Friday, December 26, 2008

Going Away Party, Gridlock Traffic, and Frog Legs

Well it has been a little bit too busy for a new blog post recently, not to mention not much has been going on of very big importance, so I would hate to bore any readers that I do have! A few interesting things have been happening recently, and one of them is the Holidays. Happy Holidays to all of you around the world, whether you are finished celebrating, or still celebrating, and a Happy New Year as well!

After about seven months of living in Cologne, Germany, I am finally back in the US. Leaving was very bittersweet, as I have made many wonderful friends in my time there, and I would have liked to have more time to be with those people. On the other hand, there was a lot that I had left behind back in the US, so it was good to get back to all of that as well. Before leaving Cologne, I had one last "shabang" in my apartment for a going away party. About 30 folks showed up, and we drank some Kölsch, and had a great time. This is also a photo from the party, and me sporting my awesome 1. FC Köln jersey that was a gift from my co-workers.

After cleaning up from the going away my good friend, Miriam, drove to her family's house in Aschaffenburg. She showed me around her town, and on Sunday, we went to a local castle for a traditional Weihnachtsmarkt in the Medieval tradition. It was a great time, and a great visit. Sadly, on Monday morning, Miriam took me to the airport, and I made the hop over the big pond back to the US.

Now I am visiting some family in good ol' Indiana. It is very cold here, or a lot colder than what I am used to! On the way up here, while trying to cross a bridge over the Ohio River, we got stopped on the highway due to ice over the bridge. We were stopped on the road without moving an inch for over six hours. The highway turned into a solid sheet of ice, and we just waited for the salt trucks to come through. Finally, what should have been a 12 hour drive, turned into a 21 hour drive, but we made it to Indiana. Christmas time has been great here, and it has been good too visit with relatives, but there is no greater Christmas dinner than my Grandmother's famous . . . . . frog legs. It may not be a typical meal for any day of the year, but they sure are good. Fried up, and dipped in hot butter, it is always our request when visiting.

I appreciate all of the comments recently, and the support for the blog. Just because I am back in the US does not mean that I am done posting here, so stay tuned! Happy New Year!

Friday, December 5, 2008

General Rules For an American Living in Germany:

I have lived in Germany for over six months now, and in that time I have come up with several rules, or guidelines to follow for any other Americans considering a move, or a long visit to Germany.

1. Don't ask someone where the Autobahn is. There is not just one Autobahn. Autobahn just means highway, and yes, Germany has lots of them just like any other developed country. In addition, yes it is true that there are many parts on the Autobahn without speed limits (only about 30%), but not always.

2. Be sure to become a regular at the many bakeries in Germany. There is always something for everyone at a German bakery. After you leave, you will probably miss the bread more than the beer.

3. Have a clue about what is going on in the world, especially US politics. Germans don't care if you don't know who Angela Merckel is, but don't be surprised if 75% of the Germans you meet know more about US politics than you do, so be ready to be quizzed on it, and have an opinion.

4. Know that Germany is not just Munich. Munich is a city in the state of Bayern. Germany has many other states. Lederhosen, Oktoberfest, and huge mugs of beer (known as a "Mass") are associated with Bayern, which is the most conservative state in Germany. People from other states may find it offensive if you ask why people aren't wearing Lederhosen.

5. Oktoberfest usually takes place in September. Get over it, and plan accordingly. Also, don't bother asking why it's not in October, because most Germans don't seem to care enough to question it, or much less answer it . . . they probably haven't even thought about it.

6. If anyone mentions ANYTHING about Obama, the proper response is "Yes we can!" Germans love Obama whether you do or not. Saying "Yes we can!" will probably make their day, and you might even see a German smile.

7. Don't be an American stereotype. Know your geography, reassure Germans that the US is NOT a hollywood movie, remind them that America doesn't like Bush either, expect a smirk when you walk into McDonald's, Pizza Hut, or Burger King, and don't forget to turn lights off and other electronics you aren't using.

That's all that I have! I hope you have enjoyed reading. As always, comments are welcome, and appreciated!

Monday, December 1, 2008

The German Weihnachtsmarkt

So I still have a couple of weeks here while I am in Germany. Luckily, before I go back the USA, I am getting to experience something very special, and something very unique to Germany-- and that is the Weihnachtsmarkt.

The Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas Market, is an outdoor event that happens in various places all over Germany. Here in Cologne we have about four or five different markets throughout the city. They are made up of little houses that sit next to each other containing different vendors of food and crafts, and the whole place is decorated with lights. There is music, lots of happy people, and of course Glühwein.

Glühwein, or in english "glowing wine", is a sweet red dessert wine served hot. Often times it is cooked with fruits such as oranges, and other spices to give it a very unique flavor. Two euros at the Weihnachtsmarkt will buy you a steaming cup of fresh Glühwein served in a special mug. Every market in the city has a different mug that is in general very fancy, and if you are a visitor, like me, it also makes a great souvenir. Every time that you order a "glowing wine" you pay for the drink and you pay extra for the cup. After you have finished, you return the cup to get your money back for it. In German they call this the "pfand", and this is the same rule that applies in biergartens, and also from bottled drinks from the grocery store. When you return the bottle, glass, or mug, your pfand is then returned to you.

The Weihnachtsmarkt is a great place to go in the evening just with friends or co-workers. It gets dark at about 4:30pm here, so it is still a nice atmosphere in the early evening. I am glad that there is something more to experience even in my last couple of weeks before I return home.