Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I recently took a trip to Germany's capitol.  It was very historical and a bit overwhelming.  I have become adept at navigating most subway/metro systems, but this one was very intense.  We also stopped to visit a concentration camp.  The weather was not cooperating but the atmosphere was also sobering.  Many political prisoners were kept here and executed.  Those who had talents for building or creating were exploited and their creations taken.  

 Here are the buildings (inside the stone wall topped with barbed wire) where prisoners lived.

 The rest of our trip was fun.  We tagged along with a friend and her family (2 sets of grandparents and 6 children).  Her baby is one month younger than mine so we spent a lot of time together changing diapers and feeding them.  Shown above is the Brandenburg Gate.

 Me with Nicole and my phone, which acted as our navigation system.  I found a great app that recommended places to go and even pointed in the right direction.  Nicole is crying because (as I discovered soon after this picture was taken) she just had a blowout and needed a whole new outfit.

 bikes for rent.  Many people in Berlin ride bikes instead of driving.  The sidewalks are very wide and you can rent them in many places.  Bike tours were also offered.

 cultural center

 not sure what this statue is...

 Of course we spent some time at the zoo.  It was huge!  The animals seemed to have smaller enclosures so they were easy to find.

 This statue depicts something that is common here in Europe

 Ally with an elephant statue

 a car plugged in.  In North Dakota we used to see cars plugged in, but for a different reason.  This one is charging.

Our favorite stop was to the Ritter Sport store.  Ritter Sport is a fabulous german chocolate bar that is square, made of little squares.  It comes in a variety of flavors with different ingredients mixed in.  We could compose our own bar from the choices available.  It reminded me of Cold Stone.  The kids all enjoyed making their own chocolate bar.  
I did not get to see everything while we were there, so I will probably be making a trip back to Berlin.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Life in Germany

When I first moved to Germany, I spent hours trying to figure out what to expect and what I should bring.  I learned a lot from the Life Lessons of a Military Wife blog, especially about traveling with pets and what to bring.  I decided to take pictures to show friends and family some of the things that are 'normal' to me now but that would be weird in the U.S.
 toilet and bidet.  Europeans use the bidet to wash themselves after using the toilet.  Note also the heinous colors of tile (on the walls!?!) and interesting ceramic.  I had one bathroom completely olive green (sinks, toilet, shower) and one in orange and red.  Also note that the toilet tank is inside the wall.  The white shelves were obviously added, German homes in general have no shelves or counters in the bathroom.
 This satellite dish provides our internet.  There is one company that supplies cable internet, and the speed varies greatly between villages and even among neighbors.  The people next door to me could get decent cable internet, and I could not.  Sounds like a scam to me!  So we enjoy satellite internet which unfortunately disconnects itself during any thunderstorm.  Thank goodness for smartphones!
 German homes seem to focus on the outdoors.  They have beautiful balconies and patios.  Most people seem to eat meals outside when the weather cooperates.  I love the big windows as well.
 Home heating gets really expensive here.  We actually moved out of our last house because it was costing us $800 a month in heating oil.  (I think there was a serious issue with that heating system, but that is another story).  A lot of homes have fireplaces, so wood piles are very common.  This is a very small example.
 Water is also expensive.  Here is my rain barrel, set up to catch runoff from the roof, which I then use to water my garden.  German people do not waste much!  I also have a compost bin for anything biodegradable.
 Radiators are used to heat individual rooms.  Each one has a dial (see upper right) that is used to control the temperature of the water inside.  The little thing in the middle holds water, which evaporates with the heat, to keep the house from getting too dry.  My last house had floor heating, which is also common.  Hot water runs under the floor to heat the rooms.
 The windows here open two ways: handle horizontal opens it like a door, handle up opens it a crack at the top, tilting into the room.  Handle down (as pictured) locks the window closed.  Windows do not have screens.  I have yet to understand how people's houses are not just full of flies and mosquitoes!  The shades which are partially down in this pictures, roll completely closed to darken the room.  Every window has these, which are especially nice in children's rooms so they will go to sleep before the sun goes down, and sleep past when it comes up (which in the summer can be 10:30 PM sundown 4:30 AM sunup).
 Outlets.  Voltage here is 220 instead of 110.  Many electronics are dual-voltage, meaning they can handle the difference, but small appliances usually are not.  My TV, DVD player, and laptop were fine, but my blender, stand mixer, and Roomba need a transformer (a big heavy box that converts the voltage) to use without blowing up.
 No A/C in houses.  I don't know if it is just too expensive for the electricity or if summers just aren't hot enough here.  House walls are thicker here so room temperatures change more slowly.  We use fans in the summer as well as opening windows for a breeze.  Again, the issue with flies and other insects coming in my house, we had an influx of ladybugs recently...
 Doors all have handle like this, no round knobs.  They also don't seem to close quietly but that might just be me!  Front doors of houses lock automatically and must be unlocked with a key from outside.  I have locked myself out of the house multiple times.
 I call this my easy-bake oven.  That is a 9x13 pan which basically fills the available space.  I also only have one oven rack so only one thing can bake at a time.  Ovens work on Celsius instead of Fahrenheit, so I use 175 degrees frequently (about 350 F).
 Most Germans hang their clothing to dry on a clothesline (outside or inside).  I like my laundry fluffy and Downy soft, so I opted to keep my American dryer.  German dryers have a water collection system and no hose, so my house was not built with an outlet for my dryer vent.  I use this handy box (filled with water) which the hose connects to.  My laundry room still gets pretty steamy and without central air to circulate, I have to keep the window open when the dryer is on.
 These curtains came with the house, they attach at the ceiling with little circular pegs.  Mesh curtains are apparently used in place of screens to help with the insect problem.  They don't work as well.
 No closets built into houses here.  These gorgeous pieces of furniture were issued by the base so we would have somewhere to hang our clothes.
 Tile, tile and more tile.  Wall-to-wall carpet is rarely found here, even in bedrooms.  People wear slippers, or house shoes, and place rugs for comfort.  Tile gets really cold, especially in the hallways that have no heat!  My house has wood laminate in the bedrooms and tile in the hallways, bathrooms, and kitchen, but I have seen entire houses with tile everywhere!
The garbage situation is something that I struggled with for a long time.  I have FOUR garbage divisions.  The huge (normal sized) bin on the left is for biodegradable waste.  I have another bin this same size for paper and cardboard.  My fourth division of trash is anything recyclable, which can be placed in a yellow bag.  The tiny little guy on the right is for what you would call 'trash'.  It is collected twice a month and holds about two regular-sized kitchen trash bags.  Can you imagine fitting all your trash for the month into this bin?  Diapers alone fill half of it.  I have gotten very stingy about what I will put in my kitchen trash-trash.  My daughter is very good at asking now which receptacle any given item goes into.  Actually I have five divisions, since glass is separate.  

deployment blessings

I have been feeling especially thankful for the past few days so here are some of the wonderful things in my life:
a king-size bed all to myself
my garden
two beautiful healthy daughters (who sleep all night!)
good friends
ability to exercise and lose weight (yay Insanity!)
I live in the middle of Europe so travel options are endless
a sister willing to stay and help me all summer
a new nephew
a huge house and yard
my kindle
a reliable vehicle big enough to fit everything
super nice neighbors
the bakery truck that stops at my house twice a week
german chocolate
electric fence for the dogs
my husband's job so I have money to spend ;)

Friday, July 6, 2012

grow up!

Since Josh is deployed, people keep asking me if I plan to go 'home' while he is gone. My answer: I am home. I am an adult and can think of nothing worse than living with my parents for 6 months! I moved out when I was 17 and ready to start my own life, I see no need for regression. Plus, the place where my parents retired (after almost 20 years overseas) is not my home. I have lived in Germany (3 years as a child and almost 1 as an adult) longer than Utah. I have made a life for myself here. I have a house, a garden, friends, neighbors, and obligations. It would be ridiculous (and very difficult) to find someone to replace me for an extended period of time. I feel that I am supporting my husband's career choice by living where we are stationed, whether he is here or not. I have no problem with people visiting me though (I do live in the middle of Europe after all!) so feel free to plan a trip my way.