Feb 27, 2011

German McDonalds




In my earlier post today I said that we weren't going on our “Sunday family outing”. However, after dropping Jason off at the airport we spotted a place for an outing….or rather the kids spotted a place.  However, it was not a museum nor was it a historical landmark. Well, I guess it was a landmark because anyone can recognize these big yellow arches. Yep-good old McDonald's was our ‘outing’ this Sunday.  We haven't been to a McDonald's since the first week of moving to Germany.  As we were driving towards the big golden arches Karina asked, "is that a real McDonalds"   

The McDonald here are a tad different than ours in the U.S. and I felt like a child when I noticed they also had an upscale coffee cafe inside.  After the kids devoured their hamburgers, they hit the play area. I hate to admit it, I think they liked today's outing as much as the castles and museums.
Great play area and VERY clean!

German surprises


I continue to be surprised when I find myself doing something I never thought possible... until I moved to Germany. This morning, rather than heading out for our usual "Sunday Family Outing", I am watching Jason pack as he prepares to leave for China.  I had an odd feeling in my stomach this morning and soon realized- Jason has not traveled for work since we moved.  In Alabama, we had grown accustomed to his being gone for a week at a time but Karina, Cooper and I each felt an odd sensation of "loss" the day he left the country for work.  As his travel schedule begins again, it feels strange to be living in a foreign country while he travels to other corners of the world.  I am writing this post while he packs and I am "surprised"  to feel nervous being in a foreign country without Jason near!  I am sure this list of 'German surprises' will get longer as we live here...


  • Never thought going from 2 to 4 German classes a week would “kick my butt”…hence, the minimal blog posts this week. Sad...Sad...Sad how hard it is for my brain to learn this new language!
  • I never thought I would ‘blog’ about my life and have people I don’t know read about our experiences.  I almost fell out of the chair when I learned how to look at our stats and saw we had over 5,000 page views.  BTW-any “true blogger” will look at my number and laugh since they get over 10,000 page views per month AND make money by running Ads.  I think I will do a whole post in the future about the blogging world.  I am learning so much but haven’t started “acting” on it all yet.
  • I never thought that I would make such good friends so quickly.  The other night my friend, Kim, who lives in Texas and I were ‘Skyping’.  During our conversation she asked, “Are you lonely in Germany?”  Lonely I am not...going to too many restaurants with friends, I AM.  The people who have befriended me are tired, I am sure…not only do they have to try to understand my Southern English, but also understand my “Southern” German.  I must praise them….they haven’t let the language or culture barriers get in the way of building a new friendship. 
  • I never thought I would hear someone call my name on the streets of Germany…much less twice in one week.  In Alabama it was a normal thing to see people you know in the grocery or restaurant.  However, It is a weird feeling to be in another country and hear your name being called on the street as you are leaving the cafe or walking around a museum.  It hit me-I actually LIVE here. 

  • I never thought I would "see" my maiden name on a store shelf.
  • I never thought I would begin drinking water ‘with ‘gas’.  When you have dinner in a restaurant here in Germany, don't sit and wait for them to bring you a free glass of water.  Nope, you must pay for that glass of water that I took for granted in Alabama.  If you don’t specify “Ein Wasser ohne Gas”, you will shortly receive a glass of German bubbly mineral water.  Typical water in Germany is mineral water with “gas”.  Now that I am living here, I have slowly begun to develop a taste for this water.  My first two months living here, if I forgot to specify no gas, I would have to hold my breath while drinking the water.  My change of taste probably had a little to do with my discovering all of the health benefits this water served up. (natural magnesium, calcium, and other natural minerals)  I even bought water WITH gas this week…..Here is their link with more information http://www.gerolsteiner.de/index.php?id=4099
  • I never thought I would miss the phone ringing.  I miss the random ringing of my telephone.  This week, our phone has rung THREE times and I have jumped every time saying, “what is that?” I miss my family and friends being able to call with ease and not having to plan our conversations around the time difference.
  • I never thought I would blow my nose in front of people.  I am disgusted to even write this…but it is true.  Bottom line…in bitter cold weather, your nose runs in a bad way. Yes I am crazy, but I still get embarrassed when I blow my nose.  I just have never like that whole process and prefer to hide in the bathroom when I must partake.  However, I WILL NOT PAY for a Toiletten on the street if I need to blow my nose.  I still don’t have that "German blow" that sounds like a honk to me.  (and I hope I never get that one correct!)
  • I never thought I would hear my daughter exclaiming, "daddy said we could go with him to Africa on one of his trips so we could see Lions that weren't in cages" In Alabama, the most exclaimed phrase, "we are going to the pool!!!!" (we had to in order to survive the heat)
  • I never thought I would throw back a good Espresso EVERY afternoon in about 10 seconds.
  • I never thought I would over hear my child's Barbie speaking German.
  • I never thought I would get used to people staring at me.  ‘Staring’ is not only acceptable here in Germany, but I have come to believe it is a sport; Lets see how long I can stare at you with out you speaking”
  • Never thought I would be making my own ice in tiny trays.  I am learning to drink my liquids at room temperature and with no ice as the Germans do.  But on a recent trip to the store, I caved in and bought two tiny ice trays (that is all that will fit in my freezer.)  Nothing beats a good ole American Coke with ice! (and it takes a whole tray of ice)
  • I never thought I would enjoy living in another country so much. I still miss Alabama, my family and friends and the warm weather.  But, I continue to discover what a wonderful place Germany is to live.



Feb 24, 2011

When will Spring come to Germany








I fell for it AGAIN; I thought spring was around the corner here in Germany.  But what was really lurking around the corner was another 24 hours of snow.  This time, the flowers popping up in our yard were the culprit of my brief “stupidity”. I was so out of the “snow head” that I felt silly explaining to the teacher at school, “Sorry we are so late…forgot how long it takes to de-frost my car and shovel the snow off of the sidewalk!”  Funny that I also just realized that our first two months here, my alarm clock was the neighbors snow shovel scraping the pavement at 6:00 AM.

In my defense, I have spent the last 18 years in Alabama where spring begins to wave hello around this time of year.  I often began mowing our yard the beginning of March to get rid of the dead grass and make room for the pretty little green sprouts.  So, it MUST be normal for my body to expect and want “Frühling” to come now.  So, as I sit here contemplating building a fire, I envy my friends in Alabama enjoying the mid 70s and earlier this week 80s.  However, I have figured out a remedy to my spring fever; Head out to the yard and laugh as I tell my new little blooms, “My friends in Alabama will not be laughing at us freezing our butt off come May.  Nope, it will be so hot there by the first week of June, my new little flowers, you would be fried. Nope, we will be enjoying having flowers blooming all summer, no humidity, sitting outside in July/August without looking like we just jumped out of the pool and uhmm…have no air-conditioner.”

Feb 22, 2011

German Translations....


I was in the grocery store, searching the food isles for something exciting to cook for dinner. I did a double take when I thought I saw something on the shelf wink at me.  Yep, I saw correctly…Exactly two days after I posted that it was difficult to find typical pancakes, guess what was sitting so proudly on the grocery shelf-“American Pancakes.” Let’s just say, I didn’t know I was capable of pulling a ‘Michael Jordan move’- snatching and dunking them in my shopping cart.  All I could think of after that move… I will be a hero at breakfast tomorrowMy next task, to find syrup.  I thought this would be a breeze-NOT.  My I-phone translator was not any help in this category.  I finally found what looked like syrup to me, even though it was called "Zuckerrübensirup".  Seemed like a simple translation to me-sugar syrup.  


I couldn’t stand it anymore, that afternoon, I let the kids in on the “American Breakfast” we were going to have the next morning before school.  The excitement level was so high in this Hoff House, the minute Jason walked in the door, Karina was practically screaming at him, “DADDY, WE ARE HAVING AMERICAN PANCAKES IN THE MORNING!”.  (Shoot, maybe I need to skip all the attractions I take them to and just buy them some pancakes on a daily basisThe small things in life…huh?!?!?  Good thing my mind still works like a child’s, because I understand AND enjoy these small things! (BTW-the phrase I was screaming to Jason when he walked in the door, “Jason, I remembered my bank pin number today-WHOOP!”)

So, this morning, after my very strong cup of coffee, I began that hard task of un-packaging my “American Pancakes” in order to microwave. (that seemed American enough to me…ready in 30 seconds)  But once the cardboard was off, I realized these were PFLANNKUCHEN cut in smaller circles.  I was still determined to pull this anticipated breakfast off-I really wanted to be THE HERO for just one day!(as you moms know-this is not the norm!!!)  Once they were all nice and warm, I began the American task of loading them up with butter and covering them with syrup.  But this syrup seemed rather slow coming out of the bottle and appeared a tad on the black side.  So, I tasted a finger full and with a gag, realized it was more like Molasses.  I quickly googled “Zuckerrübensirup”.  OH-NO-mommy translation error This is what my search found:

“Zuckerrübensirup”, also called turnip cabbage, is the all-natural, concentrated juice of freshly harvested sugar beet without the plant fibers and without any subsequent addition. It is caused by the concentration of beet juice, which is pressed from the cooked beet.  It offers a variety of applications in cooking and baking.  In addition to his sweet sugar syrup is not to be underestimated advantages, since it has a high content of minerals such as magnesium and iron”

I decided the best thing to do, put on my “poker face” and try to pull off this American Pancake breakfast despite my bad translation.  After placing the plates in front of Karina and Cooper, I quickly scurried back to the kitchen to make school lunches…and hold my breath for the “yuk” comments to head my way.  I had a feeling that I was not destined to be a Hero today...so much for my Michael Jordan moves.  Here it came, “MOMMY, MOMMY, MOMMY.......THESE PANCAKES ARE BETTER THAN IN AMERICA!!”  Karina exclaimed.  Cooper’s mouth was so crammed full, he couldn’t say a word. 

I am constantly learning new things here in Germany and What I learned today, sometimes it is GOOD to translate things incorrectly!  Tschüs!!!


Feb 21, 2011

Landsmuseum Stuttgart

"Who is he?"
Landsmuseum Stuttgart
Just a little crown....


Sunday was a cold, wet and snowy day, so our family outing headed straight to a warm indoor spot- Landsmuseum Stuttgart.  We haven’t had a peep of snow the past few weeks, and my body has De-sensitized itself to the cold and white stuff.  I must say, it has been nice walking to the train station without snow –not that I don’t like waddling around like a penguin.  We began our walk to the U-Bahn station with the snow kissing our eyeballs and beginning to cover the ground.  Even with the snow, we arrived with 4 minutes to spare before the our train.  That was obviously 4 minutes too long for Jason to sit still, so he started playing “hide from the kids”.  Unfortunately, hiding on the elevator is not always a smart thing to do if it runs very slow and the doors open at a snail's pace.  I guess Jason figured this out as we were inside the train waving “bye” to daddy who was inside the elevator waiting for the doors to open.  Note to the fathers out there-DON’T PLAY HIDE-N-SEEK ON THE ELEVATOR WITHIN 1 MINUTE OF THE TRAIN ARRIVING….the next train is usually ten minutes behind and your children will be upset that you were left behind.   
"Why does he have a sword?"

Once we all reunited at the Old Castle of Stuttgart, that now houses the museum, we were able to begin our tour.  As I tried to decipher the Map of each floor, Jason was already touring the numerous Württemberg Crown Jewels on display.  The kids were absolutely fascinated by all of the jewels, swords and “trinkets”.  To the point, I couldn’t answer all of their questions fast enough- “Why did they wear crowns?....Where is the King now?...What does Rich mean?...Are there Kings and Queens now?....What do they look like?  Why was there war?-on and on the questions went (daddy seemed to be playing hide n seek again as I was getting pounded with questions)  I was beginning to think we were not going to make it to the other three floors of the museum.  


"Why is that sword so long?"




Cost savings-they would change the stone in the ring...
 Next, we headed up to the 3rd floor to the “Kid's museum.”  We walked around for all of one minute before they proclaimed they wanted to leave the Kid's museum to see MORE of the other part of the museum.  I think Jason and I were both shocked.  The next 1 ½ hours contained more questions than I thought humanly possible out of a 5 and 6 year old AND more creative answers than I thought possible out of their mother! 



  Little did I know, the questions were going to get harder when we reached the exhibit of artifacts "2000 BEFORE Christ"-“How did the people die?”…Was your grandmother alive then?”…“Why did they leave a skull in the ground?”… “Why were there dogs but not dinosaurs?”… “Why did they have so many bowls?”…“Were we born then?”...”Who found all this stuff if it was in the ground?”…”Can we get something to eat now?”
At this point, I was asking, "Why do I do this to myself...."why not just stay home and read my book already?"  When I was completely depleted of answers, we headed back up to the Children’s Musuem to give my head a quick break and Jason time to play one more game of hide-n-seek, before walking out into the snow to catch the train back home...together!

Feb 20, 2011

Kunstmuseum




Stuttgart 21 Protest
Jason and I decided to have a “date afternoon/evening” today since we had not had our usual “date night” this week.  Our “Welcome to Stuttgart” free train tickets are still valid, so Jason couldn’t protest not taking the car on our outing downtown.  (He is still a teenager when it comes to driving the winding roads at a fast speed)  As we exited the train station, we were surrounded by a large “Stuttgart 21” protest.  Talk about being thankful that we had gone the train route-  Stuttgart 21 protests can make driving downtown very difficult.  Now let’s talk about REAL difficult…finding Jason in the crowd after I wondered off going camera crazy taking pictures of the protest.  (I will post in the future about Stuttgart 21 once I have all my facts and because it is such a heated topic-google if you like....)

Kunstmusuem

exhibition
Steiner
After finding my way back to Jason, we headed to the Kuntsmuseum to explore the “Cosmos Rudolf Steiner” exhibition. My Aunt Irena and Uncle Dennis love to travel the world and "site see" .  I could probably just use them rather than my multitude of travel books!   After reading about the exhibition (in New Hampshire, U.S.) they suggested we visit the exhibition. (No telling what new sites they will show me here in Stuttgart during their July visit!)  http://www.kunstmuseum-stuttgart.de/  Rudolf Steiner was a major turn of the Century Philosopher with special ties to Stuttgart.  You probably know of him as the founder of the Waldorf Education system.  But I learned today, this was only one of MANY things he had a cultural influence on in the 20th century.   
Good to know my brain is still learning...I worry some days.  I am not sure which was better, the exhibition or the views of the city as we climbed each floor of the glass museum.  I would recommend buying an admission ticket just for the views!  Or even better, you could go to the restaurant, CUBE, on the top floor of the Museum.  But that wasn’t in our plan tonight...


our chairs and blankets as we left
After so much education, we needed a walk.  So we walked right on over to Scholz (remember this little hot spot from a previous post) If you are in Alabama reading this in your 75 degree February weather, be prepared to think we are crazy.  We decided to join the crowd sitting at the outside tables.  Why not, it was only in the mid 30s, and blankets were provided.  When we were ordering our pre-dinner drinks, I decided to use the ol’ mind over matter trick-If I order a Mojito, my mind will think I am some place warm.  As I pulled my scarf higher around my neck I realized the “mind” was not winning at this matter.  However, the ‘people watching’ was great.  As usual, when I am at peace, I started reflecting about how much has changed for us in the past 4 months.  I mean really…would this Southern girl have ever wanted to sit outside, bundled in a blanket, on a night predicted to have snow, and have a cold drink before dinner? Not only is my brain working, I continue to expand my realms.   

Alte-Kanzlei
We did a little shopping at one of my FAVORITE stores here in Stuttgart, Tritschler(which opened in 1723) before our dinner.  This store has all kinds of nice glassware, all types of specialty kitchenware, as well as  collectibles.  We walked out with two espresso cups to help us on those long afternoons.  We walked quickly to make our 7:30 reservation-not because we were late-because it had turned very cold, very quickly.  We have had a few recommendations for the restaurant, Alte Kanzlei, which is housed in a building from 1544. http://www.alte-kanzlei-stuttgart.de/  Not only was the food good but the indoor seating was quite nice! 

Feb 19, 2011

Pfannkuchen



I can thank Karina for helping to create my newest addiction- Pfannkuchen (not to be confused with Crepes).  One day she asked, "Mom, can you buy some of the little pancakes with Nutella that my friends bring to school for lunch?"  I am constantly hunting for 'German' foods that would be good for school lunch, Karina's request seemed like an easy one to me...until I started searching for them in the market.  There are ‘children friendly foods’ here in Germany that my friends buy and feed their children.(Spaetzle, various mild fresh cheese, meat slices, wursts, Maltaschen and wide variety fresh grain breads)  However, Karina and Cooper seem to be slowly developing a new palate for these specialties.

 Since I AM LIVING IN ANOTHER COUNTRY,  I shouldn't still be surprised at how different the foods are compared to what you find in the U.S. grocery stores.  I tell you, it is great not to be tempted, like I am in the U.S. grocery store, to just purchase “easiness”. I don’t find myself walking down isle after isle (which include a ton of junk foods) reading the labels that exclaim, “cooks in 2 minutes”.  This is especially true when I cruise the ONE isle in the frozen section here in Germany.  I haven’t seem to have found my favorite island, “FROZEN FOOD LAND” here in the market carrying thousands of options for any type of frozen meal. Nope, only one isle of frozen food here and it is stocked mostly with pizza. 

I have now learned on my hunt for pancakes, you will not find; any type of "pre-made" pancake mix like 'Aunt Jemima', any type of frozen breakfast waffle or pancakes.  I should also admit with this discovery, I don't know how to make pancake batter here in Germany.  It is crazy how intimidated I am by the variances of cooking here in my German kitchen.  At home, I could make the BEST homemade pancakes that included a little pureed pumpkin or carrots that went unnoticed by all.  I am sure it is easy here as well, but all of my recipes for pancake batter call for "all -purpose flour".  (I am sure I have mentioned I can not purchase All-purpose flour here in the stores)   So, my new German philosophy- buy anything that looks similar and try it out.  Unfortunately, my philosophy has me hooked on these Pfannkuchens.  I am not sure how you are REALLY supposed to prepare.  But I have found they are yummy with ANY filling. They are my favorite little “2 point plus” treats. (yes I still track Weight Watcher points here in Germany)

  In case you find these in a Grocery Store near you......
My favorite ‘Pfannkuch concoctions’:
Breakfast- warmed in microwave, filled with a touch of cinnamon and butter then rolled. 
Lunch-warmed, filled with any fresh cheese and Black Forest ham
Afternoon snack-warmed, filled with Nutella and smashed banana.


Feb 17, 2011

Ärtzin


I was “able to experience another "first" in Germany.  I had a welcome committee” come pay me a visit this week.  One that I had hoped wouldn’t come visit or at least wait a year or so before knocking on my door.  At first, I wasn’t sure whom this stranger was that knocked oh so loudly.  But after a bit, the name was revealed- “3 Tag Deutsch-Virus” which translates in English to “good ole' nasty bug”.  The “welcome committee” had an agenda and didn’t care about any of my previous appointments or responsibilities.  It was insistent that I experience being “sick” in a foreign country in full.  On the agenda: meeting the local doctor and a visit to the Apotheke.  I am glad this Virus didn’t seem to want to meet any of the other Hoff family members.  Thanks to this now departed new friend, I have experienced being sick in a foreign country and can add this to my living as an expat blog.  

Even in the U.S., I avoid going to the doctor until I am at the point of not being able to function.  So imagine my fear when the realization that I could not win this little war inside my body without the help of a doctor.  That would be “Artze” here in Germany if you were seeing a male doctor or “Ärtzin” if it is a female doctor.  After spending a good portion of ‘day one’ searching thru lists of “English speaking” doctors, then trying to figure out where in the city they were located (you can easily find yourself driving over an hour to get to a certain area around Stuttgart not to mention any traffic you may encounter) and finally trying to figure out what the messages on their voicemail translated to in English.  It was all too overwhelming just to find a doctor, while feeling rotten, so I decided to just hang up the DOC visit.  I was lucky enough after giving up on the whole doctor thing.  You are wondering ….”Why didn’t she just ask someone”.  Well, let me answer….Most of the parents that I know at the kid’s school speak German and therefore don’t need a “English Speaking” doctor.  As I sat on a swing watching the kids play on their playground at school and hoped for a miracle.  It happened, simultaneously, Jason showed up at the kid’s school and Cooper’s teacher (who is a local) whisked me off to her Ärtzin and was able to “get me in”.  Being sick in a foreign country is not easy for a number of reasons, but today I will stick to the reasons based on the differences in the Medical worlds of U.S. compared to Germany.….
Differences observed at the Doctor’s Office
  •   Doctor’s offices are open very limited hours on certain days.  
  •   Be prepared, no matter how sick you are, to say, "Grüss Gott!" (Swabish way of saying hello) every time someone new comes into the waiting area.
  •  Getting an appointment at a doctor’s office is very hierarchal and is based on the type of Insurance you carry.  The two types of insurance are “Public or Private” I still don’t understand all the difference on this topic but I am glad we have private.
  •  I know you will miss it, but don’t expect to sit on the end of an exam table with paper crinkling every time you move, in a blue paper gown while the doctor examines you.  I sat at a DESK across from her.
  • Don’t spend the whole 30 minutes in the waiting room translating your symptoms into German; this will only offend the doctor.
  • Don’t expect the doctor to conform to the “Patient Bill of Rights”- there isn’t one.  Please just do as the doctor says…(which in my case was “please don’t go to work tomorrow”)
  • When you are leaving, DO NOT stand at the counter waiting to pay the co-pay.  If you do, be prepared for the doctor to turn around and say, “You aren’t in America, we will send you a bill



Then a trip to the Apotheka
  •  In Germany, only pharmacies (Apotheka) have the right to sell medicine. (you won’t find any medicine in Walmart here ….or Walmart for that matter)
  • ALL the medicines including non-prescription are “behind the counter”
  • The Apotheker will tell you it is his job “to provide you with pharmacological advice” and will spend as much time helping as needed despite the long line of people waiting to see him.
  • A friend explained, that often before going to the doctor, go to the Apotheke. It is legal and normal for them to listen to your medical problem, and usually recommend an appropriate ointment or pill to avoid a trip to the doctor.  Hmmm…..if only I had known.
  • You will not find dog food, toys, sodas, photo centers etc. at the Apotheke….only medicines.

Medicine even looks different here....

I was glad I went to the doctor.  In addition to the Virus, I had a Sinus infection that required an antibiotic.  (FYI-antibiotics are only prescribed here is absolutely necessary)  On a final note, as the doctor was writing my prescription, she asked if I needed a Strong Pain Medicine prescription.  I guess I looked dumbfounded, which I was, I mean who needs pain medicine for a virus or Sinus infection?   So she asked again, “Do you need a prescription for Pain Medicine, it is called IBUPROFEN?”  I almost laughed as I thought to myself….“Nope, I still have my mega bottle which I purchased WITHOUT a prescription from Costco”.  So, I guess my advice to anyone considering living abroad-Find your doctors before you need them, because I am sure the “Welcoming Committee” will come make a visit to your house too!

Feb 14, 2011

Lichtenstein Castle


Sunday was such a fun day.  We decided to go on a little drive to the Swabian-Albs to visit the Lichtenstein Castle.  It was only about 40 minutes away from Stuttgart and once I woke up from my “passenger seat nap” realized it was a pretty drive through the rolling hills.  

From what I could understand of our German tour, the first castle was built here on the “mountain cliff ”in the 1100s.  Over the centuries, various castles have been built, destroyed by war, and rebuilt on this same “cliff”.  There are still some of the original walls from 1388.  Jason did the best he could at translating most of the tour.  However, as soon as the tour guide would start giving information as we entered a new room, Karina would say, “daddy, what did she say?”  Unfortunately, I don’t think Jason was able to get much out of the tour either so we paid for an English brochure!  The lack of understanding didn’t seem to faze any of the Hoff family; we understood the enchanting scenery that was surrounding us- THAT didn’t need words!  The views are breathtaking (and believe me when I say both my breath and my heartbeat were taken away when I peeked a look down the side of the cliff)  There was a sense of peacefulness as we walked along the winding paths through the woods… until we found the playground!   Put a zip line in front of these two and the peacefulness is quickly interrupted by high octave noise and laughter! Then add a game of freeze tag with daddy and all peace was gone…until mommy found the BierGarten.  I decided to get “brave” and ask a man, who appeared to be a local, for a restaurant recommendation in the area.  As I have found with most Germans thus far, he was extremely kind as he explained that there were TWO local restaurants that were well known for having superb Trout.  We decided to try “Adler” which in addition to the trout was known for their “Honau” potato dish.  I know I cannot possibly describe this meal and give it the justice it deserves, so I won’t try!  Let’s just say we didn’t hear a peep out of the kids the whole time they were eating.  Then again, it could have been the hunger all the fresh air caused.  The “funny” of the night….as Jason was heading to the car with the kids, a few people stopped me on my way out and started asking me the usual questions we tend to get asked (where are you from, why are you living in Germany, Do you like it here…etc. etc. )  The waiter came and “retrieved” me at Jason’s request (he was sitting in the car with the kids) As I hopped in the car, buckled my seat belt, Jason began laughing and continued to laugh as he repeated the question Karina had asked while I was inside, “daddy, why is mommy always so CHATTY CHATTY with everyone?” So there you have it……..I guess I will stop being “chatty-chatty” on this post and share the following:

What I do know for sure about Lichtenstein Castle:
·      *In 1802 the land came into the hands of King Frederick I of Württemberg
·      *He built a castle on the site to serve as a hunting lodge.
·      *He was given the longest champagne glass in the world and it is on display.
·      *Food in a German Biergarten beats any fast food in the U.S! 
·      *Zip Lines and parks are at most attractions we have visited and makes the kids look forward to each “Weekend tour”
·      *They have a website with more accurate information than what I have written-http://www.schloss-lichtenstein.de/english/index.php
·      *The restaurant/hotel has a website in case you are in the area and want a fantastic meal  http://www.adler-lichtenstein.de/restaurant%28engl.%29.htm



*
Is this real?


This can make a stomach drop....


OLD
some of the walls are from 1300's




Zip Lines...everywhere in Germany

Nothing like a game of 'Freeze Tag' with dad at a Castle!


Feb 13, 2011

Ohne Geld Sein


das Geld=money
die Bank=place you can keep your money.
der Geldautomat=atm machine you use to get your money
‘die’ Zero=amount of money I had access to on Friday

After I found myself in a “pickle” Friday, I decided it would be a good time to write about the general differences in money here in Germany.....and it isn’t just the looks.

Front and back of the coins



There are quit a few differences between Germany and the U.S. when it comes to “money”or “Geld”.  I admit, it has taken me a while to recognize the different coins and have held up many store lines while I examine each coin to determine their value.  Because numbers and finances are a slow process for me to learn, I have let Jason “handle” our finances up to this point.  Yes, that is right my friend, I have dragged my feet learning how to pay bills and how to access money here in Germany.  (No lectures PLEASE)  Let me enlighten you as to what can exactly happen when one chooses not to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of financial transactions in a new country……..  As I was driving in a new part of town, I was excited to notice the Mega store, “REAL” (pronounced-REEE-ALL, not real), smiling at me.  I decided to “pop-in” and check it out.  It is the closest version of “Target” here in Germany.  We have received several fliers in the newspaper that have sparked my interest because their merchandise seems to change weekly.  After spending an hour of bliss loading up my cart, I stood in the long line to pay.  My turn, the cashier swipes my EC once….twice…looks at me and says in German, “sorry, doesn’t work”.  I look at the expressions on the faces behind me waiting and make a quick decision to pay in cash rather than have  my card denied again.  As I slowly count out ALL of the bills and coins in my purse, I glance back again at the line of faces and beg the 'higher powers' to please shrink me to the size of an Ant so I can crawl out of here.  Thankfully, the Powers didn't listen and I had just enough cash to pay.  The problem now, I had NO money for the rest of the day.  You see, exactly a week prior I had my U.S. debit card “disqualified” for usage since I tried to use the wrong pin number three times. (Did I mention I am not very good at remembering numbers)  So, here I was standing in a Foreign country, not being able to access my U.S. account for at least another week, and confused as to what was going on with my German account and having no such back-up source called a checkbook.  It was such a helpless feeling.  Not to mention, I had not purchased our food for dinner, nor our upcoming week’s worth of fresh cheese and meats from market.  Even worse, the dog groomer was waiting for me to come pick up Rocky and PAY.  Yes, I ended up surviving the day and Jason ended up coming home in time to pay for dinner (we have now learned they have Pizza delivery here in Germany) 

Here are some things I have noticed are different……

·      Currency Name-“euro” (€)  vs. “dollar” ($) When I first traveled to Germany in 1997, the currency was “Deutschmark” but about ten years ago Germany switched to using the euro. It is the sole currency of 17 EU Member States.

·      Pronunciation-It is funny how many Americans try to correct my pronunciation of euro.  I happen to pronounce the word correctly in German (well, that might be going a little too far since I am not sure if I pronounce any German word “CORRECTLY”)  Every EU member which has adopted the euro, has a different pronunciation depending on how the letters of the alphabet are pronounced in their country.  I have included a link where you can listen to all the variations. 


·      Notes - There are NO “one dollar bills”.  Notes here are different sizes based on their worth.  You will only find paper notes issued here in €5, €10, €20, €50 €100, €200, €500.  By the way, did you know the U.S. is one of the only countries in which the bills are all the same size. 

·      Coins-seven coins including ones for €1 and €2.  This has taken me a little time to get used to when digging in my wallet with people waiting so patiently behind me at the cashier.  I am also learning to be sure to always have a few of these coins on me since this is common payment in machines.  Can you imagine using a coin rather than a $1.00 bill? 

·      NO checks.  We weren’t even issued a single check in case of an emergency.  They don’t exist.  If I had to guess, this goes back to making trash and wasting paper.  

·      Cash.  In some places cash is the only form of payment accepted to the point I am still surprised when I hand over my card and they hand it back to me asking for cash.  (Plan to carry some cash when visiting us so you don’t find yourself in a pickle at a smaller shop or restaurant.)

·      Eurocard (EC) which works like a debit card.  However, the ‘EC’ is different in some ways when compared to our U.S. debit card. First, it is my understanding that withdrawals are free at the ATM, which means no running around trying to find your specific bank’s ATM to avoid an additional fee.  Also, you don’t choose between “credit or debit” when paying.  If cash isn’t required, you use your EC virtually (Many places do not accept credit cards nor are credit cards used very often here other than large purchases.)  

·      Paying bills- Bills are paid via online banking and fund transfers rather than mailing checks.  I have to admit, it is taking me a little time to get used to this paperless world but there are no other choices. We paid some bills in the U.S. via the internet, but here you pay ALL this way.  

·      Points and Commas- placements are all different here in numbers. For example the Two thousand euro is written: €2.000,00 Ten dollars and fifty cent is written: €10,5 (see that it is a period where we put a comma and a comma where we put a period)

The good news… I now have both a new U.S. debit Card and German EC on order and a pocket full of cash thanks to Jason!  Off for our Sunday outing-tschüss


Feb 12, 2011

TASTE BUD PARTY..UPDATE

A little too brown on top....

I HAD to post this update on the "Gemüsetasche".  I do not care what my google translates this dish to in English anymore!  I now have my own translation "THE PARTY IN YOUR MOUTH IS SO GRAND, IT WILL SEND YOUR TASTE BUDS IN A COMA" or I guess if eaten often the translation might be "DANGEROUS FOR YOU HIPS".  After two days of looking at the 'Tasche' every time I opened our refrigerator, I finally got the nerve to cook it for lunch today.  (thanks to a little advice from my two German friends, Evelyn & Andrea) This nice little dough stuffed treat has the consistency on the outside like a flakey Apple Strudel pastry that melts in your mouth.  But that is only the beginning of this party.  The warm and soft vegetable filling had such a nice texture, I barely had to chew.  I also learned from my German teacher, who makes these from scratch, that the dough pocket can be filled with various types meats, vegetables, cheese, or fruit.  My advice, if you visit us here in Germany, make sure this is on my shopping list to buy at the Metzgerei. 

I have been writing about my "adventures" from yesterday and will post tomorrow.  We are hitting the town now to make our 'SATURDAY SHOPPING' before the stores close and the babysitter arrives.  Jason and I are headed to a "reunion" dinner party tonight which I am sure will be fun.  It is a group of German/Swedish colleagues, now friends, that Jason has over the last 18 years, at some point worked with at Mercedes. Tschüss!



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Stuttgart, Germany, Germany
We moved from Alabama to Stuttgart, Germany in December 2010. This is a great adventure for our whole family that we enjoy sharing.
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