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glass-christmas-decorations-006While on our river cruise we were entertained for over an hour by a glassblower, Karl Ittig, from Wertheim, Germany.   After the second world war Karl (a young boy at the time) snuck out of East Germany with his family and in 1958 settled in Wertheim. Karl and his family have been working with glass for six generations, since 1841. Their traditional glass making techniques are taught at the Pilchuck Glass School co-founded by Dale Chihuly (USA). The Ittigs are founders of the Eugene Glass School in Oregon, USA which teaches all aspects of glassmaking.

Galileo Temperature Guage

Galileo Temperature Guage

When we were in the shop bon-apart we bought a Galileo (density of liquid changes according to the temperature) and a few Christmas decorations. (If you read my blog on packing you know this was a major decision as packing room was at a premium!) I have enjoyed it every day as Rick and I are always ‘discussing’ the temperature.  Galileo is our proving ground to determine who is too warm and who is too hot.  I digress.  When we made our purchase one of the ‘goodies’ dropped in our bag was a bright orange paper with a glass droplet attached.  It wasn’t until I opened the bag to wrap the little decorations for Christmas that I read the paper.  I would like to share it with you.

This is the story of  a woman that lived to be very old because she never forgot her moments of

bon-apart gallery

bon-apart gallery

happiness.  She never left her house without a handful of glass stones.  She wanted to be fully aware of the most beautiful moments of the day and be able to count them.  She took one glass stone from the left-hand pocket and placed it in her right-hand pocket each time she experienced something positive, during the day (for example: she had a good old gossip with someone or saw the sparkling eyes of a child or even enjoyed a nice meal), just things that gave her real pleasure.  Sometimes two or three glass stones slipped from one pocket to the other.

In the evening at home she counted the glass stones she found in her pocket and recalled every moment she had enjoyed throughout the day.  She thought about all the nice things she had experienced and had given her pleasure during the day.  Things that had made her happy and thanked her maker for the goodness.  What is more if she was only able to count but one stone she considered the day to be successful, a day worth living.

Cordially yours  Ittig Family

I hope you enjoyed this little legend from the Ittig family.

I would like to wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday season.

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On our river cruise down the Mein, Rhine and Mosel rivers from Nuremburg to Trier we passed through many

Castle on the hill overlooking the town

Castle on the hill overlooking the town

towns and villages. All have several things in common.  They are steeped in history and proud of it, many of the buildings are hundreds of years old and well maintained, all of them have at least one square surrounded by shops that people live above, the people are smiling and friendly, there are more bicycles and more people walking than cars (likely because most of the streets are so narrow in places one car would have trouble maneuvering).

The water mark!!

The water mark!!

They cannot get flood insurance because of their close proximity to the river and the high incidence of flooding. There is a flood watch so they are notified when the waters are expected to rise and how high. They deal with this by keeping the floor above the main level empty so they can move everything up and out of  harms way before the water reaches the town. Many buildings proudly wear high water marks carved in granite or marble or painted on a wall. They would proudly show us how high the water rose, like badges of what they endured in that particular year. The highest water mark is 1784 and although I cannot figure out the numbers, Rick is almost 6 feet so I think it must be well over twenty feet!

At first I thought why not move back and up from the water? The fact is many of the

Main floor has sandstone walls

Main floor has sandstone walls

buildings have been through almost annual floods for hundreds of years and are still standing and this is their home.  The main floor walls and floors are made of sandstone which is very porous and dries quickly thus preventing any mould or excess dampness.  When the floods come they move up the furniture, pictures, carpets, the curtains etc. to the first floor (we call it the 2nd floor) and if the flood watch is particularly bad the town moves up the hill to the castle, the monastery or some safe ground that can accommodate them. I didn’t ask about their possessions but they likely move them up another floor!

Part of the canal system

Part of the canal system

We see the flooding and the devastation it causes when we are not prepared, yet these folks living along the Rhine and its tributaries deal with it every year as a fact of life.  There are a few high water marks that likely caused great problems but I understand that with the canal systems that have been built over the years there is greater control of the flooding. Amazing stamina hauling all that heavy furniture up and down, like moving every spring, and I can only imagine the debris left behind after the waters recede!

Still I have decided when I return to the towns and villages along the Rhine I will

Fall Colors!

Fall Colors!

make sure it is after the flood season has passed.  The fall colors were beautiful, the grapes were being picked and the wine festivals were gearing up. A good time to return for a longer stay to see more of the beautiful countryside, learn more about the history and the people, and to learn the language.

After spending a week in the hustle and bustle of the big cities of Frankfurt and Berlin I was ready for a more relaxed pace. The weather was a bit cool, overcast and sometimes rainy but floating on the river, stopping along the way in a couple of the historic towns, watching the traffic on the river and the castles on the hills,  this is the Germany I want to see again.

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