Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wurstmarkt & Oktoberfest 2010


WOW!!! What a wonderful week we just experienced!!!

Once everyone had arrived, one couple from Brussels, one right here at Ramstein and everyone else from the States, we drove to Bad Durkheim Friday for that city's 594th Wursmarkt, the world’s largest wine festival. We stayed at the Kurpark Hotel in Bad D, just a short walk to the festival grounds. The weather was as perfect as perfect could be. We spent two incredible nights drinking the wines of the Rhineland-Pflaz, some always great German beer, eating some of the most scrumptious food imaginable and enjoying the company of good friends and a couple new acquaintances.

Rachel Mitchell, Jeff, Mike Franklin and I at our favorite vinter tent, #15.

The video below has a great image of the size of the wine glasses at the Wurstmarkt. Watch for the Jeff on the right and the glass of wine he's holding. You also can see the traveling band that's been performing here ever since we first visited the Wurstmarkt in 1988. Probably the same guys.

Hey, look at me, I'm with the band.

A great view of a small part of the Wurstmarkt festival grounds from the top of the ferris wheel.

The colors and sound at these festivals is just mind boggling; in a very fun way.

Here's our group Sunday morning before leaving Bad Durkheim. From left to right. Mike and Gloria Ryan (from Brussels), Kevin and Tina Anderson (Ramstein), Jim Nelson (Colleyville, Texas), Jeff, Wally Ziebarth (Portsmouth, Maine), Me, Chris Hayden (Maine), Scott Hughes (Maine), Peggy Nelson (Colleyville), Jodie Hughes (Maine), Rachel and Rick Mitchell (Valdosta, Georgia), Kathy and Mike Franklin (Colleyville). We all look pretty good after two nights at the Wurstmarkt.

On Sunday we drove to Nürnberg for some sightseeing in the old town, Nürnberger sausages and, again, some great German beer, at the Altstadthof. After a walk through the Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle of Nürnberg) we drove out to Lengenfled, a village southeast of the city where the Winklerbrau gasthaus and brewery is located. An incredible meal and, of course, a great German beer, Winklerbau Dunkel, served in the world’s greatest beer glass, made for a most kickass night.

Just below the Kaiserburg is the Aldstadthof a great gasthaus and brewery. If you want a bottle of their beer you need to be ready to step up. It's only served in liter bottles.

Incredible architecture inside the Kaiserburg.

I think Jeff's expression and shirt make it quite obvious how we enjoyed Winklerbrau. By the way, Jeff's holding the world's greatest beer glass full of Winklerbrau Dunkle.

Monday we drove to Munich but along the way we had quite an adventure. First, we stopped at the oldest monastery brewery in the world, Weltenburg Kloster which sits on the shores of a majestic bend of the Donau River, better known as the Danube. We were a bit surprised when our GPS took us to a point on the wrong side of the river, just across from the Kloster. But, a quite unique ferry took us across the Donau and, once there we enjoyed a great German beer in a place that’s been brewing since 1050. From there we drove on through the Bavarian countryside with a stop for pictures in a hops field. Our last stop before Munich was at Weihenstephan, the world’s oldest brewery, beginning operations in 1040. More great German beer. Finally in Munich, we checked into our hotel, just a block from the Marienplatz and two blocks from our destination for the night, the world famous Hofbrauhaus. Even more great German beer and stupendous food.

Weltenburg Kloster from the wrong side of the Donau (Danube)River.

Luckily, a convenient and quite unique ferry, was there to take us across the river. It has no power, connected to a cable across the river uses the current to go back and forth.

The Weltenburg beer garden. What a great concept, religion and beer.

Quick stop for a photo op in a Bavarian ops field.

Finally, passing through the sacred door of the world's oldest brewery, Weihenstephan.

A beer drinkers dream; Weihenstephan beer garden.

Monday night in the Hofbrauhaus. Prepping the group; Rowdy explaining the proper Oktoberfest etiquette for Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Tuesday we got out to the Oktoberfest grounds early so that we could see all the tents, rides and special sights that can only been seen at the world’s largest party. At 4PM we took our seats at our reserved tables in the Hofbrau festival tent. What a wild, wonderful night!!!

In Munich's Marienplatz. About to get on the underground and begin our short trip to the Oktoberfest grounds. Jeff, soon to be Rowdy, McGraw, Peggy, Rachel, soon to be Holly (her new party alter ego).

In the Hofbrau Fest Tent. Rowdy, Chris, and a stoic, somewhat goofy McGraw.

Wednesday, some of us walked into the English Garden to visit the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) and Munich’s largest beer garden. On the way back to the hotel we discovered the the mid-70 temperatures and warm sun brought out the sun worshipers. Yes, nude sun bathers, However, the somewhat disappointing and disturbing thing was that they were all men. That night we were in our favorite tent, Löwenbräu. Another maximum fun night.

In the Löwenbräu tent at our regular table. Look how close we are to the bandstand. L to R, Mike, Me, McGraw, Rachel, Rowdy, (some Deutscher in white shirt) Jodie, Chris, Scott, Wally.

OK, done eating. Time to get up on the benches and have fun.

Rowdy now in his new 2010 Oktoberfest shirt taking a sip of the amber nectar. Ah, sweet ambrosia!!

Thursday everyone went their own way; some back to the States, some to Prague, some to Garmisch. Jeff and I drove back to Weilerbach. In spite of where each one of went, I have no doubt that everyone of us left Munich with fantastic memories of a unique, world’s greatest week.

What a happy week and I think everyone else left feeling the same as me.

Did I mention we drank some great German beers?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Here We Are

We just got back from a fantastic week of festing with a good group of people. Sixteen of us in all. Working on a blog for those adventures. For now, I thought you might be curious just where we live here in Germany.

Our home is in Weilerbach, just north of Kaiserslautern, both are in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, more commonly known as the Rhineland-Pfalz, or Pfalz for short. Weilerbach is a business center for a number of local small towns. The town has a building where local people establish their utility accounts and handle other government issues. On the outside of this building is a list of the towns surrounding Weilerbach that utilize these services and when each one of these communities was first established. Each and every one of them is hundreds and hundreds of years old. Weilerbach, for instance, began in 1215.

The list of locals towns is interesting: Albersbach, Erzenhausen, Eulenbis, Fockenberg, Kollweiler, Mackenbach, Pörrboach, Eichenbach, Rodenbach, Schwedelbach and, of course, Weilerbach. Lots of bachs there.

Now, all these towns lie in the Weilerbach section of Landkreis Kaiserslautern, which translates to "country circle" but really means county or district. There are nine sections that make up the Landkreis: Otterbach, Otterberg, Enkenbach-Alsenborn, Hochspeyer, Kaiserslautern-Süd, Landstuhl, Bruchmühlbach-Miesau, and Ramstein-Miensenbach and, again, Weilerbach. Again, a lot of bachs.

As I mentioned, the Kaiserslautern County lies within the Rhineland-Pfalz, one of sixteen German states known as Länder. Here's a list (capitals in parentheses): Baden-Württemberg (Stuttgart), Bavaria (Munich), Brandenburg (Potsdam), Hesse (Wiesbaden), Lower Saxony (Hanover), Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Schwerin), North Rhine-Westphalia (Düsseldorf), Rhineland-Palatinate (Mainz), Saarland (Saarbrücken), Saxony (Dresden), Saxony-Anhalt (Magdeburg), Schleswig-Holstein (Kiel) and Thuringia (Erfurt). Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg are city-states.

Here's a pretty good map that shows the states of Germany. I put a circle and arrow there in the Pfalz to show about where we are on the map. You can click on these pictures to get a bigger image.

Now here's a map of the Rhineland-Pflaz with the blue arrow pointing where Weilerbach would be there just north of Kaiserslautern.

Finally, zooming in on K-Town. There's Weilerbach with the blue circle.

Zooming in even close, here we are.

Zoom aroung the back.

There's me in the upstairs window of our study.

Monday, September 13, 2010

London and Beyond

I had a wonderful time in London. Our daughter Megan flew over and met me there for three days of fun and a quick family visit, actually my cousin Mandy's 40th birthday party. We had a great time!! Went to Hampton Court a Henry VIII palace, did a pub walking tour and lots, lots more. No pictures right now, Megan will be sending them to me. More London stuff later.

One of the nice things about this little adventure of ours in Germany is that we still have our travel privileges with American Airlines so we can buy cheap passes on other airlines. So I had flown British Airways into Heathrow and then back again to Frankfurt.

Jeff picked me up on Sunday morning at about 1100 and said he hoped I had some festing clothes to change into since we had to go to Bad Durkheim to check out the Wurstmartk. We've been there 20 times or more in the past but we have a large group of friends flying in, in just a few days, for the Wurstmarkt and then on to Oktoberfest. So Jeff thought we better make sure that the Wurstmarkt, the world's largest wine fest, still kicks ass. Like there was ever any danger that it wouldn't. Actually, it was just Jeff's excuse to go there and have fun.

I'd like to report that the 594th Wurstmarkt still kicks ass!! Jeff says we're good to go when our friends arrive for Friday and Saturday at this most wonderful of wine fests. Of course, there will be a report to follow. As documentation, here we are, having festival fun. It's very contagious.

Check out those half liter wine glasses. I have to admit, it was a good tune up.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Running In Germany

Sandra is in London with Megan. They're there, technically, to visit family but it's really just an excuse for them to get some steak and kidney pies and rage around London. So, since she's not here, here's my comments on a very important subject.

Running in Germany is kickass!! There are paved paths that seem to run between every little village and town. They are well marked too so that folks can easily determine where they want to go. Even when the paths are not paved they are mostly crushed stone so mud and pools of water after a rain are minimal. Here's a few pictures from one of my favorite running routes. Sandy and I walked it so that we could get these photos.

This an opening through the trees at the top of a hill just a short distance from our house. It's an invigorating sight to see the trees part at the top and open to an awesome view of the German countryside.

Here's the other side of the same hill. If you look over my right (click on the photo for a larger image)shoulder you can just make out the huge wind generators that are now all over the German landscape.

A lot of this run is through farmer's fields, but all of it paved. However, as you can see above, a lot of it is through the forest. Here's an old abandoned bridge that the path takes me under.

There's an interesting sign that I run by on this trail. It translates to Stork Meadow.

I always just ran by it but on this walk, with Sandy, we stopped to see what it meant. Out in the Stork Meadow are rows of trees. Each tree has a plaque, with the name and birth date of some local kid. Kind of a cool thing to do. A tree planted to commemorate the birth of your child. Some place they can walk to and see some day. They're own personal tree.

One of my favorite things to think about when I'm running across and over these fields and hills is that this is the very same land that Caesar's Legions marched and the barbarian Huns roamed. The same land that Charlemagne ruled and divided among his sons to begin the shaping of Europe. The same land that the black plague devastated, that Napoleon's Grande Armée conquered and later retreated. The very same Rhineland that Hitler's troops marched into while the world watched and backed down, and the same land Patton's 3rd Army tanks advanced across. The land below where fighter pilots and bomber pilots ruled the skies. To me, those are pretty awesome and inspiring thoughts and, the next thing you know, the run is over.

That's it for this run. Gotta keep it up to fight off the schnitzel and beer bulge.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Labor Day 2010

We finished up the Labor Day weekend with three more fests. I'm probably starting to sound like a broken record but I hope you're not getting tired of hearing about our fetes of festing. The three wine fests we visited on Sunday and Monday were in Mainz, Ebes-Büdesheim and Rodenbach.

We had planned on driving up to Mainz on Sunday for one of their many wine festivals. This one was in their Volkspark. A very nice park on the side of hill on the south side of the Rhine River. There were 73 vintners and lots of jewelry vendors. This wine fest, although quite enjoyable, was much more highbrow than a Bernkastel or Worms wine fest. Here's Jeff checking out the wines, a nice Silvaner. We walked around for a couple hours then started the drive back home with the intent to stop at another wine fest we saw on the drive to Mainz.

About a half hour north of Wielerbach, we were crossing a huge autobahn bridge just west of Alzey. This bridge stretches across a huge valley that's covered with vineyards. Out in the fields we saw hundreds and hundreds of people walking through these vineyards to visit a number of tents that were located at various farm road intersections within the vineyards. It really looked like fun so we decided to stop there on the way home from Mainz. That's just what we did. Took the Ebes-Büdesheim exit off the autobahn right into the vineyards. Ebes-Büdesheim is a wine producing village west of Alzey in this huge valley I mentioned earlier. Here's Jeff checking out the grapes. So we walked through the vineyards, checked out a couple of the little tents, had some wine and pressed on for home.

Today, Labor Day, we drove over to Rodenbach which is only a half mile south of our town of Weilerbach. It's a small town with a small fest celebrating the Neuer wine. Most of these wine growing towns will have a Neuer (new) wine celebration to allow the locals to sample this year's unfermented new wine, the wine that will be going into the barrels and vats to ferment and hopefully be the next big year. The Neuer wine is a pretty cloudy, sweet, grape juice. Really not something you'd take home to enjoy. One interesting thing about this little festival, which was no larger than a small parking lot, two beer stands. You'd think one would be enough but why chance it. Here's Jeff checking out the beer. He said two beer stands are ALWAYS better than one.

If you look over Jeff's right shoulder you'll see a large pole covered with multicolored strips of paper. That pole is part of the celebration of the Neuer wine. When the Neuer wine is ready to be sampled a new pole goes up with all the colorfull paper. That pole will be there all year until the next Neuer wine becomes available. During the course of the year the colors will fade in the sun and the rain until the paper on the pole is almost completely white.

So the three-day Labor Day weekend ended with four festivals visited. A good effort. Kind of a labor of love.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


The fest of the week was one of the very best in Germany, Bernkastel-Kues on the Mosel. It's about an hour drive from our house. The weather was perfect! The crowds were just fine. We got there at 2PM, parked and hit the fest.

The Bernkastel wine fest is a little different because they have the festival divided into two locations, separated by the Mosel River. On the north side, right along the river is the arcade with all the carnival rides and craft vendors. Across the bridge and in the old town of Bernkastel are the vintners, food merchants and the bandstands.

Now, we've already established that Germans love schnitzel and beer, and walking and dogs. Well, there's something they love equally as well, bands. They love a big drum and bugle corps. They love marching bands. They love a high school jazz band. They seem to love them all.

Most every little village has their own band; a band that performs at their local functions and at the gatherings of other towns too. These aren't the local high school band. No, these bands are proudly manned by a multi-generation of very fine musicians. It is a proud moment for most young people to be asked to join their towns local band. In any one of these bands that were performing at the Bernkastle wine fest, and festivals across Germany, you'll see musicians ranging in age from late teens into their sixties.

So in addition to some of the pictures of the Bernkastel wine fest there's a few videos here to show you some of the performing bands that we saw.

Here's the street in Bernkastel that runs along the south side of the Mosel. Most of the vintners are located here during the festival. We had some great Rieslings and Silvaners.

Bernkastel is an incredibly beautiful town. The streets seems to be right of the medieval times.

The main square in the town had a large band stand built for the festival and was a major gathering place for people looking to heighten their festival experience. Here I am with the town square behind me.

Have we mentioned that they grill a lot of pork at one of these festivals. The schinken (ham) sandwich was kickass.

Like I mentioned, it was a perfect day and Bernkastel is the perfect place for a wine festival. It's got the quiet, beautiful Mosel with the steep vineyards on either side and just to top it off a picturesque castle ruin.

OK, here's a few videos that will show you the kind of bands we saw. They're all short so shouldn't take up too much of your time. Also, there's two quick videos that sort of encapsulate what a wine fest can be like.

This is the one of the first bands we saw. Hey, look at me, I'm in the band.

This second video isn't all that great but take a look at the instruments these musicians are playing. Looks like something Dr. Seuss thought up. Flugal Horns and all kinds of other weird things.

Every band there got to play here on the main stage in the town square. This was a particularly big band. Jeff panned the camera in an attempt at some artistic creativity.

Oh yeah, Germans like this kind of band too.

I thought I'd show you the two extremes of a typical wine fest. Here's a passenger tour boat quietly passing the Bernkastel wine fest.

Here's a biker gang. Not that kind. A bicycle club enjoying one of the beer stands. Hey, look at me, I'm with the drunks.

Bernkastel has one of the best fire works displays you'll ever see. We didn't stay to watch, having seen it before. They shoot fireworks from the castel ruin and a barge in the river which kind of creates the two forces of a medieval battle.

A great day!!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dog Doo In Deutschland

Two things Germans like as much as beer and schnitzel is walking and dogs. Around Weilerbach there are endless walking/biking trails, most of them paved. We can go in just about any direction for miles and miles and miles, or more correctly, kilometers and kilometers and kilometers. Anytime we're out for a run or a walk we'll pass any number of Germans out walking their dog, and they're not out for just a walk around the block. It's more than likely a minimum two kilometers.

Another thing Germans are very conscious of is the environment, as mentioned in my last blog. So when it comes to walking their dog there's always the issue of dog crap. Close to the town, on the walking paths, they will place signs to remind folks that if your dog takes a dump you better pick it up. Here's the do-not-allow-your-dog-to-shit-here sign. Pretty obvious. No words needed.

Now, once you get out further from the towns and villages, where the paths run along and through farmer's fields, they'll put a sign up to let people know that it's OK for their dog to let loose at any point, with no need for human involvement as far as cleaning up. Here's that sign. It translates to "here I may" which, of course, simply stated means good-to-shit zone.

Here's a very interesting side note to this whole thing. This isn't just hearsay either, we've seen it more than once. Germans will pick up after their dog in the no-shit zone, even if their dog has done its business off the path. Yeah, that's right. Picked it up right out of the grass. Now that's adhering to the letter of the law. ICK!!