves are only a few inches high but run up to 800 metres alongside the road – a bucket is planted in the ground to catch the animals intent on crossing the road.

These buckets are attended at least once a day by the volunteers, who carefully take the amphibians across the road so they can continue their journeys.

Actual Frog and/or Toad:

Actual Frog/Toad

Info courtesy:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A concert in Germany

(Continuing to post blog entries that I started but never finished.  This was from March 2010).
I went to my first German concert last night. I am a fan of Kevin Costner (the actor) so I thought I would go to see his band, "Kevin Costner and Modern West" since they would be in nearby Nuremberg.

Kevin Costner sings? Yes...

"MODERN WEST GOT ITS START when my wife (Christine) encouraged me to reconnect musically with John Coinman. I wasn’t really sure after all these years how it might work. I wasn’t really sure what to say. But if life has taught me anything it was not be stopped by the question or the unknown. F… it, what do I have to lose but maybe some of the best times of my life? I made the call to Tucson. “John what do you think?” He never hesitated, willing to explore the idea. But it was always more than just an idea for me. It was a feeling that I had been unable to articulate. For a long time now I have felt the need to connect with people in a more meaningful way than just the autograph. I have found myself here and around the world in different situations where the only exchange has been just that…a quick signature on the run usually followed by a “gee, he’s taller than I thought.” I always thought that music could build a stronger, more personal moment for me. It would create the opportunity for a genuine exchange much greater than the movie, TV interview or magazine. It would be real, full of mistakes and without apology. But most of all there would be the chance to have some fun. The question was, would it work? I thought it could but I wasn’t really sure. I had been out on creative limbs before, and this felt familiar. "

A friend of mine and I went to the Meistersingerhalle in Nuremberg for the concert. We got there just at 8:00pm (start time on the tickets) and started to find our seats (no ushers). We were walking up the aisle when the lights went off and the warm up act started. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that German concerts start exactly on time!  This of course is not the case in the USA.

Kevin Costner entered from the back of the hall and walked up to the stage down the main aisle.

The crowd was on the older side and German...most of them politely sat in their seats the entire concert.

We decided "heck with that" and went up front to the stage!



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Alles in Ordnung?

Alles in Ordnung is a very common phrase you might hear in Germany.  It means "All in Order?" or "All Right?".  Ordnung is very important to Germans! The stereotype of Germans is that they are orderly and efficient...and in general this is very true.

1) Shopping Carts
When I first arrived in Germany I went to the "Rewe" grocery store and I saw the following.  If you can't make it out, it is black accented shopping carts on the left and pink accented carts on the right.

You must realize that by definition all shopping carts in Germany are the kind that you have to put a Euro (or Euro-sized Chip) in to unlock the cart and to get your Euro back you have to return the cart.  In the USA you may remember Costco doing something like this for a while. So that is efficient right there.

My First thought:  Black Carts for boys and Pink Carts for girls?

My Second thought: No way can Germans be that organized to put back the carts by color voluntarily!

My Third thought:  Let's be contrary and try to put a pink cart on the black cart side.

My Fourth thought:  That didn't work!

My conclusion:  Germans are that organized, but in a different way than I thought.  The carts are designed so that only the black can go with black, pink with pink, blue with blue (when you get out farther in the parking lot there are other colors), etc. because that way you can have no more than 20 carts per cart slot.  Also, if you have to put your cart back with its color mates, then if you got a cart close to the shop you have to return a cart close to the shop. If you get a cart in the far reaches of the parking lot, you have to return it there too.  You never end up with too many carts near the store, for example and you don't have to pay someone to move the carts around or round them up.

2) Package Delivery
Package delivery can be like in the USA where somebody knocks on your door and sees if you are home.  If not they may give have the neighbor sign for the package.  If it is mailed you might have to pick it up from the Post Office if you are not home.  But there is another way as well.

You get a postcard in your mailbox.

Then you go down to the nearby Packstation which is just a couple of blocks away from us next to the OBI (Like Home Depot).

You scan in your Postcard and then one of the doors pops open and there is your package!

3) Rathaus  (Town Hall)
When I got my German Driver's License I had to give my NJ driver's license to the town hall for them to hold on to. I guess they would prefer that you only have one license at a time so that you can't get traffic tickets on both of them.  So one time when traveling back to the USA I thought I would swap my German DL for my NJ DL (why I have to pay 10 Euros for that, I don't know!)  Anyway, I think how it worked is you would go to a computery thing that you would indicate what type of service you want and then you would get a number to know when it is your turn.  You sit and you see this:

When your number (Nummer) is called, it shows you what desk (Platz) to go to.  Very efficient!

4) Parking
When you are driving around town and want to park in a parking garage, it is nice to know if a parking lot has free spaces even before you enter.  Even for the Siemens location it will let you know if there are spots available.  This is also at our local Mall... on a busy day it will say "0" and you know that either you should find parking elsewhere or you will have to wait to get in.  It also shows you once you get inside if a given level of the parking garage still has spots.

At indoor airport parking they often have lights above the parking spaces that show green if the spot is empty so you don't even have to drive down a row to see if there is a free spot.  I did learn early on that "Parking Frei" means that there are some free spaces available in the garage, not that you don't have to pay! :-)

 5) Garbage/Recycling Pick-up
At least in our neighborhood they are very efficient about garbage pick up.  They have to be because they pick up Bio-waste once a week, Paper once a month, Garbage every two weeks, and Recylable packaging every two weeks. The sanitation workers come by and take your can (blue in this case, Paper) and wheel it to the curb.  Then the truck comes by and loads it.  THEN THE WORKERS PUT YOUR CAN BACK!

Of course efficiency can be a double-edged sword....This past Christmas we had our mail held while we were in the US. Usually when we hold our mail the day we get back we get a giant envelope full of mail.  This time we didn't...we just got mail starting from the day we got back.  I asked at the post office and called the mail people about our mail...they just couldn't fathom how the system could not work properly.  I asked the postman but he said that his colleague had delivered it...but this was not the case.  We kept calling and I think it turns out that one of the postmen said he tried to deliver it but we weren't home (of course not, we were on vacation) so he sent it back.  I still don't exactly believe that story but we did eventually get it!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


(Continuing to catch up on old posts!)

In September my friend L and I went on a close-by adventure in the town of Neunhof.

First we went to the Schloss (Castle) Neunhof. Here are the surrounding gardens.

The Schloss.

The silent guards...

The moat.

Then we walked into town to find the Krafthof (fortified church).

Inside the walls.

Inside the church.

Then we searched for the remains of a nearby Labyrinth. After wandering about and asking for directions, we found it. "Irrhain" (crazy grove) circa 1676.

This is a sign that shows you the current paths (red) and the ruins of the old labyrinth garden.

On the way back we took a short cut through the farms. This is some kind of house in a greenhouse!


Carrots imprisoned.

Dahlias we saw on our walk through town.