Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Garbage disposal is a whole different world here in Germany. It's not a simple matter of taking the trash out to the curb or dragging the voluntary recycling bin out there too. No, here in Germany it's a major process that all revolves around mandatory environmental recycling.
First, we don't just have a trash can. We have three, specifically different trash cans. Big blue is for clean paper and cardboard products. Brown is for biodegradable trash. Gray is for what they call "residual" garbage; stuff that has no recyclable capabilities. That might sound simple enough but on top of that there's also the yellow bag. That's a bag that you put your plastic and aluminum/metal objects. Everything from plastic trash bags to plastic soda bottles to vegetable cans. Now, if you followed all that you may be asking yourself what about glass products. Well, most glass bottles here are returnable and are expected to be handled as such. A case of beer bottles, with plastic carrying case has a $5 deposit so nothing to throw away. But, there's plenty of bottles that aren't returnable and for those there are special dumping stations in every town for their disposal. Again, it's not quite that simple though. When you get to the glass bottle disposal areas, there's a separate container for green, brown and clear glass. Beyond all this there are things that do not fit any of these categories; electronic devices, broken glass, ceramics etc. These items have a special, special area that you must take them to for disposal.
Here's our trash bins. Whoever this Jakob Becker is, he's raking in the Euros. His name is on almost every trash can, garbage tip, disposal unit and dumpster in Germany. At least in this area.
When we lived here before, 87-91, recycling was strictly voluntary. Now it is very much mandated and there's a stiff fine if you're discovered to be a habitual cheat on what you put in your trash cans. It's not like the garbage man is checking every bin but the yellow bag is a clear, see through yellow plastic bag (hence the name) so he and your neighbors can see if you're garbage bamboozler.
On top of all this there's a very specific pickup schedule for the various trash cans/yellow bags. Blue is picked up every four weeks. Yellow bag every other week. Gray and brown alternate week to week. There's a printed schedule that dictates each city/town/village pickup days. It's a bit complex and if there's any question it's a simple matter of looking out on the street in the morning to see what the neighbors put out.
We're not sure if this is a Weilerbach service or common in most towns but once a month, Saturday morning, a truck drives through the town ringing a bell. He drives very slowly giving people an opportunity to respond. If you have large items for the trash, including appliances, he'll stop and throw them on his truck. It's kind of a "Bring out your dead" scenario.
Here in Weilerbach our trash is picked up on Tuesdays so our strategy sessions for garbage removal takes place on Monday night. The good thing about this meeting of the minds, so that we know which trash to put out in the morning, is that it's greatly enhanced with a couple of local Pils, Bischoff (green bottle) or Bitburger (brown bottle). Trash and recycling etiquette must always remain in the forefront of your 21st century, green consumer thoughts.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Here's what the festival's web site has to say about the fest. "In Worms . . .the all-year favourite is the Backfischfest, a funfair paying tribute to the fishermen’s guild, Germany’s oldest guild founded in 1106. The name Backfischfest is a pun, denoting both ‘festival of fried fish in batter’ and ‘festival of teenage girls’. Every year on the last Saturday in August, the Bojemääschter vun de Fischerwääd—as the ‘mayor of the fishermen’s is called in the vernacular, and his wife, seize the power in the City Hall, starting nine days of celebration of the largest wine and funfair on the Rhine."
In spite of a few rain showers it was a great day. Again, we sampled the local wines and really enjoyed a Silvaner of which we bought two bottles to bring home. Had some great conversations with some of the locals and a couple from Cologne. Had pork steak on a brotchen, pork steak on a stick and pork in a brat. We were porked out when we got home.
Now look at this display of various sausages. The center sign advertises Black Forest Ham (Schwatzwälder Schinken) and below that you can see sausage links displayed on top of slabs of pork. Meat on meat, that kicksass!
Speaking of pork, here's what a typical grill looks like at one of these festivals. That's pork in bratwurst, rindwurst, rostbraten etc. All that pork but we didn't see any of the Vegan protesters at this festival.
Here's a trash can at the fest. More pork.
Some of you may say, "Oh big deal, we go to carnivals here too." Well, when was the last time that your local carnival had a medieval tower (with working clock) that now is used as a bridge footing for a highway crossing the Rhine River in the background.
Here's a video we took of typical German festival music.
Seriously, Germans love this kind of American music. "West Virginia" and "Sweet Home Alabama" are two of their favorites to sing along with at festivals and have been for decades.
Here's one last video to entertain you. A German guy balancing a beer on his head. We were talking to a couple when this started. Jeff said to the lady, "Das ist er hat einen flachen Kopf einfach." (That is easy, he has a flat head.) She replied, "Ja denke ich, dass er auch einen leeren Kopf hat." (Yes, I think he also has an empty head.) Very funny!!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Last weekend, to complete our first big wine fest weekend since arriving here in Germany, we started Saturday at the Wittlich Pig Fest. Sunday we drove up to Wiesbaden to attend the last day of their ten day city wine festival. We were driving out of Weilerbach when we remembered our very own town here was having a small festival of their own, a beach party. The folks in Weilerbach had brought in a couple loads of sand and created a small beach in one of the local parking lots. They had a stage with live music, beer venders (Park), various food places and merchants with different sorts of things. So before leaving town we stopped at the Beach Party for, what else, a brat, beer and pommes. Made for a nice lunch before the hour drive to Wiesbaden.
Wiesbaden's wine fest is a little different than most because it runs ten continuous days in August and it's right in the center of a rather large German city. All the vintners, food merchants, three live music stages and sales booths of various wares are situated around the city Rathaus (town hall) and the city's, unique, large red brick cathedral. Happily, we found a Kloster Anechs beer vendor. So we had a couple beers, a zwiebelrostbraten (pork cutlet sandwich with onions), sampled some wine, listened to some music (all english, American songs) and called it a day.
Here's Jeff under the Andechs umbrella. It was 85 and sunny there so the shade was nice.
So our first leisurely weekend proved quite successful. Three fests; Wittlich, Weilerbach and Wiesbaden. All W's, all pronounced as V.
Oh yeah, we had this "pizza" thing too. Paper thin crust, long, thin slices of canadian bacon, gouda cheese and all these greens (they kinda looked like dandelion leaves). But, it was very tasty.
The public toilets at these festivals are always interesting. At Wiesbaden's fest they had these big, high speed toilets. Each facility, men and women, was closely guarded by a respective attendant. Now, just because it was the men's facility didn't mean it would have a man attendant, same for the women. This particular one had two guys running the two toilets. Here you can see the glare of the men's attendant. The going rate for use is 50 cents Euro. You don't have to pay it but you'd probably get some kind of toilet curse put on you by one of these attendants.
The red brick cathedral behind the Wiesbaden Rathaus.
Monday, August 23, 2010
We love bratwurst and pomme frites. A week ago Saturday we got up early and attacked the last of the shipping boxes we had remaining from the move. We were finished by 1030 and since there were a few things we needed, nails and screws for hanging pictures, we drove into Kaiserslautern. Jeff had heard that the best bratwursts in the area are sold at Globus, a big, Walmart kind of store (not as big but a good place). They sell a bratwurst and brotchen (kickass bread roll) for only 1 Euro. 1 Euro!! A really great price. So, before we went over to Praktiker (a sort of Home Depot chain), we stopped at Globus for a brat. Although it was 1100, it turned out that this was Jeff's and my breakfast. Of course, if you have a brat you have to have a beer. So for breakfast we had bratwurst, and a little Bitburger. Oh yeah, and some pomme frites (French fries, but they're crisper and lighter than American fries and somewhat addictive; maybe they sprinkle a little crack cocaine on them.)
Saturday, August 21, 2010
We were drinking a beer with one of our landlords the other night, Bernd. We tapped our Weihenstephan bottles together and loudly pronounced "Prost!!" Bernd told us to be careful with that declaration. In Germany, the tradition goes that when saying "Prost" you must look your fellow beer drinkers directly in the eye. Anything else, a glance away or no attempt at eye contact at all will result in 10 years of bad sex. See, beer drinking can be serious business.
So . . . be careful.
Yesterday we were at the Wittlich (W's pronounced as V) Pig Fest. Wittlich is a small city near Bitburg and Spangdahlem, all just north of Trier about an hour from our home. The story behind the Pig Fest is that during ancient times the city was threatened by a horde of Huns. They felt secure though behind their Roman walls. However, the night prior to the Huns arriving, the bolt that was to be placed in the lock of the city's main gate could not be found. So a soldier placed a turnip in its place. (There seems to be some dispute as to whether it was a turnip or carrot but the official city statement does say turnip.) Well, during the night a pig came along and ate the turnip leaving the gate unlocked and allowing the Huns to enter and sack the city. Once the Huns left, the people of Wittlich slaughtered all the pigs as punishment. Now today the city cooks up over a 100 large pigs for the annual Pig Festival.
Wittlich is in the Mosel region of Germany so there are plenty of excellent, white German wines to sample. And, as mentioned, not far away is Bitburg, home of the Bitburger brewery. So, pork of all sorts, wine and beer were the faire of the day.
Germans like their parades and Wittlich, of course, had a pig parade. We don't know if that's what they call it but that seems appropriate. Here's a picture of a horse drawn wagon that carries the first pigs to be put on the spit. Those look like turnips to us.
We're assuming that this must be the pig queen float. There were easily 50 or more pig princesses that didn't make queen but at least they still got to be in the parade.
Of course, the theme through out the town was pigs. Here's some pig bread that one of the local bakers made up.
Once the parade got to the city's main square they loaded the pigs up on the spits. Here's a few pictures.
This was a two spit operation.
This guy had a great job, turning the pigs.
Of course, as they say, the proof is in the pork. Here's my first taste of Wittlich pork. With some Bitburger to wash it down.
As I mentioned, Wittlich is in the Mosel region of Germany and so their local wines were a highlight of the fest. In spite of the pig theme, the actual coat of arms of the city is two keys.
Not everyone likes pork. In fact, some people hate meat altogether. This is the first festival we've ever been to where a group showed up to protest the festivities. The German police wouldn't let them march through the fest. Just let them have their say and then they quietly moved on.
Above you'll see the protesters and recognize the Vegan; just like in the US, folks that are ultra-vegetarians. The big yellow sign says "All Animal Rights: Life, Freedom, Fairness; Live Vegan." The little sign on the left with the crosses says, "Murder Pageant." On the right you can see some people carrying a black coffin with a pigs head on it. Did I mention how good my pork sandwich was?
That was pretty much it for yesterday's adventure. Oh yes, we did see some mother washing her little 3-4 year old son in the city fountain. Had him down to totally buck naked. Sponging him off with his little willie (remember W's pronounced as V) flailing in the breeze.
We leave for the Wiesbaden wine fest in about an hour.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Our second weekend here, 7 August, we drove up to the town that we lived in from 87-91; Kirchheimbolanden. During those years Jeff and I were both active duty. I was stationed at the hospital in Wiesbaden and Jeff was at Ramstein then too, about 75 miles apart. We lived half way in between, which turned out to be Kirchheimbolanden. It was, and still is, a wonderful town. However, the reason we made the trip up there this day was because it was Kibo's wine fest weekend.
We had a great time with some friends that met us there. The city center of Kibo is built around the ancient medieval wall and towers; a beautiful setting for a wine fest. (The picture here is of Jeff and I at one of the wall gates.) We sampled the local wines, had a schnitzel sandwich to curb our appetite and then a bit later had the no-kidding big ass, full-up schnitzel plate.
It was a great night!! Weather was perfect. Crowds were quite manageable. Wine was great!! Food was awesome. The setting and the whole atmosphere was kickass (now Jeff has me saying it).
Here's Jeff's first taste of wine in Kibo in 19 years. Wearing a beer shirt at a wine fest? The man has no couth.
The coat of arms for Kirchhiembolanden has a wild boar proudly displayed and the wild boar is the symbol of the town. This statue of a wild boar, don't know the name of the thing, can be seen in many places around Europe. The original is in a museum in Florence; we've seen it. It's also on the shopping platz in Munich near the Marienplatz. And now, there's one in Kibo. A-10 pilots have to have their picture taken with anything resembling a warthog. This wild boar statue will do nicely.
Did I mention beer? Of course I did. Jeff and I have sampled a good number of German beers so far, mostly old favorites. Here's a picture of a happy Jeff shortly after we arrived. We'd just purchased our first case of beer here in Germany, Bishoff (Bishop) which is a local beer here in the Kaiserslautern area brewed in Winnweiler, near Sembach (for those that are familar with this area). It's very good and, interestingly, it has a very convenient twist off cap. Much easier to twist off than US bottles. Also, note the size of the bottles; half liter. Can't get too much quality amber nectar.
Now here's another picture of Jeff at the shopette at Ramstein. He, and I, were delighted to see that they sell Weihenstephan there, and by the case, and in half liter bottles also, and we got a free hat with a purchase of the case. Weihenstephan (W's are pronounced as a V here in Germany, so this is pronounced as Vī-hĕn-stĕ-fŭn) is the world's oldest brewery, dating back to 1040. We're actually going to visit Weihenstephan in about a month with a bunch of friends that are coming over to travel with us to Oktoberfest in Munich. Weihenstephan is also a university owned by the state of Bavaria. Part of their curriculum includes, of course, a brewing degree. The brewery and the university are in the city of Freising, just north of Munich, next to the Munich international airport. How's that for facts (thank you Jeff).
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Bremerhaven is about a six hour drive from our home here in Weilerbach, Germany. Bremerhaven is a port city on the North Sea. They handle a lot of the new car shipping in and out of Germany. Our Sunday drive up to Bremerhaven was quite interesting. Lots of traffic from all over Europe. August is the vacation month here so we saw lots of travel trailers and license plates from across Europe. No big, long haul trucks though. Germany is very noise conscious and those big trucks are not allowed on the Germany autobahns on Sundays for that reason.
Germany is a very forested and hilly country until you get within about 200 miles of Bremerhaven. Then, quite dramatically, the terrain flattens and northern Germany becomes very flat and open, similar to Holland,
Jeff and I spent Sunday night in Bremerhaven at a small, quaint gasthaus. Walked around the harbor, really cool masted sailing ships on display and a WW II U-boat, the Wilhelm Bauer, pictured above with Jeff.
Monday morning we drove over to the pickup point for the new car, a huge holding area for all the vehicles arriving there. It took us about an hour to do the paperwork, check out the car and clear customs. Then started the drive back south. The drive was a bit painful. We drove up on Sunday at 120 mph as much as possible, however, now with the new car in its break in period, we could do a maximum of 70. That seemed like a snail's pace. Here's a picture of me with my new car before we drove it away.
Made it home safe and sound after a drive that took almost the same amount of time going up at 120 mph as driving home at 70mph.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
There are two beautiful churches here in our village, here in a picture taken from our study window. One has a bell than chimes every fifteen minutes, 24 hours a day. It took us a bit to figure out exactly what the chimes met. At a quarter past a smaller bell chimes twice, half past four times, 45 past six time. On the hour, eight small chimes and then the big bell takes over and gongs for each hour for the time of day. So at noon you're going to hear 20 chimes/gongs. It's actually very nice and kind of reassuring. Maybe a little tiring in the night if you happen to be laying awake. You can't help counting the chimes/gongs so you know just what time it is and how long you've not been asleep. For some reason, at 6:30 AM the church bells go crazy and seem to go on endlessly. I think it just their way of telling the German countryside to get up and get started with a new day.
Now the slug issue is something else. I don't like squiggly, squirmy things. I hate worms. Growing up my dad had to bait my fishhook for me. I don't even like seeing a horde of ants scurrying along end to end. But slugs are the worst. In the morning, when it's cool and the dew covers everything, the slugs are on the move; not very fast of course. You can see them making their way through the grass to the driveway. Those that are already squirming across our brick driveway are leaving their slimy trail behind them. Disgusting!! There's always ten or twelve making their trip across the bricks. If I back the car to the street I'm going to squish at least a couple. ICK!! Those that aren't fast enough run out of slime and get trapped on the bricks and get zapped by the sun as the day warms up, leaving disgusting slug carcasses all over the driveway.
Jeff had to take this picture for me. ICK!! I mentioned the slugs to our landlord. He said, "Mit dem haus, oder ohne das haus?" With the house or without the house? I had to think about that for a moment and then realized what he was asking. With the house, a snail, or without, a slug. Yeah, we have squirmy snails too. ICK!!
Monday, August 2, 2010
We’re moving into our new German home tomorrow, 3 August. We’ve eaten a German meal every night since we got here last Wednesday. Jeff’s had schnitzel four nights in a row. Different kinds but still, your basic schnitzel under the gravy, onions, mushrooms, cheese or whatever they happen to put on top. We’ve been to the Bremerhofen Waldhaus (forest house) beer garden twice this weekend and, of course, was able to sample the local Bischof Pils.
Met with our landlords at their gausthaus Friday night, The Blockhaus. They’re a wonderful family. Klaus and Hiltrud Schellhaas are our landlords. We also met with their son Bernd and Tonya, who own/operate the Blockhaus, and their daughter Anna. Had a great meal, schnitzel, and great, real (not that foo-foo American type) Bitburger beer.
Lots of little issues to take care of here. Cell phones, utilities, Internet service and second car are the big ones. Picked up the car we shipped Friday PM. Although that was a very efficient process it still took us over three hours from driver’s license in hand to driving our car out of the processing center.
We found out the Ramstein shoppette sells Weihenstephan by the case. That made Jeff happy since Weihenstephan is the world’s oldest brewery. Of course, Jeff already knew that and had to point out that they’ve been brewing beer since 1040.
The weather has been great. 70s day, 50s night.
Sorry there are no pictures. We keep forgetting the camera but we’ll be better at that in the future.
For now, Auf Wiedersehen.