Bamberg Brewery Trip

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This past Saturday, Hohenfels’ Outdoor Recreation offered a brewery trip to Bamberg.  Brandon never likes to miss an opportunity to visit a new brewery, so we had signed up to go.  Unfortunately, as we were getting ready to go that morning, Brandon found out he had to go to work.  Instead of sitting around the house all day by myself, I decided to go ahead and go on the trip.

The trip turned out to be a very small group!  There were only 7 of us, including the leader.  Bamberg was almost a 2-hour drive from Hohenfels.  Our first stop was the Klosterbräu Bamberg for a tour and lunch.  This is Bamberg’s oldest brewery and was originally owned by the Prince Bishops who ruled Bamberg.  The tour was interesting and I even thought the beer was pretty good.  Lunch there was delicious!  I bought Brandon a 2-Liter Growler so he could sample the Braunbier.

Christian, our story-telling guide through Bamberg

Christian, our story-telling guide through Bamberg

After lunch we had a “Storyteller” tour of the Altstadt (Old Town).  Our guide came in costume and told us various stories as he led us around.  The Sandkerwa Festival, one of Bamberg’s largest fests, was also taking place on Saturday, so the city was bustling with activity.

After that tour we had free time.  I made sure to buy some Rauchbier to take home to Brandon.  This is a smoked beer that is only brewed in Bamberg and supposedly tastes like bacon!  This was the whole reason Brandon had wanted to go on the trip; however, we didn’t end up touring that brewey.  During the rest of our free time, I just sat at the Spezial Biergarten with some of the others, enjoying the beer (or Radler in my case) and the view of Bamberg.

Finally, dinner was at the Brauerei Fässla.  It was supposed to be in the same area of town as the first brewery, but it turns out it was on the other end of town!  We ended up driving there.  This place was not as good as the first and I didn’t really care for their beer.  It could have been that I was just tired of beer by that point!

I had a good time on the trip, and I am glad I went; however, it would have been a lot more fun if Brandon could have gone also.  Bamberg is a beautiful city and close enough that we will have to plan a weekend trip sometime soon!

You can see more pictures on my Picasa Web Album if you are interested.

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A Night in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Last weekend was a four-day weekend for Brandon (Thur-Sun).  He was rather disappointed that I had volunteered for VBS and had to play for church on Sunday, so it didn’t seem like we’d be able to travel over the weekend.  Luckily, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is only about 90 minutes from us.  Although I had been there with the Wind Ensemble in 2001 and more recently with my parents, Brandon had not visited this famous Medieval city yet.

After I was done with VBS on Friday, we drove to Rothenburg.  It was a pretty easy drive (basically all Autobahn) and we didn’t hit any major traffic.  The trickier part was finding our hotel, Hotel Spitzweg.  I had printed directions from the website, but Brandon chose to follow Homer (the GPS) instead.  Homer didn’t realize that there was construction inside the old city that blocked the way to the hotel.  We also came upon a tour bus trying to navigate the narrow streets and ended up having to back out since it couldn’t get through.  Eventually, we found the hotel and were thankful that they had free parking.  The hotel was built in 1536 and had a lot of character.  Our room had the largest bathroom we’ve ever seen in Europe.  We think this bathroom was bigger than our entire room in Amsterdam!

We arrived in Rothenburg around mid-afternoon, so we had a good amount of time to sightsee before dinner.  We followed Rick Steves’ self-guided walk, stopping to climb the Rathaus tower, enter St.-Jakobs-Kirche, and look around the Medieval Crime Museum.  We ate dinner at Hotel Klosterstuble, where we had considered staying.  Dinner was delicious.  I tried the maultaschen, similar to ravioli only larger.  Supposedly they were invented to hide the consumption of meat during Lent.

IMG_6599The whole reason I wanted to spend the night in Rothenburg was to go on the Night Watchman Tour.  I had heard wonderful things about it and we were not disappointed.  We were led around the old city by the Medieval Night Watchman who explained what life was like back in those days.  He also told us about the bombings during WWII.  He was able to weave in many humorous comments despite the harsh times he was describing.  He also had a loud voice that carried very well, which was good considering there were about 50 other people on the tour with us.

After the tour, we headed back to the hotel room.  I was exhausted after a week of VBS and then walking all around Rothenburg.

The next morning we had traditional Frühstück (breakfast) at the hotel.  Brandon LOVES Frühstück!  Basically because it consists of bread, meat and cheese…Brandon eats lots of meat!  I’m happy as long as there is Nutella, which there was.

IMG_6647Saturday was a beautiful, sunny day that we spent exploring the perimeter of the city and shopping for souvenirs.  We started in the Burggarten (Castle garden) and walked all the way around (about 1.5 miles), sometimes outside of the wall and sometimes on the wall itself.  It was a lovely walk that wasn’t too crowded with tourists.  The highlight of the walk was climbing up the Rödertor, the only city gate that is open to climb.  The view of the city was breathtaking.  There was also a short exhibit about the WWII bombings that failed to tell the whole story.  It made it sound like the Americans bombed the historical city of Rothenburg for no reason other than to cause destruction.  However, we had learned from the Night Watchman that there was a German general who had brought his troops into the old city.  The Americans could have done a lot more damage, but the weather was cloudy that night.  In addition, one of the American officers grew up hearing stories of his mother’s travels to Rothenburg and commanded that the city not be completely destroyed by artillery.  About 40% of the old city was destroyed, but not the oldest part.  It has been rebuilt with the help of donations from people around the world noted on plaques along the wall.

After our walk, we ate lunch and then decided to head home.  It was a fun short excursion proving we don’t need an entire weekend to travel.

If you’d like to see all the pictures we took in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, please see my Picasa Web Album.

Vacation Bible School is not really a “Vacation”

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This past week I somehow found myself volunteering with Vacation Bible School on post.  I vaguely remember a conversation with the coordinator where I ended up agreeing to help the Snack Shack leader, Sarah Brott.  It went something like this:

Coordinator: Would you be willing to help with VBS?

Me: Does it involve children?  If so, you probably want to ask someone else.

Coordinator: Well……..how about you help serve snacks in the kitchen.  You won’t have to deal directly with any children.

Me: Ummmm, I’ll think about it. [Exit quickly!]

Well, “I’ll think about it” must have meant “yes” because I started receiving emails about VBS!  Since I wasn’t in charge of the Snack Shack station, I figured I could hide in the kitchen and it might not be so bad.

The theme for VBS this year was Crocodile Dock.  Each day had a specific theme and even the snack was incorporated into the lesson.

  • On Monday, God is with Us.  We served a Burning Bush in a Bowl.  This was tortilla chips, lettuce, cheese & a cherry tomato in a cup to tell the story of God speaking to Moses in a burning bush.
  • On Tuesday, God is Powerful.  We served Bugs & Boils.  Popcorn, raisins, chocolate chips, pretzels, and fruit gushers represented the plagues God sent on Egypt.
  • On Wednesday, God does what He says He’ll Do.  We served Promise Pizzas made with a Ritz cracker, pizza sauce, and shredded cheese.  This represented God sparing the Israelites at Passover.
  • On Thursday, God gives us Life.  We served “Berried” and Raised.  The Vanilla wafer represented the tomb, the whipped cream symbolized the white grave clothes and the heart-shaped strawberries was a reminder of God’s love.
  • On Friday, God cares for Us.  We served Sweet Victory, graham crackers with blue frosting and butterscotch chips.  This represented the Isrealites crossing the Red Sea.

The snacks were all pretty good, but the kids liked the Promise Pizzas and Sweet Victory the best.  I was amazed at how much work it was to feed about 100 elementary kids!  They came in five groups and stayed with us for about 20 minutes.  We would hand out wipes to have them wash their hands (they came to us from Games), then Sarah would explain the snack, then I would help them get their snack ready, and then Sarah would help them clean up while I prepped for the next group.  We had 2-3 teenagers to help us, but most of the time they just wanted to socialize with each other unless specifically asked to do something.

I have learned several lessons from this experience:

  1. I’m not good with kids.
  2. I never want to work around food.  (I’m too tempted to eat it!)
  3. Groups of ~20 kids are very loud and chaotic.
  4. Kids are messy eaters.
  5. After a morning of VBS, I need a nap in the afternoon.
  6. I’m still not good with kids!

I don’t regret helping with VBS this year, but I might have to avoid the VBS coordinator next year when she is looking for volunteers!

Visitors to Großbissendorf

Almost as soon as Brandon and I returned home from our trip to England and Scotland, my parents arrived in Germany to visit us here for the first time. They arrived on Tuesday, July 21st and stayed with us through Saturday, August 1st. We stayed very busy exploring the Hohenfels area and Bavaria.  I found it strange that I could blog throughout the UK, but I wasn’t able to find time while my parents were around.  So, here is a summary of what we did each day:

Tuesday, July 21: I picked Mom and Dad up from the Nürnberg airport in morning.  They were tired from the long flight, but all had gone smoothly.  We went back to my house and just tried to keep them awake as long as possible so they could adjust to the time difference.

The Roman Shades Mom made!

The Roman Shades Mom made!

Wednesday, July 22:  We didn’t venture very far this first full day.  We went shopping and ate lunch in Parsberg, and I gave them a tour of post (that only took about 10 minutes!).  We also put up the Roman shades that Mom had made for the living room windows.  The material had been purchased here in Germany when Mark and Linda were visiting, and they had taken it back to the U.S.  It’s wonderful to finally have curtains!!  That evening, I had my last German class and then a celebratory dinner afterwards at the pizzeria in Seubersdorf.  Brandon, Mom and Dad joined us for the dinner and we all had a fun time.

Hohenfels Castle

Hohenfels Castle

Thursday, July 23:  We did more shopping this day!  This time we went to the fabric store in Katharied and the chocolate factory in Laaber.  We also explored the town of Hohenfels and attempted to get to the castle ruins before realizing that just wasn’t possible!

On Regensburg's Old Stone Bridge

On Regensburg's Old Stone Bridge

Friday, July 24: We went for a walk in the morning.  Mom was very interested in the crops being grown in the fields around our house.  Brandon was able to get off in the afternoon, so we went to Regensburg.  We saw went inside several churchs, including the Dom, saw the bridge, and just walked around the old town before eating dinner there.  We stopped in Parsberg on our way home for some yummy Eis (ice cream).

Mom and Dad at the Augustiner Beer Garden

Mom and Dad at the Augustiner Beer Garden

Saturday, July 25:  This was likely to be our only full day to travel with Brandon, so we went down to München (Munich).  We basically did the same day trip that we had done when the Caves visited in April.  We used the Hop-on, Hop-off Tour Bus as our transportation around the city.  We hopped off at the Nymphenburg Palace, Olympic Park & BMW Headquarters, and the Old Town.  We experienced a few downpours during the day, but managed to be inside most of the times it rained.  We ate dinner at the Augustiner Beer Garden before driving back home.

At the Velburg Castle ruins

At the Velburg Castle ruins

Sunday, July 26:  I played for both the Catholics and the Protestant services in the morning.  Brandon brought Mom and Dad on post for the Protestant service.  Since most things are closed on Sundays, we decided to explore some castle ruins in the area since they are always open.  The weather was beautiful to be outside and hike up to the ruins in Velburg and Lupburg.  We stopped again at the ice cream shop in Parsburg after all of our exercise.

Liberation Hall in Kelheim

Liberation Hall in Kelheim

Monday, July 27:  Brandon was able to join us for a half-day trip in the afternoon.  We started the afternoon at Prunn Castle.  Unfortunately, the tour was in German, but they did give us an English handout.  Then we went to the Liberation Hall in Kelheim that was built by Ludwig I in memory of those that liberated Europe in the Napoleonic wars.  Our last stop for the day was the Weltenburger Kloster where we ate dinner and had some good beer.

Tuesday, July 28: After all of the activity of the last few days, we decided to get some stuff done at home this day.  I borrowed the concrete drill from Self-Help and we tackled the last remaining items that needed to be hung on the walls.  We put the shelves we had purchased from IKEA up above the TV, and hung the two Van Gogh prints that we purchased in Amsterdam up above the piano and our bed.  We also hung the wall quilt my grandma made in the stairwell.  Having Mom and Dad here was definitely a calming influence on Brandon and me as we tackled these last few projects!

An ice cream break in Nürnberg

An ice cream break in Nürnberg

Wednesday, July 29:  On Wednesday, we rode the train from Parsberg to Nürnberg.  We were pleasantly surprised when Brandon came home from PT and said he’d be joining us!  We explored a little of the Old Town by ourselves before having lunch at a delicious brewery.  Then we took a walking tour that showed took us around the Old Town in more detail and ended with a tour of the castle.  It was a beautiful, sunny day to see the city.  We rode the train back to Parsberg and went to the Winkler Brau for dinner.

Wine Cellar in Parsberg

Wine Cellar in Parsberg

Thursday, July 30:  Since their visit was quickly coming to an end, Mom and Dad started to get serious about finding souvenirs.  We went back to the fabric store and chocolate factory that we had visited earlier to buy gifts.  We also went to the wine cellar in Parsberg, which was a bit of an experience since the owner didn’t speak English and I only know a little German!  We managed to buy several bottles of Riesling though.  On our way home we stopped at a self-cut flower field to get some gladiolas.  We grilled some German sausages in honor of Mom and Dad’s 32nd anniversary.

Rothenburg Main Square

Rothenburg Main Square

Friday, July 31:  On the last full day of their visit, we drove to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  They did some serious souvenir shopping at Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas Shop!  After a delicious lunch, we took the city walking tour to learn more about this Medieval, walled city.  Unfortunately, our guide was not the most enthusiastic speaker and the tour was a bit slow.  We drove home to get Brandon, and we went to properly celebrate Mom & Dad’s anniversary at Gasthof Lindenhof in Schmidtmühlen.  There was a fest in the small town of Raitenbuch that we stopped at on the way home.  I was hoping there would be crepes, but the fest was so small, they only had one outside vendor that was selling nuts.  Mom and Dad will have to experience a bigger fest the next time they visit.

Saturday, August 1: Brandon and I took Mom and Dad to the Nürnberg Airport in the morning.  They were to fly from Nürnberg to München and then on to Chicago where Dad has a conference that starts Monday afternoon.  Unfortunately, their travels were not to go smoothly.  They made it to München, but the next flight was canceled due to maintenance needs.  They spent the whole day in line to reschedule the flight.  They were lucky enough to get another flight out on Sunday morning, so they stayed in München that night.

Sunday, August 2:  Mom and Dad managed to make it from München to Berlin and then to New York.  However, their luck ran out there.  The last flight from New York to Chicago was canceled due to weather, so they had to spend the night in New York before finally getting to Chicago Monday morning.

Overall, it was a fun and wonderful visit!  I just hope that their hard time getting back to the United States, doesn’t prevent them from visiting again.