Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Moin Moin Meppen Meppen

When I first heard of Meppen (mein Mann's hometown) my only thought was that it sounded like the name of a particularly zany muppet, but over the past few years, I've had the opportunity to explore (or at least drive by) it's many New Jersey Nightclub, for example...and Jumpy's American Pizza (I am fairly sure nobody from Jumpy on down has ever been anywhere in the vicinity of America (or Italy for that matter)), and the Hotel Pöker (sounds like Puker) come to mind. OK, so I have at times struggled to really see Meppen's charming side, although the natural setting is quite nice and behind the family home there are some work horses - the really giant ones with lots of hair/fur in the winter that I really like, along with many duck couples that hang out on the main square....I really do try to like Meppen.

We went up to Meppen this month to collect a load of furniture for our new apartment and managed to squeeze in a few day trips so mein Mann could show me Emsland (the region where Meppen is situated). When we met, mein Mann told me he was from "the Iowa of Germany." Perhaps: there's a lot of farmland -- very pretty in the German way (all very precisely groomed, nary a grain out of Ordnung and to my own personal horror and dismay: not a single farmstand).

First, he showed me a bunch of piles of rocks aka megalithic graves (apparently his ancestors were very strong):

Also, a lovely mill (what's not to like about a place that has Mills listed at the top (I kid you not) of their list of tourist attractions?):

And a few nice Schlosses and (after sneaking sans passport across the Dutch border, where, by the way, we immediately encountered an adorable farm stand) to see a very nice fort.

Along with rocks and mills,

Along with rocks and mills, Emsland is also known for Schnapps production. I was particularly taken with this bottle of Hasetaler Korn, which promises a "guarantee of origin" and actually lists the names of the farmers whose wheat was used in the Schnapps' production along with the specific location of the farm!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Sorry for that little pause ... ten days in Campania, a move across town, another move (down from Meppen) and a lack of internet in the new apartment (evil landlord + German phone company bureaucracy=bad combination).

Anyway, all I can say is Amalfi Coast Aschmalif Coast. Ok, I haven't been there and it is supposed to be nice, but I am pretty sure that Cilento is all that without the nonsense (tourists, high prices...). We flew to Naples and immediately headed south to Cilento (stopping to visit the Greek ruins at Paestum and watch the sun set behind Capri from Agropoli). We hiked from village to village (with help from a few buses) ... We ate produce that was actually ripe (peaches with flavor being a rare item and infamous flavorless Dutch tomatoes being all too common in Berlin), were repeatedly pushed to gluttony by the Italian mamas at the hotels/agriturismi/guesthouses we visited, got sunburned despite having rented a beach umbrella, ate as much gelato and espresso as we could manage, spoke a lot of fake Italian (ie Spanish with an Italian-ish accent and a few Italian words thrown in for authenticity (plus the all too frequent Portuguese or Catalan word), got a lot of strange looks from the locals because we were (gasp) walking, enjoyed a lot of local plonk (mein Mann's new favorite English word) and fresh-as-can-be buffalo mozzarella, (one of us) got bitten by every mosquito in Campania (but not on the eye!), witnessed the (modern) city of Pompeii's Pompeii Idol-ish contest in the main piazza (oddly, nobody but us found the whole thing hysterical), romped around Naples eating our weight in pizza, fried zucchini blossoms, sfoggliatelle, and seafood, and (gasp) witnessed a women get hit by a car in the marketplace near our hotel (luckily it was right in front of a hospital).

And for your viewing pleasure, two of my favorite shots...
I was really into these trucks selling watermelon that we saw all over Cilento:
When trying to find a bus schedule in one small village (to get to another village across the valley that we could literally see from our hotel room), we were directed to something like a town hall -- they, like everyone else we asked) couldn't understand why we would want to go there or for the life of them tell us how to get there. While not very helpful, they were quite nice, and I particularly appreciated the bags of zucchini blossoms on the official's desk: