Our Germany Travel Wish Lists: A Link Up

A few weeks ago, the lovely Cynthia over at adventurings did a great post about places that she’d like to visit in the Czech Republic if (in this whole weird world we now live in), the borders remained closed but domestic travel was possible. I thought this was a great idea, and it certainly encouraged me to think a bit more about the places we might want to go if we can travel. Sure it might not be as far as before, but what was still possible? 


The two of us decided to make this post a link up, so I picked a few places, she picked a few places, and we thought it’d be fun to choose which of the other person’s was our top choice. As a side challenge for myself, I decided to avoid the Alps. There are still places there that I haven’t been, for sure, but at some point I should probably branch out, right? 

Having said that… my picks are after the jump! Click on…

1) Hamburg

Hamburg has to top my list as 1) I’m pretty sure it’s the opposite of the Alps, and 2) I have yet to hear anything bad about it. I’m intensely curious about what a German city with a Scandinavian vibe could be, and the maritime history, proximity to water, and the ready availability of fish stuffed into bread (for BV), definitely don’t hurt. I’ve also heard many a tale of the musical scene (Hamilton auf Deutsch, what?) or the Miniatur Wunderland, but I think I’d prefer to wander along the waterways, look up at all those brick facades, and then have to chase down BV every time he gets a whiff of grilled fish.

2) Sächsische Schweiz 

Aka, the Saxon Switzerland. We’ve spent a weekend in Chemnitz, and a day in Dresden, but more time in the wild, rolling hills of Saxony sounds like a great idea. While it lacks the high peaks, the incredible rock formations can be seen all over ze Instagram travel feeds. I still remember the first time I took the train between Prague and Berlin, and the way that the train rolled through the hills along the Elba, rock formations popping in and out of the greenery… I could kick myself for still not having explored that area more. 

3) Sylt

Ummm… rumor has it that Germany has beaches? And having seen those Strandkorb all over gardens and in the garden furniture section of the OBI for the last nine years, I think it’s time I saw them in their natural habitat? Personally, I’m a big baby when it comes to cold water so I’m a liiiiitle nervous about the possible temperatures at the North Sea, but look at that beach! I’ll probably live, even if I can just lie out and read a book or ten on the sand. 

4) the Triberg Waterfalls

The very first trip that BV and I ever took together was to Freiburg and the Black Forest. It was a quick weekend getaway, and though we’ve driven through, and stopped in Freiburg since then, I feel like it’s only a drop in the bucket. I’m especially interested to see the place that is billed as having “Germany’s highest waterfall.” It seems that it isn’t really, but it’s relatively easy to access, so that helps? Either way, it looks lovely, and I do think that I really need to revisit the Black Forest as the first time we were there, we went to the highest mountain and got to see this…

At the Feldberg summit, 1493m.

Ah yes, the good old days when I hiked in beat up sneakers and jeans. It did clear up a tad, as the day went on. But I need to see more! Preferably, of the falling water variety.

At the Feldberg.

5) Aachen

Sitting right near the border with the Netherlands and Belgium, Aachen is rumored to be another city with a great mix of culture and history. Though Charlemagne is long gone, his influence remains. I’d love to have a poke around the cathedral and its treasury, or spend a day walking the Route Charlemagne. And if you’re not in Germany, you can do it virtually

If you missed the link up at the top, Cynthia’s posts can be found right here, and as for me, I’m adding the Spreewald to my list. Berlin is always worth a visit, but I’d love to see where the Berliner’s go to escape the city life. We might even get crazy and rent a kayak. Who knows? 

Second choice goes to the Baltic coast, as the unexpected beachfront continues. Being able to smell the sea air on Rügen, as opposed to just seeing postcards of it or hearing about it, would be a welcome change of  pace. 

And you? What’s on your Germany wish list?




31-Day Challenge: Day 25

Today was Father’s Day in Germany, but since it’s conveniently paired up with the Ascension of Christ holiday, pretty much everybody has the day off.  Most men, fathers or not, typically spend this day dragging wagons of beer around while they gallivant with their friends. The ones that do spend time with their families are almost deserving of a special reward, or at least so says the internet.

Last year I remember spending most of the sunny day laying out in the garden with a book. At some point during the day, a literal tractor full of youths starting circling the village, blasting music as they drank their way up and down the streets. This year it was much quieter, so perhaps they decided to drive their tractor on over to another town.

We’re still in recovery mode from vacation, and were in thorough need of a real day off. I did a little bit of cleaning and sorting of things, and BV did some more work out in the garden. He’s now made a permanent spot for the tripod, but we’ll still need to make a real fire circle to go around it. But, baby steps. He’s also got the day off tomorrow, and the weather is supposed to be glorious for some more weekend barbecue action.

As far as I know, I have two classes in the morning, and it seems that myself and my two students will be the only people working in the country. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, as we haven’t met in a few weeks due to my vacation last week and their schedules prior to that. Also this is the same company that asked for a trial lesson during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. In my nearly six years in Germany, that has only happened once. Still weird.

The good news is though, that I’ll be done at noon, home by one, and can relax after that. I’d like to take a crack at getting the garden in order this weekend, but that would involve driving to the Gardener, and I’m not sure BV plans on starting the car again until Monday. There are worse ways to spend the weekend than not doing anything. And given how packed June and July are, we’ll be rather short on relaxation time.

As of right now, we’ve got a friend’s party, a Polterabend, and a wedding in June, then one free weekend before we leave for vacation. Chances are though, that the last free weekend will be filled with either an invitation to BV’s parents, or them wanting to come to us for grilling, and then that’ll be shot too. I know time flies when you’re having fun and all, but this girl needs her quiet time. Classes are pretty much running as scheduled as well, so not much chance of a break there. But vacation is looming and that’s what I’m shooting for. Last week was fantastic, like a little appetizer. We can get there.

Thanksgiving the Fifth

I know they say that time flies when you’re having fun, but I still was surprised at how quickly the fifth Thanksgiving BV and I have hosted here came along. This year has, in general, blown by, but it seems like only yesterday I was discovering the joys of the Metro and learning how important it is to order a turkey from the local butcher early… ah, to be young and naive about turkey availability again!

I was also once naive about how weirdly enjoyable this part is.

I was also once naive about how weirdly enjoyable this part is.


A rare sighting of BV in his natural habitat.


Bondage Bird, aka Hank.

We also continued our unintentional tradition of having a bird much bigger than what we asked for. Hank weighed in at 7.3kg, and we requested something more in the 5-6kg range. *Sigh* But BV happily packaged up turkey to freeze and throw on the grill in the coming year. Thanksgiving leftovers are the gift that keeps on giving.

Like the previous four years, we had a houseful of people and a really lovely evening. At the risk of sounding like a complete cheeseball, it is so wonderful to have people coming in, exclaiming about how excited they are, and how they’ve come to look forward to this day every year. Not to mention the fact that someone is always willing to come out early and help, bring a delicious side dish, dessert, or even a chair or two.

At times it can seem like such a struggle to find the kinds of people you want to surround yourself with, whether you are in your home country or not. And cheesiness be damned, it is really wonderful to realize that it took some time, but you have got some really damn good people here. Warm fuzzies for everyone!

Those damn good people are also great about doing things like taking pictures of the finished product, thank goodness. Usually at this point in the cooking process my brain is figuring out my next six steps and have completely lost track of my phone so it’s nice to have witnesses who are actually on top of the documentation aspect. Big thanks to N. and S. for the next two photos….


I am straight up impressed with how clean the kitchen looks here, considering this was taken very shortly before we planned to eat. It did not stay this orderly for long though.


Feast mode!

Ditto for the table. We started strong but ended up having to put in an extra seat for another couple who arrived a bit later. But everyone fit comfortably this year, and there was plenty for all. Plus leftovers, of course. Now if only the magical dish gnomes had shown up to deal with the aftermath for us!


Previous Thanksgivings here in the Dorf

One * Two * Three * Four



Nemo Killed Halloween

Alright, this is perhaps going to be a controversial opinion, and it may make me a pariah among American expats but I have to get this off my chest…

“Hi, my name is Heather and I give exactly zero fucks about missing Halloween.”

There. I said it.

Honestly, I’ve never been all that crazy about Halloween. When I was a kid of course I enjoyed trick-or-treating and feasting on all that candy, but that was about it. In college, I reluctantly dressed up and went to parties but I was never really that into it. If it wasn’t a costume I could fashion out of stuff I already had, it wasn’t happening. I was endlessly impressed by some friends and their commitment levels to crazily elaborate costumes (for ex: recreating the entire cast of Anchorman, which was fantastic), but digging through the local Goodwill was never my thing.

Nor was I into buying one of those pre-made costumes that come in a bag and usually (if you’re a lady), should include the word “slutty” right in the description. I think this aversion to cheaply-made costumes comes from my parents, who were always very adamant that we didn’t need them. That meant being slightly jealous of my friends who had shiny new costumes every year, while I wore my two costumes from dance classes until I was far too big for them, or something that came out of our “dress-up” box.

The last time I wore a costume was to work back in 2007. The museum I worked at was having an event  for the holiday so I dressed as Tonks from the Harry Potter series mostly because the only thing I had to buy was the spray-on hair color.

tonks costume1Yes, my costume consisted of: my winter coat (very practical, as I had to be outside a lot for the event),  one of my sister’s emo kid hoodies, a cat toy stick as a wand, a stuffed owl, and purple spray that 1) barely colored my hair and 2) made it impossible to brush. Fun!

The weekend after this photo was taken, some friends of mine were coming to Milwaukee to go out for a few nights. I remember that we briefly discussed if we should dress up in costumes, but I figured, “hey, we aren’t in college anymore, who’s going to be dressed up in Halloween costumes in downtown Milwaukee?”

The answer? Everyone. We were literally the only four people not in costume and it was on that night that Halloween officially died for me.

We were out in a bar that was stuffed to bursting, including an entire horde of guys dressed as Roman soldiers. You couldn’t order a drink without being whacked by a shield, or having your foot stepped on by some chick in stripper heels, but that wasn’t the worst of them… that honor went to Slutty Nemo.

Yes, Slutty Nemo. How can Nemo be slutty, you might ask?

Answer: black tank top, black underwear, black fishnet tights, black heels, and a stuffed Nemo hat.

That was the last straw, as far as I was concerned.

Now that I live here, I quite enjoy not having to bother with Halloween. Of course, every year there is a round of parties, events, blah blah blah, to cater to the expat community, but I have zero interest in anything that involves a costume or a cover charge. The last two years, BV and I have bought one bag of candy for any possible trick-or-treaters, but there were none to be seen and we then feasted on tiny Snickers bars.

Call me a party pooper if you will, but judging from my FB newsfeed, Halloween is basically a month-long event now in the States. That is absurdly long. Most of my friends have kids now, and most of those kids seem to have been in costume 95% of the month. There are school parties, family events, and trick-or-treating on multiple days in multiple neighborhoods. This is especially perplexing as it seems that most of those kids don’t even get to eat all that candy. So what is the point?? And if they aren’t in a costume, then they’re in festive orange pumpkin sweatshirts to sit in the pumpkin patch for FB photoshoots. (Because if it doesn’t go on FB, what’s the point?)

And while some expats here are bemoaning the fact that the Germans haven’t wholeheartedly adopted the festivity of the season, I’m enjoying their steadfast refusal to care about Halloween. Besides, Carnival starts next month, so they’ll have their chance to put their costumes on then. So there.

I enjoy fall, I do. I like the colors, I like eating squash in various forms, I like getting out my scarves and boots, but Halloween? Meh.

So… anyone else not care about Halloween? Or do you want to pelt me with fun-sized candies? Leave it in the comments…

Italian Month: An Antipasti

Ah, July. You are here, which means our summer vacation has already come and gone. The good news is that we were able to spend all last week eating and drinking our way around Italy from Cinque Terre National Park to Lake Garda. It was glorious, but I have to apologize to anyone who will be heading that way. Sorry kids, but there is no seafood or wine left. We consumed all of it, and our food babies will therefore be named Francesco and Francesca.

Since I’ve got quite a lot to talk about from this vacation (plus 1300 pictures from just last week!), not to mention our trip to South Tyrol back in May, I thought I’d make this month ‘Italian Month’ on the blog.

For today, I’d like to start off with antipasti… something that will hopefully pique the interest of my dear readers. I thought the best way to start would be with the first picture that I took from each trip. So without further ado…

The first order of business when we arrived in South Tyrol was to stretch our legs after the drive. We walked from the village that we were staying in to the nearby town of Dobbiaco/Toblach (most towns have both an Italian and German name), and this was the view as we came into Dobbiaco.



Mmmmmm… mountains.

Last week Sunday, after our loooooong drive, we arrived in Levanto on the Italian Riviera. The first glance of that gorgeous blue water had us bouncing around the car like dogs all the way down the mountain.

The beach in Levanto

The beach in Levanto

After almost three years of no real exposure to the salt air and sea views, I can’t even tell you how good that felt. If only we had our swimsuits on and ready to go!

I’ll leave it there for tonight, but there will be more to come!

So, what do you think… which place appeals more?

Philosophical Tuesday Thoughts

Everyone knows the famous question that wonders: “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Today I was pondering a similar question, and perhaps some of the other English teachers out there can help me out with some answers. My question is: “if you teach lessons in the same room as other English teachers, but the filled up flip chart only has your writing on it, do the other teachers not write anything during their groups?”

I’m filling in for the next few weeks for another teacher while he’s on holiday, which means that I’m working almost full weeks for the first time in months. The first two days went pretty well, but it did leave me with the above question. I wasn’t sure before if this other teacher held classes in the same room that I used or not, and now that I know he does, I’m really confused about the lack of flip chart use. I’ve only been teaching in this company for a few months, and I’ve burned through a lot of empty pages. There’s no wipe board or anything else in the room so I find it all curious. Very curious.

I’ll spare you all pictures of flip charts, and instead leave you with this…


Every other blogger seems to have posts about Fasching/Carnival solidly covered, so I’ll leave you with this picture of my only Fasching-related activity this year. Yes, that’s a (slightly out of focus due to one-handing iPhone photos on a moving train) doughnut filled with Bailey’s. Which was my breakfast this Fat Tuesday morning, because I am a responsible adult.

Hey, fellow English teachers…. help me out with the flip chart question! What’s going on in those classes?

Welcome Back, Have Some Turkey

Last weekend, BV and I hosted our 3rd Thanksgiving dinner here at home. The first year we had five guests, last year we had ten, and this year we had eleven adults and three kids. If this nonsense keeps up, I may have to find an VA or American Legion equivalent to rent out for the day.

All in all, the day went much smoother than I remember last year being. We did some prep and cleaning during the week, and I even managed to sleep in until about 9 o’clock that morning. The first order of business was to wiggle the table out of the kitchen into the living room, and then to see how many chairs we could jam in around it. We managed to get all 10 of our chairs in, and one of BV’s friends was set to bring two more so at least all the adults could get a seat. Naturally Marry die Katze was the first to test out the seating. As soon as we had them all set, she hopped up on one, and proceeded to make her way around the table, until she found her favorite place to nap in. Truly, everything that comes into this house becomes a Katzenspielplatz (kitty playground), in very short order.

Cat tested and approved.

Cat tested and approved.

The next order of business was to get the turkey washed and prepared. This year’s bird was just a touch larger than last year’s, and needed a little extra trussing to fit in the oven without melding to the side.

Bondage Bird

Bondage Bird

I used the same recipe as last year, and I do think it’s a winner. I thought that last year it took quite a bit longer to roast than the recipe said (maybe to do with the wee European ovens), so I made sure to get it in by 12:30. I figured if people were arriving at 4:30, it would be ready to come out about then. But it seems my memory failed me, as it was perhaps in the oven a bit too long. It wasn’t super dry, but I could have cut it shorter. Noted for next year!

Right after we got the turkey in, my friend Bina showed up absolutely laden with wine to be my sous-chef/wine-pourer. BV finished up the cleaning, while we got everything prepared for the stuffing, mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, and roasted spaghetti squash. We even had time for a solid wine-drinking break in the afternoon! Then it was all hands back on deck to get things going before/while everyone was arriving.

Once again this year, I totally failed at picture-taking. But at least I got a nice picture of the table all set, before we had to squish in the extra seat and ruin the symmetry! I also didn’t get a good picture of the finished turkey, but oh well. Instead, you get a rare sighting of BV*, carving it up.

The guests all piled in from the 4:30 train and their assorted vehicles. They came bearing amusements for the Kinder, chairs, appetizers, more wine, more vegetables, fruit salad, and dessert… a pumpkin pie at that! Oh, and enough chocolate to feed an army. Mountain of food doesn’t even do it justice. Speaking of mountains, here’s one of turkey…

tgiving6Thanks to S.M. for these last two pictures, because at that point I was not functioning enough to operate anything besides a knife and fork. Here’s another of his photos, “slightly” altered, again to protect ze identities…

tgiving5The table was cozy, to say the least. But I think everyone enjoyed themselves. We ate, we drank, and a few laughs were had. BV made friends with one of our wee guests, and taught him to play the piano and clean tools while the parents cleaned up my kitchen. Can’t ask for more than that!

I hope that all the other Americans had a lovely Thanksgiving as well… and now we can turn our attention to Christmas. Because God knows, that Glühwein isn’t going to drink itself!


*In true German fashion, he prefers to keep his identity off of the Interwebz as much as possible. But I thought this picture was just blurry enough to placate him.

2013 Recapped

Some bloggers are kind enough to post regularly, and keep their readers up-to-date on all the goings-on in their lives. I…. am bad at it. December was chock-full of things to do at work, things to do at home, things to do out and about, and so here we are with more than a month between posts. How time flies when you’re having fun. Or doing mountains of paperwork… could go either way in my case. But luckily I’m nursing a massive hangover from a little too much New Year’s celebration last night, so post time!

Since 2013 is coming to a close, I thought I’d take a cue from every other blogger out there, and try to figure out what in the world I’ve been up to all year. So hop on into your time machines and let’s journey on back…


We rang in 2013 in Tuscany with hiking, sight-seeing, and eating more than anyone should probably ever eat. Thankfully we even saw the sun in Italy, because we supposedly had the darkest January on record back in Germany. It was looooong and dark.


I have nearly no recollection of February or March. I’m guessing the weather was still crappy and I protested it by watching too much bad TV. In good TV news though, my episode of House Hunters International finally aired, and Courtney and I didn’t seem like total spazzes, much to the relief of friends and family. 


The clouds lifted and we celebrated with some weekend drives to the Franconian Switzerland.


Germany came out of hibernation, which meant it was time for my balcony to get prettified. I also found the cutest Gartenhaus in history.

We took another drive to the Franconian Switzerland, where I made a tiny friend.

Across the street from the horses, we visited the Felsengarten Sanspareil. Today it’s a forested park filled with huge rock formations, a natural theater (above), and wandering paths, but in the 1700s it was a pleasure garden.

Katie, my old Prague friend, visited from the States over BV’s birthday weekend. We took a big group beer hike, and Katie made friends with some locals.


May ended with us on a plane bound for San Francisco. We had a great time visiting my college friend Aaron, before we hopped another plane to spend a few days in Las Vegas with my friend Courtney. We wrapped up the trip with a week in Wisconsin. We did some hiking, visited German history at Old World Wisconsin (above), and I stood up in my friend Angie’s wedding. I even managed to not completely botch my Maid of Honor toast, thank goodness. At the end of June, my great-aunt and great-uncle stopped in Nürnberg on their European river cruise, and we gave them the local tour.


In July we visited my friends in the village and their ever-growing menagerie. The goats always provide some entertainment if the kids, rabbits, and cats are too boring for you. We took an accidentally long hike and found this crazy purple field, before we spent the evening at a local wine fest which could give Oktoberfest a run for its money in the crazy department.

Another weekend was spent hiking in the Allgäu, where I found one of my happy places. With marmots!


I turned 30 in August, and decided the only possible way to deal with that number was to run away from civilization for a few days. We drove to Berchtesgaden, spent a day at the Königsee, and then the next few days hiking up and down the Watzmann. We also hosted a small barbeque with friends to celebrate, lest anyone think I’m an anti-social weirdo. 


Of course, September means Oktoberfest, and this year I even made it there on opening day with the ladies. It was such fun that I even went back a few days later when my buddy Karl was visiting us for a week. He charmed our table mates and pledged to come back as soon as possible. We might even get him to buy some Lederhosen before the next visit…

BV and I also celebrated our first anniversary, and prepared for moving in together. Somehow I seem to have acquired a lot of stuff for a person who moved abroad with two suitcases…. 


I officially moved out of my apartment in October, and in with BV. We also took a trip up to Gladbeck for a family party, I got to meet a bunch of his extended family, and learned that dance parties can go all night even if I can’t.


 BV and I took an impromptu trip to Brussels and I absolutely loved the city! We will definitely be going back, because we didn’t get a chance to do all the museums and touristy things we had planned on. 

One thing we did manage to do was drink a lot of tasty Belgian beer, including this one for the pretty price of €15 per bottle. Thankfully it was delicious, and got us bonus bar snacks. They were very necessary as the beer has an insane 10.2% alcohol content.

The reason for the Brussels trip was a concert, and it was great show! I’ve loved Jimmy Eat World for years, but never got a chance to see them live until now. It was well worth the drive to Belgium, so thanks guys for the excuse!


December was spent buried in a sea of paperwork, and hunting for additional work for 2014. I came up for air a few times though. My village friends visited Nürnberg for an afternoon at the Christmas market, and a week later I visited them (and goats) at their new place outside Regensburg, so we could do a little cookie-baking.

BV and I got our Christmas tree and the tree man even remembered us from last year.

Work finally ended and I got to spend some time enjoying the city. Christmastime in Nürnberg is really nice, but I’d advise against coming on the weekends….

BV and I spent our second Christmas together with three days of family celebrations. We hosted his dad and brother on the second day and I introduced them to some exotic American specialties… or, biscuits (thanks for the recipe Allie!). 

We ended the year at our favorite Greek restaurant in the city, eating and drinking far too much. Clearly far too much, as I’ve spent most of today horizontal. Ouch.

Looking back at all this, 2013 was a pretty darn good year. Here’s hoping 2014 is the same… and best wishes to all of you reading! 

Happy New Year…. any favorite moments from 2013 to share?

German Thanksgiving II

On Sunday, BV and I hosted our second Thanksgiving dinner here at the house. We planned a bit better than last year, but then again, anything can be planned better if you decide to do it more than two days in advance! (See: last year)

This year we doubled the party and had a total of ten people over for the meal. We were able to order a turkey from the butcher – neatly avoiding the two tiny turkey problem we ran into last year. BV had ordered a 5-6kg bird, but when I went to pick it up, it weighed in at just over 7kg, or 16 lbs! The woman at the butcher shop said that was all they could get so that’s what we were going with. I was a little afraid that it wasn’t going to fit into the pan or our oven, but luckily it did. On the absolute bottom rack. Hey, whatever works. 

Here’s the bird right before it got stuffed with the “aromatics.” So fancy!

I did the bulk of the cooking in the morning while BV cleaned our disaster of a flat. I was ready for a big ol’ glass of wine by the time that everyone arrived, but this was an incredibly helpful (and patient) group of people. Everyone pitched in, mashing potatoes and heating up side dishes so everything could get out of the oven and onto the table.

With ten people over, and a table that seats six maximum, it wasn’t the most formal of meals. We had to go semi-buffet style and sadly, I don’t have a nice picture of a fancy-dancy table since some people sat there, and some people were around the coffee table. Maybe next year when we get more inserts for the table and just extend it out the balcony doors so we can all sit at it! 

Everything was so crazy that I really didn’t get too many pictures at all. I think some other people took a few, but since I don’t have them, my iPhone is all we’ve got to go on. I feel bad because my students told me to take pictures, but I didn’t do very well with my homework. I got the turkey though, so I guess that’s something. Here is it before BV went to town with the knife….

It was gorgeous, and tasted great. I thought it maybe cooked a bit too long, but it came out absolutely perfectly and I’ll be using this recipe again for sure. In addition to the turkey we had stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, carrots, roasted squash, a mixed veggie dish, biscuits, and for dessert there were assorted bakery goods and apple crumble. Don’t worry, I didn’t make everything (thank goodness), and a few people were so kind as to bring sides and desserts. Teamwork! Everyone left with full stomachs, and the clean up crew (aka, my favorite people ever) left with doggie bags too. Thank goodness they stayed and helped out, because BV had to drive straight to a 3-day training and I guarantee the kitchen would still look like a war zone right now. I spent most of Monday on the couch trying to recover, but it was worth it. 

Hope all you American expats had a good Thanksgiving as well… it’s not always easy being away for the holidays, but making it your own helps!