Friday, February 3, 2017

Stop Spreading Fear

Dear Potus and Followers:

For the love of all that is holy, STOP saying "Look at what's happening in Germany/Europe [since they took in so many refugees]." Yes, we have crime here in Germany - because we have human beings here! Terrorism and violence are not new, as you should know.

Germany took in 1 million refugees in 2015. In 2016 the same amount of money was spent by Germany on refugees (housing, public assistance, integration - hiring teachers like me, for instance) as you want to spend on your bloody and xenophobic wall.

Every time I read "Just look at what's happening in Germany..." I want to scream, "WHAT?! What is happening over here?" I’m an American living in Germany, and I’m not seeing it. Please enlighten me. Please tell me why I should live in fear, as you want your people to do. Please tell me why a guy ramming a truck into a Christmas market and killing 12 innocent people in Berlin is worse than a guy shooting and killing 20 innocent 6- and 7-year-old children and 6 staff members in a grade school in Connecticut. (Don't misunderstand me - they're both unconscionable.)

In 2016 there were three major terrorist attacks in Europe: in Belgium (March), France (July), and Germany (December), resulting in 123 tragic deaths. As of July 2016 200 people had already died in mass shootings in the U.S. Mass shootings in the U.S. in January 2017 resulted in 32 deaths and 119 injuries, according to the Gun Violence Archive. No leaders of Europe are telling their citizens “Look what’s happening in the U.S.” as a way to terrify their citizens. If you think the situation is so dire in Europe, then stop flapping your jaw and flailing your thumbs and tell your state department (or Steve Bannon, whoever calls the shots these days) to issue a travel warning against coming to Europe so your terrified followers can cancel their trips and get their money back.

Until then stop using Germany and Europe to scare your people into hating those you so obviously fear. Germany took the humanitarian path and has reached out to help refugees fleeing from war, strife, and religious persecution. Offering a safe haven to refugees was not and is not a mistake. It is the right and humane thing to do.

Stop spreading fear. Stop making things sound worse than they are – in Europe as well as in the U.S. Do something to help the poor and underprivileged in your own country rather than trying to spread fear and hatred throughout the world. The world does not need you.

an Ami grateful to be living im Schwabenland rather than in your land

Related: The Truth I See

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Loving Southern Germany 5: Castle Ruins

Most tourists who come to Germany visit the well-known castles and palaces - Neuschwanstein, LinderhofNymphenburg in München, Charlottenburg in Berlin... Many visit castles along the Rhein as well. They are expensive to visit, but it's nice to see how the upper crust lived many years ago. I don't begrudge anyone wanting to see these castles and palaces, but I am glad I will not ever again need to visit the over-rated Neuschwanstein, having taken enough student groups there over the years.

Neuschwanstein, Bavaria
This palace isn't even very old - it was built after the American Civil War ended!

Nymphenburg, München, Bavaria

Pfalzgrafenstein, on the Rhein, Rheinland-Pfalz
Personally I prefer the castle and fortress ruins - the more rustic and ruined, the better. They each have a history, sometimes steeped in mystery, leaving visitors to use their imaginations.

Many ruins are free-of-charge, and others charge a nominal fee to help with upkeep and maintenance. And they're all over, at least in southern Germany.

Within walking distance of our home not long after I moved here, we found Ruine Eutingen. To learn about the more remote ruins, you need to know German because they are not tourist attractions and little or no information is available in English. This Burg (fortress) was built in the second half of the 13th century and was the seat of the Lords of Eutingen. It was destroyed by Graf von Hohenberg in 1350 but eventually rebuilt, changed hands a number of times over the centuries, and abandoned and sold off in 1818. Today one can find the remnants of a tower and wall, a cellar vault, rounded window arches, and Schießscharten (arrow slits).

This turned out to be a nice afternoon's walk and adventure on my birthday a few years ago, because although we knew about where it was, we had to search and backtrack a few times before we found it hidden on a hill among the trees.

When fellow blogger Adventures of La Mari and I decided to meet, we chose the ruins at Hohentwiel near Singen. Our husbands and their pug Abner joined us to explore the ruins. This one is well-enough known that info is available in English. The first castle on this site was built in 914 and first served as the seat of Swabian dukes.

My Schwiegermutter enjoys exploring ruins as much as I do, and we made an excursion together to Klosterruine Hirsau, near Calw. The origins of the monastery go back to 830, and in 1091 the large church was built. These ruins are an architect's delight, with clear and preserved examples of Romanesque and High Gothic windows and elements.

Just right of center are the rounded arches of Romanesque style windows.
Just left of center in reddish brick you see the pointy Gothic arches of the Kreuzgang (cloister).
Marienkapelle in the background.
Some might see all this as piles of rocks, but I see Germany's romantic and turbulent past. And part of the beauty of southwestern Germany for me is that whenever I have time, I can check out a new one or visit an old favorite. They are easily accessible by train and bus, and an extra bonus is often a lengthy walk or climb to get there from the station, which is about the only exercise I ever get.

Nagold is a beautiful little town not far from us, and the ruins on the hill above town are worth the forest climb.

watch tower and oven of Hohennagold

cemetery at the Remigiuskirche with fortress ruins in the background
Although I haven't visited them yet, we did pass below the ruins of Hohenurach on a walk to the Urach waterfall on a lovely autumn day. I'd rather wait until the renovations are finished anyway.

With the exception of Hohentwiel, none of the ruins I've mentioned charge an entrance fee. Even Hohentwiel costs only €4,50, while Neuschwanstein will set you back €13, which doesn't include all the tourist crap Gedöns bits and bobs you'll be tempted to buy in the shop.

Let that stand as the fifth thing I love about living here in southwestern Germany, though there are plenty of ruins in other parts of the country as well.

For more on this thread, see:
  Beautiful Towns

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Planning Scotland 2017

Half the fun of traveling is the planning!!!

view to the sea from Glengorm Castle

Shortly after New Year's my daughter (S) and I were chatting online (I still don't Skype), and she off-handedly mentioned that it would be fun to take another family trip to Scotland. Ha ha, ja, ja... dream on. I mentioned her comment to M, and within 30 minutes we were looking at which self-catering accommodations at Glengorm were available for five in June.

She was in Wisconsin for the holidays and playing cards with my son (A) and his girlfriend (O), and I told her to ask him at some point to see if O wanted to join us. She laughed and said that he had *literally* just asked her how to ask me if O could come along. She enthusiastically said "Yes!" So we were apparently all on the same page.

Over the next several days we booked a flat in the castle, a rental car, our flights coming from three different locations, a B&B near Tyndrum and the Real Food Café for our first night in Scotland on the way to Oban, and the same B&B for a night on our way back to Edinburgh because A wanted to make a stop in Falkirk to see the wheel and the Kelpies. We also found an AirBnB flat in Edinburgh for our three nights there at the end of the trip before everyone flies back to their various homes.

We found flights all arriving in and departing from Edinburgh within 2 hours of each other (we're pressing our thumbs that no one has any delays and Lufthansa pilots & personnel don't go on strike)!

Then the "kids" (they're all over 20) started looking for "Things to see and do in Scotland". They're all Harry Potter fans, so I came up with the idea to head north after our week on Mull to Glenfinnan to see the viaduct. O mentioned Loch Lommond and the Trossachs as well as Glencoe, A had already talked about Falkirk and wanting to see castles, and S focused on Edinburgh (the Elephant House Café, Arthur's Seat, Greyfriar's Churchyard...)

family trip, 2008
Our week on Mull will be similar to previous visits: Duart Castle, Tobermory, hikes around Glengorm, to the coast, up hills and around lochs, possible pony-trekking, and something new for us: a wildlife boat tour to the isles of Lunga and Staffa. M, S, and I have been to Staffa before where the gorgeous puffins are, but Lunga and the wildlife tour are new. For those of you who know Scotland, don't worry - we know the weather could be shitty, and we'll roll with it. Variable weather is part of Scotland, and we pack accordingly.

Puffins on Staffa, 2010

pony-trekking on Mull, 2010

my kids at Loch Na Keal, Mull, 2008
My son, who is now majoring in history, said he wanted to see castles. Off the top of my head based on where we'll be, I came up with eight possibilities:

  Duart               (on Mull)
  Glengorm        (though there's no tour, I can tell him about its history),
  Linlithgow             Mary, Queen of Scots was born here in 1542
  Callendar House   Mary, Queen of Scots' 1st marriage agreement was signed here
  Tantallon               Mary, Queen of Scots stayed here in 1566
  Hailes                    Mary, Queen of Scots stayed here in 1567
  Holyrood               Mary, Queen of Scots lived here in 1561
  Edinburgh Castle  Mary, Queen of Scots had a baby here (the future King James VI and I)

Tantallon Castle ruins, with Bass Rock
Bass Rock is a bird colony. It looks white because it's covered in bird shit.
I'm not obsessed with Mary, Queen of Scots, but it seems she was everywhere in Scotland at one point or another. I think the only reason she wasn't at Glengorm was that it wasn't completed until 1863. Admittedly, I find her story fascinating, and I'm half-tempted to re-read Margaret George's novel about her.

It is so much fun to see the kids excited about the trip and getting involved in the planning. M and I loved our trip to Scotland in 2015 and really enjoyed the time for just the two of us, but it's also great fun to share the excitement and planning with others.

We will pay a visit to the Great Polish Map of Scotland during our days in Edinburgh and have a meal with our dear friends (and only wedding guests/witnesses), who live near Edinburgh.

I know it's not a common thing for bloggers to write about a trip before it happens, but I'm caught up in the excitement and the planning, and I couldn't help myself.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wishes and Goals for 2017

This is very unusual for me - a post like this. Even thinking about goals, much less writing them down and publishing them openly, is just not my style. I'm a realist, and I'd more likely think, "The first step in not reaching a goal is setting one." I let life come at me as it will and go with the flow.

To-do lists work well for me. I just wrote one for today, in fact, although "Write a blog post" is not on it.

Why not give this ol' setting goals thing a try, though? Funnily enough, I do like reading other bloggers' lists of goals and wishes for the year to come, which is why I decided to ponder mine. Here we go.


  • for the war in Syria to end.

  • that all 17 of my students achieve the B1 level on their German test in April.

  • that America's future P stops tweeting. Fremdschämen pur!

  • to see both of my kids during the year (I already know this will happen, as long as my son locates his passport)
    Update: The passort has been located!
This was a few years ago; they're 21 and 23 now.


  • get back to Scotland (this is cheating; we just booked a trip there for the summer!)
Glengorm, Isle of Mull

  • complete my interview and writing project

  • drink more tea (and less coffee)
  • live more healthily - snack less, walk more

  • read more, and actually finish the books I start before I start reading another! I'll set my goal at a measly 30 books, since in 2016 I only finished 21!

One wish and one goal are happening for sure: my daughter mentioned that it would be nice to go back to Scotland, and three days later the trip was booked! My kids and my son's girlfriend will fly over and meet us in Edinburgh, and then we'll spend a week on the Isle of Mull followed by a few days in the Edinburgh area. We've already had fun planning meals (we'll stay in a self-catering flat in Glengorm Castle while on Mull) and activities including hikes, a wildlife boat tour, time in beautiful Tobermory, climbing one of the hills in Edinburgh, The Real Mary King's Close or Greyfriar's Churchyard or the Writers' Museum or Holyrood Palace, the Great Polish Map of Scotland, several castle ruins...

I'll be seeing my parents this year as well because my dad is coming for several weeks to take a German course at the local language school, and my mom will follow later for the 50th anniversary of the Sheboygan-Esslingen sister city partnership in May. In July five middle school students from Sheboygan will be in Esslingen for their summer exchange program, and after that I have no plans at all. Maybe I'll teach again, maybe I'll focus one of my books. 

We'll just have to see what comes. 

What are your wishes and goals for 2017??

Saturday, December 31, 2016

December Highs and Lows 2016

The year draws to a close today, whether we're ready for 2017 or not. A lot of people are saying that 2016 totally sucked, and on the world stage that is surely true. Personally, though, I had an unexpected and really good year. Life has been grand anyway, but it was in January 2016 that I started teaching and getting to know quite a few Syrians who settled in our area. I also started working for the first time since moving to Germany after three years of doing not much! Ok, I had kept myself busy in the garden, writing and reading, walking, and traveling, but I was not gainfully employed. Now I'm making my own money even though it's only part-time work, and my job (teaching German to non-Germans) is easy because I truly love it.

My blog has slowed down since I started teaching at the VHS, but there's a point when an expat has pretty much written about all there is to describe about life in another country. By now life here is normal, and very little strikes me as significant enough to write about. Perhaps it's time to change the theme of my blog.

I thought about doing a "Highlights of the Year" post, but that seems redundant and I don't want to bore my five readers. :-) Here, then, are the final Highs and Lows of 2016.


  • having our neighbors over for drinks to thank them personally for letting us borrow a Stellplatz (parking spot) in their driveway while the construction was going on around our house. We had planned on parking at the office, which is only a 4-minute walk from home, but it was much more convenient to park next door and we were grateful. It was a really nice evening; we are lucky neighbors.

  • starting individual riding lessons (every second Wednesday) because teaching makes me miss the Friday morning Damenreitstunde (ladies' riding lesson). Mallory continues to be sassy, but I like her anyway.

  • joining M and several colleagues on an evening outing to the Weihnachtsmarkt in Esslingen. I only made it to two Weihnachtsmärkte this year! 

  • Christmas Eve with M and my Schwiegermutter. We do enjoy quiet, stress-free holidays, and we spent the majority of Christmas day reading. We had raclette on Christmas Eve and lamb stew on Christmas Day.

  • the holidays in general. M doesn't have to go to the office every day, and when he does it's just for a few hours. It's like a two-week-long weekend! We have lazy mornings and relaxed afternoons and don't do anything we don't want to do.

  • dinner at Straub's Krone - twice, actually. 
Gruß von der Küche

Vorspeise: Ziegenkäse im Speckmantel

Schweinesteak in Pilzrahmsoße mit Gemüse und Dauphinkartoffeln

  • Silvester - New Year's Eve - with M and his mum. It's only mid-day, but the soup for tonight's fondue is cooking, I picked up a fresh baguette this morning, made the salad for lunch, M will be making sausage rolls this afternoon, we'll enjoy a long, drawn-out fondue dinner with pork and beef tenderloin, watch "Dinner for One", play a trivia game, and wait for the neighborhood fireworks at midnight. I look forward to this night every year!


  • realizing I have only read (finished) 21 books this year. Dismal.

  • having to cancel a riding lesson last week - and M was going to come along to take pictures of me riding Mallory! - because of a night of stomach cramps. I had been so looking forward to that! Arg!

  • this Swabian housewife fail:

I tried to make Brioche buns for pulled pork sandwiches (M did the pulled pork, which cooked for 48 hours in the sous vide machine). The above photo shows Fail #1, Fail #2, and the buns we ended up using for the sandwiches. Humiliating. I need someone to teach me how to bake with yeast.

I hope 2017 is a better year for the world than 2016 was. 
and I wish you, dear Reader, a graceful start into the New Year!