Sunday, October 28, 2012

KTown Kerwe

Last weekend we were at the Kaiserslautern Kerwe (community festival) for the third year in a row. See how sunny and warm it was.  Two years ago it was freezing; last year chilly.  You can see the Kaiserslautern city crest in the middle here, two red stripes with on white in the middle and a blue carp.

We started the day with a Wodka mit Feige (vodka with fig).

  The drink of choice the previous two years was Glüwein (hot spiced red wine), not today.

There it is, Wodka mit Feige, 3 Euros.

What do you think this pretty little area might be?  Little kids toilet.

This is the baby care room.

This is the children's toilet.  Gotta be under 12 and for both rooms you have to get a key from a vendor near by.

Making friends with the monster outside the haunted house.

Now doesn't that look good.  From the local brewery, Bischoff.

A cute cow bench.

I love pigs!

Look at this lady carefully; something strange there.

We met up with Cassius and Linda.  The big news -- Linda has a new iPhone.  I'm giving her some tips.  iPhoning is way more fun than festing.

On our way out. Hey, lets get another Wodka mit Feige.

Cassius, me, Linda and Jeff.  Jeff with his new brush.

Well, that was last weekend.  Here's what we woke this Saturday morning.  Wouldn't want to be going to the Kerwe today.

So, we've made the big jump into the cold weather. This morning's low was 21 F.  So happy we visited the KTown Kerwe last weekend. It wouldn't be much fun this weekend.  Prost!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Prost; rhymes with toast.

When Germans have gathered for whatever reason for fun, festing and a few beers, repeatedly, throughout the event, someone will hoist their beer and boldly call out "PROST!!" It's another form of "Cheers" or "Bottoms Up" but to Germans it has much more meaning. When that declaration of "PROST!!" is made it's a statement by that person that "I'm happy you're all here, I enjoy being with you." After a "PROST!!" all folks in their group, and even others that aren't, will lift their beer and reach out to tap the glass or mug of everyone else also raising their beer. So with a "PROST!!", certainly, you want to tap the glass of all your friends but, as mentioned, often times you'll tap the glass of complete strangers sitting nearby who are enjoying the event too and your groups "PROST!!"

One other action must take place during a German "PROST!!"  According to tradition, if you don't make direct eye contact with the folks your prosting with then you're going to suffer seven years of bad sex.

See the picture of Jeff below. I've circled his eyes so you can easily see the eye contact technique that is necessary during a "PROST!! to avert that seven years of bad sex.

Now, last weekend, we were having a few beers with some German friends, Ziggy and Bridgette. Now both Ziggy and Bridgette are in their 70's and, although strictly adhering to direct eye contact during each "PROST!!", Bridgette had a very astute observation; seven years of bad sex is better than no sex at all. You know, I think she's right.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Feuerwehr Offen Tag

Each year, on the second Sunday of October the Weilerbach Feuerwehr (fire brigade) has offen tag (open day) or their open house. Last Sunday was the Offen Tag and since the fire house is only two blocks from our house Jeff and I walked over for the festivities. This is our third year in a row to be a part of the Weilerbach Feuerwehr Offen Tag.

The town fire trucks are pulled out of the garages and lined up along the street so that there's room indoors for some out-of-the-weather festing.  On this day that was a very good plan because it drizzled all day.

Coat of arms of the Weilerbach fire department.

A rought translation, God be close to the brigade.

All the festival tables are set up inside the fire house.  Lots of great German food, including awesome deserts.

Jeff and I split a saumagen (pig stomach) and saurkraut. Quite tasty.

Pretty good two-man band provided the entertainment; all the usual German festival songs.

PROST . . . and he means it!!

Some of the fire fighter's wives and girlfriends put together this fun dance.  The lady in the red is supposed to be the flames, while all the others, obviously, are the fire fighters.

On our way home. I love these big fire trucks.

An original stone commerating the fire department from 1890.  You can just make out the date at the bottom.

Just another simple example of German community and

Gemütlichkeit. They really do look for opportunities to come together as a village, town or city and celebrate their lives together; fantastic!!


You may have noticed that Jeff and I enjoy going to festivals and Germany certainly is the place to partake of those type of events. The thing that drives these festivals in Germany is something called Gemütlichkeit (gŭ moot' lĭk īt). It doesn't matter if it's the world's largest festival in Munich, the Oktoberfest, or the smallest German village's Kerwe (more on that in an upcoming blog) it's all about Gemütlichkeit.

Right now the wine festival season is winding down but various towns and villages are still involved in their own local festival celebrations. Town fire departments hold an annual open house to spread Gemütlichkeit. Halloween is catching on in Germany because it's another opportunity for Gemütlichkeit. Early November begins the Fasching season, late November the Christmas markets start, January and February include numerous Fasching events until it all climaxes on the Tuesday prior to beginning of Lent, March includes the Starkbier, Strong beer, season in Munich, spring festivals begin in April, May brings the first wine festivals that run through the summer until the frenzy of August and September and all of these are all about one thing, Gemütlichkeit.

So what the heck is Gemütlichkeit? It roughly translates to being comfortable or cozy but in terms of a festival it means a relaxed, fun feeling. It's a cheerful time with friends, old and new. It's been described as "public festivity" in the form of music, food and drink.

At just about every event mentioned above you'll hear a familiar German song repeatedly played during the day and night that calls the crowd to hoist their glasses and sing along, "Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit," ("Cheers, Cheers, enjoy life, friends, drink, food, music and have a great time!!" I guess that covers it all.) and that's exactly what the folks at the festivals will do, reaching across tables to tap their glass with their friends and strangers alike.

When you go to a festival you expect Gemütlichkeit and that's what you'll get. In fact, statements of expected Gemütlichkeit have gone so far that one gentleman sued a travel/tour company when their advertised prospects of Gemütlichkeit were not met. If they promise Gemütlichkeit they better bring Gemütlichkeit.

You've heard the term, it's all about the money. Well, in Germany, when it comes to festivals, it's all about Gemütlichkeit. And, after all the festivals Jeff and I have been to, after all the years, I don't remember one festival that failed to deliver Gemütlichkeit. PROST!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Grandpa in Germany

Well all our kids were here for ten days. Kelly stayed an extra week for the Berlin marathon so she was here almost three weeks. She left on a Wednesday and Jeff's dad arrived on Friday for week long visit. We just stayed around the area and did a few day trips but we made sure that Dad got his fill of schnitzel, brats, beer and wine. Here's some of the sights and sounds of Grandpa Wickstrom's visit.


We definitely wanted to show Dad one of the little village festivals that are so plentiful in our area.  Although it's the end of the wine/village festival season, we were lucky enough to have an early October village fest just a half hour away in the small town of Offenbach-Hundheim.  We arrived just after the parade on Sunday and so the festival was just warming up when we got there.

Pretty obvious this is a fall festival with vendors like this one selling painted pumpkins and gourds, plus these flowering artichokes.

Offenbach-Hundheim had this very nice beer/wine tent with a quite talented band.

Like I mentioned, we missed the parade but it was quite obvious that one of the themes of the parade must have been cowboys . . .

. . . and Indians.

And hippies, or maybe Willie Nelsons.

The band was most enjoyable.  Here's an interesting tune that some of the USAF fighter pilots in the crowd might recognize.  Probably the most famous fighter pilot song of all time; Dear Mom Your Son Is Dead.  You can sing right along.

This guy would carry that wire basket out full of bottled drinks and bring it back full of empty bottles and mugs.  Not like Munich's Oktberfest.

This was an interesting guy.  I told him I liked his racoon tail.  He wanted to make sure that I knew that he wasn't the first guy to wear this outfit.  He's wearing a memorial shirt of his costume mentor.

OK, Grandpa, right, is getting a little crazy.  Time to get him home, he's 84 after all.  In typical fashion, the gentleman on the left was a very nice German, who lives very near us, and was great fun to talk with.


On a very pretty day we drove up to Bernkastel for a late lunch.  Here's Jeff's dad at one of our favorite watering holes in Bernkastel, Bitchen.  Powered by Bitburger.

Jeff and Dad. You can't go to Bernkastel without taking a picture of a half-timbered building.

Dad and I on the shores of the Mosel River.  Kues is across the bridge on the far shore.


We're on our way to Ramstein Air Base for a couple beers at the Belgium Bar and then a great German meal on base at the Deutsches Haus.  Jeff and Dad.

That was a quick week.  Jeff's dad left the next morning.  It was so wonderful to see him doing so well.  What a great four weeks we had with all the kids and Dad; made our German experience just that much more meaningful.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kids in Germany

2012 was to be our 15th Oktoberfest. To make it extra special we invited our kids to come to Germany and experience Oktoberfest and much more with us. So they all arrived together on Saturday, 15 September, for a ten day extravaganza. Here’s some of the images of this very special trip.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

After picking them up at the Frankfurt airport, getting them back to the house and situated, we took them all to the Blockhaus in Weilerbach for some great German food and beer.  Here’s our group; our son Ryan and his wife Jenny, our daughter Kelly, me, and son-in-law Will and daughter Megan.

Sunday, 16 September 2012
Bad Durkheim & the Wurstmarkt

Next morning after a short 40 minute drive we’re in Bad Durkheim for the Wurstmarkt.  After checking into the hotel here’s Kelly across from our room; ready to fest.

Here I am outside our room with the Wurstmarkt festival grounds in the background.

Jeff and Kelly at the vintner tents at the Bad Durkheim Wurstmarkt.

Me, Will and Megan sampling the cold, fresh German white wines at the Wurstmarkt.

Because it’s there.  Kelly, Megan and Jenny.

From the top of the Ferris Wheel.  Two big wine festival tents at the top and one big wine/beer festival tent to the right.

The vintner tents at the Wurstmarkt; 18 tents, 36 vintners.

Jeff, Will and Ryan.  Man cannot live by wine alone.
Sister silliness.


In the wine/beer tent at the Bad Durkheim Wurstmarkt.  Me, Kelly, Megan, Will, Jenny and Ryan.

A great friend of ours, Mike Ryan.  He and his wife Gloria showed up unannounced but knew where to find us.

The kids.  Megan, Kelly and Ryan.
Monday, 17 September 2012
Jeff and I the next morning on the way to breakfast and then an hour drive to Rüdesheim.

Vineyard pictures. The girls.  Megan and Kelly.

Will and Megan, Kelly, Ryan and Jenny.

Dad with kids.  Kelly, Megan, Jeff and Ryan.

In Rüdesheim we sampling the Federweißer, feather white.  The new wine from the most recently harvested grapes; not yet fully fermented.

High above Rüdesheim is the Niederwald Denkmal.  The huge statue that commerates Germany’s victory over France in 1871.  Nice trip by small cable cars.
Mmmmmmm!! Rüdesheimer Kaffee, gotta have it!!
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Weilerbach, local stuff, get ready for the Bavaria extravaganza

All of us on the BAB, Big Ass Bench. In the village of Eulinbis.

Sampling the no-kidding real, European version of absinthe.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

We’ve begun our Bavaria tour; first stop in Bamberg and finally ending in Munich and the Oktoberfest.  Our first stop after checking into the hotel is the Klosterbräu. The oldest brewery in Bamberg, established in 1533.

Dad and sisters, Kelly and Megan, on a bridge over the Main River in Bamberg.

Pretty scene along the Main in Bamberg.  From here the river flows to its confluence with the Rhein near Frankfurt.

Pretty scenery on the Main River in Bamberg.
The Alt Rathaus, Old City Hall, in Bamberg, built in the middle of the Main River.

Brauerei Spezial, the new brewery on the block, well, at least at one time.  They started brewing in 1536.  Great light smoke beer.

Bamburg Hofbrau.

Brauerei-Ausschank, brewers of Aecht Schlenkerla the most famous rauchbier, smoke beer, in Germany.

Brauerei-Ausschank established in 1405.  So if this place started in 1405 why does the Klosterbräu claim to be the oldest in Bamberg? This is where we’ll be eating tonight.

Here’s our table in the Schlenkerla.

Not your typical breakfast.  “For Your Morning Pint”  Bratwürst and Sauerkraut or Weißwurst and Brezel (white sausages and pretzel) with a ½ liter of their heavy smoke beer.

Ryan, Jeff, Megan and Kelly with rauchbiers (smoke beers) in hand.
 Thursday, 20 September 2012
Nuremberg, Kloster Weltenburg, Weihenstephan
Nuremburg courthouse where the Nuremburg trials took place after WW II.
Albrecht Dürer, most famous German renaissance artist, house in Nuremberg.
Tower in the Nuremberg castle.
On the shore of the Danau (Danube) river.  Only issue, we're on the wrong shore. That's Kloster Weltenburg, the oldest monastery brewery in the world.  They began brewing in 1050. 

Oh, how convenient, there's a ferry across the river.

We're all loaded up on this very unique ferry.

Here we go.  No power ferry, just the current of the river takes us across.

Interesting item on the Weltenburg menu, Potato-Rocket salad.  No clue.
Oh yeah, they have beer on the menu at Weltenburg too.
Jeff and I on the shore of the Danube, behind us the Danube Gorge. 

Sisters posing at Kloster Weltenburg on the shore of the Danube.

Everyone gets a Kloster Weltenburg hat.

Return trip on the ferry.

Bad info on the video above.  We did not go to Winklerbrau. Once back in the van we drove to Freising, just north of Munich.  Checked into our hotel then immediately drove over to Weihenstephan, the world's oldest brewery.  After a couple beers it was time to eat.  BAM!  Big Ass Meal, for two. Yes, I'll have some gravy with that.

End of day two of the Bavaria tour.  Time for the What-do-you-know-about-Beer/Oktoberfest/Germany/Wurstmarkt/Wine test. Sample questions:
What are the four main ingrediants of beer?
How many states are there in Germany?  Name four.
What's the number one grape grown for wine production in Germany?
Kelly is on her own.

Jenny and Ryan confer on the test.
Megan and Will do to and must do it a bit better because they end up the winners. 
Friday, 21 September 2012
Tegernsee, Linderhof, Kloster Andech

Jeff and I at Tegernsee. A beautiful holiday lake southeast of Munich.  Oh by the way, they also have a great beer hall/garden.

A one hour drive from Tegernsee.  Linderhof, from behind the palace.  The only one of Ludwig II's castles/palaces that was completed prior to his death.

The man-made grotto high above the back of Linderhof, complete with swan shaped boat.  Inspired by the operas of Richard Wagner. Ludwig II would invite performers of the day do play for him, a one-man audience, here in his grotto.

Linderhof Palace from the front.

Magnificent shooting fountain at Linderhof Palace.

Sightseeing done for the day, checked into the hotel, relaxing at Kloster Andechs with a Doppelbock Dunkel.

The shadow of Kloster Andechs in the setting sun.

Tonight's game, coaster flipping.  It was very competitive and drew quite a bit of attention from everyone else on the deck.  Ms. Intensity just missed.

WOO-HOO!!!  30 coasters flipped by Kelly!!  She and Ryan were the finalists, brother vs. sister.

The ultimate winner and present world champion, Ryan, with 35 coasters

Picture time with liter mugs; Megan with five empties.  How do those waitresses do it with 8+ full mugs?

Jenny with four full mugs.

Saturday, 22 September 2012
Oktoberfest Opening Parade, Hofbrau Keller, Park Cafe, Osteria Italiana

Opening day parade for Oktoberfest 2012.  Here's the first drum and bugle corps to start the parade.

Scenes from the opening day parade for Oktoberfest 2012.

Parade over. We're on our way to lunch at the Hofbrau Keller.  Had to stop by the bronze wild boar in front of the Fishermen and Hunters Museum.

Our evening meal was at Osteria Italiana.  A very good and pricey Italian restaurant. This restaurant has an interesting history.  In the 1930's it served traditional Bavarian cuisine and was the favorite restaurant in Munich of Adolf Hitler.

Sunday, 23 September 2012
Hofbrauhaus breakfast, Hirschgarten, Augustiner Keller, Chinesicher Turm, Hofbrauhaus

0930 at Munich's Hofbrauhaus for breakfast.  Kind of quiet.  Ryan and Jenny trained to Neuschwanstein for the day.  The rest of us were on a beer garden quest.

After the breakfast the first stop of the day was Hirschgarten, the world's largest beer garden; seats 8000.

Good grief!!  That mugs almost as big as Kelly.

It was definitely a beer cover day at Hirschgarten.  Bees were buzzing and chestnuts were falling.

Backup liter mugs.  Just in case.

Augustiner Keller, second beer garden of the day. Megan, Jeff and Kelly.

Time for a snack. Some pommes frites, couple BAB (Big Ass Brezel), two landwurst and one of our new favorites, Obatzda, a slightly spicy cream cheese, excellent on a BAB with onions.

Augustiner's most kickass logo, JW.  Both Jeff and Jenny Wickstrom give it two thumbs up.

In the Augustiner Keller, keller.  Yes, they still use wooden beer kegs.

Megan, me and Kelly in a cute, barrel table.

OK, now Megan's in the act.

And Kelly too.

Back at the Hofbrauhaus for the evening.  Jeff and Ryan on the stairs that lead to the upstairs restaurant and fest hall.
Me, Will, Megan, Kelly, Jenny and Ryan at Munich's world famous Hofbrauhaus. 

Monday, 24 September 2012
Finally!!  OKTOBERFEST!!

Dirndl girls.  Megan and I.

Jeff and his fraulein Megan.

Kelly with the Lowenbrau horses.

Will, in lederhosen, Megan in dirndl.

Cute sign pointing to the closest WC.

Whips to music in the Schottenhamel tent.  Pretty cool but I think I'd feel like kind of a sissy with those little whips after hearing the BAW (Big Ass Whip).  It's gotta be a little nerve racking for the folks under those BAWs.

At the southwest corner of the Oktoberfest grounds is this large statue, named Bavaria.  You can walk inside up into her head.  And so, we did.

There's three little openings in the statues head, only about 4" x 4".  This is the view to the north.  At the right you can see the double round dome of Munich's Frauenkirche, which is right near the Marienplatz.

Right out the statue's forehead is this view of the Oktoberfest grounds.

It was cramped in the Bavaria head; Jeff and Kelly.
Megan and I in the statue Bavaria's head.

Anyone for a cow sandwich?

OK, it's time to go into our reserved table in the Löwenbräu fest tent.  Same table every year, row seven, straight in front of the band.

Father and son; Jeff and Ryan.

Megan and I already up on the benches.  That's not some spare German yelling in my ear.  That's our friend Cajun.

Nice picture of Megan and Will.

Kelly, the new Löwenbräu lion.

Or maybe Ryan.

A video of Megan and Kelly on the bandstand.  They seemed to pretty much camp out up there; at least four songs.

Hey, look at this, there's beer here.
Butt, butt, butt. 

Oh yeah, this is kickass fun!!!

Ryan, Jeff and Kelly.
The end of the night.  Ryan and Will with our waitress.  She's worked our table two years in a row now.
That's it! Next morning we took Megan and Will, and Ryan and Jenny to the Munich airport for their flight home.  Kelly came back to our house for the trip to Berlin at the end of the week for the marathon. It was a wonderful time and so much fun to show our kids around Germany and why we love it here. So, once again, PROST!!