Andechs Abbey, Dießen and Herrsching in Southern Bavaria, Germany

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This post was originally published on April 22, 2015 and updated on April 2, 2019.

Seems the theme of this spring’s outings have been waterfront-related. A few weeks before my trip to Chiemsee, we visited the famous Andechs Abbey, situated between two lakes just about an hour southwest of Munich by car.

The abbey is occupied now by Benedictine monks, but it started out about a thousand years ago as a castle for the Andechs-Meranian family. Apparently a certain Count Rosso, progenitor of the that family, brought back pieces of Jesus’ crown of thorns, cross and other artifacts from the Holy Land.

Although the original castle and chapel have been destroyed and the church rebuilt a couple of times, the relic treasure resides at the church today. The church and monastery stand on top the high hill known as the Holy Mountain, tended by the Benedictines. The church is the oldest pilgrimage destination in Bavaria, which means devotees make an annual pilgrimage through the countryside on foot here on a certain date each year.

The Holy Mountain lies between two lakes, Ammersee and Starnbergersee. It was in the Starnbergersee that King Ludwig II was drowned – he was the one who built Herrenchiemsee that I blogged about last week.

My husband and I have had the famous Andechser beer in Munich on a few occasions, and we’d been wanting to visit the monastery for some time now. The traveling options were threefold: bus tour, driving by car, or a trip by public transport train to a station about three kilometers (almost two miles) from which we’d have to hike a trail uphill to the monastery.

The bus tour didn’t appeal and driving was iffy because, well, beer. We were mentally preparing ourselves for that three-kilometer hike, but then we mentioned the trip to our good friends Christiane and Dean. You’ll remember Christiane as the one who taught me how to make Spätzle. To our delight, Christiane offered to drive, so we all set out on a road trip one Saturday.

The advantage of having a local show you around is that you get to see places you don’t know about. Since Christiane is from the area, she took us to the little town of Dießen on the Ammersee before we visited Andechs. Her family used to visit there every summer when she was a child.

First stop was this extraordinarily beautiful church, Marienmünster, a baroque marvel dating from the 1700s.

We moved onto a little district near the water with charming little cafes and fishmongers:


Then we visited a waterside rec area:

You could see Andechs on the Holy Mountain across the water from here. Although we were temped to spend all day in Dießen, we tore ourselves away and drove to the abbey.

It was quite the tourist area, with a large parking lot with bus parking. We walked the short distance uphill from the car, passing the requisite beer garden and other curiosities on the way.

 

We reached the top of the hill and found the very crowded, official Andechs watering hole. We stopped there for much-needed refreshment:

That tall Australian in the gray hat is Dean. Notice our view!

Presently we made our way up the hill to the abbey church:

I love the sundials painted on buildings in Europe:

Andechs Abbey was much smaller than Marienmünster, but possibly more ornate. There was a choir practicing in the loft. This was Palm Sunday weekend, so all the holy things were draped in purple in observance of Lent.

Here’s the view from atop the Holy Mountain:
And here’s the trail we would have travelled to come to the abbey had we taken Option 3 I mentioned earlier (an almost-two-mile hike from a train station):
I think we made the right choice!
After perusing the Holy Mountain, it was time to be on our way. Again, Christiane came through with her local knowledge and took us to another little lakeside village called Herrsching. Since we still had some of that beautiful sunshine left, we strolled the waterside and sat in the golden light for a while, watching the people enjoy the nice weather.
 There was a little castle there which you could rent for parties or weddings, I think.

As the sun sank, so did the temperatures. Christiane and I fled into the Seehof restaurant you see here (also my future hotel, if I get my wish)…
…while the guys toughed it out by the water to finish their drinks before joining us.

The meal was delicious. For dessert we had one of my favorite specialties, Kaiserschmarrn, a kind of chopped pancake with raisins, eaten with apple sauce or vanilla sauce. This place served it flambe’ style! (Yes, the table cloth is on fire, too.)

After dinner we had to make our way back home, tired but happy. It was a great outing on a wonderful day with good friends. It just doesn’t get any better than that!

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White Asparagus, or Spargel, Germany’s Favorite Spring Vegetable

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This post was originally published on April 2, 2014 and updated on March 26, 2019.

Because we had such a mild winter and an early spring this year, white asparagus, or Spargel, appeared in late March at the markets and supermarkets here in Bavaria.

It normally appears about mid-April and is enjoyed with as-close-as-Germans-get-to wild abandon until late June. It is not unusual for a German to have Spargel three or four times a week during Spargel season. The season is over on Johannistag, the Catholic Feast of St. John, on 24 June. During that time Spargel is in every outdoor market and supermarket and on every restaurant menu. Restaurants and pubs usually offer a special “Spargel Menu” during this time.

My German “mom”, Hilde, nearly sets her clock by it and always buys several kilos from the same local farm each year. She serves it chilled in salads, warm in sauces, or pickled. It’s Germany’s first fresh spring vegetable and is a welcome break from the winter root vegetables. It’s also a harbinger of all the fresh garden fare just around the corner.

Spargel is so prized in Germany that it is sometimes referred to as Königliches Gemüse, or the royal vegetable.  In fact, cities large and small, including Bonn and other locations, have Spargel festivals celebrating the beloved morsel. 

White asparagus, a perennial plant, is the same variety as the more familiar (to Americans) green asparagus. However, in central and southern Europe it is grown under the earth in long mounds that make the fields look like giant sheets of corrugated cardboard. Sand and compost is troweled over the young shoots, preventing them from receiving any sunshine. Nowadays the farmer uses plastic sheeting over the rows as well. The resulting lack of chlorophyll is the reason the spears are white and the taste is mild.

Unlike the green kind, white asparagus has a tough, bitter outer skin that must be removed. I learned the hard way how difficult it is to peel white asparagus. Especially without the right tool. I set out to experience Spargel in my own kitchen a couple of years ago after I moved to Germany. I got my vegetable peeler and kilo of spears from the market and went home.

Standing at the tiny sink in my tiny German kitchen, I tried to peel the Spargel as you would a carrot. After many broken stalks and a couple of finger slices, I accomplished it. However, I discovered afterward that I had made two big, amateur mistakes.

One, I should have been using a peeler dedicated to the task, which looks like some sort of Medeivel torture device:

 (You see I have one now.)

And, strike two, I was peeling the spears holding the top of the stalks near me and trying to peel them by moving the peeler away from me toward the bottoms. Just like a carrot.

BUT, the proper way is:
1. Use the peeler made for the task
2. Hold the spear in your palm with the top near your wrist
3. Peel with gentle pressure from just under the top down to the bottom

I’ve seen people in the market peel the stalks for customers, which would have been a great idea for me! They use peelers that have two or three blades and make quick work of it. However, it looks as though it would take some practice even then. It is quite a sight to see a skilled Spargel peeler at work. One must keep in mind that Spargel dries out quickly, so peeled spears would have to be cooked within hours.

The most expensive stalks are thin ones that have just been picked that very day. Less costly are the larger, tougher, older spears, but they, too, can be prepared into delectable dishes. Spargel is consumed as fast as it can be harvested. Workers come from other countries to harvest the Spargel. It is hand-picked  stalk by stalk and washed in facilities located on the farms where it grows. I’ve seen many fields of rows of Spargel mounds with (usually) women bent over them during harvest.

White asparagus used to be hard to find in the States, but I’ve noticed it more and more. A store like Whole Foods would probably have it and I actually found some in a Super Target last time I was home.

Aside from peeling it, it’s fairly straightforward to cook. You can steam it in a veggie basket or double boiler or even a dedicated asparagus pot. Or simply boil it on the stovetop until tender.

Traditional ways to serve it include hot with Hollandaise sauce or cooked and chilled in a vinaigrette. Chilled Spargel is a good addition over top of a green salad.

There are as many new and different recipes for Spargel as there are traditional ones. Hilde gave me her recipe for Spargel Gemüse, in which boiled white asparagus is brought together in a white sauce with a kind of diced bacon.

Another recipe I am looking at right now in my Franconian cookbook is to take three thin, boiled spears and wrap them in thinly sliced ham. Lightly sear the rolls in a fry pan with butter and remove. Deglaze the pan with a little white wine and some of the asparagus water. Add salt, pepper and an optional hint of nutmeg (Germans tend to overdo the nutmeg thing, for my taste) and reduce for three minutes. Add a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche to the sauce and serve over the asparagus rolls. Potato pancakes are the side on this recipe. Sounds awesome!

About the only thing I’d caution against is using garlic or hot spices with white asparagus. It’s flavor is very, very mild and is easily overpowered. Otherwise, my second recommendation is to serve a Spargel dish with a chilled German white wine such as Müller-Thurgau or a Riesling. So it’s not all beer, pork and potatoes here in Bavaria, but you do have to be in the right place at the right time to get this tasty spring delight.

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Starkbierfest, Munich, Germany

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This post was originally published on March 26, 2013 and updated on March 19, 2019.

Now that Lent is in full swing here in Bavaria, I’ve discovered that the Germans long ago found a way to cope with the self-denial that is, or was, typical of this time of year.

Keep in mind that many beers were invented by monks in these parts. Also keep in mind that said monks also drank that beer as part of their diet, and many people still believe that beer is a nutritious part of a balanced diet.

Even though Lent, for monks, meant fasting and other acts of deprivation, it seems that doing without beer was not part of that deprivation. In fact, apparently to make up for the food they weren’t eating, so the story goes, they invented even stouter beer to keep them going through these rough times.

And so still today many Munich area breweries produce a seasonal beer this time of year that is typically about 25% stronger than the regular fare (7.5% alcohol vs. 5.4%). The German word for this is Starkbier, which literally means “strong beer.”

It’s not enough that they produce this seasonal beer. The Munich area goes one step farther and conducts a Starkbierfest, or Strong Beer Fest. I’ve read a description of this Fest as “Oktoberfest without the tourists.” However, there is an important difference between the two.

You probably know that, at Oktoberfest, many breweries haul barrels of beer, chairs, tables and kitchen equipment to the Theresienwiese, which is the fairgrounds for the fest and other events, set up a huge tent, and serve the visitors therein. For Starkbierfest, on the other hand, visitors must visit the individual breweries; there are no beer tents from multiple breweries all in the same location.

If you want to be present at the the tapping of the beer barrel at any of the breweries, I’ve learned you should make reservations in January or so. However, there is usually room enough in the restaurants or beer gardens at each brewery to find a place on the spur of the moment.

My husband and I stumbled upon this Starkbier and the Starkbierfest information when we went to dinner at the Paulaner Bräuhaus (Paulaner Brewery) in Munich in the past couple of weeks.

It’s the original brewery for Paulaner beer, one of our favorites in Munich, and an absolutely beautiful place with great service. Although I don’t have a photo of the beer there since I didn’t take my camera that night, I have a couple of iPhone shots of our meals. Here’s the veal roll my husband had:

And the veal schnitzel I had:

See the schnitzel recipe in one of my previous posts if you want to know how this is made.

Last week we visited the Augustiner Keller (Augustiner Cellar), which is operated by the people who make the wonderful Augustiner beer. Notice the name is not brewery, but cellar. Beer cellars are different from breweries and beer gardens. Beer cellars started out as actual cellars dug into
the hillside where brewers kept their beer during the winter for summer consumption. In the summer, most beer cellars had a small outdoor area nearby where they sold beer and cold food while the weather was nice.

Storage and refrigeration have come a long way from underground cellars, so places like Augustiner Keller operate essentially as beer gardens and may even have indoor restaurant space. In addition, Augustiner Keller’s location has been absorbed by the city growth, so it’s now centrally located in Munich. In fact, it’s only a few blocks from the train station.

Behind this restaurant building is a HUGE beer garden!


The third place we have tried the strong beer this year is at Airbräu, which admittedly isn’t one of the big breweries in Munich. It’s a big restaurant and beer garden for travelers at the airport that makes its own beer. A great place to hang if you are at the airport, but it’s more like a microbrewery than an institution.


You’ll notice the name of Airbräu’s strong beer is Aviator, which is appropriate. But it follows an apparent tradition of naming the strong beers with the ending -ator. Here is a list I pulled from the  Destination Munich website where you can see some of the names of the strong beers in Munich and other parts of Bavaria. I’m sure some of these were named under the influence of the beer in question:

Salvator – Paulaner-Brauerei
▪ Trimphator – Löwenbräu / Spaten-Brauerei, Munich
▪ Maximator – Augustiner-Brauerei, Munich
▪ Unimator – Unionsbräu Haidhausen, Munich
▪ Delicator – Hofbräuhaus, Munich
▪ Aviator – Airbräu, Munich Airport
▪ Multiplikator – Edelweißbrauerei, Odelzhausen
▪ Spekulator – Weissbräu Jodlbauer, Rotthalmünster
▪ Kulminator – EKU Actienbrauerei, Kulmbach
▪ Bambergator – Brauerei Fäßla, Bamberg
▪ Celebrator – Franz Inselkammer, Aying
▪ Rhönator – Rother-Bräu, Rothenberg ob der Tauber
▪ Suffikator – Bürgerbräu Röhm &Söhne, Bad Reichenhall
▪ Speziator – Brauerei S. Riegele
▪ Rariator – Münzbräu, Günzurg
▪ Honorator – Ingobräu, Ingolstadt
▪ Bavariator – Mülerbräu, Pfaffenhofen

More notes about German beer:
German brewers have to follow strict regulations about what goes into the beer. These regulations started out in 1516 and were called the Reinheitsgebot, which translates as “the purity laws”. Basically, the only ingredients allowed in German beer were barley, hops and water. Note that the brewers could use only naturally occurring yeast.

Therefore, the location where the beer was brewed became very important as to what kind of yeast ended up fermenting the beer. It is not only the geographical location but the specific location at the individual brewery that becomes important. For example, lager beer was made in the Lager, or outdoor storage room or cellar. And different yeasts ferment at different levels in the vats. With our lager example, the yeast lives at the bottom of the vat, whereas ale yeast ferments at the top.

Of course these regulations have evolved over the years somewhat, but the only three additional ingredients allowed now are wheat, yeast and sugar — and only then under specific circumstances. So German beer is so good partly because no preservatives, carbonation, extra coloring or artificial flavoring is allowed. It’s amazing, in the face of that, to realize how much variety can be achieved through location and methodology. A brief rundown on the German beer types can be found on the so-called German Beer Institute website.

So lift your glass of strong beer to get you through Lent til Easter! Prost!

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St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Munich, Germany, Style

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Throwback Tuesday Post (TBTP): Every Tuesday, I re-post a past post that I think is relevant and that you’ll enjoy.

This post was originally published on March 19, 2014 and updated on March 12, 2019.

Who knew that Munich had such a large Irish population? Or at least those who turn Irish only on St. Patrick’s Day (you know who you are!) But here we are.

My husband saw mention of a St. Patrick’s Day parade online scheduled for last Sunday. So we thought we’d check it out. I was in for a surprise.

We arrived at the starting point just before the parade to find a bagpipe ensemble practicing at the subway stop at Münchner Freiheit, a trendy, fun neighborhood.

Say what you will about the actual sound, I find bagpipes fascinating. Therefore, I shot lots of the dozen or so musicians in their kilted finery.

We made our way down the street a few minutes before the parade started because I wanted to stake out a good spot for photos. Glad I did!

St. Patrick himself, looking like the cat that swallowed the canary maybe because of those bodyguards, led it off. Didn’t see snake one.

There were contingents of soldiers from various points in history:

Hofbräu was represented, the beermakers to which whose famous Hofbräuhaus many tourists flock in Munich. I’ve been guilty of a little flocking in my turn. I LOVE the ornamentation on their horses. They always show up decked to the gills. They even jingle.

Of course those Dubliners in Guinness guises were part of the festivities.

My bagpipers came along presently. They are called the Claymore Pipes and Drums.

Slightly more primitive clans followed:

For the record, she didn’t protest all that much…

Several marching bands paraded by. I liked the silver bell thingy instead of a flag for this crew:

The hugest flag award went to this guy:

And, inexplicably, American Civil War soldiers from both the Union and Dixie were present and seemed to be getting along fine these days. The flag says “Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment.”

A pretty scary, armored guy came along and threatened the bystanders. His crew behind were backing him up with frightful yelling.

The drummers having the most fun award goes to these two:

I’m … kinda… speechless at this one:

Bringing up the rear was a band in a wagon (a bandwagon?) with a green canopy playing Irish songs. A chap on the back of the wagon, looking VERY Irish, was inciting us to dance and clap.

We fell in with the crowd behind him and walked along for a bit, clapping and celebrating. Before too long, however, we left the crowd behind and walked beside the parade. We passed a lot of it before we reached the end.

On the way we saw the review stand near the Siegestor, or Victory Gate, Munich’s version of the triumphal arch like the Brandenberg Gate in Berlin or the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. I dig that they used lions instead of horses in the statue.

The parade review stand is the very small, canopied wagon beyond the horse and carriage in this photo. The parade was passing between the carriage and the review stand and through the gate:

The parade ended at Odeonsplatz, the former central square of the city. As an aside, Hitler made a play to take over the city here and was prevented. Not recently, though.

Odeonsplatz is just beside the palace gardens, which make for a nice stroll on a sunny day. This day, however, was not so sunny, but the Guinness stands made up for it. You can get a sense of the crowd from this shot of the “line” we were standing in:

A little patience paid off, however. My husband (looking very Irish himself) and I enjoyed our freshly tapped Guinness in our new beer glasses as we listened to the ensuing speeches from German Burgermeisters and Irish and American ambassadors and the like:

See how I tied international drink into this whole thing? Thanks for joining me on this travel for taste. Erin Go Bragh and see you here next week!

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Neues Museum, Nuremberg, Germany

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Coming soon: PFNAR compilation of all those weird photos from 2016!

Throwback Tuesday Post (TBTP): Every Tuesday, I re-post a past post that I think is relevant and that you’ll enjoy.

This post was originally published on February 6, 2013 and updated on January 29, 2019.

Yesterday I made the 30-minute train trip to Nuremberg. You may remember I attempted to visit the German National Museum to see the Albrecht Durer exhibit last year. While I didn’t get to see that particular exhibit, I knew that Nuremberg has six or seven good museums and that I would get to see something interesting if I went there.

Plus it was my first opportunity to venture out for a photo excursion with my new Nikon D800 nestled snugly in my new National Geographic camera bag. Love that!
I checked the web and there was not anything on offer at any of the museums that I had a burning desire to see. So I chose the museum closest to the train station, which was the Neueus Museum, which literally translates as “New Museum.”
From the train platforms in the train station, you can walk through an underground area and emerge on the other side of a busy, multi-lane thoroughfare right at one of the entrances to Nuremberg’s historic Old Town district. Though most of the underground area is dingy, depressing gray concrete and ugly fluorescent lighting, I do always enjoy seeing this mural depicting the Old Town on my way through (except for the hideous orange tile):
To give you an example of the creepy, stressful shops under there, here’s a shot of a wig shop named Zweit Haare, or Second Hairs. I will give them points for dressing each mannequin head in a different style with scarves, sunglasses and the like.

Once you emerge from the uneasy underground, the first thing you see is a giant tower at the entrance of the Old Town:

Next to that is an area where, when open, has shops done up in half-timber and traditionally Bavarian décor. Most of them are souvenir shops but they sell traditional German stuff like beer steins and so forth. Today that area was closed:
Not far from there is the Neues Museum and it is indeed Nuremberg’s newest museum. It displays modern, contemporary and mostly abstract art. You can see the corner of its glass and steel building peeking from around its stone neighbors:

If you walked up to that corner and looked down the side, you’d see this:

As I was hungry, I jaunted across the street to Café Literaturhaus, one of my favorite spots I’ve mentioned here before, for a salad before I went to the museum.
I spent an hour or so in the museum after lunch. I can’t say I enjoyed the art that much because abstract and contemporary art are not really my things. But I did like seeing the inside of this ultra-modern building squeezed somehow in the midst of its heavy stone neighbors. There were a lot of items from painting to photos to installations, all modern.
Although I don’t “get” modern art the way I do some historical genres, I can appreciate the skill, processes and passion of the artists to do what they do. In addition, I used the opportunity to practice just exploring the feelings the art gave me instead of spending conscious time just not liking the displays.
The temporary, main exhibit was the work of an architect named Helmut Jahn. He’s a contemporary architect from Nuremberg and spent a lot of time in Illinois. He designed many modern places, such as the United terminal at O’Hare, the trade fair tower in Frankfurt and skyscrapers in Chicago, New York, Cologne and other world capitals.
The exhibit room was two stories with two-story photos of his creations lining the walls. Tall glass display cases displayed his models and reproductions of his colorful drawings.  In the center of the large room were clear acrylic benches in a square.
What made the exhibit relatable for me was that this architect designed the Munich airport center, a place near and dear to my heart because I normally fly in and out of Europe through that airport. In addition, he designed the Kempinski airport hotel adjacent to the terminal center where I stay just before and just after my trips. So the exhibit became personal to me, which was really a nice experience.
Of course I don’t have any photos from the museum because they don’t allow such things. So I’ll have to give you some images from my time after visiting the museum.
When I exited the museum I could hear music. I followed the sound to the next street and caught the very end of a children’s Fasching parade. Fasching is Germany’s equivalent of Mardi Gras or Carnival. My first indication of something unusual happening was seeing a passing wolf:
The music I heard was a samba band, similar to the ones I saw in Coburg last year. Here they are just breaking formation at the end of the parade.
The parade consisted of lots of people dressed as famous cartoon and movie characters, including Geoffrey the Toys R Us giraffe, Star Wars characters, sports mascots and TV cartoon characters.

They, too, were just breaking formation from the parade, still followed adoringly by hoards of children. Here you can see them trying to diplomatically disengage from the kids and enter the warehouse in the background. Some of them were more popular than others and had a hard time of getting away:

But some of them broke character for a smoke, regardless of who was watching. Here’s what has got to be my favorite shot of the day:

After that excitement I wandered the Old Town a little more and shot St. Lorenz cathedral:

Then I returned to the Neues Museum and visited the café next door. It was an Asian-flavored bistro place called HappyHappa. They had sushi on offer, which probably accounted for the faint fish-market smell that greeted me when I first \entered.

But a handsome young waiter met me at my table with a bowl of green tea as a welcome:

I was trying
to decide between the raspberry torte or the cheesecake when he recommended the
chocolate torte, so I ordered that:

 

It was wonderfully creamy with raspberries and fragments of candied ginger inside. Yummy! I ate it while I studied my book about how to use my new camera. I’m still studying!
After that it was time to leave so I headed back to the train station and home. Nothing too exciting but a little more interesting than
staying inside.
Here’s hoping all of you had an equally or more interesting Groundhog Day and that your 2013 is going well. Cheers!
Photo for No Apparent Reason: