Friday, December 27, 2013

Southern Germany

Winter Break!

Reasons to go to Germany:
1 - For 30 years, I have been promising myself and Lika (Angelika), my long time high school friend from Georgia that I would visit her there.
2- My friend Carol from Hood River is teaching abroad there.
3 - My family roots are from there.
4 - Flying there from UAE is cheaper than from the US.

Can you think of a better breakfast on the way to Germany? 
Me neither.

Flight tracker after a brief stop in Qatar...not sure if this makes the flight seem faster or slower

Want a translation?
Prayer time still happens when you're flying, and since you can't use your mobile Mecca locator, the airline will help you find the direction there so you can face the proper way.
 I just wonder which time zone you should observe…?

I wish I had a photo of me trying to lug 4 bags, totaling over 150 pounds onto the train.
The highlight was heaving them all, including the 32kg/70 pound one, into the overhead rack!

Culture shock!
How bizarre to be leaving a place where it's so difficult to find alcohol and arriving at a place where you are surrounded by it: people drinking beer at the train platform, on the train, walking down the street…Carol even lives right on top of a beer & wine store!

I arrived Friday night. Since the weekend was Carol's only two days off while I was there, 
I had reserved a car so we could cover a lot of ground quickly, 
and we hit the ground running the next morning! 

First stop: Regensburg
Hmmm…first to find our way OUT of Erlangen. Carol knows bike routes, not car routes!


This lady finds art in everything - I love it! It's so eye-opening!

an ornate cathedral

Now I know why Catholics use so many candles…these cathedrals are BIG and drafty! 
Do you notice anyone taking off their jacket, scarf, or hat? Nope.

On to the Stone Bridge that crosses the Danube River (Donau in German)
It was built in only eleven years 1135-1146. According to legend, the bridge maker bet the cathedral builder he would finish first. When it wasn't looking too good for him, he made a deal with the devil. If he helped him finish first, the devil could have the first three souls to cross the bridge. He won the bet, but then tricked the devil, sending a rooster, hen, and dog across first. 
It's bot a particularly magnificent bridge, but is a key element in the town's history because it was the only crossing point for 600 km at the time. It was the also the only bridge the town had for over 800 years. Several others, including the London Bridge were modeled after it.

...and the nearby the historic Wusrtkuchl (900 years old)
said to be Germany's oldest sausage house and noted for catering to 
the workers who built the bridge

 YUM! Best sausage I've ever eaten!

They start 'em young on bikes here…this little girl was still sucking on a pacifier. And they weren't just out for "play time" this tot was keeping up with her mom!

Looking down the Danube (Donau in German)

Hey look…someone knew I was coming here!

cool old castle near the Historic Christmas Market…if we can just FIND the market

 Look! We found it!
Wow…welcome to Germany! I wound't realize until later (after I'd been to a few) just how unbelievably unique this Historic Regensburg Christmas market is. 
Compared to the others, it is so peaceful and quaint, with the open fire stands, green boughs, surrounding woods, and relatively few people. 
Absolutely captivating…I want to go back and never leave!

 sausage stand...

a lady roasting nuts (mainly almonds)...

Saint Nicholas and happy little kids delighted to get to talk with him about their wishes...

This little girl was in complete awe! Such a cool thing to see...

We're still kids at heart!
Gleuwein and roasted almonds in hand…
Everyone I talked to who knew this was my first time here, said I HAD to try the gluewein. It turns out I've been unknowingly drinking this stuff my whole life! Like I said, German roots.

Eating pig sandwich with a yummy and messy blueberry, cream cheese, horseradish spread...

Christmas tree and people drinking gluewein around tables

This guy was making fresh gluewein (I think). 
He had just poured rum or something into the pot, making it flame up. 

Blue flames even climbed up the chains the pot is hanging from!

a house with a lot of character and texture representing many layers of life

testing our rental car's limits on the drive to Munchen (aka Munich)

Sweet little hotel we found…drop the bags and head into town

 The glockenspiel tower in Munich
We got there just i time to see the corner balconies light up and do their little show, 
rotating into and then back out of sight.

all of the little Christmas market shops shut just before the clock struck nine
 and the glockenspiel figures came to life

This one had every size and sort of glockenspiel for sale

The restaurant we found for dinner
I took this photo as we left and the crowd had died down. It was so packed with people when we got there, that they asked if we minded sitting with some other people. 
Of course we loved the idea and made a few friends over dinner.

This Fred Flintstone style dinner - Carol showing off the massive bone 
that came on her butcher board dinner plate!

Our beautiful Bavarian waitress

Just as we were leaving, the bar tender was tapping a keg. 
First time I've ever seen a real keg tapped - very cool!
First pour

The mallet & keg - he literally just whacked that ring shaped part of the spout once,
 and it went into the keg, just like that! See the ring marks all over the mallet?

Old cathedral - new age lighting, decor, and music...
it was a bit odd, but interesting for sure. Got us in the door didn't it?
I kinda liked the flock of paper birds hanging above

I want this dragon above my classroom door! I love it!

quaint old-style restaurant
the lighting doesn't do it justice

I didn't realize at the time what a big deal this place was. EVERYONE who heard I went to "Munchen" asked if we'd gone to Hofbrauhaus! We did, but it was busy, and we were full from dinner and getting tired, so we just walked through it, turned around, and walked back out.

We got there just in time to hear the last few notes from the band 
before they packed it up for the night.

SO glad for a good public transit system and not having to walk a few km back to the hotel!
 Also glad to have found the right train platform. Munich has a lot of trains!

Erlangen - Carol's "home town"

one of the two Christmas markets

a carousel  with unique designs and characters

I liked the peacock and rooster! 

Haha! I'm touching a pig's snout!
I was easily amused by pigs after being in a muslim country and 
not seeing anything swine-related for awhile

The Medieval Christmas market in Erlangen was very quaint and had nice, low key vibes

I think this is where kids could write to St. Nicholas about their Christmas wishes...

I should have taken some  photos of Carol's school, the Franconian International School because it was  interesting and very nice! But no, I took a photo of all the bikes because I was impressed that there were easily three to four times as many bikes as cars in the lot!

After school one day, we hopped in a car with a few of Carol's teacher friends and drove out to see the sun set and full moon rise from above town. 

Four sun-starved teachers gazing at the last few moments of the rare winter sunshine!

a cute little church above town

Time for Carol to head home to see her kids and for me to head a bit farther north, 
to see Lika in Moenchengladbach near Dusseldorf...

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