Monthly Archives: February 2011

A German diet for Lent? Bullshitters of the Lord and Nun’s Farts.

Next week will be Karneval in Germany – that famous binge-fest of doughnuts and beer.  (Look out hips… prepare for rapid expansion!) But once the five days of revelry are over, it will be Lent. Time for fasting and contemplation.

Of course, German cuisine does not lend itself to fasting. At this time of the year it’s all thick stews and dumplings. The concept of going without meat is alien to most Germans too – especially as the weather starts to warm up and the grill could conceivably be brought back into action.

Perhaps I should follow the example of the monks of Maulbronn and cheat my way through Lent. According to legend, the monks disliked the constraint of not eating meat during Lent, and came up with the idea of Maultaschen – a teutonic form of ravioli where the meat is hidden inside a coating of pasta-dough (where God can’t see it).  These are also known locally as “Herrgottbescheißerle” – literally Bullshitters of the Lord.

Planet Germany

Of course no Fastnacht would be complete at the cloister without a plate of Nonnenfürzle (literally Nun’s Farts).  These are little deep fried sugar doughnuts.  Did I mention that Germans don’t like dieting?

Alternatively I could go for one of the classic German Lenten dishes like Gepreßter Schweinskopf aus Fisch – literally pressed pig’s head from fish. You just boil up a lot of fish, strain out the bones, mould it into the shape of a pig’s head (apple in mouth optional) and serve.  Did I mention that Germans don’t get the idea of not eating meat?

I think after the excesses of Karneval I shall focus on salads. In Germany this means Krautsalat. That’s white cabbage salad. A quick trawl of the internet tells me there are well over 200 different recipes for Krautsalat. Somehow I suspect I’m not going to enjoy any of them.

Now that’s what I call fasting!

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Filed under About Germany, food, German festivals, Life in Germany

Win a FREE copy of Planet Germany

Great news for all regular Planet Germany readers! Young Germany is giving away a FREE copy of my book . If you haven’t already read it, it’s a great opportunity to pick up a copy for nothing. Swabians… take note!


Filed under books

The German military always get such bad film roles…

For those of us who grew up on the output of Pinewood studios, the last role you ever wanted to be cast in was the German soldier. They always ended up being outsmarted by the cunning but underdog allies.  Your last line was always something like “Gott im Himmel!” before you were taken out by a bouncing bomb, or your zeppelin went down in flames or something.

A quick trawl through some of the photo material available at the Bundeschiv suggests that there’s another side to the German military… and I thought I’d share. So next time you get cast as the idiot sleeping sentry, at least you’ll know it wasn’t all the way the script suggests…

Planet Germany

Steve McQueen, eat your heart out!

Planet Germany

Helmut...I think we lost something

Planet Germany

Who stole my pint?

Planet Germany

Rappers, Herr Oberst. Hundreds of them!

Planet Germany

Maybe we could get a role in the Carry On films instead...


Filed under About Germany, german history, World War 2

Eurovision in Düsseldorf

We are preparing for the onslaught.

In 13 weeks and 3 days from now (there is, of course, a countdown on the official website) Düsseldorf will be hosting the Eurovision Song Contest and the preparations are in full swing. The local football club, Fortuna Düsseldorf, is vacating its stadium and moving into a “mobile stadium” next door for the period. The city is advertising for volunteer helpers, particularly those who speak minority languages, to support the various delegations. Düsseldorfers are registering online to rent out their spare rooms.You’d almost think we’d all become Swabians!

For those of us lucky enough to live in the city, there is good news and bad news.

The bad news is that the tickets for the final sold out within about 3 nanoseconds of them going on sale. So we’ll have to watch it on TV like everyone else. Or if we live around Stockum or Kaiserswerth, we could just open the window and listen.


The good news is that there will be plenty of great events around Eurovision which we will be able to join in. Obviously there are the “public viewings” – a word which mysteriously entered the German language during the 2006 World Cup and means anything from watching the TV in the pub to joining the masses in a public square where a giant screen has been set up.

There will also be a “fringe” (readers from Scotland will understand what I mean by that)  – the so-called Rahmenprogramm – including a Eurovision Song Contest for kids, flashmobs and the like. The city is currently polling the public for ideas.

Now, I happen to know for a fact that there are plenty of highly creative readers of this blog, so I’m throwing this one open to the public. What should we suggest to them?

Cliff Richard eternal youth makeover sessions? (With Lordi as make-up artists)

Puppet-on-a-string shows?

Vote rigging workshops?

Pure mathematics seminars on the “nul points” theory?

Ring-a-ding-a-ding bell-ringing contest?


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

Unburdening the bank

Over the last month we have been navigating the quagmire of German mortgage offers. Not that we are moving house, you understand. We are merely moving mortgage, as our original 10 year loans are nearly up.

To cut a long story short, having shopped around we finally found an offer which combined the various terms and flexibility which we wanted, and which our tax accountant approved of. This led to the paperwork stage…. which as you would imagine in Germany is painstakingly thorough and completely unavoidable. In fact the bank appears to need documented proof of absolutely every aspect of your life, and indeed that of your children and pets. This, to the British mind, is nothing short of nosey parker behaviour.

It is also a very arduous process, purely from a practical point of view. If you are British, you will inevitably lack the Germanic virtues which are summed up in that single term: Ordnung.

This means that the paperwork stage involves you searching through corners of the house you’d forgotten even existed, in a last minute attempt to track down some insurance policy document or a missing letter from the tax office.  You have to arm yourself with a good quality eraser, so you can expunge the hastily scribbled recipe for banana bread from the margin of your Bausparvertrag. And you also have to locate the iron, which you last used a decade earlier, so as to smooth out the crumples from your last three salary slips.

Eventually you will have located and arranged the fourteen thousand individual documents necessary for your mortgage application. You will have filled out the longest and most complex set of forms that German bureaucracy could devise and you finally sign the eighteen different documents, each in triplicate, which mean that your children and their children are bound in servitude for the next millenium. Or something.

Anyway, after multiple failed attempts (sorry, we do need the original deed/salary slip/tax return) we returned home with a signed, sealed and stamped set of forms and an acute sense of relief that this hideous process was over for another decade.

And then yesterday a package arrived in the post from the bank in question. The covering letter was very short.

Anbei übersende ich Ihnen die uns überlassenen Originalunterlagen zu unserer Entlastung zurück.

Literally: I am hereby returning your original documents so as to remove a burden from ourselves. (My emphasis)

Now, I may be missing the point here but it seems a bit rich to me, that the bank should feel burdened by our document pack. The document pack which they insisted on receiving, down to the very last tax statement and Grundbuchauszug. In fact, I’m pretty sure that we’re the ones who ought to feel burdened for having spent weeks rummaging through drawers and cupboards in search of some elusive but essential certificate.

The very fact that we managed to get the whole thing together is nothing short of a total fluke, because over the last ten years those life insurance policies could just have easily been used for starting the barbecue or demonstrating paper aircraft design. The bank should be in awe at our archaeological excavation skills in getting that lot together, intact and more or less unscathed.

The burden, gentlemen, was entirely ours!

No documentation loans? Excuse me?

No documentation loans? Not in Germany.... No way!


Check out my latest posts on Birds on the Blog:

John F. Kennedy, doughnuts and some very messy Germans

Did you hear the one about the German with a sense of humour



Filed under About Germany, Life in Germany