Weekend Photo Challenge!

Some days my commute is more… colorful than others.

I’ve seen this ad a few times over the last few weeks, and I thought it was perfect fodder for a photo challenge. So if you, lovely reader, think that you are a marketing genius, please leave a comment telling me what exactly is being advertised here!


The answer will be revealed on Monday, no prize unless you’re counting bragging rights and virtual high fives. ­čśë

With that, I’m off to enjoy the sun… happy weekend all!


Pope Art

First off, a little business. Since I fell off the blogging wagon for the last few weeks, Italian Month will be rolling right along into August. Wee! I figure since I still have approximately 7238239 photos to share, and no trips planned for the foreseeable future, we might as well keep this  party train going. So, to the pope!

It’s probably safe to say that everyone knows that Italy has some gorgeous churches and cathedrals. And today you don’t even need to go to Italy to see them thanks to this magical thing we call the Internet. For my money though, some of the best parts of Italian churches can be found inside, and for once, I’m not talking about vaulted ceilings (though I love them), or stained glass windows (also lovely.) No, this time I’m talking about art that’s a little more… arts and crafts than Neo-Gothic.

While in South Tyrol, we took a drive and spent an afternoon walking around the lovely town of  Cortina d’Ampezzo. During the ski or summer seasons, I’m sure it’s packed with tourists but since we were early (or late, depending on your preference), it was nearly empty. Our first stop when we reached the town center was the lovely Baroque-style  Basilica Minore dei Santi Filippo e Giacomo (got all that?)

cortina church

As you can see, Cortina was hoppin.’

The Basilica’s interior perfectly matched its exterior; it was all pale shades, frescoes, grand columns, and saints peering down at you. Plus there was the usual assortment of grand paintings, relics in ornate caskets, and (my favorite) gorgeously carved woodwork. But that doesn’t sound very arts ‘n crafts, does it? Nope.

On our trip to Tuscany a few years ago, we discovered that every little church we stopped in had an elaborate nativity scene. Some of them were even coin-operated; insert a coin and lights sprang to life, music played, and the figures moved. They spanned the range from professional to primitive and were endlessly fascinating to us. Of course, I didn’t take any pictures of them at the time, but you know… the next trip.

Since May is decidedly the wrong time to see Christmas decor (unless you have particularly lazy neighbors), I was happy to find something maybe even better.

I give you… Pope-dioramas! (Pope-oramas? Nah.)

pope art1 pope art2

I love these so much it’s absurd. And to be clear, I am not in any way, shape, or form making fun of these. I think they’re fantastic. And lest you think our crafters forgot the big JC, have no fear…

church art

Now the big question. We were there at confirmation time and in a few churches we did notice some signage that clearly had been done for/by the new confirmation class. So, were these also done by a particularly crafty confirmation group? Or is this what the priests get up to on Tuesday afternoons in between hearing confessions? Anyone have some insight? Let me know in the comments!

Weird and Wacky Wednesday: Donkey Bridge Edition

*Technically these all happened last week Wednesday, but as I had decided to start the long weekend immediately after work, the post comes today.*

Weird thing #1: Shit Students Say

First off, if any of you folks not in Germany have forgotten about the magical German ‘donkey bridge,’ please see this post. ­čÖé

Last week, one of the students in my advanced class was showing off some of the new vocabulary he had learned with his new smartphone app. For the mere price of 5-10ÔéČ (he had already forgotten what he paid for it), he had the three to five thousand most common English words in his pocket and wanted to share the joy. One of his favorite new words was ‘tadpole,’ and this is what followed.

R: “Tadpole. I like this word. And I have a very good donkey bridge for it.”

S & A: “Okay.”

R: “Do you want to know what it is?”

S: “Well since you brought it up, I think you want to tell us.”

Heather: *coughs to cover up laughter*

R: (VERY PROUDLY) “I think of a gay son** named Ted, dancing at a pole.”

S, A, & Heather: *staring*

R: “Ted, dancing with a pole!”

Heather: *can’t cover it up this time* laughing, laughing laughing

S & A: “Yeah… okay….” laughing a little

** We’ll assume that by ‘son’ he means something along the lines of ‘young man.’

Shortly after this, ‘A’ expressed disbelief that anyone could possibly have use for three to five thousand English words. She was under the impression that you really only need a few hundred in normal life. I think they vastly underestimate how many words they actually know and use so one of these days I might record our lesson and take a count.

For my part, I was glad to see that the ‘learning English’ apps have just as many seemingly random words as the ‘learning German’ apps (if you’ve forgotten that rodeo, read this post). Oh, and yes this was at the same company that brought us the table dancing incident. I’m sensing a theme here.

Weird thing #2:

The “T-shirt of the Day” award goes to the guy in the U-Bahn who was wearing a shirt emblazoned with the phrase:

“Nude and Cute”

I just… don’t know what else to say about that…

The summer season has really been bringing the crazy English on t-shirts trend out, so I’m hoping to spy a few more winners in the upcoming weeks. I’ll keep you posted, and leave any recent favorites in the comments, please!

Weird and Wacky Wednesday: Mystery Solved

Spend any time in Germany, and you will surely see that many people here have a borderline obsession with coffee and cake. There are so many fantastic kinds of cakes to be found that when I first arrived I used to write a regular post just about eating them. Pass any cafe or restaurant in the afternoon, and you will see people of all ages happily tucking into a plate of something sweet, with the coffee close at hand.

Oddly, I have lots of pictures of coffee, and lots of pictures of cake, but none of the two together. Rest assured that I have enjoyed them both at the same time.

Since cake is almost always a good idea, it’s not too hard to figure out why it’s so popular, but a conversation in one of my classes today alerted me to the fact that there may be another reason for the obsession.

One of my students, P, was reluctantly admitting that he’ll celebrate his 40th birthday this year, and as is typical, he’ll be hosting a sizable party at his house. They’ve already rented a tent, and have also sorted out a party service to do the catering. He’s not sure exactly what they’ll eat yet, but said that of course, they would be having coffee and cake first. Because when people arrive at his house, they will want coffee and cake right away.

His office mate, W, who is a quick with a joke in any language, immediately jumped in on that one.

“Well, P, you know you will be 40 now. And coffee and cake are sex for old men!”

Whether or not this is a well-known theory I cannot say. But next time you’re walking by a cafe and see an older gent enjoying his cake, make sure you don’t stare, lest he be enjoying it too much…


BV on Hunde

Something fairly important to know about me is that I love dogs. I coo over dogs like other women coo over babies. I want to befriend every dog I see, whereas I think that most babies – particularly newborns – look like potatoes in hats. I can imagine that this tendency would annoy the bejeezus out of some people, but luckily BV finds it cute. So much so that when we adopted Marry die Katze from the animal shelter, we couldn’t even go into the dog room, because BV knew that we’d come out with a dog. We’ve been locked in an ongoing negotiation for the duration of our relationship on how many dogs we can have. I started at ten, he started at one, and at present I have him up to two and a half. Which half it will be, is to be determined.

Since I spend a lot of time noticing the various four-legged friends out and about in the world, it follows that we have a lot of conversations about dogs. Oddly enough though, at no point in BV’s English education did he learn different dog breeds! Horrible, I know. We also run into this same language gap when it comes to trees, flowers, sea creatures, and assorted other topics. It makes for some entertaining conversations, and a fair amount of reliance on the glory of Google.

Not long ago, we were enjoying a post-shopping stop in one of N├╝rnberg’s Irish Pubs and when I looked around for the waiter, I saw something much more interesting.

H: “Ohhhhhh, there’s a gorgeous Australian Shepherd over there!”

BV: “A what?”

H: “An Australian Shepherd? It’s a breed of dog. He has beautiful mottled fur, and looks like he has the blue eyes too.”

BV: “Huh, I’m not sure if I know that one. I can’t see it from here though.”

H: “Eh, you can just look when we leave. I’ve got no service down here, otherwise I’d look for a picture. It’s beautiful though… trust me.”

One beer later for us, and the table with the dog was leaving the bar…

BV: “Oh, there goes the dog. Wow, that is beautiful. But that’s not what I thought it looked like.”

H: “Really? What did you think it would look like?”

BV: “I guess I thought it would be a combination of a German Shepherd and a Dingo.”

H: *blank stare*

BV: “An Australian Shepherd? Like a German Shepherd mixed with a Dingo.”

H: *laughs, laughs more*

I pretty much spent the rest of the evening muttering “dingo” under my breath and giggling.

So to review, this plus this

may equal this…

Sorry honey, but I don’t think so.

Some friends have commented that BV’s English is now so good that we should exclusively speak German together so that I can get caught up. But clearly there are some hugely important gaps in his vocabulary that need to be filled. And certainly we’ll be needing that vocabulary to figure out which ten dogs we’ll be having.

And now, I’m off to Google image search for puppies. Puppies!

Weird and Wacky Wednesday Vol. 5: Fashionable Male & An Update

Today’s Weird and Wacky Wednesday post comes courtesy of one of my students who made it incredibly difficult for me to maintain a straight face in our lesson this morning. “Franz” is a young guy, and pretty much epitomizes the hip, early 20s male in this area. Before he joined the group, it was all-female, but he’s taken it in stride, making it a very comfortable and easy atmosphere. He’s the kind of guy that plays soccer in the snow, breaks his leg skiing, and solders home-made jewelry for his girlfriend (and mom) for Christmas. Cue the “awww” here. Usually his sense of fashion is fairly on point, whether that’s down to him or his girlfriend, I cannot tell you.

But today…. oh man.

He came in, sat down, and at first I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. Then he shifted positions. His outer layer was a very nice chambray shirt, which paired well with his tan skinny jeans and sneakers. Underneath the open top of the chambray shirt, you could just see the top of a picture, which appeared to be a woman’s head. And over that head?


Were there other words to the left and right of “BOOBS”? Probably.

Could I see them? No.

So the whole lesson, every time I looked at him, I had to stifle a giggle.

I’m filing this one in the category of “shit that will earn you a sexual harassment complaint in America,” because I’m pretty sure if anyone of my male friends wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the word “BOOBS,” they would have major issues with their HR departments. Friends in the States, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong in ze comments.

As for the title of this post, I tried to distract myself from laughing by trying to remember lines from the classic film ‘Mallrats,’ which featured a store called Fashionable Male. If you are unfamiliar with this ridiculous piece of 90s nostalgia, feel free to watch this movie, or this clip featuring the manager of Fashionable Male, aka a very young Ben Affleck. Enjoy.

Fashionable Male (with BOOBS) aside, I also have an update on the very confused man from my Weird and Wacky Wednesday post back during the DB strikes.

Since writing that post, I have seen the Salmon Man quite a few times on our local train. He’s almost always speaking VERY loudly on the phone, and is often carrying something kind of strange. Once it was a garbage bag that clanked very ominously, which he left in the middle of the aisle on the train.

Today though, I got confirmation that he is almost certainly a tricky little Schwarzfahrer.

Schwarzfahrer: noun. Literally: black driver. Colloquially: asshat who rides trains without a ticket. If busted they will be fined, but more importantly they will be publicly shamed by the conductor.

Shortly after I wrote the post about the Salmon Man being confused about train strikes, I was roused from my podcast stupor by very loud voices on the train. When I poked my head up to find the source, I saw the Salmon Man over by the train doors animatedly speaking with the conductor about his lack of ticket. I shook my head, and directed my attention back to my game of solitaire.

This evening, I found myself sitting kitty-corner behind Salmon Man once again. As per usual, he was on the phone speaking to someone who is apparently borderline deaf. I was greatly entertained by watching the woman sitting behind him and across from me try to concentrate on her book while simultaneously not rolling her eyes out of her head every time he started talking again. And then the ticket checking conductor arrived. I was on the 6pm train, and by my reckoning it’s about a 50/50 chance if tickets get checked at peak commute times. Since checks aren’t guaranteed it’s possible to get away without buying a ticket, but I’m not a fan of public shaming and I do not recommend chancing it. Unless of course the ticket machine is broken, which is a whole other story.

Salmon Man noticed everyone around him rustling in their bags, said something into the phone about controlling, and then tried to hang up. The conductor got to our end of the train, and checked all the surrounding tickets, while the Salmon Man spun some story to him. I had my ear buds in and hadn’t stopped my podcast (which was turned up all the way to drown out his phone call), so I didn’t hear what he said at first. I got my podcast paused just in time to hear the conductor say (in English), “you must wait for the next train in 30 minutes,” while writing Salmon Man a ticket. Salmon Man had apparently failed to hang up on his phone partner, and said something to them in German about getting a Strafe┬á(a fine or ticket) and then when the conductor left, he switched back into Russian on the phone.

This has now happened twice, so I’m on high alert. I’m on to you, Salmon Man. I know your game, and it drives up prices for the rest of us, so I do not appreciate it. The good news is that the conductors usually have set routes that they work, so hopefully they are on to you as well. I might not be able to do anything about your ‘black riding’ but you can bet your loud and pushy ass that I will throw an elbow the next time you try to skip me in line to get on the train.


Weird and Wacky Wednesday: Tongue Twistin’

Scene: My last group of the day, made up of seven very entertaining elementary students.

Activity: Working on pronunciation, by teaching each other tongue twisters.

peter piper

Subject: Helga, a delightfully Franconian woman, who is very good-natured even when she finds herself completely flummoxed by the English language. Which is fairly often. She hates grammar with every fiber of her being.

Today however, she took the task at hand on headfirst, and did a pretty decent job of teaching her partner about woodchucks chucking wood. Afterwards, it was her turn to learn, and she was doing pretty well until….

(while staring intently at me, as if I had the words printed on my forehead…)

“Peter Piper picked a pick of pickled peckers.”

….at which point, I almost soiled my pants from laughing so hard. Because I only got three hours of sleep last night which makes everything alternately funny or annoying as hell. And I also have the sense of humor of a 12-year old boy.

No, I did not explain the significance of the word “peckers.” Luckily, everyone was laughing through most of the activity, which meant my near-accident went mostly unnoticed. Thank goodness because that is a can of worms that does not need to be opened with a beginner group. Eek.

So tell me, oh readers… was it really funny? Do you also have the sense of humor of the prepubescent male? Let me know in ze comments!

Weird and Wacky Wednesday: Vol. 2

Today’s Weird and Wacky Wednesday post is brought to you by the striking DB, as they are responsible for some of yesterday’s nonsense.
I don’t have any pictures today, instead just some observations on yesterday’s commute.
~ A very popular kind of bike here is called Hercules. Today I saw a Hercules bike with the model ‘Los Angeles.’ I found this amusing because I’m pretty sure no one in LA has a bike past the age of 10. Perhaps with the exception of bike messengers, I hear that everyone there prefers to own a car that they can’t drive more than 45 mph because of constant gridlock traffic.
~ Riding public transit means you see people carrying some weird stuff sometimes. Today’s favorite was a guy who got on carrying only a Swiffer mop, and dangling a loaf of sliced white bread. Or, as the Germans call it, toast bread (be sure to say that with a certain amount of disdain). I almost wanted to invite him over to clean our place and make me a grilled cheese.
~ Student quote of the day: “I have moles (pronounced moe-lay) on ecstasy!” Said by one of my tech guys, while describing a particularly industrious garden-dweller at his house. This led to a discussion on if he meant ecstasy or cocaine…
Teaching English… Not what you thought it would be.
~ When I came back through the N├╝rnberg Hauptbahnhof after work, it was the middle of rush hour. Adding to the madness was a camera crew smack in the middle of the fray. Hey, I understand they want that action, and to show/hear how people will be affected, but oh my God people would not move!
If you want to watch them film, how about moving off to the side? Nope. Instead people were coming up the escalator, stepping off, and stopping short to watch. It was impossible to get through with my giant work bag without hitting people, and I may have whacked a few on purpose. Post-work passive-aggressive Heather is not to be messed with.
~ The last observation of the day is possibly the weirdest of all.
I witnessed strangers… talking to each other… on a train… during the week.
I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

Strangers… talking… on a train. Mid-week.
For you non-Germany living people, this almost never happens. That thing where Americans will strike up a conversation in line at the bank? That doesn’t exist here.
The perpetrator was already on my shit-list before we got on the train for his salmon behavior, but then the driver made an announcement about the strike. He was apparently the last person in Germany to hear about this strike. This is pretty much what followed (translated from ze Deutsch)…
Salmon man: WHAT? What did he say?
Unfortunate blond woman next to him (blond 1): The trains are striking from tomorrow until Monday.
Salmon man: What?
Blond 1: The trains are striking. From tomorrow at 2am until Monday at 4am.
Blond with newspaper in front of them (blond 2): They’re striking again (holds up newspaper).
Salmon man: Strike? What? Shit.
Blonds (in chorus): The trains aren’t driving from tomorrow until Monday.
Boys across aisle: He said you can go to the internet and see what trains are driving.
Salmon man: What? Internet? Shit. What?
Blonds in chorus again: The. Trains. Are. Striking!
Blond 2: Look! It’s right here! (Holds up newspaper, he gets up to look)
Blond 1: Do you speak English? (In English and very loudly, then leans across aisle to say…) he stinks like alcohol.
Salmon man: Shit! I must work tomorrow. I must go to N├╝rnberg.
Blond 1: Yes, I also must work tomorrow.
Others around: Yes. Us too. The buses will go, or you must use a car.
Salmon man: Bus? What?
Blonds: Yes, buses drive.
Salmon man: What? Buses? What?
Blonds: Yes. Buses drive. Bus 70 goes from Zirndorf to N├╝rnberg.
Salmon man: Bus to N├╝rnberg?
Blond 1: Bus 70. Seven. Zero. (in German)
Salmon man: Bus seven?
Blond 1: Bus 70 (in German) bus 70! (In English with drawing of numbers in air)
Salmon man: Bus. Shit.

Then he got on the phone to yell more with someone else about the strike. It was very odd. He was speaking German, but didn’t seem to hear/understand anything anyone was saying. There was much spelling out of things- including a whole part of spelling out the Deutschbahn website address that I omitted here because it was repeated at least 5 times before someone just dug out paper and wrote it down for him. He did reek like booze so I’m sure that was part of it but good lord. It went on for the entire ride from F├╝rth to Zirndorf, which is about 15 minutes. Usually people actively ignore each other on the train (especially during the week), but this time the whole car was involved. Doesn’t sound like much but for here? Weird and wacky for sure.

Questionable Goodies…

Judging by my Facebook newsfeed, Halloween mania in the States is in full swing. Not a day has gone by this month that I haven’t seen pictures of tots in pumpkin patches, recipes for DIY Pumpkin Spice Lattes, or those same tots sleeping in their Halloween costumes that they are apparently refusing to take off.

Here in Germany, it’s a different story. There are a handful of costumes for sale, but that holiday still hasn’t caught on here. Instead, we’re already being treated to piles of Christmas chocolates, and so much Lebkuchen (gingerbread), that it almost makes my mouth water to look at. But as with soooo many things, there is an unofficial rule that you can’t buy/eat said Lebkuchen until November 11th. So we wait.

Today I was stocking up on cheap wine at the local Edeka, when I was stopped short by my absolute new favorite Advent calendar. I can’t remember if I’ve ever posted on that subject before, but I have never in my life seen such an impressive variety of Advent calendars as I have here. They can be filled with toys, make up, or even an entire calendar filled with beer. But hanging there, flanking the display of Gl├╝hwein, and related accessories, I saw these little numbers…

At least they were stashed away in the liquor section, and not directly next to the Haribo candies. But I am happy to see that both the ladies and the gentlemen can have a little extra holiday fun. Advent calendars: not just for the Kinder anymore.


As a member of the Deutschen Alpenverein, or German Alpine Club, every month BV gets a magazine that is chock-full of all kinds of great articles on outdoor activities for mountain enthusiasts. I also enjoy reading (or trying to read) the articles, and we usually get a lot of good ideas for future hiking trips. There are whole routes planned out, tips, and generally a whole lot of useful information. An added bonus for me is that the photography is usually pretty great… because of course everything is better with pictures.

Yesterday I was flipping through the mail and pulled out this month’s issue. And I cannot stop laughing at it. Why? Well…

squirrel man1It’s a very dramatic view when you see the whole thing. But, look closer…

squirrel man2 squirrel man3I cannot get over the facial expression. It’s killing me.

This guy is clearly more bad-ass than I will ever be, and I totally respect his ability to cling onto the side of a cliff like that. Not to mention the photographer who got that shot, who I’m guessing is doing a fair amount of clinging on his own. But the FACE.

I was laughing and laughing yesterday and BV said, “What? That’s how you look when you’re searching for the next place to hold!”

My response was, “Yes, and that’s also how a squirrel looks when he spots an especially delectable-looking acorn up ahead!” At which point I descended back into nonsensical giggling about crazed squirrels. He just shook his head and retreated back into his Den of Horrible Formulas and Scripts (next round of university tests are this/next weekend, poor kid).

In my defense, I was a bit punchy yesterday after a long weekend of traipsing about in the rain with a pile of other bloggin’ folk, and eating/drinking our way around town. It was delightful to meet all of these people after reading their sites, and it was great that they came to Nbg (minus the rain), but for me it was a lot of activity in one weekend. Like I said last week, we’ve been very sloth-like lately. Add to that the fact that Saturday night after I got home, a bat decided to fly into our flat, and we were up until 4am trying to get the damn thing out and yeah… I was a little nuts yesterday. Much like a squirrel.


So… is it a funny picture or have I lost my mind?