Needed Self-Care

Wow. There’s not much else I can say besides that. It’s been almost a year since I last posted. I can honestly say that wasn’t my intention when I stopped posting. However, I can say that last spring was rather busy. I was finishing my Master’s (which is done! Woot!) and preparing to return to the states for my graduation ceremony. I was also trying to start the official job hunt for jobs. Something had to give, right?

That’s where this blog comes in. I had to take a step back from the things that added stress, even if it was miniscule. I hate that I haven’t posted in so long! I’ve missed writing about our travels, which have slowed down, and having an opportunity to share things that we’ve learned as we’ve gone. But, as I said, it was necessary for me to take a step back as there were other things that I struggled with that I think I need to speak out about.

While I know that I am lucky to have the opportunity to live overseas in Germany and explore Europe, it isn’t all sunshine and daisies. As exciting as it is to have this opportunity, it can also be isolating and include a hard adjustment. Before coming to Germany, I spent all of my years living in North Carolina in a fairly small radius of where I grew up. I love North Carolina. It’s fairly warm year round and I lived close to the beach. We were close enough to other things in larger cities that I didn’t think I was missing out on anything. A major plus: my family was close by.

I’ve never considered myself a social butterfly, but I’ve come to realize I might be more of one that I thought. Uprooting myself from my hometown and coming somewhere I don’t know anyone and don’t speak the language was majorly difficult. The anxiety I felt (and still feel) was overwhelming. How was I supposed to adjust to living in a country that was so, well, foreign? I missed my friends, family, and coworkers. That familiarity was sorely lacking.

These anxieties consumed me to a point. I was worried to venture too far out and to step outside my comfort zone. Because of this, I spent a lot of time at home. On the one hand, this wasn’t terrible. I was able to read, write, and watch TV. But, I didn’t meet people. I didn’t make friends. And, because of this, I found myself in a continuous cycle of seeming depression. I have determined that it was more home-sickness than anything, but it was still tough.

I finally had to force myself out. I would go to the library. A restaurant. A coffee shop. I eventually got a job. I met people and made friends. I finally felt like I belonged. I had a life! But, it still wasn’t the same. Visiting home in May of this year also made it doubly difficult as, when I returned to Germany, I found myself yearning for the familiarity of my hometown.

I was stuck at this point for a bit, which wasn’t helped by my returning home again in July for a friends wedding. Do I enjoy my life in Germany? Yes, I have come to enjoy it. Do I miss my life in North Carolina? Most definitely. But, I have to learn to move on and make do with the life I have now. This wasn’t easy.

I forced myself to get out and explore. I forced myself to live my life. I also made sure I allowed myself the opportunity to feel everything that came along with being homesick. By doing this, I allowed myself to fully heal and come full circle.

I still have issues and days where I miss something specific about home (can I please get some Cheerwine, Chick-fil-a, or Bojangles here?). But, I force myself to stop and take a moment to remember what I’m thankful for since I’m here. I’m thankful for technology that allows me to stay close to family and friends. I’m thankful for the friends I’ve met since I’ve been here in Germany. They certainly help to keep my sane. I’m thankful I have the opportunity to travel home periodically to see my family. I am also thankful for my husband because he is my main support here.

What about y’all? Experience with homesickness? How have you overcome those feelings?

German Christmas Markets

Christmas in Germany is a very big deal. Very big deal. I had to say that twice to make sure the seriousness of this is known. For most villages, Christmas celebrations will start in November. What marks the start of the festivities is St. Martin’s Day, a day devoted to a saint that used his own cloak to cover poor people as he went from village to village, and the Christmas markets.

For Saint Martin’s Day, there is usually a parade that children walk in with lanterns. The parade is usually led by someone dressed as St. Martin. At the end of the parade, the children are given sugared pretzels (they are delicious, even the cheap store kind) and some sort of drink, usually milk or even hot chocolate. Each village will have the parade throughout the weekend. We were unable to attend our village’s parade as we were in Paris that weekend and had no idea it was going on when we booked. But, we’re hopeful that we’ll see next year’s.

The Christmas Markets, though, are where it is at. Depending on the size of your village or surrounding villages, will determine how long the market goes on and when. Some smaller village will have their market for a weekend. Sometimes it will be only on the weekend. Others have them run for a week or weeks straight. I don’t think our village had a market, but I might be wrong. However, there were several neighboring villages that did. We went to the one in Trier and it was huge! It ran from around Thanksgiving to just after Christmas. There are some, though, that last until after the New Year and a week or two into January.

Our visit to the Trier market was the first market we experienced. It was pretty cool. We wandered around a little first, just to see what they had and what we were interested in buying or trying food wise. Most markets, from what I understand, have handmade goods made by the Germans as well as traditional German holiday food. Gluhwein is a warmed wine, sometimes with spices, that is sold to the adults. Depending on the market itself, you are guaranteed to be able to buy red or white gluhwein. But, you might find other varieties. In Heidelberg, they had a Rosé version and a “pink” version.

When you buy Gluhwein, some of the really good markets will also have a special mug for that particular market. No matter what, you’ll have to pay a small deposit for the glass you use. If you don’t want the glass, then you just turn it back in. That’s what we did when we got some in Metz France. The mugs were very generic. But, Trier and Heidelberg both had super cute mugs and I was more than happy to pay the small deposit and keep the mugs.

Since this is Germany, of course there are a plethora of pretzel vendors. Something else Germany is known for is their roasted nuts. There are little street carts everywhere that sell these fresh roasted nuts. We didn’t get any, but they absolutely smelled divine. There are also quite a few hot chocolate, cookie, fries, and countless other food vendors.

We did have one thing that I still haven’t found the ability to describe. It’s called a dampfnudlen. From what I can tell, it’s a steamed bun that is covered in a vanilla sauce and a fruit compote of some kind. Ours had blueberries on top. It looked a little weird, but it tasted absolutely wonderful. Jon and I split one, but I think we each could have eaten our own.

As for the handmade goods the market had, there were obviously a lot of Christmas themed things. There were handmade ornaments, nativity and winter scenes, generic decorations, etc. We bought some hand carved wooden ornaments for friends in England. I so wish we had bought one for ourselves because they were pretty darn cool.

Something else that Germany is known for with its decorations are its Christmas Pyramids. Most Christmas Markets will have a large scale one that you can see from just about anywhere in the market, but there are also a lot of vendors that sell smaller ones for your home. There are two kinds you can buy: electric and candle. An electric one is obviously pretty cool, but because it’ll be on 220V plugs, we probably wouldn’t be able to use it once we move back to the States. So, we went for a candle powered one. What’s really cool about this pyramid is that the heat from the candles is what makes the pyramid turn. It was fascinating to watch when we lit ours at Christmas.

I can honestly say that I look forward to next year’s markets. And, if you have the chance to go to a German market, take it! You won’t regret it.

Reichsburg Cochem

This past weekend we went to Reichsburg Cochem in, well, Cochem, Germany. This is a city that’s about 45 minutes from where we live, so it was a pretty easy day trip. I haven’t been to Cochem yet, so I was pretty excited to visit. And let me say, it lived up to those expectations. It is such a pretty town and has a great walking shopping area. I definitely intend to visit again at some point to fully explore the shops and area. It was just so beautiful.

But, on to the reason that we visited in the first place: the castle. Upon driving into Cochem, it’s impossible to not notice the castle. It’s on a hill above the city and is quite the arresting site. To get to it, you have to park in one of the many parking areas and either walk up the hill (not entirely attractive to me) or there’s a shuttle bus that goes up to the castle. We took that option to get there. Coming back, we actually walked down the mountain to stroll through the shopping area.

The castle though, was just amazing. There’s a small restaurant and gift shop with the castle also. And the views. My Lord, the views from the castle are out of this world. Since Cochem is on the Mosel River, it’s very picturesque and the pictures just don’t do it justice to be honest. The tour of the castle is given completely in German, but they do have handouts in several different languages that you can read as you go through the rooms to see what the guide is saying. We got lucky with our guide in that she spoke English, though it wouldn’t surprise me if the other guides also speak English and several other languages.

We actually didn’t get to see a ton of the castle, but what we did was amazing. Before starting the tour, they give a brief history. I thought it was pretty interesting that the castle was built in the Middle Ages, but doesn’t look it on the inside because it fell into disrepair and was redone in a chateau style. Even still, it is very pretty inside and it’s obvious that someone spent a lot of time and money in restoring the castle.

All told, the tour probably took about an hour or so. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour. We also enjoyed the walk down the hill to get to the shopping district too. As I stated before, I look forward to visiting Cochem again to fully explore the shopping stuff and other things. When looking to see if we wanted to do anything else in the area, I saw that there’s a wine cellar that does tastings and thought it sounded intriguing, but we decided to save it for another time.

I honestly cannot recommend visiting Cochem enough if you’re ever in the area.

 

5 Things I’ve Learned Since Moving to Germany

As many people know, I moved to Germany in June with my husband. Since we’ve been here, it’s definitely been a learning experience. Below I’m listing 5 things I’ve learned since moving here.

1. Not knowing the language of the country you’re living in OK.

While it’s nerve wracking to be in a country I don’t speak the native language of, a little bit of trying to speak German goes a long way. There really are a lot of people that speak English here and they are usually very willing to help you. I usually try to start a conversation in German and then when it gets past the pleasantries, ask “Sprechen sie Englisch?” and move on with the conversation. I’m hoping that I will start to pick up more German as I live here though, so hopefully I’ll get better at conversing.

2. Not being completely sure of where you are when exploring an area is OK.

I have issues with knowing where I am. I like being aware of my surroundings and having a plan. However, when you’re exploring a new city for the first time or even second time, letting yourself get lost (as hard as that is for me) can be fun. It allows you to find stores, restaurants, and cool little places to explore.

3. I have a pretty decent sense of direction.

This ties in to the previous point. I’ve discovered in our wanderings (and purposeful attempts at getting lost by Jon) that I have a pretty decent sense of direction. Give me a map or help me find some landmarks and I can usually get us to a recognizable place. I might not know the name of streets or be able to tell you how to get there, but I can show you how to get there. It’s a pretty great trait to have I’ve discovered.

4. German Amazon is a god-send.

While I might not be able to find the same products that I can find on the American Amazon, German Amazon is pretty awesome in its own right. It has similar products and sometimes even has some that are cheaper. And the best thing of all is that the majority of the time, your products arrive in 2 or 3 days. I ordered shoes for a Murder Mystery Dinner Theater next week yesterday and received them this morning. This fast shipping comes in handy when you have to order something you realized you don’t have and need.

5. Public transportation is amazing.

Public transportation is a bit thing here. We’re able to make use of trains and buses if we so choose. This is great when we don’t drive somewhere—such as England—or if we park so we don’t have to drive in the city—such as Paris in a few weeks. Most of the public transit here is fairly cheap and affordable, so that also works out well also. Gas is definitely more expensive here, so the possibility of taking public transit for a few euros is pretty nice.

Oktoberfest!

This past Saturday Jon and I attended Oktoberfest in our local village. Now, anyone that knows anything about Germany knows that Oktoberfest is a big deal here. A very big deal. The main Oktoberfest takes place in Munich each year. Jon and I opted to not go there this year, but we do plan on going next year. Instead, we decided to attend the one in our village so that we could at least experience some of famous German festival fun.

To prepare for this, Jon and I set about buying a dirndl for me and lederhosen for him. It was relatively easy to find my outfit as several clothing stores carry them. It was a bit more difficult for Jon. We found a store that had some, but not in his size. We ended up hitting a costume store in our village and were able to find him some.

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We bought our tickets as part of a large group and were located in the VIP area, which was pretty nice. It was separate from the main tables and it had an all you can eat buffet included in the ticket price. For around €30 each, we couldn’t complain for sure. And then, obviously, the beer. Now, I am not a huge beer drinker. I don’t really like the flavor of it to be honest. I’m much more of a wine drinker myself.

But, there were quite a few beer options on the menu. An Oktoberfest one, some “regular” ones, a few alcohol free ones, soda, and some liquor based drinks. Combine that with the very German selections for the buffet and you have a full German evening ready made.

What I mean by the German buffet is that, in case you didn’t know, Germans like their meat and potatoes. And sauerkraut. There was chicken, sausages, potato salad, mashed potatoes (some of the best I’ve ever had), sauerkraut, cole slaw, pretzels (another wonderful thing to eat), and a few other things that I didn’t get. They also had a dessert buffet set up for later.

The entire evening was just a lot of fun. We ate, drank, and sang. Granted, we had no idea what we were singing. They had a band that played fairly tradition German music, so we obviously had no idea what they were playing. But, there was one song they would sing repeatedly with the crowd. It’s the song that’s sang at most Oktoberfest. It’s called “Ein Prosit.” Pretty much, it’s just singing “A toast! A toast!” with the crowd and then toasting and drinking. They play it frequently and quite literally everyone joins in.

Overall, I had a lot of fun. We’re already talking about trying to go to the big one in Munich next year if we’re able. If we do, trust me: I will do a post about the experience!

Alpine Coasters and Black Forest Cake: The Rest of the Black Forest

Going back and writing about a trip you took about a month and a half ago is an interesting experience. I remember and yet I don’t at the same time what we did. So, I’m going to attempt to fully delineate here the rest of our adventures in the Black Forest. If you’d like a refresher, you can visit my first post here to refresh your memory on the first leg of our trip.

Most places we visit and spend a lot of time doing the touristy sight-seeing things. We go see the old churches, ruins, major attractions, etc. With our visit to Triberg, we didn’t do that so much. We still went to some popular spots, but they weren’t historical in nature which is why I think we enjoyed Triberg so much.

Saturday we went to the Hasenhorn Alpine Coaster and ended up meeting some friends there as well. To get to the coaster you have to ride a chair lift up to the top of the hill/mountain and then you can ride the chair down or take the coaster. The ride up takes about 15 minutes or so, depending on if the lift has to stop for anything. In the winter this area also serves as a ski place, so that chair lift works double duty. Any who, riding up was pretty cool because we got to see a decent view of the area as we went higher. Seriously, the Black Forest is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever visited. It’s so green and lush and seeing it all laid out in from to of us was pretty awesome.

The coaster itself was very nice as well. Hasenhorn is one of the longest coasters of its kind, clocking in at 2.9 km. While the one Jon and I went on the Friday before was pretty awesome, it definitely can’t compare to the Hasenhorn one. There were moments when I was going around some of the curves and over some of the humps that I thought I was going to go airborne. Obviously I didn’t or I wouldn’t be writing this for your reading pleasure. We all ended up enjoying it so much that we rode it a second time. It was totally work it.

We would all recommend going to ride it if you’re in the area as it is a lot of fun. There is also a bike park that goes under the coaster–I might be too scared of the people on the coaster to be able to do anything in that bike park–and it seemed fairly popular while we were there. There is also a small outdoor cafe with some food and drink options at the bottom and a small lodge type restaurant at the top that has some food and drink as well. All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

We split from our friends at that point and made our way to Lake Schulesee. The area we were in has several little lakes with resort type towns that are very popular in the summer months because it offers swimming options and other things to help cool people down. We wandered around for a bit, sat at the beach some, and then took a boat cruise on the lake. It was really nice. We did wish we had planned better and brought our bathing suits as it would have been really nice to go swimming or rent a small boat to take out ourselves, but we were pretty happy with the cruise around the lake before heading back to our hotel.

For dinner that night we went to a restaurant down the road and had our first taste of traditional Black Forest cake. For those of you that aren’t aware, the Germans like to soak the cake in alcohol. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Tiramisu is the same and it tastes divine. Well, a term was coined this particular weekend: Don’t cake and drive. It was because of this cake. When the waiter brought it to us, you could smell the alcohol coming off of it. That’s just how much was soaked up in the cake. The cake itself tasted really good, but it was way too boozy for me. Jon ended up eating the majority of it while I enjoyed an apple tart with ice cream.

The next day before we left we went to see the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock. I don’t think it holds that title anymore technically, but it was pretty large. Pretty much, they build a house and made it into a cuckoo clock. You can walk in the house, which also serves as the gift shop, and look at the gears and everything before making your way outside to wait for it to go off. We were looking forward to the clock going off, but it ended up being a bit of a bust. Since it was a house, we thought that it would have some amazing cuckoo action. It did not. While we’re glad we saw it, it was lackluster and it’s hard to recommend others going to see it.

That’s really the extent of our trip. It definitely wasn’t one of our more exciting ones, but we enjoyed it just the same. We have definite plans to go back at some point to see other things in the area were weren’t able to see on this trip and hopefully stay in another part so we can partake of those lakes in the summer.

Life in Germany

Well, this is embarrassing. I haven’t posted anything on here in over a month. I have a partial reason, but the majority of it is just lack of time. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, because I have. I need to finish my Triberg series and put stuff up about our trip to Valencia, but life has been hectic for me. I am currently in grad school working on my Masters in English and am taking classes full time. While I am an excellent time manager, my three classes are all reading intensive. The vast majority of my time is consumed with reading classic literature or poetry, writing discussion board posts, responding to classmates, writing papers, etc. By the time I have a moment to breathe and do other things, one of the last things on my mind is logging on to here to post.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to however! I constantly think about posting. I have ideas of some other things to post about once I’ve caught the world up on our trips. I’m just lazy. Haha. I’m hoping, though, that I can start to get myself back into the habit of posting, even if it’s not the same schedule that I kept before classes distracted me. So, I’m putting it in words to make myself try to keep my promise: I plan to post the rest of Triberg this week and start drafting my Valencia posts also.

For now, in lieu of information about that, I’m sure you’re wondering if I’ve been up to anything else. Honestly, not really. Jon and I decided to take a breather from traveling because we’ve seen a lot since I arrived in June. We both wanted to take the chance to recuperate and enjoy some down weekends before fall and winter really hit here. Since we haven’t been traveling, we’ve somewhat worked out our lazy weekend schedule. Saturday is our lazy day. We don’t do a whole lot and, if we do do something, it’s generally cleaning. Oh, so glamorous, I know. Sunday is our grocery shopping day. We get lunch, shop, fill the car up and run any other errands we need to before heading home to do laundry.

It sounds so mundane and normal for my to post that, but it’s the truth. We’ve talked about hitting a few places close by or doing an overnight somewhere, but nothing has come of it. We actually looked at doing an overnight in Paris this past weekend, but with travel times (about 5 hours to drive there) or price for train fares (several hundred Euro. No thank you), we decided to just stick close. Besides, I think Paris needs a bit of planning to execute properly.

In other news, for those of you that don’t follow me on Instagram or friend me on Facebook, we got a kitten. And she is just cute as a button. She drives me up the wall some days since we spend the majority of the day with each other and no one else, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s quite nice to have a little furry friend that’ll sit with me when I’m in my tower (read: 3rd floor) working on school work. Or that will fall asleep on your legs when reading for class. Her favorite position seems to be in someone’s laps or wrapped around my neck when I’m working on my computer. It’s cute and fashionable.

Because of her, I’ve been hesitant to plan trips as well. I know cats are fairly self-sufficient, but still. She’s a kitten and I’d worry about her while we were gone, even if we had someone looking in on her and giving her her wet food.

On to other topics, I realized the other day that I’ve been in Germany for 3 months, almost 4 now and it’s a bit mind-boggling. School has taken in back home and I’m still adjusting to not being in the classroom. I find that I do miss teaching, but I’m quite happy to not be in the classroom at this time. I was getting burned out with teaching and this forced break has been helpful for me and allowed me to concentrate on other things and figure out the next step in my career.

I find that I’m still fairly nervous to venture out into the community by myself also. I’m getting better about it and I think a lot of it has to do with my finally making some friends here (those that know me well know how hard I struggle to meet people) and my realization that while I definitely sound American when I open my mouth and speak the little bit of German I know, everyone I’ve met so far is very helpful and willing to walk me through it. There really isn’t a lot to be frightened of. I guess that is where I put something in about stepping outside of my comfort zone and allowing myself to really experience life here in Germany. I’m still working on that, so we’ll see what the next few months bring.

The weather here has also been an adjustment for me. In North Carolina, we’d still be in the sweater weather in the morning and fiery pits of hell in the afternoon. Here, it’s been hovering in the 50s most days, even dipping lower if it’s cloudy. If this is what October is like, I don’t know how I’ll survive the winter. Of course, that’s what Jon is trying to prepare me for. We rode to Trier yesterday to buy me a dirndl (traditional dress worn by German women) for the Oktoberfest we’re attending in a few weeks in Wittlich and we ended up in a winter clothing store. We ended up buying me a decent winter jacket and Jon is already looking for winter boots for me. Considering this Carolina girl is not used to harsh winters, I might just be a hermit for a few months until the snow melts and I feel safe venturing outside. Haha.

I can’t really think of anything else to try and catch you up on in my life. I pretty much gave it to you in a nutshell. At this point I can only apologize for my long silence and promise to be better about staying on top of my posting schedule. Here’s to a good week (and a dry week if you were impacted by Hurricane Matthew at all).

I am including pictures of my admittedly photogenic cat, Olivia. Enjoy.

Visiting the Black Forest

This past weekend, Jon and I visited the Black Forest part of Germany. This is actually a fairly large region, but we obviously only visited a very small portion of it. It was absolutely beautiful and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit. The Black Forest is located in Southern Germany and somewhat goes along the edge of France and Germany (we actually drove through France to get there). It’s also in the mountain region and there really are no words to describe the scenery. Jon and I tried to come up with something that resembled it in the States and we really couldn’t. It made me think of the mountains of NC, but these were much more wooded. We also thought it reminded us of WV, but again, so much more green. Really, y’all, I can’t recommend going to this area enough. I think we’ll plan another visit at some point to try and hit a few other places. Any who, on to the trip itself!

We left that morning and took our time to get there. Along the way we stopped at a Glass Blowing Museum. This was a pretty cool stop. It was €10 for each of us. When you go in, there is a small film room that showed some the history, I think, however it was in German, so I couldn’t really understand it. We went in briefly, watched for a few moments and then made our way to the actual museum portion.

A major portion of the floor is taken up by the demonstration area. They had their glass blowers making a vase in front of you. It was fascinating to watch them temper the glass and form it into whatever they were making for the day. They also allow people to come up and make their own vase. That was pretty cool. We wanted to go up, but there was a line and we didn’t want to wait, so we moved on to the next part.

The next portion of the museum had displays of hand blown glass and the history of the evolution of glass blowing. It was pretty cool and also a little gross. They had a display on glass eyes which was a bit gross for me to look at. But the other stuff was pretty good. They also had a small area where they were making glasses and cutting the tops off. That was fairly mesmerizing.

Once we finished in there, we went into the gift shop. They had every sort of glass that you could possibly think of. They had an entire section devoted to Christmas decorations. The ornaments were stunning. The rest of the shop was full of local products–wine, honey, food stuff– and other hand blown wares. They had multiple glasses in various colors and patterns, paper weights, glass animals, and other decorative things. It was mind boggling in many ways.

After we finished there, we went down the road a bit to ride an alpine roller coaster. For those of you not familiar with them, they’re essentially bobsleds on a track that is self-powered. It sounds a bit fighting and, honestly, it was a little terrifying going down. But it was a lot of fun as well. There’s nothing quite like riding something like that down the side of a mountain.

Once we finished there (and bought the souvenir photo), we went on to our hotel. We got a hotel right on the main road in Triberg and it was easy distance to pretty much anything we wanted to do. Once we checked in (after struggling to actually get to the hotel. It was on the 3rd floor of a building and the other floors were occupied by offices), we walked up to the Triberg Waterfall. It’s Germany’s highest waterfall and is absolutely amazing. Included in our hotel price, we got free admission to this. Before we got there, though, we did stop at the House of a 1000 clocks. The name is exactly what it sounds like. It is a store full of pretty much nothing but cuckoo clocks. They also had some other things to buy like watches, stuffed animals, and some kitschy gifts.

As much as I enjoyed the waterfalls themselves, the walk to get to them was exhausting. It was quite steep to get to the top, so needless to say my legs were screaming and I hated my life a little bit. It was so worth it though. The views were stunning and there just aren’t any words to describe it.

Once we finished at the water fall, we went to find dinner. We ended up stopping at a kebap stand and sitting on a bench to enjoy the evening. After the heat of the day, it was nice to sit and relax before heading back to the room for the evening. I shall include the rest of our weekend in another post later this week.

Pig Fest

This past weekend we were lucky enough to attend Pig Fest. I say lucky enough because it took place in the village we live in! So, unlike a lot of people, we were no more than 5 minutes from our house, which made it really convenient if we needed to head back to the house for something or if we needed a break.

So, let me give you some background on this event. There is a legend surrounding Säubrennerkirmes (Pig Fest) that dates way back to the Roman times. There used to be a wall surrounding the city and there were, obviously, gates to help keep enemies out. Well, enemies were coming and they were closing the gates. One night, a gatekeeper couldn’t find the peg needed to secure the door. He used a turnip in its place (there is some debate about whether it was actually a carrot, but the official legend says turnip). Later in the night, a starving pig walked by, ate the turnip, thus unlocking the door and allowing the enemy invaders in. After the enemy left, the people of the city gathered all the pigs, slaughtered them and were then known as master pig roasters.

Seems a bit mean towards the pig as he couldn’t help that he was starving, but it is what it is and we got some pretty awesome food out of the deal. This festival was set up all week. They took over the majority of the public parking in the city center to set up the carnival rides and then set booths up all through the walkplatz area. Jon actually sent me a picture one day of the Ferris wheel from his drive to work. It was one of the first rides to be put up and it is huge, so you could see it from a decent distance.

The festival itself opened up on Friday afternoon and will continue until about midday Monday. We think that Monday might be a last hurrah to help sell some more merchandise and that a lot of people won’t actually attend that day. Since we live right down the road, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

We ended up going to the festival two different days with some friends. We met up Friday night just to see what everything was about and see what there was to offer. We stayed primarily in the carnival side. We drank some beer and wine and just hung out. It was a lot of fun, especially to people watch. As the night went on, the Germans (and Americans) got a little crazier.

Saturday, we actually ended up at the festival 3 different times. We walked to the walkplatz to see what vendors were there and bought some stuff. Once we finished that, we decided to head back to the house to drop it off so we didn’t have to walk around with it for an extended time. After recuperating at the house, we ventured back out, bought some wine and did some people watching. During this time, we also witnessed the parade they put on each year.

Local people dressed up in traditional German clothing and paraded through the streets playing instruments or representing various parts of the festival. They also have two trussed hogs on a cart that is paraded through the streets as well. I thought that the pigs weren’t real when I first saw them, but we saw them on the spit later which confirmed that they were real. After this, we took another break and headed back out around dinner to meet back up with our friends.

We got some sausage (krakauer with brotchen) and some fries and just enjoyed the day. This is the second time I’ve had German sausage with this particular bread. It reminds me of a hot dog in execution, but the taste is no where similar to that of a hot dog. The sausage is much more filling and the bread is just amazing. If you have the opportunity to go to a German festival in the States or visit somewhere in Germany that sells it, you have to try it. It is so worth it.

Honestly, I just enjoyed the weekend immensely. It was so much fun to hang with friends and see others that we knew. And we didn’t have to drive a long way to achieve it! Definitely a win win. If you are ever in the area when this is going on, I can’t recommend coming enough. To help put things in perspective for you Southerners, think of a pig pickin’ that you sometimes go to in the summer and fall. The sauce just isn’t vinegar based (the best base for barbecue sauce) or tomato based (an imposter from the west). After that, the two things aren’t similar. But, the atmosphere is the exact same!

Further German Grocery Shopping

Further German Grocery ShoppingWhen I needed to do more grocery shopping a few weeks ago, I decided that I’d brave the German stores again. This time, however, I chose to go to Edeka instead of Aldi. Jon and I walked through it one day together and I decided to give it a go.

The biggest difference between Edeka and Aldi is that Edeka has a much larger selection of everything to choose from. If I had to compare it to an American store, I would say it’s similar to the Neighborhood Walmarts that have been cropping up everywhere locally. They have a decent selection of most things. I would imagine they probably cycle through items also.

This particular grocery experience was much more interesting. Since I’m still not the best at reading German words, I had to do more Google translating to find my way around and locate different things. I think it took me a lot longer in the store this particular time simply because of this.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I enjoyed the experience, but it wasn’t exactly horrible. The worst part came at the end when I was checking out. I didn’t realize that with their produce, you have to weigh it yourself and get the sticker to place on it for the cashier. When I got to the register and my produce came up, the cashier didn’t seem too happy. Maybe she softened when she realized I was American and had no idea? Or, maybe she did an inner eye roll at the stupidity of Americans. All I know is that I was thoroughly embarrassed as I stood there waiting for her to come back to finish ringing my groceries up. Needless to say, once I paid, I thanked her in German and scurried out the door.

My hope is that next time I go shopping, wherever I decide to go, I won’t make such a huge faux pas with something. I also hope that if I return to Edeka that I will be able to actually weigh and get the produce put together without needing to ask someone to help me. I have a feeling that everything will be German without an English translation, so I could be up the creek on that one.

Anyone has any grocery shopping horror stories to share so I don’t feel quite as bad about my mistake?