On Green Living And Ecotourism

March 22nd, 2012 | Filed in Culinary, Innovations, Sights

As I’m sitting here at the computer my attention is a bit distracted. I keep looking out the window to a veggie garden—grown totally organic. Yup, they didn’t use any chemicals or anything harsh to come between us and the corn, radish, lettuce, and tomatoes.

They’re just like a lot of folks in Germany who have taken to organic and “gone green.” And it’s not just amateur farmers.

Tell me that that yummy food bought at a local Farmers Market or picked right from a local orchard doesn’t taste delicious? Yeah, I thought so. ;-)

It’s more than just eating Bioprodukte (organic food) that makes Germany a leader in the green movement. Eco-tourism is big business here—in a totally environmentally friendly way.

Ever heard of a climate neutral hotel? No? Me either. That was, until recently. They’re popping up all over these days. So if you’re hell bent on saving the Earth one vacation at a time, consider staying at accommodations that strive for ZERO emissions and no carbon footprint whatsoever.

A night or two at a German farm or eco-friendly campsite would work just as good, I would think? You’d tell me if I was wrong, wouldn’t you?

I’m torn on the next part of being environmentally friendly. We Germans have a love of the automobile not seen by the likes of many others around the globe (I say it’s a healthy obsession). So, before hopping into your sleek, sexy, gas-guzzling ride, think about the impact of all the gasoline and emissions.

Yikes, did I just say that? OK, you can always ask for a hybrid instead.

I just hope they’ll bring out energy and/or hydrogen powered cars sooner rather than later.

For you diehard Greenies, don’t worry about the car; take public transportation, the train, or your own two feet for that matter (like I often do myself). There are hundreds of nature parks in Germany, not to mention over a dozen National Parks—all meant to be enjoyed on foot or bicycle.

Yeah, I guess I need some more of those organic veggies to keep me going.

Teaching your kids to be nice to our planet is another adventure. Good thing Germany’s got museums like the Klimahaus, an interactive museum in Bremerhaven that’s all about the weather and climate.

Munich has got an exhibit at the Deutsche Museum that details the horrid effects of our non-green ways. Even the car maker Volkswagen has jumped on the green bandwagon (or, should I say green Volkswagon?) with its Level Green exhibit in the city of Wolfsburg.

Do you think it would be bad form me to drive to the Level Green exhibit by car?

On second thought, maybe I’ll walk…

Hessian Cuisine

March 19th, 2012 | Filed in Culinary

Scarlet O’Hara (from Gone With The Wind, if you’ve lived under a rock for the last 70+ years) said, “If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

Well, Ms. O’Hara, you wouldn’t have been hungry if you ate your way around Hesse. There ain’t anyway that anyone could go hungry around here.

Start with Kassler Rippchen, a smoked pork that looks like ham, but isn’t. Kassler Rippchen has got a deeper, smokier flavor. Fry it. Grill it. Bake it. Just serve it with some red cabbage or kale for a true Germanic culinary dish.

Yeah, talk about baking — try the Zwiebelkuchen. It’s a “cake” made with onions and served with sour cream. Try it right outta the oven for the best flavor — but still manages to taste delicious as a leftover.

Another goodie right from the oven is Wasserweck, a wheat flour bread that’s yummy topped with butter & jam, cheese, or a number of wursts.

One wurst that’s popular here is the Frankfurter Würstchen. It looks like a long, skinny hot dog — but it ain’t anything like it, even if you do eat it with mustard. The proper way to cook these bad boys is to drop ’em in boiling water for about 10 minutes — but make sure you turn the flame off as soon as you drop them in.

Tired of the same old-same old with potatoes or eggs? Add some yummy Grüne Soße to them and feel your tastes buds pop with gratitude. It’s made with 7 different herbs — but only traditionally served from Holy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter) until the first frost shows up in the Fall.

Don’t have to worry about that if you live in a tropical climate, eh? ;-)

Make some Bethmännchen afterwards. These marzipan cookies with almonds and powered sugar are a sweet treat after a salty dish like Kassler Rippchen.

Uh, why am I talking to you when I should be munching on Bethmännchen instead. Thanks to Germanfoodguide.com, I’ll give you the recipe for Grüne Soße. This way I can enjoy my cookies… ;-)

7 Unique Hotels In Germany

March 10th, 2012 | Filed in Accommodations, Dream Trips

Check out just about any travel website and you’ll find some “Top 10” list of most beautiful hotels, creepiest hotels, or “Insert Type Of Hotel Here” kind of thing.

Germany is no different in this regard. It’s got all sorts of unique hotels for something other than some big-chain’s “looks no different than New York, Chicago, or London” type rooms.

For the really adventurous or folks tired of the “been there, done that” mantra, I got a few hotels in Germany that will make your stay… unique.

What got me thinking about this was hearing about the Canis Resort in Freising, a town close to Munich. One caveat: you can’t stay here — but your canine friend can; it’s a hotel for dogs.

While your pampered pooch stays here, you can make your way over to the Propeller Island City Lodge in Berlin. Twenty-five rooms all with different themes (a castle motif, a padded cell, a bed suspended by ropes) is a pretty amazing way to spend a night or two.

Also in Berlin is a hotel for art lovers. The Arte Luise Kunsthotel (with a view of the Reichstag) also has rooms where no two are alike, with names like Die Berliner, Three Monkeys, and Tree Woman.

The Igloo Village Zugspitze isn’t for the warm weather lovin’ crowd. Rooms in its 20 igloos are at a balmy 0°C (32°F), and the area has 360-degree panoramic views of the Alps. You can sled, ski, or snowshoe to your heart’s content, then eat up at the Glaciergarden Restaurant when you’re hungry.

For a prison experience without actually having to stay in prison, the Hotel Alcatraz in Kaiserslautern can accommodate. It does have regular rooms and suites, but you can stay in a Cell Room that’s stark just like what you’d find in a real prison. The hotel is near the Japanese Garden and Pedestrian zone — which you can enjoy since you’re not locked up behind bars.

When sleeping under the stars is more to your taste, do it at the Ein Bett im Kornfeld. It’s a “hotel” within a cornfield in Bad Kissingen. You’ll get an outdoor shower and hearty breakfast along with being able to sleep outside.

Oh, here’s the best one — the Roter Sand Lighthouse. This isn’t some shoreline lighthouse, mind you. It’s right out in the North Sea, and the only way to get there is by boat. There’s no electricity, no heat, and no drinking or smoking is allowed. If you can spend a few nights like this (bring your sleeping bag and towels), you’ll be treated to the crashing waves of the North Sea — and spectacular views from its observation deck. It’ll cost you, though, since your food and water are included in the price.

Talk about getting away from it all.

Got interested? I surely am. Here’s where you can book your hotel reservation in Germany.

Traditional Bavarian Clothing

February 29th, 2012 | Filed in Culture & Art, Pickups, Shopping Tips

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. ;-)

German News And Events

February 16th, 2012 | Filed in Culture & Art, Economy, Events, Pickups, Politics, Reviews

We do our best here at MyGermanCity.com and in our G-ZINE to bring you all sorts of information regarding what’s going on in Germany. If you want more German news and cultural events, programs, and even books there are plenty of English sites that’ll give you what you’re looking for.

Deutsche Welle, my personal favorite, is one of the most trusted names in German news. Their website has historical, travel, and other articles for not only the English speaking (reading?) public but in 29 other languages too. Plus, you can watch DW World live on their website.

Thelocal.de is a great site for getting all the info you want for Germany’s major cities (Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich, even the Rhineland). They’ll give you up-to-date movie listings (for English speaking movies, no less), restaurant reviews, and other cultural events.

Living or visiting Berlin? Can’t read German? Good thing EXBERLINER knows how to take care of you. They’ve got the best info on life in the capital city with restaurant reviews, listings, classified ads (need an apartment), and nightlife.

The same holds true with The Munich Times. If you want all the non-German language info on current events, sports, politics, and business in the Bavarian city — you don’t have to go any further than right here.

SPIEGEL ONLINE is the online version of Der Spiegel, and they’ve conveniently translated their German, European, and World headline stories from Deutsch to English for you.

Thanks, that’s most kind. ;-)

When trying to keep current of all the cultural events in Germany, you’ve got two choices. The first, Signandsight, might draw some of its “news” from other sites (for which they’ve translated to English for you). It’s said to be all about the “cultural and intellectual life in Germany.” That means books, music, art, etc. Love it!

The second, the Gothe Institute, is also all about German cultural life. You’ll find their website most informative about cultural programs. Plus, they have offices in countless cities around the globe (there’s even one in Kathmandu).

If you hear about any more English-speaking (or reading) websites, be sure to let us in on where to find them by posting a comment below, please? :-)

Germany, the Land of Poets and Thinkers

February 13th, 2012 | Filed in Culture & Art, Events

I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many pages on MyGermanCity.com that have the names Goethe or Schiller mentioned in them. These two contemporaries aren’t even the tip of the iceberg of writers and poets that have made Germany known as Das Land der Dichter und Denker — the Land of Poets and Thinkers.

So, here’s your chance to get to know some famous German writers in honor of next month’s Leipzig Book Fair in Leipzig (March 15th – 18th) and the lit.COLOGNE, the International Literature Festival in Cologne (March 14th – 24th).

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Born in 1749, Goethe’s works were considered part of a movement known as Sturm und Drang, or in English Storm & Stress. His The Sorrows of Young Werther would have topped all the “bestseller” lists, had there been any in his day.

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller

Fritz (as he was called) was buddies with Goethe, and founded the Weimar Theater with him. He is, however, known for his works — like Don Carlos, The Wallenstein Trilogy (about the Thirty Years’ War), and The Robbers — a story of violence, money, power, and revolution. Utterly brilliant.

While Schiller and Goethe were part of the Sturm und Drang, a number of writers were known for Exilliteratur — exiled writers (like these next two guys) that opposed the Third Reich and all it stood for.

Thomas Mann

A Nobel Prize winner from Germany who emigrated to the U.S. during the Nazi years, Thomas Mann was first translated into English in 1924. So now German and English readers can enjoy his ironic works (Death in Venice, The Magic Mountain, etc.). You can also read his children’s works too, since three of his children (Erika Mann, Klaus Mann, Golo Mann) became writers.

Bertolt Brecht

Oh, this guy was busy — poet, director, and playwright he was. His anti-fascist sentiments can be found in his Life of Galileo, the Good Person of Szechwan, and the Fear and Misery of the Third Reich. He returned to what was then East Germany after being blacklisted by Hollywood during the Cold War.

Although the next writers might not have been part of the Sturm und Drang or Exilliteratur crowd, they’re still Nobel winners for Literature.

Gerhart Hauptmann

Go figure, another Nobel Prize winning author. Mr. Hauptmann wrote 37 plays, and a large collection of novels and short novels. Too bad he didn’t have as much success after World War II as he did beforehand.

Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen

Not only was Theodor Mommsen a prolific writer (finishing 1500 works), this guy was an archaeologist to boot. He won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1902 on his works of Roman history. He died over a century ago, yet his writings are still relevant.

Schiller said, “The voice of the majority is no proof of justice.” Then let me say that the voice of the majority that still loves these writers’ stories is proof that good taste still exists in the world.

Real Football Is Played Outside America

February 9th, 2012 | Filed in Events, Sports

It’s February, it’s freakin’ cold in Europe, and the American public was warm, toasty, and glued to the television with beers in hand for its annual football ritual, the Super Bowl. Last Sunday, that is.

Uh, guys, as exciting as the Super Bowl is or was for the two teams on the hunt for the infamous Lombardi Trophy, you’re not playing FOOTBALL.

Yeah, as if that’s not gonna get a reaction out of some of you. ;-)

Just to set the record straight, guys ‘n girls, we (i.e., the rest of the world) call it football, you call it soccer (huh?), and we (i.e., the rest of the world) call yours distinctively American football.

Anyway, German teams that play real football are on the hunt for the coveted DFB Cup. Hmm, bragging rights alone should be good enough. But this 12.5 pounds of silver is worth more than €100,000; and can actually hold 8 liters of liquid to boot.

I’m guessing it wouldn’t be filled with cola after winning this baby; especially since Bayern München won it 15 times (and that artificial liquid called cola is not really a German drink, or is it?). ;-)

The competition starts at the end of July with 64 teams, ending in May the following year (the 2011 season kicked off July 30) with the final match to be played at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.

The DFB League, called Bundesliga, is only of Germany’s top football leagues. The Bundesliga is the highest men’s league in the country. The creme-de-la-creme of the sport. The NFL of soccer, if you will.

They’re all competing for the Champions Trophy, or what’s so eloquently called the “Salad Bowl.” This trophy weighs in at a whopping 11kg (24 pounds), and kind of reminds me of the Ladies Single’s Rosewater Dish trophy from Wimbledon.

Sorry, Manly Men, but it looks like a dinner plate. ;-)

Sure, I make jokes but football is huge in Germany. So much in fact, the game’s played in big arenas like the Volkswagen Arena in Wolfsburg, the Allianz Arena (the home stadium for Bayern München) in Munich, and the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Stuttgart.

I mention these so if you’re here visiting you might want to see a game or two. You’ll find tens of thousands of screaming fans all decked out in their team colors who are playing real football. :-)

Now that you know what German football teams are playing for, I’ll fill you in on the rules soon enough. Stay tuned…

If You Can’t Be German, Eat Like One

February 6th, 2012 | Filed in Culinary

My friend makes jokes that there are two types of people in the world — Italians and those who want to be. In her world she might be right, but in mine — if you can’t be German, you can, at least, eat like one.

Now, I’m guessing you’re aware that Germany has 16 federal states — and encompasses a pretty large area. None of which are alike. So, it’s not hard to believe that the food varies by region; and I’ve got the Rhineland area in my culinary sights today.

Meats, breads, sweets, whatever, you’ll find it all in the cooking of the Rhineland.

The most versatile is the Schwarzbrot (Dark Bread) that’s made with whole grain rye; tasting so delicious on its own or topped with any kind of wurst or cheese. Eat up, it’s good for you too.

When fried foods are calling your name, you got a choice of either Frikadellen (ground beef or pork) that can be eaten hot or cold (hmm, a multi-tasker, I like that). Or, try some pan-fried potatoes in oil or butter, and goes great with schnitzel or a wurst.

One meaty dish that’s been around for centuries is Sauerbraten. Made with either venison or beef, this marinated meat is usually served with red cabbage or potato dumpings.

OK, enough of the real food — I want dessert. Don’t you? Ahh, life’s short — eat dessert first! ;-)

Anyway, the Rhineland’s got the most delicious Obstkuchen, a fruit cake (not the Christmas re-gifting fruit cake) that’s made with either a sponge or yeast dough bottom.

My buds over at the Germanfoodguide.com say it goes good with whipped cream and a cup of java. Inasmuch as I agree — I think the fruitty goodness can stand alone. Here’s a fruit cake recipe, in case you’ve got a hankerin’ to make your own.

I will, however, take the cup of java with Kreppel. Similar to Berliner, this is a fried pastry that’s not really a donut. Who cares, we Germans have been making them since the 15th century. Hmm, looks like we were the original Dunkin Donuts, huh?

After eating meals like that, is it even possible to feel even MORE German? Uhhh, yeah! :-)

The Hidden Groundhog Connection In Germany’s Candelmas

February 2nd, 2012 | Filed in Events

Groundhog’s Day is well-known to our American and Canadian readers. This rather silly holiday revolves around the small furry animal that peeks its head out of its hibernating shelter each year on February 2.

According to the tradition, if it’s a cloudy day and the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow, then that means winter will soon come to an end. But if it’s sunny and the animal glimpses its shadow, it signifies another six weeks of winter.

The biggest celebration takes place in the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in the United States and its famous little critter Punxsutawney Phil (made famous in the Bill Murray movie about the holiday, called simply Groundhog’s Day).

However, most people don’t realize that this North American holiday has roots that can be traced right back to Germany! This annual tradition derives from the medieval holiday of Candelmas. As the old German saying goes…

Ist’s zu Lichtmess mild und rein
wirds ein langer Winter sein.

That is, “If Candlemas is mild and pure, winter will be long for sure.”

So what, exactly, is Candelmas?

This takes us to a famous story about the young Jesus Christ from the Christian Bible. Candelmas is when the baby Jesus made his first public appearance, at a temple forty days after his birth. Prophecies were made about the young boy and how he would one day redeem the nation of Israel.

But how did this religious festival celebrating the Virgin Mary’s purification following child birth lead to furry rats predicting the weather?

The answer is all about timing.

First, when the ancient Romans established Christmas as December 25, Candelmas logically fell forty days later, on February 2. Just as Christmas was changed by the Romans to coincide with the pagan festival of Saturnalia, Candelmas also fell at the time of an important Gaelic holiday, Imbolc.

This day is also called Saint Brigid’s day for the goddess-turned-saint. She walks the earth and leaves signs of her presence. She is responsible for bringing the light of summer to the darkness of winter.

So her holiday marked the beginning of spring in medieval Ireland. Imbolc traditions included watching nature for signs of an early spring. Participants might go the fields and look for snakes or badgers that had come out of hibernation.

So, this springtime holiday of weather prognostication eventually found its way to America, courtesy of the Pennsylvania Germans.

While they may have been searching for the more traditional harbingers of springtime, which in Europe was the badger or even a bear, they apparently made do with the small creature that now gives its name to this most unusual holiday, the Groundhog.

Thank You To Our US And UK Friends

January 27th, 2012 | Filed in Politics, Regional

I don’t believe it. After more than sixty-something years there will be a reduced number of U.S. and U.K. military personnel in Germany. Not that we have totally minded you being here, it’s just… well, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let me see if I can make sense out of this — since you have to go all the way back to May 8, 1945. At the end of World War II, Germany was carved up into pieces by the Allies — the United States being one of them.

To this very day American military presences are still maintained in Germany, albeit not in the regard they once did back in the late 1940’s. And thanks to the U.S. Government trying to “cut the fat” from its budget during its war in Iraq and Afghanistan, they’re about to reduce their presences in two of their stations.

For most people, these two are pretty hard to find or guess (that is, if you’re not in the military). Let’s see…

Ever heard of the town of Grafenwöhr? What about Baumholder, anyone?

See? Too bad, they’re pretty awesome — and Elvis Presley was stationed in Grafenwöhr when he was there.

Yes, I’m aware that nothing is written in stone yet, but since three-quarters of the country’s brigades are stationed in Germany, someone’s got to go.

A German/American alliance is nothing new, BTW. It were the Prussians who helped a newly formed United States of America during the American Revolution in the late 18th century against the Brits.

The thank-you letter to Prussian officer, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, from George Washington over at Hohenzollern Castle kind of says it all, BTW.

Oh yeah, speaking of the Brits, we’re grateful for their presence too. But, they too are pulling out some of their troops over the next few years; and will be totally gone by the end of this decade.

Throughout the decades we’ve suffered together, prospered together, and grown united together. So, it is only fitting that we Germans extend a heart-felt THANK YOU to our British and American friends — whether serving now, or in the past.

I know that many of you fell in love with Germany, our culture, and the peaceful live you enjoyed here. Well, it is peaceful because of YOU!


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