Last weekend we went for a walk around the Lake Starnberg in Bavaria/Germany (near München). Meanwhile we enjoyed the great view to the Alps I discovered an interesting villa near Münsing. It had a remarkable gate. My husband immediately recognized it saying: it’s a typical Szekely/Transylvanian gate. When we got closer we’d found out that the famous Hungarian painter, Gyula Benczúr used to live here until 1883. When he retired and moved back to Hungary, the German writer Waldemar Bonsels bought it and lived there until his death. But who was Mr Bonsels? I had to admit that I have never heard of him but according to a memorial tablet at the entrance door he was the author of The Maya the bee book! This comic was one of my favorite in my childhood! -I exclaimed so-Let’s get in!-I suggested to my hubby but it turned out that it could be possible to visit (the house and the grave of the writer, because he’s buried in the garden of the villa under a mossy tombstone) only after making an appointment with the Waldemar Bonsels Foundation. Okay then we will come back in the near future.
More about the adventures of Maya the bee
Waldemar Bonsels most famous children’s book was the Maya the Bee, (Die Biene Maja). According to the Wikipedia this short novel served the basis for a Japanese animated television series named Maya the honey bee in the mid-1970s, as well as a Croatian opera for children written by Bruno Bjielinsky, making Bonsels work known to even a great audience. The Opera was staged in 2008 in Villach, Austria at the Carinthian Summer Music Festival. And what a coincidence a new version of Maya the bee will be released next week in the German cinemas!
The Bee is the main character in The Adventures of Maya the Bee, a comic book series and animated television series, first written by Waldemar Bonsels and was published in 1912. Bonsels original book contains fewer that 200 pages. It was a great success so later on the book has been published in many other languages.
The stories revolve around a little bee, Maya and her friends Willy the bee, Flip the grasshopper (referred to as “Maja”, “Willi” and “Philip” respectively in some versions), Mrs. Cassandra (Maya’s teacher), and many other insects and other creatures. The book depicts Maya’s development from an adventurous youngster to a responsible adult member of bee society.
Maya is a bee born in a bee hive during internal unrest: the hive is dividing itself into two new colonies. Maya is raised by her teacher, Mrs. Cassandra. Despite Mrs. Cassandra’s warnings, Maya wants to explore the wide world and commits the unforgivable crime of leaving the hive. During her adventures, Maya, now in exile, befriends other insects and braves dangers with them. In the climax of the book, Maya is taken prisoner by hornets, the bees’ sworn enemies. Prisoner of the hornets, Maya learns of a hornet plan to attack her native hive. Maya is faced with the decision to either return to hive and suffer her due punishment, saving the hive, or leaving the plan unannounced, saving herself but destroying the hive. As May(a) bee expected, Maya, after severe pondering, makes the decision to return. In the hive, she announces the coming attack and is, totally unexpectedly, pardoned. The forewarned bees triumph over the hornet attack force. Maya, now a heroine of the hive, becomes a teacher, like Mrs. Cassandra and shares her experiences and wisdom with the future generation.
According to a new study the book may have carried a political message, analogous to La Fointaine’s work. The view says that Maya represents the ideal citizen, and the beehive represents a well-organised militarist society. It has also elements of nationalism and speciesism. Maya gets angry in two instances. First, a grasshopper fails to distinguish between bees and wasps. Maya’s verbal response includes calling the wasps “a useless gang of bandits” that have no “home or faith”. Second, a fly calls Maya an idiot, which prompts Maya to shout that she’s going to teach “respect for bees” and to threaten the fly with her stinger. The critic interprets this to mean that respect is based on the threat of violence. Collectivism versus individualism is also a theme. Maya’s independence and departure from the beehive is seen as reproachable, but it is atoned by her warning of the hornets’ attack. This show of loyalty restores her position in the society. In the hornet attack part of the story, the bees’ will to defend and the heroic deaths of bee officers are glorified, often in overtly militarist tones. In the post-WWII adaptations, the militarist element was toned down considerably, the hornets’ role reduced, and the character of Willy, a lazy and quite un-warlike drone bee, was introduced (he does not appear in the novel). In the cartoon series, the briskly marching, but ridiculously incompetent ant armies provide a parody of militarism.
This theory seems very plausible since Bonsels was an outspoken anti-Semite and expressed his approval of Nazi politics against Jews in 1933, calling the Jew a deadly enemy whos was poisoning the European culture.
I was inspired by the book and prepared a Maya the bee cupcake (with honey and lemon cream)!
In Germany the carnival has reached its peak this week! You can see from the pastry shop windows they are almost collapsed from the cakes, donuts and other carnival related delicacies! The Germans worship the donuts all over the year but at carnival time there is no bakery that wouldn’t offer donut with at least 25 kinds of different fillings.
I’m not particularly fond of donut, but yesterday I tasted an advocaat liqueur (egg+sugar+brandy+cream) Krapfen for the first time (Krapfen is the German name of the pastry that is made in a deep fryer) and it was divine. Today I went back to the bakery to get some again. No chance! It was sold out already at 7 a.m.
I heard a story related to the Krapfen that there is a common practical joke around carnival time especially in Berlin: some Krapfen is secretly filled with mustard instead of jam and serve them together with regular Krapfens without telling anyone.
In Germany Krapfens are very popular during the Fasnacht-Karneval season. The traditional Krapfen is similar to a donut with no central hole, made from sweet yeast dough fried in fat or oil, with a jam filling and usually icing, powdered sugar or conventional sugar on top. They are sometimes made with chocolate, champagne, custard, mocha or with this advocaat filling, (or with no filling at all)! Then they are dusted with a layer of cinnamon, cacao powder or sugar or icing.
Baking instructions of the Krapfen
The yeast dough contains a good deal of eggs, milk and butter. For the classical dough gets baled, deep-fried in lard, whereby the distinctive bright bulge occurs, and then filled with jam. The filling is related to the topping: for plum-butter, powdered sugar; for raspberry, strawberry and cherry jam, sugar; for all other fillings, sugar icing, sometimes flavored with rum. Today the filling usually is injected with a large syringe or pastry bag after the dough is fried in one piece.
Ingredients for the Krapfen: 500g flour, 1 pk dry yeast, 50 g sugar, 150 ml milk
75 g butter, 1 pinch salt, 2 eggs, 1 organic orange, vanilla pudding, eggnog liqueur,
fat to deep fry, cinnamon-sugar mix
Methods: Place flour into a bowl, make a mold in the middle, add yeast, 1tbsp sugar and luke warm milk, mix it. Cover it and let raise until the dough has doubled.
Melt butter, add remaining sugar, salt, eggs and grated orange peel (zest) and add to dough; knead until you get a smooth dough.
With 2 table spoons make small Krapfen and add to the hot fat, fry them until golden brown then drip them on kitchen paper and sprinkle with sugar-cinnamon mix. Eat with jam or cream.
Advocaat liqueur: It is an alcoholic beverage made from eggs, sugar, and brandy. The rich and creamy drink has a smooth, custard-like flavor. The typical alcohol content is generally somewhere between 14% and 20%. Its contents may be a blend of egg yolks, aromatic spirits, sugar or honey, brandy, vanilla, and sometimes cream (or evaporated milk).
Tomorrow (8th of February) in Germany many streets will come to life with colorful parades, loud music and celebrations around every corner since it’s carnival time. Even if you’ve experienced Carnival in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, there is still a lot to learn about how the German-speaking countries have fun. Here are five popular carnival celebrations throughout Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
But first of all what is “Fasching”?
Actually, a more precise question would be: What is Fasching, Karneval, Fasnacht and Fastelabend? They are all one and the same thing: pre-Lenten-Spring festivities celebrated in grand style mostly in the predominantly Catholic regions of the German-speaking countries. The Rhineland has its Karneval, Austria, Bavaria and Berlin (the capital of Germany) call it Fasching however the German-Swiss celebrate Fastnacht. I have found other names as well for Fasching such as: Fassenacht, Fasnet, Fastelavend, Fastlaam stc..Nicknames Fünfte Jahreszeit (fifth season) or Narrische Saison!
When is it celebrated? Fasching officially begins in most regions in Germany on Nov 11 at 11:11 a.m. or the day after the Three kings day, on Jan. 7th. However, the big bash celebrations are not on the same given date each year. Instead the date varies depending on when Easter falls. Fasching culminates into Fasching week, which begins the week before Ash Wednesday! (this year the carnival period is from 8th of February till 15th)
How is it celebrated?
Soon after Fasching season opens, a mock government of eleven guilds is elected, along with a Carnival prince and princess, who basically plan the carnival festivities. The biggest events are held the week before Asch Wednesday as follows:
Weiberfastnacht (women carnival): This is mainly an event held in the Rhineland (but also in München, Bavaria) on the Thursday before Asch Wednesday. The day begins with women storming into symbolically taking over city hall. Then, the women throughout the day snip off men’s ties and kiss any man who passes their way The day ends with people going to local venues and bars in costume
Parties, celebrations and parades: People celebrate the carnival in costume at various Carnival Community events and individual parties. Carnival parades abound. It is the weekend for people to live it up!
Rosenmontag-Rosen Monday: The largest and most popular Carnival parades take place on the Monday before Asch Wednesday! The origin of these parades come mostly from the Rhineland region. People throughout the German-speaking countries will tune in to watch the biggest German Carnival parade of all, which is held in Cologne (television channels broadcast the festival)
Fastnachtdienstag-Carnival Tuesday-Mardi Gras: Besides some parades that are held on this day, there is an other event it is called burial or burning of the Nubbel. The Nubbel is a life-sized puppet made of straw and embodies all of the sins committed during Carnival season. It is burned through a great ceremony on Tuesday evening before everyone parties one more time until Asch Wednesday arrives
What is the root or origin of the celebration? Fasching celebrations stem from various beliefs and traditions. For Catholics, it provided a festive season of food and fun before the Lenten fasting period began During the medieval times, plays were performed during the Lenten period called Fastnachtspiele. In pre-Christian times, Carnival symbolized the driving out of winter and all of its evil spirits. Hence the masks, to scare away these spirits. In southern Germany and Switzerland reflects these traditions.
Furthermore, there are Carnival traditions that can be traced back to historical events. After the French Revolution, the French took over Rhineland. Out of protest against French oppression, Germans from Cologne and surrounding areas would mock their politicians and leaders safely behind masks during Carnival season. Even today, caricatures of politicians and other personalities can be seen boldly portrayed on floats in the parades.
Belfort is a city in northeastern France, situated between Lyon and Strasbourg. It is the biggest town and the administrative town of the Territoire de Belfort département in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region (Belfort is 400 km (249 miles) from Paris, 141 km (88 miles) from Strasbourg, 290 km (180 miles) from Lyon and 150 km (93 miles) from Zürich). On our way back to Münich from Belgium we decided to stop there for a while.
The residents of the city are called “Belfortains”. Because the city is located on the Savoureuse, on the strategically important natural route between the Rhine and the Rhone–the Belfort Gap (Trouée de Belfort) or Burgundian Gate (Porte de Bourgogne) it arouse people’s interest. The fortress was finished in 1880 and it’s entirely made of red sandstone. The blocks is made from were individually sculpted then moved under Belfort castle to be assembled. The colossal work is 22 meters long and 11 meters high and dominates the local landscape.
The lion symbolizes the heroic French resistance during the Siege of Belfort, a 103-day Prussian assault (from December 1870 to February 1871). The city was protected from 40,000 Prussians by merely 17,000 men (only 3,500 were from the military) led by Colonel Denfert-Rochereau. Instead of facing Prussia to the east as was intended, it was turned the other way because of German protests.
Since July 2007, a tourist sight of the citadel has been open to the public – with a sound-, video- and light-animated trail in the moats and the big underpass of the citadel. Its name: “La Citadelle de la Liberté” (Citadel of Liberty).
But why we stopped here partly because of the view: by climbing on a tall building or going up the nearby mountains on a clear day, the ice-capped mountains of the Alps in Switzerland can be seen. Grand souterrain de la citadelle de Belfort-An underground passage of Belfort Citadel.
Moreover Belfort is also well known for hosting the annual Festival International de Musique Universitaire (FIMU) held in May each year. FIMU usually involves over 250 concerts at different locations around the city and around 2500 musicians, most of them students or amateur groups from countries across Europe and the rest of the world. Music styles performed are extremely diverse and include traditional, folk, rock, jazz, classical and experimental.
In the Pot-au-feu
After visiting the citadel we became very hungry. So that we decided to search a restaurant as quickly as possible. And our wishes came true when we discovered the Pot-au-Feu! The restaurant was located in the old town, a short walk from the “Le Lion de Belfort” from that magnificent sculpture. At the first sight it seemed to me small and intimate but one with a real French character. A lively little place so we stayed there. When we sat down at a comfortable table we checked the menu. The offer was quite limited which is always a good sign for me. And then we haven’t even made our orders but we have already got the Anis de Pontarlier aperitive which was a great surprise. Entirely different from its Provence “cousins”. This gesture made me feel very welcome. Then I chose a nice, little amuse bouche-a fish terrine -which was served with fresh bread in a little paper bag. A big jar of fleur de sel was placed on the table. Nice touch. It was mushroom time so my husband had a huge plate of girolles in a rosemary-flavoured cream followed by a coq au vin with about 25 morilles in it and with a bottle of chilled local light red wine (Côte de Jura). Of course I chose the Pot-au-feu it was excellent, the vegetables which were cooked in the soup were served as a main dish, with some remoulade, then we shared the dessert a very tasty and light Créme brulée flavored with Jura yellow wine. The portions were huge. The service was fine, prices well in range so we were satisfied with everything. The food was traditional with a beautiful simplicity. So I can describe that my experience in the Pot-au-feu was memorable. Here are two recipes from the master chef
Ingredients: 2 carrots, 2 asparagus, 1 red onion, 1 leak, 2 tbsp oil, 300 ml milk, 600 ml water, salt and pepper to taste
Soaté the finely chopped onion and carrots. Pour over bouillon and add peeled asparagus and finely cut leak. When the vegetables are tender make purée with a blender.
Cabbage soup a la Belfort
Ingredients: 350 gr smoked spareribs or 250 g lard, 200 gr chorizo or some dry sausage, 1 small head of a white cabbage, 200 gr potatoes, 2 carrots, 3 turnips, 1 onion, 3 l of vegetable soup or bouillon, salt and pepper to taste
Bring to a boil the smoked spareribs with the water in a big pot. When it starts to boil, get rid of the foam, put the cabbage (cut into four pieces) and let it simmer for 90 minutes. In half time of the cooking time add the potatoes, sausage, other vegetables, and cook everything together until they are tender. Serve the cabbage and the meat and the vegetables apart.
Lost Monday or sworn Monday (French lundi perdu or lundi parjure) is a Belgian tradition that is generally celebrated on Monday after Sunday after Epiphany- on 6th of January. This tradition is particularly steadfast in the province of Antwerp and remained in Tournai. In Aalst lost Monday was held in early October and “Hot sandwiches” were eaten, more precisely bread loaves which were still warm from the oven. In Sint-Truiden lost Monday is celebrated on the Monday before Ash Wednesday; then the annual carnival procession will travel through the streets of the city. In Belgium, especially in Flanders in the province of Antwerp, the tradition is to eat sausage loaves and apple dumplings on that day. Many stories and urban legends circulate about the origin of this use, one more accurate with the historical information than the other. A number of very likely hypotheses can be put forward on the basis of historical facts.
In archival documents mentioned this day as a “sworn Monday”: for instance a certain Lorraine document from 1231 speaks about of the “lundi parjuré“, the day on which some civil servants took their oath. This indication, however, was not limited to the Monday after the first Sunday after Epiphany. After all, there is also an other idea of the “sworn Monday of Easter” or the “sworn Monday of Christmas”. In Antwerp this is mentioned in a church account from 1431, and later also in a city account from 1513. However the first “lost Monday” is only encountered in 1730, in Leuven. Here too it would be a day that was “lost” which meant that there was no work on that day, because of the festivities on the occasion of the swearing in of civil servants. Such ceremonies were sometimes followed in Antwerp by a party. To keep that party affordable for the city, people were given a cheap meat sandwich. Since the civil servants did not work for the rest of that day, that day was soon christened as “lost Monday”.
A variant of this story is that in former times around the beginning of the 18th century very powerful guilds organized their New Year’s Eve party on “lost Monday”. The celebration lasted in the whole day, and the craftsmen did not go to work. Also the reading of guild books, containing the rights and duties of the craftsmen, would have led to a “lost Monday”. After this, it has been stated, that the patron would have gassed his guild members after a drink. This use was reportedly in vogue especially in Antwerp. In other municipalities guild members went door-to-door to offer New Year’s wishes in the name of their patron. It seems fairly safe to assume that this also led to hostel visits and absenteeism. In other regions, other names apply to similar days: “weaver’s Monday” in the Westhoek, “kopermaandag” in the Netherlands. “Kopperen” had the meaning: “to feed with food and drink”.
Haven of Antwerp
Haven of Antwerp was a famous hostel. And in the 19th century one of its hostel inspector came up with a brilliant idea to the innkeeper. For example, they would have strived to keep their customers in their business for as long as possible, for example by ensuring a (salt and thirsty) snack. In collaboration with butchers and bakers, they also treated their customers to roast meat and freshly baked bread. To keep it cheap, one used mainly fatty meats, processed into sausage and packaged in dough. The innkeepers ate the sausage, and the fat-permeated bread was given to the dog! Other sources refer to the port of Antwerp. Traditionally, the dock workers were allowed to drink on the Monday after the first Sunday after Epiphany at the expense of the nation’s bosses. They were offered something warm to eat, composed of ‘unsalable’ meat and bread. That “lost bread” would then be the origin of the specific name of that day.
Sausage bread and Apple dumpling
The eating of real sausage bread, as we now know, it is first mentioned in 1913 in the book by Edward Poffe: “Pleasant men in a pleasant town.” According to him, the use would only have arisen after 1880. Only after the Second World War did the sausage bread at the bakery cause a great influx of “lost Monday.” To this day this tradition has been maintained and in some traditional Antwerp catering businesses, treating customers to sausage bread and / or apple dumplings!
The Aalst (it is the biggest carnival town in Belgium) tradition would result from the use in early October of cleaning the kerosene lamps in the factories and filling them because, due to the shortening of days, artificial light had to be worked. As a result, it was not possible to work that day and the workers also received no wages: a lost Monday. The tradition lasted the longest in the De Kat district (Vredeplein), with their Kattekermis, but is now completely extinct.
Christmas is a time of domestic involvement. Many of the visible tokens of celebration-the decoration of the house and the presents-for friends-are in fact family projects that are relaxing and pleasurable. But four weekends before Christmas are the perfect time for gatherings, getting new ideas for Christmas in the Advent markets! The last two weekends I got the Advent bug and I visited two different cities in Germany to get in the Advent mood.
During the first weekend of December I went to Ludwigsburg’s Baroque Christmas Market (It is only 250 kms from München, circa 2 hours 45 minutes by car). The huge Castle was surrounded by arcades with its festively decorated stands were a winter dream came true. Arches and gates made of thousands of tiny light bulbs welcomed the visitors to the over 170 Christmas booths and majestic angels spread their glittering wings to bless the scene. The two baroque churches were also festively illuminated. The typical symmetry of a baroque city and garden architecture was the model for the layout of the Ludwigsburg Christmas market.
We breathed in the scents of mulled wine, the roasted chestnuts and gingerbread. However we didn’t have time to participate in some festive concert, but we were enchanted by the uniquely decorated market stalls and the adorned stalls offering traditional arts and crafts that made perfect presents for the family members.
I can recommend this place to everyone! According to my daughters during Christmas season this castle is more than just a visit. The Christmas market and the nearby pedestrian area with its numerous shopping opportunities will make your Christmas shopping a real pleasure. Go and enjoy Ludwigsburg with its Christmas flair!
The second magical event awaited us was the Ravennaschlucht-Ravenna gorge Christmas market which is held every weekend from December 1st-to the 23d. It’s a circa 3-hour drive from the KMC and under 2 hours from Stuttgart. Imagine a small village full of wooden houses, the scent of mulled wine and cinnamon in the air, snow covered mountains and fairy lights everywhere you look. Need I say more? This truly unique market was located in a romantic gorge. Free shuttle buses left at Hinterzarten and Himmelreich every thirty minutes; parking was available at the train stations as well. (But be careful parking closer to the market has to be reserved in advance). Because we didn’t make parking reservation therefore we parked in a village near by, called Hinterzarten. And then we saw Xmas bus which took us for free to that beautiful place under an old bridge. Admission was free. Can you imagine? Medieval music, scents of “Glühwein” and sweets, deco lights and torches, creeks and mountains…it’s unbelievable such the fantastic hot chocolate and the deer burger!
Hot chocolate drink: 250 ml milk, 150 ml cream, 75 g bittersweet chocolate, vanilla sugar or extract, 2 tbsp brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger bread spices
Methods: Melt chocolate. Cook milk and cream together but don’t let them boil. Stir melted chocolate in and flavor with 2 tbsp sugar and the vanilla sugar. Scatter some cinnamon powder and ginger bread spices on the top and enjoy!
The final season is approaching and the first of the season’s months draws the family together. Almost eleven months have already passed with probably too few table occasions, however November and specially December see the grand finale of the year, holding a true spirit of festivity as our preparations and gatherings lead us to 25 december.
But in Belgium the festivities traditionally begin each year in mid-November (the first Saturday after 11 November), when Sinterklaas “arrives” by a steamboat at a designated seaside town, supposedly from Spain. (Okay he traditionally rides a white horse. In the Netherlands, the horse is called Amerigo and in Belgium, it is named Slecht Weer Vandaag, it means “Bad Weather Today”.)
In the Netherlands this takes place in a different port each year, whereas in Belgium it always takes place in the city of Antwerp. The steamboat anchors, then Sinterklaas disembarks and parades through the streets on his horse, welcomed by children cheering and singing traditional Sinterklaas songs. His Zwarte Piet assistants throw candy and small, round, gingerbread-like cookies, either kruidnoten or pepernoten, into the crowd. The event is broadcast live on national television in the Netherlands and Belgium. Following this national arrival, every other town celebrates its own intocht van Sinterklaas (arrival of Sinterklaas). Local arrivals usually take place later on the same Saturday of the national arrival, the next Sunday (the day after he arrives in the Netherlands or Belgium), or one weekend after the national arrival. In places a boat cannot reach, Sinterklaas arrives by train, horse, horse-drawn carriage or even a fire truck.
Sinterklaas is assisted by many mischievous helpers with black faces and Moorish dresses. These companions are called Zwarte Piet (“Black Pete”). His colorful dress is based on 16th-century noble attire, with a ruff (lace collar) and a feathered cap. He is typically depicted carrying a bag which contains candy for the children. The Zwarte Pieten toss their candy around, a tradition supposedly originating in the story of Saint Nicholas saving three young girls from prostitution by tossing golden coins through their window at night to pay their dowries.
Traditionally, he would also carry a birch rod, a chimney sweep’s broom made of willow branches, used to spank children who had been naughty. Some of the older Sinterklaas songs make mention of naughty children being put in Zwarte Piet’s bag and being taken back to Spain. This part of the legend refers to the times that the Moors raided the European coasts, and as far as Iceland, to abduct the local people into slavery. This quality can be found in other companions of Saint Nicholas such as Krampus and Père Fouettard. In modern versions of the Sinterklaas feast, however, Zwarte Piet no longer carries the roe and children are no longer told that they will be taken back to Spain in Zwarte Piet’s bag if they have been naughty!
Over the years many stories have been added, and Zwarte Piet has developed from a rather unintelligent helper into a valuable assistant to the absent-minded saint. In modern adaptations for television, Sinterklaas has developed a Zwarte Piet for every function, such as a head Piet (Hoofdpiet), a navigation Piet (Wegwijspiet) to navigate the steamboat from Spain to the Netherlands, a gift-wrapping Piet (Pakjespiet) to wrap all the gifts, and an acrobatic Piet to climb roofs and chimneys. Traditionally Zwarte Piet’s face is said to be black because he is a Moor from Spain. Today, some prefer to say that his face is blackened with soot because he has to climb through chimneys to deliver gifts for Sinterklaas!
Sinterklaas is said to come from Spain, possibly because in 1087, half of Saint Nicholas’ relics were transported to the Italian city of Bari, which later formed part of the Spanish Kingdom of Naples. Others suggest that mandarin oranges, traditionally gifts associated with St. Nicholas, led to the misconception that he must have been from Spain. This theory is backed by a Dutch poem documented in 1810 in New York and provided with an English translation