Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008


Oberursel celebrated Halloween last Saturday. There is a recurring theme to town festivities - stands offering cake and coffee or sausages and beer line the streets. A clothing store and a hair salon offered free face painting for kids dressed in costume. We saw lots of kids dressed as witches and wizards. I walked by one of the bakeries and took the above picture of colorful donuts sprouting gummibear eyeballs. They were sold in the blink of an eye - ha!

B and I tried out a cooking class last night offered by the Oberursel VHS ("Volkshochschule", or community college) A group of 14 people showed up to bake a variety of breads topped off with several creative spreads. As the teacher explained the individual recipes, we enjoyed a glass of bio-Prosecco, an organic sparkling wine from Northern Italy, mixed with sea-buckthorn juice. I baked hazelnut bread rolls made with spelt flour and a vegan prune-almond jam as a topping. B made a spread from goat cheese, coriander, garlic and olive oil. After everyone completed their recipes, we enjoyed a huge spread and packed the leftovers to take home. This cooking course was a great way to meet locals, socialize and practice German.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The First Snow

Pictures of the first snowfall in Germany are here. No snow in Oberursel but people are lining up to have their snow tires mounted for the winter. Apparently, everyone waits until the last minute to have this done and it is next to impossible to get an appointment.

According to this site (in German), if you are caught driving summer tires during the winter, you have to pay 20 Euros. Even if you are not to blame in a car accident, but you are driving with summer tires, you have to pay a fine of 40 Euros. Some insurance companies won't even cover you in an accident if you drive with the wrong tires.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

'Tis that Season Again

Wow, I am amazed that the shelves are already filling up with Christmas stuff. It's not even Halloween, which just in the last couple of years, has gained popularity in Germany. Don't the cookies and marzipan dry out if they sit around for that long?

The mad rush starts even sooner than in the US! Just to get everyone in the mood and plan for their favorite German Christmas market, here is an awesome site with 360degree panoramic pictures of markets around Germany. To plan on where to go, check out this interactive map from the German tourist office.

I asked my local post office about sending parcels to the US and I was advised to get them out by the end of November or first week of December. Here is the Deutsche Post site (in English) but with a German postage calculator. Our postal office also carries cute Christmas-themed boxes.

Countdown to Xmas. Visit in November and practice writing your wish list to Santa in German. In December, they have a virtual advent calendar.

And if the shopping gets you all tuckered out, sit down and relax for a little Glühwein (mulled wine) and Lebkuchen (ginger bread cookies). Brigitte online claims that one of the best Lebkuchen brands available in stores is called Leysieffer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Let There be Heat

After returning from our vacation on the Canary Islands, we had to turn on our radiators for the first time in about 8 months. We felt cold because we had just returned from a sunny, desert-like island with 80 degree weather to foggy, grey Oberursel and the radiators were not producing much heat.

And so our introduction to the German way of heating began. I called the building manager and he ordered a heating company to take a look. Someone came two days later (yes, we were shivering for two nights) and bled the air out of most of the radiators by using a key ("Entlüfterschlüssel") to turn the nut on one side of the
radiator (see above picture).

I asked the repairman where I would find such a key and he said I could get them in any home improvement center. It looks like the radiator in our bedroom is still not working properly because I hear dripping sounds at night.

In our rental contract, it stipulates that the heating unit in the basement has to allow for us to maintain a temperature of no less than 20 degrees in our unit in the winter. This is a good clause to have especially if you live in a multi-story home.

I love radiators for two reasons: a) forced air blows a lot of dust around b) towels, underwear and socks placed on a hot bathroom radiator in the morning feel soooo good when you get out of the shower.

Update: Just for fun and since I have not embedded videos before, here is one from about what Germans hope for from the US elections:

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The German Tropics

If you have the itch to travel to a warm place outside of Germany in October but want to enjoy all the conveniences of your expat home, consider the Canary Islands.

We spent a week on Gran Canaria - Playa del Ingles to be precise. Although the name translates to "Beach of the Englishman", a more accurate description would be Playa de los Alemanes - "Beach of the Germans". Not once during the whole stay did we encounter one single American tourist. We were mostly surrounded by German retirees.

There are no pictures to document our stay there because a) it was so windy on the beach on a couple of occasions that we worried about sand getting into our cameras and b) clothing was minimal and, at times, optional.

Booking our trip through a discount travel agency online proved to be very frustrating. To make a long story short, be careful to read the "AGBs" (Allgemeine Geschäftsbedingungen) which spell out what you are legally on the hook for. According to this agency, flight information was subject to change and little did we know that change could happen as quickly as 5 minutes after booking online, putting us on a flight arriving at 1am instead of 12pm. Well, after much yelling over the phone and threats of reporting them to the German equivalent of the consumer protection agency and the German Tourism Board, we got the flights we originally requested.

Many of the touristy spots around our hotel offered menus and translations in German first, then in English. We ordered German beer just about everywhere and if we wanted to we could even have our coffee and cake right on the beach. I think we heard more German spoken than Spanish.