December 29, 2010

A Beer Culture -or- Jobs my Dad Would Like

As you can see, I could not decide on the title for this post. I feel like the two topics of discussion are  intertwined in such a fine way that separating them is difficult.

Before moving to Germany, I never thought of beer as cultural. Beer seemed like a good excuse to hang out, something used to quench your thirst on a hot day, or that drink by the campfire late at night. For Germans, beer is the drink of choice, and that makes it cultural. Ounce for ounce, it is always the cheapest drink at a restaurant. You can walk around in public with open bottles and no one finds this strange. Also, there are endless festivals held for different reasons and the beer tents tend to consume the biggest area of them. If you read back to some of our older posts, you will find "Biergartens" as a common theme. Not because we love them, but because it is just the cultural thing to do.

Munich's 6 Local Beers - 1 Liter = almost 3 cans back in the U.S.
That brings me to a couple of jobs I think my dad would like. First, and probably illegal, is the beer radler. So, in practicing your German - radler = cyclist. I was in the park last summer and some guy was just biking through the hundreds of people laying out in the grass while yelling "bier radler." Then, just like at a baseball game, someone would raise their hand and give the guy a few Euros for a beer. The beer radler would gladly take the empty bottles too since he could return them to any grocery store for money back.

The second job would be to work for the Deutsche Post. Rick knows all of the ins and outs of the US postal system, but there's an important perk to working for the German postal service. The other day when we were taking Scoots to the vet, I noticed a postman taking his lunch and drinking a beer in a cafe. You might this legal? Well, I doubt he was trying to hide the beer since his uniform is bright yellow. The best part was that he was not going to hop into a vehicle after his drink, but onto his envelope-laden bike. Beer for lunch and then he burns the calories right off! Sometimes, those dream jobs feel just within reach.


December 27, 2010

Cross-Country Skiing in Bayerischzell

Greg and I took a train about an hour and a half from Munich to a town called Bayerischzell (pronounced "by-risch-tsell") in the Alps. We were on the train with a lot of downhill skiers and snowboarders, but we were on our way to do some cross-country skiing. And it was a beautiful day for it - bright and sunny, not too cold, some wind (warm at times even).

Greg on the trail
We're not hardcore skiers and this was immediately obvious because people were passing us left, right and sidewise. Especially when I got scared I wasn't going to make it up a little hill while going parallel on the skis. I thought for sure I was going to fall into the river ditch and so plopped down in the middle of the trail to pull myself along past the scary section. The people behind me didn't think it was very funny, but then again, I think Greg and I were the only ones laughing on this trail at all. Everyone else was doing some serious exercise.

Not sure how this happened, but my hair frosted itself!
I would say we did a good 8 km trail - a warm chalet stop along the way would have been nice, but there were sadly none along this trail. On the way back, we were greeted with forceful winds, but they were fairly warm so it was not much of a hindrance. Overall, it was a fantastic cross-country skiing day and the trail was superb. We were even lucky enough to grab some seats on the train because we were the first stop on the way back to Munich. The train was packed with everyone tired after a long day of skiing. I'm hoping we get a few more weekend skiing trips in before spring.

December 25, 2010

Favorite Smell of the Season: Roasted Chestnuts

At every Christkindlmarkt and almost every pedestrian street at this time of year, the Heisse Maroni (roasted chestnut) sellers are out in full force. And I love them! The smell is so uplifting and makes this time of year seem that much more special. There's nothing like walking down the snowy streets, cradling a wrapped packet of warm chestnuts fresh off the pan, peeling away the crackly shells to reveal the dry, but sweet nut. Delicious!

A Heisse Maroni stall on the main shopping street

December 23, 2010

Medieval Chriskindlmarkt

The last Chriskindlmarkt we went to this season in Munich was the Medievel one near Odeonsplatz. It happened to be a beautiful night and I think everyone had the same idea we did because it was packed. We managed to get some fun pictures regardless.

I like looking at all the vendors in their renaissance costumes and the people walking around with their clay drink goblets. It's fun to imagine this was how the market used to be like way back when. The wares the vendors were selling also were more old-fashioned: bows and arrows, wooden swords, furs, gowns, wooden bowls, wax seal, glass cups, soaps and more.

Clay-baked drink goblets in front of the flame

Rows upon rows of initials stampers

Ordering a dough ball covered with chocolate and coconut for Greg and I to share... definitely not my favorite German Christmas-time sweet.

The "oriental" dried fruits stall (must have been exotic during medieval times)
Not sure what they were cooking, but it was in an old barrel!

December 17, 2010

Tollwood Chriskindlmarkt

Another Chriskindlmarkt that is going on in town that I love is Tollwood. It's actually larger than a Chriskindlmarkt with a tent for exotic food, one for a bazaar, a marketplace for local and eco-friendly vendors and a music tent. Outside of the tents there are all the traditional food and drink stands. It seems to always be busy when we go with people both inside and out. It's amazing how long the people here can stand to hang out outside in the cold, but I guess they are warmed by the lovely winter drinks they have.

I like this festival best in Munich because the vendors are reasonably priced and the stuff they sell is unique. Plus, they have a strong focus on the environment so you feel good buying stuff from them. This year, my aunt Smadar and I went when she was here the other weekend. We got quite a few presents for family there and had a grand time strolling along and munching on good food. Smadar even managed to pick up a little something for me as an early birthday present in the course of the afternoon - a cute little snack tray that reflects my love of shoes from a Berlin photographer. I eat my breakfast on it every morning now!

December 15, 2010

Munchner Freiheit Chriskindlmarkt

Greg and I visited a fun Chriskindlmarkt last Friday in the hip neighborhood of Schwabing. There are all sorts of Chriskindlmarkts in and around Munich at this time of year and everyone has their favorites. This one was very artsy. When we were there, a Swing christmas band was playing (as you'll see in the video) and all the stalls were filled with artisan crafts. The food was delicious - Greg and I sampled a mushroom-and-emmentaler baquette (made to be eaten from both sides, it looks like!), Eritrean food and hot chocolate with heavy whipped cream... yum!

Enjoying the hot chocolate
The central Munich Marienplatz Chriskindlmarkt, on the other hand, has more kitschy crafts like sheepskin slippers, wooden toys and of course, all the traditional festival foods and random vendors like modern-day cooking supply stuff (think: silicon baking trays and cookie cutters). All in all, Greg and I have not been impressed with the vendors at these things, but it's fun to walk around with a hot drink and be among all the people milling about.

December 9, 2010

Last Hanukkah post - I promise!

Last night was the final night of Hanukkah. It's always a fun holiday to spend with family and we were lucky to have my aunt Smadar in town to celebrate all together this weekend. Enjoy the pics!

My cousins Shai-Li and Amit with Smadar in the background - only photo I got of them together!

Family lighting the candles on Friday night - there was no shortage of menorahs so all the kids could light one. L to R: Shai-Li, Amit, my aunt Na'ama and uncle Gil, and cousin Yuval.

Greg lighting our candles last night at home
 And our Hanukkah gift this year: a winter wonderland this morning of snow-covered trees and pockets of sunshine peeking through! I hope to have a few pictures and a blog post from the Christkindlmarkts around town for you guys so stay tuned. It's a super fun time of year around here!

December 4, 2010

My Herb Garden

I've never been much of a gardener. Greg took care of our garden back in Denver during his summer vacations and I was content to eat the produce and not kill anything. But I've been experimenting with our cooking here and wanted fresh herbs at the ready. With Greg's help, I created a little container herb garden that's been taking off. I basically just watch it and water it every once in a while. And nothing has died yet!!!
Basil buds!
To save on buying new pots for an experiment I didn't know would work, I just used cleaned out cans and food containers. So far, so good. I hope to have chives, dill, basil and parsley that I can use soon. 

Parsley ~ eventually it will make its way into my tabbouleh recipe

December 2, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

To everyone celebrating and not, HAPPY HANUKKAH!

The holiday of lights started last night and will go on for 8 days so if you didn't say happy hanukkah to that special Jewish person in your life, you still have some time. ;-) In the picture below, you'll see the cool painted folding menorah that my Safta Rachel got us a few years ago. It's painted on both sides with paintings of Jerusalem's old city and folds down into a rectangle - pretty nifty! This year I'll be celebrating with family again, which makes me appreciate that they are so closeby even more.

Picture of last year's candle lighting - looks more impressive when you have more candles than just one or two.