Deutsches Essen, Teil 1

One of the most important things to experience when visiting a new country is the cuisine. There are a lot of differences between German and American food, so I thought this would be a good thing to post about. I decided to call it Part 1 because I’m sure I’ll make more observations about German food throughout my stay here.

The first thing I’ll start out with is drinks. One major difference you’ll notice in Germany (and possibly throughout Europe) is how much more prevalent alcohol is, especially beer. One of the strangest things for me is to be able to go into a cafe on campus and see a huge fridge full of beer, and then to walk out into the common area and see students sitting around drinking it at eleven in the morning. Like one of my German friends told me, though, to Germans beer is not really alcohol, so you see it everywhere. And while Germans are usually associated with their beer drinking habits, wine is also a popular option, and one of the two is commonly drunk with a meal.

Pop is another thing I’ve noticed is different in Germany. For one thing, they don’t have Diet Coke. They have a fake Diet Coke, also known as Cola Light. It really doesn’t taste the same, but because they’re supposed to be the same drink, none of the international grocery stores import it, which means I’ll have to do without :-( Fanta is also much different here, as well as much more popular, but this is definitely a change for the better. It has more of a fruit flavor, and a lot of Americans I know bring back bottles of it for later. Unlike Cola Light and Fanta, however, which have American equivalents, Spezi is a very popular German pop. Typically marketed as MezzoMix, Spezi is a mix of Coca Cola and Fanta. It’s good, but it’s just too sweet for me. However, it’s something new to try when visiting Germany.

Candy is also similar yet different in Germany. For instance, you can buy Snickers, Kit Kats, and Twix here, but I think they taste just a little bit different. I’m partial to the American ones just because they’re what I’m used to. While American candy is popular, Germans have plenty of their own candies to choose from. Haribo is one of the most popular brands you’ll see here in Germany. You’ve probably seen it in the US, because the most popular gummy bears are usually Haribo, but you’ve never seen it like this. They have entire sections dedicated to all of the different gummy candies Haribo produces. I’m really more of a chocolate person, though, so I’m a big fan of Milka. I’m not sure if it’s a German brand or not, but it’s definitely popular here. They’re most famous for their chocolate bars, which I highly recommend, but I also really like the Hazelnut Nussini Bars. And if you’re a fan of chocolate, you should also check out Ritter Sport, which offers chocolate squares in over twenty different flavors. And maybe try Kinder Schokolade while you’re at it, which is chocolate with a milky filling that really enriches the milk chocolate.

Of course, as you would expect, Würste are also really popular in German food. They’re crazy about it. You can get them at a festival in a bread roll with sauerkraut or in a German restaurant with a slice of bread. There are a lot of different types of Wurst and ways to serve it, and they vary by region. I know a very typical Bavarian Wurst is Weißwurst mit süße Senf, or white sausages with a special honey mustard.

While so far I’ve been able to group a lot of my observations by category, some things are just too random for that. For instance, in the US apple strudel is considered a dessert, and here it often is, too. However, one of the vegetarian options you can get at the Mensa is Apfelstrudel. To me that’s just not a meal, so while it’s good, it’s impossible for me to eat for lunch. Also, Germans are crazy about Nutella, which was an easy bandwagon for me to jump on because Nutella is awesome with just about everything. Then there’s the tea. I typically thing of England when it comes to tea, but it’s incredibly popular in Germany as well. Coffee is too, of course, interestingly also using Italian names (which makes it really easy for me to order), but tea definitely takes up more space at the grocery store. I tried some out of curiosity and have to admit to getting hooked, so I like trying a bunch of the different types. And I find it really neat that one of the most popular foods in Germany is Turkish Döners. I think I might have mentioned this already, but they’re really good, so it bears repeating. They vary quite a bit from restaurant to restaurant, which means you should try more than one. Such a chore, right? ;-)

Of course, this post barely even scratches the surface of what I could say about German food, but these are just some of the things I keep noticing. This will give you a good idea of what food to start with when you visit Germany, and I’ll keep posting about it as I continue my study abroad experience.

Christmas Ice Cream

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Christmas Ice Cream

While gelato is typically associated with Italy, Germany can certainly give them a run for their money. Called italienisches Eis, you’ll find these shops all over Germany, and I swear, once you try it you won’t go back to regular ice cream (except maybe Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough Ice Cream). Naturally, gelato isn’t popular in wintertime, so they come up with some creative ways to keep the shop in use. I saw this one in Regensburg and had to share. Gelato is now Christmas decorations :-)

Deutsche Weihnachtsmärkte

One of the great things about visiting Germany during the Christmas holidays is the German Christmas markets. They’re starting to get more and more popular outside of Germany, so you might have already been to one, but I promise it’s nothing like an actual Deutscher Weihnachtsmarkt. I’ll do my best to describe what it’s like, because pictures really don’t do it justice, but I think you’ll just have to go to one yourself and get the real experience.

The most famous German Christmas market is the Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt, and since Nürnberg is only an hour away by train, I had to go. Unfortunately, the snow that was coming down when I left Regensburg turned to rain by the time I got to Nürnberg, so the weather wasn’t that great, but I still had a good time. The entire Hauptmarkt is full of stalls numbering well over a hundred, meaning you have plenty of things to choose from. You have wood ornaments, glass ornaments, decorative houses, nutcrackers, hats, socks, and who even knows what else. Basically, everywhere you go there’s stuff to decorate for Christmas. My favorites are the straw ornaments, which are traditional German ornaments, and the painted candle lanterns. I also really enjoyed the international section of the Christkindlesmarkt, which was set off a little bit and had stalls with Christmas decorations from different countries. It was cool to see how the decorations were so different from country to country, and of course I kept an eye out for the American one. I was disappointed, though, because I’m pretty sure they picked some of the worst American decorations to display there. I did buy a bag of Skittles, though, (which you can’t get in Germany) just because I could.

The best part of the Christkindlesmarkt, though, and really of all of them, is the food. If you go to a Weihnachtsmarkt, you have to get hot Glühwein. It’s not optional. One of my German friends told me it just tastes like Christmas, and it’s a staple at every Weihnachtsmarkt in Germany. You can get it alcoholic or non-alcoholic, and there are different flavors to choose from, but you can never go wrong with traditional Glühwein. Also, as you walk through the market, you’ll notice the German obsession with Lebkuchen, or gingerbread. There are stalls that are packed with every type imaginable, so if you’re a gingerbread fan you have to check it out. Of course, as with Oktoberfest, gebrannte Mandeln (aka Bavarian Almonds, ironically) are also very popular, as are the Lebkuchenherzen, now decked out for Christmas. It’s also a great place to try ein paar Würste mit Semmel, or a couple of sausages in a bread role. Sauerkraut and mustard are popular toppings, although ketchup is also available. I had an amazing Nutella crepe, there, too, and I saw a ton of stands with chocolate covered fruit and marzipan figures. So when you go to a Weihnachtsmarkt, make sure to go hungry.

The cool thing about Christmas markets being so popular in Germany is that every major town has one, as well as a lot of smaller ones. Regensburg has at least two, possibly three. The one in Neupfarrplatz is a very basic one. It gives you a good idea of the feel of a Deutscher Weihnachtsmarkt without all the options of the one in Nürnberg. However, the best Weihnachtsmarkt I went to is the one at Thurn und Taxis, a castle located in Regensburg. This one you have to pay to enter, but if you go at night it’s cheaper, which is great because it has an amazing atmosphere when all the lights are lit up. The market runs along the side of the castle and continues on into the courtyard in the center, where even more stands are set up and most of the food is located. It’s also more traditional than the one in Neupfarrplatz because more of the items are selbst gemacht, or handmade. This market is the one that’s trickier to describe because you really had to be there with the lights and the choir and hot Glühwein, walking around and looking at all of the stalls, which are lit up and decorated. Not to mention the fact that you’re standing in the courtyard of this massive castle. I’m not sure what else to say other than the atmosphere really just made the experience and it was easily my favorite Weihnachtsmarkt.

Wherever you are in Germany, though, I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding one, and I’ve heard of some others that are really nice as well, like one tucked into the Black Forest. Whether you go during the day or at night, you’ll definitely have a great time, and I have no doubt you’ll find plenty to buy. Let’s just say I got a good start for my Christmas tree back in the US. And don’t forget to go hungry!!

Nürnberg

I promised to go back in time a little bit and talk about some of the other things I’ve done, so here we go. A few weeks ago the international office organized a day trip for us to Nuremberg. Bavaria has this really cool deal called the Bayern Pass. It’s €38 for five people, or €7,60 per person, to go anywhere in Bavaria within twenty four hours, which makes it really easy to travel places like Munich or, in this case, Nuremberg.

After we got there they took us to the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände, or the Documentation Center for the Nazi Party Rally Grounds. It’s an old building on the Party Rally Grounds designed to impress, and the city of Nuremberg turned it into a museum documenting the rise to power of the Nazi Party. This is especially important to Nuremburg because the city is essentially home to the rise of the Nazi Party, as well as the sight where the Nuremberg Trials took place trying major leaders of the Nazi Party for war crimes after World War II. As you can imagine, it was a pretty powerful museum, one of those places you maybe don’t want to go to but know you have to. Plus it’s different from a lot of World War II museums because, while the Holocaust naturally was a part of it, most of the focus was on the rise and power of the Nazi Party, which is really scary because they did such an effective job controlling a nation.

Of course, after such a serious morning we needed a more lighthearted afternoon. We wandered through the Altstadt (kind of like our idea of downtown. It literally means Old City and is usually where the cultural center is) and took tons of pictures, looking through the market that was in the main platz and walking into churches as we went by. My favorite part of this was the Schöner Brunnen, or Beautiful Fountain, in the main platz. I don’t know all of the history behind it, but my friend Jaqueline told me that you’re supposed to make a wish and spin the ring in the decoration around the outside of the fountain. It’s one of those things you have to do if you get a chance to visit Nuremburg. What would you wish for?

As we were wandering, we slowly made our way up to the old castle, or Burg, and planned on going in for a tour, but the lady working there recommended we buy a cheaper ticket that got us up into one of the towers and let us into the Tiefer Brunnen, or Deep Well. The well was really impressive because the guide would pour water into the well and it would take about seven seconds before you heard it hit the water below. It was so trippy watching the water being poured but not hearing the sound for so long, but it was really cool. The tower also gave us some amazing views, but my favorite part was all of the grafitti on the inside. People have been signing their names on the interior of the tower for years, so it’s just layered in signatures. If you were to go there now, you would find Dani written on the wall in black waterproof eyeliner. Got to love friends who are prepared for anything!

Afterwards we headed back to the train station and got supper at a Turkish restaurant called Istanbul. The reason I mention this is because there is a huge Turkish minority in Germany and everywhere you go you can find Turkish food. Döners are really popular here, and for a reason; they’re really good! I’ve been told the food isn’t quite the same as in Turkey because they use different spices and sauces here, but it’s still good, and something you wouldn’t expect to be an important part of German culture. So if you’re ever in Germany, make sure to get a Döner!

Oktoberfest!!

As a student studying in Germany, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that I would write a post about Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is a yearly event that starts in September and ends the first weekend of October. Millions of people descend upon Munich in order to attend the event. But even though so many foreigners attend, Oktoberfest is still a very German event. Should you go to Oktoberfest, here is some of what you should expect to see.

Here’s what Oktoberfest looks like when you’re just walking around. It’s a little empty here because we went on a weekday and this picture was taken in the morning, but it got a lot busier in the afternoon. I’m told it’s completely packed on weekends. There are rides and booths everywhere, sort of like a state fair but much larger, and you’ll see tons of people walking around wearing traditional dirndls or lederhosen. Maybe think about getting yourself one to wear to Oktoberfest, but be aware they can get pretty expensive.

The Lebkuchenherzen might be one of my favorite parts of Oktoberfest. They’re these Bavarian gingerbread cookies, but it’s actually recommended that you not eat them, because that’s not really what they’re made for. They’re wrapped in plastic and have ribbons woven through them because you’re supposed to buy one for someone else to wear. They come in a ton of different sizes and colors with a million different meanings. The most popular one is “Ich liebe dich,” or “I love you,” but they don’t just have to be about love. I think the best one I saw was worn by a woman in her eighties that said “Jung und willig,” or “Young and willing.”

Another popular part of Oktoberfest. I promise, Bavarian almonds are significantly better in Bavaria.

You’ll see tons of stands selling these massive pretzels, too, plus people walk around the beer tents selling them. Another traditional part of Bavarian celebrations.

A beer tent! For those of you coming to drink, there are several different tents to choose from at Oktoberfest, each selling it’s own brand of beer. Get there early to make sure you get a table.

The most famous part of Oktoberfest: the beer! They only come in one liter mugs and cost about ten euros, so it gets really expensive, but how can you go to Oktoberfest and not order a beer?

So when you’re sitting in one of the beer tents enjoying your beer and pretzel, you’ll randomly hear people start bursting out into cheers. That’s because someone like this guy is standing up on his bench and preparing to chug his (or her) entire liter of beer while the entire tent cheers him on. Naturally, everyone bursts out in applause when the person is successful, but when they’re not they get a bunch of boos. A lot of people do this in the tents, which adds to the atmosphere, along with a lot of the drinking songs and chanting people do while drinking.

Oktoberfest really is a fun experience. There’s so much to do and see, plus when you’re done you get to say you’ve been to Oktoberfest! I had a great time and would definitely recommend it or one of the smaller festivals held in different parts of the year, like Dult in Regensburg. And the most important word you’ll learn when you’re there? Prost!

 

Hallo aus Deutschland!!

Welcome to my blog! My name is Dani and I am a junior studying Honors, German, and English at the University of North Dakota. As you might assume, I chose to study in Germany because I am a German major. More specifically, however, I chose German because I grew up hearing my grandparents speak German at home and couldn’t stand not knowing what they were saying. Naturally, my reasons for studying German have matured since then; Germany really is an amazing country with a fascinating culture. There’s so much history here, and you would be surprised at how much it affects and interacts with America. Of course, you’ll experience this with any country you choose to study in, but I think having a different language really adds another dimension to the study abroad experience. It certainly makes it more difficult!

Unlike most other programs to choose from at UND, I’m going to be living in Regensburg for the next year instead of a single semester. That means for any of you thinking about studying abroad in Europe next spring, feel free to look me up! Choosing to study at Universität Regensburg was a really easy decision for me to make because the German department has such a good program in place already. I also heard nothing but good things from students who went there in the past, so between them and my faculty I was sold!

So far I’ve been in Germany for three weeks, and I realize I’m already woefully behind on keeping you up-to-date on what I’ve been doing here. I didn’t anticipate it keeping me so busy! Over the next week or so, however, I’ll go back and try to walk you through some of the things I’ve experienced since arriving, from my preparations for my travels to the sightseeing I’ve done since arriving. I look forward to bringing you along on my year-long Deutsche Reisen!!