Archive | February, 2014

Krapfen Zeit

25 Feb

Why yes indeed that is a pyramid of Krapfen (donuts) in Erlangen Arcarden!

Krapfen only last until Faschings Dienstag (or shrove Tuesday/pancake day) so get in there and find your favourite, don’t get too attached if you love this years ‘it’ Krapfen, odds are that next year it will have been surpassed. This year the best (IMO) have been cronuts (Der Beck),the Mr Bienen (Backhaus) and the old classic Vanille (Kalcreuther). The worst has to be the Hugo one I tasted yuck, do not do it!

Fasching parties have already started and most kids (and some grown ups) will have their costumes ready to wear to school on Friday. Go shopping on Friday and Saturday, you will thank me!


5 x 5 Erlangen

21 Feb

Five things I love about living in Erlangen

Cheap and delicious beer – Before I lived in Germany I was a confirmed wine drinker, tepid English beer just did not do it for me. Beer in Erlangen however has been a revelation, with the exception of drinking Tucher at the Berg the first year (big mistake) and suffering the worst hangover in history. The beer here is much purer due to German purity laws, consequently no chemical induced hangover but obviously a normal alcohol induced one if you get carried away.

Biking – Everywhere and anywhere, I hadn’t ridden a bike in at least 15 years when I arrived and I had somewhat of an attitude about cyclists (lycra clad maniacs), which might be true of the UK but in Erlangen bike is king. You are just as likely to see your elderly neighbour on a bike as you would a five year old, and lycra? Limited to the serious cyclists (thankfully). Stupidly safe, quick and easy, you will never go back to walking again.

The Market – Good quality local produce, inexpensive and you get a free German practice session whilst you are there.

The Botanical Gardens – Small but perfectly formed and open year round. A great place to chill out and take photos, there is an indoor tropical area too which makes a nice change in the rain or snow but considering it’s not far from the Hauptstrasse it is very peaceful and hardly ever crowded.

The library – I’m a total bookworm and for 15 euro a year I have access to a decent stock of English books, it is also the best place to do  German homework in, you don’t even have to buy a coffee. The atrium also has a decent range of papers and magazines that you can hang out and read (membership not required).

Five things I don’t love about living in Erlangen (or things that need some getting used to)

Staring – This is a common trait that most of Erlangen seems to have, having been taught that staring is rude from an early age it goes completely against the British personality to stare at a stranger, for no apparent reason other than you don’t know them. I spent a lot of time wondering if I had something on my face and constantly feeling embarrassed when I met a strangers eyes, as far as I know there is no rhyme or reason why I get stared at, I think I blend in pretty well (when not speaking), even though I don’t own any Jack Wolfskin. My advice stare back and smile, enjoy the results.

Customer service – Mostly the lack of it, considering to work in a shop you have to complete ‘on the job training’ (an Ausbildung) it does not seem to cover service with a smile or helping your patrons. Try not to take it personally, it’s not you its them, when I get good service I will go back again and again, bad service and I will tell all of my friends and we will all stay away, who knows one day shops might realise this?

Getting shouted at – This is generally but older people and it is when I do something very minor ‘wrong’. When waiting for the green man, on an empty street I give up and just cross, cue the little old lady berating me for jaywalking, which yes is a crime here for which you will get a telling off from the police (if they see you) but as long as I don’t do it in front of a child (forever the good example) I’m a grown up and I’m just going to do it.

Lack of apologies – As a Brit I am maybe prone to over apologising on occasion but here I’ve been punched and knocked off my feet and the persons responsible merely shrugged and have given me a dirty look. I don’t care if it was the person behind you who initially pushed you, and you dominoed into me, at least bloody apologise!

Sundays and ‘quiet holidays’ – Everything is shut, you may not do washing (or even hang it where people can see), hoovering, wash your car, put bottles in a recycling bank, you may only eat or get out and exercise. This can be hard to come to terms with when you come from the land of 24h shopping and bemoan the limited Sunday opening hours of 10-4. Good news, the Czech Republic is only 3 hours away, and they open on sunday!

Being the stranger

13 Feb

When you leave your native home and you arrive in a new country, you become the stranger. It doesn’t matter if you moved 500km or 6000km you are still, and will always be, the stranger.

Now ‘stranger’ to me formerly had negative connotations, I was the kid who had ‘stranger danger’ drummed into me at school, at home and everywhere in between. The stranger is foreign, an alien, one not the same as the rest of ‘us’. I’m not saying that I’m a conformist or anything but in the UK I was never the stranger (maybe a little strange) but definitely not the stranger.

I prefer the word stranger to foreigner. I will always be foreign, I don’t intend on giving up my British citizenship, ever, and no-one ever truly stops being foreign, being a stranger though is more of a sliding scale. From the unknown to acquaintance to friend and all the steps in between, you can still be the stranger in a foreign land and a friend at the same time. Thinking about my stranger status as a definite and a moving entity at the same time really helped in forming my relationships in Germany

With other expats friendships form quickly, you are both away from the comforts of home and keen to recreate a little of what you have enjoyed previously. Expat friends are fantastic at understanding what you are going through, but don’t tend to stick around in your life for very long, the expat life is a transient one, you know that, expat friends will come and go. Friendships with Germans are different (at least to start with) you don’t have ‘the stranger connection’, they are usually settled and don’t face the day to day challenges here that you do. The relationship can feel unequal, like a teacher-pupil one and it wont necessarily flourish as quickly as one with another expat, hang in there though. A German may hold back since you’re an expat you’ll be leaving soon, why develop a relationship at all? And I see their point, I’ve made wonderful friends here and when they have inevitably left, its been very hard. But if you embrace your new country, try to learn German (just try a little, no one said you have to be good), are open about your differences and give it time (maybe more than you think it needs) you might find yourself with friends for life not just for life now.

Being the stranger and accepting that, to some extent, I will always be one in Germany was a turning point for me. Instead of trying to conform and learn everything immediately, I took a step back and watched, I asked questions and took note of the answers, I finally understood that everyone else is the stranger too, and that’s OK.

This post was inspired by And Here We Are… The Importance of Being a Stranger an article that really helped me when I first arrived in Germany.

They have a word for it…

11 Feb

A lot of articles point at German for being a complicated language full of compound words (you know the ones that hurt your head), but it’s also filled with words that describe a whole situation in one word.

These are some of my favourites :-
The present a man brings home when he has stayed out too late or done something wrong ‘Drachenfutter’ literally dragon food
The feeling of comfiness, coziness and all being well with the world, usually when you have a drink in hand ‘Gemütlichkeit’
To get together over coffee and chat (or rather, gossip) ‘der Kaffeeklatsch’
Glee at another’s bad luck or misfortune ‘schadenfreude’
An impulse, longing or desire to walk, explore and travel ‘Die Wanderlust’
The weight put on when eating whilst feeling sad or down ‘Kummerspeck’ literally sorrow bacon
To feel ashamed for someone else because of their actions, words, clothes etc ‘Fremdschämen’
The cowardly person who criticizes and abuses from a safe distance ‘Handschuhschneeballwerfer’ literally a person that throws snowballs whilst wearing gloves (what a wuss!)
That fantastic comeback you thought of as you were walking away ‘Treppenwitz’ literally stair joke
When you actually make something worse in the act of trying to make it better ‘Verschlimmbessern’
A face that just begs to be slapped ‘Backpfeifengesicht’
That feeling as you get older that all the doors are shutting to you and you are worried about what are you going to do ‘Torschlusspanik’

See, sometimes German is easier!

Contact Me

9 Feb

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Bugs and butterflies

7 Feb

Check out some unusual visitors to the Arcarden. As usual the theme runs through the whole mall but you can find the real thing on the top floor, the geek in me stared at stick insects for way too long today!

Googling ‘Romantic Franconia’

7 Feb

I kid you not, that’s what I just googled. Come on, it’s almost Valentines day, give a girl a break. I didn’t really expect much to come up, but I’ve been happily surprised with the results.

So if you’re looking for looking for some outing ideas (for couples, singles and families and not just for valentines day) in Franconia look no further than Discover historic Franken on foot, by bike, by hot air flippin’ balloon ride if that’s your thing!
The site is very user friendly, there’s an English and a German version. The four historic town in focus are Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Dinkelsbühl, Ansbach and Feuchtwangen, all great places to visit and to take guests to, the architecture alone is pure Franconian beauty. There are tips about the points of interest in each town and useful links to museums and walking tours available (including those in English). The biking and hiking sections are complete with printable maps of routes, complete with their statistics on how hard or easy they are, these are only available in German but they are very easy to use! Finally the accommodation section has a range of option from camping to hotels and everything in between.
The guide section and some of the activities are a little hit and miss, some pages have lots of info and others very little or none, what information there is though, is good.

Now for a little history, Bavaria is also home to what is known as ‘The Romantic Road’, which was created in the 1950s  as a way to boost tourism. The road flows south from the River main to the Alps, the traveller can enjoy the change of scenery from agricultural rolling hills to the views of jagged snow topped mountains. The road passes the beautiful (Disneyesque, but made before Disney) Neuschwanstein Castle, definitely worth a visit, my preference is in the winter, there’s snow and carriage rides, it’s a pretty romantic place to stop on the romantic road (cheesetastic aren’t I?). My tip, stay in Schwangau if you can, nothing beats opening the curtains and seeing that castle in the morning. The provides tours following the road and its surrounding cities, you can even bike the whole 360km if you feel so inclined.

One thing Franconia is famous for (in Germany at least) is wine. Like most British people I was rather more looking forward to the beer drinking here, than the wine, but I am now an official convert. The city of Würzburg and it’s surrounding areas are hilly and provide the perfect conditions for growing grapes for wine, try a Silvaner, Müller-Thurgau or a more high quality (and pricey) Bacchus, you won’t regret it. A great supermarket choice is Die Jungen Frank’n, in white, red or rotling (pink), look out for the little stout bottles (boys, boyfriends, husbands, you could also pick up some flowers too).

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