I’m no van Gogh – starry night photography

I’m really not. I can’t paint or draw myself out of a paper bag to save my life.

I do like taking pictures and I’m decent at both the technical aspects as well as at least instinctively getting composition and lighting stuff right. Mostly.

A few days ago I managed to try something I’ve been wanting to do for ages but somehow never did.
I wanted to take pictures of a starry night sky. Trouble is, where I live ((Germany. Central Europe)) light pollution doesn’t make it easy. I don’t have New York City levels of light around, but I’m also not exactly in the middle of the Outback.

Being close to the 6W/50N intersection, a little to the south east of it in a red clump, mostly when we look up and see ANY stars we see maybe a dozen or so.

I’m looking forward to get a few chances in my 2015 vaction, but I couldn’t wait this long. So I did some research, grabbed my tripod, went out and took a bunch of pictures, which I tried to enhance a little afterwards. Not all of them, though. Turns out, it’s near pointless depending on the source material.

Check list for taking pretty pictures of a starry night
– go to NYC, Museum of Modern Arts.  ((Kidding. That’s where the painting is))
– tripod. A small one will do, just make sure it’s something that allows pointing the camera upwards
– flashlight (possibly a hands free one you can wear on your head)
– camera, preferably a DSLR with a wide angle lens with a good lens speed
– cable/remote trigger for minimal vibrations

Timing
– make sure there are no clouds in the sky. early fall or most of winter is often pretty good for that, except coooold
– try to find out when the astronomical sunset for your current location and time is. it might be quite a while after sunset and means the sun is far enough below the horizon to avoid interference
– moonless nights work best. Obviously. Maybe just go after moonset?

For me, last weekend astronomical sunset was at around 9PM. Moon didn’t set until about 2AM though, so I had to work around that by ways of location

Location
If  you want nothing but stars, just find a space where you can point your camera upwards
If you want to experiment with scenery, try the coast of a sea or lake. Or maybe an elevated position so you can look into a valley.
Most important: If you can’t go out after moonset, try to find a place that allows you to point your camera AWAY from the moon. In the opposite direction, prerefably. Otherwise moonlight will bleed into your picture, even if it’s not in the frame. I was pretty surprised how much that affected my shots.

Camera settings
You’ll have to play a little with those depending on the desired effect, but to avoid noise try a relatively low ISO setting first. But do experiment.
I had the best results with:
– ISO-1000 to 1600
– exposure time between 15 and 30 seconds
– aperture value as low as possible (wide open)

I currently don’t have a remote trigger for my camera so I made sure to set it to a time delayed release of 2 seconds. If you use a DSLR, using mirrow lockup will also help to reduce vibrations a lot.

And that’s pretty much it. Fire away, share your results. Here are some of mine!

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The full set is available here!

 

Olli’s Saturday School – Explicit Content

There is one thing that is the same wherever individuals learn a new language. German, English, French or Klingon. At one point they will wonder about this.

Back when I was in 8th grade, I went to my first student exchange.  As soon as some of the kids realized I spoke and understood more French than any of the others they first asked me if I’d understand them, were they to insult me.

Well. Having been raised bilingually and spent most of my holidays with cousins about my age in France, the answer was yes.

That was also the reason why everyone looked at me when we went to see that Matrix sequel that had the Merovingian in it. You know, the guy that curses in French?

So yeah. Sooner or later every student of a foreign language will ask someone or go looking for swearwords. As did Elise Valente, which is why I am writing this.

German, as probably any other language out there, has a wealth of swearwords, even if we’ve been adopted Fuck! as a general expression of disdain, anger, frustration, etc. It’s so common, could’ve been listed in that other blog post.

Some tendencies that other languages have, exist in German as well. Genitalia,  disability, sexual orientations and race-related issues can be sources for insults or swearwords. Yeah, I don’t like most of it either, but it’s there. And I’m not gonna go there. If you must know, feel free to ask me via contact form, twitter, etc. I might or might not answer.

For now, I’ll try to stick to those that mostly wont get you beat up if used in public.

Starting with general exclamations of anger, frustration or success. Something goes wrong? You stubbed your toe? Your favorite TV show got cancelled? Can’t find a list of cursewords in Klingon online?

Verdammt! – Damn! – baQa’
Scheisse! – Shit!/Crap!

Now that’s a word that you might be more careful with, depending on the company. No worry among friends, but it’s not something to say at a formal occasion.
A synonyme that should be treated equally carefully is Kacke.

More acceptable in less familiar company would be Mist which doesn’t have anything to do with the English word mist. Nope. This one means manure or dung.

Something going horribly and spectacularely wrong, or just surprising you a lot, can warrant the exclamation: Heilige Scheisse!
In an incompatible setting you might revert to Heiliger Bimbam!
You’ve just turned holy shut into holy ding-dong. Without any weird connotations.

Realizing mid-word, you can always save yourself in polite company. Schei…you shout. Looking around, you realize that this might be not the best thing to do. Go Scheibenkleister! instead. Scheibe is among others the word for a pane of glass, while Kleister is a kind of glue.
It’s the equivalent of going sh…….sugar!
The really funny part: There’s a euphemism for Scheibenkleister. Some people say Scheibenhonig instead, which translates to pane-honey and does not mean anything.

If you want to adress someone who has been mean to you, if you indeed want to call them an asshole ((or do you prefer arsehole?)) the German word for that would be Arschloch. You could also just say Arsch (=arse).

Or, and that’s kinda cool: Arschgeige.
You’d be literally calling that person an arse-violin or arse-fiddle.

Related to that is a famous expression attributed to Götz von Berlichingen by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Du kannst mich mal am Arsch lecken.
You can lick my arse. 

So there, I taught you some literature.

And that’s a good place to stop as any. I don’t want to get any complaints from your parents about teaching you really inappropriate stuff.

 

Nom de dieu, de putain de bordel de merde de saloperie de connard d’enculé de ta mère. Name of God (goddamit), of whore of whorehouse, of shit, of mess (or bitchery) of asshole (or idiot), of motherfucker.

Translating those into English is already a little difficult because some things being cursewords in French don’t work well in English. And even less in German. Also I said I won’t tell you stuff that gets you beaten up here, if I can avoid it.

Olli’s Saturday School – false friends

After dealing with stolen vocabulary last week, we’re taking a look at the opposite this time.

Back when I was starting to learn English at school ((holy shit, about 20 years ago)) one of my favorite categories in our text book was false friends.

I am not sure if that is a term used in English and I can’t be bothered to look it up, so here’s a short explanation:

Words that sound or look the same in two languages but mean something different is what our text book called false friends. Makes sense? Good!

An example I only learned recently probably also falls into the stolen vocabulary category.

The English word verklempt probably stems from the German verklemmt.
The verb klemmen can be translated with the words clip, grip, stick or pinch and a few more. If someone is stuck in a tight spot, both literally and figuratively, we say Sie/Er steckt in der Klemme!

The adjective verklemmt translates to uptight, inhibited or in some cases: prude.while someone who is verklempt is overcome with emotions.

So you can see how that can cause confusion

A very common error with German student is confusing the verbs to become  and to get. The German verb bekommen usually translates to receive, get, etc.
Ich bekomme ein Baby. – I’m having a child. (giving birth or currently being pregnant)
Ich bekomme das Steak – I’ll have the steak. (ordering at a restaurant)
Unfortunately sometimes, the bekommen can actually be used when translating certain expressions using become.

becoming afraid of something in German would be  Angst bekommen. Literally acquiring fear.

End of story: We occasionally had a lot of fun saying stuff like I become a steak.

Here’s a few examples:

The word Gift is the German word for poison.
A gift as in present is Geschenk, from the verb schenken.
gifted = begabt
a gift (as in a talent) =
Gabe
The last two stem from the verb geben (to give)

The German word also is not the same as the English one.
So this is the famous three-headed cat!
Also dies ist die berühmte dreiköpfige Katze!

Arm = arm (the body part)
arm = poor

Art = kind, sort, species
The English word art translates to Kunst. An artist is a Künstler, künstlich is the German word for artificial.

You can encounter a really nasty example when it comes to large numbers.
The German Billion is a one followed by twelve zeroes.
Apparently there is or used to be a difference between American and British English here, according to something I just found on the net.
Anyway, a one followed by nine zeroes is a Milliarde.
The German Trillion is a cubed million, a one followed by eighteen zeroes.
Now think about a conversation between German, American and British astrophysicists.

The German word brav is an adjective Germans use to describe well-behaved. Or to tell not-so-well-behaved ones to behave. Sei brav! could be translated to Be nice! or Be good!
Our word for brave is tapfer.

When we say Kraft, we’re not talking about craft. We’d use Handwerk ((think handy-work)) for that. Kraft in German means strength.

There’s tons more of those, I’ll just leave a final one here for all the Harry Potter fans out there: Wand is the German word for wall. Harry Potter is wielding a Zauberstab.

Olli’s Saturday School – Gute Nacht, Liebling

Not long ago, someone on twitter decided to show off her awesome German skills when saying good night on twitter.

So what I got was the title of this blog ((minus the Olli’s Saturday School part)).

Gute Nacht, Liebling!

I explained a few things and decided to make this a topic of my weekly language lessons.

The translation of that tweet basically is Good night, love! ((or sweetheart, honey, darling))

So far so good, you say? Well, sure. I can say Good night, love! or something like that to good friends, coworkers, people I like and want to tease a bit. Depending on how well I know them. The right tone helps, but even in written conversation context and relationship to that person should help making clear that it is not a honey between actual lovers.

In German the word Liebling ((from Liebe = love))  is pretty much exclusively used between lovers, or maybe by a parent adressing their child. Ok, or someone talking about their pet.

To avoid confusion on either side a change in wording might be appropriace. Gute Nacht, mein Lieber ((or meine Liebe in case a woman is adressed)) could be used when talking to someone you treasure, estimate or like but are not in an actual romantic relationship with. Although it’s a little old fashioned AND funnily enough sort of an expression commonly used in eastern Germany.

Actually most of the words stemming from Liebe and their use are a pretty serious matter and should be used carefully.

Tell someone you love them today, because life is short. But scream it at them in German, because life is also terrifying and confusing!

Yeah, I know. German does have a reputation of being a harsh and angry sounding language. It is not actually true. Just like French doesn’t always sound like poetry. Trust me. I am German AND French.

German for I love you is Ich liebe dich.

As with Liebling that is usually reserved for usage between lovers and close family.

The last person to say Ich liebe dich to me was a customer of mine. ((He’s not my type, 20 years older than me, married with at least one kid and rather male, which isn’t what I am looking for in a partner))

He said it in a tone that made it absolutely clear he was not actually declaring his undying love to me. In fact he was just thanking me for explaining something to him and making his life a little easier ((software licensing can be a difficult thing)). I replied, laughing: Ich dich auch, André! which is short for Ich liebe dich auch / I love you, too

Something else people say, although usually younger folks, is Ich hab dich lieb. Love as an adverb. The best translation for that probably is I hold you dear.

That also works with other pet names usually reserved between lovers, family, pets and owners, etc.

It is a little less common to call someone darling or honey in German who actually isn’t. But occasionally a friend or even coworker will do it, jokingly, when asking for help or saying thanks for something.

Pet names for your partner ((or kid)) are a common thing in Germany as well and range from animals to very kitschy compound words like Augenstern. That one literally translates to star of my eye.

According to a list I just googled, here are the most common pet names people in relationships would like to be called. I’ve included the most literal translations where applicable.

Women
Schatz – treasure
Süße – sweetie
Engel – Angel
Liebling – love/darling
Maus – Mouse
Honey – duh
Hase – rabbit, bunny
Baby – duh
Bärchen – Bär is German for bear, Bärchen is a diminuitive of that, diminuitives are often used as terms of endearment

Men
Schatz – treasure
Liebling – love/darling
Süßer – sweetie
Bärchen – Bär is German for bear, Bärchen is a diminuitive of that, diminuitives are often used as terms of endearment
Hase – rabbit, bunny
Engel – Angel
Maus – Mouse ((ok, that kinda surprised me))
Honey – duh
Baby – duh

So, except for the order it’s the same stuff on either side.

As you can see, animals are a thing in Germany. Calling someone Hase ((or a diminuitive of that)) does not have any negative connotations as bunny might have due to a certain publication with an animal logo. There ARE animals you should not use though, but I think I’ll leave that for you to figure out.

A good rule of thumb is: cute and furry = yes, typical farm animals = probably not.

Top of the list for men and women is the word Schatz

The literal translation of that is treasure as in Treasure Island, hidden treasure, the famous pirate’s booty. A better translation for our use while retaining some of the original meaning would be precious.

Although, concerning certain associations regarding literature and movies, you should probably just go with darling.

GISHWHES – How not to be a jerk

This post was kind of triggered by me reading comments.

Ye be warned!

Some inappropriate language will appear in this post and things linked in it. ((Ye be warned again.))

In case you don’t know, GISHWHES is a global internet scavenger hunt in which people are asked to do weird stuff to get points towards a slim chance of winning a grand prize. Apparently ((I didn’t even realize it)) it is at least partially for charity. Good job.

Like this:

That is a pretty harmless one for everyone involved.

Another one was:

Get a previously published Sci-Fi author to write an original story (140 words max) about Misha, the Queen of England and an Elopus

Apparently that prompted a great many people to suddenly lose all common decency and swamp a hoard of authors, some of them high-profile, with tweets, mails, facebook messages and who-knows-what, in some cases perhaps politely asking for, demanding or attempting to guilt-trip them into writing said story.

A lot have – understandably – denied the request, some have been insulted and harassed for that. Boo.

Some of the authors  got seriously upset about that alone and expressed their annoyance in the form of tweets and blogs. I read some of those.

I love this one. I do not love the one that is linked in there as much, I don’t agree with part of it, but I do understand it. The comments ((Never read the comments.  Never. Uhm, I will read and if I deem necessary or polite react to those on mine)) on that was what drove me over the edge and made me write this blog post.

Not-so-dear GISHERS

– who thought it was a good idea to contact authors that are quite high profile, obviously leading rather busy lives and/or not even remotely acquainted with you unless they have previously expressed the wish to help
– who were impolite, demanding, rude, threatening, harassing or anything along those lines in your requests or reactions to denial
– who actually found out a secret mail adress used by that particular writer for very specific purposes and thought it was a good idea to use that one

Fuck. You. ((Ye were warned.))

I do not agree that asking a professional for a favor is demeaning or devaluing their work or anything. But a favor is a personal thing, so unless you know/have a bilateral connection to that professional, think about what you’re doing.

Again: Think about who you ask. And how  you ask.

BUT IT’S FOR CHARITY!

So? Do YOU donate/help EVERY SINGLE charity that approaches you? No? Tought so.
Wait, you do? Good for you. How many of them approach you? Ah, I see. Well, how would you react if what feels like every single charity in your country approaches you within the course of one week? Thought so.
Does it help if they’re rude? Demanding? Try to guild trip you?
I guessed.

Dear affronted, annoyed and swamped authors who might read that:

I am truly sorry. And ashamed. Please do not blame the community or the initiators for what happened here. I am pretty sure that is not the way it was intended. And no, I do not think the NASAspam item is the same thing, but I do see the problems it might create.

Please consider that what those people are doing, and the way they are doing it, is against the spirit and against the actual rules of the event. You don’t blame YouTube for the content of the comment section, do you? ((Okay, I admit, it is easier to avoid than a gazillion unsolicited mails within a week))

Behavior during the Hunt – You are not permitted to physically, emotionally or psychologically hurt or attack yourself, another GISHER or anyone outside The Hunt

Granted, there is a command about forsaking decency, but I think that is all about embarrassing yourself in a way not harmful to anyone else.

Again, I am so sorry and I actually felt bad for a bit for even taking part in what I still think is a good idea at the core.

Back to you jerks, who will probably never read this:

What the hell were you thinking? No, wait. I don’t want to know. But I want you to read the following section and learn from it. It’s a good thing to keep in mind even outside of scavenger hunts.

My first thought when reading that particular item was: Huh. That is hard, how can I help do this without bothering anyone while still having a chance at success? Luckily I got to know a load of people on twitter in the past two years, some of them in a circle ((or maybe oval)) of mostly indie/selfpublished writers.

So I took mental inventory.

It went a little like this: “Oh, that book I recently read is SciFi. I’ve talked a bit to the writer these past weeks. Seems like a fun person that I might ask nicely.”

So I formulated my request .

Subject line: Weird question. Maybe.

Actual Message:
Hi :-)

Have you ever heard of GISHWHES? Basically it’s a very weird internet scavenger hunt with a list of 180 or so items teams have to get pictures or video of.
www.gishwhes.com is the website. And there is in fact one item you might be able to help my team with, if you have the time and want to.
Trouble is, starting now, we have little more than 6 days left.
Item in question:
“Get a previously published Sci-Fi author to write an original story (140 words max) about Misha, the Queen of England and an Elopus.”
 
We’d need a picture of that story, legible and it is not allowed to be something that has been shared somewhere before.
 
If you don’t have time, don’t want to or whatever, that’s fine.
If you do, I’d be eternally grateful and treat you to all the cheese you want if you ever come here. Or something. :-)
Cheers,
Olli the weird German ;-D

 

That’s how easy it is to be nice. I was lucky enough to get a positive reply within a rather short time, and a story, But that doesn’t actually matter.

The point is: If you need to achieve something and you can’t do it without being an obnoxious asshole, then back the fuck off.
To paraphrase someone I am connected to via twitter:

Who will bleed, die or go to jail if it doesn’t work? Noone? So it’s not that important.

I don’t know if the people who behaved in that special way, leaving annoyed, frustrated or even scared authors in their destructive wake, giving the GISHWHES and the whole community a bad name were stupid, inconsiderate or just purposely being jerks.

Thanks for nothing, assbags.

Olli’s Saturday School – An education in intoxication

A while ago I talked about ordering water, but I assume most of you want some real drinks. ((Which you should drink responsibly)).

So…how old are you guys? For the younger ones, the good news is, there’s no waiting until you’re 21 befor you can can get educated in Germany.Jomm2014 057

I know, I know. That pub is in Oxford, England.

Back to our lesson, though. Legal age to drink certain sorts of drinks and enter certain sorts of places is ruled by our Jugendschutzgesetz, or JuSchG in abbreviated legalese. That translates to Law for the protection of the youth. Quite a mouthful

Translated excerpts

Presence in pubs, inns, restaurants, etc…
Kids and youths below 16 years are only allowed to be in pubs/restaurants/etc when a legal guardian or representative is present. Unless they are having a meal or beverage between 5AM and 11PM.  Youths above 16 years ((in Germany, they cease to be legal youths at the age of 18)) are not allowed in a pub etc. between midnight and 5AM.

There are exceptions for travel and certain youth welfare events.

If those places are night clubs or similar establishment, no kids or youths are allowed ever.

Alcohol

In pubs, restaurants, shops and in the public, it is not allowed to dispense or allow the consumption of
(1) spirits, drinks containing spirits or food containing spirits in non-marginal quantities to kids or youths (anyone below 18 years of age)
(2)  other alcoholic beverages to kids any youth below the age of 16

(2) is invalid if the kid in question is with a legal guardian

So, yes. beer and wine (or diluted versions of both) is okay if you’re older than 16 or your parents are with you and allow it. Anything else is allowed once you turn 18.

Handy vocabulary

beer – Bier
Common variations there-of: Pils, Alt, Weizen, Kölsch, Hefeweizen, Weissbier, Bock, Bockbier, Doppelbock

Shandy, a mix of usually about 50% beer and some sort of lemonade, usually the Fanta/Sprite type of stuff, goes by the names of Radler, Alsterwasser or Potsdamer, depending on where you are.
Some people like to mix Weizenbier with bananajuice or cola, making it a Bananenweizen or Colaweizen. Colabier is also a thing. The possibilities are endless.

wine – Wein ((pronunciation is almost the same. Think: vine))
red wein – Rotwein
white wein – Weisswein
When it is hot, people like to dilute their white wine with sparkling water, this is called a Schorle

A – about halfpint – glass of wine is called a Schoppen.
Going out on weekend mornings, meeting a few buddies and having a drink with them ((either beer or wine)) is called Frühschoppen.

Hard liquor is usually referred to as Schnaps. Common in Gemany is the socalled Obstler (Obst = fruit, fruit schnapps) or Kräuter/Kräuterschnaps which is a herbal liquor, often taken to further digestion. Physiologically debatable, but eh….tradition.

If you look young, you might get asked for your Führerschein (license) or Personalausweis, short Ausweis (ID card).

There are many different ways to get drunk in Germany, depending on where you are, but please, be responsible. Even if there is no law against drinking in public, if you misbehave, you might end up sleeping it off in a cell. Or being run over by a car.

So, what’s your poison, boozehounds?

Oh, by the way: in Germany, a boozehound is a Schnapsdrossel which translates back to liquor thrush.

Olli’s Saturday School – Dialects & Donuts

I assume most of you know the difference, but to save everyone the embarrassment, I’ll go over it really quick:

An accent is basically a way of pronunciation. People from different countries, regions or even social substructures might have different ways of pronouncing stuff in the same language.

A dialect is a variant of a language that might have variations in pronunciation, grammar and even vocabulary. I am actually not sure how many or how diverse dialects in English are, but Germany has quite a few. Historically that stems from being a country that was formed by many different tribes a couple of hundreds of years ago, and them keeping parts of their own language or dialect up until today.

Some of the most prominent and well-known dialects in Germany are probably Sächsisch ((Saxon, the one people make the most fun of)) in Eastern Germany, the northern German Plattdeutsch ((flat German)), Bayerisch ((Bavarian)) in the South and Hessisch ((Hessian)) somewhere in the middle. The dialect group in my region is called Moselfränkisch ((Franconian of the Moselle)). Yes, a dialect group. In some regions this goes as far as people not understanding the neighboring village if they dive deep into their dialect.

Official German is called Hochdeutsch ((high German)) and understood and spoken by most German speaking people throughout Germany, Austria and parts of Switzerland and Italy. Yes, most. In fact, some of the people I went to school with hardly spoke and had some trouble writing Hochdeutsch in 5th grade.

So if you think you speak German well enough, or even if you are a near native speaker, you might be in for a few surprises if you wander a little off the beaten path.

Hallo, wie geht es Ihnen?  ((Hello, how are you?  ))might turn into Griaß Eana! Wia gäds?

If you are lucky you will be adressed in High German with an accent, which still might make things a little difficult.

Now imagine you are hungry and crave for a donut. Donuts are quite common in most of Germany, we are getting a few chain Donut stores, supermarket and larger bakery chains will have them occasionally. But being a good tourist, interested in German culture, you stop at a traditional bakery in pursuit of something local. You have heard of the thing that comes closest to Donuts, which looks like this:

A usually jam-filled ((during a certain season it’s a well-known and accepted prank to fill one out of a batch with mustard)) pastry made from sweet yeast dough, fried in fat or oil with powdered sugar on top.

The most common name for those things is a Berliner. As in JFK’s Ich bin ein Berliner. Inhabitant of Berlin, Germany.

In Northern Germany, Switzerland or in my region, ordering a Berliner will get you one. In most of southern Germany, Austria you will probably get funny looks.

The full name of the pastry in Northern Germany is Berliner Pfannkuchen. That or Pfannkuchen will also work in Berlin, parts of eastern middle Germany and northern eastern Germany. In other places it will get you those thin French pancakes that you might know as crêpes. Those are called Eierkuchen ((egg cakes)) in some parts of Germany, but back to our donut-substitute.

Depending on where else you might be, the correct term might be Berliner Ballen, Puffel, Faschingskrapfen, Krapfen, Fieze, Kreppel, Kräbbl, Fastnetsküchle ((Küchle being an dialect endearment for Kuchen, cake)) , Krebbelcher, Pfannakung or Krapfm.

Or you might just point at the display and hope.

Screw that, who wants donuts anyway? If it’s that complicated, just go for something wholesome, like traditional German not very round meatballs.

Those tasty things are basically fried dumplings made from a mix of ground meat, usually a mix of pork and beef, egg, breadcrumbs and maybe onions. sometimes filled with cheese and/or ham. But usually without the filling.

What they are called, you ask? Depends. Mostly Frikadelle.

Bullette, Klops, Fleischpflanzerl, Fleischküchle, Hacktätschli, Beefsteak, Brisolette, Flaischlaberl, faschiertes Laiberl, Fleischklops, Hackfläschkichelscha, Grindkobb, Karbonadl, Fleischklößla, Flaaschküchle, Pascher, HAcklöble, Hackplätzchen, Hackbällchen, …

But don’t worry. You wont actually get in trouble when you try to order Berliner or Frikadelle. Most places will understand that. Most.

Btw. you can also order an Amerikaner (American). That is a fondant/icing-covered soft cookie, usually about as large as a hand.

What you shouldn’t order is a Franzose (Frenchman) or Engländer (Englishman). Those are German words for a monkey wrench. You don’t want to eat that.

To finish this blog post off and to show you how German dialects may sound to Germans from another region, here’s a true story.

About 20 years ago, some people from my home village’s orchestra went on a trip to Majorca, a Mediterranean island teeming with tourists from Germany.

Sitting in one of the numerous bars, they enjoy their beers and talk among themselves in our village’s lovely patois. When their glasses start running dry, one of them turns around, and orders another round of beer in Hochdeutsch. Because in the touristy places on Majorca everyone understands that. It’s been called our 17th Bundesland.

At that point a German from a neighboring table turns around and asks:

Entschuldigen Sie bitte, wo kommen Sie denn her? Sie sprechen ja sehr gutes Deutsch.

Pardon, but where are you from? Your German is excellent!

Photography Friday – Summertime Refreshments

It’s been a while since my last photography friday for the awesome 52 photos project, but that’s okay because here’s a new one!

This week’s prompt is all about summertime refreshments. And what’s better than a cold drink, right?

Nowadays I drink mostly water because most juice and other storebought drinks with a taste are too sweet and I try to lay off the sugary soda/pop/carbonated drinks for circumferential reasons.  Not to mention they actually don’t taste that well if you think about it. They’re cold, fizzy and sweet. They don’t have an actual pleasing taste of their own.

Anyway, water it is. Mostly. To keep the temperature down I can keep a bottle or so in the fridge, but that’s only practical of sorts. So I got a new ice cube mold the other day. And since water isn’t the only thing you can freeze, why not add a bit of flavor to them? So I did buy a couple of bottles of juice to experiment with those.

Blood Orange Frozen Companion Cubes

Those cubes look familiar to you? Yes? Well, what do they remind you of? Send me a tweet or comment to tell me.

Olli’s Saturday School – Buying things in Germany

As we covered tipping or “Trinkgeld geben” in last week’s lesson, I figured we’d continue the money-centered theme this week. Who knows, maybe it will come in handy when you plan your next vacation.

So here’s a few words.

cash = Bargeld ((literally and etymologically bare money))

The adjective ((or is it an adverb)) that goes with that is “bar”

debit card = EC Karte (EC = Euro cheque)
While the term “Debit Karte” would be logical to use in Germany, it’s not actually used and will confuse people. Other terms are Geldkarte (money card) or Bankkarte (bank card).

credit card = Kreditkarte

Now the following will be a hard truth to swallow for most Americans. You will not use your credit card in Germany a lot. Get used to carry a little cash around. If you have a debit card, make sure it will be valid in Germany, not all ATMs or payment terminals will take every card. If your card has a Maestro symbol on it, you’re probably good.

Wait, what did he say? No credit card?

Yup. When I’ve been to the states, I’ve used my credit card a lot. Booking into a hotel? Getting my rental car? Paying at a fast food restaurant, a souvenir shop or a pharmacy? Pretty much everything apart from hot dog stands, I guess.

That won’t happen in Germany. Most places accept debit card, but you still should ask first. It wasn’t that long ago that even some supermarkets wouldn’t. ((I am not joking. Ok, it’s been maybe a few years, less than five))

In any event you will not be using your debit card to pay for amounts smaller than say 10 Euro.

I’d list the places that likely won’t accept credit cards, but it’s easier to list places that I am certain will.

Large hotels in cities.
Car rental agencies.

And that’s pretty much it. Restaurants? Maybe, but make sure to ask first.
Supermarkets, electronic retail stores, McDonalds, most non-fancy shops? Nope.
Gas stations? I wouldn’t count on it. The so called “free” ((non-chain)) stations: Most probably not.

You know what’s a common thing to buy with large a mounts of cash? A car. Yup. You can always ask for a discount when buying a car at a dealership and paying cash. There’s no actual reason behind that anymore, it’s a weird sort of tradition.

Something else, by the way: Sales tax. Or Mehrwertsteuer (Value add tax)) as the common term in German is.

Americans are used to a tax added to the price tag. In Germany, if you go shopping, eat at a restaurant or order something from an online shop, the price you see on the price tag or in the brochure or wherever will be the final price.
In fact, it is illegal for business who advertise to consumers, to NOT include the sales tax in the price designation.

In case you are interested: It’s 19% on most common things and less on books and things you buy in restaurants and hotels to eat in.

So, happy shopping, I guess.

And as always, if you have questions or suggestions for the next post, feel free to send me a comment, tweet or use the contact form on this website.