A Change Brewing?

Tea is as synonymous with the United Kingdom as the Queen of England herself. However, new figures show that Britain’s love affair with tea may soon be going the way of the dinosaur. Every year since 2011, the amount of tea sold in British supermarkets has declined. Not only has it declined, but the amount of decline has roughly doubled every year. The amount of tea sold in 2013 was down over 6% compared to 2012.

Closing the gap. Google searches for coffee (blue) in the United Kindgom have grown to match searches for tea over the past 7 years.

Closing the gap. Google searches for coffee (blue) in the United Kindgom have grown to rival searches for tea over the past 7 years.

At first glance, it would seem crazy that Britain could turn its back on its most prized export. After all, in 1773 Boston patriots organized the Boston Tea Party and not the Boston Coffee Party. But this is 2014, not 1773. The worldwide expansion of American fast food chains (I’m looking at you, Starbucks) as well as a global society that’s increasingly always on the go has caused a sea change in British caffeine consumption habits.

Starbucks is fueling Britain's growing love for a cup of joe. The company now has over 730 stores and 12,000 employees since opening the first British cafe in 1998.

Starbucks is fueling Britain’s growing love for a cup of joe. The company now has over 730 stores and 12,000 employees since opening their first British cafe in 1998.

As tea sales have plunged at the supermarket and tea rooms, coffee sales have increased at a proportional rate in general and at a nearly exponential rate in public. The change is most dramatic on Britain high streets, where coffee sales hit the £1 billion mark in 2013 compared to only £480 million for tea. In fact, the coffee sector in the United Kingdom is growing at a rate 7 to 8 times faster than the British economy itself.

This news hasn’t gone over well with at least one person in the UK’s blogosphere. Emma Sturgess, in the Word of Mouth blog with The Guardian stated that it was “hard to swallow” Britain’s growing love for coffee.

The Americans may have had a big hand in introducing espresso to the Brits, but it is now a new wave of British entrepreneurs that are cultivating a distinctly British coffee culture. In much the same manner that happened in the United States in the 2000s, independent cafes are popping up all over the country. Not only do Brits want coffee. They want good coffee that’s just as meticulously prepared for them as their beloved tea. Urban blogger Peter Thomson has taken advantage of Britain’s growing coffee scene as a way to explore new parts of London. Other coffee aficionados have turned into teachers as interest in the art of making a latte has grown.

Perhaps Britain’s growing love affair with coffee is the final revenge of the Boston revolutionaries that gathered at the Old South Meeting House and planned the Boston Tea Party. One thing that is certain, however, is that the interconnectivity of today’s world will continue to alter traditional cultural values and tastes. We are becoming one giant, global melting pot.

Reinheitsgebot: Holding Germany Back?

The average American associates Germany with three things: Nazis, cars, and beer. The most important of these is obviously the last.

Reinheitsgebot original text

Reinheitsgebot Original Text

Many brewers in Germany, especially Bavaria and the south, brew their beer following an almost 500 year old tradition called Reinheitsgebot (“purity law”). This law was created by Albert IV, the Duke of Bavaria, and it stated that beer could only contain three ingredients: water, barley, and hops.

If you’re a brewer or if you know anything about fermentation then you’ll notice a VERY important and vital ingredient is missing – yeast. This is because the law was created before Louis Pasteur’s germ theory proved that microorganisms like yeast existed. Brewers at the time simply mixed the three Reinheitsgebot ingredients together in what I expect were fairly unsanitary conditions and then mother nature did the rest. Nonetheless apparently 79% of Germans want to put the Reinheitsgebot on the UNESCO world heritage list, according to the Deutscher Brauer-Bund.

While it’s interesting that brewers were able to make beer with any form of reliability under those conditions, what is even more interesting, in fact astounding, is that they can still get away with brewing beer whose main ingredients are only barley and hops.

Despite Germany’s brewing-fame, the American craft brewing scene is a few leaps and bounds ahead of the game.

Barley and Hops

It is characterized by fascinating combinations of undeniably unrein ingredients. A local microbrewery in Columbia offers beers brewed with chili peppers, chocolate, flowers, raw fruit, and salt, not to mention far more conventional ingredients like wheat and rye.

I think the reason that Germany’s craft brewing scene is so much smaller than one would expect is because of it’s inability to move beyond the Reinheitsgebot. However, that isn’t to say that there are no German craft brewers.

Bavarians may be more conservative and traditional (I’m talking about beer not politics here), but the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung says there has been a “Mega-Ansturm” of microbreweries in the northern half of the country, especially in large metropolitan areas like Berlin, Hamburg, and the Ruhr.

These German craft brewers are taking a leaf out of the American scene’s book by brewing with increasingly unique ingredients, and also seem to be tapping into the mentality of brewing good, wholesome beers. The Hopfen Helden blog recognizes one Berliner microbrewer as an “artist-slash-brewer.”

Nonetheless, many still brew at least some of their offerings in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot, and there is undoubtedly a stigma against those that don’t follow the old laws. While Germany may be internationally known for brewing good beer, within the country it’s the Bavarians who are known for brewing only reines beer.

Yeast – the missing ingredient

Finally, although the Reinheitsgebot may be keeping German brewing medieval, there is something to be said for the tradition it has set. German beer styles are ubiquitous across the world and the almost all traditionally follow the purity law. And from a technical standpoint it remains an impressive feat to brew such a wide variety of styles with only three ingredients. In any case, it’s refreshing and exciting to see German microbrewing gain some traction and begin to express itself and it will be even more exciting to see how this creativity continues to interact with the Reinheitsgebot.

For a number of fascinating and well-articulated views on the Reinheitsgebot (and only if you understand German) check out this talk: http://www.bier-deluxe.de/blog/leading-beers-talk-2013-zum-reinheitsgebot

Against All Good Taste: New-age Music’s Global Reincarnation

To ensure the proper state of  mind for reading this post, find a comfortable chair, do some deep-breathing exercises, and let it all go. We’re about to get mellow.

At the end of last year, the fantastic reissue record label Light in the Attic put out the wonderfully blissed-out I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990, compiling twenty new-age composers, both well-known and obscure.

I should note that well-known is an extremely relative term when speaking of New-Age music, a genre generally cast aside as being boring, cheesy, and generally laughable. Auftouren argues that “Spätestens seit dem Italo-Revival ist „cheesy“ kein klares Schimpfwort mehr,” that is, “Since the Italo-revival, ‘cheesy’ is no longer an insult”. Take a look at Giorgio Moroder, father of Italo-Disco:

Giorgio Moroder, father of Italo-Disco

Giorgio Moroder, father of Italo-Disco

If Giorgio is no longer cheesy, then it follows that nothing else can ever be cheesy ever again.

Anyway, I feel like New-Age music as a whole is grossly misrepresented in the public imagination. Die Presse makes the argument that “New-Age” tends to be a pseudonym for poorly-produced soundtracks, used to dress up pseudo-spirituality, and I’m sort of required to agree. But you don’t have to buy into all of the metaphysics of it in order to appreciate it.  The point isn’t to be catchy, nor to be popular, but rather to be meditative and serene, and if you don’t like it, then get out. New-Age musicians wouldn’t put it that way, though. They’d be a lot more mellow about it.

Iasos would be especially mellow in telling you to chill out and enjoy the music

Iasos would be especially mellow in telling you to chill out and enjoy the music

So, if an American compilation of New-Age music is getting German-language press– favorable press at that, then what is the German connection? It’s a story that goes back to the heady days of 1960s West Germany, where people were taking loads of drugs and messing with huge synthesizers. German groups like Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel are the direct progenitors of New-Age music worldwide, and I dare you to listen to Ashra’s New Age of Earth  without being swept away on waves of synthetic bliss.

In response to the publication of I Am the Center, the New York Times ran an interesting post entitled “For New Age, the Next Generation“. It’s well worth a read, but I’ll summarize for you here: New-Age music and German progressive electronic music of the 1970s and 1980s has crossed the pale of “cheesiness” into the safe harbor of popular appeal.

The Times includes a quote from I Am the Center mastermind Douglas McGowan, and I’d like to use it to close out this post.

“Getting away from the noise of society is such a central idea in that space is silence and nothingness and emptiness…Once you wrap your head around nothingness as being a virtue, it becomes so much easier to appreciate the music on its own terms”- Douglas McGowan

Maybe we should all just get away from the noise of work, traffic, the kids, what have you, and slip on some headphones and embrace wonderful, peaceful, beautiful nothing.

Olympics Commercial Says Games Have Always Been Gay

There’s no doubt security was one of the biggest concerns at this years Winter Olympics. However, Russia’s anti-gay policies were likely one of the most widely talked about topics, both before and during the games. But whether Russian President Vladimir Putin likes it or not, some would argue the winter games have always been a little gay.

That’s according to the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion. The organization published this ad to play up the homoerotic nature of the luge.

The 2014 Winter Olympics came under huge scrutiny when Putin passed his anti-gay legislation last year. It bans the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors,” and essentially limits the rights of the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people.

The CEO of CIDI told Global News:

“We like to focus on humour, yet at the same time really send a strong message about the need for inclusive behaviours in something like the Olympic Games.”

The CEO says the response to the video has been overwhelmingly positive. Not to mention, its gone viral with nearly 6 million views.

One blogger from Slovenia wrote:

“Oh, Canada, you’re so diverse and inclusive. I like that about you … Take that, Putin.”

Others, like a writer for Liberty Voice, say the company could’ve gone with a a tune that did a better job of suggesting the “wonderfully gay core of the 80s.” Charles Mudede, a contributing writer for Slog said the following might have been better.

Either way, I think humor is the best way to go when tackling such a sensitive topic. The ad makes you at least chuckle, while highlighting the need for the Olympics to remain inclusive of everyone.

Dancing in the Straßen

Listen closely. Do you hear the drums and horns marching over the horizon? Those are the sounds of Germans preparing for Fasching, or Lent as Americans know it. Parades are one of the cornerstones of this week-long celebration. Germans take off work and celebrate merrily in the streets, while taking part in and watching any number of munificent, city-wide parades.

2 girls in parade costume

Two girls in parade costume

Coming up in a few days is the mother of them all, Rosenmontag (Montag=Monday) or Rosenmontagsumzug (Monday parade). Most people believe it translates to Rose Monday, but the actual meaning comes from the German verb rasen – to rush, rave, or boogie. With a name like Rage Monday you can imagine the atmosphere and the fun that ensues.

Rosenmontag in Cologne

Rosenmontag in Cologne

Seven paper heads in a cologne parade

‘Seven Paper Heads’ in a Cologne parade

As February draws to a close, the Catholic calendar draws nearer to Lent, the English version of Fasching or Karneval or Fastnacht, depending on which region you’re in.

Different names, same celebrations

Different names, same celebrations

The idea originated as far back as the 5th century as an apostolic institution, but its practice and the rites that go along with it have since changed many times over, as you can see here in a slightly Americanized version:

Americans in Soulard, St. Louis, Missouri

Americans in Soulard, St. Louis, Missouri.

Soulard is largely believed to be the second biggest Fasching event in America, behind Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The customs between the countries are wholly different, but the idea of feasts and festivities before the fasting season is the same. If you find yourself in Germany as the Lenten season starts, you are sure to find local parades and festivities, but most will say the biggest celebrations take place in Düsseldorf, Cologne, and Mainz.

Women celebrating Weiberfastnacht

Women celebrating Weiberfastnacht

This year, Fasching kicks off on February 27th with Weiberfastnacht, which is traditionally a women’s holiday in northern regions. Throughout the day, women will snip off men’s ties (a status symbol) then reward them with a Bützchen, or little kiss. What a way to kick off the weekend.

Traditional tie-snipping

Traditional tie-snipping

The whole city then celebrates all weekend before the big parades on Monday, March 3rd this year.


Rosenmontagsumzug in Köln

The next and final day is Fastnachtsdienstag on Tuesday. There aren’t many parades on this day, most of the focus is around either burying or burning der Nubbel, a life-sized doll built to symbolize the collective excesses or transgressions of the past season. Curiously enough a native German told me she’d never heard of this event. It’s celebrated in the western half of the country near Cologne and Mainz, so it’s evident there are different traditions throughout Germany. The scapegoat as it were is burned or buried Tuesday evening and everyone celebrates one last time before Aschermittwoch, or Ash Wednesday, the official start of Lent.

Der Nubbel before he's burned

Der Nubbel before he’s burned

Suffice it to say, there’s no shortage of camaraderie and celebration this week every year. It’s my goal to see at least one Rosenmontagszug before I die, as it should be for you too.

One thing I didn’t mention is the style of all these parade floats. Their nature ranges from political to downright raunchy, especially in years past, as Cologne parade marshal Christoph Kuckelhorn notes in this interview from Der Spiegel Online (complete with pictures!):  Der Spiegel Panorama









Is Less Face Time More Effective For News?

Newscasts in the United States rely heavily on made-up men and women with deep, enticing voices to present the best, most current news to viewers across the world.

NBC's Brian Williams

NBC’s Brian Williams

NBC Nightly News‘ Brian Williams is the face, voice and main icon for the network, representing one of the most reliable sources broadcasted on television. Audiences trust him, interpreting news through expressions and tone.

However, this does not seem to be the case when it comes to news-watching on Deutsche Welle (DW), a global media forum featuring multiple languages like German – if you couldn’t already tell by its name. Watching DW’s live stream was visually stimulating, but not in the way Americans are used to.

DW's Brent Goff

DW’s Brent Goff

I watched “Germany Today” followed by “The Journal,” along with newscasts by DW’s main presenter Brent Goff. Notice I said “presented” rather than “anchored.” Normally, when you watch a U.S. newscast, an anchor like Brian Williams welcomes you and leads viewers through the show. The segment “Germany Today” merely started with the male presenter saying, “Here’s what’s happening today,” and the newscast was off.

Interestingly enough, I spoke with Goff through Facebook, and he agreed with he differences in U.S. and European news anchors, especially since he’s an MU grad as well. DW’s newscasts are extremely informational, but again, less personable.

A “package” is what broadcast journalists refer to as a story with video, interviews and the reporters voice speaking over it all. DW’s newscasts generally consisted of package after package, along with other national stories presented as voice overs layered on video. Click here for an example of one of my own, published for KOMU-TV in Columbia, Mo.

Those packages and stories were broken up only by music sounds and transitions. We don’t see the presenter’s face at all, whereas Willams gets face time every 30 seconds to two minutes, depending on the story.

Now, DW produces newscasts more similar to what we’re used to in the states as well, but the fact that other faceless shows also exist is intriguing. Below is a DW newscast that uses more anchoring like a Nightly News segment, showing Goff’s Missouri roots.

While the anchors lead the show more in this example, I still don’t find them as conversational as I’ve been taught (trying) to be. Feel free to check out one of my newscasts below. I’ve been working on facial expressions and tone to improve my delivery of the news.

If you’re not sad during a sad story or express any inappropriate expressions while anchoring, audiences lose faith and respect in you, just like that. However, if you master these methods, the rapport you establish with your viewing area can benefit you and skyrocket your show up the ratings.

I’m wondering what is more appealing to viewers because many people do relate to local and national anchors, feeling like they’ve grown up with them or known them for an extended period of time. Without that face time, you lose the personal element of the news, even if it may be distracting during a flub, at the very least.

DW presents the facts just like U.S. networks do, but I wonder what actually suits audiences better and provides the best platform for news consumption. There are so many positive reviews of DW online that I had trouble finding any other opinions out there about its coverage.

Street Wars: Bombing Germany


When I first went to Europe, one of the highlights of my trip was the graffiti sprayed liberally across walls, buildings, train cars, and every other feasible surface. Impressive as the completely redecorated Swiss train stations were, the most beautiful and detailed street art was without a doubt in Germany.

Trier: ancient cultural home of Romans and giant beavers.

As German-Way Expat blogger HF points out, it’s no surprise that Germany should be so decorated; it was, after all, home to one of the biggest graffiti canvases in history for almost thirty years. But with the loss of the political and ideological focal point that was the Berlin Wall, modern German graffiti has taken a somewhat different turn.

“Street art is about the audience,” says Graffiti Action Hero. “Graffiti Tagging is about the tagger.” Unfortunately for modern Germany, the latter has, without a doubt, become the more pervasive. Trains in particular seem to be popular targets, with German railway Deutsche Bahn reportedly doling out millions annually to graffiti removal.


A little owl tag hanging out on a wall in Trier, Germany.

That said, das Bombing (as the Germans say) has begun to develop its own new culture entirely.

Groups such as Graffiti Research Lab Germany (GRLG) have found ways to combine the activism of graffiti with the simplicity of tagging by using technology to intervene in public space. Instead of writing on rooftops, they make their mark through digitized “light-bombing”, or through so-called “throwies.” As the name suggests, these are small adhesive objects found in various forms, and may be thrown at buildings and city structures, as opposed to more traditional spray paint bombs.

Whatever form it takes, bombing Germany doesn’t seem like it’s going to end any time soon. As the New York Times points out, “Graffiti may be vandalism, but it is also celebrated as street art and even regarded as an integral component of Berliner Strassenkultur.”

Maslenitsa, another Russian festival you’ve probably never heard of

Out with the old and in with the new! The celebratory burning of The Maslenitsa doll symbolizes the end of a harsh winter and the coming of a fruitful spring.

Out with the old and in with the new! The celebratory burning of The Maslenitsa doll symbolizes the end of a harsh winter and the coming of a fruitful spring.

Mass consumption of thin, buttery, crepe-like pancakes. Folklore and traditional costumes. Drinking, singing, and dancing. Sleigh rides and snowball fights. The burning of a scarecrow-like figurine dressed in women’s clothing.

What’s not to love, right?

These activities are all characteristic of an annual Russian festival called Maslenitsa (roughly translated to Butter Week/Holiday).

This holiday has roots in both paganism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity and is celebrated the week before Great Lent begins. For people who are avid believers in the Orthodox religion, this is the last week that they can consume any type of meat, fish, dairy, or eggs, as it is forbidden for the entire length of Great Lent.


Freshly fried blini stacked high!

Because of this religious tradition, it’s not a surprise that, arguably, the most important part of Maslenitsa is the mass consumption of blini. Blini, or blitzes, are ultra-thin, crepe-like pancakes made from mixing flour, eggs, and milk (recipe to follow). These blini are then fried in butter, stacked on top of each other (with more butter in between the layers), and are then stuffed or served with a wide range of options like meats, cheeses, potatoes, mushrooms, sour cream, jams, caviar, etc. The possibilities are endless. The blini is supposed to be a representation of the sun, hence why they are the top choice for a festival celebrating the coming of springtime.

Sounds delicious? It is. Blini are an absolute Russian staple and every family makes them differently, whether it’s using kefir (a fermented milk drink) instead of milk, using buckwheat flour instead of white or wheat flour, or mixing a bit of sunflower oil into the batter itself to make the flavor a bit richer (a personal favorite of mine, yum!).

Okay, where were we again? Oh yes, Maslenitsa. Although the blini take center stage, there is so much more to the holiday. In ancient Slavic mythology, Maslenitsa was celebrated to signify the end of winter and the blossoming of springtime (hence the pagan roots). The burning of the lady scarecrow made out of straw is supposed to symbolize the awakening of spring and all of its life-giving glory. And, like many other Russian holidays, especially ones occuring during the winter months, celebration always includes a nice shot of vodka (or 6) or a cup of medovukha (a honey-based alcoholic drink similar to mead) to keep you warm.

Celebrating the Russian way--with lots of vodka.

Participants keep warm in the snowy climate by sipping some vodka.

When Maslenitsa was celebrated during the time that the entirety of Russia was still known as Kievan Rus, young single guys would ride around on sleighs in order to be on the lookout for beautiful single girls. This apparently made the matchmaking process easier and paved the way for these new couples to marry on Krasnaya Gorka (translated as the Red Hill holiday, the Sunday after Easter).

I wish that I could include some warm childhood memories of the celebration of Maslenitsa from my childhood in Russia, but, it just so happens that Maslenitsa was vastly not celebrated during the entire length of the Soviet regime and for many years afterward. Russians now celebrate Maslenitsa by keeping old traditions and introducing new ones into the mix. A fellow blogger, Olga Arakelyan, writes that in some modern Maslenitsa celebrations, people are invited to write down their worries on a piece of paper and stick them on the Lady Maslenitsa so that when she is burned, so are your troubles!

According to the “Voices from Russia” blog, Moscow’s Gorky Park will feature a Maslenitsa festival this year. However, Eileen from “From Russia With Love” states that she has not seen any large city-wide celebrations in her current city (and my hometown) of Rostov-On-Don. She believes that the larger celebrations tend to be in the rural areas rather than metropolitan cities.

Traditional Russian songs, festivals, etc. are making a comeback in recent years and the celebration of holidays like Maslenitsa are a fun and unique way to celebrate Russian culture.

All bundled up, a group of Russian kiddos getting ready for a sleigh ride.

All bundled up, a group of Russian kiddos are getting ready for a sleigh ride.

Maslenitsa doesn’t just occur in Russia, however. Every year, Mizzou’s very own Nicole Monnier, the director of Undergraduate Studies in Russian, holds a “blini night” in her home in order to celebrate this delicious holiday with the Russian community and Russian studies students of Columbia. This year, she says, she will be expecting about 50 people.

I was going to include a recipe for my very own version of blini, but upon realizing that I never use precise measurements when I make these (I prefer to simply throw the ingredients in the bowl and taste-test the batter to make sure it’s the perfect consistency and right contrast of salty and sweet), I have decided to include a link to a recipe instead.

Whether you’ll be burning a scarecrow on a Russian field or simply frying up some blini in your 9×8′ Columbia kitchen and stuffing them with fried potatoes (me), I hope you find a way to celebrate this ancient holiday. Приятного аппетита!

Europeans and Trains: A Love Affair

High Speed Train


Europeans are all about traveling by trains. If the sheer number of train tracks criss-crossing the continent isn’t enough proof, all one has to do is look at hashtags for any of the major European train lines. Take #Eurostar for example:




That is a lot of train love… and it isn’t just a fling.

Eurostar Patrons are feelin' the love at one of the many Eurostar stations. Photo courtesy of @ppparis.

Eurostar Patrons are feelin’ the love at one of the many Eurostar stations

Contrary to popular belief, trains were not solely popularized by their role in the Harry Potter series. Locomotives choo-chooed into the scene roughly 171 years before Harry met Ron on that fateful September day. The first mechanized railways appeared in England in the 1820s, and kick-started the industrial revolution across the world.


While the metropolitan rail system was being developed rapidly in London, continental Europe began to expand their rail services, starting in Belgium. For many countries, the development of the railways was a tool used to improve their economic and social systems. The French hoped that their rail system would bring about social modernization in some of the more rural areas. Germany’s aims were to strengthen the nation as well as promote industrialization.


Although the industrial revolution has come and gone, trains continue to rule the tracks. With the advent of high-speed trains, one minute you can be French kissing a stranger under the Eiffel Tower, and ogling Prince Harry at a polo match only two hours later. All this, without ever having to leave the ground. In fact, 81% of travelers prefer to ride the rails rather than take to the air when going from Paris to London. Millions of Europeans take advantage of this and journey billions of kilometers every year. France alone carries 54.72 billion passenger miles per year.


By choosing to take the train, passengers can choose when and where they want to depart from, similar to air travel. Although unlike air travel, passengers do not have to deal with as many rigid restrictions and can enjoy amenities like sleeping cabins and dining areas. Yet neither planes nor trains have developed an effective system for ejecting crying babies from the vehicle, a problem that consistently plagues both types of transportation.


There are a lot of miles of high speed rails in Europe... and the number is only growing.

The number of high-speed rails zooming across Europe continues to grow faster and faster, just like the trains that ride them.

Despite the fact that the last time many Americans rode a train it was in the mall, 10 or 20 Christmases ago, the United States is actually ranked first in the world in railroad miles. In the United States, trains are most commonly used for cargo transport, rather than human moving.


The widespread nature of the US  just doesn’t operate the same way that it does in condensed Europe. Its not surprising that most people would rather take a two-hour train ride from Paris to London than bear the 37-hour journey from Minneapolis to Seattle. Having cities closer together and numerous high-speed trains that connect them make travel seem a little less daunting and a lot more doable.



Throughout the years and numerous technological innovations, trains have stood the test of time. They have successfully connected a continent and its people, and will continue to do so, with over 11,000 miles of high-speed rails in the works. Trains have made it clear that they are to stay in Europe, and not only because the tracks are made of steel and are very difficult to erode, but because the continental pastime is one that Europeans can’t, and have no desire to shake.


Ride-sharing is Caring


In Germany and other parts of Europe, ride-sharing has become an established way to travel cheaply.

In the Spring of 2013, I lived in Berlin while my significant other lived in Munich. With these two cities being located on opposite sides of Germany, we were always trying to find the cheapest, quickest, and most comfortable way to visit each other, and we soon found out one great option while traveling in Europe: ride-sharing. Instead of shelling out hundreds of euros for plane or ICE tickets (the speed train in Germany), or wasting half a day on a bus with a driver who takes smoke breaks once an hour, I found that using online ride-sharing services were the best option for our commutes across the entirety of Germany. 

On sites such as Mitfahrgelegenheit and BlaBlaCar, drivers post the trip they will be taking, how many open seats they have, the cost (which often decreases as the number of passengers goes up), and how to contact them, be that a cell phone number, email address, or through a messaging system within the site. Drivers have profiles that include information about their cars and pictures of themselves, and allow passengers to rate the driver as well as add comments about the quality of their trip. Some sites even require the driver’s banking information. This builds up a community of trust between members which makes the whole experience seem safer and full of good-intentions for everyone involved.

Car Problems

While carpooling is very efficient, it may not always be as dependable as other travel services.


However, ride-sharing does have its drawbacks. People are fallible. In one incident in Munich, the night before I was supposed to return back to Berlin, I received a text from my driver, saying his tires were slashed and he could no longer take me with him. This unexpected inconvenience forced me to leave a day later, as there were no other available drivers going that direction soon enough. And there were other incidents where I was canceled on at the last minute. Most of the time, I was able to find another driver, but not always at the desired time, exact drop-off point, or best price. There is a level of uncertainty, a bit of risk, when choosing the option to carpool, and that is probably the biggest drawback in comparison to buying a trusty ticket issued from a professional bus, train, or plane service.

Carpooling isn’t for everyone. Maybe you like the speed and luxury of a plane. Maybe the idea of spending hours in a car with a stranger doesn’t sound too enticing. But if you don’t mind meeting new people and perhaps sacrificing a bit of personal space in order to save some time and money, ride-sharing in Germany is a great way to do it.

German Cooking for the American Woman


German recipe for the American woman! Today I’m going to attempt the potato pancake and give feedback and helpful hints that will make the process easy and yummy.

First thing is first, ingredients:
2 eggs
2 tbsps all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
6 potatoes
½ cup finely chopped onion(optional)
¼ cup vegetable oil (for skillet)


In a bowl combine all the ingredients listed above. While combining heat a large skillet with ¼ cup vegetable oil. Pour 1/3 cup potato mixture flattening the potato like a pancake and fry until golden on both sides. Take the pancake off and drain on a paper towel like you’re cooking bacon and keep warm in 100 degree oven.

Can be served with applesauce, sour cream, or ketchup! Enjoy!

For more potato recipes refer to http://www.germanfoodguide.com/kartoffel.cfm

The Irony of the French Café

In America and many other countries around the world, the bold, fancy and flavorful coffee demand has skyrocketed. The creation of the latte, macchiato, americano, cappuccino and frappaccino has only given us more reasons to love the coffee bean. What better way to spend your Sunday afternoon than sipping from a freshly brewed cup of jo in a local café?


Doesn’t it seem ironic that France has been known for its traditional cafés for centuries, yet few actually serve coffee? Even the places where coffee can be found, supply a mediocre bean resulting in a bitter bite unappealing to a regular coffee drinker. That is, a regular coffee drinker, from just about anywhere outside the French border. So, how exactly did the word café come to double as the french translation of the american essential: coffee? In a recent article, Anna Brones says “Mention the word coffee to anyone that likes caffeine and has spent time in France and you’ll get an immediate eye roll. It simply is not a French strong suit.” To the locals, a café is a place for getting a beer or a glass of wine.

A more recent flood of new craft roasters has allowed a few ambitious café owners to step outside the box. However, many French are sensitive to change and conflicting opinions have come with the new agenda. While some welcome the new roasters with open arms, others seem to be critical and less accepting of the essentially foreign product. Nico Alary, co-owner of Holybelly, a café that opened last year in the Canal Saint Martin neighborhood, shed some light on the topic. “It’s that French people have this 20, 25 years heritage of terrible coffee, and their palate is used to it. That means that changing the coffee culture isn’t going to happen overnight, and it requires doing it one Parisian at a time,” he says.


Holybelly café. Photo by Anna Brones

In the midst of the battle for change, I couldn’t help but notice a particular French café that has made it’s long standing success based off just that: change.  Café Le Procope, the first and oldest French café was opened in 1661 by two Armenian brothers. While it has grown from a traditional café to a small restaurant, Le Procope is still known for it’s ice cream and excellent coffee. The coffee, however, is still made for French taste. So whether the average coffee-drinking American would also enjoy it is questionable. Le Procope’s reliable reputation could make it one of the best contenders for introducing these new roasters to their customers.

Le Procope

Café Le Procope. Photo by Wallg via Bryan Newman.

Surely, it will take more than a few optimistic owners to make a real change in the café scene. But, someone has to get the ball rolling, right? It will be interesting to see how the traditional minds adapt to the idea of changes within the cafés. Will France remain known for it’s café culture or will it slowly develop a universal coffee culture? Only time will tell.


Magic doors.

Salzburg: a magical little metropolis tucked away amongst rolling green countryside and the snowcapped peaks of the Austrian Alps.  Baroque towers and churches with copper domes stand high above the winding cobblestone streets–streets with more stories than you and I could possibly be told. Around every corner of those storytelling streets are doors…and that is where the magic is found.

What would be discovered with the turn of a knob or the lift of a latch? Had this same archway stood above Maria Von Trapp as she ushered her children about town, or been brushed by the hands of young Mozart on his way to Sunday school?

An ornate metal gate presents a grand cathedral where people have kneeled to pray since Europe’s Golden Age.  A worn wooden door opens to a quiet tavern, where hopes and dreams are whispered over glasses of malted ale.  An ivy-covered pillar leads to a garden bursting with rows roses, and flowers dripping from spiraling fences.  A clear glass entryway displays baskets of shining, glittering ornaments being arranged by the owner of a tiny shop.

As the laughter and lively chatter fade away from the streets with the sun, the pale stone of the city is cast in blue shadows. The soft orange glow from behind drawn curtains illuminates the doorways, and glistens off of their polished hinges and rivets, making them appear even more mysterious than the did in the daylight.  You are reminded of the possibilities waiting on the other side of each fantastic one.

Of all the European cities I have explored, Salzburg makes me feel most at home, but also the most bewildered by its glimpses of unknown possibilities.  It’s an entrancing juxtaposition—one that you can only be understood by experiencing it yourself.

So as you adventure within the hills, below the towers, among the streets, and behind the doors remember that the nooks and crannies are where Salzburg hides its magic.  It’s up to you to find it.

By Lauren Rundquist

To get a glimpse into others’ discoveries behind the magical doors of Salzburg, look no further than Pinterest.  To plan an adventure of your own, Lonely Planet is a good place to start.

Advertising Trends in Australia: Memorable And Dark PSAs

Dumb Ways to Die

How can you forget one of Australia’s most memorable PSAs about the Metro: “Dumb Ways to Die.” The campaign became a world sensation and the memorable song even was put on iTunes because of its popularity! This campaign shows cartoon “people” dying in dumb ways in order to promote public safety while using the Metro. They even went as far to create an interactive website and video game to go along with their message.

But recently Australian PSAs have taken a darker turn with “Set Yourself Free” by using real people in a ridiculous and horrifying situation. Although, for public consumption, this PSA takes a shocking turn for the worst that may be too graphic for some viewers.

Set Yourself Free - Caroline Elliott

Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want to watch the video, here’s what happens: “Set Yourself Free” depicts teenagers going from school to the beach and subsequently getting blown to bits because they didn’t read the trespassing sign. All of this is to encourage the teenage audience not to drop out of school. Interestingly enough the video has gone viral for its unique and terrifying take on PSAs. Yet again, the Australians are in the lead for most shocking and creative PSA, in my opinion.