Monday, 14 January 2013

Souvenir Shopping

Well hey there. It's been a very long time since I last posted. I blame it on the fact that my amazing journey came to end and the craziness of starting something new at home. Although I now find myself playing back the memories in my head, sifting through photos and wanting to write about some of the amazing things I experienced. I will start with this one because Christmas has just passed and I had the opportunity to display all of my amazing souvenirs in all of their glory.

Hitting up a lot of places? Want to get a little something from each place but don’t want to end up with a big pile of things that will collect dust on your shelves? I may be able to help you out with an idea.

Our plan, right from the start was to live in Germany for a year, travel during our breaks, and then take a month to travel some of the other European countries, before returning home to Canada. Besides Germany, we have already gone to Prague, Czech Republic, and Paris, France (and I hit up Dublin, Ireland on my own) throughout the duration of this visa. That’s already 4 countries worth of souvenir collecting and there are at least 4-5 more on the list. So while a key chain and a few beer glasses  are among the top collectables on my list, I do not need 9 key chains to add to the collection I already have at home. So this time, I have decided I will collect Christmas Ornaments. This ornament might be either a nice glass ball with a local scene painted onto it or a little monument or thing to represent the country, but it must be in Christmas Ornament form. They’re generally small and when you do eventually have your own place and want to get your first Christmas tree, you will actually have ornaments to decorate it.

I’ve received a Christmas ornament every year since I was born and have been told they are mine to take when I eventually move out. That’s 23 ornaments plus all of the new ones that I will purchase abroad. I cannot usually settle on one ornament so I will actually have a few from each country, but hey, I will just have to get a bigger tree. And while I will only get them out and use them once a year, at least they will be used EVERY year, they won’t be left to collect dust/ take up room on a shelf, and then eventually thrown-out to make room for something new. There will always be a spot for them and I will get to relive the memories each year.
This is not to say I haven’t purchased/accumulated a few other things as well…beer glasses, coffee mugs, a hoodie, and I will probably get a key chain somewhere, but if that key chain breaks or the hoodie wears out, I will have Christmas.

You might have to look in a few souvenir stores, but they DO sell Christmas ornaments in the off season.

Here are the ornaments I have collected throughout my travels. 

Prague, Czech Republic.

This is an interesting ornament to start with. It's not actually an's a marionette. I could not find any ornaments in the stores of the Czech Republic. However,
the Czech Republic is known for manufacturing marionettes and I DID find a ton of shops selling them. So I decided to get a Pinocchio (as he is the best known marionette) and I bought the smallest one I could find (still fairly large) and purchased it with the intention of hanging it on my tree. 

Czech Republic, the second.

A Ball made out of Czech Glass. There were glass stores all over the city.

Dublin, Ireland.

How appropriate that I would find Leprechauns (an Irish myth) holding a pot of gold and a pint of Guinness. 

Nürnberg, Germany.

Did you know that Nutcrackers are made in Germany AND that the original story was written by a German? These are what I had set out to find and was determined to get in ornament form. But they weren't the only German ornaments I picked up...

Germany, the second.
Coo-coo Clocks are also a product of Germany.

Germany, the third.

A little man dressed in lederhosen, holding a beer stein, wearing a Bavarian hat, AND sporting a mustache? Just as perfect as the leprechauns!
And with a Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas store in every city and a whole Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas Villiage in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, purchasing another ornament was unavoidable. 

Germany, the fourth.

A girl wearing a dirndl and bavarian hat. Dirndl's are very popular in Bavaria. You can see many locals AND tourists dress in these dresses at Oktoberfest, various other beer festivals, and sometimes even just for an everyday outfit.

Can you guess which country it came from?
The skiing Santa has nothing to do with any of the countries I have visited. However, the majority of the cities in Germany have a month long Christmas market leading up to the holiday and most of the stalls sell Christmas Ornaments. Since these markets are special to Germany, I decided I could purchase extra ornaments whether they represented Germany or not. 

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Given the number of windmills all over the Netherlands, I felt this was appropriate. On top of that, Matt and I had the opportunity to visit a working windmill that is used to power a wood saw. The saw cuts through logs which are used to restore local houses.

Voorhout, Netherlands

A little pair of wooden shoes, from the wooden shoe store, that showcases how wooden shoes have been being made over the years.

Helsinki and Turku, Finland

Apparently, Reindeer are a big deal in Finland and Reindeer meat is a popular dish

Paris, France

I had  not yet decided to collect ornaments at this point as it was my very first stop, so this key chain of the Eiffel Tower will become an ornament. Also, the Eiffel Tower for France seemed fitting.

The End Result: Germany, Czech Republic, Ireland, Finland, France, and the Netherlands all wrapped into one cute little Christmas tree. And because this is a fake tree, I will admit that it's January 13th, and I have not yet taken it down.

Sadly, I was too sick when I was in Scotland and Spain to concentrate on the hunt for ornaments and so the tree is not quite complete. If there's anyone who wants to find and send me a little Scottish tam or bagpipe ornament, I would forever be grateful.

Friday, 1 June 2012

German Food Diary

As I mentioned in the Czech Food Diary entry, I am making a photo diary of traditional German dishes for my friend Julia. I am photographing each item as I am brave enough to try it; my descriptions were not enough to satisfy her. This post has taken the entire eight months that I have lived in Germany to compose. Why? Because when you live somewhere for this long, you are not required to dine solely on the food of that particular country. No one is going to say, “you LIVED in Germany for 8 months and you went out for MEXICAN food” and then physically recoil at the very idea. At least, I hope they wouldn’t because not even the Germans eat traditional German food every day. No, that reaction is reserved for the tourists who occupy a country for two weeks and their first stop is McDonalds. Who goes to McDonalds in a foreign country? GUILTY! My first meal in Cologne was at McDonalds. I had just arrived, I was alone (Matt was at his orientation), it was dinner time, I was starving, I was unable to translate a German menu, and it was right there! So was the Curry Wurst stand but I wasn’t quite ready to jump into that one yet. I also do not care what your thoughts on McDonalds are. 

But eventually….I practiced my German, I put on a brave face, and I went out for German food. Could I read the menu? NOPE! The only translations I was able to make were those for Weiner Schnitzel and Potato Salad. I wasn’t even sure what the differences between the beers were! Luckily, I have had Matt to translate the menu for me. After all of his translations, this is what I have ended up with from the traditional German menu.

A type of pasta with cheese sauce and fried onions
Flammkuchen Classic
It's basically like a toasted tortilla with cheese, onion, and bacon

Flammkuchen Classic mit Käse
Classic Flammkuchen with the addition of cheese
Weiner Schnitzel mit Kartoffelsalat
Schnitzel with potato salad

Nürnberger sausages mit Kartoffelsalat und Bretzel
Nürnberg sausages with potato salad and a pretzel

 Currywurst mit pommes
Sausage covered in ketchup and curry powder and served with fries

 Schäufele mit Sauerkraut und Kloß
Pork Shoulder with sauerkraut and a spongy potato ball

Apple Strudel

So there it is! My complete German Food Diary. Now let's see what I can find in France!

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Horse and Rider Statue

Every city has its own unique statues, fountains and monuments, some of which are very famous. When you hear Eiffel Tower; you think Paris, when you hear Big Ben; you think London, and when hear Statue of Liberty; you think New York. But when you hear about a statue of a man riding a horse, are you able identify the city? You could actually name a number of cities and you would be right. It seems that every single city I have visited has one of these statues. It’s common, and after you've seen 10 of them, they no longer seem special. It's just another man on a horse.

It made me wonder what the significance of a horse and rider were. Why are there so many of these statues? Apparently riding a horse depicts the heroic character of the rider. It usually meant he was a warrior or hunter.
Source: Freud Museum London

And in case anyone was wondering, the number of feet the horse has off the ground does not indicate the rider's fate. It is a myth and done for aesthetic appeal.
Sources: Snopes and The Equinest

The following pictures are of nine common Horse and Rider Statues and one Horse and Rider Statue that ACTUALLY depicts hunting.


Prague, Czech Republic

Source: Vitold Muratov, Wikimedia
Source: Our 7 Worlds
Source: Hochmittelalter
Paris, France
Source: Daderot, Wikipedia

Finally, the one statue that brought on a bit of excitement.

The other Horse and Rider in Berlin

Friday, 13 April 2012

What I’ve learned and observed as an Au Pair

1.       That while I like children, I will not even consider having my own for a minimum of 5 years. I am quite enjoying my youth thank-you.
2.       The best or most effective ways to deal with temper tantrums are subjective. Each parent has their own idea of “what’s best”. How a situation is managed should depend on the severity of the child’s actions. One method does not fit all.
3.       That ‘being at home with children’ is a job in itself. Well obviously as I am employed in such a position. It’s not all clean floors and endless relaxation time. In fact, there is rarely any relaxation time.
4.       When children are involved, you are never finished cleaning up. And just when you think you’ve got everything done and back in order; someone is hungry, dumping a big box of Lego onto the floor, or emptying all the CD cases of their CDs.
5.       There is rarely a break. Even when you think you’re going to sit down and enjoy your lunch, someone doesn’t like what they have and wants something else or has already finished and wants more. Nap time is used for clean-up. It isn’t until both kids are in school, that you get a minute. 
6.       Children under the age of two should be in a high chair or booster seat they cannot get out of when drawing and colouring utensils are involved. Otherwise you end of with marker on: the wall, the chair, the dresser, other toys, and even...your pants. Does that song about black socks apply to jeans? Black jeans they never get dirty...?
7.       The ‘all by myself’ thing starts early. I sit with the toddler as she eats her yogurt. I watch her load up her spoon and bring it to her mouth. I continue to watch as she turns the spoon upside down, prior to it entering her mouth and watch as half the yogurt spills onto her bib and the other half eventually make it into her mouth. I watch as she scoops up the yogurt from her bib and places it into her mouth as well. We’re having Chicken Noodle soup for lunch. It is much runnier than the yogurt and runs right off the bib. I then watch her pick up the bowl and tilt it so she can drink the broth. Her pants are always soaked after soup. But she doesn’t want help. Good for her. I think she’s even starting to get it bit better.
8.       Dumping yogurt out onto the table and then moving it all around with your hands is a fun game.
9.       5 year olds have a great imagination. Tight rope walkers named Zucchini and people who dance with snakes are not imaginary games I would have thought of playing.
10.   Lock the bathroom door when anyone else is present in the house. Otherwise, children will let themselves in and expose your rear for anyone in the hallway to see.
11.   Children always get stuff on your clothes. Food, tears, snot, juice, marker, sand, etc.
12.   Their noses always run. Don’t go anywhere without Kleenex.
13.   I hate the parents that send their kids to school with the flu or any other stomach viruses. Naturally, the children touch everything and all the other children bring it home and pass it on to you. I’ve had at least two stomach bugs this winter. The last time I had a stomach bug, was when I was the child and in elementary school.
14.   People who park their car on the sidewalk or block more than half of it are the worst. Yes, I will wait as you move for me as I am not about to dodge into traffic with a stroller full of someone else’s kids. Also, your bike belongs somewhere other than the sidewalk. Oh yes, just let me pull the stroller over so you can wheel on by. And finally, hey street planners, if you want everyone to be so damn environmentally friendly and ride their bikes, put in some more damn bike lanes!
And finally, while I am already ranting about the sidewalk blockers and other sniffling children, I would like to add a note to the coffee shop/children’s indoor play place. Your store is geared to parents with children under the age of 5. Yet, your food is not overly kid friendly and you have placed toys that are for sale within the reach of a toddler under 2. In fact, you have put it at their eye level and then pointed out to me that the children are not allowed to touch anything that is for sale, just the toys in the buckets. Yeahhhh, the children don’t see the difference. And if you own or are working for such a business, you should know better.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

What to do on a Sunday in Germany

While I value my time off, I don’t enjoy spending the whole day sitting inside. But Sunday’s in Germany are considered to be a day of rest for the majority of the town. That means the malls/ outdoor shops are closed, the grocery stores are closed, and even some of the local restaurants are closed. 

As I mentioned in my last post, the past 2 weeks have been gorgeous!! The sun has been shining and I have been gearing up for summer and working on my tan. MY TAN. It’s only just turned April and I’ve already got some distinct tan lines.  But anyways, I’ve been spending my afternoons sitting outside on our balcony or going out for lunch with Matt and sitting outside at one of the patios. But this week, the weekend turned cold and rainy. I had already forgotten what kinds of things I could be doing that didn’t involve sitting outside in shorts and a tank top. Result: I ended up wasting a Saturday and the only productive thing I did was go grocery shopping and make homemade soup. I was tired by 7 o’clock. I decided I wasn’t going to waste my Sunday and would perhaps go out and take in a museum. Matt was already going to play American football with his co-workers so why should I be at home? The answer is I shouldn’t. So here is a short list of the various tasks you should save for and partake in on a Sunday

-Sit out on your balcony or join the locals sunbathing and napping in the park.
I’ve spent the previous two weekends slathering on sunscreen and sitting outside on our balcony; soaking up the rays, reading a book and enjoying a beer.

-Go to a park.
I have also been going to the park with Matt, people watching and noting all of the activities we can do in the weekends to come (including badminton, mini-putting, grilling, picnicing or paddle boating by the lake).

-Go to the Zoo.
And find out if they offer anything special at particular times…a dolphin show perhaps? The Nürnberg Zoo offers this.

-Take a guided bus or walking tour.
Matt and I took a guided tour of our own town around Christmas for something to do during the holidays. It’s interesting to discover new spots and learn a bit of the history  the stories behind the buildings. We have also taken a few guided tours during our weekend travels.
We liked this Nurnberg Tour and this Prague Tour

Photo Source: Wikipedia

-Hit a museum
Sunday’s are the perfect day to hit a museum as they are one of the few attractions that remain open. It*s important to note however, whether the museum offers descriptions in both German AND English when touring Germany and if an English description is note provided, find out of audio guides are available.
This past Sunday, I spent the morning at the Nürnberg Museum of Kommunikation and the Deutschebahn Railway Museum

-In December, go to the Christmas Market.
-Go to one in every town you visit and go often during the month of December. Nürnberg may have one of the most famous Christmas Markets and one of the largest, but other cities have different things to offer. While you’re at it, get a mug of Glühwein. I went to the Nürnberg market at least 3 different times as well as the Bamberg market. I collected a few of the different glühwein mugs. 

Photo Source: Hohohotels
-Take a day trip to a nearby town and spend the day walking around and enjoying the new scenery. Stop somewhere for lunch.
In Bavaria, it’s very easy and cheap to hop on the train to one of the surrounding cities. Most places keep their tourist offices open on Sunday’s so you can pick up a map and guide yourself through the main attractions or inquire about their daily tours. Either look-up a restaurant before you go (I like or wander through the streets. I like finding restaurants in Germany because the majority of them have their menu in the window or available for you to read before you decide to go in.
If you are looking for cities to hit up for a day trip, we like Nürnberg (where we reside), Bamberg (where Matt did his university exchange two years ago), and Regensburg. 

-Research your next trip.
Not sure where to go? Why don't you start by researching everything to see and do in a number of cities that sound appealing to you. It's time consuming so it's best to do it bit by bit over time. I have a bookmark called Europe Travels and within that folder are 13 cities and their attractions I find fascinating. That's only the beginning. Then when it comes time to make the decision, you can narrow down the location based on what there is. Will you need a week or can it be done in a weekend? Does it still seem like somewhere you want to go?

-Go see a movie.
A movie? Yes a movie. Your city may have a small selection of films available in English. To find out if your city does and what the postings are, check the Lifestyle section of The Local, weekly!

-See all of the major sites.
Have you been remembering to actually take pictures in the city you reside in? Or have you been passing by the monuments each day as if they are old news. You'll wish you had those photos when you get home. And yes, I've been taking pictures of Nürnberg:

Fountain of Love

Schöner Brunnen Fountain

Lorenz Kirche

Clock Tower

Friday, 30 March 2012

It’s always a nice day on St. Patrick’s Day!

…Okay, so this post is a LITTLE delayed. I blame it on the gorgeous weather we’ve been having and my desire to spend every warm minute that I am not working, sitting outside on our balcony or on a patio eating lunch. But it could not last forever and 2 weeks later, the rain has come, forcing me to spend my afternoon inside.

But back to St. Patrick’s Day. What is it about St. Patrick’s Day that brings the hot air into what has otherwise been a cold week? Seriously, the past 4 years have been strangely warm and I have the statistics to prove it. According to the National Climate Data and Information Archive, the following temperatures have been noted for March 17 in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario:
2011: 12.8°C
On March 14, just 3 days earlier, the following temperatures have been noted:
2011: 2.2°C
2010: 4.1°C
2009: 7.5°C 

Nürnberg, Germany followed the same pattern in 2012. According to The Weather Channel, it was 7°C on March 14 and jumped up to 20°C on March 17.

Mother Nature must really dig the tradition of drinking green beer, celebrating the life of St. Patrick and really want us all to be outside, having a grand time while we do it! Well Mother Nature, I applaud your efforts and have been soaking up the sun every year.

In 2011, I was fortunate to have the day off, the whole month actually as I was unemployed at the time. I spent the week in Waterloo visiting my boyfriend and friends and spent St. Patrick’s Day at the Bomber with a true Irish girl. We even caught the end of some Irish dancing and got our picture taken with a leprechaun! It was the best St. Patrick’s Day I have ever had.
Irish Dancers at Bomber

Myself, the "Leprechaun", and my very own native Irish friend, Julie with her flag

I was looking forward to something exciting again this year. It was a Saturday so Matt and I both had the day off, we had warm weather, and we wore green shirts. We had everything we needed to have an excellent day. It was however, a bit of a disappointment. We sat outside on a patio for dinner which was a little premature because as soon as the sun went down, so did the heat. Fortunately, many of the restaurants in Nürnberg that offer outdoor seating also offer fleece blankets to wrap around your shoulders! The dinner was still enjoyable. Afterwards we made our way to O’Sheas’s Irish pub (one of the few Irish bars in Nürnberg). We got in, we found a spot to stand, and we each ordered a pint of Kilkenny. We were ready for the live band to start! By the time the band had started, O’Shea’s had become quite crowded. Too crowded. There was no one monitoring the number of people who came in or out, but mostly in; our standing room became invaded and we were constantly bumped by backpacks and Guinness hats; and at one point, there was a lady who expected to get back to her crew at the bar, forcing people to cram into what little space was left and Matt literally hugging the brick pillar in the middle of the room in order to create more space, where there wasn’t any. I was I had a picture of it but there was no place to set my beer or room to stand at an appropriate angle. By the time we finished our beer, there was no way to get another unless you were sitting directly at the bar or were the 6”5 guy beside us leaning OVER the people at the bar. We decided to leave and pick up some Guinness on the way home and listen to our own Celtic music. Unfortunately, the gas station was out of Guinness so we had to settle for shots of the Jameson Whiskey I had brought back from Ireland. It did however, do the trick. 

Lessons Learned: The German’s don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, so if you’re in Nürnberg and looking to find one of the few Irish bars that does celebrate this holiday, you should probably arrive early enough in the day to get a table, or else risk the chance that past 8pm, you will have someone pushed up against all of your sides. 

A week later, when the weather was still nice, Matt and I returned to O’Shea’s for lunch out on the patio and had the Guinness we should have had on March 17. 

Delicious Guinness