Apologies for a long Absence.

Ohmygoshohmygosh we have been absent for a long time!! Well, rest-assured, this will be a good and thorough update.

Since the last time we talked, a lot has happened!

1. We have been to a few German-style “BBQ’s”

2. The weather has turned immeasurably beautiful

3. Our first Frühlingsfest!

4. We enjoyed our first German Labor Day and Feuerwehrfest

5. The DB-Bahn went on Streik two times in three weeks

6. We visited the Wilhelma Zoo and Botanical Gardens

7. We planned some upcoming travel adventures with American friends!

8. A vineyard-wandering we did go!

Some German-style BBQ’s are a little bit different than our American-style BBQ’s. Grilling- check, Beers- check, everything else- not check. We think of a BBQ as something pretty informal: you stand around the grill drinking (check) and all of the sides are already prepared (check)– then, as things become available you grab a paper plate and pick your meat of choice…then fill your plate with desired cold sides. So, German-style: once all the meat is done (btw, only pork products here…have we said before that the Pig is king here? No Cow kings here!) everyone takes their place at a nicely set table. All of the sides are similar in the way that they are cold– but this is a little bit more formal. One thing can certainly be said for the German-style BBQ, the food is fanfuckingtastic fantastic!

Of course, there is always an exception to the rule– the latest BBQ we went to was on our most recent bank holiday (there are 3 in this month!). This one was more like what we are used to. We sat outside drinking, eating, talking, and laughing =) No paper plates or plastic utensils– but, it’s greener to use what you have, right?

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All of the flowers are blooming and the trees are full and green. I think it’s safe to say that Spring has passed and we are into Summer now. Last week’s temperatures would prove that, I think. It got into the high 80s already! Everyone is enjoying the weather and staying outdoors– we are always smelling grilling no matter what neighborhood we are in. As horticulturists– it has been interesting to see what exactly can be grown here. Where as Magnolias are sparse in Iowa, they seem to be all over here. But, some things are the same– the Forsythia was definitely the first bloomer this Spring.

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Frühlingsfest (Spring Festival) is pretty much a month-long carnival complete with carnival rides, bier tents, and people standing on benches singing/drinking/falling. The spring festival and fall festival are all held in Bad Canstatt. We went on a Sunday for a few reasons: less people and cheaper beer! Everyone is usually dressed in their “traditional” (I later learned that dirndls and lederhosen are not traditional to Baden-Württemberg) attire. Beers come in liters and the fun never seems to end. We are excited for the fall festival so we can don our German clothing and celebrate with the rest!WP_20150426_18_34_24_Pro

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Labor Day is celebrated in the Spring here– and a Feuerwehr (Fire Department) from one of the Esslingen neighborhoods throws a festival every year to raise money. It was in a neighborhood called Sulzgries and it isn’t too far from where we live by bus. The Feuerwehrfest was full of every Schwaben thing you could think of: beer, local wine, maultaschen, currywürst, spätzle, and so on. I can’t remember the word specifically, but when you bought your tickets for beers it didn’t say “bier” it said something about an emergency of some kind. It was intended as a joke and when I said what we wanted the ladies behind the counter and our German friend laughed…I don’t think I pronounced it wrong, but it was funny to hear me say it. I can understand what they mean– we always ask our German friends to say “Darth Vader” because they say “Darth Wader”…teeehehehehe.

Ahhhh, die Deutsche Bahn. The first strike was about getting everyone that worked for DB in the same union and only for 3 days. I had to re-schedule some long distance classes and my students who drove were always late. The second strike was for a 3% (or was it 5%) raise and to get those other workers into the same union. It was slightly inconvenient, but everyone just gives themselves more time to get to places or uses alternate trains. To be honest, I don’t know what the outcome of the strike was but I did learn a few things after the first one:

1. The union is required to give the public 24 hours notice before they strike. How polite!

2. Not everyone working for DB is in the same union…so the Sbahns, Regiobahns, and cargo trains could still run, but on a less-frequent schedule.

3. The Ubahn is not run by the same company as the Sbahn. Hooray!

When I first moved here, a person told me “if the trains aren’t striking, the planes are striking”. We haven’t seen the airline workers strike yet, but I imagine we will get the chance. Luckily, airline workers striking wouldn’t affect us daily….fingers crossed they don’t decide to strike when we travel!

We have talked about getting around and doing some local “tourist” things and the Wilhelma Zoo and Botanical Gardens were near the top of the list. With everything in bloom, it was the perfect time to see all of the gardens and the animals. It was apparent very quickly that people who visit can be trusted to not bother the animals. A fair amount of the exhibits left the animals within reach of most average-sized humans! But, we noticed the children and adults alike were very respectful and merely observed the animals…..and we followed suit. No matter how tempting it was to touch the cute penguins!

Wilhelma Zoo is located in Bad Canstatt, a suburb of Stuttgart. It is sprawls up a hill and the top gives some great views of the city center and the towns surrounding it. They have a large horticultural crew and many great plant specimens to drool over. Including a pair of huge HUGE Ginkgo trees! A set of greenhouses (that, I believe, were originally intended as bath houses) from the 1800s is near the top of the hill. The zoo and botanical gardens have a very interesting history!

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Now that we have been here for some months (Rob for 3 and Meg for 5) we are going to start spreading our travel wings! We have friends visiting in the upcoming months and we fully plan on capitalizing on the opportunity to see new things. In the immediate future– we will be visiting Venice, Italy– and in the near future we hope to get to touristy places in Germany and maybe a little of France. So, keep your eyes peeled for those adventures!

For the most recent bank holiday/Father’s Day (in Germany)we went to a BBQ and then a wine hike! We only saw the map once, but the trail went from our city almost to Stuttgart! All in the vineyards! It was beautiful, the day was perfect (not too hot, not too chilly), and we got to bring Hazel! Everyone chipped in to buy multiple bottles of wine at a time for the whole group. Each bottle and glass had a pfand (deposit) that you could retrieve at the end of the hike. We walked on the trails and through the vineyards, thoroughly enjoying ourselves and getting lost in the packs of people. All men, women, children, babies, and dogs were out for the event! Hazel made new dog and people friends… she even got a new nickname: Hazelnuss (Hazelnut). By the end we were all thoroughly tired and fuzzy, and not a bad thing could be said on the day.

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So, greetings and love from Germany…. and PROST!

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