street food

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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A Czech Christmas in Prague

A little behind on this one! I was hoping to have this post wrapped up weeks ago, but sometimes that’s the way it goes, right? 🙂

We visited Prague just before Christmas, in part to see the holiday festival in the Old Town Square.   Architecturally, Prague is an impressive city.  I would absolutely agree with remarks that it is one of the most enchanting, beautiful cities in the world.

In the days leading up to Christmas, the city glimmered with lights. We visited during the winter solstice which meant that the shortest days of the year brought people together in the early evening for christmas carols and gatherings with friends at the outdoor markets.  On Saturday, our first night in Prague, there was a stadium-sized crowd of people in the areas around the Old Town Square. The festivity created a whirl of excitement, which was enlivened by the Moravian and Bohemian folk traditions of the Czech Republic.

The emphasis of the Czech markets is on handicrafts, music, sausages, and of course— hot wine!  We ate Pražská Klobása (kielbasa sausage) and stayed warm drinking medovina (mead, honey wine).  There are sweet and savory treats at the market, including the abundant and tourist-adored Trdelnik  that are sold throughout the city, as well as pečené gaštany— burnt chestnuts.

 

 

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And Carp. You can’t miss the carp stands in Prague at Christmas. The humble carp has an important role in the traditional Christmas Eve dinner. During the holiday season, live carp splash around in barrels on the street, where they are sold.  If you buy a fish— and it’s not quite Christmas— you can keep it fresh in your bathtub where it has ‘pet status’ until it is time to prepare dinner. I loved reading about this central European tradition here.   Above are perníčekhoney-spice gingerbread decorated as the iconic Christmas carp.

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Between the two of us we taste-tested just about everything.  We enjoyed bramborové spirály a spiral of potato chips deep-fried on a stick.  My favorite drink was the syrupy honey mead, medovina.

And sweets…

I mentioned Trdelnikwhich is a variation of the cinnamon roll.  I think we ate no less than four of these.  The pastry dough is wrapped around a spindle and coated with cinnamon, sugar, and almonds, and cooked over an open ember.  The second most common treat was perníček, honey-spiced gingerbread with lacy white icing.  At the market you can buy lots of seasonal goodies like Vanocka (a braided nut and raisin bread made at christmas), shortbread, and maslove pecivo – the christmas butter cookie with a candied cherry.

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Prague is only 4-hours from Würzburg, but crossing into the Czech Republic is a reminder that the neighboring countries have very different heritages. There are not rail connections from the area around Würzburg, so the most convenient mode of travel to Prague is by bus.  We used a service offered by DB Bahn — A Long-distance travel bus that departs daily from Nürnberg Hbf.

The European markets are one of my favorite aspects of living outside of the US.  For the most part, I spend the weekdays solo and the the ritual of walking through the market in Wurzburg is one of my preferred activities, there is always something happening.

The Czech market was a nice companion to the German markets that we have begun to know so well.  It had noticeable Hungarian, Slavic, and Bohemian influences in cuisine and artisanal aspects.  The regional influences are what make each market so unique and worth visiting.  I shared my observations about the nuances of the markets with Derek. And to share another perspective, he said ‘they’ve all felt pretty much the same’ to him.   🙂

 

The National Gallery in Prague

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A notable work of Czech art is the Slav Epic, which is installed at the National Gallery in Prague.   It is a series of large-scale canvases painted by Alfons Mucha, who was a prolific Art Nouveau contributor at the turn of the 20th C. The epic tells of the trials of the Slavic people in central Europe, and combines factual information with mythical imagery. The epic was conceived by Mucha and funded by an American businessman who was an avid “Slavophile” (we had not heard this word!)

We enjoyed this museum.  It is located on an obscure corner within the city in sort of a dreary, unassuming building.   Yet, for it’s relatively small size, around each new corner were selections from major artists like Klimt, Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Degas that you would only see in an art history textbook.  We enjoyed the galleries of Czech modern art, which we honestly knew nothing about— and some cohesive exhibits from the soviet era. Below, Derek is standing in an interactive exhibit on the European Fluxus Festivals of the 1960s.


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Our itinerary for Prague wasn’t as intense as other excursions. We spent each day lingering at the Christmas markets, The National Gallery, and the Neo Luxor Palace of Books , which made us a little giddy, because it had the largest selection of books in English that we have seen by far!  Last year Derek visited the city solo and enjoyed Prague castle, so he suggested another visit.  From the Old Town Square we walked across Charles Bridge, and arrived as they were beginning the changing of the guards, which tourists love, even though it is now just a tradition.  Within the castle grounds is the Eastern Orthodox Cathedral of St Vitus, which was so ornate and decorative.

Below is the market at Wenceslas Square, in the Nové Město– meaning New Town.

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Czech Beer!

The beer in the Czech Republic is legendary.  It is home to the original Budweiser, and to Pilsner Urquell— named for the city of Plzeň.  So, it may seem a little strange that our first stop was a Belgian beer bar.   We previously thought that living in Germany meant access to a good supply of Belgian brews from across the border, not so! Germans seem to love their domestic beers and we’ve found only a handful of imports.

For Czech beer, we headed across town to Zlý Časy (translation: Evil Times), which was highly recommended as a place to get awesome Czech microbrews in a true, dark and smokey Czech beer bar.   I rarely drink beer these days, but who could resist?!  We had a lot of fun.  And do you know how cheap beer is in the Czech Republic?  It’s less than a dollar.

Below:  Bruxx is located across from Church of St. Ludmila at Náměstí Míru ‘Peace Square’, where we discovered yet another Christmas market.

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There are so many great destinations across Europe that at times it can be challenging to name our favorites. This was one of my favorite posts to write.   For me, winter and the season of Light is an inspirational time of hope and peace.  In recent years, I had experienced first-hand how the many excesses of the holidays could be disillusioning and overwhelming.  This year, without the pressures of gift exchanges and to be in so many places at once, it was the first time in many years that I have felt present during this special time.

Germans had a long holiday break from December 20 through Epiphany (January 6), which meant almost three weeks off for Derek.  Once we were back in Würzburg, we attended a Christmas eve vigil at a chapel in our neighborhood.  We were surprised by how lovely the small, simple service was. The closing hymn was Stille Nacht / Silent Night and afterwards everyone was given a lit candle to light their walk home. We have attended other Christmas eve services, but this one gave us an unexpected sense of calm and happiness.

And finally,  Here is a short video of Czech christmas carols in the old-town market!

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Links

In Slovakia, Christmas Dinner Starts In The Bathtub NPR

36 Hours in Prague New York Times

Travel on a Budget: Two-Days in Prague for under $100 Apartment Therapy

Listen to Czech and Moravian Christmas Carols You Tube

5 Great Czech MicroBrews and Where to Try Them

One of my favorite videos!
Watch Travel Insider Astronautalis take a Beer and Motorcycle tour of Prague

Istanbul

Our trip to Istanbul was for our wedding anniversary in early November. For both of us, visiting Turkey has always been a dream trip. The city is rooted in antiquity, but with 14 million inhabitants and an influx of daily visitors, it is fast-paced, modern, and a chaotic mix of sights and sounds.  It was definitely one of the most stimulating and memorable places we have visited.

Istanbul is the largest city in Europe and it spans two continents, so deciding where to stay was an initial consideration while we were planning.  We hoped to focus on the main tourist sites over our 5-day visit,  so we stayed in the historic neighborhood of Sultanahmet.  Our hotel was a short walk to Topkapı Sarayı, Aya Sofya, and Blue Mosque.  At the end of the block was a main tram stop, so we were able to take the tram (light rail) to Beyoğlu, the busy retail, business and nightlife district of the city.  We were also not far from the ferry connections to the Asian Anatolian side.  As first time visitors, it was a nice place to be.

 

 Favorite moments from Istanbul

Our first morning we walked from our hotel through Gulhane Park hoping to find the entrance to the Ottoman palace, Topkapi Sarayi.  Instead we found Set Üstü Çay Bahçesi a tea garden within the park that overlooks the Bosphorus. We decided to order çay (‘chai’) and sat watching boats crossing into the Sea of Marmara . Turkish tea has a unique preparation.  The tea is traditionally served in a stacked kettle made of copper.  Water is boiled in the lower pot and a small amount is added to loose-leaf black tea in the upper pot.  The strong tea is served in a tulip-shaped glass, our server showed us how to dilute it with clear water and add sugar to sweeten it.

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Our morning by the water was one of those moments when we realized that while it is helpful to plan and prepare as much as possible, sometimes the most memorable travel experiences are the ones that you aren’t expecting. Afterwards, we made our way to the courtyard shared by the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya, and Topkapı Sarayı, which I shared more about here.  It was a great weekend for sightseeing: uncommonly warm and clear for November, and the sky was so, so blue.

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Two of our favorite street foods in Istanbul were Simit (flat turkish sesame ‘bagels’) and dondurma (icecream). Turkish Icecream is marvelous.  It is made with salep, a flour from the root of orchid flowers. I would describe the texture as part ice-cream, part taffy (and really delicious).

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We explored chaotic Eminönü, where street vendors were selling knockoffs and factory seconds of denim, handbags, watches, and sneakers spread out on the curbs.  We walked across Galata Bridge (a crossing that spans the Golden Horn) toward Galata Tower near the end of the afternoon.

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Derek just told me that Galata Tower was built by the Romans as a defense tower.  A chain was strung from the tower across the waterway to limit ships from entering the Golden Horn. It is now known for having one of the nicest views of the city and is a trendy place to have a drink or stay the night in Istanbul.

We wound our way to İstiklâl Caddesi, a high-traffic pedestrian street of fashionable stores and restaurants that connects Galata Tower to Taksim Square.  It was impressive lit up at night and at any time of the day is filled with thousands of people. After what felt like endless wandering through a maze of unmarked alleys looking for any of several recommended lokantas, we decided on a Turkish cafeteria.  We ate a hearty homestyle dinner of dolmas – stuffed grape leaves, savory roasted vegetables (the Turks like their cooked vegetables soft), and cheese filled phyllo called börek.

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Afterwards we drank Rakı, anise flavored liquor (on the rocks), amidst puffs of Nargile- water pipes filled with flavored tobacco.  We walked home across Galata Bridge and watched lines of fishermen pull in sardines, anchovies, and Istavrit late into the night.

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Like many travelers before us, we made a stop at Kapalıçarşı, The Grand Bazaar.  There are modest estimates of  250,000 visitors per day and serious shoppers arrive with empty suitcases. It is a labyrinth of hundreds of tiny shops selling pottery, jewelry, glass, and gorgeous Turkish textiles. The shops spill onto the streets leading to the Grand Bazaar, and shopkeepers are forward and persuasive— bargaining is part of the custom.  Most of the items are similar so it is the personal touch that sets each vendor apart– we were even offered tea.  At one shop, we were shown a dozen kilims, then a dozen more, and finally 30 different rugs!  Between rug hauls, Derek said ‘Alright…If we aren’t buying a rug, we need to get outta here’.  I  complimented the quality of the rugs and made a sheepish apology for being indecisive and we made our getaway. (We did end up buying Turkish Peshtemals near our hotel!)

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While planning, I read this beautiful article from the New Yorker, and felt that if there was one thing we had to do before leaving Istanbul, it was eat at Çiya Sofrasi.  Derek was more than content to hop on a boat and spend an afternoon on the Anatolian side, so we took a commuter Ferry to Kadıköy for a late lunch. I wrote a post about our excursion here.

We spent our last day in Istanbul in Bebek, one of the Bosphorus fishing villages, before we met up with a dear friend on İstiklâl Caddesi for meze (amazing Turkish appetizers, similar to tapas) and the aforementioned drink Rakı that is my new favorite , at Duble Meze.  All of the food in Istanbul shared a common thread, but the meze we had that evening was really some of the best food we have ever had. It was also our first time eating ground intestines, served bruschetta style!

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A week of traveling is always a whirlwind in retrospect. Looking back it is now two months since our trip, our experience in Istanbul still feels very special. It is an incredible, complex, and fascinating city. We have agreed that if the opportunity ever presents itself, we will happily return to Turkey. We would love to see more of Anatolia, Kayseri, Cappadocia, the Turkish Islands, and plenty more of Istanbul.

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And I had a MN sighting! On the 3-hour flight to Istanbul I sat next to a woman who lives near us in Saint Paul!!   Every decade she takes a trip to celebrate her birthday.  She was taking a 3-week bus tour of the country for her 70th birthday.

 

More of our photos from Istanbul here and here.

 

Links

Watch Anthony Bourdain take a Food Tour of Istanbul (YouTube)

Watch Rick Steve’s Explore Istanbul   (YouTube)

Istanbul’s New Meze Masters  Food and Wine

How to Make Turkish Icecream

Republic of Turkey Travel e-Visa 

Istanbul: Sultanahmet (Topkapı Palace, Aya Sofya, Blue Mosque)

I began writing about our visit to Istanbul in November here.  In this post are a few more photos and details about the main sites in Sultanahmet: The former location of Constantinople and seat of the Ottoman Empire.

 

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We planned to spend each morning focusing on one of the main tourist sites. On our first morning in Istanbul we visited Topkapı Palace.  Topkapı was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for 400-years.  When we walked through the imperial gate, it was a moment where past and present collided— the tiles and gilded details of the palace exterior were awash with color in the morning light.

We learned that the palace was nearly the size of a small city;  Within the general perimeter lived a population of 4,000 inhabitants who were at service to the Imperial household. The rooms of the interior are a museum filled with items from the Ottoman Sultans: porcelain, clothing, jewels and weapons.  One memorable exhibit was the kitchen– The palace had 800 cooks who prepared food for the entire population. A specialty of the Ottomans was syrupy Sherbet, made for special occasions.

Below is a view of the Blue Mosque from the Imperial Gate!

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Topkapı is many buildings set within a large garden, and each had a purpose for Imperial affairs. The most alluring place might be the panoramic views from the upper terrace (above).  It was easy to see why the vast-ruling Ottoman sultans chose this location at the intersection of the Golden Horn and Sea of Marmara.

Below, I am standing in the terrace of the chamber of petitions, Arz Odası. The tiled wall is in the İftar Pavilion. The second courtyard, Divan Meydanı, lined with park benches, was once filled with peacocks and gazelles. Inside was where the Ottoman council met with the Sultan to make all decisions pertinent to the empire.


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Afterwards, we ate one of our favorite Turkish street foods, Simit (sesame twists). The preparation of a simit is similar to a bagel, it is boiled briefly before baking, but the lightness and texture is more like a soft pretzel. Pomegranates were abundant in November, and we stopped for a cup of fresh juice.  Since we’ve been home, I haven’t stopped thinking about simits. Thankfully there is a good supply of Turkish food in Germany, and the trusty döner kebap.

 

Ayasofya Müzesi

On our second day we made our much-anticipated visit to Aya Sofya (537AD). It was formerly a cathedral in the city of Constantinople and later became the Imperial Mosque of the Ottoman Turks (1453).  The interior and exterior were modified to serve the role of a Mosque: Minarets were added and the gold and stone Byzantine mosaics of Christian iconography were covered in plaster and painted in the ornamental Arabesque tradition.  In 1935, Atatürk , the founder of the Republic of Turkey (and first President), converted the space from a mosque to a museum. It is one of the most notable surviving examples of Byzantine architecture.

Aya Sofya is an incredible space: 1500-year old granite and marble filled with natural light and beautiful imagery from the building’s evolution as a sacred architectural space.  Below you can see where sections of the plaster have been removed to reveal what remains of the Byzantine Deësis mosaic of Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist. For me, the juxtaposition of these layers illuminated the vibrancy of these two contrasting periods of early civilization.  It was truly a memorable, beautiful place to visit.

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Blue Mosque 

Many museums are closed on Mondays, so we thought it would be an ideal time to visit The Blue Mosque, which is open everyday. The central entrance is for worshippers. Tourists are guided to the side entrance, where there is a place to borrow a scarf if you have forgotten, and to sit and remove your shoes before entering. We visited before the call to prayer for the noon service, and were able to take photos of the interior.

This was our first visit to a mosque, which to some may seem a bit naive considering that Islam is the second most common world religion. Blue Mosque is regarded as one of the most beautiful mosques in the world, and it’s proximity to Topkapı Sarayı and Aya Sofya makes it one of the most visited. We weren’t sure what to expect, fortunately etiquette was posted on signs leading up to the entrance!

The Ottoman Sultans preserved their legacy by building mosques throughout Istanbul.  (We didn’t visit Süleymaniye Mosque, but have read that it rivals the Blue Mosque)  Sultan Ahmed I built the Blue Mosque in 1609, and it is technically larger than neighboring Aya Sofya.  The video below will give you a sense of the amazing height of the interior.

We were staying near enough that we could hear the daily calls to prayer from the Blue Mosque.   Our favorite moments were the calls shortly before sunrise and after sunset, marking the beginning and end of each day.  Similar to church bells in the West, it was a reminder to pause and give thanks.

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Up up up #bluemosque #istanbul

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Links

Ottomania: A Hit TV show reimagines Turkey’s imperial past The New Yorker

How to Make Simit
Delicious Istanbul

 

Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt

The European holiday markets are one of the pleasures of the season, and while we definitely have more to share from last month, I wanted to write a timely holiday post from last Saturday at the Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt!

Nürnberg is known for having one of the oldest and most magical markets in Germany, where it is a 400-year-old Christmas tradition.  A Christmas Angel opens this market before the first Sunday of Advent and it is open daily through Christmas Eve.

The star of the show is lebkuchen, which was baked by the monks of Ulm and Nürnberg as early as the 14th C. This German gingerbread or “honeycake” (made from ground almond and hazelnut, honey, candied citrus and spice) is a seasonal novelty and Christmas tradition.  You will find all types of lebkuchen in the markets, but true Nürnbergerlebkuchen is so famous that the name is protected and must be produced within the city.  One variety is NürnbergerElisen Lebkuchen, which is regarded as the finest version you can buy and is made without flour.

As a child, I tried my first bites of Lebkuchen when a family friend from Germany would drop off her yearly plate of holiday cookies at my grandparent’s house.  I loved it.  We called them “host cookies” because the chewy gingerbread is baked on a baking wafer similar to what we had tried at our first communion (an idea from the monks to keep the dough from sticking to the pan).  Now I know the other name, Oblaten Lebkuchen, and also that if you search for an ‘authentic’ lebkuchen recipe, you will easily find 100.  I have been gathering my favorites, because it seems that everyone should have their own lebkuchen recipe.

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One of the funniest traditions in Nuremberg is the Zwetschgenmännle, the Prune People!  The characters are pictured on the market signage, but we saw just one booth actually selling them- and only two amused patrons (us)! They are decorative figures made of wire and dried prunes with painted walnut faces that were dressed up in costumes for children. Kids are not so easily amused these days.  Just part of the folklore.

Hot, mulled wine in Germany and Austria is Glühwein “Glow Wine”.   There are many varieties of this drink throughout northern Europe, so I would guess that many have become acquainted with it and know how it is made! Simmered red wine with citrus and spices and sometimes garnished with seasonal fruits.  The first pour of the season is served at the Weihnachtsmarkts, and it festively flows!  It is often mixed with a shot of brandy, which is the way we enjoy it.

Sipping on steaming glühwein as you browse the booths of holiday items is a big part of the tradition — There is a lot to see.  Wooden and glass-blown ornaments, candy, cookies, glass, pottery, incense, and a few of the oddities (ie, prune people) that always seem to find their way to a public market.

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Nuremberg Christmas Market

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The largest market in Nürnberg is the Christkindlesmarkt, which is where we spent most of the day. Though smaller markets are scattered throughout the medieval-style Altstadt, where you can buy mistletoe, advent wreaths, spicy Nürnberg sausage, gebrannte mandeln…roasted almonds, more lebkuchen, and more glühwein. Nürnberg really shines at this moment of the year, and the warmth of these markets on a grey winter day is truly something special.
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Links

This was our second visit to Nuremberg! I posted about our first visit earlier this year here.

Martha Stewart’s Lebkuchen Recipe

Order Oblaten wafers in the USA (or bravely attempt to make your own)

Recipe for flourless Elisenlebkuchen -or-
Purchase Nuremberg-style Elisenlebkuchen in the USA from Leckerlee

You can watch the opening of the Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt  here.

In Berlin

A few weeks ago Germany celebrated 25-years of reunification— In Berlin the event was commemorated with the release of  8,000 illuminated balloons which marked an invisible line where the wall once stood.  In 2001, two neighborhoods in what was formerly East Berlin were renamed Mitte and this is the new center of Germany’s capital city. 

We were pretty excited to see weekend spar (sale) train fares to Berlin in late October, so we left from Würzburg early on a Friday morning just as the bakeries were opening. We stopped for butter-hörnchen (a german version of the croissant) and kaffee across the street from our apartment to keep us warm for our 20 minute walk to the train station. One benefit of leaving so early was that we arrived in Berlin before noon!

The Reichstag, Germany’s Parliament, is steps away from the train station– as is the Holocaust Memorial {a maze of stone columns that covers an entire city block, the sensory experience within this space was like nothing I have ever experienced} — to the Brandenberg Gate {the symbol of democratic reunification} — and stopped for lunch in Potsdamer Platz  on our walk  to Hotel Berlin at the southern edge of Tiergarten, Berlin’s central park.
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Starstruck at the Bauhaus Archive

We spent Friday afternoon at the Bauhaus Archiv, a three-room gallery that catalogues the beginnings of Germany’s famous design school. The school was founded by Walter Gropius with the intent to use design theory to improve mass-produced products (pre-Ikea). Mies van der Rohe, the third director, moved Bauhaus to Berlin in 1932 (it closed a year later). The introductory courses were taught by already recognized masters— among them: Laszlo Maholy Nagy, Paul Klee, and Wassily Kandinsky.

Our visit had one heck of a surprise! We heard Stairway to Heaven playing around the corner and saw a small group of spectators watching an interview being filmed about the making of a Led Zeppelin album. I was deep into my audio guide on the early career of Laszlo Maholy Nagy when Derek motioned me over. We listened–because the interview was in English— still unsure of who was featured.

We had moved on to the next gallery when we saw the mysterious person walking toward us. The camera panned as he turned in our direction. I felt a light breeze and the smell of tangerines (get it? 🙂 and the legendary Jimmy Page floated right by us!!

He has been promoting his newly written autobiography: Jimmy Page / by Jimmy Page.  I was still curious about the interview, so I emailed the archive last week (It was featured in a national arts and culture program on Das Erste 1 on 10/26.) Here is a partial transcript from the interview (in German) where he discusses his time in art school and the impact that Bauhaus had upon him.  You can translate it here.
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We wrapped up at the Bauhaus Archive and took the UBahn across the city where we checked out Zeha Berlin {purveyor of soviet-era style footwear}, and warmed up around the corner at one of the sweet cafés on Prezlauner Allee: Betty n’ Caty.  Then we spent a couple of hours browsing books at  Pro QM, an awesome bookshop that specializes in architecture, design, economic critique, pop culture, and social theory.

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Kreuzberg

The next morning we went to Kreuzberg. Berlin is known for having a good supply of international food (and nightlife) and many sites are located within this alternative neighborhood.  While researching Berlin I began to realize that for me food was trumping most of the other sights. I had been following this Instagram feed for weeks, so I was eager to head toward Roamers– a tiny cafe near the edge of the neighborhood.  One look in the steamy, crowded window and we realized it wasn’t gonna happen!  We ended up nearby at an Aussie cafe: Melbourne Canteen eating Berlin-style curry-sauced eggs benedict (a complete rarity in german breakfast) and stopped for a cappuccino from an Aussie barista at 19 grams on our way to the East Side Gallery. We found that there was plenty of english spoken in Berlin.

 

East Side Gallery

Most of the 96-mile Berlin wall was dismantled by residents after November 9, 1989. The East Side Gallery was quickly preserved as a monument and later established as an art gallery, it is the most complete section (1.3km) in the city.

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The gallery murals are ever-changing with vandalism and graffiti. The East Side Gallery was completely restored in 2009., though few of the original artists were willing to recreate their 1990 artwork. The mural below is easily the most iconic and was painted (twice) by Dmitri Vrubel. The image was created from a photograph of Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker.  The words read God! help me stay alive / Among this deadly love.


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We stopped for Crepes at Hackesher Hofe market and walked toward Museum Isle.

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Many of Berlin’s museums are densely located on Museumsinsel (the perfect place to be on a very chilly October afternoon). Derek picked the Pergamon museum, which was very cool and contains a full-size replica of the Babylonian Gate of Ishtar (used for ceremonial processions), and buckets of other antiquities excavated by German archeologists in the early 1900s. The second floor is the Museum of Islamic Art and Textiles.

Below is the Berlin Dom, with the famous GDR Fernsehturm (tv tower) in the background.

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There is so much to see and do in Berlin, we loved kicking around there for a couple of days!

Links

We read In the Garden of  Beasts, the suspenseful story of the US Ambassador and his family living in Berlin 1933-1937. (Thank you for this recommendation, Evie!)

Berliners Create Grocery Store with Zero Packaging

Buying East German-Style Sneakers at Zeha Berlin New York Times

Angela’s Assets: How Angela Merkel Has Led Germany to New Prominence Vanity Fair

Better photos: Follow Berlinstagram  (on Instagram)

And Finally, Zep Fans:  this tweet