Tag Archives: Germany

Germany

Part deux…uh, make that part zwei of our trip was to Germany to visit some friends. We hopped on a Thalys high-speed train at Gare du Nord, one of the railroad stations in Paris. Our train took 3 hours and 15 minutes to travel from Paris to Cologne, Germany (or Köln, as the Germans call it). We even stopped at Brussels and a few other towns to let passengers on or off the train. The train was clean and spacious with comfortable seats, and we even had wifi access.

arrivals board

The arrivals board at Gare du Nord. We kept hearing this clicking sound and soon realized it was the letters on the arrivals board flipping to update the info.

koeln cathedral

The Köln Cathedral, which is right next to the train station. Before our train left to go back to Paris, Sam and I took turns running through the rain to admire the cathedral and peek inside.

After arriving in Köln, we met our friends and they drove us to the little town where they live about an hour northeast of Köln. It was dark on the drive to the town, so when I woke up the next morning it was exciting to see the beautiful, wooded hills. This leg of our trip was a welcome contrast to the first part of our trip: Our time in Paris was filled with sightseeing, but in Germany we mostly hung out with our friends, played games and went for walks. The daughter of our friends had a pet rabbit named Anton, and we even took him for a walk. He had a special rabbit leash and liked to hop in the meadow and eat grass.

german hillside

German hillside. So green!

path and woods

One of our walks was on this path alongside a stream.

dessert and bunny walking

It was our friend’s birthday while we were visiting, and she had prepared a feast of German desserts! And here’s our friend’s daughter walking her rabbit. He was hopping around so much it was hard to get a picture of him.

sam rabbit and mushroom

Here Sam is holding Anton the rabbit. And to the right is a very poisonous mushroom. The recent rain in Germany ensured lots of mushrooms popping up amongst the brush and grass.

sam and frau hauer

Sam with his former Sunday school teacher.

One special part of the Germany trip was meeting Sam’s Sunday school teacher from when he was about four years old. Frau Hauer was a missionary in Pakistan for 38 years and was an instrumental part of the children’s ministry in the city where Sam grew up. We went to her home for lunch, where she had prepared a Pakistani meal, and then she took us for a long walk in the hills.

red tree and houses

We got our fix of fall colors in Germany. Look how red this tree is!

sam with pony

I spy a miniature pony.

andrea by stream

And here I am during our walk alongside a stream.

After a few days in Germany, we took the train back to Paris, where our flight back to the US departed from. If you’re thinking of traveling to France, we give Air France two thumbs up. The flight attendants were super friendly (and spoke to us in English…I guess we have “American” written on us!). And not were there TVs in the back of every seat with great movie selection, they served complementary champagne and wine with the meals. I’ll toast to that!

And as you can see, we made it safely back to the States and have shaken off the jet lag. Now I’m sorting through photos to make a photo book (love the look of Blurb books!) and am snacking on the cookies, chocolate and European style jams we brought back as souvenirs. Our trip has inspired me to try a few new recipes, so hopefully I can tackle them soon and share them with you. Ciao for now!

Germany Part 5: More Winzerkeller Wiesloch Photos


Freshly picked.

One of the three master winemakers draws us a sample from the premium Spätburgunder.

"Without wine and love, life is dreary."

Warehouse.

Waiting to be pressed.

Filling time.

Traditional.

Composition in blue and orange.

Here is the steeple.

Germany Part 4: Winzerkeller Wiesloch

A glass from Winzerkeller Wiesloch with their grape leaf logo.

The last three days of our trip were spent visiting Winzerkeller Wiesloch, about an hour south of Frankfurt. Caroline’s company is importing wine from Winzerkeller Wiesloch, so we were there to observe the production process, take photos for marketing material and talk business (ok, Caroline did this with her fluent German–I only caught bits and pieces).

The town of Wiesloch. Some vineyards are visible on the hill in the horizon.

The word Winzerkeller means “wine cellar,” and Wiesloch refers to the town where the winery is located. Winzerkeller Wiesloch is a co-op, producing wines from all the different vintners’ grapes in the area. As a result, Winzerkeller Wiesloch offers many different varietals. The most popular and prized varietal, though, remains the Riesling. Since the 1970s, people associated German wine with a particular sweet, saccharine Riesling. While there is such a Riesling, German winemakers also craft dry Rieslings (the label will read Trocken). If you’ve stayed away from German wines because of their reputation for sweetness, try a Trocken Riesling.

Spätburgunder or pinot noir grapes.

While white wines do comprise the majority of German wines (81%), Germany is not without its red wines (19%). The most common red wine is the Spätburgunder (pinot noir). While the American pinot noir is often a deep red color, the German Spätburgunder is much lighter in color, almost the same color as a deeper Rose. The pinot noir has been explained to me as a versatile wine, able to paired with food we normally think to pair with white wine (such as chicken or pasta) as well as red wine (red meat). Considering this, it makes sense that a pinot noir would be lighter in color as it is able to vacillate between the regions of white and red wine.

Riesling grapes.

The harvest season in Germany is later than in many parts of the world because Germany’s cooler climate means the grapes stay on the vine longer. Our visit in late September coincided with the Spätburgunder harvest. Winzerkeller Wiesloch has different quality lines of Spätburgunder–both table wine and premium wine–and the grapes are cared for accordingly. The table wine is harvested by a large tractor that straddles the grape vine. Caroline and I were lucky enough to ride in the cab of one of these tractors as the harvester drove up and down the rows of vines. The floor of the cab was glass so we could look down and see the grapes being harvested. I didn’t want to look down for long, though, because the view of the valley from 20 feet in the air was exhilarating. We bumped along, holding on tightly, as the tractor labored over the rough ground to harvest the grapes. When we got down, our host at the winery asked me, “As good as Disneyland?” “Better!” I replied. Unpredicatable, rustic, connected to the land–beats Disneyland any day.

Harvesters hard at work.

If the tractor harvesting the table wine grapes was all excitement, the people hand-harvesting the grapes for the premium were all about community. When we stopped to take photos of them harvesting, they were all smiles, eager to hear what we were doing and joke with us. From the five-year old boy from Denmark to the 85-year old woman who had been harvesting grapes her entire life, the workers had cultivated their own community while harvesting these grapes. Our host explained that for these workers harvesting is something they enjoy doing doing together: they rise early in the morning, work hard for hours (hard work tempered by deep jollity) and at noon feast together on Zwiebelkuchen and Federweisser or other German fare.

The Kapelle in the middle of the vineyards.

The vineyards of Wiesloch provided a gathering place not only for the harvesters, but also for community members by providing a place to pursue leisure activities. A troupe of ten year old boys pedaled hard up the steep hills on their bikes; an older couple walked along the dirt road, sampling the grapes; and a young family rode their bikes, kids in the bike trailer, dog running alongside them. For the people of Wiesloch, the vineyards and winery are an essential part of both the local economy and recreation.

Oak barrels holding the premium wine.

After the grapes are harvested, they are driven by tractor to the winery as often as every thirty minutes. The grapes are immediately pressed so as to maximize their potential. After pressing, the wine is put into large casks, either steel or oak depending on the wine being made, sugar is added and the wine is left to ferment. Caroline and I were guided through the warehouse where large steel casks brushed the top of the 30 foot ceiling. In a smaller hallway, ten 40 liter wooden barrels held prized wine reserved for the Christmas season. We sampled wine that had been fermenting for one week (it still had its carbonation), wine in the oak barrels that had recently been put in the oak barrels (lacked some depth) and the premium wine (Wunderbar! Deep, layered, rich).

Conveyor belt in the bottling department.

Next it was off to the bottling department. Between the clinking of hundreds of glass bottles and the not-too-gentle hum of the machines, it is no wonder the workers were wearing ear plugs. Steam rose from the machine that washed and sanitized the bottles. The bottles were then shuffled along a conveyor belt, whirled round the filling spigots, capped (these particular caps were screw caps) and labels were attached. After being distributed among boxes, the wines were stored in a warehouse until they were sold to grocery stores, alcohol stores or other clients. Some wines were sent to the retail center and tasting room, where one could sample the various wines and purchase their favorites.

Tomorrow: more photos from Winzerkeller Wiesloch.

Germany Part 3: Weingut Stutzmann

The drive from Meckenheim to Einselthum was beautiful--little villages with red roofs, sparkling rivers and ruined forts.

Driving through Einselthum to Weingut Stutzmann. The German villages reminded me of the villages in England.

Weingut Stutzmann. On the other side of the house there is a courtyard, barn, cellar and of course, the vineyards.

View from the back.

Flowers in windowbox.

Notice the reflection of the church steeple in the tractor window? Every German village had a steeple reaching higher than any of the other buildings.

Grapes. Or Trauben, as they say in Deutschland.

More grapes.

Casks.

Crate of Stutzmann wine. The Stutzmann winery has been in operation for 130 years.

Corks.

Labels.

Walnuts from the walnut tree in the backyard.

Discussing the corks.

Reflection.

Germany Part 2: Meckenheim in Photos

Our hostess, the wonderful Kuchen baker.

Relaxing in the afternoon sunshine.

Our hosts' granddaughter, Leonie.

What remained of the popular Apfelkuchen.

After our Kuchen, we went on a bike ride through Meckenheim.

Here I am with our host and Leonie. The apartment on the left is where my family and I used to live.

See the small square window in the center of the photo? That was my room, which was actually a second kitchen. Our family actually had two adjoining apartments because the typical four-person apartment was too small for our family of six.

Same apartment from a different angle. I remember standing on the balcony and looking out on the street. The trees and plants certainly have grown a lot in the last 18 years.

Caroline is standing with the bicycles. Every bicycle has to be registered in Germany, and children have to pass a bike test and driving course in 4th grade to receive a special bicycle license.

Caroline sneaks one last look at our old backyard.

Many of the streets in Meckenheim were named after composers. This is Mozartstrasse, and we lived on Beethovenstrasse.

This is Caroline's elementary school, which she rode her bike to every day. Notice the European Union flag painted on the school building.

Leonie loved going down the slide at the park and didn't want to go home!