Monday, March 24, 2014

April 2014 Overview

Holidays (Federal or Bavaria specific)       
April 13 Palm Sunday
April 18 Karfreitag (Good Friday) 
April 20 Easter Sunday
April 21 Easter Monday

Schools closed for Easter Vacation April 14-25, 2014

NOTE: Stores will be closed on Friday, Sunday, and Monday. Plan ahead. :)


Events (by no means a complete list)

April 2, HENhaus Quarterly Meeting - Ask the Expat!

Erlangen
April 3 - 19 Easter fountains in the Erlangen Arade (click here for a prior article on Easter Fountains) 
April 4, 13 Bohlen Platz Flea Market - The oldest in Franken
April 12-13 Kunst & Kreativmarkt - A market for DIYers. Scrapbooking, knitting supplies, beads, fabrics, etc. from around the world. Also has workshops (in German) 
April 19-27 Erlangen Spring Fest, Schloßplatz 
April 23 Bergbier tasting! Steinbach Brewery, Vierzigmannstraße 4 The traditional dark "Festbier"
April 26, 27 Entla´s Keller - Frankisch Gwerch am Berch - Music at the beer keller. 

Nürnberg 
Various dates - FREE! Film screenings in English (German subtitles) with the VHS Club International. Information and dates here.
Until April 26 - Easter in the Handwerkerhof

April 4 - 21 Nürnberg Easter Market - 80+ vendors Free to attend

April 19 - May 11 Nürnberg Frühlingsfest! (Spring Volksfest!)  Fairground at the Dutzendteich, Nürnberg - Not to be missed, if you haven´t been. The opening parade is April 11.
April 26 - 27 Nürnberg Garden Market Schweinfurter Straße/Festplatz Free to attend


Herzo
April 25 City Tour 6pm with Heimatverein Herzogenaurach - Frankish food, wine, etc. Contact information here (Note: this event was listed on the city website, I was unable to verify with the club itself)
April 26 Trödelmarkt,  Weihersbachgelände
April 28 Earth Day! Parkplatz des SC Nord, Gleiwitzer Straße 16

Other
A FULL list of Easter Markets in the area (in German) may be found here.
Until April 6 - Fürth Spring Festival (Open Sunday is March 30
April 3-7 Schweinfurt´s Fish Festival (April 6 is also Schweinfurt´s verkaufsoffenen Sunday and the shops will be open.
April 5 - May 4 Easter Egg Path, Gutzberg (12k outside of Nürnberg) Wooden rabbits guide the way on a path highlighting Easter decorations. 
April 11- 13 Green Fair, Fürth With a special emphasis on "urban gardening" (growing plants on balconies and in pots) learn all about how to grow, use, and medicinal uses of various plants. Seeds, bulbs, pots, and other supplies available for purchase. Entry €7, children free.
March 29- April 14 Würzburg Spring Market - herbs and flowers, as well as pottery and clothing....and wine! 
April 12 - May 5 - Day trip to Birkenreuth, for the well known Easter decorations and fountains
Until April 13 - Würzburg Volksfest!
April 21 Easter Egg Hunt - Hirtenmuseum, Hersbruck

April 23 Day of Beer, Bamberg - Celebrate local beer! In the pedestrian zone, local brewers will be out with their various types of beer.

Other things to do? 
Explore our area´s many bike paths! (For a Nürnberg map of bike paths, click here) For other cities, start with a google search of your city´s name and Fahrradweg). Maps are available in most book stores for under €5. 

Beer kellers and gardens that closed for the season begin to re-open! Try Forchheim´s famous Kellerwald (click here for map and description in German). It´s little less than 30 minutes train ride from Nberg Hbf and then a bit of a walk. 


Head out to a local soccer game. The season reopened end of February. Tip: For those with children with short attention spans, some clubs offer free admission for the second half.


Visit a pool or sauna- Atlantis is in Herzo, Nürnberg has many to choose from (link in    German), Bamberg has Bambados Can´t decide?  Schwimmbadcheck is an online review site for public pools, link is in English.

Produce

Produce availability in Germany is VERY seasonal. Want fresh asparagus right now? Not likely.
Want to know when to expect what (of locally grown produce)? Click here  This also includes information about when to plant what in this area of Germany.

Things to hoard stock up on now, as they are going away quickly!
Parsnip
Rotkohl
Not a vegetable, but carp (Karpfen, a local fish) is not served again until September

Things cropping up (pun intended) ;)

Bärlauch (came early this year) post on Bärlauch here
Rhubarb (came early this year)
Red beets 
Spargel (asparagus) (Locally grown will likely come early this year!)
Radishes
Arugula

What in the world is that?

Bamberger Hörnla - A particular kind of potato. They are  small, and thin (no more than 2 inches diameter) and shaped like a horn. Texture and taste makes them best suited for baked potatoes or potato salad. Going away soon, but will store for months in a cool dry place. 
Useless fact? Bamberger Hörnla were German potato of the year, 2008.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Learning German with Deutsch Perfekt

Deutsch Perfekt magazine (also the website) is one of my favorite ways to improve my language skills. It´s a general news magazine aimed specifically at people living in German speaking countries for whom German is a second language. Written in German, it covers a variety of timely topics each month. Every issue has two or three major themes (March is Hamburg and working in Germany, as well as articles on Fasching), and a variety of other articles on society, culture, and everyday life. Everyday life articles have included insurance in Germany, visiting a doctor in Germany, and the Finanzamt (seen below).

It´s written in three levels of German. Words that may not be known by readers at that level are clarified in more basic German, making it easy to understand (see this above, bottom left). Online you can see this in blue here.  If you are not sure you understood the article, some articles even have quizzes. The center section is always full of tip cards, games, and grammar exersizes.

 Deutsch Perfekt magazine is available at larger bookstores, and at train station newsstands for €6,90. You can check out the news online for free here.

Dealing with Hard Water

Das Wasser in many areas of Deutschland is hard- meaning it has a lot of calcium and/or lime in it. How do you figure out if yours is? You can check online (google your city + Trinkwasseranalyse). Here are Bamberg´s and Nürnberg´s. As you can see, it´s either hart (hard) or mittlehart. If your hair is acting funny, your skin is dry and irritated, your whites turn dingier with every wash, and your soap doesn´t bubble- you have hard water.  
Hard water is not only unfriendly to your skin and hair, but on your appliances as well. Amazon.de has over 1,800 products for degunking your appliances (search for "Entkalker"). Most will contain some sort of an acid (vinegar or citric) or salt. To combat hard water, you need one or the other. 
What can you do? 
- If you own your house, and can afford a whole house water softener, that is a great option. 
- While not everyone is so sensitive to hard water, I am, and we have installed in shower water softeners. About €25, they last 6 months. This has made a HUGE difference. This one (which can be delivered to Germany) has been recommended, as well as this one from amazon.de. 
- A Brita filter will soften your water. Use filtered water in your tea kettles and coffee makers.
- Buy descaling products for your washing machine. Actiff Antikalk Tabs work well, towels especially are noticeably softer. Calgon makes several products (they will also send you free test strips to test your water for hardness). Any larger supermarket, DM, Müller, etc. will have a variety of products in various forms (tablet, powder, liquid).  

For whites, I have a routine. I soak whites for 2 hours in Heitmann Reine Soda  before putting in the machine, and/or I use Heitmann Wäsche Weiss. Both are less than €2, and available at most larger supermarkets, DM, and Mäc-Geiz.  
- For lime deposits in tea kettles and the like, add some vinegar (or lemon juice) and water and let it sit. 
- For shower scum on doors and on sinks, I recommend concentrated vinegar (Essigessenz). Note that this is highly acidic, NOT for consumption! At 20% or more acidity, this can also be irritating to your skin. Highly effective, but rinse quickly and thoroughly. 
- For the chrome faucets, I recommend a tooth paste scrub. (seriously, it works!). If your shower head or faucets are so built up that the water comes out funny, tie a bag full of white vinegar to it, and leave overnight. 
- Every once in a while, pour vinegar down your drains. 
- Do a vinegar rinse of your coffee machine. Run some vinegar through it, follow with 2 or 3 water only runs. 
- For your hair, you can do several things to de-gunk. 
  • Do a vinegar rinse. I use a 1 to 3 ration of apple cider vinegar to water. The smell does go away when your hair dries. 
  • Do a lemon juice rinse. Add some lemon juice to water as a final rinse. 
  • Use a chelating shampoo once a week, Joico makes a good one (not available here). Paul Mitchell Shampoo 3 is also good. Deep condition afterwards. Chelating products bind to the minerals, and everything else, stripping your hair of moisture as well. Here is a post about chelating products, including the ingredients to look for.
  • Add baking soda to your shampoo to make a paste (link to 10 beauty uses for baking soda from Dr. Oz). Let it sit a few minutes, condition. Called Haus Natron in German, Arm and Hammer is available at Real and (some) Rewes and Edekas. 
  • Use hair products aimed at getting rid of Kalk. Schwarzkopf makes a shampoo and conditioner especially for hard water. I personally did not find that they worked that well. 
  • Check your labels for EDTA and/or citric acid. Make sure they are closer to the top of the ingredient list, meaning it is in a higher concentration. Pantene and Garnier tend to have higher levels of EDTA. 
  • Available in the States, the Malibu-C Weekly Demineralizer is recommended. 
  • There is a wealth of information in this thread on Toytown Germany-
For your body?  
  • In the bath, add bath salts. Salt softens hard water. For the shower, a salt based body scrub. 
  • For extremely dry skin, use products containing Urea (uric acid). Usually in 5 or 10% concentrations. 
 Your face? 
  • Disposable face cleansing cloths or Cetaphil, and avoid water all together!
  • Clarins Cleansing Milk (available at Karstadt or Douglass about €20) neutralizes the effects of hard water. 
  • Use products that contain some sort of acid. Vitamin C, citric acid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid. 
  • Products containing papaya enzymes (especially masks)
  • Baking soda has just enough salt to soften the water. Try any one of these ideas
  • Again, Urea (or uric acid) for very dry skin. Eucerin has a good one. 
  • To remove the build up that happens even with a filter, I like Origins Clear Improvement mask. €27 and a tube lasts me a year. 
  • Microfiber face cloths tend to remain the softest when washed in hard water. 
Can you drink it? Yes. Some say that the water can contribute to kidney stones. My doctor said that is not true. If you are concerned, purchase a Brita water filter. 

What do you do to combat hard water? 

.




Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bärlauch Season!

Finally!!!..... and a little early due to the warm winter.

Bärlauch (Leo translates to Bear´s Garlic, or Wild Garlic but I believe they are more commonly called "Ramps" in American English, Rampsons in British). The arrival of Bärlauch season signals the beginning of Spring!

Bärlauch (pictured here) can be found for sale at your smaller market stands, or Bauernmarkts. The taste is a mix between onion and garlic.
 Bärlauch can also be found growing wild in forests and parks locally. HOWEVER, picking it is NOT recommended, as it has many look a likes (like Lily of the Valley) which are poisonous. It may also, depending on where you are picking it, be against local laws. Unless you really know what you are doing, it is better to purchase it for about €1,50 per 50g bunch. 

What do you do with it? 
- Make pesto! (scroll down for recipe in English)
- Make Bärlauch oil to spread on buttered bread, or add to pasta with some Parmesan (add chopped Bärlauch to oil, set aside, it will keep for weeks in the refrigerator)
- Add it to cream cheese or butter to top almost anything
- Add to sour cream for baked potato
- Make Bärlauch soup (in English)
- Another soup recipe here (in English) 
- Bärlauch ravioli (recipe in German) 
- 10 more ideas (in English)
Keep an eye out for many, many Bärlauch products popping up- pizza, Bärlauch bread, quark,  pasta.......The German recipe site Chefkoch has over 1,000 recipes containing Bärlauch.  

You can also purchase dried Bärlauch for year round use, or Bärlauch salt at smaller herb stands that may be found in inner cities. 

The Young Germany article on Bärlauch can be found here.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

American Foods at Real

Did you know Real stores (the larger ones) have an American food section? They also have Russian, Turkish, Mediterranean, and Asian. Each categorized on their own shelf.

The prices are a bit higher than one can find elsewhere, but great in a pinch for "basics". The selection rarely rotates, and you can find Velveeta(ish) sauce, Hellmann´s mayo, chocolate syrup, Pop Tarts, Pam cooking spray!, Jim Beam and Hunt´s barbeque sauces, Paul Newman´s Caesar salad dressing, and other distinctly American things.

Real also has the largest selection I have seen of Heinz sauces and ketchups.

Not pictured are the large selection of HP sauces to the left.

Real´s are smaller than a Walmart (or a Globus), but also have a large Getränke Markt, as well as other non-food sections (sports, household, garden, electronics, etc.).

Find a Real near you here.