Sunday Snapshots: Changing Days

23streitberg

Burgruine Neideck*, Upper Franconia 2012

Every fall, pictures of pumpkin patches and apple orchards flood the internet along with countless Instagrams of pumpkin-spiced beverages. But for me, one of the best things about the fall is the constantly changing light.

On this day, we hiked from one castle ruin to another, and flipping through the album I couldn’t believe that we had encountered so many seasons in just one day, and one valley at that. When we started in the morning there was snow on top of the hills, but the stones were sun-warmed by the late afternoon. Just shows that even when the days are short, there is no end to the variety.

*Look familiar?

Mother’s Day in the Franconian Switzerland

Since Sunday was Mother’s Day, we took BV’s mom out for the afternoon. Sticking with her usual tradition, she opted to go up to the Franconian Switzerland. There was some initial confusion as to where she wanted to go, but we figured it out and set off. The walking route that she wanted to take started in the village Egloffstein, and ran along the river to a few old mills.

Before we started hiking walking, we stopped to get something to eat. There was a large Gasthof in town, and we should have known by the jammed parking lot that we were going to have problems. The restaurant couldn’t get us in until 3pm, and as it was only 12:30, we decided to move on. We drove to the next village where we found a very comfy little restaurant to have our lunch. While we ate the clouds whipped past the window, alternating between blue sky and torrential rain. At one point I looked out and it was hailing. We were a little concerned that our walk wasn’t going to happen, but by the time we finished the sky had cleared back up.

When we went back to the car, we noticed something that we had missed on our dash from the parking area to the restaurant…

I know that not everyone in in the Franconian Switzerland owns a horse, but it sure does seem like we run into a lot of them. I’m not arguing though, since that gives me the chance to feed them grass and rub their fuzzy noses.

Pink apple blossoms, blue sky, and horses. A solid start to the day.

So gorgeous.

After we had our fill of visiting with the horses, we drove back to Egloffstein. I think we have driven through here before, but this was our first time stopping (or at least, my first time stopping). The village sits around a hill, with a small castle at the top, and a little river running through the valley below.

 

We walked away from the castle and towards the next village where we hoped to find the first mill. We took a few pauses for photos along the way, of course.

We found the first mill quickly, although it didn’t have a waterwheel like we were hoping for. Instead we wandered through someone’s yard around some crumbling old Fachwerk houses, and across a bridge that most definitely did not have safety railings.

At this point we were under a bit of a time crunch, as BV’s mom needed to get back to town, but the next mill was supposed to be pretty close so we walked on. We found it pretty quickly, but it wasn’t the most photogenic mill I’ve ever seen. So instead, I give you a golden pretzel, and an old waterworks building.

We also encountered a very vocal dog, and we weren’t exactly sure if we were walking through someone’s driveway, or if it was a restaurant. There were signs but it didn’t look very well kept up, and the dog wasn’t really welcoming. As we walked around the house though, we heard a “mew mew mew,” and turned to see a little gray cat chasing us down. She “merred,” and circled our ankles, purring like a little tractor when I got down to pet her. She followed us as we went through the yard looking for an outlet, and seemed very disappointed when we had to go back.

Clouds were gathering so we hurried back to the car, but of course there were still stops for photos. I have to work out the new camera and all. 🙂

My favorite of the day.

Despite the lack of blue sky, that’s my favorite picture of the day. The sad thing is that I was so focused on the crumbling facade of the building that was exposing the old timberwork, that I didn’t even notice how dramatic the sky was! Thanks, camera.

Although it was a short day, it was another successful Sunday in the Fränkische Schweiz. When we got home, we got on Skype with my parents to wish my mom a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ as well as trying to figure out some more details of their upcoming visit. Not a bad Sunday.

How was your weekend?

2013 Recapped

Some bloggers are kind enough to post regularly, and keep their readers up-to-date on all the goings-on in their lives. I…. am bad at it. December was chock-full of things to do at work, things to do at home, things to do out and about, and so here we are with more than a month between posts. How time flies when you’re having fun. Or doing mountains of paperwork… could go either way in my case. But luckily I’m nursing a massive hangover from a little too much New Year’s celebration last night, so post time!

Since 2013 is coming to a close, I thought I’d take a cue from every other blogger out there, and try to figure out what in the world I’ve been up to all year. So hop on into your time machines and let’s journey on back…


January:

We rang in 2013 in Tuscany with hiking, sight-seeing, and eating more than anyone should probably ever eat. Thankfully we even saw the sun in Italy, because we supposedly had the darkest January on record back in Germany. It was looooong and dark.

February/March

I have nearly no recollection of February or March. I’m guessing the weather was still crappy and I protested it by watching too much bad TV. In good TV news though, my episode of House Hunters International finally aired, and Courtney and I didn’t seem like total spazzes, much to the relief of friends and family. 

April:

The clouds lifted and we celebrated with some weekend drives to the Franconian Switzerland.

May: 

Germany came out of hibernation, which meant it was time for my balcony to get prettified. I also found the cutest Gartenhaus in history.

We took another drive to the Franconian Switzerland, where I made a tiny friend.

Across the street from the horses, we visited the Felsengarten Sanspareil. Today it’s a forested park filled with huge rock formations, a natural theater (above), and wandering paths, but in the 1700s it was a pleasure garden.

Katie, my old Prague friend, visited from the States over BV’s birthday weekend. We took a big group beer hike, and Katie made friends with some locals.

June:

May ended with us on a plane bound for San Francisco. We had a great time visiting my college friend Aaron, before we hopped another plane to spend a few days in Las Vegas with my friend Courtney. We wrapped up the trip with a week in Wisconsin. We did some hiking, visited German history at Old World Wisconsin (above), and I stood up in my friend Angie’s wedding. I even managed to not completely botch my Maid of Honor toast, thank goodness. At the end of June, my great-aunt and great-uncle stopped in Nürnberg on their European river cruise, and we gave them the local tour.

July: 

In July we visited my friends in the village and their ever-growing menagerie. The goats always provide some entertainment if the kids, rabbits, and cats are too boring for you. We took an accidentally long hike and found this crazy purple field, before we spent the evening at a local wine fest which could give Oktoberfest a run for its money in the crazy department.

Another weekend was spent hiking in the Allgäu, where I found one of my happy places. With marmots!

August:

I turned 30 in August, and decided the only possible way to deal with that number was to run away from civilization for a few days. We drove to Berchtesgaden, spent a day at the Königsee, and then the next few days hiking up and down the Watzmann. We also hosted a small barbeque with friends to celebrate, lest anyone think I’m an anti-social weirdo. 

September

Of course, September means Oktoberfest, and this year I even made it there on opening day with the ladies. It was such fun that I even went back a few days later when my buddy Karl was visiting us for a week. He charmed our table mates and pledged to come back as soon as possible. We might even get him to buy some Lederhosen before the next visit…

BV and I also celebrated our first anniversary, and prepared for moving in together. Somehow I seem to have acquired a lot of stuff for a person who moved abroad with two suitcases…. 

October:

I officially moved out of my apartment in October, and in with BV. We also took a trip up to Gladbeck for a family party, I got to meet a bunch of his extended family, and learned that dance parties can go all night even if I can’t.

November:

 BV and I took an impromptu trip to Brussels and I absolutely loved the city! We will definitely be going back, because we didn’t get a chance to do all the museums and touristy things we had planned on. 

One thing we did manage to do was drink a lot of tasty Belgian beer, including this one for the pretty price of €15 per bottle. Thankfully it was delicious, and got us bonus bar snacks. They were very necessary as the beer has an insane 10.2% alcohol content.

The reason for the Brussels trip was a concert, and it was great show! I’ve loved Jimmy Eat World for years, but never got a chance to see them live until now. It was well worth the drive to Belgium, so thanks guys for the excuse!

December:

December was spent buried in a sea of paperwork, and hunting for additional work for 2014. I came up for air a few times though. My village friends visited Nürnberg for an afternoon at the Christmas market, and a week later I visited them (and goats) at their new place outside Regensburg, so we could do a little cookie-baking.

BV and I got our Christmas tree and the tree man even remembered us from last year.

Work finally ended and I got to spend some time enjoying the city. Christmastime in Nürnberg is really nice, but I’d advise against coming on the weekends….

BV and I spent our second Christmas together with three days of family celebrations. We hosted his dad and brother on the second day and I introduced them to some exotic American specialties… or, biscuits (thanks for the recipe Allie!). 

We ended the year at our favorite Greek restaurant in the city, eating and drinking far too much. Clearly far too much, as I’ve spent most of today horizontal. Ouch.

Looking back at all this, 2013 was a pretty darn good year. Here’s hoping 2014 is the same… and best wishes to all of you reading! 

Happy New Year…. any favorite moments from 2013 to share?

Beer Hike III: The Fünf-Seidla-Steig

Apologies for the lack of posts lately… the good news is that I’ve been pretty busy. The bad news is that I’m posting now because I’m in bed fighting off the super-flu that struck a lot of people here in Germany in the last week. Initially when BV was dying on Wednesday, we thought it was food poisoning. But then he went to the doctor’s office, where the waiting room was full and the doctor confirmed that everyone has the same thing. I thought I escaped it, but it struck me down yesterday afternoon in a pretty horrible fashion. So here I am, tucked into bed and finally with some time to post. But on to more pleasant topics….Last weekend was pretty action-packed. BV had his birthday on Friday, Saturday we spent in the car to Frankfurt and back where we picked up my friend Katie who visited for a few days, and Sunday we had planned to do a beer hike with a bunch of BV’s friends. All week the forecast was pretty crummy, but it slowly improved to the point where we felt safe venturing out. Sunday dawned absolutely gorgeous, and we felt pretty good about our chances.This was the third beer hike that I’ve done since living in Germany, but this was the first time on the Fünf-Seidla-Steig. One of my classes recommended it, and it has the advantage of being a lot closer to Nürnberg than the one that I’ve done before. The disadvantage to this one is that it isn’t a round-trip, instead it’s pretty much a straight line. You can make it a round-trip, but that ups the hike from 10 kilometers to 19 kilometers. We thought that might be a little much with five beers along the way, so we opted to take the bus to the far end, and make our way back to the train from there. 

Via

We met half of our group at the Nordostbahnhof in Nürnberg, then hopped a train to Gräfenberg. The train was full of fellow beer hikers, some already with drinks in hand, some with their trusty Nordic walking sticks, and a whole group with yellow flowers in their buttonholes and on their hats. In Gräfenberg we waited a few minutes for a bus, and then took a 10-minute ride to the far end of the hike in Thuisbrunn, where we found the first brewery.

Gasthof Seitz, Thuisbrunner Elch-Bräu

The beer garden at Gasthof Seitz was already about half-full, despite the early hour. Beers were served up those stairs in the second picture, from a man inside a rock. The building was surrounded by rocks with doors in them that I can only assume led to hobbit holes. Table service was also available from servers in Dirndl, provided you could wave one down to get you a coffee. After beers for some, coffee for others, and some small morning snacks, we were off again for Hohenschwärz, our next destination. Along the way we soaked up some sun, and enjoyed the green fields, yellow flowers, and blue skies….

Towers on hills in Thuisbrunn


When we reached the next brewery, the Brauereigasthaus Hofmann, we planned to meet up with the rest of our group who were only doing part of the hike. But before we could reach them, we had to get through a stag party. They had been at the first stop as well, and we had been a bit perplexed by the pink bat-like suit that the groom had on. The mystery was solved though when they stopped us, and tried to convince people to take shots at the groom for prizes. What does that mean? Well Katie was about to find out…

We were really confused about the holes in the outfit, but now it was explained. You had the option to kick or throw through the holes for prizes, or to just go for broke and hit the groom in the “foul” center circle… aka, try to hit him in the nuts. Sadly, she missed entirely, but they still granted us entrance to the packed beer garden and the rest of our group. 

 
Beer garden from the front, and no room at the inn.

We had lunch and beer, but no pictures of either… sorry. My mug didn’t have a cool brewery logo on it, and so I picture-failed. 

After lunch, we wrangled the over-worked waitress (clearly they were not planning on a busy day), and got the group on the way. The next chunk of the hike was a bit further, but again we enjoyed the blue skies and green fields. 

Pictures of pictures.

BV has focusing issues.
Katie and I enjoy fields.

Sadly though, those gorgeous blue skies were not to last. As we came into Gräfenberg, the sky was beginning to darken…

The third brewery was at Friedmann’s Bäustüberl, which was also pretty packed.

We did all manage to find seats, and even drank most of our beers/waters/colas before the heavens opened on us and we all smashed our way under the umbrellas with all the other guests. It was a pretty short cloudburst though, and so we continued on our way. This was the end of the line for half of our group, so we parted ways and they headed for their cars. The rest of us bravely soldiered on, and made for the last brewery of the day in Weißenhohe. There are two breweries in Gräfenberg, but unfortunately the second, the Brauerei-Gasthof Lindenbräu, was closed for the day. I guess that means we’ll just have to do this again sometime. Preferably on a day with no rain in the forecast.*

My students had warned me that one end of the hike involved a huge hill, and therefore you should do that end first. They were right, as we did have to hike up and then down an enormous hill, and I should really learn to take notes on things like that. On the bright side, it was raining a lot at that point, so we didn’t get too over-heated. Silver lining!At the bottom of the hill we found our last stop for the day, the Wirthaus Klosterbrauerei Weißenhohe.

The rain had pretty much stopped when we arrived, so we opted to sit out in the garden. It was really gorgeous, with the trellises all covered in wisteria. The servers mopped off a table for us, and optimistically went around cleaning off the other tables, and redistributing the cases of coasters. This was short-lived though, and when we started to hear thunder rumbling again, they went running around recollecting everything. We were about two-thirds through the last beer when the sky opened up on us again, and we ran into the Wirthaus for protection. We thought we’d be able to grab a table and maybe have a piece of cake before the train, but the place was completely packed and a table for eight was impossible. Instead we lingered in the entryway, finishing our beers, and watching as soaked people came in, went into the dining rooms, and came right back out again. Next time, we might want to try for a reservation. When the last beers were finished, we took the short walk over to the train station, and headed back to the city. Despite the rain, it was a really nice day, and I’m looking forward to trying this again… preferably with some sun, and all five restaurants open for business!

More info on the Fünf-Seidla-Steig (in German)
 
*Which means it may never happen. German spring, you are on my shit-list.

Another Sunday in the Fränkische Schweiz

The temperature has been climbing up the thermometer for the last week, and can we all give a big “it’s about damn time” on that one? After our very chilly visit to the Fränkische Schweiz on Easter Sunday, I was excited to head back this last weekend with sunnier skies above.

Our destination this time was the town of Gößweinstein, which I had never heard of beyond seeing its name on the map. Thus far, all the places I’ve been in the F.S. (shortening from here on out… it’s just too damn long to type) have been lovely though, with green hills, castles, and (most importantly?) tasty restaurants in the Gasthöfe, so I figured we’d be good to go.  As we drove, BV’s mom showed me a picture in her guidebook that showed a little castle perched on the hill… that’s what we were shooting for.

On the way there we drove through the green hills, past the famous rock formations, and even spotted a horse or two. We stopped for lunch at a Gasthof that was packed to the gills, mostly due to the first round of confirmations that had taken place that morning in the church next door. We watched through the window as people wandered around the church, taking family pictures outside, and looked on inside as the girl at the table next door got her enormous celebratory banana split. Which should really be any kid’s reward for sitting through a morning of church.*

After lunch we continued on to Gößweinstein and imagine my surprise as we passed a pile of restaurants, small shops that were open (what?? It’s Sunday!), an enormous basilica, and finally, that little castle on the hill. We parked the car, started to wander around, and it became clear that this was a premier F.S. tourist destination. Tons of signs pointed the way to various restaurants, hotels, bakeries, shops, the castle (of course), a Franciscan monastery, and even a mini-golf course. Turns out, I was the only one who hadn’t heard of this town. Convertibles and motorcycles purred up and down the street, and everyone had abandoned their jackets to soak up the long-awaited vitamin D. To the photos!

Sun??? Is that you??
Spring??? Is that you??
Castle from below.
Front entrance to the castle.
Now, that’s a door.
There’s also a stone exhibit. And store. With a mammoth outside.
Hey! It’s not freezing!
Basilika Gößweinstein
And from the back.
Coffee and cake? Nein, I want a swan!
Why visit the Easter fountains when you can buy a postcard?

Um, it’s Spring? Isn’t it?
The only semi-success at getting the castle and basilica in one.

The castle is privately owned, and unfortunately for us it was closed that day due to some sort of unforeseen circumstances. Normally you can visit on Sunday, and it’s only a few Euros to see the inside. We did peek into the basilica for a few minutes, but since the afternoon Mass was going on we didn’t get to really look around. The interior was an unusual sea foam green and white combination, which was really lovely and light. Even though we didn’t get a good look, I got to do some nun-spotting, as there were a few sisters seated in the back of the church.

We also found a small trail that led up from behind our parking area to a nice overlook of the city and the surrounding country. It was still a bit brown, but in a few weeks it should be even lovelier. Considering the ease of the Fränkische Schweiz as a daytrip from Nürnberg, I’m very much looking forward to watching it get greener over the next few weeks! 

Any tips for day trips from where you are?   

*My opinion only, don’t shoot me. 

Easter Weekend in Pictures

When every weekend is a four-day weekend for you (and yes, I loooooove my current schedule), Easter weekend doesn’t seem like such a big deal. But since everyone else was ready to party, last weekend was quite action-packed. 

Friday was a small pre-Easter potluck dinner and game night with a few other teachers from my school. BV proved his luck at cards, and he has since been tasked with winning enough in Vegas to pay for our June vacation. Hop to it honey! Practice online poker!

Saturday night we tried out a new Mexican place, and I was pleased with their surprisingly spicy guacamole and salsa verde. Afterwards BV was hankering for a whiskey, and I wanted a gin and tonic, so we headed to a nearby bar called ‘Kloster.‘ It is absolutely tiny, was absolutely packed, but we got a seat and a drink which is all one could ask for. The interior is a bizarre mix of triptychs and other church-related art, and nudes. Variety! 

Easter Sunday dawned as gray as the rest of the week, but we had a plan and we were sticking to it. We picked up BV’s mom and drove up to the Fränkische Schweiz, aka the Franconian Switzerland, about 45 minutes north of Nürnberg. It’s a really beautiful area, and if you’re in the mood for a beer and hiking then I recommend a visit to walk the Brauerienweg. It’s a good timeI should know, I’ve done it twice. With a third one planned. Woo, beer hikes!

Buuuuut a beer hike might be a bit much for Easter lunch (with a mom), so instead we drove to the village of Streitberg, which is home to the Streitburg castle ruin. A few flakes of snow were coming down when we arrived, but we were hoping that would clear up by the time we finished lunch. 

Bamberger Rauchbier (smoke beer)

In addition to this awesome horse, there was also a sweet suit of armor in the restaurant. I wanted to take a picture, but there was a large family sitting right next to it and I didn’t want to be that weirdo. I’ll get it next time.
 

Happily though, there was another knight on the restaurant roof. The top of the hill there is where the Streitburg castle ruin is. From the Streitburg ruin, you can actually look across the valley and see another castle ruin, this one of Neideck Castle. Pretty cool, right? We did a small hike there back in the fall, and I might even get around to doing a post about it someday. Maybe.

After lunch we hopped back in the car and followed the Wiesent river along to another village, where we parked the car and walked for awhile along the river. I wish I could say that the sun came out for Easter Sunday, but that was not the case. There was a bit of rain and even some flakes of snow, but we still walked along the river for about an hour. 

Amazing Easter fountain.

This Gasthof and its giant terrace look very promising for summer.

After our chilly walk, we headed back to town in search of coffee and cake. The restaurant we found had a plethora of interesting things, including my new favorite picture….


I think all portraits of Albrecht Dürer (Nürnberg’s most famous artist), should involve him riding his rabbit away from Munich. His leg freaks me out though. 

There were also a few interesting things outside in the beer garden…

Highly advanced weather forecaster
Well hello you!

Monday was more family time, as we were invited to BV’s dad’s house for lunch. Note to self: do not accept ice cream after lunch because there will also be coffee and cake later. So. Much. Food. 

After a food coma-induced evening nap, we decided to pay a visit to the Nürnberg Frühlingsfest, the spring version of the city festival. Monday night was actually a great time to go as it wasn’t crowded at all, and if there’s one thing I hate it’s having to wait for a beer. We scored some giant pretzels (one with garlic butter, and one with Obatzda) for dinner, drank our beers, and had a good wander around.

Tired giant beer.
I love roasted nuts. Stop laughing, I do.
Lederhosen alert!

All in all, not a bad Easter weekend. Now… when is Spring planning on arriving??