Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rome: Day 3

As soon as we excited the subway the Colosseum was directly in front of us. The weather was fantastic and really made me ache for Spring.

I can't believe all of the ancient ruins. The Coloseum was used as a cultural experience in it's heyday some 2000 years ago. People would go for entertainment to see humans fighting humans and humans fighting animals. The animals would not be fed for days before the fights. Often times the gladiators would be injured and plead for mercy. Those who were permitted to stop fighting would often die from their wounds.

The Colosseum itself was constructed with steps on various levels and those were the seats. A person's status would denote where they were to sit, with women sitting at the very top. The façade was a combination of marble and plaster to make it appear white, which made it an example of the people's wealth. What's so impressive is the engineering and design. It still serves as the model for stadiums and arenas around the world.

We opted to go on an English tour, which was interesting. We were surprised to learn that a lot of materials were taken from the Colosseum and used for various other buildings in Rome, including St. Peter's Basilica. We also learned many of the smaller holes contained wood beams, which disintegrated due to time.

Many people claim there were water battles at the Colosseum, however it's not known if that was true. According to our guide, who was officially with the Colosseum, it appears as though that was mentioned in some kind of ancient document, however it's not known exactly which Colosseum was being referred to. There were several others in the area and closer to the Circus Maximus.

There were so many interesting details and it was so fascinating to look things and wonder about. The shapes and lines were striking and the newer additions, such as a cat who made itself at home somehow seemed fitting.

There was also a beautiful view from the Colosseum looking towards the Forum Romanum and the Arch of Constantine. There's so much to see in this compact area.

The Forum Romanum was the hub of faith, justice, and economics. It's so incredible that these ruins date back to
The only reason many of them were preserved was because they were marked with a cross and converted from pagan worship sights to Christian churches. The Forum dates back to the times of Julius Caesar between 100 BC and 44 BC! That's so incredible.

Near by is also the modern center of government at the Capitoline Hill, which was in part designed by Michelangelo. It was so exciting to see Romulus and Remus, the feral children founders of Rome in the Statue of the Capitoline Wolf.

The Palantine Hill and Circus Maximus are also very close. This is the area where they would have chariot races... and now it's an open field. It was somewhat strange to see people going for a run on the ruins, but I understand life has to go on - and there's not much left anyway.

We went to visit the secret key hole, which is in such a beautiful area. The 'Giardino degli Aranci' at the top of the Aventine Hill is definitely also worth a stop. I don't want to completely spoil the secret, but I will say you have to walk until you see the Egpytian and more importantly Maltese Consulates. In front of the Maltese Consulate is the door (Priorato di Malta). You will probably be slightly taken aback once you see military men with machine guns, but just walk past. There will most likely be a line of people, but it's such an incredible sight. It's something you can only capture with your eye.

For dinner we considered going to the Sora Margherita (association restaurant), however we also wanted to sample what's been hailed as the best pizza in Rome. We went to check both restaurants out, which was quite a hike, but ultimately our decision was swayed by a combination of tired feet and Italians Grandmas.

We read that we would need to be very prompt and that doors opened at 6:30PM. As soon as we arrived there were three Italian Grandmas knocking on the door and trying to get the owner's attention. We knew that was a good sign. Not long after a line began to form. Through the windows we could see the men loading up the wood fired oven and getting things ready for what I presume is a standard evening. After Signore Baffetto opened the doors people were ushered in. Since we were second in line we picked a table directly next to the oven so we could watch them work.

It took no time for the restaurant to fill and for another line to form. I loved the unpretentious realness. It felt like we were sitting in someone's kitchen, our pitcher of wine was chipped, and there were many drawings and photos hanging on the walls. Signore Baffetto didn't care if you didn't speak or understand Italian - he just kept rattling on. We quickly ordered and ate our pizzas and then decided to order more. The man making our pizzas looked puzzled and asked our waiter something. He looked at our table and then we heard 'quatro'. Evidently two people don't typically order 4 pizzas. The French couple next to us was slightly nerved when we received our second round of pizzas and paid before they had even gotten their first order. I also have to mention once things picked up a second pizza maker came in and he had that raspy Italian voice you always hear on movies. It seemed so fitting. The grand total for 4 pizzas, sparkling water, and a half liter of wine - less than 50€!

We took our left overs back to our apartment for a quick breakfast the next day. On our walk home we stopped at a bakery and enjoyed some Amaretti cookies. I really need to get a good recipe from my Italian classmate.

We knew it would be really difficult to leave on our last day.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Rome: Life

Right around the corner from our apartment was a beautiful restaurant that we had walked past. After a full day at the Vatican we were spent, but that didn't stop us from wanting to enjoy a delicious Italian meal.

Little did we know it would be fantastic. Stefan and I both ordered appetizers, pizza, wine and cocktails, and everything was spot on. We also did not expect the super attentive wait staff. They were very helpful and service oriented, which can be a real rarity in Europe.

After our meal our waiter was joking around with us and said he'd only give us the bill if we could ask in Italian. Stefan replied 'Sconti' and the table next to us got a good laugh, as did our waiter. Apparently if you and an 's' before the word it tends to be the opposite, so in essence he was asking for a discount.

The waiter came back with our bill and a Limoncello apertief and said 'here's your cheque and here's your discount'.

The table next two us was two young women who we began chatting with. The heard us speaking a mix of English and German and assumed I was the German and Stefan was the American. It turns out they were an American (Maya) from New York City who has been living in Rome for 10 months and a Polish woman (Karolina) who has been living there for 8 years.

Karolina was heading to New York City for the first time the very next day, so Maya was giving her tips on visiting her hometown. We all discussed being ex-pats and how being foreign can occasionally set you up for being taken advantage of, which is Karolina's experience every time she gets a cab even after 8 years living there and speaking fluent Italian.

I loved Maya's seasoned approach to things. She was talking about how people can get fussy with you, especially when they don't have patience for you learning their language and trying your best. Being American, we both know that it's not our nature to treat people so disrespectfully, but as she said, sometimes you have to give them the same treatment since this is how they are accustomed to communicating. This isn't something that would or will ever come easy to me, but I understand her rational. Often times people who don't even know you will offer criticisms and ridiculous comments, especially if they aren't certain you understand what they are saying. I'm really amazed at the blatant rudeness and from our conversation things are no different in Italy.

We had such a fantastic conversation and they offered a multitude of tips, which I am happy to share, because they were wonderful and helped shape the rest of our days. The consensus was that Life was their favorite restaurant and just a couple doors down was their favorite gelato at Mio desiderio.

Karolina's Tips:

  • Near the Colosseum - Parco Colle Oppio
  • Trattoria Morgana Via Mecenate
  • Salotto 42 - a beautiful bar
  • TAD - a design concept store
  • Caffe Greco - cafe on the posh Via Condotti, 86. An extra tip: if you have an espresso, or whatever kind of drink, drink it like an Italian at the bar -you pay 90 cents as opposed to 5€, simply for sitting down at a table. You pay at the little cashier in the corner before getting your drink at the bar. 

Maya's Tips:
  • Aventine hill - Parco degli aranci: a beautiful view over the city. It's so very romantic. 
  • Jewish ghetto - Sora Margherita on via Cinque Scole. This is a hidden restaurant. There is no sign and it is more similar to a family kitchen. Zoning laws required that it be shut down, however they found a loophole and it's now an association, so they may ask to fill out a form to 'join'.
  • Santa Maria Maggiore - the miracle church that had snow in August, which is why it was built. 
  • Near the Colosseum - San Clemente 'cursing church'. On the wall is one of the first examples of written Italian, which contains early cursing. 
  • Caravaggio paintings - Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Church of Sant'Agostino, and Church of Santa Maria del Popolo (cited in Dan Brown's Angels and Demons). 
Unfortunately we didn't have time to do everything, but we were highly impressed about everything we were able to do on their list of suggestions.

Vatican: Day 2

Today we ventured past the Spanish steps to the subway. There weren't too many tourists since it was still a weekday, which was part of our rational for going to the Vatican today.

The area is so beautiful. There is something wonderful about the old architecture and all of those cobble streets.

As always the subway didn't disappoint. There are always so many beautiful designs and patterned tiles. I really appreciate the urbanness of it.

When we arrived in Vatican City, I instantly noticed clergymen and women walking around the area. Some appeared to be tourists, while others looked as if they were conducting their daily business. And then we came to Piazza San Pietro. Talk about grand!

The area was really immense. It's also crazy to think this building is from the 4th century. It's even crazier to think that St. Peter, one of Jesus' apostles, is buried under the Basilica and was the reason it was built. Coincidentally it's also the largest Christian church in the world. Stefan kept comparing it to Allianz Arena since they both hold roughly 60,000 people.

We noticed the line to enter the Basilica was moving along rather quickly, however we had 11:00am tickets to the museum, so we couldn't take advantage of that just yet. When we arrived at the museum we were once again surprised to find short lines, even though we were able to bypass them with our tickets.

The museum is rather ridiculous and opulent. It really made us ask a lot of questions about the Catholic church, their wealth, and their secrets.

Every ceiling was better than the next and they were so elaborate and carefully thought out. Many of the rooms were crowded, so I can only imagine what it's like during high tourist season. There were so many beautiful things to see and it took quite some time to walk through and admire this extensive collection.

We were awestruck as we looked at pieces - from mummies and Egyptian works to sculptures and paintings by the masters: Da Vinci, Raphael, Titan, Caravaggio, and of course Michelangelo. Impressive doesn't even begin to describe it. And then we went into the Sistine Chapel.

This is the only time throughout the museum that we felt as though we were slightly herded through - or at least packed in, since we could linger. Due to a filled chapel, I didn't notice the sign saying that photography wasn't permitted. There were people with video cameras blatantly filming and taking photos. I was doing the same until I realized I wasn't supposed to. Oops! The second picture I took by placing my camera on the floor with the self timer since I didn't have a tripod... I wasn't trying to be sneaky. We did the same thing at the Pantheon and the results were perfect.

On our way through the museum we passed several makeshift gift shops that were set up. I noticed a puzzle of the Sistine Chapel and instantly thought of my Grandma, who absolutely loves puzzles and always complains she can't find much variety. We decided carrying a puzzle through the entire day would be a bit much. Then, as we were sending our post cards from the Vatican Post Office (which is reputed to be faster than Italian mail), we got the idea of sending one from there to surprise her. The unfortunate thing is they didn't have boxes large enough to fit it, so we had to break the box down before putting it in the mailer. I'm really looking forward to hearing what she thinks, because I know she'll be very surprised.

After spending a large part of the day at the museum we decided to wait in line for the Basilica. Lucky enough we were behind a group of young American girls who were trying really hard to be cultural. We almost lost it when we heard one of them say, 'It's just like Disney World - they just try to herd you in and out.' I'm embarrassed for this girl and clearly understand why Americans are given a bad wrap when I hear things like that.

After going through a bit of security we walked into the Basilica. I quickly noticed the Pieta to the right. The entire basilica was very ornate. There were so many details. Stefan deciphered most of the Latin for me while I tried to take in every last detail.

I love how every detail seems like it was meticulously planned. Rome, and the Catholic church in this instance, definitely enjoyed displaying their wealth. And the talent of the artists is so impressive and surreal. In situations like this I think of our new found love of building for the moment and not for posterity.

The sculptures are glorious and knowing how much time and skill was invested to make them makes me appreciate all of it that much more.

I would love to see what a modern day Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo would create, especially considering they could create so much without using our modern technology.

Again, so much detail was shining down from above. The ceilings and domes with the ornate details, colors, and patterns sparkled in the sunlight. The entire basilica had a warm glow to it, which was very inviting.

The baldacchino over St. Peter's resting place is 98 feet of bronze. I can't even imagine how long it took to plan and bring to fruition, especially with various men working on it. I'm sure they had conflicting ideas as to how it should be done.

Next, we opted to be slightly lazy when visiting the cupola by taking the elevator and then walking 300+ steps, as opposed to a few hundred more. Once we arrived at the narrow walkway around the cupola designed by Giacomo della Porta and Fontana, we noticed all of the mosaics. In several of these photos you can see the scale in comparison to a person. Unreal.

Once we arrived at the top we could see the fantastic reward and beautiful panoramic view of the city. It struck me just how small Vatican City truly is. I can understand how the Holy Roman Empire continues on and on once we tried to pick out the ancient ruins in the distance. Coincidentally I also learned that the black and gold flags in Munich represent the Holy Roman Empire. I also get a good laugh out of fully understanding that Salzburg aspired to be 'Rome of the North'. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill!

There was another viewing deck and of course gift shop, on a lower level roof. I loved the curving lines of this rather androgenous religious figure. So very pretty! After climbing high we decided to go into the crypt and see Pope John Paul II's grave. It was quite moving, especially since there were so many nuns praying in front of it. It also allowed us to get a closer view of St. Peter's burial place.

After a rather long day at the Vatican we continued walking on towards Castel Sant'Angelo and the Angel's bridge. At this point I would have really appreciated having a subway nearby, but every time they work on constructing more they run into ruins and must excavate. Walking for 8-9 hours each day is a lot. Thankfully there was more gelato along the way. The dark chocolate was my favorite.

We walked back to the subway at dusk and then decided that we would stay closer to our apartment for dinner. I will write a separate post about that, because we had a very pleasant surprise.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rome: Day 1

We just arrived in Rome this afternoon and I'm beyond happy here. It's great as always to have time with Stefan, but the sunny weather, our beautiful apartment, delicious foods, and a city steeped in such history makes it that much better. As we walked down the street we noticed all of the oranges on the trees - most of them were at the top due to people grabbing them off for a quick snack. The warm weather was just what we needed.

The apartment we rented is really beautiful and it was such a steal. Giuseppe, the man that owns it, was so accomodating and nice.

I felt like we were borrowing a friend's place, especically after he gave us a bottle of red wine from Sicily and stocked the fridge with beverages. The location was also absolutely perfect - right near the Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps, and Via Dei Condotti (the street of all of the Italian designers).

We went past the Trevi Fountain at dusk. It was so beautiful and grandiose. There were plenty of tourists tossing their coins in.

As we walked through town today I really was thinking about my Art History courses, professors, and classes. It's so strange to spend so much time learning about something and the finally be standing there - able to see, touch, and feel some of that magic. I got a nice laugh out of seeing the Pantheon and then seeing the McDonald's directly across the plaza. It's such a dichotomy to see something so mass produced and such a stunning piece of architecture sharing the same space.

Tonight we stopped at the grocery and bought things for an authentic Italian meal. Wow! It was really delicious... wine, mozzarella di bufala, fresh pesto, foccocia. We were really impressed by the fish selection at the grocery as well. There's just something about visiting foreign groceries that is always exciting. I'm having a tough time not consuming all of the pizza that I see along the way. Stefan also discovered gelato directly across from our apartment, and it was better than I remembered. I'm sure I will be sampling many more to figure out which one is the best. I hate finding things that I enjoy so much, because I'll simply crave them for months afterward. It already looks like we'll need another trip back!

Tomorrow we are off to the Vatican, so we'll be calling it a night rather early. We did take the advice to book tickets online, so we won't have to stand in line. I can't even imagine seeing the Sistine Chapel. It truly is one thing after the next here. Yet another city that would take a life time to discover and learn about.

winter lull

Between studying for my German course final, editing tons of photos from Rome, and searching for time to go to the gym (hooray for pants that barely fit!) - it looks like it will be a rather busy week.

It's been really difficult to come back to this after such a fantastic trip with stellar weather and unimaginable food.

I'm trying to get things updated as soon as possible! Sorry for my neglected blog... and sorry to neglected friends and family. I promise I'm still reading your emails and thinking of you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tough Times

Every day at the gym I get my daily dose of CNN. Usually CNN Asia, but the reoccurring theme is the economy. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise, because not a day passes when it's not in the news or even closer to home. Yesterday there was even a story about a city in Japan that discovered they had gold in their sewage treatment center (the name is actually 'Suwa treatment facility') and now they are actually harvesting it. I guess desperate times call for desperate measures.

Today, I saw this free downloadable 'Wise Investments' poster from creative guy PJ Chmiel. I'm not a dooms day type of person, but I have to say there is a bit of truth to his poster. It seems as though people have really gotten accustomed to cushy living, which is insane to think how much the world has changed in a century. Everything is going back to basics, whether people are wanting that or not.

The unfortunate thing is that it's not so simple to revert to a life that most of us never even knew. One where gardening and harvesting were ways of life. One where food didn't come packaged and preserved. One where entertainment was based more around family and connections with people rather than video games and computers.

I know I carry romantic ideals and notions over what having a farm would be like. It's easier to glamorize it than it is to consider, as an American, just how much I appreciate variety. I can't imagine having to grow everything from seed and having to depend on neighbors for help. Here I only know one of my neighbors, and there are quite a few people that live in my building. Granted, I do have a language barrier excuse, but realistically people no longer communicate with each other.

Another issue is competition. I've really never had to want for anything in my life. It's a bit difficult to admit that, but I realize most people that I have grown up around have never really had serious issues of survival either. I know that's not the norm and that I have a slightly shaded view of what is, but it does make me nervous to picture people literally fighting to survive. What's worse is considering the people who have been doing so their entire lives. What was always a struggle has been magnified. When people are worried about losing their homes or their investments, they aren't thinking about donating to charities or helping people in far away lands. Suddenly everything hits closer to home.

I do hear my classmates from Eastern Europe discuss their lacking middle class and it provides a somber reality that there is an ever widening economic gap facing the world and especially America. As the old saying goes, 'Rome didn't fall over night'.

I hope if anything all of these struggles enable people to identify with each other and with the less fortunate more often. People will be forced to be more creative and to reconnect with each other. In theory, people will consider their actions and consequences more. Hopefully they will also consider what kind of world they want to build for their children and posterity.

The world is undoubtedly changing and it definitely doesn't hurt to be prepared. No longer is a good education or a seemingly solid job enough. It's a crucial time to have a support network, which is disheartening when I think about so many of my loved ones being so far away.

I'm trying with all my might to have some faith through all of this - to trust in humanity and the greater good of people.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Mister Ryan

Ryan and I were supposed to meet in 7th grade when he was going to transfer to my school and didn't. I know this because I sat next to his desk all year and wondered who he was. We didn't end up meeting until high school - sophomore year. He sat next to me in Math class and that is where our friendship really began. I guess it was kismet.

I recall the first time we went out together. He told me he showed his Dad my picture in the yearbook and his Dad gave him $100 to take me to dinner after one of his swim meets.

On the weekends we would venture to Foy's - a halloween gag shop with tons of random things, including a live monkey that we liked to visit. There we purchased stink bombs (small glass vials filled with sulphur liquid) to set off in the school hallways after strategically planning where our classes were, so that we wouldn't have to smell it. Eventually he changed schools to accommodate his swimming schedule and joined a swim team an hour away, where he would drive every day. Even different schools didn't deter our friendship. He has become the brother that I never had and he still calls just to chat with my mom.

He has always been a jokester and insanely witty. He was one of the best swimmers in the state and I would attend his swim meets and sit with his family to cheer him on. I quickly learned where he got his sense of humor. His mom would tell me stories about when he was younger and she would spank him and he would tell her to 'do it harder because it didn't hurt'. She also dressed him up as a vampire when he was about 3 years old - complete with hair dye. The only problem was his hair was pale blonde and the black dye didn't exactly wash out.

His family is also delightful, passionate, hilarious, and unpredictable. I miss them just as well. His mom cried when I came to visit after moving to Germany, which reminded me how much people miss me. They all taught me to not take life so seriously and that it's OK to embarrass yourself from time to time.

I can't think of Ryan or his family without thinking of laughter. Side splitting laughter.

He gained the name 'Mister Ryan' from a young boy who had an insane amount of issues. I am honestly thinking this troubled boy didn't / won't end up being a serial killer because of Ryan. The first time I met this boy we were picking him up at his new 'school'... at juvenile detention. This stout little fellow was trying to convince us that he needed a wheel chair because he simply didn't like walking. We would take him out and socialize him, which occasionally had interesting consequences. Sometimes it entailed him flying off the handle and spouting off more expletives than a sailor. This was usually induced when he had certain food dyes or preservatives.

I think my favorite instance with this boy was when we took him to a thrift store and bought him whatever he wanted, which ended up being a wig - it was salt and pepper with these strange elastic loops. He fastened the loops around his ears and refused to take it off for way too long. His mother had to plead with him not to wear it to school.

Stefan and I both had our siblings and our best friends in our wedding party. Mine was my sister and Ryan.

Today is Ryan's birthday! I miss him so much and already anticipate when he comes to visit me and all of the humorous situations that we'll encounter. So Ryan - please come soon! Germany needs a bit of your humor.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Frankfurt flashback

Here are a few photos of one of the Chinese gates at the Bethmann Park in Frankfurt. It's called the 'Garden of Heavenly Peace' and was created in memory of the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Legend says if you spin the ball in the lion's mouth that you will have good luck.

What I love about this is the reminder of my early days in Germany 2.5 years ago. We were staying in Frankfurt for several weeks while Stefan finished up some business. I had just moved to Germany and I was nervous to venture out.

I remember thinking, 'What if someone says something to me and I don't understand?' or 'What if I get lost?' Some days it was paralyzing, while other days I would explore the city walking from one end to the other.

On one of my first excursions through our neighborhood, I stumbled upon this beautiful park. Here I could observe the teenagers from the near by school, and the elderly people enjoying the sun. I often went just to take photos of the flowers that were in full bloom. This park was also home to 2 cats that the old men loved to feed deli meat to. One of the men even brought a brush to brush them out. There were plenty of oddities. This is where I would go to think, to read, to draw, and to feel somewhat connected to this new foreign world.

I have not written much about Frankfurt simply because I started this blog long after we lived there.

From the haze that Frankfurt was for me, here are a few places that stick out in my mind that I would recommend visiting if you are there:

  • The Ivory Club
  • Teelerium, which was on Bergerstraße (I'm not sure if it's still there - I didn't find a website). 
  • The Opera House
I don't recommend visiting the area around the train station - it's very seedy. I had to walk through to pick up our marriage license translations, and boy was I naïve! I saw business men pouring out of, and being lured into, strip clubs. I saw a man dealing drugs and another smoking something that I presume was crack. I wish I was joking. Even during daylight I didn't feel safe in that area.

But then I did see plenty of random reminders, in English, that let me know things would be OK in this strange new world.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


The snow just seems to be perpetually falling here in Munich. I always appreciate when it's a light dusting and everything is still clean looking. I also love the lines and shapes from people and animals trekking through.

It's the perfect day to stay inside and cuddle up with a warm up of tea and to work on a few projects, which is exactly what I'm doing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy ♥ Day!

Today is to our hearts - literally.

I made some heart healthy breakfast bars and then we met with Bruno, our trainer. For dinner we enjoyed some red wine and garlic to add to the theme of our heart minded day. It's a good thing we're married to survive the aftermath. Both from the garlic and from limping around like old people - from our bottle of wine at dinner and work out hangovers from Bruno.

For dinner we went to Tapas Teatro in Haidhausen, which is a decent attempt at a Spanish Tapa's restaurant. It was a 'staycation' experience and I would have guessed we were in Spain. The meal was delicious, but even if it wasn't, I would be disillusioned by the wonderful company that Stefan always provides.

One of the things that I absolutely love about my husband is his simplicity. For example, I love that he tips waiters and waitresses like an American. It's nice to bring happiness to people in the easiest of ways and I love that he realizes this. It's a dreary day to work - surrounded by couples and away from your own partner... or reminded of your loneliness. Here a 15% tip will get you extra drinks after a meal and a handshake when you leave. I also got a good laugh as we were finsihing our drinks when the waiter said, 'Hey Stefan how'd you like that wine?' while conferring with the table next to us as to which bottle they should order.

It's often easy to overlook the simple things. This isn't a day when flowers or chocolates are important. While I appreciate them as much as the next girl, for me it's simply a day to to appreciate what you have, and to let the people in your life know it.

I hope that you had a Happy Valentine's Day and were able to let someone special in your life know how much they mean to you!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


My first Christmas in Germany was a bit tense. I was sad not to be with my family, except for my sister who had come to visit. Together we attempted to make Christmas cookies and that was a bust due to different ingredients and a faulty oven. Then there was the issue of the lights and how many belonged on the tree, and last, but not least, were the Christmas cards.

Cards in general, aren't a high point of German correspondences. This is a bit tragic for people, like me, that love stationery. I knew what I was up against, and so I purchased all of my cards in the US and brought them here for various holidays, occasions, and celebrations. I wasn't as prepared as I thought considering if my American cards were remotely a few millimeters too big, according to the German standard, I would be charged 5€+ for one simple card.

Writing the Christmas cards wasn't one of Stefan's priorities. (This did, however, give me a greater appreciation for the letters he had written me over our 2 years apart.) He always had better things to do, which left me in a tough predicament. I was sending cards to my friends and family, so I wanted to include his as well. I had the duty of writing cards to people in a language I could hardly speak, let alone write. As forgiving as I knew people would be, I wanted to sound somewhat coherent and intelligent. We agreed that he would write down what I should write and that I would address the cards before I wrote them out. (I realize it sounds like I got the short end of the stick in addressing them and writing them, but I really do enjoy this kind of thing.)

As I was addressing the cards I learned writing 'Oma Lastname' wouldn't be delivered like it would in the US. More envelopes to rewrite. Then, as I wrote the capitol letter 'G' the way I had been taught, the way that hardly anyone does, I heard 'What is that?!'

I went from slightly irritated to saying if I was going to be criticized for how I was doing it that it wasn't going to be my problem. As the situation escalated my sister could see both of our frustrations. We searched online for our proof that this is how it's supposed to be done in the US. Low and behold German cursive is entirely different. I've since learned the cursive I learned (as seen above) is now somewhat archaic. Thank heavens that old 'G' remains the same, even if letters 'F', 'T', 'Q', and 'Z' are now closer to their printed counterparts in 'New American Cursive'. The website is pretty funny. It says to end the letter 'a' with a smile and it makes it sound as though 'extra strokes' are like running a 10K.

Online there are a myriad of sites dedicated to 'Old German', but we couldn't find many online for the 'New German cursive'.

Thankfully my German teacher was able to give me a nice example of German 'Schreibschrift' that I could share. It's interesting how much things are evolving to look much the same (especially if you look at old 'Deutsche Schreibschrift' that most Germans can no longer read). Our teacher told us she often has a hard time reading the handwriting of people from other countries. Even though we may use the same Latin alphabet, we're not taught to write the same way.

In my last German class, we had a brash Russian woman that asked if I 'always write like that'. She loved to pick faults with the teacher and she couldn't get a grasp as to why the teacher printed her notes for us to copy. Never mind the logic of it being more legible. The Russian woman is no longer with the group, but even if she was I know she would go into a dissertation on why everyone else was wrong in their way of writing along with everything else.

This is an interesting article about the importance of the written word. I'm still clinging to it in the technologic era. I remember how exciting it was to learn in 2nd grade. I felt as if I was getting a secret code to a hidden world. I still fondly recall laying on my Grandparent's living room floor and trying with all my might to master it or to have someone teach me before my time. What a tragedy if people can no longer read handwriting!