June 28, 2011

Anxiety of not buying in bulk

I had the thought of this post a long time ago, but just now got to it because I was cleaning up the backend of our blog. In the US, you never have to give any thought to how many groceries you buy or what you get in the store. Here it's always on my mind when I'm shopping.

I know I have to walk at least 3 or 4 blocks to the closest store so buying too much could mean torture for my hands and shoulders. Especially if you forget your gloves on a cold, winter day or can't use your umbrella in a rainstorm because of your bag choice. Those two situations make it sound unpleasant.

Most of the time it's nice to go shopping every few days instead of once every week or two because 1) the stores are much smaller than the ones in the US, 2) you don't have as many choices so you just pick and get on with your life rather than agonizing for hours over what brand of milk your husband likes best, and 3) it's one of the ways I feel active during the day. Plus walking home through the quiet streets of our neighborhood usually means I'll bump into a neighbor or see a cute dog along the way.

I still have to remind myself sometimes that I don't need to buy the whole store. I think it's an instinct I carried over from the US. I hope I can keep it up when we eventually move back to the US.

June 25, 2011

Our Five Favorite International Trips

While on the train back from Triberg, Greg and I thought about our five favorite trips we've taken together in the last two years. We have wonderful memories and great stories from all of our trips, but here are the most special ones:

Island of Cres
If I could talk about Croatia every day to everyone I see, I would. But then I would be one of the "crazies" so I withhold from doing so. The parts of this country we saw were absolutely beautiful and fairly untouched by tourism, unlike Italy and Greece. Although the language is a problem, I envy the people who live there.

The coastline and Plitvices park were so gorgeous, and there are tons of great old cities to explore as well. My mouth still waters when I think about the grapes, tomatoes and cucumbers I ate there - it felt like someone had just picked them off the plant and handed them to me. I still sometimes say to myself if I eat an average grape in Germany, "it's just not like Croatia."

If you're looking for a sunny holiday off the beaten path, go to Croatia!

If you've seen quite a bit of Europe - as we have over the years - old buildings and churches start to look the same, or you've already seen what you consider the most beautiful church and none of the others can compare. The reason I'm saying this is because I think this was our mindframe when we arrived in Budapest. We had just left Vienna, which is a beautiful classic European city, and Budapest hit us with a solid dose of reality.

It may not be a city for everyone, but we loved it. The atmosphere, the resourcefulness of the people, the kindness of people in helping us find our way around... it just felt so different from Western Europe. Or indeed, any other country we'd been to.

Talking about something different from Western Europe, Istanbul was it, for sure! We went here for our first anniversary (our second was in Lindau, which is in Germany - that list is coming soon). I wish we had time to explore other areas of Turkey because it sounds like each part is very different. I especially hope to get to the ruins in the East at some point in my life.

Having been to a Muslim country when I was small (and Greg had never been to one before), we were struck by the beautiful minerats and mosques everywhere. There must have been at least 30 on the hills around our quaint little hotel. Parts of the city were crumbling, but the palace grounds and the museums were still very much there. And I won't go on again on how much the Islamic designs inspire me with their beauty. I'm sure you all had about enough of that already.

Prague seems to be everyone's favorite and for good reason. The city is so lovely whatever the season. Even when we went in winter, the snow on the ground gave Prague this mystery and warmth. Greg went with his parents in the summer and they seemed to all like it for the nice cafes along the river and easy walking distances. Another of our friends went in the spring and meet great new friends randomly. Everyone seems to find something that they enjoy in the city.

Last on our list is Salzburg, but not because we liked it the least. It's only 2 hours from Munich so we went there a lot the first year. The city is touristy, but in a way, I never minded it. The walk up to the castle gives one such a great overlook as to why people go there. The beautiful little old town stretches out below you and you may even make out the palace grounds to your left.

Last time we went there, I visited the art museum on the hill and I think the walks along the cliffs were more fun for me then than checking out the art. And of course, who can forget the Sound of Music tour?

 We'll also be doing a post about our top five favorite trips just in Germany so stay tuned!

June 24, 2011

A Great Annoyance

There is something that has annoyed me to no end here in Germany. Now that we are leaving (in a few days), it's time to get it out in the open: I am not okay with people eating ice cream when it is cold.

Ice cream eating is so common here - this store had to put up a sign against eating it in the store.
And of course, I had to take a picture.

The only reasonable time to eat ice cream outside is when it is at least about 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). In the home, it's a totally different story - I could care less about when people eat ice cream at home. But it's when I see irresponsible ice cream eating, that I can't stop ranting about it. Poor Greg bears the brunt of it, too.

I've seen many different situations in which Germans are walking around with ice cream cones on a very chilly day. I understand that maybe the German idea of a warm day is different, but if you're wearing a long shirt (or a coat!), that should be a sign that eating ice cream is not going to help your situation. 

Notice: it was a hot day.
(and those really were beautiful ice creams, don't you think?)

Sure, ice cream sellers deserve to make a living - yes, that's true. However, what about serving hot chocolate on a chilly day instead? They need to be a bit more imaginative.

That's my rant about ice cream. I hope you agree. :-)

June 21, 2011

Quick Recap on Israel

Kate and I in the Old City market of Jerusalem
Every time I've visited Israel in the last couple years, the experience has been different.

I've gone back for Passover with Greg in March; a family wedding in September; and this time meeting with Kate, one of my best friends growing up, to show her my second home and introduce her to my family. Kate and I have known each other 15 years and she hadn't met the majority of my family until this trip.

Check out what she wrote about her experiences in Israel: Tel Aviv and Be'er Tuvia, Israeli art and design, the start of our trip, and of course, Jerusalem.

We ate hummus, falafel and pita in Jerusalem's Old City with my Safta ("grandma" in Hebrew) Rachel; dipped our feet into the Mediterranean; chilled out in the hammock with my aunt Dari and Safta Tzipi; and in general, met family and got lost along the way (my fault entirely). I actually think I saw more red heads on this trip to Israel than ever before - must be Kate's influence!

Family dinner on Friday night
Bahai Temple up close

My cousins Noa and Romi
Sculpture at Israel Museum
My pregnant cousin Dana on the beach in Tel Aviv

Check out the rest of my photos!

June 19, 2011

Triberg: Our Last Trip in Germany

As our last trip in Germany for what could be a long while, we chose to visit the Black Forest; in particular, the town of Triberg. It's this beautiful, quiet town nestled in the valley between a few hills. It's well-known for its Black Forest cake (see the next paragraph), tallest waterfall in Germany (it was just ehh) and cuckoo clocks (all you get to see is a raggedy bird when it hits the hour). By the end of our trip, we probably knew every nook and cranny of Triberg because it's that small.

Before I've taken a bite...
The very first thing we did was try the famous Black Forest cake that apparently originated from the Schaeffer bakery. Greg liked it, but would have preferred a good piece of chocolate or carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I was not a big fan either - not enough cherries in my opinion (I counted a paltry 4 cherries in a large slice) and I think I reeked of cherry liquor after eating it.

Windmills dotted the hills -
Greg was very happy!
On Saturday, we head to a small lake in the hills around Schonach, a nearby bigger town. We got a little turned around, but then found the signs we had to follow to get there. After seeing the lake (which was more of a pond in my book), we wandered through picturesque surroundings back to Triberg.

Wooden faces in Schonach
Stopping for a snack at one of the little restaurants along the way, we watched a llama cause chaos in the valley below us. All the other llamas found the gate to the field across the road, but this one was not the brightest. It wandered up and down the road while cars patiently waited for it to find its way. Eventually, a brave driver herded him towards the gate and he joined his buddies. However, I could tell this was the big event of the day because everyone talked about "die Llama auf den Strasse" for the rest of the time we were there.

Triberg and the Black Forest was a great place to end our German adventure because we got to do all the things we've loved to do here: 
  • eat cake
  • hike around beautiful scenery easily
  • travel by train to the town
  • visit obscure town museums - we usually find something interesting and lots to giggle at! (crazy mannequins in the Triberg one)
  • relax and just enjoy the moments!