Germany

Above the Rooftops of Heidelberg: Views from the Church of the Holy Spirit

With a golden sun overhead yesterday, Shawn and I ascended to the Heiliggeistkirche’s platform. I hadn’t made the climb up the 600 year-old Gothic church’s curvy staircase since 2002 so I was pleasantly surprised by the splendid panorama!

On the sandstone perch overlooking the Altstadt or Old Town, ladybugs congregated. 

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Oberammergau Cemetery in SnowAngels, Busts & Saints Dressed in Snow: A Visit to Oberammergau’s Cemetery

Perhaps it is a bit macabre, but I find cemeteries – particularly those in foreign locales – to be fascinating and fitting spots to reflect upon a place’s culture and history, and upon life itself. 

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DSC_0275Apprentice for an Afternoon: Lessons with Germany’s Old World Artisans

During Oberammergau’s peak tourist seasons, visitors can easily while away an hour observing artisans demonstrating their trades on the ground floor of the beautifully-frescoed, 18th-century Pilatushaus. In past centuries, nomadic traders would have acquired crafts like these and sold them throughout Europe, making Oberammergau famous for its fine work. Today, travelers can purchase the items directly from the craftsmen and women at the Pilatushaus.

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Featured Post Neuschwanstein Castle cAn Autumn Afternoon at the Neuschwanstein Castle

As we inched closer to the Neuschwanstein Castle, I couldn’t help but think it looked even more fairy tale’esque thanks to the autumnal hues Mother Nature had dressed it in. Rich yellow, copper and crimson leaves framed the world-famous castle on the craggy rocks, contrasting sharply with the lime green fields below it.

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Leonhardiritt horse blessing in UnterammergauA Bavarian Horse-Blessing Ceremony

As we sauntered closer to the steeple-skylined village of Unterammergau, Germany, horses trotted past us, their highly decorated manes and tails blowing in the late autumn breeze. Not to be outdone by the animals’ distinguished appearances, the horse owners also sported fine Bavarian attire: the men wore grey woolen jackets finished with deer-horn buttons, and dark green or brown Lederhosen, while the ladies sported Dirndls with colorful flowing skirts, and button-down sweaters to protect them from the chilly air.

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Buzzing About Bart: The Bumble Bee with a Fondness for German Gingerbread

When my husband, Shawn, moved to Germany last October, I welcomed him home with a traditional German indulgence – Lebkuchen, or gingerbread. It’s the kind of sweet treat that’s plentiful at Oktoberfest stands and German wine fests each fall. The messages piped onto the heart-shaped gingerbread range from mischievous phrases to sweet nothings. The heart I carefully chose for Shawn read, “Ich habe DichLieb” or literally “I have for you love.” The white letters in the message were finished off with a lavender icing border, flowers and two Gummi bears. 

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Oberammergau15Celebrating Mariä Himmelfahrt Day in Oberammergau, Germany

As the time drew closer to nine thirty in the morning, the stream of villagers dressed in traditional German folk costume passing by our window in Oberammergau, Germany grew. Ladies in elaborate Dirndls and men in Lederhosen pedaled by on their bikes. Some navigated their bikes’ handlebars with one hand, with elaborate wildflower bouquets in the other. Curious as to why the locals were dressed in Trachten

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OberammergauChristmasMarket10Celebrating Saint Nicholas Day & Germany’s Christmas Market Season

On the eve of December 6th, as a young girl, I placed my shiniest shoes in front of my bedroom door, anticipating the arrival of Saint Nicholas. The next morning, I eagerly popped out of bed, delighted to find my footwear stuffed with oranges, Christmas cookies, chocolates and tiny trinkets. St. Nick didn’t visit most of my classmates’ homes but I suspect he visited mine because of my family’s German ancestry. 

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Kofel in Oberammergau with two people biking along riverConquering the Kofel, Oberammergau’s Signature Mountain

Towering over the village of Oberammergau is the Kofel, a Matterhorn-shaped mountain with an elevation of 1,342 meters (4,400 feet). ‘Kofel’ means ‘cone-shaped mountain’ in Celtic, and so hints at the tribes and peoples that once passed through this mountainous part of Germany.

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Dirndls for slaeDizzied by a Dazzling Array of Dirndls in Bavaria

Whenever I see Bavarians dressed in traditional German attire, I can’t help but recall a playful prank that my former American colleagues routinely played on friends and family who would come to visit them in Germany. The husband and wife would get laced up in their finest Trachten-wear.

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Fasching Parade in Heidelberg157Fasching Festivities, German Style

For the ten years I called picturesque Heidelberg, Germany home, I was lucky to have a bird’s eye view when Fasching festivities took the university town by storm, as I’m sure they did today. 

 

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Flowers to Wish You a Happy Day

I’ve always thought that those who work at ice cream or florist shops must have perpetually happy days. There’s something about a golden cone overflowing with heaping scoops of ice cream, or paper brimming with beautiful flowers from the neighborhood Blumen shop that puts one in a cheery mood! 

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Frohe Ostern – Easter Greetings from Germany

Osterbrunnen, or Easter fountains, herald spring’s return to chilly Germany’s Franconia or Franken region. Each year, wells and fountains in town centers are dressed with boxwood cuttings, ribbons and delicately-painted pastel eggs. The custom celebrates water’s life-giving properties. The decorations typically spring up one week before Easter Sunday and they grace the fountains for a week thereafter, lending colorful accents to cobbled lanes and village centers that have been slumbering during the grey and frigid winter season. 

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girl holding pretzel on stick at german festivalGermany’s Sommertagszug Tradition: Greeting Spring & Bidding Farewell to Winter

In parts of Germany three weeks before Easter, it’s customary to celebrate spring’s return with a Sommertagszug or summer procession. Though this year’s round of such fests was held last Sunday, for me, the 14th of March will forever be synonymous with Sommertagszugs since ‘Pi Day‘ 2010 is the date my husband and I first met.  

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Greeting Autumn at the Heidelberger Herbstfest – Germany

What a splendid day for an autumn fest on Heidelberg’s Hauptstrasse or Main Street! With our bellies full with Neuer Wein (new wine), Zwiebelkuchen (onion pie), Bier, Bratwurst and Thai fare, we’re now at home resting, watching all the revelry from our fifth-floor apartment. The day was full watching children try their hands at archery and a Renaissance ladder climbing game; shaking our hips to traditional polka tunes and Frenchchansons; going back in time via items at a flea market filled with sentiment and history; and brushing shoulders with old and new friends. 

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Oberammergau picturesThe Last Days of Summer – Oberammergau

As we welcome autumn to Oberammergau – with its bounty of festivals and harvests – here is a peek at the scenes we glimpsed during our last summer strolls.

Here’s to beautiful fall foliage, and Bavaria’s winter wonderland vistas that await us just around the corner. I hope they’ll arrive fashionably late, though.

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Love in the Air at the Heidelberg Castle

The Heidelberg Castle grounds are one of my favorite spots in which to stroll. When I was just a young babe in a Kinderwagen, my mother posed for a now-iconic family photograph at the castle’s main overlook spot, with me in tow. Twenty years after that shot was snapped, I moved from the United States – back to Germany – into a Heidelberg apartment almost visible among the clay roofs in that original photograph.

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Windows of Oberammergau, Germany 1The Lüftlmalerei-Adorned Windows of Oberammergau

The village of Oberammergau is well known for the colorful frescoes that adorn the exteriors of its homes and businesses. This painting technique is known as Lüftlmalerei. (Luft means ‘air’ in German. It’s believed that the term illustrates how fresco artists must work quickly to apply watercolor paint to the wet plaster before it dries in the open air.)

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Kofel Oberammergau in Snow 1Mount Kofel Dressed in Snow

The experience of awakening to the first snowfall of winter is magical, especially when Mother Nature delivers as she did today in Oberammergau, Germany (nothing to shovel, but confectioners’ sugar-like dustings on the surrounding mountaintops). Here, Mount Kofel, which we successfully climbed  this past summer, shows off her winter apparel, while ephemeral, downy clouds drift overhead.

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A Nibbling Donkey & A Snow Camel: More Holiday Scenes from Oberammergau, Germany


The sign declared, Bitte Esel nichtfüttern, and in Germany, the land so famously-known for its rules, I obliged. Even though visitors to the Christmas Market in Oberammergau, Germany were asked not to feed the photogenic donkeys (to keep the live Christmas props from developing upset stomachs), rubbing of the animals’ cotton ball-like ears seemed to be encouraged.

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DSC_0995Of Angels & Alphornists: Out & About in Oberammergau, Germany

We had merely set out on a seemingly-routine errand to find a hair stylist and pharmacy in  Oberammergau, Germany, and instead, we found ourselves pleasantly distracted by something quite out of the ordinary for us: the soothing, foghorn-like sound of Alphorns, playfully known as ‘Ricola horns’.

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Schloss LinderhofA Peek at Linderhof Palace

Schloss Linderhof is the smallest of three castles built by King Ludwig II in Germany’s state of Bavaria in the mid to late 1800s. Simultaneously referred to as the ‘Fairy Tale King’ and ‘Mad King Ludwig,’ eccentric Ludwig is perhaps best known for having commissioned Neuschwanstein Castle, the so-called ‘Cinderella’ or ‘Disney Castle.’ He is said to have been obsessed with French culture, found inspiration in the architecture of Versailles, and reportedly wanted to infuse Bavaria with refined attractions. Linderhof Palace is the only one of his castles that the king lived to see completed.

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Pumpkin Fest Ludwigsburg Germany KuerbisausstellungPumpkins, Proceratosaurus & a Palace: Perusing the World’s Largest Pumpkin Festival

The scene is reminiscent of a quirky fairy tale: an elegant 18th-century Baroque palace, dinosaurs fashioned out of more than 450,000 pumpkins, squash and gourds, and Rapunzel’s braid dangling from a cobbled tower. This unlikely trio came together at the world’s largest pumpkin festival, held on the grounds of the Ludwigsburg Palace in Germany.

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Snails, Wild Boar and Fairy Tales: Exploring Heidelberg’s Enchanting Forest

The forested hills cradling Heidelberg’s Old Town have been one of my favorite settings in which to explore and escape for the past decade. Before I met my husband, Shawn, I often made the ascent there independently to ponder life goals or jot hand-written letters to family and friends. Sometimes, I’d take friends or my parents along for the serene hike. Now, Shawn and I go there together — whether to escape the hustle and bustle of the city or to commune with nature under the trees’ exquisite canopies.

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Snowy Vignettes from an Alpine Paradise

snow on the ground with kofel mountain overhead quoteHaving ‘escaped’ winter by spending five wonderful, but scorching months in Asia last year, I must admit – it’s been a bit of a shock wintering in the Alps these past months. Fortunately, there are the visual elements that make sidewalk slips, shoveling and shivering so worthwhile: chalets peeking out from under snow blankets, Mother Nature wearing her finest maquillage, and graceful icicles about to rappel from rooftops. Here are more scenes from Oberammergau, Germany, and inspirational quotes attesting to the magic of winter.

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Leonhardiritt Unterammergau Horse TailsTails from a German Horse-Blessing Ceremony

During the last weekend of every October, the village of Unterammergau, Germany honors St. Leonhard, the patron saint of agricultural animals. The event begins with a horse procession through the village of 1,500 people, and culminates in an open-air church service, during which more than one hundred horses are blessed.

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Women in Bavarian clothes OktoberfestA Toast to Oktoberfest

I was first exposed to Germany’s Oktoberfest culture when I was eight years old. During a whirlwind trip to Munich, my parents’ German friends whisked us away to what seemed like each and every famous city landmark.

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DSC_0648Twisting Tongues in Bavaria

German words have a reputation for being long, and at times very expressive. Two of my descriptive favorites are Zahnfleisch (literally ‘tooth meat’ or ‘gums’) and Schneebesen (which literally translates to ‘snow broom’ but means ‘whisk.’) Imagine my delight a few weeks ago, when I learned that Oberammergau is famous not only for its woodcarvings and Passion Play, but also a tongue-twister.

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Under the Rainbow – Heidelberg

Our visiting friends and family are both horrified and sympathetic when they learn that our circa 1762 apartment has 87 stairs, and dare I say, no elevator. I argue that the views of the Heidelberg Castle, church steeples and Königstuhl and Heiligenberg hills make the treacherous ascent worthwhile. Sometimes, following tumultuous activity in the skies above, a splendid Regenbogen will appear in the sky. Last week, Mother Nature gave us not just one, but two rainbows – simultaneously. 

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Why I Adore Heidelberg: Celebrating Ten Years in the Loveliest of Cities

‘Ich hab’ mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren.’ So goes a line from Raimund’s musical comedy of the same name. For the past ten years, I too have lost my heart in Heidelberg. What do I love most about this graceful city on the Neckar River? Here are but just a few reasons why I adore Heidelberg.

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Oberammergau frost on window - germanyWinter Wonderland Wisdom

Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand. -Henry David Thoreau

With craggy mountain peaks and evergreens on the hillsides dressed in a confectioner’s sugar-like snow to command one’s attention, it is easy to miss the smaller details of winter in the alpine village of Oberammergau, Germany.

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Woodcarvings, Passion Plays & Bavarian Attire: Germany’s Oberammergau

Oberammergau frescoesFor the next few months, we’ll be hanging our (warm winter) hats in Oberammergau, a village situated in Germany’s Alps, where residents sometimes still sport traditional feather-adorned, green woolen hats and custom-tailored Lederhosen, while they hail passersby with a hearty Grüß Gott (literally ‘Greet God’) and warm smiles. Oberammergau is perhaps best known for its Holzschnitzer (woodcarvers), colorful frescoes, and Passion Play, which is held once every ten years.

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