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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Still Leben Ruhr 2010

Last Sunday, July 18th, I was not expecting anything extraordinary to happen. I woke up, ate breakfast and got dressed. My boyfriend wanted to visit some 'world's longest picnic on the Autobahn' or whatever it was he was talking about excitedly a few weeks ago, so that was on the agenda, as well as getting some more practical work finished for my upcoming auditions and voice program in August. Naturally, my curiousity was peaked when he had mentioned something like this a while ago, but normally highways and picnic tables don't provide my imagination with a feeding frenzy of zany imagines, so, I simply thought, okay, let's see.
Honestly, the idea of this whole project didn't sound all that exciting: the Ruhr area decides to close a major highway on a Sunday in July to open it for pedestrians and picnic tables on the one side and bicyclists and skaters on the other side. Doesn't really bring to mind the next Woodstock or Lallapalooza, does it? Especially since my mind went right to thinking, 'Oh goody! Let's walk on a (probably) crowded highway in the middle of a blisteringly hot day without any purpose besides wanting to look at all the other goons who fell for this community togetherness ploy!'. Needless to say, I was not enthused, but figured I could get through it for one day, if only to add it to the list of my new experiences in Germany.

And that was where my pessimistic train of thought was completely and utterly derailed. Not only did I have a wonderful time walking on a blisteringly hot highway in the middle of a Sunday in July without any real purpose besides watching everyone else doing the same thing as I was, (take a mental breath) but I also found out that the German people as a whole are not as conservative as I had imagined. I mean, considering that this entire thing was put together by neighboring cities in the Ruhr Area and there was very little publicity done about its actual date and time, plus, there were no actual events planned save two or three stages on the highway with musical performance schedules in a stretch of 60 kilometers (which is roughly 37 miles according to Google), there were zillions of people there! And each picnic table that was rented (whether by a company, school, group, or family) was colorfully decorated, interestingly bedecked and filled with smiling people who looked like (and usually were) having tons of fun (even somehow after lugging 5 coolers, a beach umbrella, a colorful tablecloth, papier-mache decorations and their three kids onto the highway from a quite-possibly ridiculous distance)! (Keep in mind readers, the only ways to enter and exit the highways were from the on-ramps that were usually used by cars, which means, a LOT of walking even before you get ON the highway!) There were also tables sponsored by University students who needed taste-test volunteers, or organized for birthday parties with friends and family invited, or reserved by Radio Stations to do live broadcasts of the craziness happening on the highway, and also those rented by companies and organizations to promote their businesses or membership or services. Then, besides the interesting happenings at the tables, there were just normal individuals that wandered through the masses on the highway and sang or played music, walked their dog, pushed their stroller, juggled, or wore fun costumes. There were two strolling groups that merit particular mention: a drum circle (playing djembes) on wheels--they had rigged up a massive bicycle which allowed the first guy to pedal and then the subsequent riders to actually play their djembes while bicycling!--as well as a sort-of monorail of retired bicyclists who had hooked up 30 side-by-side bicycles together and rode around looking like an amusement park train ride.

There was practically everything that one could think of going on that day on the A40 highway, and it was a perfectly apt representation of the culture of the Ruhrarea that sponsored it: multi-dimensional, or 'vielfaeltig', as they'd say in German. And, a side effect which I was not expecting: feeling more of a kinship with the A40 highway. I know, who'd have thought?

So, hope you've enjoyed the pictures, and looking forward to hearing your comments!

video video video

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lotte Lehmann Akademie in Perleberg coming up!

Hope you all are doing wonderfully and just wanted to update you that I will be unavailable to be on the internet and updating the blog from August 1st through August 8th but that I will be back online once I get back to the USA on August 10th. Don't worry- just because I won't be in Germany at that point, you can still check on the blog here for all of your Julia's-singing-life-and-life-in-general updates. I will be posting whatever strikes my fancy in terms of musical interest or otherwise. ;)

But, be aware- this isn't the last post until that time- I just wanted to be kind and alert you all ahead of time! So, the posts will keep coming until August 1st, 2010 and then after August 10th!

Just in case you are wondering what this program actually is, and why I will be taking part in it from August 1-8th, have no fear, the explanation is here! (What can I say? I like rhyming!)

The Lotte Lehmann Akademie is a program that is held in Perleberg, Germany this year (and I am participating in the 3rd week of the program which is 8/1/10-8/8/10) and began on July 19th and will end on August 15th. It is a program that helps singers to get a more 'inside track' on the workings of the 'German system' of opera singing and career building, and hopefully will help me to understand better how to effectively portray my 'singing package' in Europe, and particularly Germany.

I am also excited to be working with the faculty there, as they are all knowledgeable professionals either currently employed in the field of Opera, or who are noted professors at the various 'Musikhochschulen' (the name for a university-level musical conservatory in Germany). I think it's safe to say that I am in for a wonderful opportunity- not to mention the chance to meet so many other wonderful singers!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Success in Stuttgart!

So, I have been notoriously bad at keeping abreast of the wave of things that have been happening here lately, however, I am making it up to you all right now by filling you in!

This post will be dedicated to my positive experience in Stuttgart at an audition for their Bundesagentur fuer Kuenstlervermittlung (which covers the German States of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Saarland and Rheinland-Pfalz, and that's it--I think!) and which is basically a different branch of the same government agency that I visited in Cologne in June, but only covers the regions listed above in the parentheses.

This particular experience was much MUCH easier and enjoyable than the one in Cologne from the very beginning. It was a four-hour drive to Stuttgart (closer to 4.5 more likely) and it was a gorgeous day! The sun was shining, it was hot and the sky was blue- so far, so good. Then, miraculously, we did not encounter a single traffic jam on the way there (which is a miracle considering that summer is the time construction on the Autobahn happens most often--and we only took the Autobahn--#'s 45 and 5--so that was another narrowly avoided pitfall. Finally, upon arrival in the outskirts of Stuttgart, it was as if we were driving into Beverly Hills. The countryside was absolutely breathtaking- the bright green wine trellises crisscrossing the rolling hills and the deep valley of the city center surrounded by beautiful mansions and picturesquely winding roads- it was just...perfect. Honestly, after seeing that as the first glimpse of my experience with Stuttgart, I was prepared to have a wonderful day and a wonderful audition.

Well, that was not the end of our luck. We found a parking spot practically right in front of the building where I was auditioning, and we were 10 minutes early (after taking only one wrong turn in the city of Stuttgart---not too shabby considering their roads are TOTALLY confusing for first-timers). Then I go in, change in the bathroom (what, you thought I'd wear my dress the entire ride?! No way!) and go upstairs to find the 'warm-up' room---always a possible disappointment, or maybe even completely non-existent! (Ha.) The room was occupied but the girl just HAPPENED to be leaving right as I was coming (yay!) so I went in, played around on the piano a bit and mentally centered myself for singing (or, rather, tried to channel the beauty and liveliness of the city into the singing I was about to do). The room was wonderful- it was so easy to sing there- the acoustic was ideal, the piano was absolutely in tune and there was even a large floor-to-ceiling window for me to look out onto the scenic city center as I sung. Couldn't get more perfect. Honestly.

Then, I remembered that this particular audition had mentioned in their email to me that there was a possibility that my audition and my experience there would be videotaped and put on television (SWR- one of the main TV stations in that part of Germany) and I wouldn't know it until I got down to the audition room whether or not they'd pick me (yikes!). I guess I had forgotten that, hadn't I? Ah well, somehow even that couldn't stop me from beaming with joy.

So, I finished warming up, went downstairs and waited. My time was at 3:30pm and the people who were downstairs outside of the room waiting to go were at 3pm (and they were already 1/2 an hour late) so I prepared for a longer wait than I had hoped. I talked to the auditionees (one gal was in her 30's and was trying for fun, there were two Korean singers- a Soprano and a Baritone, and later on a girl originally from New Jersey who now lives in Stuttgart and was actually my same age, trying to do the same thing as I currently am. Small world! And, what was funnier, was that we spoke German to one another. I guess I didn't notice until after the audition was finished but, how funny, right?

So, the two people before me were videotaped and interviewed by the TV station crew and I kept thinking "Oh gosh! What happens if they interview me? That would be a chance for me to say something interesting or at least semi-intelligent, but I think I might just get tongue-tied and look like an American idiot!" (I admit, that was probably not the most productive line of thought at the time.) Luckily, they took a break just at the time when it was my turn to go into the audition room. Phew!

I went into the room, there was only one man, and he seemed to be very eager to hear me and also in a very good mood. (That can NEVER hurt!) So, he asked what I wanted to sing first- I began with Doll Song, then he asked for the Mozart---Blonde's aria--and then he talked with me about what he liked, and what I could still work on (thank God there was nothing mentioned that I didn't already know---that was super good news!) and then he said that he'd recommend me for another audition coming up on the 26th of July for an opera studio in Luxembourg but that the audition and rehearsal process would be conducted in French, but I was comfortable with that, right? Of course I was! (Well, I did tell him that I can read French very well but speaking is another matter all together, however he assured me that that would be sufficient.) Nevertheless, I have been practicing my French non-stop since that audition. If anyone needs a good language learning website--check out

Mango Languages

Anyway, that's the good news! He said that he couldn't offer me any positions currently because it was summer break (okay, expected that) but that I should definitely come back in the Fall and bring Adele's arias from Fledermaus along for the re-audition, and that they would very likely have possibilities for me then. YAY!

So, that's that folks- great news, right? I am super excited for the audition on Monday! Cross your fingers and bitte Daumen druecken! ;)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

And.....Voila! It's Butter! Wait, what?!

Dear Friends,

It's time for cooking in the kitchen with Julia! And, since I'm no Julia Child, I will start us off with the tale of a seemingly harrowing happening with a happy ending that took place recently in the kitchen here in Germany with Yours Truly.

It is a popular custom here in Germany to eat cake (or dessert that looks like cake but is not filled with calories like our American cake counterparts) and drink tea and coffee around 4pm each afternoon, and specifically on Sundays. That being said, I decided that it was high time for me to try my hand at creating one of these cake varieties and actually feed it to the guests at my birthday party. Well, easier said than done, I'll admit!
No sooner had I gone to the store, bought all the supplies, printed out the recipe from the internet (Sanella's Himbeer Joghurt Torte) and gotten on my cooking apron that I realized that this would be the very first time that I worked with any sort of cake that required skill. I mean, sure, I had battled with bundt pans, cajoled cobblers and parried with pies, but I had never actually tried to make a 'cake' in the german sense. German cakes were simply things of my imagination (usually associated with holidays and fanciful rememberances of bygone birthday fun) and normally were also something that I would never dream of trying to create myself. That is, until this summer.

Anyway, the cake was going along splendidly (I must confess, I did enlist the help of my boyfriend, himself a German native, so admittedly more experienced with these sorts of things than I) and I thought that we might just get through this process without any snafoos. However, that was when it happened! We were in the middle of violently whipping the creme (in German called "Sahne") into submission to be later folded into the yogurt concoction that we had just made, when all of a sudden, the creme started clumping together instead of becoming the fluffy whiteness that we had expected. What to do now?! Well, of course I tried the good 'ol "freak out until you figure out what's really happening" method, but my boyfriend had a slightly more effective plan in mind. He looked shocked for an instant and then chuckled under his breath and said, "Wow, I didn't realize that the cream was that warm. I guess we should have kept it in the fridge longer after bringing it back from the store." And that, folks, was it!

I was dumbfounded. What (EXACTLY) was happening here, and why was he not freaking out like me?

Well, turns out that if you beat cream too long or if it's at a certain temperature while getting beaten, the buttermilk separates out from the fattier part of the cream and you've made both butter and buttermilk! So, since I was under the assumption (and did not grow up doing things like this) that butter was produced magically somehow in a factory with various dairy products, salt and some preservatives and was not something which you could make BY ACCIDENT, I was plesantly surprised by this outcome, to say the least! (Honestly, I think I might have bragged afterwards about that butter more ardently than a Mother sending their first child off to school. But, that's another story entirely.)
So, now that you've laughed at my silly misunderstanding of the properties of dairy products, I'd like to invite you to look at the result of our beautiful self-made butter! And it tasted great, I might (proudly, and shamelessly) add!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Extra Cool thing for you film Buffs....

I saw while I was in Essen, the location of the majority of German film premieres: The Lichtburg, which is a theater that has maintained a long and important history since its opening in 1928 and has the most seats of any movie theater in Germany (1,250- if you were wondering). Hopefully sometime soon I will be able to see a film there, and then there will be more photos to follow! :)

Flying Grass Carpet in Essen and Blumenregen (Flower Rain)

A ‘Kulturhauptstadt’ is a special title given by the European Union each year to two different cities in Europe. Anyway, this year the Ruhr Area was chosen, and in particular, the city of Essen (which is about an hour east of Duesseldorf. And, to go along with the honor of being a cultural capital in 2010, Essen and the Ruhr Area have organized many different festivals and special cultural attractions to take place during this year in Essen and the wider Ruhr Area (encompassing the cities of Dortmund, Duisburg, Gelsenkirchen, and Bochum).
I had the luck of attending one of these special events that took place just last weekend on Friday (July 3rd) in Essen. It was called 'The Flying Grass Carpet' and it was a celebration of art (in that all the events that took place happened on this AstroTurf oriental rug with a variety of different colors and textures and which was the size of an entire 'platz' (or market square) in Essen. The opening ceremony was the highlight of the events on the carpet (the others being many different musical concerts, and a soccer game) because of its' size and its' unique character. The 'arrival' of the 'flying grass carpet' in Essen (as we were supposed to believe it had flown there from Pecs, Hungary- its last travel stop) was heralded with a 'Blumenregen' of thousands of freshly bloomed daisy-buds being rained down on the hundreds of spectators who were sitting on the grass carpet and awaiting this unique experience. TV crews and newspapers were of course there as well to capture the special rain, and I have also been fortunate enough to take a few pictures of the 'aftermath' of my experience with this happening. Hope that you all find them as funny as I do!

My first German Vorsingen Experience....and reassurance in Berlin

My very first audition experience in Germany was in Cologne at the Bundesagentur fuer Kuenstlerisches Betriebsbuero (which is basically a government run office that has an outpost in every larger city that helps opera companies find opera singers for roles that they still need to cast). (Note: This office also does auditions for dancers and actors- for straight theater as well as TV and Film, for those of you who aren't Opera singers but still want to make a go at working in Germany!) Thinking that I was well prepared for this first experience after reading every book that was published on Opera singing in Germany (those books being the following: “What the Fach”; “Auditioning in the 21st Century”; “So You Wanna Sing in Germany?”; “Nail Your Next Audition”; and “Singing Opera in Germany”) I was in for a big surprise!
The building itself looked like any other office building, and the audition was being held on the top floor (6th), with practice rooms on the 5th floor (two, possibly 8'x8' rooms, one with an electric Clavinova, and one that was empty except for a chair). I arrived there in plenty of time (my audition slot was at 3pm, and I was there at 1:30) and I was actually the first one there (that I could tell) probably after their lunch break. So, I warmed up in the room with the piano and then went upstairs to the waiting room outside the audition room to fill out the necessary paperwork (name, address, recent engagements, Fach, phone number, educational history, European dress size, weight-in kilos, and hair color) and then I waited for what seemed like an eternity. There were other people that had trickled in during the time I was filling out the paperwork and warming up, and so I was no longer the only one there. Actually, there was a Canadian guy who asked if I would give up the practice room for him to sing- since his audition time was at 2pm (and by my watch he was 15 minutes late already) so I said sure. So, once I was in the waiting room, he was already singing his audition (around 2:30pm). Then, by talking to my colleagues who were also waiting, I found out that they had scheduled 4 singers per half hour time slot-so I wasn't the only one who was supposed to sing at 3pm. Therefore, I was actually the last person to sing of the 3pm group (since the people who were also at 3 just went ahead of me- and I let them do it since I didn't know-until it was too late, of course-- that they also had my same time slot). Then after the last other gal at 3pm had sung it was finally my turn (at 4:30pm!) and I went in with glee (at least I didn't have to sit there staring at the wall any longer!).
In the audition room itself there were five judges sitting behind a single table and the accompanist sitting at the piano waiting for my music. It was pretty much like any American audition, in that sense. I handed them my papers that I had filled out along with a 'Lebenslauf'' (Resume) that I had brought along (which had my head shot printed on it-they do that in Europe most often, instead of bringing a separate head shot) then they asked me to step onto the stage (which was really a small black box theater stage) and the audition commenced. After singing two arias (one in French and then one in German) they had me sit down in a chair which was situated directly in front of the judges' table in the middle facing them, and they talked to me about their opinions of my singing for about 10 minutes.
To make matters worse, besides a long conversation in German (in which not one of them tried to use simpler words for my just-getting-used-to-listening-to-a-new-language-for-a-longer-time ears) I found out through what they had to relate to me, that not only did they incredibly dislike my singing and think it was quite unlikely that I would find a job in Germany (ever in the coming year- seemingly!) but they also found it quite easy to recommend to me that I study my German language much more dutifully, as I had apparently made too many mistakes to their taste. (Truth be told, I did make a good many mistakes in the audition during the short conversation that we had, but that was only because of nerves. I'm not sure why, but whenever I feel uncomfortable, my tongue gets tied in terrible knots and I stumble over it with much embarrassment while trying to convey my thoughts.)
Anyway, after I had heard about what a dire state the Opera houses in Germany were in for approximately five minutes ( how so many are closing, and it is difficult at the moment for a German singer to get hired, let alone an American [direct translation of their words there]), they proceeded to tell me that the tone color of my voice sounded 'too American' and that in Germany I should strive to sound 'more German' (which they explained had much to do with Americans preferring to have a brilliant vibrato on every note, and the Germans preferring vibrato to have a less prominent place in the tone color, almost akin to singing slightly straight-tone). Of course after this particular comment I wasn't quite sure what to think! I mean, first of all, I was not aware (after listening to tons of different Sopranos- and other famous opera singers in general) that there was such a difference in tone color nowadays between a 'German' singer and an 'American' one. Secondly, I felt partially responsible for allowing myself to become such a lazy singer after obviously overlooking such an important difference before auditioning here in general, and thirdly, I felt personally betrayed by all the authors of those so-called books that I read before traveling to Germany that were supposed to prepare me for everything I would experience in an audition here. Most of all though, I felt defeated. I had come all this way to receive the biggest put down I ever received (and believe me, if anyone can really make you feel worthless, it's a German speaking in German, about something you did, or did not do- it's a killer). Not only had I paid a lot of money for a plane ticket here, but I also had heard so many times in America that Europe is the place to get experience, and that I should get there quick- it could only help me improve by leaps and bounds. Well, if this was improving I thought to myself, I could definitely do without it!
So, after the conversation that was probably 10 minutes but felt like enduring a lifetime of public shame, I calmly pasted an irrepressible smile over my face (who knows what kind of horrified expression had previously occupied it) and thanked them for their time and their opinions and walked out of the room. I have never felt so relieved in my entire life to be finished with something as I did then in that moment. Though I also had the residual feelings of worthlessness and embarrassment to keep for later. (But, they were just bonuses!)
However, in all seriousness, that audition in Cologne did really make a big impact on me in a negative way, and I am sure that I will not be forgetting that experience anytime soon.
Though, I also must say that I was saved from wallowing too much in self-pity through a lucky encounter in Berlin with a very famous voice teacher there. This person (names will be omitted for their sake) allowed me to observe a voice lesson of one of their normal students and thereby learn what the criteria were for becoming a successful 'German' opera singer. Big surprise to me after the 'Cologne experience', because it turned out that the things this teacher wanted from their students were the exact same things that voice teachers in America want from their students. Hallelujah! I was saved! I finally felt comfortable again with my philosophy of singing, and I knew somehow that those people in Cologne were obviously just having a seriously off-day when I had my audition. I spoke with this teacher about my experiences in Cologne and they said that normally they would never let a student of theirs be discouraged in pursuing their dreams without a fight, and they would also tell their student to chalk it up to a bad experience that perhaps happened for unknown reasons out of my control, and that I should keep trying even though that was so negative. Ultimately, I knew that what this teacher said rang true, even though I still could feel the doubt that Cologne had instilled in me, and I was so glad to have met them and heard their wise words.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Oh, the places I've been!

I want to provide you all with something entertaining and interesting at the same time (I'm a total sucker for educational things, I admit it!) so that reading this blog doesn't become a drag, and I thought that maybe something interactive would be neat.

So, I have decided to include a listing of the cool things I've seen and done since being here (primarily things that have website links so that you too can check them out and kind of experience them with me):

1. I went to Transit restaurant in Berlin for dinner (check out their menu--it was as good as Thai in NYC--I was delighted!!):

Transit Restaurant

2. I participated in something in Dortmund (a festival of sorts) called 'Extra Schicht' which is actually one night where all the cultural points of interest in the entire 'Ruhr' Area stay open until the wee hours of the morning allowing everyone to visit multiple sites with public transit(buses, trains, streetcars) under one single entry price (it cost 12 Euros for adults) which covered both transit the whole night and admission to everything. I saw the following things: Jahrhunderthalle Bochum und Westpark, BOGESTRA Betrieb Engelsburg Bochum, LWL-Industriemuseum Zeche Zollern, Dortmund. Visit the website here to see what other cool things they offered:

Extra Schicht

3. I actually saw two things in the Signal-Iduna-Park (which is the home of the soccer team 'Borussia Dortmund') both of which were really fun! I will include a link to the pdf so that you can see what else they offer- and then you can see the wide range of options for residents in Dortmund in the summer. I was lucky enough to get to see the public viewing for the Fifa World Cup game of Germany vs. Serbia (which they lost, actually) on June 18th, and then I also got to see the double feature of 'Twilight' and 'New Moon' on Friday, June 25th. It's a great stadium, and a great experience- I have never seen fans get quite as disappointed, though, as here in Germany when they lost that game. Ah well, they made a comeback in the next game! Here's that pdf of their schedule:

Signal Iduna Park

4. I have driven on the Autobahn at speeds over 200km/h (don't worry- it was with an experienced driver and we were all wearing seat belts- thank goodness!) and it was amazing how slow 120km/h felt after that! But, for those of you who dream of highways without any speed limits, I do have to say that even Germany has speed limits nowadays on the Autobahn at some junctures (mostly outside of cities in heavily trafficked parts of the road, or where they are doing construction) and, unlike in the USA, the speed is controlled with electronic machines that are erected alongside the road which are basically recording the speed of everyone who drives by, so if you are going considerably over the speed limit, watch out! You will definitely get a ticket. And, this is a funny thing that just happened in the last week with these machines:

Pink Traffic Machines in Dortmund
(I guess someone got too many tickets!) :P

5. My personal favorite thus far--I have been to something the Germans call a 'Freizeit Bad' or, literally translated, a free time bath, for which there is nothing in America really similar. They are, in essence, pools which are usually partially indoors and partially outdoors (sometimes the pool even is half in and half out!) and which include things like saunas, Olympic-sized pools for lane swimming (the link of the pool I am posting had two of these with different water deepness- to accommodate younger swimmers who are just learning), pools strictly for diving, salt water pools, pools of different temperatures, water slides, tube slides, climbing walls, whirlpools, jacuzzis, and children's wading pools with play areas. Surprisingly enough, these things are open year-round (the hours vary by location but normally they are open the larger part of each day-and surprisingly most are open Sundays too) and they are really reasonably priced! I am all for Americans getting on this bandwagon--I wish we had these stateside!! We Americans do have things similar to this, you might argue, but I find that the best feature of these things in Germany is that they are indoors, so that if you would like to visit in the winter, you can--unlike water parks in the USA--which are usually open only during the summer, unless I guess you live in Arizona. :P Check out the link here:


6. I have visited the Theater Dortmund(their Opera house downtown)--definitely a tie with #5 in terms of enjoyment--and saw Falstaff on June 18th at 7:30pm--I will provide a more detailed explanation of this experience, as it does merit some more talking and description! But, here is the rest of their schedule for the season:

Theater Dortmund

7. I have been now, numerous times, to the 'Flohmarkt' (Fleamarket) at the larger parking lots near the Technische Universitaet Dortmund, and a link to the nuts and bolts of the information is to be found here:

Flohmarkt TU Dortmund
(should you ever find yourself in Dortmund on a Saturday----buy your produce there--it's unbelievable how fresh and cheap it is!!)

8. I went to Cologne for an audition at the Kuenstleragentur there (basically the singer's unemployment office- run by the state govt.) and yes, I will provide a link to the Cologne tourism website for those of you who are interested- it's a beautiful city. However, I won't go into detail on this one just yet, as it too merits a longer bit of talking about- so I will post this soon!

Cologne Tourism

9. I visited the Dortmund Zoo and saw tons of adorable animals! It was so funny- I'm not sure why I happened to be there on the day that the alpine goats had their baby, the sea otters were in the middle of reproducing, and the baby ducks were newly hatched, but it was definitely a cool experience- I can't actually remember the last time that I saw so much action in a zoo---normally the animals are just laying around looking bored, right? Well, that was certainly not the case on June 17th, let me tell ya! I also should mention this cool fact for anyone who loves animals as much as I do---they actually would let you be a zoo keeper for a day if you pay 200 Euros---isn't that awesome? Ah, and one other thing I should mention- the zoo also advertised in their brochure a group rate for Bachelorette parties---and I thought, "Am I missing something here?" LOL! Well anyway, here's a link to the cuddly cuties I saw:

Dortmund Zoo

10. Since I am certainly a city person (not that I don't love the country, but I just like to be near to things going on, you know?) I have already visited the downtown area of Dortmund twice- and have seen the library and the shopping district. Why, do you ask, have I only visited these two places if I've already been there twice? Well, the library is HUMONGOUS- and since my German is not quite native yet, I have been snapping up everything that looks even remotely interesting to read, and therefore, the library was nearly a whole day excursion for me. As for the shopping district, I went into a Chinese supermarket (simply because it was an anomaly---I mean, it was RIGHT downtown--how cool!) and bought a honeydew popsicle (definitely recommended for those of you who like honeydew!)and then strolled around and through many of the different stores: Galleria Kaufhof, C&A, H&M (what's with Germans and two letter names!?!), the Maggi Kochstudio (totally cool!--they give cooking classes and presentations there!!), Strauss (fun girly clothes), DM (their version of Duane Reade for you NY'ers, or CVS or Walgreens for you suburbanites) and an Apotheke (they have all sorts of cool things in there--and strangely not necessarily related to 'medicine' as we would term it). Though, the funniest thing that happened on that particular trip downtown was my experience at a private music studio which gave lessons for voice and instruments. I entered the establishment looking for an answer to a question, namely: do they rent out practice rooms? And boy, you'll never guess the answer that I received. I will recount the conversation in German and translate for those of you who don't speak German. Here goes: (and, please excuse my German, you who are natives or pros- I'm not perfect yet!)

Julia: Guten Tag! Ich moechte wissen gibt es hier Uebungsaale zu vermieten?
Julia: (Good day! I would like to know if there are practice rooms to rent here?)
Secretary: Hier? Wir haben nie etwas aenliches hier gemacht!
Secretary: (Here? We have NEVER done anything like that here!)
Julia: Weil ich eine Opersaengerin bin, und habe gedacht dass vielleicht denn koennen Sie mir empfehlen ein andere Platz wo kann ich meinen Gesang ueben?
Julia (Because I am an Opera singer, and I thought that maybe then you could recommend to me someplace where I can practice my singing?)
Secretary: Nein. Nein, kann ich das nie sagen.
Secretary: (No. No, I could never say [where].) -- keep in mind that this conversation lasted about 1 minute, but the entire time she looked at me as if I was from another planet and was green with horns growing out of my head, and when she responded with the last statement shook her head vigorously as if to shoo me out of the room with this gesture. What a funny experience!!! Who would have thought? Needless to say I will never do that again! ;)

The links to #10's stories are as follows:

Dortmund Tourism

Dortmund Library

Maggi Kochstudio Dortmund

And with that strange story, I'm signing off for today. Looking forward to having other funny happenings to relate to you all very very soon. I'll be back in the next 2-3 days, and until then, stay well and enjoy the lovely summer weather!