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!

Wednesday, October 31

Happy Halloween!

Greetings from a country that doesn't really celebrate Halloween!

Despite the absence of the flagrant commercialization of all things hallowed, I attempted to collect some images of Bonn and its environs, to show you all how my day was! Enjoy the photos and commentary, and have a spooktakular night!

Today I went to Koblenz. Since it was so clear, I noticed that Koblenz must be in the main flight path for Frankfurt, as evidenced by all of these flight lines!

More of the Koblenz sky.

Here is a photo from the train on my way back to Bonn. I get to follow along the Rhine on these days, usually getting wrapped up in some sort of podcast.

Another photo from above-mentioned train ride.

Here is a blurry, southern view of some of the castles near Bonn.

Bonn Center, so close to where I live!

Leaves at the bus stop.

With most of the leaves gone, I got a good distance shot of the Catholic church near my apartment.

One example of how some people in Bonn are celebrating Halloween! I think this is more because we have a regional holiday tomorrow: No work or school!!!

Pumpkins, etc. at the market.

Here is a flower stand with a few of the Rathaus in Bonn.

Even at 4 pm the vendors are turning on their lights to show off their products. I can't wait until these stands are filled with Christmas things!

Did you know that Pizza Hut is in Germany too? Kids eat free!

More flight lines and clouds, this time in Bonn.

Autumn wreaths and a dog!

I saw no Halloween decorations, only Christmas decorations!

Bonn University

Table decor at Mai Mai Thai Restaurant near the Uni.

I caught the German and EU flags "posing" for me on this windy day.

"Smoker's Guest-house: Only 18 and older allowed. Passive smoke causes the same illnesses as active smoking" That's right, kids, be sure to only be exposed to second-hand smoke whenever you walk around outside in the city!

Lots of crows swarmed my apartment!

Sunset view from my kitchen. Goodnight!

Sunday, October 21

My new apartment!

Many have requested learning more about the place that I am living here in Bonn. So, as promised, here are some photos and descriptions of the place I call home!

Here is a photo of the exterior of my apartment building. The five windows above are to my apartment, which I share with two other women. The single window to the left is my bedroom window! My apartment is a part of a larger hospital complex in the northern part of the city center. While in Freiburg, I also lived close to a hospital. I guess if I need immediate medical attention, I will be set again for this year! (Note: I never needed immediate medical attention while living in Freiburg.)

When you enter our place, you come to our hallway. This is a photo taken from my office. Notice the two doors on the right of the photo: we have a separate shower and toilet room. Otherwise, just your usual pink-carpeted hallway...

This is the control center - my desk and TV area in my office. It works pretty well! I also built the desk, bookshelf and lamp pictured!

This is the less exciting corner of my office. In theory, I would like to get a sofa bed and rug to make this part of the room more home-y feeling, and to have space for entertaining and overnight guests, hint hint!
I live in an attic apartment, so that means lots of angled walls/ceilings. My office doesn't really have a proper window, just this skylight. It lets in plenty of light, but you've really got to look out of it in order to see anything but the sky, clouds, and the occasional bird.
This photo is of the "Siebengebirge," or the seven mountain peaks, near Bonn. I took this photo from the above window, on my tip toes. It is still pretty, even if it is difficult to see!

My second room - the bedroom! It is very small, but all I do here is sleep and get dressed. I am slowly getting the hang of turning on the heating on and off in my two rooms, based on when and where I am in either space. I love my duvet cover sheets! They are super soft, and they zip close around the duvet and my pillow. This arrangement is 20 times better than Freiburg, where I had paper thin Ikea sheets and slept in a bed without feet. Notice the extra mattress under my bed, which is also ready for guests!

This is the other side of my bedroom, complete with wardrobe and dresser. One of my roommates just recently gave me the dresser, as she no longer needed the storage space. I, however, also do not need the extra storage space, as I brought two suitcases worth of things with me to Germany! I hope I don't go too crazy trying to fill the dresser with new things...

I have a very nice "Wohnkueche," or live-in kitchen. I have always wanted a corner table complete with a bench, and now I do! One of the nice things about living with an older woman is that she is used to more of the finer things in life, like actual furniture. So, that means I get to benefit from her desire to have things like matching kitchen chairs and counter space!

Here is the kitchen part of the kitchen, which was not here when I first saw the apartment. I think it looks very nice, and the color is also every cheerful! The oven is brand new, and I helped install the sink plumbing.

There is plenty of room in our non-European size fridge, and the left cupboard is large enough for dry goods as well. Those who have lived in Europe understand how amazing this amount of space is in the kitchen!

Our only wall decoration is a huge map of Bonn, located in our hallway near the kitchen. I am pointing here at where we live! It isn't far from the Rhine, or the city center, located just south of my finger.

We also have a balcony, which can be reached from the other two women's rooms. I don't go out there much, but there is another nice view of the mountains and trees nearby.

I hope you have enjoyed the tour of my apartment! I hope to show some of you the place in person!

Sunday, October 14

Mein Fahrrad!

Fahrrad means bicycle in German. Since purchasing my amazing bike back in Illinois, I would like to think of myself as a bit of an amateur cycling aficionada. I mostly feel empowered when I bike on the street, wearing my helmet and biker’s shorts, even if I may look slightly ridiculous in such clothing. (No worries, I would often carry clothes to change into, so as not to embarrass my students and coworkers!).

I had not really thought about biking at all until I lived in Freiburg, Germany, in 2006. While there, many people chose biking as their preferred means of transportation. My host parents biked to work; one of my roommates was even a cycling courier! I did not, however, fully embrace the awesomeness that is biking in Freiburg; I “babysat” a friend’s bike from January to April (not the best biking months in most places), and I rarely biked.

The idea stuck with me, so when my MIL offered to help B and I get bikes several years ago, I was excited to get a nice bicycle I could use for commuting to school in Champaign. It really wasn’t too difficult then for me to decide to also get a bike in Bonn, even though I couldn’t really afford to buy a nice, new one. I went to the Bonn University bike flea market the first weekend of September in search of a used bike. I took a very long time to decide on a bike. If it weren’t for a bit of embarrassment in getting up so early to check out the market and then leave empty-handed, I probably would not have chosen one that day. I am now 100% glad that I did choose a bike that day! In contrast with the day I bought the bike and the handle bars got so loose that I could not even manage to ride home, I am now pleased to have a bike with lots of gears, a self-powered light, and a possible space for a basket.

I did not ride much in September; we left Bonn early enough, and I sadly left my ride in my hotel’s garage. I picked up Blue (that’s right, I just named my bike!) from the hotel when I got to Bonn over a week ago, and it took a few days to get reacquainted. I can now happily say that things are all that they should be, as far as biking in Germany is concerned. Sunday I biked along the Rhine on the way to church (I saved €5.20!), and Tuesday I biked to a choir rehearsal, in the dark, to parts of Bonn I had never been before! I have been inspired to take more sight-seeing trips around my city; as my roommate said, Bonn is really a biker’s city – it is not designed for cars! I hope to be able to avoid buying a transit ticket in Bonn and to instead bike, walk, and get rides from others as needed! I have to spend nearly €17 each time I go to Koblenz to meet with my mentor, so biking instead of traveling by train may be a nice way to save some money in other ways.

Mein geiles Fahrrad - Blue!
On a related note, here is a link to a song of one of my favorite German bands. The song is aptly named “Mein Fahrrad.” Here you can find the German text with English translation. I don’t necessarily agree with all this group sings in this song, but my bicycle is blue, after all…

Viel Spass zum radeln!

Sunday, October 7

The Post You've All Been Waiting For - Oktoberfest!

When people learn that I travel to Germany frequently and that I am a huge fan of all things German, a common question is “Have you been to Oktoberfest in Munich?” Finally, I can answer that question affirmatively! Below is a play-by-play of my epic journey to Munich with Buka friend Emmeline.

Thursday, September 27th, 17:00 – Help Emmeline pick out a Dirndl to wear to Oktoberfest

19:00 – Leave hotel for Berlin main train station

20:00 – Arrive at main train station, waste time at stores and restaurants until Night train departure at 20:56

21:25 – Finally get on the train after a 30-minute delay

21:40 – Meet cute German family with whom we shared our sleeper cabin; relearn how to make a train bed with super tricky sheet on top bunk of the train

22:00 – 7:00, September 28th – Sleep restlessly in train, noticing each time that the train changes directions

7:15 – Arrive in Munich, immediately notice that we are not the only people hoping to go to Oktoberfest (lots of Lederhosen and Dirndl action!)

7:50 – Finally find an open café; sip cappuccino overlooking Munich’s famous Rathaus and Glockenspiel

Emmeline and her breakfast!
9:00 – head back towards train station and the Oktoberfest festival grounds; still overwhelmed by all the people who are walking with us. (Tip: If you ever go to Oktoberfest and don’t know where you are going, follow the Lederhosen!)

World-famous Munich Rathaus!
9:40 – Arrive at Oktoberfest, realizing that everything is still closed. Pick a beer tent line to stand in to wait until everything opens at…

Hofbrauhaus Tent - we did not go in!
Out and about at Oktoberfest
10:00 – Enter Löwenbräu beer tent. Scramble about with the rest of the mob entering the tent, trying to figure out how one gets a seat at a table without a reservation!
More Oktoberfest things!

10:10 – Find a table with enough room for two. Ask cute German girls if we can sit with them.

We were right by the bandstand!
The tent started filling up quickly.
10:20 – Watch longingly as everyone else seems to be getting their liters of beer before you! Eventually the waitress comes by and you order your liter of beer! Victory!

Me 'n our beers!
Emmeline n' our beers!
10:30 – Befriend nice German girls by offering to take a picture of them for them. Eventually learn how Oktoberfest works!
Group shot! Notice Emmeline's dirndl.

10:50 – Order a huge pretzel, realizing we will not make it if we don’t eat something while drinking tons of beer!

11:00 – Stand up and cheer randomly when others do the same first

11:01 – Watch the first guy try to down an entire liter of beer in one drink, while standing on a table – Success, followed by lots of cheering!

11:02 – Learn that the second weekend of Oktoberfest is Italian weekend; this means that there are a lot of Italian men who make the pilgrimage to Munich, and they are loud and Italian-like.

12:00 – The band starts! Yay for drinking songs and clapping on counts one through four!

12:20 – Another guy tries to finish his beer in one drink, he fails, and beer shoots out of his mouth and nose. He is apparently unable to finish it because he is British, so say the German girls.

12:30 – Emmeline meets German mechanical engineers, and she is happy!

This video includes some of the crazy Italians (at the beginning), Emmeline's engineers (to her right), and our German friends (to Emmeline's left).

The beer is nearly gone!
13:00 – Leave Löwenbräu tent. All the rides, games, and stands seem more interesting after one has finished a liter of beer!

14:00 – Have lunch in the city center at Augustinerbräu, my favorite Munich brewery. Teach Emmeline how to eat Weisswurst.

Linner at Augustiner!
15:30 – Go shopping in crowded city center to kill time until evening train departure

17:00 – Arrive back at train station, wait for train

18:00 – Wait in train to leave, nearly 30 minutes late again

19:30 – Enter crazy ukulele-playing German guy who complains about not having any rights after others ask him to stop playing his instrument in the quiet wagon car

20:00 – 23:00 – Restlessly sleep on and off, change train directions twice

0:40, September 29th – Arrive back in Berlin, cranky, tired, and a little sick from various illnesses, take a train and a trolley back to hotel.

1:30 – Finally fall asleep in one’s own hotel room!

My general thoughts about Oktoberfest are: I am soooooo glad I went! It was sooooooo much more fun than I could have imagined! I am extremely happy that we were able to actually get seats and could really experience Oktoberfest. I think traveling with fewer people and being a girl helps you to get access to tables and to meet others. There are a lot more Germans who go to Oktoberfest than I had thought. Don’t go to the Hofbrauhaus tent; it is where all the British and Australian tourists go, and they try to down entire liters every five minutes or so. This mean there is a higher likelihood of getting beer spilled on you!
I would recommend Oktoberfest to anyone who wants to see lots of people wearing stereotypical German clothing and who wants to make friends with locals and foreigners alike!