Innsbruck and the Village
This is my third post of my trip to Europe. Click on the highlighted text to read about my first stop Munich and my second stop Lake Garda, Italy. When I made my travel plans I decided to break up the long train ride from Roverto, Italy to my village in northern Germany. My friend and I decided to stay in Innsbruck, Austria, for a few days before continuing our journey. We had planned to take the lift up the mountain and hike in the beautiful Tyrolean Alps surrounding Innsbruck. Well, the rainy weather changed our plans. The mountains would have been muddy, with no vistas and a cold rain.
So we decided to eat as many Austrian delicacies as possible. We started with a Sacher Torte in the Sacher Cafe next to the Hofburg (a castle for royalty) that we also visited.
Then came the apple strudel with vanilla sauce— nobody makes it as well as the Austrians. Kaiserschmarren (pancakes) with plum jam was my favorite Of course, let’s not forget clear broth with Griessnockerl (semolina dumpling soup). The first evening I had spinach dumplings that were to die for. One night at our hotel, after having tasted two desserts that afternoon, we had a small bowl of Hungarian goulash soup. It was the best goulash soup I have ever had.
A few facts about Innsbruck: it is the capital of the Tirol Province. Tirol is a popular tourist destination for Germans and lots of other Europeans. The landmark in Innsbruck is the Golden Roof in the middle of town. It was built in 1500 to commemorate the marriage of Emperor Maximilian I and Bianca Maria Sforza. The roof is not covered in gold, but in fire-gilded copper tiles .
The 500-year-old town is settled in a pleasant valley with Baroque churches, gabled houses, and narrow, twisting walkways. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants with the food of the region. After two days of indulging , we took the train to my village.
The apartment in my brother’s house (where I usually stay), has a family of three Ukrainian women from Kharkiv living in it. These three women fled without time to pack anything when they left their home. All they had was a purse and a small bag when they arrived. But my brother got them jobs, and the 14-year-old teenager is going to school. They needed a lot of help filling out forms and papers to get German health insurance and a monthly allowance. Everybody is trying to help. The Ukrainian mother and daughter baked two cakes for a Sunday afternoon coffee. They were delicious and my brother and I had several pieces.
My nephew’s tiny house is an Airbnb on our farm. It was a perfect place for me to stay. I loved every minute in it. It was the perfect retreat to reflect, relax, and enjoy my family. The days were long and I enjoyed visits with my grand nephews and friends. My nephew also took in a Ukrainian woman with two children and a cat. Now he has five teenagers living in his house. We went out for dinner and had coffee and cake with our extended Ukrainian family. Their English is limited, they speak very little German and none of us speaks Russian or Ukranian, which are their language. Sometimes, I just started to cry. Memories of my childhood with all the refugees from the old East Germany came welling up.
During my stay in the village, I prepared Matjes Herring with cream sauce and boiled potatoes for the family. Hopefully, I will post the recipe in the near future.
After ten wonderful days, it was time for me to leave and go north. Hamburg was my next destination. I stayed in the same hotel where I always stay, the
Westin above the Elbephilharmonie in the Hafencity. This time, I just needed a day to rest and see some old friends before continuing on to Copenhagen. The Elbepilharmonie, nicknamed Elphi, always amazes me. It is among the largest concert halls in the world. The glassy construction resembles a hoisted sail or wave built on an old brick warehouse. The view from my room was spectacular. If you visit Hamburg and have some time, don’t miss this part of town. There is so much to see. Read more about the Elphi in a previous post here. My friend from Hamburg and I had a beautiful dinner at Vlet. This was actually my first gourmet meal on this trip. The food was exquisite.
Before I knew it, I was in the Hamburg railroad station waiting for my Danish train to Copenhagen. Let me tell you, I do not like the Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (main railroad station).
It can be scary with the number of people and the constant construction going on. The station is on three separate levels with the trains departing on the lowest level. There have been times when the escalators didn’t work and I had to carry my suitcase down a long staircase. There are few elevators and they often don’t go the level you need to catch your train. I was lucky this time, and I used the escalator to get to the platform where my Danish train would arrive. I had a delightful conversation with a young man who was waiting for another train to go see his mother. I arrived in Copenhagen after a four hour scenic and interesting train ride .
Germany in Autumn
Every time I return from Germany, I am in the in-between transition state. Some of me is still in Germany and the other half is trying to readjust to my normal life in California. Visiting Germany has never been a vacation, but more about reconnecting with a deeper part of myself—a part of myself that I left behind many years ago.
Enough of that, let’s talk about my latest trip. Because of COVID, I wasn’t sure I was going until about two weeks before my departure. Because of that, I missed getting my German Rail pass in the mail. I now have an unused one here in the States because it arrived a day after I left. My advice is to buy your pass at the main railroad station in Frankfurt. I don’t know if they sell them anywhere else. The reason I buy a pass is because it gives me the freedom to choose any train at any time. For example, I was able to leave earlier than planned for Berlin because of bad weather. I wasn’t committed to a particular train at a particular time.
The first week I stayed in my village reconnecting with friends and family I had not seen for over two years. I took care of other business too. Throughout my stay, the weather was beautiful, crisp autumn days with the dimming light of the season in northern Europe. It rained only a few times. One of the highlights of that week was taking my family and friend Monika out for dinner to an Italian restaurant in the nearby town of Northeim. In Germany, even in the small country towns, you will find Italian or Greek restaurants, an Italian ice cafe and a Turkish döner stand. Our food that night was delicious and everybody had a great time.
I left my village mid-week to spend two wonderful days in Hamburg. I had a room in the Westin, located above the Elbe Philharmonic Hall. This place is phenomenal, a shimmering wave of glass built on a solid brick warehouse. One of the concert halls was built in the middle of the Elbe river. The place has a publicly accessible viewing platform that has amazing views of the city and harbor. This is my second time there and I am always in awe.
My friend who has lived in Hamburg for decades gave me a grand tour of the city. One of the foods I always have when visiting Germany is Matjes herring. Matjes are young, female herrings who haven’t laid eggs yet (virgins). In Germany, they are served different ways. In Hamburg and northern Germany, you can buy them on a bun. My friend, Elli, showed me where you can buy the best herring buns (Matjes Brötchen). Next to the fish market is the restaurant Rive where we had dinner the second evening. This restaurant offers good food with a view of the harbor.
Hamburg is a major tourist destination and I hope to visit it many more times.
Then it was off to Lüneburg. It is a beautiful and well-preserved medieval town and very livable with a vibrant inner city that has stores for everyone. Read more about Lüneburg and Berlin on a previous blog post. I have visited Lüneburg many times because my niece lives there with her husband and new baby. There is nothing better than holding a tiny baby in your arms.
From Lüneburg, I went to Berlin for a few days. I invited my 16-year-old grand nephew to join me. We had a very good time together. I showed him the city and my friend, Tara, introduced him to Thai food. He loved it. As the oldest of three children, he was an agreeable and delightful travel companion. I enjoyed his company.
I spent one day by myself in Berlin and loved it. It was a beautiful autumn day. I had dropped my grand nephew at the train station and walked from there through the Reichstag and Brandenburger Gate. It was a spiritual experience that took me back decades. Memories flooded back in my mind, images of death and despair. In the 70s, I saw an East German refugee being shot at the wall.
After Berlin, It was back to my village for a birthday celebration and family gatherings.
As for COVID, Germany seems to have gotten it together after a very rocky start and no vaccines in the beginning. Everyone is being tracked; you have to show an app or in my case (as a foreigner) a vaccination card to enter a restaurant, theater, hotel and more. For two dollars, you can buy a self-test which is used frequently. I tested myself for the new baby and when I returned from Berlin. Just because I am adventurous doesn’t mean I should endanger my family or anybody else. I never felt unsafe. Everybody wears a medical mask inside and in public places. To re-enter the US, I had to take a PCR test 72 hours before my departure flight, which I did at a local train station. A young, extremely helpful person person downloaded the appropriate app on my phone and I was all set. United has a travel-ready site where I downloaded all the needed information. All I had to do at the airport was to check in my luggage and show my passport. It's important to prepare and do your homework in advance.
All in all, I am so happy I decided to go and would do it again tomorrow. But I was equally happy to be reunited with the old man and the sea.
Thanksgiving is next week. Here are some of my recipes I have used over the years. It has become a tradition with my family to serve my red cabbage for the holidays. And then there is my cranberry sauce, as well as the chestnut, shiitake mushroom stuffing which I have made for many years.If you want a delicious turkey sandwich, try my cranberry ketchup, a real treat.
Here is the link for the recipes.
I wish you all a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving , sharing good food with family and friends.
Three days in Berlin and Lüneburg
My niece and her husband live in Lüneburg, an historical, attractive and livable town located about 31 miles from Hamburg. Lüneburg is located between the Elbe river and the Heathland. The Heathland or Heide (as it is called in German) is rural area with heather, juniper and farm houses covered with straw-thatched roofs. Lüneburg was not destroyed during the war and has retained its medieval character. It is one of the prettiest towns in northern Germany and dates back 1000 years. Lüneburg was once a very wealthy town thanks to its salt industry, which was the gold of the Middle Ages. In the town, you will find old magnificent buildings in northern German gothic style, and narrow alleyways. The old city hall was built in 1230 A.D. and today is still the city hall. I always enjoy my visits to Lüneburg because I get to spend some time with my niece and her husband. On previous visits, I have gone to the Salt Museum and water tower.
After Lüneburg, my niece and I spent three wonderful days in Berlin. We arrived on a Friday and my niece invited two of her friends to enjoy the evening and have dinner together.
I am a creature of habit and like to stay in the Mitte (the new center of Berlin). From here, I can walk to Museum Island and one of the opera houses. Unter den Linden is one of the main streets with the Brandenburger Tor and many more attractions. Our hotel, The Westin Grand Berlin has a grand lobby with a bar where we met my niece's friends for a drink. Then we went to a very "in" and super cool restaurant called Crackers for a wonderful dinner. The menu is diverse, fresh and modern. Someone on Trip Advisor described this place as a cool hip spot with stylish food, I agree! I had vegan ravioli with a hazelnut sauce that was delicious. I like going out with the younger generation and enjoy listening to their stories.
On Saturday, we had a lazy morning and did some shopping in the afternoon. We had lunch at Galeries Lafayette, a French department store. They have a wonderful food section. In the evening, we went to the "Komische Oper," which is next to our hotel and saw Der Jahrmarkt von Sorotschinzi (translated as the Fair at Sorochyntsi), an opera by Mussorgsky. The chorus was fantastic, with some Ukrainian folk tunes that are incorporated into the opera. There is additional music composed by Rimsky-Korssakov. The lineup of folk archetypes includes a drunken father, a daughter, and a stepmother's aphrodisiac baking. She makes dumplings to keep her lover and has a bizarre encounter with an oven-ready turkey.
A wonderful weekend goes by fast. On Sunday, we strolled along the Spree River visiting some open-air markets and the Alte Nationalgallerie at Museum Island. Museum Island is now a UNESCO world heritage site and I always enjoy a visit to one their beautiful museums. The Old National Gallery shows a collection of Neoclassical, Romantic, Impressionist and early Modernist artwork. You will find many famous names in this beautiful gallery like Cezanne, Renior and many more. This gallery was designed by Fridrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia in the 19th century, who dreamt of creating a "sanctuary for art and science".
My favorite painting in the gallery is the "Little Princess of The Heath", die Heidenprinzeßchen by Fritz von Uhde. The little girl reminds me of myself, I like her attitude.
What else is a girl to do when she sees some beautiful hats that are handmade by a local artist? Support the local artist of course! Soon, it was time to say good bye and this good bye was easy, because we knew we would see each other again in May in California.
Whenever you are in Germany, try the curry wurst, a sausage slathered with ketchup and sprinkled with curry and paprika powder. Read more about Berlin here.
Berlin and Lüneburg
Has it really been two months since I went to Germany in April? I went to visit my family and celebrate Easter with them. After celebrating a wonderful Easter holiday, I left my village and took the train to Lüneburg where my niece and her husband live. After Lüneburg, my niece and I spent a long weekend in Berlin. Read more about it on my Wanderlust blog.
Back in Santa Cruz, I have been cooking up a storm and entertaining four visitors from Germany. We all had a wonderful time. I love playing tour guide because I live in such a beautiful area with so many things to see and do. My niece, her husband, and her in-laws are like family to me. Their favorite meal was steak, which my husband barbecued with baked potatoes and salad. For their welcome meal, I made a turkey dinner. Yes, I served turkey in May and it was delicious. I didn't do the whole bird, just the breast and legs which I had bought at Whole Foods. I made the stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce from cranberries in my freezer. I will post my new turkey recipe at the appropriate time in November. It was a delicious meal and greatly appreciated by all. I made the turkey enchiladas from my blog with the leftovers.
After my visitors left, I bought a crate (about 28 pounds) of apricots and immersed myself in making jam, cobblers, apricot dumplings and an apricot cake. You can find all these recipes on my blog. I had planned to post a new apricot salad recipe, but it needs some work before I can do it. In the meantime, I cooked my fish in parchment paper and it was delicious. Instead of green beans, I used shaved zucchini and added some spring onions. It makes a perfect light summer dinner. For the fish, I used northern wild rockfish which was fresh and reasonably priced.
The wedding and party was such a wonderful experience. I will post about it later when I get better photos. During that time, my husband and I and the groom’s parents and their relatives stayed in a family-owned hotel in a nearby little town called Hardegsen. Neither the New York Times traveling section nor Rick Steeves have been there.
After the wedding, my husband and I drove south to a town on the Rhine river called Breisach. Breisach is in the upper Black Forest across from Alsace Lorraine. It was just right to overnight there and continue to Grindelwald the following day. Breisach is a small historical town, perfect for any history buff.
The way to Grindelwald is beautiful, but driving through Basel with a car is always a challenge, with too many tunnels and always some construction going on. We were happy when we reached Grindelwald, our destination. Our little apartment at the Kirchbühl was waiting for us and Frau Brawand, the owner, gave us a warm welcome. We settled in for our six days in Switzerland.
The first day, we took the cable car to First, a mountain top with gorgeous views and a popular hiking area to a lake called Bachalpsee. There is also a thrilling cliff walk that is spectacular. Leave it to the clever Swiss to build something like this.
Another day we took the cable car to the Pfingstegg, a 10-minute cable ride up the Wetterhorn with great hikes offering unique views of Grindelwald and the glacier. There is a playground for children and a summer toboggan run. Grindelwald is the perfect spot for a family vacation. Everybody will forget about their devices and games when they are in the high alpine country. The Swiss introduce their children to hiking in the high country at an early age, just like the French teach their children to enjoy good food.
We also took our favorite cable ride from Grund to the Männlichen. Sitting in the gondola, you feel like flying above the tree tops and cow pastures with gorgeous views around you. This is something that will take your breath away. Once you reach Männlichen, you have a great place to eat and drink and a fun playground for young children. My man and I had tea and waited for the clouds to disappear before we began our walk to the Kleine Scheidegg, my favorite hike in the Swiss alps. The wildflowers had started to bloom and I was in heaven. As we got to the end of the walk, the Eigner north wall popped up between the clouds, while in the valley below was Grindelwald.
Once we reached the Kleine Scheidegg, there is a train junction for the Jungfraujoch. We took the train back to Grindelwald, although there is a spectacular hike around the Eigner, but we were too pooped. But before we took the train back, I had a piece of delicious apricot tart at the old Hotel Bellevue.
My husband, bless his heart, ran the Jungfrau marathon twice in past years, which starts in Interlaken and ends at the Kleine Scheidegg. My husband and I both had some sort of stomach virus. Thank God it was only for a couple of days. So we had very little to eat during that time. We left Grindelwald and drove to Riquewihr in Alsace Lorraine in France. This is a very touristy but cute little town. I did a little shopping by buying some linen that was spun nearby. This time, we had a great meal at a Grape D’Or . The food was great but the poor waitresses had far too many tables to serve. It was impossible to take care of that many people. I know, because I was a waitress when I was a student.
From Riquewihr, we dropped our car off in Frankfurt, Germany. In Frankfurt, we enjoyed a river cruise on the Main River. I also bought tea and some German spices. When in Frankfurt, I always go to the Freßgass (little street to “gorge”). This street is commonly regarded as Frankfurt’s culinary main street. I always buy something at Ebert Feinkost, a butcher shop that has great take-out food that you can eat outside on benches. The Grüne sauce is fantastic.
I also went to the Kleine Markthalle, where you can have the best Frankfurter Würstchen (German hot dogs). I would have loved to stay a little longer but it was time to go home.
You can read more about my previous visits to Grindelwald, Requewihr and Frankfurt here.
Munich and Family
I arrived in Frankfurt and took the train to Göttingen. I always buy my train ticket ahead of time through the Deutsche Bahn, which is easy and saves a lot of money. I always give myself an extra hour so I don't have to rush. The Frankfurt Airport has fast train connections at the Fernbahnhof and another station for the regular trains. I usually have a little snack above the Fernbahnhof. There is a wonderfully relaxing upstairs area in the station where you can chill out from the long flight until your train departs.
After a two and a half hour train ride through the German countryside, my brother and one of my grand-nephews picked me up in Göttingen. At the end of March, spring had not yet arrived .
Once at my village, I got to say hello to my family and friends. The next day, my girlfriend and I had a wonderful time together. We did the things we had to do to prepare for the long Easter Holiday. Easter in Germany is a three-day holiday. Good Friday is a holiday and the Easter itself is celebrated on Sunday and Monday. It was a lovely day. My niece arrived and we went into “getting ready for the wedding mode.” On Saturday, she picked out a dress and she and her boyfriend met with several people to make arrangements for the June wedding. I spent Easter Sunday with my dear girlfriend and her family and another friend of mine. We all went to the Easter Fire (read more about it). On the Easter Monday, my entire family had lunch at my brother’s house. We had leg of lamb with scalloped potatoes and red cabbage. Two of my family members are vegetarians, so I added my eggplant spread. All the food was eaten. After that we went for a long walk in the countryside and then stopped at a restaurant to have coffee and hot waffles with fruit, whipped cream or ice cream. We needed umbrellas when it began to rain, but that didn't stop us from having fun.
The next day my niece and I left for Munich. Munich has changed, especially the area I stayed in, which was near the Railroad Station (Hauptbahnhof). I would not recommend this location but would choose something closer to downtown. It was okay and it had a tram to go downtown, but I did not feel comfortable at night. The highlight of our Munich visit was the opera (Staatsoper) to see "Turbot" by Puccini. It was a modern production that occasionally used 3D glasses. We had fun
Our plans changed because both of us had nasty colds. My niece went home a couple of days early so she could rest for a busy work week ahead. Despite our colds we managed to see the most important parts of Munich and had a good time. The only foods we craved were hot soups. I found a delicious rich chicken soup at the Viktualien Market and a Thai restaurant at the Marienplatz.
After my niece left, I continued to explore Munich. My blogger friend Karen from Back Road Journal had recommended several places to eat in Munich, one of them being the Orlando House where I had Bavarian tapas, Weißwurst, with creamy sauerkraut, a veal patty with delicious lentils—and it only cost 14 Euros. The guy next to me was local and savored every bite of his meal. This restaurant and a one-star star Michelin restaurant nearby is owned by Alfonso Shuhbeck, one of Germany’s top chefs. He also has a shop for spices, a tea shop and an ice-cream shop in the same area. He pretty much owns the whole block. I enjoyed going to the spice shop and brought back some spices
Not just foodies, but everyone should go and visit Dallmayr, the largest delicatessen business in Europe with a 300-year history. The motherhouse in the center of Munich is amazing. Even though it is always crowded, it is fun to look at the wonderful pralines, chocolates and everything else. My niece and I had lunch there. I brought back too many sweets.
How to get around in Munich
You can buy a subway ticket for the number of days you need one. My niece and I bought a 3-day companion ticket and it covered the U-Bahn, subway, tram system and buses. You can’t go wrong. We bought our tickets at the hotel.
I took a hop-on/hop-off bus tour and enjoyed the sights .
Places to see
Marienplatz, Munich's main square at the heart of a lively pedestrian zone
The Viktualienmarkt, an open-air market
The Lenbachhaus, a modern and contemporary art museum with works by Klee, Kandinsky and the Blue Rider movement.
The Alte Pinakothek, Bavaria’s best painting gallery, with a wonderful collection of the masters from the 14th - 19th century.
There is also the Neue Pinothek and the Pinothek of the Moderne
The English Garden, the largest city park on the continent.
Nymphenburg Palace, the summer residence of the Bavarian monarchs. King Ludwig was born here. The palace is surrounded by beautiful park gardens. Check the calendar for special events.
The Frauenkirche and several other churches.
If you like cars, do not miss the BMW-world and museum
There is the horrible history that all Germans (including me) have to live with, the Nazi era and the killing of 6 million people. The Dachau concentration camp is a powerful museum and memorial of that time. It is located near Munich.
After Munich, I ended my trip by visiting a friend from boarding school that lives with her husband in the Odenwald near Frankfurt. We had a lovely day in Michelsstadt, an old medieval town, and before I knew it I was sitting in the plane going home.
Four Days in Berlin
Four Days in Berlin
Berlin has been part of my life for a long time. I was 14 when I visited Berlin the first time, the youngest in a youth group. We stayed in a youth hostel and the older students showed me the town both day and night. I remember climbing around in the ruins of the Gedächniskirche and getting frostbitten in my toes. It was my introduction to life in a big city. I lived on Berliners (fresh donuts filled with plum jam) and curry wurst. From the beginning, I appreciated and liked the sense of humor and dialect of the locals. Even the worst situations are turned into a joke.
I visited Berlin many more times. It was fun once we got there, but the journey was scary. In the late 1960s, we could either go by train or on a chartered bus, or by private car. Going through the DDR (East Germany) was dangerous and as a German you could get arrested and disappear. Thinking back on it today, it was surreal.
Years ago, my family was separated when my husband and I took our just adopted 6-year-old son to Berlin. As we crossed the border into East Berlin, my son and husband (being American) crossed at checkpoint Charley and as a German, I had to cross at Friedrichsstraße. This prompted me to apply for American citizenship as soon as I returned to the States.
Then in 1989, the wall came down. Berlin was free again and became the capital of the new united Germany. The old East Berlin was rebuilt. My husband and I prefer to stay in the Mitte, the center of the new Berlin near the Brandenburger Tor and Friedrichsstraße. One is within walking distance of many museums and other attractions.
If you decide to visit Berlin, you have to visit the Museum Island, a UNESCO heritage site. It is the home to the Pergamonmuseum, one of the world’s major archeological sites. You walk through a series of impressive huge structures of the partial reconstruction of the Greek Pergamon Altar (170-159 BC) with the two-story Roman Gate of Miletus and the Ishtar gate of Babylon. With a day ticket, you can see all the museums on that island. There are many more museums throughout Berlin. During our last visit, we decided to go the Gemälde Galerie , a wonderful collection of medieval Renaissance and early modern art housed in a low-key but tasteful setting. It was not crowded and the art was spectacular. Adjacent to the Gemälde Galerie is the Kunstgewebemuseum (Museum of Decorative Art). It houses world-famous examples of European arts and crafts.
As for food in Berlin, you will find everything. Berlin now is part of the international food scene. Right around the corner from our hotel was Galerie Lafayette, a branch of the luxurious Parisian department store. My husband, a francophile, was in heaven. My favorite department store and food mecca is the KaDeWe (the department store of the west) which is in the old West Berlin on the Kurfürstendamm. Over the years, it has lost some of the glamor but the food section is marvelous and you can buy anything you want for a high price. The restaurant on the top floor has a great view of Berlin, but the food is cafeteria-style and I prefer to have a light meal on the floor below. If you are not a vegetarian, you have to have a curry wurst on an outside stand with the locals. It is a sausage with curried spices and ketchup. In the summer, you have to drink a Berliner Weiße, beer mixed with sweet woodruff juice. It was November and cold, so we drank Glühwein (mulled wine) instead. Late November and December are the months for goose: goose with cabbage and dumplings. I love it and my best goose meal has been in Potsdam, a 30-minutes train ride outside Berlin. This place is a small bakery that serves lunch. The goose is cooked fresh every day and it is delicious.
I love the Christmas market on the Gerdamen Platz, which makes for an enjoyable evening celebrating the season. The live performances are great and there is a lot of fun food. Several Berlin restaurants build huts with heat and great decorations. I enjoy this so much more than the large Christmas markets like Nürnberg.
ne night, we had dinner at Brechts, an Austrian restaurant with a great Wiener schnitzel. For me, it is all about the small delicatessen shops and bakeries. I found one right around the corner and had wild pig salami with fresh crusty bread and a fruit tart. There is no better dinner in my book. Oh, and let's not forget the bakeries with all their temptations There are many little cafes where you can sit inside or outside (weather permitting) and have a treat in the late afternoon. I often call that dinner. My husband will not leave Germany without having his Schweine Haxe, (pig’s knuckle) and a large beer. We always enjoy Berlin and I hope to visit there again soon.
I took another trip to Germany to see my mom, but before I went to my village, my husband and I had some fun. We have our favorite places and went to some of them on this trip.
Our flight was exciting because Neil Young and his entourage were on the plane. Once we landed in Frankfurt and rented a car, we were on our way south to our destination in Grindelwald, Switzerland. We gave ourself a couple a days to get there, so we had no reservation the first night. But we had some addresses for our navigation system. Usually, there are too many variables for the first day (the plane is delayed, we are too tired to drive, traffic jams on the Autobahn.) But this time we were lucky, with no delays and my man was willing to do the driving. We ended up in a Best Western hotel disguised as a health spa in the middle of the Black Forest. We enjoyed a nice dinner on the terrace with a nice quiet room. After a good breakfast the next morning, we were on the road again. We had made reservation in an Austrian hotel with an amazing spa and view, where we had stayed before. There is a fantastic heated indoor swimming pool with jets to massage your jet-lagged body. It also has a great sauna and steam room.
The following day we reached our destination in Grindelwald, Switzerland. We love this place in the Bernese Alps with a spectacular mountain range that makes it one of the most impressive alpine landscapes in Europe. The Jungfrau and the Eiger north wall are the most well-known mountains.
We have stayed at the Kirchbühl apartments several times. The Kirchbühl is a family run hotel with apartments and houses to rent. I love this place. The location is great, above the village away from all the hassle and noise. The hotel has two restaurants that are quite good and offer a wonderful breakfast with chewy whole wheat bread, great croissants and the best Bicher Müsli. We always make sure that breakfast is included in the price of the apartment. A dinner option is available that you can choose on a daily basis. They also surprise you with free afternoon tea or happy hour another day in their cozy hotel lobby. Frau Brawand, the owner, and the rest of the staff will make sure that you are well taken care of. In good Swiss style, the washer/dryer and wifi work great. And let's not forget the stunning views! Friends in the States thought I showed them a painting on Skype.
You come to Grindelwald to hike . My favorite hike is from Kleine Männlichen to the Kleine Scheidegg. This hike is easy with children. The views are stunning and will take your breath away. Take the tram to the Kleine Männlichen , an experience by itself and then hike to the Kleine Scheidegg , where you can take the train down to Grindelwald or hike part of the way . The train has several stops. Many tourists take the Jungfrau-Bahn to the top of the Jungfrau. I have done it twice and it is beautiful and expensive. Don't go up unless it is a clear day.
Originally, we had planed to do some additional hiking in the Val de Herens, but there was nothing but rain in the forecast, so hiking was out. Instead, we decided to head for France, to the Burgundy to be precise. Here we are visiting some old haunts and doing some serious eating. Our five-hour drive took us through some scary mountain passes and our navigation system (we call her Missy) rerouted us over some very narrow roads because of the Tour de France. Mind you, it was drizzling rain and foggy part of the way. We made it and my sweetheart is taking a well-deserved nap before dinner. Foie gras.....here we come.
The first night we stayed near Chagny at the Hostellerie du Chateau de Bellecroix, a place where the 15th century knights of Malta rested on the way to the Crusades. This old chateau has rooms in different buildings and beautiful grounds. We’ve stayed here before and I have to say it hasn't changed much. We had a circular tower room on the third floor of the main building. The room was small but fun for one night. The surroundings are stunning—an old-fashioned French hotel in the countryside. Our dinner was excellent, the foie gras was served with some fig jam and toast. The smoked salmon broiled on top of rich scalloped leek potatoes was also good. The creme brûlée made an excellent desert. We enjoyed our meal and and evening stroll around the castle. Nearby, in Chagny, is the Lamiloise, a three-star Michelin restaurant.
For me, Burgundy is the mecca of fantastic food where you want to eat everything. I love coming here and trying out new restaurants, charcuteries and patisseries. But oh my poor stomach and body tells me that enough is enough! This is a marathon of eating (the secret is in pacing yourself.) In other words, don't overdo it the first night. I did and now I'm paying the price, Alka Seltzer and peppermint tea to the rescue.
The second day, we continued our trip through Burgundy via Puligny Montrachet, a small village with Chardonnay grapes. We had some good wine, but the food was mediocre. But we visited Beaune for a couple hours. This is a medieval town I fell in love with many moons ago.
It is very touristy but charming town. We toured the hopitâl de Beaune, an old hospital for the poor from the 14th century. It is very interesting and worthy of a visit. As I was looking for a cappuccino and something sweet, I ran into a great patîsserie called Tavenet on 14 Place Carnot. My man loved tarte aux noix et caramel (caramel walnut tart), while I enjoyed a piece of apricot tart and took with me some macaroons and a gougere, a cheesy puff pastry served with wine tasting. It was superb.
Two Great days in Alsace Lorraine
The drive from the Burgundy to Alsace Lorraine was easy on a quiet Sunday morning. We arrived in Riquewihr at our the Hotel le Schoenenbourg , a Best Western with air conditioning, a definite plus after last night’s hot room in a charming hotel with a small room above the kitchen where the mosquitos kept us awake. We had made the reservation a couple of days ago and this hotel still had some availability. It was the Bastille Day weekend and most hotels in the region were sold out.
I liked our new hotel because it is within walking distance of one of the quaint medieval villages filled with Hänsel and Gretel houses, cellars bursting with wines of the regions, with festivals beautiful to look at and photograph. Riquewihr is a fairy tale setting. All three villages have some nice stores with pottery, sweets and embroidered fabric. It's a little kitschy, but cute. I have brought back some nice things over the years.
For sweets, I like their pistachio-filled candy. We were able to watch the fireworks for Bastille Day from our hotel and before that, we watched the World Cup soccer final (where Germany won) and before that had a fabulous dinner sitting in a courtyard at Restaurant Winstub Au Tire-Bouchon. My husband had the pork knuckle with sauerkraut and potatoes, with regional mustard. It was the best pork knuckle I ever had, soft and tender. The sauerkraut was great too, with nothing added and perfect with the pork. I ordered the duck breast and I got a huge one (the biggest I have ever seen) cooked medium rare with all the fat rendered from the skin. The sauce had pieces of orange in it and was served in a small glass. The dish came with a beet mash and a large serving of cheesy scalloped potatoes—very different from the ones I had a couple of days ago at the Bellocroix. This was a perfect meal in a perfect setting , especially when the French accordion player serenaded us with some familiar songs and we started to sing along. It started to rain just as we finished dinner, so we went back to our hotel to watch the final soccer match and fireworks for Bastille Day from our window. Life is good.
The last day in Alsace we had lunch at the L'Auberge DE I'LL in Illhausen. I decided to post this culinary highlight of our trip in a separate post. From Riquewihr, we drove to Assmanshausen, a village located on the Rhine River, an idyllic location lined with castles—remote and comfortable with outstanding wine and food. Assmanshausen is 10 km north of Rüdesheim. Instead of the tourist frenzy of Rüdesheim, enjoy the contemplative serenity of the northward flowing Rhine. From here, you can take river cruises, vineyard walks, funicular rides above the hills. You can combine the three of them, see Bingen, go by the Lorelei and visit Rüdesheim. At night, you come back to the peaceful setting of the river and surrender yourself to the good wine and good food and watch the tourist boats (river cruises) go by.
We always stay at the Hotel Schön and take a room with a balcony on the river, sip a glass of Riesling and enjoy the setting. The hotel has a wisteria-covered veranda where you can enjoy a drink, a coffee or dinner and watch the sun set behind the hills. We enjoyed our delicious dinner on the patio and celebrated our last day before my husband went home and I continued my journey to visit my mom.
Change of Plans
Here I am sitting in the middle seat of an airplane for almost 11 hours flying to see my 91-year-old mother in Germany. Originally, I was going with my husband to Paris for week. We had rented an apartment and we were going to have fun in this beautiful city that we both love. Paris is our personal Disneyland. We go for the food, the arts, the parks—and the city. Instead of strolling through the Tuileries gardens and recovering from jet leg by soaking in the sun on a bench, I am taking a solo trip to Germany to care of my mother who fell and is in the hospital. My heart did not allow me to do otherwise. Both my husband and I are very sad and disappointed. Could I really admire my favorite paintings and sculptures while my mom was being restrained? I could not. Could I savor the culinary delight that Paris offers while my mom was confused and needed help? I could not.
When I moved to the United States many years ago, I had no idea of the complications that would arise years later. I love my new home and country. It has brought many joys and a wonderful life. I am grateful and thankful for that.
Thankfully, I have a brother who made sure my mother in Germany was well taken care of. I help, and visit as much as I can. At this point in life, my mother needs more help and support. Until now, she has survived with the help of many people she lived with on the farm where she was born—both fortunate and lucky. But now it is getting complicated.
This year, spring has come early to northern Germany. Looking out of my mother’s hospital room, there is a huge tree covered with pink blossoms. White asparagus is being harvested and sold, which is usually a May event. When I was here last year, it snowed the entire month of April. While in Germany, I ate in the cafeteria at the clinic and rehab center my mom was . I was thankful for the often decent food. I was also lucky enough to have a Tegut grocery store (similar to Whole Foods) on the way to the hospital. My girlfriend, Monika, not only provided me with support and help in the German medical world (which is excellent by the way), but also cooked some delicious meals for me. Bless her kind and gentle heart, a true friend.
There were no gourmet meals, but I managed to find some great cheese, bread, and of baked goods (of course). Those little bakeries in Germany are my favorite. Here are some of my favorites:
The last meal I prepared for my mom was white asparagus, which is in season right now and being sold at the local farmer’s market. My mom loves her asparagus with boiled potatoes, melted butter or hollandaise sauce, and ham.The local butcher shop had some great ham and packaged hollandaise sauce that was excellent. She enjoyed her meal.
Should you be so lucky and find fresh white asparagus, make sure you peel it correctly. Some people peel the asparagus twice just to make sure the woody outside is gone. So, don’t skimp on peeling away the outside. There are asparagus peelers in Germany that work beautifully. I did not peel away enough this time at is was annoying when I ate the asparagus. My blog has a recipe for white asparagus soup.
While in Germany, I had a beautiful salad with an oil and vinegar vinaigrette, asparagus, strawberries and goat cheese.
After six weeks in Germany and a glorious trip to Marrakech, I’m back home in Santa Cruz. It feels good and I’m getting used to my normal life and enjoying it.
Northeim, A Small City In Germany
Northeim is a typical small german town about 200 miles north of Frankfurt. It is 15 minutes from my village. This is where my father was raised. In the middle of the town you have a "Fußgänger Zone" an area reserved for food traffic only. Here you find many shops and restaurants. This is where you shop, meet people, have a bite to eat, or enjoy a sunny day in an outside cafe. Each town has at least one or more Italian cafes. All these places are run by Italian serving delicious ice cream, cappuccinos, and more. My favorite is the hazelnut gelato.
When in Northeim, I always stop in the bakery Rolf and walk out with a bag of goodies. It is a great bakery with a variety of cakes, breads, rolls, chocolates, and seasonal fruit tarts. This is as good as a French patisserie. My favorite is a hazelnut mini cake. I do like hazelnuts.
This little tea shop has been in this cute little fachwerk ( brick and timber) house for over a decade offering a variety of teas from all over the world. There are black, green and every herbal tea you ever dreamed of. A lot of the teas are flavored. My favorite is an organic dried fruit tea called Waldfrucht or Rote Grütze. My favorite black tea is an Assam tea spiked with pieces of vanilla called "Ostfriesen Sonntagstee".
Last year a new store opened, offering a variety of flavored vinegars, oils and liquors. You can choose from a large variety. I try different vinegars every time, a foodies paradise.
The farmer's market has been on the main square for decades. Here you get seasonal vegetables, fruits, cakes, breads, fish, meats and sausages, a Turkish delicatessen truck , local honey, you name it.
No German town would be complete without a hot dog stand, a butcher shop, and a Turkish fruit store.
I'm in Göttingen, a charming old university town in lower saxony in Germany. It is often called the Heidelberg of northern Germany. Göttingen has a population of over 100,000 people, a quarter of them students at the George August University. The town center successfully combines its origins as a medieval merchant town with an atmosphere of a modern university town. It has a town hall that dates back to the 13th century with beautiful frescos inside that are worth a visit. In the cellar below is a nice restaurant, a remodeled modern Ratskeller called Buller Jahn. Göttingen's landmark is the Gänseliesel figure on the fountain at the market square in front of the town hall. You kiss the statue when you get your PHD. I'm sorry but I don't have a picture of the fountain, it was a construction zone when I was there this time. You have to wait until my next visit. The town is about 12 miles from my family compound. It has a variety of many different restaurants, cafes, and more. I'm sitting in a cafe , enjoying a moment of solitude from my large family. Here in the northern hemisphere fall is in the air today, it is cool in the morning, the air is crisp, and the wind blows off the first leaves. The summer was short this year. I'm ready to go home next week. The images of the rim fire in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California sadden me. My sister in law and a friend are in the midst of it. Our cabin is not far away. Now back to Göttingen. It is a town with people from all over the world which has every ethnic food you can imagine. But I'm going for a curry wurst at my favorite stand. Unfortunately, the stand is being renovated. I'm very picky about my curry wurst so I decide to go to my favorite cafe instead "Cron und Lanz". This cafe or Konditorei as it is called here in Germany is an institution, a place to see and be seen. Their pastries and chocolates are fantastic. My girlfriend has the raspberry tart, I indulge in the wiener (Vienna) waffle and a caramel nut mini tart. Yummy.
My favorite Cafe in Göttingen, Cron und Lan
The Farmer's Market in Göttingen
Arriving in Frankfurt, Germany
If you don't have time for downtown Frankfurt enjoy a quiet moment at the airport and go to the Paulaner restaurant . This restaurant is located above the "Fernbahnhof", away rom all the hussle and bussle of the airport. It is on the opposite end of the Hilton Hotel. The Paulaner offers authentic Bavarian food. The food is good and don't forget to order a beer.
The airport also has a German version of Whole Foods called Tegut. I often get a snack or fresh fruit there. This store is located near the parking garage.
WELCOME TO SUNNY COVE CHEF
Thank you for visiting my blog. My two passions are cooking and traveling. Traveling exposes me to a wide variety of food and experiences. I walk around cities looking for markets, restaurants, bakeries, shops, you name it, and if it is related to food you will find me there, tasting, smelling, talking to vendors, and having a great time.