16 December 2008

Christmastime in Eichstätt

Because I will probably not be writing on Fire at Will again until after the Christmas break, I thought I would provide one more post before the holiday. Here are several images from the Christmas season in Eichstätt.

There has been snow on the ground, in some fresh or slushy form, for at least the past two weeks. It is already more snow than I am used to seeing, and more that I experienced in my entire first year in Eichstätt. The first picture shows the view of Willibaldsburg from my patio .

The Adventsmarkt, Eichstätt's version of the German Christmas markets, took place on the first two weekends of December, or the first two weekends in Advent. The stalls sold several cups of warm Glühwein, grilled sausages, and rosted chestnuts. I attended the market nearly every night it was open in order to make the most of the short-lived event. In first photograh below, from left to right, are Eric's brother, who visited for the weekend, Eric, Hannah, Alice, and Julia. In the second image are Hannah and Christine, a student from eastern Germany.

A couple of nights ago, as new snow was falling over the town, I grabbed my camera and took to the streets. In the following picture you can see the decorated Domplatz and the cathedral in the background.

This is a look at Eichstätt's city hall and one of its Christmas trees.

The same star decorations hung over the town's streets during my first year abroad.

The Marktplatz was virtually empty in the night hours as it turned white with snow and glowed with the light of the Christmas decorations.

Heading out of the old town center, most of the streets were equally quiet.

The following day I was able to find an accessible third-story window in the town center that provided a glimpse of the snow-covered rooftops.

As the photographs show, Eichstätt is a beautiful place to enjoy and experience the Christmas season.
Enjoy the holidays, and look forward to my next post in a couple of weeks.
Merry Christmas

Fröhliche Weihnachten

Happy New Year

Ein gutes neues Jahr

Before the Holiday Break

For the last couple of weeks students at the university have been anticipating the quickly approaching Chirstmas break. Classes will officially end on December 23 and resume on January 7.

I attended a couple parties last Wednesday night. First, I went to the Trompete restaurant to attend a Christmas party for the teachers of the Sprachenzentrum, my department at the university. Although I can't be certain, I'm willing to say that I was the youngest one there. By coincidence, I also sat next to the teacher of my only course that I'm visiting as a student. In spite of this, it was still an enjoyable time; then again, a dinner with food from the Trompete alomst always is.

Afterwards I headed to a surprise birthday party for Eric in St. Michael's dorm. In the picture below, from left to right, are Alice, Hannah, Julia, and Eric. I first met all of the four during my year of studying abroad in Eichstätt. Alice comes from the Czech Republic. Julia and Eric are German.

Sometime during the party we decided to go outside for some fun in the fresh snow. Here you can see Steffi testing some of the white powder.

Back inside, there was some noticeable evidence of the snowball fight that had occurred.

On Friday evening, and early Saturday morning, was a Christmas party in St. Michael's. Later on Saturday morning, though, I boarded a bus with several foreign students for an excusion led by AK International to the medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. If the name sounds familiar, it's because Rothenburg has been the subject of posts on this blog before. During my first semester in Eichstätt, AK International planned the same excursion. Even though the student organization has different leaders from two years ago, much of the trip was the same. In the next photograph, taken from the town's medieval defensive wall, is a view of Rothenburg on a bluff overlooking the Tauber River.

The trip actually brought my fifth visit to the town, and normally I would have stopped at four, but I thought the fresh snow and Christmas atmosphere would still make the excursion worthwhile for me.

I spent most of the day with Franzi, who was one of the few Germans along for the trip. The photograph below was taken as we walked on Rothenburg's wall.

As I had thought, the Christmas decorations and activities in the town did create a pleasant setting. During the day we also visit Rothenburg's Medieval Crime Museum. For a reminder of that and more of images of Rothenburg, check out my post from December 13, 2006.

We left as darkness fell over the old town, and then arrived back in Eichstätt a couple of hours later.
I am supposed to teach two classes on Monday, December 22, but being as that is so close to Christmas I have canceled class. After this coming Thursday I will be done with classes and work before the break. The vacation will last about two weeks, and will offer plenty of time to travel to some new destinations. The decision on where I will be heading will be made soon.

05 December 2008

Recent Activities

Here's a look at some the activities that have kept me busy in the past week or so.

Nine days ago the university hosted a formal dance known as the Uni Ball. I went with my tutor and some of her friends. The dance was held in Eichstätt's old town theater. In the photograph below, from left to right, are Nellie, Laura, Angela, and Connie.

Here you can see me with Laura and Connie. It might be easy to guess what our favorite color is.

Apparently most of those in attendance had experience with formal dance styles. I, however, was in the pleasant position of having to learn in the moment. In the next picture you can see us taking a break from the dance hall on the second floor of the theater in the first floor's cocktail bar.

Last Saturday I rode to Nuremberg with Franzi and Connie in order to visit the city's famous Christkindlesmarkt, or Christmas Market. After a few hours of shopping in the downtown department stores, we met up with Anna and Nellie. Below is a view of the Frauenkirche, which overlooks the square on which I can find the Christmas Market.

In the next photograph you can see one of themany stalls that sells the city's specialty of Lebkuchen, which are a kind of gingerbread sweet.

Next, Connie, Franzi, Anna, and Nellie pause while at the market for a photograph.

There of course savory foods to choose from as well at the market. Here, you can see Nellie and Franzi taking on a one-meter long type of bratwurst.

For information about Nuremberg's Chirstkindlesmarkt or German Chirstmas Markets in general, take a look at my post from December 20, 2006.

I again could not let Thanksgiving pass without any sort of recognition. On Sunday I joined Hannah, an American friend who was her duirng my second semester in Eichstätt, and her German friend Eric in the first floor kitchen of the St. Michael's dorm to prepare a Thanksgiving meal.

In addition to the three of us, three other Germans joined us for the meal: Franzi, Connie, and Christine.

Here are several other photographs from the evening.

In this last view you can see all of us together at the table. From left to right is Erik, Hannah, Christine, me, Franzi, and Connie.

Similar to the first time when I was in Eichstätt, the Thanksgiving meal went well. Hannah and I were glad to have done it, in spite of the hours spent cooking.
Yesterday in Ameican Culture I spoke about American music. The discussion covered everything from folk music to punk. Some of the musical selections I provided were "Yankee Doodle," "Dixie," "Stars and Stripes," and "That's All Right," among many others.
There are no special plans for this weekend, at least not yet. I'll wait to see what develops.

24 November 2008

Winter in Hallstatt

In the afternoon on Friday I boarded a train and headed to Salzburg, Austria in order to visit my friend Dylan. The city lies just beyond the southeastern border of Germany and is a four-hour train ride from Eichstätt. The visit was actually my third time in this Austrian toy town, and I documented another of those trips on Fire at Will during the first year in Eichstätt. Though Salzburg is currently entering the Christmas season and its Christmas market has opened, the concentration for my stay was in another Austrian town by the name of Hallstatt.

Dylan and I boarded a bus Saturday morning in the center of Salzburg and began our journey to the Salzkammergut, Austria's lake district perched in the Alps. Several wide and deep bodies of water fill the valleys between the steep mountains. The villages and towns that spread along the shores of these lakes remind travelers of a time when these communities were isolated and protected by the mountains and water that separate them. After an hour and half we got off our bus and transfered to a train that continued to bring us through the beautiful landscape and into that Austria that exists in one's imagination. We hopped off a half hour later at the only platform of Hallstatt's train station and found ourselves on a bluff overlooking the Hallstätter See, or the Hallstätter Lake. Our journey was not at an end. One finds the actual town on the other side of the lake, by the train station are only trees and a steep, rocky cliff; we stepped onto a ferry that soon pushed off and puttered into the fog. In the view below you can see the path that leads from the train station to the ferry.

Hallstatt came into view as we crossed the lake. The small town of nearly 1,000 does not merely rest on the lake's shore; it clings to it. The following pictures from a few viewpoints in town attest to this fact.

Apparently human settlement has existed in and near the current Hallstatt for around 6,000 years, millennia before anything close to an Austria existed. Hallstatt's original boom centuries ago owes its happening to the natural salt found in the region. The mineral, which was very valuable in the past, was carried from the mines around Hallstatt and spread across Europe. To understand the importance of these salt mines, and their influence on the town, consider that the name of a cultural period in European history is known as Hallstatt. Today, the town is known more for its scenic setting than salt.

As we slept Friday night, winter arrived in central Europe. Snow fell on much of Austria and southern Germany, and, as you have seen, Hallstatt was no exception. As some of the pictures below show, the snow came quick and unexpectedly. The precipitation blanketed colorful berries and flowers. Icicles hung like daggers from gutters. The people of Hallstatt awoke to find their homes covered in the snow. In spite of the cold, however, some town residents didn't mind going for a swim in the lake.

After we arrived in town, Dylan and I walked through the narrow streets and up to the parish church overlooking Hallstatt and the lake. Due to the lack of developable land on which to build, buildings seem to rest on top of one another. On the shoreside of a house one might face the building's first floor, but on the next lane behind the house one could be looking into a third- or fourth-floor window. In the small land around the church is a cemetery, a photograph of which you can find below.

In the past, because of the lack of land in Hallstatt, deceased residents could only rest in the cemetery for ten years. After this time the remains were exhumed and the plot prepared for another occupant. Of course, simply disposing of the remains was not an option. Instead, families cleaned and decorated the skulls and other bones of their loved ones, and then laid them to rest in the Beinhaus (Bone House) of the church. In the first following picture you can see a view of this Bone House, and in the second a closer look at the some of the skulls. The tradition may continue today for those who request it, though with access to land beyond Hallstatt and modern cremation methods it is not as common.

We continued to wander around the quiet town and soon assumed that most residents must have been remaining indoors. At points in the town when the mountain slope became steep, walkways led to tunnels through houses and other buildings. The snow started to fall more heavily and quickly collected on our coats and hats. Eventually, we did come across some of the locals. After the following picture that showes Dylan walking through the swirling snow, you can see exactly how we interacted with these two representatives of Hallstatt, and, furthermore, you are able to see it with a media format new to Fire at Will: video.

After our snowball fight, we found lunch at what appeared to be the only open restaurant in town. Some relaxing time of warm food and drink later, we returned to the streets of Hallstatt for our last look around town.

We soon headed back to the dock and boarded the ferry that brought us back across the lake. The weather conditions on our day of travel may have been cold and cloudy, but dramatic scenary of towering mountiains, lapping waves of clear lake water, and centuries-old buildings covered in snow helped me, at least, to overlook that frosty fact. We boarded the train and made our way out of Austria's picturesque lake district. At around seven o'clock in the evening we were in Salzburg again.

That night, Dylan and I strolled through the Salzburg Christmas market, but our timing could have been better as the stalls closed soon after our arrival. I said goodbye to Dylan on Sunday afternoon and rode the trains to Eichstätt. Reaching the town I discovered that snow had also fallen here over the weekend, and it continues to do so.
In other news, my classes last week went well. For those who sent me ideas about American customs and traditions, thank you. I think most of the students found the day's topics interesting.
I'm not yet exactly sure how this coming weekend will play out, but I don't intend to stay put in Eichstätt.
For my American readers, have an enjoyable Thanksgiving. I know that I will miss some of the great home cooking that I can usually find on this day of the year.