Monthly Archives: December 2010


As some of the snow starts to thaw on the roof, we’re getting an impressive array of icicles this year. I’m tempted to nip out with a pair of teaspoons and try to play Tubular Bells on them!


I’m not the only one who has spotted the potential play value of icicles. We’ve had icicle sword fights, icicle star wars battles and strange ice spikes now emerge from many of our plant pots.


Fun toys!

More fun than the actual Christmas presents!


Filed under About Germany, children in germany, German festivals, Life in Germany

Christmas tree traditions in Germany

This year we actually did the proper German thing with the Christmas tree. OK, it wasn’t intentional. It was because of all the snow that we didn’t go out early and buy a tree. It was the 23rd by the time I managed to scrape the car free of ice and snow and venture out in search of food, last minute presents and a Christmas tree. Fortunately the entire German nation had also been holed up in the blizzard, so Christmas trees had not sold out.

The tree on arrival was dumped unceremoniously outside the front door where it spent the night.

On Christmas Eve we brought the tree inside and decorated it.

Had we been proper Germans, of course, we would have risked burning the house down and used proper candles on the tree. Given that our house is made of wood and lined with bookshelves, this didn’t sound like the most sensible idea though, so we stuck to electric lights.

Had we been proper Germans, we would have spent the evening sitting round the tree singing “Stille Nacht” and various other traditional Christmas songs. Again, being philistines, in fact although we did gather in the room with the tree, we made our own music which was mainly not particularly Christmassy – although the kids did perform a fabulous jazz version of “Leise rieselt der Schnee” with Dad on piano, son on guitar, youngest daughter on vocals and eldest daughter on the cajon.  Glühwein and Kinderpunsch all round. Admittedly with mince pies.

Presents definitely not opened on Christmas Eve though. We’re not that German!


Filed under About Germany, children in germany, German festivals, Life in Germany

So what do dachshunds do in this weather, huh?

I’ve been watching the cats struggling through the snow (and we have had plenty of new snow overnight), and I am yet again struck by the sheer impracticality of those Germans who choose to keep a dachshund as a pet.

Not too bad under the trees...

If you only have the odd inch or two of snow it’s not too bad.  For a cat that’s sort of ankle-deep. For a dachshund that’s already over the knees.

I'm getting ice in my armpits Mum!

But we’re talking serious snow here… well up to a cat’s shoulders. So what do dachshunds do? Tunnel through it?



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Snowscape in Germany

Yet another load of snow has dumped over our region overnight. In the last couple of weeks I have acquired an Umlaut. I used to say: “Ooooh! Snow!” Now it’s more of a: “Öööööh Snow!”

I can tell that I am becoming German though, because this morning, I found myself outside with a shovel clearing paths between all the various doors on our farmhouse. What on earth has got into me?

Here are a few pictures of our latest snowscape.

Planet Germany

View up the lane

Digging the paths

(Minimal) Germanic snow shovelling has taken place.

It's cold up the garden

Probably where Santa lives...

Strangely enough, I can’t seem to interest the cats in this natural beauty at all!

Wake me when it's spring....


Filed under About Germany, cats, Life in Germany

The angry new word of the year: Wutbürger

The German language has a body which oversees the development of it’s language. The German Language Society tracks down and documents new words which enter the German language. Not only that, every year they select a winner.

Of course German is very prone to adopting new words. Not only are there the very many Denglish imports, but German is the sort of language which automatically creates new words all the time, by sticking ever more components together until you have created the concept you want to convey. Such as Flauschhandtuchbenutzer or Zehenzwischenraumabtrockner.

To be a winning word in the eyes of the German Language Society though, you have to be a word of the times. You have to reflect the mood of the particular period in which you were developed and adopted by the media.

This year’s word is Wutbürger. It means enraged citizen. In a year where people across Germany – and indeed much of Europe – have taken to the streets in protest at a variety of issues – the Wutbürger is the New German of 2010.

Of course you have to wonder what previous protesting Burgers were referred to as. What about 1968 when there were riots on the streets across many German cities and the police fired back with water cannon? Well apparently that was more of a Jugendrevolte.  That’s  “youth revolting”  or “revolting youth”  depending on which side of thirty you happened to be at the time.

But what will happen when the English language decides to assimilate this new German favourite?

To the English ear, the Wutbürger sounds more like another variant of a Hamburger or Beefburger. Perhaps one which will contain more chilli sauce and mustard than usual – or even a few Jalapeno Peppers, just to express its outrage and desire for revenge. It might also have the properties of a dodgy kebab – the sort of food which you wolf down when hungry, but which reappears with alarming speed. It almost certainly wouldn’t contain salad.

The Wutbürger could even end up as the weapon of choice at food fights between today’s revolting youth and the powers of law and order. It would be a massive hit with the media, due to the presence of much red chilli sauce (indistinguishable from blood) which will make for dramatic front page photos.  I can just see it: “Prince Charles struck by a Wutbürger on his way to the theatre – one dinner shirt badly injured.”

Bite me if you dare... GRRRRRR

Wutbürger and chips anyone?


Filed under About Germany, comedy, food, Life in Germany

German Christmas pyramids

Christmas is the time of year when you construct pyramids in your house.  I don’t mean a Valley of the Kings stone affair… I mean a wooden one with candles and a windmill on the top. Obviously.

The Christmas pyramid is a sort of Heath-Robinson contraption which uses the convection current of hot air from candles to power a windmill and spin the pyramid. Unlike most other German inventions, this one has absolutely no practical purpose. None whatsoever.

Most German homes are content with a small table-top affair these days. Something that looks like this.

By Richard Huber (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

German towns and cities tend to build rather grander versions – often displayed at the local Christmas market.  The figures on the different tiers of the pyramids rotate, to indicate to people that they have drunk rather more Glühwein than is good for them.  Or something.

Creative Commons

Originally these decorative carved pyramids date from the middle ages and symbolise light driving away darkness at Christmas time (literally and figuratively).  They pre-date the Christmas tree, which became a more popular decoration – probably due to it being easier to chop down a tree and bring it into the house than to spend months whittling away carving a wooden Christmas pyramid.

Many Germans still use real candles to illuminate their Christmas trees – at the annual risk of burning the house down, of course. What is it about Christmas that suddenly makes an otherwise sensible nation forget about Vorsprung durch Technik?

Wikimedia Commons

In the old days families would add to their collection of wooden figures in the Christmas pyramid every year, in the same way that nowadays people buy a few new baubles for the Christmas tree. For those who are trying to decide between a real or an artificial Christmas tree this year – a Christmas Pyramid could be the most amazing artificial tree you ever bought!

Alternatively, if you start carving now, you might have your very own pyramid ready for Christmas 2011….





Filed under About Germany, children in germany, german art, German festivals, Life in Germany

Warning: Glühwein may seriously impede your fashion sense

It’s mid Advent in Germany, the Christmas markets are in full swing. And a worrying annual phenomenon is becoming apparent. The more Glühwein people drink, the worse their fashion sense becomes.

It all starts out quite innocuously. At the start of Advent, Germans look relatively similar to their all-year-round selves. They typically dress in a sensible, sober and sometimes even quite stylish fashion.

Step away from the Grog!

But note here… the slippery slope lurking in the background. The hot pots of Glühwein and Grog, the bottles with a Schuß of extra Christmas cheer… the wafting scent of cinnamon and aniseed…

After a Glühwein or two, possibly an Eierpunsch or a Grog, or even a dip into the Feuerzangenbowle… strange things start to happen. The first and most catastrophic is a total loss of fashion sense.

Under normal circumstances, this might not be a problem. But a Christmas market is packed with unscrupulous vendors of dubious fashion-wares, waiting to pounce. Before the unsuspecting drinker knows it, they have blasted their entire Christmas budget on a range of ethnic knitwear, jewellery handcrafted from old tin cans and a tinsel Christmas-tree shaped hat to top it all.

Unscrupulous vendors of dubious fashion items

By late in the evening, Santa hats are de rigeur, along with strange colourful scarves and jackets which may once have hung as curtains in someone’s kitchen. The cluster of raucous revellers is oblivious to the fashion crimes which they are committing. They are only focused on the next Glühwein and whether the stall selling rainbow fingerless gloves with the tassels is still open.

So this advent, I’d just like to issue a sincere warning to all revellers. However tempting it may be…whatever you do… please, think of the children… just don’t drink and shop!

By Orin Zebest (Flickr: The Christmas Band) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Every time you do, a kitten dies….


Filed under About Germany, German festivals, Life in Germany

The strangest German news stories of 2010

Bizarrely enough, there are some people who accuse Germany – indeed the entire German speaking region –  of being boring.

In fact, Germany, Austria and Switzerland are incredibly quirky, fascinating and downright weird.  You just have to know where to look.

I have pulled together a collection of some of the stranger news stories about the region from 2010, just to illustrate how mind-bendingly bizarre the Germanic world can be.

The pub in Austria which is shaped like a rectum

OK, so Austria is sometimes described as the arse-end of nowhere… this must surely refer to the Bar Rectum in Vienna. A pub which is shaped like a giant anus.  Don’t ask me why. Apparently it’s art.

Buy a Thuringian pothole

Are you still searching for that perfect Christmas gift for the person who has everything? Well, here’s something they probably don’t have – a Thuringian pothole. You can add your own personal message to it, if you like. The only thing you can’t do is gift wrap it and take it home.

Artificial glaciers grown in the Black Forest

Worried about global warming? Fret no more… German scientists have found out how to grow artificial glaciers to boost tourism and provide alternative water supplies. I’m thinking of creating my own Alpine ski resort in my back garden actually.

F*cking Hell Beer

The residents of the most famous village in Austria are up in arms because a German brewer has started producing a light beer which uses their name. The F*cking mayor is not amused. In fact the whole F*cking community is up in arms.

Three year old visits the afterlife – lives to tell the tale

There can’t be many three year olds who have visited their dead relatives, but this nipper from Brandenburg popped up to see his great-grandmother.

German woman abandons drunk husband in Austria

As you do.  The bit I liked about this story was the reaction of the police – suggesting she make her husband and the dog swap seats in the car next time…

German pensioner attacks bus driver with knobbly stick

Regulars on this blog will know that I am a fan of the correctly wielded knobbly stick – though I should stress that attacking the bus driver with one on the German Autobahn is inadvisable for a number of reasons.

Scientists create emotionally sensitive men

Drunk husbands and knobbly-stick wielders beware… your days could be numbered….

Man from Saxony marries his dying cat

Hmmm…. I smell a life-insurance scam here….

German police arrest a perfectly law abiding crocodile

The croc was framed!

Man dangles his neighbour from balcony for smoking cigarette

Now that’s what I call enforcing the smoking ban…

Bundesliga stars made to train in pink leotards

Apparently it’s motivational…

Radioactive boar increasing in Germany

Self micro-waving pork anyone?

Dead dachshund dodges paying its TV licence

Dachshunds are untrustworthy at the best of times. Cats, on the other hand, always pay their dues.

A Berlin restaurant for cannibals asked diners to donate body parts for the menu

Apparently a three course meal there could cost you an arm and a leg….

Elephant exonerated for attack on Jena woman

Jumbo entirely justified in throwing her across field.

Berlin museum opened a dramatic exhibition of pickled animals

I prefer pickled gherkins…

Tanker of Dutch pig manure explodes in Köln

Creates urgent need for eau de Cologne…

Dropping pants in public is OK in Germany – but only if you’re Australian

It’s perfectly normal in Australia, apparently.

Oh Cannabis tree

Police were surprised to raid a house and find the decorated Christmas tree was not as it seemed…

Penis boxing game developed

Fights aids. Apparently.

Bad Santa lives in Germany

Caught on CCTV.


What other weird stories did I miss?

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Filed under About Germany, Life in Germany

The top ten weirdest German Christmas gifts

We’re a week into December and if you’re like me the only preparation you’ve managed so far for Christmas is downing a couple of Glühweins at the local Christmas market.

But all is not lost! In the days of online shopping, you can still find the ultimate in typical (and not-so-typical) German Christmas gifts and get them sent direct to your loved ones. A quick trawl of the great-wide-shopping-mall-in-the-ether came up with these unmissable Christmas goodies.

1. Bavarian Backwards Clock

In Bavaria clocks work differently. Apparently. Right. That’ll be useful then.

2. Cuddly wild boar piglet

Warning – it comes with the name Wutzi. Even a two year old will probably find that too embarrassing.

3. The Maultasche

A Maultasche is a type of ravioli from Baden-Württemburg. Literally Maul (= Mouth)- Tasche (= Bag). This is German humour at its… well it’s German humour anyway.

4. The Nutcracker

Germans are normally pretty good at design and engineering. Here is one example of where they’re not. The wooden huzar-shaped nutcracker may have many uses, but cracking nuts is definitely not one of them. Unless we’re talking male-sterilisation here… in which case it might work.

5. A piece of Berlin Wall (executive size)

Which of your friends would not be delighted to receive an executive sized (sic) piece of concrete mounted on a wooden plaque?

6. Grandfather Cuckoo Clock

Of course you could just buy your relatives a regular annoying cuckoo clock to bug them on the hour, every hour. But why not go the whole hog and get them a grandfather cuckoo clock with inbuilt musical box with three teeth-grating melodies.

7. Hamburg Elbkiesel

A typical North German speciality. Sweets that are made to look like gravel. Yes you read that right.

8. Schnapps Pipe

Who would want to drink Schnapps from a normal glass when you could drink it from a porcelein pipe and look like a total prannock?

9. Lederhosen apron and tankard oven glove

The ultimate in Bavarian barbecue chic….  just imagine yourself grilling your Bratwurst in this!

10.  Scale model DDR watchtower

In high quality printed cement-grey cardboard, a build-it yourself model watchtower to cut out, glue together and throw away.  An absolute must-have for all older generations.  Once you’ve checked what they did in the war, obviously.


Filed under About Germany, German festivals, Life in Germany

St. Nikolaus – the ultimate betrayal

Yesterday was St. Nikolaus in Germany –  the day when Saint Nick pops in and fills children’s boots with chocolate and treats. Assuming, of course, that the data (supposedly compiled by angels) in his Golden Book suggests the children have been well behaved enough.

Naughty children in Germany suffer a gruesome fate, which varies depending on which part of the country they live in.

Up here in North Rhine Westphalia miscreants will be given a birch instead of sweets, with which their parents are supposed to whip them. Maybe St. Nikolaus hasn’t actually consulted the Jugendamt – or perhaps whipping is not considered to be child abuse when it’s on special occasions.

Further South, badly behaved children will be carried away by the Krampus – a devilish creature who carries a bag on his back and abducts children, never to be seen again.

Of course the unexposed scam is that German parents actually pay for St. Nikolaus (and possibly the Krampus) to visit on the evening of December 6th. In some areas the local Arbeitsamt actually runs courses for the unemployed to learn to play the roles and your local St. Nick-team can charge €50-100 for a brief but terrifying visit, which is guaranteed to produce exemplary behaviour from your offspring for the next 12 months. (Hmmmm… actually that sounds like a bargain!)

, via Wikimedia Commons”]Those more recently arrived from ‘Elf & Safety obsessed Britain will of course want to know whether these long-term unemployed, recently trained Saints and Devils have had the equivalent of a CRB (criminal records bureau) background check. The answer is no. Of course not.  Mwahahahaha! The very job of the St. Nikolaus and the Krampus is to abuse and traumatise your child.


The minute they show up, your son or daughter will be wracked with guilt for all their misdeeds over the past 12 months and paralysed with fear that now is going to be payback time. What they do not know though, is that the information which is held in the Saint’s Golden Book, does not, in fact, come from the Angels. It’s been leaked by their own parents. Saint Nikolaus is merely the Julian Assange figure, compiling and publishing the data which their parents wrote down and passed on.

The experience for your children, as any American diplomat will confirm, is at best highly uncomfortable. The Saint will read out – in front of everyone – a list of your deeds and misdeeds from the past 12 months, and all the while the birch is sticking out of the top of his bag, or the Krampus is leering at you, about to abduct you from your home forever to lengthy torment and an early death.

On top of this… having put you through all this torture, the Saint will then expect you to recite a poem. Or sing a song. Or perform on the piano or the recorder.  Have you ever tried remembering the words to “Advent Advent” when you’re actually crapping your pants?

Even though the Saint (nearly) always comes up with the sweeties in the end, the burden of guilt and doubt are the overriding memories. The Lebkuchen and Pfeffernüsse will turn to ashes in your mouth.

Compared to St. Nikolaus, the British/American Santa Claus seems…well, like Father Christmas!

, via Wikimedia Commons”]


Filed under About Germany, children in germany, German festivals, Life in Germany