Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ask and ye shall receive

For those of you who asked, I finally made a nice organized Flickr set of recently completed projects for you. If you see something you like, just let me know. I tend to have lots of free time on my hands lately, but I don't know how long that will last! Especially since I plan on teaching my self how to both knit and crochet once I'm home :) The link is in the pretty flash badge on the left and here. Enjoy!

Monday, December 11, 2006

12 days...

For what is likely to be our last weekend trip, we headed to Nuernberg to visit with Andreas and Doreen and go to Germany's "Biggest" Christkindelmarkt. Like all of our past trips, this one was not without it's weird and fun moments.

- There is not a single hotel or hostel available in the whole city, so we have to settle for a pension. This is where you get to rent out someone's apartment for a night. Sounds ok, especially for only 35 Euros. We arrive at the office to pay and pick up our keys and meet the two weirdest guys in the country, for sure. One holds Eric hostage in the office for 25 minutes with his woeful tale of being deserted by his American son-in-law ten years prior, from which he has clearly never recovered. He looks near tears. The other tries desperately to talk to me, while I try desperately not to look at his crusty, purple sweater and peeling, bloody lips. I pretend I can't understand German, so he starts speaking in damn good English. Blast!

- It rains the whole day while we wander through the market. Luckily I have a giant red umbrella, but rather than keep us dry, I end up maiming people since there is such a huge crowd. It wouldn't be so bad if the all older women here didn't insist on transporting their tiny dogs in baby carriages. Apparently they are afraid a Yorkie on a leash would get trampled. They push these dogs around like they own the place, rolling over your feet with the carriages, while wrapping the dogs in sherpa and feeding them gingerbread.

- Early on we have mugs of Gluehwein and Feuerzagenbowle, both hot and spiced, but the latter also involves soaking sugar cones in rum and lighting them on fire. It's damn tasty, and fully responsible for why I have now run out of stories of that night. I know somewhere in there we ate dinner, tried beer that tastes like ham, had a drink at a Mexican place and something else. I just don't really remember the rest.

- The next day is gorgeous and sunny, so I drag Eric through the market to do some actual shopping. I get excited to find pickle ornaments, having heard of the "German Christmas Pickle"legend before. The story is that you hide a pickle on your Christmas tree and the first person to find it gets a year of good luck and prosperity. Plus, the ornaments ar so cute and shiny! I buy four of them as gifts. Turns out the "tradition" is a load of quatsch (German for bullshit)! We ask Doreen and Andreas later and they have never heard of it. We look it up online and find this article. Another conspiracy, man.

- We have lunch, say goodbye to A and D, and almost miss our train. Another crazy, pricey weekend, but at least my Christmas shopping is almost done! Two weeks to come home, not that I'm counting.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas is in the air!

We took a day trip to Zuerich, Switzerland this Saturday to get a head start on our holiday festivities. It was a beautiful day, but the most expensive daytrip in the history of the world, and we didn't even buy that many presents!

- Train ticket from Friedrichshafen to Zuerich: 2 hours, 100 Euros. And still no passport stamp! I've crossed this border three times and no one wants to stamp me.

- We had to make an emergency McD's stop for fries and another stop for caffiene. You know what happens when Eric gets hungry and I get sleepy, it ain't pretty. Large fries: 6 Francs. 2 Cappucinos: 10 Francs. (p.s. This was during a transfer, so we got to get back on a train and watch a grandmother smack her two obnoxious little grandkids around for an hour. They told her off in French the whole time. Sweet.)

- We arrive in Zuerich and walk around the entire city, which is decorated in hundreds of lights and miles of evergreen. Miraculously, it's not at all tacky. No big fake Santas, no inflateable snowmen, no plastic reindeer! It's so clean and sparkly I want to move in. There are beautiful department stores windows that put Macy's NY to SHAME! However, we can't afford to buy anything in these stores. I'm hunting for birthday boots, but one pair of tall leather boots: 549 Francs! Ouch.

- We find the outdoor Christmas Market and stop for my first Gluehwein. Red wine with sugar and mulling spices, served hot. Hell yes. Two cups gluehwein: 10 Francs.

- You just can't go to Switzerland without buying chocolate, so we stop in a chocolatiers. They have the most beautiful sweets I have ever seen. Little marzipan candies made to look like sushi! We buy five gorgeous wrapped chocolate bars for gifts and struggle all night not to tear them open and devour them! One bar fancy Swiss chocolate: 6.90 Francs.

- Hours of walking and window shopping equals hunger. We read every menu of every restaraunt we pass looking for something reasonable. And by reasonable I mean something that will fill us up without costing over $100. It's not easy. We settle on Bar Cantina, a bit redundant, no? The food is good, the service is fantastic. Finally a waiter with a personality! I was actually starting to miss the annoying friendliness of Friday's girls with all the apathetic German servers I've seen. Anyway, the only downside is that smoking is allowed everywhere, so the woman next to us chain smoked for an hour, pausing only to gum down her meal and stare at Eric. Dinner, no drinks: 60 Francs.

- It's getting late, so we head over to the indoor Christmas Market at the train station. The famous Swarovski tree is up. This is the original, as tall as the tree in Rockefeller center and covered in about 6000 crystal ornaments on long white ribbons. The base is surrounded with a wall of glass, and little scenes of glass and crystal are displayed inside. Crystal penguins and polar bears on smoky crystal iceburgs, jeweled parrots on crystal trees, huge glass cornucopias full of jeweled fruit, it's so gorgeous I could cry. Instead we drink more gluehwein:) 2 cups of gluehwein: 10 Francs.

- The booths at the Christmas market are actually not all that impressive. In addition to the handmade cheeses, sweets, preserves, and sausages, there are lots of booths full of junk. It's the type of thing you might get at Gaspee Days: essential oils and incense, tapestries, sterling silver, kitschy crafts. There are petchouli stankin' hippies in Germany, too! Some of you dolls would fit right in ;) We decide not to buy any gifts, since we can get all of it cheaper in Friedrichshafen, but we do get a block of excellent cheese. That's our treat for the day; we like cheese, so what? One block Emmentaler Schaukaeserei: .33kg, 9.90 Francs.

- On our way to the train we decide to check a newspaper kiosk and are happy to find they have magazines in English. Eric snags a Playboy and I say go for it; they do have excellent writers! At the register we find out it costs 22.50 Francs! All set. The cashier tries to convince Eric to buy it, "It is very good!" Dirty whore. No thanks.

- It's a long train ride home. We get in at midnight, with our block of cheese and a bunch of chocolates. Not much to show for our holiday trip to the "World's Best City to Live In." They should rephrase that to say, "World's Best City to Live In If You Are Filthy Stinking Rich." It's very beautiful, but the next time I visit Zuerich, I will make sure I have won the lottery first.