Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ausflug nach Dresden

A recent visitor took pity on me and left behind a copy of the New Yorker (an international subscription costs $120), which happened to contain a really interesting (although, not without serious faults that I won't go on about here) article on the city of Dresden. Dresden is only a little over an hour from Berlin by car, but somehow despite our wandering ways, we had never made the trek. A few weeks later, my Schwiegervater (aka father-in-law) made an unexpected visit to Berlin and suggested a day-trip, which, of course, we had to accept. We only got a taste of the city (along with a tiny sampling of Meissen, the nearby town, which you probably know for it's porcelain manufacture). I can, however, recommend the Residenzschloss, which houses the Grünes Gewölbe (or, Green Vault), an exhibition of the collections of the Wettin rulers. These Wettins were serious collectors and you can check out such treasures as a cherry pit with 185 faces carved into it, a massive and extremely ornate diorama of the Royal Household of the Grand Mogul, and about 1,078 other beautiful, but useless items.

I can also recommend stopping for snacks at the self-proclaimed "most beautiful dairy (store) in the world," Pfunds Molkerei. It is a bit touristy, but the dairy products were actually pretty tasty (I seem to be making a habit of visiting dairies of late, so I'm definitely qualified here). We shared an east German cheese plate (which made me wonder what the store was like during the GDR, when as I understand it, there were only a couple types of cheese available) and glasses of fresh milk/buttermilk.

In other news, it seems to have finally stopped snowing here (knock on wood): once last week I went out without a coat (!) and there are even little buds on all the trees! It's exciting. To inaugurate the change of seasons, we S-Bahned out to the Pfaueninsel where we strolled among fake ruins (very cartoonish in appearance and just plain odd) and real live peacocks (also odd, but quite nice), all of which I neglected to document, alas. There was actually a Meierei (dairy) there, too, but it was closed....luckily, we had packed our own cheese sandwiches (with pickled pepper for me and extra mustard for mein Mann) for the first official picnic of the year!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Waffeln und mehr

In our new (maybe not so new) role as Jetsetters, mein Mann and I spent the weekend in Brussels. I was there several years ago with my sister on our European Backpacking Adventure and remember rainy weather and discovering real Belgian waffles (gaufre de Liège to be specific) purchased from a stand in the subway or train station (I also remember that for some reason we (both non-French speakers) found the word gaufre quite hysterical). It was, for me, a waffle epiphany: the waffles sold all over Brussels from snack shops and carts are similar only in shape to what they call Belgian waffles in the States. These taste like caramelized brioche and there is no need for maple syrup. Actually, here I'm a purist - you can order them with whipped cream and chocolate sauce, but this only detracts from the basic deliciousness. Anyway, the flavor remained with me over the years (in my head), so I was very excited at the chance to sample them again. I think mein Mann was already sick of waffles by the time we got there as I had been talking about them so much. The waffles were every bit as good as I remembered and I'm determined to make them at home soon. But, if I'm lucky, mein Mann (who I left behind so he could hang out at NATO for a couple days) will return with one more for me... (I know they're best hot off the waffle iron, but they're really pretty good at room temperature, too.)

We did manage to eat a few things besides waffles: We started the weekend off with moules-frites and a healthy serving of Belgian customer service - when we tried to order 1.5 kilos of mussels to share (plus the frites and beers), we were told this was not acceptable and we would both have to order our own kilo, which is not exactly obscene, but is a lot of mussels (especially when you have the frites and beer and impending waffle binge to consider). Usually I try to go with the local customs, but this just struck me as too stupid so we put our foot down (sort of). They agreed to let us share if we also ordered a salad, which was mostly Belgian endive as it turned out and quite delicious.

Someone else wrote about the delicious Moroccan crepe-like wraps that you can buy at the Marche du Midi on Sunday mornings. The market itself was not all that spectacular - the kind of place you can buy your underwear, a toaster, and a case of avocados for a Euro - but the Moroccan "crepes" were really delicious and the sun came out so we could sit at the wooden tables on the side of market eating while we scarfed (the only way with these messy treats) and sipped fresh mint tea. Sorry for the bad documentation of this snack - the mob around the stand was a testament to how good they were, but posed a challenge to the tourist-photographer, and once you're holding it, there's nothing to do but eat.