Happy Trees

It's supposed to snow in Freiburg tomorrow or Friday, I forget which. The month ends tomorrow (tomorrow is Friday in this context...). I feel like Maraia just pointed out to me that we'd been here eight weeks, but the ninth week is already over half done.
Classes are a lot of reading, which is a lot of work. There's also a lot to do, and a lot of traveling across the city. Tonight I decided to be social despite not sleeping enough last night, and then managed to miss the Straßenbahn by like a minute and therefore arrived home much later than I had planned. For some reason, now I'm updating this instead of reading/reviewing vocab/packing—tomorrow, after a four-hour block of class, I'm traveling to Aschaffenburg, where my aunt lives.
For now, I just wanted to reassert my existence and put up a few of my fall-y pictures from my trip from however many weeks ago, to remind the world that it's a little early for snow. Especially since my winter coat is with my aunt and I've been so cold! Life is good, but way too busy right now.
Photos: 1. View out the train over the Rhine in the Rhineland. I love trains.
2. In Köln.
3 & 4. In Bruges/Brugge, Belgium

Wahlkampf = Election Campaign

It's a good word.

Wahl = choice, or vote, or election.

Kampf = struggle, fight, combat

very worried = me

I just learned that my ballot hasn't reached Michigan yet.

Hausaufgabe = Homework

The Wintersemester (auf Deutsch, one word and pronounced like a 'v' of course) started on Monday. I'm not particularly confident about my class choices—decisions are hard, especially without tangible goals like careers or fulfilling a major with picky requirements—but I'm interested in the topics of all of my classes. Or at least am convinced of their usefulness (learning how to write German academicky things with proper grammar is practical, if boring). Mostly I'm with other AYF kids, which sounds extremely lame and is the main reason I'm indecisive about my schedule. No offense to them, but studying at a German university implies studying in German university classes with German students. Someone tell me I'm not lame, please! I'm learning how to succeed in a German university! Next semester I'll take so many real uni classes!

German students are terrifying. They have clear visions of what they want out of a class and are glad to tell the teacher that the syllabus is stupid and should instead cover this, this, this, and this. They protest when the teacher says the class is too big and some students have to leave. They take a vote, and the students win. They also make jokes about faculty members or other stuff I can't understand because they have all sorts of accents and speak so quickly. They make jokes and laugh loudly until the teacher has to shout above them. And they all already know each other.

I spent the day in my room. I ate, I bought groceries, I ate, I cooked, I ate, I read about the founding of the German empire under the leadership of Prussia. So far, two pages. My coursepack is labelled a 'course reader.' Where is the German??? It's also missing the third page, which has really held me up. How can I go on when I don't know the end of the sentence?!

In German, the Crimean War is der Krimkrieg [cream-kreeg]. I think it sounds cute. I barely even know what the Crimean War was.


The past eight days were incredible. I can't really comprehend that the trip took a specific amount of time, though, or that now I'm in Freiburg but yesterday I was in Belgium and once upon a time seven weeks ago my best friends were more than words on a screen (and occasional goofy Photo Booth pictures). This is the first real trip I've planned (with Maraia, natürlich), and it's almost as long as my trip to Munich was back in February. It was a vacation—between the half-vacation of taking German class in Europe and the beginning of the semester on Monday. But in some ways it was hard to think of it as a break from the ordinary and not just the next ordinary phase of my precarious European existence.

Having Freiburg as home base is hard to grasp. It's home, at least in the context of Europe, and I was content to be coming home to my computer and a foreign language that I understand. But I wasn't impatient like I usually am. Once a trip is over and we're heading back, usually all I want is to be home. Part of it is that plane rides and car rides and especially driving yourself are tedious and quickly uncomfortable. Train rides, on the other hand, are comfortable and still contain some novelty for me.

The bigger reason is that I didn't feel any need to go 'home.' Hanging out in bars or the hostel at night or on trains and in train stations leaves a lot of time for conversation. I spent 14.5 hours traveling yesterday, and our group talked talked talked. As we sat on our seventh and final train of the journey, waiting for it to leave the station, we started to talk about which physical possessions would hurt the most to lose, and ended up talking about what made home for us and where we would try to make our homes in the future.

Some people's home is in a specific location, with the people who belong there. Some people are used to moving and are connected to the people, not the place. I lived in the same house for over twelve years, although I count freshman year of college in that. That year, I'm not sure I knew where home was. But since then, home has been in Ann Arbor with my friends, in East Quad and then our house.

Ginny, Jeff, and Andrew met the rest of us in Bruges. Ginny and Andrew both said that they felt more at home in Bruges with us than they had in the Netherlands with old friends or actually in Freiburg but without us. Today I realized that was the reason I didn't look forward to returning to Freiburg. The important part of Freiburg was with me, and closer on the trip than when we're in our dorms, spread around the city. All that I wanted from home was my computer, and my connection with the world outside of Germany.

I guess by the time we were off the last train and waiting for the S-Bahn to take us home, I was looking forward to my bed as well. And now it's 3 am in Germany and I miss my bed. Distance is tricky—it's only four feet away but it feels impossibly far.

Knulp = der Landstreicher = Me?

Maybe you've been following my blog these past few weeks, or even months. Maybe you randomly clicked the link on Facebook while you were stalking me. Either way, odds are you don't know what der Landstreicher means. According to my Langenscheidts Wörterbuch (wordsbook—>dictionary), ein Landstreicher is a tramp or a hobo. According to LEO, it can also mean vagabond, vagrant, yegg, landloper, or rolling stone. (And rolling stone comes with a female equivalent, die Landstreicherin...maybe I should go for that.)

First, I would like to point out that landloper is very old, and very Dutch. It doesn't even come up on Merriam-Webster.com unless you have a paid account. But I guess that's okay. It means literally land walker, or a wanderer, vagrant, or adventurer. More questionable is yegg. Like seriously, what? A yegg is a safe cracker or a robber. Have you ever heard or seen that word before?

I am certainly not a yegg. (Hahaha.) Or a vagabond, vagrant, or hobo. Nor a tramp, in any sense of the word. I do, however, walk on land—who would have thought—and hope to consider myself an adventurer soon. There are so many places I want to visit, and also many I'd like to try living in, so it seems like a fitting title. I originally learned it with only the definitions tramp and hobo. I was trying to read Knulp, by Hermann Hesse, and after getting sick of constantly stopping to look up words, I tried a few pages without a dictionary. Then I got frustrated with not understanding all the words and I gave up. But the word Landstreicher really bothered me, because I thought I should have known it, but I didn't.

The word I had been thinking of was Anstreicher, which means house painter. Or in the context of what we read for class, the person painting the world with propaganda, aka Hitler. But when I looked up Landstreicher and read tramp, hobo I laughed to myself, because hobo makes me think of bum (even though they're not the same thing) and I call myself a lazy bum all the time. Later, when I was trying to come up with a German title for this blog, I remembered Landstreicher and decided it was good, at least for the time being.

Later on, I looked into Knulp and the word more, and decided that if I was going to use it as my title, I needed to know what I was alluding to. Plus Knulp takes place in the Black Forest, which is where I was headed, so with four days left in Ann Arbor, I checked it out of the library and read it—in English, because the German version would have required making a request and four times as much time. Knulp a novella made up of three stories about Knulp, der Landstreicher, from different phases of his life. The translation I read used tramp every time. I know this is long, but this the word's first occurence in the book, in a passage explaining Knulp's carefree, restless existence.

"Keeping his roadbook in order was indeed one of Knulp’s hobbies. In its dazzling perfection, his roadbook was a delightful fiction, a poem. Each of the officially accredited entries bore witness to a glorious station in an honest, laborious life. The only seemingly discordant feature was his restlessness, attested by frequent changes of residence. The life certified by this official passport was a product of Knulp’s invention, and with infinite art he spun out the fragile thread of this pseudo-career. In reality, though he did little that was expressly prohibited, he carried on the illegal and disdainful existence of a tramp. Of course, he would hardly have been so unmolested in his lovely fiction if the police had not been well disposed toward him. They respected the cheerful, entertaining young fellow for his superior intelligence and occasional earnestness, and as far as possible left him alone. He had seldom been arrested and never convicted of theft or mendicancy, and he had highly respected friends everywhere. Consequently, he was indulged by the authorities very much as a nice-looking cat is indulged in a household, and left free to carry on an untroubled, elegant, splendidly aristocratic and idle existence." (p. 9)

I recommend it. And I also would like to enjoy the untroubled, idle existence of a nice-looking cat.

Heading North

I wanted to write about Heidelberg, where I was last Saturday, but I haven't put the pictures up yet. I wanted to write about the excitement of how many options I have—travel destinations, classes...life. But it's 2 am in Germany and I have to be on a train before 8 am which means I have to be on the S-Bahn at 7:15 am which means I am going to be very, very tired.

Hopefully this all doesn't mean I'm going to get sick during my week of travel. Köln/Cologne for three nights, Aachen for a day, and then Bruges/Brugge (French/Dutch, and really it should be Dutch because it's in Flanders and they don't like French)...for four nights. I am so awake right now. Tomorrow I am going to be so tired. We're taking regional trains to Köln because they're a lot cheaper, but that means lots of connections and a long layover and an eight-hour trip. BUT!—

I'm going to the burial place of Charlemagne and the oldest major city in Germany and hopefully seeing old Roman stuff and then going to Belgium, a country I have never been to before.

The articles on the NYTimes talk about how Bruges stopped being important during the second half of the 15th century, when the river that connected it to the sea silted up. And since then, it has slept...until the first half of the 20th century, when its great potential for tourism was noticed. (But not until very recently for Americans.) One article said that, like Sleeping Beauty, Bruges awoke unchanged. And that what you notice is not exactly the past, but timelessness.

I guess I'm getting taken in by the Travel section trying to be poetic.

Fall and spring are apparenlty the best times to come, when the tourists aren't there. That article was written in 1986 so who knows if that's still true, but I'm hoping. And I want to follow the advice of another article...wake up early and walk the streets at 4 am, when it's totally empty and could just as easily be the 1400s. The article said that you would think Jan van Eyck was about to turn the corner.

The book I've been reading for the past month and a half (Niccoló Rising by Dorothy Dunnett) takes place primarily in Bruges, at the peak of its mercantile power, under the reign of Duke Philip of Burgundy. I'm halfway through the book, and my mom told me she wished I'd read more of it, so I'd have a better understanding of Bruges. Maybe after eight hours of travel I will have.

I'm setting another post to post sometime next week. I haven't decided when. And maybe I'll post from exciting places. At the very least, I'll be checking my email occasionally.

P.S. I just glanced at the Wikipedia link I put in, and saw the summary of this series. And I think I'm going to need more of them, pronto. He goes to Iceland! I wish flights to Iceland weren't so limited. With the super-low Icelandic Króna, now's the cheapest time to go. New Year's Eve?? In Reykjavik??

I am insatiable. Goodnight!