Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dippemess aka Local Fair

This past Friday we walked over to the local fair to see just how Germany does these things. To our surprise it was very similar to American fairs, but we did notice a few differences:

1.) The smells were very different, but also very enjoyable. In the States you imagine giant Turkey legs, corn on the cob, and popcorn. Well here the smells were more brats and awesome roasted nuts. One thing I did learn recently that all popcorn in Germany is sweet not salty.

2.) They had a huge beer tent with a live band. Not that a band isnt common it is more the beer tent. A good way for adults to have a good time while the kiddos are playing games.

3.) I know this is Europe but usually fairs are a kid friendly atmosphere and while all of this was true there was an unusual amount of boobies and butts at the fair. All the stands had airbrush artwork on them and 9 out of 10 had a woman with her goods hanging out.

Exhibit A and this was the most G rated one we could find

4.) They had a lot of vendors that were selling stuff like household items. It was a little strange to see stands selling clothes, pottery, mops, coffee mugs, etc. But we did enjoy browsing through them.

Here are some pictures from the night.

Your typical ferris wheel

A fast speeding ride that would have made me throw up.

This ride just seemed crazy. Lots of spinning.

Enjoying a sour rope, but not quite the same as we are used to, not as sweet

I just thought this was funny, a bar table and stools with legs.

The haunted house ride.

It was a fun night and we love just getting out and being locals here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Blumen (flowers)

The flowers in Germany are one of my favorite things as I have said before. I was looking forward to the day I either bought some or was given some and it happened this past Friday. My sweet husband walked through our door with these beautiful flowers from my favorite flower stand.

I was one happy wife. It is the little things that make life so enjoyable! 

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The First Cut is the Deepest...

   .... at least that's what Sheryl Crow said.  In this case it turned out to not be the case.  For weeks before we left for Germany the thought had crossed my mind, "what's going to happen when I need to get a haircut?  how am I going to explain what I want in a second language? etc."  
     Well the time came this past Saturday and I went for it.  We strolled down the Bergerstrasse next to our apartment, poking our heads into a few places that were already booked up until we found one that had an opening.  The other rule was that we would bypass any place that was geared towards turkish hairstyles - not in a judgmental way, but they tend to have very short hairstyles with occasional designs carved into them and sometimes even the "modern mullet" look.  

    I confidently strolled in and sat down in the stylist's chair and explained that this was my first haircut in Germany and I whipped out a picture of myself with my hair the length that I wanted it cut.  As they say, "a picture is worth a thousand words", in any language.  She seemed to understand very well, asked a few questions along the way to make sure that the length was o.k. and here's what I ended up with:

     It was a real relief to get that first haircut out of the way without any casualties.  Let's face it, bad haircuts happen to good people all the time.  There is a difference between hair places here and in the U.S. though, as one of our German friends pointed out.  Unlike places like Fantastic Sams, Hair Cuttery, and Great Clips in the States where young artists in training are unleashed to practice on customers, in Germany every person employed in a hair cutting establishment has served as an apprentice under someone and is going to be well-seasoned.  Needless to say, I took my new "Friseur's (stylist)" card for the next time.  Pia's got my back!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Königstein – “Kingstone”

This past Saturday we decided to join our American friends on a hiking trip to Königstein, situated about 30 minutes northwest of Frankfurt by train. Some of my co-workers had recommended the place for its castle and hiking trails up to the top of some of the Taunus hills.

Downtown view of Koenigstein.

We headed out early and arrived in town by 9:30, walked through the quaint little town shown below, and up to the Schloss Falkenstein (Falkenstein Castle) for a quick self-tour. This 12th century castle had an incredible view of the city below and was reduced to mostly ruins after it was dynamited by the French in 1796. There was also a nice view of the Villa Andreae, built in 1891 for a Frankfurt banker and later used as a boarding school from 1957-1987 when it became private property. Since 1997 it has been the headquarters for some unnamed business (probably German mafia).
Driveway up to Schloss Falkenstein
View of Villa Andreae
Castle ruins
Castle Tower ( 147 steps to the top)

From the top of the tower
Look at the view from the top
After touring the castle we started our hike up into the Taunus hills towards a trail rest stop called “Fuchstanz” (fox dance). The trails were well-marked and the surrounding forest was stunning. It took about an hour to reach Fuchstanz and we were more than ready to stop and have lunch. I was thrilled to finally have some decent spaetzle, which is a traditional dish from Baden-Wurtemburg (the state that Stüttgart is in). It’s somewhat like a greasy, thick pasta with cheese – I call it the German mac ‘n cheese.
After lunch we continued up the trail for another hour or so until we reached the top of the Großer Feldberg, which is the highest point of the Taunus hills at 881 meters (nearly 2,700 feet). At the top we came across tons of mountain bikers and motorcyclists enjoying the perfect weather. It was a helluva workout overall, covering about 10 miles roundtrip.
Our lunch stop
Wicked awesome trails!
Our two stops on the trail

We made it to the top...2,700 feet. Huge radio tower supposedly used to spy on East Germany.
Marisa and Katy

All and all a beautiful day for a hike!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Giving Universal Healthcare a Shot

No, this post will not have anything to do with my opinion on proposals for universal healthcare in the U.S. I know that it’s a hot topic going on back in the States, but here it’s already in place so I figured that I’d try it out. It all started Friday afternoon at school…….

On Fridays it is a tradition at my school for teachers to play indoor soccer against 10-12th grade students. This has been a great opportunity for me to get to know some of the students at the school in a different setting while trying to stay in some decent shape and keep up my touch on a soccer ball. Unfortunately, this past Friday I came down on my left ankle while lunging for a ball and rolled my ankle. The all-to-familiar popping sound of my ankle was like German techno to my ears as I knew my fun was over for the day. After quickly applying the steps of R.I.C.E., I hobbled to the train station and made my way home. I felt like an idiot because Marisa and I had planned on taking a hike in Königstein the next day and I could only see myself sitting around the apartment with my leg propped up all weekend.

After calling Marisa, who made a quick trip to the Apotheke (pharmacy) a block from our apartment for ibuprofen and a cold wrap, I started debating whether I wanted to stop by the hospital (literally a 4-minute walk away from our apartment) for an x-ray. Partly due to the convenience of being so close to the hospital and partly due to my curiosity of how the German healthcare system would work I decided to visit the emergency room. Here’s how it went down…

First I went in to an eerily quiet hospital on a Friday evening and found my way to the emergency entrance. The person at registration only needed my insurance card and 10€ for an “emergency fee” which is actually valid for the next month in case I return for any services (hopefully not). Marisa and I then waited in a small waiting area with two other patrons who were waiting for a relative. It took about 30 minutes or so before I was seen by a young doctor recently out of med school (he was 28 years old –made me think about my cousin, Jack). I explained the situation in German and he ended up speaking very good English, which took some pressure off of the situation. After a quick examination he didn’t think that there was any break, but he sent me upstairs to get a Röntgen (x-ray) to be sure. Again the hospital was very quiet, empty, and low-lit in an attempt to be energy-efficient. The x-ray process was performed exactly as it would be in the U.S., only with a smaller lead vest which was only designed to cover the ballsac area instead of your entire chest. I took the x-rays myself back down to the doctor who examined them and concluded that there was no break. A Krankenschwester (nurse – literally “sick sister”) came in to put a cool gel on my ankle and wrap it with an ace bandage. The doctor then typed up a report for us to give to our Hausarzt (primary care physician, sort of) whenever we get one, to put on my medical record. We left feeling pretty good about the situation, spending a total of about 2 hours for the entire visit. Compared to the U.S. in my opinion it probably took about the same amount of time, I received a comparable quality of care, and I only paid 10€ ($14) which covers any hospital trip for a month. Not sure what it would cost in the U.S., but I have to believe that it’d be a little more expensive.

I’m just glad that they didn’t make me use these ridiculous German crutches. They typically give these out for everything from stubbed toes, to blisters, to amputations. They might be the only assistive medical device that actually makes you more handicapped than with the injury alone. It’s entertaining watching everyone attempt to use these around town. I hope to never need them.

So, after one experience with the healthcare system, everything seems to be smooth sailing. Stay tuned 'til the next episode when I try to get my prescription drugs refilled.....

Thursday, September 10, 2009

One of my favorite things

When I was living in Atlanta I always wanted to have a fresh farmer's market close by and was very jealous of my friends, the Tison's, who had one they went to almost every week. They would cook up awesome meals with fresh meat and veggies and I wanted to be like that. Well now I am!!!! Every Wednesday and Saturday on the main street by our house called the Berger Strasse they have a full blown fresh farmer's market. Instead of trying to explain it to you I will show you.

A view of the market

All the meat you could imagine. I don't have any pictures, but they also have stands that sell cooked meat. A lot of people come out and grab a wurst and have lunch standing outside.

An olive shop- I still have not bought anything here, but it is very popular sometimes they have a line.

Lots and lots of fresh produce. I make sure to buy plenty for the week.

Potato stand- They have these little potatoes called butter kartoffeln and they are delicious. They taste like the butter was injected inside.

Beautiful fresh fruit.

The fresh flowers are my favorite. They have so many bright colors and amazing arrangements. I cant wait to put some in my new vase. I also saw some fresh fall wreathes this week.

Herbs and spices. I really wish I had my spice rack with me.

Lastly this is for our friend, Buck. They have more than just food at this market they also have an on hand carpenter. His whole stand is items he has made himself and he also carves right there on the sidewalk. It was fun to watch a craftsman at work.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of the market I get to enjoy each week. It makes grocery shopping so much more enjoyable.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Living Strong

While we didn’t see much of France, wear yellow jerseys and bracelets, or lose testicles, we did do some serious biking last weekend – Germany style of course! Behold another feat of German engineering………the Bier Bike!!

It was real last minute, but we came across the opportunity to check out this bar on wheels with several of my co-workers. Basically, you and 15 of your closest friends can reserve this thing for a certain number of hours and specify the amount of beer you want available. For a group of thirteen adults, including a few elementary teachers, we reserved around 20 liters of pilsner for two hours. The cost was only around €25 per person, which was a steal. Here’s a picture of the group.

So as you can see the bier bike features 12 seats with pedals fixed around a bar, a driver who merely steers and brakes, some extra seats in the back, a keg holder on the front, and a tap in the middle. Everyone pedals to contribute what they can to the forward motion of the bike while the driver guides you on a scenic route through Frankfurt. You can stop wherever you like for food or potty breaks and you’re encouraged to bring your own cd’s to add a personal soundtrack to the adventure. Of course the engineer in me had to find out how this contraption is possible, so I took a peak at the undercarriage…..

So each person’s pedals are separately connected to a long drive shaft on each side of the bike. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the gear ratio is such that you really can’t get the bike going faster than a brisk walking pace.

Stretching out the groin because we all know a loose groin is a happy groin!

Marisa enjoying her ride and no that guy in the kilt mooning a tourist bus is not with us and is not a teacher ;)

Having our own tailgate in honor of our hometown team, Go Jackets!

We were most surprised at how much work you had to do just to keep up a struggling pace. Our thighs were burning like two hours of wall sits. So, we checked that off our list. A good time was had by all and I would recommend anyone do it once.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A little decor

During the Museum Ufer Fest we thought it would be a good idea to pick up some local artwork to hang on our plain white walls. We bought these three cute and simple prints by an artist named G. Kosovac.
What do you think?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fans from far away

 In honor of football season starting up we plan to be fans of Georgia Tech all the way from Germany. Thanks to our awesome friend, Melanie, who mailed us this year's football poster last week, we now have it proudly hanging in our living room. We are pumped for the season to kick off this weekend and we will be staying up on all the action throughout the season.
And don't think there isn't any other fans of the Jackets in Frankfurt because I ran into this guy getting on a train this week! GO JACKETS!!! He was from Marietta, GA, how awesome is that!

We all know that football aka soccer is very big in Europe and we are going to be hometown fans of our team Eintracht, GO EAGLES! I am a little bummed that their colors are black and red, but we will deal. I can't wait to go to our first game soon!
Also you all know Justin loves his American football so he is still holding strong to his fantasy football league, but we also have the pleasure of the German Bowl 2009. It will be hosted in Frankfurt and the best seat in the house is only 35 euros. Think Super Bowl European style. We know it will probably be some really bad football, but at least we can say we saw football in Germany. With no TV and no Sportscenter we might need the German Bowl.

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