Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I can now die happy

I have eternity!

One of the best parts of Kiel Week is John's New York Burger Box. Last year, they were located at the top of my street. I passed them about 12 times a day and I fell in love. They got me. They understood my sense of humor and we moved together in harmony.

The weeks before Kiel Week, I became excited by the idea of seeing John, Sophie, Aaron and Luca again. I was shocked when an ice cream vendor opened up in John's place. I was angry. Where were my friends?

A co-worker reported John's location and I was happy and a bit sad. I assumed John and Co. were not coming this year, so I was happy they were back. I was a bit upset that the box was at the waterfront about a mile and a half away. I could not bump into them. I needed to have time and energy to see them. I found both last Tuesday. Well, worth the trip.

The box was bigger and the options increased. Unfortunately, the chicken wings that were on the menu were gone. In their place were bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwiches, daily burger specials, the renowned Czech beer, Budweiser [BOOD-wyzer], and bottles of Brooklyn Pale Ale and Brooklyn Lager. Yes, tastes of America in the middle of northern Germany.

I got cheers and screams, discounted burgers and free beers. I made the trek to John's New York Burger Box Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If it had been closer, I would have gone more often.

I don't know how it happens but people from America, Italy, England and Germany come together and work crazy hard without fighting and have a bold fun that infects reserved passersby. Maybe it's the loud rap and pop music or the beer. Whatever.

Luca, John [baseball cap peeks out], Sophie and Katelyn seconds after Sophie pumped up Fergie's London Bridge.
I went at the end of the last day, around 10 p.m. I was sorry I did that when I discovered an honor -- the Monica Burger. It was a bacon cheeseburger. The burger I created on Tuesday and pushed on the German guests behind me. I was so happy that I didn't get as upset as I normally would when all the women I worked with showed up together.

This is an actual quote from me.
Because of the Monica Burger, I have a legacy. My name will live on forever.

See ya next year, Kiel Week!

Another successful Kiel Week has just wrapped up.

A performer makes his wobbly way across a 100 foot slack line. People paid 1 euro to throw a water balloon at him. Until I realized he was only acting like he was in a precarious state, I was mad at the hurlers and very stressed.
For some reason, the Kiel Tourism board describes Kiel Week as one of the world's largest regattas. I don't know one person who travels to Kiel for the boats. Of course, I don't know anyone who sails but I know a lot of people who enjoy music, food, dance and theater from around the world and flock to Kiel each year at the end of June.

A performer on break from German slap dancing. I was told these calf warmers make a difference.

Over ten days, three million people flocked to the the city that normally holds 270,000. People outside and inside German come to celebrate Kiel Week. Everyone in town is in a great mood.

It is like Christmas to me. There is a mental countdown to the event, then excitement during its observance, and then a feeling of sadness when it ends and you think of the fun that just ended. I have not visited Oktoberfest. I was scared away from it by native Germans. It is a few weeks of drinking very over-priced beer in extremely-crowded conditions. I don't need to pay a lot of money and travel for hours to drink beer. Cologne's Carneval attracts thousands of Germans. I am not sure why it is cool but Oktoberfest. Perhaps it is the costumes and beer prices that do not rise. I went to Carneval once and I was not impressed. It was a lot of standing in a costume and drinking beer. But Kiel Week is more than beer drinking.

The insanity of Kiel Week was heightened by its coincidence with the European Championship for soccer. Asmus and I live in the center of town. When Germany beat Greece last Sunday, we hit the Alter Markt, a public square at the top of our street, and dancing the night away with DJ Gary and an overflow crowd. It was a sea of white shirts emblazoned with schwarz, rot und gold -- black, red and gold, the colors of the German flag.

All that partying happened, despite the constant rain. During the first Friday, I sat in the rain and sipped wine from vendors representing Argentina, Spain and France. Asmus stuck to beer from "Denmark," better known as Carlsberg beer, and Cubra libre from "Mexico". The rain and the drinks followed dinner from France. During cocktails, Bob Geldolf played his and the Boomtown Rats' hits on a stage a few hundred feet away.

It is weird not to constantly having something available to do. For ten days, Kiel is like New York. Now it is back to being a nice northern German town, where everything shuts down at 7 and nothing is open on Sunday.

The crowd on the last night of Kiel Week at the waterfront. Surprise, surprise, there are storm clouds. The rain stopped right before the closing night fireworks.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Flower Power

I lived in New York for eight years. Life was interesting but life was expensive. However, there were pockets of cheapness. I got my laundry washed, dried and folded for the same price as if I did it myself -- 50 cents a pound. Plus, I didn't have to sit in a dark, dank laundramat on a Saturday.

Of course, almost everything is cheaper in Germany. One of the best deals is flowers. You can get a bouquet of roses for 8 euros. The love of nature and the low prices of flowers have made florists as common as corner stores. Since moving here, I have fallen in love in peonies.  This year, I decided to maintain a constant presence of pfingtsten rosen. I can get a bunch for 5.90 and I am happy.

They are so beautiful.

Tap a keg for Jesus!

Summer is here. This diagnosis comes from a calendar, not the weather. It is cold. It hasn't gotten past 71 degrees in northern Germany and I couldn't be happier. There isn't much air conditioning here, so it is usually miserable here for about three weeks.

In America, we escape the heat by going to malls and movie theaters and partake in their free air conditioning. In northern Germany, a lot of movie theaters and malls have no air conditioning. When it gets hot, the big mall here in Kiel opens the windows on the ceiling two floors above the ground. Accomplishing nothing.

So it is cold now and I am happy.

We recently finished a bunch of religious-related holidays -- Ostern, Himmelfahrt and Pfingsten. Ostern is Easter. In honor of the holiest of Christian observances, there are two days without work. Himmelfahrt [Travel to the sky] marks the day that Jesus went to heaven after crucifixion. Pfingsten honors the day that the Holy Spirit came to Earth. These holidays are related to religion but no one does anything church-like. Most people take the opportunity to go out of town or barbecue. Himmelfahrt is the unofficial "Father's Day". On this day, men get together and get drunk. Some men, usually in small towns, outfit a wagon with a keg and a radio and walk around town annoying people and getting drunk.

"Father's Day" wagon and its supporters.
Father's Day landed on the first day of the Kiel Beer Festival. I don't think that was a coincidence.

Now there are no more days off from work until October 3, the observance of the reunification of East and West Germany. On that day, no one does anything civic.