May 232013
May 112013

The Wall for a 30 room building 50 m long and 70 m wideOne of the most wonderful aspects of living here, as far as I am concerned, is that the kids get opportunities to be exposed to all sorts of things they would just never see in the US.  DS was lucky enough to have the chance to travel to a Roman excavation site in central France this week with his class.

The site is busy excavating the old town of Bibracte.  It was inhabited by Celts/Gauls/Druids back during the time of Julius Caesar.  And, in fact, old Julius loved the place- which, DS tells me, is why they even know what it was called.  The Druids were big on the Oral Tradition and did not write down information about themselves.  But, Julius would visit the town and write of his adventures there.  Apparently, he loved it SO much, that he sponsored the establishment of a new city, just down the road.  All the inhabitants relocated, and the old site was abandoned.  250-300 hectares worth of land, and the archeologists have only managed to excavate 7 so far.  Lots of work to be done!

The site is about 6 hours away from the school, so everyone had to get up very early in the morning on the day they left- the buses set out at 6 am.  Ouch.

Some highlights and low lights of the trip:

  • getting shocked by an electric fence (“feels like getting kicked in the butt!”)
  • “excavating” a cake and using their 5 senses to check it out (yes, they ate it- it was baked with an authentic Roman recipe, I am told)
  • Getting pushed into a barbed wire fence by a rowdy classmate
  • learning how to smelt iron ore into iron age weapons- and learning to shape clay with the same techniques used to shape molten iron
  • falling onto a spiky seed pod (and getting about a dozen splinters as a result!)
  • lots and lots of social hijinks that I am not permitted to relay– let us just say that the average Disney sitcom has nothing on our son
  • climbing a mountain- every European field trip seems to involve mountain climbing for some reason
  • Sleeping in a room that included a Murphy bed
  • lending out all his spending money to friends
  • eating an entire pack of cookies in one night with his roommates
  • observing many cows
  • excavating many planted antiquities and learning how to clean and reassemble them

Here are some photos from his trip:

May 092013
May 072013

Let’s talk Pizza.

Pizza Overview

I have mentioned German Pizza in previous posts, but it is so delightfully NOT what an American might expect, it deserves a post all of its own.  First off, it is important to know that there are three main providers of pizza in Germany.

  1. Actual Italian restaurants run by actual Italians.  These places tend to be expensive, but good.  Italy is just down the road, so you can expect fresh, authenic sauces, good cheese and a nice crust.  Pizza may be a New World development, but the Italians certainly know how to use fresh simple ingredients in wonderful ways.
  2. Turkish Pizza and Döner stands.  A döner is like a gyro or a schwarma.  There is a huge ethnic Turkish immigrant population in Germany, and döner stands provide the quick, cheap, almost-always-open food source that a taqueria, fast food place, or similar place might provide in the US.  Since many German restaurants are closed on weekends or during lunch hours or other silly things like that, döner stands are an absolute necessity for folks on the go.  For reasons not entirely clear to me, however, most of the döner stands also provide cheap pizza.  Think pizza-pizza cheap.  These pies are definitely inferior quality, but just the right price.  And, about as close to convenient as anything in these parts.
  3. Pizza Delivery Specialists.  We were only introduced to our local chain recently, and I have to admit that this is a big step up from the Turkish pizza joint we had been frequenting.  Our current favorite is actually significantly better than the US Dominoes-style equivalent.  And they have a much better assortment of products.  Hallo Pizza, our local chain, will deliver (price included) pizzas in 4 sizes, custom built sandwiches, custom built pasta, potatoes au gratin, Ben and Jerry’s and Haagen-Dazs ice creams, sodas, beers, wines, salads and a variety of rolls!  It is a bit pricier than the Turkish places, but cheaper than most actual Italian joints.  And, well-worth the price point for quality and convenience.  (It should be noted that Dominoes & Pizza Hut do exist over here- but the closest ones we have seen are in Strasbourg)


Before coming to Germany, I might have thought that pizza toppings were a pretty stable thing.  Sure, there might be some minor variational nod to community norms, but, pepperoni, ground beef, and olives are going to exist anywhere, right?   Not so fast, jack.  If you order pepperoni here, you will wind up with actual peppers on your pizza.  And ground beef just isn’t a topping option.  Black olives are far more likely to be Kalamata than those kind we buy in a can.

Also, the cheeses are just a little odd by American standards.  True Italian places may use mozzarella, but the cheap places use some sort of knock off  generic “cheese”,  and the decent places use gouda.  Usually you can pay extra to have mozzarella as a topping.

So, what DO they put on pizzas here?  Well, ham is big, of course!  And there are tomatoes and pineapple and mushrooms and bell peppers and onions and salami (as close as you are gonna get to pepperoni).  But, then we start getting a bit weird.

Here are common German toppings that still make me do a double-take:

  • Corn- Hey, pizza is North American, corn is North American, too!
  • Tuna- its on every menu
  • Eggs- no clue, a nod to Khachapouri?
  • Curry Sauce (I am told this is uncommon, but I have seen it a couple places…)
  • Roast Potatoes
  • Shrimp
  • Serrano Ham (I completely approve of this one)
  • Döner meat/gyro meat (that weird spiced stuff they shave off the log)
  • Spinach
  • Arugala
  • Jalapeños
  • Feta

Menu Close Up

 Popular Combinations:

Since Pizza apparently makes Germans think of the US, most of the pizzas are named after US locations.  However, the combinations are not necessarily reflective of the character of those places- at least not in my mind.  Here are the standard pizzas on the Hallow Pizza menu.  Most of these are about the same as you might find in other restaurants- though I notice that the true Italian joints have more combinations and often name them after Italian cities.

  • Boston– Hollandaise Sauce, Gouda, Broccoli and Ham
  • Luftikuss (which roughly translates to “stooge”, or unreliable person)- Tomato sauce, Gouda, Serano Ham, Arugula and grated Parmesan
  • Dixieland– BBQ Sauce, Onions, Peppers and Salami
  • Dehli– Curry Sauce, Gouda, Broccoli, Pineapple and Chicken Breast
  • Poncho– BBQ Sauce, Gouda, Peppers, Onions, Corn and Chicken Breast
  • Kentucky– Tomato Sauce, Gouda and Salami (goes well with bourbon?)
  • Alaska– Tomato Sauce, Gouda, Tuna, Onions
  • Hawaii– Tomato Sauce, Gouda, Pineapple, Ham (Hey, this one at least is universal!)
  • California– Tomato Sauce, Gouda, Broccoli, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, and Corn
  • Texas– Tomato Sauce, Gouda, Roasted Potatoes, Onions and Bacon (cause in Texas, they say Yeeeha to Potatoes!)
  • Olymp– Tomato Sauce, Gouda, Gyro Meat, Feta and Onions
  • New York– Tomato Sauce, Gouda, Tuna, Ham, Mushrooms, and Spinach (can you imagine a New Yorker ordering that pie?)
  • 4-Seasons– Tomato Sauce and Gouda plus 1/4 each: Tuna, Mushrooms, Salami and Ham.  (Presumably this is good for a party.)

Guten Appetit!!