Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Summer According to Beer Festivals: Berg

As I am being incredibly lame tonight and skipping the penultimate night of Forchheim's big beer festival Annafest, I realized I haven't yet posted about the beer festival that opened the summer season.* 

The Bergkirchweih, more commonly known as just Berg, is an annual beer festival in the city of Erlangen. The festival takes place on their little Berg (the German word for mountain or hill, and in the case of Erlangen, it's definitely just a hill), where Erlangen houses many beer kellers, just like those of the Kellerwald in Forchheim (except not nearly as awesome... obviously). We had heard many rumors of this big festival all the way back in the fall, when some locals said described it as "a better Oktoberfest just for Germans," so when the season approached, we were all looking forward to attending. 

Having been to Oktoberfest [rather begrudgingly] twice, I had a good basis for comparison. And I would have to concur. Berg was much more intimate (well, anything less than 5 million tourist in a 3 week period would seem intimate by comparison) and, on the whole, had a much more authentic traditional feel. 

We went for our first of two visits to Berg as a farewell to Franken party the night before Andy headed back to the states.  I don't know if it was just the amazing atmosphere of Berg, or the fact that we had the whole gang (minus one) together for the last time, or maybe some magical combination of the two, but that night quickly became one of the most memorable and most fun nights of my entire Fulbright experience. 

The second visit was about a week later and this time it was just Gemma and I. We were both a little apprehensive as we knew how awesome the last time was and feared there was no way a second visit could live up to its glory. But between rating our favorite styles of Lederhosen and Dirndls that passed by and meeting some fun new German friends for the evening, we ended up with a second night of hilariously unforgettable memories. 

Overall, the Bergkirchweih gets the Emily Beer Festival Seal of Approval (obviously a very prestigious achievement). A definite must-do for those living in the Franken region or German beer festival enthusiasts. 

*Summer season according to the US student, thereby starting at the end of May. Definitely not according to the country of Germany, where I'm still not entirely convinced summer has even started and it's the end of July.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Things I Forgot I Missed, part 3

Remember all those times that I said the weather in Germany isn't as depressing as people say it is? Well, I'm not quite ready to swallow my words yet, but even after a few days of under the Georgia sun, I realized how much Vitamin D I was missing in my life (or was it UV rays?).

I still maintain that the German weather is not nearly as horrific as people would lead you to believe, however, I didn't realize what little effect that harmless German sun had on me after being conditioned under the brutal Georgia sun for almost 15 years. Sure I got to wear my sunglasses and I even bought some sunscreen, but all that was child's play, really, after I saw the tan* I got in my first weekend of laying by the pool back home. 

I know that when you live there, the heat and humidity of the Georgia summer (read: April through September) can feel unbearable and over the top. In fact, it doesn't really matter where you come from, the heat and humidity of the Georgia summer is unbearable and over the top. But after battling through a June with highs in the 50s and [maybe] 10 full days of sun, I gladly welcomed 3 weeks of sweating just from standing outside and the need to reapply 50 spf sunscreen every hour. 

And, of course, even the worst summer day in Georgia can be made tolerable when hanging out with these two beach bunnies, who fight the harsh conditions with some sweet swim shirts and a good ol' fashion bucket hat. 

*in the world of a ginger, tan just means that I've gotten so many freckles they're starting to grow together. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Things I Forgot I Missed, part 2

I've never been much of a TV watcher (well, except for the few shows that I watch religiously online, but then again, if I'm watching on my laptop, that's not technically TV, is it?). However, I did have a select few favorite stations when the opportunity presented itself - the top three being History Channel, Bravo, and Discovery Channel. In that order. 

When I returned home it happened to be 4th of July weekend, which meant we had some company in town. And when we have company in town, we always seem to roughly follow the same daily schedule: Wake up, eat breakfast, watch some TV while we digest, swim, eat lunch, swim, play cards, eat dinner, play cards, watch TV. So I did my fair share of TV-watching already within the first few days of my arrival, and it didn't take long for me to suddenly realize just how much I missed the History Channel
Sure, the constant documentaries on the end of times and apparent affinity for weaponry in WWII can be a bit much. And maybe the no-name "professionals" lacking a legitimate background in their supposed field offer, at best, questionable commentary. But it's still very informative (mostly).  What can I say, I'm a sucker for a good documentary (as in, if anyone needs to get me a "happy August" present, I would gladly accept "How the States Got Their Shapes" on dvd). 
Of course, by the end of the visit, I had added a whole lot of trashy reality (Real Housewives of New York and Big Rich Texas, to name a couple), but we won't go into that.

All in all, being home made me realize how much better TV is in the US than in Germany (sorry Germany, but you had to see that one coming by the fact that all your TV shows are American sitcoms dubbed in German, anyway. Oh and your very concerning taste in sitcoms).  I mean really - inaccurate and over-dramatized documentaries followed by plotless reality TV that makes you question the very necessity of the human race on Earth - does it get any better than that? 

Maybe one day (probably tomorrow) I'll forget just how awesome TV back home is, but I'll never stop missing the way it just sucked hours out of my life. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Clashing of Worlds

Sometimes in a person's life, when they've established a really good group of friends in one place - say at college - then they move far, far away, we'll say to Germany (I'm just spitballing here), and make some friends there, it is a really strange sensation when there is any cross-over between college friends and Germany friends (again, these are all hypothetical situations, I mean, it doesn't have to be Germany, it could be between college friends and, I don't know, friends from Switzerland or something equally as crazy). I call this phenomenon the Clashing of Worlds (dramatic, yet appropriate). 
Most people experience the Clash (for short) when their high school friends meet their college friends*. My first encounter of the Clash was when I moved to Switzerland. It started when a few of my friends from home visited me in my new-formed Swiss life and met my new not-Swiss-but-met-in-Switzerland friends. Then again when a couple of my not-Swiss-but-met-in-Switzerland friends visited me in Georgia and saw me in my "natural habitat."

The most recent Clash for me happened less than 2 weeks ago when Andy (you know, of Franken!) came to visit me in Athens. He is spending the summer working in South Carolina, so we made the deal as soon as we knew we'd both be in the south east this summer that we would get together. But finally actually having him in Athens was just such an odd feeling. 

First, it felt incredibly right, because our entire friendship thus far had been built as two displaced Americans making it in Germany. And suddenly here we were in our own country. It was kind of like re-Americanization for a friendship. 

Then it felt a little bit weird, because I am in my ETA and Famous element when I'm around Franken (tpntr) - especially around Andy - and when we went out (I took him to my favorite bar in Athens - Trappeze, of course) we didn't get a single "we're famous" stare. WEIRD. 

But then it just felt right again, because it was so much fun to see him. I introduced him to Georgia micro-brews and he introduced me to Geocaching (omg, so much fun, check it out if you've never seen it. I felt like I was totally hunting horcruxes, for all you Harry Potter fans). And, of course, we got some quality pool time in! 
Even though we had less than 24 hours, it was great to see him and I was so excited to give him a little insight into why I am the way I am (let's face it, Watkinsville/Athens is to blame for a lot of me). 

*This didn't really happen for me because I went to college about 10 miles from where I went to high school and about 90% of my friends did to, and we were all in band so then we all got mixed in with the same new college people and my high school friends were part of my college friends and, yeah, it was never really weird

Monday, July 18, 2011

Things I Forgot I Missed, part 1

Over the course of my visit home, I've realized there are certain amenities or little treats of the American life-style that just don't exist (or don't exist to the same extent) in Germany. I'm calling these "things I forgot I missed" because they are things that are not necessarily noticeable when they're not there at all. They might be things I just didn't really need in Germany, but have since been reminded what an added pleasure they can be to everyday life. 

This first one has a lot more to do with the general different climates between Georgia and Germany, which has made it something missed less for the simple fact that it is needed less...

Oh, sweet breeze of AC sweeping through my room as I write this. How did I ever survive without you? Oh right, because in Germany it wasn't 90º+ (that's 32º+ for my European friends) by 10am everyday. I've forgotten the chilled rush of comfort you can get from walking into a building after powering through the scorching outside conditions afforded by the single push of a button (at least that's all I can contribute to making the AC work). Instead, in Germany, on the days it was hot (we're talking mid-80ºs at the heat of the day), after riding my bike up the hill that leads to my apartment and passing the landlord's pool without being able to just jump in, I'm greeted inside by an air that sometimes hotter and definitely stiller than the outside. It's all I can do to stop from tearing off my clothes and hanging out my window. Oh wait, that IS my solution. But really, unless I come in already sweaty and hot, I don't think it ever gets noticeably unbearable without the comforts of AC in Germany. Georgia, on the other hand would be a straight up death sentence come 3pm when we've hit the standard summer triple digits (that's 37º, Germany).

Hopefully this trip home won't have spoiled me too much and I can continue being blissfully unaware of the comfort and pleasure I'm missing out on when I head back to Germany. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

I AMsterdam, in 20 hours or less

When I booked my flight home for the summer, I knew I had to connect through Amsterdam. The original connection would have been getting in at 9:30pm and leaving again at 10am. Just long enough to sleep. So I decided, instead of a 12 hour overnight layover, I would go for the evening flight and make it a full 20 hours.

So for my one day in Amsterdam, I decided to take a New Europe tour. For those of you who have never heard of New Europe tours, they are these awesome tours offered in just about every major city in Europe. They have lots of different kinds - the normal options (bike tours and pub crawls) and some tailored specifically to what the city offers (Coffee shop tours and Red Light District tours in Amsterdam). But the staple tours they always offer (Which happens to be my personal favorite... for obvious reasons) are free walking tours. Usually when the word "free" is in the title you don't expect the best quality, but these tours are 3 hours of interesting historical and current facts about the city. Basically, it's a walk around seeing all the big sites from the outside, hearing about them, but never actually going in. Perfect for short trips because you can fit everything 
in 3 hours. Perfect for long trips because it's a great starting point to get to know all the big sites and where they are. And did I mention it's free

After the tour ended, however, I literally ran to the train station to get to the airport. And the rest, as they say, is history

Friday, July 8, 2011


I've only been back in Georgia for a week, and already I feel myself starting the process of re-Americanization (We're going to pretend that's a real word with a real meaning...). 

Re-Americanization is the process by which a person displaced from the USA for an extended length of time, upon returning to the homeland, reacquires old habits, customs and cultural idiosyncrasies. And since I've spent 22 years of my 24 in the US, the re-Americanization process set in quite quickly after my re-entry last  Friday. 

So here is a quick list of some recent behavior that has made me feel a little bit more American after 10 months of living in Germany:

1. I exercised my legal right to vote. I mean, it doesn't get much more American than that does it? Taking part in that time-old tradition we call democracy. And because this is the land of the free, you get an awesome sticker displaying your active participation in such patriotic duties. 
2. I text. A lot. I don't know if this is so much a Germany vs. America thing, as much as it is a 19 cents per text vs. unlimited text messaging thing, or maybe it has to do with the simple fact that I actually have people to text here. But, regardless, functioning without texting for the past week would have been very difficult! Especially when my parents text me from downstairs to see if I'm awake. 

3. I watch TV in bed. Now, granted, I watch a lot of TV shows (read: How I Met Your Mother) and movies on my computer in bed in Germany, but here in the US of A I have a real-live TV conveniently located 3 feet away from my bed. And it's not only my bedroom. But out of the 9 different rooms we have in my house, I could watch TV in 7 of them. If that's not a point for team USA, I don't know what is. 

4. I make small talk with the people at the bank. In Germany when I have to interact with people at the bank, it's generally very cut and dry: "Here are some numbers. I need money, I have an account. Thanks, bye." But in the US when you go to the bank, the man behind the counter asks how your week was, feigns interest in your plans for the coming weekend and discusses the pronunciation of your last name. And despite this unnecessary ritual adding a good 90 seconds to my bank visit, I quite enjoyed our  shared pretend interest. 

5. I drive! Ah, I've missed driving. And, as is the American way, I've gotten to drive a lot and everywhere in the past week! Now, for things like going to Athens which is too far to bike and lacks appropriate public transportation, it really is just unavoidable, but that car gets me anywhere, even if it is just to the store that is closer than the distance I would walk to school in Germany. I mean, I could bike, but who wants to show up everywhere covered in sweat. and my bike is currently hanging upside down from the garage ceiling. The car is just sitting there, asking me to drive it...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy birthday, Murika!

Well, internet people, I made it back to my beloved homeland in one piece and have been enjoying this, the 235 anniversary of our country, the American way - with hotdogs and hamburgers, of course!
All in all, my flight back went swimmingly. But the best part of my 2 day trip came at the very end. After the 3 hour train ride to Munich (during which I lost my German phone). After the 20 hour lay over in Amsterdam (more on that later). After the 9 hour transatlantic flight. And especially after the 2 hours it took to get through the ridiculous process that is customs at the Atlanta airport. The best part was waiting for me at the top of the stairs heading to baggage claim. 
But first let's back up.
See, the whole week leading up to my arrival, while arranging the pick up with my mom she kept saying things like "well, I'll be there, your dad might come, but I'll definitely be there." or "We'll probably come in to meet you." And if you know my mom at all, these reactions came as a bit of a shock in place of the expected "I'm sending your dad, I'll see you when you get back" or "we're just going to pull around outside, come out when you've got your stuff." I even told Gemma, by these responses, it sounded like my mom really missed me! 

So on Friday night around 10pm (you know, only 2 hours after landing) when I reached the top of the escalator to the arrivals hall, I didn't find my parents, but a group of very familiar voices and signs both exclaiming things like "Welcome home, Emily!" and "Go America!" A group of my friends had gathered at the airport for my pick up, to my complete surprise! Suddenly my mom's unusual affection made sense - she was just covering for them. It was very exciting to have an entire welcome crew :) 
So this whole time I was thinking there was no way this return could live up to Christmas when I surprised my parents, but this time, it was me who got the surprise! 
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