Zotter: Chocolate with a Conscience

Have you ever opened a Wonka Bar and hoped that just maybe the Golden Ticket inside would be real and you had actually won admittance to a chocolate factory? If you answered yes, today is the day your dream comes true. But either way, who wouldn’t want to tour a chocolate factory? During my semester abroad, one of the classes I taught went on a field trip to the Zotter Chocolate Factory. It is any chocolate lover’s paradise.

Zotter Schokoladen Manufaktur is located an hour east of Graz near Riegersburg in Austria’s beautiful southeastern state of Styria. Zotter is a family business that was started by Josef Zotter and his wife. They opened a confectionary in Graz selling unique creations in 1987.   It wasn’t until 1999 that the Zotter’s opened their factory in the barn of Josef’s parents’ farm.

 

Zotter is unique in that all of the cocoa beans used in their products are organic and Fairtrade quality. Fairtrade is a progressive social movement whose mission is to alleviate poverty and create sustainability for small farmers and plantation workers in developing countries. It allows the small farmers to sell their products at fair prices, creates better salaries for workers, improves working conditions, and invests in opportunities such as education, health and environmental projects. Zotter is a permanent license member of FAIRTRADE Austria, which is a non-partisan, non-denominational, non-profit association to promote free trade. It is an organization that attempts to meet the demand of Austrian manufacturers for quality products from developing countries. Their products are completely organic, which means there are no preservatives or artificial flavors. Some of their organic ingredients in their chocolate products include wine, fruits, and nuts. There is even some uncommon pairings including chili and ketchup. Zotter makes their products to meet dietary needs. They make chocolate for those who need gluten and lactose free, as well as vegan chocolate.

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The factory is open for tours, along with its Edible Zoo directly behind the factory. Visitors can see the entire process of how cocoa beans are transformed into chocolate and learn more about the cocoa farmers that Zotter buys their beans from in India, Latin America and Africa. You can taste the cocoa beans in their different stages of production from raw to final product. As you are walking through the factory, you can sample as much chocolate as you can possibly eat and or drink.

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It’s no secret that I have a giant sweet tooth, so walking through the factory was amazing. They have all of their products out for sampling on every floor and in every stairway. They even have a floor that has a drink bar where you are given a warm glass of milk to mix in their drinking chocolate. There is flavor and type of chocolate to meet everyone’s taste. The hand-scooped filled chocolate bars have layers piled on the inside of a delicious filling that include cognac and coffee, bacon bits, pumpkin seeds with marzipan or sacramental wine and frankincense that is coated in chocolate. Labooko is a pure solid chocolate bar that comes in a variety of types including milk, dark, fruit, nut and coffee chocolate.  You can find the rest of Zotter’s products in their online Choco-Shop.

It takes real creativity to combine sustainability, Fairtrade, and organic products with decadent chocolate.  Zotter shares this with you when you visit the factory, they truly have the innovative edge in chocolate.

 

“The World’s Happiness Report”

My parents always told me that success is measured by happiness. I do believe this is true and a good value to live by. No matter what you do in life it’s almost impossible to be successful if you’re unhappy. Happiness is something I am striving to find more of and as I have gotten older, I have come to the realization that life is hard and people focus on the negative more than the positive. I recently learned in my Intimate Relationships class this semester that it take 5 positives to outweigh 1 negative in a relationship or any aspect of life.

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My mom, dad and I when I was a senior in high school (2012)

I was interested in finding out which countries in the world were the happiest (and saddest) and why. So I did some research. I was lucky to find some really up-to-date statistics posted on April 23, 2015 on a website called MindBodyGreen.com. The post is by Emi Boscamp, an associate editor at MindBodyGreen.com who graduated from Cornell.

The study was done by a group of international and national economists, neuroscientists and statisticians. They call their study “The World Happiness Report” and this is their third time performing the study. Based on their research, as a team, they came to the conclusion that the Swiss are the world’s happiest people. They based their data and rankings off of what they call “four main factors”. According to MindBodyGreen.com, these factors are “Sustained positive emotion, Recovery from Negative Emotion, Pro-Social behavior and generosity, and Mind wandering, mindfulness and ‘affective stickiness’ or emotion captured attention.”

This time around the research team was able to change their study by breaking down their data based on gender, age and region and they found “surprisingly big differences between these demographics” than ever before.

A happy Switz couple. Fiat 500 Geburtstagsfeier - "Happy People" in Switzerland http://www.askjeff.com/en/work/29.html#sub63

A happy Swiss couple. Fiat 500 Geburtstagsfeier – “Happy People” in Switzerland http://www.askjeff.com/en/work/29.html#sub63

 

So…… according to MindBodyGreen.com here is the 2015 list of the top 20 happiest countries in the world:

1. Switzerland     2. Iceland    3. Denmark   4. Norway    5. Canada   6. Finland

7. Netherlands   8. Sweden   9. New Zealand   10. Australia    11. Israel   12. Costa Rica

13. Austria   14.Mexico   15. United States   16. Brazil   17. Luxembourg   18. Ireland

19. Belgium  20. United Arab Emirates

 

Unfortunately, MindBodyGreen.com did not include WHY these countries were ranked the happiest in the world, so I looked at previous years of the world’s happiest countries on Forbes.com because their website gave a more detailed evaluation.

I chose three countries from the top 20 list of the “World’s Happiest Countries” to explain why they were ranked.

According to Forbes.com… I chose…

Switzerland because it is ranked #1 on the list.  This is due to their country being “number 1 in governance, 2nd in health and economy and sticking with the Franc rather than going Euro has helped make Switzerland a bastion of stability in shaky Europe right now.”

Norway because my great, great grandfather, Gustav Vigeland has his own park in Oslo, Norway, full of his sculptures. He was also the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal. Additionally, my Mormor (grandmother) immigrated to the U.S. from Norway as well. Norway is ranked #4 on the list because according to Forbes.com “with a per capita GDP of $54,000 Norway is among the richest in the world and ranks first in social capital and second in safety and security”.

A photo of Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway.  Slawonir http://www.panoramio.com/photo/80107330

A photo of Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway.
Slawonir
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/80107330

The United States because it is my home country. According to Forbes.com it makes the top 20 list of happiness because it is “an excellent place to start a business, the U.S. also ranks no. 1 in health, a function of high immunizations, clean water and the highest levels of gov’t spending on healthcare”.

Happy Americans. "Crowd Holding American Flags" http://www.corbisimages.com/stock-photo/royalty-free/42-20942474/crowd-holding-american-flags

Happy Americans.
“Crowd Holding American Flags”
http://www.corbisimages.com/stock-photo/royalty-free/42-20942474/crowd-holding-american-flags

Maybe one day I will be fortunate enough to travel to all of these countries so I can experience happiness of all different cultures and forms.

Although I’m choosing not to blog about the top 20 saddest countries in the world, because I do not want to dwell on the negative… I have included the list below in case anyone is interested.

1. Togo   2. Burundi   3.Syria   4.Benin   5.Rwanda   6.Afghanistan   7.Burkina Faso

8.Ivory Coast  9.Guinea   10.Chad   11. Central African Republic   12.Madagascar

13. Tanzania   14.Cambodia  15.Niger 16.Gabon   17.Senegal   18.Uganda

19.Comoros   20.Congo (Brazzaville)

Global Art Attractions Ban “Selfie Sticks”

Around this time last year, in 2014, the word “selfie” was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, following almost a year of the word making the rounds through American as well as international vernacular. What started as a seemingly innocent way to describe a photo you take of yourself quickly became a real thing, sparking even a television show. And of course, the infamous selfie stick. Selfie. Stick. There is no way to say that phrase and not feel a little stupid.

It’s also hard to not look somewhat stupid while using one. Extending a monopod almost two feet to snap a photo of you in front of wherever doing whatever may seem like a harmless way to document your vacation, but some of the most popular tourist art attractions in the world are pushing back, with officials citing that the sticks are obnoxious and potentially hazardous to the art.

In France, the Palace of Versailles is the most recent attraction to ban selfie sticks, with the Louvre reviewing their photography to possibly include a ban as well.

Meanwhile, in Italy, the Colosseum imposed a ban, after an official said, “The twirling around of hundreds of sticks can become unwittingly dangerous.” This image that is evoked of hundreds of tourists spinning around in circles in an effort to get the best photo and accidentally hurting themselves or others in the process is both simultaneously hilarious and saddening.

In Austria, the Albertina, one of the top art museums has been one of the first to ban selfie sticks, and require guests to check them in when they first arrive.

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When I first heard about the selfie stick, I thought it might be a joke. When I first saw someone use one, I appreciated the novelty but couldn’t imagine paying actual money for one. Yet, I would argue that the practice of inventing seemingly dumb contraptions to go hand-in-hand with our advancing technology has been around for ages and will only continue to develop as our technological needs grow.

Perhaps the selfie stick will die out in the face of these preemptive bans, but it forces us to think about how technology, art, and people will interact in the coming years. Will it be important to see a painting in the Louvre and take in the experience for yourself? Or, will it be more important to prove you did the thing, that you saw the painting, that you were there?
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Waltzing through the Night at a Viennese Ball

 

Hofburg Palace, Photo: viennaconcerts.com

ONE, two three, ONE, two, three, ONE, two, three is repeated over and over in my mind as I twirled around the ballroom. The orchestra played waltz after waltz at the Ball of the Vienna University of Technology (TU Ball). Even though I have never taken ballroom dance in all my years of dance training, learning to waltz really was not hard at all… I was more worried about getting my feet stepped on and twirling into another pair on a dance floor with hundreds of people crammed onto it. The most exciting part about that night was just experiencing first hand the traditions of the Viennese ball culture.

Viennese balls date back to the 18th century where they were reserved for the elite and nobility. Emperor Joseph II opened up rooms in the beautiful Hofburg palace to enable everyone to participate in the pomp and circumstance of the extravagant balls. Today, the balls still include features like very strict dress codes, a grand opening with debutants, a midnight quadrille and the Damenspende (gifts for the women). Another tradition is if a lady is asked to dance, it is considered very rude to decline… but don’t worry ladies, if there’s someone you want to dance with, there is an hour in the night that is considered “ladies choice.”

19th Century Damenspende, Photo: Andreas Praefcke

My Damenspende

My Damenspende

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the title of my post, it says through the Night. I quite literally mean through the night. The Viennese Balls don’t start (opening fanfare, entrance of debutants, and open dance floor) until about 20/20:30 and they last until 5am. The quadrille is an exciting feature that takes place at midnight; The ball that I attended also had one at 3am. The quadrilles are just as much fun to watch as they are to participate in. It’s a bit easier to watch a quadrille, than try to explain what it is. Enjoy!

 

Midnight Quadrille at the 2014 Vienna Opera Ball

As you can see, everyone crowds into the main ballroom with a partner (yes, there is more than one room open for dancing and each room features a different style of music) and joins the “organized” chaos of the dance. There’s a caller on stage with the orchestra giving out commands to very fast paced gallop and everyone is frantically trying to keep up as the line eventually snakes its way around the room. It is a nice jolt of energy at different intervals in the night to keep the celebration going and to keep everyone awake.

The other ballrooms at the ball I attended featured a band playing jazz music, and a band/DJ that played more Latin music and some popular music in which we called “the disko.” Now, if you thought the quadrille was a sight to see, imagine these bewildering (from the perspective of an American) images: 1. Couples trying to ballroom dance to Gangnam Style and 2. An elderly Austrian gentleman actually trying to do the dance to Gangnam Style. My first though watching this was “How???” I mean, you could clearly tell who the Americans were because they were the ones doing the actual party dance. Looking back, it is interesting to see how generations and styles mix, and how the old traditions of Viennese balls have evolved over time to include some modern day flair.

Winters in Vienna are host to around 400 balls and are organized around just about every professional group there is. There is the Zuckerbäckerball for confectioners, the Kaffeesiedler Ball for coffee brewers, the Juristenball for lawyers and the Jägerball where instead of wearing the formal long gowns and tuxedoes, the mandatory dress is traditional dirndl and lederhosen. The most well known and highest in placement on the social calendar of Vienna are the Philharmoniker Ball, hosted by the Vienna Philharmonic at the Musikverein, and the Wiener Opernball, at the Staatsoper (State Opera House).

Debutants waltzing at the 2015 Vienna Opera Ball, Photo: EPA

There is an array of balls to choose from to celebrate and join in with the locals and international guests. Sadly, this year’s ball season has come to an end with Fasching (Carnival) and the beginning of the Lenten season. Find your dancing shoes and start practicing your waltzing in preparation for next year’s ball season.

Eurovision Shows Acceptance of Bearded Woman

In case you hadn’t heard, this year’s Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst, of Austria, created quite the commotion.

Conchita Wurst-Creative Commons

Conchita Wurst-Creative Commons

You may be wondering what is Eurovision? I did not know what it was until last year when one of my European friends introduced it to me with this awesome music video. Eurovision is a annual singing competition. Each country in the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has their own selection process and then sends one act to perform at the Eurovision competition.

Austria chose Conchita Worst for the 2014 competition. Conchita is the first bearded woman to compete. She also won.  Now you might be wondering what gender does Conchita choose to identify as? Paris Lees from the Guardian explains it well

Conchita is a clue as to what this gender diversity might look like in practice. “She” is actually a boy called Tom. Conchita is his lady persona, a strangely compelling mix of Katy Perry and Jesus, but it’s female pronouns, please, when the lashes are on – and male ones when they come off. Confused? This is gender fluidity and you’d better get used to it.

This means that she is a girl when she is Conchita and a boy when he is Tom. Conchita explained it as

It’s obvious for example that when I am Conchita, I use the female toilet, and when I am Tom, the male toilet. I can assure you it’s never a problem for women, they love it.

Now that you understand who Conchita is, we can move on to the contest, where she took first place with her song Rise Like a Phoenix.

It is a very fitting song that not only represents the romance aspect from the song, but also her own personal transformation and all she’s dealt with on the long road to winning Eurovision 2014.

Although she was able to overcome her struggles and ultimately win, it was not without controversy.  As you might imagine there were some conservative countries that were less than pleased with her entry into the competition. Russia, Belarus and Armenia protested her entry. Russian politician Vitaly Milonov even wrote to the Russian Eurovision selection committee asking them to boycott her entry by not sending Russian contestants to this year’s competition.

Despite their governments displease, the citizens were not dissuaded from supporting the Austrian contestant.

Eurovision Infographic I compiled the above map from the Eurovision Finale voting. As you can see all of the yellow countries, which include the three countries mentioned above, rated Conchita much higher than their Jury voters. It can be expected that the Jury voters would be under more pressure to vote how their government expects because they can be identified. The Televoters can be expected to vote how they feel because it is anonymous.

This shows just because people live in a conservative nation does not mean they necessarily feel the same way. Hopefully, this is a sign that Europe (along with the rest of the world) will become more accepting of all people, bearded or not.

Magic doors.

Door-Rundquist
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.

Finding Love Online

If you’ve seen television recently, then you probably have seen the Match.Com commercial that states, “1 in 5 couples meet through an online dating service.”  Well, they weren’t kidding and it holds true in Europe, too.

Europeans have even taken to mobile dating, finding people via your cell phone based on current GPS location.  Meetic and Vodafone are at the forefront of European mobile dating and are watching as this phenomenon expands. Because of Americans busy schedules, I cannot see mobile dating exploding in America

How do Europeans make themselves stand out when actively pursuing someone on an Internet dating website?  Well, one blogger turned book publisher, Zoe Margolis, has some pointers for those looking for love.  She suggests that you make sure you’re grammatically correct.  She explains that your grammar shows your attention to detail and that you are actually intelligent.  She also suggests not to portray yourself as too picky, too desperate or too arrogant. She differentiates wanting a legitimate relationship from a purely sexual encounter.  Are the majority of people on these sites seeking Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now?  Well, it appears, after some investigating, that these sites are quite similar to a bar.  Each person wants something different.

Oddly enough, economic recessions throughout Europe have made the amount of online daters skyrocket.  Why?  Well, my guess is when you don’t have a job, you have more time on your hands and people use that time to find love.  But most of these sites do require some kind of monthly membership fee, so, you should hope you find someone quickly.

Isn’t it funny, online dating was originally thought to be only for Americans because Americans are presumed to be too busy to find love, a basic human need.  Online dating was even frowned down upon by both Europeans and Americans.  Years ago, it had the connotation of being either desperate or possibly, dangerous (who knows who you could meet…). Now though, a single mother, for example, may have to be selective, in the interest of her children, about the people she takes the time to date or perhaps a busy professional may not have time to go out and meet other singles.

In a world that embraces technology, it appears that online dating around the world is here to stay and possibly, change the way people meet. While I have never used an online dating service and it is currently not my desired method of meeting people, one day it may be the norm. Have you ever used an online dating service?  If so, what did you think about it?

Having a ball at Fasching

Photo Credit: FestivalsInVienna.BlogSpot.Com

In an earlier post, I wrote about how carnival starts on November 11th, at 11:11 am. During Fasching, it is also ball season in Austria. This tradition dates back through Austrian History and the first ball, the Imperial Ball, takes place on New Years Eve at Hofburg Palace in Vienna.  There are hundreds of  glorious balls to choose from and to attend.  However, the end of February or beginning of March typically mark the end of the official season. A few balls are continued when the season is over, and the last ones are typically carnival balls.

The balls are usually opened by a Polonaise (a slow stately dance of Polish origin) and punctuated by speeches, a midnight Quadrille (a square dance performed by couples) and the crowning of the “belle of the ball.”

A very well known ball that takes place after the Imperial Ball is the Pharmacists’ ball, which is located at the same venue.  This ball is on January 21st this year and is sponsored by professionals.  According to Austria Information, other popular balls are also “held by professional groups, ranging from  confectioners, hunters and pharmacists to coffee house owners and engineers.”

A ball that may be appealing to college students is the Rudolfina Redoute.  It is a masquerade ball, where the participants wear a mask through the night in order to keep things interesting. This ball is held by a student fraternity and is also a ball that dates back to the very beginning of the ball tradition.

Photo Credit: MyMasqueradeBallMasks

If you are serious about attending a ball, you should take a few dance classes before hand.  The Walz is the most common dance for these events.  I would also suggest to book in advance, as tickets are bought on a frequent basis.

Krampus On Campus

Throughout America, there are small sects of fans of almost any concept, person, place, or thing you can think of.  Among German students, particularly at the college level, you can’t escape the scattered fandom of Krampus.  In sight of the holiday season, Krampus name-dropping becomes more and more evident and the legend goes a little something like this:

Krampus is a mythical being, recognized in the Alpine area, including south Germany.  Supposedly, when Saint Nicholas comes around to fill stockings of good little boys and girls, Krampus accompanies him to take care of the bad ones.  Now, in Germany, if you’ve been good, you will receive gifts of toys, chocolates, sugar, spice and everything nice.  However, if you’ve been bad, a much more horrible fate awaits you in the form of a visit from Krampus.  As a naughty one, you’ll see Krampus drudging towards you, black rags flying in the wind around his demon-like face.  He throws chains in your way and swings his stick or switch, giving you forewarning of what’s to come once you get home. When it comes time for him to visit your sleeping self on the night of December 6th with Saint Nicholas, if you have been bad, instead of receiving gifts, Krampus will take all of what you could have had and bag you up with it, taking you away to be beaten somewhere.

Now, Krampus appears different ways in different Alpine countries.  In Germany and Austria, he usually appears as a goat-like demon creature who roams the street looking for bad children to hit with his switch.  In Croatia, he appears as a devil wearing nothing but a cloth sack and chains around his arms, neck and waist.  In Hungary, Krampus takes on a more mischievious over evil demeanor.

Krampus is a sort of pre-christian concept that stems from the southern part of west europe, and in some parts northern Germany, is not even heard of or known.  I was shocked to find out upon traveling to Giessen, a smaller city near Frankfurt, that my friends in Germany hard never heard of Krampus.  Even the ones who knew most other traditional German folk lore!  I had learned about Krampus in German class after German class throughout middle school and high school.  By the time I reached college, Krampus was something of a legend, and other people I knew who liked German and its traditions as much as I did held “Krampus on East Campus” christmas-themed parties.  Little to say, I was shocked upon finding out this culture difference in an area I thought would be more than knowledgeable about the subject.

The lore for me has always been so beautifully, traditionally, stereotypically German, which is what attracted me to it so strongly in the first place.  The idea of rewards for good children, and not only punishments, but also straight evil, cruelty, and brutality for bad ones is so typical of a German fairy-tale-like story.  The concept of Krampus is TERRIFYING, and so deeply, German-ly cool.  Germans seem to think Krampus is more of “an Austria thing,” but as an American who always learned about him in the context of German culture, is their claim correct?

So, Alpine-minded readers, have you heard of Krampus?  I’d be curious to know.

November 11th at 11:11 in Cologne

Photo Credit: Rolf Hahn

If you are looking for something to celebrate and are in Europe, look no further, because Carnival is celebrated in many countries abroad.

Even though the actual festivities typically start before lent, the month of February is marked as the main event.  So, depending where you are during all of this excitement, you are very likely to find a country in Europe where celebrating takes place. Costumes, parades, and fireworks are “must haves” in countries-from Belgium to Spain.

In Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, the celebrating is alike in many ways.  “Am Elften Elften um Elf Uhr Elf“, the individuals  in Germany start their partying.  This phrase is well known, and translated it means “On November 11th, at 11:11.”

There are distinctions between the celebrations in German speaking countries.  One area celebrates the Rheinish carnival and the other celebrates the Swabian-Alemannic carnival.

The Swabian-Alemannic carnival is also known as Fastnacht.  It takes place in Western Austria and Southwest Germany.  This carnival “traditionally represents the time of year when the reign of the cold, grim winter spirits is over and these spirits are being hunted down and expelled.”

The Rheinish Carnival is celebrated in North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg, and Rhineland Palatinate.  It includes parades, floats, and costume balls.  Even though many cities take part in the celebration, the biggest and most famous one is always in Cologne.  During this time, people are greeted by saying “Kölle Alaaf” which means “Cologne above all.”

Since it is a celebration that lasts longer than a day, people sometime refer to carnival as “the crazy days”.  This week “takes place between the Fat Thursday (Weiberfastnacht)and ends on Ash Wednesday (Aschermittwoch).  The highlight of the carnival is Rose Monday (Rosenmontag), two days before Ash Wednesday.”

Photo Credit: Entdecke-Deutschland.Diplo.De

When I was in Germany in the 90s, I actually got to participate in a carnival. We decorated the float weeks before, which took a lot of time and preparation.  The day of the carnival, we dressed up and painted our faces.  During the float, people cheered and we threw candy off of it.  It was definitely a great experience and I would love to do it again one day.  I also suggest that if anyone is in any country at anytime that celebrates carnival, go!

Here is a picture of my float.  If you look closely, I am the little girl leaning on the right side.  This was in Jüchen, Germany (about 40 minutes away from Cologne).

And finally, if you are for any reason not convinced that carnival is a great celebration, you can watch this Youtube video. Enjoy!

Let’s start things earlier, in Europe.


Photo Credit: Timebooth

Every year we are changing our clocks, either “springing forward” or “falling back” into time.  We synchronize our clocks either to save some daylight (Daylight Saving) or to return back to our standard time.

For this year, in the United States, Daylight Saving began on Sunday, March 13, 2011 and will end shortly on November 6, 2011. This change occurs each year in order to save one hour of daylight in the afternoon and have one less hour in the morning. But why does this happen, and since when?

George Vernon Hudson, a well known astronomer and entomologist, thought of this concept in 1895.  Since World War I, it has been used by most European countries and the United States. Germany and Austria started this in “an effort to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power.” Other countries started adapting this immediately.

The United States actually passed a law in 1918, known as “An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States.” If one wants to read more about the law, click here.

Adding an extra hour of daylight adds a lot time for various activities.  This is beneficial for individuals who partake in outdoor activities, as in George Hudson’s case. Not everyone is in favor of this change because it does cause problems for individuals where daylight is a part of their occupation, like farmers, for example.  Other problems and challenges also arise when it disrupts our sleep schedule, cause changes in flights and meetings, and it can also effect our record keeping.  However, drawbacks and benefits vary from person to person.

Photo Credit: Tuftsjournal

As I was sitting in my living room talking to my dad about how the time change is approaching, he informed me that the time has already changed in Europe.

Europe has an EU-Rule, which has to be followed by all countries in the Union, that tells individuals when the time change occurs.  Other countries in Europe, that are not part of the Union, have simply adapted to this rule for their own benefit. The United States, however, has not been as consistent as Europe in the past.  In the “early 1960s, observance of Daylight Saving Time was quite inconsistent, with a hodgepodge of time observances, and no agreement about when to change clocks.” Now, the entire country changes the time consistently and accordingly.

In Europe, the time change begins at 1:00 am on the last Sunday of March and ends at 1:00 am on the last Sunday of October.  In the United States, the time change begins at 2:00 am on the Second Sunday in March and ends at 2:00 am on the First Sunday of November.

Time changes vary according to the continent, country, and state.  Europe countries change their time before the United States, but Hawaii and Arizona, for instance, never change to daylight savings.  Other territories like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands also keep their time as is.

How do you feel about the time change? Is it beneficial for you, or does it affect you in a negative way?

Caffeine culture: Austria’s Red Bull creates its own extreme world

Source: funsporting.com

Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t the only extreme American icon to come out of Austria. As is turns out, Red Bull, the first and most popular energy drink, also has Austrian origins.

Since it was first sold in Austria in 1987, the brand has moved into global markets in over 160 countries and obtained almost 50 percent of the energy drink market share with approximately four billion cans consumed each year.

The energy drink claims to enhance users’ mental and physical performance through a combination of natural and added ingredients, including taurine, glucuronolactone, caffeine, B vitamins, sucrose and glucose. The brand’s only major problem is that the drink doesn’t taste very good.

Now you may be wondering, how did Red Bull become so popular? The answer is that the company has created its own young, active culture — “the World of Red Bull,” as its commercials claim — to surround the brand. Red Bull has used this culture to pound their message into the heads of youth all over the world: To be active you need energy, so guzzle our caffeinated drink.

Red Bull makes it clear that no matter your lifestyle, Red Bull helps you do what you need to do better by enhancing your energy, strength, concentration, and alertness. Whether you’re an athlete who wants to up his or her performance in extreme sports, a student who needs to do some extreme studying, or a professional that wants to breeze through the work day, Red Bull is for you.

Red Bull’s key to success has been to create a truly extreme culture to surround the brand. Those who drink Red Bull don’t just use a brand; they live an extreme lifestyle in one way or another, and Red Bull makes that possible.

Let’s say you’re a young person, and you ask, “How do I know Red Bull aligns with the type of activities I like to do?” As could be expected, the brand advertises their extreme message and culture using sports heroes as spokespeople. But the company has also taken their marketing to the next level by Red Bull sponsoring all kinds of sports and recreational activities that appeal to this young crowd:
• it sponsors air racing, extreme sports teams and soccer teams internationally.
• it sponsor seven more types of sports teams in Austria.
• it has its own culture website with dance, music and film related to Red Bull.

Source: redbullillume.com

Red Bull has even created its own publications and shows for all of the major media platforms, including television, magazines, blogs, videos on the web, and a handful of interactive websites. Red Bull Media House—the brand’s subsidiary media company—coordinates the company’s media efforts to promote Red Bull-infused lifestyles, sports and entertainment.

If anything, Red Bull’s marketing mantra would have to be: extreme marketing for an extreme lifestyle.

“Red Bull gives you wings.”

Written by: Jamie Tanner and Claire Taylor

Fall Brews – From East to West

All good beer drinkers (Euro and Yank alike) know, with the crispness of fall comes the excitement of both classic and innovative autumnal beer.

The tradition is the classic pale lager, originating in Munich, Germany.  Pale Lager is a lean, stable beer and is most widely drank as what people consider “regular” beer around the world today.  They tend to be dry, lean, and like Autumn itself, crisp.  Traditionally, during Germany’s biggest fall festival, Oktoberfest, a type of Pale Lager dubbed “Märzen” is the drink of preference and has been since 1818.  Oktoberfestbier is supplied heavily in Germany by what is known as “The Big Six” breweries.  (Spaten, Löwenbräu, Augustiner-BräuHofbräuhaus München, Paulaner, and Hacker-Pschorr. (All conveniently located in Germany’s southern half and beer haven, Bayern)  If you’re looking for your typical, traditional Autumnal beer, look no further.  Each of these breweries offers their own specific versions of Oktoberfestbier and many offer international ordering and shipping.


To step up from the pale lager, Fall beers also often come in the form of a Bokbier, or “Bock.”  Bock beers are dark, sweet, lightly hopped, malty ales traditionally associated with holidays and festivals.  In areas like Austria, Bokbier is drank particularly around Christmas time, but places like the Netherlands and Belgium like to get things started off in Fall with strictly seasonal Autumn Bock Beers. Brouwerij ‘t IJ, a brewery in Amsterdam, Netherlands, brews a specialty fall beer called “eco-beer biobok.”  The IJ Bok is, “Dark and Robust, but not too sweet.”  It is available every year from September through November.

Finally, and most typically American, we have the specialty Autumn “flavored” beer.  These beers are generally ales brewed to include typical Fall tastes, such as pumpkin, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and other thanksgiving-style flavors.  Quite generally, these beers are sweet and full flavor.  In fact, as this next beer exemplifies, they can be a bit of a dessert beer, so to say.  A typical and delicious fall beer brewed in the States is The Bruery’s “Autumn Maple.”  Brewed in Orange County, California, this belgian-style brown ale is reminiscent of the sweetness of Halloween and Thanksgiving combined.  It is a bold and spicy blend of  traditional Belgian yeast strains, sweet potatos, maple syrup, allspice, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg and not only smells, but also tastes uncannily like a pumpkin pie.

“Sturm” time in Austria


Picture by: oesterreich.pbworks

“Sturm” time is very popular in Austria during the fall.  Sturm is also know as “Suser, Sauser, Neuer Süßer, or Junger Wein (young wine) in Southwest Germany, Switzerland and South Tyrol.” Others may know it as Federweißer.

Sturm is a popular alcoholic beverage and marks the beginning of autumn and the harvest season for many locals.

The drink usually has a low alcohol content of 4%, but some areas make the drink much stronger where it can be up to 10% of alcohol by volume. It all depends on what region it’s from.  Sturm is made of grapes that are fermented into alcohol. Fermentation is a process that can take up to a month until the liquid refreshment is perfected.  After it reaches the alcohol content you want, it can then be sold.


Picture: BilderBox


Picture: handwerk-magazin

This time is very popular for individuals because the wine must be consumed quickly, since it is only on sale for a few weeks in the fall.  The drink cannot be preserved, and if you buy a bottle of it, it comes without a cork because it is still fermenting.  Usually people attend festivals or restaurants where the drink can be bought and celebrated.

Sturm comes in white or red, and because of the high sugar content and carbonation, some may not be able to taste the alcohol in the beverage.  This time can be compared to Oktoberfest in Germany, because Sturm time is just as popular in Austria.

Here is also a blog, where a writer writes about her experience with Sturm.