Tuesday, August 31, 2010

That's One Way to Meet Your Neighbor

After the Biloxi Pitbull incident of 2008, I am sorry to say that I am scared shitless (excuse my language but there is no other way to say it) of big dogs running around free - scared for myself, but mainly scared for my pups. Needless to say when I saw a GINORMOUS Rottweiler running free, down our road, in our direction after our walk today, I was scared. 1. Because I know there are two Rottweilers much further down the street that bark their brains out at Bos & Riva everyday when we walk past and 2. Because I relive the Pitbull attack over in my head when I see a big, known-to-be aggressive dog out free.

I froze. I don't know whether this dog is nice or mean, but everytime I've seen him, he's been chained up barking very meanly at my dogs. So I freeze. Weigh my option. I'm only about 4 houses down from my house, but in order to get to my house, I have to pass by this massive Rottweiler (wearing a big steel choke collar, just to intimidate me more). I walk to the nearest house and know the man who lives there (not well, but well enough to say hi, etc). Unfortunately, there are two doorbells - a splitter house. I don't know what this guy's name is. The dog is staring at us, trotting our way. Crap. I pick one. But of course the wrong one. Some old lady answers, doesn't speak a WORD of English. I tell her, auf Deutsch, that I am her neighbor and I have two dogs and there is another big dog here and it is coming our way (as it starts growling). I ask her if she she knows the Big Rottweiler who lives down the street. Yes. She tells me he's not so nice. Great. On a whim, she buzzes me, Boston, & Riva in. Whew. The old lady neighbor tries to make small talk and I contribute some. 10 minutes later, there's no more barking or the Rott's shadow outside the door so I walk outside to see if he is still outside. He's not. So I walk 4 doors home.

I'm ashamed to say, I am now scared of the stereotypical 'aggressive' dog - thank you trashy Biloxi Mississippi neighbors. BUT on the bright side, I met one more of our German neighbors.

Monday, August 30, 2010

And the Award goes to...

Slingbox! for best invention for Americans living overseas.

Today, Mary and I spent an entire day in front of normal American up-to-date television and COMMERCIALS (which I NEVER knew I would miss!). The culprit? Slingbox!

Basically, you set up a TV in the States where someone doesn't watch/doesn't use it. SOMEHOW, magic waves are sent through the internet, to your computer overseas, where you can watch whatever is on TV in the States OR what you've DVRed! You can watch it on your computer OR hook it up to your TV! Isn't that just a fabulous idea? Especially with the crappy Armed Forces Network we are stuck with here in Europe.

And now, who wants to help us out and set up a Slingbox for us so we no longer have to suffer in front of ancient reruns and horrible military commercials?!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rallye Deutschland 2010

a.k.a. German rednecks do exist!

Day One - In our village - weinberg
Climbing up the vineyard for seats
Our view/Car whipping around the corner

For weeks we noticed advertisements all around the city for Rallye Deutschland. Car racing isn't really my cup of tea so I didn't pay much attention.. Until, that is, my car was on the verge of being towed for the sake of the race. Turns out, the race was going to occur IN Trier (along with other stages taking place in different areas), around Roman ruins, through the city, etc. Who does that?! Doesn't seem extremely safe to me, but A was interested so we got the low down.

On Friday, the race was going on through our town and the neighboring village's wine roads. For those of you who haven't been here, we are in the middle of wine country. There are weinbergs (wine mountains) that have many narrow paths/roads across to make the grape harvesting more accessible. One stage of the race was going to take place through these narrow, windy roads.. and in our town, so of course we had to attend! With the help of our neighbor, we made our way through the winding wein roads (without driving head first into a rally car), walked up through some vineyards, and managed to see part of the race. Picture this: many shirtless Axel look-alikes (thankfully only shirtless, no speedos), multiple beers in hand, screaming in German when the car took the turn to fast. We're not in VA anymore, are we?!

On Sunday, the race was going through the city of Trier - around the Porta Nigra, through some narrow streets lined with shops, etc. The idea is just crazy to me, so of course, we had to see that as well. Turns out, after combing the streets of Trier and pushing through the thick crowds with some friends of ours who shared the interest, we found the race to be completely blocked off for the public to see - we needed a 60+ euro VIP pass to get up close and personal. Bummer. We did get to see the cars line up (IN THE WALKPLATZ!), driver's cram down some ice cream before suiting up, revving their engines, and taking off, but that was about the extent of it. The day, however, was saved after a nice bike trip to a favorite beer garden of ours - good friends, local yummy beer, & pommes.

Day 2 saved with a trip to Blesius!
In the walking platz - Porta Nigra in background
In walking platz - center in background

Maybe next year?

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Once upon a time, in a far away land called Wittlich, Germany, a village of people slept peacefully in their beds, for they knew their town was protected by a locked gate. One night, however, the key to the gate could not be found, so the night watchman stuck a carrot in the keyhole instead. Unfortunately, a little hungry pig came around and ate the carrot right out of the keyhole therefore opening the gate to all the enemies who came in and attacked the town. The pig was burned and the tradition continues.

In German, the tradition of burning the pigs is known as Wittlich Säubrennerkirmes. The Americans simply call it Pig Fest. Either way, the festival is packed with live music, good friends, good food & drinks (Pig sandwiches all around), and is held the third weekend of every August.

We had a great time going to Pig Fest last night. We grilled out before with a bunch of friends in Wittlich and walked over to listen to our favorite German cover band play, Chock-A-Block. While it goes on all weekend, one crazy night was enough. Bernkastel Wine Festival (my favorite of the local festivals) is held next weekend!

Oink Oink

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Say Cheese!

One of the first major cultural differences I noticed between Germans and Americans is the way they pose in pictures. For the most part, Americans put on a big smile when being photographed. Maybe it was stupid for me to assume that this was a global phenomenon, but I did. Upon our move to Germany and my constant observation of Germans (and other European tourists), I came to realize that smiling in pictures is not universal.

It's actually funny how they almost go out of their way to not smile in pictures. You can see a big group of people laughing, having fun, and smiling. When someone tries to capture the moment by taking a picture, the smiles fade and instead, a neutral look appears, and only then is the picture snapped.

The German (or maybe European?) smile-less picture phenomenon is one of the many non-verbal behaviors that differs from Americans. No head nod, no wave, no acknowledgement of of people passing you in the street (unless of course you know them), but most of all, no smiley pictures.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ilbertz ain't the Only One

The longer I live here, the more horror I hear of (and live through) concerning German landlords. Obviously, as Americans only temporarily living overseas, the gross majority of us rent our houses and therefore, have a German landlord. From what I can gather, there are only two types of German landlords: 1. the extremely invasive German landlord OR 2. the invisible German landlord. While I would love to be the one and only who is blessed with the perfect combination of both, I am reminded daily that this is not the case.

Let's begin with 'the Invisible German Landlord,' (A phenomenon I only dream of encountering. Seeing as our landlord lives next door we are obviously cursed(?) with the alternative). The Invisible German Landlord is only present for two days of the entire time the American family is living in Germany (2+ years) - the day the contract is signed and the day the contract is ended. While this sounds nice to those with the Invasive landlord, I can also see the negative - no German networking and no family feel from the landlord and his family.

I tend to hear much more about 'the Invasive German Landlord,' mainly because they have stories to tell, but also because we live next to one! The invasive German landlord automatically assumes they are part of your life and part of your family, therefore treating you like family members. Barging into your house, telling you how to clean your shower, telling you to sweep your porch, instructing you how to punish your dogs/children all become a part of your everyday life. (Example: Saturday: Alex and I reading on the porch, the Ilbertz's begin setting up for a party. Enter bikini clad Axel, "Alex, help me carry the foosball table up for the party." No please, no 'favor,' just do it. )

Luckily, in our individual living situation, while we are cursed with the speedo wearing, chain-smoking, invasive German landlord (who IS extremely nice, but also just as anal), we are also blessed with his absolute angel of a wife, who succeeds in balancing him out, therefore making our living arrangement pretty close to perfect Their daughter, Jill, also comes over often to chat about the rough life of a 15 year old, to get help with her English, and to play with the dogs. So while we do get the weekly, 'you must do this,' from Mr. Speedo, we also get the, 'come have coffee/dinner/wine,' from Michaella (pronounced Mish-eye-ay-a). On Saturday, after the foosball demand, Alex and I decided, it's like living next door to your strict parents (although thankfully, my Father didn't prance around in his speedo).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Outdoor Operation

As from our lovely deck which I am so very fond of, we have a pretty awesome outdoor operation going on - a courtyard kind of deal shared between the three houses. The work is FINALLY done and here's what it looks like. (the pool has already out of commission - it feels like Fall here already - but out again for next Summer)

Over the weekend, the Ilbertz's threw a big, "we finally finished the outside," party. The set up a temporary tent (in case of rain), foozball, etc.

Temp tent set-up for the Kasel throwdown
Megan in the pool
Part of the Courtyard
Path down to the Creek/Doggy play area
Path down to the Creek/Doggy play area/pool
Path down to the Creek/Doggy play area/pool
Front of the Ilbertz house
Outdoor shower
Outdoor couch/Lounge area with umbrella, olive tree, and heater
Part of the courtyard with palm tree

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Put it on My Tab

With traveling comes the inevitable accidental wasting of money. Up until the past two months, we had yet to see this waste, but now it's out and in full force.

It all started in Italy on our anniversary trip. First thing in the morning, going through security we find out Alex cannot carry-on his fishing rod (although I had suspected this before..) and he was forced to check his bag. 45 euros going. 45 euros coming back. We get to the train station in Bergamo to train to Pisa. We go to the desk to buy our ticket because I usually get an age discount, being under 25. I tell the man at the desk, two one-way tickets to Pisa. We pay, look at the tickets, come to find out he has given us both round-trip tickets, thus wasting 28euros. We get on the train and are making good time when the ticket-checker comes around to check our ticket. Turns out, we're on an Express Train when we paid for a Regional Train (my Riva teachers would be extremely disappointed.. I know). We are forced to pay the difference - 40euros. What are we at, 158euros? This is all in one day. Not looking so good for the Rapalje team, but it's our anniversary, so forgive and forget, let's go on vacation! Verona, Pisa, and Cinque Terre were overall a success and we didn't waste anymore money, at least that I can remember.

I lost my Ray Bans... 200 euros. Put it on my tab.

I go to Ibiza and get robbed... 320 euros. Put in on my tab.

Yesterday, we checking over our September Spain trip with Hannah & John. We are checking over the flights, the dates, the hotels, and the dogs. I'm reading the dates out loud to A and turns out, one of us (not sure which seeing as we've booked many many flights in the past 6 months) booked our flights home from Mallorca for the wrong day - the 23rd instead of the 16th. Sweet. We rebook and 200euros later, are flying back on the 16th of September. Hallelujah.

What are we at now? You know what, nevermind, I don't want to know. Is this a run of bad luck? A series of unfortunate, careless events? Are we just getting stupid in our old age? Or is this what happens when you travel 2 out of the 4 weekends of the month?

It's official, Europe's breaking the bank.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lanzarote, Canary Islands: Travel Recommendation

We recently returned from a long weekend trip to the Canary Islands with our friends Mary and Adam. We flew out of Brussels right onto the island and rented a car (ahead of time.. which is a must in the summer!) at the airport to explore the whole island. While the island is not so much, there is a ton to see (all outside) and definitely worth the trip!

Must-Sees: Playa Famara (gorgeous beach with a crazy cliff background), Mirador del Rio (Northern lookout point onto another, picturesque island), Lago de Verde/El Golfo (green lagoon + black sand beach), Punta Mujere (the most gorgeous water you will ever see + a cute little swimming hole filled with locals), Playa Papagayo (great beach, gorgeous water with a gorgeous lookout point), and their National Park. Worth Skipping: Jameos del Agua and Arrecife.

Playa Blanca: We stayed on the SW corner of the island at Playa Blanca. It was a nice area with lots of seafood restaurants and some tourist-y shopping. Our hotel was called Jardines del Sol and was fabulous. We basically stayed in our own little apartment/villa with a full kitchen, patio, living room, dining room, two bathrooms, and two bedrooms that had just been renovated. Very, very nice. While it is not on the beach, it is close to Playa Blanca (3 euro cab ride) and has it's own restaurant and pool. Perfect if you have a rental car.

Our duration of stay: 3 days. However, EVERYONE, and I mean everyone, responded by saying, "ONLY THREE DAYS?!" as if we were crazy. I'd only go longer if you were wanting to lay on the beach all week.

Rental Car: The island is small, but not small enough that you don't need a form of transportation. Supposedly the bus system is easy and cheap, although we chose to rent a car since there were four of us and it worked out well.

Punta Mujeres - the pictures don't do the water justice, trust me
Lanzarote - a volcanic island
Lago di Verde with the black sand beach
Playa Mujeres
Playa Papagayo - Clear Green/Blue Water

Monday, August 2, 2010

Chauffer Casey

Remember the post, "Germany: +340 euro, Alex: -$340euro?" Well, that's not all Alexander has lost to the Germans. As he also just found out, he will be losing his license for a month as even further punishment. Really? Yes! Germans take their tailgating seriously (and for future reference, talking on the cell phone while driving).

I do expect some sort of tip for driving Mr. Daisy around :)