Only in Bavaria :Epiphanie ( Dreikönigsfest)

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Dreikönigsfest in Bavaria (Three Kings)

January 6 is a public holiday here in Bavaria, Germany. It’s the Epiphanie or the Dreikönigsfest. I grew up that we wait up until the Three Kings to finally say goodbye to the Holidays and hide all the holiday trimmings. A New Year has begun and it is the signal of the end of the Christmas season, meaning— time to tidy up and remove all Christmas decorations, as well as the Christmas trees.

But I am sure there are still many leftover chocolates and Christmas goodies, just like what we still  have right now.

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Epiphany or Dreikönigsfest in Bavaria

Here in Bavaria, I have learned something new.

Ever since I arrived here, I noticed the inscriptions of chalk on top of the houses, especially on doors with these formula. I was really curious what these letters & numbers stands for. I thought for a while that they are just writings of the carpenter for measurements. I was totally wrong.

In the book of Matthew, the Magi, or Wise men (sometimes called Kings) learned of Jesus Christ’s birth, then traveled from the east following a star. In the modern times, we celebrate January 6 as the day the Magi arrived at the stable in Bethlehem to bring gifts to the Christ Child. The Kings are not named, they have come to be known as Melchior, from Persia, Balthezar, an Arab Scholar and Caspar, from India. They brought gifts for the child ; Frankincense (a perfume or incense), Myrrh (an anointing oil) and Gold.   The gifts were important… these were items that were not given to an ordinary man, these are gifts for a King.

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Also, as tradition, children dressed up as the three kings who visited Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem. The kids knock on doors and offer to write a symbol of blessing over the top of people’s entry-way doors. In exchange, the “blesee” is expected to give a donation to the Sternsinger, an organization that does various charitable works around the world. This year’s target is “Together against Child Labor.”

Here is a great well-produced video about this campaign that you can see on YouTube here.

So, finally, I had answers to my questions. The formula is quite simple: the 20 and the 18 on either end signify the current year.  version is that it stands for the names of the 3 wise men, Kaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. Epiphany is the time when traditional “C+M+B” house-blessing ceremonies are performed with an inscription on or above a door.

 

Inscriptions are either done by families or Sternsingers (Star Singers) as they carol around neighborhoods and raise money for charities. Star Singers are generally boys and girls in groups of four with three dressed as the Wise Men and one carrying a star.

Today, an ornate shrine, a Gold box, containing the bones of the Magi holds a place of honor in the Cologne Cathedral. Legend has it that St. Helena found them in Constantinople, and brought them home. (Maybe that’s why Germans feel so strongly about these Epiphany celebrations?) While the box isn’t very big, it is quite amazing to see.

Do you also celebrate Three Kings Day?

What are the local traditions?

If you wanna know more about what’s special about Three Kings, you can read the other article here.

 

 

 

National Tulip Day in the Netherlands

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Fresh tulips in the house
Yesterday was  National Tulip Day in the Netherlands. Everyone is free to pick tulips in the ‘picking garden ‘in the Dam square in Amsterdam. Bursting with around 200,000 tulips on display, an event that should not be missed if you’re in town. More than 10,000 people come and pick their own free tulip, and you know what makes this event really rocks?  

You pick FREE tulips of your choice, with its bulbs,so you can bring Spring to your homes,All for FREE! The special theme for 2017 is ‘Mondrian to Dutch Design’, as the Netherlands celebrates 100 years of De Stijl.

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National Tulip Day in the Netherlands
I don’t know about you , but one of the things that I love in this world are Tulips!  Although tulips originally came from Turkey, the Netherlands and Tulips are two things inseparable! Just like Curry wurst and Germany. Yesterday, my husband surprised me with a handful of fresh bulbs of flaming yellow-red tulips, as he always does. He knows that I loved them. The aftermath, of course, me taking some photos and getting some inspiration from it.

There’s something about its slim perfect skinny stem, the fresh long green leaves, and it’s cup petals  bursting with unique charm and beautiful vibrant colors. The “flames” and mosaic in the petals is a total stunner, a nature’s wonder. Tulips  is the ultimate symbolic flower for grace. No wonder tulips (Tulpen)  is  3rd world’s most popular flower! Such a surprise that I married a Dutchman and that tulips is just right in the doorsteps!

Did you know that the first Dutch’s financial bubble is because of tulips? Can’t believe that a single bulb of tulips could cost more than 10 times the annual  income of a skilled person! So precious…

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Tulip mania
The Dutch love affair with tulips during the Dutch Golden Age of the mid-1600s paved way  to tulip bulb bubble or also known as “Tulip Mania”.  Generally considered to be the first recorded financial bubble, the Tulip Mania of 1636-1637 was the time in which tulip bulb prices were propelled by speculators to incredible heights before collapsing and plunging the Dutch economy into a severe crisis that lasted for many years. Incredible, right?

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Graceful tulips
While it’s not the fanciest flower in the garden, the beauty and grace of a simple Tulips means it has become a symbol for many things. Here are some interesting facts about this flower that I have found out;

  • A dark or light-colored center contrasts against the petals and can symbolize a broken or light heart respectively.
  • Bright red is the color of passion and perfect love. Don’t send a bouquet of these flowers to a family member or you’ll be sending the wrong message!
  • Tulips are edible but not medicinal. They become emergency food during WW II.
  • Perfect, enduring love between partners or family members
  • Undying passionate love, whether the passion is spurned or returned
  • Royalty and a regal nature
  • Forgotten or neglected love
  • the 11th wedding anniversary
  • Abundance, prosperity, and indulgence
  • Charity and supporting the less fortunate

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The beauty and grace of a tulip flower
I fell in love with tulips even before I have seen a real one. Seeing it from the magazines and in TV made me dream to see it for real. I am just so engrossed in its form, and how delicate it looks and yet so proud. Same as an obsessed gardener, I have this urge to plant dozens of bulbs into our garden. Spring is still  far away from our doorsteps and yet, the sight of tulips in flower shops makes me dream of  bright sunny days ! There’s nothing compares to the sight of  fresh bunch of Tulip  in your hands, in a vase full of these inside your living room, even a single stem can really make a change in the ambiance of your place.

I can’t wait for Spring for our Easter trip to  finally see and visit Keukenhof  gardens to  indulge in the sight of these babies up close!

But for now, this sight is enough for me to look forward for more beautiful days!

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Tulips and a freshly baked Angel Food cake with warm cup of tea equals a perfect  winter weekend treat!

“A tulip doesn’t strive to impress anyone. It doesn’t struggle to be different from a rose. It doesn’t have to. It is different. And there’s room in the garden for every flower.” – Marianne Williamson

 

How did your weekend go? Have you seen something that inspired you?

 

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Bavaria in 100 days!

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Picture perfect German childhood : Bavarian kids in Dirndl and Lederhosen

2016 was a year of changes for me and yes,today , is my 100 day-mark  living as an Expat in Germany.

Last summer,we have successfully  touched down & settled in our new ground. We have a decent place to live, a garden of which my daughter is so happy to roll over everyday,  a 5- minutes walk and we’re standing in the middle of the woods, with  lots of nearby playgrounds and finally living-out our European dreams! I call it  European-dream for myself– because this is actually my first time to  live in Europe. I tell you, it is so different from being a visiting tourist compared if you are an Expat living here. If you are an Expat -Mama relocating to Bavaria, you should read this for you know that Germany has wonderful pros for raising your kids. Here in Bavaria, it has so many playgrounds for children and the education system is of global competence. Something that I would really love my daughter to have.

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The colors of Fall 

So forgive me if I flood my Blog with things that are all new to me. Only with 2 months of preparation, we left Kuwait , sold our furnitures, sent our important stuff to Germany and moved to Bavaria.You can imagine my overwhelmed self when I saw how life is different from Kuwait compared to here. Talking about the efficient public transport system, did I mentioned that its my first time to ride in a German ICE (Deutsch Bahn high speed train ) and my daughter totally loved it?!

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German breads, dark and dense and oftentimes have seeds.There are over 1,200 varieties of Brötchen and loafs that you can see here in Germany.

Everywhere I look, it’s all new and different for  me. Almost everyone is fair & blonde, Deutsch is a strange  language in my ears, the amount of sausages, the dark breads, the overwhelming calcium in the water, and who won’t be intrigued with volk musik and festivals?  For the first time in my life, I have cycled with a tiny human behind me in two-wheels, and it felt terrifying,at the same time a total new experience for me. Yes, we managed to get home in one piece,safe and sound!

Everyday is a step to slowly integrating into German living. I even managed to learn some German in slow-phase and helping me to stay sane.

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My first taste of Volkfest…also the first time I tasted the Bavarian beer..so far,so good!

Everyone is so comfortable with cycling around as the easiest mode of getting around, to work, to do errands, or just getting active in any time of the day. Where else can you see people who shop in their wooden baskets and carries tons of bottles for recycling?Germans drink more sparkling water than tap water. Yup yup,only in Germany.

I’m happy I can stay out  for hours without the soles of my shoes burning. Finally a decent temperature, well at least for now. Ever the air that I breathe is new to me. It felt clean and friendly to my lungs. I love the German way of protecting their environment and keeping everything in order. I haven’t even heard cars honking, only rings from the cyclist! Sorry Kuwait, you’re so  fine,I missed the Baklavas and dates, but I had enough of dust storms and honking maniac drivers.

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Lederhosen  and the Volk music, It’s totally a Bavarian thing.

I can’t think of a better way to mark this day but by listing out things I have seen within 100 days of living here..but first, let me tell you first a bit of something about this place called “Bayern “.

Bavaria–  is the region in the southeast part of Germany . Close enough to Austria & Switzerland , Czech Republic & France. The largest city in Bavaria is Munich or München ( and also third among most-populated city  next to Hamburg & Berlin) and  is the center of Beer festival known as ‘Oktoberfest‘. I thought it was just a get-wasted with beer festival  but realized that  it’s more than  that. Excuse my poor mind!

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Beautiful gardens and parks

1.Bavaria is Green.

It’s always been my  dream to live in a place which have  a city vibe & modern and yet with a foremost country-living feel. This is where Bavaria falls into. Ingolstadt is a city surrounded with vast green, it is so verdant that you always have a reason to spend the day outdoors. Historical old towns surrounded with green  forests, medieval fortresses, beautiful architecture and lush gardens, you name it, it’s here. From hiking in the or cycling in the forest you can be in cobbled stones within 20 minutes. Bavarians love their nature and enjoy it relentlessly. I felt so close to nature here. I feel lucky that it’s always within my reach.

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German women in Dirndl

2.Bavarians love their National costume with pride.

How often did you wear your country’s national costume or dress?

I cannot even recall for myself. Maybe only once, at school loooong time ago!But in Bavaria, it is different. They wear it as often as they drink beer and there’s a sense of pride when they wear their ‘Tracht I’. thought I was still dreaming when I saw men in Lederhosen and pretty  women in Dirndl in the crowded streets in Munich and so much more here in Ingolstadt. Before I only saw them in internet and now I see them before my eyes. I need to pinch myself sometimes to be reminded that they were real. I am so surprised by just how strongly the locals kept to their traditions, and just how many walked around wearing traditional Lederhosen looking so comfy, with knee-high socks and alpine hats, on a daily basis. From the young kids to the old ones.

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Germans enjoying an open air classical music concert  with Toddlers, bottle of wine and everything.
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The view of the city and the majestic Cathedral, Liebfrauenmünster from the historical tower,Pfeifturm.
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A distinct Architecture  gable roof detail typical in Bavaria

3.Bavaria have Old, historical & beautiful beautiful Churches 

I love beautiful architecture and visiting old churches. It has so much history in there and always a great work of art. Here in Bavaria, they have a unique culture, more of being a conservative ones since most are Catholics ( 52%). This explains why they have so many beautiful Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance churches, all in the same place.

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Baggersee reflections in Summer

4.The best beer in the world is here. The liquid gold from Bavaria.

Even if you’re not a beer-drinker, you’ve got to love the Bavarian’s cozy way of relaxation. Enjoying a mug of beer after a hard day at work is the best form of solace. Biergartens are not only for Beer drinkers but have become an attraction for all ages.Have you heard about Biergarten having a play yard adjacent to it? It’s true.

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I am not a Beer drinker but I can say that Bavarian beer is good. Prost! { Volkfest in Ingolstadt }

Bavaria  is  regarded as a wealthy region, and people tend to take time to enjoy themselves. And the best way to enjoy is to sit in a cozy Biergarten ,to meet with friends, or just have a night out with your partner. It’s a lifestyle. The ‘Reinhetsgebot‘ (or the Bavarian Beer Purity law) which can be traced since  1516 originated in Bavaria. On average, a  typical Bavarian consumes from birth to the grave some 150 litres (40 gallons) of beer per year  so it’s no surprise that  Bavarians are at top of the beer consuming list of states in Germany.

What is the best way to show their undying love for beer? through Oktoberfest  and Volksfest of course! In our neighborhood itself, I found 3-4 Biergartens.

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A place where you can see old-gabled buildings and houses well-preserved . An architectural detail that is almost evident as you walked through the old town.

5.Bavaria is the birthplace of many innovations, famous people and events.

There is so many things that can be associated with Bavaria. Just like everyone loves a good pair of sneakers, but did you know that Adidas was founded by the Bavarian, Adolf “Adi”Dassler? while his other brother, Rudolf Dassler founded Puma. Famous Bavarians include Pope Benedict XVI, Richard Wagner, Richard Straus, Thomas Mann, Levi Strauss, and Rudolf Diesel to name a few.  If you’re a football fan I’m sure you know  Bayern Munich, which is the most successful team in the Bundesliga , and having won  European Champions League four times (1974, 1975, 1976, 2001).

Should I add having one or two of the best luxury cars in the world? 

Bavaria has the largest economy in all Germany. This Bavarian pride comes being the Headquarters of car giants BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke AG)   in Munich and Audi AG in Ingolstadt.  Bavaria is the  region of one of the best-selling cars around the world! Anyone visiting Bavaria should visit the BMW Welt in Munich  and the Audi Forum in Ingolstadt to see just how big these giants are. Really recommended for car-lovers!

Bavaria has a good standing when it comes to economy. So I am not surprised why this region is a magnet for Expats. Aside from having an affordable cost of living, the quality of life is high.

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Architecture in the old city of Ingolstadt

6.Best of both worlds for Expats

Bavaria offers great opportunities for Expats and their families. Even expat kids have financial allowance given by the German government and not to mention the Integration class with encouragement to learn the language for better integration to their culture. This is what Bavaria is. A place of new opportunities and culture-learning so an Expat doesn’t feel a forever Alien. My experience in the Rathaus ( City Hall) is very pleasing.The immigration process and paperwork for an immigrant like me is very tedious and yet, systematic. The locals are very friendly and  accomodating. Contrary to what they say that Germans are cold, I find them rather open and very kind.

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A wurst in a bun! 

Ah yes,lastly, after contemplating about living in Bavaria for the last 100 days, who can’t be intrigued with their food? A sausage in a bun for snack,lunch or dinner. Indeed, welcome to Germany!

 

Are you an Expat too? What part of another culture is hard for you to get used to?

 

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O’zapft is ! my first Volksfest experience

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My first Volksfest experience as an Expat

Finally, I had my first taste of Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest is the largest of Volksfest celebrated in the whole of Germany ( and of the world) along with travelling carnival and fun fair. For the neighboring cities around Munich,each one has their unique Volksfest. Since 1946,  Ingolstadt had its first festival after  WW II, and from then on ,there are two major festival to celebrate. One in Spring and one in Fall. I had always been curious what is all about Oktoberfest and all these hustle and bustle about beer.  I am not a beer drinker but having been able to see how this beautiful festival is celebrated is probably one of the highlights of my days living as an Expat in Germany.

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Parade highlights -there are 93 group delegations who joined the parade.

If you are visiting Germany, you’ve gotta love this! The whole place is so alive and  flooded with colorful people wearing their traditional Lederhosen and Dirndls waslking in the festive vibe of Volk musik.

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Highlight of this year’s festivities is 500 years of the Bavarian Beer Purity Law!

Last Friday, September 23, the Volksfest in Ingolstadt started and will last until 3rd of October. As the renowned legendary and traditional ritual of tapping the first barrel of Oktoberfest-beer is one of the things that I really looked forward to see, by my own eyes.There is something great about seeing it for real compared to the ones that I only saw in internet. Since 1972, Volksfest in Ingolstadt  is held in Volksfestplatz just beside the ZOB.

Volksfest with a toddler? No problem!

Aside from no entrance fee,Volksfest is for the entire family. I was having doubts how would  my daughter would behave during this time because of the crowds  and the volk-musik was continously played by the stage band. I was quite surprised that  Volksfest is kid-friendly. There is something about a father & daughter sharing food, and old couple happily enjoying lunch, and of course, sharing a mug of beer. Volksfest is defintely a disabled-accessible,most especially with people with disabilities and in wheelchairs.

We managed to find the big tent where the tapping of the first barrel of beer would be held. This is known as  the “Schottenhamel” beer tent. I found a very nice place directly in front of the beer kegs but my daughter started to get bored and whining. But even if I had to change my position after my husband take her, I still managed to get an arm’s length from the spot were the barrel will be tapped.Soon, the Mayor Dr. Christian Lösel and his entourage arrived and  began the ceremony.

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Inside the tent filled with happy Germans drinking and enjoying a nice,cold Beer.
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O’zapft is!!!

As usual, the first thing He spoke into the microphone was “O’zapft is!” ( “It is tapped!”) and wished everyone a peaceful celebration of Volksfest. As protocol demands, the first mug of beer was passed on  and with that all the other beer tents could start selling beer as well.

Volksfest has officially started!

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Our first mug of Bavarian Beer! Prost!

Volksfest star of the festivities is the Beer. And oh, the famous Bavarian beer. They’ll serve it to you in a size smaller than a Maß (which is one liter, same as the one in above photo) but if you order anything smaller you’ll be mocked, so don’t. You can also get Radler (half-beer, half-lemonade), water, and soda, but drinking those things is what all the other days of the year are for. Unless you’re a recovering alcoholic! In which case the water and soda are great and Oktoberfest is probably not that fun for you! Waitresses your grandmother’s age will be carrying eight or ten Maß at a time, which is impressive.

 

Talking about food?  You will drool at the sight of food during Volksfest. Order Münchener Weißwurst immediately! Since we are in Bavaria, we soothed our taste buds with threats that is definitely the food for the gods at this time.

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My favorite so far is the simple Bratwurst ,fries, and of course,my daughter’s Bretzel! The size of the Pretzel is so huge that we only share a piece. From the cheeses,breads,sausages, roasted chicken, pork slices and grilled meats were also among the favourites. The smell of the food stalls are just heavenly!

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Old time favorite. Curry wurst with pommes. A perfect combination with Beer.

Outside was a place of colorful Carnival. One of the highlight was the  daring roller coasters, giant Ferris wheel which goes high as 40 meters  and gives you rare views of the whole city, children’s carousel, and so much more.  I’ve heard that this year, a number of rides were new such as  the “Spinning Coaster”, Rollercoaster Crazy Mouse, the rapid jungle giant swing Konga with an altitude of 45 meters and a maximum speed of 120 kilometers per hour, also 4G gravity. All not my kind of fun and not for the faint-hearted! Just looking at it makes me sick, but for others, it is sure a thrill-filled ride.Me and my daughter enjoyed our very first train ride and it was absolutely fun!

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Train ride for kids!
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Pretty ladies in Dirndl.

The whole fair ground was a full of  families, young & adults enjoyed a week-long festivities. It’s not just about drinking beer. It’s a whole more than that. A true legacy that defines German character and culture. Through the years, beer culture of Germany have been attracting so many tourists and now I know why.

I was even more impressed that the security was heightened by checking the bags,the strollers and there are always roaming guards to ensures public safety.Inside the tent was a no-smoking policy is observed and everything is in order even the public bathrooms. Animals are also  not allowed inside the Volksfestplatz.

 

Have you had a taste of Oktoberfest?

How was your experience?

Have you enjoyed reading this post? If so, make sure to follow the button below to read more on my Expat life . Let’s get friends, are you on Twitter? If you’ve enjoyed this post then make sure to follow my Twitter page and my Instagram page for updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.

 

 

Why German women are sexy

Yes, you read that right. German women are sexy, and you want to know why, that’s why you’re in this page & want to read , right?

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

Who says being ‘Sexy‘ need to be complicated. It doesn’t need an elaborate description or a bare-it-all image for you to understand. German women are sexy in their own special, and in their very ‘Au Naturel ‘way. German sexiness doesn’t come by wearing the sky-high stilettos, plunging necklines, tight & form-fitting short dresses and red lipstick. After seeing them everyday, I realized that sexiness isn’t all about baring and flaunting and it is not always the best look.

I hereby declare that these type of shoes are the most Un-German ladies shoes in Germany.

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Beautiful and fashionable , but probably the most Unfriendly shoes that German women prefer. On special occasions, perhaps.

Tell me how in the world can you walk for hours in cobbled streets with these?

Back then in Kuwait, I saw Kuwaiti women always dress in style a.k.a Flaunting and Killing it. Well, there’s nothing wrong about it actually. Muslim women also dressed up in modesty. Women in general ( myself included!) can’t resist to  designer  bags, shoes, accessories or even the line of make up . The overwhelming  mall culture of Kuwait have boomed so much that you can see locals plunged into every bit of fashion statements that is in trend and what’s in around the global fashion. Women that are dressed up in modest Abayas are wearing sky-high stilettos, rocking the heels & wedges while grocery shopping, and full-made-up face while drinking coffee. A day in the life of an Araba is spent in the Avenues, salons ,spas and lounging in coffee shops , clothed & accessorize with LV, Prada and Louboutins. The epitome of a sexy, modern, Kuwaiti women.

In Germany, I saw something different.

German women on the other hand, typically the Bavarian women that I’ve seen, dress conservatively and practical. Instead of luxurious bags & purses, they often carry backpacks. Instead of designer coats, they dress practically in Jack Wolfskin , North Face, or Schöffel . Trading off their stilettos  for decent, comfortable and most durable shoes everyday. Do you know Adidas & Puma? They are an icon of street wear here and of course, it’s a German brand, and founded by Bavarians.

They may not looked all dolled-up everyday, but who cares,even sans make-up, they are already envied by the whole world for their features ,fair skin and oh well, they are Germans!

Why in my opinion that German women, especially here in Bavaria deserves this remark  as a compliment , Here are my  top 5 reasons ;

1.They cycle in style and it’s Sexy

German women can really make an impression while cycling. I love the first time I saw a German lady cycling in a full dress and sandals.Her bike is adorned with little flowers and on the back side is a wooden basket with a loaf of Bread popping out and a bunch of flowers.While women here are very good in cycling in speed, they are also great in multi-tasking. Watch how a mother swirl with her child’s carrier along the woods and you will know.She transmits a lot of self-security  to her children because she is full of confidence herself.

Have you ever seen a pregnant woman cycling in stride as if its their normal breathing? Yes, only in Germany.

Do you know why old German ladies never gets boring to watch? Just look how she struts in her bike wearing  her  Pashmina  (scarf) and hat.Growing old is not an excuse for not being active and not hopping the two-wheels.

2.They go out, get fit  and enjoy nature and it’s Sexy

Bavarians love to enjoy life. They loved to go hiking or cycling on weekends & holidays. Compared to honking of cars in Kuwait, here in Bavaria, the first sound that I hear that I knew its a great day is the sound of cyclists. Women are no exception.Dressed up in track suit, shorts and comfy shoes,they run and jog,every single day. We lived next to a sports club and I saw German women doing sport just as they drink beer in the Biergarten in the late afternoon. German mothers takes her children for a swim in the swimming pool or just trek into the woods. Instead of spending hours in a mall or salon, they prefer to go outdoors and sweat out.

3.They make it, instead of buying it and it’s Sexy

German women are crafty and artistic. They love crafts and everything in it. It’s a good indication how they manage their time doing this stuff aside from doing their jobs and having kids. I saw so many handmade cards, home-made goodies, cakes & pastries, and self-done craft work like quilts, crochet,and artwork all made by German ladies. My mother-in-law who is Dutch, was a great Crafter too, she likes to make hand-made cards and we have those in every single special occasion,from the moment I got married, when my daughter was born, up to the time we moved into our new place. Everything is personalized. Our neighbor whom I befriended gave us a handmade card too for my daughter’s birthday and I find all these gestures so warm.This European domesticated syndrome is a great thing.

4.They are strong, doing a man’s job & still, they are Sexy

Have you ever ride a bus in Germany? or a delivery truck,  or  have you ever seen Forklifts & Bulldozer and other heavy machine operators doing the road work & tunnels in Bavaria?

Or do you have a Taxi experience in Germany?

From the world I came from, these type of jobs mentioned above are done mostly by men, but not in Germany. German women shows that they can do tough jobs as men does.Here in Bavaria, I have seen German women doing all these jobs. With their blonde hair and still active physique, they just do it as good as men does.

And lastly, since we are talking about Germans;

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Just imagine Oktoberfest without women in Dirndls and mugs of beer! /Photo credit to mail Online 

5.They drink Beer and stay sober. Even one of the boys, they are still  Sexy!

I’m not talking about the wasted moments where ladies  get drunk  from too much beer and dragging themselves in the bathroom. I’m talking about German women who knows how to enjoy life, and knows exactly  what she wants.

What is your definition of sexy?

 

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Servus! How to say Hello in Bavaria

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It’s  everyone’s instinct to say Hello or Hi to try to interact with others. But how to say it?Whether you are just a visiting tourist, paying visits to relatives or an Expat trying to fit in,these welcome greetings are great revelations of their culture.

I’m a new Expat here in Bavaria, and sure thing, from the first day, I faced the dilemma of how do I greet someone , either out of politeness or being friendly. Living in the Middle East for 8 years, I am used to greeting people with ‘Salam’ almost all the time and that’s it.  Aren’t Germans  cold, reserve and not-so-friendly, top of it that they seldom initiate a small talk? Absolutely not!

One morning while walking around our neighborhood,I was greeted by a man working on his garden in a rather friendly voice “Servus!”Of course I looked back at him and I replied in my timid voice “Hello!”Sure thing He knows that I’m a foreigner because I don’t look like German. A bit further, some cyclist passed ahead of me and said “ Grüss Gott!” While entering grocery shops, I was greeted by fellow shoppers “Grüss Gott!” and while checking out, the cashier repeated these phrase once again. Slowly it sinked into me, Welcome to Bavarian hospitality.

So how does anyone say Hello in Bavaria? Although Germans have a universal way of Saying “Hallo” as greetings, Here in Bavaria, it’s different.Don’t ask me why, they are just different.

Here are typical Bavarian greeting to know and when to use it on appropriate situations.

Grüss Gott:   Knowing that Bavaria is a rather conservative region compared to other parts of Germany, you will hear these words more often as you walked into the streets or just doing errands and close encounters with locals. Grüss Gott is the favourite of catholic housewives aged 40 and above, of which there are many in Bavaria. Very formal. Use it when greeting people you don’t know, or ones that you are meeting for the first time, such as your new landlord or boss. Laughed at by northern Germans, who don’t seem to like Bavarians very much. That feeling is mutual.

Servus: Say it to friends – or to someone you don’t know at your own peril. Informal. Servus is most often used between people who know each other well enough to say “Du” to each other. Servus is also widely used in Austria.

Hallo: This is the German way of saying hello. Don’t force your slang English way or American accent , just say it the Germans way. Therefore, it is not strictly Bavarian. Bavarians don’t really do German. If you really want to be one of the locals, then see above.

I noticed that Bavarians seldom say Guten Tag (good day) in Bavaria too. Instead they just shout from their lungs “Morgen” ( Morning)  or ” Schön Tag” ( Nice day !)

If you say Hi, you will just be greeted back with blank stare since this is the quickest way to annoy Germans. I’m not kidding, only foreigners used this word.

As I told you, it’s different here in Bavaria. 🙂

 

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Expat-Mama in The Netherlands

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The Dutch Life : Where canals are never-ending and Amsterdam is a city that never sleeps. 

For our first feature on my new Blog section —Expat Mama around the World, Get to know one amazing Expat Mama from The Netherlands, Ann, the Blogger behind the Grubbs ‘n Critters  who shares her Expat Mama story about living in the land of beautiful canals, Van Gogh, delicious cheese, wind mills & clogs.

Ann currently lives in The Netherlands with his Dutch husband 2 kids and 2 cats. She’s a Baker, Innovator,  Homemade cooking enthusiast, a Globetrotter, and a serious coffee addict.

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The Grubbsncritters Family (Photo credit -Grubbsncritters)

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How does she manage to raise her kids in the cycling capital of the world?  Here’s my Interview- story  with her – “An Expat Mama journey to Motherhood in a foreign country.”

Tell us about your background .

I hail from a tiny island, with no capital city attached to its name as the entire city is actually a country called Singapore.  My parents are both Singaporean and still living in Singapore; my father of Javanese descent and my mother of Japanese –somewhat Portuguese lineage. Technically, that makes me a (Singaporean) mutt.

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The Big Move of the Grubbsncritters Family 

My career has been pretty much rooted in the advertising industry for 18 years now and after all these years, I still find it hard to explain what I really do! As a context, the industry I’m in deals with planning, negotiating and buying advertising space across all media. That was how I started out at the very bottom in the agency world. And there are so, so, so much more!

All these years, I have been lucky enough to not only work with global advertisers and partners across markets in my course of work, but also getting the opportunity to be transferred to another office in a different country with more than the occasional travels for business.11 years ago, that opportunity brought me to Bangkok, Thailand.

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The Land of water mills or also known as Windmills

On Juggling work and Family times

I have since been a part-time SAHM after our move here. I still work supporting my Thai office as a consultant and I work remotely from home on a 3-day week schedule on Central European Time. That also means I have to do the occasional con-calls at 3 a.m or 5 a.m on my local time! For now, that’s only temporary and I’m excited on what lies ahead.

What are your Biggest Passions?

My biggest passions are cooking and baking. I just love being in the kitchen experimenting with ingredients and whipping up magic.  I find them to be therapeutic as no matter how tired I am especially when I am stressed out, my whole family would end up having a feast!

About a year ago, I collaborated with a blogger, Gen author of Eat, Play, Clove on a Monthly Mystery Munchies Project from South Africa.  It features every first Friday of the month where we both take turns to challenge each other on agreed theme or ingredients and then post up our creation for the month. We have now featured over 25 different recipes between the both of us and I must say that it has been one of the most amazing project with a fellow blogger ever!Check out one of my heavenly recipe for Fabulous Friday Flavour Here.

I also love to read, travel and watching movies but sadly, those were b.c (before kids) indulgence and I have yet to find time for them.These days, you’ll find me blogging away and I do get annoyed if I couldn’t find the time to blog!

How is it to live in the The Netherlands?

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Typically Dutch Kids-Spud & Squirt enjoying the Tulips season  in the Netherlands

We’ve only been living in the Netherlands for 3+ months but really, the Netherlands is not a stranger to me at all.In the last 8 years, going back to the Netherlands for a vacation is an annual pilgrimage for at least 3 weeks at any one time. Our visit will always include family time with my husband’s side of the family and his bunch of childhood friends, who are by now, also my friends.

On Dutch Culture 

Family time and doing things together as a family comes first above anything else. A big part of my culture revolves around food – that’s huge from where I came from and we always make an occasion with food out of nothing! It’s also a blessing that my husband, his family and most of his friends are also enthusiastic foodies so we have a good blend of food culture going on whenever we get together.

On Dutch Bureaucracy and Formalities

In the last 3 months, I have been exposed to the complicated Dutch system of trying to get registered as a resident, getting insured, getting a mobile phone number in which I needed to produce a local bank statement for, trying to get a subsidy for getting the kids into the childcare to which we are entitled to, and recently the complex tax system – each of those probably need a post on its own!

On Dutch Early Education and Childcare

I have to say though that we have been lucky with school and childcare. Because we live in a little hole in the suburb, there has not been any waiting required. The situation would probably be different had we live in Amsterdam. The Dutch also has one of the highest quality education in the world that does not cost too much money and very much catered to the pace of the children.

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Essentially, that been our primary reason for leaving Thailand where education system is crappy and was becoming expensive. In Singapore’s rat-race, education while affordable is extremely competitive and academic. Much of the education is rote learning and something that I am not too fond of.

On Dutch brutality for being straightforward & Directness

The concept of “losing face” that is prevalent in the Asian society and a culture I’m very familiar with is pretty much non-existent here. The Dutch is known for their straight in your face blunt honesty. What you see is what you get. No one cares about “face”. It is what it is and that works for me just fine.

On First Name Basis

If there’s one thing I find a little strange with the culture is that everyone calls everyone by name. A 4-year-old child would be calling the mother of the next door neighbor by the first name. Nephew and nieces would also address their uncles and aunties by name. It was something I had to get used to as back in Singapore, we would always address those who are older with “Uncle” or “Auntie” or Sister/Brother. Calling anyone by their first name especially when you are much, much younger is considered rude!

On learning the Dutch Language

I’m still struggling with the Dutch language and I must say that given the area where we live where Dutch is the language the community is most comfortable with, not being able to speak it fluently has been quite debilitating. It’s definitely something I have to work on; along with getting a bloody damn driving license!

On scenic landscapes and beauty of nature 

I absolutely love the greenery, peace and quiet here.And do you know what else is great? The tulip season of course! It’s really the best time of the year to be visiting the Netherlands. Also, don’t forget to look up at the sky! You’ll be amazed with what you can see!

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Orange skies–as Holland’s national color is Orange.

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How is it being pregnant, giving birth and raising your child away from your home country. Or relocating with your kids to another country? What are the adjustments you’ve made?

 Pregnancy & Postpartum Care

Both my kids were born in Bangkok. From pregnancy to the birth itself and postpartum, we were pretty much on our own. My parents had to work and could only visit a few weeks after the birth of both of our kids and my in-laws visited us much later. In a way, we did not mind it very much as we wanted our space to figure things out on our own for the first few weeks after the birth.Fortunately, getting help in Thailand was relatively easy and we got ourselves a nanny in no time. Plus, the hospital services for birthing was nothing but excellent. I wrote a piece about my experience at The Bum.

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Being a parent definitely required us to make some adjustments to our lifestyles. For the first few years, we no longer slept beyond 9 p.m. and we could no longer sleep in till late afternoon.  And once I started going back to work after my maternity, I found it hard to juggle and get the work-life balance I needed. Harder for me as I was a workaholic and I was travelling lots for work!

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But somehow, we managed to work things out in the end. With the move from Bangkok to the Netherlands. I guess I just went with the flow and tweak things as they go along. I’ve learnt that not having any expectations is the best solution to keep your sanity.

What is your say about raising your kid as a third culture kid?

Now that we are settling in my husband’s birth country, I’m not sure the term third culture kids would apply to them!Still, having spent the earlier part of their formative years outside of their parents’ culture, I guess by birth they’ve got third culture ingrained in their DNA. Besides, I reckon it would only be a matter of time before we get itchy butt again to move to another country – perhaps in another 10 years.

Much can be said on the benefits of raising a third culture kid. I see it as raising not only a child, but a citizen of the world who fully embraces cultural diversity and respecting the differences across cultures. The exposure and experiences they have had would help them to not only expand, but open up their minds, learn the art of adaptability as they intuitively learn to be more sensitive to their surroundings.

They are already brought up in a multi-cultural family and we have tons of fun creating our very own family culture, traditions and customs altogether and then mix them up as they deem fit without even thinking about it. Not many (non-third culture) kids would have that kind of exposure!

Wherever they are in the world and whichever part of the world they may end up in, they would be rooted to the family values instilled in them and they’ll take it with them wherever they go.

How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in The Netherlands?

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I used to join mommy clubs and playgroups when I was living in Bangkok. It really helps to get to know other expat moms in the community. One of my favorite meet-ups was the Baby Wearing Club. That was pretty awesome!I have yet to start on anything Mommy-based in the Netherlands! It’s something I need to work on.

Thank you so much Ann for sharing your wonderful share about being an Expat Mama. If you want to know more about Ann and her passionate cooking, check her sumptous Grubbecipes and her fabulous  Critterstories.

Photos used in this post is courtesy of Ann of Grubbsncritters and is of personal property and may subject to copyright. Should you wish to use it, please mention her.

Are you an Expat Mama? Your story can be featured here too. Just drop me an email @ justbluedutch@gmail.com and follow our Expat Mama around the world stories in my Twitter Page Here .

 

ExpatsBlog.com - Where Expats Blog

Achtung! Stumbling Stone {Stolpersteine}pt. 2

 

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Wandertag quest : Finding the Stolspersteine in Ingolstadt, Germany

I was really looking forward for the weekend so I could have  time to find the rest of the Stolspersteine in Ingolstadt. Yesterday was Sunday, as usual a Ruhetag here in Germany where practically half of the town is still sleeping around 8 a.m . We began our Wandertag-Sonntag to look for the 5 Stolspersteine . I like this time because the streets are quiet and not crowded. I previously wrote about this fascinating art project by Gunter Demnig that has been regarded as the largest memorial project in the whole world. I am grateful at the same time feeling fulfilled that I was able to see these ‘stumbling stones’ in  my own eyes.

All that travel could give you, more than delight is the  priceless experience of  exploring the charm of this quaint Bavarian town of Ingolstadt. It’s really more than Audi cars, Neues Schloss and the  Donau River.

Here’s the trail we did to find the  5 Stolspersteine’s sights. Most of these stumbling stones are laid in the old town and within the city center of Ingolstadt.

Beckerstrasse 27

Paradeplatz 5

 

Theresienstrasse 28

Griesmülstrasse 6

 

Luftgasse 2

 

We ended the trail by visiting the memorial site in the Luitpoldpark by Dagmar Pachtner to honor the victims of the Nazi regime in Ingolstadt.We discover this during one of our strolls in the woods.The blue panels are not hard to miss if you are either cycling or just passing by Luitpoldpark.

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Nazi victims memorial site in Luitpoldpark
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Project initiated by Dagmar Pachtner for National Socialism ‘s victims in Ingolstadt, Germany.

 “A person is only forgotten, if his name is forgotten.”

{Gunter Demnig, Artist -Stolpersteine Project }

How did you spend your weekend?  Did you do anything fun?

Are you on Twitter? Follow my Expat stories in my Twitter page.

7 Signs that shows you’re becoming like Dutch

Well, some of you already  knows that I’m married to a Dutch guy , Oh Yes, the Almighty Dutch syndrome is in my system and I can’t deny it. My daughter is even growing up more and more like Dutch , and no one’s to blame, she’s Dutch for a fact. It’s in her genes. I have tried feeding her more rice and Adobo   but she prefers bread (Brood ) of course with chocolate Sprinkles –Hagelslag!  What a way to raise a chocoholic, don’t you think?

Over the years, I found myself turning into somewhat like my husband. I couldn’t believe it’s happening before my eyes.I am Liking what He likes, and end up doing what  he normally does. Does this sound weird?

But NO– I would never be converted into eating the raw Haring and Drop.

Anyway, here  I’d to share with you 7 top signs that shows you’re becoming like Dutch, what has become of Me-like I am slowly being Dutchie-fied!

  • You eat potatoes. Everyday– Fried. Smashed. Boiled.Baked. Name it all. Friet. Frieten.Patat. Pommes. Goodness gracious, If  we don’t have potatoes in a week, we are going to be doomed. Even for the chips snacks, we preferred potato chips, but only Paprika flavor simply because in The Netherlands, the only flavor of chips that Dutch most adored is Paprika! I’ve never eaten so much potatoes in my entire life since I’ve been married to a Dutch guy.
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Potatoes, french fries, friets, anything goes with it . Schnitzel with pommes, why not?

 

  • You cycle everywhere you go. No matter what.- It’s universal truth-the Netherlands is the cycling capital of the world. Nothing beats them when it comes to cycling. You are practically married to your bike or in Dutch they call it ‘Fiets’(pronounced as ‘feets’). Every Dutch has a bike, even more than one. The first functional gift you could ever give to a Dutch toddler is a wooden bike or a walking bike. Only the Dutch parents can prove to the whole world that it is both legal and alright to transport another human being along with their bags and groceries, plants, & pets at the same time. Talk about genius when you see their ‘Bakfiets’.  Everything goes in two wheels. When you move to the Netherlands, you will definitely buy a bike. When my husband moved to Kuwait with me, his bike also fly to Kuwait to be with him. Best Buddies eh!
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Just turned 2 and already a Cycling enthusiast! 

 

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Typical Dutch Mama with her ‘Bakfiets’ and kids..and canals-Welcome to the Netherlands! (Photo credit to wojofoto on flickr)
  • You give Three (3) Kisses Right cheek, left cheek, right cheek. This is the right way to give Three Dutch kisses. If a Dutch like you, they give you three kisses.  Today I met a new German friend,she was so nice and we had a great time chatting and as we part ways and say Tsüss, I found myself giving her 3 kisses. She just looked at me smilingly and I thought, I just really like her.Period.

 

  • You can run in steep stairs even in pitch dark nights – Ja, I did it and I don’t mind. I could run and climb these stairs without vertigo. You need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, it’s in the 2nd floor-No problem!  My daughter climb these very steep stairs from my parents-in-law when she was about to turn 1. Wonder how in the world Dutch people put those furniture up there in the upper level of the house? It runs in the family. Have you seen steep stairs of Dutch houses yourself?

 

 

  • You own one of these. A Dutch staple during showers.- A washcloth or Washandjes. Don’t panic, this is only a piece of a towel which Dutchies use in showers.While I grew up using Loofa, sponges and stone, my husband introduced to me the use of these wash cloths. They are very handy,hygienic, easy to use and don’t easily fall, easy to wash, and great if you have babies. You can use it as long as the threads doesn’t fall off, not like the sponges that you need to toss after 2-3 weeks of use, or else, it’s Yuck!
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Dutch’s Washandjes- they even have a disposable one. Very handy for travelling with toddlers.

 

  • You memorized the Dutch’s Birthday congratulations and song – Ever been to a Dutch’s birthday party? One of the first things I’ve memorized so far and sing in Dutch. This is probably one of my culture shock since I got married and learn about Dutchiness. It’s totally different from the Birthday celebrations in Philippines or in Kuwait. I have never attended a birthday party before eating only cake & coffee.Yes- Only in the Netherlands!
  • On any given occasions, you put balls in your mouth– Why it’s round I don’t know, the Bitterballen, Ollieballen, Meatballs, ( Gehaktballen) Kroket etc. Dutch tends to loved deep-fried good old balls and sticks. It’s always a clean plate whenever we have these. My daughter’s personal favorite is the Krentenbollen.Yum! Anything I have missed? I must say that I mastered the art of making ‘meatballs’and ‘Gehakt spices’has become a mainstay in our kitchen.
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Typical Dutch Food you must try !

 

 

What Dutch things you have loved yourself? I’m curious, what do you use during your showers? 🙂

 

 

My daughter’s Love-Affair with Pretzel

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Lekker..pretzel – new Toddler addiction | by Justbluedutch

Toddlers are notorious picky eaters. My daughter is one. But recently, we found something. We’ve just moved to Germany, and surprisingly, my daughter fell in love with this dark brown, crispy, salty crust, and inside a soft dough bread. It has a plump “body”, and thin, crispy  crossed “arms.” Locally known as ‘Pretzel’or here in Bavaria, it is known as “Brezn, Brez’n, or Brezen“. Well who doesn’t? It’s delicious, especially when its fresh & warm.Typically German thing and its so good. Breze are part of a typical snack German culture and even on any meals.Additionally it is irreplaceable as side dish with Weißwurst and Leberkäse.

Maybe she’s fascinated by its unique shape and color. But one thing for sure, she loved its taste. This has been part of our morning walks and whenever we are out in the park. We go to the nearby Backerie {Bakery}, our favorite was one from Backhaus Hackner ,   and we’re all set! She can finish one big Pretzel in one sitting and could asked for more.

I noticed  that even from one bakery to the other, there are slight variations of the pretzel shapes, and of course, taste. For example, in Bavaria, the arms are shorter and attached closer to the top (thin part) of the pretzel. In Swabian the arms of the pretzel sit very low on the body.

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A Pretzel a day makes one fine Toddler’s tantrums away. | by Justbluedutch

Pretzels today continues to be formed by hand as has been done throughout history. Bakers spend years perfecting the pretzel-forming technique. First, the dough needs to be rolled out. Both ends of the strand are held up, and through a quick swing, the center of the strand is twisted. The ends are then pressed onto the body of the pretzel. This process, when perfected, takes only seconds, but it needs a lot of practice to get it right.

I personally also liked it. The first time I have tasted it is when we are on holiday in Trier and I was curious to know how does it taste. In Philippines, I can only remember that Pretzels are very tiny, chocolate-coated crispy biscuit and not as bread like this. Here, I have seen both young and old eating Pretzel daily. With beer, White sausages and often with herb butter on it.

Germany is a land of Breads and as part of getting to know its rich varieties here, I was surprised to learned that Pretzels were invented by mistake! { A great story!}  Now it’s not a new thing  that many dishes  were created out of a mistake but indeed, pretzels has been one of the traditional German food for ages and until now.

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Freshly baked Bavarian Pretzels

If you are curious like me, you can read about Pretzels and its history and although in other regions of Germany have their stories of how it was invented, the Laugenbrezel is accredited to the Bavarians. The story goes that one fine morning of February 11, 1839, Anton Nepomuk Pfanenbrenner, the baker for the Munich Royal Café, was preparing some sweet pretzels for his guests. He wanted to brush the pretzels with sugar-water, but accidentally used the Natronlauge, the sodium hydroxide solution being used to clean and disinfect the bakery kitchen countertops. The baker decided to bake the pretzels anyway.

Lye can be toxic in high concentrations, but is also commonly used for curing foods like lutefisk. Most bakers use food-grade lye, which is the chemical equivalent of drain cleaner, but is produced and packaged in a clean, regulated way.Since the lye dip is heavily diluted and the pretzel is baked after dipping, it won’t kill you.

The pretzels came out of the oven with a unique brown crust, soft center, and delicious taste. His guests were very pleased and he became the “pretzel hero.”That’s where it all began.

There are so many varieties of Pretzels that we are excited to try. There’s the New Year’s pretzels, sweet pretzels, Oktoberfest Pretzels {Wiesnbrezn }   which are baked larger than the original size,and lighter in shade and the special Lent Pretzel (Fastenbrezeln)  which are baked during the 40 days of Lent. For sure I’ll be writing about these things soon.

Have you ever tried German Pretzels? How was your experience?

I would love to hear your  story in comments below.

If you like this story, then you might also love to read about fascinating facts about Arabic foods we like when we are living in Kuwait or follow our Expat Life stories Here.