A Travellerspoint blog

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Peter-und-Paul-Fest in Bretten

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Peter-und-Paul-Fest is Bretten's biggest event of the year. Every year on one long weekend Bretten turns back time for more than 500 years, back to those days when the town was still named „Brettheim“, back to the glorious and victorious battle of 1504. The festival takes place on the weekend after St Peter and Paul’s Day (June 29) from Friday to Monday. The events of 1504 are re-enacted, with a big parade on Sunday afternoon as the climax.

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This is not one of those many „medieval“ shows done by a travelling company of professional actors with no relation to the place. It is a festival of the town, and the whole town takes part in it. The majority of participants are local groups and clubs, people of the town. Only a minority are professionals. Since this event takes place every year, owning an outfit that matches the era around 1500 makes sense. On the market during the festival you can buy all kinds of clothing and accessories which are needed.

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The festival covers most of the old town. There is a lot to see. The camp of the lansquenets. Several stages where musicians and jugglers perform. The market stalls in the streets. Demonstrations of various crafts. And overall, the people in their beautiful costumes walking around everywhere. You can participate in medieval dances, enjoy a wide variety of food and drink, kids can play knights and do fighting with wooden swords. Even if you miss the main events, just walking and watching is absolutely worthwhile. I highly recommend this festival.

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On Saturday afternoon there is the re-enactment of the battle around Simmelturm. They say that this show is not suitable for small children (probably because of the boom-bang noise of the guns and cannons and also because of violent scenes). Everything else, however, is great for families.

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An entrance fee is charged for access to the festival area, this buys a ribbon to wear round your wrist which is valid for all the weekend.

Website: http://www.peter-und-paul.de/

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Posted by Kathrin_E 14:25 Archived in Germany Tagged festival kraichgau Comments (0)

The Palatinate Forest: Hikers‘ Paradise

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Endless hiking trails, great views of the Rhine plain and the hills, castle ruins, charming villages and of course great wines and food from the Pfalz - the Palatinate Forest / Pfälzer Wald is truly a paradise for hiking.

Pfälzerwald - the Palatinate Forest - is an area which is relatively unspoilt by tourism. It is popular in the region for hiking and outdoor sports, but hardly known among international visitors. The hilly region along the western side of the Upper Rhine plain is covered with seemingly endless forests. This is the largest forest area in the whole of Germany.

The Palatinate Forest has the status of a national park. Grünstadt, Kaiserslautern, Pirmasens, the French border and the Wine Road mark the borders of the protected area. The landscape is connected with the Vosges on the French side. The highest peaks reach an altitude of more than 600 m.

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If you plan to do hiking in the Palatinate Forest, wear appropriate shoes. Ankle-high hiking boots aren't necessary (though no mistake if you have them) but you need soles that have a good grip. The paths can be steep and rocky, have loose stones and mud, and get slippery when wet or covered with leaves. Even the trails up to Trifels castle are unpaved, steep forest paths. Clumsy Me observed 999 tree roots but tripped over root number 1000 on the way down and bruised her knees badly... ouch!

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The further west you go, deeper into the forests, the quieter and more remote they are. These rural areas are far off the beaten path.

The central part includes some quite spectacular sandstone rock formations. These are popular among rock climbers. My photos are just snapshots taken from the Pirmasens train, hence by far not the most impressive ones.

The majority of the trees in the forests are deciduous. This means autumn colours. In October the forests turn to rich golden colours. This is the most beautiful season for hiking, good weather provided.

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Landeck Castle

Sweet chestnut trees grow wild in these forests, guess what many local specialities include. The Palatine is a region for foodies and wine lovers.

Hiking is more fun if you have a destination.

Several of the peaks along the Rhine plain carry the ruins of medieval castles, for example Madenburg, Burg Landeck, and the most famous of them, Trifels above Annweiler, or view towers and viewpoints.

Wide views down into the Rhine plain over to Odenwald, Kraichgau and Black Forest add to the pleasure.

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Landscape view from Hambacher Schloss

Posted by Kathrin_E 14:39 Archived in Germany Tagged pfalz Comments (0)

Ludwigsburg: Pumpkins, Pumpkins, Pumpkins

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Every year in autumn, the gardens behind Ludwigsburg Palace host a big exhibition of pumpkins. They claim in the area that it is “the largest pumpkin exhibition in the world”, but since I have noticed a certain affection for superlatives among Stuttgart locals, I am not so sure how seriously this one should be taken.

Anyway, it is certainly big. And very popular, despite a rather steep entrance fee of 9 €. I went on a weekend, and while I had expected it to be busy, I had not expected these numbers of people, even less so as the Cannstatter Wasen was on in nearby Stuttgart. Hordes of families with young children pushing battleship-size prams, strollers, carts through the crowds, kids screaming everywhere… at some point I just said to myself, “I hate children.”

Lesson learned, note to self: Don’t go on a weekend next time.

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It was a glorious sunny day, which made the bright colours of the pumpkins shine even more. The paths in the vast gardens are lined with pumpkins to show the way. There are thousands and thousands, they must have used almost the whole pumpkin harvest of Württemberg to create this.

Hundreds of varieties of pumpkins and squash from all over the world are presented on long shelves. Pumpkins in all colours and fascinating shapes.

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Food stalls offer various dishes made with pumpkins. On this weekend the special was “Germany’s biggest pumpkin soup” (cf. what I said above;-)), cooked in a giant pot and sold for charity. I did not try it, though, the lines were just too long.

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Pumpkin souvenirs

Other stalls sell pumpkins and pumpkin souvenirs. I even saw “Halloween sets” on offer – a pumpkin, a carving knife, and a pattern and explanation.

In the central part of the exhibition they have large figures made from pumpkins. Every year they have a different topic; this year’s one is “animals of the forest”, so they have a fox, bunnies, a squirrel, an owl, a snail, some insects… really imaginative. The horse does not really fit in but is nevertheless impressive.

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I liked the flock of ants best, and the giant spider web.

Catching photos of them without anyone posing in front required some patience...

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Pumpkin-related events take place during the exhibition, mostly on weekends. Canoe races in hollowed pumpkins, for example (sounds like fun to watch). A pumpkin-carving festival happens shortly before Halloween.

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The top events are certainly first the German and, a week later, the European championships in pumpkin weighing. Participants will then bring monster pumpkins that weigh several hundreds of kilos. They are to come next weekend so I did not yet get to see them. They stay on exhibit until the last weekend, then they are smashed into small pieces and given to visitors for free. More than the flesh, though, people are after the seeds of the winners!

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Sand sculptures are also part of the exhibition.

Unfortunately a recent rainstorm had caused a bit of damage to them.

More information about the exhibition and the related events can be found on the website:
http://www.kuerbisausstellung-ludwigsburg.de/en

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More about the palace and the town will follow in a later entry!

Posted by Kathrin_E 21:18 Archived in Germany Tagged baden-württemberg Comments (2)

Mainz Christmas Market

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The Christmas market of Mainz is located in a beautiful setting, covering the series of squares by the cathedral. The huge church's mix of Romanesque and baroque architecture form the background of the scene.

The wooden stalls all, or most of them, have the same design, together with handwritten calligraphic signs. Well done for my taste.

The central part of the market is covered by a 'light roof', lines of small light bulbs attached to the column in the middle. After dark they appear like a tent of light under which the Glühwein drinkers assemble.

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The boys share a Glühwein

Glühwein is a good keyword. While many markets sell pre-fabricated stuff that hardly deserves to be called wine, in Mainz some Glühwein stalls are operated by local wineries who make mulled wine from their own produce. I found mine excellent in taste, not as oversweetened as many others.
Their Glühwein cups are boring, though, so I did not include it in my collection.

The products on offer at the stalls, however, were nice but not really special. Food and drink stalls somehow dominate the picture. All in all it was okay to visit this market once, but I do not see the need for a repetition.

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The big pyramid has some local figurines in it, like a football player in the jersey of Mainz 05, a carnival soldier, and one of the Mainzel-männchen, the mascots of ZDF TV station who have their seat in Mainz.

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To remind us what Christmas is actually about, an almost life-size nativity has been set up by the cathedral. It sits on kind of a small stage, one has to climb up a couple of steps to see it. Catching the photo without anyone posing in front of it requires a bit of patience at times...

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A peep into the cathedral should not be missed. The famous bronze protal, more than 1000 years old, won't open for the average visitor but the side door next to it will.

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The cloister behind the nave is usually an oasis of quiet in the middle of the busy city... but not currently, due to restauration works going on and large parts covered in scaffolding.

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The Rhine bank is not far from the cathedral. After a visit to Gutenberg-Museum I went over for a short walk along the river promenade at dusk.

It was pleasant to see that the water level had notably risen with the recent, long awaited rains. The long dry period over summer and autumn had caused big problems. Water levels were so low that ships could hardly run. All river cruises were cancelled. But now they were back in business.

There were two cruise ships in town that day. Guided groups seemed to be everywhere - in the cathedral, on the market, inside the museum... The river cruise boom certainly has an impact on the cities they have on their schedule. I am not sure how positive this development is for the cities, though.

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The platform between Rheingoldhalle and the modern city hall (left) offers a, hmmm, different panorama of the city.

A few puddles add some reflections of the evening sky.

Impressions of the Christmas market after dark

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Under the tent of light

Posted by Kathrin_E 23:15 Archived in Germany Tagged rhine christmas_market rheinland-pfalz Comments (2)

Vogtsbauernhof Museum Village

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Vogtsbauernhof is an open-air museum village with original houses and farm buildings from all over the Black Forest. Visitors can see how country people in the Black Forest used to live in past centuries.

These are buildings of historical interest that were, for whichever reason, to be demolished. Instead, they were carefully taken down, transferred and reassembled. Some still have the original furniture inside, just like the last inhabitants had left it when they moved out. Two houses are replicas because they could not have the original.

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It was a beautiful spring day. The fruit trees were in blossom, all meadows full of wildflowers and sprouting fresh green grass.

In addition to farm houses, economy buildings have been added: a water mill, a saw mill, workshops for various crafts, a baking house and so on. Some are fully operational. In summer season they do presentations of these old crafts in there.

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A striking feature of the typical Black Forest houses is how they use topography. They are always positioned at a right angle with the slope. The front has three or four storeys, while in the back, the soil rises to roof level. Adding a small ramp, the rear side offers an almost even entrance right into the attic, so that the barn underneath the big roof can be accessed by wagons.

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My Birthday Boy

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It was Russell the Wombat's birthday, and the trip was his birthday treat. Vogtsbauernhof had long been on our wish list. Russell particularly liked the little dog houses, he said these were the burrow entrances for the house wombat, who would have dug his burrow underneath. He also enjoyed a healthy lunch in the blooming meadows.

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Hinterseppenhof, built in 1599, is the oldest farmhouse in the grounds. A storage building and a cute little wooden chapel have been added to the ensemble which originate from elsewhere.

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Many of these farms had their own chapel. Their bells indicated working hours, time for meals or for prayer to the workers in the fields and the forest. They were probably used for family events, for personal prayer, and perhaps once per year the local priest may have come to celebrate a full mass in there.

On their porch they have a crucifix with the Arma Christi, all the many items that were part in the Passion of christ, and Longinus, the Roman officer who realized that this man on the cross was really the Son of God.

Inside, the former barn and storage host an exhibition on the most widespread clichés about Black Forest culture, including Black Forest gateau, cuckoo clocks and everything. A group of rather weird-looking dummies (too much Kirschwasser?) sport the traditional festive clothing of the area.

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This is where it all began: The actual Vogtsbauernhof has been built right here in 1612 and is, unlike all the others, standing in its original location. The wish to preserve it was the starting point of the museum village, which has slowly grown and is still growing.

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Live farm animals are kept in some of the farms: cows, goats, sheep, chickens, and the typical Black Forest horses. They keep and breed old races that are on the brink of extinction, in order to preserve them.

The animals are a big hit with children. But there is more for kids and families. There are activities like crafts workshops and games, two playgrounds, a picknick area. The place is popular with families and also with kindergarten and school groups. For the latter they have special programmes.

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A wainwright's workshop.

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A blacksmith's workshop with a large automated hammer that is driven by water power.

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The grounds have recently been extended by a vast area, surely with the purpose to add more buildings. A pond has been dug and a new footpath has been paved.

The first building in this part, and the museum's late addition, is the so-called "Little Castle" of Effringen in the Northern Black Forest. Calling it a castle is very flattering, it can better be described as a country mansion. The last inhabitants moved out in 1972 and the rooms on the first floor still have their 1950s/1970s furniture.

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Only very recently, a new train station has been opened smack in front of the museum entrance. It is now super convenient to reach by train. Holders of train tickets even get a small discount on the entrance fee.

Trains of the Ortenau S-Bahn stop here; these commute between Hausach and Hornberg where you connect to the Schwarzwaldbahn line (both) and the Kinzig valley S-Bahn line (Hausach).

Website with all information for visitors:
https://www.vogtsbauernhof.de/en

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Posted by Kathrin_E 02:41 Archived in Germany Tagged history museum black_forest Comments (1)

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