Burg Hohenzollern Weihnachtsmarkt

Weihnachtsmarkt

Yesterday, I went to the Christmas market at Burg Hohenzollern (a castle near Stuttgart) with Jan and two of our friends. We booked a day trip through a company called Binder Reisen, so we were picked up in Pforzheim in a mini bus, switched to a larger bus in Vahingen and were brought to a car park near the castle from where a shuttle bus took us the rest of the way up. The Christmas market is only on for the first two advent Sundays (and this was the second), so if you want to go you’ve unfortunately missed out this year, but there’s always next year. We paid €27 each for the bus and entrance to the Christmas market.

Down in the valley it was raining, but up at the castle it was snowing and apparently had also snowed a lot in the days prior… the trees looked beautiful! Unfortunately, it was also foggy so taking photos was difficult but I did my best!

There were a few stalls inside the main bit of the castle as well, but no photos were allowed in there.
After checking out all the stalls and partaking in a few Glühweins, we decided it was time to eat something. I had a venison steak, which was delicious (and not something you find at just any Christmas market!). Jan went for the wild boar sausage, which I tried a bit of, and which was also amazing. After trying some hot red mead (seriously delicious!) it was time for a walk around the castle grounds. Away from the market, it was freezing but also beautiful.

I may have gone slightly overboard taking photos of the snow-covered branches, but it really was beautiful!
Somebody had built some little snowmen on the wall and I couldn’t resist photographing them.

After our walk around the castle, we were all freezing so we returned to the main market for some more hot red mead (told you it was delicious!) and to listen to the carol singers before heading for the shuttle bus that would take us back down to where our coach was meeting us. When I first realised we would only have about 3 hours at the market, I thought it wouldn’t be long enough, but it turned out to be the perfect amount of time. It ended up being a lovely day, and definitely different to an ordinary Christmas market. I would highly recommend checking this out if you get the chance. In my opinion, it was well worth it! (Even if we did spend more time travelling than actually at the market!)

Basel, Switzerland

When I was first speaking to my brother about where he would like to go while visiting us, Basel was one of the places he specifically asked to visit as he’d never been to Switzerland before. It’s within perfect day tripping distance from Karlsruhe and I wanted to eat fondue in Switzerland anyway, so I was happy with his choice. there is an express train from Karlsruhe to Basel which takes about an hour and a half, but we decided to drive down. We parked near the Badische Bahnhof, which is a joint operation between Deutsche Bahn and Swiss rail, meaning it is covered by the German rail pass, the Schönes Wochenende Ticket and the Baden-Württemberg ticket. The latter two can only be used on regional trains though, which will increase the journey time to one and a half hours from Karlsruhe and mean changing trains at least once (in Offenburg or Freiburg). From the Badische Bahnhof it is roughly a 20 minute walk into town.

Crosing the River Rhine on our way into town
Crosing the River Rhine on our way into town

Our first stop in town was at Basel Cathedral. It was a hot day and we were quite glad of the relative coolness inside the church! The first picture below is of the square in front of the cathedral (taken facing away from the cathedral)… one of those buildings is a school, believe it or not!

By the time we’d finished with the cathedral, we were starting to get hungry so we headed off in search of some lunch. I’ve already written about our search for fondue here. After lunch, we continued our walk around the city and came to a small market where there was a stand selling frozen yoghurt. Despite our big lunch, we all agreed that a nice, cold frozen yoghurt would go down well (I told you it was a hot day!). I chose forest fruits as my topping.

It must be yummy... the carton says so ;-)
It must be yummy… the carton says so 😉

Frozen yoghurts consumed, we headed up to Theaterplatz for a look at the Tinguely Fountain, a water feature consisting of slightly bizarre machine structures in a large pool. It’s quite fascinating! Jean Tinguely was born in Basel but later moved to France. This fountain was installed in 1977.

A walk through the narrow mediavel alleyways of the old town is a must while in Basel, so that’s what we did next. This area is beautiful, and you’ll occasionally see something unusual too… like a model rhino?!

Our walk through the old town eventually lead us to Marktplatz  – Market Square – and the town hall. I couldn’t get far enough aways to get a decent picture of the front with my tiny camera, so I stole the first two photos below from my brother 😉 Phones with their wide screens are much better for getting photos of long things! The sculpture in the inner courtyard is called “Enemies United”.

After checking out the town hall from all angles, we decided to leave Basel and take the scenic route back to Karlsruhe through the countryside. Then we headed to one of my favourite places in Karlsruhe for some cocktails. I also decided to have a mango and avocado salad, which came with walnuts and parmesan. Not a combination that would ever have occurred to me, but it was delicious! The perfect end to a lovely day.

~ I am counting Basel as my August 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge ~

Bad Dürkheim Wurstmarkt

Entering the Wurstmarkt...
Entering the Wurstmarkt…

Yesterday, Jan, K and I went to the Wurstmarkt in Bad Dürkheim. Those of you who understand even a little German will probably have noticed that “Wurstmarkt” literally translates to Sausage Market. But din’t let the name fool you… it’s actually a wine festival. The biggest in Germany, no less!

We arrived at 12:35 in the afternoon, so the logical first act was to go and find some food. Bad Dürkheim is in Rheinland-Pfalz, so the obvious choice of food was Pfälzer Saumagen – sow’s stomach. For those who are now thinking “eeew”, it actually tastes a lot nicer than the name suggests. A bit like gammon, but spiced differently and with little bits of potato in among the meat.

Saumagen with Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes)
Saumagen with Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes)

Because we were planning on staying at the fest all day, we decided to make our first drink a Weinschorle (wine spritzer, i.e. wine with fizzy water). I went for a Riesling.

Rieslingschorle
Rieslingschorle

Once we’d eaten and drunk, we decided to go for a walk and see what else there was going on. As with all German Fests of this type (including Oktoberfest), there was a huge funfair.

A spinning swings ride
A spinning swings ride
A clown points the way to the facilities
A clown points the way to the facilities
The ghost train
The ghost train

As well as the rides, there were various stands where you could win things by hooking ducks, shooting balloons or throwing balls at stacks of cans, among other things. Check out all the prizes at this stand:

Prizes
Prizes

Next, it was time for more wine. We discovered the Weindorf, an area where a dozen Bad Dürkheim wine merchants had set up tents and were serving wine in a slightly more stylish atmosphere than in the “ordinary” wine tents where we had eaten. The tables in the Weindorf were decorated and the benches had cushions on. Very nice.

Part of the Weindorf area
Part of the Weindorf area
Wine at the Weindorf
Wine at the Weindorf

Later, we went for another walk through the fairground area in search of some candy floss.

One of the many food stalls... can you guess what this one was selling?
One of the many food stalls… can you guess what this one was selling?
Candy floss!
Candy floss!
Ferris wheel
Ferris wheel

Candyfloss eaten, we returned to the Weindorf and tried more wines until it was time to leave for our train home.

This year’s Wurstmarkt is on until Tuesday 10 September 2013, then takes a break before reopening from Friday 13 to Monday 16 September, so if you’re in the area and like wine there’s still time to get yourselves along. It’s well worth it!

Horb am Neckar

On the way back from our trip to Rottweil, Jan and I stopped off at a place called Horb am Neckar. The carpark we originally selected on the sat nav actually turned out to be on a hill above the town, so we stopped there first and took some photos of the view.

Horb from above
Horb from above

My camera’s battery ran out not long after I took the photo above, so most of the rest of the images in this post are Jan’s – the reason I’m only writing about this now is because he only gave me access to said photos after I got back from England.

Horb has a population of around 25,000, but when we arrived at 7 pm on a Saturday evening, everything was closed and we didn’t see a single one of the residents. All the better for taking photos 😉

This is how photos come out when I'm trying to take them quickly before the camera battery dies...
This is how photos come out when I’m trying to take them quickly before the camera battery dies…

The town hall in Horb had some pretty interested decoration on it:

Horb Town Hall - photo by Jan
Horb Town Hall – photo by Jan

I got Jan to take the photo below for me because of the cool ship sign, then we walked up the hill to the church you can see on the right.

Horb am Neckar 3

The church is the Stiftskirche, or collegiate church, and stands at the highest point in the town. The view from up there is very nice!

View of Horb
View of Horb

I love the little red house!
The next thing we spotted was the Schurkenturm. A Schurke is German for a villain, but I’m not sure whether the name of the tower has aynthing to do with that…

Schurkenturm, viewed from the church
Schurkenturm, viewed from the church
Schurkenturm, up close
Schurkenturm, up close

This sculpture close to the tower was pretty cute:Horb art

It’s a stack of pillows (or cushions), all on top of each other.

Horb is a pretty little town, and if we’d stayed a bit longer there would have been some other towers we could look at, and we could also have gone down to the Neckar and had a walk along its banks. But it was already getting late and we still had an hour to drive back, plus it seemed like it was about to start raining, so we decided to leave. It was definitely worth taking the time to stop off in this cute town though!

 

Mannheim

Yesterday afternoon Jan and I decided that, for once, we wanted to do something with our weekend, so we (or rather he) booked a car from Stadtmobil and headed off to Mannheim.

On the way into town we spotted a planetarium. Neither of us had been to one for years so we parked the car and went into enquire. It turned out the next show was due to start an hour later, at 6pm. We figured we might as well go for it so we bought the tickets. With only and hour to wait there was no point in heading into the town centre, so instead we went to Luisenpark, which was just across the road. It cost 5 euros to get in, which seemed a bit much to go into a park,  so at first we weren’t going to bother, but there didn’t seem to be anything else in the area so we thought why not. So in we went and, as it turned out, the 5 euros was actually well worth it. It seems Luisenpark is not, in fact, just a park, but contains, among other things, a Chinese garden, an open air stage and a model farm. An hour was nowhere near enough to see everything, but we did go into the Pflanzenschauhaus, which literally means plant exhibition house. It’s basically a giant greenhouse divided into various rooms, including an aquarium, a butterfly house, a section for reptiles and, of course, lots and lots of plants. We saw an otter, a banana tree, a coffee plant and – my favourite part – giant tortoises! We couldn’t find the tortoises when we were at Karlsruhe zoo the other week so I was pleased to finally see some in Mannheim.

Giant tortoise
Giant tortoise

By the time we made it out of the huge greenhouse our hour was almost up and we had to rush back to the planetarium where we saw a show about the race to get to the moon. It was quite interesting, but Jan and I agreed that planetariums seemed so much more impressive when we were little.
After the show we were hungry, so off we went into town for some food. I had gnocchi which were basically swimming in a garlicy-oil. Delicous!

After dinner I showed Jan the building where I will soon be working then we went for a look around. We discovered a real English tea shop that looked so inviting that we just had to go in. We both treated ourselves to a small cream tea, consisting of a pot of tea each and a freshly baked scone with real clotted cream and homemade jam. Mmmm.

In The Tea Salon
In The Tea Salon

It was a lovely afternoon and the perfect way to spend my last Saturday as a 25 year old.

Like a Town from a Fairy Tale

Jan’s mum and sister were in Tübingen, spending some mother-daughter time together.
Because Tübingen is so close to Karlsruhe (only about an hour and a half) and because neither of us had ever been there before Jan and I decided to go and visit them for a day. And so on Saturday, 18th July we left the house at the ridiculously early hour of 8am (it is ridiculously early on a Saturday!) and headed off in the direction of Pforzheim and Stuttgart.

lamp post

 

Tübingen, says Wikipedia, is a traditional university town in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is situated 30 km (19 miles) southwest of Stuttgart, on a ridge between the Neckar and Ammer rivers.
What Wikipedia doesn’t tell us is that Tübingen is beautiful. Admittedly it looked even nicer when we were there thanks to the millions of flowers which adorned, well pretty much everything that could be adorned with flowers to be honest. Like the lamp post below. But even without the flowers the town would be gorgeous. Our first stop was at the Kunsthalle (art gallery), in the northern part of the town because it was close to where Jan’s mum and sister were staying. Walking there I was struck by how green everything was.Visitors to Karlsruhe often comment on how green it is here (and having the castle gardens right in the town centre helps a lot) but it is a city and with so many cars, trams and people there’s only so much you can do. But Tübingen is something else. Even the fairly busy road leading into town was lined with trees. Not that we took the time to stop and admire them – at that point it was chucking it down and all we wanted was to get to the art gallery, where it at least wouldn’t be raining.
Inside the art gallery we were treated to an exhibition that was quite frankly… strange. It featured a wall of drawings which looked as if they had been stolen from the kids at the local Kindergarten, a photograph of vegetables carved into amusing humanesque characters, a shiny, brightly coloured penis shaped sculpture with a sad face and about 6 drawings featuring penises (penii? What is the plural) which also looked as if a small child could have drawn them. Except that most small children don’t paint picture of a penis sitting in a tree looking at his reflection in the puddle below. I think I should do a few more carvings a la aubergine bee. Maybe I could get my own exhibition in Tübingen too!
Other than that exhibition there was nothing to see at the art gallery. No permanent displays of art that are always there. Nothing vaguely normal. Nothing by anybody that I had actually heard of. Just the penis exhibition. So off we went to take the bus into town.

The so-called Altstadt (old town) of Tübingen also happens to be the main part of the town (is there actually a new town I wonder? Maybe the suburbs are a little newer), which meant that all we had to do to see old (and beautiful) buildings was head for the town centre. Everywhere we looked another old house or cute little side street just beeged to have its photo taken. Just look at this picture, showing part of Marktplatz (Market Square). If that doesn’t make you think of a village from fairy tale I don’t know what will!

Tübingen Marktplatz
Tübingen Marktplatz

After a quick walk up to the castle (now an archeological museum), where we had a great view of Tübingen from above, we headed down towards the river, which we found to be just as beautiful, with more gorgeous old houses lining its banks and a weeping willow trailing its leaves into the water. Fabulous! We had lunch in a nice little beer garden overlooking the river before heading back into town where we soaked up some more of the old town atmosphere, had a look inside the church and headed up to the top of a hill for another view of Tübingen from above – we had hoped to climp up a tower on top of the hill but it was all locked up and didn’t look like anyone had been allowed to climb it for years!  After the disappointment of the tower we took the bus back down the hill and stopped off at a nice cafe, which also happened to be a bookcrossing zone (I managed to find 5 books to take home with me!) then finished our trip with a walk through the park before catching the bus back up to where we had left the car.

It was a lovely day in a beautiful town. And I have now decided that if I can’t live in Tübingen I would at least like to find a town that’s similar. Even if it’s only half as beautiful that would be good enough for me!