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Blueberry festival in Belgium: The Witch and the Black Goat

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While witches have always existed in the Salm valley, just like anywhere else, the folklore group of the Macralles du Val de Salm from Belgium has only been in existence since 1955. Every year on 20 of July, the Macralles gather at a place: called Tienne-Messe to celebrate their Sabbath. This “Son et lumière” show stages amusing anecdotes about what has happened to certain of the people of the Salm valley during the last year, all in the Walloon dialect. Then the next day, they march in procession through the streets of the he Fête des Myrtilles (Blueberry Festival – July 21). The story of the Macralles is drawn from a local legend: the legend of Gustine Makra.

The course of the event: Every July 20 and for 24 hours, the “Neurès Bièsses” (the Macralles) symbolically take possession of the key of the city, and gather on the rocks of Tiennemesse to hold their Sabbath in the presence of their master, the “NeûrBo” (the Black Goat), who is none other than the Devil. This ceremony attracts more than 2,000 spectators every year. The macralleboast, in the local patois, of their harmful activities perpetrated during the year, whose targets are very diverse.

From 7:30 pm, musical and visual entertainment in the streets of Vielsalm

At 9:30 pm: taking the keys to the city; the macralles invade the communal park! During a scenario reviewed every year, they seize the key to the great displeasure of the mayor and the country guard. They then demand power for a period of 24 hours.
The “Neurès Bièsses” (the macralles) then gather at a place called Tiennemesse.
They review funny events and anecdotes of local and regional life. The devil, Neûr Bo (black goat) presides over this ceremony full of magic, terror and laughter. Every year, more than a thousand spectators witness this real sound and light.
Highlights of the Sabbath: – the arrival by the air of witches, with the help of their broom of course! – the establishment of the cauldron where the emmacrallée potion, the “tcha-tcha” will be concocted – the arrival of the devil on an authentic hearse – the enthronements of personalities, greeted by hunting horns and artifices. Not to mention the various more or less skilful attempts of the Country Guard (“the Emmacrallé”) who tries, without much success it must be said, to put an end to the Sabbath and tries to make public order reign!


Who has already once attended the Sabbath in the past should not be afraid to see the same things again from year to year because the Sabbath changes over the years. If we always strive to maintain a common frame to the various performances, we seek above all constantly not to tire the faithful spectators, especially through the use of many accessories and disguises, as well as music adapted and composed by our technical team. The lighting and a studied pyrotechnics make it possible to stage the highlights of the Sabbath, to enhance the play of the actors and the visual effects.
The “Neurès Bièsses” also take advantage of this sound and light show to induct certain personalities, both local and national, and thus confer on them the title of “Baron des Frambâches”. The ritual of enthronement consists in making the future Barons taste the “tcha-tcha” (potion based on crushed blueberries) and to make them ride
and broom and repeat the sentence that will “emmacraller” them forever: “Sôte, Mirôte, oût hayes èt bouchons!”

On the Sabbath are also enthroned the young Macralles nicknamed the ” loumerottes “. The loumerottes only become real Macralles after two years of apprenticeship.
After the Sabbath, a reception is organized and brings together all the members of the Macralles group, as well as the Barons of the Frambâches and the sympathizers. The opportunity for everyone to meet, and to sign the Golden Book, a real treasure illustrated by many cartoonists, each more prestigious than the other…

In addition to the outdoor processions, the Macralles are of course rampant in their own locality; collection of eggs and giant omelette offered each beginning of the year, local entertainment etc. 

By the way every October 31 from 1999 to 2008, the Macralles also organized the Halloween party for children: torchlight procession in the streets of the locality, followed by a ball for all the little devils and other monsters!
Between 2000 and 2010, the Macralles of the Val de Salm were the initiators of 7 “Great Gatherings of Witches”.
The program of these diabolical days expanded as the editions went on: artisanal market ofthewitch, street entertainment: storytellers, fire-eaters, jugglers, magicians, puppet theater, medieval musicians and other troubadours.

In the evening, a large international procession of groups of witches took place: “sisters” came especially from the whole of Belgium, but also from France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland; as early as 2001, for the first time in Belgium, the presence of luminous electric floats in the procession, always on the theme of witchcraft, which will dazzle more than one!

For the pleasure of the eyes, no less than 8,000 light points are needed per tank to perfect the magic of the show. The closing evening in the communal park is placed under the sign of fire, accompanied by wild music.

The legend of Gustine Makra: she had managed to awaken the fairies and gnomes from hibernation, but she had also revived tormentors and ghosts, werewolves and demons. Fortunately, the later canonized Gengoux, long ago, managed to conjure up the Beings of Darkness. But now that almost 1313 years have passed, they are about to wake up again… Do you manage to make contact with above- , extraterranean and subterranean creatures and reveal the Mysteries of the Macralle? You can learn the language of the black magicians, who not only uses words, but also sound vibrations –and waves, sound patterns and music? After all, don’t you shy away from fighting Gustine Makra & her Creatures of Darkness, and putting them back to sleep with the appropriate formula.

Tulip, Love and the Persian New Year

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The superstar of the spring there is no doubt that the tulip is. They can take centre stage like no other flower can, creating unforgettable spring shows. Because the tulip is truly an extraordinary flower. It has a past steeped in legend and has been a muse for art and poetry, it has obsessed nations, and enthralled sultans. Here is one of the exotic legends of its origin from the 6th century. The tale goes…In Persian folklore, the first tulip is said to have bloomed from the blood of star crossed lovers, Farhad and Shirin, in a tale reminiscent of the infamous Romeo and Juliet.

A lowly stone cutter, Farhad, loved the Princess Shirin, and wanted to win her heart. When she heard of this, she would have none of it, and would not even see him, what would she want with a lowly tradie? So Farhad took to the hills with his flute and made beautiful music in praise of Princess Shirin. He fasted as he pined for his love, and soon the villagers made him the talk of the town. They saw Farhad’s plight and felt for him, so they conspired that the two should meet. Princess Shirin was led into the mountain’s forest by her courtesan and when she saw Farhad and heard his music, she fell in love.

The father isn’t happy When her father, the Shah heard that his only daughter had fallen for someone beneath her he was not happy. He could see that she loved him, but was adamant that she should not. He was no dummy, he knew if he told her no, then he may lose her, so he devised a clever plan. He decreed that Farhad, being a commoner, must complete a task, a task that no man could complete. A task that heroes would run from, and only if he was able to do this could he have any hope of ever being with his beloved princess. Now, you might think that that is clever, but it is not the best bit. He had Shirin ask this of Farhad, as a task she wanted complete.

So Princess Shirin went to Farhad and asked  him to dig a canal through the bedrock of the hills. Not just any canal mind you, it had to be six lances wide and three lances deep, oh and forty miles long! She appears quite high maintenance by today’s standards!

Farhad didn’t blink, he loaded up his spade and headed for the hills. He laboured tirelessly for years. From dawn to dark he worked his spade, building the canal, and he was making real progress. The princess would visit, in secret to watch him work, falling deeper and deeper in love – he must have been rippling with muscles by this stage!

Word reached the Shah that Farhad had almost completed his task. The clever trick was not going to plan. The Shah sought council from his cunning Viziers. Together they plotted to send one of the princesses courtiers to tell Farhad that Shirin was dead, hoping that with a broken heart he would give up and go away.

So the courtesan was sent to tell Farhad that the princess was dead. He did not believe her, but was eventually convinced. Then, overcome by grief, Farhad used his spade to take his life, and his blood flowed into the canal.

Things didn’t go according to plan When news reached Princess Shirin she ran to the mountains to see if it was true. Upon seeing him, she then took her own life. Where they lay together, their scarlet blood pooled, and each drop formed a tulip. Ensuring their love will live forever.”

Unhappy end…but at least the tulip has become the most cherished flower since… The Iranian celebrate the spring with this flower at Nowruz‘s time, which is the name of the Iranian New Year, also known as the Persian New Year but it is celebrated worldwide by various ethno-linguistic groups usually on or around March 21 on the Gregorian calendar. Nowruz has Iranian and Zoroastrian origins; however, it has been celebrated by diverse communities for over 3,000 years in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the  Black Sea Basin, the Balkans, and South Asia. It is a secular holiday for most celebrants that is enjoyed by people of several different faiths, but remains a holy day for Zoroastrians, Bahá’ís, and some Muslim communities. Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) of the Iranian calendars. The moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year, and families gather together to observe the rituals. While Nowruz has been celebrated since the reform of the Iranian Calendar in the 11th century CE to mark the new year, the United Nation officially recognized the “International Day of Nowruz” in 2010.

Sweet dates balls

House cleaning and shopping

House cleaning, or shaking the house (xāne tekāni) is commonly done before the arrival of Nowruz. People start preparing for Nowruz with a major spring cleaning of their homes and by buying new clothes to wear for the New Year, as well as the purchase of flowers. The hyacinth and the tulip are popular and conspicuous.

Visiting family and friends

During the Nowruz holidays, people are expected to make short visits to the homes of family, friends and neighbors. Typically, young people will visit their elders first, and the elders return their visit later. Visitors are offered tea and pastries, cookies, fresh and dried fruits and mixed nuts or other snacks. Many Iranians throw large Nowruz parties in as a way of dealing with the long distances between groups of friends and families.

Haft-sin

Typically, before the arrival of father Nowruz, family members gather around the Haft-sin table and await the exact moment of the March equinox to celebrate the New Year. Traditionally, the Haft-sin (seven things beginning with the letter sin are

  • sabze– wheat barley, mung bean or lentil sprouts grown in a dish.
  • samanu– sweet pudding made from wheat germ
  • senjed -Persian olive oil
  • serke-vinegar
  • sib-apple
  • sir-garlic
  • somāq-sumac

The Haft-sin table may also include a mirror, candles, painted eggs, a bowl of water, goldfish, coins, hyacinth, tulip and traditional confectioneries. A “book of wisdom” such as the Quran, Bible, Avesta, the Sahname or the divān of Hafez may also be included. Haft-sin’s origins are not clear. The practice is believed to have been popularized over the past 100 years.

In Iran, the traditional heralds of the festival of Nowruz are Amu Nowruz and Haji Firuz, who appear in the streets to celebrate the New Year. Amu Nowruz brings children gifts, much like his counterpart Santa Claus. He is the husband of Nane Sharma, with whom he shares a traditional love story in which they can meet each other only once a year (one more love story!) He is depicted as an elderly silver-haired man with a long beard carrying a walking stick, wearing a felt hat, a long cloak of blue canvas, a sash, giveh, and linen trousers. Haji Firuz, a character with his face and hands covered in soot, clad in bright red clothes and a felt hat, is the companion of Amu Nowruz. He dances through the streets while singing and playing the tambourine. In the traditional songs, he introduces himself as a serf trying to cheer people whom he refers to as his lords. His face is covered in soot, and he is clad in bright red clothes and a felt hat. He dances through the streets while singing and playing a tambourine. In the traditional songs, he introduces himself as a serf trying to cheer people whom he refers to as his lords. As a black-faced serf, he is a controversial character, seen as symbolically racist. Therefore, half of his face is sometimes painted white in order to avoid the criticisms. According to some sources, Hajji Firuz is based on a tradition called Mir Nowruzi. Mir Nowruz was a comical figure chosen to rule the municipality for “the last five days of the year” (Panje). The temporary “five-day king” (Šāh e Panj Ruze) would often parade the city with a group of singers and dancers for the Nowruz celebrations

Later, it was claimed that the blackened face of Hajji Firuz symbolizes his returning from the world of the dead, his red clothing is the sign of the blood of Siavash and the coming to life of the sacrificed deity, while his joviality is the jubilation of rebirth, typical of those who bring rejuvenation and blessing along with themselves. Bahar speculates that the name Siyāwaxš might mean ‘black man’ or ‘dark-faced man’ and suggests that the term black in the name may be a reference either to the blackening of the faces of the participants in the aforementioned Mesopotamian ceremonies, or to the black masks that they wore for the festivities.

Oven baked sweet potato with kidney beans

Pumpkin festival in Germany/Ludwigsburg

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The fall is just around the corner. What better way to celebrate than to visit the world’s largest pumpkin festival in southwestern Germany? You probably never knew that there are 800 different kinds of pumpkin in the world and at the Blooming Baroque (Blühenden Barock), the gardens surrounding Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, is home to this annual event with over 600 varieties and over 450,000 pumpkins on display for all to see.

Facts: Each year the festival chooses a new theme keeping return visitors coming back again and again. The theme for 2016 was Rome, 2019 was “Fantastic World of Fairytales” and this year, in 2020 the theme is “Music.” As you make your way around, be sure to have your camera ready. You will see hundreds of thousands of pumpkins transform into interesting creations. The imagination and planning put into the design of these displays are mind-blowing. My respect to all of those working hard behind the scenes to make this event a success! Chapeau!

Food: Be sure to bring your appetite. There are plenty of pumpkin-inspired foods and drinks, and if you are lucky some free samples along the way. Delicious pumpkin beers, pumpkin lattes, champagnes and wines are available. The food menu has plenty to offer to range from pumpkin muffins, pumpkin soup, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin burgers, (it was excellent) spaghetti with pumpkin and the list goes on and on. Not a fan of pumpkin? Don’t worry there is plenty of traditional German fare to choose from, as well.

Shopping: For those of you eager to take a pumpkin home, there is a large array of pumpkins for purchase and even carving kits, too. In a shopping area and vendors to find decorative and food items such as: pumpkin Secco, pumpkin tea, a variety of pumpkin spice mixes for soups and other dishes, pumpkin ketchup, pumpkin fruit spread, roasted pumpkin seeds and so on, endless…

Just walking the grounds of Ludwigsburg’s Residential Palace warrants a trip in itself. As one of Germany’s largest Baroque palaces, the palace and the grounds are a must-see while visiting the area. If time allows, guided tours of the inside of the palace are offered in multiple languages. Not to mention, by purchasing admission to the pumpkin festival you will also have access to the infamous fairy tale gardens with over 30 scenes and activities for children big and small. The gardens include a funky little cave/tunnel that leads you from one part of the gardens into a little aviary where you could see a small collection of birds and ducks.

From the well-manicured landscaping to the dreamy fountains and impressive architecture, this is definitely a sight you will not want to miss. Add in some seasonable fun and it makes a perfect day trip for the whole family. Something that I did not expect to see was a huge display of pumpkins labeled with their origin country. I found it fascinating to look at all the different varieties of pumpkins and to see where each one originated from. I definitely recommend stopping by this interesting showcase of pumpkins.

Events: The festival hosts numerous special events on designated dates (from the end of August-to the end of December). Ranging from pumpkin carving contests to smashing pumpkins, to pumpkin weigh-ins to ‘tales from the pumpkin patch’, a beloved storytime for children, to the largest pot of pumpkin soup in Germany cooked and served to visitors.

But my favorite event of all is the German pumpkin paddling championship. Where competitors race in giant hollowed-out gourds to victory across the castle lake!

Germany’s biggest pumpkin soup

In keeping with the tradition, the pumpkin chefs of the Pumpkin Gourmet whip up the biggest pumpkin soup in Germany each year.  This way, the Pumpkin Festival at Blühendes Barock in Ludwigsburg can once again did a good deed: for every dish of the record-breaking soup sold, they donate up to 1 Euro to the Helferherz campaign in the district of Ludwigsburg! And to raise as much as possible, the soup has to be enormous: the pot holds 555 litres of pumpkin soup and around 2000 servings. The pumpkin chefs are happy to swing their wooden spoons to ensure that even this huge amount of soup will taste delicious. If the pot is finished, the Pumpkin Festival organizer (Jucker Farm) will donate a further 50 cents per portion, to make the donation amount 1 Euro per portion consumed. So “lick your bowls clean” on one weekend and have set a goal of finishing the enormous pot of soup not just once, but twice!

Harvest Festivals in Germany

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In Germany there are many festivals related to the harvest. For instance there is a celebration running from August to October devoted to the shepherds and cowherds who would return from the mountains. It is called Almabtrieb which literally means drive from the mountain pasture. It is an annual event in the alpine regions in Europe, referring to a cattle drive that takes place in late September or early October. The animals are covered with flowers, and the villagers put on their traditional costumes to welcome the procession.

During summer, all over the alpine region cattle herds feed on alpine pastures (Almen in Austria or Germany, Alpen in Switzerland) high up in the mountains, a practice known as transhumance. In numbers, these amount to about 500,000 in Austria, 380,000 in Switzerland, and 50,000 in Germany.

While there is often some movement of cattle between the Almen, or Alps respectively, during the summer, there is usually one concerted cattle drive in the autumn to bring the cattle to their barns down in the valley. If there were no accidents on the Alm during the summer, in many areas the cattle are decorated elaborately, and the cattle drive is celebrated with music, feasts and dance events in the towns and villages. Upon arrival in the valley, joint herds from multiple farmers are sorted in the Viehscheid, and each animal is returned to its owner.

In many places this Alpine custom of Almabtrieb has today evolved into a major turist attraction, with a public festival, and booths set up along the course for selling agricultural, as well as artisans’, products along with alcoholic beverages.

In the spring, the reverse cattle drive moves from the valley barns to the Alp (in Switzerland: Alpaufzug, Alpfahrt, Alpauffahrt; in Germany/Austria: Almauftrieb). It is celebrated in Switzerland, though less well known. It is not celebrated in Germany and Austria, however. In Germany, peasants used to break the first straws of hay brought into the barns saying, “This is food for the dead.”

Viehscheid Oberstdorf
Traditionel march in Oberstdorf – Alps

Almabtrieb is super but the bigest harvest festival in Germany is known as Oktoberfest. It is the world’s largest Volksfest (beer fest and travelling funfair). Held annually in Münich, Bavaria, it is a 16- to 18-day folk fest running from mid or late September to the first Sunday in October, with more than six million people from around the world attending the event every year. Locally, it is often called the Wiesn, after the colloquial name for the fairgrounds, Theresa’s meadows ( Theresienwiese). The Oktoberfest is an important part of Bavarian culture, having been held since the year 1810. Other cities across the world also hold Octoberfest celebrations that are modeled after the original Munich event. The Oktoberfest festivities are officially opened when the Lord Mayor taps the first barrel of beer A large parade of colorfully decorated brewers’ drays and magnificent floats brings the festivities to an exciting climax on the first Sunday of October. Beer tents erected for the occasion provide an unending supply of drink and food and a carnival atmosphere permeates the entire festival.P1000426

During the event, large quantities of October Beer are consumed: during the 16-day festival in 2013, for example, 7.7 million liter (66,000 US bbl; 1,700,000 imp gal) were served. Visitors also enjoy numerous attractions, such as amusement rides, sidestalls, and games. There is also a wide variety of traditional foods available.

The Munich Oktoberfest originally took place in the 16-day period leading up to the first Sunday in October. In 1994, this longstanding schedule was modified in response to German reunification. As such, if the first Sunday in October falls on the 1st or the 2nd, then the festival would run until 3 October (German Unity Day). Thus, the festival now runs for 17 days when the first Sunday is 2 October and 18 days when it is 1 October. In 2010, the festival lasted until the first Monday in October (4 October), to mark the event’s bicentennial.

Where grape-growing and wine-making go on, a green branch or bush is hung over the door when it comes time for the wine tasting..

In Germany the Erntedanktag (Thanksgiving) is also official holiday just like in Canada or in USA. Harvest Festivals are celebrated in churches and market places, in homes and dance halls. Religious holiday traditions are a part of the local culture and are enjoyed by the whole community.The German Erntedankfest is primarily a rural and a religious celebration. When it is celebrated in larger cities, it is usually part of a church service. Erntedankfest is often celebrated on the first Sunday in October, which is usually also the first Sunday following Michaelistag or Michaelmas which is 29 Sept, but, various locales may give thanks at different times during September and October. Erntedankfest is not a big day of family get-togethers and feasting, but, there are some turkey substitutes, usually so-called Masthühnchen, or chickens bred to be fattened up for more meat. Der Kapaun is a castrated rooster that is fed until he’s heavier than the average rooster. Die Poularde is the hen equivalent, a sterilized pullet that is also fattened up. A “harvest crown” or Erntekrone is formed of ears of grain, flowers and fruit is taken to church in solemn procession. Mostly the celebration includes the blessing of gifts, a parish celebration and/or morning drinking festivals also known as Frühschoppen.

German Catholics also celebrate the Feast of Saint Martin of Tours or as it is also known Martinmas, hold on November 11. This feast was held to honor the Romain saint who, as legend goes, hid in a barn when he heard he had been appointed a bishop and believed he did not earn such an honor. A honking goose as legend goes was to reveal his hiding place, so roast goose became a traditional dish for Martinmas feast, along with wine made from the grape harvest. As well the day held elements of the Halloween tradition with children marching in parades carrying homemade lanterns. Protestant Germans later on celebrated the Feast of Saint Martin in honor of the German religious leader and founder of Protestantism, Martin Luther, who was born on November 10th 1483 and was named after Saint Martin of Tours.

 

Crazy carnival days in München

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Each year in Munich, the month of February and March bring a whirlwind of music, costumes and dances, in the guise of the Munich Carnival. The city of Munich certainly knows how to party. This year the festival lasts three days, and the city lets loose, on Sunday, Monday and finally Shrove Tuesday. It’s a fun event for all, with parades and masked balls organized by various professional organizations. In parallel with the carnival there are actually over 1,000 events and dances that take place, lasting several weeks, organized by major theatres and breweries in Munich. On the last Sunday, the festivities take place around Marienplatz. On the Tuesday, it’s time for the apotheosis on the Viktualien market with the Dirndl, the “Dance of the good women of the market.” A fantastic event when women in traditional dress dance and sing their hearts out together with the public. For this alone, it’s worth seeing!

The carnival season has different names in Germany: in Cologne and Düsseldorf “Carnival”, in Mainz “Fasenacht”, in other regions “Fasnet” or “Fosnat”. The carnival season in and around Munich is named “Fasching”.

Carnival was originally a pagan festival, later it has become associated with the catholic church and was celebrated on the day before the beginning of Lent. Nowadays the carnival season begins officially on November 11 with the coronation of a carnival prince and a carnival princess and lasts about three months until Ash Wednesday seven weeks before Easter. The most Fasching events are held in the last four weeks.

The Fasching main season is this year from February 1 to March 5. During this time more than 800 balls will be held in Munich. The biggest ones are parties with thousands of people. Most of these are fancy dress balls, but there are also classical gala balls in dinner jacket and evening dress (“Schwarz-Weiss-Bälle”).

To get a first impression we recommend to visit one of the big traditional balls in the “Deutsches Theater” (the first costume ball in the “Deutsches Theater” was organized already in 1897), or in the Hotel “Bayerischer Hof”. The third traditional location “Löwenbräukeller” is not available this year due to renovation work. Only the festival room is open.

In this festival room of the Löwenbräukeller takes place on March 1 the “Ball der damischen Ritter” (Ball of the crazy knights). It is a persiflage of Bavaria in the middle ages. You will see a lot of funny people dressed in knights’ armours.

The “Weissen Feste” (white parties) in the “Max-Emanuel-Brauerei” are legendary. These Fasching parties, which were originally parties of the Schwabing artists, are held already for over 50 years. The visitors have to come in white costumes. In the light of the special neon tubes (so-called bull’s-eye light) it looks quite eerie.

Balls
The “Crazy Knights” will organize a small carnival parade starting from Sonnenstrasse and ending at Hofbräuhaus, but it is not comparably with the big and magnificent carnival processions in Cologne and Mainz.

“München Narrisch”: During the last three crazy days (on Fasching Sunday, on Rose Monday and on Shrove Tuesday – this year March 3, 4 and 5) the pedestrian area in the city center around Marien platz is turned into a gigantic open air party zone with live music, fancy dresses and dancing.

One of the highlights of the Munich Fasching is the dance of the market women on the “Viktualien markt” (Victuals Market) at 10:30 a.m. on Shrove Tuesday. The market women rehearse for it already months before.
So, now try out the Munich Fasching. You need no expensive costume. Luxurious costumes are the exception here. All you need is a good mood and you will have a lot of fun during the carnival season in Munich.Tanz-der-Marktfrauen-auf-dem-Viktualienmarkt

 

After ski party in the Alps

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The Zugspitze lies southwest of Garmish-Partenkirchen and, at 2,962 m above sea level is the highest peak in Germany. Both the valleys and the Alpine Foreland have been heavily influenced by the last ice age. The lakes were partially formed by groundwater filling the hollows carved out by the glaciers. Later the lakes silted up and formed moors like the Murnauer Moor (Moos in German). In the early Iron Age this so called Werdenfelser Land was settled by Illyrians. Even at this early stage there were close contacts with Upper Italy over the route of the present-day Brenner-Scharnitz road. From about 500 B.C. Celts invaded this region and mixed with the indigenous population. In turn the Romans conquered the Celts around 15 B.C. and annexed the region to the Province of Raetia. Occasionally the Romans adopted settlement and river names of Veneto-Illyrian or Celtic origin, some of which have survived to the present day (Partenkirchen – Partanum, Isar – Isara).

The trade route -that was already established by 195 A. D. -was upgraded. The Via Claudia Augusta now ran from Augsburg via Partenkirchen and Mittenwald to the  Brenner Pass and continued to  Bozen (Pons Drusi), where it formed a junction with the older Reschen Pass branch. The Roman road station of Partanum was the predecessor of modern-day Partenkirchen. After the collapse of the  Roman Empire and the end of the Migration Period of Bajuwaren settled from about the 6th century A.D. in the valleys.

From the Middle Ages until the Thirty Years’ War, the Werdenfelser Land was subject to the Prince-Bishop of Freising, not the Duke of Bavaria (the region derives its name from the medieval Werdenfels Castle north of  Garmisch-Partenkirchen). The castle acted chiefly to secure the military and trade route that ran through the Loisach valley and linked trading posts in Italy and Upper Bavaria.

The Werdenfels Castle,- erected by Duke Otto of Wittelsbach in 1180 -it is found in the northwest of Partenkirchen,- was transferred in 1294 to the Prince-Bishopric of Freising. Control of the northern approaches of the important European trading route by the Freising archbishopric enabled the population of the County of Werdenfels to become relatively wealthy over a long period of time. It is sometimes called the Goldener Land after the wealth derived in the Middle Ages and Renaissance from the traffic along this Rottstraße, the main route over the Alps to Augsburg.

With the onset of the Modern Period there was a significant economic boom in as a result of stronger trade relations with Italy (fuggers). The nickname Goldenes Landl (“Little Golden Land”) for the Werdenfelser Land comes from this period. This development was ended by the Thirty Years’ War and the population became impoverished. Later wars, such as the Wars of the Spanish and Austrian Succession in the early 18th century and Napoleonic Wars of the 19th century, also severely affected the population. In 1803, as a result of Napoleonic rule, the Prince-Bishopric of Freising was toppled and the Werdenfelser Land was given to Bavaria. Since 1889 the advent has become of a new source of income as the new railway link with München brought tourists to the region.

Garmisch, the Werdenfelser Land museum

The cultural centre of the land is the town Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The twin towns are famous for their winter and summer facilities. For instance after skiing is a perfect program to go to the Werdenfelser Landmuseum (it is in Garmisch). After visiting the museum you will realize that it’s not just a small town museum experience, it is also an interesting property. The building was the house of a rich merchant in the 17th century, (even the street in which the museum resides is also fascinating with the many facade painted houses).

The Museum reflects the history, culture, folklore, life style, from the surroundings of the Bavarian and Tirolean areas. The walls are full of lovely old paintings & some fantastic black & white photos of local life. Some interesting rooms made up – for instance the carnival masks, the nursery was particularly nice. Artifacts from pre-Roman time periods to the present, provide a view of the historic significance of this small community, through which a Roman supply route stretched through to Vienna, Austria. And all of it just for 1 euro entry! There is a leaflet in English but all the exhibits are in German only. Its on 3 floors with no lift. To sum up my visit I went away impressed. So it’s well worth a visit when you are in the area.

I ate in a local restaurant a fish dish in mustard sauce, it was divine!p1170756

 

 

Germanize yourself for Xmas

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Schmuck (Xmas decorations made of glass), Advent, Feuerbowlzange, (glogg or mulled wein), Orange punsch and Eggpunsch (eggnog), Bratwurst (fried saussage, the best one is from Nürnberg), Rehburger (minced deerburger), Steinpilz mit Sahne (champignons with cream sauce), Reibekuchen (grated and fried potato, Rötzli in Swiss)- but you can buy Salzkartoffeln, Bratkartoffeln, Kartoffelbrei, Kartoffelpuffer, Kartoffelklöße/-knödel, Kartoffelauflauf/-gratin, Kartoffelsalat, Kartoffelsuppe, Rösti, Ofenkartoffeln, Kroketten, Stampfkartoffeln, Kartoffelecken, Pellkartoffeln, Pommes frites, Petersilienkartoffeln, Rosmarinkartoffeln-boerenkool-cabbage, and smoked salmon. And I almost forgot from the list the iconic curry wurst-saussage. It is also among of the German popular culture. (The former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is still a noted fan of curry wurst. By tradition, every candidate for the mayor of Berlin is photographed at a curry  wurst stand!)

From these names of foods and drinks I know that the advent is here! I’m sure from experience that the Germans are the biggest advent fans in the world! I didn’t like Christmas very much before I ‘d moved to Germany but here I “fell in love” with the advent season. Every year I really looking forward to it. According to the Advent calendar -which means usually at the end of November- I place a beautiful advent wreath on the table of our dining room. I try to buy a wreath with three violet or purple and one pink candle, and I know now that I must light the pink candle on the Third Sunday of Advent! You see I could get a bachelor degree from Advent knowledge. But advent also means of many different events such as markets, fairs, wine drinking and concerts! Among the most attractive events my favorites are the next:

Tollwood in München (the meaning of the word is mad dog)

“Cowboy boots instead of winter boots”- that’s the motto for this year’s Tollwood winter festival in Munich’s Theresien wiese, the huge area where Oktoberfest is held. Canadian contemporary circus group Cirque Éloize have brought their show “Saloon” to Europe for the first time: expect upbeat piano music, swinging saloon-doors, and stunning acrobatics, theatre and dance. The festival, which this year concentrates on “sustainable mobility”, tries to educate visitors about the advantages of carpooling, public transport and cycling. The festival includes stalls and food kiosks, and hundreds of artistic performances. Over 70 percent of the events are free, but tickets for the others can be bought online. (23 Nov-31 Dec)

Circus Krone (also in München) is Europe’s biggest circus opens for its winter season on Christmas Day. One of the few circuses to have its own permanent building, this Munich troupe is one of the best. Once an integral part of European entertainment, circuses of this quality are now few and far between. Although many are put off by these institutions, Circus Krone emphasizes the importance of treating their animals well. From breakdancing to trapezes, and llamas to lions, it certainly promises to be an impressive display. (25 Dec-31 January)

Chocolate festival in Thübingen, from 29 November-4 December

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, then you would be mad to miss Germany’s biggest chocolate festival at the beginning of December. Taking place in Tübingen’s old town, the festival brings together over 100 of the top international chocolatiers from all corners of the world. Across six days, you can sample chocolates from Africa, South America, Europe and more. Alternatively, you could sip on some of the best drinking chocolate around, or swat up on your choco-knowledge by attending courses and demonstrations. The festival also places a lot of emphasis on the chocolate-making process, promoting fair treatment of the 14 million people whose livelihoods depend on chocolate production.

Xmas garden Berlin: from 17 Nov-7 January

As the twilight falls, the magic begins” is the motto of the 2018 Christmas celebrations at the Berlin Botanical Gardens. The show includes a fairy tale landscape in which visitors can wander through one and a half kilometers of “breathtaking light shows, bright dream forests and magical light figures” far from the packed crowds of Berlin’s Christmas markets. At the end of the adventure, there are a variety of food stalls offering local culinary specialties, as well as fire pits to gather round. For the more athletic, there is also a 300-metre squared ice rink. Xmas market You can’t be in Germany in December without visiting a Christmas market, but the tricky part is choosing which one to visit.

Click here to see ten of Germany’s most unmissable Christmas markets, ranging from the über-traditional to the totally wacky.Trauschitz 2014 024

 

 

Maxlrain: Bavarian delicacies in Bohemian Vault

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Maxlrain is a wonderful place to unwind and an ideal destination for an excursion, regardless of whether you just drop into the famous beer tavern for a pint, dine in the castle restaurant, embark on a walking tour or simply attend one the many cultural events staged here.
Needless to say, the pride and joy of Maxlrain is the private brewery which forms the centerpiece of the entire setting. All products are backed by the full conviction of the Sepp Kronast family, brewing what must be the best and most cultivated beers in the whole of Bavaria.

Maxlrain is picturesquely situated in the rural district of Rosenheim, almost on the doorstep of the spa town of Bad Aibling, set amidst breath-taking alpine scenery dominated by the awe-inspiring peak of Mount Wendelstein.
Arriving from Munich on the A8 motorway, Maxlrain is a couple of minutes’ drive away from the motorway exit “Bad Aibling”.

Maxlrain boasts very few houses, its most imposing landmark being the Renaissance Castle, adjacent to which the brewery, castle restaurant and tavern combine to form a unique complex with a great deal to offer in the way of cultural highlights (it’s between München and Chiemsee, the world famous castle of Ludwig, the Herren island, so you can make a plan for a whole day trip).Belgium Schwarzwald 121

Fine Beers since 1636

There is evidence of beer having been brewed in Maxlrain since 1636. Up to about 1900 brewing was still being carried out in the castle itself before being transferred to the site we know today which has continued to retain all the charm and magic of a family-run rural brewery. Master Brewer Sepp Kronast jealously guards the process of brewing all the fine specialty beers, meanwhile 15 in number.
Year in, year out, the Maxlrain Castle Brewery qualifies for multiple gold awards and has been nominated for the Federal Honorary Award incessantly since 2008. This is the highest distinction for a German brewery.

Sample Bavarian Delicacies in Bohemian Vaults

For years on end the Maxlrain Tavern has been a popular with locals and travelling visitors alike. A neat rustic ambience enhanced by Bohemian vaults provides a delightful setting for enjoying typical Bavarian delicacies. In summer, the largest beer garden in the rural district of Rosenheim is an inviting, atmospheric spot to relax and while away sunny days or evenings in the shade of chestnut trees or under a cooling sunshade. A large adventure playground serves to complement the whole, making Maxlrain an ideal destination for a family excursion. Regular pre-lunch music sessions are staged to which you can enjoy your morning pint.

On the top of that the Maxlrain Castle Restaurant (Schlosswirtschaft) is well known throughout the rural district of Rosenheim, noted for its high-class alpine cuisine and international savories. In its present-day form the building dates back to 1618. The rustic charm of yesteryear has been fully retained in the comfy tavern, function room and spacious banqueting hall. This is what makes the castle restaurant so popular for wedding receptions and special events. The congenial atmosphere of the beer garden dotted with age-old chestnut trees and offset by spectacular views of Mount Wendelstein, Maxlrain’s local peak, is a real winter and summer treat.

From December 7th-to 9th, 2018, the renaissance castle will host the second Advent weekend with historical medieval Christmas market! It will be open on Friday from 16:00-21:00, on Saturday 11:00-21:00, on Sunday 11:00-19:00!P1000511

Renaissance festival in Bavaria

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Mindelheim is one of those old towns in Bavaria that man could just fall in love with. This Swabian village (it’s just 90 kilometers far from München) has been around for the better part of several thousand years, yet is incredibly modern and an all around great place to hang out for a few days. Besides the fun festivals and astonishing Bavarian countryside, the museums here are just aces.

Let’s begin with the city tour: the town center of Mindelheim reflects the typical structure of a medieval settlement. The most important municipal buildings such as the town hall or churches are arranged around a central market square. Like many other German cities, Mindelheim’s used to be surrounded by a city wall. As in most cases, this wall is now incomplete as it was partially torn down in the 19th century to make room for modern buildings. Nevertheless, the remaining parts of the wall and some gates give a good impression of the original state.

And what medieval town is complete without a castle? Above the city the Castle Mindelburg is a striking 12th century beauty that was once used as an army hospital Sorry, there’s not too much visiting inside, because it’s now housing the offices of a book publishing company and a restaurant, but at least you can have all the “Kodak Moments” you want outside. The castle was not changed much in the last centuries. The complete annex displays the typical structure of a European fortress, including a donjon. This architectural ensemble is used to stage several festivals and markets such as the Georg Frundsberg’s festival which is held every three years.

What else you can see before participating in the festival?

The Textile Museum has a relatively new exhibit on religious garments from the Middle Ages to modern day. Another exhibit takes a look at clothing trends from the late 19th century to the early 20th; great for the fashionista in all of us.

One of the more unique museums you’ll find in all of Germany is the Swabian Tower Clock Museum. Housed in the old Silvester kirche (Silvester Church) are some of the oldest watches and other instruments of time telling, the oldest dates to the 16th century. However Mindelheim’s Local History Museum is filled with other displays of cultural life, including traditional Bavarian costumes, and art.

The South Swabian Archaeological Museum has exhibits on life here in the Alb during the days of the last Ice Age, when the Romans traveled the area, and daily life of the early Middle Ages.P1160068

And what medieval town is complete without a medieval procession?

The Frundsberg Festring Mindelheim which is celebrated every three years was founded on July 19, in 1977 by initiative of seven inhabitants of Mindelheim as a public, incorporated association listed in the register of associations without any confessional or political motivation whatsoever. The Frundsberg Festring is committed to the maintenance and continual further development of the Frundsberg Festival, the reenactment of the medieval times in tradition, music and all sorts of performances as well as the preservation of Mindelheim living carnival tradition. For these purposes, the association pursues the foundation and promotion of historical and musical groups, the planning, organization and performance of the triennially Frundsberg Festival and engages in permanent quality-improvement activities. Besides, the Frundsberg Festring acts as a holding organization for several different historical and two carnival departments as well as numerous sections. People of Mindelheim celebrate the Frundsberg Festival a whole row of medieval shops, medieval craftsmen at work, and the great parade is the medieval procession.

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In sticking with Mindelheim’s medieval feeling, the Frundsbergfest was a big fun way of looking at medieval life (fun now, but life was hard back then) and a celebration to Knight and Field Captain Landsknecht of George von Frundsberg (who was a German military leader in the 16th century in the service of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and the Imperial house of Habsburg). There were plenty of historical costumes, good hearty local food (wild bore), concerts, and all out revelry for a few days around the town.

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Carnival fever in Germany

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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)1011033_10152634173905830_2094941595_n

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. Farsangi fánk 021