customs

New neighbors clue me in to a German tradition I had never heard of…

Bill had to go out of town on business, so I’m spending most of the week alone. We got a bunch of Amazon deliveries yesterday– a new spool for the weed whacker, dog food for Noyzi, contact lenses for me, and two bottles of liqueurs that I was curious about trying. I thought I was finished answering the door when the bell rang again. I will admit, I was a little annoyed, mainly because I wasn’t wearing clothes that people outside of the household should see. But I answered the doorbell anyway…

It was our neighbors-to-be, whom we met on Friday night– mom, dad, and two young children. They were all dressed up, and the wife was holding a plate with what appeared to be a piece of bread on it. She said, in her heavily accented and somewhat broken English (which is still much better than my German any day), that yesterday was the first day of school, and it’s a tradition for sweet “Brezels” to be served for good luck. I think she also said that it was tradition to share the treat with a neighbor, and originally she had described what looked like a yeast bread as “cake”.

In ten years of living in Germany, this has never happened to me before, so I was unaware of the custom, but I was very moved by the gesture, nonetheless. Especially since they are going to be our neighbors as of next month! I did enjoy talking to them at our party the other day, mainly because she was born and raised in the Stuttgart area and had some rather candid opinions about her hometown that I found amusing. Let’s just say that she has the same impressions of the Swabian culture that a lot of people seem to have, and she prefers living in Hesse. Personally, I really like the Stuttgart area, but I have to agree that Hessians are stereotypically friendlier.

She presented the piece of “Brezel” to me on a lovely plate. I asked her what I should do with the plate when we were finished with it. She said I could return it when they move in next month. I am enjoying the Brezel bread for breakfast today, with my coffee. I thought it had raisins in it, too, but now that I’ve tasted it, I think they’re chocolate chips! Even better!

I posted about this surprise gift on Facebook, and my German friend– also hailing from Baden-Württemberg– was initially confused about the tradition herself. But then when I explained that the “cake” was actually Brezel, she wrote “alles klar”, and explained that it‘s customary for sweet pretzels (Brezels) to be made for the new school year, and passed out to the kids. Usually, one only sees them at New Year’s, when they are made fresh and passed out to family and friends for good luck and cohesion. However, in some areas, they also make them for St. Martin’s Day, or for the new school year, which starts in September in these parts.

Here’s a video about the New Year’s Pretzel, which I guess is the same as the pretzel handed out yesterday.

My friend asked if the bread was braided, and I wrote that I couldn’t tell, as it was only a generous sized piece of the Brezel, and not a whole one. But after a few minutes of research, she was able to find the answer for me. Now that I think about it, I believe our new neighbor’s husband’s family– who is also going to be our neighbor– is from a bit north of Wiesbaden. He brought some special beer to the party that can only be found in that area, and he and Bill bonded over it.

One of the things I like about living in Europe is that there are a lot of surprises. Most of the time, they’re pleasant surprises, like the time we lived in Jettingen and I got serenaded by three kids dressed up for Three Kings Day. They were collecting money for the Catholic church, and they were so adorable I couldn’t resist giving them some spare euros. There’s always something going on here, and so many traditions. We’re also heading into my favorite time of year, when the summer heat dissipates, and the weather gets cozy. I can stop wearing my t-shirts and Daisy Duke shorts (which I can’t pull off worth a damn), and wear pretty sweaters, scarves, and jewelry.

Hopefully, this new family will turn out to be actual friends. So far, so good. The wife even laughed at my jokes… especially when I was talking about having to leave Stuttgart early the first time and said, “I was PIIISSSED…” Come to think of it, I was probably also “pissed”, in the British sense of the word, when I was telling that story… But it’s a good sign that she wasn’t offended. 😉

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Germany, Wiesbaden, wine

When the Wine Stand delivers…

One of the things we have up here in Wiesbaden that we didn’t have in Stuttgart is the bi-weekly wine stand. Starting in March and running through October, my community allows clubs to do fundraisers in which they sell wine and food to people who congregate in the Dorfplatz. Of course, this year, that’s not possible due to the coronavirus and the need for “social distancing”. They did have one wine stand in March, but Bill and I didn’t attend because the weather was terrible.

Last week, as I was walking Arran, I noticed a sign posted on the gate of our local restaurant, the Alt Breckenheimer Stübchen. That restaurant is within stumbling distance of our house, although we’ve only managed to eat there once, because it’s always packed.

Ten euros a bottle for wine we could have been drinking at the wine stand.

A local winery was advertising for their “wine stand”, which would have been held last night, since today is a holiday in Germany (Labor Day/May Day). Schools and businesses usually close and people take long walks. Some folks observe the night of April 30/May 1 as Witches or Walpurgis Night (WalpurgisnachtHexennacht). They light bonfires and prepare the Maypoles, which in some areas, people dance around to celebrate spring…

I have not seen this in person yet… but I liked the video made by the Reflections Enroute channel.

Well… sadly, none of this is happening this year. Even Germany’s beloved Oktoberfest in Munich has been cancelled, as has the Canstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart. And we’re not having wine stands with the local Breckenheimers, either. But Bill and I did get to try some rustic local wine, which we ordered after I saw the flyer advertising it at the Alt Breckenheimer Stübchen. Last night, two chilled bottles of white wine were brought to our home. We drank one of them, then switched to an Italian red.

Bill says he thinks this wine might be what’s known as a “Landwein”, which is basically wine made by farmers. They’re usually tasty, but kind of rustic. We went to a Landwein tasting a couple of years ago, when we still lived near Stuttgart. I know the people who delivered this yesterday live nearby and either bottle the wine or produce it. They held one of the wine stands at their place last year, but we didn’t attend that one. I think we might have been out of town.

This was pretty good. It had the slight taste of apricots.

The weather was kind of yucky yesterday anyway, so I doubt the wine stand would have been too popular even if we didn’t have the virus. I was glad to see the rain. We really need it.

The added bonus to the wine delivery was that I could listen to music and pee with ease. When we do the wine stands, we either pee at the Rathaus or at home. If we pee at home, we might as well stay there. I do miss the wine stands, though, because it’s a fun way to practice our terrible German and meet new people. I enjoy watching the neighbors who have known each other for years congregating and hanging out. I’d love to see this kind of thing in the United States… once we aren’t so worried about contagion.

Germany, by the way, is doing pretty well in the coronavirus fight. Well… it’s doing better than the United States is, anyway. I miss being able to go out to lunch and tour places… I definitely have the itch to travel and to get a new dog. But in our case, the lockdown isn’t so bad. At least Bill and I still like each other. I’m also getting pretty good at giving him haircuts.

I’m amazed by how weird things have become, but Germany is starting to loosen the restrictions somewhat. Hopefully, there won’t be a huge wave of infections, now that the playgrounds and churches are reopening. Not that Bill and I hang around those very often anymore…

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