Tis the Season

We LOVE Christmas. The music, the food, the decorations, the feeling of hope and happiness that the season brings- it’s one of the best times of the year. And no where does Christmas quite like Germany. The Christmas Markets that pop up all over the city come the end of November are one of our favorite things about living in this country. We made it to quite a few of the markets this year including Alexanderplatz, Potsdammerplatz, the Kulturbrauerei and the one down in Potsdam with it’s special Polish theme. Beautiful booths with some unique goods as well as some yummy Polish cuisine! When we were down there we also took a stroll around the grounds of Schloss Sanssouci to work off all the tasty treats.

Polish Food! Potsdam Fun in Potsdam

It’s a little sad to bid the markets “tschüss” now that the season has come to an end, but we frequented them plenty these past few weeks as well as enjoyed a variety of other Christmas parties, fests and traditions.

The conclusion of Thanksgiving means it’s Christmas music season. Dave and I both have a fondness for Amy Grant’s rendition of the Christmas classics- though we have different CDs we grew up listening to- so we heard a lot of her the past few weeks. We also spun through all the other hits via our ipods and 8Tracks playlists. These tunes are always best enjoyed with some fresh baked Christmas cookies and a glass of hot cocoa or glühwein.

Glühwein

The start of the advent season also calls for an Advent Calendar- again something Germany excels at! There are so many varieties of calendars and people get pretty creative with homemade ones as well. We went with a childhood favorite of mine- Playmobile and had a lot of fun alternating days in which we could open a new window and add some figures to our Christmas scene.

Advent Calendar

Christmas season also brought about good times with friends and we were able to celebrate on numerous occasions including a dinner party hosted by Max and Sachiko, the staff Christmas party at Phorms and a festive evening at my colleague and friend Sandra’s place. Always so nice to share in the festive spirit with good friends!

Phorms Fun

One of the major perks of working in education is the break between Christmas and New Years- always a much needed period of rest, relaxation and recharging of batteries. I finished up work on Friday the 21st and have a break until January 2nd! We decided to celebrate the holiday in Berlin this year and have been having a grand old time doing absolutely nothing!

The one big plan we came up with was to celebrate by coordinating and cooking “9 Feasts of Christmas”.  Why 9?  Who knows? Unfortunately I contracted a gross bacterial infection on my tonsils which put a little damper on excessive eating, but one visit to the doctor and a Penicillin prescription later we were back on track. We didn’t quite make it to 9, but did get in 7 delicious feasts. We rated and debated and decided that the top three were:

1. Christmas Day Feast- turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, gravy etc…

Christmas Day Feast

2. Americana- buffalo wings, cheese burger and fries (The burgers were so good we forgot to stop and take a picture!)

America Baby

3. Deutschland- schnitzel, spätzle and German beer (Dave’s pick)
3. Small Bites Feast- jalepeno popper dip, stuffed mushroom caps, salami, cheese, crackers and olives (Adrian’s pick)

Deutschland

Small Bites

As you can tell food plays a big role in our holiday celebrations and all of the feasts were fun to plan (and eat!).

As the big day approached we finished up last minute preparations and gift wrapping and then spent Christmas Eve enjoying a variety of Christmas movies and drinking hot tea and coffee on the couch. In the evening we headed down to the American Church in Berlin to celebrate the real reason for the season and had a great time at their beautiful candlelight service. In additional to all the wonderful songs the pastor’s sermon was particularly compelling and focused on the theme of hope. After the service concluded we headed home for fondue, champagne and our favorite film- It’s a Wonderful Life.

The next morning we woke up, made breakfast and got down to opening stockings and gifts. Santa was particularly good to us this year:) Our favorite gift would probably have to be the awesome projector from Al and Melissa. We’d been thinking about getting one for awhile and we have to say watching movies projected up on our living room wall definitely beats a computer screen! Thanks again for such a great gift! We also got a great box of baking goods you just can’t find in Germany and some sweet gifts from my parents. I love my new Packers sweatshirt!

Christmas Day Santa Came! Opening gifts!

Go Pack Go! Awesome Stocking Stuffers! Smoking Frosty

We also got some new books, movies, picture frames, a few beautiful sweaters and scarfs and much more! My big gift from Dave was a trip up north to a lakeside village called Waren. We left the on the 26th for a two night stay in a classy hotel called Hotel Harmonie. The hotel features saunas, steam rooms and spa services and a massage was included in my gift! We had a great couple of days relaxing in the saunas, playing games, walking around the old city center of Waren and hiking the surrounding lakes- completing a 10K hike Friday morning! It was wonderful to get outside the city, see another part of Germany and spend a few days in a pretty, peaceful spot.

Waren Jumping Shot Hotel Harmonie Old Town Waren Floating Fish Restaurant

Dave likes the busty mermaid Lake Scene

Dave and Adrian Yum- lake fish sampler plate

We got back to Berlin late on Friday and have been enjoying our new projector, munching on leftovers and enjoying the last few days of 2012. We’re headed to a dinner party at Saskia and Mathieu’s apartment to ring in the New Year and then will try to catch some of the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl on the 1st before I have to return to work on the 2nd.

2012 has been a wonderful year. It was our first full year in Berlin and we saw and did so much. The major highlight has to be our engagement in March, but we have a lot of close seconds: our 8 week trek across the States visiting both coasts, the mid-west and attending 3 awesome weddings, the trip to Ireland for Dave’s birthday, the trip to Spain for Adrian’s birthday, family and friends visiting this Fall, exploring all the beer gardens of Berlin this past summer, Dave’s ski trip to the Alps, trips around Germany and Poland, Adrian finding a job at Phorms and many more!!  We’re pretty damn lucky and quite thankful for all that 2012 brought, but are pretty sure 2013 is going to blow 2012 out of the water! Bring on the New Year!

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Visitors!

We had the pleasure of hosting a few members of Dave’s family the past several weeks: First his cousin Catherine and second his sister Cara and her Husband Will. We had a great time during both visits and thought we would share a few photos and write up the experiences (maybe to inspire some future visits???)

Catherine showed up a few weeks ago in the beginning of November .. just in time for the cold weather! We warned her to bring some warm clothes and she was lucky she did, because once she arrived the temperature in Berlin dropped at least 10 degrees. Pretty depressing!

We should mention that Catherine is spending the semester studying abroad in the UK in a small town just outside of London. She was loving her time there and was really looking forward to checking out Germany and trying some German food and beer. We did our best to show her a good time!

Once she showed up, Dave met her at the subway station and they headed down to the center of Berlin for a free walking tour. It was the same tour that we had been on before: a three hour stroll through the center of Berlin tourist district that gives a great overview of the city’s intriguing history, including the Nazi period and the Berlin wall among other cool things. The tour was really fun, but got cold very fast. Dave and Catherine were both looking forward to the break inside a cafe that came halfway through tour!

Next, Dave and Catherine met up with Adrian back at our apartment in Prenzlauer Berg and then the whole group headed to HB for dinner and drinks. We had been to HB before but it’s a great place to bring tourists because they have very traditional southern German food and, of course, Mass Beers which everyone loves. We have a great time at HB and Catherine seemed to enjoy her German food!

The next couple days we spent with Catherine traveling around the CIty, seeing sites and sampling some local fare. She loved the CHristmas markets, but wasn’t so sure about the Currywurst. Overall it was a great time!

IMG_8462

Next, about a week later Cara and Will came for Thanksgiving! We worked hard to find all of the necessary ingredients for a real American thanksgiving, including a (small) turkey but were missing a few things and Cara and WIll came up big and brought it over from the states. We were very excited to have them here and to show them around Berlin and our neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg.

Thanksgiving dinner turned out great! We had two additional friend come over, Maxime from France and Sachi from Japan. The food was great and we had quite a few bottles of wine, but since Cara and Will had flown over that morning and were feeling quite tired at that point and decided to head back to their hotel.

The next day we took the two of them on a tour of downtown Berlin. We went to the top of the Reichstag building, but unfortunately it was a little to cloudy to get a real good view of the city. From there we walked to the Holocaust Memorial then to Potsdamer Platz for some lunch: Wurst with mustard and a beer. Will said he finally felt like he was really in Germany.

After some more touristing, we split up for an hour before meeting for dinner. We took them to a traditional German Brewpub right on the river down the street from the Berlin Cathedral. We sat down at a big table only to notice that we were completely surrounded by Chinese people. Cara and Will both speak Mandarin Chinese and the tempation to surprise the Chinese tourists with their skills was too much so they struck up a conversation. It was pretty fun to see the reaction from the 30 or so Chinese people to hear Cara and Will speaking with them. The brewpub food was just okay, but the beer was delicious so we made sure to drink plenty of it.

The next day we headed to a German history to take in some culture and then went to checkpoint charlie to look at some of the Berlin Wall and learn a bit more about the cold war. Then we headed back to Prenzlauer Berg to try some street food at the local market. That night we went to an Italian restaurant that is right downstair from our apartment. We had been their a few times before and they treated like regulars (as Italians like to do). It was pretty fun and Will and Cara were pretty impressed!

The next day, they had to fly away in the morning. It was a quick trip but we were so glad to have some family here for Thanksgiving. Will, Cara and Catherine, Thanks so much for coming!!