Monday, October 10, 2016

On Moving

One day, I will have a place to call my own for more than a 9-month period. That day is not today. But I lasted from May until October, which is pretty good for something that began in the summer. I was never that good at putting down roots anyway. The major reason for the move was monetary.  That is to say, my car and my gas tank and my wallet said a very firm no, we are not doing this until you graduate, do not even try.

I can put up with a lot, but I cannot put up with my gas tank eating up my food budget. I have needs. They include something other than rice, tuna, chicken and canned veggies. There is only so much rice I can eat before I am heartily tired of the flavor, the texture, and the everything else.

So I found a place!

I like it. The cat likes it. The neighbors are a bit noisier, and it’s not exactly a safe place, but they haven’t knocked it off the night time delivery list yet, and until I am out of college, that is my low bar of safety.

Once I am out of college, I may have a higher bar. I may wait on that higher bar until my student loans are paid off. It depends on how much I make out of college.  As with basically every other Millennial I know, there’s not a lot of hope there in making as much as people swear I can make right out of college with my shiny new degree and my basically bare resume. Still, full time work that is meaningful is kind of the most important thing to me. I’m one person, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It’s a bit of a bummer, but I can keep my bills pretty low if I need to.

Luckily, about all most of my hobbies require is a connection to the internet and a computer.  I admit that I look forward to getting a powerful desktop so I can go back to making art again, but I’m pretty happy with my pretty little laptop right now.

Back to my moving adventure though. So. Here I am. My SUV, dear sweet beast that is, was packed solid yesterday.  For field of view reasons, and because there’s a distinct possibility that for some mysterious reason none of my friends trust my driving or my car, I was careful not to block my view out the back.

I swear I am a good driver guys. I haven’t nearly gotten into a wreck in at least five days.

So here I am, my car is full. My darlingest history major’s car is also full, and we’re on our way to the new place! I would have to make a second trip with my car, but we definitely had everything I needed for comfort packed! (Ha!)

I’m going a slightly less steep route, because The Beast doesn’t like gaining speed on hills on normal days when it’s just me in it, and everything is going fine.


About a third of the way there, there was a red light. It’s a nuisance, and I’ve never not caught it, but there it is. And of course I hit the red light again. So here I am idling at the light, waiting for it to turn, and speaking in baby talk to the cat who wasn’t fond of speeding up, slowing down, stopping, or really most of the ride at all. The baby talk soothed her. Or at least, it stopped the periodic confused meowing, and that worked for me.

And then.

And then my engine stops.

Oh lordy, lordy, apple pie and rhubarb sandwiches. Not again.  I hit the emergency lights button.  And I think about the dear old man who rescued me last time. What do I do?

First, crank it. Nothing is cranking. Bad Beast. Second groan in embarrassment cause the light is now green and your car is being a brat. Third, turn it completely off (park first!) and then turn it on again?

Yes! It worked.

Now mind you, my friend is supposed to be following behind me right now.  I lost her though, somewhere towards the beginning of our journey, because my faith in the time it takes two cars to turn onto the road was not, apparently, all that good. I am maybe not that great at estimating time. This is a distinct possibility.

The long and short of it is: she one hundred percent beat me there. One hundred percent. No contest.

We did get everything in the house though, and in time for her to go to class, which is good because my car and I were not going to go back there.  The Beast has Spoken. None shall defy the Beast less they wish to find themselves stranded an hour from their destination for the second time, seriously, one day I’m going to get a new car, and this same nonsense will occur.

Anyway, I like the new place. The cat likes the new place. I have a bit more bedroom room, and the cat is enjoying the freedom of exploring the upstairs of the townhome. She’s yet to figure out the stairs. Give her a bit.

And now I have to unpack everything tonight, so I can put more things in this place tomorrow.  Hurrah! Wish me luck, and cross your fingers that tomorrow’s moving part two won’t come with it’s own special brand of ‘seriously?’

One Final Byte: No mattress. No couch. One Bookcase. Innumerable books.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Surprise Adventures

I went on an adventure! And I’ve been talked into the occasional post on the little adventures I do also, as apparently they are interesting? Don't expect too many, but i'm told i need to catch you up on some adventures that I'm suppose have in fact happened.

So. An accounting of today’s Very Scary I Could Have Died Painfully adventure.  I am calling it that because it involves me driving, and let’s face it driving is something I do not like at all. Yes, it is freeing, and that freedom is nice, but have you seen how people drive? Terrifying. I don’t want to be on the road with them.  Plus, cars and I have an understanding. I avoid them, and I get a lot less car based adventures.

I prefer the adventures when I am on foot, which, I know, makes me a little odd.

Anyway. So. I’ve been having headlight trouble. Specifically, I burnt out the bulbs. This is a thing that happens. It’s okay. Easy fix.  So I grab a helper, because while I like doing my own car work when possible, I like a helper more. I promptly learned my helper, whom I shall thus forth call Mama Bear, due to her overwhelming Mama Bear status—She  isn’t my mom, but she’s become the pseudo-mom to the physics success center. She has lots of ‘kids.’ –well she apparently really, really likes working on cars. So it was more of me being the helper and her doing it. It isn’t what I intended, but I’m not going to say no. That part was easy.


Oh you know there’s always an until.

Until I accidentally knocked a screw into my hood’s lock, trying to move the screws so I will not, in fact, knock them into the hood’s lock.  What can I say? It takes a certain amount of ‘ah man’ in order to start an adventure. By this point, Mama Bear’s friend has shown up, and he’s helping to. Does it take three people to change a headlight bulb? No. But he was having more luck with the release tabs than I was, so it was fine. (To be honest, it really only takes the one.)

So we’re in the pre sunset stage of the day, and we lost the screw. I got to see if someone has a magnet, come back, and in the ten minutes I was gone, we have somehow managed to lose a hex wrench and a socket. I don’t want to know how. Twenty minutes later, we have retrieved the hex wrench. The socket, having fallen into a drain, in irretrievable. I should know. We tried.

This is bad news. I borrowed the socket set from Old Navy Dude. Now, I love Old Navy Dude to death, but now I have to go out a purchase him a single socket. Do they sell single sockets? I mean, I have no problem replacing it of course (Though I didn’t notice one missing from the set, when I closed it) but I don’t know if Lowe’s sells single sockets. I suppose I shall find out. If not, well. This is the internet. The internet will come through.

So here I am, one adventure under my belt, and little tired, but excited that my lights work. So I start to head home. It’s around a 30 minute drive, assuming there isn’t a traffic jam. Given that there is a construction site that lasts a good mile, there is a traffic jam a lot of the time. Not this time.

Not that I knew this when my Adventure, part two, began. You see, adventure part two occurred about halfway home. My dear sweet car, does not like the long steep hill it must climb, but it can climb it, with much encouragement. I am convinced I use the most gas on my journey just climbing that hill. At the bottom of the hill, I turn left. I like turning left. It’s easier than turning right, largely because let almost never involves a 90 degree turn that must be made in very little feet. I do not turn on a dime. My car does not turn on a time. I must slow down, because frankly, I really do suck at turning right.

Only, there’s a light at which I turn left.

Only, I got the red light.

Only, my car would not go when the light turned green.

I got honked at as I frantically pressed the gas pedal, wondering why the car was not doing the vroom-vroom. I have a car specifically so it can go vroom-vroom and I can go places. It was not.  But. But. I was at the bottom of a hill. So I was slowly, inexorably gliding forward.  At first fast enough I might clear it. Only I didn’t clear it. I did not clear traffic. The light changed.

By this point I have been honked at, had hit my emergency lights and was in the beginning stages of a panic attack.  I don’t know if you guys know this, but about the only places I ever have panic attacks are in cars. Cars and I, well. We just don’t get along.

I hit the brakes, freaking out, and trying to figure out why my car would not go. In my panic, and because I was pretty clearly not thinking at all, I managed to turn off my ac, turn it to warm air, and then hit every button on my dash I could think of.

That’s right. I panicked so hard, I thought turning the AC off and on again would fix my car. Oh Lordy. Panic is so weird. And then.

Yes there is an And then. There is always an And then.

And then the lights changed again so I had to try going forward.  I must have been a sight, slowly scooting forward, emergencies lights blinking, clearly panicking. See, here’s the thing. I was turning into a road that was about to start sloping up. That’s right. As soon as you turn, there’s a slight uphill gradient. It’s not normally a big deal. It is a big deal when the weight of your car alone is the only reason you are going forward. I made it…just past where the other lane could turn in. Not to the parking lot I was hoping to steadily inch to. See, even in panic, I know the procedure.

The car breaks down. Hit the emergency lights, get to the side of the road, call for aid.  I could not get to the side of the road. The car had inched forward all it would inch. Right. I was out of the way as I would get. Having determined this, and still panicking, I did the first thing I could do. I needed to call for help. Immediately, my brain goes through the list of who can help. Old Navy Dude? Too far away. Navy Lady? No, she was busy.  Mama Bear? I lost her number. Ah, but I have younger cohorts, and they are clever and smart and know things. That was it. I called...Physics Chick! Physics Chick is one of my best friends.  Other best friends who I could have called, I can in fact also refer to as Physics Chick. Won’t that be confusing, if I ever refer to all three Physics Chicks in one blog.

So I call, and she immediately susses out what’s going on. It isn’t the transmission, there’s no noise, no sign, and I’ve had one of those go out while driving before. I know what that is like and this was not that.  She and I try and work it out, and the entire time she’s talking me out of my panic attack because Physics Chick knows how, somehow, magically. And then, the scariest thing around happens.  Somebody in an official looking branded car pulls in front of me…and begins to back up.

I freak out.  I should not have, because this guy knew exactly what to do, he talked me through it, and he was all “Your battery just died. You’ll be fine.” And then he just gets back in his car and leaves after mine starts miraculously! I do not know who that old man was but he was the best, and he just confirms my love of old men everywhere, because old men know a lot, and I was on my way again.

So everything is mostly hunky dory, and I’ve promised myself I can finish my panic attack in the grocery store parking lot. So I continue down the road and to the local grocery store, and pull into their parking lot, and I can’t get my keys out.  I call Physics Chick back, because you guys know I don’t talk on my phone and drive. I like living too much for that, and cars are nothing but screaming metal death traps anyway. I don’t need to add to that.

She knew what was up. I completely forgot to actually park the car. Shush. All of you shush, because I know you are laughing at me, and you’ll laugh more at what happened next. I get my groceries, starving by this point, get in the car…and for some reason ‘the ac isn’t working….’ I swear, I got five miles down the road before I realized why I was so hot.  That’s right.

I had turned the heat on. In my panic earlier, I turned the heat on and never turned it off.  Y’all should all know. Some days, you just want to go home, cuddle your cat, and pretend cars never even existed in the first place.

I did make it home safely though, I promise. I had to get a neighbor to help me with the lock, because it got stuck. Again. But I made it! And now, I’m going to enjoy some pot pie and an ice cream bar, because after all that nonsense, I deserve it.

One Final Byte: Adventure, in its many forms, is often unexpected.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Berlin Day Two

First, please excuse any typos. I´m writing this on a German keyboard because I accidentally fried my laptop adapter. The biggest changes are the positioning, addition of umlauts, and my y key is in a very unusual position. Second, I have been corrected on my identification of the submarine from the other day! It was, in fact, a soviet submarine, and once I am back in the states I`ll correct that in the post itself.

For now, just plain wowzers. What A Day! Berlin is so wonderful. Of course, I only ended up with five hours to explore it after the Reichstag tour, but still! So much wow. And that was five hours AFTER a morning tour of the Reichstag.

A bit about the Reichstag for those not in the know. The Reichstag is where the German Parliment casts its votes and holds Party meetings. As I can hear you asking why I would go there from the hotel in Germany already, I'll explain the appeal of the place to me. One Word: Architecture.

See, this building is a little on the weird side. Almost all of it is the original outer walls of the building, built in the Weimar Republic, which was Germany's first democracy and in the early 1900s era. This means that it is rocking the classical art look, feel, and symbology. You guys know me and the classical period. Ah, my first love in art! Wonderful.

Of course, there was a wee bitty change on the facade at one point in the 1900s, and I should only have to translate it to tell you who wrote it. On the front of the building, in an otherwise unmarred band reads something a little out of place. 'Dem Deutschen Volke.' To the German People. Three guesses on when that was put there, and the first two don't count.

If you guessed Hitler, you were wrong.  Try in 1916, and to the displeasure of then ruler Wilhelm II. That's right. Sounds like Nazis and isn't. History produces weird things.

This is not all there is to this magnificent building of course. You see, after the wall fell and Germany became one again, there was a tiny matter of where to vote at, and where else but the Konigplatz, now renamed to something less kingly, and with government buildings all around. One problem. The Soviets had totally trashed the place, among other things, like bombs falling from the sky.  So it got a makeover.  The entire interior was removed and build to modern taste, and on top, as a symbol of the transparency of the new government a giant glass dome was built.

Around the building we went, seeing this and that, even preserved Soviet graffiti, which while interesting in its existence, rates only a one of my graffiti scale. It was almost entirely dates, names, and where soldiers were from. Says a lot about the mind set of the soldiers, I think.

This was a good three hour tour and climb to the top of the glass dome by the way. Leaving me with only five hours to see the town and get back to where our last hoorah dinner was going to be. Effectively, with getting around, I had four hours. With eating a lunch as well...only three. THREE HOURS! Well, plus change, of course, but oh what could I do, how could I take in the city? I could not. Not by foot. So I employed the mighty services of a tour bus! City sightseeing buses abounded, and if I only had a handful of hours to see it all, this would be the way.  I made my way from the Reichstag to the Brandenburg Gate, and admired that very much, and all too greatly. Then I got on a tour bus with a friend who had the same idea.

The sights! The sounds! Berlin! We saw the victory tower, with the eight meter tall Victory angel on top.  The children next to me insisted she was a golden fairy.  It was a very good description.  Along the route, we also saw Schloss Bellevue, where Merkel lives, we were told Schloss Charlottenburg was also taken in, with all it resplendent glory, as was the beautiful route to the zoo. The Europa Center was admired, and we saw, of course, KaDeWe, a huge shopping mall from the DDR, if I recall correctly.

A trip through Potsdamer Platz and all showed us the magical art area, so many galleries, the sony center, the golden philharmonic, the musical theater with greats from the black and white era and so many more! We even got to see more remains of the wall, and of course we got to see check point charlie, though the bus did not stop for us to get off there, to my sorrow. 

Oh the tour was wonderful, and we got off near the Reichstag to head over to a memorial that is wonderful in theory and which I still do not understand at all the deeper meaning behind.  That would be the Holocast memorial specifically to the Jews.  I did see the one ot the Gypsies as well. It's a reflecting pool with a triangle in the middle.  For the jews there is a large plaza filled with stone rectangles of varying heights. They get big enough that you can walk among them, and thanks to cleverly digging down, it looks like they only grow in height maybe three feet.

I still don't understand it. But it was very memorial-esque.

After this I had to make my way back to the S-bahn, of the Schnell bahn, the quick train. I took it to the Potsdam station from the Brandeburg Gate, as it seemed that was the closest. From there, I changed trains to one to the Alexanderplatz near my hotel and the restaurant our last horrah was at. I arrived soon enough to briefly admire the TV tower, the largest most modern structure of the DDR in Germany, and then to check out the Statsi Archives.

I don't know the proper name. But in these archives is the most shocking thing in Berlin for me.  If the DDR had a file on you, you will now find it there. They had a lot of files, on a lot of people. It's a very large building, and to the front, is this statue of a Soviet working man. It was closed by the time I was there, but for me, this affected me much more than the Holocaust memorial.

Shortly after, we had a goodbye dinner at 'Der Alte Fritz.' The name is in honor of the man who brought Germany the potato....Frederick the Great. There were potatoes at our dinner. I gave up and had them. Germans really love potatoes guys. They really do.

I wish I had more time. I didn't get nearly as much done as I would have liked. Berlin is just too small for only a few hours, or even only a few days in it, and tomorrow, or rather, on Sunday my plane leaves back for the US.  But that, of course, is another adventure.

One Final Byte: When adventures are done, people will be missed.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Day one of Berlin

So. Last Night, we arrived at Berlin, tired from a day of travel, hungry as a pack of wild coyotes, and incredibly curious.  The others went for a self-guided night time tour of Berlin. I went to save the world from me being cranky, and had an Italian Dream Pizza, and a nice night’s sleep. And Italian Dream Pizza is, apparently, pesto and mozzarella on a thin crust with marinara sauce. This is what I get for eating at a hotel bar. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t bad. It just was. Each slice varied in tastiness, which is what happens when a bartender is forced to spread pesto on a pizza crust.

This hotel, by the way, is simply lovely. The rooms are not the giant American sized ones of course, but the décor is just right, and when you first enter, the TV flicks on to play soothing music.  This is because to have electricity you have to insert your room card into the electricity slot.  Electricity slot, by the way, is how the hotel translates it into English. It is a very literal name.

After my lovely night’s sleep, and very German breakfast of chocolate croissants, and not the unfamiliar deli meats that have been a part of every German breakfast buffet here, we were off to attend lectures! This time, to cover the aspects of the German Space Agency that are in no way related to space. Along the way to the DLR Berlin site, I admired the route we took with cat like curiosity. Let me tell you, along the route we took, there was not big city traffic. There wasn’t even small city traffic. There was not a single traffic jam whatsoever. There were an awful lot of cyclists and trains and buses, but no traffic jam. These things may or may not be related.

Oh! Also, can I just say that I adore the little classical art house décor. I don’t have the word for what they were, but it was, essentially, a painting cut out of the stone attached to the building. It’s not a sculpture how I normally think of a sculpture, but it was certainly sculpted. Either way, America should take up the habit.

Also, Berlin, I forgive you the lack luster graffiti of my arrival! Oh, my heart is smoothed for the masterpieces of signatures and scenes that I have seen on this day. Such beauty! Truly you have talented graffiti artists Berlin. Mostly just mindless taggers yes, but your shining pearls certainly outshine those who can little more than sign their own name.

Of course, shortly after some lovely graffiti, we saw IT. You know what I mean. That famous wall. Every inch of it that remained along our route was covered in beautiful murals, almost all dedicated to peace, and some of which that had stood for longer than I’ve been alive. (Betcha feel old now don’t you?)

It was very touching, for the most part. I think I pretty much just held down my hand on the take a picture button for my camera though, and let it go wild. The 200+ photos will all be stitched together….later.

There’s so much to tell you! Urgh, I just don’t have enough words people. Like, how do you move on from something as astonishing as The Wall, to the fact that Germany is dotted by weird little huts shaped like strawberries and painted like strawberries that sell strawberries! Here’s a hint. I did it just like that.

It’s so very different being here now, compared to when I was here last. I think northern and southern Germany are clearly two different beasts, especially when you throw Berlin into the mix.

For instance, before, I didn’t see many hobby/community gardens. Here, there’s long fields of community gardens where you can rent a plot, build a shack, and do all your hobbies there that you can’t do in your apartment. Let me tell you, there’s a lot of hobbies out there that don’t fit in apartments.  I was incredibly confused the first time we went past one, and asked our German Group Leader. He explained that people go there on the weekends and garden, or do other outdoor hobbies. I even say one with a shallow pool in it. A wise choice in this near 100 degree weather.

And oh, along the way we say the prettiest of trains. It is a train that you wouldn’t hesitate to board, and you would feel like you stepped back in time to step through the door, for surely, something as pretty as this could not be a modern train. Then you enter it and see the seating and yes, yes it is a modern train.

Anyway, we did reach the DLR Adlershof site, and proceeded to be informed of the other things German NASA does.  Such as traffic research and building 3D maps. I assure you, both fo these had much longer and more scientific titles before I got to them. What really tickled me pink though was our speaker from the Institute of Planetary Research. He spoke largely of asteroids and the Philae mission, played silly NASA videos from other asteroid missions, and informed us if a bolide (the Russian asteroid from a year or something agoish) comes down to earth, we should avoid being near the windows, so we don’t get hurt.  Even 50 km away. In American, that’s about 32 miles.

Oh, did I mention the coolest bit? The DLR Adlershof site is startling near Albert Einstein Straße. You can bet I got a picture of that, and a picture of me standing there, looking all too happy.

We also got a tour fo the DLR site, in which I got to see the Exomars camera development model, stare longingly at a full size model of the Philae lander, and admire several spectroscopy machines and the lovely rocks the samples for those machines came from. I am told that they make their own samples in the room attached, because the industry standard samples aren’t good enough. He said it like that too.

Of course, after this we had lunch in a college cafeteria of the local university. Between that and my college university, I adored the German university’s décor ten times more, but the food choices were not particularly varied, or great in number, so I’d have to select my university’s for food in both variety of flavor and choices to be had. Either way, I’m rather fond of my university’s cafeteria food, and tired of potatoes, so I don’t think this was at all a fair assessment.

Oh! This was not the end of my day, by far people. Not at all. We concluded our organized activities by a thirty minute visit to Frederick the Great’s summer palace. This was such a favorite place of this guy that he insisted on being buried there. And as I cannot escape the Almighty Potato in Germany, I might as well tell you. This man had baby potatoes all over his grave. There were like 25 on his gravestone. Some had faces. One had a tiny Prussian toothpick flag. Seriously, Germany, we gotta have a talk about those potatoes.

There’s good reason for the potatoes on Frederick’s grave by the way. This man is the man who popularized potatoes in Germany. My guide informed me that legend had it, before him, people grew potatoes for the flower rather than the root (the thing you eat). He then went and made it all kinds of ridiculously popular to eat them, by planting a field, and posting two men to guard it. People assumed they must be rare and valuable, then stole them, planted hem, and this somehow led to them eating them? The story was not clear on that last point.

Seriously though Frederick. Potatoes? Everywhere.  Good job on that.

On the way back, of course I saw some very excellent graffiti and some of which was clearly commissioned graffiti, but still graffiti none the less. Germans have their public art scene down people. Public art is all over the place. Gorgeous. We need more of that America. Come on. More.

We also passed by an ebay center, which was unexpected, largely because I’ve never seen an ebay center ever before, and yet, there it was in Germany. Then, back at the hotel I had to race, one more time.

Germany is basically one giant race for me this trip guys. I speed everywhere. This time was to the Apotheke aka the Pharmacy. The race was because it closed at probably 6, but maybe 7, no one knew. It was, of course, closed. So we had to go much farther to find a 24/7 pharmacy.  The local pharmacies all take turns having one night a week in which they are 24/7, so it can be tricky finding one. We did it though, and after four days of trying to get to a place that closed only minutes after I got back to the hotel, I finally got more aspirin for my knee. Seriously. Four days of running out of time.  This is why I’m always racing.

Afterwards, I ended up at dinner in a Biergarten, in which I drank the Sprite and had a salad as I wasn’t too hungry, and my companions had a Pig’s elbow.  This is the translation they provided. It was HUGE. Looked good, and I’m told was delicious. It’s still a pig’s elbow though. Eisbein is the name of the dish, if you ever have one, and they suggest you get it fried so the fat on it is crunchy.  By the time we were done, it was time to write my blog and go to bed.  Tomorrow is the big government building, and a tour of the big monuments, followed by ‘free time’ in which I shall explore museums to my heart’s content.

One Final Byte: Suck the marrow out of every single day.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Neustrelitz and the Orangery

After two days of rushing about, Sunday was rather welcome for most of the travelers. On Sunday, for the most part we relaxed, taking a break from the frenzied sightseeing of the past two days to breathe in the German Air and get some much needed sleep. And then came the afternoon, in which we all met up as a group of campers once more for sightseeing in Neustrelitz. That was interesting, led at a slightly slower pace than the other two days this weekend.

It turns out Neustrelitz had been a pretty important place in the Dukedom of Mecklenburg at once point, and was home to a princess at one point in its history. It also had an Orangery.  The tour in general focused largely on the architecture of the town which was simply amazing, and culminated at the church in the center of the town. Still active, it’s a protestant church with a six story tower. You can bet we climbed up that tower, from the inside.  It was steep. It was exhausting. It was worth it. The view from the top was absolutely amazing, and very beautiful. You could see the lake in town, and the old church on the other side. You could see the geometry of the town, designed to have a major road in all eight directions of a compass.

It was beautiful.

High places often are.

I’m lucky to have seen it! We headed back down one by one, taking the stairs down slowly. It was, after all, very steep. People wearing sandals, or in one case heels, took them off for the route back down, and we met in the church before going to the big event of the day.

The Wine Tasting at the Orangery.

This was excellent.  If you don’t know what an Orangery is don’t worry. I don’t either, and I’ve been to one. The dictionary tells me it is a conservatory like building where oranges are grown.  I saw no oranges, but I did see an awful lot of casts from famous statues, some multiple times. It seems the one time owner was very fond of classical art, Greek frescoes, and Greek statues.

You of course, likely want to hear about the actual wine we tasted, I am sure. There were six wines total, three whites and three reds.  One white and one red was from each country officially represented on the trip. This meant Germany, South Africa, and the USA. Unofficially, of course, we had Germany, Italy, India, Finland, Indonesia, and the USA. I think having two wines from each for that though may have been a bit of overkill.  The whites were all very good, and the reds weren’t bad either, though I always prefer white wine, I confess. None of it was from a local vineyard, of course, but it was still very tasty, and very different than the last wine tasting I enjoyed in Germany. The wine was beautifully paired with the food though, and the food, whatever it was for the most part, was simply amazing. I would eat there again, if I thought it was anywhere near my budget. We also got the other grand piano they had there played for us by one of the campers. Wow oh Wow! He was good, and played two songs from memory, singing along with the second. Wow oh Wow. It was nice!

I walked through the Orangery at that point, only to be pulled back for a group photo. After this, we were off! Off for what, you ask? Well, it was up to you, but I went with the group that was going to check out the tomb of the dead but much beloved princess.  It was a nice enough tomb, I think, but I have one very serious question.

Why the devil do you put windows in a tomb! Seriously though dudes, the people can’t see in because they are too high, and, you know, the dead can’t exactly see out. Some things I just don’t understand.

Still, it’s all been tons of fun, and I enjoyed it all so much.  The lectures have been good, and the projects pretty challenging.  For this camp, I totally give it an A+! I had fun.

I think my only real complaint about the German side is that if they see you searching for a word in German, they automatically switch to English! It’s very nice of them of course, but I had hoped to use my German more than I did here. Oh well! That just means I’ll have to return to Germany in my travels, so I can use my German more! Or you know, any German speaking country could be nice.

One Final Byte: Travel should always inspire more travel to happen.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Rostock and Warnemuende

Friday isn’t the only day we traveled of course!  Saturday meant another trip, this time by train! Yay trains! You all know I love train travel.

This one was a two hitter also, and like most two hitters I just didn’t feel like I got enough time at either place. This time, it was Rostock and Warnemünde. As a note, that ‘r’ in Warnemünde is nearly silent. It’s very soft when you pronounce it.

Back to the super awesome train though. This train was a double decker. I kid you not. Two. Levels. Is that not the best thing ever? The answer, by the way, is heck yes it is the best! Oh man. The only downside was that Rostock is basically the place to be in Northern Germany on the weekend during the summer. It was so crowded, we couldn’t all find seats together. This was a problem because we had one ticket that covered five people at once. It was one of those special deals that travel companies put on for groups, and there just weren’t five seats in one area together!

I got to sit on the stairs for the first half, but one the ticket lady saw us once, we could split up in the same car, and you bet your bottom dollar that I went for the top as soon as I could go for the top. Of course, I only had the second class ticket, and you know first class took up most of the second floor of the cars. But there were some seats for us second class ticket holders and I took full advantage of people leaving the train to hurry up before someone else could take one.

It worked out well! Second story rocks people. Nicer seats, a better view, and heyo, nice company too! Hi Dude! Great Star Trek talk there. Great talk.

Okay, so for the most part, the plan was to stick to the group we traveled with, largely because only one person’s phone worked overseas. Hello my phone company? You’re driving me away here with this just so you know.  Seriously dudes, I’m switching soon as I find a cheaper company that’ll let me keep my number and phone.

Anyway, our first stop was at the old watch tower, which was, of course, dutifully admired and questioned our German Camp Leader over. He didn’t have all the answers, but he did have the internet, which was dutifully queried until we were satisfied. It was a glorious tower, by the way, and the city shield, along with the shield of the Duke who basically commissioned the entire town, was displayed. There was also a bull on the tower but just the head, looking very fierce.

After that, it was a quick walk to the visitor center, with a stop by one group member to get a pair of shoes she wanted. It took about an hour of carrying around the shoe box with her old shoes in it to regret that, I believe. At the visitor center, we picked up a map and set out, after making a brief plan.  We went straight to the Marien Kirche (Church of St. Mary) and explored the place well, checking out all the wonders of an old church, and one wonder most old churches don’t have.

That would be a ridiculously detailed astronomical clock which worked from sometime in the 1400s to 2017, and told you everything from the time, to the day of the week, to what time Easter would be that year, and what name day is was! Jiminy Cricket, it was ridiculously detailed, and all of it in the old German calligraphy that is so hard to read.

For lunch, we decided to have something local, and not ‘just a snack.’ The Germans consider lunch the biggest meal, for the most part, and portions reflect this greatly.  We chose to eat at the Gaststätte Ritter Runkel. In English, this is the restaurant, Knight Runkel. I had a turkey salad which had no dressing, and weird, weird toppings on my lettuce, but I wasn’t very hungry. I was too busy being amused by the weaponry hanging up everywhere. Crossbows, pikes, awes, swords, and a suit of armor.  The take the knight theme very seriously there, but it was definitely good food and worth every Euro.

And then we noticed the time. We had two more churches we wanted to hit up, but only an hour left to get back to the train station. We could do it. Barely. If we didn’t go inside the churches. We had agreed to meet at the train station at a certain time if we got separated, and by that time, we had lost one member of Team Us.

What a race! First we hit up one church, stop, take pictures, and then check the time. No time to take more than one or two, and we’re off! The next church was officially on the way to the station, and we hurried on, only to discover that one was largely under construction. Well, that’s alright, we snapped several pictures and hurried on, making it with five minutes to spare to meet our missing member. It looked like, however, she had gone ahead with another group. So then we were off! To Warnemünde!

We only have a few hours in Warnemünde, and wanted to make the best. After setting a new time to meet up, and promptly ending up split up we were off! The idea of a boat tour on the Baltic sounded like the best idea to me, but we had one problem. All the boats would have gotten in too late for the time we set to meet up again. The reason? A boat the size of an entire apartment complex would be on the move, supposedly leaving harbor, at the time of the tour’s end, so we wouldn’t be able to land! Talk about added time. 

Seriously though, those cruise ships are super huge. I had never been so close to one, and the pictures do not do them justice. It’s like someone forced a New York skyscraper into a boat shape. We didn’t have the time to do more than check out three light houses in this town, but that was cool! Also somehow lighthouses are always so much smaller in person. I’m always surprised that something so thin and short can play such a very important roll.

Or course, Warnemünde had been chosen by our German Camp Leader for a reason. Hello rock concert! We only really had the time to stick around and see Jorvis life in person. It wasn’t a screaming field of fans sort of concert on the beach. More like a family friendly venue thing. The music was good though.

Better, it was all on the beach, and the weather was warm enough to go in today! Of course, I didn’t have my swimsuit on, but I did walk in to just below my knees, and let the surf get my pants cuffs wet. I have stood in the water my ancestors stood in. Never mind that everyone knows Vikings totally sailed in the Atlantic too. The Baltic is more Viking-ish, I’m sure.

And then we had to catch the train so we could get to our train!   This was a true time crunch, as we ended up having to go through the concert goers, promised by a group member that this would be a short cut. We couldn’t be late, so kept moving at a fast walk, cutting around groups with all the skill we could. We managed to get there just barely on time, but with no time to grab food.  As a note: Going THROUGH the concert and not AROUND is never ever a short cut, no matter what.

Of course, by this point I was tired, but glad we weren’t going in on the last train in. But it was now dinner time, and I was hungry. There was a Chinese place at the station and too tired to translate anything, and with no clue what Chinese names would be in German anyway, I ordered the cheeseburger.

That’s right, I had an American Cheeseburger at a Chinese restaurant in Germany.

Well. ‘American.’ The condiments were all replaced with one single condiment of a Thousand Island sort of dressing, but chunkier? I have no clue, but it was pretty good.

Of course, following this, we still had one more day of exploring to do. 

One Final Byte: My feet stood in the waters of Vikings!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Peenemuende and Zinnowitz

Germany has been grand so far. I’ve been kept so busy as part of the Joint Space Weather Summer Camp (simply called DLR Camp in Germany) that I haven’t been able to sit down and write, not really. The camp in the German side is very different than the one in the US side. The German side had largely been focused on applications, where the American side focused heavily on the science. There’s also the daily set up.  Rather than the three lectures daily in the US, we have a discussion and two lectures.  We always discuss the lectures the day after, and have a sort of ‘homework’ to do every night.  It’s normally just think over and discuss a few questions, so it’s not like it’s too hard to do, for the most part.

Still, it’s a lot of fun! The projects here are significantly more challenging than the US projects though, partly because there’s less time to work on the projects themselves.  You effectively have about 12-13 hours of work time, and the projects tend to take the entire time.

Of course it hasn’t been all work!

We spent the weekend traveling to do things!

On Friday, we went to Peenemünde. We were there for the historical museum that focused on WWII weapons development and rocketry.  The museum itself was super interesting.  Of course, all the signs and everything were in German, and my German skills weren’t enough to get more than a gist of what they said, but even just the images and displays were interesting, and they did have English language flyers for most of the room, and the English audio tour. If you’ve never been on an audio tour by the way, you get to wear something the size of an old cassette player around your neck and listen to someone with a lovely British accent tell you want is going on for much longer than it takes just one person to move through just about any room, no matter how interesting.

The museum was great though, very old factory style, given that it’s in an old decommissioned power plant.  I got to go up to the roof and look out over everything, and see in the distance a U-boat also from WWII. We also got to do a neat tour in which we had to sign some paperwork absolving the museum of the responsibility of us stepping on a landmine. Nobody stepped on a landmine though, so there were no problems. It’s still a bit intimidating though, to have to sign for that!

I think I liked that tour more.  The old town built there during WWII to house a concentration camp, scientists, and engineers has almost all been destroyed, but there’s still barracks you can see in the distance, and a house standing, along with a shelter from the concentration camp.  The big things though were the deep trenches in the ground and the concrete pathways everywhere. There was even a ten meter high (approximately 33 ft) hill that had been built to protect the rockets they were testing there from crosswinds, and the people from the rocket fire! We ending up walking over to exactly where they had tested rockets, where they have a sort of memorial stone standing up to commemorate it, and an old fire hydrant thing which everyone promptly begin to play with.

What can I say? It felt like interactive history.  We even took a few photos of using clearly working hard to fight a fire.

On our way back to where we are staying, we stopped at a little beach resort town called Zinnowitz on the Baltic to go out on the pier. At the end of the pier was the weirdest little house. It was a pretty teal, with petals of metal on top, and it was off the side of the pier.  Well, you know me, I was curious, so I simply had to poke around and go in. It involved on entrance fee, but to shush my curiosity of the funny little building, I will, of course, cheerfully pay the very small fee. And it turned out to be one hundred percent worth it.

I went under water without getting to much as a toe wet. I kid you not. The entire building goes under, and you watch a movie about conservation and species diversity and trash in the ocean being bad, then you go up again. I think the only down side is you had to stay seated the entire time, though let me tell you, even with us sitting still, it was simply amazing. Given it was too cold to go swimming, even for the locals, it was definitely a turnaround for the trip to the Baltic. Of course, at the end, we had just enough time to grab dinner and then go to the bus at a nice trot.

It was a good day.

One Final Byte: History has two sides: both Winners and Losers.