I was travelling on a suburban train in Germany early on Thursday evening. It normally looks just like this.Without really paying much attention to my fellow passengers initially…….. then I looked up and saw that in my carriage was a Franciscan monk, a nun, Darth Vader, two policemen, a pilot, a selection of fairies, an elf and some more people whose ‘uniform of occupation’ baffled me but I assumed they worked in ‘entertainment’ of some shape or form. I was slightly troubled by the monk swigging from a beer bottle and the nun applying more make up. Being one of only one or two ‘normally’ attired individuals, somewhat ironically I felt out of place and the object of attention rather than them!Yes, its carnival time in Germany…only really celebrated in a few cities such as Cologne (yes, they really do it big time!!!!) and nearby Dusseldorf where although the celebrations are big, they don’t quite match near neighbour along the Rhine. You really don’t go out that day to have fun unless you are suitably attired in fancy dress.I am a very regular traveler in Germany for both work reasons and also socially with having family there, but I realised this was the first time I have been there for Carnival weekend.Ok, its not quite the Mardi Gras of Rio but Germans do know how to have fun and use the opportunities that avail themselves. In the same way that Oktoberfest starts in September and not October, celebrations of Carnival start way in advance of the last day prior to Lent starting.In the Uk we too do something that day, but in a very low key way.For those not familiar with UK customs, on this same day we have Pancake Tuesday (also called Shrove Tuesday – Shrove derives from the old English word Shrive which is to obtain absolution for ones sin, hence the tradition to be Shriven before the start of Lent)Anyway, yes, we eat pancakes. For the vast majority of the population, it is the one and only day of the year when we will have a pancake. I can hear the horror now from our US and Canadian cousins who have these as a regular part of breakfast fayre and from our French cousins , likewise ‘desolee’ that a Crepe never passes our lips from one end of the year to the next.So why eat pancakes then – the tradition being that eggs, flour, fat and sugar were being used up before the fasting that took place in Lent.Oh and being the UK, some further traditions have evolved such as races with people tossing pancakes in frying pans as they run….well, why not?Happy Pancake day to everybody!Enjoying this blog or bemused by this blog? Please subscribe and share on Social Media.Please also feel free to comment if you feel so inclined.As is very evident, this blog has no particular theme other than thoughts or observations what would otherwise only get shared with ‘captive’ listeners such as the supermarket cashier, or my more polite and tolerant family and friends.
Ask someone about what is a really great German export and if they are ‘into cars’ they may well name one of the above…with apologies to Audi who I really should also have included on the list.
But cars are not unique and any proud Italian will counter this and reel off the names Ferrari, Lamborghini or Alfa Romeo and so on.
What Germany has cornered and no other country can match for both home markets and to export is the Christmas Market
And now in so many other European cities too with the warmth and ambience that is unique to these events. But they are at their best in their country of birth!
My first Christmas Market of this year was a couple of weeks ago in Dortmund.
..and it us hard to beat this one with its amazing centrepiece tree…made of 1000 individual trees!
However earlier this week I was in Dusseldorf and had the chance to visit their Weinachsmarket, spread across a large part of the Altstadt (Old Town).
And there amongst the Gluhwein, Bratwurst and beer……
..a new treat for me.
Crepes with Marzipan…
For someone who loves marzipan (as well as pancakes) Christmas really has arrived early for me 😁
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I first visited Germany at age eleven. Like many eleven year olds I wasn’t really captivated by continental European culture, gastronomic delicacies or really much at all that was on the ‘must do’ list for a visitor……..
My idea back then of how to spend summer holidays was about being out on my bike or playing with friends……
Furthermore I actually celebrated my birthday on that trip and was more than somewhat non-plussed to be told by numerous elderly couples (on reflection now, they were probably aged about 40) staying in our hotel when finding out my newly acquired age, “Ah you are now elf”. My knowledge of German, even basics such as numbers after 10 was very limited!
Wind the clock on a few decades and I have come to love the place. Indeed I actually work for a German employer now, but based out of home in the UK; I also have one branch of my extended family located there so my involvement and appreciation of the countries and the people is very regular and advanced.
What is best is the simplicity of many things and the approach to leisure.
By simplicity I mean the problem solving applied to every day challenges…..Oktoberfest is an amazing tradition.
As there are only for 4 weeks in October for this event , it needed to be longer …so now it actually starts mid September so it can last long enough!
And not to be outdone…the winter Christmas Markets with amazing things to eat and drink are just the same. Advent starts at the first Sunday in December …but in reality you will find people thronging to these events with these starting in mid November!!
And it’s not just food and drink.. there are very few pieces of German engineering thst have failed to impress me over the years ranging from Bosch power tools, to AEG domestic appliances and of course cars I have had both Audi and BMW and really nothing can surpass these.
Anything Germany cannot do….well really the only thing might be to produce a decent cup of tea!
…..but given time, even that may happen.
I really struggled to book at the hotel I normally use near my employers HQ. They found me a room eventually but explained they were very full as they had a caterpillar conference on.I was somewhat excited by the prospect of my somewhat different fellow guests.Will there actually be caterpillars there? Presumably safely contained in jars to avoid them munching through the hotels plant displays in reception? I also had visions of bearded botantists with magnifying glasses examing their fellow scientists rarer specimens. The scene was truly set.Anyway I arrived to indeed find the place full .But full of salespeople from the cut and thrust world of diggers and bulldozers!In fact, the very things that are one of the threats to the caterpillars world.