Saturday, February 11, 2012

Germany 101: Surviving Winter Through Beer and Pastries

Photobooth fun! (With effects. Kilian's face does not actually bulge like that.)
      Happy Saturday, folks! It is currently a brisk 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 C) outside, so I'm more than fine with staying at home writing a blog, rather than taking on the elements. (And, you know, I'm babysitting, so wouldn't happen anyway.) Germany (and indeed most of Europe) is still locked in its record cold snap, and sure enough the temperature hasn't climbed above about -8 Celsius in at least two weeks. However next week's forecast actually has a couple highs in the positive temperature range, so I'm optimistic.

     The last three or four days have been impressively snowy (okay, not much more than 3 inches on the ground, but enough new snow falls that it manages to look pretty, at least! I'm still pretty excited whenever it snows, as long as I'm inside looking out. Burr!

     The amount of snow that's fallen (and refuses to melt...downside of perpetual sub-zero temperatures! In California it snows, looks pretty for 24 hours, then promptly all leaves so things like ice and grit and yellow snow never enter into the equation.) has significantly shaken up my kids-picking-up routine. Whereas normally Kilian's bike is taken to the kindergarten in the morning and I bring the stroller over when I go to collect them, with this amount of snow both bike riding and stroller pushing are impossible. Solution? SLED.

     Oh yeah, sled. And not a wimpy little one either! These things are heavy duty. So our trek home consists of about a 20-minutes trudge (on my part)/gleeful ride (on the part of the kiddies) through a field/wood down to a bus stop about half a mile away from the kindergarten. There generally isn't enough snow to go the whole way home (and Germans are assiduous at promptly shoveling sidewalks), which is really fine with me. Have you ever tried pulling 60 lbs. worth of children half a mile? I think both my biceps are permanently strained. It's hilariously cute though. Cliona obliges by singing Jingle Bells for most of the ride  ("Jingle bells, all the way, fun fun in a sleigh!" are pretty much her words), and indeed there is a little jingle bell attached to the front of the sled to encourage her singing. Kilian would much prefer it were I a dog, pulling the sled, and is often disappointed at how slowly I go. (Umm, not only are they freaking heavy, but pulling whilst trudging (in non-waterproof boots, I might add) through loose, powdery, 5-inch-deep snow?)

     Kilian told me tonight as I was putting him to bed that I was almost as old as an Oma (grandma). "But you have to get some children first," he hastened to add. Thanks, you rascal. I made him promise to tell me if he saw any grey hairs on me.

     I will tell you with complete and utter sincerity that as beautiful as snow is, I am ready for spring. Ohhhh, am I ready for spring. I've had to fight the temptation very hard to become a complete hermit since the weather's gotten so miserable. Any touristy sightseeing expeditions had better be to things inside this time of year. I visit a lot of malls and bookstores and coffee shops. I will be totally lost when it warms up and I actually have to pick clothing that a)looks okay, b)matches, c)I haven't worn the last two days as well. And the thought of showing my pasty white limbs to the world sort of makes me want to scream with terror. My hairstyles have been winnowed down to double ponytails, the only hair that stays somewhat neat and doesn't get static-y under a hat and scarf. Makeup freezes off.

     This is somewhat disgusting, but I have to share it. Californians, you know how when it's really cold, your nose runs? Well, did you know when it's really cold (by rest-of-the-world standards, not California standards), your nose stops being runny and instead the runny-ness freezes. Yep. Frozen snot. I went there. You're so welcome. Don't begrudge me that--it's making me feel slightly better thinking about y'all in California tanning on the beach in your 75 degree weather.

     Last weekend was, as I'm sure everyone is aware, the greatest quintessentially American holiday of all American holidays: the Superbowl. AKA the day women pretend to hate but actually love because they're not only permitted to spend the entire day eating forbidden foods and gabbing, it's actually actively promoted. (That was probably politically incorrect. But also pretty apt, let's be honest.) Plus, you're supposed to watch the commercials. What? As a self-professed has-no-interest-whatsoever-at-all-period-who-are-the-patriots-again?-in-football American, I of course jumped at the chance to bring this pointless day to Germany and convinced one of my friends to host a mini-superbowl party.

     So around 4 PM on a blustery, chilly day, about 9 of us gathered, American food and a plethora of beer in tow, to celebrate the holiday in style. Food included tortilla chips and salsa, barbecue chips and ranch, chocolate chip cookies, nachos and guacamole (funny how so much traditional "American" food is Mexican...), chicken nuggets, cheese nuggets, and hot wings. Drink included beer, beer, and even a little beer. And we passed the afternoon, evening, and even a wee bit of the very early morning eating too much, drinking too much, and celebrating the holiday in style.

    If you're at all geographically or mathematically-inclined, you may have realized that the Superbowl's practical starting time of 3:30 PM California time lands it promptly at 12:30 AM, Monday morning German time. So our "Superbowl" party actually consisted of watching the Best of Superbowl commercials from the last several years, quite a few halftime shows, watching Justin Timberlake pull Janet Jackson's shirt off, and listening to Christina Aguilera forget the words to the national anthem. No football involved. So basically, my perfect superbowl party! We topped the night off with a game of King's Cup and quite a few rounds of flip cup. Most excellent. A few photos, courtesy of the amazing Leigh Stephenson:


Flipcup champs 
And this is when I fell while trying to crip walk...
    A few Friday night trips to the Hofbräuhaus have also been in order. Touristy though it may be, it's also warm, welcoming, inexpensive, and a whole lot of fun!

Wintry courtyard at HBhaus

     The German people continue, as a whole, to be their silly selves. (Don't tell them I said that. They'd be so angry.) I was proposed to while waiting for the U-bahn last night. It was rather alarming.  My language speaking buddy and I have continued to meet up fairly regularly, which is a lot of fun and great for my German, as well! Last week he brought along a picture dictionary and quizzed me on words; sadly, when I had to randomly pick a page, we ended up trying to identify sea creatures, and let's be honest: oyster vs. mussel vs. clam I can't really do even in English! 

     A brief story from my language partner, illustrating the awesomeness and law-abiding-ness of Germans: Andreas told me he once lost the rear plate from his car, somehow, and had no idea where it had gone, how it had fallen off, et cetera. After giving it up for lost, he came home about five or six days after losing it, only to find it had been reattached to his car. Clearly somehow had found it, given it to the police, who identified the car, and not only returned it but screwed it back on themselves. That kind of thing just doesn't happen in America!

    The season right now is Fasching: a culmination of costume parties and wild and crazy frolicking leading up to Faschingsdienstag, which is none other than....any guesses? German Mardi Gras! Though it's definitely not as big of a deal here as it is in the North and along the Rhine, I've still seen my share of costumed people dashing around the city. It presents itself as sort of one long halloween, replete with parades, festivals, balls, and parties.

Munich Faschingsparade (Thanks, Google)  
     More on that to come, I'm sure, as it's still a week and a half away. 

     The other fun part of Fasching is the delicious tradition that is Faschingskrapfen. A krapfen is basically the German version of a donut (I think it technically equates to a Bismarck, specifically?)--a simple doughy ball glazed or powdered. Bavarian krapfen are traditionally filled with apricot marmelade.
          -------> Side note: A krapfen in Berlin is known as a Berliner. Ring any bells? Good ol' JKF and his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, of course! Incidentally, some internet research has proven the whole "I am a jelly donut" mishap to be false. As one article I read pointed out, yes, what he said could be translated as that, but if someone said to you "I am a New Yorker," would you really start laughing hysterically because you thought they were trying to say they were a literary magazine?
Back to krapfen. During Fasching, these ordinarily not-very-exciting pastries take on a whole new level. Flavors range from Vanilla to chocolate to straciatella to Eierlikör (kind of like very thick alcoholic eggnog) to strawberry to lemon to currant...I could go on. I will never be able to eat donuts again. These things are so freaking good. 


     As sad as it is to end on a discussion of custard-filled donuts (my mouth is still watering), I can't think of anything else to say! Thanks for putting up with this scattered, fairly silly blog entry! 

No comments:

Post a Comment