I made it! My First Biotope- Cycling tour in Germany

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My cycling-mania is still ON over here !

To think that the cycling season have just started  here in Germany and summer is still a month away, more fun begins as we continue to enjoy cycling .The other day, I’ve written about how we are falling in love with our bicycle and guess what—–we joined our first cycling tour!

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Biotopradwandertag 2017 route map

Yes, with my husband and our little Adventurist, off we go for a Biotopradwandertag for a sweet 30 kilometer cycling tour. This is my very first time to experience going on a bike tour like this so I’m definitely excited. The distance and the event itself is all new to me. At first I was hesitant, thinking that maybe my daughter will get bored and as always, I kept worrying about the weather.What if it rains, or  what if she gets  cranky because its her nap time as well.

But then we made it to finish line!

Sweating, hurting my ass, but totally energized. My knees where shaking when I am doing the uphill part and my heart is pounding at some points during the trip but my stamina is still up. I don’t wanna give up. My endorphins are on high and I am very glad that I made it. I haven’t cycled for years and to be able to participate in an event like this makes me feel so at home here in Germany.

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Active Germans ready to cycle!

Believe me, cycling can do wonders on your mood.

The Biotopradwandertag is a cycling tour to promote awareness of the region of a habitat associated with a particular ecological community all around in Ingolstadt and the regions surrounding it. This year was the 29th Biotope Cycling Day ( May 21, 2017) and was personally organized by our city mayor. This Bike tour is an annual event in any weather.

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In my first Cycling Tour !

I saw this ad in the newspaper and after googling a bit and translating, I asked my husband and few friends to join this tour. Good thing it falls on Sunday, and the weather was perfect. A bit cloudy in the morning but up until the end, we cycled under a carpet of beautiful sunny skies.

The tour started at 9 AM, we get the tour map & information from the Stadt theater and I was really impressed how organized the event was. The trails were properly signed, there were visible sign posts for the directions for the cyclists. Along the way, there are guides who helps us go in right direction. For a fee of 3 Euros per person ( kids under 16 are free), all Finisher receives a gift, drink & food vouchers that they can enjoy after the tour. Major sponsors are Willner/Farradzentrum, Nordbrau and Sparkasse. Emergency help lines are also set-up.

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Pit stop in this beautiful lake.

Along the way, the scenarios are really beautiful. So fresh, and the air feels so clean. Acres of Rapeseeds, a sea of wildflowers in different shades, and  very clean neighborhoods. I didn’t expect that Bavaria can really be so green ( literally!), with hills and fields, and to discover all these while cycling is the best way to enjoy our Sunday.

My mind is meditating, relaxing , my muscles are working, and  my body is rejuvenating.

After 2.5 hours of cycling, at about 2/3 of the trip, we had a pit stop in the check point where we have time to stamp our papers, get free drinks and food, and a bathroom break.I saw Germans of different ages, from toddlers to the not-so-young anymore, but are still very active in cycling. Everyone is having a great time.

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There is always a reason to stop because I see so many sights and I don’t wanna miss it.We finished the tour on time and we had  lunch provided by the organizer. The whole Stadt theater was converted int a Beer garden where people devoured their beers, Schnitzels, potato salad, bread and assorted drinks!

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Bikes and All Bikes!

Cycling with toddler stress-free is possible here in Germany and I am glad that my daughter has the chance to experience this on such a young age. Children should not stop us from doing what we are passionate about. I am sure I’ll be doing this again next year, maybe a bit more farther!  If you have the chance, I highly recommend to join this type of outdoor activity, it’s healthy, fun and it’s best enjoyed with your whole family! I think more than the hype, it’s all about doing what you enjoy and what makes you feel good.

 

Have you ever engaged in a tour of your favorite sport ? What are your favorite summer activities?

 

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How to fall in love with your Bicycle this Spring

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Cycling through the golden fields in Bavaria

I want to share with you how I developed a new-found love-affair with my bicycle this Spring time.

No, it’s not the current trend here in Germany, nor a health fad, but yes, it’s the number one outdoor sport choice! Fortunately, I am married to a Dutchman, from The Netherlands, the land of cyclists. The land where Bicycles and people are like Bread and Hagelslag  or sprinkles (totally inseparable!).

For the record, Dutch people revolved their lives in Fiets ( Bicycle) and from the country with much more Bicycles than inhabitants, so yes, they have a serious affair with bicycles. Add the fact that I am  living in a country where cycling is ingrained in everyone’s mind. Cycling is a big part of German culture. If you will move to Germany, it is likely that you will buy a bike! It is very rare to find an adult German who did not grow up riding a bike and whose children, parents, and even grandparents probably still ride bikes. My neighbor who is almost 80 years old,  still rides her bike gracefully, twice a week doing her groceries by bike and doesn’t mind cycling during winter.Amazing, right?

So, I am inspired by this.

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I am not in the lowlands but I am cycling under a carpet of Cumulus clouds.

The weather nowadays is at its best here in Bavaria.Thinking that for the past 8 years I got used to 50+ degrees C temperatures outside, here on the other hand, a mild 10-25 degrees in a bright sunny day is absolutely amazing! Not too hot, not too windy and the chill is just right.

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16- Kilometers of cycling with a toddler rewards us some photo-ops in the Stables with lots of horses so shy from the camera.

My little old town, Ingolstadt,  can be explored extremely well on a bicycle.The cycling tours will take you through a typical Bavarian agricultural landscapes, Asparagus fields, and hop gardens scenic views to the south, up to the foothills of the Altmühltal nature park to the north. Pretty villages with public houses and Biergartens ( Beer garden) line the route.

We are joining our first Bike tour ( Biotopradwandertag 2017) this coming Sunday, with my toddler of course, so stay tuned for my stories later about it!

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Toddler and adventures kind of day!

However, much more than one day is needed to discover everything that Bavaria has to offer.If you are a tourist, a trip to the historical sites in the pedestrianized Old Town is a must.The easy-to-follow- biotop adventure path, with a total of 11km in length is also another option.The path consists of 18 stages. At each stage you can find out about the habitats of animals and plants and why do we need to protect them.This is an interesting cycling path for the nature lovers and for active cyclists.

Do you live in seasons? What’s the best way for you to enjoy Spring?

For me, soaking up under the sun, cycling til my ass hurts,BBQ and picnic outdoors, admiring the golden rapeseed fields, and chilling’ in beautiful gardens full of spring blooms! Sure thing I do miss the beach back then in Kuwait and the island-hopping in the tropical islands back home in Ph, but then, spring time in Europe is not that bad. It is actually a whole new experience for me.

These are the moments in Spring that feels like summer–like having BBQ with friends in our garden, grilling the Bratwurst ,indulging in fresh green salads, eating ice cream almost every day (OMG! burn the calories through cycling! ) and finally, wearing sleeveless shirts and shorts!

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Always looking forward to the next cycling adventure!

I have a 2.5 year old toddler, and it’s absolutely not a problem! We bundled her up in the kindersitze and she also can have fresh air and outdoor times. Packed with lots of snacks and bag full of patience, off we go! Last week, we did a 15km ride to the East side of the city with my daughter and it was great. The great thing about cycling is that you get active, relax, meditate, at the same time enjoying some quality family time. I never imagined in my life that cycling could be this good, it will leave you craving for more and more. Once you learned to create adventures with your Bike, you’ll be cycling for life. Also,this is what I love about Germany–spending outdoors with family is a matter of priority!

Through our bicycle trips, we discovered many playgrounds. A pit stop to a nearby Spielplatz (playground) always makes the day and erase boredom from sitting in the bike.We always make it a point to explore nature, local sightings, and fun kid-friendly activities.

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Along the way, finding beauty in everything comes naturally. No filter needed even if I only uses my iPhone to capture photos because its handy.

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Orange poppies can be so lovely!

A pit stop in another lake on the other side of the city was totally worth the hours of cycling. The lake, surrounded with trees, boats sailing, swans swimming, and a cheerful crowd busy having BBQ’s, picnic and just lazing around the lake. The waters still too cold for a swim but I can see so many people put up their tents, camping and fishing. This place is a picture of a simple, serene escape from the busy-ness of the roads in the city.

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Old ladies chatting up with each other, under the tree, beside the lake.

Watching the time goes by while cycling and Wandertag with nature is the perfect Spring past time.

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Having some quiet time along the river

Cycling through the river Danube is one famous bike trails in Europe.The Danube cycle path is one of the best- known and passes through the unique,natural areas.There are many other interesting routes to explore, such as the Via Raetica along the historically Roman road. I live 10 minutes away from the banks of Danube river and this photo above is one of my favorite place to stop and just breathe in. It’s so peaceful!

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Discovering the beauty of Peonies

One can enjoy the scenic river views and enjoy the splashing from the little creeks with the ducks swimming by.  If you have time to kill, you can even catch your dinner from this point.This is also a great place to catch a sight of some birds. The extensive Donauauen ( the wooden areas on the banks of the Danube) stretch from west to east, making it a great starting point for any outdoor activity. If you got tired and needed to rest, there are enough platforms along the Danube to rest on and watch the flow of the river.

In the end,how far can you cycle will depend on your level of fitness.

 

Do you like cycling?

What’s your Bucket list for Spring?

If you like this post, make sure you followed my Blog to follow my Expat life stories here in Bavaria and Hey, do you like Art? I have a gallery of my personal Artwork posted in my Instagram, if you’d like to follow, you can view it Here.

Thank you for reading my friends, hoping everyone of you are enjoying the weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

A Reflection: The grass is greener in Bavaria

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Reflections at the Baggersee : My Expat Life in Germany  from a year’s perspective.

 

My favorite lake here in Bavaria shows amazing reflections in the water today. I took this photo with my iPhone only at around 5 P.M, no filter needed, only pure beauty. I could stare at these mirror-like reflections for hours and still wonder what did I do in my life that I deserve to see this.

My heart is filled with warmth.I couldn’t help but to reflect into my past  life, realizing that from last year—living here in Germany is actually one of my ( and my family’s )  dream that came true! 

“Remember, life is an echo. It always gets back to you. So give goodness.”

Today, I feel so grateful. I want to be grateful because I have many reasons to be thankful for. I can’t help but to appreciate goodness in life.

As we make a pit-stop from cycling and gaze at this view from the lake today, my heart is grateful that I had the chance to see this place, with all these  myriad of beautiful nature, right at my doorstep.

I still remember that at this same time last year (May 2016), we squeezed our lives in 2 cargo boxes , my travelling hand carry bags are tightly packed and ready to leave Kuwait, with 3 luggage on tow and an active toddler on a 20+ hours flight, alone,jet lagged, and yet so excited to cross time zones for a life changing move. From the time our plane landed at Schiphol in the Netherlands and the 6- hour train ride going to Bavaria, my mind can’t rest until I step on to our new home. I was truthfully exhausted,at same time,  I can’t wait to see our new place, our neighborhood and our new home, where we begin a new chapter in our lives.

Everyone dream of becoming rich, well, maybe not all in material terms. For me, I didn’t dare of dreaming about big houses, high-end cars or a grand lifestyle, let alone living in a culture different from where I was born with. I love to travel but I don’t have the luxury for it. The only reason I go abroad was for work purposes. If you must know, so many Filipinos get out of the country mainly for work, especially women and mothers. Leaving your baby across the miles is a huge pain in the heart of any parent, a sacrifice as others call it. A big population of the OFW’s ( Overseas Contract Worker) are women, with small kids & families left behind in Philippines.They work under contract for years and years to earn money and support their families back home.

Back then, I was one of them .

Almost all Expatriates along with their families aspire of a better life in another country. Some move because there is a job opportunity, some with a lucky chance to immigrate naturally. If you got the opportunity, both for a better future and a high quality of living then life abroad becomes bearable…and enjoyable”

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Life echoes through the reflections

“The grass is always greener on the other side (of the fence)…”

Staring at the clear waters with the reflections of a blue skies, I still couldn’t believe that I am actually living in here in  Germany. Imagine, for the past months, I  had my first taste of Summer, Fall, Winter  and Spring for the very first time in my life!

If you follow my Blog, you surely know it because I write all about them here.

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Local sightings : Kayaking in the Danube river in Germany

My husband thought of looking for a job in Canada but then life brought us here. I don’t like the cold so much but then the moderate climate helps me to appreciate my new life in seasons. Kuwait was not that bad, the cost of living is high for Expats but the balance between work and family is so bad, you always work for longer hours. In Germany on the other hand, to think that my daughter will have a better future in this amazing country is too much for me.Quality and balance living is achievable.We don’t live in big cities like Berlin, Hamburg or Munich, but we almost have everything here, within reach. My daughter will start in Kindergarten this coming September and she’ll grow up speaking multiple languages, getting better education, and having the opportunity to explore the best of both worlds as a Third culture kid.

Germans in general are very nice, friendly and hospitable people, ( at least from my own experience) the typical and traditional Bavarians who adore  Ruhetag  (Sonntag/Sunday) sincerely, my neighbors who are overly kind and all helpful. Our neighborhood which is just a stones’throw away from the Danube is full of simple wonders everyday. My little town here in Bavaria, Ingolstadt is a quaint, rich, lush city  full of kaleidoscope and charm. I couldn’t ask for more. ( Well, maybe a branch of Krispy Kreme someday…and Ikea! )

Germany is a beautiful country that welcomed us wholeheartedly. A place where Expats are treated not only as ‘Auslander’( or Foreigners)  but giving us a chance  to fully integrate into their culture,we felt at home at first sight. The moment I stepped out from the train, all I could say is that it is so green. I breathe in Life.

They say that people migrate with so many “pull” factors, and where the grass is always greener…

Literally & figuratively speaking, Yes, the grass is greener here in Bavaria.

 

 

This post was inspired by this week’s WPC Photo Challenge | Reflecting

Fields of Gold: Rapeseeds in Bavaria

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The power of Rapeseed flower, a source of efficient and inexpensive source of energy.

April flies so fast, leaving me with its willful rains, hail and  more spring chills. With May now in my doorstep,  I know that summer is fast approaching, I notice so many sudden changes everywhere. I love changes, but sometimes, I felt like everything goes in synchronized motion and I need to keep up in my own pace. Here in  Bavaria, changes are so evident, my surroundings becomes greener once again. The grass gets luscious and growth is seen in everything. I asked myself, have I changed as well?

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The Yellow fields of Rapeseed in Germany, Spring 2017.

I wonder how on earth these plants grew up so fast! they’ve grown so much overnight! A month ago, the trees are still so bald and now, they are towering again with their succulent leaves.

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The charming Canola ‘Rapeseed’ flower

Yesterday, it was a beautiful day. We decided to take our bicycles and went for a spin with my daughter. Around 7a.m., the streets are already flooded with active Germans ready to soak up in the sun. We cycled and we were surprised that in the west side part of the city lies the ‘Fields of Gold’ or the massive ‘rapeseed‘ blooming with yellow  blooms. It was a surreal feeling cycling along these fields. I mean, I can’t stop but feel cheerful when I’m seeing this kind of view. No one can’t miss this sight especially when they are driving along this area, add the fact of the pungent odor that you’ll smell when you are near to the rapeseed fields.

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Rapeseed fields with the tower of the Liebfrauenmünster in the background.

I had the same feeling when I gazed upon the gorgeous Tulips fields in Lisse, in the Netherlands, but I didn’t know that just a few kilometers away from where we lived lies a scenic view that we can enjoy on a fine, sunny day! Personally, I am not immune to the allure of Spring, I love everything about blooming flowers and fascinating flora that showcase their beauty during Springtime. I know it’s an allergy season, but at the same time, a time of ‘Deutschland Dust ‘ season, or the pollen dust, which mainly comes from rapeseed flowers and other fragile wild flowers.

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Germany’s golden field of Rapeseed.

The first time I saw these fields were in the hilly side of Wurtzburg and from Hannover and Ostnabrück countryside.  I thought they were just normal weeds, I didn’t know their name.  Back then, I just thought they are a pretty sight! Yes, they are pretty, but they are one mighty source of ‘Biodiesel’, a very efficient and inexpensive source of energy.When combined with methanol, it yields rapeseed oil methyl ester. This is increasingly used as fuel in automobiles, although at this point, only about one to two percent of German cars are designed to run on it.

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One fine day with the Rapeseed fields..

Rapeseed, Canola flower fields are a typical Spring sight all over Germany.This plant ,or ( Brassica Napus)  is a bright yellow flowering member of the mustard or cabbage family along with 3,000 other species. “Canola” is a trademark for a hybrid variety of rape initially bred in Canada. Close relatives of this crop have been cultivated for food since the earliest recordings of man.Rapeseed, or rape, is used for vegetable oil; in fact, it’s the source of canola seeds and canola oil.

Quite interesting that most farmers plant Rapeseed after the Fall harvest, one can easily mistaken it as a simple ground covering for the cold winter months, but then , after 3-4 months, these plants turn a dull, grey fields into one scenic golden valley of golden blooms. Think about smart farming!

What do you think of German countryside?, isn’t it beautiful?

 

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Thank you for reading friends, wishing everyone a great week ahead!

 

 

Spargelzeit : White asparagus time in Germany!

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Spargelzeit ! ( White Asparagus season) ,Germany’s King of Vegetables arrives in Springtime!

Spring is totally  all over here in Germany!

Everyday, as I  look at how the pretty magnolias and enchanting pink cascades of cherry blossoms brings a pink spectacle in our surroundings, this makes me love even more Spring! Even the tulips that I planted in our garden blossoms into bright fuschia and red bulbs, beside the rows of yellow daffodils making it super ‘Gezellig‘, and undeniably a cozy, warm & festive season! And yes, time for Germans to indulge in white Spargels! When I say indulge, imagine a  consumption of whooping 125,000 tonnes per year!

It is true,that’s a whole LOT of Asparagus or locally known as Spargel!

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The “White Gold”in Germany, the White Asparagus

Just as the Apple marks the Fall season and culinary delights for baked pies, Spring time here in Germany signals the start of Spargelzeit, or the season of White Asparagus!

Have you heard anything like this before? Well for me, I only knew of Green Asparagus! I’ve read that there’s a purple variety as well but white, it never really occurred to me!  I have never seen or tasted  a white asparagus in my entire life. Not until I’ve been here in Germany. If you’re wondering what’s the difference, very simple actually;  the white variety grows entirely surrounded by earth. In turn, this protects the slender stalk from sunlight exposure and keeps it from turning green. This also affects the subtle flavor of it. Rich in nutrients and very low in calories, asparagus is a healthy and delicious food!

Remember my story about how Germans decorate their fountains with 10, 000 hand painted Easter eggs? Germans as well, prefer this seasonal white delicacy that grows only during Spargelzeit, from April to July. Now nobody can really underestimate the Germans special affection to Easter, Spring festivals and their culinary calendar in each season. Especially here in my Bavarian town,  Ostermarkt (Easter Market), Osterbrunnen (Easter fountain)  and the Frühlingsfest (Spring festival) are all big celebrations . But the special culinary specialty for Spring is no doubt the white, long, slender stems of white Spargel (asparagus) .

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My first sighting of the famous White German Asparagus ( Spargel) in our local Farmer’s market .

Germany’s  “king of vegetables” can be seen as early as middle of March but the official harvesting season of white spargel starts around April and ends until June 24. First time that I saw these white asparagus was in our local farmer’s market and since then, I saw these bunches more often as well in various supermarkets. Though prices might soar up high during the season, and many will sprout as cheap ones, they say that it’s still best to get the best grade asparagus since as for the Germans, it is always worth paying more for the ‘white gold’.

So how does the White Spargel taste?

White asparagus is much softer in texture and stringier than the green asparagus.It has more subtle and delicate flavour. It is traditionally served with melted butter and potatoes (Spargel mit Butter), with ham (Spargel mit Schinken) or with hollandaise sauce (Spargel mit holländischer Sauce).

I’ve found out more interesting facts about the White Spargel :

  1. It takes 3 (Three) long years for an asparagus plant to produce its first tip.The soil is piled up in knee-high banks making its unique appearance.
  2. The states of Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony take special pride in being prime asparagus growing regions in Germany.
  3. Just like beer festival, there is also a “Spargelfest” ( Spargel festival)  held where culinary experts showcase their fresh spargel dishes,peeling contest and even celebrating with the Asparagus Queen!
  4. There is an Asparagus Museum in Herten, North Rhein Westphalia, in Germany.The Vestisches Spargelmuseum is dedicated to this spring delight, owned by Ludger Südfeld.  The exhibit display trace the entire cultivation process of this vegetable.
  5. According to the records from 2012 released by Federal Ministry of Agriculture recently, asparagus uses a fifth of the entire open land area for vegetables in Germany, making it the vegetable with the largest cultivation area in the country.
  6. The city of Schwetzingen claims to be the Asparagus capital of the World!
  7. During Spargelzeit, the average German enjoys the delicate flavor of this tender spring vegetable at least once a day. This, in turn, adds up to a national total of over 70,000 tons per year!

 

Yes, would you believe that in this country known for its ordnungs, there is also Asparagus quality !

Asparagus Quality

Germany has divided asparagus into strict quality classes, comparable to USDA Grade A, Choice, etc. The classes of “Spargel” are:

Extra – Minimum diameter of 12 mm (15/32 inch), no hollow cores, perfectly straight and all white. Most expensive.

Handelsklasse I (HK I) – Minimum diameter of 10 mm (3/8 inch), light bending, light coloration (violet). Good value.

Handelsklasse II (HK II) – Minimum diameter of 8 mm (5/16 inch), curved stalks allowed, slightly opened flower heads, more color than HK I and sometimes woody. Good for soup stock and students.

 

Any thoughts on this post? Have you ever tried eating white Asparagus?Also, do you think eating Asparagus makes your urine smell?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!

 

 

 

 

Cherry Blossoms magic in Bavaria

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Fluffy, sensitive blossoms for tender beginnings…

The Cherry blossoms turning the Neues Schloss into a  magical fairy tale land!

I don’t need to travel to Bonn, to the world-renowned Heerstraße street or to other scenic parts here in Europe to see the Cherry Blossom spectacle, because right here in my old little town in Bavaria, our streets are flooded as well with these gorgeous pink blossoms . It’s been a while now that these flowers are  dazzling us everyday.  I realized why people say that seeing these pink lovelies during early days of Spring is one of the things you should do before you die— it is simply gorgeous! I know I am not the only one who is crazy enough to snap  photos of these flowers, and why not, they are irresistible to not capture. They are the popular photo motif at the moment. See feeds in Facebook and Instagram and you know what I mean. I do believe in seeing the beauty of the moment before it vanishes.

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Cherry Blossoms in Bavaria

Well, remember the long dark, grey winter days where all the trees are bald, leafless, and barren, now Spring is bringing back everything to life! Just like the other wild spring flowers, Cherry blossoms brings such a happy spirit, lifting our souls to enjoy the outdoors and the sunshine once again. Isn’t it  amazing how our moods  changes, when we see a change in our surroundings?

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Cherry Blossoms in Bavaria

Just like the charming yellow Daffodils, Cherry Blossoms are such an enigma to behold during Springtime! I found more about this flower when I did a bit of reading and now I understand that aside from touristic reasons, Japan’s  Sakura is such a magnet for tourists.

Hanami is the Japanese tradition to admire the blossoming of flowers in spring, especially the delicate cherry blossoms. It dates back to the Heian period. The term, however, refer to the cherry blossoms (sakura), symbol of the Japanese culture. The true meaning of this tradition is not observing flowers blooming passively, but rather in living the journey of these beautiful flowers coming off the trees by the spring breeze. Cherry blossoms are not only symbols of rebirth and wealth, but also of the samurai’s qualities: loyalty, honesty and courage. Hanami is also an opportunity to meet friends, planning parties, picnics and karaoke sitting under the cherry blossoms trees. It is amazing admiring a rain-scented flowers, just like what the Dutch’s thing for Gezelligheid!

Did you know that Cherry blossoms are very sensitive flowers? The first flowers emerge slowly under the protection of the old branches. They do not like rain at all, and frosty night temperatures can easily harm the flowers as well. Since the weather here in Bavaria has been cooler than usual, we even had rains & hail today, I already see that some blossoms are down in the streets.

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Cherry Blossoms in Bavaria

Picturesque pink magic …

Here in our neighborhood alone, rows of pink and white cherry blossom  trees gives us a happy vibes whenever we walk and cycle.Fortunately the trees here are tall and have been pruned so high that no one can reach the blossoming cherry branches. Otherwise the precious trees would probably be looted by souvenir hunters, myself included!  I was even tempted to cut a branch! At this safe height, the fluffy pink flowers swing in the warm spring breeze.

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Capture the beauty while you still can…

 

Remember that the cherry blossoms only lasts for a short time, around 10 days, so if you have the chance, make the most of them whilst you can!

 

What do you love about Spring in your area? Do you also love Cherry Blossoms as I do?

 

 

Osterbrunnen in Ingolstadt

 

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“Impressive work found in Ostermarkt where around 10,000 handpainted eggs adorn the King Ludwig fountain  for this year’s Osterbrunnen. “

In our neighborhood alone,the sight of pink, white and eager cherry blossom trees (or  Kirschbaum ) are now blossoming with beautiful pink and white flowers, signaling the spring days ahead. The sight of the white Spargels ( white Asparagus)  in the wet market this morning assures me that beautiful days of Spring ( Frühling) here in Germany have indeed arrived! The past days the temperatures soars high,a good 10-15 degrees, sunny and bright, and I can’t believe that we can finally stroll outside without our bulky jackets. Weather is perfect, every where I see, I see growth of greens from the trees and yes, a time to celebrate Easter soon.

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Here in Ingolstadt, Easter vibes  is so alive and arrives right on the 1st day of April,in the Osterbrunnen fest right along the Paradeplatz in the old town.The event started with a parade of music, opening speech from our city mayor, Christian Lösel, and the tapping of the beer keg or O’zapft is! If you want a free mug of beer, all you have to do is be there!

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The Ostermarkt will run from 1st of April until 17th 2017 from 10.00 ~19.00 Uhr. Around the Paradeplatz, there are food stalls which serves the local delicacies, a Karussel (Carousel) for children, and quaint shops selling Easter goods.My daughter was too excited to see the carousel but always afraid to ride it!

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Tell you frankly, Easter here in Germany is a big thing since aside from its religious significance, it also signal the arrival of Spring, the season of renewal. About 3 weeks ago, the shops were packed with all the decorations and different types of  decorations for Easter such as eggs, Easter bunny ( Osternhase) and so much more. I have never seen such frenzy as these in the Philippines! There are Easter Chocolate eggs as big as a basketball! Today I got 6 pieces of Easter eggs given away during the opening ceremony and we are literally walking in a red-carpet cobbled streets of Ludwigstrasse. There are so many freebies along the street, I even had a glass of white wine! There are face painting for kids and there is such a happy ‘vibe”, even the Biergartens are in full swing once again! Ingolstadt is a small city and yet with so many festivals to celebrate, you can never get boring.

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Since April 15, 2000, the first Ostermarkt was inaugurated by Mayor Hans Amler and was solemnized by Moritzpfarrer Leo Pöll and since then, this event has become one of the highlights of Spring.

Right in the middle of Paradeplatz in front of the Neues Schloss stands the decorated fountain, with the monument of the mighty King Ludwig of Bavaria. During the first festival, around 3,000 ( three thousand)  painted easter eggs in white and blue colors ( Grösster weiss/blauer Osterbrunnen Bayerns) adorns the fountain, but each year they are increasing in number. The whole fountain is filled with spring flowers and Easter decorations arranged in a  steel crown like specially made by trainees of Audi AG.Now, around 10, 000 hand painted Easter eggs are on display for everyone to see. Such a lovely sight and a heritage that Ingolstädter are all proud of.

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To decorate the fountain, it requires 500 hours to do the creative work of painting the eggs and arranging the steel crown and finally set up the fountain.Looking at all the eggs, it is intricately painted and crafted.Imagine 10,000 pieces!

What an impressive work and creativity!

 

Have you ever seen a fountain decorated with thousands of Easter eggs? How is Easter celebrated in your area?

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first Vineyard walk, a taste of Moselsteig!

 

There is something medieval, in the best sense, about these vineyards. The sheer work invested in them over generations, the effort of planting, tending and harvesting vines, each attached to a stake, all by hand, on 60-degree slopes, beggars belief; but the effect is of a communal work of art, a glowing tapestry of vines.” -The Telegraph

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Steep , picturesque view from the vineyards in Bernkastel-Kues, Germany

My Unforgetable Vineyard walk— My first taste of Europe’s Leading Quality trail, the  Moselsteig (or long-distance trail ),the finest Riesling wine,and the sparkling winding beauty of the Mosel river, Weinfest ( wine fest) all came by surprise! The Mosel Valley, a gorge the river carved between the Hunsrück and Eifel hills, and the valleys of its tributaries, the Saar and Ruwer rivers offers a beautiful hiking trail for all ages.

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Up close and personal with Riesling grapes.

Germany has nearly 240,000 acres of vineyards. About 88 percent of this area is planted in white and 12 percent in the red grape variety. You won’t believe it,  but there are also vineyards in Philippines, like the Gapuz grape farm in Bauang, La Union, but for me, the sight of vineyards is totally unknown. I have never seen one until I came to Europe. Before, I’ve only seen it from the movies and from books, let alone seeing a local winery ( or Weingut) , and tasting the wine of course.

Roaming around the nearby towns made my thoughts and my eyes  wandering constantly. I see grape vines everywhere, the steep vineyards seen along the road ( Wine road) have the names of the owner or ‘Weingut‘ .Grapes vines even right at the doorsteps of every house, creeping through their walls and fences, and decorating their garden. A distinctive product of this region is wine from the Riesling vine.If you visit a wine region like this, it is impossible not to learn anything about the wine industry.The grapes of the Riesling vine stock are small and contain a large number of seeds. They need a longer time to ripen, are harvested in late October, November and even December, and don’t produce as much juice as other types of grapes.

An excerpt from Wines of Germany :

Mosel’s Vineyard area (2003): 9,533 ha / 23,555 acres · 6 districts · 19 collective vineyard sites · 500+ individual sites

Grape varieties [white 91.7% · red 8.3%] (2003): Riesling (56.8%), Müller-Thurgau (16.1%), Elbling (7.2%) an ancient variety cultivated by the Romans and because of its pronounced acidity, often used as a base wine for Sekt, Germany’s sparkling wine as well as Kerner, Bacchus and Spätburgunder.

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Grapevine crawling in the walls of the restaurant in Monzel

A Roman poet described the Mosel as “bigger than the Nile… nobler than the Tiber 

If I could freeze moments from this trip, it would be up there in the hills covered with greens, lots of green vineyards of grapes. Watching the river makes a winding turn and admiring caste ruins nearby, I felt like I’m in a dream.I was admiring the view at the same time carrying my sleeping daughter. Pity she missed this view, I am sure she will be so busy pinching the globes of grapes hanging so plump and eager for the sunshine.

From our starting point in Monzel, we walked through  the banks of Mosel river in front of the Weingut Schloss Lieser and watch the ships go by. On a grey cloudy day, Mosel is still beautiful and the view of the steep vineyards  covered in light fog makes it even more enchanting.

What is distinct when you visit this place is that the river banks rise so sharply that the vineyards carpeting these slopes are among the steepest in the world, with some planted at an astounding 70-degree gradient. On these precipitous inclines, nearly all labor must be done by hand. That includes tying each vine to its own eight-foot wooden stake, and carrying up the slate soil that has washed down with the winter rains.

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Admiring the ‘ ‘Gold’ of Mosel valley

We reached Traben-Trarbach, which was overlooked by the ruins of Grevenburg Castle, and was once the second largest wine-trading town in Europe after Bordeaux, and this legacy can still be seen, not least in the labyrinthine network of wine cellars beneath the streets, which you can explore. We decided to walk through the town and  cross the bridge, admiring the architecture around town and  its Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) which dates  from the late-nineteenth century, and the imposing castellated towers of the Brückentor, the bridge that links Traben with Trarbach.

 

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Hiking through the vineyards, from one to another is an adventure – add the fact that so many ruined castles on almost every river bend makes the hike so picturesque.I was not prepared to see the expanse of beauty in the Mosel valley, let alone fall in love with the Riesling wine. I guess that If you have tasted something so good, you would always compare its taste to other types.I am not a wine drinker, but a sip of Riesling white whine is always a treat.

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The vineyards are named after their winery owner

Riesling wine is delicious, they are also relatively low in alcohol.With levels often as low as 8%, you can have Riesling in the midday lunch and it doesn’t have unduly impact on a scenic afternoon walk.Whether trocken (dry), feinherb (medium-sweet) or süß (sweet), they were all chilled and fruity.After our day trips, we sit down in the balcony for an enjoyable treat- a sip of glass of wine!

To cap our Vineyard hiking adventures, we are rewarded with this view. Now who am I to complain?

 

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Not to be missed when you are in Mosel- the Burg Eltz. is located just up the river valley from the Mosel river  and home for the legendary Eisenköpfe (Iron Head) knights and is one of the best example of a medieval castle in Europe.Every stone in this castle is original.

Even with a baby worn around me, I was able to climb the steep vineyards, discovered castle ruins, and yes, found a fairy tale castle along the way!

 

Any thoughts ? If you enjoyed this post, and you  like river views , check out why the River Danube is the most photographed river here in Bavaria, plus, you will always be rewarded with a stunning view of the Neues Schloss as well.

Also, if you are in Instagram, make sure to follow JustbluedutchArt to see some of my personal artwork!

 

 

 

First signs of Spring ( Frühling) in Bavaria

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Wildflowers in bloom  in Neues Schloss : Early signs of Spring { Photo credit to Sabine Hartmann

A week ago, we tossed our heavy winter jackets and opt for our light jackets and surprisingly,  we managed to enjoy outdoors sans our gloves and bonnets but only when the sun is out. Last weekend, my daughter was back in the saddle and enjoyed cycling once again. After the Karneval season, it seems like the temperatures started to creep high, at least now it’s not negative and no more Glatteis. We’ve had one to two days in a row of lovely sunny days, but often times it’s  still grey and cloudy. The sharp winds brought chills and rains visits us occasionally and you know how it feels when it’s cold and raining at the same time–It sucks!  Weather can be so unpredictable as ever! The snow has  finally melted and the frozen lakes were back to its current again. Despite the obvious signs of spring, winter is still all over here in Germany, especially here in Bavaria.

Although the true arrival of spring in the northern hemisphere does not happen until the spring equinox on March 20, there are signs of the end of winter and the arrival of warmer weather. If you’ve been out, I am sure you wouldn’t miss it.

And yes, our winter gears needs to stay a bit longer more…

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Pussy willows ( Palmkätzchen) ,usherettes of Spring and  the first bush to blossom.

These ‘Pussy willows‘ are all over the place and they are sold everywhere. The best ones are in  the weekend markets. They are perfect home decoration for the coming Easter celebrations. Every Bavarian household makes an ‘Osternbaum‘made of  twigs from ‘Palmkätzchen‘ with plastic Easter eggs hanging on them. I saw these wild  bulbs on our way to the park  last sunday and I couldn’t resist but to take a close up shot!

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These lavender lovelies gives such a happy vibes to the brownish almost barren gardens.

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And look what I’ve met the other day, a gorgeous snowdrop among  bunches of dried leaves in the garden! I am looking forward to find a field of these little beauties. It is so refreshing to see them after the long cold winter days and their color totally remind me of the Winter wonderland in Austria !

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Fresh lilac Crocuses

So many wildflowers are sprouting and starting to bloom. The lilac Crocuses are little wonders, small as they can be. But for the bees, they are the source of inspiration for the coming warmer days.The other day, I saw my daughter playing with a ladybird (Marienkäfer) in the garden and a wasp is hovering over her.

Wilkommen wasps! (or  Bees ) your season will soon be  here!

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Oh wow! Sprouting Daffodils  in our garden!
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Bird houses in every tree!

If taking a hike in the middle of the  woods is your thing just like me, you will be rewarded with an amazing orchestra of the singing birds. A sure sign that feathered animals are coming back and start to nest once again. Bird houses are a common sight as well, even from the porches and balconies of apartments. Also, Wildlife watching is one of the prettiest sights  I have seen nowadays. It’s my first time to see real black swans here, crazily fighting over the breads we tossed, they are prettier than from the ones I saw in movies or internet. Wild birds are in frenzy manic chirping, perhaps they rejoice since they can easily find food nowadays .

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Bright sun shining day !

Daylight saving time  (DST) will soon be back (March 26)  and Huuuuurrayyyyy that the sun is up until 6pm now.Here in Germany, when its bright and sunny like the photo I took last Saturday, everyone is out, walking, cycling, running and exploring like crazy! Germans go out in herds! I see people in scarf and eating ice cream and I have the same cravings as well.

Do you know how Germans look forward and getting ready for Spring?

They are up early, clad in boots and gardening gloves with a rake, cleaning up their gardens and mowing their precious  lawns, and on Saturdays, they all rush to Dehner to grab new planters and seedlings! Yes, it’s true, my neighbor just did this.

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While waiting for Spring : Enjoying a Leberkäse sandwich with some sunshine 

With all these early signs of Spring, who wouldn’t be excited?

I can’t wait for my first German winter to be over and to start shedding all these winter clothing in layers one by one. Unfortunately, most trees are still bare and leaf-less, beer gardens are still not in sight and yes, Brrr,  it is still cold outside!

What about you, what’s your favorite sign for Spring?

 

 

 

Fasching and Kinderball

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My daughter in her first experience of Kinderball 

Did you know that Germany has a version of Mardi Gras?

It’s called Fasching, Karneval, or Fastnacht  which all refer to the pre-Lent season, locally known as Faschingzeit and also referred to as the Fifth Season, mostly in German-speaking countries.  These celebrations date back hundreds of years, rooted in both Catholic and early Germanic traditions.

I notice this from mid- January, when all shops changed their displays from Christmas theme  into a wide, colorful arrays of costumes for young and old, masks, and various kinds of dress-up materials. And no– this is not Halloween.

Although there are carnival observances all across Bavaria, it should be noted that Fasching customs vary from place to place. Franconia (northern Bavaria) is where most of the action happens, but the capital city of Munich (München) has one of the largest Fasching fests in Bavaria – although the Sunday Fasching parade in Würzburg is Bavaria’s biggest. After the crowning of the Fasching prince and princess (das Faschingsprinzenpaar) in mid-January, everyone prepares for the start of carnival in the week before Ash Wednesday.

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Faschingzeit in Germany

Here, Fasching is not that big compared to the ones in the neighboring regions. Most clubs have a Fasching party but I don’t know how does it looked like since I have never been into one. We don’t have those big parades and street party. But they have this big event for the Little ones, where kids and the kids at heart enjoy the festive and cozy dress-up celebration. Kinderball is an event organized by Narrwalla, where kids and their parents are all dressed up in all different costumes. Most of them also have a Fasching event in their Kita and Kindergartens.

 

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Kinderball 2017

If you’re a parent, this kind of event is something that you would want to bring your child to enjoy hours of concert, singing, dancing, entertainment, and socializing. The kids jumped happily and more, interested to see the tricks played by the clowns, the light show, and of course there’s the Fasching songs that makes it so exciting. My Little Pumpkin surely loved this event.

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My Little Pumpkin 

The locals dressed up seriously and it’s obvious that they really enjoy it. Fortunately, it falls on Sunday so most families are there. I originally planned to dress up my daughter in a princess but she keeps on eating the sleeves so I decided to changed it into a Pumpkin where she personally choose. There was a service from the restaurant so Fasching food and drinks flooded the tables.There were cold cuts, sandwiches, different cakes, ice cream, potatoes, sausages and much more.

There’s a nice gallery posted online about this event. You can check it out Here.

What is your favorite costume to dress-up?