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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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City highlights caught on video

Winter has definitely started in New Zealand, making a holiday in Europe much more appealing. To give you a little idea of what life’s like in the north here are some time lapse videos from a few of the cities that can be explored on our Rhine and Romans tour.

And here are Koblenz, Cologne and Aachen for your viewing pleasure.

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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At your service

Having been the hub of political and religious power for 6 centuries and home-away-from-home to numerous royals, Aachen had developed an abundant arts and entertainment culture. It had its ups and downs throughout these times, but today you can enjoy an unbelievable range of concerts, exhibitions and events. Looking at the event schedule for your day here – Sunday, 5th of June – a dozen or so concerts covering several styles and epochs, an opera and several plays are on offer on top of the usual guided tours through the historic landmarks of the city. For those of you interested in more after your guided tours, I’d like to introduce a few other activities.

Couven Museum

900px-Aachen_Couven_Museum_NW_aspectThe Couven Museum is centrally situated between the cathedral and the old city hall and is dedicated to showing what the middle classes of the Rococo (18th century)  through to the Biedermeier (up to mid-19th century)  lived like. They have several rooms decorated in the appropriate styles and display interesting details of everyday living.

IZM (Internationales Zeitungsmuseum) – Media Museum

schubladen_600The Media Museum is a great place to observe how radically the media landscape has changed since it first started. Taking you from stone tablets and the Stone Age through to visions of a holographic future, you are welcome to discover the development and relevance of the different media, how freedom of speech has pushed forward or pulled back politics and societies. They also offer workshops on all sorts of topics like publishing a school newsletter to learning how to use your digital camera most effectively, but unfortunately not on the weekends. If you have a look through their Facebook photo folder, you can get an idea how they work to educate and encourage constructive participation in modern communication and media.

Salsa: the dance, not the condiment

1200px-Elisenbrunnen_PanoramaHow about shaking loose and joining a group of music and dance lovers at the Elisenbrunnen and enjoy the vivacious beats of Salsa music?! On a fortnightly base dances are organized for the general public at the sheltered space of the Elisenbrunnen. If you’re worried it’ll all be strictly ballroom dancing have a look at the videos on the organizers’ web site: all amateurs just enjoying themselves!

Hope you enjoyed your Rhine and Romans tour with us, we’d love to hear back from you!

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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Explosion of colours

Fons vD2Once you’ve returned to Kalkar after your day trips discovering all about the Rhine and Romans in this area you might want to have a quick look at a current exhibition at the Beginenhof: “Explosion der Farben – Fons van Dommelen”. It is on the way to the Ratskeller, where you can enjoy your well-earned dinner afterwards.

Fons vD1The Dutch artist Fons van Dommelen has a distinct style using strong colours and sharp lines in his paintings and sculptures; creating energetic and powerful pieces of art, which are pleasing to the eye and stimulating for the mind. His figurines have a naïve appeal, while the abstract style of his other sculptures and paintings encourages a more critical approach. I hope you enjoy discovering him as much as I (Petra) had.

1280px-Kalkar_Northrhine-Westphalia_Germany_Moyland-Castle-01As your stay in Kalkar occurs during the middle of the week, it might be a bit quiet in town, but what an excellent opportunity to enjoy the views of the Rhine and the city center at leisure.

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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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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Once upon a time….

Slavenburg_radduschWhen Würzburg was officially mentioned in a donation from one duke to another in 704 AD it already could look back on a long history of successful settlement in the area. Archeological findings support the existence of a refuge castle on the site of the Marienberg Fortress as far back as 1000 years BC. These refuge castles were built to protect the general populace from marauding soldiers or bandits and usually occupied higher, easy-to-defend ground. During the following centuries the area was populated by a range of Germanic tribes and finally settled by the Franks in the 6th century.

Christianity takes hold

MarienburgIn the 7th century the missionary Saint Kilian settled in Würzburg and began his work preaching and converting the local Duke Gosbert. Unfortunately Gosbert was already married to his widowed sister-in-law Gailana and was told, that this marriage was against the Christian principles that Saint Boniface vehemently fought for. When Galiana heard this – according to the martyr mythology of St. Kilian – she used her husband’s absence and had Kilian and his two companions assassinated. But that did not stop Christianity and under Hedan II’s rule a chapel was built on the hillside dedicated to the Virgin Mary. A site which was believed to be the original site of pagan worship to a mother goddess. Even though the original chapel was replaced due to destruction or changes in architectural tastes, by the Middle Ages the mount and the fortress became known as Marienberg (Mary’s Mount). As the centuries passed – bishops came and went, tastes changed and war damages needed repairing – the look of the mountain top fortress evolved considerably. When WWII wrecked its havoc over Würzburg large parts of the Marienburg Fortress and others were destroyed by bombs and fire. Restoration of the Fortress started in the 1950’s and was finished in 1990.

As with a lot of other historic buildings in Würzburg, restoration was done in the style of the original design of the time, which makes it harder for the lay-person to denote what is truly original and what is restored. Which should be kept in mind when reading the historical and architectural comments to any of them.

A living record

altstadtWürzburg had been a centre for the Catholic Church since its earliest days and as such always had a huge political, intellectual and financial influence on the lives of its citizens. Quite often those decisions had a very bad impact on the rest of the populace and revolts would break out. Whether they were aimed against the ruling clerics (Würzburg guild document), unpleasant neighbours (who got accused of witchcraft), occupying soldiers (Sweden 1631- 34) or members of particular classes (German Peasant’s War), they always ended up changing the city’s structure and appearance, over time creating an incredibly rich tapestry depicting its evolving society.

After your arrival stroll through the old city centre and get up close with history!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

 

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Wagner and more

Sommernachtsfest The city of Bayreuth is a conglomeration of villages that attained city status in the early 13th century. The following centuries proved to be hard times, as the city was struck by disasters repeatedly, be it fires destroying parts of the town or the plague decimating the populace. This all turned for better at the beginning of the 17th century when Margrave Christian moved to Bayreuth in 1603. He initiated a building boom which continued until the end of the 18th century, when due to lack of successors and money, the last margrave abdicated and the territories became part of the Prussian empire on 2.12.1791. During its heyday under the rule of Margrave Frederick and Margravine Wilhelmina of Bayreuth (1735 – 1763) richly furnished private and public buildings were constructed in the baroque style.

800px-Markgräfliches_Opernhaus_-_Bayreuth_-_2013After its French occupation from 1806 – 1810 (result of a loss during the Napoleonic Wars), the principality was returned and became part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. As Bavaria was being opened up by connecting more and more towns to the railways, Bayreuth was on the main line between Nuremberg to Hof. More connections meant an increase in visitors and exposure. In due course Wagner heard about the Margrave Opera House – a UNESCO World Heritage List building – and came to inspect its suitability for his operas. He was disappointed and decided to build his own. The town supported him and he went on to create a world renowned festival. He would have been very pleased with himself if he knew that nowadays one has to get in line about 10 years in advance to secure a ticket to the highly coveted festival!

Modern Bayreuth

Even though Bayreuth is infamous for the Wagner festival, it has lots of other attractions for a visitor. Architecture for starters: despite having lost a third of its buildings in WWII the rest is kept in pristine shape to be admired during your guided tour. Baroque architecture was a manifestation of political absolutism and colonialism, putting the monarchs/popes/regents at the centre of attention. It created magnificent structures to glorify the rulers and demonstrate new found wealth and power.

roter mainThe success of the Wagner festival has created a market for other cultural festivals celebrating modern, folk, other classical music, theatre and museum activities throughout the year. Not to mention that due to its level topography and generous cycle lanes, it is particularly easy to explore the city and the surrounding landscapes along the Red Main river. The river gets its name from the fact that it runs through clayey soil and turns a reddish-brownish colour after heavy rains.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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