Friday, June 6, 2014

Bookin' it to Germany

When I think of Germany, I usually associate it with beer, sausages, schnitzel, luxury cars and lots of rules. But this is also the land of the Grimm brothers, lush forests, vibrant flowers and chocolate. The NearNormal Travelers on this trip were a bunch of librarians charged with helping to update a library in an international school in Germany and install a library in the same sort of school in the Czech Republic. Now if you’re thinking that a duller group could not be found and if you’re picturing little old ladies with grey hair tucked neatly into buns, you’re completely wrong.

Leaving the DFW airport at about 6:30PM, we arrived in Stuttgart some 12 hours later having
Central Train Station, Stuttgart
experienced some really long security lines in Heathrow, several mediocre airline meals, and a few first-run movies. Most Americans are not used to the public transportation that is de rigueur in Europe and since we were here to work rather than on holiday, we got our first taste of the train system. Suitcases, bags, backpacks and all our wild and wooly crew hopped aboard our transport, startling many commuters with our rather boisterous ways. We arrived in fine form at our hotel and were delighted to find that there was a bistro /bar attached. What we didn’t know was this was just our first adventure with the train system in Europe.

Process of Processing
The next two weeks found us hard at work in the school library. So what do 22 people do in a library? We assess collections, organize and categorize books by their subjects, write reports on which librarians and administrators can make fiscal decisions, and do what looks a great deal like arts and crafts. Did you ever wonder who puts those covers on library books or who puts on the bar codes and spine labels? Many times it’s the librarian who does this in addition to all of the other things she/he is supposed to be doing, such as helping students with research, finding information for teachers, developing web pages, writing blogs, assisting with lesson planning, keeping the library running smoothly and, probably most importantly, conducting lessons that encourage kids to read things just for fun.

So what did we do when we weren’t working? Of course we visited museums, castles, nearby cities and a beer garden. The Schwabengarten has been around since 1896 and has good food along with good beer and wine. It’s a bit outside of the city, so we jumped on the train for a trip through the countryside. I had expected a few picnic tables, some sausages either boiled or roasted, and a few kegs of beer. This garden was a whole lot nicer than I expected. You could get sausages, but you could also have roasted pork, beef, schnitzel and something akin to pizza. The beer ranged from dark to pale, heavy to light, and evidently all of it served in liter mugs. There were also generous containers of rather good white and red wines, juices, water (still or fizzy), and name brand soft drinks. Probably the most surprising was the children’s
Mustache Competitors
playground complete with swing sets and slides, and the number of folks who brought their dogs. Dogs and kids were well behaved and got along with each other as well as the adults. Other than the fun we had with experiencing outdoor dining, most entertaining were two guys who participate in beard and mustache competitions. They quite enjoyed our group and were delighted to let us know that they will be in Austin, Texas for their 2015 Beard and Mustache competition.

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