Easter Holidays, part two

As I’m sure anyone who’s talked to me since Christmas can tell you, my Dad was coming to see me for my birthday. And my birthday happened to fall during the Easter holidays. So this was an excellent plan. Dad was going to pick me up on the morning of my birthday, so I could go have breakfast with him at the hotel. Solid plan.

Dad picks me up, takes me to the hotel, I walk into the breakfast room. And bam. Surprise family. My grandparents and aunts had made the two day trip as well. Huge surprise. Think I’m still a little in shock over it, a whole week later. But yes. Huge surprise. Good surprise. Huge good surprise.

The first thing we did, after breakfast and presents and me trying to stop being surprised, was head to the Kickelhahn. It’s a tower on a hill that looks over Ilmenau and it’s important for reasons, and there’s a vague thing that if you’re at the university here, you have to go to the Kickelhahn once a year (or maybe once semester) otherwise you’ll fail. I had not yet been to the Kickelhahn, because walking all the way up sounded a lot like D of E, and I’m not doing that again. So we drove towards it, only to find that you can’t get all the way up there by car. Walking up took a lot of energy, but I think the view was worth it.


Behold the Kickelhahn.

Afterwards, we headed into Ilmenau so I could show my family around the town that’s been home for the past few months. Then in the evening we went out for tea, which was lots of fun, and an excellent end to my birthday.

Thursday we went to Erfurt, where the weather was all kinds of bleh. But the cathedral was beautiful as always.  It was, however, May Day so most shops and things were shut which made wandering a little aimless, but with good company it didn’t really matter.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Erfurt cathedral looks like something from Lothlorien or Rivendell.

Friday we went to die Wartburg, a castle in Thüringen important for many reasons, not least among them that Martin Luther translated the New Testament there. It was my third time there and by this point I know the English tour of the castle pretty well. However, it’s always interesting, and I got to show off my epic knowledge about St Elizabeth of Thüringen, which, shockingly, I don’t get to do often.

Saturday was the final day with my family, and it involved ice cream in Ilmenau and then lunch at a restaurant in Schmiedefeld am Rennsteig, which was possibly the best food I’ve ever had.

Having my family around for my 21st was a massive surprise and super good. Even if I did end up speaking so much German in cafes and restaurants. Though that is the point of a year abroad. 


Suhl’s Cool

In my last post, I mentioned that Suhl (a town in Thüringen) has a weapons museum. This is because Suhl was initially a base for metal processing, which led naturally into gunsmithing, armoury and cannon making. It was very important for the German weapon industry, which is a covert way of saying it was one of the centres of weapon production during World War Two. Nowadays, it has Germany’s only school for armourers and, I believe, still produces rifles etc for sport and hunting.

I’m a huge weapon fangirl. Not so much for the damage that they can cause, but the mechanics and intricacies of them. Swords, guns, crossbows. You name it, I’ve probably fangirled over it at some point. I think my parents took me to too many historical re-enactments as a kid. The main reason I want to go to New York is the Arms and Armour exhibit at The Met. (All contributions to my ‘Kat goes to New York’ fund are gratefully received.) So yes, me plus a weaponry museum equals kid in a sweet shop.

So to the weaponry museum. It cost me €5 for entry and the privilege of taking photos. The bottom floor is a display about the geology and history of Suhl, which basically explains how it makes perfect sense for Suhl to have been an industrial town based around metal working. I did not read most of it.


A pistol and knuckledusters. What more could you want?

The first floor is much more interesting. It’s a display of many different kinds of guns, from teeny tiny pistols to ones taller than me. They’re arranged by use, so there’s a section for hunting, a section for sporting activities including a subsection on the Olympics, and a section on war. There were a couple of other sections as well, but they weren’t as interesting.


Actual swords hidden in canes.

I spent most of my time skipping (not literally) from display to display case, getting weird looks from middle ages men and taking all of the photos. I also got to shoot an electronic rifle. There’s a tiny shooting range. You have the choice of two rifles and I naturally picked the biggest. It was super heavy, but I still managed to score fairly highly. The woman in charge thought I’d shot before. Which thinking about it, yes I have. But I sucked at clay pigeon shooting and that was…oooh, 7 years ago. So yeah. She also asked where I came from and said my German was good. I like people who tell me my German is good.


Guns from WW2. I have no wisecracks.

 After hitting up the weapons museum gift shop – no, I did not buy a gun, yes, I did by alcohol billed as weaponry oil – I met up with one of my colleagues and her husband, whose name I believe is Dettcliff. He’s a blacksmith in Suhl, and works at a forge, naturally enough. The forge has been there for at least 150 years, and the main part of it is now a museum. But I got to see the actual workshop as well. It was all kinds of cool, though trying to follow an explanation of the smithing process in German was super difficult.


My hosts – Maidlin and Dettcliff

Once we’d had the full tour, we headed to their house, for coffee and cake. Well, tea and cake in my case. I met their middle daughter who was all kinds of lovely, and we generally chatted and it was really nice.Then me, Maidlin and Dettcliff went on a walk up a frankly gigantic hill, to the ruin of celtic settlement. The sun was setting and the light was phenomenal. It was definitely worth the effort, though I haven’t climbed a hill that big since I finished Duke of Edinburgh.


Dat panorama.

To round off the day in a truly German fashion, we had bratwurst, beer and potato salad. Basically, it was a fantastic day. I can’t sum it up better than that. Yay for lovely people and decent places.


Accent-ally sounding Thüringenese

I have a lot of feelings about my accent, especially since someone in my home town laughed at it. (A jerk genuinely called across a pub to ask a friend what my accent was and then laughed. Ruined the end of the story I was telling.) Essentially, my accent is a huge mash up, featuring Geordie, Yam-yam and the southern influences of my university friends. This mean I get the mick taken by my home friends and university friends. Phrases like “you sounded so southern then!” and “I’m sorry, try that word again?” regularly make an appearance in my life.

Sadly this heightened awareness of my accent only happens in English. I have no idea how I sound when I speak German. Actually, that’s not true. I made the mistake of asking a German if I sounded English when I spoke German. Yes. Yes I do, is the answer. So rather than get bogged down in how my accent is, I’d like to point out three Thuringien dialect features. Or possibly just three Ilmenauese features. (Either way, the title of this blog is misleading because I’m gonna look at dialect. But I couldn’t pass up the terrible terrible pun.)

1. ‘Ge?’

Ge or geh or however it’s spelt is the Ilmenau equivalent of ‘oder?’, which when added at the end of a sentence with a questioning tone is the German version of ‘right?’. Can be used for seeking clarification or affirmation.

Personally, I can’t stop saying it. I keep nearly saying it in English. I say it more than native Ilmenauers. It’s a compulsion, like talking about the weather with the only other person at the bus top at 7.20 and telling the kids to sit properly on their chairs otherwise they’ll crack their heads open.

2. Drei viertel…

Bear with me, because I can’t quite get my head round this one without serious thought. Drei viertel zehn (three quarter ten) means quarter to ten. Not quarter to eleven. It’s like an extension of the whole German ‘yes, when we mean 8.30 we’ll say half 9’. Whatever the reasoning or twisted logic behind it, it’s one feature I am not going to use. I’m paranoid enough about messing up times in German thanks to the aforementioned cack-handed way of dealing with 30 minutes past the hour – there’s no way I’m going to attempt drei viertel…

3. Pfannkuchen

As anyone who was my friend on Facebook during second year of uni will know, I am insanely proud of being able to order pancakes in Arabic. Seriously, that was the highlight of learning Arabic for me. Managed to get it into every oral exam. So my claim was that I could order pancakes in three languages – Arabic, English and German. Yeah, about that…

So here in Ilmenau, Pfannkuchen does not mean pancakes. It means doughnuts. Everywhere else in Germany* Pfannkuchen means pancakes and Berliner means doughnut. Berliner was one of the first pieces of German I learnt outside of class, thanks to this video. (Yes, it’s more Eddie Izzard, yes, there’s some swearing.) And this crucial piece of vocab is now redundant. I think I might have to go eat a Pfannkuchen or three to cheer myself up.

* possibly a slight exaggeration. Or just plain wrong. I did not fact check.