We re-visited a lot of places we had been before/lived 5 years earlier. So we don’t include pictures of famous landmarks mostly because we’ve seen them and you have, too.
In Karlsruhe we visited the old standard places. There isn’t honestly much to see in Karlsruhe but we still like it. The most interesting thing that happened while we were there was Karneval (Carnival if you’d like or even better known as Mardi Gras) aka Faschings. Apparently it’s called Faschings in southern Germany. So we’re going to call it Faschings because that’s what everyone in Karlsruhe said. There’s a lot going on at this time, Carnival Sunday, Rose Monday, Faschings Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Fat Thursday. I honestly couldn’t even pretend to explain it. If you know anything about Mardi Gras you have a basic idea of what’s going on. Faschings sounds like what it is – fasting. It’s getting the last hoorahs out before Lent. Not every German is religious or practices Lent but everyone participates in Faschings parades and general merriment. Except it’s not really merriment it’s insanity. It’s taking the Germans in all their orderly, police-respecting, non-littering, line-forming law-abiding form and telling them “do whatever you want” and they do. People were throwing trash on the streets, crushing pfandflasche (returnable cans for money), fighting, pelting kids with candy, trying to scare kids to tears, not lining up, shoving, challenging security guards, mocking police, etc,etc, etc. It was quite shocking. Not to mention the tons of confetti that was thrown/shoved into people’s clothes (more on this later) that is literally pounds of litter that they really didn’t sweep up.
The day was planned to have a big parade then a witch burning (yes, you read that right) as well as a ceremonial tree-chopping down. Oh yes, it’s one of those holidays. It’s mixed up Christian + early Germanic traditions with witches, chopping down trees, fire, costumes, etc. Unfortunately it was really really rainy. The parade was delayed for a long time and I’m pretty sure the tree slaughter was cancelled.
The parade finally started with people shouting “Hello!!!! HELLO KARLSRUHE!!!” except they weren’t saying Hello (in German they would really be saying Hallo) they were saying “Helau!” which is a traditional Faschings greeting. What you do is shout “Helau!” back and people will throw candy at you. I have never seen adults aggressively trying to get candy the way they were here. Everyone was shouting “Helau!” until they were hoarse. The parade folks were giving out goody bags, stuffed animals, and candy. Some people were actually opening cookie packages and just shoving a cookie into an unsuspecting person’s open mouth (never would this be allowed in the US). Some people had homemade lolly pops that they inserted into people’s mouths. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I caught a beautiful flower (they were throwing those out to anyone who would shout Helau! back) and I caught nearly 20 pieces of candy accidentally in my jacket, hood and inside my purse.
The floats were all playing some excellently funky German music, people walked by handing/throwing flowers and candy. Then came the witches.
There were genuinely scary witches, fun witches, cute witches, and even some planting/gardening themed witches. The witches were designed to create chaos. Some would try to make kids cry – because that’s their job – act the part and really be a witch. Which was really cool- it’s not going to traumatize that kid for life, just scare them for a few minutes before something else cool distracts them. Most of the witches were just very vicious with confetti- how can you be vicious with confetti? They pulled men’s shirts out and just poured the confetti in. Girls with long hair had their hair ruffled violently to make sure they really lathered the confetti in there. People were being pelted with confetti – some kids who were helping the witches would really try to throw it as hard as they could at people. Look at the confetti in these pictures – the street is white with it.
Supposedly the witches are an old German tradition to scare away evil winter things to make room for a good spring but they could also be a Christian good vs evil thing. No one is really sure. Either way they had excellent masks and we appreciated how they stayed in character.
We went back to the hotel where we leaked confetti for days. I had a brand new coat with fake fur on the hood that basically ate confetti as if it was it’s job. We were still finding confetti in Berlin almost a month later.
It was a pretty cool thing to be accidentally there for.
After Karlsruhe we went up to Oldenburg for a few days. We didn’t really see anything cool there but we want to share that we had some really wonderful food. We ate so well the whole time we were in Germany. It was like tasting food for the first time – actual cheese (not plastic envelope “american” cheddar from Korea), milk, beer, spices, flavor. Not just garlic – sesame – kimchi – repeat. For some reason Korea doesn’t have any peas and you couldn’t throw a stone in Germany without hitting a shop selling split pea soup. Yesssss.
I will take the tiniest of space to note that when you haven’t eaten peas or cheese or milk or cheese in a while that it can do things to your stomach. Worth it.
After Oldenburg we went to Bremen which had the usual beautiful sights – the Liebfrauenkirche and general city center.
We stayed for too long in Bremen because we thought we were going to take frequent day-trips to surrounding cities like Hamburg, Hannover, etc. For some reason we didn’t but one day we decided to take a walk. If you know us then you know that we’re really good at taking a hike/walk and suddenly ending up 10 miles away in a different city with no food or water. No joke we’ve done this on every vacation and even did it on a bike one time. We just think we’ll go for a quick walk or we’ll go see this one thing and next thing you know we’re 10 miles away without food or water wondering how this could have happened again. We had even bought snacks, knowing we would do this – of course the one day we didn’t pack them. It’s always meant to be this way.
So you can tell where this story is going. We wanted to explore Block Land. Which sounds like a rip roaring family theme park until you see it on a map.
It’s just a huge area divided with canals for farming. However it’s a popular place for bird watching, biking, and walking.
The air in Korea is literally poison – I had been sick since October with rashes, coughs and the likes. We can count the times we’ve seen blue sky in Daejeon on one hand – no exaggeration there are about 10 days of blue skies all year and you can see stars maybe twice a year (about 5 stars, probably planets, never a sky of stars). So seeing blue skies, breathing fresh air, hearing and seeing a bird that wasn’t a magpie. How it look and felt to us cannot be described.
We walked and walked until we were hungry for lunch. We rationalized it was easier to keep going into the unknown then to turn back to the city of Bremen. There were a couple of vague signs that said things like Feldhausen 0.2km or Lilienthal 0.6km. So we knew things lay ahead, just not what things. We finally came upon a cheery little restaurant, sat ourselves down, ordered, and were told they were out of food because of an unexpected party. Oh, okay. She apologized profusely, walked us out and gave us directions to the next wee little village where there was another, single restaurant. (All in German, of course. We didn’t forget it as much as we thought we had! Hooray!)
We ended up walking to a different city, got some food and rushed back home before the sun set. It was awesome – like full of awe.
We got home after dark. My new-fangled watch Chris gave me counts steps and estimates miles said we had gone over 17 miles.
After Bremen was Berlin we saw a lot but learned a lot more so it seems everything we saw has a story or fact behind it. It belongs more in our “What we learned” post (which is forthcoming). Until then please enjoy this monkey jacket and mustache cup.:
The monkey jacket really was a jacket for monkeys to wear and look posh. Some royal people owned monkeys to flaunt their wealth and a naked monkey is just no good. The mustache cup is what it sounds like, it protects your mustache from foamy tea or coffee. We should bring these back.