Sunday, December 30, 2012

Porto Travelogue

Our flight to Lisbon was uneventful, despite having the entire German under-18 rugby team on board. We met up with my husband's parents there, then hopped in the rental car they'd already picked up and headed up to Porto!

We'd booked an apartment near the cathedral, where the roads are a little confusing - we were supposed to drive into what looks like private cathedral grounds to get there. We messed up and the GPS panicked a little, leading us onto narrower and narrower alleys until we finally reached a corner which was physically impossible to navigate in a car. A guy in a car and a woman on a stoop both tried desperately - and pretty nicely - to help us, but of course we didn't speak the same language! Eventually we just drove out wherever we could fit, pulled over, and called the apartment owner, who came to fetch us and lead us up there with his own car.

The apartment was amazing, with views over the Douro and Dom Luis Bridge which are probably among the best views of anything in Europe that I've seen. Our time in Porto might have been successful even if all of it had been spent in those windows looking over the city. We did manage to tear ourselves away and explore, though!

We had dinner at a touristy but decent restaurant not too far from the apartment, where we tried the ox and dealt with the awkwardness of having a bottle of wine brought out that they were unable to open! The following morning we had breakfast in the sun at a cafe on the river. Like the helpful people on the street the previous evening, they didn't speak any English. This is when it started to dawn on us that the people who said "everyone there speaks English" maybe weren't entirely correct. For the rest of the trip we got by in these situations on a mix of D & I's combined shaky knowledge of French, Spanish, and Italian and a few Portuguese words we picked up. His parents, however, were not completely comfortable with navigating things this way and we often ended up eating at more-touristy (read: English-speaking) places in order to make communication less anxiety-inducing for everyone.

We split up from the 'rents and spent the day wandering the narrow streets and stairways of the north side of the river, stopping occasionally for pastries, peeks into gaudy churches, and paper cones of chestnuts. We also stopped at Livraria Lello, a beautiful tiny bookshop which has, apparently much to the chagrin of its employees, become a massively popular tourist attraction. No photos allowed, and they didn't have the Portuguese name dictionary that I was hoping to take home as a souvenir.  (In fact, no bookstore I tried had one and I came home without...first time that's happened!!)  At the end of the day we all met back up for some port in the apartment, then had dinner at Ora Viva.  The service was very nice and the decor fun to look over, but I wasn't as into the food as everyone else was.  They liked it enough that we went again the next night (after some day trips which will be in my next post).  The second night we found out by talking to some other North Americans at the restaurant (honestly it was pretty much entirely North Americans) that it was recommended by Rick Steves.  They went on to tell us how amazing Rick Steves is and how he is never wrong, and that if you mention him to the waiter you get a free drink.  So we did, and then the waiter also gushed about what an amazing human being Rick Steves is.  It was an interesting experience.

But you're just here for the pictures, right? :)
Porto Okt 2012
TL; DR: Porto is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen and you might as well skip all the wordy bits and go straight to the pics.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Birmingham Christmas Market

Leave a Comment
You read that right!  Birmingham has its own German Christmas market, apparently the largest in the UK.  It's called the Frankfurt Christmas Market in reference to Frankfurt am Main being one of Birmingham's sister cities.  We got a chance to try it out while there earlier this month, and expected it to be a little "off" as German celebrations in the US often are.  We were pleasantly surprised - it's actually pretty close to the real thing!  I think the major differences were the large amount of beer being drunk - you don't generally see anyone drinking beer at the Christmas markets in Heidelberg - and the fact that people were forming lines at the stands instead of just crowding up front.  I'm normally in favor of lines and annoyed by the German inability to form them, but it turns out that since my only Christmas market experiences have not involved lines, the fact that there were lines turned out to be annoying!  I don't want to line up for a Schaumkuss, I want to smash up to the counter until I get one!

They had all the standards - different varieties of Gluehwein, Wurst cooked on incredibly large grills, tacky figurines, ornaments and candle holders, lights strung up everywhere, carousels, a giant Christmas pyramid, crepes, and crafts.  They even had one stand with a functioning Glockenspiel.  One stand sold Edeka brand cookies, which amused us, but they could do that here too for all I know!  (Edeka is a big grocery chain.)

The market in Birmingham seems pretty popular - it was incredibly crowded both times we stopped by, to the point that we actually kind of didn't want to be there!  But, it's comforting to know that next year at this time, if we find ourselves fiending for some of that German Christmas feeling and maybe a little Lebkuchen, and can't go to Germany, it will all be easily available right downtown!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

RIP Heidelberg Woolworth

Leave a Comment
On our way to the Hauptbahnhof last week to head to Birmingham, we noticed signs in the windows of Woolworth saying it would close in a mere two days!  And close it did - when we came back the place had already been closed and cleared out.  Graffiti has even already appeared on an inside wall.

Woolworth wasn't the classiest joint in Heidelberg but it was the only conveniently-located place offering really cheap necessities like vegetable peelers and ironing boards.  We got our ironing board, Wasserkocher, Christmas tree, butter dish, and several other household things there.  The stuff at Kaufhof and Bauhaus may be nicer, but sometimes you don't need something all that nice, and don't want to pay the extra for it.  RIP, Heidelberg Woolworth.  I hope something good moves into your giant hideous vacant building.

Friday, December 21, 2012

New Impractically Tiny Sink!

A few years ago, the landlord replaced our counter when he installed a new oven and stove, because the old oven left a hole in the counter too big for the new one.

He's a nice guy but a little cheap.  The dopey worker who reinstalled our 70s sink into the new counter cut too big a hole for the faucet.  Over time, water got in the hole (water in the area of a sink!? whoda thunk?!) and it started to deterioriate the inside of the particleboard counter. 
So, yesterday we got a new sink and counter starting at 7:30am.  Although it's a double sink which I've been wishing for for ages, both sinks are still hilariously shallow.  I noticed this in British apartments we saw, too.  I can only conclude that Europeans never use soup pots, cookie trays, serving platters, or cutting boards.  Anyway, it will be nice to enjoy the new stuff for a couple of months.  Turns out the landlord planned to charge us for all this, even though it's not our fault the faucet hole was cut poorly and caused all this.  But, since we told him we're leaving and we thus endured the early-morning noise and sawdust storm to very little benefit to ourselves, he's letting us off the hook.  Yee ha.  Somehow, though, we are still considered responsible for replacing the wallpaper in the bedroom which got moldy due to a still-unidentified moisture source in the lower square foot of that corner.  Not so many benefits to renting vs. owning around here, in my opinion.

In other news, a grocery desert is starting soon here - things will not be open Sunday, Tuesday, or Wednesday and will only be open half a day on Monday (which promises to be an awful day to be at any grocery store).  Alas, we cannot shop Saturday, as we are meeting up with relatives in Cologne that day.  Maybe there will be good Kartoffelpuffer there - the ones in Heidelberg are variable but mostly not great.  Any recommendations??

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Panic on the streets of London, panic on the streets of...

...Birmingham!  The brilliant Harvey Morrell guessed it! The photo, showing an older version of the coat of arms of Birmingham, was taken in the Great Hall at the University of Birmingham, which will be my husband's new academic home later this spring.  I don't know yet where my new work home will be but I bet it will be better than what I've got now. :)

I had been counting on a fall move no matter where we ended up since I figured it would be based on academic year, but surprise, we're looking at a spring move.  It seems so fast!  Standing between us and Birmingham are apartment searches, visa applications, moving companies....  We just came back from a few days there and we did look at apartments, but things are pretty different from Germany and it's way too early to find a new place (although we have to give our German landlord notice right about now).  More on the weekend soon!

Could life ever be sane again?


Wednesday, December 19, 2012



This blog will soon need a new name.  A big change for us that's been slowly coming together over the past few weeks finally became official over the weekend - we are leaving Heidelberg this spring.

If you haven't already heard where, and want to try out your detective skillz, I will wait a day to say where - first correct guesser (of the city name) gets their choice of a goodie from Heidelberg or one from the new place (after we move).  (Sorry to those who have me on Facebook for already spoiling you!)  You already have two clues - the photo above, which was taken there, and the fact that it's a big enough city that you've probably heard of it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Schlossweihnacht Heidelberg (Heidelberg Castle Christmas)

Heidelberg is experiencing today that most repulsive of weathers: winter rain.  Yuck.  Let's think back to better times - like just yesterday afternoon!

We woke up to a gentle snowfall which continued into the early afternoon, at which time we decided we should take advantage of this perfect Christmas market weather while it was still underway!  We'd been planning to go up to the castle Christmas market - a new thing as of last year - later in the day, but headed out around 1:30 instead to enjoy it in the snow.

The market up at the castle was really pretty - more so than in town, with large decorated trees and narrow paths. It's in the garden so you don't have to pay admission to get in.  It's open today and tomorrow, but will be closed Wednesday, then open again until it closes for good on December 18.

At the market:
Salmon grilling on planks
At the garden entrance
They have different mugs up there, too!

At the castle:
My husband really wanted this one of the moat in black and white :)
Entrance over the moat

Powder tower
Holly trees!
 Views over Heidelberg:
The Altstadt and, beyond, the Heiligenberg and Rheinebene

With the castle!
Down the Hauptstrasse!

In the Altstadt:
Christmas market in the Marktplatz
On the Steingasse

Castle from below.
Old Bridge
From the other side of the Neckar


Friday, December 07, 2012

Unfortunate Marketing Sightings

Rewe seems to have recently undergone some changes in the cereal department. I try to avoid buying cereal too often (because I will eat a box of it in a day, no problem, and it is, unfortuately, generally free of any nutritional value...) but when I went in for tea the other day I couldn't help but notice the new name they've come up with for our old friend Nougat Bits/Pillows/Pockets:

That....just doesn't sound good.  Better to not use English if you're not entirely sure how.  I bought and tried them for, uh, research purposes, and they're not as good, either.  Several cereals that were formerly there in Ja brand (the Rewe house brand) are now all there in Hahne brand only.  No idea what that's about.

Moving on, we found this one online earlier this week:

This is the end panel of an ad for a toilet that sprays your butt. The heartbutt is kind of weird, although I can't really put my finger on why.

Any other fun ads or product names you've spotted recently?

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Upon my arrival at the Rewe this morning I saw quite a scene - the Christmas chocolate display looked like it been hit by a tornado.  Only a couple days earlier it was chock full of goodies!  It could mean only one thing - it's St. Nicholas Day! I'm sure there's more to it, but in my experience the holiday has manifested itself as a day to give and receive chocolate Santas - hence the run on the Christmas chocolate.  It also means the occasional freebie, like this tiny chocolate bar I got when I picked up some pyramid candles and dishwashing gloves (damn this dry weather) at DM!

The weather's appropriately frosty today, too.  Maybe some snow later while we visit the Christmas market?
Happy St. Nicholas Day!


Sunday, December 02, 2012

Heidelberg Winter Watch!!! :)

1 comment

This is the scene right now! Big fat flakes!!!  Get out there and enjoy it before it turns to rain, as Heidelberg snow always does!

This little guy got snowed on again this year: 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! + Final Heidelberg Fall Watch!

1 comment
Happy Thanksgiving!! We had some good canned-pumpkin-acquiring opportunities this year! As a result we ended up with canned pumpkin from the US and the UK and can check out the packaging differences! It's the exact same product by the same company in both countries.

Front!  British can on the left.  Nice blue contrast and simpler design.  American can sticks with fall colors only and is a little more complicated with ribbons, borders, drop shadows and so on.  "Solid Pack" must have some meaning in the UK that is assumed in the US.  The US pumpkin is "pure" and "natural" (in the blue-ribbon detail on the left) but the British pumpkin is just "natural".  The US can evokes patriotism ("America's Favorite!!") and helpfully includes Spanish on the label.  The pie picture is different too!  The whipped cream looks more structured in the US (mimicking Cool Whip?). The UK crust is thinner and more artfully folded on the edges, while the US crust has more rustic edging.

Side!  The US can includes a special box on the front corner to advertise that it's low in calories & fat and has some vitamins and fiber in it!  The UK can has no equivalent.  You can also see the differences in nutrition labeling between the two countries.  The US nutrition label is bilingual and includes cholesterol, trans fat, and vitamin information, which are not on the British label.  Like German nutrition labels, the main UK label gives information per 100 grams, but it does include single-serving calorie information underneath.  You can't really see it in this photo, but the UK serving size is half the US serving size.

Back! US can: repetition of the Libby's logo, photo of another recipe you can get online with link, reminder not to freeze pumpkin pie and notes that you can sub in something called "pumpkin pie spice" for all the spices in the recipe, contact information at a toll-free number.  UK can: none of the above, but you can write them by mail (at a US address) if you want to get in touch.  Also, the UK pie crust (aka. "shortcrust pastry") has to be partially baked before adding the filling and the US one does not, so I guess it's not exactly the same thing.

Before I head off to turn those cans into cookies and pie, the last of the Heidelberg Fall Watch:

There are a few leaves clinging on, but it's pretty brown.  The Christmas market opened last night.  Bring it on, winter!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Der Countdown läuft! (and also: why the line at the Post is so slow)

Upon passing through the Bismarckplatz today, I saw a couple of noteworthy things!

1. Christmas market stalls are being set up!  It's less than a week until it opens.  I picked up a brochure the other day at a shop.  There will also be a market up at the castle, including in the courtyard (for that part you have to pay a fee to enter), for a few days.  The ice skating rink will be open until January 6 but the rest closes before Christmas.  I can't wait to load up on mint Schaumküsse, Feuerwurst, Zimtsterne...

2. The Spaghetti-Säule has a new base!  The Spaghetti itself hasn't been put back up yet, but the base is new.  It looks like it might be a different kind of rock, though.  I think it's sandstone now but wasn't before.

Included in my errands today was a stop to pick up a package at the Post.  The line was moving surprisingly slowly and was starting to go out the door.  (Germans DO line up sometimes!)  When I got to the front I realized why....but I should have already known based on past experience!  Every time you go to the Post they don't just do the business you need to do, but try to sell you something afterward!  My package pickup was fast and easy and I thought it would be a relief to the poor saps behind me in line that it was so.  But that wasn't all...the guy wanted to sell me some service.  They are great at making a segue into whatever they are selling - post services, banking services, etc.  He just kept talking.  So that's why the line was so slow.  Mannn...come on, Deutsche Post.  It doesn't have to be like this.

I've been a little delinquent in my Fall Watch duties lately. I do have a couple of pictures.  The conditions haven't been great when I've taken them - lots of mist and stuff around here lately!  I will post them soon.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Portugal: Impressions

My in-laws, who come to visit us every year as long as nothing more important comes along (ie. if any of my sisters-in-law are pregnant, no visit), decided they were sick of Germany after a few trips here.  This year they proposed that we meet somewhere else in Europe.  Several ideas were tossed around, but my husband and I lobbied hard for Portugal.  We have been wanting to go there pretty much the whole time we've been in Europe, but the timing has never been right.  (Summer is right out considering our lack of love for hot weather, and in the winter we always had some other thing going on.)  They were a little resistant at first, or maybe they were just messing with us, but in the end they decided to go with it - the Portugal trip finally happened!!  It was worth the wait.  Actually it would be worth not waiting too.  I guess it's probably always worth it. :)

I'll talk about general impressions of Portugal here, then I'll post my usual travelogue-with-photo-album stuff in forthcoming posts!

First and foremost!  The food!  So much seafood.  The standard restaurant menu had two sections: MEAT and FISH.  No pasta section, rice section, vegetarian section...and you can forget the vegetables for the most part!  Dishes often came with only a starch side and no salad or other vegetable. 

Almost everything we ate was excellent, though we struck out a couple of times.  If you're a fish-eater, it's all about the fish. The Portuguese have lots of fresh seafood to work with and they know exactly how to cook it right!  All the meat dishes we had were great, too.  There's quite a bit of variety although you won't see turkey much like you do in Germany.  (Which is fine with me, I think there's too much turkey around here.)  We did see ox, kid (as in goat), partridge, and quail, some of them regularly.

Pretty much all the bread we ate was excellent - really soft and moist, be it white or whole grain.  I think the bread experience was better than I've had in any other country.  (In comparison with Germany it's just different, not necessarily better.)

And the PASTRIES!!!  The Portuguese seem to love sugar. Sugar packets are extra large and your hot drink comes with two of them instead of one.  The cakes and pastries are actually sweet when you think they will be sweet.  I've actually trained myself over the years in Germany out of getting unfamiliar types of cakes because the dryness and lack of sweetness often disappoint me.  In one bakery my mother-in-law picked a piece of something that looked to me like the epitome of German Disappointment Cake - gorgeous chocolate cake with white stuff on it and some cherries.  We all traded bites and her cake was nothing like I expected - it was amazing. So was what I got.  I also discovered a new thing called chocolate salami which I guess is originally Italian, but was all over Portugal and totally amazing.  I'm going to learn to make that.  Then there are the famous pasteis de nata, little custard tarts which don't look like much but are delicious.  There were so many different things at the pastry bakeries....we never had time to even try them all. Argh, now I'm hungry.

At restaurants, there were usually several appetizers brought to the table when we sat down.  This is easy to get annoyed about - the tempation to eat something you didn't order and will have to pay for if you eat it - but it was surprisingly easy to get into the swing of it.  If you expect that sitting at a restaurant means they're going to assume you're in for some bread and olives, then you start actually kind of wanting the bread and olives.  And still wanting them days after you've left...

Many of the dishes are made for two - sometimes you can specify if you want them for just one person, but sometimes two is the only option. It was fun to have this reminder to eat a bit more family-style, and made it easy for us all to try everything ordered.

And on the topic of olives...we bought some at a market one day.  The guy shoveled so many into the baggie - way more than we wanted - that we ended up not eating all of them by the end of the trip and had to toss the rest.  Then he handed us the bag and said, "Sixty cents." (In Portuguese.) SIXTY CENTS.  SIXTY CENTS!!!!  Today we went to buy olives in Heidelberg and, for an amount of olives that was only a quarter or third what we bought in Portugal, we paid FIVE EURO.  Which leads me to the next topic....

Our original decision to go to Portugal was made in our first year here - actually, in the first couple of months I think. We saw a show on TV comparing the prices in Euro countries, and it showed Portugal as being WAY cheaper than the other countries.  What's not to love about that?  This totally bore out, although I hear it used to be cheaper.  The prices we paid for food every single day would have been absolute bargain basement in Germany.  Actually, I think the prices would have been impossible in Germany.  Salaries must be pretty low in Portugal to match these prices. We often had an order of two hot drinks and 2-3 pastries, which would end up around 2.50 Euro.

Accomodations were also a pretty good deal relative to other European cities.  In Lisbon we paid under 100 Euro a night for a two-bedroom apartment right in the Alfama.  It could have been cheaper.  I am a bit of a grump about the price of accomodations pretty much anywhere.

As for transit prices...

Lisbon was the only city where we ended up using public transit. You can get a pass to use any tram, bus, or metro (subway) for 5 Euro for the entire day!  Cabs are also super cheap.  From the Alfama to the airport it was about the same price as a cab from the Bismarckplatz to the Hauptbahnhof (which is a very short ride indeed). 

We rented a car for most of the trip.  Using the roads is a bit pricey, although we don't know what it ended up being.  We got a toll pass which automatically counted up our tolls and we were supposed to get the bill later.  Often we saw the price when the beep of a new count sounded, and it was usually several Euro.  As a result the major roads (all toll) are pretty quiet, but the back roads more crowded.  There was definitely some tailgating behavior but it didn't seem worse than in other European countries.

So nice.  I think we met one mean nutter the whole time, and he didn't have all his marbles so has an excuse.  People gave us directions without us even asking for them - multiple times.  When my husband was sick one morning and looked it, multiple people stopped to see if he was okay. 

There was an obvious sense of community in the places we visited, with the possible exception of Estremoz.  People socialized in public, in the streets, hung out in their doorways or hung out their windows, always kept an eye on what was going on in public spaces - staying involved, kids played in the streets.  We regularly saw women in public wearing house dresses and vests, the likes of which I haven't seen in ages except on maids.  It all seems very quaint from the shut-in American perspective. I wonder if this kind of life is just fading out more slowly in the places we visited, or if it can hang on even through the modern trend toward emphasis on individual instead of community.

On that note, life in general seemed more public.  Laundry is hung out, not hidden inside.  Satellites are right on the front of the building, not hidden somewhere to make it look nicer.  Empty pots and clothespin holders sat out clearly visible on balconies.  Imperfections in houses were fixed up imperfectly - non-matching tiles, ugly metal walls. It was obvious at every moment that people were living there and didn't care if that was obvious, unlike the sterility in a perfectly clean German town or an empty-lawned American suburb.  Sometimes this was a good thing - there was no feeling of being somewhere a bit too good, a bit fake.  Sometimes it went a little too far.  One of the main smells in Portugal is that of cat poop, from all the cats living in houses that have been left to ruin.

So, these nice people will work with you if you know just English (limited helpfulness), German (useless), and a tiny smattering of French/Spanish/Italian (French seemed most helpful). But if you have a chance to just learn hi/bye, please/thanks, "I'd like...", foods, "where is?", right/left, and numbers, you should do it before going.  People often did not speak English and were often rather shocked that neither of us spoke any Romance language with fluency.  Knowing Romance languages at our crappy level was immensely helpful for reading road signs, warnings, and that sort of thing.  Food menus were a bit harder.  And reading Romance languages is different from hearing or speaking them!

Man, it's really common there that you can't take photos in places.  Really annoying...not just for me, but for the employees whose jobs have become nothing but screaming "NO PHOTOS" the entire day.

Overall, loved it.  We would definitely like to go again, be it a few more days in Porto/on the Douro, some time in the Minho, back in Lisbon, or on to new areas like the Algarve.  I think we'd go at this time of year again or in the spring, as it didn't seem too full of tourists and the temperatures were very agreeable.  Maybe we'd go slightly more high-season for a Douro trip, as many places were already shut down for the off-season.  My husband's parents were slightly less enamoured of everything (though they still liked it more than they expected), so it may not be the right destination for mid-American boomer suburbanites.  For us it was, as my husband described it, "a cheap Italy" - a lot of the things you go to Italy for without the high prices, and without an extremely-advanced tourist industry that leaves you feeling ripped off.  But his parents might have been more comfortable with said advanced tourist industry, since it involves more standardized hotels, English-speaking waiters, and catering to non-locals (in other words, comfort for non-locals).  As always, it pays to know what kind of tourist you are.

Up next: Porto diary and photos!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fun Stuff Spotted Today + Fall Watch #12!

For just 8 Euro, you can get a cloth bag full full of 500g of garlic, with a doll head on it.  I have not seen this before.

I'm trying to imagine eating properly-prepared (butter & maple syrup!) pancakes on the go.  Messy!

In fall watch news, not much doing. It hasn't been too windy lately. The red vines on the castle are totally gone.  Every day brings some new cloud configuration.  But Gluehwein is coming - this year's Heidelberg Weinachtsmarkt opens on November 24 21!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Heidelberg Fall Watch #11

1 comment

We just got back last night from a wonderful 11-night trip to Portugal.  I have around 1400 photos to wade through and will share them when I can!  We came back to some pretty chilly temps - it was down to 2'C last night.  Those clouds in the second picture have formed an oppressive ceiling over Heidelberg all day.  Combined with the hill, though, they are lovely! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Lest people think all I eat is ice cream, pancakes, and hot dogs, let's talk yogurt today.  I eat plain 1.5% fat yogurt with breakfast pretty much every day.  It took a lot of experimenting with different brands to find one that I really liked.  For a while I ate Landliebe because I knew I liked it, but while paying better attention one day I noticed it costs quite a bit more than a lot of the other yogurts, so I started trying a bunch of others.  Several - the Rewe, Alnatura, and Lidl house brands - all seemed too sour to me.  The Edeka house brand is pretty mild, though, and super-cheap. I like that one. However, I landed on a huge favorite one day - the Bighurt from Schwarzwaldmilch.

I honestly don't entirely know what Bighurt is. I tried looking it up and it sounds like it has live cultures in it, which I thought all yogurt had, but apparently that's not necessarily true. So, live culture bonus.  It's mild, so that's nice.  Seventy-five cents for 500g isn't the cheapest out there, but it's a good price.  Most awesomely, it has a semi-solid texture that is really somehow more satisfying in a breakfast context than the usual more runny yogurts.  For savory recipes, though, I buy runnier, more sour yogurt.  This doesn't really work for stuff like that.  I love it for breakfast though, and get all nervous when they run out or run low at the store, worried that they're about to stop carrying it or something!

I know dairy products are regional, but for those of you living in Germany - or heck, even in the US - what's your favorite plain yogurt?  How do you use it?  What does it cost for 500 grams?

PS: No, this is not an ad; I do not do ads on my blog.  I am really just lame enough to want to blog about my favorite yogurt.