Sunday Snapshots: Prost!

Watch the bottom right corner… wait for it…

Munich, 2011

And Prost!

Munich, 2011

Ah yes, it’s a mere six days until the first barrel of Oktoberfest 2017 is tapped, and I have no doubt that the residents of Munich are battening down the hatches (or searching for last-minute flights) to escape the onslaught.

I’m not sure a visit is in the cards for me this year, and to be honest, since I haven’t purchased the deer-covered Dirndl I fell slightly in love with last month, it’s okay. I can hold out for now. But if you are planning on going and need something to wear, allow me to direct you to some other ladies who have you covered with everything you need to know about Dirndl…

Starting Over in Stuttgart: The Dirndl – An Explanation

Starting Over in Stuttgart: 5 tips for buying your first Dirndl

Now that you know what to look for, have a look here for some truly gorgeous fashion if you’re looking for something a bit more unique…

Arts in Munich: What to wear to Oktoberfest

Happy shopping and festing!

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Motivational Napping

For many people in these parts, Easter means a break from school or work. For me, it means extra work as I took over some classes for another teacher whose children are currently on school vacation for two weeks. As a result, that means I’ve been much busier than usual, and pretty much living on the train for the last week and a half. We had huge and crazy storms all over the area last week, and I think I spent more time in various states of dampness than I did dry. Not a good time, not at all. Happily this week the forecast calls for sun everyday… thank goodness. I am so ready to put away my winter boots (which desperately need to be re-soled), and if I have to wear my hated socks for much longer I might light my feet on fire.

Part of my substitution schedule involves a fair amount of wandering around, as the train only stops in that village once an hour. Last week I killed time in cafes -trying unsuccessfully to dry out – but I much prefer to stroll in the sun and do a bit of window shopping. The particular village I’ve been traveling to is a small tourist destination in the area, due to its thermal baths, museum, and the local vineyards, and happily it has an abundance of cutesy little shops with great window displays.

Today while slowly making my way back to the train station, I spotted this gem and just wanted to share it…

motivational pillows

I’m not sure if you’re supposed to nap on the thing, or just look at it while doing lunges/running around like Rocky. It’s as if someone took a bunch of Oprah quotes and just slapped them on a pillow. In other news, I’m kind of tempted to go back and buy that adorable lemonade clock, and maybe the Audrey Hepburn mug, too. But I think I’d have to drink champagne out of it, because tea and Audrey just don’t go together.

Fashion Watch: Labeled Edition

This week was a typical week for my commutes. Trains were late, people were absurd, and the line for McDonald’s breakfast was eight deep. But today redeemed itself in that I got a rare opportunity.

I spend a fair amount of my time observing the sometimes questionable fashion choices that people make. This week had the added bonus of Halloween, so yesterday I saw a guy running around in a cape with a staff, and a boy walking his dog in a polar bear costume. Usually it’s not possible (or would be super obvious), for me to snap pictures of this nonsense. Tonight on the train though, I got the opportunity to be creepy, but sneakily so. I give you, my new favorite backpack… which even trumps the ‘fight the man’ bag of a few weeks ago. It’s also hipster though, don’t worry…

panda backpackYes, in case the ears, black eyes, and fuzziness didn’t tip you off, it’s got the “Panda” right there to reassure you. In my opinion though, it’s a better label than those hideous purses with “LV” or  “C” all over them. Well played, hipster panda girl. Not to mention fhe polka dot hair bow and red lipstick that really set the whole thing off. Rock that panda bag. (Do the kids still say “rock”?)

 

Questionable Goodies…

Judging by my Facebook newsfeed, Halloween mania in the States is in full swing. Not a day has gone by this month that I haven’t seen pictures of tots in pumpkin patches, recipes for DIY Pumpkin Spice Lattes, or those same tots sleeping in their Halloween costumes that they are apparently refusing to take off.

Here in Germany, it’s a different story. There are a handful of costumes for sale, but that holiday still hasn’t caught on here. Instead, we’re already being treated to piles of Christmas chocolates, and so much Lebkuchen (gingerbread), that it almost makes my mouth water to look at. But as with soooo many things, there is an unofficial rule that you can’t buy/eat said Lebkuchen until November 11th. So we wait.

Today I was stocking up on cheap wine at the local Edeka, when I was stopped short by my absolute new favorite Advent calendar. I can’t remember if I’ve ever posted on that subject before, but I have never in my life seen such an impressive variety of Advent calendars as I have here. They can be filled with toys, make up, or even an entire calendar filled with beer. But hanging there, flanking the display of Glühwein, and related accessories, I saw these little numbers…

At least they were stashed away in the liquor section, and not directly next to the Haribo candies. But I am happy to see that both the ladies and the gentlemen can have a little extra holiday fun. Advent calendars: not just for the Kinder anymore.

“Oh Good Lord, Even the Backpacks Are Hipster….”

Back home in Wisconsin, this week is back to school for most of the kids. For this reason, I’m trying to not pop into Facebox quite as much. Why? Well, because my news feed on Tuesday was pretty much non-stop pictures of assorted children wearing backpacks in front of doors, strapped into car seats, in new classrooms, and sitting in front of lockers.

-Digression-: Since when do kindergarteners get (or need??) lockers? Back in my day, we had a hook for our tiny backpacks, and a railing below it for shoes and boots. What in the world is happening in kindergarten now that warrants an entire locker? -End digression.-

While many of my Facebook friends are now parents (and probably think I’m a weirdo for being 30+, living in a foreign country, and being unmarried with no spawn adorable Kinder), and many of them do have very cute kids…. it’s just a little much. What can I say? One of my favorite websites is the hilarious STFU, Parents. If you are easily annoyed by these things too, I recommend giving it a look. And yes, I do know it goes the other way. I’m sure that some of my FB friends have me blocked for posting one too many pictures of travel, or something similar. To each his own, as long as no-one does something like this* to me. So ridiculous.

It’s easy enough to avoid the overload of cutesy-ness by staying off of FB, or by limiting what you see from people when you log in, but real life doesn’t quite work that way. So today when I walked into the Müller drugstore in the train station to get a printer cartridge, I was faced with a section of brightly-colored back-to-school fun. And then…. I saw this….

occupy backpacks

This. Is. Awesome.

I actually posted this picture to FB this afternoon (and yes, I do realize the irony), but I just thought it was important for everyone to know that little Susie or Johnny could be missing an opportunity. Why take a backpack emblazoned with ‘Cars’ or ‘My Little Pony’ or your favorite NFL team, when you could be making a political statement! Occupy the 3rd grade, betches!

But, I’m not sure if all of the wholesome, corn-fed, Little League-playing kids that I saw in my news feed this week could pull this one off. In a European city, when used to add to a 6-year-old’s ensemble of skinny jeans, Converse, green hoodie, flat brimmed black baseball hat covered with white dollar signs and horn-rimmed glasses,** sure. But ‘Occupy’ doesn’t really go with a Nike t-shirt and basketball shorts, nor does it go with a school uniform of khakis and a polo.

Sigh. European kids just have that edge. Occupy on, hipster kids, occupy on.***

 

*while I am impressed by the lengths that the sender went to in order to remain anonymous… really? Really?? Asshat.

**actually seen today on the U-1 in Nürnberg.

***And if your little sister isn’t political yet, she’ll love the butterfly backpack. Give her a few years, and I’m sure she’ll come around.

 

Saturday Shopping: Getränkemarkt Edition

Last week, I read this incredibly funny post over at “Oh God, My Wife is German,” which had me giggling for a few days. I was very surprised by his comment that Kästen (cases) of beer were only bought by college students about to get obliterated, and while I have seen more than one case being dragged through a train by lederhosen-clad youths, I thought the time was right for a post on the mighty Getränkemarkt.

Most villages around here have at least one Getränkemarkt, or drinks market. Supermarkets do sell drinks, of course, but the majority of people load up on drinks at one of these markets instead. They have more selection, and I think they’re a bit cheaper. BV and I typically take one trip there a month, but this was our first trip since early July. We picked up quite a lot last time before my parents visited, and then took a week off the sauce after they left, so I think the beer lasted longer than usual this time.

Our local drink market has shorter hours than the normal supermarket, which means they’re only open until 4pm on Saturdays. This week we managed to be up and functioning on time, and loaded up the car to make our run. We left a few partial cases at home, but this is what we took back.

getraenkemarkt1That’s two cases of water, one of juice, and four beer. It’s necessary to bring the cases back full in order to get your full deposit back, hence why we drove to Italy with six bottles of water in the car, and “DON’T THROW THEM AWAY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. They must return to Germany or the Pfand (deposit) gets all messed up!”

Our market is fairly small, and the people who run it are super friendly. When you arrive, you can load up your Kästen on their special flat-bed carts, and bring them in. The ladies will make a note of what kind of cases you have (different cases/bottles have different deposits on them), and if they aren’t busy, they’ll help you unload the cases onto the conveyor belt that takes them into the back. After that, you’re free to shop.

In our little market, you’ll find two and half aisles of beer, half an aisle of “limo” or soft drinks, a huge Coke corner, an aisle of juice and Schorlen (juice mixed with carbonated water), and two aisles of water.  They do also have a selection of wine and liquor, and up at the front of the store you can find some six-packs, and small kegs of different beers. If you’re looking for imports such as Guinness or Czechvar (the ridiculous name given to Czech Budvar/Budweiser outside the C.R.), that’s where you go. If you want cheap, crappy, German beer like Beck’s, you got it. Also, if you’re looking for the flavored “girly” beers like the Veltins, this is your corner. getraenkemarkt7I love the baby kegs. I shudder to think how many of those the average college house party in Wisconsin would go through. I’ve heard if you want an adult-sized keg, they can be ordered but it’s not too common. I’m guessing the Pfand on that would be absolutely ridiculous.

While BV and the lady sorted out some confusion with our cases (she had mixed up our slip with another customer), I admired the postcards.

getraenkemarkt8Sorry about the cigarettes (and the iPhone quality of all of today’s pictures), but if you look to the left, you’ll see a ton of postcards. As I said, this is a small place, and the people are super-friendly, and I love that the customers all send them postcards from their travels. I think it’s lovely. We might have to do that, if we ever go on vacation again.

Finally, it was time to load up the car. Saturday’s trip was a light one, just the necessities.

getraenkemarkt9Two cases of beer (Pils and Keller, if you want to know), one water, and one juice.

BV was very amused by my taking pictures in the shop, and so I told him about the post that I read. He thought the story was pretty funny too, and then we started talking about the difference between buying cases and singles. He said that most people just don’t want to go shopping that much, and also want to be prepared, so they prefer to buy cases. And most of the time when we go to someone’s home, it does look like they have a mini-Getränkemarkt in a cellar or tucked in a closet.

Of course, when I lived in the city (and up four flights of stairs), I never bought a case. Typically it was a few bottles at a time, and he said that usually the only people who buy one or two beers at a time are the old, alcoholic ladies. Thanks, honey.

I left out the part where most of the time I just bought 3€ bottles of wine, because wine paired better with trashy reality TV and microwave popcorn. Heyo!

Have you been to a Getränkemarkt? Do you also think that Becks is the worst German beer?

Italy Comes to Nürnberg

One of the things that I miss the most about not living directly in Nürnberg anymore, is stumbling across the Italian market on the Fleischbrücke. As far as I can tell, the market seems to happen every two or three months. But I never seem to know when they’re happening, and haven’t been able to pin down a schedule for them thus far.  This week though, I got lucky. So lucky in fact, that I managed to get there twice, on Friday and again on Saturday.

Friday I was in the city for dinner with a friend and swung through the market to buy some truffle sausage, sheep cheese, and a few bottles of wine. I came back on Saturday with BV, and we picked up more truffle paste, more wine, and some cannolis that are nothing short of amazing.

The food and drink are of course wonderful, but there’s something really special about the atmosphere. It’s not everyday that you get to see people here let their hair down and just hang out, but at the Italian market everyone is smiling, laughing, and dancing to the live music. The vendors are friendly, urging you to sample a little bit of everything, even if you’re just looking. But who could resist giant displays of cheese, rows upon rows of wine, and amusing sausage signs? Not this girl, that’s for sure.

The picture of the tables and bridge above was actually taken when the market was here last September (hence the guy in shorts), but there was no way to get a decent picture of the bridge this time around because it was way too crowded! As soon as the sun comes out, the Germans collectively lose their minds, flocking to the streets and start consuming mass quantities of Aperol Spritz. Here’s what the bridge looked like every time I saw it this weekend…

italian market9

Nürnberg Tip of the Day: One of the best views in town (meaning a view of the Kaiserburg, aka Imperial Castle), can be found on top of the Adler Parkhaus. And yes, the main crowd of people in that picture is directly around the wine tent. Priorities!

So if you happen to be visiting our fair city, make sure to make a turn off of the main square to see if anything is happening on the Fleischbrücke. The normal market in Nürnberg is really great and has a lot to offer, but the Italian market is a little something special. If you’re really really lucky, you might even get to see the Venetian Market, which happens once a year in early summer, and has even more Italian awesomeness, if that’s possible. If you’re really really really lucky, your significant other might make you a delicious Italian hedgehog for dinner…

italian market4

Sadly, that hedgehog was a result of last summer’s market. Perhaps the sheep cheese we bought this time doesn’t lend itself as well to spiking. Anyway, I’m off to debate which kind of cannoli I’ll have for dessert tonight… decisions!

What about where you live? Any good markets to check out?

The Bores of March

No dramatic Ides happening over here, sadly. About the most exciting thing that’s happened so far in March was my walk today that started in sunshine and ended in a really light hail. Riveting, I know. Oh, and last week I saw some frogs being appropriately twitterpated. Spring!

march update2Apart from a sprinkling of hail, the weather has been mostly glorious. Although it seems to be conspiring against us on the weekends…. I keep wanting to plan out our garden for the year and the sunshine stops about Friday afternoon. We’ll shoot for this weekend, and if anyone has any gardening tips, please leave them below. I’m pretty much flying blind, although BV should know what’s going on considering he A) is German and B) has spent a ton of time living at/working in, a friend’s nursery.

Marry the Cat has settled in quite well to our house, and we’re trying to fix up the extra rooms so we can stop trying to keep her out of them. Currently all of the plants that used to live around the place are squished into one room as it turns out that all of them are harmful to cats. Go figure. She’s very busy though, and we have to spend a good amount of time amusing her or she will try to do yoga with you in the afternoons. Apologies to anyone who hates feet for the picture.

march update3

Yoga kitty.

She got kicked out of the room shortly thereafter, as I feared for both my toes and the yoga mat.

Spend anytime in Germany and you will notice a lot of odd and regionally-specific things, particularly here in Bavaria. I was in a toy store the other week when I spotted this little gem….

march update1Yep, that’s right, a Weißwurst Frühstück for even the smallest of Kinder. This officially beats out the grilling kit for boys as my favorite German toy. My only question is: “where is the tiny Hefeweizen that should go with a real Bavarian breakfast?”

So that’s about it on my end. No major trips in the works, no parties, just hanging out and enjoying the sun. What’s going on where you are??

A Quick Walk Around Thalia

Who doesn’t love a good bookstore, right? I’m not picky, I’ll take a cozy indie bookstore, or a big chain with a Starbucks, it makes no difference. If I can browse books and waste a couple of hours, I’m a happy camper. One of the biggest bookstores in Germany is called Thalia, and I have been a frequent shopper of theirs since I arrived here (see this post on Chillin’ Mit Jesus).

A few weeks ago I was wandering the store, when I saw a few things that I thought were entertaining enough to share with the blog world so… here we go!

ImageThanks to the interwebz, even child-free people like myself know what ‘Helicopter Parenting’ is. Personally, I’m of the school that says, “do whatever you think is best” when it comes to your kids, so I don’t really want to get into any debates about it. But I cracked up when I saw this cover. I’m 30 and could still use a protective bubble some days. Helmets for everyone!

ImageAh yes, now a gender-specific boy toy about cooking. Leave little Sally/Sophie to her kitchen set while little Johnny/Johannes can learn to man the grill like a big boy.

Kidding.

Again, do what you want with your kids. Personally, I thought this was adorable and promptly whipped out this picture in class the following week when one of my students proclaimed that he didn’t cook anything but meat on his grill. He didn’t believe me that 1) this was an option or 2) that it would come with little plastic vegetables. Because vegetables do not go on the grill. Ever.

Image

Image

Oh, this one. This may have surpassed the “black” music section in electronics stores as my new favorite. I just love that the American dictionary offers not one, not two, but three languages! Amazing! Not to mention a quick flip through the book had me wondering just how many people have actually tried out some of the phrases offered in the sections on “our barrio, our hood,” or “Fiesta sin bebidas?” Oh good lord. I think you’d find better accents and pronunciation in the average Taco Bell order. Maybe that’s in the section on “TexMex-Küche.” Is this any different from the phrases offered in the average Lonely Planet phrasebook? No, not really. But I was still fairly dismayed that there were options. What do you think, is it weird, or is it just me?

A Bit About Bettwäsche

On Friday I decided my bed needed a bit of an upgrade. Okay, full disclosure: it wasn’t so much that I wanted to upgrade, but more so that I fluffed my comforter and noticed a hole had suddenly formed in my fitted sheet, right about the spot my feet usually hang out. Additionally, I have been wanting to buy a new pillow for weeks now, but that whole “flying all over the damn planet” thing kind of got in the way. But I digress. If you go shopping for linens in Euro-land, there are some things you should know.

If you’re thinking about moving here and are super attached to your California King bed, you might want to think twice. That size doesn’t exist here, and the sizes that do are just ever-so-slightly different from the standard U.S. sizes. A quick trip to the IKEA web site will show you a multitude of options in a size that most people would consider “twin” or “single.” Double beds have definitely become more common, but they’re still not the same as our standard size. For example, my bed is 140cm x 200cm, which is the smallest “double” size, but slightly (3cm) larger than a double in the U.S. 

That trend continues throughout all the sizes. A very helpful chart can be found on Wikipedia, if you’re so inclined. So the moral of the story is: if you’re bringing your own bed, you better pack extra bedding because the sheets here might not fit. I managed to find a Spannbetttüch, aka fitted sheet, that said it would fit any of the three main “double” sizes, which was great as I wasn’t sure if I had measured it correctly. Tip: have a measuring tape with the metric system!

Additionally, if you’re staying in a hotel, don’t be surprised at seeing something like this:

In case you can’t tell, those are two twin beds pushed together to create a “double.” I drew that helpful illustration line in the second one for you. These photos are from two different hotels, one in Bavaria and one in Salzburg, Austria. If you stay at a chain hotel, you might not encounter this, but if you stay in a smaller hotel, pension, or guesthouse, you’ll probably find something similar. I’ve seen them all over the place. This arrangement has pros and cons depending on who (if anyone), you’re sharing a room with. But I think you kids can figure those out on your own. 

You might also notice that each person is given their own duvet to go with their separate bed. So for every guy who has complained about their significant other’s blanket-hogging ways, rejoice! Most people also use strictly the duvet here, and I think it’s brilliant. My mother always yelled at me for only using the comforter at home, but I hated using the top sheet. I understand her logic, sheets are much easier to wash then quilts, but it always bothered me. So Europe is perfect for me, as top sheets are few and far-between; I’ve actually never seen one here. You have your duvet, and the removable cover that gets thrown in the wash. 

I bought a new duvet cover and pillowcase as well, but will save the duvet cover for winter. Those came in about three different sizes, and none of the ones I found seemed to match up exactly to the measurements I had for my current duvet cover. I bought the one that was the closest and luckily it’ll fit just fine, but I was a little confused when I was in the store. It happens. Anyway…

Sleeping for 10-12 hours at a time sounds awesome, right? It should. Really, it should. But the last few months, no matter how long I slept, I was still tired. And I think I figured out why. On average, I’d say I wake up 3-4 times a night. Usually I wake up faceplanted onto the mattress or something equally weird. My pillows at this point were basically for decoration as they were serving absolutely no functional purpose whatsoever. I’ve pretty much bought one pillow per year since I arrived, so I had three, but they were the absolute cheapest ones that IKEA had to offer and definitely past their prime. No more! 

Finally, I decided to get on the European pillow bandwagon. The standard head pillow here is enormous. Seriously. It’s 80cm x 80cm, and about two times the size of the pillows I had. Check it out…

I bought this glorious Kopfkissen (I love this word) on Friday, and can I just tell you… oh man. I slept like a rock the last two nights. So well in fact, that today I popped out of bed before 9am. That never happens. And it needs to happen because I can never fall asleep on Sunday nights because I sleep until noon, and then spend all day Monday exhausted in class. I need to break this cycle because I am tired of being tired. It’s annoying and unproductive. So I’m a convert. Get a giant pillow! Go!

Here you go RZ…

One corner of my Fortress, just for you. 

I realized when taking this picture that my flat went from zero to girly super fast recently. I got the picture above the couch and the throw pillows the same weekend I did the wall stickers. But I like it. Mostly I like being able to do things such as, go to the store and buy stuff without having to decide if I want to eat that week or not. That I do not miss about Prague.