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!
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? 🙂
On Christmas Eve Robert and I feasted on fresh raw oysters, a fresh whole baked trout with lemon and herbs, and parsley potatoes before opening gifts in the evening. Unlike in the States, Germans (along with many other European countries) celebrate Christmas on the 24th, Christmas Eve, with a big family dinner and gift exchange in the evening.
On Christmas Day we made dukatenschnitzerl, or little fried balls of pork and fried potatoes with a lemon-thyme salt and fried parsley. This dish reminds me of the classic British fish and chips dish, but pork instead of fish. (Is there honestly anything better than fried pork??!) It´s a classic Austrian dish. We used a recipe from the Wiener Küche cookbook by Susanne Zimmel. FYI: “Dukaten” is an old word for “coin” and the pieces of pork and potato are roughly the size of coins, which is where this dish gets its name — “little coin schnitzel.”
First, here is a list of ingredients you will need:
Salt & Pepper
To get started, boil the potatoes until they are soft, about 30 minutes. While the potatoes are boiling, remove a few sprigs of thyme from the stem.
Then, get out your mortar and pestle to make the lemon-thyme salt. First, place the thyme inside and add the zest of one lemon. Crush well. Then, add salt and pepper and crush well once more. (As you can see, we also added a few dried tomatoes because we had them, but these are not required.)
Fresh Thyme + Lemon Zest
Add Salt & Pepper
While the potatoes continue to boil, cut up the pork tenderloin into bite-sized pieces. Also, set up your flour-egg-breadcrumb station (from left to right) as you can see below. At this point, the potatoes are likely soft and can be removed from the boiling water. Once the potatoes have cooled a bit and are easy to handle, peel them and cut into bite-sized pieces as well.
Next, put the butter and the lard (schmalz) into a big pot, which is what you will use to fry the pork, potatoes, and parsley. Allow the butter and lard to melt and then raise the temperature to 150ºC for frying. Add the potatoes to the pot with butter and lard and fry until they´re crunchy like french fries or chips.
Next, fry a few sprigs of fresh parsley in the same pot of hot butter and lard. Make sure to have a plate or bowl lined with paper towel nearby where you can deposit the potatoes, parsley, and ultimately the pork after frying so that any excess frying grease can be absorbed.
Now, take the pork pieces and dip into the flour, then the eggs, and finally the breadcrumbs before placing into the frying pot. Be sure the butter-lard is still at 150ºC for frying. Fry the pork until golden brown in color.
Now that the potatoes, parsley, and pork has been fried you’re ready to assemble! We served our dinner in newspaper cones as if it were street food. Just load up the cone with pieces of the fried pork and fried potatoes and top with slices of lemon, the fried parsley, and the lemon-thyme salt …and bon appetit!
One of my most favorite places in Stuttgart is located just around the corner from our apartment in Stuttgart West, a little shop called Feinkost Panzer. I mentioned this special place in a previous blog post, but finally got around to taking a few more pictures inside the store to share here.
The store is run by a tiny blonde woman, Theresia Panzer, and is modeled after a small delicatessen she stumbled upon while in Paris, pictured here:
Frau Panzer handpicks all of the items she sells, and it’s clear that she has great taste! She sells a little bit of everything — fruit, vegetables, meats and cheeses, bread, pasta, chocolates and other sweets, wine, juice and soda, flowers, coffees and teas, oils and vinegars, jams, honey, and the list goes on and on. She’s even getting us a whole fish from the market tomorrow morning at 5am (!) for our Christmas dinner.
Yesterday I had an appointment at the Deutsch-Amerikanisches Zentrum (or German-American Center) here in Stuttgart. (More on that meeting later — exciting things to come, I think!) Anyway, the DAZ is located at the Charlottenplatz and I had some time to kill before my meeting so I stopped at the Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt) for the obligatory rote wurst (or red sausage, a favorite in Swabia) and then, completely by accident, stumbled upon the Finnish Christmas Market.
We walked through the Finnish market while in Hannover, but I had no idea that something similar was here in Stuttgart. It’s a really special area of the market, located just across the way from the ice skating rink. There’s a really nice gift shop with Finnish specialty foods and handmade winter clothes — very nice things, but also very expensive. There are also several outdoor fire pits where fresh salmon (flammlachs) is being grilled to perfection to be served alone or on a sandwich and their famous mulled wine, Glögi, is served. If you find yourself in Stuttgart during the holiday season, I highly recommend adding the Finnish section of the Christmas market to your bucket list.
After enjoying flammlachs and Glögi, head over to the Grand Cafe Planie on the Karlsplatz for coffee and dessert. Or flammkuchen. They have really good flammkuchen too. 🙂 They have a huge dessert counter in front with all kinds of house-made cakes, pies, and baked goods. It’s such a warm, cozy spot perfect for this time of year — and it’s really nicely decorated for the holidays. I opted for the blueberry cheesecake, which did not disappoint!
Last night Robert and I made really easy stuffed peppers. You’ll need the following ingredients:
Large bell peppers (we used red, green, and yellow)
The easy recipe is as follows: cut the peppers in half and clean out the inside, in a bowl combine chives + bulgar + chickpeas and then use this mix to fully stuff each pepper, top with feta cheese and roast in the oven (we had our oven set at 200°C) for 15 minutes. Here is a picture of the peppers before they went in the oven and one after. ENJOY!
The recipe I’m sharing here is for 8 servings (we doubled the recipe from the book). It’s super easy and healthy. Here are the ingredients you will need:
1 Hokkaido pumpkin, de-seeded and chopped into large pieces
1 tablespoon tomato paste
600ml / 2.5c of vegetable (or beef) broth
1/2 diced onion
1 pinch of chili flakes (if you’d like, for a little heat)
1 tablespoon of olive (or other vegetable) oil
100g / 1c of heavy cream
1 teaspoon peanut butter (surprise!)
a drizzle of pumpkin oil
The first step is to dice the onion and chop the pumpkin. At the same time, heat the vegetable stock in a small pot.
Then, heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pot and add the onion and cook until translucent. Then, add the tomato paste and stir until the onion and tomato are incorporated. Finally, add the pumpkin, the vegetable broth, and the chili flakes to the onion-tomato mix and stir well. Cover with a lid and low boil for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, remove the lid and add the heavy cream and peanut butter and stir well. Blend all ingredients well with an immersion blender. Finally, spoon the soup into bowls and add a drizzle of pumpkin oil.
For the last couple of months Robert and I have been members of the meal kit delivery service, Marley Spoon. Each week we receive the ingredients for two different meals that we choose online from seven options. We pay 38€ for four meals each week. The meals are healthy, the ingredients are fresh and seasonal, and all meals can be prepared in just six steps. Also, all of the packaging can be recycled — paper, plastic, and sheep’s wool, which can go into the compost bin. The best thing, for me, about this delivery service is that all of the recipes are available online so I can use Google translate to read all of the recipes in English. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the ingredients are delivered to my doorstep each week and I can avoid climbing 4 flights of stairs with heavy groceries! Anyway, I’d highly recommend! Here are a few pictures of some of our recent dinners:
Zucchini boats filled with lamb
Pumpkin risotto with chicken and kale
Prosciutto-wrapped pork loin with chive mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts
For the last year or so Goldoni has been our go-to Italian restaurant in Stuttgart. However, I just discovered Riva and I’m in love and, better yet, it’s in our neighborhood (West) so just a walk away. The antipasti platter is so fresh and delicious and the lasagna was some of the best I’ve had, and I’ve had a lot of lasagna in my days! Highly recommend! Riva is located at Senefelderstrasse 21 in Stuttgart West. Their website seems to be down at the moment, but the location is riva-stuttgart.de.