Thursday, June 29, 2006

Not World Cup Related

Ah, Deutschland...

There is so much to say, so many little things, so many observations, thoughts, and occurences, but it's difficult getting them all down at once.

What I have been doing:

I went to the Bodensee on Monday and Tuesday, and I had a really great time. The Bodensee borders Austria, Switzerland, and Germany, and tons of small, quaint towns surround it. What I continue to adore about Europe is the towns and all of the small shops that you can find. I also love the many fruit and vegetable stands, the multitude of delicious bakeries, and how everything is so close.
Sophia and I visited Marie, who hails from Quebec City, and who is currently working in Immenstaad, a beautiful small town on the Bodensee. It was great seeing her again. The three of us walked through towns all afternoon and then eventually made it to Meersburg. We had a delightful supper of smoked fish and an apple wine (which I enjoyed in an old man glass). I also found some cinnamon ice cream, which was beyond yummy, and which I scarfed down in no time. We finished the night off back in Immenstaad, at the pub where apparently all the young people go, over a Wein Schorle, watching the soccer game between Ukraine and Switzerland. We talked, laughed, and basically did the whole "be merry" thing justice.
The next day, Marie had to work, so Sophia and I headed to Konstanz, a beautiful town very close to Switzerland. We biked to Meersburg then took the ferry from Meersburg to Konstanz, our bikes in tow. We explored the city a little, but once we stumbled upon the lavish church, it was hard to really see much more. We spent quite a bit of time in the old church, and I took quite a few pictures. We then wandered around the streets for a bit, poked our heads into some funky shops, bought a pretzel, and then it was time to head back. The Bodensee is really very beautiful, and I would recommend it to anyone for a summer place to vacation or visit.

We spoke French the entire weekend, as Marie is francophone, and Sophia grew up with both languages. It was so strange speaking French, considering the last month, I have been training myself to think, react, and talk in German. Suddenly, pulling out this language again caused a whirlwind of three languages in my head, and now I have to wonder how Mom does it so (seemingly) effortlessly.

What I have been thinking:

Ah, the people, the people... it is strange the way people party here. When I was at the big Rosshaupten's 800th anniversary concert, it seemed like no one was really letting go. Everyone seemed stiff, and it seemed like they were constantly aware of how they were being perceived by others. When I was talking to the Peru guy who works at the cafe with the piano, he also said that he felt that Germans could be very cold and not really the party type. I can almost agree. Even the way the people danced at the concert was strange. The dancing reminded me a lot of dancing that you see in movies of the 70s and 80s, except without the girls shrieking. Their dancing was more of a funny sway.

Kathleen, a 20-year old girl whom I work with, asked me a while ago whether or not I had a boyfriend. After telling her so and talking a bit, I asked her whether or not she had a boyfriend. She said yes, his name was Matthias, and she had met him in a bar. She said this very offhandedly in an uninterested voice. I thought she was going to elaborate, but she said that there wasn't much more to say. When I asked her why she seemed so uninterested in talking about him, she just said, "Oh, well, my other boyfriend was a lot better."


It only makes sense to me that one improves with relationships as time goes on. Usually, all previous relationships were not as good as the next ones. You tend to improve over time, since you realize what works and what doesn't, and what kind of person really fits you. Why would you even be with that person if you think that the boyfriend before was better? Wouldn't you aim to find someone even better?

When I asked her what happened to the alleged "better boyfriend", she kind of smirked shyly and said that she had cheated on him, so he dumped her.

Well then.

On a completely different note, it seems as though our hotel is not mainly for old, rich people. Our old, rich people season is coming to an end. We've been having a lot of families and younger couples (but still not many in their twenties). Apparently, there really is an old people season -- springtime tends to be the time that retired people come, and usually when summer hits, the young families come out (only on weekends for now, until the kids get off school, which is later here).

Word of the summer: Random

Sophia, Heather, and I have decided that this word describes perfectly our summer in Germany.
Shops seem to close whenever they feel like it.
There are always random holidays.
Sometimes you should tip, and sometimes you shouldn't.
The bus after 6 pm doesn't come unless you call for it an hour before.
No one here ever seems to know what days they have off (I'm the exception, fortunately).
The bus fares will change.
Sometimes you can ride trains or ferries for free (no one checks), sometimes you can't.

And there are many more little, strange things that don't seem to have a pattern or an order to it. Thank goodness that the trains are one thing that seem to stick to a schedule. Too bad that I have decided to give up my watch for... forever.

One last remark for today -- it is impossible to really "get away" in Germany. Everywhere you look, there are people and houses. Sure, I live in the country, and it's not like it is busy and bustling with people all the time, but anywhere in nature that you go, you are bound to come across other people. Whether you are hiking, swimming, walking in the forest, you are not alone. On the flip side, you can go to so many places in Canada and really be the only one there. Northern BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, and the territories -- you can always be alone there. You can look around you, and you will see no one, absolutely no sign of anyone. That is impossible here. Everywhere you look, there is some evidence of humans. So, what is better? Being able to virtually walk and bike everywhere and have everything within reach or being able to really get away from everything? Or rather, always having people around you or having to drive two hours just to get a glance of civilization?

Ah, Canada...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Quite Random Remarks

There is chocolate cereal here. Now, I know you are thinking of Cocoa Puffs but don't -- this stuff is nothing like that and is referred to as Chocolate Muesli, and goodness gracious, is it ever delicious. It has different sized flakes (like Muesli cereal) which are a golden and chocolate colour, and then -- here's the kicker -- there are actually thin, little pieces of chocolate floating around! For the first week, I was eating this cereal, all the while thinking to myself how amazing it was, before it really occurred to me that it was chocolate. Actually, I didn't know what it was until I asked someone, and they told me it was Chocolate Muesli. You can imagine my elation.

Shops here close for lunch. Nearly all stores close from noon until 2 pm. So, instead of stores working around your schedule, you must work around the shop's schedule. Labour laws here are stricter and much more in effect than in Canada. People also work less days, as there are more holidays and less long hours. A good thing? For you to decide.

The hotel I am working at just finished its renovations, so there are now nearly double the amount of rooms. They are getting another girl from Rosshaupten on July 1st, so everyone is holding their breath for that. We've been working very hard since the opening, but now we are getting a breather. Although, I really can't complain about last week, since Trink Geld (tips) was in slight abundance in the rooms, as well as a bar of chocolate.

Sophia, Heather, and I hitchhiked to Austria on Monday. Sophia and Heather are both in the area; Heather lives in Füssen and works in a restaurant in a nearby village. We were biking, and the idea of hitchhiking to the nearest Austrian town suddenly popped into my head. I yelled out "Stop!" to tell the other two behind me to stop, so as we don't crash into each other. We stopped, and I told them about my idea. They thought it a little outlandish, but we decided to give it a go. We locked up our bikes against a nearby tree (just off the bike path), and we walked to the side of the road. We were all nervous but excited. I said I didn't want to stick out my thumb. They said that they had no problem doing that, as long as I did all the talking to the driver. I said that I had no problem doing that. After all, I am beginning to feel much more comfortable speaking in German.
We were surprised that after fifteen minutes, we were still waiting for a ride. Shouldn't it be easy for three attractive girls to get a ride? However, we did see a lot of full cars, and it's more difficult to pick out three people instead of just one or two.
Just as we were beginning to lose hope, a man in a shiny black Mercedes stopped. He looked like a business man, and the inside of his car was all fancy and covered in leather. He even had an auto-map thing installed in his car! We were all very impressed. He first thought we were from London, but then I explained that we were Canadians, working in Germany for the summer and wanting to see the area. I told him how much we loved the beautiful, Alps-filled area here.
Reutte, the town that he brought us to in Austria, isn't, in my opinon, as pretty and quaint as Füssen, but it looked like it was ladened with breathtaking hiking trails. We walked around the town, visited shops, and we vowed we would be back on a cooler day for the hiking. We then bought ice cream, which induced nearly an hour of silly laughs and giggles. We hitchhiked back in a cool car (don't know the make) with two guys playing loud music. It was a great day.

Something we did learn was that chicks, as we have been calling them, due to Sophia's influence, never even look twice at hitchhikers, and we doubt we will never be picked up by one of them.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

An evening ritual

Standing behind the bar at the hotel, filling up drinks or drying glasses, gives me a clear view of the seated guests. The smoking area are the tables and chairs nearest to the bar and kitchen, and the non-smoking area is done in a terrasse-style, full of windows and colourful seats behind the smoking area. So, basically, you can see most of the guests, except for the ones who have reserved eons ago to sit in the large-group/party area, situated cosily away from everything.

Many of the guests here are elderly: usually retired with a good chunk of money. I've noticed a pattern with many of the elderly couples who come in and eat. Both of them will enter the door at the right of the bar, the woman always in the lead, the man always trailing behind. She will smile and say to me "Good evening", "Hello", "Good morning" or whatever it may be, and he will grunt a semi-understandable greeting.

The couple will find a table, with the woman fussing, and then they will sit down. The woman will try in vain to engage her husband (presumably) into conversation. He will maybe grunt a little. After about five minutes of this mainly one-sided conversation, they will sit in silence. He will stare out of the window at the beautiful Alps, and she will look around the restaurant for someone else to talk to. Often, the woman who owns the hotel, Frau Kaufmann, will come and talk to her, or sometimes I even will. Of course, I always make sure that people know that I am Canadian or at least a non-German speaker when I talk to them, so at least I have an excuse for my terrible grammar and poor vocabulary.

After the couple has finished drinking and eating dessert, the man will definitely not talk (he usually orders a massive dessert, so he is probably half asleep), and the woman will be wide-awake, looking at him, looking at the empty plate, looking around the restaurant. But, at this point, she doesn't look as perky as she did when she first came in -- she looks more concerned, or looks as though she were thinking about doing something drastic. Finally, her and her husband will mutter something to each other, and then they will both get up (again, with her leading). The concerned look that she had a minute ago will now have completely vanished, and she will smile broadly and wish you a good night. The man will usually also smile and also wish you a good night (but in a gruntier tone). Then, they will leave.

And I assure you that this pattern has been repeated with quite a few other couples! The woman will always try to start conversation, she will always lead conversations with her hubsand, and her husband will always just tag along, in a grunting tone. Quite peculiar.

The other night, however, we had a bit of a different crowd -- a few young teens with their parents and a few younger couples. We also had two couples from Massachussetts! Every time I hear English or French (which is so very rare here), I get extremely excited, and I naturally engage myself in conversation with them.
Strangely enough, I get just as excited when I hear German back home!

Friday, June 02, 2006

The weather, oh the weather

I remember talking to Andrea a few weeks ago about having snow in May. I said I don't remember that ever happening in my lifetime, but she was pretty sure there had been some at some time. So, we talked to her mother, and her mother remembered distinctly a Mother's Day, sometime in the early nineties, in which we had a bit of snow. I decided to believe it.

Well. Now, I have been honoured enough to witness snow in June! Yes, here in Rosshaupten, Germany, we had snow. Yesterday, June 1st. I was so shocked when I peered out of the window and white specks of oh-yes-I-hate-you-so-much-because-you-are-here-in-freakin'-June. Now, I know this is very hard to believe, considering that the Ottawa area has been having thirty plus degree weather, but I assure you, I would never make up this atrocity. And the strangest part about it is that everyone here thinks that I am used to this kind of weather.
"Well yes, but not in June!" I answer emphatically.

Then they ask, "How hot is it in Canada now?"

I specify (because I think they often forget the size and the vast geography of Canada) by saying, "In my area, it is around thirty degrees right now."

And then they go on to say how much they wish that it was like that here and, of course, are shocked that it actually gets that warm in Canada. The best part about hot weather here is that there is no humidity. When it is 30 degrees, it is a lovely dry heat, and you always have the nearby lake and the breeze to cool you off. They tell me that the normal temperature for this time is mid to high twenties. I have a hard time believing this.

In other news, I thought you should all know that I am eating like a King here.
The hotel is quite high-class, and the food is really fancy. And I get it all for free! Now, most people would take advantage of the fact that you can have free alcohol pretty much any time you want, but I have decided to go crazy on the tasty orange soft drink, Fanta, instead.

Today, we have a big weather improvement with a high of 10 degrees Celsius.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Much Resented Nap

Reading Tex's post about imagining his bed was a space craft in his precious youth reminded me of my own days of childhood yore, in which I would imagine that our gym mats were special designed aircrafts.

Let me rewind back to grade 3 gym class. Some strange (new-age?) bozo had waltzed into our tiny school and sold the teachers on the idea of a "Relaxation" session for the kids. Apparently, it was supposed to calm the ever hyperactive children. The worst part about this stupid "Relaxation" session was that it replaced one of our gym classes that we had three times a week. We were all very disappointed and would inevitably groan when the teacher mentioned that dreaded "R" word.

So, we started doing the "Relaxation". I was even more disappointed to find out that we would lie for half an hour on hard gym mats and only allowed to have a mini towel under our neck (how I longed for a pillow!) and a normal beach towel covering us. Also, we were forbidden to lie on our sides; we had to lie on our backs, and we weren't even allowed resting our hands on our stomach! The whole ordeal was extremely uncomfortable, especially for an eight year old.

So, we all had to lie on our backs, two of us per mat. I remember always being beside a boy with cooties whom I didn't particularly like, which made the half hour all the more unwanted. As soon as we were all settled into our stupid towels on the hard mat, it was time for the "soothing" tape to begin. Now, this tape had nothing to do with the word "soothing" at all, and after hearing the same man with the dreamy voice say the same things every single week, well, I soon grew tired of it. I hated how I was being told to relax my left foot, and then the right, and then move on to relaxing my torso, and so on. I hated how I was being told to empty my brain and to think of nothing else but my breathing.

After doing the "Relaxation" for a couple of weeks, I developed an intense hatred towards everything to do with the dreaded half hour: the fact that I couldn't move positions, that I couldn't lie comfortably with a blanket and a pillow, and the fact that I had to hear this stupid guy rant on and on in this whispery voice that I had begun to hate. So, everytime he said to relax the left leg, for instance, I would start moving it, but just a little bit and not too crazily, so as not to bring about too much attention. Everytime the tape guy said to clear your mind, I would try to think of as many things as I possibly could. Man, I was bad. I felt I was really rebelling. Well, rebelling as much one could as an angelic little third grader.

I had all sorts of evil thoughts: one of them was replacing the "Relaxation" tape with a mixed tape of loud rock music. I imagined what my teacher's horrified expression would look like upon hearing the shake yer booty music. I even imagined choegraphing a dance with the entire class, in which we would stand up, chuck the mats to the side, and flee out of the gym door, obnoxiously yelling and screeching.

Another entertaining thought of mine was imagining what it would be like if our gym mats could fly. With just one push of a button or one turn of a lever, our gym mats would become fast flying crafts, in which we could just jet out of the gym, leaving behind a shocked and bewildered teacher. We would fly out of the gym doors, fly up into the sky, and have parties on our mats. Thinking of this always made me smile.

Good thing that this "Relaxation" craze soon enough died out. Maybe it was because kids were pretending to fall asleep, and then they wouldn't have to go to class until they woke up. I was angry at those kids, but at the same time, I envied them and thought about pulling the "sleep trick" myself one day. Needless to say, I never did.