Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Update: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

The calendar may say it's spring, but here in Wiesbaden we are getting our first real snows of the winter. The good news is that the ground is too warm for it to really stick, but it has been snowing or sleeting a good part of the last few days.

Update: It's sticking!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Day on the Rhine

Despite dreadful weather the past few days (rain, sleet, snow, wind), we went on a trip on the Rhine today. We took a boat trip part of the way, then continued by train. We also stopped to tour two castles. The first, Die Pfalz, is in the middle of the Rhine. It was a toll booth, basically, with a dreadful dungeon for those who failed to pay the tolls. It dates from the 14th century.
After a very cold and blustery tour, we stopped for a well-deserved treat.
Then it was on to Marksburg, a castle above the town of Braubach. Marksburg is the only castle along this stretch of the Rhine that has never been sacked, so there's lots to see and the tour is fun. By this time of the day, the sky had cleared and it was a beautiful day, though still quite cold.
This is one of the rooms in the castle.
After that, we had to stop AGAIN for hot drinks and cake.
We are in the Easter holidays in Germany. Most public schools are closed for the next two weeks. All of the stores (including grocery stores) closed for Good Friday as well as for Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. It is nice knowing you don't even have to think about running any errands!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

German schools

This week is the big exit exam for German high schoolers (the Abitur), so on the high schools you can see big posters wishing the test-takers well.

When I lived in Poland, I didn't like the fact that kids are separated in 9th grade into high schools for kids who are going to go to university and those who aren't. That seemed awfully early to me. It's not as early as in Germany, though. Here, starting in 5th grade (that's right - as 10-year-olds), the kids are separated into one of three different types of schools. One goes through 12th grade and is for the university-bound. One goes through 10th grade and is for office workers, basically. The other goes through 9th grade and is for other workers. Germany has a marvellous apprenticeship system for trades, but separating kids at 5th grade seems crazy to me. What about those who don't speak German as their first language? What about those whose parents aren't advocating for them? What about late bloomers?

Germany's education system ranks at the bottom of European countries.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Spring is here (sort of)

The early spring flowers are in bloom and the days are getting longer! Of course, I took these pictures on Saturday and it snowed on Tuesday, but we didn't get as much snow as Arkansas! Seems a bit unfair.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

At the movies . . .

We went to see a movie today, my first in Germany. Here was the best part: the last of the set of commercials and previews was a commercial for ice cream. Then they brought up the house lights so a young woman could sell ice cream. Everyone waited patiently while she made her rounds (and she sold a LOT of ice cream) and then the lights dimmed again and the movie began.

Other differences - all seats are reserved, and those in the last couple of rows are doubles - sort of like love seats. They provide booster seats for kids (which didn't prevent Abby from sitting on my lap for the scary parts). Some things are the same - the popcorn and cokes are wildly overpriced (though the popcorn didn't look or smell fresh, so I wasn't even tempted) and they even sold nachos.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Even Wurst?

Many German friends find vegetarianism hard to understand. Last night we had dinner guests and when Wayne said I was a vegetarian their response was, "But you eat Wurst (sausage), right?"