Esslingen Wine Hike

Rebecca and I had a great time today in Esslingen at the annual Esslingen Weinwandertag, an annual wine hike through the vineyards surrounding the town of Esslingen. We started off in Esslingen and wandered up a path leading to the vineyards and a few hours (and many wine glasses) later we arrived in Mettingen. At the start in Esslingen, we purchased a wineglass with a leather strap that brilliantly holds the glass upright around your neck, and every few hundred meters along the path we filled up with some delicious local wine and German snacks. We ran into some of my co-workers so we made the rest of the trek with them, which made for never empty glasses. It’s a brilliant festival and loads of fun. These kinds of events are what’s missing from life in America.
Rebecca and I joined another couple and went to the Stuttgarter Lange Nacht der Museen event earlier tonight, and I’m happy to report that we had quite a lot of fun. The basic idea is that for €12, you have a free pass to all of Stuttgart’s museums, including other sites like the famed TV Tower and the Wilhema zoo & botanical gardens, complete with special shuttles running between all the sites. It sounded like a good idea, and we had heard about it before but didn’t go, so we decided to take advantage of it this time. We met our friends at Schlossplatz, and walked over to the Staatsgalerie for our first stop. We purchased our tickets there, and soon we were inside perusing through the impressive building’s collections. I guessed they must have closed off portions of the museum due to the sheer number of people showing up, because it seemed as though many sections of the Staatsgalerie were off limits. Nonetheless, we were able to wander through several rooms of modern art, a handful of impressionist work, and a room entirely devoted to Picasso, including two very interesting works from his "blue period." I wasn’t an art history major, but I thought some of the modern stuff on display tonight was somewhat dubious as to it’s artness (think a solidly black canvas or a pink flourescent tube light). However, the rest of the museum was fairly nice, although I did think they should have opened more to the crowds. We exited after about an hour, and decided to go to the Wilhema. We had some confusion (along with lots of Germans) as to what shuttles ran to which places (see After waiting around for about 30 minutes, we finally figured out where to get on the right bus. Well, the right bus came, but was completely packed, so we opted to just take the U-bahn to Wilhema. None of us had been to Wilhema before, and it was definitely the highlight of the night. We entered Wilhema, and were immediately transported to the U.S. southwest by way of an elegant greenhouse filled with all sorts of cactii. Several greenhouses later, we had seen tropical plants, tons of orchids, azaleas, and much more. The greenhouses themselves reminded me, in terms of style, vintage, and quality, of the great greenhouses in London’s famed Kew Gardens (Kew’s greenhouses outnumber those at Wilhema). After the greenhouses we were treated to a small, but still interesting, aquarium / terrarium, where a staff member was wrapping a giant constricting python around patrons’ necks. By this time it was 12:15am, and unfortunately we had to forfeit the rest of the Wilhema so that we could catch the U-bahn back home. I was really impressed with the event, even though we were only able to see two of the numerous different sites. It’s a great idea to get Stuttgarters out of their homes to discover all the great things that Stuttgart has to offer. It’s just too easy on any other day or night to put off visiting a museum or the zoo. Read more...

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.

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 way back to the Sindelfingen Ikea next time we can find time. Aside from the rug fiasco, the rest of the evening seemed to progress nicely. I put up our first Christmas tree, and it was also my duty to string the Christmas lights while Rebecca made garlands from cranberries and popcorn. After putting up some of the lights, the garlands, and all of the decorative balls from Ikea, the tree didn’t look bad at all. So that was that… I really wish I’ve been more diligent with keeping up with this site, not for anyone’s sake but my own. I think it would be very interesting to read back over the entries later in life as a reminder of perspectives, even just entries from the past four and a half months. For this reason I’d like to be more active in my blogging (I hate the term), but the consequence of it is when I do sit down to write something, I get way too ambitious. Read more...

Another week

Today marks the last week that I’ll be in Charleston before leaving for Germany. In some ways I was glad that things were slightly delayed because I got to spend time with friends whom I won’t be seeing for a while. This is going to be a hectic week as I have to start packing and finishing up a ton of stuff that I’ve been meaning to do (and putting off). Interesting times….