Archive for April, 2010

The Meat Market

German sliced meats

If you were to come to Germany in search of beef, pork or chicken, you’d find they’re called rinderfleish, sweinefleish and putenfleish. Make no mistake, you are eating the flesh of your chosen animal. The bluntness in the translation took me a little by surprise when first I ventured out to the supermarkets of Botnang. After a few weeks I’d grown quite used to being reminded of exactly what I was eating. In fact, does it not make euphemisms like “beef” or “pork” seem rather foolish? Sadly red meat is generally beyond our price range in Stuttgart, and pork reigns supreme. At one point I thought I’d found a local butcher. You will imagine my shock on discovering that bücherei actually means library…

It’s certain that Germans are more comfortable (than say your average Aussie) with the idea of making the most of their animals. Processed meats are everywhere, cured, jellied or pressed. From ballet pink to deep maroon they are studded and flecked with all manner of flavourings. Tony and Rose have enjoyed exploring the range of mysterious slices, I prefer to stick to the traditional ham (schinken) for now. Oh, and if you wanted to buy mince, you’d find its called hackfleish.


Wandering in the Forest

A German ANZAC Day

It is definitely strange being in Germany for ANZAC Day. Every year I wonder, as we all do, how we let the world wars happen. And every year I want to cry for people who were violently killed. I’m in no position to give an answer to the question. But living in Stuttgart its easy to see how badly war affected Germany too. It’s a medieval city with the architecture of the twentieth century, bombed into oblivion during World War II. Thousands of ordinary people were killed here, and every street is a reminder. It’s hard to swallow the reality that the two countries, my home and my new home, were at war against each other when my Grandpa was a teenager. But its not so hard to believe. Wars are still being fought in so many places around the world, and corrupt governments are alive and well. It’s easy to forget.

This weekend we volunteered (ahem, I volunteered Tony) to help some new friends move house. Wanting to be helpful, I decided to make ANZAC biscuits. Sadly I’d left my great grandmother’s recipe behind in Australia. I considered skyping my Mum, but it was 2am for her. I almost went with Heidi Swanson’s version, but couldn’t forgive her the crime of calling them “Anzac cookies”. Excuse me Heidi but the ANZACs sang God Save the Queen. They’re definitely biscuits. Eventually I settled on a recipe. Of course, the ingredients were easy to find. HaferflockenKokosnuss and Backpulver were all readily available. Zuckerrübensirup was a little trickier to find. If there’s one recipe from which the uncooked dough tastes a million on the finished biscuit, I think ANZACs take the cake. And apparently, Rose agrees.


Someone told us recently that their favourite thing about Stuttgart is the festivals. From now into the next few months, Stuttgart hosts its fair share of fests, including a beer festival that is next to Oktoberfest in size. Stuttgarter Frühlingsfest, which began this week, is apparently the biggest Spring festival in Europe. As European-sized weekend crowds are something we’re not yet accustomed to (and try to avoid at all costs) Tony took the bold step of a day off work so we could see the blessed event for ourselves.

Frühlingsfest might best be described as a cross between Australia’s Wonderland and a day at your local German club. Rides of every acrobatic formation, a giant beer stein turning gracefully on a roof, and everywhere touches of Swabian culture at its festive best. Carnivals are bizarre places at the best of times. Wandering amongst neon signs bearing half-naked women and monstrous plastic ghosts, I had the strangest feeling of being somewhere familiar, and yet different. The exaggerated weirdness of it all dredged up memories of Bhaktin’s theory of “the carnivalesque” and Baudrillards “hyperreality” from English literature at Uni. “The carnivalesque” applies to any situation where the order of things is temporarily turned upside down (Alice in Wonderland is a classic example) and all social norms are abandoned for a short while. I couldn’t help wondering whether my sense of disorientation was because I don’t yet understand the social norms of Germany in the first place. One striking difference I did notice. While the sideshow alleys and ghost trains looked just like those I grew up with at the Camden Show, German “carnies” are much more polite than their Aussie counterparts. No jeering as you walk past, no shouts of “Come on, win your girlfriend a big teddy like a man!”

Tony and I had done some research and were in pursuit of some crispy pork knuckle, apparently the gastronomic highlight of the festival. Having found our seats, ordered our meals from a lederhosen-clad waiter and paid the princely sum of twenty Euros, imagine our dismay when we were served… chicken. Who would have thought Göckele did not mean “knuckle” but some version of “chicken”? This was a blow not easily recovered from. But as we wandered among the garish sideshow stands and strange German-themed tableau (the highlight being taxidermied animals), we couldn’t help but laugh in disbelief at being so far from home in so absurd a place. Thankfully, the chicken was thoroughly tasty!

Aunty Sam

I want to draw your attention to the talent and creativity of my sister-in-law, Samantha Kelly. Rose was lucky enough to be presented with this sweet little doll for Christmas, designed and made by Sam herself and known to us as “Aunty Sam”. Being light and squashable, Aunty Sam was lucky enough to join us on the flight from Sydney to London, and consequently she was one of the few toys that sustained us until our boxes arrived. Sadly her beautifully hand-stitched face and patchwork dress are inevitably losing their pristine quality. Sam (the girl not the doll) actually has her own crafty blog, All Things Quilty, where you can read about her adventures as a patchwork quilter and all-round crafter.

Though we miss you Sam, you are not being forgotten. Your little effigy is very well loved.

Spring in Botnang

Rose picking daisies

View over Botnang

Spring flowers

Magnolia flowers

A Street View of Stuttgart Flea Markets

I’m constantly reminded of how new I am to Germany, and how little I know of the people I’m living amongst. I long to be one of those expats who’ve done their time, learned the language, made friends, and whose working knowledge of the political and social culture gives them a roadmap to daily life that I am completely without.

This was made clear to me this week whilst reading an article on German reactions to Google Street View. When we were first given the address of our new home in Stuttgart, I remember feeling somewhat frustrated there was no Street View available for us to have a peek. Turns out there is quite a strong public objection towards Google’s plan to put German and Austrian streets on view by the end of 2010. This objection has manifested itself in everything from incidents of vandalism to Google’s camera laden cars to the stongly voiced opinions of public officials. In an interview, the Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner denounced Google’s photo offensive as “nothing less than a million-fold violation of the private sphere.” As it turns out, German law supports the desire for privacy that many Germans seem to feel. Google is now having to comply with restriction after restriction in order to complete its megalomaniacal quest. I now realise how naive it is of me to take photos in public places without much consideration for the privacy of the subjects. I’m certainly feeling contrite. On the advice of my new Ravelry friend, I’ve decided not to take down any photos I’ve posted so far, but to proceed with more circumspection in my photographic adventures.

It was with this is mind that I took my camera downtown to Stuttgart Flea Markets yesterday. The Flohmarkt happens every Saturday under the watchful eye of the “Old Castle”. Its a delightful collection of the beautiful and the strange which gives that satisfying sensation of digging for buried treasure. Unfortunately, I lack both the confidence and the language to ask permission to take photographs. One lady got quite upset with me for taking a photo of a box of tarnished silverware, and had enough English vocab to insist I delete the photo. Feeling a little gun-shy of ever taking another photo in Germany ever again, I had quite a positive reaction from people whose permission I did ask before photographing them or their wares. It’s made me more determined than ever to conquer that all-encompassing language barrier, and ever more impressed by the maze of culture and experience that makes us human.

About Me

A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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