A Frankfurtian Masterchef in the Making?

Over time after moving out from my parents, my love for cooking has considerably grown. To begin with, pasta with stir through sauce and sliced cheese was my speciality, or alternatively veggie burgers with some kind of noodles (i reasoned that I got all my nutrients from the burger). I cooked a roast for my ex once, and required my mother to basically cook it for me (thus probably rendering the ‘I cooked a roast’ bit of that sentence a lie), and I’ll never be allowed forget the time I used sugar instead of flour when trying to make a pudding and ended up with the sweetest chocolatey liquid drink I’ve ever tasted.

But moving to London, I found myself rather enjoying the idea of cooking gourmet food, and things that in the past I had bought from the frozen section in the supermarket. Homemade fish and chips worked their way into my recipe book, and what was a love in Australia for going to Chinese restaurants turned into a love for Chinese cooking. The ready-made stir fry sauces at Sainsburys didn’t quite cut it, and I started getting excited over going to Asian supermarkets and making all my sauces and experimenting like a mad scientist.

I mastered the perfect English roast with yorkshire puddings and everything, thanks to my UK flatmates lending a helping hand, and as a result was in charge of the New Years Eve roast when a group of us got a house together in Devon. For the record, Jamie Oliver’stip of putting a lemon in the chicken is genius. And another definite highlight in my cooking experiences would be achieving a gingerbread house, which took a week and three attempts, but was well worth it for the end result.

So arriving in Frankfurt, one of my most anticipated things to do was to go supermarket shopping for the first time. This was a rather delayed trip, as I stayed with the boy for two weeks while I found a place to live. By coincidence his mother was getting a new German visa, and while she is normally based in Russia, she was staying with us as well. Her cooking was pretty amazing, and equally intimidating. Let’s just say I won’t be trying to compete with her many variations of meat and potatoes.

But back to German cooking – one of the few positive things my ex taught me in our relationship was how to make spaghetti carbonara. It’s one of the easiest meals to make, and I don’t use cream, just egg and cheese (as demonstrated here), and I can make it with bacon or salmon or sausages. It’s quickly become one of my favourite meals to cook.

But while in London the sausage version was often created because it was nearly pay day and I was too broke for the other options, in Germany the sausages are so damn good that this feels more like the gourmet version. And with all the ingredients for this meal easy to find in a supermarket without much knowledge of the language, it’s become a staple for me.

Which brings me to the biggest challenge I’ve found in Frankfurt – none of the food has English wording on it, which I knew would be the case, but I never realised just how hard it would be to find things I needed. Baking soda? Still have no idea what that is. I’ve found Backpulver, which is apparently baking powder, but a lot of forums seem to tell me it’s different somehow.

I had a tooth issue a few weeks ago, and couldn’t eat anything solid for three days, which led me to going through the soup isles with complete confusion. The one I eventually picked appeared to be a smooth meat soup, and turned out to be oxtail, which wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

Another thing I’m finding particularly challenging is the lack of variety of vegetables. It doesn’t seem that people in Frankfurt cook stir-fries like is the staple of busy Londoners. The first meal I cooked for the boy was a chicken stir-fry with green curry sauce, and he commented how easy it looked to make like he’d never seen it before.

Another meal he’s never tried before I moved to Frankfurt was fish and chips – once we got past the fact that it was very unhealthy, he couldn’t understand why people would eat this at the beach. “It’s hot at the beach, and this is hot! Why don’t you eat ice cream??” He argued, and I sort of saw his point to be honest. I didn’t even attempt to explain why we put newspaper around it – but luckily there is an English fish and chip shop in Wiesbaden, south west of Frankfurt, which I will be showing him soon so he can see exactly what it is we do in England/Australia.

Last week the boy was ill, and so I brought over some homemade chicken soup (usingthis recipe – delicious). While at his house, his brother came home with some sausages, and insisted we both try it – as I was eating it and quite enjoying it, he explained it was horse meat. When I said in Britain there were a lot of issues over eating horse, they both looked at me like I had two heads.

And so, my relationship with food in Germany has had it’s highs and lows so far, and apart from some horse and oxtail here and there, I am getting the hang of cooking again. I made some great ANZAC biscuits, and plan to make pavlova for my birthday in a couple of weeks. And mastering a proper german schnitzel is high on my list of things to do.

Frankfurt Skyscraper Festival – Defying Gravity and the Idea that Buildings are Boring

This weekend I knew I would have to be working for the Champions League final, and with two German teams taking on one another, every person around Frankfurt city seemed to be in the mood for a party. While this backdrop of the country’s most loved sport taking over Europe was happening, Frankfurt was also celebrating one of the things that would seem to be a major attraction for those working and playing in the city; their skyscrapers.

Before this weekend I did not know that festivals celebrating buildings really existed. But, in the spirit of the fact that Germany seems to have a festival for everything (and I have written about this before), I don’t know why I wasn’t surprised. After an absence of six years, the showing had returned and those who are local were particularly excited about people doing lots of high up and weird things to celebrate the city’s skyline.

Defying gravity was a general running theme throughout the festival, as was taking motorbikes to places that you wouldn’t really expect motorbikes to go. In this ball, as I took this pic, was a motorbike rider who spoke entirely in German but made it clear to even those of us how couldn’t speak the language that as he rode upside down and all around the inside of the ball, us girls would be so impressed that we’d be ready to take off our pants for him.

A little taste of home! In a line of pictures showing some of the world’s most beautiful buildings and skylines, Melbourne was the representative for Australia. I’ve found Frankfurt and Melbourne have very similar looking cities, with a river running down the middle and lots of tall buildings and little parks and leafy trees to make the place feel a little less concrete-y.

Everyone loves a professional-looking sandcastle, and with the backdrop resembling what they were attempting to make this one look like, it looked pretty cool.

These are little kids – they would have been maybe 5-7 years old? And in the middle of the crowd they were climbing atop of each other with confidence you would only expect in a gymnasium with mats all around to cushion their falls.

Yes, there is a person up there!! This guy was taken to the bottom of the beam by a motorbike along the tightrope, then promptly climbed to the top and was doing tricks in what suspiciously appeared to be with no safety ropes. He also played the trumpet, as you do. It was hard to watch this at times as you couldn’t help but picture yourself being up there. It reminded me a little of that terrible Australian tv show we used to watch as kids where people would have to do seemingly impossible things to win a holiday or whatever, Who Dares Wins.

This was a definite highlight for me. People playing football on the side of a building – at half time a guy came on with a Dortmund and Bayern scarf and did a little dance for the crowd, while people waved their German flags. For some reason – I have no idea why – everything the players did, from simulating diving, to goal celebrations, to pretending to fight with one another, seemed so funny when it’s on the side. For the record, the blue team won 4-3.

Despite seeming somewhat of a clunky city with all of it’s skyscrapers, the art all around Frankfurt, including the graffiti, is typically alternative and brilliant of the Germans. This piece was done entirely using spray cans, and it felt like we were peaking in a studio rather than looking at something on the street.

Concerts were all over the city – and here, in the Opera Square, even if you were a latecomer you could find space to enjoy the music on offer.

It was a great day, despite the rain continually threatening, and after quickly finishing off my match reports and what not for the Champions League game, the city was full of both people wanting to party after the festival, and people wanting to party after the football. Clubs were full, too much vodka was drunk, and currywurst was purchased from the takeaway shop near my house for the third time in a week.

Bar-hopping and friendship-making

I’ve now been in Frankfurt for nearly two months, though it feels like I’ve been here a lot longer. While in London, I got my new life sorted in about 2 weeks, there’s still things I’m trying to get together here such as my phone situation, bank account, health insurance and visa. The language barrier certainly makes things a lot slower, as does the fact that many German companies, including immigration, don’t have a waiting line when you call and they’re busy – it’s just engaged and you have to try again. And again. And again. I will certainly never complain about getting an automated voice telling me they care and to be patient, in fact I’ll be very appreciative of the fact that they exist!

One of the things that took a long time in London though was making friends. I knew three people who lived in London when I first got there, and my boyfriend at the time, but after coming from Melbourne where I had plans all the time and friends who were always out and offering entertainment if I felt like joining, to suddenly have nothing to do on a Saturday night left me feeling a little lonely on occasion to begin with.

After around six months, I felt a lot more settled, and have since found that many other people moving to London (and looking to have a career rather than do the bar/backpacking thing) feel the same. As I made friends, they often had a lot in common with me, as many Aussies are in the same boat, taking the two year tourist visa to work in the city, and it felt a lot like a university town in that no one was from London originally (I only met two people in my whole time there whose family were from London). But in Frankfurt it’s extremely different.

I feel like I have absolutely no measure of how long it will take to feel settled here, because I don’t know of anybody who has lived here before me. Looking up an internet forum on the subject, I couldn’t find one Aussie who had posted, and I certainly don’t think this city has the same university vibe as London, despite there being a lot of universities here and my boy still studying.

This unknown has surprisingly left me feeling relaxed about the idea of making friends. I’m working from home, so meeting people at work is out of the question – and as a result, my social interactions have been quite limited recently as I concentrate on getting the basics of my life sorted.

With that in mind, this week I decided to get a bit proactive in my friendship-making. And a couple of things have led to me being so hungover that I’ve spent all of today in bed.

1. I joined an internet forum on toytowngermany.com for a girls cocktail night. I’ve never done anything like this before, and while it was rather nerve-racking in those first few minutes of meeting the other girls who go out for cocktails and food each week, I very quickly felt comfortable. They are all in very similar situations to me – have moved here for their partners, without any knowledge of German and with little knowledge of Frankfurt at the beginning. We went to two bars over the course of the night, including Helium and Bar Celona which were both really nice though I did prefer the latter – particularly that a glass of wine came with extra in a karaf and still only cost around 6 euros :)

Bar Celona does actually remind me of being in Barcelona

We all swapped numbers by the end of the night, and one of the girls led me to my next social contribution for the week…

2. I’m hoping to volunteer for an English speaking theatre group, to help out with lighting and things backstage (not acting!). Thanks to a tip from one of the girls at the cocktail night, I’m now getting in touch with a group called TSL. I’ve always been a fan of the theatre, and getting to help out behind the scenes will give me a whole new understanding of the art. It’s something I would never have had time for in London, and I feel like living in Germany is already proving to be a much more cultural experience (there’s a castle at the end of my street for christ sake) than as I say, living in what felt like a university town.

Yep – that’s around the corner from my house!

3. I joined my flatmates for a night out last night at Gibson club in Hauptwache, around a 10 minute walk from our house, and got insanely drunk in Frankfurt for the first time since I moved here. Neither of my flatmates had ever had or even knew what a jagerbomb was, and I corrected that for them very quickly. The club was really cool, with a set up that reminded me a bit of the clubs in Ibiza, and the music was the perfect mixture of house and songs I know well from England and Aus. The Currywurst on the way home was also a definite highlight – beats McDonalds for sure.

Gibson club has feelings apparently

4. I made some tentative plans to go with one of the girls to a Latin club in Frankfurt soon, and am hoping to find some salsa classes while I’m here too.

5. Also from the tips of the girls, I now know the cheapest and good-quality German language schools, and will be looking into this as well, though I’m finding I’m learning quite a bit just being surrounded by the language everywhere I go. I figure with a full time job, I can do a class of around five hours a week, and am sure I’ll meet more like-minded people there too.

So within two months I’m certainly feeling like Frankfurt has a lot to offer in terms of social things to do. I came here for work, travel and my boy, but I think the city has a lot more to help me settle in, possibly for the long term. I’m also now well aware of never underestimating the power of an online forum – the girls I met on Thursday certainly know a lot more about this city than I do, and it’s great to have a reference point, particularly in English!

xx

There’s no place like home

My move from Melbourne to Sydney around six years ago sealed the beginning of my experiences living out of my original ‘home’. I lived in three share houses in two years there – the first with an uncontrollable crazy mental psycho who I lasted five months in the vicinity of, and I’m convinced has given me and my other flatmate who escaped good real estate karma for life. My second apartment was in a beautiful position beach-wise, but not so much work-wise. And the third, our last apartment before I left for London, was off one of Sydney’s best streets (Crown St) but was on a road that constantly seemed to have people overdosing on drugs. It wasn’t a Saturday night unless there were ambulance lights flashing in our window at 3am, and the small medical centre up the road had a big sign insisting there was no methadone or cash on the premises.

For these small/big reasons, nowhere really felt much like home. As I left for another area, or city in the end, I didn’t exactly feel as if I was leaving somewhere that particularly meant that much to me. The people certainly did, but the places will only be somewhere I’ll return for a club I liked, a restaurant I enjoyed or a beautiful beach (for the record, Balmoral beach in Sydney – AMAZING, my favourite beach in the world).

When I moved to London, my first room was out of my price range, hence limiting my ability to enjoy the city. I knew this after realising very quickly that I was living through my monthly wage in two weeks, and when an opportunity came up to housesit for a friend and try to find something where I wouldn’t have to starve for a week or two each month, I took it.

My second house was the closest I’ve ever felt to having a home since leaving home – the girls I lived with have become two of my best friends, visited me in Australia this year when I went back and are coming to Frankfurt in a few weeks too. But while I loved the house, my room was so small that some would comment it looked more like a dorm room, and I would have to create dirty clothes as they wouldn’t fit in my drawers – the drawers being the only furniture other than my bed which fitted into the room.

This is house sharing – with the good, ie the company and social interactions, particularly important when you’re in a new city, comes the bad – this is not your home and will only ever be a glorified half way house. Since leaving this house in London, one of the girls has booked a one way flight to Australia, and the other will move in with her boyfriend in September. I feel so strange about the fact that I won’t know anyone living there soon – and what did feel like home, won’t after just a few months of leaving.

So moving to Frankfurt, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that people generally wanted more of a long term roommate, and defined long term as 12 months or more. Many also required you to provide your own furniture – this certainly feels like I’m building a life and home a lot more than the rent-a-room situations in London.

The house I found after a search of two weeks is with a couple, and we have a spacious living room and guest room/dining room. I am paying around 100 quid less per month than I did in London, and this rent includes all bills. In 10 minutes, I am able to walk into the centre of the city, and to most of Frankfurt’s main attractions.

As far as furnishing my room was concerned, I am well aware that the cheapest furniture shop in the world by far is always going to be Ikea. So, my flatmates came along with me and the boy to raid the store, and my entire room is filled with all that I could afford from the Swedish giants.

That’s not to say I haven’t made it personal; this last week has been spent trying to make the space my own. I work from home, and I’m well aware of just how differently you can feel when your room feels like your own. In Sydney, I hardly decorated any of my rooms, and I think that contributed to my general feeling that the city wasn’t my home and was only temporary.

And while I don’t have the budget to fill my bed with cushions (though I have never really understood why people do that) or buy elaborate drawers for my desk and paintings for the walls as yet, I think I’ve gotten off to an OK start so far.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, and as an added bonus, we have pets too! Now there’s a nice reminder of my farm life back in Melbourne, even if these animals are a little smaller than I’m used to :)

xx

Germans do festivals like no other

One of the things that I’ve discovered is amazing about Germany is the festivals on offer. I should have known this was the case before moving here – two of my favourite experiences of the country before becoming a more permanent resident were at Oktoberfest (which I wrote about here for the Independent). And I don’t even drink beer. When it comes to having a great day or night, or weekend or week out, Germans just seem to know how to do it, providing the best costumes, food, drink and company to keep you entertained from start to finish.

My Oktoberfest experiences have been nothing but positive, and in fact it was there that I met the boy (who at the time spoke no English… though he has of course become much better at it now :). While we didn’t spend much time in the beer halls the first time around, the whole of Munich seemed to come alive, and my introduction to the German nightlife was really the beginning of my love story with the country. The second time around, there was much more time spent in the beer halls, and on the last day I somehow managed to dance on the tables for around 8 hours straight completely sober. Suffice to say, I know I will attend Oktoberfest every year I can from now on, and plans are already in motion for 2013.

Now, since becoming a Frankfurt-ite, I’ve very quickly filled my schedule with some of Germany’s finest festivals to keep me busy. The first was kind of cheating, as it wasn’t actually in the country, but a simple four hour train trip to Amsterdam for Queens Day. After living in London, where every trip to the airport seemed an expensive mission at an ungodly hour, to take 20 minutes to get to the station, jump on a train, and be in Amsterdam without even showing my passport was incredible. And it was definitely a trip I won’t forget; while the street parties and festival atmosphere were crazy, one of the things I liked the most about this festival was the relaxed atmosphere; I had space around me to enjoy it all, unlike in previous experiences of national days like Bastille Day in Paris or Independence Day in New York. When we had enough of checking out the boats and walking/dancing around town we could relax in the park and soak in the sun. I’ve never quite seen an entire city shut down for the day like Amsterdam did; I would be keen to try other cities around Holland in the future for this holiday as apparently they are just as good.

Just a week later, as I prepared for a trip to Magdeburg, I went out with the boy down the street to the internet cafe to print my train ticket. Suddenly he remembered that there was a museum festival in Frankfurt that night, and a quick 10 minute walk into the centre of the city brought market stalls, a light and water show and buses taking people to all of Frankfurt’s museums for free. And apparently you could drink at them too?! It was definitely an unexpected and different night out, and resulted in me purchasing my first German book – ‘Mein Kunterbuntes Wörterbuch’ – luckily it has pictures for every word :).

The next day bright and early, I took a four hour train to Magdeburg to visit a friend studying there and attend the Holi festival of colours. This festival has been travelling around Germany, and has been in Frankfurt, though in Magdeburg I was able to experience it right in the centre of the city, with just a few thousand other people. Basically the concept involves throwing packets of colourful powder around every hour. I got a lot in my eyes and lungs, but other than that it was great – and worked up the courage to ask for my drink in German at the bar, only to be asked by the woman if I was over 18 (apparently when I speak German I sound like a child on account of the incorrect grammar and slowness lol). Overall, a great party, and I would definitely go again!

Now in the next two weeks we’re planning to head to the ‘Neonsplash‘ in Cologne – the city is a 2 hour train ride from me, and is a beautiful place where I spent New Years Eve in 2011-12. It’s really quaint, and one of the main attractions is a beautiful bridge where people can ‘lock their love’ with padlocks on the sides, and throw the keys in the water for good luck. But back to the splashing of neons – this is more of a party than a festival – and rather than throwing powder, you throw paint. I’ve always wanted to go to a paint throwing night, perhaps because I like the idea of doing something my mum always told me I wasn’t allowed to do as a child. The five year old me would be proud of me right now! (must revisit the notion of growing up in Germany AFTER this party)

Then just a week after this is the Big City Beats Festival in Frankfurt, with a whole day of DJs including the legendary David Guetta and Tiesto. Our ‘party picknick’ ticket apparently includes a day on the grass and 12 hours of music… suffice to say I’m pretty excited.

Of course, the pinnicle of this year’s festivals for me will be Glastonbury, which is just a 50 euro flight to London and will give me a chance to see all my lovely UK friends again. And then a long weekend at the 9-day-long Sziget festival in Budapest in August should round off an especially European experience of music. But I have a feeling a lot more of these German festivals where we’re throwing things, enjoying picnics, drinking at museums or doing something else that will make for an enjoyable day/night out are going to be taking place over the summer. x

Welcome

I haven’t kept a blog since I was about 20 years old. That blog, still in the world of the wide web only because my boyfriends and friends find it funny to read, is somewhat of an embarrassment, mostly because it sounds a lot more like it was written by a 16 year old Paris Hilton wannabe than an ambitious young woman hoping to become a successful journalist. Alas, I hope this attempt at documenting my travel, work and personal experiences as an expat in Germany makes me want to cringe a little less when I look back on it in 10 years or so.

In short, I am a 27 year old football journalist who is undoubtedly as obsessed with sport as I am with living and travelling in Europe. After two years in London, which seem more of a blur of partying, being broke and a hell of a lot of cliched rain, I decided through both necessity and desire that Germany would be my next home.

Necessity: My visa in the UK ran out and getting a new one has proven to be complicated at best. I hadn’t foreseen these problems, and with my boy only a one hour flight away in Frankfurt, and my own little dream coming true of being a journalist in football’s birthing place, it seemed pretty a cosy situation to stay in London for the next year at least. Credit card repayments and liver recovery could wait. But apparently British immigration had other ideas.

Desire: The boy being in Frankfurt was certainly making it tempting to come across the pond already. Besides this, whenever I had travelled to Germany in my life it wowed me in every way; the people, the culture, the food and the sights, not to mention the cheapness compared to London. While L-town was more a place I felt like a uni student, in Deutschland I imagined feeling more like an adult, and perhaps the time has come to grow up (slightly anyway). Also, one of my main goals when coming to Europe was to learn a new language, and it wasn’t happening in the UK. I knew in order to fulfil this I would need to force the motivation somehow – like living in a country where I had no choice.

Working in the journalism industry, I have been lucky enough to retain my old job from the UK, which has made the transition much easier. Had I not been given this opportunity, I would certainly have to be a) looking furiously for a source of income and b) giving up on the idea of bring a journalist for the time being at least, not speaking the native language and all. So with the basic need of a job taken care of, it’s now up to me to grow my contacts across Europe, and get to as many football matches as I possibly can in the process.

Having lived in three cities now where I did not grow up and haven’t have a set group of friends to fall back on, I’m more prepared for the challenge of meeting people making friends in Frankfurt. In London, it took around six months to really feel like I was settled in terms of my friendship group. In that six months I often worried I would never feel as comfortable as I did back home, but the fears certainly disappeared when one or two chance meetings changed my experience of the city completely. Now I feel much more at ease with the fact that is will take a while to have a set of Frankfurt friends in my life, and it’s a process I hope to enjoy.

And luckily I have Skype for my friends and family across the globe when I’m feeling a little lonely (how did people used travel without it? Or have long distance relationships. A very gen Y question I know, but I am genuinely curious), and a boyfriend who has been patient, kind and a great translator when I’ve received forms to sign or am tearing my hair out over visa issues. My lack of German will no doubt be a hindrance in the coming weeks, but an expat meet-up this week, and making travel plans, as well as my new flatmates returning from a week away are giving me reasons to feel excited for being more social in the coming days.

I also made ANZAC biscuits today after a visit to the Australia shop yesterday. I’ve been eating and trying a lot of German food, and some Russian food as the boy is Russian-German, but sometimes it is nice to have something little that reminds you of home :)

Till next time x