The answers to your most pressing search questions, revealed!

Like any good blogger, I obsessively monitor occasionally look to see how visitors come to find their way to my humble little website. The google searches, in particular, are always good for a bit of fun. I can only guess what the searchers were really hoping to find, but here are a few stabs at answering their queries (feel free to offer your own answers/interpretations in the comments):

american wear dirndl to oktoberfest
Yes, even Americans wear dirndls to Oktoberfest. If you want to buy one for yourself, make it one like this, so the rest of us can laugh at you can fit in.

Japanese peeing
Nope, the Japanese don’t pee. It’s a genetic thing.
Call me naive, but I still don’t get what these people are looking for. (I can only assume it’s not a post about Japanese toilets.) Photos? Videos? And why Japanese? Are they more interesting pee-ers than, say, the Sri Lankans or the Swiss?

famous non-American people
Sorry, there are no non-Americans worth mentioning. All the famous people are indeed from the good old US of A.
This tickles me so very much. As if all folks from all other countries are indeed described using the term “non-American”. As in, Gandhi, the famous non-American spiritual leader of a country which is not America…

pray the gay away t-shirt
Oh yes, I sell those. Actually they say, “I prayed the gay away! Ask me how.” I will also be happy to pray your gay away for a small donation (damn, I really need to get me a PayPal Donate button…).

whore in regensburg
(must… resist… urge… to… link… to… Regensburg… expat… Ah, screw it.)
Sorry, you have the wrong blog. You must be looking for Cliff.

naked man pictures
Ha! Good luck finding those on the internet!

Obamania sweeps through Germany

Germany is all abuzz today as Obama prepares to speak in Berlin. He is on the cover of magazines such as Der Spiegel and Stern. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung is chronicling his every move throughout the day. The televised pre-game show began hours ago.

He will be speaking in front of the Siegessäule, a good 2 km away from the Brandenburger Gate, his first choice of venue. This move was supposedly to appease Merkel, who was not happy with Obama’s first location choice. As much as I love Obama, I too found myself questioning the idea of this speech. Presidential performances in Berlin are the stuff of legends, but Obama isn’t exactly president yet. Why is he trying to trick me into believing he is?

Regardless of my initial skepticism, today I find myself eagerly anticipating this evening’s speech. Continue reading

A little German leisure reading

So, in my quest to improve my language skills, I have switched most of my leisure reading over to German. So far I have finished two novels in German, and I’m looking for more.

The first novel I read, at the suggestion of Heza and Alex, was Der Vorleser by Bernhard Schlink. It started out a bit slow, but the pace picked up before I lost interest. The level was great – I was able to read and understand almost everything without stopping to look words up, although there were definitely new words in the text (for when I was in the looking-up kind of mood). What I particularly liked about the story line was that it was uniquely German, drawing me into parts of German history I had not thought about before, at a level I could easily follow and understand. I see that Mr. Schlink is a prolific writer; perhaps I will give another book of his a go.

The second German novel I read was the infamous Feuchtgebiete by Charlotte Roche. Although I expected my knowledge of German slang to be challenged, I have to say that I ended up being almost disappointed at the lack of new and scandalous vocabulary it offered. I suppose all those issues of Bravo (link possibly NSFW) I read during my Halle days really paid off! The book was also a bit of a let-down in the content department; based on all the uproar it has caused, I expected it to shock and offend my prude American sensibilities much more than it did. Although the book did make me physically gag on a couple of occasions, my reaction was more to the hygiene elements than the sexual ones.

Despite these disappointments, overall I’ll call Feuchtgebiete a decent read. The pace was quick, and for the most part the plot was interesting enough to keep me entertained on the plane to California. It might have been less interesting to read in my native language, since it would have lost its educational appeal (although, I suppose, it does have something in the way of education to offer on the topic of raising avocados, too), but as a German-learning tool I’ll give it a thumbs up.

Any suggestions for what I should read next? I prefer to read in the original language (ie, I’m looking for books written in German). They don’t have to be novels, but my other preferred genre is humorous nonfiction (ala David Sedaris and Bill Bryson), and I’m not sure my German sense of humor is sophisticated enough to tackle that. I like novels that are quick reads but with some substance – no romance novels or Sweet Valley High, but also no War and Peace. Think good airplane reading.

Travel writers born, not made?

If ever you were in doubt that nepotism is alive and well, you’d need look no further than the travel writing industry to see that it is. Who knew guidebooks were the stuff of travel royalty?

Take Arthur Frommer’s daughter, Pauline, for example. She has her own line of guidebooks. Incidentally, I learned about her writing through Arthur Frommer’s delightfully insightful and curmudgeonly travel blog, of which I am an avid reader. With marketing like that, she’s bound to succeed.

And then there was the big scandal a while back about Max Gogarty, son of The Guardian‘s travel writer Paul Gogarty. Guardian readers were none too happy to hear that 18-year-old Max had scored a travel blog on the Guardian site to document his privileged international partying. Comments were so harsh that they seem to have actually prevented the blog from going past the first entry.

The latest edition to the travel writing offspring pack is Rick Steve’s daughter Jackie, who has a blog on her father’s website to document her summer romp around Europe. The reception she has received has been vastly different to poor Max’s, with most of her commenters sounding like concerned mothers, wringing their hands as they read about the 18-year-old’s encounters with Italian boys and red-light districts. I wonder if the comments are heavily moderated, or if ‘concerned mother’ types are just the kind of folks who read Rick Steves’s site. I suppose the latter is pretty plausible.

(As an aside, I am so insanely impressed with Rick Steve’s recent trip to Iran. I have never been a particular fan of his, but this self-funded adventure in cultural understanding has earned him huge amounts of respect from me. I really hope I get a chance to see the show that comes out of it.)

So my question is, why oh why couldn’t I have been born into travel-writing royalty?

The old city ring party

As part of the summer-long celebration of Munich’s 850th birthday, the middle of the city was taken over this weekend for the Altstadtringfest. Despite the crowds and weather which alternated between oppressively hot and torrential downpour, we had a pretty good time sampling the offerings. And we saw a lot. A robot parade. A glorified science fair. Singing lesbians. A guy in a chicken suit riding a mechanical bull soccer ball. Concerts. Singing mechanical puppets.

My favorite event was the midnight acrobat show at Odeonsplatz last night. It was kind of a cross between De La Guarda and Cirque du Soleil, with a bunch of Bavarian history tossed in. The woman running up and down one of the towers of the Theatinerkirche was absolutely breathtaking. None of the photos of her turned out, but Scott took a great video I’ll try to post sooner or later.

Today we took the opportunity to take our new tracht out for a spin (and silly us, forgot to have someone take a picture of us – but we did take a photo when we got home). There were plenty of other dirndls and lederhosen to see out and about, too, which I noticed only because we were dressed the way we were. You know how when you get a new car and then suddenly notice people driving that kind of car everywhere? Tracht is the same way.

Munich parties

We were this close to going away for the weekend, but in the end decided to stick around and check out the hundred million things going on in Munich. We just got back from a day at the Tollwood Festival out at the Olympiazentrum. Tollwood had been described to us as kind of a hippie festival gone commercial, and that was about what it felt like. The fairgrounds contained a mix of shopping, a variety foods, and eclectic beer gardens. There was also live music and other performances going on. I lunched on a fabulous vegan gyro. Long live the hippies!

Now we’re resting up for a long night of partying at the Altstadtsringfest. The center of Munich has been closed off to traffic and a whole of of crazy things are going on in the various platzes. The acrobatics at Odeonsplatz sound promising, and I’m quite tempted to go check out a German rap group by the name of Blumentopf (flower pot). So many events to chose from!

And, as if today wasn’t exciting enough already, we bought Scott some lederhosen this morning. Woo hoo!

Learning German at the Volkshochschule

Although I haven’t quite implemented everything on my learning German with overwhelming force list, for the past month and a half I’ve been taking a German class at the Münchner Volkshochschule. A Volkshochschule is kind of like a community college or an adult education center, and you can find one in pretty much every German city. Course offerings cover a wide array of subjects, from art to business to to swimming to foreign languages.

The best thing about Volkshochschule courses is that they are extremely affordable. I had heard mixed reviews about the quality of the German classes, but I decided to give it a try. I’ve taken language courses at much pricier schools, such as the Goethe Institut and Berlitz, and I’d give them mixed reviews, too. It really depends on the teacher most of the time, and at the Volkshochschule I totally lucked out. Our teacher was engaging and interesting. She made sure we were challenged, while also giving us plenty of praise.

The class consisted of about 10 students, each from a different country, ranging from Italy to Iran. I really enjoyed getting to know people from so many different places and life situations. I’m sad to see the course come to an end tomorrow.

Volkshochschule German courses are usually in high demand, especially at the beginning levels, and can be hard to get into (so if you’re interested, be sure to sign up well in advance!). It seems to get a little easier to get a place at the more advanced levels. To start somewhere other than at the beginning, you take a quick placement test (which costs 5 euros) and then you speak with the advisors about finding a course which is right for you.

Turning Bavarian

I am happy to announce that I am now the proud owner of my very own dirndl. I love it more than I ever thought I could love traditional clothing, Bavarian or otherwise. It fits surprisingly well, and I adore the colors. (Even before I bought it I was told that I have a very good Dirndl-Figur… I’ll give you one guess as to what that really means.)

A dirndl is a traditional Bavarian dress, worn with an apron, and is basically the female counterpart to lederhosen. Dirndls and lederhosen aren’t exactly everyday wear here in Bavaria anymore, unless you happen to be waiting tables at the Hofbräuhaus. But they’re still quite popular, especially at beer festivals and other occasions. Like this thing they call the Oktoberfest… perhaps you’ve heard of it?

Dirndls come in all colors and fabrics, and can range in price from around 100 euros to several thousand, depending on your dedication to the cause. On the low end, stores such as C&A; sell cheap versions of dirndl, or I hear there are some great deals to be found on Ebay. I wanted something a bit nicer, but didn’t want to invest too much, so we headed out to the Loden Frey outlet near the Olympia Einkaufzentrum to do a little Tracht shopping. I ended up spending less than I expected to, so I’m doubly happy with the outcome.

Now, if only I could find a reason to wear my dirndl before Oktoberfest…

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