advantages of living in the land of nutella

I just got back from going grocery shopping at one of the largest grocery stores I have been to in Germany.  Compared to my usual grocery haunts here, it had a much larger selection of just about every food category I could want, plus more.  There are benefits to going grocery shopping on the outskirts of town instead of in the crowded city center!

One of the things I bought today was proof of why living in the land of excellent chocolate and plentiful Nutella can be a Very Good Thing:

cereal on the outside, nutella on the inside!  and look at the cute little mascot guy!  he has a chocolate cape!  awwww...

That is a box of cereal.  Isn’t the little mascot guy cute?  He has a little chocolate cape!  But the best part about this cereal?  It has chocolate nougat (which is basically Nutella) inside! Delicious.  I think Kellogg’s should sell this in the USA.

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sunday best: heidelberg christmas market

Last Friday, a few of my friends and I were burnt out from studying and decided to take a well-deserved break to go to Heidelberg for the Christmas market.  And, as always, I had my camera.  (Yes, I have become “that girl who takes a lot of pictures,” a title I am proud of.  I’m making memories here, people!)

The Heidelberg Weihnachtsmarkt was beautiful and a lot of fun.  One interesting thing about Heidelberg’s Christmas market: there were several smaller Weihnachtsmarkt sections instead of one or two large main sections.  Once my friends and I got some food or did some shopping and finished walking through the aisles of stands in one section, we would get to the end of that section and notice the glow of more Christmas lights a bit further down Hauptstraße, where yet another section of the Weihnachtsmarkt was set up!

This particular Markt had a lot of food, at least in comparison with Darmstadt and Frankfurt’s Christmas markets.  A bit disappointing to not find many Heidelberg-specific souvenirs for sale, but the food was good.

the crepe stand where I got a nutella and banana crepe.  my friend a is trying to block my picture.

For dinner, I had traditional Weihnachtsmarkt foods, including a bratwurst and a Nutella-Banana-Coconut crepe.  Here is my friend A trying to block my picture of the crepe stand.

lots of foods sold at the weihnachtsmarkt are served in paper cones

I also got some roasted cashews, which were delicious.  Many snack foods in Germany are served in paper cones such as this one, which my cashews were served in. The top of the cone can be left open for larger, bulkier snack foods (such as french fries) or can be folded down over the food for smaller/easier to drop foods, such as my cashews.

the candle pyramid in heidelberg

This is the giant electric candle pyramid/Christmas pyramid in the main portion of the Heidelberg Weihnachtsmarkt.  I think this is a Weihnachtsmarkt tradition no matter what city you go to.  Not that I’m complaining!  They’re beautiful.  And some of them, such as this one, have Weihnachtsmarkt stands built in.  This one sells Glühwein.

the beautiful main carousel.  look at the artwork!

There were a few carousels, which also seem to be a Weihnachtsmarkt staple.  The artwork on this one was beautiful! (As a side note, carousels seem to spin much faster here in Germany than in the USA.  I didn’t ride it for fear of not having an appetite the rest of the night.  I did not check to see whether the carousels here have seat belts, but at the speed it was turning, it might well need them!)

the main street in heidelberg that runs to the parts of the weihnachtsmarkt.  love the lights!

This being the spectacularly beautiful city of Heidelberg, the decoration was nothing to sneeze at.  On Hauptstraße, the main street in the Altstadt (the old, more pretty part of the city), these star lights guided visitors and residents between the different sections of the Weihnachtsmarkt.

a lot of the statues had beautiful wreaths around the base.  bonus: this statue has the dom (cathedral) behind it.

A lot of the statues in Heidelberg were decorated to the nines.  I saw several like this, with a giant lit-up wreath circling the base.  Much more tasteful than, say, putting a santa hat on the statue’s head. 🙂

giant cathedral, large but comparatively small christmas tree

There was a giant Christmas tree at this Weihnachtsmarkt as well, but it was completely dwarfed by the cathedral.

the view of the schloss from between some decorated trees

As you may know, Heidelberg has a beautiful castle near the edge of the city.  The last Weihnachtsmarkt section was set up with an amazing view of the castle walls, as you can see here through the decorated trees.

The Heidelberg Weihnachtsmarkt was one of my favorites, in a large part due to the amazing scenery and the already-beautiful city being made even more pretty with the Christmas decorations.  There wasn’t as much shopping to do as there is at the Darmstadt or Frankfurt Weihnachtsmärkte, but I’m not complaining; I’ll cherish the memory of this particular trip to Heidelberg for a long time to come!  I hope you enjoyed the tour!

mustard

Some condiments in Germany are packaged very, very differently than they are in the USA.

an american bottle of mustard.  yum

This, as you may recognize, is an American bottle of mustard.  (Thanks for taking this picture, Mom!  Yeah, I know it is weird to email home and ask for a picture of mustard…)

tube of german mustard. yes, i am serious, that is mustard.

This is German mustard.  Yes, really.  (Senf = mustard).  When I first moved in to this apartment and looked in the fridge we all share, I started to wonder why people were keeping their toothpaste in the fridge…

do not use as toothpaste. normal toothpaste is not yellow.

…but they weren’t!  Here in Germany, you gotta make sure that your toothpaste does not come from the condiment aisle, because this is NOT toothpaste!  The yellow of the mustard is a hint.  (Other condiments are packaged this way as well.  I think I could find a jar of mustard if I tried, but I couldn’t resist the funny packaging this time.)

In other news, my new favorite German condiment is Curry Ketchup.  Fantastic on fresh french fries from the street vendor in the city center, but also pretty good on sandwiches.  But I don’t happen to have a picture of it at the moment.

What’s your favorite condiment?  (Does anyone else go to Chick-Fil-A and mix Texas Pete sauce and ketchup for the fries like I do?  Oh, how I miss Chick-Fil-A… *homesick*)  Leave comments!  I love reading what you guys have to say!  🙂

frankfurter buchmesse

I like reading.  I may not have as much time for pleasure reading as I’d like, but I still enjoy curling up with a good book.  And where better to celebrate reading than the Frankfurter Buchmesse?  (Buchmesse means something similar to Book Fair or Book Convention.)

So yesterday, a friend of mine from church and I went to explore the final day of the Buchmesse for this year.

the entrance to the frankfurter buchmesse Flags for the Buchmesse waving at the entrance to the Messe (convention center).

there were a lot of publishers and a lot of people at the buchmesseThere were a lot of publishers and authors selling books, a great number of books (duh) and audiobooks for sale, and a lot of people.

a lot of people at the buchmesse

Exhibit A of there being a lot of people at the Buchmesse.  But that’s cool.  The world needs more bookworms, right?  🙂

All in all, my friend K and I had a great time.  We each bought a book or two and wandered around looking at many more, picking up brochures and catalogs as well.  There was even a guy in the international books section who was packing up his booth and gave us free tote bags that say “Mexico means culture” on them.  Thanks, mister!  You saved my hands from cramping up from carrying around my posters and my Folkmanis catalog (yep, Folkmanis, the puppet manufacturer, had a booth, and I really exercised a lot of restraint in not buying any of the cute fuzzy puppets).

(Seriously, who doesn’t love Folkmanis?)

And then K and I ate cheesecake at a cute little cafe to end out the day.  Any day that involves books and ends in cheesecake has to be good, right?  Yes.

real: germanified wal-mart

Today I went to Real, a store with the slogan “Einmal hin, alles drin.”  That translates roughly to “Go in to the store once, and everything is there,” or more simply, “Everything in one store.”  Kind of like Wal-Mart.

the parking lot of realEven the parking lot looks sort of like the parking lot of an American convenience store.

And inside, it was fairly similar to Wal-Mart.  There were sections for electronics, books, office supplies, groceries (not much produce), children’s toys, home furnishings, cooking supplies, medicine, and toiletries.  And there were even a couple of German fast-food places just inside the entrance.

inside of real, looking through checkout counters to the rest of the storeI’ll definitely be coming out to Real more often.  It’s refreshing to be able to get groceries and office supplies and cooking stuff in one place, and to even be able to meander through the electronics section gazing wistfully at gadgets I want but don’t actually need.

And you can even pay with EC card here!  An EC-card is kind of like a credit card, but with a chip in addition to the magnetic stripe.  (Many German stores only accept cash.  Many but not all larger stores accept EC-cards, and most small stores only take cash.)

It’s a long-ish bus ride to the edge of town, but if I have a lot of shopping to do for several different kinds of items, it will be worth the trip.

diabetolog

I do have plenty of pictures that I took over the weekend, but I’ll post some of those later this week.  Can’t give you guys too many travel picture posts in a row, right?

Yesterday, I went to see a diabetolog, which in America would be called an endocrinologist.  The kind of doctor who treats diabetes mellitus and thyroid problems, of which I have both.

The doctor was very nice.  She asked me whether I wanted to speak German or English, and she agreed when I asked that we start in German and only switch to English if I don’t understand something.  That system worked pretty well; I was mostly able to  understand her German comments about my blood sugar trends that I had printed out from my Dexcom’s readings.

Until she said a word that sounded so distracting that I had no hope of understanding it.  That word was die Hypoglykämie, and the combination of the y’s and g made it sound like she was hiccupping in the middle of the word.  (To hear how it is pronounced, go to http://dict.leo.org/ende?lp=ende&p=PSyjpkwAA&search=Hypoglyk%C3%A4mie&trestr=0x2001 and click on the speaker icon next to the word.  A box will pop up, and then you can push play to hear this crazy hiccup-word.)

When the look on my face told her I had no clue what she was talking about, she told me she was talking about hypoglycemia.  We then switched to English for a while, occasionally switching between Deutsch and English for the rest of the appointment.

She suggested a plan for helping me get better control over my blood sugar overnight, since it often goes low then.  Of course, if my blood sugar goes low overnight, I often eat more than I should to bring my blood sugar back to normal, since I’m tired and want to go back to sleep but still want to make sure that my blood sugar goes high enough.  That often results in my blood sugars being high when I wake up in the morning.  Which results in me riding the proverbial gluco-coaster.

There were some differences between this visit to a diabetolog and a visit to my American endocrinologist.  For instance, I had to actually ask to hear what my Heboglobin A1c result was (a HA1c is a test that acts like a diabetic’s report card for the past few months).  And prescriptions here look waaay different.

There are other differences between diabetes care in American and diabetes care in Germany, but since I have just finished a period of not eating so I could test my basal rates during breakfast hours, I am hungry and will cover diabetes care in Germany later on.

cookies!

Today is the day I take the UNICert II exam to test my German fluency.  Not being a huge fan of tests, I was getting a little nervous yesterday.  I went for a walk around campus to take a break from studying…

do you like cookies? sign.  yes, sign. yes i do.

…and saw this on an announcement board.

The sign translates to:

Do you like cookies?

Caution:  this is not edible. But if you find yourself always wanting cookies but cannot buy them, here’s one to take with you and look at…

Enjoy looking [at the cookie] 🙂

So of course I took one.

my paper cookie.  mmm.

Tee hee.

three hours of frankfurt

Well, I eventually got stir-crazy enough yesterday to decide to go to Frankfurt (free with my student train ticket) and wander around.  I wasn’t sure much would be open, with yesterday being a holiday.

But the Hauptbahnhof was plenty busy:

 

frankfurt hauptbahnhof

…and there was plenty to see!  I finally got to see the Alte Oper (Old Opera House) in person.  There’s something cool about finally photographing a historic building you’ve only ever seen in textbooks before.

alte oper (old opera house)The building had some beautiful details.  I won’t post all of my pictures, but here’s a closer view:

alte oper, up closer

After wandering around for a while longer, I saw a lot of people crowding around near rows of vendor stands.  Not having much on my agenda, I wandered over to experience my first German flea market (Flohmarkt):

flohmarkt (flea market)

I didn’t end up buying anything, but there was some cool (and pricey) stuff for sale.   Maybe another time.

After spending an hour wandering through the flea market, I bought a freshly-made cheese crepe (with black pepper–yum!  I never knew a little pepper could make such a difference!) and freshly-made French fries with German mayo.  German mayo tastes different than American mayo.  I managed to spill some of the mayo on my favorite hoodie (oops) but the fries were delicious.

From arrival in Frankfurt to my heading back to the train station to leave, I was only there for around three hours, but I saw enough to get a good idea of what to see next time I visit Frankfurt.  And for 2-3 hours round trip, Frankfurt is a good city to re-visit a few more times during my year here.

new comforts of home

american food

Before I left, I had no idea how much I would miss that which I rarely ate at home.

German food is good; don’t get me wrong. But there are plenty of American foods that I almost never made at home that I now eat nearly every day.

For instance, at home in America, I rarely ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But in searching for the little comforts of home, a PB&J is a tiny piece of America. I can get a little jar of American-style peanut butter, some sliced bread, and some fruit preserves, and I feel a bit more connected to my mother country.  (Does that phrase sound weird to anyone else?  My mother country is the country of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. …yes, it does sound weird.  But I digress.)

I mentioned this to some of the other exchange students here the other day (hi, guys!  I know some of you read my blog…) and I’m apparently not the only one experiencing this.

I am also not the only one turning to modifying American classics to fit the environment.

use of nutella = adaptation

Background: Nutella is awesome.  If you have never eaten it, put your computer to sleep, go to the store, buy some Nutella (you can buy this in many American grocery stores, including at Wal-Mart), and come back and experience the awesomeness.  Nutella is chocolate-hazelnut paste.  Imagine creamy peanut butter, but made out of hazelnuts.  And it tastes like chocolate.  Spreadable chocolatey goodness.

"american style" peanut butter and store-brand nutellaPictured:  “American Style” peanut butter and store-brand chocolate hazelnut paste, aka Nutella

Enough background.  Now that you have a jar of Nutella, go get peanut butter and bread.  Peanut butter on one piece of bread, Nutella on the other.  That makes a fantastic sandwich.  Some of the other exchange students have even started putting banana slices on the sandwich as well.  I haven’t tried that combo yet, but I probably will sometime soon. It sounds amazing.

So yeah.  We exchange students do what we can to stay connected to home, but we like to spruce things up with indigenous foods as well.  🙂

ode to german chocolate

Chocolate is amazing.

I’ve met a few people in the world who don’t like chocolate, and I always wonder how that is possible.  But that’s not the point of this post.

The picture below is just a small portion of the selection of chocolate items one can get at the grocery store and at many large department stores here in Germany.

chocolate, conveniently available pretty much everywhere groceries or foodstuffs are sold here

The chocoholic in me loves the amazing variety of chocolates here.  In America, if I wanted Milka chocolate, or Ritter Sport, or Nutella, I would have to pay out the nose for it.  Only a few flavors from the major German chocolate companies are available in America, but here in Germany, there are shelves and shelves and shelves with flavors and mix-ins and variations I didn’t know anyone would think of.

And cheap, too! Each of those Milka bars cost me 0.89€.  The generic Nutella?  0.99€.  Real Nutella?  Maybe a Euro more.  In America?  I’m pretty sure the prices would be at least double.

In other news, in an effort not to gain fifty pounds–er, sorry, 22.6796185 kilograms (thanks, Google!)–I am walking a lot and starting to exercise.  Gotta burn off the chocolate somehow.

And now, back to my Milka bar.  mmm, chocolate.