How I travel (Part 4)

I like small towns. I also like cities, but as I am not a huge fan of being a tourist, often big cities wear me out. They also can make me feel guilty. They also wear out my feet, cost a lot, and many other things. But most people don’t go to small towns. This is a) because they are hard to get to and b) there is not a lot to do there for tourists.

However, because I’m a little crazy, I tend to go to a lot of small towns. I think that the smallest town I’ve ever stayed in was Brackenheim-Botenheim, Germany (pop. unknown) in 2004. It is the location of this picture and the longest time it ever took me to pay a hotel bill. (And by me, I mean my mom. For the record it was about 6 months. But it got paid.)

Spring Break

It may or may not be the case that I end up in small towns going to concerts. This trip, I went to Meldorf, Germany (pop. 8,000) and Lüneburg, Germany (pop. 72,000) for concerts as well as a suburb of Hamburg. To be fair, Lüneburg is a substantial town, but it is a tourist town for Germans, not really anyone else. The main museums in town are only in German and other than cycling, there’s not much to do. Other than eat ice cream.

This is my post to convince you that small towns are cool. I will also refer you to this ancient post if you have forgotten how cool small Swiss towns are.

Lüneburg:

In Lüneburg, you can park your motorcycle in the middle of a field/forest.

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There are also cool buildings. Like the water tower. I think I could have climbed it, but I spent too much time not knowing how to check into my hotel, so I failed.

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Yet another cool building. This was across the street from my hotel and looked oddly zebra-esque. Apparently Lüneburg is known for salt mines, but this also led to unstable soil and so a lot of the buildings aren’t exactly straight. This one is more than some…

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Luckily, even in small towns, the restaurants are on facebook!

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I have no clue what rubber duckies have to do with optometry or eyeglasses, but obviously they are a critical marketing point. And is it just me or does the guy on the left look a little like Carl Kasell?

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I thought this was a cool windowsill, so I took a picture. Then the dude poked his head out and said something to me in German. It wasn’t angry though, so apparently he was happy I took a picture of his birds and clog.

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Church towers are very important, even in smaller towns. Lüneburg was somewhat confusing to navigate because it had not one, but three cathedrals!

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Here is the cathedral I went to a concert in. It is the cathedral J.S. Bach grew up as a choir boy in. It is pink inside.

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More churches!

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Meldorf:

Because I was worried about how to occupy my time in Meldorf after the Ag Musuem, so I preemptively rented a bike. The rental store was very nice. They charged only 6 euros for a whole day and took care to explain to me (with consultations with folks who spoke better English than others) that if my bike was stole I had to pay for it and that’s what I was signing. Here I am on my bike ride.

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Apparently you can keep donkeys in your yard in Meldorf. (I was sneakily taking this picture because the dude had just come to move the donkeys.)

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Also, if you bike down the right street, you will find a windmill. I think there was a restaurant in the windmill. It was very random.

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Also, every town should be required to have buildings with sayings on them in Latin. And another building with Latin characters on it (e.g. Ovid, Aristotle).

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The Dom (Cathedral) is in the middle of the town square and is surrounded by parking lots, cafe tables, and very strange street patterns. I never understood why the cars could drive in the pedestrian area, but apparently they can. And then they end up entering the parking lot and hopefully no one dies in the process.

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The Meldorf Dom and the location of the evening concert.

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Inside of the Dom. Very pretty and with phenomenal acoustics.

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Hohenstein-Ödenwaldstetten:

This is a town of about 3 people. I was there for the workshop that brought me to Europe in the first place. We all stayed at Spiedel BrauManufaktur which had a hotel, restaurant, and conference rooms.

I love that this was the view from our balcony. (This patio is where we ate lunch every day. The open windows on the second floor of the yellow building are from the room where we met every day.)

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The only open shop in town that we could find claimed to have a lot of items. They did not, however, have the pervasive European Ice Cream bar. There was another shop just down the road, but it was suspiciously always closed. The church is in the distance and the city hall (for all five of the villages of Hohenstein) is on the right.

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The front of the brewery/hotel/restaurant/conference center. I love the painted buildings.

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So, in summary, small towns are good! You should go to one.

Best Dessert Ever

Quark-Joghurt Creme (Vanilla) with fresh German Blueberries. WOW. Just. WOW. And since the Quark-yogurt was only about .60 euros and the blueberries were 3 euros for 500 grams, this was a steal. I want more. Now.

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Thoughts on German trains

1 – The Ruhebereich (Quiet Zone) is supposed to be free of talking and cell phones. Yeah. In the US and England this is enforced with dirty looks and I was worried that my typing might be a problem in this zone. HA! There are families talking (loudly) and people making cell phone calls left and right.

2 – The conductors seem way less worried about tickets than in the US or England. The conductor has walked past me twice so far and not even glanced at me, even when I was holding out my ticket. The other day on my 40 minute trip I never saw a conductor. I totally could have ridden with out a ticket. But I wouldn’t do something like that.

3 – I finally found the power plug. It is between the seats. AMTRAK – take note. Having to put your cord over other people to reach the window wall is not cool. Between the seats is an equilibrium. Very cool.

4- The bigger the train, the more essential having a reservation is. Especially on weekends. SO worth the extra 2.50 euros or whatever it was to have a guaranteed spot.

Schleswig-Holsteinisches Landwirtschaftmuseum

Otherwise known as the Schleswig-Holstein (A Northern State of Germany) Agricultural Museum. This museum is housed in Meldorf, a town of about 8,000 people. As far as I can tell, Meldorf has four attractions, the church (Dom), the Agricultural Museum, and two more museums. One is a crafts museum and is lame enough to close at 1pm on Fridays. The other is some sort of museum that I didn’t understand. Like maybe a town museum. I didn’t go to those two. Being my father’s daughter, however, I went to the Agricultural Museum. I felt it was what I should do. Like when my family went to the National Grasslands Museum in Wall, SD, instead of Wall Drug. (I was 14 and heavily influenced by the billboards we’d been seeing for almost 2000 miles. I wanted to go to Wall Drug. The Stupid Grass Museum had no such billboards. Also it was a zillion degrees out. Aka 120. Without the heat index. I volunteered to stay with the dog instead of going to the stupid museum. Which was dumb. Said museum was air conditioned… Anyways, this is a form of an apology to my father.)

One thing I should state about the Agricultural Museum is that it has nothing in English. So it was rather quick to walk through because I don’t know enough German to read the explanatory boards or anything. Especially once my camera battery died and I couldn’t take pictures.

I walked into the museum and was immediately thrilled. Bunches of old farm equipment. That was really all I could see. Sweet.

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I have no clue what this is. It looks kindof like a mini-firetruck. Points for cuteness, for sure.

An example of the displays. (With my reflection and the ceiling lights…) The text looked like it had been printed on a typewriter or computer circa 1985 and obviously the person setting up the display didn’t know about lining things up with a ruler. But there is something about Deering USA. So I assume they are saying awesome things about John Deere Flügelmähers. Whatever they are.

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I believe that the goal of this display was to show how many fewer people the newer plowing technology required. New equipment requires fewer people! YAY! I have no clue why there are red people and green people. I can only assume that the red people are not, in fact, dead, because there is one on the most modern technology. But if he were dead, he couldn’t run the plow. So maybe the red people run the plow and the green people are helpers? We shall never know.

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Long random thing. I have no clue what it is. I took a picture of it so that someone (dad?) could identify it for me. I can only imagine the trouble I would get in attempting to drive this thing. I would undoubtedly get into accidents. Heck, I can’t even walk around my house without getting bruises all over my body. I could do some serious harm with this thing.

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I have decided, with my infinite agricultural wisdom, that this is what one calls a thrasher. Because it looks like something someone would call a thrasher. It looks like it would thrash. Feel free to correct me.

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Another long thing. This one confuses me. There is a seat in it, but it looks like it is meant to be pulled. However, I have decided, due the the barrel, that this was meant to do some sort of irrigation. OH. It is going to be pulled by the horses. But the driver must control the flow of water, so the driver sits on the seat. Maybe there is another dude on the horse. I hope so.

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Fact: The Germans don’t still farm with horses. They have big machines. called Junior.

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This is a vat for sauerkraut. Thankfully my camera turned on just long enough for me to take it. It is maybe 10 feet tall, 10 feet in diameter. LOTS O’SAUERKRAUT.

Then my camera truly died. So you’ll have to put up with my words now.

Upstairs there was hay! And sauerkraut machines and bread making machines and ovens. Then a photo exhibit of horses. Apparently this area is famous for their horses. I actually watched a video from Lexington, KY of all places from the 2010 World Equestrian Games from the event where horses jump over things in a ring (but not in a circle, if that makes sense…they are not in a field. That is the main thing.) Sadly, none of Isaac’s jumps were in this event, but apparently a Schleswig-Holstein horse placed first! So that was interesting. There were also dioramas of how Meldorf has changed in the past 200 years. Hint: There are still grazing cows in town, according to the diorama (I saw none).

When you leave this part of the museum, you go past a rose garden, to the old barn. You can wander around, upstairs, around the old stalls (with a fake horse that in the dark looks freakishly real), and in the house part. Fact: Apparently people used to sleep in closets. Or the equivalent of closets. Basically you pull back a curtain that is flush with the wall and there is a little bed with space for a four foot tall person. I would’ve been in trouble.

So that is the museum for you. You really should go to Meldorf so that you can experience it for yourself. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to (or didn’t know if I was allowed) to climb on the old tractors. That would have been Fantastic!

I am not a stalker

Stalkers do not get flowers from the people they are stalking.

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Stalkers also do not get chocolates.

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I know that many of you think I’m crazy. And perhaps I am. But it’s really fun going to small towns and seeing the same people interact with different folks, night after night. Random fact: In Lüneburg and Meldorf, I didn’t hear one native English speaker on the streets. That’s the type of trip I like!

Also, this is nowhere as epic (yet? I hope?) as some of my other trips. (No car accidents, no contemplating sleeping in graveyards, no using frequent flyer miles to disappear from the country without telling my parents. One of the guys sounded surprised that everything had been so crazy in the past!)

Friday night my hotel wasn’t even 50 feet from the concert hall. I went to my room instead of waiting in line for the restroom. I could get spoiled by that quickly. Except that that was my last concert of the trip.

Music for Migraines

I’m writing this on the train from Hamburg to Mannheim. I can’t take any migraine medicine, but I really wish I could. If I could write my brain an email right now it would go something like this: “Dear brain, I HATE YOU. DIE! Love, Katie” (Love because I’m polite and I don’t really want my brain to die. In fact, I promised Paul last night that I would wear a bike helmet – not that I ever don’t – at least until I finished my doctorate. Them brainz must stay intact. Then zombies can eat them. They will probably be yummier after all the knowledge.)

Anyways, one of my magical non-medication solutions for migraines is music. I thought I’d written about this before, but I can’t find any record of it. So I write it again.

Last night, I was at a fantastic King’s Singers concert. It was in Meldorf, Germany and was at the Cathedral or Dom. It was a HUGE deal, locally. The concert programme was called Pange Lingua and was centered around Gregorian chants and then accompanying music by Bruckner, Duruflé, Gesualdo, and de Victoria. I forget how much I love hearing concerts like that, in the setting they were meant to be heard in.

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And this picture is just for my mom. Because it was specially requested 🙂 Although it’s a terrible shot. Sorry mom!

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But that’s not exactly why I’m writing. Although it is in part. Because some of the music, as it was sung, all I could think was “I need to add this to my migraine mix.” Yes, I have a migraine playlist. Right now it’s pretty boring. (In it’s lack of diversity, that is.) Currently it consists of the entire “The Golden Age – Siglo de Oro” album of Spanish Renaissance music from the King’s Singers. The idea behind this music is that it has to be very interesting musically: this almost always means polyphonic choral music. In addition, it should be fairly steady dynamically and also in terms of range. If it is too loud or high, it won’t work in my mix. This generally means that King’s Singers music comes out on top in my mixes.

The music has a calming influence on me and is especially good if I am high strung or needing to sleep. On a day like today, it actually doesn’t work very well. There’s too much external noise and commotion. Today, I’m just putting my ipod on shuffle and when a song starts playing that won’t work, I immediately press next.

Lost in Translation

I do not “speak” German. Or Swedish, Danish, Finnish, or Estonian. Actually German is the only one I can even remotely handle. And by handle, I mean, squawk like a 1.5 year old. I have a fancy little book that tells me things. It is a “European Phrase Book.” The idea is that if I’m struggling and need to figure out how to say, “HELP! I need to buy a fancy trinket and then could you book me a double room please?” it will tell me. What it is absolutely useless with is the responses. So it explains how to say “I have a reservation.” But the response from the proprietor is going to be “What is your name?” or “What is the booking?” Neither of those two useful phrases appears in my book. So basically the book is useless. Plus I can’t learn things fast enough and the vocabulary is extremely limited, what with it touching on only 10 languages and all.

One of the semi-useful things is the list of foods. It tells me the words for beef, carrots, chocolate, etc. This is very helpful for deciphering menus. Sometimes I’ve just randomly ordered things that look good. Something that looks like housemade bratwürsts with something or other on the side is bound to be delicious. (Oh, yes. Yes it was.) Especially when it turns out that the other stuff accompanying it is awesome mashed potatoes, covered with carmelized onions, chives, and fantastic gravy. And the best mustard on the planet.

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Other times I choose to be more cautious. Especially if olives or sausage (non-würsts) may be involved. Spinat – looks like Spinach. Ricotta – ricotta. Tomaten – Tomatoes. Score. Fresh pasta with spinach and ricotta filling and tomato sauce. (I voted against the Tomaten-Sahne sauce because I had no clue what it was. Now I think it was tomato cream sauce.)

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Interestingly enough, I’ve had a harder time finding people in Germany who speak English than in Estonia and Finland. Maybe it was because there I didn’t even know how to say “Do you speak English?” in the native language or because I stuck to tourist areas. Almost everywhere I went had English menus and English servers. Here I almost always am deciphering menus in German (OK I did that in Sweden too) and talking to the wait staff (and hotel staff) in German. Which is a challenge given I had 6 months of German in about 1996… But I get by. And I don’t have to start every conversation saying “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” and that makes me happy.

Edit: Before giving me an English menu tonight, the waiter told me my German was fairly good. I consider an accomplishment! (Granted I had only asked for still water, but…)