Friday, August 30, 2013

Shopping Queen

Germans do many things well -- create amazing cars, compose grand operas and craft good beer. Produce interesting television is not a member of that club.

I have heard stories of immigrants to the United States say they perfected their English by watching television. I tried to emulate that here. Unfortunately, about 80% of prime time television is German-dubbed versions of American crime shows. I am not a fan of CSI in America, so I sure ain't watching it when the lips don't match the words. I gave up on German television a long time ago.

Northern Europeans don't experience much crime, so they search it out in books, films and television shows. Most of the television shows here are people solving some murder. The most popular television show here is Tatort [The Scene of the Crime]. This has been running since 1970. It follows detectives in different German cities find the killer. A few months ago, I tuned in to see the show that was based in my home, Kiel.

It is for this reason that I ended my brief hiatus from my new pet peeve, Shopping Queen. This week, Shopping Queen is taking place in Kiel, the capital of the northernmost state in Germany. Kiel is famous for sailing. In my opinion, Kiel is the city that fashion forgot. That is unfortunate because Shopping Queen is a show about fashion.

Cast of Shopping Queen: Kiel. Source: Kieler Nachrichten

Shopping Queen is a friendly competitive reality show. Five women are given a theme, 500 euros and four hours. They must create an outfit, get their hair or makeup done and be accessorized. At first, I delighted in seeing the clothes, the frenzy, the different cities and people's houses [while one person shops, the four stay at the shopper's home]. But I quickly fell out of love. Because the average woman is focused on the inside and not the outside, the fashion sense is not so great. The people with fashion acumen were not understood by their competitors, so they got low scores. Those lost in the sauce got high scores. I was screaming at the television show, like my team was losing the Super Bowl. The only saving grace was the Mizrahi-level wit, Guido Maria Kretschmer. Guido is a couture designer [who appeared on Oxygen's The Face last spring]. He pops on screen and makes crazy commentary while watching footage of shopping. During the reveal on the catwalk, he gives thorough judgement. On the last day, he gives scores that are added to the scores of competitors.

Despite Guido, I stepped away. It was just too much. Okay, I watched two or three episodes on a boring Saturday but that was it for about six weeks. But I was back Monday because the show came to Kiel. I heard the show was taping here a few months ago. I was looking around for the Shopping Queen van and the accompanying chaos. I saw nothing. I watched the show and I see that my neighborhood is featured prominently in every episode! Kiel is a city of 270,000 people but all the cool things are in one place -- my 'hood.

This week, the goal is to create the perfect bridesmaid look. I think Christina, the woman in the brown dress, is going to win. You can see all five shows at:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Adventures in Sitting Around the House

Last year, I fulfilled a dream of visiting Ghana. Ever since I saw the normally-cantankerous Anthony Bourdain happily traipse through this equatorial nation, I knew I had to go to there. As I researched the young nation, I quickly realized that this will not be a relaxing trip. Right before I left for Africa, I decided that I was going to make the best of what awaits me. I was going to enjoy Ghana for what it has, not what it doesn't have. Basically, I have two settings -- satisfied or miserable. I decided to find a few places between these two poles. Because of that I had a great time.

I took this same approach to my rehab from my sprained foot. I was not supposed to do a lot of walking, so in Kiel there are not a lot of options for entertainment. Because of my medical limitations, I had to cancel my two-week vacation. Never mind that, I just decided to find the silver lining. Some days it was harder than others.

One of the good things about Germany is that you own your table at a reservation for as long as you want it. There is no pressure to turn over a table. This is true even on Friday and Saturday nights. I took advantage of this German custom most of the summer. The hardest time of the day for me was the afternoon. At lunchtime, I hopped in a cab and burned up three hours a day at cafes that I never visited before and old favorites. Armed with my iPad, I had some amazing afternoons at L√ľneburg Haus, Ann restaurant, Non Solo Pane, Nil, Werkstatt Cafe, Negresco and Hemingway.

A dessert of vanilla pudding with chocolate sauce from L√ľneburg Haus

It was nice to be out of the house and enjoy good food.

If I could wave a magic wand, I would make myself permanently disabled. With the sight of me on crutches or my bandage, normally self-centered Kielers got out of my way, held doors for me, and stopped slipping between me and the small spaces between walls and blocking entire walkways. Even cab drivers were helpful.

Last Thursday, I got the doctor's approval to skip the bandage and I am a bit sad for the loss of common courtesy but I was happy to be able to wear my new shoes.