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Architecture, arts and activities galore

Cycling along the Main river you will discover idyllic landscapes, impressive feudal towns and mouth-watering local restaurants and vineyards. In addition to the already planned highlights and activities, we’d like to point out a few more current events in some of the towns along the way.

Bayreuth

EremitageFor our early-bird guests, the weekend of the 18th and 19th of June has some interesting sights at hand: first and foremost the Landesgartenschau (state garden show) is in full swing with a huge range of activities covering everything from small balcony gardening to open-air ballet! Their comprehensive activity calender is unfortunately only in German, so if you have any particular interests, let us know and we’ll check and translate. Their topics are organized into 7 categories: exhibitions, garden & nature, religion & encounters, family, children & youth, culture & entertainment, sport & health and talks, info & education.

Two other interesting items focus on Wagner and the Bayreuth Festival: one is the Wagner Museum which offers a comprehensive look at Wagner, his life and work. The other is another permanent exhibition, Verstummte Stimmen (silenced voices) detailing the abuse of art and culture for political means in general and in particular the ostracism of Jewish artists during the Third Reich.

Bamberg

bamberg stadtstrandAnd what better way to relax after a day’s cycling than sitting by the beach enjoying good food and relaxing drinks? As part of the world cultural heritage of the city, you can sit on a beach by the Regnitz river and enjoy a summer’s evening with sand between your toes and a drink or two in your hands. Let your local guide, who showed you around the historic city centre, advise you on the best time to try the beach in the middle of Germany.

Würzburg

Arriving in the city on Monday, when most museums are shut, will give you a good excuse to sit back in one of the cafes or restaurants and hardwire the great experiences into your brain to take home and treasure for a long time after. Once you’ve had a good look around the Residence head back toward the Main across the Altstadt and have a taste of the local and imported food culture in one of the many street side cafes and restaurants. Once again, your local guide will be able to guide you to your choice of dining experience.

NachtwaechterOne thing you might enjoy afterwards is taking a guided tour at night with a local historic character, The Würzburg Night Guard, or one of his friends the Schorsch, Marktbärbel or the Häcker Karl. Dressed up in period costumes, they will let you in on the local gossip and family scandals of their times. Created in 1995 by Wolgang Mainka, a lawyer and art historian, him and his friends aim to bring history to the people in an entertaining, sometimes light-hearted way, encouraging and fostering interests in history and sociology.

We hope you enjoyed your tour and look forward to hearing your thoughts and maybe even see some photographs.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

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Summer up North!

strand bei nacht (2)As we huddle around the fireplace, some lucky ones are packing their bags and heading to the sunny climes of the northern hemisphere. With festivals gearing up and the weather looking to settle in the upper regions of the temperature gauge, let’s have a look at what other travel aficionados think about traveling to Germany.

Germany roxx

1280px-Allgaeuer_Alpen_Panorama_1As far the online magazine uproxx is concerned, this certainly applies to Germany: it rocks. Everything a travellers’ heart could desire, like seasonal food, locally made drink, variety of geographical features (meaning stunning landscapes as illustrated by the images), ease of transportation across the country and of course the people and their festivals throughout the country and the year. And if their general photos and description didn’t get your appetite going, have a look at an article on my hometown Cologne.

Cologne, the hub of activity

And on a current note and about one of our travel destinations, the infamous chef Anthony Bourdain is travelling the world in his Parts Unknown series (for CNN) and just last week his visit to Cologne aired. Anyone who knows Bourdain knows that he doesn’t mince words when passing judgment. I was relieved to read that he had thoroughly enjoyed his stay there!

Koeln - Rheinpanorama bei Nacht

In the accompanying article on the city, the writers find it much more attractive than the much hyped Berlin. Firstly, its location makes it a great base for discovering other European cities within short train or car travel. Secondly, one other item I will mention here is Koelsch, a light lager-style beer, that has been granted protected geographical indication in 1997. It’s an essential food item and often referred to as liquid bread, one glass being the equivalent of a bread roll. And as such it is continuously served, unless one declares to have had enough. But could one ever?!

For the rest, written in a rather deprecating and entertaining style (as perceived by someone from Cologne and not from Berlin) follow the link.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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‘Official’ start of Summer in Germany

Last weekend the Christian communities all over the world celebrated Pentecost. In the Christian liturgy the event is commemorated as the “Birthday of the Church”. In a lot of western countries – even though they are secular societies nowadays – Whit Monday is a public holiday and is mostly celebrated as the definitive start of spring and summer coming.800px-St.Peter_und_Paul_in_Söll_-_Heilig-Geist-Loch

 

Celebrations

Interestingly enough, both church and secular celebrations involved lots of loud singing and playing of brass instruments! While the hymns in the church celebrations had the Holy Spirit and its enlightenment of the apostles and the people as a topic, the secular ones were a bit more pagan oriented invoking a fertile spring and summer. While you’re traveling Germany and visiting churches you might want to be on the lookout for the “Holy-ghost-holes” in the ceilings of some churches from the Middle Ages. These holes symbolized the entrance of the Holy Spirit into the midst of the parishioners. During the Pentecost these holes are decorated with flowers, red handkerchiefs or dove sculptures.

Kuh beim Almabtrieb

 

Holiday specialities

Part of the celebrations were the leading out of the cows to the pastures for summer grazing. The leading ox was extensively decorated with flower wreaths and in the olden days butchered for the festivities. piepmc3a4tze-zu-pfingsten-11Doves are the image most referenced and in some regions you will find roasted pigeons or ox on the menu. Some bakeries might also have a traditional yeast bread in the shape of a dove. Look for a “Wecken” or “Hefezopf” on the shelves.

 

 

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

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It’s the weekend!

1200px-Cologne_-_Panoramic_Image_of_the_old_town_at_dusk

By Ahgee – Own work

 

And you’re spoilt for choice! A quick look at the event calendar for Saturday the 4th of June shows a good range of events lined up.

If your heart is set on checking out one or two of the amazing museums, you will have to discuss that with your guides, as most museums close on a Saturday at 5 or 6pm. Have a look at this overview – in English! – and get lost in modern and classical art, architecture, science, history, Carnival and everything else that has been part of our culture.

After the guided tour you will have a pretty good idea of the colourful history of the city and will look forward to discovering what the locals do after work. Depending on what your local guide has in mind, you might be able to check out some of the other activities as well.

 

Cologne Guitar Night

cologne guitar nightThe Cologne Guitar Night is held at the Rheinische Musikschule Köln which was founded in 1845 after the example of the Conservatoire de Paris. The school takes pride in delivering a great foundation in all traditional aspects of music appreciation as well as encouraging pushing boundaries and creating exciting and stimulating modern music. A perfect example for that is the guitar night, breaking down boundaries between old, classical guitar playing and juxtaposing or re-interpreting it within modern compositions. The five acts for Saturday night cover Latin Jazz Classic, Baroque and New music, World music with Sitar and piano, Venezuelan guitar and electric rock guitar and more from Belarus!

 

Being Refugee

being refugee2

Photos by hartmutschneider.de

This photographic exhibition is at the Mediapark and open til 6pm and is a chance to see how refugees in Germany see and record their lives and conditions in the refugee camps. While we are more than conscious of the often heart-breaking images in the main stream media of the refugees, one rarely gets to see into the inside of the camps and their minds. How do they see themselves in their new environment? How do they find a sense of belonging and understanding in a country whose language most have to learn from scratch? The initiative to let them document their lives has led to further projects, all aiming for greater understanding and support of each other. For current updates on all activities go and check their Facebook page out.

 

 

Echoes of Utopia – dance and politics

Das Echo der UtopienA different kind of exhibition that is open for viewing til 7pm, also at the Mediapark and curated by the Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln. The German Dancearchive was conceived in 1873 in Berlin. After its destruction during WWII a new beginning was made in 1948 and in 1985 the archives were purchased by an arts trust of the Cologne municipal savings bank.  Today the archives do more than just document the history of dance, they are also a center for information exchange and research into classical and modern dance. In that capacity, this exhibition explores the connection between dance and politics, demonstrating that dance is more than ‘just’ for fun and pleasure. Through photographs, choreography drawings and videos you will be able to understand how dance is created, perceived and used as a physical tool to communicate a range of messages throughout time.

Hope you enjoy your time in my home town and do tell me what impressed you most!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

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Current activities

Koblenz GartenkulturFor the start of our tour in Saarbrücken we had some interesting suggestions of what else to see and explore there while enjoying a bit of spare time. We thought you might be interested to see what is on offer at the other end of the tour. Whether you’re spending an extra day here in Koblenz before joining us on the Rhine and Romans Tour or just killing some time before heading to other destinations, we found a few interesting things to do on 29th and 31st of May 2016.

Gardens that live

Bonsai KoblenzIn 2011 Koblenz hosted the BuGa and developed the motto that inspires its annual art, cultural and horticultural activities, “Koblenzer Gartenkultur”. For the last weekend in May there’s a couple of interesting things happening around the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress: throughout Sunday the local Tai Chi, Qigong and meditation groups have workshops and presentations throughout the day. To complement the Asian topic, the local bonsai club will have a display at the castle and you can find out all the nitty gritty details about this fascinating horticultural hobby.

Foreign shores

James-Webb_Ansicht-von-Ehrenbreitstein_1880_Öl-auf-Leinwand_M1990_1

James Webb: Ansicht von Ehrenbreitstein, 1880

If you’re more inclined to amble amongst artefacts, check out the city’s museum web site, in English! Lots to see and what got my attention was an exhibition titled “Are any British here?” An exhibition of the creative output by numerous British artists who visited the Rhine and Moselle valleys in the 18th and 19th century. The exhibition is at the Mittelrhein Museum, which unfortunately is not open on Mondays, so you might have to stay a day longer?! If not, there is one covering the history of military engineering in Germany or enjoy a guided tour through the local wine and sparkling wine maker cellar Deinhard. Monday seems to be the day-off for most other museums in Koblenz at the moment, so if you want to explore the culture and history you might need to stay for Tuesday as well. Unless of course you’re back on the road on Monday, discovering all about the Rhine and the Romans with our local tour guides.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Early start in Saarbrücken

Congratulations: you’ve decided to join us on our cycle trip along the Saar and Moselle this May and have arrived a day or two early in Saarbrücken. What an excellent opportunity to discover what the locals do on their weekends. As Germany is now well on its way into summer, a lot of outdoor activities are happening around the city. Check out some of the samples we have collated for you for the weekend of the 21st and 22nd  of May 2016.

Markets and other entertainment

Wochenmarkt SaarbrueckenSaturday is THE day to go to a farmers market and within a 3km radius of the city centre you can find three that sell local produce and crafty stuff. But mainly food: fresh fruit and veges, breads and cakes and everything else your palate can imagine. As it would have been in the good old days, usually these market are situated around a local church and you will find one at the Ludwigskirche and Sankt Johann. While you will be going on a guided city tour on Sunday, you might think about going on a boat trip on Saturday: whether just a short trip around the city area or even on a trip to France, have a look at one of the local transport companies’ booklets to get an idea. In the evenings the city has a variety of entertainment on offer as well: the local clubs present an eclectic mix of Oldies to modern pop music, theatres have productions of the Elephant Man, The Little Mermaid and modern dance/ballet from Czechoslovakia.

Museums and open days

640px-BobbycarAn interesting item on this weekend is the open day at one of the local fire brigades and the 4th anniversary of the youth section there. Not only will you be able to have a look at a German fire station, but can watch a Bobby car race there. Kind of like the Jaffa race down Baldwin street in Dunedin but on a kids toy, the Bobby car. If you prefer your entertainment a bit quieter, the local museums can give you plentiful insights into the local history, arts and crafts. A look on the city’s web site could make it easy, except there’s so much to see and so little time. Pick wisely or book a couple of days more and enjoy the sights and events around Saarbrücken at your leisure.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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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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