biking

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

 

 

Weekend in the Black Forest


A long holiday weekend was approaching near the end of June, giving us a couple of extra days. Perfect for a trip to the Black Forest.   Derek researched and planned the trip to the Schwarzwald (he is much better than I am at planning rural/mountain getaways). I think he found the most beautiful spot in the hills of the Southern Black Forest.  We didn’t know much about the area, only that our guidebook told us the most dramatic elevation stretched east of Freiberg and down to the Swiss border. We knew that we wanted to be within a few km of Kandal, the highest point in the area, then looked at an elevation map to find the valley that looked most interesting and started looking for hotels in the area.

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And that is how we ended up in Simonswald for a couple of days, a small rural gem with a church, a bakery, a town hall, and quite a few B&Bs!  The Simonswalder valley was simply beyond words, the roads in the area wind through the valley for a drive that is completely enchanting.  Similar to the formations we see near the Great Lakes, this valley was formed by glaciers. We arrived on Thursday afternoon with plenty of daylight to spare.

 

On our first day we hiked the hills south of Simonswald for a couple of hours and found ourselves immersed in the quiet forest.

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The stories of the Black Forest were fresh in my memory as we hiked around, Grimm’s Fairytales: Snow White, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and of course Hansel and Gretel!  The Grimm Brothers were from the state of Baden-Württemberg, home of the Schwarzwald. They traveled the area and took inspiration from the lore of the forest.  The stories are now public domain; you can download an e-book of Grimm’s Brothers fairytales (free!) from Project Gutenberg.

 

 

Aside from having the vibe of a small traditional german inn, our pension Krone Post had a restaurant with a tasty menu of Schwarzwald specialties.  They had fresh trout delivered (we saw the fish man with live trout in the back of his truck!). I ordered smoked trout with toast and horseradish sauce- delish! Also staying at the hotel was a lively motorcycle club from Cologne; There they are on the patio!

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After dinner we drove to Kandal to watch the late sunset.  Kandal is about 4000ft, and gave us a spectacular view of the western horizon.

 

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Below is the view from Kandal facing east.   The sign is pointing to Bergwacht, the rescue station operated by the Deutsche Rote Kreuz (just out of view).blkforest10

 

 

Friday— Biking! We brought our bikes at the last minute and were glad we did.  We biked the routes around Simonswald, and then into the eastern side of the valley to overlook the town.   It was a cool and cloudy morning, perfect for a restorative morning ride.
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Next, to Triberg, the city of Cuckoo Clocks and home of Germany’s longest waterfall.  We got tickets to what Derek called the “waterfall themepark” and hiked to the top.

 

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We couldn’t leave Triberg without a piece of schwarzwälder torte, Black Forest Cake: Chocolate, cherry, cream, and a little bit of schnapps.

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Freiberg
On Saturday morning after breakfast at Krone Post, we made a stop in Freiberg, the capitol of the Schwarzwald, and walked through their cobbled old-town to the weekend market. Freiberg is about 30km from the French border, and aspects of French culture and restaurants were visible in this area.

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A very cool part of Freiberg was the ground! The pavement is a mosaic of small stones.  In front of the buildings were markers showing the type of establishment (historically) located within. Though the most interesting part might have been the Freiburg Bächle, canals/gutters that run alongside the roads. Historically (12th C.), they were urban fountains intended to direct fresh drinking water through the city, the water leaving the city was likely used to irrigate fields.  We saw light wooden boats for sale at the market and children floating their boats in the canals. Here is a video of the canals.

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A couple of days in the Black Forest and we were relaxed, rejuvenated, and also beat. When we returned to Würzburg I realized I had a fever of 103, and spent the next few days recovering!

 

You can read about the rest of June here!

 

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!