Thursday, October 31, 2013

Random German Food

I like food and I like taking pictures of food.  So here are a few meals I've had so far:

Traditional German breakfast can include sliced meats, cheese, and bread so I partook during my layover in Frankfurt on my way to Stuttgart.  My body had no idea what time it was so it was more of a snack than true breakfast.

I like gravy and so do Germans.  With the gravy is roast pork.  On the left is Spätzle, or Swabian noodles, which Wikipedia tells me is an egg noodle typical of southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  I've also seen it with cheese and ham bits as either a side or main dish.

Here's an example of a time where I just pointed at something on the menu since I don't know German.  Luckily I ended up with roast beef in gravy.  Instead of noodles, it came with a dumpling (Knödel) that was about the size, and density, of a baseball.  This made for a pretty heavy lunch but it was delicious. While it would seem to be an afterthought, the salads are actually really good here and often feature interesting things like corn or beets.

It's a long story why but instead of flying United Airlines to Germany, I was rebooked to Lufthansa and this was one of the snacks we got.  The pretzel guy amuses me.

This was my attempt at a healthy meal.  It was from a Scandinavian restaurant in the mall and consisted of fried fish, potatoes, and tartar sauce.  And a beer.  Beer is served everywhere and is generally $0.50 to $1.00 more than a soda or water but sometimes the same price.  Tap water is never served so if you want water, you have to pay for it.  I just assume go for beer.

 Not much is open on Sundays so my second Sunday here I gave up and ate a chicken wrap at the hotel.  With a beer.

This was another attempt at a healthy lunch.  It was grilled turkey.  Little did I know they would throw gravy and a slab of herb butter on it and then add fries. Not that I was going to complain either.

I landed in Stuttgart at 9am and I knew it would be several hours before my hotel room would be ready so I just headed downtown.  I parked the car (with a month's worth of clothes in it) and wandered down to what I would later realize is Die Königstraße.  They had some kind of festival going on so I bought a bratwurst (and a beer) from a tent that seemed to be raising money for charity.  I say seemed to because without knowing any German I have no idea what it was for. But it was good and seemed like an appropriate introduction to my new home.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Paperwork Day and Running Around in the Dark

Today was paperwork day on base!  Kristin got her first experience on a base because we had to get her all checked in and legal.  The first stop was Patch Barracks (where Matt works) so that we could get her a military ID card.  A few questions about our marriage license (the guy wanted to know what exactly were the Turks and Caicos Islands) and one bad black and white picture later, she was official.  We then headed over to Panzer Barracks to get her registered with the bases in Germany so that she can get on base without needing Matt to be with her.  (Patch and Panzer are about 10 km apart, just outside of the city of Stuttgart.)  Then off to the passport office so that Kristin could get her Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) status, which allows us to enter Germany without needing a visa.  (It is a cool card that is taped to the last page of our passports.)

We had lunch with one of Matt's co-workers and his wife on base, and then it was time for the fun stuff!  Kristin visited the library to get a library card and to find out what things they have for lending -- lots of books (online and in print), magazines and DVDs.  Then she wandered around the commissary for a while.  She was surprised how good the selection was and how cheap the prices were.  There were lots of items for Thanksgiving and a pretty good baking aisle (although she'll definitely need to bring some specialty items from the US).  It will be nice for her to be able to cook again once we are finally in an apartment.

We spent Tuesday night running around in the dark in Vaihingen. We weren't lost, we were part of a running group called the Stuttgart Hash House Harriers (, who run about twice a week around the area.  One of Matt's coworkers is part of the group and was nice enough to invite Matt along.  Tuesday was Kristin's first Hash and Matt's third in Stuttgart.

Rather than running on a flat paved surface in a straight line (Kristin's specialty), the Stuttgart H3 follow chalk and colored flour markings on the ground on a secret run devised by a leader called The Hare.  You follow the symbols around in order to complete an 8K run.  Don't follow the symbols correctly?  Your run will be a lot more than 8K!

The hardest part is that most of the Tuesday night runs are on the trails in the hilly Stuttgart-area forests.  Which means it is totally dark while you are running.  Lots of uphill and downhill. And some of the path involves a bit of bushwhacking through the mud.  Luckily Matt brought a flashlight and is pretty great at keeping the light from bouncing around (Kristin...not so much).      

After the run we gathered at an Irish Pub in the center of Vaihingen called the Auld Rogue.  The food was really great -- Kristin really liked the bread on her BLT and Matt thought the burgers were yummy.  And they had great beer and cider.  Definitely a treat after a fun run.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Checking Out Stuttgart's Northeast and the Suburbs

Sunday morning started off great with a trip to a local Bäckerei (bakery) for coffee, tea and pastries.  It is very quiet in the city on Sundays since most everything is closed. There were only a handful of places we saw with signs of life. 

From the Bäckerei we headed over to the Schlossgarten again for a leisurely morning walk.  This time we headed northeast all the way to the Neckar River (near where Matt attended the Volksfest last week).

The Neckar River is the 10th largest river in Germany and a major tributary of the Rhine.  It actually flows from South to North.  Along the river are a couple of mineral baths.  Kristin is suspicious of the idea, but they looked quite nice.

Getting to see the river on a lovely day was a real treat. 

We then headed through the Schlossgarten to see the Unterer Schlossgarten (Lower Castle Garden) and the Mittlerer Schlossgarten (Middle Castle Garden).  And to walk off all the pastry we had for breakfast.  There were lots of people out walking and jogging.  We're pretty sure this will become one of Matt's favorite jogging spots.  Kristin will never have a favorite anything related to jogging.  She just prefers to check out the nice scenery standing still in her cute Banana Republic jacket (thanks Emily!).

We are looking forward to visiting the zoo and the botanical gardens that are also located in the Schlossgarten, but we will have to save those for another time.  Instead, we took time to enjoy all of the sun.

We grabbed a quick lunch at San's (near the Königstraße), which had great soups and panini sandwiches, and then headed out for a quick drive through some of the neighborhoods we are considering for our apartment.  Stuttgart is actually very hilly, so we need to make sure that our place isn't too far uphill!  The walk up to where we were standing for this picture would not be fun.

From there we checked out some of the suburbs around Stuttgart.  Sindelfingen and Boblingen are a few miles past Vaihingen (pronounced vine-agin), where Matt works.

Unfortunately for Kristin, the rental car is a standard, so we needed to head to the suburbs for some much-needed driving lessons.  Kristin was only honked at twice (by the same person) and managed to successfully navigate around the villages.  The rental car is much more forgiving than Matt's jeep.

We celebrated her success with dinner at the Rainbow Garden Thai Restaurant in Boblingen.  The food was really delicious!  We need to come back a few more times so we can get carved vegetables with our meal like locals at the table next to us -- on top of their meal was a carrot fisherman with a fishing pole and a carrot fish on the end of its line.  We wish we could have taken a picture, but you'll have to make do with a picture of our meal, which was just a little bit less ornate.

The restaurant also had an amazing saltwater fish tank.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lovely Day for Wandering

It was Kristin's first day in Stuttgart and we took advantage of the lovely weather to wander around the center of town. 

We first checked out the Opera House, which is located on a pretty pond in the Oberer Schlossgarten (the Upper Castle Garden). The Schlossgarten is a large park that runs through Stuttgart, similar to Central Park. The trees aren't as fabulously colorful as New England in the fall, but we can't complain. The weather was fantastic, so there were lots of people around enjoying a beautiful fall day. (No coats! That wasn't just for the picture.)

We then made our way to the Schlossplatz (Castle Square), the larges square in the center of Stuttgart.  The Neues Schloss (New Palace) is a huge Baroque government building the sits on the square. It was almost completely destroyed during WWII bombings, but has since been restored. 

We took our time checking out all the shops on the Königstraße (King Street). Folks claim it is the longest pedestrian shopping district in all of Germany.  My sore toes tell me it is true. There are a bunch of chain stores (like H&M and Zara), as well as some quirky smaller shops.  Kristin found a yarn store and a craft store, so she was more than happy.

We also took a long walk through some neighborhoods in the west of the city that we are interested in living in.  We are hopeful that we can find a place that is close to the city, but also a relatively quick drive to Matt's work. We don't think it will be an easy task, but we are hopeful.  Kristin needs to figure out the German translation for "I need a ginormous kitchen" before we meet our first real estate agent. 

For dinner we ate at a really tasty Italian place called Valle.  There was a great outdoor patio with heaters. The pastas were homemade and the pizzas looked delicious (a must-try for next time).  

It was a fun first day with both of us here!  We can't wait to get out and explore more of Stuttgart and further afield. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Our Stuff is Moving to Germany

We've packed up our apartment in D.C. and are officially (almost) moved to Germany.  We were very sad to leave our first place together in Friendship Heights, which we've called home for more than 3 1/2 years!  We are definitely going to miss all of the food and friends nearby.

The movers made fast work of packing up our place.  Everything was packed and loaded into the moving truck in about 7 hours.  If we had packed everything ourselves it would have taken days.  Kristin would have procrastinated for weeks.
We made sure they put extra bubble wrap around the TV.  (That's Carlos.  He was very fast at packing up our stuff.  He also had a holster for his tape gun.  He's a pro.)
We better have packed up the right stuff because we won't see it for another 3-4 months.  Everything will be spending some quality time in a moving truck, then in storage until we let the movers know we are ready to move into our place in Stuttgart, then in a container ship across the Atlantic, and then in another moving truck from the dock in Germany to Stuttgart.  Hopefully everything makes it safely (or we better have filled out the insurance forms correctly)! 
For now Apartment #703 is empty.  We hope the next occupants love it as much as we did. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Having a Beer (or Two) at the Volksfest

Matt went to Volksfest ( today to check out the locals. It was a huge festival with lots of carnival-like rides, games, and food stands. Unfortunately, Matt did not win any XXXL stuffed animals.  He will have to try again next year.

Then there were 10 gigantic biergartens interspersed that held thousands of people eating, dancing, and drinking that tent's special beer by the liter.  The tents were very elaborate.

They were filled with people dancing on the benches.  The songs had choreography that everyone in the biergartens knew. Matt was worried about injuries when everyone jumped up and down at once.  While holding liters of beer.  Wearing lederhosen and dirndls.

Matt focused on beer drinking rather than dancing.