Sunday Snapshots: Praha in Spring

Prague, 2009

April 2nd, 2009, lives in my mind as an Epic Prague Day. Friends from our TEFL course had passed around Europe and returned to Prague before flying back to the U.S., and so we took the chance to make the most of our time left together.  That meant doing one of the boat tours on the Vltava, feasting our way through the Easter market, buying beers to take on the spider bike, and convincing our spider bike driver to take us on an extended off-tour excursion as his punishment for picking us up late.

Then it was more wandering around the city, including this walk through the park filled with young and old (and a couple taking their cat for a walk); while we soaked up the Czech sunshine, eventually finding our way to a cozy pub that didn’t mind indulging some silly Americans, flush with sentimentality for the end of our time together for the evening. I miss those crazy kids.

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‘Schland + Spargel = Tru Luv 4Eva

Ah, spring… the flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, the train drivers are striking, and you may want to bring a clothespin if you plan on using a public restroom around here. Why? Because it’s asparagus season, aka, Spargelzeit!

I’ve written about the German love of asparagus before, but since it’s been a while, I thought the time was ripe (vegetable jokes) to post about it again. In the last few weeks, I’ve eaten off of a few local asparagus menus, and seen piles of the white gold at all the markets.

spargel standSorry about the slight blurriness. There was a lot of activity around this stand in the Fürth market, and it was hard to get around all the people trying to get their Spargel fix while simultaneously trying not to drop my cappuccino. Priorities.

If you want more information about the German love of the asparagus, I recommend this excellent post over at Laptops and Lederhosen. After reading that, I realized that my life would not be complete until I have found and feasted upon asparagus ice cream. Who knew?

For my part though, I found the definitive proof that asparagus love is not only timeless, but something that merits being captured and preserved forever. Behold…

spargel portraitNow, some people might say that this is a still life with asparagus. I disagree. I say that this is a portrait of spring’s favorite vegetable.

Thanks to the artist, Carl Schuch, and the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, for making today’s post possible.

And now, I’m off to google recipes for the last thing I ate from the Spargel menu. If I can find it, I shall report back!

Two Saturdays, Two Pictures

One of my favorite ways to spend a weekend is visiting our friends in the village, and we were lucky enough to do just that for part of the last two. Last Saturday, I left poor BV to his books, and headed down with another friend to help celebrate her birthday. Our villager friends had prepared an absolutely enormous bonfire, and we spent the evening eating cake, drinking drinks, and keeping warm in the cool spring evening air. The kids and the kittens played hide-and-seek, while the adults roasted cocktail shrimp over the coals.

bonfireThe fire burned down to coals and we finally turned in after midnight. The next day the kids were up and raring to go, whether the rest of us were or not. A long, slow, walk in the fresh air helped matters a bit, even more so with an extended break at the playground so the adults could sit for a minute. When we got back to the house, the fire was still smoking a bit… I guess it’s safe to say that adding more wood was pretty unnecessary.

This weekend we were invited back again, so BV could take part in a poker game that they’ve been trying to play since Christmas. He had his first round of tests on Friday, and we drove down when he got back from the class. A study break was very necessary, which meant he was in much better form after some whiskey, snacks, and man-time. He even came out €5 ahead at the end… not bad considering he’s never really played poker much.

While the gents played, the ladies chatted over some wine, and helped to set up an absolutely fantastic fort that the kids’ Nana had made to fit under their stairway. Then some went to bed, and some of us joined the guys to watch the mayhem unfold. It was a fairly lively poker game, but keeping all the guys on track after they’d finished the first bottle of whiskey was challenging to say the least.

I turned in shortly after midnight, and BV came to bed when the game broke up around 3:30… presumably when the majority of them ran out of cash. I made the better choice though, as we were roused for breakfast by my favorite fairy-winged 4-year old before 9am… much earlier than either of us usually gets up on the weekend. BV wasn’t moving yet, but it was his loss. Home-made pancakes were well worth the early wake up call.

We were invited to stay another night, and to join the rest at a local dancing celebration and workshop that was taking place all weekend, but unfortunately BV had to get back to the books. I would’ve liked to stick around until Sunday, as they also had plans to visit a bird market and pick up some more chickens. But, I guess we’ll just have to wait until our next visit to meet the new additions. Until then, there are always the goats.

goats

Green, Greener, Greenest

If I ever had to associate a color with Germany, there’s no doubt that it would be green.* Talking about the weather is not the most exciting thing in the world, but this has to have been one of the most gorgeous springs that I’ve ever seen. Add to that the fact that I’ve been able to get out and play outside since February, and that makes for one happy Heather.

The trees have pretty much exploded in the last week, and several of my normal train routes are much like riding through green tunnels at this point. I’m a big fan of sitting back, enjoying the ride, and trying to spot deer, rabbits, cats, etc., along the way. The fields slide past the window in big blocks of light green, dark green, and the occasional wide patch of yellow. I tried to capture a bit of it today, please excuse the iPhone on a train quality…

green1Just when you think things can’t get any greener, it rains for a minute and the fields almost start to glow in the sunlight. It is astoundingly, gorgeously green, and it makes my absurd train riding sooooooo much better.

When we got home tonight, there were piles of ominous dark clouds approaching town. Just as we got into the house the thunder started, and we had a pretty impressive cloudburst.

green2 I grabbed this shot out our bedroom window before the cat noticed that we had opened the it. Poor girl is a needy mess on Wednesday nights when we get back here.

The cloudburst passed quickly leaving a double rainbow in its wake. BV was first to grab the new camera, and ran out to the balcony to document it.

green3 green4Does this not look like something that should be shooting out of a unicorn’s butt? Love it.

So let me apologize again for yet another “spring is awesome” post but come on…

Last month in Grainbach

Last month in Grainbach

It’s hard to argue with all this pretty. Green fields like that make me want to roll around like a horse when you take off its saddle. Sometimes it’s hard to remember I’m an adult. Then again, adulthood is a fluid concept, at least in my book.

In summation: If you’re stuck somewhere blah, might I recommend a visit to ze Deutschland? Who could resist a view like this?

Last year in the Allgäu

Last year in the Allgäu

Just consider this an advertisement for the German tourist board.

And German tourist board? If you’re reading this, feel free to send cash.

Fellow Germany dwellers, is green the right color? And apologies if it doesn’t look this good where you are… Bayern for the win!

*Or possibly amber like the beer, but for the sake of argument, let’s go with green.

Feeling Like Spring…

It feels almost cruel to be saying this given the winter that my friends and family have been enduring in America, but here it goes…. It feels like spring here.  The birds are singing their little hearts out every morning, and making poor Marry the Cat crazy at the same time. Sunlight streams into the house for most of the day now and I feel so much better that it’s not even funny. If you are reading this from Deutschland, you might recall last winter being long and graaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay. Gray. Just gray. I hate to feel like I might jinx things by writing this post but I’m taking the risk.

Welcome to the magical fairyland of our yard right now….spring1

We’ve got crocuses, snowdrops, and sweet little yellow flowers that look like buttercups. And our yard is not even the most colorful in town. Almost everyone has flowers sprouting up all over the place. In fact, it’s been so nice that I’ve even been motivated to move myself out the door and around the village for a little “wogging.” It’s mostly walking with the occasional spurt of jogging for a minute or two until my lungs hate me. But apart from the breathing issue it’s been a great chance to wander around town a bit more, and check out the endless paths that wander between villages and farm fields. spring2

We even made an attempt to go for the first hike of the year last weekend, but the steady rain and cool temperatures did not make for a good time. We were out for a few hours and a nice lunch, but BV developed a touch of flu afterwards so I think we’ll have to take it easy on outdoor activities for a bit. Honestly though, I’m just happy to have the option and not to be frozen into my house. Sorry, not sorry, Midwesterners! You are all welcome to come visit if you can dig out from your snowbanks!

 

Balcony Rehab: Spring 2013

I don’t know about all of you, but now that it’s May I’m really hoping that The Long Winter is over. Although as I’m typing this, it’s my favorite shade of Flat Gray outside, so that’s a great start to the day. 

One of my main priorities for this spring was to get my balcony in order again. It went through a few incarnations last year… I wrote a helpful guide to getting it in shape, which you can find right here. That lasted fairly well until I went on vacation for two weeks and everything died. That meant I had to do a frantic rehab afternoon on it before it ended up on TV since we shot the day after I came back from said vacation. Stress! Tip: try to find someone to water your plants if you’re leaving for two weeks and then immediately having a film crew in your house.* Back to this year.… Here are some “before” shots.

Ugh. So depressing.
Seedlings from a friend, lettuce, strawberries.

The process was of course much easier this year (thank God), since I of course had all the planters and even some dirt left over. That makes the hauling much less painful. Additionally, BV has a friend who’s a gardener, which meant that all we needed was one Friday evening visit to his nursery. 

Last year I had wished for a strapping young German gentleman to help me carry things up the stairs. And boom! It worked. Now I’ll wish for a million Euros… let’s see how that goes. 

By the time we got back from the nursery it was raining pretty hard, so planting had to wait until Saturday. Even minus BV’s run to OBI because we were just a little short on dirt, it went super quickly and I am very happy with the results…

Mini herb garden

The seedlings for lettuce, radish, and tomatoes went into this new planter along with the strawberries and romaine lettuce. I’m not sure how well it’s going to work if and when they really start to grow, but we’ll see. Plus those planters were only €1 each at Woolworth’s. Yes, you read that right. There is still a Woolworth’s here. My Grandma couldn’t believe it either.
 

 
Everything has been in for a couple of days now, and seems to be doing okay so far. I’ve got my fingers crossed that we get a little more sun now, it’d be nice to sit out there and enjoy it! 
  

*That is oddly specific advice, but could be helpful to someone. Maybe.

Hansel, Gretel, a Giant, and a Witch…

…. walk into the OBI. Just kidding. 

One of the things I love about Germany is that everyone here seems to have a major green thumb. When you drive through the villages, or pass by the gardens on the train, you will see fields of green, and absolute riots of color peeking through the fences. And if you live in the city? Well no problem! Outside of a lot of cities there are huge areas where apartment-dwellers can buy or rent a small plot of land to get their outdoor fix. 

These small gardens plots are usually fenced in, and include a small house. These houses are also a common sight in the backyards of Germany. They come in many varieties, but the normal ones look something like this….

Via

Nice, right? I’ve always thought how great that is, that even if you live in a little apartment in the middle of the city, you can still have some green ground to plant somewhere. But now OBI has surpassed itself. 

I’ve been to the OBI (which is a home/building/etc. store… a la Home Depot, in case you don’t know), a couple of times lately, most recently on Thursday. Which is when I saw this magnificent and amazing Gartenhaus.

Want. Want. 

With it’s peaked roof, crooked windows and tiny door, it was clear that we had found Hansel and Gretel’s home. At OBI.

Upon further investigation we found that this was actually the witch’s house… it is called the Hexenhaus Lieblingsplatz, or, witch house haunt. Inside, we even found the witch’s ride….

It was clear that the witch also welcomed visitors, both large and small…

This last thing confuses me a bit, because I thought witches were more of cat people, but apparently this witch is the exception…

So I guess if you want to take your home garden to the fairy-tale level, head on over to your local OBI Baumarkt. Just remember, price isn’t important. Because this one is about 3+ times the cost of your normal Gartenhaus. Gah! 

But since I’m still garden-less, I’m off to do some balcony therapy… come on out sun!

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. 

Here’s Hoping….

So the last few days have been absolutely lovely, to the point where I switched from my normal winter jacket to my lighter jacket. Not to mention that I also left off the socks when I threw on my flats for the trip to the supermarket this afternoon. Last weekend I prepped my balcony for spring, and replanted some bulbs that I had saved from last year’s crocuses.

The weather forecast has been saying all week that the temperature is going to drop like crazy again, and more snow might be on the way, but I’m hoping that this is one of the MANY TIMES when they are dead wrong. In fact, I’m hoping that I get to see these again as soon as possible….

I took those a year ago tomorrow, so I don’t think that’s unreasonable…. is it??

Critters in action.

This weekend was Daylight Savings Time here in Euro-land. I love that it gets us one more hour of evening sunshine, but sadly this weekend it meant that I had one less hour to enjoy that time in the countryside. 

And now, animals!

Chickens do not comply with requests to hold still. But when you’re constantly being stalked by….

die kleine Katzke, you can’t be blamed for staying on the move.