Wednesday, January 30, 2008

We're connected!

We finally have home phone and Internet access! After 2 months of using Internet cafes, we are relieved. If you need our number, shoot me an email.

A couple of random thoughts:
Adolph Hitler came to power 75 years ago today.

It is amazing to me how much play the American primaries get on the news here. On German radio and TV we hear who the winners and losers are, by how much, and what it might mean. It's hard to imagine American media taking that much notice of foreign elections.

This weekend is a big holiday here: Fasching. Germans say there are 5 seasons: spring, summer, fall, winter, and Fasching. It's a Carnival celebration, with parties, parades, and costumes. We'll report in - Abby has a school Fasching party on Friday, a kids' parade on Saturday, another on Sunday, and the big parades on Sunday (in Wiesbaden) and Monday (in Mainz). Schools are all closed and shops close early on Monday for Rosenmontag (Rose Monday).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Keeping warm

We have a new favorite place in Wiesbaden! Saturday we went to Thermalbad Aukammtal. We thought we would go swimming for an hour or so, and ended up spending about 4 hours there! Wiesbaden is renowned for its baths and spas, and this was our first visit to any of them. These are lovely warm thermal baths, with water temperature of 32˚C, or about 90˚F. The large pool inside connects to the large pool outside, so you can swim from one to the other through a plastic door without having to leave the nice warm water. It was great fun to swim outside in such amazingly warm water with steam rising off it. It was good that today was really pretty warm – in the 50s. So if you come visit, bring your swimsuit!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Monday was the first day of my German-language boot camp (4 hours a day, 4 days a week) at the Volkshochschule, or adult education center. There are 15 students. It will be another very international educatinal experience, as the students are from Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Morocco, Ghana, Russia, Columbia, Iran, and Italy. Not surprisingly, the largest contingent is from Turkey. Only two of the students are men, which did surprise me. There are 2 instructors; each does 2 days a week. So far they seem like good teachers – I can’t resist being as interested in the teaching methodology as in the language learning!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Völklingen & Saarbrücken

On Saturday we took advantage of one of the great deals of public transportation here: a ticket for up to 5 people to travel all day on the regional rail network within a given German state for €28 (about $40). We left pretty early this morning and took the train to Völklingen, in the southwest corner of Germany, near the French border (OK, technically 3 trains, as we changed in Mainz and Saarbrücken).

Völklingen has the same feel as the rust belt in America (those parts that have not been revitalized), where the once-good manufacturing jobs are gone. We went to see the Völklingen Hütte, which was once the largest steel mill in Germany. The works itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but the tour itself is a bit surreal. The first section, in the huge blower shed, is titled “Genius” and is about inventions, mostly unrelated to steel manufacture. It has sections on household inventions, printing, electricity, personal computers, public health and medicine, rocketry (one of our favorite exhibits was a hands-on one in which you could turn a crank until sufficient hydrogen split from oxygen in a small chamber (from water) and then the hydrogen was ignited to lift a small “rocket” into the air. From there, we went across to the sintering plant, the coal track, and the burden shed (which, oddly, had a display of large photographs including Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, JFK’s Dallas motorcade, the 9-11 attacks, the Nairobi embassy bombing, the Concorde crash) Mostly we gazed at enormous things that we had no idea what they did. The few signs seemed to assume a fundamental knowledge of steel production that we were utterly lacking. Even the signs in English made no sense to me. Unfortunately, the part where you can climb to the top platform (45 meters tall) was closed.

The final section (in the ore shed) was the “Duane Hanson, Sculptures of the American Dream.” I had never heard of him before, but his sculptures are incredibly life-like and, in some cases, thought-provoking (though we hustled Abby past a few of them). Again, nothing to do with steel manufacture.

On the way back we stopped off in Saarbrucken, which is a pretty town set on the Saar River. Unfortunately, it must have been heavily bombed in WWII, as the entire riverfront is lined with featureless 1950s architecture. It has an amazing church though, the Ludwigskirche, in the shape of a Greek cross, with an all white interior and a wonderful, spacious feel. We made it just before it was closing for the day and were very lucky to get to see it.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Winter Haiku

Why Mike Huckabee?
Can’t believe Iowa win
Why don’t they ask us?

Wiesbaden darn cold
We see ducks walking on lakes
As we slowly jog.

Children in snow suits
Toddlers here are Weebelos
Wobble but don’t fall

Bonfire in school yard
Abby roasting bread on sticks
Morning snack is fun.

Haiku in honor
of Levines´ New Year letter
Thanks for the idea.