A Visit to the Christmas Markets

I mentioned Christmas markets in some comments last week and several people asked me to share some photos. I do find it hard to take photos that capture the atmosphere, but here are a few snapshots.

All over Germany the Christmas markets open throughout Advent attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world. Some are spectacular, nestled into candlelit hillsides or in the parks of great houses and castles. Some are world-famous, like Nuremburg with the angel (Christkind) opening it in an age-old ceremony. Others are simpler, offering just the traditional well-known specialities and crafts. Whichever type you visit, you will be caught up by the magic of a Christmas tradition going back centuries. Surrounded by the soft babble and chatter of other visitors, the smell of fried food and cinnamon sweets, the glitter of decorations for sale, and the cheerful faces around you, it is hard not to smile or be a little frivolous, splashing out on an extravagant candle, a glass of punch, a bag of roasted almonds or a huge jam-filled steamed dumpling covered in vanilla sauce!

I visited two markets this year – first of all Ingolstadt, which is about an hour’s drive north of Munich.

With the New Castle in the background, a sprinkling of snow, and good company, the market has all you can wish for… the traditional wooden decorations and crib figures, food and drink, jewellery, warm socks, cookie cutters, candles, more food, more drink, more decorations ….!

This man has been selling his wares on this market here for at least the past 25 years.

A smaller area nearby offered a quieter repose for another glass of punch (non-alcoholic, I assure you!) and a chat with my friends. But it was very cold that day, with a north wind.

Some of the stall-holders looked frozen to the bone, despite being well wrapped up…

On another day last week I took myself off to Regensburg, a beautiful city on the Danube, and not far from the Bavarian Forest. I always walk over to the old stone bridge if I visit, and the River Danube looked particlularly cold (but blue!) on this occasion…

Despite some bright sunshine it was a chilly day again, but the markets are so enticing and I did all my Christmas shopping there. Take a stroll with me around the markets in Regensburg and see the traditional goods they offer. (Click on any image for a slideshow…)

 

The markets take on a different atmosphere at night, which I have never managed to capture in photos as there are always SO many people and it is hard to move! The thing I love about them most of all is the cheer and friendliness which is definitely lacking in the shopping centres and supermarkets at this time of year. And the food of course. This year I had my favourite warm snack – potato noodles with sauerkraut – as well as some roasted chestnuts, roasted almonds and pumpkin seeds and some delicious non-alcoholic fruit punch. It was nice to go into a cafe afterwards to warm up properly though! 😉

What is your favourite tradition in the run-up to Christmas?

 

 

In a Vase on Monday: Warm and Spicy

With this Monday meme, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden encourages us to find materials from our gardens every week, all year round. By the end of November pickings are limited, but there are surprisingly still a few blooms to be found, some seedheads saved, and foliage of course too. The colours for my vase this week reminded me of cinnamon and spices, both of which will be used soon in my Christmas baking. 🙂

I decided I could spare one sprig of the Hypericum, which is still looking so very pretty in the rockery. To accompany it there is a sprig of bronze Epimedium foliage, some Clematis seed heads, Briza (saved in the summer), and an oriental poppy seed head, all secured in floral foam inside my shallow dish which also has useful holes in the lid. A Physalis seed head and a maple and oak leaf complete the November scene, along with cinnamon sticks and a wooden mortar and pestle for grinding spices, found at a Christmas market several years ago.

Talking of Christmas markets, some have already opened, but most will open at the end of this week for the first Advent weekend. I am looking forward to the delicious smells of Cinnamon, mulled wine and roasted nuts…

Will you be visiting a market or doing some baking soon? Have a good week and stay warm!

A Tiger or a Bear?

I am very pleased that this Buddleia has recovered after freezing back completely last winter, but was then doubly happy to see these two butterflies resting on it the other day, as they are quite unusual…

The English name is Jersey Tiger, but in German they are called ‘Russian Bear’… interesting! Another name used in both languages is ‘Spanish Flag’. I wonder what the Spanish call it!

When resting you cannot see the bright orange part of the wings, so here is a Wikipedia photo to give you an idea of the flashes of bright orange when they flutter away – too quickly for me and my camera!

Wilipedia image

In southern Germany they can often be seen, but only near the woods or on shrubby grassland. They apparently like raspberry or nettle leaves, both of which are abundant in the nearby woods and hedges.

Have you seen this butterfly? And which name would you say is more apt – Tiger or Bear?! 😉

The Nepal Himalaya Park Revisited

In early July I returned to the Himalaya Garden near Regensburg, which I posted about here, but this time with my sister. It was very sunny, but the bright sunshine didn’t detract from the planting at all. As I mentioned in my last post about it, this is not a show garden, but more a plant lover’s playground. And yet some of the combinations were stunning! These Foxtail Lilies for example, with golden green Euphorbia and golden grasses…

The blues, silvers and golds all melded together too: here Eryngium with more grasses…

And here Eryngium, Lavender and Melica ciliata…

I particularly like this part of the garden, set in a former stone quarry on a well-drained south-facing slope…

We both enjoyed the amazing and unusual selection of plants and trees, some of which remain unidentified. Can anyone help us identify this tall flower in the foreground below, with large silvery leaves?

And those green ‘umbrella’ style plants on the right seem familiar too… now what are they!

I know I can count on my wise and curious plant-loving readers for help! 😉

The Nepal Himalaya Park

Last week we had a bank holiday here in Bavaria – Ascension Day. This meant that an ideal spot for meeting up with friends would be open… the Nepal Himalaya Park near Regensburg.

I have never visited a garden in Germany that captivated me quite like this one! It is most certainly not a traditional ‘show garden’, where plants are placed for effect and labelled with care. No, this was more of a plant fanatic’s paradise, a playground for the owner of the park to see what he can grow, with a mostly oriental theme; a little chaotic, quite wild in places, but absolutely charming in my eyes!

The Nepal Himalaya Pavillon

Photo from the Pavillon website: http://www.nepal-himalaya-pavillon.de

The garden is set into a south-facing hillside in part of a former quarry, and the main ‘attraction’ which inspired it is the Himalaya Pavillon. This temple was actually the Nepalese exhibit at the Expo 2000 in Hanover. It was painstakingly dismantled and rebuilt here in its new home. The garden then arose around it a few years later, so is still relatively young.

My photos are not brilliant as I used my mobile phone, but I think you can get the idea of what the temple looks like surrounded by enormous trees, rhododendrons and azaleas.

I was so pleasantly surprised when I walked through the gate, as it was not at all what I had expected. Along with the traditional perennials, native wild flowers and many herbs there were a lot of unusual plants unknown to me, which I had to look up when I got home. So if you see I have made a mistake, please feel free to correct me!

Only recently I had looked up Amsonia, when Jason from Garden in a City mentioned them. Then there they were – the first flower I laid my eyes on and the first time I had seen one.

Amsonia illustris

I found the foliage particularly striking.

As we walked down a slope past a pond, I noticed Anthericum everywhere, along with patches of blue Corydalis and various Euphorbias.

This plant kept popping up too… I believe it is a type of Echium, although I personally only know the blue sort that grows by the roadsides here.

Echium amoenum

The Japanese garden didn’t do much for me, but as we passed that we came to a shadier area where hostas and ferns were thriving…

I wonder if anyone can tell me what the tall plant is between the yellow irises and poppies… It looks kind of familiar.

Along the way there were small temples, bells and a prayer wheel – all original pieces shipped from Nepal. But I was focussed on the plants!

Lilac

The newest part of the garden is the Chinese Garden – it is very wild, overrun with native wild flowers, but still managing to make quite an impact with the wooden bridges and gateways placed at intervals and the setting itself in the rockiest part of the old quarry is fairly dramatic…

Finally, the plant of the day: Lupins!

On our way home we noticed blue ones growing by the roadsides – something we don’t see in our valley at home.

The website is unfortunately all in German, but there is a virtual tour of the garden here, navigable without any language.

And should you ever visit this part of the world, I would definitely recommend this to serious plant lovers! What kind of gardens do you like to visit best – wild and weedy or formal and tidy? 😉

In a Vase on Monday: Tulips from Amsterdam

Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, the host of this lovely meme, has shared some beautiful tulips in her vase today. By coincidence I am joining her with some of my own tulips that have been such a show this spring.

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All of the tulips here originate from Holland (maybe not quite Amsterdam), but I must confess my little windmill on the photo below is from Norfolk!

The moment I thought of today’s title, that song came to mind… famously sung in the UK by Max Bygraves, but well-known in Germany too (as it was actually originally written in German!). Here is a fabulous German version of it from youtube (from 1961!) by the Dutch singer Mieke Telkamp…

She can roll her ‘r’s so well! 😉

I am not entirely sure of all the names, but the purple one is ‘Purple Dream’, the white one ‘Swan Wings’, the pink parrot tulip ‘Weber’s Parrot’, the three orange ones are ‘Princess Irene’, the creamy one with a yellow-green stripe is ‘Green Star’ and the yellow lily one is ‘West Point’, kindly identified by Christina last week. The rest are probably from the Harlequin mix from Peter Nyssen.

Have you got any tulips in your garden? Or do you find them a little brash?

😉

In a Vase on Monday: The Second Breakfast

‘Das zweite Frühstück’ – the second breakfast – is something I think of as being very typically German… school begins at 8am here, and most people are in their offices by then too, so the tum starts to rumble at about 10 am! (I suppose the British equivalent would be ‘elevenses’.)

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I went to the baker’s this morning to fetch fresh pretzels (how German can you get?!). This one here is a speciality pretzel recently made popular by one particular bakery chain, but now available at local bakers too. ‘Bierbrezen’ are sprinkled not just with salt, but a spicy peppery seasoning that is quite delicious, especially if the pretzels are still warm from the oven! Perfect with that second cup of coffee.

But before sitting down to my second breakfast I took a walk around the garden, which is still partially white, but rather muddy as the snow slowly thaws. No new shoots yet, but I managed to find a few bits and pieces for a Monday vase, so I could join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her weekly meme.

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A few remaining grasses, some somewhat shabby Epimedium leaves, a sprig of reddish brown Mahonia (not flowering yet),  some Erica, a couple of sprigs of pine and some Silver Ragwort (Jacobaea maritima) that amazingly survived being in a (still) frozen pot all winter.

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I am so pleased I found something this week and am hopeful now that spring might not be too far off. If, like me, you are still looking for snowdrops in vain, go and visit Cathy and you will not be disapppointed!

😀