Posted by inka on Dec 28, 2011 in Uncategorized
As much as the count down, the clock and the glass of champagne, New Year’s resolutions form a part of tradition when the next year comes a-knocking. We contemplate on the past year, the achievements and the failures and we promise ourselves: all will be better next year. I will finally get around to…..what? A mountain of good intentions grows before our inner eye, unfortunately coupled with the certain knowledge that very few will be accomplished. Which doesn’t stop the euphoria and neither should it, because the resolutions contribute to the uplifting feeling of a new start, a fresh chance and nothing should spoil it.
So, I will make a list of my very personal New Year’s resolutions, but being a realist, I’ll also rate the probability of them being accomplished by the end of the next year. I’ll rate on a scale from 1 to 5, 5 equaling ‘ hopeless’ and 1 indicating the highest probability. In accordance with the festive spirit, this is not an altogether serious post, so take it with a pinch of salt.
Visiting the carnival in Basle/Switzerland at the end of February (1)
Spending time with my very good friends in Beirut/Lebanon (2)
Exploring the south of Turkey (2)
Learning Turkish properly (3)
Learning how to cook (off the scale!!!)
Losing weight (3)
Joining a gym (5)
Writing more fiction (2)
That’s it. I’d love to hear what your New Year’s resolutions are and how you intend sticking to them.
Posted by inka on Dec 27, 2011 in art
, Day trips
Christmas is over and I told you about the wonderful small Christmas market in one of my favorite little towns in the south of Bavaria, Prien am Chiemsee.
Everything is rural, mini and very original in Prien and the Heimatmuseum is no exception. You can translate it into ‘Folklore Museum’ and that’s what it’s all about Chiemgau traditions, art, crafts and fashion! What I love most though, is a museum that feels lived in.
Heimatmuseum in Prien
Admission is a modest EURO 2 and you find yourself in a typical old stone house built in the style of the region with painted adornments around the door and windows, wooden floors, small rooms and low ceilings. The building dates from 1837 and is called Beim Mayerpaul.
The exhibits of the museum reflect history and traditions of the south of Bavaria. Fishing is an age old trade around the Chiemsee and the Chiemsee Renken, which in taste and texture are similar to trout are a delicacy as is the eel. Pottery is a craft which still is very much alive on the Fraueninsel, another island in the Chiemsee and the tiles to cover stoves and ovens made by Klampfleutner of the Fraueninsel were and are much in demand.
A very precious example
Several rooms are furnished in the style of the 19th century and you can see bedchambers, kitchens, a Biedermaier dining room and of course Trachten, the traditional clothing of the region. Well known is the Priener Hut, a hat which you can even try on.
Don't I look Bavarian?
The full outfit
Quite an elegant place
The Heimatmuseum is located opposite the church on the market place where I found a cozy café and enjoyed a Haferl, a mug of wonderful filter coffee before embarking on my lake journey to the Herreninsel.
Posted by inka on Dec 23, 2011 in art
, Day trips
, Travel tips
Guy Richie’s new movie: Sherlock Holmes, once again brings the adventures and astuteness of one of the world’s most famous private yes to the screen. When in London, I never miss the opptunity to visit 221B Baker Street: the (fictitious) home of the master detective Sherlock Holmes and his confidante, side kick, sounding board and companion Dr. Watson. The last time I went, I got the perfect weather for this foray too.
Meet the great man
London on a later October afternoon. Darkness is already falling, gusts of wind and a fine drizzle creep under my raincoat and make me shiver. The streetlights are coming on and penetrate the fog which starts to rise from the ground. There could be no better environment, evocative of many a scene in English detective stories, not least those featuring one of the world’s most famous private eyes: Sherlock Holmes, the brain child of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
A creature of fiction he may be, but it’s easy to forget as I approach 221B Baker Street, the apartment where Holmes lived and worked, in the company of his dear friend, assistant, biographer, sounding board and the narrator of the stories: Dr. John H. Watson. Both men being cared for and looked after by their landlady Mrs. Hudson.
The black painted door and railings on the green building which houses one of London’s most visited attractions hove into view. On the first floor, the master of disguise and deduction smoked his pipe, reflected in front of the fire place, received his often unsavory clients and exercised his exceptional brain cells to solve cases which left the police baffled. No better person than Dr. Watson to paint a vivid picture of life in 221B Baker Street as he did in ‘The Adventure of the Dying Detective’:
‘Mrs. Hudson, the landlady of Sherlock Holmes, was a long-suffering woman. Not only was her first-floor flat invaded at all hours by throngs of singular and often undesirable characters but her remarkable lodger showed an eccentricity and irregularity in his life which must have sorely tried her patience. His incredible untidiness, his addiction to music at strange hours, his occasional revolver practice within doors, his weird and often malodorous scientific experiments, and the atmosphere of violence and danger which hung around him made him the very worst tenant in London. On the other hand, his payments were princely. I have no doubt that the house might have been purchased at the price which Holmes paid for his rooms during the years that I was with him. The landlady stood in the deepest awe of him and never dared to interfere with him, however outrageous his proceedings might seem. She was fond of him, too, for he had a remarkable gentleness and courtesy in his dealings with women.’
A London Bobby greets visitors at the door and admits them to Sherlock’s home. Right inside the door, the smiling figure of the long suffering Mrs. Hudson in period costume and apron extends her wax hand which I am very tempted to shake.
Up a steep staircase lined with many photographs the Holmes enthusiast climbs to reach the famed living room with the fire place, where they both sit: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, comfortably ensconced in armchairs, pipe dangling from Sherlock’s lips whilst Dr. Watson creases his brow in thought and scribbles away at his narrative. Any moment I expect the detective to turn his head and exclaim: ‘elementary,’ one of his key words.
The place is full of wax figures not only of the characters of the Holmes short stories and novels but also of famous criminals like Jack the Ripper and Mary Ann Cotton. As with every museum the world over, this one has a shop downstairs where you can buy every imaginable item emblazoned with an image of either 221B Baker Street or Sherlock Holmes, as well as a collection of Doyle’s works and many more interesting books, posters and photographs.
Sherlock Holmes is the only person of fiction in the world to have his own house and museum. Due to the vivid descriptions Dr. Watson gives about Sherlock’s most personal habits, like occasionally taking cocaine (perfectly legal at the time) or being meticulous about his personal appearance but chaotic about his paperwork, it’s easy to forget that he is, after all, fiction and not a real person. Interestingly, there was a dispute about the numbering of the building which houses the museum as, at the time when Doyle created his detective and wrote his stories, a number 221B did not exist and this part of Marylebone Road was known as Upper Baker Street. The building was a boarding house during the period the tales of Arthur Conan Doyle are set and another interesting fact is, that his daughter, Dame Jean Conan Doyle was strongly opposed to the creation of a Sherlock Holmes Museum because it would reinforce the notion that Sherlock Holmes was a real person as opposed to a character of fiction created by her father.
But, there it is, blue plaque and all, in 221B Baker Street and any enthusiast of this icon of detectives should not miss the opportunity to visit a place full of mystery, history and just plain fun, which is also as British as British can be.
Posted by inka on Dec 22, 2011 in art
, Day trips
, Travel tips
All year long I eat as little as possible because I need to watch my weight. Come Christmas, though, the scales get locked away, the loosest fitting clothes come out and caution gets thrown to the wind.
This year’s perfect occasion to indulge in a food rampage presented itself last week in the form of the tiny Christmas Market in the equally tiny town of Prien an Chiemsee in Bavaria. I could have gone to Munich which is only 1 ½ hours drive away, but I much preferred something cozy and less commercial, a place where the locals go and enjoy themselves and where hardly any tourist sets foot at this time of the year.
Christkindl Market in Prien am Chiemsee
The entire Christkindl Market consisted of no more than a dozen stalls or so, but what there lacked in quantity was more than made up for in quality and, of course, atmosphere.
For starters, I needed to warm up. I like Glühwein, the German words for mulled wine, but I don’t much drink alcohol. No problem! To my delight, I discovered Kinderglühwein, mulled wine for children without alcohol. Tastes equally good, warms you beautifully and doesn’t give you a headache. Mind you, there was plenty of the grown up variety around too.
Next, my sweet tooth called and I saw something called Dampfnudeln advertised. Literally translated it means ‘steamed noodle’, but the desert has nothing to do with steam or noodles. It’s a sweetish lump of dough which is then covered in the most delicious vanilla and chocolate sauce and served piping hot. But, boy, is that a filling dish.
Dampfnudel presented by the cook
Dampfnudel up close!
Never mind, for once, I downed a Schnaps, made by the nuns in the nearby monastery located on an island in the Chiemsee, and was ready for a waffle, topped with butter and cream. And after that, I simply had to have some marzipan.
The waffel with cream and butter
Marzipan from the Fraueninsel
But it’s not only the sweets which are a delight in the south of Germany. Organic cheeses of an incredible variety, all made at local farms, invited to be tasted with chunks of crusty bread. The most exotic I found was a goat cheese with red wine flavor. Next to the cheeses came stalls with sausages, many of them smoked and very tasty.
Goat cheese with red wine flavor
When I could really not swallow another morsel, I just walked around, enjoying to look at the kids who had tons of fun on a tiny merry go round and admiring the hand crafted Christmas ornaments as well as some very colorful locals.
Hand crafted Christmas ornaments
Having fun at the merry go round
More typical Bavarian - impossible
A perfect afternoon all round.
Posted by inka on Dec 17, 2011 in Day trips
Last week I went to Bavaria in the south of Germany because I felt like experiencing a bit of winter, i.e. a smattering of snow, blue skies, in short, an atmosphere a bit more like Christmas than my usual sojourn in Miami at this time of year. The weather forecast promised all I was looking for, but, the weather God got temperamental . What I found when landing in Munich was drizzle instead of snow, temperatures more fall than winter, grey skies and heavy clouds. Not a very uplifting scene and certainly not reminiscent of Christmas.
However, the weather disappointment didn’t deter me from my planned trip about 100 miles further towards Austria to the small provincial town of Prien which is idyllically situated on the shores of one of Bavaria’s famous lakes, the Chiemsee. It’s actually my favorite because of the two islands which sit in the middle of the large and very deep lake. The bigger one is called Herreninsel and is home to one of King Ludwig’s dream castles, Herrenchiemsee. The smaller island is the Fraueninsel with a remarkable monastery and many art galleries and craft shops as the island is popular with writers, sculptors and painters.
Monastery on the Fraueninsel
On a very bleak Saturday morning I made my way to one of the boats which transfer visitors from Prien to the islands. In the summer, the place is very crowded, but in winter it’s a very different picture. The only other tourists who ventured out onto the water was a group of 35 Russians from St. Petersburg. A mighty jolly lot they were, which might have had a lot to do with the fact that their ‘travel provisions’ came in the form of a multitude of hip flasks of which they made ample use. Russians are a hospitable people and seeing that I was on my own, they talked to me and offered me hip flask after hip flask. So as not to offend them, I happily accepted and pretended to take a good swig of each and every offering, easily done because the flasks are not transparent and therefore they couldn’t see that I didn’t swallow anything. They were however mighty impressed!!
Santa Claus welcomes you on board
If the Russians run out of vodka, they can replenish with 'Klosterschnaps'.
They got off at the first stop which is the Herreninsel, surprisingly in a straight line and without falling off the pier. My destination was the Fraueninsel. The island is so small that you can easily walk around it in about 20 minutes. It took me nearly an hour though, because every few steps I stopped and admired what makes the title of this story: the beautiful melancholy of winter.
The island is richly wooded and the trees, bare of leaves and silhouetted against the grey sky were amazing works of art, made by Mother Nature. I couldn’t get enough of the twisted branches, the shapes and miraculous forms which took on a life of their own. No other visitor was around, I was all alone in a melancholic grey world which nevertheless touched me deeply with its beauty, more I daresay than sparkling snow and brilliant sun shine could have.
Waiting for the next summer
This tree has an island all of its own