The Travel-and-Food-on-the-Side Blogpost

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” — J.R.R. Tolkien

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This week will be a little random. I’ve visited some cool places over the last two weekends, but I’ve also cooked and/or eaten some pretty cool food. So here we go!

Last weekend, I went to Heidelberg with the technical school, THM. The day was split between the Heidelberg Observatory (Landessternwarte Heidelberg-Königstuhl) on one of the hills next to the city. Since there was only one mountain-tram up and only one down, we decided to take a little hike, which had an amazing view.

IMG_7558The observatory mainly looks for asteroids. O^O (my official geeking-out face)

We eventually made our way halfway down the mountain to the old Heidelberg castle.

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The coolest part of the castle is that so much of it is in ruins. It reminds me of a Miyazaki movie in its beautiful, decaying way.

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I might have lied though…the coolest part was the wine barrels. I’ve heard that these barrels are fake and don’t actually contain wine, but if nothing else, they are probably the largest barrels in the world. And by large I mean ginormous. 

IMG_7577It’s a bad picture with my phone, sorry…

The last part of the day was spent in the city itself. A group of us bought ice cream, walked around the main street, and made our way to the bridge — another main sight in Heidelberg.

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The day I visited Heidelberg, it was sunny and beautiful. In contrast, this week has been rather overcast and raining randomly as it pleases.

Nonetheless, I went hiking with a friend outside of Giessen and I went to Marburg with a new Studdy Buddy. (I joined the technical school’s program as well.)

Schiffenberg has a wonderful little monastery at the top, and hikers, runners, and dog-walkers can take the bus from Giessen to the monastery. There are lovely paths around the area and also longer hiking trails farther out. Stephanie and I planned to hike, but we just enjoyed the shorter paths. It was a lot of fun!

And yesterday I went to Marburg with Robin. He’s a student at THM, the technical school. He of course had been to Marburg before, and was kind enough to show me around the city, including the Elizabeth Church, the Marktplatz, and the Schloss (with a cool little museum!).

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So that was my traveling for two weekends. It’s been a lot of fun. But learning about a country is not just about seeing the sights but eating the food. And late May is always Spargelzeit in Germany.

Spargel is the German word for asparagus, but it specifically means a kind of white asparagus. Spargel Time has been important in Germany for a long time, and even the University bought the expensive asparagus for the whole week. Every day there was a Spargel dish of some kind, though it was mostly Spargel with a type of Hollandaise sauce.

I decided I wanted to make some Spargel myself. When in Rome, right? However, there are just some things that newbs shouldn’t cook…because they’re bound to mess it up.

Either way, I made Spargel. And Sirius helped! Here are the instructions for how I did it, not necessarily meant to be copied.

First, peel the asparagus because white asparagus has a fibrous outer layer that people can’t eat.
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Second, cut off the bottoms of the Spargel.
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Third, boil that Spargel! Something like 10 minutes…I don’t really know.
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Also make a random white sauce from the internet and boil veggies.
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And then try your new food! And…realize you did not peel that Spargel nearly enough.
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Last step, go watch Hannah Hart and know you are not alone in failing to cook. By the way: My Drunk Kitchen is an awesome vlog and I encourage you all to check it out.

And for bonus points…eat the Spargel at the cafeteria, which is really, really good, so you know what Spargel is supposed to taste like.
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I’ve also been eating a lot with my Indian suite mates because they always make too much and invite people to eat with them. I think its a pretty good life philosophy, especially for college.

They taught me how to make baked veggie bread rolls, which are really good and taste like veggie hotdogs. I think its because of the ketchup.

 

And then the latest Indian dish that I’ve had the pleasure to eat with them is called baaghi. It’s a spiced vegetable dish. And puri bread, which is really delicious.
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So if you guys are interested in any of these foods I encourage you to try them out (and then watch ‘My Drunk Kitchen’ to be consoled). After all, sharing food is sharing love! And I do mean that in the least hippie way possible…

Bis Bald!

Jacque

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Sirius Black

“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on.” — Sirius, Order of the Phoenix

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Hello, everyone! I’m Sirius Black, and I have hijacked Jacque’s blog to tell you all how my week went.

First of all, I spent the previous weeks inside a bag that traveled across the US and then across the ocean to get to Gießen, Germany. It was dark and bumpy — really no good service at all. I didn’t even get one of those ‘nice’ international meals on my flight!

But, in any case, I arrived in Germany and eventually Jacque picked me up from the post office. I was so excited!

So first of all, since we didn’t have class on Monday, Jacque decided we should do something really, really interesting in celebration that I had finally arrived. We cleaned her dorm room.

IMG_7534The terrifying before picture…

IMG_7535This is clean, right?

As grateful as I was, I wanted to get outside…and, you know, see things. But it also became very rainy, so we were stuck inside.
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On Tuesday, we woke up early to go to the pharmacy! Apparently Jacque has some skin allergy to spring in Germany. She spoke to the pharmacy lady in German and I have no idea what the heck she was saying. Nonetheless it was a successful trip!
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Afterwards, we went to class. It was thankfully in English (I kept falling asleep during the German ones later that week).
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On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Jacque also has a German Language class in a totally separate area from her normal classes.

IMG_7542The class building is behind me! It’s in the Technical School.

IMG_7541I took this pictures myself! I think its better.

We also had classes late in the day on Wednesday. The morning was mostly work, but then we made lunch before heading out to classes.

Her fridge didn’t quite live up to my standards. We’re going to need to buy a lot more food now that there’s two of us. She promises that she just needs to go shopping…

IMG_7538No Vegetables = Sirius Approved!

(Onions don’t count because they’re delicious.)

 

Probably my favorite part of the day was enjoying a chocolate muffin and tea between classes.
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The evening was very productive! We did some reading…and might have watched a lot of anime. But multi-tasking counts, right?

IMG_7544It was such a sad anime…but I didn’t cry!

Thursday was the longest day, because we had to get up early for a 8am class, stay at the university the whole day for two more classes, and then go back to the Tech School for the Language class.

IMG_7550“The Wheels on the Bus…”

But at the end of the day, we went to the University’s ‘movie theater’ and watched a cool movie. I have no idea what it was though, since it was in German. But I liked it!
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So Jacque is boring and didn’t want to travel with me that weekend. But I heard she had fun at her Aunt’s house. I stayed in the dorm and made a mess for her to clean up later.

See you again soon!

Sirius

First Week of School!

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So this week was the beginning of classes. I’ve had to figure out schedules, ask for syllabi, double check requirements with my major and minor advisors (shoutout to Prof O’Rourke and Prof Schwerin-High!). It’s been busy, but good. I may or may not be taking too many history classes, and half of those may or may not be in German. But what’s the fun in a college semester without a bit of stress?

I’m joking, of course. Classes only meet once a week, and I’ve noticed there are less readings than back home, and no midterms. I also have a nice mix of lectures and seminars, which translate to half-credit and normal/one credit classes back home. So it should all work out.

This weekend was really great though!

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I visited some of the family that still lives in Wüstensachsen, where my Oma grew up. I saw the house she grew up in, the church she was married in, and the guest house I’ve always heard about. It was very cool.

IMG_7531.jpgIts the house in the middle. The pink one is the old Ebert house and the yellow one is the new Ebert house.

IMG_7453.jpgIMG_7454.jpgThe church!

DSCF1199 (1).jpgAnd Oberwirst!

For the whole weekend, I was with the family of Franz, who was one of the younger brothers of my grandma. I met his wife Gertrude, who lives in the Ebert house. Then I met Franz’s son Michael, his wife Susanne, and their kids Jonathan (8 years) and Sarah (5 years). They’re all very nice and I had a great time.

DSCF1157.jpgGertrude, me, Susanne, Jonathan, and Sarah

DSCF1272.jpgMichael, Jonathan, me, Sara

They were kind enough to show me around the area, which included Kreuzberg, the Wasserkuppe, and Point Alpha. The old army base on the Wasserkuppe is most important, since that’s where my grandparents actually met. So yeah, it’s kind of important for my existence…

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My grandpa and grand uncle were stationed at the Wasserkuppe base, only 5km outside of Wüstensachsen. My Aunt Theresia worked in a cafeteria there and eventually dragged my Oma to work with her, since she had met a couple of very nice American soldiers. And that was that.

The Wasserkuppe was pretty cool. Its famous for its history of sailplanes, and there’s a couple museums and cafes there. A few of the buildings are original from before WWII. And the giant Cold War radar — now empty — still stands. Since the Wasserkuppe is the highest point of the Rhön Mountains, it was very useful for the US to spy on the Soviets.

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Nearby is Point Alpa, a Cold War observation tower, now turned museum. This tower lined the border of the east, like many of the other observation towers in the Fulda Gap.

The Gap was a bit of a conundrum in the Cold War. The whole border between Hessen (West) and the Bundesland of Thurigin (East) was highly guarded by both US and Soviet soldiers. The Gap was seen as a possible place for a Soviet invasion into the Frankfurt and Rhine areas. It was thought that if a third world war were to break out, it would happen at the Fulda Gap.

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Kreuzberg, in contrast, has been around a long time. The monastery was founded with the first Irish missionaries before 1000. The current church building dates back to 1681.

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The monks at Kloster Kreuzberg (Kreuzberg Monastery) have been brewing hearty beers for centuries, and they still supervise the work today. It was a pretty cool place.

I’m so happy I got to see Wüstensachsen and some of my family there! I can’t wait to go back.

Bis Bald,

Jacque

Krakow

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On the 31st I flew to Krakow. It was such a process, and I’m always a bundles of nerves when I travel, but it all worked out. To get to the airport, I have to get to the Gießen Bahnhof, then to the main Frankfurt Bahnhof, then to the Airport. Thankfully, German airports are really easy to navigate and the security lines aren’t crazy long. Once in Krakow, there was a train to the city center and it was a fifteen minute walk to my hostel.

2016-04-01 17.44.13 copy.jpgNever been so relieved to see English…

The bad news is that my sense of direction is only good about half of the time. On the way to the hostel, I only knew that I was in the right general area. Then I used google maps, but…my phone battery died…However! I did the smart thing (which again I only do about half the time) and I charged and brought my external battery for my phone.

So I was literally walking around Krakow with a backpack filled to the brim, holding my phone in one hand and my external battery in the other, trying to finding the hostel with google maps. I’m so cool, guys. But the main point is that I actually found the hostel.

My first full day in Krakow was awesome. There’s a company called “Free Tours” in Krakow, and essentially you can take a tour for free with a native Polish person as your guide. You can give tips at the end, and a few of the tours actually cost, but mostly its free. The first tour I took was about Old Krakow. The tour guide’s name was Calen and he was working on a second masters degree in history. He was born and raised in Krakow and did the tours because it was fun for him.

As you know, I’d hate to bore you with history…but Krakow’s history is really cool. First and foremost, I actually saw a sidewalk from the 14th century. Here’s the picture:

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No, that sidewalk did not always lead to a basement-type door. That used to be one of the normal entrances. (The original chapel here was also smaller in the middle ages.) Essentially, since waste systems weren’t really good — in all of Europe — during the middle ages, cities would just build another road on top of the old one after fifty years or a hundred years or so. And they’d leave all the, uh, waste under that new layer of road. So basically every city in Europe is built on piles of rubbish and God-knows-what. 🙂

We went all over old Krakow — from the main square to the Barbican to the oldest building at the university to Wawel Castle.

First a note about the main square. St. Mary’s Church is absolutely gorgeous and boasts the largest altarpiece in all of Europe. Krakow was also one of the main centers of trade between East and West. This city was practically the center of the international world back in the day, and the main square – which was the second largest in Medieval Europe – was filled with merchants from all over the world, had a giant cloth hall, St. Mary’s, the chapel, and the Town Hall. Krakow was even known as the “Rome of the East.”

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Then there’s the Barbican. Besides the Barbican being one of the coolest defensive structures in the whole city of Krakow, its also been standing for over 600 years. In its time, it’s defended the heart of the Commonwealth from powerful armies like the Russians, Austrians, Prussians and the Ottomans, but unfortunately not the Swedes (Swedish Deluge, late 1600s).

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(Let’s be real, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was a badass among pre-modern states. It deserves so much more credit than it gets in how we remember history.)

And then there’s Wawel Castle. Today it also looks much different than its medieval original, but I saw enough recreations in museums to satisfy me. What is currently standing was mostly built during the Renaissance.

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Probably my most interesting adventure was the trek to Krak’s Mound. The story goes that Krak founded Krakow and built Wawel castle sometime before 1000. However, he built the castle on the cave of a dragon, and eventually had to kill it. Later, when he died, he was buried under a large mound, as was pagan custom, and an oak tree was planted on top of or nearby his burial mound.

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I love this story, but its probably all myth. Pagan burial mounds are common all over the world — from Japan to England. (Usually they’re a few feet high and maybe ten feet long. Krak’s Mound is a giant hill.)

IMG_7186.jpgThis is from the castle. Yes, that giant green thing in the center is the ‘burial mound.’

To get to Krak’s Mound, I had to make my way south past Wawel Castle, and continue south across two bridges which eventually would get me to Krak’s Mound. I just had a tourist map and refused to use my Google Maps, so my only guide was a bit vague on street names.

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So basically, I wandered around a shopping center, a beautiful old church and park area, through two neighborhoods — one complete with a small convent, — and yes, across the two bridges to finally get to Krak’s Mound. If I’ve ever felt like a pilgrim, I’d say it was then. And the view was totally worth it.

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So that’s Krakow! I highly recommend it.

Bis Bald,

Jacque

 

Vacation

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My last two weeks have been pretty exciting! March 21st and 22nd were the last two days of class; we had a little party on the last day. Then on the 24th, I headed to the Koblenz area to visit Monika and the family.

One of Karla’s friends, Eva who studies at a nearby university helped me out and her father drove us from Limburg to Koblenz — where Eva’s dad gave me the best tour of the city — and on to Höhr-Grenzhausen.

I spent four days with Monika and the family — including Colin’s wonderful mom Jen! — in Höhr-Grenzhausen. Finn and I went on a hike with Monika, Colin, and some of their neighbors on Friday. It was rainy, but still a beautiful hike.

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The area around the Rhine is so green and full of life. It’s definitely different to the pines back home. Everyone brought food and tea for lunch. We had sausage, cheese, fruit, Haribo, and soft-boiled eggs. And, as is tradition apparently, a shot of Schnapps! It was awesome compared to the food I usually eat while hiking…which is mainly protein bars. So if I’ve learned anything in Germany, its how to eat right while hiking!

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That evening, the whole group got together for dinner. It was a feast! We had salmon and a kind of German trout, salads, and appetizers. I also learned another German thing…apparently “voll” does not always mean “full.” “Ich bin voll” more often means “I’m drunk.” So everyone had a good laugh when I mixed that up. I’m glad I learned the difference before the semester started!

On Saturday, I spent the day with Karla and her boyfriend Jan. We had to take a bus from Höhr to his town. I still love how everything is connected by bus even though the towns are distinct areas. It’s a totally different set up than in the US. Anyway, the three of us went to a skatepark that is actually on an island in the Rhine. It was a very pretty place, with people’s gardens and a walking path and a playground. I did in fact try out skateboarding…or rather, I stood on the skateboard while Karla and Jan pulled me around. That was enough for me.

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On Easter Sunday we drove to Maria’s house in Siegen. Finn and I hunted for Easter eggs! I haven’t done that in such a long time, but it was really fun. And Maria hid them very well. We almost thought an animal took away the last one, since we had such a hard time finding it!

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We had a great time that day, and in the morning everyone left back to Höhr. I stayed at Maria’s for another couple days. We mainly relaxed, looked at photo albums, and went grocery shopping. It was fun!

Bis Bald,

Jacque

Third Week…and More History!

“Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

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Again, this week was mostly classes, and I imagine I’ll be writing that a lot more once the semester starts. This weekend was fun though!

One of Anna’s friends had a birthday party and I was invited along. It was a floor party, so there was a table set up with food in the hallway and everyone was gathered around it listening to music. There was a lot of classic American Rock, which was pretty awesome. I got to meet some new people. Conversations were sometimes half in German and half in English, but hey, I’m trying.

I went home early since there was another excursion on Saturday. We went to Bonn! The bus ride was over two hours, since it is in another Bundesland, but it was still a good time. I brought my book Reckless, but I couldn’t read the German for very long before I started falling asleep. Its really hard to read in another language.

Bonn itself was really cool! We picked up our tour guide and stayed on the bus for another hour. Bonn is simply so big and has so much that it made sense to do a bus tour. The city of Bonn is over 2,000 years old. I don’t know what document it’s mentioned in, but apparently the earliest mentioning of Bonn is from 11 BCE. It was later used as a Roman fort to guard against the Germanians on the other side of the Rhine. (Did I mention that the Rhine is giant and super pretty? Because it is.) Skip to the 1600s and you have some bishop with a golden boat who had three different palaces which are now part of Bonn University.

Go to the next century and you have: Beethoven.

2016-03-19 14.49.27 copySorry for the bad quality. It was with my phone. But that’s Beethoven’s statue in Bonn’s main square.

Here’s another interesting history story (please skip if you’ve had enough of my history rants): Maria Theresa of Austria had 16 kids. By the time her youngest son, Maximilian Franz, could marry anybody, everyone was taken. So he became a bishop: lots of money, family on the side…it was a pretty sweet deal. I actually have no idea how Max Franz was as a bishop. Also he was technically the bishop of both Cologne and Bonn. Anyway, he missed Vienna a lot. He remade whole streets to look more like Vienna. Because of this, his mother tried to bring some of Vienna to Bonn. One notable example is Haydn. Maria Theresa sent Haydn to her son’s court in the late 1700s, and while Haydn was there he essentially discovered Beethoven. Little Ludwig was just a teen playing in the Bishop’s orchestra. So basically because some fancy bishop was homesick, we have Beethoven. Who knew?

We also had a few hours in the city to get lunch and look around. I really liked the look of the city. It reminds me a bit of San Fransisco, except without the hills, obviously.

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And I kid you not, I had the best burger that I’ve had while in Germany. If anyone visits Bonn, you have to find “Uni Burger.” I assume its really popular among the college kids, but they honestly made good burgers. I ate mine so fast I couldn’t even take a picture. But I had a Jalapeño Cheeseburger and it satiated some of my craving for the food back home. I’d probably go back to Bonn just for the burger.

At the end of the day, we went to the House of History, which is Bonn’s modern history museum.

IMG_7121Quickly made flags right after the war.

Bonn, of course, was the capital of West Germany, so it makes sense they would have a huge museum about East and West Germany.

IMG_7122These cards were made by organizations like the Red Cross to help connect families that had been separated. This was just half of the “L” section.

IMG_7135 (1)Mmmm…I like donuts

IMG_7143Dem ‘Murican Jeans

It was a very good museum! We had a tour guide, so we went through it a bit fast, but I enjoyed it.

We got back to Gießen after 8pm. Some of us went to do grocery shopping at the Rewe two stops before our dorm. Oh! And the other day, I bought some flowers! They bloomed really quickly.

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On Sunday, a couple of us decided to go see Kung Fu Panda 3. I saw it before I left, but this time it’d be in German, which is good practice. It seems half the things I do nowadays are for good practice. Since being in Germany, I’ve found that I can understand what is going on in a conversation, but I don’t understand all of the words being said. Hopefully by the end of the semester I’ll improve.

 

Bis Bald,

Jacque

Second Week Struggles

“If you seek the happiness of love, let go of love and trust to luck. Then the two will get together of their own accord, and make more than one person happy.”

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I hate to be Debbie Downer, but between getting sick and having to deal with official documents, my second week was kind of rough. It’s also my excuse for being late with this blog post. Though I also admit that I’ve been watching too much Netflix. (I had to make up for last month with so little internet.)

Everything is slowly getting worked out with the documents, which is only to be expected. So besides class, Netflix, and sleep, I didn’t do too much this week.

This weekend’s excursion was to the Oldenwald region to see the Felsenmeer. That literally means “sea of rocks.” Because of cool science things like Continental Drift and magma and the Ice Age and erosion, the Felsenmeer exists. Essentially its a lot of huge boulders that go a couple miles up the side of a mountain. It had been a while since I rock scrambled, but it was a lot of fun!

IMG_7092Below me…

IMG_7093Above me!

After that we went to the Glücksfabrik, which essentially translates to Happiness Factory. Its a factory for the company Koziol, which makes various plastic objects. It’s all decently made stuff, but unless you want fun colors for your kids, there’s nothing special about the products themselves. The cool part is the company and how everything is made.

2016-03-12 15.47.45 copy2016-03-12 16.15.30 copyThe first Koziol plastic press…and the modern version.

Koziol is one of two main factories in the Oldenwald area, and is a significant source of jobs for the region. Another plus is that they’re dedicated to being entirely German-made instead of outsourcing and they’re also super green: all of their products are recyclable and they stick to plastic because its greener to make than most other materials.

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Everything is recyclable because each item is made out of only one type of plastic. Theoretically everything made out of plastic in the whole world could be totally recyclable, so it seems stupid to me that its so complicated to recycle in the US.

2016-03-12 15.55.25 copyKoziol also created the snow globe!

Anyway…if people want to buy me kitchenware or whatnot for my graduation next year, I’d be down with Koziol products. 🙂

Bis Bald,

Jacque