We recently stumbled upon a delicacy of the German Christmas Markets...the fire bowl drink (feuerzangenbowle). A friend mentioned the stand on the other side of the Danube River in Regensberg so the family made its way wandering through the cobblestone streets in search of the elusive concoction. When we stumbled upon a long line of eager patrons waiting patiently for their drinks we knew we found something special. The drink comes served in a special cup that allows the sugar cube to rest on the side while the liquor is poured generously on top of the sugar and drink. Then, the magic comes when the server takes a small blowtorch and lights the drink on fire. We were duly impressed. So much so, that on subsequent trips, we made a beeline for the stand, passing up any imitations along the way. We thought this was a Regensberg specialty but are happy to report that Munich hosts a Fire Bowl Square right near the Old Town with several stands dedicated to the drink, and includes a 20 foot tower of copper with fire flaming out from the center. All we can say is "bring it on!"
Click below for a short video...
Fire on my drink
|Village Square, Esslingen|
|Pausing for a quick pic between sips of gluhwein|
Starting just after American Thanksgiving, German villages and large cities play host to Christkindlmarkts...the traditional seasonal markets featuring handcrafted goods, fresh baked goods and live music. We were able to visit several of the top markets this year: Dresden--the oldest market in Germany; Stuttgart--the largest market in Germany; Esslingen--a medieval market featuring pirates, wenches and lots of street performers; Nuremberg--voted "the best" market; and Regensberg--a collection of 4 markets in one city. Each has their specialty but all have one draw in common: gluhwein, a hot mulled wine served in commemorative market coffee mugs. You pay a deposit for the cup allowing visitors to choose which cups they want to collect. (most cost between 2-3 euro) A spin on the gluhwein drink is "feuerzangenbowle" literally translated "fire tongs punch". This drink is mulled wine with a sugar cube doused in alcohol and then lit on fire. Not only is it tasty on a cold winter's night but adding the flame on top makes it irresistible.
|One of the pretty booths at Christmas Market|
|Street performer, Esslingen|
When you purchase a Volvo, you can have it delivered to the dealer OR you can opt to take factory delivery up in Sweden, which is what we did during the last weekend in October 2011. The deal goes like this: if you elect to pick up at the dealership, you will pay a $600 delivery fee. If you go to the factory, Volvo pays for your trip up north and then you drive it back home. Tim was able to get leave approved for the trip to Sweden and on Monday, Oct 31 we boarded a train in Parsberg (a 5 minute drive from our house) to Kiel, via Regensberg and Frankfurt. The train travel took 8 hours but was thoroughly enjoyable. No distractions to our reading selections, we stopped at the Starbucks in Frankfurt for a little snack and then enjoyed a picnic lunch with bottles of wine on the train.
Once we arrived in Kiel, it was a 10 minute walk to the Stena Line ferry where we checked in, received room keys and hit the buffet.
The ferry left port at 7:30pm and traveled across the Baltic Sea overnight. We arrived in Gothenburg Sweden at 9am and left our luggage in our cabin, which we would return in the evening. We were warmly greeted by our Volvo driver who whisked us away to the factory, about 15 minutes from the dock. Once at the factory, we were the first to check in and our car was rolled out in the delivery waiting area. We were like first time parents, oohing and ahhing over the shiny new toy. Our Volvo rep Leif took us on a tour of the bells and whistles of the car and then let us take over and take it on a spin on the test track. Lest you get too excited, the track is about 1/4 mile long and limited to low speeds. We'd have to wait to test the power in the engine until after lunch.
At 11:30, we enjoyed lunch in the restaurant which featured a traditional Swedish meal: meatballs, potatoes, gravy and lingonberries. Better than IKEA! Then, it was time for our factory tour. Sorry, no pictures allowed but it reminded me of the Disney movie Wall-E or the ride "Cars" at Epcot: lots of robots doing very detailed work. When we did see humans, they were surprisingly young; I don't think we spotted anyone over the age of 50 on the floor and most looked like young adults. Impressive tour though. They kept emphasizing that every Volvo is created with specific customer specifications. Every vehicle is pre-ordered and built to match the end user's desires.
We left the factory at 3:30 and drove around the city enjoying the sound system and bluetooth capabilities. Once on board the ferry again, we made our way back to the buffet. After a restful night's sleep, we disembarked with the car and headed south to Lupburg. We made it home in 8 hours and thoroughly enjoyed driving the car on the autobahn. Tim got the car up to 110 mph, a thrilling prospect after many years at speeds half that. We are going to enjoy traveling to new places in this car.
|Tim deciphers the map to figure out where to go next...icons show us the types of trails they have: important sites, beautiful scenery, or restaurants along the way!|
A favorite pastime of the Germans is walking. I had heard about the volksmarches that many villages host during the summer but I was surprised at the sheer number of people who enjoy walking as sport. Many carry trekking poles to give them a boost in heart rate. However, I've noticed quite a few who simply drag the poles behind them as they walk leisurely on one of the many trails around Bavaria.
Occasionally, I meet up with some Army friends to take part in this pastime. More often, I take Lady for a walk around my neighborhood. We have enjoyed watching the changing scenery, as summer moves into fall.
|Katie, LeAnna and MonaLisa take a break during the walk|
|Pigeons roost in See|
|My traveling companion on most days...LADY|
|Which way do we go?|
|Climbing on top of hay balls in a field...surprisingly squishy|
|Will-6th grade; Lilly-2nd grade|
|Parents and students wait in anticipation of the ribbon cutting ceremony opening Hohenfels Elmentary School|
for a new year of learning
|We'll get it right next year; apparently, first day of school photos are conducted on the rock with the castle in the background. Silly newcomers!|
|Will and his 6th grade buddy, Reese|
|The neighborhood gang waiting for the bus |
(no high schoolers...they got to sleep in for one more day)
|The Postma Family in the backyard of the Winter Palace, St Petersburg, Russia|
August 11 St Petersburg, Russia
|Catherine the Great's Winter Palace|
|Kristen and Tim in the "backyard" of the Winter Palace|
|Bill ensures his headphones are working properly|
|There's a chapel inside the Winter Palace|
|Instead of living in the Winter Palace, Catherine had this little addition added and spent the |
remainder of her life living "simply"
August 10 It was a competition to see who could get back to the cruise ship on time following our excursion into Stockholm. Steph, Bryan and a handful of kids elected to take the water taxi from Gamla Stan to the boat; Tim, Kristen, Bill, Eva and Lindsey tried hoofing it back to the ship. It didn't seem too far but when you're under the clock, every minute counts. Both groups made it back before the ship sounded its horn.
|Old town, Tallinn Estonia|
|Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Estonia Russian-Orthodox|
|We took the opportunity to walk on the old city wall|
|Tim and Lilly on a tandem bike ride|
|I couldn't resist the chance to be a "qualified back-seat driver."|
|The girls try on fur hats, Estonia|
|Sunset from the ship|
|New development in Tallinn Estonia|
Following another filling dinner meal and night at sea, we pulled into Tallinn Estonia at 7:30am. From the ship, we could see tall spires and red roofs dotting the coastline. We were eager to embark on our city walk. We left the ship and walked through a little market village set up expressly for the purposes of hawking goods to desperate souvenir shoppers. We browsed quickly through the wooden shacks on our way to old town, about a 10 minute walk. Estonia's history is a constant tug of war for domination of its ports by both Sweden and Russia. The people, however, demanded independence and currently enjoy a vibrant economy and tourists to Tallinn are not disappointed. The town reminded me of the Medieval Times Restaurant, with old town walls, wooden market stalls and vendors dressed in Renaissance garb. The smell of sweet-roasted almonds wafted around the town square and quartets entertained us with lively folk music. Several of us took the walking tour of the city and another group rented tandem bikes for an exhilarating tour of the streets. Cobblestones make for a bumpy ride but the weather was pleasant and everyone was in a good mood.
We returned to the ship back through the market stalls and managed to satisfy our souvenir craving as well with painted tiles and hand-made jewelry.