_____ uber alles

dear internet,

i've been to germany and back. i gave a talk at a conference (in case you go look me up on the program, they did not mess up my title as c. bristlingly, charmingly thought; it is as intended). the customs guy in the frankfurt airport, when i answered his question about why i was there, said "ah, the world famous Max Planck Institute," with an inscrutable little smile on his face so i'm still not sure exactly what his meaning was. the talk went fine.

because you are the internet and therefore inanimate and therefore incapable of losing esteem for me, i will admit that i was massively, throat-constrictingly nervous. i could hear it and kept telling myself to breathe, take a sip of water. calm down. but there were some very famous linguists (i won't bother dropping names because linguists are never famous outside of the field of linguistics, not for their linguistic work at any rate) sprinkled around the room and really it's just a very impressive place in general. but it went well enough.

MPI is all steel and glass elevators, walls, and ceilings with interesting angles and a courtyard with a tranquil little pond. the lecture room i spoke in is beautifully, immaculately maintained, with six lighting zones and rows and rows of retro-modern styled auditorium chairs in blond wood and orange upholstery. it is stark and clean, more to c.'s taste than mine, but unarguably beautiful.

leipzig, on the other hand, is all me. it is a city for academics, something about it soothes the hectic soul and makes you want to curl up with a cup of tea and a book about historical syntax (maybe that's just me...). i didn't see the town much, i didn't see any sights at all, so my memories are already pretty impressionistic. cold. dark. quiet. impervious. cobblestone sidewalks, wet streets, cold giving shape to each breath. rigorously efficient public transportation, everything timed to the second. in the town center, shops and warmbright cafes (with quite good coffee and food, by the way), dim lights outside in the style of old fashioned gaslamps. everything orderly, everything disciplined, even the clumps of laughing teenagers feel somehow under control.

from what i was told by some people at the conference, it is a city with its share of social problems of the old-eastern-europe variety. but to me, it was romantic in a quiet, studious way. ascetic, yes, that's it.