Friday, April 30, 2010

What to do when VULCANIC ASH strands your visiting children? Go to Castle Glatt.

       Glatt Castle amidst a facelift.             
From 1533 to 1547 the castle was owned by Reinhard von Neuneck. It is one of the earliest Renaissance castles in Germany. It changed ownership various times after that until the Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen came to own it. The castle is now a museum.
Schloss Glatt
72172 Sulz am Neckar-Glatt
If you contact them ahead of time, they will arrange a tour for you in English.

The vulcano erupting in Iceland did created havoc, but for those travelers stranded with parents, it wasn't so bad. We had been meaning to go back to Castle Glatt because we knew the kids would enjoy it. There is something here for old and young alike.

We bought drinks at the mini-golf place by the castle and had a picnic.

We played in the park. Here is Jonah "pretend rowing" his boat while his Mom sings the song.

Checking out the paintings in the gallery part of the museum.

My daughter's family, clowning around as usual. Just look at little Jonah's face.

Jonah was quite interested in the knight on horseback.

This is the ceiling of the chapel. Look at what the water relections from the moat did to it. It looks like a mirror but it isn't.

After we toured the castle, we had to go back to the romantic tearoom.  You can sit in a posh area....

or you can go more gothic.   In the end, we chose the posh area.

They have a wonderful variety of teas and cakes.

My son-in-law had a wonderful mandaran orange cake.

For our British friends, Mac tried the Gooseberry cake.

Little Jonah had icecream.

Jonah had a lovely day and we did too.

Mac gives Castle Glatt two thumbs up.  It is a great day out with mini-golf, playground and a little culture in the castle.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Clausen, a sleepy little village in the rolling hills of
the Rhineland-Palatinate Forest in Germany. Population approximately 1,500.
Our home from 1996-2000.

We joined a choir when we moved to Clausen to help us with our German.  It didn't matter that most of the people were 30 years older than us. They took us under their wings and loved us.
They introduced us to their children and grandchildren and we became friends with generations of these families in the village.
In this picture the men of the choir welcomed me back a few weeks ago with a song which, always makes me cry. They put me in a circle and sang it to me,
"Why have you come back when you will leave again?  You have taken my heart and I will never be the same."

We would sit at these tables after choir practice and chat to learn German.
As we began to understand the language, there were recurring words in our conversations.  Something of great importance to them that they were desperate to communicate to us.
American base im Clausen

I went home and pulled out my dictionary. "MAC," I yelled, "They were trying to tell us that there was an American base in Clausen that stored chemical weapons."
"Those bases are top secret, "he replied.

We went to choir practice the next week with tons of questions.  One of the ladies said that she knew something was up when cars with Russian license plates used to cruise through the village. She knew it wasn't good if the Russians were looking around in Clausen.
We asked for them to show us what they were talking about.

They say it was the summer of 1961 when the base in Clausen was made for conventional ammunition stockpiles. Six years later, the Americans were storing deadly chemical weapons in this little village unbeknownst to them.
The entrance to this base was down a road in Clausen that I had never been on.  I thought it was a dead-end road.
I was shocked when I saw a well -maintained road at the edge of the forest.  Not the normal "wandering paths" I walked on.  We followed our friends 2 miles up the road through a little valley to the remains of this base. We saw control towers, dog kennels, and enormous igloo style sod-covered bunkers with giant ventilation shafts that stored the chemical weapons.
Our German friends explained they all knew there was a secret base in Clausen.  Afterall, there were no signposts for this base and that is unusual in itself.  There was a secret going on, but they were unaware of what was it was.
The chemical weapons were transported out of Clausen as secretly as they had been brought into the village.
From what I can find out, they were supposedly taken to  Johnston Atoll, 700 miles southwest of Hawaii in the Pacific, where toxins are burned. 
I was even more devastated to learn that these weapons were so dangerous that had an accident occured, the entire village of Clausen and surrounding thousands of villages would have been wiped out. What if the situation were reversed and weapons that could have destroyed most of Maine were stored in Morrill where I grew up? 
We used to be able to go right onto what was the base and look at the huge ventilation shafts, bunkers, etc. but, it is now owned by a private citizen and people are not permitted on what was the
Clausen Giftgas Lager anymore.

It says:
"In Rememberance
 Up until 1990 chemical weapons were stored in this forest, for a long time they threatened a million people.
Thank God they never were used  and in the summer of 1990 were transported to be destroyed.

God , friend of our life, we thank you.  Protect us from destroying  your creation." 

We have to find a way to bring peace to the world for the sake of our children and our grandchildren.
Let's reach out to other cultures and people who are different.
Learn about their cultures and history.
It is the beginning of understanding and it can start one person at a time.

For Mac and me we say,
"Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."
song by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

German Wine Route

Here are the kids at the Wine Door (Weintor) at the beginning of the German wine route.
This is one of the first places our landlords took us to visit when we first lived here 14 years ago. They wanted us to understand that we (at that time) lived in a wine-growing region, what it means to their economy and what it means to a German who lives in this area.

Weinstraße 4
76889 Schweigen-Rechtenbach
06342 92278-0

The German Wine Route is a scenic route which runs through Germany's second-largest wine-growing region. It starts in the south at the Wine Door in Schweigen-Rechtenbach and runs 85 kilometers to  Bockenheim.  Many tourists choose to bike this in the summer, stopping along the way for wine-tastings and overnights in hotels along the way.
The vineyards stretch out as far as the eye can see.

Here I will make an important cultural observation for my Evangelical Christian friends from America.
Many American evangelicals have been taught that drinking wine is a sin, or if you aren't taught it is a sin, you are taught to avoid the appearance of evil.  It would be very important for you to know that in Europe most evangelicals do indeed partake of wine and are not only surprised but, stunned when an American makes a judgement about them, "they can't be Christians because they drink."
It is important to realize that "cultural" differences in societies can even extend into issues about abstinence from alcohol.
Whatever your belief is on this subject, please bear this in mind when visiting Europe.

Even if you don't partake of the wine-tastings on the way, this is a beautiful route to bike.

Mac gives the German Wine Route a thumbs up!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A la Vignette Restaurant/Wissembourg, France

A la Vignette Restaurant
17 Marché aux Poissons, 67160 Wissembourg, France
Telephone: +33 3 88 94 17 64
                     We have tried many of the little restaurants in Wissembourg but, we had not previously tried
  A la Vignette.
Charming and  French rustic on the inside.

Notice the ever present wine glass!  Well, it is France people.

I took this picture so you can see for yourself that the menu is in French, German and English.
Like I have said before, we always head to the specialities of the area page on our menus.

I ordered Escargot (snails)  Now, before readers flee from this page at the horror of of it all, let's look at this situation through a child's eyes.

Little Jonah was quite amused at his Mimi's antics with the snails.
I hope he doesn't go home to Great Britain and try to eat them out of the garden!
Yes, I can see it all now, "My granny eats snails and so do I."
I finally got my daughter to try one and she said, "It's a bit chewy, but not bad."

Mac had the Choucroute Garnie.  They say it means "dressed" sauerkraut. Now, I know what you are thinking...."Isn't sauerkraut a German dish?"  Yes, technically, but  remember I told you that control of the  Alsace region was passed back and forth between Germany and France through the years.  The story goes that the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine in 1648 brought this dish to the attention of French chefs and that's why you will find it on the menu. Sometimes sausages are also placed with sauerkraut, potato and ham, but not at this particular restaurant. Mac said his Choucroute Garne was tasty.

My son-in-law had the Cuisse de Canard Confite Sur Choux which is a fancy French way to say
Leg of Duck with sauerkraut.
                  He usually doesn't care for sauerkraut but really liked the restaurant's version.

My daughter had the pasta.
Very nice.

The restaurant has an inner courtyard with tables set up to eat at  as well.
It was a cute place with plenty of character.

No visit to Wissembourg would be complete without a visit to RUBERT pâtisserie.
You just can't miss trying this place if you come to Wissembourg.  We were in a hurry as our little Jonah was tired but, we wouldn't pass up getting an eclair here. When our girls were younger they loved visiting here for eclairs.
It was time to introduce our son-in-law to Daniel Rubert's shop.

7 Marché aux Choux,
67160 Wissembourg
       telephone+33 3 88 94 01 66

It's more expensive to have the eclair in the shop and we were in a bit of a hurry. It is a very BUSY place and you pay for the ambiance.  We got them to go.
Beautifully wrapped aren't they?

Don't they look yummy?  I can assure you, they are! Rebert's eclairs have a coffee filling, a chocolate filling or a vanilla filling. Choose your favorite.  Don't let me sell you on these though.  You  need to go inside to see all the splendid choices  for yourself.  You won't be sorry, I promise.

Mac gives A la Vignette a thumbs up.  It was good, home-cooked fare. We thought it might be the type of food we'd get served if we got invited to a French Alsacian's kitchen.

The ECLAIRS at Repert's get a three thumbs up.
From Mac and the rest of us!


Monday, April 26, 2010

Wissembourg, France

Town square in Wissembourg.

I have many favorite places in the world. Wissembourg, which means "white castle", captured my heart years ago.  This historic little town is on the Northern most border of the Alsace region in France. We first cycled from our village in Clausen, Germany to this lovely spot. The Alsace region was fought over continuously for many years, changing hands back and forth from French to German control.  It's no wonder that in this region French and German can be used interchangably. I remember sitting in a cafe, as you do in Wissembourg and the surreal thought touched my mind, that I was sitting in FRANCE and communicating in GERMAN to our waitress.  She didn't speak English and my French leaves much to be desired but, because this town was on the border, we spoke German.
It was at that moment I realized, the key to communication in Europe is to "try" to speak another language.
Even if you do it poorly, Europeans appreciate you trying.

This is the very old  "Salt house" or "Maison de sel" in French. In 1677, a fire destroyed many of the older buildings in Wissembourg, but the "Salt house" built in 1448 was spared.  That makes this house about 562 years old by my count. They say it was the first hospital in the town. The wobbly looking roof has always interested me. I have often thought this house would make a great location for a fictional children's story.
Maybe I will write one someday!

  There are many 15th and 16th-century timber-frame houses to see as you stroll around this town.

This one houses a beauty salon with apartments over it.

This is the St.Peter and St. Pauls Catholic church.
This church was the main church from the former  Benedictine abbey located in Wissembourg.
I would have loved to have shown you some pictures of the inside which, you may tour, but there was a service in progress while we were in town.
You'll just have to visit Wissembourg for yourself!
It's romantic, quaint, old and the food and wine flow in this region.

Mac and I love Wissembourg. (spelled Wissenburg if you have a German map)
This place always gets two thumbs up.
Tomorrow I will take you to lunch in Wissembourg.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Recipe for Black Forest Cake/European and American Measurements

Do you  want to try your hand at making a Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte?
What exactly is a Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte?
This cake was invented  by Josef Keller, a pastry chef,  in 1915 at Bad Godesberg.
We have heard that the Café Schaefer in Triberg has the orginal hand-written recipe and serves that recipe at their restaurant.  We will definately go there and blog about that at another time. I must caution you that most American recipes have adapted to the American "sweet" taste and do not taste anything like the proper Black Forest Cake served here.

This is Cafe Lilie's in Triberg version of the cake.

It became painfully obvious that I would need to give you two recipes because  American's use measuring cups, whereas the European's measure their ingredients on a scale.  Let's  start with the American version.
Remember that Kirschewasser is alcohol so if you use this, don't give the cake to children!

I decided to use the version from the postcard I purchased at the Elbe Clock Park.
Click on picture to enlarge.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).


1 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla
4 eggs
1/2 cup finely ground almonds (I sometimes use ground hazelnuts)
1 cup of grated semi-bitter chocolate
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Ingredients for your filling:
7 tablespoons Kirschewasser   (this is optional and not usually recommended for American's taste OR children)
4 1/2 cups pitted sour cherries (drain them if you use them from a can)
1 pint whipping cream whipped with 3 tablespoons of sugar

Beat together butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs. Now stir in your ground almonds and grated chocolate. Next stir in your flour and baking powder. Place the batter in a well-greased and floured springform pan.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
When the cake has cooled use a serrated knife to split the cake in three sections.
To assemble, place one cake layer on cake plate. If you are going to use the Kirschwasser, drip kirsch over the bottom layer, cover it with sour cherries and spead some whipped cream on top. Now place your second layer onto the first, drip kirsch over it and cover it with just the whipped cream.  Place the third layer on top and drip kirsch onto it as before.  Spread whipped cream across top and around the edges of the cake. Garnish with grated chocolate and cherries.
Now for you Europeans:
Preheat your oven to 175 degrees C
100 grams butter
100 grams sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
4 eggs
75 grams finely ground almonds (or ground hazelnuts)
100 grams grated semi-bitter chocolate
100 grams of flour
2 level teaspoons baking powder
7 tablespoons of Kirschwasser
750 grams sour cherries(pitted) drained or fresh
1 pint of whipping cream whipped with 3 tablespoons sugar
Just follow the directions above in the American version.