Sunday, November 30, 2014

My Week: November 30 ed.

-With this blog entry, I have completed the NaBloPoMo challenge of posting a blog entry for each day of the month. I'm glad to have met goal and hope that I didn't drive people too crazy with so much to read. Then I realized: yinz probably have the wherewithal to stop reading should it have been too much.

-I heard somewhere that doves are really just white pigeons. I have no idea if this is true or not and I have no plans to research it (so take what I say at face value) because I like the idea of  them being the same. Pigeons deserve equal rights!

-I don't know what the heck is up with me lately, but I've been cutting my thumb on things. Last week I gave myself a nasty paper cut and wondered: why do they hurt so much? It wasn't even deep but did it hurt! Then I cut my thumb again on a container this week and my thumb bled like crazy. Dang.

-I returned from Berlin on Monday. Well, technically, by the time I dropped my friend off and came home, it was Tuesday.

-The friend who's been staying with me told me about her weekend with Moo while I was gone. Apparently she was concerned about him because he didn't leave his new moohouse/bed all day and wasn't interested in the potato chip she offered him. I told her that he was probably just being lazy. She agreed because the next day he ate the potato chip and chased a twist tie. I thought that her concern was sweet. We hypothesized that he might have missed me. Another friend who's watched Moo for me in the past said that on the first day, Moo had ignored him but on the second Moo demanded attention.

-I met with my German tandem speaking partner and it was a pleasant reunion. It's been almost a month since we've met since we were both too busy.

-My friend and I had a German-Eritrean-American Thanksgiving experience.

-I took Moo to the vet after work. He was not very pleased to be stuffed into the cat carrier and let out some very mournful moos! I did come home to a very nice pasta dinner that my friend staying with me made. Moo "recovered" by laying in his moobed and looking sad. He does not enjoy road trips.

-Friend C and I took a trip to Düsseldorf to see the Christmas markets and the city, too. On the way home, we made a  short side trip to Cologne to visit a Christmas market that's a bit different from the others and were glad we did.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Moo goes to the vet in Kaiserslautern

 I needed to take Moo to the vet (for a non-emergency) so I decided to try Dr. Rahimi, a vet in the west side of Kaiserslautern.  My friend had taken her cat there and had a positive experience so I thought I'd give him a try.

I was pleased to see that the practice offers evening hours, which are especially useful for those who work. It's open until 7 p.m. every weeknight and on Saturdays from 10-11 a.m. My appointment was at 6 p.m. and the waiting room was packed with people who looked as if they had just gotten out of work. I waited about half an hour until Moo was seen but didn't mind as the doctor worked through the roomful of patients quickly.

I liked Dr. Rahimi and his "Moo-side manner." He was gentle with Moo, seeing that he was a bit nervous. He gave him some kibbles as he was giving him a shot, petted him, did some more procedures, and gave him some more kibbles, mentioning how nice he thought Moo was. I like things like that. I know that vets are busy, but I also know from animal handling and training (especially with horses) that it makes sense to spend a few more seconds initially to make the procedure slightly more pleasant for the animal. Doing so saves time in the long run as it helps to decrease sourness  and anxiety that the animal feels toward the vet.

After he attended to Moo, Dr. Rahimi shook my hand and I returned to the lobby to pay for the visit in cash. Remember that the practice only accepts cash and the German EC debit card (I'm quite sure that my cards with the PIN+chip still wouldn't work since they're not EC).

I would rate the experience as a pleasant one. The practice is clean and the waiting room is cosy with art and plants. Dr. Rahimi was very nice and I like the way he handled Moo, trying to make the experience of being poked and prodded nicer by giving him some treats.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The German educational system: university

I often get web traffic on my blog from those who are curious about the German educational system. I wrote a piece about the primary and secondary school system, but I wouldn't be surprised if people were more interested in knowing about free university.

It is true that as of now, German universities are free for qualified individuals, whether or not those individuals are German or members of the European Union. International media, especially American sources, has been blowing up lately with stories about free tuition. However, the key word for prospective students is qualified; it's not just a free-for-all for those who haven't done well in school.

Also, one might think that the student wouldn't need to have any money. There are no tuition fees, so that must be true, right? No, that's wrong. Foreign students must show that they have the money, up front, to be able to afford living expenses for one year.

Depending on one's program and level of study, one also must be quite fluent in German. Some master's programs don't require it but for lower-level classes, it's a must.

There is a ton more to studying in Germany and I don't have that experience. I asked two of my friends, one who is a university lecturer and the other who is a native German and PhD student. I couldn't keep up with notes or the barrage of (helpful) information they were imparting so I'll point to some articles of interest. For those who'd like to go to a German uni, I'd suggest conducting a ton more research.

You Can Now Go to College in Germany for Free, No Matter Where You’re From by Rebecca Schuman.

A reddit post about studying in Germany as an undergraduate; my PhD student friend recommended it and says that it is accurate according to his experience.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

My German-Eritrean-American Thanksgiving

Last Thanksgiving, my expat UK friends joined me in Heidelberg to have dinner at my American co-worker's house for a proper American dinner with Germans and other European expats. This year, my co-worker and I were both stressed out, the UK friends have moved, and we didn't feel like putting a lot of work into it.

So, this year:

-I cleaned the stairs/common areas of my apartment building. We have no Hausmeister and both my neighbors and I have been remiss in keeping this up. I had a rare bit of free time when I wasn't exhausted so I used my time wisely, to clean.

-My friend and I went downtown; we stopped by the Weihnachtsmarkt where she had Wurst and I had reibekuchen, fried potato pancakes (which is more grease than I would normally eat in 6 months). We then made a circuit of the stores I visit when I have time, including the thrift store, the Tam Asian market, and the grocery market.

-We ate dinner at my favorite restaurant in town, Safari. It's Eritrean and Ethiopian and fantastic. John brought us some delicious food that his family cooked. It's far better than turkey, in my book.

-After dinner, C and I engaged in a German activity: we did some staring in a construction zone where a machine was running dirt (?) through it. I have no idea what that was about but took a video because it lasts longer ;)

video

So, all in all, it was a laid-back day. I was so thankful to have some time off since I'm tired from work, the Berlin trip, German lessons, and trying to get everything done. I'm thankful for good company and a peaceful day. I'll end the evening by Skyping my family. Life is good.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Roadside Candy Machines: the Fox Box in Vienna

We saw this interesting combo of candy machines in Vienna. I was particularly interested in the Fox Box, which appears to dispense little boxes of gum. The other machine contained an odd assortment of bubble gum and loose rings. I think it's the first time I've seen rings that weren't in some sort of plastic bubble.

I was tempted to buy one of each to see what would happen but as is customary with my participation with roadside candy machines, I took a quick picture on the fly. Usually I'm with a friend (and that was the case with this visit) so I usually don't fully stop.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Mannequin Amputee in Paris

During the September visit to Paris, I hauled my family to the Marché St Ouen/Porte de Clingancourt flea market in the north side of the city. I always enjoy visiting there, except for perhaps having to dodge pick pockets and the guys trying to sell cell phones (that might have just been pick pocketed).

I found a mannequin of interest. He's an amputee so I was wondering how to combine mannequin + amputee. I came up with "manatee" but that one was used already. Back to the drawing board.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Seen in Paris: Flavor Flav's inspiration


Remember Flavor Flav, an 80s rapper who wore a huge watch around his neck? Well, I think that his idea wasn't original. I saw this old clock in the museum in Paris and think maybe the Flav just took the idea in a different direction.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

My week: November 23 ed.

-Tired again. One of my German classes was canceled so I had a friend over and hung out instead that night.

-Went to my favorite restaurant in town, Safari, with some friends. Dang was it ever fine. Love that place.

-My friend is staying with me for a couple weeks as she is in transition with some traveling. Moo is thrilled because he wants to be her best friend.We are joking that we are work wives because we are hanging out all the time now. Hanging out may or may not involve drinking some wine too.

-Took a trip to Berlin. This is my third time there. I really like the city; it reminds me of Detroit in the sense of all the art and interesting projects that are on offer.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Du...du confuse me so

As a non-native speaker* of German and as a foreigner, I always find myself confused with a major issue in the language: when I should use "du" verses "Sie." The first is the informal version of "you" and the second is the formal. It's not even so much of a linguistic quandry as it's a sociolinguistic issue.

Usually one would use "Sie" with strangers. I've heard that in some work places, people can have worked together for quite some time and they still use "Sie" and address one another by their last names. Younger people use "Sie" with older people as a sign of respect.

You can imagine my confusion when I joined a woman's club that includes some senior German women who introduced themselves by their first names. I don't even know what their last names are so I don't use "Frau" with them. So, should I use "du?"

My German classes are a mix, too. In my uni class, we use du. For the Volkshochschule class, we use Sie. I'm not sure why there is a difference, other than maybe the uni class is with younger people and it's less formal? Or, maybe the VHS class uses Sie because it's then easier to conjugate the verb since it's in the infinitive form.

So far, I've used "du" if the person introduces herself by first name and Sie if I get a last name (which is extremely rare). If I'm at a store or on the street and have to talk to someone, I use Sie. Good enough.


*I guess it's debatable how much I "speak" German.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Published in GermanyJa! again

My article about enjoying Germany like the Germans do was published in GermanyJa!, a website geared for expats, especially of interest to military-affiliated American expats (though it's certainly helpful for everyone).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

That's not how you wear the hat!

We walked by Tschibo, a chain coffe bar/store with an odd assortment of goods and saw this display window:


I found it extremely disconcerting. Was it supposed to be some sort of mask? How the heck is the kid supposed to breathe or see with no eye/mouth holes? I was imagining someone putting the hat on their kid like it was on the mannequin and sending him into traffic in a horror-movie.


Then I realized that: a) I'm dumb; and b) whomever had set up the display probably messed up the placement as the thing is meant to be a hat and not a mask. In the advert, Mama in the top right is wearing it as a hat. That's significantly less creepy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Star Kitties

We walked by an optician's store in Kaiserslautern and my friend was wondering why a Star Wars dude was in the window. I was wondering why Hello Kitty was in the window. Then I thought that maybe there should be a mash-up between the two: Star Kitties.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Some history learnin': The Parisitic Nobility-Peasant Relationship in the 18th Century

I wrote this for a history class. Copyright 2014, Around the Wherever. All rights reserved. May not be duplicated in any form.

Additionally, to those conducting research: this piece is not suitable to be used as a reference source. Here's why. If you need a reference source, try using the excellent text noted in the Bibliography.

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The socioeconomic relationship between peasants and nobility in the eighteenth century could be described as parasitic. In this case, it would be apt to say that the nobility were the parasites, sucking the peasants dry, both literally and figuratively.

Treatment of children was influenced by socioeconomic status. Initially, the elite women employed wet nurses to give their children sustenance, as it was not befitting a lady (Spielvogel, p. 559). Later in the 18th century, the concept of childhood as its own stage of development grew. Children of the rich and nobility started to be valued more and were treated better; they had their own style of clothes, toys, and books (p. 560). Unfortunately, peasant children did not experience such joys; if anything, they were seen as a burden and risked being a victim of infanticide or abandonment. Children were abandoned throughout Europe but it appears that in the east, within Russia, the numbers were extremely high, with the largest foundling home in St. Petersburg (p. 560).

In addition to the treatment of children, living arrangements were subject to one’s status and income. The nobility (especially the French and English) tended to live in vast country estates in huge houses (p. 567). Peasants might eke out a living in a town, city, or the country, but the unifying theme was their desperate struggle to survive, often subject to employment of nobles. In most of Western Europe, peasants had freedom but still were not secure, having to pay heavy tithes on the crops they had grown (p. 566). In other areas things were even worse, such as in parts of Germany where the lord had legal jurisdiction over peasants and could make decisions regarding their affairs. Farther east in Russia, peasants were virtually slaves, with ties to the landlord and not the land (p. 566).

The nobles’ parasitic use of the peasants certainly did not improve the peasants’ lot in life; if anything, it kept them from success.

Bibliography

Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western civilization. Australia: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2012.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Kunst Automat - it all makes sense now!

When I was in Nuremberg, I saw an art vending machine (Kunst automat) and thought it was quite cool. I have since found a mini documentary about the machines and the man who developed them. You can watch it here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Week: November 16 ed.

The short of it: German classes, barely completing homework, busy at work, night out with friends, dinner with friends, bought good vegan stuff at Globus, didn't sleep much, mumble mumble.

Some tidbits:

I was half-listening to the German radio station and registered that they were talking about goulash and potatoes. In the piece, a guy started yelling (in a WWF-like voice) "I am a...." [something that starts with a "w" and a word I had never heard before.] How I wish I had written down the word because now I am incredibly curious what WWF potato-goulash dude was up to.

I was amused by a conversation by a woman who's German but lived in England for a while. She was talking to Americans and they had no idea what she was talking about. She was saying some of the phrases she had used and I didn't understand why the Americans hadn't understood them. Then it dawned on me: of course it would make sense to me because I had lived in England too. That's the thing with the German version of English: it tends to be a mash-up of British and American English, but even that is varied depending on the region. Around Kaiserslautern, it's heavily American-influenced, not surprisingly as there are so many Americans around here. I've spoken to other Germans who have a stronger British accent as that's the way they were taught in school and there weren't as many Americans around.

I also found out just how seriously Italians take their pasta. We made the mistake of calling pasta the word noodles and were told that Italians don't eat noodles, they eat pasta. Hehe.
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In other words, it was a good, tiring week. My new schedule is kicking my hiney.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Why I like fall but why it is also killing* me

*not literally/immediately, but it doesn't help my health, that's for sure

My two favorite times of the year are spring and fall. Coming from a state that has very distinct seasons (though many feel as if winter lasts really long), I view those two seasons as the times that birth two other seasons. Plus, I don't like really hot weather but I can tolerate cold weather.

Spring is a wonderful, hopeful, and beautiful time. Remember how good it feels when the weather starts to warm up and the early flowers are pushing their way up from the ground? Everyone seems to be in a better mood as they shed bulky winter clothing and get some sunlight. Fall is lovely, too, as the hot and humid days of summer dissipate and the leaves change color (assuming it's a climate such as in Michigan or in Germany).

Fall is also great because of the fun seasonal things to do, such as visiting Herbstfest in Heidelberg (which may/may not include drinking grappa and dancing in front of an ice cream store) or drinking Federweisser and eating Zweibelkuchen.

However, sometimes I think that fall is trying to take me out. I suffer from seasonal allergies and chronic sinus infections. As the leaves fall and it rains, I feel awful, probably from the combination of mold and the leaves. I've been sick twice in September alone, then sick again in October. When I'm not actively sick, I feel as if I'm on the verge of getting sick, suffering from nasty congestion, headaches, and feeling as if I'm about ready to spike a fever. I'm exhausted; perhaps I don't get as much oxygen or I sleep poorly from being congested.

To be fair, I feel that springtime has it out for me too, with all the pollen flying around, which also induces more sinus infections. However, fall is made even more difficult by the decline in daylight. Even when I go straight home from work and not to one of my many engagements after, I am totally exhausted and am ready to go straight to bed. Sometimes it's difficult to stay awake even until 8 p.m. I guess it's a good thing that I usually have commitments after work; otherwise it's so hard to ignore the siren call of sleep! It can be 6 p.m. and feel like it's time to go to bed. I definitely feel some grumpiness settling in because I know that it'll just get gloomier with winter settling in.

Maybe one of these days I'll buy myself a special lamp for light therapy. I wonder if it would help. Readers, have you ever used them, and do you feel a marked improvement in wakefulness and mood as a result?

Friday, November 14, 2014

My Reverse Bucket List

I snagged this idea from a blog that I just started reading, Erika from America. I love her blog because it's like seeing a bit of home through someone else's eyes. She's a transplant from California to Michigan, my home state, and is rambling about many of my old stomping grounds (I did a lot of stomping about!).

Anyway, she had a really cool idea of coming up with a Reverse Bucket List, which is where one has done the things that one had put on the bucket list and completed. I think it's a great way to celebrate meeting one's goals.

I've never called my (mostly mental) List o' Things I Want To Do a bucket list, but for all intents and purposes, it certainly is.

Here are some the goals I've accomplished that have brought me great happiness, in no particular order:

1. Live and work in Europe.

2. Learn a foreign language well enough to do daily activities and have conversations with natives (this is an ongoing process but at least I can order at a restaurant and shop using German; give me a lot of wine at a Portuguese street festival and I'll converse for two hours in German).

3. Ride a highly-trained Dressage horse and complete upper level movements (though I had no idea what I was doing, he gave me tempi lead changes, half-steps, etc.)

4. Push my boundaries by joining a group full of artistic, alternative, altruistic, wild (but in a good way) people and fully participate in their culture, art, and events. I found this in the US and need to rekindle it here in Europe.

5. Train a horse. As a 19 year old, I bought a horse with no training other than how to be led around (and he wasn't great at that, either). Using principles of behaviorism that I was learning from the psychology classes I was taking in college, employing common sense, and reading a lot of horse behavior and training books, I did just this. He turned out great and became a steady and trusting partner.

6. Pursue college education and finish quickly with good grades. I've earned three degrees quickly and my grades just kept getting better; in the degree I just finished, I had a 4.0 (yippie!). I have the equivalent of 9 years of college education and I completed it in 5 1/2 years.

7. As an expat (or even as an out-of-state-r), make friends with the locals.

8. Apprentice under a skilled horse trainer. I was the working student of, and became friends with, a trainer in Maryland during a break before grad school. I learned so much from this wonderful woman and am forever grateful. I can no longer ride, but I have some lovely memories from my time there.

9. In my field of work, learn as many areas of that field as I can and become a versatile employee. I can say that now I've worked in almost all of the departments that one would find in it and am certainly versatile. I've also had a ton of experience in "other duties as assigned;" the toilet-plunging episode was certainly not my favorite!

10. Be less uptight. In general, I try to look at things with an open mind and try to think about all sides of an issue. I don't care what other people do unless it is hurting someone/something else. That doesn't mean that I'm not uptight about my own personal things, though. For example, I was about ready to leave the German sauna when I found out that it was clothing-free; I am not comfortable with being nude in front of others. Then I thought it about it rationally and realized, who really cares? It's legal here, socially accepted, and not unusual for the locals. I participated, and guess what? I enjoyed the sauna.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Going on a word journey with the Wörterbuch

Most of the instruction I have received about the German language has been in the English language since my university is geared toward Americans and my original lessons were in the US. Now that I'm done with my degree, I'm continuing German lessons in the local community and as can be expected, it's all in German.

As a result of the influx of new German words from the class texts only in German, I find myself making heavy use of my Wörterbuch, or dictionary. It's a bit crazy to try to read instructions for the homework and realize that I need to first figure out what it's telling me to do! Maybe I was being a bit too optimistic after gliding through my first class but at least I'll learn a lot and get a ton of speaking practice.

I do love the Wörterbuch. Unfortunately, it's a dangerous book because I open it with the intention of looking up just one or two words and instead get sucked into many more. I have to wrench myself away from it if I want to get any homework done.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A sweet book buying experience

I went to the university bookstore buy the book for my new German classes. The bookstore clerk was adorable. Seeing that my book was one to learn German, she spoke Hochdeutsch slowly and clearly to me, smiling often. I thought it was sweet that she seemed to take care with the non-native speaker.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

An Open Letter to the Deutsch 1 Class

Hello to the students and teacher(s) of Deutsch 1.

This is the author of Around the Wherever. I recently noticed that I was getting traffic from your school. I'm curious so I looked up your Deutsch 1 website and found that my blog was linked as a source for your class. It is unfortunate that my blog's name is misspelled, but many people seem to get that wrong.

I see that students must write a 10 sentence paragraph about the German educational system, using this blog entry of mine as a resource. Part of me is pleased but another part of me is concerned.

Sure, it's nice to have one's writing actually used for something. However, the academic in me is worried. I know that this is just a short piece in which the students must write something about the educational system in Germany. However, I am concerned because sometimes people use reference sources that are not appropriate for academic work. Just because Jim Bob (or, in this case, Around the Wherever) put something on the internet, it doesn't mean that it's valid or reliable information.

I urge students and their teachers to learn about evaluating reference sources, especially web sites, before using them in academic work. Universities and libraries have some great information on how to determine if a source is appropriate for academic work. For example, the University of California - Berkeley's library wrote a guide that is very helpful.

Let's evaluate my blog entry using some of these criteria from the guide.

1. Is this someone's personal page? Why, yes indeed, it is! I am just an expat who lives in Germany. This blog is intended for entertainment purposes only.

2. Who wrote the blog? Well, I did, but in this case, who is the "I" behind this? I don't give any information about who I actually am (i.e. my real name), other than that I'm an expat living in Germany. The Berkeley guide cautions, "an e-mail address with no additional information about the author is not sufficient for assessing the author's credentials. If this is all you have, try emailing the author and asking politely for more information about him/her" (Evaluating Web Pages). 

I'm not willing to share more information about myself via email, so please don't ask. (That is another lesson about the internet and it falls under Internet Safety.)

3. What are my credentials? In addition to not giving the actual name of the author, my entry doesn't list my credentials, either. It's important to use sources that are written by those who are qualified to write them. I know that I wrote the blog entry for a class, but that doesn't mean that I'm an expert about Germany. For all you know, I'm just another "Jim Bob" and I'm making up what I write. The Berkeley guide reminds the student: "You should hold the author to the same degree of credentials, authority, and documentation that you would expect from something published in a reputable print resource (book, journal article, good newspaper)."

4. Did I document the sources? Where did I get the information? In the blog entry, I noted that the information came from a lecture that our professor gave us. However, other than that, I didn't say much about my source (i.e. who is he, and are his credentials?) and there is no way of finding out if it's true. I'm not going to list the instructor or where I took the class in this case, because it contains more identifying information than I am willing to share.


So, there are some things to consider. This wasn't intended as a burn to the teachers or students. The assignment appears to be a short and quick one and doesn't seem to be meant as an extensive research paper. However, especially as students get ready for college, it's important for them to carefully evaluate the sources that they are using. 

Sincerely, Around the Wherever 


Work Cited

Barker, Joe, and Hennesy, Cody. "Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask." Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask. University of California Berkeley, 2012. Web. 09 Nov. 2014. berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluate.html>. 

Fasching season begins!

Today (technically right now, thanks to the wonders of blog scheduling!) is the start of Fasching, or Carnival season in Germany. Fasching has various names; in my area, that is its name. Other names includes Fasnacht and Karneval.

I attended the Fasching parade in Wiesbaden the first year I was here. Last year, I didn't do anything for Fasching since I was in the middle of my university classes and being sick/getting over being sick/becoming sick again. Since the main Fasching events won't take place until February of next year, I can't say at this point what I'll be doing.

To read more about Fasching, check out these tagged posts that I wrote.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Seven Ways to Enjoy Germany Like the Germans Do



Are you trying to fit into Germany and want to live life like a local? Below are some wonderful pastimes that are popular with Germans and are fun to try.


  1.  Grill party. You might see this at a park, in someone’s backyard, and if it’s allowed, even on some balconies. Germans enjoy a good grill party. Often the host has the barbeque going and guests bring their own meat and share side dishes.
  2. Volksmarching. This is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and you can even log your marches if you’d like. These happen all year; one of the most fun I’ve had was volksmarching in February in the snow.
  3. Wine festivals. Drink some delicious wines in a beautiful surrounding and listen to German music. With the easy availability of a train ride home from most locations, everyone in the party can enjoy some of the regional specialties. 
  4. Picnic in the park. Bring a bottle of wine (drinking publicly is allowed in most places), some delicious food, and a blanket to a park and enjoy a wonderful afternoon. 
  5.  Party like crazy during Fasching/Karneval/Fastnacht. No matter what it’s called in your region, the time of the year just before Lent is when Germans love to party like crazy. There are parades, dances, music, and plenty of political jokes (in German, of course). 
  6. Relax in the sauna. It’s usually clothing-free but entirely relaxing. 
  7. Christmas markets. Oh, there is nothing else like a German Christmas market! Sip some Glühwein, wander among the vendors’ stalls, and soak in the wonderful atmosphere.