Papenburg – Landesgartenschau and Meyer Werft – May 17th

We went with Stabe’s (Jodi and Ben) to Papenburg for the 2014 Niedersachsen Landesgartenschau and to tour the Meyer Werft. The Landesgartenschau is a big gardening exposition that occurs every 4 years, each time in a different city in the state. They have all kinds of new products related to gardening, playground equipment, interesting ideas for how to plant stuff and new materials to use… pretty much anything you can think of related to your yard they have it. Someday when we have a house I think Morgan is going to require a badebottich. A badebottich is a Scandinavian version of a hot tub- it is headed by a wood fired stove. Though it seems lo-tech they are pretty pricy; one with a diameter of 180 cm (enough space for 6 people) costs about €2,300.

Separate from the main garden exhibition area there was a second area where the THW (Technisches Hilfswerk –or Federal Agency for Technical Relief) was set up to do demonstrations and answer questions.  The THW is a civil protection organization controlled by the government. Interestingly, 99% of its approx. 84K members are volunteers. Our friend Ben is a volunteer, so he was excited to show us around. They help with all kinds of disasters such as traffic accidents, industrial disasters, floods, fires, etc. and things like putting up the Christmas trees and other decorations for the holidays.

Next we walked around town a little before meeting the shuttle to go to the Meyer Werft. Who knew that the majority of the world’s largest cruise ships come from a small town in northern Germany that is not even near the coast? Meyer Werft has been located on the Ems since 1795- this canal connects Papenburg to the North Sea. They build everything from cruise ships and river cruise liners to research vessels and container ships. We couldn’t get over how big the Quantum of the Seas was (that is the ship they are building currently).  Because of the bends of the canal the ships are now the longest they can make them and they are pretty much as wide as they can get as well, since ships have to pass through several draw-bridges. Currently there only a few feet of clearance on either side of the ship when it passes through them!

After the tour we headed back to Jodi and Ben’s house in Ankum for dinner – yummy salmon on the grill. Rather than driving back to Osna late at night, we stayed at their place and went with them to a town festival on Sunday morning celebrating the 500th anniversary of St. Nikolaus (the Catholic church in Ankum).

Mai Woche 2014

Every year Morgan’s department at work picks a night to go to the Osnabrueck Maiwoche celebration together. Unfortunately this year’s day was a soggy mess, but we still had a great time! What is in that delicious red drink with strawberries (erdbeer) you see us drinking (well the girls at least)?  It is called a Maibowle (this one is the strawberry version) and here is how you can make one:

Erdbeer Maibowle (serves 6 – with plenty for seconds..)

  • ½ cup dried woodruff (known as Waldmeister over here)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup cognac (though I think you can do without this if you want)
  • 4 quarts mosel wine or rhine wine (so typically a riesling, but I think any semi-sweet to sweet white would work)
  • Crushed ice
  • 2 quarts chilled champagne or 2 quarts club soda
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, washed and hulled


  1. Place dried herbs in a small bowl; add boiling water. Let stand for 1 hour, strain. Place 3 tablespoons in punch bowl. Stir in sugar, cognac, and wine; add ice.
  2. Just before serving, pour in champagne or soda and float strawberries in the bowl (or add put a few on a stick!).
  3. Ours were red because they added strawberry syrup for good measure, but either way it is delicious!

Mosel River & Burg Eltz – May 4th

It’s now mid-November and I’m just now working on the last day of our trip back in May.. so here we go.

We left our hotel in Trier in the morning to head back towards Osnabrueck through the Rhine valley. On the way to Bernkastel-Kues, we saw Schloss Lieser that looked pretty amazing and seemed to be under renovation.  From what I can tell on their website ( they have a winery and they are turning the castle into a spa/hotel type set up.  Hopefully next time it will be completed and we can stay there, Morgan?

We parked right by the river and walked around the Bernkastel half (Kues is on the other side of the river) before heading up to Landshut castle. Well, it would be more accurate to say the ruins of the Landshut castle. It was built in 1277 but was destroyed by a fire in 1692 so there isn’t much to do other than see the courtyard and have a glass of wine – but the views from up there of the Mosel, vineyards, and town are pretty great. From town they have several paths that go right through the vineyards to the castle (which is what we did) but you can also take a shuttle if you don’t feel up for a hike up the mountain.

The city center looks so German – nearly all the buildings are the old half timbers and have been very well maintained. The town square looks just like a post card so we ate our breakfast on a bench there to enjoy the view. We loved all the tiny, crooked buildings including the Spitzhäuschen which was built in 1476. Because it is so picturesque (and right on the river) – it gets lots of tourists even though it is so small.  As you can see in some of the pictures by the time we walked back down in to town it was getting pretty crowded, so we headed north to Burg Eltz.

Burg Eltz was built in the 15th century and is still owned by the same family that has been living there since the 12th century. It is one of the only castles in Germany that has never been destroyed or damaged and re-built.  This is not because the castle is remote or hidden away, but because the Eltz family maintained wide-reaching political and social networks so that no matter which army was in the region, the Eltzes managed to use their influence to protect themselves. Because of this, the interior is still full of original furniture, tapestries, and other decorations. The bathroom situation here seems to be much better than in other castles we visited – they had 20 in all and the toilets were flushed by rainwater collected from the roof, through a sewage duct, and out to the valley below. Sounds a lot better than a chamber pot, don’t you think? What doesn’t sound good is the fact that they used hay and cabbage leaves as toilet paper. Sadly no pictures inside, so you’ll have to visit for yourself if you want to see it. 🙂

While waiting in line for lunch the ladies in front of us said that the interior here is better (as far as how many rooms you can see and how much of the original furnishings are left) than at Neuschwanstein castle; hopefully one day I can find out for myself!

Luxembourg City – May 3rd

Luxembourg City is a short drive from Trier (about 45 min), so I figured if we were that close we should go check it out. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has three official languages (Luxembourgish, French and German) so I thought we’d be able to get by knowing German.. but turns out most things were in French (menus, signs, etc). The city is quite hilly, with part of the city up on the hills/cliffs and part down in the Alzette and Pétrusse valleys- so we definitely go a workout walking up and down the steep streets for the day. The geography did make for some beautiful views though! We started out walking out on the Pont Adolphe (Adolphe Bridge) and then by the Place de la Constitution and the Gelle Fra (Monument of Remembrance).  I was pretty surprised by some of the street names – ie. Avenue John F. Kennedy and Boulevard Franklin Delano Roosevelt- which were mixed in with all the French names.

After a short (and expensive – purchase required to use bathroom and a bottle of water was $3!) detour to use a bathroom in town, we walked through Place Guillaume II (one of the main squares in town) where they had a farmers market on the way to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame. The organ gallery and stained glass windows were really beautiful here (are you sensing a theme here?.. I’m a sucker for stained glass windows!). When we left we walked along Le Chemin de la Corniche (also called “the most beautiful balcony in Europe”), a path that borders the old ramparts along the edge of the Alzette which overlooks the Grund in the valley down below. From here we were able to enter the Casemates – a huge network of under-ground defensive galleries (from the 17th century) that were part of the fortifications around the old castle. The Casemates not only provided shelter for thousands of soldiers, but also housed workshops, kitchens, bakeries, etc. I’m usually not claustrophobic, but I’ll admit some of the pathways and staircases were pretty narrow and dark.. I can’t imagine having to live in there for long periods of time if the town was being attacked! During the two world wars the Bock Casemates served as a shelter with the capacity to hold 35,000 people in the event of a bombardment .

We wandered around town a little bit before stopping by the Palais Grand Ducal, the official royal residence. It is right in town with a fairly narrow pedestrian street in front of it so it was just about impossible to get a picture of the entire thing at once. There was no big fence around it.. the only way you’d know it is something special are the armed guards out front! By this point we were getting pretty hungry so we had a panini and a salad at a café nearby. It was so nice to sit down and have some coffee while people watching from the second floor. This time when we headed out of town we headed down to the Grund (the part of town down in the Alzette valley). After walking along the river and taking in the views of the casements from below we sat outside and had a glass of a local beer. When we were leaving we cheated and took the elevator up instead of walking up the steep streets.. my legs were so tired by this point.

For dinner we settled on a tex-mex place called Chi-Chi’s that was right on the Place d’Armes – a very pretty (and Parisian) looking square in town. It might sound crazy to have Mexican for dinner while in Luxembourg but given that 1. The town is expensive in general – restaurant food included (especially the nicer, Luxembourgish and French restaurants) and 2. Mexican is just about impossible to find in Europe.. so we decided to go for it. It was so delicious and affordable- a great end to the day. There were so many stately and beautiful buildings in Luxembourg City. It reminded me of Paris, but cleaner and less crowded!

Trier – May 2nd

Trier is one of Germany’s oldest towns – it was founded in 16 BC as Augusta Treverorum, supposedly by the Emperor Augustus himself. So the “old” and “historical” sights in this town are on a whole other playing field than the historical buildings I’ve drug Morgan around to in other cities in Germany. Heidelberg to Trier isn’t too bad of a drive (less than 2 hours) and when we were on the road Morgan saw signs for Hockenheim (the other big race track in Germany) so we made a slight detour to try to go by the track. It actually ended up being a race weekend (not F1 though, Porsche Super Cup and DTM) so all the roads leading up to it were guarded so we couldn’t get close. Luckily the road the GPS put us on to get going the correct way to Trier took us pretty close to the grand stands so Morgan at least got to see that.

We started out the day walking through the Porta Nigra (the black gate), which is Germany’s oldest defensive structure (it was built in the 2nd century). We walked around Hauptmarkt to check out the market going on plus the interesting buildings and fountain. The 15th century Steipe (the white one with the very steep gabled roof) was used by the town councilors as a guesthouse and banqueting hall. The red one next to it in the picture below is the Baroque Rotes Haus which was built in 1683. The oldest pharmacy in Germany – Löwenapotheke- (dating from the 13th century) is also on the square, but was have some renovations done the weekend we were there so it was closed. At this point it started raining, again, so we ate lunch at Subway to kill some time.

When the rain stopped we went to the Dom St. Peter which is the oldest cathedral in Germany. The entire complex is pretty massive, in addition to the Cathedral there is a cloister and both are attached to the Liebfrauenkirche (the Church of our Lady – the Papal Basilica). The most precious relic of the Trier Cathedral is the Holy Robe (also called the Tunic of Christ). We got really lucky and our trip happened to coincide with a Heilig-Rock-Tage (Holy Robe Day) so we were actually able to go into the Holy Robe Chapel and see the glass shrine where the robe is kept, on normal days you can’t go up to this room. After a quick walk around the Cloister we walked next door to the Liebfrauenkirche. The shape of the basilica was pretty interesting it has an atypical cruciform floor plan as a round church. This along with the stained glass windows and high vaulted ceiling made it one of the more memorable churches we’ve visited so far.

Next we saw the Aula Palatine (the Palatinate hall – these days it is home to a Protestant church), which was built in 310 AD. It served as the throne hall of the Roman emperor or his representative. Granted it has been reduced to rubble a few times (when Germanic tribes sacked the city way back when and during WWII) and the inside has been remodeled/ changed, but the size of the building (it is one gigantic room inside!) and the look of the outside are true to the original. We walked around the side of the building to see the Kurfürstliches Palais. We didn’t get to see the inside (it is used as an administrative building so visits are only by appointment), but it is considered to be one of the most beautiful Rococo palaces in the world… so maybe next time! We walked along the Palasgarten out to the Kaiserthermen, which are the remains of the vast imperial baths that were once here. When they were built in the 4th century they were the third largest bathing complex in the Roman world.

From here we walked back towards the city center and stopped to have some coffee and waffles with cherry sauce and whipped cream (a popular German afternoon snack that is pretty amazing). After that, believe it or not, Morgan did some shopping. He bought a new dress shirt and tie from a men’s store he likes over here (H.E.) and two new pairs of dress shoes to wear with his suits that are more “European”. When we finished up our shopping we had a glass of wine at the little tent that was set up in the middle of the Hauptmarkt – by this point it was about 4:30 (on a Friday afternoon) so the stand was starting to fill up. Though we had seen a good may people drinking glasses of wine when we first got into town… at 11 in the morning (haha). Since it was still a bit early for dinner we sat down at an outdoor table for a restaurant right on the Hauptmarkt and tried a weinproben (a wine sampler) and had some bread. I loved getting to try so many yummy Rieslings and other sweet wines – since that is the main type of wine produced in this part of the country they are cheap and easy to come by. While we were sitting outside the sun actually started to come out which was a nice change from the rain and dreariness of previous day and a half.

After looking in a couple more shops we ate dinner at yummy German restaurant called Kartoffel Restaurant Kiste. I went with the bratwurst with mashed potatoes plate since it was supposedly a smaller portion while Morgan ordered off the spargle menu. Spargle season is a huge deal here so most restaurants have a special menu that features their beloved white asparagus with ever offering. Morgan went with schnitzel with boiled potatoes and spargle with hollandaise. It was probably the best spargle we’ve ever had! It was delicious.

When we finished up dinner we headed to our little hotel that was a little ways out in the country. There was a little mix up, (aka. they gave away our room since we got there at 8:30 pm, even though the booking confirmation said check in lasted until 10 pm. Per the desk lady, in Germany you are “just supposed to know” that if you are checking in after 6 you need to call earlier in the day to say you still want your room… “was auch immer” is what I say!) so the first night we were put in another gästehaus down the road – which we ended up like more than the original one we booked. We had a great time sitting down in the bar of the hotel and talking with one of the locals (Peter) who has his own little vineyard and his cute little dog who was with him.

Heidelberg – May Day

On May Day we headed south for the long weekend. We started out in Heidelberg, which was almost a 4 hour drive from Osna. Most of our (German) friends here thought we were crazy for driving so “far” on a four day weekend, but when you come from the States (rather than one of these relatively small European countries) I guess your perception of distance is a little different.  We started out our rainy day in Heidelberg in the Kornmakt where we got our first look at the Heidelberg Castle. We walked down Hauptstrasse, one of the main roads in the altstat, passing Marktplatz where they had a small festival going on for the holiday. We saw the outside of Haus zum Ritter (built in 1592), which is the oldest houses in Heidelberg since it was one of the only to survive the Wars of Succession – thanks to its stone façade. Next we checked out the Heiliggeistkirche – built in 1400 – making it the oldest church in town.

When we left the church the rain had stopped so we headed towards the Neckar River to see the Heidelberg Monkey and the Brückentor (Bridge Gate). As we were walking across the Alte Brücke, looking back we had a beautiful view of the altstat and the castle up on the hill. We kept on walking across to the other side and then took the Schlangenweg (a very steep path with a ton of steps to get up to where the walk starts) up to the Philosophenweg; the walkway on the northern side of the Neckar up on the Heiligenberg (Saints’ Mountain). The beautiful views of the city from up here are said to have inspired the famous German poets Joseph von Eichendorff and Friedrich Hölderlin in their writings. Though we weren’t inspired to write any poetry, the view was pretty impressive despite the rainy weather!

By the time got back down the mountain and across the river we had worked up an appetite so we stopped in at Brauhaus Vetter for a Maibock (a special beer brewed in the spring- it was delicious!), a brezel, and a bread and cheese plate. We headed to the Jesuitenkirche, which turned out to be even more beautiful than the Heiliggeistkirche. I loved the all-white inside with the colorful alter and hints of gold and silver all around.. plus all the beautiful chandeliers! The between the Jesuitenkirche and the Alte Universität was full of colorful buildings with cute shutters – a nice change from up where we live.

We saw the Studentenkarzer; which was the University jail up until the 1914. While Karzer arrest originally would have been a severe punishment, the respect for this punishment diminished with time, particularly in the 19th century, as it became a matter of honor to have been incarcerated at least once during one’s time at university. Students could be “locked up” for 3 days to 4 weeks for Town vs. Gown offenses, such as disturbing the peace, womanizing, unruly drunkenness, and setting the townspeople’s pigs free. – Though you didn’t get out of going to class, there was a passage from the jail to the University! After a quick walk by the oldest of the University buildings and the Universitätsbibliothek we ducked in a coffee shop since at this point it was raining pretty hard. When the downpour slowed down a little we walked around town some more looking in shops and a few smaller churches to get out of the rain. When it stopped we walked back down to the river and walked along it all the way down to the lock bridge, across the river and along the far bank, admiring the pretty houses.

When we crossed back over the Alte Brücke we headed to Zum Güldenen Schaf for a glass of Riesling – the type of wine this area of Germany is famous for, which also happens to be my favorite! Morgan was craving Asian food, so we ended up at a sushi place near the Brückentor. By the time we finished dinner it was starting to get dark so we walked back out on the bridge to see the castle lit up at night. It was nice to enjoy the bridge and the view without the crowds that were there earlier, even though the weather had been pretty bad all day the amount of tourists in town was crazy. This was probably the most tourist filled city we’ve been to in Germany so far!