The Hausfrau: Exploring the neighborhood and buying bread
Expatica's new blogger The Hausfrau screws up her courage and tackles the bread counter at her local grocery store - with mixed results.
I look for a new route every day on my morning walk with Cody. Set as we are near the top of a steep hill, that usually means paying attention to how far downhill we are going, since I know we’ll have to hike back up again to get home. All of the streets in our neighborhood are named after German composers: Beethovenstraße, Brahmsweg, Haydnstraße, Schubertstraße, Schumannstraße ... you get the picture. There are many more that I don’t recognize, which I assume are lesser-known German composers.
Throughout our neighborhood you can find these lovely pedestrian-only wegs (paths) that go straight down the hillsides, bridging the gaps between the streets. When you drive a car you must zigzag up and down the hillsides (with really fun hairpin turns), but when you walk, you can cut the distance by more than half by taking the wegs. I usually take the wegs down and the more gently sloping streets back up. Often the wegs are narrow paved alleys between houses or apartment buildings, but when the hills are particularly steep the wegs are actually long flights of stairs.
The steep streets, lush vegetation, lack of lawns, and variety of architecture in our neighborhood remind me of Berkeley, California. The main difference here is that most of the houses are of the traditional early 20th-century German architectural style, sided in pastel stucco with shuttered dormer windows and orange tile roofs. The vast majority are divided into apartments. I would say that only ten or twenty percent of the homes in our neighborhood are single family residences.
There are also all sorts of really interesting modern constructions, with flat roofs, huge single-pane windows, and lots of glass and metal elements. Instead of boring green lawns, everyone has gorgeous gardens, most of which are terraced on top of garages, following the slope of the hill.
Some people have tomato vines growing in their front yards, others have tidy flower gardens, and still others have untamed jungles of tangled vines and overgrown shrubs. Nearly every house has a little gate and a flight of stone steps leading through the garden to the front door. I don’t think I will ever tire of walking the streets and looking at all the different gardens and houses.
This morning J suggested that I pick up some bread at the grocery store. That’s easy for him to say – buying bread actually requires speaking to someone. I figured it couldn’t possibly be that hard if I just point to what I want.
After loading up with a few necessities (being careful this time to buy only as much as I felt could comfortably fit in my backpack without killing myself on the hike home), I stopped at the bread counter.
There were several people in line ahead of me, so I had time to screw up my courage and pick out something that looked good with a name that I could pronounce. I asked the young blonde woman behind the counter for “ein Krosenbrot, bitte,” pointing at something that looked like a good crusty round loaf and carefully sounding out the name on the label beneath it.
She looked up at where I was pointing and grabbed the little sign from the rack, saying something that clearly meant, “Oops, that’s not the right label.” I tried to indicate that I wanted it anyway, since it still looked tasty no matter what it was called, but she continued to yammer away and pointed at a couple of other loafs.
Fortunately, the woman behind me in line noticed my struggle. She turned out to be British, and said to me, “That one has walnuts, is that what you want?” I looked at her gratefully and asked if there was something else like it that didn’t have nuts.
She turned back to the counter and posed my question to the bread lady, who picked up a squarish loaf that didn’t look at all like the one I had originally picked out. I paused, not wanting to cause any further delay, and decided to heck with it, I’m sure it will taste good. The British woman smiled and said, “It’s confusing, all these German breads!” I laughed and said I was sure I would like them all.
Back at home I rewarded myself with a thick slice of bread and butter. And it was good, if not exactly what I had intended to buy. I’ve quickly realized that even buying basic groceries is an adventure. You can never be sure that you’ll find what you’re looking for, but you’re apt to learn something new along the way.
29 September 2006
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