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.
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.
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).
Christmas Markets – This really needs no explanation and I’ve blogged all about the Finnish section of the market before. I think most people — definitely those of us in Germany! — know how special the Christmas markets are here. Although it’s cold, it is a great time to visit this country.
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? 🙂