The Fastnet Carnival in Rottenburg, Germany. The cavalcade lasts for nearly two hours and the masks are fascinating. The Lent period has been called the fifth season - and this one German town certainly knows how to mark its beginning. The predominance of witches and ghouls indicates the pagan origins of the ancient festival, long since absorbed into the Christian calendar. It traditionally marked the coming of the end of winter, expelling ghosts.
Hardy's poem Snow in the Suburbs captures vividly snowfall. The streets and pavements in Munich where we live were certainly 'mute'. The pictures were taken in the dawn light of a January morning.
Every branch big with it,
Bent every twig with it;
Every fork like a white web-foot;
Every street and pavement mute:
Some flakes have lost their way, and grope back upward when
Meeting those meandering down they turn and descend again.
The palings are glued together like a wall,
And there is no waft of wind with the fleecy fall.
A sparrow enters the tree,
A snow-lump thrice his own slight size
Descends on him and showers his head and eye
And overturns him,
And near inurns him,
And lights on a nether twig, when its brush
Starts off a volley of other lodging lumps with a rush.
The steps are a blanched slope,
Up which, with feeble hope,
A black cat comes, wide-eyed and thin;
And we take him in.
After an eerily dry autumn, flowers and our magnolia tree almost brought to bud, a huge snowfall in the last two days reminded us that the Alps are not far away. Suddenly the light changes - everything is bright, pristine. Neighbours are out, united in a common purpose - clearing the snow from the footpath outside your house as German law requires. Kids go by pulled along by parents - off to a local park. Snowmen - or is it persons now? - appear in Gardens.
I love the seasons.
Stollen at Christmas is a must. Here is a recipe that goes back several generations - to Stuttgart 1930s. I can imagine a relative on my wife's side making this in her kitchen, all those years ago.
And now my wife makes it, here in our home in Munich. It's amazing - not too difficult at all - Stollen through time!
500g flour (i.e. a light spelt flour 630)
1 package baking powder
1 package vanilla sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 tblsp rum or port or similar
A few drops of lemon juice
Grated lemon peel
Small pinch of grated cardamon
Small pinch of grated nutmeg
50g oil (i.e. sunflower)
250g Quark (low fat - 10%)
150g grated almonds or hazelnuts
50g (candied lemon peel – in GermanZitronat)
50g (Candied orange peel – in German Orangat)
For coating after baking:
preheat oven 250 °C
bake 50-60 min at 170 °C conventional oven
A window on our Christmas market, Munich. Children looking up at Santa with eyes full of wonder, adults sipping Glühwein, its aroma fragrant on the chilly air, musicians playing Alpine pieces, an older couple dressed in traditional Bavarian clothes making their way through the throng, kiosks selling stars carved from sweet smelling pine wood, others selling cheeses, meats, fabrics. All the way home I was thinking how the market brings people together. Makes the city local.
The Ritter Sport family chocolate business - chocolate and social history
A visit to the Ritter Sport chocolate museum in Waldenbuch (between Stuttgart and Tübingen) is a window on social history
Chocolate history, the Ritter family business through time, a window into ethical business - the company is proudly family owned - , patronage of artists through a gallery next to the museum - and amazing chocolate.
The video is a selection of: early days (the lorry is from 1926!!), the original till from the small shop where the family started in 1912, an ad from 1977 showing men in role as child carers (hoorah for progress!) ....
I left with + 6 kilos of chocolate - telling myself over and over - Christmas presents, Christmas presents ...
East Munich woodlands and old quarry in Waldperlach.
The woodland is within Munich city - a haven for wildlife and diverse species of trees and plants.
The energy of woodlands is unique. Transforming. There are signs of industry - a disused quarry, paths, machines, felled trees - their trunks sprayed with numbers & ready for collection.
But nature is returning, as it will and I was reminded of Wordsworth's poem The Ruined Cottage - how nature reclaims - as the trees have, all around and in the disused quarry. I recorded the music on my Lowden guitar and is one of my versions of Shebeg Shemore originally composed by the great Irish harpist Turlough O'Carolan- shorter version to fit the video!
The numbers are staggering: 2018 will see 6.3 million visitors at Munich's Oktoberfest.
One of the best attractions of the Oktoberfest is the Oide Wiesn, an enclosed area with an entry fee of 3 Euros. Here it is a far less hectic experience and a chance to eat in one of the restaurants - the famous one being the Festzelt Bavarian beer tent. Yes it seats 5,000 - and has a dance floor- if you fancy grooving along to the famous Wolfgang Grünbauer and his orchestra.
The Oide Wiesn (Bavarian for The Old Wiesn or Oktoberfest) is full of memorabilia: Old cycles, motorbikes, parts of fun fair rides, tractors dating from the 1930s, a section of an old Wall of Death (with motorbike), and the traditional bands playing music as it would have sounded decades ago.
The Mangfall River is 63km long. It flows out of Lake Tegernsee into the River Inn, a major tributary of The Danube. The so-called Mangfall Knieweg, a trekking route starting from the village of Valley, is about 11km. The sudden appearance of a dozen or so camels caught us by surprise.
From Munich to the village of Aying on a cycle ride through time ... Bavaria with its massive web of cycle pathways is a cyclist's heaven!
Maypoles and onion domed churches
A war memorial
Old farmhouses against the backdrop of the timeless Alps.
Glad there's so much to discover!