04 June 2010


30 May 2010

The EU Bacon Fiasco

Two days ago in my Berlin grocery store, I was flustered to find my usual brand of bacon was AWOL. It's not exactly bacon as we know it in the U.S., but it's pretty close.

Chagrined, I peered closer. A different brand was there. The package advertised itself as "Bacon, English style":

Woo hoo, I thought. Our cousins across the pond must have bequeathed to us Americans our bacon inheritance. I'm in luck!

Flash forward to this morning. Here I am, 10 minutes later, waiting for this "English bacon" to turn brown on the edges and a deeper red/brown in the middle.

Eventually I gave up and ate it.

It tasted like ham. Not bacon.

At first, I thought I should entitle this post "England, your pigs are weird."

Then I realized that the English, though they might very well have weird bacon, may not be responsible for this batch.

I took a closer gander at the package:

I know this may not be definitive proof, but this looks to me like prima facie evidence of Germans seeking to imitate Anglo bacon. Especially if producers are wary of British cows after the mad cow thing several years ago.

This is not my first run-in with German meat issues.

When I first got to Berlin two years ago, I didn't have my kitchenware yet, so I headed off to a quasi-steakhouse called "Maredo."

I have since learned that Maredo is an omnipresent chain with dubious quality beef, and thus rarely a place to find a decent steak. But Maredo did teach me something useful.

Hoping to get one medium rare, I asked my waiter what the word for "rare" is, auf Deutsch.

Response: "Englisch."

Which, as you can see, speaks volumes about the inclination of everywhere Continental but France and Belgium (and arguably Spain and Italy) to disrespect a filet or ribeye. (Yes, I imagine there are fantastic German chefs in Berlin who know what to do with your filet mignon, but I'll bet three digits of euros that you'll have to pay for the privilege.)

So resign yourself to your Wurst and Schnitzel.

There is hope, however. Berlin does have an American-owned burger/steak joint that gets fantastic American beef. That would be "The Bird" Cafe, up in Prenzlauer Berg, with some of the funniest, most irreverent menus you've seen (not for the easily offended).

I'm just happy you can profit from my travails as an American carnivore.

28 May 2010

Hotels and their towels

You know how every hotel these days has their ecological bathroom sign? The one that tells you that washing hundreds of towels every day with detergent is hell on waterways and the environment, such that if you don't want them to wash your towels, you should hang them up to signal further use?

Trying not to be too environmentally unconscious, I've been hanging them up for years.

Without exception, in every hotel in every country I visit, I've always found new, washed towels sitting nicely on the bar or shelf when I come back later that same day.

Maybe it's too expensive to train the staff to read the sign?

24 March 2010


Or rather, the cathedral. Detours to Dachau kept me from doing the charge up the stairs to the top. But it's worth a stop, even if you lodge yourself in horrible traffic on the Autobahn afterwards and find yourself looking for hotels that closed well before 10 PM. ;-)

22 March 2010


Heading out of Munich last year, we indulged a whim. Perhaps not the wisest whim, one day after the libations of Oktoberfest, but always an educational, if draining experience. Dachau is not far away, and visiting it some 30 years ago seared itself into my memory. It needs no introduction - what information you need is a Google search, Amazon order, or trip to the library away - so here you are.

06 March 2010


Continuing on down the road from last year, we made the obligatory pilgrimage to the largest Oktoberfest I know of. The heck with taking photos of a giant amusement park with liter tankards worthy of serious arm curls, and non-Bavarian women in tourist dirndls that are way too shiny for any credible folk tradition. I thought it better to stick with a few more impressive sites and atmospheres:

First, the famous Neues Rathaus:

And, if you are there at 11 AM or 12 PM sharp, you are treated to the Glockenspiel, where courtiers dance, heralds trumpet, some foolish kids get hitched in bonds of holy matrimony, and...

...one hapless Don Quixote takes his daily thumping from some other passing hooligan on a drive-by:

Around the corner, you can stop off for lunch at a certain HofbrÀuhaus...

...where a band in traditional dress uncorks the tunes in the room where the Nazis of the early 1920s used to drink and hatch putsch ideas. Eh, whatever, the food's pretty good, and so is the beer.

And the atmosphere is frankly far better on a clear October day when you're on the outside terrace.

OK, if you really must have a picture of Oktoberfest, here you are. It really is a 2.5 kg curl for the arm. Who says the drinking hordes are lazy?

Next Oktoberfest when I get back to Germany, I'm headed to a smaller town with less amusement park and more Deutsch in it.