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I did it. I watched the game between Germany and the US, and it was pretty fun! Granted, I couldn't really gauge the quality of the match. I didn't know if people were playing poorly or if a foul was missed or wrongfully bestowed. (Pretty sure you don't bestow fouls anyway.) Despite that, it far surpassed every American football game I've ever sat through in marching band in terms of excitement. The clock actually keeps running. The ball is almost constantly moving. It's like the difference between watching a joust and watching a melee.

Cultural Stuff
1. I was rooting for Germany. Yeah, I know, I'm a horrible traitor, but the thing is that I'd rather the objectively more skillful team win in a contest to see who's best than the underdog get a lucky break. It is a contest to rank the superior team for this year, is it not? I base my skillful/underdog assessment on the general consensus of the soccer fans I know on both sides of the pond. Rooting for Germany also made watching it via chat with Americans way more amusing.

2. It's funny knowing that both coaches are German and wondering which language they're muttering to themselves in.

3. The commentator said things along the lines of "Well, the Americans one against Ghana. Germany got a respectable 2-2. Ghana really stepped up their game." I imagine comments were phrased quite differently in the US broadcast.

4. I must say, "TOOOOOOORRRRRRR" is more fun to shout than "GOOOOOAAALLLLLL". No tough glottal stops.


There's a German candy company called Hitschler International.

I don't have anything important to say about this. I'm just amazed that a company founded in the 1950s in Germany went with a name like that and survived.

World Cup

Most of the time, patriotism takes a back seat in Germany. The way back. Possibly in the cargo area along with the country's emotional baggage. Therefore, when black, red, and gold decorations cropped up all over Aachen in a matter of days, I knew something was going on. That something is the start of the World Cup.

Soccer in Germany is not as big as football in America. It's bigger. The Germans (and much of the rest of the world) don't really bother to watch any other team sport, at the very least not on a national scale. Imagine combining the Olympics and the Superbowl and that's how big the World Cup is in Germany.

I've seen eggs painted and rolls bake to look like soccer balls. Black, red, and gold noodles shaped like players are on discount right next to the peanut puffs. Meetings are rescheduled to avoid conflicting with when the German team plays. Live broadcasts are displayed on giant screens in courtyards filled with people willing to stand so long as the beer keeps coming. When I asked how the game went, I received incredulous looks. How could I possibly not have watched it? It doesn't matter if you personally like the sport or watch it on the national level. the World Cup (or Weltmeisterschaft) is unmissable.

It reminds me of how in Pittsburgh, regardless of your stance on Football, you inevitably care if the Steelers win. Perhaps next time the Germans play, I'll sit down with a native and see if the soccer fandom is one I want to join. Until then, I'll stick to the nerdy fanaticism I know and love.

Little Things that Aren't so Little for Me.

I enjoy the occasional hard boiled egg. You let a few eggs simmer until the egg timer goes totally dark, then dunk the eggs in cold water and let them cool before eating, right? Not in Germany, you don't! You eat the hard boiled eggs still warm. Moreover, instead of cooking them until the yolk turns pale and maybe just ever so slightly grey, the eggs are considered "hard" so long as it's solidified. They call an orange-yellow yolk hard. I call it an incompletely denatured abomination.
That is not a cooked egg!

Now, I realize this shouldn't bother me so much, and it shouldn't be so important to me, but it does and it is. Warm, medium cooked eggs trigger the same freakout mode in me that the sensation of face paint or a burger with the lettuce under the patty does. I just need to scrub it off, rearrange it, make it NOT WRONG.

(To be fair, the sliced hard boiled eggs served on salads and sandwiches live up to my expectations.)

As I may possibly have mentioned previously, the paper size in Germany differs from the US standard. This isn't all that surprising, since letter is measured in inches, and Germany uses the entirely superior metric system that the A4 sheet is based upon. When writing papers, this makes for extremely slight differences in how many words take up a full page. Although A4 sheets are longer, they're also skinnier, so it pretty much breaks even.

Far more significant is the fact that instead of double spacing the pages, the norm for academic papers seems 1.5 spacing. That...builds up. A 12 page paper is the equivalent of a 16 page paper in double spacing. I mention this because darn it all! Philosophy Papers are hard! I have managed to work out 3 of the 12 pages, and that's partly due to font experimentation.

Book Spines
While looking through the philosophy institute's library, I noticed that the book titles that kept popping out at me all seemed to be in English. This seemed odd, since I was very much in German mode at the time. I started to look at the books next to the ones that popped to try and reorient myself. Then it hit me; whenever I switched from reading the spine of an English book to that of a German one, my head switched from tilting to the right to tilting to the left.

It turns out the practice of printing bottom to top is common to much of central Europe while top to bottom is the standard in England, America, and most likely many of the countries colonized by Britain. Like with every rule, exceptions exist, but they're fairly rare from what i've seen. However, the power to filter by language with the tip of my head makes me giddy. Beware the awesome power of pattern recognition!

Burg Eltz

Yesterday, I took a trip with INCAS to the castle known as Burg Eltz. INCAS is the same organization that puts on "International Tuesdays" and the occasional multicultural breakfast on Sundays. This trip cost just € 15, which covered bus transportation and a tour of the castle. The trains alone would have gone over that price, and the trip would have been far less convivial.

On the way in, I sat beside an exchange student from the Czech Republic. We talked about why we came to Germany, the differences we'd noticed, etcetera. She claimed the biggest different for her was that the Germans actually seem to follow the rules where as in Prague, if you can work around the law, you do.

Upon arrival at Burg Eltz, we all crowded around a lookout point to gawp at the castle.
I'd call it fairly gawp worthy.

After we'd taken our fill of photos, we made our descent and hung around while the trip organizer got our tickets. After taking advantage of the fee-less bathrooms, I admired the castle walls. The bricks were irregular in size and marked with parallel grooves like those on the stone of the mountain itself. I took that to mean the masons did not have to look far for their building materials. Other interesting features included a mosaic of the Madonna and child in the inner courtyard and drainpipe disguised as a dragon.
I'd like to think it's a dragon disguised as a drainpipe.
While waiting for the tour to begin, I struck up a conversation with another exchange student from Birmingham. He had the poshest manner of speaking one could ever hope to hear from a college student. What's more, he was studying history. Give him a tweed jacket with elbow patches and you'd have the perfect stereotypical English professor.

When the tour began, half of our group packed into a tiny armory. Halberds lined one wall, oriental blades and early muskets hung above them, archery equipment adorned another, and model canons and half-plate took up another. The tour guide managed to tell us photography wasn't aloud after pretty much everyone in the room had already taken a shot or two. Woops. He went on to explain that the castle was first constructed in the 12th century for the Eltz family that later split into three factions; Eltz-Kempenich of the golden lions, Eltz-RĂ¼benach of the silver lions, and Eltz-Robendorf of the buffalo horns. Instead of building different residences, they shared the castle. Given how compact the building seemed, I'd have thought that impossible. We stuck to the silver lions.

The guide led us through the next door into the lower hall. It boasted several paintings and glass windows, both symbols of wealth. Two elaborate tapestries hung on the wall opposite the windows. One tapestry showed what happens when someone who's never seen an ostrich tries to draw one. I'd describe the result as an angry hen with legs and neck far longer than natural.

We took the spiral staircase to the next level where the main bedroom resided. It had an elevated and curtained bed so designed to keep it as warm as possible. The guide explained that in winter the fireplace didn't warm so much as lessen the cold. Honestly, I'd probably have kept the curtains closed all year round to avoid looking at the walls. A garish flowering vine pattern covered every inch of the walls and ceiling. The artist seemed to have gone for a puce color scheme.

The next few rooms had far more tasteful styles. These included a study with a wrack of unused china, the hunting rooms displaying a bear skin and several enormous moose skulls, and a bedroom specifically for the children. This last one featured numerous paintings. The bodies were painted prior to the child's birth, usually portraying them as fairly fully developed. The faces were then painted in afterwards. The juxtaposition of infant face and adult body made for some unsettling creations.

Our tour also led us to the great hall where all three families and their supporters would meet. Since it was upstairs, it was considerably smaller than the word "great" might imply. To one side, a row of miniature canons stood by as decoration. Apparently, if you wanted to buy a canon, the manufacturers would deliver a set of 10 scale models for you to examine. If you chose one and purchased it, they would build the full size version and throw in the models for free. Billy Mays would have been so proud!

After the tour ended, we took a 40 minute hike along a well shaded path. A tiny tributary of the Mosel meandered beside us, and the scraggly rocky outcroppings gave my eyes plenty to snack on. My only complaint was that it had gone from the high 70s to the low 90s and humid. By the time we returned to the bus, I was sweating and cursing myself for not having brought my own water. Then, wonder of wonders, the bus driver announced that he had water, apple juice, and beer for sale. Hallelujah! The fact that the water and apple juice were both carbonated didn't even bug me that much. They were cold and liquid. Enough said.

Sweating aside, I rather enjoyed the trip. I got to enjoy nature, history, architecture, and weapons. What more could I hope for? While I wish we could have explored the whole of the castle, I hear it's now owned entirely by House Kemenich, the golden lions. Game of Thrones has taught me better than to argue with a house like that.