Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wunderbar in Winter: 10 Things to do in Germany

Germany is deservedly famous for its Christmas markets. However, there’s a lot more for cold-weather travelers than just this.

Germany offers great outdoors in winter, with quirky attractions and things to do that will warm both body and soul. German travel experts from GermanyisWunderbar.com introduce 10 things to do in Germany during winter.

Ski Bavaria
Germany is only a little brother to the big siblings France or Austria when it comes to skiing holidays. This, however, makes it an insider’s tip for skiers open to something different, less crowded, less commercial and more cosy. 

Bavaria features the widest choice of slopes, with the Zugspitze in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany’s highest mountain. In south-west Bavaria, the Allgäu with villages like Oberstdorf and Oberstaufen is Germany’s largest skiing area with 500km of slopes, cosy mountain huts included. And there has already been lots of early snow this year!

Christmas markets
Germany in winter is Christmas market country. From the end of November up until Christmas, it’s all about sparkling lights, Christmas trees, handicrafts, hearty food, sweet treats and mulled wine. One way to explore a variety of markets is a Christmas market cruise. On the Rhine, visitors can sample one or even seven markets in Cologne or make a short trip to Heidelberg, home of Germany’s oldest university where the market spreads across five different little squares. Christmas market cruises on the Danube start near Nuremberg, arguably Germany’s most famous Christmas market, but also well known historic cities like Regensburg and Passau on the Danube, both beautifully preserved, make enchanting picture perfect Christmas market settings. Check here for some great itineraries visiting the German Christmas Markets.

Want to cook some German Holiday Specialties and afternoon delights? Here is a list!

Black forest gourmet heaven
Everyone feels more hungry in winter. Baiersbronn in the Black Forest is a real treat for every food lover, featuring seven Michelin stars divided up between three restaurants. Foodies will also enjoy the abundance of home-made products such as Black Forest hams, schnapps and honey or a visit to the local chocolate factory. Baiersbronn is also a top winter destination for skiing or hiking on a wide variety of special winter trails.

Breweries of Bavaria
Here’s an idea: warming up in winter while sampling beers in Bavaria. Many breweries in the south of Germany have been turned into destinations for visitors, offering brewery tours and providing accommodation.

Visiting breweries in Bavaria also comes with the added benefit of exploring some of Germany’s oldest and prettiest towns such as Bamberg where the Fässla brewery has been going since the 17th century. Just in case you’re worried, all of those places have lovely Christmas markets as well.

Stollen sampling in Dresden
Stollen and Christmas in Germany go hand in hand. You could buy this special cake at your local Lidl but it’s much better sampled in Dresden where it was invented more than 500 years ago, its shape symbolising the baby Jesus. As things are done properly in Germany, there’s an official association of Stollen bakers and all of the 150 bakers are based in the Dresden area. 

The city on the Elbe is full of historic attractions and in winter, live revolves around the Striezelmarkt, one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets. Or experience the city while cruising on one of the old paddlesteamers run by Sächsische Dampfschiffahrt who offer tours throughout winter.

Narrow-gauge railways in the Harz
Criss-crossing the Harz, the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen railways connect the cities of Wernigerode, Nordhausen and Quedlinburg in proper vintage style. The narrow-gauge railways are Europe’s longest historical rail network and feature steam locomotives for some good old huffing and puffing up the mountains.

The trains provide a year-round service for the local communities and a trip in winter through the snow covered Harz mountains makes for a special travel experience. Just thought we’d mention it, Quedlinburg is not only a UNESCO world heritage site full of half-timbered houses but also features a delightful Christmas market.

Nürburgring racing circuit and motorsport adventure land
This is something for the family (ok, for the boys): The Nürburgring in the Eifel, one of Europe’s most famous motor-racing circuits, has been transformed into an all-year motorsport themed adventure zone in recent years, perfect to animate those dark winter days. The ring°werk is a mixture of science/theme park and museum; there’s a cart track, backstage tours of the racing circuit are offered, and a number of hotels right next to the Nürburgring provide accommodation.

Most importantly, racing enthusiasts can have a go for themselves on the Nordschleife circuit open to the public.

Industrial tourism in the Ruhr area
The Ruhr area is Europe’s unlikely Capital of Culture 2010 and trailblazer of industrial tourism. Germany’s former industrial heart has turned its obsolete blast furnaces and coal mines into spectacular visitor attractions. The most dramatic of the conversions is Essen’s elegant Zeche Zollverein coalmine, a UNESCO site attracting a million visitors per year. In the run-up to Christmas the site invites visitors to experience a special Christmas atmosphere: Industrial architecture meets seasonal events and a traditional Christmas market.

Coffee & Cake
The German tradition Kaffee & Kuchen is experienced at its best in winter time when cosy cafés invite visitors to spend long hours indoors, drinking coffee and eating cake. Cafés come in different styles, some more old-fashioned, others very trendy. There are some famous and old-established ones like Café Niederegger in Lübeck or Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum in Leipzig. Some are local favourites in smaller towns to be discovered by the discerning travellers. Rest assured, sooner or later you’ll end up in one.

Winter city breaks
Germany's cities are perfect for avoiding winter gloom with stylish hotels and restaurants, world-class museums and great shopping. In Berlin, seasoned travellers could go for a lifestyle tour to explore the trendy side of the capital . Couples looking for a romantic break will find Heidelberg a rewarding destination. And youngsters with little to spare can benefit from stylish budget accommodation anywhere in Germany. Last but not least and suitable for everyone: The Christmas markets. Just in case, you’d forgotten.

Call us for more ideas and itineraries and take advantage of the low airfares during the Winter time.

Want to cook some German Holiday Specialties and afternoon delights? Here is a list:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas in Germany - including traditional Christmas Markets & Recipes

There are so many wonderful things to see and do in Germany at Christmas. Stroll through festively decorated streets and explore the enchanting Christmas markets with their seasonal music and choir singing. Listen to the sounds of bells and trumpeters and attend one of the many concerts from classical to gospel in the churches and on outdoor stages. Adorned with decorations and festively lit, the pedestrian precincts and shopping centres offer everything your heart could desire. The arts and entertainment scene also takes a seasonal turn in December: in Germany’s major cities, you’ll find everything from plays, operettas and musicals to spellbinding readings. In addition, theme parks are open throughout Christmas for their winter seasons – take the whole family to magical Europa-Park Rust, a winter wonderland in white brimming with thrills, spills and surprises. There are also numerous winter sports you can get involved in and high-profile events such as the New Year ski jumping in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. You see, it’s not just Christmas trees and twinkling lights, Germany has something for everyone during the festive season. Click here for more information on the best 10 things to do in Germany during Winter.

Some of the German Specialties Recipes for the Holiday Season:

Christmas baked apples:

Ingredients: 4 large, tart apples 10g (1 tbsp) butter 4 tsps raisins Flaked almonds Honey-water mixture To prepare: Wash the apples, then remove the stalk, the core and the pips with an apple corer. Make a horizontal cut around each apple so it won't burst. Place in a greased shallow ovenproof dish then fill with raisins and flaked almonds. Sprinkle with cinnamon and pour honey-water mixture into the top. Bake on a low shelf at 200°C for approx. 30 mins. Leave the apples to cool, then serve.

Glühwein - mulled wine:

Ingredients: 1 litre dry red wine 1 unwaxed lemon 2 cinnamon sticks 3 cloves 3 tbsp sugar Cardamom to taste To prepare: Heat the red wine. Slice the lemon and add to the hot red wine together with the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and sugar. Heat for approx. 5 mins. then remove from the heat. Cover and allow to infuse for 1 hour. Reheat and pass through a sieve before serving.

Gingerbred men:

Bake our gingerbread men at home using this easy traditional recipe. Melt together 50g clarified butter, 300g honey and 100g sugar - do not boil, allow to cool slightly. Work 300g flour, 2 eggs, salt, 150g ground almonds, 15g mixed spice and the honey mixture into a dough - cover and allow to stand at room temperature for at least 48 hours. 1/2 tsp. bicarbonate of soda, 1/2 tsp. baker's ammonia - mix each with 1 tbsp. of water and work into the dough. Roll out the mixture, cut the shapes out and decorate. Bake for 10-15 mins. at 180 degrees C and allow to cool.

Spritz cookies: 

Ingredients: 200g butter 200g sugar 3 eggs 500g flour 1 packet vanilla sugar To prepare: Beat the butter until foamy, then add the eggs and the sugar mixed with the vanilla sugar. Stir everything together well. Stir in the flour. Using an icing bag, pipe different shapes onto a baking sheet covered with baking paper. Bake for around 10-12 minutes at 175°C.

Marzipan Potatoes:

Ingredients: 200g marzipan 100g icing sugar 2cl brown rum 30g cocoa powder To prepare: Knead together the marzipan, icing sugar and rum well, then make into a roll. Cut off equal-size pieces and shape into oval balls. Using a skewer, make irregular indentations in the "potatoes" to resemble the "eyes". Then dust the marzipan potatoes with the cocoa powder until well coated.

Dresdner Christstollen:

Ingredients: 750g flour, 275g butter, 90g sugar, 75g yeast, 185g tepid milk, 500g raisins, 75g chopped sweet almonds, 20g chopped bitter almonds, 70g candied lemon peel, 15g candied orange peel, grated peel of 1/2 lemon, 1 pinch of salt, 1/2 vanilla pod, 1 pinch of ground cinnamon, 1 pinch of ground cardamom, 1 pinch of ground mace. Preparation: Sift some of the flour onto the work surface and make a well in the centre. Break up the yeast, add a little of the milk and sugar and mix to a loose dough. Dust with flour and leave to rest for approx. 15 mins. Next work to a firm dough adding the rest of the flour and milk and the butter cut into pieces. Leave the dough to rest in a warm place for approx. 20 mins. in a bowl covered with a tea towel. Mix the other ingredients well and knead them into the "stollen" mixture. Allow to rest for another 20 mins. then shape into a "stollen" and make two grooves lengthways. Place on a greased baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees C for between 35 and 50 mins. Once cooled, spread generously with melted butter. Leave for 2-3 weeks and then dust with icing sugar before serving.


Ingredients: coffee, a swig of rum, whipping cream (100g) and a teaspoon of sugar Make a strong black coffee in a tall glass and add the rum. While the coffee is brewing, mix the sugar with the cream and whip until stiff. Use this to crown your drink and then sit back and enjoy.

2011 Christmas Markets & Fairs: