Thursday, March 12, 2009


I didn't bother writing another post until I got back to Angers because, without photos, blog entries are just, well, too much like op-ed pieces to catch the reader's attention. I feel like I should be giving you something refreshing to look at while I ramble on about whatever it is I find interesting. I'll admit, many a time I have skimmed (or skipped) a blog entry to get to the photos or the recipe or whatever it is that attracted me to the post in the first place. Thus, I bring you photos. Let the blogging commence.

Tuebingen is a nice enough city. To be up front with you, I'll go ahead and say that I prefer Angers. Why? Well, for one, French drivers, who have a reputation as being really aggressive, are not nearly as aggressive as German drivers. French drivers will stop to let pedestrians cross the street even if it's their turn to go through the intersection, and if you cross the street in front of a car, they will stop (provided, of course, that they see you--this is always important). They will not blow their horn at you or make insulting gestures at you. In Germany, heaven help you should you cross the street when the pedestrian light is red. In fact, come to find out, you can be heavily fined for crossing the street when it is not your turn. I don't even want to know what the penalty is for jaywalking.

Also, I find Angers to be more pleasant architecturally-speaking. Not to mention the fact that we have a lot less graffiti here. I'm a huge fan of street art provided it is well-done, but nonsense spray-painted on every surface does not appeal to me at all. I mean, really, no one cares that your name is Bob.

But I digress. I think another reason I found Tuebingen a little less than stellar was that I spent most of my time there being sick. It was creepily timely, too. I get there--bam! My boyfriend J. gets sick with something akin to a sinus infection (colds and sinus infections have a somewhat nebulous quality to them--there are so many varying symptoms that you're not sure what exactly you're sick with). Naturally, I begin to have similar symptoms shortly after, and find myself doing more napping than sight-seeing, hunting down cough drops instead of cuckoo clocks, and sipping lemony tea instead of, well, what else is Germany famous for if not bier?

So, my experience was skewed somewhat by illness. Before this is over I might just have an illness to correspond to each trip I take. Paris--food poisoning; Germany--sinus infection/ear infection (yes, ear infection--I didn't even get ear infections when I was an infant; I had to come to Europe to get one). What next, I wonder. Switzerland--conjunctivitis? Austria--shingles? This is humorous to me because in the states I rarely get sick.

But really, Tuebingen is, as are all European cities I've visited thus far, charming. The half-wood houses are beautiful and rustic, and I couldn't help but imagine myself as a goatherd living on top of a mountain somewhere in one of them. Hey, I could learn German if I really wanted to... And that brings me to another point. French and German are about as different as water and fire. I could not for the life of me get the pronunciation down, even though German is pretty much completely phonetic. I've been so used to speaking French, where half the letters are vowels and the other half aren't pronounced anyways, that German, with its gutteral, consonant-studded sound and solid cadence gave me quite a fit. J. repeatedly tried to help me pronounce things, but the words felt so absurd and clunky in my mouth that I would just end up giggling. Not the best way to get German people to like you.

But most Germans, as it turns out, speak English. I would think that since Germany and France are neighbors, Germans would speak French and the French would speak German. I mean, it makes sense, right? But that is not the case. I have to wonder if there's some deep-seated animosity or resentment between them. I could also just be overanalysing again--it might just be that English is a more practical language to learn in general. But all this has me thinking I should take a German class or two. Why not?

The snowdrops and crocuses were in bloom while I was there, and that was really breathtaking. They just pop up everywhere like fairies in the grass. It was even more incredible to see them popping up under the snow that blanketed the ground one day. They look so fragile and ethereal but have the constitution of a Norwegian (I don't know what that's supposed to mean--excuse my silly, stereotypical metaphor). They reminded me a lot of the mayapples that bloom during the spring in Appalachia--just smaller, with pinnate leaves.

Now that I'm back in Angers, it's evident that spring is coming. Today was glorious. I shed my winter coat and took a long walk this afternoon, which inevitably led me to the bookstore, which inevitably led me to buy a book (I am weak), which means that I will have to transport this book overseas somehow. I couldn't have an easier, lighter weakness, could I? It had to be books and not, for instance, bookmarks or thimbles or those little spoons. Oh well. But yes, spring is coming, and I sense Angers will be magnificent in the springtime. The forsythia are already in bloom (question: there's a children's book about a mother taking her baby for walks in his stroller, and they go see the botanical gardens for the first time when the forsythia are in bloom; I think it's told from the baby's perspective--if you know the name of this book I would love to know), and lots of trees are budding. The grass is already lush.

Isn't it funny how we long for spring by the end of winter, and how autumn's crisp mornings are just what we want after the interminable, scorching days of August? I'm definetely a 4-season type of girl. I enjoy each phase of the year for different reasons. Spring is especially nice because you literally get to watch the world transform itself and burst into life again. You get the feeling that you could sit and watch the flowers bloom before your eyes. And there are few things as hopeful and alive as a light green shoot pushing up from the still-cold soil.
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Fiona said...

Tuebingen looks beautiful. Sorry about the illness, though. You're having quite a health-care tour.

I can confirm that yes, the French and Germans have a long-standing animosity. As bad, if not worse, than the British/French animus. It's got something to do with repeated invasions over about 1000 years.

Maybe your normal immunity is related to living outdoors and working with goats? Thus, time spent in town without animal companionship and physical exertion leads to minor-but-annoying illnesses? If so, that will be one more thing to make you relish being home again.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Fiona is correct. Maybe you should bone up on your European history. Those folks over there have been fighting on and off for centuries.

Now, about the crossing the street on the red light. Germans are ALL about following the RULES. If you cross on red, you are breaking the rule, no matter that there is not a car in sight.

I've visited Germany many times and I think it is hyterical when I cross on red and other pedestrians look at me as if I have committed a cardinal sin. Yet, there they stand waiting for the light while I'm on my merry way.

meg said...

Fiona: I am definetely going to relish being around my goats again. Nothing like smelling like a goat when you get off work. I'm just hoping that I won't be too out of shape when I get back.

Anon: I don't know about Germans being exceptional rule-followers, but I do know that I felt compelled, both by the idea of a possible run-in with the polizei and the thought that I could very well be run over, not to walk across the street unless the light was green for me.

Robert said...

1. My name is Bob, and I care.
2. German is a wonderful language- I find that even though I haven't taken it in years, when my German friends speak to each other here, I sometimes respond in English and they look at me, surprised.
3. Grafitti rocks. Have you heard of Banksy? Of course you have.
4. It is very possible that what keeps you immune back home are the animals- but even if you had animals there as well, the diseases are usually different strains and thus, your natural NC immunity is useless there.
5. I didn't know J was there! Tell him I say hi.
6. In my experience, Germans love practicing their English on people.