Losing Wifi On A Weekend Is Not A Good Idea In France

I’ve only just become aware of the fact that tanning doesn’t just affect your skin. I mean, I knew, academically speaking, that your hair goes lighter when exposed to sunlight, in a sort of bleaching effect. When Alex worked as a lifeguard in France one summer, he essentially came back with a halo instead of hair. Now, when Mom visited, she told me my hair had gotten lighter, but it didn’t really sink in until I spent five minutes admiring the hair on my arm this morning. The hairs on my arm were brown. Now they are blonde. As far as I’m concerned, this is utter madness. The fact that I think this is utter madness is nothing but testament to my ability to locate shade and hide in it for extended periods of time. The only reason I’m tanned at all is probably because I spent three weeks working in the Sanctuaries, and there are some posts there that are entirely without shade. On a vaguely related note, as far as I’m aware, English is the only language (out of a list composed of itself French and German) that distinguishes between shade  and shadow. I find the difference a bit ambiguous as well, because you can stand in shade, but it’s normally something’s shadow, so why is it shade and not shadow?

 

Anyway, I got burnt a few days ago. This seems to contradict my previous paragraph and my incredible shade finding abilities, but there was a pool involved and if I have any glowing green radioactive kryptonite in my life, it might just be swimming pools. It was 30ºC, there was nothing but sunlight and I’m pasty white Englishwoman, what madness would possess me to leave the safety of my shade? A swimming pool. A nice lovely chlorinated swimming pool. I think I might be one of the few people in the world who likes the smell of chlorine. I also think that it’s not a very useful trait to have. Being, you know, as chlorine is in fact highly toxic in anything larger than tiny amounts. I’m also sure that allowing twenty children to jump, dive and backflip into a pool without looking before jumping is definitely bad lifeguarding.

 

I understand children like jumping into pools and showing off in front of their friends and pushing in all the girls they find attractive (which is just sort of sad), but part of me can’t help but think you’re a pretty awful lifeguard if you see someone doing front crawl (not the best stroke for seeing where you’re going), a child diving in and landing literally less than a foot away and still don’t feel it necessary to intervene. I

t could be that I grew up with the invention of the Nanny State and Health and Safety or maybe it’s just succeeded in brainwashing me, but for however much it’s hated, when I land in Europe, I can’t help but feel that Health and Safety is amazing and how is everyone in Europe not dead yet? Because seriously, I’ve seen people repairing television aerials with nothing but rope to secure them to the roof, people drive in cars that look like they should be illegal in every country ever, farmers giving up on chasing their cows on a busy road and the part of me that I think might be a closeted Health and Safety Coordinator screams. However, quickly going back to the pool, three lengths of butterfly (not consecutive, are you insane?) is actually quite effective at reserving a small section for swimmers and discouraging children from leaping in head first.

I went to Tarbes on my day out last week. It was where I went to see the horses some time before then. Like the genius I am, I arrived at one ‘o’ clock. Many of you will have begun laughing, the rest of you will be blissfully clueless. Most of France shuts down between midday and two thirty (two if you’re lucky). Why? Because what do you mean you don’t take two hours to eat lunch? Are you barbarians? Worse? English? Even I wasn’t aware of how widespread the two hour lunch break was until arriving in Lourdes. And I have to agree, a two hour lunch break is great, if, and only if, you are working. If you are a tourist or customer or visitor, it is one of the most annoying things that has ever happened to you. So, I arrive in Tarbes, I walk to the Tourist Information Office (cursing the sunshine all the way because I hate heat and sun and how dare it make me happy) and it’s closed for lunch. I ended up mapping out all the bits of the city that aren’t useful or interesting before finally being allowed in to ask for a proper map and general information.

As it turns out, there’s not a lot to do in Tarbes. There’s the Harras National, which I still feel may be significant in some way, the house Marshall Foch was born in, a small maybe military base thing, shops and a museum about deportation and resistance. Because I’m a happy person, I went to the museum. No, I went because it is all very interesting, even if you come out all jaded and confused and sad. So I had a fun day out. I did go shopping before upsetting myself with a WWII museum, so I didn’t completely distress myself on my day out, even if the tourist office’s evil opening hours did force me to resort to eating a sandwich in a park like the greatest loner in the world before, as I said, mapping out everywhere that isn’t vaguely useful. So Tarbes. It rather has me hoping that Pau might be more exciting. Pau has a castle. Castles are exciting, right?

Oh and in Pavilion Drama (I did promise some last time), the fire alarm went off last week at about two in the morning, ten minutes after I was awoken by a drunk text. I have never been more grateful for a drunk text in my life. Fire alarms aren’t great, but being woken up by a fire alarm is infinitely worse. So, it goes off, me and my roommate leap ten feet into the air, I grab some stuff (tablet and phone because and all of my essay notes because they’re just on paper and I’ll be damned if I let fire anywhere near them) and we’re out; down the fire escape and coordinating the fire alarm procedures. At this point, I can see the bloke on duty at the Pre-Accueil approaching and he’s asking me if there’s a fire. To those of you not up on Pavilion Procedure, he’s the one who’s supposed to make that judgement call. I am literally there to open doors and make sure no one has caught on fire. Then there are people appearing on the balconies. The first thing that crosses my mind is, what on Earth are they still doing in the building that may actually potentially be ON FIRE. My question is answered when they ask me what the noise is.

  Now. I might be wrong, but if a really really loud, repetitive, looping and unceasing alarm sounds at an ungodly hour in the morning, I tend to make the assumption that it might just be a fire alarm. I also always thought that this was self-evident and that maybe the next step would be leaving said building. But no, not only were people confused by the mysterious noise that suspiciously resembles a fire alarm, they were also asking me if said fire alarm was a false alarm. In my experience, you don’t sit and wait in a building to find out if it’s a false alarm or not. You know, because if it isn’t there’s a fire and those things spread fast, hence the expression ‘getting along like a house on fire’. What amazed me even more is that there was a Slovak group staying with us and they seemed about as concerned by the fire alarm as the prime minister is in that ant he just trod on. Maybe fire alarms sound different in Slovakia. Forgive me if I’m sceptical. I know it was two in the morning and just waking up makes you a bit sluggish, but surely you’d at least leave? I was awake, full of adrenaline and running downstairs within a minute of the damn thing starting. So full of adrenaline, I might add, that getting back to sleep was genuinely quite difficult.

It was a anti-mosquito candle, by the way. Yeah. Well, at least it wasn’t a hot shower, apparently steam can set off the smoke alarm. I think the smoke alarm may need to go back to smoke alarm school if it can be set off steam. Smoke indicates fire, steam, less so.

  In other pavilion drama, a small bird, that I still haven’t been able to identify as anything but sparrowy, managed to fly into one of the pavilion windows and get trapped inside. Obviously, it was quite distressed, and it was in fact so distressed that even when I was holding it in front of an open window, it still decided the best means of escape would be to fly back into the staircase. It’s roughly the same amount of logic and common sense that a fly would be expected to show. We got it out eventually, but it did manage to make a mess all over the chairs before then. Incidentally, having carried a crow before, I’d just like to say that it’s much easier to carry a crow. Those tiny little sparrow-like birds are faaar to small. It’s like trying to pick up a pen with a tractor: you can but it’s not bloody easy and that pen will only try to make life harder for you. In any case, if it happens again, a bigger bird would be logistically easier. Having said that, that’s not an invitation. A vulture is the last thing we need inside the pavilion.   There was something else. Someone came up and tried to buy books off me one time. That was weird. To be honest, a lot of odd stuff seems to happen. Oh there were huge storms one evening.

We got an orange weather warning and when France issues an orange weather warning, they bloody well mean business. I had to go and tell everyone to shut their windows (with a picture of a thunderstorm for the Slovaks who didn’t appear to get the thunderstorm until someone who spoke English could translate my instructions… I wonder if storms look different in Slovakia…) or invading their rooms and shutting their windows if I feel they won’t come back to do it themselves. I got caught up in the storm. I was like a drowned rat that survived a tsunami only to be put into a washing machine once rescued. It took two days of sunlight and heat to dry my shoes which still smell of rainwater, which, I’ve discovered, does indeed smell. A bit. Or maybe just on my shoes. I suppose it’s better than them smelling of feet right?

So yeah, we have pavilion drama. I do wonder if the other pavilions get this sort of weirdness. It might be a particularity of the one I’m in. Oh and there’s a mysterious noise at night that sounds like a mobile phone but isn’t because everyone can hear it and no one’s mobile is going off. It’s a bit odd. I like to think it might be a forgetful ghost. I’m sure there’s a more scientific explanation but meh, forgetful ghost would be funnier.

As for developing my cultural understanding of France, or my “Frankreich-Kompetenz” as Saarland’s government would have you say, I have made a discovery. The French have about as much respect for my personal space as the Germans did. Along with the Japanese, the British have some of the largest personal space bubbles in the world. I suppose there’s just something about living on a small overcrowded industrialised island with an almost anal concept of manners and a surprisingly violent national history that means you need a disproportionately large amount of personal space and that you get incredibly uncomfortable when said space is unexpectedly invaded by a stranger. Germans will stand very close to you in queues, even if you’re typing in your pin number, and so do the French. Friday, for example, I was writing the week’s arrivals and departures in the book and a colleague came up behind me, leaned over my chair and read over my shoulder. My personal space was not only invaded, but it was also occupied and the discomfort was immediate and, I thought, very evident. (I immediately moved the document they were trying to look at just to remove them from my personal space). I don’t know if maybe I’m more precious about my personal space because I was born and raised in a large city, but personal space does strike me as a concept largely unknown to mainland Europeans, much to my distress. I ought to point out that the French are a lot friendlier and nicer than our stereotypes make them out to be, but they do lack, like the Germans, an understanding of how sacred personal space is considered to be. I spoke to a lovely Swede who has said the same thing, so I’m not paranoid, which is good.

I wrote this on Friday, if you can believe me, but the wifi successfully went down for four days. It went down Friday evening, was down the whole weekend, resurrected briefly on Monday for two hours, died and then came back yesterday full force, as long as it doesn’t crash again. It’s been irritating to say the least. Still, however late, this is one blog post more regular than normal

I Actually Managed To Write This In Two Days Without My Tablet Exploding

Sometimes I wonder if I might be cold-blooded, ‘cuz it’s either that or my roommate opening the window to the freezing cold French morning at ten to six (an entire hour before I roll out of bed). I know normal humans get up earlier than me, but is it necessary to inflict your wakefulness on your neighbour via cold air? It just makes it harder for me to get up in the morning. I know I’m moaning, and my roommate’s lovely, but when I’m still enjoying the bliss of early morning warm bed, the last thing I want is a blast of cold air. If you’re wondering why this is the first time I’ve mentioned it, that’ll be because before this weekend, it wasn’t much of a problem; it was always warm enough outside to leave the window open all day and all night without it being too much of a problem (tiny spider buggers aside). It’s only been since Friday that it’s been chillier, though it is very sunny this morning so maybe that’ll change rendering this entire moany rant thing pointless. Wouldn’t surprise me.

 

Since the last time I wrote, Vicky (from my university who’s a fantastic advisor for students trying to find placements, or just hope, I suppose) asked for Year Abroad blogs to help the first and second years get ideas and a feel for what it’s like. I gave her mine and now I feel like I should try to post more regularly, but we all know how well that will turn out. To be honest, I don’t think anyone will actually read it because I seem to spend most of my time moaning about keyboards, or I do a disproportionate amount in France (German keyboards be weird too, but I had my nice English keyboard in Germany). Seriously though, if anyone is reading this who will be doing a Year Abroad, do not be put off by my moaning, that is just me and I moan when I’m awoken by cold air, so I’m not exactly not petty. Maybe I should just stick a thing in the About section for students. It would be the first time I’d have touched the About section since setting this thing up…

 

What else? Well, my parents were here and they got bored faster than a cat looks at you disdainfully. Lourdes is small. Really small. At least, the city centre is. How large the suburbs are (and where exactly they’re being hidden) remains a mystery. Unless they’re all over by the lake, which they might have been: it did look a bit suburby. Anyway, you can walk from Pic du Jer (I can’t work out of it’s a mountain or a really big hill, though I think it might be a mountain, if a small one) to the train station in forty minutes and the bus from the train station to the lake takes ten minutes. Lourdes is small. It has three supermarket chains (that I’m aware of) and a cinema that’s a cinema in roughly the same sense that a going for a run is a gym, in that, whilst it sort of does the same job, they’re fundamentally different in many important ways. For one, the cinema is only open when there is a film. There is not a film every day and if there is a film, it might only have one showing, two if you’re lucky. As for the cinema itself, it’s like watching a film at the Mac. To those of you who don’t live in Birmingham, or do, and have never heard of the Mac, think of a small, not brilliantly well kept theatre, stick a largeish projection screen and voilà, Cinéma du Palais right on your doorstep. You know a town’s small when they ask you if you can see the screen in the cinema. Not the screen itself, the image: they never seem sure that the 3D is actually going to work. So Lourdes is small and easy to get bored of. Once you’ve done the grotto, sanctuaries, Bernadette’s life, the castle fort and Pic du Jer, there’s pretty much just the lake and tat shopping.

 

I did actually go swim in the lake and I think it was the first time I’d intentionally swam in freshwater (falling in from a sailing boat probably doesn’t count as intention). It’s a bit different. I can finally understand what the RLSS, RNLI and DLRG are talking about when they say ‘sudden temperature changes’. There are patches of warm water. You’ll be happily swimming around thinking, ‘This is so cold, this was a terrible idea, I hate cold water and are those dead insects floating towards me?’ when all of a sudden, you swim into a patch of intensely warm water and wonder if you might not be accidentally swimming over a shark or something. It’s quite bizarre. Odder still, no matter how much I swam, it stayed cold. Normally, you get warmer, so you notice the cold water less. This time however, it stayed cold. Every stroke I was noticing how cold the water was. Oh and mud. In my costume. Thank you, Nature. Not lots of mud, mind you, but little specks of it which is far more than I’m used to (that being none ‘cuz I normally swim in swimming pools thank you very much).

 

Oh and before I forget, my parents were mortified when they arrived back in the UK. Why? They had forgotten to pay. You know how, when you book hotel rooms, most of them now expect you to pay in advance, well this is what Mom and Dad thought they’d done. When the hotel realised their mistake and rang them, the three of us assumed that the hotel had it wrong. The hotel was right as it turned out. It was quite handy that I was still in France actually because it meant I could just pop back to the hotel, pay with my card and get them to pay me back. Unsurprisingly, Mom and Dad were horrified. I was amused, knowing that it likely wouldn’t be an issue if I could pop into town and pay the next day. As for the hotel, once they’d got their money, they really didn’t seem all that fussed. I was expecting maybe an additional fee of some sort, but they were totally cool about it. They didn’t seem all that bothered that I’d come in to pay for it, they just said (kind of terrifyingly) that they’d have found a way to get the money regardless. I couldn’t ignore how very Terminatory they sounded. I totally got Mom’s permission to blog this. Apparently, I’m too nice to take advantage of the situation and tease my parents relentlessly about it. I’m not sure my parents would be as nice as me were our situations reversed…

 

On an entirely unrelated note, there’s something bothering me ever so slightly, and for a change, it’s not my complete inability to go from French to German or German to French without speaking some sort of Freutsch for thirty seconds. (I really want Freutsch to catch on. It’s like Denglisch and Franglais, but much cooler.) No, what’s bothering me at the moment is the divide between bonjour and bonsoir, as in when you start using one or the other. I know, from what I’ve been told that bonsoir is typically after six ‘o’ clock, which isn’t all that disimilar to the UK, where it’s ‘good evening’ after six instead of ‘good afternoon’. So I’ve been making a concerted effort to say bonsoir after six. It’s just that sometimes, French people will reply bonjour to me even as late as eight. I can’t work out if they’re trying to correct me, or if they just don’t know the time or if they just hold some sort of inexplicable grudge against the word. Occasionally, the French will greet you with bonsoir at five and I don’t know what to do with that. Do I bonsoir back, or do I correct them and say bonjour? Is that rude? Why should bonjour (literally ‘good day’) become invalid as a greeting after six? It’s still day, especially in summer when the sun hangs around like a bad smell. I know this is perhaps the pettiest rant on my blog to date, but seriously, how can you trust a country that can’t decide when the evening starts and the afternoon finishes?

 

Another thing I find ridiculous is the French habit of naming several different objects with exactly the same word. Gâteau for example. Many of you will know this word to mean cake, though I think it might also be the Spanish word for cat. What you won’t know, is that it can also mean biscuit and cookie, even though the French do indeed have different words for these foodstuffs, but I’ve noticed that they don’t actually tend to use them, or at least they don’t until I point out how stupid it is to have the same word for three distinctly different types of snack. Mind you, it does completely solve the age old argument of whether or not a Jaffa Cake is a cake or a biscuit. What’s a Jaffa Cake? A gâteau. Mystery solved. Gâteau isn’t the only word the French overuse. Meet the word bouton. It means button. And spot. Can you see why it might be useful to have lots of different words for different things? I’m sure English does it and I know German does (hence my confusion upon seeing ‘Nothahn’ (‘Hahn’ meaning both cockerel and valve, therefore meaning I read it as ‘Emergency Chicken’) on the side of a bus), but it is silly. Especially because if you ask for a gâteau, you might get biscuits instead of cake, which is just some form of unusual and cruel punishment.

 

I went to see horses the day before yesterday (why doesn’t English have a word for this? French and German do), which made me as happy as a pig in mud. The Cité does day trips, usually on Saturdays and Sundays when I’m working (I think they check I’m working sometimes to make sure I can’t go…). The Saturday just gone was a trip to Harras National (which I think is significant in some way) in Tarbes to visit the Equestria Festival. There were so many horses. I like horses. I don’t know why I like horses, but there we go. It was quite an impressive festival actually. We watched a ‘danse voltige’. This confused me. Not the thing itself, more the word. You see, when we went to the festival, they used the word ‘danse voltige’ to describe people dancing on horses, or, I suppose, performing stunts on horses, and yet, earlier the same week, I’d heard the same word used to describe people dancing in the air (attached to a tree by wires). Having spoken to some French people, the word is apparently used to describe dances that take place off the ground. In any case, it was very impressive. Almost as impressive as watching four women successfully riding horses bareback with no reins and the horses weren’t walking either, they were trotting, so you know, fairly impressed, can’t imagine it’s particularly easy to do. The only downside of the whole thing was that we only stayed three hours and now I want a house with a big garden so I can have two little Shetland ponies that I definitely wouldn’t name Ant and Dec. I mentioned it to Alex. He didn’t seem impressed.

 

Also, the nature of the Cité means that the volunteers tend to come from all over the place. This obviously means that there are a lot of languages hanging around and, statistically, there will be some people who can only speak their mother tongue, or who can speak their mother tongue and another language, but not French. So occasionally, you’ll be sitting in an office and your colleagues will be speaking to each other in their native tongue, one you don’t speak and, whilst you can understand how unnatural it is to speak to a fellow native in a foreign language, you just have to hope they’re not talking about anything you should know about too.

 

There was one time actually when I was sitting at a table with a Frenchman and two Slovaks. We had decided to speak in English, because one of the Slovaks didn’t speak French and everyone had a high enough level of English to understand the others (except me, apparently my accent (English) is tricky, because I get funny looks every time I speak it : as if I’m saying everything wrong). So we speak in English, until the Slovak (who berated us for speaking in French, asking us to speak English so she could understand) turns to the other Slovak and speaks in Slovak, which, obviously, neither I nor the Frenchman can understand. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to assume that’s rude. Translating is fair enough, but if I have to speak in a foreign language in front of someone who can’t understand it, I tend to explain why and apologise, because, you know, it’s a bit rude not to. So yeah, there’s that.

 

So yes, another blog post. That’s almost one every fortnight! I think. I don’t pay enough attention to know. I haven’t really got much else to write about beside Pavillion Drama, but that’s mostly small stuff like finding out that people have been cooking in their rooms, or that there’s a group arriving that’ll be taking an extra room that’s not been done properly by the volunteer who was supposed to clean it before they left etc. I might write about it next time, if I remember. So yes, uhm, blog entry number thirty something. After nearly twelve months abroad, I feel I should have more to show for it… Oh well.

Lourdes Has Insects With Terrifying Stingers

Okay. I hate my tablet. Would you believe me if I told you that this is the third time I’ve tried to write this entry? The first time, I forgot to save, my tablet doesn’t autosave, voilà. Second time, I started a new document, opened up the web, tried to go back in, my tablet reloads ‘Polaris Office’, my one paragraph gone. Both occasions, I’d been explaining about how I’d been trying to write about the Sanctuaries before moving to la Cité St Pierre (which I did in torrential rain for your general information, felt like a drowned rat when I arrived). Rather than attempting, for the third time, to write down some of my experiences, I’ll just talk very briefly about the experience as a whole. On a related note, I don’t think I like the word experience. I can’t quite say why, but using it makes me feel like a bit of a pretentious idiot. Unless I’m talking about experience (EXP) with regards to video games. Then it feels completely natural. One day, my blog won’t be a rambly mess. That day is not today.

 

So, my time at the Sanctuaries was great. I met a load of very kind and very nice people, who I plan on staying in contact with. It was a very odd sort of work, because it wasn’t really work. Your feet take an awful beating because you’re essentially standing around for six hours a day offering advice and giving information when asked, but otherwise, it is just standing around smiling and trying to look as friendly as you can without scaring people… You end up picking up some Italian just out of necessity, but just basic directions, which I didn’t use a lot anyway. Telling people they weren’t allowed to do something was definitely the hardest part, because they would either respond well, apologise and stop or carry on and ignore me. I know I look young and that might be one reason why they feel they can ignore me, but it really did grate on my nerves. If you’re doing something wrong and it’s not allowed, you stop, surely? Mind you, perhaps not. There wouldn’t be car chases if people just stopped and admitted they’d done something wrong. Though I’m sure doing so would go some way to stopping all those nasty carbon emissions. Not a long way, of course, but, you know, less car chases would be good for everyone but the film industry and criminals.

 

I did leave a bit of a gap between starting this and continuing this, but we’ve had a relatively busy week. In the pavillion I work in, the first constructed and now partly dedicated to housing all of the young volunteers, we don’t get big groups like the other pavillons because we’re smaller. It’s just occured to me that I haven’t explained what I’m doing or where I am apart from the Cité St Pierre. Whoops. Okay, basically, I’m working in a pavillion. There are seven or so (unless I’ve forgotten one) pavillions at the Cité. One houses volunteers exclusively, but most house some volunteers and mostly pilgrims. My pavillion is mostly young volunteers, but we get our fair share of pilgrims too. Our job is to clean and maintain the pavillion (cleaning the rooms when people leave, keeping the corridors clean etc.) and to welcome pilgrims and new volunteers. We also have ‘permanences’, which are specific periods of time when someone has to be present in the office (though not ‘l’office’ because that’s the cupboard where we keep thr cleaning equipment, though if it’s hot, it is very cold in there…) to either welcome new arrivals, prepare equipment for cleaning the next day, help pilgrims when there’s a problem (usually running out of toilet paper), answer the phone and sit around reading and avoiding my special study.

 

So, I’m a cleaner/receptionisty person and I want that to be my actual title. It’s more interesting than saying I work in the pavillion. I should point out that the work is interesting enough. Cleaning toilets isn’t intellectually challenging, but trying to work out how many sheets we need is. (After nearly six years without maths lessons I find mental maths far more challenging than I probably ought to). It’s good. The work’s alright, but the people I work with and have worked with are fantastic. I say have worked with because, whilst I may become a permanent fixture for the next two months, the other volunteers in the team don’t seem to stay much longer than about three weeks. It means I’ll regularly be making friends and then saying goodbye, but it’ll keep the work from getting old. So yeah, I’m working and it’s okay except…

 

When it’s hot. It was in the mid to high thirties over the last few days and those of you who know me well will know that me and hot weather are not friends. We do, in fact, actively dislike each other. Cleaning works up a sweat, it’s a fact of life, but the pavillons do heat up slightly in hot weather (minus l’office, which I think must just be a miniature version of what hell would feel like if it froze over) and that just makes you sweat faster, which is as lovely as it sounds. Even today, when it’s supposed to be stormy and cold, it’s still managing a pleasant 15ºC or maybe even 20ºC . (I don’t have a thermometer so I don’t know. Could be minus pink unicorn for all I know.) The only advantage is that the hot weather meant that my washing dried within four hours of being put on the horse (clothes horse, in case I confused you) which I appreciated twice as much because I’d had to wash the clothes twice (machine had no soap the first time). Also, though I’m aware that ‘soap’ isn’t the correct term, the only word I can think of is ‘lessive’. Hell, I can’t even think of the German.

 

I suppose that must mean my French is getting better. The accent isn’t. In fact, Jean Charles, a volunteer who I worked with for just over a week, introduced me to a phrase he designed just to really show off the English accent in French. It’s “un très grand rat dans un très grand trou”. It’s the ‘r’. In English, we don’t roll our ‘r’, so it’s a sound that makes us quite easy to identify. So, other than being asked on a near daily basis to say it and then being told how very adorable my accent (and, unfortunately, me by extension) is, I’ve actually been getting a lot of compliments. I’ve been told several times that my French is very good and it instills a joy that’s quite hard to explain. It made my day when a woman in the Sanctuary Bookshop told me my French was very good (especially because I heard her repeat this information to her colleague). Although my accent’s still quite strong, the actual quality of the language is apparently improving (though I won’t deny the possibility that the French are just complimenting me because there’re a lot of tourists in Lourdes who are not entirely unlikely to butcher the language). Either way, I’m speaking a lot of French, much more than when I was in Rouen and I’m picking up lots of very odd words. I question the usefulness of the word ‘mop’ in my oral exams next year…

 

I was pretty chuffed when Germany won the World Cup, but my chuffedness was amplified by the frankly outrageous amount of support Argentina was getting. We were watching it up here, at the Cité, and due to the very international nature of the Cité, there are a lot of Spanish-speaking peoples, who, rather unsurprisingly, chose to support Argentina. Languagism is that. I wouldn’t support Canada because they speak English. (I’d support them because Canada’s lovely). I do tend to find that the more vocal the support for the other team, the more obnoxious I find them, the louder I support the team I like. Hence, when the people supporting Argentina cheered obnoxiously loudly when they got the ball into the German half, I became slightly more vocal in my support of Neuer, the German keeper. I’m trying to work out whether this is just me and a newly discovered personality flaw/quirk, or if this is everyone’s reaction to apparently obnoxious levels of support… And no, I never supported Germany in the match against France. Nope, that’s not a thing that ever happened. At all…

 

Ooh, I went to see ‘How To Train Your Dragon 2′ or ‘Dragons 2′. Just to clarify, it was dubbed in French and there were no subtitles. It’s starting to irritate me when people warn me that there’ll be no subtitles. Firstly, we don’t really subtitle films in the UK when they’re in English, so why would the French do it? Logic would suggest they wouldn’t. Secondly, why do you assume I need subtitles? I won’t lie, I don’t understand all of the dialogue all of the time, but I understand a good 90 to 95%, which is more than enough to enjoy the film. I understand that other people don’t necessarily know what my level of French is and are just trying to be helpful, but this is the second film I’ve been to see in France and everytime they ask me, it feels (to me at least) like they think I’m some sort of idiot. Anyway, rant over, it’s a fantastic film. It’s brilliant and made me cry three times (didn’t succeed in beating ‘War Horse’s’ record of six times), though I do have to point out that the dubbing was, in places, painful. Example: character’s laughing, but I hear no noise coming out of their mouth… In all fairness, the German dubbing of ‘The Lego Movie’ and ’12 Years A Slave’ was hardly perfect. It is an incredibly difficult task though, dubbing. Translating’s hard enough without trying to fit your translation to the movements of a mouth.

 

What else? Uhm. Parents are visiting next week, the wifi’s only marginally better (more coverage, weaker signal), weather hates me, other volunteers are great, work’s good, though we did have a very patronising induction talk. Our ages range from seventeen to twenty-five, which, sadly, places me in the older section, but the talk was patronising like you wouldn’t believe. I like to think I’m mature (and that being mature doesn’t have to mean the absence of childishness), though I’m sure some people would disagree with this assertion upon discovering I’m remarkably childish, so I felt a lot of the information was self-evident. Things like ‘some people get up early for work or pilgrimmaging (not a real word, I know), so please be quiet after such and such a time’ or ‘if there’s a romance and you want to spend some time in someone else’s room, you can, but out of respect for other people’s beliefs, don’t stay the entire night’. You know, bits and bobs I’d expect as rules in a religious site like Lourdes. Being told this information wasn’t necessarily the problem. What was a problem was that I could have sworn we’d have been given the same speech if we were a class of ten year olds. I hate being patronised. Unless you’re explaining rocket science or experimental physics or brain surgery to me, you probably won’t need to patronise me. Probably.

 

So there we go. My third blog entry in a month. I think. Ish. Maybe. I’d write more but at this very moment I can’t think of much else to talk about besides eating an outrageously large ice cream and Bastille Day… Bugger. I probably ought to write about that…

 

It may be sacriligeous of me, but I’ll summarise it briefly. (Having tried to write this entry three times, my patience has well and truly worn thin. As I imagine yours has with false promises of entries for interrailing and Paris.) It was a working day like any other for us in the pavillion, so there wasn’t anything happening until the evening. In the evening, there was a BBQ, a kareoke like thing (each pilgimage staying in the Cité performed a song of some sort), a disco and fireworks. We had an excellent view of the fireworks. The Château Fort can be seen from my pavillion (not my room, bloody inconsiderate tree) and that’s where the firework displsay was taking place. We all had a grand time, though the Russians didn’t take me up on my offer. (If the four of them went up and sang the Russian National Anthem, I’d go up, alone, and sing the British National Anthem.) Whilst I will admit I was slightly tipsy when I made the offer, I had every intention of doing it. They pulled out and I won’t say I wasn’t glad. Oh and the fireworks were amazing. I was quite impressed. I was not expecting something that long or pretty for a town as small as Lourdes.

So there we go. Another completed blog entry. Just another of the many miracles of Lourdes…

Oh, regarding the insects: I don’t know what they are, but they have huge-looking stingers and they keep coming in my room and my current defense strategy is to squeak at it and run to the other side of the room. It’s no wasp or bee I’ve ever seen and I have no intention of getting close enough to it to work out what it is. Oh, and WordPress’s spellchecker has given up on life so spelling errors and typos were totally not completely my fault.

I Meant To Post This On Sunday

I’ve found a word processor on my tablet that can handle more than 1500 characters at a time, the only trouble now is writing on the blasted thing. You’d think it’d be easy, but no. For example, before correcting myself, easy read as “essy” and example as “examble” and “exampled” respectively. It’s a bit frustrating, especially for someone like me who can be a bit anal about spelling and typos. Anyway, that’s enough of my moaning about keyboards and France. Those of you with a good memory will remember that that was a theme last summer as well. Maybe I should put the tablet’s keyboard into an Azerty keyboard just to really wind myself up.

 

The weather in Lourdes at the moment is what some people would  call terrible. It’s rainy, cloudy and sometimes, it gets a bit chilly too, though never anything below 15ºC. I’m loving it. It’s very comfortable weather to work in, even if you do constantly need an umbrella just in case. The reason I’m loving it is because last week was what the same people who’d call this weather terrible, glorious. It was 30ºC if not slightly more, the only clouds were hanging in the distance over the mountain and they’re were white as the Hospitaliers’ uniform (which is white, just in case you hadn’t guessed) and the sun was bright and determined to let every bugger in Lourdes know just how very bright it is. To me, of course, this is the sort of weather that makes me want to find an air-conditioned room and hide there until the sun goes away. There was very little shade and the sun was very intense. Sometime last week, I was working on the boulevard just in front of the grotto (walking up and down with a sign, shushing people when they can’t understand the very self-explanatory images, telling people to use their phones elsewhere, telling people they can’t smoke in the Sanctuaries etc.) and there was no shade there. Ever. The floor had soaked up so much heat throughout the day, that you could feel the heat through your shoes, not to mention that your shoes would leave imprints in the bits of tarmac that had decided unanimously to melt. So yeah, it was hot and I didn’t like it. I should have studied science and gone to Antarctica.

 

In case you don’t know what I’m doing in Lourdes, I’m volunteering for the Service Pilotes at the Sanctuaries for three weeks (the first week of which will finish on Monday) and then I’m working, again as a volunteer, for la Cité St Pierre for two months and some weeks. Why? I like helping people. I think it might be an incurable condition, though it might not be contagious, so you should be alright. So yeah, that’s what I’m doing. To explain what a pilote does, I should first explain that we don’t fly planes, we’re guides. In fact, we’re essentially walking information points and, on the odd occasions when it’s necessary, we ‘faire la police’ and ruin people’s fun by telling them they’re not allowed to smoke. As for the Cité, well, they gave me a list of jobs I could do, I ticked the ones I wanted to do and I’ve since forgotten what I ticked because I’m a genius like that. To think that some people think I’m intelligent…   As pilotes, we mostly get asked about Mass times, or where {insert name of something in the Sanctuaries} is, or if there’s anything on at that particular moment they’re asking us, which are all quite easy to answer, because after a few days, you know your way around and we’re also given a list of things and what time they’re on. I say ‘things’ because sometimes it’s a mass, sometimes it’s a group doing The Way of the Cross etc. Sometimes, however, you get the weird questions like ‘what time do the buses from Lourdes go to the airport?’ There’s nothing wrong with asking of course, but it might be nice if they looked a little less horrified and put out when I tell them I don’t know.

 

Occasionally, we have to tell people off. Usually for smoking in the Sanctuaries. There are signs saying you can’t but I heard the best excuse ever yesterday and I feel it’s logic is worth us all pausing to marvel at. Oh, and keep in mind this was a thirty to forty-year old, okay? Oh and it was all in French, I’ve just translated it.

Me: “I think you know what I’m going to say.”

Smoker: “No, what?”

Me: “You can’t smoke in the Sanctuaries, it’s not allowed.”

Smoker: “But I’ve been doing it for the last three days and no one stopped me.”

Me: “That’s because no one saw you doing it.”

 

There are signs at every entrance saying that smoking is forbidden, they’d been doing it the last three days, no one had seen them or told them they couldn’t do it, despite it being explicitly stated that you can’t. Let’s apply this logic to everyday life shall we? Stealing is against the law, it’s written on a piece of paper that your Monarch or President signed. You steal, but no one sees you doing it so you assume it’s fine and allowed. No, my friend. It’s still against the law, you doing it without someone seeing doesn’t mean it’s okay, it just means you didn’t get caught. The logic is stunning. It’s about as watertight as a child’s theory of ‘if I can’t see them, they can’t see me’.

 

On a relatedish note, you know that question, ‘if a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it still make a sound’? That question always annoyed me. Does it still make a sound? Of course it does. I don’t know much science, but I do know that sound is created by sound waves, which a tree would make regardless if there were a set of ears there to hear it. Having said that though, I suppose the question depends a lot on your definition of sound. Is sound a noise or is it a noise you hear? Besides, the question is moot because, even if there were no humans, there’d be some animal life that would hear the tree falling. How did I even get onto this topic? Welcome to Amy’s stream of consciousness, good luck following or making any sense of it.

 

So yeah, aside from the heat, intermittent internet access and the rare smoker who tries to argue the rules with you (most apologise because they didn’t realise or they’d forgotten), I’m having a grand old time. I haven’t even really burnt all that badly, though I may have just jinxed myself… despite the current weather too, knowing my luck

The Fun of Travelling to Lourdes During a SNCF Strike

The majority of this blog was written whilst I was sitting in Toulouse bus station. You’ll have to read it to find out why. All you need to know, though telling you here may well confuse you… sorry, is that I got into Lourdes two hours earlier than expected, helped some Hawaiians who I then got into a taxi with and who then wouldn’t let me pay for myself (because I helped with some French and they’re lovely people), got up in time to pick up my key, got into my room and went off to volunteer the next day. It all worked out a million times better than expected, as you shall read shortly.

 

Well, do you all remember how bad Germany started off? With no accommodation and only twenty four hours to find some? France has obviously taken that as some sort of challenge. I flew into Toulouse from Bristol, as planned, despite the sat nav trying to send us down some roads that looked like they led to the end of days. I got the shuttle bus service from the airport to the train station, as planned. Then there was a strike. All the trains from Toulouse to Lourdes were cancelled and guess where I wanted to go? Lourdes. So, after speaking to the very helpful SNCF staff who weren’t on strike ( I can’t judge what the ones on strike were like because, you know, I didn’t meet them), I was told that there was a bus at 1945 that would get me in at 0025. Now, whilst the travel problem was sorted out, another problem decided to raise it’s ugly head. Namely, accommodation. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say I was cursed. Everywhere I go, accommodation seeks to cause me headaches and stress.

 

Anyway, the reason accommodation was a problem was because you have to arrive before midnight to pick up the key for the room. Arriving after midnight means no accommodation for you! I rang up and the man who picked up was also supposed to give me my key. Sadly, he couldn’t hang around to give me the key, but he did pass me, rather suddenly, onto somewhere that could help. Despite some communication problems, I managed to get a room for the night, warn them I wouldn’t get in until like oneish and get the address off them so that when I get a taxi, I actually know where I ‘m going. So, provided the bus isn’t stupidly late getting into Lourdes and that the temporary accommodation is as I described, then all is relatively well. It could certainly have been worse : there might not have been a bus at all! And Lourdes is a hell of a lot cheaper than Toulouse… in my head anyway.

 

So yeah. I have a back up plan should the accommodation demon with a vendetta against me strike again and that is the Ibis Hotel. Whose address and phone number, Mom has kindly text me. So that’s some drama for you right there!

 

On an unrelated note, I walked past a bunch of men whilst on the phone to Mom and they were shouting “pika, pika” at me in a French accent. It took me a minute to work out that this was because I was wearing a pikachu t-shirt. I suppose that’s a positive thing, right?

 

And in the end it all worked out fine. I’ll hopefully be writing about what’s happened since the disaster that was Sunday, but that’ll be later because writing on a tablet is much more time consuming than a computer and I can only access the wifi from one room. That room isn’t the room I sleep in either. In case you hadn’t guessed, this paragraph is happy Tuesday Amy, not stressy Sunday Amy. Just thought I ought to point that out, in case it isn’t strikingly obvious.

There’s a Dead Fly on my Tenner

So. Heidelberg. Yeah… that was a few weeks ago. Many weeks ago. It was probably either a month or so ago. Anyway, so you’re probably curious about the title. Well, we were in a café in Heidelberg and I was about to pay for my hot chocolate. I go into my wallet, remove a tenner and discover there is a dead, squashed fly on it. Now my assumption, because I would definitely notice a fly in my handbag and/or wallet, is that the note came out of the ATM with the fly squashed on it. It wouldn’t be the first time Sparkasse’s ATMs have decided to confuse, perturb and generally be mean to me. Oh, and I have photographic evidence, in case you’re curious.

Heidelberg & Neunkirchen 076

I swear Sparkasse’s ATM have some sort of hatred towards me. My other Sparkasse adventures include: getting out €200 only to be paid out €200 in €5 notes, trying to withdraw €20 and being given (and charged) €100 and trying to withdraw €50 and being given (and charged) €400. I can understand that sometimes ATMs must do odd things, either because of a malfunction or a lack of larger notes, but four times? Really? Unless it’s some sort of German bank tactic to stop people withdrawing and spending money…

Anyway, this is a post about Heidelberg, and when I say it’s a post about Heidelberg, I mean that it’s a photo entry and that I’ve recently decided photo entries will be 85% photo and 15% words. Having said that though, my maths is so shoddy that I actually just checked the computer’s calculator to make sure that 85 and 15 do indeed make 100. The basic idea though is that it’ll be mostly be photos plus words when something particularly memorable leaps into my mind.

Heidelberg & Neunkirchen 014

This is Maddy, Sarah and Sarah standing in front of a statue of Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, which, respectively, stands in front of some sort of departmental building of Universität Heidelberg. Aside from being a lovely photo (who doesn’t love some cherry blossom?), they’re standing in front of the man who discovered caesium and rubidium (both of which are really quite explosive). He also created the Bunsen burner, as you’ve probably guessed by now. He found highly explosive elements (both are located on the Periodic Table) and created the Bunsen burner. I like this man.

 Heidelberg & Neunkirchen 029     Heidelberg & Neunkirchen 030

Also that. It’s a shop. Called unicorn. Of course I’m going to have my photo taken standing next to it. It would be very unlike me to walk past a place called unicorn and not throw my camera at someone so they can take a photo of me standing next to it. The inside was disappointing because it was full of touristy tat, but with a name like that, it can be forgiven.

Heidelberg & Neunkirchen 042 Heidelberg & Neunkirchen 048

Left is Heidelberg Castle from the Altstadt and right is a picture of the Altstadt from Heidelberg Castle. Yeah. The city’s gorgeous but the weather really really wasn’t when we went. The weather was actually quite foggy and showery and unpleasant, which, arguably, is better for a day trip with lots of walking than a day of glorious sunshine and high temperatures.

Heidelberg & Neunkirchen 054 Heidelberg & Neunkirchen 057

Heidelberg & Neunkirchen 068

Left is the castle from outside and in the photo (from left to right) you can find Sarah, Gary, Sarah and Maddy. I, obviously, was taking the photo, but it was just the five of us that went. The photo on the right is inside the castle and it is a proper castle. The reason I say ‘proper castle’ is because the German Schloss also refers to what, in English, would be called a palace. Schloss Sanssouci in Potsdam, for example, isn’t so much a castle as it is a palace. On a vaguely related note, Schloss in German also refers to a padlock. You know, just to confuse you some more. The photo at the bottom is of the castle and the Altstadt from the castle’s gardens, where we wandered about for a bit and found a bust of Goethe.

Also, I’m sorry if you’re not finding out a lot about our adventures in Heidelberg (which involved looking and running away from a very expensive dirndl/lederhosen shop, meeting up with Sarah’s friends from university, eating in a Mexicany place, me thinking I’d booked the wrong train back when I hadn’t etc.) but it’s a photo entry and if I’m ever going to catch up on all the day trips and stuff (which at this point may not be entirely likely), I can’t afford to write essays. Though avoiding my essay is exactly what I’m trying to do by writing this entry…

Heidelberg & Neunkirchen 088 Heidelberg & Neunkirchen 086

Heidelberg & Neunkirchen 080

You know how Heidelberg has a university? You know how universities have students? You know how students like to drink? Well, Universität Heidelberg had special powers to police its own students. How it policed these students was to stick them in the Studentenkarzer, ‘detention room’ or ‘campus prison’, until they’d slept it off. Except the students did what all good students do when confronted with a wall, they wrote and drew all over it. Resulting in what you can see there today, which is really quite cool and the writing is literally everywhere. Ceiling? Graffiti. Walls? Graffiti. I’m impressed so much of the ceiling was covered actually, though I do have to wonder how they got up there…

Yup. So, that’s Heidelberg. It was great, though the weather wasn’t and we all had a good time. I just want to finish off with one photo and one word that I feel really capture the spirit of Germany and many other European countries, for that matter.

Heidelberg & Neunkirchen 094

BIKEAPOCALYPSE!

Freiburg Adventures

Well, I haven’t written anything for a month and it’s been nearly two months since I was in Freiburg visiting Milena, so now struck me as an appropriate moment to finally do a photo bloggy posty thing on it and it will be just that. For I have forgotten a lot of things that happened, that will likely come back to me, like the need to still send Milena’s birthday present which is sitting in a Deutsche Post box on my suitcase, this blog post entry thing will most likely be dedicated to photos, photos and more photos. Unless I remember something. Which I probably will.

Such as now: it takes three hours to get from Saarbrucken to Freiburg (and three hours the other way, obviously) and it goes via Strasbourg because it is faster to go through France to get to another part of Germany than it is to go through Germany. To non-island peoples, this will seem like a perfectly normal, logical course of action. Sometimes, particularly if you live close to a border, it can be faster to cross over the border and go through your neighbouring country to get to somewhere else in your own country. To myself and most other island peoples, this seems like utter madness because we never have to do it, therefore it is strange. Just like driving on the right. We don’t do it: it’s weird.

Freiburg (9)

Freiburg is very very pretty. For some reasons, I haven’t uploaded any photos of the Bächle on WordPress, so you won’t be seeing those unless you go yourself. Though, just to give you an idea, they’re essentially tiny streams that run through the city centre, next to the tram lines. You can also buy tiny little wooden boats and pull them along the little streams. It’s adorable! It took me three minutes of mentally chanting ‘be a grown up’ to stop myself from buying one for the joy of looking like a three year old in front of normal humans. Oh, and the building there? I have no idea what it is. All I remember is that it’s purty and it had a film crew outside and it’s in the same square as the cathedral.

Freiburg (3)

That is the cathedral and there are two things I distinctly remember. Asking a lady to take this photo:

Freiburg (43)

That’s me and Milena if you hadn’t guessed already. I hope you don’t mind me posting a photo of you on the interwebs, Milena. (It can be removed if needs be; you can’t see any of Freiburg out of that window, unless you fancy pretending Freiburg is made of gold and is always that bright). The second thing I distinctly remember about the cathedral is this dodgy translation which continues to amuse me:

Freiburg (36)

 

So far as I can tell, the German and French translations sound fine. Don’t throw stuff, it’s stupid and so are you. Fine, no problem. The English translation? “Don’t throw anything!” That’s fine, no problem there. “Risk of life!” That’s the problem. What that says is that there is a risk, a danger, of life: of something somewhere being alive. More specifically, of you accidentally creating life when you throw something out from the cathedral’s tower. Aside from not being a good way of discouraging English speakers from throwing things from great heights, it looks like it’s been translated directly from German (Lebensgefahr! = life danger!), whereas, had it been translated directly from French (Danger de mort! = Danger of death!), it would have been much much better. Milena had a point when she was telling me it’s silly to overanalyse a translation that much, particularly when it can be understood, but it’s just so funny.

I was with Milena for four days…? I think it was four days. I arrived the first day and we went mooching around Freiburg to see the city. I also got to admire the University where Milena studies Law. (Freiburg University, in case you’d somehow failed to make that connection). It has to be said, universities across the world are generally very similar. Lecture theatres are at the very least, except the ones in Freiburg seemed to have fewer exits. The second day, if my memory serves me correctly, which, in all fairness, it usually does, we went to Schauinsland, which is one of the mountains in the Black Forest. We went up in a thing. Yeah, I’ve forgotten what they’re called and I’m too lazy to Google, but the picture might let you fill in the blank:

Schauinsland (12)

The Black Forest wasn’t quite as black as I thought it’d be. Particularly higher up. It is a beautiful place and it was well worth going up on the… thing because the view is quite incredible. To be honest, the photos fail quite spectacularly to do it any justice, but I can’t very well call it a photo blog entry thing without photos now can I?

Now, Schauinsland was looking very brown while we were on our way up, which was great because I’d read Milena’s email about snow shoes, tried putting them on, didn’t, for some reason want to wear them, and then went to Freiburg with trainers. Trainers plus snow = cold bum. By the time we’d started getting to the top, it was beginning to dawn on us that there was rather a lot of snow and that my trainers were not cut out for it in the slightest. We powered on through regardless, to get to the viewpoint that let me take the photo below, but I spent a lot of the time cursing my stupidity at having worn trainers despite reading Milena’s email telling me not to.

Schauinsland (16)Schauinsland (17)

As it turns out though, I’m pretty good at walking on snow in trainers and not falling flat on my face. That’s an important life skill right there if you also happen to be blessed without the common sense to bring boots to a place covered in snow. Admittedly, I had to slide on my arse down a small snowy hill for fear of falling flat on my face, but I handled myself quite well considering just how inappropriate my footwear was.

I was trying to remember what we did the next day then. We went to Basel in Switzerland and it cost less than €20 there and back because Freiburg is quite close to the border (though nowhere near as close as Saarbrucken is to France). We just sort of wandered around, making occasional use of my Basel App on my tablet. Basel is gorgeous, or at least it is the other side of the river to the train station, but that seems to be a trend in European cities. It was cobbled almost everywhere, a lot of the buildings were very pretty and it was small and compact enough that you can see most of it in a day. We were both umming and arring about going home, but after five hours of walking and mooching and sitting and eating, we were both pooped enough to head back. In the meantime, here are some lovely photos of Basel:

Basel (5) Basel (35)

 

Basel (32)

 

Basel (13) Basel (55)

Maybe this how I should do photo entries. Just mostly photos. I dunno, I’ll work it out later. That or they’ll all be different every time and it will be an exciting adventure for you every time you get one of my stupidly irregular entries. Anyway, the Universität Basel. Why do I have a photo of that? Enlarge it and you will see a cat. I must admit, I was concerned when I realised that it was sitting outside the institute for medical microbiology, but it was a cat and I had a camera and no one should be surprised that I went and took a photo. What should surprise you even less is that I found the following fact hilarious: the number plate code for Basel is BS. I have a picture of a car’s registration plate as proof but it occurred to me that I shouldn’t put that up online because that car does belong to someone somewhere. If you’re not sure why BS is funny, ask my Dad. He’s the reason I found it funny… my parents are so mature.

So back to Freiburg and its surroundings. The day when I was due to leave, we popped into Staufen to see Milena’s Oma, who is just the loveliest woman. Mind you, a lot of old people do tend to just be lovely. She offered us tea (which will always go down well with me) and made us (and Milena’s uni friend who joined us later) Käsespätzle. Käsespätzle is sort of like a pasta with cheese baked on top, but not. It is lovely though. If you’re ever in Germany and you like cheese and pasta, it is highly recommended. So Staufen, what’s there?

Well it’s one of the two places in Germany that claims to be where Faust is set, I can’t remember which other place makes claim to it, but Milena’s grandma lives in Staufen, so the other place’s claim is invalid. It also has a castle that was ransacked by guess who? The French? Wrong. The Swedish apparently. Yeah, that surprised me too. (Castle on the right and claim on the left).

Staufen (2) Staufen (12)

Staufen is also home to a very interesting and unique problem:

Staufen (28)

You may have to enlarge it to see the problem, but I’ll spell it out for you. The buildings have cracks. Not one or two, the vast majority of the buildings in the village have cracks and the Rathaus, pictured above, has been worst hit. Milena’s grandma has the cracks on her ceilings as well. They’re on every street corner. It would be remarkable, if it weren’t quite so concerning. How did Staufen get cracks everywhere? Well, from what I understood (and remember), the council was trying to access some sort of natural energy from underground. I’m assuming they were trying to get their hands on geo-thermal energy or something. I seem to remember there being something about drilling. Whatever happened, the council didn’t consult local geologists to any significant degree, something went wrong and pressure of some kind shot up, damaging and still damaging the buildings above. The internet/Milena/anyone living in Staufen will be able to give you much more detailed (and accurate) information, but that is what I remember of what I understood at the time.

So, all in all, it was two months ago and you probably forgot I even mentioned that I went to Freiburg, but here it is! (Two months late and a month since my last entry). The only important things to take from this entry are:

a) I had an amazing time and hanging out with Milena was brilliant

b) we spoke German 95% of the time and I had my first full dream in German (as opposed to my normal German dreams which consist of me speaking German and everyone replying in English)

c) Basel is brilliant, but unfortunately abbreviated to BS

d) don’t mess around with stuff underneath your town without consulting people who know what they’re talking about

e) Freiburg is lovely

f) take appropriate shoes when visiting the Black Forest in March

So, yeah. I’ sorry this entry isn’t longer and generally better, but that’s what I get for writing the thing two months late. Still, at least you can admire the photos. Oh and Milena, if you’re reading this, thanks again for letting me stay with you for four days. It’s made my Year Abroad just that little bit more fantastic.

Staufen (11)

P.S. WordPress hates every and all foreign words. It doesn’t even like ‘Staufen’ for pity’s sake.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.