Sunday Snapshots: Nürnberg Rooftops

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Nürnberg, 2014

Many people will say that the best view of Nürnberg can be seen from the SkyBar in one of the movies theaters in town. Those people are wrong, unless you enjoy overpriced cocktails and abysmal service. Save yourself €10,  buy a bottle of whatever you prefer to drink, and head to the top of the Adler Parkhaus. It’s a bit less trendy, and there aren’t any chairs, but there also aren’t any surly waiters. Just watch out for cars on the way up and down… city center parking garages don’t leave much room for error!

Bonus tip: it’s currently Italian market time on the Fleischbrücke! The spring edition is on this year from March 15th-25th, and again in April from the 20th-29th (closed on Sundays, of course). Longtime readers will know that the Italian market is one of my favorite things that happens in the city, so if you are like me and need to stock up on cheese and vino, don’t forget to stop by!

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Customer Service Stress

A major complaint I hear quite often living here is that the customer service is total crap. Do they kiss your ass every time you walk into a store? No. Has anyone ever been openly rude to me? No. Have I waited what felt like a thousand years to get help in stores and restaurants? Absolutely yes. So while I don’t consider myself to be one of the foreigners here who has a major problem with German customer service*, there are moments when it does scare the bejeezus out of me. This is a story about one of them.

BV and I had gone into the Karstadt department store recently to pick up a few things, and a brightly-colored spring sweater caught my eye. Since I still had a few gift cards floating around my wallet, I decided to go ahead and get it. We checked out with my sweater, and then proceeded to hunt the store for men’s socks, before checking out again and descending to the U-Bahn level to exit the store.

The bottom level of the store is the food section, and as it is at the U-Bahn level, it sees a fair amount of foot traffic. BV and I were eagerly debating what our planned dinner order would be (we were marking the end of vegetarian January/February by going out for Greek), when we heard peep peep peep as we went through the doors. We stopped, turned around, peep-ing again, and paused in the entryway. There’s no security in most stores here, and people continued to go on about their business around us. The store employees in eye/earshot didn’t blink at all, and then we heard more peeps as other people went in and out. We figured at that point that the metal detector was faulty, and since we had receipts for our purchases, we headed back out the door.

The next day I pulled out my new sweater to try it on with a few things and, you guessed it, the friggin’ ink tag was still attached. Sonofabitch. For two reasons, really.

  1. This means an extra trip into the city, because I’m usually carrying around enough stuff to class that I don’t really care to add a shopping bag to the mix and…
  2.  I can’t do this by myself. My German is serviceable under benign circumstances but just the thought of trying to explain this to a cashier was enough to scare the crap out of me. Did I have receipts? Yes. Did it warrant a lengthy explanation? No. But the American in me would like to give some kind of a justification/story to explain myself more. And my German is not good enough to do that and I didn’t want to cause a scene somehow. Or get arrested.

That meant when poor BV came home, I got to tell him that we were going to take another trip into town at some point because of the aforementioned reasons. He wasn’t thrilled about another extra trip either, but he completely understood my reasoning.

Cut to us on the S-Bahn a few days later…

BV: Yeah we have a receipt, but what if they think that we bought one and paid for it, but stole this one?

Me: Oh my God I didn’t even think of that! Why would you say that? Don’t put thoughts in my head!

We walked back into Karstadt, peep-ing again on the way in, headed to the nearest Kasse, and waited to hear our fate.

When our turn came, we stepped up, BV pulled out the receipt and the sweater, showed her the ink tag and…

Cashier: Oh mein Gott,(continues in German) sorrysorrysorry, hate it when that happens, etc.

She took the ink tag off, folded my sweater up, handed it back to us, and went to a cabinet in the corner. We thought maybe there was a “whoops something happened” form or who-knows-what, but she came back with two chocolate hearts (Lindt, not some crap chocolate), handed them to us and apologized profusely for making us come back.

All that stress for nothing.

To be fair, she did ask us if the alarm had gone off, but BV explained that we had heard it go off with other people as well so we just assumed it was faulty. So could I have explained that myself? Debatable and I’m glad he was there just in case.

However that means perhaps it’s time to set myself a new goal. To not only be able to survive a normal interaction in German, but to be able to get my own damn ink tags removed without fear of a panic attack. That seems reasonable, right?

 

*I highly recommend spending a few years in Prague. Those customer service people HATE EVERYONE. Germans seems positively cheerful in comparison.

Sunday Snapshots: Out and In

Cologne, 2017

March is a bit thin on the ground when it comes to travel pictures, so instead of delving into the archive today, these photos are from last weekend.

An old friend of mine from college was traveling through France and Belgium with her mom, and she was lovely enough to work a day in Cologne into their short trip. BV and I doubled down for the trip, and stopped by his grandma’s for a visit before heading to Cologne on Saturday night.

The only other time I had been in Cologne, it absolutely poured rain. That theme continued on this trip, with a *slightly stressful* drive into the city in the midst of a spring storm. We arrived much later than planned, ran out into the deluge to try to find a restaurant that would still serve us dinner, and were rewarded by both a silent city and an epic view of the Kölner Dom* lit up at night.

Thankfully by the next morning the rain had passed and we had blue skies for the majority of the day with my old friend. We took advantage of the weather to explore more of the old city center, the lovely walk along the Rhine, and a short dip into the cathedral itself. Sunday is not the best day to visit if you want to see the entirety of the church, but at least we got in the door. Besides, if they’re traveling through France, they’ll be cathedral-ed out in a day or two anyway, right?

*Cologne Cathedral

A Few Thoughts Around the Playground

I’m currently between some classes and have had much more free time for long, meandering walks around the village. On most of my walks, I end up going past the playground of the elementary school in the neighboring village. I have a major love for most of the German playgrounds I’ve seen, and this one is no exception.

I grew  up going to a school that had a pretty epic playground. It was mostly built out of wood and old tires, and thus is one of the many playground that has now been deemed a complete deathtrap. Most of the places I see now in my friends’ Facebook feeds are 100% plastic, or whatever other artificial material is now deemed a ‘must-have,’ lest the Kinder injure themselves on anything natural. Splinters, run away!

The playground that I walk past laughs at such notions. Behold, one small corner….

So many rough edges!

So many rough edges!

In addition to being covered in trees, brush, stones, steps, and all manner of tripping hazards, there is at least one small pond with a railing-free bridge, and one of these bad boys…

Yep, an insect hotel. Can’t imagine too many public schools in the U.S. with open water on campus, or ones that encourage bugs to shack up.

But up until last week, these were just idle thoughts. Then I saw other things.

Thing Number One: a mom (who I had seen earlier on my walk, pushing her stroller with two twin girls all dressed in pink), holding her girls balanced on the ledge of the tower in the above picture. They weren’t infants, but they were certainly big enough to squirm the wrong way and fall out of the tower easily. Why were they up there, you might ask? Well the train was coming through, and they wanted to wave, of course! I thought it was cute, but since parents in the States can’t let their kids play in their own backyards unattended, it looked like something that CPS might get a call about if we were in a different country.

Thing Number Two: next to the elementary school there is a smaller building that houses a Kita, or nursery school. They also have a sweet little playground full of wooden toys, and yes, more water. There’s also a nice terrace and last summer I often saw the kids playing or snacking outside. Last week we had a few relatively nice days (nice for February, that is), and on one of them, I came around the corner and saw something funny out on the terrace. At first I thought it was just a big basket, but then I got closer. Not just one basket, but three, and two large pillows next to them. They were full of blankets, and yep…. sleeping kids. Five kids, napping away in what appeared to be dog beds out on the terrace.

For the record, I’m on board with this. It was a warmish day, the kids were piled up with coziness, and let’s be honest… who hasn’t looked at their dog or cat curled up in their bed and thought, ‘damn, that looks cozy!?’ But the part of me that has read far too many STFU Parents columns immediately thought… a Sanctimommy would lose. her. shit. if her Child (capital C) had to sleep in a bed for a DOG. If the kid climbed into the dog’s bed in the house? Oh so funny! Put a whole album of it on Facebook immediately! But if the school that she PAYS forces her Child to sleep in a Dog Bed! Aw, hell no.

I have no idea if this is standard practice at the average Kita, but I do love how much time the kids around here seem to spend outside. They run, they play, they get dirty. Heck, some friends even sent their kids to a so-called ‘Forest Kindergarten,’ where they spend the entire day outside, rain or shine. They did have a small shelter in the woods, but according to VillageGal, she only saw it in use once, when there was a freezing rain thunderstorm. It all just seems so much healthier, and less sterilized than so much of what school in the U.S. seems to have become.*

 

Editor’s Note: shortly after I published this post, I saw this article pop up in my New York Times feed. It is completely relevant to what I wrote here. Enjoy.

 

*Disclaimer: I am not a parent, I do not want to pass judgement on how people choose to raise their kids, these are just some observations I have had recently.

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Sunday Snapshots: Snowshoes and Solitude

Bavarian Alps, 2016

Bavarian Alps, 2016

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The downside of picking a major winter sports destination for your snowshoeing weekend is that the village is chock-full of people. The upside? During both of the days that we spent five or six hours tromping around on the mountains in said snowshoes, we saw two other people doing the same. Everyone else was on the ski slopes, or doing rounds on the cross country ski trails that ran through the valley below. We were 100% on our own.

Was that slightly alarming when it started snowing like crazy a few hours into a hike? (That would be blowing snow in the picture above… not smoke.) Yeah… it was. But we lived to tell the tale. Plus, there were plenty of restaurants in town open for dinner when we came back to civilization, thank goodness! A couple of hours trekking through fresh snow really works up the ol’ appetite. 🙂

New German Level Unlocked: Members Only

Unfortunately, there are no jackets involved. Not yet, at least.

One of the first curiosities that I learned about in Germany was the incredible variety of clubs. Far beyond the usual fitness centers and sport clubs, there are clubs for every hobby under the sun, from dogs to crafts to Tracht. That’s right, if you enjoy sporting your Dirndl or Lederhosen at every available opportunity, you can join  your local Trachtenverein or ‘Society for Traditional Costumes.’ And joining a whole pile of different clubs (regardless of your participation level), seems to be pretty standard practice.

I’ve never been much of a joiner, but there was one club that I have been eager to join for the last couple of years… the Alpenverein, or Alpine Association. BV has been a member since he was a kid, and ever since we started dating we have discussed getting me a membership. Those long-time readers will know that we’ve done a fair few hiking trips in our 4+ years together, but so far we hadn’t gotten me a membership. The yearly fee varies between €45 and €90* per year, depending on your section, and with his school schedule the last few years we weren’t sure we could make the price worthwhile for both of us.

On Wednesday though, he came home from work and presented me with an envelope. Inside was…

Plus bonus gift!

Plus bonus gift!

I. Am. So. Excited.

That tricky dude went and signed me up as a surprise. We had talked last week about making a more solid plan to get down to the mountains at least once a month this summer, which would definitely make membership for me worthwhile, so having this in hand means we are ready to go. Plus, I get a free night at our section’s Hütte. Score!

Needless to say I am already looking forward to summer. And since a picture of a membership card is not the most exciting thing in the world to look at, let’s all look forward to a whole lot more of this in the near future!

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Hiking along the German-Austrian border in August.

*A membership in the Nürnberg section currently costs €66, but BV was able to add me on as a family member for only €38. Look out for discounts!

Sunday Snapshots: Adulting for Amateurs

Middle Franconia, 2016

Middle Franconia, 2016

This time last year was very notable for BV and me.  One of his favorite methods of procrastination while he should have been working on his thesis was to look at houses for sale in the Nürnberg area. Our price point can best be summed up as “as cheap as humanly possible,” so there hasn’t been too much that we’ve been seriously interested in. Last February however, there was something that sparked our interests enough that we actually went out and looked at it. No, this wasn’t the front door. Although the house we checked out was a fairly old building, this shot comes from the little church in the center of town. I do love a small-town church… at least from the outside.

In the end it didn’t work out, but we did spend a lovely afternoon wandering along the river, driving through the forest, and measuring the distance between a possible future home and the train station. (The verdict? Easily walkable! A rare find… at least at the aforementioned price point.) Oh well.