Indulge in very naughty treats at a German Xmas market.

Yay! It’s Christmas Market time in Germany and that means time to spoil yourself rotten.

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If you are going to the markets this season you absolutely have to try these yummy snacks and drinks.

 

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Ladies and gentlemen (not boys and girls) let me introduce to you my new favourite tipple of the festive season….gluhwein!

Basicall it’s hot wine with added spice. Yes, yes in the UK people glug down mulled wine too but as I explored the stalls of Rudesheim Christmas Market and the Romantic Christmas Market in Bad Münster am Stein-Ebernburg – both very quaint – I was impressed with the creative adaptations…ahem hot cocktails!! My favourite was an apple gluhwein with rum. For the sake of research I sampled quite a few. I tasted a hot chocolate with chocolate liqueur and rum, a red gluhwein, a white gluhwein with vodka and a blueberry gluhwein.

The weather was freezing. It was so cold I couldn’t feel my hands but after a few of these babies, I was certainly feeling a warm fuzz 😉

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gluwein

Next up on my list is another boozy favourite in Germany. I can actually say I have never come across so many flavours of liqueur anywhere else in the world in comparison to the types I’ve seen and tasted here.

Tasty liquor at romantic Christmas Market in Germany

From woodruff to sour cherry. If you can think of the flavour it’s usually available.

On to sweet treats..

chocolate tools at romantic Christmas Market in Germany

Chocolate tools for the man in your life. They were so real looking, I had to try one to make sure they weren’t metal!

chocolate waffle on a stick mmm adventureswithbea

Ahh yes. Simple yet affective. I hail the person who covered a waffle in chocolate and put it on a stick.

So you may be thinking that I just went to a couple of Christmas Markets, drank booze and ate chocolate…

You’d be wrong. I also bought Ani the cat a Santa hat.

Annie in a Santa hat

Have you seen the Kostas Murkudis exhibition?

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It was a freezing cold day in Frankfurt so I headed out in the snow with my camera to the Museum of Modern Art 2 (MMK2) partly because I had to get out of the house and partly because it was the last Saturday of the month and most museums in Frankfurt, including this one, are free to visit. I had no idea what I would find. Now I love fashion. I love designers. To me they are the best artists in the world. I can gaze at creations by McQueen, Westwood and Lagerfeld all day long. This day, I was in for a treat. MMK2 is showing At Close Range, a Kostas Murkudis exhibition, until Valentine’s Day next year.

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I felt like I was looking at a modern art exhibition. Murkudis is one of the most important designers in Germany. He’s not what one would call ‘commercial’. You won’t hear some glamour puss talking loudly about how she can’t wait to get her hands on his signature blah blah blah. Murkudis has been experimenting with fashion independent of the industry’s obsession with shopping and shows for a long time. He donated two fashion lines to MMK2 in 2013.

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At Close Range is an exhibition of many different mediums and artists. Video installations, sound curtains, photography, mood boards, curiosities, paintings and installations all in a minimalist setting. The list of artists on show read like a who’s who in contemporary art; Japanese artist Nobuyoshi Arakisuch, French painter Yves Klein, German painter and photographer Sigmar Polke, experimental filmmaker and musician Tony Conrad, Italian painter Piero Manzoni, Americn painter Morris Louis, German painter Blinky Palermo, US artist and musician Steven Parrino, US artist Robert Longo, German photographer Juergen Teller and German artist Franz Erhard Walther.

I snapped Jack Goldstein’s Suite of Nine 7-Inch Records.

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And then I got arty with me piccies!

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The pieces from Murkudis’ spring summer 2009 -11 collection looked as if they were being worn by ghosts.

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I walked in between and got up real close to examine the fabrics and the way they were manipulated to create the pieces in the 2012-14 autumn/winter collections.

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Snapshots from Murkudis’ picture archive on the wall reflected in the glass case where more of the pictures were displayed.

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Murkudis is a modern artist come fashion designer or the other way around…He produces objects like glass baseball bats and collects keepsakes on shelves. Yet still he has worked with Pringle of Scotland and Closed.

I popped my head around a walled-off corner and found flourescent tubes and purple hues coming from a creation by New York artist Dan Flavin.

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The sun came out in the city so I went for a walk around towards the bridge.

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Nostalgia cooking: awesome homemade German dumplings

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This post is really special because my friend Dagmar has decided to let me tell you all the secrets to her amazing cooking. Dagmar is a talent in the kitchen. She is what I call a slow cook because she relishes creating the kind of dishes that can take days or even weeks to prepare. The creations in her kitchen are nothing short of mini adventures.

parsley choppingDagmar has been friends with my boyfriend, Mario, for many years. Her husband, Hans Peter, and her have practically adopted him as their own. They spoil him rotten with the finest foods. It’s like family and between them food is love.

I moved to Germany to be with Mario, following a crazy decision making process completely driven by love. I had left my life in Thailand behind and there I was in a new country, with a new man, a new home and a new family circle.

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bread veg mixTo be honest I was a little nervous about meeting Dagmar. She must have been wondering who was this woman who has stolen Mario’s heart (he had spent the most part of the year traveling backwards and forwards to Asia). If it was me, I would have been expecting to meet a drop dead gorgeous shining star.

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eggsDagmar invited us over to her home for a dinner. A message came asking whether I wanted traditional German food or something Asian. My thoughts were ‘when in Rome’ so I opted for a German menu and Dagmar came up with a selection of authentic eats. One of those was knoedel (a German dumpling).

There is something about dumplings that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside and when I tasted Dagmar’s knoedel I was instantly transported to my childhood. The soft yet firm texture accompanied by gravy is my ultimate comfort food. It puts you at ease and I needed it. My nerves were saved by knoedel.

We have since spent many a wonderful evening together and now, I too get spoilt rotten.

Yesterday Dagmar wanted to show me how to make knoedel – I am always talking about how it’s my favourite German food of all time.

ballingEvery culture seems to have a version of a dumpling in their cuisine. In England they are made from dough, the Chinese steam them and fill them with pork and in Jamaica dumplings are fried.

The knoedel I love is a Bavarian invention that uses dried up bread as its main ingredient.

Our other ingredients included five onions, three bunches of parsley, a litre of milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg and two vegetable stock cubes.

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The time consuming part of preparing knoedel comes from the collecting the pieces of bread and drying them. You can use any bread rolls- white, brown, wholewheat or seeded. Cut them up and keep them in a basket or bowl for five days to a week. Make sure you don’t use plastic otherwise the bread will sweat and cause problems.

We used a huge bowl because Dagmar had collected so many bread rolls. About 20. We diced five onions and fried them and chopped up three bunches of fresh parsley. Dagmar said that you can be experimental with other fresh herbs to adapt the flavours. She suggested beer’s garlic or thyme. We sprinkled the mixture over the bread pieces.

We then seasoned a litre of milk with a couple of tablespoons of salt, a few teaspoons of pepper, a vegetable stock cube and we grated a quarter of a nutmeg into it. This mixture was brought to the boil and then poured over the bread to give it a good soaking. We put a towel over it and left it to cool to a touchable temperature.

After that we added seven eggs and then squigded the mixture together. The egg binds the bread together so that you can roll it into balls.

The technique here is important because if you don’t do it right the dumplings will fall apart when you boil them.

The way to do it is squeeze the mixture together into a ball and roll it a few times. Then wet your hands and smooth the surface of the ball seal in the shape.

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Next comes the cooking part. Fill a pot with water and add a vegetable stock cube for extra flavour. When the water is boiling it’s time to add the dumpling balls. The water will stop boiling once the balls are in the pan and if it doesn’t turn down the heat slightly.

The balls will expand and float. Turn them so all sides have contact with the  water. They should be ready in 10 minutes.

dumplings in pots

The great thing about knoedel is it goes with any meat dish. During the winter I love knoedel with lots of gravy or with a stew.

We made 30 dumplings and froze most of them for quick and convenient meals in the future.

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The 13 emotional stages of learning to snowboard

Okay so everyone and their neighbour has tried skiing or snowboarding at least once in their life but I’m of the ilk that runs and hides at the mere mention of cold weather or, dare I say it, snow.

Since moving to Germany I’ve been gung ho about getting into the culture and one of the major pasttimes when winter draws in on mainland Europe is skiing and snowboarding so I bit the bullet and, armed with The Snowboard Academy’s YouTube video and my gorgeousexpertsnowboarder boyfriend Mario, I hit the Allrounder Mountain Resort and ski hall, in Neuss, with gusto.

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The whole experience was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster so I thought I’d tell you about the 13 stages I went through.

ShockOMG that’s a pretty big investment into potentially breaking my neck!

So you need a board, boots, helmet, googles, gloves, pants, trousers and a jacket. If you buy it all you’re looking at a 2,000-euro hit on your bank account before you even go anywhere. This is why in my 35 years on this planet I’ve avoided the slopes. In the end I borrowed the hardware from Mario and bought a full set of clothes for 45 euros in the Aldi supermarket sale! In fact I’m so shocked at the discovery that Aldi does snow gear I’m posting a link.

Guilt – “You’re not taking this seriously enough.”

So apperently I couldn’t just start learning straight away. Mario devised an exercise routine of daily 35-minute jogs, and a four-times-a-week weight training routine to strengthen my legs, abs and back. He’s hardcore when it comes to fitness so I made the executive decision to cut it all by half and do what exercises I could remember. When I proudly reported back my progress the injured look on his face made me up my cardio by two additional morning jogs and squeeze in another weights workout.

Doubt – I was rubbish at skateboarding and rollerblading…

I was the kid who bugged my parents for months until they got me a Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles skateboard, which I rode once, fell over and then decided that using my sister’s expensive make-up to make myself look like a clown was much safer. The skateboard now rests in the discarded toy graveyard with the inline skates, icecream maker and science set.

Arrogance – It’s just sliding down a hill on a plank!

The YouTube video made it look so easy! The cute male instructor told his student to do something and the student simply did it. Didn’t fall, didn’t cry and didn’t thump the snow in frustration. I, on the other hand, spent most of the time on my arse, holding back my tears and trying not to freak out.

Suspicion – so this isn’t a joke?

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One of my pals told me that her husband stuffed his pants with a jumper, on his second day of learning, because his bum hurt so much after falling on it so many times. I thought I’d pre-empt this world of pain and created some self-made protection padding by stuffing a wooly scarf down my pants. Mario laughed a lot. Wait a minute…

Shock – why did you just push me?!

We were hanging out in the livingroom talking about the snowboarding stance when a friend told me to stand in front of her and then she pushed me! Following that she announced that the leg I put forward to steady myself was my front foot for riding. I ride with my left leg at the front.

Panic – something is going to break!

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Look at my smile..so fake! I was strapped into my boots so tight I couldn’t move my legs below the knees. How was I supposed to move around? My feet were pointing off to the left and I was facing forward so my back hurt too. I was convinced I couldn’t cope in this position for more than 10 minutes.

Shame – I’m the old git who can’t do it.

I was feeling fine on the learning slope with all the other newbies until this five-year-old girl came for her lesson and started doing slalom runs down the slope. I, on the otherhand, was mastering the technique of getting up. From my back I dug the heel side of the board into the snow, bent my knees and tried to push myself up with my hands. I couldn’t master it and just lay there like an upturned beetle. Mario had to haul me up after every time I fell – I’m a lucky girl 😉

Disbelief – how the hell does anyone do this!

I had to learn to brake first, which meant knees bent, back straight, heels down and toes up. Not forgetting arms out and head up. This is a ridiculously awkward position when you’re feet are pointing slightly to the left and bound to a board and I know about awkward positions. I do yoga.

Pure and utter fear – I’m never letting go of you!

The bigger we are the harder we fall so I gripped onto Mario in the same way a cat would if you tried to give it a bath. It took a while to calm down and do anything without holding his hand. In fact, I write this post with aching hands because I was holding on to him so hard for so long.

Acceptance – I’m going to fall. A lot.

Once I fell a few times I got used to the idea of spending most the day landing on my bum (thank goodness for the DIY padding) and after that I felt more confident.

Enlightenment – and then it happened!

With the board perpendicular to the slope, I had to slide forward and brake and then repeat all the way down. All I could manage was slide forward and fall until my fourth descent when something clicked and when I did the brake stance, I actually stopped. My body and brain were finally working together!

Determination – I’m not giving up.

I could brake so my next step was to concentrate on moving. Sliding to the right or left meant putting my weight on the desired direction and pointing that way with the corresponding arm while braking slightly to control my speed. I did this over and over again and after four hours of trying to snowboard I got it. So after lesson one I could stand, brake and go forwards down the slope.

After lesson two I’ll hit the real slopes.

Europe’s best Christmas Markets

Germany’s oldest Christmas Market.

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The Striezelmarkt in Dresden from November 26 until Christmas Eve is 581 years old this year and has 25o stalls.

Don’t miss The Stollen Festival where a master baker cuts the giant fruit cake with a 1.6 metre-long knife.

Austria’s are easily the most elegant.

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Photo courtesy of www.microstock.pl

From November 13 to December 26 Vienna’s baroque city hall, shops, cafes and museum become the backdrop to a variety of beautiful Christmas Markets.

Don’t miss out on playing ice games (like curling) at the Christmas Village in Maria-Theresien Platz near the museum of fine arts.

Czech Republic is best on foot.

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For those that like to have it all on their doorstep, go to Prague because the two main Christmas markets, on from Novermber 28 to January 6, are a short walk from each other in the city’s Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.

Explore the traditional taverns, gourmet restaurants, old churches and coutyards hidden down the cobbled lanes of the medieval centre.

Food is at its best in Hungary.

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Vorosmarty Square in Budapest becomes a foodie’s haven when it transforms into a winter wonderland between November 13 and January 6.

A major crowd puller is the food. This market features top quality Hungarian eats and drinks so you shouldn’t leave without trying a fois gras sausage or pulled pork burger.

Naked sauna anyone? Read this first.

The cold weather is coming so you might want to go for a sauna…

I thought I could handle any social situation until my boyfriend invited me meet friends at a sauna in Germany. No problem, or so I thought.

I’ve been to spas and saunas all over the world but before this I had never been to one for mixed sexes and where nakedness is compulsory. This is the norm in Germany, Finland, Austria, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

I didn’t even believe it at first, in fact I slipped on my bikini in the changing room and announced I was ready to which he looked at me and said: “Those panties have to go.”

He didn’t even say it in his flirty teasing way either, but more in a way a doctor might tell a patient they had to stop smoking or die.

Who cares if I wear a bikini? Apparently people complain if you break the no-clothing rule and it can apply to the heated outdoor pool, the sauna and the steam room. The public areas, restaurants and relaxation areas are where people hang around in robes or wrapped in towels.

So many questions went through my mind before my first naked sauna. How is one supposed to feel relaxed in a group of new friends when everyone is stark bollock naked? Is there an etiquette one should follow? Do people hug and kiss to greet one another?’ Where do I point my gaze? Would it be like one of those weird naked dreams I had as a kid?

Since naked socialising was not something my mother taught me nor something I picked up at Girl Guides, I had to wing it. Now I would say I’ve become a natural at being naked in public. Who would have thought?!

Here are my 10 essential things you need to know before going for a naked sauna.

First things first – EVERYONE is naked so take a deep breath and go with it. Different saunas have different rules, which are usually posted up on walls. You can also check the sauna’s website or ring ahead. My guide concentrates on social nuances. So here we go…

Don’t just let it all hang, have some poise.

The sauna pose is something I picked up in an Italian spa. As I sat there legs crossed and slightly hunched over I noticed the other glamorous women were sitting with their backs straight and leaning slightly backwards with their arms behind them to prevent everything going south. Much more elegant.

Don’t eat garlic beforehand.

This is an obvious one. You will sweat so let’s keep odours to a minimum.

People are naked but style is still key.

Work with what you have by preening what will be on show. Go for a stylish bikini shaping, tanned torso and manicured nails. Whiten those teeth and extend those eyelashes. If you have a future sauna date planned. Get down the gym and tone up your muscles. It will give you a confidence boost.

On the subject of fashion…

There are so many stylish accessories I could write a whole blog post just on that. You might want to get an elegant robe or slippers. This robe by Missoni Home is on my wish list.

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Pack your bag.

As my sauna trips became more frequent my sauna bag got bigger and bigger. You should take a shower gel, body scrub, body lotion, face mask, shampoo, conditioner, make-up, book/magazine, sleep mask, slippers, towel, robe and money.

Make your seat.

Take your own fresh towel into the sauna and use it to protect your body from the wood. This means every part of your body, feet, hands etc, should be on the towel. Towels are prohibited in the wet sauna so make sure you hose down your seat with water.

To join the crowd ot not?

As a personal rule. I like a crowded dry sauna because there are so many bodies it doesn’t matter. It can be a little daunting for first-timers when it is just you and one other person. On the other hand I like an uncrowded wet sauna because vision is impaired by the steam and dim lights.

Show your gratitude after a sauna infusion – don’t clap!

A sauna infusion is a wonderful treatment where a sauna master adds scents to the coals and then uses and towel to waft the aromatic air around the room. After the session people show their appreciation by knocking on the wooden bench, rather than clapping and sending splatters of sweat everywhere.

Make friends in the relaxation areas.

Inside the sauna is for rest and meditation. People move slowly and quietly so having a conversation is frowned upon. If you want to have a chat go to the heated pools, restaurants and public areas and don’t worry, quiet areas are well signposted.

The eyes say it all.

You don’t have to walk around with your gaze firmly concentrated on your feet! Look people in the eyes when you talk to them and let your eyes scan the room if you wish. Treat it as if everyone is wearing clothes. Don’t stare. People don’t like being stared at even when they have their clothes on. No difference really.

And finally…

In Germany it is usual to kiss your friend on both cheeks when you greet them. I would say, greet your friends and acquaintances in a sauna in your usual way and shake hands with new people.

Foraging in the forest for a gourmet meal

Spot the mushrooms among the leaves

Spot the mushrooms among the leaves

Look very carefully among the leaves in the picture above. Can you see the mushrooms? There are four.

How about this one..

Forest mushrooms

There are five mushrooms in this picture.

It just goes to show how difficult it is to spot an edible mushroom growing in the forest.

I went out foraging for porcini mushrooms with some friends in a forest in the Hessen region of Germany.

We found about 100 euros worth of mushrooms in two hours one Sunday morning. As far as our location goes, I can only tell you it was in Hessen because it would be a huge faux pas for me to reveal the exact location – I have been sworn to secrecy. Good spots for collecting is information foragers keep close to their chests, in the same way a truffle-hunter would.

Porcini mushrooms are a delicacy. They have this gorgeous nutty flavour that is awesome in risotto, soup and pasta dishes. They are not as expensive as truffles so finding them is not going to get you rich quick or anything – 1kg costs 48 euros – but it is going to get you a damn good meal.

Late October is the best time of year to collect them because it’s late in the season and mushrooms develop slower and, as a result, have a deeper flavour. The problem is the forest floor is strewn with leaves, twigs and a plethora of other mushroom varieties, some of which can be poisonous, so finding porcnini mushrooms is a really difficult job.

A really difficult job….Each 100 square metre secret patch yielded an average of one mushroom. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Searching for porcnini mushrooms

There’s me looking flummoxed. I had been out searching for an hour and a half and hadn’t found a thing. My friends on the otherhand had spotted about 30 between them. Why? They had ‘an eye for it’ and also they had the knowledge.

The knowledge: What I learnt about finding porcini mushrooms.

The most important thing: Anything with a white top or a skinny bottom is not worth focussing on.

Porcini mushrooms have a light brown top with a fat, sometimes road stem. The Germans call them stone mushrooms and I would assume this is because they do look a bit like stones. Not all of them though. Some have really long stems than are great for breaded mushroom recipes.

stone mushroom harvest

2. There are signs:

If you see one of these red mushrooms, porcini mushrooms are nearby. Also if you see a mushroom that looks like a porcini mushroom but has red tint on its stem, it should be avoided.

Forest pigs also love porcini mushrooms so you have competition on your hands other than other foragers but if you see evidence of mushroom eating you know you may find some mushrooms that the pigs didn’t see.

Half eaten porcini mushroom in the forest

3. You must be at one with nature.

After a while I started to see patterns in the forest floor – types of bark that attract mushrooms, mushrooms that like open spaces, mushrooms that like big trees and mushrooms that hide under bushes. I had to ‘be the soil’ but in all honesty I got so obssessed with finding a mushroom I started feeling dizzy and seeing mushroom mirages.

4. You need a bit of luck.

These buggers are so hard to find you need a bit of luck so whenever you find a small perfectly formed porcini mushroom, it’s good luck to kiss it on the head.

I was super proud of myself when I found a tiny porcini mushroom on the forest floor. It was so small it was amazing that I even saw it and for this reason I was happy with it being my only contribution to the morning’s harvest.

We harvested about 40 mushrooms that weighed a hefty 2kg once cleaned. This was an awesome morning’s work.

Next: We take these babies home, clean them up and cook breaded mushrooms.

Waking up in beautiful Schwangau

Mario dived off the paddle boat for a swim in Schwangau Lake

Mario dived off the paddle boat for a swim in Schwangau Lake

We are just 30 minutes from the Austrian border. Schwangau is home to two famous castles, which are nestled on the mountains next to a clear blue lake. Gorgeous. Wonderful for picnics, biking, boating and, if you can brave the cold water, swimming!
(Mario didn’t take a boat to the middle of the lake, strip totally naked and jump in 😉 )

Europa Park

We wanted to start the trip with some thrills so we drove to the small touristy town of Rust,in Germany, to go to Europa Park, which is one of the biggest theme Parks in Europe.

Being September, the kids are back at school so the wait time for rides was 10 to 20 minutes! The Park has a useful App that gives you Information on queue times, which came in handy!