Thursday, June 27, 2013


We've turned a corner the last couple weeks with our German. Our instructor Philina (who is sadly departing for greener pastures in South Africa) concentrated on teaching us essential and practical words to boost our conversations around town. For example, Jeanine and I now know "Gamsbart,"

the word for those silly hats German nationalists wear when they sit and eat some sort of indescribable piece of pork in a beer hall. We also learned "Sennerin,"

or German dairy maid. Ella's Dad Joe says he's only heard the word a couple times in his life, but what does he know? -- he's Swabian. Today, I used Sennerin in the context of asking for milk in my coffee,** though I admit the T├╝bingen soccer moms behind me in line shot me odd looks. 

** Disclaimer. I wrote this for comic purposes only. I drink my coffee schwarz, of course.

Next we learned the word "Dirndl"

which is the traditional outfit above. Of course, I'm sure you know that this image is fake and contrived. Everyone knows that women in Dirndls drink beer out of larger, 1-liter Steins.

Speaking of Steins, our final word of the day is Steinbock. It came in handy to know this one at the Stuttgart Zoo last weekend.

Hopefully knowing the German word for Ibex will help me when I audit German 2 in the fall. 

We actually spent both days last weekend in Stuttgart, commuting back and forth on the train. Saturday we went to Stuttgart's main art museum, which we think is as wonderful as everyone says, but it was hard to tell as the entire 1300-1800 wing was closed. But that luckily gave us more time for the 19th-century German stuff we increasingly like, especially by David Caspar Friedrich.

Time on our hands due to 500 years of closed art, we visited the state museum of Baden-W├╝rttemberg, the kind of museum the Germans excel in. Here I am inside the Black Forest.

Stuttgart is a Dinkel Acker company town, so the beer this afternoon looking out on the lovely park at the heart of Stuttgart was a Dinkel Acker (Bill's favorite while visiting). Joe isn't as big a fan of the Dinkel Acker as I and Bill. 

Dinner represented another bottoming out on the beer front. All the (surprisingly decent) chain Argentinean steak place had was Becks, the beer of wannabe-street-tough-big-hat-wearing-but-just-can't-pull-it-off-given-the-generous-welfare-state German teenagers. The waiter even said to me, "I know, I'm sorry." I can't wait for the first time I see a yuppie at a bar paying $10 for a Becks. It's going to crack me up. 

Then we went to Adriadne auf Nexus, a Strauss Opera, in a typically European Opera House.

The first two acts were good, but the third, written a few years after the original as a sort of prelude that turns the production into an opera within an opera -- but which this company made a postlude -- made me feel like Jeremy from the Tao of Steve (a classic, for you youths out there who may not have seen it). Imagine 45 minutes of watching people in a theater within a theater setting up chairs for a show within a show speaking words you can't understand (we could mostly follow the German subtitles, but they turned them off for the speaking parts). It was also 90 degrees in the balcony, despite it being 61 degrees and windy that day on the street. Did Obama urge everyone to turn off their air conditioners in his speech? If the Germans can do it, why can't we? 

Sunday was Zoozeit, which in Stuttgart means one of those fantastic late-nineteenth-century European parks with neoclassical buildings and endless ice-cream stands. The key to Germany is to have a coffee every time it pours. Jeanine and Betty and Mike and Joe and Ella and Iva and Tancho and their adorable Daniel (our Bulgarian friends) and Markus and Ellie and I saw lots of non-Steinbock animals.

Ella especially liked the fish.

Daniel is too young to appreciate fish, but he is still our hero.

We also worked on teaching Ella how to order "ein Bier" even without knowing how to speak yet. 

After the zoo we met our Stuttgart (really Bad Cannstatt) friends Maria and Philip (she's a historian, and he doctors to sick babies) for our first ever in-house cake in Germany. Lecker!

In the you-can't-make-this-up department, over Kuchen and Kaffee we learned that one of the German soccer magazines is called 11 friends.

Then, as if cake were not enough, Maria and Philip further indulged our love of German cliches by walking us through the idyllic park in Bad Cannstatt. The park was originally part of Daimler's estate. The car was invented in this shed.

And we even squeezed in a beer at their local beergarden on the Neckar River.

Bad Cannstatt has a surprisingly great old town with some seriously old houses. 

 We had no idea that we'd see the old 1920s Ritter Factory.

Thanks to German class, we thought we were conversing smoothly about these animals on a bar wall.

But, much to our chagrin, it turns out that learning Steinbock only took us so far. Of course -- the Swabian for Steinbock is actually Zickle. How did we not know? I guess that explains the look on the old woman's face to whom I started talking at the zoo. But at least now we know two words for Ibex.

I think I had better stop there. But back in the real world, I will say that 2 out of 3 from the Supreme Court isn't bad (well, 2 out of 4 ...). I found the below cartoon pretty ironic, given the Voting Rights decision, but, hey, the gay rights decisions were (almost) great and actually Matter to people's lives, unlike 99% of what the politicians yell about nowadays. The DOMA decision was a little tortured, but if I learned one thing writing a book on a Supreme Court decision, it's that S.C. justices have always been as full of B.S. as the rest of us. Oh really Scalia, I guess your disgust at gay sex has nothing to do with your federalism jurisprudence here, huh? Can someone please get this man a copy of Thinking, Fast and Slow?

Watch out Kansas and Utah ... you're fighting for a lost cause. 

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