17 December, 2013

Tübingen (with special attention paid to eavesdropping and parking lots)

I just can't seem to get up the energy these days to write a blog post, probably thanks to my 6:25am alarm every weekday morning, but here goes. (Hopefully I can do this in one sitting.)

Two weekends ago (I know, in Internet time that's like another decade) I went to Tübingen, a small city southeast of Karlsruhe, and also the city where Maxim was born and spent the first few years of his life. It's an easy drive from Karlsruhe to Tübingen so Maxim and I just went for the day, but it's a small, walkable city so a day is enough to get the feel of the place and see the sights.

Did I mention Tübingen is adorable?

Maxim (right) and his friend Sebastian at the castle.

More from the castle courtyard.

This is a very photographed point in Tübingen, and I can see why.

On the day we visited, Tübingen was having a chocolate festival, so there were tons of people filling the small city streets and vendors selling chocolate, bratwurst, crepes, wine and many other things. We (meaning Maxim, Maxim's friend Sebastian, and me) decided to head away from the crowds for lunch; we went to a little restaurant that serves a "fast food"-type version of typical food from the region. I had Spätzle mit Käse (little noodles with cheese), the southern German version of mac and cheese, so I was very happy.

After satisfying our need for food, we walked up the hill to the castle and got a nice view of the city from above. I got lazy and didn't take pictures, so you'll have to use your imagination (or Google). On our way up the hill, we walked past an interesting study in German dialects:

The startlingly long word written on the plaque above the bench, Dohoggeddiadiaemmerdohogged, is apparently German (by some loose definition of the word) but is completely incomprehensible to me. Honestly, to me it looks more like Gaelic than the language I've been studying for several months. That's because this is the Swabian dialect of German, which is quite different from the standard "high German" that I am currently learning. (Swabia is a region in southern Germany. For more info on the region, click here. For more info on the Swabian language, click here.) According to Maxim's quick translation, this means something like, "Here sit the people who always sit here." The only part of it that I can make out, even after that translation, is "emmer," which is very similar to "immer," the high German word for always.

After walking around quite a bit and seeing some sights, we stopped at a restaurant for coffee. (If this keeps up I may yet become a full-blown coffee drinker.) While we were sitting at the restaurant waiting for our coffee, something very interesting happened: I heard people speaking English. Now, this on it's own is nothing special in Germany. Many people here speak English, both Germans and visitors alike, and I still speak English every day with at least several people. What was interesting was, I was out in public in a German town and heard the most American English that it's possible to hear. The English I hear daily is spoken by Germans, which means there is an obvious difference between my accent and the English I hear around me. Hearing strangers at the next table speak my language, in exactly the way I've heard it my entire life until four months ago, instantly transported me back to the United States. It made me realize that the language and intonation and accent that are so familiar to me and are so much a part of me are in fact not that familiar anymore. I got so excited listening to this happy group of Americans talk, and I spent most of our coffee break shamelessly eavesdropping and trying to guess which state each person was from. It was comforting to listen to the language of my home, and it made me miss talking to American English speakers. Before this, I hadn't noticed the lack of pure American English in my life, but hearing it again was a jarring reminder of its absence.

With the sounds of cheerful American English still ringing in my ears, we said goodbye to Sebastian, and Maxim and I walked around the chocolate festival once more. I had a bratwurst, we stopped at a pub for a beer, Maxim had falafel, and then it was time to walk back to the car and depart. (Quite surprisingly, neither of us had any chocolate the whole day, despite walking past such delicacies as chocolate covered fruit and chocolate fountains.) When we got back to the parking lot, I noticed with alarm that someone had double parked in front of Maxim's car, and I had a moment of distress when I thought we were trapped. However, Maxim explained that in this parking lot, the arrangement is as follows: the parking is free for students at the university and is open to as many cars as will reasonably fit. If there are no designated parking spaces available, the next people who park are allowed to park in the aisle, as long as they leave the car in neutral with no emergency brake. That way, if someone who they have blocked in comes back and wants to leave, the newcomer can simply push the car out of the way and pull out of the space with both cars unharmed. What a novel idea! Unfortunately, it only works with a manual transmission, so I'm sure this idea won't take off in America.

The trip to Tübingen is the most note-worthy thing that has happened to me in the past week or two. Life continues on as usual, with me slightly more tired and going to bed slightly earlier than before because of my early German class. Starting on Friday evening I have Christmas vacation for about two weeks, which I am very much looking forward to. I will be sure to document my first Christmas away from home and post my findings here as events unfold.

Also, if anyone wants a postcard from somewhere in Germany/Europe, just email me your address (dcrouch12@gmail.com).

(Yes, I got through this post in one sitting! I think I deserve a prize.)

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