Daniel in Deutschland

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The night before last my cosy binary home passed away, silently.
The life support machine suddenly shut down, at the very last word of a beautiful three-and-a-half hour entry, and its brain lost blood for long enough for it's memory to be lost. Then its heart broke. Ivy and mould might grow over the door, and the windows might dust up from the street outside.
You are welcome to pin notes to the door, or slip flowers into the gap of the door frame.
I'll come past and pick them up once in a while.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hello.... I find it hard to work out if this is a message board or a diary, and whether I am speaking to myself in the knowledge of people listening, like some strangly unerotic exhibitionist, or if I am talking to other people without knowing exactly who they are, like a masked ball held in different countries with a considerable time lag. Strange new media.
Anyway, just for fun this time I'll pretend to be talking to myself, and reminiscing on the last month.
So Danny, what have you been up to for a whole month? It doesn't feel like much, I always have that nagging feeling of just being a lucky soul planted into a parasitic university student body in a parasitic society of surplus production. But then it would be a horrible waste to complain about it, the least I can do with my luck is enjoy it, which I am very much. And then try to use my freedom for something good. That's a work in progress.
The week I spent in La Rochelle with Adele was so enjoyable and relaxed, I am so happy that we are such good friends. It's a beautiful thing. I'll try to remember some of the things we got up to and capture them here... eating lots of delicious icecream is the first thing that comes to mind, frequenting the icecream parlours of La Rochelle makes me wonder what I have been calling icecream or gelato for all these years... Lemon and basil, Chocolate and pepper, violet, Pear and balsamic vinegar, green tea and jasmine, prickly pear and ginger, Absinthe, Chocolate and pepper, violet, marshmallow and violet, and Lavender. Riding our bikes (mine rented out by an American who fled the country without returning it, maybe because it now has no brakes. I just had to pull the end of a loose brake cable very hard and slowly roll to a stop) along the white sandy paths of the Ile de Re, past wheat fields bordered with red poppies. A bike ride with other students from the Maison, to chateaus which were closed for sunday, eating some peas from fields along the way, playing five-hundred in a sand-hollow on the beach, collecting elderberry flowers to make sirop. We left the flowers for too long in a water filled plastic bag outside the window, and the sirop had a slightly rotten taste. Reading J.M. Coetzee in the gilded and mirrored Cafe de la Pays, Youth and then Boyhood. Quite fitting. But maybe a regressive order. Adele read "Tune up your French". Oh, and visiting Saintes, on a very warm day, a little town where everything is white. Bleached white buildings, all different shades of chalk, cream and plaster, dotted with white roman ruins, white churches and walking along pale sand sidewalks. Making little films of La Rochelle on Adele's little digital camera, me riding along behind her on her bike, with the walkman speakers taped over the camera microphone with an old piece of sticky tape, dodging passers-by. We drew still-lifes in the park, Adele of whatever flowers she could find, in our plastic drink bottle, and me a horrible picture of random objects from my bag - knitting, playing cards, hayfever medication, euros and an apple. We had a farewell party for some other students one evening on the beach. Me and some others swimming in our underpants in the freezing cold, and then we had some (presumably very legal and safe) absinthe... I love the whole ritual surrounding it, burning the sugar, using it to set a little absinthe on fire before adding the rest. Before that we had another picnic with some of Adele's friends, eating pistachios and playing stuck-in-the-mud with a little french boy, me trying to communicate in broken French. And most importantly having good chats to Adele, in the shade on the beach, on the bank of the river, on the pavement in the town.

All this talk of picnics, I have suddenly realised how incredibly hungry I am!
I'll come back to this with university anecdotes sometime soon.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hello, sorry it's been a while between posts...I seem to be developing a natural rhythm of about a post a month, just to say, in case you have been wondering if this has become a dead letter box! I am going to leave some things out of this post, just because it seems a bit crass to go around saying everything on a blog...just a disclaimer.Anyway, uni started about a month ago, and is rolling along quite happily and in an interesting side-to-side manner. I'm doing a couple more courses than I have to at the moment, just because I'm kindof attached to them all, like pets, and there are nice people in all of them. They are, namely, "Picasso", "Introduction to architecture", "Learning to see" (!) , "Poems about artworks" and "Semantics". The best would have to be "Poems about artworks", the lecturer is so young and full of nervous energy, it's a bit of a "Dead Poet's Society" experience. Comprehension is totally fine, I feel slightly mentally retarded when I contribute to the class discussion, but I'm usually just determined to anyway, because I can hardly spend a semester hiding in the back corner.Work load is fairly minimal up to now, so I've been doing lots of other things (including a lot of what Adele tells me are "geeky pastimes"!) - going to "open" lectures, having a Japanese tandem partner, going with other students to see art exhibitions, etc... I'm gradually building up a group of German friends, which is part of the reason for doing all the extracurricular art stuff and 40 percent more classes than I have to, I suppose! It was really good actually, for my birthday last Sunday a few of friends from my art classes organised an evening picnic in the park by the lake, and we had some wine and cake, and they even gave me an art book as a present, I was very touched. Was also with my German family on that day, coffee, cake, chatting and carrying cousins. All c's, very nice! Also doing plenty with Katharina, the Freiburgian I met by total chance in Sydney...seeing a few arthouse films, playing chess in the beer garden, frequenting a couple of cafes, lots of fun. I'm also learning Japanese calligraphy from my Japanese tandem partner, Maki - we sit up in the shady beer garden overlooking the town and drink Apfelschorle (apple juice and mineral water).My home life is the same as ever - just my little white box, cooking one week's worth of food on the weekend, nothing normal (last week it was self-harvested stinging nettle soup!). I had a very friendly Czech flatmate, but he has just left, the next one we'll see. Have to meet my tandem partner now though, so I'll talk soon , hopefully within less time than last time! I'm sure there is so much I have left out, but....gooodbye! Danny

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

My fellow Australians (and others)

I have come here today, to...! Why do I never have any time when I get here? Anyway.

My language course finished at the end of March, so I have holidays again now until the 24th of April, when semester starts. It was fairly good in the end, lots of chatting and sitting around under the pseudonyms of "speaking practice" and "comprehension practice", but there were so many hours that I was thinking in German by the end... Gave a presentation on the history of the German language, which was one afternoon of frantic study at least!
I did cut back on the random socialising a bit, I was just feeling a bit too random by the end...no time to process at all. But there was still plenty, a few nice nights where everyone just met up at someone's flat to cook and have dinner too. By the last time the word got out to the whole course though, and we ended up with literally a few ravioli each, like human tinned asparagus in this little flat!
As soon as the course was over I headed up to Bonn to visit my old year 5 teacher Brett - Mum was teaching our class art at the time and they became great friends, he's teaching English at an international school there. The first night we went to a fantastic turkish cafe (yes, avoiding German cuisine again, it's a theme!). We had baklava and dips and a hookah...and I am now on the search for a cafe like this in Freiburg! Next day there was an Aussie party in the afternoon, with Aussie teachers from Brett's school, they managed to get not only Australian wine, but cheezel things in the shape of Kangaroos (!) and we sat around telling jokes and yarns, which some of them were of the opinion doesn't really work in Germany... My opinion does diverge there, but hey. Went to nearby Cologne and saw about 100 square metres of it...hopped into the cathedral from the train station, then skipped across to the Gallery, where I spent the best part of the day! Brett is a grea guy though, the kind of person you say has a book in them...his full of crazy life stories and dirty jokes!
Then I went an visited my cousin Michael in Barcelona for a few days... train takes a full day but then the train is my second home, after all my time commuting. And the Van Gogh-pretty sun drenched southern French countryside in the background with a good book... Did all the basic city sights, I have to say Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia belongs in Disneyland though, impressive but hideous! Shit I have to go...was great to catch up with my cous anyway, will say more about that and new flat and second bike and Freiburg and what I am studying soon! Dann

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Whoops! Realised my last post didn't work at all! Here it is again. There will be new news soon!

" Hallo again!
Have managed to scavenge half an hour on the computer, I won't have access to the normal university computers until I enrol in April.
So Freiburg.....
Having a paradoxically very busy but very laid back time so far. My German course is from 9am to 5:30pm, but most of the time is spent chatting or listening and there is not much homework to speak of so far... After that there are without fail people going drinking or attending activities organised by the course, then on the weekend there are excursions both days....
I have slotted into a nice group of companions, mostly vikings and descendants (Denmark, Norway, England, Australia, also a nice girl from America and a couple of Italians), and we've been doing the usual pubs, films, and house parties....all fun but not much out of the ordinary.
Everyone puts in a quite insane effort to speak German all the time, which is great though...to the extent that me and Dylan, the other Aussie, will still keep to German between ourselves on the way home after a few beers....
Hard to say if anyone will turn into more of a friend after the course is finished though, it's all been fairly group oriented so far.
Highlights...excursion to Colmar on Sunday, in Alsace, and saw the Isemheim Altarpiece by Grünewald - the archetypal German crucifiction, Jesus not handsome and dignified and clean, but greenish, stretched, thorns in every square inch of skin, blood gushing all over the place.....!
Bought a bike on Saturday, and have a big bike-crush...It's metallic crimson, at least thirty years old, a woman's city bike, with racing-striped silver mudguards and a shiny conical light powered by the wheels......aah!
I think the town is a lesson for all towns...no cars in the town centre, a great tram system, a green mayor, highest number of cinema goers and pubs per capita in Germany, apart from looking beautiful....
My room is your normal white box with a bed and a desk, but as I said I have a fantastic view over a lake and copse of trees, and I always feel at home when I hear the ducks quacking. I'm sharing the kitchen with one very studious, thirty year old turkish woman, and sometimes I do have the impression I am living alone there! I am so far managing not to adapt to German cuisine at all, I have found a great, enormous, cheap asian food store!
Weather, it goes without saying, is cold...over thirty centimetres of snow the first day I got here.
And I have to go! Schluß, says the lady who works here! All the best, Danny"

Monday, March 13, 2006


Well I finally got to Freiburg, Saturday a week ago! Two months of travelling around visiting people has been great, but my bourgeois alter-ego has kicked in, and I'm glad to be able to stop living out of a suitcase, to accumulate a few material possessions, to develop a daily grind, choose myself a few tasty tea varieties and wash my socks more regularly. Awful, isn't it?
But not last things not last.
On Valentine's Day I took a train to visit Adele in La Rochelle for ten days, which was lovely. It was great to really catch up, there is only so much letters can say, and it feels so strange to have her just spirited off to another country after living together a whole year. When I got there it was drizzling or storming for nearly a week...La Rochelle is beautiful, but also a spooky place in bad weather, the hundreds of boats in the harbour clank and rattle together like a skeleton army, the misty green water and old grey ports....
Adele met me at the station with a spare bike, so I rode to her place pulling my enormous wheelie bag behind me! We spent most of our time to start off with in cafes, the cinema, pubs and restaurants, sometimes with Adele's friends and flatmates from her accomodation. Or should I say cafe, I became very attached to this one Cafe de la Paix, an old, high ceilinged, classy looking place with ornate gold plasterwork and big lights, and we went there quite a few times and played cards, sketched the cafe, looked though French magazines.... The price of an expresso in France is luckily regulated (maximum €1.50), so you can order coffee in the classiest places you want! We also went out to dinner twice with the same strategy, ordering the cheapest set menu in some very classy looking restaurants.
When the weather was good we did some bicycle tours of the area. There are lots of lovely bike paths winding along the coast, past oyster farms and vineyards and goats.... In a nearby village we spent hours playing table soccer and pool, and one day we explored a nearby island, the Ile de Re. That was an enormous trip, eighty kilometres there and back(!), but very picturesque with marshes and forests and a lighthouse at the tip. The bike I was riding finally gave up on the last day though, the whole pedal broke off and we had to return twenty kilometres with me riding it like a scooter, or holding onto Adele's scarf tied around her waist as she rode!
Adele lives in the Maison de la Francophonie, a nice, quite modern student house about ten minutes ride from the town centre, which she comments feels like a hotel! Most people there are very friendly and there is a big common room, but ironically it is more of a Maison de l'Anglophonie, there isn't much French being spoken.
After I left La Rochelle I went to Belgium by car with my uncle Michael and cousin Kiyo, to visit another Auntie and cousin in Brussels for a week. We visited the prettiest town I have ever seen, Bruges.... all the little houses and shops are built so small and thin they look like doll houses, and there are also lots of baby canals... Went to lots of art galleries and churches as you do, of course with a local flavour, Magritte, Delvaux, Rubens, the Ghent Alterpiece, Pieter Bruegel (1&2).....
Now to Freiburg, but I really am out of time.... that was an oversight! Will write very very soon about what I am actually doing now, now that I have caught up! Oh dear! Thank you for being patient!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Monday, February 13, 2006

A very guten Tag!I have been staying at my (step) grandmother's still these past few weeks, somehow managing to feel very busy while essentially having nothing to do! Some highlights, though that seems like the wrong word, maybe quietly pleasant memorable experiences.......Last week my Ur-Uncle Franz had his birthday, me and my grandmother went round for coffee and home-baked cake - a streusel cake, a plate of snail pastries, a strange fruit cake that was half gelatin, and a cheesecake, between seven people, as it turned out! Went for a tour of the area by car with Franz's wife Gertrude, my favourite part was throwing snowballs far down onto a frozen dam and trying to hit the same spot twice...! Have been doing plenty of my own little childlike investigations into the winter landscape like that - walking over little frozen ponds in the pine forest (then breaking them of course), sliding down slopes of ice with my cousin Kiyo on pieces of wood, breaking off icicles and carrying them on forest walks like swords....! Went to Munich with my Uncle Michael and Kiyo, and visited the temple of beer drinkers, the Hofbräuhaus, followed by a 'little Louvre', the Alte Pinakothek. At my Auntie Agnes' there I tasted Munich Weissbier (made with wheat), that tastes like a very yeasty batch of uncooked sourdough. For my grandmother I have been shelling her walnut harvest at the kitchen table, dead-heading flowers in the garden, shovelling snow from around the house, and of course cooking plenty of lunches and doing shopping. Everyone in the local supermarket already knows me, where I live, what I am doing...! We've been looking through old newspaper articles about the area, the photo albums, and playing checkers (too much Nine-man's morris!). Made two snow-people today instead of shovelling snow properly! Went to see my Ur-Auntie Rosa near Strasbourg (France), and again there were three cakes between five people! Altogether too much cake, bread, cheese and sausage in this culture! One very impressive thing though is how culturally embedded environmental things are though....the first thing my Uncle showed me in his house was the intricacies of his recycling system, people talk about their exact water usage from month to month over the kitchen table. etc!Have to go. Going to visit Adele in La Rochelle from the 14th to 24th of February, then off to my Auntie in Belgium for a week, then Uni on the 4th of March.Dänny