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!

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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.

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Frostbite and Silvester

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Frozen Beauty in Winter

One more day and its finally Silvester ! We are on the last stretch of 2018 and soon a brand new year comes. Silvester happens on December 31st,  the last day of the year and day before New Year. This day is observed and widely celebrated here in Germany. I don’t know why but whenever I think of Silvester, I think of something sparkling, something flashy, loud and silver or gold. In real life, this day doesn’t come as flashy and loud as it seems to be. Believe me, after New Year’s eve, the streets are quiet and people are sleeping-in, most of us are staying indoors ( or if we’re not on the road) because its cold outside and nothing much is going on. It’s also the time where frost comes and covered  the decaying branches with blanket of snow and turns everything into something nice..to look at!  It’s a beautiful sight to watch but the inner side of me screams! I don’t even feel merry and bright  anymore when I think about snow and the freezing temperatures. I don’t like the cold much and everyday I am already dreaming of Spring. Can anyone relate?

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In the mood for some Outdoor ice skating

This is  gonna be our 3rd Silvester , time flies remembering our first Silvester here,  and last year while we celebrated New Year in Austria, in the mountains where we enjoyed the views of snow-capped Alps and ogling the crystals in Swarovski in Wattens.

There’s nothing new to tell about cold German Winter weather, it’s been cold, grey, cloudy and rainy almost everyday.We have minus temps but we haven’t had a white carpet of snow that we can officially called White Christmasor Winter Wonderland. This new tradition came like a surprise to me because normally, I haven’t even heard of this, it doesn’t exist in the East, especially in South East Asia.

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Frost came into town

For the past days after celebrating not only 1 but TWO— days of Christmas,  (December 25 and 26), days went lazy, slow, unhurried and just a series of eat, sleep, make a mess days for the little one. Meeting up with friends, eating and drinking on repeat and series of brunches outside and some year-end shopping spree  keep us motivated to wait for the new year.With almost 1.5 weeks of vacation, we had to think of something to do everyday, especially to entertain the little one.I personally needed this break but with a super active 4 year old  who wakes up early and play  Lego , Cashier and shopping, we can never sleep-in for so long!

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Throwback to really sparkling crystal world of Swarovski

Anyway, if you’ve missed my post about last year’s Silvester, here’s some tiny bits of info about it. The tradition of Silvester comes from a 4th century Roman saint: Pope Silvester I (before I thought it spelled Sylvester). Besides the fact that he served as pope from 314 to 335, there’s very little information in internet about Silvester, though several legends have sprung up around his name.  One, sown in a forged account called “Donation of Constantine,” claimed that he had been miraculously cured of leprosy.

The feast of St. Sylvester—that is to say, his burial ceremony—took place on December 31, 335. When the Gregorian calendar was reformed in 1582, the last day of the year was placed on December 31st, combining Silvester’s feast day with what we now call New Year’s Eve.  Despite the shared date, most German Silvester traditions actually stem from a far older pagan celebration called Rauhnächte.

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All white and frozen
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A Silvester kind of day in Germany

Here, just after Christmas, fireworks flooded supermarkets and each one has a special offers and sale! Fireworks is legal here in Germany but it is not so frequent to see large fireworks display. I suddenly remember the Guinness World Record Fireworks display in Kuwait where my neck cramped from almost an hour of unbelievable fireworks, all for the sake of Pyromania! Here on the other hand, fireworks are enjoyed in every backyard on New Year’s eve and  really just for personal satisfaction. You don’t feel like in a competition with your neighbor of who has the loudest, grandest and probably the eardrum breaking noise.Here I observed, some are not even bothered by it because the roller shutters of the windows are already down.

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It’s not too late to enjoy the remaining Plätzchen (little Christmas cookies ) while having movie-marathons!

Large fireworks display are happening mostly in  Berlin, where most of street parties for the countdown is also held, right in front of Brandenburg Tor, or in other key cities like Hamburg or Munich. What is interesting thing about Silvester here in Germany, right after the loud noises and firecrackers, people tidy up their  own mess, they don’t leave the streets swamped with fireworks litter. But definitely no people drive their cars with dangling cans and making noises! I saw in the news that there’s even a call to lessen the fireworks display in New Year’s eve to lessen the injuries caused by it and the issue of environment protection where approx. 4,500 fine dust is bound to be released in the air in welcoming 2019.

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Take your pick— Raclette, German’s favourite way to dig in during Silvester

Many restaurants also offers  many Silvester parties. If you are guilty of all the calories you’ve been gaining from all the christmas foods, then you can just opt for Silvester snacks, which is also a norm here.  Young people who party like an animal till dawn and dance the new year away. Another common  tradition for families as well is eating a la Carté “Raclette”! I love this way of dining together with  stove range or hot-grill stove in the center of the table and every one has each own pans and  the chance to “cooked”their own meal based on their choices. This reminds me as well of Korea’s Shabu-Shabu and Fondue which is also a favourite New Year’s choice.My first Raclette experience was in Netherlands this year with my Dutch family where we have  different  cut cheeses, meat cuts, chicken shawarma  slices, würsts (sausages) , champignons ( mushroom), omelette, bacon,salads, and veggies. It is super “Gezellig” (Dutch) and “Gemütlich” (German) . These are two foreign words means “coziness, homey , warm and fulfilling” of dining or eating. As much as I want to do Raclette  when I want, I just can’t because we are only 3 in the family! Raclette though applies to big families, or if you host dinner parties or brunches during holiday season!

Another common New Year threat in Silvester and New Year is Doughnuts (Krafpen) filled up with sweet marmalade or if you’ve got lucky, you have it in mustard sauce. My wish is that Krispy Creme opens up here in Ingolstadt then we are happy! Last but not the least, if it happens that you visit Germany in Silvester or during New Year, don’t panic when people greets you with these infamous yet really unique greetings:

Wir wünschen einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr”! (We wish you a happy new year.)

” Ich wünsche einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr ! “(I wish you a happy new year.)

So , how was your year so far? Are you ready to have a good slide in 2019?

What are your unique New Year traditions in your country?

Happy New Year everyone!

Until then , Tschüss!

Breakfast with Harley-Davidsons and Ferraris

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Ogling for a Ferrari

I’m not so much of a car-fanatic but there’s something I’ve discovered lately this year. I told you, my town is so small and yet so full of hidden facts that are just waiting to be discovered. And yes, not too late to share but—I found a place where you can have a thrilling one-of-a kind experience of having a breakfast with Rolls-Royce, Harley Davidson, and crazy beautiful sleek fast luxury branded sports cars like Ferrari and Lamborghini. All set in one great ambiance in the business Hotel called Classic Old Timer Hotel! Germans are crazy about their cars but here in Ingolstadt, with the giant Audi HQ set within few kilometers away , everyone is just crazy about cars.There’s no doubt that anyone who visits the old town will probably head to Audi Forum!

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Big bikes are on display!

For car enthusiasts, this is something appealing. Even if cars is not your thing, seeing the showroom from a glance is quite an experience, best of all, its free and open to the public.The showroom is actually a private collection of Mayer Classic cars and it is adjacent to the Hotel premises of Old Timer Classic hotel.

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Mayer Classic cars

Few of the worthwhile collection includes a Ferrari F488 GTB, Lamborghini Aventador, Porsche GT2 RS,F458, and so many more luxury branded cars. If you fancy anything and you’ve got the money, you can even buy it because some pieces are for sale.Unlike the Audi Forum in Ingolstadt, this collection is private and more on classic and luxury branded cars.

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Vintage Wall art 

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Located in front of the Saturn Arena, with just few meters away from the lush Klenzepark and the old town . With its premium location, it also holds  various Rock concerts, fashion shows, and other events .The hotel itself offers a conference room and most of the clients are car-related business as well.

The architecture and design are typical of Hotel standards and the concept of combining the Automobile charisma with the business hospitality of a modern hotel is something new and an absolute win. Not only this place ideal for car lovers, but also for adventure seeking and someone who loves the one above the ordinary.

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The grand showroom of Mayer Classic cars

As I’ve written before in many of my posts, Ingolstadt is a small town here in Bavaria,( approx. 80 km)  away from Munich where the Audi Headquarters is  located.Known for the ancient tales of the secret group Illuminati and the birthplace of the fictional Horror character “Frankenstein“, it offers a lot of diversity and cultural highlights that makes it worthwhile to visit. I can say that for almost 2.5 years of living here, I must say that it does not have the big city vibes like Berlin or Munich, but we feel at home here. It’s safe, clean and we feel at home!

I’ve also visited the Audi Forum  and I am totally immersed to this Automobile culture. This hotel  and the Mayer Classic cars is no exception because even the rooms are designed with car decors. Whether you’re a classic car collector or enthusiast, or simple car lover-admirer, then you should not miss this place.Some regards it only as an additional amenity. The important thing is you got the value of your stay from what you’ve paid for!

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Breakfast with a view!

Hotel guests can enjoy  their breakfast in grand buffet with a view because its free. It’s also a nice place to meet friends and enjoy coffee, or beer in  the Lobby or Reception area.The Reception area  as well shows a lot of car collectibles and vintage decors.

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Bright colorful lamps in the Reception area of the Hotel

There’s something for the stomach and there’s something also to please the eyes. Both senses are fulfilled ,visually and gastronomical. I can tell from my own experience that the breakfast experience is also commendable and worth all the cost. The buffet offers a wide range of choices, from traditional Bavarian breakfast of Kaisersmarrn and weisswursts, Brezen  to american or continental breakfast choices of  cold cuts, muesli, cheeses, salmon fillets (Lachs)  breads and assorted salads. The hot drinks includes numerous Tea variations and coffee, and fruit juices.

When was the last time you’ve experienced something unique and out of the ordinary?

Wishing you all a happy weekend and until then!

 

Tschüss!

Iconic Animals in Colors

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Buddy Bears in Berlin,Germany

Big, colorful, funny, artistic, and definitely for a worthy cause! Iconic animals in colors are animals that made an impact through Artistic exhibition. They are a sure hit and big  magnet for kids, and adults as well! Have you heard about the Cow Parade in Zurich and New York? For long time ago, Animals have been used as a symbol or an Art subject exposition and is always fascinating to ponder. Whatever the meaning, the use of animal in order to bring art into the streets for public awareness and viewing is both informative and entertaining. I’m not talking about famous icons such as Mickey mouse, Donald Duck or Peppa pig-— I am talking of something that goes more than copyright and sales. The Artist behind them had a vision and they express their own talent .Each piece is definitely unique. That is why I believe the stories behind them are really worth telling!

In our travels, I found some great examples of Artistic exhibitions with painted animals as the subject. The artistry, the cause, symbolism and the creativity itself is exemplary! Here are some of my favorites ;

Buddy Bears in Berlin

One of the fascinating conquests we’ve done from our last visit to Berlin was looking for the Buddy Bears ( or United Bears)  Don’t get me wrong, but for my daughter this is exciting. She is very keen and always on the look out for it. We’ve spent our days most of the time walking through the streets and the moment that she spotted one Buddy Bear, it always brings a smile on our face.Buddy bears are definitely becomes a majot tourist attraction in Berlin.IMG_0441 (1)

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Buddy Bears in Berlin

Bears are very unique symbol for Berlin. It is also the national figure in Berlin flag. The bear , with all its imposing figure , is a heraldic animal with a high level of public appeal . It was envisaged to capture the hearts of Berliners and their guests in various different designs. Initiated by Klaus and Eva Herlitz, with cooperation of sculptor Roman Strobl, the first Buddy Bears appeared in Berlin since 2001 and the rest was history.The project was a great success and goes global! The Buddy Bears is a collection of  fantastic artists who gave each individual bear a unique identity. The bears were visible all over Berlin, attracting thousands of delighted looks.

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My daughter is super hooked on these Buddy Bears that she needs to hug each one she sees. I don’t know exactly the exact location of each Bears in Berlin but if you pay close attention when you navigate the streets of Berlin, I am sure you’ll never miss them.

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Here’s a helpful guide if you are planning to see them all in Berlin. I highly recommend for you to try this experience.

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“We have to get to know each other better, it makes us understand one another better, trust each other more, and live together more peacefully!”

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The United Bears Exhibition travel around the world promoting “peace, international understanding and tolerance among the nations, cultures and religions around the world!

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In addition to the Classic Buddy Bears presented far beyond Berlin’s city limits, the circle of United Buddy Bears came into being in 2002. Each bear in the circle represents a country acknowledged by the United Nations. The United Buddy Bears travel around the world promoting tolerance and international understanding – always standing together hand in hand. I have never seen an actual Bear up really close in my whole life. The ones from the zoo are always hiding, or sluggish to even move and show off. But looking at these Buddy beers give me a better understanding of the many facets of this animal.Teddy bears are always loved and part of childhood, but Buddy Bears are also unforgettable.

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Tierisch-GUT !

Artistic Oversized Piggy banks in Pffafenhofen , Bavaria

Another iconic animal is the pig or Schwein .Pig is the 12th  in the 12 cycle of the Chinese zodiac sign and 2019 will be a Year of the Pig and starts in February 5, 2019. Chinese regarded pigs unfavorably while its known to be  eaters and often sleeping so it denotes laziness,clumsiness and becoming fat.On the other side, its regarded as wealth.

We all know that a piggy bank is always a good start to teach a child about saving money. Why it’s the pig and not a horse is I don’t know. In my home country where I grew up, raising pigs as a household business is very common,in fact, it’s a very stable source of livelihood. Here in Germany  pigs are normally raised in farms (Bauernhof). I had never seen pigs here, only the wild boars in the zoo but people here loves pork , in fact they adore it as they are crazy about würsts  , schnitzel, & schweinshaxe ! As a child, a sight of baby pigs for me is so fascinating, I find them so cute and their chubby form  when they wiggle their tiny tail is really amusing, but not their smell. Yes, they can be  very loud and stinky. On the other side, if you have a pig, you are bound to have an investment because pig means money!

“Sparkasse Bank  let the pigs out, now they can make a mess, A big mess in the bank!” 

 An initiative by Sparkasse Bank in Pffafenhofen, “Tierisch GUT “, they launched an Art Auction where 20 oversized Piggy banks were to be decorated and painted for a cause and a prize! Professional and amateur artists are invited to design and paint their own Piggy banks. The winner by online voting awaits a cash prize.

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Piggy banks fascination

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Piggy bank dressed in Bayerische Lederhosen

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Colorful Piggy bank in Bavaria, Germany

The concept of combining  money matters and art is a great way to make an impact and that is why these oversized piggy banks are great example of iconic animals with a cause!

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It was so nice to meet you …

Miffy and her Art Parade, Netherlands

When my daughter was born, she was gifted with lots of Miffy stuff from our  Dutch relatives. That was the first time I  was acquainted with this charming little rabbit. I never knew that it was even of Dutch origin. As my daughter grows, she had a fair share of Miffy stories, books and even saw the Miffy /Nijntje Parade in Amsterdam! That was her first close -up encounter with life-size Miffy statues displayed in Museumplein . Every dutch kid grows up with Miffy and that’s a fact.

Miffy  is called  Nijntje in Dutch  and  is a wonderful rabbit animation originating in the Netherlands.   Miffy is featured world-wide as a small female rabbit in a series of picture books drawn personally by Dutch artist Dick Bruna. The original Dutch name, “Nijntje”, is a shortening of the diminutive konijntje, “little rabbit“. She’s the inspiration behind “Hello Kitty ” and holds millions of fans around the world. Dick Bruna also created stories for characters such as Lottie, Farmer John, and Hettie Hedgehog

Unlike the Buddy Bears which was only created from 2001, Miffy was born in 1955 in Egmond aan Zee, the place where Dick Bruna drawn Miffy for the first time.Dick Bruna lives in Utrecht and that’s where the Nijntje Museum is located.

We had the chance to witness the Miffy Art Parade last 2015 in Amsterdam that honors Miffy, her creator Dick Bruna and the world-wide fans.The Miffy Art Parade  had a goal to unite, inspire and helps to create a better future in partnership with UNICEF. Madelon Bruna, the daughter of Dick Bruna is also one of the Artist who participate in this Art project. In total, there are 60 artists decorated a life-size statue of Miffy, of which 45 are on exhibition on various locations in the Netherlands and 15 are on tour in Japan.

When we went to Keukenhof last year, we got the one made by Mies van Hout. It is a reminder for us that Miffy has a special place in our home.

Have you already heard about the Blue Flock Art project?

These animals surely inspires in their own ways, their artistic impact is a way to connect us into a magical world of animation, art and useful cause.

I am bent on discovering more and more iconic animals in colors.

What about you, are you fascinated with such things? What is your favorite iconic animal ?

Tour guide : My Town in Winter

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My Town : Morning after the snow in Bavaria

Mind you, I am already looking forward for Spring but then from the last few days, I woke up once again with all the streets, houses, and trees all covered in snow . I was dreaming that Winter is finally over, reminding myself once again that to love the cold and winter is a privilege. When its winter, my  own little town is transformed into a wonderland. Well, for people who work and have enormous errands to do, the sight of snow in their doorstep is never a sign of good morning, let alone for me.

Just in time for this week’s Photo Challenge | Tour Guide, let me share with you some photos of what it looks like over here in Bavaria.

As much as I have been mesmerized by the view of my town in bright sunny day on top of the Pfeifturm, seeing it from above once again covered in snow is also a great experience.

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The Danube in Winter time

The still waters of the second longest River in Europe, the Danube ,is a sight to behold, it is like a reflecting glass. Sometimes when I looked over the bridge, I’m thinking what if the river freezes? How nice it would be to be able to walk on top of it.This panoramic sight is such a splendor to see while the seasons change its course.

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Winter mood in the woods

The  morning after a night of snow gives an outstanding stillness and silence . It is so peaceful.This is a path I always pass by almost every single day.The river is sleeping, covered in icy cold fog.

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There’s still beauty even when everything is covered in snow.

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It’s like a scene from a movie that I cannot recall anymore.

Winter is like a dream. You know that soon you need to wake up and realize that reality is just around the corner. On normal days, I don’t see anything special in this place. In Winter, it’s almost like walking into a dreamland, everything is so white. The trees and its wilted branches are quiet witnesses of the cold yet they remain peaceful,  agile  as ever when the snow embrace them once again, all over again.

This path is always frequented by morning joggers and runners, but this time, the path is deserted. I was quite early. I parked my bike a bit further to capture this serene state. It amuses me that there’s not a single footprint or dog footprints yet.

Undisturbed beauty, unparalleled serenity of German long cold winters.

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I love patterns and natural accents.

Beware of walking into the streets, it can be slippery. I’ve seen many people slip and slide through the snow. It’s not a funny sight.

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Nature comes so close, no matter what the season.

One of the things that I love personally is encounters with nature. I love to photograph nature and living here gives me the access for all of it. The thing about Winter in Germany is that people go by all means what they want to do. As the saying goes “Es gibt kein schlechtes wetter, nur schlechte Kleidung” or ” There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing “. This is so true here.Winter is a season to experience, not a time to slow down the time. People still go out, walking and exploring, as they do when the sun is out.Only the type of  outdoor clothing changes.

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What weekends are made of

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Ingolstadt sewer cover : Always remember where YOU Step!

I find it truly special here in Germany that they have an impressive Manholes ( or sewerage system covers). From where I came from, I don’t see anything fascinating about looking down at these manholes. I don’t recall seeing a fascinating one in my times in Kuwait! They are often dangerous especially when its flooding, or dirty, and mostly broken. But when I came to live here, I came to appreciate the great engineering behind it. The craftmanship and history with its logo, the seal ,the coat of arms of each city that I’ve visited. Maybe for others its nonsense, but for me, they are quite extraordinary. So in Winter, of course, there’s still the Bavarian pride!

This post is inspired by this week’s Photo Challenge | Tour Guide

The Blue Flock Art project

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Der Blauschäfer by Rainer Bonk ( Blaue Friedensherde )

I know the nursery rhyme ‘ Baba Black Sheep’ but Blue Sheep ???!!

While I was living in Kuwait, I knew Sheep because of Ramadan and Eid Al- Adha. If you must know, they are prime element of Islamic celebrations.I saw them from the same “Camel farms” I’ve visited and they don’t  normally “graze“in Kuwait city but they are being ushered to the animal market especially during the Muslim festivities of sheep ritual slaughtering.

But here in Germany I’ve seen something different.

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Blaue Schafe!

Why Blue?

Today we’ve seen a flock of ‘Blue Sheep ‘ grazing right in front of our Altes Rathaus ( or City town Hall ). Totally eye-catching and one-of a kind. In the middle of the square, there are approximately 150 pieces of Blue  sheep sculptures, erected as a symbolic art project which promotes mutual tolerance and peace.

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Someone is feeling ecstatic watching and counting all these Blue Sheep.

From the artistic minds of German artists Rainer Bonk and Bertamaria Reetz from the design series ‘Blue Sheep’, the Blue Flock Art Project  was first exhibited to public in Lido, Venice in 2009 as Germany’s contribution to the “OPEN 12” , an international sculpture and art exhibition. Since then, they continue to roam around all over Europe to promote their advocacy for peace , tolerance and equality. They normally “graze“in historical places, landmarks and iconic cities to create an artistic juxtaposition.

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Where Art and Culture meets

I live in Bavaria and our region is celebrating now the world-renowned Oktoberfest and the sight of overwhelming men in Lederhosen and lots of cleavage sight for women in Dirndls in beer tents downing mugs of beer has now been a  typical sight for me. But seeing these blue sheep for a change is really refreshing, especially for kids. You can imagine how delighted my daughter is when she saw the sheep, and she explained how many are they!

Why they are painted Blue?

They  come in bright Ultramarine Blue color, which is the color of the Earth, ocean and the sky. I recognized this color since I have these in my paints. Blue is a primary color, a powerful base of the color spectrum. It symbolizes peace, unity, freedom and space. It embodies all good moral aspects.

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Grazing in Bavaria !

What makes the Blue Sheep special?

Every blue sheep is  painted and crafted in the workshop for mentally disabled people  ( Duisburger Werkstatt für Menschen mit Behinderung GmbH) , SBK Gmbh in Cologne,Germany. If you are interested to get a collector’s item ,you can learn more about this project here.They have a special offer for schools and hotels.

 

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Blaue Schafe ( The Blue Sheep Art Project)

The Blue Flock of Peace Art Project have been to key places around Europe like Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Köln, Bozen, Dresden, Heilbronn,Dessau, Berlin, Hannover and Strasbourg among others.

 

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( Alles sind gleigh Jeder ist wichtig ) Ambassadors of Peace, Tolerance and Equality

I must say that my Wandertag with my daughter today has been a fascinating one. It’s definitely Fall here now in Germany and I am so looking forward to wander and discover nature’s best, its vibrant colors and festivities.

How about you, have you ever seen this type of sculpture?

Are you fond of sheep?

 

Prost! Biergarten and the Beer Culture in Germany

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Beer tasting in Abensberg, Bavaria ,Germany
What is it about Germans and their Beers?

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Prost! 
 

Or what about  German Beer tents, Lederhosens and Dirndls and more Beer?

 

 

Imagine, I’ve been living here in Germany for almost more than a year now, and I realized that I’ve never written anything about Bier— the “liquid gold” of this country , or worldly known as Beer.  My daughter has been obsessed  with Pretzel ( or Brezen)  been into Beer tents and Volksfests, and I, shamelessly confessing my love for German Beer culture.

 

I think it’s  just fitting that I write about it for a fact that I am living in the Beer capital of the world : Bavaria! My personal views are honest observations as an Asian expat who have learned to embraced their Beer culture, (and loving it!, of course )

“Where people brew beer, that’s a good place to live!”  {an old Czech saying}

Unique, Bavarian Beer

I don’t know any other place in this world where in Beer is regarded as important as staple food in everyday lifestyle. I grow up knowing that beer is seen as a drink of pleasure. I have never had a liking to it, I find it too bitter and I hate frequent trips to the toilet as I am not a drinker. Here in Bavaria it is considered more as a basic food. It’s no wonder on average a Bavarian consumes from birth to the grave some 150 litres (40 gallons) of beer per year. Just like German’s world-record breaking number of Breads and Sausages,  For the record, Bavaria is known to have 40 types of beer, over 600 Breweries and approximately 4,000 brands! Imagine that! It all depends on your preferences, and of course, the price. You can read more of it Here.

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Biergarten in front of New Castle
Need I say more, I told you, Beer is THE BIG thing here.

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Biergarten with the view of the Church on a hill in Walhalla.

Biergarten is the place to be!

Where else is the best place to enjoy Bier ?

Biergartens ( or Beer gardens)  are normal garden halls or part of the restaurant under shady green trees, with wooden benches, and shared tables in a cozy setting where people meet together, eating, chatting, lounging, and of course—with a beer. Every meeting is best celebrated with a cold, tall glass, pils or  Maß  of bubbly beer. All Biergartens are closed during Winter and  officially opens during beautiful weather around May in true style round the maypole with traditional May dances and a barrel of tasty “Maibock”. The moment you see those tables and chairs laid down, you know, good times are bound to come.

The thing is, most people doesn’t know that Beer is not just part of German culture —it’s their  culture, life, lifeblood, a legacy  and undying tradition passed on to generations to generations.

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German pride!
 

Back then in Kuwait, people spend more time in shopping malls because of the heat outside. Here in Bavaria, especially on warm summer months,  Biergarten is the best place to go, or celebrate everything. It’s not just a place to get drunk. I once saw a wedding reception in the Biergarten and family gatherings. For the locals, the moment the sun shines, people flocked here as early as 9 A.M . As a mother, I find it so cool that some Biergartens are kid-friendly. They have “spielplatz”or play areas , and even have kids meal and kinder beer. Families enjoy time with their friends while kids can play.

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Beautiful Biergarten beside the well-known Kuchlbauer Brewery and Kuchlbauer Turm.
When we visited the “Kuchlbauer Brewery”with the Kuchlbauer Turm inspired by Hundertwasser in Abensberg, the atmosphere in the Biergarten is super cozy. Imagine, they even built a tower to honor beer! With a nice view of the tower, everyone is having a great time! Bavaria’s largest beer garden (and probably the largest in the world) is Munich’s Hirschgarten that can cater for some 8,000 people. Here in Ingolstadt, here are some of our favorite Biergartens to visit.

It’s also typical in Bavaria where  old people regularly meet in Biergartens, locally known as “Stammtisch”. Sometimes they even have games, party, dancing, with traditional Volk music, and yes, all throughout Sunday! Another unique thing is that people wears their traditional “Trachten“, the Lederhosen and Dirndls! 

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Biergarten above the hill in Nürnberg

Only Pure Beer

Did you know that in Germany, especially in Bavaria where it all originated, the German Beer Purity Law rules, the Reinheitsgebot is a L-A-W. 500 Years of regulated law for Beer Brewing is no joke. Its a serious business, and for Germans, there is high respect for this regulation.

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The German Beer Purity Law
“Reinheitsgebot, also known as the Bavarian Beer Purity Law and Bavarian Beer Ingredient Law, was enacted in 1516 , in Ingolstadt by the Duke of Bavaria, so that only beers made with just three ingredients — hops, barley malt and water (yeast was unknown at the time) — were allowed to be labeled a “pure” German beer and fit to drink “. This law has 3 aims :

  • To protect drinkers from high prices
  • To ban the use of wheat beer so more bread could be made
  • And to stop the unscrupulous brewers from adding “dubious”toxic , even hallucinogenic ingredients as preservatives or flavourings.

Everything sounds great, right?

They included herbs and spices such as rosemary and caraway, henbane, thorn-apple, wood shavings, roots, soot or even pitch, according to the German Brewers’ Association (DBB).The DBB claims that the Reinheitsgebot is the oldest currently valid consumer protection law in the world. Germany exports 1.5 billion litres of beer every year, and the country is pretty proud of its beer and the purity law.

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A Festival is no Festival without Beer

From the time that I’ve lived here, I have never seen a German as drunk as hell, swaying and getting wasted in the streets, let alone getting amok because of  beer intoxication. During Oktoberfest, if you see a wasted man or woman from the festival, it’s most likely that He/ She is a tourist. Germans sits in the Biergarten for 3-5 hours on Sunday and still rides their bike afterwards going home, even old people.

In Germany,  beer is more than the  Beer Festival  in Munich or the world known as “Oktoberfest”. Before, I only knew of Oktoberfest as a time to get totally drunk and wasted in club or in a bar, drinking buckets of beer,watching live bands–having a great night out—that’s it. While living here, when I first have a taste of my very first “pure” Bavarian beer” , I realized how little I know. Germany has more to offer than just Oktoberfest.  It has so many festivals celebrated all throughout the year, all celebrated with beer. Starting with Frühlingsfest ( Spring Festival), Herbstfest-Volksfest ( Autumn Festival) , Oktoberfest ( Beer Festival in Bavarian capital-Munich) , add the Easter, Bürgerfest, and the Christkindlmarkts ( or  Christmas Markets) —everything is celebrated with O’zapft is!  or the tapping of Beer barrel.

Drink, Eat, Repeat

In the beginning of beer gardens, there was plenty to drink but nothing to eat. Because brewers were not allowed to sell food, many Germans brought their own pretzel and wurst to the beer garden. But nowadays, there are plenty of specialties to indulge, so there’s always a reason to taste the local delicacies especially served in Biergartens.Along with local beer, served in 1-liter steins, German beer garden specialties include:

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  • Brotzeit – a platter with cold cuts, artisan cheese, sausages, pretzel, horseradish, and cucumbers
  • Currywurst swimming in currysauce with pommes ( potato fries)
  • Obatzter – a soft, white cheese, mixed with onions and chives
  • Weisswurst – white sausage, complimented by sweet mustard and a pretzel
  • Kartoffelsalat ( potato salad)
  • Hendl  (Half-roasted chicken)
  • Schnitzel with pommes

Germans are best described as people who work hard, and play hard. Just look at their Beer and Biergarten culture and you’ll understand what I mean.

How about you, do you like to drink Bier? What do you think of their Biergartens?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Grande Schmierage V { Hall of Fame Graffiti Art Spray Party}

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Es lebe die Schmierage! 

All for the love of Graffiti Street Artworks !

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Hall of Fame Street Spray Art in Germany

Do you like Graffiti Art? Do you even think its an Art?

Fo a fact, I must say that from a point of view of an artist, you can never contain Art.

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Just like this 250- meter old boring walls of an underpass bridge that becomes a world spectacle of art, talent and spray bottle becomes the medium of artistic expression. I love how a simple place like wall bridges turns into a beautiful display of unique designs and artistic expression—all in a form of the rebellious GRAFFITI!

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This morning , we went with our weekly Wandertag and hop into our bikes. It’s a cloudy Sunday and we have high hopes that it won’t rain.On our way , we made a little detour and it was a lucky start I must say, because as we are approaching the underpass of Unserherrn, near Ringsee, we saw people gathering under the bridge and Graffiti Artists are already absorbed in their work. We made it into the “La Grande Schmierage V “, Hall of Fame, the biggest Graffiti Spray Party happening now in Germany!

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Yes, the boring underpass becomes so alive and colorful with all the life-size wall sprayed- artwork of the talented artists, it was like walking into a street gallery!

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Artists came from  different countries — from Montréal, Barcelona, ​​Moscow, Bergamo, Slovakia and various cities in Germany, also from top-class artists of the international spray scene. From yesterday,  1st of July, and today, they all meet in the so-called “Hall of Fame”  to redesign the 250-meter wall surface of the underpass bridge. 

Graffiti  is something illicit, more like a rebellious symbol of expressing one’s ideas through drawings, writing or scribbling on public areas. Not everyone like it. If someone sprayed on your beloved personal wall, I bet you might be furious. You can never call it an art, its more of an invasion of your private place.

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Spraying can be an assault and may cause  damage to property. Others find  lubrication and illegal spraying so invasive and illegal, whether for the sake of  so-called hip art form , it’s still  something vulgar and oppressive. But not so here in Germany, here in our region in Bavaria, Graffiti spraying is legalized. Legal Spraying and Graffiti Art has established itself increasingly in urban areas as an expression of lifestyle and worldliness .

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As early as 1995 the gray concrete walls of the railway underpass were cleared for graffiti by the city of Ingolstadt and the spraying in the Hall of Fame was legalized. Since then, the walls are constantly being sprayed again, the hall often changes its appearance – and still counts as one of the largest legal halls in Germany.

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Meet the Artists through their artworks!

They are bunch of normal, messy, hip-looking men and women you can see in the streets. But once they hold their Spray, the world is their audience. Notable artists for the 2017 Spray meeting are as follows:  Five Eight from Montréal, Saturno from Barcelona, ​​Kram from Barcelona, ​​Zmogk from Moscow, Verbo from Bergamo, Kaisy from Slovakia, Omsk from Saxony, Bond Truluv from Leipzig , Rusl from Constance and Dater from Koblenz. In addition, two sprayers from the partner town of Kragujevac are expected. 

You can see their full profiles Here.

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I am so thrilled that even though I don’t know them each by their faces, I have seen them in their spray action. They are really amazing and full of talent! I could watch their drawings and draw unlimited meanings. Once you see their work, you will never see the same “old boring walls”the same as before– it’s like they have brought something to life. People stop and take a look, and observe. These walls deserve a look. No wonder it’s an international event! Some of notable Graffiti work that are worth to see are Here. My favorite was the work of Inti, a giant Don Quixote mural in Quintanar de la Orden, Spain.

The La Grande Schmierage graffiti meeting was launched in 2008 under the organization  of the City Youth Initiative and in close collaboration with Boris Schmelter. The organization and support of the artists are located at the FRONTE79 Youth Cultural Center in Ingolstadt.

 

Do you like looking at street wall art? Which one is your favorite?

If you want to read more about the La Grande Schmierage, here are some useful links:

www.schmierage.de

www.tumultfestival.de

 

Kaiserburg Nürnberg ( Imperial Castle )

 

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The Sinwell tower of the Kaiserburg ( Imperial Castle) in Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany

I love everything about castles!

For an asian like me, I think castles are symbolic emblem of  magical kingdom and it is such an adventure to get to know the stories behind each castle .Just like any enthusiast, every castle is unique and the architecture is unfathomable.It always excites me but considering the heavy ” historical stuff ” that goes with any castle exploration, I love the fact that I get to know a place through these landmarks.I can still remember my delight when I saw the Burg Eltz in Wierschem.  

It was  one fairy tale trip as I explored the castle while I wear my daughter in my chest. This time it was another adventure with the toddler on the loose. After an exhausting morning at the Tiergarten, we find ourselves wandering along the city center towards the street that directly heads to the castle grounds. But to explore any castle, it’s always include a steep climb, a hike, or a strenuous walk to get into the top. It is impossible to push the stroller up while she’s in so  I just let her climb, strut, and toddle up. It was hot, and the cobbled stones makes it even more difficult, but then, there’s no way we give up.

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Up in the castle offers a panoramic view of the city where I sighted the towers of St. Lorenz church, Frauenkirche and other important landmarks of Nuremberg.

The historical “Kaiserburg” also known as the  the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg is the most important symbol of Nuremberg. Though this city was heavily bombed from WW II, the city has restored most of its iconic structures including this castle. Just like any other castle, this castle holds an important part of history. This castle is in fact one of the most important fortresses in the whole of Germany and was first mentioned in 1105. From 1050 to 1571, all holy Roman Emperors resided in this castle. One of the largest and most modern youth hostels in Germany is located in one of the former Imperial stables.

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The Sinwell Tower as seen from the castle grounds

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Echanting Nuremberg

After seeing this, I marveled at the charm of Nuremberg and I was deeply impressed by its beauty. This place is an incredible city. It’s a big metropolis where the defining moments of German history took place. This castle is perched on a hill which really gave me a great view and the tour information was just adequate to provide any tourist the information about Nuremberg during Medieval times. I’m so glad that despite the heat, the weather is perfect for us to appreciate this castle. If you have time and with only 7 Euros entrance fee, you can learn so much more about its history and the Museum inside the castle is something to satisfy your curiosity.

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The Wellhouse and the Bath House

If you live in Germany like me, well there can’t be too many castles, because in real life, they are sprouting like mushrooms. Some in the middle of the forest, some on a high hill, mountain or in the banks of the river, some are just there, a few stones throw in a city just like the Kaiserburg in Nürnberg.I read an interesting excerpt about this castle’s history HERE.

The castle and the city served as the location for numerous imperial assemblies. From 1356 on the “Golden Bull” of Emperor Charles IV provided that every newly elected future ruler must hold his first imperial Diet in Nuremberg. Moreover, from 1424 the imperial regalia were safely kept in Nuremberg. Nuremberg was a very popular residence for the rulers in the age of the itinerant kingships and up until the 30 Years’ War it was the central location of the empire.

Some of the notable sites that we’ve seen in this Castle are the following;

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Deep Well and Sinwell Tower

The Deep Well is spectacular. The well house is located in the center of the outer Bailey. The shaft of the well was hewn into the rock to a depth of 47 meters. A highlight of the visit is also the round Sinwell Tower (“sinwell” Middle High German = very round), which was built as a keep for the Imperial Castle in the 2nd half of the 13th century; the topmost storey and the interior wooden roof construction were built in the 1560s.

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Beautiful gable roofs and the important landmarks seen from above the castle.

 

Magnificent View over the City Imperial Castle Museum

Who says you need to pay a lot for a magnificent view?

If given the chance, I always love to see a city from above. A view like this from the castle is always worth of the sweat. From the observation platform of the Sinwell Tower at a height of 385 meters , you can also have a panoramic view of the entire city of Nuremberg just like this!

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Wandertag in Nuremberg’s Imperial castle.

Imperial Castle Museum

In the Kemenate, (a building with residential and work rooms heated by fireplaces or later stoves) the Germanisches Nationalmuseum presents the historical role and the changing tasks of the Nuremberg Imperial Castle. Finds from archaeological digging, ornamental architectural elements, models and reconstruction sketches illustrate the history of this important site.

If you are planning to visit Nuremberg this summer and would like to visit this castle, make sure to take note of the following especially if you have a child , pets with you or with elderly people;

There is a lift to the Knights’ Hall in the Palas; all other rooms in the Imperial Castle can only be reached via stairs.

The inner castle courtyard is accessible for wheelchair users.

At the entrance to the Deep Well there is one step to be negotiated.

Castle Gardens: Access via 3 steps, apart from that no difficulties.

Maria Sibylla Merian Garden: Access via 5 steps.

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My Little Wanderer in the castle grounds !

Dogs are not allowed inside the castle (also Deep Well and Sinwell Tower) and in the gardens (Castle Garden and Maria Sibylla Merian Garden). They may be taken on leads into the castle courtyard.

When was the last time you’ve explored a castle? How was your experience?

As for the other charm of this castle, I leave you to explore it by your own eyes.

 

Stay tuned for more of my stories about our trip to Nürnberg. Happy Monday and wishing you all a great day!

Hey, If you are in Instagram, make sure to follow my Instagram to see our Expat life in photos  here in Bavaria and have a look at my personal Artworks and Aquarelle paintings HERE.

 

 

 

Art created out of Mess | Order

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“ORDNUNG” ( The German’s  love for Ordnung or Order)

I love anything about Arts and in any form. If you are following my Blog, you knew that one of my personal interests are finding beautiful arts along the way, anywhere. Being an Expat here in Germany, I am very curious to see works of local artists and explore the German art in general. It’s a global trademark that Germans are known for their “Ordnung “( or order), in their lives. Their love for rules ( and obeying it!) and rigid lifestyle are bound to be effortlessly organized and everything should be in order. I’m telling you, Rules here are serious affair and obeyed. Having lived here now for almost a year, I have seen this by my own eyes and witness how they do it for real.The Economist magazine suggested recently that Germany remains one of the most rule-bound economies in the world. No wonder. It  really pays off.

To name a few examples, take their Recycling system.No Jaywalking.No Littering.Ruhetag (or  Sunday Quiet times).German’s respect on personal privacy. Punctuality. On time buses & trains.Falling in Line. Discipline and so much more.

All of these shows “Alles in ordnung“( All in Order).

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Artwork created out of a mess by following an orderly form.

But what can you say about an artwork  out of making things to be in order?

To be able to see and appreciate the beauty of an artwork created with an imposition of “order “ from the mess or clutter is something unique and interesting, something worthy of admiration. For me, this is one essential way of creating an original art. Take a look at these photos where you can see that the Artist have used “normal office (or  büro) materials ” to become a representation of artistic conceptual artwork.

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Normal colored office folders stamped together to create a giant collage.

” You needed chaos to create order and by this, give a definition to beauty “

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Normal Garbage bins arranged in synchronized manner creates a  3-Dimensional work of Art.

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Sets of neon rulers hung vertically to create an original artwork.

Visiting the Museum of Concrete Art came as a surprise to me and I was glad that I was able to see this exhibit. This museum is the only museum in Germany specializing exclusively in the presentation of concrete ( non- representational ) art.

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The Museum of Concrete Art ( Museum für Konkrete Kunst Ingolstadt, Bavaria )

“Chaos was the law of nature, order is the dream of man ..”

In an unusual architectural setting, right beside the banks of the river Danube, some 1,000 square meters of exhibition area illustrate the development of this artistic style,displaying various exhibits from local and international artists with its important components.

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Black and white plant photos used as Office ornaments

This  exhibit themed ” Office Art ( or Office in the Museum )  of Büro-Kunst oder Das Büro im Museum ” which will run from April 1 ~September 10, 2017. This exhibition is in cooperation with the Foundation of Concrete Art Design and the exhibition presents works and installations of the Concrete and Conceptual Art, which address the office as a symbol of modern society and its organizational principles.

Have you enjoyed this post? How do you explore a foreign culture?

What is your opinion about the artwork of the artist ? Let me know by writing your comments below.

 

 

 

This post is inspired by this week’s Photo Challenge |Order