Friday, August 26, 2011


My previous blog dealt with the döner the owner of a fast food in Seattle, Wash. is marketing as Berlin food although it was the Turks who introduced the döner kebap in Germany. Now, here comes the currywurst which indeed was invented and first eaten in Berlin.

Let Wikipedia enlighten us: Currywurst (German pronunciation: [ˈkœʁiˌvʊʁst]) is a fast-food dish of German origin consisting of hot pork sausage (German: Wurst) cut into slices and seasoned with curry ketchup, regularly consisting of ketchup or tomato paste blended with generous amounts of curry powder, or a ready-made ketchup-based sauce seasoned with curry and other spices. It is frequently served at German 'Imbissbuden' and from food trucks.
The invention of currywurst is attributed to Herta Heuwer in Berlin in 1949 after she obtained ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and curry powder from British soldiers. She mixed these ingredients with other spices and poured it over grilled pork sausage. Heuwer started selling the cheap but filling snack at a street stand in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin where it became popular with construction workers rebuilding the devastated city.

Today, currywurst ... is popular all over Germany but particularly popular in the metropolitan areas of Berlin, Hamburg and the Ruhr Area. Considerable variation both in the type of sausage used and the ingredients of the sauce occurs between these areas. Common variations include the addition of paprika or chopped onions. Often currywurst is sold in food booths, sometimes using a special machine to slice it into pieces, and served on a paper plate with a little wooden or plastic fork.

An estimated 800 million servings are sold in Germany each year (Photo Wikipedia)

The actual reason why I write about the currywurst was an ironic comment in yesterday's Badische Zeitung. In Germany we have two rates of VAT: 19% on most goods and services and a reduced rate of 7% on, e. g., books and notably food. So you pay 7% on pet food but 19% on pampers, the reason - as some people claim - that in Germany we have more dogs than babies. Now here comes the question: What is the VAT rate on a currywurst served on a paper plate at a sausage stand?

At long last our Federal Financial Supreme Court (Bundesfinanzhof) ruled the following: The rate is 7% for food when the vendor hands the wurst over to you and you eat it standing. If however the stand offers a bench or chairs for sitting and you actually sit down this situation is amalgamated with a restaurant and you pay 19% on services. Crazy, and who is going check this?

Well, I checked the situation on Freiburg's Münster market. Three of the now eight wurst stands offer currywurst but no places to sit. However, another thing struck me. In spite of the recent opening of the market there still is no competition: All vendors charge a uniform price of € 2.50 for a currywurst.

Please note the English influence on German orthography: Uhl's using the Saxon genitive is wrong in German; it must be Uhls but many shops and eateries find it stylish to use what we call the Deppenapostroph (goof's apostrophe) with the German genitive.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Döner, a German Food

Today I read an article in the Badische Zeitung about döner in Seattle sold at a stand called The Berliner. As such the Turkish dish made of (preferable) lamb meat cooked on a vertical spit and sliced off got a German flavor. The full Turkish name for this delicious food is döner kebap, i.e., rotating roast. A döner must not be confused with gyros that is widely known in the States.

Slicing meat off a döner kebap's grilled surface (Photo taken from Wikipedia)
As background information we read in Wikipedia: A döner version developed to suit German tastes by Turkish immigrants in Berlin has become one of Germany's most popular fast food dishes. Annual sales in Germany amount to 2.5 billion euros. Veal and chicken are widely used instead of lamb, particularly by vendors with large ethnic German customer bases, for whom lamb is traditionally less preferred.

Serving döner in Seattle is not easy for instead of the original lamb meat also here beef or chicken is stacked on the vertically rotating spit. The Turkish bread called pide accompanying the meat is unknown in the State of Washington. Thus Victor, the owner of the fast food, asked to have it specially baked. American Law requires that meat once prepared must be consumed within half a day, so Victor uses shorter spits to grill smaller meat quantities. The döner varieties he offers with sauce, salad, and pide are called The Mehringdamm or somewhat spicier The fiery Kreuzberg, named after places in the traditional Turkish quarter in Berlin. Still Victor's many ardent customers consider döner to be a typically German food. One enthused girl said when she learned that in Berlin there are döner stands on every corner: You Germans must be happy people.

Let me know when the first döner stand opens in Madison.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

We Love Rhino

The site of the Wagenburglers - they call themselves Kommando Rhino (Rhino Command) - was cleared alright on August 2nd.

What remains visibel at the entrance to Vauban is a banner: We ♡ Rhino.

However, the problem with those people who like to practice their alternative living in Freiburg persists. The city doesn't want to provide them a plot fearing that once they give it to Rhino other people with more vehicles from outside Freiburg will move in. The Rhino Command on the other hand claims: The authorities cannot banish us. We will remain in Freiburg and in our mobile homes.

In fact, some moved to another plot in Vauban on which they will be tolerated for another month. Four of the vehicles had eventually settled on a private ground in the suburb of Zähringen. When on the owner's request the police arrived they first tried to confiscate the mobile homes which was counterproductive hindering the Rhinos to move. Before these Wagenburglers had stayed on individual private places but the four had moved together again as otherwise they claim they cannot practice their way of life. Although one Freiburg party official has said: Now it is finished as his party will vote against Rhino getting space on public grounds in Freiburg other city council members feel that the Wagenburgler question will remain on the agenda for a long time. They were right as on the same day when I wrote this blog the Wagenburglers opened a protest camp in front of the Rathaus (townhall) that the police soon cleared peacefully.

Wagenburglers' protest camp on Townhall Square. All pictures ©Badische Zeitung
Meanwhile our local newspapers has figured out a lower limit of the costs for the police action on August 2nd including the damage caused by the nightly riot as being 371 100 euros. These are peanuts compared to the costs of the not so long ago riots in England.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Commemorating Boozing Dates

Most beer drinkers know about the German purity decree for their favourite brew. It isn't actually German since it was Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria ordering on April 23, 1516, the Reinheitsgebot that zu kainem pier merer stüchh dan allain gersten, hopfen un wasser genommen werdn (to any beer no more ingredients than barley, hop and water shall be taken and used). Well, they simply forgot the yeast without it, beer cannot be brewed. Nowadays, we celebrate April 23 as the day of German beer.

The decree of 1516 is not the first attempt to keep boozing headache-free. Eighteen years earlier, in 1498, the Imperial Diet met in Freiburg to make peace with the Swiss who hadn't accepted the newly established Imperial court and above all, had stubbornly refused to pay the Imperial tax, i.e. the common Pfennig. The diet was not successful in putting the Confederates back into their place; on the contrary, one year later, when the Emperor wanted to bring the Swiss to their senses, his army suffered a crushing defeat in the battle of Dornach so that Maximilian had to give way. However the assembled princes did not leave the Freiburg diet empty-handed for on August 24, 1498, they passed the satzung unnd ordnung über die weyne (rules and ordinance about wine) limiting, in particular, the amount of sulfur to be used in the stabilization of wine already knowing that it was the concentration of this element causing headaches.

satzung unnd ordnung über die weyne of 1498
Why do I write about all this? The above story came to my mind when I recently visited the city of the Nibelungen, Worms. There I noticed yellow-white banners flying in front of the cathedral. Nothing exceptional for these are the colors of the Catholic Church. However, when I came nearer, I read: 500 Jahre Riesling-Urkunde von Pfeddersheim (Documentary evidence of 500 years of Riesling growing at Pfeddersheim). In this document dated November 11, 1511, it is mentioned: Item ein halben morgen riesling wingart im Funtdaill (among other things [about] a quarter of an acre Riesling vine-garden in Funtdaill, i.e., a plot of land with a fountain). Today this vineyard still exists as well as the Riesling.

Riesling is one of my favorite grapes only topped by the Chasselas
known in Baden as Gutedel and in Wallis, Switzerland as Fendant
What, however, is more impressive and human is that people always find a reason for celebrating with and without a pretext like for the Weinfest in Emmendingen.

This year at Worms November 11, is not only the Saint Martin's feast with children carrying their lanterns around and adults eating the traditional goose or the usual day of the opening of the Carnival season at precisely 11 minutes past 11 a.m., this time even in the year (20)11, but it will also be a 500 years anniversary and thus an additional reason for boozing with ... Riesling.

Monday, August 15, 2011

How to Recycle Liquids

As you would suppose: Our Green City has a perfect recycling system. In Freiburg we use a green (?) container for paper, a brown bin for organic compostable stuff, and a yellow plastic bag for used packaging materials. We pay a deposit of 25 eurocents for drinks in plastic bottles that is reimbursed when we return the empty bottles. There are containers all over town accepting glass bottles to be separated in white, brown and mostly green colours except for those bottles with a deposit of 8 eurocents, refundable when we hand them in at the local supermarket.

The rest of the garbage that cannot be recycled we place in a dark-gray bin. For this bin you pay a yearly fee based on the volume you need for your waste. Although the bins come in one size only, plastic inserts reduce the fillable volume. Some people acquire those gray bins equipped with a lock for an extra fee so that your friendly neighbour doesn't deposit his garbage into your bin.

Garbage bin with lock and key

All in all the recycling and waste business is booming in Freiburg. Only at the end of a year discussions and letters to the editor become hot when a fee increase for those garbage bins for the coming year is in store.

You may imagine my shock when during my latest trip to the city of Speyer the hotel requested an additional way of recycling. Visiting the toilet I was confronted with individual panels over each of the urinals demanding that you pee as instructed. In addition to beer they had urinals for wine and water.

I was so disturbed that on my way back home I formulated a letter to the city councilors complaining about Freiburg's backwardness. Well, I ultimately didn't send the letter since visiting the conveniences in one of my favourite places, the CouCou, I found that they had an even finer separation for liquids exploiting the high number of urinals. A nicely framed cuckoo is watching your efforts. I admit my cheating. I emptied my beer into the champagne urinal.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wagenburglers’ End

As expected all the Wagenburglers had not left by August 1. The police was just waiting for an escalation of the situation to move in and them out. About twenty left-autonomous trouble makers offered the opportunity at 1 a.m. last night when they started to erect barricades at the entrance to Vauban and set fire to them.

At 5:40 a.m. forty police-persons arrived with heavy clearing gear. They started lifting the sit-in and then moved on tearing down the remaining unoccupied rotten trailers and rusted buses.

Her first engagement? This girl looks absolutely frightened.
The Sambastas were back alright with shiny new drums and made an accompanying noise.

At 7:45 a.m. garbage collectors arrived and started cleaning the place.

Later barriers were moved in to avoid a return of the Wagenburglers to the lot. One positive note at the end. It seems that nobody was hurt.

All photos were taken from the website of the ©Badische Zeitung.