Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Heidelberg, Again

Last Saturday I had two missions. First, I needed to do some clothes shopping; not one of my favorite things. Second, visit Heidelberg Castel. So, quite simply, I went to Heidelberg to shop and then visited the castle. Yes, I made Jeff go with me to be my runner during the shopping portion of the trip so you can imagine how happy he was about that. Here are the images of our day.

Before we hit the stores we stopped at Strohauers, sat outside and watched the shoppers passing by and had a beer. With an amber nectar to fortify our nerves we pressed into the stores.

Shop, shop, try on, try on, take back, shop, try on, keep that, that and that, take back, try on, shop, keep that, that’s cute, try on, keep that, etc., etc., etc.  In order to minimize the pain to us and to you, there are no visual images of the shopping portion of our day

Shopping is over. Bags put in the car. We drag ourselves to the first place available for the needed recuperative powers of the amber nectar, The Dubliner. So, we’re in Germany, having a beer in an Irish pub, eating Mexican nachos. We are so internationally eclectic.

So we’re completely recovered and on our way to Heidelberg Castle walking along Hauptstraße. It’s always interesting to look up in Europe because inevitably you’re going to see something of interest. This is a common sight, some statue guy on the corner holding a glass of wine.

There’s our destination high above the city, Heidelberg Castle. Heidelberg Castle is quite a hodge-podge of building designs. The oldest section of the castle dates back to 1214. Eighty years later it was expanded to two separate castles. Over its history it has been damaged by war, fire and twice, heavily by lightning. There were initiatives to completely restore the castle in the late 19th century but eventually, due to cost and public outcry, those restoration plans changed to preserving the castle in its present state.

We’re taking the funicular train up to the castle. The castle is actually the first stop of three on the way to the top of the Königstuhl (King’s Seat).

Here’s the train arriving to take us up to the castle.

The Heidelberg old town from the castle. On the left is the Church of the Holy Spirit which, interestingly, at one time served both a protestant and catholic congregation. On the right is the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) over the Neckar River.

Images of the castle; the various building styles and eras are quite obvious.

The Heidelberg Castle Powder Turret blown apart in an explosion.

In one of the lookout points over Heidelberg and the Neckar River.

Way up high on the castle is this strange rain spout. I think that’s some kind of rooster.

Inside the castle; here’s a BAB, Big Ass Barrel.

WHOA!! Now there’s a RRBAB, Really, Really, Big Ass Barrel. That’s me up on top.

OK, the day is done.  Forty-five minute drive west, straight across the Rhein valley, up onto the Pfalzwald and we're home.  Shopping really wasn't that bad, Jeff's just a wimp.  Heidelberg Castle square filled.  It was a good day.  PROST!!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Last Saturday we drove to Grünstadt, a town at the northern end of the German Weinstraße. We had been told that the annual Grünstadt wine festival was something special and so wanted to see it and drink of it for ourselves.

Grünstadt sits on the north side of the A-6 autobahn and one of its claims to fame, at least among U.S. service members, is that it’s the location of the U.S. commissary bakery facility; it’s where they bake all the bread for American commissaries in Europe. Of course, the town wouldn’t be on the Weinstraße if it didn’t have a significant wine industry too and, although its winefest was highly recommended by German friends, what we found was a bit of disappointing.

Jeff and I arrived in Grünstadt around 1:30 PM and found the festival in the main town square. The town web site advertised an 1100 festival opening but what we found was that hardly anyone was there. The weather forecast was for rain and more rain so that might have had something to do with it but maybe the size of the fest had something to do with it too. We certainly would have expected something bigger for of town of this size but what they did have was nice and well situated. This is a picture of the one large vintner tent. Eight different vintners sold their wines from inside this tent.

This was a really nice tent and it proved a wonderful place to be about ten minutes after this picture was taken when the skies opened with a torrential down pour and thundering lightning strikes within a couple hundred meters. Very good wine though and those 1/2-liter glasses aren't for sissies.

There was just one food vendor tent but they were making some awesome German specialties. Here’s a the Pfalzteller (local plate) that Jeff and I shared which included bratwurst, lieberknodel (liver dumpling), saumagen (pig stomach), pan fried potatoes and sauerkraut. Everything was excellent!!

Looking at that plate you can see there’s a lot of food there which includes a whole lot of calories. We were quite surprised to see how many folks were eating this big plate of food all on their own. Even this couple next to us both had their own plate.

There were no beer vendors at the Grünstadt winefest but conveniently, right on the perimeter of the square is Brauerhaus Grünstadt, the local town beer hall and brewery.

The Brauerhaus Grünstadt proved to be a great place. Great beer hall décor and some of our favorite beer, Kloster Andechs, in the form of their gold Helles.  The yellow rose and lit candle was a nice touch too.

Finally, it stopped raining and we were able to stand outside and enjoy a scrumptious ham sandwich and a Flammkuchen. Flammkuchen is a local favorite that originates from the Alsacian region of France. It’s made with a paper thin bread crust with white cheese and a special sour crème spread. Then sprinkled with some other preferences; ham, bacon, onions or chopped veggie leaves of some sort. But, don’t call it a pizza. The crust is so thin that the Flammkuchen only takes one to two minutes to properly bake. It’s very tasty and light.

This video shows that the festival is finally starting to spin up, a little. It hasn’t rained in a while so vendors have dried off the tables and benches and folks have finally wandered outside. You’ll recognize the song. Lots of American songs played at these festivals.

OK, those little girls got me motivated. It’s time to dance!!  You'll recognize this song too.

Maybe not as big or as grand as we expected.  Certainly not as dry as we'd hoped.  But, in spite of all that we had a fun day; great food, great wine and beer. Another memorable day in Deutschland.  PROST!! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Happy Mosel 2012

Last month, first Sunday of June, we participated in Happy Mosel 2012 at Bernkastle. Happy Mosel is an annual event when the roads along the Mosel are closed to traffic and available to on bikes, skates and feet. We did Happy Mosel in 2011 too and since we had marginal weather then, lots of drizzling rain and 50-60 temperatures, we were hoping for an improvement this year. We didn’t get it, in fact, it was much worse this year.

Most of our group arrived on Saturday. Jeff and I arrived from Munich after picking up our new BMW. After a great evening meal we partied in a few of the local establishments. One of those was a hookah bar. Here’s Jeff taking his turn. With him are Harpo, Beth, Cajun, Tina and Magneto.

We took this picture at the end of the night; Burg Landshut, which sits high above Bernkastel. The clear, full moon would seem to indicate the chance of clear skies tomorrow.

Next morning there’s Burg Landshut again. This isn’t looking too good.

Looking the other way from the Bernkastel-Kues bridge, it’s not looking much better that way either. Well, we got our bikes out and off we went.

Here’s our first stop along the way in the village of Lieser. It was starting to rain and it was hoped this old railway bridge would give us some protection. Plus, a local vintner was selling brats, beer, wine and cakes.

Linda and I trying to stay dry.

Here’s our whole group. Some of these are Donk, Teresa and kids; Cajun, Nicole and kids; Keebs, Tina and kids; Magneto, Beth and kids; Harpo and Beth; Cassius, Linda and kid; Sue and kid; Jeff and I.  We should have figured they don’t build these bridges to be water tight, so we’re about to move on.  Not long after this picture was taken this area was knee deep in water.

Our next stop was the White Bear Hotel in Mülheim and as you can see we were very, very wet. The White Bear was great though. They gave us endless dry towels and even hair dryers for the ladies.

There was a break in the weather so we made the sprint to Bernkastel. Here’s Burg Landshut on our return route. I don’t think that weathers going to hold.

Hey, look at me. At least I didn’t crash this year.

In spite of the rain it was a fun day and great scenery. Jeff and I on the last leg to Bernkastel for Happy Mosel 2012.

After we got dried off we visited a few establishments in Berkastel. You can't do a blog on Bernkastel and not show some of the beautiful half-timbered buildings

The Kolsch Bar in Bernkastel. How many bars anywhere in the world can boast this kind setting?

Well, that's the way the summer has been here in Germany. Lots of rain, daily high temperatures in the 50's and 60's.  This week is the first in months that has no rain forecast and some tempertures expected to reach the lower 80's. But, Jeff and I certainly haven't waited for the dry weather; it's been lots of raincoats and umbrellas.  Or stay home, and we don't do that.  PROST!!!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Speyer Brezelfest

Last weekend we went to the Brezelfest (Pretzel festival) in Speyer. This is one festival that we’ve been anxious to go to but over the years we were always doing something else. This was the 101st Brezelfest.

Speyer is one of the oldest towns in Germany and is dominated by the cathedral that we’ve seen many times passing by on the autobahn going to or returning from Munich, Bavaria or some other destination in southern Germany.

It’s an hour drive from our home in Weilerbach to Speyer but today we’re going to train. We’re hopping on in Ramstein village, from there to Kaiserslautern where we change trains.

Here’s our train arriving in Ramstein.

We were traveling with two other couples. Here’s me with Linda and Beth.

The guys with Jeff, Cassius and Harpo, are partaking in a train beer to prepare for the festival.

We’ve arrived in Speyer at 1130. The festival begins at 1400 so we can make the leisurely one mile walk to the festplatz (festival grounds). As we left the train station there's this statue across the street, a king holding aloft a frothy glass of beer. Our kind of town, and king.

The Brezelfest flag.

Jeff and I had never been to Speyer before and as I mentioned we intentionally arrived early so that we could take in some of the sights of the town. We’re on the Maximillianstraße which is the main shopping street in the city and a pedestrian zone. This is the Altpoertel (old gate). It is one of the largest and most important city gates in Germany.

The twin spires of St. Josef church in Speyer.

We're a little parched after our walk from the train station so we stopped in Weinstube Schwarzansel (Blackbird Wine Room).

Jeff and I, Linda and Cassius, Beth and Harpo at the Schwarzansel in Speyer.  Note we have our team drinking shirts on.

Linda, Cassius and me leaving the Schwarzansel bound for the Brezelfest. Look at what we’re wearing. It’s the 14th of July, for goodness sakes, and we’ve got coats on.

Pretty Maypole in Speyer.

Kaiserdom zu Speyer (Imperial Cathedral of Speyer) dates back to 1030. The tombs of eight Holy Roman emperors and German kings are beneath the cathedral high altar.

Speyer city hall.

We made it!! The Speyer Brezelfest.

Entrance to the Speyer Brezelfest. The city crest to the left, Brezels above and a strange little guy with beer and Brezel. We’re still a little early but we know there will be Germans in here ready to fest.

Here’s a figure that depicts the four things Germans love best; walking, brezels, football and, at the top of the list, beer.

What did I tell you, we were early but there were these wonderful people that were willing to sell us beer. Jeff and Linda.

Ah, yes, the sun is out!! That hasn’t happened much this summer in Germany. Harpo, Beth, Jeff, me and Cassius. You can see Jeff has his beer cover along.

It’s not uncommon at all here in Germany to get a fresh beer poured directly from a wooden barrel and that was the case at a few places at the Speyer Brezelfest.

Speaking of barrels, we’re in one. On the right Nicole and Cajun have joined us. They forgot their team drinking shirts.

Germans love me. We’re at the Brezelfest souvenir vendor.

What did I tell you, Germans love me. This gentleman was walking his Brezels. Strangely, 3 or 4 Brezel on a string. He just asked that I didn’t put this picture on Facebook.

The Brezelfest midway. That’s pretty much the sky we’ve had all summer.

That’s the kind of day it was. Cloudy and threatening, then sunny and warm.

Jeff and a friendly Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Jeff with a couple of BAB, big ass beers. These are Eichbaum (oak tree) beers.

Jeff with one another BAB, big ass Brezel.

Meandering our way to the train station, going home, we hope.  We're running a little late.

Originally, we were planning on catching the 1925 (725 PM) train back home. Well, that turned into the 2002 (1002 PM) train. We’re across the street now from the train station making sure that we’re adequately hydrated for the trip home.

Oops, that extra hydration may have affected our decision making process!! We got off at the wrong train stop to change trains. Luckily, one last train of the night was on its way. As long as we caught that we’d recover from our error and not have to spend the night here. Linda’s spending the 45 minute wait down there out of the rain.

Well, we made it home about 0115AM, a lot better than 9AM. Just one more of those situations that make these little trips memorable. In spite of the get-home trip it was a great day and a fun festival. Got another one coming up this weekend so watch for that.  PROST!!!