12:55 AM: 28.11.2009 Kaarst, Germany
I find myself sitting in 8-year-old Nicole’s room, typing about my day on my laptop accompanied by mini-Haribo gummy bears. Nicole is Melli’s younger sister, who so nicely set up her room for me to stay in this weekend. She drew me a wonderful picture, displayed near a bottle of carbonated water, a glass, and a basket full of small-sized mini-Haribo gummies in an assortment of flavors. Melli’s family is truly wonderful. They are warm and kind people who were very gracious and excited to share their home with me.
We had a traditional German New Years Eve dinner, Rachlet. It was amazing. It is such a creative idea as well. It is much like a cross between fondue and … well I’m not sure what. Rachlet is the name of a special French cheese, and the name of the oven used to bake the dish. It is a round double-deck oven set in the center of the table. Each person is given a small, palm-sized pan in which to put any ingredients one would like, and then one places slices of cheese on top. The personal pans are then put on the bottom rack of the oven. The double-deck allows the convection to heat the food faster, melting the cheese-which is the best part. It is a great way to socialize and interact at dinner. It also allows guests to choose what they would like to eat and create their own dish, instead of worrying about what is they may like or dislike. Either way one would like to think about it… it is an amazing creation and I can’t wait to buy one.
Melli’s younger sister Nicole is so excited to have me! She got me a little gift of homemade cookies and German shower-gel. She also showed me all of her schoolwork and practiced her English. She is so adorably shy, she would whisper things to Melli in German so as that I wouldn’t hear, except I of course cannot understand much anyway. Actually, it is surprising to me how much I do understand. I seem to pick up on quite a few cognates; the Russian word for potato is the same in German, who would have though? I am actually picking up the language quite well. The pronunciation is difficult but I am learning phrases and words, it is a lot of fun. I’m really enjoying it.
After dinner, we went to a hookah bar. The DJ was amazing, spinning early 2000 tracks to today, mixing without dropping a beat. It was a very chill bar. We got fancy cocktails that were served with a skewer of half a kiwi, fresh pineapple, a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry. Turns out the word for hookah in German, shisha, is the same as in Arabic. My world travels are making me a quite worldly person, aren’t they?
Tomorrow: Koln for the Christmas Market and Catedral.
12:30 AM: 29.11.2009 Kaarst, Germany
The Christmas Market, Weihnachtsmartkte, is probably the best Christmas tradition I have ever experienced. Strolling between all of the different kiosks, smelling each magnificent food, drinking wine and greeting all of the friendly Germans, I experienced a completely new kind of Christmas. This Christmas was accompanied with German traditional mulled, spiced, hot wine called Gluhwein, which we ate with Fruchtebrot, a special type of dense fruit bread. I greatly enjoyed the Netherlander treat paffertjes mit Puderzucker, it was comparable to mini pancakes with powdered sugar, which can only be suitably described as amazing.
In Koln we also visited the famous Cathedral, also one of the tallest buildings in Koln. We trudged up 533 stairs to the bell tower, from which we could see most of the city and a spectacular view of the Christmas Market. Melli’s friend Ina accompanied us as well. We also visited the expensive stores in Koln, which are all located on a familiar strip that is popular for shopping. We went to a large department store and tried on expensive dresses, just for fun. I found the greatest purple, strapless dress, unfortunately and of course, out of my budget.
We took the train home. The station is almost a mall. There were so many food shops. Melli’s favorite is the soft-pretzel kiosk. There they also have these flatbread pizzas, which are amazing. I couldn’t resist the temptation to eat a Hawaiian pizza. It was so good to have pizza that’s taste actually resembled that of a typical American pizza.
We later returned home, where Melli’s mother had prepared dinner. It was a typical German dish, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, and sausage, layered and sprinkled with cheese on top, baked in the oven. It may not sound as such, but it was really good actually. I really think that I gained at least 10 kilos in Germany. I ate far too much food and, of course, Haribo.
Less than 3 weeks until I am back in America; dieting starts when I return to Russia, it must.
Tomorrow: Dusseldorf Tower and Christmas Market.
12:05 PM: 30.11.2009 Somewhere over Poland
I write today from the plane. Heading back to St. Petersburg I reflect on my adventures in Germany.
Yesterday we went to Dusseldorf with Melli’s family. Her younger sister Nicole held my hand as we walked to the Dusseldorf Tower. From here you can see the whole city and even as far as Koln. We didn’t have to walk up any stairs this time, thankfully enough. We took many pictures looking out onto the city. At the top of the tower there is also a restaurant that slowly turns about the tower, much like the Skylon Tower Restaurant at Niagra Falls. Nicole brought with her Haribo gummy bears, so we ate more candy. I swear I have become fat from so many sweets. Afterward, we drove around to see the city and her parents dropped off Melli and I at the Christmas Market of Dusseldorf. They actually have five, but they are all very close. We walked around many of them, they had scented candles and oils, Christmas ornaments, cotton candy, nougat kiosks-yes just for different flavors of nougat, various craft kiosks, wine of course, beer, and other hot drinks. We walked down the main street that has all of the couture stores in Dusseldorf. They were all so nice, but all of the stores are closed on Sundays, not that we could afford anything anyway. We did get Starbucks on this street though, Tall Toffee Nut Latte Bitte.
Later we returned home and then went out to a bar for dinner and drinks. I had Barbeque-Chicken and Mozzarella Nachos, yes I really did. We also had German beer and shots, mine vodka with lemon of course; for Melli, a shot of Gin. She is not quite accustomed to taking shots; she very much dislikes the taste of straight alcohol. A pity, but she will get used to it I think. I convinced our waiter to take a shot with us as well, something that is apparently forbidden and not customary as it is in America, but his manager allowed him to do so. Not that it is typical for waiters in America to take shots with their customers, but if they buy you a shot, they usually take it, and I think it occurs more frequently. You’re welcome to correct me though. I paid our bill and tipped the waiter, apparently far too much. But he is young, and was very nice to us and let Melanie buy cigarettes and drink underage, and I stole a frilly tinsel decoration for my drink, so I thought tipping a few Euros was appropriate.
We sadly returned home and prepared ourselves to say goodbye the next morning.
Russia here I come, 19 days left.