Monday, June 30, 2014

More on Germans, socks, and sandals

My friend (who is not German) told me that she also heard that one is encouraged to wear socks with Birkenstock sandals (and others, I would assume) in order to maintain the footbed of the sandal and make it last longer.

To that I say: no! Befreien die Füße! Keine Socken!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A hairy bro in Mannheim

Bro, what's up?
I saw this dude in Mannheim during the Maimarkt. Pretty cool, huh?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

What is in a name?

My last name is most undeniably from a certain country in Europe. It's so distinct that every time people hear it (even though I don't pronounce it the way it would be said in its country of origin), people always say, oh, so your family is from....?

The funny thing is that the heritage on that side of the family is so watered down that no, I really don't have many ties to that nationality. That side of the family has been out of that country for something like 300 years, but we have that distinctive last name.

If anything, the nationality I feel a closer affinity with is the Dutch, since that's where my grandparents originated. Alas, I can't get the guttural sounds out to say such fun things like "gezellig" (which is my non-Dutch heritage father's favorite Dutch word, I think -- he loves to use it to say that something is cozy). However, since I've been learning German, I can read a bit of Dutch, so there's always that.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Stubby saint in Worms

Saarbrücken has the monkey-looking caged saint, and Worms has a stubby saint. What gives?

Rarr! I haz the T-rex arms!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

American Groceries I'd Miss

I currently have the ability to buy American groceries and products at retail prices in the vicinity where I live. I am lucky to have such a privilege, for sure. If I didn't have access to these products, I could certainly make do, and in many cases, find more delicious and inexpensive gourmet-type food on the German economy.

There are definitely some things that I would miss if I couldn't buy them at American prices. The top of my list is the following:

Baking soda available the American food section at a German store
 No, not the Crisco! I'm talking about baking soda. I love that stuff, and not just for baking; in my house, it gets used more often for cleaning! I sprinkle some of it and some vinegar in household drains not only to create a nifty science experiment but also to help clean, sanitize, and deodorize them. I also sprinkle some on the bottom of Moo's litter box after I've washed it to help neutralize odors.

I haven't found inexpensive, big boxes of this in the German stores but I can buy a decently sized box at the commissary. For my extensive use of it, I do really miss being able to buy the really huge boxes for practically nothing at the warehouse stores in the US.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A caged saint in Saarbrücken

Poor saint is caged in Saarbrücken. However, I'm not entirely sure that he's not a monkey (look at his face and tell me that doesn't look like a monkey) so maybe that's the reason for the cage.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Straight from the German's mouth: on feet and sandals

It is not uncommon to see German folks (usually men) wearing sandals with socks. In fact, it's even possible to receive, as a gift with purchase of sandals, special socks to wear with sandals (as I wrote about here). I think it looks really, really silly. After all, if one's feet are cold enough to need socks, then why not just wear regular shoes?

I actually was able to speak to a real, live German* and he shared his thoughts about this. He thinks that wearing socks with sandals makes sense because one can air his feet out yet keep them warm too.** So, there you have it: some reasoning from a German male regarding this practice.

*I am being silly here, in case that wasn't obvious.
**I teased him and told him that wasn't a good enough reason and it still looks goofy.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Visiting Cora Supermarket in Sarreguemines, France

It's almost like an expat rite of passage in this area: many a Kaiserslautern-area immigrant eventually finds herself making her way to Cora, a supermarket chain in France. Some might say that it's just a supermarket.

To that I say: it is a supermarket, with many "exotic" things. They're especially exotic since the offerings are different from what we have in Germany.

I visited the Sarreguemines store, but there's also one in Forbach too. They are about the same amount of time for me to reach. When I first entered the store, I was struck by just how pungent it was, even though I was incredibly congested from allergies. It was also rather warm with stale air, which didn't help the smell, which was probably from the seafood section. I was quite thankful that I was as congested as I was! I'm not sure if the store always smells like that but it was strong.

Despite the "aroma," I enjoyed looking at the store, which was quite busy. The store reminds me of something similar to a Super WalMart in that they had some inexpensive merchandise like cheap clothes and shoes. There is a more gourmet side to the store, though, and the grocery section is huge with something for everyone.

Want some "American" cookies that have French and Flemish writing on them? Or how about TexMex fixins'? How about something really French, like the snails below? (I'll be honest: I had a hard time taking a picture and looking at them, especially considering that I don't like meat. What the heck is the green stuff in them? Eek, don't answer that!)

I wandered around the grocery aisles, searching for something interesting and tasty to buy. It was a bit overwhelming to try to make out the French and Flemish; German had been on my mind so much. I put aside my confusion and started shopping.

Here are the things I bought:
-French hot chocolate,
-macarons (they were okay, but weren't as good as those fresh from a bakery),
-some mini frozen quiches (delicious and probably not remotely healthful); and
-some chestnut paste/spread stuff in a tube (I mostly bought it because I thought that the mascot, a dude made out of chestnuts, was adorable -- not really a good reason, I know, and I have no idea what to do with it).

I saw the baguette bag. How cute is that? I didn't buy one since I usually don't buy bread, but it would be great for someone who does!

Bread bag: a love of bread (or something close to that)
 I was ready to pay and leave. Whew, it was one last test! There are different lines based on how one is paying (as far as I could tell). For example, I think that one line was by Cora card only. It seemed as if finding the correct line to checkout and pay is almost as complicated as it is to sort one's trash/recycling in Germany! I lucked out and chose the correct line, trying to avoid speaking as much as possible, managing only to say "merci" as I took the receipt and my bags. It was a fun visit with some tasty French things to try, sans snails, of course!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

I saw Bigfoot!

Seriously, I did! He was hidden within Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg.*

*Are you sick of hearing about that place? You shouldn't be, because it's DANG AWESOME.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

I done lost my mind

Corn shows up all over the place in Germany; one might even say in some places where it doesn't belong, depending on one's cultural background. I see it on pizza and that has always given me pause, not to mention the egg that makes its appearance too.

However, here's one more way that I'm on my way to getting Germanized: one night, as I was making pizza, I opened the freezer and the idea popped into my head to take out some corn to put on the pizza. Then I woke up and hastily shut the freezer door. I'm not that assimilated yet that I'd willingly eat corn that way.

Friday, June 20, 2014


I had an awkward and funny experience that highlights this:

if inviting someone to a sekt party, be sure to enunciate! Or, better yet, use the Italian name (prosecco), the Spanish name (cava), or just call it plain ol' sparkling wine*.

*Yes, I'm sure there are probably differences among the different types of sparkling wines, but invitees will get the drift.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Car towing: Wiesbaden vs. Minitaur Wunderland

When I went to my first Fasching parade in Wiesbaden, I enjoyed a little bit of Schadenfreude when I saw that some ding-dong who had parked in a no parking zone got towed. I was also super excited to see the tow truck because I had never before seen a tow truck that actually picks up the truck (link to that blog entry here)!

Miniatur Wunderland also has a car being towed. Push the button on the display and the car is lifted, just like in real life. It was nifty to watch.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Miniatur Wunderland is warped

Man, did I ever love our visit to Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg! I seriously can't wait to go back, which is strange for me because I'm so not into model trains and the like. I will definitely look for more of the hidden jokes within the exhibit. Some of them are quite naughty! I won't include some of the really naughty ones, but below are a few that I wouldn't exactly share with small children.

This guy left the stau (traffic jam) to relieve himself.

Crazy office party...the kind likely to get one fired!
Yeah, this is totally warped.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Strawberry Sellers of Hamburg

I love spring time in Germany. Okay, to be honest, I like every time in Germany, but spring time is especially lovely! In addition to the lovely weather and more buoyant moods of everyone, there are other fun things to anticipate.

For example, it's time for the return of some lovely local produce. Spargel and strawberries are for sale in full force. Even better yet? Little strawberry huts pop up! It's so fun to buy strawberries from someone who's sitting in a giant strawberry. (Oh lawdy, I wish they sold everything in huts shaped like what they were selling. How dang fun would that be?)

Hamburg was no exception; check out the cute strawberry hut we saw in the Schulterblatt neighborhood:

I was even more delighted when I saw something similar, reproduced in a small scale, at Minitaur Wunderland:

Monday, June 16, 2014

A trip to Hamburg: Day 3, Part 2

After our delicious lunch at Teheran, we finished our Hamburg trip with a visit to the Hamburger Kunsthalle, which was an extensive collection of art. One of our main interests was the special exhibition called "Feuerbach's Muses -- Lagerfeld's Models," a juxtoposition of the 19th century German classicist painter and Karl Lagerfeld, a fashion designer and photographer who portrayed the story of Daphnis and Chloe.

Here's my thoughts on Feuerbach: he liked to paint tons and tons of paintings of his mistress, Nanna, with her head turned. Lagerfeld's photos look like a fashion shoot (which is not surprising). His model, Baptiste Giabiconi, who is deliciously handsome, cannot sit on a horse properly to save his life. I can't help it; I'm an equestrienne and it kills me to see such poor equitation, even though it has nothing to do with the art exhibition.

And, uh, yeah, we also saw a guy doing parkour* outside the museum.

You get on with yo' fancy self!
We wrapped our museum trip up then headed to the Hauptbahnhof, which was conveniently very close, to return home. I loved our visit to Hamburg and hope to go back again soon-ish. Every German I've talked to about it (granted, it's a small group) loves it there and I did too. It has a bit of the fun and funkiness of Berlin; a little bit of the old stately glamor of Wiesbaden; the bustling atmosphere of a port city; and the natural beauty afforded by the lovely parks.

*I call it "fancy walking." Yes, I know it's so much more than that, but that's what I like to call it.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Restaurant Review: Teheran, Hamburg


Adenauerallee 70, 20097 Hamburg

After our visit to the Kunst und Gerwebe Museum, we were ready for lunch. We were on our way to one restaurant when we came across Teheran, a Persian restaurant close to the main train station. We took a look at the menu and decided to give it a try. It was a great choice!

C. and I sat in the patio behind the building. It was a lovely area, surrounded by greenery and reasonably quiet despite its proximity to the main train station.

We deliberated over the menu. Even though the vegetarian section wasn't huge (there were four main course options), I had a hard time deciding. I finally settled on kaschke bademjan, a delicious dish of roasted eggplant, layered with a creamy whey sauce, caramelized onions, fried herbs, and possibly some goat cheese. Oh, were the complex tastes wonderful! There was a slight bit of smokiness from the eggplants, combined with tanginess of the cheese.

Kaschke bademjan: nom nom!

C. ordered the chicken kabob (#64), grilled in saffron and lemon. She said it was citrusy and delicious. It was served with a salad and the dressing tasted similar to 1000 Island.

Chicken kabob
 We were also given an appetizer as part of the meal. It was flat bread, a huge pile of fresh herbs, some goat cheese, radishes, and some onion slices. It was very refreshing to eat flat bread with the herbs, which included mint and parsley.

Our dining experience was very pleasant. Prices were fine; my dish was 8,50 and C's was 11,50. Service was fast, the food delicious, and the outdoor patio was lovely. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A trip to Hamburg: Day 3, Part 1

On our third day in Hamburg, we planned to see a few museums before our trip back home. The first museum we visited was the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe (Museum for Art and Industry), conveniently near the Hauptbahnhof.

I feel that the museum is not necessarily a must-see, but we still enjoyed it. Some of the pieces seemed so mundane and everyday, but perhaps that's just because they were from within our lifetime or just before it. For example, a Nizza bathroom from the 1972 Munich Olympics was on display. Who thought that a plastic potty would be in a museum?

A special exhibit really made our trip, though; it's called Small Worlds and it's a collection of miniatures made by Willard Wigan, a British sculptor who uses materials like carpet fibers and paintbrushes made from his eyelashes (more about him here). His sculptures are completely amazing: they fit within the eye of a needle as he was influenced by the Biblical quote “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven."

During our visit, we entered the exhibit, which is in two small rooms with rows of microscopes to view the sewing needles and the sculptures within their eyes. We were completely blown away by the intricacy of his work; he had created everything from the Last Supper to camels.

I was incited to a fit of giggles when I read about his techniques. The first part is serious: he has to control his breathing and heartbeat to be able to work with such small sculpture; pieces can literally be breathed in if he's not careful. Poor Little Red Riding Hood met that fate as a misplaced breath sucked her in. I couldn't help it; I laughed about that one. After all, how many artists accidentally eat their sculptures?

It was a fantastic exhibit and a high point to our visit at that museum. Our next two stops were lunch and another museum. More to follow...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Yet another reason the love locks are a bad idea

You know those obnoxious locks that litter bridges, as a supposed sign of people's love? I wrote a bit of a rant about them here.

Here is one more reason they are a bad idea: they just caused part of a railing on a Paris bridge to collapse. Read more here.

They also damage the bridges, causing them to rust faster. People need to start thinking about the consequences of their actions. If they feel some sort of need to make a spectacle of their affection, how about doing something productive? For example, when an organization is trying to raise funds, it will often sell engraved bricks. Buy one of those. Don't put other people at risk because of your actions.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Restaurant review: Sahha, Hamburg

Sahha Syrische Küche
Hauptbahnhof 16
20095 Hamburg

After our visit to Miniatur Wunderland, we were a bit hungry, but it was late. We decided to take our chances at the Hamburg Hauptbahnhof for dinner. It ended up being a great decision! The Hbf has a great selection of restaurants, with everything from a Syrian restaurant to gut-rotting fast food.

We chose the Syrian restaurant and it was a fantastic choice. Since it was late, the first two things I tried to order weren't available. I ended up getting a plate with grilled vegetables and rice topped with grilled eggplant. It also included a yogurt sauce.

Oh my goodness, was it ever delicious! The chef cooked up it fresh before my eyes, and tossed some spices into it. I have no idea what they were but they really made the dish. Everything was just perfect, from the fresh veggies to the smoky taste of the grilled eggplant mixed with the sliced almonds. At only 7 euros, it was a delicious, inexpensive, and filling dinner.

C. ordered some grilled chicken and thoroughly enjoyed that too. We highly recommend the restaurant. mouth is watering right now, just thinking about it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hamburg Day 2: Miniatur Wunderland

Miniatur Wunderland (website)
Kehrwieder 4, 20457 Hamburg

At the end of day 2 in Hamburg, we were to make the visit that I was most excited about for the trip: Miniatur Wunderland! According to their website, it's "the largest model railway in the world, and one of the most successful permanent exhibitions in Northern Germany."

I have read many other bloggers' posts about this place. At first, I was not moved to action. I'm not really into model trains or anything like that. However, the response to M.W. was so positive in the blogs that I found myself getting excited about visiting it! In fact, wanting to see it was one of the main reasons I chose Hamburg for our mini vacation.

Having read other blogs, I knew some hints for visiting Miniatur Wunderland, such as booking tickets ahead of time and going at an odd time. Our appointment was at 7 p.m. and we were there for almost three hours! I had no idea that the exhibition would draw me in so much. Three hours wasn't enough time to see everything, but it was a start and we found many hidden secrets, jokes, and naughty things in the exhibition.

Even though the place really caters to kids, adults will find plenty of interesting things to look at (and be surprised at some of the naughty surprises inside). Also, the exhibit is constantly evolving. For example, a section for Italy is in development. When we visited, we saw temporary displays with videos about the various political parties in Germany. These were just informational, not meant as propaganda, but there were certainly many jokes in the displays!

It's definitely worth a trip and I can't wait to go back and see what other little things are hidden.

One of the tamer jokes - a guy taking a break from a traffic jam.
There's even a model of Miniatur Wunderland itself!

This is a model of the Elbphilharmonie, which will be Hamburg's new opera house. I wasn't impressed by the real thing in the construction phase, but now that I can see what the final plan is, I find it very striking.
Push a button and it plays music and slowly opens.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A trip to Hamburg: Day 2

On our second day, we had a leisurely wake-up and enjoyed the breakfast buffet at our hotel/hostel. As part of the Ameropa deal, breakfast was included. Otherwise, it's 6 or or 7 euros.

After eating, we headed out to the Goldbekmarkt (UBahn stop Borgweg), a weekly market in the Winterhude district. Oh my goodness, was it ever lovely! The neighborhood is fantastic, filled with trees, a beautiful canal lined with Schrebergärten (allotment gardens for residents), and just a wonderful vibe.

The market is on the right, behind the canal. Isn't it a beautiful area?
Our next stop was St. Nikolai Church memorial. It was bombed during the war and only the spire remains, which is constantly covered in scaffolding, it seems. For 4 euros (we had the Hamburg Card discount), we took an elevator to a viewing deck on the spire. The views were impeded by scaffolding but we still got a look at the town. The documentation was interesting; it mentioned how Hamburg had been firebombed during WWII and that more people died there than those who did in Dresden.We also visited the museum, below the memorial. It was well done, a thoughtful documentation of life during and after the War.
Inside the museum.

Part of the memorial, the remains of the church.
After that somber experience, our mood was lightened by a strange sight: this car had no driver's side door! It was so strange and didn't look like a legal way to drive.

Recovering from that odd sight, we visited the Reeperbahn (which means "ropewalk," or area where ropes were made) in the St. Pauli district. Basically, it reminds me of Las Vegas and is the party area, red light district, and nightlife area all rolled into one. It wasn't really my thing.

Part of the district. Very Vegas-y.

I was a bit amused by their customized ATM sign.
We moved on to a neighborhood that I did love: the Schulterblatt ("shoulder blade"). It is a hip, creative, and crafty area that reminds me of the Friedrichshain area of Berlin or the Neustadt are in Dresden. We stopped by Herr Max for a sweet treat. I had a berry muffin with chocolate ganache topping. It was a disappointment, unfortunately; the muffin was super dense and a bit dry and the topping was just too sweet. I loved the vibe of the bakery though; it was super, super cute with a kitschy theme of Dia De Los Muertos skulls. I have a friend in the US who loves making sugar skulls so I was very fondly reminded of her during the visit.

Even the dishes on the wall on the left side have skulls painted on them!
We were quite tired after all of our gallivanting so we returned to the hotel for a nap before the highlight of the trip: the visit to Miniatur Wunderland. That will get its own entry as it was quite the experience! More to come...