A Travellerspoint blog

A Collage of Colours

Barcelona - February 2012

sunny 8 °C

It was with a sense of excitement and nostalgia that I headed to Spain.

This was my final week of my year long holiday...and it was really starting to sink in....wow...After a quick overnighter in Madrid I headed straight on to Barcelona, a city that I've been to before and one full of delights...I couldn't wait!

I was intent on simply feeling the essence of this city. For me this meant, observing daily life in the streets, and indulging myself with as much of the magnificent food I could find!

I stuck mostly to the centre of the city meandering through the streets.
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One thing that always strikes me as fascinating when I get to a new city are the windows. Each city in the world seems to express it's character through it's windows. On one hand you have the influence of the nation that constructed the buildings at that time, and this is blended with the local environment. In Barcelona, the design is intricate, delicate and somehow in unison with nature.
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Even bicycles hangng from windows!

Guadi of course is the model architect that brought the beauty of nature into his designs.
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Contemporary architecture it appears, is attempting this blend as well...
The Lonely Planet's refer to this building as a Giant Cucumber...
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Yeah right! Lonely Planet...

The Gothic centre of Barcelona is stunning. The stone masonry and metal work throughout each building changes and each piece appears to be telling a different story. It's truly worthwhile to take the time to stop in front of each piece to spot the differences. It's fascinating what you might find.
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Santa Maria del Mar is a beautiful church with amusing pieces on the main doors!
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Then of course there are the street lights, adorning the city like flowers...magnificent.
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I was amused but also pleasantly surprised to see that even the Taggers respect the buildings, only marking doors, and respecting the stone masonry...a shame I could find any real street art to enjoy, in an otherwise artistically cultural city...
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other than this...

One building I particularly took to was Casa de l'Ardiaca.
Although located in the thick of the centre of town it is such a lovely and quiet corner...in fact there are even benches where you can contemplate life on, or log into your laptop in the WIFI corner!

The tiles and stone masonry throughout is gorgeous.
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With one of the nicest pieces I've seen in Barcelona, being it's mailbox...simply beautiful.

Barcelona had a long and profound Roman history. In fact the city centre where the Cathedral is, still has parts of the orginal wall surrounding it.

Many of the other buildings contains Roman artefacts..the most famous being the Columns from the Temple of August

If you have time and interest there is a self guided tour you can take starting at Plaza del Rei at the Museum on the HIstory of Barcelona.

Under Mercado de Santa Catarina, you can see a whole series of other ruins, including a nice little information centre describing the history.
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It didn't take long for me to decide that I didn't want to go to any Museums though, even when I knew I was missing out on a few exceptional ones but there was so much to do outdoors!

So with this I headed up to Park Guell.
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Count Guell was the patron who engaged Guadi to design it with the intention of getting the city's elite up this mountain to enjoy the Park lands....it all started out as natural bushland on a bare hill...

And although it might not have quite worked out the way they wanted, today we not only get to enjoy a fabulous view of Barcelona from here,
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But the park itself is full of many niches for you to discover.
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Gaudi loved the use of tiles and mosaics.
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The extensive drainage system that Guadi designed, is integrated into the whole park.

Especially the stunning benches that weave themselves around the Balcony. This is something I love about his work. He not only creates something beautiful but the practicality in his design and engineering is really impressive.
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From here it is a nice walk back into to town...right through the pretty suburb of Gracia
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The clock tower on Plaza de la Gracia still stands proud!

And close by is the Plaza of the Revolution deom September 1868. The streets and squares through out this part of town are really quaint.
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Including some rather good street artist just sitting around!
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Barcelona, like Melbourne is a big foodie city, so I was right at home.

It all started with a pleasant Tapas experience for my birthday
Razor clams, Pippis, and chilli..Mmm...
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Then I found a great little cafe, Mirilla, on Calle Regomir that has a delicious daily menu.
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Which was trumped by my favourite Tapas Bar in Barcelona "Tapas 24" on Calle Diputacio
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And the food...definitely to die for...
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Not only is the food here excellent but the service and atmosphere too. Yummo!

And how could I not stop to enjoy a cooking course that specialises in good local fair. Over the internet I found a local school "Cook and Taste", that I've since learned is well advertised.

This day was wonderful. It's always a pleasure to spend the day with like minded people that appreciate good food. So we met early and headed off to Mercat San Josef la Boqueria.

It's the first time I've ever seen game being sold fresh...really fresh!
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How's that for partridge and hare!

One thing that's very popular is salted cod.

And a very specific type of Tomato, that the locals swear is the ONLY one that can be used for that local brushetta style bread that you find everywhere...because it is fleshier and less wet, than any other.

We raced on back to the cooking school with our bounty and got stuck into the menu;

A cod appetizer

Spring Onions with Salsa Romesco
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Tortilla de Patatas
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Tomato bread

Paella de Marisco
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And what better way to finish but with Creme Catalana!
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Now I'm telling you, our kitchen ruled that day!

To top things off, Marta, one of the participants and who lives in Barcelona treated us all to a personal tour of the inner city...fabulous...a good way to work up more appetite!

We were having so much fun that a handful of us decided to hit a couple of Tapas bars I'd had recommended to me...and then we topped that of with a restaurant..like we weren't full enough!

And what a great decision. Both bars are very popular with the locals...making the whole atmosphere more genuine.

The first one, Vasconia, has a long list of Tapas. It's on Calle d'en Gignes just off Calle Regomir
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Here's a taste!
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And then there is La Plata. on the corner of Calla La Plata and Carrer de la Merce
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This place is so popular that not only has it been here for years but the owner only makes three types of Tapas...ever!
Beat that for a successful business model!


Tomatoe Salad


All very delicious!

There were of course many other funny quirky things around the city.

I took a double take when I walked passed a weaponry store...at first a little bemused by the swords, and Knights...ahuh...and then the...?!!

Machine guns!


Somewhat disturbed, I couldn;t help but appreciate the more peaceful walk down by the wharf.
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It was time to pack up my things and make my way back to Madrid for my final night of my trip and before I knew it I was back into my comfortable hotel next to the Opera house.

With half a day available, I headed out for a short walk and lunch.

From the little I saw it was clear that Madrid has a very different culture to Barcelona. But that, along with the rest of Spain is something to enjoy on a future trip.
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Much to my delight my walk took me past a little toy shop full of remakes on the toys I'd seen in the toy museum in Munich. Fabulous!
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And then at Mercado de San Miguel, I enjoyed my final meal with a glass of wine...evening clinking glasses with a couple of locals to celebrate the final hours of my trip!
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Catarina waved me off as I left for the airport with plenty of time for my flight home.

But like with everything there's always a hitch!

You see, the night before I noticed that my flight agenda had been changed to include two flights back to Australia...odd...

Well, it seems it snowed in England...enough said.

My agent confirmed that I should head to my normal airline and resolve it with them at the airport, which I did.

It only took a two hour wait in line, before I even got to the counter...by this stage the alternate flight was closed...and then it was confirmed, my original flights were definitely cancelled and it seems the second flight I couldn't have gotten anyway because the complete route hadn't been accounted for so it was invalid...ok...

I couldn't help but chuckle...Fate wasn't letting me finish my trip....can't complain about that.

In fact I'd been laughing the last couple of hours. Next to me in line were a bunch of German women...all lovely but really hung up about the issue failing to see that weather is weather...I managed to get them to loosen up, after all they were still getting on a flight that day and had enjoyed a fabulous time in Peru...

One of them, an elderly lady, from a region close to Offenburg, was getting worried because she'd been in Peru, where she was given a plant and she had it in her luggage and concerned it might die...WHAT THE!!!

I burst out laughing, I was so shocked and I swear she was completely innocent and oblivious about what she was communicating...by this stage the others and I had tears running down our cheeks and she was rather perplexed and went onto explain that it is a good herbal remedy for something or other and the Shamana explained the benefits for her mental well being etc etc...oh my...she's planning a trip to Bangkok and hell bent on coming to Australia too!..I just can't get the vision of her being on that show "Border Security".

After wiping away tears and jokingly calling her a smuggler, we had a frank little talk about the do's and don'ts of travel! and I made her promise not to accept any more presents! Too funny.

Eventually at the counter, I was subject to another 3 hours of flight rearranging (no joke) before everything was sorted...amazing. The guy was somewhat rude and condescending..tired from the hoards of tourists I guess...really hard to get a smile out him...then after the first hour and half, when he eventually got me onto Air France flights home, and I insisted he confirm all my luggage would be accounted for by the airline as per my Qantas agreement, he rang Airfrance only to learn they were going on strike the next day...so the whole rigmarole started again. He was somewhat icy, until I pointed out how nice and calm I had been despite the hours I'd been there, he actually stopped, looked up and at me for the first time (!) and said, "yes, actually, you've been really good about it all." Ahh...a slight smile.

Eventually all sorted, with Star Alliance coming to the rescue. So I spent the night at a rather nice airport hotel with a couple of decent meals...no kidding, all expenses paid, and jumped on my flght that was taking me back home and via good old Germany!

And from there I even got in the Airbus 380 for the first time...I wasn't aware until then just how big and curved the wings are..
And no cracks!

Singapore airport was as wonderful as always...and I couldn't resist sending a quick message home!

For homebound I was heading...

All excited about what awaited me.

So farewell Spain! I had a delicious time with you!


Posted by worldweave 19:55 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

A roll in the snow

Austria - January 2012

sunny -5 °C

It all started with big fat fluffy snow pouring down from the sky as we left Munich...real snowman making snow. Winter had been mild to date so with the first real snow in Bavaria. We had to be careful as we shot down to Austria. The roads were full with holiday makers coming home from the fields and the new batch driving in, and the snow just wouldn't let up.


I really need to clear up what could almost be considered a fallacy today...you see, foreigners get so excited about the Autobahn's of Germany..woohoo! drive as fast as you like etc...Well..it's not quite that simple.

Lesson Number one:
German drive on the right side of the road...truth.

Lesson Number two:
Yes, the speeds are regulated to the degree that there are areas where there is no speed limit. But in many areas, there are limits. Germans are well trained to stay on the right hand lane and over take on the left before moving back into the right lane...something to do with good order...In Germany police have the right to fine people that persist in driving in the middle lane and disrupt the flow of traffic...food for thought eh.


Slow, is usually about 130kph..Medium 130-150kph, and the fast and left lane against the barrier from about 150kph upwards...(This is not recommended for tourists)...these speeds arn't fixed of course, but after a while you work it out.

Lesson Number three:
Well...often, none of the above applies because of a thing called, STAU...yep the good old German Stau...and this is where driving as fast as you like almost becomes a fallacy...truth!

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Stau means traffic jam...you see people come rushing over here to give the autobahn a go, only to be stuck for hours upon hours in a stau...there's a cultural experience for you!

And that is what we saw as we passed all the warning on our way down to Austria....The poor folk, having enjoyed a lovely week of skiing were simply trying to get home...but all we saw were miles and miles of Stau...so much so that the snow clearers couldn't get through to our side...we managed though and were out of the thick of it soon enough.

For us all this snow was great. We had a week ahead, and a lot of excitement about the new snow that would be waiting for us when we arrived. My greatest worry (Yeah right) was that I'd get stuck in the resort... and miss my flight to Spain.

A couple of hours in we met in the last town before we entered the valley leading to Kuhtai, where we were headed, and bought any last minute items we needed for the week.
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We put on the chains and then we were off. The wind was strong in places but the tunnels protected us, clearing the way.
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We passed cute montain homes, huts and pine trees weighed down from the snow...and bus stops!
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And then there was an inviting glimmer of light of in the distance...

And we were greeted by the cow herself.

This was Kuehtai!

Our apartment was pretty awesome. There was plenty of room for us...and we even had a personal Sauna!...And the snow was piled so high outside on the terrace...and and and...Yay!
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But if this ins't enough...there's always an igloo up the road!

The kids tried to build one!
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The town itself, lies in a valley with the slopes on either side running straight down to your accommodation.
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Now it's been an awfully long time since I went snow boarding. I think only one weekend in the past 5 years, so I am pretty rusty. This wouldn't deter me though....Given I was excited but aprehensive at the top of the first hill! But I love to sail down the slopes no matter what..even if it is rolling on occasion.

I guess I'd better introduce to my friends.

A true super Mum Betty, and her mountaineering husband, Hilmar with their two Snowblitz Children, Kaya and Elina! Hardly a wonder considering what good skiers Betty and Hilmar are. I got to enjoy the week with them and a couple of other friends, Daffy, Marc and Claudia.
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A friend of Betty lent me her ski pants and gloves, and Betty sorted out the ski glasses, and the rest I could hire. I knew lugging my thermals and hiking jacket through tropical countries would serve a purpose, so although some what multi coloured, I had the peace of mind that I'd get found if lost in snow storm!

Each day was more or less the same.

Sunny Skies
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Powder and fresh snow to be marked
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okay..a couple of cloudy days..but who really cared with all that fresh soft snow!

Fantastic skiing

When I wasn't caught sitting!
It's tiring you know!

Some courageous folk even built a huge ramp...and wouldn't you know it... The one time I didn't have my camera on me I finally caught an amazing view of a summersault!!! Nooo..

Each day I go to chuckle over the funny English...but we wouldn't know better if we had to write it in German, would we now!

Where are all the people..I asked myself each day?!!!
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Lot's of birds though...

Hilmar and Betty enrolled the girls in a ski course for the week, as they do each time the go skiing. And I should add that Elina is 4 and kaya 7. I swear, if or when I have kids, they are definitely going to learn to ski and early...kids put us adults to shame with their fearlessness.

Each day, I headed off with Daffy and the others to our favourite slopes, getting better and better as the week progressed.

The whole place was open!

And the beauty of having a week...well..you can take day off without that feeling of you have to use each and every minute to justify the price of the lift ticket!

We ate a yummy feast each day with Betty, wondermum, cooking up a storm...and we even treated ourselves to a handful of restaurant meals too.

On the mountain, we enjoyed some fabulous favourites.
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Crepe soup.

Fried Potatoes...yummo!

and much much more.

I love a hearty meal when it's nice and cold outside.

Just next to our accomodation we had a rather good restaurant, where we enjoyed other local delacacies...MmmmMmmm...

Kaiserschmarn....that apparnetly the Emperor of Austria invented, having wondered into his palace kitchen for a snack in the middle of the night..well Emperors are just people too...and it seems he made a mess of some pancake-like concoction and ended up with this....

Delicious! What a talented old fella.

My last meal was a rather delicious Deer Steak...

I already sussed out Betty...you see much to my amusement she's also a hunter...or has the licence still at least. For years she would help regulate the wild animals in local forest, so she knows her animals and cuts of meat...but here's the funny thing...Hilmar...well this Bolivian born Mountaineer, is a vegetarian! Kills me...love it.

Each meal we had there was fabulous.
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But back to the mountain....one thing I'd noticed here is that there just weren't any people about. It was such a great week to go. Christmas holidays were over and school holidays hadn't begun, so the place wasn't overly full and had a great mix of people from around the world. This included families with pre school age kids....just great.

This didn't stop accidents happening though.

And I was fascinated to see that pretty much everyone was wearing a helmet. That had certainly changed since I was there last. It seems that it is mandatory for everyone in some countries now.

I guess because it was so quiet, the special forces had decided to use the week for training...I thought I was in a James Bond film, as I suddenly saw a bunch of black masked people shooting down through powder off Piste....

But more impressive was an old bloke, I'd seen about the place for a couple of days, with what appeared to be rather antique gear....

He's ski's were wooden, as was his stock...the bindings were strong and maintained thank goodness, and well..the clothes, I mean what can I say...there's plenty a German or Austrian in this part of the woods that wears the traditional outfit every day....I only have to mention Munich!

Anyway, he was great. I could resist asking him for a small photo shoot and video. Fabulous.

This is called Hok skiiing and he let me know that although his father thought he was crazy to take it up and that his son snowboards, he loves the tradition of this sport and is thrilled to meet people like intrigued by it.
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Now I'm going to claim that it was towards the end of the day when these videos of me were taken...truth!...and I know I don't quite board with the ease of Torah Bright, our Gold Medalist super snowboarder...and remember that it has been a while...but sheesh! it's always nice to have someone hold my camera for me...so enjoy... and what a nice commentary! You even get to hear me speaking German!

But the true stars of the week were Kaya and Elina.
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The practice run.



Look at them go!
I think they had the biggest fan club...nothing like intimidating the others kiddies eh!

And then we had the award ceremony...cow and all!
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We are the champions!

So completely chuffed we headed back home for dinner.

Along the way I spotted the skiing version of the dog leash I'd seen in Mexico!

And more impressive, one of those sleds I've always wanted! Aren't they gorgeous. I simply love the traditional wooden ones. Such a shame I didn't bring one back with me the last time I returned to Australiaform Germany... It's fantastic how you can attach a back rest and turn it into a pram like sled for babies. And the rest of the time you can enjoy sledoffs against your mates...cool. I think my friend in Australia collecting my mail, would have slaughtered if I sent her that package!

And that night we did what we'd been enjoying all week after a big day out.

We hit the Sauna...it does wonders for your muscles after a day of skiing. Despite it being so long since I'd been to the snow I didn't suffer from any sore muscles at all...

Just a touch of frost bite after a roll in the snow!

Oh, I thought the morning after my first leap into the snow.....neighbours....

Oh...lot's of neighbours!

From then on I confined myself to a freezing shower after each time!

Completely chuffed and energised from a great week, we headed off back to Munich, just as it started snowing again...Bwah ha ha...

We were able to take the short cut this time, and I got to admire one of the Ski jumps from the European 4 Jump tournament that is held each year....quite the event if you're in the area.
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It was with a fond farewell that I bid my friends goodbye, and Daffy took me to Munich's airport...with plenty of time for my flight, we could have a relaxing drive...I hugged my old car one last time and with a final Auf wiedersehen! I farewelled Germany and settled into the flight to Madrid!


Posted by worldweave 00:16 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Toys for Boys

Munich - January 2012

sunny -5 °C

Aahh Munich...picture book perfect.

It's another city I've lived in for a few years, and it was interesting seeing how it'd changed since I was there last...NOT!

It's a quaint town...and the people of Munich would shoot me for sayng that...after all they demand it be recognised as a world city...and some think that by acting pretentious and upping prices they might be able to achieve this...but the people really just have to understand that it's just too cute to be a big city...and besides real world cities are pretty down to earth usually.

I'll never see it that way, not as long as women in Dirndles still run around the place...no matter how contempory the new styles may be and certainly not whilst men wear their feathered hats!

But it's still a place to be enjoyed...and offers far more than the vomit ridden, knicker flashing October Festival that many an Anglo tourist come here for.

I only had a few days up my sleeve and I guess as for the rest of Germany I was really struggling to get into tourist mode...and I've been to many of the museums heaps of times before...so I was more interested in soaking in the spirit of my old town.
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The Opera stands proud.
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You can pass along quaint streets filled with lucky lions
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Just give the nose a rub!

The Townhall is stunning and holds a magnificent Glockenspiel that plays each day.
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The Hoffgarten is pretty to stroll along in summer

And just around the corner is the Siemens World headquarters.
No escaping that place.

Disappearing around the corner and down a back street you find a bunch of local cafes. Even a good English book store...Hugendubel.

And the Fuenfhoefe for shoppig...to buy nicer, more fashionable things.

Then of course there is Lodenfrey, a very flash department store, where you can buy a real and high quality Dirndel for Church on Sunday, if not every day!

So, you want a true Bavarian breakfast...well don't run to some trendy but cruddy place for a European breakfast...sheesh...you get that meal at any hotel where you stay. True Bavarians love a Weisswurst Breakfast. That mean pork sausages and wheat beer! Yummo! No kidding! I love it. It might seem a bit odd having beer for breakfast..but if you leave it late, until 11-11:30am...it's kind of like an early lunch. The place to go for this in Munich is the Franziskaner.

Just don't get hit by a bike after you've had a beer or two...The locals will ruthlessly defend their right to ride on their bike paths...oblivious to the fact that this tourist heavy town doesn't understand the rules.
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The other truely Bavarian meals, is a good pork knuckle. For me this meant heading into The Ratskeller.

It's right underneath the Rathaus on the main square...and they make a mean pork knuckle. I think I had my first ever there...back whe I was 18 and couldn't speak the language...and that day I saw it snow for the first time in my life....ah memories.

Of course I avoided the Hofbraeuhaus like the plague...I can't stand the place. I used to live at Isartor and bus loads of touist would come past my place each morning, heading to the Hofbraeuhaus, and stagger back drunk latter on....blurrr...

All the restaurants I've mentioned so far are much better than this. If you want to have a look inside do, but I'd recommend you eat elsewhere.
In fact there is even a really good brewey/pub on Im Tal between the Main square and Isar Tor...oh..and a makeup shop where you get 20% of everything (scent etc for men too!)...just ask!

This brings me to a point...food in town is fine, so long as you stick to the German restaurants that focus on German food, or at least ones by the nationality that actually makes the nations food they're selling (eg: Italian, Turkish etc). Michelin Star restaurants are an exception to the rule because they are simply good, whatever style they make...yet they get the star in part for sticking to the local foods.

I always err on the side of caution when an international food restaurant opens here, because in my experience it's usually depressingly bad... I've even had food poisoning a couple of times, at the so called, good and trendy ones...and it often struck me that the average Joe doesn't recognise just how poor the quality is....not good enough for an International City...but then again it's a town, eh...so keep away from them...and enjoy German German German!

In fact it was the years spent here being deprived of a decent meal that encouraged my love for cooking!

One of my favourite parts of town is Haidhausen...it's another french quarter, I suppose....and it's fashionable in an Elwood kind of way. Nice book shops and boutiques, restaurants and pubs...right next to the city centre and very very local. Look it up when you're here.

The Isar itself is such a pretty river. I used to spend a couple of hours each day walking it's banks.

The Viktualien Market is the main market in the centre of town and pretty...but extremely overpriced...it makes Prahran market look cheap. I used to shop here though, firstly because it was next door to where I lived and secondly it was the only place I could get some "exotic" (for Germany) ingredients, and thirdly because I could afford it.

It's times like this that help you to realise just how lucky we are at home. All the exclusitivities of Munich are a stock standard expectation in Melbourne today. We have culture that appreciates and expects choice and quality, so we get it. Unfortunately in Munich this isn't the case...so you have to look hard, pay up, or eat rubbish.
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Dallmayrs is a food hall and delicatessen and an institution...it has been around for 300 years...and it is accordingly expensive...but this time it is worth it... Like all places that could if they wanted, the staff are actually pretty grounded, and it's a nice place to enjoy a Champagne with friends.

A foodie visit there is a must and the place just keeps pulling in the crowds.

I was pleased to find Manufactum had moved next door too. It's a mix between a cookwear and hardware store, only fancy. It definitely worth a fly through if you're into this kind of thing.

I took a side visit to visit an old friend in Aschau am Chiemsee. Chiemsee is just lovely and the lake is about an hour south of Munich. It's also where Crazy King Ludwig II built a replica palace to Versailles...only living in it for about a week from what I can remember...well worth a visit.

What I hadn't thought of is that Aschau is also the home of one of Germany's most famous Chef's! 3 Star Michelin, Heinz Winkler! Well..how could we not go for a coffee there...being a flashpacker and all!
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After a coffee, and Blackforest chocolate cake later, we made the spontaneous decison to go back for lunch! Why not, you only live once. So Kristin organised for her two gorgeous children to be looked after for a couple of hours whilst we pampered our stomachs stupid! Yuuuuuummooo!
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And much to my girlfriends embarrassment, I gushed and gushed excitement on meeting Heinz...yes..first name basis for me!...friends you know. And I even scored a foodie groupie photo! Woohoo!

Note that the waiter knew how to frame the shot...

I'm guessing I'm not the first starstruck tourist who has passed through, and he acted just perfectly. Whilst chatting with him, i realised that he also worked with Kurt Guttenbrunner from Wallse in NYC...fantastic. We had a chuckle about how small the world is before bidding fond farewells.

It was late though and time for me to roll myself back to Munich.

The one museum I was keen to have a quick look at was the Spielzeugmuseum...that is, the Toy Museum.

You see, Bavaria, particularly Nuremeberg was the centre of toys worldwide. Not having time for the museum in Nuremberg, I was keen to get back to this one, for there was one collection in particular I wanted to see again.

It's located on the main square in the Gateway tower...right next to Juliet.
Oh..and give her a rub for luck...just not her nose!

The museum holds the history of toys from the stone age. It's fascinating to see how they evolved from clay, to paper cutouts,
I used to love playing with paper dolls.

Then onto wood and metals

Mrs Steiff started making stuffed toys from her bed and is probaly the most famous teddy bear maker of all time.
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Then of course, little Engineers were groomed with the steam driven toys...
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Bomber plans were even made during war time!
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And little girls had nightmares from wandering robotic dolls!

And if this didn't work, well one woman decided to create baby dolls that looked more realistic, creating faces of life like babies, whether they be considered cute or ugly!

How's this for chucky! Spot her? More nightmare material!

The main reason I came here though, is that I remembered the Barbie display and particularly one fascinating piece of history that I'd be prepared to bet you probably never ever knew....

Barbie, as we know her today is from the USA and named after the owners daughter, Barbara....but I can't call her Barbies creator...

Because Barbie, or Bild Lilli as her real name is, was created by Reinhard Beuthien for the first edition of the Bild magazine. She was created to fill a blank spot in the magazine! She was post war, and ambitious..she had her own job but no qualms about hanging out with rich men! She was cheeky and had no reservation talking about sex. She was so popular as a cartoon character that they quickly started producing her and this ran from about 1950 to 1964.

With a mostly male readership, she was sold at bars and tobacco shops for amusement...she was considered to be an adult toy, not appropriate for children and often referred to as a sex toy! She was so popular that she sold widely throughout Europe.

There you go...boys do have a thing for Barbie dolls.

So it was during this period that that Ruth Handler, one of the founders of Mattel was travelling through Switzerland, when she spotted Bild Lilli and bought two. One for her daughter, and one to show her company.

She thought that young girls wanted a more adult doll, that they could practice "life" with, rather than than baby dolls that were the only type available until then. Well...it took another 5 years or so before she was able to buy the rights to the Bild Lilli doll, had her name changed to Barbie and Bild Lilli became American.
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It was first then that she started to get a tan, changing away from her buttermilk skin, and the black and white bathing suit...She received a whole new set of American clothes. Barbie lovers claim she's a multi talented young woman, who has had a series of professions from Pilot, and Astronaut to homemaker....

We even saw her being the statue of liberty if you recall...the shining light welcoming immigrants to American consumerism!...See how much she has changed!

Wasn't Bild Lilli prettier and classier...

Barbie haters, claim she is damaging young women's self-esteem, and that she represents an unrealistic picture of women etc.

For me she was just a doll...I never really registered the oversized breasts, and luscious long legs, and minute waiste....but I desperately wanted a Barbie when I was little. It didn't damage me...after all pretty girls can be Engineers too! Although my uncle sticking a pin threw her head as a joke was kind of disturbing...and he became a doctor!

I had to have a chuckle about some of the accesories on display though....they're unashamedly politically incorrect!

Barbie baby with cola??

And my favourite!

How to lose weight!

ooohhh....Playing with little girls minds...

Apparently on the back of some of these books, the even wrote the message, "don't eat!"

Don't think Botero would appreciate that distorted beauty message!

But girls aren't dumb and a doll isn't going to influence them that much...more likely any nuerotic people they have around them, will accomplish that...a doll is, after all, more of an escape.

So I happily left the museum, please to have educated myself a little further.

I had one more night to go, and needed a good sleep...you see I had just changed my plans...

The last two weeks of my travels, I had planned for Spain...but it just wouldn't stop snowing.

And I was being taunted by Betty, the friend I stayed with in Erlangen...She and her family were keen for me to join them skiing and she knew how desperately I wanted too!...so a change of flight later, I had myself all set up to go snowboarding in Austria!....and even drove down in my old car! How's that for nostalgia! Lightening even recognised me and purred all the way...


Posted by worldweave 16:48 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

Good Order

Franconia - January 2012

semi-overcast 0 °C

It was a strange feeling heading to Erlangen on holiday...in a nutshell, Erlangen for me represents work, work work. I spent years living and working here. It's one of the world centres for Siemens. For non Engineering people..this means trains, planes, and automobiles (ok...no planes but airport automation and cars...well the electronics)...add in a few power stations, mining equipment, hearing aids, light globes (pretty much all of them), white goods, previously telephones, medical equipment (take note next time you go to the dentist or get a CAT scan)...they have their finger in pretty much everything...but it all started with trains and Erlangen is the headquarters for this.

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True, I've always found the place somewhat stifling over the years...mostly due to the overwhelming presence of the company breathing from every pore of the city...but I also have to admit that the place simply grows on you over time...and when you look for it, you can find quite a few special and interesting things. Some of my oldest friends come from here and that's what brought me back this time.

Something you may or may not know about Germans...they love bicycles. They really feel uncomfortable with having to travel too far to University or work, so everything has to be within cycling distant at the most. If you live more than 30 minutes from your daily destination, there is already grounds for moving house...now we may chuckle at all of this with a completely different perception of distance, time and travel in Australia..but this is Germany. So watch out when you're a pedestrian, because cyclists are plenty and hold on to their bike path rights strongly. Drivers have a heightened cyclist awareness too, no doubt riding themselves (YIPEE!! cry the Australians!!)
And work places must provide sufficient parking spaces for bicycles.


This was the first time I was there as a tourist and I did what i could to look at the city with fresh eyes.

I met a girlfriend, Jasmin for lunch a an old favourite chinse restaurant. We had so much to catch up on I forgot to get a photo of us together...but I did get her hand....right next to their famous giant spring rolls!


Germans also like order and organisation...especially in this region..so even the new residential buildings have that leggoland look about them. I don't thinkI'll ever get used to that. They're perfectly good homes, but everything is organised and identical...the more organised the better.
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Even one freezing morning owners were out training their dogs in force!

And as commendable as it is, Germany is probably the leader is sorting rubbish and god forbid your don't.

In the more dated parts of town the buildings look like the commission flats spotted around Melburne, and I simply couldn't ever get used to that.

Whilst Siemens is responsible for about half the population of the city, the other half is made up of students and is a major Medical Centre for Germany. Of course the family Frankenstein does come from Franconia...and one of them was a grave digger, so maybe that's the origin of medicine in this region!

With the city being made up of mostly Engineers and Doctors, you can imagine just how educated and affluent the place is.

But once you wander away from Siemens working and living, you enter the old french quarter with stunning old buildings.

The city started out with the French moving into town. It was a glove making zone.
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The boutiques are really lovely once you get away from the main street in town. Artists of all sorts have their shops set up and you can spend a nice afternoon poking about in all these shops.

Should you get thirsty, the the Steinbachbraeu is a great place to stop. Especially in spring and summer when the resident storks take up home on the roof. I sat there one summer watching the happy couple try to raise their chicks. Amazingly they had 3 that year, which is really unusual...well as the chicks got bigger there wasn't enough room for all, so Mum kept chasing Dad away, and the poor sod had to sit on a neighbouring roof, and wait until the chicks could be thrown out of home! But now there are two perches...just in case it happens again!
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My girlfriend Betty and I took a day to drive around some of my favourite old haunts in the area. These places are especially pretty in summer and being Franconia, the place is riddled with breweries and beer gardens.

In fact Erlangen has one of Germany's best beer festivals each year... It's called the Bergkirchweih and definitely worth a visit.

We headed off through a town called Marloffstein. From here you have a beautiful view across the fields and far into the distance.
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Something you often find in Germany is closed mines that have been turned into water reserves or swimming holes... Some pretty than others, but here's an example.

After a nice walk we headed to Effeltrich...this little village is famous in the area for a couple of things...

One being the thousand year old tree!

And the other being the forted church!
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The church is really quaint. Everything is medieval and it seems to have withheld a number of wars over time.

I loved the Nativity set, with the figures in traditional franconian costume!

Of course the grave yard surrounds the church still and it is filled with typical modern head stones that you see all over Germany.

But...there are some of the traditional franconian ones were there too.

From here we did a flying visit through Herzogenaurach.
This name might not sound familiar....but maybe Adidas and Puma do...

Well in the 40's two brothers had a falling out. They'd been making shoes for years but one left to start Puma on the other side of the river and the other stayed and started Adidas. For generations a shoe war split the folk of this town...to the extent that loyalties had to be clear and intermarriage between the factions was condemned...No Kidding. Although the founders have long passed away and attempts at reconcilliations have been attempted, the wounds are deep...so pick your side!

For us the beauty of it is, all the factory outlets.

Nuremberg, was of course on the cards for me. It would have to be one of my favourite German cities.
I lived there for years just so I could take a break from Erlangen each day. The Nordstadt area, just north of the forted castle, is where I lived.

It's such a fantastic part of town. Although Nuremberg was bombed heavily and practically flattened during the war, some of the original buildings can still be found and amongst them are those from the 50's. My old place above the Apotheke (Chemist) wasn't the prettiest from the outsied, but I had the nicest view over the square.
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On each corners you often find boutiques, or restaurants...it's just lovely. Whilst I was gone the government even built a subway. Wow...right outside my old door.

I wanted to walk and soak in the the place though, so I wandered from from my old place up along my old route to the castle, admiring the architecture as I went.
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Then the castle stood before me.
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I was surprised by the houses below in the moat...

Just kidding...that's what I thgouht they were when I first came to Germany in the 90's...ghetto like housing....but no.
Every good German that doesn't have a garden at home can purchase a lot in some odd spot (usually next to train lines) and grow their own vegetbles or simply use the lot as a summer escape...

Certainly no Sorrento or Portsea and you might want to chemical test the health of the vegies, but nice all the same.

The old city is just gorgeous.

You can weave down to the main square....even meeting up with a dog club on route...yep out in force this cold day.

You pass by the famous Nuremberg Bratwurst house...these are the pinky fingers sized bratwurst. Franconian's are proud of their sausages!

The beautiful Sebald Church stand proudly.
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And then when you get to the main square, you can even make a wish... BUT be sure not to be tricked.
The blacksmith who made the fence entwined a ring into the frame, so you have to look hard to find it...or you would if there wasn't always such a huge queue of people waiting for their wish. Now...one other thing...nobody knows how he did it because it seems there is no join...neither on the ring, nor the fence....oohhh...

Also, the gold coloured ring is the fake.
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On the opposite sid of the fence up a little higher is a black ring..and that's the one you want to close your eyes and wish really really hard againast as you turn it 3 times!
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I was fascinated to see that the some people had attached locks here....flashbacks of the Brooklyne bridge...yes I know....but this time, the locks were coverd in love messages and "true commitment" messages...yeah...wonder how long it'll take for those bubble to burst! Sorry being synical...but really. Love locked, or locked love! Nothing like controlling a relationship to kill it quickly, eh.

Well, they were put there with a sweet and romantic spirit so you've got to give them that....the things is, no matter where I went in Nuremebrg the locks were attached to any old bit of railing they could find...a it of fad I'm thinking. The Brooklyn bridge experience was somehow nicer.

Anyway, a quick wander passed the Frauenchurch
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Took me to a little square where my favourite breakfast cafe was still to be found. Although i didn't eat the breakfast here this time, it has been great over the years.

I did have the soup though...nice but way over salted...that's another special thing about Franconia...food is often waaayyy over salted. So careful what you choose. Don't let this put you off though..it's the region...maybe so much salt helps people buy more beer, I don't know..but it is a great cafe with plenty of other good things to choose from, and no tourists!

From here, I had fun crossing the many bridges that criss cross the river from one side of town to the others. It's such a pretty route to take.

First I wandered over the Heubruecke
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Then the Museumsbruecke

Maxbruecke brought back fond memories

And I couldn;t help but admire the Untere und Obere Karlsbruecke

The Lorenz Church stood proud.
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I even enjoyed a bunch of Statues and fountains along the way... Welthandel (International Business) one of my favourites.

Further up on the hill you are confronted with loads of antique shops...although I did notice that a couple of my favourites had disappeared. These are great to have sift through.

There are a lot of originals buldings in the old town and I can't help but admire the wonky fachwerk building beams.

Nuremberg is also known for it's box windows...usually made of wood
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But in one special case it is stone
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The streets of Nuremberg are just beautiful...with eery inch telling tale.
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It's all quite magical and I guess this is why Nuremberg also became the world centre for toy making.
There's a toy museum in town that I have never managed to get to, but I'm sure it would be well worth a visit.

But one of my favourite things to show people in Nuremberg is the cellar tour...it's great. I didn't actually check, but I'm guessing they now do it in English. It's great... you get to drop down to 4 levels of the catacombs. In old times when the river was too filthy to drink from people of the region only drank beer. It was also considered a food at the time ad the purest water to make it from came from the filtered water sources in the catacombs.
One thing that struck me in Tulum Mexico, is that the people have that same stockiness that Franconian's do...and I can't help but wonder if it comes from generations of drinking calcified water...food for thought.

Anyway, these catacombs were also used in the war to save the towns people when it was getting bombed. They'd already learned from deaths that occurred in the north of Germany that they shouldn't block the air shafts. In the north the people ended up dying, not from the bombing but from the fires that started and consumed what air they had availble. In the case on Nuremebrg there was little human loss, despite the city being flattened.

The tour is fantastic and you even pop out at a brewery at the end where you can enjoy a nice cold beer!

Back in Erlangen I set about contacting a caving club.

You see, I had my heart set on going caving. Since I'd started the sport a few years ago now, I was checking out pretty much everywhere I went to see what possibilities were available. I knew that the Fraenkischeschweiz(Franconian Switzerland) , as the mountainous region here is called, is riddled with caves. There's even cave diving in a handful of places in Germany. Man...I'd lved in this little mecca for years and never ever known.

So I promotly contacted the FHKF caving and karst club to see if I would be able to join a trip. The club meeting was on a Wednesday night and from here we agreed to a trip on the coming Satuday. Woohoo for me!

So come Saturday I was picked up a driven north to a town called Burggaillenreuth.
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The caves are usually found at the tops of hills in the area and over time the earth has eroded leaving the rock exposed in places.
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It occured to me that I'd never really had a good drive through Franconia either...such a pretty part of Germany, I must say.

Of course I know the places closer to Erlangen, but there's a lot more to Franconia than that.
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It was such a wonderful day and I learned so much.

We visited Zoolithenhoehle (Zoolihen Cave).

This cave is considered one of the most significant caves in terms of paleantology world wide. You see it was first discovered in 1600's...or at least the first records of it are known to be from then. The records describe the first cave section where you enter. Then in 1760 Esper and priest who was wandering through the area and documenting everything he discovered along the way, wrote a book about his travels and attempted to provide a detailed description on the cave and it's contents..but it took another 60 years to a time around 1820 when Goldfuss made the first real connection about the bones found in the cave.

Up until then they were thought to be bears perhaps, but Goldfuss called them Ursospeleos or as we know them now....Cave bear.

Now this doesn't mean any old bear that lives in a cave. The Cave Bear is the predecessor to the Ice Bear...yep a predecessor to the ice age bear.

It was a bear that also was a....wait for it...vegetarian! Can you beleve that?! And what makes it so interesting is that it is believed it was the first animal to die out when the Ice Age started...I knew there was something wrong with being vegetarian...there's a lesson for you!

The bear was about 3.5m long, 60cm high and weighed about a tonne.

Just to make matter a bit more interesting in this cave....other bones were found...those of Cave Lions and Hyenas!
Well the continents were all a bit closer together back then weren't they...

Anyway, in the history of this cave, scientest from around the world (including the university of Erlangen) documented, dug up and collected samples of every type.

About a thousand bear remains were taken from the cave at this time and are found in museums around the world.

What those people didn't realise though, is that they were only scratching at the surface...you see it is estimated that about another 2000 bear remains are still within the cave!

And the reason you find Lion and hyena remains in the cave is that they used to come into the cave to hunt the baby cave bears whilst the parents were sleeping!

Yep..in the 70's a small group decided to search some more. They had already worked out that there were 3 shafts that had been filled with bones, they also discovered that the bones had been distributed another 45m in and 30m lower into the cave.
So with a litltle bit of digging, they were able to open up another section of cave.....that is the remaining 90% of it! What a discovery!
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Sections of this are completely locked off to preserve the bones that lie in piles in their still.

It's filled with hand fulls of slippery holes you can pop through!
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And ladders that were installed years ago, so that you don't have to use Single Rope Technique..this of course is assiting in the ongoing maintenance and studies of the cave.
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From the time of this last discovery the cave has been protected, and any further discoveries are carefully managed. Infact the club itself is going out of it's way to clean the cave and restore it to it's previously untouched form as best they can.

In order to do this, cave water is required so as not to disolve the formations.

Tap water or rain water is too acidic.

You might wonder about this, but what happens in a cave literally stays in a cave. The environment is perfect, so it can easily be trashed and never recover from this. With so many poeple coming in over the years, mud has been spread all over the place...

Calcite pool are clumps of mud

And other cave decoration, previously black, has been touched and covered in mud, so that new calcite has started to form upon this. So the club is carefully gathering the cave water and using this to clean down the formations.

Before you enter from one section to another, boots are cleaned, so that nothing new it treked into a different section. And literally spoonfuls of mud are being collected and taken out of the cave.

For the passed 40 years the cave has been managed with Michael, his family and the club doing what they can to recuperate it.

It was such a privilege to join the group this day and no doubt my recollection of everything is a bit grey...but you more or less get the idea.

And Franconia has another 3000 cave systems of all sorts and double this when you take in all of Bavaria. Impressive.

One was enough for now and we were hungry...so we headed off to the local pub and I continued my culinary journey, eating a whole bunch of old favourites.

OK..not them..but this is the crowd I got to enjoy the day with.

Liver dumpling soup


But my time in Franconia was up and I had to race on down to Munich on a speedy ICE train.

A bit different from the busses of South America, eh!

So with this I wish you all well until we meet again!

Auf Wiedersehen!!


Posted by worldweave 12:38 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

Lighting up the Christmas Spirit

Baden Wuerttemberg and Alsace - December 2011

overcast 3 °C

With a hop skip and a jump I landed in Germany...Stuttgart to be exact.

I was on my way to Offenburg.
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Passing through immigration was amusing. The officer looked at my passport, and then at the computer, before she glanced up at me with a cheeky grin and said in German, “You speak German right?!”…Man…even though I have a new passport with no German stamps in it, my life in Germany is well and truly embedded in their system...I think I looked more sheepish than ever before and the sweat poured down my forehead because now I was actually going to have to speak German..Sheeesh…ok, I’m fluent, having spoken the language for 20 years, but this Spanish experience, seems to have short-circuited my brain, and every time I open my mouth, Spanish comes out….so, very slowly and with a Latin American twang , I said in German, “Ja, I speak German but my German is terrible because I have been learning Spanish”…oh..it sounded awful!...so stunted... I've never spoken German so poorly.

She was lovely and asked how long I was staying, to which I slowly managed to say, 1 month and when she wanted the date and kept repeating it on her request despite my answer, it was only when she said “ein und zwanzigste”, that I realised I’d been saying “veintiuno de enero” (twenty first of January)…tja...just the wrong language...again....it was going to take a bit to get back into the language.

I think the most perplexing part is that I understand pretty much everything but just don't register what language it is I'm being spoken to in. A common problem with the third language, I'm told.

We chuckled and she wished me well and that was it. I felt like I’d hit the big world again, and I’m embarrassed to say I spoke a fair bit of English whilst trying to find the train to the main station and because I kept bumping into Spanish speakers on the way down to Offenburg, I was covered for the rest of the journey!

Baden Wuerttemberg is made up of both provinces with the Badisch region previously lying along the Rhein river, bordering France and Switzerland, and the Wuerttemberg region located further inland and bordering onto Bavaria.

The people of Baden Wuerttemberg are pretty proud and enjoy not speaking high (standard) German, as is expected of them.

Many Germans struggle to understand their musical lilt...but I just find it to sound beautiful.

The state itself is economically successful, holding many of the most prestigious universities and colleges of Germany. Einstein even came from the state and many of the Patents from Germany come from here too.

I've always been thrilled by the quiet success of this state and amused that so few people are aware of it or aspire to come to the region. As far as I'm concerned it's one of the most beautiful parts of Germany and I'm sure many a German would be pleasantly surprised if they came. Refreshingly it isn't overrun with tourism.

Throughout the year there are cultural festivities with the locals participating in every event...and this can't be said for all of Germany..in some other states certain times of year pass by without you having realised the event had even happened.

Further the food in the region is fabulous. The quality is excellent and they have many of the top restaurants in all of Germany.

Companies like Daimler Chrysler, Porsch, SAP, Vivil, Burda, only to name a few are based here.

So I felt like I was heading home...and it kind of is, considering the years I've lived in Germany.
That’s what this month in Germany was all about for me...a time to catch up with old friends.

Much of my business career has been based in the country or dealing with it, yet I'd never been away as long as time, so with a lot of excitement I arrived into my town...Offenburg.

It’s lies on the Rhein river and is about 20 minutes away from Strasbourg, in France.

It’s known to be the gateway to the Black Forest and it is where the train lines split with one heading down to Switzerland, and another heading into the forest itself.

As you roll ito town, you see the Black Forest licking at the heals of the grapevines that adorn the grapevine fields as far as your eye can reach. The villages are gorgeous, and filled with Fachwerk houses.
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Being Christmas, everyone was in jolly spirits. Christmas lights brightened up the city at night.

I planned 2 weeks to chill out here and I was keen to get to a few places I thoroughly enjoy.

Gengenbach being one of them.

It is one of Europes most beautifully kept medieval towns and the locals are proud to announce that they have the largest advents calender in the world now, with the windows of the townhall displaying a new window decoration each day as the count down towards Christmas is made.

I had arrived just before Christmas, so with my Guest parents, I was able to enjoy the Christmas market just before it closed.
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German Christmas markets are wonderful..you can just smell Christmas in the air. you find spiced wine that has been heated, to arm your hands. Christmas foods of all sorts are sold, and then there are the market favourites of Sausages, Flammkuchen, and more.

One of my favourite foods of the area is Flammkuchen! Yummo!

I love this stuff. It might look a bit like a pizza to some, but it isn't. The base is paper thin...it's spread with a Creme Fraiche or Sauercream type base and then sprinkled with speck and onion on top, or you can have a sweet one with apple and cinnamon...that is flamboyantly presented to you flaming on top!

Of course there are loads of other variations of toppings these days, but it's a great meal.

Bread baking is so rife in the area, and old stone ovens were traditionally used for this...and in many homes still are. The way the oven was tested to see if it was hot enough was to bake Flammkuchen made from the remaining dough. Then after a nice lunch and when the bread dough had risen, about 30 or so loaves were placed in the oven to bake for the family's monthly supply. Num num num....

The Nuns of Gengenbach still bake their Saturday breads to sell to the Public.

The food of the region is enjoyed with the delicious local wines of the region. The Spaetburgender Red Wine being my favourite. The whites and reds are typically pinot based and delicious throughout this part of Germany and Alsace.

At different times of the years you can appreciate the various traditions. In fact Germany is just coming into it's fasent time as you read this...it's also known as carnival. When all the spooky things are scared away ready for spring to arrive. Each town has a figure, mascot like and they appear in processions or even sometimes when you're minding your own business shopping...many a person has jumped in fright at a witch suddenly popping up behind them as they were windowshopping! Yep...Offenburg is famous for its witches, and they perform a dance around a massive bonfire. The masks are carved from wood and beautifully grotesque and they wear straw shoes...shoes that pretty much everyone in Offenburg wears as house shoes now.

It is most definitely something not to be missed if you're considering coming to the region in February.

My Christmas days were wonderful. My guest father and I had fun putting up the tree and decorating it together. This is traditionally done on Christmas Eve, and this was followed on by a fun night of present giving and simply taking pleasure in the spirit of the event. Of course, coffee and cake and cookies were enjoyed.
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Over the Christmas days we enjoyed so much good food in fact.

Pork sausage breakfasts with the matching wheat beer...typically a bavarian tradition but no harm eating it here.
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Then of course we had the traditonal Christmas duck for Christmas day lunch. Very delicious indeed!

New Years Eve we had a wonderful evening at one of the nicest restaurants in the region..it's called Hirsch and based in a town over the river from Gengenbach, in Berghaupten.

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And an absolute old favourite of mine is a restaurant called Zeller Brugg in Zell-Weierbach. Zell-Weierbach is such a beautiful part of Offenburg...and unfortunately it rained so much the day I went I couldn't get any photos..but it's stunning.
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After a few lazy and well fed Christmas days, a walk in the forest was welcome.

My friends picked me up and we drove a little further into the hills that reach into the forest. Many paths lead through the Black Forest and many a tower has been erected to admire it and surrounds. Brandeck tower is located at the highest point in the Offenburg region. It was fun walking there with Hans-Peter, Leon and Zoe.
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It get's really dark in some places, and this is how it won its name...

You need to be a little careful though because when storms pass through here, they literally rip the trees out by the roots before thumping them down. One such storm passed through in days before we went for this walk and the damage was all around!
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Back in 2000 when everyone was worried about Y2K, instead of this disaster, a cyclone passed across England, France and here..you might recall the New Years celebrations being somewhat dampened in these places. Well it tore the Black Forest to pieces and the scars are still evident as far as you can see.

From the tower on a clear day you can see right across the Rhine basin to Alsace and even see Strassbourg's Dom reaching out into the sky! This was one of those days.
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You get a great view of the Rhine basin, where a glacier passed through millions of years ago.

From here you can also look right up the Kinzigtal (valley) that heads deep into the Black Forest.

If you have time you can even visit loads of Roman ruins in the area...the mountains made such great lookout along the basin, and the Rhine itself was a major trading route across the continent.
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Along the paths you might come across a spring or two. Over time proper fountains have been erected where loads of locals gather pure water to drink.

If you look closely you can also see the paths that foresters have used over the generations to transport trees in winter down into town. They wait for it to snow and then slide the trunks down these paths.

Other days in Autumn, the clouds can be so low, that when you wander up the hill, you see the hill tops poking out of the clouds like islands....it's just spectacular.

Of course so much fresh air just got us hungry again!

A couple of times, whilst I was in town, I enojyed Raglette wth friends.
It's so much fun to eat with a nice group of people. Raglette originally comes from Switzerland, where the cheese was placed on a stake next to the fire, and the melted cheese sliced onto bread. These days pretty much everyone has a machine and they are used regularly.
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Then peel a potatoe and throw your topping on top! MmmMmm!

It'd been years since I'd last eaten it...note for me..organise a party of 8 when I'm back and fire up my raglette machine. Yummo!

Now right next to Ohlsbach is Ortenberg...and it's fame is the gorgeous Castle on the hill that proudly stands over looking the region.

AND it's a youth hostel...so you have every opportunity to sleep in one of the pretty towers!
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One thing I can't fail to mention is that when you stay in the area you can receive a transport ticket as part of your accomodation. It's fabulous. If you don't have a car to get around you can get pretty much anywhere in the area for only 80Euro Cents a day. And this means all the way down to Switzerland or up to the north of the state as well as inland...pretty good deal!

So I used it not only in town, but set off to a couple of cities a bit further out.

One of these was Triberg.

Is just gorgeous. It's a picturesque town deep in the Black forest.
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It was snowing so beautifully that day, so much in fact that some were only able to spend the day shovelling it aside.

Others knew it was perfect weather for Sledding! I've always wanted to get one of those gorgeous wooden ones...one day.

Throughout Germany you often find murals painted on the sides of houses.
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If you have a car you can make a fantastic day trip driving out here, and stopping at the open air Farmhouse museum on the way.... or spend the afternoon searching for a Blackforest clock

The Black Forest museum in town It's great. Not only do you get to enjoy all the traditional costumes but also the clock types that were made over the years, and their development into organs, and music boxes and more.
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I'd heard that Triberg had it's Christmas light and sound show on and that is partly why I went when I did. I was so keen to see the fire show that I'd heard was spectacular. The guys performed right over the waterfall itself.
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All the usual stall food was there, including to my delight "Schupnudeln"...it's very specific to the region and made up of a hand made noodle with sauerkraut and speck...of course by this cold temperature, I had to get Gluehwein to warm my hands!
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Another trip I headed over to Strassbourg...why not pop into France when it's so close.

Strassbourg is so easy to get to from Offenburg and only 20 minutes away. I love how you can suddenly pop over the border into another culture...although Alsacians do speak a language that sounds about 60% German! I managed to get by and the french will speak Englsh and German if you ask politely. You can also try a trick I just learned form someone esle, ask in Spanish if they speak Spanish, and wait for the uncomfortable surprise, before you offer them English (or German)....then see how they jump at the opportunity to speak English!

Strassbourg is great though. The main station has been redesigned and enclosed in a modern building.
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The streets are really pretty and intricate.
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And like for much of the region, the roads and paths are still pebbled....believe me, my heels noticed it...poor shoes!

Incredibly old buildings are maintained and functioning businesses. There's one right next to the Dom which is famous.

And yes, there's the Dom itself.
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The river is pretty and you can even ride a boat along it.
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Whilst I was there, the Christmas market was still on, which was great. Gluehwein, flammkuchen and all sorts of other goodies were available, amongst tonnes of pretty gift ideas.
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The streets were also lit up along with a bunch of Christmas windows.
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That evening I went to a bistro that had been recommend to me by a couple of people, and the food was simply devine. I enjoyed the 3 course menu and picked good old snails, pork cheeks, and creme brulee, all paired off with some delicious pinot wine.
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With a short train ride back to Offenburg, I found myself happily snug at home again.

Freiburg was the other city I made it back to and always take a lot of pleasure visiting. It's really beautiful.
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A very old shopping centre stands proudly next to the Muenster
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The market still surrounds the Muenster and you can get some fantastic produce directly from the farmers.
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The city is famous for it's waterways...and I don't just mean the venice type rivers that flow through the city.
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But pretty much everywhere you go you have to watch your step because a running fountain has been worked into the paths of the city. They might seem like gutters at first but they're not. Kids love them and spend a lot of time throughout the year, skipping from one side to the other.
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Even practicing on natural drainage points.

The other objects to watch out for are the trams. Freiburg's trams slink around the streets like catapillars. They're extra long and manage to squeeze through the old city gateways. It's quite the sight.
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The streets are beautifully pebbled too.
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And the city is filled with great antique shops and all sorts of other boutiques.

The old Townhall is right next to the new one....you try and work out which is which!
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The Muenster is really interesting, and famous for it's spouts and gargoyles.
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One almost shocking one, is of a person "mooning"....in the direction of the person's house who paid their salaries is supposed to have lived! No idea if the guy lived to tell that tale though..but his artwork definitely remains his legacy!


Take the time to walk around the Muenster and observe all the detail...it's can be quite hilarious.

But in the end Offenburg is the city for me. It might not have the same character as Freiburg but it has it's own life. It's a student city, with plenty of cafes and bars about town.

It even has a great Museum that covers everything from Roman history to natural history. Whilst I was there it had an exposition on the history of Offenburg.

I mentioned earlier that Offenburg and surrounds is quietly successful.

Most Germans don't even know where it is, often refering to a place called Offenbach, just south of Franfurt...and judging by the looks on their faces, that place must be pretty unexciting.

Offenburg on the other hand is a hidden little gem.
The beauty is that noone knowing about it...and maybe because of this a bunch entrepeneurs have been able to quietly make it their home for years..Influencing the world in ways they don't know.

For example....Burda...Who or what you might ask...well Mrs Burda started making clothing patterns after the war because woman generally couldn't afford to buy clothes and were dependent on making their own. From this she grew into a producing clothes design magazines, and if you go into a habdashery store today, pretty much anywhere in the world, you'll no doubt find the Burda templates. Further, the magazines themself are often sold in News Agencies...go have a look.

Many other well know German publications come from here too.

Then just up the road you have VIvil...they make mints and sweets of all types.

Then there is Tesa...well...Tesa is a brand name and they make sticky tape...it's so big in Germay that it's brand name is often used to replace the term sticky tape!

Of course there are many many more examples throughout town and in the region. like the world leader in industrial dough mixers. Another guy patented and bolt that's used for quick exchanging of Grand Prix Motorcar tyres.

Even the Frankenstein family make an appearance, due to one of them marrying a fair local maiden hundreds of years ago and acquiring much land in the region....and yes that the very Frankenstein family of the Frnakenstein glory....supposedly an ancestor was into grave digging and researching corpses....and from this came the story! Offenburg simply has their family winery though...and the wine is delicious.

The city itself used to be a huge rag trade centre with the river in town being used to drive the mills. At other points in history is was also the centre of advertising in the world for enamel and glass advertising.
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But it was in town on my last day that I stumbled across a beautiful German custom....when a baby is born it's name and details are posted outside the house or flat's windows to let the world know what the stork brought home!

So you see Offenburg is a fabulous little place and a great base to tour this region from. There's so much more than what I've been able to show you...but you'll have to head over yourself and dIscover it yourself!

Bis bald!

Posted by worldweave 01:07 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

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