Monday, March 28, 2011

Ausfahrts, they're inevitable..

There are some hilarious outcomes to the language barrier that just make you chuckle to yourself. The primary one being "ausfarht". There are ausfahrts everywhere. Why? Because it means 'exit'... which, sadly, kind of adds to the humor. No matter how old you are, five? Fifty? One hundred and fifty? that little giggle just sneaks up on you the first time you say it. It is uncontrollable! It's like when someone says "Asperger's", they either put emphasis on the zzzz sound of the first s or - somewhere in the back of your mind - you end up thinking of a rather unfavorable sounding piece of meat. When someone says "Ausfahrt", you want to ask "Aren't they all?"

Anyway! After I finally got over seeing (and thankfully, not smelling) all sorts of ausfahrts, I came across the above sign. It appears to be a poster for a play or concert or some sort of artsy event. However, not knowing the context and only seeing "Itchy Poopzkid" written on a sign outside of a museum, I came to a natural conclusion: someone has created art featuring a child with a unique defecation problem. Or! some child/character has a really, really unfortunate name. There is always the, perhaps most likely, opportunity that someone merely thought this sounded hilarious (probably because it does). But whatever the creator's reason, the result is the same. I, of course, tried to take the most culturally friendly approach possible (you know, to make us Americans look good): Snap a photo and laugh my aus off!

Ok, I may not have laughed that much... but there wouldn't have been a pun otherwise!

So, next time you're in the room with someone who releases some rather toxic fumes.. try asking them to "please Ausfahrt first" the next time. It'll make someone in the room chuckle, I guarantee. And if your kids repeat it somewhere? Simply explain that you're teaching them a foreign language!

Just felt like sharing with your inner child. :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Fest of a Different Season

While it may still be -1* (Celsius) in the mornings, spring is in the air. Beautiful flowers are sprouting by the roadside, the sun is peaking out from behind the clouds more often than not, and - perhaps most importantly - Spring Fest came!

For those of you who are not aware, the Germans do love their "fests". Oktoberfest, as I'm sure you're all aware, is probably the most popular. But there are all sorts of fests! Several involve delicious carbonated beverages that may or may not contain alcohol (let's be fair - they do prefer sparkling water over here), but others are more like flea markets and are meant for shopping. Our little community hosted one such even just this past weekend to celebrate the new season.

Over three days, vendors from all over Europe came to sell their wares. Beautiful hand-carved furniture, artwork, jewelry, shoes, woolly parkas, delicious cheeses from the Netherlands, crystal from Austria, Italian china, Polish pottery, and wine from just about any country you can think of! And if you get a little hungry during your shopping adventure? Hot, authentic German food to help you weather the windchill. We took the first day simply to explore, sample, and note prices. The crowds and narrow walkways made it difficult to snap photos, but here are a few to give you an idea of what it was like:
Italian pottery
Ornately carved furniture - sold quickly!!

Italian wines. Never found out about the cloudy bottles, though.

For lunch on the first day, we sampled the bratwurst. I also learned something! Bratwurst here is red meat, whereas the Rotewurst (same concept) is a white sausage. Both look fabulous, and the bratwurst indeed was. Though sadly, our meal was gone before I even thought snap a photo. Sorry!

The next day we toured Spring Fest, we came prepared. Our first stop was the ATM and we came hungry. First stop was lunch and our first taste of Schnitzel! Our side options were pommes frites (french fries), potato salad (forgot the German word for it), or spinatspatzle (spinach noodles). We had been admiring other peoples' dishes of it, so we chose the spinatspatzle. The meal was, of course, supplemented with beer:
Schnitzel mit Spinatspatzle
I don't think the picture does this meal justice, really. It was not our favorite dish, but it was still quite tasty all the same. The noodles (spatzle) were creamy and cheesy with spinach and mushrooms mixed in. The schnitzel was pork.The beer complemented the ensemble nicely, really. And if you turn your empty beer bottle back in when you're finished? You get $1 back! Yey for recycling!

After filling our bellies, it was off to the vendors to spend our money! We chose to limit ourselves to $100 (including food) based on our window shopping the first day. I advise anyone who finds themselves at one of these markets to set a spending limit! Most vendors only take cash anyway, but I can imagine a credit card hitting its limit quickly if you were to simply swipe for everything you want. Anyway, we had decided we wanted some of the Dutch cheese, French wine, and a few bars of soap from "Bubbles, Oh la la!"

Shopping on the last day of the fest was both a blessing and a curse. While the vendors were happy to cut you a deal to unload just a few more goods, the selection was limited. We did come away with what we were looking for, though:

Wine: a 2003 Bordeaux from the north of France. $26ish
Cheese: a smoked black-pepper gouda, I believe. 500g for $12.50ish
Soap: all-natural, "pur vegetal". We got 6 bars for $20ish in the following scents: eucalyptus, thyme, cotton, mint, and black pepper/opium (weird, right?); plus one aloe vera bar. If you're interested, they have a facebook page.
Earrings: a last-minute decision at the girl scouts' fund raising booth. $5. I had Tory pick them out - he said these looked like a cow-pattern. I agreed :) I was disappointed there were no cookies, though...

Also, please take note of the yellow bag with the mice faces on it in the first picture. The Dutch cheese salesman certainly had a sense of humor (and an eye for marketing) as these were the bags he put the cheese purchases into. I loved it!

All in all, it was a great first fest for us! We know what we'll want more of next year (since this appears to be an annual fest) and will be saving for it in advance. This time, we're just happy to have what we got. :) But if there's any way to end a day properly and spend the last bit of your shopping money, it's by sampling something wonderfully sweet! Like Italian ice cream :) Needless to say.. we skipped dinner that night.

Pfeffermint & Haselnuss

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Willkommen nach Stuttgart!

Yesterday was our first day out on the town! A guide took us around and taught us how to use public transit, taught us a few cultural tidbits, and showed us around the downtown a little bit. While it was totally amazing, it was also totally exhausting! So, when you visit.. bring a good pair of walking shoes!

My husband is picking up German like crazy. He's started correcting my pronunciations and translating things for me and he's had a day of basic German. By basic, I really mean survival German... such as things to not say or do so that you don't horribly upset someone or embarrass yourself and "Check please". An example would be that Germans don't look each other in the eye or smile when they speak to one another. If I were to smile at the bus driver, just trying to be friendly, he'd take it as a sign that I was flirting with him. AHH! I'm fairly certain I'm going to accidentally hit on half the German population...

Anyway, it's kind of spooky how well he's getting this stuff! It's almost as if he was supposed to have been born in Germany and his mind was pre-programmed for it but there was a mix-up at Baby Central and he was issued to an American womb instead. I'm going to be on the lookout for a suspiciously American-like German person... they should really be more careful with these things.
That smug looking young woman there is Frau Krammer (I have no idea if I'm spelling that right). She was our tour guide that day. She is also quite possibly one of the most interesting and hilarious people I've ever met. Almost like a German Betty White! She'll crack a joke when you least expect it and can tell you what East Berlin was like. You know, when it was actually East Berlin. She grew up there.

[That's another German thing, by the way. You're on a last-name basis with everyone until you get to know the and they tell you otherwise. Name tags don't say "Alex" or "Susan", they say "Mrs. Krammer" or "Mr. Claxton". I like it.]

We walked more than the Army, as my parents would appreciate me saying, and saw lots of interesting sites! The best part, of course (since I'm a fatty at heart), was lunch. Frau Krammer had showed us many places to eat along the tour and we got to pick where we ate individually. There was Greek, there was Italian, there was McDonald's... and I realized that it was going to be difficult to get just some basic German food. But! We found a place. With a view, even! And I have no idea what I got... but it was delicious.
My delicious meal. Complete with beer :)
My husband, with his own tasty meal.

After lunch, we all met up in City Hall and rode the elevator. Doesn't sound very exciting, does it? Well, what if I told you that this elevator never stops moving and has no doors? Yeah. Sounds like a death trap, doesn't it?! You just have to hop on and hope you get your timing right. The best part is that you can ride it all the way up and around the loop, taking you into complete darkness with only a giant winding gear for company. ...this sounds like something Stephen King should have written a short story about. And if you're thinking I exaggerated in any way, here's evidence:

So, food and thrilling elevators aside, Stuttgart is a gorgeous little town with a ton of history to it! It has a new castle and an old castle, an opera house (sans phantoms), cobblestone streets, more pedestrians than cars, gardens and ponds, a giant train station, statues of King Wilhem and a century old church next to a Louis Vuitton store. Kid you not. And one interesting thing we learned is that if you see a church and don't know its denomination, look up! If there is a cross atop the steeple, it is Catholic. If there is a rooster, it is Protestant. I don't know if this is true stateside because I've seen those same rooster windmills atop rural Indiana farms... but I found it very interesting!

I look forward to exploring this place more. Until I do, here are some photos for your entertainment! :)
Awesome view of Stuttgart.

Another awesome view.

A third, still quite awesome, view of the city.
Train station! Which kind of gives me the willies...

Our view during lunch. (note the lawn on the roof)

The red building is a 4-story toy store  a.k.a.  Kid's Heaven on Earth!!

Really old, beautiful church.

Part of the "old castle" which is now a museum.

Opera House, across a shallow pond.

"Ich bin ein Berliner!"  (mmm.. donuts..)