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January 1, 2002
Bad Gödesburg: Happy New Euro! (Russell)

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Two of Bad Gödesburg's landmarks...
Gödesburg itself, a tower unconquered throughout history (until the enemy attacked through the toilets)
Petersburg (across the Rhine River), where world leaders recently gathered to form Afghanistan's new government

On December 31st, after a fairly lazy morning, we drove the hour back from Gemünd to Bad Gödesburg to spend New Year's Eve.  It took us awhile to clear all of the snow and ice from the windshield and roof of our car, but the streets had been plowed and we had no problems with traction.  Our main difficulty came on the autobahn, where we discovered simultaneously that other cars kept splattering dirty snow onto our windshield, and that our windshield washer spray was not working (it was clogged with snow).  Gail had to keep pulling off to the side of the road, where Russell would run out and throw clean snow onto the windshield so that it could be wiped.

Upon our arrival in Bad Gödesburg, we made one more stop at the Globus department store to purchase some snow gloves and boots for the boys.  As before, we had to compute the total of our purchases, then send Russell and Cameron out to the geldautomat (ATM) to get the necessary deutschmarks.  This time, though, the guys discovered that Globus was closing early for New Year's.  They discovered this when they went out for money and the store wouldn't let them back in.  So with Gail and Joss waiting in the (long) checkout line, Russell and Cameron were forced to wait on the other side of the checkstand.  (Russell actually tried having a reluctant Cameron sneak through to let the others know where we were, but he was caught and scolded in German.  As a result, Cameron was very upset with his father.)

We finally made it back to Jayne's friend's apartment, where everything was pretty much as we had left it two days before.  Jayne and Stefan came over in the afternoon, and Russell proceeded to amaze Jayne with our "world tripper portable technology infrastructure."  We watched several DVD documentaries on The Lord of the Rings -- Jayne and Stefan had just seen the movie the night before, after being turned away by sold-out crowds on Saturday.  (Traditionally, Jayne and Russell are old movie buddies; they love discussing and comparing films together.  In Germany, they picked right back up where they had left off seven years ago.)  Then, Jayne got to hear her first new bluegrass music since moving here ten months ago, courtesy of the Nomad Jukebox.  With everything hooked up to the television and stereo in the apartment, we were set for the evening.

Gail whipped up an incredible New Year's dinner of enchiladas, rice, and refried beans.  We were joined for dinner by Alexandra, one of Jayne's coworkers, who can speak about a dozen different languages (half Swedish and half Catalan, she was dropped into different countries and enrolled in different schools throughout her childhood by her parents, who loved languages).  Alex is planning to go on an African safari and was very interested in our travel stories (we imagine that she will pick up Swahili much more quickly and easily than we did).

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Our New Year co-celebrants: Jayne, Stefan, and Alexandra

Germany is known for two New Year's Eve traditions.  The first is an old half-hour black-and-white television show called "Dinner for One."  An English stage play that is broadcast in English language, it is about an elderly spinster who invites four imaginary friends over for dinner.  Her poor butler is forced to act out all of their parts, including consuming all of their alcoholic drinks -- as a result, he is completely drunk by the end of the evening.  Germans watch this show as religiously as Americans watch "It's a Wonderful Life" for Christmas -- the only thing we can figure is that the young people have a drinking game associated with it.  The show was broadcast literally a dozen times on New Year's Eve; and watching it, we were reminded of a Carol Burnett & Tim Conway skit.

The second tradition is that the Germans set off fireworks throughout the evening, culminating at midnight.  Unlike the United States, Germany still sells legal fireworks -- not just backyard firecrackers and piccolo Petes like we grew up with back home, but elaborate rockets that people shoot off into the sky.  At midnight, we walked down to the nearby Rhine River, where we saw a spectacle every bit as amazing as an American Fourth of July.  (The boys, who had gone to bed earlier, asked that we wake them up at midnight.  We tried, but they remained stubbornly asleep.  Joss was very upset with us the next day for not dragging him out into the cold.)

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Midnight fireworks on the Rhine

To close out our New Year's celebration, we watched CNN's live and continuous coverage of the launch of the Euro, Europe's new common currency.  Continuous coverage meant that the broadcasters had to resort to some rather trivial aspects -- we learned that you can wash Euro coins in boiling water, but you must not iron your Euro bills.  As expected, the dreaded predictions of conversion difficulties turned out to be as unfounded as the millennium bug in 2000.

On January 1st, we said a final goodbye to Jayne and Bad Gödesburg.  Driving back to Gemünd felt like coming home again.  (Then again, driving back to Bad Gödesburg the day before had also felt like coming home again.  We wonder how we'll feel when we return to Crest in another week.)  After our third trip between the two towns, we have finally figured out the backroads well enough that we don't have to zigzag along the autobahns.  With the holiday celebrations over, we now hope to relax, explore, and enjoy our (hopefully) last snowy surroundings.

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Happy New Euro!

 

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