Enter to the Little Prince’s universum

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Floating sculptures, personal objects, testimonials, projections… Walk in the footsteps of Antoine de Saint Exupéry through an immersive exhibition installed on the planet Brussels. Throughout the interactive tour, the voice of Marie de Saint Exupéry, Antoine’s mother, will guide you through the poetic world of the French writer, who disappeared in flight off Marseilles in 1944. From the outset, you will find yourself among floating sculptures in the night of space, created by the French artist Arnaud Nazare-Aga. Magical! They illustrate the story of the Little Prince, the golden-haired man who came from a distant planet to tell us about ourselves: his love of sunsets, the baobabs threatening his planet, the fox he has to tame, the sheep he has to draw and his precious rose…

The next section of the touring exhibition focuses on the father of The Little Prince, the most widely translated book in the world, after the Bible! Antoine de Saint Exupéry was an aviation pioneer, a writer who fought in the Second World War and a man in love with humanity. “This is the first time that so many personal objects, photos, manuscripts and drawings have been brought together to tell the story of the author’s life,” say the event’s organisers. “Visitors will be able to leaf through this true novel, each chapter of which is staged to plunge them into the heart of a life and an era, that of the flying fools. On display: replicas of aircraft, film projections, audiovisual montages, testimonies from the writer, his family and friends, several drafts of his patents for aviation-related inventions and a reconstruction of the “flying bicycle” he imagined as a child.

Hide and seek and workshop

Further on, the world of the Little Prince and that of his creator come together in an immersive space where you can watch a game of hide-and-seek between the two protagonists. “In the midst of a fabulous set, they find each other, get lost and chase each other in a show that uses all the audiovisual resources available today. Their lives, real and dreamed, end up merging… At the end of the show, it’s up to you to get into action! In the Little Prince interactive workshop, you are confronted with situations from the life and work of the writer. All you have to do is choose the one you feel closest to from among the thoughts, attitudes and reactions. This space intends to highlight the timeliness of Saint Exupéry’s message. A timeless character that appears through five themes in his work: responsibility, spirituality, solidarity, friendship and humanity. A sort of initiatory journey, this exhibition will undoubtedly be appreciated by children of yesterday and today!

Feast of Seven fishes

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It all started with me meeting my Italian friend, Massimo and we were talking about Christmas coming up. And he said I love it because we always eat baccalá on Christmas Eve. We’ve already started planning the menu with my sister whose husband runs a restaurant in Pontremoli (Tuscany). What was baccala I asked him because I have never heard of it and he became so enthusiastic and told the next: Baccalá is the Feast of the Seven Fishes and it’s an Italian celebration of Christmas Eve with dishes of fish and other seafood. Although it is not called on that name in Italy and is not a “feast” in the sense of “holiday,” but rather a grand meal.-continued Massimo with wide theatrical gestures that are so characteristic of him.- -“Christmas Eve is a vigil or fasting day, and the abundance of seafood reflects the observance of abstinence from meat until the feast of Christmas Day itself. Today, the meal typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. The tradition comes from Southern Italy, where it is known as The Vigil (La Vigilia). This celebration commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus (It was introduced in the United States by Southern Italian immigrants in New York City’s Little Italy in the late 1800s.)

The long tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from eating meat on the eve of a feast day. As no meat or animal fat could be used on such days, observant Catholics would instead eat fish (typically fried in oil).

The number seven? It is unclear when or where the term “Feast of the Seven Fishes” was popularized. It may come from the seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church or the Seven hills of Rome or something else. There is no general agreement on its meaning. The salted cod fish’s custom of celebrating with a simple fish such as baccalà reflects customs in what were historically impoverished regions of Southern Italy, as well as seasonal factors. Fried smelts, calamari and other types of seafood have been incorporated into the Christmas Eve dinner over the years. The meal includes seven or more fishes that are considered traditional. (In some Italian-American families, there is no count of the number of fish dishes.)

-“Our typical feast-meal’s components may include some combination of anchovies, whiting, lobster, sardines, baccalá (dried salt cod) smelts, eels, squid, octopus, shrimps, mussels and clams. The menu may also include pasta, vegetables, baked goods and don’t forget the wine.

But what happened on the other day? I talked to my Mexican friend Louis and he told me that there is no Xmas without bachalao! Okay and when I made some research on that I found out that baccala is not an Italian tradition at all, it’s rather Norwegian where dried and salted cod or saltfish which has been preserved by drying after salting (Cod which has been dried without the addition of salt is stockfish). Salt cod was long a major export of the North Atlantic region, and has become an ingredient of many cuisines around the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean.

Dried and salted cod has been produced for over 500 years in Newfoundland, Iceland and the Faroe Island and most particularly in Norway where it is called klippfisk, literally “cliff-fish”. Traditionally it was dried outdoors by the wind and sun, often on cliffs and other bare rock-faces. Today klippfisk is usually dried indoors with the aid of electric heaters. In Norway, Bacalao refers  to a “stockfish/klippfisk casserole” with tomatoes, olives, onions, and peppers, but not always, because of the numerous recipes for this Norwegian fish dish. However, it is always made with salted, dried cod, (stockfish) as the main ingredient. Kristiansund S, is a city well known for their version of Bacalao. Other parts of the country have their own special way of making Bacalao.

But before it can be eaten, salt cod must be rehydrated and desalinated by soaking in cold water for one to three days, changing the water two to three times a day. The best Norwegian recipe comes from Kristiansand from a small but famous village of Norway. Here is the best recipe of baccalá:

1 lb salted cod, 4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped, 6 or less large onions, chopped, 1/4 cup (or less) olive oil, 3 tablespoons dry sherry, 4 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped (canned whole tomatoes work great) 4 tablespoons green olives, sliced, 5 cloves garlic, minced, 1 fresh or dried jalapeno pepper minced
4-ounces pimientos, 1/2 cup pitted black olives (Greek optional), 1/2 teaspoon oregano (optional)
Freshly ground pepper, salt to taste

Soak salted cod for 12 hours Change water every 4 hours. Drain and shred fish. Saute onions and garlic in oil.
Add oregano, parsley, olives, pimentos, jalapenos, wine and simmer.
Layer sauteed vegetables, potatoes,shredded fish, salt and pepper.Drizzle remainder of the oil.
Bake at 350°F. for 35-40 minutes and you have Bacalao. Serve with Greek or Italian bread and salad and of course, don’t forget your favorite bottle of wine. Skål!

There is no Christmas without baccalá

In Europe, the baccalá dish is prepared for the table in a wide variety of ways; most commonly with potatoes and onions in a casserole, as croquettes, or as battered, deep-fried pieces. In France, brandade de morue is a popular baked gratin dish of potatoes mashed with rehydrated salted cod, seasoned with garlic and olive oil. Some Southern France recipes skip the potatoes altogether and blend the salted cod with seasonings into a paste. There is a particularly wide variety of salt cod (bacalhau) dishes 

In several islands of the West Indies, it forms the basis of the common dish saltfish. In Jamaica, the national dish is ackee and saltfish. In Bermuda, it is served with potatoes, avocado, banana and boiled egg in the traditional codfish and potato breakfast.

In Liverpool England, prior to the post-war slum clearances, especially around the docks salt fish was a popular traditional Sunday morning breakfast.

In Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, (In Greece, fried cod is often served with skordalia), Brazil, the term Bacalao is used for stockfish (salted dried cod). In Spain (bacalao/bacalhau), the recipe calls for stockfish, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, Spanish peppers, and oil and they call it Bacalao en Salza.Bacalao, an international affair…In Mexico, where there will not be Christmas without Bacalao, they combine shredded stockfish with salsa, finely diced onions, chili, olive oil, almonds, parsley, cubed potatoes, capers, olives and simmer it slowly and they have Christmas Bacalao. In some regions of Mexico it is fried with egg batter, then simmered in red sauce and served for Christmas dinner.

At the supermarket you can find frozen ready-made Bacalao for your convenience if you live in Norway, that is. In the United States, salted, dried cod/klippfisk can be found in a 1-lb wooden box in your grocer’s meat department, or frozen in 1-lb packages at Walmarts.

The Lord of the Snowdrop

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Valentin Wijnen, the Belgian “galantophil”, has a unique collection of snowdrops, the largest and most diverse in Belgium. He has more than 650 named and about 150 unnamed snowdrops in his collection. This means that almost all 21 snowdrop species are represented in his garden, along with several groups of brand new snowdrops in yellow and green colours.

Walking in the Snowdrop Empire

The snow has already melted when we arrive in Hoeselt, in Februari, in the former French town. We’re welcomed by rain and gusty winds, – the valey of Haspengouw provides of the wet climate of the precipitation, -but when we see the Snowdrop man’s house, our bad mood have gone.

Above the gate there is an inscription, says: “Grakes Heredij.” The name initially suggests that Valentin chose an English-sounding name for his English garden from this side of the Channel, but when the Lord of Snowdrop rushes to our greeting, he quickly makes it clear to us that “Grakes” (Gerard) was his grandfather’s nickname, and that where snowdrop paradise is now, was a heredij. “Heredij,” in the local dialect, means “beautiful house, well organized garden. Like this one.” -he adds, with no small pride.

-“When snowdrops come out from under the snow, I’m still as impressed as I was when I was a child.”- That’s how Mr. Valentine starts the tour. And how his passion for snowdrops arose, he says: -“My parents and I lived near vicinity of a park belonging to a monastery. There was a lot of galanthus blooming,- that’s the botanical name for snowdrops,- well, one day I dug up a few and took them home. Of course, my parents weren’t happy, but when they saw that I just couldn’t get enough of seeing the flowers, they put up with it. And that love has been going on ever since.”- My youngest daughter and I then look stealthily at each other and find that when Mr. Valentin talks about his snowdrops, he behaves like a young man in love. One thing’s for sure, his enthusiasm is perceptible. -“Snowdrops are my muse, they are the best part of the spring.” –he continues.-” I can’t help but I have a strong, excited feeling every year when these flowers appear. It’s as if the arrival of spring is ringing bells to my ears. Besides, why else would they call them snowdrops? (In German they are called Schneeglöckhen, means: Snowbells)

As we walk through his empire, we soon find out that Valentine and his wife Melanie’s romantic garden is a work of art. Everything carefully designed, divided by theme or color, with historical and decorative elements made them individual. -“I prefer the English garden style.”- Valentine notes. -“I’ve been loyal to this from the beginning.” -Well, the result of his obsession became a magnificent garden that couldn’t be more perfect.

Mr Valentine then tells us all about snowdrops and his impressive collection during our walk. Some of them have their own tribes, such as Galanthus Melanie or Galanthus Jolie, which he named after his wife. Valentine’s Day, a Galanthus nivalis, is a type of snowdrop that was discovered by Mr Valentin’s wife in their garden on February 14, 2004. This variety is the first registered, reverse pokuliform snowdrop, which means that all six flower leaves are the same. This is the most treasured place in Mr Valentin’s garden, where the most valuable and rarest types of snowdrops can be found.

Chess flower-or snake heads

-“Of the approximately 6-7 snowdrop species included in my culture, you can see nearly 300 varieties, including several natural and garden hybrids. A lot of my own kind carry my salute to my grandfather on my behalf. Grake, whose real name was Gerard Schoefs and was a postman, but he is remembered by his beautiful garden by everyone.”-Valentine says.

The garden behind the house, where there is a gorgeous blue veranda and conservatory, complete with a few garden rooms, populated with sumptuous ornaments and antiques. The shelves, the boxes are packed with all sorts of blue decorative elements, and the many accolades, awards and diplomas are also kept here by Valentin.- “Blue dominates the conservatory!”-somebody says aloud.- “That’s because it fits the bluish-gray hue of the snowdrop leaves.” -answers Melanie.- In addition to snowdrops, Christroses, Crocuses and Muscari, they are present throughout the garden, carefully labelled for all species. The “galanthophile” Valentin, the enthusiastic snowdrop collector and identifier, then pulls out a mirror to examine the snowdrop bell just in front of us. -“Because it’s kind of powerful, it’s worthy of being in the best part of the garden, among the best group. It’s still one of our best Galanthus nivalis.”-judges he his hibrid.- “This became the Galanthus Valentin’s Day as the first pterugiformes Galanthus nivalis recognized by the Dutch KNBV (Koninklijke Nederlandse Bloembollen Vereniging) Committee. The term “pterugiform” refers to the flower anatomy in which the outer petals take the shape of the inner petals. If they’re exactly the same shape, we’re talking about “perfect” pterugiform snowdrops.” -The explanation is a little bit beyond us, but we nod fervently. As we leave the garden, we see real, fanatical “galanthophiles” slipping on their knees on the wet ground to photograph the flowers. At the back of the garden there is an authentic vegetable garden and a chicken-hen house, also with photogenic chickens.

And that’s when we get to the end of our walk, thanking Mr. Valentine and his entire family for coming with us, patiently answering our questions, and for naming the flowers to get to know the members of the family by name, who, as to the real celebrities, gave their names to some sort of snowdrops. Galanthus nivalis-hatch snowdrops “Melanie S” (after his wife Melanie), Galanthus elwesii -“Senne’s Sunrise” (after his son, whose name is Senne) is a magnificent snowdrop variety, a sign that it is relatively large in stature, with a stalk up to 20-25 centimeters in height. It sprouts as early as November, and sometimes begins to flourish at the end of December. Its leaves are wide, greyish green, and the outer side of the inner shroud leaves, depending on the variant, is green at the base and tip, or only at the tip, or green all the way through. Galanthus Elwesii, “Sweet Alice” (after her mother Alice) and Galanthus nivalisRobert Wijnen” (after Valentine’s father). Finally Melanie offers us a delicious soup, with coffee and cake.

-“You always have to be sure of the style of the garden. And the most important thing is the harmony.” With this advice, says good bye Mr. Valentine. Well, I think he did it perfectly.

If you want to immerse yourself in a world that is still quite unknown in many parts of Europe and want to enchant in the realm of magnificent snowdrops, Valentin Wijnen’s garden is open to visitors, after prior arrangement!

Visiting the Bavarian Sugar fairy

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The passionate cookbook author, Theresa Baumgärtner is full of inspiration. Her cake recipes and wintry decoration ideas invite us to enjoy the baking craft.

Theresa Baumgärtner’s philosophy is “Follow your heart.” And she lives her life according to this. Already during her studies of culture and business in the university, the amateur chef decided to become self-employed in relation to culinary topics. Inspired by her roots in Baden as well as numerous journeys, the lively North German conjures up refined dishes on the table, which always have a history. On her food blog „theresaskueche.de” her readers are always very close to the action of pans and pots. After a small baking book on the subject of shortbread, Theresa Baumgärtner developed her show “Theresa’s Kitchen” (in the NDR) and also determines the prop and the look of the show in loving detail. Today, the creative connoisseur lives in Luxembourg, where she transforms the products from her small garden into tasty creations.

Meet the Sugar Fairy

Theresa, who was inspired by Ludwig’s castle and Tchaikovsky’s ballet in writing one of her book, will be my guide. I’m not surprised then, when she calls me and says we should go to the castle first. Place of longing and inspiration for 150 years, the fairy tale castle, Neuschwanstein in Bavaria enchants the people of all over the world. Especially in winter, it turns into a breath-taking stage under the sugary snow hood.

-“Before making the baking stuffs and decorating the biscuits, you need to tune in. An impulse, a delightful spark that ignites your creativity. But where do we find it? The theatre is a good place for this. In Germany already at the beginning of December, some ballet productions come back to the stages. Tsackovski Swan Lake enchants and also the Nutcracker instantly takes me into a glamorous dream world.”

So Nutcracker and Swan (the latter is Ludwig’s and Wagner’s favorite) these wonderful inspirations we take with us on our journey to near Allgau. During the night, winter takes over its task as a formidable set designer. Rough-ripened snow cover the landscape with a white delicate coat. What an appearance by the castle Neuschwanstein in this winter setting! It sparkles and glitters as if it were a gigantic festival stage. Swaying frosty reeds at the Weissensee. The ice on the shore seems thin like fine crystal glass. But we won’t linger in Neuschwanstein, after taking a few pictures of the castle, we’ll be on our way to Füssen.

Füssen was already settled in Roman times, then in Late Antiquity it was the home of a part of the Legio III Italica, which was stationed there to guard the important trade route over the Alps. By now the town is known for violin manufacturing and as the closest transportation hub for the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles!

First we check the site of the “Hohes Schloss” (High Castle), the former summer residence of the prince-bishops of Augsburg. Below the Hohes Schloss is the Baroque complex of the former Benedictine monastery of St Mang, whose history goes back to the 9th century. Saint Mang or Magnus of Füssen as its patron saint. In the old buildings of Füssen, the roofs of the historic half-timbered houses nest together tightly. White dusted, they look like they are from a Fairy Tale’s book. Here we stroll through the festively decorated streets of the old town up to the courtyard of the Hochen Schloss (the High castle), step by step up the spiral staircase to the Storchenturm. Arriving at the top, icy wind gusts and a magnificent view over the snowy ones await us. Roofs of the city down stairs, so it’s time to warm up, with Theresa guidance we head for the bakery of the sugar fairy, Stefanie Perkmann’s atelier. It is a wonderful place. As we see in her pastry shop there is a lot to do in the pre-advent’s time.

“Baking is an art and expresses the imagination. Historical cake displays made of brass and special finds from the Fleamarket inspire me!”- she says cheerfully when we arrive at her place. The production of the spicy gingerbread dough, the pricking of the biscuits, the shaping and decorating of the different varieties, all this seems to be easy for her to get out of hand. “The quality of ingredients and the love of baking are the most important.”- she says. And we are sure, that’s why her spicy biscuits are considered the best in the city.

Allgau, the region of Bavaria is full of beautiful stories so that it inspires the imagination. Baking with models pays for the most beautiful Xmas traditions. The nostalgic wooden shapes are often passed down from generation to generation.

The sophisticated pumpkin

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I have a kind of love and hate relationship with the pumpkin. When I was a kid, I couldn’t stand the sweet and slimy pumpkin baked in the oven. But in San Francisco after eating a pumpkin soup, I fell in love with. And since I’ve been living in Germany for a decade, I’ve tried almost 100 variations of pumpkin dishes. The Germans especially prefer it at fall.

All about pumpkin

The pumpkin is a cultivar of winter squash. Native to North America (northeastern Mexico and the southern United States), and they are one of the oldest domesticated plants, having been used as early as 7,500 to 5,000 BC. Nowadays pumpkins are widely grown for commercial use and as food, aesthetics, and recreational purposes. Pumpkin pie, for instance, is a traditional part of Thanksgiving meals in Canada and the United States, and pumpkins are frequently carved as jack-o’-lanterns for decoration around Halloween, although commercially canned pumpkin purée and pumpkin pie fillings are usually made from different kinds of winter squash than the ones used for jack-o’-lanterns.

So as we can see pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking. Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers. Pumpkin purée is sometimes prepared and frozen for later use. When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, steamed, or roasted. In its native North America, pumpkins are a very important, traditional part of the autumn harvest, eaten mashed and making its way into soups and purées. Often, it is made into pumpkin pie, various kinds of which are a traditional staple of the Canadian and American Thanksgiving holidays. In Canada, Mexico, the United States, Europe and China, the seeds are often roasted and eaten as a snack.

Pumpkins that are still small and green may be eaten in the same way as summer squash or zucchini. In the Middle East, pumpkin is used for sweet dishes; a well-known sweet delicacy is called halawa yaqtin. In the Indian subcontinent, pumpkin is cooked with butter, sugar, and spices in a dish called kadu ka halwa. Pumpkin is used to make sambar in Udupi cuisine. In China and Korea, the leaves of the pumpkin plant are consumed as a cooked vegetable or in soups. In Australia and New Zealand pumpkin is often roasted in conjunction with other vegetables. In Japan, I lived in Hokkaido, where small pumpkins are served in savory dishes, including tempura. In Myanmar, pumpkins are used in both cooking and desserts (candied). The seeds are a popular sunflower seed substitute. In Thailand, small pumpkins are steamed with custard inside and served as a dessert. In Vietnam, pumpkins are commonly cooked in soups with pork or shrimp. In Italy, it can be used with cheeses as a savory stuffing for ravioly. Also, pumpkin can be used to flavor both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.

In the southwestern United States and Mexico, pumpkin and squash flowers are a popular and widely available food item. They may be used to garnish dishes, and they may be dredged in a batter then fried in oil. Pumpkin leaves are a popular vegetable in the Western and central regions of Kenya; they are called seveve, and are an ingredient of mukimo, respectively, whereas the pumpkin itself is usually boiled or steamed. The seeds are popular with children who roast them on a pan before eating them. Pumpkin leaves are also eaten in Zambia, where they are called chibwabwa and are boiled and cooked with groundnut paste as a side dish. Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are edible and nutrient-rich

Traditionally Britain and Ireland would carve lanterns from vegetables, particularly the turnipmangelwurzel, or swede, they continue to be popular choices today as carved lanterns in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The practice of carving pumpkins for Halloween originated from an Irish myth about a man named “Stingy Jack”. The turnip has traditionally been used in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween, but immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which are both readily available and much larger – making them easier to carve than turnips. Not until 1837, does jack-o’-lantern appear as a term for a carved vegetable lantern, and the carved pumpkin lantern association with Halloween is recorded in 1866. In the United States, the carved pumpkin was first associated with the harvest season in general, long before it became an emblem of Halloween. In 1900, an article on Thanksgiving entertaining recommended a lit jack-o’-lantern as part of the festivities that encourage kids and families to join together to make their own jack-o’-lanterns.

Association of pumpkins with harvest time and pumpkin pie at Canadian and American Thanksgiving reinforce its iconic role. Starbucks turned this association into marketing with its pumpkin spice latte, introduced in 2003. This has led to a notable trend in pumpkin and spice flavored food products in North America. This is despite the fact that North Americans rarely buy whole pumpkins to eat other than when carving jack-o’-lanterns. Illinois farmer Sarah Frey is called “the Pumpkin Queen of America” and sells around five million pumpkins annually, predominantly for use as lanterns!

Growers of giant pumpkins often compete to see whose pumpkins are the most massive. Festivals are often dedicated to the pumpkin and these competitions. I participated in one in Ludwigsburg/Germany two years ago. It was a mega event! Pumpkins everywhere. The record for the world’s heaviest pumpkin was, 1,190.5 kg (2,624.6 lb), and was established in Belgium in 2016.

In the United States, the town of  Half Moon Bay California, holds an annual Art and Pumpkin Festival, including the World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-Off.

Weißenburg or in the trace of the Romans

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The history of Weißenburg is generally traced back to the Roman fort that was built in the area towards the end of the first century. The settlement, which included Thermae, lay on the border of the Roman Empire and on the Tabula Peutingeriana from the 4th century it had the name Biriciana. To see all the object what have been found in the area you have to visit the nearby museum, but by visiting the castellum you can get a good idea about the dimensions. The castellum grounds have been left open, with markers of the walls and buildings and of course the famous reconstruction of the gate and walls. Germanic tribes destroyed the fort and settled in what is still the city centre. The first mention of the name Weißenburg is in a deed dating from 867. The city became the seat of a royal residence during the reign of the Franks and according to legend, Charlemagne stayed there to supervise the construction of Fossa Carolina.

Weißenburg lost its independence in 1802 and became part of the Bavarian kingdom in 1806. It was however saved from insignificance with the construction of a railway between Nuremberg and Augsburg which goes through the city and which supported industrialization. Following WWII over 6,000 refugees and people expelled from the territories which Germany lost settled in the city and have since played an important role in its industry and culture.

The many stages in the history of Weißenburg can still be seen today. There are many ruins from the Roman times. One of the finest is the remains of a Roman bath which was excavated in 1977 and has been turned into a museum. The city wall from the Middle Ages has survived almost intact with its towers and in the Gothic Town Hall the city’s elected members have held their meetings from 1476.

The city became a Free Imperial City in 1296 and continued to grow until the Reformation. Following the example of Nuremberg the city joined the Protestant side but it suffered heavily in the ensuing wars. However, the rights of the city as a Free Imperial City and an Imperial Estate were restored in the final peace treaty and some growth resumed. Despite its insignificant size and economic importance, the city, like the other 50-odd free imperial cities, was virtually independent.

The Ellinger Tor is the most famous City gate of Weißenburg (Magnificent and richly decorated at the side facing out of the town, simple and neat from the other side.)

The Bismarck tower is a memorial to the first German chancellor Otto von Bismark.P1170815

If you feel yourself energetic, the walk up from Weißenburg and around the fortress is well worth while. Especially to see Wülzburg, which is about 2 kilometers east of the center of Weißenburg.  The path is very steep in parts, and not signposted. Expect to walk about 10 Km for the return journey. What started out as a Benedictine Monastery, then became a square fort and later a pentagonal fortification. The tour will take you through its many iterations. Arriving at Wülzburg there is a historical fortress from the Renaissance-Age in Germany. It stands on a hill 200 meters above Weißenburg, at an elevation of 630.5 meters, and was originally a Benedictine monastery dating from the 11th century. It is one of the best-preserved Renaissance fortresses in Germany. Today it is as locality a part of the city of Weißenburg. It was converted into a fortress from 1588 to 1605 by George Frederick Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach.

In the 19th century it was an garrison of the Bavarian Army. During World War I, Charles DeGaulle (the late French president) was imprisoned at the Wülzburg. The Nazis also used it as a prison camp during World War II; it was here that the Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff was held for over a year before he died of TB. After the war it was a refugee camp.P1170816

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



Witch-hazel blossoming in Vogelsberg

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Vogelsberg (Bird’s hill) is a large volcanic mountain range in the German Central Uplands in the state of Hesse, separated from the Rhön Mountains by the Fulda river valley. Emerging approximately 19 million years ago, the Vogelsberg is Central Europe’s largest basalt formation, consisting of a multitude of layers that descend from their peak in ring-shaped terraces to the base. The main peaks of the Vogelsberg are the Taufstein, 773.0 metres (2,536.1 ft), and Hoherodskopf, 763 meters (2,503 ft), both now within the High Vogelsberg Nature Park.

Vogelsberg is not a former shield volcano, but comprises many individual volcanoes, which are superimposed. Thus it consists of a multitude of overlapping basalt terraces, which descend from the Oberwald, -the high central plateau, 600 to 773 meters high, in series of stepped rings to the edges of the mountain region. Its present appearance, which is reminiscent of a large flat, shield-shaped volcano with a central dome, is the result of an interplay of uplift processes and  ablation acting on all sides. The division of the Vogelsberg into individual  natural regions is based, on the one hand, on the  relief of the mountain range from its highest point towards the outside and, on the other hand, on its river catchments which radiate outwards: the catchments of the Eder, Lower  Fulda, Main and Lahn. The Vogelsberg massif has stone runs of basalt and tuff, raised bogs and areas of ancient woodland. Numerous hiking trails cross, not only the Oberwald, but also the rest of the area.


The Oberwald (351.2) is the heart of the Vogelsberg and is entirely wooded; its outer boundary roughly follows the 600 meter contour line. In outer areas of the Vogelsberg, by contrast, there is a tapestry of green pasture, arable fields and woodlands.

Large parts of the Oberwald are protected. For example, the beech wood in the Taufstein Nature Reserve has been left to manage itself since 1906. On the northern slopes of the Taufstein are large stone runs of basalt.

Numerous rivers and streams rise in the Vogelsberg, and flow radially from its highest point in all directions of the compass. In clockwise order, the rivers of the main catchments are the Schwalm, Lower Fulda, Kinzig, Nidda and Ohm. Often a well known river is fed by several almost equal tributaries. In recent years the Eurasian lynx has returned. There are rumors about wolves being sighted in the region. Sightings have been confirmed in an area north of the Vogelsberg. Wildcats are also said to exist in the region, although they, like lynxes, are notoriously hard to spot. As in most of Hesse, wild boar are present in large numbers.

Vogelsberg’s sport activities

The Vogelsberg is known for its winter sports areas on the Herchenhainer Höhe and Hoherodskopf (Alpine skiing and 55 km of loipes). In summer, apart from hiking, cycling is well catered for on the numerous long-distance cycling routes such as the Volcano Cycleway. Moreover, there are regular RMV buses, the so-called Vulkan Express running from Büdingen, Stockheim, Nidda, Hungen, Mücke and Schlitz via  Lauterbach at weekends to the heights of the Vogelsberg. These buses are equipped with bicycle trailers. The majority of bus routes run to the Hoherodskopf and so may be used in combination.

The Volcano and Southern Railway Cycleways are tarmacked and may also be used by inline skaters. There is a large network of signposted cycleways in and around the Vogelsberg Nature Fitness Park around the highest summits and also 70 km of signed mountain bike routes.

The Hoherodskopf is the touristic centre of the region. Here you will find the Nature Conservation Information Centre for the High Vogelsberg Nature Park and a tourist information centre for the town of Schotten, which are open daily all year-round. From this point, three nature trails have been set up, covering in the fields of geology, nature and sensory perception.  There is a summer toboggan run, a tree ropes course, numerous hiking trails and several restaurants.

What can we see now in the Nature park? The blossoming of the Witch-hazels!

Witch-hazels or witch hazels (Hamamelis), are a genus of flowering plants in the family Hamamelicadea. The North American species are occasionally called winterbloom. (The name witch in witch-hazel has its origins in  Middle English wiche, from the Old English wice, meaning “pliant” or “bendable”, and is not related to the word witch meaning a practitioner of magic “Witch hazel” was used in England as a synonym for Wych Elm . The use of the twigs as divining rods, just as  hazel twigs were used in England, may also have by folk etymology, influenced the “witch” part of the name).

The witch-hazels are deciduous shrubs or (rarely) small trees growing to 10–25 feet tall, rarely to 40 feet tall. The genus name, Hamamelis, means “together with fruit”, referring to the simultaneous occurrence of flowers with the maturing fruit from the previous year. H. virginiana blooms in September–November while the other species bloom from January–March. Each flower has four slender strap-shaped petals, pale to dark yellow, orange, or red. The fruit is a two-part capsule 38 inch (0.95 cm) long, containing a single 14 inch (0.64 cm) glossy black seed in each of the two parts; the capsule splits explosively at maturity in the autumn about 8 months after flowering, ejecting the seeds with sufficient force to fly for distances of up to 30 feet (9.1 m), thus another alternative name “Snapping Hazel”. They are popular ornamental plants, grown for their clusters of rich yellow to orange-red flowers which begin to expand in the autumn as or slightly before the leaves fall, and continue throughout the winter. Numerous cultivars have been selected for use as garden shrubs. hama



Silvester in Burghausen

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Burghausen is not only the world’s longest castle that’s extra long. Burghausen extra long means extra long enjoyment of extra attractions from culture to gastronomy.

The seemingly endless walls, battlements, towers and chapels of the longest castle in the world (1,051 m) stretch over a narrow mountain crest nestled between the romantic Lake Wöhrsee and the glittering Salzach, the alpine river forming the border with Austria. The castle which stands as a witness to over one thousand years of history, is the focus of a visit to Burghausen and a picturesque feast for the senses and the soul. Couple of years ago we decided to escape somewhere on 31 st of December in order to avoid the hustle and stress. Silvester (31st of December) 2018 wasn’t exception. After I saw an amazing picture of the castle of Burghausen it was no question where to go. I booked a hotel in the neighborhood and left on the 30 of December for Burghausen (from München it’s 139 kms). The battlements livened up our expectations.

The six castle courtyards were strung together like a pearl necklace. Every castle courtyard had lots to discover.

In the 6th courtyard

The outermost courtyard mainly housed the administrative offices and places of work, officials’ residences and castle staff quarters. The fortified character of the “Oberer Schanz” (bastions with three bridges) was lost through the damage and modifications which occurred in the 19th century.

Highlights of the 6th courtyard:
Liebenwein Tower with temporary exhibitions by the artists group “Die Burg”
Uhrturm – Clock tower with colorful paintwork and sundial
Rentmeisterstock – The tax collector’s rooms, now home to The House of  Photography
The Öttinger Gate tower (the sole entrance from the north until 1836): Here, the Hofberg hill leads down into the old town

In the 5th courtyard

The highlight of the 5th courtyard is Hedwig’s Chapel. This outer castle chapel (Hedwig’s Chapel) was built by master court and fortress builder Ulrich Pesnitzer between 1479 and 1489 by order of Duke George the Rich and his wife Hedwig.

Further highlights of the 5th courtyard: Gärtnerturm – Gardener’s Tower, which was converted to a viewing tower in 1963, Aussichtspunkt -Vantage point with a view of Lake Wöhrsee

In the 4th courtyard

This castle courtyard was mainly used to house criminals. However, grain was also stored here. Highlights of the 4th courtyard:
Folterturm – Torture Tower and museum
Haberkasten – The stables and oats barn, now home to The Athanor Theatre Academy

In the 3rd courtyard

One particularly striking sight is the master gunsmith’s tower, also popularly known as “Schwurfinger”, referring to the thumb and first two fingers raised to swear an oath.

Further highlights of the 3rd courtyard:
Pfefferbüchsen -Pepper pots, which were used as guard and lookout towers
Altes Zeughaus – The “Old Armoury” was as used as a weapons and munitions arsenal with a silo. Two fabulous vantage points overlooking the old town and Lake Wöhrsee

In the 2nd courtyard

This castle courtyard is the forecourt to the main castle. The “training yard”, where many events and concerts are held in the summer, is also situated here.

Highlights of the 2nd courtyard:
Georgstor – George’s Gate with the Bavarian and Polish coats of arms
Viewing tower overlooking Lake Wöhrsee

1st courtyard – Inner castle courtyard

The first castle courtyard is the centerpiece of the world’s longest castle. Features of the inner castle courtyard, surrounded by a high tuff stone wall, include two museums, Elisabeth’s Chapel and the heated room.

Highlights of the 1st courtyard:
Entrance to the tour in the lower bailey
Dürnitz – Heated room with the “Zehrgaden” (storage room) underneath; this is now home to the visitor information centre
Treasure chamber
Inner castle chapel (Elisabeth’s Chapel)

Furthermore, the world longest castle is home to three museums. The House of Photography, the Town Museum and the State Collection. The Burghausen Town Museum is located in the main castle of the world’s longest castle. After the 2012 Bavarian-Upper Austrian State Exhibition, the permanent exhibition in the Town Museum was re-designed from scratch.

See history brought to life across a total area of 900 m2 through a variety of hands-on exhibits and audio stations. Experience courtly culture on the ground floor and learn all about the town’s history on the second floor.

Once the other areas, the “art city Burghausen” and the Salzach-Wöhrsee nature area, are set up, in a few years’ time the Town Museum will be able to present a total of four subject areas over an area of 1,400 m2.

The history of Burghausen

In the 2nd/1st c. BC it was presumably a Celtic sectional fortification

In the 8th/ 9th c. Presumably the fortified official court of the Agilolfingian dukes for the protection of salt shipping

In the 11th/ 12th c. Seat of the Count of Burghausen (until 1164); first castle expansion under Sighard X of the Aribones (around 1090); Henry the Lion is in possession of the castle; further expansion under the Wittelsbachs (from 1180)

In the 13th c. Completely new facility under Duke Henry XIII of Lower Bavaria after the first partition of Bavaria (1255); second residence of the Dukes of Lower Bavaria after Landshut; border stronghold against Salzburg and Passau; oldest preserved structure (main castle)

In the 14th c. Now fully expanded as a defense facility

In the 15th c. The most important construction period under the last Dukes of Lower Bavaria (Henry the Rich 1393-1450, Ludwig the Rich 1450-1479, George the Rich 1479-1503); expansion of the facility to its current form comes under pressure from the Turkish threat (1480-1490); ducal residence; the castle is a self-contained community (defense and residential castle)

In the 16th c. Loss of the castle’s residential character after the Landshut War of Succession (1503-1505); Princes’ residence (sons of Albert IV the Wise); the castle continues to be of great military importance as a main weapons site; minor modifications; begin of decline

In the 17th c. Fortifications strengthened against the threat of the advancing Swedes (1632)

In the 18th c. Expansion of outer fortifications according to the system of master fortress builder Marshal Sebastian de Vauban (1633-1707); turmoil of the Wars of Succession in the first half of the 18th century; extensive rebuilding (garrison castle from 1763); 1779 Peace of Teschen: Burghausen becomes a border town as the Inn section is lost to Austria

In the 19th c. All outer fortifications torn down by French troops under General Ney (1800-1801); Napoleon declares the castle no longer fit for use as a fortress (1809); modifications, demolition, levelling and privatization of parts of the castle; discharge of the garrison (1891); start of large-scale renovations to the main castle (1896); renovation work on the entire castle facility since 1960/1970.

And at the end we visited the Powder tour

To the west of the castle and Lake Wöhrsee, situated on the Eggenberg, the imposing, robust Powder Tower is a prominent landmark. A guards’ walkway linked the complex with the exposed barbican, built in 1488. With its six gun emplacement platforms, the barbican served to defend the castle and was therefore constructed in front of it. Guns and gunpowder were stored in the tower for defensive purposes. The overall diameter of the building is 18 meters, and the walls are five meters thick on average. In emergencies, stocks and a 22-meters-deep well ensured an independent supply of food and water for the garrison. A beautiful walking trail leads through the old “secret passage”, which starts at the entrance to the Wöhrsee bathing lake and along Alois-Buchleitner-Weg to the castle.

Happy new year to everyone, I wish good health and happiness to all of my readers!!! Cheers!P1170630


A brilliant day out in Bokrijk

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Bokrijk is a park and historic museum complex in the municipality of Genk in the Province of Limburg, Belgium. It’s well known for its open-air museum which displays a large collection of historical buildings from across Flanders, presenting the history of rural life in Belgium. The domain is 5.5 square kilometers in area and hosts an important botanical garden (arboretum) and also Flanders’ largest open-air playground..

The history of Bokrijk

On March 9, 1252 Arnold IV count of Loon and Chiny sold a forest, that was situated between present Genk, Zonhoven and Hasselt, to the abbey of Herkenrode. This forest was called Buksenrake (‘buk’ =beech, ‘rake’ = a part of land). The name later evolved into Bokrijk. The Cistercian abbey of Herkenrode (in Kuringen near Hasselt) built an abbey farm, dug out fish ponds and started forestry practices. The abbey farm was cultivated by lay brothers and from 1447 onwards functioned as an ordinary tenant farm. It remained the abbey’s property until the years of the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1797 French Revolutionaries seized all properties of the Cistercian abbey and the same year they sold it to a private investor from Maastricht.

Subsequently, the buildings were neglected by many owners until 1890. In that year the Maris-Vanhese family demolished the residential area, but left the outbuildings. They built a neo-classical castle, but were unable to complete it. In 1896 it was sold to the Count de Meeus who did finish the castle. The Count owned a local iron mine until the outbreak of World War I. During the war he sold the land and castle to a Jewish family from Germany. In 1919 the Belgian State seized the land and sold it to the Central Credit Bank of the Farmer’s Union. They set Bokrijk up as a model farm. Due to a crisis and eventual bankruptcy of the Farmers Union, the model farm failed.

The open air museum

On the 21 March 1938 the provincial government of Limburg acquired Bokrijk. Governor Hubert Verwilghen inspired the acquisition. Verwilghen strived for the creation of a public domain that would combine culture and nature. His vision would be realized years later under the dynamic impulse of provincial governor Louis Roppe. On 6 October 1953 the Provincial Council of the Province of Limburg decided to create an open-air museum in Bokrijk. With the post-war industrial revolution and the increasing development projects of the 1950s, Flanders’ living environment was drastically changing. Agricultural buildings of important cultural and historical value for Flanders were disappearing from the landscape. Dr. Jozef Weyns was appointed to coordinate the project and remained in function as first conservator of the Open Air Museum of Bokrijk. The museum opened to the public on 12 April 1958 as contribution of the province of Limburg to the Expo’58 (Brussels World’s Fair).

Nowadays there are 148 authentic buildings that form the heart of the heritage collection. Also in the collection are some 30,000 pieces of everyday life from the 17th century to 1950. It has been designed to be interactive and includes staff who take on the roles of people from different time periods. The oldest building dates back to 1507. Although the emphasis is on farms and farming, there are other examples of village life such as a Smithy, a School, a Church, a Brewery an Inn and several craftsmen buildings. Due to changes in Belgian heritage law, buildings can now only be preserved in situ. So the collection of buildings in Bokrijk that had been moved here from all over Flanders can no longer happen.P1160483

The museum’s preserved buildings are centred in three clusters on the site which are arranged by the geographical region of origins

“Kempen”. This region lies between the Scheldt polders and Maaskant in north-east Flanders. The museum has reproduced the traditional timber based farm dwellings typical of the region as it was over a century ago.

“East and West Flanders”. The region of the museum that represents East and West Flanders has no village setting. Instead there are a number of buildings that show the characteristic work places and housing.

“Haspengouw and the Maasland”. The region of Haspengouw is known for its fruit and traditional square farmsteads. In the museum this region is represented by a copy of the village of Ulbeek as it would have looked in the 19th century. The buildings are arranged around the village square with two ponds and predominantly lime trees. Actors provide interactive experiences in the church and the school.P1160531

Additionally there is a fourth area dedicated to The Sixties in the south-west corner of the site (it is a must for music lovers).

We really enjoyed every single minute in Bokrijk. It showed clearly and realistically how people used to live and worked in these dark ages. Old country houses, barns, churches, many historic buildings had been moved “brick by brick” to this beautiful site. The many old farmhouses, wind/watermills and even a whole section of old town housing from Antwerp were so amazing. There were several buildings that were manned by craftspeople demonstrating old traditional trades (Lots of old fashioned games to play well set out with instructions in English as well). There were members of staff dressing in period costumes in most of the houses and enacting life in the past. To sum up there was plenty to see even by hop on and off coach and there were cafeteria facilities on site. We spent easily a full day in this lovely “museum” with our kids. At the museum shop professional photographer takes pictures (for 5 euros) of you in old vintage clothes.