A day in the Black Forest

After a day in Strasbourg and a day in Basel, on the Friday of my brother’s visit, we decided to just relax. After a lie in, we made crumpets for brunch, went out for a round of mini golf then, in the evening, my friend came over and we watched How to Train Your Dragon as I hadn’t seen it before and said friend had asked me to go to the cinema with her the following week to see the second one. Saturday was back to day trips! Having been to two different countries, I thought it was about time to see some of the local(ish) area, so we headed off into the Schwarzwald. Our first stop was Neuenbürg, or rather the castle above the town.

Black Forest
Looking down from Neunbürg castle

When we arrived, the castle museum in the main building wasn’t open yet, so we went and had a look at the ruins of the “Hinterburg” (literally “back or behind castle), an older building that was presumably used before the present-day castle was built. My photos of it are terrible! Sorry about that…

Once we’d finished exploring the ruins, we decided to head for the restaurant for a coffee while we waited for the museum to open. Once we were brought menus, we decided that, actually, we might as well have lunch since it was already after 12. We each chose to have a Pfanno – a speciality of the restaurant that’s somewhere between a pancake, a pizza and an omlette. It has too much egg to really be a pancake, and it tastes a lot like an omlette, but itthe savoury ones looked kind of like a pizza with the toppings. I went for the tuna version while my brother went for a sweet version with apple and cinnamon. Jan had the Elsass style one (not pictured), which basically had traditional Flammkuchen style topping – bacon, onions and creme fraiche. They were tasty, but very filling! I couldn’t actually finish mine.

By the time we’d finished eating the museum was open and it was also starting to rain (the only time we had bad weather throughout my brother’s stay!), so inside was a good place to be! The museum begins with a retelling of a fairycalled “Das kalte Herz” (The Cold Heart). To go with the stories, there are wood carvings and light sillhouettes of the various characters. My brother was given a set of headphones so he could listen to the story in English. It was kind of a weird thing to find in a castle museum, but somehow cute.

The remainder of the museum had general stuff about the castle and local area. At the end was an exhibition of architects collected from people living in the town, including old games. I took the following picture because the sign amused me:

Schloss Neunbürg

All the things in that particular display case had to do with the railway. For those who don’t read German, the sign says “No smoking and no spitting on the floor.” Hahaha.

By the time we left the castle, it was raining pretty heavily, so our original plan of a possible work in the woods was out. Instead, we headed to Hirsau in the Calw region because I had read there was an Abbey museum there. Museum = indoors! Unfortunately, there was no English information in the museum so I ended up translating things for my brother! The first 2 floors were about the church that the museum is located in and the abbey/life of the monks, then there was a floor with information about Hirsau and the surrounding area, including an album of old photos. Once we’d finished with the museum, it had stopped raining and we were able to head over to the ruins of the abbey itself.

Outside the little chapel (the Lady Chapel), there was a tonne of rose petals on the ground. Since there was no rose bush to be seen, I can only assume somebody had married in the chapel that day and had rose petals strewn on them. What a gorgeous setting to get married! Shame about the awful weather.

I had seen on Facebook that The Seán Treacy Band, who have been mentioned on this blog before, were playing in a village called Schömberg, also not far from Calw, so we decided to finish our day by going to see them perform. The village was having its Glückswoche (happiness/luck week) and there was a mini festival going on. We ate spiralled potatoes on sticks, sausages (my brother) and pork steaks (me), had a few drinks and watched the first half of the band’s performance before heading back to Karlsruhe for the night.

Advertisements

Vienna: The UN and Donauinselfest

Our last day in Vienna also happened to be the first day of the Donauinselfest, Europe’s largest free open-air festival, so obviously we had to go! It didn’t start until the afternoon, so in the morning we decided to go to the United Nations office in Vienna. We took a general tour, which lasts for one hour. Vienna is one of four headquarters of the UN (the others are Geneva, New York and Nairobi). As well as the headquarters, the Vienna centre houses the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime… and probably some more. Those are the ones our guide went into detail about. Did you know that, as well as stuff to do with nuclear weapons and nuclear power, the IAEA also does things like advising  countries on the disposal of old X-ray equipment? Me neither! Here are some photos I took during the tour:

Once the tour was done, we headed to the island. There wasn’t much going on yet, but I got an ice cream from one of the stands and we watched some of the performers on the smaller stages. As it got closer to the time that official events would actually be happening, we started walking towards the large Ö3 stage, stopping on the way for food. I had some potato spirals… literally a potato cut into a spiral and fried, then covered in salt! In Germany, they’re usually served on a wooden stick but these ones were in a bag.

The first act we saw had apparantly won the right to perform in a competition. I can’t remember whether they were from Vienna, but all the band members were pretty young… like around 16-18. They weren’t bad though. Next came the official opening act… somebody called Thomas David. Apparantly, if we were Austrian (or at least lived in Austria) we would have heard of this guy. The announcer informed us that he’d been all over the radio over the previous few months. Not being Austrian (or having access to Austrian radio), we had never heard of him. He actually turned out to be good, though, and will be looking out for him in the future.

Thomas David was followed by Revolverheld, a band from Hamburg who I had heard of but never seen. (Apparantly they’ve played Das Fest in Karlsruhe before, but that must have been before I came to Germany). I didn’t recognise any of their songs, but every single other member of the audience seemed to be singing along… including Jan! Never mind, I enjoyed their set anyway. After Revolverheld came Nico and Vinz, a hip hop duo from Norway. Neither of us is into hip hop, so at that point we headed off to get some food, and found a stall selling baked potatoes. For the record, it’s hard to eat baked potatoes when you’re armed with only a plastic fork!

Revolverheld
Revolverheld

Once we’d eaten and been for a bit of a walk around, we headed back towards the stage for the act that I had actually wanted to see… Milow! Some people will be familiar with his cover of Ayo Technology (originally 50 Cent featuring Justin Timberlake), others may know him from the song You Don’t Know (people in mainland Europe that is… I have no idea whether he’s even known in the UK?). I actually like Milow, and enjoyed seeing him live.

The final act of the evening was Rea Garvey, but since neither of us was particular interested in him (I think I’ve heard maybe two of his songs…) and we still needed to pack ready to leave the next day, we decided to head back to the hotel after seeing Milow. As we were leaving, hundreds of people were still arriving… apparantly every teenager in Vienna wanted to see Rea Garvey!

A huge free concert was a great way to end our time in Vienna… but I’m still disappointed that we weren’t able to stay until Sunday, when Conchita Wurst was appearing as a special guest. I would have loved to experience her live!

~ I am counting Vienna (and Bratislava) as my June 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge ~

Pearl Jam in Vienna

I don’t normally write reviews of concerts I go to because I’m even worse at that then I am at reviewing books! But a few people have expressed interest so here goes…

I actually bought the tickets for Jan as an anniversary present. I like Pearl Jam well enough, but he’s the one that owns several of their albums! So when I received an email saying they were coming to Berlin, I had to try and get tickets. Of course, the day they went on sale ended up being a day where I was travelling back from somewhere, and by the time I got online the venue had sold out. It wasn’t until the next day that I thought to check whether they were playing anywhere else in Germany. They weren’t, but Vienna was on the list and, amazingly, there were still tickets available. I chose the best seats that I could still get (standing tickets were obviously long gone!), but as I’m sure you can imagine, they weren’t exactly the best seats… (Although I have to admit I was actually glad we were sitting! It was so hot in there that I just know if I’d been in the crush at the front of the stage I would have fainted before the end of the first song and ruined the whole night!).

The sound wasn’t brilliant where we were, but halfway through the gig Eddie Vedder paused to say that when they were doing the sound check, he seriously thought the sound guy was screwed! Apparantly, the Wiener Stadthalle had the second worst sound of any venue the band has played ever. So maybe it wasn’t much better down in front? Although he did say that the sound was much better now the hall was full.

Despite the less than amazing sound, it was a really good concert. The music went on for about 3 hours with barely a pause and every member of the band played excellently. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been so hot (partly as a result of sunburn!) and we’d had better seats, but neither of things are Pearl Jam’s fault! Based purely on the band’s performance, it was an amazing gig and well worth taking the trip to Vienna for!

Hoepfner Burgfest 2014

Every year over the Pentecost weekend, one of Karlsruhe’s local breweries has its beer festival. There are live bands, tasty things to eat, face painting and activities for children and, of course beer. Those of you who speak German and were paying attention will probably have noticed that little word “Burg” in the title… meaning castle. There is no actual castle involved, but Hoepfner’s building is made to look like one, earning it the name “Hoepfner Burg” – Hoepfner Castle… so naturally the annual event had to be the Burgfest, or castle festival. The Burgfest has been going since 1983, which makes it as old as me! (Actually a few months older since I was born after Pentecost). It starts on the Friday evening and runs until 8 p.m. on Pfingstmontag (Whit Monday). During that time various bands perform live both in the tent in the top courtyard and on the big stage down in the bottom courtyard. A lot of the bands are the same every year, but there are usually a couple of new ones.

This year, we decided to skip Friday and Saturday (I don’t think I’ve ever been to Burgfest on a Friday). There was a band called “Acoustic Rock Night” performing on Sunday afternoon that sounded interesting, so Jan, K and I took ourselves along for that. A friend of ours who was away from Karlsruhe the weekend of the festival had two beer tokens which he gave to Jan and I, so my first drink was a beer. I chose the Hoepfner Schwarz-Gold (Black-Gold), which is a dark beer. After that I switched to Weißweinschorle (white wine spritzer) and then had two glasses of Erdbeerbowle (strawberry punch). The band was good, but sadly the sound in the tent wasn’t brilliant so most of the time you couldn’t even hear the backing singers! Here are some photos from Sunday afternoon:

It was about 36°C that day and there was no breeze whatsoever so we were all boiling! I bought bottle of water that I drank about half of, using the other half to wet my face, neck and wrists for some momentary relief from the relentless heat! (I had actually brought a bottle of tap water along with me but I had to down that at the entrance. No drinks at all were allowed in!). Towards evening we decided to eat something and I felt like I was going to pass out while queuing for my food with all the ovens and grills blasting at me from behind the stalls. I’ve no idea how the people working there coped! After Acoustic Rock Night, another band came on… I think they were called the Moonlighters? They were okay, but we decided to move down to the bottom courtyard anyway as by that time another friend had turned up who wanted to see the band performing down there. Me and the Heat. K decided to leave at that point as it was still way too hot and she had a headache. Jan and I stayed for a few Me and the Heat songs, but left after having one more drink each. I’m not a huge fan of Me and the Heat, really. Technically (musically) they’re very good, but I don’t like most of the songs they do and they seem very uninterested in the audience somehow.

The next day, Monday, we headed down to see the final act of the Burgfest. The Sean Treacy Band is well known in Karlsruhe… If there’s a festival of any sort, they will almost always appear on the program! And they always close the Hoepfner Burgfest. This time, there was a surprise special guest performing alongside them. Fish, formerly of the band Marillion, was performing in a charity concert with them the following day and had popped along for a quick trial run before the main event. It was a great performance and a nice end to the long weekend.

Life right now

Oh, heyy!
I’ve been kind of absent from the blog this week (by which I clearly mean entirely absent!), so here’s a quick rundown on what’s going on in my life right now…

  • I started the 30 Day Squat Challenge on Monday and I am so unbelievably glad that today is a rest day! My thighs hate me already. Back to it tomorrow with 70 squats. Hopefully by the end of it I’ll have lovely toned thights though…
  • I went to a local brewery’s beer festival at the weekend (more on that in a separate post) and it was HOT! According to a local news website, temperatures hit 37.6°C at one point over Pentecost – a record for this time of year apparantly. It’s now down to a “mere” 29°C, which is still too hot for me. Especially since it’s also horribly hot at night, meaning I can NOT sleep!
  • On Tuesday I was at a charity concert here in Karlsruhe (well, Durlach, which is a borough of Karlsruhe). It starred Fools Garden (remember Lemon Tree anyone?) who are from the area, Eva Croissant (who those in Germany might remember from The Voice of Germany), David Hanselmann (who I had never heard of but has apparantly performed with famous bands like Canned Heat and Colesseum II – obviously before my time) and the big special guest of the evening: Fish, of Marillion fame. If nothing else you will have heard of the song Kayleigh. All the artists were accompanied by The Seán Treacy band, who are kind of celebrities in the local area. If there’s a Fest going on in Karlsruhe you can practically guarantee that they’ll be playing. So that was a nice evening. The concert didn’t finish til nearly midnight though, and then we still had to get home! Combined with the heat keeping me awake most of the night before and I was a very tiiiired Bev at work yesterday!
  • We fiiiinally made it to the train station last night to buy our tickets to Vienna! Normally we buy train tickets online, but travelling to a different country with 2 different Bahncards makes things slightly complicated. My Bahncard 100 is valid until Salzburg, so I’ve ended up paying less than €100 for the return train ticket. Result!
  • I was so tired last night that I actually managed to sleep from 11:30 p.m. until 3 a.m. (when I woke up so thirsty my throat actually hurt!). I had some bizarre dreams, which I’m totally blaming on the heat! I don’t remember much, but it involved running away from someone or something in the middle of the desert! I definitely think this was my brain’s reaction to my body being so hot. Also, when I got up at 3 a.m. to fecth more water, I happened to glance out of the window and the moon looked amazing! Sadly, I did not think to take a photo (well it was three in the morning!).
  • I’m currently reading Peony in Love by Lisa See for the reading challenge, and so far I’m disappointed! I will still read the whole thing though. On the other hand, I started reading Captain Cook’s birography this morning as my “train book” and I found myself wishing my commute was longer so I could read more! That almost never happens with non-fiction books 🙂
  • Tomorrow I won’t be at the office, which means I’ve only had to work 3 days this week (Monday was a holiday). I’m not “off” work as such though… I’m spending tomorrow and Saturday(!) at a seminar for translators. It’s about banking terminology, so not sure how much fun it will be! But hopefully it will turn out to be useful anway.

That’s all folks! I need to eat my lunch and then get back to work. Normal blogging service will resume next week, I hope.

P.S WordPress informed me earlier that I registered my blog 6 years ago today… so happy birthday dear bloggy!

Looking forward…

Routine has got me firmly back in its clutches and I am not liking it at all! Any benefits I may have gained from the long weekend and trip to Konstanz  were instantly erased by several small jobs due the next day plus a badly written larger job that required me to do an hour of overtime from home in the evening. OK, an hour doesn’t sound like much… but when you already get up at 6 a.m. (wellll, alright… ten past), the last thing you want to do on arriving home is get back to work… But instead of dwelling on how tired I am and how awful working for 8 hours every single day is (I absolutely love my job, but something about the idea of spending 8 hours in an office every single week day for the next 40-ish years is just soul destroying!), I’ve decided to look forward to all the fun plans I have for this summer. Positive mental attitude, right?

June

On Tuesday, we are going to see a charity concert in Durlach starring our quiz master’s band, who will be accompanying (among others) Fish from Marillion (remember them from the 80s?), and Fools Garden, who became world famous with their song Lemon Tree but are actually from Pforzheim – just down the road from Karlsruhe!

In a mere 17 days, Jan and I are heading to Vienna. Last time we were there, it was New Year and freezing (we went into the butterfly house purely to warm up!), so I’m hoping for good weather this time! We’re actually going there to see Pear Jam perform on the Wednesday night (a gift from me to Jan for our 10th anniversary of being in a relationship), but personally I’m mostly looking forward to the Austrian food 😉 Hopefully this time I will finally manage to try Marillenknödel! This will also be my June trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge.

July

I love hosting visitors, but it so rarely happens. After my sister and her boyfriend came two years ago for the Formula 1, I insisted that now it’s my brother’s turn to visit… and he finally is, at the end of July! He’s actually been to Karlsruhe before, with my mum, but that was 6 years ago (when he was 17), and they were only here for two days. This time he can legally drink (well, he could have had beer or wine last time, but he doesn’t like either) and we have more time. I’m looking forward to showing him more of the local area.

August

Well, it’s my birthday month, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be working so that’s not too exciting.
BUT… I will be spending the last week of August in Taiwan! Jan is presenting a paper at a conference there from 18-22 August, so he decided to take a week’s holiday and hang around to actually see some of the place. Since he warned me far enough in advance this time, I was actually able to save some holiday so that I can go too. Jan will be going over a week before me for the conference, and I can’t say I’m particularly looking forward to taking two long flights on my own (or the four-hour layover in Dubai for that matter!). But hey, I get to go to Taiwan! (And also cross “visit a new continent” off my 35 before 35 list.) We’re currently looking into where exactly we want to go while we’re over there (the tour will obviously start and end in Taipei because, well, that’s where we’re flying from/to), so if you have any tips please send them my way!

And that’s it. OK, officially it’s not autumn unti the autumnal equinox (23 September in 2013), but September to me is an autumn month. And besides, I don’t have any plans past August yet so I couldn’t include September in the list even if I wanted to 😉

What do you have planned for the summer?

Travel Tuesdays: Edinburgh

Since I have absolutely nothing to talk about today, I’m linking up with Alex from Ifs, Ands and Butts and Helene In Between for Travel Tuesdays. Today I want to tell you about one of my favourite places on Earth: Edinburgh.

Edinburgh castle
Edinburgh castle

I first went to Edinburgh as a child, for the sole purpose of going to the zoo (Newcastle doesn’t have one, so we traipsed to Scotland… as you do). I’ve since been there several times and actually managed to look at things other than the animals.

The most recognisable landmark in Edinburgh is, of course, the castle. One thing you really must do in Edinburgh is head up there for a close-up view. It’s pretty impressive (well, it is a castle). As is the view you get of the city from up there.

Castle entrance
Castle entrance
I can see the sea from up here!
I can see the sea from up here!

One of the things that attracts me to Edinburgh is the architecture. I’ve already mentioned the castle, of course (did you know it’s built on an extinct volcano?). Then there’s St. Giles’ Cathedral, with its incredibly intricate entrance archway.

St Giles' Cathedral
St Giles’ Cathedral
Entrance to St Giles'
Entrance to St Giles’

But even the ordinary residential buildings appeal to me. I would LOVE to live in a house like the ones below – just imagine how much light those windows must let in!Houses

Then there are all the parks and green spaces. Here’s Princes Street Gardens:

GardensAt the back, you can see Waverley Station – another example of the impressive architecture that Edinburgh has to offer. Other park areas include Calton Hill and Holyrood Park. So much green right in the city!

Apart from the many things that I will never tire of looking at, the main thing that draws me to Edinburgh is its cultural offerings. I have been lucky enough to be there both during the Fringe Festival and at New Year (Hogmanay), and on both occasions there’s so much to see and do that you can’t possibly fit it all in! The Edinburgh festival Fringe, which takes place in August, is the world’s largest art festival, and a showcase for the performing arts. Theatre, comedy, dance, music… everything is represented. We were able to take in an improvised comedy show and see some live music by two very good acts (a folk band and a blues/country/folk musician named Eddie Walker – you can check out his website here). The pub where the gig took place is now my absolute favourite place to go for a drink in Edinburgh. The Guildford Arms is located just off Princes Street, so very central but not as touristy as the places directly on Princes street or along the Royal Mile. They have ten different Real Ales on tap (heaven for my boyfriend) and there’s also a restaurant upstairs, which I’ve unfortunately never tried. If anyone out there has/does, please let me know how the food is!

Eddie Walker at the Guildford Arms
Eddie Walker at the Guildford Arms

Our New Year’s trip to Edinburgh had just as much to offer as the Festival Fringe. We took part in a torch-light procession through town, starting from the Royal Mile, took in a candlelit concert at the Cathedral and spent New Year’s Eve at the famous Hogmanay street party. Then, on 1 January, we attended the open-air New Year’s concert, which that year featured KT Tunstall plus three other acts… for just 11 pounds a ticket! Probably my favourite New Year’s celebration ever!

Torch-light procession
Torch-light procession
KT Tunstall
KT Tunstall

 

Other things to do in Edinburgh include many museums (the Palace of Holyroodhouse, The Queen’s official residence in Scotland, is interesting, as is The Royal Yacht Britannia, now decommissioned and permanently berthed at Ocean Terminal in Leith), whisky tasting if you’re into that (The Scotch Whisky Experience is in Edinburgh) or shopping. The main shopping street is Princes Street, where you can find loads of UK high-street shops, such as WH Smith, while the Royal Mile holds the more touristy shops plus any number of bars and restaurants.

Holyroodhouse Palace in the rain
Holyroodhouse Palace in the rain
Old Fishmarket Close, off the Royal Mile, Edinburgh
Old Fishmarket Close, off the Royal Mile, Edinburgh

So, in summary, Edinburgh is brilliant and you really should go there! Now hop on over to Alex’s blog for more tales of travel!

Travel Tuesdays