|Path: Eric's Site / Eric / Travel / Germany / Journal 1||Related: Germany, Journal 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10, Visits (Site Map)|
|This is the building I work in.|
|My office is near the center of this picture.|
There is a company cafeteria with a fixed-price meal. The meal is charged to an account identified by the company identification card. The card is also used to get in and out of the work site. At both the cafeteria and the site gates, the card is read by some contactless system. It only needs to be (very) near the scanner.
The meal is partly subsidized by the company for employees, but not so much for me as a contractor, due to some aspect of German law. The selection is limited for vegetarians. Some days there is a vegetarian choice as one of the main meals, and there is at least a salad every day. Other than the limited selection, the food is okay.
|Pfaltzgaße, a typical shopping street in Ulm, before Christmas.|
Lars gave me a cold, which kicked in near the end of the week.
|Traffiti sells transit passes and other travel services.|
The Monatskarte is a good deal, €37. A single ride is €1.5. When I translated the transit system information by computer, it said the base price is good for one honeycomb. I thought that was some mistranslation until I saw the zone map. A large region around Ulm is divided into honeycomb cells. The base cell around Ulm and Neu-Ulm covers everything I will want to go to either normally or in excursions around the city. Drivers do not check tickets when you board; you are expected to pay the one-trip fare or have a pass valid for the time and route. Occasionally inspectors board the bus or train and check passengers' tickets, but I have not seen that yet.
|The Linie Eins Straßenbahn runs conveniently between my home and the center of the city.|
|An establishment down the street from the mall.|
|Part of the Blautal Center food court.|
|The Danube seen from a bridge between Ulm and Neu-Ulm.|
The route back to Ulm gave me a chance to check out several stores for strategy games and model trains. Surprisingly, I have not found a really good source of German board games in Germany. The department stores have moderate selections, and one of the game stores has some, but I have not found a game/hobby store with a large selection.
The cold Lars gave me reached its peak Saturday, so I was dealing with that all
day while running errands. When I came home and checked my email, I found the
people I entrusted to ship the packages I had prepared did not do it, so now I
am hoping another person will do it for me, but the delay already is
disappointing. It means more delay or expense before I can get back to my usual
exercise, entertainment, and study or I can print anything from my computer.
Judging by food and rent so far, the cost of living here is less. In particular, fine chocolate is cheaper than in the United States. The savings in my chocolate budget just might compensate for my airfare. The marzipan is better here than in the United States—softer and moister.
When we would say "Good-bye" or a store clerk would say "Have a nice day," many people here say "Cheers" with an English accent. They are not just saying it to me because I speak English; I have heard Germans say it to other Germans. It sounds rather odd.
As one of my guide books prepared me for, it is common for people to share tables in public dining areas. They approach and say "Ist hier noch frei?" ("Is this seat free?") [More literally: "Is here still free?"] Knowing things like that is sometimes more helpful than knowing the language, since I can tell what's going on as soon as somebody approaches, even before they speak. Strangers sharing tables will wish each other "Guten appetit," and then largely ignore each other. Another difference in restaurants is that the staff makes change right at your table, as soon as you pay. They save two trips compared to US custom of leaving the bill at your table, coming back later to pick up the money, and eventually returning with your change.
I am getting used to the climate. The cold outdoors does not bother me as much, and I even turned down the hotel room thermostat a little. The map I have with the best scale and coverage for the areas I want has no legend, so I have to puzzle it out. It shows the transit routes with circles for the stops, but there are also some semicircles. I figured out those are places where the train or bus stops when going in one direction but not the other. Another symbol on the map is still a puzzle: It is a small figure of a person with their hands upraised and a dot over one hand. They are frequent in some areas of the city, but I have no clue what they stand for.
Light switches here are on when down. More people smoke. There are more coins.
|Parking on the sidewalk.|
Books are printed with the spines reading the other way from US books. To scan
the titles on a shelf, you have to tilt your head to the left instead of the
right. I noticed this with Canadian publications too. This difference was an
advantage in a computer store that mixed German and English books on the
shelves. The German titles were not all obviously German, but I only had to
look for books with spines printed the way I am accustomed to.
|Ulm makes a lot of being Einstein's birthplace, but I'm not sure they really like him that much, since I would not call this a flattering portrayal.|
I was contemplating going to Munich (München) after moving into my
apartment next week. I finally decided not to. I will have the opportunity to
see Munich when people visit. After they fly into Munich, we could spend some
time in the city before going to Ulm. The Ulm-Munich train ticket isn't cheap.
There is a 25% discount for buying three days in advance, but I can't be
certain I'll have the day free since something may come up when I move into the
new apartment. It would take all day, and there isn't much need. I originally
planned to register with the US consulate, but I may be able to do that by
phone or mail.
|The Blautal Center branch office of my bank.|
The streets are smaller here. Many streets appear designed for mixed pedestrian and slow-speed automotive use. In certain areas, the streets are bricks and blocks in lieu of smooth pavement. I suspect that is to slow traffic and alert drivers. This is particularly so in the approaches to the downtown pedestrian shopping district. That seems to work okay. The large street near the hotel, like a number of other streets, is divided into three sections, two for each direction of traffic and one for the streetcars. Each section has its own pedestrian signal, and they are not synchronized, so you have to cross the street in stages. Sometimes all three signals are tantalizingly green, but you cannot reach the third section before it turns red.
People obey the walk/don't-walk signals much more. I saw three teenage boys crossing the street. One reached the final section at the last moment, or perhaps even a bit late, and raced across it. The other two stopped. The first boy gestured for them to run across, but they declined. Can you imagine teenage boys in the US resisting peer pressure to cross the street?
|The left part of the Stadthaus contains a café and restaurant.|
|Marktkauf on Einstein Street.|
I have managed to complete a few transactions, even ordering a meal in a restaurant, without the other person realizing I did not speak or understand more than a few words of German (which is not to say that they did not think I had an atrocious accent). This involves a good deal of bluffing and a very occasional word here and there. For example, if I order something, and I hear a question beginning with mit, I just say nein. Mit means "with," and they are just trying to sell you something else. (Incidentally, upselling [trying to increase a customer's order] is less prevalent here than in the United States.) Language is going to be a problem for a long time, though. Several times I have looked at packages in stores with descriptions written in four languages, none of them English.
The ATMs are a little nicer, at least for German speakers. They accept your PIN as soon as the fourth digit is entered instead of making you press another button. And they deliver money in assorted denominations instead of all twenties.
|Erdgeschoß below and Obergeschoß above.|
People here are buying fireworks, and costumes are on sale, so I presume
something is about to happen.
I have mentioned before that the cost of living here is cheaper. It seems to be about 25% cheaper. Instead of a dollar store like we have in the US, the mall has a € .75 store. There must be a strong economic force for that price, since there is no convenient coinage for it.
I have not mentioned previously that most of the stores here use one-way gates to control customer egress. You cannot easily go out the way you came in because the gates will close as you approach. They are only waist-high bars, not real barriers, but they are a nuisance. Since I am learning my way around, I need to go into many stores and look around without buying anything. Many of the stores have no provision for customers exiting without making a purchase, so I have to squeeze by the people at the registers to get out. In that big department store at Mutschler Center, this traffic control is even worse. I took an escalator into the store, walked around a bit, and then realized there was no escalator out! I found an elevator but managed to translate enough of the sign on it to learn it did not stop at the ground floor, so that was not a way out either. To get out, you have to walk through the store, and then you come out at the other side of the mall. What a nuisance.
The store cashiers have seats and sit while they work. That makes sense; why should cashiers be forced to be on their feet for hours on end? On the other hand, I don't imagine that sitting for hours on end is good for you either.
It is common and somewhat expected to bring your own bags to stores, particularly grocery stores but many others as well. The stores may have bags available, but sometimes for a fee. I think I knew this, because I brought three cloth bags with me from the US.
I bought detergent today so that I can wash clothes as soon as I get into the apartment. At least, I think I bought detergent; I still have to translate the German on the packages (two, one for colors and one for whites). The detergent for whites has Aktiv-Sauerstoff—Active oxygen. Stoff is just material, but you would not normally think of oxygen as Sauer (sour). They like oxygen here; the maids keep opening my room's window. My book on German culture mentioned it is a custom to air out a room daily even in the coldest weather. However, Säure is acid, so I suspect oxygen was named Sauerstoff because it was a material gotten from some reaction with an acid.
I returned to the hotel to learn that Frau Moser, my landlady, won't have the apartment ready until January 1. That is when the lease starts, but she had earlier said December 31 would be fine. I would prefer December 31 because I could move in and get to the stores to buy groceries and supplies right away, and my new apartment would be functioning that day. On January 1, everything will be closed. Also, the hotel will cost me another €56.
I called Lars (who speaks English) and asked him to ask Frau Moser (who doesn't) about the apartment being ready. As long as there is heat and a place to put my stuff and I can sleep there, a mess will be fine for a day. So I asked him to get her response to that, saying I would move in on January 1 if necessary but I would like to move in on December 31 if that were possible even if preparations were incomplete. Lars called her and then called me back with the results: She did not answer, so he left a message saying I would show up on December 31. I am not happy about that, because I do not know why she wanted to delay, so I do not know that December 31 will work. But now she will be waiting for me in the morning, so I have to show up. So I have to pack everything and take my stuff over to see if I can move in. If not, I have to bring everything back to the hotel. Communicating with Frau Moser will be cumbersome.
Using the English-German translation software I bought in the US, I translated the detergent instructions. I just realized I haven't mentioned the software before. It works okay. The interface is a bit clunky, and it makes some mistakes and omissions, but you can get the idea of the translated material. There were no surprises in the detergent instructions, and I seem to have bought the right stuff. However, I decided it would be useful to have a measuring cup, so I went out to find one. One of the things I worried about before leaving was what would I not be able to plan for because it would be a surprise. My research has turned out to be quite useful, so I have not had any major surprises, but this was a minor surprise of that type. Finding a way to measure detergent was difficult. The powders are concentrated, so I may need only 45 milliliters for a load of laundry. That is about 3 tablespoons, so an ordinary kitchen measuring spoon would be just the thing. I looked in the kitchen sections of three department stores and could not find a single measuring spoon. There were plenty of other kitchen accessories—serving spoons, pots, pans, strainers, fruit peelers, pizza cutters, whisks, spice grinders, spatulas, the works. Everything you could want in the kitchen, except I could not find a single device for measuring small volumes. Not a teaspoon, not a tablespoon, not a 5-milliliter spoon, not a 10-milliliter box, not a calibrated scoop, not a screw of Archimedes, nothing. I did find a precision digital scale (up to 200 grams by .1 gram) and some measuring cups. The smallest measuring cup I found was 250 milliliters, and it is adequate for measuring detergent in the quantities I need. However, measuring cups are good for liquid and not so good for powders like baking soda, and a 250-milliliter cup is no good for teaspoon quantities. I am left to wonder how Germans bake.
I should have been making notes about interesting linguistic things as I
noticed them over the past few weeks, but I have been too focused on other
things, so they just passed by. Some of the connections between the languages
are obvious, but there are a few connections that are interesting because words
seem to be related but have separated quite a bit. I will try to remember to
write about these as they come up. Just now, I was translating "tomorrow" to
find out it is morgen. The thing is, "morning" is Morgen. I do
not know why the dictionary shows different capitalization, since they are both
nouns, but they are pronounced the same. That would seem to be confusing,
because people would not know whether you are talking about morning or
tomorrow. I have created a hypothesis. In English, we might say something will
be done "in the morning." In that use, "morning" refers to tomorrow. I wonder
if, in German, that use of morning evolved into meaning tomorrow.
|My apartment is on the bottom floor.|
|Locking device on a shopping cart.|
It helped that most of the buttons have pictures, although I am learning the words for various fruit and vegetables, and the pictures do not do all the work (like distinguishing between potatoes and sweet potatoes or beefsteak tomatoes and vine-cluster tomatoes). I got broccoli and iceberg lettuce and thought those would be sold by the individually wrapped Stück (piece), but I had to ask to be sure I did not need to weigh them.
Groceries are taxed here, but at a lower rate (7%) than other stuff (16%). However, I think the total was still lower than it would have been in the United States. (All prices are shown with the tax included, so you do not have to think about it, and the cost of living appears to be lower even with the tax.) I got almost everything on my list, but still no bagels or soy milk. I also did not see black beans, but I did not try very hard. The potatoes and onions were fewer in variety (one each) and smaller.
|The Straßenbahn passes by.|
Now that I am in the apartment, here are some pictures.
Having left the hotel, I have no Internet connection until my phone line here is enabled. That should happen on Thursday, January 2. Two days without the Internet! Another problem with leaving the hotel is trash. In the hotel, I could throw anything into the garbage can and let them deal with it. In the apartment, I cut a light cord off a bag of pasta, and then I had to go to my computer and open the translation of the garbage information to see what category the cord goes in.
Some more random observances: There are a lot of driving schools here. Driving must not be a part of the regular school curriculum. The plural apostrophe has crossed linguistic boundaries and infected Germany. I saw a sign for "crepe's" and another for "modem's."
Speaking of language again, I will never learn German. I may learn some words, but I know I will not learn the declensions and cases and conjugations and so on. The grammar section of one of my books tells me in one place that word order is extremely important and in another that word order is extremely flexible. It gives a table of 36 forms of the personal pronoun. It says the definite article is declined for the three genders, two numbers, and four cases, and there are three declensions of adjectives, which depend on what articles they are used with.
Uh, oh, I just cleaned the lint filter on the dryer. Where does the lint go? Time to open the translated garbage information again. As long as I have translated the information, I will share it with you. Perhaps somebody can explain the things I have noted at the bottom.
I just tried some of the chocolate I bought yesterday. Chocolate with yogurt
filling. Yum. The dryer is done. Yay, I have clean clothes.
Everything is closed today, so I cannot shop for the things I need for the apartment. I did go out and take some more photographs.
|Part of my neighborhood.||The entry to Im Baindtle. The litter is New Year's Eve fireworks.||The rest of Im Baindtle.|
|Bicycles are used much more here than in the US. The Reformhaus behind the bicycles is a natural food store.||I tried to get a photograph showing the height of the Münster, but it won't fit in my camera frame from any unobscured viewpoint in the area. This image does convey the impression of height though. Use the people directly in front of the cathedral for reference.||I think this device provides tension for the streetcar cables. I did not have time to investigate this hypothesis because the streetcar arrived while I was taking the picture.|
|These photographs show most of Ulm's central shopping street. There are additional smaller streets around the area that are not shown.|
|The Original Sneak-Peek.|
Next it was off to Mutschler Center to pick up that steamer I had my eye on. I also got a whisk, but there is still no sign of measuring spoons. I did find macadamias, so I may be able to make my raspberry-chocolate-chip macadamia brownies, if I can find a measuring spoon. The Reformhaus in the mall had peanut butter without additives, so I am hoping it tastes better than the adulterated peanut butter. Also in Mutschler Center is Kaufland, a truly huge supermarket. I have allocated time to go through it next Saturday. Then I went back home to drop off the steamer and have lunch.
After lunch, I went downtown. I used an ATM again and found that not only does it give you an assortment of bills, but it gives you choices about what assortment you would like. In Galeria Kaufhof, I bought a very nice digital kitchen scale. I have been looking for a successor for my home scale, and this one was a bargain. It measures up to 5000 grams by one-gram increments. Most consumer scales measure up to 2000 grams by two-gram increments or worse. So, it has a better range and better precision, but it was only €59.90. It can also be set to power up in metric or English units, but it can be easily changed while in use. The weighing surface is flat and above the rest of the scale, so containers larger than the scale rest on the weighing surface, not on the housing. It updates quickly when weight is added. The only defect I have found is that you cannot tare it and then show negative weights. That is a shame; I often want to know how much I have taken out of a container rather than how much I have put in.
In buying the scale, I got to use a complete German sentence. The scale was the last one on the shelf, the package was unmarked, and there was no matching price tag on the shelf. So I had to ask a clerk Was kostet das? (What does this cost?) Three whole words. Actually, I have done four: Ja, das ist Alles (Yes, that is all) and Das ist gut so (That is good, said to a waiter to mean keep the change). Also among the scales, I noticed one model of European scale that costs more here than it does in New Hampshire.
Then I went back home, changed, and went to use the gym for the first time. The trainers speak enough English to show me how to use their machines, and they are telling me to do my stretches differently. New exercises and new stretches mean new sore muscles. The gym also gave me my first use of a scale since I got here. It says I have lost a (very) little weight, so it seems the walking did me some good, and I did not go overboard on restaurants. Now that I know my weight and can exercise regularly, it is time for some serious chocolate.
|My neighborhood at night.|
The trash schedule says Biotonne and Restmülltonne were supposed to be picked up on my street today, but I did not see anybody put containers out, and the containers for my building have not been emptied. Maybe we are on the four-week schedule and not the two-week schedule. Hmm, the web page changed since I checked it. (I have a saved copy; it is not just my imagination.) They must have changed it for the new year or something. Oh, well, I probably do not need to deal with that; the landlady takes care of the containers, I think.
My telephone line was connected today. My first call was to my own number to check it, and I got what may be the German busy signal. My second call was to connect to the Internet. My modem even recognizes German dial tone. The hotel had some munged dial tone that the modem did not recognize, and I had to go through inordinate Microsoft menus to tell Windows to dial without waiting for a dial tone. (This involves getting to a modem-configuration dialog that is different depending on how you get to it, which is a user-interface abomination.)
So, I am connected again. Now it is late, and there is no time to watch
Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
|Neighborhood stream with waterfall.|
I did some more shopping this morning, and now I am pretty much ready to get into a normal daily routine. That is good, because I go back to work Monday. Life should approach something resembling normal, so my updates will be less frequent and less voluminous.
|Bicycle racks for mall customers.|
People have asked me for directions three times so far. That is much more than I was ever asked for directions back home. I must look like a native. If it keeps happening, maybe I will start pointing in random directions.
Dogs are commonly walked off the leash here, and they seem well behaved.
Dinnertime. The bottled pasta sauce here is better than in the US. And the green pasta isn't just green; it actually has a spinach flavor.
I am not paying much attention to the news, but George Bush's warmongering has made me several thousand dollars, because the expense of war impairs the US government's economic position, lowering the value of the dollar against the euro. I am being paid in euros, so I will have more dollars when I am done, given the current situation.
I have taken about 200 pictures, some with flashes, and the rechargeable batteries in my camera are still working on one charge. The camera eats alkaline batteries; a set would only last for about 15 pictures. So I am pretty satisfied with rechargeable batteries and recommend them.
I am receiving Info, the German Broadcaster, here—an unwanted small newspaper that is mostly ads. Well, newspaper is allowed in the Biotonne barrel, and I need something to wrap fruit and vegetable remains, so Info will serve some purpose.
Now that I am caught up, I decided to check out the nightlife, so I tried the Roxy. One guidebook describes it as "a huge, multivenue centre with a concert hall, cinema, disco, bar, and special-event forum." The tourist bureau pamphlets also seem to indicate it is part of a cultural center and is suitable for families. Well, finding it was a challenge. You would think with the Danube as a landmark and the specific building identified by name on maps, it would not be too hard to find, but the location was deserted and had no signs for the Roxy. Eventually I found it. You cannot get in from the street nearest the building. It is in an old fortification and behind a high wall. You have to go around a big museum to get to a plaza inside the surrounding buildings.
The Roxy itself is a graffiti-covered warehouse sort of building. Some of the graffiti looked artificial, but it was too dark to discern much. Inside was pretty lifeless. Some folks were buying movie tickets, but nothing else was happening. The other parts may be closed for the winter break. Perhaps I will go back later, although I am not much for nightlife. Maybe the Roxy isn't, either.
Another choice is the Pufferbar, which bills itself as Für Freaks ohne Finanzierungsplan, for freaks without finance plan. I don't think that is my kind of place either.
Meanwhile, I continue to learn something new on every trip out, although the
tidbits of information are getting more trivial. While waiting for the
Straßenbahn, I looked at the instructions on a pay phone. They seem to
have put more effort into the design here. The phone will give change after a
call, but can only give change in certain denominations, which are larger than
the billing unit. So you may end a call with credit due but no coin available
for it. I do not know the specific denominations, but let's say the machine
owes you 10 cents but has only 20-cent and 50-cent coins. It cannot give you
the 10 cents it owes you. According to the instructions, you could put in a
50-cent coin, and then the machine would give you back three 20-cent coins.
|Path: Eric's Site / Eric / Travel / Germany / Journal 1||Related: Germany, Journal 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10, Visits (Site Map)|
© Copyright 2002 by Eric Postpischil.