Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 14: Life in Trier

Nina and I both slept in, Oliver left early for his teaching job at the University. I got up a little earlier than Nina, and managed to almost start washing some dishes before she got up, but my noisy struggles with the external hot water heater and other such nuisances would have raised the dead. Over a breakfast of broetchen, schinken, and kaese, I practiced a lesson that I have not yet fully learned in Germany: no need to eat more, the next meal will be sooner and heartier than you think. After maybe two hours, we ate the best freezer pizza ever, then tried to get ready for a day of faux shopping.

Nina had such a tough exterior in high school, that although I knew there was more to her beneath the surface than what I saw, I never really bothered myself with getting through her thick skin to find out, figuring it would be impossible and incomprehensible. Well, amazingly enough, after four years in a big city, earning an undergrad and masters degree simultaneously, with new friends, new adventures and romances and foreign adventures, she has come out of her shell all on her own.

She’s… well… still quirky Nina, and an absolutely normal human being with fears, loves, guilty pleasures, affectations, and all that… “You’re unique, just like everybody else.” We talked about fashion, school, friends, life, love, dressed up, declared our love for the tacky and hideous, and talked about feelings some more. I’m a pretty damn boring person and was worried that I’d be boring and stupid spending so much time with a girl who LOVES being intellectual, constructing arguments based on knowledge that I neither have nor particularly care about. Nope. The question in my head the whole time was, “If Nina has changed this much in the last four years, but still is Nina, then what the hell does she see in me?”

After abandoning the awesome jewelry made in Kenya by a single mother’s guild, the gold strappy wedges, and ruffly black mini booty skirt, we headed into Trier for a little sight seeing and free-shopping (just like regular shopping, but no buying). We stopped by the Roman baths unearthed ten years and in the process of being excavated and renovated, and then to the big huge ones that were part of the gates to the city two millenia ago. Nina waited outside, forever, while I forked over two entirely worthwhile euros to go explore the baths. I got to go underground, touch lots of ancient rocks, and had access to pretty much everything except going high up on the arches. It was amazing! Of course, thinking about how much warm water was swirling around for public hygiene made me really have to pee the whole time.

Next, Nina took me to the palace gardens, which were very English, and in front of The Most Hideous Palace I Have Yet Seen. Very baroque (imagine architecture… frilly. With cherubs and adornments everywhere), bright pink, and with white marble and gold to complete the ugly color scheme. The poor guy who commissioned the palace only got to live in it for four years before Napoleon swept through. To be thrifty, however, the back wall was just an old Roman wall- the wall of the Basilika, which means “great big room” in Latin or Italian or Roman.

We went in the reconstructed Basilika, and true to it’s name, it is a great big room. It is the largest ancient building to have no columns. Where you would expect columns there aren’t any, just empty space, which makes me really expect ancient Roman engineers. I know they kicked ass (and by contemporary standards, over-designed everything, but look who’s infrastructure is still in use today, bitch?), but seeing it is amazing. The height of the walls is not the most impressive thing, they had a lot of big tall walls, but the roof structure. The Romans were masters of arches, but the reconstructed building had a triangular roof. Did the Romans have stone trusses? Just really big wooden ones? To be fair, that original roof fell in during the middle ages, but wouldn’t you be stoked if your roof could last for 500 to 1000 years without reroofing? The big squares on the ceiling just looked like big wooden ceiling tiles- and they’re 10’x10’! The acoustics… I don’t know if they’re good, because it echoes a ton, but hey, the great big room is so great and big and stone that it echoes!

Nina and I took a brief break from all this ancient sightseeing to visit H&M, housed in the bottom of a several hundred old building. NBD as my roommate, Elissa, would say. She helped me pick out some clothes that were almost flattering and almost fit and we didn’t buy anything. Free shopping! We met up with Oliver for tea at a really amazing and expensive teahouse. I had a citrussy Earl Grey, and it was delicious.

From there we went to a sports bar to catch a qualifying game of the World Cup: Germany against Finland. Germany was already in, its goal was to not have any players sitting out the first game of the World Cup, and it succeeded with a 1:1 tie. Nina, with her years of refereeing experience and good sense, was able to explain the important things to me so I had a much better understanding beyond, “They’re kicking the ball… A goal was just scored…. Something just happened and now the referee is being important.” It was good. We got beers (I started with a Kristalweizen, which was ok, and moved straight to a Hefeweizen Dunkel, which was delicious) and split two flammkuchen (my first). The French one was amazing and authentic, it had the quarky eggy topping on top of a thin and crispy flaky crust, with onions and tasty, salty diced pork. The other was Italian, and I think it would be better as a pizza. Nina says, “When in doubt, remember that Germany wants to be Italy, it explains a lot of things.”

Nina and I stayed late at the sports bar to see the games she was really interested in: ones where the score could make a difference in who qualified for Fifa World Cup. It was fun, we split a tender and juicy rump steak, drank some more, I also had my first apfelstrudel of this German trip. It was amazing, and served in a plate of custard (being lactarded, I did not eat all of the custard, but demolished the apfelstrudel). Then, we got to ride the bikes back to the apartment. Earlier in the day, I had finally insisted that she let me take the crappy bike, her hip injury made swinging her leg over the old mountain bike an ordeal every time. This old and crappy mountain bike, in addition to having a seat an inch or two too high for me, is also equipped with a wheel-powered light. When engaged, a little wheel rubs against the big wheel, and turns the stolen energy from your leg-pumping into illuminating and life-saving light. In theory, it doesn’t provide much hindrance. In reality, it converts energy not only into heat and light, but also extreme vibrations and deafening noises.
“Two nuns were riding their bikes down a cobblestone street. One nun says to the other, ‘I’ve never come this way before.’” It was like that, except painful.

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