Saturday, December 31, 2011

Guten Rutsch!

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Happy new year! The holiday scene in Heidelberg:
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

This is the end...

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Heidelberg's Christmas market ends today! With the exception of the stands around the skating rink in the Karlsplatz (which will be open until January 8), this is the last night to grab your favorite Weihnachtsmarkt goodies.

If you need some recommendations, let me help:

*Zimtsterne in the Marktplatz - there's a stand that makes them on the spot and cuts up the odd-shaped bits and gives them away.  Best Zimtsterne ever.

*Schaumkusse - the best variety is in the back right corner of the Uniplatz, including my favorite, the After Eight (mint) flavor! (Second best: cinnamon!) Hopefully they've not run out yet because I'm stopping there tonight for one!

*Spicy wurst - the Teufelswurst in the Marktplatz from the little food stand next to the giant pyramid. It's spicier than the Feuerwurst at any other stand!

*Kaesespaetzle - same place as the Teufelswurst. It's definitely the fair food version of this, but somehow it's awesome.

*Kartoffelpuffer - I got burned by some really disgusting Kartoffelpuffer in Hassloch this year and have been avoiding them since. But, normally the best of these are also in the Marktplatz, back in the corner near the Marktstube. The same stand also has some local goodies like Germknoedel!

*Feuerzangenbowle - The only place that seems to be doing it this year, unless I have missed something, is in the Uniplatz in the corner closest to the Jesuitenkirche. You don't get your own sugar cube, but you might get to see them make it in a giant vat. Stale Spekulatius included.

*Crepes - Best savory crepes: Marktplatz near the Maxbar. Beware, it's also the healthiest crepe stand so you'll be in line behind a bunch of college girls trying to stay thin. My favorite crepe: After Eight! Only available from the crepe maker that's inside the Langos stand behind the carousel in the Uniplatz. Most generous crepe: the guy on the Karlsplatz. Had one of his overstuffed creations last night and managed to gloop Nutella over pretty much everything I was wearing. It was awesome.

*Cup with your name on it - you know you want one. They're in the Anatomiegarten.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

SNOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

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FINALLY!!!!!

I want to go tromp around in it, but as this is Heidelberg, it's of course threatening to turn to rain any second. That would be a lot less fun to tromp around in. So for now, these are just pictures from my apartment.


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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Beware Giant Christmas Cards

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So, this happened again. Apparently, I am not a quick learner.  It seems that at least one side of a letter has to be 11 centimeters or less, or it becomes a "large letter" and costs an additional 2 Euro and 70 cents.  Which is a LOT more.

**EDIT!: I misunderstood based on entering a slew of values into the Portokalkulator on the Deutsche Post site.  Here is the real info: the long side of the envelope must be between 14 and 23.5 centimeters, and the short side must be between 9 and 12.5 centimeters...BUT, it's not just that, and this is where I goofed in interpreting the results I was getting from the Portokalkulator.  The long side must be at least 1.4 times as long as the short side.  So, although a 14x12.5-cm envelope is within the dimensions listed, it still would cost 3 Euro and 45 cents to send to the US, because the length isn't long enough given the width.  The same rules apply to postcards.
I'm going to see if we can get the money back on the stamps they cancelled on those envelopes, because I'm not willing to pay 3,45 to mail a card, and I didn't get anything for the 75 cents they cancelled...I just want to start over! Hope it works...

But in better Christmas-card-related news, isn't this advent card my friend sent adorable??

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Thursday, December 08, 2011

I Know You Like Talking About Yourself

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Now you can enjoy talking about yourself (and you should - you're interesting!) while also helping someone out with a research project!  If you are a US citizen living outside the US and 18 or older, please fill out this anonymous survey for a friend of a friend of a friend.  It is a bit long but you can save it to return to later, and the questions are interesting.  At the end you can enter your email address to get the results of the study when it's over.

Enjoy!
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Ostfriesland! (East Frisia!)

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We drove south from Cuxhaven toward the small town of Midlum, mentioned in my friend's ancestry info. (Language bit: -um is a local equivalent of -heim! Midlum was south of Northum and north of Sorthum!) We were hoping to grab lunch there, too. We briefly admired their windmill and some interesting gravestones in their churchyard, then looked for food. Nothing was open, and some things looked as if they hadn't been open in years. So, onward toward our eventual goal, Greetsiel! Thankfully, we found a great bakery at the side of the highway somewhere south of the Jadebusen. Despite crappy weather, we made a quick sightseeing stop in Jever, home of a well-known (in Germany) beer. It was cute, bricks everywhere, kind of Dutch-looking. See the photos!
Midlum & Jever Okt 11

We arrived at our hotel in Uttum, south of Greetsiel, in early evening.  The place was called the Hexenstueberl, or "little witch room". I thought nothing of this name, as there seems to be a lot of witch imagery in Germany and it actually didn't occur to me to think of it as odd.  My friend, however, didn't realize what the name meant and thought it was a little creepy to arrive at a hotel decorated top-to-bottom in a witch theme!  Everyone there was extremely nice, and the breakfasts were fantastic - one morning there was chocolate mousse - so I'd recommend it to anyone.

We had dinner in Greetsiel at a restaurant where the patrons demonstrated the infamous German staring problem.  I haven't actually seen that in a while.  The place was really nice, though - my husband forgot something there and when we went back for it the next day they let us use the restrooms even though they weren't open, and gave us lots of tips and information.

The next morning we looked around town.  Greetsiel is cute and, like Jever, feels a lot like the Netherlands - it even had a little canal with a cute little bridge right in the center of town, surrounded by brick plazas and little brick buildings full of tea, ice cream, and t-shirt shops.  Its most famous attraction is its twin windmills, one of which is still used for milling (grain, I think).  The town is definitely a big tourist destination among Germans, but we never noticed any other international tourists there.  Greetsiel was in danger of losing its quaintness, however.  There were homemade signs hanging everywhere protesting a project called Greetland which would build a massive resort in Greetsiel and, according to locals against it, completely change the character of the town.  It looks like there's since been a vote stopping the park (but I can't get the links with details to pull up right now)!  Interestingly, many of the people against the building of the resort were actually business owners who make their money from tourism, who were afraid that their usual customers would stop coming and a "different" type of tourist would be attracted. 

In the early afternoon, we drove over to the shore near Pilsum to see one of the area's biggest landmarks, the Pilsum Lighthouse, adorably painted in yellow and red.  It looked cheery even in the terrible cloudy weather we had during our visit!  We also stopped in Pilsum itself, which is supposedly a Runddorf or Rundling - a town built on a round plan.  Many towns in the area were built on fake hills (Ostfriesland is flat!).  A church was put on top of the hill and then easily used as a fortress if anyone came by to stir up trouble.  We didn't notice the roundness of the town, or much of a hill for that matter, although the church was neat from the outside.  We did drive through a town called Eilsum a few times where the church-on-a-hill scheme was much more evident.

Greetsiel & Pilsum Okt 11

We couldn't find any lunch in Pilsum, so we went back to Greetsiel and had soup and tea at a bakery there.  While Germany is mostly a coffee-drinking nation, Ostfriesen drink tea.  It's kind of the Britain of Germany - crappy weather and tea, tea, tea.  The tea comes with big pieces of white rock candy called Kluntjes and cream with a very high fat content.  First you put the Kluntjes in your cup, then pour the hot tea over them, producing a nice, satisfying crackle.  Then you use a tiny ladle, pre-warmed in the tea, to carefully add cream to the top of the tea.  Now, supposedly, you drink it without stirring for a three-layer experience - the cream represents the sky, the tea the earth, and the sugar the sea.  Or something.  I like my dairy cut with something, so I prefer to stir.  The cups of tea are small and the Kluntjes are big, so they can be re-used with your next cup.  Very delicious.  Actually I think all three of us were guilty of just eating the tea-soaked leftover candy... yum.

In early evening the sun started to peek through and we were positively giddy about it, as if we hadn't seen the sun in ages when really it had only been a couple of days.  We decided to check out some other towns, finding Norden in a guidebook and stopping there to briefly see their empty Marktplatz and locked church before moving on to Norddeich to find a beach to watch the sun set!  The tide was out and the wind was intense.  I now see why Germans are known for building holes for themselves to sit in on the northern beaches.  It does take a bit to impress an Iowan with windiness, you know. ;)  (I remember being barely able to open the car door some days...)  There weren't too many people there, and it was gorgeous.

Norden & Norddeich Okt 11

Afterward we had a kind of terrible supper at some tourist joint nearby - everything else had closed - then headed back to Greetsiel just in time to see some guys singing sea shanties at a community center!  I cannot pass up old guys singing and this was one of those German experiences like you see on TV - long tables of retirees drinking and swaying back and forth.  We decided to go with it and do all the moves and people sort of laughed at us, and it was awesome.  Also I think the old guy we sat by was hitting on our friend. :D

Here's a blurry video of the festivities:




Photos embedded in this post were taken by my friend. Photos in Picasa albums were taken by me.
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