Archive for the 'Stuttgart' Category

Eis at the Casa Pompa

Ice cream, beer and World Cup matches are the flavour of summer in Germany. Down at the Casa Pompa (as in so many other places) a crowd of varying size gathers around a flatscreen TV. The excitement is palpable as the warm weather continues along with Germany’s success. But after a brief sojourn at home, my generous parents have today escorted me across the Channel to the precious stone set in a silver sea. To the girl who served me tea at Heathrow airport, I tried to explain the novelty of ordering something in English for the first time in four months. She was nonplussed. After a spot of relaxing in Bath and a mini break in the Cotswolds, Mum and Dad will deposit me the in the safe hands of Keren before leaving for London, and then home. Every silver lining has a cloud.


Asian Food and Gifts

On my way home a few weeks ago I spotted a sign from the window of the U-Bahn – “Asian Food and Gifts”. Could this be? The first and only Asian grocery store I’ve seen so far. I took note of the next U-station and resolved to pay a visit. I couldn’t believe my luck. Shao Xsing wine, brown rice vinegar, light AND dark soy sauce!

It’s all Kylie Kwong’s fault. Last year I bought Tony a copy of Simple Chinese Cooking as a birthday present after eating one of the most delicious meals of our lives at her restaurant in Sydney. This book revolutionised our culinary lives. No longer do I think of Chinese food as a gluggy mess of tasteless goo, watery vegetables and generic flavour that I am bound by love to eat once a year on Tony’s birthday. Thanks to Kylie, I now know that Chinese food is fresh, zingy, healthy and at least as delectable as Italian or Thai. I have even learned to love iceberg lettuce (sorry Jamie Oliver) thanks to Chinese Style Lettuce Salad. It’s a taste sensation! Owing to the preponderance of pork in Germany, I can now buy pork neck fillet (key ingredient of our favourite dinner: Stir-fried pork with honey and ginger) at a fraction of the price I paid in Australia.

Apart from scoring major points with my husband for bringing home Mi Goreng noodles (what is it about men and Mi Goreng? Pete? Dan?) I found something strangely liberating about Asian Food and Gifts. I couldn’t read the labels, but then neither (I assume) could the German customers standing beside me. It was neutral territory, and obscure Asian ingredients were a level playing field. Among piles of bamboo steamers and sacks of sweet smelling rice, everything evened out. Have Germany and I found common ground at last?

Wandering in the Forest


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!

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.

An Outsider’s Guide to Stuttgart #1 The Markets

Germany has a very short growing season. Arriving at the tail end of winter, we’ve been living on tired looking broccoli, impenetrable tomatoes and bananas which, although fair trade and organic, have traveled from places like Brazil and Columbia (gasp). How I miss my beloved markets in Wollongong, which at this time of year are burgeoning with new season apples, the first of the citrus and the last of the delicious figs. So you can imagine what a relief it was to find the produce market in Stuttgart, awash with the promise of Spring. My first glimpse of that buzzing mass of colour and movement brought a wave of familiarity and relief. But this is isn’t just an ordinary market. Stuttgart’s producers have been trading in the very same place since the 14th century. In 1944, the Marketplatz itself was completely destroyed by Anglo-American air raids, along with ninety percent of the city. But rebuilding had begun by the 1950s, and today it houses the produce market twice a week, as well as the Christmas market from November.

For Tony and I, the experience brings moments of both exhilaration and despair. Boxes and tables of gleaming apples, surly potatoes and soldierly asparagus, bring the former. The awkwardness of not knowing where to stand or how to approach, grappling with yet unfamiliar coins, and the ever-frightening language barrier, bring the latter. Nevertheless we came home laden with a bushel of delicious local bounty. Apparently, the market still abides by its centuries old mandate that only produce grown in Württemberg may be sold. This may well be true, though I’m sure I glimpsed a couple of pineapples…

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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