Oktoberfest Pilgrimage

Hello anyone still out there. Its been a while, but I am alive and well (and still living in Berlin, it’s been over a year now!). I’m not going to  bother making excuses. What can I say life got in the way. But it turns out I miss this here blog so I decided to give it another crack!

So much has happened over the last 6 months I’m not even going to try to break it down. Many more travels from a small Island on the Baltic, to California, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Munich, Prague! Wow writing it down I makes me realise how much we did!

I don’t even know where to start so lets start with Oktoberfest just because it was pretty much the most awesome weekend ever.

oktoberfest traditional clothing couple

I swear half the fun was the outfits. We splurged and bought traditional ones, best souvenir we’ll ever buy.

We decided last minute we just had to make Oktoberfest happen so booked a rare decently priced hotel hotel and car and made the 6hr drive Friday night after work. We could not have lived in Germany for over a year and not made it to Oktoberfest. Australian’s and American’s plan their Europe trips to include Oktoberfest. Nobody would ever let us live it down.

Oktoberfest is exactly like you imagine, except bigger. We got there at 9am and managed to not only make it in one of the main tents, the Hacker-Feltzet Tent, but also squeeze on a groups table! They had been there since 7:30am so we felt pretty fortunate to get a spot.

Oktoberfest Hacker- Festzelt munich

How magical is it?! Like all of your Oktoberfest dreams come true

giant pretzel oktoberfest

Giant pretzels for breakfast on the way in. Big mistake, always eat a proper breakfast before a day of heavy drinking.

Oktoberfest outside dirndl

Oktoberfest leiderhosen traditional

Isn’t he handsome?? You could say he felt pretty awesome in his leather leiderhosen

From there the day went in typical Oktoberfest form. Start drinking at 9am, drinking games, more pretzels. Every so often someone would stand up on the table and down a beer while the entire crowd cheered them on (or booed if they failed).

beer couple Oktoberfest leiderhosen Oktoberfest food inside tent

When the band started playing at midday thats when the festivities really took off! Everybody stood up on their benches and started singing and dancing. We barely sat down again for the rest of the afternoon. As people became looser so did the once exclusive tables, suddenly everyone is friends wrapping their arms around each other singing ‘Ein Prosit’.

Oktoberfest friends fun beer oktoberfest fun beer girl munich oktoberfest beer tent munichlowenbrau oktoberfest munich

It is truly the biggest high to be a part of the festivities. You look around and everyone is smiling and cheering. Of course a lot of beer consumption helps to. And boy are they strong.

3 very large beers later and we were done. We took ourselves home around 5pm and crashed for a couple hours before rounding off the night with some all curing schnitzel.Oktoberfest crowds leiderhosen dirndl

giant schnitzel munich leiderhosen

Giant schnitzel truly is the way to a man’s heart

Sunday we had a more low key day and enjoyed exploring the festival grounds. It was less crowded so we managed to get into almost every tent to check out different atmospheres and decor. By the end of the day the grounds were filling up with Germans dressed in the fanciest, traditional outfits ready for the final night.

Oktoberfest gril dirndloktoberfest aerial rideaerial view above Oktoberfestleiderhosen oktoberfest beer cart inside hofbrau tent oktoberfest Oktoberfest munich

It was one of the best weekends, even if we did get a speeding ticket on the autobahn. Who knew that was even possible?!

Spring is (Almost) Here

drive now car convertible berlin berlin-sun-grunewald berlin-grunewald-paulander-beer-picnic berlin-grunewald-picnic

Spring is finally here near. We are starting to have some nicer weather in Berlin. Today is a cold rainy day, but the last few weeks have had majority sunny days and sometime even slightly warmer temperatures! It’s enough to make you think wow, this winter may actually end one day. Ok, ok, maybe a little dramatic, but as we arrived in Berlin mid-September, we’ve pretty much only seen Berlin in the winter. September is technically not winter (not even close) but since their fall weather here is like Sydney’s coldest winter to me it feels like one endless winter, that just got increasingly worse.

I absolutely cannot wait for summer! I have only heard amazing things about Berlin in the summer-time. Apparently people go a bit wild and it’s just like one, big, 3 month long festival filled with outdoor concerts, barbecues and street parties. Bring it on because I’ve had just about enough gloomy grey winter as I can handle. That is why last weekend, when it was finally going to be a beautiful sunny Sunday, we decided to get out of the city for a bit and take a day trip to Grunewald forest on the outskirts of Berlin.

I think the best part of the whole day was the 20min drive there. We signed up for drive-now, a car-sharing service, when we moved and had some minutes we needed to use up, so grabbed a mini convertible and had a joy-ride through the streets of Berlin. Unfortunately we got a little too excited about the sun and forgot that it can still be cold. We spent pretty much the whole day freezing. Oops. But the forest was certainly much prettier with sunshine and it was nice to soak up a little vitamin D, even if it didn’t last long.

When we got home I jumped straight in a hot shower and then curled up under the quilt the rest of the afternoon, trying to warm up. I can’t wait until spring is actually here, but for now I’m just loving the days we get sunshine!

5 German Christmas Market Desserts You Must Eat!

top 5 german christmas market desserts

You may have gathered by now that I live for dessert. Its a constant battle between wanting to eat all the desserts and not wanting to look like a giant dough ball. But right now its Christmas season and I’m in Germany aka land of Christmas and all things Christmas yummy so I say to hell with dieting I’m going to eat all the things! (and then maybe just eat salads all of january to balance it out, thats how it work right??).

When I first was thinking about moving to Germany I read a lot about life in Germany and what to expect, but what got my most excited was the German Christmas Markets. I was just praying we’d get a visa in time so we could stay long enough just to go to the Christmas Markets. Well my wish came true and they have not disappointed! We’ve been to 3 in Berlin alone so far and had a day trip to one in a nearby city, Dresden, this weekend. It was by far the most magical Christmas Markets we’ve seen. It would make even the grinchiest person feel warm and fuzzy.

The hardest part about Christmas Markets is the fact that you are absolutely spoiled for choice on what to eat. So after much trial and error here are my top 5 German Christmas Market desserts you must eat!!

1. Lebkuchen

lebkuchen

Christmas German lebkuchen

We first ‘discovered’ Lebkuchen at Starbucks, we thought the Lebkuchen Latte was what they called eggnog lattes (Daniel has told me about how delish they are so I had to try one even thought they are way overpriced here). After one sip it was clear it was not eggnog. It wasn’t until we then found the real Lebkucken at the Christmas Markets we discovered its actually a giant heart-shaped gingerbread cookie covered in dark chocolate! Lebkuchen is tecnically gingerbread, but we find most common are these heart shaped ones. It is so yummy and perfect for eating on the go at the markets as its not messy and easy to break bits off to share.

2. Schneeballen

schneeballe christmas market germany

schneeballe christmas germanygerman schneeballen

 

Translated to ‘snowball’ these weird shortbread, filled and coated ball things look like they are some weird concoction of left over pastry all rolled together (they probably are). But don’t let this fool you they are so good! Basically they are strips of short bread all rolled together to make a ball about the size of your palm and then filled with a crazy large variety of flavours from marzipan to champagne white chocolate and then coated in a variety of chocolates and/or sugar. The best part is they keep for up to 8 weeks! So if you have the willpower they are great for taking home or to a Christmas party later.

3. Stollen

stollen christmas markets dresden

German market stollen dresden

We have been seeing this powdered sugar covered German fruit bread all over the place for weeks, way before any other Christmas food had come out. Everytime we go to the supermarket there have been so many varieties I figured it must ‘be a thing’ and we needed to try it. Well last weekend when we were at some Christmas markets with friends I asked them and they instantly started raving about it. It looks like its going to be a soft, fruit bread/cake like item but its actaully kind of hard and brittle, not really doughy at all! Also way better than we expected. For all you Americans out their who despise fruit cake never fear! This is nothing like fruit cake! I really can’t describe its uniqueness, you just have to try it.

4. Germknödel

 

This was easily the weirdest dessert we have come across. So much so we probably never would have ordered it if our friend hadn’t told us it was her favourite and that we HAD to try it. Its like an asian dumpling crossed with a berliner (cherry jelly filled donut), swimming in vanilla sauce thats been poured over it before being topped with poppyseeds. Sounds crazy right? Well it kind of is to be honest but its actually so good and really satisfying. Very filling though, this was one dessert I didn’t mind sharing with Daniel.

5. Glühwein

gluhwein stall christmas markets dresden

gluhwein christmas markets germany

This might be my favourite…

Ok so Glühwein isn’t technically a dessert but what better way to finish off your dessert testing than with a nice hot, steamy and very alcoholic Glühwein. Opt for the “mit shuss” option for a good time, it translates to ‘with shot’ and they are certainly liberal with their free pouring. Thats one way to beat the cold, warm from the inside out!

I hope this has gotten everyone in the Christmas eating spirit!

The Fall of the Wall | 25th Anniversary

Fall of Berlin Wall 25th Anniversary

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin. I was really glad we got to be here to celebrate such a historic event. Also as we have quickly discovered the city of Berlin knows how to throw a party. To commemorate this occasion a 15km line of illuminated of balloons on poles was erected through the city to symbolise the wall. Then at a special celebration last night they were all released into the night sky.

The balloons were set up all weekend so Berliners could have the chance to walk the ‘wall’. We went and checked it out Friday with friend (thats right we have a friend now…one friend…between two because we’re cool like that). It was a really great way of displaying the wall because it made it so much easier to envision the, almost random at times, separation of the city. There was information along the way with excerpts about certain sections of the wall from bold escapes to tragic deaths to the mass exit of people into West Berlin on Nov 9th. Its hard to truly imagine what it must have been like, the joy and relief they must have felt when it was torn down 25 years ago. The balloons had a fitting eery beauty to them.

wall of balloons 25 year celebration berlin

balloons through berlin 25 year anniversary

ghost figure art berlin wall

We got so caught up in conversation and seeing the balloons we ended up walking about half of the route over 3 hours! As much as I enjoyed it that was more than enough. However it was great to really feel like a part of this city as we not only got to explore more of the city but were constantly surrounded by other Berliners following the line of their history.

The real celebration happened last night with the release of the balloons. It seemed like the entire population of Berlin (and probably more) came out to see it. The trains and stations were so crowded the ones near the main area were closed! We didn’t even realise we weren’t at the right station at first as we just got funnelled out with the masses of people. We managed to make our way to Potsdamer Platz and along the line of balloons until we were within sight of the Brandenburger Tor (the main event). It was a great spot to watch as we could see the line of balloons for blocks and were only a couple meters away from them. The atmosphere was joyous as everybody waited for the moment. Unfortunately we weren’t right at the Brandenburger Tor so couldn’t hear the symphony playing Beethoven’s 9th as the first of the Balloons were released but the cheer of the crowds as they floated into the cloudy night sky well made up for it. They didn’t set them all off at once but in a one-after-another wave formation. This made for some fun moments when a few balloons every so often wouldn’t release and the crowds went wild cheering them on as their releasers battled the balloons.

celebration 25 years fall of berlin wall

fall of berlin wall 25 year celebration

25 years Berlin Wall balloon release

After the release the crowds starting moving forward to now head to the Brandenburg Gate. With the release of the first wall we thought it was done. But we were deceived. There was in fact a second wall, less sturdy then its predecessor but separating people none the less. There was a sudden breach of the wall, we made a dash for freedom! I ducked under the fence made it through. Daniel unfortunately, did not. And thats how we got separated by a wall in Berlin… ok not that dramatic but we certainly enjoyed the irony of the situation.

separated new berlin wall

He looks impressed doesn’t he

We eventually decided to cut our losses and get out of there before the crowd got any rowdier (it was getting a little worrying especially as we were right in trampling territory if a break was to suddenly occur). We ended the night with celebratory quark balls, also known as fried dough balls rolled in sugar and possibly my favourite thing about Berlin, so I’d say a successful evening all round.

I feel really lucky to have been able to be in Berlin a be a part of such historic event. Sometimes what you give up to be an expat can be overwhelming, but moments like these remind you why you’re doing it and make it all worth it in the end.

5 things that I’ve found surprising in Berlin

Brandenburger Tor German Unity Day festivities
Sometimes I forget that I’m living in a completely foreign city with a different language and culture. Thats the problem with living in cities, they tend to all be very similar. But then you will see things or experience differences that snap you back to the reality that you are living almost exactly on the other side of the world. One of Daniel’s friends explained to us recently he calls these ‘Map Moments’. Moments that make you stop and realise that you are in a place you had only previously looked at on a map and dreamed. With international travel being so easy, you just hop on a plane and within a matter of hours (ok so try 30 from Australia) you can be in a completely different part of the world. Its so simple you sometimes forget just how far away you are. I think if we still had to travel months by ship we’d have a greater appreciation.
So here are 5 things I’ve found surprising in Berlin

1. They still fix and replace cobble stones.

It just looks like so much effort it amazes me they still maintain this tradition and don’t just concrete or asphalt instead. Don’t et me wrong though I’m so glad they do because they are so cute and classic European but I watched them dig them all up to the replace the pipes outside our apartment and then have to replace them all and I swear it took forever and looked so tedious.
Cobble Stone Repairs

This has been the state of our street the entire time we’ve been here

2. Everybody speaks English.

From young to old, business men to the crazed homeless dude who wanted to recite us poetry and switched to perfect English when he realized we didn’t speaks german (lucky us). That is everyone except the employees at the Alien’s office, because that wouldn’t make any sense would it.

3. History is everywhere they just seem to accept it and get on with it.

There is a carpark built on the site where Hitler’s bunker was and then surrounded by apartments that look onto it. The holocaust memorial has people sitting on it and playing around it (though they may be tourists). The picture at the top was taken at the big city festival for German Unity Day. I just found it fascinating the contrast of people on a ride right next to one of Berlin’s most iconic symbols of the Cold War, the Brandenburger Tor (though it is now the symbol of a reunified Berlin).

4. The weather is completely bipolar.

One minute it’s sunny with blue skies, you go into a store come out and it will be pouring with rain. We learnt very fast to always bring a jacket (I swear the Germans just pull one out of no where when the weather changes)

5. Sushi is everywhere but is so expensive.

We’re talking €6 euros for 4 bite size pieces. That’s like $9 when you convert it too! I just can’t bring myself to get it even though I miss it so much, I’m sure I’ll cave one day. On the topic of surprising food we found an amazing authentic mexican restaurant Daniel loves called Santa Maria. This is big coming from him because he is the biggest mexican food snob out and had previously refused to eat Mexican in Berlin as how could it possibly be any good being so far away from California Mexico. Of course it was pretty much full of other Americans, but their burritos are delish, not to mention the 4 Euro happy hour hibiscus margaritas. Ah-mazing.

Anyone know any scrumptious, well priced sushi joints in Berlin?

Discovering Arrowtown | Pie & Pint Festival

Lake-Hawea
Sometimes everything just goes right. You know those days where you can’t believe one thing after another just keeps getting better and purely by chance? Well pretty much our entire time in New Zealand was just like that. #blessed …I hope you read that with sarcasm, I cannot stand when people tag that. The best day though where everything kept going right was on our way to Queenstown. It actually started the night before, we had been driving through the beautiful countryside and took longer than we planned because we kept coming across amazing places like this, which we hit at the perfect time with the sun getting low.

We were about an hour outside of Queenstown when it started getting dark and after our bad experiences on our first day where we missed a bunch of beautiful scenery driving in the dark and ended up backtracking, we really didn’t want to miss anything this time. We had heard about the amazing tunnel that goes all the way through a mountain heading into Queenstown and did not want to miss it, so when we came to a fork in the road with both directions saying they were heading to Queenstown we weren’t sure which way to go.

We decided to follow the map and go left but only a few hundred metres down the road we changed our mind, turned around and decided to follow our gut and go the other way, via lake Wanaka. Best decision ever. As we drove through the town even in the dark it looked too cute not to stop so we changed our plans and found a holiday park to stay for the night. After making Daniel walk up and down the main road 3 times reading the menu of every place (he’s such a saint) we had a delicious dinner at Wanaka Speights Ale House, the place we originally picked for dinner. Lamb shanks and blue cod, New Zealand specialties so you can’t go wrong, though it wasn’t hard for it to taste amazing when we had been eating camping food in the rain the few days before.

The next morning we just happened to wake up in time for a stunning pink and red sunrise, for those of you that know me you know I don’t enjoy waking early so this was just pure luck again. And wasn’t it worth itLake-Wanaka-Sunrise-over-trees

Lake-Wanaka-SunriseGolden-sunrise-lake-wanaka

If you are in Wanaka you MUST get a hot chocolate at Patagonia, best hot chocolate (and free wifi win!).

patagonia-hot-chocolateIMG_3181

We then headed off for Queenstown, but once again got side tracked when we saw a sign pointing towards a detour through ‘Historic Arrowtown’ we figured why not, we could always turn around. Again following our gut paid off, as we drove through Arrowtown it honestly looked like a movie set with its cute house and autumn leaves. We decided to head in and try to find the centre of town to check out what real estate was like there, seriously it was so cute we were about ready to chuck out our Berlin plans and move to Arrowtown instead!

arrowtown-autumn-leaves historic-arrowtown arrowtown-light

Suddenly we turned down a street and it was blocked for some event, another stroke of luck there happened to be a parking spot right there so we parked and went to investigate. It was blocked off for part of their Autumn festival, that afternoon it was a Pie and Pint festival. Does it get any better than that?! Naturally we bought tickets beer glasses and joined the festivities. Local brewery stalls, gourmet homemade meat pie stalls and folk music, it was like my dream afternoon. I felt like I was in Gilmore Girls, small town just doesn’t get much better than that.

Arrowtown-autumn-festivalArrowtown-cider Cassels-Sons-Brewery-Arrowtown Milk-Stout-arrowtown Arrowtown-festival-beer-glasses Arrowtown-pie-pint-festival Venison-elderberry-pie Empty-glasses

We’re still off to Berlin but moving to Arrowtown is now our future settling down plan (where we’ll be para-gliders of course).