Monthly Archives: April 2012

Walpurgisnacht and Tanz in den Mai

It’s a big night tonight in the Fatherland!

If you happen to be a witch, warlock, hobgoblin or demon (and I think some of my regular commentators would fall into one of those categories) then this is Walpurgis night – the night when you are allowed to fly about on broomsticks and cause trouble. Of course, as a modern German miscreant, causing trouble probably means filing your income tax late or failing to have the emissions tested on your car… but if you want to do the traditional thing, you’ll fly on a broomstick to the Brocken (tallest peak in the Harz mountains) where the coven will be celebrating. Apparently.

Germans behaving in a disorderly manner.

For those of us (and I include myself in this) that are altogether less witchlike or demonic, or just don’t happen to own a functional flying broom, the alternative is to pop down to the local pub. They will be celebrating Tanz in den Mai tonight – fundamentally this is a dance to welcome the Spring… the name indicates that we’ll be dancing the month of May in, rather than dancing in the month of May, if you get my drift.

The actual quality of the dancing tonight will be largely determined by the amount of the Maibowle which has been consumed. This is a lethal German weapons-grade fizzy punch which contains the world’s most obnoxious herb – Waldmeister (woodruff).

The Maibowle... a recipe which must never be allowed to fall into the hands of Germany's enemies...

In my experience, the effect of the Maibowle on a living human organism is to cause a vast increase in physical energy combined with almost total muscular paralysis. The result is that you will end up dancing like a demented stick insect, although for some reason you will be convinced you are performing Swan Lake at the Bolshoi. The spiking of your drink with Waldmeister adds the complication that you might actually hurl the entire contents of your digestive system at any moment….as may all the people performing stick-insect pirouettes around you.

Waldmeister is so noxious that the German tobacco industry is actually banned from incorporating it into its products. So what do the Germans do? They feed it to their kids.   Sweets, desserts, fizzy pop…. the list of treats which are infested with the stuff is endless.  When attending kids’ parties in Germany I make it a firm rule never to eat or drink anything that’s green. If it’s too nasty for the tobacco industry, I’m not eating it.

Woodruff flavoured jelly. WHY?

So tonight, I’ve decided that the lesser of the evils will be to mount my Vileda Wischmop and fly off to the Harz mountains. Let’s hope there’s only eye-of-newt and toe-of-frog in the cauldron!




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

Spargelzeit in Germany

It is officially Spargelzeit. Asparagus season.

Asparagus is the first home grown fresh crop of the season, allegedly. After a long winter of Sauerkraut and pickled gherkins, the Germans can’t wait for fresh food to come round again, so they tell me.

Now, before you start sending food parcels, let me point out that in the days of supermarkets and year round fresh produce, this simply isn’t true … but the Germans still manage to believe it, despite all the evidence in their fridges and pantries. In reality these days, Spargelzeit is a bit like having chocolate at Easter when you didn’t actually fast during Lent.

Of course Spargel has been in the shops for weeks now – but that’s foreign asparagus. German asparagus is just coming into season now. It’s grown all around Germany – you can spot the tell-tale signs of an asparagus crop because you’ll see what looks like some sort of military or industrial pipeline installation. Sometimes all you see is black ridges of earth – as though giant moles had been crawling in parallel lines across the field. This is, of course, just a method of keeping the asparagus white by ensuring it doesn’t see the light of day.

Asparagus growing under cover

Harvesting asparagus is back-breaking work… so on behalf of all ungrateful German gourmets I hereby offer heartfelt thanks to all the migrant labourers who schlepp over to Germany from Eastern Europe and beyond and do the awful job for the minimum wage (if they’re lucky). Every shoot has to be cut by hand and packed into a box for transport.

Lower back pain guaranteed....

German restaurants abandon their entire regular menu at this time of the year, and introduce a special Spargelmenu… asparagus soup, asparagus salad, pasta with asparagus, ham with asparagus…. but the absolute classic is asparagus with sauce hollandaise and potatoes.

Germans dream of this all winter, apparently.

As a result of this culinary obsession with asparagus, conversation in Germany becomes very tedious at this time.  Where there used to be animated debate about politics, literature, art and science, now there is only one topic which occupies the excitable brains of the teutonic nation.

Does asparagus make your urine smell?





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

What to buy the German who has everything…

I was scouring the internet this week in search of the perfect gift for a German friend. Gift in German means poison by the way… but fortunately I knew this, or the entire exercise could have ended very badly. I’d probably have bought gift-wrapped cyanide by mistake.

Of course it may still end badly. Here is a shortlist of the extraordinary German present ideas I found:

Yodelling mug

Yes, it yodels, apparently, whenever you pick it up from a flat surface. According to the blurb you can delight your work colleagues with the cheerful sound of yodelling while you drink your coffee. I wonder whether this wouldn’t be a more effective way of getting someone killed than giving them cyanide.

Nose-shaped shower gel dispenser

We all know that being ill is a national hobby in Germany. Ask after a German’s health only if you have a good half hour to spare and don’t mind listening to tales about haemorrhoids, pustules or embarassing itching. So what could be more fun for a Teuton than to start the day by squirting gloopy jets of snot out of an oversized nose. That way, even if they’re inadvertently well, they’ll have something to regale their co-workers with:  This morning I produced a very fine stream of green goo from my nose…

Angela Merkel lemon juicer

When buying a gift for the German who genuinely has everything, I’d still be prepared to take a punt that they don’t already have an Angela Merkel lemon juicer. Though I’m prepared to be proved wrong…

Whistling garden gnome

As we know, no German garden is complete without at least one gnome. Preferably a whole cluster of them (what is the collective of gnome anyway?). This gnome comes equipped with a sensor and whistles whenever someone goes past. It’s the perfect gift for anyone with a grudge against their postman…

An inflatable  penis outfit

Whether it’s carnival, or just a normal day, surely no German can resist the urge to dress up as a penis?

Hmmm…. gift-wrapped cyanide is looking ever more like the best choice….


Filed under Uncategorized

The ultimate slogan fail?

This week a radical Islamic group, the Salafisten, are handing out free copies of the Koran translated into German on the streets of German cities. From their publicity poster, I suspect they are not targeting English speakers though.

Lies! in German means read!   Expat Brits probably won’t be tempted….


Filed under About Germany, books, Life in Germany

International branding fail…

Sometimes you just wonder how the Germans decide on brand names… like our local children’s hospital for instance…


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