Travelogue LIV: Kulmbach II

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August 21, 2015 Usually, I try to accompany my photographs with some sort of narrative. I’m interested in telling stories, after all, and words are the means to that end. Sometimes, however, the pictures just speak for themselves.

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Rothko?

Rothko?

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Amber waves of grain, and all of that.

Amber waves of grain, and all of that.

Plassenburg castle in the distance.

Plassenburg castle in the distance.

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The farmhouse.

The farmhouse.

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Guten Morgen, Kulmbach!

Guten Morgen, Kulmbach!

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Travelogue LIII: Kulmbach

The courthouse on the town square, with the flags of Bavaria, Kulmbach, and Germany.

The courthouse on the town square, with the flags of Bavaria, Kulmbach, and Germany.

August 20, 2015 Before we head to Bayreuth, Katie and I are farm-sitting for friends in Kulmbach–sprawling stone farmhouse, beautiful views, pigs and gardens and physical labor and evenings in front of the fire. For me, it is a chance to get out of my head: I cook in the huge kitchen for hours every day, stack wood for the fire. There’s not much space to overthink things.

Today, we took a break from the work to spend a few hours downtown, along with the two other young ladies who are watching the farm with us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKulmbach, like almost every other tiny Dorf in northern Bavaria, is beautiful–not in a touristy, expensive way, but with the sort of effortless charm that reminds me of the villages in Vermont. We drank cappuccinos and then hiked up to the castle outside of town, in the rain, wearing wool sweaters. Autumn is almost here.

The inner courtyard of the Plassenburg, the local castle.

The inner courtyard of the Plassenburg, the local castle.

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Farmers' day off: we all stopped a the café for coffee and ice-cream, thanks to a generous tipp from the young farmer who bought two piglets from us yesterday.

We all stopped a the café for coffee and ice-cream, thanks to a generous tipp from the young farmer who bought two piglets from us yesterday.

The clock-tower at the Lutheran church.

The clock-tower at the Lutheran church.

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On the other side of the camera, for once. Thanks, Katie.

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Kulmbacher Bier. Kulmbach, village that it is, is renowned across Germany for their breweries.

Kulmbacher Bier. Kulmbach, village that it is, is renowned across Germany for its breweries.

And perhaps best of all, there are mountains.

And perhaps best of all, there are mountains in northern Bavaria.

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Travelogue LI: Kulmbacher Bierfest

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Rock those pink Lederhosen. Tracht–traditional dress, which in Bavaria consists of Lederhosen and Dirndl–is still very much in style.

August 3, 2015 I spent the weekend on my favorite organic farm in Kulmbach, a tiny Dorf in the heart of the Bavarian countryside. We weeded and harvested and chopped and canned and pickled, and then on Friday evening went down to the local Beer Festival.

As I have written before, the part of Germany I am living in is the land of wine–to the South and West, along the banks of the Rhine River. The cities are full of Weinstuben, and in the summer there is some Weinfest or another on almost every corner, with lights strung up in the vineyards and rows of champagne flutes and wine glasses, fancy French pizza and slices of Zwiebelkuchen.

Here in Bavaria, however, the Weinkultur is replaced by Bierkultur: a little more insanity, a little less inhibition, and a lot more of what looks to my mostly-vegetarian eyes like enormous portions of raw meat. No champagne flutes here–you drink from a Maßkrug, a glass mug that holds an entire liter of beer. And you dance, not on the ground in front of the stage like normal people, but on the tables.

A tent full of some 2,000 euphoric, Maß-drinking Germans dancing on picnic tables to Schlager is a sight to see. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Inside the Bierzelt (Beer Tent).

Inside the Bierzelt (Beer Tent).

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The band interrupted itself every five minutes so that the entire hall could sing the ultimate German drinking song–Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!–mugs in the air, cheers all around.

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Germans are not particularly well-known for their party dancing skills, but they have Schunkeln down pat–link hands with the friends or strangers next to you, sway back and forth until somebody falls off the bench or the next Prosit comes around.

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Dapper Tracht-wearers.

After the sun went down, I went back to the festival without my camera, and danced on the tables with strangers and sang along to all the Schlager, and also to Sweet Caroline for good measure. Good times never seemed so good, and all that. The pure joie de vivre in the air was absolutely redemptive. 

Recipe: Bavarian Sauerkraut

IMG_0838Tools of the trade: Holzbrett, Stampfer, Krauthobel.

When I arrived at the farm in Kulmbach last weekend, I was immediately assigned to the task of making sauerkraut–an entire day’s undertaking even for a relatively small batch, as I discovered. I was given a hand-written recipe and more or less left to my own devices, with liberal advice from whichever of the family members happened to be passing through the kitchen. It turned out pretty decent, if I do say so myself…not bad for an American. 😉

IMG_0835Fresh from the root cellar, harvested during my stay in August.

Ingredients: white cabbage, sea salt, caraway seeds

Instructions: Wash cabbage, remove several of the large outer leaves from each head, and set them aside for later. Cut the cabbage into small pieces. If you don’t have a traditional cabbage cutter (Krauthobel), a knife works just as well. Apparently, it is best to cut it into long, narrow strands–it tastes better that way, according to my hosts.

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Beat the cut cabbage in a crock or large pot until enough liquid has come out to entirely cover it. This takes some hefty work–if you can’t seem to get enough liquid out, you will need to add a bit of water later. Let stand for an afternoon, or overnight.

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IMG_0870Allll the Sauerkraut….

Add salt (30 grams per kilo of cabbage) and sprinkle with caraway seeds. If you are making a large batch, it is best to work in layers–a kilo of cabbage, then salt and seeds. Stop between layers to compact the cabbage as firmly as possible. If you are making a small batch, this can be done in a glass canning jar–for a large batch, use a crock or pot.

IMG_0875Cover the shredded cabbage completely with the whole leaves (set aside previously). At this point, the shredded cabbage should be quite compact, and completely immersed in its own liquid–if not, add a bit of water.

IMG_0877Set some sort of press on top of the whole leaves, with a weight on top heavy enough to push everything down below the level of the liquid. We used a large plate, weighted down with a jar full of water. The most important thing is that the actual cabbage is fully submerged–this will keep it from spoiling.

IMG_0880That’s 18 kilos of Sauerkraut, yo. 

Put a lid on the crock, jar, or pot, and set in a cool place. Ferment for five weeks, and enjoy! Geschafft! 

IMG_0883Sauerkraut, don’t touch!!

Travelogue VIII: Plassenburg, Kulmbach

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23. August, 2014 Yesterday, I walked down into the valley and up the other side, to the castle which is visible from the high fields here. The Plassenburg–on the outside, much more rugged and Medieval than the Festung Marienberg in Würzburg, but quite lovely and elegant within the walls.

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Afterwards, I walked back down to the old city. I got entirely lost on the way, and ended up in the maze of narrow alleys and overhanging balconies and stone steps that seem to dominate the quieter parts of every small town in Bavaria.

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IMG_0489…back on track!

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Below, the town square, which I finally found–complete with mandatory cobblestones, outdoor cafe, fountain, Rathaus with wooden beer barrels in front, view of the castle in the background. I ordered a Milchkaffe and read Siegfried Lenz and looked at the Plassenburg.

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And best of all, on the long treck back to the farm there was a cat.
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