Tips for Scotland

Christian and I went to Scotland in mid-July.  We traveled through the Highlands from Edinburgh. Our route over 7 days:

Scotland Route

Here are a few things I think everyone should keep in mind when going there:

  1. Be prepared for rain.  And more rain.
  2. Be prepared for cold.  Even in July!  We had to turn the heat on.

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3. Edinburgh is pronounced Edinborough.  I don’t get it.

4. Do the Underground City of the Dead tour in Edinburgh – good times!

5. Stores close at 6pm.  What is this?  Even in Aberdeen.

6. Plan the castles into your route!  We missed a lot of them because we just didn’t have the time.

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7. Ben Nevis is usually covered by clouds

8. The Loch Ness Monster is real.

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8. Take cash with you if you want to climb the tower on Calton Hill – otherwise, your boyfriend, who planned to propose to you at the top, will be disappointed and in need of a different romantical spot to get down on one knee.

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What?!  Yes, I’m engaged now.  Despite the horrible weather and the fact that I caught a cold during our trip, Scotland will always hold a place in my heart.  Need an idea for a proposal spot?  Try the Glenfinnan Viaduct.  Yes, it was in the Harry Potter movies – but Christian didn’t know that.

 

Italy under 300€, almost.

 

Fly to MXP from Berlin – 71€

Train from MXP to Lake Como – 10€

3 nights on the lake – 150€

Boat trip to Bellagio – 10.40€

Train from Lake Como to Milan – 4.80€

1 night in Milan, near Duomo – 50€

 

If I can add correctly, it comes in at less than €300.

293.80€ says the calculator.

If you have another 12€, you can catch a train back to the MXP airport from Milan.  Which I guess is essential if you REALLY want to leave Italy.

Total – 305.80€

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Iceland – Northern Lights Night

April 14, 2016

After we finished our glacier walking we went alcohol treasure hunting. We drove all the way back to Vik thinking the liquor store would be open in that town – it was NOT. FYI the beer is  only sold in the same store as the liquor. It is called Vínbúð and opening hours are rarer during the winter months. In case you are ever in Vik in April, plan on getting your party drinks before Saturday. Vínbúð is closed on Saturdays.  True story.

We eventually made it back to Kirkjubæjarklaustur where Christian and I decided to seek out the Northern lights. We thought we would be lucky enough to see them since there was hardly any cloud coverage. After piling on layers of clothing, we hopped into the car and drove down the road – not far from our hotel. The moon was so bright and the stars were visible, but we weren’t happy with our position.  A big mountain was right in front of us and all I could think was “What the f is on the other side of this mountain?” and “Who’s the asshat that put this mountain here?” So we moved.  We drove to a deserted parking lot about 2 minutes down the road and I could see the other side of the mountain.  Christian does an amazing job at quenching my craziness.

It was 10:45pm. We shut off the car and sat in the dark, staring up at the starry sky.  Nothing.  Two minutes passed.  It seemed like forever.  Nothing.  Two more minutes.  Nothing. Ten minutes and my neck was hurting from looking up with anticipation.  Where were these bastards? One more minute and I was ready to go to bed! Then we saw them. Green streaks started to congregate in the sky above us. We jumped out of the car and pointed upward.  Do you see that?! They started to condense and become brighter and longer.  Soon they formed a huge green swirl across the night sky, to the front and back of the empty parking lot, swirling into that darn mountain I mentioned before.

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They were dancing above us while Christian and I danced below them, shouting things to each other like “Wow!  Holy shit!  Amazing!  So pretty!”  Sometimes it looked like they were raining down on us and we could see outlines of pink against the green. I felt like I was watching someone paint watercolors into the sky.  Beautiful.  It was such a wild moment and if you ever have the chance to see them,  take it!  Stare out your window in the far north until you see them and then rush outside because it is truly a breathtaking experience – one I would love to have again.

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picture credit: C.K.

Baking in Germany – Don’t do it America!

January 10, 2014:

The great thing about moving to a country where everything is foreign is that all of those things have the potential to be the highlight of your day.  Simple tasks, like getting from point A to point B, become adventures.  Mundane tasks, like buying postage stamps, become extraordinary.  Learning new things is an every day occurrence.  Most of the time it’s exciting, but sometimes it can be so damn exhausting.  I can now add one more thing to the “Damn, this is exhausting” list:  Baking in Germany.

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I will preface this blog by stating that I knew beforehand my first baking experience in Germany was going to be a painstaking process.  To bake, one must already be meticulous in measuring out ingredients.  This is something I do all day in the lab and I think it’s why I don’t enjoy baking as much as I do cooking.  And after last Thursday’s attempt to make pumpkin bread, I can conclusively state that baking fracking sucks.
Let’s just list the sucky suckiness:
1.  Converting everything from cups to grams
2.  Converting from Fahrenheit to Celcius
3.  Baking soda??  What the hell is that?  Baking powder, yes, the Germans have this.  Baking soda?  What the hell is that?
4.  The 3 hours of online research required to translate all ingredients from English to German… including baking soda.
FYI — Baking powder is “Backpulver”.  It comes in little packets about the size of 2 sugar packets.  Baking soda can be hard to find, but they do have it.  It’s called “Natron”.   It also comes in little packets and you must use 2-3 teaspoons per 500g of flour (See #1)
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5.  All purpose flour??  What the hell is that?  Germans use a number system for their flour.  The closest thing you’ll get to All Purpose Flour is called “550 Mehl”.  They have all kinds of numbers to choose from.  405, 550, 600, 1100, 1200… my head is still spinning from the American/German differences on this one.
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6.  Vanilla extract??  What the hell is that?  We have vanilla beans or vanilla aroma.  You will need one vial of vanilla aroma per 500g of flour (See #1 for repeating frustration)
7.  Greek yogurt is not the same in Germany as it is in the United States.  US Greek yogurt is high in protein and low in sugar.  Germany’s Greek yogurt is like regular Danon.  The closest thing they have to greek yogurt consistency is something called Magerquark.  But, in my grocery store, it’s called Speisequark – Magerstufe.  It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  I’ve never seen so many different kinds of yogurt.
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8. Wheat flour??  Ohhhhh, you mean Weizenvollkornmehl!  That would be 1600 (see #5).
9.  Using an oven that doesn’t heat properly
What was supposed to be a 1.5 hour baking period turned in to a long nightmare.  After 2 hours of baking the bread in the oven, the middle was still gooey.  So I picked off the edges and trashed the rest.  Then I poured my 2nd batch in to muffin cups and baked those in under 2 hours.  Even after all the baking research I did on Toytown (an expat website for people living in Germany), I think I still had the Natron amount wrong.  The batter didn’t rise as I would have expected it to in the U.S.  It was komisch (weird).
OK, so almost 4 hours of my Donnerstag (Thursday) was spent doing something I don’t really enjoy.  But I learned so much and I think that alone made it worth it.
Finished product = not so good looking.  Honestly, they are fugly.  But, my co-workers seemed to enjoy them.  Or they are just being nice.  (FYI: Germans can’t fake nice.)
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Doors, Trams, Worms and the Post

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May 28, 2013:

I’ve been living in Germany for 27 days and I’ve seen and experienced a whole new world. These days have been filled with mostly amazing, a little weird and very interesting moments for me. First, the doors here are massive. this is probably why B&E’s are endangered here. Why can’t Americans just make extremely large and heavy doors to solve part of the crime problem? Also, when i think i should push a door open, it’s always a pull. When I’m certain exiting through a manual door requires a pull, it almost always needs a push. I should know that “Drücken” means push by now because it’s on every single crosswalk button, but my brain is still preoccupied with the fact that I LIVE IN GERMANY BITCHES!

Second, the trams are a bit confusing, especially if you don’t know the stop you want to get to or the stop you’re leaving from. Dresden’s Tram Map looks like an electrical wiring system and isn’t much help. To add to the confusion, when I first arrived I had no clue how to use the automated ticket machine. The Internet told me there was an English option button, but the Internet apparently lies. There is no English button. I just had to remember what I read about tariff zones, figure out I will always need to travel only 1 tariff zone and each one-way trip costs 2 euros. Oh, and don’t forget to validate the ticket! There was a DVB (or Dresdener Verkehrsbetriebe) transportation officer on my tram this morning, checking “everyone’s” ticket. I say “everyone” but I think he was targeting foreigners. Anyway, PHEW! I bought a 30 day ticket a couple of days after arriving and fighting with the non-English ticket machine. He flashed his DVB card to the guy in front of me while he was staring at me.

I looked up and said, “Mich auch?”

He understood me! It was amazing-ness. So I flashed him my fancy 30 day ticket and he said, “Danke.”

And, of course, I replied “Bitte.”

*Edit, I should have said “Meins auch?”*

Even though I probably shouldn’t have, because who’s nice to racist transportation officers? The poor Indian looking Australian sitting in front of me was reprimanded loudly for not having validated his ticket when boarding and I am pretty sure he was issued a fine as I exited at my stop. Although, the guy did seem like an idiot as he forgot his passport and had no official ID on him.

Thirdly, I do science on worms. Worms. Today I learned how to pick worm eggs off of a contaminated plate (petri dish) and put them onto a new, clean plate. I also watched under a microscope as a worm died in a bleach bath, split open and revealed it’s eggs onto my new, clean plate. So cool. Kinda morbid.

Lastly, the postman rides a bicycle (or Fahrrad in German). I had to look twice when I saw him this morning. It’s true. No car. Mail is being delivered by bike. And it’s awesome. I guess you can’t be a tub of lard to deliver mail here. Or maybe you can and I just haven’t seen the post delivered that way yet. Ich weiss nicht – I don’t know.

Das ist alles – that is all. I’m going to grab a tee or something with a co-worker at a never-before-seen-by-me cafe tonight and I’ll wake up tomorrow morning to fight more doors and kill more worms in Deutschland.