Gemütlich = Comfortable, Cozy, Snug, Homey

I arrived in Freiburg on September 1st. Today is September 30th.

I still don't really know what to say about it. When I moved to Ann Arbor for college freshman year, I don't know when it finally hit me that I lived there. I remember thinking sometime in October, this is a nice place I'm at, and I sure have a lot of homework, and my room is really cozy, but none of this really adds up to anything. It probably didn't help that I visited my family all the time. Sophomore year, East Quad was home immediately. There were a lot of people just a knock or a hallway away, and always easy alternatives to whatever I was(n't) doing. It was comfortable.

I take a long time to get comfortable. I can't decide if I've been here only four weeks, or already four weeks. Either way, it hasn't been long enough for me to add it all up. But that's okay, because there are ten and a half more months before I fly home. I hope they don't all go this fast.

I still feel like an idiot when I buy groceries, and I haven't figured out how to cook for myself constantly. Eggs, pasta, cereal, bread, and broccoli. Yum, but...even I need more variety than that. I don't know where I take the garbage. We haven't really divided up the storage space in the kitchen. Did I mention that my WG (Wohngemeinschaft = apartment-sharing community) is half empty? No German roommates. My room isn't totally set up yet, and my DVD player needs a TV and some friends who like pretentious films. I'm scared to ride my bike next to crazy German drivers, so it's still locked up outside my building. And laundry. Heh. Let's not talk about laundry.

But also, also, also—I am in Germany! Today I gave a woman directions and she told me my German was very good. Which was a lie, but kind. I gave a presentation last week and my teacher told me that I didn't seem nervous and it was interesting and really all I need to do is work on my German 'rrrrr.' Also not completely true, but nice to hear.

Here is one sum I've got so far:

Marisa + Germany = a lot of Milka
This photo was after two weeks.
Also, I need a haircut. Auf Deutsch...

Switzerland = die Schweiz = la Suisse
= maybe I should learn Italian

This is old news, but two weeks ago I took my first trip into Switzerland. Switzerland's not really on my to-do list, but Basel is within the reach of the "Regiokarte" I have for the month, until the new semester starts and I can buy the cheap semester-long regional transportation ticket for students. The Regiokarte is more expensive, because it allows its bearer to travel within five regions (instead of just Freiburg's) on weekends and after 2 pm on weekdays. By the time I had been in Europe for a week and a day, I had increased my number of foreign countries visited from two to three. Wait, Canada exists, so four. And I flew into Amsterdam just over three weeks ago...but that doesn't really count. All I saw were hoards of windmills from the airplane and then the inside of Amsterdam's airport.

Basel counts, though. We had to deal with the hassle of the Swiss Franc and learned about how the Basler Münster lost a lot of its colorful stained-glass windows when it became Protestant. Erasmus left Basel for Freiburg during the Reformation (much to his dismay–he hated Freiburg because it was a small town with a bad university). Despite that, Freiburg has a more impressive cathedral. The older, Romanesque part of Basel's cathedral was my favorite part.

(This is a medievel gate, not the cathedral.)

We also visited Basel's Kunstmuseum (art museum), because it's free the first Sunday of every month. It has "the largest and most significant public art collection in Switzerland" (thanks, Wikipedia) and although I was as impatient as I always am in museums, I think that it is what made the trip worthwhile. One painting I liked a lot is called "Die Nacht" (The Night), by Walter Kurt Wiemken. He was a Swiss Expressionist and then Impressionist painter and I'm not sure what else, because I don't have time to read the Wikipedia article auf Deutsch. But I liked it enough to buy the postcard of it so I'd remember his name, even though I had to deal with Swiss money. There were a few works by Paul Klee that I also liked, and two by Franz Marc that I would love to put on my wall right this instant. I saw this one, "Zwei Katzen, blau und gelb" (Two Cats, blue and yellow) and one with a cow in it, although I'm not sure which one. The cow was my favorite, and there are two paintings with cows—along with many more lively, colorful animals—on this website, which you should definitely check out.

If you want to see more of Basel, go here.

ich weiß nicht = I don't know

Now it is Wednesday in Germany, and I have ein Referat zu halten (a presentation to give). On Thursday. On Aachen, also known as Aix-la-Chapelle. Although it's emphasized that Charlemagne (we know him here as Karl der Große, Karl the Great) had no capital to his empire, this would have been it. In fact, he spent most winters there from 792 to 814 AD. And Aachen is the westernmost city in Germany. I just learned both these facts.

It's also where Charlemagne is buried, in the cathedral he had built. Last semester I learned that his throne is still there. I definitely want to visit Aachen and I have a break coming soon, which is why I picked this topic. But there are so many places I could go during my week and a half off and I'm not sure how close to Germany I should be staying. Maybe Aachen should be a weekend trip. Maybe I should book a flight from EasyJet and fly to Barcelona or Madrid for € 24, or Amsterdam, or Alicante. EasyJet ads are up all over Freiburg, because one of their hubs is the Basel-Freiburg airport. I don't even know where Alicante is. Oh, Spain's Mediterranean coast. Good to know.

Who knows where I should go. The choices overwhelm me. The point of this post is actually:

I uploaded the photos I have of Freiburg so far. You can see them here. I strongly recommend that you choose the slideshow option, because otherwise they will be stupidly small. Now I am going to bed, even though I'm going to end up lying in bed formulating different itineraries.

Schoko = The Best Prefix Ever

My respect for cereal has been growing in the past month or so, starting when I was at home on a Friday evening and realized dinner wouldn't be coming any time soon. I had a bowl of corn flakes with milk and sugar. And another one. Then I pretended to be patient and waited for the pork chops. In Germany, I bought corn flakes and 'Hoopy Honeys,' hoping they would be like Honey Nut Cheerios. They're not, they're like honey nut Froot Loops–big and hard and not as good. That was a disappointment. This week I decided to be more German and buy some Müsli (granola) instead.
I ate Schokomüsli (chocolate granola) at least once a day every day this week. I like oats and I like chocolate and what is better in the morning (or afternoon or at midnight or as dessert after my pasta and broccoli dinner) than some crunchy cereal with little pieces of real chocolate in it? And the fettarme (lowfat) milk is 1.5%. Mmmm. In one week, I've gone through an entire box of corn flakes and almost an entire box of Schokomüsli. I've drunk more milk than I usually drink in a month. I think. It's just so easy, so dependable, and so delicious. Maybe I'll get so used to milk that by the time I come home I'll be a milk drinker.
Maybe not.
In other food news, on Monday I tried strawberry jam for the first time since I was in France—I admit, this was a stupid achievement, seeing as I liked it in France and inexplicably refused to eat it during the intervening three years in America. I also tried Schoko Milchreis (literally milk rice) which was puddingy and tasty, except for that biting into pieces of rice was sort of weird. On Tuesday I ate Maraia's stirfry—broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, and seitan. Okay, so I didn't eat the mushrooms. But the other things!! Seitan was easier to deal with than the zucchini. Zucchini was just mushy. Bleh. In Alsace on Saturday I ate brioche for the first time in three years (mmmm) and also another bread that had thin almonds on top of the thin layer of icing. It was delicious.

Schnappschuss = Snapshot

Tomorrow I have one of my midterms for my 3.5-week, 3-credit class. Everyone finds this crazy, but I don't think it's that intense. Seriously, though, I did this for half the summer, and with Spanish it was all new. But a lot of the vocab for this test is new, and I don't know it that well.

die Bohrmaschine = drill I don't know when I will use this.
die Reiserücktrittsversicherung = trip cancellation insurance I managed to, step by step, guess this word in a Taboo-like game in class.
das Kehrblech = dustpan Haha, 'blech.' That was Emma's and my noise of disapproval and disgust in fifth or sixth grade.
das Partytier = party animal I was at the KGB Sowjetbar on Monday night, but missed out on Shot Night at one of the dorm bars tonight due to studying and exhaustion and not really caring.
der Last-Minute-Trip I almost went to Heidelberg on Sunday when the hike in the Schwarzwald (= Black Forest) was cancelled due to Saturday's rain. Instead, I walked around Freiburg and took this Schnappschuss, among others:

I really would like to talk about my newfound love for cereal—sorry, guys, haven't moved onto Wurst or Döner yet—but I need more time and energy for that. Instead I'll just leave you with this happy gargoyle from the Freiburger Münster.

"You'll need this for when the Prussians come."

I believe it was over Christmas break last year, when Emma was reading a history of sock-making. What she took away from that book was this theory: what is wrong with America's current war-waging is, clearly, that it lacks a unified aesthetic. Back in the day, women gathered and knit socks for the soldiers. Now, we do nothing that brings the wars home; instead, we forget about them. (For elaboration on the topic, visit her blog.)

Regardless of the validity of this theory, I am pro-socks, and I told her she should send me socks while I was in Germany. I think. It was a while ago. Anyway, we somehow got to the point where she was going to send me some and include the note: "You'll need this for when the Prussians come," which is clearly hilarious, because how are socks going to help against a well-trained army? Plus, Prussia is vorbei, as I think we say in Germany—past, over, gone.

We decided it would be a great blog title, but then I got confused. Prussia was in the north, but it did expand a lot, though I don't remember exactly how far. Freiburg is in the south and was part of glorious Österreich (Austria), not Prussia—as far as I know. My knowledge of European history past Napoleon is pretty sketchy. Side note: I plan to remedy that this semester with a class on Germany, from unification to reunification (1871-1990). I'm afraid that skips the whole Prussia-era, though. As for my blog, the information I'm imparting is about Freiburg, not Brandenburg, and if there's a Prussian military revival, well, my espionage work will have been in the wrong state.

Until then, though, just accept that I am preparing YOU—probably safe in the United States, far from German threats—for a Prussian uprising. For that reason, you need to follow my updates closely.

$ ≠ €

Like Mr. Pepys, I resent the euro. But I find them too valuable to eat.

The First Seven Days

My ex-boyfriend used to tell me I needed to do one thing that scared me every day. I tried not to. Now that I'm in Germany, it's hard not to, since I'm supposed to communicate in a language I'm far from perfect at. That's not everything, though.

Most of these things didn't scare me too much, and the first two don't even count. But still!

1. I've had two different delicious pseudo-Italian ice cream desserts since I've arrived, and my first gelato on Thursday night. It was delicious, mint chocolate chip, and only 0,80 €.

2. Yesterday, Maraia and I bought nectarines, but I couldn't try one because they're not ripe yet.

3. On the airplane I unhappily accepted the meal offered to me as "pasta" and ate it, despite the mushrooms that were in it. I ate around them.

4. At the cafeteria, I bought the Schnitzel and Spätzle. And even though I wasn't sure what was going on with the meat (apparently there was a piece of pear on top of it), and there was brown sauce on some of the noodles, I got it. I still don't know what kind of meat I ate—these days, Schnitzel's not always veal—but whatever it was, I ate it.

5. The next day, I cleverly left my wallet in my room and even though I could have borrowed someone's cafeteria card, I took that as a sign I didn't have to face the unfortunate choices that day. Later, I was starving, so Maraia had me eat part of her carrot-cake-flavored Clif bar. I don't even eat carrot cake! It was something to go in my stomach, and I was okay with it when Maraia was handing me pieces and I didn't look at it. Once I saw the orange pieces in it, I couldn't handle it any longer. But don't worry, I won't hold that against carrot cake. Someday, I'll try it. That evening, I turned down zucchini with the excuse that I'd already tried the Clif bar and it was enough for the day. My harasser was surprised that I would eat something that would gross normal people out, but wouldn't try zucchini.

6. One night, I ate a plate of gnocchi with pesto. Maraia: "But pesto is green!" That shouldn't have surprised her too much, considering...

7. ...that in Munich I—at long last—permitted myself to be coerced into trying a cucumber. I even took a few more unenthusiastic bites after the first one, but it seemed like a pointless thing to eat. Like watermelon, only without the sugar.

8. I did my first shot when one of the Tutoren ordered them for our table at a bar Thursday night. Afterward I couldn't open my mouth because I was afraid that would somehow make it burn more. I can't believe how hot my esophagus felt. I don't know what it was, but I was told it's "better than Jägermeister". It seemed like it was better than whiskey, but maybe that's because it was over more quickly. Plus, burning is preferable to the way whiskey tastes.

9. On Monday, September 1, 2008, my first day in the city of Freiburg im Breisgau, I allowed PIZZA to cross my lips, for the first time in fifteen years. Complete with tomato sauce. It was the only option at the welcome reception, but it wasn't even that I was that hungry. There have been plenty of situations where I was more desperate. But now I'm trying to finally try my hardest.

Endlich = Finally

I'm in Freiburg. My room's nice, not that I have any time to spend there, or an internet connection (hopefully this will be remedied tomorrow). This whole week is just getting things set up: banks, cell phones, rent payments, residence permits...the list goes on.

I'm hoping to swim before the summer's totally gone, at a nearby lake. Tonight I went with some friends to the Freiburger Münster (the cathedral) to watch the water spew out of the gargoyles' mouths. Unfortunately, the downpour had calmed by the time we got there and they just looked like they were drooling. Tomorrow, I think our 'Tutoren' and 'Mentoren' (the students who lead our little groups around and help us do all these important things) are taking us on a Kneipetour (Kneipe = bar), because Thursday is the best night for students. Tuesdays are second-best.

Sunday we go to Basel, Switzerland, because the fine art museum is free the first Sunday of the month. Monday, intensive German classes start.

I don't know what I think yet. I'm content. But I'm trying not to think ahead too much—it would be too daunting. At least for now, I'm taking it day by day.