Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Summer Holidays

In Bavaria, there is an exhibition about King Ludwig II from 14 May to 16 October 2011. It is the 125th anniversary of the mysterious death of the Bavarian King, who left behind the castles of Neuschwanstein, Herrenchiemsee and Linderhof. Related to the Austrian empress Elisabeth and a key supporter of Richard Wagner, the life and death of Ludwig II has been topic of various movies. Other Bavarian places to see are of course the capital Munich, Berchtesgaden, Starnberger 5-Seen Land, regional capital Nürnberg, world heritage site Bamberg or outdoor activities in Fränkische Schweiz (Franconian Switzerland).

This week, Tommy Jaud’s bestseller  Resturlaub saw its movie premier in Germany. A very funny novel about a man having his midlife crisis plays partly in Franconia and in Argentina. The trailer looks very silly (more a Hangover type of film) and won’t be an Oscar contender, but possibly quite entertaining.  Another bit of ‘easy reading’ would be Bavarian crime novels by Rita Falk. Winterkartoffelknödel was her first book and features an imaginary little village near Landshut. It also includes a glossary of Bavarian terms and some of her gran’s cooking recipes. Click here for a brief interview with the writer.

How real some of these stories described by Rita Falk are, just watch the news in Germany. Parts of Bavaria are currently on alert – no, not rioters – but because of an escaped cow. Yvonne has been on the run for the past two months and even Ernst, a bull brought in this week to provide a ‘honey trap’ has been unsuccessful. For a news video from Stern, click here.

Maybe while walking around Germany, you come across our fugitive cow and what else you can discover is described by Andreas Kieling who recorded his experience in ‘Ein deutscher Wandersommer’. And if you’re around Germany by bike, the ADFC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad Club), Germany’s Cycling Club, provides some suggestions of tours on the 150,000 km of cycling routes in Germany. Deutsche Bahn obviously offers holidays by train.

2011 is also the year of the car. 125 years ago Carl Benz invented the first automobile and Bosch, the company of the inventor of the spark plug – celebrates its 125th company anniversary. Information on events places about the car, can be found by clicking on Automobilsommer Baden-Württemberg, Mercedes-Benz Museum, Porsche Museum, Boxenstop Tübingen, BMW Welt and the VW Museum.

We are currently trying to organise our Stammtisch events list for the autumn/winter and have been in discussion about a book swap event, a travel event, a beer festival and a historical link event (possibly Limes/Hadrian’s Wall). If you have additional ideas or know of venues where they will be able to serve German food, please let me know.

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As summer approaches, you might fancy a holiday on the continent and in particular Germany. Here are a few tips about travelling, activities and events that you might find useful:

The German Tourism Office released the introductory video Erlebnisland Deutschland to give you a flavour of Germany. And ‘Mit Volldampf durchs Land’ is a two-part programme by SWR, where you go on a journey across Germany by steam trains.

A little bit faster – on normal regional trains – you can explore Germany on a budget as long as you have a bit of time on your hand. Deutsche Bahn is offering a deal for one day trips: for €42 you can travel on all regional trains in 2nd class (RB, IRE, RE and S-Bahn) and take along four other people, who only pay €6/each. The ticket is valid Mondays to Fridays from 9am onwards and on bank holidays from midnight onwards. Click here for further info about the ‘Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket).

And if you’re heading to Berlin and want to save the cents, there is a free service to find a room – here’s a link to ‘Kostenlose Zimmervermittlung Berlin’.

Berlin will, of course, be one of the host cities for the forthcoming Women’s Football World Championships, which takes place in Germany from 26 June to 7 July. The German team will again defend the title, which it holds since 2003 and the English will also aim high, being the European vice-champion. With women’s football continuously increasing in popularity, this year’s event is to break various spectator records. With one month to go, the total number of match tickets now on general sale has increased to 900,000, with 70% already sold.

But if football isn’t your thing, you might want to head to one of the many music festivals that will take place this summer:

Afrika Festival in Würzburg: 2 – 5 June

Rock im Park Zeppelinfeld in Nuremberg/Rock am Ring Nürburgring in Eiffel: 3 to 5 June

Bachfest in Leipzig: 10 – 19 June

Summerjam in Cologne: 1 – 3 July

Jazz Open in Stuttgart: 1 – 10 July

Samba Festival in Coburg: 8 – 10 July

Bardentreffen in Nuremberg: 29 to 31 July

For a full list of forthcoming music festivals, click here.

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Spring News

On Monday, we had another successful evening at the Mansion House and I would like thank Gunther for the lovely meal and Councillor David Faulkner for his interesting talk on the Ruhr, which celebrated Capital of Culture in 2010. One of the acts that David mentioned was an American singer called Bobby McFerrin – who, I must admit, I wasn’t familiar with. But apparently everybody in Germany knew him and I thought I share his appearance at the Sing! Day of Song event at the Gelsenkirchener Schalke stadium with you, which is on YouTube – click here.

Stammtisch member Sylvia Graham is the honorary librarian of the Meissen Library at Durham Cathedral. This is a specialised collection of mainly protestant theology in German and does contain books not available anywhere else in Britain. There is a website www.meissenlibrarydurham.co.uk and Sylvia would be happy to reply to emails from anyone interested – jms.graham@btinternet.com.

From 1 April, our Stammtisch member Kim di Rollo will also be responsible not only for Brussel Airlines, but also Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines here in the region. She has also passed on an interesting website for small to medium sized businesses, where they can find out more about the Star Alliance Company Plus programme. This can cut company’s travel costs as member companies earn PlusPoints whenever their employees fly with one of the alliance’s 13 participating airlines– click here to get to the website.

And if you’re travelling to Germany and you’re not quite sure yet where to go and what to do – the ‘Germany is Wunderbar’ website might just give you a few ideas – http://germanyiswunderbar.com. Last week, the Guardian also had a very insightful series on Germany and you can still get this online – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/germany.

This week Germany is also mourning the loss of Knut – the four-year old polar bear from Berlin Zoo, who passed away last Saturday. Happier news come from Nuremberg. Their star Flocke (snow flake), moved successfully to France last year with her Russian companion Rasputin and lives now at a sea water enclosure in Antibes. And her mother Vera just had two polar bear twins in December, who are doing very well. For photographs – click here.

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Books & Pennies

If you want to see what Germans are reading right now – the Stern had a review of popular novels earlier this year. Click here for details. One of our Stammtisch members also suggested a small book fair of German books. Maybe more of you have books you no longer want to keep, or language books you no longer need, but obviously it might be a bit pointless to just give them to a charity shop. Let me know your thoughts!

A few years ago Alexander von Schönburg, the younger brother of Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, described himself as being from an aristocratic family that had to get used to social decline over the past five centuries. At the beginning of the last decade, the journalist and his young family hit harder times after he lost his job. Drawing from this experience he wrote ‘Die Kunst des stilvollen Verarmens – wie man ohne Geld reich wird’ (the art of becoming poor stylishly – how to become rich without money’, which questions our pursuit of consumerism vs quality of life. You can order the book in German and French, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an English version.

So if you’re looking after the pennies, there might just be a site for you when travelling: www.airbnb.com. Instead of staying in hotels, this offers you places to stay in people’s homes. The website, which started around three years ago, now offers accommodation in 9,299 cities in 172 countries around the world and has already arranged more than 1 million bookings.

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Dear Stammtisch Friends

First of all I would like to thank Gunther and his team at the Mansion House for our fabulous Christmas dinner earlier this month. A hard core of Stammtisch members braved the weather to come along to our last get-together of 2010.

If you’re not going to make it to Germany for the holidays – there are still some German Christmas Markets that you could visit right here in the UK. The Guardian had an insightful article about how the PR activities of the City of Frankfurt led to the development of the German Christmas markets in Birmingham (now apparently even bigger than Nuremberg or Dresden Christmas market), Edinburgh, Manchester and Leeds. Click here to be directed to the full article.

If you would like to watch a German film in the North East – the Tyneside Cinema will show again Metropolis on 2 January. If there’s interest in any other German films (current or classic), we can maybe arrange a private viewing for the Stammtisch in 2011.

You might be aware that Germany has been on terror alert. A Christmas market in Osnabrueck made the news earlier this month when 10 people were injured during an explosion … of a 600 litre Gluehwein (mulled wine) tank. Click here for the online news article.

And Bavaria, usually famous for its beer brewing tradition, has apparently also its own whisky distillery. A Stammtisch member drew our attention to the Slyrs Bavarian Malt Whisky Distillery in Schliersee. If anybody is nearby, maybe you can bring a bottle or two along to our next Stammtisch?

The snow and ice that first brought the UK to a standstill, has now also caused ‘Stillstand’ in Germany. Why we’re not coping with the winter conditions and the part the media plays, was examined in an article on the website NachDenkSeiten.

Unfortunately we can’t help moving the now on the roads, but recommend a small life saver when you want to walk outside in the snow and ice. Outdoor stores (I got mine in the LD Mountain Centre in Dean Street/Newcastle) sell crampons/ice grips to stop you literally sliding into the new year.

On that note, I would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and a great start to 2011 / Frohe Weihnachten und einen guten Rutsch ins Jahr 2011.

Very best wishes


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Dear Stammtisch Friends

In just over six weeks, it will be Christmas again and we have of course planned another Christmas Dinner (Weihnachtsessen). The Mansion House will look after us this year on Monday, 6 December and on the menu will be Christmas goose and dumplings (Weihnachtsgans und Kloesse). The overall cost will be £20 for a three course dinner.

The evening will start at 7pm with a Glühwein reception, followed by dinner at 7.45pm. You will need to book in advance this time directly with the Mansion House (Tel: 0191 281 0863), where you can pay either by debit card or cheque (credit card payment will incur a 2.5% surcharge). Please note that places will be limited, so if you want to join us, let them know asap.

If you can’t wait until December, why not come along to the annual Christmas Bazaar at St James United Reformed Church on Saturday, 27 November from 11am to 2pm, which is organised by the Pfarramt Schottland/Nordostengland. Or if you want to travel a bit further for some Glühwein, Bratwürste or Plätzchen – in Edinburgh they have a fabulous traditional German Christmas Market which starts this year on Thursday, 25 November all the way through to 24 December. Visit www.edinburghschristmas.com for further information. West Brewery in Glasgow also keep it festive with their special Weihnachtsbierwww.westbeer.com.

Last year Newcastle’s Christmas market featured in a recent service reisen clip from Hessen TV (HR), which I received through Stammtisch member Michael Waugh. It’s all about travelling from Amsterdam to Newcastle, with a special focus on our regional capital and Northumberland.

Back in Germany, you may know that they like to use a lot of English in German advertisements. Stern Online recently let you do a test to find out how well Germans actually understand these slogans. If you want to find out how good your ‘Werbe-Englisch’ really is, have a go yourself.

And if you think your English or German skills need to improve, why don’t you check out language learning materials from Spotlight Verlag. Spotlight, Spot On and Business Spotlight provide interesting news and feature articles from English speaking countries, while Deutsch perfekt covers Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Interesting articles about Spain and Latin America are in Ecos, France is featured in Écoute and for Italian lovers it has to be Adesso. www.spotlight-verlag.de publishes a monthly magazine for each language, accompanying CDs, exercise/grammar booklets and has online resources.

German language skills might just come in handy for those who might think that employment opportunities are better on the continent. Last month Germany’s unemployment figures fell just below 3 million (well, there are also a lot of people retiring….), but future skills shortages seem to become a real issue. So it might soon be again ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’…..

But then again, wouldn’t it be nice to work in the comfort of your own home on a cold, windy day like today with no travel involved at all? Or enjoy more sunny hours in your garden or on the beach in our lovely region? Sensée is the UK’s leading homeworking specialist and last month the company started its first homeworking agent hub here in the North East. They are currently recruiting for inbound customer service for a major UK retailer, offering full-time positions for homebased agents. If you know somebody who might be interested, the website provides further details on current vacancies. All that’s required is a suitable workspace, PC, landline and broadband access.

See you soon at the Christmas Dinner on 6 December.

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Now that autumn has well and truly arrived, we can celebrate the Oktoberfest! This year it’s a pretty significant date, as the Wies’n celebrates its 200th anniversary.

For those of you who can’t make it to Munich – one of the North East’s pubs has embraced our Bavarian festivities and maybe you want to join us on Thursday, 14 October from 6pm onwards at the Brandling Villa in Gosforth. Please let me know who wants to come so that we can reserve a table. On their beer menu you can find many local beers, but also Erdinger Dunkel, Köstritzer Schwarzbier and Schneider Weisse. The food bar will offer typical Oktoberfest dishes such as Hendl (grilled chicken), Schweinebraten (roast pork), Brezel (Pretzels), Knödel (potato dumplings), Bratwurst and Currywurst. For further information on the Brandling Villa, its Oktoberfest (14 – 16 October), directions and the menu, click here.

The Hilton in Gateshead, who hosted last year’s Oktoberfest, have a typical menu again up until 7 October. There you can get dishes such as Kartoffelsuppe (potato soup), Aufschnittsplatte (selection of meats/chees), Matjesfilet Hausfrauenart (herring with apples and cream), Schweineschnitzel mit Kartoffelsalat (pork cutlet and potatoe salad), Hähnchen “Cordon Bleu” mit Bratkartoffeln und roten Zwiebeln (chicken cordon bleu with roast potatoes and onions) sowie Bratwurst und Sauerkraut (grilled sausage and sauerkraut). And if you still have space for desert, there’s a choice of Zwetschenkuchen (plum cake), Apfeltorte (apple gateau) and Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (blackforest gateau).

And if that has not satisfied your appetite, you can always head north to Glasgow, where the WEST Brewery and Bar run an Oktoberfest all through the month. They are even brewing their very own OktoberWEST and have the WEST Oompah Band playing live every Friday from 7.30pm onwards – www.westbeer.com.

Being a typical Munich event, I thought maybe you want to brush up on your language skills? The Oktoberfest site provides you with a lot of information about the event, the history and also the language: http://www.oktoberfest.de/de/navitem/Gaudi/. The online dictionary can also be downloaded as an app and you might also check out the Stern video about the best apps for the Wies’n.

If you want to work on your pronunciation, you might want also to listen to a real Bavarian band – the Spider Murphy Gang, who in the 80s were super successful. Another great programme promoting the Bavarian language was the 10-part series Monaco Franze, which played in Munich. If you can remember this fab programme and are feeling nostalgic, there are quite a few clips on YouTube and there’s even a very entertaining fan page on Facebook. Here’s one where Monaco Franze shows you how to drive a civil servant around the bend – click here.

Civil servants and food leads to another story that recently made the news in Germany – and hopefully both the Hilton and the Brandling Villa take note as it’s all about Schnitzels. A restaurant owner got into trouble with the tax man as he sold disproportionately large Schnitzels to his very hungry guests in Saxony. To read the full story on Reuters, click here.

However, some civil servants do have a sense of humour and Swiss Bundesrat Merz showed this when delivering a speech on a new EU law re a specific Swiss meat and ‘slightly’ lost his composure in the process. His ‘speech’ has now become a YouTube hit – click here.

Anyway, I hope you’re all in good spirits and we see many of you at our October meeting on 14th at the Brandling Villa.



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Samba & Railways

The small Franconian town of Coburg has just hosted the world’s largest Samba Festival outside of Brazil. Around 200,000 visitors attended the yearly celebration with Samba groups from all over the world.  Participants included Rio’s reigning Carnival Queen who probably wondered in temperatures of mid 30˚C if she was on the wrong continent. Stern Online has some images of the celebration – click here.

With increasing flight costs and the odd volcano outburst, train travel – in particular on high speed trains – will maybe become more of an alternative for business and leisure travellers. State owned Deutsche Bahn has ambitious growth plans, also in the UK. It already has various operations here such as Chiltern Railways, Wrexham and Shropshire Railways, London Overground, DB Schenker, the Tyne & Wear Metro and possibly soon also bus and train operator Arriva.

The new €4 billion New Heart of Europe project will establish a high speed rail link between Stuttgart and Ulm and complete the high speed route between Budapest and Paris. This includes moving rail infrastructure and the main train station underground and redeveloping the then newly available land in the centre of Stuttgart.

Over the next four years, Deutsche Bahn plans to invest a total of €41 billion in infrastructure and new trains. Click here for full article.

If you enjoy travelling by rail and are looking for a good source of information, The Man in Seat Sixty-One is probably your best bet. Mark Smith has worked in railways throughout his career, initially for British Rail, two major UK train companies and the Dept for Transport. His passion for European and international rail travel means that other travellers can now draw from his experiences and even rail travel agents refer their passengers to his award winning blog.

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This week the German magazine published an article on the  cycle tours in Germany – click here for a link.

And if you are in Germany and haven’t got a bike with you, Deutsche Bahn might just be your saviour. Check out the iPhone app – DB Bahn Call a Bike.

I also recently found out that Deutsche Bahn have a passenger service centre in London, that can help you with rail travel in Europe either directly from the UK leaving St Pancras on the eurostar or on arrival at a European airport: www.bahn.com/uk.

If you’re looking for direct flights to Germany from the North East, you can fly daily to Duesseldorf using Lufthansa or Flybe to Hannover three times a week. Lufthansa, Brussels Airlines, KLM and BA also provide great links to other German cities.

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Are your planning some trips to Germany over the summer? Here are some ideas of various festivals you might enjoy:

  • Coburg hosts the largest Samba Festival outside of Brazil from 9 – 11 July
  • The free Bardentreffen takes place for 35th time in Nuremberg from 30 July to 1 August
  • The Leipziger Jazz Tage are this year from 24 September up to 3 October
  • And opera fans might head to Bayreuth from the 25 July – 28 August

A list of free festivals is available at www.festivalfieber.de/kostenlose-festivals

You might also have heard of the Oberammergau Passion Play, which was played for the first time in 1634. It only takes place every ten years, so if you’re interested – 2010 is a year to go.

And last, but not least, the Oktoberfest celebrates this year 200 years. To mark the occasion, we should really organise quite some event here too – if anybody has ideas, please share them with us!

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