Sunday Snapshots: Who Said More Cookies?

Franconia, 2016

Way back in 2011, VillageGal and I began a tradition of baking Christmas cookies together. Back then their daughter was but a tiny mouse, and we were highly unscientific bakers. Six years later, they’ve moved, added another little lady to the mix, and I’ve brought BV to the party. We are still highly unscientific bakers though, so not everything has changed.

Now that the girls are a bit older, they’ve graduated from napping while we decorate to taking full part in the whole cookie-baking process. The cookies pictured about may not fit the traditional Christmas aesthetic (pink butterflies? Sure, why not?) but they are Kinder-approved.

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Sunday Snapshots: Lebkuchen Time!

Wisconsin, 2016

Last year when BV and I traveled to the States to spend Christmas with my family, we had a few extra items packed into our suitcases. Namely, gingerbread spices, and Oblaten, the white discs pictured above. Those are the special wafers that traditionally form the bottom of Lebkuchen. I don’t recall ever seeing something like that in the U.S., so we figured it was safer to bring our own.

While this attempt at German-style gingerbread was not particularly successful, I’m hoping that when cookie time comes around this year, we’ll do better! It’s December now, so we probably ought to get going on that one…

Norway Road Trip 2017: Tindevegen, Our Road to Spiterstulen

Toll Road. What picture do those words conjure in your mind? For me, it’s the Illinois Tollway between Milwaukee and Chicago. If you haven’t driven it, it’s a thoroughly unscenic stretch of multi-lane highway. It’s nothing but office buildings, strip malls, and the occasional cheese shop near the border. Not really anything to write home about, in my opinion.

Today though, we’re going to take a look at another kind of toll road. The kind of road that would help us get from Bergen to the Spiterstulen Turisthytte. But unbeknownst to us, the kind of toll road that took more than two hours to drive its 32-kilometer length. This was down to the speed limit, the sharp curves up and down, and the incredible beauty of the landscape that called for many a photo stop. It’s called Tindevegen, and it is epic. Before that though, we had to drive through a little bit of this…

Just waterfalls everywhere.

followed by the 24.5-kilometer long (longest road tunnel in the world, Wikipedia tells me), Lærdal Tunnel, complete with light show.

Lærdal Tunnel

It even includes caverns to pull over, take photos and stretch your legs, at least for these bikers. Back in the light, more scenic kilometers rolled by outside of our windows, and eventually we reached the town of Øvre Årdal, which is where things got interesting. Click on for the usual photo overload because I cannot help myself…

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Sunday Snapshots: Mirror Effect

When a lake is as picturesque as the Weitsee…

Weitsee, 2015

Sunday Snapshots becomes a two-picture affair.

The first time we visited Reit im Winkl was more or less out of desperation. Since then, it’s become one of my favorite easy weekend escapes. If you want a chance of a day like this though, you had best go early in November. I just checked the village webcams and it is looking distinctly white these days…

Expat/Immigrant Qs

When I ran across this Q&A post earlier today on the very enjoyable blogs of Bev and Ami, I thought “that sounds like a good topic for a rainy day.” Turns out, it was a rather lovely day here but I’m home alone and have watched everything new… so there’s no time like the present!

Some people call me an expat, some may call me an immigrant, but either way I’m an American in a place that isn’t the United States. Let’s talk about it, shall we?

1. WHERE WERE YOU BORN, WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?

I was born in Menomonee Falls, WI, lived in Milwaukee until I was seven, then we moved to Eagle, WI. Eagle is mostly known for its smiley-faced water tower, and that’s about it. After a stint in Prague, I moved to Nuremberg in 2011, and eventually here to the ze Dorf outside Nuremberg in 2013.

Our village has a castle, and the castle has this cool gateway.

2. WHAT MADE YOU LEAVE YOUR HOME COUNTRY

Floating in a sea of “what now?” post-college, I decided that my best bet to travel while still making money was to get a TEFL certification and try to teach English. I had no idea how long I wanted to do it for, and where I would end up going, but nearly nine years on I guess it has worked out okay for me.

3. WHAT TYPE OF REACTIONS DO YOU GET WHEN YOU MEET NEW PEOPLE AND TELL THEM WHERE YOU ARE FROM?

This has definitely shifted in the last year and change. It used to be an “okay, cool, where in the U.S.?” and now it’s a decidedly less relaxed conversation, thanks to 45. Germans have been pretty used to an American presence in most places since the end of the Second World War, so we aren’t really anything that new and exciting here. I do find the reactions of military-affiliated Americans funny sometimes, in that they’re confused by what I’m doing here of my own volition.

4. WHAT WAS THE EASIEST/HARDEST PART IN ADJUSTING TO YOUR NEW COUNTRY?

After coming from Prague, a lot of things seemed really easy. The paperwork had some sense of order to it, whether or not everything was being done correctly, was something I wouldn’t get into trouble with for a couple years though. The hardest part was not being surrounded by a group of built-in friends right from the get-go. I’ve found people here but it took some time, and if you’re not the most outgoing, social person in the world (introverts unite! Separately!) making friends here can be tricky. The good news is that once you are friends with someone here, they are sticking around. To me, that’s invaluable.

One of the first girls I met here six years ago got married in June. It was lovely.

5. IMAGES, WORDS OR SOUNDS THAT SUM UP THE EXPAT EXPERIENCE YOU’VE HAD SO FAR.

In Prague it was the sound of the tram. My bedroom window overlooked a stop where six trams stopped during the day and four at night. The drivers ring the bell every time they start so that sound is inextricably linked with Prague in my brain. In Germany, it’s a lot of things… Red trains. Red trains for days. Alpine bells, or the sound of the rooster next door crowing. The smell of roasted almonds at the summer festivals, or that smell mingling with the scent of Glühwein at the Christmas markets.

Red trains > other trains.

6. YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD OR DRINK ITEM IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY

Käsespätzle is life. Not to mention a frosty glass of whatever local beer is on tap (minus Tucher, that is).

Kirchweih libations.

7. WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU SAID “YES” TO IN YOUR NEW CITY THAT YOU WOULDN’T SAY “YES” TO, BACK HOME?

Probably spending as much time on public transportation as I do here. First of all, where I grew up there was no public transportation. If I wanted to find a public bus, I’d have to drive 30 minutes in Waukesha, and get on a bus there. Doesn’t make much sense, really. I took a Greyhound one time in college and that was enough to freak me out on the Greyhound experience. The only times I can remember taking anything like public transportation was a shuttle bus down to the Milwaukee lakefront for Summerfest, a Brewer game, or some other sort of special event. Otherwise it was all cars, all the time.

8. ARE THERE ANY CULTURAL NORMS/PHRASES IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY WHICH YOU CANNOT STAND?

Sometimes I’m amazed that Germans are able to get anything done when they spend half of their lives shaking hands. I now know that if BV and I have to leave a family gathering, it’s necessary to start that process about an hour before we actually plan to leave, especially if we have to catch a train. Give me an “Irish Exit” any day of the week, because to me, that’s better than demanding people’s attention, interrupting conversations, etc. in order to have a formal goodbye.

Additionally, I’ve found that since a good deal of my classes have taken place in more technically-oriented companies, I’ve had to hear a fair amount of “women be shopping” sort of jokes (or half-jokes) from my mostly male groups. My usual strategy is to laugh it off and give them a bit of shit for that attitude, but I’m really not a fan. I have also tried out the tactic of switching the discussion to their hobbies because guess what? All that specialized sporting equipment, all those electronic toys and gadgets you have at home? Those are not cheap, buddy. Just because you only have two pairs of shoes does not mean you are a supreme example of fiscal responsibility. Most of these guys would say that women and men are equal in their companies, and in Germany as a whole, but they have a long way to go on a lot of things here.*

9. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST DOING IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY?

Any frequent readers of this blog can answer this one, I think. Get me south to the Alps and I am a happy camper.

Hiking in Austria this August.

10. DO YOU THINK YOU WILL EVER MOVE HOME FOR GOOD?

That is a question that I have a hard time answering. Never say never is usually a good philosophy for me, but the chaotic way that things seem to be unraveling at the moment makes me lean towards no way. If something should happen that means I do have to go “home” for a period of time, that’s one thing. But after nearly nine years gone? In those nine years, I think I’ve seen enough of this way of life to make me confident that this is what I want, and what fits the life I want to live best.

The water of the Eibsee is as refreshing as it looks.

 

*Not that the U.S. is doing much better at the moment.