As many of you know, Robert and I moved to Vienna, Austria in early July! Vienna is his hometown so we’re surrounded by family and old friends, and we’re making new friends. It’s very good to be here and back in a big city. ♥
However, I must admit that I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in Vienna myself – just a few weeks here and there over the last few years. So, I’m a bit of a tourist in my own city!
I’ve done a couple of things to help acclimate myself to my surroundings and meet new people. The first thing I did was start a Girly Book Club (GBC) chapter here in Vienna called (obviously!) the Vienna Girly Book Club.
I was a member of the chapter in Stuttgart, Germany for the last couple of years and really loved our monthly meetings and discussions. We read and discussed great books and I even made a few life-long friends (shout out to Sarah in Stuttgart and Lisa now in Berlin!) So, why not do the same here in Vienna, right?!
We all read the same book, selected by GBC, each month and we meet here in Vienna at phil (such a cool place in the 6th district near Naschmarkt – it’s part library, part bookstore with comfy couches, amazing drinks, and tasty food and homemade cakes) on the last Monday of each month at 19:00. There is a nominal fee of €5 to attend. If you’re interested in joining us, please join our Facebook group! We meet again on Monday, September 24th and we’ll be discussing Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, which won a National Book Award and was shortlisted for the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction. It sounds like a good one!
The second thing I did was seek out a good walking tour of the center of the city (the 1st district), all of the beautiful and touristy stuff that I figure I should know something about! 🙂 I tried and loved my Vienna walking tour with Alex (he’s the local English-speaking guide) at VoiceMap.
The tour is unique in that it uses GPS to track your exact location and give you the information you need at any given point along the walking route. Very cool! If your phone signal or GPS isn’t working for whatever reason, no problem, you can simply follow the map and click on the icons you see when you arrive at designated spots along the tour. Super easy!
My Vienna walk started at the Opera House and ended at St. Stephen’s cathedral. It was 60 minutes in total. I loved that I could do this tour on my own, and on my own time and at my own pace. It’s totally okay to pause the tour if you want to grab lunch, take photos, do a little shopping, whatever. Personally, I took three breaks – one for a sausage, one for an ice cream, and the last for an iced latte. 🙂 And, I was able to pick up exactly where I left off, no problem. Alex even recommends stopping at a Würstelstand (“sausage box”) while you’re on your tour so there’s absolutely no reason to feel guilty about eating a very unhealthy sausage snack (he even tells you a bit about the history of the käsekrainer hot dog!) So, essentially you can make this walking tour into a food tour on your own – bonus!
Other than doing a lot of eating (!!!) I learned everything I really need to know about the Opera House, the Star Walk, Hotel Sacher and the famous Sacher torte, the Albertina Museum, St. Augustina’s Church, the Monument Against War and Fascism, the Donner Fountain, the Capuchin Church, Neuer Markt square, Kärntner Street, and last but certainly not least, St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Without sharing spoilers, I will never look at the facade of St. Stephen’s – or any other cathedral – in the same way again!
I didn’t take photos of everything, but here are are some photos I did take while on the walking tour:
Bottom line, definitely check out VoiceMap. They have this same kind of walking tour available in 120 cities across 47 countries. I’ll be in London in a couple of weeks and I’m already looking forward to the Camden Town: People Watching and Pigging Out tour! Download the free app in the App Store or Google Play, and happy walking!
A lot of people ask me what I miss about the U.S. and while I occasionally miss something here or there, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what I miss. I spend much more time focused on what I enjoy about my new life in Germany (see this post for the things I love in Germany). In any case, I thought it might be a good idea for me to make a list. I can add all of these things to my to- do list the next time I visit the U.S. 🙂 Here it goes:
Target: Yes, the big-box store. I know it sounds silly, but the prices are decent and the products are diverse. I mean, what’s not to love about a place where you can pick up yoga pants, Laneige skin care products, wine, and some new home decor?
Air Conditioning: The summer months are tough. We live on the 4th floor in an apartment with very little circulation so I’ve had more than a few very hot and sleepless nights.
Nail Salons: Where I come from, I’m used to big nail salons where you can just walk right in at your convenience and get a mani and/or pedi quickly and cheaply. Here? Not so much. There’s normally only one or two people working so appointments are necessary and it’s much more time-consuming and expensive.
TV: I have Amazon Prime (U.S. and German) and iTunes, but paying for full seasons of American TV shows is pricey! I normally pay $3 per episode or $15-$25 per season. But it sure beats the alternative, which is CNN International or the BBC which repeat the same news on an endless cycle.
Grocery Delivery: Okay, you may have read this title and just think I’m a lazy girl. I am a bit lazy, but grocery delivery really is the best. In Chicago, I was a loyal Instacart customer. If you don’t have a car and you need lots of things, it definitely beats walking with very heavy bags. Especially in the snow.
Mexican Food: Chicago is known to have some of the best Mexican and Mexican-American cuisine so I suppose I was spoiled before, but OMG I miss it! I’ve tried several Mexican restaurants in here in Stuttgart and most of them have been pretty bad. There is one good one, El Mero Mexicano, but unfortunately it’s a bit out of the way for us. Instead, we now make our own Mexican food. When there is a will, there is a way.
Cheddar Cheese: Germans are crazy about Gouda, Emmentaler (Swiss cheese), Muenster, and a whole host of other fancy cheeses, but it’s still tough to track down cheddar. I have come across a Kerrygold cheddar and buy it whenever I see it because I don’t know when I’ll come across it again. Big thanks to the Irish!
Free Water at Restaurants: As crazy as Germans are about recycling, I find it odd that you’re basically forced to purchase a glass bottle of water at a restaurant. The water here is certainly drinkable so I’m not sure why water from the tap isn’t an option.
Taxis / Uber: Sure, Stuttgart isn’t as big as Chicago and has excellent public transportation, but sometimes you just want to hail a taxi cab or call an Uber. Or, better yet, order lunch/dinner with UberEats.
Elevators: We live on the 4th floor with no elevator. Need I say more? 🙂
Dryers: When I moved here, we had only a washing machine and had to hang all of our clothes to dry so our second bedroom became the “drying room.” After much nagging on my part, we purchased a machine that washes and dries, but it takes FOUR or FIVE hours to complete one load!
American Junk Food: Cheetos, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Twinkies, Tostitos Salsa con Queso, French Onion Dip, Cheez-its, and the list goes on and on and on. I don’t eat any of these things on the regular, but it would be nice to have the option. 🙂
Are you an American expat living abroad? I’d love to hear what you miss about the United States, and also what you love about your new homeland!
One of the most stressful and complicated aspects of moving abroad is taxes. The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world that taxes you on any income you earn while living in another country. This “double taxation” means that I’m taxed by the U.S. government and taxed by the German government on the very same income. It’s the worst. I’ve been dreading dealing with my 2017 taxes all year.
Then, one day, I received a message on Facebook from a woman, Lusine, who works for a company in New York called Taxes for Expats. I’m not quite sure how she found me, but I’m so glad she did. She offered me a discounted rate to prepare my returns for the IRS. (Of course, I will still need to figure out how to file here in Germany, but my hope is that my completed IRS returns will be helpful to a German accountant.)
I started by simply checking out their website. I really appreciate that they are a women-owned operation and all of the client reviews I read were very positive so I decided to give it a shot. They’re really straight forward with their pricing. The federal return is $350 and the state return is $100. I also needed an additional form because I am self-employed, which was $100.
The first step in the process was to register on their website and complete the online Tax Questionnaire (TQ). To be honest, the questionnaire is a BEAST. It took me a long time to complete. And I ran into a few bugs. For example, I couldn’t enter a decimal point and a fraction of a dollar (cents) so I had to enter whole numbers only, which is obviously not sufficient for the IRS. Instead, I had to add a comment to each place that I entered a number so that I could enter it correctly. It was redundant.
Also, I had a phone call scheduled with someone (perhaps from their IT department?) who told me he would walk me through the TQ and answer any questions I may have. We had an appointment set, but he never called. He later followed up by email to explain that they were switching over something on their end and our appointment got lost in the shuffle. He was really apologetic and offered to reschedule, but by that time I had completed the TQ.
Needless to say, I didn’t love the TQ. In my case, I think it would have been easier to just send my information via email. And, I did. I was assigned to my own tax preparer, Susan, and I sent her all of my information by email as well because I didn’t feel so confident that the TQ really captured everything in the right way. It’s seemed much too complicated for my personal tax situation, which is really just a mortgage interest statement, rental income, self-employment income, and expenses.
Susan and Lusine were both super helpful throughout the process and regularly reached out to me by email with questions and to make sure that all was going well. I felt really comfortable knowing that I had experts preparing my returns. It’s not cheap, but I think it’s worth it to know things have been done right.
Overall, there were a couple of hiccups along the way, but I had a very nice experience with Susan and Lusine and I feel confident that my taxes were prepared correctly. And, it certainly doesn’t hurt that I paid just a fraction of the cost for this service. 🙂
Disclaimer: I was provided with a free or discounted product in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and are not influenced by the developing company, and/or its affiliates, in any way.
As we begin a new year and I celebrate 1.5 years in Germany, I thought it only appropriate to spend some time thinking about all of the things I love about my life here in Germany. (In case you missed it, I’ve already covered everything I miss about the U.S.)
Recycling – Before moving to Germany, I recycled a bottle or can every once in a while. Now it’s my part-time job! We have yellow bags (gelber sack) for all plastic, aluminum, styrofoam, etc. which gets picked up every 3 weeks. We put all of our paper and cardboard in a special bin behind our house. We take all of our glass to the neighborhood recycling bin, or we return it to the store for a refund (pfand). The pfand applies to some plastic bottles as well. (Yes, it can be a bit complicated – I’m still learning!) We also have special bags in our kitchen for compost (bio), which we put into a special bin behind our house. It’s a lot, yes, but we generate very little garbage (restmüll). I have nightmares about visiting the U.S. and putting everything (yogurt containers, glass bottles, newspapers) into the trash!
Here’s what our neighborhood looks like the day before yellow bag pick-up:
Butter, Milk, Eggs, Yogurt – I don’t know what it is, but the dairy products are so much better here! We do most of our grocery shopping at natural and organic supermarkets so perhaps that has something to do with it, but the dairy products here certainly beat out Whole Foods any day of the week. We eat farm fresh eggs (sometimes they’re still covered in feathers!) I’m a huge fan of all of the butter and cheese made by Kerrygold (thank you, Ireland!) They even make a nice sharp cheddar, which is a small miracle since cheddar is next-to-impossible to find here. I never really loved yogurt or ate it often before moving here, but I am now officially obsessed with this Söbbeke mango-vanilla kefir yogurt:
They also make a peach-passion fruit yogurt, which is equally as tasty. Finally, the milk. I don’t drink a lot of milk, but do enjoy a splash in my coffee and in the occasional bowl of cereal. Since we use it so sparingly, we buy country milk (landmilch) or whole milk (vollmilch). It’s so creamy and delicious.
Bakeries – They’re on every corner and they’re loaded with fresh breads, pastries, and cakes. My neighborhood bakery even started making sesame bagels! Many Germans visit a bakery at least once a day to pick up their daily pretzel. Pretzels are serious business here. I even took a pretzel making course at Bäckerei Frank and earned a pretzel diploma! “Kaffee und Kuchen” (or “coffee and cake”) is also a popular tradition here and for that I head over to tarte & törtchen. They have the most beautiful and delicious pastries and desserts, and they make custom cakes if you need one for a special occasion.
Food Markets – The Markthalle is my favorite place in Stuttgart, and Feinkost Böhm is a close second. The Markthalle is a huge indoor food market where you can find just about anything – fruits, vegetables, meat, cheese from around the world, bread, wine, sweets, and all kinds of specialty foods and delicacies. It’s where I take all of my visitors from out of town, and where we do a lot of our grocery shopping. They also have several superb restaurants: Desiree for tapas, Marktstüble for German food, Empore for Italian, and a seafood/oyster bar for a quick bite. And, Feinkost Böhm hosts my favorite sushi spot, Sushi-Ya.
Markthalle – a view from above
Apples at Feinkost Böhm
Seafood Salad at Empore
Seafood Tower at the Markthalle Oyster Bar
Sausages at Marktstüble
Tapas at Desiree
German Food: I was born and raised in Wisconsin so I’m definitely a steak-and-potatoes girl, and Germans love their meat and potatoes. German food is heavy and that’s okay by me, especially in the cold winter months.
I’m a big fan of käsespätzle (similar to macaroni and cheese), maultaschen (a stuffed pasta “bag” similar to a ravioli), pretzels, and schnitzel (okay, schnitzel is technically Austrian, and my Austrian husband would kill me if I didn’t point this out!) I also really enjoy a rote wurst (red sausage) when at a barbecue or street festival.
My other favorite on-the-go bite is the leberkäse or fleischkäse sandwich, which is a slice of meat (similar to meatloaf) on semmel bread with a little spicy mustard. You can pick one up at the gas station, while shopping at OBI (Home Depot), at the butcher, at the grocery store, just about anywhere. They’re even better in Austria, where they add cheese to the meatloaf!
My favorite soup here is the frittatensuppe (or flädlesuppe), a beef broth with strips of pancake inside. And while technically Hungarian, we also eat a lot of gulasch here.
Finally, I love nothing more than eating something that requires a lot of little side dishes, sauces, etc. — I love having a lot of different flavors in the mix. Tafelspitz is just that kind of dish. It’s boiled beef or veal (very tender) served in a little broth and with the following dipping sauces: sour cream with chives, horseradish with minced apple, and apple sauce.
Although Munich/Bavaria is really home of the giant pork “knuckle,” (schweinshaxe) we do eat it here, and I love it. It’s definitely a dinner for two! It’s normally served with potatoes, cabbage, or bread dumplings.
Tafelspitz in Austria
Tafelspitz at Metzgerei, Stuttgart West
Frittatensuppe at San’s
Schnitzel at Wolfgangsee, Austria
Schnitzel in Leichtenstein
Rote Wurst as Street Food
Rote Wurst at Martha’s
Maultauschen at Kleinigkeit
Maultaschen at the Christimas Market
Pork “Knuckle” at Ochs’n Willi
Maultaschen at Zum Spätzleschwob
Pretzel in Munich
Pretzels at Bäckerei Frank
Rote Wurst at Cafe Königsbau
Käsespätzle at Zum Spätzleschwob
For even more food pictures (not only German food, I promise!) follow along on Instagram @hungry.in.europe 🙂
dm– I miss Target terribly, but love dm almost as much. Like Target, it’s the kind of place where you go in planning to buy just one thing and end up walking out having spent hundreds of euros! Despite the usual household and personal items, I appreciate the large selection of health foods and snacks (non-dairy milk, müsli, seeds/nuts, etc.) I’m also in love with all things Balea, which is the dm-brand of shampoos, conditioners, body wash, hand soap, etc. Back home I never bought the store brand, but this is different. I mean, you can buy body wash that smells like rainbows, starlets, and little clouds!
Location, location, location – Germany is in a great location in Europe in that it shares borders with France, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Denmark. With fast trains and cheap intercontinental flights, it’s possible to travel not-so-far and yet be in a whole new place. From here in Stuttgart, we can go to Strasbourg or Colmar (France) in less than 2 hours by car and to Paris in 3 hours by train. We have been known to make day trips just across the French border to gather supplies (bread, wine, cheese, foie gras). We can also easily make our way to Switzerland or Austria in just a few hours.
Infrastructure / Public Transportation – It’s no surprise that the infrastructure in the U.S. is in need of a major upgrade! And it’s really refreshing to live in a place where everything (the roads, bridges, tunnels) are seemingly brand new and really safe. I only take the U-Bahn (the local city train), which is clean, fast, and reliable — quite the change from my days commuting on the “L” in Chicago! I can also plan my route and purchase tickets from my phone (VVS app), which is super convenient.
Vitello Tonnato – Of course I ate a lot of Italian and Italian-American food in the States, but didn’t discover this gem until I moved here. Vitello tonnato (or veal tuna) is very thin slices of veal topped with a tuna-mayonnaise sauce. I admit that it sounds a bit peculiar, but promise you that it’s delicious.
Dining Al Fresco – I love eating outside — at a restaurant, on a picnic, whatever — and Europeans know how to do this right. SO many restaurants have outdoor seating. I even see some people eating outside in the winter, when it seems too cold to be outside for any reason!
Foodora – Every great city needs a great food delivery company and ours is Foodora. (We also have Deliveroo, but Foodora is our go-to.) They deliver just about anything you might have a hankering for – sushi, pizza, burgers, tacos, spätzle, salads, etc.
Kaufmann’s Haut und Kinder Creme – I don’t know what you’re really supposed to use this stuff for (a baby’s bottom, perhaps?) but it makes an excellent lip balm. It was recommended to me by a German gal last winter so I have a feeling it’s also popular with the locals. 🙂
(Almost) everyone speaks English – I really appreciate this and try not to take it for granted. Yes, I have resolved to learn more German this year, but in the meantime I’m able to do all of the things I really need to do like have a bank account, go grocery shopping, dine out, belong to a book club, and even make a few German friends.
Mezzo Mix – I went to a wedding just after arrriving in Stuttgart and noticed some people at our dinner table mixing Fanta and Coke in the same glass. I was a bit confused. I mean, it seemed like a good idea, I’d just never thought about it or knew it was a “thing.” And, yes, it is a thing here. And it’s good. You can mix it on your own or you can buy Mezzo Mix (or other brand).
Turkish Food – It’s everywhere. There is a döner store on just about every single corner. It is said that the döner kebap sandwich is the most popular street food in Germany. The sandwich is a warm pita filled with spit-roasted meat and loaded with lettuce, tomato, onion, cabbage, red chili flakes, and a garlic-yogurt sauce. My favorite is at Ützel Brützel. We also have a really nice (and much more formal!) Turkish restaurant just around the corner from our home, Taverna Yol.
Architecture – Sure, Chicago has big shiny glass and steel buildings everywhere, but I really do appreciate living somewhere that is so old and has so much history. Last year I went on an architectural walking tour of my neighborhood, Stuttgart West, with a group from InterNations. Now I just have to keep reminding myself to look up – it’s where all of the interesting architectural details are found!
Expat Community – Because Stuttgart is home to Mercedes/Daimler, Bosch, and Porsche, a lot of people come here to work so there is a large expatriate community. I have met a lot of great people through InterNations, various Facebook expat groups, and the Stuttgart Girly Book Club. I also religiously follow two expat blogs: Living in Stuttgart and Room for Gelato. All of these things have helped me create a meaningful social life, and my life is richer because I have friends from all over the world – people just like me who left their home and moved here. ♥
Mineral Baths – Stuttgart has the second (behind Budapest) largest source of mineral water in Europe with 19 mineral springs providing 22 million liters of crystalline mineral water to the city each day. This mineral water is believed to have healing properties so mineral baths are very popular here, and they’re where I spend most of my summer days. My two favorite baths are DAS LEUZE and Mineral-Bad Berg (currently under construction, expected to re-open mid-2019).
Eurovision? This has a question mark because I have yet to see Eurovision! I missed it last year, but have it on my calendar (May 8/10/12, 2018) for this year so that I don’t miss it. It’s the longest-running international song competition held among member countries of the European Broadcasting Unit. I learned about this wildly popular competition by reading Living in Stuttgart – thanks, Mel!
•••Fun facts! ABBA won Eurovision in 1974 and Celine Dion won in 1988.•••
Haribo – I mean, who doesn’t love gummy bears?! Yes, they come from here! And they make WAY more than just the gummy bear – they make just about every shape and flavor of gummy candy you can imagine.
Milka – I will take a Milka chocolate bar over Hershey any day of the week. Maybe it’s the alpenmilch (milk from happy cows in the Alps) that makes it so delicious. Whatever it is, it’s working. They come in so many different flavors – my favorites are Oreo, caramel, chocolate + crackers (tastes like a s’more!), and crispy with biscuit pieces.
Marley Spoon – My husband and I love to cook and Marley Spoon has made meal prep and cooking a breeze over the last several months. Once a week we get a box with two dinners – it has all of the ingredients we need as well as an instruction card (it’s in German, but you can use Google Translate to read it online in English). The food itself is very tasty and healthy, and we have at least 10 recipes to choose from each week.
If you’re interested in giving Marley Spoon a try, let me know and I can provide you with a referral link – you will receive one box for free and we’ll receive one box for free. It’s a win-win. 🙂
We Are Knitters– I have wanted to learn to knit for the longest time, and now I can (well, kind of — it’s a work in progress!) I found this company, based out of the UK, that sends you everything you need (pattern, needles, yarn) to complete one knitting project (beanie, scarf, sweater, blanket, etc.) They make it really easy to learn with the instructions included, and offer additional support on their website. Here is my cat Cheeto wearing the Downtown Snood:
Gift Wrap – Doesn’t sound so exciting, right?! Believe me, it is! When the holiday season begins and people start buying gifts, stores will offer to wrap your gifts (for free!) Really, it’s EVERY store. No more buying gift wrap for home, no more hiding gifts…because they’re already wrapped!
Birkenstock – I never thought I would fall in love with Birkenstocks. I always associated them with hippies or people who wear socks and sandals. Boy, was I wrong! They are SO very comfortable, and now you can buy so many different styles and colors that they’re actually quite cute. They also make a nice house shoe — I wear them when I need to run to the mailbox, do something on the balcony, take out the recycling. I’ve already got my eye on a new pair for the summer.
How about you? What do you love about Germany?? Am I missing something? 🙂
A couple of weeks ago my good friend Kate from Chicago came to visit me in Germany! It was her first trip to Europe (well, not counting the UK) so we decided to do a little road trip so that we could see and experience a few different countries. We started here in Stuttgart, Germany and drove through France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and back through Germany before landing back in Stuttgart.
As I mentioned, we started at my home in Stuttgart Germany and spent a couple of days here. We spent the day walking around downtown — we visited the Markthalle, the Feuersee, and the Stiftskirche, and we had dinner at the Zum Spätzleschwob and Speisekammer West.
On day three we woke up early and headed to pick up our rental car and made the 2 hour drive from Stuttgart to Strasbourg, France. In Strasbourg, we stayed at a really cute Airbnb located right in the heart of downtown — highly recommend if you are in Strasbourg! We had a very nice lunch outside at Cavpona, a little spot just down the street from our apartment. I had the Quiche Lorraine. Drool.
Strasbourg is so beautiful that we spent most of our time just walking around. Here are some photos from a day of exploring:
The next morning we woke up, picked up our car (we parked at the Gare Wodli parking garage, which was priced reasonably at €20 for 24 hours) and made the 1-hour drive from Strasbourg to Colmar.
I must admit that I didn’t take many photos in Colmar because it was pouring rain much of the time we were there. But, it is very much like Strasbourg in that it’s absolutely charming, but much smaller. We stayed at the Hotel Turenne, which I would recommend as it is very close to Petit Venice (Little Venice district) and close to a great restaurant, L’Epicurien, where I had some pretty amazing foie gras:
Oh, and we were in France for the election so here is a picture of me with Macron:
The next morning, day five of the road trip, we woke up and drove 2 hours from Colmar to Lucerne, Switzerland. The drive itself was so beautiful. The landscape is just breathtaking. It’s so green and mountainous. And, Lucerne didn’t disappoint either! We stayed at the Ameron Hotel Flora, which is located right on Lake Lucerne near the main train station and modern art museum.
We arrived on a Sunday so most stores were not open so we spent a lot of time walking around, exploring, and taking pictures. The weather was really overcast while we were there so the pictures don’t really do it justice, but the alps are RIGHT THERE. Right behind all of those clouds. 🙂
We stopped by the Des Alpes Hotel & Restaurant where I had some really delicious rösti topped with spinach, fried onions, roasted tomatoes, and an egg. Yum! Take me back!
The next morning we woke up in Lucerne, did a little shopping and sightseeing in the morning, and then took a 1-hour boat tour around Lake Lucerne, which is really worth doing because you learn a bit about the lake and the history surrounding that area. And it’s just nice to be on the water!
Then, we jumped in our car and drove 3 hours from Lucerne to Triesenberg, Liechtenstein where we checked into the Hotel Oberland for the night. Since we were IN the mountains, the views here were by-far the best even though the weather was still overcast and rainy. Here is a shot Kate took from the hotel:
Only about 2,500 people live in Triesenberg so it’s a very tiny place with not much happening when it’s raining! We were hoping to go hiking, but the conditions were unfortunately not in our favor. Instead, we treated ourselves to a nice dinner just down the street at Restaurant Edelweiss where we had traditional cuisine. Here’s a picture of the schnitzel with vegetables and french fries:
The next morning, we woke up and made a 3-hour drive from Liechtenstein to Munich, Germany. München is one of my favorite places and it was so nice to share it with Kate! We spent the first day walking around and exploring (our favorite thing to do, can you tell?!) We visited the Viktualkeinmarkt, the Englischer Garten, the Chinesischer Turm Biergarten, Eisbachwelle (surfing wave), and (my new favorite place!) the cat cafe or Cafe Katzentempel. Me at the cat cafe:
The following morning we woke up and made the drive back to Stuttgart, which took about 2 hours. We returned our trusty Ford Focus to the rental car company and made our way back to our apartment.
On our final day in Stuttgart, before Kate flew back to Chicago, we spent the day at Mineralbad Leuze. After such a whirlwind trip through four countries, a day of relaxation is exactly what we needed! We also had lunch and dinner (yes, we were there twice in one day!) at Trattoria Piloni in Stuttgart West and ate some tasty Greek food at Achillion.
All in all, it was such a wonderful trip! Kate and I learned that we make really great travel buddies — everything was so easy and natural and we were little chatterboxes and laughing the whole time! It was the best. 🙂
I ♥ you and miss you, Kate, and can’t wait to plan our next adventure!!
Last week we were in Amsterdam with my father, my Aunt Connie, and Aunt Lori. It was my first time in the Netherlands, and it did not disappoint! It’s such a magical, beautiful place…despite the massive amount of tourists and bikes! No joke, there are 800,000 people living in Amsterdam and 1 million bikes. While this blog post will focus mostly on what we ate (!) we did do some of the go-to tourist stuff like the Floating Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt), the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House, a canal dinner cruise, and even the XtraCold IceBar.
Van Gogh’s Sunflowers
Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles
I highly recommend walking through the flower market, and perhaps picking up a bag of tulip bulbs to plant at home, and you have to see Van Gogh and Anne Frank. The food on the dinner cruise was less than appetizing, so do a cruise without food. The IceBar is well, an experience. Coming from Chicago, it actually didn’t feel so cold (it was 9°C).
We stayed at an Airbnb at Herengracht 361 — a perfect location right in the heart of the city center. Note: “Gracht” translates to “canal.” Here’s the view from our living room window:
On our first night in town, we had dinner at a Peruvian restaurant called Mashua. I had the cau cau de mariscos, or seafood prepared in mashed yellow peppers with homemade fish broth, fresh mint, diced potato and carrot, and rice. Yum!
cau cau de mariscos
For Dutch pancakes (because you can’t NOT have pancakes while in the Netherlands!) we went to The Happy Pig where they specialize in the rolled pancake. They have sweet and savory options and I opted for a bit of both — wheat pancake with fresh banana and strawberries with bacon and maple syrup. Major YUM!
On our second evening, Robert and I enjoyed the Dutch Flower Power 5-course menu at de culinaire werkplaats. Here is a description of the dishes, followed by photos:
Spring Garden: Vitelotte Noir, Root Vegetables, Tomato
Glass House: Vanilla, Pumpkin, Dark Chocolate
We sampled Dutch “bar bites” at a restaurant recommended by our landlord and down the street from our house, Herengracht Restaurant & Bar. The Dutch really love their croquettes, but I must admit that I wasn’t a huge fan. However, I will eat all of the samosas and cheese sticks. 🙂
I stumbled upon Lotti’s while doing a little Amsterdam restaurant research, and knew I had to make a visit for breakfast. Lotti’s was located just a couple of canals from our house inside The Hoxton Hotel. It’s such a cute and cozy place — I wish I had time to go back and curl up with a book and a cup of tea. I had the Lotti’s Benedict with avocado, smoked salmon, two poached eggs, hollandaise, and caviar.
For me, the absolute highlight of our trip was the Hungry Birds Street Food Tour, which I learned about on the Kaffee und Kuchen blog (thank you, Meredith!) We met up with Rachel, our “Mother Bird,” at 10:30am and spent the following 4.5 hours walking the city and making stops to sample food. Seriously, is there a better way to spend a day?? Rachel was so full of energy and so passionate about Amsterdam and food — it was contagious!
The first stop on our tour was Toko Ramee, an Indonesian/Asian specialty food shop with a food counter. We sampled two things: a Pastel (similar to an empanada) filled with vermicelli noodles, beef, hard boiled egg, and some wonderful spices, and Spekkoek, or Indonesian layer cake with cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and anise. Ours had 12 layers!
Our next stop (and my favorite stop) was Tjin’s Toko, an international grocery and Surinamese meal takeaway store located just off the Albert Cuyp Market, Europe’s longest daytime market. We had a Surinamese Chicken Sandwich with a very spicy sauce!
Then, we made our way into the market to sample seafood. We had Kibbeling, or fried cod, served with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, and garlic sauce and Herring with raw onion and pickles.
Our next stop at the market was sweet. We had Poffertjes, or small fluffy pancakes with butter and powdered sugar.
Before leaving the market we picked up a Stroopwafel at Original Stroopwafels. A stroopwafel or “syrup waffle” is a waffle made from two thin layers of baked dough filled with a caramel-like syrup.
After leaving the market we made our way over to Klaver 4, a popular lunch spot and for good reason. As white asparagus is currently in season (April-June), we had a white asparagus soup and a white asparagus quiche.
We then headed over to the famous Vleminckx Sausmeesters for french fries, one of my favorite things! They serve up Belgian fries that are fried twice so they are extra crispy, and you can choose from 28 different sauces. I went with Rachel’s recommendation, the Oorlog Mix, with mayonnaise, satay sauce, and raw onion.
Last but certainly not least, we walked over to Dutch Delicacy – De Mannen Van Kaas, a huge cheese shop modeled after Eataly. We tasted five different types of cheese (one with cumin, one with truffle, goat, and two types award-winning gouda). Not only was the cheese tasty, they have an amazing bakery and gift shop.
With happy hearts and full bellies, we bid farewell to Rachel and went home to nap. I really can’t say enough good things about the Hungry Birds Street Food Tour. If you’re in Amsterdam, DO IT. It’s the perfect way to see, experience, and eat your way through the city. Without our Mother Bird, Rachel, we never would have seen some areas of the city and found all of the hidden food gems. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
After eating such delicious seafood at the market, we wanted more. Rachel recommended The Seafood Bar which most definitely satisfied our craving. We went to the location on Spui and Robert and I shared the Fruits de Mer or “Seafood Bar,” a combination of cold crustaceans and shellfish including mussels, cockles, scallop, razor clams, periwinkles, amandes, north sea crab, seaweed salad, prawns, langoustines, lobster, snow crab, and oysters.
Today was the Fasching parade in Stuttgart. (Fasching is also known as Mardis Gras, Fat Tuesday, Pancake Day, or Carnival.) Although I’ve celebrated Carnival in Italy a couple of times this was a first for me in Germany. Stuttgart holds the parade in the afternoon followed by a big party at the Dinkelacker brewery. The parade starts at 2pm at the Schlossplatz and runs through Planie, Karlsplatz, Rathaus, and ends at Tübinger Straße. The parade lasts about 2 hours and the party begins at 4pm. I’d recommend arriving about 30 minutes early if you want a spot up front as it does get busy. Or, as I learned today, reserve a table at the Cube restaurant and watch from above.
Unfortunately, today was really cold and rainy so not an ideal day for a parade, but I toughed it out until the very end! Since this was my first time I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I suppose I thought it would be magical and carnival-themed. Well, was I in for a surprise! The only thing that I can compare it to is American Halloween. It felt like I was at a Halloween parade in February. All of the kids were dressed up and brought little bags to fill up with candy being thrown by those in the parade. The creatures in the parade were creepy and scary. It was dark. Perhaps the weather was appropriate?! Anyway, I’ll let the photos tell the story:
See what I mean?? 🙂 This yellow guy took off my winter hat and rubbed his big piece of cheese on my head! While it wasn’t quite what I expected, it was really fun (especially for the kiddos) and I would definitely recommend going if you find yourself in Stuttgart this time of year.
And, while the parade wasn’t at all political, one group used their platform to take a jab at the newly elected U.S. President:
I recently became involved with InterNations, an online community for expatriates and locals worldwide. In fact, I just became a Consul for the Feuersee Stammtisch (Fire Lake Regular Get-Together) group and hosted my first event last week — an African dinner for 12 people at Ebony. The event was well attended (11/12 showed, which I hear is very rare in a good way) and we had good conversation and ate very good food. My responsibility as Consul is to host at least one event per month. Next up: Classic English Afternoon Tea Time at the Althoff Hotel am Schlossgarten’s John Cranko Lounge on Sunday, March 26th.
On Sunday afternoon I attended an event planned by Harmut (“Harry”) who happens to live just around the corner from me. A group of us met at Harry’s apartment for a 2-hour walk and architectural tour of my neighborhood, Stuttgart West. I should start by saying that I know next to nothing about architecture, but the tour forced me to really look at the buildings around me and to look up, which is where most of the really interesting architectural elements can be found.
Harry called the event “Gründerzeit – Historismus -Jugendstil” which loosely translates to “Time – History – Art Nouveau.” (Jugendstil literally translates to “Youth Style” in German.) We saw examples of Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau architecture throughout the neighborhood. I should note that all of these buildings (the beautiful buildings!) were built before WWII. It is very clear, when walking down any German street, which buildings came before the war, and which were bombed and rebuilt after. The buildings that came after may be colorful (painted shades of pinks, blues, yellows) but they are very plain with flat facades made of concrete. Here I will share some photos from the afternoon, and I’ll start with my favorite building:
Here is a collage of typical buildings you’ll find in Stuttgart West:
Here is a now-school in my neighborhood that was built in 1900:
We saw so many animals! Frogs, Monkeys, Snakes, Elephants…
The Sankt Elisabeth Kirche:
There are a few hidden green spaces, located behind apartment buildings, that can be used to plant a garden, play with kids on the playground, relax in the sun when the weather is nice, etc. Here are a couple of photos of one of these green spaces:
Unfortunately, there aren’t nearly enough green spaces! Instead, most of the space behind apartment buildings was used to house factories where people worked. Today, those old factories are where people call home:
We also walked through a little tunnel in Stuttgart West and climbed a couple hundred stairs for a sneak peak of the valley. I learned that this tunnel, at the time it was built, was the longest in Germany. Funny to think about now because it’s so little!
Although I’ve only been to Vienna a handful of times, the Naschmarkt is not to be missed when we visit Robert’s family and friends. “Nasch” means “to eat” or “to snack,” which makes sense as it’s Vienna’s largest food market, or market of any kind. The market boasts over 100 permanent stalls and is over 1.5 kilometers long. It is located in the 6th district and is within walking district of all the very touristy (and beautiful) sights including Schönbrunn Palace, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Hofburg Palace, and the Opera House.
At Naschmarkt you’ll find just about any food product you can imagine. Of course there are a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and flowers, but also seafood, cheese, nuts, pottery, tea, meat/butchers, wine, oil, sweets, coffee, bread, and more. We visited just after the new year on a very cold day in January so the market was much less busy than usual, which was actually kind of nice as it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves! We wandered around, bought some nice tea, and warmed up in one of the many restaurants on-site. Here are some photos from our visit:
If you’re planning a visit to the Naschmarkt, I found this guide to be really helpful in choosing restaurants to eat at and local specialties to buy.
Robert and I made the long drive (~6 hours) from Stuttgart to Bad Fischau, a little village just south of Vienna, to celebrate New Year’s Eve or Silvester (in reference to Saint Silvester) as it is called here and much of this corner of Europe. We spent the evening with Robert’s parents, his sister and her husband, our two young nephews (they were asleep by the time we arrived), and a few family friends. Robert’s parents have the home in Fischau for weekends and holidays, but spend most of their time in Vienna.
We were welcomed with a large spread of meat, cheese, eggs, and veggies for raclette, a traditional holiday dinner in Austria. Simply put, you load up a triangle-shaped metal vessel with just about anything you like. Then, cover with a slice of cheese — one that melts fairly easily, of course. Stick the vessel into the raclette and wait and watch until the cheese on the top begins to bubble and brown. Remove it from the raclette, then scrape out of the vessel with your little wooden spoon onto your plate and enjoy!
Robert’s mother had a ton of ingredients to choose from including tomato, red pepper, mushrooms, capers, olives, garlic, onion, bacon, ham, boiled potatoes, bread, and of course the cheese. This is a tradition I can certainly get behind!
Just before midnight we all headed outside with a glass of champagne to watch the fireworks, which were going off all over Vienna. It felt like the 4th of July in the U.S. Bad Fischau is 20-30 miles south of Vienna, but at a higher elevation so we had a really nice view of the entire city. Also, Robert’s father set off some very nice fireworks in the yard so we had our very own private fireworks display.
After the fireworks we all headed back inside to do Bleigißen, a tradition where you place a small piece of lead on a spoon, melt it over a candle, and then throw the melted lead into a bowl of cold water. Then you try to make out what kind of shape you’ve created and what that might tell you about your life in the new year. As you can see in the pictures below, I started with a small bottle of Sekt (bubbly) and ended up with something that kind of resembled a boat or maybe a lizard or an alien? It’s hard to say, and I have no idea what this creature might tell me about my 2017, but it was fun to do nonetheless.
Finally, we all took turns picking little good luck charms out of grab bags. Typical good luck charms in Austria include mushrooms, ladybugs, and the number 13. You’re supposed to keep these charms in your wallet all year for good luck. I picked a ladybug and a number 13 with a little mushroom:
All in all, my first New Year celebration as an expat in Europe was really, really nice. I experienced new traditions (raclette, fireworks, Bleigeßen, and good luck charms) and felt really welcomed by Robert’s family, despite the language barrier (Deutsch, why must you be so difficult??!)