Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dan's Bday and the European Championships

The next best time to be in Germany after the World Cup is when the UEFA European Championships are on.  The summer of 2012 was one such time and we were fortunate to spend our last month in Germany completely entranced with the competition.

     The last time that I was in Germany for a European Championship was in 2004 when I studied abroad here.  That summer proved to be disappointing for team Germany though, as they were ousted in either the group stage or the second round.  In 2008 they came up short in the semi-finals, and this was the year to avenge their poor luck.  They were chosen as a favorite this year and it was my intention to watch every game made available.  This time of year you can walk along practically any street in Frankfurt and enjoy the games on large, flat screen tvs in front of respectable crowds.

Team Germany broke out some throw-back jerseys from 1972 that we totally went for - unfortunately they never wore them in a match this tournament.

During the group stage we had an opportunity to catch Germany vs. Portugal on the occasion of our friend Dan's birthday.  This is not Dan.  This is Jago.  He's modeling the team face paint that we got from our beer guy.


Ben and the birthday boy, Dan.

Jago and Jess.

Gina, Kate, Tran, Dan and Ben

Jules and Mony

Team Jackson.  Be intimidated.

As you probably know, Germany lost in the semi-finals (yet again) to Italy, who went on to be embarrassed by the Spaniards in the final.  Oh well, there's always Brazil 2014!!  It was fun to watch all of the games anyways.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Anne Frank House-Amsterdam

     I realize that many of you probably have read the Diary of Anne Frank at some point in your scholastic career, but I hadn't had that chance until after having visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.  My 9th grade English teacher definitely educated us on the Holocaust and exposed us to literature from survivors such as Elie Wiesel's Night and the cartoon account of the Holocaust entitled Maus.  Since living in Germany we had also visited a few concentration camps, so we knew something about this time period.  However, I didn't know much about Anne Frank and her story.  Going into it all I knew was that Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany, hid out in a house in Amsterdam during WWII, and eventually died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  Most of this I only knew from the walking tour in Frankfurt that passes by the Holocaust memorial. 
     While many people will convince you to avoid the Anne Frank House because it is a very popular site and the line can be very long since you have to walk single-file through the tight passageways in the house.  We visited on a Sunday morning in May and found the line to be very reasonable.  I would recommend reading the diary beforehand since the tour basically walks you through each room that you would recognize from the diary.  It's well-preserved and gives you an incredibly realistic idea of life in the annex.  Sorry, no pictures inside the house.

View from the Secret Annex across the street and the canal.

Name plate on the front door to the warehouse.  If you haven't read the diary then I should mention that the "house" is actually an old factory/warehouse where jams and jellies were made.

View of the factory/warehouse from across the canal.  Once Anne Frank's sister Margot was summoned by the SS to report for relocation, the entire family moved into a hidden apartment, or "annex", in the upper portion of the factory.  They stayed there for over two years with another family and a single man without ever leaving until they were "discovered" by the SS and deported to concentration camps in 1944.  Everyone perished except for the father, Otto Frank, who dedicated his life to ensuring the publication of his daughter's diary.

I checked out the diary after visiting the museum.  It is basically the diary of a 13-15 year old girl with lots of details about daily life and inner thoughts and reflection through a difficult circumstance in life.  It was impressive to read through the honest and deep self-reflection that a teenager is capable of.  She had a youthful spirit and an optimistic attitude to survive the war and go on to be an author.  Thanks to her father she was able to be that author posthumously.

If you haven't done so already, I suggest reading the Diary of Anne Frank and/or visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.


Amsterdam: 30th by 30!

     One of my goals for 2012, since I turned 30 years old, was to visit my 30th country.  While I could've stretched it a few weeks before by visiting Liechtenstein, I certainly preferred to have the Netherlands as my 30th country.  I must admit that 30 should be asterisked, since I have counted individual parts of the United Kingdom as sovereign nations (i.e. Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland).  I would argue, however, that these portions have cultures different enough to justify counting them as separate nations.  Anyways, the goal was met and this blog describes the trip that met the mark.

     "I Amsterdam" is the well-known sign that tourists love to photograph.  To me the only thing missing is a heart in-between the I and the A.  For only being about 4 hours away from Frankfurt, it's surprising that it took us nearly 2-years to visit, but we're really glad that we did.  Of course my idea of Amsterdam fit all of the stereotypes......the coffeehouses......the red light district.....hostels with bedbugs....etc.  However, I was pleased to find that, while those components certainly are present in Amsterdam, the city has so much more to offer.  If you want to go for the pot and hookers, it's there, but there's plenty more to see in Amsterdam.

We enjoyed a nice little breakfast at a local joint on our first day.

Like other European cities, Amsterdam has a huge system of canals, with countless bridges traversing them.

Of course Holland is famous for its flowers, so we went through the flower market.  Unfortunately they don't sell many flowers that are already bloomed.  Rather, they sell the tulip bulbs and seeds for other flowers.

The flower market is also a great place to buy the trademark wooden clogs.  I certainly didn't spring for these impractical shoes, but they'd be nice decorations or flower pots.

So obviously many folks come to Amsterdam for the party-atmosphere.  If you're out and about before noon you just may come across people in this state.

Lots of great little cafes and places to drink beer - like Amstel.

One of my favorite photos from the trip.  This joker will probably wake up not knowing exactly where he is and how he got so sunburned.

Amsterdam:  where bicyclists have more rights than pedestrians.  You really have to be careful when walking around because you just might get run over - I saw it happen at least twice.

Another popular tourist photo-op.  I think this should be the car for a theme park ride - maybe "It's a small world".

Love this beer store just a block from the main plaza.  We got plenty of tips on local beer and local beer-drinking establishments.

We also partook in the Heineken Experience.  I can't say that the beer is very good, but the marketing is impressive.

As in any good brewery tour, we ended with the tasting.  However, this was the only tasting where they suggested that you "let the beer come to you" by tipping the glass back and drink it quickly.  This is the only way that you can bypass the bitter-tasting head and get the authentic Heineken taste.

I summarize by saying that you should drink Heineken really fast if you want it to taste better.

Alternatively you can drink Heineken after drinking four of anything else.

We did find out that Heineken makes these exclusive aluminum bottles that change under black light for use in only the sickest clubs in Europe.  Needless to say, we never saw these bottles before.

In the interactive portion of the tour we were able to practice our "perfect pour".  Marisa went first and "needed improvement".

I went second and indeed, had a "perfect pour".  Honestly, the two pours looked exactly the same so I really can't brag too much.

I definitely recommend the Heineken Experience, whether you like the beer or not.  It was definitely entertaining for at least an hour.

The famous sign is in the southern part of the city, near the main art museums.

People and dogs alike enjoy hanging out in the fountains near the museums.  We came down this way to check out the Van Gogh museum, where pictures weren't allowed.

We used our rented bicycles to trek out to this little brewery "'t IJ" (pronounced "eye") which I highly recommend.

't IJ has some nice beers on tap, our favorite being the "Columbus" which is a 9% tripel.  We like the tastings here because all of the servings are a smaller size, which helps to make it through all of their offerings without getting too crazy.

Posing with the rental bicycle along the canal in front of the brewery.

We had no idea that Amsterdam was such a great beer-tasting city.  Holland is growing in their love for craft breweries and it has resulted in nice little beer bars that only serve Dutch beer.

The line-up.....all local.

While sampling some Dutch beer we were distracted by some commotion out in the canal outside the bar.  I should mention that Amsterdam must be the bachelor party (or "stag party" if you're from the UK) capital of Europe.  Well here we have one of these parties where one member was pushed off of the boat and into the canal - in full clothing.  We watched him struggle to get back in the boat, to no avail.  Instead, his buddies threw him a rope and proceeded to drag him along the canal...........which didn't look very clean to me.

The "triple x" flag is the symbol of Amsterdam.  Now I'm not sure about the history here, but perhaps this is where the triple-x rating comes from?

Amsterdam and the Netherlands is definitely a place that I would recommend and that I would come back to, either to live or to visit.  I wouldn't have wanted to reach this milestone anywhere else and I'm glad that we fit it in before leaving Europe.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge 2012

Once a year in Frankfurt some 60,000 runners gather to run with their colleagues in the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge.  It's not exactly a serious run, as it's only about 6 km or so and there are so many people that you really can't go for a personal best time (I think it took me 40 minutes).  Marisa and I ran it this year for the second consecutive year with some co-workers from school.  It's actually a really fun run because there are lots of fans along the route, cheering for their colleagues, in addition to lots of live music along the way.  Every company or organization also has a team shirt, so it's always entertaining seeing all of the team colors throughout the course.

 Team ISF


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Well Fed "Last Supper"

As Christians, Marisa and I believe that life is meant to be communal (not in the literal sense necessarily).  With that in mind, wherever we live we know that it's important to find a church community to plug in-to as well as a "small group" to share life with.  For those that aren't familiar with all of the contemporary Christian church lingo, a "small group" is a sub-group of people within a church that meet on a regular basis to talk, share ups and downs of life, discuss passages from the Bible or other Christian books, pray together, and sometimes share meals together.  Some may be short-term, involving the study of one particular book or topic, while others may be on-going, changing topics and studies.

That being said, we were members of the International Christian Fellowship (ICF) in Oberursel while we lived in Frankfurt and joined a small group called "Well Fed", since we always got together over dinner.  For international teachers, I think that it's imperative to have a community or group of friends outside of your co-workers and school community.  For us, Well Fed was that outlet.  We met a bunch of great people and really enjoyed getting to know them over the past three years.  As a last hurrah, we all gathered once more for lunch out in Bommersheim after church one Sunday.

Donata suprised everyone with "cookie monster" cupcakes.


Running against the wind.

Nature lesson by Craig.

Not sure but maybe he's telling us how much Iron-Bru he had before going on the walk.

Germany:  when the weather is nice, it's a beautiful place.

Our host, David

I love that a mere 20 minutes outside of the city you can look like you're completely in nature.

Well-Fed minus Marisa.

Well-Fed minus Nicholas.

We hope to find another "well fed" in Hong Kong.  It definitely makes the transition much easier.

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