Monday, September 28, 2009

nach Hanover.

I'm going to Hanover for a conference tomorrow. Thursday afternoon I'll get to wander around with the camera. Pictures will be posted soon.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Um Jena.

So we took a little walk around Jena with the camera today. We started here at our home in Jena Ost.

We moved in here on the first of the month. The first four full sized windows on the lowest level are ours. The apartment is not large but big enough for the two of us. Currently, we have a roommate. We only pay half rent this month but we don't have the full space. From here, we caught the tram. It's across the river Saale to get to the fourth stop: StadtZentrum (city center). This was the goal of our trip. From anywhere in Jena, one can see the Jena tower:
Jena Tower was built when this was all East Germany. It's not entirely ugly, but definitive of the time and place. It does make me wonder if the Communists were trying to say, "you see, we have sky-scrapers here too." To the right of this view, there is a great showcase of older European buildings:
On the left, you can see a tower that at one time served as the main entrance to the city. A wall surrounded the city and outside of that, a moat. There are just a few remnants of the old fortifications (to be seen later). First, we wanted to have lunch, so we walked past Jena tower and the surrounding mall to find our way to Wagnerstrasse:

Wagnerstrasse still resembles it's premodern self as a narrow street made of brick. The pattern of the brick street resembles that in the Imperial City in Oblivion. Anyhow, these days it is lined with restaurants and bars. This is where we had lunch. You find the wierdest thing if you turn back towards Jena tower on this end of Wagnerstrasse.
Yes, that bar is called Cheers. They serve hamburgers with french fries, BBQ, chicken wings and everything else you expect in an American sports bar. My wife and I ate there once. We each had a burger. At first, it tasted good because we hadn't had anything American in a few weeks. After the third bite, however, we realized these were the worst burgers on the face of the Earth. Mine sat in my stomach like a lead brick. Moving away from Jena Tower, along Wagnerstrasse, you get more romantic views.

It's a pretty street. You can see a hill in the background. One thing I've learned about Jena is that it seems there isn't any crime. People don't seem to steal things and so stuff is often left just sitting in the most convenient place. The only exception I have heard of is bicycles. The one on the right is, in fact, chained up. Going further up Wagnerstrasse, on the right, there is a church, Baptist I think.
As we looked around, we also found this view.
Taking a better look at this tower, we discovered the tower for a whole other church.

This other church was in a cemetery and thus I didn't want to take pictures where people might not want me to. Instead, I did get this better shot of the church tower.
I almost forgot. In the same little area was this gorgeous old house. I presume this is where the pastor lives.
From here, we turned back along another road towards town. I got this shot at another part of the old city wall.

I decided to get some better views of the remnants of the city wall. Here is the same tower viewed from the opposite side.
In the other direction, you can see the main city entrance again.

This area is pretty open and my wife took a picture of this great statue/fountain.
We still wanted to end this journey taking a look at the old Catholic church, Friedrich-Schiller University and the market square. You head directly east to see the old Catholic church.

Along the way, there was interesting German art.
We finally did get to the church. Here is another view of it's clock-tower.

I liked this view of the church.

I also liked this one.
Past the church, you can see the university.
Notice it too, has a clock tower. There are multiple options on getting to the market square. We could have chosen to go past this pretty building.

Instead, we chose a cosier route.
Once in the market, it is impossible to miss the old Rathaus (city hall).
Not to mention it's clock tower.

We also noticed this pidgeon in the market square.
My wife claims she wanted a picture of the fountain here, but I think she just likes the birds.

The other side of the market square gives a good view of some of the architecture.

If you haven't noticed yet, I like taking pictures of towers.

Being done at the market, we started to head back home. I couldn't help though taking another picture of the city.
Ok, two.

We finally got home to enjoy the little yard our building has in the back.

I think that seems like a nice place to enjoy a beer now.

Learning to love German beer.

I don't know how to talk about being in Germany. Generally, you take a trip somewhere and you spend your time seeing the sights. Well, we moved here and we've spent most of the time figuring out how to survive in another country. It's not that hard really. Primarily, there is the communication problem. I've heard that Germans speak a good deal of English but my experience here has shown that the English is often very limited - granted better than my German.

We've done well on the basics. We got an apartment. We got a bank account. We have a bed and some minimal furniture. We even own a washing machine now. We know how to get monthly trian and bus passes and we generally know our way around the city. We even have some basic kitchen stuff: plates, pots, pans, glasses, sliverware, etc.

The frustrating parts are often the simplest. You see, when you live in the same place for a long time, there are a large set of tasks that you take your knowledge of them for granted. Somethings don't change no matter where you go. I know how to tie my shoes and that doesn't change in Germany. Somethings are different - like reading a bus schedule. The thing is, almost every twelve-year-old in Jena knows how to read the bus schedule. Yet still, just last week I found myself asking a German what was meant by the schedule.

There are plenty more examples like this but I don't want to bore you with that. What stands out to me though, is that here in Germany, in many ways, my experience is equal or less than that of a child. This is what clearly marks me different than others here. I simply do not have the set of experiences common to every human being who has grown up here. It is fortunate then that the people I have met are so understanding with me.

There is, for me, one place where I feel differently - at work. At the TPI (Theoretical Physics Institute) I am in my element. Not so long ago, I would be comfortable in all the situations I faced whether it be work, social or anything else. Now, the only setting in which I am generally competent is at work. At work, I find myself regularly noticing patterns that many do not and I get new ideas at a good pace. My co-workers recognize it and appreciate my input. Further, my degree and position give me credibility and respect. I have the ability to bring special attention to a student's project or provide a place to those less certain than I. For me, my work is a refuge from all the differences that I experience everywhere else.

My wife has to deal with the differences and doesn't have a job where she can apply her talents currently. This must be more difficult. She's been filling her time with domestic tasks but I can already tell she's tired of having little to do. It's fortunate that she has two interviews for PhD positions this month. I think if she has a job, it will not only give her things to do in the day but also provide her own community to operate in rather than being dependent on those I meet at my job.

Since we're feeling so settled in today, and since there is nothing else to do on a Sunday (everything is closed), we'll be wandering around town taking pictures. There are some pretty parts: the market square, two very old churches, some of the neihborhoods. See you then.