Archive | May, 2014

Getting around (by public transport)

28 May

If you can commute by bike to your job, why have a car? For a lot of expats the expense of buying, insuring and running a car in Germany, sometimes for the short period of time that you actually live in the country can prove to be unviable economically.

The good news is that Public transport, biking and walking will get you around for a fraction of the cost and shouldn’t even take you too much longer.

Trains

EC – EuroCity Express -These are the fancy grey trains you see at the station. These trains will connect with other neighbouring European countries. Best to book online for the best price, only get on this train if you have a specific EC ticket.

ICE – The InterCity Express – Again, these will be the fancy grey trains. Best for long trips  to cities as they travel nationally. They are expensive but you will change less and you can find offers sometimes on the D-Bahn. You will need a specific ICE ticket to use this train.

RE (Regional Express) – Look out for the red trains (generally, and sometimes double decker), they are generally very regular but as the name suggests travel regionally not nationally.

Regionalbahn – Your lovely basic local train, it will probably stop at every stop so can be slower than the RE. These are also red, think buses on a rails.

S-Bahn – Comparable to the RE but the trains can sometimes be pretty old, they are pretty regular though and good for the Erlangen-Fürth-Nürnberg trip.

Tickets

Buy a ticket when you travel and buy it before you get on the train. Most train stations, will have an automated machine and bigger ones will have actual real live people to buy a ticket from old school style.

The Bayern ticket – This ticket is a wonderful wonderful thing.

  • You can, for the princely sum of 23 euro, travel throughout the whole of Bavaria (on train, tram,bus, underground) between 9am and 3am the following day Monday -Friday!
  • And 0am to 3am (27 hours) on Saturdays, sundays and on public holidays
  • And for and additional 4 euro each this ticket can be valid for up to 5 adults
  • Sign the ticket on the dotted line to make it valid and you may have to show the inspector ID too, to prove it’s yours, since these tickets are valid for so long a lot of people pass or sell them on when they are finished with them.
  • You can travel as far as Salzburg on this ticket!
  • For families, two adults can also travel with an unlimited number of children under 15
  • A ticket bought at a counter from a person will cost you an additional 2 euro
  • More useful info can be found  here on Toytown Germany

Tages ticket (Day ticket)

  • Buy on a Saturday and this ticket is also valid on the Sunday of that weekend too!
  • Valid on Train, tram, bus and U-bahn (all trains except the EC and ICE)
  • Solo -Valid for one person for the whole day until 3am the following day
  • Prices start at 3.70 euro and increase depending on how far in the region you want to travel
  • Plus – Valid for 2 adults and up to 4 children (under 18)
  • Prices start at 7.60 euro up to a maximum of 17.50 euro for a network wide ticket
  • On some services you may take your bike in lieu of a person using this ticket
  • Your dog travels for free

For any sizeable events that are going on in the region, special transport links will be available to get you to your destination. Events like the Frühlingsfest and Bergkirchweih for example have great public transport links and even special routes to get you there and back safely and efficiently.

The regional travel provider here is VGN (Verkehrsverbund Großraum Nürnberg) and they deal with everything that Deutsche Bahn doesn’t (basically). Their website is great for route planning, maps, local large events and is available in English! Their App is invaluable and free and gives you access to tickets cheaper than at a machine if you buy online, just show the conductors machine your QR code and your golden, get it.

I already blogged about my massive love for biking and how to go about buying a bike and using it as your main form on transport here so I won’t go through that again. And as for walking? well it’s safe and good for you, need I say more?

Happy traveling in Bayern and beyond!

A BBQ season Boogie

22 May

As you’ll see from the above Eating Out tab I love to review my local eateries and generally pass on information about great places and warn of the not so great. That, and the fact that I got such a great response to my Insiders guide to the Bergkirchweih recently gave me the idea to do some more in depth reviews of some of my local culinary discoveries.

Now today started as the first free day I’ve had for a few weeks, I had plans, big plans, of wearing PJs, getting some sun and attempting to scale a pile of washing which was threatening to engulf the flat. But first I had a cup of tea and checked Facebook, as you do.

I love Facebook, it’s a fabulous place that allows me to keep up to date with friends from home and in far away places. I can ignore the over-sharers, attention seekers and braggers without much hassle and I find it interesting (sociologically speaking) to see how other people use FB compared to how I use it. Anyway, back to the point, I was made aware of a certain BBQ joint in Nürnberg about 6 months ago and I ‘Liked’ them on Facebook, they don’t post much and aren’t spammy in their advertising like some pages, I kept meaning to go but just never got round to it until today……And this popped up on my FB feed

Mmmmmmm

Mmmmmmm

I sent this exact picture to a friend and after considering her plans were pretty much the same as mine and the weather a balmy 30 degrees, we decided to Eff it and go get some BBQ for lunch. The best decision we could have made.

Boogie’s BBQ – Food ***** Price ** My vote *****
Nimrodstraße 10 90441 Nürnberg

You will find this rustic cafe on an Industrial Estate, first right turn as you drive into the estate on Nimrodstr, it’s easy to miss so go slow, look out for a black sign with white lettering.

It’s totally a no frills kind of place, you go for the food (which completely speaks for itself) but the place is clean and has staff who are are wonderfully friendly in German and English.

The menu

The menu for today, obviously everything is subject to change, when they run out they run out, no turkey club for us today!

All the meat is Memphis style BBQ, not that this means a lot to me as a Brit, but I did get the recommendation from a Texan, who I trust knows more about these things than I. Deciding was difficult, pork, brisket, turkey and pastrami were all in the running. Confession time, I had to google Burnt ends when I got home because was nervous that it was some kind of euphemism for horse or something, next time I’m definitely having that though. We saw sandwiches being served so we both ended up choosing pulled pork sandwiches, with sides of coleslaw, caesar salad and apple sauce, they do offer a BBQ salad, think open sandwich without the bread, which based on the Caesar salad I’d be happy with.

My delicious lunch - Pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and Caesar salad

My delicious lunch – Pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and Caesar salad

You order at the till just by the menu chalkboard, the waitress was very patient with us, it was very hard to choose. Once you’ve paid and collected your drink from the fridge (beer and soft drinks available) you can settle in at a table and wait for your food. Served in a basket covered in baking paper with cutlery, kitchen roll (very necessary for hand and face wiping) comes to the table along with their four home made tomato sauces. Choose from a vinegar based, a fruity, a classic smoked (loved it) or a volcano spicy one (approved), or try all four, there is enough food believe me!

We sat outside, next to where the cars park, it’s not massively classy but it’s clean, tidy and comfortable on the picnic benches. Inside there is more seating but the weather was too good to hide inside, I’d recommend booking to guarantee a table, especially if you are travelling from Erlangen or have a party bigger than two. Also check out their opening times and days before dropping in, they are shut Sunday and Monday and are only open 11am-6pm Tuesday/Wednesday and 11am-9pm Thursday/Friday/Saturday.

The coleslaw is confirmed as the best I’ve had (eating out) in Germany so far and the Caesar salad was a great side too, the dressing is lovely. The bread was very different to a German bread, it held it’s own against the meat and didn’t get overly soggy and fall apart! The meat was incredibly tender and juicy and I even found some chewy blackened end pieces in there (which I love). Price wise this place is great, I paid just over 8 euro for a sandwich, two sides and an apfelschorle.

So apparently I’m a sucker for advertising, well played Boogie’s BBQ. Lunch was gorgeous and I already have plans to visit again, I have a feeling that my husband might just end up loving this place more than I do.

5 reasons why I love living in Germany

22 May

Yes I’ve been a bad blogger lately, it’s been a weird time, decisions, lots of traveling and lots of guests have come through our apartment in the last couple of weeks and I’ve just not been able to sit down and write like I’ve wanted to. In the next few months exciting things will be happening and as soon as I can share them I will share them here, watch this space.

So for today I thought I’d write a favourites list, what can I say? the endless sun is so uplifting (and sweaty) at the moment that all the shite is invisible.

Public transport – Be it via train, tram, bus, underground or a combination of all of them I can get pretty much anywhere I want locally or nationally using public transport, and the prices are so cheap (compared with GB anyway).

Lifestyle – work at work, don’t share personal issues, holiday plans or talk about last nights TV in the office, a simple “did you have a good weekend?” will suffice, save talking about your outside life for after work beers at 5pm. Unlike a lot of companies (large and small) in the UK, small talk and chat, heck even Facebook is a part of working life but you are also expected to stay until the work is finished and a lot of the time how good you look in front of the boss depends on how many nights he saw you working late this week. I kid you not plenty of friends leave their jackets on their chairs and their computer screens on so that the boss thinks that they are in the office! Staying late at the office in Germany consistently can have the opposite effect, your boss might worry that you can’t cope with the workload and the Betriebsrat (Works council) can fine your employer and you for working over the number of hours that has been agreed. Your own time however, is your own. BUT Germans use their own time productively (maybe because they have so much of it?) Being a member of a Verein (club) is very popular (even I am) and the clubs range from football and sporty pursuits to music and handicrafts, it really is a great way to meet people, improve your German and settle into your new home.

Location – Being slap bang in the middle of Europe instead of having to cross that pesky old channel has made getting away much easier and affordable for us. Having a car makes this slightly easier but the train system across Europe is pretty efficient and the some flights are so insanely cheap that they basically dictate your holiday plans.

Beer – It’s not just cheap it’s astonishingly cheap, it’s not just delicious it’s delightfully delicious and it’s everywhere. While there isn’t as much variation as there could be,  I do miss not having to pay through the nose for an imported IPA every now and again but the fact I can go down to my favourite brewery (who do THE best beer) with my two litre krug and have it refilled for 5 euro, well, it’s not rocket science is it? Without wanting to sound like a raging alcoholic I love the fact that I can order a beer with my breakfast and no one bats an eye, heck I can drag a case down to the park and wile away the day with my friends and their families, because I’m an adult and I can decide for myself when and what I drink. Thank you Germany for treating me like a grown up and letting me make that choice.

Celebrations – From Fasching to Frühling (spring), Easter to Weihnachten and everything inbetween, when the Germans let their hair down they do it with a sense of purposeful fun. Yes it’s just an excuse to get together with friends and family but it also means that you are part of the larger celebration involving everyone around you, a sense of belonging and connection to your town, Bavaria, and Germany.

I could go on and on about my loves today, blame the weather. What do you love about Germany?

 

Laugh while learning German with the BBC

9 May

I love finding FREE ways to learn German, yes I’m a cheapskate, but lessons can be expensive and it’s always better to have a range of places to learn from, that aren’t just a classroom. I’ve mentioned the BBC pages for learning German before and they have recently been updated with some fun and informative videos.

They still don’t have ‘German steps’ a 12 week beginners course back online, which is really annoying because it was pretty good, BUT, they do have ‘Talk German’ which is ‘An introduction to German’, better than nothing right? It covers the basics, all that you would need to get by daily  to start with and a decent amount beyond. What is great is that you get to hear different accents and that really helps with pronunciation.

You can download an MP3s of basic phrases and the alphabet, the latter of which has some really good pronunciation advice and information with it.

Henning Wehn, an actual real live German and the self titled ‘German comedy ambassador to the United Kingdom’ has recorded a series of useful videos titled ‘What’s so funny about German?’. I love this guy, he’s been on lots of shows in the UK that I love, Have I got news for you and QI for a start, it’s a little light relief and some actual useful information too!

My personal favourites are –

The Alphabet – ‘..Umlauts are the lederhosen of the German language..’

Gender Bender – ‘..Germany is a highly sexualised society…I’m saying this in the best possible taste..’

Waiting for the Verb – ‘..Obviously German is the most exciting language in the world..’

Probably the most useful part of the website is the Cool German section, not all of it is kid friendly but it’s a plentiful selection of actually useful everyday topics and vocab that you can listen to, download and print out. It really is the kind of stuff you won’t necessarily learn in a classroom and that is usable day to day, ‘mind you own business’, ‘the ref needs a white stick’ and ‘Everything’s banana’ to name but a few.

And so the journey towards not humiliating myself in public fluency continues!

The BBC also produced this fun glance at German life in 2013. ‘Make me a German’ follows an British couple who attempt to live like average Germans in Nürnberg for a few weeks, it makes for quite interesting viewing.

BTW This is not a paid endorsement and all my views are my own.

Why it should be called ‘attitude adjustment’ and NOT ‘culture shock’

6 May

A lot of people told me that moving to Germany would cause me to experience ‘culture shock’ – Definition – The feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

Really? I questioned, it’s not that far from the UK, both countries demographics are fairly similar, Germans are still people right?

As a European already I was quietly convinced that moving to Germany was not going to culturally shock me. Sure I was ready for differences, ready to check if my homegrown stereotypes were right and ready to be accepting that life in Germany would a little run differently than it had done in the UK. At this point I hadn’t heard of the expat adjustment life cycle which was a good and a bad thing, I’m all for being prepared, but a little information can sometimes be a dangerous thing.

Why it should be called ‘attitude adjustment’ and not ‘culture shock’

‘Culture shock’ is a reaction to a situation and your reaction to any situation is up to you. React positively or react negatively, it’s completely your decision. Those who are more likely to suffer from ‘culture shock’, are those who choose to react negatively in a new or unfamiliar situation.

Being a positive person can be difficult, and I’m not saying you have to be ‘Miss/Mr/Mrs/Ms sunshine and puppy dogs’ but when approaching cultural differences you can choose an attitude of openness, acceptance and trust over one of suspicion, fear and prejudice.

Even with the best attitude to change, to your move, to your new life, you will feel the feelings of every other expat when you come face to face with a situation that should be simple and straightforward and ends up with you feeling like a raving lunatic/on the verge of a breakdown/defeated. You will have negative reactions, we all do.

I get frustrated when people automatically switch to English, ‘in the bakery’
Me “Hallo, Ich hatte gern zwei mal Kase Schinken Fladen, bitte”
Her “oh these two? with ham and cheese?”
Me “Ja”
Her “Anything else”
Me “yes two capuccinos and four pretzels without salt”
Silence floods the whole bakery and the poor assistant is frozen with fear “Wie bitte?”
Me “Zwei Capuccino and vier mal brezen ohne salz”

I get confused very easily by new things, especially at the shops, cash back, loyalty cards, ‘did I find everything I needed at Kaufland today?’ Oh and here’s a hint NEVER say no, otherwise you have to talk to a manager (in front of everyone, I got so embarrassed) and Germans really don’t like to be stuck at a checkout for longer than absolutely necessary.

New situations make me tense, I practice what I need to say to the various workmen housemeisters, neighbours, even friends just so I don’t get stuck and have to switch back to English.

To cope with these hideous feelings of inadequacy (and humiliation, ok that’s a little strong but sometimes…) you need to develop a strategy, one which means you don’t jump on the next plane home or scream at a random staring stranger in the street (true story). Educate yourself, learn the language (at least try), learn about the culture, ask questions, reach out to expats and natives alike, in my experience everyone here has something unique to say about German culture. Steer away from negative responses like criticism, doing this through lack of understanding makes you the idiot.

If your attitude adjustment has been a positive one you will reap the rewards, I’m not saying that your life will be easy or suddenly you’ll love everyday in Germany without exception, but hopefully the feelings of alienation and isolation will be minimised. Understanding more about German culture will help lessen your negative reactions and help in your acceptance of new cross cultural encounters. Join in, say yes to every invitation, no exceptions, I’ve been to political rallies, hiked up really big hills and drank a lot of beer tea to make me feel connected to my new home. Like Nike says ‘Just do it’. A great result of this whole expat experience and having to choose positivity is confidence, in yourself, however that manifests itself is completely up to you.

In review

Make an attitude adjustment, choose :-

Openness, Acceptance and Trust

Understand your reactions :-

Frustration, Confusion, Embarrassment and Tension

Develop a coping strategy :-

Learn, Listen and Ask

Results :-

Understanding, Connection and Confidence

And this doesn’t just apply to expats, moving schools, moving jobs, becoming a stay at home mum all require an attitude adjustment.

What was the reason for your last attitude adjustment?

Versatile Blogger Award

5 May

I was thinking of posting a Blogroll of all my favourite bloggers soon and then I got a nomination for the Versatile Blogger Award,  so it was obviously meant to be. The lovely Connie at Foodessen, gave me the nod and I appreciate it greatly, even more since it’s my first ever! Go check out her blog, her recipes alone….well all I’m going to say is Spätzle with bacon.

versatile-blogger

The Versatile Blogger Award is given to blogs that are considered to have a good quality of writing, a level of love displayed in their posts, good photography, and for the uniqueness of their posts.

In order to accept this award, you have to –

  • Thank the person who nominated you for this award
  • Link to the persons blog
  • Nominate 15 people for this award and let them know you’ve nominated them
  • Write 7 facts about yourself

The fabulous bloggers I love to read (I’m a total lurker who is just finding my voice) and have nominated are –

Expat Eye on Latvia

Travel Morgan Travel

Charlotte Steggz

Confuzzledom

Run Brit Chick Run

Eating Wiesbaden

Eat Sweet or Die Sour

Little home by hand

The crafty expat

Nine and ninety nine

Heather goes to Deutschland

Back to Berlin….and BEYOND

The Quilting Violinist

Die Frau aus Fürth

Experiences of an Expat

Each one of you has opened my eyes to something new and unique. Go check out these wonderful people for yourself.

7 facts about me –

  • I love marzipan
  • New pens and stationary can just about make my day
  • I’m a nail polish addict
  • I’m hopelessly awkward and clumsy
  • A good book wins over a night out most of the time
  • I will always pick savoury over sweet

Insiders guide to the Bergkirchweih (updated 2015)

3 May

Bergkirchweih is considered to be the fifth season of the year in Erlangen, and I really have to agree. This is the time that Erlangen comes alive with noise, bustle and people. Kicking back, letting lose and dancing on the tables is heartily encouraged, and everyone is invited!

Look at those adorable little lederhosen!

Look at those adorable little lederhosen!

 

How to get there

By foot, by bike or by bus. Walking is a great option, you can get to feel the real buzz that travels through everyone by joining the crowds to wander up to the Berg. It is about a 10 minute walk from Erlangen Bahnhof to the bottom of the Berg. There is good parking for bikes at the bottom of the hill and since drunk cycling is a crime I would recommend pushing your bike home or leaving your bike there overnight and collecting it in the morning.

The local bus company (VGN) run a special Berg night bus which leaves from Leo-Hauck-Straße after 8pm. Regular buses will travel between Hugenottenplatz and the Berg but I’d recommend just walking from Hugenottenplatz, it’s 5 minutes to the Berg from there.

Parking for vehicles is practically none existent unless you live near the Berg, it’s a beer festival, leave the car at home. If you must bring the car there are multi story car parks in central Erlangen,the largest are Parkhaus Henkestraße and Parkhaus Neuer markt, details here.

What to wear

Tracht, plain and simple, join in and have some fun, see if this can convince you! Of course tracht is not compulsory, wear what you’re comfortable in.

Also, rain or shine, almost nothing will stop the Bergkirchweih from taking place, take a jacket (and maybe an umbrella) because it is mostly outside and not covered, shelter can be hard to find.

It is also on a hill, and there are cobbles, and tree roots and mud, don’t take anything you don’t want to get dirty and wear sensible shoes, leave those heels at home.

Useful to know

There will be a refundable deposit or ‘Pfand’ on your mug, glass or bottle. Mugs and glasses are usually 5 euro each and plastic bottles less, don’t forget to cash in your mugs at the end of the night. Take your item back to the cellar you got it from and don’t worry if they closed or you forgot, you can bring them back another night for your deposit.

Mug at the Weller Keller

Mug at the Weller Keller

Bergkirchweich Beer is served by the Maß (a litre) ‘Ein Maß bitte’ it will be served in a stone beer mug and cost you     8.50 euro (plus a 5 euro Pfand)

Radler, a Bergkirchweih beer mixed with lemonade (half and half), yes a Shandy to us English folks. This is also served by the Maß, ‘Ein Radler bitte’ and will usually come with a straw, so that it can be distinguished from a full strength beer, you will pay the same price for a Radler as a full beer.

Weißbier (wheat beer) is not usually served by the litre, you will receive a 0.4l or 0.5l and it will come in a glass mug, which will also have a Pfand on it.

Wein and the Weinschorle, you can buy a Maß of wine at the Berg (though it’s more usual to get a 0.5l), I wouldn’t recommend it though, if you want a litre (or even a half litre) go for a Weinschorle (a spritzer), you may be given the option of Suß (sweet, with lemonade) or Suer (sour, with sparkling water).

Apfelschorle is my non alcoholic drink of choice, it’s a mix of half apple juice and half sparkling water, suitable for kids and grown ups.

A Festbrezel is large, you won’t need one each, it’s great eaten with Obatzda (wonderful German cheesy deliciousness) or to accompany an A4 sized slice of cheese.

Why yes that is a very large slice of cheese!

Why yes that is a very large slice of cheese!

Toilets at the Bergkirchweih will cost you 50cents a go (so keep some change handy), they are usually nice and clean and will have attendants servicing them throughout the day. Ladies beware the queues can get very long, join before you’re desperate. Men, there is a pissoir available for free, use it and not the trees, please.

You will hear this song about every half hour, it’s a toasting song and if you want to blend in, swing that beer mug and sing it loud!

‘Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit’

Each year Entla’s Keller design a new picture for their Steins (mugs),’which year did you get?’ is what we usually ask each other on receiving our beers, this is the preview of 2015.

IMG_4034-0

Recommendations

Steinbach beer, as always my total favourite, you can find them in the middle of the Berg, near the T junction. Berch.info has lots information for a first time visitor or a seasoned professional.

Langos, the Hungarian food of your fatty dreams, paprika, garlic, cheese and sour cream!

The entertainment is worth checking out, ‘Musikanten’ are generally made up of local musicians playing traditional and schlager (German party music), bands playing are usually doing schlager and covers. Der Berg Ruft has lots more detailed information.

Buy your sweetie a gingerbread heart and have them wear it around their neck all day.

The Ferris wheel, you get such a great view from the top and it really helps put the Berg into perspective, you’ll realise just how much is crammed into an area that really isn’t very big.

If you secure a table, hold onto it, from 4pm onwards (earlier if the weather is good) it can get really hard to find space for more than a twosome.

Plan a meeting point pre berg, phone signal and 3G are notoriously bad at the festival (so many people not enough masts) and it can be challenging to find a group, especially in the evenings when it is busy.

IMGP3317

This couple had their wedding pictures taken at the Berg last year, and scored plenty of free beer too.

The details

The official tapping of the barrel will this year take place at Henninger Keller on 21st May at 5pm – The first barrel is handed out free but only attempt to grab if you’re tall, it’s a total bun fight!

The Berg is open Monday-Saturday 10am-11pm and Sunday 9.30am-11pm.

Price for a Maß (a litre) is 8.50 euro and Pfand (deposit) 5 euro.

Tuesday 26th May is Erlanger Tag, lots of smaller shops on Erlangen will close at 2pm so the towns workers can enjoy some afternoon time at the Berg.

Thursday 28th May is Family Day at the Berg, this is the best time to take the family, up until 8pm there will be discounts on rides and most of the daytime drinkers will avoid the games areas.

Sunday 31st May there is a church service up at Erich Keller, starting at 9am.

Monday 1st June is the closing ceremony, don’t forget a white hanky (kleenex) to wave off the barrel until next year.

Here’s a peek at what to expect from the little old town of Erlangen 10 days from now…

%d bloggers like this: