snow

That time I met Benjamin meet Brecht

You know how some people wait until the absolute last day to go to an exhibition that’s been going for months, and suddenly come together to fill up a small space, that’s been sparsely filled for weeks, with damp shoe smell and garlic Döner breath? Well I’m one of those people.

Hi everyone! It’s been a while. I have to be honest and say I went through a pretty rough time since the summer, and it’s taken me a while for the process of ‘open the “write post” page and type something in’ to be easier…but if you’re reading this, the drought may finally be over.

While I’ve been neglecting WordPress and you, dear readers, I wrapped up a pretty nice Christmas season with a lot of Weihnachtsmärkte and at least 6 mugs of Glühwein. I even made it down to Nürnberg again, and longtime readers will remember how ridiculously full the Markt gets and ridiculously silly I get, but this time I was kept responsible by looking after a few cute kids.

Here are some pretty pictures of some of the markets my brother and I went to. It was his first Christmas season ever in Germany, so I made sure he got a good idea of what the markets are about (clearly: food).

 

I went home again to Florida for Christmas and fully took three weeks off school, which may or may not have been the best decision I’ve made last year. I came back early January and zoomed into the semester again, and now here we are, end January and I’ve visited a lot of lectures, done some writing, a lot of reading, and saw people do mad acrobatics/gymnastics in the Mercedes-Benz Arena again.  My brother and I also spent time being dorks in the snow, since we’re still Florida kids and just get excited by the white powdery stuff, you know?

 

And today I visited said exhibit that’s been open in the Berlin Akedemie der Künste since October: Benjamin and Brecht: Thinking in Extremes.

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yes. Berlin is just a grey and dreary in winter as people always say it is.

Oh, you didn’t know that one of the 20th century’s most celebrated playwrights and poets had met and worked with the 20th century’s favorite (okay, my favorite) cultural and literary critic? Oh, good. Me neither (and if you did… can we meet and talk?, because  you sound pretty interesting).

 

It makes sense that they’ve met giving the timing and both their fates as exiled from the 3rd Reich under the National Socialists in Germany, but as the title of the exhibit demonstrates, Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht were pretty different and their coming together in theory and practice was a bit explosive sometimes. Benjamin was a kind of straight-laced, tweed wearing (though I don’t know if he wore tweed), briefcase carrying rationalist and Brecht was a cigar smoking, scuffed sneaker, gesturing dreamer. Both believed in the necessity of art for social and political critique, though, and that much was clear in the exhibit.

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The exhibit was part record of their conversations and conversations about B and B, but also artwork that commented on their theory or generally continued the work of the two.

I especially appreciated Zoe Beloff‘s work. She submitted two of her paintings and a movie to the exhibit and if her movie Exile (still a work in progress) is ever available to own, I will definitely procure it.

And I don’t know if I was just in a good mood today, but seeing the community aspect of criticism and art just made me happy. I like to see the working habits of writers, how they spend their days and the kinds of lives they lead. This impression was created by the hanging boards with pictures and quotes of/about the men’s lives. Very little was said in the exhibit about the women in B’s and B’s lives, but most of the quotes about their relationship came from women. And both Benjamin and Brecht had children (something one doesn’t hear a lot about), so I’m assuming some part of their lives were spent wiping poop away off something.

It was an artfully done exhibit, taking advantage of the multiple technologies we have today (including a self-playing chess board… it was magic!), and I’m glad I went, though admittedly I got a bit anxious by the end because my work was calling and the exhibit got to be too full of people by the time I left. I’m not the only one who waited until the last day and looked for a bit of literary and cultural history on a bleak Berlin day.

Looking forward, the semester in Berlin is about to end (only three more weeks!) and in the meantime, I’m slogging through trying to get a working model of my theory done. It’s harder to pin-down than it is to think about it in a fragmentary nature though.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention that in this time of not-writing-about-going-ons-in-Berlin, I also visited a lecture that was meant to provide a mid-term evaluation about Trump. It was, interesting… but writing more would be its own post.

Hope the first month of the year was good for you, and that the next one is good, if not better!

Cheers, Dorothea

p.s. sigh. You can totally tell that the quality of my bro’s camera is better than mine.

Snow, Soccer, and some Kalter Hund

Since I stopped being productive on my thesis about three hours ago, I decided it was time to update my blog. You’re in luck, since I’ve actually had a pretty eventful weekend!
First, there was this:

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To you, this may seem standard winter. To me, this was a winter wonderland!!

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Sunrise in Hamburg… in the snow. Like how Germany has parking lots for bicycles?

I woke up Friday to find a slight dusting of snow on the sidewalks and the trees. But it melted by the end of the day, so I could only enjoy it for a few hours.

Then, yesterday, Saturday, what started as a normally cold morning turned into a snow day. It started snowing and didn’t stop until the late afternoon. I haven’t seen snow since I was three or four, so this was an exceptionally exciting vision! I ran in snow, went grocery shopping in snow, took out the trash in snow, made a snowman in sand (jk, also in snow), and when I woke up this morning, I was still in snow!

Now most of the snow is melted and I got to experience getting wet slush in my shoes, but it was worth it!

As for what I’ve done to take advantage of being abroad lately, let me talk a bit about joining a soccer team here.

As the Germans showed during the world cup, (can I remind anyone of that semi-final against Brazil? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLZUKqpXYzU) they have a rather good national team, and they are huge fans of soccer. And just like there are pick-up games of tag-football and basketball in parks all over the States, one can find a game to join on nearly any outing out in the city of Hamburg (assuming one walks near an open space and the ground isn’t frozen).

As someone who grew up in the US, I’m actually not sure how I got into the sport already at the age of five (maybe because as an active little girl in the States, one really only chooses between tennis and soccer?), but I do know I had fun with the sport from the start- I also haven’t stopped playing since. Yet while I always found opportunities to play in the States, be it for city recreation leagues, for high school, intramural leagues at college, or nightly pick-up games on the tennis courts (since my school couldn’t afford lights for the field we had), I’ve never played it the way I do in Germany.

One of the first decisions I made when coming to Germany on my study-abroad exchange was to sign-up for something that would a) get me involved with a group of native Germans, b) keep me active in the community somehow, and c) give me a group of people that would remain the same even when everything else was different nearly every day.

To meet these requirements, I was considering auditioning for a play that was being put on by some Universitaet Hamburg students. I also considered joining and being active for the left-wing student government party (I was told I’d be the only U.S. American who ever held a conversation with them when approached about it… I guess they’re used to the U.S. capitalist loving, commie-hating stereotype?). However, the option that really captured my imagination from the beginning was signing up for a soccer team, or Verein, as they are called here.

I’m going to assume that most readers will know what the Bundesliga is. It’s the level of competition at the state level. What may be new to the reader is that there are lower levels than even the 2nd Liga. One has Landeliga, Bezirksliga, and then the lowest (to my knowledge) is the Kreisliga. Any team has the mobility to move up in Liga between these different levels, but it usually is determined between series of seasons and not just a single season.

I unwittingly initially contacted a team manager in the lowest Liga, but its practices and home field happen to be located closest to where I live, so it’s a fair exchange. Plus, this means I came onto the team (after an expedited trial period) as a fairly well looked-upon player. I also can leave my dorm five minutes before practice, which is quite practical given my busy schedule and my late Mondays at the Uni.

So, something unique to my experience of the German soccer system (which is not that much different than travel soccer in the states) was the practice of moving the practices and games indoors during the winter, and of hosting tournaments. Today, my team played in a tournament (sans moi, because I have only just started running and playing again)

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Here’s my coach setting up the computer for arranging the tournament line-up. You can see the sweet trophies too.

But, because my team also hosted the tournament (in which ten teams played each other for the glory of not winning a gold spray painted pineapple– this was awarded to the fourth place finisher), we used the opportunity to raise money for the summer training camp as well. Thus, I came early today to help set up the hall where we played, I stayed to provide some team support (and tried to do some work in between) and I brought something to sell.

Even though I don’t eat sugar (sugar had been a mental and physical health issue for a while and after trying sugar-free for the year 2014, I decided to make a life-long thing), I was asked to bring a cake. Fine, I guess I can do that. I don’t have to eat it.

But after trying and failing twice to bake brownies at the beginning of this year, I decided to make something that did not require an oven.

On the first day of my stay abroad, I was given an interesting cook book by the nice lady who picked me up from the airport and helped me do a bunch of important, first week Hamburg things (see here). She is a club member of the Woman’s German-American Club in Hamburg, and she had participated in a German-American exchange herself. Inspired by that time and her love of baking and cooking, she wrote a cookbook written in both German and English. She generously gave me a copy.

Honestly, I initially didn’t think I would use the cookbook much. After all, I don’t really cook a lot from recipes (lately, my cooking consists of heating up soup with some scrambled eggs and boiled semmel-knoedel) and I can get any recipe I imagine online. But after glancing through it, I found a lot of traditional German dishes that actually looked easy to make, I also found one for Kalter Hund. I remember my mother talking about this dessert as one of her childhood memories, so I decided to try it. The cookbook was especially helpful, because even though I can read German quite fine, being able to see the measurements in the U.S. system gave me a better idea of how much of each ingredient I needed.

2015-01-24 10.14.59It’s really easy, and while I didn’t try any, my Kalter Hund looked really good and it was the most popular thing on the table.

To make “Kalter Hund,” or “Cold Dog,” one needs: 5 oz.s of Coconut fat (or Crisco), one egg, 1 cup sugar, 1 tbsp vanilla sugar, 4 tbsp cocoa powder, 1 tsp run flavor (I used vanilla extract) and 5-6 oz.s of butter cookies.

It is done by:

  1. In a small pan, heat the crisco or coconut fat until just melted. Put to the side.
  2.  In the meantime, beat egg with the sugar and vanilla sugar, add cocoa. Slowly work into the lukewarm crisco as well as the rum-flavoring. Stir until smooth.
  3. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap or baking paper [another one of those German cultural differences in baking].
  4. At the bottom of the pan, place an individual layer of the butter cookies. Spread the chocolate mixture overtop. Repeat this process until the last layer is chocolate. Spread this last layer of chocolate evenly.
  5. Chill for a few hours (the pan, but you can too). Preferably, chill overnight. The total preparation takes about 45 minutes (without chilling) and prepares at least enough for 12 delicious servings.

Kalter Hund Rezept There are different ways of preparing this, but this version came out really well. (the image is not mine, I stole it off the interwebs here because the picture I took did not come out well). I was told it’s delicious.

So ja. That’s my update. Hope you all had a good weekend!