Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Schwetzingen Palace 

One of the weekends we were in Mannheim, we made a visit to Schwetzingen. It is home to a "summer palace" used by German royals many years ago. The highlight of the palace is the extensive garden that extends from the rear of the palace. There is much walking to do there, in order to explore all the areas of the grounds. There are elegant, formal gardens as well as areas hidden away in the far corners that are more natural and secluded. We saw some fearless swans, that did not seem amused that there were people wandering around their streams. We walked around most of the perimeter, as well as through some of the interior gardens. You can also tour the palace, we decided to save that for another time. The gardens became quite crowded as the day went on, probably because it was such a beautiful sunny day. We also walked around the downtown of Schwetzingen as well, it was market day and the asparagus dominated the vegetable stalls.

Asparagus is a spring/summer vegetable that takes over German cuisine for those months. It seems even more prevalent in the Mannheim area, probably due to the abundance of asparagus farms in the area. It is white, not green, because it grows under a mound of dirt. It is very mild and tasty, I've had it a few different ways. I am willing to try it in some other ways as well, so far I have not been disappointed. This day in Schwetzingen we say a mexican restaurant that we were considering for lunch. Mexican restaurants in Germany are usually pretty dismal, coming from what we usually enjoy in the U.S. The food is usually pretty bland, not nearly as spicy/flavorful as even Taco Bell. I always try to avoid them, but sometimes Kenny is more hopeful. (We did have some yummy mexican food in Leiden, Holland over Easter!) We were looking at the menu posted outside on a chalkboard, when we saw an item that made the decision for us to move on and find something else for lunch. There is no possible way a mexican restaurant could have this and also have other authentic mexican dishes. IT was a spargel (asparagus) burrito!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Danger at the kindergarten 

So, just as I was thinking that I only had more boring palace pictures to post, I have an interesting experience at the kindergarten. As I arrived to pick up Jacob, there was a group of moms gathered at the gate, not able to enter. One of the teachers was telling us we had to go around the block to the backside of the building to pick up the children. The problem was a tree near the main entrance of the school. It was infested with caterpillars, and no one could go near it. These are hairy caterpillars, and the hairs can break off and make you sick. Not only that, but there were three children with rashes that were typical of the caterpillar rash. So - the playground was closed as well as the main entrance. The fire department was on it's way, to see what they could do about this infestation. After picking up Jacob, we made our way into the aldstadt to mail a letter and visit our favorite cafe, Cafe Parzival. When we were finished, we walked back to the kindergarten to get the truck and the fire department had arrived! They were donning Tyvek suits (just like in C.S.I.) and preparing to deal with the issue. We managed to get out of there before the hairs started flying.

Of course when we got home I had to research this a bit on the computer. My search started with the phrase "hairy german Caterpillar" which eventually led me to what I think is the culprit, the Oak Processionary (Thaumetopoea processionea). What I thought was the school being overly cautious is actually pretty serious. I saw the rash on one boy, it was definitely something you would notice. Some of the articles I read on the internet described small epidemics in areas where the caterpillars where numerous. Apparently, you don't have to even be near them, the hairs can just fly around on the wind.

So, finally something to post about besides castle visits, great weather and beautiful flowers. Those I will catch up on later!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jacob funny 

I try to remember some of the things he says that crack us up, he is such a hoot. Today we were coming out of the post office and I stopped to buy a paper from the machine. He asked me "So does that thing bake the papers every day?" I started laughing and he said "Well if doesn't bake them how does it make them?" I explained it to him in the car and then he had a good laugh too.

Back and Forth 

So - lately things have been a bit crazy around here. One of us is always going somewhere, usually to Mannheim or back. I also had the treat of going away for the weekend with the ladies from our chapel group, PWOC. That was so great, for both me and Kenny. Kenny and Jacob really enjoyed their time together too! I have things I want to blog about, like that weekend as well as a trip to a fabulous park in Mannheim. But no internet access at Kenny's apartment, and I have been out and about almost every day that I have been home. Perhaps next week, as things look like they may be settling down.

Last weekend we were in Mannheim, and tomorrow we are going back. Jacob has a short week due to a holiday on Thursday, so we decided to head back to Mannheim. Although it is only a couple hours away, it is like going to a different country. Bavaria is so .... German ... compared to the Mannheim area. Sure, they speak German there (although it sounds different than the German in our town) but that's about as German as it gets. I see bakeries open on Sunday, stores open until 10 pm ---- yes 10 pm! Walmart, Starbucks, Toys-R-Us, Shopping malls .... I'm not referring to places on military post either. Speaking of the post, that place is heavy with fast food that we often dream of here at little USAG Ansbach. While their PX isn't the biggest or the best, again, it makes ours look like a 7-11. I am convinced that the persons stationed at the base in Mannheim are really being cheated on the true German experience. I have not been cheated here in Bavaria! So, tomorrow we will drop the dogs off at the kennel, and head back west to Germerica, or Amerany. Whatever you want to call it....

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