Easter time

3 Apr

Wondering what to do over the Easter break? My absolute favourite Easter pastime is heading up to the Fränkische Schweiz and checking out Osterbrunnen or Easter fountains. In addition to eating chocolate bunnies that is!

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I wrote an Easter post this time last year with some suggestions about what to expect and look out for, here.

And if that wasn’t enough encouragement for you to get out there and find an Osterbrunnen I just posted some pictures from last year and more tips on where to go, here.

Enjoy the long weekend and let me know if you get to see an Osterbrunnen or three!

Insiders guide to Fasching in Franconia

28 Jan

Are you thinking ’What the heck is Fasching?’ well look no further, I blogged last year about the basics and I’ve had some requests for an ‘Insiders guide’ so here it is…

Fasching is the pre lenten fasting party time of craziness that sweeps across Germany and is celebrated hardest in the Catholic regions, of which Franconia is one! Officially the Fasching period begins on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11 minutes past 11, (as a Brit this is a little strange to me). In reality, here in Franconia, this is when the behind the scenes works starts in planning for Fasching, you will only see signs of Fasching after the 7th January, Dreikönigstag (Three Kings day) and suddenly all the bakeries are filled with Krapfen (Donuts) and shops are filled with costumes and party supplies.

The actual date of Easter dictates when Fasching parties and parades will happen, the biggest week is the one preceding Ash Wednesday. Schools, Kindergartens and workplaces will be full of costumes, it’s pretty funny to try and talk to your bank manager with a straight face when he’s dressed as Batman.

Faschingsdienstag, Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day to Brits and Fat Tuesday to my US friends is the last hurrah before your lenten fast (if you’re Catholic anyway), as well as a parade (see recommendations below) your town may also bury/burn a Nubbel. A Nubbel is a straw dolly which symbolises the sins of the Fasching season, and it’s an excuse to continue the party with a BBQ until Ash Wednesday arrives.

Just a note here for all tie wearing men, on Weiberfastnacht (the Thursday preceding Ash Wednesday) wear your least favourite tie or perhaps just leave your tie at home. This day is Women’s Carnival and you could have your tie snipped off by any woman at any time, now you have a use for that awful tie the mother in law gave you last Christmas!

How to get there

Since Faschings parades tend to attract a lot of visitors parking can be scarce (and also far away) so using public transport is usually best, but do plan in advance since roads are closed for the parade to travel through the respective towns.

For up to date travel information check out VGN and Deutsche Bahn.

What to wear

Anything and everything. It’s February so be sensible, standing on the side of the road for a few hours means that dressing warmly is essential, not that this should mean that you can’t wear a costume though. Most kids wear their costume over their outdoor gear, whilst the adults who don’t go in for a costume will have some form of ‘fun’ head gear, don’t forget your deeley boppers people!

Excellent chicken parents!

Excellent chicken parents!

Useful to know

You might also hear Fasching referred to as Fastnacht or Karneval, they all mean the same thing and are purely regional variations.

Get used to hearing HELLLLOOOOOO over and over again, it’s actually a carnival greeting of Helau!

Helau!

If you are offended by the unpolitically correct, don’t go to a Fasching parade. Quite honestly this is just ‘the German way’, you can always close your eyes.

Sweets and treats will be thrown from the floats and by the parade participants, take a bag to collect any that you want, you may even get handed a free beer or headbutt a flying Krapfen (true story).

The parade in Cologne is the biggest and usually held on the Monday (Rosenmontag) before Ash Wednesday, it is attended by over a million people, it is televised though, so you can enjoy it from the comfort of your sofa.

Recommendations

Faschingzug in Neunkirchen am Brand (Fasching parade Neunkirchen am Brand) takes place on Tuesday 17th February 2015 starts at 2pm and is the biggest in the area, attracting more than 10000 visitors.

Starting the parade off right!

The 45th annual Brucker Faschingszug (Erlangen Bruck Fasching parade) takes place on Sunday 15th February 2015 starts at 2pm from Erlangen Bruck Marktplatz. The parade snakes it’s way around the town and back again, find yourself a spot and set up there, it will be pretty busy everywhere close to 2pm so arrive early to bag a good spot.

The lovely people at Nürnberg Zoo are providing free entry to any child (13 and under) who visits dressed as a zoo animal on the 16th&17th February 2015.

The details

Watching a Fasching parade is completely free.

You can bring any food or drink you wish to the parade, bakeries tend to get very busy and plenty shut whilst the parade is actually on.  Last year I was drinking Sekt and eating Krapfen, the year before it was sausages and beer.

Here’s a peek at what to expect in Erlangen Bruck in a few weeks…

Christmas Markets Franconia

22 Nov

Germany does Christmas well, I’ve said it before and I guarantee I’ll say it again. Locally these are the markets that I’ve visited the most, they are reliably lovely and great places to meet friends and get into the Christmas spirit. If you’ve never been to a Christmas Market in Germany before you might want to check out this guide first.

Nürnberg 29/11-24/12 – There is plenty to see here from the beautiful antique rides at the Childrens Christmas market to the hundreds of stall that fill the main square. If you’re lucky you might get to meet the Christkind (hint hint Tues-Fri 3pm she wanders the market) and the prune people are always worth a look.

Erlangen 26/11-24/12 Waldweihnachts Market – Held on the Schlossplatz, traditional stalls surround a woodland meeting and drinking area.

26/11-23/12 Historischer Weihnachtsmarkt – Held on the Neustädter Kirchenplatz (just of Freidrichstrasse) this medieval style Christmas Market always has a great atmosphere, Feuerzangenbowle and food.

Forchheim 29/11-24/12 – A personal favourite, every year the town hall facade is transformed into an advent calendar, at 6.30pm every night a window is opened and a Christmas angel reads out part of the Christmas story.

Fürth 27/11-23/12 Like Erlangen you’ll find two markets here, although they are connected so you can easily do both at the same time. The medieval one is great, lots of fire breathing and organic products, well worth a look.

Bamberg 27/11-23/12 A pretty standard offering, I really thought it would be better considering Bambergs historical beauty, plan to check out the rest of the city whilst your there it’s well worth it.

Most small towns in Franconia will have a Christmas Market in some shape or other during the Christmas period, even if it’s just Glühwein and bratwurst in a tiny town square. Get out and explore your area this festive season, let me know what you find!

 

EBKS Die Bibliothek

25 Aug

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This was one of the words on my first German spelling test at school, I probably got it wrong, but I’ve never forgotten the pronunciation and the way the word bubbles off your tongue. It’s one of my favourite German words and also the place in Erlangen that saved my sanity on occasion.

Considering it’s a place that is open to the general public it was initially hard to find…

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Off the Hauptstrasse, this is the entrance!

Well that just screams library doesn’t it? you actually have to walk through the cafe seating to get to the doorway. Sign? I hear you cry, no. It is written on the glass door inside that unlighted entrance so if you get within a foot you can actually tell it’s a library!

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Yes that gorgeous building is in fact the library

If you miss the side door off the main street you can always look for the main entrance, which is clearly marked indistinguishable from all the other buildings on the Marktplatz. There are certain clues, high volume of traffic in and out and a lot of parked bicycles outside, but to me as a newcomer I just assumed that it was some sort of Amt and I tend to avoid those unless its absolutely necessary.

Stadtbibliothek Erlangen (Erlangen city Library) Marktplatz 1 91054 Erlangen

Mon,Tues,Thurs,Fri 10am-6.30pm Saturday 10am-2pm Wednesday closed

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Returns, registration etc

The library is decorated simply and maintains many of its original features, it also has automatic doors and a lift so everyone can enjoy it.

Membership of the library will costs you 17.50 euro per year (they didn’t have a card machine when I registered so best to take cash), there are discounts for students etc and children under 18 are free. You will have to take your passport as ID and your German registration paper to confirm your address (although they are sympathetic to you living in a hotel and will just ask that you change your address when you move) and become a member.

Once you are a member, you can use the self checkouts to get your books, really easy to use and great for when you just don’t want to talk to anyone, you can also renew online. The assistants are helpful and are willing to speak English if you get stuck.

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The atrium

This area of the library is free to use you don’t need to be a member, it’s a quiet reading area and has a good selection of newspapers and magazines (though none in English) for you to read. Don’t attempt to take them with you though, they are tagged and need to be put back when you are finished.

At the far end of the atrium is the children’s book section, it has two floors, books (a decent english selection), audio books, music, DVDs and is generally a nice safe place to hang out with your little people. It is slightly separate to the rest of the library so no one expects your little darlings to be utterly silent whilst they are there.

Apologies for no more photographs but I didn’t want to annoy anyone that day.

Now for the grown ups, the second floor (turn left on exiting the lift, then right, and right again) houses a decent English language book selection, I haven’t read them all yet and it’s been 3.5 years, they get new ones fairly regularly too. They also cater for other languages but not in so great a volume. The audio book section is also nearby, just check that it is in English if that’s what you are looking for.

The CD/DVD section is just across from the English books, most will have an English language selection and there are a ton of box sets to chose from. There is a small charge to rent DVDs I think about 1.50 euro and you can only have them for a week, but when you’ve got no internet that’s a small price to pay!

The library also has great selections of written music, games and comics. It is a great place to study or just get lost in for a few hours, there is an modern art museum inside the  library which changes quite regularly, they even have a small shop of arty goodies.

You can access the internet (via the library computers) on the first floor, you do need to be a member to do this though.

So now you know where the library is, will you be visiting?

 

EBKS English books

20 Aug

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Finding English books that don’t cost the earth locally can be difficult and finding non bestsellers even more so which is why today I’d like to share with you my Erlangen treasure trove for book lovers.

Musicland – Helmstrasse 9 91054 Erlangen

Monday-Friday 11.30am-7pm Saturday 11am-1pm

Just like with books, never judge a shop by it’s cover!

Just like with books, never judge a shop by it’s cover!

Just off the main street and next door to Curry House (yum) you will find so much more than just music in this Aladdin’s cave of  CDs, DVDs, LPs and books! The window display is wonderfully eclectic and a true example of the wide ranging stock they have, stock does rotate fairly regularly (though the music faster than the books) so visit as often as you can, or in my case when I have money and space for new books. Everything here is pre loved, this makes the prices utterly reasonable, for a girl who misses her charity shop hauls, this place is close to heaven.

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As you walk in, it’s impossible not to browse in this shop

I didn’t manage to get a full picture of the whole of the shop because there were too many shoppers, this is about 1/6 of the stock in the front room of the shop. They also have turntables, see those green stools near the steps? so you can test out your vinyl before purchasing.

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Up the steps to the pure vinyl room

This room contains pretty much every genre of music available, old and new, from Schlager to Classical, traditional to modern(ish). I don’t even own a turntable anymore, I just love looking at the cover art.

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Soo much vinyl

Carrying on into the shop, which is very tardis like in it’s size and kind of reminds me of ‘Mr Penumbras 24 hour bookstore’ (wonderful book, you must read!) there are books filling every nook and cranny.

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Language learning section

If you turn left once you’re passed the vinyl on your left you will find a dictionary/language learning section. I have picked up some wonderful finds here, English-German dictionaries, verb books and even the ‘Deutsch als fremdsprache’ books I’ve used in language classes, and all for a fraction of the price of new books (even though they are maybe six months old).

Once you are ready to move on follow the path into the next room

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This will be right in front of you

On the left there are loads of travel books, some amazingly old and most pretty up to date, buying a German guide to a city/country can be a good way to practice your German, you can also find the occasional one in English. If you want something thats definitely in English go to the left of the bookcase with the travel books….

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All in English!!!!!

It’s a random selection, but a good one. Some of the shelves are two deep with paperbacks, which generally cost 2-3.50 euro, how much do you love me right?

There is also a selection of books in other languages, though it is smaller.

If you carry on to the back of the shop (yes there is more) you can even find written music (super cheap). Also at the back of the shop, you sometimes you will find a selection of books that are for sale by their weight, I cleaned up that way one day on random purchases.

This is a buy and sell enterprise but I have not yet sold anything back to the shop since I have a circle of book buddies locally who I exchange books with quite regularly, keeps my purse closed and my shelves from overflowing. The people who work in the shop have always been lovely and friendly, and in Germany I can’t say no to that kind of customer service now can I?

One of the great things about this shop is that you can take your time, no one will bother you and there are even random chairs and stools placed around the shop for friends bored of book shopping piling up your book booty.

There also have branches in Ausburg, Fuerth and Regensburg. Go try it out and let me know how you get on.

Insiders guide to Annafest

23 Jul

In celebration of the feast day of St Anne (mother of the Virgin Mary) Annafest is a 10 day long beer festival held in the Forchheim Kellerwald. The Kellerwald if a hilly forest  on the edge of town, where the local breweries traditionally, and some still do, store their beers in the various Kellers which run through the hill. With an expected attendance of 500,000 people, it really is the place to be locally.

Annafest has adifferent kind of atmosphere to the Bergkirchweih, it is undoubtedly more local, you won’t hear an awful lot of English being spoken, but it is a wonderful festival. And the Kellerwald is also open May-September so you can enjoy a lovely beer without the crowds and organised chaos.

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View to the ferris wheel

How to get there

Get the train to Forchheim, then a bus/taxi or walk to the kellerwald, there is also a park and ride option

– There is a regular bus service from the train station to the Kellerwald, you cannot usually (maybe this will change this year) use your Tages ticket on this bus, you will have to pay around 2 euro for a specific one way bus ticket

– There are plenty of taxis at the train station, they charge a fixed fee to get you to the kellerwald (usually 6-8 euro) so if you are in a big group it can work out cheaper than the bus

-Walking to the kellerwald will take you about 20 minutes (its 2km), it’s not a particularly picturesque walk and you can just follow the crowds

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What to wear

Sensible footwear, it’s in a forest and on a hill, you have been warned.

Tracht (Lederhosen and Dirndl) for the whole family are common.

There are more areas that are covered in the kellerwald than at the Bergkirchweih, but if the forecast is for rain, take a jacket

Useful to know

There is a refundable deposit “Pfand on your mug, glass, bottle or plate. Mugs and glasses are generally 5 euro, other bottles and crockery is usually less. Always return you items to get back your pfand, look out for ‘Ruckgabe’ to make your returns.

Beer will be served by the Maß (litre) in most places ‘Eine Maß bitte’ it will be served in a stone mug and will cost you  7.40 euro (plus pfand)

For a more refreshing and less alcoholic drink try a Radler, a mix of half beer half lemonade. You will also be served this by the Maß, ‘Ein Radler bitte’ and it will usually come with a straw in it to indicate it’s a radler. Tip – If you get rid of the straw no-one will be any the wiser that you’re drinking shandy. Radler willl cost the same as a full beer and have the same deposit on the mug.

Other alcoholic options are Weißbier (wheat beer) which is usually served in 0.4l or 0.5l. Wein or Weinschorle, the latter is mixed with lemonade for a suß (sweet) schorle or sparking water for a Sauer (sour) version, both equally refreshing and a nice alternative to beer.

Apfelschorle is my favourite of the usual fizzy drinks and water, half apple juice, half fizzy water. Tip – If its hot, sometimes you can order a Maß of apfelschorle, otherwise you usually get a 0.5l.

Toilets are 5o cents a go but will generally be clean and well kept, the queues can get long for the ladies (such is life) join before you’re desperate.

Know how to toast in German, a hearty clink of stone mugs and a “Prost” Oh and make sure to keep eye contact with everyone one you toast with, otherwise 7 years of bad sex is coming you way (I kid you not).

You will hear the bands play this at least once an hour, learn it and sing it loud!

‘Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, Der Gemütlichkeit

Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, Der Gemütlichkeit’

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Dancing on the tables is just more fun on a hill in a forest!

Neder-Keller is a party keller, it is not really suitable for kids after noon, plenty of dancing on the tables though!

The walk up through the woods is mostly tarmac so suitable for pushchairs etc but parts are steep so have good brakes.

Leave you bike at the bottom of the hill, there are too many people to ride it up and down.

You won’t find many cash machines (ATMs) in the Kellerwald, be prepared.

Recommendations

Have a plan, there is no way you can try all the kellers in one day so pick a selection, this will help.

Eichhorn-Keller to sample the Eichhorn beer, I love this stuff, true amber nectar as far as I’m concerned. Their biergarten is pretty chilled and does good food, it even has a sandpit for the kids.

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Look out for this stuff!

Neder-Keller, their Schwarze Anna (a dark delicious beer) is something to try, it looks like Guiness but tastes completely different, I love it.

Grief-Keller, pretty much the first Keller you come to and they do a lovely refreshing beer, it’s a perfect start to a beer festival.

Look out for Bock biers, these are VERY strong, delicious but one is usually enough.

The parade is full of traditional costumes and musicians, if you don’t want to follow it from town Greif Keller which overlooks the path up to the Kellerwald will give you a good view. The musicians also parade through the Kellerwald, you’ll hear them coming.

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The details

The official tapping of the first barrel is at 5pm Friday 25 July. This year the mayor will tap the barrel at Schindlers Keller which is usually a quieter Keller so theres a good chance you could score a free Maß!

Opening hours are 1pm-11.30pm Monday-Friday and 11am-11.30pm Weekends (realistically some Kellers open at 9am-10am).

Price for a Maß is 7.60 euro + optional tip 0.40, so lets save on change filling your pockets and say 8 euro (plus 5 euro pfand).

The parade from the town to Annafest starts at 2.30pm on Saturday 26th.

Tuesday and Thursday 1pm-8pm are family days, lots of the rides will give family discouts during these hours.

Wednesday is the Forchheimer Tag, lots of the shops in Forchheim will close at noon so that the workers can enjoy an afternoon at Annafest.

Let me know if you have any more questions about Annafest and if you plan to visit have a great time!

Introducing…..

4 Jul

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My new series of posts coming up.
I’ve been here for a while now and I’m ready to share some of my tried and tested utmost favourites with you, and I guarantee that all my opinions are my own, I don’t have sponsors, it’s all my own personal recommendations.
Also look out for an Insiders guide to Annafest and some fun expat related posts too.
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