I adore the little town of Wolfenbüttel in Lower Saxony, Germany. It’s been my home away from home for the last six months. It’s a postcard town, complete with a duck pond, and literal ducks just strolling through town.



The dogs here are the most well-behaved dogs I’ve ever seen. They pay attention only to their owners. It’s unnerving for someone like me who loves dogs–and usually dogs love me back. Here, I barely get more than a sniff before the doggie turns its head back to the owner, completely ignoring the slobbering fool who’s making googly eyes at it (that would be me).


Weather permitting, I go running, finding new paths to the country. That’s how I discovered the duck pond and the community gardens. I find the care given to the parks and woods here to be incredible.


After exercising, naturally I needed to reward myself. What better way than with gelato? Wolfenbüttel has some choice Italian restaurants and a delicious gelateria. Eiscafé Roma on the pedestrian zone of the Langen Herzogstraße was recently remodeled. I had been counting the months down to its re-opening since last November when it closed for the winter. Sure, it has weird hours (no you can’t get gelato after dinner; it has to be before 7 p.m. so you just eat dessert first), but it’s one of the best places in town, and comparable to the gelato in Italy. Probably because the owners are Italian. I selected espresso, pistachio, and Mozart Kugeln as the first three flavors of the gelato season. My friend added nougat and dark chocolate. Lecker, lecker!


The Harz and Goslar!

Panoramic view from the Brocken
At the top of the Brocken


I don’t know why, but when I see the name Goslar, I say it with an exclamation point. Goslar! Maybe it should even be GOSLAR! In any case, last weekend’s daytrip to Goslar(!) was full of medieval history, fun, and witches.

“Witches? Did she actually say ‘witches’?” Why yes. Goslar is part of the Harz, a mountain range famous for its Brocken, the highest peak in Northern Germany where, according to legend, witches held their annual gathering on April 30.

In Goethe’s Faust, the devil took Faust to the Brocken on Walpurgis Night (April 30):

Now to the Brocken the witches ride;
The stubble is gold and the corn is green;
There is the carnival crew to be seen,
And Squire Urianus will come to preside.
So over the valleys our company floats,
With witches a-farting on stinking old goats.

Hans Baldung Grien, Witches Sabbath, 1510. Woodcut toned print. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg.

And who could forget Black Sabbath’s ode to the Brocken with their song “Walpurgis“?

Ah, but today, Goslar and the Brocken have more friendly witches, more of the Bewitched-type or the Witch Hazel (a là Bugs Bunny)-type.

It’s quaint, it’s almost comedic. But then you see something haggard almost leap out at you from BEHIND glass. No, that’s not funny at all. NOT AT ALL.


The Kaiserpfalz

Goslar has much more than witches, of course. It was a favored town of emperors. The imperial palace (Kaiserpfalz) served as a seat of power when the emperor came to town. The other iron throne, so to speak.



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The Alt Stadt and the Mines of Rammelsberg here are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And, fun fact, part of Monuments Men was filmed in Goslar.

And some of my favorite medieval beings were found here…


Augsburg: the Fuggerei and graffiti art

As a Fulbright Fellow in Germany, I am determined to visit as many towns as possible in Deutschland during my time here. Earlier this month, I went on a whirlwind 1-1/2 week tour of northern and southern cities, including Augsburg. Located about an hour northwest of Munich, Augsburg was a free imperial city favored by Emperor Charles V. Or, to be more precise, Charles V and his entourage took over the town during many Imperial Diets.

However, it is Augsburg’s history as a city with powerful dynastic merchant families, such as the Fuggers and the Welsers, which captured my interest. The Fuggers were one of the merchant families in Southern Germany that bankrolled the activities of emperors, dukes, and the papacy during the 16th century. Much literature may be found on the Fuggers and their patronage of the arts. One of their more humanitarian contributions–which continues to be operational today–exists in the form of the Fuggerei.

Jakob Fugger the Rich founded the Fuggerei, a housing complex for needy Catholic citizens of Augsburg. Built between 1516 and 1523, it was donated to the city in 1521. The annual rent from the beginning of its inception was one Rhenish guilder, and that same amount–translated to today’s monetary terms of 0.88 €/yr–remains today. Let me repeat, the rent in the Fuggerei is 88 CENT EURO PER YEAR. This is incredible; it was incredibly generous then, and it certainly is unheard of today. That the Fugger family can still maintain their support, and had done so for the last 500 years, is also quite amazing. Of course, there are certain criteria that must be met: one must be Catholic, one must be below a certain income level, one must pray three times per day for the salvation of the Fugger family at the on-site church of St. Markus, and one must observe a curfew of 10 p.m. lest be subject to a fine. No, I don’t think you can sneak back into the complex as there is an actual city wall with a controlled gate that closes at 10 p.m. Sixty-seven houses holding 142 apartments, a museum, and a 16th-century reconstructed apartment with “old” interiors remain extant at the Fuggerei.

The legendary folks who lived here included Franz Mozart, mason and great-grandfather of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and the first victim of witch hunts in Augsburg, Dorothea Braun who was accused of being a witch by her own 11-year old daughter. Whoops.

I was also impressed by Augsburg’s contemporary graffiti art. In many cases, it rivals Berlin (*she says as she ducks for cover*).

Berlin’s Kunstgewerbemuseum and Kunstschrank (Art Cabinet)


Last weekend I visited Berlin’s Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) and discovered the existence of the little treasures from the Pomeranian Kunstschrank (art cabinet) owned by Duke Philipp II. The art cabinet itself was destroyed in 1945 during World War II, but to my surprise, many of the gifts kept inside its numerous drawers remained intact and were on display. The cabinet was orchestrated by Philipp Hainhofer, German art dealer and impressario of the 17th century. Think of him as a producer who selected the artists, silversmiths, and craftsmen responsible for creating such a work.

A film entitled “Welt im Schrank” (World in the Cabinet) played continuously alongside the display of items from the cabinet. Made before the cabinet’s destruction, the film showed how each section of the Kunstschrank could be opened to display the hidden treasures inside each drawer. Removal of the crowning sculpture of Mount Parnassus with Pegasus led to the section below. Some of the beautiful objects revealed in the film were displayed in nearby glass cabinets: metal playing cards, carved ivory chess pieces, small paintings, apothecary bottles, small to large jars that fit into one another like Russian dolls, a heart-shaped silver place setting, toiletries such as an ivory comb, razor (intricately designed, of course), shaving brush, and much more.

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Museum time! On my search for the Brothers Grimm story in Kassel, Germany where the Grimms collected and wrote fairy tales, I was distraught when I learned the Grimm Museum had closed in 2014. But then I found out about the latest ode to the Grimms: GRIMMWELT.

GRIMMWELT is a museum-slash-experiential gallery that blends history and contemporary art. Or more accurately, the museum features contemporary art rooted in history and historical objects. Here, the Brüder Grimm are celebrated for their contributions to the German language and culture.

Wilhelm Grimm’s letter to Goethe and Goethe’s reply (L, R, bottom).


Treppe — “how the ‘trip-trap’ of footsteps embodies the meaning of ‘Treppe,’ the (German) word for stairs.” Top right — publications of the Grimms’ dictionary. Bottom right — final publishing contract of the Grimms’ ‘German dictionary’, signed and executed by the Grimms in 1847.


Contemporary works with historical insight. Some of my faves: Alexej Tchernyi, “The biography of the ‘german dictionary’ Diorama in 14 scenes,” 2014/2015, handmade paper; the exhibition entrance is laid out in an alphabet soup-type of path; lost in a forest of “trees” equipped with speakers that told fairy tales.

And speaking of fairy tales… here’s an early edition of their first collection: Children’s and Household Tales published in 1812.


Aschenputtel (“Cinderella”)



Views from the motorcoach

Last year at this time, I couldn’t have guessed that I would be adventuring in Europe for almost a year for academic research. It’s funny how life passes and changes so quickly with its alleyways of twists and turns. Sort of like images of landscapes and seascapes zooming by during a bus tour through Northern Ireland. Last week I was fortunate enough to see some of the most beautiful countryside in the world: the Ireland in my mind, the Ireland purported by movies and television. All from the windowsill of a coach (specifically, Finn McCools Tours). No Instagram. No Photoshop. No re-composition. Just the view. How quickly it sped by.

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Christmas tidings and Indian spices


Covent Garden Jubilee Market, London.
Christmas market, Tate Modern, London.
Christmas market, Tate Modern, London.
Giant reindeer windmill.
Giant reindeer windmill.

It’s Christmas time in England for us this year. Many markets, many quaint towns, and much eating. One of my favorite all-time food in London has been Indian cuisine. Yes, I know, not exactly Christmas. Or is it?? After a few days at the Christmas markets, in which I compared the German ones to the English ones (Germans excel at the food and drink, English at the gifts offered), I skipped the bratwurst and mulled wine and went for Indian spices at the Masala Zone. Lovely food with colorful variety. And puppets. A multitude of puppets hung like ornaments in decorative fashion from the ceiling’s rafters. By the time I stepped into the Masala Zone, I’ve already eaten at another Indian restaurant the previous night: Hot Stuff in Vauxhall.

Hot Stuff was blazingly good. The chutney that accompanied the courtesy papadum was seriously super spicy and delicious, and when paired with a milder yogurt type, so delectable. I think I ate all the papadums and chutneys, and craved even more. One of the surprises was the naan; the sweet almond and coconut naan at Hot Stuff was one of the best naans I’ve ever tasted. I’m looking forward to returning there.

Today, one week into my trip around England, I dined at Rajpoot on the Pulteney Bridge in Bath. Again, quite delicious. I ordered a Bengali fish dish. Spicy, of course, but not overwhelming. One of my goals for the next year is to discern the differences between Northern and Southern Indian food. Perhaps this will help me begin gathering some Indian spices so that I may learn to cook Indian cuisine at home.

Weihnachstmarkt/Christmas market in Germany/Best place to be this time of year


IMG_1021Today November 24 marked the start of the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) in Wolfenbüttel, Germany. Kids and adults alike enjoyed train rides, the merry-go-round, a temporary Christmas village complete with Christmas saloons selling a little something called Glühwein or mulled wine. I haven’t had the pleasure yet, but hear it’s hot and sweet and tastes like Christmas. Bring it on.

The most impressive display of Christmas combined with wine appeared in the form of a more than life-size Christmas windmill. I have one of these table ornaments at home from my first trip to Germany many moons ago. So sweet it is with two little figures holding candles. The flames from the candles make the windmill spin around. Well, color me impressed when I saw my little toy all grown up here at the Weihnachtsmarkt. And naturally, you can buy Glühwein at the base of the windmill. Sure, why not?



All Glühwein shops had little standing cocktail tables next to their stand/shop. Some tables had little Santas, other tables looked like wooden Christmas trees.

IMG_1007 IMG_1005



Here's where to buy your sweetheart a <3.
Here’s where to buy your sweetheart a❤.

Talking over Cake


The thing about spending time in a foreign country doing research is, well, typically on weekends you don’t get to see or speak with a single person. I’m so grateful that this particular weekend, a colleague and I had already made plans to visit a few museums. I really didn’t want to go through the entire weekend without actually discussing what happened in Paris. It would be so easy for me to sit in front of the laptop and read headline after headline, tweet after tweet about any new findings in Paris. But fortunately (and this would be the only time I say this), the internet crawled this weekend, and even slower than usual. And so, silver lining and all, I didn’t look at the onslaught of headlines. Instead, I ventured into the rain and went to museums.

After the first gallery tour of rare albums and prints at the Herzog August Bibliothek, it was time for cappuccino and cake. Let me just say, anytime there’s a choice between raspberry torte and a poppy seed cake with marzipan, take the poppy seed cake with marzipan. At Café am Stadtmarkt in my little adopted town of Wolfenbüttel, Germany, the poppy seed/marzipan creation was super light, nuanced, and beautifully presented. It was helpful to just sit and chat over coffee and cake. We talked about our experiences in Paris, the politics of the situation, how the people of Paris must feel right now, and the response from surrounding European countries, especially in light of the Syrian refugees. The combination of frank discussion, cappuccino and cake helped me work through some of my frustrations and fears. I highly recommend it.

At the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, we saw a lovely exhibition of drawings and prints. I discovered a beautiful etching of The Drunken Silenus (1628) by Jusepe de Ribera, a Spanish artist who worked not only in the medium of painting but also in prints. One of the best moments of going through an exhibition with a broad theme, in this case “autumnal,” is finding artists from different centuries addressing the same theme. Alongside German and Dutch prints of autumn (Jost Amman and Sebastian Vranx, for example) was a woodblock print from the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai from the series “One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets” with its gentle landscape and three figures who appear to be returning to a village from the harvest. What caught my eye was the woven pattern on the baskets strapped to the figures, and the various types of leaves—seemingly individually cut out—on two different sets of trees. So inspired was I by these patterns that I made my own leaf prints at the museum’s print shop. It was likely intended for families with children, but it definitely helped me this weekend.

Coping by Cooking


All I can think about today is the terrorist attack in Paris last night. I’m stricken with sadness, anger, questions of “Why???” Like everyone else in different parts of the world with friends in Paris, I was on social media trying to reach them. Viber, Facebook, whatever. When I finally got through, oh my God, so much relief. Waves of relief washed over me that I was crying while texting. The panic I felt while waiting for word from friends threw me back to the time when the U.S. was attacked by terrorists. I was in Philadelphia at the time, running around trying to get out of the city. The transportation rail SEPTA was shut down, and so everyone was running around with their cell phones trying to reach their loved ones and trying to figure out the different ways to exit the city. Oh God, how I hated that feeling. Scared, panicked, but I didn’t actually cry at all until I spoke with my parents, and my dad said something like, “You don’t need to worry, everything will be okay.” Now of course, that’s when I got scared.

Today, I’ve been trying to avoid social media to avoid breaking down. Figure I would cook some comfort food — a pot of spaghetti bolognese and a side dish of eggplant because that’s all I had in the fridge. The act of chopping vegetables helped. The nice solid crunch of the vegetable, the sound of the knife hitting the cutting board, and the look of diced onions, eggplant cubes, and wedges of tomatoes when I was done, well… it was something at least, and it did make me feel better having done so much chopping. Add chili peppers to the eggplant? Sure why not? It didn’t matter as long as I was creating something on the stove.

Turns out I still need time to grieve. I just peeked at facebook, and the news headlines alone spurned another wave of tears. The headlines and the tears, I realize, cannot be avoided too much longer. Peace for Paris.