Monday, December 21, 2009

The Flat Ainsleigh Project: Germany-Gaggenau Edition

A few weeks ago when I made a plea for help on our Flat Ainsleigh Project, I was thrilled with the response from friends and family. And THEN. I got some emails from strangers. People who just happened to SEE my plea, WANT to help, and then PROVIDE AN ADDRESS. For a paper doll. Incredible. People are SO NICE!!! (so nice, in fact, that just one exclamation point was not adequate)

One such SO NICE person is a delightful woman named Kirsten from Gaggenau, Germany, who offered to show Ainsleigh around her corner of the world. She said she lived in the northern part of the Black Forest. Now, the only things from that region I'm familiar with are ham and cake, and quite frankly, I don't need to know anything else to know that there is quality coming out of that region. (I can't remember how, but upon doing some research, apparently there are some enormous earthworms there - like 2 feet long. This is not necessarily a positive, but once again points to the ability to surpass expectations. I would, however, be content to never have an encounter with such a lumbricus; ham and cake will be sufficient.)

And so, on Saturday, it was with much excitement that we saw a thick letter had arrived from Germany. Out tumbled Flat Ainsleigh, some German chocolate (extra credit!), and a gorgeous travelogue. I have done my best to replicate it here. (note to people waiting in the FAP queue: Kirsten is obviously a wonderful overachiever. do not think you have to go to such lengths. A few pictures would be lovely. However, if you want to secure lifelong gratitude and an open invitation to visit, check out the following as your guide:)

Dear Ainsleigh,
Thank you so much for dropping by. It's Monday, November 23rd. Why don't we sit down for a cup of tea and a piece of 'Stollen' and get to know each other? My name is Kirsten and I'm 25 years old. I live in Germany. I'm in College. I study English and Biology to become a teacher. This semester, I work at a school in BadenBaden. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Do you even know where Germany is? Can you find it on the map?

If you look at the next page, you can see a map of Germany. The arrow points to where I live: Gaggenau, in the Northern Black Forest.

Do you like the ‘Stollen’? I made it yesterday. In Germany, it’s a typical thing to eat around Christmas. I attached the recipe for you, maybe you can try and make it with your Mom. By thy way, I wanted to get some more baking done today. I’m making ‘Honigkuchen’, kind of cookie. It’s also typical for Christmas. Do you want to help?

November 24th
Today I'm taking you to school with me. This semester, I teach at a school in BadenBaden. It’s the building in the picture. It’s a very old building. It's raining today. I'm sorry. BadenBaden is a beautiful town and it’s even more beautiful in the sun. These building are pretty old. But not as old as the statue. It used to be an ornament on a roman vapour bathing building that stood right here about two thousand years ago.

November 25th
On Wednesdays I always go to classes in the city of Karlsruhe. I go by train. In Germany, we use public transportation like trains and buses a lot. Of course you come with me. In the picture, we’re at the station in Rastatt, waiting for our connecting train to Karlsruhe. Karlsruhe is also an old city, but not nearly as old as BadenBaden. Karlsruhe was founded in 1715 by an Earl called KarlWilhelm.

According to an old legend, he fell asleep and dreamed of a beautiful palace. When he woke up, he decided to have this palace built, and the city surrounding it got the name Karlsruhe. ‘Karlsruhe’ means ‘Karl’s rest’. Can you find Karlsruhe on the map of Germany? It’s about 30 kilometers (about 20 miles) away from Gaggenau – we measure distance in kilometres, not miles. One kilometer equals about 1.6 miles.

November 26th
In the morning I go to school like every day. In the afternoon, we’re going on a bike tour through Gaggenau to show you around. Gaggenau is about a hundred years old and was founded around an old factory. We go and visit the old part of town. The houses in Gaggenau used to be built in this framework style. I think it looks beautiful. It’s usually not done anymore today, though.

November 27th
Today we drive to Düsseldorf, because some good friends are having a party. Düsseldorf is quite a long way away from Gaggenau – it takes us 4 hours by car to get there. We drove on the German "Autobahn", which is similar to an American Freeway. However, there is no speed limit for some parts of it, so technically you could drive as fast as you want. In reality not very many people do that, though. First of all, it’s dangerous to go too fast, and it’s also very expensive because of all the gas a car needs when you go fast. The city where our friends live, Düsseldorf is a city in the 'Bundesland' NorthrhineWestfalia. Germany has 16 'Bundesländer', which are similar to American states. You can see the 16 'Bundesländer' on the map of Germany.

November 28th
We drove all the way to Ulm today to a family reunion with our cousins. There is a huge cathedral in Ulm. Its tower is almost 150 meters high and supposedly the highest church tower in the world. (And yes, we also use meters as a measurement instead of feet. – 150 meters is about 450 feet) 700 steps lead all the way up to the top of the tower. We're going all the way up there, you and I. Here's the picture that proves that we made it to the very top.

On the square in front of the cathedral is the Christmas market of Ulm. I took a picture of the Christmas market from the top of the cathedral. Almost every city in Germany has a Christmas Market during December. You can buy all kinds of Christmas decoration there and other nice things. Also, you can drink 'Glühwein' and 'Punsch' there, which is hot wine or juice with spices. I added a recipe for you, maybe you can make some for Christmas.

November 29th
Today, we're also on a Christmas market. This time, we visit the one in BadenBaden. It’s not as big as the one in Ulm, but it’s really nice there, too, especially when it’s dark outside. There are very many Christmas lights that make it look beautiful. One of the typical things you can get at a Christmas market are Lebkuchen hearts like the ones you see in the picture. I added a recipe for you so that you can bake your own, if you want to.

I hope you enjoyed the week with me here in Germany. If you have any more questions, please feel free to drop me a line. I really enjoyed the time with you and I hope you enjoy the pictures.

I wish you all the best,

Wunderbar Kirsten!


Anne said...

this is so cool i can hardly stand it.

OneTiredEma said...

um, she's set the bar way high.

(feverishly plotting)

laura said...

Kirsten is amazing! I love this project so much.

Lisa said...

That was unbelievably amazing. I'm jealous of little Flat Ainsleigh. I want to go to the Northern Black Forest!!!

loewymartin said...

I've actually climbed that cathedral in Ulm!! It is a beautiful city - so cool to see it again :)

Kirsten did an amazing job. It's neat to see how people are showing Flat Ainsleigh their corners of the world.

wanda said...

What a wonderful experience for us all! It's easy to see that Kirsten will be a fabulous teacher.

Melanie I. said...

I'm practically speechless! That's amazing. What a lovely person Kirsten is. And how very boring California will seem to Ainsleigh after that trip! I very much enjoyed the travel blog. :)

Becca said...

You didn't post the recipes?!?!

Katie Ross said...

Way cool. I enjoyed visiting Germany.

Katie Ross said...

Okay, I just read your Flat Ainsleigh project post and as a former teacher of her same age I LOVE IT!! Perhaps someday when my boys are older... I'm sorry I wasn't participating. I'd love to be involved in it...however, I don't do much except take care of two very busy boys. Speak of which, one is awake & crying..... (maybe both)

GWACK said...

Germany is so wonderful! I only saw it in the summer but would love to be there for Christmas. Lucky Flat Ainsleigh.

Such a great idea and something Ainsleigh will always remember!

Margo said...

What an awesome post. It really made me miss Germany. Karlsruhe is in my mission, but I never made it there. I love this project. what a huge memory.