About AlieC

Alie Caswell is a Brit who just passed the five year mark in Southern Germany. Musician, writer, expat supporter, fluent in the language of international hand gestures, and with an always unwavering enthusiasm for marzipan and museums.

Exercise and wine? Count me in!

Germany has many compound words. Plenty translate easily and quite literally like Der Handschuh (hand shoes or rather gloves) and bittersuß (bittersweet). So when I came across a sign that featured the word Weinwanderung (wine ramble/walk), two of my all time favourite activities joined together, my interest was most definitely piqued.

The state of Baden Württemberg has two wine regions within its boundaries. Baden, which is Germany’s longest wine region at around 400km, stretches from the Bavarian boarder to the Alsace in France, and Württemberg the fourth largest wine region in Germany and is historically a predominantly red wine producing area, unlike the rest of the country. Continue reading

Half-Timbered Germany

Having grown up on musicals and fairy tales I had a picture in my head of what countries like Germany, Austria and Switzerland would look like. There would be cobbled streets, half timbered houses and castles around every corner. My first visit to Hamburg on a school exchange was an eye opener, everything was industrial, families I stayed with lived in tower blocks or houses built in the eighties and contained more Ikea furniture than I’d ever seen outside the shop itself. I was a little disappointed but nothing that two weeks of freedom from my parents couldn’t cure.

Winnenden Marktplatz – Alie C

Hailing from Cheshire I am used to the quaint black and white half-timbered houses that dot the countryside like Little Morton hall in Congleton or the stunning high street of the City of Chester. I was unprepared for the colour and scale of the half-timbered properties of Southern Germany and that the majority of them are still residences and not museums. I never expected to be living in one. Of course there is Fachwerk (half-timbered) throughout the country but my experience of them is mainly limited to the South

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A smashing good time at a Polterabend

With the warm weather along comes another season, wedding season. The Rathaus (Town Hall) has been steadily getting busier the last few weeks; on Fridays and Saturdays the city steps are filled with heart shaped balloons, Sekt and brides. All German weddings having to take place at a Standesamt (registry office, usually located within the Rathaus), a church wedding being an optional and non-legally binding extra. German weddings are generally fairly low-key affairs, like the ones Ruth wrote about; receptions too are a little different to those in the UK, but still a great celebration with their own idiosyncrasies as Jane experienced.

Especially in Southern Germany it is common for the legal wedding to be a family only affair, with few, if any, friends invited. The chance for a decent party however cannot be ignored. Let me introduce you to the Polterabend. Taking place in the weeks before the wedding, this is not to be confused with the single sex Junggesellinnenabschied (stag/bachelor & hen/bachelorette parties) which have become ever more popular. This is an event that everyone is invited to.

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Playing tourist in Stuttgart

My day was brightened last week by an out of the blue email from an old friend; she was in town for six hours and wanted to see both Stuttgart and me. I don’t often play tourist in my own city and never with a time limit, so putting together a plan was necessary.

There is a lot on The German Way about Berlin, living in Berlin, what to do in Berlin, but less about life down here in the south. So I thought I’d share my plan for anyone wanting to start to explore Stuttgart, there is plenty more to see than just the city centre but on this day there wasn’t time for places like the Porsche Museum.

Stop One – Hauptbahnhof (main train station) – Our meeting point anyway since she had just got off a train. I waited with two coffees in hand, working out that we hadn’t seen each other for at least fifteen years and hoping that we still shared the same sense of humour. When she arrived also holding two coffees I knew we’d be fine. The Turm (tower) of the train station is an often overlooked free attraction, it houses a museum which shows the history and future of transport in Stuttgart and a stunning panoramic view of the city. Continue reading

Spring has sprung, officially

There may be a forecast for snow for next week but the spring equinox means the days are now longer than the nights. Easter is just around the corner and with it one of my favourite traditions. In addition to these five favourites from Chloe, the Osterbrunnen (Easter fountains/wells), which appear mostly in Catholic Southern Germany, are also an important part of the Easter in Germany.

This tradition has spread from Franconia (the Northern part of Bavaria) and historically involves celebrating the importance of water as the giver of life, possibly due to previous shortages in remote villages. Continue reading

The Apotheke Way

It wasn’t until I came down with my first cold in Germany that I realised the remedies I usually buy weren’t available at the supermarket check out or the corner shop. More surprisingly they weren’t available at the Drogerie (drugstore/chemist) either. I’m not simply talking about the brands, the actual products; anything with any actual medicinal value was nowhere to be found. For over the counter medicine Die Apotheke (the pharmacy) is what you’ll need.

Now I have to explain that there are some elements of German life that I am really happy with, whilst some of my fellow foreigners have more opposing views. One of these is the Apotheke. What makes the Apotheke such an opinion divider? Customer service, price and quantity are the most hotly debated. Personally, the fact they close at lunch time for an hour or so and a wednesday afternoon (days will vary) took a while to get used to but I’d only count that as a mild annoyance. Continue reading

Those little things

Whilst the hard and fast legal rules of German society can be easily found and obeyed, like the red man and riding your bike in the bike lane for instance. Unwritten rules can be hard to pick up for foreigners in Germany and although you won’t be arrested for committing a faux pas it is always better to try not to cause offence unnecessarily. These are geared towards life away from work and the office, where different rules can exist. Continue reading

A small festive treat

‘We will find strength to continue living life as we want to. Free, together and open’
– Angela Merkel

It would appear that Christmas has been very well covered here on The German Way. Check out the A-Z Guide to Christmas Traditions and the interactive calendar of Christmas facts if you don’t believe me. So between you and me, I was a little stumped when trying to pick a festive angle for this post, as a Brit I tend to stick to British traditions at Christmas, a taste of the homeland, mince pies and hot toddies are the order of the season in this house. As I rolled out the dough for my last batch of festive spiced biscuits, I suddenly realised that I what I was doing was something I had never done before moving to Germany. Making Plätzchen (Christmas cookies) is one German advent tradition that I’ve been happy to adopt. Continue reading