Welcome to my new blog! Following many years of graduate study in musicology (see my bio if you don't know what musicology is), I am finally embarking on my fieldwork portion of my degree, spending one year in Germany. For all the latest updates on Music, Life, and Travel, read on, friends!

Friday, November 30

Koblenz Market

As promised, here is the low-down on the Weihnachtsmarkt in Koblenz. Yesterday, after meeting with my host professor, I headed out a bit earlier to snap some shots of Koblenz's market. As many of you know, I travel to Koblenz once a week to work at my host university. Despite being there almost 10 times, I have not taken the time to see more of the city, besides the train station and the Uni, which is located nowhere near the center of town. So, these shots are not only Christmas shots, but first shots of the city I don't really know.

Koblenz does have some cute houses. The architecture in the city center is more traditional than Bonn's except for the city's new mall, the Forum, which is huge and has a green, fake leaf metal casing around it. (See below.)
Photo credits from here.
There wasn't a lot going on at the market yesterday. Partly that was because the weather was awful, and I was there in the early afternoon. Still the Gluehwein pyramids were ready for patrons!
What, a statue on a market stand? Haven't seen that before!

This was the most popular stand I saw. Koblenz's market is spread out on several different markets. For someone who had never been there before, I just sort of wandered around and hoped I'd find one of the areas with the market.
Nothing says Christmas in Germany like a Bitburger beer stand in the shape of a Dutch windmill.

Here is another Koblenz building, with images from German fairy tales.
Inside the main Catholic church in Koblenz. It was very pretty!
 Overall, I was not very impressed with the Koblenz market. To be fair, I probably need to experience it during the evening, but it still had fewer vendors, and it just wasn't as exciting looking as Bonn's! Bonn ist besser! (Bonn is better!)

When my roommate asked me yesterday if I wanted to go to our market, I thought about saying no, citing the rain and my cold as excuses, but then I decided, "I only live once!" I can always be sick on Friday (which I still am).

To aid in comparative testing, I tried regular Gluehwein. It was okay, but not as good as my homemade recipe. I guess I should stick to trying the more exotic types, the ones I don't know how to make myself!
My second dinner: Reibekuchen mit Apfelmus. Potato pancakes with applesauce. This was soooo delicious! I shouldn't have thought otherwise. When ever are deep-fried potato products NOT delicious?

Tonight I am going to the market again, so we will see how crowded it is with the extended hours. Have a great Friday, everyone!

Thursday, November 29

Catching Up

Yesterday, if you can believe it, I DID NOT visit the Christmas market! I know, I felt like a slacker for not eating anything sweet or drinking anything spiked spiced, but I am trying to get over my cold, and I need to be in tip top shape for the "Lange Nacht" on Friday. Only on this day will the Weihnachtsmarkt be open until midnight! I think that will give all cheer-lovers more than enough time to enjoy the market!

Today I only have a few random things to share. First, after my post on mistletoe, I quickly saw this stand, taking mistletoe to a whole new level!
Sticks of mistletoe...on sticks!
Last weekend I also had the pleasure of trying "Gluehbier." Yes, I had hot, spiced beer. I really had no idea what to expect, other than the hot part. Gluehbier drinkers get awesome glasses, which might actually make it worth taking these ones home. Many vendors offer Gluehbier, so I may need to try it a couple more times to make any definitive judgments.

Me and my Gluehbier! (Sung to the tune of "Me and my Llama" - circa 1978, Sesame Street)
I found that Gluehbier tastes similar to Belgian lambic beers, like Kriek (which means cherry, in Flemish/Dutch). And it was hot, not chilled, of course. I am a fan of fruity beers, as they usually have no a lighter beer taste and are sweeter.

Liefman's Gluehbier

(Sometimes I write up my synopsis of something European, and then only afterward do I think to research it. And, as luck would have it, I know more than I realize I know! Liefman's Gluehbier is indeed brewed by Belgians and has cherries and spices! So, it is basically spiced up Kriek. It takes two years to brew Gluehbier, so I am guessing it is pretty expensive as an import in the USA.)

Finally, after my video post on animatronics, I remembered where I saw something similar. So, without further adieu, here is your second link to Rick Steves' Christmas Special: France. Around minute 3:00, you'll understand what I mean!

Friends, get excited, because today I am visiting my second Weihnachtsmarkt - in Koblenz, where my university is located. I'll have lots of new impressions and photos tomorrow!
"Bis morgen!"

Wednesday, November 28

More (scary) animals

One of the drink pyramids; so pretty at nightfall!
Thanks to all of you who have commented on my blogs, either on this website, on facebook, or through personal communication! If you have any suggestions of what you'd like to see more (or less) of, I hope that I might be able to oblige!

The sunset was so beautiful last night! Photos don't really do the colors justice.
Yesterday's market visit was a bit spontaneous. Wait, who am I kidding! If I have to go to the city center for anything, of course I will stop by the market to see what is "los." My main objective was to purchase a big kid's choir folder, one made of leather with lots of methods for holding different types of scores. I was successful, despite the fact that the saleswoman I worked with did not believe the price on the packaging. She even called the main store in Cologne to try to confirm the "correct" price for the "luxus" (luxury) folder I wanted, as it cost the same as the simpler version without the three-ring binder insert. It all ended well, though.

At the market yesterday I felt compelled to take my MIL's advice about drinking hot beverages to help with my cold! I don't think she meant to have Gluehwein! I tried hot white apple wine. It was very tasty, from what I could taste. I had to experience the white version for the sake of B, who is not a fan of traditional spiced wine. It didn't seem to have the same hint of cinnamon and cloves, but it was still delicious! This tasting made me think that I've been going about my experiments all wrong, though. I haven't tried normal Gluehwein yet; which I probably should, and then I can use that taste as the control for future variants.
Here was my target: "Weisser Apfelgluehwein fuer Kenner." Only for those who know about it?

Mug action! This mug depicts a scene from the Bochum Christmas market. I have no idea why we have glasses from  Bochum in Bonn.
One additional treasure that I discovered yesterday was this:

Attack of the mechanized stuffed animals.
That's right, Dad! More stuffed animals that move and sing! If you thought the moose was spooky, you clearly haven't seen this department store display! I never noticed this scene before, so maybe Galleria Kaufhof just revealed it on Tuesday. 

Who is looking at who?

And a video, so you can really get an idea of what is going on! My favorite is the monkey that is raking snow. Very few of the animals in this display seem to be native winter species!

Christmas lights!
Until the next Christmas market visit!

Tuesday, November 27

Time to shake things up a bit!

Instead of featuring a drink today, I am going to focus on some of the food available at the Bonn Christmas market. Yesterday I went out specifically to get a waffle (and some cold remedies). Going during the day to the market is a lot less crazy. There were still plenty of people wandering around, but you could really linger at each stand and not feel pushed with the swells of people who were coming behind you.

I quickly found the dessert stand I wanted to visit. (Have I mentioned how great everything smells? The best smell comes from all the nut stands! Candied almonds really excite my nose!) I settled on the waffle with hot cherries, and I resisted the urge to get whipped cream too:
You can see the hot steam coming off of the cherries!
This is the view from the side of the waffle vendor looking onto the market. You can also get twenty different types of crepes at this stand!
"All fun things are either unmoral, illegal, or they make you fat." Words of wisdom at the Christmas market.
This is the "Sterngasse," or star alley. I find the lights are very fitting! This street connects the Marktplatz with Friedensplatz.
Here is another view of the market. It is a bit easier to see what it looks like in daylight and with fewer visitors.
For some reason, I decided that a waffle wasn't enough for dinner, or at least I quickly came to that conclusion after I walked past these:

I am not sure what these were called, but they were kind of like pizzas, but more in the style of "Flammkuchen," which has a white sauce instead of a tomato sauce. I had one with potatoes and cheese on top. After selecting this type, I decided that probably the best combination would be the one with onions and bacon! It was still tasty, and I could have definitely shared it with someone.

I had my food warmed up in this wood oven. 
Dinner! So tasty! So much food!
As daylight became twilight, I found it much easier to take non-flash photography that equally captured the light decorations while not blurring everything around me!
I've already shown you the animal heads on some stands, and I have noticed that they move. However, I was able to HEAR them this time. This moose is singing "Silver Bells." I guess the market just got a bit more kitschy, like we might expect in the USA.
Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a trash can!

Monday, November 26

The first experiment

On opening day at the Weihnachtsmarkt, I unwittingly tried a drink that is wholly local. Of all the signs I saw of non-Gluehwein drinks, the Verpoorten Punsch intrigued me the most. So on Friday, I had my first taste! 

Everything about Verpoorten is yellow!
 Verpoorten Punsch is a warm drink, with Verpoorten Eierlikoer, or Advocaat (in English?), white wine, cinnamon, and whipped cream. For a recipe (auf Deutsch), visit the Verpoorten website. Advocaat is a liquor made with egg yolks, brandy, sugar or honey, and sometimes cream or milk. I had tried Eierlikoer before; it is often served cold, on top of ice cream. This is amazing, by the way! From consistency, it is a bit thicker than Bailey's. I have never looked for Verpoorten, or other European brands, in the USA before, but I guess you could find it at liquor stores.
The drink in question!
I found the drink to be very different! At first I wasn't convinced that it would be something I would frequently try, but it kind of grows on you. I will note that it is best enjoyed in small sips, and that it is particularly popular with the 45-65 and female age group. I didn't notice any guys trying it at this stand.
Here is a close-up. The Verpoorten company does a good job of advertising its product, complete with recipe cards on tables for people to take home and try.
Verpoorten began in 1876, when the first Verpoorten perfected the art of mixing egg yolks and alcohol to make a fluid consistency. In 1952, the company set up its headquarters in Bonn. I imagine that a lot of regional eggs head to this plant each day.

Cheers from Bonn!

Sunday, November 25

So little time...

Today Bonn is taking a break from the Christmas market business. This is the last Sunday of the church calendar year, called "Totensonntag," or Day of the Dead, in Lutheran churches across Germany. I sang with one of my choirs during services at the Kreuzkirche this morning. We sang Brahms' "Begraebnisgesang," a beautiful piece of choir and brass ensemble. The pastor also read the names of all church members who passed away during the last year. It was quite somber, and the brisk wind we have in Bonn adds to the edginess of the day.

This Sunday is the only day until December 23rd that the Weihnachtsmarkt will be closed. One would think that one month would be long enough to take in all aspects of the market, but I would argue otherwise. I have been looking forward to Gluehwein for weeks now, but I was not expecting the assault on my senses of all the beverage options! Here are just a few photos of all the different things I need to try:

At this stand you can order Gluehwein from grapes or cherries. Apparently one can also make Gluehwein using white wine.

These four pictures are all from the same stand. You have your choice of:
- White Gluehwein
- Hot chocolate with Bailey's
- Apple-Amaretto Punch
- "Designated Driver" Punch
- a 10-punch card for Gluehwein
- Mon Chery drink, which I assume is similar to the cherry-chocolate candy?
- Dornfelder Gluehwein - I have no idea what makes this Gluehwein different from other types.
- Apple-Cinnamon Punch
- Coffee
- Latte Macchiato
- Cappuccino
- Honey Gluehwein

Verpoorten Punch, whatever that is!

Yes, there is even Gluehbier! The thought of hot, spiced beer does not really excite me the same way that Gluehwein does. Still, I saw lots of people drinking it!
Perhaps the greatest hassle of trying all these things is the Pfand, or deposit. You pay a Pfand for nearly every type of drink you buy in Germany, especially at grocery stores. Restaurants are generally the exception. However, at markets like this, there is always the chance that someone will take their glass home with them. So, for every drink you have, expect to pay between two and three euros in Pfand. Of course you can simply return the glass after it is empty and collect your deposit, but sometimes the lines get really long, or you've had a couple glasses already and the Pfand begins to seem less important...

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, November 24

Welcome to Weihnachtsmarkt Season!

In this part of Germany, along the Rhine between Cologne and Bonn, it is said that there are five seasons, or "Jahreszeiten," instead of four. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall and Carnival!!! Attending the opening of the Weihnachtsmarkt in Bonn, however, makes me think that there may be six seasons here!

The market is beautiful. Everyone has a sense of child-like wonder for all the lanterns, lights, crafts, and treasures. The air smells of cinnamon and bratwurst! Right now the weather hasn't quite transitioned into winter, so the rain from last night and the general "warmth" outside today didn't complement the market as nicely as crisp air with snow flurries. It is still early; we still have time for freezing temperatures.

So, enjoy some of the first shots of this year's official "Eroeffnung des Weihnachtsmarkts"
Beethovenstadt Bonn - Ludwig watches over everything at the Christmas market.  Blick auf dem Muensterplatz.
Mom, look at what I found! Do you remember these treats from Rothenburg?
Despite the rain, opening day was well attended!
Drink Pyramid - in all its glory!
You can't tell from the photo, but these animals' heads move.
Candles - it kind of looks like wax is dripping from the top of the stand.

More animals!
I have already been blown away by the many different types of drinks and snacks one can enjoy at the market. The sampling has begun, and I am very excited to share my impressions and discoveries with you!