drinking, Germany, Light Crap

Enter the Schlager

Dirty Laundry

Dirty Laundry

Pulling my jeans out of the laundry one summer day, I found this. I had carried Dieter Thomas Kuhn for nearly two weeks in my pants to remind me to do a bit of research. His mystical glower, page boy hair, mascara-scarred eyes, and unrepentant chest hair layered into a sequined vest reminded me of Bobby Conn*, whose song ‘Winners‘ is one of the triumphs of modern man.

And so it was my lucky day when Ms. Alina popped up on the Skype chat.

“So there are two tickets here to see Dieter Thomas Kuhn. Want to go?”

“But do you really want to see a schlager show?” I asked.

Schlager, loosely translated as ‘hits’, from the word schlagen or to hit or knock, is the pop music du jour in much of Germany inspiring loathing as much as delight. It is a divider of people. There’s not much middle ground on it, either you’re a lover or a hater. Alina tended toward the latter.

“Well, no one else entered the office raffle, so why not,” came the reply with smiley emoticon.

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Create some peace, drink some coffee

SFW50417_cover“Use whatever you have to create peace! If you have music, use your music to create peace. For us, we have coffee. We are using coffee to bring peace to the world.”

J.J. Keki, founder of the Peace Kawomera Cooperative.

I figure my last post was a bit preachy, so we’ll go with something lighter this time.

In a serendipitous* turn, I heard Smithsonian Folkways (same folks who release the amazing Woodie Guthrie Asch Recordings – actually, anything from them is fantastic) are releasing an album written and performed by the coffee farmers of Mirembe Kawomera, a 1,000-farmer strong Fairtrade co-op in Uganda.

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drinking, Serious Shit

A world without coffee

imagine a world without coffee

Coffee Kids is celebrating their 25th Anniversary. As part of it, they’re asking their friends, fans, donors, and accomplices to imagine a world without coffee. And it really comes down to this.

Without healthy, local economies, food security, education, and the other opportunities so many of us are used to, coffee farming families struggle year after year to make ends meet – even if they are doing Fairtrade/Direct Trade/or some variation of the sort. Coffee Kids works with coffee-farming communities to make this right.

By supporting local initiatives outside of coffee in economic diversification, health care, education, and food security, Coffee Kids and their partners help build up communities, which ultimately results in better coffee for you and a better quality of life for them.

I didn’t really drink coffee before I started working at Coffee Kids. But soon I was drawn into the whole excitement of barista championships – I’d follow the cover barista from Barista Magazine on Twitter when each new issue dropped in the mail, I started veering into thinking about the grind and water temperature, I tried to apply the even 35 lbs of pressure that Bill Fishbein said I needed to make a good espresso. I’m not close to as wonky as I should be, but I keep trying.

By the time I left Coffee Kids for Fairtrade International, I was regularly imbibing. And it was great. I continued drinking coffee daily. My lovely, ladyfriend taught me how to properly use a moka pot I found on the curb to make some delicious things. I sought out specialty roasters in my area. And so I was on my way.

Now, to take this in a different direction, as a former Catholic (I officially renounced all religion partially because of German tax laws), I still like the idea of Lent. It’s time for reflection and investigating your habits. Learning to be mindful. So this year I decided to give up caffeine.

And I’m going to try and keep up more regularly on this blog and focus on coffee and what the world would be like without it. So this one is for the gang at Coffee Kids. Go take a look, donate a few shekels to them and appreciate your morning cup. Because I won’t be able to for a while.

drinking, Germany

Free Beer in May in Germany!** UPDATED- May 3, 2012

tree for beerWould you like a free case of beer?

Here is a tip if you answered yes.

First, the hard part, find someone you love in Germany*.

Next, go find a tree in the forest in the latter days of April. This should be a birch tree, roughly 15 feet tall. Cut that tree down and tie it to the roof of your car. Maybe you think to yourself that you don’t want to kill a tree. Maybe you don’t want beer?

Drive your car home and go to the craft store. Make your way to the crepe paper aisle and get a few rolls. Enough to decorate the tree. Also find some old wood or a cardboard and make a small red heart or other sign. Write the name of your beloved on this heart-like object. Now you are ready for beer.

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drinking, Germany

Karneval is coming

It happens soon. The Karneval city of Cologne is gearing up for their big celebration. Revelers are steeling their guts drinking a little more than usual each day. Merchants are loading in shipments of crappy fake fur costumes. The random ‘ra-ra’ music is flooding the airwaves.

It’s time to get yourself to the store and figure out what want to be.

Last year’s celebration included this and this.

drinking, Germany, Holy crap

Enter Karneval, Pt. I

Karneval evidence #1 - scary wig girl

I’ve been meaning to write this up for a while and now I’m so past due on it that anything I write will be mostly irrelevant, but it’s an important bit of local culture so we’ll do a three-parter to give it the proper treatment.

Welcome to Karneval.

There is a special time once a year when the good people of Germany throw off their woes, drop the angst and partake in the debaucherous season known as Karneval. The epicenter of Karneval culture is Köln, about a half hour train ride from Bonn. At first blush this festive time appears to involve:

  • Some sort of detailed pageantry.
  • Spending a lot of time picking out a costume.
  • Gathering with friends in said costume.
  • Drinking until you pass out or pee your pants.

I really have no right to talk about Karneval since I skipped out of the most important weekend for a trip to Paris. But that did not stop me from procuring my very own Karneval costume, which actually seems to be the most worthwhile part of Karneval.

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cockfights, drinking, Germany

In an Unrelaxed Manner

“You must be strong,” he said as we sat in the bar in downtown Köln near old fat-fingered men with mustaches sipping tiny glasses of beer. The rest of the contingency consisted  primarily of rowdy young meatheads shouting partisan anthems for their favorite team.

This woman is everywhere.

My co-worker – he of the ‘strong’ comment – had invited me to attend the 111th Derby match between FC Köln and Borussia Mönchengladbach, one of the great rivalries in the German Bundesliga. Both teams sat at the bottom of the table, though FC Köln had been slightly more successful at getting the ball over the goal line and so hovered in the second to last slot.

The excitement in the bar was palpable and spontaneous demonstrations of team allegiance abounded with deafening, thick, throaty singing that shook the tables and rattled glasses. Sprinkled among the crowd were a couple of tables with fans from the opposing side. Sitting near the hall to the bathroom, we witnessed these poor shlubs as they made their way through the crowd to empty beer-soaked bladders.

And how did the faithful howl. It had to be a humbling experience walking through the throng of jeers. On occasion, a Gladbach fan would make a snide comment and the jeers would escalate to a slap on the back of the head. Tense words would be exchanged and eventually fists would be lowered.

In the days leading up to the match, my co-worker told me about the tense rivalry. While at the bar, I attempted to find out what really happens. Are there hooligans? Cop cars lit on fire? Urine water balloons thrown at opposing fans (a la Guatemala)? Given the hype, I was really expecting some good, old-fashioned excitement.

“The people, they sometimes behave in an unrelaxed manner,” was his only reply.

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