Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday afternoon at the Rottweil Fasching Parade























It seems that Germans love their "fests" (but the good news is that we Americans love going to them!!) This weekend is "Fasching" in Germany, especially celebrated in the southern part of Germany where we live. Fasching season, also called "Fastacht", "Karneval", "die naerrische season" or "the foolish season," is the season when the Germans "loosen up" and go a little "crazy" in terms of dressing up (usually as clowns, witches or jokers), for a few days before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. There are "Fashing Umzug" parades going on in every little town in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg (of which Stuttgart is the capital) at this time of year. The best way to describe Fasching is like Mardi Gras in Louisiana (there is a recurring theme here, I know!!) Basically, the festival season is religious based, and linked to the Lenten season in terms of the concept behind letting loose before fasting before Easter. Just like in Louisiana, there are fasching clubs which organize the parade groups and costumes, and the parade participants throw goodies like candy to the crowd. Unlike Louisiana, however, most of the parade is walked on foot, and a traditional thing to do here is for the partipants to carry "besen" (feather dusters basically) and sort of wave it in your face and tickle your nose (seriously). We also saw some of the "clowns" go up to random people and "hug" them and rub their face makeup on the other person (Zev tried to avoid this at all costs!) The town in which we saw the fashing parade seen above, is Rottweil, which is the oldest town in Baden-Wuerttemburg and also the town that gave the world the Rottweiler dog. It certainly was a very pretty, historic town, and it was neat to see this historic event first hand. Rottweil's Fasching parade is one of Germany's oldest and some of their "signature" events at their Fasching parade is the "Fool's Dance" (basically a hop/ skip deal) and they all say "hu, hu, hu" when they walk through the crowd. Hard to describe, but you will be able to hear a bit of it on the video. Germans certainly love their fests....the next fest we hear is "Fruhling" or Spring fest.....until our next installment, ALL THE BEST!!! Huuuu Huuu...

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Groundhog Saw His Shadow and Went Back to Bed...







Well, Zev was right- Winter is not over, not just yet. Just when I was loving the warmer weather and dreaming of riding our bikes outside and wearing lighter clothes, we get another snowfall. And I never thought I would ever say this (and I know our family in New York knows EXACTLY what I am talking about), but I actually am starting to like a Snowy Winter. Yes, living in the snow AINT so bad after all.........Although just like the ground had to freeze so that the snow could stick to it, I too had to "freeze" and adjust to really cold temperatures, I can actually say that I truly enjoy the snow and thank God that through His power, we get to experience things like a beautiful white blanket over this city. But probably the main reason for this change of heart is the wonderful sport of SKIING!! I love it! Skiing has cast a whole new perspective over the Winter season. Once upon a time I used to dread the coming of winter because that meant putting away our swimsuits and bikes and spending endless days indoors. But SKIING!! What a great sport. Not only can you explore beautiful trails or careen down a mountain as fast as you can, but you don't have to worry too much about falling because the ground is so soft!!! We are very blessed living in Southern Germany, in that we have world class ski resorts in our backyard. And when we feel like something more adventurous, we can head down to Switzerland or Austria (I personally am MORE than HAPPY skiing to the baby slopes- I don't really have the need for speed or neck-breaking ski runs, I like gentle, long slopes and hot cocoa at the end). So, for Valentine's Day, Zev drove us 40 minutes down the road to a little ski resort in the "Schwaebish Alb" which is our local area's answer to the Austrian Alps (albeit on a MUCH smaller, cuter scale!! The lift ticket prices were also a LOT smaller and appealed to Zev's senses much more!! Ha). Zev even shoveled the driveway with a smile on his dial, and cooked me a wonderful dinner at night. I thank God for the wonderful husband He provided me with. My prayer is that we can glorify God through our marriage and our lives. We really feel blessed with our lives and are just happy to be alive. Anyway, we both hope that all our family and friends are doing well. We miss you all very much. Love and hugs from Deutschland, Fifi xoxoxo

PS: I am actually praying for MORE snow these days. Yes, believe it or not....

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Discovery of Marzipan Tea and Mutant Kiwis





Another highlight of our trip to Budapest was sampling the various teas and coffees offered. Fi's favorite tea by far was the Marzipan tea and Zev loved the Chai tea. We also visited the Central Market (which Zev loved of course, being the "foodie" that he is!) and we saw some amazing displays of salami, vegetables, spices, nuts, and......GIANT kiwis- apparently Hungarians love their kiwis because we saw them everywhere!! We did wonder what made these particular kiwis so huge though- not sure that they get this big in New Zealand!

Remembering the Communist Era












One can't help but wonder "what if" when you visit lovely Budapest. What if Communism hadn't controlled the country and so many others in Eastern Europe, for over 40 years, and what if the beautiful buildings that had been constructed prior to Communism hadn't fallen into disrepair and neglect during these past decades. Nonetheless, the old buildings in Budapest are still beautiful especially at night, when these buildings are tastefully illuminated by specially placed lights. In order to understand more about Hungary's Communist history, we visited "Memento Park" and the House of Terror- both quite somber but important reminders of the past and the victims of that era. Memento Park is where all the old Communist era statues went to "retire" after the fall of Communism- it was a little strange walking by these massive statues that were created to "inspire" the people. The fact that we visited the park on a cold, dreary day seemed fitting for the occasion. The highlight was visiting these special exhibit where we watched a documentary type "instruction" film on how to be a Secret Agent, complete with spying techniques and instructions on how to inform on your neighbors. No wonder everyone was paranoid then!! The House of Terror was a very informative and interesting museum that is definitely worth a visit if you ever visit Budapest. The Museum is actually housed in the same building that was used to interrogate and torture people during the Communist era, and now stands as a reminder of this era and a memento to the victims. To think that 1989 was not that long ago....it's important to count one's blessings...

The Labyrinth under Buda Castle





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Like so many wonderful sights and sounds in Budapest, the Labyrinth under Buda Castle was a neat experience- even if we had to figure it all out for ourselves. The Labyrinth is about 4000 square metres big and was a really interesting experience, if albeit a little strange in parts. Once we paid our ticket to get in, we were literally let "loose" into the Labyrinth- no guides or information packet to give us some background on this historic site. From what we gathered thanks to Google however, the labyrinth is actually made up of a bunch of caves and cellars that were connected together over time. The labyrinth was apparently used as a bomb shelter during World War II, and as a "Secret Military Installation" during the Cold War....interesting, interesting. We really enjoyed the "Castle District" in Budapest, and treated ourselves to a tour through the Marzipan Museum afterwards.

Turkish Bath anyone?




Turkish Bath anyone.....but of course! Well, to say the bath houses are a centerpiece of Budapest life is probably an understatement. The bathhouses are wonderful, ornate affairs that we imagined for many years were the great retreats for the "Party Officials" and off limits to the people. The first one we went to almost had a military feel; dour expressions, information desk staff that appeared bothered with our questions, and a labyrinth of hallways, rooms, changing rooms, towel rentals, hot baths, cold baths, massage rooms and WCs that would confuse the best navigator. So--we finally get in, buy what we think are the right tickets, get changed in what appeared to be the correct gender change rooms (but Fiona insists she saw the bearded lady), rent our towels, and go out to the main pool. It is ornate, massive fountains, not too crowded and the water is tepid at best. Tepid? Where are these steaming thermal baths? But we figure the other 200 people can't wrong, so we "soak" in the luke-warm bath for about 40 minutes. We finally notice two small doors a few people seem to be trickling in and out of at the far end....no signs, no instructions from the staff, but curiosity gets the better of us so we head that way. I send Fiona into the door I think says "Ladies" and by golly, message rooms, hot baths, very hot baths, and saunas! Unfortunately they are male/female and Fi and I part ways agreeing to meet in the lobby in an hour and a half. Well, after massages, hot baths, cold baths, eucalyptus steam baths and way to many men in a loin-cloth type bathing towel that would make a cave-man blush, we felt totally relaxed, refreshed and content. One you broke the code and got used to Communist-style customer service it really was very enjoyable. In fact, so much so we went to a different bath two days latter and had a similar experience, but even better; coed so we could enjoy together, no loin-cloths, and a wonderful, huge outdoor pool/whirlpool with HOT water....best enjoyed at night as the thick clouds of heavy steam billowed up into the clear night air. Of course as closing time approached, in our limited Hungarian, Fiona was pretty sure the announcement said "OK, everyone out of the pool in five minutes or we start shooting!" What a quaint place.....