In Deutsch, bitte

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In June 2004 Sandy and I spent several weeks in Europe. Here are a few random pictures from our trip.

The first few days we stayed with my mom in Siegen, Germany, where I am originally from. It's about 60 miles east of Cologne.

This is taken in the beverage isle in a grocery store and shows how Germans buy beer, i.e. by the keg or by the case.

The case is a plastic frame that holds 20 1 liter bottles of beer - perfect household size.

In the first picture you can see the price tags on the shelves. They were plastic frames with a small LCD display and some other tiny electronic components inside (partially visible). Numerous stores use these electronic price tags that can be updated from a central computer instead of an employee having to run through the isles manually updating thousands of price tags. Pretty slick.

Another cool technology we saw especially in France was handheld wireless credit card terminals. Waiters carried them out to the table, scanned the credit card, and authorized the transcation right there, no phone line needed.

Germans are really into ice cream. Here is one of our favorite ice cream dishes: spaghetti ice. You start with a squirt of sweetened whipped cream. You then push a glop of vanilla ice cream through this device that makes the ice cream come out shaped like spaghetti noodles. Add raspberry or strawberry sauce to imitate the tomato sauce and lastly ground white chocolate to imitate the parmesan cheese and voila: spaghetti ice. Yum!

One day we visited my sister in her new apartment in Bochum. This picture shows her kitchen. Several unusual things besides the looks:

When you rent an apartment in Germany, it usually does not come with a kitchen, it is completely bare. You need to spend anywhere from a few hundred bucks to several thousand bucks to buy and install your own kitchen, customized for this specific apartment. When you move, you can either take it with you and try to make it fit in the new place, or try to sell it.

The sink usually has only one basin and a small area to set dishes to dry.

The fridge is usually tiny compared to american fridges. People usually go grocery shopping several times a week because they have no room to store much.

Garbage disposals are unknown in Germany. Every time we have visitors from Germany over here and they see us stuffing food into the sink, they look at us like we just took a dump on the stove, until we explain the concept of a garbage disposal.

The living room. Typical modern design. The TV on the right is normal size. Big screen TVs are a rare thing in Germany.

The bedroom. Note the two separate mattresses even though it's a bed for two people. No such thing as a queen- or kingsize mattress.

The bathroom. German bathrooms are usually tiled all the way except for the ceiling. See the two odd shaped buttons over the toilet? One for short flush, one for long flush, depending on the size of your business, to preserve water. Thankfully they have moved away from the old-style toilets where the poop first dropped onto a platform halfway down the toilet where it sat and marinated until you flushed and it was then washed down into the pipe.

We drove to nearby Düsseldorf for a few hours. This is a mall on the main exclusive shopping strip called the "Königsallee", short "Kö".

We stopped in one of the many "Bierstuben" for a snack. Seated around 200 liter beer kegs from the left: me, my sister's boyfriend, my mom, my sister, and Sandy.

The place from the outside. It was late afternoon, people were getting off work and the place was rapidly filling up. Germans love to spend time in their "Biergarten" (beer garden).

One of the many river Rhein bridges in Düsseldorf. On the left the TV tower which also contains a rotating restaurant.

One of countless river boats on the Rhein. For a few bucks you can spend a few hours on the river getting drunk. These are pretty much just floating beer gardens.

This sign was on the outside of a restaurant in Düsseldorf called "Zum Wilddieb". The sign says "We guarantee crappy cooking, lukewarm drinks, bad service, but great prices!"

The river "Düssel", separating the two sides of the "Königsallee".

An old building, containing a modern department store a la nordstrom. Note the SUV in the foreground, a rarity in germany. 90% of the cars in germany are tiny cars due to the narrow streets and generally confined spaces, as well as the excruciatingly high gas prices.

The weather in Germany sucked ass. Every single day in Siegen we had rain.

One of the many things different over there is the electricity and the wall outlets.

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