In which my neighborhood tries to offend you

Don’t you hate it when crap does that to you?

Graffiti is a lot more common in Europe than in the US. Sometimes it will alarm our American visitors, leaving them wondering if they’ve wandered into a bad neighborhood. Nope, even the fancy ones have it.

(This last photo doesn’t highlight the subject very well, but if you look closely you’ll notice an ambulatory yellow-green penis on the left.)

Scenes from Munich: little old lady fight

The other day I was walking home when I stopped at a crosswalk to wait for the light to change. Also waiting was a little old German lady. Not waiting was a small group of German teenage boys, who were wantonly crossing the street without proper permission from the little green man.

The little old lady was having none of this blatant disrespect for lit sign authority, and she started yelling up a storm at the boys. The boys, in turn, had a few half-hearted responses for her, but they really didn’t seem to mind her yelling as they went along their merry way. As rouge teenage street-crossing hellions, they were probably used to such treatment by society.

I thought I was just witnessing yet another typical grumpy old German tantrum, when suddenly things got a little more interesting. Up rode another little old lady on her bicycle, and starts yelling at, to my substantial surprise, little old lady #1. I didn’t quite catch everything she said, but the gist of it was, ‘Ah, leave the kids alone you miserable old hag.’ Little old lady #1 stopped yelling at the teenage boys in order to yell back at little old lady #2, and the intersection air was filled with angry, angry German.

At some point in all this the light changed, and, not wanting to stand around lest I get caught in the cross-fire, I crossed the street and continued on my path. Moments later, having finished berating little old lady #1, little old lady #2 pulled up next to me on her bike. ‘I’ve known her for years, and she’s always been like that,’ she said to me with a wink and a smile. ‘She’s grumpy and lonely and nobody likes her.’ And with that, my new favorite little old German lady stood up on her pedals and rode away.

Air Berlin: a bafflingly good airline

I’ve flown Air Berlin several times now, and I have to admit the airline confuses me. Its prices are often excellent, especially if you book during a sale (offerings such as 2-for-1 tickets can often be found on their website). The website is functional, allowing smooth and easy purchases and online check-in. On board, passengers are treated to free drinks, snacks, and magazines, even on very short flights. No luggage charges. Seating is assigned (you can choose your preferred seat when you check in online), and no one has ever hassled me about the size or weight of my carry-on. Basically, it’s everything the full-service airlines used to be, before they all turned into fee-grubbing customer-hating cesspools.

So what’s the catch?

So far I haven’t been able to find one. I’ve even called their customer-service hotline, only to find it staffed with competent, friendly people who demonstrated problem-solving skills. Sure, there are a couple small, nit-picky things I could mention (a small fee for using a credit card on the website, for example), but given the state of most other airlines these days, they hardly seem to matter.

Air Berlin flies from a ton of German cities to destinations all over Europe, plus a few farther-flung places (such as New York and Phuket).

What’s your experience with Air Berlin? Are any other airlines (low-cost or otherwise) worthy of praise these days?

I’m talking about beverages. What are you talking about?

Thanks to shrewd marketing, Ficken* is finally gaining popularity in Germany.

Of course, too much Ficken can make you tired. If this happens and you find yourself low on energy, you might want to try some Pussy**.

I’m not sure if they have Pussy here in Germany. I didn’t find any at Christopher Street Day, but I did see a lot of Ficken there. I’ve been told Pussy can be found in Switzerland.

* Ficken is a German word (and the name of a brand of Schnapps). If you don’t know what it means, you can ask Leo.
** Special thanks to Em for spotting the Pussy and sharing her photo of it with us.

Drag queens, Jesus freaks, and lots and lots of artists

It’s been just another wonderful summer weekend in Munich. I’m really happy to be spending some time at home these days.

The first super fabulous event that occupied my weekend was Kunst im Karrée. For two days over 70 artist studios were open for visitors in and around the neighborhood of Schwabing. It was an excellent opportunity not only to see great work and talk to some very interesting artists, but also to peek inside some beautiful, beautiful private studios and apartments in one of Munich’s most sought-after neighborhoods. The artists were definitely more friendly and talkative the first day than the second, understandably so when you think about how long their days lasted.

The second event of the weekend was the Christopher Street Day celebration that took over central Munich, delighting locals and confusing tourists. Today we caught the tail end of the high heel competition, featuring local drag queens at their fiercest.

Oh yeah, and apparently there is some sort of gigantic conference of Jehovah’s Witnesses going on in Munich. There were scores of them all over the city. I wonder how they liked the drag queens.

Ask the Expat: how to eat zucchini flowers

Do you ever post recipes? I had somewhere heard you could eat the zucchini with their flowers, but I’d never seen it done.


One of the reasons I was so excited to start a balcony garden was realizing that I could have a cheap and plentiful supply of zucchini flowers. Yum yum yum.

Zucchini flowers are quite easy to cook and eat. You can pick (easiest with scissors) male or female* flowers, preferably on the day they bloom. Wash them gently, inside and out, and pat them dry with paper towels. Pluck out the sexual organs inside, if you’re so inclined. The flowers can be refrigerated and kept for a day or so, but it’s best to eat them the same day you pick them.

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4th of July with the expats

I can’t remember the last time I observed the 4th of July, but who can resist a BBQ by the river with friends?

The banks of the Isar River are extremely popular in the summer, especially in the area near the Tierpark. There were multiple groups of Americans out celebrating their independence here yesterday, and finding our way to the right gathering wasn’t so easy to do. But completely worth it, since I’m sure our group had the most fun.

The spread:

The beer fridge (Em got a better photo of the bar, before the sun went down):

The view:

WTF photo of the day

I can kind of see how someone in Germany decided to name a receptacle for feminine hygiene products a “Lady Bag”. Certainly, much worse offenses against the English language exist here.

My ability to comprehend this item, however, ends at the graphic.

Any ideas?

Porvoo: small-town Finland

OK, back to last month’s trip north. The charming little town of Porvoo made for a perfect day-trip from Helsinki. It’s about an hour away, and the bus service is frequent.

One of the quintessential sights of the Nordic countries is a row of colorfully-painted wooden houses, and Porvoo had plenty of them. The helpful tourist office gave us a map with a suggested walking route. It took us through the shop-filled touristy old town, along the river, and up a hill to a quiet residential neighborhood which was crowded with these cute old wooden houses in various states of restoration.

We had a fabulous lunch at Restaurant Timbaali – Scott had the fish buffet and I had a mouth-watering vegetarian dish.

After completing the walking tour we strolled through the Spring Market which was taking place downtown. There were stalls selling pretty much everything, but especially fried fish and licorice whips. We picked up a small bag of deep-fried mini-donuts to keep our mouths entertained on the bus ride back to Helsinki.

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