28 February, 2009

Fasnacht am bodensee

In a quiet little German town, where tattoos, piercings, and green hair are only found in my memories of Portland, a rather unexpected event took place. Fasnacht.

...Okay, so it was totally expected, Lisa Town told me all about the insanity that is Karnival Überlingen style, as did everybody else in the weeks leading up to it. I was well prepared for the costumes, the whips, the drinking, and the party in the streets. I was warned, but somehow, still surprised. The entire town comes out for these festivities every night from the Thursday through the Monday before Ash Wednesday. It is quite the party and I certainly couldn't keep up.

The first night we headed over to Konstance to meet some fellow revelers from the office. This group is dressed up as 'The Financial Crisis'. Various puns about money sharks and scavengers in german are seen below.

I was a mermaid. Isa lent me the skirt. I already had the hair.


We took the little ferry.




And the insanity begins. What are these?




Isa, my office mate is a cowgirl. See how she is shooting me? I think she wants the fish tail skirt back.

On thursday night in Konstance everybody wears pajamas and parades through the city. This pajama party happens on Monday night in Überlingen.



We skipped Fridays festivities and went out again on Saturday. Here is the typical Fasnacht Tree in the town square.


And my costume for Saturday night. I didn't bring any costume things with me. I made 'do' with what I had.


Then I had to decide what I was. I considered saying that I was dressed up as a victorian becuase I find this pun particularly hilarious. Sadly though, not a single german had a clue what I meant by victorian. Instead I just became fancy hair. Costumes here, when refered to in English are called 'fancy dress'. My impression was that the most important thing for a costume was that it be strikingly unrealistic and terribly colorful. Oh well, I tried.



Some friends and coworkers in their unexpectedly coordinated fancy dress.


Saturday night's parade begane with a band that didn't seem to end. See the previous posting 'Sounds of Fasnacht'.




And the Hensula (totally phonetic spelling here).

From what I have been told, the tradition with the whips comes from the time of the black plague. The Hensula (these are teh guys in black with rainbow shagg elephant costumes) were the people in charge of bringing food and medical supplies to the sick. Becuase the plague was so contagious, they used the whips to keep people from mobbing them. Now days they march in parades, put on loud whip shows, and drink lots of beer. Each town's traditions are a little different from the next and I am sure that there is much more to the history and the traditions of Karnival then I was made aware of. So, note: this is just a peak into Überlingen's Farnacht cultural events.




Arabian nights was the theme of this fancy dress group.


In Überlingen the towns old cellars are opened as temporary bars.



This is Angelica's traditional Bavarian dress, a dirndl. It is not really considered Fasnacht fancy dress, but would make a great halloween costume in the states. I think I want one.





Monday night is the pajama night, but if you don't have pajamas you can apparently dress up as a steelers fan. This is my roomate Birgit.


Our office has a number of projects in Pittsburgh, funny that my old roomate in portland had this same towel. And I suspect my new cousin-in-law wouldn't mind having one himself, if he doesn't already. I am currently working on the Pittsburgh's Carnegie Science Center's Waterfront Design.


Guy in the middle with the 'Sonnenbrille' is my 'chef'. Yup, thats Herr Driesietl himself.

...only at Farsnacht.

27 February, 2009

15 February, 2009

¿Cómo se dice en español espontánea?

In the middle of a Real German winter I realized how much of Duetsch I've actually learned after trying to speak Spanish last weekend in Granada. It was what you might call a spontaneous trip. I found out I had some friends of friends in Granda, that the sun was shining there, and that I could take three days off. So I bought some tickets, and I went.

It was fabulous. I quickly came to understand the value of the "holiday" in Europe. I was able to explore all over Granda on foot, and soak up plenty of warm sunshine,. I enjoyed Spanish wine and tapas with a few friendly locals, listened to live flamenco music, and just let everything else slip out of my mind for few days. The shopping was good too.

So, Here are the pictures. Try to feel the sun shining down on you as you look at them, unless they are night pictures, then imagine the moon and stars dancing above you... I swear this sappiness is completely justified. It was really that beautiful. :)


I took three trains to Zurich and flew to the Madrid Airport.

The columns in the airport are a surprising treat. It takes a minute to realize that as you walk the length of the building the colors change, following the spectrum of the rainbow. Mom, I really think you'd like Spain!

If you look in these photos at the windows way at the end, you can see the reflection of the columns' colors as they change.

I took a subway from one Madrid airport to another Madrid airport, same rainbow columns though, and caught the another plane to Granada. You could see out the front of the train, and well I thought that was cool so I took like 5 pictures of the tunnel. Here is one.


This is the gate to the courtyard of the holiday flat I stayed in.


And here's the flat.
But the best view of all was just outside the gate. This is the Alhambra.
It's a must see for any student of Landscape Architecture, especially the Court of the Lions. You have to see the Court of the Lions! I have been wanting to go here for a while and this was my first glimpse. Freaking geaourgious! (spelling error intentional)


Tapas for dinner followed by a highly recommended flamenco group. The dancer was amazing. Here expression almost had me crying . She looked like she was in so much emotional angst that all of the 12 beat stomping in the world couldn't make her feel better.

I was delighted to wake to clear sky the first morning.
And luckily found the trail to the top of the mountain without much trouble. A very nice Spaniard assured me I was on the right track. That's right, I was talking to Spaniards all weekend. And they are exactly like the ones in Zorro.

A view back to the Islamic neighborhood where my flat was. It is called the Islamic neighborhood because it was built back when the Moors were in power and Islam was the religion practiced. So it was built before the Spanish Inquisition and King Ferdinand and Isabella, for you history people who like names. And for you history people who like dates, I am sure you already know them so I won't bother to google them for you here.

The houses all have courtyards and traditionally would have had central fountains as well. A stark contrast to the Catholics who came in later and apparently didn't bathe.







The secure military entrance
Layers of Islamic and Catholic imagery were throughout the "Red Castle"

The Blue Himmel ist Muy Freakin Bonita!


Biggest Cathedral I have seen yet, pics of the inside coming later...

Wall of the Alhambra.

The Catholic Monarchs Palace, which was never completed. It's missing a third story.
Funny thing, the cathedral was missing a third story on its tower as well...


Maintenance, something I did not study in school.

I loved this entry way to the Islamic sultan's palace.






I was told by the tour guide that for a time the city didn't care about the Alhambra and as late as the 1930's there were Gypsies living in the castle. This is the reason that some walls are missing some art. The Gypsies found willing buyers.

This is a school tour group. Their tour guide was a whole lot more animated than mine was.




That picture had me smiling.

But I also knew I was getting closer to the Court of the Lions and I could just hear Kenny Helphand, my professor of the history of Landscape architecture, getting worked up and ready to tell me all about the importance of the central source of water in the Islamic paradise garden.



This is the classic image of the Court of the Lions with it's central fountain guarded by lion statuary.

Except, I couldn't see any lions ...

they were being "restored".
Its something I have come to expect in my travels, at least a portion of every old thing there is to see has scaffolding up the side of the wall. The same was true in Japan. Constantly under restoration, or preservation. I think it was a professor who told me that the world's oldest wood building in Japan was really more like 60% the worlds oldest building made of wood. You can see one of the workers below repairing something. He didn't have one of the lions hidden under his canvas though. I asked.


The Alhambra just didn't stop being beautiful.
I don't know what these domes were.

Here is a view back to my flat in the Islamic neighborhood from the Alhambra. See the biggest wood door? That's the gate. And the wood door in the top center of the pic? That's the flat. I was quite tickled with myself for picking this out of the hill side.











After touring the Alhambra, I had some fresh squeezed orange juice with my lunch, outside, in the sun.


In the evening I wandered through the hillside and found some lovely photo opportunities.


While I was traveling by myself during the day, in the evening I was able to meet with Charo, a friend of my friend Philipp.

Downtown Granada was a bit more modern then the Alhambra.


For tapas this evening Charo and another friend of hers took me to a tapa bar that was behind the butcher shop. We walked into the butcher shop, which was tiny, and then around the counter into the back bar area. I was so amused by the setting I forgot to take a picture of my hosts.

Charo suggested a few places for me to visit the next day including the best hot chocolate and churros in town.

Next I visited a very impressive cathedral. I honestly felt like I had been punched in the gut when I walked in. I just felt my breath leap out of me as I my eyes tried to see all of the vast space in this cathedral at once. These pictures can't begin to describe the vast power of the space. I was forced to contemplate the the reasons that such a space was built. Was it to honor God, was it to display power and wealth? Was it paid for by the spoils of war, how many people died in the course of building it, whole generations, as it took 200 years to complete. And how did I feel in the space now? What did it mean to me?




Even God almighty had a little restoration work done occasionally.
Charo is a professor at the University in Granada and she recommended I visit the Old hospital building which is now part of the school. Particularly, I was to seek out the library. I was delighted by what I found and of course thought of Shannon Kirkpatrick and her pure delight at seeing such a hallowed space devoted to books.
Again there were courtyards everywhere.

And more sun.

And water.

I could have spent a happy week wandering the streets of Granada, but even in just two and a half days I found that I was completely refreshed and renewed. It was just that distraction that one hopes to have from work and daily life when on vacation. A complete adventure. Perfect for kicking off my traveling excursions in Europe. I can't wait till Paris!