Christmas (Part 1)

Again, it’s been a while, but I’m totally and completely addicted to Skyrim. ¬†Germany is the best country ever to celebrate Christmas in, and I did manage to leave my xbox long enough to enjoy it ūüôā ¬†This will be a two parter because I have tons of photos and a few recipes to post, and I don’t want to crash your computers. ¬†So first, the Christmas Markets!


Köln Altemarkt


more at Altemarkt. There were so many people it was like walking in the ocean.


more Altemarkt

the new haircut

Köln Neumarkt

Gingerbread stall at Köln Neumarkt

Star shop at Neumarkt

There is nothing better on a cold day than warm, burnt almonds. Except for Gl√ľhwein.

Marienheide Forest-Market. This is my favorite of all of them! They had boar meatballs, smoked trout, bread baking in wood ovens and lots of mulled wine! It even snowed for us.

Clan Villani and booze

you could get trout straight out of the smoker. It was sooo good.

Cocoa with rum. It's nice to hang out with other bloggers, you're not the only one taking photos of random stuff!

And that’s that! ¬†Part two, in which I learn how to salt a sheeps hide in Bavaria and eat Spanish style flaming rum sausages coming soon ūüôā



Maybe there ARE dentists in heaven?

So living in different countries, you can’t help but have bizarre stories about visits to various medical professionals. ¬†Sometimes you have to put the word professionals in air quotes.

For example, in Greece you get vaccinations over the counter. ¬†As in, you walk in, McDonald’s style, put your arm on the counter and order a tetanus with a side of meningitis, and pray that the needle the pharmacist pulls out is actually going into your arm. ¬†I have fond memories of leaning over behind the counter, next to the windows, getting a hep. A vaccine in my ass, surrounded by old greek gramdmas who alternately patted my arm and discussed how brave I was being (meanwhile the friend I had brought for moral support was too busy laughing to offer any consoling words. Thanks Heyam ūüôā )

Then there’s the time I tried to get a morning after pill in a Slovak clinic, without the necessary vocabulary to actually explain what happened. The friend I had brought for moral support also didn’t have the vocabulary needed, so we had to act out the events leading up to the clinic visit, using charades, to a very unimpressed older Slovak doctor. ¬†The second she turned her back, her younger nurse winked at me and slipped the prescription over the counter.

Also a highlight in Slovakia is the total lack of personal space at hospitals. ¬†People walk in in the middle of your exams, coffee in hand and have a chat with your doctor about their holidays while you’re getting checked out. ¬†This made my yearly trip to the¬†gynecologist¬†a Very Special Experience.

Then there’s the time I desperately needed cold medicine while visiting Bulgaria, where nodding your head yes means no and shaking your head no means yes. ¬†I pointed to my nose and sniffed. ¬†The pharmacist pulled out what I needed. ¬†I nodded my head. She put it back and pulled out another thing I didn’t need. ¬†I shook my head. ¬†She rung it up on the register. Rewind, and repeat. ¬† Abbott and Costello would have been proud.

And then there’s Germany, where doctors are expected to explain, in detail, every single thing they’re doing while they’re doing it. ¬†They’re so used to it that even if you beg them to stop, they continue without realizing it. ¬†Dentists, who terrify me in the best of times, are the worst. ¬†It’s like being tortured by the evil tooth guy from Alias. They’re all like, “see this? This is the massive fucking needle I’m going to cram into your mouth. ¬†Now I’m cramming the giant needle into your mouth. ¬†And see this? This is the massive scary drill I’m about to grind into your…” and I’m all like “DANTOOINE! The rebel base is on DANTOOINE!”

Which is the reason I feel duty bound to tell you that I found out today that the dentist’s doesn’t actually have to be a waking version of hell. Today, after 5 years of¬†guiltily¬†walking by dentists offices at top speed, I finally cracked a tooth and had to go. ¬†I chose a new clinic that some of my clients had recommended, and it was amazing. ¬†A trip to the dentist involving syringes and drills was actually amazing. ¬†The clinic is all streamlined and shiny and modern, they have comfy black leather armchairs, and they serve espresso to you in the waiting area. Also, the dentists there are all so good looking I felt like I was in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy: Dentists Edition. ¬†I mean seriously: 5 men and 1 woman working in a chic dental clinic in the city center? If that doesn’t have award-winning sit-com written all over it, I don’t know what does. ¬†Also, my dentist ruled. ¬†I got her at random and she was both completely nice, and all down to business. ¬†She asks “comfy?” you say “sure!” and bam, she’s in. ¬†No t.m.i, no exhibits of the torture devices, just fixed the tooth, made sure I was ok at regular intervals, and I was out of there in 3o minutes. ¬†Also, the appointment started 5 minutes early. ¬†Yes, early. ¬†What’s more, she has a sense of humor. ¬†I asked for her last name again so I could re-book her, and she answers with a grin: “of course, but you don’t really need it. ¬†Just ask for the woman dentist. ¬†That’s what everyone else does”. ¬† And, to make things even more incredible, the check up, two x-rays and a patched up molar only cost 130 Euro. Love.

So if you’re in Cologne, and need your teeth fixed, go to the practice at Josef-Haubricht Hof. ¬†It honestly might be the best clinic on the continent.

A Very Frankish Christmas

I was planning on keeping this blog updated, but had no internet access over the holidays (which was both scary and wonderful :-)), so you’re getting it all now. ¬† First I’ll start with a photomanip. ¬†I did two for January and never could decide which I liked better so I’ll give you both, one today and the other in the next week.

Here are my fab deviantart sources: Models: link by Katanaz-Stock and link by the-stock-project, Left side background: link by blackkitty666, Right side background: link by Tigg-stock, Owl horns: link by gurukitty, Squirrel fur: link by`radioPooh, Owl feathers: link by SalsolaStock, Fox fur: link by Momotte2stocks, Cardinal feathers: link by hortley, Snowdrop: link by Rita-Ria-Stock, Juniper branches: link by ~unpurrfect-stock, Ice: link by SusieStock, Berries: link by xcc-stock and link by marlene-stock, Texture: link by night-fate-stock Antlers: link by Irie-Stock


The rain of Zeus descends and from high heaven

A storm is driven;

And on the running water-brooks the cold

Lays icy hold:

Then up! beat down the winter; make the fire

Blaze high and higher;

Mix wine as sweet as honey of the bee


Then drink with comfortable wool around

Your temples bound.

We must not yield our hearts to woe, or wear

With wasting care;

For grief will profit us no whit, my friend,

Nor nothing mend;

But this is our best medicine, with wine fraught

To cast out thought. —Alcaeus

I spent Christmas with my friends in Franken again this year, and, like always, it was awesome. ¬†They’re no-stress people, they stuff me full of pie and beer, and I get to sleep in front of a blazing traditional wood stove in a 200 year old half-timbered farm house. ¬†The eggs for breakfast come from one neighbor’s farm, the bratwurst is hand made from another neighbor’s farm, last year another neighbor donated a rabbit for dinner. Kind of like heaven.

The view from my bed.

And then, after 2 years of celebrating with them, Martin finally decides to tell me that the area where they live has the most breweries per capita of anywhere IN THE WORLD.  And then his father suggests we get a case of beer and get different bottles from around the vicinity, which was the best idea of the year, as far as I was concerned.  We settled with beer from within a 20 k. radius around their house and ended up with these: 

I managed to make my way through all but the Bockbier and one of the darks. ¬†Also, there was another kind of G√∂ller we got. ¬†Still, not bad for 3 days! :-)The only one I wasn’t so keen on was the Rauch Weizenbier, which surprised me. ¬†Normally I adore Rauchbier (it’s a specialty of Bamburg where they smoke the hops before brewing the beer), but the Weizen version was a little odd.

In the Mosel region


I also took some pictures from the train on my way down to see how my camera would hold up, and got some interesting results. ¬†Unfortunately, most of the way I was on the boring side of the train (ie. the river and castles were not next to me) ¬†Next time I’ll make sure to get a better seat :-):

This one is from the car from Bamberg to Unterk√ľpps

And some of Christmas dinner. ¬†Jess is one of the best cooks ever. ¬†And yes, that is an oreo cheesecake. Don’t get me wrong now. ¬†Germans do amazing cakes and sweets, but they don’t understand pies, and I love that Martin (who is German) and Jess (an Ami) still mix American and German holiday foods.

All in all it was a rockin’ Christmas! See you all in the new year!¬†


And here are the pics from the weekend in Kreuzberg! ¬†Every time I go I think it doesn’t get any better, but it always manages to ūüôā ¬†This time I managed to get a single room at an amazing hostel across the street from the seminar. ¬†It’s a converted warehouse, called Die Fabrik. ¬†Rooms are basic but it’s in a great location and the hostel itself is really cool.

the hostel lobby

the courtyard

the entrance

luckily I got in a bit early, and got a call from another of the seminar participants, and we decided to grab an ice cream just off of Schlesischestr.  It was incredible.

one ice cream to rule them all

I can never get enough of the street art in Berlin

Eating well is also never a problem. ¬†Unfortunately I can’t remember the names of these restaurants, but I’m going to find out and post them soon…

the best Vietnamese food in the hippest restaurant.

A vegetarian and service were so so, but the restaurant itself is beautiful! Also, they have pink lemonade.

Saturday evening I spent at Alexanderplatz trying to buy a notebook.  In the end I gave it up as a waste of time and patience, but the square was at least interesting, and it was the first time I really saw a part of Berlin other than Kreuzberg.


I do realize that most of my photos have no people in them…I personally detest having my picture taken, so I always feel guilty taking other peoples pictures ūüôā next time I’ll try to get more street life.

Hawaii, Berlin

I’m back!

Hawaii was beautiful and Berlin was amazing, although the neverending quest for the netbook continues. ¬†I know it’s taken me forever to post the pictures (my brother’s wedding was end of August), but I had to pack up and go to Berlin for the seminar only a week after and it’s been crazy with new courses since then. ¬†Today I’m going to take the last edibles out of my garden and make another pesto. Hopefully I’ll get pictures ūüôā ¬†I’ve also picked up a sewing project again after the summer, and HOPEFULLY I’ll get my 40’s style autumn coat and dress finished this month (ha ha).

For now, here are some photos from Hawaii, Berlin pics will follow

View from my apartment in Waikiki

I was so jetlagged I woke up at 3:30 every morning. The plus side is that I had the beach more or less to myself for a few hours every morning

Waikiki beach and the Diamondhead. This is probably my favorite view from the whole trip.

The booze cruise boat. For 30 dollars there's an open bar while you sail around the coast. Probably the best idea in the history of mankind!

the amazing sky and sea, right before sunset.

A view from where my brother got hitched, at Lanikuhonua on the west coast of Oahu. Probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.

My brother's wedding was awesome

another view at Lanikuhonua

sunset at the wedding

First, we take Manhattan…

Finally here are my photos from Berlin!

The seminar was great, although the level of German was very high and there was alot I didn’t understand. ¬†Next time should be easier! ¬†I also have to say that when I first arrived in Berlin, I hated it. ¬†The first few places I had to go were wide open, not very populated and frankly, I felt cheated. ¬†Things took a turn for the better, however, when I decided to take a taxi to my hotel (I only had an hour to check in to the hotel and get across Kreuzberg for the seminar). ¬†After almost killing us both showing me the sights, the driver took us under the tracks into Kreuzberg, and from that point on, Berlin, I love you!

a door on Schlesischestraße

spooky blurred when I tried to take the picture

lights at a bar across the water from our bar

Kreuzberg graffiti

view from the Admiralsbr√ľcke


Berlin and a new addiction

I’ve been spending the week preparing for a three day seminar in Berlin, which, after 3 such weekends, will certify me as an intercultural trainer. ¬†I’m excited, but I’m going to miss having a weekend!

Also, I’ve just discovered , and am completely addicted. ¬†I’ve also started learning how to use photoshop-type programs and I’m having a hard time stopping ūüôā ¬†My username is combray over there if you feel like mozying on over and having a look at my artwork!

I’ll post more after Berlin, with pictures!

The Travel Bug Returns

Every four years or so it’s exactly the same thing. ¬†First I start getting restless. Then one day I find myself randomly looking at job¬†possibilities¬†on the internet. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before I start bookmarking job pages for Saudi oil companies, Chinese universities and Thai refugee camps, and calculating how much money I could get if I sold all my things on¬†eBay. ¬† It’s kind of like being single…after a while you lose all objectivity and simply EVERYTHING looks great. During my last travel mania I was actually considering applying as a cafeteria lady in Antarctica.

I love it here in K√∂ln, don’t get me wrong, so the last time the travel bug hit I gritted my teeth and stood my ground. ¬†It took about a month to get over it, and it took all my willpower to come back here from a holiday in Japan.

So here it is again.  Last night I actually looked at a job in Siberia with honest interest (and I hate cold weather more than anything on this planet. Except maybe spiders and clowns) and I realized I had it bad.

And maybe it would be time for a move, except I’m one year away from being able to apply for nationalization here. ¬† I’ve been playing the visa bureaucracy game for coming on 12.5 years here in Europe, and I am, frankly, over it. ¬†This would enable me to vote for the government I pay so many taxes to, to take summer work in other EU countries when work slows down here and most of my students are on holiday. ¬†It would also allow me to be officially a part of the society I feel at home in, to be an insider instead of an outsider. ¬†This is what makes it stupid for me to seriously consider bailing this year, and why I’m so proud I’ve stuck it out this far.

On the other hand, some days I do get this overwhelming fear that maybe I’ve done all the interesting things already in my life, that I did them too fast and didn’t spread them out over my lifetime. That the rest of my life is doomed to normalcy. That if I don’t keep moving I’ll stop completely, and end up being one of those people who sit at pubs and tell exciting stories about their youth. ¬†Which would be fine, except I’m only 31, which is definitely not old enough to be¬†reminiscing¬†about the olden days when I was ¬†fun. ¬†This is not a helpful feeling when the bug hits and my brain has enough work convincing me that moving now would be Stoopid.

I guess the rational solution would be to take a holiday, right? ¬†Unfortunately when I travel, I prefer to move to the country and explore around it. ¬†Short holidays just begin to feel like one night stands after a while… you know, you haven’t in so long, so you think, well, I’ll just have this little thing and afterwards I’ll feel really relaxed and better and ready to work, but instead it isn’t enough and you’re just as bored and restless as you were before.

I love the excitement of packing up and moving to somewhere I know nothing about, and learning everything from the ground up. The less I know about somewhere before I move there the better. There are no expectations, no¬†prejudices, and everything seems exotic. You can learn language, culture, politics from the beginning, learn the little streets, find favorite cafes and restaurants, navigate a foreign supermarket, figure out the public transportation system, meet new people from new backgrounds. ¬†It’s a kick like no other and I really do miss the adrenaline of it all. ¬†And after a time, the thrill is gone and nothing is new anymore, and Burkina Faso starts to look ¬†like the obvious place to live next.

That said, let’s hope that my trips Sweden and Hawaii this year are enough to kick this bug out and make me feel normal and settled again!