** Dancing Into 2019
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 to prioritise and get through, 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 (Back and finishing this on Christmas Day, lol), 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.
(So yeah, basically it's next year, last year, and the year before that now lol seriously send help this is not the good kind of 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. What it specifically commemorates is 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 their threats, real or imaginary, and began to give thanks to her instead, by lighting bonfires. Doing this to ward off 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.
This isn't a case of Christianity completely 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 continuation of the original tradition has mainly taken on the more widespread, family-friendly form of dancing all night anywhere and however you want, though.
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. On top of that, the letter that I got in the mail told me to bring as much proof of purchase with me as possible, so I scoured the Interwebs for records of purchases 8 years ago and whatnot.
It was 50 shades of hassle, and just getting your things in the mail in the first place, whether it's via Deutsche Post or DHL, is pretty difficult in general here because of very poor service, and I was pretty stressed out by this whole thing, which felt more like an ordeal than a pickup.
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.
This is exactly what I mean by "ordeal". Bureaucracy is a nightmare everywhere, but Japanese and German people are especially good at rendering it into a living nightmare.
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 pleasant..
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 restaurants with vegan options 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 and sauces on the table, which is impressive, because Germans are scared of spiciness and in many cases will avoid anything red. When I say "super hot", though, I mean that I was lowkey worried for a minute that I might die after eating one teensy little ring of one, and it took a solid 10 minutes of putting all my effort into acting normal to recover. Holy shit.
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.
Oh, and he was nice enough to tape the box closed again for me, but with really shitty tape that straight-up didn't work. Sigh. I don't hate the player, I hate the game.
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, 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. This particular plaza, it's a real shithole. In my country somebody would get shot or stabbed here every other weekend.
Why the fuck was I here, then, 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 for me at this point.. sorry. It was cool that half of everyone and everything in the universe died though.
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 out, it rains pretty constantly, and it's blissfully free of natural disasters. Berries, apples, cherries, and root vegetables - and, come autumn, also mushrooms, though these are of course grown indoors year-round - 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's metal! 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 :B
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 Barbie hot 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 best 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, so fresh, wow!
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 figure 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.
Marco never forces smiles for photos but make no mistake, he was having a good time.
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 yellow thing there is cheese!
This, however, was utter garbage. It tasted like a strong, bitter medicine made partly of celery. My burps also tasted like strong bitter celery medicine. Whatever you do, don't drink this Italian Kräuter. /PSA
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. As in, like, during that timeframe. Not fourthmeal.
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; 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! Having trouble keeping track? Me too. But I'm very happy about how much time people get off work as a result.
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, and her birthday and Mother's Day with it, rolled around.
A variety of local chocolates
A miniature painting from a charming street vendor in Heidelberg
Also biscuits and healthy schmackos, a little paper angel made of sheet music from a church market, a particularly nice smooth stone from the beach at Warnemünde, and two pretty handmade ornaments from the boardwalk there. She really liked the package.
On the 8th of May, I realised a high school dream by going to see Gogol Bordello.
This is a medium-sized venue smack in the middle of the Reeperbahn bar-sex club-party circuit, and to be honest, it's too big for me. Way too many people can fit in here and it's really hard to have a good view of the stage. It's similar to Hafenklang, which is also bigger than I prefer.
It was a heck of a show, though, even if I was still kind of in limbo, still in a funk, and didn't dance or anything. Everyone else had come from work (why are all the damn concerts here on work nights?!) and was pretty tired, too, but also had a good time.
The extensive lineup has changed a lot but Eugene Hütz, though he's aged, is more of a concept than a person, I think. He's still just as into this shit as he was when I would have chosen to see them at their peak if I could've gone when they played in Phoenix, 11 or 12 years ago.
This part was particularly amazing: he was crowd surfing on top of a drum.
It was kind of beautiful, really, just purely good vibes from kind of a ridiculous variety of people but who all believe in concepts like individual freedom, freedom of movement, and solidarity with the oppressed.
Here's the video. There was no literal dancing into May from me this time around, but I mean like, this band dances for everybody, and all the sunny eating and drinking goodness definitely counts as celebrating the end of winter!