Sunday, April 28, 2013

A weekend of many small adventures

Hi friends!

We have had a great weekend, and so I'm not going to wait, but will tell you all about it before it's even over.  We never left the Marburg area, so our weekend's adventures were the small kind. Perhaps you think that I overuse the word adventure, but the way I see it, life is just a series of adventures big and small, and even some of the small ones are worth savoring and noticing, so here you go. Savor away.

First, after about 2 weeks of nice warm temperatures, we had rain on Friday and Saturday.  I'm still sick of rain after the winter, but what it meant here is that all of the sudden spring exploded.  Before the rain, a few of the trees had started leafing or budding out as had some of the earliest flowers, but a little rain and poof, the woods are now a gorgeous shade of spring green and the city is full of flowers; magnolia, forsythia, and all sorts of things I don't know the names of (but can appreciate nonetheless).
Something about the newness of spring in the oldness of Marburg makes it more exciting somehow

After months of brown sleeping woods, this color is so lovely!

I don't know what these are, but they're nice.
I decided it was so nice while doing my weekly Saturday marketing that I made Sasha go back down the hill with me in the afternoon to go enjoy a slice of cake at our favorite cafe and to buy supplies for adventure number 3...

Sunday, after church, since it wasn't raining or freezing, we decided to go for a bicycle adventure and played another round of "find the castle".  We picked Mellnau as our destination of choice, and it was a good one.  The castle ruin had a Tower and we love Towers.  And, it had a paved road all the way to the walls, so no wading through muck to find a partial stone foundation this week (not that I mind those rounds of the game, mind you). The fortress was built in the mid 1200s and, to be honest, we had a strict timeline and the paint was pealing off the information sign, so I can't tell you all the details.  Although it seems to have been founded by Archbishop Siegfried from Mainz, and not by a Ludwig or a Friedrich or a Wilhelm (or a Friedrich Wilhelm) for a change. 

Riding up (and up and up) to the ruin.  The views are great, but man do the castle visits work the legs.

If you want more details, here's the sign.
 On the way out, we went through the town of Wetter, and saw a bonus tower, although we didn't stop to explore, so I can't tell you much about it. I think this is a stop on the "Fairy Tale Road" if you're following the brother's Grimm, but I'm not sure. It's a pretty safe guess, though, given how many "Grimm towns" there are around here.
Sasha photographing the unexpected tower...some things about Germany are just great.
We didn't have much time, so we didn't stop anywhere for cake, etc. but I did see a whole field of lambs and sheep on the way home, which made me almost inarticulately excited for several km.  Sasha, if one follows me home, can I keep it?
Wouldn't a lamb like this make you almost inarticulately excited, too?
The reason why we were hurrying back is that we invited a friend from church over to partake in adventure number 3: grilling!!  Although I feel like we mostly see open hibachi-like open grills here in Germany, we managed to find one like a good old Weber (if a mini one to fit our mini space) and charcoal and a few packages of marinated pork steaks (we picked a few somewhat randomly, but they were surprisingly good), vegetables, etc. 
Notice our fully recyclable grill table...after we're done reusing.

I am glad I'm not a German pig, but they are quite tasty.
Sasha manned the fire, I sliced the eggplants and prepared foil packets of zucchini, onions, etc., and it was SO satisfyingly delicious both to eat food fresh off the grill and to be sitting outside into the evening.  OK, so it was a bit chilly, but the birds were tweeting, the grass was green, and life was good.  Life is so good.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

more lacrosse games

Hi friends and family,

I've been told I'm overdue for a blog post, and the reality is, we've been quite busy and I've been bad about taking photographs, etc. lately.  Also, Sasha's been doing a lot of work on the weekends, so we haven't been going on as many adventures together, and it's a bit less fun to blog about stuff I did without him.  BUT I have been traveling a bit for lacrosse with the Marburg Saints, so I'll tell you a bit about the last two trips.

The first was 3 weekends ago.  We went to Munster to play the team from Munster (big surprise, right). OK, so Munster normally has umlauts over the "u" but I'm feeling too lazy to figure out how to type umlauts into blogger, so just pretend I'm using them.
But back to the game/trip. Most of the experienced players on our team were on vacation because the semester schedules here are kind of funny and they have about a month break between the winter (October-February) and summer (April -July) semesters.  Science-y people seem to spend the breaks doing "practical" coursework (aka labs), research internships, etc. but many people also go on vacation or go hang out with their families.  SO, that left me, a few folks who were back from vacation already, and a few people who didn't leave for whatever reason.  Add to that the fact that we hadn't had practice in a few weeks, and we were NOT playing well.  Like I think we had a half-dozen successful passes all game.  For an hour of very fast-moving sport, that's abysmal, really. I had a ton of fun anyway, though, because we had no extra players, which meant that I got to play the whole game and I got to play the field positions where I basically got to run really fast all the time.  Which is what I'm relatively good at.  I know, I know, maybe I should just do running races instead, but until I find people to run with, lacrosse is far more social and thus more fun.  But also, the weather was gorgeous and sunny and we all played with short sleeves or shorts (well, lacrosse skirt/shorts) or both. Warmth and sun was really appreciated after the cold, rainy, dark winter. I went for a cool-down jog along the river, and I swear half of Munster must have been taking advantage of the warm sun and there were hundreds of people out for walks along the river.

The other awesome part of the Munster lacrosse weekend was that because we had room in our vehicle, we picked up "mitfahrer" (basically, instead of hitchhiking, you can look on a website and find people going where you want to go and you can pay them a bit of money to take you with them...the "blind dating" of German transportation, but faster than the train and greener than everyone driving alone) and thus we had about an hour to wander around the old part of Munstern before our pre-scheduled meeting time.  Munster in German means a monastary, and indeed there are some gorgeous old churches and we had time to stick our noses into 2 of them AND to get big, yummy ice creams. 
The munster for which the town got its name.

I didn't have my Germany guide, so I didn't know much about the churches that we were looking at, but really that whole part of town is pretty.  Which is amazing, really, since it had been pretty well flattened during WWII and rebuilt subsequently. Effectively all German cities over a certain size were bombed heavily during the war and thus many of their downtowns are ugly, because they were rebuilt to be "modern" during the 1950s.
A nice part of the old downtown; pretty buildings (with the Marburg Saints in the foreground!

However, as our lonely planet points out, the Munster residents were quite smart to ditch the typical 1950s architecture and instead to largely restore stuff to how it was; it's much cuter than many of the other similar-sized towns.  It also looks affluent and nice; lots of nice stores and added bits of art, etc. so even though there are plenty of old touches, the town looks liveable, and not like a decaying time capsule.  All told, the trip included a bit of running (aka lacrosse playing), a bit of touristing, and was generally a nice day-trip.
Modern art (I think) in the older part of town...for you MN folks, "cherry and spoon bridge" is cooler.

This past weekend we went to Dusseldorf (also has an umlaut over the "u").  Dusseldorf is ostensibly an industrial town; not cute like Munster.  I say ostensibly, however, because we did what a skier friend called a "one day surgical strike" for the game, and saw nothing of Dusseldorf outside the sports fields.  The way the game days work is the home team usually plays two games back to back and the visitors take turns playing and reffing/working the bench.  Luckily, I don't know enough to ref and they didn't need me to do any of the scoring things, so I just got to watch the game before us, which is fun, since it was two relatively good teams.  The previous weekend I went into Frankfurt (and biked home...which really deserves a post in itself, but since I don't have any pictures, I'll spare you the details) to watch the German national team play Austria.  It's fun to watch teams that are better than us play because it helps me see what I am striving for while playing.  If you can catch and throw balls reliably, then you are able to do more teamwork and more clever strategies than "get the ball, run to the goal, and shoot" which is what we largely resort to (when we manage to get the ball).  Anyway, it was a close game, and left me excited going into our game. 

Pre-game stick check to make sure our sticks are legal, we have mouthguards, our shoes won't tear up the field, etc.
Now, we knew going into our game that we were outmatched, and sure enough, we lost.  Still, for the first 20-30 minutes, we were actually holding our own pretty well.  Then, our less-fit team started getting tired and Dusseldorf started racking up the points. Oh well.  Personally, I can tell that I'm doing much better than that first game I wrote about in Mainz, and I am doing a bit better about actually doing smart things with the ball (when I get it, which is rare...if you aren't renowned for your catching ability, your teammates seem to not pass you the ball that often, strangely enough).

Us in action; I'm in the red socks.
 Even though we played better this game, I spent the second half of the game largely relegated to the offensive side, which doesn't see much action if the other team is stronger.  SO, I didn't get to run as much and that wasn't quite as fun.  But still, we were outside and the sun was shining, and every game I play I get a little better.  As my cycling coach often pointed out, I approach sports very analytically, which is great for helping me set incremental goals and to stay motivated even when I'm on the steep part of the learning curve.  OK, I know that there were interesting aspects of the games that didn't involve me, but I don't want to blog about my teammates without asking them first, so I'm sorry if I come across as too egocentric here.

Anyway, both of those trips ended up being a lot of driving per hour playing, and while they were fun, I'm glad I'm going to take the next weekend off from lacrosse and hopefully will get to go on a small adventure with my husband...and then the weekend after that, we're going to a tournament in Dresden (the lacrosse team, not my husband) and after that, Sasha and I are taking a vacation to Spain to fulfill our marriage contract-dictated Spain birding trip (although I have finagled some time for cultural experiences and eating into the itinerary).  So stay tuned for all of that!   

And, it's spring here in Germany.  The trees are budding, the flowers are blooming, and the frogs eggs are turning into tadpoles.  For those of you Minnesotans stuck in endless winter this year, you're welcome to come visit!
Lots of frog eggs in a puddle in the woods I walk through most days to get to work. Happy spring!