Sehr Praktisch!

I got what is perhaps the highest form of German praise this week: “Sehr praktisch!” (Very practical!)

I had ordered a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, somewhere between 7 and 9 kilos, but I had no idea what to expect. I’ve never bought or prepared a turkey before, so I wasn’t sure how much I should order per person, or what size that weight would yield. I went to Viktualienmarkt to pick up the bird, but I needed to see it first so that I could buy a brining container to carry it home in. I offended the employee in the hardware store by mentioning that my paint bucket needs involved a turkey, and he sent me away to the kitchen department. I managed to find a heavy-duty mop bucket that seemed like it might work.

As I went back to the poultry stand to get my turkey, I was just praying it would fit. There was another woman at the stand when I arrived. The owner handed me my bird, and it slid right in. Perfectly. Small victories go a long way when planning complex events in a foreign country (you’d likely be shocked to learn, if you live in America, how difficult it is to find a proper pumpkin here in November), but the cherry on top was the other customer’s response: “Sehr praktisch!”

Daniel and I worked all day to make our Thanksgiving dinner, wrestling our turkey into submission and laughing about the anthropomophization of our dinner (his name was, cleverly, Tom), and everything turned out to be wonderful. We were very lucky to have made some good friends who were able to join us for dinner, drinks, and great conversation. It totally made up for the pumpkin pie that was a little too soupy (what happens when your country of residence doesn’t sell pie pans and you are forced to make pie in a cake pan. This pie was doomed from the beginning).

Munich’s Christkindlmarkt (where Baby Jesus shops, I suppose) opened this week. Daniel and I went to check it out on opening night. As we were sipping hot mulled wine, eating Lebkuchen (often compared to gingerbread cookies, but I think it’s totally different), and admiring the wares, we got our first real snow.

I’ll report a bit more on the Christmas markets since Daniel and I are planning a market tour of southern Germany, but I was really blown away by the quality and variety of things for sale in Munich. There’s the standard homemade soaps and quirky things like felted house shoes, but the real draw for me are the christmas ornaments and carved wooden doo-dads. The most impressive are the Weihnachtspyramide (“Christmas Pyramids“): tiered wooden structures depicting mobile Biblical themes, powered by heat produced from candles burning at the perimeter. They range in size and detail, but I didn’t see any that cost less than several hundred euros. During preparations for the markets, I saw city workers erecting a huge Weihnachtspyramide in one of the city squares, but I couldn’t figure out what it was at the time. It’s several stories tall with huge nutcracker figures built in. Now I’m really curious to see how something that large operates. I’ll have to go back to see.

Now we just have to figure out all the Advent traditions…

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