More Nürnberg

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Limestone on which Nürnberg is built

Two more thoughts about Nürnberg as we are now docking in Reggensburg:

First:  In medieval times, people drank beer rather than water because the water quality was poor and would make them sick but by fermenting the water in the beer making process the bad bugs were killed.  Everyone drank beer.  The beer, however, was much less alcoholic than today’s.  That made it easier to drink without drunkenness issues but it also meant that the beer would spoil in warm weather.  To avoid spoilage, the people of Nürnberg carved out huge caves into the limestone on which Nürnberg is built.  The beer was stored in these cool caves, which kept it fresh.  Interestingly, these very samecaves served as bunkers during the bombing raids of WWII and as many as 50,000 people were able to take refuge in them.

Second:  Just outside of our hotel was a “pferdplatz.”  A horse stopping place where the post carriage took on and let of passengers.  The horses,  Belgians, were magnificent and they made me think of Kris communing with the draft horses at Oktoberfest.

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Post carriage at hotel

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Politics or Art

Seen on a card rack in Nürnberg:

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Nürnberg: Onto the River Princess

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Nürnberg from castle

I’m so happy!  Why? Because I have finally made secure connection to this page.  Technology connects us but it also makes us crazy when it doesn’t work.  But, enough about that.

Yesterday afternoon, we boarded Uniworld’s River Princess to begin the second phase of this December holiday.  Our rooms are compact but have enough space for all of our stuff plus us; so, that’s good enough.  The public spaces are very nice and comfortable.

We had an orientation spiel last night and are beginning to get the feel of shipboard life.  Since all beverages are included in our fare, the feel of life aboard this ship might be distinctly wobbly.  Only time will tell.  The staff hail from everywhere and seem universally friendly and efficient.

Our first tour was of the city.  We bussed to the castle, which is high on a hill as castles often are and then walked down through the old town with our guide, Andy.  The old town part of Nürnberg is still distinctly medieval.  Although most of that part of the city was destroyed during WWII, when it came time to rebuild after the war, the good people of Nürnberg decided to carefully restore the city to its prewar appearance.

Andy explained that an interesting transformation took place as a result of this decision.  Before the war, the old city was primarily occupied by the poor.  The exteriors of the houses were charming but the insides were terrible; often, they had no water or plumbing.  After the war the exteriors once again looked anciently charming but the interiors had been reconstructed as modern structures; so, of course, wealthy people moved into the area.  I don’t know where the poor folks went.

Albrecht Durer is a famous son of Nürnberg and we strolled past his rather grand house and looked at a few reproductions of his work.

We were on our own for lunch and some of us went to a little place greatly favored by locals.  Very small, with all the cooking done in the center and tables and benches along the walls.  You just find a spot and squeeze in.  The restaurant also has its own butchery in the basement and its meat and meat products are of the highest quality.

Michael and I had the Nürnberger sausages, which are small, have proportionately less fat to meat than most sausages and are flavored with marjoram.  They come grilled, six to an order,* which includes a side dish of either sauerkraut or potato salad.  I had mine with the kraut.  Fabulous.  MIchael had his, which through some mix-up had eight sausages, with the salad.  Also fabulous.  We ate every little porky bite.

One of the gentleman sitting at our table had the pork tongue and he said it was delicious.  His wife pretty much just recoiled when he offered her a bite from his fork.  I’m afraid I’m with her.

*Or eight, or ten, or twelve.

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Nürnberg: First Impressions

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Michael with mushrooms and garlic sauce; Claire with riced potatoes topped with bacon, cheese and tzatsiki 

We (all twelve of us) arrived in Nürnberg at 12:27 p.m. on a train from Munich.  What a group. Twelve people and at least twenty-four assorted pieces of luggage.  Craziness.  After only a few misturns, we found taxis and were packed up and on our way to the Hotel Saxx in the center of the city.

The hotel is modern, the rooms are tiny and the location unbeatable. We are right next to the Christmas Market.  Which meant, of course, that as soon as we had found our rooms and refreshed ourselves, we plunged into the market/. It was good fun.  We found interesting things to eat, to see, to hear and to do.  In fact, it was so much fun that we went back out after dark to experience it ablaze with lights.  Michael stayed in as his cold is reaching its crisis point.

It’s interesting that at some of the food and drink stalls you pay a deposit for the cup or container, which you then reclaim.  Helps to reduce litter.

We had little sausages with sauerkraut, fried mushrooms with garlic sauce, a riced potato concoction that was like a giant twice-baked potato without the skin, and a meatloaf hamburger type thing on a bun;  we had lebkuchen, macaroons and orange sections dipped in chocolate; we had gluhwein of both the red and white varieties and we had beer.  It’s no wonder I’m feeling a little unsettled.

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St. Nicholas Day: December 6th

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Munich

As we entered the dining room for breakfast at the Munich City Hilton, we were each given a large foil-covered chocolate St. Nicholas.  Turns out that in Germany, December 6th is St. Nicholas’s Day.  Who knew?  Not me, obviously.

I tried to pack my chocolate Santa but by the time we got to Nürnberg, my hollow Santa had become very one dimensional and we were forced to eat bits of him before chucking what was left in the trash.  I packed Michael’s Santa in one of his shoes and it survived the trip fully three-dimensional.

This morning, at breakfast, we were given a couple more small, solid St. Nicholas candies . . . apparently left over from yesterday.  We’ve never minded leftovers and, so, were happy to receive them.

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Nürnberg

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Munich Birthday

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The birthday girl

The sole reason for heading to Munich on December 5th was to help a new friend celebrate her 80th birthday. Renate and Jim are friends of Dave and Claire’s and we have met them several times through Dave and Claire.  Renate is German born and had never had a birthday party; so, her very lovely husband, Jim, decided that it was high time to remedy that situation.  They very kindly included Michael and me in the birthday invitation and we are so very happy and honored that they did.

The party was held at a Munich restaurant called Käfer-Schänke. What a beautiful place! We were in a private room (there were about 24 of us) and it was intimate, elegant and wonderful.

We were greeted by handsome waiters who kept our champagne glassed filled and our fingers full of yummy little appetizers.  The meal was superb: First course of two types of smoked salmon served with dainty dollops of horseradish and caviar and some yogurty sauce; a too large bowl of a delectable butternut squash soup garnished with pumpkin seeds, pumpkin oil and a skewer of grilled chicken; a main course of saddle of veal served on a smear of celeriac purée and a heap of perfectly cooked winter vegetables, including the smallest Brussels sprouts I have ever seen; and, finally, a chestnut and cranberry torte with baked apple ice cream.  All courses accompanied by generous and repeated pours of appropriate white and red wines.

As delicious as the food was, the company was even better.  Many of the guests were German friends and family and we were seated in a delightful mish-mash, which allowed us the opportunity to visit with both old friends and new.  It was a spectacular evening.

Thanks to Claire for her food photos.

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Munich Bound

 

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This is Michael looking excited to be on a train


 

Not much to report.  We took the 10:30 a.m. express train from Vienna to Munich.  It was a good day to travel as it was raining fairly steadily as we left the apartment.

Uneventful trip got us to Munich just a few minutes late of our 2:30 p.m. scheduled arrival.  Quick cab ride to the Hilton Munich City and we are now primping for a birthday celebration that commences at 6:00.  Seeing as how it is 4:17 p.m., I’d best get primping.  It seems to take quite a bit longer now than it did twenty years ago!!

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Claire and Dave do a better job at looking excited

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Only photo I took from the train

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Plumping Up

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Claire toook this photo of me at the Goldenen Wurstl.  I love my hat but it certainly shows off my chubby face. Not very flattering, really.  But, do I care?  I think the following photo shows how concerned I am about chubby cheeks.

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Enjoying a rum-soaked snack at the Schonbrunn Christmas market

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Vienna: Day 4 – Pastry and Palaces

 

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Café Central

Because I have fallen way behind on my desire to visit one Viennese coffee house each day of our trip, we began our Monday with a stop at Café Central for a bite of breakfast.  Michael, Dave and Claire all ordered breakfasts of one sort or another, I ordered a brioche and then a slice of chocolate cake for my breakfast dessert.  Café Central may be touristy but it is lovely nonetheless and I’m glad that we spent some time there.

After a certain amount of hemming and hawing, we decided to take the Ubahn out to Schönbrunn Palace. It was an easy commute and before we knew it, we were following the mobs of people from the train to the entrance.  The weather was breezy and brisk and so were we.  We opted for the 22-room Imperial Tour rather than the 40-room Grand Tour . . . or was it the other way around?  No matter, our 22 rooms were plenty.  We heard more about magnificently maned Sisi and her sad, albeit imperial, life.  Happily, we also learned a bit about Maria Theresa (1717 to 1780) and her eleven daughters and five sons.  I don’t think Queen Victoria had anything  on Maria Theresa when it came to marrying children off into other royal families.

There was a Christmas market in the front courtyard of the palace and we made our way around all of the stalls. More yummy edibles and beautiful baubles.  We shared a bowl of bacon and leek spatzle just to tide us over until a late lunch, which we had back in the city center at Landtmann’s Café, another old Vienna landmark.

 

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Vienna: Day 3 – Going to the Horses

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Sunday, December 3rd, began with domestics:  a couple loads of laundry; and then we went to the horses.  The Spanish Riding School to be precise, to see the Lipizzaner stallions strut their stuff.  We had reserved tickets months in advance and ended up with excellent 50-yard line seats in the first gallery.

The program consisted of seeing several younger, not-fully-trained horses go through their paces, then some horses doing the aerial stunts for which they are famous, then a duet, and, finally, a quadrille with eight horses dancing about the very elegant arena.  It was quite something.  The horses looked like they were tightly compressed springs just waiting to explode; very muscular and very controlled. The riders looked almost perfectly still as they subtlely directed their mounts to do all that they did.  Splendid.

Lunch at an Italian-styled bistro warmed us up before we began our next activity, which was a tour of the Hofburg Palace.

Michael can no longer complain about the number of dishes I have.  The tour of the silver rooms demonstrated just how many sets of fine china are required for refined living.  I particularly enjoyed learning about “sanitary porcelain,” which consists of all the pieces necessary for a life without modern bathroom conveniences.  Did you I know that men and women had different types of chamber pots?  Neither did I, but now I do.

The tour through the Sisi Museum told us more about Sisi, Elizabeth of Austria (1837-1898) than the normal person would care to know. What I took away from this part of the tour was that having hair that cascades to one’s feet was a giant pain in the tush for anyone other than an empress . . . especially in the days of sanitary porcelain.  She spent between two to three hours each morning having her hair dressed.  She did use the time productively, however, studying Greek and other things linguistic.  When it came time to wash her lavish locks, some poor sod had to separate dozens of eggs in order to get enough egg yolks to mix with the cognac that was used instead of shampoo.  Bet she didn’t have it washed very often. I also bet than on those evenings, the dinner menu featured many things requiring egg whites.

The final portion of our tour was through the imperial chambers of the palace, also interesting and also focused on the era of Sisi and Franz Joseph I.

Deciding we had had enough of a good thing, we headed back to our apartment, stopping at the Goldenen Wurstl* for three sausages to go, which formed the center piece of our heavy appetizer dinner with Bob and Connie before a rousing game of Phase 10.  The game may have been one of the highest scoring Phase 10 games in the history of the game.  In spite of Dave’s repeated encouragement after every hand that “it’s still anybody’s game,” it was never my game from the outset.  Claire pulled off a smashing victory by completing phase 10 first in spite of her rather impressively high score.

*Note: We had a close brush with fame while getting our sausages.  Brad Garrett, comedian who was Ray’s brother on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” was directly behind us in line.

 

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