Monday, September 29, 2008

Something smells good next door...

How's this for a happy accident: I live next to a bakery! And not just any bakery. The Hofpfisterei bakery cranks out an average 20,000 loaves every day. So awesome. I took some pics just for fun for my German blog. (See the post here, if you'd like.)

This is the view of my apartment building from the mischerei, where the dough gets mixed up.


The mischerei again. It's a huge operation, sending bread to 140 shops all over Germany.

Sesame-carrot bread dough (with salt) waits for the mixer. The Hofpfisterei offers around 30 different varieties of bread.

Bread dough gets everywhere.

Mixing up some dough, yo.

Then the dough goes in this thing called the "kipper" where it gets tipped into a chute leading to the ovens.

The dough goes to this machine which cuts the dough into loaves.

Then another machine makes the loaves round.

Then another machine stamps each loaf with a label telling which kind of bread it is.

The bread gets browned on the outside for a couple minutes.

Then the bakers put the loaves in traditional stone ovens.

I can smell baking bread from mid-afternoon through the wee hours of morning.

The bread comes out in an hour or two.

The bakers write the time that they put the loaves in the oven in chalk.


All done.

A view from my bedroom window of bakery workers taking a break in the courtyard.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

48 hours in Athens

The Süddeutsche Zeitung sent me and writer Phillip Mattheis to work on a story about an Iraqi refugee who got deported to Greece and has since then been homeless in Athens. We only got to spend two days in Athens, so I definitely plan on going back. I feel so fortunate to have support from the paper to work on something I care so much about.

The story will be published later this month and I'll post pictures of Ziyad, the Iraqi guy, after that. Until then, here are a few random images from Athens:

Even with my shaky math background, I was able to recognize some of the Greek letters, but otherwise I was baffled by this ancient language. I think it sounds a little like Spanish, not because the words are similar (not at all!), but because so many words and phrases seem to end in "a" "i" or "s" and the "r" is rolled. And I found it very musical, like Spanish or Italian, with the words flowing together.

Phillip takes a snooze high above the city. The weather was perfect: warm and sunny with a nice breeze. It was a nice change from Germany, where winter seems to have arrived.

Athens reminded me a tiny bit of Cairo actually. Traffic is chaotic, but the cars and taxis are nicer and newer models. Athens is dirty, but still cleaner than Cairo. It is apparent that Athens is a real mixture, with European and Asian influences, and of course visitors and migrants from all over the world.

The subway was one of the most confusing I have ever come across, but people were very friendly when we asked for help.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Just like Heidi (but tougher)

I met the real Heidi last month on cow pasture in the German Alps.


Her name is actually Steffi, 22. While working on a story for the paper, I had the opportunity to spend a couple days on an Alm, which is basically a place in the mountains where cows get to roam around during the nice summer months. Farming families often hire young people aged 18-25 to look after the alm and animals for the summer.

It was just fun and a very relaxing place to spend a few days.

If anyone is interested in reading the German version, it's here: Alm frischen Seele auf. Sorry, but I just didn't have time to translate the whole thing.

This girl did it all. And she really enjoyed the job, even though her day starts at 4 or 5 a.m.

The Hollenbach Alm has 5 milk cows.

One must squeeze a little milk out first before attaching the mechanical pump that does most of the work.

The milk and milk chamber. A lot of work goes on in this room, and it smells strongly like milk. Or is it butter?...

Steffi also made some butter in the wee hours of morning. She said she has to make it every other day or so. The owners of the farm and alm also make their own cheese and meat products and both sell them and serve them to visitors.

That butter was FRESH. I swear I could almost taste the grass that the cows ate.

Steffi throws some hay down for the cows.

All that and more is finished before sunrise, when Steffi usually takes a walk up the hillside to check on the 28 other young cows.

A favorite activity for Steffi. She loves the animals.

For most of the rest of the day, Steffi serves food and drinks to hikers and bikers who wander by the alm. This entails wearing a traditional dress.

Steffi mixes herbs into a fresh cheese she made earlier before the alm gets too crowded.

Alm cheese. Yummy.

The "Brotzeit Teller"--Bread Time Platter.

Things are starting to wind down. By the way, Steffi lives in this building on the upper floor.

After an 8-hour shift of serving customers, Steffi goes back to the stalls for more work.

Yep. It stinks.

Steffi chats with the farmer who dropped by to check on everything. He often stops in to fix equipment or bring in fresh supplies.

The cow bells are actually quite loud.

After the second milking of the day, the milk chamber gets another scrub-down.

Barn door closed, day over.

Steffi eats Kaesespaetzle, a cheesy noodle dish, and enjoys the quiet at dusk.

Steffi goes to bed when it gets dark outside. She doesn't have a light in the upper floor where her room is, but she said she doesn't need it because she usually falls asleep quickly.