Friday, August 31, 2007

Things I Miss

I'm frequently asked what it is that I miss back home. I find that's a rather difficult thing to answer so I've started preparing a list so I can answer the question the next time. In no particular order:
  • Sugar-free pudding
  • Polar Seltzers
  • Banks where I can cash a check - have to deposit the entire amount here and can't get any cash back
  • My bed, or any comfortable mattress for that matter
  • Daily crossword puzzles
  • A full size sofa
  • Airline frequent flyer programs that are easier to understand

Oh yeah and before I get yelled at my friends and family

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cars & Driving

I've found that no matter where you go the one constant is traffic - every city no matter the size is faced with traffic jams. When people try to avoid the traffic it usually takes them twice as long to get to their final destination.

People that rely on GPS are just as likely to miss a turn than those driving the old fashioned way. I've actually noticed more often than not drivers tuning out the GPS system and missing turns.

However driving in Germany, or at least being a passenger, is a completely life altering experience. I have written about this in previous postings but my last visit confirmed my beliefs. It is not uncommon for cars to drive over 200 KM/hour. It really changes your perspective on life as you quickly barrel down the road towards the back of a car. Most people are smart enough to quickly get out of that lane if they are not driving quickly but once in a while you get the odd person on their cell phone that just doesn't realize that people are driving much faster than you.

It's interesting to see the cars people drive - in the US Mercedes, Porsche, Alfa Romeo, and BMW are considered higher end cars that you don't see a lot of. However here it seems that I run into them much more frequently, maybe I'm just hanging with a higher class of people. I think it has more to do with the fact that they are manufactured in Europe than the people.

On my trip back to the states last week I rented a car in Boston. Even though I don't drive here I managed to pull out of Hertz and start driving on the left hand side, a split second later I realized what I had done, luckily there was nobody around.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Shopping Excursion

A while back I wrote about the new Whole Foods store that was opening in Kensington. Today I finally got around to checking it out. The store is massive - 3 stories. There are elevators so you can take your shopping carts downstairs and for those carrying hand baskets they come with wheels so you don't have to carry heavy baskets you can just pull them along behind you.

The main floor is the pre-made foods and salad bars for take aways. This section was much larger than any of the Whole Foods I've been to in Massachusetts, 5 different self serve and full serve counters one counter was devoted entirely to olives. The ground floor also housed the cheeses and wines. I managed to find a couple of South African wines I've been looking for since my trip there in April.

The lower level had all the produce, canned goods, meat, fish, etc. Some of the items and brands were very familiar however there are a lot of local brands and items as well. A couple of items I was looking for like their sodas, salsas and pasta sauces were not there. One of the plusses though is the produce section did not have pre-packaged/measured vegetables you are able to pick the amount you want or need. It was great instead of buying a large container of mushrooms I could just pick up 5 or 6 for my risotto tonight.

I did not go to the top floor, I'll save that for my next trip there. I believe it is just a dining section.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Back in Bavaria

I returned to Bavaria for a quick visit this week - less than 24 hours, but I did manage to experience a couple of firsts. I met up with some of my co-workers at a local McDonald's for a coffee. I have not been in a McDonald's for years and I wasn't planning on getting anything, much to my surprise there was a McCafe inside - essentially a gourmet coffee and pastry bar. I had just had breakfast so I didn't have any of the pastries but the coffees were all made fresh and the selection of was similar to what you find at Starbuck's. The best part was all of the coffees came with a little chocolate, yum.

On the way to the customer I was puzzled at some of the crops I saw growing. Before I had a chance to ask my co-worker asked if I knew what was growing. Turns out it was hops - I should have guessed being that Bavaria is famous for their beers. It was very similar to being in wine country with the acres and acres of vineyards. Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me, so I wasn't able to take a picture (I know it was stupid of me not to bring it). I did manage to find this one on the Internet though.

Who knew that German keyboards were very different than a standard American keyboard? I know a lot of keyboards have a few differences on them such as a pound or Euro symbol instead of a dollar sign. I expected the German keyboard to have a few extra keys for the umlauts, what I didn't expect was for the "z" and "y" keys to have swapped places. It took me a couple of times typing the wrong letter for somebody to tell me that the "y" wasn't where I thought it should be.

OK show of hands who clicked on the link about hops thinking they were going to see hops growing in a field. I thought so. Here's a real picture.