Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Last weekend, Matt and I wanted to do something really special, while simultaneously using the remainder of our Eurrail passes, so naturally, we went to Rothenburg... for the third time. I was actually really excited about it because we have never stayed the night there, and this time we were getting to stay 2 nights in a 13th century "mansion" that was used by nights and other courtly people in the 1200s. Saturday started off pretty rotten... I was in a really bad mood because I had gotten up late and didn't want to take the train because it would cause me to miss my shower, thus cramping my style pretty gravely. However, we finally made it to the train station and sprinted to the train, which left exactly 30 seconds after we stepped on. Good thing we've been training. I don't think we would have made it otherwise. We were scheduled to take 3 different trains for our 2 and a half hour journey (a journey that takes a maximum of 2 hours by car, mind you) but instead, they were doing some work on the tracks or the trains or some form of transportation equipment, because we had to stop after an hour's ride and get on a bus that took us to our next stop (which would have taken 12 minutes by train, but took 45 by bus). Needless to say, we missed our next train and had to stand around for an hour and a half while we waited to take a train that would get us to Rothenburg in approximately 45 minutes. What a waste. But we finally did make it, 4 hours later, and the sun was shining for the first time in at least 2 weeks, and it was reasonably warm, so we were in great spirits. We walked the half mile to our hotel which was conveniently located inside the old city walls on the main street of town. Our hotel was really beautiful! Aura and I had been in the lobby once before to warm up and have a drink when we had visited, and I was impressed then with this building, especially the "chandelier" featuring the city of Rothenburg carved out of wood. Our room was really small, but quaint, with the 700 year old timbers lining the floor and the original stonework showing through the paint. Oh, and there was a plasma TV on the wall, which didn't at all detract from the ambiance.
So for the rest of Saturday we walked around and shopped for last minute gifts (although probably we still have weeks and weeks) and around lunchtime we stopped into a little cafe and got a mulled wine, or gluhwein, to go. I didn't really understand their heating method, as they were just ladling the wine into cups and then pouring it into a big "heating" contraption. But I didn't really care. We took our wine and left, and I was really excited because mine was only warm and not piping hot, so it was easier to drink. Little did I know. We kept shopping and then around dinner time I started to feel pretty sick to my stomach and had a bad headache. I kept telling myself I just needed to eat, but when it came down to it, I couldn't eat much, which should have definitely tipped me off. I tried to ignore it, and we went ahead and went on the Night Watchman's tour (where the "night watchman" takes you around the city at night and tells you all the interesting facts you never knew, and never wanted to know, about the city's history), which I had taken before with Aura. This time was different though because we had a different night watchman (who wasn't nearly as good... but don't tell Matt) and he told us different interesting facts, such as: the reliquary that is in St. Stephen's church that supposedly holds Jesus' blood actually holds some of the wine that Jesus changed from water... Although I'm not sure how anyone would have packed it away and kept it that long. But it's only supposed to represent Jesus' blood. I must say, I was a little disappointed. I was sure it was blood. Even though I couldn't see it. He told us a bunch of other interesting facts, but I'd have to think really hard to remember any of them. After the tour I was feeling really rotten, and went to lay down... and then I threw up. Apparently the gluhwein we'd had earlier was really old or something, because Matt and I both got sick, but lucky me, I got the worst of it. I spent pretty much all night Saturday lying on our centuries old bathroom floor praying to die. And we both spend all day Sunday laying in our soft, modern bed. And Monday we left. So that was our romantic Rothenburg weekend. It could have been worse. At least we had a pretty good Saturday. We're still sort of recovering, though, because we both haven't really eaten much since, which is probably a good thing because we've been dropping weight like crazy. I've lost 5 lbs, which I can't be too upset about.
This weekend we're definitely going to Istanbul, which should be really interesting. I hope the weather there clears up a little. There's been a lot of really terrible weather going through pretty much all of Europe recently. I'm pretty excited about Turkey, though. I'll be sure to pack my own jar of peanut butter just in case I run into a Betsy situation.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
We have a new president! I am unbelievably excited! I watched the inauguration here on CNN and while I was sad about not being in the U.S. (or, at the ceremony, for that matter) it was really exciting to watch it live all the way across the world. I thought it was really great that he used the Lincoln bible to take the oath as well. Admittedly, I only just now (literally, the second after I wrote that sentence) figured out the importance of using that particular bible. Also, I really liked Michelle Obama's dress. I was impressed. She looked very classy and stylish. (They've been showing inaugural fashion specials nonstop on CNN today.)Well, I guess now is as good a time as any to make some corrections on my most recent (and awesome) post. Matt told me that he read that the Veil of Veronica at the Schatzkammer in Vienna is actually just a well made copy. Apparently the real one is at the Vatican. But there's hope...he also said there are 3 out there, and no one is sure which is the real one. Our audio guide mentioned something about Veronica having folded her veil into thirds and the image being transfered onto all three. I wouldn't trust that audio guide, though. He steered us wrong with the narwhal horns.
Matt is having a really boring and lonely time at work. Apparently they're holding temperatures and everything steady for the time being and because he works evenings, he works with all Germans who don't speak English, and he's alone in his office. So we've been chatting online and surfing the Internet "together". At least it gives me something to do! There are some really good Family Guy episodes coming on right now, but they're all in German, so I can't partake. Brent, the new chief, was saying today that he thinks we will stay here past February 6th, which was supposed to be the absolute final end date... go figure. We've all heard that one before! At least now we're in a fun place this time! We're going to have to make a visa run probably next weekend, so I'm excited about that. I think our choices are Istanbul and London. Don't ask me why those are the only two... something about the EU and cost. My choice would probably be Istanbul, but Matt's never been to London, so we might go there. Either would be wonderful, so I'll leave it up to him. We'll probably end up doing paper rock scissors. That's how we make most of our decisions.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Matt and I just got back from our weekend trip to Vienna, Austria, which was incredible! For one thing, it was just so nice to have a weekend alone together. Also, in case you aren't aware, Vienna is amazing! It's a really beautiful city, even though it is a lot bigger than I had anticipated. It's also interesting to see a city where the main attractions are museums and buildings of the State instead of always churches and cathedrals. Although they had a lot of those too. I was not aware that Vienna was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire for a couple centuries. I think. Considering that my European history is even worse than my American history (which is really saying something) you probably should not take anything I post here as fact. But I'm going to continue to spout information as I see fit.
My favorite thing in Vienna (and probably my favorite place I've visited in Europe so far) was the Schatzkammer - the Imperial Treasury. They house lots of royal um, memorabilia, for lack of a better word. There are jewels and crowns and coronation robes from the Holy Roman Empire as well as those from the Austrian empire and other empires that they owned. I'm pretty fuzzy on all the details. The really cool stuff was mostly religious, or the things they believed to hold mystical powers, like the "unicorn horn" that was about 7 feet tall, and was actually discovered to be a narwhal horn, (which is really a tooth and not a horn. See, I've got tons of this stuff). This little beauty was assumed to be magical, and doctors would grind up these horns into a powder and then sell it, and it became the most sought after remedy for all kinds of illnesses. I find this very entertaining. There was also a sword there with a "unicorn" handle, and the case was also made out of unicorn.
One of the best things there (and yes, it was very hard to narrow it down) was this huge agate bowl from the 4th century that was carved out of one piece of agate. It is said to have mystical powers, and at one time it was thought to be the actual holy grail because apparently the name of Christ, "XRISTO", is spelled out. It's not carved in, but it actually appears in the veins of the bowl. But, apparently it is only visible in certain lighting... so of course we couldn't see it. Still, it's gorgeous. Also, there were at least a hundred religious reliquaries that the Catholics believe house pieces of bones, teeth and clothing (among many other things) from saints and even from Mary. There were some that were said to hold thorns from Jesus' crown, as well. I thought this was really cool after I saw the first one, but then there were at least 20 with thorns in them, so it looks like they just picked up the whole crown and boxed it. One of the other amazing things (I know, I'm giving all the good stuff away) is the Veil of Veronica, which is a shroud that Veronica used to wipe the sweat off of Jesus' face on the way to Calvary and his face was imprinted on the veil. It's pretty unbelievable, but I took pictures, and if you look really close (and maybe squint a lot... and really really want to see it) you can sort of tell it's there. The Catholic church has venerated all these items, but of course, there's no way to know for certain, and therein lies my only problem with the religious items in the treasury. How will we know if we just got cheated out of 20 euros? I guess we'll never find out. In any case, all of this stuff was really, really old... older than old, so that automatically makes it interesting.
The rest of the stuff we did in Vienna was kind of boring, compared to the treasury. Just touring St. Stephen's Cathedral and Karlskirche. The latter was pretty amazing because they're doing restoration, so they have all of this scaffolding set up everywhere, and a "panorama elevator" that they let visitor's take that goes all the way up to the frescoes on the domed ceiling so you can get an up-close look. There is also scaffolding that goes all the way past the painted ceiling to the windows so you can look out at the city from the top... I was probably 200 feet up and 30 seconds away from the top, and I got nauseous and had to go back down. Who knew I was afraid of heights? I didn't. Anyway, the rest is all boring couple stuff like watching Flavor of Love 3 on MTV. Super romantic. Did I mention it was also our 4 year anniversary? Flavor Flav really sets the mood. Remember that the next time you need to impress someone. Almost as good as the late night sex commercials they start showing here after 10 pm. Almost.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I couldn't figure out what to name this blog, and after many hours, She's Gone Rogue is the best I can come up with. I find it topical (think Palin), humorous, and semi-appropriate for my situation. And thus begins my first official blog post. I've decided to start a blog after many long nights writing feverishly in my journal, thinking all the while that there has to be a better way. I'm basically just hoping to document Matt's and my travels while he works for UOP.
Things are going well so far... as well as can be expected, I guess. We have been in Neustadt, Germany for a little more than two months now. We've been having a great time galavanting around Bavaria and Europe, but I'm coming to realize I'm not what you might call a "natural traveler" or, in other words, Aura. I'm okay going on weekend excursions for two or three nights at a time, but beyond that, I get exhausted and stressed out, and I just want to have a home base. Yet, at the same time, I'd rather be worn out and stressed out and still see all the glorious sights than be sitting comfortably at home... or in whatever hotel room I may be calling home at any given time. I'm also learning that three months is about as long as I'd like to go without visiting family. Maybe it's just that I missed both Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I have been feeling very homesick and just missing everyone tremendously. Hopefully we will get some time off soon and will have a chance to visit everyone before the next assignment. Well, I think that's enough to whet your appetite for now. I'm really going to do my best to update this every day (which will probably turn into every week, or maybe every month) in order to keep a detailed portrait of my life abroad so I'll have sufficient material for the novel I'll be writing in, oh, the next ten years or so.