Hot wine and cold toes

Trying to fake it as a local at the Regensburg Christmas market

Hot Wine and Cold Toes read by the author Brenda Arnold

Who lives in these towns and what do they do for a living, I wonder as I watch the landscape roll by.  I’m on a train headed to Regensburg to visit my friend Michaela and the Christmas market. Two hours of reading time, yay, I think, but can’t keep myself from looking out the window at the never-ending beautiful scenery. Gently rolling hills and pine forests alternate with

Continue reading Hot wine and cold toes

The Several Santa Syndrome

Will the real Santa Claus please stand up?

8 December 2019

The Several Santa Syndrome – read by the author Brenda Arnold

“Down through the chimney with good Saint Nick!” goes the tune, referring to the guy who brings presents and eats the milk and cookies that the kids leave out. Come to think of it, they should probably leave something more substantial, considering the journey he undergoes, like a pile of protein bars. The identity of this visitor was generally accepted when I was a kid growing up in Ohio. St. Nick was just one of many names for the jolly old man in the red suit who comes in a sleigh filled with presents. As it turns out, it’s not so simple.

Continue reading The Several Santa Syndrome

Thanksgiving? No, thanks

This all-American holiday is not as traditional as you think

24 November 2019

Thanksgiving? No, thanks. Read by the author Brenda Arnold

Little kids in pilgrim hats or feather headdresses that would give politically correct people heart palpitations today – when I was in third grade, everything about Thanksgiving was warm and fuzzy. Such a great American tradition, steeped in friendship, harmony and the spirit of giving. Under closer scrutiny, however, this holiday is not everything it is cranked up to be.

Continue reading Thanksgiving? No, thanks

Halloween Goes Global

29 October 2019

But curious things happen when you transplant a holiday

When I moved to Germany over 30 years ago, nobody had heard of Halloween. I had a hard time explaining why people get dressed up as ghosts, goblins, Shrek or a Superman and go from house to house asking for candy. Not only was there no Halloween, the jack-o-lantern pumpkins were not sold anywhere, either. When nostalgia inspired me to throw a Halloween party, my American girlfriend Ruth laughed her head off when she caught sight of my muscat pumpkin jack-o-lantern. Never heard of a muscat pumpkin? Me neither.

Continue reading Halloween Goes Global

An Intents Experience – My Oktoberfest Visit

30 September 2019

Beyond the beer, some surprises worth discovering

Summer is over. Germany is like Camelot – at least regarding the punctuality of the weather, not so much the bursting into song – so on September 1st it cooled off right on schedule. But here in Munich, there’s another sure way to recognize that fall has arrived. From one day to the next, men exchange their Bermuda shorts for Lederhosen, women doff their jeans for Dirndls – it’s Oktoberfest time!

I’m strolling through the festival grounds with my high school friend Susan and her husband Bill, who were looking forward to seeing the beer tents. That is, until I tell them about something far more intriguing than a bunch of drunks and a brass band covered by cloth on stilts.

Continue reading An Intents Experience – My Oktoberfest Visit

The Curious Case of the X in the Sock Drawer

24 June 2019

I am no stranger to the German sense of order and cleanliness – how could I be after living here for 30 years? After such a long time, I now take it almost for granted: the clean streets, the men who regularly sweep the sidewalk and others who walk around train stations poking a pointy stick into the garbage people have left behind (not sure what the poking will achieve, but it must have something to do with putting the trash into a superior state of orderliness). Still others can be seen washing street signs with long brushes on poles.

And yet, there are still surprises in wait.

Continue reading The Curious Case of the X in the Sock Drawer

Of Planes to Spain Exploring New Terrain

13 May 2019

Here is a new benchmark for defining what it means to be old: when your daughter visits a country with an airport named after the leader who was in power when you lived there.

It just happened to me. My daughter Lisa recently left for a three-month stint in Spain to learn Spanish. This thrilled me, not simply because going abroad to learn a language is such an enriching experience, but because she went to Spain, where I also lived for a year. When ironing out the itinerary with her, I was jolted to discover that the name of the Madrid airport is called Adolfo Suárez, who was prime minister while I was there in 1979-80. It drove home the fact that this had been nearly 40 years ago.

Continue reading Of Planes to Spain Exploring New Terrain