A very Bavarian Easter

A very Bavarian Easter

Let me share with you how Easter looks like in my little old town, which I particularly branded as very “Bavarian easter“.I grew up in a very different environment as people observed Holy week here.But then as an Expat I have learned to love this LOVELY tradition here in Germany.One thing, here I observed that it´s not a religious event, mogre like a feast. It´s also a big celebration, just like Christmas sans the snow and it´s mostly enjoyed within families. The best part is that we can finally sit outside and enjoy some warm weather. This week, we had spring T-shirt weather,we have 10-21 degrees! On the other hand , sadly, just like last year though, we are still in Lockdown. Travelling is not actually required because of Corona restrictions, but finally it´s Spring.

Anyway, here, three weeks before Easter, shops are already full of Easter things, that includes colorful easter egg chocolates and Easter Bunnies. The designs are limitless, everything is colorful. When it comes to chocolates, Germany has it all.Top chocolate makers like Kinder, Lindt, Milka and Cadbury are always the top choices for children. When it comes to Easter Bunny chocolate, the bigger, the better.I am not so fond of this but I have a kid so we get some for her as well.
Egg hunting is an old tradition for German speaking countries (same as in the Netherlands) where painted colorful eggs are hidden in the bushes or in between plants, or almost in every nook for children ( and adults!) to seek and find.Easter decorations adorn each houses with painted eggs hanging around, baskets with colored eggs and early spring flowers.


Actually , there´s nothing much special in it compared to other countries when it comes to celebrating Easter, but then there´s something about our blue and white themed Egg Art work here in Bavaria.
Does it look familiar?

It resembled closely to Dutch´s Delft paintwork, using only two shades, blue and white .It´s a local heritage here where creative ladies handpainted all these eggs all year round.Imagine the time they consume blowing and drying all these eggs then afterwards painting.These two colors are the prime Bavarian colors which is also seen in Bavarian state Flag.

Handpainted blue and white Easter Eggs adorned the Fountain in the city
Every egg is unique and painted with different designs.What makes it more laborious is that it needs to be hanged together in a steel rod to join them together.Each piece is a masterpiece and the ladies put on so much effort in binding all of them.I´ve heard that it can count up to 10,000 pieces of eggs as of 2019.Those are indeed lots of eggs.

The eggs are binded with green garlands and decorated with little flowers so it can be hanged in the fountain.It´s another long time tradition here to put up an Easter Fountain or Osterbrunnen.Normally we have Easter Market, where people can sit and enjoy the festivities and listen to folk Bavarian music.There are small craft shops, Beergardens, play areas,face paintings, games and programmes, but then now everything was cancelled because of Corona virus.

A very Bavarian Easter celebration

Then there´s the osternbaum, or the tree with painted eggs.Handpainted or plastic eggs are hanged on foliage, trees and bushes are an example of this old tradition.It´s not only in Christmas where Germans decorate their trees, it happens that it´s quite the same in Easter as well. I , myself did this as well in our garden.My daughter brought home some Easter creative art projects, which she eventually displays at home.

Why do I love our Bavarian Easter, probably because it´s unique, cozy, Gemütlich and festive; and anyway, who doesn´t love chocolates?

Do you celebrate Easter?

Happy Easter, or in German we say it best with ” Frohe Ostern!”

tschüss.

Yellow and Crooked Wednesdays

Sunset beneath our yellow Forsythia

There is something about the yellow color that inspires me nowadays. It´s Springtime and outside is slowly becoming colorful again. Yellow has been the number one color for me during early days of Spring. I know that warm days are coming as soon as I see a buds coming out from the ground in our garden.
It signals growth, new beginning, and yes…a fresh start and during this time of Corona virus pandemic—Hope!

The Pandemic crisis have absolutely changed the way we are observing the Holy week and Easter here in Germany. For the record, there is still a strong measure forbidding any meeting more than 2 people and churches are still closed. The yearly Östernbrünnen and Östermarkt were also cancelled . I am still fond of my childhood experiences and how we celebrate the Lenten season way back in the Philippines compared here in Germany. By the way, I chose the color yellow for flowers as a subject of this post together with Ash Wednesday ( also known as Spy Wednesday and Crooked Wednesday) as a deviation of the subject of Corona pandemic. Yellow is such a beautiful color during this time and it really signifies Spring! Finally, winter is done and we can tidy up our winter stuff! I was sitting in the garden today and staring at our Forsythia bush which is gleaming yellow under the 24 degrees sunny day. I looked in the date and its Ash Wednesday.

What´s the significance of this day anyway?

The major highlight of this day is when Judas Iscariot hand over Jesus Christ to the authorities. In other words, the day of betrayal of a follower from his Master.Judas received 30 pieces of silver coins in exchange of this.

Ash Wednesday ( Ashenmittwoch) I was born and raised as a Catholic so for me, aside from Christmas season, Holy week is one of the holidays we are keen to celebrate. I remember that during Holy week, we always have fond memories as a family.As a kid, Holy week means vacation. Summer vacation normally starts around April and graduations in schools. When I came here in Germany, I have never seen the same and sometimes, I really wonder why. I never saw people having palm branches during Palm Sundays, nor people wearing ash during a mass in Churches, neither any procession during Good Friday. People seldom go to church.I am not a religious person but when it comes to religion, it´s a very silent topic here although I really admire the beautiful churches here.Last Christmas, I attended a Dutch mass in the Netherlands and I was really surprised that the kneeling section of the chairs have soft foam cushions!

Here in Germany, especially here in Bavaria, the only thing that shows that its Easter here is the Easter eggs and egg hunting for kids. The different varieties of chocolate eggs, Östermarkt ( Easter Market), Österhase ( Easter Bunny, where it should be a Hare).I don´t know with the other regions if they have such celebrations but as far as I know, I never heard of it.

The Golden yellow Fields in Bavaria

With Corona virus and social distancing, these things are not possible. Crooked Wednesday is an ordinary day for some.Today was quite a beautiful day here and I observed the influx of people outside. Early morning today we walked through the nearby bakery and I saw that people are going out like a normal day. Cycling and on their skates, looks like everything is back to normal. Families taking a walk, with small children and having a chat with their neighbours. No masks, no hesitation.

I noticed how a great sunny weather changes suddenly the mood of the people.

Stay safe everyone!

One fine day in Utrecht

Livin’the Dutch Life

Last Easter we had the chance once again to visit the Netherlands !It’s been two years in a row now that we’ve spent our Easter break in our second home in Europe, the bike capital of the world, the place where Tulips are goddess of beauty and pancakes are eaten for dinner! See, I always look forward going to Holland in Springtime for so many reasons. One, I’m still over the moon by the colors of Spring which I can only see in the Netherlands. Last year we have visited the Keukenhof in Lisse and I must say it again that it is really the most beautiful Spring garden in the world! If you won’t agree with me then you must see it by your own eyes to believe. Actually, we went to Holland right after we visited Berlin which is just 4 hours away by train on a direct Intercity train. I am glad that we made the right choice for this place because it turned out to be an amazing place add to the fact that we are having a wonderful spring weather in the spring capital of Europe!

Looking down on Manholes in Utrecht, Netherlands

We arrived in Utrecht at around 11 a.m . First thing I did was to look down for some manholes to ponder. I didn’t see much but I found some. Most of the shops are already open from 10 a.m on Maundy Thursday. Utrecht is the 4th largest city in the Netherlands, located 50 km southeast of Amsterdam and only takes about half an hour by train. Netherlands has a great train network so Utrecht is easily accessible from Schiphol central station. Trains runs very frequently so the ride is really quick.What I find unique in the Netherlands is their scanning gate system in the train station which is really impressive and have better control of the passengers.

One fine day in Utrecht, Netherlands
Dutch gable houses: Every angle is different wherever you look

Feels like Amsterdam

For me, Utrecht is a mini version of Amsterdam, less chaotic, trendy but less crazy, but can also be full of frantic crowds, and also very touristy. It’s a great family get-away because it has everything for young and old. The crowds can be so diversed and multi-cultural. Along the canal areas I saw rows of coffee shops and you know that they don’t sell the ordinary Cappucino or Latte! Looking very “Dutch” is Oudegracht’s full of “Fiets” or bicycles. Only in Holland you can see this bicycle fever (ever!). Netherlands is really the country of bicycles. In Germany, people also cycle a lot but I’ve never seen the same amount of bicycles than in Holland! Of course, with the unique “Gezellig ” flair of the two major canals that runs through the city center, the Oudegracht and Nieuwegracht, a daytrip in Utrecht is a great escape from big cities like Amsterdam or Rotterdam. It’s Easter break so the whole canal area was full of people, relaxing,chilling, and basking in the sun.There was so much activity going on around. Never a dull moment and time really flies so fast. But be warned though, if you’ve never been to the Netherlands,brave yourself when cycling and watch out for other cyclists! Aside from the fact that the roads are smaller, most streets in the city center is one-way.

Traditional Dutch gable houses along the canals of Utrecht


Canals of Utrecht

I am really looking forward to spend time exploring the canals of Utrecht. While walking, I was taken back to the time when we are in Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht and the Red light District areas. With the long rows of cafes, shops, boutiques and restaurants along the canals, visitors can have a nice walk. Time flies so fast and it’s really cozy strolling around. This is a feature that is unique for the city of Utrecht. Utrecht is a small city and compact so exploring it doesn’t take that long and walking is the best way to explore it so make sure that you wear comfortable shoes. But because we had a toddler with us, we took our time going with her phase. I just realized that my daughter walked as much as we did even from our days in Berlin. The stone boulders and poles became her jump poles and playground. My daughter was fascinated by the ducks along the canal banks and she wanted to feed them with coins!

Utrecht, Netherlands
Bikes and even more bikes
Oudegracht on a fine Spring sunny afternoon

It is never boring to walk along Oudegracht with rows of houses because everywhere I look is so pretty! I took so many photos because every angle is just different, and as usual, they are never aligned!

Wandering along the canals of Utrecht

Domtoren ( or Dom Tower)

As soon as we exited the mall, ( I totally forgot its name..) which was adjacent to the the Utrecht central station we follow the crowds leading further to the canal area which directly led as to the iconic Domtoren (or Dom Tower).Built of design by John of Hainaut and is the tallest church tower (112.5 meters) in the Netherlands. It was completed in 1382 and the tallest belfry in the country. I’ve heard about this church before but seeing it for real is really great.The exterior of the church tower is heavily renovated from the time of our visit but still on operations so its still accessible for visitors. I’ve heard that renovations are expected to be completed by 2022.

Domkerk, Utrecht’s landmark

The Tower contains 14 bells that weigh 32 tons and what makes it unique is that its still rung by a group of dedicated ringers or the Utrecht Klokkenluiders Gilde. There are two chapels in the tower; the Egmond chapel and the St. Michael’s chapel. Take note that you can only visit the Dom on a one hour tour. If you are in a hurry, you can still enjoy its exterior facade.

Eye- catching statues in Utrecht
Lush labyrinth garden in Domkerk

Website : http://www.domkerk.nl/

Welcome to Miffy Museum !

Nijntje Museum ( or Miffy Museum) and Centraal Museum

Actually, the main reasons why we visited Utrecht is to see the Nijntje Museum ( or Miffy Museum) .I’ve been longing to see this museum for a long time because of my four year old daughter.She had a blast in Berlin in the Legoland Discovery Center, going crazy over lego and the indoor playground, but inside Miffy Museum she had a total world of fun and interactive learning. Miffy Museum is the pride of the Netherlands in memory of its creator Dick Bruna. Seeing the museum, I can say that this place is definitely true to his words–” I create a world that children fill with their own imagination”. For once, I think the Netherlands has the most wonderful museum for young children and adults.

Adjacent to Miffy Museum is the Centraal Museum which houses the great works of local artists such as Joachim Wtewael and Gerard Van Honthorst. Another interesting feature is the “Utrecht ship” located in the cellar of the museum.It’s located in front of Miffy museum. There was a cozy Cafe in the corner of the Museum which you can enjoy a quick bite and enjoy the beautiful gardens.The souvenir shop can be found in the main entrance of the Museum.

Website : https://nijntjemuseum.nl

St. Martin’s Cathedral (Domkerk)

We walked a bit further and we discovered the beautiful Labyrinth gardens in St.Martin’s Cathedral (Domkerk) .St.Martin’s cathedral is the main cathedral in Utrecht and once connected to the Dom Tower but due to the collapse of its nave from the Tornado in 1674, the two building have been separated.This church was once the largest church in the Netherlands.What remains of the interior is still of high quality and extremely ornate with many vaulted arches and colorful stained glass windows. This is the lone church in the Netherlands that has a close resemblance to the style of the Gothic architecture.The building has a sole 367 ft tower named Dom tower which is Utrecht’s landmark. I was rather surprised to see the serene green surroundings inside the square of the cathedral. It has a fountain in the middle and the naves creates a remarkable shadow from the afternoon sun that creates a very relaxing atmosphere. Unlike the other Dom that we’ve visited, the garden has no graves, only a Labyrinth that my daughter loves.

Nice wall art found in the streets of Utrecht

As we are getting tired from walking around 2 o’clock afternoon, we decided to look for a place to sit down and have a drink. We followed the train back to the canal areas and wander through the narrow streets. The crowds are still on frenzy and there were now street musicians playing along the canals. Super ” Gezellig “!

I don’t know its name but it looks yummy!

Grabbing an ice cream, we sat by the benches facing the canal and just enjoyed the view, languishing on the coziness of Dutch life. People of different skin enjoying every single moment of leisure and I know, I am not the only one who became a storyteller after visiting this wonderful little city in the Netherlands.

Indeed, it was one fine day in Utrecht.

Pussy willow home decor

img_6728

Twigs with bulbs with fur-like an animal- Wow!

A typical Bavarian home decoration during early days of Spring up to Easter is a bunch of pussy willow branches decorated with painted plastic eggs hanging on them. But it can also be a great home decor to create a “Spring-y“ambiance. The name of pussy willow in German-Palmkätzchen  translates as “palm kittens” or “willow kittens.” Same thing. Since they don’t have many palm trees in Germany, so they use pussy willow for Easter decorations.

img_6719

These delightful branches of pussy willow were sold at the local ‘Wochenmarkt ‘ ( wet market)  we visited  this morning. I don’t wanna go home without grabbing some because I really adore these branches at first sight. I didn’t even know what it’s called so we just asked the woman who’s selling these twigs. It’s Palmkätzchen, she said. My husband called them sticks but for me they are so much more. I mean, they really look nice, in a very unique way. Most important thing, here in Bavaria, they are a real sign of spring! Most locals I have seen today are carrying a bunch in their hands, from out and about and even while cycling way home.

The silk-like buds that cover the branches appeal to the Chinese apparently, who use them as a major display at Chinese New Year.  In Northern and Eastern Europe and in America they are often used as a replacement for palm leaves (a practical issue rather than aesthetic, I think – palms don’t grow naturally that far north) on Palm Sunday.But in Philippines, we grew up using palm leaves during Palm Sunday.The blessed wreaths are placed in doors, believing that the household will be protected from tribulations, or natural disaster like lightning strike.

img_6724

The pussy willow is the first bush that blooms after the harsh winter. No wonder it is a prominent Easter symbol because out of its dry twig, bursts a beautiful flower of life.It has many uses beyond decoration and spanking.  Willow branches have long been used for weaving baskets and furniture, and even coffins.  The ancient Egyptians as well as back in the eighteenth century, and Oxfordshire man used ground willow bark to cure rheumatic pain and this eventually led to the development of aspirin. A more recent use is in biomass burning to generate electricity, for example at the Drax power station in Yorkshire.

img_6723

Easter is a big thing here in Germany and Germans take the egg-decorations seriously. The shops are flooded now with so many Easter decorations, especially the painted plastic eggs, easter bunnies and other mementos.The busyness of having an Ósternbaum (or  Easter Tree) is also one of the traditions which every household look forward. I guess every house also have a vase of these pussy willows.

If you are into decorating your living room, or you want to create a centerpiece for the coming Easter, you can try Pussy willows for an ideal minimalist home decor.Put it in a white transparent vase without water and allow them to dry. If you got them shipped, simply remove them from packaging and allow them to start drying.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend and all is well.

Thank you for reading my friends. Stay tuned for more local sightings stories. Oh by the way, did you know that here in Germany, the egg box which normally comes in 12 pieces only comes in 10? Dunno why but I only found out today…

What surprising things you have learned lately?Any thoughts?