Posts Tagged ‘plane travel’

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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Christmas-wreath-vectorAir NZ does it again

We would like to send you our best wishes for a Merry Christmas. May you be able to spend quality time with loved ones and have an enjoyable holiday break. We’ll see you again next weekend with more articles on our cycle tours and hope you enjoy the latest clip by Air New Zealand!

From all of us at Sidetracks.




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How to keep ones family happy

Burg Eltz (10561166416) by Dirk VorderstraßeFor one of our other tours we had already written a little piece about this stunning piece of feudal architecture in the Moselle region. What we didn’t tell you then was the fact that this is a current residence for one of the three family branches that own it. While two parts of the complex are generally open to the public – the third owned by the Kempenich side of the family – can only be viewed at particular times of the year.

Burg Eltz 14b by Evolutione003 - Own workThis makes it one of the oldest castles and for the longest period in the possession of one family. Anyone familiar with the problems of feudal ownership in England will understand the financial burden and commitment this family undertakes to maintain the structural integrity for its own history and for the public.

Allemagne07 08 0406 Burg Eltz by Daniel71953 [1] - Own workHistory can be taught in lots of ways, but there’s nothing like being there in person and getting a personal impression of the living conditions of the rich and the poor in those times. After your stroll around the premises tell us which part of the castle is your favourite: the detailed kitchen, opulent Armoury and Treasury or the courtyard surrounded by 500 years of architectural activity?!

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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Flight Booking Tips – Down Under to Europe

As New Zealand and Australia are on the opposite side of the world from Europe, it doesn’t really matter if you choose a flight via Asia or America in terms of flight time/distance. However, it might take quite a bit longer to get through security checks in the USA.

So, if you do choose to travel via the USA it does pay to check the current security regulations on this website. You can find a comparison of different airline baggage allowances here, but it also pays to check the airline luggage requirements on your airlines’ websites (see links to the most relevant airlines below).

When booking an international flight, it’s best to start looking as early as possible for the best deals – three to six months in advance is a good idea. This is especially important if you want to use your frequent flyer miles, as airlines designate a very limited number of seats for these on each flight and they go quickly.

Start your search for flights by checking a few of the major online travel providers like TripAdvisor Flights, Kayak or Edreams. These sites will give you a preliminary idea of which airlines fly your particular itinerary, what the going rate is and any restrictions that apply.

Armed with this information, you can head directly to the appropriate airline website to see if the same flights are any cheaper. We recommend checking on the following airline websites for flights to Europe from New Zealand:

Air New Zealand



Singapore Airline

Emirates Airline.

And here the direct airline links for flights to Europe from Australia:

Air New Zealand



Singapore Airline

Emirates Airline.

If your trip includes more than one destination (e.g. if you want to fly to London and back from Frankfurt), select ‘Multi-city’ or ‘Multi-Stop’ on the flights page, then book one segment at a time. This is sometimes referred to as an ‘Open Jaw’ itinerary.

If you can be flexible, it pays to try shifting your itinerary a few days either way, as this can make a significant difference in fares. You’ll usually find the best deals on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, as this is when most airlines launch their fare sales.

Don’t forget to check out part 1 of our flight booking tips – general long-haul flight booking considerations. Feel like you want to get into ‘flight mode’ already? Check out the latest Air New Zealand in-flight safety video!

Wishing you a pleasant and uneventful flight ☺

Barbara Panettieri and the Sidetracks Team




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General Long-haul Flight Booking Considerations

Get a flight with the fewest and easiest connections possible, to cut down on your overall flight time. If you do have to kill some time at an airport during transit, here are some great suggestions by Lonely Planet – and have a look at the comments, too ;-).

Maybe consider breaking your journey half-way with a stop-over somewhere if you can spare the time. Otherwise, it is possible to book an airport hotel for a few hours in most major airports, allowing you to stretch out, rest and enjoy a refreshing shower.

Most airlines let you choose your seat when you book, so to avoid being squeezed in the middle of a row, pick a seat as early as possible. Consider an aisle or exit row seat for leg room, or a window if you want to sleep. Note that the last row of seats in the plane usually don’t recline.

Try to avoid seats near the toilets/lavatories, as other passengers will be accessing these regularly (sometimes forming queues) and may disturb your sleep with accidental bumps to your seat and noisy conversations. Noise and light from the toilet door opening may also be disturbing.

And last but not least, review your ticket carefully when you book it. By double-checking your dates, destinations, and exact spelling of your name, you can avoid a lot of potential stress later.

Once you start your Germany Tour with Sidetracks you can just relax and enjoy – we always endeavour to make your European adventure completely hassle-free for you! For  flight booking tips we have specifically put together for New Zealand and Australian travellers see our article on long-haul flights from Down Under to Europe – part 2.

Looking forward to showing you the heart of Europe, Barbara Panettieri and the Sidetracks Team






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Long-haul Flight Tips

The long flight to Europe can be daunting to those from Down Under but our frequent trips between Germany and New Zealand mean that we have plenty of tips to ease you into your European adventure.

Tip #1: Pack early to avoid last minute stress and board the plane well-rested!

During the Flight

Bring a pair of thick socks and swap them for your shoes after take-off. Make yourself as comfortable as you can by requesting any extra pillows or blankets that you need and get as much sleep as possible.  We all know that plane seating is cramped, so remember to get up for a walk around and a stretch at regular intervals to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis and to ease any general discomfort.

The air in a plane is very dry and you may feel dehydrated. Limit your alcohol consumption and drink lots of water to keep you feeling comfortable (a plus of this is that needing to get up for the loo will give you a great excuse to stretch those legs!).  So you have a drink handy whenever you need it on the flight, bring an empty drink bottle with you through pre-flight security and fill it up from a water fountain in the boarding lounge or ask a flight attendant to do this for you on the plane.

Bring some eye drops to use whenever your eyes feel dry (these may now be carried through security), and apply moisturising cream to your face and hands frequently. And don’t forget to bring a toothbrush to freshen up.

To check restrictions applying to liquids, aerosols and gels in your carry-on luggage, see the New Zealand Aviation Security Service website.

Many airlines offer vegetarian, Kosher, Halal and other “special” meals to be ordered in advance. And because the airlines have to specially prepare your meal, it is usually better than the standard food fare. Plus, passengers with special meal requests are almost always served first ;-).

On Arrival

To help relieve the effects of jet-lag and get over it faster, set your watch to your destination time zone and make sure you eat and sleep at the same time as the locals.  Try to resist that daytime nap and enjoy being in Europe!

For more tips on flight bookings check out our articles General Long-haul Flight Booking Considerations and Flight Booking Tips – Down Under to Europe. And in Part 1 of our favourite travel tips you can find New Zealand and Australian Government Tips on Visas, Passports and Insurance.

Looking forward to showing you the heart of Europe on a Sidetracks Germany Tour, Barbara Panettieri and the Sidetracks Team







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