What to Eat & Drink in Vienna

If you know me, you know I love good food. While there are so many things to love about Vienna (architecture, culture, coffee houses, Christmas markets, and the list goes on and on) here I’ll share my favorite Viennese and Austrian treats!

Wiener Schnitzel – As you walk by restaurants in Vienna, or while at your Oma’s house, you often hear the pounding of the meat in the kitchen. They pound out the veal (or pork or even chicken) until it’s very thin, dip it in flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs, and then fry in oil until golden brown. It’s often served with a slice of lemon for drizzling and a little currant jam for dipping.

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Wiener Schnitzel

White Wine Spritzers – I mean, this drink is genius. They say you should always drink a glass of water in between drinks, right? Well, how about adding water directly to your drink? A spritzer is white (or red) wine  – normally a local Grüner Veltliner – with sparkling water, sometimes served with ice and lemon slices. The ratios vary – the “regular” year-round spritzer is about 50/50 wine-to-water and the “summer spritzer” is a little less wine and more water.

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White Wine Spritzers

Käsekrainer / Cheese-filled Sausage – I’m from Wisconsin so anything filled with cheese is a-okay in my book. They’re normally sold at your corner Würstelstand (“sausage box”) and come in a big hot dog bun (with a hole cut out through the middle – smart) and filled with ketchup, mustard, and fresh shredded horseradish.

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Käsekrainer

Liptauer – This is a very popular spicy cheese dip, one that we’ve made part of our annual Thanksgiving dinner. It’s made with sheep cheese, butter, onion, pickle, capers, mustard, cumin, paprika, and sour cream. It’s really tasty and easy to find at an Austrian supermarket deli counter. Dip bread, pretzels, chips, whatever you like.

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Liptauer

Melange + Water – Vienna has a thriving coffee culture so all kinds of coffee are available here, but melange is the most traditional and popular. Melange translates to “mixed” and is made with one shot of espresso served in a large cup with steamed milk and milk foam. It’s always served with a small glass of tap water.

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Melange

Apfelstrudel // Apple Strudel – Layers of thin, flaky pastry dough are stuffed with apples, raisins, and cinammon, baked, and topped with powdered sugar. Enjoy this after dinner or like the Austrians as part of an afternoon “kaffee und kuchen” (coffee and cake) break. The first time I had this dessert was when my now-husband made it for me in Chicago. He brought his family’s apfelstrudel cloth, which is a large, thin cloth used for rolling out the pastry dough (yes, this really is a thing!) passed down from one generation to the next.

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Apfelstrudel

Cremeschnitte // Cream Cake – My favorite Austrian cake. A thin and crispy puff pastry filled with custard and chantilly cream. If you love this cake as much as me, you should be following @cremeschnittenandi on Instagram.

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Cremeschnitte

Grammelknödel – I’m convinced these are Austria’s best kept secret. Sure, there are dumplings everywhere here, but these are different. Special. Potato and semolina dumplings stuffed with pork cracklings, onion, and garlic. Yes, you read that right. PORK CRACKLINGS!!! Enough said, am I right? If you’re visiting, this should be at the top of your list of food to try, right next to schnitzel.

Grammelknödel

Sturm – Only available once a year – normally the end of September to mid-October – Sturm is a young wine that’s basically fermented fresh pressed grape juice. It tastes like carbonated grape juice and has only about 1% alcohol.

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Sturm

Gulasch – This beef stew is a Hungarian classic turned Viennese staple. There’s even a Gulasch Museum here in Vienna! My favorite version includes sauerkraut and potatoes. As with most stews, the key is to cook it low and slow.

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Gulasch

Kaiserschmarrn // Emporer’s Mess – Kaiserschmarrn, named after Franz Josef, is a caramelized and shredded sweet pancake served with powdered sugar, applesauce, and jam.

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Kaiserschmarrn

Elderflower Syrup // Holunderblüten Syrup – Elderflower is everywhere here. Austrians like to add a little syrup to a glass of carbonated or still water. Kind of like a non-alcoholic spritzer. They also make a sweet fried bread with the flowers. Our favorite brand to buy is Austria’s very own Darbo.

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Elderflower

If you’d like to follow my culinary adventures in Vienna, take a look at @hungry.in.europe on Instagram. ♥

Acclimating to Life in Vienna: The Girly Book Club & VoiceMap Walking Tour

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!

Fortunately, there is a large American community (see the U.S. Americans in Vienna, Austria Facebook group, for example) and a large international English-speaking community (if you’re female, check out the Women of Vienna Facebook group) here.

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.

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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.

VoiceMap Banner

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:

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Opera House + Pink Rabbit
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Opera House
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Opera House
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Käsekrainer Hot Dog
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Monument Against War & Fascism
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St. Stephen’s Cathedral
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St. Stephen’s Cathedral
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St. Stephen’s Cathedral

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!

 

 

 

 

Taxes for Expats

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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. 

Some Things I Love About Living In Germany

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.)

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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:

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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:

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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!

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Rainbow body wash with 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.

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Vitello Tonnato at Bottega da Giulia

 

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. 🙂

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(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).

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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.

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Döner Kebap at Ützel Brützel

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.

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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:

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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? 🙂