A German Thanksgiving or Two

Posted on November 27th, 2011 by

Hagrid's coat is so warm

I now know what Santa does in his free time. Thanks Germany.

Oddly, being in Europe for Thanksgiving, I was actually lucky enough to have two Thanksgiving meals (neither of which were actually on Thanksgiving, but you have to be understanding when the fourth Thursday in November isn’t a federal holiday in Deutschland). On Tuesday my scholarship association was throwing a Thanksgiving dinner. I thought there’d maybe be 20 or so people there. False. It was held at a place called Amerika Haus with something like 150 to 200 Americans in attendance. I guess we like our turkey. It turns out the DAAD had partnered with the Fulbright program and some other organization. With so much money at their disposal, they were able to offer two really sweet things. First, all of the nametags had a clip option and a clothespin option. Leave it up to Germans to come up with something so handy. The second interesting/cool thing about this function, and most other university type events like this in Germany, was that there was an assortment of beverages splayed across a massive table. If you’re thirsty, just grab one. It’s a great system. Really helps facilitate the conversations with all the random people. After partaking in the interesting but slightly awkward conversations I found myself in, I located someone I had known from before. I then dined with her and her friends. Sadly, dinner was subpar. They didn’t even have stuffing (my favorite Thanksgiving delicacy; so maybe stuffing doesn’t quite make delicacy status, but it is incredible). To add to my disappointment, dessert was just baffling. One was some kind of green cake with sour icing and the other was a compact sponge cake deal which was so moist it was wet (literally, it was like the thing was sweating). I wasn’t the biggest fan.

"It's wonderful when you can open your mouth." Germany just owned you South Dakota.

On Thanksgiving itself, I had no big plans. I ate a döner (the Turkish answer to the gyro) at a small establishment near my school. After this, I headed to basketball. The little kids that have the gym before us were playing dodgeball, and it brought back memories of mowing down children at TAG while at GAC (acronyms for two hundred, Alex). Well, these two little boys are right near the center line, and one throws his ball as hard as he can at the other one. It nails boy number two right in the face. Boy two then walks off the court dejected. Face shots are totally legal in Germany. Love it.  Later, I was telling one of my fellow ballers that it was Thanksgiving. I was trying to explain how there’s a big meal and came to the realization that I knew almost none of the words required for this in German. Sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pecan pie, GMO turkey. Those aren’t the food names I learned in high school. But anyway, it was a bit odd not being in the States for something so classically American (like the 4th of July or President’s Day). At least I got to make it a week-long event instead.

My school/hospital complex seems to have various conferences that go on almost every week. This time there was one about emergency medicine. Being EMT certified back home, it was quite interesting to look at how different and similar the equipment is to that back in the States. Some highlights from my short time I spent there were listening to an AED in German (you clear when an angry German voice says clear), playing with an intubation kit equipped with a camera, and having a German show me the contraption his company came up with for fixing a broken pelvis (it reminded me of a WWF championship belt except with more elastic).

Someone stole Hagrid's coat. I'm screwed if he likes to hit up the blogs.

Friday night, I went with some of my classmates to a Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market). There are tons of these all over Berlin, but we went to one at the Kultur Brauerei. This is an old brewery that has been converted into a bunch of cool shops, bars, and clubs. Anyway, you enter through a large gateway, and it feels like you’re transported into a small German village from the Middle Ages. The music and atmosphere were perfect. There were even these huge, brown coats (look left) suspended from strings that you could put on to keep warm (as long as you were fine with looking like a marionette). Then there were all these little hut kind of places selling all kinds of random Christmas knickknacks. There were also numerous stands selling glühwein and glühbier. You may have heard of this as mulled wine. These are a version of wine and beer mixed with cinnamon and other spices served hot. It’s apparently a classic German Christmas drink. In my personal opinion, it kind of tasted like microwaved cough syrup. As the market was closing, we went to one part where they sell some kind of French pizza looking deal (couldn’t tell you the name). Unfortunately, they were sweeping and closing up shop by the time we got there. I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask though, and they had one left even though the oven was off. I asked how much it would be and he consulted his partner. Then, since it had been sitting there for a little bit, he gave it to us for free. I love Christmas time (that will probably be a common sentence in the coming weeks).

Saturday I went to my second Thanksgiving. This one was put on by the Rislov’s (the half German, half American family whose place I’ve been to a couple times now). To put it shortly, I probably won’t have to eat again until I return back home. Part of this reason may be that they had the glory that is stuffing. It really did live up to the billing too. But seeing as I had to move into my new apartment the next day, I had to head out around 8:30. As I was leaving, I was told the bus was coming in three minutes. That meant I had to run to the bus stop (not easy after consuming enough calories to sustain the Hulk). I made it just as the bus was supposed to turn up. There was this odd sign though that said something about the bus stop not working, but how does a bus stop stop working? I can’t tell you the answer to that question, but it does. As the bus approached, it didn’t even slow down and just blew past me. Fml. I then sprinted after the bus, because I was not about to walk the mile or two to the U-bahn station. I chased this thing and caught up to it right as it’s pulling out of the next bus stop. I touch the back of the bus, but didn’t get any closer. This old German man who watched this all unfold (my block and a half attempt at being Usain Bolt) just shook his head and gave me sad, knowing look that simply said, “Nice try kid. Maybe next time.” Not having the lung capacity to sprint another couple of blocks, I gave up the chase. Tack on another twenty minutes to my hour and a half journey home…

Today has been wicked busy. I’m moving into my new place, and my relatives returning to Berlin. I decided in the end to move some of my stuff into my apartment, but I thought I should stay with my relatives this last night. I made them to dinner to try and start to say thank you for giving me a roof over my head these past couple of months. Truly amazing especially considering half a year ago they didn’t even know I existed.

Hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving, avoided Black Friday injuries (or assault; pepper spray? Really?), and are enjoying the non-stop Christmas music that must be coming out of the radio. Jealous.

Hugs and hand pounds,

Hassie

 

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