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Since July 4th, we haven't been many places, as K was studying for mandatory certifications about things that have no direct impact to his job.  We did go to the Balloon Festival in Chambley again this year, and for Labor Day, we were in Switzerland, Europe's most expensive country, I swear!

Maybe I'll have a brain wave and write something about that someday.  

Home from Bremerhaven

Our train didn't leave until 10:30, but we managed to catch an earlier one for Bremen and waited there in the much larger Bahnhof - with toilets and cafes and stores, even.  The ride home was uneventful, smooth, easy, and the sun came out after we passed through Hannover.  By the time we got back to Landstuhl, we were back into summer (it had been almost winter in BH - cold enough for the winter jackets we brought - thank goodness we checked the weather before we left home or we would have been miserable!).  In Landstuhl, it was hot enough to glow a bit as we walked up the hill toward home. 

Bremerhaven - Monday

We were all set to attend a Fish Auction at 7 a.m.  Bremerhaven has quite the fishing fleet, and I had read that they auction off the fish every morning, starting at 7.  We took a taxi to the Auction Hall, since we would have had to get up earlier to take the bus down there, and sadly, the Auction Hall was closed and dark.  Our taxi driver helpfully volunteered that she thought they stopped the auction at Easter.  It cost us 20 euro for the round trip taxi fare; it was a fair chunk of change but at least we hadn't spent hourse getting there and back by bus.  Lesson here:  use a guidebook more recent than 2002, and/or check everything by internet. 

We were back at the hotel by 7:20, plenty of time for breakfast, which is decent at our hotel.  They offer the same thing every morning but they have a big bowl of fresh fruit, which varies by day, and hard boiled eggs along with the standard rolls, sliced lunch meat and cheese.

After we had recovered from our early morning expenditure, we spent the 4 hours from 9 - 1 pm in the Climahaus, a climate museum.  They offer a journey around the world in a line of longitude from BH to Switzerland to Sardinia to Niger to Camaroon to Antarctica, Samoa, Alaska and back to Germany.  Each place was carefully selected to represent a different climate, and one that would be adversely affected by climate change.  Although, now that I think of it, every climate will be affected by climate change!

The museum also offers a close look at the science of global warming, providing evidence through shell and tree rings, changing composition of air bubbles trapped in the ice, ice layering, etc.  You can also input date about your own lifestyle and a computer calculates your carbon footprint.  Ours is high because we travel a lot by air, but even so we are below average for Germany.

K notes the museum was overrun by children's groups, not surprising as it seems designed for junior high schoolers.  Is school not out yet? 

After lunch we went for an hour long harbour tour.  The clouds remained a solid mass above us but at least it didn't rain (much) on Sunday or Monday.  We even briefly saw the sun while we puttered around the harbour in a little boat.  We heard many many statistics about how big the ships are and how many containers they carry.  As I dozed off (lack of sleep from our early morning),  I just managed to catch that one of the ships was the largest that could pass through the Panama Canal, with only 20 cm to spare!  Another ship burns 100,000 liters of diesel fuel every day, and that BH ships more autos than any other port in the world.   I woke up when we passed underneath a bridge with only 20 cm to spare ourselves.  

In the afternoon, we visited the Deutsches Auswandererunghaus [German Emigration Museum] and learned about the 7 million Germans that emigrated to the US through BH, including several of K's ancestors.  The presentations focus on what it was like to leave home and cross the ocean.  You walk through the waiting rooms, board a "ship" on a long gangway, then walk through various rooms of different ship types.  In the 1800s (say, 1850-1880), you had to take a sailing ship for 7-12 weeks.  The ships were small and 100 people were crammed into a room that is about the size of our living room, sleeping 5 to a four-foot-wide bed.  If the weather was bad, you couldn't go out, and stayed in there to eat, sleep, defecate and vomit.  ugh.  By 1914, a steamship could cross the Atlantic in only 7 days.  Ships were much bigger and you had your own bunk - think Titantic, the movie and you get an idea of what the steamships were like for the 3rd class passengers.  

After the exhibits, you come out into a computer room where you can research people on several databases.  We found 3 of K's family members in passenger lists leaving Bremerhaven!  I had previously found two of them in Ellis Island data, but it was megakuhl to find them on this side of the ocean, too.

Bremerhaven - Sunday

We spent the morning in the Historischesmuseum to give us an overview of where we are.  BH is such a new city, compared to the rest of Germany.  It was only started in 1827 as a port for Bremen after the Weser River began to silt up, threatening their shipping economy.  BH has always been part of Bremen.  Before 1827, it was a marshy area at the mouth of the Geeste River.  (The first syllable is pronounced halfway between "geese" and "gaze").  We spent 2 hours and could have stayed longer but the rest of the city beckoned. 

I lost my pen in the Schiffahrtmuseum (Marine/shipping museum), but the kind cashier gave me on from a bundle she had behind the counter.  This was a great museum, especially the part about the sailing ships where the exhibit descriptions were in English as well as German.  Sailing ships still carried cargo cost-effectively until the 1930s!, although some of the more recent sailing ships had steam engines as well.  The exhibit had models and drawings of various ships plus exhibits on their construction, cargoes and detailed info on life aboard.  One slightly disgusting subject was how to treat your food when it was infested with maggots:  whack it on the table so they fall out, dip it in liquid so they float out, or soak it in rum so they don't get in there in the first place.   Of course, the simplest technique was just to eat them - extra protrein!  urp...

The museum is very proud of the Hanse Kogge of 1380 - a ship ruin that is under partial restoration - you can see it but there's much steel and supporting beams in the way.  Found in 1964 downstream from the harbor at Bremen, this is the only actual example of the favorite ship of the Hanseatic cities.  The museum calls it "the most important exhibit," comparable to the Swedish warship Wasa from 1628 and the 9th and 11th century ships in Denmark. 

The little cog shipped everything (fish, beer, grain, salt, weapons) around the Baltic and North Seas, even as far away as the Mediterranean.  Some say that the development of the cog enabled the Hanse to prosper, but sources at the museum say not so:  it was the partnering of inland areas with seaports that provided both goods and markets.  It was all laid out in a treaty in 1161.

The museum also includes nearly 50 actual ships, some of which float on a small harbor and are boardable.  We went into a U-boat from 1944, quite tiny inside and living must have been difficult for the 58 men who constituted the full crew.   And the English brochure reminded us that the sole purpose of a U Boat was to destroy enemy ships during war.

We picked up a brochure at our hotel about a Windenergie tour and I was quite disappointed to find that the tour wasn't going while we were in BH, which is a center for off-shore wind energy.  I would have liked to hear about it.  But there's always the internet!

We used the bus for the transit links when we didn't walk.   Easy to use, once we got the Fahrplan from our hotel, and inexpensive (2.20 euro per trip).

Happy hour at our hotel!  Yay!  But it goes from 10-11 PM!  too late for us.

Bremerhaven - getting there

We took the train northward on Saturday to the smallish city of Bremerhaven.  On the way, we read that Deutsche Bahn operates 27,000 trains per day and spends more than 1 billion euro annually on maintenance and repair. 

The trains were all very crowded and I was glad we had seat reservations.  People were standing in the aisle for hours.  The 1.50 euro per seat was well worth it. 

Ariiving in Bremerhaven, we are informed that we are 33,000 km from Alaska!

Writer's Block: Showing your pride

What do you so strongly believe in that you would march in the streets to support, and why?

When I get back to the US (after my time living as an expatriate has come to an end), I'll be standing in front of the federal building in whichever city I live holding up a sign that says, RAISE TAXES ON THE RICH!! 

Upper income people are not paying their share of the US debt and spending program.  As more and more programs get cut, those programs will be removing or reducing services to the poor and middle incomes.  Raising taxes on the rich will assure that they see similar cuts in their lifestyle and services. 

Renewing our vehicle registration

OMG, I must rant!  Went up last Thursday to renew the registration.  Walked in, unbelievably no line, took 10 minutes total.  couldn't believe my good luck.  Then Friday, dun dun duhn, they called to say we should have gotten a vehicle inspection first, so the new registration is invalid.  I promised to come in on Monday to take care of it.  Today, I waited in line in the sun for 44 f'ing minutes to be allowed to explain my story to the inspector.  Sorry, no can do, must have proper form.  Um, the office took my form last Thursday and I don't have it.  You'll have to check with them, must have proper form.

I trotted into the office, miraculously no line, explained and was granted a replacement form.  Then back outside.  Must wait in line again for 40 minutes, in the sun for my second turn at the inspector.  At last.  No problems.  Back into office with properly stamped and signed form.  Now there's a line.  But in the end, I got the registration and we're good for another year. 

My left arm is sunburned. 

Tal ToTAL - biking the Middle Rhine

This past weekend, the roads on either side of the middle Rhine were closed to vehicles and reserved for bicylcles.  Hooray!  We took the train up to Bingen and biked almost to Koblenz - we did 56k of the 62k journey - on the west side (left as you go downstream).  The weather was sunny and HOT.  Holy melting mammas, batman, we did sweat.  Interestingly, there were fewer stops for food on the west side than the east, and no music on our side.  We did hear music drifting across from the other side, including a goosepimpling trumpet version of Amazing Grace echoing off the cliffs at the Loreley.  Still, the company was good, the biking was OK, the exercise was great.  Since we couldn't get on the first train home (too many bikes already on) we had time for takeout pizza from a place across the Nahe from the Bahnhof in Bingen.  I stumbled back to the train station in the heat at 6:30 pm, carefully carrying 2 pizza boxes out away from the sweat running down my neck and arms.  Yikes. 

Note to Deutsche Bahn:  On the days when there are special bike events, could you please add more bike-carrying cars to your regularly scheduled trains?  God forbid you consider adding special trains just with bicyicle cars.

Note to self:  Next time, do the east side.

Shoe shopping

A few years ago, 2004 to be exact, GL and I went on a shoe shopping hunt.  I had seen an advertisement for a shoe factory in Hauenstein that sold directly to consumers, so off we went.  This might even have been before Googlemaps (at least before I found GM).  After much searching, we found the place, on a gravel road in the middle of a run down industrial area.  GL found some shoes there, that she still wears and raves about.

A few months ago (present day, now), K and I saw an article in the Blickwinkl (great resource!) about a shoe district in Hauenstein.  Saturday we decided to check it out.  Yes, it was the same run-down industrial area as before, but what a change!  New paved streets, 15+ shoe stores up and down, lots of parking, places to eat/drink (yes, because this is Germany you can have a beer while you shop), and lots of people.  It's easy to get to now because there's a new turnoff from the B10 east of Pirmasens.  And yes, I bought a pair of shoes, although K didn't - and it was his idea to shop here.

GL asks to revisit this shoe paradise the next time she's here.   No problem!

Sunday bike ride - Happy Mosel

We spent the day riding along the Mosel River (that's MoSELLE in France, MOsel in Germany).  The roads were closed to vehicles for the day and it was delightful to bike along a wide, flat paved road.  It rained off and on, but we were prepared, and the rain meant that 10,000 people stayed home, so in that sense it was more pleasant than sun.  All told, we rode about 62 km from Traben-Trarbach to Cochem.  We went with a couple of friends and did enjoy stopping for a glass of wine here, a bratwurst there, a beer at the next place, coffee and cake further down the road.  I did fine until the last 5 km, when I ran out of steam.  Pretty good for not biking since fall 2009! 

The Mosel valley is beautiful, even in the rain.  Narrow, with vineyards growing on slopes that I swear are 60 degrees.  The vines are planted, not in soil, but in broken shale, pieces of which slide down the hillside to the road, making for easy pickings for amateur geologists.... yes, I brought home 3 samples!

We took the train back, which was a bit angsty since the first train was completely full of bikes and the conductor wouldn't let us on.  The next train came an hour later and we were lucky that a group of people got off so we could get on, otherwise we'd probably still be there waiting! 

Next weekend:  the middle Rhine roads are closed and Sunday is predicted to not-rain. 

Speaking of which, we are in the midst of a Gewitter and it is raining so hard that I can't see across our little valley.  The thunder is cracking when the lightning flashes, and I swear I heard lightning strike the Bismarck Turm (it has a lightning rod, so should be OK).  Guess I shouldn't be on the computer, gel?