Friday, January 15, 2010

back in the states already

although i am back in the united states, i thought i should update a few more times about my german experience. here is an update about food!

1. "mexican food"
although Germany has a pretty diverse cultural community, don't expect to find any mexican restaurants. heck, don't even except to find a taco bell scattered amongst the thousands of burger kings and mcdonalds. when alexander and i went shopping and the region's largest shopping mall (the centr.o in oberhausen), their footcourt has a place called "tacos and more." because i usually eat Los Portales once a week, i was itching for a little "óle!" i shouldn't have been surprised with what i got....

besides the big chain fast food joints, germans mostly go for döner kebabs. its turkish food, but is really the turkish equivalent of tex-mex. a döner is meat shaved of a large revolving spit, and put into a section of turkish bread and topped with onions, red cabbage, tomatoes, and different sauces. so basically what i got was a döner a tortilla. at least they added nacho cheese? needless to say, can't wait for Los Portales.

2. meat and spread culture
although i used to be vegetarian, i have grown back a love for meat. but my love for meat is pitiful compared to the german's integration of obsure meat products.
my favorite meal of the day would have to be breakfast, because almost every morning we would bring out a basket of hearty rolls, and pile them up with veggies, cheese, and so many different kinds of meat, and most of them include pork. liverwurst, salami, bologne, ham...and so much more. the germans really know how to utilize all parts of the animal, and make it pretty tasty!
although i am pretty open minded and taste-budded when it comes to food, there were two different animal products that i couldn't (or didn't want to) swallow.

> Mett < Mett is pure raw ground pork that is served on a roll, sometimes mixed with salt, pepper, onion and garlic. Alexander goes crazy for this stuff, and promises me that it's 100% safe to eat. "People have been eating it for centuries!" The taste is almost tolerable with enough onions on top, it's difficult to get past the texture.
When my parents, grandparents and I took a trip to Cologne, we had a little snack at a restaurant near the beautiful Cologne Cathedral. The menu didn't specify that the seasoned pork was raw, so my dad and grandpa were a little less than thrilled when they received pork sushi on a roll.

Schmalz is every artery's worst nightmare. "Party Schmalz" is about 99% rendered pig fat, and the other 1% is herbs, spices, and onion. Alexander and his mother tell me that this is good on really grainy, dense bread with a lot of salt. I was open-minded and took a bite. It was initally okay, and had the texture of cream cheese. But then the taste really set in, and I could hardly swallow it. Luckily the greasiness of it covered my mouth in a thin film, so it slid down pretty easily. I kept a straight face, and said, "Hmm, doesn't taste too bad!" but declined the offer to have a whole helping for myself. The herbs couldn't cover up the bitter and blandness of pure fat. In my opinion, there is really no way to make pure pig fat tasty, even if you put it in a funky retro container.

3. the bakery!
besides alexander
, the one thing in germany i will really miss are the bakeries. especially when the weather is so crummy outside, the warmth and atmosphere of a bakery is extremely inviting. over the last month, i probably ate half my body weight in cheese rolls (Käsebrötchen). the germans really know how to make bread the right way!
even german donuts know how to celebrate new years eve in style...

mkay, that's it for now. i will update later about my adventures in a haunted castle, bodyworld, the odysseum science center, and the netherlands.

love you all!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

okay, so back to the white russians and a short update!!!

long story short with the white russians, we had a big lebowski night at alex's friend, helge's, house. well, we wanted to have a big lebowski night but ended up just drinking white russians while watching a korean film. it wasn't too bad.

the next day we went to a christmas market in the town of Oberhausen. it wasn't as charming as the one in Essen because it was set up in the terrace of a shopping mall. but it was still lots of fun! we met up with some of alex's friends from his university, and i got to drink glühwein for the first time. it literally translates to "glowing wine," and it's warm, spiced red wine mixed with rum and sugar. oooh it's soo good !! we went inside a little wooden cottage that was set upi in the middle of the christmas market, and chatted while middle aged men and women got drunk and sang german christmas folk songs.

i was also able to visit a christmas market in Dortmund! i was glad to visit there, even if it was just for a couple of hours. i met up with my friend, kirsten, and we drank coffee and chatted, and then walked around the christmas market. Dortmund hails the largest christmas tree in all of europe, apparently, but i wasn't too impressed :)

the christmas celebrations were a lot of fun, but i swear i gained at least a few pounds... on the 23rd, alex's sister and me made two different kinds of christmas cookies together. we made a coconut and vanilla cookies, and they were really good!! (but nothing will beat the classic chocolate chip cookie ^_^ ))

christmas is celebrated over three days in germany. first is christmas eve, and that is mostly just opening gifts with immediate family, and eating a delicious dinner. we ate roast chicken, salad, and potatos. after dinner, we opened gifts! i got alex a T-shirt, a little puzzle, and a bunch of beef jerky. alex got me a bunch of different kinds of cookies, some perfume, and best of all, tickets to go to a circus on new years day!

the 25th is considered the "first day of christmas," and that consisted of lunch with immediate family (with sauerbraten, knödeln, and yummy salad), followed by coffee time with other family members. the "second day of christmas"(the 26th) turned out to be one big dessert and leftover day with alex's cousins and aunts and uncles. oh boy, i ate so many cookies :D

although it has not been too snowy lately, the weather has definitely not been great. it has been rainy and drizzly pretty much every day. but after eating so much, it give you a good reason to just hang out at home and watch movies under a warm blanket.

a couple nights ago i went to a club called the Prisma with alex and a few of his friends. i really love german clubs, even the ones considered to be "lame" by the germans. mostly i love the fact that my horrible dancing goes completely unnoticed here because it is in good company. and you never see any bumping and grinding at german clubs. i feel like it is more a place to go and have fun with friends, not just a chance to find someone to hook-up with, like at most american clubs.

so mostly it has been nice to relax and spend time with alex. over the past week he has found a bunch of really interesting documentaries on the internet, and we've been OD'ing on them. i think my favorite so far has been the one about circus side shows :)

unfortunately our new years eve plans to go to berlin fell through :( his friend isabel ended up going to poland to visit her family for new years eve, so we wouldnt've had a place to stay. but we do plan on going somewhere after new years. on new years day we have the circus, and we also are going to have a day in Cologne and go to a science museum, and also a really crazy art exhibit called "Body World." The artist, Gunter von Hagens, preserves human bodies, removes the skin, and displays the body (which is just muscle and bones) in crazy ways. apparently one of alex's friends puked when he was there. so of course, i'm excited :)

okay, well bye everyone! miss you! and check out facebook for all my pictures. i will update soon with sushi night photos :D

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I am safe in Germany and currently have a belly-full of white russians. but before I talk about the white russians, I will tell a little bit about the events before them!

The first thing that people always ask when you arrive to a foreign country is, "How was the flight?" In a way, I am kind of happy that I have a story to tell about my flights! Before I left, I was stressing out a little bit because my mom realized that I only had 45 minutes in between my flight from Chicago to London. I wasn't too worried about this...until my flight from Des Moines sat on the tarmac at O'hare 15 minutes past scheduled arrival time. Finally when they let us off the plane, I darted from the plane like a bullet from a gun. I am by no means a fast person, so I was pretty worried (one of the reasons I quit playing softball was because of my sloth-like running abilities). I had ten minutes to run through two different terminals. When I was darting though the neon underground tunnel connecting gate C to the rest of O'hare my backpack throwing me off balance, I heard over the intercom, "Gate C18 to London Standstead for final boarding call." Out of breath and barely out of time, I made it to my gate right before the flight attendant closed the door!

My flight from Chicago to London was pretty uneventful, as well as my flight between London and Düsseldorf. I watched the movie Elf in english and in German, and then I watched It Might Get Loud before I got a couple hours of sleep. Being short is definitely beneficial when on a plane...

When I arrived in Düsseldorf after 14 hours of breathing stale air and airline food, Alexander and his sister, Kathy (pronounced like "Kat-ee"), were there to meet me with hugs and kisses. It was great to see them both!

"It's great to see you, Tori!" said Kathy in German, "How was your flight?"

"It was fine," I responded also in German, "But between at the airport in Chicago, it was the Airport Olympics."


That night Alex's mom made a great typical German dinner for us. It had a few different kinds of meat and bread, nothing too extensive but still very hearty and warm. Then Alex and I met up with Thomas, Helge, Fabian, and Liza (some of Alex's friends that I got to know) at a bar in downtown Bottrop. Soccer was on in the background while I "prost'ed"(cheers) with delicious German beer. It felt great to be back.

Over the past months, my German went a little downhill. Well, not completely I'd say. I feel like I know more obscure words, but I forgot so much eveyday conversation so I had to relearn the basics in a way. "How long will you say?" sounds so much like "Since when did you get here?", so i had to re-explain myself so many times.

Before I left, I asked all the Germans I knew about snow in Germany. "Oh, it never gets too snowy in Germany," they all told me. "Don't worry about bringing snowboots, you won't need them." Big mistake. Friday night the snow began, and it didn't stop til sunday night. Although it created a beautiful and picturesque German atmosphere, it was not good for my tennis shoes and cute suede boots. Bwah, my feet were FROZEN the entire time. We went to a Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt) in the city of Essen on Sunday (see facebook photos ^_^), and my feet were completely frozen. But the Christams market was great. There were so many lights, carousels, and umlauts that it felt like i was in a german snowglobe. I got hot cocoa with amaretto liquor and drank it to warm myself up a little. too bad i couldn't soak my feet in it though.

actually, it's three AM and I will finish this in the morning. you will need to wait to read about the white russians..

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tori in Germany....AGAIN!?

Hello everyone!!

It has definitely been about six months since I've updated, but I felt I had a reason to update again because I am heading back to Germany over my Christmas break! I didn't write much about Alex and me in my last blog (mainly because I broke up with my boyfriend, Dan, like a couple weeks after I got to Germany...i know, I'm really crappy. But that is a whole different blog post, or you can just ask me in person...). While over there, I got reconnected with an old German friend from high school. He was a foreign exchange student at Valley for a year, and we were best friends. We would hang out pretty much every day after school. I have to admit, I had a little crush on him back in high school, but we never dated, nothing romantic, it was great to have him as a friend.

When I studied in Germany in the spring, I got back in contact with him. Turned out he only lived an hour train ride away! After a month and half of being reconnected, we realized there was a spark there and decided to start dating. And then after the semester ended, we struggled with the decision but decided to KEEP dating. Man, long distance relationships really suck. But it was wonderful seeing him back in September when he visited Iowa for three weeks!

Now it is my turn to visit him back in Germany. I am sad I am missing Christmas here in Iowa, but I will make sure to visit everyone when I get back! Plus, I'm excited to experience a German Christmas! My German friends have all been telling me about the beauty of the German Weihnachtsmarkt(christmas markets), and Alex's mom has been hyping me up for a great German Christmas feast! (i can only imagine how many different types of meat she will make, hehe!)

Soo, my flight takes off from Des Moines in about 7 hours (at 6.53 pm) I will arrive in Germany in about 20 hours ( 3 pm Germany time). From Des Moines (United Airlines # 938, if you like checking plane locations), layover in Chicago (United Airlines # 9236), layover in London, and then in Düsseldorf! I'm hoping that I can just sleep on the plane the entire way because it will be an overnight flight...but I might be way too excited!

Anyway, I will keep everyone updated about how my German Adventure 2.0 is going, and I will make sure to post lots of pictures (because my old broken camera got replaced with a new, completely upgraded version of the old one, for free! it's pretty sweet, i'm excited to let her stretch her wings).

So, I love you all! And hopefully my next blog will be saying how easy and uneventful the plane ride was.

Bis nächstes Mal! (until next time!)


Monday, June 8, 2009

long overdue photos - the UK

The order is pretty much backwards....I accidentally put all the photos in the wrong order!! So start at the bottom and work your way up! But these are also from two different cameras, so the order is messed up anyway. Sooo i guess just enjoy them as you would like!

Crazy girls on our way home.

Me looking lady-like in the tearoom!

Our good friend, Bill, who told us stories, song songs, and told jokes to us for hours.

the wonderful bar in Glasgow. dancing old people!

portobello market.

licking big ben.
me by buckingham palace!

At platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station. some harry potter thing, i guess...
The three travelers!
Another photo of our squat room...i loved it there!
Me with a bunch of bags sitting on a tilted bench by some castle in Edinburgh.

Cute old lady who served us.

Cute tea room!

A glimpse of our 'happy birthady noah' project.

On our way to a museum, we got lost and wandered through the University of Glasgow campus. BEAUTIFUL place!

Cholesterol-overload breakfast.

Our host in Glasgow, Jo, playing HER guitar.

Wendy contemplating on whether or not we should drink these beers that we stole from a nearby table at the London Stansted airport.

The front door of the squat, and Mohit, our new good friend, locking it back up after we left.
One of the living rooms of the squat. The kitchen is on the left.

A glimpse of the party that wendy and i attended. So much fuun!!!
Us walking through...some..important place by the house of parliament? Eeek i forgot!
so british...
Of course we need a photo of us in a telephone booth!

Hummus is yummus!
Our lunch on the River Thames by the Tate Modern Museum our first whole day in London.
The view out our window in the squat...lovely!
Our room in London at the squat. The mess reminds me of home :D

long overdue photos - netherlands + fußball game

Sorry i am not uploading too many photos! For one, it takes a while to load, and two, lots of them are scenes that you can find by just Googling. I would rather post pictures of my friends and me than other photos that have been done many times before.

BVB Game
The BVB (Ballspiel-Verein Borussia) fans having a few drinks before the game. That is Andreas, Stefan, Vesna, me, Wendy, and Simon. International support of BVB, Germany, USA, and France all represented! Their stadium is MASSIVE. Signal-Induna Park holds over 80,000 spectators.

Wendy and me looking cute , decked out with face paint and BVB swag.
Too bad we kept on spilling beer on the people in front of us.. whoops! this was after the first time we scored...This was the final score of the game. Weee, BVB WINS! (i felt so bad for the guys in front of us! so much of our beer went in their direction!)

The Netherlands
Wendy and I sitting on the side of a beautiful canal in Amsterdam.
Me riding the bike that was originally WAY TOO LARGE for me...until she lowered the seat. then it was managable.
me drinking beer like a hobo on the streets of the netherlands.
We went to a Tulip Festival, look how marvelous the "floats" were...
So a few of us decided to drink coffee and eat cake inside a nearby restaurant instead.

long overdue photos - Belgium

A crazy castle in Antwerp. Woopie!
A crazy sculpture in Antwerp.
On top of the tower, and a little scared!
What a view!
Walking up a big tower in Brugge, Belgium. LONG WAY UP!
We bought some Belgian beers that night and walked around the city, but none of us had a bottle opener. I tried to open the bottle on the window luck :(

The mussels I ate in Brugges. Unfortunately I ate them all wrong! I was using a fork and a knife like a polite person, but I guess you are just supposed to eat them with the shell somehow...oh well!

Brittany, me, and Wendy having an icecream break in Brugges.

Market/junk sale in Brussels.