Teaching English in a Foreign Country

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Happy Sunday! I wanted to remind everyone to check out my stock photo selections, mainly because I just want to share them with you. But if you need stock images for brochures or what have you, look at these pix with an eye to buy. Thanks!

Also, my good friend Cyndie Smith and I sponsor a Yahoo group called I Do Street Art – International Games of Tag, which is devoted to graffiti pictures. Take a look at what we two have shot and posted. Also, it’s open to the public so anyone – even you! – can post his or her own photos of street art. Another blog I maintain with my good friend and fellow photographer Paula Showen (you REALLY MUST see her work!) is Image/Imagine. We challenge each other each month with themes we each interpret according to our own photo style. Check it out and leave us a comment! Check these three sites often because they are added to on a regular basis. I actually had this particular blog post scheduled for my last installment, but a last-minute invitation to the Heckenwirtschaft changed all that. But here’s a photo I shot last Sunday morning of the local marching band parading down the street once again in front of my apartment. I think it was First Communion at the church or something. But spring is here and the weather is getting warmer, so I know I’ll be hearing that oompah music pretty often til fall. In addition, this year is the 1000-year anniversary of this little village, so I’m sure they have extra fests planned this year. And I’m also sure you’ll be seeing photos of all the goings-on.  

Other than that, I have very few photos to show you this week. However, I thought I would give you glimpse into what it’s like to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) in a foreign country. That’s how I pay most of my bills here in Germany, with a little pocket change coming from freelance articles for online magazines. read more

Visitors from the New World – Part 1

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In my last post I told you that I would be taking a three-week break because some friends were coming to visit me here in Bamberg, Germany, where I live and teach English. Well, it’s been four weeks, so I hope you’re still reading. The three-week break took care of the visitors, but I guess I needed another week to settle into a new teaching job and recover from my visitors’ vacations! So, I’m back. In this post you’ll see just what me and my visitors were up to for those three glorious weeks. BTW, one visitor was my lovely husband James and the other two were Cyndie and Bram Smith, good friends of ours from Florida. Cyndie is a talented metal-jewelry artist I met while I was director at the art gallery there. They all arrived on the same flight in late September, which made the hook-up easy, and I met them at Munich’s main train station. I’d taken the train in from Bamberg and they had taken the train from the airport. Then we all made our way to Marienplatz to see the Glockenspiel and have Weisswurst and beer for breakfast. Here’s a shot of Bram (the back of the head closest to my lens) watching the Glockenspiel, but mostly giggling with me about the combover of the guy in the red shirt in front of us! Here’s the back of Cyndie’s head (long
hair, on the right) as she takes a picture of the Glockenspiel in action.
And here’s James enjoying a wonderful Oktoberfest beer along
with his Weisswurst
Because Weisswurst translates literally as “white sausage” and because they are
actually white in color, Cyndy dubbed them “White Weenies.”

Since I am lucky enough to have seen
the Glockenspiel many times, it’s my special pleasure to watch the crowd watch
the Glock. I get great people shots from this. Here’s one of a “living tripod”
who looks like she’s used to filling this role for the photographer behind her.

We ventured around the corner to the wonderful
Viktualienmarkt where, among all the luscious fruits, vegetables, cheese,
wine and beer, we saw artichokes that had bloomed. This is what they look like
if you don’t pick them while you can still eat them.
read more

Sunday Brunch in a Rococo Castle Garden

posted in: Europe | 10
I have a friend named Gabrielle. I met her because I’m in a “tandem” program through my school. Gabi is German studying English; I speak English studying German. So we get together every week or so at a café and, theoretically, speak English half the time and German the other half. Theoretically. Gabi asked me last week if I’d like to have Sunday breakfast at Schloss Seehof, a castle near here. I jumped at the chance! So, on Sunday morning, Gabi picked me up in her cute little 18-year-old Peugeot and we tooled to the castle. Side note: the car’s sunroof operated by a hand crank on the ceiling! Schloss Seehof is a rococo castle near Bamberg in an outlying village called Memmelsdorf. It was built in 1686 as a summer residence for the Prince-Bishop rulers who lived in Bamberg. It’s a pretty small castle as castles go, but still very impressive. Gabi had made reservations at the café, which is operated out of part of the line of outbuildings of the castle. This line of buildings was the former glassed-in greenhouse, or Orangerie, where they used to grow orange trees and where weddings and such are held today. The line of buildings looks like a castle wall and you enter the grounds through a gate in the middle. Here’s a view of the castle from outside this gate: Here’s a closer view of the castle proper:

Here’s a view inside the gate looking out: The café is to the right of this picture. As you can see, it was a beautiful day, about 72 degrees, and sunny. We sat outdoors with a view of the castle gardens. The castle and grounds had fallen into disrepair after many years of disuse, and the Bavarian state government began renovating it in the 1970’s. I had visited this castle six or eight years ago, and I could see improvements, such as the café itself, which didn’t even exist back then.

For breakfast, I chose a typical German, meat-centric
continental breakfast called “Balthasar Neumann.” It was
accompanied by delicious coffee served in a beautiful Rosenthal cup and saucer.

A quick internet search on the name told me that Balthasar Neumann was a German architect (1687–1753) responsible for, among others, the Baroque Residenz in Würzburg and the church of Vierzehnheiligen which I’ve visited – I wrote a travel journal about it back in 2008, before I started illustrating my journals with pictures. I wish you could see photos of it. It’s quite wonderful! Not sure what Neumann has to do with Seehof, but maybe he was involved. After breakfast, Gabi and I toured the grounds. First off, we stepped into another section of the Orangerie devoted to statues made by Ferdinand Tietz. Tietz, sometimes spelled Dietz, was the sculptor commissioned with the castle decorations, including the elaborate fountain behind the castle. Most of the statuary had been damaged over the ages, and the actual original fragments were in this room. Copies have been made and restored to the original positions on the walls, around the fountain and in the castle. The pieces all show a huge amount of physical power: Gabi and I signed up for the interior tour of the castle, which was in German, but I was able to follow a lot of it. There are nine staterooms and a huge ballroom called the White Hall. The first thing I noticed was the chandelier:

But the most beautiful feature of
the room is the painted ceiling by Italian painter Guiseppe Appiani. Appiani also painted the Vierzehnheiligen basilica and several other well known structures in the area.

Then there were the requisite sitting rooms and drawing rooms and bedrooms, all connected through doorways along one side of the building, similar to Versailles. The furniture was very sparse and had been sold over the years and lost in the wars. Most of the furnishings were copies done in the style of the period from originals they have been able to locate. The state conservation agency has its offices and workshops in the castle itself. This is an example of the restored gilt frame on the paintings above each door. Not all of the frames had been restored, but this one was especially nice:

The wallpaper was a copy, too, woven out of cotton. However,
one valance over a bed had an original piece of this fabric. You can see the
aging that has occurred against the look of the copied fabric in this
photo. The aged fabric is over 250 years old. I got the impression it would crumble if you touched it. read more

From Picasso to Beuys in Bamberg

posted in: Europe | 1
A couple of weeks ago I visited a great art exhibit here in Bamberg. I’d had a rather good week anyway, and a student sent me flowers at school for helping him prepare, linguistically, for his upcoming move to South Africa: As you might surmise from my previous posts, Bamberg isn’t exactly known as an art mecca. It’s more well known as a beer center, even billed by the tourist bureau as Bierstadt, or Beer City. However, I had seen banners around town advertising an art exhibit titled Zwolf Kunsträume – von
Picasso zu Beuys
(12 Art Rooms – from Picasso to Beuys), works of world famous artists through the 20th Century.   This exhibit was being held in conjunction with the Bayerische Landesgartenschau (Bavarian Garden Show), a really big deal around here. I plan to visit this show at least once, and you’ll see a future blog post about it. I resolved to see the art show, of course. Turns out the exhibit was being held in the Villa Dessauer historical mansion in the upscale part of town. I’d wanted to see this building for a while, too, but hadn’t been able to find it open. It’s only open for special shows, so this was my chance. I took BlackFlash and rode into town to this lovely mansion.   Villa Dessauer was built in 1884 by a Jewish hops merchant named, of course, Dessauer. It’s a huge, imposing structure in neo-Renaissance style. I had a rather hard time tracking down any information about this building online, but here is what I’ve been able to dig up: Dessauer was one of the richest people in Bamberg and the house was definitely a status symbol. Apparently the official opening of the house was a grand ball. Dessauer hired an architect out of Hannover named Geb to build it. The outside has classical features such as this statue set in the center. She is holding an anchor in one hand, which, in Renaissance symbology, means safety and hope. The other arm, which you can’t see in this photo, carries a caduceus, which symbolizes commerce. It’s the same staff with snakes that often denotes the medical field today.   The upper dormer has caryatids:   Near the pavement, there’s even a door for my friend Debbie: Here is an example of the Dessauer insignia sculpted right into the building. You can see it on each wall: . I found lots of references to when this house was built and for whom, but not much about the intriguing notation on the sign here: 1945 Amerika-Haus.   Finally, I found some history written in German and ran it through Google translator. Here is what (I think) it said:

Dessauer had no children, so he eventually sold the house to
someone else in 1907 just before he died. That owner later sold it to someone
named Neuberg who ended up subdividing the house into separate apartments and
renting them out. After that the house passed to someone named Pretzfelder.

The Nazis came along and confiscated the house in 1942 and used it for a tax office and other governmental bureaus. The Americans took possession in 1945 at the end of WWII, but I couldn’t find anything about what they used it for. Maybe administrative offices as well. Eventually the villa was returned to its last owner, Pretzfelder, who had fled to England before the war. In 1954, he sold it to the city of Bamberg, who owns it today. The city used the villa for offices and storage space until 1987 when it converted the house into a venue for for special art exhibits and municipal events. I was surprised to be told that I could freely take pictures of the exhibit! This is highly unusual, but, on the other hand, the lighting was terrible for photographs, so I have but a few. Here’s an example of the ornate architecture inside the house: At the time the mansion was built, it had the most modern conveniences available. I read it had a glass ceiling in the atrium that has since been removed. However, the original etched glass in the stairwell it still intact:     It’s a marvel that this beautiful house still stands in all its magnificence and is used for noble purposes. I would have been happy to pay the seven Euros just to see the house. However, there was an art exhibit to see, so I got down to business. I was astounded to find what a wide array of famous artists were collected here! Not only Picasso, but Dali, Hundertwasser, Kandinsky, Christo, Chagall, Warhol and many, many others, apparently all from a private collection of one Richard H. Mayer who lives here in Bamberg. I don’t know who this person is, but I will find out. The displays were impressive for the most part. There were so many pieces that the curators had a hard time fitting all of them onto the walls in some places. This resulted in some of them not being properly lit, but I’d rather see one in shadows than not at all. Here are the Picasso and Dali displays:   As I said, there were many and beautiful pieces. One of the Picasso’s that I particularly enjoyed were portraits of his son Claude and daughter Paloma when they were children. The portraits were made entirely from his fingerprints. I enjoyed meeting Georges Mathieu for the first time with his work La Temeraire. In addition there was a whole room of Chagall, one of my favorites with his blue airiness. I’d heard of the famous German artist Hundertwasser – I think I remembered his name because it literally means “hundred water.” I hadn’t seen any of his work until that day, but now I know him, too. Surrealism was well represented. In addition to Dali, there was Hans Bellmer, whose marionette drawings were interesting, if not disturbing. There were selections of Pop Art, including a Warhol or two. There were a couple of pieces from Richard Lindner, who I’d recently met at the Bayreuth art museum. The last of the 12 art rooms was devoted to Joseph Beuys (1921 – 1986), a famous German artist. I’d never heard of him, but most Germans I talked to about him knew his name and had a positive reaction. I have to say his works were not my favorite style, but my German teacher explained that he was very high-profile and outspoken about political issues. And he was always photographed wearing his hat! If you want to see any of the images I just mentioned, just plug their names into Google Images and enjoy! There are too many for me to include all the links. Fortunately the exhibit had an excellent catalog available, so I bought that and am still enjoying it. Frank had met me at the gallery and we went afterward to meet Anette and Michael, our friends from Kronach, for dinner at a great Indian restaurant, Swarg , which means, despite the way it sounds, “paradise” in the language of India. The meal was happy:   Frank was happy to see all the food:   We had a great dinner outside on the patio. It was there that Anette and Michael invited me to Kronach “sometime in the near future.” And then I lucked into the Crana Historica trip the very next weekend. Here’s a blurry shot of us that the waiter took for me. I hope you enjoyed my art-filled outing. I wish all of you could have seen this glorious display. Look forward to more art excursions in the future! Photo for No Apparent Reason:

German Labor Day – May 1st

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Today is Germany’s equivalent of Labor Day: May 1st.

In fact, many European countries have a holiday today celebrating the workers. The banks and most businesses are closed, including the supermarkets. However, cafes, bistros, restaurants and especially beer gardens are in full swing. Spring has truly arrived here. In fact it’s been downright hot some days. But this morning was beautiful and mild. About 9:00 a.m. a group of guys came singing down the street, which is a traditional thing to do today – of course you have to have your wagon of beer to go along with you: At 9:30 I went to pay my rent to the landlady downstairs. She calls me pünktlich, which means punctual, which is about the highest compliment a German can give you after fleisig, or diligent! Today, since I was earlier than usual on the first of the month, she actually called me überpünktlich! She was so delighted and seemed to have forgotten all about the fact that she yelled at me for leaving the balcony shutter open yesterday while I was out. After that I set out on this glorious spring morning on my bike whose, name is SchwarzeBlitz (BlackFlash), under a sunny, high, blue sky. I live about six kilometers, or about three and three quarter miles, from Bamberg, so I rode the bike path along the river into town. There were literally hundreds of other bikes and even more people walking along the path and on the streets. On a day like this, it seems every German is outdoors enjoying the weather, especially on a day off. My intention was to climb the tower of the historic town hall, which I’d never done, and do some photos I could practice my tilt-shift on and maybe see King Ludwig’s porcelain collection housed in the same building. But as I approached the town hall, I heard music and saw a parade in progress near the square. So I diverted my path to follow it. The music wasn’t the traditional oompah marching band, but a rousing, fun, fantastic group of drummers in bright colors, almost the Jamaican color theme. It was so great, I’m telling you! They really had the crowd going and the corps leader was so animated that you had to get into the feeling. I got some videos and a few still photos as I stood as close as I could. What a great show!

It wasn’t
until I was processing these photos that I noticed the corps was composed
mainly of women – some of whose clothing was a little see-through from this angle!
  It became apparent that the band had been hired by the DGB, or Deutsche
. The DGB is the German Trade Union Federation and is the umbrella organization of trade unions in Germany. So, Labor Day, trade unions, guess it makes sense. Then some suit started talking at a microphone nearby, whom I assumed was the labor union leader, and I heard him call the band something-something Samba Band. He went on to thank people for being there and to praise the workers, etc. Didn’t hurt that there was a beer concession nearby and tables set up for people to enjoy the sunshine.   As I drifted away from the festivities, I met a group heading in that direction – probably were going to perform there later (I hope!). They yelled at me (good naturedly) for taking their picture, so I feel duty-bound to post it here:   By then I’d decided to skip the tower climb and museum and stop for one of Bamberg’s famous smoke beers. Of course, I had to follow that with some lunch, which totally took away any motivation to do anything else the rest of the day.   So BlackFlash and I made our way home back along the beautiful river in the wonderful weather. It was too perfect a day not to post this journal right away. Oh, and here’s a photo of the door in the back of the landlady’s garage, just beyond where I park my bicycle. It opens into her garden, and I just love the way the light falls on the steps. Enjoy, Deb! I may have been remiss in posting travel journals, but I have been daytripping to local towns, so I have a couple more posts in the works. Stay tuned! Photo for No Apparent Reason: