Christmas Travels – Part 1: Munich

Nothing beats Germany in pre-Christmas mode. I have never enjoyed being back home for the holidays more as this year we arrived just in time to check out all the Advent excitement. Christmas markets and seasonal events in and around the city are amazing venues to check out with a glass of Glühwein (“mulled wine”) in your hand. Here are 5 of my favourites, in and around Munich.

1. Milchhäusl at the English Garden

Take a stroll through the English Garden and watch the Eisbach Surfers withstand snow and cold water. After this favourite spectator sport it’s just a short walk to the Königinstraße entrance of the park. This is where the little gem “Milchhäusl” is located. Enjoy a cup of Glühwein or Lumumba (hot chocolate with rum) in one of their Winter Gondolas – Original ski-lift gondolas that are repurposed as private, heated seating areas. You can choose between the “Kuschel-Gondola” (snuggle gondola) with curtains or the “Disco-Gondola” decorated with colourful lights. Afterwards check out the christmas market around the “Chinesischer Turm” – a beautiful location to do some christmas shopping or sample some more Glühwein.

2. The Medieval Christmasmarkt

The market is conveniently located at Wittelsbacher Platz, close to Odeonsplatz station and the famous Theatinerkirche.The food options are amazing: Schupfnudeln with speck and cabbage, ox meat or walnut pesto, various dumplings and venison goulash. Next to Glühwein and Feuerzangenbowle (a hot specialty with burnt sugar and rum) you can order a Met honey wine which is served in a big clay jar. The craft huts sell unique gifts such as medieval jewlery, swords and drink horns. Everyone working at the market is in character and dressed in medieval outfits. A truly special market that is great for a lunch break visit or a drink after sightseeing.

3. Bad Tölz Weihnachtsmarkt

The BOB train connects Munich to the southern mountain and lakeside in under an hour. There are many picturesque towns to discover and mountains to climb. A favourite of mine is the romantic town of Bad Tölz which is located right on the river Isar and offers a view of the alps. The colourful old town is the prefect setting for it’s traditional Weihnachtsmarkt. Arts and crafts and delicious cheese and meats of local artisans make the market a favourite amongst locals and tourists. And the food options are amazing: Fresh bread and Alsatian flans right from the woodburning fire, Käsekrainer sausage (cheese filled) and Nürnberger in a bun (3 small bratwurst sausages) are crucial after trying the white and red Glühwein varieties and the local Hirschkuss Schnaps (a herb liquour).

4. Tollwood

This event has a Winter and Summer edition and twice every year transforms the famous Theresienwiese into a funky festival with food carts and big tents that host concerts, comedy events, parties, bars, local arts, fashion and craft vendors and ethnic eateries. The food and drinks served here are all organic. My favourite: The Mini- Cheese fondue at the foodcart “Fondue Baron”.The cause behind the winter festival 2014 was to promote the end of mass husbandry systems and humane treatment of animals.

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5. Pink Xmas

My favourite quarter in Munich is the Glockenbachviertel. It’s party central and home to many great restaurants and bars (My Top 3: The Bavarian-Vietnamese Fusion at Fei scho, a cocktail at Zephyr and the legendary Pimpernel Club). This quarter has lots to offer. Not surprisingly, the Christmas market here is amazing! Pink Xmas is a favourite neighbourhood event and an initiative by the gay and lesbian community in Munich. The cute little market is complete with neon-pink lights, hot Caipirinha and fun little shops offering quirky accessoires like topless male “mermaid”- tree ornaments. A fun spot to start the night out on town!

Stay tuned for my favourite winter activities in Vienna and Budapest…

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Best Of Instagram: November

November was a very exciting month – wrapping up work projects, getting ready to head out of town to get married, spending weekends in class and…enjoying some spectacular cold days in the sun! This weekend, my Canadian and I are heading to my “Heimat” Germany. As well as Munich we will visit Bamberg, Vienna and Budapest. Stay tuned for snaps and stories from Europe. Happy Glühwein-Season and see you in 2015, Vancouver!

Mayne Island was the second Gulf island I got to check out (next to Salt Spring) and I loved it. Especially the Japanese Garden and the Springwater Lodge were worth the rough ferry trip.

The view of English Bay on a blue bird day is hard to beat. This shot was taken on the afternoon of Remembrance Day.

Running in this city rules. Passing by tourist sights, running to the sound of crashing waves and stretching at the beach makes me grateful to live here, year-round. And grateful for gloves.

Somehow we managed to get our German wedding organized from afar. On top of work and school it was a challenge at times, but we even found the time and patience to make our very own, handmade invitations.

Early December we got hit by snow. It didn’t last for very long but seeing our doodley dog go nuts in the powder was very much worth the grey mud we had to wade through for the rest of the week.

Oyama Sausage Granville Island White Sausage

6 Tips on Where to Find German Food In Vancouver

When I am asked what I miss most about Germany, I always answer with the three F’s: family, friends and food. While the latter is a pure luxury problem and I very much enjoy the range of cuisines one can enjoy in Vancouver (especially the ocean to table options!) – sometimes I crave a taste of home. That’s what comfort food means to me, feeling a little closer to home with the help of a dish. A good pretzel can make my day and when I found Krapfen (basically a jelly filled donut without a hole) and good Bauernbrot (farmer’s bread) at a local bakery, Vancouver felt a lot more like home all of a sudden. So where do you go when homesickness hits or you just want to try some German staples?

1. Bread

I kissed a lot of frogs (named German Rye, Vienna Style or Fritz Buns) until I found the amazing ‘Bauernbrot’ at Breka Bakery. It’s the first bread that tasted just like at home. With salami, mustard and a pickle for lunch or Nutella for breakfast it hits the spot. Speaking of pickles: Germans do not hang a pickle in their christmas tree. This “tradition” is basically unheard of in Germany, against all North American beliefs.

German Christmas Myth Pickle

Photo by © Jamie Anderson

2. Pretzels

Similar to my bread research, it took me a while to find the best pretzel in town. The Deutsches Haus serves expensive and dry ones, so I turned to the Swiss (!) Bakery and  found my match. The pretzels here are a bit too soft for my Bavarian preference, but throw them in the toaster and you will get a sense of what a pretzel should taste like. Pretzels and sweet mustard – something is missing here…

Swiss Bakery Pretzels Vancouver

Photo by Swiss Bakery

3. Sausages

There are amazing butchers in Vancouver. Unlike German sausages, there is a lot of experimentation going on here: Blueberry-Elk, Apple-Pork, IPA-Bratwurst – there’s no limits when it comes to “Wurst”. My favourite sausage makers are Rio Friendly Meats on Hastings and Oyama on Granville Island. The latter is selling the best white sausage in the city. This brunch sausage is equally as important to a Bavarian as Bacon is to a Canadian. White sausages are simmered and not boiled. Don’t get caught putting it on the BBQ either or you will never hear the end of it.

Oyama Sausage Granville Island White Sausage

Photo by Oyama Sausage Co.

4. Sweets

Sometimes it has to be the real thing. You won’t have any trouble tracking down Ritter Sport or Lindt Chocolate. Milka is a different story though , but it is possible to find the purple goodness (I`ve seen it at the J N & Z Deli on Commercial Drive). London Drugs offers a surprisingly good selection of Bahlsen-Cookies, Manner-Waffers (Viennese!) and Haribo Candy. Same goes for Marmelade, Mustard (Kühne Sweet Mustard) and Spekulatius (spiced cookies) which you will find at Deli Supermarkets like Meinhardts or Stongs Market. And there is even a German Sweets Foodcart in this awesome city: The “Cändy Meister” Truck sells all natural German bonbons.

Ritter Sport German Chocolate

Photo by Ritter Sport

5. Beer

Liquor stores generally offer Löwenbräu and Becks…not my first choices. But there is great German style beer from local breweries in Vancouver. Russell Brewing and Bomber Brewing make a mean Märzen and a lot of the local wheat beer and Helles are very tasty too. I love touring around breweries like 33Acres, Parallel 49 and Brassneck to sample their fresh brews. But that’s a whole different blog post.

6. German Fast Food

A good Curry Sausage can do wonders before a big night out or after a long day. Bestie is the best place in town to get your fix. And on top of that, they serve litre-porcelain steins of beer, the only legitimate size in Bavaria where a “small beer” means 0,5 litre. Sometimes they feature a Leberkäs Specials which is basically a Bavarian Meatloaf in a bun. We call it health food.

Bestie Sausage Currywurst Vancouver

Photo via Nomss.com

What’s your favourite German food?

Best of Instagram: October

I can’t believe it is November already. Last winter I expected snow and ice in Vancouver. People fly out to the “Great White North” from all over the world to go skiing, I thought. Now I know better. While there is snow on the mountains, the city gets rain and grey skies, but snow – hell no! I don’t mind as long as there is enough snow for wintersports in the mountains and fun events happening in the city. And there are plenty: The Vancouver Christmas Market is a favourite (starting on November 22nd), christmas shopping at Circle Craft awaits (opening on November 11th) and the VanDusen Festival of Lights is coming up (starting on 10th of December). And my trip to Germany, Austria and Hungary in December is getting close too!

In the meantime, here are some snaps to remember a beautiful October:

Stanley Park at it’s best. The sunny days in October brought back memories of the amazing summer we had.

Seattle is just a short train ride away from Vancouver. I love this city for many reasons – the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition and the retro-cool Space Needle are two of them.

Vancouver’s Public Art was fun in the sunshine. Now the Biennale installations bring colour to grey days. The “Love your beans” Installation at Charleson Park is one of my favourites. Watching people climbing the beans has become a favourite spectator sport on the seawall.

You know it is fall when the historic Sylvia Hotel is turning red.

My second trip to Seattle was complete with a visit to the amazing Seattle Art Museum. The current exhibitions are worth a visit. I love spending all day in the museum…

November started with a sunny morning, perfect to get some fresh air after a long Halloween night and enjoy the last fall colours at Queen Elizabeth Park.