Our Germany Travel Wish Lists: A Link Up

A few weeks ago, the lovely Cynthia over at adventurings did a great post about places that she’d like to visit in the Czech Republic if (in this whole weird world we now live in), the borders remained closed but domestic travel was possible. I thought this was a great idea, and it certainly encouraged me to think a bit more about the places we might want to go if we can travel. Sure it might not be as far as before, but what was still possible? 

 

The two of us decided to make this post a link up, so I picked a few places, she picked a few places, and we thought it’d be fun to choose which of the other person’s was our top choice. As a side challenge for myself, I decided to avoid the Alps. There are still places there that I haven’t been, for sure, but at some point I should probably branch out, right? 

Having said that… my picks are after the jump! Click on…

1) Hamburg

Hamburg has to top my list as 1) I’m pretty sure it’s the opposite of the Alps, and 2) I have yet to hear anything bad about it. I’m intensely curious about what a German city with a Scandinavian vibe could be, and the maritime history, proximity to water, and the ready availability of fish stuffed into bread (for BV), definitely don’t hurt. I’ve also heard many a tale of the musical scene (Hamilton auf Deutsch, what?) or the Miniatur Wunderland, but I think I’d prefer to wander along the waterways, look up at all those brick facades, and then have to chase down BV every time he gets a whiff of grilled fish.

2) Sächsische Schweiz 

Aka, the Saxon Switzerland. We’ve spent a weekend in Chemnitz, and a day in Dresden, but more time in the wild, rolling hills of Saxony sounds like a great idea. While it lacks the high peaks, the incredible rock formations can be seen all over ze Instagram travel feeds. I still remember the first time I took the train between Prague and Berlin, and the way that the train rolled through the hills along the Elba, rock formations popping in and out of the greenery… I could kick myself for still not having explored that area more. 

3) Sylt

Ummm… rumor has it that Germany has beaches? And having seen those Strandkorb all over gardens and in the garden furniture section of the OBI for the last nine years, I think it’s time I saw them in their natural habitat? Personally, I’m a big baby when it comes to cold water so I’m a liiiiitle nervous about the possible temperatures at the North Sea, but look at that beach! I’ll probably live, even if I can just lie out and read a book or ten on the sand. 

4) the Triberg Waterfalls

The very first trip that BV and I ever took together was to Freiburg and the Black Forest. It was a quick weekend getaway, and though we’ve driven through, and stopped in Freiburg since then, I feel like it’s only a drop in the bucket. I’m especially interested to see the place that is billed as having “Germany’s highest waterfall.” It seems that it isn’t really, but it’s relatively easy to access, so that helps? Either way, it looks lovely, and I do think that I really need to revisit the Black Forest as the first time we were there, we went to the highest mountain and got to see this…

At the Feldberg summit, 1493m.

Ah yes, the good old days when I hiked in beat up sneakers and jeans. It did clear up a tad, as the day went on. But I need to see more! Preferably, of the falling water variety.

At the Feldberg.

5) Aachen

Sitting right near the border with the Netherlands and Belgium, Aachen is rumored to be another city with a great mix of culture and history. Though Charlemagne is long gone, his influence remains. I’d love to have a poke around the cathedral and its treasury, or spend a day walking the Route Charlemagne. And if you’re not in Germany, you can do it virtually

If you missed the link up at the top, Cynthia’s posts can be found right here, and as for me, I’m adding the Spreewald to my list. Berlin is always worth a visit, but I’d love to see where the Berliner’s go to escape the city life. We might even get crazy and rent a kayak. Who knows? 

Second choice goes to the Baltic coast, as the unexpected beachfront continues. Being able to smell the sea air on Rügen, as opposed to just seeing postcards of it or hearing about it, would be a welcome change of  pace. 

And you? What’s on your Germany wish list?

 

16/52

I Am Easily Influenced

…at least, when it comes to cake.

In one of my classes the other day (coincidentally, one that happens right before lunch), we spent a good deal of our time discussing desserts. One of them has worked there for years and thus has the corresponding encyclopedic knowledge of when everyone has a birthday AND which cake from their (or their wife’s, mom’s,  life partner’s) repertoire, should be brought in on said birthday.

During the course of this conversation, one of the other ones mentioned that every year he requests his mom and his sister to bake several cakes for his birthday. I asked if they had a specialty, and he said of course, it’s his favorite, but he only has it one time a year. What was it? Something called Apfelweinkuchen, or apple wine cake.*

I had never heard of this cake before and my interest was immediately piqued, but the conversation moved quickly on after that, so I didn’t get a chance to inquire more. But as soon as I had a minute between appointments, it was straight to the Google. There were no shortages of recipes for this cake, which seems to originate from the Hesse area of Germany (where my source was from, if I remember correctly).

The rest of the day was spent with visions of cake dancing in my head, so naturally I tweeted about it. I was already considering making it on the weekend when I was informed that bringing a cake to a planned weekend event would be fairly welcome. And so it was.

I didn’t fully document the process, but I compared a few recipes and found them all fairly similar. I followed this recipe, for those of you who can read German at least well enough to do the same… https://feedmeupbeforeyougogo.de/2018/10/07/apfelweinkuchen-rezept/

Hallo, creamy goodness.

Some recipes suggest using white wine (usually Riesling) and apple juice instead of Apple wine, but I went with Apple wine. The only other thing I did differently was leave the cake in the oven to cool overnight (also suggested in another recipe). This was mostly because it was fairly late by the time I finished the cake and I didn’t want to put it in the fridge to cool when it was still pretty warm.

Here’s the carnage about halfway through….

Mess.

None survived. I will be making this again. You should, too.

 

7/52

 

 

*I daresay even the non-German speakers could’ve worked that one out but just in case.

Put Some Mustard On It…

It’s been awhile since I’ve discussed an oddity of the German language, but I learned a new phrase the other day that tickled me and thought it would make a good post.

Usually my favorite German phrases have to do with animals (notably pigs, as there are at least 48309234 idioms involving pigs in German #WurstJokes), but this one is more food-based.

BV had just sent a text to our Südtirol group chat, and I was trying to decipher it. The last paragraph started with “Mein Senf zu dem Thema,” which would translate to ‘My mustard to the topic,’ and I had to laugh. I was pretty sure I got the gist, but I still asked him to clarify, just in case. 😉

What BV said was a variation on ‘seinen Senf dazugeben,’ or to put in one’s two cents. My initial thought was along the lines of ‘in my humble opinion,’ which IMHO, means I’ve been spending too much time on ze internet. Should do something about that (…as I’m sitting here writing a blog and trying to do that more often instead of like, solving world hunger or whatever people do when they’re not lurking on reddit).

So why mustard in this expression? Because people friggin’ love their mustard in these parts. I already showed you a fairly bizarre mustard ad a few years ago, and I assure you, there have been more. The mustard shelf in the supermarket is loaded with choice, and lest you doubt me on that, please enjoy this selection of all the mustards currently open in our fridge…

Full disclosure, the sweet Bavarian mustard isn’t open yet. Guess that just means it’s time for Weißwurstfrühstück…

This is perfectly normal, right? Guess I’m going to have to start serving more of my opinions with a dash of mustard…

 

3/52

Overnight Trains: 17 vs 36

Living the last year car free has given us the chance to explore some travel options that we had previously only thought about in terms of vague “somedays.” In the past, it would’ve been only too easy for us to say, “oh no, it’s so much easier to drive for 10 hours,” when we were starting to plan our Tuscany trip.

Truth is, it probably wouldn’t have been easier. When we drove there last time, we traveled with friends, so the two gents traded off driving duties. Since I still can’t/don’t drive here, BV would’ve been the only one behind the wheel. That would have meant instead of a 10-hour trip (assuming the best conditions), we more than likely would’ve needed to schedule in an overnight stay somewhere (losing valuable Tuscan time), or sleep in the car (in December), and it would’ve been more like two lost days coming and going. But as we have no car, we had no choice… to the train!

I’d been curious about doing an overnight train for quite some time. I had taken one before on our high school France trip, but BV never had. Strangely, in the 11 years I’ve lived in Europe, I have never managed to repeat the experience. The Js and I did try, once, on our ill-fated roommate Krakow trip, but were brutally rebuffed.*

So how was it? Pretty good, as far as I’m concerned. But I have to say, the experience was sliiiiightly different nearly 20 years (oh God) on.

It was the summer of 2001, I was 17. We’d been tooling around France for about a week and a half, shepherded on and off of our coach bus by my delightfully loopy French teacher, Madame Coe, and our tour guide. Madame was a school tour veteran, and had the whole thing down to a science. When she learned that we’d be taking an overnight train from Paris to Nice, she had her whole strategy in place. She didn’t count on us though.

The girls on our trip outnumbered the boys, but she distributed us throughout our sleeper cars so we’d have at least one male in each of the 6-person compartments “for protection.” Our compartment was to have four girls and two boys, but we immediately folded up the upper bunks and packed about twelve people in there for a night full of playing cards and drinking the provisions that the guys had picked up in the train station. Madame stopped by our bunk a few times before she retired, wine glass in hand, advising us not to stay up too late.

Needless to say, she was right and we probably should have listened. All these years on, I have no idea how late we stayed up, being 17 and 18, probably unforgivably loud**, but having an excellent time.

What I do remember, is the next morning. The train had metal shutters for the windows, which we had wisely pulled down when we went to sleep. When one of the guys slid out of his bunk in the morning and cracked open the door, OH GOD THE LIGHT.

We were in the South of France. The sun was BLINDING. We were all awake now, and he stumbled into the hallway and slammed the door shut. I assume he felt his way to the restroom, because it had to have taken a few minutes for his eyes to adjust.

When we rolled up the shutters a bit later, the train was rolling along the coast. The endless blue of the Mediterranean and that blinding sun was gorgeous… once we had chugged some water and located our sunglasses. I almost wish I had my France photo albums here so I could see if the evidence of the night before was visible on any of our faces.

At 36, the experience was a little bit different.

Our train was scheduled to depart Munich at 8:10pm, which allowed for a very relaxed day. We finished up packing, and were ready to go in plenty of time. Though I did once again bring too much stuff, I thought this was decent for both of us for ten days:

Not bad.

The biggest hassle was the ‘carry-on’ bag under my purse. It contained an extra coat, my camera bag, and a pile of books. It was manageable, but awkward to carry.

BV and I met with our cat-sitting friend in Nürnberg to pass off our keys, and then boarded our train to Munich. We opted for a few trains ahead, just in case, and had more than enough time to spare. Since the Augustiner Keller is just up the street from the Munich Hauptbahnhof, we went there and had a relaxed, early dinner.

Back at the train station, we picked up some completely unnecessary train snacks, a mini bottle of ‘we are on holiday!’ prosecco, and found our platform. Bang on time, there she is!

Pardon the blurriness of a moving train, and a moving Heather as BV says, “you’re going to miss it! It’s coming… awwww, I thought it would be an ÖBB train!”

Yep, despite the fact that this train was operated by the ÖBB, (Österreichische Bundesbahnen= Austrian Federal Railway), it had a DB engine. Tragic.

Still moving, sorry.

We spotted our car easily, and climbed aboard. The price difference between sleeper cars and seated compartments had been WILD when we bought our tickets, so we went with the seats. I doubted I’d sleep either way, so why pay twice as much?

About thirty minutes later, again, bang on time, the train pulled out and we were on our way. By some miracle, we had the 6-seater compartment to ourselves for nearly the entire 11 hour trip. Look how comfy I am!

Spacious! With outlets!

In Salzburg, we were joined by a family for an hour or so until the next stop. That was mostly fine, even if the woman did de-shell peanuts and crinkle plastic for the entire hour. But they got off, and we were alone again.

BV managed to doze off and on, but I hardly slept. We wound our way through the Austrian Alps, and all I could see was a bit of white snow, pine trees, and then blackness again. Occasionally, there were the lights of a town spread out in the valley far, far below us, making me really want to take this trip during the day sometime as I suspect it’s spectacularly beautiful.

Crossing into Italy, we sped downhill through tunnels at a slightly alarming rate. We were briefly joined in our compartment between Bologna and Florence, but after that, we were alone again until we got off in Arezzo.

As we rolled through Tuscany towards our final destination, the sun was just starting to come up. Light bits of fog and cloud hovered over the hills around town as the sky brightened. It was lovely.

We reached Arezzo ten minutes behind schedule at 7:20am, which let’s be honest, is nothing. Apparently those trains are regularly fairly late, so much so that G, our host, wasn’t picking us up until 9:30. We grabbed some espresso, and wandered around town until she collected us. Was I loopy at that point? Absolutely. Would I do it again? also yes.

Was the experience a hair bit different almost 20 years older? You bet. But I can’t argue with this trip. We will most definitely be taking an overnight train again. I just hope it doesn’t take another 20 years, and also, I hope I can sleep a bit the next time!***

Have you taken an overnight train? Any trips to recommend?

 

2/52

 

*TM Cher Horowitz

**Thank goodness our large group took up the majority of the car, if not the whole thing.

***I did manage to sleep a bit on the return trip, even though we had to share our compartment and had less space to sprawl. Go figure.

2018 in Review

Oh, the top nine insta posts. So succinct, and at least in my case, so pointy.

The highlights this year are decidedly less Scandinavian than last year, but I suppose staying closer to home is okay when it looks like this. For those interested in a slighter closer look at all the things I didn’t get to blogging about (pretty sure I say that every year), click on!

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Amateur Hour Baking: Plätzchen Bonanza

The pre-Christmas weeks were the usual blur of finishing up classes for the year, meeting with friends at various Christmas markets in the area, and of course, baking. I wound up making no less than five sort of Plätzchen from Classic German Baking over the holiday weeks. As such, this post gets long… click on!

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Amateur Hour Baking: Rosinenschnecken

I think my brain is going into hibernation mode. I’ve been trying to remember what the impetus was for this bake and I cannot for the life of me remember why I decided I had to make these. I don’t think it had anything to do with the Bake Off, it wasn’t for any particular occasion besides Sunday, I really don’t know. But somehow, Rosinenschecken, or Raisin-Frangipane Spiral Buns, happened.

Having learned from my late start on the Franzbrötchen bake day, I started “bright and early” at about 9:30. This was not a great idea though, because I hadn’t yet finished my coffee, misread the directions, and wound up having to proof my yeast twice.

Good start.

These have the same Danish dough as the Franzbrötchen though, which meant that when I did get my yeast successfully proofed, it came together quite smoothly and I put my kneaded dough away to proof.

 

When the proofing had finished and I had successfully retrieved a baguette from the bakery for dinner (I’m not crazy enough to try those yet), I got back to work. I got out my snazzy new French rolling pin, and taking a cue from of the bakers on GBBO, proceeded to beat the crap out of my butter.

Turns out, doing that plus not being afraid to use too much flour, works SO MUCH BETTER. Pretty quickly, I had a fairly neat square of pastry, a fairly neat square of butter, and much less butter all over my work surface.

Last time I also had a bit of exposed butter in the middle of my pastry package, which caused sticky mess later. Not this time! We’re learning! Back into the fridge with you…

In between proofing, I got my raisins soaking. Personally, I’m a fan of raisins, but I don’t think it would kill the recipe to leave them out if you aren’t. I also added a cheeky splash or two of rum to the mix, which gave them a nice subtle taste after baking. Can recommend.

Dough, raisins, and also frangipane prepared, it was time to assemble.

I go for “fairly neat,” not exact.

A bit of spreading, sprinkling and rolling later, my rolls were ready for one last rest before baking.

 

Ta-da!

Check out those layers! But they look a little bare… perhaps a bit of apricot glaze will help…

Much better.

Now the recipe says to let these cool before serving, but let’s be real… who would do that? Not us, that’s for sure.

Typically when I’ve had these in a bakery, they’ve been filled with some sort of pudding rather than frangipane. I like those, but I liked these much better! If you’re not a marzipan person, you may disagree, but just whip up some pudding and use that instead. 🙂

They were still good the next day (cool, rather than reheated), but warm out of the oven was a great treat on a Sunday afternoon alongside a Caffè corretto. Clearly I’m dreaming of Italy again (but not via bus).

 

Feelings on Marzipan… ja oder nein?

 

Amateur Hour Baking: Bremer Kürbisbrot

With my confidence in yeast on an upswing, I’ve spent a lot of time lately thumbing through the Breads & Rolls section of Classic German Baking. Add that to the piles of assorted squash that are currently spilling off of tables at the supermarket and piled up in boxes at the roadside stands, and I had the perfect time to try out my first real loaf… a Bremer Kürbisbrot.

It’s a very basic bread dough, using canned squash for the flavoring. Since that’s naturally not a thing here, my first step was to roast up some chunks of butternut.

It’s been a butternut-heavy fall over here thus far. At the risk of BV actually turning into a pumpkin, I’ve also been freezing some Hokkaido puree to ration it out over the next few months.

The squash roasted, pureed, and cooled down, I got back to work.

Appetizing, no?

I quickly ran into a problem though.

I’ve now learned that instant yeast is basically useless without proofing it… what the package says be damned. But this recipe calls for nearly no liquid; only a bit of milk if your dough is too dry. Since I wouldn’t know whether or not that would be the case until I was a few minutes down the road, I opted to just warm a few splashes of milk and try to proof my yeast in that.

After a few minutes, it hadn’t appeared to do much of anything. In past attempts I’ve had bubbles, foam, some indication of activity. There was none of that, but I decided to forge ahead and see what happened. The rest of the dough came together quickly, and I got to kneading.

The oven was still a wee bit warm from roasting the squash, and made the perfect place to proof my dough. The first rest of two hours turned into three due to a long Skype appointment, after which I popped it out, punched it down, and put it back for another rest. Guess my worries about the inactive yeast were all for nothing!

Post-first-proof

Another hour later, a milk rinse, and she was ready for baking.

Bread baked, I tried my best to follow directions and let it mostly cool while we ate dinner. But our dinner wasn’t quite filling enough (though delicious), and we dove in afterwards. Luisa Weiss writes that it’s a decent alternative to cake, and BV would agree with her. I like my cakes a bit sweeter, but this was a very tasty bread.

The crust got a touch dark, but I’m very happy with how it turned out overall. The light sweetness paired really well with cheese, particularly fresh goat cheese with a dollop of BV’s pear compote on top.

Despite my best wrapping efforts, it got a bit dry after about three days, so next time we’ll have to try and eat it faster.  A bit more pear compote helped, but we can’t all be so lucky. 😉

I’ve been thinking about how to make this again, perhaps as some sort of crostini, for dinner on its own but am somewhat stumped for ideas. If you’ve got one for me, leave it in the comments!