Friday, July 6, 2018

Dancing Into May

** Dancing Into July

I thought I could plow through ten posts in June and then only be (one year and) one month behind instead of two, but once again, I was wrong about being able to catch up. Mostly I've been preoccupied and overwhelmed by having too many small tasks lined up, so I never felt like finishing those posts. Oh well. 
Starting this way so often is trite, but I never learn and never stop procrastinating, so here you are with me in this endless loop. Maybe after September I can get my shit together, since our wedding garden party and its accompanying entertainment, trip to Prague, and music festivals will be done by then, and I won't be trying to blog about this year and last at the same time anymore. 

We can always dream but we can't change our natures, so definitely expect to continue being in an endless loop of lateness even once I'm done posting about Japan lol.

"Dancing into May" is a saying derived from a pagan springtime ritual or festival that is now known as Walpurgisnacht, a Christian feast day to commemorate Saint Walpurga and the successful Christianisation of Germany. It commemorates her canonisation in 870.

According to German folklore, Hexennacht was believed to be the night when witches would meet - this now-Walpurgis Night of April 30th - on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz mountain range. Christians would pray to Walpurga to protect them, and at some point they decided that they had been sufficiently protected from this nonexistent threat and began to give thanks to her instead, but lighting bonfires to ward of witches and evil in general is still fairly common not only in southern Germany but northern and central Europe, and the Balkans. So, that's why it's Walpurgisnacht now. 
It's not all Christianity overriding paganism, though: I can assure you that many people interested in witchcraft mark this day on their calendars, and it is also a custom for women in the Harz especially to make themselves up as witches and go dance in the woods on a mountaintop. And I can't say for sure, but I feel pretty confident that clothing is optional. This has become the more widespread, family-friendly tradition of dancing all night anywhere and however you want. 

You can read more about Germany's May Day traditions and celebrations here; it's pretty interesting stuff.

After four-plus months of only a few hours of dim light per day accompanied by freezing snow, rain, sleet, ice, and wind, just trust me when I say that everyone really, literally is that happy that it's fucking springtime. I mean, you saw how our Easter went. Easter is supposed to be spring, but April don't give a fuck. May is the start of the friendly weather. It's not even officially summer until the solstice, which is kind of a weird and mild but very pleasant change of pace from the hot sweaty places I'm used to.

I didn't dance into May 1st, but that day, I had to go to the Hauptzollamt, or Main Customs Office, to pick up a small package of my own stuff my mom had sent me, including my old external harddrive. Packages are often intercepted by customs and people are charged for various reasons, including not declaring their items properly and/or thoroughly enough, so I was worried that I'd have to pay out the nose to get my own things back. Just getting your things in the mail, whether it's via Deutsche Post or DHL, is pretty difficult in general here because of very poor service, and I was pretty stressed about it.

But, wouldn't you know it! I didn't see that you had to get there at least 45 minutes before closing time in order to take a number and eventually be helped. It was somewhere at the bottom of the notice we got in the mail about picking up the package, but I didn't see that until it was staring me in the face in much larger print at the office itself. 
On the closed window.
I had gotten there 28 minutes before closing time that afternoon. 

It was a really nice day though, and the Customs Office is in the Speicherstadt, 
the scenic brick warehouse district, so at least the walk was nice..

This is the classic view of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, 
of the Wasserschloss here, seen from the beginning of the block. 

Luckily for the customs people, I was about to get heckin' hangry in spite of the pleasant stroll and weather, but one of the vegan restaurants I had bookmarked and been wanting to try was only another ten minutes or so away. ..So they were safe, for the time being..

I had vegan phờ and a Vietnamese coffee, 
which is very rich and sweet and decidedly not vegan.

It was good! Better than the one at Loving Hut. The decor is not only cute and authentic, but they actually have super hot chilis (I was lowkey worried for a minute there that I might die after eating one teensy little ring of a red one and it took a solid 10 minutes to recover, holy shit) and sauces on the table.

I went back to the Hauptzollamt later that week and did get my stuff back, totally free of charge. The guy was really nice, and mostly interested in checking the external harddrive my mom forgot to write on the custom's form somehow. I told him everything that was in the box before he opened it, and he never even asked for the ID or other proof of purchase of all the items in the box I supposedly needed to find (and ask Hannes to print after taking screenshots) beforehand if I wanted to avoid having to buy it all back from them. So many bureaucratic facepalm moments here, really.

This is the Hansaplatz, a town square not far from the main station in the center of the city, in St. Georg, where I was that evening.

I managed to take an attractive phone pic of the fountain and trees, but *just* below where it cuts off at the bottom are loads of addicts, drunks, homeless, and presumably refugees loitering around. Hookers in doorways and walking around too, and trash everywhere. Even more everywhere than usual, because people in Germany just throw all their damn cigarette butts and wrappers on the ground like thoughtless children. It's a real shithole. In my country people would get shot here every single weekend.

Why the fuck was I there, you might ask? 
Well, I was meeting Hannes here, before we met Lars, Solvig, and Daniel 
at the nearby Savoy Theatre for Avengers: Infinity War once they were all off work.

The theatre was super cool, stylish, and like the old-fashioned Cine Capri that we used to have in Phoenix before that tidbit of culture, too, became a soulless beige box housing another mediocre franchise. I was very unimpressed by the movie, though; Starlord meeting Thor was probably the best part. Nothing can live up to the quirky 80's video arcade hilarity of Taika Waititi's Ragnarok at this point imo, sorry. It was cool that half of everyone in the universe died though x'D /majorspoiler

You've probably noticed now that the long dark winter is over and we're into spring posts that Germany is a very lush, green place. Its soil is rich and fertile, it's mostly quite mild, it rains pretty constantly, at least here in the north, and it's blissfully free of natural disasters. Fruit, especially berries, apples and cherries, root vegetables, and mushrooms abound. 

May is strawberry-asparagus season and these cute little stands, which sell produce, jam, et cetera straight from local farms, pop up on street corners everywhere, especially outside train and subway stations, and even in the middle of downtown!

Look at this one! It looks so hot! I wouldn't want to work in there!

(this one had raspberries too)

As April's cherry blossoms are disappearing, it's time for the rhododendrons to start.

This is our street.

This is also our street.
And, okay, nevermind, some of the cherry blossoms are still going strong at this point..

Interestingly, these mostly bloom one colour at a time, even though they're the same flower.

These hot-Barbie pink ones are last. First it's white, then light purple, then lilac, and then these.

But there are even more colour variations than that, 
including these interesting orchid-looking dealies.

Here, have a salad of fridge leftovers I cleaned out because we were going out of town for the weekend, because May 4th is Hannes' dad's birthday. This was extremely satisfying after I got home from the gym. Lots of spinach, a sliced beet, pumpkin seeds, wildflower honey, and that stuff on the top is pan-grilled halloumi cheese, which is high on the list of good things that have ever happened to me.

Our 3-hour train rides basically look like this. Hannes is nice enough to get me a really stylish mini bottle or two of wine each time (they're like 1.99), fruit cup, and vegan broccoli salad. Such salads, many healthy!

We arrived at Anke and Marco's place to find Anke at work on some adorable birthday brunch treats in the kitchen. Strawberry season was just about to start but wasn't quite ready yet, so she was using Spanish strawberries for these filled tart-like cookies.

Also peaches, on top of fresh-made vanilla pudding.

"Oops! See, it was perfect until you pointed a camera at me, now I messed up!"

Those little round ones are delicious and gluten-free; instead of gelatin and milk she made that pudding with agar agar and almond milk, but alas, the GF cookies were still flimsy and weak as they were saturated with delicious butter.

What a spread! I love brunching with the in-laws on their veranda, it's glorious even when 
it's too hot in the direct sunlight or too chilly or there's not a birthday going on.

The men headed to a football game for the afternoon and I hung out with Anke, doing my best to practice communicating with her and figuring out some wedding party details.

I asked Hannes to send a selfie and he delivered, but he was also impressed 
that they snuck "ACAB" into this Hansa jersey sign.

Once the men returned the grilling began, because that is the natural way of things.

Andrea, Hanna, and Moni joined us, and we had a delicious meal.

A new variety of cider! And that round thing there is cheese!

This, however, was utter garbage. It tasted like a strong, bitter medicine that tasted like celery. My burps also tasted like strong bitter celery medicine. Whatever you do, don't drink this Italian Kräuter.

Everything was fine once we broke out the normal herb liqueur, though!

It was a very nice, lowkey birthday weekend, and per usual, on Sunday after breakfasting together again, we took the long annoying three-train, three-hour construction route back to Hamburg. We decided to stop at The Factory, our local Biergarten, for something between lunch and dinner.

I got their baked potato with grilled veggies and salad while Hannes had a Flammkuchen - which is basically a giant cracker presented like a pizza - with goat cheese and thyme honey.

Sprizzione and beer, too, of course.

Yeah.. he looked a lot better than I did lol.

We even shared a little Apfelstrudel for dessert. There was hardly any pastry involved; 
it was warm, fresh, and delicious. I regret nothing.

We sometimes wonder in passing what this adjacent building was or is. It's impressive now that the trees are finally leafy and in bloom; of course, it looks like an old castle turret.

Just some more rhododendrons on the way home.

There are a lot of birthdays and holidays in May: May Day, the 1st, is German Labour Day, Marco's b-day is the 4th and my mom's is the 9th, Mother's Day was on the 12th this year I think? and Herrentag or Mens' Day is the 10th. This is also German Father's Day and Christi Himmelfart, which is not a slutty sorority girl as I like to say, but Ascension Day. German Mother's day is the 13th, and there's yet another Christian holiday on the 31st after Pentecost on the 21st. Phew!

So, the above was only the first of three trips we made to Rostock in May.
Another way I kicked off this month of celebrations was by preparing a box of gifts and goodies for my mom to send off a couple of weeks before it rolled around.