Saturday, 25 December 2010

How happy was this duck really?

In Germany (and German speaking countries/regions of countries), the day they celebrate Christmas is really the 24th. What I think of as Christmas Eve. The shops are open in the morning till the early afternoon, but then everyone hurries home for the festivities. Both the 25th and the 26th are holidays, so those seem to be best spent recovering from the indulgence of the shopping/eating.

One of the things I like most about living here is the food. Not the stereotypical Bavarian or German cuisine that you might think of, although that's not bad in moderation. What I love is how seriously they take quality control. Both government agencies, as well as private watchdog groups, constantly check that the listed ingredients match what's actually in the package. They take food quality very seriously.

As a result, you'd think that I'd never doubt the veracity of the packaging. You'd be wrong. If you want organic meat, you pay a fortune. Don't eat a lot of meat in my daily life, so during holidays, I often go whole hog, as it were.

But in this case I decided to cook duck. My mother says the first time she ate duck was when we lived in Munich in the early 70s. Have had bad results cooking dry turkey. When the cooking's up to me, I prefer duck.

I'm not the only one who questions whether the duck was really organic, but I thought I might be the only one only asking the company for some sort of assurance. I was wrong. They were ready for the likes of me.

First, they fill me in on the history of serving goose in Germany. Why are they talking about serving goose? I guess there's only one form letter for goose/duck. Allegedly, the Germans borrowed the tradition from the English who started eating goose because it's what Elizabeth I was eating when she found out about the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Am not going to let my mind wander for too long and imagine the horrible alternatives of what she might've been eating instead. Not going to do it.

The Germans started following Elizabeth's lead and eating goose around 1900, but we're not eating goose. It's a duck. Where's my form letter for the history of eating duck?

Never mind. Next, they assure me that the duck was raised on the nearest farm. If you consider Pfarrkofen in Lower Bavaria the nearest farm. Well, it's close enough that they insist unnecessary delivery travel is avoided by using this family-owned farm.

The normal lifespan of such a bird is given as 12 weeks, while my duck lived to the ripe, old age of 24 weeks. And then they make a special point that the animals are not force-fed, have plenty of room to run around and eat food only from the region. Can I really believe all of this? Well it is a moderately convincing form letter. They end with a nice closing touch. Because their geese/ducks aren't injected with antibiotics and/or other chemicals, they're sure I'll be able to tell the difference when I bite into the 'tastier, softer, and juicier' meat. Meat unlike that of what they call a Turbobird.

Really? You think I'll taste the difference? Why'd I write my original query if I thought I could taste the difference.

But the form letter achieved its goal. I bought the mentally well-rested, able to exercise duck, and here's the finished result:

So the only question left unanswered is: How did it taste? It was delicious.

Frohe Weihnachten/Merry Christmas

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The grandmama of Christmas Markets

Aside from the one in Nuremberg, this is the first goal and a nice introduction to Christkindlmärkte in Munich. It's the one on the Marienplatz, and although it's rather traditional and hyper commercial, it is the grandmama of all the ones around here.

Here are a few more photos I took of the sights:

The stands are uniform, but what they sell is anything but. On the left angels are on sale and next to them is Bavarian honey. Not real angels. Do you really think the Bavarians would allow real angels to be sold?

Not sure if you can have a Christkindlmarkt without Nutcrackers, but this one is in no danger of losing its credibility. Presenting the requisite Nutcrackers.

When one stumbles by stand after stand of this craftwork, it's relatively easy to forget how remarkable the creations really are. I'm assuming none of these pieces made of wood can be made by a machine. The hours of time invested to make these things sends my thoughts to elves at the North Pole. Well, until the ice up there all melts away.

First the wooden whirly birds, then the butterflies. Anything you can imagine carved out of wood-they just might have it. Within reason.

I like the Glühwein/Lebkuchen stand juxtaposed with Munich's own Apple store in the background.

And finally two shots of the tree that was felled in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. One from under the branches and another from a distance with the Neues Rathaus/New City Hall behind it.

Monday, 20 December 2010

a selection of Christkindlmärkte (Christmas Markets)

The more I read and hear about German Christmas markets outside of the Fatherland, the more apparent it is that I should be more grateful for where I live. We have such an abundance of these that you can even say things like, 'That one's got the best organic food.' Or, 'This one's the most traditional.'

So in the next few days, before all the people manning their Christmas Market stands pack up and go celebrate the holidays with their families, I'll be taking photos of the festivities. The photo above is from the entrance to the one in the English Garden under the Chinese tower.

Below I've included some photos from years past in Nürnberg:

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Did he say, 'Fockenstein'? I think he did

This is Fockenstein, which is a little mountain between the town of Lenggries and Bad Wiessee on the Tegern See (Lake Tegern).

Often the best part of hiking is seeing Louis and Ella's joy as they scamper up and down the mountain as I trudge along slowly.

Not sure if you can see it in their expression, but these dogs are thrilled to be up in the mountains. On the train down to Lenggries, they were alert and even a bit nervous to get out and run. Alternatively, on the train on the way home, they slept peacefully and happily.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Brandhorst Museum in Munich

This is the relatively new Brandhorst Museum in Munich. Although it's a private collection of many contemporary artists, a great deal of state money went into its construction. Many Andy Warhol and Cy Twombly pieces are in the permanent collection.

Still-Life (Hammer and Sickle) 1976 by Andy Warhol

I know some really see no point to Damien Hirst's art, and this won't likely sway those people in the least. This is his E.M.I. from 1989. It's exactly what it looks like: a medicine cabinet.

This might not jibe with your definition of art, but thought I'd post at least one picture that may or may not get by whatever censors Blogger has. It's a piece by a guy called Ron Mueck and it's called Mother and Child.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Train your geese

This is a picture of the Bavarian State Opera and a goose.

I know.

A goose.

Some yahoo brought his goose to town. For begging purposes. Bavarians are hilarious.

Nothing better for this farmer to do than take his trained goose to the big city, put out his hat and watch the tourists walk by and dump hard-earned money into it.

Made my day.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Bad Tölz

This is a pretty little Bavarian town upriver from Munich on the Isar.

Anytime a German town's name starts with 'Bad' it has nothing to do with the lack of goodness of the inhabitants. Instead, it indicates that there are healing waters in the area and such a town has normally been a destination for people who need a break from the rigours of life. Here's a photo of the Franciscan monastery on the hill near the baths.

Me looking out over the town.

This is a rococo church and the many roses everywhere are a symbol of the town living through the plague.

This statue is for prisoners from the concentration camp in Dachau, who were traipsed through this town in the last days of the war. Not exactly sure why we needed to know that they were here, but that's what this is telling us.

And the tower of the train station, which I thought was a bit odd. This looks like it belongs somewhere in Holland or northern Germany to me. Not the heart of upper Bavaria.

Munich's Cadillac Cinema

This is the Hypo Haus from one of the least attractive periods of architecture. Bask in all of its glory. Below is the Cadillac cinema nearby. Note the American Bar underneath. This was built back when Germans were still proud to 'buy American'.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Landshut an der Isar

This is a small city about the same age as Munich. Roughly. Unlike Regensburg, which was a Roman outpost 2,000 years ago. Historically, the most important name in Landshut is George the Rich. He did everything apparently. The way the history books tell it, Landshut is on the map only because of his benevolence. Every four years they re-enact the wedding that this ruler had with his wife who was a Polish princess. It's called the Landshuter Hochzeit (Wedding). The townspeople take part in the festivities much like the citizens down in Oberammergau put on their little Passionspiel. The Landshuter Hochzeitisn't nearly as big a deal as the Passionspiel, but they make as much out of it as they can. They do ok.

The first two photos are from the Burg (castle/fort)on the hill, and the third one below is the Late-Gothic St Martin's Cathedral, as well as the main drag in town.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Rooftop fit for a Fischkopf

This rooftop always looks like it belongs in Hamburg. but it's not. It's in Blutenburg Straße in Munich. Wild, eh?

Monday, 24 May 2010

David and Goliath Mural in Regensburg

I've written about Regensburg on this blog before, but wanted to expand it a little bit. You're walking around this city that's so crucial to the history of the Church and Bavaria, as well as Germany, and have just seen a wall that's been around since Roman times. Can you fathom that? Really?

For me, that still floors me. A wall that's been standing there since the third century. Then you walk along and see this mural of David and Goliath. In Bavaria, they do this on the walls of many old buildings. You know the stories that matter to a Bavarian by which paintings he pus on his wall. In Regensburg (for the fellow who owned this house), David and Goliath were important. Everytime I round the corner and see this again, I smile a Cheshire grin. This big.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Model of Munich's Frauenkirche

This model is sitting outside of the actual cathedral, and there's a plaque that says it's here for the blind to be able to enjoy the architecture. How unbelievably cool is that? That they went to so much trouble to make our blind brothers and sisters *see* this beautiful city.

Sometimes I really like people. Sometimes.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Wilde Kaiser right over the border

This is a restaurant near the peak of one of the mountains that make up the Wilde Kaiser (wild emperor) mountain range. To get there, you drive south out of Bavaria into the border town of Kufstein, Austria, to the trail head and up. up and away...

Monday, 10 May 2010

Kufstein across the Austrian border

This isn't technically Bavaria, but it's one of the nicest photos I have of me and the dogs in the mountains.

Louis, Ella and me in Passau

Passau is a small city in Niederbayern (Lower Bavaria) where three rivers come together. Just like in Pittsburgh, right? Yeah, Passau is nothing like Pittsburgh. Nothing.

It's near both the borders to Austria and the Czech Republic, and before the borders came down, you could expect to be checked by the jack-booted thug police on any train in or out of Passau. The relaxing of the borders in Europe has really made travel more of a pleasure.

St Benno

Sunday, 9 May 2010