Cold enough to visit an Eisbär

I live in a smallish, northern, German city on the Weser River. Bremerhaven has five first class museums (that I know of) and a zoo. All of these are a short walking distance from my apartment. Exciting for a suburban girl from Delaware.

This morning Andreas’ graduate student, Cassandra from New York, (so upstate she can “see” Canada from her house) and I decided to visit Zoo am Meer. (zoo next to the sea). We chose to go on an icy cold day because the zoo is home to mostly colder climate animals and creatures that live in the water, including an Eisbär (polar bear). I’m not a huge fan of zoos and I certainly did not want to see the poor polar bear in the heat of summer. Thus, a frosty November morning seemed like happy polar bear weather.

We assumed this was a duck until she decided to check us out. Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
We assumed this was a duck until she decided to check us out. Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Before moving to Bremerhaven, I read a short chapter in a German guide book describing the city. The book suggested that Bremerhaven was good for a day visit at most, and there was a very strange zoo created out of cement to look like a giant rock.

Arctic Fox, Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Arctic Fox, Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The zoo is strange, however, I really enjoyed my visit. It may be because Cassandra and I were the only visitors for a while. The habitats were nice and well planned around a climbing area for children in the giant rock landscape. Most of the animals seemed pretty content for being stuck in a zoo in Bremerhaven, including the polar bear.

Zoo am Meer Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Zoo am Meer Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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No match for a polar bear. Photo of the author by Cassandra Elmer.
No match for a polar bear. Photo of the author by Cassandra Elmer.

A Fishhead and a redhead walk into a cafe’ in rainy Schleswig

How do two Americans in Germany celebrate a birthday? They travel to Schleswig! Now I have my German friend’s attention. They’re all thinking, Schleswig, what the hell is so special about Schleswig? Everything and nothing, friends, it was a fun, laid-back, easy, romantic weekend away.

Schleswig, Germany from a window in Gottorf Castle
Schleswig, Germany from a window in Gottorf Castle

In July Andreas brought me to Lübeck for my birthday. So, I said that he should pick his favorite place for his birthday. Easier said than done. So many choices! One week I was told that we would travel to Spiekerroog, the next week to Föhr, every few weeks he would choose a new place. Finally, a week before his birthday I begged for a decision, so that I could Google the place, and his finger landed on the map at the town of Schleswig in northern Germany.

Andreas is born and raised a “Fishhead.” He loves fish, cold, windy, rainy weather and sitting in little cafes eating “Kuchen” listening to the locals speak “Plattdeutsch” by large bodies of water. Schleswig was all these things.

We stayed in a small hotel instead of an Airbnb which is unusual for us, but it was attached to a little restaurant, included breakfast, and was on the water. The hotel was located by Holm an old fishing village. In the center of the village is the oldest Abbey in northern Germany.

The oldest Abbey in northern Germany. Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The oldest Abbey in northern Germany. Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

A beautiful, idyllic place full of cafes and artisans. The people in the village are proud of the age of their homes and often have the year posted in large iron numbers.

Andreas Muenchow appreciating the glass art in front of a gallery/ studio in Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas Muenchow appreciating the glass art in front of a gallery/ studio in Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

They and the rest of the city are also extremely fond of roses. There are two or three trained rose bushes on the front of every house and most stores. It must be amazing when the roses are in season. We were lucky enough to see some blooms in November.

A lane in Holm. Notice the rose bushes trained against the houses. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
A lane in Holm. Notice the rose bushes trained against the houses. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The biggest surprise for me in Schleswig was the art collections. We visited an Outsider Art museum located in a poorhouse from 1630.The building was almost more interesting than the art. Next, we walked to a modern art museum located in the old stables of Gottorf Castle.

A surprisingly wonderful museum showcasing modern art by north German artists. A must see if you visit Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
A surprisingly wonderful museum showcasing modern art by north German artists. A must see if you visit Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We also viewed the art collections in the Castle as well.

The chapel in Gottorf Castle, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The chapel in Gottorf Castle, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We found the Cathedral of St. Peter of Schleswig (hard to miss the tallest building in town) that had its original stained glass. Most of the churches we’ve visited so far have been bombed and replaced with modern glass so this was really exciting. (for me)

An amazing 3-D wood carving. The intricate details were unreal. Cathedral of St. Peter of Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
An amazing 3-D wood carving. The intricate details were unreal. Cathedral of St. Peter of Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Beautiful, intricate, huge stained glass window in the Cathedral of St. Peter of Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Beautiful, intricate, huge stained glass window in the Cathedral of St. Peter of Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Between museum visits and walking around town in the rain were many stops to café’s for coffee and cake.  Andreas had birthday cake many times over the weekend.

Cake at the castle. Salted caramel and marzipan. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Cake and coffee at the castle. Salted caramel and marzipan. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

In the first café we sat near a Danish girl in snow pants who also celebrated a birthday. Her family played a tiny music box and sang Happy Birthday in English.

The birthday boy, Andreas Muenchow, with his favorite gooseberry torte and hot chocolate. Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The birthday boy, Andreas Muenchow, with his favorite gooseberry torte and hot chocolate. Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We didn’t just eat cake in Schleswig, although it felt like it, Andreas also enjoyed many fishy dinners with local beer which made him pretty happy.

Super good, fishy birthday dinner. Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Super good, fishy birthday dinner. Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The best indication of whether Andreas and I like a place is if we start researching housing prices, which we did on our third café morning. I recommend giving Schleswig a visit. It seems to be very popular with bicyclists during the summer months. There is also the Hedeby Viking Museum which we missed due to walking distance and time restraints. I’d like to return there someday.

Old in Art School a brief review

When I recently published a blog about my current artwork I searched WordPress out of curiosity to see what other women artists create and write. I came across Dr. Nell Painter and read that she had recently published a book titled Old in Art School. This caught my attention as I’ve considered returning to art school after 26 years to earn my MFA.

Old in Art School by Nell Painter. I recommend.
Old in Art School by Nell Painter. I recommend.

I was hoping for some tips on applying to schools, managing graduate critiques and the general atmosphere and expectations of art graduate school from the perspective of someone older than 25. The book offered this and a truly interesting memoir about Dr. Nell Painter. The full story was unexpected and I’m happy that she spoke of her life experience during her studies, not just the art school happenings. I am sad to read that women are still thought of as somewhat second-rate artists who will probably not become “real artists.” I had enough of that sentiment during the completion of my BFA.

Pages bookmarked for future reference and so many new artists (to me) to look up. Old in Art School by Nell Painter.
Pages bookmarked for future reference and so many new artists (to me) to look up. Old in Art School by Nell Painter.

I recommend this book to women artists and anyone else who is considering a career change mid-life. Also, to anyone who enjoys a beautifully written memoir.

Nell Painter and I both had/have a German sabbatical year. We also hail from Newark. Painter lives in New Jersey and I’m usually in Delaware. I hope to meet Dr. Painter someday to talk about our paintings over coffee or a beer.

 

Oh Helgoland..

Magical Helgoland Island in the North Sea, seals, birds, alles wunderschön! This is the recommendation from new German acquaintances. You have to go there, you will love it, they say.

Andreas’ brother and sister-in-law visited from Dietz and suggested that we explore Helgoland. We planned to suggest the same idea to them. Good company made this a fun day. Helgoland, as we might say in America is a ‘trip’, unique, strange, and a little overwhelming.

Burkhard and Carina enjoying the sunny side of the ship on the way to Helgoland via Cuxhaven
Andreas’ brother and sister-in-law, Burkhard and Carina enjoying the sunny side of the ship on the way to Helgoland via Cuxhaven

We drove from Bremerhaven north to Cuxhaven on the Elbe Estuary, our first time in a car since the taxi ride back in Iceland two months ago. My first time on the Autobahn, oh boy! In Cuxhaven we boarded a ship for Helgoland. Andreas and I were happy to be on a ship again.

Fishing boat on the North Sea between Cuxhaven and Helgoland. Photo by: Dragonfly Leathrum
Fishing boat on the North Sea between Cuxhaven and Helgoland. Photo by: Dragonfly Leathrum

After a two-hour passage we approached Helgoland and I spied upon it with my long camera lens looking for seals on the beaches. No seals, just people. We docked in the harbor with a few other ships like ours, disembarked and walked with the other tourists towards town. Actually, we had no idea where we were going, we just followed the herd. At one point some of the tourists broke off and started up a hill. We followed this unending, string of humanity to a well-maintained, brick path winding its way along the top of the hill, ‘mountain’ with an incredible view of the sea.

Helgoland in October 2018. Photo by: Dragonfly Leathrum
Helgoland in October 2018. Photo by: Dragonfly Leathrum

There were so many people on this path on this tiny island in October. Lucky for me a woman in the throng was traveling with an English-speaking boyfriend and was explaining the historical placards along the way. What really struck me along this path; the total lack of garbage. No trash in the weeds, no cigarette butts, no doggie bombs anywhere to be stepped on. This would be a different scene in America.

Lange Anna as seen from our crowded walking path on Helgoland. Photo by: Dragonfly Leathrum
Lange Anna as seen from our crowded walking path on Helgoland. Photo by: Dragonfly Leathrum

The path ended in a tiny town with a noticeable lack of cars and bicycles. What?! Germans love both. They are not allowed here. The only vehicles were tiny electric city trucks (the firetruck and ambulance are gas powered) and what I call Amish scooters. Adult size scooters with small bicycle wheels. Andreas read somewhere that children under the age of 16 can use a bike after 5:00 pm between October and March. The town doesn’t want to add street signs.

Electric truck in Helgoland. Photo by: Dragonfly Leathrum
Electric truck in Helgoland. Photo by: Dragonfly Leathrum

The island has been inhabited since 697, but the first and second world wars messed that up. Helgoland was bombed heavily during the second world war and then the British used it as a bombing range after the war ended. In 1947 the Royal Navy detonated 6,700 tons of explosives creating the biggest single non-nuclear detonations in history. (The island was evacuated during these times.) The explosion shook the main island down to its base, changing its shape.

The wildlife we saw on Helgoland. He says, "Cake not bombs!" Photo by: Dragonfly Leathrum
The wildlife we saw on Helgoland. He says, “Cake not bombs!” Photo by: Dragonfly Leathrum

Today there is a small population living year-round. It enjoys value added tax-exempt status if you’re looking for cigarettes, booze or perfume. You can also buy rocks. We chose coffee and pastries.

At the end of the day we joined the tourist march back to the ships. A great white migration of tired families. The voyage back was subdued as the travelers sought sunny spots on deck out of the wind or sheltered their families inside. The sunset was magnificent and unusual.

Sunset from the ship on the Elbe Estuary between Helgoland and Cuxhaven. Photo by: Dragonfly Leathrum
Sunset from the ship on the Elbe Estuary between Helgoland and Cuxhaven. Photo by: Dragonfly Leathrum

Andreas’ co-worker recommends experiencing the island for a few days staying over night after the migration departs. Maybe you can see seals and birds then.

Coldest Labor Day Ever!

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Sea ice on the Northeast Greenland Shelf. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

BERGFEST! celebrated the midway point of our expedition. The cooks outdid themselves last Bergfest Sunday with incredible meals that I can’t describe without upsetting my vegan friends. All on board contributed to a seriously eclectic, playlist with almost three hundred songs of dance music from around the world. I think it went on until three or four in the morning. What a great beginning to week four.

This was the coldest, iciest week as R/V Maria S. Merian sailed beyond 80̊ North latitude. The goal was to recover a mooring in front of the 79̊ N Glacier on the east coast of Greenland. Unfortunately, the Merian is not an icebreaker and there was too much sea ice to get close enough to the glacier and mooring. The scientists were able to take CTD measurements in the area, though.

Ellen 80 degrees

Scientist Ellen Werner points to our location just about 500 miles from the North Pole. Photo: Mubashshir Ali

Labor Day morning there was snow and ice on the ship. No pool parties and bar-b-que for us Americans on board this year, but who misses those things when sailing among icebergs along a coastline with snowy mountains. Yes, it did SNOW, on Labor Day, how cool, literally! At sunset the glassy sea mirrored the moon’s reflection in front of Greenland’s glaciers. The temperature was below freezing and you could hear the deep booming sound of the icebergs crashing around in the distance.

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SNOWING! Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

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The moon’s reflection. Photo: Mubashshir Ali

That was the good news, unfortunately this northern location prevented us from receiving internet or satellite signals. That made ice navigation difficult. Visually you can see about twelve miles ahead, if it’s not foggy. It was foggy.

The next morning Scientists Mubi and Luisa spotted a polar bear swimming near the ship and I missed it! I was disappointed, but happy that others were on watch and shared a few images.

cropped funny bear

Polar bear looking for ice and seals. Photo: Luisa von Albedyll, enhanced by the 4:00 am CTD shift

Midweek, moving east away from the coast, we encountered larger waves and swells again which did not make me feel so great. The sea eventually settled down when we sailed up to bands of sea ice. The Arctic sea ice flows with the cold, fresh East Greenland Current from north to south and we had to cross it to get back home. The band is made up of very old ice. It’s an interesting change from the more scattered sea ice near the coast as thin bands of dense thick ice stretch out for many miles along a sharp drop of bottom depth. After watching ice float by all day and getting cold doing so, I warmed up at an evening birthday party for two of the crew.

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A band of Arctic sea ice moving south. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

As the week drew to a close there was much work to be completed for the end of the voyage. Some people were busy deploying and recovering moorings and others processing final data and composing expedition reports. The cooks surprised us again with an awesome Bavarian meal which included a Bavarian white beer. A welcomed change from the Jever Pilsener that my cabinmate likes. Also, Dr. Andreas Muenchow won the ping pong tournament in a smashing final match, the winner of foosball is still to be determined.

These weeks aboard the R/V Maria S. Merian (the original Maria S. Merian was a famous botanical artist) have been an unforgettable experience. Not just because I have taken over two thousand photos to remind me, but because of the friends I’ve made and everything I’ve learned about Oceanography and living on a ship. I’ve been to places and seen things that most people won’t have the chance to experience and I’m extremely grateful to those that asked me to be a part of the voyage.

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Dr. Andreas Muenchow winner of the MSM 76 Ping pong tournament. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

Hell Bent for Spandex*

Bremerhaven is the best city I’ve ever lived in for bicyclists, even though I’m told that the local bike club considers the city to still be in the middle ages for German bicycling. There are separate bike paths on most sidewalks that share a wide space with pedestrians. This means the rider is a curb above and away from traffic. The lanes and riders are respected by most, but once in a while you’ll get stuck behind a grumpy old dude in a jazzy chair or a family of six with a pram.

Bicycle parking at the train station. Beyond the bikes you see here are little bike boxes that you can lock your bikes in that I call veal huts. Beyond that is a large caged area for maybe long term parking?20180723_105145

I like bikes and support bike culture but I haven’t been a daily rider since 1993. Andreas, on the other hand, has been commuting by bicycle almost as long as I’ve been alive. He is bike culture. The other day he said, “Riding a bicycle is as easy and as enjoyable as drinking a glass of wine.”

Andreas the biker at the Fischmarket.20180722_154642

This is wonderful for him, and for me when we run out of something and he happily rides off to the store. A fun time for Andreas involves a long bike ride to get there. He will laugh at that statement because a long ride for him is very different than my idea of a long ride. Over the past few weeks he has been “pushing” me to ride further and further each day to build up my endurance. This is not appreciated at all. I’m a walker, not a biker. My biking muscles went away with my last mohawk.

Andreas puts up with a lot of grumbling and dirty looks from me. Especially when he changes route to go to the familiar places. “What’s down this road, he asks, let’s go check it out.” “No, I say, you can check it out I’ll find my way home.” I’ve blamed frustrated, tired tears on wind and sunscreen in my eyes more than once. COBBLESTONES, oh my God, cobblestones…try keeping up with Speedy Gon German on cobblestones. No, really, I challenge you.

Lately he has decided that riding behind me so I set the pace is a better idea. This is a horrible idea. I feel like a fat, snail loser making him ride so slow, which for some reason makes me mad and then the sunscreen tears pop up. Grrr, also, I don’t know where the hell I’m going.

Me in the bike lane on my chunk of a coaster brake bike. The brand is Stevens. I call it Stevezie after Bill Murray’s character in the Life Aquatic.  Photo by Andreas MuenchowDF_0439

Now, all whining and complaining aside, I love that my boyfriend, almost a decade my senior, is super fit and happy. I’m sure that after my year here I’ll be more fit too. I can tell that I’m very very slowly getting a little stronger every day. I have also seen some cool things and been to some beautiful places that I never would have discovered on foot.

Andreas very happy after a bike ride to one of his favorite places.20180720_184504A mural we discovered after turning down a new street.20180722_154505

Andreas looks longingly at the couples that pass us loaded down with traveling saddle bags on their way to other countries with hilly terrains. If our relationship survives this “training period” imagine the adventures we’ll have.

P.S. * Andreas wouldn’t be caught dead in Spandex, or with a helmet, Camelback or lights on his bike. (I think lights are required by law here)

The author at the Fischmarket preparing for a long ride home.DF_0445

Tourist!

Tourist selfie by Andreas in front of one of Bremerhaven’s many depressing monuments.20180716_100100

My Uncle refers to seasonal visitors as ‘Tourons’. I have been both a tourist and have lived in a tourist town. I don’t like either. I dislike the idea of standing out as someone who doesn’t belong and will be leaving soon. When I lived in a beach town we wrinkled our noses when we used this word.

When I’m in a new place I do my best (which is hard if you know me) not to stand out. I like to walk around as if I’ve always lived there. I’m uncomfortable as a stranger. Here, in Germany I could maybe pass as German, I’m sure there are some other Gingers around here somewhere? When I open my mouth however, I’m a goner. Even if I can say the word or sentence I need, the accent is way way off. Thus, I’ve been laying low and feeling self-conscious since we arrived.

This weekend Andreas’ parents visited from Neustadt, Germany which is east of here by about four hours. (Andreas says there are at least twenty towns in Germany with this name??) Even though they are German this town is new for them too. Since Andreas and I are the “locals” it was our job to show them around and find fun things to do. This forced us all to embrace being tourists.

Mutti knitting socks for Molly.20180714_20333020180715_111144Andreas and Vati catch up on Andreas’ latest research and photos.20180714_210628

Christa AKA Mutti loves adventure, travel and exercise, she is also an upcycling queen. Lothar AKA Vati keeps up pretty well. They’re in great shape at eighty-two and eighty-four. During the weekend we walked the few blocks to the water from our apartment and visited the Klimahaus (Climate Museum). https://www.klimahaus-bremerhaven.de/  At one point we were looking at another long set of stairs in the museum and I was concerned that they might be tired. I asked Christa if maybe Andreas should check things out and report back. She looked at me very concerned and said, “Do you have some trouble with the stairs?”……no ma’am, I’ll go first. Ha-ha

A brave Mutti walks above the fish.20180714_152337In the Heaven room20180714_153028

The view from the top of the museum.20180714_154801

The next day we joined a harbor cruise on the Weser Estuary to see life from the other side of the dike. In this town that means a tour of container ships and giant cranes. Yup, luckily, I couldn’t understand anything the tour guide guy was babbling on about and I had fun playing with my camera until the battery died.

IMG_1852Seasoned sailorsIMG_1873

That evening we went to our favorite (so far) local Irish bar to watch the last game of the World Cup. Nice job France and Pussy Riot! A few beers later and we were holding on to each other giggling down the street.

Vati hoping France wins20180715_184240

All in all, a very fun, touristy time with lovely people. I need to relax a little and let the good times roll, I’m going to be the tourist over and over again this year.

Silly people in the sun after a fun night.20180715_194032

Lucky, grateful and unpacked

Home base is a vital bit of the human experience. It feels and looks different to everyone on the planet. Without a base to relax in and turn off the outside noise, “being” can be stressful. Andreas and I were feeling this stress last week. We did a lot of preonline apartment research and we thought we had a place before we moved to Germany but the owner flaked. When we arrived last week, we found a good place with a view of the water in a beautiful building and thought, OK, this is the place. However, the rental company we were dealing with promised it to another person while we were looking at it. It took them two days of scheduling meetings to tell us this. The other apartments we looked at were tired, beat up and or in the middle of a rehab. Pergo is the flooring of choice for a quick rehab here. Pergo everywhere. Most places smelled funny or of smoke.

Andreas checking room dimensions with a nice Syrian kid who was showing us the apartment with the water view.20180711_102712-01

Last Thursday, the day we were to leave the Airbnb and were getting a little freaked out about the prospect of walking around Bremerhaven with our gear and bikes, we made an appointment to see a place around the corner. The outside of the building wasn’t beautiful and we were still crossing our fingers for the water view place.

A view from our balcony.20180710_171630-01.jpeg

“Don’t agree to anything,” I told Andreas, “Even if it’s good.” The owners of the apartment were very nice, a graphic design artist and an architect. Their children are product designers. The place was built in 1957, not much escaped bombing in this town during the second world war. The apartment is furnished, surprise, and not just “furnished” some of furniture is really well made. There is a small washing machine which is a HUGE plus. Just about everything we needed to move in was there. We are the first people to rent the place since the architect’s mother lived there.

Andreas figuring out the new kitchen making Sunday pancakes.20180708_083457-01.jpeg

The apartment is big. Two good size bedrooms, a living and dining room, kitchen, bathroom and a small balcony.

The living room.20180710_164904-01.jpeg

The bedroom had to be a color photo because I wanted to show the color of the wood. The landlords have since brought us another mattress.20180711_093412-01.jpeg

It’s grander than anything we were expecting to rent. There is also some basement space to store bikes. We are above a Turkish/ Italian restaurant that has closed for vacation until the end of August. Across the cobblestone street is China Restaurant est. 1963. We are a block away from the main shopping area and walking distance to the water and the city’s museums. While we were checking it out and getting to know the landlords I slipped Andreas a note saying, please say yes to this place, please!

It’s been a week since we were handed the keys. We found Ikea and I built a guest bed without too much cussing.

Guest room with the new Ikea bed20180710_172044-01

Very tired me after building the Ikea bed.20180706_190146-01

We’ve been picking up a few other things here and there but it’s been minimal. I don’t know what we would have done or how we would have afforded to furnish a place. We are learning the apartment’s tricks and nuances, have claimed our individual work spaces and found a decent radio station. The neighbor below is elderly and very nice and the neighbors above have a new baby and a two-year-old named Conan with Squiggy hair.

It’s becoming home base. It feels safe, comfortable and there’s plenty of privacy. We feel incredibly lucky and are very aware how first world our stressors, problems and luck are.

Ich bin ein Ausländer in Fishtown.

Leaving Philadelphia last Sunday around 8:30pm east coast time, we arrived at our Airbnb in Bremerhaven, Germany twenty-two hours later. We flew first to Hamburg via Iceland and Denmark then onto two trains to Bremerhaven. We were supposed to fly direct from Iceland to Hamburg, but that flight was canceled. On our new boarding passes we noticed that we were to be seated in row three on the plane connecting Copenhagen to Hamburg. Oh boy, a first-class upgrade to compensate for a cancelled flight and two hours on hold with Iceland Air?! Nope, no first class on a small, back loading, screaming-baby-having, propeller plane. Silly us.

Andreas chose an Airbnb in the neighborhood where he was hoping to find an apartment. It was cohabited by three students which turned into seven? on game night. Game night happened on their tiny kitchen table Tuesday night. We were invited but declined. They laughed non-stop until 12:30 am when they started blowing up an air mattress. “Is this too loud,” they asked sleep deprived me stepping over them to get to the bathroom, while they, seated at the table, were all brushing their teeth simultaneously. “Everything is too loud,” I said with a smile as nicely as I could since one of them will be working at the same place as Andreas.

Andreas at the kitchen table in our Airbnb20180704_133440

We spent most of our week apartment hunting in the area and then started looking further out considering bicycling distance. Andreas decided that we needed bikes right away and finally settled on a decent rebuilt pair from a nice Ukrainian dude he met on eBay. After seeing some pretty beat up apartments we lucked upon a wonderful flat (more about it later) and spent Friday and Saturday collecting essentials. By the way, even though they SAY they deliver, the Ikea in Bremerhaven does NOT. Also, shopping with someone who doesn’t like things made out of plastic is no fun in that store. Shopping at the farmer’s market went a little better the next day. Andreas gave me the job of keeping him from buying too much, I failed and we loaded two heavy backpacks for the bike ride home. Andreas also likes to flirt with older saleswomen and we got some incredible deals in a local department store thanks to his charming self.

Bikes parked in our Airbnb room20180704_221946

Today, Sunday, the stores are closed and we’re trying to take it easy. We went for a windy bike ride to the Weser Estuary and to our local café where we spent too much on a coffee in search of Wi-Fi. Our proudest moment of the day was figuring out the washing machine with all of the buttons and instructions in German. I am incredibly grateful to be on this adventure with Andreas who is fluent in the language and the culture and is very patient with my bewildered assimilation.

WiFi and coffee. What’s up with the tiny coffee cups, Germany?20180708_132056   Biking along the estuary on a Sunday with the other tourists.20180708_114647   The shopping center near our apartment on a Sunday when every thing is closed20180708_164419