Hannover, Germany: Home of the other Oktoberfest!

Hey Everyone!

As you all know, I’m a proud German, having been born there and raised in the German culture. Being German, and not living in Germany, is a funny thing; everybody wants to tell you about their long-lost fifth removed cousin (“you must know who he/she/it is!”) or their favorite beer that they drank once, five years ago (“it’s kinda dark and tastes good…you know which one I’m talking about?”). Even more frequently, I get asked things like: what is your favorite thing to do in Germany? Where do you like to go? Where can I drink beer and not go broke?

So, in the spirit of sharing more of my home culture AND in appeasing those of you who have long been asking for my top pick…here it is:

The Other Oktoberfest: You thought Oktoberfest just happened in Munich, no? Wrong! Oktoberfest, and other festivals like it, are celebrated throughout Germany and you can experience it for a fraction of the cost and in a more authentic setting if you go to the  Hannover version of the affair. That’s right, Hannover hosts the second largest Oktoberfest in Germany, and I gaurantee you’ll see much more German people (and less American, Australian, British, and French) for so much less money. I know, I know: you’re probably worrying that nothing could measure up to the infamous Munich affair…but if you like the sound of 160 rides, two tents holding over a thousand people each, and over one million people to drink with, you’ll be sure  to like Hannover’s version.

Sold on the idea of visiting? How not check out flights to Hannover and start planning your trip! :-)

I am not ashamed.

I saw these shoes when I was shopping for Madagascar and fell in love. Maybe it’s the pattern.

I know, only a German could love them. Functional, semi-ugly, and they probably look better when paired with knee-high socks and lederhosen. Yet, I am wearing them in the Frankfurt Airport right now. Not much more needs to be said:



I fully embrace being German!

Google searches and my website. Hmm…

Just a few notes: Your´s truly makes a cameo in this photo on the Field Trip Earth site, where I was working with my BBFL on our field data collecting methods.

Also, wordpress (which is my blogging platform) does me a favor and lists all of the google searches that people have done where my blog pops up. The weird things people search never cease to amaze me. A few of the better ones:

1) Statue of mary from africa
2) German christmas cookies with flower
3) cengizyarjr (what the hell is this? There is no way that this is even a word!)
4) bratwurst sex (um…I had this  google search term three times. The world is filled with weirdos.)

That´s all for now :-)

Blood sausages and raw meat. Barbaric!

I LOVE German butcher shops. I don’t care what anyone says – they are absolutely fantastic. While in Germany with my boyfriend, I took him to a butcher shop. The goal: to buy meat for a picnic.

Inside the family-run shop, thick silver hooks speared meat hanging in glass-door refrigerators. A little chilled, I glanced over our options: a dozen varieties of sausages, rabbit, pork, duck, chicken, and cow. Looking over my grandmother-assigned shopping list I noted the items needed: met (a ground beef/pork/onion mixture eaten raw on bread) and ground beef. The rest was ours to choose.

Raw meat. To eat. Uncooked. To be honest, I absolutely love met. But my boyfriend? A worried crease on his forehead told me exactly what he thought about the whole business.

Tapping my foot to the sound of a hidden employee chopping meat, I wondered if this kind of butcher shop would even be popular in the United States. Meat is often so packaged: perfect, blood-drained, and completely detached from the reality of what it really is: a dead animal. Now, I love eating steaks just as much as the next person. However, having the reality dangling on a silver hook in a storefront is not exactly appetizing. Especially when the ground beef is literally ground right in front of your eyes (as occurred on this occasion).

Anyway, dead carcass or not, I was excited to dig into our spoils. Spreading the met over a butter-covered broettchen, I offered my boyfriend a taste. Taking a smaller-than-usual bite, he chewed thoughtfully and I was delighted to see that his response was positive. Immediately he set about organizing two slices for himself, which were swallowed before they even really existed. Raw or not, it was a delicious meal.

So, I guess the lesson of the story is: even if it looks and sounds completely and utterly disgusting, it might turn out to be absolutely delicious. I should probably make this my mantra for the upcoming months. If the locals eat it, I can eat it too!

Finals thoughts: Equatorial Guinea here I come!

Hey Everyone!!!

Less than 48 hours until I’m on a plane to Equatorial Guinea, and I am definitely getting nervous (in a good way) in anticipation of the unknown. I’m a little miffed that I have to be at the airport at 4:30am for a timely security check…but it’s all in the name of good travel!

Last night I used google maps to look up pictures of the various areas I should be going; they didn’t really do anything to satisfy my curiosity. My image of the country is completely based on what I’ve been able to piece together from my Lonely Planet travel guide, an informative history novel, and online forums. For the first time in my life, I actually feel like I am truly traveling into the unknown. Having lived and traveled around Europe, there is not much that surprises me here. It’s not that Western Europe is boring – far from it – it’s that I can usually get along very well knowing English and German. Many locals come equipped with a Hilton, McDonalds, and Woolworths (or some similar alternative). Accommodation, a greasy burger, and cheap, synthetic wool tights are sometimes an adventure to find, but are nevertheless available. Perhaps my perception of Equatorial Guinea is completely off, but as far as I can tell, it will be the most different country/culture/place I will ever have visited up to this point.

For those of you who totally clueless as to where Equatorial Guinea is (and what I’m doing there), take a look at the google map: the cute little pointers/bubble-thingies indicate what city I will fly into and where (I believe) my “home base” is, when I work for an American researcher to complete a census of the island’s jungle/terrain. The job is organized through the BBPP, approximately 3 months long and will involve camping, trekking, and a fair amount of monkeys, turtles, and awesomeness. Internet access will be limited, but I plan on writing about my travels as I go and uploading them onto the blog when I can. If you want more information about the BBPP, and doing paid volunteerism with them, you can check out their website: www.bioko.org. For a really, really neat report on Equatorial Guinea and the BBPP, read the national geographic article or watch a short video, also put together by the National Geographic!

[googlemaps http://maps.google.de/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=de&msa=0&msid=101813222189103241493.00047be3c41dd794ac7cd&ll=3.536704,8.720398&spn=0.370082,0.115356&output=embed&w=425&h=350]

Finally, I want to say “thanks and cheers” to all of the people in Erfelden, Germany who kept me well fed, warm, and busy during my lovely twelve-day stay there. It was WONDERFUL to see/meet all of you! Special thanks to Mona for giving me music for my ipod; my ears are very thankful.

Alrighty – time to go grab some lunch/dinner. Spoiling myself by staying at a five-star hotel in Frankfurt for the last night of my stay…but am not too excited about the burger and steak dinner offerings.

Only a few days until I touch down on my third continent!!!

How to drive on the autobahn in Germany…and survive!

Driving on the autobahn is a little scary, let’s be honest. I would know because I drove on it!
In the summer of 2006 a few friends and I decided to do a two-week tour of Germany. After doing the math, it was cheaper for us to rent a car (even with gas costs) than it would have been for us all to buy train passes. Renting a car is not hard. All you need is the ability to be able to drive manual (after trying numerous big-name companies like Hertz and Budget, it became obvious to us that no one was going to be able to guarantee us an automatic vehicle) and a valid, American driver’s license.

Our cute little rental car – stopped somewhere on our way down to Munich, Germany

Anyway, being under 25, we were only allowed to rent the smallest class of cars and we were entrusted with a cute little VW. Being German-built, we assumed it would hold it’s own. Wrong! Careening down the typically narrow lanes, we urged the car onwards (the max speed being only 180km/hr), only to be passed by BMW’s and various other luxury (and non-luxury) vehicles. After our initial shock at the country’s penchant for speeding, we soon acclimatized and were more than happy to join in on the fun.

Our VW tryin‘ to keep up!

Don’t let me dissuade you from driving your Europe trip – the Autobahn is really not as bad or as unsafe as its reputation might suggest. I have read that the Autobahn actually has a lower fatality record than that of the United States (although, I have yet to find reliable stats on this). The idea of a zero speed limitations on the Autobahn is actually more of a myth. Granted, many areas do allow you to speed your dear heart out, but just as many areas (around cities, in high traffic areas, around construction, and in mountainous terrains), speed limits are in effect and strictly enforced using speed cameras. Likewise, the rumors of unsafe and reckless German drivers are also false. German drivers, from my experience, were safe and courteous. Just make sure to move over and allow people to pass you!

Myself, as the navigator!