Friday, September 30, 2011

Heia hussassa, der Herbst ist da!

Walking around Chamissoplatz the other day, we heard a small child behind us singing the refrain of a traditional song, "Der Herbst, der Herbst, der Herbst ist da..." (autumn is here).  Adorable. I didn't know more of the song so I looked up the lyrics. It's about the wind, the falling leaves, rainy wetter, apples, fruit, wine, nuts, pears, and kites. Süß... There's so much tradition in a song like this.

Last weekend I made Zwiebelkuchen with my friend Klara, and today I made it again for visiting friends. (not attractive to photograph, but delicious.) It has a crust made out of a yeast dough, which is sometimes thick and sometimes rolled out thin like thin pizza crust. The topping is made of sautéd Speck (small bacon cubes) and caramelized onions, mixed with an egg and some crème fraiche or sour cream. It's sehr lecker, and a traditional fall dish. Here is a translated recipe if you want to try it.

Der Herbst, der Herbst, der Herbst ist da,
er bringt uns Wind, hei hussassa!
Schüttelt ab die Blätter,
bringt uns Regenwetter.
Heia hussassa, der Herbst ist da!

Der Herbst, der Herbst, der Herbst ist da,
er bringt uns Obst, hei hussassa!
Macht die Blätter bunter,
wirft die Äpfel runter.
Heia hussassa, der Herbst ist da!

Der Herbst, der Herbst, der Herbst ist da,
er bringt uns Wein, hei hussassa!
Nüsse auf den Teller,
Birnen in den Keller.
Heia hussassa, der Herbst ist da!

Der Herbst, der Herbst, der Herbst ist da,
er bringt uns Spaß, hei hussassa!
Rüttelt an den Zweigen,
Lässt die Drachen steigen
Heia hussassa, der Herbst ist da!

cute German child singing the third verse:


just some more pictures of the neighborhood...The weather has been really great lately, low seventies and sunny.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Michael arrived today, and to celebrate we went out for a nice dinner at the nearby "Felix Austria"...what most people would think of as typical "German" an Austrian restaurant. He had Jägerschnitzel (my dad's favorite) and I had Wiener Schnitzel. Jägerschnitzel was served with Spätzle and with a green salad, and Wiener Schnitzel was served with warm potato salad and cucumber salad (Gurkensalat) on the side.

This picture does no  justice to the amazing colors that the sky started to turn...bright pink actually.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Brot backen

This weekend I visited my friend in Hamburg and we did a lot of I finally felt brave enough to try some conversions and make bread. There are lots of variables...because the flour is different, the oven is different (convection ovens are very common here to save energy), and of course I had to find gram measurements or use a German recipe. At home, I use the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes method (the authors/bakers are from Minneapolis!) and I found a German blogger who converted the measurements and gave tips on how to do it successfully in Germany. The results:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mitfahrgelegenheit: ridesharing

In Germany gas prices are about $8.00/gallon (here left, 1.54 Euros/Liter), which affects driving habits of course. (How much would it have to cost before you rode a bike to work? Or took public transportation?) This weekend I went to Hamburg, and the train would have cost full-price about 78 EUR each way. (The drive between Hamburg-Berlin is about the same as Duluth-Minneapolis.)

So because of these high prices (gas and train), lots of people (especially young people) do ridesharing. In the US, there is no good internet platform to facilitate this, but in Germany there is a great website called "Mitfahrgelegenheit" (opportunities to ride share) where you can enter in the starting and ending city, and drivers post how many spots they have in their car (see picture below). It's a pretty widespread practice, and I have done it quite often without any problems. Some people do it just to save money, and other people do it to meet cool people and have interesting conversation and some company along the drive (or a mix of both). My ride to Hamburg cost 15 EUR and no one really wanted to talk...the driver put the music up loud and everyone just slept or read. It was about a 3 hr drive. On the way back though, the driver wanted to talk to people, and the other riders were interesting: one Berliner, one other American (a fabrics designer from New York city), and a girl from Lüneburg who is moving to Berlin to study.

It might sound a bit like organized hitch-hiking...but you can also look for female drivers who just want other women in their car, and you can call and talk to the people before the drive to get a sense for who they are.

The girl I drove with on the way back said she no longer takes guys with her, unless they sound especially  nice on the phone. She said she once had a guy open up a beer in the back seat and she was like, "Hey, you can't do that! I'm pulling over and throwing you out..." But she was driving so she couldn't really do anything...

Monday, September 26, 2011

signs of a former life

"Rind- und Schweine- Schlachterei" was a butcher shop for beef and pork. "schlachten" sounds more like "to slaughter" than "to butcher", which makes it seem a bit more violent than it is meant. When my family visited 4 years ago for Christmas, they laughed at the sign in the supermarket for the "Fleischerei," which is also a butcher's counter or the meat section of a deli. They laughed at the cognate for "flesh", and all the Germans lined up to get their meat for the holidays. It's funny how the German and English languages are related, but they developed slightly different meanings for some words.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Come, let us be happy.

I saw these old children's books in a shop window and thought they were cute:

"Dudelsack" is the word for bagpipes...also many German learners' favorite word. :)

Saturday, September 24, 2011


this was served to me under a cup of tea...

Friday, September 23, 2011

deutsche Musik

Just some recent stuff I heard about recently...

Indie Pop from Cologne, Locas in Love, "Una questa" and "An den falschen Orten":

if you feel like dancing around a bit, Frida Gold, "Wovon sollen wir träumen":

 Andreas Bourani, "Nur in meinem Kopf"

and some hip-hop (Casper, XOXO), in case that's your thing...:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Herbstblumen auf dem Balkon

My mother and mormor will be very proud of me. Today, I potted plants for the first time in my life. I just wanted some color out on the balcony when I look out the door. So I got these plants that--according to the florist--will survive the winter. It's a kind of heather called "Erica" or something.

I am not sure how much flowers cost in the US, but for 10 Liters of soil (Blumenerde) and three plants it was 10,50 Euro. Seemed really cheap to me!

Church and State: the Pope comes home

photo from

The Pope--who is from Bavaria--is going to be in Germany for three days, and will even be speaking in the Bundestag (congress) in Berlin. This is a bit controversial, because he's there as a political figure who is also a religious figure... Some of the representatives (about 100) are not attending the speech in parliament out of protest. Elke Ferner (SPD) had a good interview where she said that the parliament should be about dialogue and discussion, and obviously this will not be the case with this speech.  Very few foreign heads of start are invited to speak in front of the Bundestag. Nixon was the first in 1969, others include Nelson Mandela and Vladimir Putin.

Also, in Germany there is a strange relation between church/state. In Germany the churches get their money through a "Kirchensteuer" (church tax) that is automatically taken out of your income. When I registered, I also had to say whether I belong to the catholic or protestant church. I think usually you choose between Catholic / Protestant / Jewish / atheist (opt out). So far there is not an option for Muslims. (As a parallel, there is also still religion instruction in schools, where you can choose between Catholic or Protestant class, or opt out.) This means that churches in Germany don't have to actively try to get members like in the US, which also influences what churches do and what their communities are like. The churches get about 65-70% of their income from this tax, which is about 5-9% of someone's income.

Someone once said to me that a big difference between charity in the US and Germany is that in the US we don't pay as high of taxes, so it's more up to individuals to be engaged and support the charities they want to support.  In Germany they pay really high taxes, but they expect that this money is going to the right things. So paying a church tax is a way of supporting programs like "Brot für die Welt" that fight world hunger, or the German Red Cross and its programs. As a result, there is less volunteering and fundraising, and such things.

Addendum: Just saw the New York Times has a piece on this today: A Papal Homecoming to a Combative Germany

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

im Café

I just got back from the Fulbright Orientation in Göttingen and I'm drowning in emails to catch up on, so here is just a picture from last week. :)  One of the things I love most in Germany are the Strassencafés. This one is right outside the market hall on Bergmannstraße.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Politik: Wowereit gewinnt

results are in:

 "SPD leading, Pirates in Parliament, FDP at the bottom"
In Berlin the current mayor Wowereit will stay in office....the SPD could make a coalition with either the CDU or with the Green party. The Pirate Party won 8.5%, so they will have representation in a state parliament for the first time.


A dog food store called "BARFER'S WELLFOOD", a vending machine for bike tire tubes, a silly poster that reads "did you notice this awesome flyer here?", and a sign asking dog owners to very politely pick up after their dogs!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

in the NYT: Berlin's Tech Scene

Article in today's New York Times: Berlin Hopes Growing Tech Community Will Lift City’s Economy

..."It was Mr. Wowereit who coined the famous catchphrase of Berlin as “poor, but sexy,” that has stuck to the city, which has an unemployment rate of 13.3 percent, the highest of any state in Germany and well above the national average of 7 percent. He chose to aggressively market the city as a creative capital, emphasizing fashion, art and music, hoping that the magnetic effect of the city’s popularity with tourists would rub off on the economy....

“With Depression, war, fascism, the wall and the mass migration of talent out of Berlin, it’s quite clear that the city was set back by historical circumstances,” said Richard Florida, professor of business and creativity at the University of Toronto, whose research has drawn a link between bohemians and economic growth. “Looking at the experience of other cities that remade themselves, like Pittsburgh, shifting to an open technology-savvy creative economy takes at minimum a generation.”

Bio-Markt Chamissoplatz

 On Saturdays there is an organic market right around the corner from my apartment. Today I got to check it out for the first time. There was some really beautiful produce, cheese, and bread.

Friday, September 16, 2011


 On 18. September there are elections in Berlin, so the streets are full of these political posters. It's interesting to see how the various parties market themselves and what issues are important for them, and for this neighborhood. In Germany if a party gets 5% of the vote they get representation in parliament, so there are more third parties that we would never see in the US. Most of the posters are just the candidate's photo with the party name, but some are more interesting. Above, the "Pirate Party" tries to attract young voters, using facebook slogans: "847,870 voters 'like' this"; and the second poster says "Not sure why I'm hanging here, you don't vote anyways". The other two blue posters are for the PSG: Party for Social Equality, and they are advertising their international solidarity for  workers: against the "bank dictatorship", and "Gegen [against] Rassismus und Nationalismus". Die Linke (far-left party) has this very colorful, multilingual poster, and the Green Party has this alternative artsy poster with the woman with the trident. 
Klaus Wowereit (SPD) has been mayor of Berlin since 2001, so there are a few parties trying to oust him. The Green party has been doing really well in Germany (especially since the Japan nuclear catastrophe...) and the CDU is advertising their candidate with the slogan "Damit sich was ändert" (so that things change). Wowereit coined the slogan "arm aber sexy" for Berlin (poor but sexy), and is openly gay, which I think also says something about German politics/culture (compared to American politics) I just did some google-research to make sure I'm not wrong about this, and Houston is the largest city to elect an openly gay mayor, also Portland and Providence. Anyways, interesting.

Because so many of the posters in Kreuzberg have to do with multi-culturalism, I found this poster really interesting (left). It's from the FDP (center-right party, similar to libertarian in the US). It says: "What is the FDP's stance in regards to integration? We think it would be a nice gesture to ask for "Croissants" instead of "Schrippen" [a German roll] in Paris."  I find this argument (or the implied argument) a bit flawed...first of all everyone in Germany (like in the US) knows what a "Croissant" is, and French culture is (like for us) considered "high culture". The poster kinda makes you smile, because no one would go to Paris and order "Schrippen" or, in English, a "dinner roll," when they want a croissant. What is implied, of course, is that people living in Germany should speak German and "integrate" themselves. "Integration" is a big keyword (compared to "Assimilation") because it implies that you don't have to give up your own culture, but you just "integrate" into your new culture.
Below/right is another political poster for the FDP about schools: "Will the the FDP support Gymnasien or the Einheitsschule? [Answer:] We would also find the idea of one uniform/comprehensive soccer league silly." In Germany the secondary school system has tiers--so the students who want to go on to college usually all go to the Gymnasium, and students who want to go into a certain trade go to a Realschule or Hauptschule. After the 4th grade teachers decide which school students go to, and this often ends up being a question of who your parents are. Additionally, handicapped students do not go to the same school as their peers but a Sonderschule. The Einheitsschule is a proposed secondary school model that is more like the US high school, where children stay together from Kindergarten through the end of schooling. So the comparison to soccer suggests that it would be silly (doof) to throw all the kids--smart and not-so-smart--together in one school. I have strong feelings about this...the Gymnasium system is basically a class and prestige question,and it really disadvantages kids from lower-class or immigrant backgrounds. Parents want to be able to say their child goes to a Gymnasium.  And the SPD and the Green Party support the idea of an Einheitsschule, but, like I said, lots of voters are not so sure.

Below are the results from the last congressional election (Chancellor Angela Merkel is CDU, the blue bar below):