Sunday, May 24, 2009

Heyersdorf Bauern (Farm)

Marcel's Grandmother's farm neighbors his home town of Ponitz. It used to be a fully functioning farm when he was little. He lived there with his whole family until his parents finished building their house. I was given the grand tour when I arrived.

Finally, after 2+ years, I get to meet his Grandmother. It's on sadder terms than I'd like, but his grandma is an extraordinary woman. She's so strong, so independent I can tell that I like her immediately. She has this wisdom about her that is strong, but also a kindheartedness that is very welcoming.

Above: Marcel's Grandma and his sister Madeleine check out the Mietzes.

Above: The Wolf family Farm Complex, Below: Madeleine and Ingrid and the fish pond.

Above: Marcel and Madeleine on the farm, Below: Wolf Family Farm Mietz!

Kaffee und Kuchen (Coffee & Cake)

She has made, just for us, one of her Grandma specialties, (what good Grandmother doesn't have a handful of these?!) So she makes me Quark Spitze.

This is a tough one to explain. Mainly because Quark doesn't exist in the U.S. The closest likeness to it would be yogurt, but less sour. Anyway, its mixed with flour and eggs and then the dough is deep fried and sprinkled with sugar. Oh MY! It was some kind of sweet sweet heaven! :-) I talk in the best but inevitably broken German I can and get to know Grandma Renata, Aunt Ingrid & Uncle Wilfred.

Madeleine with the dandelions.

Beauty everywhere! I'm standing in a field of "Raps" -very common in the farm fields of Germany. I looked up the English word for this and it said Canola. This fits to what Marcel said about the Raps being used for bio-diesel fuel and for oil. We were there just in time for prime raps season, when they're golden colored and just so vibrant!

It is obvious that they have quite the amount of pride in their work, and it's obvious why. The place looks wonderful and it must be really rewarding to be so self sufficient. I think I could get used to farm life!His Aunt and Uncle work and live on the farm. They have their own portion of the main farmhouse as their own apartment.

After Kaffee & Kuchen(Coffe & Cake) hour, (this is common around 3-4pm in Germany) the tour begins. She has row after row of veggies in her garden. There are flowering trees and bushes all around too. They show me the stalls where the hens used to sit. They're now in a little hen house separate from the main farm buildings. There are bunnies there in the place of the hens and piggies. They're eating fresh veggies...they're so big and cute! The local farm cat just had 5 kittens, so the adorable little fur balls keep prancing by me...too quick for me though. And mama cat is nearby keeping a close eye on her little ones. We move on, the old Oxen & Horse pen, the greenhouse, the yard where Marcel and his sister Madeleine played when they were young. I get a tour of the inside too.

Back in the farm's heyday it was quite the establishment. People in East Germany that couldn't make it otherwise, would come and work on the farm. They'd become full time workers for the family and in return they got food and a place to rest their heads at night.

Farms were very successful during those times when other jobs and former forms of wealth no longer mattered so much. (Above: An original farm door from 1862!) Marcel told stories of people offering their watches and even jewelry in return for food. Grandma Wolf gives me several fresh apples and I thank her for her hospitality...we head back to quaint little Ponitz to end the day.

Kyffhäuser Cave & Monument

I get early morning lessons in driving a manual transmission as we await family Sittner's arrival. Then we make our way up to the Kyffhäuser Monument. I have read about the legendary King of Germany from the Middle Ages in my German 3 Class so I was curious to see what the monument looked like. There's an interesting legend behind this character. He's quite well known in German history as a great King and leader and fought in the third Crusade in the late 1100's. Beyond that, the myth states that: “He is not dead, but asleep with his knights in a cave in the Kyffhäuser mountain in Thuringia, and that when the ravens cease to fly around the mountain he will awake and restore Germany to its ancient greatness.”

Above: Kaiser Wilhelm
According to the story, his red beard has grown through the table at which he sits. His eyes are half closed in sleep, but now and then he raises his hand and sends a boy out to see if the ravens have stopped flying.” So, as we looked at the monument, I thought of this story. It's crazy to think back that far in history. To be looking at a real person of such fame that he's got his own monument.

Above: Kaiser "Rotbart" Barbarossa

It's in a beautiful area. Kyffhäuser is a mountain range that's on the Southern edge of the Harz mountains. It's nestled right in with patchwork farmland and quaint little villages.

Above: Marcel and his mom Andrea
There was a well outside of the monument. It's one of the deepest in all of Germany. You could purchase a rock to toss down. I wasn't about to, but a little boy wanted to put his rock in...the little shute was jammed. So Marcel and I try to unclog the kind of works. His rock doesn't fall but another one does and we all jump as the well sprays back in our faces and starts talking to us. We all giggle at the unexpected...soggy in the face!
Little monument Mietz
Lunch time! Thurignian Bratwurst...MMM!
Afterwards we get lunch at restaurant nearby. I take the opportunity to put the rumor to the test and get myself the Thurignian Bratwurst. They claim that they are the best Bratwurst in all of Germany. Ok, so maybe I'm gullible. Dudes sleeping in caves and the best bratwurst EVER...well it certainly lived up to the hype. Not so much with the Kartoffelsalat (German potato salad)...but the Brat, yeah, it passed the test!

We go to another Barbarossa “Red Beard”related spot, a cave called Barbarossahöhle. This place is thought to be where Barbarossa sleeps and awaits his moment to return and restore Germany to it's ancient greatness. Talk about big promises, sounds like a good deal for Germany though. Years and years later, this sleeping guy comes out of nowhere from this cave and saves EVERYONE! Brilliant if you ask me.

In the cave are huge caverns. In one part there's a throne made of stone with a table in front. Oh...and look at that, even a crown sits atop the table!

Königin Madeleine (Queen Madeleine)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Harz Mountains & Wenigerode & Schierke

I had no idea what was in store for me on my way to Wenigerode. Marcel had told me that he went to college there, but I had only heard bits and pieces. I was pleasantly surprised to find one of my favorite little towns I have yet to see in Germany. It is full of colorful buildings, namely it's Rathaus (town hall) which is absolutely gorgeous! Also, Wenigerode is home to the smallest house in Europe. (see below)

I get a tour of Marcel's university Harz Hochschule after we find his old Professor. It's a really great facility, with all sorts of fun things: motion capture studio, green screen room, sound editing room, labs for 3d animation of course...etc. We join him in the Menza (Cafeteria) and have typical student food. Not the best, but you sure can't beat the price.

Below: The town square morning Market

This town has a charm all its own, but it's exactly what you probably picture when you think of a German town. The half timbered houses side by side...painted all sorts of colors, with window boxes filled with flowers. There were little witches for sale in touristy shops everywhere. It turns out that this town holds legend to many a witch tale. In fact, the Harz is famed for its witch legends. The eve of May 1 is believed to be Walpurisnacht, the night of the witch's sabbath on the Brocken, the highest mountain in the region. This occasion is an episode in Goethe's famous play “Faust.”
Above: Hexen Kessel Restaurant (Witch's Kettle Restaurant)

I find a hotel to stay in – the Kartoffelhaus Hotel (the Potato House Hotel) has a room so I go for it. It's right in the heart of this wonderful village and I can smell the potatoes from the Gasthaus (German name for full service restaurant) downstairs. I try out a dish called “Hexenspieß” (Witch spices) and it's quite tasty. I finally see the infamous “Rote Grütze” (above) on a menu too, so I have that for desert. I have read about this sweet/tart raspberry wonder but didn't have the chance until now to try it. Oh and it's worth the wait!

I wake up and am pleased to find that there's a market in the town square. I buy a regional speciality called “Baumkuchen” (Tree cake) which, don't worry, the ingredients have nothing to do with's the way they're made. (above) They take thin slices of spongy cake and roll them thin layer by layer around each other so it looks like the rings of a tree when you saw the trunk in half. Another form of Baumkuchen is when they stack these donut like rings over each other to create a glazed tower that looks like a bunch of glazed donuts stacked on top of each other. (see below) Yum!

Then, onto the infamous (well for me) Apotheke (Pharmacy) where the digestive herbal schnapps drink Schierkefeuerstein was born. (see below) Marcel introduced me to this years ago and I always request it when he takes his order of stuff to bring back to the U.S. With I had to go see the place where this stuff was made.

It's in the town of Schierke, but the drink is actually named after the “Fire stone” itself. (below)

That's what “feuerstein” means, fire stone. So we take the hike up to see what the hype's all about. It's worth the trek but the Schierke Apotheke was disappointing. They had an old setup of what the pharmacy used to look like, but nothing to tour. I guess the ingredients and method are highly secretive. So it goes...

On our way back down from the fire stone, we happen upon the steam train...much hated by Marcel ever since spending 4 years of waking up to the ever nagging “tooot tooooooot”s and hisses. But I was quite enthralled – having no recollection of ever seeing a steam train before.

We stop by in Rubeland. And go to Hermanns Höhle (Cave) the cave was really beautiful and full of stalagmites and stalactites. It also had a skeleton of a bear...that was was HUGE! Then it was onto Bad Frankenhausen where we are to meet family Sittner for a trip to Frederik Barbarossa's cave and the infamous Kyffhäuser. (Kaiser Weißbart Wilhelm and Kaiser Rotbart Barbarossa.) More on this later...stay tuned!