Monday, December 15, 2014
I've heard oh so many times that the best Christmas Market to visit is the one in Nürnberg.
Since my family lives there (and I have done it too for a period of time during my childhood), I have visited the city on various occasions, but unfortunately never during pre-Christmas time.
So it was high time I did that this year, and on the eve of the opening of the market, I arrived in Nürnberg.
The old city market is filled with little stands, so take a lot of time with you (and also money, because there is a lot of variety to spend it on). Wherever there is a "traffic jam" between the stands, you will know that you have reached the next "pit stop" for mulled wine. Walk up to the stage in front of the church to check the daily events and then walk around the colourful stands who have so much to offer - handmade toys, clothes, furniture, specific Christmas decoration, candy, gingerbread, jewelry - there is even a Playmobil stand there. If you walk from this main location with stands you will discover also the international stands, with products from all over the world. I even discovered a Romanian one with oh so jolly people in front of it - they were tasting our national Schnaps and forgetting about the cold while warming their hearts...
Another walk away from the main market takes you to the "Kinderweihnacht", a smaller version of the Christmas market, but dedicated to children. Your little ones can start being creative there: from decorating their own ginger bread to creating Christmas tree decorations or colouring their own holiday candles... it's a beautiful site to see all these children actively doing something for their loved ones and being so proud of their achievements. All in all, that's the best gift one can give you: offering you time and attention. And that is what children can do at the Kinderweihnacht while having a lot of fun.
If you find yourself wandering through Nürnberg's old city, don't miss out on the occasion to go to the most famous Christmas Market and to check the following activities:
- drink mulled wine (Glühwein) or Feuerzangenbowle, another, typical warm alcoholic drink. Wherever you see many people, there's the stand you are looking for
- eat the local Wurst, the small Nürnberger - served 3 in a bun (3 im Weckla)
- eat the original Nürnberger gingerbread, the Elisen-Lebkuchen - they are a bit pricey but something you must check off your list because the most famous recipe for "Lebkuchen" comes from this city
- grab or make a souvenir for a loved one who, unfortunately, could not join you
- make a lot of pictures
- have fun! - because, if you can't feel Christmas then and there, I don't know where you will!!!
Monday, December 8, 2014
One of the perfect gifts for me would be to freeze time...and then be transported to another dimension - be it a memory from the past which I enjoy a great deal, or another time I have not met. Just like when you take a bite from your grandmother's cooking and you are directly teleported to your childhood - just like that!
This warm-toned polished box adorned by a golden inlaid pine-tree pattern atop the lid contains a traditional assortment of zChocolat's most popular recipes (see here), but because I had already had the pleasure to taste those chocolates (read on my blog here and here) and because with zChocolat you can customize your boxes in every way that you like, I received mine filled with Orangettes, a typical Christmas delicay.
I pick one up, bite it through the middle, close my eyes and enjoy the bitterness combined with sweetness: orange peels covered in 70% dark chocolate - what a bliss! Suddenly, I am being transported to the South of France, around a Christmas market and many more aromas tickle my nose and palate. This is due to the fact that, when I open my eyes, my hands have already gone in search for 3 more boxes which I took with me in bed (don't tell my mother ;) ). These 3 boxes are filled with assortments new to zChocolat - and they do not contain chocolate.
Let me introduce to you pates de fruits, nougats and calisson d'aix assortments!
The Pates de Fruits Assortment contains fruit jellies, just like I remember them from my childhood. But these are not made from the fruits from the area I grew up with, but with the essence of the ripest fruits (cherry, lemon, apple, orange, strawberry, raspberry and apricots) from Provence. Only one jelly is enough and you can smell and see the orchards or the fields in front of your eyes. Only one piece is sufficient to satisfy your desire and hunger for sweetness...but I wonder - could you stop at just one? Because I wanted to taste each and every one of them, I wanted to have the complete experience of the fruits in Provence...
The Nougats Assortment is another wonderful taste-of-Provence-experience. The 15 small pieces should not be underestimated - their taste is amazing. The assortment is prepared with whole crisp Provence almonds (the nougat pieces are filled with them!!!) which have been cooked in local lavender honey using ancestral traditions. Believe me - it doesn't just sound like a dream - it tastes like one!
Keeping it on an almondy note - I present to you the Calissons d'Aix Assortment. This Aix-en-Provence specialty is made from an almond paste (Germans call it Marzipan), orange zest and candied cantaloupe, with a sugar-icing top coat - a bit of this and I am reminded of my time spent in the South of France, of the old and picturesque villages I loved to spend my weekends exploring and of the colourful Sunday markets there.
Having all these delicacies to eat in front of me, sitting so comfortable as I am at the moment and drinking my favourite tea, I couldn't be more happier. It's like I've become child again and there is nothing in this world which can steal my happiness. Even without chocolate, zChocolat has again done a wonderful job of offering the best taste with the best ingredients. And if you might doubt what I am saying, I urge you to try them for yourself. Who knows what dimension you will travel to...
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
With the holiday season approaching, I am honestly looking forward to the warming Christmas Markets. This year I am off to see the world's nr. 1 Christmas Market in Germany, the one in Nuernberg. Or, at least, THEY say it's the best. I will get back to you with my personal feedback about it.
Last year, I was in Stuttgart...and, to remind me of it, I NOW found the text I had written then, so here it is for you as well:
Every now and then I have the occasion,through my work, to travel to the southern part of Germany, to Baden-Wuerttemberg, to be more specific. I always stay at the same hotel, in a small city next to Stuttgart, and most of the times, after work, I find myself walking through the city center of Baden-Wuerttemberg's capital.
This time I was here with 3 of my dear colleagues, and, although it was freezing cold, we enjoyed some walks and the first mulled wine of this season.
The Schlossplatz has a skating rink open, with music and oh so many jolly people around. And next to that rink we found the first little houses who served the traditional “Wurst”, the sweets such as glazed apples, strawberries wrapped in dark or white chocolate or heart-shaped ginger bread with different messages on them. And of course..the huts selling mulled wine. All the aromas of Christmas past and Christmas to come. It's funny how THESE little things let your eyes shine and fill your hearts with joy. And they did mine!
It was a perfect way of starting to get into that spirit of happiness, of thankfulness. A way to start thinking about all the good things in life, all the big and small things we are so grateful for. And more important, of all the people.
The small huts were just the “beginning” of what was to turn into a bigger Christmas market in the center of Stuttgart. The Schlossplatz, Rathausplatz, the square next to the old castle and the little streets towards the old market have been now filled with these small houses which are just beautifully transmitting the Christmas spirit while letting you slow down your tempo from the crazy Christmas shopping stress, letting you find yourself and your inner peace.
If you have the chance to visit Stuttgart this season, don't miss out on the Christmas market! You won't regret it!
(Picture source: http://www.germany-christmas-market.org.uk/_marketpix/stuttgart_christmas_market_4.jpg)
Monday, July 28, 2014
One thing that has drawn my attention to luxury products was never the high price people see at a first glance, but rather the well structured concept behind them, the craftsmanship (and the idea of high quality work) as well as the tradition. An haute couture dress by Chanel is not just a high priced dress by a well-renowned designer made from expensive fabric, it's a story, of women who are passionate about fabrics and needles, who treat every piece of material with respect and who present the final product like a child of their own, whom they are very proud of, it's a story from the idea, the sketch to the runway show, it's a product which receives life from the hands of highly skilled crafts(wo)men... If you are not really seeing the picture, I recommend this document called Signe Chanel, which will open your eyes on a whole new perspective about the luxury industry. It will show you that behind a product there are a lot of beautiful people (and I am referring to inner beauty) who do everything passionately. They live for what they do!
Going back to my analysis of people around me in the last months, I am sad to say that I consider life nowadays too fast-paced, in order for it to have a deeper meaning. Most of us can refer to their lives as to a fast-food dinner, rather than to a 3 Michelin starred gourmet dinner, in which all your senses are required and stimulated.
People just run-run-run and I am wondering: where are we all rushing to? Browsing through Facebook's Timeline instead of calling up your friends to find out what is new, is a shallow way to engage in social relationships. Eating micro-wave dishes instead of going to the market and being attracted by the colours and the smells there, and imagining what to cook, this is also a wrong take on life (at least from my perspective).
From this point of view, even if they had less horizons to set their sight on or less opportunities, our parents were more fortunate. They used to have TIME for themselves and for the people and things that mattered in their lives. They used to spend a lot of time reading BOOKS instead of tweets, and they would meet friends and discuss ideas, not only facebook status updates of others.
Sure, an H and M dress can make you happy (or at least for a period in time),...I have lots of those. But just like that dress, there are many more around the world, they are not unique, and they donnot tell a story. Or at least, not your story, and for sure, not a story of passion and love of life.
So I decided to take a moment and a deep breath and to refuse that fast-food similar life, but to try my best at reaching the gourmet one. I don't say it's easy...it's rather more difficult and more work is needed to gain those 3 Michelin stars, than just to wrap a kebab or a burger. Also that Chanel dress takes a lot of work, many...manyyy hours of work. But in the end, the result will make me more happy, I am sure of that. I have read more books in the last month than in the last year and I am positive I have more new ideas now than I would have with even one year more passing of my life without reading this much. I have met up with more friends than in the last 6 months and have seen their views on life, their worries and the small things which make them happy, and I notice that I am not alone in this world with my wish for a better and a complete life. A life full of texture and colour and music and scent...so that all my senses can be engaged at the same time. Because,...no matter what life you choose, fact is, we only live once, and we have to make the best of our time here. And there is no single recipe of how to live which can apply to two people at a time. But if you put more emphasis on quality, rather than quantity, if you care more about being than on having, you are on the right track for completing that Chanel dress, your life!
(Picture source: above - http://lachanelphile.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/fwch11i2.jpg and below - http://www.elle.com/cm/elle/images/up/elle-lagerfeld-chanel-sketch-3-de.jpg)
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
In part one of my Strasbourg post you saw some pictures of this small but beautiful city and I told you what I would consider a must-see. Now here are some things you should do and should enjoy in Strasbourg:
M U S T - D O :
Yes, look at your city map to see all the places you want to go to...you'll notice, that you will soon check them off your list...and then just start walking around these streets...get lost and get charmed by the places there. I walked several times along the river from Palais Rohan up to the heart of Petite France. It was so peaceful, like a whole week of vacation wrapped in a day. Repeat the same by night-time, the city is particularly attractive by night as well.
Batorama - City Tour by Boat. Also next to the Palais Rohan you find the boats with a curved glass ceiling - perfect for city tours, even on rainy days. Take the long tour, the one for 5 minutes, because this is how you will be sure to visit the Quartier Européen as well.
M U S T - E A T :
- Tarte flambee or Flammkuchen
- Choucrute, the Alsatian sauerkraut.
- Foie gras
- French breakfast
If these are not enough reasons to visit Strasbourg,...then I don't know what is! :)
Monday, July 21, 2014
After almost two years of having this city on my "To-Visit-List", I have finally made it to little Strasbourg in Alsace. It was a day-trip, I reached there on a Saturday noon and stayed until Sunday noon. First day with rain, but absolutely worth visiting, even in such a weather.
M U S T - S E E :
The Cathedral. It is a really astonishing building, not just by its size, but by the feeling you are overwhelmed with when entering it. The stained glass windows inside are so beautiful, and the warmth from all the lit candles embraces you whereas the hugeness of the cathedral makes you feel so small, so insignificant in this world,..and still...such small people built this greatness. There is without a doubt something or someone powerful watching over and helping us.
La Petite France. Probably the most photographed area of Strasbourg - these houses are very beautiful. I was particularly delighted by the contrast which exists in many: old and traditional on the outside and new and modern, some even funky, on the inside.
I think I walked by 3-4 times, at different times of the day, on Saturday, in rain, and in the evening without the rain.And the next morning with sun....even if it is so small, this neighborhood changes its charm according to the weather and time of the day. Worth seeing and taking lots of pictures. And a nice place to just sit, look at the water, relax, and let the time stand still for a second.
The "Quartier Européen". With the European Council and the European Parliament. Of course, it's a plus if you have someone to show you around. Otherwise, just do a boat-tour through it.
I leave you now with some of the pictures I took and will be back with more details in a second post.