Apps for the Expecting Dad

Becoming a dad is an amazing and exhilarating experience and the perfect apps are an absolute necessity for every modern super dad in the making.  The following iPhone apps can prepare you for your little bundle of joy as you are waiting anxiously for your baby to be born.

 

What to Expect when Expecting

Based of the famous book with the same name.  As with most baby apps you will be updated on the current develpments of your baby.  You will also receive articles and videos discussing current issues that you, your partner and your baby may be facing.

 

Life in The Womb

An iPad app with amazing visuals.  Information and animations provide every involved dad-to-be with visually stimulating pictures explaining your babies latest developments

 

Amazon

When I became a dad, I received the tip to automate and outsource everything possible.  As a father you will be busy cleaning the house, chauffeuring your new family and elbow deep in dirty diapers.  Get everything you can delivered.  I highly recommend Amazon's subscription service.  You can save money and save several trips to the store if you can be willing to plan ahead and buy in bulk ahead of time.

 

MY PREGNANCY TODAY

This app is similar to the What to Expect app.  However, I found the timeline provide easier to use and the information provided more timely.  You simply enter the expected due date and when you opened the app it explain the current state of your child.  I eventually ran into a small bug and the app always opened to week number two.  scrolling through 40 weeks was too cumbersome.  But until that point I was extremely happy with the app. 

 

Headspace

Prepare your inner peace and learn to meditate before you dive into the world of diapers and sleep deprivation.  The first ten guided meditations session were for free.  After that point you have to subscribe.  After going through the first 10 sessions I received a coupon code which greatly reduced the subscription price.  Andy's voice and British accent are nice a calming.  There is one single session on sleep which I have found extremely useful post birth.


 

GOOGLE MAPS

This is a no brainer but If you don't have this app you need it now.  With live traffic updates, the ability to download maps for offline use and the fact it is also a very reliable navigation system it is the must have map application for every father.  Don't be caught off guard unprepared when you have to make a dash to the hospital.

 

1SE

Create a creative video consisting of one second of footage shot per day.  Use this cool app in order to track the progress of the pregnancy and the beginning of your child's life.

 

CINEMAMA

Have you ever wanted to create you own time lapse video of your partners growing belly?  With the helpful app you can do just that.  The app provides guide lines in order to align the picture.  But you will need to have a Facebook account in order to use the app.

These were the apps  I found most useful as I grew into my role as a father.  If you have any other apps you would recommend let me know in the comments below.

Become the King of a Real Castle

 Ballynagowan Castle

Ballynagowan Castle

As most boys, I grew up thinking castles, dragons and knights in shining armor were very cool; they were almost as cool as Ninjas and Transformers.  In a lot of ways this comes from the fact that in the US, if anything is older than 100 years it is placed under historical protection and you are not even allowed to breath on it.  We are so desperate for old stuff that we will buy a used bridge from London just to have ancient crap to call our own.  Europe, with all it's riches, has ancient artifacts just lying around all over the place.  It has so many that you can just rent them and that for what is actually a very reasonable price.

My family comes to Europe once every couple of years from the US.  I thought it would be cool if this time we all went to Ireland. First, it lessens the culture shock a bit when my family can get around easier in English and second, because we have a family history in Ireland.  After a quick search on Celtic Castles we found the castle of our choice.  We had the luck of getting to stay in Ballynagowan Castle in County Clare, Ireland.  From our experience there are many pros and cons to staying in a castle, the major ones are listed below.

Pros

  1. It's a Castle - Fact: castles are awesome.  Therefore it is awesome to stay in a castle.  I don't think it is needed to elaborate on that point any further.
  2. Price - the castle I stayed at could comfortably fit 7 adults.  We went with 6 people just before the main season which cost 1350 € + utilities (~200 €).  This means it cost us about 37 € ($50) per person per day.  That is very good for a family European holiday.  You, of course, have to add the price of a rental car to this; it is nearly impossible to get to the castle where we stayed without one.
  3. Size - Castles generally have plenty of room to offer.  In the one where we stayed each room was relatively comfortable and there was three bathrooms.   This meant everyone had their own space and there was no long waits or fighting for use of the bathroom. There was one main room with a lordly fireplace and a large kitchen for everyone.
  4. Location - there are a lot of options and locations to choose from.  Celticcastles.com manages castles in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France.  You will have the flexibility to set your home base anywhere you like.  The castle we stayed at was deep in the Irish countryside.  In our immediate vicinity were ruins, typical villages and the Cliffs of Moher.  All very cool.
  5. Atmosphere - This is something that can't be beaten by a hotel.  You are living in a piece of history.  While in the castle I couldn't get over that we were casually eating a sleeping in a building that was built long before the foundation of the USA.  It had been part of real turmoil and war.  From the winding stairs that have been polished smooth by the centuries of people going up and down them to the large hall with gigantic fire place fit for a king.

Cons

  1. Stairs - If you have trouble going up narrow, winding slippery stairs this is not the place for you.   Remember you will also have to carry and luggage and possibly firewood up and down them.  This is not the US where things are altered in order to make it accessible for everyone.  The castle was here first and it doesn't have to accommodate you.  This is the general message for most historic places across Europe.  Also, we all enjoy our Guinness or Irish whiskey but getting plastered and falling down the stair could result in serious injury or death. No joke.
  2. Musty - Castles are not the top of modern architectural design.  The stone walls tend to pull in moisture from rain and the ground.  The castle from our visit had three humidifiers running which needed to be emptied regularly.  This meant that some of the rooms smelt damp and musty.  this is mostly from rooms closer to the ground floor but it was an issue everywhere never the less.
  3. Heating - Stone is not exactly an insulating material.  Ned Stark was right, "winter is coming" and a castle can be as cold as hell and it takes some time to warm up a bit.  It isn't a warm cozy hotel room.  What you lose in comfort you make up for style.   Plus it isn't a problem for too long until you get the big awesome fire going.

Tips

Finding a castle - There are a number of sites out there but I can definitely recommend www.celticcastles.com

Car rental - We rented a car from Avis for 280€ for a week.  We picked up the car in Dublin which is definitely trial by fire if you haven't driven on the left side of the road before.  The hardest part is shifting and turning correctly on left and right turns.  The rental companies are use to dumb americans because full coverage damage insurance was standard for the rental.

Driving on the Left - If you are scared of driving on the left, as I was, you can find some tips here.

Pictures of Ireland - For some pictures of Ireland please take a look at my gallery here

Conclusion

In the end it was definitely a great experience, one that I am glad to have checked off my bucket list.  And if you can put up with the few downsides it is something I think that almost everyone can enjoy.   What do you think about staying in a castle?  Is it something you would like to try someday?

After a quick YouTube search I found this short video from Ballynagowan Castle where we stayed.

The Return of Going Kraut

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
— George Bernard Shaw

This has been in the works for a long time. Over the past two years I didn't really know how to continue. On the one side, I was working a job that was for me the emotional equivalent of being pressed through a meat grinder. Any extra time that I had I wanted to devote to my wife and any other distractions that could be used in order to let me forget the shit going on at work. In addition to that, I was no longer living in Germany and a blog based solely on that fact didn't seem to make sense anymore. Because of all of this I have decided it was time for a change.  I have redesigned the site and to explore all new topics

New Design

A picture is worth a thousand words

Going Kraut is now a bit more visual than it was before with pictures and galleries displayed prominently on the site.  I have a lot of pictures from my travels in the US, Europe and the rest of the world that I would love to share with you.

One little touch that I think is very cool is that there is now a mobile version of the site.  So, if you are on the go you can still check it out.

 
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New Mobile design

 

Content

  • Travel - There are a lot of travel blogs out there.  I am going to do what I can in order to cover something new or at least fun on this topic.
  • Photography - This has always been one of my passions.  I want to make it a central topic and place to post some of my favorite photos.  They are far from great but what the hell it's fun to put them out there anyway.  Take and gander at the gallery and let me know what you like (First galleries: Cologne, MonschauBali, Barcelona, Ireland, Edinburgh, Israel and more to come)
  • Sports/Fitness - This is something where you can help me.  When it comes to exercise I have always spent far too much time learning than doing.  I am not in horrible shape - insert old joke that round is a shape as well - but I am just holding everything in steady state and I want to change.  I need a platform to hold myself accountable and this blog will be it.  I am going to set goals and regularly update you on my progress or lack thereof.  It's a bit nerve racking putting everything out there but I think that is the only way in which I will move forward and perhaps achieve something I am proud of.
  • Film/TV -  I have always loved film and TV is just getting better and better.  One quick tip, if you haven't started watch Breaking Bad, just do it.  It really is as good as everyone is saying.
  • Video Games - I have never really grown out of video games and nor do I really want to.  They are just my way of shutting off and relaxing even if my wife says I don't look too relaxed at times.  If the uber cool Kevin Spacey can play them in House of Cards then so can I.  I need an outlet to share my nerd with the world.
  • Other Odds and Ends - Let's see what I can come up with.  I have been thinking about tech, expat life, things I have learned while living abroad, tips and tricks for living in The Netherlands and Germany.  Everything is possible.

I am sure I will make many mistakes on the way but I feel that it is better than sitting and doing nothing.  Let me know what you think.  Enjoy Going Kraut!

Bali

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The island of Bali sets itself apart from the rest of Indonesia. It is the colorfully spiritual and uniquely Hindu center of this nation.

The smiles with which visitors are greeted never end. The stone temples and statues carefully decorated with fresh follows shows the dedication the people of Bali have to their faith. Tripping over offerings scattered everywhere happens constantly to clumsy outsiders, such as myself.

You are never far away from the next ceremony. Traffic will constantly grind to a halt as a local parade or wedding blocks the road.

I have had the luck to spend a month on this lush and colorful island. It is mystic and ripe for exploration. From the more populous and touristy south to the peacefully and isolated north of the island there is something for everyone. You can do yoga and spa treatments in Ubud or go diving in turquoise waters near Permuteran.

Bali is truly a magical island which must be visited by anyone who has any love for travel.

A New Start

Since my last post a number of things have changed. I have changed jobs and moved to the Netherlands. It seems a bit odd to have a blog dedicated only to Germany when you no longer live there. Germany will always hold a special place in my heart and will continue to be part of this blog. But my experiences and passions cover so much more.

It's time for a new beginning. I want to make this site about all the things I find interesting. Travel, culture, technology, photography and so much more. I think that is how I can do something worthwhile with this site by doing and talking about the things I love and have a passion about. With that in mind, let's get started.

Space Invader in Cologne

My wife and I recently watched the very cool documentary "Exit through the gift shop" directed by the famous street artist Banksy.  Featured in the movie is the street artist who calls himself "Space Invader".  The other day my wife was walking downtown and she came across what appears to be one of his pieces (Picture Above).  This doesn't have much to do with Germany but the movie was great and I think his work is pretty cool.  That is reason enough for me.

Check the movie out if you get a chance.

Links

Space Invader's Website

Banksy's Website

Exit Through The Gift Shop

 

 

Photo Essay: Monschau, Germany

Monschau, Germany is a tiny village nestled in a valley near the Belgium border.  Sure it is a little touristy but it is incredibly picturesque  The pace of this town is very relaxed and layed back.  It doesn't feel artificial.  You will find families in their back yards celebrating their kids birthdays in the shadow of the amazing castle.  Monschau is an amazingly beautiful place and if you get the chance you should drop in for a visit.

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The view from the ruins opposite the castle

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Seal on the Red House "Das Rote Haus"

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The castle which was first founded in 1100 has been sieged many time but now the castle is a hostel

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Belgian and German Beer meet

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Crooked houses in the center of town

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HDR shot of the narrow roads in Monschau

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The, for Monschau famous, red house "das Rote Haus"

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The view of the village from the castle in HDR

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A perfect end of the day with a warm piece of Apfel Strudel

To see all the picture visit my Monschau gallery (Here).

German Bicyclists

Unless the German weather gods punish me with rain, hail, snow or ice (which sadly happens more regularly than you might suspect), I take my bike to work. Its about 6 miles through downtown Cologne and takes me about 25 minutes. My bikes breaks hardly work, the tires are notoriously flat but at least I don't need the bell (which doesn't work anyways), since the bike persistently squeaks. And since my basket is only attached with cable connectors it regularly flies off when I take corners to quickly. Apart from that, I wear my regular -business casual- clothes on my way to work.

One morning, after my trip to work I am in the elevator going up to my office when a man in complete bike outfit (aerodynamic helmet, bike (short) shorts, a super tight bike shirts, bike shoes) enters. Trying to make casual elevator chat I ask him where he comes from by bike, he then responds with a disapproving look on my asumingly unsporty business casual look "its very far by bike...its not like you would know it." Turns out he lives two streets away and needs 5 minutes longer than I do...not including the time he takes to change out of his super "cool" bike clothes and into his work clothes.

This is the thing I don't get about German bike riders: Why do they dress up in a very expensive, ineffective bike outfit to ride to the cafe on the corner for their sunday "coffee and cake"? WHY? Is it because they think dressing up like Lance Armstrong makes their bike ride a sporty tour de fource and not a mere leisure activity? Is it for the attention they get with the "clack clack" of walking with their bike shoes? Is it because they think an apparant tour de france contestant has better chances with the ladys than average joe?  Or do they just like to blow thousands of euro on the newest in ass tight padded bike pants and mike shirts?

Wie Geht's? Think it's a harmless question... Think again.

Don't ask Angela how she is doing.

One of the worst cases of culture shock I have ever experienced happened shortly after I started working in Germany.  During the first few months I was doing my best to integrate.  I was speaking German and doing everything I could to fit in.  I was being the happy, polite and chatty American which are infamous in Germany.  Doing so led me to saying “Wie geht’s?” or “How’s it going?” to my work colleagues as I passed them in the hall or as I walked into their offices.  This was a fatal flaw that went on for about two months until the department Christmas dinner.

During the dinner, my colleague, one who fulfills almost all of the German stereotypes you could ever imagine without remorse, happened to be sitting across from me.  After the appetizer and a few glasses of wine I noticed that he happened to be giving me a very stern look, not uncommon in Germany.  He finally said to me, “Why do you ask me ten times a day how I am doing? You must only ask once and mean it!” 

The only way to describe my reaction is that I was in shock and embarrassed.  Everyone got quiet and turned to enjoy the converstation that had just started.  I had spent years in Germany but I was completely unprepared for this. The best I could come up with was, “I don’t know. In America it is just something you say to pass the time and minimize the awkward silence in the hallway.”

His reaction, with the same firm expression was, “There is no awkward silence. You either say hi or nothing.  If you ask me how I am doing, you need to be sincere about it.”

This was not the tone of cultural understanding. He thought I was being rude.  This scared the shit out of me as I was trying to be nice and friendly and doing everything I could to fit it. All I can say is that this was a harshly learned lesson.  From that point on I have done anything in my power to only ask how Germans are doing with utmost sincerity.

Since then a very nice relationship has developed with my colleague and this incident has become a running gag. I have been "officially instructed" to inform all foreigners, especially Amis and Brits, that they are only to ask "wie gehts?" once daily.

This situation has forced me to analyze myself and my culture.  Why is it that we are so afraid of silence and why do we ask questions and not be really interested in the answer?  And why are Germans so damn sensitive when you ask them how they are doing? 

The officially certified process for German fun on a sunny day

 

Germany is not known for its good weather. When it is finally a beautiful day outside, there is a list of obligatory events which must take place in order to enjoy this even.

  • Ice cream must be consumed.

This one is pretty easy.  If you don't want ice cream, that's alright.  You can have a frozen yogurt. (Picture resulting from extensive testing)

  • Man capris are to be worn

Nothing says party like pants that are 10 cm shorter than your normal pants.  Capris, which are solely worn by women in the US, are the main summer attire of the German man.  The only people who wear them more are the French.  I think the French own stock in the companies because, man, they wear them all the damn time.

  • You must take part in nature.

You will be outside.  If you tell someone you weren't outside during a beautiful day you will get a look like you committed a cardinal sin.  Many places will assist you in this as they will not open until the sun has set. (Ex. Movie Theaters)

  • Extremely pale skin will be exposed

Nothing says great weather in Germany like the sudden display of white skin.  Followed the next day by the display of extremely red skin.  This is only topped by the British whose complexion is a mix between Golem and a vampire.  They really should stay out of the sun whenever possible.

  • You will amplify the heat by standing next to a grill

Nothing like celebrating a hot day like making it warmer by standing next to a fire, getting smoke in your face and eating meat.  Thank god for German beer.

  • You finally can put your top down on you convertible

Finally, one day of the ten days a year where you can put your top down on the convertible and finally enjoy why you paid thousands of Euro extra.  But in Germany make sure to leave you windows up and wind protector to avoid the Zug (For info on the Zug see post Here).

Follow these steps on you are on your way to the officially certified process for German fun.

5 German beers which you have to try

Germany is, with good reason, the land of beer.  Germans have crafted beer brewing to perfection and the degree to which they use the subtlety of flavors and aromas is how they make the best beer possible.  In German beer, you can experience all the amazing things that make Deutschland great in one amazing beverage.  If you consider youself a beer expert, then here are five beers which you have to try.

  • Augustiner Edelstoff

Augustiner Edelstof is the finest crafted beer and best tasting beer I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.  Brewed in Munich, it is not well known around the world, it is what a true "Müncher Kindl" drinks on a everyday basis.  This beer is already a step up from their exceptional Helles, with even better ingredients. It is perfection in balance between bitterness, fullness and aroma.  With enough carbonation to make it incredibly refreshing on a hot summer day by the grill but enough full flavor to be enjoyed on a frigid winter day.  It is the master of flavor and perfect for every situation.  It is truly amazing.  If you can find it, give it a try and if you are in bavaria pick up a case.  You will thank me.

 

 

  • Paulaner Hefe-Weizen

For those that know Bavaria, a wheat beer and not a maß, is the main liquid refreshment of the Bavarians.  This hazy beer is enjoyed for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It has a malty flavor and a slight aroma of oranges.  A Weizen isn't a very light beer however it is much more refreshing than many dark beers.  Bavarians also say that it is extremely healthy.  Well, as healthy as a beer can be.  Being that it is partially filtered it has many vitamins that are carried in the yeast which are filtered out of other beers.  So, do something for your health and enjoy a wheat beer. 

  • Päffgen Kölsch

On top of the fact that Päffgen Kölsch has a lot of umlauts, it is the finest of the Cologne brews.  It is well balanced in bitterness and fullness with the same light carbonation that all Kölsch beers have.  However, one thing that makes this beer truly unique is that you can only drink it in Cologne.  Päffgen Kölsch is only available in select Cologne locations and it is not for sale in a bottle or keg.  This alone insures that every Päffgen Brauhaus is always full to the brim with locals getting what they cannot have anywhere else.  So, for the best Kölsch experience you will have to make your way to Cologne and stay awhile.

  • Kneitinger Bock

I heard about Kneitinger Bock before I moved to Regensburg.  It is well known and praised among beer connoisseurs in Bavaria and that is saying something.  Brewed in the heart of Regensburg, an amazingly beautiful medeval city, it is a dark beer with a slightly fruity malted taste to it and it isn't a bitter as most dark beers. Therefore it isn't too heavy and it can be enjoyed quite rapidly.  It is great beer for winter or enjoyed with a hearty German meal.  However, be careful as this beer has alcohol content 6.8 Vol%.  Just like the goat on the label, it has one hell of a kick! 

 

 

  • Becks

If you haven't heard of Becks then you have been doing something wrong.  It is standard go-to beer of Germany and probably the most well-known German beer outside of Germany.  Brewed in Bremen, it is light and refreshing without overdoing any complicated flavors.  It's green bottle and label are recognized immediatly.  It doesn't strive to be extraordinary, it just tastes good.  Pick up a six pack of Becks and have a good time.

 

 

 

Kölner Dom / Cologne Cathedral

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The Cologne cathedral is without a doubt one of the most impressive things I have ever seen in my life.  It is the dark towering symbol of Cologne.  No matter what other castles or buildings you have ever seen, you automatically feel incredibly small in the presence of this amazing structure.  Carved out of white stone which has turned black over the hundreds of year.  It is truly an amazing achievement in human history.  The building itself has seen the rise, collapse and reconstruction of the city and people around it.  It is one of those places where you truly wish that the walls could talk.  However, they do tell an amazing story of an amazing city and it's people.

When you first arrive in Cologne one of the first things you will notice is thousands of tourist attempting to get their picture taken if front of this impressive structure.  Getting your picture taken in front of the cathedral with its awe-inspiring architecture as a whole is impossible due to its size. Either only one fifth of the building is visible or you look like a speck on the picture. (To get a feel for the Cathedral and the area around it take a look at the Video Post here)

The Cologne cathedral was started over 750 years ago and it is still being worked on today.  Rumor says that the world will end once the cathedral is finished and to prevent that from happening, the workers with a high social responsibility have obviously made it their goal to never let this happen.  

Cost of up keep alone is twelve million euro per year.  The construction was financed through heavy taxes, pilgrims as well as some donations from protestant Prussians.  After the original funds ran after the first 20 years of construction, Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden implemented a tax on hops, indirectly taxing beer, making him very unpopular among the people of Cologne.  There is a statue of him on the city hall of Cologne and the stone he is standing on is carved a man showing his butt (picture Here).

Cologne Cathedral has been said to be the third holiest relics for Christians and it supposedly contains the remains of the three wise men.  This insured that for hundreds of years a steady stream of Christian pilgrims always arrived and thereby providing financial support for the continual cathedral construction.

In a city that was 96% destroyed by the end of the war, it is amazing that so little damage was done to this building.  It is also possible to go to the top of one of the towers in order to get an amazing view of Cologne.  However, the climb is not for the weak, as there are many very steep steps in a very confined space.  But the trip is worth it.  

In the end, Cologne Cathedral is truly a must see sight in Germany.  You have to, at least once in your life, stand in amazement at this wonderful structure and be part of its history.

For more pictures from Going Kraut of the Cologne Cathedral, please, visit the Gallery. (Here)

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Licorice

Germans are known for their love of candy.  It is world famous and for a good reason.  I love German chocolate, gummy bears and any combination thereof.  Its availability and deliciousness is only surpassed by beer.

However, there is one evil hellspawn of candy, which must have been forged in the sulfur pits of hell in order to make up for all the heavenly sweet goodness in the German world.  

Salted licorice.

This combination is one of the most perverse things that I have ever tasted.  It has more in common with salted chips than it does with anything resembling candy.  The fact that it hides behind the disguise of sugarcoated candy makes it twice as evil. An unsuspecting American eating this appealing, seemingly scrumptious sweet is severely punished by the initial horrific shock of the foul taste of the “sweet”, followed by an aftertaste that no fluid can wash away.   Well, at least for me neither water nor coffee did the trick.

Der Zug

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The Zug, a draft in English, is the most feared phenomenon in Germany.   It is a thing of might which can render anyone, without warning, with a sore neck and a head cold.  It is a natural phenomenon, which is to be respected and feared and feared more than understood, like the Bermuda Triangle, UFOs or Bigfoot.

According to the experts of this terrible infliction, the danger lies in the fact that it is even possible to catch a Zug.  It is a sickness which must solely exist in Germany, as I have never found an English translation for this sickness and I am pretty sure that I have never heard anyone say, “I have caught a draft.”  As it has been explained to me by many a German, in the most serious of tones, is that one catches a Zug by air blowing on your neck and thereby infecting one with a kink in the neck and a head cold.

The only thing standing between you and the Zug

This would be avoidable if the situation was not further complicated by one other German necessity, Fresh air (to be discussed in a later post).  In order to get fresh air in a room, unfortunately for Germans, it must move from one position to another and thereby causing a draft.  The essential balance between these factors alone destroys working relationships, friendships and families at a cataclysmic rate in Germany.  Germany needs our help.

However, I am truly amazed the bravery with which Germans are not restricted by this infliction.  Germans kick so much ass at the Winter Olympics and the sheer audacity of the athletes over the fact that they even dare to go outside in winter with skimpy aerodynamic outfits.  According to German theory every skier, luger, bobsledder and ice skater should role across the finish line as an epileptic tumours mass with a horribly sore neck and the worst head cold ever.

Links

Wikipedia Link on Luftzug - You will notice there is no English translation

German site warning of the dangers of the Zug.