Month: October 2014

Wanderlust: Kreuzberg Monastery, Biergarten (and a 13-mile wander)

At the beginning of September there is a multi-day pilgrimage from Würzburg when the faithful walk over 100 km to the region’s holy place, Kreuzberg monastery. The journey is along Marienweg, a trail that connects nearly 50 religious places throughout Franconia.  Aside from news of the yearly pilgrimage, we received recommendations from the web and friends that it was time to make our way to the biergarten at Kloster Kreuzburg.

The Monastery sits at the top of a hill and overlooks the surrounding valley of german moors. The monastic brewery was founded in 1731.  Today the beer is brewed offsite but the biergarten and traditional food pulls a hearty crowd on a Saturday afternoon. As beer was the main attraction, we looked for accommodations (overnight guests can actually rent a room at the monastery!).   Unintentionally, Our hotel was sort of in the middle of the woods: 6km from the nearby village of Bischofsheim an der Rhön… and 9km from the monastery.

It turned out the area was good for hiking! We decided to partake in the german tradition of wander, and set out on a weekend pilgrimage of our own: a 6-mile hike to the monastery on the Hochrhöner trail. The area, known as the Rhön, was filled with grazing livestock and is known for cross-country skiing in the winter.  And we got close to our first live german Schnecke! A snail.

Hiking the scenic loop through the valley lasted all day which gave us plenty of time to record our journey to and from Kreuzburg!

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Our oasis! We ordered half-liters of beer and the traditional fare. For me- lentil noodle soup and for Derek- schweinebraten with potato dumpling and red cabbage.

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On our return trip we added the Zubringer Hochrhöner loop through the village of Bischofsheim a.d. Rhön to cover some new ground, and we stopped there to warm up. I would guess that hiking often begins near here, in Haselbach, a 2km walk up through quiet woods to the monastery.

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By this time the weather had turned steadily more foggy and then to a persistent drizzle. Our buzz from the biergarten was long-gone and our spirits were beginning to dampen. The ground was completely wet. and muddy. and cold.  We walked, and we walked. It was about three hours before we arrived at our starting point, near Schwedenwall (a trench used by the Swedes during the 30 years war). We were content with a hot shower and spent the rest of the rainy night vegged-out, eating pretzels and cheese crackers, and watching old german movies without subtitles on tv.

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The next morning we awoke refreshed and to clear skies. Our day-long hike through the drizzly moors (with a stop at the biergarten) was clarifying and just what we needed.

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And also, we parked next to this vintage baby-blue VW in the parking lot of our hotel!

 

 

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Bremen

After reading reviews from Lonely Planet and the Independent, Bremen piqued our interest. Like Hamburg, it is a former Hanseatic shipping city near the North Sea. Pairing these two Stadtstaaten (city states) over a long weekend was a perfect balance, they are uniquely different from cities in Bavaria –and from each other– and just an hour apart by train.  Beer drinkers might recognize the name, the city is home to Braureri Beck & Co. –  Beck’s.  It is also known for another household beverage, decaffeinated coffee, and for the children’s fairytale The Town Musicians of Bremen. We checked out the famous sculpture near the Rathaus where the legs and nose are shiny from being touched for good luck.

Bremen is a city where a tourist can see many of the main sights in a weekend —  it was charming, small-scale and walkable within several distinct quarters.  After our whirlwind in metropolitan Hamburg, Bremen’s quaint center felt truly old; It was an incredible medieval style square — and I think– one of the most architecturally cohesive that we’ve seen.

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We ate the most amazing potato salad at Martin Keifert’s walk-up bratwurst shop. Yup, we’d consider another trip to Bremen for potato salad.

 

1200 year old Dom St. Petri

Like many European squares, the Altstadt is anchored by the towering Bremen Dom. This Protestant cathedral is perhaps the oldest building we have seen, built in 789 AD.   A portion is a museum where they have a complete collection of church relics: first edition books printed on the newly invented Gutenberg press, archived 800-year old bishop attire, ornaments and fine art all under the watchful eye of a dedicated gallery attendant. He lifted his arm and summoned us over to the glass case he was protecting and slowly pulled back the cloth cover and revealed… the oldest book in the archive!!  He motioned that it would be alright to photograph it without my flash. (of course!) For a euro you can also visit the leaded cellar where they have the mummified remains of eight bodies. Derek is adventurous, but not in any way a fan of dark, dank medieval buildings—-  we passed on the mummy viewing.

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The narrow alleyways of the former red-light district, the Schnoor, are converted shops, restaurants and galleries.

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Das Viertel

By luck, the apartment we rented was in Das Viertel– the Arts Quarter.  The neighborhood contains the kulturmeile–  a street that is home to Bremen’s theater, Kunsthalle, and the eclectic shops and restaurants in this area (we stopped for a drink at Engel ‘Angel’ cafe ).

We discovered a HAY furniture store nearby and I fell completely head over heals for their clean Danish modern aesthetic, and one piece in particular:  ‘about a chair‘ <– click here to see the chair.

Before departing Bremen, we wanted to stop by the small antique shop we had seen tucked into a house across the street.  The owner of the shop is a lifelong resident of Bremen and told us about his childhood, growing up in the city, and how the house was once his father’s milk shop.  Now it is a space for his collection of 20th C. china and porcelain, mostly salvaged from estates.  For us, he suggested a cup and saucer set from Arzburg, designed in the 1960’s.

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While Bremen isn’t a stop on most  tourist itineraries – it could be. It was a unique spot.  It makes a great side-trip from Hamburg and it is actually only a 3-hour drive from Amsterdam.

Read about our visit to Hamburg here.