Now that we are into the Summer the street entertainers are out in force. Of course there are plenty of international musicians … I’ve seen Romany groups from Eastern Europe, pan pipe bands from the Andes and even a man wearing a kilt and playing the bagpipes. But what does a typical German street entertainer look like?
If you ask me, the typical German busker is the Organ Grinder. There is one in every shopping centre at this time of the year. The instrument is often cobbled together from various components… and the traditional monkey has usually been replaced by a Steiff stuffed toy.
A German organ grinder….
This one has a nod to modernity with a Sesame Street puppet tacked onto the front… roll up ladies and gents… bring out your loose change….
I was in Viersen today and I came across these flower arrangements in the town centre. Clearly the municipal gardeners are quite innovative!
Well… either that or the town has been invaded by ten-foot high scary alien flower-people. And flower-chickens.
Ten-foot tall alien-flower-person?
We come in peace. Step into the floral force-field…
Take us to your leader…
Our alien-giant-flower-chicken will invade your town centre and mow down any bicycles which cross its path…
Of course one of the most disconcerting things about living abroad is getting used to the toilet culture. Imagine my confusion today, while visiting a client’s offices which had both a male and female sign on the lavatory door, when I went in and found this scene.
His and hers?
Should I sit one the girls’ throne in the expectation that one of my male colleagues would join me, to use the urinal? Should I use my briefcase as a barricade against the door to repel invaders? What is the etiquette if someone of either sex comes in? Does one strike up conversation? What is the best subject? Should I stick to the weather or move to the more topical ground of digestive health?
The dividing screen provides the absolute minimum level of privacy… but allows for the possibility of eye contact. But what if the man using the urinal is exceptionally tall?
Germans – I need your help here. What is the correct local etiquette in a mixed facility?
I was on the Autobahn to Köln this morning when I was overtaken by what appeared to be a pretty ancient police vehicle. Still in the old green livery, although most of the police vehicles around us have been converted to blue.
Left over from the 1980s?
It’s hard to believe that an old banger like this is still in service for the police – although the licence plate looks real enough. Maybe there’s a veterans’ reunion taking place? A secret policemen’s ball? Or was it a film shoot for a retro episode of Tatort?
Best guesses in the comments please!
…I want to be the person who gets to name German breakfast cereals!
Choc Blop anyone?
Do Choco Balls taste nice?
Beats cornflakes into a cocked hat!
Oooh! This is exciting!
The very lovely bloggeress who writes Life Lessons of a Military Wife has nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award! Oh kindest of military spouses, I gratefully accept. I would also like to thank my family, my cats, my agent and especially the entire German nation for inspiring me with their teutonic antics.
This is a great way for bloggers to acknowledge the other bloggers who inspire them, or who provide insight, wisdom, humour, light relief or just distraction from the great inanity which is the internet.
The rules of the award are that I get to tell you about 15 blogs which I read and enjoy – and these are the blogs which I nominate in my turn for the Versatile Blogger Award. So… a big round of applause for:
- Jeffusions (Fabulous, fabulous writing)
- Letters Home (Ian always has an interesting story or perspective and you never leave his blog unmoved)
- Lizzy’s Literary Life (A superb source of reading inspiration)
- Snooker in Berlin (Great anecdotes and photos of weird stuff from the capital)
- Deutschland über Elvis (A sideways glance at life in Germany by the Honourable Husband)
- Ruth’s Reflections (A delightful ragbag of snippets about life in Christchurch, recovering from earthquakes)
- Click Clack Gorilla (Tales from the coolest Waggonplatz in Germany )
- Heisse Scheisse (If you thought expat life in Germany couldn’t get any worse…)
- Heidelbergerin (… then try this for more trials and tribulations of life in Germany…)
- Heather in Europe (…or even this, for even more funny expat culture shock)
- What’s for lunch honey? (Sheer food porn. Every time I read this blog, I put another inch on my hips.)
- Yum Yum Café (Saves me trawling around the internet for cool clips to share with my friends- Yumyum finds the best stuff)
- Shedworking (I work from a garden office which featured in the Shedworking book – and I’m always envious because everyone else has much cooler sheds than me – aspirational stuff).
- How to write better (Suze is a writer herself and shares great tips… which I always wish I could remember when I’m writing myself)
- 1001 Nights (I’m so glad someone’s ploughing through the 1001 tales and summarizing them for me, because I’d never get around to it otherwise)
And now, I will tell you seven things about me.
- I work in a pig sty. OK – a former pig sty. It’s now been converted into a rather cool office.
- I recently visited the former independent state of Moresnet
- I can speak Dutch
- I make my own wine with my home grown grapes
- I also grow rhubarb, figs and aubergines – plus quite a lot of other things
- I have been interviewed on German TV
- I wrote a book , the success of which inspired me to take up blogging. I’m glad about writing both the book and the blog, because I’ve made lots of new friends in the process.
The German nation shops on its stomach.
Germans, it seems, cannot undertake any task without first stoking up with a sausage. This has inspired a cunning generation of German sausage vendors to pitch their vans everywhere and anywhere where Germans might be more than ten minutes away from their own fridge.
If you need to find the entrance to a German DIY store, it will be located behind the sausage stand. Because no German would face a half hour perusal of drills and planks on an empty stomach.
Before you can even enter the DIY store you have to negotiate the sausage stand
Getting the car serviced is stressful for anyone – but in Germany at least you can comfort-eat your way through the experience.
Waiting while your car is fixed? You’ll be needing sustenance…
And we all know that shopping should never be undertaken on an empty stomach… not that any German would dream of it.
Shopping is such hungry work…
Of course a typical German sausage is a mighty beast – the size of a toddler’s forearm, with a very precise line of mustard (or ketchup) squirted across the top. The difference between Germans and me, is that Germans can manage to eat their sausage without the mustard slopping all over their shirt. In areas with a high immigrant population (and therefore the highest shirt-soiling quota) there are often alternative snacks – like entire-roast-chicken stands. Because even messy foreigners can’t be expected to shop on an empty stomach…
Roast chicken … the alternative for those who can’t eat a sausage without dribbling mustard on their clothes
At this time of year, wherever you travel in Germany, you will find odd little stalls everywhere. It’s that season of the year you see. The strawberry and asparagus season.
Just another one of those 24-hour strawberry and asparagus places…
What appears odd to the non-German, is that these stalls only sell strawberries and asparagus. Nothing else.
This of course sparked my curiosity, because as they say… what’s sold together, goes together. Do the Germans have a whole range of secret culinary gems which use strawberries and asparagus in the same dish?
So I called upon Uncle Google and discovered literally dozens of recipes including:
Strawberry and Asparagus Risotto
Strawberry and Asparagus Salad
Coley with Strawberries and Asparagus
Caramellised Asparagus with Strawberries and Ice Cream
Asparagus in a Strawberry Vinagrette
Germany’s secret cuisine…
So I shall be racing along to the nearest late-night strawberry and asparagus place to stock up… there’s a whole new German secret cuisine to discover!
One of Germany’s greatest institutions is the pavement kiosk. Everyone in the neighbourhood stops off to pick up a newspaper, cigarettes, chocolate or ice cream.
But in the well-heeled end of Meererbusch where the wealthiest bankers, company directors and celebrities reside, the local Büdchen (kiosk) takes on a new twist. Industrialists, financiers and wags do not just grab a quick Mars bar on their way to the station. They do not pause for a tin of cola while walking their dog.
So the canny kiosk vendors of Meererbusch have had to take their offering upmarket. Next time you jog the pavements of the leafy villa district, do remember to stop off for a quick snorter of restorative champagne en route.
A packet of Lucky Strike and a bottle of your finest Sekt, Kumpel!
Or if, as a member of the super-rich elite, you feel a snack-attack coming on, do tarry for a spot of caviar, just to keep body and soul together.
Merciful relief for those suffering a caviar-attack!
And of course, they do serve a rather acceptable cup of coffee to local residents, if it should happen to be the butler’s day off.
Tobacconist to the super-wealthy
I was out and about in Düsseldorf this week when I spotted a rather funky little vehicle parked in the multi-storey car-park on the Carlsplatz.
From the nation which brought you the Porsche 911….
Now obviously Germans are usually a bit picky about their cars. Brands like Audi, Mercedes, Daimler-Benz, Porsche… all tend to head into the territory which marketers like to call “aspirational.”
So I was a bit flummoxed by the appearance of what looked like a complete Noddy-car in the midst of all the serious looking black prestige vehicles. A three-wheel one-seater, designed to look more like a grasshopper than a limousine.
On closer inspection, all became clear. This was a green car. It runs on electricity rather than fossil fuel. This little chap was docked into the re-charging station, getting its batteries ready for its next trip.
Electro-car recharging station
There are a handful of these docking stations scattered around Düsseldorf these days. With petrol prices where they are, maybe we’ll start to see people swapping the Mercedes for one of these little bobby-cars.