Friday, March 30, 2012

You've been spared by rapping cats.

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I was on my way here to complain about Vodafone screwing us over again and to warn everyone who uses them to watch their bank account carefully.

But on my way, I discovered this batshit* video, and I'm going to share that instead.

*That's your warning.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Berlin vs. Münster

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Voting is on for the host city of this year's expat blogger meet-up! Fellow expat bloggers, drop by and show your support for either:


MÜNSTER!! City of gables, arcades, bikes, and a river called Aa. Seriously...just Aa.


BERLIN! City of amazing recent history, low rent, crazy clubs, and all the Currywurst and baklava you could ever eat.

They're totally unlike one another - but I don't think mistakes can be made here. So go vote.


In garden box news, those little yellow guys I posted a bit ago didn't make it - but these hyacinths were unfazed by our crazy winter! Yay!

P.S. Orbital fans - something to tide us all over until release day - including six songs from the new album.  Dr. Who fans - your track is the last 6 minutes and 45 seconds.
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Friday, March 23, 2012

East Frisian Tea in the US

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After we came back from Ostfriesland in October and I posted a Kluntje photo and description on Picasa, my sister commented that they should clearly be adopted everywhere.  I thought about getting her some for Christmas, but our per-person Christmas budget is shrinking into oblivion as our families get bigger, so I waited until her birthday this week!

First I had to find a place to actually buy Kluntje in the US.  I tried Amazon, since they usually have everything - but no luck.  They do have the smaller variety of rock candy, but that would just not do.  Then, via Google I found the Ostfriesen Tea & Porzellan Shop (an example of language mixing on the other side of the divide!).  The shop was originally Iowa-based, which got my attention of course, but has recently moved to Wisconsin.  The sort of retro web design makes it all the more German-feeling!  In addition to having Kluntje, they also have tea and all the tea accessories you could ever need, including spoons, tongs, cups & saucers, teapots, and serving trays (including the awesome Blau Dresmer)....so I also got her some proper East Frisian tea and a cream spoon for accurate delivery of the cream cloud to the cup.  Everything's imported from Germany so it's more expensive than here, but of course it saved me the trouble and cost of shipping it all myself.

I talked about this a bit in my Ostfriesland post, but here's a review of how to drink the tea:
1. Use a small teacup.
2. Put a Kluntje in the cup.
3. Pour the tea over the Kluntje and enjoy the awesome crackling noise.
4. Use cream with a very high fat content - 30-40%.
5. Add the cream carefully and watch a cream cloud form.
6. Drink without stirring.
7. Repeat as necessary!  East Frisians drink 10 times more tea per year than the average German.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cheese nuggets, just like the Native Americans have been making them for centuries.

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I was mystified by this Native American-themed cheese nugget packaging (spotted at Rewe) until I discovered that it's actually from a TV show.  Ohh.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The winter winds are over.

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Mr. Würzner, tear down this wall! :)
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Mmmm.....

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Germans spell "mmmm" - as in "this is delicious" - with an "h" on the end: "mmmh". We've noticed this many times over the years, but I finally remembered to get a photo to demonstrate. It always strikes me as funny...as if I should be sticking a weird breathy "hhhhh" sound on the end. What's the purpose of the "h"? In the Netherlands, we saw "hmmmm" a few times - making the deliciousness of the advertised item seem a bit more debatable to me than the advertisers must have intended!

And since that was a really short topic, a musical interlude (ProxTube or proxy/VPN required for viewing within Germany):

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Marching onward...

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My poor little garden box flowers are trying to bloom despite sustaining some serious freezerburn; they tried to come up early while we were having a mild winter...then the winter stopped being so mild.  Ouch!  Still rooting for them, though... there are already some narcissuses (narcissi?) blooming along the north side of the Neckar!  I can't believe how fast this month has gone - probably because we have lots of plans for the next few months.  Nothing makes life good like anticipation of fun stuff - at least according to this article.  A guy I used to work with always said one should always be planning one's next vacation - I guess he was onto something.
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cologne/Köln: We Meet Again

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Köln/Cologne - the city of Kölsch, Karneval, and one of Europe's finest cathedrals. We'd already visited it three times - the first as a sightseeing daytrip, the second to participate in some Improv Everywhere goofiness, and the third for my husband to give a talk at the university (guess I never blogged that one).  Last fall, our yearly expat meet-up was slated for Cologne, and despite it not being technically new to us, we were pretty psyched.  The meet-up had already in the past been for us a way to really learn a city that we'd been to already in a new, better, closer way, and we knew enough about Cologne to know that could only be a good thing.  And it was.

Koeln Okt 11

The trip started with a beautiful train trip up the Rhein/Rhine.  After arrival and check-in at the cheapie Hotel Ibis in the Barbarossaplatz, we returned to the center and had a lovely pre-sunset walk along the Hohenzollern Bridge (home to zillions of those love locks I wrote about before) before meeting up with people at a Mexican restaurant on the east side of the river. 

The following morning was a major highlight (SEE THE PHOTOS, SRSLY) which we almost missed due to misjudging the time we needed to get there - a tour of the roof of the Dom (Cologne's very famous cathedral).  I can't recommend this enough.  The views of the inside of the cathedral you get can't compare with anything from the ground level.  Getting to see the pixel window (in the thumbnail above) designed by Gerhard Richter (I really like this guy) up close was amazing - and it was just the right time of day for light to be coming through it.  The details on the other windows and the flying buttresses and gargoyles we could see up close were also incredible.  All of this is followed up by a climb to a little gazebo on the roof where you get views of the entire city.  DO THIS IF YOU CAN!!

That afternoon we got to see the bone room at St. Ursula's church - a church we'd actually visited before, but we didn't know about the bone room at the time.  Resident on Earth has a great post on it here, and I also have some photos in my album above.  Short synopsis: Ursula is the patron saint of Cologne.  According to legend she was martyred along with anywhere between 11 and 11,000 of her virgin friends.  At some point they were digging around in Cologne and came upon a mass grave of Roman soldier bones, which they figured were actually the bones of all those martyred virgins.  A bunch of nuns then used these supposed martyr bones to decorate a room at the church.  Normal stuff, right?  It's really cool if you're into relics and stuff.

We followed that up with cake at Merzenich, followed by some nice views from the Triangle Tower.  Then we staged an expat takeover of the Päffgen Brewery, where we had our first experience with Kölsch As She Should Be Served.  It comes in tiny glasses because it, like most beer, tastes better cold.  With such small glasses, you drink it all before it gets warm.  Then, if you don't cover up the glass with your coaster, there's an automatic understanding between you and the waiter that you want another glass.  The number of glasses you've had is tallied up on your coaster - pretty brilliant! 

The massive drinking fest there was topped off by the annual TQEQE - That Queer Expatriate's Queer Expedition - where Adam of TQE chooses a chill gay bar where we can all enjoy the rest of the evening.  I think the place was called Maxbar but I don't remember for sure...there was a disco ball hanging from a chain outside the door, and we had the BEST bartender ever. If you think you can't get good customer service in Germany, you are wrong and Maxbar is proof. Adam is really good at picking places with friendly service.

If all this got you interested, you should know that we're already in the first stage of planning next year's expat blogger meetup!  If you live in Germany and have an English-language blog, come on over, register, and get involved! 
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Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Honor System

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During today's Running o' the Errands, we happened to pass by one of the world's few remaining music shops, Crazy Diamond (off the Poststrasse).  I'd been wondering if I'd be able to pick up Orbital's upcoming album somewhere local on the day of release, so we dropped in to ask if they planned to have it.  They said sure, and told us we could have a copy reserved for us if we prepaid 5 Euro.  We figured why not - not that I expect all of Heidelberg to be clamoring for it at Crazy Diamond on release day, but whatever - and handed over 5 Euro.  They wrote down our name, what we wanted, and that we'd paid, and we were off.  It wasn't until after we'd gone that I realized we had no receipt or any proof at all that we paid part of the price already.  I guess it's just based on trust!  I'll get a nice small-town feeling if this all works out in the end. :)

On the topic of buying this album there: I typically make all my music purchases online in mp3 format these days.  Part of the reason is that since we live under constant threat of a big move, it's not very sensible to build up massive piles of physical CDs around the apartment. (I do get them as gifts occasionally - gerne! - and have a full box of CDs from that alone.)  The other reason is that it's simply a lot cheaper - which we were painfully reminded of when placing the order at Crazy Diamond.  The regular version of the CD came in at over 17 Euro, with some kind of deluxe version with extra live songs around 25 Euro.  The pre-order price of the mp3 album (including the extra live tracks) on iTunes is 9 GBP, or about 11 Euro.  (If you can buy it through there in Germany...I haven't tried.)  Orbital is sort of a nostalgia band for me, and I always bought their music on a physical CD in the old days...so I felt compelled to do it again this time - it seemed right.  And I like to help keep my local music shop in business, plus I wanted the sale to rack up in Germany in case sales here could somehow lure Orbital into some German live dates.  But man...expensive.  I hate to think how much less music I'd have enjoyed over the last few years if I'd paid prices like that for all of it.

I can't wait to enjoy the CD while on an upcoming small trip we planned today!!  We got a car rental and a hotel to visit somewhere rather close where we've never been....I'll tell you all about it, after it's over! :)
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Sunday, March 04, 2012

Signs of Spring

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Snowdrops and crocuses in people's front gardens. Birds waking you up with their singing. And most importantly...the reopening of the first ice cream shop of the season.* Eis Capri in Neuenheim returned about a week or week and a half ago! So much for my attempts to eat a healthy diet... ;)

*Some, like Cafe Venezia in the Darmstädter Hof, stay open all winter, but most close down.
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