Essen Christmas Market

Essen Christmas Market

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!

  So New Year's Eve found us in the village of Heiligenhaus celebrating with a large group of British and American expats and a few Germans thrown in for flavor!  The women were glitzy and glamorous in their formal dresses and their men were dashing in their suits and ties.  We did our best to blend, but the hosts were gracious in spite of our lack of fashion sense.  We are from Iowa, afterall. :)
  At the stroke of midnight the Brits struck up "Auld Lang Seine"- and of course they knew the lyrics!  Probably all of them, but they were drowned  out by the millions of fireworks going off in the neighborhood.  Yes, in Germany, the country of safety and rules, everyone is allowed to buy large cartons of huge fireworks and everyone sets them off at midnight.  It made every 4th of July celebration I've ever attended pale in comparison.  I wish I had better pictures, but it was raining, and clearly, my photography skills are on par with my fashion sense.  But, you get the idea....



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Gelukkig kerstfeest, Frohe Weihnachten, and Merry Christmas

  Christmas Eve found us celebrating with our wonderful ex-pat group at Lu-Lu's:  a quaint pub in our soon-to-be home village of Kettwig.  Brett, Marissa and I spent the afternoon engrossed in great conversations, and received a lot of fabulous tips on what to see in the area.  The boys met a couple of children their age, and all 4 of them enjoyed video games on smartphones.  Apparently, addiction to technology is international.
  On Christmas day, we traveled to the Netherlands to visit our good friends.  It was a very short 100 minute drive to Tim and Rita's, and they provided another fabulous day of conversation and fun.  We experienced a new holiday tradition that we've got to try again at home.  A large electric griddle (nearly the exact same ones that we use for making pancakes and eggs at our house) is placed in the middle of the table.  Everyone is issued a  small wooden paddle (spatula of some sort) for cooking and each chooses a plateful of raw meat and vegetables:  we had chicken, marinated pork, bacon wrapped sausage, a Dutch version of hot dog, shrimp, and shawarma (this is Arabic actually) onions, pepers, and mushrooms.  Then, everyone grills their own food in front of them.  Bram was a fantastic cook, and helped both boys.  Rita helped me. :) This had the added bonus of introducing kids to cooking on their own.   One of the highlight's was Tim's American green bean casserole.  It was very similar to what we'd get at home, and it was delicious!  We'll definitely be hosting a party like this in the future.  Thanks again, Tim, Rita, Bram and Emma for inviting us.  Looking forward to our next adventure!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

  Our first few days in Germany have been a whirlwind.  The kids and I arrived at Dusseldorf airport at 6am. Brett took the kids and the luggage to Mulheim an der Ruhr, while I took the train:  there was room enough for all the luggage or all the people, but not both.  I was pretty proud of myself for figuring out which train to take in spite of being severely jet-lagged.   On my scouting trip last month, I managed to find the correct line, but got on the wrong direction (oops).
  After arriving, we met up with our new and amazing friend Karen to tour Marissa's school in Kettwig.  We met one of her classmates and had a quick tour, so we at least have some sort of idea what to expect.  It seems that high school in Germany is more like college in the US: kids are expected to be far more independent in their studies.  She met one of her future classmates, who also happens to be her FB friend (thanks to our friend Karen) and I've no doubt she'll have a wonderful experience.
  We then raced to visit the boys' school, the International school Ruhr, in Essen, which is about 20 minutes minutes away according to google maps, but I've been reliably informed that traffic can turn the commute into 40 minutes.  That should make life interesting for us- anyone who knows me can imagine what a mommy-dearest I am in the morning without traffic.  Anyway, the school is beautiful, and the staff was very welcoming in spite of our last-minute drop-in.  I think the boys will settle in wonderfully, although I'll miss the short walk we had in Sgt. Bluff.
  After that tour, we had our real adventure for the week- and hopefully our last.  On our way to lunch, Hunter slipped on a stair and split his head open.  Horribly.  We were without our guardian angels/interpreters (as we had split ways hoping to give them some sort of reprieve from the annoyingly helpless auslanders), which made the experience even more frightening for me.   Fortunately, some kind soul called emergency for us, and the ambulance team spoke sufficient English to help me calm down, but poor Hunter was terrified.   We were seen immediately, the wound was cleaned, glued (in lieu of stitches) and dressed, with instructions to return if obvious signs of infection or concussion appeared, which fortunately haven't.  We were then shuffled to the accounting dept to pay, but I had no phone, no Euro, no copy of my insurance card (left that with Brett in my panic) and running on empty in the sleep dept (remember, we arrived at 6 am that morning).  The poor man in the office didn't know how to handle me, and with my broken German and his broken English, I was in less than prime form.   Fortunately, Sven, the white knight, arrived with Brett and the other two in tow before tears erupted.  We paid our bill of approximately 23 Euro and were sent on our way.  I know it's our only experience (and hopefully our last), but the care was efficient, friendly and fast.  So, +100 points to socialized medicine.
  The following day (Friday) was spent obtaining a German phone so that I wouldn't feel quite so helpless again, and resting up for the Feuerzangenbowle party: (according to translate google) fire tongs punch.  A bowl of delicious gluhwein ( I must figure out how to type an umlaut) is heated and a large sugar cone is laid across the top of the bowl.  The sugar is soaked with a high-proof rum and set on fire.  As the rum burns, it melts the sugar into the bowl of mulled wine.  It's beautiful and tasty, although a bit dangerous, as I understand it has led to a scorched ceiling.  The party was wonderful.   Brett and I met a lot of English-speaking expats that live in the area and the kids had fun with other kids.  We are amazed with the warm welcome we have received.
  Saturday, Marissa met with her new friend (part of the White Knight family) at the train station to take her maiden train voyage to Essen.  The rest of us traveled by car there to pick up electric transformers and to tour my happy place (aka Ikea).  In the evening we went to a Renaissance type Christmas Market where we watched a woman juggle fire and watched a play of sorts spoken in old German.  We also tried Gluhbier:  the jury is still out on that one.  It was warm and sweet, but after 1/2 a mug, it tasted more like cherry cough syrup than beer.
  Sunday we met with our friends from the Netherlands.  It was so easy to fall right into our old friendship even though it has been over 4 years since they moved away from the US.  Bram and Hunter are still two peas in a pod, although they spoke to each other a little less.  Darwin started talking Emma's ear off right away- he fell into step with Emma and Bram so easily, I'm not sure he ever realized that they hardly understood a word he said.  We all toured the Christmas Market in Essen and enjoyed the warmish weather and the Christmas sights, until the rain drowned us out.  The day went too quickly, and we're looking forward to our trip to the Netherlands on Christmas day.
  Tonight we've been catching up on relaxation, as the week has flown by, and I'm finally recounting our adventures. I hope future posts are more clever or humorous, but I'm making no promises.