Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hi there! I had a nice relaxing day today recovering from jet lag, beginning with a delicious breakfast of eggs and liverwurst at the guesthouse. I went downtown for most of the day. After walking by the modern area of chic designer stores immediately surrounding the central train station, I was pleasantly surprised to find an oldish looking part of town called Schlossplatz or Schlossgarten or something. Commodious squares and plazas, each overlooked by a stately-looking building and ornamented with a fountain or stoic-faced statue, were linked by little brick streets all named after the Germans I was supposed to have read in Directed Studies. Gone were the colorful headscarves that dot my working class neighborhood in North Stuttgart; here were the schnitzel eating, accordion playing Germans you learn about at the "It's a Small World" ride at Disneyworld. Each plaza had a different theme for the bustling activity within, whether selling fresh produce, flowers, or just bands playing covers of American rock songs. Germans love their mediocre American music. I have talked to several people who were extremely enthusiastic about the upcoming AC/DC concert taking place on Sunday in the big soccer stadium; unfortunately I'll have to miss that cultural treat as I'm leaving for Uganda that day. I am sorry to be missing Germany's first World Cup game which is also Sunday-- everyone here is in a state of epileptic fit about it. My hostelier excitedly suggested I stop by an "insane" pregame starting at 2pm today at a sports bar somewhere downtown for the Mexico-South Africa game, which didnt start til 4. I actually tried to go but got lost amid the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe streets and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz avenues and so forth. Back in the plazas I checked out a big handsome Romanesque cathedral, which today services the Evangelical Church in Germany, a conglomeration of mostly Lutheran and Reformed denominations and theological umbrella group for 30% of Germans. Inside this particular church there were substantially fewer than 30% of Germans though there was a service starting, but that's probably because it was a Thursday afternoon.

The strip of plazas paralleled a beautiful long park that stretched for many city blocks. Filled with people young and old enjoying the sunshine and delicious cool breeze, it reminded me a lot of the Boston Common in summer, or maybe the National Mall if the grass didn't always shrivel into a parched brown by June. I hung out there for a long time, going over the briefing documents I had made for myself to prepare for my day of meetings tomorrow. At one point I got excited when I looked up and saw some people throwing around a football-- a real football, not the stultifying World Cup "futball" they all go wild about for some reason. I headed over to join in for a pass or two but was a little disappointed that the people weren't Americans like I assumed--they were German, and had absolutely no idea how to throw or catch a football.

Anyway its time to go back to the hostel to get prepped for tomorrow's visit to AFRICOM. On Saturday I have been mulling over a trip out of town, maybe to nearby Heidelberg, Frieburg, Munich, or in honor of my new idol (see below), maybe a visit to Strasbourg, France.

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