Austria, Munich, and Christmas Markets

Ciao,

It has been a busy weekend. Back in America I know everyone was gorging themselves on too much food followed by too much dessert, followed by days of leftovers and which way to eat turkey tonight! Will and I decided against the too much food route, partially because I am unsure if my European oven can fit a turkey and partially because we took time to travel. Hey, it’s what we do!

Where did we go you ask?

We grabbed a friend and headed up to Innsbruck Austria to visit the closest Weihnachtsmarkt (German for Christmas Market) that was already open. While in the German/Austria region we did eat a lot of good food.

My father will disagree with the next statement but I quickly get tired of Italian food. Which isn’t completely fair. I need to expand my Italian repertoire beyond pasta dishes and pizza and it would probably open up a new love for Italian. Then again, maybe not. German/Austrian food is so hearty, it sticks to your ribs in a warm you up on a fall/winter day kind of way that Italian just can’t match.

But on to the weekend…

Innsbruck is a beautiful town with history that dates back to pre-Roman, plus Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart also lived there for part of his childhood. But honestly we didn’t go for history we went for Gluhwein (mulled wine) chestnuts, street food, shopping, ambience and friends.

The Christmas market did not disappoint, as always, when I walk into a Christmas market be it big or small something just makes my mood lighter.

On the not light side of moods, Friday morning we made the drive into Germany and went to Dachau, it was the first and last concentration camp set up in Germany. It was around quite a while before World War II. It was created in 1933 to hold political prisoners as Hitler took control and the war began the camp was expanded into a forced labor camp. It eventually became a place to house prisoners from other religions and nationalities. Dachau was a training ground for the SS and the plans for Dachau were used in almost all other camps. Dachau was not a death camp per se but that didn’t stop tens of thousands of prisoners from dying there from starvation, disease, torment, and medical experiments. In fact, so many died there (over 32,000 documented and many more that were not) that they built additional ovens to burn the bodies of the dead. As with Auschwitz and Theresienstadt the prisoners entered through a gate with the saying “Arbeit macht frei” which translates into “Work will set you free”. Today visitors to the camp walk through an exact recreation of the gate, stepping onto the area used for roll call. From there one passes two monuments dedicated to the those that lost their lives and those that survived. The museum is housed in what was part of the prisoner intake area and the audio guide lets speakers tell their story in their own ways in their own languages. The museum leads you through the entire history of Dachau and then one can visit a recreation of the barracks as the evolved over the years for the prisoners of the camp.

Set towards the back are five different religious chapels or memorials, and next to them are the crematoriums. The place is a sobering reminder of the atrocities that can visited on another human being. It is hard to walk the grounds, one feels the darkness and despair that must have been part of daily life, the whispers of those that lost their lives and those that suffered because of another’s hatred. The visit to Dachau was not the best part of our trip but a reminder, a lesson in history so that we as a race will hopefully never repeat those atrocities.

Not to take away from the grimness that our morning held but to lighten the feeling in our hearts we headed into Munich to wander through town. We missed the Munich Christmas market (it started today) but we enjoyed the lively crowds as they set up their stalls and had a good lunch before heading back to Innsbruck. (Oh, and Will and D found a guitar store, of course they did!)

The next day we were joined by another friend and the four of us went up the mountain on the Hungerburg Funicular. A train that goes up but the cars are on pivots so the passengers stay level. At the top of the train in Hungerburg we got out and visited a small section of the Christmas market that had opened up that morning. We did not take the cable cars to the top of the mountain (it was roughly 35 euro per person). That will have to be another adventure. We (maybe me, maybe someone else, I am not saying) got the brilliant idea to walk down the mountain, you know instead of take the train.

It turned out to be a beautiful walk and took us on the back side of the Alpen Zoo, where we saw a buffalo and some boars hanging out enjoying the cool weather. A couple of covered bridges later we made it down and back into town for some late lunch.

Then we took a small siesta before heading back up the mountain, it was dark by this time and the view was as spectacular as before but all aglow with lights.

This time we took the train back down and headed into the main part of the Christmas market for some Gluhwein and just to be. Ending the evening with a Kiachln (which is a lot like fry bread but covered in sauerkraut or if you want it sweet preiselbeeren and powdered sugar). Then we walked our friend L to the train station and walked back to our Airbnb for some sleep. Sunday we ran back to the market to pick up the things I had decided I wanted. After that we took the long drive home (really it was not quite four hours). It was a great weekend, some sobering reminders, but friends and laughter too.

This next weekend I am going to set up Christmas, if you read last weeks blog you know how excited I am about that. I need to finish wrapping presents and get them shipped out too. So that is what is on my agenda, I hope you are all happily preparing for your holiday season in whatever way you celebrate the holidays.

Until we meet again

Ciao miei Amici

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. ” ― G.K. Chesterton

Ciao,

It was a fast trip to Germany and back, based on our 36 hour timeline, but we hadn’t counted on close to eight hours of traffic. When you take that into account plus another seven or eight hours sleeping and then five more hours home, well, we barely saw München (Munich) at all. Luckily for us it wasn’t a sightseeing trip but more of a food trip. So, quick trip or not we accomplished our goals for the weekend.

We took off around eight Saturday morning after collecting R & C from their domicile. Then we hit the bar for some morning cappuccino and croissants (yes, it was apricot). Then the trip got real; real and full of Germans heading back to Germany after holiday. Lots and lots of Germans heading north. Google just kept adding on delays and traffic, it was a long line of red. We took some beautiful back roads and avoided other travelers until we no longer had a choice. When there are only so many passes through the Alps sooner or later all roads must converge. So into traffic we went.

Austria and Germany are pretty green (despite the lack of rain and heat wave they are having) It really does make you want to sing “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music”. I didn’t (and everyone was grateful) but I wanted to.

We stopped in Innsbruck for a late lunch and it was fantastic, everything I had been missing about German food. Sauerkraut, slices of pork and knodel (bread dumplings, kind of like a round ball of stuffing).

And beer! Of course!

After some food and a quick stretch of our legs we loaded back up for the final stretch into München. We finally checked into our hotel by five-ish and set out for the wilds of Altstadt München (old city). We walked and came to a Augustiner Beer hall, stopped for another beer, then headed on down the street. We went into a couple of churches (Italy is not the only one with beautiful churches though München tends to have more gothic structures *in my opinion*).

St. Michael’s church is built in a Renaissance style with a beautiful statue of the Saint, himself, standing watch from the back of the church.

The Frauenkirche is famous for its gothic architecture but more famous for the Devil’s Footprint. A black footprint set into a paving stone just inside the entrance of the church. The legend says this is where the devil was when he realized he had been duped by the builder/designer Jörg von Halsbach. He (the devil) thought that Halsbach had built the church with no windows. Depending on the legend the devil’s derision was based on the idea that he had compelled Halsbach to build the church with no windows for financial help or maybe he  thought it had no windows and was a worthless place of worship. Either way if you stand in the “Devil’s Footprint” you can see no side interior windows and for several hundred years you also could not see the front window because it was obscured by a large altar. The “Devil’s Footprint” is either a stamp of glee or anger depending on your interpretation of the story but either way it has been there since the completion of the church around 1525.

From there we found our way into the side of the Rathaus (town hall) and found a great restaurant for more German food. With everyone full and happy we moved on down and scoped out the Hofbrauhaus.

 

 

The Hofbrauhaus is restaurant commissioned in 1589 by Duke Wilhelm V as part of the Royal Brewery. Despite its long history the interior reminds me of a Furr’s cafeteria, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furr%27s) a restaurant of questionable taste from my childhood. It was also hot and loud and just not over all appealing but that may because I am not 20 anymore.

Germany, unlike Italy, closes down early (by 22:00) and so we made our way back to our hotel for one more nightcap (I had water but it was like a nightcap because I was so tired). Our hotel was very nice and clean, slightly surprising as we walked past Hookah bars and several club erotica’s to get to it. Comfortable and cozy, lulled to sleep by my water nightcap I slept all to briefly before we got up Sunday to have breakfast.

Ah, Germany, the land where I don’t have to have filled croissants. I like my croissants perfectly flaky and I really like them plain, though I have accepted apricot marmalade in my croissants since moving to Italy I will never truly love them that way. Not only did I eat a croissant but I also ate a pretzel (another hard to get item in Italy). After breaking our fast we headed back to the Altstadt to watch the Glockenspiel. The clock tower in Marienplatz (one of the main squares) that plays/performs for the tourists a 2-3 times a day depending on the season. It consists of 32 life size figures that joust, dance or watch the proceedings in glee, this is all timed to the 43 bells that toll along with the performance. It lasts about 10-15 minutes, which is a long time to stand with your head cocked up at a strange angle.

After that was done we got back in our car and headed back to Innsbruck, where we just happened to find a Fish Festival. It was small and the day was hot but we were able to finish off our trip with Bratwurst on a roll, vegetable kabobs, beer, and ice cream.I could not have asked for a better finish to a German food weekend.

Now, we are just trying to recover from our quick jaunt and Will has somehow managed to catch a cold (in the middle of summer).

Not completely sure what the next weekend will hold but if it is exciting I am sure I will be writing about it.

Fino alla prossima (Until next time)

Ciao miei Amici