Friday, August 31, 2007

Eating in Germany

Lunch at Hofbräuhaus in and giant soft pretzelsThis is a gay family blog with values. We don’t discuss a lot of sex here. (What happened in Germany, stays in Germany...or something like that.) I will, however, talk about my second favorite topic…food.

* Everyone, EVERYONE, smokes in Germany especially during meals. In fact, for maximum enjoyment it is imperative to have a cigarette between every course. (cough, cough)
* German beer is very fresh tasting compared to most American ones. Beer is the cheapest beverage on the menu. It is cheaper than Coke, lemonade (Sprite) or Fanta(!). It is even cheaper than water.
* Want a glass of ice water with your meal? Forgetaboutit. Maybe they will have a 7 euro bottle of fancy French spring water. They know you are an American because you prefer bottle water without gas.
* If you do get a drink with ice, there will never be more then three ice cubes in it.
* Germany has a curious love of “mixed drinks.” Spezi or Mezzo Mix is Coke and Fanta mixed together. They also drink beer and Coke (Cola-Weizen) or beer and lemonade (Sprite) which is also know as a Radler (Shandy in England).
* Bavarians love their beer but northern Germans (Hamburg & Berlin) drink more coffee than beer. Starbucks is everywhere.
* We choose not to eat pork, beef, deep fried food and anything covered in a cream or cheese sauce. It is our way to try to eat healthy. Unfortunately, it does cut out about 80% of the northern European diet. I did, however, try some wonderful dishes made from pheasant, rabbit, venison, trout, European perch and seafood from the North Sea. We also had good dishes with Knödel dumplings and Spätzle noodles.
* We ate a lot of Italian food. The personal size, thin crust pizzas are the best. You rarely see the same European style pizza here in the US. The American pizzas are too large, doughy and crusty. They use too much cheese and non-fresh, over-cooked ingredients. I also like the fact that European restaurants don’t cut the pizza into little slices.
* Breakfast (Frühstück) usually consisted of soft round bread rolls, hard-boiled eggs, jams, a plate of cheeses, and lots of fatty ham and other deli meats, salted meats and meat-based spreads. They also had healthier granola, muesli and other cereals.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Three weeks in Germany

Gay hiker dads in the AlpsWe arrived back from our European vacation over a week ago and have been busy ever since. Three days after coming back and just barely unpacking our suitcases we left for a weekend get-away with friends to the Russian River in Guerneville, CA. More on that another time.
Fairy tale castle, NeuschwansteinOur guided hike through the Bavarian Alps was fantastic. We met our group in Munich. It consisted of three other experienced hikers…a father and 20yr old son and a woman veterinarian from the Midwest plus our 28 year old German guide. The first day we traveled to Füssen, one of Germany's best known medieval towns, and visited Neuschwanstein, a fairytale castle built by Bavarian “Fairy Tale” King Ludwig II. This castle is the one Walt Disney used to model his Sleeping Beauty Castle on at Disneyland. The king’s biography and mysterious death is also an interesting story. He was a gay monarch.

Austrian valleyThe hike itself was spectacular! -- Beautiful weather (just one morning of light showers), green alpine meadows and forests, rugged peaks, and glacier vistas – We traveled from Germany's picturesque Bavaria through the glaciated mountains of Austrian Tyrol and ending in the medieval city of Meran (Merano) in northern Italy. Each day’s hike was 7 to 9 hours long (max. elev. 9,824'). Accommodations included comfortable evenings at guesthouses or hotels tucked away in verdant valleys.

Our hiking group putting on sunscreenThe final day we traveled to Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy to see the mummified remains of Ötzi, the prehistoric "Iceman." Although Ötzi died over 5,300 years ago, he is still making news today!

After the hike we traveled around Germany by train. We had a great time in Munich, Köln, Hamburg, and Berlin. Each city has its unique and fun aspects; but needless to day, Berlin is particularly a happening place these days. We learned a lot about German history and were very impressed by the open, honest, and compassionate way modern Germany (particularly as reflected all throughout Berlin) is dealing with the Nazis and the Holocaust. We did several city walking tours, a couple half day bicycle tours (in Munich and Berlin) and visited over a dozen art and history museums. And with 171 museums in Berlin alone, we barely made a dent in all we wanted to see.

Gay life in Germany really rocked everywhere we went. We stayed in either gay hotels or guesthouses in each city. We highly recommend two beautiful hotels we stayed in Munich: the Deutsche Eiche Hotel; and Berlin: Art Hotel Connection. In Köln we stayed at a gay friendly guesthouse called Gästehaus Köln. In Hamburg we were welcomed at a lovely, private gay guest room.
Deutsche Eiche Hotel, Munich Art Hotel Connection, Berlin
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