Today I was visiting my Dad. He lives 20 minutes away from my Mom. I posted my last entry about Udo while I was fixing the computers in my Mom's practice. But now I'm back in Stuttgart.
Dad, his girlfriend and I went on a 3-hour walk into the forest. He still lives in the village in the Schwarzwald ("Black Forest", a famous wooded mountain range in my state, known worldwide for its coockoo clocks, honey, Black Forest ham, Pork Knuckle and Black Forest gateau (Black Forest cake). It was also the setting for many fairy tales popularized by the Brothers Grimm), still the same tiny village where I spent the first 20 years of my life. It's surrounded by a deep forest that goes down to the small cities in the valleys. We were walking around the village in the forest, and I took some pictures of the area where I was playing when I was a kid. Sorry for the poor quality. I didn't take my camera with me, so I used the crappy camera on my cell phone.
Everywhere in this forest there are huge sandstone rocks. Unfortunately the picture doesn't really show how big they are. This one is about 5 or 6 yards high. This area is called Angelstein, when I was a little kid, Gramps and I were taking walks here very often. I haven't been at the Angelstein in about 6 years, and Gramps died 22 years ago. But today I remembered all the "scary" stories he told me about bears and wolves.
This is a little path that goes up the hills. And these sandstone rocks are everywhere. But these are smaller ones.
Unfortunately you can't see how steep the acclivity really is. Crappy cam doesn't show it correctly. By the way, why are slopes on pictures always less impressive than in real life? I was so disappointed when I saw the pictures that I took in San Francisco after having them developed. Even Market Street looked perfectly level.
And again, this rock is more than two times higher than me.
The tiny path goes through this sandstone gate. You can't bypass it easily, on the right there is a fucking huge sandstone and a steep slope going up, and on the left a steep slope as well--but going down. When I was a little kid I was afraid that it will fall down while I'm underneath.
In the picture above there is a small cave. Again, it looks smaller on the picture. But you can walk in there, it's a small room inside. When we were kids we used to play in that cave. Today I wouldn't go in there anymore. Now I'm afraid the "little" stone falls down while I'm in there.
Here's another shot of the same cave. The plate says that the people of my village went to this cave for shelter during wars. It also says that in 1796, while the French were fighting against my state, a woman gave birth to a baby in that cave.
And this is me between all those rocks. Wait, am I a rock star? Sorry, that joke was too cheap...
... and here's another funny stone--which is much bigger than it seems. They are very impressive, but I agree, on the pictures they look like pebbles.
This is the ancient cairn that marks the border between my village and the next city.
I think the signature on this cairn is quite funny. There is a W to indicate the side of the village. I wonder what it means. Wilderness? Wald (German for forest)? And on the left there's a image of a house. This obviously means city. Neat.
As if we didn't have houses back then...
There was no snow, but it was very cold. Everything was frozen, the leaves made funny noises, because they were wet and frozen, and it was nice to come back home, where a homey fire in the fireplace was waiting for us in the livingroom.
Today I was visiting my Dad. He lives 20 minutes away from my Mom. I posted my last entry about Udo while I was fixing the computers in my Mom's practice. But now I'm back in Stuttgart.
On December 22th, I was on my way to my Mom. I had just left my apartment, and was walking to the closest bus stop to take a bus to central station, when I saw a guy driving towards me on his bike. Suddenly he smiled at me, and after a while I finally realized who it was: my former best friend Udo. I haven't seen him or even talked to him in almost 8 years. Seeing him again felt so good and made me very happy.
Although we didn't talk for such a long time, I felt very close to him. He is (or at least was) one of the very few people whom I can tell my problems openly. I'm very good in acting like everything is ok, even when I'm sad. Most people buy it. But I couldn't trick him, he always knew when something's bothering me.
Our friendship was very close. We saw each other almost every day. We were living 45 minutes apart, but I think I was able to drive it even being blindfolded. We were both living in small villages in the mountains, and we were driving to Stuttgart together at least twice each week. We hung out in clubs together each weekend. We also visited many themeparks--he's also addicted to roller coasters.
I also remember warm summer nights where we were sitting on meadows, and watching the stars.
When I moved to Stuttgart, he moved to another city. And he was working while I was free and vice versa.
You've probably seen me wearing a necklace on pictures, or my real-life friends have seen it for sure. It's a foreign coin from Spain with a hole in the middle on a black leather lace. He gave it to me a long, long time ago. I'm still wearing it almost every day in rememberance of our friendship. I should have showed it to him last week. I don't think he knows that I'm still wearing it. But probably he has seen it anyways.
Unfortunately I didn't have much time because I had to catch the bus. He turned around and walked to the bus station together with me. He's moved to Stuttgart, and is now living within walking distance. I was surprised he still knew my cell phone number by heart. There was no time to give me his current number. But he said he's going to call me after Christmas so we can meet up. I hope he really does. I would LOVE to get in touch with him again.
I have to leave in a few minutes. I'm visiting my Mom for the Holidays. Yeah! Here's my schedule of Christmas celebrations:
Heiliger Abend ("Holy Evening" i.e. Christmas Eve)
During the day we'll set up our Christmas Tree, in the evening we'll have a nice meal (fondue) together, and after dinner we'll open our presents. We talk a lot, play games.
1. Weihnachtsfeiertag ("First Day of Christmas")
On the first day of X-mas we're having a nice meal at noon. My Mom's going to prepare loin of venison with dumplings, delicious gravy, red cabbage and cranberries. She prepares everything from scratch and it's soooo good. My Dad is a hunter. As a kid I wasn't happy about that. Actually I don't want him to shoot animals. But I love meat. And in the end I think this deer had a much better life than any cow I would buy at the butcher. My parents are divorced, but they still get along pretty well.
In the afternoon we usually play games, talk, drink coffee eat cake and cookies. In the evening we'll have some salmon. Yes, Dad's also a fisher. Hey, I grew up in a very small village in the forrests in the mountains ...
2. Weihnachtsfeiertag ("Second Day of Christmas")
During the last years we either had leftovers or just a little meal for lunch, because in the afternoon there's a big celebration at my grandparents', and Granny loves to serve big piles of food, starting with cake, ending with a late dinner. All my uncles and aunts (of my Mom's side), and cousins will be there, and their kids. Some relatives are living abroad, but they'll all meet up that day.
Yes, we Germans have two Christmas Days. Both of them are bank holidays, all stores are closed. Since we have about three times more payed days off in average compared to Americans, almost nobody is working between December 24th and January 6th. It's a very quiet time.
I won't be online for some days. I hope that my precious readers will have a great Christmas, and I wish you Merry Christmas Gesëende Kersfees Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok Glædelig Jul Gajan Kristnaskon Hyvää Joulua Joyeux Noël Fröhliche Weihnachten Kala Christouyenna Mele Kalikimaka Nollaig Shona Dhuit Buon Natale Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto Sung Tan Chuk Ha Natale hilare Linksmu Kaledu God Jul Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia Feliz Natal Srozhdestovm Kristovim Feliz Navidad Kuwa na Krismasi njema Maligayang Pasko Suksun Wan Christmas Chuc Mung Giang Sinh Nadolig Llawen
Join me on a journey in time. A journey to the Dark Ages.
Esslingen is a small town near Stuttgart. By train it takes about 10 minutes to get there. Unlike Stuttgart it wasn't destroyed during WW II, and it has a very nice medieval part. When I arrived in Esslingen I saw the low-battery light was already blinking on my camera. Quite unfortunate. But I was able to shoot at least some pictures.
I like the christmas market in Esslingen. They're doing it the medieval way.
That means no electric lights, only torches and open fires. They serve the food on plates and cups made of clay. They roast the food on open fire. The recipes and ingredients are ancient.
Everybody who works there wears authentic clothes (not Disney-like authentic), and also their language is medieval, which sometimes sounds really funny. They have an old and small ferris wheel made of wood that doesn't have any engine.
Actually it's nicer in the evening. Open fires and torches everywhere. I had a great time, but my camera refused to work after some minutes. I wasn't able to try different angles or settings, and the pictures are not really great. I hope you liked them anyways.
Last Sunday was my Christmas show on radio. My co-host Thomas and I had Christmas cookies, gingerbread, mulled wine, some shots, and of course champagne in the studio. Ignoring the many signs on every door that say "No food or drinks in any studio EVER!!!". I mean, you can't eat or drink while talking, but during the songs it's just nice. We're always having champagne, but this time it was a nice christmas celebration.
We played Chistmas songs exclusively, from Doris Day, Wham, ABBA, Barbra Streisand, Boney M., and many others. By the way, do you know any other common Christmas song that contains the word "gay", except the one mentioned in the title?
This show was so much fun. A local band (five lesbians) stopped by for a short interview and played and sung a song live in the studio. We also had some other guests in the studio, e.g. the singer who played the mother in our radio comedy soap-opera, and of course we aired this episode. We had a blast. Probably due to some alcoholic beverages we started to sing along with the songs, and, of course, we made sure to broadcast our singing as well. This was also our two year anniversary show, and we got nice feedback from some of our listeners. One wrote in an email that he drives one hour in his car each week to get into the area of transmission. I replied that we're also having a internet stream. In fact, our most loyal listener is living in South Africa and listens our show to learn German--which probably isn't a good idea because I have a bold swabian accent.
The guy who's working the shift after our show laughed when he entered the studio to take over, because the studio was filled with a bold smell of mulled wine. We pribed him with champagne and some cookies. I hope the cookies got along well with the beer he brought for himself. Oh, sunday nights at the station are wonderful: peaceful and quiet. By the way, I pray that my bosses don't read my blog. :-)
I found this test at Quantum Entanglements. I think this test is amazing. Just two questions, but the result hits the nail on the head...
|you chose CZ - your Enneagram type is ONE.
"I do everything the right way"
Perfectionists are realistic, conscientious, and principled. They strive to live up to their high ideals.
How to Get Along with Me
What I Like About Being a One
What's Hard About Being a One
Ones as Children Often
Ones as Parents
If you want to take this test as well: The Quick & Painless ENNEAGRAM Test
I've heard of the legend of the German Christmas Pickle Ornament. This Christmas Pickle story seems to be taught in many American schools in German classes. And a little research showed me that many Americans think, the Christmas Pickle is a very important christmas tradition in Germany. If you haven't heard of that special ornament before, read on ...
A pickle is used as decoration on the Christmas tree seems odd at first, but it is an old German tradition. When decorating the Christmas tree, it is traditional to hang the pickle last, hidden among the branches. The first child on Christmas Day to find the Christmas pickle receives a special blessing for the year and an extra gift from St. Nikolaus!
Well, as you can imagine easily, there is no such thing as a Christmas Pickle in Germany. And it never has been. In neither area of Germany people ever hung Pickles in Christmas Trees. Believe me!
The Legend of the Christmas Pickle itself contains a few errors. Except the fact that the legend was made up by an American Ornament manufacturer, everything sounds like an American Christmas celebration. Because everything else in this story is more like American Christmas, since a traditional German Christmas is completely different.
Here's how Christmas is celebrated in Germany.
Real German Christmas Traditions
1. Each family has it's own Christbaum (Christmas tree). The tree is set up on December 24th--not earlier. And it'll stay in the homes till January 6th. Typical decorations are candles, Christmas ball ornaments and tinsel; sometimes (very rarely) real apples or oranges.
I can't emphasize it enough: There never was something like a Christmas Pickle. Really!
I think Americans put more things on their trees. I got a fratwork crab from a family in Maryland. She told me about a tradition in Maryland that each family makes these crabs out of wood and gives them to friends and then you hang them on your christmas tree. I still have the crab she gave me, but probably that's not a true legend either. Can anybody approve this story?
2. The Nikolaus (St. Nicholaus) in Germany delivers his presents at December 6th. When I was younger Nikolaus brought some nuts, oranges, chocolates and maybe a book or a CD. Small gifts only. I guess Nikolaus earns more money now, because the gifts he's delivering recently are getting bigger and more expensive. Anyway, he delivers only to children who were nice during the entire year. Nasty children however got spanked by "Knecht Ruprecht", his menial. "Just wait until Ruprecht comes" is still a common threat in German homes. Although there are no reports of children that really got spanked, Nikolaus is still commanding respect. When I was about 3 or 4 years old I was afraid of Nikolaus, although I've always been nice.
3. Children in Germany don't get their presents at Christmas Day. In Germany the presents are brought by the Christkind ("christ child") on Christmas Eve. The Christkind puts them under the Christmas Tree while nobody's in the room.
Children are allowed to open their presents right after dinner on Christmas Eve. Traditionally it wasn't a big dinner on Christmas Eve. In my state sausages and potato salad is quite typical. My grandparents always had sausages and potato salad. My parents however never made sausages, instead we often had a special pastry filled with chicken and mushrooms which is still one of my favourite dishes today. Today many families have Raclette or Fondue on Christmas Eve.
4. During the four weeks before Christmas, everybody has a Adventskranz (advent wreath) at home. The linked article on Wikipedia is showing a picture of a typical Adventskranz. However, the explanation on Wikipedia is not correct for Germany. Here's the real thing: It is a ring or set of four candles, usually made with evergreen cuttings. Then the candles are lit in succession through the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Each sunday one more candle is lit. The color of the candles doesn't matter. Most common color of the candles is red. And usually they're all the same color.
5. Each child has an Adventskalender (advent calendar). It has 24 little doors with numbers from 1 to 24. On the 1st of Dezember the first door is opend, then each day another one. When the last door is opened it's Christmas Eve and the children get their presents. Behind the doors there are either some pictures, but most commonly there are chocolates or other treats.
My readers know that I never post random pictures of hot guys on my blog. That's not my mission. Usually I write about personal things in my life. But here's an exception.
Back when we still had our magazine I was always searching for artists to write about their art. We usually had three or four pages featuring an artist each issue. Some were amazing, I liked many things I've seen, and I think I've seen pretty much and quite different things.
About two months ago I got an email from Karim Konrad. He's a photographer who has just published "Berlin Gay Mates", his first book of photographs. He introduced himself briefly and sent some of his pictures. When I looked at them I was completely amazed. I can't really say why. I tried it in in German when I wrote my review. I'm not really able to put it in words. But I've never seen pictures like that before. They're colorful, they're bright. It's a candy-coated potpourri of flamboyant colors and erotic guys, of innocent mirth and horny admiration.
I like the composition of the pictures. It's a completely new style (for me), and it just works.
Quite often a picture taken by the featured artist was used as cover for our magazine. Usually I can estimate the success of a cover. The cover is very important. When we had a good cover, the magazine was out of stock in two or three days. If the cover was not perfect, we had to throw some magazines into the recycle bin when the next issue got published.
But I'm sure, one of those pictures on our cover and they would be fighting for the last copies. Unfortunately we're on a break and won't be publishing a new issue before June 2007.
I asked Karim if I may write about his book on my blog, and he gave me permission to do so. I'm glad I can show his photographs here, because I think they're really cool. I love those colorful accessoires together with the hot guys.
Ok buddies, check out Karim's Homepage at www.karimkonrad.com, there are more cool pictures.
I found this meme over at Frippin Frappin Crazy and just liked it.
By the way, I just love Christmas. But you probably already knew. So, here are my answers...
Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
First a Hot Chocolate, then an Egg Nog, and then a mulled wine.
Yup, sounds great ...
Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
I don't know. Santa never brought me any gifts. My gifts were brought by the Christkindle ("christ child". By the way, that's where "Kris Kringle" got his name). But the Christkindle is more like an angel. Santa delivers the gifts in the northern part of Germany, but here in the south the Christkindle has to do the work.
Back to the question: the Christkindle wraps presents. Of course!
Colored or white lights?
White. Sometimes real candles.
Do you hang mistletoe?
Unfortunately this custom is more or less unknown in Germany. However, I remember one year my mom hang one. But the entire kissing thing is unknown here.
When do you put your decorations up?
On 1st of Advent I put up an "Adventskranz" (advent wreath), some candles, maybe some angels and "little" things. The christmas tree in Germany is put up on December 24th.
Favorite Holiday memory as a child?
All my Christmases were great. I have no special favorite.
Worst memory however was when my mom and I got stuck in an elevator on 2nd Christmas day because there was a blackout due to a heavy storm. We wanted to visit my grandparents (that's where the entire family meets on 2nd Christmas day).
What is your favorite holiday dish?
When I was younger my mom made a special pie on "Heiliger Abend" (christmas eve). The pie was filled with chicken, mushrooms, and a cream sauce. It's my favourite holiday dish. Unfortunately my mom doesn't prepare it anymore.
When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
What??? Santa isn't real???
Poor children in the northern part of Germany. Their parents are telling them lies. I'm so lucky to have the Christkind deliver them. And the Christkind is real, right?!
Well, I don't know how old I was. I guess about 7 or 8...
Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Of course. In Germany every child gets his/her presents on Christmas Eve. Opening gifts on Christmas morning is unknown here.
How do you decorate your tree?
With white candles (uhm, the candles aren't white, but their light is), and ornaments.
Snow, Love it or Dread it?
I think I'm lucky to live in an area where we have warm summers and cold winters. And of course, a real Christmas needs snow. And I love snow. But, to be honest. If it went away right after christmas I wouldn't mind either.
Can you ice skate?
As graceful as an elephant.
Do you remember your favorite gift?
I still remember many, many gifts I got. But I can't select a favorite one.
What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Seeing my family again. And it's a big reunion each year, because some relatives that live abroad are coming home for the holidays. And if I ever move to New York (keep your fingers crossed), I think I will come home for Christmas as well.
What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Uhm ... I like everything. But the typical Christmas sweets here in Germany like gingerbread and other "Weihnachtsbredla" (christmas cookies) are best.
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Spending the holidays with the family. Lame answer, I know. But that's really the best part of Christmas.
What tops your tree?
Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
I like ... wait ... oh ... you're talking about presents. That's quite different.
I prefer receiving, because I'm very bad at finding gifts for somebody.
What is your favorite Christmas song?
Sounds odd, but I like the typical American ones best.
Candy canes, yuck or yum?
Uhm ... I'm not really into candy canes. But they're quite uncommon in Germany.
Do you like Christmas music?
Of course! I like traditional songs, but also new ones. And Last Christmas by Wham has a special meaning for me.
Last Christmas, I gave you my heart... *sing*
It really hit me hard, when my 30th birthday came in July. Harder than anyone of my friends, harder than I ever expected. It's a little bit early for a midlife crisis, isn't it? But--you all know--it was good for me. I read some very interesting books and changed many things in my life. I'm not only losing weight, I'm also working on staying young. The books I'm reading are all from the same author, but on different topics. The first was about vitamins which made me curious, and then one about dieting, that's when it all really started. The last one I read was about being forever young. The good thing is, it's always narrowing down to the same things. So what I'm doing does help me lose weight, but also stay young. The name of the whole way of life is called forever young. There might be some companies with that name, but I don't mean them.
There was a show on German TV called "Diät-Duell" (engl. "diet duel"). There were four teams. One team did Atkins/Low-Carb, one Weight-Watchers, one Brigitte (famous German magazine for women, they have their own diet), and one group did "forever young". They're not really comparable since forever young isn't really a diet. Anyway, the results were amazing. The forever young team lost most of the weight, and their percentage of body fat decreased by nearly twice as much compared to the other groups. So, the forever young team won the duel. And it was a very obvious win.
|Team||Body Fat Loss||Weight Loss|
|Brigitte Diät||8,8%||70,8 lb|
|Atkins/Low Carb||8,0%||86,4 lb|
|Weight Watchers||9,1%||86,6 lb|
|Forever Young||17,8%||127,5 lb|
I never saw the diet duel show, because I can't receive the station, I just heard of the results after two months of duelling, and it showed me I'm doing the right thing ...
Today is my grandpa's birthday. It's him on the left, next to him is Granny, and on the right is my mom. The anual fall birthday-marathon is on the home stretch. Gramps was in hospital very often this year, but I hope he'll be around for some more years. I love my grandparents, they're very cordial and I love to visit them. Next time I'm gonna see them is on Christmas. I'm looking forward to seeing my whole family there again. Usually we're all visiting them on December 26th, wich is a holiday in Germany (called 2nd Christmas Day). Yes, we're having two of them.
Today is Nikolaustag (Day of St. Nick) in Germany. St. Nick often gets confused wrongfully with Santa Claus. But Santa Claus (German: Weihnachtsmann) is not the same as St. Nick (German: Nikolaus).
In Germany St. Nick is coming today. He has a book where all actions of everybody are recorded (I guess some secret service members would pay quite much to have a copy of that book). On December 6th he is riding from house to house on his white horse. He's carrying a huge sack full of small gifts as a reward for all children that have been nice. He's a nice and heavenly creature. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, there's also Knecht Ruprecht, his menial. But Knecht Ruprecht is a dark creature. Some say it's the devil himself. If the book says that you've been naughty, St. Nick won't give you any gift, instead you'll get a painful spanking from Knecht Ruprecht that you won't forget for the next year. "Just wait until Ruprecht comes" is still a common threat in German homes. So either way, chocolate or spanking, it sounds like fun, huh? Just kidding, And just for the records: I'm not into spanking at all. Far from it!
Each area has a slightly different Tradition. It's also very common to put your boots in front of your door during the night, and when you wake up on the morning of December 6th they're filled with little gifts like chocolates, nuts and oranges.
So, in my area it's a small gift in the boots, and a bigger gift from St. Nick himself in the evening. He usually wants to hear a poem or a song before he's willing to hand over the gifts. Although there are no reports of children that really got spanked during the last years, Nikolaus is still commanding respect. When I was about 3 or 4 years old I was afraid of Nikolaus, although I've always been nice.
Yesterday I saw the musical 3 Musketiere (3 Musketeers). It's a new musical in Stuttgart, it just started two weeks ago. Yesterday it was a special performance. Stage Entertainment, the company that operates almost all musical theaters and shows in Germany donated the entire show to a local Anti-AIDS organization, i.e. the profit is completely donated to that organization for their projects. They do that regularly and I usually have tickets to that special shows. I think that is very generous of Stage Entertainment, and I'm glad this huge company is supporting that organization.
The musical was absolutely amazing, I like it very much. The music fits my taste quite well, it's a real ear candy, and the stage design made a great visual impact. The story in brief is about the good musketeers that fight the bad. The last song's title was the motto "Each for All, and All for Each", and there were dozends of musketeers dancing. Whenever one needed help, every other musketeer helped. And each one was helping when he realized another one needs help.
I don't want to elaborate to much on that topic, everybody knows what it means. It was very touching.
After the show I as I was walking home from the lightrail station I suddenly realized why this song touched me that much. I'm a very loyal friend and I was always helping the weak. I usually was a class representative, and I tried to help whoever was suffering from injustice.
For more than 300 years we have a Christmas market in Stuttgart. It's one of the biggest and nicest in Europe. The festively illuminated city center - with a medieval flair due to the Old Castle, the towers of the Collegiate Church and the grand Baroque castle facility of the New Castle - forms the wonderful backdrop of the Stuttgart Christmas Festival.
I like the roofs of the little vendor booths, because they're individually decorated. I visited the Christmas Market (or "Weihnachtsmarkt" as we're calling it), and here are some impressions.
Of course you can get mulled wine ("Glühwein") everywhere. I suppose it sounds odd to some Americans, because I know that you can't have alcoholic drinks on the street. But in Germany there is no problem with that at all.
Some booths at the Schillerplatz ...