A New Year

2006 is here, and for the second year in a row I’ve spent the beginning of the new year in Europe.  Last year it was Paris, and this year it was Stuttgart, and our Stuttgart experience was about 100 times more pleasant than it was in Paris.

Rebecca and I just had a quiet night and watched fireworks from our living room, from which we can see nearly the entire downtown of Stuttgart.

It was surprisingly amazing to watch, as there were literally hundreds of individual shows going up all over the city simultaneously. There wasn’t a city-sponsored official fireworks show, and so the Germans all went out and bought what appeared to be huge fireworks (the kind that would be illegal back home). I’m usually not in awe over fireworks, but watching nearly every street corner light up made the city look like it was the middle of a war zone. The sound was ridiculously loud, and after a few minutes it was clear that we had to close our window or else we’d have bottle rockets fly into our living room. Within 30 minutes, the previously clear night that allowed us to see the entire city was turned into a fog that seemed to have creeped in, and the smell of sulfur was unavoidable.

It was a pretty neat experience, and I tried to take as many pictures from our closed windows as I could without getting hit. I’ll try to get them online as soon as we get Internet access at the apartment again.

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Christmas in Stuttgart

It’s amazing to think that I’ve now been in Stuttgart for 4 and a half months. Only 6 more weeks and I can claim the 6 months mark. Four and a half months doesn’t sound too long, but when I put it in terms years - half a year - it suddenly becomes a much bigger amount of time.

Four and a half months brings me to the middle of December, which means that there’s only another week until Christmas. In the true spirit of Christmas, Rebecca and I went shopping for nearly the entire day. Hours later we end up spending a couple hundred Euros at Ikea. Rebecca has been stalking this giant living room rug at Ikea for months, and although Ikea’s online inventory system showed that the rug was out of stock, we happened upon it at Ikea today. Of course we had to get it, which later turned out to be a mistake. So we ended up purchasing two rugs (one for the living room and another for the study), a Christmas tree stand, a bunch of plastic Christmas decoration balls, and a few small miscallaneous items. From Ikea we went straight to Patch for some groceries, and then finally we headed back downtown for one last stop before going home - the local Christmas tree seller. Rebecca and I ended up quickly picking a 20 Euro fir, and within 5 minutes had the tree wrapped up in my Jeep, and we were on our way home.

It only took us 3 up and down trips on the 6 flights of stairs to get all of our stuff up, and to our massive disappointment, the big living room rug that Rebecca had been wanting for weeks and big stains all over it. It was obvious that someone had purchased the rug, used it for some point of time, and then subsequently returned the rug - for us to today buy. It’ll be a pain in the ass, but against our will, we’ll have to bring the rug downstairs and drive it all the ...

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My New Favorite Chinese Restaurant

I was searching for food earlier this evening along Stuttgart’s Koenigstrasse, and as I was just congratulating myself for walking by McDonald’s without giving into the temptation of a quick, familiar meal, I saw a sign for the China Garden. The sign was right on Koenigstrasse, and it said to go up to the 2nd level to find the restaurant. I haven’t had good ol’ MSG-laden, sauce heavy, Chinese food in a while, so I walked right in without even glancing to see what was on their posted menu.

I must admit that as I walked up the stairs I wasn’t expecting anything beyond your average quick, cheap, and dirty chinese restaurant. At the top of the stairs, to my left was some sort of kitchen area (judging by the sounds coming from there) and so I deduced that the restaurant must be to my right since there was no other way to go.

I was completely surprised by how nice the interior was. There was a black baby grand player piano to my left, softly playing songs. The tabletops were light pink cloth, and every place setting had a perfectly folded pink cloth napkin flanked by perfectly arranged silverware. There were flower arrangements everywhere, including some flowers that ran along the ceiling, actually fitting in with the rest of the decor. Um, I may not be appropriately dressed, I instinctively thought, before I realized that I was in a Chinese restaurant, so of course I was appropriately dressed. I was instantly impressed, but maybe most so because I was expecting so much less.

After saying my best “eins” and holding up my index finger to the host, I was brought to a corner booth. The menu consisted of your standard Chinese dishes, slightly expanded, and was reasonably priced relative to the other restaurants on the Koenigstrasse. What really caught my curiosity was Shark Fin soup, and I was very tempted to order it, but then the bleeding heart liberal side of me thought about all the poor sharks that have to die for me ...

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Two weeks later

Tomorrow marks my first full week of living in Stuttgart. It has seemed much longer than a week, and I’m surprised as I write this that it has only been that short of a time period. It’s been quite a busy week with all of my admin stuff as well as trying to catch up to speed with everything going on at work.

I’ve been living in the Millenium Hotel for the last 6 nights, so I’ve got quite a ways to go. I reserved a full month, but from what others have been saying, it may be a long time before I find a suitable house or apartment. I think 30 days here at the Millenium won’t be too bad, but I don’t know how much longer I can stand it after that. It’s nice waking up to a breakfast consisting of basically whatever I want, and it’s nice always having a clean room. For 6 out of the 7 nights I’ve been in Stuttgart, I’ve had dinner at one of the handful of restaurants here at the Millenium complex, and that’s quickly becoming one of the major drags. Already I’m not digging having to eat out every night. The 189 Euro/month for 2Gbs of wireless internet is also a huge downer. Damn you Swiss Telecom.

Basically my routine for this week has been to wake up around 8-ish, shower, dressed, and then find my way downstairs to have breakfast. Normally I’m not a breakfast person, but when you’ve got nearly everything you could want for breakfast, neatly made out for you, it’s hard to resist. So I manage to gorge myself in the mornings and then walk to work, since it’s only 15 minutes. For most of the week I’ve done mostly admin stuff trying to get all my paperwork and ID/access cards in order so that I can actually begin real work. When lunch rolls around I haven’t been hungry (probably due to my huge breakfasts), but ...

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