Vladimir Putin: The Man and the Meme

Few world leaders are as easily recognizable as Russian President Vladimir Putin.  His unique looks, as well as his antics, have made him a favorite subject for many silly jokes and memes on the internet, which I will post here for your enjoyment.


Meanwhile in Russia…

The first image which should come into your head if you’re thinking about Putin, or Russia in general, is of course the President riding a bear.  If riding bears isn’t impressive enough for you, he also has been photographed riding sharks, eagles, meteors, whales, mammoths, skydivers, and ICBM’s.  I suppose when he isn’t busy trying to mount some of the deadliest animals or objects known to mankind he sometimes finds the time to ride his motorized tricycle around Moscow.article-0-0DA0177300000578-915_634x449tumblr_kuxr34jtOb1qzeu38o1_400


I think that’s Russian for ahsdufuhsabedb

People complain about Russia’s obstinate negotiating strategies, but Putin must care deeply about what the rest of the world thinks of him  judging from the notes he was jotting down during recent talks over the civil unrest in Ukraine.


Putin on the Ritz

I wonder if Putin realizes that he has become such an internet phenomenon?  If he did, then maybe it would make him happy to be so well loved across the world and Russia would become a much more welcoming and less staunchly conservative place.  Even though he might not get the reference, how could he not smile at this?

Putin will undoubtedly be riding high into Russia’s 2016 national elections, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of Vladimir’s hi jinks before its all said and done and the internet will be there, waiting intently for the next meme-worthy moment to transform it into comic gold. ae6a3220-7269-0131-c44f-4e3b4eb21dea

Europe: baseball’s next hotbed

Editor’s Note: Philip Joens is a business journalism major at the University of Missouri. In his free time he collects baseballs and writes his blog “Adventures of a Future Sportswriter”. Today he tells us about the popularity of American sports Football and Baseball in Europe. 

In 2005 baseball was voted out of the Olympic Games by the mostly European International Olympic Committee. This was an unforgivable crime to baseball fanatics like myself. Despite the exclusion of baseball from the Olympics; baseball’s popularity around Europe is growing.

For decades, baseball was a neglected sport in Europe. The American game, derived from the English game rounders , struggled to find its own identity. in Europe. So, European club teams played, or well tried to play, on old soccer fields; despite the dimension problems. Amateur players worked painstakingly to convert these fields by hand and were lucky if they had necessities like regulation mounds, back stops and dugouts.

Rounders 1

Baseball’s roots can be traced back to the English game rounders which also uses a bat, ball and the ability to put runners out.
Photos courtesy Wikkipedia

A seed was planted in Europe when American GI’s played pick up games during World War II.



The European Baseball Championships are a biennial tournament that started in 1954 to determine Europe’s top baseball team.



Historically the Neatherlands and Italy have the richest baseball histories of European countries. Hoofdklasse, which is dutch for “Major League Baseball”, dates back to 1922 and is the top pro league in the Neatherlands. Hoofdklasse plays an eight team, 42 game schedule from April to September. Neatherlands even scored a surprise fourth place finish at the 2013 World Baseball Classic; beating out baseball rich countries like the U.S., Venezuela and Mexico.

Amsterdam Pirates Photo courtesy: Erik Joling

Amsterdam Pirates
Photo courtesy: Erik Joling

Seven Dutch players have played in MLB since 1979. Arizona Diamondbacks star shortstop Didi Gregorious and Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Rick VanderHurk are active now. Harlem, the Neatherlands native Greg Halman was a breakout star for the Seattle Mariners from 2007 to 2011 before he was killed in 2011.

Alex Liddi is the player born and raised in Italy to play in the majors. Liddi, a first baseman/ third baseman, played 61 games for Seattle from 2011 to 2013.

Liddi 1



Baseball is also gaining real traction in Germany. The World Baseball Classic was created in 2006 and helped grow the game all over Europe. In 2012 European qualifiers for the 2013 tournament were played at Regensburg, Germany’s Armin-Wolff-Arena. Built in 1996, the stadium seats 10,000 people and boasts facilities that will make most U.S. minor league teams jealous.


Photo Courtesy worldbaseballclassic.com

Cinicinati’s Donald Lutz is just 25 years old and broke into the majors in 2013. Lutz’s first exposure to baseball came when he saw a pro team play in Friedberg as a 14 year old. Lutz played in 34 games for the Reds in 2013 and had just 59 plate appearances.

Lutz 1

(February 24, 2012 – Source: Rich Pilling/Getty Images North America)

Berlin native Max Kepler also hopes to one day make an impact for the Minnesota Twins.

Photo courtesy: (Foto: Keller, W.) http://www.baseball-bundesliga.de/max-kepler-nun-im-40-spieler-kader-der-minnesota-twins/

Photo courtesy: (Foto: Keller, W.)

“Baseball’s popularity is growing in Germany — it’s growing fast,” said Kepler told espn.com in 2012. “As you can see here, we have a great field and there’s going to be a lot more in the next years. Baseball is not as big as in the U.S., of course, but it’s getting there. We’re getting a lot of promotion for baseball and younger kids are starting to play it.”

The MLB European Academy, started in 2005 has helped grow the game. Liddi was a product of the academy. Since 2005 63 of 77 players signed by MLB organizations have been from Germany and the Netherlands. The game did suffer a setback when the mostly European International Olympic Committee took baseball out of the Olympics in 2012; though the IOC has hinted that it will reinstate baseball if MLB players can be used for the tournament.

Swedish DJ bridges gap between global EDM and American popular music

Swedish DJ Avicii burst upon the music scene in 2011 with his breakout single Levels but it was this past summer that the musician took the world by storm with the lead single Wake Me Up from his debut album True, which was released on September 13, 2013.

Avicii_@_London_tentparty_(cropped)Many Electronic Dance Music (EDM) fans were skeptical when Avicii brought out a band equipped guitars, banjos and other instruments to perform Wake Me Up for the first time in front of thousands at the 2013 ULTRA Music Festival in Miami. EDM artists rarely use actual instruments in their performances so you can understand why people were confused when Avicii brought a band onstage.

The song, featuring a guitar strumming over a pulsating EDM beat with soul singer Aloe Blacc singing along ventured into new territory for the European-centric EDM community.  By incorporating Americana in the form of soul singers and a beat reminiscent of country music, Avicii was able to bridge the gap between global EDM and American popular music.

It was because of this smart combination that the song spread like wildfire once it was shared to mainstream radio stations across the United States on June 17th (the song peaked at 2 on the Billboard Hot 100).

Once his album was released, it became clear that Wake Me Up was not just an experiment, but a trend. Over the course of the 12 track album the Swedish DJ gracefully walks the line between EDM and other more ‘traditional’ music styles. By incorporating American sound with European style, Avicii has given EDM soul.


Bierocks, Vegetarian Style

bierocks on foil

As my possibly indefinite move to Germany is rapidly, almost scarily approaching, I’ve been mulling over all of the seemingly innumerable possibilities that living there will provide me with: an extremely central location within the European Union, with a rail system just begging me to travel every chance I get, a new language to (attempt to) master, all of the people I will meet….and all of the extremely cheap, extremely available beer I will drink. Thoughts of this, all too obviously, led me to thoughts of Oktoberfest.

Being a lover of beer, and a lover of large gatherings of all sorts, Oktoberfest is something I am extremely excited for; however, being that a vegetarian is also something that I am, the food, which is primarily meat-lover friendly, is something I am a bit leery of. But I am not the only one, it would seem: Der Spiegel did a post entirely on the issue, explaining that beer tent owners are aware of the issue, and some are going to great lengths to combat it. Looking through the vegetarian and vegan options now being offered got me thinking – if these people can put a spin on a mostly meat-centric ordeal, so can I!

And thus, the meatless Bierock was borne.

I’m sure I’m not the first to do it, as it’s a pretty simple process to make this dish meatless, but hey, I am the first one to blog on Eurokulture about it, so that counts for something, right?

A little background: The Bierock is a typically German dish, brought to the United States in the 1880s by German Mennonite immigrants consisting of a semi-sweet roll filled with pan-cooked and seasonsed beef, cabbage and onions. In my version, as you could have guessed, there is no meat, but there is added mushrooms and mozzarella cheese, because really, how can cheese be a bad thing in this situation? In any situation, really, but I digress.

Alright, here we go, let’s do it.

Ingredients, post use

Ingredients, post use

Ingredient List:

2 cups warm water

2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast

1/2 cups white sugar

1/4 cup margarine, softened

1 egg

2 teaspoons salt

7 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped onion

6 cups shredded cabbage

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup melted butter


1 package of mushrooms of your choice

12 ounces mozzarella cheese

bierocks with yeast

Step One: Prepare the dough. Yup, that’s right, we’re gettin’ fancy and makin’ the dough ourselves. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy; about 10 minutes.



Mix in the sugar, margarine, egg, salt and 1/2 of the flour. Beat that baby until smooth. Add remaining flour until dough pulls together. Or, if you’re poor like me and don’t have an electric mixer/beater, you can get down and dirty and use your hands. Fair warning though: it gets sticky as all hell. My advice? Get over being socially awkward and ask that neighbor that you’ve never met despite living 5 feet away if they have a mixer and if you could pretty, pretty please use it for the smallest of time.

bierocks swirling the dough

Swirl that dough, giirl.


bierocks sticky dough with face


bierocks doughh



My lovely assistant with the nearly baby-sized ball of dough.

My lovely assistant with the nearly baby-sized ball of dough.

Once you’ve done all of this (and maybe made a new friend? Eh? Eh?), place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover said bowl with foil and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, or let it rise for 1 hour. Can you guess which one I chose? Here’s a hint: it wasn’t the “refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight” option.

bierocks cabbagebierocks greased pan

Step Two: In a large heavy skillet, sauté onion, cabbage, mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to season and let simmer for 30 minutes. Cool until lukewarm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F in the meantime. Coat a cookie sheet with non-stick spray in the meantime as well.



Step Three: Punch down dough – really get into it –  and divide into 20 pieces. Spread each piece of dough out on an un-floured surface and lay 2 pieces of cheese in each. The recipe I used states that you are to then fill each dough square with 2 tablespoons of the cabbage mix, but for me, 2 tablespoons was absolutely too much, so I ended up cutting it down to around 1 tablespoon. Once you manage to squish all of that vegetable and cheesegoodness into the dough, fold it over and seal edges. Place on prepared cookie sheet and let rise for 1 hour.


Step Four: Nearly there! If you want to get classy with it, you can eggwash these pups; I did it on half of them and it was well worth the extra minute it took. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush with butter – lots of butter, lots and lots of butter – and DEVOUR.


What It’s Like To Graduate Abroad

In just a few short days, I will walk across the stage, shake hands with the dean, be handed a blank diploma holder, and put my tassel on the other side. Yes, I am talking about graduation.

Here in America we have certain traditions where we wear special gowns and move are tassels to the other side to signify a step forward. These milestones might also include a large celebration and even some alcohol. As I gear up to enter the real world, I thought it might be interesting to find out how other countries celebrate graduation. Take a look:


Via City University London

UK: According to a commenter on Toytown Germany, graduates also have to wear gowns and they have a ceremony. The parent explains that his/her daughter had a “leaving ceremony where a band played, top pupils received prizes then each school-leaver was handed their certificate.” I would say that sounds very similar to how we celebrate graduation in America.

Norway: There appears to be some interesting traditions at graduations in Norway. In a forum on UniLang, a commenter explained that students take part in a celebration called “russ” that lasts from May 1 to May 17. The interesting thing is that each student wears a different outfit depending on what they have studied. So for instance if you studied only general subjects, you would wear red. However, if you also studied economy your outfit would be blue. This is kind of similar to how we each will have different color tassels depending on what school you’re graduating from here at Mizzou.

Germany: I find it interesting that in Germany, they do not seem to make a big deal out of graduation. In the forum Toytown Germany, another commenter said, “there’s no interest from the Germans to be so grandiose in their educational degreement.” According to this commenter, her husband who graduated from a school in Germany just received his degree, no real fan fare. From what I understand though, Germany takes great pride in its educational system. One would think graduation might be a bigger deal there.

Via Russian World Forums

Via Russian World Forums

Russia: According to blogger for Sparklife, Russian students wear very different attire from what we wear here in America for graduation. Sara Jonsson said girls tend to wear black dresses with aprons. It’s supposed to be “in homage to their Tsarist-era” school uniforms. I honestly might opt for these outfits than the ugly, non-form fitting gown I have to wear on Friday, but I guess that’s neither here nor there. Russian students also line up in front of the whole school, and then leave to party on

Graduation traditions are obviously not just an American way of life. It’s clear many other countries have their own way of celebrating the big day. I am curious what your favorite graduation tradition is?



Zadar: The Mediterranean as it Once Was!


Pure Nirvana

I ended up in Zadar purely by chance, and if anyone had asked me, before I went, if it was a place I would ever visit, the answer would have been no. I never even really had intentions of visiting Croatia, but when push came to shove it was the cheapest of three destinations chosen by friends and I. Therefore, we booked our flights on Ryan Air, and found a cozy looking hostel to call home.

Zadar is a small coastal city in Croatia, on the east side of the Adriatic Sea. Zagreb and Split are popular tourist destinations in Croatia, but if you want to take a step back in history while enjoying the sea, then Zadar is the place you should go. One can experience many different types of architecture in Zadar including Roman, medieval (Romanesque, Gothic), and Renaissance.

Places to Stay

Room at the Old Town Hostel

There are many places to stay in Zadar, but hostels are my preferred method while traveling through Europe. I stayed in the Old Town Hostel, which was a bit difficult to find in the narrow streets and alleys, but it was still a very welcoming spot. When we arrived we had to travel up a questionable staircase with rickety railings, and a long drop down. In the lobby, we had to wake up a girl sleeping on the couch to find out who to check in with. Turns out she was the front desk girl, and she had come to work straight from the previous nights events. May sound sketchy to some, but the Old Town is a very chill location and the employees are very helpful.


Pizza is never hard to find in Zadar.

Pizza is never hard to find in Zadar.

There is no shortage of places to find great food. Most of the restaurants offer a variety of sea-foods and other dishes, so finding something to satisfy is no problem. Also, if you find yourself out late at night or looking for a cheap meal, there are many small pizza shops and stands scattered throughout the city. We had a couple of nice sit down meals, but for the most part we cooked in the hostel’s kitchen or ate street stand food. If you enjoy people watching, then one of the many outdoor cafes is a great place to relax and watch the bustling crowds. We ate our fancy final meal at Pet Bunara. The dishes were a little more on the expensive side, but it was well worth the price. Along with the pizzerias and cafes, there is a great market place near the grocery store to get fresh produce and other goods. You have to go in the morning though, because they shut down around mid-day.


There are many bars located on the peninsula of Zadar, but if you go mid-week as we did, there might not be many people out to enjoy the night with. The University of Zadar is also located out on the peninsula, so on a typical weekend there are many people out and about. Some of the better bars recommended to us were Arkada, Caffe Bar Hippy, Brazil, and Zara.


Sea Organ

Sea Organ

There are many unique things to see in Zadar. There are many spectacular churches to visit, like St. Donatus’ Church. It is located not far from People’s Square and the Roman Forum, where one can walk through the ruins of the past. The Citadel is also a neat place to visit. Built in 1409, it remains the same to this day. There is even a super posh bar located within that has an underground section. There are four gates around the Citadel and the Land Gate was most stunning to me. Outside of the monuments of the past, Zadar also has some intriguing modern sights. One of the main attractions in this category is the Sea Organ. As the waves lap against the sea wall, air is pushed through metal tubes located under marble stairs and exit through holes that play the music of the sea. Right next to the Sea Organ is the Sun Salutation. The Sun Salutation is a circular panel of solar powered lights. At sunset the lights switch on and light up the waterfront. Unfortunately it wasn’t working when we were there, but it looks quite spectacular in pictures.


If you want to travel outside of the city to enjoy other splendid sights, then there are many choices. The best of these are to go for a swim at a beach (if the water is warm enough), go kayaking through the many small islands along the coast, or you can take a trip to Plitvice Lakes. The lakes are located two hours away from Zadar in the mountains. The lakes are extremely clear and look green due to minerals and microbes. Also, there are many waterfalls at the park, and some are quite spectacular. For a nice hike through nature this is the place to go. It offers stunning views of the landscape, and adventurous trails that are sometimes closed due to the water level. That didn’t stop us from venturing out though. We ended up wading at times, and since it was March in the mountains of Croatia, this turned out to be a “chilling” experience. For more pictures check out the photo gallery at the bottom.

If you ever have the chance to travel to Croatia then it is something you should most definitely do. Zagreb and Split offer their own sources of beauty and nightlife, but Zadar holds its own. If flying there, you can take RyanAir, German Wings, and other cheap airlines to Zadar Airport located about 20 minutes outside of the city. Be prepared to exchange money though, because Croatia does not have the Euro. The conversion rate is a little over 5.50 Kuna per American Dollar, or 7.60 per Euro. They speak Croatian (Hrvatski), but most know how to speak English so no problem there. Zadar is a beautiful and wonderful place. I hope to return one day so I can spend more time there, and the decision to travel there was one that I will never regret. Check out the pictures below of my travels in Zadar and Plitvicé!


A Night in Neukölln

You’ve probably heard, Berlin is one of the coolest cities in the world. You probably know about its fascinating history and museums, as well as the ever-changing art, music, theater, film, drug, food and sex scenes that add to the invigorating experience that is Berlin. If you don’t know, you can look all over this site and on the web, but in this post, I’ll be detailing something a bit more localized.

What I’d like to share is my favorite corner of Berlin, the best of the best in my opinion. It’s not techno-club central or even a very visually appealing part of town, but as you’ll see, it’s got its perks, from the bar that serves the strongest beers, to what I believe to be the location of the best burger in the city. Here’s the game plan for a great time in a sweet part of Berlin.


Hermannplatz: Starting point for your night in Neukölln (Photo: Roy Busch Photography)

Start the night out by grabbing a few cheap, half-liter beers from the REWE or Edeka (Grab a 33 cent “Sterni” for extra Berliner cred) and take the U-Bahn down to Hermannplatz. It’s located in Neukölln, which is the borough home to a majority of the Turkish community as well as plenty of hipsters and young folk who enjoy the cheap rent and chill spots. The first of these spots will help balance out that beer you drank on an empty stomach.

Café Futuro


Cafe Futuro: Look for the pink neon light and follow the smell of basil.

What appears to be an ordinary Italian restaurant is actually an amazing Italian restaurant, purely because of a special service they offer on certain nights: aperitivo. That means you pay the price of one beer (not a lot in Berlin), and you get a plate which you can fill endlessly from the buffet of delicious, authentic Italian dishes. No strings attached, just buy a beer and enjoy the pasta. Amazing. What a great idea. I don’t think I need to say anything else about Café Futuro.

So by now, you either feel like you’ve won the lottery or you’re congratulating yourself on making such a healthy AND economical decision. You say, “What the hell, why not reward myself with a very strong, tasty beer?” You earned it. Now it’s time to head down to “historical Sonnenallee” and try your damnedest to find the bar whose name calls to mind evergreens and warm feelings: O Tannenbaum.

O Tannenbaum


O Tannenbaum: “It’s pretty cool, I mean, I just come here for the rare Belgian beers and alternative, intellectual ambiance, but I don’t really care, ya know, it’s whatever…”

Like a lot of über-hip spots in Berlin, this small, dimly-lit pub is not incredibly easy to find. With no sign bearing its name or street number, it’s easy to pass up, especially in the Winter when everyone will be inside. But maybe they’ll turn on the light shaped like a Christmas tree, and you’ll be in luck. Go in there. It’s a little bit smokey and could be a bit crowded, but if you want to taste some fancy beers, this is the spot. They mainly specialize in Belgian beers (which often range from 7 to 10% alcohol ABV), which will either loosen you up to talk to interesting strangers, or get you feeling like you need to move on cause you’re starting to make a fool of yourself, making a few too many puns using the word “hops.” You need a feeling of acceptance from some like-minded misfits who don’t care if you appreciate a beer’s “subtle floral notes and bright finish.” Finish your Gulden Draak, and let’s get out of here.



Sternburg: Punks’ beer of choice which isn’t known for its taste, but compared to other nations’ low end beers, it ain’t that bad. (Photo: Bacon’s Beerography)

Back around the corner is this sweet punk bar that just reeks of Berlin. By the kind of crowd that hangs out there and the music playing, you might feel a bit intimidated, but if you can read German, you’ll notice a disclaimer on the wall that might set you at ease. It explains that if anyone in this bar is racist, sexist, or otherwise prejudiced in any way, it is everyone’s responsibility to kick them out! This should be written in every bar! In addition to that bad-ass call to acceptance, the bar has 1,50€ Sternis and fun 1€ shots of mixed liquors, so you should stick around, take in the dark decor, and enjoy drinks at a price lower than just about any Western big city.

Alright, so you’re feeling pretty good by now, and you would be ready to dance the night away in one of Berlin’s crazy clubs, staying out well into the afternoon hours of the following day. But you did that two days ago. Take it easy, you’ll wear yourself out! What, you’re hungry again? Okay, okay, I don’t blame you, that smell is getting to me too, oh what’s this here right next to the bar…

Berlin Burger International


Look at that burger. Can you believe that burger?? It’s got goat cheese on it! I think they got braised onions or something on that thing! It looks like it’s got an entire salad on top! You want this.

At some split second during the meal, you think, “I totally could have split this with someone. What have I gotten myself into? What am I doing to myself?” and then that feeling subsides, replaced only with the feeling of  pure burger bliss. You know you made the right decision.

BBI has huge burgers of every variety, and it’s kind of the perfect “morning-after-the-party” place to go. You can even choose to eat healthily with the veggie burger, and if you don’t, the ingredients still seem to reassure you that you’re doing the right thing. So dang good.

So that concludes our night out around a few of my favorite places in Berlin. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a little Mittagsschlaf. Maybe we can have a picnic at Tempelhof field later. Bis dann, tschüss!

Artists Respond to Climate Change In Creative Ways

Climate change is real. It is happening. We all feel it, we see it, and new evidence is published daily. Yet, still governments across the globe seem to rank the topic low on their list of priorities.

So low that many people still don’t know the difference between climate and weather, and whether humans are actually playing a role. The Guardian does a good job distinguishing the two, saying, that “climate, like weather, describes the state of the atmosphere in terms of factors such as temperature, wind and rainfall. But whereas weather describes conditions as measured in hours, days or weeks, the climate is average weather conditions measured over the longer term: months, years or decades.”

While it is true that humans are not the sole cause of climate change, we are definitely not helping by any means. To raise awareness, and get people thinking about solutions, a number of artists from all over the world are taking matters in their own hands.

This sculpture below is one of many of related works created by Isaac Cordal and one of my favorites. It shows that all of the bickering by politicians and the constant denial of climate change, in the end, is no match for mother nature. This sculpture makes me wonder how long will it take for the masses to open their eyes?

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 11.13.48 PM

Another artist, by the name of Simon Armitage caught my attention —well really blew my mind— with his  contribution of a poem that purifies the air. Yes, you read it right. Armitage’s In Praise of Air has been printed on a 10m by 20m piece of material which has been coated with microscopic pollution-eating particles of titanium dioxide. These use sunlight and oxygen to react with nitrogen oxide pollutants and purify the air, with the material said by the University of Sheffield, which devised it, to be capable of absorbing the pollution from 20 cars every day. (Allison Flood, 2014)

Simon Armitage's In Praise of Air, displayed outside the University of Sheffield. Photograph: Linda Bussey

Simon Armitage’s In Praise of Air, displayed outside the University of Sheffield. Photograph: Linda Bussey

These are just a few of the artists using their craft to inform people of the impact and consequences of global warming. You can view more amazing pieces here.

Cleo reading Tome II, 2009. Basia Irland makes giant books out of ice and releases them in rivers. The ‘text’ of each book is seeds from local plants; as the ice melts, seeds are released and the plants start to grow by the rivers

For The Lake Project, David Maisel photographed Owens Lake, once a 200-square-mile lake in California, which was depleted in the early 20th century to give water to Los Angeles. What little water remains has such a high concentration of minerals, and such bacterial growth, that it is now a deep blood red.

For Champs d’Ozone (2007) HeHe – Helen Evans and Heiko Hansen – overlaid live images of the Paris skyline with vibrant colours that showed the unseen pollutants in the air. Sensors placed around the city provided live data on air quality, and the colours in the artworks adapted to show real-time Parisian pollution

One arts and science blogger Johanna Kieniewicz questions whether artists can make a difference.

In her blog ‘Plos – where art and science meet’, she says in a blogpost on 25 July 2013, titled Art of Uncertainty’:

“Artists are not going to solve scientists’ problem of communicating uncertainty pertaining to climate change. This is something that scientists themselves need to do, perhaps with help from sociologists and innovative designers. But in so doing, scientists must recognise that in the communication of uncertainty, they must not just win minds, but also hearts. This does not necessarily come naturally. I suspect that there is a great opportunity for artists who are interested in collaborating with scientists to engage in this area.”

Whether artists solve scientist problems or not, they’re definitely making the conscious effort to begin to aid the earth, which many have not. These are some creative individuals. I would have never thought some of these pieces were possible. Do you think art will raise awareness? Or is it back to the drawing boards?

Gorodetsky’s Masterpieces

I have become fascinated with architecture here lately.  My love for architecture grew particularly after I studied in St. Petersburg, Russia, and then revisited my beloved Kiev in Ukraine. On one of the beautiful nights that I spent in Kiev with my family I was introduced to an unusual building.

Called the “House of Chimeras” and completed in 1903, this building is unusual because it is adorned with all sorts of creatures: chimeras, mermaids, toads, animals’ heads, and a realistic-looking snake, slithering down a corner of this 9-story building. What’s even more off-putting is that this wonder stands right across from the Presidential office building.

After doing some research, I found out that it was built by Vladislav Gorodetsky, a man with a taste for intricate details. Some of his other creations are the St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Karaite Kenesa, and the National Art Museum of Ukraine. Enjoy these intricate and out-of-the-ordinary creations!


House of Chimeras currently serves as a place for diplomacy meetings for the Ukrainian President. Photo credit to Jennifer Boyer.


More full-scale (photoshopped?) version of the building. Photo credit to Slava.


Close-up. Photo credit to Jennifer Boyer.


St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral. Fun fact: it used to serve as a KGB meeting place for some time after 1938. Photo credit to Jennifer Boyer.


A salamander, perched under the St. Nicholas R-C Church. Photo credit to user zalgalina.


St. Nicholas! Photo credit to user zalgalina.


Gorodetsky, the man responsible for the House of Chimeras and others. Photo credit to user zalgalina.


Old photograph of the Karaite Kenesa. About 800 Karaites (original peoples of Judaism) currently live in Ukraine. Photo credit to user zalgalina.


Modern interior view of the building. Photo credit user to zalgalina.


And finally, the National Art Museum of Ukraine. Photo credit to user zalgalina.




Ramstein, Germany: A Home to Many Americans

Let’s talk about Ramstein and no, and I don’t mean the band.  Ramstein Air Base is an American NATO support installation established 61 years ago on June 1, 1953, in the southwest corner of Germany. It is located in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz and is surrounded by the towns of Miensenbach, Landstuhl and the nearby metropolitan city Kaiserslautern. (Fun fact: Rammstein the band got their name by adding an extra “m” to “Ramstein” to honor a crash that happened during an American Air Force flight show there.)

1988 Air Force Flight Show Crash

1988 Air Force Flight Show Crash

Ramstein is home to the largest community of Americans living outside of the United States, housing 34,000 Americans. Each year, thousands arrive at Ramstein to live for the duration of their European military assignments, and many military members stop over in Ramstein, the military hub of Europe, before deploying to places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa or on their way back to America from remote locations.

maxinereyesusa said, “After stopping in Germany! Greenery over desert! :-), Qatar was beautiful though! #ramstein #germany#homebound #usa”

Although some people may be hesitant to leave America or to relocate their family or household, Ramstein Air Base is definitely a place where an American would enjoy living and experiencing European culture and travel.  Ramstein is constantly changing  but there are always attractions that seem to stick around!


Riviera Eisdiele

Hands down the best ice cream parlor in Ramstein is “Riviera.”  It was my favorite place to visit while growing up in Ramstein.  It has the friendliest atmosphere and easily said to be the best ice cream in town. Landstuhler Strasse 25, 66877, Ramstein Meisenbach

Landstuhl Kriegerdankmal is a war memorial built in 1934 to honor 121 Landstuhl citizens who died in World War I. Kaiserstrasse, 66849 Landstuhl

The Pflaz Wald Nature Park is a very large wooded area perfect for bike rides and walks.  There are are so many scenic trail  variations in the park. People have been enjoying the area since 1982 – 32 years!


Pflaz Wald Nature Park

Another great attraction that everyone loves in the summer is the “Azur Swimmbad,” the pool! It was built in 1998  and hasn’t aged a bit.  Every summer my friends and I would go to this pool! This big pool has indoor and outdoor facilities along with diving boards and slides.  It has an outdoor hot tub leading from the inside to outside and lots of space surrounding the pool for families to lay out and enjoy the day. Shear Straße 50 66877 Ramstein


Azur Swimmbad

Lastly, you can’t end without talking about the oldest building, Ramstein Meisenbach‘s City Hall or “Rathaus.” The city hall, which was built in 1750, was once a brewery! But now it contains tourist information along with the “Museum im Westrich“, which has local history and art, including a statue of St. Nepomuk, a Catholic figure.


Ramstein’s City Hall

Overall, Ramstein is very family-oriented and most Germans around Ramstein speak English and are very helpful and welcoming. Even though it is not a large city and does not have the large ancient castles an American might associate with Germany, it is very valuable to Americans who are fighting for our freedom.

Under Ramstein’s Facebook page Lisa wanted to give her input on living in Germany. 

ramstein_dapdLisa Dunham, “Traveling around Europe, the castles, Oktoberfest, autobahns, the cleanliness, the sincerity of the people, döners, their punctuality, the breads & pastries, the wine & beer (and how inexpensive good wine and beer is!!), how there is ALWAYS a festival for everything and anything, the fact that they recycle and love the environment, how incredibly helpful Germans are, our landlord & his family, that they use dinner as a time to socialize not to scarf their food down and run, that meals are cooked fresh, that the simple pleasures are what matter most, Bavaria, the Weihnachtmärkte, Audi/BMW/VW/Mercedes, their healthcare system, that art is displayed EVERYwhere, that their crime rates are lower overall, and that their groceries are good…organic is not a trend, it’s the way they live normally….and that most everyone loves plants & gardens!!”

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Please feel free to share your personal experience with others being stationed in Ramstein, Germany now and in the future.

Stuttgarter Frühlingsfest!

Mayor of Stuttgart Fritz Kuhn opens Frühlingsfest by tapping the keg!

Mayor of Stuttgart Fritz Kuhn opens Frühlingsfest by tapping the keg! Flickr/Landeshauptstadt Stuttgart

When I traveled to Germany last year, I was a bit disappointed that my semester was in the Spring and not the Fall. How could I ever become an extreme tourist in Germany without going to Oktoberfest? Well if any of you plan to do a semester in Germany during the Spring there is yet hope. The Stuttgarter Frühlingsfest (Spring Festival) is Europe’s largest spring festival, and lasts 23 days long. This year it began on April 19th and went through May 11th. It is located at the fairgrounds in the Bad Cannstatt district of Stuttgart. It is not quite Oktoberfest, but that is alright because it still offers the same attractions. Also, since it is not as big as Oktoberfest, instead of waiting in 8 hour long lines for the beer gardens, you might only have to wait 4 hours. If you go early enough in the day though you might not have to wait in line at all. I went to the festival twice last year, but unfortunately since I was more focused on the cultural experiences in the beer garden, I didn’t take many pictures. The internet has me covered on this one though.

One might think that beer fests are all about the beer, but it is actually a fair on steroids with beer gardens.

One might think that beer fests are all about the beer, but it is actually a fair on steroids with beer gardens. Flickr/Orkomedix

It is custom to wear traditional clothing like Dirndls and Lederhosen even on the roller-coasters.

It is custom to wear traditional clothing like Dirndls and Lederhosen even on the roller-coasters. Flickr/Rob124

Also, what would a beerfest be without other gut wrenching fair rides? I would suggest that if you want to enjoy the rides, you should do it before the beer garden.

Also, what would a beerfest be without other gut wrenching fair rides? I would suggest that if you want to enjoy the rides, you should do it before the beer garden. Flickr/baba_1967


If you get a bit peckish while going from ride to ride, there are many vendors that offer beer and food from around the world!

If you get a bit peckish while going from ride to ride, there are many vendors that offer beer and food from around the world! Flickr/Ken Hawkins

Ok! Now you have rode every ride that you could possibly stomach, so where better to go than the Biergarten! The wonderful place bursting with food, polka, more expensive beer than you could ever consume, and of course other drinkers!

A view from inside one of the many beer gardens. Stuttgarter Hofbrau Biergarten is the largest one at the festival.

A view from inside one of the many beer gardens. Stuttgarter Hofbrau Biergarten is the largest one at the festival. Flickr/Ken Hawkins

What should you order you ask? Well a liter beer is the most popular request, also known as a Maß.

What should you order you ask? Well a liter beer is the most popular request, also known as a Maß.  Flickr/ Giesbert Damaschke

If you get hungry again, then order a whole half of a chicken (complete with Brot and hand wipes) or a Tellerschnitzel. You don't even have to leave your table.

If you get hungry again, then order a whole half of a chicken (complete with Brot and hand wipes) or a Tellerschnitzel. You don’t even have to leave your table. Flickr/Ken Hawkins

When you are done drinking (your body will tell you) find a safe way to stumble home!

When you are done drinking (your body will tell you) find a safe way to stumble home! Flickr/Ken Hawkins

If you do find yourself in Germany, but are not near Stuttgart, then life is still good. Frühlingsfest  happens across Germany, but Stuttgart offers the best experience in my opinion.

If you do find yourself in Germany, but are not near Stuttgart, then life is still good. Frühlingsfest happens across Germany, but Stuttgart offers the best experience in my opinion. Flickr/Karsten Hoffmann

Unfortunately Frühlingsfest has ended this year, but there is always next year. For those of you who would wish to experience Oktoberfest but can’t due to the season, then Frühlingsfest will save you. If you are there for a year even better! You can go to both, and continue your good choices of gluttony and over drinking. If you are an alcoholic you should probably fight the urge and not go. Also, be prepared to have your body hate you the following day. You have been warned. Viel Spaß!

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Where to Watch the World Cup

If you couldn’t already tell, Jeremy Hart and I are just a tad excited about our upcoming trip to Leipzig. It’s unreal to think we’ll already be in Germany this time next month – our flight is actually in less than a month!

We’ve been preparing for the trip, specifically researching the sights and sounds of the city of music. While there are endless places to explore, I’m honestly still wondering where to watch the World Cup. Yes, I will be studying abroad during the World Cup. What else could a tourist ask for?! I hear the bar scene is out of control… so I had to investigate the hot spots.

Lost In Leipzig says Gottschedstrasse, named after Johann Christoph Gottsched, was the area to be when the city hosted the World Cup at Red Bull Arena in 2006. Gottschedstrasse, located in Zentrum-West, contains countless bars and restaurants. And, since Lost In Leipzig’s full post was written less than a year ago, I would assume it’s still worth hitting up. Check out a few places on the street:

Luise Cafe am Gottschedstrasse courtesty of Lost In Leipzig

An Nam Restaurant am Gottschedstrasse courtesy Lost In Leipzig

More outside seating in the “theatre district” around Gottschedstrasse courtesy of Lost In Leipzig

ESPN and Spiegel offered additional suggestions for game-watching – and other fun places to see while in Leipzig. Apparently I’ll have to look into Auerbach’s Keller in Madlerpassage off Grimmaische Strasse for traditional, historical restaurant experience, while still find time to adventure through Augustusplatz.

Oh, you want to  find out actual information about the World Cup? Here, BBC Sport‘s got you covered. Viel Glück und viel Spass!

Blini with Fried Potatoes: The Quintessential Russian Recipe

Growing up, my favorite food was homemade blini, especially blini with fried potatoes. Hey, my parents didn’t call me the Carb Queen for nothing. Today, I’m going to walk you through how to make the basic recipe for both.

If you aren’t familiar with Russian cuisine, I guess a little explanation is in order. In one of my older posts about the Russian festival Maslenitsa, I explained that blini are a thin fried crepe that is usually stuffed with an assortment of yummy foods–meats, cheeses, mushrooms, jams, honeys, or of course potatoes.

Let’s get started! Keep in mind that this recipe feeds 4 very hungry college kids.

Here is what you will need for the recipe:

  • 5 medium-sized Russet potatoes
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbs. sunflower oil (or vegetable oil if you don’t have sunflower)
  • 1 small-medium onion
  • 1 tbs. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Approximately 1/2 stick unsalted butter



Here is a visual of what you will need, minus the milk and water


The first thing you need to do is to fry the potatoes since they take quite some time to fully cook. Pour some sunflower oil into a pan and heat the stove to medium heat.


Peel approximately 5 Russet potatoes.


Cut the potatoes into small chunks and add them to the warmed skillet along with a chopped onion.


Cover the skillet for approximately 15 minutes. I do this so that the potatoes can get softened and don’t get too browned. Stir and flip the potatoes occasionally.


Meanwhile, mix the 1.5 cups of flour in a small bowl with 1 tbs. sugar and 1 tsp. salt.


Whisk the dry ingredients until combined.


Slowly add the 1 cup water into the dry ingredients until well combined. Whisk that batter into oblivion.


In a separate mixing bowl, combine 1 cup milk with 3 eggs and 2 tbs. sunflower oil.



Mix the wet ingredients with an electric mixer until combined. If you don’t have an electric mixer, it is okay to use a whisk. Just make sure it is well-mixed.


Slowly begin to dollop the flour/water mixture into the bowl with the egg/milk mixture. Mix this really well to ensure everything is well-combined.


By this time, your potatoes should start looking like this. This is around the time that I take the lid off of my skillet so that the potatoes can crisp up and brown properly. Make sure to salt and pepper these bad boys, too.


Heat up your skillets for the blini. I’ve found that the best temperature is a medium heat. I also use two skillets at a time so that I can finish quicker.


After buttering your pan, pour a thin layer of the blini mix unto your skillet. It should start bubbling up like this after about 30 seconds. Once the edges begin to brown, flip it.


This is what the blin looks like once it’s flipped. Cook for another 20-30 seconds.


After the blin is done cooking, stack them on top of each other on a plate. Also, don’t forget to butter them some more after you’ve stacked them. This keeps them thin and soft.


Now, here comes the fun part. Spoon some of those fried potatoes onto your blin.


Next, fold two of the sides inward.


And now do the same with the other two sides and there you have it: a little Russian burrito.

Now, you devour. Dip these into some sour cream and you’ve got yourself a party.

A few important notes, though:

  1. Make sure you butter the pan in between each blin. Otherwise, the blin will stick to the pan and you’ll have a doughy clump.
  2. Eat them while they’re hot. They tend to get a bit rubbery if left out to sit.
  3. After stuffing the blins with your stuffing of choice, you can re-fry them so that the burrito-like shape stays and the outsides get super crispy.

If you are lost and need more guidance with this recipe, check this video out with step by step instructions!


Berlin School Films: Counterculture in Film



Last winter I came to the brilliant conclusion that I would take a 4000 level Film Studies course in the Spring. One might say oh that sounds like fun, what do you know about film studies? Not a thing, but since it is a course on German cinema it is relevant to my studies. There was definitely a learning curve on the film studies part, but after taking the class I can say I have gained a new perspective in viewing films.



The professor warned us at the beginning of the semester that the second half of the class would be focused on Berlin School Films, and that these were difficult to watch. If I had to use one word to describe the Berlin School style of film making, it would be counterculture. These films were indeed difficult to watch, but not because of gore, violence, or ideology. These films were so hard to watch because of the nothing they most often showed. The Berlin School is more of a school of thought than it is a school, but many of the directors that are categorized into the Berlin School style attended the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (DFFB).



The Berlin School Films that I saw during the class were Bungalow directed by Ulrich Köhler, Milchwald (This Very Moment) by Christoph Hochhäusler, Yella and Barbara both by Christian Petzold, Sehnsucht (Longing) by Valeska Grisebach, and Der Räuber (The Robber) by Benjamin Heisenberg.


Flickr/Jonathan Kos-Read

One of the major things the Berlin School Films focus on is aesthetics, and the sounds and images in the films are meticulously planned. The films are known for long camera shots, weird camera angles, lack of non-diegetic sounds, lack of a typical storyline, ambiguous endings, focus on the negative space, unattached characters, focus on landscapes, and ambiguous images.

This Very Moment

This Very Moment

Milchwald, Sehnsucht, and Barbara are all loosely based on other stories. Milchwald is considered to resemble Hansel and Gretel, and is a story about a step-mother who loses her husband’s children. It follows the timelines of the lonely step-mother, and that of the children trying to get back home. Sehnsucht is a Romeo and Juliet type story, and at the end a scene is shown of children discussing the tale and relating it to Romeo and Juliet. The movie is about a man who is struggling with the love for his wife and his mistress, although he is not really attached to one or the other. Barbara is considered to be Petzold’s remake of the award winning The Lives of Others, a movie about life in East Germany before the fall of the wall.



My favorite movie from this genre of films is Yella. The first time I watched this film I was not very impressed. A plus for the movie was that it stepped out of the Berlin School norm and had a storyline. Yella is a film that deals with the East-West issues in Germany after unification. It follows the tale of a women who leaves her life, in what was formerly East Germany, to find success. I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone that might not have seen it yet, so that is all I’ll say on the plot. This movie definitely has to be viewed more than once or twice to fully appreciate it though. There are many minor nuances in the movie that might be difficult to catch on the first viewing. Petzold’s focus on aesthetics in this film is almost unbelievable. The depth he went to in creating this film is quite amazing. He focuses on such little details, that in some cases have so much meaning, and that is what makes this film so intriguing.

Movie Poster

Thimfilm and Zorro Film

If anyone out there is brave enough to venture into the world of Berlin School Films, I would highly Film Posterrecommend watching Yella first. I would also recommend Barbara and Der Räuber. Although this style of film can seem rather boring at first, these three films follow a storyline, which make them easier to follow. Like Yella these movies often require more than one viewing to understand the meanings. Also, when approaching this genre the viewer will have to step out of the world of Hollywood cinema. A great thing about the Berlin School Films is that they make the viewer have to come to their own conclusions, instead of leading them in a single intended direction. Their are many more movies that fit into the Berlin School genre, but of the ones I discussed, I would not recommend Bungalow or Sehnsucht. To me these films go along with no purpose, and the main characters are painfully unattached from the world. These are typical traits of Berlin School style, but in my opinion these movies are just “l’art pour l’art” (art for art’s sake). Go forth though, if you dare, and make your own opinions on these films. They open the mind and offer a different viewing experience, than that which we know in Hollywood.

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