A traditional North German dish: Birnen, Bohnen, Speck

Late August, September and October are my favorite months of the year. There are still many sunny and warm days, which I appreciate even more after one of the  periods of rain and wind that occur more and more frequently as we head for autumn and winter.

The flowers blooming now have intense colours, and the shops and markets are full of fruit and vegetables grown in the area. It is time for one of my favorite foods: Birnen (pears), Bohnen (green string beans) and Speck (bacon). This dish is only eaten during the period  from late August until the beginning of October, because only then can you get these pears and fresh locally grown beans. I have never come across this dish outside Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg  or the northern part of Northern Saxony, therefore I consider it a true North German meal.

The pears used in this dish are small, hard and it is not advisable to eat them uncooked.   It is possible to use normal pears, but they should be small and very hard. It is important to use fresh beans as you will not get the typical flavor with frozen ones.

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You boil the bacon for about half an hour together with the savory, then you add the pears and beans and boil the dish for another 20 minutes. Use salt and pepper to taste and serve with boiled potatoes. If you like you can thicken the cooking juices with a bit of flour.

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The place I live in:

Unless you’re into military history it is unlikely that you  have heard of the place I live in: Hohenlockstedt. It is situated between Hamburg and Kiel, not far from the rural town of Itzehoe.

Hohenlockstedt is not a farming village, but  started out as a military camp and training area. Growing  rapidly it became famous when the German Emperor visited the troops. Around World War 1  there were 100 000 soldiers stationed in the Lockstedter Lager, as Hohenlockstedt was then called.

In 1915 a group of Finnish soldiers were trained in the Lockstedter Lager. They came secretly to get support in their fight for independence against Russia. Ever since there has been a close friendship between Hohenlockstedt and the Finnish, with delegations and school classes visiting each other regularly.

Looking around Hohenlockstedt you will find many buildings and street names dating from the time of Hohenlockstedt being a military camp.

Hohenlockstedt's landmark: the watertower, built 1900 - 1901 provieded the soldiers with water
Hohenlockstedt’s landmark: the water tower, built 1900 – 1901 provieded the soldiers with water
A former casern, built around 1912, now housing the M1 Art Center
A former barrack, built around 1912, now housing the M1 Art Center

After World War 1  the training area was divided and turned into farm land. Most farmers grow potatoes and the community is represented by a  “Kartoffelkönigin” (Potato Queen).

Today, Hohenlockstedt is a small center for the farming villages nearby. There are four supermarkets, a boutique, a book store and a shop selling both fine foods and decorative things for your home. You will find two florists which sell beautiful flowers and plants and there are four restaurants, not to forget the best Italian ice-cream parlor in the whole of North Germany.

If you are interested in sports you will find a sports club offering fitness training, volleyball, athletics and much more and of course there is a football club. If you are into arts you will also find  many interesting things in my community:  a small historical museum  run by community members and  a quite well known Center for Modern Art (M1).   Not far away, near a former military airport, there is a small colony of artists and craftsmen and the former military area is used for outdoor concerts and events, such as a trucker meeting or Oldtimer ralleys. The small “Volkshochschule”, offers evening classes, for instance in cooking or playing guitar.

I appreciate all the things Hohenlockstedt has to offer. It is a good place to live in, but still I feel as an outsider.  Due to long work hours and commuting, I have little time during the week  to get involved in community activities.

I know and like my neighbours and we always have a chat when we meet, but no  close friendships have developed. When I walk our dog I meet many people and while our dogs are playing we talk about this and that. I know the names of their dogs, but I don’t know the names of their owners, where they live and what they do.

While I am outgoing at work where I communicate with all kind of people all day long,  I am a rather quiet and private person at home.  I like people but  I have few close friends. So living here without a network of good friends and acquaintances has more to do with my reserved ways than with the people in Hohenlockstedt.

One of my goals for the coming months is to get to know more places in Hohenlockstedt. I will visit the museum, the M1 Art center and  the artist colony and promise to tell you about it.

Introducing myself and the blog

When I was a little girl, my grandfather called me Trina.  He didn’t like the name my parents gave me and would have prefered a traditional North German name. I hated the name ‘Trina’. It seemed to represent everything I didn’t want in my life: homeliness, tradition and boredom. I wanted to have an exciting life, I wanted to see all the big capitols in this world, travel around, meet interesting people and, if possible, settle somewhere far away from home like New Zealand, Australia or South Africa.

The place I was born and raised in, Lüneburg, is nowadays a lively and interesting university town, full of architectural treasures. In the 60ies and 70ies when I grew up it was much smaller and more  quiet. Everybody knew everybody else, at least by sight, or so it seemed to me. As soon as I finished school I found a place as an Au-pair near Washington DC. I loved it. I visited New York, and Baltimore and the East Coast of the US and found it fascinating and inspiring. However, I didn’t want to spend my life as an Au-pair, so I returned to Germany to study social sciences. At that time one couldn’t choose one’s university but was placed by a regulating chamber (ZVS – Zentrale Studienplatz Vergabestelle). I ended up in Bamberg, a town only slightly bigger than the one I came from.

As soon as I finished university I moved to Hamburg.  Finally I had arrived in a big city. By then I was married and not soon after moving to Hamburg my sons were born. My husband and I decided to  settle in Hamburg and we found a nice apartment in one of the livelier quarters, with old Jugendstil buildings, small shops, bars and  restaurants, where  people of all ages and with all sorts of backgrounds mixed. We agreed that we would travel as much as possible as soon as the boys had grown up.

Life didn’t turn out as planned, my husband and I split, and after living happily in Hamburg for almost fifteen years I decided to move to the countryside with my new partner.

The first years in the countryside were busy. There was a house and a big garden to look after, the boys needed me as chauffeur and due to commuting every day I had much less time than before. Then the boys started to move away to go college. I turned 50 and slid into a kind of ‘midlife crisis’. I regretted having bought a house instead of spending the money on travelling and I began to miss the  diversity and liveliness of the big city,  Because of personal circumstances moving back to Hamburg was out of the question and I grew more and more discontented and  frustrated.

After being unhappy for a few years I decided to stop complaining and to start looking at all the good things in my life, instead of moaning after the things I felt I missed out on. I started to take a closer look at the places and people around me and found a lot of unexpected and interesting things. Slowly I began to realise, that an interesting and fulfilling life does not depend on the place you live in, but on what you make out of it. Wherever you live, it is possible to find inspiring and interesting people, places and events.

Of course I would still like to see the world. I am dreaming about travelling to Hong Kong, Sydney and Tokio. To Canada and South Africa. And who knows, maybe one day I will be able to see all these places.

In the meantime I am living in North Germany and I have decided to explore the area I live in and the area I come from and to get involved in the life and community around me.

I have just started out on this journey and I would like to share my experiences with you.

I will show you places I visit and I will  tell you about everyday life here in North Germany.

My articles reflect my personal views and feelings, some things I write about might  be  trivial and superficial,  but I hope I will  give you an  insight into (North ) German life and the things tourists usually don’t see.