I had a busy week the end of November. First a very quick trip back to Berlin to give a talk, then a trip to Innsbruck to visit friends, and then back to Germany to a conference at the University of Regensburg. Travel to and from Germany, as well as lovely hotels, courtesy of German Fulbright Kommission, Freie Universität of Berlin, and University of Regensburg–thanks!!!
Berlin, though brief, was better this time. No rain, for one thing! It was cold but not raining. I was invited to give a talk on my gift giving research at the JFK Institute for North American Studies, of the Freie Universität of Berlin. Turns out the prof who invited me is a fellow graduate of UVA and we shared a dissertation director as well. Wahoowa, as they say there! This time I had smooth sailing with the public transit, as I had clear directions as to what to do. I arrived at the lovely hotel on the campus in the early afternoon. Jessica took me to lunch, and we were joined by some graduate students and post-docs. We had a stimulating conversation, as I learned about the fascinating research projects the various students and post-docs were doing. My talk went well, and we had some intense discussion afterward, which offered some new perspectives on my research.
The next morning I headed out to the main train station to catch the train to Innsbruck to visit Markus and Lori, whom I met on our Galapagos trip a few years back. I find the train so much more relaxing than taking the plane. And, unlike the shorter haul Hungarian trains I’ve been on, this train had a bar and food car, so you could get some lunch and a beer, which made the time more pleasant. My only complaint with the German trains was that you had to pay for Internet. I actually tried to do so, but it wouldn’t work, so I had to go “offline” for awhile (tragic, I know). Reached Innsbruck that evening. What a beautiful town, nestled in the Alps (or perhaps the foothills of the Alps, I’m not sure). At any rate, the mountains loom over the city, as you can see in the photos. We wandered around the town, looking at the Christmas markets and checking out sights such as the cathedral and the “golden roof,” created for one of the Hapsburgs who spent time here. We also saw some “ogres” that seem to have something to do with Christmas tales. And we had hot chocolate to die for at a long-time confectionery/pastry place. They brought out a glass of steamed milk, a dish with a ball of dark chocolate (made in house), and a dish with whipped cream. You stir the chocolate into the milk, and top with whipped cream. Unbelievable!! It snowed that night, so the next morning I went for a short walk in the nearby park to see the snow. Then it was time to say farewell to Innsbruck and to Markus and Lori and the children, and head to Regensburg, again on the train.
At Regensburg, I checked into my fabulous hotel, the Goldenes Kreuz: complete with high ceilings, huge room, and four-poster bed. I was here for a conference on the history of the American family. Most of the conference attendees met up for a nice walking tour of the city in the evening before dinner. Regensburg is a lovely town on the Danube; it was spared massive destruction in WWII, so its old medieval/early modern buildings are still intact (including my hotel). We then had a fun dinner at the venerable Dicker Mann, a wonderful place with lots of little rooms, good beer, and some classic German fare. I had a German style beef tenderloin–quite nice.
Next day the conference itself, organized by the brilliant and energetic Eva and her team, began. The participants were from a variety of universities, mainly in Germany, but also England and Italy. There was another Fulbrighter there as well, from Sweden. The talks were all quite good, and we had great discussions on topics such as family planning, 1950s attitudes toward family, the family in action films, etc. I gave a special lecture in the evening, on the topic of Thanksgiving and the American family. It seemed to go well, and afterward we had another Thanksgiving dinner. This was prepared by the hotel cook (who is from Canada)–tasty turkey, dressing, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, etc. She even made a red currant relish that was a good substitute for cranberry (apparently not available around here).
There were more conference sessions in the morning, then we all said our good-byes. A few of us had lunch at Dicker Mann (yep, we just had to go back). This time I had some pork, and more beer of course. After this I checked a few of the Christmas markets in town, although there were so many people that it was hard to get near the stalls! Each square seems to have its own market, and they are open from about 1-9 pm. I also unsuccessfully hunted for some new boots in the many shoe stores there. I met up with one of the conference folks who was also staying Saturday night and we tried to go to a Thai place for dinner, but found out we needed reservations. And it smelled soooo good. We were sad! We made do with a French bistro, with a very sweet waitress, but it wasn’t the same. We had a pleasant dinner anyway. After a final night in Regensburg, I flew home Sunday with much fonder thoughts of Germany than after my first trip. I shall have to return one day to see more of the place. And I’ll definitely return to Innsbruck, in the summer, to explore those mountains!