Johannisfeuer Midsummer Celebration, Bischberg, Germany

Buy my first and biggest cookbook: authentic German recipes with full instructions on how to accomplish them in the States:

Click the image above to order on today! It’s available in print and Kindle versions. I can even hook  you up with a PDF if you message me.

While you’re on Amazon, browse around and see the rest of my books, too!


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 August 1, 2013 and updated on June 25, 2019.

On the last weekend of June every year, Germans – at least the ones in Franconia where I live – get together to celebrate the first day of summer, otherwise known as midsummer or summer solstice. The focus of this fest is a giant bonfire which is lit after the sun goes down. This gives the populace time to enjoy the local beer, some bratwurst and accompanying oompah music from the local band.

Whatever its orgins, Bischberg had its Johannisfeuer on June 21 this year. My husband and I were invited by Alycja, who runs the flower shop downstairs from my apartment. Bischberg lies on the river, so the fire is held there every year.
We walked the three blocks down to the river where the welcome banner had been strung across the entrance to the bike/walking path along the river. The entrance is actually an overpass; above it is a section of autobahn bypass:
Immediately on the other side of the overpass was the giant, unlit bonfire awaiting its fiery fate:
Although I have several shots of this, I included the one above because it shows some of the dozens of kids who were literally going CRAZY running around the thing. It was as if this was the biggest thing that ever happened to them!
You will also notice the stick figure mounted on top of the stick teepee made out of a straw broom and wearing a rather frilly frock. I’d never seen a Johannisfeuer up close before, so I was unfamiliar with this aspect of it. I asked what the effigy stood for and was told it was a Hexe, or witch. I don’t think St. John’s birthday has anything to do with a witch, but whatevs!
It’s interesting that they truck in the sand to make a place for the bonfire. Then, the next day the truck comes back and they shovel it all back in and haul it away. After 24 hours, you’d never know there was a fire or fest there!
As we rounded the corner out of the overpass, there was our esteemed fire department overseeing things.

Each small village in this area has its own volunteer fire department and the smallest fire departments are volunteer groups. I’ve been told by more than one local that the fire departments, especially the volunteer ones, have the reputation of being major consumers of beer and are tipsy-to-drunk most of the time. Comforting.

Anyway, here’s the beer stand:

Opposite the beer stand were all the fest tables already mostly occupied. Beyond the tables was the local oompah band, which, by the way, has won lots of competitions state-wide. They ARE good, if you like that kind of music, which I do.

Here’s a shot of my friend Alycja enjoying a beer with my husband James:

I shot this cute sequence of a little guy who just couldn’t keep his eyes open!

When the solo trumpeter stood on a chair to be heard, I got this shot:
A rather cool shot of the next table:

A guy who’s drawing beer from the cask. I kinda think he was sneaking his own beer because he and his friend on the right were really self-conscious of my camera:

Alycja with “ein Paar” – a pair of bratwurst on a kaiser roll, the local fave:

I shot a video of the actual lighting of the bonfire. You’ll notice that there are kids who each have a sponsor in the fire department and each of them is helped by the sponsor to light the bonfire.

We were standing about 60 feet or so from the fire and the night was rather chilly until the fire got going. Then it became slightly uncomfortably warm!

Of course I didn’t film the entire fire, but there is enough of it to give you the idea of what was happening. I think it lasted an hour or so after the end of the video but we left just after I stopped filming. I can’t imagine there was much else to see.

All in all it was a pleasant night with people having a good time with an impressive fire as the centerpiece. I hope you enjoyed it, too! Happy summer!

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

Thanksgiving and Two of Five Christmas Markets in Bamberg, Germany

Get a copy of ATFT-AppSnax to tame those holiday parties and guests! It’s my latest cookbook and features delicious appetizer and snack recipes.
If you want easy, this is it. The book has two sections: no-cook/no-bake and recipes requiring heat.
This book is indispensable in your own kitchen and makes a wonderful gift for the cook on your gift list!
Click this image to get yours on Amazon today!

Continuing the blog’s new feature: Throwback Tuesday Post (TBTP)!

Every Tuesday, I re-post a past blog I think is relevant and that you might enjoy seeing again.

This post was originally published on December 1, 2010, and updated on November 20, 2018.

Merry Christmas and Happy Whatever Else You Celebrate!

The Christmas markets have opened and the holidays are in full swing! Around here it isn’t referred to as the Christmas season. Instead, it’s called Advent season. So last Sunday was the first day of Advent (four Sundays before Christmas).
Before I get into that, I have some sad (for me) news. Some of you know that I collect Nativity figurines. It’s a specific set that is handcarved from wood high in the mountains of northern Italy. The brand name is LEPI and I collect the Rupert line. I have bought two or three figurines each year for the past eight years from a small shop here in Bamberg. Herr Ramspeck, the proprietor, is an older gentleman whom I’ve come to absolutely love. He patiently explained to me the qualities of the Nativity set I settled upon eight years ago and each year remembers who I am and what set I collect. He also gives me a discount.
So each year I save up for this extravagance. This year was no different. I had my money and had chosen the figures I wanted. I was savoring and anticipating the visit to Herr Ramspeck and really looking forward to the experience again this year when Hilde called me a couple of weeks ago saying Herr Ramspeck was going out of business! She said to hurry down there because everything was 50% off. Say it ain’t so!
So I withdrew my money from the bank and hopped the bus into town the next day hoping he would have the three soldier figurines I wanted. I was also hoping that he wasn’t actually going out of business and that Hilde’s rumor mill for once was wrong.
Alas, the rumor mill was right! As I approached the shop I saw the Going Out of Business and the 50% Off signs in the window. Crap. The shop was already almost bare. When I went in, Herr Ramspeck came shuffling out from the back and greeted me like an old friend. I asked about his shop closing and he explained that he was retiring and that there was no one to carry on the business. It’s the end of an era, folks. I’m so happy to have had the eight years I got!
I asked about my particular Nativity set and he had to break the news to me that it was all gone. Every last piece that he had in stock had been sold!
However, he offered to order the pieces for me. I readily agreed. He said he could give me 25% off the retail price, which was quite a bit more than I usually got. I figure he either made no money at all on it or lost some. What a guy! So I ordered the three soldiers of the set that attend the three kings.
Last Tuesday I made the trip to retrieve my newest pieces. They are lovely!
Herr Ramspeck gave me the address of a place in Nuremburg where I can get my pieces in the future. I’ll have to go look it up soon. It won’t be the same as my Herr Ramspeck, though! Of course, I’ll keep you informed of that trip when it happens!
Last week was Thanksgiving. Although it’s kinda tough to be away from home for my most favorite holiday, Bamberg was kind enough to open their biggest Christmas market that day, which is on Maxplatz. So I went there to check it out. Here are some from opening day:
Entrance. You can tell it’s cold!
You can buy stars…
Handmade soap…
A glove for people holding hands!
(non-Ramspeck) crib figurines…
And see some shepherds watching over you from the roof of the wooden stalls…
Get some nice linen holiday tablecloths…
More goodies…
Or buy some clay things that I don’t know what they are…
It suddenly got very, very cold and the drizzly rain was turning to snow so I made my way to my favorite café and had a bowl of delicious pumpkin soup and homemade bread. It reminded me of my friend Barb’s butternut squash soup, something I was missing for Thanksgiving.
Then, of course, I had my coffee. I was reading my Kindle (love that thing) and looked up as two very handsome young men in traditional dress were talking to the manager. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but as soon as the conversation was over, the two made their way to the center of the café. One of them asked for everyone’s attention.
He spoke very fast in German and has his back to me so I didn’t understand all of what he was saying, but it was something about a trek and the tradition of asking for help from “villagers” along the way. I think. Anyway, they took up a collection afterward. I gave him some change and asked if I could take his picture. He seemed used to the idea and struck this pose:
I would really like to know more about what was going on, but I’m glad to have witnessed it, whatever it was!
I had a class to teach at 5:30 so I made my way back home. After that I cooked myself a little turkey and dressing and had a lovely token Thanksgiving dinner of my own. I had so many emails from friends and family that day wishing me a good Thanksgiving – I really had a good day overall!
The next day, while Americans were out trying to take advantage of the Black Friday deals, I did my usual freelance writing and taught a class or two. About 6:00 p.m. I heard that now-familiar marching band. Since they usually practice on Friday evenings next door at the Gasthaus, I didn’t think much of it. However, I heard more activity than usual outside on the street and went to the window. I saw the local firemen redirecting traffic away from the main street while I heard the band tuning up.
So, of course I grabbed my camera and went to investigate. This time it wasn’t a parade, but it was a ceremony officially dedicating Bischberg’s Nativity scene. The wooden hut had appeared a week or so ago and I figured it was Christmas-related.
So the band played – frankly it sounded like dirges, but what do I know about music.
What we would call the band boosters were selling “punch” which, of course, is alcoholic. I, of course, got myself a cup. For a two-Euro deposit you could keep the cup, which I did, because it has the band’s name and logo on it. The punch was very similar to Gluhwein, or hot mulled wine, a traditional holiday beverage. It was sweeter, though. But served piping hot, it really warms you up!
The Burgermeister (mayor) read the Christmas story and an angelic little-kids choir sang a couple of carols and the deed was done. I snapped some shots of the Nativity scene:
Notice that they have translated the scenario into Franconian tradition. Mary is in European dress and is spinning yarn from cotton in a rustic cabin. This scene is where the angel tells her she will be Jesus’ mother. The townspeople will change the scene each week to reflect the Biblical Christmas story.
The next day I went to see the Advent Market near St. Elisabeth’s Church in Bamberg. See how dedicated I am to bringing you this journal?
Here is St. Elisabeth’s Church surrounded by the festivities. Of course there were people enjoying Gluhwein and other goodies!
This market is for handmade goods. Here are some toasty textiles:
Glass ornaments:
Handmade honey mead and other liquor:
A focal point of this fest every year is the blacksmith. He was popular, I think, because of his fire!
This guy was carving animals out of wood for children:
What Christmas market is complete without roasting chestnuts?  BTW, the cap of the boy on the right actually says “Billabong” not just “Bong.”
More homemade libations:
How about some mistletoe?
Later I walked back downtown to see the big market on Maxplatz in Bamberg. On the way I saw these crazy kayakers in the river:
This hotel has a restaurant and they do a booming outdoor business in the summer. In the winter they bring out wire fire baskets to draw people around their stall. Here’s a view of it with Santa trying to zipline in!
As dusk fell, the lights made the market stalls look very cozy:
Here is where I got my own Gluhwein. You get a commemorative cup here, too! This was the fun spot of the market.
Here is the market’s Nativity scene. It’s on the Bamberg Nativity Trail, and I’ll have more pictures of that after I visit next weekend. Notice it’s also in Franconian style and will change as the season progresses.
It took me a while to get this picture. Little kids kept running in front of the thing.
In Germany ya gotta have the wurst and cheese!
And the final shot of the day was the baked goodies booth. After that I took my commemorative Gluhwein cup home and made some of my own!
Since these pictures were taken, we’ve had 6 inches of snow that is still on the ground. It’s beautiful! Should be a great backdrop for the photos of the Nativity Trail and Medieval Christmas market I will visit on Saturday. The week after that I’ll see the Artisan Market. Stay tuned!
Photo for No Apparent Reason:

The Real German Munich Oktoberfest!

Do you have your copy of A Travel for Taste: Germany? It’s a collection of cultural stories and recipes from Germany, with an emphasis on traditional Bavarian cuisine. Even if you don’t cook, the stories are fascinating. Makes a great gift!

Click the image below to get yours on Amazon today!


Welcome to the first edition of the blog’s new feature: Throwback Tuesday Post (TBTP)!
Each week on Tuesday, I’ll re-post a past post that I think is relevant and that you’ll enjoy. Please leave a comment on this post and let me know what you think.
This post was originally published on December 8, 2011, and updated on September 25, 2018.
Throwback Tuesday Post from December 2011:
Because it’s that time of year, here’s the story of my first visit to the genuine Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany:
My husband and I ventured to Munich, Germany, for my first foray into the biggest beer party in the world: Oktoberfest!
Tuesday morning first thing we made our way to the Theresienwiese, or Theresa’s Field, where Oktoberfest is held. Tuesday morning just before 10am is one of the best times to go; it’s family day and a large part of the visitors are there to bring the children for the rides. That means there are fewer beer drinkers filling up the tents that early.
There is a subway stop that deposits you just outside the fest grounds:

I shot this guy in full Oktoberfest regalia on the escalator:

Here’s my hubby celebrating the fact he is at the Oktoberfest gate!
This was my very first visit to the real Oktoberfest. I’ve been to dozens of little local fests, but this one was all that plus steroids! Think of it as a giant carnival with two midways. One midway has the requisite roller coaster, ferris wheel, bumper cars and other rides along with snack stands:
The other midway, and the main attraction, is lined with giant beer tents radiating out on both sides. Fourteen major breweries build these “tents” each year for the occasion. The “tents” are mostly wooden framework with steel girders and tin roofs.
They had the wherewithal to locate the ferris wheel at the end of the beer midway so I could get this aerial shot of the beer tents. Each one of those giant, long buildings is a beer “tent.”
We had gotten there just before 10:00 a.m., which is opening time. I was able to visit most of the tents all the way down the line and get pretty good photographs inside each one before they started filling up and choking with people.
Here is a typical “tent.” That gazebo in the middle is for the band:
The Lowenbrau tent had a giant mechanical lion over the front door who drank from his beer stein and bellowed “Lowenbrau!” every few seconds! When I showed this photo to my friend Adi, he bellowed, “Lowenbrau!”
After strolling the grounds and getting oriented, we chose the Augustiner beer tent as our first quaff. Here’s our barmaid:
My German friends always told us that they didn’t wait for the foam to settle on the beers before serving them. The “right” way to do it is to let the foam settle then add more beer so the customer gets his money’s worth. Technically, the beer should reach the ring near the top of the glass. The last couple of inches is for the foam. However, things happen fast and furious in the Oktoberfest beer tents, so there’s no time for that sort of thing!
A family from the Basque region of Spain sat down beside us at the table. The coolest thing about Oktoberfest is that you gather best friends from all over the world! Whoever sits at your table with you is instantly your new “family.” These guys were no exception. Here’s our barmaid bringing us our brews:
And the most fun – Ein Prosit! You have to do this when they sing the toasting song!
Here’s a shot of our Oktoberfest “family.” My husband, the Spanish mom and dad, the son-in-law and the daughter. The parents didn’t speak English, but that didn’t stop us all from communicating! Notice the thumbs-up from dad – the mustache and eyebrows are real and that thumbs-up was for me!
Outside there is all manner of goings-on, such as beautifully decked out horses pulling giant wagons with giant beer barrels:
We moved on to the Spaten beer tent later. Here’s a shot of the “oompah” band there. Each tent has its own band that plays German drinking songs throughout the day. BTW, there is even an Oktoberfest TV channel during the celebration!
Our Spaten tent “family:”
Too soon we had drank all the beer we were about to drink for the day, and I had gotten all the photos I wanted from Munich’s famous fest. It was beginning to get very crowded and the weather had gotten hot, so we decided to flee back to the English Garden for the afternoon. So, it was time to bid Theresienwiese “Auf Wiedersehen!” I would highly recommend anyone to go to Oktoberfest. It’s just a big, jolly beer party with lots of Bavarian sights, sounds and food. Oh, and beer. Most of all beer.

I hope you enjoyed a trip to Oktoberfest with me. It was REALLY hard to choose only a few photos of it. It’s an immense and wonderful place – you should really go! I volunteer to meet you there!

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

James Peak Brewery and Nederland, Colorado

Don’t forget about my latest photography book, Photos for No Apparent Reason 2017available in both print and Kindle versions on, along with all my other books. I have cookbooks, photography books and even English-learning workbooks.

And there’s still time to download the Kindle version of my Traditional Old-World Easter-Egg Coloring Techniques book just in time for Easter on Sunday. The instructions inside make a great kids’ creative project.

All my books make great gifts, too. Buy yours today!

As it is with many of our outings, my husband and I received a hot tip from a local (I think it was a waiter) that we should go to the mountain town of Nederland, Colorado, because somethingsomethingplace had great smoked wings there. Well, we just couldn’t recall exactly what establishment the gentlemen had named. Therefore, I googled “smoked wings Nederland, Co” and found a brewery named James Peak. Since my husband’s name is James, we took it as a good omen and headed up into the Rockies one day.

We were not disappointed. We found James Peak Brewery easily.

Gotta love a place with this for a weather vane:

Inside, I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be because of the wall hangings:

Those are bags from the malt they use to make their beer. If you look closely, you’ll notice they’re from the Weyermann malt factory in Bamberg, Germany, where I used to live! In fact, I mentioned Weyermann in a previous post a few years ago when I took my English students in Bamberg to a scotch whiskey tasting. The distilleries use the malt, too. Did you know that, up to a certain point, beer and whiskey start out with exactly the same process?

Anyway, when my husband asked the bartender if they had any extra malt bags I could have…

…they took one right off the wall and handed it to me! It’s now on the wall in my office at home.

Here’s a shot off the rear balcony of the brewery. I have to assume the log-cabin-like structure beyond the dirt parking lot and creek is a hotel:

James Peak is a 13,300-foot mountain that the brewery is named for. It sits on the Continental Divide and is very popular among hikers. It was named for Dr. Edwin James, who was a botanist in the expedition of Major Stephen H. Long in 1820. Dr. James was the first known European-American to climb Pike’s Peak (14,115 feet). There is also a Long’s Peak, which is, of course, higher than James Peak and Pike’s Peak at 14,259 feet. That expedition named the Rocky Mountains, too.

Nederland’s elevation is 8228 feet. It’s a small town near the Eldora Mountain ski area, and I get the impression it exists largely due to the skiers. There might be another raison d’etre for Ned, but I don’t know what it is. Except, of course, for their annual Nederland Frozen Dead Guy Days, which I only discovered last week when doing research for this article. In fact, FDGD 2018 happened just two weeks ago! And I didn’t know about it until it was over. But you can bet it’s on the docket for the future!

I noticed the event’s name on this shed across the street from the brewery:

And this was attached to the side:

Turns out FDGD is a crazy winter outdoor festival where teams dress up in outlandish costumes and have coffin races. There is also a brain-freeze contest (Icee-drinking race), frozen tee-shirt contest (put on a frozen tee-shirt the fastest) and all kinds of other ridiculousness. It looks fantastic! I’m sure you’ll see much more about this wild weekend event at some point!

Anyway, here are a few other street shots of Nederland I took that day:

After our smoked wings, which I can highly recommend, a brew or two and some strolling, it was time to go home. We pulled over at Barker Dam and reservoir on the way:

That town in the valley in the above photo is Ned. Here’s the dam:

The reservoir is fed by Middle Boulder Creek and North Beaver Creek, which both run through Ned. Someone told us that people aren’t allowed to boat or ski on the reservoir, which seems impossible, given the Colorado propensity for outdoor sports. In any case, we didn’t see anyone enjoying the lake that day.

That’s it for our first foray to Ned. Locals call it Ned, which I found out when I asked someone how to pronounce Nederland. It’s actually the same as the German name for the Netherlands, so I was curious if they used the German pronunciation. No one could tell me – they all call it Ned!

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

NEW BOOK: Photos for No Apparent Reason (PFNAR) 2015!

First order of business: Happy Anniversary to my wonderful husband! Today marks 29 years of wedded bliss. And they said it wouldn’t last!

Next, I’m SO EXCITED to bring you the news: my latest book, Photos for No Apparent Reason (PFNARs) 2015 hit the shelves this week!


Subscribers to this blog already know about it; I sent them an email yesterday with a discount code for 20% off the retail price! If you aren’t subscribed, do so now and you get the code as well!

PFNAR 2015 is a collection of all the Photos for No Apparent Reason from 2015, PLUS all the dates, locations and backstories about the pictures. Many readers have asked me over the years for details about the photos. Well, here you are!

It’s a glossy, 8″x10″ paperback, 104-page book with 48 full-color photos from all the blog posts last year. You will also find the very first PFNAR from 2010 – the pig that started it all:


Here’s what the detail page about him looks like:


You’ll notice a comment by someone who calls himself B.C. PFNAR – he’s a reader who insists on making comments about each PFNAR I publish. I’ve included many of his hysterical quotes in the book. Bonus!

Buy the book on Amazon for a retail price of $21.99, and a Kindle version for $9.99.

I don’t have to tell you that the book makes a wonderful gift for the what-do-I-get-this-person on your holiday shopping list. It’s good for office gift exchangees, photographers, Mom and your bestie. Get yourself one, too. It’s a great coffee-table book and conversation piece.

I’m planning more PFNAR books in the future, eventually publishing the details of each one through the years. So this is the first of the eventual box set! But don’t wait on me; strike while the iron is hot!

And, as always, you can shop for all my books and ATFT gear by clicking the Shop A Travel for Taste link on the top menu bar. Happy shopping and buy my book (and gear and stuff)!

And, of course, your

Photo for No Apparent Reason: