time is a toothpaste tube

or, alternatively, “A Day in Thüringen.”

[maybe provocative titles will garner a larger following than i’ve had lately. hi, y’all.]

Palm trees in Germany... totally natural

Palm trees in Germany… totally natural

I have about five more weeks left in Dresden, which is basically unbelievable. So I’ve been trying to get the most out of what little time I have left. The weekend started auspiciously with our cherry-picking adventure, and continued with a really fun dance with the KSG peeps on Saturday night. (It was a bummer to see Germany tie with Ghana after a frustrating game, but dancing took the edge off a bit.)

To round out the weekend, on Sunday, Felicitas and I had planned (or, more accurately, not planned) a spontaneous trip to Jena, where our friend Allie lives. We bought a Thüringen ticket, which allowed us to take any train* in Saxony or Thüringen all day, and cost only 13 euros each.

The German National Theater in Weimar

The German National Theater in Weimar

*Unfortunately, we realized just as we were about to get on the train that we were only allowed to take regional trains with this ticket, so our journey took a bit longer than we had anticipated.

We both slept on the train, which was welcome, but that led to the next unanticipated turn of events: we missed our stop! We reached “Jena-West,” but knew that we were supposed to get off at “Jena-Göschwitz,” so we waited. And waited. And waited as the train continued through huge fields filled with cows, and we guessed that we were, indeed, leaving Jena, which we confirmed with a phone call to Allie. But with a stroke of luck, we discovered that the next stop was Weimar, a town I had wanted to visit but figured that I wouldn’t have the chance!

In front of the Weimar town hall

In front of Weimar’s town hall

And so, we spent about an hour and a half in the charming city of Weimar.  Weimar is famous as the former home of the famous author/philosophers Göthe and Schiller, and it lent its name to the Weimar Republic, the ill-fated German republic formed after World War I. It really was beautiful.

In front of Schiller's home

In front of Schiller’s home

We barely made the next train back to Jena, and Allie met us at the train station. Allie and Flitzi went to Northwestern together and were both athletes there, and it was great to spend a few hours from her and get the full Jena tour.

We saw the university, the famous DDR-era “skyscraper,” the cutest little restaurant-and-kneipe street, two of the four remaining city gates, the town hall, and enjoyed ice cream cones the size of my head as we walked through Paradies-Park. It was a lovely, lovely day in two cities I’ve had on my list to see since November.

Old and new: the "skyscraper" on the right, the town gate on the right

Old and new: the “skyscraper” on the right, the town gate on the right (in the far, far background)

As we waited for our train at the station, we talked about little cultural quirks and observations–how Germans don’t apologize as much as Americans, and maybe even think we are silly for apologizing so much; how, for Americans, asking “how are you?” or “what’s up?” is more of a pleasantry than an actual inquiry (to the exasperation of Germans)–when Allie asked an actual serious question of me: how am I feeling about going back? In the midst of the silly things we’d been discussing, it actually blind-sided me a little!

I gave the standard answer I’ve been thinking of for a while: how, this time, I’ve spent a good amount of time in Germany, and during that time taken advantage of everything I feel I could have gotten out of my time here. I’ve traveled a lot, but I’ve also integrated myself into everyday life here in Dresden, or at least I did that as well as I knew how. I don’t feel I have any regrets, and this year truly has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. So I don’t feel disappointed to be leaving.

Walking down an idyllic Weimar street

Walking down an idyllic Weimar street

(And it does help that I am really excited for the adventure ahead! The wedding of the decade a week after I get back to the US, a transamerican move two weeks after. No shortage on adventure here.)

But after I got home, I looked around my disaster zone of a room and out at the church tower that would wake me up at 7 the next morning with its incessant chiming, and I remembered the sun-dappled train journey through Saxony I’d just enjoyed, and I realized that I will be very sad to leave! It’s crazy how fast time passes–I can barely believe that I graduated college at all, let alone that my graduation was 13 months ago–and the end of a chapter is always bittersweet, isn’t it? But this chapter has been an amazing one, and I’m so blessed to have lived it. So I’m going to keep squeezing every last memory out of my Dresden life before I go.

Among the list of things to look forward to: my sweet kitty hanging out on my bookshelves at home

Among the list of things to look forward to: my sweet kitty hanging out on my bookshelves at home

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a German thanksgiving

This post brought to you by a writing break I’m taking because the winds caused by Winter Storm Xaver are howling uncontrollably, preventing me from focusing on my actual work.

In the past, I have claimed proudly that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I don’t necessarily consider it that anymore… I’m not actually sure I have a favorite holiday… but I do have a soft spot in my heart for a day reserved for hanging out with many of my favorite people and eating many of my favorite foods (mashed potatoes are probably my very favorite food and I starkly prefer pie to cake).

But alas, Thanksgiving is an American holiday, and I wasn’t sure how I’d get to celebrate it this year, if I did at all. Some of my German friends had expressed an interest in doing something the day of Thanksgiving, and my thoughtful and generous Aunt Mary Beth even wired me a little Thanksgiving fund so I could at least treat myself to dinner somewhere. But due to some terrible judgement on my part, I have a class from 6:30 until 8 on Thursdays, which is especially cruel when you know that your family and friends are probably sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner as you learn about soil types.

However, as it turns out, non-Americans don’t know when Thanksgiving is supposed to be, so if all but two of your Thanksgiving guests don’t care that you are celebrating it on a Sunday, you just might be able to get away with it! So that’s what we did! The Sunday after Thanksgiving, which as you may recall was actually the first Sunday of Advent, which could take away Thanksgiving’s spotlight if you let it, we had an amazing Thanksgiving feast. For most of those in attendance it was their FIRST Thanksgiving! So that was pretty cool.

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Photo cred to Domi because I am too lazy to hook up my camera right now

Felicitas and I planned out the menu by deciding to cook the Thanksgiving non-negotiables ourselves and then ask everyone else to bring the side dishes. So I bought a bunch of turkey (I was not about to attempt my first ever real Thanksgiving turkey this year, so I bought some turkey breasts and turkey cutlets), Felicitas found cranberries for cranberry sauce and cranberry pie, as well as pumpkins for pumpkin soup and pumpkin cake, and I tried in vain to make gravy (it was disgusting and I did not serve it). We also made some improvisational vegetables to round out the meal.

(Actually, I should clarify that we did not make cranberry sauce–we made cranberry RELISH, a time-honored Swaintek/Lord family tradition that apparently came from a recipe on the back of a bag of Ocean Spray cranberries. But regardless, I insisted that we make it because it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it, and it was a huge hit. Everyone loved it and we barely had any left over to eat with the next-day turkey!)

Our guests brought salad, rice, sweet potatoes, dessert, and so much beer and wine! The person who had volunteered to bring potatoes had to cancel at the last minute, and since it was Sunday, we had a short panic that we wouldn’t be able to get our hands on any. But luckily a 365-day Lidl just opened at the train station and our wonderful British friend Nathaniel didn’t mind boiling them up for us! So we did have potatoes and all was well in the world.

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Even better than the food was the company. In addition to we two Americans, we had one Brit, one Hungarian, one Nigerian, and lots of Germans. Two of my friends have been au pairs in the US before, so they’d celebrated Thanksgiving at least once, but we answered lots of questions from inquiring minds wanting to know how we REALLY celebrate Thanksgiving in the States, why football is so important to the holiday (try coming up with an answer to that one…), and the origin of Thanksgiving.

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Like any good Thanksgiving celebration, we ate way too much, and then we waited awhile and we ate way too much dessert, and we talked and enjoyed each other’s company. This was the first time I’ve ever had to do dishes from Thanksgiving dinner and I’d just like to say “thank you!” to my mother and all the other wonderful people who normally DO have to clean up after the Turkey Day carnage. It’s 5 days later and I just finished washing everything.

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Felicitas and I are actually going to be celebrating Thanksgiving again tomorrow in Jena with Allie, who studied at Northwestern with Flitzi. But thankfully I won’t be the one cooking the turkey! We will, however, be making cranberry relish…. Flitzi bought six cartons of cranberries from Karstadt yesterday in anticipation!