Trip Start Oct 18, 2012
201Trip End Ongoing
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I was browsing through a brochure that I picked up from Saturn, a German electronics store, when I saw a photo of a kitchen appliance. The appliance was something that you wouldn't find anywhere else (except for possibly Europe) and consisted of a coffee perculator, kettle and toaster all in one. It got me thinking about the types of things that you might find in Germany that are typically German.
I am not talking about stereotypes which is what people imagine people or things in Germany to be, but rather common, ordinary, everyday things that you might encounter or interact with. Things that have an association, like fish and chips on the beach in Australia or poutine in a Canadian Sports Bar watching the ice hockey (sorry just hockey)
1. Deutsche Bahn. You can't go anywhere in Germany without the Deutsche Bahn. It is the name of the national railway network and takes care of the high speed intercity trains all the way down to the regional ones between the villages. If you want to orient yourself or make a meeting point; say the Hauptbahnhof (central railway station). There is one in every town.
2. Bakery. Germans are big on bread, in fact they can eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Brot and Brötchen (bread rolls) are the staple breakfast food, I haven't eating many cornflakes since I got here. Forget about the vegemite, just whack a slice of cheese or sliced meat on and a pickle and you are good to go.
3. Schnitzel, Beer and Spätzle. In Southern Germany, you can eat the equivalent of German pasta called spätzle which is best fresh made, although you can also buy it like dry noodles. Top it off with some beer, a schnitzel and a side of red cabbage and you've got a hearty meal. There are so many regional varieties of beer that you could try a different brewery every day and still have plenty leftover.
4. Christmas Market and Glühwein. I almost can't imagine Christmas without the Christmas Markets and Glühwein now. When the weather gets cold and the days get short, Germans head to the local market to drink a hot mulled wine with a Bratwurst or Pommes (fries). Keeps the hands and the belly warm. Some even have arts and crafts or an ice skating rink (Eisbahn).
5. Town Signs. Every tiny little village has a yellow sign out the front with the village name and the council it belongs to. It marks the village limits and most villages are separated by fields. Even Edingen which is only 10kms away from Heidelberg has a field between it and Wieblingen which is a Stadtteil (suburb).
6. Autobahn. Not all of the Autobahn has an unlimited speed limit, but the standard speed is 120kms which isn't too slow either. That is unless you get caught in a Stau (traffic jam), an Unfall (accident) or there are roadworks. Given that the streets through the villages are so narrow, the country needs a high speed way of getting around.
7. Deutsche Post caddy. Deutsche Post and DHL (delivery service) keep the mail moving around and the yellow post electric bikes and Postwagen are iconic. Delivery times are usually pretty good and not too expensive either. Don't forget to put your surname on the postal box otherwise they won't deliver to you.
8. Tatort. A popular crime show in Germany which has been running forever (Crime Scene). German TV have their own set of channels and shows including the kids channel Kika (Kinderkanal) plus a whole set of popular shows like Germany's Got Talent, The Bachelor Germany, Bauer sucht Frau (Farmer wants a wife), Wetten, dass... (monthly variety show) and Schlag den Raab (challenge show).
9. Cars. BMW, Mercedes Benz, Porsche, Volkswagen, Audi. The car industry is definitely going strong here unlike in Australia. A history of technical innovation spurs on a new generation of smart cars with fuel efficient engines. The Frankfurt Motor Show was a great experience and shows just how important Germany is on the world stage. It is hard to think of Germany without Herr Doktor Benz or Ferdinand Porsche.
10. Social rules. Order runs an efficient society in Germany. When you line up at the local ALDI (there are two types - north and south), there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First of all put your items on the conveyor belt and put a divider on so that the next person can unload. Secondly there are no shopping bags so put all of your groceries quickly into the shopping cart. Use Formal High German and don't forget to use your bonus points card. Lastly don't forget the token from the trolley when you return it!