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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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Bernkastel-Kues

800px-Bernkastel_BW_1This particular area along the Moselle had been populated since the 3rd millennia BC, but the present day city was created when the two communities of Bernkastel and Kues were joined. Even though archaeological finds support the idea that it had been a Roman castellum, documentation is scarce. On the other hand you will find plenty of proof that you’re still in a major wine growing area. Amongst the buildings dating from Medieval times to the Renaissance you will find little cafes and restaurants offering locally produced food and wine. The market place will be the ideal spot to take it all in.

Berncasteler Doctor

Bernkastel_WeinbergAs you stroll around town you might come across the term Bernc(k)asteler Doctor, a wine you should try if you can, even if you’re not feeling ill. According to a legend in the 14th century the Prince Elector of Trier Boemund II became violently ill and none of his doctors could help him. Eventually he sent out a message that anyone who could would be rewarded. An old vintner came with an old barrel of wine and after a few weeks of ‘moderate’ consumption he recuperated. Thus the vintner was given the right from now on to label his wine as Berncasteler Doctor, giving it an elevated status from the rest of the wines of the region.

Bernkastel DoctorEven though the origin of the name is the stuff of legends, it is fact that King Edward VII drank it for ‘medicinal’ purposes! Another fact is, that the Riesling produced at this Einzellage (The smallest geographical unit in German wine law representing a single vineyard.) has been consistently esteemed to be of the highest quality; making the vineyard one of the most famous and most expensive wine growing location in the world. Mind you, that was all in the beginning of the 21st century, I would guess that in the meantime others have moved into that spot.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Wine tasting along the Moselle

Panorama_neumagen_dhronI wonder if the Romans had known two millennia ago the hype their occupation of Europe would create and places vying for the titles of the oldest place on record for winemaking, sausage selling or lead casting, if they would have been a bit more meticulous about their record keeping?! 1280px-Neumagener_WeinschiffToday’s place of interest is one these: Neumagen-Dhron laying claim to being the oldest winemaking village in Germany. The Roman settlement Noviomagus Treverorum ( Latin for “new market of the Treviri”) was destroyed by Germanic tribes around 200AD. Several archaeological finds from the region can be viewed at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier, in particular the famous Neumagen Wine Ship, replicas of which can be seen in several places around the region.

Neumagen Wine Ship

1280px-Nachbau_Neumagener-WeinschiffThis elaborate tomb was for a roman wine dealer from the period of the first settlement around 200 AD. Specialists have been able to ascertain that the particular design of the boat and the wine barrels meant it was transporting a locally produced wine to be sold at distant markets. This find – supported by others – form the base of the claim of being the oldest wine making village in Germany. The relevance to the region was recognized and honoured in 2007 by the local Chamber of Crafts having a real-life replica crafted by its apprentices. The working ship is well and truly seaworthy and can be hired. It is powered either by two 55 HP diesel engines or rowed by actual man and woman power!

Hub of wine growing region

moselle-valleyAlong the Moselle River approximately 9000 hectares are planted with grapes, which makes the Neumagen-Dhron region with its 247 hectares the fifth largest community along the river. The Moselle river wine growing region is subdivided into 6 regions. The area along the Saar river is part of the Upper Moselle region, the produce of which you were able to savour while travelling from Saarbrücken. As you approach Neumagen-Dhron you’re in the Bernkastel-Kues region, the Middle Moselle. While we stop for a break in Neumagen-Dhron you will have ample opportunity to taste the local wines and discover the subtle differences between individual vineyards and cooperatives. In another article we will talk about some of these individual ones and try to prepare your taste buds.

Author: Petra-Alsbach-Stevens

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Country Living – Roman Style

Today’s trip will take you to one of the larger country estates in the area around Trier built from the 2nd to the 4th century AD: the Villa Rustica. This is a general term for a countryside villa and usually was the residence of the landowner as well as the farm management centre. While the individual design depended on the vision of the owner and the architect, it usually contained certain components: the main living area for the landowner, living quarters for the workers, slaves and animals and the storage areas for the farms’ produce. Usually they had plumbed bathing facilities and under-floor heating! The wealth of the owner was apparent in the use of mosaics throughout the villa and the number of rooms it ultimately comprised.

‘Humble’ beginnings

1280px-Villa_Rustica_in_MehringInitially this villa was planned to cover a floor area of 28 by 23 meters with two corner Risalites joined by a columned hall. By the time it was finished – a couple of centuries later – it covered an area of 48 by 29 meters and had 34 rooms. A multi-coloured floor mosaic and a black marble wall panelling indicate the owner was of very high social standing and of considerable wealth. Careful restoration in the 19th and 20th century made it possible now to get a glimpse of what it was like living a well-to-do life then.

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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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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Historic warehouses and offices in Hamburg protected

"Chilehaus Hamburg 2013" by Sebastian Warneke - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chilehaus_Hamburg_2013.jpg#/media/File:Chilehaus_Hamburg_2013.jpg

Chilehaus Hamburg 2013 by Sebastian Warneke

We are proud to announce that another destination on our tour ‘Cosmopolitan North’ has been declared worth protecting and became a UNESCO world heritage site. The distinct brick warehouses and offices along the canals and inner city of Hamburg’s ‘Speicherstadt’, ‘Kontorhausviertel’ and ‘Chilehaus’ have been deemed relevant as symbols of the rapid international growth of trade of the 19th and 20th century. In earlier articles we have already introduced other items of interest in Hamburg, here’s a bit more about the ‘Speicherstadt’ now.

Money talks, even then!

Unicode

To be able to accommodate the need for more storage and processing space in the harbour, over 20.000 people had to be relocated and over a 1000 buildings levelled before building on the new warehouses and office blocks could begin in 1883. Workers and labourers found new homes in the new high rises in Barmbek and Hammerbrook, while other home owners converted their summer batches along the Alster or Elbe into the main family homes.

Bricks, bricks and some more bricks

"Chilehaus (Hamburg-Altstadt).Detail.5.ajb" by Bild: © Ajepbah / Wikimedia Commons /. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chilehaus_(Hamburg-Altstadt).Detail.5.ajb.jpg#/media/File:Chilehaus_(Hamburg-Altstadt).Detail.5.ajb.jpg

Chilehaus (Hamburg-Altstadt).Detail.5 by Ajepbah

From a New Zealand perspective these buildings must seem utterly incongruous: as far as the eye can see beautiful dark red brick buildings with ornate fronts and highly detailed and decorated rooflines. An earthquake conscious engineers’ nightmare! Their designs are classic examples of Gothic Revival architecture and as such represent the revived mercantile attitudes of the entrepreneurial Middle Ages. Show of wealth was in, so bigger, taller and prettier was the motto of the day for the architects. Photos can give you only a limited impression of these distinct buildings, so come and join us on our two tours discovering the mercantile and architectural history of Germany’s northern cities.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

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Beltain – Labour day – Walpurgis night

Throughout the world the first day of May is being celebrated for a variety of reasons. Some celebrate the political significance for the labourers and workers of the world, others the beginning of spring and small groups of unmarried men take the opportunity to declare their intentions!

Political celebrations

In the late 19th century the labour and trade unions gained more power and relevance and the political parties decided to mark a day to celebrate their achievements. While most of the world’s nations celebrate International Worker’s day on the First of May, Canada and the US continue to celebrate it in September. But throughout the States in smaller and larger communities you can find unofficial celebrations in support of universal traditions.

Spiritual celebrations

Edinburgh_Beltane_Fire_Festival_2012_-_BonfireIn the northern hemisphere May is the first month that one can feel that winter is receding and spring settling in. So from a very early time 0n that period has been celebrated to welcome new life. The activities range from having huge bonfires to drive out the last remnants of winter to leaving small food and drink offerings at sacred places and raising maypoles in the village square.

Have it all in Germany!

616px-Near_Munich,_the_new_May_PoleIf you happen to be in Germany for May Day, try to get there the night before and stay in one of the southern towns to witness a traditional Walpurgisnacht with the witches’ costumes, bonfires and feasting! The next day you can either watch the political parades organized by the local unions or follow a parade to erect a maypole in the village square. The more steeped in tradition the town is, the more festivities you will encounter: in the village I grew up in for example – with all of its 200 inhabitants – the setting up of the maypole was the start of our annual “Kirmes” (fun fair) with rides, beer tent and other fairground attractions. And if you happen to be a single female staying with friends, you might be lucky and have a smaller maypole (3 – 6m) set up in front of your bedroom window by one of the village’s single men! Even though the origin of this tradition is disputed and not documented at all, rural villages and their young folk participate quite eagerly in it.480px-Maibaum_mit_Hund_(14369261966)

See you on the other side

As New Zealand is getting ready for another winter by stacking up the firewood and digging out the woollen jerseys why not contemplate going back to summer?! Flights are still reasonably cheap and we would love to help you sorting out a trip through Germany, helping you to discover it the traditional Sidetracks way – off the beaten track.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Fastenzeit – Lent

Wolfach_FastnachtAs Germany quietens down after the raucous antics of Karneval those following the religious traditions are preparing themselves for Easter by observing the rules of Lent. Another German word for Karneval “Fastnacht” gives us a hint to its historical and religious background: Fast(ing) Night. The night or nights before the fast! It seems to be in human nature to indulge oneself in limitless debauchery and excess before restricting one’s lifestyle for a certain amount of time.

In general a fast is intended to draw one’s spirit closer to God and gain clearer insight and faith. Even though the term is mainly used in the Christian context, other faiths practice it too (Ramadan [Islam], Baha’I Faith [month of ‘Ala] and Judaism [on Yom Kippur day e.g.] to name a few).

Scrummy fasting meals

While all these religions have different rules for the fast, they have one thing in common: staying away from animal products, especially red meat. For some molluscs and fish are acceptable, but most will recommend vegetable and fruit based recipes. As Germany and the northern hemisphere are still in the grip of winter, most of the dishes are hearty, warming ones.

Rezept "Miesmuscheln Rheinische Art"But I remembered a well-loved classic that could be a nice one to try during summer time here: ‘Muscheln auf Rheinische Art’, mussles Rhine style. In Germany ‘Miesmuscheln’ are the preferred variety, due to their bite size. But I would guess any bite sized mussel or shellfish would do for this recipe.

For four adults as a main:

Ingredients

1kg fresh mussels ( less if Greenlipped ones are used)

1 leek (white part sliced in thin rings)

½ celeriac (diced, you can substitute celery if you can’t find celeriac)

1medium onion (finely diced)

2 medium carrots (finely diced)

1 garlic clove crushed

1 bay leaf

2 whole cloves

Salt and pepper to taste

1 bottle of dry Riesling or cab sav (alternatively use 700ml vegetable broth)

Butter

2 baguette sticks

Method:

Sautee carrot, onion, celeriac and leek in butter until soft.

Add fluid, bay leaf and cloves and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Bring to boil and add cleaned mussels. Mussels NEED to be closed before cooking, they should open during cooking. Discard any that haven’t.

Take of the boil once most are open. Serve with some of the broth and the vegetables and use the baguette to mop up all the yummy flavours!

This definitely qualifies as finger food and you should try using the first set of cleaned shells still attached to each other as a set of tongs for getting the flesh out of the others.

cremige_brokkolisuppe_mit_kaeseFor the vegetarian palate:

Creamed Broccoli Soup

Ingredients:

For four adults as mains:

2 medium/ 1 large broccoli

6 medium potatoes

½ small onion diced

1/3 cup pine nuts

1 tbsp sour cream or ¼ cup of whole milk

Grated parmesan and salt&pepper to taste

Method:

Peel and slice potatoes, trim stems of dried up ends and cut into chunks, dice onion.

Place all in saucepan with enough salted (1tbsp) water to cover and bring to boil.

Cook until potatoes are falling apart and broccoli is softish. Don’t cook it too long, it will lose its colour.

Place the pine nuts with a bit of the stock and some veges in the blender and zap until smooth and silky. Decant into another saucepan and continue to blend the rest of the stock and veges. If you prefer the soup a bit more chunky, zap less. Add the sour cream OR milk and give a good stir and a quick reheat.

Serve with fresh bread, some grated parmesan and fresh ground pepper.

Hope you enjoy these little treats and if you’d like to find out more about Germany and its history and traditions join us on one of our tours. Let us know what you want to discover and we will put you on the right track.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Holidays are over

The beginning of February heralded the start of the new school term with almost everyone going back to work. The holidays lounging at the beach or hiking in the mountains are over and what better way to ease yourself back into the work routine by starting to plan your winter getaway?!

Economy in favour of traveling

Looking at the local business news might make one depressed about the kiwi dollar’s behaviour on the international market. But for those planning an overseas holiday it is great news. With the current rate it is cheaper to go to the northern hemisphere than it has been for quite some time. Add to that the falling oil price and some drops in ticket prices on top of the favourable exchange rate and suddenly going to Europe is not such an impossible feat to plan.Allgaeuer_Alpen_Panorama_1

Early birds benefit

One aspect hasn’t changed, the earlier one books the flights the bigger the savings. A survey found the biggest savings for international flights were achieved around 200 days in advance. That’s roughly six to seven months! Time to get surfing on the internet. A range of online search engines like Expedia and skyscanner for example can give you a good idea of what’s available at the moment. Or check out the airlines directly.

Germany beckons

906__140619_0007214_loNew Zealand is very attractive to German expats and as they come and make it their new home, they bring their food culture with them. Nowadays you’ll be able to taste some of the traditional foods at farmers markets and supermarkets. Not to mention the range of beers and cakes. But one thing you won’t be able to get a taste of at the supermarket is the land- and cityscapes of Germany. The unique combination of millennia old history and modern lifestyle needs to be experienced in person to be believed. Why don’t you browse through our blog and get an inkling what it would be like in real life.

Advantage of experience

Reichstag at nightWe take a lot of pride in organising our tours around Germany down to the last detail and giving you an experience to treasure for a long time afterwards. Customer satisfaction is our priority and we’re flexible enough to accommodate individual preferences. Sidetracks has been in the business for a considerable time during which we have gained insight and contacts that do not directly relate to our tours, but can be of benefit for our customers. Send us a note, give us a call and let us help you make the most of your time in Germany and Europe.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

 

 

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