Friday, September 30, 2011

the 533 step program

In only 533 steps, you can achieve great heights. 515 feet, to be exact.

I would say the Cathedral in Cologne (the Kölner Dom, as the natives would say) is a must see, but it's really more of a can't avoid. It is the largest Gothic church in Europe and boasts the second largest church spires and the largest church facade in the world. 
And it's located about 50 feet from the exit to the main train station...
Like I said, you can't miss it! 

I went to Cologne (Köln to the natives) last weekend with the teacher I'm currently living with.  We only had the afternoon in the city, and the bulk of the time was spent at the cathedral. After a careful inspection of the inside, we decided get a new perspective on things. 

1.50€ later we were on our way up the 533 step spiral staircase that leads right to the top of one of the spires. 

Of course I tried counting steps, but once I got to 33 and said to myself "only 500 more to go!" it got a little depressing and I gave up. The majority of the route is a single spiral staircase, maybe about 2 feet wide. Oh, and did I mention everybody is going up and down the same staircase at the same time?

For someone who's not claustrophobic at all really, being trapped in this never-ending, never-beginning, dizzying whirlwind of steps with no less than 75 others was making even me a little anxious. 
However, between the getting to see the giant church bells (seriously. Respect, Hunchback.) and the view from the top over the whole city and the lovely Rhine River, it was totally worth it.  Just see for yourselves...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

That time it felt like Georgia in Germany

Let's start this one off with some new vocab: Altweibersommer
It means Indian Summer. Or for those of you who had a more politically correct upbringing, it's that time in the fall, after the weather has started cooling off, when it suddenly get's really warm again. 
For the past week (and it's predicted to continue for a few more days, at least!), we've been having unseasonally warm weather up in Dortmund. On top of that, the skies have been crystal clear without a cloud in sight. I can honestly stand outside in the warm September sun, close my eyes, and be transported to Georgia.
Cologne, Germany - September 2011
Fall is, without a doubt, my favorite season in Georgia. There is this sweet spot, starting as early as the end of September and going as late as the end of October, where it stops being 1000 degrees, the humidity decides to take a break, the leaves start changing, and the warmth of the sun is combined perfectly with the cool breeze of the changing seasons. If it were always October in Georgia, I would never miss the other seasons.
Piedmont Park, Atlanta, GA - October 2008
Athens, GA - October 2009
The season is also associated with a lot of great things which always make me look forward to it. The Oconee County Fall Festival (it is not officially fall until I've had some fall festival kettle corn), the endless Saturdays spent tailgating with friends, settling into the routine of school while it's still new and enjoyable (something that is seriously lacking from the never-ending, dragging semester in spring, where the changing weather is a constant reminder that it's almost summer and your still stuck inside studying). Fall is the build-up to one of my favorite holidays: Halloween, and it gives way to my absolute favorite: Thanksgiving. 
All in all, it is the perfect combination of all the good things Georgia has to offer. 

So when I go outside on days like today, when I close my eyes and breath in the crisp autumn air, all I really want is to open my eyes and be in Georgia.
Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta, GA - October 2008
what can I say... Fall makes me feel poetic.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This is my happy face!

This is what I look like when I'm not circling the drain of emotional fatigue and self-loathing that is brought on by searching for a WG in peak season (aka right before the university semester begins).
That's right, everybody - I am no longer homeless!! After 2 months of emailing, 3 weeks of viewing, 18 Besichtigungstermine, 17 noes, and a little shameless self-promotion, someone finally decide I was cool enough to move in! 
the catch: my room is completely unfurnished, but that's nothing some asking around at school, checking out ebay, and trips to Ikea (jag älskar Ikea!) can't easily remedy!
The awesome part: the location is amazing! it is right in the center of town. Literally. It's not like when some people say they live in town but really they live in like reasonable walking distance of town... I live like Ted Mosby's apartment to McAlister's Bar close to downtown. Remember how I said I'd been hanging out at Starbucks a lot, I could be at that Starbucks in like 5 minutes. If I walked slowly. It's so downtown that it's where the put the label for the entire city of Dortmund on Google Maps. That is legit.
I'll have one roommate. and from the 30 minutes I got to meet her last Friday, I'd say she's pretty awesome. 
I won't move in for another week or two, but life is so much happier knowing I won't be eternally homeless. 
*Maybe that's why I had such a hard time finding a place...

Monday, September 26, 2011

something to consider when visiting Germany...

The difference between beer in Nordrhein-Westfalen/Cologne and in Bavaria/Franken:

Need I say more?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

You can't judge a city by its fountains...

But you can totally love way more because of them. Case in point...

That's right ladies and gentlemen, that is a statue of a horn player. But wait, look at the close up. 

Even better, it's a horn player emptying his spit (I mean, really his horn is upside down and just look at the concentration in his face, what else could he possibly be doing?) 

poetic, eh? A horn player empties his spit and thus was born a fountain. I could not think of a more appropriate connection. 

But really, he's called the Bläserbrunnen (the best literal translation I can think of would be the "wind player fountain"... kind of a weird one to translate) and is located in the middle of the Altermarkt (old market) in Dortmund.

Why yes, I also think it's a sign that I belong in this city

Friday, September 23, 2011

Where the cool kids hang out

I seem to remember posting a post very similar to this last year. But what can I say, when you need free wifi, you need free wifi!

And Starbucks is the place to be for free wifi! (it's even more free when you don't buy a drink... not that I've ever done that... a lot)

I've actually been at Starbucks quite a bit in the past week. It's not because I don't have internet at home and am desperately seeking outside sources (nothing the good ol' O2 stick couldn't come out of retirement for), it's just that I'm spending a lot of time in the city killing time between Besichtigungstermine. Since it's a 30 min and 8€ train ride home, it's a little easier to just stay out while I'm here. 

Also, I seemed to have rekindled my love for chai tea lattes! delightful

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This is my sad face

I made the mistake of checking the number of emails in my WG-Gesucht folder in gmail today. And if I wasn't already depressed after 2 weeks of rejection, I definitely am after realizing there are over 150 emails in that folder with a total success rate of 0%.

This is my sad-no-one-wants-to-live-with-me face. I'm getting pretty good at it.
I'm becoming excessively melodramatic about the whole situation (incase that wasn't obvious). My friend even came to the point of (very affectionately, I'm sure) giving me the nickname "Emoly." 

Basically, this is one of those posts to remind you that even though I like to pretend I'm in Germany avoiding the real world, it's not all sunshine and beer gardens.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


As I mentioned in yesterdays surprise Vlog post - I've been visiting a lot of 5th grade classes. Which means I get to introduce myself a lot. Which means I get asked a lot of questions. So I've decided to make a little list of my favorite questions so far, or questions I was surprised to be asked. Since the fifth graders have only really had English lessons for about a week, these questions were asked in German, and I answered in English.
  • Have you ever met any stars?
  • Are you proud that you were born in America?
  • Do they speak English or American there?
  • Can you sing something in English? (I sang them Ke$ha, of course!)
  • Did you fly to Germany or come with the S-bahn?
  • Can you speak German? (asked in German even after other questions in  German were asked)
  • What is the temperature in Florida?
  • Are there hot dog stands on every corner?
  • Where you there on 9/11? (seriously almost every class has asked this, and these kids are only 10 and 11 years old)
  • Do you know Obama?
  • Have you ever been on TV? 
  • What animals have you seen?
  • Do you have English classes at school?
  • Do you learn German like we learn English?
  • How much is the dollar worth? (keep in mind these were 5th graders)
  • (after showing them a dollar bill I had on me) Can I trade you a Euro for your dollar?
  • What are your parents' names?
  •  Have you ever been to [insert name of any US state or city]?
  • Don't they have really nice cars in America? (coming from a German, really? Your busses are Mercedes!)
  • Do you have a house in America?
  • Do you like Giraffes?
I'd say this is solid support of my hypothesis that 5th graders are pretty much the cutest ever. I can't wait to work with them lots this year! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Emily's Vlog, season 2!

Surprise!! I had so many funny stories from my first few days at school, I just felt inspired to finally make a new Vlog! 

because Germany is the the most ridiculous place ever when it comes to banning youtube videos, here is a link for those of you who might be trying to view from the all too restrictive fatherland. 
Emily's Vlog #9 (Germany)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Walberla, it's short for Ehrenbürg.

Last year in Forchheim (this is how I begin about 90% of my sentences these days), my school was named Ehrenbürg Gymnasium, if you'll remember.  It's been my experience that most German schools are named after famous people (for example, my school this year is the Immanuel Kant Gymnasium). But every now and then, they are named after well-known geographical features of the region. 

The Ehrenbürg is a uniquely shaped large hill just beyond Forchheim in the Fränkische Schweiz (Franconian Switzerland). I would say it is something of landmark for the people in the region, almost symbolic in a way. But if you ever travel to this region, you will never hear anyone speak of the Ehrenbürg. That is because, to the locals, is fondly referred to as the Walberla (the obvious choice for a nickname there, really. If I'm being honest).

Hiking up the Walberla became one of this things that Gemma and I always planned to do, but never actually got around to doing. Eventually, about a week before I left, my friend invited me to spend the morning finally getting to explore the famous Walberla. It was the perfect morning hike, probably about 45 minutes up and down each, and a break for some lunch at the top! We even enjoyed some fresh picked fruit from the trees along our hike! 

So now I can proudly say that I took part in a Forchheim rite of passage: the hiking of the Walberla

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why I'm currently homeless.

Aside from my first day at school yesterday and a quick trip to [a small town about an hour outside of] Cologne, I have basically been spending my time wondering around/getting to know Dortmund. But, if you remember (or you know, if you actually read) my last post, I have been insanely busy in the week that I've been here! That's because the exploring and wandering around Dortmund has been mostly due to the fact that I've viewed apartments in just about every corner of the city.
Before you get the idea that I'm being insanely picky and therefore not settling on any apartment I've seen yet, there's a few things you need to know about finding an apartment in Germany.

First is that what I'm looking for isn't just an apartment (in German: Wohnung) but instead for a WG (which is short for Wohngemeinschaft, a term that can't really be translated to English, but according to leo  means "apartment sharing community"). This means that other students/younger people live there, share the apartment, but it's not anything permanent. Originally the idea of a WG was for people who wanted a sort of replacement family, they buy groceries together, cook together, eat together, spend free time together, etc. However, most WGs these days stress that they enjoy having a little more independence of each other.

Second, when someone moves out of a WG it is up to the remaining roommate(s) to find a person who would fit in well with the people and the overall atmosphere of the WG. Which means you have to basically interview at every apartment and try your best to be exactly the kind of person they want to move in. These are called "Besichtigungstermine" (viewing appointments)

And third, University semesters begin on October 1 here, which means there are all kinds of new students moving to town and looking for WGs. 
I started looking when I returned to Germany in August. Luckily there is a very well-known website called WG Gesucht (more or less means "looking for a WG"), where people  post open rooms available and you can email them. At first, I was proud of myself for sending 3 or 4 emails out in one day. I quickly realized that that would not do. Not at all. In total, I have sent over 80 emails, received less than 40 responses, of the responses less than half still had the room available and were interested in setting up a meeting time. But a positive response to the first email is not everything. Rooms can go quickly - when someone interviews and fits in perfectly, it's not uncommon for the WG to cancel all the rest of the Besichtigungstermine. I've had quite a few appointments canceled before I even made it to the door. 

So far I think I've actually been to a total of 8 viewings. And they have all either said no or I'm still waiting for a response (I've been on about 4 since Thursday alone). They all have the same story about the amount of interest they've had. One apartment said that almost 60 people were scheduled to come view. So the competition is tough. I've also feel like I've seen every type of WG there is to see. Nice ones, bad ones, really nice ones, REALLY bad ones. As a result, I've also gotten to know the city really well. I know all the different quarters, the stereotypes of each part, and how to get from one to another quite easily. 

Luckily my teachers have all been really helpful and nice about the apartment search. I'm living with a teacher who has a little apartment attached to her house. And trust me, I would stay there, but it's about 30 minutes outside the city in a teeny tiny little town, which doesn't lend itself well to this year's plan of making friends. 

Right now I only have one more viewing left in the schedule for Wednesday, but hopefully some more options will pop up or I will get an offer before it gets too depressing. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

My apologies....

...for being so bad about posting!! This whole "move to a new city" has really cut into my usual schedule of "sit around and do nothing" (which happened to leave a lot of time for blogging). But don't worry, internet, I am still alive! And I have a lot of posts brewing in my head, but no time to actually write them out. 

However, I will not leave you today with out the latest German anecdote. Today while telling the family I'm currently living with about Georgia, the father proclaimed "oh we've been to Atlanta! Well, we had a layover at the airport. There were so many black people there!" As if the most exciting thing about the whole of the Atlanta airport - the busiest airport in the US - was the amount of black people roaming around. And, to top it all off, about an hour later while listening to some Michael Jackson: "He has such a wide range. I mean, it's not all just black music or any one style, it's so many different ones."
Oh silly Germany! The combination of your directness and lack of certain ethnic demographics always makes for the best comments. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

this post is about shoes

Here in Germany, we are jumping headfirst into the fall season with winter just around the corner. There is only one thing that means: boot season! 

I only own one pair of boots that were purchased last year to get me through my first German winter and subsequently worn into the ground. I love these boots, but I'm ready to expand my options.

Last year while visiting my friend Shahida in Edinburgh, she had a pair of boots that I fell in love with. 
I am obsessed with these boots. She's lucky her feet are smaller than mine or I would have stolen them long, long ago! Unfortunately I do not have 100€ or a flight to Sweden, which is where she got these gems. 

 On a recent trip to H&M, though, I noticed these for the considerably more reasonable price of 30€. And they could even still be considered Swedish since they are from H&M!

I can't wait for my first pay check!  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

in Remembrance

I actually wasn't planning on writing anything about this today. But last night, while at a cookout with my new teacher, the topic came up that the next day was the tenth anniversary of 9/11. I noticed there had been an article in the paper about it earlier that day, but I didn't think people, themselves, would make too big of a fuss.

The conversation that followed, not only surprised me, but humbled me as well. As an American, recalling the events of 9/11 obviously carries a different weight than to others, but I had no idea just how affected - on a personal level - the rest of the world also felt by what occurred that day. 

Having traveled internationally quite a bit, I've encountered my fair share of anti-American sentiments. So subconsciously I always assumed that, as no one really liked the US anyway, no one gave much thought to it, especially not 10 years later. On any level, an extremely naive thought. 

Last night I sat around a table with 5 Germans who all solemnly and with the utmost sincerity recalled exactly where they were and their reactions when when they first heard about the attacks. The detail with which they each recounted this day 10 years ago was an enormous testament to just how affected the whole world had been. "I cried, I actually called my father and cried" a grown man admitted to me. 

9/11 remains one of those events in history that just seems impossible to truly wrap my mind around. Having happened in my life time, I always think I understand it. But every now and then I see something, hear something or think of something that makes me realize I have only just scraped the surface of understanding the depth and magnitude, the reach and weight, the affect it had on individuals, families, countries and the world. 

Last year, one of my ETA friends in Germany prepared a lesson for her classes on the 9th anniversary. She collected stories and personal accounts from all her friends. This was the first time I had ever written about 9/11. Really gathered my thoughts and focused them into one account. Every word I wrote one year ago still rings true today as I continue to learn and to understand more and more of what the events of 9/11 truly mean.


I was 14 when it happened. I remember being in English - my first class of the day - when the principle came to our door and whispered something to the teacher. Our teacher seemed very concerned, but when she told us "a plane has crashed into the pentagon, and the World Trade Center is on fire" Honestly, I don't even think I knew what the World Trade Center was - maybe just that that it was in NYC. I didn't see what all the panic was for. A plane crash and a fire, it just sounded like a tragic accident. But still, there was something unsettling in our teacher's reaction to the news. It wouldn't be till the first break that I heard more details. Everyone was talking about it in the hall, mostly in hushed voices and worried tones: "I heard there was another plane that crashed in New York" "Someone said it is a terrorist attack" "There is a plane inside the World Trade Center". None of it really made much sense. I still couldn't understand what a plane crash in D.C., a fire in New York and terrorists all had to do with the same thing. 
In my 2nd period was band. We didn't even take our instruments out, we just watched the news. For almost 2 hours we sat in silence, 50 faces staring at the TV as the pieces of the story started to fit together. I don't even think we bothered to turn the lights on. I understood now. These weren't two mutually exclusive tragic accidents. A plane did not simply crash. It had been crashed into the pentagon, into the World Trade Center on purpose. As my brain tried to process the information, I could not tear my eyes away from the tv. I'm not sure anymore if I realized at the time those black dots falling away from the building were people. Actual people. I watched as another plane hit the second tower. I watched as one tower fell. Then the other.
As a 14 year old, I was old enough to understand the horror that I was watching, but too young, I think, to really comprehend the magnitude of the situation. I remember seeing people acting scared. I didn't understand why they were scared. Sad, of course. Shocked, we all were. But scared? It wasn't like Watkinsville, Georgia would be the next target for a terrorist attack. I didn't understand that they weren't scared for themselves, but for our country. For the future. For people all over the world who had to live with these kinds of attacks every day. 
I don't think I've ever experienced such a sense of American camaraderie as in the weeks and months that followed the attacks. Liberal, conservative, northern, southern, black, white, east coast, west coast - none of that seemed to matter right after 9/11. For that time were were all, purely and simply, American. 
Now, almost 9 years later, I am able to see more clearly just how little I grasped of everything at the time. While I couldn't really say how much my life was changed by the events of 9/11, I understand more fully every day the effect it had on our country and its people as a whole. However horrific it might have been, though, I do not think we should look at 9/11 as a reason to hate or to seek revenge. We should look at 9/11 as a reason to come together and to help one another.
(written 9/11/10)

Friday, September 9, 2011

for my grandpa.

There are times when it seems particularly hard to be so far away from home. Usually these times are surrounded by stress, boredom, loneliness, bad moods, poverty, etc. But at these times of heightened homesickness I try my best to step back and recognize that I don't necessarily miss home, but rather the idea of home being associated with no stress, no boredom, good company, good moods, and free meals.

Some days, though, like today, are days when it is actually difficult to be so far away from home.

This morning, at the age of 81, my grandpa passed away.

My grandpa will be remembered in many ways by many people. But for me, I will never be able to play another card game without thinking about him. His game of choice was Gin ("that's what they make in the bathtub" he'd always say when he beat me - which was a lot). I don't think a day went by when I was visiting my grandparents that we didn't play a hand or two. And I know that every time I draw a jack from the pile ("ah, the j boys!") or pick up a card I'm unsure about ("just for speculating") or get offered to cut the deck ("super cut"), I will be thinking of my grandpa. He will be missed.
RIP 9.9.11

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Graduation Goggles

My room now looks quite a bit different than the last picture I posted. 

So it's my last night in Forchheim. I seriously don't know where the last week went. Really, I don't even know where the last year went. I moved to Forchheim on 9/9/10 and exactly 365 days later I will be leaving it. 

We had our ups and downs, Forchheim. Sure you're public transportation is inconvenient and annoying, yes, it's lame that all your shops close at 2pm on Saturday, but I'll never forget the good times I had in the Kellerwald or at the Christmas market, all the friends I made, things I experienced, lessons I learned. 

Graduation goggles are a phenomenon, explained by How I Met Your Mother as:
graduation goggles, like with high school - it's 4 years of bullies making fun all the kids with braces even after the braces come off and they can walk just fine. but then on graduation day, you suddenly get all misty because you realize you're never going to see those jerks again. 
Of course, in this sense it's not that I hate Forchheim and suddenly like it now that I'm leaving. Trust me, I've liked all a long (most the time). It's that I was excited to head off to Dortmund and get to see and experience a new place, when suddenly the graduation goggles popped on and masked that excitement with the sadness of having to leave Forchheim.

This isn't the first time the graduation goggles have come on right before a big move, and it definitely won't be the last - I'm sure I'll be strapping them on next summer when I leave Dortmund - but that doesn't make it any easier to leave. 

So I guess this is just my way of saying thanks for the great year, Forchheim! 

Monday, September 5, 2011

We're moving!

....and by "we" I mean my computer and I.

das Blog is in the middle of relocating! Please bear with me as posting will be slow for the next week during my move to Dortmund.

the packing is going slowly too.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

That time I actually went dancing

If you know me very well, you know my response to "hey let's go out dancing!" is usually some variation of "uuuuggggghhhhhhh"

Of course, if you know me even better, I usually always have a really good time dancing if I ever actually go.  (I don't get it either...)
So a few weeks ago when Gemma told me about  90's night at a club in Erlangen, I was less than enthused. But I knew Gemma wanted to go and I knew I hadn't been doing too much in the way of having fun or being social, so I decided a night out could be a good choice. Besides, 90's themes are always a good start!

Although, for the sake of cultural sensitivity, I will not comment on the style of dancing here, (suffice it to say I like it, because I fit right in... if that's any clue), I did find out that the 90's were, at least musically, apparently much different in Germany than they were in the US. I only recognized about half (or less) of the songs and the ones I did know would probably not be the ones chosen for a 90's night at home (not saying they were bad, just not same ones we would probably play). 

They didn't even play Spice Girls! That one really upset me.

However, the inappropriately middle-aged creepers seemed to be having a good time dancing by themselves. That was definitely a hilarious source of entertainment.

Friday, September 2, 2011

That one week it was actually summer in Germany

Ever since mid-April when it started getting warmer in Germany, I've been telling anyone who would listen about just how much hotter it is in Georgia. "You think this is hot? By this time in Georgia we could be frying eggs on the road"/ "It's humid outside? This is nothing compared to Georgia. Child's play, really. Unless you have trouble distinguishing between the outside air and the pool, it's not that humid" / "Speaking of pools, the water in our pool in Georgia is warmer than the actual temperature in Germany right now." etc.
I would like to say it was only bordering on obnoxious, but really, it probably went far beyond any imaginary line that should have stopped me. 

At some point in June I began to think that maybe I was giving Georgia too much credit. Sure, it is an extremely hot and humid state that, come end of July and August, tends to give Hell a run for it's money as most unbearable place ever, but did it really live up to all my trash talk? 

The answer, an incontrovertible yes, was made clear during my visit home in July. Yes, Georgia's weather was every bit as miserable as I remembered it. The 90ºf (32ºc) pool water felt like a sweet relief compared to the 100ºf (37ºc) air. 

So you can imagine how much of a shock it was coming back to Germany where the temperature did not get above 60ºf (15ºc) for the first 2 weeks of August. 

But some how, last week, the planets aligned and a miracle happened. For almost an entire week, Germany saw real summer temperatures consistently reaching into the 90s (30s). Finally, about 4 months after it came to Georgia, summer finally arrived in Germany.

I got to wear my summer clothes, sunglasses everyday, ice cream never tasted better, we even went to the pool. 

But then, as soon as it had come, it was gone. A mere week later it went from 95ºf (35ºc) one day to 55ºf (15ºc) the next.

When I complained to a friend, "how can it be this cold in August?!" he responded "we had Summer last week, what more do you want?"

While it has worked its way back up into the beautiful 70's (20's), I don't think I will ever take Georgia's insane summer weather for granted again. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's that time of year again

I signed on Twitter today to see that "Hogwarts Express" is trending. I love that even without the hype of an impending book or movie, everyone remembers to get to platform 9 3/4 on September 1. 

Ever since opening my first Harry Potter book about 12 years ago, I became one of those kids that always wished (sometimes not so secretly) I would be joining the rest of the wizarding world at King's Cross Station to board the Hogwarts Express... 
Ok, so I never made it to Hogwarts, but in exactly one week from today I will be boarding a train heading to Dortmund for yet another exciting year in Germany. 

It may not be wizard school, but I think it's pretty cool anyway. 
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