Archive for the ‘Shopping Tips’ Category

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Traditional Bavarian Clothing

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

I’d bet the farm that a good number of you out there think that every German man runs around in lederhosen, with a large beer stein in his hand all day long. While the ladies are skipping in their tight-fitting dresses to the bellowing of that big horn from the RICOLA commercial (it’s called an Alpenhorn, if you’re wondering).

It’s not everyday.

A good number of special events (Oktoberfest, weddings, Thursdays — ha, ha) could call for the donning of these outfits, and even you can buy yourself a lederhosen and a dirndl (as the ladies’ dresses are called). You just need to know what it is you’re buying.

Men, lederhosen is one area where you’ve got more to buy than the ladies since there’s a bit more to your outfit. You need your lederhosen, which are leather pants (with a decorative front flap) worn with either a belt or the more traditional suspenders.

Yeah, yeah, most people think the only color it comes in is green, but you’ll find browns and tans too.

Even shirts are embellished, usually with buttons or leather appliques worn under a vest or jacket (each sold separately, BTW); and we mustn’t forget the shoes.

By the time you’re said & done the entire lederhosen getup can set you back €300–400. Beer not included. ;-)

Ladies, the color of the dirndl is limited to the imagination of the designer or the wearer. You’ll find deep purples, rich greens, feminine pinks, and chocolaty browns to name a few, but it’s the tight-fitting bodice, full skirt (with petticoats), and matching (yet, contrasting) apron that makes an average dress a dirndl.

And length is a personal choice. They’re long skirted, short-skirted, and now you’ll find them with a mini-skirt. You’ll also find they’re quite easy to buy online, and a tad less expensive than the guys’ get-up (around €159 for a more economical variety).

You might, however, want to add a charming necklace to the dirndl — as many women do. And men, your outfit’s not complete without your hat.

Well, gotta go. Tomorrow’s Thursday, so time to break out the lederhosen. ;-)

Germany’s Open Air And Flea Markets Offer Bargains

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Stretching your euros may seem to be an impossible task in a world where things only seem to get more expensive.

However, there are still many good deals and bargains to be found in Germany. And while shopping along Stuttgart’s high-end Königstrasse may be out of reach, there are plenty of open-air flea markets throughout the country where you just may find a treasure.

Here’s a big-city-by-big-city breakdown.


One of Berlin’s greatest shopping pleasures is its flea markets.

Die Nolle at Nollendorfplatz and Straße des 17. Juni are two of the most famous ones. Straße des 17. Juni is a must as you’re likely to find less junk and more treasures, including antiques and handicrafts. There’s furniture, clothes and music as well.

The Flea Market on Arkonaplatz offers a fun assortment of retro stuff from the 1960s and 1970s.

Hallentrödelmarkt Treptow in Kreuzberg is housed within an old bus depot that has bargains aplenty on sale.

Trödelmarkt am Rathaus Schöneberg is best-known as the venue for President Kennedy’s famous speech but these days is the site of a thriving market with a little bit of everything.


What would a German town be without its marketplaces?

The most famous one in Düsseldorf is held each Saturday at the Aachener Platz. If the high prices of the more luxurious shopping streets are above budget, you may find a good bargain here on Aachener Platz. Apart from the professional and amateur sellers’ merchandise, it’s also a good place to come for a nice snack or a cappuccino. Sometimes there’s even live music.


Its biggest attraction is the regular open-air markets on the Marktplatz that occur every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, generally. Here you’ll find the freshest produce in the city and some tasty local treats. (Added to the opportunities for shopping is the picture-perfect location of the Marktplatz. Both the Old Town Hall and a lovely church sit in the square. It’s a great place to spend a leisurely afternoon!)

And if you’re visiting in May, you’ll be just in time for the huge Maimarkt, or May Market. It is currently one of the largest markets of its kind and shows off some local innovative products and other town achievements.


Flea markets can be found all over Munich, if you know where (and when) to look! Most are held on the weekends, usually Saturday, but that is always subject to change. Most of the flea markets here take place on Saturday morning.

Theresienwiese, the huge lot where the annual Oktoberfest takes place, is reputedly also the largest annual flea market on the continent, and offers all kinds of second-hand goods (nothing new is allowed!) and some antiques every April.

If you can’t make it in April, try one of the weekly markets at Olympiapark (near the Olympic Stadium) or Messegelände Riem on the edge of town.


Another unique Stuttgart shopping experience, the flea market on Karlsplatz is a great place for bargains. There are about 100 stalls here every week offering the latest in second-hand items. Collectibles, Christmas ornaments, old books, vintage clothes and other antiques are just a few gems that you may find here.


Rhineland-Palatinate’s Secret Shoe Route Still Offers Gems

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

The Rhineland-Palatinate’s shoe-making route was never supposed to be a secret. Hordes of tourists and German nationals were supposed to visit every year — or at least that’s what the marketing people hoped.

Unfortunately, unlike the Romantic Road, the Shoe-makers road, or Deutsche Schuhstraße as it’s called in German, didn’t catch on. It launched with great fanfare in 1977, but the marketing blitz soon fizzled, leaving it abandoned and deleted from the guidebooks.

Rather than being a cause of sorrow, this presents a special opportunity for modern day visitors.

Now I know you are running all over the country this month trying to catch all of the wonderful fall festivals going on — and that will certainly wear out your shoes. What better souvenir than a custom-made pair of shoes ordered in off the old shoe-making road?

You see, even though the marketing geniuses walked away from promoting the shoe-makers route, the shopkeepers and craftsmen are still in existence. All you need to do to get a pair of shoes that will fit in a way you’ll never forget is drop by one of their stores.

Officially, the shoe-making route goes through the entire Südwestpfalz, starting in Waldfischbach-Burgalben and ending in the Hauenstein area. Some of the towns on the way include Clausen, Leimen, Merzalben, Rodalben, Pirmasens, Lemberg, Eppenbrunn, Fischbach, Rumbach, Erlenbach, and Lug. Most are tiny craft towns and villages of only a few hundred or a few thousand people located on highways B10 and B70.

The bulk of the currently operating shoemakers are in Pirmasens, which has its own Schuhstraße dedicated to shoe shops. You can easily find the shoe-maker you want here with a little researching.

It does help to speak some German, but at the end of the day, a foot is a foot and these people are in the business of making shoes to fit toes from any culture.

Whether you wander into Pirmasens or another town on the route, you will find shopkeepers more than ready to tailor something to fit or sell you something handcrafted and beautiful to wear home as a treasured souvenir that last longer than one from anywhere else in the world.


Frankfurt’s Business Focus Has A Soft Side

Monday, September 6th, 2010

The smart eyes look to Frankfurt this month. ;-)

Most people will be looking at Southern Germany right now, with the big Canstatter Wasen in Stuttgart and the opening of Oktoberfest in Munich (as mentioned in the G-ZINE). However, if you are looking to visit Germany this month, you may want to include Frankfurt am Main on your itinerary.

Frankfurt has quite a business reputation — we Germans sometimes refer to it as Bank-furt or even die heimliche Haupstadt, our secret capital. Yet underneath that fine patina of high commerce, there is much more to than meets the eye.

One element that makes Frankfurt very inviting is that it is not actually very big. Only about 660,000 people live here, which allows Frankfurt to maintain a small town feel that surprises many visitors. For all its fancy skyscrapers — we call the skyline here Mainhattan, naturally — there is a tight-knit community under all that steel and glass.

Wandering down the Zeil, one of Frankfurt’s main shopping avenues, you will find that you can be warmly greeted just as though you were in a smaller town. Sit out in the square in front of the Römer, and you might think you’d slipped back into a medieval village.

You can get even more of a feel for the historic side of Frankfurt riding on the Ebbelwei Express. It’s an old tram car and a bit kitschy, but the rides are cheap at 6 euros and the tickets include a salt biscuit snack and some of the region’s famous Apfelwein or apple juice if you like (hence its name Ebbelwei, Frankfurt’s slang for Apfelwein).

To properly end a day out in Frankfurt, you have to go out for a decent meal. It’s a good thing locals like to work hard all day, or they’d never burn off the calories from the more than 3,000 Frankfurt restaurants. Executive Travel Magazine’s July issue named Gargantua as one of the best restaurants in the country, which of course you will have to test for yourself!

September is also a time of year when the weather in Frankfurt is very good. Why fight the crowds elsewhere?

Come to an easily explored and historically inviting destination of Germany this month to experience Frankfurt’s softer side for yourself.


Local German Honey Growers Now Have Online Market

Monday, June 21st, 2010

We Germans have a serious sweet tooth. From our morning muesli to our afternoon Kaffee und Kuchen, we like things to be well sweetened, and our favorite sweetener is honey.

However, demand and supply for honey in Germany is a little interesting. Although there are more than 85,000 beekeepers in Germany, most supermarket honey is imported. This is because the majority of German beekeepers are hobbyists or small family operations not much interested in a big marketing push.

To get the fine local honey we really want, in the past we had to hunt it down at farmers’ markets. Now, a new company has worked to unite local beekeepers and make our delicious domestic honey available online.

Heimathonig (in German) provides an online marketplace for honey and beekeepers. It does all the marketing and coordinates the placement of online orders. However, it keeps some farmers market elements by letting you order online and pick up directly from the beekeeper if you are in the area.

For me, the best thing about this site is that I now have access to honey grown in different parts of Germany that would never appear at my local market. There are also honey varieties that are quite rare, like acacia, white fir, blueberry, organic cherry blossom, and seasonal forest flowers.

The prices are very reasonable, too — the typical jar of all natural, locally grown honey is less than 10 euros. A sampler of mini jars in different flavors is just under 8 euros, and the Heimathonig blog announces when new varieties are available.

Heimathonig is also searchable. You can look for beekeepers by zip code, or by the type of honey you would like. This can help you search out the rare varieties, like Black Forest honey, and also control what is in your honey if you like a specific taste.

Even just exploring the site will make your mouth hunger for a taste of something sweet!

I’m off to get my own little honey pot, and happy to say good bye to imported supermarket stuff in favor of local — and delicious — German honey.


Summer Sales On German Clothing

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Clothing in Germany is known for its good quality and strong design. While the best German clothing brands are international icons, there are also a number of regular shops where you can find excellent clothes. Even better?

You can even purchase these clothes at a strong discount during the summer clothing sales in Germany.

The sales, known as Sommer Schlussverkauf, used to be regulated. You could only have a sale during a set period, usually the last Monday of July to the first week of August. They were fixed at 12 days for the sale period.

Nowadays it’s more relaxed and stores can put on a discount at any time, but the big sales are still in the traditional period!

This makes it a real pleasure to shop in the summer in Germany. You will especially want to pick up leather goods, like belts or shoes, sports equipment and everyday clothing at this time. Typical sales will cut 20 – 50% from the sticker price!

One currently very popular store (for women) is Zero. It specializes in every day casual and trendy clothing. A review of the store in the Stuttgart shopping scene claimed that it was the essential “contemporary European woman’s” wardrobe destination. Visitors to the shops, which are located throughout Germany, will be pleased to walk away with summer steals as the already reasonable prices are cut in half.

Women, though, won’t be the only winners at the summer sales. For the whole family, Salamander shoes will be a good bargain item, as they are well made and last for a long time (I can testify!). If you are planning to do any hiking or camping in Germany during your trip, timing it during the summer sale could make it advisable for you to leave your own things at home and get some new Adidas and Puma items once you arrive.

Whatever you choose, remember that historically sales in Germany were limited. If you see something and like it while it’s on sale, it’s best to buy it quickly. Good products last, so items move quickly at sale time!

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