Tuesday, October 9, 2007

ich liebe deutschland!

Ok...I have been here for (counts on fingers) 5 days, and I have already fallen in love with this country. The landscapes are gorgeous, the food is delicious and the people are wonderful. I've noticed a few traits that seem to be idiosyncratic to the German culture, and those are taking some getting used to, but I think that is part of the fun of it all. For example, people you see in stores or walking down the street won't greet you, but they will stare unabashedly at you. My first experience with this was on the autobahn with Bran the other day: we were stuck in a Stau, or traffic jam, so we were moving pretty slow. I was looking all over, trying to absorb it all, when I noticed a 7 or 8 year old little boy in the car next to us just staring me down. So I smiled and waved, and he looked startled and waved back. It wasn't until later that I learned that smiling a greeting like that is akin to coming on to someone... Oh well, now I know. But it is so hard for me not to smile at people! That's just the way I am. I smile at people. You think maybe they'll excuse me, 'cause I'm American? :)
I've also learned that the 'Autobahn' is simply what the German's call their highways. The Autobahn runs all over the country, and speed restrictions are only lifted when it is deemed "safe" to cruise at high speeds.
And, German fun fact #3: Most of the bases around here were once German Nazi outposts. Panzer Kaserne, for example, means "tank base" in German. (Not surprisingly, the Nazis used Panzer predominantly as a tank base.) Brandon even showed me a place on one of the buildings on Panzer where the Nazi eagle still sits above a doorway. They got rid of the swastika, obviously, but as the eagle is actually part of the rock of the building, it wasn't as easy to remove. Besides, the eagle rather suits an American base.

Ayway, back to being on the Autobahn the other day. We were driving to Kaiserslautern to look at cars on a military consignment lot there. There wasn't really anything on site that we liked, but there is a large online selection. We picked two, and the guy was was going to have them brought there for us to test drive on Monday. But that is not the important part. Nor is the absolutely delicious lunch that we had at this cute little cantina right down the road from the car lot. Rather, it was the exploring that we did on the way home. You see, Kaiserslautern is about 2 hours away from where we are staying in Sindelfingen (which, in turn, is just a few minutes outside of Stuttgart. More on that later.). I'd been dozing on the way there, but I was wide awake on the way home. And guess what I see out side my window?
No, really, guess.
Ok, give up?
It was a castle! A real, honest-to-God castle! Maybe I'm easily amused, but come on! That's not the kind of thing that you get to see in the states. So, Bran got off of the Autobahn and we went exploring. We spent an hour or so cruising around the countryside, driving through neat little villages and miles and miles of vineyards. It is all just breathtakingly beautiful... We took pictures until the camera died, including one that Bran took of me stealing a grape from one of the vineyards. It was delicious, but I kept waiting for someone to come and yell at me to go away. It was just one wee grape, guys! Come on! But I swear, no more grape thieving for me.
Oh, and you know Dave, of the pissing-off-a-horse-fame? Well, Brandon is now of pissing-off-the-mountain fame. We had driven up a narrow twisty mountain road trying to get closer to the castle, and ended up at a dead end at the top. Bran had to go, and there was NOTHING around, so he, well, he pissed off the mountain. Sorry Dave, but I think that you've been out--um, classed. (I use the word loosely.)

Ok...now to go back and clear up a few other details. Bran is not actually stationed in Stuttgart; that is simply the nearest major city. There are a few small American bases around here, and to the best of my knowledge, none of them are in Stuttgart. We are currently staying at the Mariott in Sindelfingen, which is nice, but I'll be glad when we are able to get into our own place. We went and looked at an apartment here in Sindelfingen this morning, and it was really nice. It's the first place we've looked at, so we obviously don't want to make any decisions yet, but I really loved it. The only thing it lacks, and this is mostly Bran's beef, is a garage for the car/bike. We're going to look at another one tomorrow, and the printout on it says that it has a garage, so we shall see.
As far as a car goes, we are looking at trying to get financing on a 2005 BMW 325i. Or, at least, that's what I think it is. I know it's an '05 BMW 3-series, and that it's fully loaded, and automatic, and reeeeaaaaly nice. So, keep your fingers crossed for us, and hopefully we will soon be the proud owners of a sporty little BMW sedan.

Aaaand at this point, I think that I am all typed out. I'll be back on later, of course, to keep all and sundry updated (because I know that you are all sitting on the edge of your seats with baited breath, waiting for my next post. :).

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