Posts Tagged ‘Frankfurt’

So in five days I’ll be getting on a plane and heading home (cue the patriotic Neil Diamond music). Since my time in Germany is running out, I figured that I’d go over the highlights of my trip, the things I’ll remember and talk about for years to come.

And that will make their way into a story or two, because that’s what happens when you’re me. Everything is fodder for my dark, twisted imagination.

So here they are, the highlights of my time in Germany:

Working for the US Army

Me at the office.

Me at the office.

Obviously this has to come first. It’s the whole reason that I’m here in the first place. I got to work for three months in the US Army Civilian Corps, working in the Equal Employment Opportunity office on a variety of projects, including a few articles and newsletters. I gained a lot of experience that will no doubt help me with future jobs (can’t confirm anything on that front yet, but I do think good news is on its way). I also made a few friends while on base, and I got to experience firsthand what it’s like to live and work for the US Army. Sure it was only three months, but what a period of three months! You can definitely expect a story or several coming out of this experience.

Living in Germany

Not everyone is lucky enough to live in a foreign country beyond a vacation of a couple of weeks. I got to do it for four months! And you know, it’s a lot of fun, as well as very educational. Sure, my German still sucks (though I find a lot of people here speak enough English for me to get by), but that didn’t get in the way too much. From trying the train and bus systems, to learning that bakeries here have a weird tolerance for letting flies or bees crawl over their food in the summer (yeah, I found it a little gross too), to even getting lost and learning to rely on the natives for directions, every week seemed to have some new adventure for me, and I can’t wait to tell everyone about some of those adventures I couldn’t talk about here in more detail, either in person or through stories.

My Trip to Munich

German silver mark from 1937. Cool, right?

German silver mark from 1937. Cool, right?

That was my first big trip in Germany. Before that I’d explored parts of Wiesbaden and made trips to Frankfurt and been to nearby Mainz once or twice, but this was really going out to see the country. And it’s definitely one of my favorite parts of being here in Germany, especially since visiting Munich was top of my list of things to do while in Germany. I was given a personal tour of Munich by a WWII scholar who showed me how Munich was such an essential part of the rise of Nazism and some of Nazi Germany’s most formative event. I had such a great time that day, and I would gladly do it again given the chance and maybe someone to share the experience with. In any case, I will have to look up my Holocaust Studies professor once I get back to Columbus and talk to her about my trip. I bet she’d be very interested in seeing some of my photos and souvenirs, including an actual German silver mark from 1937! Now having that is scholarly street cred right there.

For a fuller account of my trip to Munich, read my post here.

Seeing BABYMETAL in concert

BABYMETAL rocking it out in Frankfurt.

BABYMETAL rocking it out in Frankfurt.

If you have no idea who or what BABYMETAL is, they’re a Japanese pop-metal fusion band fronted by three teenage girls. Yes, it is kind of weird, but it is really awesome and they’re making tons of waves in the metal world (if you want to sample them and see what the big deal is, I highly recommend their Road of Resistance video). To say the least, I am a gigantic fan, and this was my second time seeing them in concert. The first time was at the Rock on the Range music festival in Columbus this past May, but they were on a smaller stage and allotted a shorter performance time, so it wasn’t as fun as I’d hoped. When I heard they were going to be in Germany while I was there, and that they’d be doing a full concert, I immediately got tickets to go.

And you know what? I had a blast! They did their whole repertoire (easily enough when you only have one album and a digital single) before a crowd of about a hundred and fifty people, and I just had the best time. I got really close to the stage by the end of the concert, which was good because in addition to tall fans seeing the show from several yards back is no fun, and I got to see a ton of the action up close. Honestly, when they played my favorite song, “Doki Doki Morning”, I nearly died from happiness. At the end of the concert, I felt drunk despite having not had a drop of alcohol all day, and couldn’t help but sing the tune to some of their songs for quite a while after the concert was over. It was just a magical night for me.

Me and my new friend Itamar.

Me and my new friend Itamar.

That concert was also special because, besides a T-shirt I got as a souvenir, I made a new friend at the concert, an Israeli named Itamar who had recently been discharged from the IDF and was traveling around Europe and going to BABYMETAL concerts whenever he could. To him, those concerts were fun and relaxing (considering my own experience and the studies that show heavy metal is a mood lifter for fans, plus the fact that plenty of the band’s songs feature positive messages, I didn’t find that too surprising). We started talking before the show started, realized we had a lot in common, including a thing for horror stories, and hit it off. After the show we found each other and promised to stay in contact, and he said he’d check out my books. The very next day we became Facebook friends. Isn’t that nice?

I also had a great idea for a novel while I was at the concert, but I think I’ll wrap up this entry in the list and say this was a big event for me and I had a ton of fun. And if I get the chance, I hope I can see BABYMETAL in concert again someday.

And I’m jamming out to them while I write this post, but does that surprise you in any way?

Wewelsburg Castle

Wewelsburg castle.

Wewelsburg castle.

A trip to Europe is not complete without a castle or two, in my opinion. Last year on my study abroad trip it was the Tower of London, and this year it was Wewelsburg Castle, a three-sided German castle in Paderborn that was once the seat of the local Prince-Bishop. During WWII, the SS used the castle as a training center, and some say it was also where they did mystical rituals meant to empower themselves as Aryan men (there’s both evidence to support and oppose this theory, but I wouldn’t discount it). Ever since last year when I did a paper on the connections between National Socialism and mysticism and I discovered the castle in my studies, I’ve wanted to check it out, and being able to do so on this trip was a very big deal for me. I learned a lot while I was there, and I even got a story idea while I was there. Wewelsburg is definitely a place I’d recommend anyone visiting Germany visit if they’re in the mood for seeing a castle with an interesting and dark history.

For a fuller account of my trip to the castle, you can read my post here.

German food and drink

Love that German beer!

Love that German beer!

Now, because I keep kosher and because I can’t read German, my access to German food was limited. Still, when I could have it, I found that it was pretty good. They definitely know how to make some tasty baked fish dishes, the Germans do. They use plenty of spices to give it flavor, I think.

And German beer and wine is definitely some of the best I’ve ever tasted. I know Germany is known for its beers, but the wine is pretty extraordinary too. In fact, Frankfurt and plenty of other German cities and provinces make a lot of money off wine, and there’s even a university in Frankfurt where they teach wine and beer making. If I wasn’t such a writer, I might consider applying to that school and started a winery or something.

Definitely don’t miss out on eating actual authentic German cuisine while you’re here. You’ll miss out on a central part of the country if you do.

And finally…

All the story ideas!

Last year when I was in Europe, I kept track of how many ideas I had while I was abroad and came up with 40 ideas. This year I did the same, and after four months and so many experiences, the amount of ideas I had was staggering. 81 ideas as of this past Saturday. Yeah, that’s a lot of ideas. Novels, short stories, articles, even a video game or two, inspired by anything from dreams to stories I read and shows or movies I watched, to all these experiences and several more experiences I had while in Germany. Yeah, it’s definitely been a good time for me creatively while I’ve been here. I just wonder when I’m going to write all these stories! Hopefully not never.

 

Well, that’s all I’ve got. I have to say, I’m going to miss Germany terribly. It’s been quite an experience while I was here, and I hope that maybe someday I can visit again, maybe see a few things I didn’t get the chance to see during my four months here (I probably would’ve seen more if I could, but time and money are always a factor in these sort of things). And who knows? Maybe in the future I’ll get that chance after all.

One can always hope. Right my Followers of Fear?

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You know, Frankfurt is very close to Wiesbaden. So close, in fact, that along with Mainz it’s considered almost like a tri-city sort of thing.Still, it feels very far away despite the map, so I was very glad to go on a USO sponsored tour of one of Germany’s most well known cities today*. and make a few friends along the way, one of whom I made sure to get an email from (will be sending you something soon, Jose).

Unlike last week, I got to the meeting point early, and I had actually a very good idea where it was thanks to the help of my supervisor at work (honestly, he’s such a helpful guy). The meeting place was the Wiesbaden main train station, which looked like something out of an old movie with a side of American commercialism (every fast food franchise imaginable was there, including KFC!). I bought a ticket and the group assembled for the tour. We boarded the train and were there within half an hour.

Well, let me say this. Wiesbaden’s nice, but Frankfurt has that feel of an old German town. The houses have that look and feel to them that you associate with old German towns, the white walls and wood beams and red tiled roofs. Some of them have been around for hundreds of years! Add in the narrow, winding cobbled roads, and you definitely feel like you’re not in Kansas anymore.

A view of Frankfurt and its vineyards.

A view of Frankfurt and its vineyards.

We spent the first part of the tour, finding out about the local history, how Frankfurt has plenty of vineyards and micro-breweries, and several different places to check out local beers and wines. Heck, there’s even a university there that’s sole purpose is to teach people how to professionally make beer and wine! I almost wanted to sign up for classes. We then visited a park where the artwork is all made out of concrete (it was actually quite nice), saw a very lovely mansion that looked like it was right out of a movie set, and then we visited the local cathedral, which was quite interesting. I’m always awed by all the effort put into cathedrals, and how the overall effect is quite beautiful and spiritual.

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After the cathedral we passed by a house where a charnel house, a place where skeletal remains are stored, used to be (sounds like my kind of digs) and broke for lunch. After waiting an hour for food (which I’ll get into in a moment), we were invited to join in the Linden festival, in honor of the Linden tree in the center of the neighborhood (yeah, apparently it’s pretty important). Before I did that though, I went to see the Rhine River. And while I was there, I reflected on the river.

Certain natural features can really help define a place. London has the Thames, Paris has the Seine, and Germany, including Frankfurt, has the Rhine, and it really helps define the country. Yet strangely, the river is never the same one second from the next. It’s constantly changing, the water molecules moving constantly, the tide going in and out, every passing boat or barge changing the river along with time and momentum. This and many other thoughts went through my head as I sat alongside the river, admiring all the history it had witnessed over the millennia and just enjoying the view. When I dipped my hand into the river, I felt like I was dipping into the history of the river itself.

The Rhine River and me.

The Rhine River and me.

After that I went back to the festival, which was amazing! Every local shop was selling its wares, tables were everywhere for people to eat and drink and talk. Even the most well-staffed restaurant was having trouble keeping up with the demand (which is why our lunches were so late). I met back up with the group and we talked over beers and wines about a variety of subjects. It was a good time.

After that I decided to head back early. Not that I wasn’t enjoying myself or that there wasn’t anything to do, but it was getting late and I wanted to be getting home. I got on the train and headed home. All in all, it was a great experience. I made a couple of new friends, saw a lovely new neighborhood and city, and had a great experience. I hope I get to visit again some time soon!

Enjoying the local drinks and my time in Frankfurt.

Enjoying the local drinks and my time in Frankfurt.

For now though, I’ve got a short story to finish and an evening to relax. Have a good night, my Followers of Fear. I know I am!

*Interesting thing I learned. In Europe, a city is not necessarily based on size or skyscrapers like in the States. Rather, a city is called as such because someone important–an emperor or a high-ranking clergyman or someone along those lines–gave a town that special designation, which came with certain privileges, including the right to mint their own money. This is why Frankfurt, which looks more like a provincial town out in the country, is called a city. Someone high-ranking gave it that title once upon a time. Pretty cool, right?

A street in my new home.

A street in my new home.

Well, not really my first week. It’s been only four or five days since I arrived. But it’s Friday, and tomorrow I’ll be busy with a couple of things, so I might as well write about it now.

So what’s my first week been like? Well…a bit different than what I expected (or what my Tarot predicted, though that was referring to a longer period of time, so maybe the first week shouldn’t have that much reflection on the reading). While I am working and have my own office (and it’s big and cozy too, by the way), I don’t have an ID card yet. As this is a military base with security protocols and whatnot, I need and ID card to do anything significant. Unfortunately, the soonest I can get in to get one is Monday, so until then I’ve been busy with tasks that don’t involve computers or security clearance.

What sort of tasks are those, you ask? Well, I’m supposed to be, among other things, writing articles on behalf of the head Equal Employment Opportunity office of Europe, so in preparation for that I’ve been doing some reading about diversity in the workforce, something EEO feels strongly about. I’m going to be writing an article about implementing diversity to the fullest in such a workforce. In addition to that, I’ve been doing some work with the base’s personal EEO office.

My apartment building.

My apartment building.

Beyond that, I haven’t had that much time to do anything else. I’ve done a little shopping, and gotten to know the neighborhood I live in a little (I live not too far from base in an area full of apartment buildings housing mostly military personnel and/or their families). I’m also getting to know my roommate Ian, whom I have a lot in common with, including religions. And I’ve been adjusting, trying to adapt to living near a base and working on one. I’ve somehow trained myself to go to bed at ten and wake up at five, and be ready to leave the house a quarter to seven for work. How have I done this? I’m not really sure, even a year ago something like that would’ve been impossible for work or school.

Well, thank God it’s the weekend, and that brings it’s own adventures. I’m doing a walking tour of Wiesbaden provided by the USO tomorrow morning, so I’m getting up early (for a Saturday) to go on it. I’m actually pretty excited. I want to see what my new home has to offer. And next week there’s a tour of nearby Frankfurt I’d like to go on as well. We’ll see what happens.

My roommate and I grabbing some drinks.

My roommate and I grabbing some drinks.

The one thing I’m sad about is that I’m unable to continue my German lessons or write lately. The latter particularly upsets me. You know me, as a writer telling stories is my lifeblood. And with a busy life like mine these days, since Monday the most I’ve been able to do is usually very short posts, like the ones on From The Voice Of Common Sense. Hopefully as time goes on though I’ll be able to carve out time to write and edit. I’m trying to get through a new short story and finish editing Video Rage, so the sooner I get those done the better.

In the meantime, I’ve got a big day tomorrow, so I’m going to prep for that. Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear. I think I might need it.