Welcome to my new blog! Following many years of graduate study in musicology (see my bio if you don't know what musicology is), I am finally embarking on my fieldwork portion of my degree, spending one year in Germany. For all the latest updates on Music, Life, and Travel, read on, friends!

Saturday, April 27

Humboldt Study Tour, with a twist

Now, time for the post that was supposed to be awesome! A post that would rival the awesome randomness of my posts on September, during the introductory seminar of the Humboldt Foundation. But no, this post has a dark beginning and continues in a drugged haze of forced smiles and disappointment.

Our German Chancellor Fellow Study Tour began on March 3rd in Bremerhaven, on the North Sea coast. My fellow fellows and I were all looking forward to a busy two weeks filled with visits to Leipzig, Munich and Regensburg, among others, and spending time in museums, at farms, on brewery tours, etc. Instead, my tour was cut short, thanks to appendicitis. On the first day, I had an unfamiliar pain on my right side, and after trying to sleep it off, it was not going away. So, I checked myself into a hospital, settled in for a sleepless night, and waiting for a diagnosis, which resulted in surgery first thing on Monday morning.

I would not recommend having major surgery in a foreign land far away from family, but at least my appendix went bad in a country with good (and significantly cheaper than in America) medical care, where I also speak the language (although not much medical German), and that I was generally a good sport considering the annoyance and pain of surgery. So, after getting a quick visit by two of my Buka friends, my group left for their next city, and I spent three more days recovering in the hospital. Thanks to a willing friend of E’s, I made it back to Bonn by train, and spent a couple of days back in my apartment, doing nothing and thinking that I’d be well enough to meet up with the rest of my group just one week after surgery.

E visiting me in the hospital. I was sooooo glad to see her and S after my surgery - I could have cried, if I would had my wits about me!

German hospital dinner. Hospital food is the absolute worst. My first day I couldn't eat anything, then they gave me the most disgusting soups EVER. One I think was a milk soup (WHAT IS THAT EVEN??), another was a thick beef broth soup (only broth), another creme of something soup that I couldn't eat because it tasted too much like leeks, and finally a light vegetable soup - the only one I could swallow. Breakfast was the best -- good German bread with butter and honey. It's hard to mess up something like that.
My single room at the hospital. Not as nice as the hotels my friends were staying at.
I did indeed meet up with my group again, but thanks to a long bus ride, which lasted much longer than it should have due to a significant snow fall, and more walking and standing that I was expecting, I decided to leave the group one day early. I was mostly afraid that if something was going wrong with my recovery, I might get stuck in Brussels, where we spent our last days. I missed out on the best part of the tour, which included most of the places I’d never been before. I did, however, get to see some dear friends from my college days TWICE as they spent a week in Europe! I wish I could have spent much more time with them, though!

Here (and above) are some of the photos from the whole ordeal, from hospital to German Supreme Court. When I leave Germany after my fellowship is over, I can say that I have once again left a piece of my heart here, and a literal piece of my digestive system. I hope Germany enjoys my appendix. I will never forget what appendix is in German – “Blinddarm.” Oh the stories I have now!

Me at the German Supreme Court.

R and E, rocking the suits!

Our hotel in Kirchheimboladen. This was after the epic snowfall that extended our 150 km/2 hour bus ride into a six-hour affair. Instead of going to the European Central Bank, we had lunch at an Aldi's - not really a fair trade in my book.

T playing the Alphorn at our wine tasting night. There are some advantages to being a horn player - you can transition smoothly to Alphorn.

Our host at the wine tasting. This is his self-constructed Carnival instrument, the Teufelgeige -  the devil violin. Can you tell why this instrument has this name?

Friday, April 26

Easter, German style

March was pretty much a wash. I couldn’t do hardly anything, and I had a lot of intense pain, thanks to air in my abdomen. One wouldn’t think that air could be so painful, but it can! I was useless; I couldn’t carry anything; I couldn’t spend a lot of time outside walking; I couldn’t sing. Overall it was a cold, dark month. March was the coldest March on record for Germany, and that coupled with Germany experiencing its darkest winter ever, I just wanted to hibernate!

One highlight of the month was Easter. I tried singing with my more rigorous choir during Easter services, which mostly worked, even when I was spontaneously given a solo line I had not sung before. One fellow choir member graciously invited me to spend the day with him, his wife, and daughter. After choir we headed to their place and had a great time talking together and enjoying a delicious meal. In fine German fashion, we also took a Sunday Spaziergang, or walk, up to the Drachenfels ruins on the other side of the Rhine. Drachenfels is one of the best overlooks in Bonn, and visitors can reach the top of the hill/mountain by foot or by tram. We, of course, took the “granny” version up (the tram) because I was still not well enough to walk that much, especially uphill. We also visited Drachenburg, a 19th century villa/castle that sits half-way up the mountain. At the top we treated ourselves to a coffee and dessert, hiding out from the cold and snowy weather on the hill. Really, everyone in Germany had had enough of winter then!

I was so happy to spend Easter with someone! Easter has always been a holiday that seems to jump up on me. Usually I don’t even feel like it is a holiday; most people in the US don’t get any days off for it, and that has usually meant that I couldn’t be home to celebrate Easter with my family, and I have often been in the thick of some sort of university project. At least this year’s Easter stands out!

Drachenburg, with my three adopted family members for the day!

The Drachenburg grounds were beautiful, even in the chilly snow!

Gold deer, anyone? Probably too tough for eating.

One of the few remaining originally restored stained glass windows at Drachenburg.

Bear rug! Rawr!

This island in the Rhine has a high school located on it. Because this island lies on the border between two German states, the school has to decide which education mandates and school schedule it wants to follow. Also, when the Rhine floods, which it does from time to time, students have to help move books and other school items to dry ground. And, as you can see, there is no bridge to the island, so students take a ferry every day!

Drachenfels ruins - if anyone wants to come visit me in Bonn, I will take you to the ruins! Also, it probably won't snow when we hike up; winter is finally over here!

Carnival in Germany

It has been way too long since my last update. I have heard the cries of my (few) fans, and I think it is time to make it up to everyone by writing some more pieces.

First, I take you all back to early February – during the Mardi Gras/Fasching/Karneval celebrations in Bonn and Cologne. Cologne is known for having the best Carnival celebration in all of Germany. Throughout the entire Rhine region where I live, craziness begins on November 11th, at 11:11 am, and continues until midnight on Ash Wednesday. Most festivities really start in January, when singing rehearsals for specific Carnival songs begin, and many attend comedy nights, either dressed super posh or in costumes.

I started my Carnival celebrations on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. This day is known as “Weiberfastnacht” – basically, it is the ladies night celebration for Carnival. I attended the parade in Beuel, across the river from Bonn, and then a friend and I went to a drinking establishment to celebrate more. Basically, Weiberfastnacht involves lots of costumed drunk people consuming too much alcohol, beginning as early as 9 am.
Here is an example of the street craziness in Beuel. Adults and children alike collect sweets, or Kamelle, and flowers, Streusle, and the inside-out umbrella is a great tool for getting more goodies.

Me in my Carnival costume at the old train station in Beuel.

Here you can see more of the Weiberfastnacht festivities. There are a lot of great costume choices, including a group of 10 men dressed as scantily clad nuns.
 I had friends in from Bremen and Hamburg to help me celebrate during the rest of the weekend. The highlight of Karneval was watching the Rosenmontag parade in Cologne. We froze a bit, laughed a bit, got pelted by candy and flowers, and got pushed into the parade space by eager parade-goers standing behind us. I wish that we could have spent more time watching the parade; there were lots of great floats that critiqued the political and social conditions in Germany, Europe, and even the USA.

All in all, it was a great experience with great friends!

The beginnings of the parade in Cologne. It went on for hours! There was some good music to listen to, and plenty of unique costumed guilds to watch.

Percussion in the streets!

I love the big caricatured puppets. The figures on the floats were even better, but we didn't get to see many of them. 

Thursday, February 21

Wir gehen nach Bremen!

One of the most mentioned German cities during my high school German days was Bremen, a harbor city in the northern part of the country. Last month, I finally got the chance to see the city for myself. During most of my time there, I kept hearing the phrase "Wir gehen nach Bremen!" (We're going to Bremen!) repeated in the voice of one of my high school valedictorians - he played the donkey in the Grimm brothers' story "Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten" (The Bremen City Musicians), which documents the antics of musically-inclined animals. Although my friends, E and S, and I did not run into any musical animals, we saw plenty of statues and merchandise highlighting the city's relationship with the story.

Since E and S have traveled to Bonn so many times (and they are coming again this weekend for my birthday party!), I prioritized a trip up north to see them and have some good girl time and tourist time. In addition to wandering through the streets of Bremen, mostly in the rain and snow, because the sun doesn't exist in Bremen, we also visited several nice restaurants, took a tour of Beck's brewery, danced the night away at an awesome discothek, and hosted a Mexican food evening with some locals. Enjoy the photos!

Friday night we had dinner at the Ratskeller, or the basement of the town hall. We had our own little booth, and the food was delicious!
S and E at Ratskeller!
Somehow this dessert was a type of lasagna? More exactly, it was a thinly sliced piece of fruitcake with chocolate mousse on top - yum!
Friday night/Saturday morning we spent at Modernes, an awesome disco in Bremen Neustadt.  I loved the atmosphere - the space is an old theater, renovated to accommodate lots of dancing people! We were there for 90's night, which was hilarious! We all jumped around like crazy people to songs by BSB and N'Sync, Spears and Spice Girls!
Me and the Bremer Stadtmusikanten!
City protector Roland and myself! We were both freezing!
Part of the city center, old-style architecture!
The Bremen Rathaus and part of one of the churches on the square.
Another take on the Bremer Stadtmusikanten.
E and I sporting our safety vests for the Beck's tour.
The beer tasting - the real reason many people go on the tour!
They gave us three beers to try, so things got pretty silly pretty fast-like!
Sunday night we had dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. We sat on pillows in sand! And we ate with our hands! The food was tasty too!
Last photo from my Bremen adventure!

Friday, February 1

My favorite winter sport

Some of you may know that one of my favorite experiences while living in Salzburg was learning how to ski. Having grown up in Missouri, a relatively flat state far from the Rockies and the Appalachian mountains, I never really had the opportunity to try the sport. For some reason, while in Austria, I figured that I wasn't too old to learn a new sport (I am not very gifted in the sport department, as it is), and when would I ever get the chance to have five days of small group ski lessons from an Austrian in the freakin' Austrian Alps? I dove into the experience, stomaching the financial implications as best I could, and I do not regret my decision for a moment! Mind you, after the first day of lessons, I hated skiing. It was not very intuitive, and I felt like I was using muscles I didn't even know existed. Still, I got a lot better over the course of our lessons, and I loved being in the mountains, surrounded by snow and silence. I was hooked!

Well, I was as hooked as someone could be - who loved the first trip and still spent the LAST EIGHT YEARS off of any slopes! I remedied this problem, finally, when I joined my church's youth group ski trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in mid-January. It was a dream!

About 30 of us left on Friday afternoon in a tour bus, getting to our youth hostel around 10:30 at night. I got to stay with a college student who met us there. The hostel was extremely nice, and affordable. The smell reminded me of some of my other study trips in Austria, when my fellow students and I stayed in similar hostels in Germany. We got up early on Saturday, enjoyed a nice breakfast, packed a lunch, and then promptly got stuck in all the traffic heading to the slopes. The 15-minute trip took us almost 45 minutes. Then we had to get our rental gear, and I decided to take one morning's worth of lessons, just for a refresher. Needless to say, I did not need to take beginner ski lessons again, especially since we worked on such basics as putting on skis, staying upright on the skis, stopping on minuscule hills, and just a bit of turning.

Still, after the morning I was tired, and I wasn't sure what other slopes I would be able to handle. All of the group met for lunch and sat in the snow near the gondola station.

I'll just let you all know about how amazing the trip was through photos!

Here we are in the gondola at the base of the mountains. The parking lot was completely full! And look! Alps!!!!

At the top of the first gondola lift. Lots more peaks and trees!

This is where we had lunch - very relaxing, if not a little cold, because you sat in the snow.

This was at the top of the second gondola, for the two ski passes that I kept taking over and over again. I must have taken this gondola 25 times between Saturday and Sunday.

On the first day - me chillin' during the lunch break! I don't have ski goggles, but the sunglasses were helpful and necessary with the snow glare!

Here is the view of the slopes I spent the whole time skiing down.

Again, you can see all the skiers converging on the area behind me - one of the lodges and lines for the gondola.

On Sunday, we experienced "Foehn" - which basically means that the weather is warmer and sunny up on the mountains, and it is foggy and colder below. The snow kept getting worse and worse on Sunday, as areas of the slopes turned into mush.

Pretty mountains!

On Sunday, one of my friends and I sat outside at the ski lodge and enjoyed a cappuccino and the view from above. Even if you are not a skier, it is completely worth heading up the mountains in Germany and Austria JUST to experience the food, drink, and Gemuetlichkeit!

Me and my Kaiserschmarrn! This Austrian pancake-like dessert is AMAZING!!!!! Read the Wikipedia description linked here, and be jealous!

Our youth hostel! We had full room and board, and the food was surprisingly satisfying! Other highlights here included attending the youth group's discussion time on Sunday night, and losing horribly in table tennis to the three youth leaders!
The morals of this blog post are the following:

1. Skiing in the Alps is unbelievable!!!!
2. I still love skiing, and can still ski relatively well, all considering my eight-year hiatus!
3. I will not take another eight years off before I ski again. California has more mountains that Missouri or Illinois, and, despite the high cost, I really think it is worth partaking in an activity that brings me such pure joy!