The Rose island at Feldafing, Starnberger See

We left at 9.00 in the morning to catch the cool air for hiking, as it was pretty humid and a hint of thunderstorms approaching from the west, i.e. France and the Atlantic, which is our usual weather direction in Central Europe, the others being the British Isles, Russia and even Sahara dust storms across the Mediterranean.

Taking the train S6 from any one of the central stations of the Stammstrecke, you are whisked down south to the Lake Starnberg. We got off at Possenhofen, next to the Sissi Museum. Sissi, the pet name of Elisabeth who married Emperor Franz from Austria, loved this area. She went for walks, horse riding, boating and other pastimes. You may know the movie with Romy Schneider, which consolidated her fame as an actress. There is also a Castle Possenhofen, but it is private property. You can peek into the garden and watch the fountain, but not visit.

We walked down the steep hill past the youth hostel to the expansive lake. Many are the spots that bathers use to climb into the cool water and swim among the fish. Some are grassy, some pebbly, some steep and some flat. In between you will see stand-up paddlers and farther on there are small and large marinas full of boats covered with tarpaulins.

After about half an hour we reached Feldafing (also a train station) and bought tickets for the ferry (€4). The tall, muscular young man pulled out the metal ramp, let us climb aboard and told us the history of the Rose Island. In prehistoric times there were Pfahlbauten, lake dwellings built upon stilts, dated to about 3700 B.C. Meanwhile they are covered by silt and mud, as are the ceramic jugs and other items. Signs and ropes indicate the area that must not be touched. They are now inscribed in the list of World Cultural Heritage Sites of the UNESCO.

King Maximilian II of Bavaria acquired the island and had Peter J. Lenné design the villa and the rose gardens in the 1850s. Later, his son Ludwig II would entertain his friends there such Empress Sissi of Austria, Richard Wagner and the Zarin Maria Alexandrowna. The single building on the tiny Rose island, the “Casino”, can only be visited with a tour guide, every hour on weekdays and every half an hour on weekends, beginning at 12.15 (€3,50). It is advisable to reserve your tickets beforehand, otherwise bus groups will have gotten ahead of you and you’d have to wait several hours or go back. Young couples make reservations for the Gartensaal for their wedding (max. 30 p.)

The gardener lives in another small house with a tiny museum. The roses, cultivated since the 1860s, have nice smells, many white and pink and red ones, with benches and trellises all around. June is the best time to visit. Some trees, beech and thuja, are extremely old and worth looking at.

When you arrive at the Glockensteg of the Lenné Park again, do stop in at the Strandbad restaurant and savor one of their home cooked meals with fresh potatoes from the farm. Then you can don your bathing suit and hop in the cool lake!

Open-air farm museum in Großgmain, Salzburg

We boarded the bus early to drive south-east to Salzburg in Austria where we were planning to take a tour around the open-air museum of beautiful old farm houses and sheds from different centuries of five regions: Pongau, Pinzgau, Tennengau, Flachgau and Lungau.

The tour with one of the family Fuchs lasts about one and a half hours and the walk can be extended to seven kilometers around the farm houses and up the hill to the Alm houses. You can also board the little train that chugs all around the terrain and has several stops, free of extra charge (currently 11,-€).

In the entrance area and in the General Goods Shop you can buy all sorts of books, guides, souvenirs and local produce such as walnut liqueur, old-fashioned sweets, household appliances, postcards and the like.

a lovely 17th century house
a Hanichl fence: dried fir branches cut to measure
a balcony is a Hausgang here – note the wooden shingles on the walls
thriving plants like fennel, lettuce, beetroot, onions, carrots, herbs like parsley, sage and thyme and flowers like aquilegia, phlox, sunflowers, lilies, tagetes, zinnias, lemon balm/ melissa, forget-me-nots, also currants and boxtree
the hole in the box-seat is for chickens to get inside in the winter
nails were too expensive to forge to save the split shingles from a storm, so long poles and heavy stones would keep them in place
this stone wall is gaily decorated with swirls and “trees” made with black stones on white

Our treat after alle the walking and trying to remember all the construction details was heading back to Ruhpolding to the Windbeutelgräfin and ordering from a long list of cakes and Windbeutel – puff pastries full of whipped cream / ice cream / fruit / eggnog. Each was decorated as a Lohengrin swan and absolutely gigantic. There are tables indoors and out, display cases with doll houses, Mozart busts and flower stencils all around, quite picturesque and worth a stop!

Quick and healthy: asparagus with potatoes and ham

Here in Central Europe May is the month of asparagus and strawberries and rhubarb! In France they tend to eat more of the green kind that is only peeled at the bottom end. Here in Germany both kinds are sold, but the fat, white stalks are the most common, from Pörnbach, Abensberg or Schrobenhausen, although they are also sent up from Greece. The first ones arrive in April and the last harvest is traditionally towards the 24th June, Johannistag (St. John’s).

One kilogram usually costs about €12. I’d suggest buying about 5-6 stalks per person. I use a special peeler (cf. photo) and peel first the ends, then the top end while staying away from the shoot which doesn’t necessitate anything. The yellowish in-between layer must also be peeled away. Then the bottom end is cut off, a little more if the end is tough.

My asparagus are cooked in a large skillet, but professionals use special cylindrical pots so the bottom is cooked longer than the bud. I cook mine for approximately 10-11 minutes in salted water, some people add in a bit of sugar, some like them more al dente and cook them a minute less.

Meanwhile wash some potatoes with flaky skin and cooked them in salt water for about 20 minutes depending on their size. I poke them after 18 minutes or so to check the degree of softness.

You can make your own sauce hollandaise out of butter, shallots, egg yolks, vinegar, salt & pepper, whisked creamy in a bain-marie. Or you simply buy a packet of sauce hollandaise, also as fat-reduced, and heat it along with the asparagus, adding a splash of lemon.

Delicious accompaniments are cooked honey, smoked, lemon-pepper or serrano ham, also small veal scallops or beef tournedos.

Strawberry-rhubarb delight

This cake is light and refreshing, just the thing for a warm summer day. You will need some time in between the different steps of making it, but you can space it out and do other things, as each step is fairly quick. Here in Germany the strawberry and rhubarb season is from May to June 24th, St. John’s Day or summer solstice. After that you should no longer cut the rhubarb stalks.

If I am hard pressed for time, I buy a Biskuitboden at the supermarket. You can also bake the cake layer:

  • beat 3 eggs light and fluffy
  • slowly add 125 g sugar until the batter stiffens
  • carefully fold in 125 g flour, 75 g starch and 1 tsp. baking powder
  • bake at 175°C on the 2nd lowest rack for about 18-22 minutes

Meanwhile peel 3-4 rhubarb stalks, cut off the ends, cut into pieces and gently heat them with the juice of half a lemon and 150 g sugar for about 8 minutes until tender.

Pull the pot from the stove and add in 500 g strawberries, washed and without leaves, cut in half if you wish.

Take a packet of gelatine which has soaked for ten minutes in 3-4 Tbsp. of water or juice and stir the gelatine into the warm (not hot!) fruit. Let the fruit and gelatine cool until almost cold and not quite jellied.

Whip 300-400 ml heavy cream, add in some sugar if you wish. Fold the whipped cream into the cold fruit. Pour the fruit and cream onto the cake layer with a cake ring placed firmly on top. Put the cake into the fridge and let the fruit topping set over night.

Enjoy with hot coffee or iced tea!

Herrmannsdorf farm and workshops, Germany

Herrmannsdorf is only two kilometers from Glonn in Bavaria, Southern Germany. When I last visited, long-necked ducks ran over the courtyard and you had to watch where you walked. The lovely buildings from the early 20th century are protected as a monument and any additions need authorization. There are the main living quarters, the large market building, the west and east sheds and stalls, the central restaurant building, more pig stalls and a few mobile chicken coops which can be pulled to other locations.

The pigs that are bred are strong and compact with a black head and hind part and a pink middle. A piglet weighs only a few pounds, a “teen” about 50 kg and a fully grown pig about 110 kg. You should reconsider before dreaming of a pet piggy! Herrmannsdorf offers workshops to learn how to make sausages, Weißwürste and ham. Turkey and other kinds of meat are bought from local producers.

The sows and piglets have their own building. Sows are “easy-care” animals, they will give their little ones milk, but they do not count them if they get lost. The stronger ones fight their way to the front tit with the most milk, the smaller ones take what they can get. The male pigs don’t do much more than lie in the shade or eat, they save their energy for the dating rounds with the ladies. The females are rather willing after less than a week after delivering their litter.

The chickens always have a rooster nearby to make them feel comfortable. They love taking “sand baths” to be rid of the mites in their feathers. In 2018 the foxes couldn’t find enough mice to eat and therefore raided about half of all chickens on the farm. For a while they had to stay within their coops. The chickens with the blue feet and the elegant cocks are French “bleus” that are cross-bred with an Austrian species with ruffled feathers on their heads. The goat seemed unruffled while munching on all the twigs, the sheep maintain a nice short lawn around the coop.

Naturally you can also learn baking and how to fold pretzels (Brezen). They do their own milling for whole grain bread types. Processed flour is bought elsewhere. Coffee beans are bought green and roasted in their own torrefaction machines. The coffee and espresso is very good.

The Kindergarten which originally was intended for their employees’ children has been “outsourced” for other local children. Oddly enough, it is right next door to the distillery… The market has only ecological food, meat, cheeses, olives, canned goods, bakery wares, coffee and tea, fruit, vegetables and fresh herbs. All the employees (more then 200) we saw were cheerful and very proud of their work.

The restaurant has a large Biergarten under trees. Inside the large room with beamed ceiling there are many tables on different levels. The menu is not large, but all ingredients are ecological and fresh, of course pork is never missing. Prices are rather high, but the guide argues that taking good care of animals and not using chemicals costs a little extra.

Horror! the Monster! Horror! El marido!

No, don’t laugh, I am trying to be serious. Once it has turned “summer” here in Central Europe, meaning hot and humid and pending thunderstorms or even drought-like weather conditions, everybody starts moaning and groaning about the high temperatures, which often entail the growth of hookworms in the local lakes.

2018 dragon.jpg

Now, how about imagining a giant worm, a Lindwurm, a kind of greenish Nessie rising high out of your nearest lake, like Loch Ness? I often get the feeling that people like to exaggerate the temperatures and the dryness or the dampness, whichever. I also often think that each giant Lindwurm sums up a lot of anxious feelings people have  about their future and / or their environment. The big green worm encompassing all kinds of hidden feelings, being grumpy at work, being grouchy to friends and enemies alike, “green behind the ears” , a “greenhorn” when it comes to experiences that weren’t too agreeable,  like a wasp sting here or worms in the box shrubs now. Only they are not quite as awful as the locusts that plagued the Egyptians back in the Old Testament.

The Lindworm (cognate with Old Norse linnormr ‘ensnaring snake’, Norwegian linnorm ‘dragon’, Swedish lindorm, Danish lindorm ‘serpent’, German Lindwurm ‘dragon’) is either a dragon or serpent monster. In British heraldry, lindworm is a technical term for a wingless serpentine monster with two clawed arms in the upper body. In Norwegian heraldry a lindorm is the same as the wyvern in British heraldry. (source : Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindworm)

20180627_0sean dragon merlin.jpg

Maybe we should consider the Scottish thistle as the better symbol of our summer stings, the thistle being thorny on the outside, but soft and edible on the inside with a lovely purplish color to boot, a delicacy for donkeys:

In 1503, the marriage of King James IV of Scotland to Princess Margaret Tudor of England, seems to have been the inspiration behind the poem entitled ‘The Thrissil and The Rois’ (‘The Thistle and The Rose’) penned by the Scottish poet William Dunbar. The thistle represented King James and the rose represented Princess Margaret.

Toward the middle of the same century, historians believe that Scotlands’ highest chivalric order was founded by King James V (son of King James IV), it’s name was ‘The Order of The Thistle’. It’s heraldic symbol was, not surprisingly, the humble thistle…..Heraldic symbol of the Scottish' Order of the Thistle'. Public domain image, attributed toWenceslaus Hollar [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image Attribution: Wenceslaus Hollar (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

The official motto of this organization is‘Nemo me impune lacessit’, this Latin translates into ‘No one provokes me with impunity’  (or in Scottish-English ‘ Wha daur meddle wi’ me?’ ) which ties in perfectly with the original legend. (source: https://www.scottish-at-heart.com/scottish-thistle.html)

Whichever symbol you are in favor of, just remember, there is no need to make a mountain out of a molehill, so think like Merlin the Magician and use your head, forget about monsters and enjoy the flowers while they bloom. 20180611_114937.jpg

 

Cherry cupcakes

What can be more delicious than some cherry cakes from scratch? And it is really simple.

So here goes:

about 3 handfuls of cherries, pitted  or  one jar drained

one large cake pan lined with paper or two cupcake pans lines with paper cups

Mix in a large baking bowl, till fluffy:

200g margarine or butter

200 g sugar

aroma: vanilla sugar or 1 tsp. of Grand Marnier

2 – 3 eggs, one by one till fluffy

 

Sift on top:

200g flour

2 tsp. baking powder / soda

Stir in carefully, making sure all ingredients are well-mixed. Put spoonfuls into your cups or tin. Bake at approx. 190° C / 375 ° F or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Personally, I am like a Poppins and can always sniff out a finished cake or tart a few minutes before my timer can ring. Cool down slowly, the cakes can be left in the warm oven with the door opened.

Frost if desired or if you are making it as a whole cake, try out some Streusel:

100 g each of flour, sugar and butter, mix till you have a crumbly mixture and crumble it over he top of your unbaked cake. Along with whipped cream, deeelicious!

Ah yes, my latest fun line:

Und wenn ich die Schokolade im Dunkeln esse, finden mich vielleicht die Kalorien nicht.

(If I eat chocolate in the dark, the calories will perhaps not be able to find me)

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cherry cupcakes