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Archive for March, 2016

Avantgarde and culture

School of sophisticated drinking bookBerlin always has been and always will be synonymous for a culture and society in motion. Artists – then and now – flock to the city to express their art and somehow make a living. Entrepreneurs with a gung-ho mentality open up boutique nightclubs, cafes, bars and whatever else they think might make a buck. Or they have a mission: bringing back the old feeling of underground rebellion, bringing back quality instead of serving the masses a quick rehash of the old favourites. Which is what the owners of the Victoria Bar set out to do when they opened their cocktail bar in 2001. Within two years they had established themselves as connoisseurs of traditional cocktails and set up the School of Sophisticated Drinking.

Spirits and their history

victoria bar berlinOnce a month the school offers with a fixed menu and price the opportunity to find out more about one particular bar spirit. For three hours the participants will be able to enjoy drinks mixed with the topic in question, accompanied by some consolidating finger food and increasingly humorous anecdotes relating to it. So far the ‘classes’ are held in German, but due to their popularity, they have finally published an English edition of their “text book’. And as every proper school does, they even offer school trips and field days!

If you find yourself spending some time in Berlin and you’d like to find out more about the history of your favourite tipple have a look at their schedules or just pop in to enjoy a good old fashioned well-made cocktail.

Bottoms up!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

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Rinteln

Marktplatz_RintelnHaving left Hamelin and any pied pipers behind us, we gently bike north along the Weser. Along the river we encounter more examples of the famed Weser Renaissance architecture and countless ‘little’ waterways and lakes. These lakes are mostly quarry ponds turned into public swimming lakes and recreational parks. One of the more famous one is the Doktorsee, west of Rinteln. Rinteln itself is another well preserved example of the regional architecture and shows a city that had managed to procure city rights early on – Rinteln_Archivhäuschen_vor_dem_Münchhausenhofwhich meant taxing anyone and anything traveling on the Weser and through town – and maintain that profitable position for a considerable time. For two centuries – from 1619 – 1810 – it was even a moderately famous university town. Its adaptability was crucial for survival, as the politics, alliances and ownership changed frequently in those times.

Porta Westfalica

Porta Westfalica KanzelAs we continue towards Minden we come through Porta Westfalica, a city that was created in a communal land reform in 1973 and unites 15 local villages and communities. Its name comes from the central geographical feature of the region: the gorge between two mountain ranges, where the river Weser cuts through and enters the north German lowlands. This area has been called Porta Westfalica since the early 18th century, when it was fashionable for the elite to use Latin or French terms and means ‘gateway to Westfalia’. One could imagine this region having enjoyed a similar economic success as Rinteln, but because the only towns in this area with city and taxing rights didn’t have bridges across the Weser and were not connected to any major trade routes, they didn’t fare as well. This changed in the 19th century with the first bridge across the Weser in 1864 and the establishment of a railway connection to Cologne.

Minden

Minden RathausThe city of Minden has a colourful history dating back to the 3rd century A.D. Being located along the Weser and substantial economic rights being granted in 977 meant it became a prosperous city and the center of attention in the wars that ravaged the region during the 17th and 18th centuries. The 20th century proved equally difficult and the town sustained heavy damages towards the end of WWII, when bombings aimed at destroying underground war equipment factories destroyed large parts of the historic center. Unfortunately afterwards decisions were made to demolish damaged buildings and replace with modern structures. 800px-Minden_Windloch_1Despite that, a few of the more impressive buildings have survived and are now well looked after. Just a few examples: the reconstructed Minden Cathedral in the Romanesque/Gothic style; Minden old city hall, the oldest monumental Gothic city hall in the whole of Westfalia;  the smallest building in the city – ‘Haus am Windloch’ – was built in the 17th century as residence for the local city musician, who also maintained and played the churches’ organ. It was built so close to the church that the gap channeled very strong winds.  There are plenty of other buildings to admire as well on a quick tour through the city center.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Fairy tales and fairy towns

800px-Münchhausen-AWilleTall tales start in Bodenwerder, well some of the tallest have been started by a fictional character, the infamous Baron Münchhausen, who is the first person narrator of ‘Baron Münchhausen’s Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia’, a satirical work with political aims. Some of us might know, that there was a real Baron Münchhausen, who was born in Bodenwerder and who did love to tell some rather tall tales of his military career. But when these stories were adapted and published anonymously, the real Baron was so outraged that he threatened to sue the publisher and the author decided to remain anonymous. Not until Rudolf Erich Raspe had died could his authorship be confirmed.

Hamelin

Pied_piperOur next stop through this picturesque part of Germany is another famous fairy tale town: Hamelin. The Pied Piper of Hamelin and his abduction of the city’s children have been a topic of tales and fairy tales for the past 800 centuries. As early as 1300 the story was told on glass stained windows in the church of Hamelin. Many researchers have wondered and examined what the root of this tale was and have come to some interesting conclusions. Most notably is one theory, that all a city’s inhabitants were referred to as the city’s children and that they may have been enticed to emigrate to other parts of Germany and Poland to populate these regions. Comparisons of family names suggests and supports that theory.

Whatever the historic truths, it has given many authors and artists opportunities to expand and illustrate it in various ways. During your guided tour through the town you will not only learn about this famous tale, but also about Hamelin’s history and architecture.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Fürstenberg porcelain factory

As we travel along the Weser through lots of small picturesque villages we come through Fürstenberg, where we get to have a look at the third-oldest porcelain manufacturer in Germany. The company was founded in 1747 by the order of Duke Karl I. von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel and soon after was ordered to incorporate a blue “F” ( for Fürstenberg) into their design, which became their trademark. Despite changes in company structure and flood disasters the company is still successfully trading today. Nearby is Fürstenberg Castle – from ~1355 – which houses the museum documenting the history and designs of the porcelain factory. The history overview on the company’s web site gives good examples of past and present designs.

Höxter

hoexter_innenstadt_sigurdehlertIn Höxter we will stop for a guided tour through the town centre with its famous half-timbered houses and medieval history.

Since 775 Höxter had been along the major trading routes to the north and east and was heavily sought after. Unfortunately this also caused a lot of hardships during the wars and the town’s wealth declined after the Thirty Years’ War. In the 19th century its fortunes were on the rise again with the founding of a brewery and getting connected to the railway network. Nowadays it is known for the nearby Imperial Abbey of Corvey (UNESCO World Heritage site) and it’s finely restored examples of medieval and Weser Renaissance architecture.

Holzminden

Tillyhaus_HolzmindenOn our way to Bodenwerder we come through the interesting village Holzminden. Another medieval town with lots of picturesque half-timbered houses that has evolved from a wood- and sandstone processing industry to a manufacturing town of a wide range of products, most famously its scent and flavours industry.

While we continue to today’s destination we get to see quite a few more idyllic small villages along the river beckoning for a leisurely look.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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