Monthly Archives: July 2012

Random stuff spotted while driving through Krefeld

I had to go to Krefeld today. Not an exciting trip – just to a business area of the city. But while driving though I snapped a few images of… well random things.

First up… the aftermath of a Polterabend. This is the German equivalent of a stag night/hen night. The Germans don’t celebrate separately – they invite all their joint friends to one raucous party. Traditions include hanging up a washing line of baby clothes – just in case the bride-and-groom-to-be haven’t got the point about marriage.  There were also a few remaining shards of broken crockery on the footpath. Guests at a Polterabend traditionally smash crockery outside the house. The broken pots are swept up, usually by the groom, under the watchful eye of the bride, who will be getting the marriage started how she means it to go on.


Baby clothes to encourage the bride and groom

Next… a few streets further on… a relic from the last war.

This is one of the old bunkers, or air-raid shelters which still stand in many German cities.  Some of them are up for sale, if you want a very sturdy property with two metre thick walls and no windows. Handy if the teenage kids take up the drums, I suppose…


A left over air raid shelter from the second world war

Third, a burnt out lumber yard. This, I admit, I came upon by accident because I took a wrong turning. But I had read a news report about a timber yard going up in flames the other day, and all of a sudden there I was, outside the gate of the very spot.

Timber yard

Aftermath of a “Großbrand”

Not far from there I turned round in a supermarket carpark – which interestingly enough is a solar powered supermarket.

Solar powered supermarket

Solar panels on the roof

And just in case you wanted to know how much solar energy is being generated – there is a notice board to tell you.

solar panels

One supermarket roof produces enough energy to power 25 households, apparently


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A newfound enthusiasm for flavoured crisps sweeps Germany!

It was only a month ago when I commented on Germany’s discovery of flavoured crisps (or chips for any US readers dropping in), and already the Germans are amazing me with their inventiveness.  Following hard on the heels of the Currywurst crisp, Germany would now like to present you with the very latest in snack flavourings… ladies and gentlement, a big hand for the Hangover Crisp!

Hangover chips

Do they cause or cure a hangover? The small print does not explain….


Filed under About Germany, food

What Germans think we eat…

I was out in Neuss today, when I noticed a sign outside Lidl advertising their upcoming British food week.

Now, aside from my incredulity that Germans would be flocking to the supermarket to stock up on English fare, I have to admit that I was curious as to what Lidl would have selected as “British specialities”. The whole array was illustrated on a tartan tablecloth, so I supected there might be a Scottish theme – but apart from the shortbread, I can’t say I spotted one.

So, without further ado… I shall reveal the selection!

Germany British food

What Germans think we eat…

Starting at top left, we have a ready meal of fish and chips. Alaska pollack pieces though, rather than North Sea Cod.  The chips claim to be extra fat… but there is no mention of mushy peas or malt vinegar on the box, so authentic it won’t be.

Next up – three flavours of crisps. Confusingly these are referred to as Chips – but these are different chips to the ones you get with your battered pollack pieces.  The flavours are sea salt and balsemic vinegar, lightly salted and sea salt and black pepper.  Oh dear oh dear. I don’t think any Brits would be rushing to buy those then! No malt vinegar, no cheese and onion, no prawn cocktail or smokey bacon or worcestershire sauce… not even any hedgehog or tandoori….

The luxury caramel shortcakes look nice. I think my Mum used to make those once in a blue moon.  But moving across, even I have to admit defeat at the tea selection.  The first one is called English Tea Time. The second is called 8 O’Clock Tea and the third is 5 O’Clock Tea.  Now, I suspect just a hint of Germanism creeping into these brand names. I’m familiar with English Breakfast Tea… but only a German could be so precise as to dictate that it should be drunk at exactly 8 a.m.  The same with the afternoon tea. Last time I looked, afternoon tea could perfectly well be taken any time from around 3 in the afternoon up to about half past six. Only a German would define tea time quite so rigidly. I’m thinking that the only option is to buy the one called English Tea Time… which by definition is any time you want a cuppa.

Across from the tea is some cheddar cheese. What a shame that for British week they picked the only type of English cheese regularly available in Germany anyway. Surely it would have been more interesting to have picked a crumbly Lancashire or a mature Wensleydale…

Next to the cheese is a tin of baked beans (not exactly Heinz, but at least I’ll grant them that it’s authentically part of the British diet).  There are also what look like fake After Eight Mints…  (though here the Germans are remarkably silent on the appropriate hour to eat these).

But I do confess to being very confused by the final items – which are three flavours of Joghurt British Style.  At first glance these seem to be no different to anyone else’s fruit yoghurts…. but maybe I’m missing something here. What on earth is a British Style Yoghurt? Anyone?


Filed under food, Life in Germany, shopping in Germany

Train travel in Germany

Summer holidays have started in Germany – and to beat the traffic, many Germans will be taking to the trains.

German Trains

Well connected

Of course no self respecting German would embark on a lengthy train journey without first grabbing a Wurst or two at the station…

German sausage

Bratwurst to go?

… and of course a bag of Prezels, just in case the buffet car is crowded….

German Prezel Stand

Stock up… you never know where your next Prezel is coming from….

… and maybe a Fleischsalat on the side.  Germany is the only country I know where you can buy “salad” which doesn’t actually contain salad.


“Meat salad” – warning, may not contain salad.

There’s plenty to see if you pick the right route.  In Köln the railway bridge is guarded by imposing statues… and of course the central station is only a few yards from the famous Kölner Dom.  (Zero out of ten for town-planning  – though if you have to change train, it’s a chance to pop out and visit one of Germany’s most impressive sights).


Guardian of the tracks

I also recommend the slow train from Köln going South which runs along the banks of the Rhine. Spectacular views of the vineyards, castles and the Loreley rocks.  Definitely worth the extra time it takes.

Before you know it, you’re abroad….


Definitely a foreign language


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At last! German snacks take a leap forward into the 1980s

One of the things which all British expats in Germany have yearned for over the years has been flavoured crisps. (For Americans reading this, crisps are what you call chips. Confusingly what we call chips is what you call French fries… but I digress….)

Crisps are a sort of soul food for the Brits. We take them on picnics, we order them in the pub with our beer, we nibble on them in front of the TV and hand them out to our children to keep them going until lunchtime. And British crisps come in all kinds of fabulous flavours. Salt and vinegar, cheese and onion, Worcestershire sauce (Americans – that’s pronounced Wuster), prawn cocktail, smokey bacon….

When I first arrived in Germany the crisp scene was dismal. There were two sorts of crisps. Plain or paprika. For about the first fifteen years of living here, nothing much changed. Oh, there were launches of other snack types… Pringles and Nachos and things… but real crisps with added flavours still remained a rarity – and any attempt at copying a gutsy taste like salt and vinegar had to be watered down for the German palate (balsemic vinegar and sea salt… it just doesn’t come close!).

So imagine my surprised and delight when I discovered the Germans starting to experiment with creating their VERY OWN crisp culture. A big round of applause ladies and gentlemen, for the first all-German flavoured crisp!

Currywurst crisps

Currywurst crisps! Soul food for Germans?

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Filed under About Germany, food, Life in Germany