Monday, December 21, 2015

Das German Food

I pretty much travel through food.  Therefore my chubby, long-winded ass is going to get right down to the good stuff.

Wiener Schnitzel

Arguably the most German dish there is...from Austria.  Not the first time that's happened (Hitler) - ha!  A thin piece of meat (in my experience indistinguishable what type of meat) crumbed and fried.  Served with fries and a side salad to create the illusion of health.


Spätzle are egg noodles, often served as a side dish.  Here they're served with cheese and caramelized onions, cat nip for me, making it probably my favorite dish of the whole trip.  When in Dresden I highly, highly recommend the hip but hole-in-the-wall restaurant Lila Soße (fear not, they do have a few menus in English).


Minced, raw pork on bread sprinkled with raw onions.  I can't wrap my head around raw mammal meat so Martin had this while I had a dish that was slightly more palatable.  I did have a bite, though, and can see why people love it.  Very popular in Hamburg.  I even saw kids going to town on this!


Not to be confused with Norwegian lapskaus (meat and potato stew).  Under that egg is minced meat, cooked this time, and a side dish of gherkins (pickles) and picked herring.  I think this is special to the seaside north of Germany and not widely eaten elsewhere.


Pretty simple concept.  Sausage + ketchup + curry powder = drunk food.  Actually one could argue that this, not schnitzel, is the most German dish there is.  Originated in Berlin but now ubiquitous throughout the country.

Nuremberg Bratwurst+ Apfelschorle

This right here is a 3 lunch.  The sausages are white before you cook them and we often had them for breakfast (German breakfast is a meat feast, perhaps this is why I'm the shortest girl around when with my German lady friends).  The drink is a beloved soft drink that is apple juice mixed with sparkling water.  A must try when in Nuremberg, a cheap local delicacy!


Seasonal mushrooms that were all the rage when I was there in August.  Only later did I translate the word and realize these are chantarelle mushrooms.  They were delish served over a bed of spätzle!


Another seasonal product that was in full force while I was there.  It's a plum that you can eat or, as my travel partner Sabrina took advantage of at every opportunity, make into a drink.  She was aghast that I had never heard of these things before.  Apparently they're beloved by Das Germans.

Dark German bread

I am in love with German bread.  It's so dark that it borders on healthy (I am of the 'bread makes you fat' frame of mind) and it's delicious.  There's so much you can slather on top of it, and I tried hard to reach my goal of eating dark bread every day while I was there.


A.k.a. pork knuckle a.k.a. ham hock, another contender for most German dish there is.  It's served with a dumpling that looks like a potato, but is not a potato, but is made out of potato (got that?).  And sauerkraut, of course.  Another restaurant recommendation in Dresden: Watzke was great and super popular with tourists and locals alike. 

Happy to be in Dresden eating a pork knuckle

Not really German, more Eastern European, but anywhere there's cold, miserable weather there is a meat stew to be found.  It was quite the opposite of cold in August, but the misery remained.  OMG it's called air conditioning, people!


"How about we soak some meat in vinegar?" somebody at some point asked.  For as heinous as that sounds it's really not bad!  Marinating in vinegar tenderizes the meat and adds a slightly acidic flavor.  Here are those funky not-potato dumplings again!

Pfunds Molkerei

Pfunds Dairy: the Guinness Book of World Records has declared this place the most beautiful dairy shop in the world, because that is somehow a category.  This place really is beautiful!  So beautiful, in fact, that you aren't allowed to take pictures.  Oops!

I'll save you from having to Google for better pictures by linking to the image search here.  I paid 1 for a tiny glass of milk, which was a lot considering the size.  I can't quite say it was the best milk I've ever tasted, but it was well worth the over inflated price.  Delicious!


I ate a surprisingly small number of desserts in Germany (for shame), but I had to get in at least one apple strudel.  This was at one of the cafes frequented only by old ladies, so once again Sabrina and I found ourselves in the company of the geriatric!  

Ridiculously cheap booze

Seriously, it never fails to astound me how cheap alcohol is in Germany.  And how accessible it is!  These less than 2 bottles were available at every grocery store in the country.  If you want to take that bottle onto a park bench and drink the whole thing, by all means go right ahead.  It's the polar opposite drinking culture from Norway where people have to be protected from themselves through severely restricted access and price gouging.  Look. At. Those. Prices! 

Another thing that fascinated me is the bottle return phenomenon.  Not the return-bottles-for-a-few-cents system, that's pretty standard.  It's who is returning those bottles that is fascinating to me.  In Norway homeless people rifle through trash to find discarded bottles to reap the profit.  In Germany totally normal people do it.  People who don't appear outwardly homeless or poor dig through garbage in the hopes of making 10 cents, more often than not leaving empty handed.  Really?!  Yes, really.

All the Germans just seemed to accept that as fact, that their (perfectly normal) fellow countrymen dig through trash bins in search of a few pennies.  Nothing out of the ordinary about it.  Given how accepted this is, I found this to be exceptionally smart and dignified:

I only saw it in Cologne (conveniently where we did our finest drinking in public) but I think countries that do paid bottle return should implement this system.  Surely people digging through trash is a public health hazard, and this is an easy way to remedy that.  Throwing a little dignity towards people who dumpster dive surely is a good thing.

I aimed to eat ALL the traditional German food while I was there, but my travel partner Sabrina tells me that it is not something young people normally eat.  Which I think is a shame! Food is culture, and it would be sad for that to die off with the older generations.  But I think there'll always be tourists like myself who want to sample the old timey, traditional cuisine so they'll keep on making it.  Even if the youths want to eat McDonald's (damn youths).  

I'm not joking when I say most of what I do while traveling is eat.  I do other stuff, too, of course but the highlight?  That's local mass quantities!  

Here ends my foodie tour of Germany, and my blogging recaps that took a ridiculous amount of time to complete.  I hope you have enjoyed wandering with me through my beloved countries of Norway and Germany!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Melbourne Cup

This blog has morphed into a travel log and while that is indeed awesome, was not my original intent for this dog and pony show.  In the future I'll try my best to offer more glimpses into everyday life in Australia and our various goings on.

A good introduction to life Down Under is "the race that stops the nation", a.k.a. Melbourne Cup.  I had never heard about it before moving here, so I'm sure you also need an explanation.  It's a horse race, nay*, it is the horse race.

(*See what I did there?)

Random yet related aside: Did you know that here they pronounce the word derby as darby?  They legitimately say "Kentucky Darby" with no hint of shame or remorse.  Personally I find this one of the worst linguistic offenses committed by Australians.

Back to Melbourne Cup.  It is a huge event all around Australia, particularly in Melbourne where the event is held.  It's a public holiday there, so most people don't have to fight the crowds and go to work that day.  But up here in Queensland we do have to go to work, and it's awesome!  Awesome because most of the afternoon is spent hanging out, eating, gambling and if your boss is chill:

I've now had the pleasure of experiencing four Melbourne Cups.  The first year I had no idea what was going on, but beginner's luck won me my biggest gambling profit to date.  What did I do with my winnings?  Why, I invested in future Melbourne Cups!  I bought a fascinator:

Melbourne Cup is all about the hats (meaning both Queen-esque hats and fascinators)!  I love them!  I've picked up a few more over the years, and I'm always in the market for a new fascinator if the price is right.

The bigger, the better.

Australians are huge gamblers.  Nowhere near Chinese-level obsession with gambling, but I'm always surprised by how many gambling ads are on TV, especially around Melbourne Cup time.  If you follow horse racing and know the horses you can bet on your preferred horse(s), but most people are casual gamblers who don't know who to bet on.  Enter the phenomenon that is "the sweeps":

Sweeps are little slips of paper with the name of a horse on each, which allows you to bet by blindly picking them out of the hat, and hope that your horse(s) wins.  No skill or knowledge required.  Just bring your gold coins:

Doesn't look like much but that's $15 ripe for gambling

Trust me when I say it is not easy to run the sweeps, as I've had a hand in running the show the past two years.  Someone has to do it, though, so why not immigrant labor?  Every workplace must have a Melbourne Cup sweeps!

There are many reasons I love Melbourne Cup.



Sometimes, if you're lucky.

TV at work!


I imagine only in Australia can you buy horsie napkins
Hats...and group photos!


Sometimes, if you're lucky.

Bottom line: the first Tuesday of each November is my favorite day to go to work.  Everybody is in a good mood, not a whole lot of work gets done and occasionally I walk away with a few bucks in my pocket (...and occasionally I walk away with a hole in my pocket).

I love it so much that when we went to New Zealand a few years back I purposefully booked our flight for the day after Melbourne Cup so I wouldn't miss a minute of the action.

Now that is dedication!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

EuroTrip 2015: Traveling Germany (Part 5 of 5)

The thrilling conclusion to my August November.

After two solid weeks of hard boozin' it was time for me to buckle down and do some serious tourst-ing.  I hadn't been to Europe in three and a half years, which felt like a [painful] lifetime when you consider I lived there for four years before moving to Australia.  In case you're wondering, that is the very definition of a First World Problem.

Martin was starting a new job immediately after EuroTrip 2015 so after the wedding he had to get back to Australia and start earning the big bucks.  Not me, though. I was starved of European history and culture, and I had to get my fix!

So that left me to travel...alone.  Which is not really my scene.  Fortunately our friend/Martin's Edinburgh classmate Sabrina had just quit her job for a summer of fun in the sun (as you do when you're German and jobs are plentiful) so she was available to come with me to be my guide and interpreter.

A few years ago I read the book All That I Am by Australian author Anna Funder and subsequently became super interested in East Germany.  Prior to this book I knew nothing of the Stasi, the wildly psychotic state security service, or much of anything about their history.  Let me tell you: It. Is. Fascinating!  Scary yet fascinating (similar to how I feel about the Nazi time).  Because of this historical obsession, high on my priority list was a trip to


Modern day Germans are, how to put it?  Strange about "The East".  It's like they simultaneously fear it (and the people within) while also pitying it.  And really resent it for "taking so much money without contributing anything".  I get the distinct feeling that the two Germanys are still very much segregated today, despite what the map and Angela Merkel tells you.

Anyway, my travel partner had no desire to visit Lepizig, which was the post-Nazi, pre-1989 Stasi headquarters.  But there was no way in hell I was missing it, and the museums that lie within!

Zeitgeschichtliches Forum - Forum of Contemporary History

This museum focused mainly on the surveillance techniques of the Stasi against the East German people.  Nothing was in English.  And I mean nothing, aside from a few posters and things printed at the time by the American military.

I really wish I would've had a German dictionary with me.  This could have been so much more interesting!

Museum in der Runden Eche - Museum in the Round Corner

This was Stasi HQ back in the day.  It showcased a variety of things about the way the Stasi was run, and the claustrophobia of the building (stuffy, windowless) was palpable.  Thankfully this time you could rent an audio guide in English, which was priceless.

I got the feeling in Leipzig that they were ashamed of their torrid past, and outsider Stasi Gawkers such as myself were not desired nor required.  Did I feel unwelcome?  No, particularly because of the nice Airbnb couple - not German - I stayed with.  But the lack of English any and everywhere gave me the feeling that the past was not a tourist attraction, and they would rather not dwell on the way things once were (and trust me, they were not good).

One day of lone travel was plenty for my social self.  After my lone trip to Leipzig Sabrina and I met up in


Lovely weather to add to that East German ambiance
Still in East Germany.

My favorite book, I declared at age 18, is Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.  This book was assigned in my freshman English class...which I read during orientation week months before it was actually required.  Not the best idea for my social development, but I fell in love with it and I fell hard.

If you've read the book you know that much of it is set in Dresden, immediately after the February 1945 fire bombing.  Dresden has been my #1 travel bucket list destination since that fateful week in 2001.

Yes, #1 destination on the whole of planet Earth.

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five tour

Though the book is entirely fictional, the location is entirely real.  Well, it was (past tense) real.  In East Germany's attempt to shield their [our] eyes from the past they literally built right over it.  It's now an exhibition hall.

But there is a memorial wall to Vonnegut and the book.

In the basement.

At the coat check.

I shit you not!  See what I said about not inviting Looky Lu's into their world to gawk at the past?  This is living proof.

In their defense, Slaughterhouse Five is a 100% American book written for an American audience.  Sabrina had never ever heard of it before, much less read it.  Even the tour guide had never heard of it until he asked American tourists, "Why are you all coming to Dresden?"  Everybody answered, "Because of Slaugherhouse Five".  So he read the book, taught himself English and cashed in by doing tours of what remains of the Americans.  Who said European capitalism is dead?

Grünes Gewölbe Green Vaults

When in Dresden do not miss the Green Vaults!  They were spectacular and, visually, the highlight of my time in Dresden.  Hell, in all of Germany.  Come to think of it, all of Europe or even the whole world!  You can't take anything in there, so you'll have to Google for photos.  You even have to go into a "decompression chamber" between the regular museum and Green Vaults so the humidity/air/whatever else doesn't get into the precious vault.  It's all very James Bond, and worth the tight security!

After a few [lovely, don't get me wrong] days in "The East", I hate to admit, it was nice to get back to the west of Germany.  It's tough to explain, but I felt more in touch with civilization in the west, and like I was more welcome.  Almost like I could breathe again!


Originally I wanted to visit the courthouse where Nazis were tried in the Nuremberg Trials, but I soon realized that the courthouse is fully functional today and only open to Looky Lu's on the weekend.  There was no way I could get there on a weekend, so I had to scratch it from the itinerary.  Boo!  But I still felt Nuremberg, in the state of Bavaria, was a great destination.

Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände - Nazi party rally grounds

The main tourist site is [what's left of the] Nazi party rally grounds.  It is this massive, massive area where Hitler held rallies and all sorts of shenanigans like sporting events and Hitler Youth gatherings.

This was a really information heavy museum.  One could easily spend a full day there learning about the history of Hitler as a politician and the founding of the Nazi party.  As far as WWII history goes, interestingly, this is pretty factual and less emotional.  A political scientist's dream.

Schöner Brunnen

Another must do in Nuremburg is to visit the fountain in the central square and touch the big, brass ring, which supposedly brings prosperity to anybody who touches it.

...except the fountain was closed down for renovations.  I guess I am destined for a life of destitution.  However!  I thought this was really funny and cute:

Old folk for scale
They created a miniature version of the brass ring, so tourists could still touch it.  I wanted no part of that second class ring!  If the real ring brings prosperity then this cheap replica would no doubt bring poverty and misery!

A note about the old folk: Everywhere we went in Germany we were the youngest tourists by several decades.  Sabrina joked that it was just us and the grannies visiting the smaller cities of Germany.  That was so true!  I guess the youths focus their tourist-ing on Berlin and Munich (where I went when I was their age, but this time I wanted to see new, smaller places).


I spent an inordinate amount of time deciding exactly which of the smaller cities I wanted to visit in Germany.  I chose Wurzburg over some stunning other destinations, and I must admit I don't think I made the right choice.  It simply wasn't that interesting.

Würzburger Residenz - Wurzburg Residence

The palace known as "The Residence" is what made me pull the trigger on Wurzburg and even that I found underwhelming compared to the visual delights of the Green Vaults in Dresden.

Again, no pictures inside so you'll have to Google for it to see if it was worth skipping one of the various "German fairy tale towns" for.  I say probably not.

My fifth and final destination on my week long German holiday was


Oh look, a fairy tale castle!  Or more accurately, castle ruins.

Heidelberger Schloss - Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg is funny because there are a lot of Americans around from a nearby military base.  That's not really something I see often in my travels, and I loves me some eavesdropping (which isn't difficult; we are a loud people)!

Brückenaffen - Bridge Monkey of Heidelberg

I have noooooo idea why there is a statue of a babboon in Heidelberg, but as far as I can tell it is the tourist highlight of the whole town.  Bizarre!

And thus ends my Das German Travels.  Back to the southern hemisphere where we are devoid of much culture older than 200 years old.  Another FWP alert!  But don't cry for me, Argentina, what we lack in old buildings we more than make up for in natural beauty.

Martin says I'm obsessed with Germany.  This was my fourth trip, which makes it my most visited country.  I know I'll be back again, likely a few times, so I'm leaning towards believing him.

I am pretty god awful at taking pictures.  I didn't get one single shot of Sabrina and I together during our (near) week of travels together!  Isn't that awful?

But fear not, in a mere 6 weeks Sabrina will be making her way Down Under and starting an indefinite period of working holiday in Australia.  We will reunite again one day soon, and we've got some awesome Aussie travel planned to show her how to make the most of Australia!