Würzburg

Meg + Dan’s Weekend in Würzburg

Just a few days after my parents packed up for home, my sister and brother-in-law arrived!  Megan and Dan stayed with us in Würzburg for 4-days before setting off to Spain and England.  We had splendid weather for their visit and Würzburg was busy with weekend activity.  We showed them a few of the local sights:  the Residenz, Festung Marienberg, and the Rococo Gardens in Veitshöchheim.

We spent the weekend relaxing at the Stadtstrand “city beach”, biking, eating, drinking, and dancing ’til dawn. These two bring fun and lightheartedness wherever they go!

Below: The pedestrian bridge– Alte Mainbrücke ; Relaxing at Wurzburg city beach

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We ate at a few of our favorite places, including pizzas at Locanda.  Dan and Meg are beer aficionados and like to sample —  they ordered a Doppelbock from the Franconian brewery Keiler.

Yup, that is half of a pizza!

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We ate Würzburger bratwurst in the Marktplatz on Saturday morning and scoped out the weekend activity, a rubber duck river race for charity.

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We rented bikes for the day from the local bike shop and peddled along the Main river.  We passed through Veitshöchheima village not far from us where the Schönborn Bishop-Princes built their Summer Residenz and Rococo gardens in the 18th C.   Afterwards, a biergarten.

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… And a little bit of Eis.

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Late in the day we walked up to the fortress grounds to lookout over the city.  We brought one of the wines we enjoy from the vineyards around Würzburg,  Consilium Silvaner.

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We introduced Meg and Dan to the Döner kebab sandwich shop in our neighborhood.   Two more converts who are puzzled as to why savory Turkish-style street food has never made it to the USA Midwest. Someone please open a dang Döner shop!

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Back with our feet in the sand at the Stadtstrand – the city beach, followed by a delicious dinner at our preferred spot for Fränkisch regional cuisine, Alte Mainmühle. Mmm, lecker!

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What a great weekend! Thanks to Dan and Megan for spending a few days with us, wonderful memories, and for sharing many of these great photos!

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Two Weeks in Germany with A+A

My parents visited for two weeks at the beginning of May.  It was their second visit to Germany; the first was for their honeymoon in 1979. At that time they stayed in Heidelberg with friends who took them sightseeing in the Alps, to Munich, and across the villages of Bavaria.

Afterwards my grandparents charted my parent’s travels, (as well as their own) on a road map of Germany.  The map was dusted off and given to us to record our journeys when we moved, and Derek and I unpacked it to see where they had been.

Their route had missed the Franconian cities of  Würzburg, Nuremberg, and Bamberg — We were excited to show them some ‘new’ sights in the region of Bavaria where we have been living. We also planned a 4-day getaway to the Rheingau and Mittelrhein (also known as the “Romantic Rhine” ) to take in the wine, scenery and half-timber villages.

Here is a selection of photos from their visit!

 

Würzburg 

My parents first visit to Germany was in the month of November (’79), so they were enthusiastic about a return trip in the Spring. Soon after their arrival they were charmed by Würzburg for all of the reasons we enjoy it.  The trees and flowers had bloomed and the biergartens and outdoor cafés  were newly open for the season.  Everyone seemed to be outdoors and the city was at its loveliest.

We showed them the sights of the city: the Residenz (a renaissance palace built by the Würzburg prince-bishops) and Festung Marienberg (the medieval defensive fortress of the city).  We biked along the Main River and stopped at the villages of Veitshöchheim and Sommerhausen.   We ate plenty of Wurst and traditional Franconian food and drank Würzburg wine and introduced my dad to a few of the local beers!

Below:  The Würzburg Residenz and garden;  and the wall of Festung Marienberg

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Nuremberg

Their trip spanned May 1, which is a national holiday in Germany and a day-off of work for Derek.  We all took an hour train to spend the day in Nuremberg which continues to be one of my favorite cities. Nuremberg is a unique city for visitors; the Gothic architecture of the Altstadt is quite impressive and different from other German cities, and a world-away from the cities of the American midwest.

A day in Nuremberg wouldn’t be complete (for us) without some rain. The damp, moody skies set an appropriate tone for this city.  We visited St Lorenz Cathedral (a must-see) and walked along the covered city wall of the Kaiserberg, the 11th C fortress. And we drank Nuremberg beer and ate the city’s specialty sausage, Drei im Weckla “Three in a Bun”.

Below:  Nuremberg Altstadt and Albrecht Durer Square

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Lunch in Mainz

The next morning we packed the car and left for the Rheingau, a Riesling wine region near the city of Mainz.  It was a hazy, bright Saturday so we stopped for lunch and walked through the market where people were out buying produce and sampling the fresh wines of the season.  Mainz had been beckoning us for some time and our quick stop encouraged us to return.  The city has a museum dedicated to the Gutenberg press, the typesetting technology that created the first printed book (the Bible) and the city became a place where the mass-production of books was possible.

Below:  Mainz Cathedral and Market square

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4-Days on the Rhine River

Our destination was Hattenheim, a quiet wine village on the Rhine. We rented a cottage that was once a horse stable belonging to the Hessian state winery.  Our host told us how she had restored the property as a guesthouse. The space was perfect for the four of us– cozy and comfortable and an ideal base for day trips to villages along the River.

The lure of the Rheingau is that it is the center of Riesling wine region.  We stayed in an area where winemaking has been present for at least a thousand years.  We wandered to the village’s wine garden where you can bring a picnic and order glasses of fresh local wine and sit by the river.

The Riesling wines that we knew of before our visit were sweet, sparkling dessert wines. We tasted an excellent trocken (dry) white Riesling from a small vineyard in Hattenheim called Irene Söngen.   Rieslings really come to life paired with the season’s harvests– fresh strawberries and asparagus.

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We hiked a short stretch of the long-distance hiking trail, the Rheinsteig, from St Goarhausen to the overlook of the famed Loreley Rock.   The Rhine is a commercial route used by barges to transport goods arriving from the North Sea. The legend of the rock is that the bend in the river was so narrow and sharp that many ships sank under the watch of the mythical mermaid, Loreley.

The next day we rented bikes and peddled along the river from Bingen to Bacharach. The Mittelrhein “Middle Rhine” is a protected world heritage site and is a popular area for river boats and tourists. There are 40 castles and fortresses perched above the river amidst steep vineyards.  The castles were built by competing knights, princes, and bishops as toll-stops for merchant ships — Iron chains blocked the river and guaranteed payment for passage. We stopped at Burg Stahleck, which is now a youth hostel — and Burg Rheinstein, a privately owned museum and hotel.

Below:   Ferrying across the River to Bingen; The river bend at Bacharach; Derek at Burg Stahleck, Burg Rheinstein; The cottage in Hattenheim.
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Bamberg

The next weekend we daytripped to another historic city, Bamberg. Derek and I spent an afternoon in Bamberg over Easter of last year (we wrote about it here).   We enjoyed this round more; the city was warmer and busier than it was last year in early April!

In the region of Franconia, May is peak season for Spargel  “white asparagus” (The green type of asparagus is appropriately named Grün-Spargel).   Spargel has a short harvest, and Germans appear to savor it.  This vegetable ‘delicacy’ has not seen daylight, which is the reason it remains white.

At this time of year the announcement of Spargel appears on the signboards of Franconian restaurants ‘Wir haben Spargel!’ and is served with a cream sauce, or pureed into a creamy soup.  We were discussing how it is grown when we saw a field of covered Spargel mounds!

Disclaimer: I am going to venture out onto a limb. My personal thoughts are that Spargel is not bad, but is far from delightful. Its soft cooked texture requires barely any chewing.

Below:  Bamberg’s Rathaus, Spargel for sale in the market, Spargel mounds.

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Mother’s Day!

My parents last day in Germany was Mother’s Day.   We spent the day in Würzburg, and had an al fresco brunch at Caféhaus Michel in Würzburg.   We walked through the gardens at the Residenz and Fortress, had a special dinner,  and toasted to a great trip on the Alte Mainbrücke with a glass of Würzburger Bacchus.  Prost!

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Links

Video: Germany’s Romantic Rhine and Rothenburg Rick Steve’s Europe

Understanding German Wines  Tim Glaser, Master Sommelier

Germans Go Crazy for White Asparagus DW.de

 

 

Weinlese: Grapes for Franconian Wine

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In late September, the region was harvesting three main varieties of grapes that grow in the steep river valleys around Würzburg — Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner, and Bacchus.

Derek’s colleague invited us to join-in at a hobby vineyard owned by his relative, where 28-rows of white grapes were ripe and ready for pickin’. We learned that while other produce is harvested, there is a special term given to the collection of grapes for wine-making—-Weinlese, which means selection.

After introductions were made, we received our tools and shown how to identify good grapes. We inspected each cluster by the handful, distinguishing between a dry, dusty grey mold that benefits flavor and fermentation, and discarding anything with blue-green mold.

When in doubt, we were told to smell the grapes!  At first it wasn’t easy to tell… they all smelled pretty sour. But eventually we developed a sense of what we were after.

3 hours later, when the last barrel had been emptied, we were treated to a traditional lunch and offered a mug of Federweißer, young wine in the earliest stage of fermentation.

Federweisser is pale and sweet: a cloudy grape juice filled with active yeast .  It goes hand-in-hand with a slice of zweibelkuchen “onion cake”, another specialty of the season. Drinking and eating too much of either will definitely give you a full-day bloat!

After months of controlled fermentation, most of the sugar from the grapes is absorbed by yeast. The filtered by-product is alcoholic wine, and is usually trocken or “dry”. Our pick will yield about 3500 liters of Müller-Thurgau and will be ready next April!

 

Why great wine comes from Würzburg.

If you are drinking Franconian wine, it is likely that it was cultivated near Würzburg. The mild climate and mineralized soil have given way to a 1000-year tradition of wine-making. Lime is a main component of the soil, called Muschelkalk. Geological data and the density of lime found in the soil suggest that an inland sea covered central Germany 50-100 million years ago during the Triassic period. The lime is the remains of prehistoric sea creatures.  Silvaner, in particular, produces a superior flavor wine when grown in lime-rich soil.

Quality Franconian wines are light and fresh in flavor and packaged in a tear-shaped bottle of green glass, called a Bocksbeutel. The shelf life is 1-3 years. It looks like this.

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 At the Weingut

Afterwards, we visited the processing facility where the grapes are fermented.  The facility is also owned by a relative, so we got a nice tour!

Our grapes had already arrived and were waiting to be crushed. For white wines, a centrifuge separates the skins to be discarded. (For red wines, the skins of red grapes are used as dye .)  The process of straining solids continues (skins, bugs, and other stuff) before the juice is partially sterilized and yeast is introduced. The yeasted grape juice is held in temperature controlled tanks for approximately 7 months. Sugar content is measured at intervals and fermentation can be halted when the wine reaches süß “sweet”, halb-süß “semi sweet”, or trocken “dry”.

This time of year is very busy at the Weingut. Grapes from vineyards throughout the region must be processed almost simultaneously at the moment of ripeness.  Dry weather in the final weeks of growing will result in more flavorful wine.  Wine made from grapes that are saturated from rainfall will have a diluted flavor. Weinlese were taking place all week, and he didn’t expect much sleep.  It was wine holiday! 🙂

 

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Also, thanks to Derek’s colleague for sending us a few of the photos.

A Late-Summer Update

Hello!  It feels like a long time since I have written a blog post. We’ve been back in Würzburg for a little over a week after a trip to the states to celebrate with my sister on her wedding day!

 

JULY

Summer lured me away from blogging, and thankfully it did.  It is a nice season in Germany, with even more open-air markets, festivals, and every cafe is full.  I’ve mentioned before how leisurely this region is, the pace of those around me reminds me to slow down and enjoy the details. The students have two separate school breaks during this time and many businesses close for the month of August.  It is the most common time to take vacation, and nearly everyone does.  So, now on to my two month update! July. Okay, let’s see where I left off.

In early July we prepped for our second visitors, Derek’s parents!

July in Bavaria tends to be warm and humid, with most days in the mid-to-upper 80s.   But the first week of July was an oddball. Damp cool weather and overcast skies.  Derek’s parents flew in after the 4th. On their first night in town, we went to a busy place that we have wanted to try – Alte Mainmühle – “Old Mill on the Main” a restaurant on the pedestrian bridge that crosses into the Altstadt “Old Town”.  The restaurant has terrace seating over the river, amazing food, and endless Franconian wine.  The best part: They have a street walk-up window where you can order wine from 9am til 10pm and stand on the bridge among tourists and locals, drinking wine, watching people, and listening to musicians who set up and play.  It is my favorite kind of happy hour 🙂

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We drove to Garmisch-Partenkirchen for a few days mid-week to see the Bavarian Alps and to visit one of Germany’s most famous landmarks, Neuschwanstein: the Fairytale Castle of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Wow to both. read more here

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Weltmeisters! World Champs!

Germany won the World Cup in July!!!!! This is the fourth time they have won.  The Germans were subtly content.

Fans decorated the city with hints of enthusiasm. It was TOTALLY an exciting time to be in the country as nearly every game is televised and crowds cheers (or groans) could be heard through the night.

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The remainder of the month, we kicked-back in Würzburg.   We biked to Würzburg’s public city pool a mile or two away.  This place could be a model for what cities should aim to create with their public spaces.  Dallenbergbad is nice. A spacious park, picnic area and pool. The pools were surrounded by grassy spaces, sand volleyball courts, and enough open space to kick around a Fußball.  Carryins allowed! so a social BYOB is totally cool.

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A Driver’s License

Unabashedly, a big part of our summer has been… duh duh duh da… the Führerschein. So here is how it works: there is grace period for US drivers licenses, meaning Derek was able to drive with his MN license on German roads for 6-months from time of arrival.  We knew his license would be expiring in early August, so in JUNE, he began preparing for a German translation of his license and the subsequent driver’s test. The process was postponed for 3 weeks because there is one person that completes foreign translations for Bavaria, and that person was on holiday most of July. The translation came after the cutoff date, and his test was two weeks away. He turned in his keys and started carpooling with a very nice coworker who lives nearby.

He studied his butt off for this test, taking notes, using their online practice questions and simulations.  There are close to 1000 possible questions, tricky backwards questions, and only 30 on the test.

And he failed by one point.  ONE POINT.

So he rescheduled the test, and studied again. He took it again this week and PASSED!! Whooo!  This man is as happy as a 16-year old.

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AUGUST

In early August, we celebrated Derek’s birthday with a long weekend in the northern Hanseatic cities of Hamburg and Bremen–  more coming soon.

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USA 

My flight to Atlanta departed at 11am on Friday 8.15.  Seems like a pretty easy morning, as far as flights are concerned, right?  Sorta. The fast ICE trains to Frankfurt begin after 6am. I ended up taking one of the sporadic late night 2.5hr regional trains to the airport departing at 4:20 am. I don’t usually go to the Bahnhof at this time so I thought it would be pretty quiet. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to have company–  There were quite a few other travelers and lots of highschoolers heading home from the clubs.

Actually, This is one example of what I love about Germany, even in the middle of the night, most of the train stations are profoundly safe. I must have appeared determined (or weary?) with my 75 lbs of luggage in tow (essentials!)- because two early morning commuters offered to help me with my bags.  Germans are quite good-natured.

 

It was nice to be in America! My first hour in the Atlanta airport was amazing, I could hear what people where saying and interact with language for the first time in 6 months. I ordered a crispy Chick-fil-a and a lemonade and soaked it all in until my flight to Milwaukee.  On Thursday Derek arrived and most of the wedding fun began. I went biking with my dad and this is a photo he took of me at the harbor of my hometown on Lake Michigan. It’s a cheesy shot, but check out those amazing colors.

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After the wedding we stayed a few days with my sister in Northeast Minneapolis.  I went for a run around Lake Calhoun and took in some Uptown, we made a stop at Bun & Isles bakery, Spyhouse Coffee and ate lunch at Colossal Cafe.  We drove by our house in Saint Paul and enjoyed a cookout with some pals.  With a fresh perspective, we immediately noticed how outdated our infrastructure seemed compared to German cities and the impeccably maintained autobahn.  If you were new to the area you would be surprised that the Twin Cities is a prosperous area and a nice place to visit if you only drove along it’s crumbling roads and sidewalks.

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To wrap up our trip, we spent a day with Derek’s parents in Door County Wisconsin before heading toward Milwaukee.  Our flight home was together- which was awesome! We have flown separately the handful of times we’ve been abroad.

 

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With the arrival of September, we are savoring experiences that we will have only once.  Just one ‘Fall’ in Germany and looking ahead we have a few fun excursions planned. In a couple of weeks we will be taking part in a grape harvest at a friend’s family vineyard.  I am sooooo excited!  For future travelers to Lower Franconia, this week has been absolutely gorgeous. We now have 11 months left in Germany, less than a year! Can you believe it? The kids here go back to school in a week (we live next to a school), my day always involves a direct hit of school letting out en masse.

Planning to blog more in the coming months with bits of daily life, hope this will be interesting. So much to share.

June

Here we are in the last weekend of June! The last few months have really flown by.

We spent the month enjoying the laid-back vibe of the city, drinking Franconian wein and bier, cooking at home, and biking on Main Radweg.

Yesterday we went to Derek’s company party in the afternoon; The factory was open for touring and it was interesting to see the production lines and test equipment that are used during development. (We always think we have an idea of how our spouses workplace actually works!)  What is cool about this facility is that design, testing and manufacturing happen in the same building.  I enjoyed meeting all of his coworkers– so many of them have been welcoming.

Today (Sunday) Derek is taking an all-day first aid class so that he can apply for his Führerschein, german driver’s permit.  There is partial reciprocity for some US states, including MN, so he will not need a road test, but he will take a written test (in english) to show comprehension of the rules of the autobahn–and all roads! I am working on this blog and making fajitas for dinner.

 

A few pics from the month- 

Last weekend we spent a couple of days in the Schwarzwald ‘the Black Forest’. This trip  deserves an entirely separate post. What a landscape!

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The Schwarzwald covers about 100 miles in southwestern germany.  We visited an area near Kandal, where the rolling forested hills turn to dramatic elevation.

 

 Lots of biking

The weather has been in the 70s and our month has been full of biking! Derek had been searching for a new bike since we arrived. He decided to buy a fill-in off ebay that he doesn’t mind keeping outside.  In Germany ebay works similar to the classifieds or Craigslist.  You search locally and meet in person to do the exchange.   With his new bike, Hercules, we set off on a 60km ride (<40 miles). We opted to bring my bike when we moved and have loved having it.

 

This is a picture along Main Radweg last month-

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Main Radweg is a paved trail that follows the Main River for 600 km. It passes through all of the cities along the river, including large cities like Mainz, Frankfurt and Bamberg. When the weather is nice, it is common to see groups of bikers with saddle bags going on multi-day rides and staying in the little towns along the river.

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A ride to the historic town of Karlstadt, 30km north of Würzburg-

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June 6-9 Heat Wave!
Temps in the 90’s for four days which is uncommon for June in lower Franconia.  Many buildings don’t have air-conditioning and the heat doesn’t stay around for long. We discovered Badensee Erlabrunn “Bathing Lake Erlabrunn” 9-miles away on our bikes.

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Visitors!
We had our first visitors from the US the first weekend of the month!! We loved having company for a couple of days! Our friends were staying with relatives near Munich and made a stop in Würzburg on their roadtrip to Berlin.  We checked out Weindorf, the annual wine festival in Würzburg.  Lots of Franconian wine and traditional german foods!  Our favorites are Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau, two white grapes that grow well in the areas around Würzburg.

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Just a few notes from our month.  Hope everyone is having a great summer!

 

 

 

Residenzlauf 10K

Residenzlauf 10k on Sunday April 13 — 4x around the Würzburg Residenz!  

The Würzburg Residenz run coincided with the city spring festival.  It was a full day of events (including a highly intense rollerblade race!!) I think there were close to 1700 runners in the 10k, which was a big draw for spectators. Late in the day is the Lauf der Asse which roughly translates as ‘Running of Aces’ which is a professional race that attracts elite runners to Würzburg. 


… And you can pick up your non-alc. Distelhäuser Pils (or just plain water) at the finish!

 

L1 – Bambini Run

L2 – Student Run

L3 – Hobby Running

L4- Fit-and-Fun-Run (5k)

L5 – Main Run (10k)

L6 – Inline Skating

L7 – Running Aces