Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bratwurst, Blutwurst, Bockwurst, Bregenwurst

Yep, you guessed it.  Dustin and I just got back from a weekend in Germany.  I spent Friday in Augsburg (while Dustin worked in his company's Augsburg office) and then we spent the weekend in Munich.  The weekend basically came down to one thing:  sausage.  I had more sausage over the course of three days than I think I have had in my whole life.  We had sausage with gravy, white sausage on a bun, sausage with mashed potatoes, sausage with fries, and the list goes on. Of course these dishes all had official German names, but there is no way I can remember them now.  However one thing is certain, there was not one bite that I didn't enjoy!

Here I am at the Augsburg Christmas Market...with a yummy sausage sandwich! 

Speaking of the Christmas market...it was incredible!  Germany is famous for its Christmas markets - nearly every town has one.  And this one did not disappoint!  I spent several hours walking through it during the day, and then took Dustin back in the evening.  It was even better at night because everything was lit up and people were drinking mugs of gluhwein (hot spiced wine, pronounced gloo-vine).  There were several stands selling gluhwein, and each stand had a different mug that it came in.  The mugs all said the year and the city...perfect souvenirs!

Dustin and his gluhwein.

Augsburg Christmas Market at night!

On Friday evening, we jumped on a train from Augsburg to Munich.  Munich was wonderful.  I was struck by how festively decorated it was.  All of the streets and shops were decked out, and Christmas music could be heard just about everywhere! 

We started our time in Munich with a walking tour of the city.  It began here:

In the tower of this building, we got to witness the famous glockenspiel ring and do its thing.

Next, we climbed a tower of a church and got an aerial view of the city.

After some lunch at the Ratskeller, we checked out the Christmas market in Munich.

More Gluhwein!

To end our evening, we went on a Food and Beer Tour.  It was a great way to share a meal with people from around the world!

The tour ended at the Hofbrauhaus, where we listened to traditional German music.

On Sunday, we toured Dachau concentration camp.  The only word I can think to describe it is horrific.  Throughout the tour, I felt increasingly sick to my stomach as I witnessed video and photographs of the things that took place there.  The things that happened there and at other camps are absolutely unbelievable.  Did you know that after people were killed, their teeth were removed?  The Nazis were looking for gold teeth and fillings.  Did you know that people in the camps were used in very dangerous medical experiments?  Did you know that you could be shot just because a soldier felt like shooting you?  Did you know that people were hung by their hair and their arms as punishment?  Did you know that at any time there could be HUNDREDS of bodies piled up and waiting for cremation?  Did you know there was a shooting range with a BLOOD DITCH?  

Gate through which prisoners entered the camp.

The barbed wire fence and guard tower.


 Gas Chamber


It wasn't exactly enjoyable to visit the camp, but it is something that I am glad I did. The experience made me even more grateful for my life and the good ol' US of A. I felt especially proud while looking at the pictures at the end of the exhibit - the pictures of American soldiers liberating the concentration camp. The best part was not seeing the soldiers - it was seeing the images of the faces of those still alive the day the Americans arrived. Elation. Hope. The realization that they were being given a second chance at life.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Un petit goût de Paris

A little taste of Paris...that is what I got today on a walking tour that took place mostly on rue Montorgueil, in the area of the old Les Halles market.  There are tons of cute little specialty shops there with beautifully arranged food in the windows.  I'm not very adventurous when it comes to going into these shops on my own (my horrible French is holding me back), so I was pretty excited to go on this tour.  We tried lots of things.  Some wonderful...others not so wonderful. 

First, we had a short lesson on what was in season at the markets right now.  The French are very particular about only serving what is in season.  For example, it doesn't matter if they can find strawberries right now, it would be embarrassing to actually serve them because they are not in season.  In November and December, you will find clementines, apples, pears, pumpkins, and a lot of seafood in the markets.  So, we started off eating a clementine while listening to the guide talk about other things that you can find in the market at this time of year.

Next, we tried pain d'épices, literally spiced bread.  It was a bit like a pumpkin bread, but you could taste a lot of honey and orange flavors in it.  It is very popular at this time of year. 

On our next stop, our guide passed out marrons glaces - candied chestnuts.  They were a little weird in texture (soft and gooey) and VERY sweet.  I'm not sure I would have one again.

After wandering along this cute street a bit more, we stopped at a fromagerie.  We got to try goat cheese (yum!), comte with candied quince (the combo was actually quite nice), and a bleu cheese (gross). 

A chocolate shop was next on our tour.  There we tried candied angelica (tasted like I was eating a dandelion), chocolate covered angelica (tasted like a chocolate covered dandelion), and a crème brûlée chocolate (I would DEFINITELY have that again).

Next on the agenda was one of the oldest patisseries in Paris.  They are known for their calissons - a small cookie made of ground almonds.  They were delicious!

We ended the tour with spiced hot chocolate, which was mixed with tiny pieces of peppers.  I was a little nervous about how spicy it would be, but it was actually quite nice!  Overall, the tour was great, but I was a little bummed that we didn't get to try foie gras.  I haven't had the courage to order it yet on my own.  Maybe I will devote a blog post to that in the future!

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I thought I would end this post with a Thanksgiving Turkey that I saw today in Paris!  If you look closely, you can see it hanging next to the sign.  Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Adventures in Amsterdam

Last week, Dustin and I decided to take a trip to Amsterdam.  Just knowing that I would be able to speak English everywhere THRILLED me.  We also have a couple of friends living in Amsterdam right now, so we knew it would be fun to see them!

So, we hopped on a train early Thursday morning and arrived a few hours later in the Netherlands.  We dropped off our luggage with friends (thank you Hilary and Patrick!!) and set out to explore the city.  Over the next few days, we managed to see and do a lot.  I even got to see Eva, a sorority sister of mine!  The city is beautiful - full of canals and bicycles.  It almost makes you feel like you have gone back in time.

Canal Cruise

 I loved the different shapes and colors of the canal houses!

Anne Frank's House.  This museum was my favorite thing we did in Amsterdam.

We got to try several types of Dutch candy here! 

Flower Market

Pancakes with cheese and bacon for lunch!

Marken - A fishing village outside of Amsterdam 

The Heineken Experience  

It was truly an experience! 

Market in Amsterdam - mini pancakes!  YUM!

And I will leave you with this.  Why can't Paris post these signs?
Just another reason to love Amsterdam... 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beaucoup de Chocolat

Last week, I had the delicious opportunity to go on a chocolate walk in Paris with a friend.  We learned all about the history of chocolate, how it arrived in Europe, and how it became popular in Paris.  Although all that was quite interesting, let's be honest - I was most interested in tasting the chocolate.  Our guide (from Indiana!) took us to four different shops where she had already pre-ordered a few things to taste. 

The first place we went was a boulangerie and patisserie called Gosselin.  It supplies pastries and bread to the Elysée Palace.  That is like being named the official baker of the White House.  Needless to say, it was DELISH.

Can you spot the pastry that is modeled after a Big Mac? 

First, we tasted an opera pastry.  It had a bit of baker's gold on it!

Next, we tried a chocolate and mint eclaire.

After that, it was time to move on to the second shop. 

 All of the chocolates were perfectly lined up.

This was an almond and pistachio chocolate. 

Dark chocolate with mixed nuts. 

Next, we went to a place called Michel Cluizel.  It had the biggest selection out of all the shops we visited.

 These are chocolates made to look like mushrooms!

A huge chocolate fountain. 

Chocolate covered candied orange = gross 

Finally, we visited the Salon de Thé et Chocolat.  It was pretty amazing (and also pretty expensive).

A chocolate shoe!  Unfortunately, I did not get to try it. 

Overall, it was a scrumptious morning of tasting and learning in Paris.  You can't really go wrong with anything that involves beaucoup de chocolat!