Happy Thanksgiving from Germany.

2015 was the third time I've celebrated this American holiday abroad, and each year it's a different adventure. In 2011, my first year in Spain, I cooked a whole turkey in a crock pot, and managed to prepare the rest of the dishes with only a stove and a toaster oven at my disposal! I invited my roommates and some friends to our apartment for a big meal followed by pie and a movie. Last year in Alcalá we shared a meal with about ten people at Al and Elizabeth's house, and I was responsible for two pumpkin chiffon pies. This year in Munich, we had a small, quiet Thanksgiving in our itty-bitty apartment. I took a day off of language classes and prepared my Mom's delicious cornbread dressing (I found white cornmeal in a Brazilian grocery store the other day!), turkey breast, homemade cranberry sauce, and my Mimi's yummy pumpkin chiffon pie. 

We missed family. We missed the Thanksgiving atmosphere. It's strange to be celebrating a holiday that's so important in your world when everyone around you is doing their regular thing...you know, since the pilgrims went to America, not Germany. 

But we were thankful for good food, a break from the everyday schedule, and each other. We were thankful for Whatsapp to share photos of the day, and Facetime to call family. Oh, and we were definitely grateful for a post-meal nap.

Tonight the Christmas markets open here in Munich, and I cannot wait get in the Christmas spirit! The holiday markets in Spain weren't exactly impressive, and aren't anything like (what I hear) German markets are like. A holiday of giving thanks immediately followed by all this pre-Christmas cheer is something I can get on board with! 

Fresh cranberries make the best cranberry sauce. This was my first time making it from scratch, and it won't be the last!

Fresh cranberries make the best cranberry sauce. This was my first time making it from scratch, and it won't be the last!

My Mom's cornbread dressing is really, really good.

My Mom's cornbread dressing is really, really good.

Small turkey breast fillets...that weren't so good. Not awful, just tough. Oh well. Turkey's not my favorite anyway.

Small turkey breast fillets...that weren't so good. Not awful, just tough. Oh well. Turkey's not my favorite anyway.

Just for this special day, we expanded our small table to the slightly-less-small size. :)

Just for this special day, we expanded our small table to the slightly-less-small size. :)

Bamberg: A Northern European Venice

 Our second weekend in Germany found us about two and a half hours away from Munich to the north, in the city of Bamberg (just north of Nuremberg). A college friend who lived in Bamberg until a couple of years ago highly recommended it, and after looking at one or two pictures on Google images I was sold. Having access to a company car that weekend meant we had an extra element of excitement thrown into a weekend away, and we merged onto the Autobahn with a mixture of nerves and total joy. Driving is a luxury that we sometimes find ourselves missing!

We made it into Bamberg easily, but navigating a very old city in the smallest of cars can prove to be difficult. Inevitably, we were backing up one-way streets with no outlet in the dark ("Oh THAT'S what that sign meant!"), dodging pedestrians, and cursing Google for failing us (come on, Google, figure out the construction areas!). We finally made it, though, and John got to figure out how to park our car in the teeny-tiny garage at the hotel using a metal turn-table and parking on a metal shelf of sorts that can be raised or lowered into the ground to park other cars (see below). Let's just say that Europeans know how to maximize their space.

Bamberg is known as the Venice of the North, as it is located on the Regnitz River, and many beautiful buildings sit directly on the water. Saturday was a perfectly crisp fall day, perfect for market-strolling, beer-sipping and people-watching (and trying to stomach the liver noodles that I accidentally ordered...now I know what Leber means!) at an outdoor restaurant, and wandering the quaint streets in search of ivy-covered buildings. I loved looking at the fresh, local produce at the outdoor markets, and especially at the huge selection of flowers they always sell. German towns boast beautiful architecture in big and small spaces, and there is such a uniquely lovely and clean sense of style that is so different from the southern Europe I am more acquainted with (and which I totally love as well). We stayed in a 500-year old converted mill right next to the river and very close to the heart of the old town. It was a fun weekend discovering our first German town outside of Munich, and we're already making some plans for more smaller-town trips in the coming months, especially as the Christmas markets begin to pop up!

I love these fresh wreaths that are sold just about everywhere. The Christmas markets open next week, and I can't wait to buy my Christmas wreath!

I love these fresh wreaths that are sold just about everywhere. The Christmas markets open next week, and I can't wait to buy my Christmas wreath!

So many buildings in Germany seem massive to me. To give you some perspective, John is 6 feet tall.

So many buildings in Germany seem massive to me. To give you some perspective, John is 6 feet tall.

Ivy-covered homes and public spaces always beckon me to pull out my camera. Fall was so vibrant this weekend!

The particularly "Venice" area of Bamberg. I'll gladly live in any one of these houses, thank you.

A 3D map of the city ("Stadt") of Bamberg. This kind of reminds me of the 3D map of Paris in  All the Light We Cannot See ...

A 3D map of the city ("Stadt") of Bamberg. This kind of reminds me of the 3D map of Paris in All the Light We Cannot See...

Sí, Oui, and Ja. Or, Hello, Germany!

Hello there! It's been a while, but I finally am feeling settled enough to sit down and write a post.

It's been a very full month since leaving Spain. Here are the highlights:
-We flew into Philadelphia, saw our new niece and John's side of the family, and I was able to see one of my oldest friends for lunch. Joaquin was beginning to pound the Southeast, so we promptly left for South Carolina to make sure all was well on the homefront.
-A 13 hour car ride later, we made it to John's parents' house, amidst road closures (it's a big deal when I-95 closes for miles!) and pouring rain, but safe and sound.
-We were shocked by how friendly people were.
-We spent a six days in the Upstate with my family, getting hair cuts, going to the doctor, shopping, seeing friends, and doing important things like eating ribs, tacos, and Chick-fil-A. (Priorities, people.) 
-We were confused as to why people were apologizing for running into us in a store or restaurant. And why was the waitress asking us if we were OK twenty times? Did we look sick? (Ohhhh yes, that's how it's done in America.)
-After a drive to Charlotte to stop in and see some friends and pick up a suitcase, we drove back to Charleston where we flew out on October 14th for Munich. We were excited to go into this new adventure, and very thankful for a nearly empty flight over on Delta!

Sound busy? It was. But it was nice to see people we love and to envision the place we're moving back to in a matter of months.

But here we are, in a quiet neighborhood just outside of Munich, finishing up another day. I'm not quite sure how to sum up our time here so far (though I hope to do a much better job of documenting it here on the blog in the future), so I'll give you some bullet points.

  • We're experiencing a little bit of culture shock. No, not just America vs. Germany type culture shock (though there's that, too), but more of the Spain vs. Germany variety. The place we lived last year and the place we live now are very different. I've found myself really missing Alcalá de Henares...
  • ...until I go to the grocery store and see the variety of food and brands offered here. 
  • Not knowing a word of German stepping off the plane felt a little intimidating. After being asked a question by a waitress and answering "Sí!...Er, oui!..." and still not being able to think of Ja (Yes), I decided it was time to take a German class. (And by the way, I had no idea what the waitress was asking anyway.) I'm now in my first week of an intensive A1 (beginner) level German course, and I love it!
  • Germany is clean. No, it's really, really clean. (In other words, I haven't seen poop anywhere. This is a big deal, because I spent the better part of last year dodging it every time I walked out of the house.)
  • They're really big on recycling. As in, we barely throw anything in the trash because it seems like they find a way to re-use everything!
  • It's pretty evident that no matter how organized a country supposedly is, filling out paperwork is still a royal pain in the behind.
  •  We visited a church our first week here that I think we're going to stick with. Some very friendly Americans our age asked us out for dinner afterwards, and we've since started attending their small group. It feels good to be developing some community already.
  • John is enjoying biking to work in this beautiful fall weather. I'm not so sure biking will work when snow starts falling, but for now he loves his commute and is settling into work. I'm keeping myself occupied with classes for my certificate program, a drawing course, and German class.
The English Garden. Think Central Park, but structured around the Isar River and complete with a beer garden.

The English Garden. Think Central Park, but structured around the Isar River and complete with a beer garden.

All in all, we are well. We are thankful to be getting settled in, and to be enjoying the confetti of leaves all over the ground. This fall in Munich is beautiful!

Happy {almost} weekend!