New City, New Symbol

Something I really like in Germany is how all of the cities have their own special symbols, and more specifically, their own coat of arms. I like the word for ‘coat of arms’ even better. In German it’s ‘Wappen,’ which I find inexplicably funny. 

A lot of the Wappen make total sense. For example, this is the coat of arms from the city of Munich…


This is a very logical symbol for Munich, since the German München means, “of monks,” and that is clearly a monk. He’s missing a beer, which seems odd for Munich, but I guess they don’t need to advertise anymore.

Nürnberg has two coats of arms….


The blue one is known as the ‘greater’ crest, and has something to do with Nürnberg having been an Imperial city. The smaller one is seen more frequently, as it also appears on the city’s flag. Red and white are the colors of Franconia (this region of Bavaria), and I assume the eagle is because a lion was already taken by a rival city. Eagles, lions, and dragons definitely have the market cornered on city symbols. 

But now we come to this… the symbol of my new city. Okay, town. Maybe a village. Depends on your opinion, I guess. Since it’s pretty small, I’m probably going to refrain from naming it here on the blog, so you’ll just have to guess. I haven’t taken too many pictures around here yet, so I’ll just have to show you our sweet coat of arms for now. Enjoy.

I have absolutely no idea what the story behind this is, and neither does B.V. But, I love dogs, and I love deer, so I think this is amazing. The fact that they have their tongues sticking out isn’t even that weird, since that seems to be normal with the lions/dragons/eagles on all the other coats of arms. I assume the artist just wanted to follow tradition on that. The rest of it is more confusing to me, but I love it. I’m trying to come up with some sort of story for it… anyone care to take on guess on what it means?? 

What do you think, what’s the story with the dog and deer?

Ode to Kaylee

Why my dog was the best dog. Of all the dogs.
I’m very happy that this weekend was so gorgeous, and as I promised yesterday, a full post on that is to come. However, yesterday afternoon was full of bad news, which put a bit of a damper on my mood. 
I’ve written before about how hard it can be to be so far from home and feeling helpless when bad things are happening, and yesterday was a painful reminder of that. But just like last time, I think that writing about things will help. Or at least, I hope it will. 

To say that I’m an animal person is a bit of an understatement. I am definitely one of those people who “squees” pretty much every time I see something with fur. Every time I pass by a dog I want to be friends with it, and I’m convinced that people who don’t like dogs have no soul.* Germany is a great place to be if you’re a pet owner, and it’s rare to see a restaurant that doesn’t have a doggie bowl ready and waiting for their canine guests. This is something I love here.
But all the dogs in Germany were lacking, in that they weren’t my dog. This was my dog…
Photo courtesy of my sister
Her name was Kaylee, and she was awesome. Unfortunately, she was also 15 years old, and her age was showing when I was home last month. And in the last month, it got much worse. Finally this weekend, my parents had to make the decision that we all really, really, really, wanted to avoid.  I know my parents did what they thought was best, and I’m trying to be okay with that fact right now. Thus this post….

She really was the best dog ever. I know everyone (or mostly everyone) thinks that about their pets, but she was. I’m happy to back up this claim with some evidence, so for your consideration, here are ten reasons why….

1. If you ever wondered how English Springer Spaniels got their name, all you had to do was meet Kaylee. Within the first weeks that we had her, we learned that she could jump over the back of our fairly-high backed couch from a stand. No running starts needed. In winter she took particular joy in bounding through the snow, no matter how many  nice potty-paths you shoveled for her.
Winter, 2006

2. For the last 15 years, my parents haven’t really needed to wash the floors in the kitchen or dining area. Any food that reached the floor was immediately hoovered by our furry vacuum cleaner. Anything that is, except grapes. Or lettuce. 

3. She was very concerned with keeping the herd together. If we were in different rooms, she would go from place to place, checking on everyone. She was the most relaxed when everyone was in the same place at the same time. 

4. She was very courteous, and always let you know when she needed something. If it was outside time, dinner time, walk time, you always knew when she was ready for something. In fact, she was much more vigilant than we were sometimes. One summer afternoon I was getting out of the shower when I heard her nails going “click-click-click” across our deck to go out. An hour or so later, when watching the baseball game with my parents, I said, “hey, where’s the dog?” As I said above, she liked to be where everyone was, so her absence was strange. Neither of my parents remembered letting her out, which marked their first joint Senior Moment. We all went out hunting for her, and eventually found her halfway around the neighborhood, licking the bottom of someone’s grill that had been left outside.
Plastic hot dogs < real hot dogs
5. Determination was her middle name. If she wanted to carry a 6-foot long stick around the beach when she was a tiny puppy, she would drag that thing all over the park. If she wanted to swim for freedom from the canoe when it started raining, it would take all of my sister’s energy to keep her in the boat. Basically, if there was something she really wanted to do, then not even an electric fence would stop her. I was not as smart though, because I never learned from my mistakes. Often mornings looked like this: I’d let her out and stand in the doorway while her nose went up in the air, sniffing. Then she’d glance at the house, the nose would go up again, another glance at the house… and she was off.  What’s the problem with that? Well… usually I let her out in the morning while in pajamas, shoe-less, and bra-less. Having to race around to find shoes and appropriate neighborhood clothing in a Wisconsin winter is particularly fun all the while she was off trotting around the neighborhood to see her doggie friends. 

6. Springers are hunting dogs, and her sense of smell was amazing. Since she was basically the baby of the family, she used to get all kinds of Christmas presents. But even when the rest of the gifts were wrapped and waiting under the tree, we had to hide hers. Even if she never saw it come into the house, somehow she would sniff out whatever belonged to her, and unwrap it early. Much like having small children around, we always had to stash her toys, new leashes, boxes of treats, etc., and only put them under the tree on Christmas morning.

7. Her other hunting instincts were pretty impressive, considering we never taught her to hunt. When she was a puppy, she’d point at birds. And when she stole your stuff, she never destroyed it. Instead she’d sit with it in her mouth and wait. One day my mom came home from work to find my cat, Frodo, batting around the stick from her hair piece. Kaylee was just laying in the living room, with the leather part in her mouth. Just waiting. 

She was also lightning fast. If you were having a conversation while holding a cookie in your hand, sometimes you’d go to take a bite and it was gone. Only then you’d notice her on the other side of the room, crunching away. And God help you if you had popcorn…

Action Kaylee
8. Speaking of Frodo, turns out that a cat can teach an old dog new tricks. One area of the house that Kaylee never attempted to reach was the counter. Then Frodo came into the house, and after a period of careful observation, Kaylee was able to conquer the counter too. Sort of. I came downstairs one day to find her standing on the counter looking at me. She was about 10 at the time, and although she knew she could get up by jumping on the bar chairs, she was also smart enough to know that the laminate floor was too slippery to jump so far. So there she was. 

The A-Team of naughty, right here
8. Besides being smart enough to know her limits (how many people can say that?), she was smart about everything. She was great with tricks, but sometimes failed on the execution. But when there’s a treat coming, who’s going to notice if you combine the shaking/rolling over/playing dead into one spastic doggie flail? We also had names for all of her toys, which led to some great games. A particular favorite was called “Where’s Bill?” This involved taking her squeaky plush Bill Clinton doll (he was dressed in jogging gear and had a chicken on his shirt…. don’t ask), and hiding it somewhere in the house or outside while the dog was sequestered in her crate or the bathroom. Even when you tried to trick her by making a racket all over the house, she always hunted down Bill. 

9. She had trick hair. Part of the reason we chose her from the litter was that she had very unusual markings for a Springer. She was missing the usual white stripe on her face, and she was almost half-and-half brown and white. Oddly, the brown half of her seemed to grow at a much faster rate than the white side, which led to a half-fluffy dog. She also haaaaaaaaated haircuts, so when the time came it was often a 3-4 man job. She was small for a Springer, but all muscle, so it was a bit of a challenge. Unless of course, she was doggie drunk. 
One memorable afternoon, my parents returned from the vet. My mom came into the living room saying, “Hmmmm, why don’t you hear doggie toenails on the floor? What’s going on?” Of course, I freaked and ran around the corner, to see my dad carrying Kaylee in, while her puppy head lolled over his arms. Turns out that after a couple of shots (clarification: vaccinations, not alcoholic shots), a punch-drunk dog should be an easy haircut target, right? Well… easier than usual, yes. But much harder to stop laughing when every time we turned the razor off, and she tried to stumble off of the bean bag and escape, falling over like a college freshman on the first weekend away from home. 

10. A lot of dogs get kind of cranky as they get older. Not this one. She was always happy to see anyone, and wanted to befriend anybody who crossed her path. This was a particularly valuable trait in my teenage years, when I’m sure that my family had about enough of that angst-y nonsense. Not Kaylee. Always happy. 
For the last few years, I’ve joked that Kaylee was the most co-dependent dog in the world. She could be laying right next to you, but if you stopped petting for a second, she would let you know. But now that I think about it, I think we were dependent on her. These days more than ever, it seems that friends are fickle, and even family can come and go more easily than maybe it should. But not dogs. At least, not my dog. 
For my sweet-faced girl… the most beautiful girl in the world. I will miss your announcements, your nose snuffling at the door in the morning, your full-body tail wag. I’ll miss your floppy ears, and your big sighs when it’s time to go to bed. You were the best dog anyone could want, and I knew you would be from the first time I picked you out of the mass of wriggling brown and white. 

Normally, I’m not one to discourage comments, but just once I’ll say this: If anyone has even a thought of leaving a “it’s just a dog, not a person,” please don’t. Just don’t.

*Also, people who don’t like the Beatles.

Work Appreciation

Last Thursday I had a bit of a rough time getting to work. Deutschbahn was doing construction between Erlangen and Fürth, which led to me playing my very own version of ‘Planes, Trains, & Automobiles,’ with my trip being titled ‘Trains, Buses, & Taxicabs.’ Good times. This construction will be going on for the next few weeks, but I couldn’t find any definitive changes to the schedules online in preparation for this week. So this morning I just decided to catch an earlier train, and hopefully that would compensate for any delays.

But of course, this morning the trip was all smooth sailing. Construction is still going on, but apparently my route was finished, because we weren’t even a minute behind today. That meant that I arrived in my destination village an hour and fifteen minutes early… nice one, self.

Instead of being upset about the fact that I could have slept longer, I decided to have some breakfast, take a walk, and share some things that I fully appreciate about my trips to the village on Thursdays…

  • So. Much. Color. Riding the rails to Erlangen takes you past so many fields of gorgeous color right now. Vegetable fields are sprouting right next to huge patches of wild grass and flowers that are a riot of yellow, white, blue, purple, and absolutely popping with poppies. Fields of of rye (or some kind of grain) are almost as blue as they are golden, because they’re so full of cornflowers. It’s gorgeous, and I love it. I can’t get any decent shots from the train but here are some flowers from my pre-work walk….

  • Spots of village life. One of my favorite train sightings is a barn on the edge of one town. On the side of the building is a huge cartoon donkey, with a sign proclaiming their pride at having a 30-year old animal. Yay old donkey!
  • Other animal sightings, such as dogs trotting down lanes after their biking owners, or cats stalking through fields. This morning I was just passing a horse pasture on the bus when suddenly a black and white cat leaped onto one of the fence posts in full-on stalking mode. I’ve been in major “I need an animal” mode lately, and seeing cute things like that does not help. 
  • Speaking of trotting down lanes, I love all the paths that criss-cross the fields. Since I was so early today I took advantage of that and went for a walk down one of them….
Apologies for the blurry flowers… they wouldn’t stop moving.
The pond was busy this morning, full of frogs, ducks, and a giant white goose.
Watching your step = very important.
  • Lastly, I love being able to sit outside the bakery and have a pastry in the morning. I’m not a big breakfast person, and it’s not often that I have this opportunity. But usually my stomach has woken up by the time I get to the village and so it’s great to make a stop. Like most bakeries, this one has some non-paying customers, and this little guy and his friend helped me with my pastry crumbs. BV was recently telling me that these birds are endangered, which is pretty surprising when you see them stalking you outside every shop. Bread is okay for them, but apparently you shouldn’t leave them fatballs in winter. Good to know.

Anybody else have a nice commute to share?
Oh, and happy Fourth to all you Americans out there! Have a burger for me. 🙂

Vacation Part Four: Kiddos and Critters.

If you visit the Greek Islands, you might notice a few strange things. From my point of view, there were two that were really odd:

1) Kids. Specifically, kids working. Especially coming from Germany where all I’ve heard about lately is how the Greek economy is a disaster and no one there works or pays taxes. And then you get there, and it was a bit strange to see little kids hawking flowers in the clubs. Or hauling your beach bags up on the boats for you when you’re struggling in and out of the water. I particularly enjoyed one kid in the club in Ios who started mock fighting with a greased-up douchebag after he got his hair ruffled one too many times. But I did feel pretty bad for them… I mean who lets their kid run around clubs full of drunk people trying to sell flowers at 4am? It was weird.

2) Animals. There are animals just running all over the place on the islands. Santorini is of course famous for its donkeys, which yes, we did ride. I felt bad for both the donkeys, and the unsuspecting tourists who were trying to walk up and down the same path as the donkeys. I can’t count the number of times I said, “sorry, sorry, sorry!” as my donkey veered into some tourist and pinned them against the wall. He also got oddly competitive with the other donkeys, but only at inconvenient times… like, on corners, which result in lots of jostling and crashing into other people. Besides the donkeys though, there are cats and dogs just roaming about pretty much everywhere.

Another favorite was a particularly feisty golden lab on the beach in Ios. This is a bit odd as well, just because I don’t think you can bring a dog to any beach in the U.S. anymore (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). I think we saw him every day we were there, and I assume he was a visitor as well and not a resident, but he was fuuuuunny. He had a penchant for water bottles, and spent a fair amount of time running around sniffing after them. My favorite was the one day when he ran up to where some girls had left their belongings while they were topless tanning* down at the waterline. He made a beeline for a water bottle, snatched it and high-tailed it out of there. I giggled. 

As for photos, I didn’t get pictures of any of the kids at work because that felt… weird… but I did try to snap some of the assorted animals on the islands…

Santorini’s famous donkeys.
You can take them home with you!
Lazy kittehs.
View from atop Steve, when he took a 10-minute break from climbing.
Tyson, the very famous dog at our Ios hotel.

*I don’t know why I included that they were topless… it’s not like it’s unusual or anything. I just thought it was funnier that they didn’t have tops on when this happened. 

Nürnberg Tiergarten

First off, let me just say that I love zoos. Looooove zoos. When I was growing up, we went to the Milwaukee County Zoo on a fairly regular basis, and I think it’s quite a nice zoo. Many years ago, they had an awesome white tiger which I loved, and I always loved the white wolves because they reminded me of our Samoyed, Lady. 

Since then, I’ve been able to visit a fair number of sweet zoos, including the San Diego Zoo (and Wild Animal Park), the Smithsonian Zoo, and the Prague Zoo. The Prague Zoo is built into this rocky area which makes it an interesting place to walk around. I recommend skipping the rainforest area though, because you leave through a cave with bats flapping around your head, which I was not a big fan of. College scarred me when it comes to bats. 

My Sprachduo friend and I have been talking about going to the Nürnberg Tiergarten (aka, zoo), for quite some time, and finally on Friday we headed out that way. Friday dawned very gray but the rain managed to hold off and eventually it cleared up into a beautiful blue sky-ed day. The powers that be must have known that it was a Brückentag (Thursday was yet another holiday) and therefore rain would have been sehr uncool.

The zoo is a bit outside the city center, but in a pretty big forest. This was probably one of the greener zoos that I’ve visited. There were plenty of sunny meadows dotted in between animal exhibits, and you could spend quite a long day wandering through the trees. In usual German fashion, there weres some very cool-looking play areas for the kids, lots of ice cream stands, and a beer garden up at the top of the hill in the middle. Not to mention the other kiosks selling beer. We stopped for an ice cream, but no beer. Maybe another day. But on to animal pictures!

Can you spot the baby?
Inside the Amazon complete with birds and hidden monkeys.

The sea lions were playing coy and not coming to the window.
Probably because it was feeding time.
♥ deer

This was fun…. the cheetah just had five kittens back in March (I think), so we got to see the little guys. Unfortunately I couldn’t get all five in one shot as they kept moving around and looking for the primo places to lounge/jump on each other.

And now for my favorites…..

Penguins = awesome. That’s a fact.

The zoo had four polar bears. This one was separate from the other three, and I think he is the father of a couple of them. He was quite agitated, but the others were playing with toys and a zookeeper was throwing them food, so I think he was jealous. The crowd in front of the other three was too big to get a good picture, so I guess you have to trust me that they were cute and playing with tires and such.

According to the sign, this is a sculpture.
Bungee trampoline!

These monkeys run from the building to a wooded area, and go right over your heads. I guess they trust them not to run away, but they look pretty free. Just watch your head because a couple of them dropped fruit and nuts on the crossing. 

I missed getting any decent pictures, but the zoo also has some dolphins. The area where the sea lions and dolphins are is fairly new, and is a point of pride for the zoo. I hear there is also a dolphin show, but we didn’t get to see it. I thought the show was coming up just based on the number of people hanging out to watch feeding time… but I guess a dolphin is a bit of a novelty in the middle of Germany.

After the zoo we took an unintentionally long walk through the forest trying to get to a biergarten. We got slightly lost, but made our way back to the city eventually. There are a lot of walking/bike paths through the forest around the zoo, but it is lacking signage and directionals. You have been warned. But it was a nice day for a walk through the woods, so it all evens out in the end. 

In other news, tonight is the Champions League finals… in about 30 minutes, Bayern München will take on Chelsea. To add to the excitement, the finals are in Munich, which has only happened about four times in 60 years (or so I’ve been told). This means that Munich is a complete shitshow this weekend, and I’m very glad I’m not there. Instead I’ve got a couple of Paulaner beers from Munich chilling in the fridge, and I’ll be watching from the comfort of my couch. I’m not a big football (soccer) fan, but I’m sure I’ll hear about it this week so I should probably tune in. Plus, the Munich players have a reputation for being easy on the eyes, so that’s a good enough reason for me right there. 

For more info on the zoo….

Open 8-19:30
Adult Admission: 13.50€ (discount with VAG pass)

Culture, History, Kittehs.

My original plan today was to run errands, stock up on food for the long weekend, and visit the Easter Market. But this morning it was rainy, gray, and generally blah, so all I managed to do was go to the supermarket. It has cleared up a little bit, but big scary clouds keep rolling through and I just wasn’t feeling like possibly getting caught in a downpour. I enjoy being dry on days when I don’t have to run all over the city in cruddy weather. So how about something else instead?

As I mentioned back in the Rome post, there are a whooooole lot of cats running around the city. So if you’re in the mood to count fuzzy creatures, check out the pictures!

All these cats were in the Area Sacra Argentina. Why so many pictures? Well, I’m a fan of furry creatures, and I thought they were funny. I enjoyed the way they were just hanging out and waiting for old ladies to come and feed them.

We did see quite a few other furry friends around the city, including one who hung out in the garden of our host’s building and was very friendly, but this is the only other one I snapped. Snacktime!

And yes, perhaps 20+ photos of cats has something to do with why I ran out of room on my memory card, and was having to delete photos as we went along. Whoops.

Critters in action.

This weekend was Daylight Savings Time here in Euro-land. I love that it gets us one more hour of evening sunshine, but sadly this weekend it meant that I had one less hour to enjoy that time in the countryside. 

And now, animals!

Chickens do not comply with requests to hold still. But when you’re constantly being stalked by….

die kleine Katzke, you can’t be blamed for staying on the move.