Germany

Frankfurt Flexity Tram in Lego

Wow, long time no blog.

I recently discovered Lego Digital Designer and, immediately after, the Lego Digital Designer to POV-Ray Converter. With these two tools, you can create basically any Lego model you like, for free, without having to hunt for pieces, and then render a realistic image of it. So that’s neat.

So, here’s a model I created to try it out.

Render of the Flexity Frankfurt model.

It’s a Frankfurt tram! To be specific, a Flexity Classic! These are a) mostly low-floor and b) bogied, which makes them a bit of a pain to model within the limits of Lego Train sets, since these are all designed around high-floor mainline stock. I’ve cheated, and attached the wheels straight to the body. Hopefully this way of doing it looks OK. Other caveats: the doors are the wrong colour (they should be azure, which is the closest I could find to the Frankfurt Straßenbahn green in Lego, but there are no azure window pieces. Luckily, the window frames are meant to be black) and the articulation is rigid. Although you can’t see it here, I actually went to the effort of making sure all the transformers and air conditioners on the roof were accurate. Front probably needs some work too.

Other than that, there’s nothing too complicated about it. I thought the wing mirrors would be tricky, but modified 1 x 4 offset plates (4590) work pretty nicely!

Stay tuned for more Frankfurt-y Lego things…

Maps! Wait, they don’t love you like I love you! Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaps!

Sadly, my original plan to show the flow of transport around Frankfurt over the course of a day failed due to the extreme lack of availability of timetable data in a halfway reasonable format. So instead, here’s some maps of Frankfurt and the surrounding area made by mucking about with OpenStreetMap data in MapPoint. Enjoy?

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Google Search Q&A 2

A few months ago, Dove wrote a post for one poor hapless soul who ended up on our blog after searching for “is sparrow and dove same thing?” Since then, we’ve had people find our site using “is a sparrow an a dove the same” “difference between a sparrow and a dove” “are doves and sparrows compatible” “is dove sparrow” and “sparrows+doves+same+thing“. Clearly, we’ve struck a nerve, and found a whole tranche of people who until now were fruitlessly searching the internet in the vain hope that they could one day learn if sparrow and dove is indeed same thing. We’re providing a public service!

So, I’ve looked through our site stats and found a few more searches that led people to our site, but which we were so far unequipped to answer. Let’s get started with this one from the mailbag.

spugogi food in germony

This is a tricky one to answer, because 50% of the words in that search do not exist! In fact, until I click publish on this post, no-one on the entire internet has ever posted the letter combination “spugogi”. So, what can it be?

Google corrects this search to “bulgogi food in Germany“. That’s a pretty reasonable search, and as it happens, I know a couple of good Korean places in Germany (if by Germany you mean Frankfurt) that do a great bulgogi! If you’re in the town centre, there’s Coco on Große Eschenheimer Straße (the road between Hauptwache and Eschenheimer Turm), which is modern and a bit cramped, but does good food and has excellent service, or, if you feel like a bit of a walk, there’s Mr. Lee at 153 Gutleutstraße (just south of Hauptbahnhof), which is more traditional but no less delicious, and has a wider range of dishes.

But! If you search “spugogi” on its own, Google corrects it to “spuggy”, which as we all know, is North-Eastish for sparrow. So, perhaps they want to know where to get sparrow food in Germany?

Seeds are fairly widely available at health shops, although they’ll cost you a lot. Most DIY shops and garden centres will sell proper bird food though. To be honest though, if Frankfurt’s greedy, fearless sparrows are anything to go by, German sparrows really don’t need more food – they’ll already happily land on your table at restaurants and pinch your bread.

But… perhaps by “sparrow food”, they meant sparrows you can eat! (IT’S A COOKBOOK) Well, I can’t help you with that I’m afraid, but I did find this useful book of German old wives tales, which says

“If a pregnant woman eats sparrow meat and drinks wine, her child will be unchaste and shameless.”

Learn something new every day.

Intoducing the new country........... GERMONY

Finally, perhaps spugogi isn’t a typo at all! Perhaps this person really did want to find spugogi in Germony.

Well, the name suggests sparrow bulgogi, which isn’t as bad an idea as it may sound. Sparrow meat is very dry, and apparently tastes best heavily spiced, so marinading and quickly grilling it is probably a good way to serve it! Sadly, no-one on the internet has (yet) had the idea of making bulgogi with sparrows, but here’s a recipe with chicken, which is as close as I could find on the web. Good luck finding sparrow meat though…

Alternatively, perhaps it’s spaghetti bulgogi? That’s an interesting idea – Bulgogi can already be served with noodles, so spaghetti isn’t a million miles away. Something along the lines of spaghetti with steak strips? This calls for some experimenting…

Check back soon to find out if spaghetti bulgogi is delicious or awful!

Solving the Börneplatz Problem

Last night, I blogged about an inefficient bit of track design at Börneplatz in Frankfurt. And to make it EVEN MORE exciting, I left… A CLIFFHANGER.

In case you forgot the thrilling tram junction diagrams.

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The Börneplatz Problem

This is a little maths problem I was thinking about on the tram back today.

Until recently, there were two tramlines running through the centre of Frankfurt, the 11 and the 12. The two lines follow the same track through the old town, then split at a major crossroads outside the Judengasse Museum, at a plaza called Börneplatz. Since it’s in a convenient location for various museums and things, Börneplatz is an obvious place for a tram stop. This is easy enough to set up; just put a set of platforms on the shared track leading up to the junction.

The blue line (straight on) is the 11, the yellow line (curving) is the 12. The white rectangles are the platforms.

Then Frankfurt Transport decided to open a new tram route, the 18. The 18 doesn’t share the same track as the 11 and the 12 through the old town. Instead, it comes in from the other side, using the same track as the 11 up to Börneplatz, and then switching and following the route of the 12. Continue reading

The unbelievable film titles of a wacky country

One of the first things that you notice when you turn on the TV, go to a bookshop or even just glance at a movie poster in Germany is that for some reason almost everything has a different title here. And I don’t just mean that they’ve translated the English title into German – translate a German title back and as often as not you get a long sentence which doesn’t hint at the plot of the film, or game, or book, but states it outright with zero subtlety or coyness. Remember how hilarious everyone found it when Samuel L Jackson starred in Snakes on a Plane? In German, that would simply be par for the course.

Airplane! is a good example. It’s a deceptively simple title in English – all it tells you is that the film involves an aeroplane, while the exclamation mark quietly suggests it’s a lighthearted comedy. The title could be translated into German simply as Flugzeug! or Das Flugzeug!, but clearly that wasn’t good enough for the German localisation team. Instead, they gave us Die unglaubliche Reise in einem verrückten Flugzeug – “The Unbelievable Journey in a Wacky Aeroplane“. Now we know that not only does it involve an aeroplane, but it involves a wacky one, making a journey which, we are told, it may be impossible to believe in.

This isn’t an isolated case either. Laurel and Hardy, poor chaps, get boiled down to their most obvious characteristics. In Germany, they’re “Dick und Doof” – Fat and Stupid. It’s hard to provide nuanced characterisation in a short, often silent, slapstick comedy, but I’m pretty sure there’s more to them than that.

Spirited Away is “Chihiros Journey to a Magic Land”. WALL-E is Der letzte räumt die Erde auf – something like “The Last Tidying of Earth”. On a more adult note, In Brugges becomes Brügge sehen… und sterben? which is the frankly brilliant See Brugges… and Die? (This title, I think, sounds best if you say “and Die?” in a confused, inquistive voice)

While Life of Brian and Meaning of Life stayed the same, Monty Python and the Holy Grail in Germany is Die Ritter der Kokosnuß, or “The Knights of the Coconut” – an accurate title, I suppose, since there are more coconuts in the film than grails, though it’s an odd part of the film to focus on. (And Now For Something Completely Different became The Wonderful World of Gravity, but that’s more inscrutable than literal)

The best title, however? The one that inspired this whole post? That belongs to the otherwise justly obscure 1994 TV movie Baby Brokers, which by the time it reached Tele5 had become Eine Mutter verkauft ihr Baby – “A Mother Sells Her Baby”*. There it is – the platonic ideal of a film title. There is nothing this title hides about the film. It is perfect.

* IMDb also lists Kids for Cash – Eltern ohne Skrupel – “Kids for Cash – Parents Without Scruples” – as an alternative title. This is also a pretty good title; I especially like the way they’ve decided to title it half in English and half in German, as well as the understatement of suggesting that a mother who sells her baby is “without scruples”. Also, I like the word “scruples”.

Another day, another soup – Cream of Pepper

So apparently all the recipes I post are for soups? Well, whatever, soups are delicious and this is the perfect time of the year for them (incidentally, our max/min thermometer claims it’s been down as low as -16°C at night and it’s not been above freezing for a fortnight. Yay Frankfurt).

This is cream of pepper soup – delicious, spicy, adaptable and easy to make. In other words, pretty much the perfect soup.

Cream of Pepper soup (Paprikasuppe)

Serves 2-3 (Für 2-3 Portionen)

Ingredients

  • 2 to 4 peppers. Any colours in any combination works – I’ve tried the soup with red peppers, orange peppers and green peppers, and they’re all great. (2 bis 4 Paprikaschoten, alle Farben)
  • 1.3 litre of chicken or vegetable stock (1.3 l Hühner- oder Gemüsebrühe)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1 mittelgroße Zwiebel, gehackte)
  • 150 ml single cream (150 ml 30% Sahne)
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper (2 TL schwarze Pfeffer)
  • Paprika or cayenne pepper (Paprika oder Cayennepfeffer)
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (1 EL Butter)

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onions and soften for 5 minutes. (Die Butter in einem großen Topf schmelzen, die Zwiebel hinzugeben und 5 Minuten erweichen.)

Chop and deseed the peppers. (Die Paprikaschoten hacken und entkernen.) Some recipes suggest peeling the peppers, but if you have a blender then this is a load of faff with no real point. Add the pot and fry for a couple of minutes. (Die Paprikaschoten in den Topf fügen, und 2 Minuten braten).

Add the stock and black pepper and simmer for about half an hour. (Die Brühe und den schwarzen Pfeffer dazugeben, und 30 Minuten leicht köcheln lassen.)

Add the half the cream and blend with a hand mixer. (Der Hälfte der Sahne geben und mit dem Stabmixer pürieren) Garnish with the rest of the cream and the paprika or cayenne pepper. (Mit dem Rest der Sahne und Paprika oder Cayennepfeffer garnieren.)

 

Two bits of shameless marketing

I popped into Offenbach today, just to see what it’s like. Annoyingly, the town closed its tramlines in the 90s, so instead the trams just come to a sudden halt at a set of buffers built at the city limits, and you have to walk or bus the rest of the way into town. Anyway, along Frankfurter Straße I stumbled on two marketing decisions so bizarre and shameless that I had to take pictures of them on my phone to share with the world.

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Lentil and Frankfurter soup

The secret ingredient in frankfurters/wieners (they’re more or less the same thing – the Austrians call them Frankfurter Würstel, the Germans call them Wiener Würstchen) is ridiculous amounts of nitrate salt, which means that a) they need very little cooking, and indeed grilling, frying or boiling them will make them explode and b) they impart a unique gunpowderish flavour to food. Traditionally, the sausages are eaten with lentils in Linsen mit Spätzle – this is a soupy variation which cuts out the Spätzle (chunky noodles made with savoury pancake batter) since they are revolting. This is cheap, easy, and makes about 50 tonnes of soup per serving. What more could you want?

Lentil and Frankfurter Soup (Linsen-Wiener-Würstchen-Suppe)

Serves 2-4 (Für 2-4 Portionen)

  • 1 onion, finely chopped (1 Zwiebel, feingehackte)
  • 500 g lentils (500 g Linsen)
  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped (2 gehackte Karotten)
  • 8 frankfurters/weiners, dry rather than canned if possible, chopped into ~2 cm pieces (8 Frankfurter/Wiener Würstchen in 2 cm lange Stücken schneiden)
  • Currywurst sause – something like Heinz Hot Ketchup or Hot HP Sauce is a pretty close UK equivalent (Currywurst-Soße)
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (1 EL Butter)

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onions and carrots and soften for 5 minutes. (Die Butter in einem großen Topf schmelzen, die Karotten und die Zwiebel hinzugeben und 5 Minuten erweichen.)

Add 1.5 litre of water, then add the lentils and sausages. (1.5 l Wasser dazugeben, und dann die Linsen und die Würstchenstücken geben.)

Simmer for 30 minutes. Make sure the sausage pieces don’t burst. (30 Minuten leicht köcheln lassen. Sicherstellen, dass die Würstchenstücke nicht platzen.)

Enjoy! (Guten Appetit!)

Mushroom, tarragon and goat’s cheese soup

Another recipe! This one’s inspired by a delicious mushroom soup from Bettys in Harrogate, this is a fairly quick and easy soup which goes great with crusty bread. It has a savoury aniseed taste from the tarragon, balanced by the rich creamy cheese.

Also, to practice my German, I’ve included what I hope is a translation of the recipe, the format and vocabulary loosely based on the structure used on the site Suppenkunst.de. If it could be improved, please comment!

Mushroom, tarragon and goat’s cheese soup (Pilz-Estragon-Ziegenkäse-Suppe)

Serves 2-4 (Für 2-4 Portionen)

  • 4 shallots or small onions, chopped (4 Schalotten oder kleine Zwiebeln, gehackte)
  • 250 g chestnut mushrooms, chopped (250 g gehackte braune Pilze)
  • 250 g white mushrooms, chopped (250 g gehackte weiße Pilze)
  • 300 g soft goat’s cheese (300 g Frischkäse aus Ziegenmilch)
  • 2 or 3 sprigs of tarragon, finely chopped (2 oder 3 feingehackte Estragon-Zweige)
  • 1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock (1 Liter Huhnerbrühe oder Gemüsebrühe)
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (1 EL Butter)

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the mushrooms and shallots and fry for 5 minutes. (Die Butter in einem großen Topf schmelzen, die Pilze und die Schalotten hinzugeben und 5 Minuten braten.)

Add the stock and simmer for about half an hour. (Die Brühe dazugeben, und 30 Minuten leicht köcheln lassen.)

Add the goat’s cheese and tarragon, mix well, and blend with a hand mixer. (Den Frischkäse und den Estragon geben und gut unterrühren, und mit dem Stabmixer pürieren)

Enjoy! (Guten Appetit!)