October 30, 2013

Spaghetti Ice Cream & A Driver's License


That's right. I'm an official holder of a German driver's license. Pedestrians beware.

I really expected the test to be much worse than it was. Ahem, especially considering that I didn't study. As in, at all.

Don't be like me, people.

I woke up this morning dreading the examination. I'd had nightmares of failure, with my test being used  in front of the whole post as what NOT to do. Engage complete panic mode. With this panic came nerves, grumpiness, and the desire to hide in bed with the covers over my head...

What do you mean, that's not everyone's response to stress? Don't tell me these things.


With a little advance preparation, this test would have been much easier. It's only 100 questions (multiple choice), preceded by about an hour of classroom instruction (keep in mind that the test for German citizens is quite a bit different than the one for military personnel and their dependents). One thing I heard over and over and over was to study my signs.

All those people were correct. Study your signs = priority numero uno (Yes, I know that is Spanish when I should be learning German. I think it's obvious I am woefully unprepared to be living in a foreign country, but I'm trying to catch up, I swear).

The classroom was necessary for me, simply because the instructor explained right-of-ways so much better than diagrams in a book could. And right-of-ways = priority numero dos. But the signs? Easy to study and memorize. You can find a handy, web-based version of the study guide and practice test here: USAREUR Practice Test and Study Guide.

I repeat, DO NOT BE LIKE ME.

Should you spend even a few hours studying, you will pass with flying colors. If you don't... well, hmmm. It's ok. You can take it again after 24 hours. If you fail a 2nd time, the wait extends to 1 week.

No pressure though.

When the pressure gets to me, I like to self-medicate with lots of ice cream. This is a tried and true cure, people! And since I promised to explain exactly what Spaghetti Ice Cream is in my last post, I'm here to end your torture.

Gelato shop in Parsberg, Germany

Spaghetti Eis is delicious, is what is. I've been informed by my neighbor that this is a common European dessert, and something oft missed upon returning stateside.

I already know I'm going to miss it. 

Two weekends ago, my same neighbor took the Hubs and I to Primavera in Parsberg. Sadly, the cafe closed last weekend for the winter season, so I can't have Spaghetti Eis until spring!!! Oh, the torture... 

Are you ready to know what this so-called Spaghetti ice cream actually is? Here ya go:  

Primavera's "spaghetti" menu

It's gelato disguised as our favorite pasta dishes!!! I am exorbitantly excited about this. There are all kinds of "spaghetti", and even a "lasagna". The gelato is pressed through a sieve or flattened into pasta shapes. Then, it's topped with yummy goodness, AND THEN YOU EAT IT. And then?

You might, just might, order another one. It's that good.

Left: Spaghetti Eis
Right: Whatever the Hubs ordered 

I'm pretty sure I can re-create this idea. And you can bet I'll try it once we return stateside. But in the meantime, I'll just gobble it up at the local gelato shops. And now you know... when in Europe, be sure to try a Spaghetti Eis! Whether it be regular, kiwi, or carbonara, it's all fantastic, you won't be disappointed.

I'll be back soon with an all new post about a trip the Hubs and I took last weekend to... are you ready for it? Budapest! 

Until then, happy ice cream eating (you know you want to now)!

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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October 24, 2013

The Broken Castle

Hubs and I are so excited to explore Europe whilst being stationed here. We’re starting this adventure by learning as much as we can about our local area first.

This past weekend, we hiked around Velburg with several of our neighbors. The weather is fantastic and the views are beautiful.  We even have our very own “broken” castle (as my precocious little neighbor told me). Though there are castles all around Europe, I wanted to explore here first, in the place where we will live. Castle Velberg is easily visible on the hillside, and one of the first sights I noticed driving in to town, so I was very excited to see it.

I was also worried I'd miss the fall foliage this year, but... I didn't! Check out the views from our hikes: 

The path near our home, and a shortcut through the woods

We started our weekend with an easy local hike, accompanied by our sponsor and his family. I'll be talking more about sponsors soon, in my coming OCONUS PCS posts. But I'll tell you a secret... we already copped the best one. So you might have to settle for second best, haha. We traveled off the beaten path for a bit (translation: we shlepped it through the woods), but that's where all the best pictures are!

Sunlight through the trees

On Sunday morning, the beautiful weather tempted us outside again. So off we went! This time, toward the broken castle with another of our neighbors. Have I mentioned how fantastic and friendly everyone is here in Germany?

I know the sky is a little grey in the picture below, but I've noticed something about our local weather. In the morning, there are clouds, but often they move off in the afternoon. But by evening, it could be raining again, so you gotta catch the sun while you can. Or, you can just adopt the German way, and be outside regardless of a little rain. This is going to be my approach. When you've been stationed in the desert so long, you really learn to appreciate various weather moods. Besides, what's a little rain? Toss on a slicker and some wellies, and you're good to go.

Velberg Church
The Hubs and I walked through town first, toward the trailhead, though we could have easily taken any number of paths. This is one of my favorite things so far about Germany. There are sidewalks and trails and paths everywhere. I already know I will sorely miss those things when we're stationed stateside someday. 

Trailhead to the "broken" castle 

The climb isn't too steep, at least the direction we took. Luckily, we had a new friend to help guide us on our way and point out the spectacular viewpoints. And, he didn't even mind my stopping every few feet to take more photos.

The hike is a nice weekend morning trek, only a mile or so from the trailhead. At the top, the ruins of Castle Velberg await.

Ruins of Castle Velberg 

We spent some time looking over the view, which was AMAZING. We also climbed the stairway to the topmost point of the castle. I get butterflies in my stomach when I'm high enough in the air, especially if it's open air. But the butterflies were totally worth it.

One of many views from the top 

On the way down, I decided to try my hand at a little HDR photography. I haven't practiced much, but this seemed like a great place for a little experiment. What do you think of it?

Please be gentle.

Castle door (HDR)

As the day wore on, I knew we'd have to leave sometime. The hike to the bottom was just as beautiful. I love the color change in the trees. This particular spot left me breathless. The men moved on whilst I spent a good 10 minutes here with my camera. I think next fall, I'll take a picnic right to this spot and just absorb the atmosphere for a few hours.

As evening fell, the rain came with it. Luckily, we were already done with our hike and had proceeded onward to the last adventure of the weekend... gelato!

So, so good.

Like, practically a religious experience.

The shop is actually closing for the season, so I'm glad we could taste it before then. But now I'm going to dream about it for the rest of the winter! Guess what I ordered...

Spaghetti Eis.

Doesn't sound like ice cream, does it? Sounds like dinner. But it's not! It really is gelato, I promise. However, I'm going to leave you wondering exactly what Spaghetti Eis is until our next meeting.

Mwahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! (yes, this is my evil villain laugh)

Happy guessing, my friends! I'll be back soon with pictures and an explanation of exactly what Spaghetti Eis is. If you're desperate, you could always try Google, but that kind of takes the fun out of it. Ciao!

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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October 22, 2013

A New Hometown (Again!)

After several busy weeks, the Hubs and I are finally settling into our new home. Our HHG (household goods) haven’t yet arrived, and neither has our vehicle. However, we’ve made some great new friends who are showing us the ropes. Thanks to them, our fridge is full, we have some loaner furniture and appliances from ACS, and we even have a borrowed car to get around. We’ve also tasted some of the amazing cuisine in the area (my favorite part, of course!).

There will be lots of posts coming over the next few weeks, as I get my rhythm back after this several months moving process. For now, I’d like to share some pictures of our new hometown. We love it here, and I hope you enjoy these photos and the stories that go with them.

This first shot is a panoramic of where we'll be living for the next few years... can you believe it?! Ha, me either! We love the countryside and the picturesque villages and (of course) the castles. We were surprised to be offered housing so quickly, with no wait whatsoever. I know this is often not the case, so we were very lucky.

The view from my kitchen window
Government-leased housing in Hohenfels
 We were also told that German housing is quite small, which was definitely not the case here either. I can't speak for other posts in Germany, but Hohenfels housing is roomy. Four floors, large bedrooms, and we even have a good-sized backyard. Before moving, I thought we needed to downsize, but instead I'll be purchasing furniture to fill the extra spaces (we'll get more in-depth on that topic later!).

In these first weeks, Hubs and I have explored our new town on foot. Almost everything we need is right at our fingertips. Grocery stores, bakeries, meat markets, restaurants... all that and more within easy walking distance.

Walking through one of the two remaining towers in Velburg

If you're a first timer here, I recommend signing up for the Hallo Hohenfels class offered by ACS. Not only is the instructor fantastic, but we toured the towns of Velburg, Parsberg, and Regensburg. I'm no expert (obviously), but the class helped settle some of my nerves about living in a foreign country. Plus,  it's fun!

Downtown area in Velberg

Almost every the night, the Hubs and I take a nice walk either around town or through the countryside. I love walking to the bakery and picking up a fresh baguette to serve with dinner.

Left: Local bakery Right: Hotel and restaurant 

Every downtown area I've seen so far is full of bold color and beautiful architecture. After a few quick visits, we were brave enough to explore the rest of town. What did we discover? The natives are friendly! You'd be surprised how far a smile will take you, despite language barriers. Everyone waves and says hello as we move down the streets. Some stop and chat, in a mixture of German and English. Sometimes we speak in charades, but it works. I'm excited to continue my language education so I can communicate even better (Hint: ACS often offers language lessons as well!).

Views in town 

Fall colors are all over town 

This past weekend, the weather was fantastic. Sunny skies with puffy white clouds, crisp air still warm enough for lightweight long sleeves...

The Hubs and I took advantage and hiked to the ruins above town. Or, as one my neighbors' kids seriously informed me, it's the "broken castle". You gotta love it!!

I'll be posting pictures of that hike soon, so stay tuned. The scenery was fab! In the meantime, here's one last pic from our town exploration. I couldn't resist this fella.

Random cat in a window 

I'll be back soon, peeps. I'm so happy to be connected again, I've missed you!

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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