Sep 28, 2014

weekend

We had a pretty good weekend. Saturday we were out early and went to a nearby bakery, Backerei Bosch. I have written before about how in Germany, you can't throw a pretzel without hitting a bakery, so you can imagine our surprise when this one has a standing line out the door and around the corner. All the time.

Numerous awards in the window testified that this was the best bakery in Germany, and served the best pretzels. The line moved quickly, and the staff inside the small counter service store were surprisingly cheerful. It was a category killing pretzel. I didn't even get it with butter, just fresh and hot. Like eating a really good croissant in Paris kind of good.

We went to the Flohmarkt (flea market) next, where we rummaged through the square filled with tables and wares. Big old carpets, 60s furniture, CDs, records, rusty metal tools, teapots, beer steins, bags. Saori picked up a bright orange and blue leather satchel, and I negotiated for a pair of binoculars.

On the way there, we saw the first people going to Was'n. Also known as Volksfest, or the second largest Oktoberfest in Germany. Tons of people of all ages, although mostly in their 20s, dressed in the Tracht of Lederhosen und Drindl Many were already too drunk to even get on the train. It is an understandable pre-gaming strategy considering the cost of a Masse (liter mug) at the fair is now up to nearly $12 USD.

I was here for Fruhlingsfest, the German celebrating of the halfway mark to Oktoberfest, but already I am seeing many more people dressed up for the event. This is going be huge. From the roof our apartment, we can see the lights of the amusement park rides in the distance.

Also saturday, I went to the discount store and bought a volksfest shirt, no lederhosen though. Then I hit the Markthalle for some charcoal.

That night, Saori invited over her coworker and her coworker's boyfriend, a charming Italian couple, and we all sat on the roof, drank a beer, and munched on caprece salad while we chatted and watched the sun go down on the city. Saori grilled chicken and bratwurst, and we were stuffed at the end.

Today, we didn't get out at all, just cleaned, read, did laundry, organized spices and the tea shelf. Nobody told me that I when I would turn 30, I would do these things more or less spontaneously and even more bizarrely, actually desire to do them.

We did get some time to sunbathe and read up on the roof to enjoy the sunshine and heat on this very warm day.

I am hoping for an Indian summer, but the tree tops are already beginning to hint at the approach of fall.

German Telekoms and other Kafkaesque Damned Vermin

Internet set up was a headache and confusion from the onset. The previous tenant, Philip, told us we could not get cable internet, but we had to get everything through the telekom jacks. There is no cable outlets in this apartment, which looks like it was a later addition in the 1970s.

But then Philip was hardly a reliable source for us, especially when his downstairs neighbor reported that she could have cable. So for me, it was a question of do we pay to install a cable box and run cable up here? Do we try satelite uplink internet? Do we stick with the telekom system? Just what the hell are these holes in the wall anyway?

In the end, after two weeks without internet at home, I signed up for the fastest speed we could get in the apartment through the telekon, which was advertised at the painfully slow speed of 50.000 kbps. Kilobits, not Megabits. As we happily discovered later, the comma and period occationaly switch in Europe, and so in fact, we had a download speed of 50 Mbps, which is considered very fast for this city.

German advertising is mystifying. Telekoms advertising their speeds in Kpbs is kind of like listing prices in tenths of a penny.

Anyway, the German telekoms it turns out, are about as eye-gougingly awful as the ones everywhere else. We got a really good rate for our internet for the first 24 months- it turns out I signed up for a 24 month contract. Contracts here have special terms and conditions. One of those terms is that contracts automatically renew. So I fail, before the end of two years, to end my contract in writing I will be automatically signed up for another two years with a 50% rate increase.

Another fun thing: it takes the company two weeks to turn on the internet after you sign up. Not coincidentally, this is the exact amount of time they are required by law to allow you to cancel your contract. Even if the apartment is already wired, even if the last tenant had the same company, it still takes them two weeks.

The only reason I have internet now is because I requested a fast start package, which consisted of the modem/router, cables, and a USB cell phone stick and a SIM card. So right now, my tablet connects to the router, which is connected to the USB stick calling the internet through the cell networks. It was part of the monthly costs, so it didn't cost me anything but a few euros for shipping.

Getting the damned thing set up felt like a major victory since everything is only in German.

Sep 26, 2014

food, glorious food. and beer.

Last night we invited some friends over for Indian food. I was testing out two new recipes, a red dhal and aloo gobi, so right after work I headed over to the Indian market close to Saori's office. Their vegitables were not impressive but they had a ton of spices and, I might add, key limes, which are used in all types of Mexican cooking and I was tempted to grab a bag just for making margaritas.

Anyway, the two dishes took a long time to prepare- I started cooking around 7:15 and didn't serve the food until 9. Of course, the first half our was just me soaking the lentils. Overall, it wasn't too hard to do. The dishes came out really well, our guests cleaned out both pots. I think the aloo gobi is my new favorite dish to make. Really easy.

It turns out both recipes I used came from one Food Network host's show. Here is a link to the recipes.

While I'm on the topic of food, I might as well include a guide to

Where to buy non-German beer in Stuttgart
Asahi  Japanese Asiatisch Lebensmittel
Boddington's Pub Ale British Piccadilly English Shop
Budweiser Czech most large grocery stores
Chang  Thai  Asiatisch Lebensmittel, Occasionally Lidl
Chimay  Belgian  Manufaktum
Corona  Mexican  Most large grocery stores
Fuller's London Pride  British  Piccadilly English Shop
Guinness   Irish  Piccadilly English Shop
Kirin Ichiban  Japanese  Asiatisch Lebensmittel
Orval  Belgian  Manufaktum
Tadcasters IPA  British  Piccadilly English Shop
Tsingtao  Chinese  Occasionally Lidl


Sep 25, 2014

Autumnal Equinox

Tuesday was the Autumnal Equinox, a state holiday here because of the date's significance to the pre-Christian Germans. Saori and I got up early and sat on the roof to watch the lighting of the fires. Just before sunrise, bonfires were lit in the hills ringing Stuttgart, and the smoke caught the first rays of light.

With the rising of the sun, everyone came into the streets wearing white, and we joined the crowds of people to form a parade back to the old city, where the stilt walkers were already throwing quarkballchen, local donut balls. This years festival Lords were seated on life sized wooden horses mounted on platforms, and these were passed through the crowds on our shoulders. It was actually not too heavy, since there were so many people helping and it was only one guy, dressed in his costume of moss and oak bark with the amazing antler hat. I want that hat.

There was some shouting and the crowd parted, and I watched someone in an elaborate wolf costume running down the street with a lit torch. Saori told me that the torches were taken from the hill top bonfires, and they were going to light the roasting fires in the city center.

When the seven lords reached the markt platz, the horse/litter things were set down and the lords had a contest in a circle made by a group of men holding up a heavily weighted rope. Each lord was armed with a long (padded) stick and each attempted to beat the other lords to the edge of the circle. If they touched rope, they had to leave and the men holding the ropes were shouting and encouraging and jeering and acting as the line refs. For every lord that was kicked out, he had to give his antler hat to the guy nearest holding up the rope and I guess they get to be lords next year.

As soon as there was a winner, they dumped a barrel of red wine over him.

As soon as the contest was over, we followed the crowds to the hog roasts which had been set up across the old city and in the parks. The schloss garden where we were was filled with maybe twenty big hogs on spits, slowly being turned by guys in blue clothes, while kids in black ran around carrying charcoal to the fire pits. It was a long, long line to get some meat, but it was so worth it. The pork was covered with a kind of simple berry sauce.

And wine. Lots of wine.

At noon, they blew the big horns from the hills and the bells in the church towers rang incessantly, while they blocked off Konigstrasse and raced horses along its length.

There was a quiet time after all the wine as people were mostly sleepy or drunk after the wine and food. At sunset, we went back to our apartment and threw shredded yellow paper. All over the city, people were throwing yellow confetti from open windows and rooftops, while in the street women in big white and gold dresses chased the wolf runners back to the hills.

Actually, none of that really happened. The only exciting thing that happened Tuesday was I used the electric oven for the first time in our new apartment to bake a frozen pizza since Saori was working late.

Sep 21, 2014

IKEA

It's been one week since we moved in and things are coming together much better. The kitchen counters are 34" high, just a little shorter than the standard, but there is a window which tilts open over the sink which makes it all a little more claustrophobic.

We have been up on the roof a few times now, just to relax and watch the clouds. Bonus features for an apartment: roof access. The other bonus feature (besides our big terrace) is a long low closet tucked away behind the bathroom wall and between the pitched roof. Its carpeted and there's a light and a switch. It's basically a large storage space and the previous tenant stored his luggage and snowboard there. We were joking that it could be our panic room.

So what do you do when you move into a new place?
You go to IKEA!

Friday night Rafa gamely agreed to take us to IKEA for their late hours- he's been kind of bored and lonely with Paola gone to the US. There are actually two IKEAs near Stuttgart, which gives you an appreciation for the size of the regional population. It would have taken us about an hour to get there by public transit, but less than 30 minutes by car. We both enjoyed the drive out: I hadn't been out on a freeway drive through suburbia in about six months, or seen this spread of the city, and Saori fell asleep in the warm and cozy comfort of the back seat.

IKEA was mercifully uncrowded, best time to visit is a Friday night. Actually I was reading somewhere that Germans are somewhat hostile to IKEA: actually there was a terrorist who tried to bomb this one. Something about the invasion of cheap, substandard quality, foreign.

We ended up running out the clock at IKEA, with a mad dash to the registers at the end like a US game show, throwing in dishtowels, wooden spoons, and cheap dishware with wild abandon.

And two IKEA beers just for kicks: a dark and a light lager

Sep 17, 2014

Moving: Saturday Sunday

Saturday morning we got up early and continued packing. I met the old tenant at the new apartment and he showed me around, gave me the keys, showed where the circuit breakers were, how to bleed the radiators, etc.

After he left, Rafa and Tolli showed up at the van and we drove it over to the apartment and started bringing stuff up. We are on the 6th floor. This is a bit misleading since to an American, we are actually on the 7th floor, and the ground floor is actually half a floor up too so in the end we are climbing seven and a half levels.

It's a long way to carry furniture, especially since it feels like you are there, and then you realize there is one smaller, more narrow stair you still have to climb.

Anyway, the three of us unloaded the car in about twenty minutes. I am incredibly indebted to Tolli for driving and for Rafa for also driving and both of them for tirelessly hauling our crap up 7.5 floors.

After unloading, we all drove back to Saori's apartment where we met up with a few of her coworkers who gamely agreed to help us move. Tolli was sweating as he manuevered the van into the small parking area behind the apartment building. Saori had a lot of stuff. We split into teams to work- there was a group carrying stuff down to the van, a group loading the van, and then after we headed out to the new place, a group was left there to bring stuff up to the apartment after the first group headed back to Saori's for the second load. It was my apartment so I never stopped moving or taking a break as I shuttled crap up and down the stairs. Tolli actually carried the entire mattress on his back, which could not have been good for his knees.

Finally, finally, the last load was carried up and we popped open some beers to pass around to our crew and we toasted each other and the new apartment.

We were done!

Well, almost.

Once again, we were starting from scratch at a new apartment. We did it once in St. Louis, one in Boston, and now again in Stuttgart. A new house needs a thousand tiny new things. Salt and pepper. Toilet paper. Internet. We had no pots and only one fry pan I found in the basement of the old apartment. We boiled water in mugs in the microwave.

After everyone left, we went to the local grocery store, a Lidl, which is a pretty crappy grocery store. It's basically like an Aldi. We both missed the grocery stores we used to frequent. At least it was close by.

That night, we worked on putting stuff away, re-assembling the bed, unpacking, running laundry, washing dishes.

Sunday morning, I woke up in our new home for the first time. For the first time in a while, I could wander out in my underwear to the kitchen and start some coffee going. We made a Lumen sandwich with bread toasted on the grill outside, topped with butter, parma ham and bergkaeze cheese.

Saori left our St. Louis apartment back in February of 2013. We had not shared a home in a year and a half.

After breakfast, we did a bit more cleaning and I reluctantly headed back up the hill to camp Fox to get the rest of my belongings. I say 'reluctantly' because I had no idea how the other tenants were going to react to my brazen removal of a hall cabinet.

It turns out they had assumed that since I had my former landlady's permission to take what I needed, I was going to ransack the building like a horde of vikings. Chandra cornered me in the kitchen. He had been sought out by the Germans upstairs who had been in closer contact with the lawyer controlling the property. It turns out that the house was not going to be destroyed, and was instead going to be sold. The listing price is 400-500 thousand euros, and everyone involved thinks that it could be sitting on the market for years at that price. So the rooms will be re-rented. Chandra is going to take over my old room.

"Take anything you want," he implored me, "I do not need the cabinets, the desk, or the table, but please, please, just leave me the bed."

I assured him I had no designs on any other furniture in the house which made him very happy.

I ended up carrying back a full duffel bag and a full IKEA bag. Old glass jars, clothing, and a few odds and ends. I still need to clean out the room properly.

Back at the new apartment, Saori took off for work and I worked more on putting things away. When she got back, I made home made Kaezespaetzel. Lacking measuring cups, I had to estimate a lot of stuff, and it ends up I put too much milk in the pasta batter so my spaetzel ended up goopy. Oh well. With enough cheese, salt, and fried onions it ended up quite good.

Sep 15, 2014

Moving: Thursday Friday

The tenant of the apartment we are moving into asked us if we wanted to move in early. He was already out of the apartment, early in the month and was interested in recouping some of the rent. We took it because we were dying to get in the apartment and we had plans for early October anyway. So we arranged to move in last weekend.

A bit of backstory first. I live in a large house along with four other people. The house was owned by a man named Klaus, who was apparently involved in politics, evangelism, textiles, and possibly legal affairs. He died a few weeks before I arrived in Germany. Apparently he left everything to the church, leaving his widow, Chista, in a bit of a tight spot financially. The house and everything in it, wound up in the hands of a lawyer representing a bank. From about a month ago, Christa couldn't even come to the house anymore. Apparently, the house had long been used as a storage and boarding house, and also as Klaus' office, and Christa had a home elsewhere.

My greek coworker Tolli called up Christa thursday at my behest, since I was interested in taking some of the furnature with me. She ended up telling him basically her life story over the phone and ending with basically, take whatever you need.

I invited Tolli over after work to do some digging. There was attic we were both interested in seeing. Armed with flashlights we dove in like treasure seekers on a reality TV show. The house is filled with stuff top to bottom, although it turned out to be mostly filled with old books on evangelical Christianity. And I do mean filled. Probably 1000 volumes through the entire house. Some1950s and 1960s furniture. And an old BMW in the garage, still with sunglasses on the dash and two bibles visible inside. Coats and stuff from over sixty years of accumulation. Apparently Klaus was a member of a Reader's Digest book of the month club, so Tolli took home a two still-unwrapped volumes on gardening and herbs in cooking.

Anyway, after Tolli left, I packed my room which took me until about midnight.

Friday morning, I woke up before 6 am to make it to the office by 7am, two hours before work normally starts. I had to make some progress on some renderings that needed finishing. The renders came out well.

Friday, right after work, Rafa met us outside the office and Tolli and Lukas drove with me back to my apartment and together we loaded up my belongings. We were considering taking the bed, but it was too big and too disgusting with all the springs covered in years of dust and grease. It was a bit of an awkward moment when I was carrying out the hallway hutch, but the record player inside was broken, I'd specifically notified the other residents I was taking it, and had the explicit permission from Christa. Along with a chair, my stuff filled the van we had borrorwed from the office. I couldn't believe it. I had arrived with two suitcases and a duffel bag, and less than six months later, I had filled a 'space runner' van.

We dropped the van near the new apartment building and then I headed up to Saori's place around 8.

Saori was still working on a big presentation for a very big and demanding client so she didn't get back until close to 11 at night. In the meanwhile, I tackled dismantling the Ikea bed. The bed, which we didn't realize until that night, was actually an adjustable bed, meaning you could raise the foot and head like a hospital bed. It was an extra layer of complexity, so I had to take many notes and drawings to make sure I was going to re-assemble it correctly.

We made some more progress packing Saori's room and then called it a night around 1 am, both of us exhausted.

headache

I had a headache at the office a few days ago, so I went out to buy some Aspirin. Aspirin not aspirin, because unlike the US, the name is still trademarked here. I skipped the supermarket, because I knew supermarkets don't carry medication. I went instead to DM, a CVS type drugstore, whose initials actually stand for Drogerei markt, lit. drug seller market. After spending some fruitless ten minutes combing the store, looking through vitamins, health and beauty crap, toothpaste, deodorants, I realized that in this drugstore there was not so much a single gram of actual drugs. I walked across the street to the Apothek (pharmacy) and had to request aspirin from the man behind the counter.

Normally it's not so simple. Usually when you go in this is what happens.

You: I want to buy some aspirin
Clerk: What is bothering you?
You: I have a headache.
Clerk: What kind of a headache? Where does it hurt?
You: It's a normal headache, it hurts in my head. Can I have some Aspirin please?
Clerk: We have many different types of pain killers. Let me show them all to you and describe them in detail what is different about each one.
You: No thanks, I just want a box of Aspirin.
Clerk: what kind of Aspirin?
You: The regular kind. There! That box behind you that says 'Asprin'! Give me that one!

And so on. It's a big contrast to the US, where you can buy aspirin at any gas station, or Mexico, where you can buy it from a street vendor. I'm of two minds. On the one hand, it's personally inconvenient and irritating that I can't get it from a supermarket if I'm already shopping there.

On the other hand, the push for convenience and jamming everything together into the strip malls, Wal-Marts, Targets, shopping malls, drug/junk stores which makes many American cities such dreary experiences. What still exists in Germany is smaller specialty stores woven into the fabric of the city. I can walk to a green grocer, a bakery, a flower shop, a pharmacy, instead of driving through endless suburbia to endless parking lots and big box stores. I definitely pay more in price (consolidation and franchises decreases costs) but it's a trade-off on the experience of the city.

Sep 10, 2014

War of the Worlds

It's really of no shock to any constant reader that I am a fan of science fiction. So while browsing through a "Top Whatever List of Free Kindle Titles" I saw HG Wells The War of the Worlds, and I realized, laying there in bed, that despite seeing both Hollywood adaptations, I'd never actually read the book. So I downloaded it. Wells published the book over a century ago- it's public domain.

The book was written before 1900, in a time before the world wars, but anticipating its awful use of chemical warfare, when electricity was still an industrial and scientific plaything.

I was actually not prepared for the level of gore, terror, and psychological horror the book contained. And a surprisingly epic scope. It's one thing to write "After the aliens arrived, they attacked London, and the city was abandoned," and another to describe in detail the rapid breakdown all the facets of society, and civilization generally crashing to a bloody halt amid blind terror and utter chaos.

In the end, the story is really compelling because it is driven on the one hand the mystery, godlike power, and utter alien-ness of the invaders, and on the other, the very human workings of the individual mind and the public mind. It's a novel about what happens to society in the face of catastrophes. It has the appeal of what draws people to postapocalyptic TV shows and novels. What happens to societies when they are put under stress? Especially titanic, seemingly unstoppable stresses?

And really, from the perspective of the people on the ground, how different is an alien invasion than say, a massive ebola outbreak, or the invasion of bloodthirsty militant jihadists, or an unprecedented and massive drought?

It makes me wonder, in all cases, if as in the novel, the peasants argued with the evacuation enforcement soldiers about the value of their orchid plants while the martians drew ever closer.

Sep 7, 2014

Birthday, parts I and II

So a few days ago, I crossed the line into my 30s.

As far as age goes, at any rate. I was actually in my early 30s when I was in my early 20s, and then early 20s in my late 20s, and since I've been in Germany, I've been bouncing between 35 and 25.

My office threw me a party.
Actually, they threw me a meeting where I brought in some pleasant foodstuffs. It was combined with Christof's (one of the interns) leaving party, so we were both celebrants. It was a quiet affair- the boss and Thomas were gone, and so were most of the interns. The office got me a stainless steel spaetzle maker as a present, which is nice, even if it was obligatory. Spaetzle is a very local Schwabian dish, a kind of eggy noodle. The maker looks like a cheese grater except without the cutting lips. Instead, there is a plastic spatula which you use to push the noodle dough through the holes into the water. I am actually quite excited to try it- I've actually already bought the ingrediants.

I'm getting ahead of myself. The night before my birthday, Saori took me out to dinner. We met up at a local square and she led me to a surprise restaurant. Kicho is by wide recommendation the best Japanese restaurant in town. A very nice place and very traditional. Saori asked me if I wanted to sit in the tatami room, and I said, on my birthday, of course we need the tatami room. It was an elevated tatami floor, so we left our shoes at the sliding door and took a seat at one of the low tables. With two Japanese sararimen talking loudly outside, and with our kimono wearing hostess, it felt like Japan. We got asahi beers and some delicious sake based soup to start before going on to order a massive sushi and sashimi boat. It was so, so good. I'd missed having unagi so we also ordered a few pieces of eel and saori got some of her favorite, uni sea urchin. They didn't have any cakes, but the kitchen staff make us a beautiful dessert plate with fresh fruits, mochi ice cream, and green tea ice cream, as well as a little happy birthday note in Japanese and German.

After dinner, we walked through the town and passed by the weindorf wine festival, so we stopped for a glass of local white wine and enjoyed the scene. The wine festival took over the central alleys and square around the city hall, filling it with stands and small tents filled with picnic tables and diners feasting on traditional favorites. It was quite lovely and lively.

The day of my birthday, I tried to buy a cake on my way, but the store was closed so I showed up to work late and without a cake. I ended up heading down to the bakery on Ostendplatz for a sandich and some cakes to drag back to the office during my lunch hour.

After work, I went to have a beer with Tolli in a nearby beergarden while we waited for Gio to finish swimming. I ended up running to catch Soari at the weindorf after she got off work unexpectedly early for working late. She was lightheaded so I bought us some roasted ox sandwiches with a liberal covering of spicy sweet mustard. Lina met us there, and then the Greeks, and then Saori's coworker and her boyfriend also came, and so did Christof and we dived into the crowd to find us some wine.

The place was absolutely packed. People were surprisingly rude and aggressive (for Germans), actually worse than Oktoberfest, but we finally found a more quiet area to drink wine. We quaffed a quarter liter of white good stuff and then we were all sleepy and drunk, so we disbanded and headed home. You know you're 30 when your birthday drinking consists of a beer and a glass of wine.

Munich Midsummer

There were some great things about the four days we spent in Munich, and some not-so-great things.

Not-So-Great
  • We rented an AirBnB apartment which was advertized as 'entire apartment' and classified in that category. When we arrived, a friend of the host showed us around: here is a bedroom, here is another bedroom, here is the kitchen and bathroom, and here is the room where Jose, an Argentine tenant, is currently staying. Apparently, the host thought that just because we had one less measly occupied room that it still counted as an 'entire' apartment. What is the problem with random stranger living in the apartment without locking bedroom doors anyway? Everything was booked, otherwise we would have gotten a hotel.
  • The weather was terrible. Every day, in our end of August trip, we bundled up with hats, coats, scarves. It was colder than winter in Phoenix. And it rained every day except the first, when it only sprinkled a bit, and the second, when it poured like the environment decided to relocate the Baltic by way of Bavaria.
  • Munich was packed. Everywhere we went almost was packed. All the time. I thought that things would calm down on the weekdays but it was just as packed as the weekends.


Great
  • Every morning we started our day having breakfast at the living room table together and planned out our day. Saori and I would make egg toast or slice fruit, and mom and Larry would head out to forage for local bakeries.
  • The local bakeries had this big thick croissant with a light pretzel coating outside and covered with sesame seeds. It was like a cross between a pretzel and a croissant with the best parts of both.
  • Butterbretzels! Every meal.
  • We took a walking tour of the old city with a strange group. The guide was an economic writer, and the only other people on the tour were an American military couple based in northern Italy. The wife was a teacher on the base, apparently, and the husband described himself as a "jazz composer bum" and he looked it. It was a strange group, but the tour was small enough that we were able to walk around inside Hofbrau Haus.
  • We saw a nice variety of museums- first the medieval and folklore collection at the Bavarian National Museum, where we also stopped for coffee and cake and watched it pour rain outside, and then we went directly to the Pinakotek der Moderne, a modern art museum with very distinctive modern architecture and a fantastic collection of contemporary and early modern words. Saori was completely in love with the rooms with Max Ernst.
  • The shopping was great. It is a stark reminder of what a village Stuttgart is when we go to really nice shopping districts and are able to shop at nice boutiques and magazine shops. We hit Muji of course, and wandered through Manufaktum, which is a store specializing in everything high quality, and of older design/German modern industrial design. It was like walking through a curated vintage Sears catalog, with everything from fresh baked bread, bicycles, gardening supplies, stationary and pens, clothing, etc. etc. It was the kind of place where they sold a model of bicycle from the 1940s, with a leather saddle, and matching leather saddlebags separate. Everything was leather, glass, brass, stainless steel, iron, wool, linen, and bakelite.
  • From the more handcrafted side, Saori bought a beautiful carved wooden spoon, and mom bought some christmas ornaments from the Viktualien market, the big market square near the downtown. They had fresh fruit, meats, bakeries, and knickknacks.
  • On the train ride over, I was browsing the Lonely Planet guide and said out loud, "You know, they have a Lederhosen emporium here..." and everyone about fell out of their seats laughing. We did end up going there, although I didn't try any on. It's still too early to buy Lederhosen, and its so expensive. Maybe for next year's Wassen (Oktoberfest).
  • We had some great dinners out at brewhouses in town. Some of them were more touristy than others, but the food and beer were consistantly good. The second place we went was right below the apartment and ended up being a top pick in the guidebook- Frauenhof was small, with creaky wooden floors, stuffed boars on the wall, and delicious. The food was really good and the waitress added up our bill on a paper pad at the table (cash only). The last place we went on Tuesday before we left came with a parade of sausages (Great) and a snarky/smarmy waiter for the Americans (not so great).
  • We played game night every night, munching on leftover pastries from the morning, and drinking tea until we all got tired.
  • The apartment, notwithstanding the extra roommate, was great overall. Spacious, comfortable, we could cook there, and located only about fifteen minutes walk from the central market. It was a taste of living like a Municher.
  • We spent one cool (but not raining!) morning at the Englischer Garten for birdwatching. Mom and Larry got a few "life-listers" and we wandered around with hot mugs of coffee to warm us up. We saw hissing geese, and while eating our sandwiches on a park bench, mom was startled by an aggressive squirrel panhandling.
  • We went to the Olympic park where I finally got to the see the great Frei Otto and Gunter Behnisch designed giant glass and steel tensile canopies over the site. A really amazing place and probably a nicest stadium I've ever seen. Saori and I paid the 3 euro entry fee and walked through the stadium itself, with a long and looping walk around the perimeter which soars up and back down again.
  • Lastly, we had a coffee and cake at a "funky" cafe which featured a big sewing store and used furniture for sale. The cake which I originally took for chocolate, was actually a red wine cake which tasted like gingerbread and was a pleasant surprise.


  • At the end, we had to go back to work, so we said our sad goodbyes in the apartment and took the metro to the train station to catch our ICE for the two hours back to Stuttgart.

Sep 4, 2014

Showing mom and Larry around Stuttgart

I am writing from my office during lunch hour, so this is a really quick recap of the past week.

After landing in Amsterdam, Mom and Larry jumped on a riverboat to sail up the Rhine, just like Apocalyspe Now, except for the heart of darkness replaced by the heart of cuteness. The pretzels! mom whispered into the darkness as the encroaching vineyards crept closer, The pretzels!

They took a train from Basel to Stuttgart and Saori and I met them on the station platform. (Actually, I had just barely finished up a meeting with my boss and the chef, and as soon as the chef was gone, I tossed my notebook on the desk and took off, walking at high speed to the train platform via a series of shortcuts, beer garden cuts, and temporary bridges). The sunny warm weather that day was the best they had had the entire trip. We exchanged happy greetings.

After dropping their luggage at the hotel we came back to the city and walked along Konigstrasse to Zum Pauliner for lunch in the leafy square in front. Stuttgart obligingly provided a local wine and food festival to walk through on our way there to demonstrate one of the charms of the city- festivals untainted by wide tourist draw.

Lunch was great, we got all the Schwabian hits: potato noodle dumplings, pretzel dumplings, pork, pork, spaetzl, maultauschen, and more pork. Mom and I split a crispy pig knuckle, and we all washed everything down with beer.

After lunch we walked to the neighborhood where Saori and I will be living, and then took a train back to do some shopping in town. For my birthday, mom bought me a big ceramic knife. Ever since I used one belonging to Saori's roommate, I thought, I need this knife. They are expensive and brittle. They are all made in Japan and razor sharp. Saori called it my 'Whale-killing knife'.

I guess its a good sign I'm entering my thirties when the top of my wish list consists of cooking items.

Anyway, after shopping, we took them to have coffee at Cafe Planie, one of my favorite cafes in town, and then over to Old Bridge Gelato afterwards. When mom is on vacation, gelato is fair game. After gelato, they decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel.

I headed back to my apartment to pick up my travel bag and headed back to Saori's for the night, so we could take off to Munich in the morning.

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende...