Donnerstag, 30. August 2007

Shadow Made It!!!

Shadow has been here for almost two days now, and I think right now is the first time he has let me out of his sight. Up until now he has lived up to his name and hasn't let me get more than a couple feet away from him. He made the flight over to Frankfurt and drive up to Düsseldorf and arrived in a lot better condition than I ever expected. I was really worried about his flight over here, but everything is fine now. At the moment he's just really confused. He doesn't understand that this is where we live now and he keeps trying to leave. It doesn't help that he hasn't seen my mom in a while either. He has also already run into the glass wall in the middle of the kitchen - I knew it was going to happen to someone soon.

Once he gets a little more relaxed and well-adjusted I think he'll like it. He's going to get a lot of walks around here. I've already taken him down to the Rhein paths, which he likes, but we have to keep an eye on him near the river. He loves to go on the beaches and into the water though (I keep him on the leash, Mom!).

Yesterday was our big adventure into the Altstadt! He got to go on the streetcar/train, which he has never been on before. He was really well-behaved, but he's so big that he can't help but be in the way. When we got to Heinrich-Heine-Allee, the main train station near the Altstadt, the only way up to the street level was via escalator. Shadow didn't like that so much. He crouched as low as possible without actually lying down and slowed everyone up behind us. It was funny to watch, but I felt bad at the same time because I knew he was scared. Aside from pulling a bit, he was much more well-behaved than I expected, considering every restaurant in the Altstadt had tables and food outside. We'll have to experiment and take him to dinner with us once. I don't think his table manners are good enough though. All the German dogs sit quitely at their owners feet while they eat. Shadow would be whining and barking at us for food.

Jenny and I have been on our own for the past couple of nights while Tim is in Belgium. We went to the Berliner-Imbiss last night for dinner for some German junk food. Instead of going for a burger around here, you get Currywurst. It's sausage doused in curry powder and ketchup. It's better than it sounds. This is an oh-so-attractive picture of Jenny with currywurst. For dessert we went for Spaghetti Eis - pretty cool. It is ice cream that comes out of a machine in strands like spaghetti, is covered in fresh strawberry sauce (to look like marinara sauce) and sprinkled with white chocolate (to look like grated parmesan cheese). I think I still like the Erdbeerbechers better, but it was worth a try.

Tonight Jenny has cello, which should be interesting since we do not have a car to get it to school and it looks like it is going to rain. That's it for now. Talk to you soon!

Dienstag, 28. August 2007


Sooooooo, we live in Kaiserswerth, which is a suburb of Düsseldorf. We’re really close to the city and since that’s where I told everyone I was moving, I’ll tell you a little more about it. It’s a city of about 250,000, but feels bigger than that. It’s the fashion capital of Germany – there are fashion houses everywhere – and is sometimes called “Little Paris.” I don’t know if I agree with that nickname, but it’s out there. Düsseldorf is on the Rhein River and is about 30 km north of Cologne. We’re also 2 hours by car from Amsterdam and 4 hours from Paris. The most famous area of the city is the Kö, short for König’s Allee, or the King’s Avenue. It’s comparable to Michigan Avenue in Chicago or Fifth Avenue in New York – very high end shopping. These are some pictures of the Kö, with the river down the middle.

Near the Kö is the Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof (or main train station) and the Altstadt. If you can’t tell yet, the Altstadt is my favorite area of the city. It is the part of the city with the stereotypical old German architecture and tiny, cobblestone streets. I’m not sure if it is completely authentic since most of Düsseldorf was flattened in WWII, but it doesn’t really matter because it still looks cool. They also refer to the Altstadt as “Der Längste Theke der Welt,” or the longest bar in the world. Within only a couple of city blocks there are 260 bars! There's even a "White Bear Bar" in the picture - anyone recognize that? Düsseldorf is home to the traditional Altbier. It is darker then a pilsner and outsells pilsners here by something like 6 to 1. It’s good. Jenny’s sports teams at ISD are actually called the “Alts.” You can find virtually every type of food you could want in the Altstadt, with the exception of Mexican food. They’ve got German, French, Argentinean, Thai, Moroccan, Indian, Italian, Turkish, etc. Keeping with the trend in Germany, the Altstadt has its fair share of bakeries as well. Every day of the week there is a huge market with fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, cheeses, olives, breads, flowers, ethnic foods, and of course beer. I ride my bike along the Rhein and pick up fresh food for dinner a lot of the time (we have to shop a little more frequently here than in the U.S. because our refrigerator is pretty small). Food also doesn’t last as long because it has fewer preservatives in it, but I’m sure that’s good for you.

A couple hundred yards down the Rhein from the Altstadt is the Hafen (literal translation harbour), which is what it is. The harbour used to have a more industrial focus, but as Düsseldorf has transformed into a more fashion and arts-centered city the Hafen has been reglorified. It is now the “new money” center of town. It is filled with modern architecture, trendy restaurants, and upscale hotels. All of the boats in the harbour now are personal yachts, rather than commercial ships.

More recently . . . a few days ago we were invited over to my dad’s friend Mel’s. They live over in what could most appropriately be called Expat Row here in Kaiserswerth. Four families from Minnesota came over for cake and cookies. It was strange for there to be four families that lived within 10 miles of each other in the U.S. now living within 10 miles of each other in Germany. It’s nice if you get homesick, I guess. Meanwhile Jenny was playing out in the street with kids from the U.S., Sweden, Scotland, Germany, etc. – that’s different from MN. I think I may have been identified as the new babysitter for everyone. Could be alright seeing as I have no big plans at the moment.

I planned on leaving Mel’s early to head towards the city to play Ultimate Frisbee. I figure that will be a good way to meet people around here. At least I’m hoping there will be people my own age and that I will be forced to speak German a little more. Kaiserswerth is nice, but it is very much a family town – lots of younger kids. Anyways, I did leave early but found out I had the Frisbee time wrong. It had started two hours earlier than I thought, so I’ll have to wait ‘til next week L. Luckily I hadn’t left the house yet, so hung around and made dinner – something other than Tim’s cycle of pasta/pizza/sandwiches for once, which was very nice.

As long as it does not rain this week I should have stuff to keep me busy. If it rains I’m housebound because I don’t have a car and don’t want to ride a bike in the rain. I’m hoping for sun, which can be scarce at times here in “Drizzledorf.” The climate here seems to be what you would expect in Seattle or London. It never gets too warm or too cold, but it rains quite a bit. Good news: Shadow comes this week so I’ll have some company during the day!! It has been a little lonely since I got here. My dad is at work all day and traveling sometimes. And Jenny has school and sports all of the time. That is why I definitely HAVE to go to Frisbee next week! And I can’t travel yet since I have to be in Kaiserswerth for Jenny. For those of you who I said I’d visit, it’ll have to be after September 15th or so when my mom gets back in the country!

Other information if I haven’t talked to you in a while . . .

I’m going to try and go to Oktoberfest in Munich near the end of September. If you are going to be anywhere close, let me know.

I’ll be back in the states (Maryland, D.C., VA/UVA, North Carolina) from October 4th-15th. I’m coming back for my first-year roommate’s wedding, but I also should have some time to visit people!

I’m training for the Athens Marathon on November 4th. It’ll be my first marathon (barring any further injuries)!

Let me know if you want to visit or want to plan a trip somewhere cool! I’ll try and be in touch a little more often from now on! I hope everyone is doing well!!


I made it safely to Germany!! I finished my internship in Indiana on August 10th, drove home, packed up my life, and flew out on the 15th. Germany has been great so far!! I arrived and found that our house is no more than 10 minutes from the airport, which is very convenient. Before heading home I got a quick tour of our new village, Kaiserswerth. It is very cute and well-kept. There is one main street filled with shops, bakeries, ice cream parlors, and restaurants. That’s enough to keep me happy J. I’ve already had several Erdbeerbechers (basically a strawberry sundae, but with really good ice cream, real strawberries, and real whipped cream). Jenny and I go to get ice cream sometimes after school. Here she is with an Erdbeerbecher!

Kaiserswerth also has one of the 10 best restaurants in all of Germany, which I am excited to check out!

Kaiserswerth looks like the quintessential German village. It is actually a stop on Rhein River cruises that pass by - it’s weird to think that my town is a tourist destination. People also stop by to see the Kaiserpfalz ruins, one of many old castles on the Rhein. These ruins date back to 700AD. The castle was used by the National Socialists as a shrine for the Hitler Youth from 1933-1945, but that fact is usually downplayed. Now it is a historic site and is sometimes used for outdoor theater performances in the summer.

Our house in Germany is very modern – completely different from our house in MN. Lots of glass, as you can see. It gives the sensation that you’re in a fish bowl. Two guys came to clean the windows the other day (which took the whole day) and I kept moving from room to room so I didn’t have to stare at them while they worked.

No. 26 Curt-Beckmann Strasse is a duplex. We live in the front part. My room is actually part of the glass pyramid you can see on the top level.

Jörg, Elise, and Lisa are our neighbors on the other half. Jörg is really into architecture and had the house built. It is based on the Richard Meier style of architecture for anyone who knows it. Our neighbors are really cool. Jörg works for a family-owned beverage distribution company. I don’t know exactly what he does, but I do know that it means he always has a lot of beer at his house. And he likes to share it. Elise is originally from Brazil. She was a professional dancer for a while and now is a full-time artist. She has a lot of her work displayed in the house – mostly modern painting and sculpture. Her English is decent, much better than my German. But in addition to being fluent in Portugese and German, she speaks a lot of Spanish, French, and Italian. It makes me feel so lazy. Lisa, the daughter, is Jenny’s age, but goes to a different school. She speaks English very well, too, and has been trying to get Jenny to hang out with her and her German friends, but Jenny is still a little hesitant because of the language barrier.

They had us over for a traditional Brazilian dinner a few nights after I got into town. It was reaaaalllly good! I don’t know exactly what everything was, but I would have it all again. One of the dishes we had reminded me of croquetas (I know I butchered the spelling, but I’m talking about those Spanish-fried-ham-things that Murph and Robyn make). For dessert we had sushi and caviar and many more servings of wine and beer. We started comparing music collections, too, and spent the rest of the night listening to The Doors and Jack Johnson.

Back to the house . . . this is the kitchen and front entrance. Notice that there is a glass wall in the middle of the room. I haven’t walked or run into it yet. Surprising, I know. But it’s coming soon. And here’s the living room. My dad joked with the relocation agent and said that he was going to put a basketball hoop on each end of the room so that we could get a full-court game going. She was not amused. We’ve got a decent deck and backyard with a gate that opens up to a path on the Rhein. We can see the river from the yard when there aren’t too many leaves on the trees!

These are a few shots of the Rhein River paths near Kasierswerth. Luckily it is not all cement. As long as you are not right in front of the village the floodplain opens up and leaves room for farming and multiple trails. There are three levels of trails in most places – the upwards paved path for bikers, rollerbladers and whoever, a middle unpaved path for bikers, runners, and horseback riders, and the lowest path near the river for runners, dog-walkers, etc. Basically, you get whatever you want and there are always tons of people out there. The river path brings back a lot of memories of Brisbane!!! If you take the river path it is only about 10k (or 6.2miles) to the center of downtown Düsseldorf. Not a bad run and an even faster bike ride. I go down there all the time. It would be somewhat of a long walk, but in that case you can just take the S-Bahn (streetcar system). The nearest station is a 10-15-minute walk from my house.

If you take the path that begins at the end of our street, within minutes you can see the LTU stadium, which is where the Düsseldorf Fortuna play (the soccer/football team). I really want to go to a game!! I’ve heard tickets are hard to get, so I’ll see what I can do. Just going to the Altstadt (“old city” – more to be explained later) to watch the game in a bar would be a blast. On my first or second day in town we passed through the Altstadt while a game was being played. It is crazy down there!! Everyone was dressed in red and white, with scarves, jerseys, etc. and the bars put big-screen TVs out on the street. It was a really fun atmosphere!

Jenny is in her third week at ISD (the International School of Düsseldorf) and likes it so far. She has 13 classes – too much for me. She’s taking two languages – French and German – and even Irish dancing. She’s playing soccer and basketball at ISD and seems to be one of the best athletes they have. The school is pretty small and isn’t exactly a sports powerhouse. In terms of basketball, she’s probably the best the school has got. Basketball isn’t very popular for girls over here. And she’s on the varsity soccer team even though she’s only thirteen! I’m trying to convince her to join the local German leagues, but it’s a little scary for her since she can’t speak the language. She would get so much better at soccer if she joined though! Here is a picture of Jenny’s team (she’s #2) after their first game against Mettmann. ISD won 6-0! Apparently most of her games will be played on gravel pitches like this, or on astroturf – hope she doesn’t hurt herself!

I have been playing mom for the last week and will be for at least another three weeks – didn’t realize it would be for that long until I got over here. My mom is back in the U.S. getting Laura into Connecticut College (Go Camels!) and packing up our entire house by herself. Good luck, Mom! So, I have been going to school meetings and registering Jenny for sports, etc. It is awkward at times. I walked into the “Welcome Coffee” at ISD only to be surrounded by fifty plus women in their 40s and 50s. They couldn’t figure out whether I was a student or a very young mother, even though I said I was there for my sister several times. I’ve also been doing a lot of cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. It took a bit for me to figure out the washer and dryer. They are made by a Swedish company and all of the directions are in Swedish. Luckily, my dad eventually got a translation from someone at work.