Planes, Trains and Automobiles
We boarded an evening flight in Porto after enjoying nearly two weeks of mostly warm weather and sunshine. We exited the plane in Baden-Baden, Germany late at night to frosty breath and twenty something degrees.
We spent the night in a small airport hotel near Baden-Baden after dining on a luxurious spread of vending machine pretzels and beer (yes, they have beer in vending machines; high five Germany!). It was nice and warm, and after some sleepless nights below the tap-dancing stage in Porto, we caught a few hours of much needed sleep.
We woke early the following day to a frost white Germany. No snow yet, but we’re getting closer. (But frosty totally counts to us, so we were pretty excited! – Red) We jumped on a bus at the airport that weaved through the small towns near the Karlsruhe Airport on the way to the Baden-Baden train station.
At the station, Red shivered and jumped up and down to stay warm before boarding a train to Appenweier; where we, again, had the privilege of sitting in the chilly morning air for an hour before boarding our last train to Strasbourg. (It was freezing! – Red)
It’s always an interesting couple days when you start your travels in Portuguese, switch to German for a night, and end with French (all of which we attempted, butchered, and laughed our way through). (We-we! -Red)
We met Red’s friend, Tori, who is teaching English in the city, at the train station in Strasbourg. She took us to her awesome little flat just outside the city centre, where we settled in for the holiday.
It had been over 4 years since we’d seen each other but the moment we connected we jumped right back into where we left off. It was an awesome reunion.
Unfortunately, due to the amazingly awesome and super efficient bureaucracy that is French companies, Tori and her roommates’ (Syd and Clay) internet was somehow activated on the floor above them instead of their apartment and the provider was taking their sweet ass time to fix it (weeks). This, naturally, caused all of us to be far more social than normal.
Red had a site launching that day, so we headed into the city in search of wifi. Somehow, someway, we always manage to end up at an Irish pub in these situations; it’s hard to go wrong with stew and Guinness on a cold day. Red got dialed in and concluded business swiftly, so we could explore the city a bit before meeting back up with Tori and Syd for dinner.
We met for happy hour at a bar that served small French pizzas (I have no idea what they’re actually called). We had some awesome beer and planned our attack for Thanksgiving shopping the following day.
When we exited the bar, we were greeted by our first snowflakes of the season. It was only for a minute before it turned to rain, but Red turned into a giggly goofball with sugarplums dancing in her eyes. (It was snow! Of course I was excited! If I’m going to be cold, mine as well make it worth it and snow totally would. – Red)
After making Thanksgiving dinner a few times (literally feeding an ARMY – Red) and earning Thanksgiving Veteran status, it’s easy to forget how complicated it was the first time. (We video chatted with my mother to make sure we were doing it right haha – Red) It’s not easy, especially when our hosts were planning on 24+ people coming to their small flat for dinner. (Also, that we were shopping in a foreign country that didn’t celebrate this holiday so they didn’t stock our traditional favorites at the local grocery store. And we were having to work with some very creative measuring systems…. Needless to say it was a creative holiday. – Red) At first, Red and I attempted to go with the flow and allowed the chaos of Thanksgiving first-timers to take over. It was more than a little entertaining. (There’s just nothing like your first 😉 – Red) Was that a dirty comment from Red?
But as things became more time-sensitive, we all merged our various skills and experience, pulling off Thanksgiving miracle after miracle. Things really came together and as always, the stress turned into fun, adventure and kitchen camaraderie.
We found an outdoor food and produce market in the city centre by pure luck and divine intervention. All of the roommates spoke fluent French; so making purchases was far easier than our normal game of French charades. (We just smiled up at the venders like the happy American’s we are and used the few French words we knew to express gratitude and allowed our hosts to do the talking. – Red)
After a little nudge from Red (they didn’t want to look like dumb Americans), they started asking various butchers at the market where we could find a turkey. After a few weird looks and a couple of shaking heads, we got lucky and found a guy that would kill one that night and meet us the following day with it. Unfortunately, the market was in a different place the following morning. (Minor details – we found a TURKEY! – Red)
With the Thanksgiving shopping done for the day, Tori gave us an amazing tour of beautiful Strasbourg. (It was awesome! So grateful for her amazing tour skills! THANK YOU! – Red) I have wanted to visit this city my entire life and I was so ecstatic when the sun came out briefly during our tour and we could really see the color (and reflections in the canals) of the amazing architecture. (Such a glorious and gorgeous city! We couldn’t have had a better day there.- Red)
We had some drinks and ramen for dinner before heading back to the flat where the ladies began the pie baking adventure. It was an interesting game of substitution. For example, they couldn’t find any pumpkin puree for the pie, so they acquired some French pumpkins (that ended up resembling spaghetti squash more than pumpkins). They were even translating apple and pumpkin pie recipes from French and metric to English (I kept trying to point out that the internet also comes in English and if you want to learn how to make chow mein you shouldn’t look it up in German). But when the dust settled, they had managed to bake two absolutely beautiful Thanksgiving pies.
We deserved an award for creative innovation this holiday. Without pumpkin puree, we baked a real pumpkin, scraped out the pumpkin, mixed it to death, chopped it with a knife do death, squished it with a cup, chopped it a bit more, and then finally mixed it in with the other ingredients. So this was a very “organic” pumpkin pie. Unfortunately, since the puree is generally sweet and doesn’t need sugar, we skipped that step so our pie was very pumpkin-ey but lacked the delicious sweetness we were working for. BUT it was editable and for all the people who had never had pumpkin pie before, they didn’t know any different :).
We woke up early to head out on our turkey adventure. We took the tram out to a small suburb of the city called Schiltigheim, in search of the mythical beast and the butcher who slew it.
True to his word, the butcher had done the deed (only leaving a few dozen sporadic feathers for me to pluck). Turkey in hand, the holiday finally feeling more and more real, we headed back to the flat, smiles on our faces, to start the cooking.
After several hours in the kitchen, improvising like the pros that we are, Red and I had managed a Turkey, stuffing, twelve pounds of mashed potatoes and gravy, a green bean casserole, and corn for 24+ people. (Steven got a roaring applause for his awesome mashed-potatoes! – Red)
It was quite the Thanksgiving celebration. People from all over the world (some celebrating the holiday for the first time) brought traditional dishes from their home countries to add to the huge feast. Our table was a large piece of butcher paper and everyone sat on the floor around the tremendous smorgasbord. Before eating, everyone in the room took a minute to say what they were grateful for. After a unique showing of gratitude in numerous languages, we all dove in to the delicious feast.
Thanksgiving is such a special holiday for us Americans. Unlike other major holidays that revolve or are based on a specific religious history or affiliation, Thanksgiving is truly an American holiday, celebrated by everyone on the same day every year. While Christmas and Easter and other holidays are spent with family, Thanksgiving lets you to redefine family, allowing you to include friends and other loved ones to join in with the festivities. Taking a whole day to stop, think about all the wonderful things and people in our lives, and express our gratitude for them is a really unique holiday. So celebrating this special day with people from all over the world who had never had a thanksgiving before, made it a truly special evening for everyone there. – Red
Thank you to our wonderful hosts for allowing us to spend the holiday with you!