Friday, May 28, 2010

Grüne Soße Mystery

our little fridge. Above is our doll-sized freezer, below the infamous Grüne Soße.

One thing I really like about Germany is that people eat seasonally here. Now is the season for strawberries, asparagus, and Grüne Soße ("green sauce"). You'd think that not being able to buy things like strawberries and asparagus year-round would be annoying, but on the contrary, I think it makes me appreciate them more. It gives one something to look forward to.

Grüne Soße is a Frankfurt delicacy made from an assortment of herbs, eggs, and sour cream. I should explain that food from this region of Germany is pretty bad generally. (Anyone want a hunk of unchewable boiled beef?) But I've had many friends raving about this or that Grüne Soße, and I decided to hunt down the best one. We bought this big tub of it last weekend and it was pretty decent-- it beats raw radishes and brick-dense bread anyway. There is a fair amount left over and I figured we'd make something with it this weekend, but then I noticed something strange.--There seem to be large air bubbles forming in the sauce, and this morning it scared me to death when I opened the fridge only to be greeted by the loud "POP!" of the Grüne Soße's lid exploding off the top. What is happening to the Grüne Soße? Is it fermenting? Is this another Frankfurt tradition?

In other food news, I was caught at an inopportune moment by a door-to-door salesman from a company called Eisman ("Ice man"). I was in a hurry and stupidly said he could call me later. When I had a chance to peruse the catalog I realized it was all frozen food. When he called I told him my freezer is microscopic and already full. But he persisted on giving me the hard sell, I told him I wasn't interested and eventually hung up. He has been calling me once or twice a day for the last 2 weeks! Luckily he called my cellphone and I was able to save his number, so I can easily ignore him. I'm actually curious how many times he will call before he gets it through his head that I'm not interested in frozen food when I have no freezer space. We're on day 11 now. How much endurance does this salesman have? Only time will tell!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


It occurs to me that I haven't blogged about the newest addition in our life. Her name is Genevieve, and she is a 2009 black Peugeot 207. After our move last year, I asked Ryan whether or not we should get one, and Ryan in his typical self-sacrificing fashion said that he was fine commuting 1.5 hours each way by subway, train, and bus. Apparently, that is Ryan-talk for "we'll get a car when we can afford it."

So once I was offered a job last February we began hunting. My German friends advised me on negotiating in Germany-- its not very common. Up until a few years ago, a federal law prohibited negotiating deals and discounts beyond 3%. Even though the law has changed, the sticker price is final in most situations. BUT if I did a really good job, I could perhaps expect 10% off the sticker price and some winter tires.

Ryan and I dragged each other from dealer to dealer, making several trips to the Volkswagen dealership because we liked the VW Polo. I tried all the tricks my Dad gave me (be unpredictable, don't appear impressed, don't be afraid to walk away); and we did end up walking away. Two weeks later the dealer called me back and I thought "Ha! I've got him!" But instead he merely informed me that the car we test drove had sold. I reminded him he had several of that make and model. He asked me if I'd care to have another test drive, and I told him not if the price was still 11,000 Euros. He told me I wouldn't find a car cheaper than that and I said "Yes, we'll see about that."

Another couple weeks passed and Ryan lost his patience. But I told him we couldn't buy from this VW dealer, it would be admitting defeat. We visited a few other lots and wound up at Peugeot, with something similar to the Polo, but cheaper. The dealer would only negotiate 5%, and no winter tires, but better to give up on the winter tires than have Ryan smother me with a pillow whilst I slept.

After some back-and-forth with all the various German bureaucracies involved in buying a car, insurance, parking permits, emissions tests, etc, (let's not forget our wonderful driver's license experience!) we got the car home. Ryan is happy to cut his daily commute from 3 hours to about 45 minutes, and we've enjoyed a few weekend outings to Würzberg, the Rhine Valley, and various hiking locales, and then we got THE NEWS.

Ryan's new contract (his company was purchased by another company and they needed to modify contracts) entitles him to a COMPANY CAR. And not just any company car, but a Volkswagen-- probably from that same dealer who wouldn't negotiate with me!

But its all a learning experience, isn't it? Now that I know how to buy a car in Germany, I get to learn how to sell one...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Eurovision a bizarre contest that takes place at the end of May every year.  It's a pop sing-off, judged Olympics-style, but often as not somewhat political.  Germany had a reality show to determine our contestant, and Lena Meyer-Landrut prevailed.

The song itself is pretty catchy, although her pronunciation of the English language leaves something to be desired.  Ryan asked his German coworker what kind of accent Lena had and the coworker insisted it was "an excellent British accent."   If most Germans think this is a good British accent, I don't know what I'm doing teaching English.  Also note the $5.00 budget of the music video and Lena's spastic dancing.  Our odds of winning Eurovision?  I'd say pretty slim.  But maybe its a good excuse for a cocktail party?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bike Rage

One of the great things about my job is that I can bike to work. This is, of course, a great form of exercise and much cheaper than the alternatives. But if you're picturing an idyllic pedal down a cobblestone road, I have to tell you the picture isn't quite right.

Germany is much more bike-friendly than the U.S., but Frankfurt's bike lanes lack any sort of logic. My commute to work starts in a marked bike lane on the street, then moves to a marked bike lane on the sidewalk. I follow the pedestrian lights through an intersection and am then spit back onto a road bike lane for about 200 meters before it abruptly ends, leaving me in the car lane. I go through two more intersections and then get back onto the sidewalk bike lane, another couple blocks, then back onto the road, sans bike lane. Finally, I cross another intersection and bike through a pedestrian zone. (Schritt Tempo!)

After buying my cheap bike last Fall I also bought a bike map. Some help that is! Learning routes like the one above depends on following more experienced cyclists, and trying to figure out which of their behaviors are legal. Most bikers run red lights and don't wear helmets, ride on the wrong side of the street, etc. I am wearing a helmet and trying to obey the laws, but it's not easy. I bike past the police station, and I often imagine a stern Polizistin pulling me over and reading me the riot act. But apparently I shouldn't worry about that. Today a police car pulled right in front of me, completely blocking the bicycle lane. I resisted the urge to give the German "You're a terrible driver!" hand gesture. (Not our one-fingered salute, but rather waving your open palm in front of your face.)  I guess even the police can't figure out the bike laws in Frankfurt.