Monday, August 21, 2017

Finally, Germany does tortilla chips right

I feel that it is my duty as an American to tell folks looking for decent nachos in Germany to beware. Be very, very ware, if it were possible to be "ware."

Anyway, the German conception of nacho chips is something that is like a demented cousin of DORITOS® Nacho Cheese Flavored Tortilla Chips. Please note that at least Doritos has the courtesy to note that the chips are nacho cheese flavored. Germany will just serve you "nachos" and fail to warn you that they'll be covered in some slightly-cheese flavored powder when you're expecting plain or salted corn or flour chips that are covered in melted cheese and other delectable toppings. Also beware if you go to a "Mexican" restaurant in a horse barn practically in the middle of the Bavarian nowhere because your "nachos" will be a Doritos knock-off and you'll get basically ketchup and a Cheez-Whiz cousin* on the side.**

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw that Aldi had some nacho chips that were only "gesalzen," or salted. There was no mention of cheese, or any other dairy products for that matter, on the package. I had a hankering for some chips and didn't feel like driving to the commissary for some proper nachos so I took my chances.

They were good! The Sun Snacks brand nacho chips are crisp, salted just right (a good pinch of salt but not enough to make one feel as if she'd just been licking a salt lick), and inexpensive (about a euro or so). All they contain are corn flour, palm oil, and salt. I've seen them at Aldi over the last several months and hope that they're an item that will stay in the stores.

*I was surprised that they had access to something Cheez-Whiz-esque. Since I thought it would be unlikely they'd have that, I thought they'd at least use real cheese.

**Yes, I know, it's insane to order Mexican food in such a place. I'm glad that I set out with reasonably low expectations because they were met...or not met...or, well, you get what I mean.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A roadside candy machine done horribly wrong

I can't even...

or I guess I can. During a trip to Winnweiler, a suburb of Kaiserslautern, I came across a most horrible candy machine. It effected horrified and shocked laughter from me...

not because it was filthy and gross looking, but because one of the offerings. If you are a sensitive soul, read no further.

If you're bawdy, check out this awful humor:

In case you were not quite sure what they meant, they included another photo to drive the point home:

Oh my.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Understanding German public transportation: a guide

Germany has quite a decent network of public transportation and usually can get you from point A to B. However, understanding all of the various options, how they work, and even when they work is not always the easiest.

I've been using the system for more than five years and I am constantly learning new things about it. For those who are new to living in Germany, it's a steep learning curve.

Live Work Germany wrote a guide about using the trains, buses, subways, and street cars of Germany. It's very useful to help unravel the mysteries of the transportation system; you can read it here.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Not happy with Sicher German textbooks

I am relieved that the latest German class ended as I was running out of steam with it. We used a book that is, in my opinion, very poorly organized and difficult to follow; I was also very displeased with the same company's B2 book, both of which are in the Sicher! series. One learns the grammar that's spread out in tiny, nonsensical bits and bobs throughout the chapter then it's repeated all over the place in the back of the book in no particular order. At the end of the chapter, there's a short description of the grammar but it wasn't that clear.

It's the kind of grammar learning where the grammar is presented in use and the learner is just supposed to "get it"on one's own, to an extent. Yes, I realize that we were using the upper intermediate and advanced books and have higher skills at this point, but still...with some of these nebulous constructions, one needs much more.

I was so frustrated with the book and didn't feel that I learned the material well that I bought Erkundungen, the C1 book from the previous series we'd used before we were stuck with Sicher. With those books from Schubert Verlag, I felt as I learned the content well; chapters are laid out in a manner that makes sense and there are clear reviews at the end of the chapter that explain the grammar clearly. The book has a good flow and it's easy to thumb through it and find the particular thing one learned. Plus it includes an answer key, which Sicher doesn't. I don't like putting all the work into exercises without being able to check immediately if I completed them correctly in order to avoid burning the wrong answer into my brain.

I am either going to go over the Erkundungen chapters myself or see if I can find a teacher on my own before the Uni offers the next level of class in the fall. It's my goal to take/pass the C1 exam sometime next year or so and I doubt that'll happen if we keep using the Sicher books. It seems really difficult to retain any information from those books, and I'm certainly not the only student in the class who felt that way. It's ironic that we felt insecure after using Sicher.

The bane of my German-learning experience
Have you used the Sicher books? What is your opinion of them?

Friday, July 28, 2017


For those who are not German speakers, today's blog title looks slightly frightening, yeah? Do you wonder if it's something about not hassling the 'Hof (as in David Hasselhoff)?

It actually has nothing to do with that. Instead, it literally means "courtyard flea markets." In other words, it's a yard sale, German style. Since a lot of city dwellers don't have much room here, much less a full-on yard, people sometimes offer yard sales in the courtyard/parking area of their apartment building.

When I was visiting Nürnberg, a neighborhood hosted a sale and we bopped from Hof to Hof to see what was for sale. It was mostly your typical garage sale stuff, such as outgrown clothes, children's toys, and other ephemera. One particularly interesting Hof had prints from a photographer for sale, but all the other items were pre-owned.

Some cities even publish guides with the dates that the neighborhoods choose to host the sales as a group; Nürnberg is such a city, explained my newly made friend who showed me around.

Shoppers at a Hofflohmarkt
I didn't buy anything, but after the sales I did pick up Horst der Stinker (he is a toy) from a box at the curb, which is another, somewhat disturbingly funny story.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Richard the Lionheart Festival: Annweiler am Trifels 28-30 July

This upcoming weekend, there is a Middle Ages festival in Annweiler am Trifels, a bit west of Landau in the Pfalz. Its focus is Richard the Lionheart, who, although a 10th/11th centry King of England, spent most of his time in France. Richard had ties to Germany; he was imprisoned at the Trifels castle at one point.

I recently heard about this festival that is devoted to him. One thing that I love about it is that the mayor of Annweiler am Trifels is one of the costumed members of the festival. How cool is that? I can't personally go because I have another commitment, but maybe I'll make it next year.

For more information, check out this link:

Roadside candy machines of Nürnberg

Or Nuremberg, for those seeking an Anglicized version...

Several years ago, I visited the city after a work trip and was taken on a lovely tour by a local. We ran across several roadside candy machines and since I'm obsessed with them (or more likely the curious idea of who would actually buy things from them), I had to take pictures. My friends are accustomed to me screeching to a stop and whipping out a camera mid-sentence but I can only imagine what new acquaintances think. Then again, I'm slightly eccentric and make no effort to hide it so I think it's good to let them know early on what they'll be dealing with.

Anyway, watch out! Along came a sticky hammer, which reminds me of an overly hungry worker's tool kit after eating some cinnamon rolls (yes, I am always making very strange linguistic connections). This toy was accompanied by some boring ol' bubblegum.

The next one was partially filled with bubblegum but the other side was very exciting because it contained a "galactic surprise." Usually these aren't as cool as what seems to be promised but the illustration shows a car, a skeleton, a top, and a rabbit. Is it supposed to be something like space debris? It is unfortunate that I didn't find out.