An Obligatory Rambling Thanksgiving Post

For my Thanksgiving post, I had the brilliant idea to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving joke images today. Then I checked and sure enough, I had the exact same idea during NanoPoblano 2016. Damn it, Past Steven, why don’t you ever leave some of the good ideas for Future Steven to execute?

Since my first idea for a Thanksgiving post has already been done, I’ll have to come up with something else. Perhaps a tale of the first Thanksgiving.

No, not that one. Not the one with the folks with the buckles on their hats dining with the locals in their new homeland. I also don’t mean my favorite Thanksgiving story, the one with the dog and bird making all the food.

As an aside, can we talk about this for a second? Who ever thought it would be a good idea to have a dog and a bird create a feast for the entire group? For that matter, who thought that buttered toast and popcorn was a proper feast? (Full disclosure: childhood me thought that buttered toast and popcorn looked absolutely delicious, and in my tiny brain this meal was the height of luxury for many years.)

No, I’m actually talking about my first Thanksgiving in Germany. A quick recap for those who haven’t read this blog from the beginning: I started the blog in late October of 2011, and moved to Germany on November 11th of that year. This meant that when Thanksgiving happened two weeks later, I was alone in a new country. I hadn’t really made friends yet, and I was only just getting to know my coworkers. I was even still living in the hotel, because I didn’t find an apartment there until the following week.

What I did have was an overabundance of preparation- I had Internet-stalked the local English speaker’s Stammtisch, and had pre-emptively become Internet-friends with a few local folks. (A Stammtisch is basically any group of people that meets regularly, often in a pub. The literal translation is “regular table.” The shared topic of a Stammtisch can be absolutely anything- a photography Stammtisch, a bridge-player’s Stammtisch, you name it. Think of it like meetup.com, but in Germany and without the clunky website.)

Because I had started the conversation with other people almost before I arrived in Germany, I managed to score an invitation to a Thanksgiving dinner being held at a local Irish pub called Murphy’s Law. (This Irish pub became one of my most frequent haunts for the three years I lived there, but that’s another story.)

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The pub is all downstairs, and it feels like it’s carved out of a cave. It has a front area with a small amount of space ringing a U-shaped bar and a second much larger room which left empty unless they’re very busy. I was guided to this room on arrival, and I was seated with a bunch of people I didn’t know. I really only knew one person in the room at that point, and that one only just barely, so this was socializing-under-fire.

The dinner began, and it was a warm and friendly affair. I was the only American at my table, so I found myself acting as an impromptu American ambassador. I answered lots of curious questions from the others about traditional Thanksgiving customs back in the US. I wish I could remember some of the questions they asked, but this was nine years ago and I foolishly didn’t blog about it at the time.

Someone from the nearby US Army base in Hohenfels was at one of the other tables, and they had brought an American delicacy to be shared with the group: Twinkies.

I do love a traditional Thanksgiving Twinkie.

Speaking of Thanksgiving traditions, since I’m in my new apartment here in Arlington, I’ve managed to score a can of jellied cranberry. It just isn’t a proper Thanksgiving meal if I can’t see the ripples from the can on the side of my cranberry, you know? Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure one of the questions I was asked at the German Thanksgiving dinner was about cranberry sauce. I have a vague recollection of someone being astonished that this was a food that Americans actively seek out and enjoy.

I totally just grabbed the first cranberry jelly image I found on the Internet for this.

My family also has another tradition that is incredibly silly, now that I think about it. We would always have multiple pies after dinner, so you could choose which one you wanted to eat.

That’s not the silly part. The silly part is that one of those pies is a chocolate pudding pie. It is literally just chocolate pudding in a pie crust. With a little bit of whipped cream, sure, but it had no structure after it was sliced. It was just loose pudding in a pie crust.

This image was also stolen from the web, but it looks almost exactly like the chocolate pudding pies I am used to having.

Does your family have any unusual Thanksgiving traditions?

47/52 (and 26 of 30!)

A Regensburg Morning

Editor’s note:  This post was inspired by the Daily Post’s one-word writing prompt:  Morning.

For almost three years, I woke up to the same set of sounds.  Morning in Regensburg was predictable, and my bedroom window looked over a fairly busy residential street just outside the city center.   Many students for the local university lived just a few buildings down the street.  With no air conditioning, I left the window cracked open almost every night.

Around 4:30 or 5:00 Am, the street sweeper would come by.   By 6, the garbage truck would roll past, and the pedestrians would start their commute,  hard soled shoes clicking on the sidewalk.

Some of the people would pull little wheeled suitcases behind them.  The rhythmic clack-clack-clack of their rubber wheels meeting the sidewalk seams became very soothing to me.  To this day, that sound makes me sleepy.

In winter, the sounds were basically the same, but the street sweeper would be a snow plow, and the footsteps would often be muffled by freshly fallen snow.

My sounds in the morning now are more muted.  The weather in South Florida is too hot, too humid to sleep comfortably with the window open.   We never have Winter here, and cool air is only felt two or three months out of the year.  It’s almost never cool enough to sleep with the window open.

My apartment now is far enough away from most traffic that I only hear a passing vehicle if it’s extremely large or has artificially amplified mufflers.  People do that in South Florida, making their tiny economical cars sound like angry racing dragons.  I don’t really understand the motivation.

It’s quieter, sure, but sometimes it’s a little too quiet.  I’ve taken to running a small fan in the room just to produce some white noise.  I think I sleep better here than I did there, because I don’t hear every street sweeper, every drunken student singing through the streets as they come back from the bars in the Altstadt at three in the morning.

I miss the rolling suitcases, though.

Do you sleep with your windows open?

Repatriation Day

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Today is the day that I leave Germany. I’m not leaving forever, because I have friends here. After today, though, I won’t be a resident of Deutschland. I’m heading back to Florida.  My plane out of Frankfurt is actually scheduled to depart at the exact minute this post is scheduled to go up.

While this is a travel day for me, I thought it might be fun to give my friends an idea of what my Floridian  life will be like, geographically speaking, courtesty of http://overlapmaps.com/.  I’ve noticed that Europeans who have never been to the United States seldom have any real idea of just how expansive the US really is.  Americans who haven’t traveled here are similarly bereft of clue when it comes to scale, which is part of what makes these maps so much fun.

Here’s an example to illustrate that point.  This conversation actually happened between me and a colleague back in the US:

Colleague:  Hey, can you go to the data center to look at this server?
Me: The data center is in Frankfurt.  That’s three hours away.  I might be able to get there by tomorrow, if I leave now, go home, pack a bag, and manage to catch the next train out.
Colleague:  …so that’s a no, then?

First up in our map fun:  South Florida, overlayed onto the region of Bavaria I currently live in.   While these distances are not exact, I can say that Munich roughly overlays where Miami is, and Regensburg roughly overlays where I will be living.

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These next two are just fun:  Germany overlaid onto Florida, and Florida overlaid onto Germany.

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…and just for giggles, the United States overlayed across all of Europe.  The US is a big place.  I lived in the US for my entire life before 2011, and I still haven’t seen nearly as much of it as I have seen of Europe.   I’ve gotta get on that.

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Which is bigger?  Your home town, or the place you live now?

Regensburg Tourism

Earlier this month, I spent an afternoon checking out a bunch of the touristy things I can do without leaving Regensburg.  There’s a lot to see and do right here, and I didn’t want to leave it all unseen before I moved back to the US.  I started with a river cruise.

There are many great river cruises on the Donau (Danube) river, but I specifically wanted a short touristy river ride.   I found one that runs every hour or so during tourism season and runs about 45 minutes for the cost of eight and a half Euros.  At a touch after 11 in the morning, I set sail on the good ship Johannes Kepler.

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It’s rather interesting to see the Stone Bridge from this perspective.  I’ve been all over the surface and around the temporary construction walkways, but this is the first time I was ever underneath the bridge.  By the way, pay attention to that tower with the clock faces on it.  We’ll climb that later!

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Being on the tiny river cruise showed me things about Regensburg that I had never seen before.  For example, I didn’t realize that the villa of King Maximilian II was just walking distance down the river.

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I don’t know who Klara is, but I really hope she had a nice birthday.

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After we docked, I walked a short distance down the riverfront to the Schiffahrtsmuseum, or shipping museum.  Entrance was just three Euros.  The museum itself is contained inside two very old and beautifully restored ships.   The one pictured here is a paddle steamer.

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What would a museum be without tiny models?

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This is part of the engine room of the Ruthof, the paddle steamer which houses this part of the museum.  This stuff is absolutely huge.

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Once back on land, I finally managed to get a photograph of the Boat Captain.  I don’t know this gentleman’s story, but I see him walking around town from time to time.  He’s usually wearing all white, and he’s always  got epaulets on his jacket.  I’ve always wanted a photograph of him, but he was always walking in the other direction.

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I took a very brief detour at the Historic Wurstkuchl to grab some sustenance before I continued on my tourism day. So tasty!

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Next, I went to the museum next to Regensburg’s famous Stone Bridge.  Most of this museum is free, but there’s a tower here which can be climbed for another two Euros.

“Historic stairs” means they’re really old and rickety and made of wood, I guess.

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The top part of this tower used to be someone’s living quarters.  These are the rooms inside.

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The benefit to living at the top of the historic stairs is the view-  this is looking East from the tower.

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This is the view North from the tower.  When the bridge is not being renovated, this must be a fantastic people-watching view.

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Here’s the Western view.  This picture was taken during HerbstDult, hence the ferris wheel visible in the distance.

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One of the more interesting things about climbing the tower is seeing the mechanism that drives the clocks.  This tower has clock faces on three sides, and they’re all driven by a single mechanism.  This amazing little gearbox has long rods which connect to each clock face, and the electric motor beneath.    One motor for all three clocks.

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After climbing down from the tower, I walked around the free part of this museum for a few more minutes.  I’ve always liked that the Wappen, or coat of arms, for Regensburg is a shield with two crossed keys in it.

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Next on my tourism day was  walk up the street to the Kepler Memorial House.  Johannes Kepler lived in Regensburg at the end of his life, and he fell ill and died in this city.  His old house is a museum now, with an entrance price of two Euros and twenty cents.

J-Kep says science is cool!

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They could probably stand to give his bust a good cleaning.

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The entire museum was in German, so I didn’t get much out of the description cards, but I still liked seeing the old equipment in glass cases.

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This globe is utterly fantastic.  Back in those days, they really took the whole “here be sea monsters” thing very seriously, I think.

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After I was done at the Kepler House, I walked over to the Dreieinigkeitskirche, one of Regensburg’s many, many churches.

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Here’s that key logo again.

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…and again with the keys!

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I’m always a little bit fascinated by the incredibly old glass you find in places like this.  These windows are not as crystal clear as modern glass, but the effect is kind of charming.

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While the inside of this church is nice, that’s not why I was here.  I came to the church because for another two Euros, you can climb the tower.  I’ve been meaning to do this one for three years.  This is another place that wasn’t built for tourism-  they actually taped Styrofoam to one of the beams to prevent tourists from knocking their heads.

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This is another historical stairway, I think.

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Near the top, there’s a sign asking that you don’t touch the bell.

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It’s quite tempting, though.  This is an amazing old church bell.

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Why do I climb all these towers?  For the views, of course.    This is what the city’s main cathedral and the other clock tower look like from this church tower.

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Panning a little bit to the left, you can see another very, very old tower.   This city’s full of ’em.

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On my walk to the next touristy location in my day, I stumbled across some furries having a date.  At least I think that’s what was going on here.

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For my last stop of the day, I went to the Regensburg Historisches Museum, for an admission price of five Euros.  The last time I was there was the first full day I was in this city, back on November 13, 2011.  At the time, I knew absolutely no German at all, so I was completely lost.  It turns out that even with some knowledge of the language under my belt, the museum didn’t seem all that different to me.

I didn’t remember seeing these stained glass windows last time, though.

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I did remember seeing the Jewish headstones before.  There have been several Jewish settlements over the centuries in this city, and most of them have been forced out or simply eradicated.  Some of the old headstones survived and were brought to the museum.

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A big medieval city demands big medieval swords.

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I said before that museums love their models, and this is another fine example of that.

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Here’s what I spent on my tourism day, not including food:

€8,50 – River Cruise
€3,00 – Schiffahrtsmuseum
€2,00 – Museum and tower next to the Stone Bridge.
€2,20 – Kepler Memorial House
€2,00 – Dreieinigkeitskirche Tower
€5,00 – Historisches Museum

Grand total:  €22,70.   Not bad for an entire day out, with sun, boats, stairway climbing, history, and culture.

Have you ever been a tourist in your own town?  What did you see?