Well here we are again, flying out of Haneda after midnight to do the annual Family Holiday Spectacular; New Year's 2014 was Germany (though I did do a Christmas in July post about that too lol), Christmas and New Year's 2015 was the U.S., of course, and 2016 was Germany again.
You may be thinking, hey, didn't you post about Weinachten and Silvester in Deutschland in a slightly-less-super-late fashion than this? And yes, you know what, you're right. I did that. Thing is, though, that we did an awful lot during those two weeks, and it took me forever to organise the giga-fuckton of pictures from my phone, my mom's phone, Hannes' mom's phone, my old camera, and my dank new camera, plus a couple of extras from other people thrown in, so there are still a bunch I haven't shared, and this isn't exactly chronological, as you might be noticing now that we're way back at the airport waiting for our redeye flight with a matcha soy latte and everything.
This is all about the two most excellent Christmas markets, the ten giga-fucktons of food that didn't pertain directly to one of the holidays themselves, the hangovers, and most importantly, the family time in Rostock.
My mom arrived in Hamburg a few hours before we did via Newark, and here are Hannes' awesomely nice parents waiting to meet her with a homemade sign. ...Witness! Marco smiles! This is super rare and a sign of a high crop yield and general good fortune in the coming year.
We finally got there via Dubai - which has a piece of shit airport without the infrastructure to support the large number of flights going in and out of it - looking and smelling pretty not great. But it sure was nice to hug my mom again after a rough year alternately hacking up a lung/freezing and sweating profusely in Japan.
Not only were Anke and Marco there, but a bunch of Hannes' friends were nice enough to show up, too. Lars and Solvig live in Hamburg so it might not seem like a huge deal for them to come, but they waited with Hannes' parents and my mom for hours and facilitated communication between them, and Lars did this even though he had a terrible hangover.
Part of my mom's Airbnb apartment
And what ours looked like next door
Hannes' mom is the mommiest mom I've ever been mommed by besides my own;
all of the holiday decorations were her doing. She's nuts. And amazing.
They were half-basement rooms, so this was our view in the morning
We went right out to the Weihnachtsmarkt, which encompasses the entire centre of town,
to show my mom the sights and start in on the glühwein
I had started feeling super sick in the car and spent the drive from Hamburg with my eyes closed focusing really hard on not throwing up, and well, having hot mulled wine and one of those cones of sweet roasted hazelnuts on the table there was not the most prudent series of decisions I've ever made.
Anke took a secret spy picture of us.
Or well, not that secret; Hannes is obviously used to it and unamused
But I was excited. And hungry. Nuts seemed safe. High calorie, high protein.
Everything is fine.
That's Hannes' normal face but in my case that's a "I'm realising it's not fine" face.
My mom is obviously having a great time though, and that was the important thing lol
Look at how cute the beeswax candles are! I really liked the tiny gingerbread house one (that you can't see here) and the second or third time we walked by this cart I caved and let my mom buy it for me.
Oh and they also have, like, real-life mead horns because, like, pfffft,
welcome to the frozen north y'all
I needed to sit down because I was worried I was going to pass out
and/or throw up and I didn't know in which order.
Look how cute he is though ><
Here he is trying to be nice - for whatever reason I asked for an eggnog because it sounded really good and creamy in that moment and my mom tried to stop me but I wouldn't listen.
Mom: -continues having a lovely festive time-
Me: God fuck why am I so stubborn, she was so right, eggnog was clearly a poor choice
One of those links back up at the top of this post - the last Christmas in July one, specifically - is about the first Weihnachtsmarkt I saw, which was charming af even though it was just sort of a shell of its full-blown self. Hannes had described it all to me in Korea before we left together and his parents had sent us a box with glühwein and chocolate to prepare me for the tsunami of decadence that awaited, and I was so excited. It was so wonderful and magical, that first decision to go to Germany, but I do know now that I didn't actually see a Christmas market before. They're like carnivals.
I wasn't supposed to take this picture I guess. I've noticed since that every time I see these traditional wooden ornaments, no photos are allowed. Is there, like, a cut-throat annual competition for this niche market? Are those cute stumpy angels, like, groundbreaking?
I've never seen my mom eat as much as she did during the holidays - and I mean that in a good way! She's terrible about taking care of herself and doesn't really eat or sleep. She just won't eat all day and won't notice or get hungry or feel like it. But this is right after she had Marco show her which was the nicest bratwurst to try, and she loved it.
Oh hey, we also ran into Stefan and Mandy!
(I don't know how I was still holding it together by this point, I was so miserable)
When the sun finally disappears completely - not that it's ever really fully visible
and bright - everything gets even more whimsical and charming.
(yes these are three different pics of the same thing from three different cameras)
Everyone in Germany has these, everywhere, all the time.
I can't blame them, though; they're pretty great.
So I couldn't deal with standing up and walking and interacting with other humans and smelling food smells anymore by the end of our stroll, and then proceeded to throw up all night. At first I told my mom I'd chill with her in her room and help her decide who should get which gifts she'd brought, since she'd never met any of Hannes' people before, and I really couldn't even do that. I laid on her large bed like a slug while she unpacked and separated things and then kicked off the joyful night by puking in her little bedside trash can.
It got worse and worse, and I was freezing no matter how much I curled up and how many coats and blankets were piled onto me. My mom - and remember, this was the first time we'd seen each other in a year and this was still the same day that we had arrived lol - was getting pretty worried, and I caved and asked her to call Hannes' mom, who is a nurse. I used what little German I could muster to have my mom say, "Courney is sick. Not hot. But very very cold".
Anke came with some medicine but mostly decided I needed some sympathy and that it was because of all the excitement. "No, I'm dying," I think I replied calmly. She patted me on the head.
Anyway, so, I threw up all night, and went back to our own room at some point the next morning, I think. I don't remember. I do remember sleeping on my mom's bathroom floor for part of it, though. Central air and heating are the best and I can't wait to have them again.
Hannes woke me up to ask if I felt good enough to go to the ice sculpture exhibit I talked about in the last post, but I was just kind of like, "-gurgling sounds, immediately falls back asleep for the rest of the day-".
It felt like and could only be described as food poisoning, but with no reasonable or likely cause. My digestive system is easily traumatised and changing countries is the worst thing to do to it; about a month after I moved to Korea, for example, I spontaneously became allergic to both dairy and eggs. I'd never had a problem with either before that I was aware of, though to be fair, I had only started eating eggs when I was about 20. As luck would have it, that was also right at Christmastime.
I recall vividly the fateful night it happened: I was at a little kimbap place at the foot of the steep-ass hill I lived on and then a café with my ex after I had worked the entire day that day, which was a Saturday, in a Santa coat, way the hell and gone in far eastern Seoul at an English academy's holiday event. For whatever ungodly reason the company people decided to take the worst possible way back, and it took I think about three hours. Even though I'd only been in Seoul for four weeks I'd been like, "don't drive that route, it'll just be stopped the entire way": that's how obviously terrible their decision was. I get carsick and was super hungry, but the terrible pain I felt after eating the kimbap - which has a strip of fluffy omelette in it - was pretty shocking. I told the ex it wasn't getting better and that if we didn't leave I wouldn't be able to walk up the hill. It was like being stabbed in the stomach.
After that I was terrified of having any egg and switched to black bean milk. Something similar happened here in Japan again, too, except that it lasted longer, included soy, and I had even fewer ways of dealing with it. Both Korea and Taiwan have a wide variety of bean milks, and in the case of the latter, all kinds of rice and other healthy grain milks, too.
Japan has soy milk. Plain soy milk. And plain almond milk at the actual, franchise supermarkets usually located at or outside of train stations, for about $4.50 a box. So almond milk and I got well-acquainted while I became increasingly miserable and insane, and only because Hannes was paying for it. That's the only reason I ever did gluten-free vegan here, the year leading up to this holiday trip: because everything was making me terribly sick and I had to.
You know where gluten-free vegan is not only pretty easy but also totally affordable?
Yep, no prizes for this one: fucking Germany.
So anyway, back to the main storyline!
Post-haircut selfies! Wow, was that experience needlessly frought with drama!
The "stylist" at the cheap shopping mall salon bleached the shit out of my head, seemed like she didn't know what she was doing, thought it was funny (she and the other woman helping her literally laughed at me each time they checked it and were saying things like "I guess", "we'll see", and "oh well!"), and then had to fix it after I pitched a full-blown bitch fit and made her so angry in return that Hannes had to step in and use his newly-honed professional diplomacy skills to prevent an international incident.
It was even bleachier than this initially; she had to take it down a notch with toner. Because no, bright bleach yellow and subtle dusty/ashy blonde are not the same colour at all, you ignorant slut. And at first I hated it and was super pissed and thought I looked like an 80's hooker, even after she toned it down.
But then after a few drinks I was like, "You know what, fuck it. I think I like it.
80's hooker is the aesthetic I aim for half the time anyway".
And then after a few more drinks it was selfie-ception~ ~ ~!
Nah not really. Not even the same day.
(But there were absolutely more drinks.)
Yes, more drinks and chilling out before the...
Medieval Christmas Market!
Imagine the food and festive atmosphere of the main Christmas market, but at a miniature Renaissance Faire a few small cobblestone streets over and up against the mossy mid-13th century city wall. Yaassss queen.
Yes this is an old-timey blacksmith in a leather tunic actually hand-smithing practical items
I wish I'd been able to take this pic of Krampus (and that frightening mask next to him)
with my nice new camera..
Double the mom, triple the excitement!
Red cabbage, a staple in these parts
This town crier-type actor guy made "hear ye, hear ye!"-style announcements
a couple of times
That face when you're just gazing into the fire thinking of murder because you're still sick to your stomach and you have 80's hooker hair and your jacket's not warm enough
(Hello darkness, my old friend..)
This time, though, food and drink totally helped.
Because look what I got! Rosemary potato wedges and baked
sheeps' cheese (I think?) with a bunch of herbs and tomato slices on top.
Not really sure what Solvig could be saying here that's so shocking lol
This woman singing on this ship stage was whimsical and so lovely, but I couldn't get a decent video of her and her beautiful voice because everyone kept talking at the same volume while she was performing -narrows eyes-
This woman is meant to be St. Lucia, which is more of a Scandinavian thing, just like a lot of the goings-on of this alternative, far-northern Weihnachtsmarkt. Beautiful!
And here's the series of accompanying video clips, minus the ethereal singing..
Really neat lights installed over Doberaner Platz in the center of town
After the Mittelaltermarkt we went out for drinks with Lars and Solvig.
This was the only cider I could get at.. Pleitegeier 2?
I can never remember the name of this huge multi-purpose building that houses a leftist bar.
Or maybe this one is Pleitegeier 2? lol either way, it was a nice night.
Now back to our regularly-scheduled food programming with a German-style breakfast at Hannes' parents' place, plus this lovely tofu scramble
Bottom right, see this shit? Rice toast that looks and feels like real bread,
tofu scramble, choice of nut milks.
Close-up for extra understanding of its extra-goodness
This was actually the day after that fateful haircut, when I decided I was okay with it, but I've mixed the photos up a bit.
Mom looking at the GDR photo albums exactly like I did when I first got there
That night we walked just a few buildings over from Hannes' parents' place to his friends' place for their annual holiday get-together. They (that is, Denny and Katrin) have a wee lad named Marlon who also has food allergies and general over-sensitivity, so here was yet more delicious goodness that I could nom without worrying about how sick it would make me. Turns out Denny's become a heck of a cook for his son's sake, which is like the sweetest thing ever. The oven-baked apples and fruitcake he made were really good!
They also have a ridiculous, old black pug that's even snortier than the average pug and spins in little circles excitedly when you pet him, and every time he comes back around he looks up at you like it's your fault the butt scratchies stopped. This made Hannes laugh like a joyful child, it was great.
It should also be said that, just maybe, a little bit too much to drink happened.
At the organic supermarket to pick up a few things and look at the cheese
look at the prices
In the front the have little cases of prepared food, including - hey! Including onigiri?!
And this entire section of cake and pastries is gluten-free. Hrrnnngg
I got that one top center, the "little almond-banana-boat" and a fair trade soy espresso.
I'm the kind of person who usually needs to eat something in the morning to quell acid reflux and general stomachacheyness, but I regretted that lovely, rich, gluten-free and possibly vegan? boat square because this was where we went next, for lunch. Oops.
Hannes and I had come to this restaurant before during a walk along the harbour in the centre of town, but just for a drink and to share something small.
I'm pretty sure my mom is literally deliriously happy here
Red beet soup, which was absolutely delicious
The veggie platter, which I barely got through half of before I felt like I was going to pop. Those eggroll-looking things on the left are little potato fritters, soft and fluffy in the middle, and that on the right is goat cheese.
It's pretty much everything you want from an old German brewery restaurant
Charming af once again, right?
Another spiky star decoration outside, except this one was
more of an installation/statue and changed colour.
I mean, yeah, it's cold. The Baltic is very windy and cold.
lol ok Veggiman maybe once I live in a place with real, actual supermarkets again
Then, we did the unthinkable. We stopped at the the Schokoladerie.
Such rich, glorious truffle flavours.. but mostly I like looking at them all stacked and lined-up.
Aw, Legos! Such a choking hazard, so cute!
Attractive DeviantArt-esque illustrations on these chocolate bars lol
Marzipan is everywhere here, and marzipan pigs are lucky. Well, not this one.
Noticing his leg on the counter there made me lol irl.
Sigh, we ordered cake. They ordered coffee. I ordered a hot chocolate with vodka in it.
Urgh god, so charming ><
I believe that's rumkugeln, the cake that's basically a giant rum-filled truffle.
And the hot chocolate was even more obscene than you're likely thinking; it was like molten gold, but richer. Richer I say. While this was amazing, it did genuinely make me want to die lol
More attractive packaging at the wine shop Anke wanted to stop at on the walk back..
These beers were actually just at our local Edeka. Love it
Now we're getting to the latter part of the two weeks, when the deliciousness and relaxation was soon to come to a close.. but not before Hannes' dad made loads of kartoffelpuffer.
These are fried potato pancakes, kind of like if hash browns were grated more finely, and in some cases with flour added for lightness and fluffiness.
Nico, Andrea, and Hanna came, because they love kartoffelpuffer.
Ohh yes, fancy new camera. You could tell the photos were suddenly better, right?
Also, these potatocakes are eaten with sugar and/or applesauce. I also have plum jam on mine.
We spreadses the maple syrups on the Precious, yeessssss
My mom really liked them, too. I mean, like, who doesn't like potato-based foods, really.
Anke piled these little cups of sorbet onto the table and we were all like, noooo queen. But it was clear that we were going to have to eat them. We all did our best, but then realised that we could just push them all over to Nico, who can put plenty of food away and still be as slim and fit as ever.
It's pretty adorable when he feels guilty about it and has the ever-so-slightest of food baby pooches though, haha.
After kartoffelpuffer we drove over to Hannes' grandma's apartment, the one Marco grew up in. Well, actually, after the wall came down she moved to another one in the same building, but obviously she has all the same stuff. On the way there we stopped to take a look at the city's old water tower, because look at this thing.
Hannes and I didn't get around to seeing it when we spent two months in Rostock between Korea and Japan because it's pretty out-of-the-way, so it became a minor agenda item to be checked off.
Yeah, Edith's apartment is freaking adorable. I had nearly lost my mind over it the first time she had us over and regretted way too deeply that I didn't have a camera on hand then. Thankfully, she was just flattered that I found it so charming, as opposed to thinking I was weird and crazy.
-struggles to muffle and contain stupid noises of admiration-
Look at this old-fashioned probably-Russian tea service thing!
Aw, hey, that's not vintage! It's Hannes as a wee ginger babby teenager! Aww.
Yas fruit liqueur served in adorable fluted glasses that she gave me as we left!
I tried to stop her but she insisted. It was very sweet.
And of course, more looking at family photos
(Don't mind me, I'm just the friendly neighbourhood stalker person casing your lovely home)
There are community gardens down there and to the right, as well, but Edith no longer has one as she wouldn't be able to maintain it properly. Like literally everyone else at literally every other similar opportunity, she said at this point, "Ohh, aber im Sommer, ist es sehr, sehr schön!"
Well, finally, we're coming to the end of our very fattening, carby, drunken, wonderschön German holiday extravaganza.. But of course there was one more brunch with the parents first.
Such spreads. Many good. Very hummus. So guac. Wow.
Marco even cooked up some of the leftover carrot and sweet potato thing from Christmas for me :B
And he had this horrible traditional thing of, like, pureed raw meat covered in minced onions?
I can let that go, though. Mostly it's just great how the table is completely covered in stuff. Very flavourful stuff. And honestly, very fresh and healthy stuff.
Leftover nut bread (that my grandma had sent), gluten-free vegan fruitcake, etc.
with the coffee that came later
And then we nearly lost Hannes, because he had gone out drinking with Ivanhoe the night before and I'm pretty sure the town was flat out of whiskey by the time they were done. Good times.
And lastly, I'll leave you with this: all of the groceries and treats (and medicine) we got from our parents and that we had to tell Anke and Marco to pick up and take back to their place. Hannes' mom, being the momliest mom alive, was like, "Ohh, you didn't even eat any of this!"
When would we have eaten it, Anke?!