Thursday, September 27, 2012

Germany For Tourists - Shopping and Eating

There are two simple things to remember. When shopping, ignore the clothes and go for the toiletries, shoes and the food. Clothing by our standards is generally expensive unless you happen to be a "second hand store" shopper. Yes indeed, these stores exist, are fairly easy to find, and have some remarkable bargains. "Aldi" is a grocery store which also sells toiletries and some clothing like tshirts, pajamas and underwear. A great place for essentials, drinks and snacks. I picked up a pack of 8 batteries for 1.69 Euros.

Shoes are reasonable. It is affordable to buy brand new, great quality brand names in German footwear. Birkenstocks for example, begin at 29 Euros.

Food is a huge bargain as are the drinks (see blog 8/27/12 "Water and Other Libations")

German people have become more concerned about their health. I learned that the food revolution began in the 70's when classic high carb fare started to be replaced by better choices. A chef named Eckart Witzigmann, is credited with introducing the new cuisine. Fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available and inexpensive.



Here is one of my favourite restaurant meals. It's called an "Exotischer Salat", exotic salad. The skewers have turkey (puten) skewers.

Having said all this, portion sizes are often large enough for two persons. When I remembered to do so, I would order a meal without sauce, since restaurants often drown food in gravy.

Rouladen, veggies and boiled potatoes
Smoked salt cured pork (Kasseler) with kale (Grünkohl) and fried potatoes...hubby's choice

Trout (forelle) with noodles
Another one of my favourite things...schnitzel (2 too big pieces) with spätzle (and beer)
Here are a few of the menu offerings.

 A three Euro breakfast (left) included juice, a boiled egg, a basket of rolls and a tray of meat and cheese...more than enough for two people. The lunch menus offer schnitzel, noodles and salad for 5.90 Euros or frikadelle...seasoned hamburger type patties with carrots and mashed potatoes for 5.50 Euros. Of course, everyone knows about the delicious breads, pastries and pretzels.


Coffee drinking is just as much of a custom in Europe as it is here. Coffee and cake or torte in the afternoon is even more popular. To distinguish between a torte and a cake, count the layers. More layers, torte. No layers, cake. Again, these treats are quite inexpensive.

raspberry cheese cake and cappuccino

Ice cream or "Eis" in Germany is usually homemade by the proprieters of the parlors and stands. There are many delicious flavours and ornamental sundaes. An ice cream cone in a waffle, costs between 70 cents and one Euro. Sundaes cost bit more.

Finally, a dessert which I found incredibly tasty and different from anything I'd ever eaten was called
"Rote Grütze". Grütze is German for grits, but have no fear, there is little if any resemblance to that sandpapery cereal. Rather, it's a combination of red currants, raspberries, strawberries and cherries  topped with custard or whipped cream. Yummy.

One recipe can be found at this site and requires 24 hours of chilling after assembling. It doesn't include the traditional currants and I prefer the custard topping rather than the cream in the recipe. Perhaps I'll try to make this myself one day and report on the outcome.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Oh The Toilette!

Perhaps it was just that I didn't know where to find them. Or maybe it just seemed that they were few and far between whenever I was searching. Somehow, I didn't always find WC's very easily or inexpensively.
For one thing, it's necessary to have a supply of change available when travelling in Europe, particularly on the autobahn. Here are just a few of the tickets I purchased in order to use the rest room at service centres. Add insult to injury, the stubs claim that I paid half a Euro per visit when in fact, it was necessary to deposit 70 cents into the turnstiles.  

In many public places and attractions there are attendants which expect a payment deposited onto a saucer, usually 50 cents.

When dining in a restaurant, the facilities were usually free. In fact, I found some of the entrance doors to the rest rooms to be more than entertaining, if not obvious...almost worth paying for.

 And then of course, for man's best friend...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Germany for Tourists - Some Basics

It occurred to me, as we toured a part of Europe and a great deal of Germany, that there are pieces of information and essential vocabulary which could save tourists a lot of time and potential frustration.

"A" is for Autobahn

 We all know that the autobahn is some kind of super German expressway where a car can all but fly at any speed right? Wrong. "Autobahn" rather is a general term used for freeways or highways. More often than not, another word synonymous with autobahn is "stau" or traffic jam. When the signs have no posted limit, go for it. However, when there are traffic issues or inclement weather conditions, there are often posted speed limits of 80/100 or 120 on overhead pixelated signs. 

I highly recommend a GPS if you are travelling anywhere by car. We ordered a European SIM card from the internet and inserted it into our North American GPS. Also, in Germany, a GPS is referred to as a "Navi". Gas is expensive. While we were there, it was between $1.60 and $1.80 per litre.
Also, same cell phone, or "handy" rules apply. Hands free only.
I appreciated seeing this sign in many parking lots. At first, I wondered. Then it made sense. The "Frauen" parking spots are located closer to exits and in brightly lit places. What a terrific idea.
"A" is also for Accommodation                                                                                                                
There are different types of accommodation depending on your preference. Hotels are similar to ours and usually have air conditioning, interenet, hair dryers and so on. A "Gasthaus" is more like a Bed and Breakfast. There are no guarantees when it comes to "extras" such as toiletries and hair dryers. A "Ferrienwohnung" by definition is a holiday residence. They do not always require that you stay long term depending on how busy they are. We stayed at such a place for one night. These usually have facilities such as a kitchen with stove and fridge.  
 Do not expect to find ice easily at any of the above locations. We were directed to a gas station where "Eis Würfel" are sold. Hotels sometimes give you a glass of ice at their bar. Do not request "Eis" as you are likely to get an ice cream cone.
Some hotels have a plastic key card. Check inside the room door to see if there's a slot. The key card goes there to turn on the electricity.

We stayed at a few hotels that included a lovely free breakfast buffet. The little waffle cone things have many uses (bottom left) and the little trash container on the table is for dry garbage such as egg shells, napkins, empty butter containers and the like.

If you see a bar such as this in the bathroom, it's for warming towels. It is also very useful for drying any laundry you might have hand washed. Just make sure it's turned on. There's usually a knob and thermostat dial near the bottom. Another  tip - Take a few clothes pins and hangers with you if possible. These come in handy for hanging damp clothes.
By the way, should you need to get some laundry done on your trip, this is what a laundromat looks like. We found it quite costly. For two loads, washing and drying it cost us about 13 Euros.
 Watch for "Some Basics - Shopping, Eating and Other" where I'll describe shopping, food/restaurants and the elusive and expensive WC's.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Antwerpen, Zeppelins and Märchenwald (Antwerp, Zeppelins and The Fairy Tale Forest) - Part Two

As I mentioned in Part 1, hubby and I decided to view different things. He was going to see the Dom, a fabulous historic gothic church and I was going to pursue my interests and visit Märchenwald.
At first, all I saw was a tree, a scary tree. This was promising.

Eventually, I found the entrance gate and ventured through. For a minimal admission cost, I began my uphill trek. I had a feeling that I'd better move quickly and that this scenic tour up the side of a mountain and back down would take considerably longer than hubby's church viewing.

I wasted no time. I no sooner heard a cackling witch then there was a tower and the reason for her glee. Rapunzel was letting down her golden hair. I was already mesmerized, but I moved on.

Then I saw the Hansel and Gretel house. Wow!  I had to take a picture of myself here. Each tiny building was interactive and had either movement or a button to press to hear the story. What fun. Nonetheless, after a quick, timed photo, I kept going.

I popped my head into the next little house and saw Red Riding Hood."Look out! That's not your grandma in that bed," I yelled before I ventured on.

When I zipped past the cottage of the seven dwarfs (or dwarves for English sticklers), I reminded Snow White that she needs to remember never to talk to strangers and to be sure to wash her fruit prior to eating. Pesticides are a terrible thing.

I  saw Puss in Boots, Rumpelstiltskin, the Bremen Town Musicians, and so much more.

Then I heard church bells. I took it as some kind of sign that I should hurry even faster. At this point I looked down, realizing that I was fairly high up on the mountain.

The downhill trip finally started. Then I saw them. I had to stop and delay the rest of my journey. It was a bridge and there were real billy goats! "Who's that tripping over my bridge?" I shouted in my best ogre like voice while taking a photo of myself. The goats were just too cute and they definitely weren't camera shy.

After about an hour and a half or heading uphill and back down, I viewed my last fairy tale.

It was "Sleeping Beauty". Yes, I was tired too. I am fairly confident that I saw an attraction, Märchenwald, in record time. I had completed an entire fairy tale forest in an hour and a half. I don't recommend it. It requires at least half a day. I looked at my watch. Yikes.

After scooting back to the parking lot to find hubby, I realized that he must have been sitting in the heat waiting for me for the last hour of my journey.

"I went as fast as I could," I promised breathlessly. "It was fabulous"

Why do I owe hubby big time? He left the cathedral early and missed a choral presentation he would have liked to hear. He saw the beginning of a German wedding. Hence the church bells. He would have liked to see more. Out of concern for me and not knowing how long I'd be, he rushed. Then he waited and waited and complaints. Thoughtful and sweet. That's my hubby.