I’m Back!

Oh, it’s been a crazy year, right? Between politics, social media, and natural catastrophes, it’s no wonder we’re all not twitching and aimlessly wandering about screaming obscenities. Well, maybe some of you are.

I’m going to get it out of the way, so here’s a quick run-down of my take on a few things. I don’t care for the way the U.S. politics operate with two polarized archaic parties. In my lifetime, I hope to see a change in government to include more ideas and voices (more parties) representing the ‘average’ American. For now, my blog will not comment on politics.

In the past 2-1/2 months, I’ve disconnected from social media and my life has improved. Yes, I deleted my Twitter and Facebook account. Twitter has become a bullying platform. A place where lynch mobs exist and where one can accuse, judge, and sentence someone in 140 characters. Facebook is no longer a place to share your life. It’s a dumping ground for bullying and grammatically incorrect memes. As an unknown Indie Author, this might not have been the best thing to do, but my happiness and health is much more important.

As an expat, I will continue to write about my experiences in Germany, good and bad, and make comparisons to the U.S. I’m not politically correct to the extreme, so my take on life in Germany and the U.S. might offend.

Which leads me to the last issue—opinions. I’m a believer that everyone has a voice and an opinion. As long as you’re not spewing hate, people have a right to their views. Opinions have NOT morphed into racism and hate because you don’t agree with mainstream visions. When you try to silence someone with different beliefs, you’re not only doing a disservice to them but to society. We’re all different. We have feelings about certain topics and we have a right to those feelings. It’s time we LISTEN to those opinions instead of dismissing and bullying the person.

Now onto more pleasant things that have happened this year to me. It’s been a better year. Our management company started gutting old flats a block away and a new construction project began across from where we lived. Since we have to move in early 2018 for renovations, we decided to get out quick and down the street, far enough away from the construction. It was kinda sad because it was our first flat together since we decided to make a life for ourselves in Germany. We loved the big windows and the scenery. We don’t mind where we live now. It’s okay for the next few years, until we buy land and build a home, so this is our transitional place.

For summer vacation, we drove to London (using the Chunnel). London is one of my favorite cities. There is so much to see and do there and the food markets are FABULOUS. Yes, my husband and I are into food. LOL!

After vacation, I returned full-force into revisions for my crime mystery novel, Artful Revenge, and my husband is still trying to adjust to the early hours. We’ll be driving to Tuscany and enjoying the scenery for the two weeks fall vacation. SQUEE! I love Italy.

As for blogging, I hope to slide into it slowly, and then start up regularly in 2018.

Well, that’s the quickie of my life—a bit more than 140 characters.

What have you been up to this year? Chime in about anything.

Crazy Good,
Baer Necessities

Adventures in Germany

Today we’re taking a break from the written word. I’ll be sharing some random pictures from a few explorations we did this year in Germany.

In August, we took an English walking tour in Cologne. It was great because we were the only people who showed up-our own private tour.

 Then we went to a British Flair in Krefeld.

And last month, we were spooked in a haunted zoo.

What interesting things have you done this year?

Life Experiences,
Baer Necessities

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A Trip Down Medieval Lane

This past weekend, my husband and I drove to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a town in Ansbach District of Germany. I had always pictured Germany looking just like this preserved medieval town. Since we traveled here during off-season, the weather wasn’t the best, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves. At this time, we had gray skies, cold weather, minus rain and snow. We spent only a little over 24-hours in this historic town, so we have to return to do the things we couldn’t fit into our short stay.

Let’s get started. Founded in 1170, the settlement of Rothenburg and its citizens gradually built a fortress wall around the city. King Rudolf of Habsburg declared Rothenburg a Free Imperial City, which reigned from 1274 to 1803, then became part of Bavaria.

During the Thirty Years’ War, Rothenburg suffered from religious conflicts with the Emperor, attempted takeovers, captures, economic ruin, and plague. In 1871, a Jewish community settled there until 1938, when evicted by the Third Reich, who thought of Rothenburg as “the most German of German towns”. In 1945 WWII bombs dropped destroying houses, towers and 2,000 feet of castle wall. Because of the history and beauty of Rothenburg, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of War ordered to refrain from using artillery. Six U.S. Soldiers marched to the gates, one spoke German, and advised the commander that they would spare Rothenburg of additional bombing if the Germans agreed not to defend it. Commander Major Thömmes went against Adolf Hitler’s orders and surrendered the town. The citizens began to rebuild the wall with donations. Those who walk the castle wall will find bricks with the different donor names.

First, we went to the hotel to check in, and walked down the street to our “apartment”. While booking, it stated that it had a kitchen, which we forgot about, so our hotel room turned out to be the entire first floor. My husband read somewhere that the building we stayed in dated back to the 14th century. Can you imagine the history between those walls?

After we dropped off our baggage, we went into Käthe Wohlfahrt, a Christmas wonderland. I love anything Christmas, so this was the one and only store we went into. The inside was incredible. The below pic was taken before I realized that picture taking was forbidden. Check out this link to get a better understanding of what I mean by Christmas wonderland.

From there, we walked around the town and along the castle wall. These are just a few pictures taken from a gate, the garden, the town, and castle wall.

In the evening, we took the Night Watchman’s Tour. It was a bit cold, yet amazing how different a city looks lit up.

The next day, we finished the castle wall walk, which altogether is 1.5 miles. We did a lot of walking in those 25 hours that added up to 7.5 miles. But we ate well. 😀 The first part of the wall was built around 1080, taking years to complete. I had so many pictures, but I didn’t want to bore you so here are just a few from the castle wall.

We went into a city museum where they housed old pieces and articles, some dating back to the Thirty Years’ War. In the museum were old prison cells where they tortured people for confessions.

No, this fake man has not been preserved since the medieval times.

Then we went to the Crime and Torture Museum. The top picture is of a pillory cage and the other is where people were shackled and shamed.

Before we left Rothenburg, we drove down to the double-bridge to take a few pictures and then of the moated castle, built in 1388, where Heinrich Toppler lived.

On our way home, we saw this from the highway so I thought I’d share it with you.

There are so many things I wasn’t able to share here with you, because of the amount of pictures and information, but I hope you enjoyed this brief medieval time. Auf Wiedersehen!

158 - Martin & I-2
Medieval, Castles, and Explorations,
Baer Necessities

An American Immigrant

soccerLife is magical if you live it. If you look outside the box, move outside your comfort zone, question government, converse with people, and enjoy the beauty of the world. Through my life, I’ve always been one not to conform to the norm. Traveling was always something I enjoyed, and I’m one who embraces change. This set me apart from many people within the different circles of my life.

I’ve been given a different opportunity to live outside the box, outside the familiar, and continue to question people and things I experience. Opportunity presented itself with the simplicity of an American girl falling in love with a German boy. What is life if we don’t question or wonder? It helps us learn. Everywhere on the web, people are offended by something. Everyone wants to be heard, yet no one wants to listen.

I wrote a blog post about How to be German. It was regarding some of my experiences in Germany told with a few exaggerations. I received some backlash for it, but I’m not apologizing for it. It’s my life and my experiences. Americans are very much the same. If one questions government, or says something negative about the “American way”, one can hear the gasps followed by patriotic roars. But why shouldn’t we question or wonder? Laugh at our faults. Cheer for our successes. It’s healthy, and in no way makes us any less German, American, or any other race, religion, culture, etc. It makes us wiser.

On my blog, I will sometimes talk about my experiences living in another culture. It should be a given that my experiences don’t include all Germans or all Americans. They include my small sliver of the world in Chicago and those I meet in everyday life in Hattingen and travels. Here are a few observations and experiences as an American immigrant.

1.  When I first came to Germany, I thought it was crazy that everything closes on Sundays. All shopping malls and grocery stores are closed. The only things we’ll find open in our area are bakeries, and they close around noon. People must do their shopping by Saturday evening or they’re out of luck until Monday. This seemed outrageous to me. In America, Christmas is the only time the majority of places close. I couldn’t even imagine not having stores open.

Now I love it. Sundays are so peaceful, and you see people spending time with each other. Not that they don’t other days, but on Sundays most are taking advantage of walks or bike rides around the neighborhood or the River Ruhr. It’s awesome to see. Instead of wandering through malls or grocery shopping, people are embracing family and friends.

It wasn’t until moving here that I realized and appreciated the peacefulness, being outside with nature. Growing up in Chicago, it seemed like the pace continued to pick up as I matured. If we slow it down a bit, maybe we’ll see a reduction in stress, depression and anxiety among other things. Shut off the phones and televisions, get outside with the family, and explore new places. Instead, we’re on the go, schedules stuffed with sports activities, and the beauty of the world around us ignored.

2. While shopping or enjoying the sites of Germany, I’ve encountered a little too many pushes than I have in the United States. Someone who needs to get past just pushes me out of the way, sticks their hand in my face, or maneuvers in front when queuing up in line (I’ve been stepped on, pushed and squeezed waiting in line for Ryanair flights). More people tend to push and then say, “Entschuldigung”, whereas in the U.S., they will say, “Excuse me” first. I usually keep to myself, spend almost all of my time with my husband, so it bothers me when someone touches me without first having the courtesy to ask me to let them through. Sure, there are rude people in the States, but I’ve come across a little more in Germany who lack social graces.

This is one instance of many where manners are tossed to the wayside. My father visited in October. We were at the grocery store, and he was talking to his friend about something. Apparently, he didn’t move up enough, so a woman took her cart and kept pushing it into my dad’s back. I didn’t know this until we were outside. If I had, I would have gotten in her face and told her off in English! I might be an immigrant, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to be impolite to my family or me. In the States, I’ve treated immigrants with respect.

3. Germany has many walking and bicycle paths. They’re great. Aside from Sundays, I see many people walking into town or riding their bikes, including my husband and me. When it’s decent out, we hop on ours. We’ll see either die-hard bikers or people past their 20s and some in their 70s. It is amazing how many of the older generations are fit.

074 - Hattingen ( Bike Ride-Me)
Where I grew up, there weren’t many bike paths. I would have to drive to the forest preserves or a park. It just wasn’t convenient. There are more bikers in downtown Chicago then there are in the southern suburbs. Biking isn’t what it used to be when I was a child. Kids don’t play outside much anymore. They’re either too involved in sports activities, watching television, or playing a video game.

4. Learning a new language is difficult. I can now truly sympathize and understand how immigrants in the U.S. feel. When I moved here, it was a culture shock. I spent the first year becoming familiar with the culture and my surroundings. Over the years, I’ve signed up for German classes, sitting in a room with people from other countries. Total immersion is challenging, and it doesn’t help when you can’t ask a classmate a question.

The teachers who taught the classes spoke fast and expected us to catch on, sometimes letting us know they were pissed by yelling. I’ve come across a few Germans who commented on why I don’t know the language. One woman worked at the place where I got my German Visa. I wanted to say to her (my poor translation of German/English), “Ich lerne Deutsch aber es ist schwer. Ich verstehe kurze und langsame Sätze. Ihr Deutsch ist schlecht.” Translation: I am learning German but it is difficult. I understand short and slow sentences. Your German is bad. Of course, I didn’t say it because I get flustered and my mind seems to freeze when I have to talk German.

The thing, and something my husband (a teacher) gets aggravated about, is that Germans are required to take 6-years of English, yet many of them don’t understand the language. He’s also said that many Germans don’t speak proper German either.

My husband and I have had a few heated discussions with his parents, who have complained that I should have a better grasp of the language. This is coming from two people who have been living in Spain for the last 20 plus years, and they still have difficulties with Spanish and don’t know Catalan, which is spoken in their area.

Plus, I’ve come across a few people who assume I want them to speak English. I’ll try to figure out what they said and struggle to answer in German. When they hear my husband talking to me in English, they change to the few English words they know. I never expect or assume people in Germany should speak to me in English. I’m in their country; I need to learn the language. But if Germans want immigrants to learn the language, a little patience and help is much appreciated. Since the end of last year, I’ve been trying hard to keep up with Duolingo on a daily basis, and when I have questions, I’ll ask my husband. Right now, Duolingo shows that I’m 44% fluent in German.

Have you or do you live in a country you’re not a citizen of? Do you travel to other countries for the culture? Are your experiences positive or negative?

Cultures and Understanding,
Baer Necessities

Good Morning and Happy New Year Germanica!

And everyone else out there. It’s a new year and fresh starts always get me excited in a non-sexual way (I think that needed clarification). For Christmas, my husband and I decided we should each choose one gift. Amazon had a sale on Kindle Fire, so my husband jumped on it, and I got a portable stepper. So while he sits his butt in a chair reading, I’ll be on my stepper getting rid of the holiday season’s extra pound violation.

What did you get for Christmas?

Which brings me to my next item—resolutions. I’m one of those people who want to start clean at the beginning of the year, and make resolutions I most likely won’t fulfill. Since I have five email accounts, it took me two days to clean and sort through all the emails, leaving a few in the main inbox and the rest deleted or moved to folders. After that, I felt refreshed and ready to tackle life and my writings. To be clear, I am a self-diagnosed lightly seasoned OCD person who rechecks things and circulates thoughts.

Anyway, my resolutions for this year are to continue to lose weight on my fabulous stepper (along with other activities), continue eating healthy, travel more, smile more, appreciate more, and love more.

Do you make resolutions? If so, care to share?

I’m going to start my blog year with a positive and heartwarming story. It has to do with the church we attend. Now I know not everyone is religious, but it’s always good to read about something uplifting instead of depressing. So it begins.

At mass, the priest informed the congregation to bring a candle if we’d like to bring the light of Bethlehem home. The Sunday before Christmas, we went to church with a candle inside a small glass lantern. During church services, a few men from Bethlehem spoke about the light. For many years, these guides have been involved in the peace light. The peace light originally began with the Austrian Broadcasting Company, but then scouts from different countries joined in. Each year, a child retrieves a light from the Nativity Grotto in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. Then those children, with the help of guides, return to their countries and distribute the light.

wreath5I have never heard of this before, and it moved me. I wanted and needed to be a part of it. After mass, we went to the Bethlehem candle to receive our light. When we got home, we lit the candles on the advent wreath along with others in our home. It is such an inspiring thing to do, and one I am thankful for taking part in. Whether a believer or not, it’s wonderful to watch this peace light spread throughout the world. In today’s times, the world and each of us could use some peace.

For more information on the Peace Light.

New Year’s and Resolutions,
Baer Necessities