European Feast

European Feast

In honor of not cooking this Thanksgiving, here are some of my all-time favorite food and drink pictures from all over Europe over the last three years. Guten Appetit & Happy Thanksgiving!

Note: I wasn’t too big on taking food pictures until recently. A few not pictured favorites include mussels in Belgium, Indonesian food in the Netherlands, Sacher torte (a kind of chocolate cake) in Austria, stuffed peppers in Romania, Scotch and shortbread in Scotland; Guinness in Ireland, fondue and Raclette in Switzerland, pasta-sauerkraut-cheese stir fry in the Czech Republic, smoked salmon in Sweden and Norway, and gelato, coffee, pizza, etc., etc. in Italy.


Oktoberfest Tunes

Oktoberfest Tunes

Cannstatter Volksfest

As Oktoberfest season finally comes to a close, here are a few of my favorite fest songs and some of their key lyrics. Collected mostly from visiting the Cannstatter Volksfest and Frühlingsfest in Stuttgart and the Mainz Oktoberfest over the past couple years. Grab a beer and enjoy. Prost!

So ein schöner Tag (Fliegerlied) by Tim Touper

Imagine a tent full of festgoers atop benches acting out animal motions to this kiddy song.

Und ich flieg’, flieg’, flieg’ wie ein Flieger,
Bin so stark, stark, stark wie ein Tiger
Und so groß, groß, groß wie ‘ne Giraffe,
So hoch oh, oh, oh.
Und ich spring’, spring’, spring’ immer wieder,
Und ich schwimm’, schwimm’, schwimm’ zu dir rüber,
Und ich nehm’, nehm’, nehm’ dich bei der Hand,
Weil ich dich mag,
Und ich sag:
Heut’ ist so ein schöner Tag!

And I fly, fly, fly like an aviator,
I’m so strong, strong, strong like a tiger
and so tall, tall, tall like a giraffe
so high-i-i-i
And I jump, jump, jump again and again
And I swim, swim, swim across to you
And I take, take, take you by the hand
Because I like you
And I say:
Today is such a nice day!

Rock mi by voXXclub

The link to this flashmob version of the song is my favorite and gives a good idea of how a crowd of people gets down to this tune.

Auf geht’s, jetzt ist’s wieder soweit
Auf geht’s, heut’ wird nichts bereut

Here we go, now it’s that time again
Here we go, today there’ll be no regrets

Schatzi schenk mir ein Foto by Mickie Krause

Particularly relevant in this age of selfies and smart phones.

Bist du noch frei?
Hast du ‘ne Nummer oder
hast du ein Foto dabei?
Schatzi, schenk mir ein Foto.
Schenk mir ein Foto von dir

Are you still free?
Do you have a number or
do you have a picture with you?
Baby, give me a picture
Give me a picture of you

Viva Colonia by Höhner

Can’t help but stand up tall and march when you hear this fest favorite.

Wir lieben das Leben, die Liebe und die Lust
Wir glauben an den lieben Gott und hab’n auch immer Durst

We love life, love, and lust
We believe in God and are also always thirsty

Hӓnde zum Himmel by Hansi Hinterseer

Get your hands up! A timelessly beloved song lyric.

Und dann die Hände zum Himmel
komm lasst uns fröhlich sein
Wir klatschen zusammen
und keiner ist allein

And the hands to the sky
come, let’s be merry
We’re clapping together
and no one is alone

Geh mal Bier hol’n by Mickie Krause

As direct as a song gets about beer goggles, throwing this in as a tribute to all that fest beer.

Geh mal Bier hol’n
Du wirst schon wieder hӓsslich
1, 2 Bier
und du bist wieder schӧn

Go grab a beer
You’re already getting ugly again
1, 2 beers
and you’re beautiful again

Ein Prosit

Maybe the most frequently heard Oktoberfest song (just the short chorus played in between every few songs) to signal a toast to beer drinkers.

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit
Eins, zwei, drei, g’suffa!

(very roughly translated:)

Cheers, cheers to feeling good
One, two, three, drink up!

For more German tunes, see Playlist for the Autobahn with some of my favorite songs from our first summer here.

Cannstatter Volksfest

Cannstatter Volksfest

5 Surprising Facts about Oktoberfest

5 Surprising Facts about Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest entrance

We finally made it to the official Munich Oktoberfest! With a motley crew of old and new friends all dressed up to get down, we were wished well by an older Bavarian gentleman gardening in a felt hat on our way to the train station the morning of our visit.

Here are a few things that might surprise you about Oktoberfest:

Rides and stands

  1. It’s family-friendlier than you would expect

While the highlight of the fest takes place in the more than a dozen big brewery tents, the festival is actually laid out as a carnival with rides, games, food stands and souvenir booths. We visited the Schottenhamel tent on a Thursday afternoon, and the lunch crowd was pretty tame – pleasant chatting, pretzel eating and beer drinking to the sounds of a traditional Bavarian brass “oompah” band.

Löwenbräu tent

  1. You don’t need to make reservations

To enter the Wiesen area, as the fest grounds are called, you just need to pass through a bag check under the main archway. From there, as mentioned, there’s a lot to see and do outside of the tents. There are even areas of tables in the tents that are for anyone without a reservation. If you get there early, particularly on a weekday, it shouldn’t be difficult to snag one of these tables. With a little patience, even our group of nine was able to find a non-reserved table outside and eventually inside the Lӧwenbrӓu tent in the late afternoon/early evening. And once we were in, the waiters were serious about helping us make sure no one else tried to take over our table.


Schottenhammel tent

  1. But if you want to reserve a table, do it months in advance

When I reserved our lunch table in April, all of the evening slots were already booked! The advantage to having a reservation is that you’re guaranteed a place to sit and get service, plus enjoy live music. Again, not necessary to do in advance but nice and also very easy. I booked the table online and we prepaid less than 24€ a person for the minimum amount of food and drink (tickets for a roasted half-chicken and a big Maβ of beer). This way you guarantee the brewery tent some business (you can even prepay for more food and drink tickets if you want to bring less cash), plus you can stay at the table for several hours and order anything else you want.


  1. It’s normal to dress up, but be careful about tying those apron strings

As our train got closer to the fest, more and more Bavarians and tourists alike boarded wearing Lederhosen and Dirndls. By the time we reached our stop, we were able to follow the multi-generational sea of Tracht (traditional clothes) straight to the Wiesen. Important for ladies to note is where to tie the apron strings that go with the Dirndl. A bow on the right indicates that you’re married, left means single, and back is for widows. The Tracht (particularly the Lederhosen) is expensive, so some of our friends just got the checkered shirt and a hat to blend in with the crowd.

Schottenhammel tent


  1. You’ll have at least one song memorized early on

Yes, even if you don’t know any German, you’ll be very familiar with this song in a short time because its chorus is played after every few songs. Of course, this goes along with everyone in the tent raising their glasses and toasting each other:

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!
Eins, zwo, drei, g’suffa!

(My very rough translation: “Cheers, cheers to feeling good! / One, two, three, drink up!”)

Next stop for us in Tracht: Cannstatter Volksfest, the Oktoberfest of Stuttgart, in about a week. Prost!

Bier vs. Wein: Welcome to Fall


When we moved to Germany last fall, some Mainz locals told us that there’s a major difference between Mainz and Wiesbaden (two state capitals divided by the Rhein River): People who love wine live in Mainz. People who love beer live in Wiesbaden. We chose not to resolve this age-old dilemma and ended up moving to the border.

Bier: Cannstatter Volksfest

We kicked off the first official weekend of fall this year with an Oktoberfest-style festival in Stuttgart called the Cannstatter Volksfest. Like most of the crowd, we were decked out in traditional Bavarian gear: Lederhosen with suspenders and a stylish hat for James and a Dirndl (the traditional dress) with a blouse and apron for me. Where the apron bow is tied indicates a lady’s status: right = married, left = single, middle = taken but not married, and back = widow. Many ladies instead wore Lederhosen shorts with a blouse version of the checkered shirt. And I saw at least one man (beard and all) wearing a Dirndl and a blond braided wig.

Cannstatter Volksfest in the tent
Cannstatter Volksfest in the tent

Starting late morning, we enjoyed the first half of the day at one of the big reserved tables inside a circus-y red and white striped tent. The energy of the fest was fueled by a live band playing a mix of traditional German songs and mostly German and American contemporary pop music. After a few Maβ (the big glass mugs) of beer, everyone at our table was up on the long wooden benches singing and dancing along. Interspersed, of course, were trips to the long 50-cent bathroom lines.

Reservation hours ended at 4 p.m. so we moved on to the area outside the tent, filled with the standard festival rides, games, and food stands. The highlight toward the end of the day was, as I’m convinced it should be for all Oktoberfests, riding the roller coaster. Coasting around to view a town from every possible angle at night couldn’t be more loud, brightly lit, terrifying, or exciting by the end of this type of fest.

Fest by night
Fest by night

Wein: Grape Picking and Ingelheimer Red Wine Festival

Last weekend we were in for a totally different kind of experience, this time to develop a deeper appreciation for the wine-making process. From about 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, we toiled in a vineyard under a warm early autumn sun with a set of pruners and a plastic bucket per person. Our task was to snip every bunch of Riesling-to-be grapes in our designated row, the moldier the better in wine terms apparently. Dull thuds followed by dusty clouds of mold rising off the buckets filled the air. We brushed off ladybugs, spiders, leaves, and dry shriveled grapes, standing up frequently to combat backaches and bent knees.

Vineyard at the start of the day
Vineyard at the start of the day
From vine...
From vine…
to bucket...
to bucket…
to tractor
to tractor

In exchange for a hard day’s work, we received three meals put together by the vintner’s wife. The first two were set out on rough wooden picnic tables at the end of the rows: A breakfast of bread, cheeses, cold cuts, and light breakfast wine; and a lunch of roasted pork served with a horseradish sauce, potatoes, green beans, mushrooms, and more wine. Back in the vintner’s own dining room, we enjoyed coffee and cake (yes, this is a late afternoon meal here) consisting of Apfelwein cake, chocolate cake made with red wine, and cheesecake. Followed, of course, by a wine tasting of some of the winery’s best. Leave it to a group of Americans to do farm work for the experience and food/wine.

Ingelheimer Rotweinfest
Ingelheimer Rotweinfest

While white wine is the specialty of the Rheinland in general, red wine is the specialty of Ingelheim (a town just west of Mainz). Yesterday we topped off the wine-themed weekend by sampling a couple of glasses to accompany a dinner of Bratwurst, fries, and Magenbrot (iced gingerbread) while listening to live covers of mellow American 90s hits.

Prost and happy fall!