Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Hopefully, Customs Will Let Us Back In

We just flew over the southern tip of Greenland, and I could not stop staring out the window at the wonder of it all.

Yes, I’m a geek.  What's your point?

Greetings from 33,000 feet above the North Atlantic, where we’re on the second leg of our journey home.  Getting up in Berlin at 3 am this morning (or, as I mentioned yesterday, 9 pm last night Marquette time) was a joy, But we weren’t the only ones who were able to enjoy it.  The 4:27 am train out to the Berlin airport was packed, the airport itself was packed, security was packed…

Well, you get the idea.

As I mentioned on the first “Life in the 906” I did for 19 News this past Monday I really do get a window seat on the right hand side of the plane every time we fly back.  Not only do I get to geek our over Greenland (at least on days like today when the cloud cover allows) but soon I’ll be able to see the first signs of North America, as we fly over the Labrador coast.  Then an  hour and a half later we enter US airspace right over Sault Ste, Marie, and an hour or so after that we’re back on land in Chicago.

I often think of my Irish or my German ancestors who had to spend days (if not weeks) on a ship to come to the US, and then more days or weeks of overland travel just to get to a place like Chicago.  Now, I get to fly from Europe to that city in eight hours.

I wonder what THEY would think?

Okay.  I promised you two more stories from Leipzig, and here they are.  As you may recall, the first day we were here I may have gone off in a small rant about how I couldn’t find a cow calendar anywhere.  Well, Saturday, as we were off buying handschuhe for the soccer match, we came across a wall of stuffed animals-

If you look at it you’ll see everything from a stuffed dog to a stuffed horse to a stuffed penguin to a stuffed (and I’m not kidding here) meerkat.  But you know what you don’t see?

A stuffed cow.

I’m not quite sure what Leipzig has against cows; for a city with otherwise impeccable tastes they sure do let you down that way.  So if (and I’m  thinking this isn't gonna happen, but you never know) Leipzig sends me one of those “please rate your experience with us” surveys that  everyone wants you to fill out these days, I will give them a “10” in almost every single category.

They get a “0”, though, when they ask a question about cows.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the name Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; he was an 18th century German poet, philosopher, writer, and scientist, as well as the occasional butt of a Woody Allen joke.  Now, despite everything that Goethe did in his long life, I really don’t think he had anything to do with chocolate, which makes the name of this chocolate bar rather interesting–

And well as the name of this totally unrelated chocolate shop–

Kinda strange.  The chocolate bar was dark, and many of the chocolates sold in the totally unrelated shop were of the darker variety, as well, so maybe the chocolateers were just using the Goethe name as a subtle commentary on the bleakness of human existence.

Or maybe they just thought it sounded cool.  I think either way might be valid.

Oh, and Goethe Chocolateers also had some amazing gelato.  Mine (the white one) is honey lavender, while Loraine’s (the other one) is chocolate chili.

I guess with gelato like that things can't be too bleak, can they?

Before we wrap this trip up I have a few more pictures to share, ones that haven’t made it in here yet.  Pictures like…..

How a lot of people seem to get from here to there in Berlin–

A random beer bottle left on the street in Leipzig–

Garbage that you might see anywhere in the US, but is a rather bizarre sight when you come across it in Germany-

What I probably SHOULD have bought Friday at the market instead of that 23,000,000 calorie Quarktorte–

And maybe, just maybe, a sign that the person who wrote the copy for this refrigerator magnet didn’t have the best command of English.  Either that, or they just have a highly refined sense of the absurd–

Well, that’s it for this time around. I have no idea when we’ll be doing it again, but when we do, you can always come along.  And I also have to once again mention how this all would not have been possible without the stellar work Loraine puts into sticking these voyages together.  It’s not an easy job, despite how she makes it look, and you better believe that any credit at all for how it turned out is hers and her alone.

Loraine rocks!

Have a great next few days, everyone.  I’m on the radio tomorrow, I’m shooting the first episode of “High School Bowl” for the season Friday morning, and then I’m collapsing into a heap of goo for the few days after that.

Well, maybe collapsing after I unpack all the chocolate we picked up.  Some things ARE more important than rest, after all.



Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Berlin Boogie

Greetings from Germany's capital city, where if you look closely at this picture you'll see signs of planes, trains, and automobiles--

But seeing as how we're just a couple of hundred meters away from the train station, two floors above one of the busiest streets in the city, and under the flight path of the airport from which we'll be flying out in (gulp) just a couple of hours, maybe we should be surprised if there WASN'T all that stuff in the picture.

That's right.  As I'm writing this it's 7:30 on Tuesday evening, or 1:30 in the afternoon back home.  To do everything we need to do to be on our 7 am flight, we need to wake up at 3 am Wednesday morning, or 9 pm Tuesday night back in the States.  So if we make it home as planned, we get to wake up 24 hours before our plane lands in Marquette.

Oh joy.

We did have a few final hours in Leipzig this morning, once again visiting the market

Where this time I didn't buy a 23 million calorie Quarktorte, instead opting for the choice I usually make at least once when we're over here

We then had to hop aboard the train to Berlin, and just as we made it out to the platform look what showed up--blue sky!

I know, I know.  It IS the beginning of October, so what should I have expected--sunshine and 80 degrees every day?


After hopping aboard the train you saw in the last picture we made it to Berlin and took a little walk along history-

If you're wondering why we're following a brick line in the road, that's where the Berlin Wall stood, as plaques every so often will tell you--

In fact, the Wall cut right behind the Reichstag, Germany's version of Congress-

And right in front of the Brandenberg Gate, right around the corner from the Reichstag--

However, we decided not to join everyone on the tourist-beaten path, and instead brought our dinner over to the Tiergarten, Berlin's huge city park--

The Tiergarten was once a Prussian king's hunting ground, and also served as a source of firewood for Berlin residents at the end of World War II.  Today, it's used by thousands of walkers, bikers, scooter-ers, and people using other various forms of transportation.  It's also an amazing respite from the hustle and bustle of a city of four and a half million people, as evidenced by the view we had from our dining area--

Well, 3 am is fast a-coming (and now I'll have that Matchbox 20 song stuck in my head for the next few days), so I'm going to have to cut this short.  If I have the time tomorrow--and seeing as how I'll have 24 hours in airports and airplanes, I should have PLENTY of time--I'll write a wrap-up with more stories and pictures, everything from another failed search for something--anything--with a cow on it, to wondering just why in the heck German chocolate makers seem to love a certain 18th century poet and philosopher.

Who knew?

See you tomorrow.  Or later today.  Or whenever the heck it'll be.


Monday, October 3, 2022

Unity is Something We Could All Use

Is it really a holiday if no one celebrates it?

That thought crossed my mind a few times today as we spent our final full day in a Leipzig that was celebrating a national holiday.  Today is Unity Day, the celebration of the day that the old West & East Germany came together once again to become just plain 'ol Germany on October 3rd, 1990.  But unless you consider all the closed shops and a strangely strong (and unexplained) police presence around here, it didn't seem like a holiday.  Of course, these aren't the greatest of days in Germany; after all, being just a couple of hundred kilometers away from a war started by a madman tends to mute a celebration.  Because of the war, inflation in the country is running around 10%, and in an attempt to save energy for the winter many cities, Leipzig included, are trying to cut back on how much power they use.

Hence a strange picture like this--

If you're wondering why I would take a picture of a dark church, here's why.  A couple of nights a week they turn off the lights they usually shine on public buildings, like the Nikolaikirche across the street from us.  It's all part of an attempt across the country to cut power consumption by 10% until the new, non-Russian sources of energy Germany is putting in place are brought online.  So I guess you can see why the celebration of Unity Day wasn't really a big deal.

Hopefully they're saving that for Sunday.  But more on that in a bit.

Since it was a holiday, we did what many people do to wrap up a three-day weekend--we went to the lake today.  On the south side of Leipzig there's a lake called Markkleeberg See, and seeing as how a tram line runs to it, we decided to take a holiday from our holiday and check it out--

Looks like a regular old lake, right?  Well, what would you say if I told you the lake is only 26 years old?  Aside from you saying "no way" and me replying with "way", it's actually true.  The lake was an open pit coal mine until the mid 1990s, started by the Nazis and fully exploited by the East Germans, something thoughtfully shown on one of the information panels on the path around it--

Once Reunification occurred (you know, the thing Germany is celebrating today) the mine was shut down, it was allowed to fill in with water, and viola--

A lake was made.

It's a popular place for city residents during the summer when it's warm & sunny, and even today, a day that was ANYTHING but warm & sunny, saw people playing at one of the small beaches surrounding it--

Loraine and I ended up hiking halfway around the lake, over 10 kilometers in total, and it was actually kind of nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, even though we were still (technically) in the city.  In that respect, it was kind of like visiting Presque Isle, yet another way (see yesterday's blog) in which the two places are alike.

Oh, they're alike in this way, too--

That guy is roller-skiing on the very intricate multi-use path system that runs all through the city.  If you want, you can bike or walk (or roller-ski) anywhere you want away from traffic thanks to the paths, which are unbelievably well marked--

Even if you're in the middle of a wooded area with no landmarks around you you always know where you're going.  So that's why we were able to hike (in all) almost 20 K today and always know where we were.

Oh--the trails and all the walking we did on them also helped us burn off a few more of those 23 million calories we consumed Friday when I accidentally bought a quarter of a Quarktorte instead of just a slice.  So that was a nice bonus.


The tram ride there and back introduced us to another neighborhood in Leipzig we hadn't yet explored, Connewitz.  Connewitz is the "edgy" section of the city (as opposed to Plagwitz, the "artsy" section we visited a few days ago), and you could see it from the graffiti on the buildings--

To the stickers plastered everywhere-

However, the neighborhood DID have one of the most interesting stores names we've seen so far-

That's right.  The sign on the store I saw while riding on the tram says "Mr. Thong".  I'm almost afraid to ask exactly what a "Mr Thong" store might be.  So I'll let you mull that over for a bit.

As I had mentioned earlier, this is our last full day in Leipzig.  We hop on a train back to Berlin tomorrow, get a few hours to wander around that city, and then have to figure out exactly how we're going to pack everything we've picked up into our luggage.  THAT should be fun.  But I kind of wish we could stay through Sunday, because Sunday is a huge day in Leipzig.

It's Lichtfest

Photo courtesy Strohhut Photography

Lichtfest (or Light Fest) is when thousands of candle-bearing Leipzigers march around the area in which we've been staying in a celebration of the massive demonstrations that took place in 1989 right across the street from where I'm typing this. At first a couple of hundred Leipzig residents, and then a thousand, and then 5,000, and then 20,000, and then 100,000, and eventually 400,000 in October of 1989 protested the corruption and lack of personal freedom of the old DDR.  In short order, the protests then spread all across the old East Germany, protests that culminated in the Berlin Wall falling a few days later.

You know--the event that led to German reunification and the holiday we're just wrapping up today.

That's it from Leipzig.  Next stop--the aforementioned Berlin.  So until then...


(ps--on a personal note, happy birthday to my sister Melanie!)

(pps--on another personal note, today marks the debut of "19 News" on Marquette's new CBS station, WZMQ.  I'm actually a part of the newscast as a weekly contributor, and while I can't be there on opening night the first segment of "Life in the 906" airs (pre-taped, but dealing with travel) during the 6 pm newscast.  So check it out if you can!)

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Sunday in the Park (Without George)

When you think about it, the two places really do have a lot in common.

Greetings once again from Leipzig, where, despite a few occasional rain showers and one totally unexpected thunderstorm, Loraine and I did what we usually do on a Sunday--we walked.  And while we were strolling around various parts of the city we came to the realization that Leipzig and Marquette are, in the end, rather similar, if you set aside a few degrees of size.

For instance, the backbone of both cities is education-

Bikes (and parents riding with their kids) rule in both places--

Both places love to have festivals--

And, sadly, both places have issues with those less fortunate--

But there are two ways in which I think both places share the exact same vibe.  One is in the richness of history, which I've tried to avoid this time around seeing as how I kinda went overboard writing about it the last time we were here.  The other is in the richness of their respective parks system.  Marquette has the lake shore and the parks that go along with it, while Leipzig has a spine of green space running right up the center of it.

And that's what we explored today.

We started at the city's biggest park, the Clara Zetkin Park, which is a huge area of trees and paths and gazebos--

It's home to the annual World Goth Festival, where 20,000 individuals just stroll around the paths to see, be seen, and to share their lifestyle.  And with the gloomy vibe the park can give off, especially on a rainy morning, I can see why the biggest Goth festival on the planet is held here.  

One other interesting thing about the park?  Bridges criss-cross the waterways, and on some, instead of the usual Love Locks, you'll see Friendship Locks, instead--

Just north of Clara Zetkin is perhaps my favorite park in Leipzig, and that would be the Johannapark.  It's much more open than Zetkin, and also allows you the opportunity to take some amazing pictures--

Plus, it has some new friends for you to make--coots.  No, not a "coot" like my dad (that would be an old coot), but instead, red (and white) billed birds that allow you to hang out with them for a bit--

And then there was the park we didn't even know existed.  On the way back to our hotel we passed the Leipzig Opera House, and noticed there was a sign pointing toward a statue of the composer Richard Wagner (you may know his most famous work, "Kill the Wabbit" from the classic Looney Tune "What's Opera, Doc").  We followed the sign to check out the statue, and were amazed to find there was another park, not even on Loraine's map, right behind the Opera House--

Looking on Google Maps I discovered it's called Oberer Park, and I'm thinking the Leipzig Tourism office might be dropping the ball by not promoting it more.  In a city full of parks, it's one of the best.

So if the city of Marquette (hint hint) is interested in another Sister City, one that could actually be called a Big Sister, I have one that would fit the bill perfectly.  In fact, I'm writing this from that very place tonight!


Now, a few odds & ends that we came across today.  Remember a few days ago how I mentioned that Leipzig is often called "Hypezig" by the media?  Well, I think this fits the bill a little better--

Another way that Marquette and Leipzig may be similar is in their occasional use of this old Finnish tradition--

However, I didn't stick it in the main list because, as you notice in the sign, it's an FKK sauna.  What's FKK, you ask?  Well, I answer, FKK, or, in German, Freik√∂rperkultur , is the tradition in this part of the country of not worrying about wearing clothes if you don't feel like it.  Around here it's perfectly acceptable to sunbathe in the nude or, in this case, sauna in the nude.  So the next time you're in Germany remember the letters FKK.

It could save you a lot of trouble and/or embarrassment, depending upon your point of view.

I think every time we come over to Europe I have to rave about this, but one of the things we most look forward to is a swig of this-

If you don't remember why, it's Dr. Pepper the way it used to be, with its original formula and with real sugar, two of the ways in which it's different from the "Dr. Pepper" you get back home.  Trust me--there really IS a difference!

And to wrap things up today, we did make one more stop at Oktoberfest  Fall Fest going on in the Markt Platz.  And for your listening pleasure, a real German Oompah band.

See you tomorrow!


(ps--because of a problem with a link not everyone was able to see yesterday's report.  So if you're interested, just click on the "older post" tab right below here to be taken right to it)

If the Handschuhe Fits...

We came, we saw, we walked away happy.  That's pretty much all you can ask for when attending a German sporting event.

Greetings once again from Leipzig, home today to gorgeous conditions--51 degrees, winds, and rain.  Even though the gales of November came waaaay too early today, nothing could stop us from the one main reason we undertook this trip, to attend the Bundesliga Matchday 8 game between RB Leipzig and Vfl Bochum.  Leipzig's been a team that's underperformed this year, while Bochum is off to the second worst start in Bundesliga history.  Both teams recently fired their coaches, so in a situation like this you never know what might happen.

Thankfully the end result wasn't even close.

The match itself didn't start until 3:30 (9:30 Saturday morning back home) so we crossed a few more things off the list.  The first was a visit to Leipzig's Holocaust memorial--

The memorial is a rather interesting piece of conceptual art--140 empty chairs laid out to represent the 14,000 Leipzig residents who died during the Nazi era.  It's very sobering, even more so when viewed in the rain.  And it's a reminder that, unlike some countries, Germany tries to make sure its people know what happened in its past, to learn from its mistakes in hopes that they're never repeated.

Because it was so unnaturally cold today we also decided that it might be prudent to see if we could find some gloves somewhere.  And that leads me to our German lesson for today.  One of the more interesting things about the language is that it has compound words--you stick two words, each with a different meaning, together to form a third word that ties into the meaning of the two original words.  For instance, "ein" is the word for one, while "horn" is the word for, well, horn.

And that's why the German word for unicorn is "einhorn".

That same principle is used when talking about gloves, the object of our shopping trip this morning.  The German word for glove is "handschuhe", another compound word.  The "hand" part is self-explanatory, while "schuhe" is the German word for "shoe".

That's right.  The German word for "glove" literally translates as "hand shoe".  German is a wacky, wacky language.

Once properly gloved up, we went back out into the wind and the rain and onto our preferred mode of transport around here-

Picture taken yesterday when it wasn't raining

Where we joined a growing queue outside the stadium waiting to get in-

Once in through all the gates & concourses, we saw one of Loraine's holy places right before us-

Because we wanted to soak in the whole experience, we were some of the first people inside, soon to be joined by around 30,000 of our closest friends (they sold 44,000 tickets, but because of the weather parts of the place were half empty).  Right before the match they do this big thing to pump up the crowd--they play the club's theme song and everyone waves their scarves in the air-

I couldn't bring my big camera (with a nice zoom) into the stadium, so I don't have a lot of game pictures, save this one I took with my phone right at the start of the match-

As I mentioned earlier, the game itself wasn't even close.  Timo Werner scored two goals for Leipzig, as did the player whose jersey I donned for the match, Christopher Nkunku.  He could have--should have--had a hat trick, but he missed a penalty shot.  And if you've ever wanted to feel the emotion of a game, from the excitement right before he gets set to shoot to the letdown when the crowd realizes he missed, here's first hand video-

So while the final score could have been a lot worse, at the whistle it was RB Leipzig 4, VFL Bochum 0.  Happy to a person, the crowd streamed out-

And we joined a couple of thousand fellow fans who walked the two kilometers back to this part of Leipzig, happy with two things-- the final result.

And the fact that the rain finally stopped falling while we were at the stadium enjoying the victory.


Friday, September 30, 2022

The One With All The Cheesecakes

I don't know if you've really lived until you've stood eating a bratwurst at a German Fall Fest while an enthusiastic cover band takes a shot at "Islands in the Stream".

Especially once the mime in the crowd starts dancing.

Greetings again from seven floors above Leipzig, where much of our day once again involved food, and what didn't involve food once again involved riding on trams.  It began with a visit to Leipzig's Market Day-

Where a certain bakery stall caught Loraine's eye.  If you know her at all, or just, you know, like to eat, you might understand why--

She bought a couple pieces of cake, while I bought what I thought was a slice of Quarktorte.  However, as it turns out, I actually bought a quarter of an entire Quarktorte-

That's what I get for not really understanding German, I guess.  Anyway, Loraine and I brought the (seriously) two pounds of Torte back to our hotel room, where we decided that, even though we had just eaten breakfast, we should really try to eat the Torte, if only because it should be refrigerated lest it go bad.  So, much like Rachel and Chandler and the cheesecakes in one of my favorite episodes of "Friends", we started eating the Torte.  And kept eating.  

And kept eating, and kept eating until we finally reached this state-

At which point we looked at each other, too exhausted to even attempt a high-five.  But we finished it.  And we didn't even have to eat the last few crumbs of it off the floor.

(If you've ever watched that particular "Friends" episode that last line actually makes sense).

Following our consumption of 23 and a half million calories we decided a little exercise was warranted, so we hopped aboard a tram and headed over to the Fockeberg.  The Fockeberg is an interesting place, a 153 meter (450 foot) high mountain stuck right in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  What makes it interesting is that the Fockeberg is man-made.  It's a mountain built out of all the rubble removed from the city after it was repeatedly bombed in World War II.  In fact, everywhere you walk going up the mountain you see things like this--

It is, however, an easy hike, much like Sugarloaf, and when you get to the top you're rewarded with views like these--

So, 200 calories down, 23,499,800 to go.

Since we (obviously) didn't need to eat lunch we hopped back on a tram and headed to a couple of cemeteries around here.  The Sudfriedhof is a rather woodsy place-

While the Ostfriedhof is a little more conventional-

We've visited a lot of cemeteries during our trips over here, but I saw something today that made me think in a way I've not quite thought before.  In the Sudfriedhof we came across this marker-

Sure, it was nice that Irmgard Rodel lived to be almost 100.  But that's not what made me think.  What made me think is the history of this particular place, and how Irmgard was born during World War I, came of age during the rise of Hitler, survived World War II, lived through the entirety of Communism and the old East Germany, saw the Wall fall and reunification occur, and became a member of the democratic and multi-national European Union, all in one lifetime.

Many of us think we live interesting lives.  Irmgard lived through history.  Actual interesting, incredible, amazing history.

And that brings us to the dancing mime.  When we got back from our tram journeys we ventured over to the Market Square (or Markt in German) where the Fall Fest is going on-

It's actually Oktoberfest without having to go to Munich, and we celebrated the fact that we had only had probably 23,499,200 calories left to burn off after the Quarktorte by eating again.  Seeing as how we were at Oktoberfest Fall Fest Loraine grabbed a couple of these things--

And we checked out this band rocking Oktoberfest Fall Fest--

They did fairly commendable versions of Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" and Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street", but once they lit into "Islands in the Stream" the crowd got moving.  And when I say moving I do mean moving, as revelers whistled their approval, couples got to their feet, and a mime (yes, a mime) that had been working the crowd stopped miming and started to wave his arms in the air like it was actually Dolly Parton singing up there, and not some 60-year old German guy who couldn't say the line "that is what we are" without letting the crowd know that he probably didn't speak a lick of English in real life.

But you know what?  It really didn't matter.  It was all part of a moment that'll never happen again because, and let's be real here, how often do you get the chance to see a German mime dancing to a Dolly Parton song?

You just enjoy it while it comes.

Tomorrow, the reason we came to Leipzig.  It's Match Day!