Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Porto

Waaay back, in 2017 (barely), Terry and the kids came to Germany for holiday. They spent almost a week in Frankfurt, getting over jet lag, celebrating Christmas, and hanging out. Then on my birthday we got on a plane and visited a country that had been on my must-visit list for a long time - Portugal.

Recognizing that we'd have a holiday and a Sunday in our first weekend in the country, we opted for an air-b-n-b in Porto for our first stop. The apartment was wonderful, one of the bigger places we've stayed, and the hostess left a bowl of fruit, Oreos and milk for us :-)

Unfortunately, the market where we planned to stock our shelves closed a few hours before we got there, so that was a downer. After our fascinating and delicious experience in Barcelona's La Boqueria, the visit was a planned high point. oops.

Gate closed, no vendors inside. This market is closed.

The plethora of intricately tiled homes and narrow, windy, twisty streets makes a stroll around Porto one of the best ways of spending a day, and that is exactly what we did.


The Dom Luis bridge connects the northern side of Porto (where we stayed) with the southern side (where all the wineries are).  Below, the barges full of barrels of port.

In the midst of the wandering, we found a playground for the kids to burn off some energy.  They will probably report back that the playground was their highlight of Porto.




There was a huge street festival with music and entertainment for new year's eve, right around the corner from where we were staying. We told the kids if they wanted they could stay up for it, and we'd go out to to ring in the new year.  By 11:00pm they said they were ready to go home and go to bed. Turns out we could see a bit of the fireworks from one of the windows, so Terry and I still got a taste of celebration.

On New Year's Day, again, there was little open so we spend the day outdoors wandering through the city. The cable car was one of the few operational tourist happenings, and we took a ride.

In front of the train station they even tiled the rocks!  It was fun for the kids to take a little break and get off their feet for a few.

Terry doesn't like port, and the kids are kids, so in the end I didn't even taste a drop of port while in Porto. Leaving something for the next time!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Spargelsaison

I have written about paying $10 for a small bunch of asparagus in winter in St Petersburg so that I could consume vegetables other than carrots or cabbage; my cred as a non-hater shall be considered well established.  Spargelsaison ("asparagus season") in Germany is a real thing, and it is incredible to me that people will pay 20 Euros for a serving of asparagus in a restaurant at the height of the season. In a normal restaurant. Supply vs. demand anyone?

Asparagus is tasty.  White asparagus does have a milder, more delicate flavor. No arguments here. But ...

The thing is, during the Spargelzeit ("asparagus time") it is mid-to-late-spring. There's something else going on too, something that should be the queen of the season and somehow, bewilderingly, is not.

Strawberries.

I have been tragically and pathetically lazy. Next spring will be different. 

The field I visited this morning was a 10 minute drive from my apartment. You can buy a box there, or bring whatever kind of container you like and they weigh it before you start picking, so that you are only paying for the fruit. The prices were excellent too, with reduced cost the more you pick. We may go back to jam making next year!

Today was my first and only (for this season) strawberry-picking day. Sadly, many of the berries on the vine were already moldy or half-eaten by the bugs. Unfortunate for the fruit seekers, although it is a great sign of little or no pesticide use.  It took about 40 minutes to gather about 1.5 kilos of fruit. While picking, I only snacked on the ones that were so close to being bad nobody would have taken them. They tasted like honey, they were so tooth-achingly sweet.

Monday, April 23, 2018

One Sentence Book Review: The Power

The Power by Naomi Alderman

When girls in the modern-day world suddenly gain the power to electrocute through their fingertips, their actions repudiate most gender stereotypes and set civilization on a crash course that, five thousand years later, looks starting similar to our own with one small exception...

Buy, borrow or don't bother: Borrow.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

One Sentence Book Review: Journey

(full title) Journey: Based on the True Story of OR7, the Most Famous Wolf in the West by Emma Bland Smith (Author),‎ Robin James (Illustrator)

This almost non-fiction book charmingly tracks the adventures of OR-7, the first wolf to cross into California in almost a century, and the campaign to protect him from aggressive farmers and other humans.

Buy, borrow, or don't bother:  Buy.  This would delight your favorite five-, six-, or seven-year-old paired with a stuffed animal wolf! 

Monday, April 16, 2018

One Sentence Book Review: Beyond Sleep

Beyond Sleep by Willem Frederik Hermans
 
Overly self-conscious and self-important young geologist, carrying the weight of his father's too-early death and resultant failure to achieve greatness, goes on remote site visit critical to his thesis completion yet is painfully unprepared for any aspect of his journey.

Buy, borrow, or don't bother: Don't bother

Thursday, April 12, 2018

One Sentence Book Review: New York 2140

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

This book will delight anyone who has ever wondered just how will the world look in about 120 years when no entity on Earth seems willing or able to do anything to slow the pace of climate change;  the author fits in descriptions of extreme weather, human scientific and social ingenuity, and political showdowns in between the stories of the small group of fellow megalithic-city-within-an-apartment dwellers who change the world.

Buy, borrow or don't bother: Buy - and keep checking back over the next 120 years to see which predictions come true!

Monday, April 9, 2018

One Sentence Book Review: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This children's book first appears as a thriller - the protagonist's entire family is murdered in the first few pages - but instead turns into an adventuresome coming-of-age story (albeit under unusual circumstances) that has both children and adults constantly wanting to know what happens next.

Buy, borrow or don't bother:  Buy

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

One Sentence Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Imagine your favorite Russian writer got himself a good editor:  reminiscences about the scent of lilacs in the Alexander Gardens or waxing philosophic about why Russians took to duels so quickly still happen, but within one rather than 20 pages.

Buy, borrow or don't bother: Buy

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Köln

I took myself to Köln for the day today (Cologne, for the not-German-speaking).  It is well known for its totally crazy Carnival celebrations, and for some reason the train ticket was unnervingly inexpensive. Admittedly, several museums, and the Cathedral, were closed. I was saving the Chocolate and Mustard museums for when the whole family was here anyway, so not such a big problem.

Although the inside of the cathedral was closed, the outside obviously wasn't. I took a lot of photos. Here's just one:
 
My first order of business was to figure out what was going on and when and where. I basically accidentally found the "Battle of the Bands, 1790's style"





Around the corner was this delight:
Apparently, all the marching bands end up in one large park where there's a stage and the redcoats got to play more modern music (ABBA, among other things, no joke). I should have taken photos but in addition to the tents where one could buy food or beer, there were people with their own little beer-keg-on-red-wagon looking contraptions, most of which had signs proclaiming "PRIVAT"

Most of the spectators also had costumes, and if one came unprepared there were plenty of stores and kiosks ready to kit you out.  It was raining, and the city actually has quite a few good looking museums.  I hit an art museum that was actually open today and that nobody in my family would be interested in visiting - although they did have a decent program for keeping kids engaged, with certain artworks hosting extra signage especially for kids, some commentary and jokes, and a room with enormous bean bag chairs to hang out and chill out before venturing back into the art. Unusual for me, I spent more than 2 hours in the museum.

Another order of business was to find Kölsch to drink, as that is Köln's special beer.  I had been reading up on Carnival in the city and kept reading about having a "Früh" beer was an important part, and I kept thinking "OK, they drink beer early in the day, it's Carnival, that makes sense."  Nope. Früh, which means early in German, is also the name of the brand of beer. D'oh. So I had one. It was OK. All the Brauhauses were full past capacity with lines out the doors, so I got mine from an outdoor stand.  This was nearby. I liked the colorful houses on a gray day.
I had some time, so hit another museum that was right by the train station before heading out. It was interesting, but I was heading toward exhausted so didn't absorb as much as I might have.  As I headed back to the train station, there was this. I have no idea why:


And last but not least, in honor of my husband who adores everything pig, in the train station was this cafe:






Wednesday, November 1, 2017

My first big outing

I've been in Frankfurt more than three months,and although I have been back to the USA twice and taken another trip by plane within Europe, within Germany I have barely left Frankfurt.

Today I took advantage of the holiday (500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door and thus ushered in the Reformation) and took myself to Heidelberg.  There is a weird thing with the Deutsche Bahn - ticket prices to places that are within about a 2 hour drive are ridiculously expensive, so it doesn't make any sense to take the train even when one would prefer to do so. So, my first road trip.


This is the Academy of Sciences building, with the Heidelberg Castle lit up through the fog behind it. I am sure Terry hates this photo. I love it. The photo was taken basically right where I found a parking garage for the car.

I first hiked my way into and around the Philosopher's Way, so named because the university professors of old would come up into these woods and wander.  I had thought the name referred to a particular path, but soon changed my mind. The trails kept splitting off, signposts existed yet directed to places I had never heard of and none of them said Philosophenweg ... so I guess the term refers to all the forest paths.
This is the path up the mountain to the start of the Philosopher's Way. This path is called the Schlangeweg, or Snake Path.

The views were amazing, but hard to capture. This is Heidelberg's famous "old" bridge leading up to the Church of the Holy Ghost.

My morning in the mountain air caused (as the Germans say) a bear's hunger, and I managed to find a little pub-like restaurant a tiny bit off the main touristy area. I intended to order schnitzel  - they had three different kids that weren't pork as well as about 6 different kinds with pork, but then they had venison goulash with a berry sauce and spaetzle. I was sold.

After lunch, off to check out the castle. I didn't plan to actually go in, wanting to save that for a time when Terry and the kids are with me.  The entrance fee is actually due at the courtyard of the castle, so I only walked around a bit. It looks like it's half crumbling and there's plenty of nooks and crannies. The kids will love it.


There it is, looming over the town.

 The last part of the adventure was getting gas for the car. There's this perk where when we use a special card at certain gas stations, we can get gasoline without extra taxes. These extra taxes add up to about half the cost of the gas. I wasn't completely convinced on how this was going to work, so I didn't fill the tank all the way. But it worked! Unfortunately it also entailed a detour that added 20 or so minutes to my drive home. Driving in Germany is a bit harrowing, for example I'd be driving 80 mph and have cars FLYING past me. That takes some getting used to.