Things you would really not expect in urban Germany:
zero degrees in April,
a fully occupied Catholic cathedral,
and dedicated baseball fanbase
Yet, I have experienced all three in the past week!
Last Saturday, A took me out to the ball game.
I was entirely unaware that it was at all possible to watch baseball in this country, that this sport, America’s favorite pastime, even had teams in Germany. But, lo and behold!, there is a whole scene out there: The Hamburg Stealers, the Cologne Cardinals, the Mannheim Tornados, the Mainz Athletics and, most relevant, the Solingen Alligators. That’s A’s team and that’s where I got to go. The German baseball teams are divided into the North League and the South League, with the latter being better, A tells me, possibly because South Germany was occupied by the Americans after the war. (Yes, history matters.)
My knowledge about baseball was almost non-existent. I knew that people keep baseball bats at home to defend themselves against burglars. When A started explaining the rules of the game, I immediately linked it to brännboll, only to make unqualified comments such as “Oh, and if he can’t reach the base, he’s burned?”, or to the famous Baseball metaphors for physical intimacy. Sometimes I even accidentally said basketball. (Sorry!)
When we got to the diamond (that’s what the playing field is called. You’re welcome.), I instantly felt transferred to America. The baseball apparel, those light-colored pants, the iconic caps, are so connected in my brain with the U.S. (and Modern Family), I really had to briefly remind myself that I was not in the Yankee Stadium but in fact in Solingen, a German town of 160.000 inhabitants.
But that did certainly not keep the Solingen Alligators from bringing on the true American spirit: at the “Gator Diner”, you could buy burgers and fries, the players’ girlfriends have shirts saying “Gatorgirl” on them, one German lady (that we nicknamed “Head of Fans”) even shouted every now and then, “One for the books!” in English, and during the Seventh-Inning-Stretch, as tradition demands, someone performed “Take me out to the ball game”. A explained to me what to do during that: between the halves of the seventh inning of a game (an inning is the game unit during which one team bats, with the other team playing defense. Again, you’re welcome.), you are supposed to get up and stretch. When the seventh inning came, I certainly understood the point of that. A game can take hours and you are basically sitting all the time, so the seventh-inning-strech is a brilliant custom. Actually, I would want to put forward a motion to introduce a third and fifth inning stretch.
Baseball is complicated. I mean, with soccer, you just have two teams running after one ball, wanting to get it into one of the two goals. Baseball I still didn’t fully grasp after watching it for four hours. When I felt like I’d just gotten the hang of it, A said, “Did you see what the pitcher just did? That was an exception from the rules”.
“We” were playing the Berlin Flamingos which for me prophesied the result of the match. I mean if alligators and flamingos meet, who eats whom, eh? The German teams consist mostly of German amateurs but each team has some American players who seem to actually live on playing baseball in Germany. When teams meet, they always play two matches on one day to make the travel across Germany worth it.
Baseball has been around for a while with the first reference dating from 1791 and latest after the Civil War, it became the thing in the U.S.. In 1876, they formed a national league and I think their clothing still is still reminiscent of that time. (Which is a good thing because the mid-19th-century was totally fascinating.) Baseball seems to have been, and maybe still is, more of a white man’s sport. The New York team, the Yankees, are the champion of champions – they have won like a gazillion times – and one of the most successful sports clubs in the world.
Now this trip to the ball park has instilled two new wishes in me: I kind of wanna go see the Yankees play. And I am really hoping to encounter a baseball player soon to show off my newly acquired small talk knowledge!
The overcrowded Catholic Cathedral: Apparently, during Easter Night Mass, all existent Catholics in Cologne and its surroundings come out to the cathedral and take up every single of the 1200 seats more than an two hours before mass starts. This relegated me to an awfully cold stone bench next to an UISS (Unidentified Stone Saint). It was so chilly I had to put my pyjamas under myself to avoid serious bladder infection (no, I don’t always carry my sleepwear in my handbag, but I had spent the previous night away). The girls’ choir was uncomparably angelic but otherwise I am sorry to say that the mass did not at all live up to my expectations and no Easter spirit was to be felt. Next year I’ll be back at a little local church.
At regular intervals, the German media, internet or quiz shows like to inform about „the craziest U.S. laws“. Like you are not allowed to drive in a bikini in Iowa, or that cutting a cactus gives you 25 years in prison in Arizona. Aren’t the Americans funny with their ridiculous laws, the German laughs. But as we are approaching Easter, I would like to say: review the German law and think again.
Good Friday is a so called ”silent holiday“ in Germany. In 12 out of 16 of German states, this means dancing is forbidden. It seems to be that in North-Rhine-Westphalia, where I currently reside and which is especially Catholic, the laws are even stricter. The dance ban already starts on Maundy Thursday at 6 p.m. and last still Saturday 6 a.m.. On Good Friday, is is prohibited to do circus performances and to swap stamps at stamp collection gatherings. All stores must close and it is not allowed to hold sport events, putting the German soccer league on hold. Movies may only be shown if the ministry of culture has deemed them appropriate. The state law also asserts that radio stations should in their choices be considerate of the serious nature of the day. And: you are not allowed to move house. I think that rather inconvenient, considering how all your friends would be free on this holiday to help you relocate.
So what do law-abiding Germans do during Easter? They hang out with their friends and family at home (or maybe they go to an art gallery or zoo because those are actually allowed to open). For those gatherings, they might stop by the bakery in the morning and get freshly baked rolls or braided yeast buns that are a popular Easter food. But you can only do that until Sunday – after that, there is a bake ban.
…before they’re hatched. Don’t praise the day before the evening. Or don’t shout hej before you’ve passed the stream. Basically, my excitement of spring in this town was, well, premature. Since weeks we’ve had winter weather, it’s quite depressing. This week, in an act of rebellion, I put on my “Swedish Summer” Spotify list but the rain would not stop falling.
The worst thing is that the weather forecast shows no betterment and I have an event in a week that would be so much nicer if the sun would shine. This event series (four consecutive events because sleep is very overrated) is nevertheless already an unpredecented success with guest numbers soaring constantly. I actually had to start saying no to people. Last year, we were fighting for every attendee, and I want to believe that this year’s run on tickets has to do with the fact that the event is taking placed in what used to briefly be my home, Hamburg. A lot of guests also means a lot of work for me (plus several presentations I have to prepare) and curiously enough, the fuller my to do list, the better my work motivation. I must be high on adrenaline or something.
Easter also happened. I spent it in the South of Germany with my stepsisters and my adorable niece. She told me she was two years old and I was five. We spent a lot of time eating (fish on Good Friday as good Catholics do; and we ate ourselves through the entire Cannstadter Wasn fair in Stuttgart, Maultaschen are seriously delicious), attended a Easter night mass which was an amazing show (now my resolution for next year is to experience that in the Cologne Cathedral, probably the most Catholic place in Germany), and I met my friend Renate from primary school who updated me on all gossip (people have actually started to inter-marry among our class mates…)
The following weekend, wonderful Anna graced Düsseldorf with her presence. It’s impossible not to have a good time with Anna. As she is still doing her A-Levels, we spent some time practicing how to analyse poems, but we also tried my co-workers’ curling iron and went to Restaurant Schwan that Lil’ Pesto could not stop talking about. At that restaurant, they serve Schwanitzel (a pun on Schnitzel that amused us a little more than it should have) that could feed at least two grown-ups.
May is full of holidays. If there was a party campaigning to put one of those in September instead, I would consider voting for them. Actually, elections are coming up in my federal state and as this is the most populated German state, it’s kind of a big deal. Since I am only listening to North German radio, I am perfectly informed about the election in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein and can barely name the candidates here. I tested switching to the local radio station but it sounded so wrong! I tried the political compass and it told me my views matched those of “The Purple Party – For spiritual politics” best. In an attempt to educate myself further I noticed a lot of weird parties are on the ballot in this state: “Departure C – Christian values in politics”, “Party for Health Research”, “Nicer Living” or the light green “V-Party³ for change, vegetarians and vegans”. You see, democracy is alive and well in North-Rhine Westphalia!
The many holidays in May and June also gave me an opportunity to go on a TantenTour, a trip visiting three of my four maternal aunts. One of them lives in the perfect country idyll, in fields of gold. My godchild and I had a good time enjoying the country life.
It’s absurd how time seems to fly. Didn’t I board a plane to the U.S. just a week ago? Didn’t Lil’ Pesto enter my office life yesterday? How can it be May already?! That also means my 30th birthday is drawing closer – yes, it’s still ten months but today I checked out another venue. It’s a former nunnery in my neigborhood. I know now that is is way too expensive for me but you never know when I need a location for a work event. I must admit though that is feels a bit funny to arrange events in a church. The entire place breathed nunnery still and I, who was educated at a nunnery for almost a decade, especially felt that it was a little wrong to roam the corridors. It’s all still there: the gate where a nun would sit, the stoups, the beautiful decorations on the floor.
Last but far from least, it’s Skam season again! On Sundays, I now consult with Lil’ Pesto’s girlfriend to know whether he has seen the most recent episode so that I don’t put any spoilers out there by accident. It’s the last season and the first that I follow in real-time, meaning I can enjoy the entire concept of them putting chat logs and instagram pictures on their website, making you guess what will happen in the next episode. Watch Skam. Nobody I told to do so has ever regretted it.
Citatsamling del 32
Helen, du har en sån röst, du skulle kunna vara rösten i tunnelbanan. För mig är du redan det.
Man vet aldrig när kärleken checkar in!
Jag klipper mina naglar ofta, jag tycker det är avslappnande. Men jag röker inte, tar inga droger, då får jag väl ha det som min grej, att klippa naglarna.
Hur mycket får du för det där Brötchen som du köpte åt mig? – Helen, de 15 cent kan jag faktiskt bjuda på. Det är du värd, älskling.
Jag vill till Vapiano och hon vill till det asiastiska stället. – Då blir det Clash of the Titans på lunchen!
This morning, I woke to the news from Brussels. I never thought the Facebook Safety Check would be interesting to me but as I studied European Studies quite some former fellow students are now based in Brussels and I was pleased to learn they had marked themselves safe.
Today was a good day to live in Düsseldorf, for ghoulish reasons indeed: I can’t imagine this place being sufficiently interesting to terrorists to bomb. We had the privilege of busying ourselves with peaceful activities: first, we wrote a thank you note to an important person in Sweden (drawing on the Crown Princess Letters to us for inspiration) and then the representative from our printing shop unexpectedly showed up and gave me a box of finest chocolates for a “Happy Easter!”.