Ulmer Muenster

Situated along the banks of the Danube…

directly on the border between Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria stands the old city of Ulm. The city is actually two cities, one for each side of the Danube. Ulm or alt Ulm lies on the Baden-Württemberg side and new Ulm or Neu Ulm stands on the Bavarian side. We had wanted to visit this charming old place for quite some time but because of how far from home it is, it was not always an easy task as it was too much of a trip for a normal weekend. Thankfully we had been invited to spend the weekend with some friends of ours in Stuttgart and since Ulm was nearly directly on the way home, we decided to make the trip. The city is world famous for its church, the Ulmer Minster, a church of Gothic Period origin which boasts the tallest steeple in all of Europe at 161.5 meters (530 feet!) it was, up until 1901 when the Philadelphia City Hall was completed, the tallest building in the world.

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The church dominates the skyline to this day.
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The incredible steeple is still the tallest in Europe.

Even though its worlds tallest building status has been stripped, it is today still the tallest church in the world. Of course, that may be why it took over 500 years to complete. If you feel like seeing the stunning view of the city and are up for a climb, you can access the top of the steeple via 768 stairs nearly all of them of the spiral variety. If you decide to climb the steeple I must warn you it is not easy and will require a certain level of fitness to make it to the top. We went up with our Gopro on my chest, I’ll upload a video to the Youtube channel when I finish editing it. As it as it is very windy at the top, I would bring a windbreaker and make sure you have a camera retaining strap. Once you make it to the top you’ll be greeted by an incredible view of both the new and old cities. below the minster in the old town are many more things to see, museums, countless examples of wonderful Gothic and Franconian or Swabian architecture and that’s not even the half of the sites.

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The view of Old Ulm from the bell tower.
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Swabian architecture on display in the Fisher’s Quarter of the old city.

Also close to the monster is the lovely and quaint Fischer Viertel, or Fisher’s Quarter, a collection of wonderful Swabian buildings all situated along fishing canals leading to the river. One such building is called the “Schiff Haus”. It is a circa 1500’s Swabian style house that was built in a rather peculiar way, it leans towards the canal it is situated on. It is a restaurant today and if you want you can try to walk straight on the especially sideways upper floors. We were lucky enough to visit during a city fest within the tight streets and enjoyed food and local folks music. The city is a must visit if you find yourself in southern Germany the beautiful views and old city are accompanied by a host of activities on the new side of the river I only wish we had been able to spend more time than a couple hours here rest assured we will be back.

 

Until Next Time,

 

-Ryan

 

The Osser

Along the Czech Border…

Stand a range of mountains that form a natural border wall. The largest of those is called the Arber but even though it is the largest, it is far from the most challenging to ascend. The Osser ranks much higher on that list. The Osser was the first of the Bavarian mountains I ever climbed back in 2013, the way to the summit is only 3.5 Kilometers, but it will still take 4 hours both ways and that’s if you manage to keep the same pace both up and down.

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Clouds roll over the Czech border into Germany.

The Osser looms tall above the towns of Lam and Lohberg in the Bavarian forest National Park and at its very summit, much like most of the mountains in Bavaria, sits the Schutzhaus, or protection house which marks the border with The Czech Republic and serves as a resting place for hikers and wanderers to stop and have a beer and some food before continuing on their way. There are many ways to climb the mountain like almost any other and some are easier than others. We did not take the easy path.

If you are looking for a training hike then the Osser is for you. You will ascend over 500 meters in 3.5 Kilometers, that’s a steep grade and it almost never relents. There will be times where you think the path is becoming easier, only to become just as hard or harder within another minute. It can be demotivating but the view is well worth the work. An even more challenging route would be to climb bot the smaller and larger Osser all at once. there are paths that connect the two but if you are planning on that way you will need someone to pick you up on the other side because the path ends in another place.

The path itself is barely a path and more of a stairway in some places, the roots of the trees stand exposed and act as steps up to the top. The moment of clarity that you will be making it to the top within the next 30 minutes is when you reach “the Meadow”. About 5 years ago a huge storm hit Bavaria with seriously high powered winds. The winds were so strong in fact that they tore whole sections of forest down from the tops of some of the taller mountains on the border. The Osser was one of those mountains. The meadow is full of young growth trees and bushes where there were once large, strong trees. You can still see the carnage of that storm laid out across that meadow. The carcasses of the unfortunate trees lay in every corner, but in that clearing you catch your first glimpse of the summit.

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Ryan stands at the cross atop the Osser.

The first time I climbed the Osser I was not expecting the hike that I got and nearly turned around, but that day there was a Czech/Bavarian friendship fest at the Schutzhaus and from that meadow, I could hear the music from the summit. That inspiration proved to be all that I needed and that day I stood at the top of the Osser, that was nearly 3 and a half years ago.

This time, I got the opportunity this time around to see an incredible sight; the movement of weather from the Czech Republic to Germany. As we stepped to the top of the mountain, I looked to the Czech side and saw that the entire valley was full all the way nearly to the summit with clouds. At some lower points the clouds started to spill into the valley where the town of Lam stands, you can see in the picture below. It was an incredible view and one that I will always remember. The weather seemed to follow us down the mountain on our way back but when we where sheltered by the back side of the mountain, we stood under the clouds.

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Our travelling squirrel met us on the way down! he said something about “not enough trees on the summit”.

This Time I had a companion, My friend the traveling squirrel joined me! I am happy to report that I caught a couple of photos and also that he will be accompanying me on all of my future wanderings! Get excited, because more cuteness is to come! Stay tuned for much more fun from the woods! Next time we will climb the Lusen, in the Czech Republic, and this little guy will come with us!

Keep Wandering, Friends,

Ryan+Luise

The Holy Riders

Way back in 1412…

A man lay dying at a chapel between town of Koetzting and Arnbruck, deep in the Bavarian woods. It was customary for a priest to be summoned in order to give last rights to the dying, but the nearest priest was in Koetzting, about 7 Kilometers away. The priest said he would go but being that the roads were dangerous to travel on alone, he stated that he would not go unless he had an escort to ensure that he would get to his destination and back to Koetzting unharmed. Horsemen from the area volunteered and all together, the priest and his escorts rode to pay the man his last respects and returned to Koetzing safely soon after. From that year on, it became a tradition, every year over 900 riders from around Bavaria come to Bad Koetzting (the modern name of the town) to ride in the Pfingstritt.

Pfingstritt occurs every year on “Pfingsmontag” or the Monday of Pentecost and begins in the very center of Bad Koetzting. The Bishop of Regensburg heads up the formation with his large delegation and rides the whole way to the old chapel in Steinbuhl and then back again. The riders will stop from time to time to pray and move on again towards their destination. When the Bishop and his riders arrive at Steinbuhl the Bishop holds holy Mass and the whole group rides all the way back to Koetzting. The whole process takes 12 hours from start to finish.

The riders wear a special “tracht” or traditional outfit and carry various banners representing the saints or the city they come from. But the riders aren’t the part you want to hear, its the horses. These aren’t your average run of the mill race horses, the horses who participate in this show are of the humungous draft horse variety; giants meant for pulling timber or carriages. Every horse’s mane has been elaborately decorated with rope and twine and their tails are also spotted with decoration and sometimes braided.During the ride, all of the city is shut down completely and the main road between Bad Koetzting and Steinbuhl is closed and reserved only for the ride. It is meant as a pilgrimage these days, and every year more and more riders join in what I can imagine to be an incredible experience.

In true German form of course, there is always an excuse to have a party, and what better excuse than this? After observing the ride, onlookers can join the fest in the city or watch the horse competitions tied to it. Enjoy a beer and music while you wait for the riders to return or join in on other festivities around town.

If you happen to find yourself in Bad Koetzting, Germany during the week of Pentecost and want to see something spectacular, this tops the list. Make sure to also plan ahead so that you can find a place along the route and remember to go during a year when they hold the horse competitions, another awesome sight to behold.

Until next time,

Ryan

Warum, Drumherum?

During the Weekend of Pfingsten…

A religious holiday known as Pentecost elsewhere, the city of Regen in the Bavarian woods is overrun with musicians and dancers. For 4 days every 2 years, Drumherum is here. Every street corner, every tavern, every inch of every street within the city center is full of life. since 1998 this festival has been a testament to the wide and varied folk music styles of Bavaria, The Czech Republic, Poland and even more. The smells of fresh food fill the air while the incredibly talented musicians practice their art.

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Musicians in a crowded pub practicing their art, during the fest every single pub is filled to the brim.

Even if you are not a fan of the folk music, you can watch, and even take part in traditional dances of the region like waltz and Zwiefach. you may even run into a group performing a special dance known as “schuhplatteln” a highly technical and difficult dance which I suggest you look into. I will also post a video of the dance to the blog so you can see for yourself. The Festival is perhaps made even better by its setting.

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The city of Regen, nestled deep in the woods, is dominated by the river which it is named for.

The city of Regen is deep in the Bavarian woods and nestled into a valley which is dominated by the river which bears the city’s namesake. The river splits at a pair of long islands which serve as parks during normal times, but at Drumherum the islands are full of musicians. Some are organized bands playing in stages venues spread throughout the city, but most are simply musicians who decided to come and play at a corner, maybe compete with fellow musicians. It is a paradise of music. You may even be able to see some unique home made instruments which have no real name.

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A “Kirtabaum” in the central square of Regen, Celebrating Drumherum and Pfingsten.

Beer, of course is a huge part of this festival just like any other and the local brewery turns out big to provide what I can only imagine to be the largest amount of beer they will sell all year. All this is of course, leading up to the big party of Pfingsten, Pfingtritt. Join me next time and learn more about the celebration!

Best wishes on the Road,

Ryan

Fancy Food Time

When The Hotel Attendant…

Recommended that I reserve a table at the Castle Hotel Wernberg’s fine dining restaurant, I jumped right on it. This was going to be a full on Valentine’s day Go big or Go home moment. Of course at the time, I had no idea exactly how ‘Big” we were going. I’ll give you a hint, we went pretty big.

We spent all day Saturday in Weiden and came back around 3 PM, a little tired from our day we decided to give ourselves some relaxation time and head to the hotel’s free of charge Sauna and relaxation room…. My goodness that was one hot sauna. 90 degrees Celsius. We only stayed inside for about 15 minutes before it was too much so we decided to lay around a bit and prepare for our big fancy dinner date.

At around 6:30 we headed down to the Hotel bar and lounge on the first floor of the castle and had ourselves a little pregame drink. It was go time. Our reservation was at 1900 (7 PM for you non-military time types) and we were right on time. The attendant asked for our name and we were immediately whisked off to our own little corner of the restaurant. The whole place had maybe 6 tables, and all of them were full, so it was pretty apparent why they had asked for reservations. What followed for the rest of the evening was nothing short of incredible. This place was insane.

We were immediately brought water and menus and soon figured out that the only dining option here was a several course menu. The choices were from two different menus and you had the option of 5,7, or 9 courses for your meal. We chose 5… GOOD CHOICE. before we had even chosen our menu, the staff was already in high gear. We were brought a complimentary dish from the chef within 5 minutes of our arrival and I was already looking forward to the rest.

Luise and I chose our 5 courses which were essentially the same between us with one exception. After we ordered, the waitress assigned to us brought back custom menus, printed just for us with our course menu, our wine list and a greeting signed by the chef and staff. I had barely even started and this was already above any dining experience I’d ever had.

My 5 courses were as follows:
-Crab Salad (as a starter)
-A soup called Boullabaise with a cut of fresh fish in it.
-A second soup, this time a Blue Cabbage soup. As disgusting as that may sound, it was delicious.
-Game Pigeon. Yes pigeon. Luise and I knew when we saw it that we HAD to try.
-Cheese cake (as desert) but this wasn’t like any cheesecake I had ever had.

Each course was accompanied by a wine which was tailored to fit the tastes of each dish. Before each course was brought out, an attendant came by with our next wine and told us exactly how it fit with the food and what its flavor would bring to the experience. Experience, yeah that is a good word for the whole thing. It was a non-stop incredible culinary experience. Every dish was hand crafted and perfect sized. I never thought I would eat at a place with such small portions per dish but what I found was that it made you eat slower, which made you feel full. By the end of 5 courses I wasn’t feeling like I had eaten too much, I felt pleasantly and completely full. Perfect.

I have to say that my two favorite courses were the Pigeon and the Cheesecake. The pigeon was, incredibly, red meat and glazed to perfection before it was placed on a bed of milk rice and drizzled with a bit of gravy. The meat was so soft you could have gotten the impression that it wasn’t fully cooked, but it was and it fell apart in your mouth. The Cheesecake was called in german “Kaesekuchen Mal Anderes” which means Cheese cake a little different. It was VERY DIFFERENT. Firstly, it wasn’t actually a cake, well, it was cheesecake but it wasn’t in the form of cake. It was almost like batter laid out in a line on your plate and garnished with arugula. I was thinking, “Gosh, arugula with cheesecake?” but the bitterness of the arugula and the sweetness of the cake just mixed so perfectly, it was an explosion in your mouth. Perfect.

The long and short of this is, we will be returning to this hotel in the future. Perhaps not the very near future, (as you can imagine, it was rather expensive) but we will be back. I only wish I had pictures to show for this but it would have been pretty out of place to snap pictures of the food in a place as high class as this was.

I will write again shortly about our next adventure. Till then,

All the Best,

Ryan

Wandering in Weiden

It was Cold and Raining, but…

We decided to go out for a day of exploration anyway. We were on Wernberg at our hotel and My wife, Luise looked at me and told me “My uncle lives Weiden, that’s pretty close.” So we packed up our cold weather stuff and hopped in the car.

Weiden is a small city in the Oberpfalz, about 1 hour North of our home. The city was first mentioned in the 1200’s and has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times over that long period. Specifically once again, by the Swedes. The city’s old section is a vibrant marketplace with a prominent City Hall, or Rathaus (Pictured above on the right), at the very center of the Marketplace. The Market place, as it does in many medieval cities, stands as the direct center of town and extends all the way from one gate to the opposite side of the city. I have never seen a Rathaus quite like the one in Weiden. It stands out like a sore thumb, directly in the center of the city and just begs for attention. Today it has shops and a passageway underneath it with tourist information, its a great place to stop if you appreciate medieval/renaissance architecture.

We walked up and down the Marketplace and windowshopped in the early afternoon. We had no other place to be so we took our time just walking through the city and experiencing the sites and the sounds and the people. it was a welcome relief from our last few hectic weekends. Weiden is definitely a good place to people watch, especially on farmer’s market days. Eventually we wandered to the older church in the City, a large yellow plastered catholic church with a large onion dome but unfortunately it was closed. When we walked around the corner we saw a site too good not to photograph…

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Above on the left, you will notice a picture with a bicycle. The text above the bicycle reads, “Bitte kein fahrrad anlehnen” which means, please do not lean your bicycle here… but someone didn’t seem to mind the warning. CLASSIC.

Later in the afternoon we made our way back into the old marketplace from the newer side of town to find a coffe shop to enjoy a warm drink in before we headed back to Wernberg. We had seen a couple that looked interesting before when we had been wandering the marketplace amd decided to go back to one of those. It was called, “The Beanery”, and the moment we walked through the door I knew it was one of THOSE places. I was surrounded by hipsters. The shop itself was small and quaint with a definite hipster vide all around the place, but the coffee… Oh that coffee was good. I had ordered a Café Latte and Luise ordered a Hot Chocolate. I was just about to ask for a brownie I saw in their case when an employee brought out a platter of FRESH BAKED COOKIES. I died a little inside when I ate that cookie… SO GOOD. believe me when I say that this is a spot to hit up if you find yourself in Weiden.

After our coffee we gathered ourselves up in our car and made our way on back to Wernberg, the long way of course. I honestly kind of hoped to get at least a LITTLE lost on the way back, maybe see something ele awesome.

All the best from Bayernland,

Ryan