Sunday, November 8, 2009

When winter arrives

break out the glühwein.

Doesn't that look like a great place to have a glühwein?

In America, we're missing a bunch of things. And when I write that, please don't take it the wrong way. I don't mean it in a combative way, nor do I mean it to say my love for America has decreased any. (Notice: my cultural difference shows when I state that my love, love being the key, for my country has not decreased)

I mean it to say that we're missing things. Often times it's not just that we don't have the culture of glühwein drinking or sekt drinking. It's that we don't have the culture of doing it and we don't have the words. We have our own words and ours are inferior. By far.

For glühwein we say "mulled wine" or "hot mulled wine" It doesn't do it. It doesn't carry the connotations of steaming into the cold air, of being held tightly by gloved hands as a measure against the cold. It doesn't look good on large heating/serving containers for vendors.
It doesn't work.

Sekt is sparkling wine. But sekt is good, sekt is worth drinking. Sparkling wine seems childish and a improper substitute for champagne. Which sekt is not. Because it's a matter of nomenclature and the Germans have it right and have some better drinks as a result.

I say to you, freezing in the cold on the slopes, freezing in the cold watching your kids game, freezing in the cold at some event, at some (god-awful) outdoors party, at some thing, think of glühwein. It's wonderful.
And think that it takes all of us, together, to bring glühwein and sekt into our culture, to properly propagate them. Because they're worth it. They really are.

Both images taken during my ski trip with the family in the alps

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Getting your angry on

I thought I'd post that picture, of one of the Communist statues in the post-Soviet statue park, outside of Budapest. Seen during my first visit to Budapest.

To the potatoes: Ferdinand degenerated during the latter-half of the day, after the parents had left (a little past 7) to go to a birthday party. We fought a little, I thought everything was OK. I asked him to start working on cleaning his room while I got ready to make a little something for dinner.
I came in and started working on cleaning his room, while he just sat there and moped. He had done very little whilst I was in the other room and had said he was done -- not that he was put-a-fork-in done but rather he'd completed his work.
He seemed to sour before my eyes. I think this happened:
He formed an idea in his head, started repeating it and then started believing it, until he fully did. He told me he was upset because he'd thought he'd got to do NO fun things the entire day -- that the whole day was consumed by un-fun things. He then proceeded to sulk and was pissy for the rest of the night. I think he even tried a mini hunger strike. He refused to eat more than one egg for dinner.
He proceeded to not talk to me for the rest of the night, at his dinner alone in his room, read in the room. I cooked dinner for myself, went upstairs and listened to Talk of the Nation. He came up around 8:10 and started to watch TV, not uttering a word to me. At nine, I asked him to go brush his teeth and get ready for bed. He turned off the TV, threw the remote down onto the chair and stomped down the stairs. He slammed the bathroom door. He came out after awhile (I was washing dishes) and slammed his door.
One should know: we'd play-fought for quite a bit, he'd talked with his mom and otherwise not done too many productive things for a large part of the day (he came home at 2:45 or so.) It was a huge struggle to get him to unpack and repack his backpack and he took a long, luxurious bath once he got home from soccer practice, at about 6:45.

Life is tough, isn't it?

I really think he worked himself into a froth. I think he wanted to be pissy and angry and frothed.

As William Goldman wrote for the Princess Bride movie:

"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

To round it out, a picture of a house in Denmark. From the sailing trip with the Kretzschmar family.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mustard -- a love story

I wish this post had some kind of better subject matter. But it doesn't. I'm like that. I'm that way. I could talk about Halloween, or notes on what happens when one over beats cookie dough (such as my au pair child did) or other seemingly more interesting things. But to me, they're are merely seemingly and never really.
Instead, I will write of mustard. That's right, mustard. Because I love the stuff. It might very well be hard-encoded into my genes to love mustard -- it may be a trait I pass down to my prospective children.
Mustard is to me what chocolate is to many other people. Yet, mustard is so much not-fattening. And so cheap! Which doesn't exactly bring me to in any other than a superficial way to my subject: Bautz'ner Mustard, or in the native language, Bautz'ner Senf. (Senf is mustard in German.)
It's a middle-spicy mustard, it's slightly pale in color but is not a French mustard. Nor is it the incredible Sierra Nevada Porter & Spicy Brown Mustard, the best mustard in the world. That I've tasted so far.
But the German mustard is delicious. It is incredible. It does create an addiction to Wiener Würstchen dunked in the mustard.
It's like crack, without the drugs, chemical dependency and an incredible taste. As seen in the photo above, the glass of mustard (for Europeans sell mustard [often times] in glassware that is meant to be reused -- in France mustard comes in the much more useful wine glasses) features the, or, Unser Sandmännchen -- Our (diminutive) Sandman. He's a feature of German TV, especially East German TV.
And he's not scary like the 3D talking piece of toast. Which is a nightmare for another day.

Friday, October 30, 2009


The below post outlines why I have a problem with writing such short posts. Because I feel the reader is owed more content. Because I feel a one-liner does not do the reader justice. However, I'm a human. Which means that I'm not always consistent about what I feel.
And I feel that what my host father, André, said about music deserves to be written down. And, I figure, to fluff it out I'll write about the night.
Nothing spectacular, nothing involving recipes. Sad. Maybe I'll write the cookies recipe down soon, with pictures! And maybe I'll do the snicker doodle recipe too.

He (André) said 50 cent, the rapper, has created many perfect songs.

That is all.

The night and day:
After a fight with the boy over cleaning his room, he cleaned his room, played computer for an hour as I went out to get bread and read the economist.
He contested that whenever I tell him to do X Y or Z before he may play the computer, I increase the workload or trick him and seemingly don't allow him to play at all.
I said no, all I'm asking you to do is clean/tidy your room and when you don't do it fully, me telling you to finish cleaning it is NOT me making more or new work up. It's the same work he hasn't yet finished.
I then said, arguing for me for 30 minutes merely detracts from the amount of time he'll ultimately have to play on the computer.
I then (being the mature adult I am) suggested to him things he could do to finish tidying up his room, emphasising that what I was suggesting was neither all he should do nor some kind of binding contract.
When Anja came home, she was happily surprised at how clean or tidy his room was. I punched him lightly in the back and said "Told you so!"

On buying bread: because everything's closed on Saturday, I was asked to go buy bread. I did, however, the normal baker was out of bread. (It was also manned by a new-to-me employee with a slightly tepid attitude.) I went to the baker down the street in the Netto shopping complex. I walked back home and I saw Nadia on my way back, waiting for her bus with her two au pair kids.
We hugged, we talked. Life is apparently better with her, she's taking free German classes (I don't get how it works) and looking into doing a year of civil service here in Germany. We talked until her bus came -- we said bye and I walked home.

After the parents came home, we got our cold weather clothes on and went to the Bio-Dad and his partner's house for dinner. Theo, Ferdi's half-bro and his mom (the partner) were there hosting us. We talked, drank wine, Theo showed me his (awesome) model train set. We ate, we drank expresso, I drove us home. I couldn't really see out of the window for the first few minutes to to condencesion.

We got home, after I had trouble parking (I have a hard time backing up in the dark when I can't see out my rear window) and found the cat waiting for us. Ferdinand proceeded into some sort of pseudo-crying fit over his new bedroom furniture. Anja had suggested in the car that Ferdinand get their old bed -- the parents are getting a new one becuase Anja had trouble sleeping on the old one. Mind you, it's just Anja, but Ferdinand has the idea that this bed isn't good enough for him. I think. But, it was past midnight and past midnight is not a good time to discuss anything with Ferdinand -- he just needs to sleep and discuss in the morning.

Such is life.

Still, saying that 50 Cent songs are perfect, or incredible . . . Atrocity. Really.
And, because I round out posts, here's a picture of a poster found in Tulcea, Romania:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A note on alcohol in Germany

A feeling of obligation exists at the onset of each blog posting. Or the beginning of each written work. The trepidation is engendered between the inception of the idea and the moment the writer sits down to write, or, while he is writing. It is often times so much that the written work is never started for fear of not finishing, for fear of lacking the content should the work be written.
What a bastard, this feeling of obligation is.
I should write here about my summer travels, or, about my fall travels. Or about something important, something interesting, something other than mundane or vaguely alcoholic. Alas, this is not my way. For:

A sense of amazement and relief swept over me on Wednesday evening after I'd settled in at the bar the English club was meeting in. After I'd checked to make sure no clubbers had arrived yet, I went to the bar, checked the menu written in chalk and decided that I was going to have a .4 liter Budweiser. Not a Budweiser we know in the states but rather the Czech Budweiser, (Booed-vy-ser.)
It was from the tap. It was only two euros. I knew I was back in Dresden, that I was back in Germany, that I was back in a place I love to be. And, that the beer is affordable and cold here in Dresden. And that I love that.

And then, in club, when I said how nice was it was to only pay two Euros for a beer, I was told that you only pay one Euro in the Czech Republic.
Still. It's nice to be back in Dresden and to have a decent, cold beer at a price I can afford.

But, to round out the post, here's a picture from the mud volcanoes I visited in Romania. And these were the mud volcanoes I did not pay to see but rather hiked to.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Recipe: Wine-Fruit Brownie Sauce

Wine-Fruit sauce for Brownies

Adapted from: Rebekah in Germany

Note: This recipe is a work in progress

I invited my former Volkshochschule classmates to the house for dinner on Saturday night. The family was out for the weekend; I had the entire place to myself. Only Ingrid, a classmate from Columbia, replied. She brought her husband and son along.

We started out with a beef stew made with a ¾ to ¼ red wine to water base. As a side I’d roasted Kohlrabi. However, in trying to keep them warm I managed to burn most of them to a crisp. Note to self: don’t leave Kohlrabi in the oven while baking anything else. Also, I learned NOT to use sea salt on roasted kohlrabi. The sea salt adds too much saltiness in too little space. Ingrid’s husband seemed to like them though; we had an entire conversation revolving around Kohlrabi. It’s a cousin of the turnip. I’ll write its recipe later.

I also picked up .40 Euro cents garlic bread baguettes. Quite delicious by themselves and go great with the beef stew.

After the stew we moved on to a “Bavarian Apple Torte,” which did not turn out as planned, and brownies coupled with the subject of this recipe: a syrupy wine-fruit sauce. As I wrote, brownies. Gotta love ‘em.

The definition of a perfect brownie changes from person to person. To me, perfect is on the just-cooked, fudgy side; the cake side is reserved for cake. However, this recipe is not for brownies. It’s for a sour, sucker-slapping syrupy fruit-wine sauce that goes with, on or next to a brownie.

The wine to use changes with the fruit. Peaches and nectarines go well with a white wine, possibly with a splash of red. Strawberries and raspberries go better with a red wine, possibly with a splash of white. But, ultimately, the cook should make the decision on wine-and-fruit paring. I’m no wine authority. It doesn’t hurt to remember that red wine usually goes great with chocolate. However, a glass accompanying dessert is probably better than putting peaches in a red wine sauce.

Wine, wine, wine. Wine is a beautiful thing. And wine is an inexpensive thing here in Germany. I find myself using it all the time when I cook now. The not-very-good tasting wines are downright cheap. They’re close to the price of organic milk, if not cheaper in some cases.

I used terrible-for-drinking (and downright cheap) boxed wine for the sauce. Not space-bag boxed wine but honest-to-god, wine in a box. Much like milk comes in a 1-liter container, so does crappy wine. It cost under a euro. 9.5% alcohol content.

The sugary taste of the sauce gets both chopped down and spiked with the lime. I’m very much a chocolate and fruit person, so this recipe is love to me. The sour, with the wine, really brings a new taste to the brownie.

My personal favorite matching is raspberries with anything chocolate. When I made this with nectarines and juice of about ½ a lemon it contrasted beautifully with the sweetness of the brownie. Ingrid’s husband and I were in love with the combination. Ingrid and her son didn’t like the sauce because of the sour. I loved the sour. The recipe and pairing are, alas, not for everyone.

The recipe calls for boiling or cooking/reducing the wine to about half of where it was. One can reduce it more, or less. The alcohol taste was gone from the sauce when I called it quits on reducing.

I’ve yet to work on presentation. You’re on your own for that.

This recipe/concept came (to me) from a fellow expat who’s living on an Army base here. In a previous life she cooked professionally. We’re in good hands.


2 cups chopped fruit, separated into 1 cup each

2 cups red, white or rose wine

1-2 tablespoons white granulated sugar, to taste

Juice from ½ a lime or lemon


In either a deep sauce pan or a small pot add 2 cups of chosen wine. Bring to a boil, mix in the desired amount of sugar until its dissolved and half the fruit. Boil or cook/reduce the sauce until it’s about half the amount it was before boiling. The previously strong (warm/hot) alcohol taste should be gone. Add the rest of the fruit and serve with the brownies or other dessert.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Profound questions about God -- or, puberty

Thursday night, dinner. We were talking about Ferdinand's confirmation classes. And Ferdinand professed that he doesn't believe in God. He then asked me if I do. I answered no, I'm an atheist. Then the conversation devolved into Ferdinand denouncing a God who can allow bad things to happen in the world.
"I ran into the wall today trying to get the ball. God didn't stop me from running into the wall and it really hurt," he said. (I'm both cleaning up his English, because I forgot his exact diction.)
He then went on about how "everyone" says God is with them, or everywhere, or always helps, or some such, but God never helps him. (Never mind how self centered the view is.) Also, he says, God never helps anyone. How could God (as opposed to a god, I think. Although I don't think he understands enough to make that difference)allow all the suffering in the world if God is in fact God. And his pencil broke (as far as I understood.) And a god that exists wouldn't allow his pencil to break.
Near the end his voice started to crack, to lose it. Then he started to lose it. Then he started to cry and complain about God, and complain about having to go to Confirmation class, and about this and that and everything. Because he didn't get a choice to go to Confirmation classes. Because it's so stressful to go to Confirmation and then have to go to soccer straight after.
Yes, his mom said. I made the choice for you.
Yes, your life's so hard, Anja said. There's so many other children out there whose lives are so many times more stressful all the time.

He's still crying.

He then brings up that I don't believe in God. Which means nothing in the context.

He professed again to not believe in God. He said he was full, was going to bed. Slammed the bathroom door. Crying in the bathroom. Slammed the bedroom door. Crying in the bedroom.

He muttered to himself about how unfair life and God are.(audible to us through the closed door. The his door opens into the upper-middle cavity of the room in which the dining room currently is. Half is entry way area, half is the dining room table and the rug it sits on.)

"Ferdinand, you haven't said good night to Wheeler"
"Yes I did!"
"No, you didn't"
He opened the door, looked at me and said "Good night Wheeler."
I said good night and he closed the door with the force of a child gripped by emotion. Or hormones. Or emotions caused by hormones.
"You didn't say goodnight to me."
"Good night Mama!"

He's only 12 yet exhibiting symptoms of puberty in the context of an existential crisis.
I've always thought existential crisis come later on in life. Not for him. However, I think it's merely a shallow existential crisis. Possibly caused by something going on at school. Involving the pencils, or possibly the pens. I'm not sure.

For dinner:

I stuffed a pork roast with dried fruits, apricots and prunes and the likes with a side of pears in wine and butter sauce and some wine gravy. The pork was mediocre at best. I think I overcooked it and put too much pepper in the rub. And, should have punctured the muscles to get more seasoning in the meat, not just on the outside.

I do like how the pork looked, however. To me, it is a yin and yang of apricots, possibly some other yellow dried fruit, and prunes. An omen of the dinner conversation? Maybe.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Recipe: Irish Soda Bread

I could make excuses or give reasons for not having written about vacation yet, but I won't. Instead, I'm going to share a recipe for Irish Soda Bread that I made last week. Before I give the recipe or subsequent notes on it, I'll rap about it because I personally love recipes with a story behind them -- a recipe with no notes, no story, no nothin' is not only less appealing to me but also dry. I should say, the whole reason I made the soda bread was a beef stew which I'll hopefully make soon again, takes pictures of and write up. A glut from two grills the last two nights engendered the beef stew, which spawned the soda bread.

I think sourdough bread goes better with beef stew, or lamb stew, or pork stew rather than soda bread, but this may just be nostalgia speaking. The soda bread goes well with the beef stew, is semi-authentic and as a plus the bread is great – it merits repeating – with a little butter and good honey.
I picked up the recipe from (credit to “MP Welty”) and changed it for my tastes. My tastes at the moment are for whole wheat goodness wherever and whenever possible. So far this has been an apple crisp, the soda bread and pancakes.
Below the recipe will be given in both metric and imperial, but small measurements will be given exclusively in imperial. I personally use metric because I'm in Germany and actually I found measuring by grams to be a bit easier than the normal packing and sifting ways. However, I've found with American recipes, this difference can be a bit of a problem.

I made the soda bread with 50 percent normal flour and 50 percent whole wheat. Next time I’ll try all whole wheat. The original recipe calls for only normal flour.

I added a little bit of extra sugar to my batch – gave the bread a slightly sweeter taste (Ferdinand [my au pair child] told me it tasted like cake, which I don’t agree with at all) that made it incredible with a spread of butter and honey.

Irish Soda Bread belongs to the chemically-leavened bread group. Instead of yeast, soda bread uses baking powder and baking soda.
The dough has a liquid baste that should be applied to the top of the bread as the baker sees fit. I found it problematic to add the baste more than once or twice because of the lost heat of the oven. However, I think the basting helped develop the crust of the bread.

The original recipe calls for a cook time of 45-50 minutes at 375° F/190° C. When the bread is formed into a big ball, the middle stays a little doughy while the crust begins to get a bit too cooked. I suggest decreasing the temperature and cooking the bread for longer. It’s done when a toothpick stuck into the middle comes out clean.

Annotated ingredients (metric):


250 grams all purpose flour (<-- I used a 50/50 mix. Haven't tried all whole wheat or all all-purpose) 250 grams whole wheat flour OR 500 grams whole wheat flour OR 500 grams all purpose flour 50 g white sugar (I used a little more than 50 grams [probably 60-65] -- gave it a sweeter flavor that went incredible with a little butter and honey as spreads)
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
115 g softened butter or margarine
235 ml buttermilk
1 egg

55 g butter, melted
60 ml buttermilk

Ingredients imperial:


4 cups flour

4 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup margarine/butter, softened

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg


1/4 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup buttermilk

Ingredients metric:


500 g flour

50 g white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

115 g margarine/butter, softened

235 ml buttermilk

1 egg


55 g butter, melted

60 ml buttermilk


1. Preheat oven to a few degrees below 375° F/190° C

2. Mix together all the dry ingredients. Mix in the butter/margarine. Once the butter is mixed in, add the egg and buttermilk and mix well until a dough forms. Lightly flour a work surface and knead dough briefly.

3. Form kneaded dough into a ball and put on a baking sheet prepared with baking paper. Mark an X on the top of the bread ball lightly with a knife or other sharp instrument.

4. Put part of the dough-baste on the dough ball and put in the oven.

5. Baste the dough 2-3 times over the course of the 50-60 minute cooking period. 50-60 minutes at a lower temperature, 45-50 minutes at a higher (375° F/190° C.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Euro Summer Vaca 2009 -- Introductions

I left my home in Dresden for four weeks -- doesn't seem like a long time.
I kept a travel log. On the last day, I had reached day 32. In all reality, it was about 32 days and a quarter -- I arrived in Dresden on the morning of day 33.
The days creeped up. But with the count of actual days, it centimetered up faster and faster. The day count wound up the four weeks -- wound up the passing of time into a micro fever pitch. The finale of the pitch was a sigh.
I vomited into a trashcan at a tram stop in Budapest. Right before starting to retch, I checked my watch. I had about 20 minutes until my train left to Dresden.
Four weeks started to feel like a long time.
When I retching turned to vomiting, the sigh became a plea to get home. On the upside, I'd had crepes (which I maintain, for all you non-American speakers out there, are not pancakes) filled with cinnamon sugar.
Always got to look on the bright side of life.

In this post, I will recount the basics of the trip, the wheres and with who's and the accounts of who these people are. I will not start recounting the trip yet -- that will begin in the next post. However, at the end of the next post, I will transcribe what I wrote in my travel log in an Obama administration fashion. To break with the government style, I will merely not transcript parts rather than blacking out what's there. I'll transcribe each day as it gets covered.

I traveled, in a dedicated fashion, with four people over the course of two weeks. For the first week and a half I tramped with my guest-sister Johanne and her roommate Alexander. She's from Dresden and he from Berlin.
For the end of the second week I traveled solely with Johanne. For two days or so I went by myself.

The other two weeks, or so, I spent with a friend of Johanne (the guest sister) named Enikő. Enikő and Johanne had been in Belgium together in Highschool on exchange and had since not talked too much. Both, after meeting again, seemed to not know each other very well anymore. This meeting occurs later in the log.

Rounding out the group of four was Áron. Áron is the cousin of one of Enikő's very good friends.

Here's literal travel log:
Dresden to Krakow, Poland
Krakow to Budapest, Hungary
Budapest to Brasov, Romania
Brasov to Vulcani Noroiosi, Romania
Vulcani Noroiosi to Basau, Romania
Basau to Braila, Romania
Braila to Galeti, Romania
Galeti to Tulcea, Romania
Tulcea to Medgidia, Romania
Medgidia to Bucharest, Romania
Bucharest to Bourgas, Bulgaria
Bourgas to Dublin, Ireland
Dublin to Rome, Italy
Rome to Vienna, Austria
Vienna to Győr, Hungary
Győr to Budapest, Hungary
Budapest to Belgrade, Serbia
Belgrade to Podogrica, Montenegro
Podogrica to Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor to Podogrica to Sarajevo, Bosnia
Sarajevo to Mostar, Bosnia to Sarajevo
Sarajevo to Belgrade, Serbia
Belgrade to Budapest, Hungary
Budapest to Dresden, Germany

Sorry for the taste. It'll get more interesting soon -- I promise.

As for the pictures, here's the album links:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

12 full days and counting

It's hard to believe.
Twelve full days in Germany. More specific, Saxony. More specific still Dresden, the capital of Saxony.
The people here are proud of their state, their city and their people. Kind of like Nevadans.
The cat, (in the top picture, who I and the family call Katzu, pronounced more like Katza) and I presume most cats here, sleeps on the radiator. This radiator is the predominant heating system found in both homes and businesses and civic buildings. There's a knob on the going from five, the hottest setting, downward.

The people here seem, and this is with 12 full days and counting, to be very deeply, profoundly, spiritually and civically affected by two things:
The Russian occupation of East Germany, which they refer to as the time during the GDR, or the German Democratic Republic (Thanks history teachers for not teaching us about the fall of the Berlin wall, the reunification of Germany, the dissolution of the USSR. I really appreciate that the Carson educational system so throughly trained us instead in the Renaissance and the Renaissance art and the Renaissance sculptors and the miners and the Renissance architecture and the Renissance inventors, painters, tinkerers, founders and funders. I love moving to a foreign country that has a deep and rich history, the contemporary history just as enthralling as the centuries before, a first world country and one of the most powerful in the world, and only knowing about the Italian Renaissance, nothing more about Europe. Thanks for not teaching me about the Russian occupation or the dissolution of the USSR. I love America!)

The firebombing of Dresden The Germans, especially the Dresdeners, were and are deeply hurt by the firebombing.
It's not a sore. The firebombing got deep into their psyche. Their city was, the for most part destroyed. As may be seen in some of the pictures attached, or glossed over, is that the city was firebombed.
The statues and buildings standing after the bombing really show it. Their black. The sandstone of most of the buildings is black as charcoal.
Few buildings or statues survived the bombing. Few people, too.
I went with Andre (with an accent over the e I can't reproduce on an American keyboard,) to the panoramic showing of Dresden before the seven year war with the Prussians, in 1773 or so. Or 1783. Somewhere in there.
He pointed at row upon row upon row of five and six story buildings. "All destroyed in the bombing" he said.

When we were driving back home from the panorama display we took the scenic route. He pointed out new-ish looking housing building after building. "Constructed in the 60s" he said.
The new, fancy rebuilt church that tourists flock to? Opened mere years ago after it was rebuilt. It collapsed days after the bombing.
The firebombing really got to the Dresdeners. It still gets them.

I have lots more to say. Volumes! I've written six letters by hand, this online and one email and it's not even close to the amount of writing that I still need to do.
Here's a link to the Picasa web album of my first trip alone into Old Town Dresden.
It's my third our fourth visit to the old town.
Plus, I took the tram all by myself. That being said, good working public transportation is an incredible thing. A very, very incredible thing. It should bring all westerners to their knees in tears. There's so much we could do!

That being said, my host family still loves their cars. Nothing wrong with loving cars. I love cars.

"We need to go to the market, 4 blocks away"
"Let's drive!"

"We need to go to the butcher down the street."
"Let's drive and then try very hard to find a parking place!"

I kid, I kid. Sort of.

I've done the impossible here. I've driven on the Autobahn. With a six-speed manual wagon Renault, none the less. The Renault is a French car. By no means bad. Could use some good old fashioned four wheel drive though for the snow.
The snow here sticks. It stays. It gets on the streets and never leaves. It means getting your car unstuck one out of five times. It means sliding on the street.
It's very good for teaching one to come to peace with the fact you're sliding.

The German streets are a little insane. But, they make sense.
That being said, German drivers are impatient and can be really crazy. Just as crazy and stupid as American drivers.
That person going too slow through town? Well, because German roads, depending, let you, pass them! On the two lane road! Like it's the middle of some deserted Nevada valley!

Those stereotypes about Germans being quiet people? That's a up and up lie. Just a lie. A dirty, dirty lie. Germans are boisterous and fun-loving and full of life.
Plus, the food here can be great. Too many choices for sausage. Too many choices for cheeses. More wursts than you can count.
Germany has taught me many things in my 12 days here. One of them is that I love meat paste. Just love the stuff. So do the Germans! On toast for breakfast, on toast for lunch, on toast for dinner, it works any time. And, it's delicious.

My host family is great. I think I my luck wheel, landed on perfect, and negated any chances for luck for the next 50 years. The house is great, the parents are great, although they have moments, the relatives I've met are great, and the son (my charge) is very smart. If not motivated. It's a challenge! Along with learning German. A challenge in which I must succeed, and find new and novel ways to.
Hopefully it's not too late. At least, that's what everyone tells me.

Here I go, I try to write small, and I write a story for the New Yorker, as Andre just told me. (I've been typing away while the German equivalent of CSI runs.)

Below is a link to the web album. Captions on a couple. I'll try to take more pictures when I get a chance and the time.
I start German classes on the 26th, accompanied by an hour tram ride. I'll be studying at the VHS, the adult college. Of which I cannot pronounce or spell the name.

Just a few more little tidbits: Little league soccer tournaments can have their moments. these 15 minute moments, or 30 second moments, are diluted by the 6 hours spent at them. I go to support Ferdi, the boy. I go because that's what an Au Pair who cares does. He goes to the games. But six hours? Pushes it a little.
Some of the wines here are, frankly, incredible.
Also, the whole being able to drink and not be 21 thing is nice. For once I find myself being treated like an adult. What a novel concept!
To think I could go to a dinner party and be treated like an adult! To be treated like a peer and an equal! I was floored and elated.

The flip side of the drinking coin is dripping in vomit, spilled alcohol and a little blood. On the tram home there was a group of five or six high schoolers, with open containers, drinking away and acting like all drunk high schoolers do.
Open containers are perfectly acceptable, even on the tram.
The system has its problems. But, the 21 and up system has many more.

Even better, Germany, I'm told, has a problem of welfare (equivalent) for the kids who don't have jobs or still go to school but instead drink and take drugs.
And, they broke the higher ed system.
Poor college kids. But, their college is free.
I explained how much my tuition fees are at a dinner party with a family with two boys my age (at which I realized Europe and America have many of the same archetypes and stereotypes of people, young and old. Good little eye opener.) and the family was, quite frankly, aghast. At my in state tuition. In dollars.

That's all for now. Here's the much promised web album link:

Guten tag. Cia! Cheers! Chews!