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Archive for the ‘Sidetracks’ Category

mittelalter-schatz-in-beelitzer-spargelfeld-entdeckt-image--2-image_620x349Seasonal delicacy

As of this week, the official asparagus season has come to an end. You will hear a lot of sighing and moaning about the fact, but ultimately it means that from now, every asparagus lover has something to look forward to again for next spring. The self-imposed cut-off date for harvesting asparagus has very practical reasons: cultivation is a long-term commitment and harvesting the perennial plant too long will make for a smaller harvest in the following year. Thus for a couple of months from April through to June each year most Germans will partake in a kind of feeding frenzy one normally only associates with piranhas. Joking! But they do take their asparagus very serious.

Regional pride

pargel-mit-gekochtem-Schinken-und-neuen-Kartoffeln-aeaf985292c54244bc463951383311d8_et2014050161As can be expected, each region in Germany has its own favourite way of preparing and consuming the white gold. If you’re interested, this German cooking site has compiled a list of some regional representative recipes for white asparagus. And I even found an English one, that presents regional food from Rhineland- Westphalia and Hesse. Even though it might be a bit hard to track it down here in New Zealand, one can find them. By word-of-mouth, as the limited supply gets quickly snapped up. Send us a message if you’d like to try it yourself. For now, to get your taste buds tempted, The Classic Recipe.

White asparagus with fresh boiled potatoes, cooked ham and Hollandaise sauce

Enjoy with your favourite wine!

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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Ready-steady-go

One more week to go and we’re off on our first cycle tour of the season! For seven days you will get to enjoy unparalleled romantic river and valley views while whizzing along sophisticated cycle ways joining them all up. Along the Saar and Moselle we’ve got a great selection of World Heritage sites, lifestyle experiences and a bit of history lined up.

Cycling paradise

9054251_origNew Zealand cycling enthusiasts can look forward to Germany’s extensive and well-maintained cycle road network: usually separated lanes with smooth surfaces linking suburbs and small towns, even in most cities one can travel without a worry and enjoy the sights. Even though it does pay to keep an eye out for the traffic when you do have to join it, remember: it’s the other side! The Right side! Follow your guides and you will be fine.

Rheinradweg, Loreleyblick

Rheinradweg, Loreleyblick

But, on the note of cycle ways: at the end of last year the first 5 km section of a cycle-highway was opened in the Ruhr region. A densely populated industrial area, home to various old and new industries and universities, it is planning to use abandoned railway tracks to create a car-free network for cyclists to use. Ultimately it will cover around 100kms of the region and long-term connect to other networks being created throughout Germany like in Munich and Cologne for example.

moselle-cycling-holidaysAlready along the major tourist routes local councils have improved the cycle ways to facilitate greater use by tourists and locals alike. These will be our major means of discovering the hidden treasures of the Saar and Moselle valleys. Wishing our guests good weather and lots of fun for their trip!

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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Soaking it up Roman Style

asterixgladiator432As some of you might know from history lessons or Asterix and Obelix comics, the Romans LOVED to have a good soak. They not only spent their time in the baths getting cleaned up or plotting a revolt against the current head of state, but also conducted business meetings, participated in sports activities or got the full spa treatment ( manicure, pedicure, massage, hair removal: they’ve done it all). As a result they built baths wherever they went/invaded. And some places proved to become such thriving cities, that one bath was not enough to cater for the whole of the population. 1024px-Augusta_Treverorum_StadtplanAs in Trier, where over the course of a century three baths were built. The Imperial Baths – which are on the guided tour – were the last to be started at the end of the 3rd century AD and were intended to be the grandest of the time and for the general public to use. But, some scientist believe they were never finished (or only on such a small scale that they were only of limited use) due to changes in the political arena.

Imperial Baths

Trier_Kaiserthermen_BW_4All the baths show a sophisticated use of underfloor heating, water heating systems and the use of solar heating. A classic roman bath had a range of baths and steam rooms, that served very distinct purposes. The size of a bath complex determined how many rooms it had and this site has a good description of the basic set-up – tepidarium, caldarium and frigidarium – and other interesting details about Roman baths in general.

Around 375 AD the baths were re-purposed by Caesar Gratian into barracks. Some major buildings were demolished at the time and the rubble used to fill in other parts that hadn’t been finished or were of no use to them. Thus the restructuring began which meant that centuries later excavations for an underground parking lot uncovered the unknown ruins of the oldest and forgotten Forum Baths.

312px-Trier_Kaiserthermen_BW_2After the Romans left the region the baths suffered the same fate as many other structures from the time: they were dismantled and recycled in new buildings in the city. The guided tour will explain in detail not only how the structure and waterworks were designed, but also how the different parts were re-purposed by churches, schools and nobility. The family names of some of the nobility at the time reflect the parts of the old structure they had acquired: de Castello (obviously the Castle), de Palatio (the palace area) and de Horreo (lat. Horrea for granary/storehouse) for example.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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From heavy industry to romantic nature

teaser__74_75a_Blick-auf-die-Saarschleife-von-der-Cloef_-Mettlach_Orscholz_300x200Once we’ve climbed down the furnaces of the Völklinger Hütte we continue on our journey along the Saar. The well laid-out cycle paths lead us to the famous Saarschleife, the spot where a few hundred million years ago the river decided to make a detour and created this stunning display. The river valley has existed for over 350 Million years, but it has been a tourist attraction for only the past 170 years! The loop can be best viewed from The Cloef, a cliff formation overlooking the river at the center of the loop. Once we’ve parked the bikes, we’ll go on a hike up to get a better view from the top.

Romanticism and travelling

1200px-Saarschleife_HDREven though the loop itself might not have found its way into a famous painting, it had caught Friedrich Wilhelm IV’s eye during his travels in 1839 as the crown prince. In view of a possible visit to the nearby village of Orscholz, dignitaries decided a major upgrade of the paths and fortification of the viewing platform was required. Despite some local opposition – mainly from a landowner who didn’t want to give up part of his forest – the viewing platform, a pavilion with a mosaic ( donated by one of the founders of Villeroy& Boch) and a sandstone table (donated by the local castle owner Johann Baptist de Musiel) were ready for the monarch for his visit in 1856.

Modern appeal

As the tourists kept coming in larger and larger numbers after the Royals’ visit, it was easier for the councils to release funds for the repairs and upgrades required. As times and tastes have changed, the design of the original small viewing platform has undergone a huge transformation, making it a modern architecturally interesting site as well. As throughout the decades up to the present the Cloef has proven to be a magical attraction for artists and nature lovers  we hope you will enjoy it too.

„2011-07-23-Atrium“ von Thomas Johannes - Eigenes Werk. Lizenziert unter CC BY-SA 3.0 über Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2011-07-23-Atrium.jpg#/media/File:2011-07-23-Atrium.jpg

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

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Baroque church design

ludwigskirche-102f90fb-bd4b-4a1e-9b85-fc5da0bc8b29

756px-Ludwigsplatz1.svgOn a visit to Saarbrücken you should go and have a look at the Ludwigskirche in the center of town. It is one of three of the most relevant Protestant churches in Germany. It was designed by Friedrich Joachim Stengel and consecrated in 1775. In line with the traditional baroque design of a ‘complete work of art’, the design not only focused on the church itself, but included the surrounding Ludwig’s Square as well. The map illustrates the plans for the surrounding buildings even though not all were completed.

Restoration

1920px-LudwigskircheDuring a bombing in October 1944 the church sustained such major damage that only the surrounding walls remained. Even though rebuilding started in 1949, because of fierce discussions until the 70’s it isn’t finished yet. The discussions were about whether or not to restore the original baroque designs or just keep the exterior and create a modern interior. Eventually the traditionalists succeeded and most of the interior is now finished. Now they just have to decide whether to paint the exterior the original white – which would require regular cleaning and repainting – or not. Also some exterior balustrade figures are still not replaced, but it is nonetheless well worth a visit!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Starting your tour in Saarbrücken

Our Saar Moselle Bike Trail starts in Saarbrücken, a city with beginnings in Roman Times and an eventful history since then. For those of you having arrived early for the tour you will be spoilt for choice where to go for sightseeing.1024px-Schloss_Saarbruecken,_HDR

History on display

Even though the area was only sparsely populated during the roman occupation, there are a couple of sites worthwhile discovering: the Mithras Temple near Halberg and the Museum of Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology in the city. If you’re more interested in ‘modern’ history the “Saarlandmuseum’ combines three localities and displays a range of art and architecture throughout the past 5 centuries. And the Heimatmuseum in St.Arnual gives you an insight into the local history from a socio-economic perspective.1280px-Mithrasgrotte_Halberg_Saarbruecken

These are just a few of the museums in Saarbrücken, depending on how much time or inclination you have you can spend all day sightseeing. Or you could enjoy the multi-faceted food culture present in the city.

The Best of two nations

Due to its location, Saarbrücken has been a part of the German and French states at some time or another in its history. In fact, the last time that it was affiliated to France was from 1947 – 57 as part of the zoning of post-war Germany. A 1955 referendum resulted in the return in 57, which was called a ‘little reunification’. Since then the settled times have encouraged the development of regional cuisines that reflect both the German and French heritage and love for food. In the city center you will find loads of restaurants catering for every aspect of food culture, with one thing in common: the typical French love for enjoyment of it. On top of other French classics as snails, pate and an assortment pre-dinner drinks like pastis and kir of course! Or try one of the local specialities: Dibbellabbes! And no, I did not make that up. It’s kind of a hash brown, usually served with Sauerkraut.dibbellabbes

Get into the spirit…

… and enjoy the proximity of ancient history with the amalgamation of two nation’s food history before we head out to discover more wonders and pleasures along our trip.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Cruising through Germany on two wheels

As you might remember from some of our previous articles, discovering Germany with us will at some stage involve a bicycle. At Sidetracks we think a bike is an excellent way of covering a decent distance and still having the leisure to enjoy your surroundings, town and country alike. So for the next season in Germany we have put together three exciting bike tours that will take you through different parts of Germany and can be combined with our other tours. These tours will not only keep you fit cycling, but take you on a ride discovering Germany’s history, culture and traditions. Today I want to introduce the tours and the regions they cover in general and in the following weeks we will present to you some of the highlights of these tours.

Main River Bike Trail

"Roter Main (Bayreuth)" by Tafkas - Own work.

“Roter Main (Bayreuth)” by Tafkas – Own work.

This 5 star trail will take you through picturesque towns of the Main valley starting in the festival town of Bayreuth and finishing in Würzburg, a UNESCO world heritage city which dates as far back as the 4th century. Along the river you will get to see other stunning examples of architecture throughout the centuries and experience a variety of local cuisine, wines and beers as we move from traditional beer brewing country to wine growing region.

Saar Moselle Bike Trail

Saarschleife by Niesefrosch Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwikiFileSaarschleife.jpg#mediaFileSaarschleife.jpg

Saarschleife by Niesefrosch

This is a wine lovers’ kind-of trail: along two rivers famous for their wine growing and wine making history we will take you on a journey through time. From the UNESCO heritage site (Völklinger Hütte) to breath taking views from mountain tops (Saar Loop), a medieval castle (Burg Eltz) and to the Villas and Baths from Roman times (Porta Nigra, Villa Rustics and Imperial Baths). By the end of the trip you will have enjoyed more than your share of art, architecture and history on top of having a taste of the renowned wines of this region.

Weser River Bike Trail

599px-Minden_an_der_Weser-FachwerkhäuserAlmost smack-bang in the middle of Germany this tour takes you through a region rich in history and stories. Along the river Weser you will get to see buildings dating from the Romans (Porta Westfalica) through the Middle Ages to the Baroque Period, all set in small rural towns and all with different characters. From porcelain manufacturing to perfume making to the birthplaces of some truly unique characters of German folklore. One special feature of our ride will be discovering the huge range of half-timbered houses prevalent in this area. By the end of the tour you will have gained an interesting insight into middle German history and culture.

Last comment…

…for today that is: as electric bikes are becoming increasingly more popular, we will be offering the use of those on our tours as well. All the tours are quite easily manageable with ‘normal’ bikes, but if you would like to, you can experience the difference for an additional charge. Please get in contact with us if you’d like to know more about electric bikes or our tours.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More Lifeswap culture news

It’s been over a year since we introduced you to the lovely guys from Lifeswap: ‘Jörg’ and ‘Duncan’. From explaining the German obsession for recycling to giving tips on how to deal with confrontations in a kiwi flat they have moved onto explaining more intriguing details of living in Germany and New Zealand. They have now six episodes on their Vimeo channel and if you’re not following them on Facebook you should keep an eye on their web page. Not only will you find out about the latest short films regarding the boys’ adventures, but also discover their other projects.Augsburger-Puppenkiste-feiert-60-Jahre-im-Fernsehen_ArtikelQuer

Last year for example they were working on a theatre production in Wellington’s Circa theatre, using old fashioned string puppets. Looking at the photos I immediately felt a nostalgia wave rushing over me, as the marionettes heavily resembled the ones I used to watch on TV as a young child in Germany: Augsburger Puppenkiste. I am very pleased to see these old story-telling techniques used again and a new audience gained and wonder what they’ll be doing this year.

Enjoy their third video, appropriate for this time of the year:

The Winter Deniers

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

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