Saturday, April 30, 2011

Our First Biergarten

Nice weather in Germany is rare. ...or so people tell us. They say it's usually too cold or rainy to be out. Well, we've been fortunate enough to experience some *great* weather early on in the season! The only down side is that because the weather is so amazing and nice only rarely, everyone is out and about to enjoy it when the sun comes out. One woman told me that if the sun comes out, people put off their house chores, their school work, etc. Anything that must be done indoors is postponed in order to enjoy the lovely weather with a walk through the park, a trip to the Eis (ice cream) store, etc. One man, in particular, enjoys sunbathing in nothing but a speedo in the park. Ah, Germans... :)

My dear husband and I have decided to join this "tradition" (enjoying the sun, not the speedo sunbathing) and found ourselves wandering through a park downtown just the other weekend.

The park was gorgeous! Everything was really starting to bloom, so the trees were lush with leaves, bulbs were starting to show their colours, and the grass was truly vibrant. The sun really highlighted the intense Spring colors that day and the fullness of the trees provided some wonderful shade for us and our fellow park-walkers. 

We had just started crossing a pedestrian bridge over a nearby busy street when we started to hear what could best be described as drunken men singing. Singing in German, of course, so we had no idea what they were saying... but the tune had me picturing several large, drunk men with pints in hand happily singing old bar songs and sloshing the beer around as they swung their glasses to and fro.

We noticed the voices were getting louder, closer.


from out of the park...

...came this:

The Bier Bike.

It was, in fact, happy drunken men singing. And drinking. And pedaling! We watched them until they had to stop at a traffic light before continuing our journey into the park.

We soon came across an area that appeared to be housing several homeless people. Odd, I thought, considering the homeless are the ones who sell extra newspapers all over downtown. But there were tents here and there with little make-shift fences surrounding them. Some tents were in a group, others were stand-alone. There were even a couple of Native-American-looking tee-pees in the mix... which added to the strangeness.

There are a few Native Americans who do musical performances in some of the squares downtown and sell CDs of their work. However, I found it highly unlikely that they would just construct tee-pees in the middle of a park to take up residence. But really, who would?! Unfortunately, that question was never answered.

We did discover the reason for the other tents, though, as we encountered some well-decorated trees.
Stylish tree.

I have no idea what this says.
Decorated tree, a tent, and a tee-pee?!
I don't read German, but I think someone named this tree and gave it a story.

The people of Stuttgart are a wee bit ticked at a recent decision to put the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) underground. They're not opposed to the idea of all the tracks going underground. They're opposed to the idea that the city government has to remove all the trees to do so!

These trees aren't just beautiful and environmentally fabulous. They're also 200 years old. In fact, one of the last kings that this area had gave his people these trees. Perhaps a more symbolic gift than anything, but it has really meant something. The project is called Stuttgart 21. The tents belonged to peaceful protesters.

Jury is still out on the tee-pees...

We continued walking until we happened upon something that would help us with the sad thought of all these beautiful trees being taken away: a Biergarten!

Because when you can't beat a sorrow, drown it!

Tory got a monstrous plate of ribs.

We accidentally ordered some currywurst, which I ate.

Heffeweiss? Yes, please!

Pretty Biergarten.. thingy!

.5L of beer

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fairy Tale Beginnings

A friend of mine told me that it's completely surreal when you first get to Germany. You fly in to Frankfurt and first, everything is in a foreign language... but everything is still understandable because you're at the airport. They try really hard to make things foreigner-proof. It's when you're driven out of Frankfurt to wherever you're staying that you realize you're over the rainbow.

Everything is so green! Just lush, rolling fields of beautifulness that simply do not compare to the corn fields, tobacco fields, or cotton fields of the states... And then *PoP!* There's a quaint little village! You can tell that the houses aren't like American houses... they're different with their pale walls that lean a little topped with steep, dark roofs. Then you're suddenly back to more vast green beauty. This switch between landscape and adorable Disney village continues for a while until it happens...

You're relaxing into your seat, letting the jet lag set in, getting cozy and thinking to yourself "I live here!" when you see it. Off in the distance, maybe poking out of the trees on a hill, maybe slowly rising on the horizon as you crest the next hill, but there it is... a castle!! The home of great sword battles! Princesses, knights, and kings! With drinking halls and tales of valor encapsulated in stone walls... and I live here!! you think.

At least, that's how it was for my friend. We landed in Stuttgart. Instead of lush, rolling fields of green... we saw the beautiful and symbolic... golden arches! Once we got out of the city we saw tall, skinny trees that you can only imagine were the source of all the creepy forest tales from the Brothers Grimm. We were then promptly greeted by Porsche, Mini Cooper, and Mercedes dealers. Perhaps ours was meant to be a more modern fairy tale adventure...? Oh, well, I though. There will be plenty of castles to see...

And I was right.

The first on my list of adventure was Lichtenstein Castle. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs of the inside.. but there are a few on that website. I was also with a large group and couldn't hear much of the history, but here are some key points I picked up on. I think you'll find it hard to dispute their cultural significance:
  • There's a moat - awesome.
  • The stained glass windows here with incredible detail date back to the 14th century.
  • It was built for a duke, not a king... which explains why it looks kind of small and less majestic than in the movies.
  • The first wife of the guy who lived here died young, which seemed to happen a lot to the first wives of German royalty and noblemen.
  • The guy's second wife gave him a champagne flute as tall as he was as a wedding gift. It was *almost* 2m tall, which was tall for guys back then.
  • People who lived in the time of castles were TINY.
  • Another guy associated with this place turned out to be gay... discovered shortly after he married a young, beautiful woman. This also seemed to happen a lot with German royalty and noblemen.
 So, there's your history lesson for the day! When I go back, I'll gather more information. But on to what you're really looking forward to...



Entrance to main part of the castle. See the bridge? This was moat #2!

Tiny cannon for tiny people.
Cute little town waaaaaaaay down below.

Kind of gives perspective to how high up we were and the steep drop-off one side of the castle was built on.

Two horse garage?

Not sure what that was. It was separate from the rest of the castle.

Looking through the archer's hole.

Most recent addition to the castle.. decades, if not centuries, ago.

Cool planter outside the restaurant there.