Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Grandparents

So our 2nd set of Mayzie's grandparents are in town. My mom and Bill arrived 10 days after Jennas parents left. It is great having visitors... we are enjoying seeing new places and showing off some of the stuff we like around here. Also, its nice to have some help with Mayzilla. It is super hot and humid right now in the Stuttgart area. I took Mom and Bill for some walking and sightseeing this morning and by 1pm we were sweaty and exhausted. Our friends the Linke's said this was unusual weather, so hopefully it wont last. We are heading out tomorrow for a 4 day trip to Switzerland....back to the Alps. Can't wait. Hope the clouds stay home because we need some fine Alp views in our future. Regardless of that, it will be "amazing" up there...hah I use that word a lot. After that, M+B leave us for 1 week to Salzburg, Vienna, Prague, Berlin and back to Stuttgart. So they are packing it in.

I got word from my boss that they want me to start in Hamburg on July 13. So, it seems like this moving thing is really going to happen. I would not be surprised if something changes, but for now, I know that much. Its supposedly a 1 year contract, so they can garauntee the work for that long. I feel like a bull with his head down just plowing through all the obstacles until I reach the open green fields. "We shall see" is a common phrase right now and it holds true until we are settled, whenever that is.

Forget all that crap, I have a bunch of time off before the 13th (but no money haha), some visitors, going to Switzerland.... so we will try and enjoy it the best we can.

PROST

Strasbourg


Strasbourg, France, right on the German border, 1.5 hours west of our house. Don't know why we waited so long to check this place out. It was a well needed EFG (Escape From Germany). So close, yet so different. The French cafes, mellowness, and architecture all made it a very relaxing day. We walked around the town, went into the stunning cathedral, had some crepes, and ate some local desserts. Jenna wants to live here. Anywhere but Germany :) Here are some pics.

Inside the massive cathedral.

Some medieval graffitti.











This was built the same year Bill was born ;)

Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber

This place is 1.5 hours drive from our house and is CLASSIC Germany. Small, medieval town, cobblestones, so quaint and cute you just want to eat it up. Hard to believe that alot of it was destroyed in WWII. My Mom and Bill are here, so we all went out there for a look-see. Our visit coincided with a parade, too. The entire town is walled in, and the wall can be walked on for nearly the entire perimiter. We also hit up the Medieval Torture Museum here...check the pics. A highlight of Germany so far. I hope we can return for an overnight stay.







From the tower in the center of town




Shame mask

This Executioners Axe says "When I Lift My Axe, I wish the Sinner Eternal Life"

King: "Put them in the Iron Maiden." Bill and Ted: "Excellent!"

You would be put in this thing for your collar being too big or dressing out of your social status....right in the market square for all the village to see.




Mayzie LOVED the torture museum. :)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Even in Germany

We thought this was funny...I can understand not liking Ford or Dodge or whatever is on the trucks at home, but Mercedes? Classic.

Porsche Museum

Before Jenna's parents left, Jennas dad Jack and I went to the Porsche Museum, which is 10 minutes drive from our apartment. Newly opened earlier this year, this place was built by aliens.

All the classic cars are in there and lets just say that the architecture of the building is representative of the forthought, design sense, and ingenuity of Mr Porsche. This guy dreamt up the VW Bug and the first and classic shell of the Porsche, not to mention all the components and engines and hardware. All from some farmhouse in Bavaria. A genius and his kids were geniusess and now the company hires the smartest people in the country and puts out beautiful driving artworks and also design many things we dont even know about, like airplane cockpits. The epitome of German Engineering.







Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hamburg

There is a pretty good possibility that we might end up in Hamburg. Who knows, I sure as hell don't! I have spent the last 2 weeks there and I think its a pretty cool city. It is a major port and there is a constant drone of harbor activity with ships unloading and loading their shipping containers. The inner city area is sandwiched between the Alster lakes and the Elbe river. There are typical German things here...cobblestones, pedestrian shopping streets, and huge, beautiful cathedrals and city halls. I went up to the top of one of the cathedrals and had a great view of the city...it is very flat, so you can see a long ways. Seems to more cultural and gritty than Stuttgart, and it was a relief to see a building like this, complete with a vegetarian chill out bar inside and a skate park in the back. You would never see this in clean, practical Stuttgart:



Hamburg is famous for the Reeperbahn/St Pauli area, which is the huge bar, red light district area that gave the Beatles their start in the early 60's and was the de-virgining spot for many young sailors. It's overrun with seedy people now, but I am sure it is a great place to party at night, which I was not able to do. It was cool to stroll through here, again, something that would not happen in Stuttgart.

I have met people from all over the world at work, which is one of the main reasons for living abroad. I like to think that I am not the stereotypical American and hope that after hanging out with people from France, Turkey, former Russian territories, Morroco, and Afghanistan, that I have helped dispel the stereotypes of what they think Americans are. A majority have never been to the US, but definitely have opinions and it is fun to talk about them. I know that my mind is opened more after hanging out with 5 French people over some beers.

I was a hotel mate with another employee of High End, a guy called Alex from Kazakhstan, who moved with his family to Germany when he was 13. We spent alot of time together because we shared a car and were 3 doors down from eachother. He speaks zero english and I speak so little Deutsch, it was classic trying to talk and find out more about eachother. It for sure took longer than normal, but with my limited deutsch vocabulary and sign language, I was able to answer all of my questions and we even talked politics, movies, etc. After a few hours, I stopped thinking about what I was going to ask or say, and would just blurt out a couple key deutsch words or sign something. 2 nights in a row, we bought a salad, some bread and tzatziki at the store, along with 3 beers each and found a bench in the local forest and sat and ate and talked. Hadn't done that since high school haha. Alex has a dream to holiday in America and he is obsessed with cheesy American action films and guns. This guys eyes light up when we talk about guns, especially after a couple beers. He wants to go to the sporting goods store and buy a gun. That's his dream. Just like in the movies. Classic. I didn't tell him that he probably wouldn't be able to do that, but I did mention that there are hunters and gun clubs that would gladly take him out or at least take his money. Maybe even Jennas dad can take him out if he visits Oregon someday. I told him that I had shot an AK 47 in Cambodia, and it wasn't until we were going to the airport 2 days after I told him that, that he realized that Cambodia was not in America. He was sooo excited to shoot an AK or an M16. Sorry bro. He has signed up for English courses and hopes to be over in 2 years.


Miniatur Wunderland

I was up in Hamburg for work all last week. Not alot of work in Hamburg, either, but I am showing my "flexibility" so hopefully that impressed someone. It was a waste of time, really, except that I saw a most amazing tourist attraction--Miniatur Wunderland. My good friend Matt Kenney drew my attention to this attraction a few months back, before I even knew I would be in Hamburg. This video, complete with creepy German narration, is basically what it is all about.


I spent 7 Miniatur Wunderland days (every 15 minutes it gets twilight, then dark, and then the sun rises) in the exhibit and this place blew my mind. So much detail and work went into these displays, and every model tells a story or is connected to the larger picture. From afar, the displays look great, but the closer you look the more little scenerios are played out. The cars are all stopped on a road...oh, I see, there is an ambulance coming. They are all there for a reason. Only in Germany would you find an exhibit like this--one where so much time, detailed effort, and thoughtful construction...all for a tourist exhibit. It's really cool to see them working on future exhibits and employees fixing any issues, running around the place checking and maintaining. If any of you are ever in Hamburg, I suggest you check it out. Here are some pics I took....









Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cherry Way

We live on Kirschenweg street, which translates to Cherry Way and now we know why. There are cherry trees up and down the area and we have 2 in the front yard and one in the rear of our apartment. They are sooo good on a hot summer-y day like today. Juicy and fresh....


Friday, June 12, 2009

State of Our World

Been blogging about trips and stuff, but there has been some other things going on too. It has been great having Jennas parents out here to help with Mayzie and for travelling around with, they are pretty easy going. Jack did a whole bunch of work in the front and back yards...the landlady loved that haha, so did we. We are driving them back up to Frankfurt in the morning, so they will be gone and we will get back to our routine.

Work is still up in the air. They announced 10% pay cuts for those without a working contract (me included) and those came through so we are even shorter on money than before, when we were short on money. So that sucks. The company is trying its best to hang onto everybody. Something like 20 out of 28 employees have had their contracts terminated, but High End is trying its best to hold onto everyone. The work has been sparse but I had been going into the office nearly everyday, working from like 9-2. Easy, BS work. They sent me up to Hamburg for this whole week for some training, specifically to get certified to work for Airbus. It seems that Airbus is still hiring, so Hamburg is still a possibility. There is no job for me yet, but High End wants to train me up for the possibility of working for them, either up in Hamburg, or Switzerland and Munich have been thrown around. So we shall see. My boss assures me that he will not make me move anywhere until I have a longterm contract in hand. He knows that a 3-4 month stint somewhere is not possible for the family and all that. Would suck to make Jenna and Mayzie go through that. So thats where we are at. Next week I have my certification test in Hamburg, plus some more training, so Jenna will be on her own for that time. She is uneasy about all of this, everything feels temporary, but I think she is on board for a move, as long as we wont have to do it again for awhile. I am eager for us to feel more settled and for me to have a real job so that we can calm down and get on with our lives for the short time we are here.

Jenna is in her Deutsch course now, so that is 3 mornings a week. Mayzie's kindergarten has been sporadic as of late because of holidays and a teachers strike, so she has missed a few. Next week the teachers are striking for 3 days, that makes a total of at leats 10 days, I would say. Crzay Europeans. haha. Its ok for us (Jenna only misses her language course), but I cant imagine working families trying to juggle that...kinda sucks. Mayzie is coming up with some crazy German skills and we don't know what she is saying, or singing. Its pretty cool. She has a couple of friends at the school that she always talks about and the teacher is talking to her alot, so she says some funny stuff to us that she hears. She says "Guten Appetit" at every mealtime. Classic.

The car has been great. We have driven her all over the place, Switzerland, Belgium, and alot of Germany, and we have not had one problem. I need to get the oil changed and this is not something that the common German does, it seems. There are no Jiffy Lubes and no Schucks where you can buy the filters and oil all in one place. Alot of places sell the oil, but I have yet to find the filter. I guess most people take them to the dealership for a pro job, but its like 60 euro for an oil change? Rip off. So I have to figure that out soon. My mom and Bill come out on June 25 so I know we will be driving some more, so I hope I can do it before they arrive...just park her up on the curb, drain the oil into the gutter and fill her back up with some new stuff haha (joking about the gutter part, I think that would get you firing squadded).

We are both gaining confidence in the language and that is helping our time here. I know Jenna feels isolated and frustrated with our situation. I hope a job comes through soon. There alot of days we are ready to pack it in and go somewhere else, but we dont know where or how, so we are going to see this out, wherever it goes. I dont think there could have been a worse time to move over here, but we are still doing fine and trying to make the best of it.

Germany has alot to offer, but being a tourist and living here are so completely different that we are not out of the adjustment phase yet, I think. There are so many restrictions and being in this social bubble is a little hard to take for a "free spirited" west coast American like I think I am. It is interesting...in America we have more freedoms, less rules, but it seems like it is very easy to fall off the cliff and fail, or the sky is the limit. Here in Germany, there is a social bubble and government network that will take care of you if you lose your job, you get injured or sick, but there is a lack of freedoms to do what you want and when you want it. No system is perfect, but I always had it in my mind how great it was in Europe, not realizing what that really meant. I think a mixture of both would be great, but there is nowhere like that in the world, even the Netherlands has it's problems.

I will leave you with this video of Mayzie singing Bicycle Race by Queen....

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Belgian Booty

Too tired to blog, but we spent a couple days in the Ardennes area of Belgium (map here), drinking beer and touring Battle of the Bulge sites. A beautiful area that requires much more time than we spent. We came to La Roche, a town completely destroyed in WWII, but today was busteling with activity. There was a brew fest on the river. 30 Belgian beers to sample? Dream come true. Here is the booty as it is in our kitchen upon our return. More later. 


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Article 24

Red Flag with White Cross

Spent a couple days in Switzerland, specifically the Interlaken area. To describe the scenery around here is pointless, I would end up using my limited vocabulary and silly adjectives like awesome and beautiful and amazing and breathtaking, etc. But it really is. Interlaken itself is an amazing (there is that word again) place, but once you leave the town and head up the valleys towards the big mountains, it becomes other wordly. Like fantasyland. Adult amusement park. Waterfalls, huge cliffs, epic cable cars, the greenest fields you have ever seen, and the most quaint little villages and houses this side of heaven. I will stop with the describing. See the pics below.

Me and Jenna fell in love with this area when we first visited in 2001. You know how you romanticize a place and have a vision in your mind of what it was like, even if you know your memories have been skewed by time and distance? Well I was worried that I would be dissapointed upon our return here (Interlaken is more touristy than I remember), but I wasnt. We visited a small village called Murren, as we did in 2001, and it is so peaceful. Carfree, the only way to get up there is by cablecar. Just birds chriping, 360 degree views of enormous Alp-y mountains and hikers. No motors, no noise (well, there was Mayzie wanting some Ice Cream). Clean, fresh air and perfect drinking water pouring out of spouts all over town. 

OK I have said enough. My mom and Bill will be here late June and we will be spending 3 nights in Murren...CAN'T WAIT TO GO BACK. Things are pretty spendy around here, it is basically a huge tourist area, so they really get you with the cable cars, food and accomodation prices. But it's worth it. Due to trains, cable cars and busses, this whole area is super accessible...pretty rare that a place is so easy to get to and enjoy and it has not been ruined by tourists. Some would think it has, I would guess. All I know, is that we got up there high in the mountains with a dog, a 3 year old and 2 seniors without any issues and were able to walk around, enjoy the countryside and hop back on a cable car when we were done. Awesome (thats my favorite adjective).





The hiking signs (yellow) show walking times to destination. Signposts are everywhere and make it very easy to roam around mapless.

even the local shopping center gets into the signposts haha..."sek" means seconds.


love the shot above





stayed here in 2001...seemed pretty empty at this time of year.

the cable cars are huge and modern...50 people in each, I would say.


DAMN YOU SWITZERLAND! WHY MUST YOU BE SO BEAUTIFUL? AND YOUR TUNNELS PLENTIFUL?