Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My week: December 27 ed.

This week was a relaxed one, with no classes. I invited my tandem partner over for dinner and made what is, undoubtedly, a strange combination of things. However, I am weak in domestic skills and have a limited repertoire, so what can I say? The following items were on the menu: deviled eggs, salad, crackers with goat cheese and dried pomegranates, apple slices with pesto and balsamic garnish, and pizza bites (more like pizza pockets and homemade).

-My friends W and M kindly invited me over for a Christmas dinner. They made a delicious vegetarian lasagna (with added rosemary and thyme - lovely!) and we enjoyed some conversation, which was, even better yet, mostly in German! It was really funny when M was explaining a story and for some reason called a business proprietor an "Ownerin," even though the rest of the story was in German. That's what we get for code switching!

I'm so glad to have spent time with lovely people for Christmas. Though I'm far from my blood family, I still feel loved by my friend family.

Monday, December 28, 2015

My week: December 20 ed.

-This was the last week of German classes for a while because of the holidays. At the uni, we had a little party during the last class. Our teacher brought in Glühwein for us, which is best served hot. I was wondering how she was going to do that in our classroom. It was ingenious! She brought a "Wasserkocher," or, an electric tea kettle and used that to heat the Glühwein quickly. What a great idea.

-I visited the Rüdesheim and Bad Münster am Stein-Ebernburg Christmas markets with my friend M. We haven't hung out in since this summer so it was fun to catch up. This was my second year attending the Rüdesheim market and my third time visiting the city. I sent M on a tour of Siegfried's Mechanisches Musikkabinett and since I've already been on the tour before, I wandered through town.

After that, we headed toward Bad Münster, which is near Bad Kreuznach. We ended up making quite a few laps as we tried to find a parking spot for the Christmas market. It made me pine for taking the train! Finally we found a spot and headed over to the Kurpark, where the market was being held. Near the spa, it's a park bordered by buildings. The area was filled with booths and bordered by trees that looked like lit-up orbs with Christmas lights. It was also quite busy!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Oh Harald, how you get around

As I first ventured into the exotic land of German supermarkets, I encountered Harald Glööckler. Or, more accurately, I could say that I discovered his over-the-top image on a chocolates box. Following that, I've seen him at a pet store.

I ran into Ol' Harald again at the luggage store. He was definitely more subdued in appearance than he had been in other advertising ventures but still made a splash with his mismatched shoes (toddler couture?) and huge rings.

Oh, Harald, how you travel! He knows the way to a woman's heart: have her pack her luggage that he designed, stash some chocolates inside, and kit her pet out in style, thanks to this over the top gentleman and the products he endorses. He always fascinates me but I think it's mostly because I have Angst for his facial hair.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 Trippstadt Christmas Market Review

I visited the Romantische Waldweinacht in Trippstadt earlier in December. Hosted by the Haus der Nachhaltigkeit (House of Sustainability, which seems similar in idea to a nature center), it's probably one of my favorite Christmas markets and I gladly planned a trip C+K and their friend M. We met at the Kaiserslautern train station and hopped on the bus that was marked for Johanniskreuz, the area where the market is held. We knew that it would be utter foolishness and a load of stress to attempt to drive there because the forest roads are already narrow and there is extremely limited parking during the event.

This year, I suggested that we try to arrive earlier. In previous years, we arrived when it was dark out and didn't have as much time as we would have liked. This year, we arrived at 2:30 p.m. It was so different to be at the market during the daytime! I think that there was a different layout too, so it made my third year there a little bit disorienting. Next year I would plan to arrive and stay a bit later since it's even more magical when it's dark and the grounds are lit by campfires.

We started by sampling some organic Glühwein. I think it tastes so much better than the regular stuff and this market has plenty of it -- usually directly from the vintners themselves, and I can't bring myself to drink non-organic Glühwein any more. We bought from two separate vendors; mine was less sweet than C's serving but both were quite good.

The next order of business was to find something to eat. My plan is usually to survey all the offerings and then decide. This particular market is great for those wanting to sample regional Palatinate specialties, which are, to put it simply, pretty much meat, meat, and wine. There was even Saumagen, which is pretty much the meatiest of the meat, and what Helmut Kohl used to torment introduce visiting dignitaries to the local cuisine. K, M, and I eventually decided on Kastanienwurst, which is a sausage that has chestnuts cooked inside. C chose Feuerwurst (literally, "fire sausage") and just about set his hair on fire (figuratively) with how spicy it was. Usually German food isn't very hot but this one was crazy spicy.

There was some entertainment options too. During our visit we listened to the brass band. There was also a pony ride vendor. Well, they were miniature horses, which are even smaller than ponies are, so they are suitable for small children only.

We also browsed the goods for sale from the vendors who set up both outside and inside of the reception center. Goods are handmade and include things like wooden kitchen accessories, hand lotions, Christmas decorations, foods, photographs, jewelry, and more. One of my favorite booths was the miniature book maker. He posted sweet messages around his booth with quotes (in German) like "pictures allowed," "questions allowed," "buying allowed." The books are really neat; most are fewer than two inches big and include text (though I'm guessing it's just an excerpt of the book). Maybe I should have bought one; they were reasonably priced at 4 euros or so.
Finishing up our trip to the Christmas market, we visited the roof of the Haus and took some pictures and then waited a bit and took the next bus home. By the time we left, it had gotten dark but we were leaving before the fire dancers started. Next year, I plan to give myself about 2.5 hours to visit but will arrive later when it's closer to nightfall to both catch the entertainment and to experience the coziness of the glowing fires in the dark.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Street Food Festival in Kaiserslautern, 19-20 December

Facebook event
19 December, Saturday 12:00 - 21:00
20 December, Sunday 12:00 - 19:00

Held at: Kammgarn
Schoenstrasse 10, 67659 Kaiserslautern 
On-street and lot parking available; pay at the meter 

Get your street eats on at the BE! Street Food Weekend this weekend. Located in the courtyard of the Kammgarn cultural center, it's a collection of food trucks of cuisines around the world. Entry is free and the food's prices are reasonable for a food festival, at about 7 euros for a meal.

I saw the following available:

Portuguese baked goods, including churro-looking snacks
Pulled pork, even deer, and other BBQ
Spiral, fried potatoes
Eritrean food (including injera, a flatbread, served either with greens and lentils or with a beef option)
Currywurst, cheesewurst, regular wurst, fries
Beer stand

I ordered the vegetarian option at the Eritrean food stand. I enjoyed the greens with lentils, at 5,50 euros, served with spongy injera.

Monday, December 14, 2015

My week: December 13 ed.

After a hiatus from writing weekly updates, I'm back to it again. In November, I took a big trip to the US and had planned to catch up on writing updates from that time. I never got around to it and was feeling all retentive about not writing things in chronological order. Had I continued down that road, I'd probably never get another weekly update written because I'm getting further and further behind so I'm just biting the bullet and getting back on track.

-I had German lessons and met again with my tandem partner. I really missed all of the practice; it had been almost three weeks.

-My friends who Moosat for me while I was gone were taking some trips themselves and both separately called to see if they could come by to cuddle Moo before they left. They just adore him; how sweet is that? He was more interested in rubbing his face on their coats and bags as a memento but did assent to being squished a bit.

-In other Moo news, he's been acting a bit needy since I've gotten back. One night he threw a little Moo-party outside my bedroom door. Apparently I went to bed too early for his liking and didn't give him the attention he thought he deserved. To try to make me feel envious, he mooed, ran around, pounded on the door, and ran into it, throwing a wild party to make me wish that I had joined the fun.

The next night, he found a toilet paper tube and used it to play as a "maraca" outside my door. I wasn't horribly excited about that because I was almost asleep when I had to go snatch it from him.

The night following that, he sat outside my bedroom door and sang Christmas Moo-carols to me in the morning. He was certain that I had slept more than enough - which I did! (10.5 hours; I'm not sure why I'm so tired lately) 

Oh, and in good news: he doesn't need surgery! He had a cyst on his lip just before I left. I didn't want to stress him with surgery and recovery while I was gone so decided to wait. A week after I left it was gone. I checked back with the vet and she agreed he wouldn't need surgery. Yay!

-I ended up taking a tour of a German organization that does similar things to what I do in my job. I thought it would be a group tour so I could hide any deficiencies in understanding and speaking but I was the only one there so it ended up becoming a professional dialog with the director. It was all in German - eek! I'm glad that I didn't know ahead of time that this would happen because otherwise I would have obsessed over speaking in German with a German peer from my profession. I think I would have turned on heel and left had that been the case! I still freak out about speaking German and it's even more daunting to have to do so in a professional environment. I'm not a stupid person but I sure sound stupid when I speak German. Despite me sounding like an uneducated clod, the director was very gracious and we chatted about the differences and similarities in the way we do things at work. I even offered them some help with a certain project and the director happily accepted.

-I visited the Christmas market in Trippstadt/Johanniskreuz, which is my favorite.

-I attended a group lunch with some friends.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Some impressions from the Trippstadt Christmas Market

I'm working on a review of this year's "Romantische Waldweinacht" Christmas Market in Trippstadt. Until it's finished, I'll leave you with some impressions from our visit on Saturday.

(Note: this Christmas market continues on Sunday, 13 December, from 1000-1800. More info from the host of it is available here. Take the bus -- don't drive there because it's very congested in the area on the narrow forest roads.)

 Get your Kringelfritz on! No, seriously, if you are an enjoyer of funnel cakes, these are the German version and apparently you can even get the dough to-go to make at home if you'd like. Beware of the powdered sugar on top though; see the lady in front wiping it off her coat? She's a victim of how messy it is.
Brass band

This poor guy seems to need a bathroom. Doesn't he know that there are nice ones inside and that they even use rainwater for flushing?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Trippstadt Christmas market: organic and handmade! 12-13 December

My favorite Christmas market is this weekend!  The Haus der Nachhaltigkeit (House of Sustainability) in Trippstadt hosts its annual market on Saturday and Sunday.

To learn all about it, check out what I wrote last year.

The number one tip for attending this is: don't drive there! Take the bus. Traffic is heavy, the roads there are narrow, and parking is limited. Taking the bus is a much more relaxing experience and there are special shuttle runs arranged for that evening.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ich stimme zu! The Thanksgiving tree

I saw this sign and a tree where people were encouraged to write about something for which they are thankful.

I could have been the one who wrote the the item below (though I didn't). I feel this way too!

Monday, December 7, 2015



Oops. Gingerbread men. Really. That's what we are.

(Seen as the ASZ Wintermarkt in Kaiserslautern last weekend).

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A merry, if unrealistic, Christmas

Edeka has a cute holiday commercial:

However, I'd like to say that it's an unrealistic depiction of what shopping and waiting in line at a real German supermarket would be like. If people were actually held up in line like this, despite it being something cute, there would more likely be a line of people with their arms crossed, sighing, snarling, and unhappy. It's downright cray-cray at German supermarkets in the checkout line.

Despite that, it's still fun to watch this video.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Think before blurting

In German class we expanded our vocabulary and worked on reflexive verbs by talking about relationships.

I confused Fernbeziehung with Fernbedienung in class and blurted out that "Fernbeziehung" is a "Gerät" that one uses with the TV.


I've heard that one has to make a lot of mistakes to achieve fluency in a foreign language. Since I regularly make an ass of myself when I speak German, I should be a Profi by now. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Where to learn German in the Kaiserslautern area

So you’ve decided that you’d like to learn German as a foreign language. Now what? If you’re in the KMC, here are some options that are available. The first options are only available to military-affiliated people who have access to the posts/bases (if you don't have it already, you probably won't get it, if that makes sense) but the community options are open to everyone.

ON BASE/POST OPTIONS (only open to those with US military affiliation)

Ramstein FSS Classes: learn German from the community education center on the Ramstein Air Base. These are mostly beginners’ classes and are primarily explained in English.

USO: the USO also offers beginner’s German classes. They are mostly simple classes offered in English that describe the language and give one the basic skills needed to order at a restaurant or buy bus tickets. View the newest issue of the Kaiserslautern Kabel (the USO’s local magazine) or visit the organization’s website to find course offerings.

Army Community Services: these are offered for free on Pulaski Barracks. There are two classes offered, beginner and intermediate; the latter is more similar to an advanced beginner level. These are in English too with plenty of grammar and some speaking.


Volkshochschule: these are continuing education centers that offer a variety of classes, with everything from guitar lessons to language lessons, in the German community. Beginning through advanced German lessons are available in an immersive setting. Classes focus on grammar and speaking and are conducted in German. There are both intensive courses (every day for hours) and shorter night classes too. These classes also introduce one to German life and culture. Integration classes are available for those seeking German residency or citizenship. Courses are reasonably inexpensive. VHS Kaiserslautern:   Kreis Volkshochschule Kaiserslautern: (with classes in the suburbs surrounding Kaiserslautern)

Verein zur allgemeinen Völkerverständigung, Kultur und Bildung an der TU Kaiserslautern: the long name might give a hint that these classes are well-suited for the serious learner, and indeed, they are! They are intended to prepare foreign students at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern to take their area of study in German but outside participants are welcome too. There are evening classes and intensive classes. Each class covers one subset of a level, such as A.1. The entire class is conducted in German and focuses heavily on grammar and speaking with some writing. Classes are offered to non-TU students on a space-available basis. (I’ve always found a spot in the class).

Private schools and tutors: I haven’t taken lessons from anyone in the area in this form, but there are various options available. One of my friends took a class through a private school downtown and was pleased with the lessons. They were somewhat expensive compared to the public options; lessons were about 20 euros per hour-long session. However, those who prefer one-on-one learning may see faster results this way. Search the internet using terms such as “Deutsch als Fremdsprache” (German as a foreign language), “Sprachkurs” (language course), or “Deutsch Nachhilfe” (German tutoring) and the name of your town (or the next biggest one).

Whether a person wants to learn to speak tourist-level German or wants to learn enough to discuss the meaning of life, there are plenty of options in the Kaiserslautern Military Community.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Learning German in Kaiserslautern: one expat's journey

One of the best ways to immerse oneself in one’s new home as an expat is to learn the local language. In a previous blog entry, I talked about some of the benefits of doing so. However, one might be left with the question: where do I start? For those living in the Kaiserslautern Military Community and wishing to learn German, below are some of the options.

First of all, one must decide if she wants to jump in feet first with lessons totally in German (immersion) or start with lessons that describe the language in English. The first option offers the benefit of an environment where German takes the center stage. However, it has the downfall of being more difficult, especially when grammatical concepts are being explained. If one starts German lessons that are conducted in English, it can be a more comfortable environment where complex German grammatical constructs can be explained in a familiar language. The downfall to this approach is that one might not speak as much German in the beginning. While one will learn the grammar well, one’s speaking might not develop as quickly as it could.

I have taken lessons in both forms. I am serious about learning German and I want to be at least intermediate, if not fluent, in the language. I started German lessons through various KMC organizations. About half of the teachers were native Germans (but spouses of Americans) and spoke very clear English to explain the grammar. Of course they also used excellent German when it came time to in practice! These were what I’d call “baby” classes in which we learned the alphabet, numbers, vocabulary, and some speaking. It was a good introduction and gave a general introduction to how the language functions. Could one have a detailed conversation after taking these classes? No, but one could order at a restaurant, ask about bus tickets, etc.

I followed the beginner’s classes by enrolling at an American university to get an Associate Degree in German. During those studies, I took four classes to learn the language. My teachers were Americans and the majority of the class was again in English to explain the concepts. We did practice speaking German about half of the time. I felt that this format worked well for me since we covered some rather tricky grammar items and I learned it well; I’d say that the four classes would put one at about a B2 level, which is intermediate. However, I did not feel confident in speaking German since I didn’t take all the opportunities to practice that I could have.

After I finished my degree, I was ready to immerse myself in the language and take lessons in the local German community. I took classes both from the Volkshochschule (which is similar to a community education center) and from an association at the Technical University in Kaiserslautern.

At the Volkshochschule, I was in a class with other adults who are foreign. Most of the students were either spouses of someone who works in Germany or were employees themselves. I had a variety of teachers and all of them were native Germans. The entire class was in German but once in a while the teacher would answer a question in English (though I tried to avoid that since the focus is definitely German). I started taking lessons at the A2 level (advanced beginner) and was initially worried about handling such an influx of German. Since I already had a good foundation, I did fine once I acclimated to having to translate so much German. I do feel that the course content runs very slowly though.

In addition to Volkshochschule classes, I started classes offered by the association for cultural understanding at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern. These classes are intended for foreign students at the university so they can prepare to take their subject area courses conducted in German at the university. Community members who have no affiliation to the university can take the classes too, provided there is space (which hasn’t been an issue for me so far).

I have found these lessons to be extremely useful. The entire class is conducted in German; in fact, my intermediate-level teacher told us she speaks no English! I think she actually does, but she was passionate about us learning the language and if we didn’t understand something, she’d use simpler German words to get us back on track instead of taking the easy route and using English. The focus of these classes is grammar and lots of speaking. It paid off; in one semester, my ability to speak German improved exponentially.

With all of these experiences, I felt that I learned the most from the American university classes and the German university association classes. I am most interested in the phonics approach and I’m one of those strange ducks who wants to learn the grammar and learn it well so I sound reasonably educated when I speak a foreign language. I found what I was looking for in the university environment. The less-intense beginner classes from the military community and the Volkshochschule classes have been helpful too. They are a great start for someone wanting to gain some basic German skills for travel and parts of everyday life. From there, the keen learner can progress to more advanced levels at other organizations.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Friday, November 20, 2015

My week: November 8 ed.

This week, my schedule returned to being super busy again. The German class at the uni began. I noticed that our teacher held a doctorate degree so I resigned myself to the idea that we might be stuck in "siezen," which means using the formal manner of address and I'd have to call her Frau Doktor Sowieso or something like that. For language classes, I don't feel that aids communication; it creates such a formal environment and students might not feel so free to speak.

I was very relieved when she asked us if we wanted siezen or duzen (the informal version). Everyone immediately chose the latter. Yay!

It was also a welcome reunion with one of the classmates I've known from two other uni classes. I also ran into two women from one of the social groups where I spend time. It's a small world, especially at the uni!

This is the first uni class where I've felt confident at the beginning. I'm not doing so much translating in my head; instead, I'm spending more time where I'm listening/thinking in German. With the previous classes, I had moments of panic while trying to understand the teacher. I do still get stuck without the vocabulary to express some more complex ideas in class but for most situations, I can say what I want to.

-My German tandem partner and I met up for dinner. The restaurant we wanted to visit was closed so we went to an Asian restaurant instead. The experience was a bit nuts. The staff working there didn't exactly speak English nor did they exactly speak German so we encountered a lot of misunderstandings as a result.

My friend asked for tea without sugar. Instead, she received tea with sugar so my friend told the waitress the tea was wrong. The waitress didn't believe her! To make the situation even more absurd, the waitress wanted to test the tea herself to see if there was sugar in it. This was after my friend had already drank some. I think my eyes just about bugged out of my head and my friend corroborated this later; she said that the shocked look on my face was hilarious.

My friend allowed the waitress to test the tea and grudgingly, the waitress agreed that there was sugar in the tea and agreed to bring a new one. All of this was for a two euro cup of tea. Of course I was in shock because what waitress in America would do such a thing -- she'd just bring a new tea and not demand to taste it to see if the customer was lying! Oh, Germany, sometimes you take the cake. Yes, the waitress is not from Germany originally, but I've seen German wait staff act as if the customer is always wrong too.

-I took Moo to the vet because he has a cyst on his lip and a fatty tumor on his hind leg. The vet will operate to remove both. He had a tumor on a different part of the same leg removed last year. I joke that he doesn't think that I spend enough money on him so he grows these tumors to give the vet some business. I hope the surgery takes care of everything.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Oh, the irony

This juxtaposition is very humorous. Sign #1: "Warm Welcome." Sign #2: Entering the grounds is forbidden.

Seen near the Mehlinger Heide.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hiking in the Pfälzerwald: Weidenthal and Schwarzsohl

Waldhaus Schwarzsohl
Schwarzsohl, K38, 67475 Weidenthal
Situated between Kaiserslautern and Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, the paths near Weidenthal offer some easy day hiking through the Pfälzerwald. In addition, the Waldhaus Schwarzsohl offers forest enthusiasts an opportunity to grab something to eat and drink, rest, and park -- whether it's a car, a bike, or a horse! With beginner-friendly trails and a comfort station, this area allows one to hike without making many preparations.

Some friends and I took a day trip to the area. The hardest thing about the trip was finding the place - but once I knew a key piece of information, it was very easy to find. 

When driving from Kaiserslautern:
-Take B37 east;
-In Frankenstein, head south on B39 (staying to the right);
-In Weidenthal, turn right on Langentalstraße (the Evangelical Church is on the corner);
-Follow this road for 3.5 miles and Schwarzsohl will be on the right.

Parking is available at Waldhaus ("forest house") Schwarzsohl. In fact, the restaurant's website gleefully announces that there is room to park cars, bikes, and even horses on the property! There is a covered pavilion area for the latter two modes of transportation. 

Trails radiate from Schwarzsohl. Our group crossed the road to wide, well-maintained gravel paths. There were plenty of markers and some signs as well. The terrain made for an easy hike with gradual ascents; it's a suitable trip for beginners. It is important to pay attention to the path markers since there are so many converging.

After the hike, join the mountain bikers, hikers, and families at the Schwarsohl. It's a small restaurant that offers seasonal main dishes, regional fare, drinks (including beer, wine, and soft drinks), cakes, and light snacks. Most of the seating is outside, whether in the Biergarten area, under the pavilion, or on the front porch. Children can play on the playground located near the seating area. Those wanting to warm up after a chilly hike can find limited seating in the heated building.

We entered the ordering area by turning left in the foyer. Staff gave us a beeper and our food was ready quickly. To pick it up, we entered the door on the right of the foyer. Give your empty dishes back in the center.

Easy hiking, regional specialties, and a short drive (half an hour) make a day trip to Weidenthal and Schwarzsohl an attractive destination for a day out in the forest.

Waldhaus Schwarzsohl

Trails abound!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Where Easter eggs come from least according to German artists. I saw this at a store in Leipzig.

Seems legit.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Moo is always helpful

Moo the Cat's sense of helpfulness cannot be overrated.

After all, he always wants to keep me company. When I write, he provides purry, happy support by cuddling up next to, or on, me. In this case, he laid on my legs to give me fodder for blogging. Isn't he sweet?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

My week: November 1 ed.

This is my last week of "freedom" before my university German classes start again. It was also still the holiday for my Volkshochschule class so I did some lazing around. Next week will start an intense schedule as I will work on learning German four nights a week after work. I did this last year and was stressed. It's a good thing I was able to laze around a bit in advance of this!

-I had my regular meeting with my tandem partner. My brain is broken because I said "sheeps." Dangnabbit. I've been hanging around with Indians too much (not that my tandem partner is Indian). The funny thing is that I was on a roadtrip once with two Indian friends and they said, "oh, look at those cute sheeps!" and I was like, hehehe, that's cute! They were not so happy with their Indian teachers back home who told them that sheeps is the correct plural use. I have no idea why I said sheeps when I was speaking with my tandem partner, other than I think my brain was revolting against bilingualism. Naughty brain.

-We've been having a ton of teleconferences with our US HQ at work lately. With an upcoming worldwide database merger and software upgrade, we have more than enough to work on -- in addition to our daily workload. I am very happy to be working more closely with the other office; I think it's silly to duplicate work where it's not needed and our collaboration is reducing that and is improving customer service too. The other really cool thing is that I've coordinated a vendor visit for training at multiple locations and I've invited some of our colleagues from another Service to attend. They were thrilled and the vendor was, too; she'll be able to reach more of our overseas staff. I'm a nerd and enjoy making connections for people, especially ones that help them learn.

-A friend stopped by one evening. She still had on her "clothes" from work, where they had dressed up for Halloween. I have nosy neighbors who are always looking out the the windows and I'm sure they got quite an eyeful of someone wearing a wet suit and ski mask visiting my house. Heck, I'm not quite sure what she was supposed to be, myself, but dug the weirdness.

-For Halloween, I didn't do anything other than eat some candy. I didn't feel like rustling up something to do or to wear. I regret nothing.

-My friends C and K from Neustadt invited me to go hiking. I had some reservations because several weeks ago, my foot was hurting which in turn caused my back to ache. Once that improved, my asthma kicked in so I haven't been in rare form lately. Since C and K were fine with potentially keeping a slower pace I met them at Schwartzsohl, a Waldhaus in Weidenthal. It's a place to park, grab something to eat and drink, use the restroom, and start one's hike along the forest trails.

Though the day started out foggy, by noon it cleared up and we were even treated to some sunlight streaming through the forest. The trees were lit up in beautiful fall yellows and oranges, glowing in the crisp air. I love this time of the year; I'd much rather bundle up a bit than deal with heat.

I was happy to keep a decent pace. Neither my foot, back, or breathing decided to revolt; instead, I was able to enjoy the company of C and K. We haven't hung out since this summer and were happy to meet up again to catch up.

After a five mile hike, we circled back to Schwartzsohl for lunch. C had homemade pea soup and C and I ordered Knödel (a dumpling) with chestnuts, meat (pork? not sure), and a gravy with mushrooms. Normally this isn't my kind of food since I don't like stewy or gravy dishes, nor meat so much either. C tried some and felt that it had too much of "gingerbread spices" for his liking. The dish is mostly savory but indeed had a touch of nutmeg and something else. It wasn't too overpowering but I prefer not to have it in savory things. (When I make Spätzle, I never add nutmeg.) It tasted decent enough after hiking though. After finishing our meals, we parted, with some plans to meet up again soon.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Veggie Clubhouse burger: McDonald's and quinoa?

I heard something on the radio this summer that gave me pause: there was an ad for McDonald's that mentioned something about a quinoa burger. While I don't like McDonald's except for the occasional McMuffin if I'm desperate for a breakfast on the run, I was curious about this burger. I'm not into fast food but if I could find something that tasted decent and was vegetarian, it could be an option if I'm on the run.

I finally tried the burger. It's presented on a toasted bun with cheese, tomato, onion, lettuce, and a sauce (which might be what they put on Big Macs but I'm not sure since I haven't had one in more than 20 years). The patty itself has quinoa, bell peppers, onions, and leeks all ground up.

It was reasonably crisp, which I think is because it seems fried. It was okay but I'm not super into fried foods and knew it would equal heartburn later as it seemed rather greasy. As far as flavor goes, it definitely had that salty-greasy, rich thing going on, which is what registered the most after the bun and toppings. However, if I had to eat a non-breakfast meal at McDonald's, I could order this again if I wanted to deal with the greasy aspect of it.

Obviously this post is not sponsored, just to be clear. I'm not sure that the company would pay someone to say that she would buy the burger if there weren't any other options ;)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

No one will take a Shine to this roadside candy machine

I came across this roadside candy machine in Leipzig. A few things stuck out: first of all, it was blue.

Second of all, like many things in Leipzig, it's been tagged with graffiti. I saw "redröm" tagged on it. I had a suspicion that it was the German take on "red rum," and I think it is, as "Mörder" if it's reversed.

Sometimes I think I'd love to see security footage to find out what roadside candy machines go through. (Although, having seen some of them looking really jacked up, I'm then  not so sure that I would want to know!)

Interesting juxtaposition with the poster in the window too!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

My week: October 25 ed.

The workweek was rather normal with my usual meeting with my tandem partner. I did have plans to go out on Friday night but wasn't feeling well so had to cancel.

On the weekend, our group of friends had a dinner. I just love these gatherings; usually it's mostly familiar faces with some new ones too. I'm sure that the new people are always wondering what on earth is going on as a string of people come up to me and rub their elbows with mine. It's our weird version of a side hug (yes, I pulled it from the one and only episode of the Duggars that I watched and no, we don't have creepy beliefs that state we can't do regular hugs, though I'd prefer no hugs at all).

Monday, October 26, 2015

Is the Leipzig Card worth buying?

Some cities offer special discount cards for tourists. The cards often offer transportation on the local bus, tram, and subway system, in addition to discounts and free admissions to local museums and attractions. When I visited Leipzig, I made the decision to buy the Leipzig Card because I thought it might be worth it from a cost-saving perspective. Was I right? Is it cost-effective to buy the Leipzig Card?

Let's look at my thought processes for buying it. My trip to Leipzig was from Friday-Monday. I planned to visit some museums and take public transport. I usually buy a day pass for public transport since it works out to be cheaper than buying individual tickets for most of my wanderings. For example, the day ticket was 6,90 euro, whereas individual tickets are 1,80. It would only take four trips to make it worth it for a day card. Four trips would really be two roundtrips.

The Leipzig Card is 10,90 for a one day or for 21,90 for three days and includes public transport and discounts on museums, stores, etc. It also includes free entrances to some attractions, though this is limited. Since my visit was 3 days and it averaged out to 7,30 a day, I thought that it would be worth to get the card.

However, upon tying up the trip, I had to re-evaluate that. I didn't realize how compact the main sights are within Leipzig. I stayed mostly in the center of the city, pinpointed on the map as Markt. In that vicinity are many museums, stores, restaurants, etc. My hostel was right in the area so I didn't need transportation to that either. I found several free museums that took up a lot of my time. I also could have used very little, if any, public transportation. In order to try to get my value out of the ticket, I did take some tram rides to see the city but I could've walked.

I used the card to get a discount at the fine arts museum (I think 2 euros discount) and on a bus/walking tour (4 euros). I only heavily used the travel portion on one day. My take is this: I don't think it was money totally down the drain but had I realized how easy it was to see most of the sights in a compact area, I probably wouldn't have bought the card. For those considering it, it would be wise to figure out how far everything you want to see it and if the discounts are worth it to justify buying the card. For a short visit, it might worth it just to walk and visit free museums.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My week: October 18 ed.

The previous week spilled into this week some, as Monday was a federal holiday and I was finishing up my trip to Leipzig. On the way home, my train had a delay and I missed my connection at Fulda. Instead, I stayed on the train and transferred at Frankfurt. Strangely enough, I think I ended up taking the same exact last train that I would have anyway and got home at the expected time. Crazy how that works out, huh?

On Friday, K invited me to a Tim Fischer concert. Neither of us had any idea of who he was; I said yes immediately because I could figure out who he was at the concert ;) I'm open to new experiences and this turned out to be a cabaret performance at the Fruchthalle in downtown Kaiserslautern.

It was an opportunity to practice listening to German, especially as songs. I don't have a lot of experience in that and it was definitely tested because Fischer effected regional dialects for many songs.

Sunday saw an invite from my friends D and S for dinner. They made a delicious salad and a cabbage/pumpkin casserole. I don't know if this is a trait of the German people, but many folks that I've met make some dang good homemade salad dressing. My tandem partner does, too. Usually it's some sort of mix of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, some sort of mustard, etc. I'm glad for this experience because it makes me realize that it's not hard to make some dressings from scratch and from ingredients that aren't difficult to keep on hand.

We finished our visit with a walk. I think D would have preferred our customary walk through the woods, but my foot was hurting me (it is probably plantar fasciitis) so I suggested a shorter walk downtown. We encountered a special Sunday open day for shopping. Normally stores are closed Sundays so people flock downtown to shop on the open day. We perused some stores and parted ways. It was a peaceful end to the week.

Monday, October 19, 2015

My week: October 11 ed.

Man, I've been bad about writing these weekly wrap-ups (not that they're all that exciting, but they work as a nice means of remembrance for myself). I haven't been so great about writing regularly in the blog, either. I don't know that this situation will improve since my second German class is starting soon and there are many projects occurring at work right now. At least I won't get bored, though I do have the firm belief that if you're bored, you're boring ;)

-I had a meeting with my tandem partner and attended the VHS class. In the VHS class, it's really become more of a review of B1 (so I guess it's similar to what the VHS calls B1+). While I would like to focus more on conversation, I'm also happy enough with reviewing grammar since that's always needed. I like listening to the teacher talk; he has a very calm, reassuring way of speaking and a nice cadence.

-Since it was a three-day holiday weekend, I decided somewhat last minute to take a trip to Leipzig. It had been on my mental list (which, for the record, has no rhyme or reason) of places I'd like to visit. My main travel partner C had moved back to the US so this trip I went by myself since it was so last-minute. I lucked out, however, and bought some Sparpreis train tickets for 26 euros each way (with seat reservation) after BahnCard discount. It can be difficult to find train tickets at a good price if one doesn't book early (up to 30 days in advance) or super late, such as several days before with L'tur. The problem with the latter option is that cheap tickets aren't always available so soon before departure.

I also booked a hostel through but realized that if I had booked directly with the hostel, I would have gotten a better rate. The frustrating thing is that one must call the hostel though. I don't enjoy doing this; I'd prefer to do everything online. The hostel has a website but the booking capabilities are limited and the website directed me to call since not all of their available rooms were listed online (why?!).

I had found another hostel with good rates and I tried calling at 10 p.m. since I figured it would be a quieter time to inquire about reservations. Well, the woman couldn't help me because there was only one person on staff at the time. Argh! That certainly didn't help with my frustration and dislike of having to call places instead of being able to book instantly through the hostel's website.

I left for the trip on the Friday night after work. It's about a 5-6 hour high speed train ride to the city and I got in really late. However, the party at the club next door to my hostel was ready and waiting for me! I could have even arrived at 4 a.m. and they would have had the music booming. Sigh. It was so loud that I could still hear it in my room when I had my earplugs in, but at least it was mostly muffled.

That's how I learned that Leipzig doesn't have a set closing time for its clubs and restaurants. Usually, it's 10 p.m. or 12 a.m. in many other cities. I think I'm getting old because I was wishing for a closing time. To be fair, I also don't expect to get a great night's sleep if I'm at a hostel.

I might write more about the weekend later, but to sum up the rest of it: I wandered around town and admired the architecture; took a walking/bus tour; visited museums; did some window shopping; and took the time to do whatever the heck I wanted to do. While I usually prefer to travel with a friend, it was also a positive experience for me to enjoy my own company and set my own schedule.