Thursday, April 30, 2009

Maibaum (May Pole)

Tomorrow is Maifeiertag (May Day) in Germany (and much of Europe).

Wikipedia tells us:

May Day occurs on May 1 and refers to any of several public holidays. In many countries, May Day is synonymous with International Workers' Day, or Labour Day, which celebrates the social and economic achievements of the labour movement. As a day of celebration the holiday has ancient origins, and it can relate to many customs that have survived into modern times. Many of these customs are due to May Day being a cross-quarter day, meaning that in the Northern Hemisphere it falls approximately halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice.

In Bavaria, there is a tradition of a May Pole. Wikipedia tells us:

In the 16th century erecting a white and blue painted maypole became a tradition in Bavaria. Later, in the 18th century, symbols and shields of different worker's guilds were added to the pole. Young people of the village work together to select and cut down the tree, to transport and to decorate it. During the preparation it is necessary to guard the maypole because young people from other villages who would like to steal it. The setting up of the maypole is a big feast for the whole community.

Maypole in Munich:

Close up:

In Hohenschwangau (near Neuschwanstein):

In Nuremberg (in the Handwerkerhof):

After two weeks off for Easter Break, we get another day off!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

That's UnAmerican!

What! McDonald's wanted .19 Euro for a (large) packet of Ketchup! That is positively UnAmerican! How can you have fries with no ketchup!
Oh yeah, I am in Germany.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

München and Neuschwanstein (Part 2)

The next morning we were off to see Castle Neuschwanstein and Castle Hohenschwangau.
Here is a preview:

Castle Neuschwanstein

Castle Hohenschwangau.

Neuschwanstein is pronounced New-shvon-stine. Neuschwanstein means New-Swan-Stone and you can see the evidence of the swan theme all over.

Castle Neuschwanstein was built starting in 1869 by King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
Wikipedia tells us:

The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as an homage to Richard Wagner, the King's inspiring muse. The conception of the palace was outlined by Ludwig II in a letter to Richard Wagner, dated May 13, 1868;

"It is my intention to rebuild the old castle ruin at Hohenschwangau near the Pollat Gorge in the authentic style of the old German knights' castles... the location is the most beautiful one could find, holy and unapproachable, a worthy temple for the divine friend who has brought salvation and true blessing to the world."”

The palace was originally called New Hohenschwangau Castle until the king's death, when it was re-named Neuschwanstein, the castle of the Swan Knight Lohengrin, of Wagner's opera of the same name. In origin, the palace has been the Schwanstein, the seat of the knights of Schwangau, whose emblem had been the swan.

The "old" Hohenschwangau Castle is Ludwig's child home and is near by to Neuschwanstein. We visited there too.

As we drove down from Munich, the Alps started to come into view.

As we drive up the road toward the castles:

And soon, we could see the castle!

But first we went to get tickets for the two castles in the village of Hohenschwangau.

The Germans are so efficient...your ticket has the Tour Number (435 in the above ticket) and then you get into line that matches your tour at the appointed time. They also make sure when you buy tickets for both castles you have enough time to get from one to the other.

You can get tickets to English speaking tours for both of the castles. The castles are up on hills, so you can either walk, take a bus, or take a horse drawn carriage. For Hohenschwangau we walked up.

Views from outside Hohenschwangau.

The view from the castle:

Hohenschwangau means High-Swan-District. Here are more swans:

You can see Neuschwanstein from Hohenschwangau:

Now to walk up to Neuschwanstein it is a 40 minute walk, so we opted for the horse-drawn it is more romantic. We were in a carriage such as this:

As we approach the castle:
This looks super spooky but it wasn't really raining much...

View from the window:


As you may know, Neuschwanstein was an inspiration for Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland.

(not my pictures)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

München and Neuschwanstein (Part 1)

The in-laws were here so we thought we would go on a more ambitious excursion. Our plan was to drive to München (Munich), stay over night there, and then drive down to the castle Neuschwanstein. We would then drive up the "Romantic Road" and stop in a town along the way for a meal and then end up in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, known for its well-preserved medieval old town. We didn't end up in Rothenburg, but we managed the rest of the itinerary.
The hubby was working in Munich on Thursday, so I got to do the driving. All the other times I have been to Munich there was some snoozing going on on my part, but not this time! My experience on the Autobahn is this:

There are three lanes on this Autobahn.
The right lane consists of trucks going about 100kmh.
If there is not too much traffic, one stays in the right lane and passes the trucks on occasion.
Unlike the U.S., where you might typically hang out in a lane, in Germany you really are expected to get to the right as much as you can.

Unfortunately there was more traffic.

So I would be in the middle lane, trying to go about 120kmh (~72mph). Then one of the trucks would decide that the truck in front of it is going too slow, so it would jump out and pass. But it is only going 105kmh to go around that 100kmh truck...which means....surprise! A truck in front of you. Then you need to make a decision...what is coming faster? That mercedes in the left lane going 140+kmh or the truck in front of you going 105kmh. Aaauugh! Keep that up for about 2 hours.

But we get to see giant wind turbines and lovely farms where we imagine they are growing hops?

Our first stop in Munich was the Viktualienmarkt (Victual Market, i.e., permanent outdoor farmer market) that was not too far from Marienplatz (Tourist central of Munich). See my post on Marienplatz for more on Marienplatz.

There are some permanent Metzgerei (Butchers) shops as you enter the Viktualienmarkt.

There are Produce stands and Cheese stands and Wine stands of all sorts. We nibbled our way through the market.

Wierd sorts of fruits...

...and of course, seasonal items such as SPARGEL (white asparagus) and strawberries. More on Spargel in another post! (German's love them some spargel).
We also found a great second hand clothing store, Kleidermarkt, where I got a OctoberfestyGermanyish leather jacket and the girls found a few things.
We had dinner at a Thai place called Yum Thai Kitchen and Bar, which the hubby had been to before. Thai food in Germany? Yes, because we have been having alot of German food all week!

Next Post...Neuschwanstein!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mäh (Baa)

or "Traffic Jam in Erlangen"

So we were going on a walk and almost got run over!

We stood against a fence until all the traffic went by.

Make sure all the stragglers catch up!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ostereier (Easter Eggs)

In Germany you mostly find brown eggs. According to the Egg Nutrition Board:

"White shelled eggs are produced by hens with white feathers and ear lobes. Brown shelled eggs are produced by hens with red feathers and red ear lobes. There is no difference in taste or nutrition between white and brown eggs."
All well and good, but how will these do for Easter Egg dying?

It seems that we got lovely jewel tones! I think next year we will try a little harder to find white eggs (i.e., look in more than our local grocery store), but these came out nicely.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Easter flowers!

Lots of activity at the house this morning...the painters are here early and we had a delivery of beautiful easter flowers! (courtesy of C&L)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Osterbaum (Easter Tree)

One of the traditions of Germany is "Easter Trees"...more like Easter bushes, really!

Journey-to-Germany says:

"These Easter trees are either made of branches cut from pussy willows or other flowering bushes or are small living trees and bushes that are already planted around the house.
In the case of the cut branches, they are usually brought in the house and put in a vase to be decorated with hand painted wooden eggs, hollowed out real eggs and little garlands. In the same way, the living trees and bushes outside the house are also decorated with plastic, wooden or real painted eggs and wreaths. It makes for a splash of colour in otherwise often gray spring days, giving the towns and cities a more festive atmosphere.
Of course little Easter chocolate eggs are also left by the big Easter Bunny (Osterhase) around bushes and trees for kids to find on Easter Sunday. Another tradition introduced in North America by Germans settlers."

An Easter tree in our neighborhood

Even the mini-golf has Easter trees!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Unpacking Chaos

The movers came bright and early at 7:45am, parking in their designated parking spot.
They were finished unpacking the shipping container by about 2:00pm.

The kitchen:

The Living Room:

The office:

The older one's room:

The younger one's room:

On Tuesday they came and unpacked most of the the rest of the boxes that we didn't get to (like the kitchen and Living room). There are many things we are still trying to find out where they go!