Christmas Market Season Is Here!

Last week, the Christkindlmärkte opened all over Germany.  It’s time for Glühwein (hot mulled wine), hot fresh festival food, gingerbread, and the warmth that comes from spending time with your friends.  The markets will be open until just before Christmas.

I didn’t take this picture of the Regensburg market on Neupfarrplatz, but I wish I had-  I’m pretty sure that this view was taken from the spire of the Dom, and I really want to go up there.

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These next nine photos, on the other hand, are from the Marienplatz Christkindlmarkt in Munich.  I took these yesterday, while I was hanging out with Cliff before Sarah’s concert.

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Yup, they were singing.

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Oh crepes, lovely lovely crepes…

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The crepe under construction here was a Schafskäse (feta cheese), tomato, pesto, and balasmic crepe.  It was incredibly delicious, and really piping hot.

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There are a bajillion Glühwein stands in Munich.  They’re easy to spot, too.

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Have you ever been to a Christmas Market?  What’s your favorite flavor of Glühwein?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

For my American friends and family, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.   It’s not a holiday here, so I’ll miss the food and festivities.

Here’s two of my favorite Thanksgiving jokes.  They’re both old Internet funnies of questionable taste.

Speaking of questionable taste, I think I’ll eat a turkey sub from Subway for lunch today.   I wonder if I can find some pecan pie.

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from http://www.joyoftech.com/
from http://www.joyoftech.com/

A fabulous day on Haidplatz

I am always amazed at how constantly there is stuff to do in the Altstadt on weekends.

Saturday the 15th of June was once again Christopher Street DayI first encountered this one last year, quite by accident.  Christopher Street day is a gay pride event held in Germany and Switzerland. It’s an anniversary to the LGBT uprisings in the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969.  The Stonewall Inn was on Christopher Street, hence the name.  The event isn’t always held on the actual anniversary for organizational reasons, but it usually turns up in June.

This is a huge event in Berlin and Cologne, but the day is celebrated in major cities all over the country.  There was a parade this year, but I missed it because I didn’t realize that it was happening until after it had concluded.  Blast!  I really need to put this on my calendar for next year so I don’t miss the parade!

I took a bunch  more pictures this year than I did last year.

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Have you ever seen a Christopher Street Day celebration?

Raising A Maypole

On the first of May last year, I wrote a little bit about May Day, and about Maibäume, or maypoles.  This year, I got to see the raising of a May Pole up close.  My partner-in-crime Jenny and her boyfriend were planning on going to a raising in nearby Peising and invited me along to hang out with the Village People.  (I mean the people who live in the village of Peising, not the band with the cowboy and the construction worker.  I would actually have enjoyed having a beer with them too.)    Since the day is a public holiday in Bavaria (no work!) I had nothing else planned, so I took them up on their offer.  I’m glad I did, because it was actually a lot of fun.

My shirt is the one German joke t-shirt I own.

First of all, a May Pole raising is often held with all the elements of a traditional Bavarian beer-fest.  There are beer garden styled tables and benches, lots of people in Tracht (lederhosen and dirndls), and even some live musical entertainment.

In Bavaria, accordions are cool.

This was also kind of a family event, and I have to just say-  kids in Tracht are incredibly damned cute.  These three pictures are proof of that.  Also, the little kid on the scooter is kind of an adorable badass with the sunglasses and the spiky hair.  He was my favorite Bavarian kid all day long.

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At two in the afternoon, it was time for the Maypole to be raised.  It had been stored a short distance from the place where it was to be raised, and there is a tradition where a group of people from the village guard their Maypole against theft by another village.  This involves drinking lots of beer and hanging out overnight around the pole.  If the people from the other village succeed in stealing the Maypole, it must be “bought” back for the princely sum of 50 Liters of beer and enough Bratwurst for all the members of the raiding party.  At least this is how it was explained to  me.  As you can see, however, it wouldn’t be terribly easy to steal another village’s Maypole:

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The process of raising the pole took around 45 minutes, but Robert says it can be done much faster if people really want to.  It starts with everyone lining the pole up with its metal base so that a primary spike can be put through it to anchor it in place.

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Next, they use smaller wood poles connected by barbed wire (seen below) to prop the pole up and to lift it in increments.  These tongs are in varying lengths, and the longest are nearly as long as the Maypole is tall.  The group would lever the pole up slightly, then move one or two of the sets of tongs further down the pole, then another lift.  This is repeated until the pole is completely vertical.  These next few photos show what I’m talking about.

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There’s a secondary type of pole, seen here, which is used to help guide the longer sets of tongs when they’re quite a large distance above the ground.  A “spotter” with one of these stands under the far end of the tongs to help steady them while they are being moved further down the Maypole.  This is probably a very good idea, because it’s very easy to lose control of the longest sets of tongs when you’re only gripping it from the furthest end.  As you can see, the tongs get very long.

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Once the Maypole is entirely vertical, metal plates are bolted across the open side to keep it from toppling over again.  A few pieces of wood are wedged into place to hold the pole steady.  Finally, a quick bit of spot-welding on the bolts keeps them from coming loose for the next few months.

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After all of this, Voila!  A lovely Maypole has been set up in the village of Peising.  The blue and white stripes are traditional; they’re the colors of the Bavarian flag.  Once the Maypole is fully raised, everyone settles back down for beer and bratwurst.  And, in my case, chocolate cake.

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Have you ever seen a Maypole raising?

Q&A Time!

A short while back, I posted an ‘Ask Me Anything’ post.  Some folks used that as a chance to ask for advice in advance of their upcoming travels to the area, and I tried to answer what I could of those in regular e-mail.  Some of the remaining questions are really interesting, so I’ve decided to do a series of “You asked, I answer” posts.  Let’s get started!

Here’s a question from Rarasaur:  What’s your favorite holiday, including minor or obscure ones?

My favorite holiday is actually New Year’s Eve.  While I’m not a religious person, I believe firmly in the concepts of circles closing, in things ending, and in getting a fresh start.  New beginnings are important.

My second favorite holiday is birthdays.  All birthdays.  Mine, yours, the birth of the Sony Walkman, and so forth.  Like I said a minute ago, beginnings are important.

As for the rest of the holidays-  I like Halloween and Fasching because I like to see people dressed up in nifty costumes.  I like Thanksgiving because I like to have tasty food with my family.  I like the Day of the Dead because it’s important to remember those who have passed beyond the rim.  I like May Day because giant poles with streamers and decorations!  I like Valentine’s Day because I’m a romantic at heart.  I like La Tomatina because pelting people with tomatoes is fun and more than a little strange.  I like Diwali, despite only learning about it this past year, because it’s a festival of lights, involves family, and is utterly fascinating to me. I also like invented holidays, such as Talk Like A Pirate Day, Towel Day, and yes, even Steak and a BJ Day.

I tend to like the holidays that are about people and introspection more, and the holidays that are about giving and receiving gifts less.

Here’s a related question from Jenny: What has been your favorite German event/celebration so far?

I quite liked Palmator, the Starkbierfest that turns up on Palm Sunday each year, when Prösslbräu Brewery in Adlersberg serves up their signature bock beer for the first time.

I also enjoyed the Jazz festival that turned up here one weekend, and Mai Dult, which had all the things you would expect from a festival here-  beer tents, bands, lots of interesting food, and carnival-style rides.

I haven’t made it to Oktoberfest yet, but I’m hoping to make it this year.

Do you have anything you’d like to ask?  The Ask Me Anything post is still open!