Frankfurt Street Food Festival

It’s summer, I’m hot, and this foodie is ready to ride up to the Frankfurt Street Food Festival.

Germany’s food truck scene was virtually non-existent until a short time ago. Basically all I could find was a brat and bun truck, a French crepe and Nutella truck, or the occasional vendor selling roasted chestnuts during the holidays. Jeez, what the truck!

I’m not sure why, but food trucks hadn’t quite hit the Germany scene except in large progressive cities like Berlin. The rest of the country’s food truck scene was basically sitting on the Autobahn in a Stau–it just wasn’t moving like in other countries like the U.S. and Thailand.

This weekend it’s a different story in Frankfurt, Germany the multi-cultural economic capital of Europe. The engines are revved up in Frankfurt as over 30 vendors will be rolling out their favorite foods as the city celebrates the first Frankfurt Street Food Festival.

Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival
Street food market during the Yasothon Rocket Festival. Wiki photo by Takeaway.

Head to the Hauptwache, the baroque building that was a former guard-house and the Zell or just follow your nose. The food trucks are lined up, have their coals burning, and are ready to tantalize your taste buds with some mind-blowing unique foods.

To capture the real essence of street food you have to go beyond the norm and offer the people something different and you’ll find it at the Frankfurt Street Food Festival.

Considering this is Frankfurt’s first street food festival, there’s quite a good assortment of trucks offering some savory mouth-watering treats. Black Calamari sandwiches, 24-hour cider marinated beef steak, Surf & Turf burger to name a few. Fancy an Arepa? Maria Maria Arepas makes delicious gluten-free flat bread pocket is filled with naturally raised meat or veggies.

For a global array of food and beverages from artisans head to the Frankfurt Street Food Festival. It runs Friday, July 31 (12:00 – 22:00), Saturday, August 1 (12:00 – 22:00), and Sunday, August 2 (9:00 – 20:00).

Bon appétit my foodie friends!




Up and Away Zugspitze Eibsee Cable Car

Say goodbye to the old Zugspitze Eibsee cable car and hello to its replacement the new Eibsee cable car – soon to be the world’s tallest aerial tramway support tower.

Some things like wine get better with age, but after 50 years of operation, the Zugspitze Eibsee cable car built in 1963 to transport visitors to Germany’s highest mountain has seen better days. By December 2017, we can say hello to a sleeker more modern Eibsee cable car. The new cable will include two cabins holding up to 120 passengers as opposed to the current one which only holds about 40 people.

Deutsch: Blick auf den Eibsee mit der Zugspitze im Hintergrund
Zugspitze Eibsee Cable Car. Wikitravel photo by Octagon

Zugspitze, Germany’s Highest Attraction

Zugspitze is Germany’s highest elevation at 2,962 meters located near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a mountain resort town in Bavaria, southern Germany. Zugspitze, home to three glaciers, a unique 360 panorama including mountain peaks from four countries is easily accessed by the Eibsee cable car.

Sure, you can climb the mountain top like my friends in tip-top condition, but I prefer the cable car since I’m not fantastically fit (not yet at least). If you’re like me and would rather get to the top of Zugspitze quickly, then the cable car connecting the lower station (973 meters or 3,192 feet above sea level) near Lake Eibsee with the top station at 2,950 meters (9,678 feet) above sea level is for you.

 

Whether you’re an avid, skier, hiker, or lover of fantastic views, a trip to the top of Germany’s highest point offers breathtaking views every foot of the short 10 minute ride which expeditiously whisks you to the summit ridge of Zugspitze, Germany and the border to Austria.

DACH Engineering, Gotta Love it

The cabins of the current cable car are suspended from two track ropes and are moved by two haulage ropes, so you will definitely feel movement as you ascend to Zugspitze.

I thought the old cable car was an engineering feat with two support towers, but the new Zugspitze Eibsee cable car will have only one support tower. Yes, one 127 meter high support tower. Yikes! With construction from DACH (DE-German, A-Austrian, and CH-Swiss) construction companies, I’ll feel safe riding the new Zugspitze Eibsee cable car knowing it will be built with the highest standards.

Riding the current cable car doesn’t come cheap. A one-way ticket for adults costs around 31 Euros. Building the new Zugspitze Eibsee cable car doesn’t come cheap either at 50 millions Euros. Hmmm. I’m curious to see how much a one-way ticket will cost in the future.

Out with the Old

Want to take a nostalgic ride on the existing Eibsee cable car? You still can since the current cable car will run parallel to the new system, so you’ll be able to see the construction site.

It’s out with the old and in with the new, but not until around May 2017 when the old final ascent of the 1963 cable car takes its last ride to the summit ridge of Zugspitze.




Christmas Markets Close to Frankfurt

Living in Germany has its perks. We have social insurance. We have the Autobahn. But mainly, during this time of the year, we have festive Christmas Markets close to Frankfurt, Germany and lots of them.

What? Huh? Frankfurt? Yes, Frankfurt because if you’re visiting Germany  you’ll most likely be flying into the Frankfurt airport. If not, re-book because we’ve got a lot of awesome German Christmas markets in the area so let’s get started. Yippee! Yahoo!

Frankfurt (City center near Roemerberg and Paulsplatz)

First stop, Frankfurt of course. Located on the Main River, Frankfurt is called Mainhattan for its impressive skyline. Soak up the festive atmosphere in the city center near Roemerberg and Paulsplatz. You’re in apple country so when you’re not enjoying a Gluhwein (mulled wine) sample Frankfurter sausages, cinnamon stars, and hot apple wine served at traditional bars around Sachsenhausen.

Local gifts include Frankfurt-style Christmas tree ornaments, apple wine soap, Frankfurt slippers and the ever popular Gluhwein mug for 2014.

Michelstadt (1 hour drive from Frankfurt)

Located a little more than one hour by car from Frankfut, Michelstadt is an adorable small town with big charm located in the heart of the Odenwald. Built in 1484, it’s also known for its lovely cobblestone streets and array of half-timbered houses. At the annual Michelstadt Christmas Market you’ll find over 100 wooden market stalls set in a fairy book setting. This is a superb Weihnachtsmarkt to find handcrafted items as many of the tradespeople still apply traditional techniques used in past generations.

Check out the cute toy museum, castle’s wine tasting hall, sculptors, wood turners, ivory carvers and carpenters as they demonstrate their techniques.

Heidelberg (50 minutes by train from Frankfurt)

Imagine, in just one hour driving the Autobahn from Frankfurt, you’re transported to the cobble stoned streets of Heidelberg. The old town of the magical city lights up during the Heidelberg Weihnachtsmarkt and so does the imposing Heidelberg Castle. There are over 140 stalls to choose from when searching for really nice handmade items and this is one of many gorgeous Christmas markets close to Frankfurt.

Take the funicular up to the Heidelberg Castle and stroll around the Castle Garden where the illuminated residence and lit pagodas ooze “I love Christmas” holiday feeling.

Heidelberg Christmas MarketMannheim (15 minute train ride from Heidelberg)

By now you may be tipsy from all of that Gluhwein you’ve been enjoying, so from Heidelberg, hop on the street car and before you can recite The 12 Days of Christmas, you’ll be at Mannheim’s Christmas markets. By the way, all markets serve a non-alcoholic version called Kinderpunsch.

Centered around the impressive colorfully lit water tower, there are many stands to find the perfect gift or enjoy another beverage. My favorite is the Moroccan tea stand where they serve the most amazing mint tea and Moroccan sweet treats.

As Mannheim undergoes a city center transformation on their well-known shopping area Planken, so has their Christmas market. There are actually several markets spread throughout the city aside from the one around the Mannheim Water Tower. There’s a quiet one where burning wood warms up shoppers, one for children near Paradaplatz, and yet another group of stands behind Engelhorn (Mannheim’s version of Neiman Marcus).

Bad Wimpfen (50 minute drive from Frankfurt)

The Bad Wimpfen Altdeutsche Weihnachtsmarkt (Old German Christmas Market) dates back to 1487 when Emperor Friedrich III granted Bad Wimpfen the privilege of being allowed to hold a market before Christmas.

Just a 50 minute drive from Frankfurt, you’ll notice something special as you approach the city. The skyline of Bad Wimpfen is lit producing a magical atmosphere. The Blaue and Rote Tuerme (Blue and Red Towers) form the striking backdrop of the medieval town. Once you reach the city center you are surrounded by an array of half-timbered houses brilliantly illuminated with hundreds of lights.

Because the Bad Wimpfen German Christmas market is so authentic, it’s equally popular too. This market is only open on three weekends and can get really busy. You’ll need to park outside of the city center and take the bus or walk to the festivities. If you’re still in the mood for the sound of trumpets blowing and the town’s band playing carols, this is the market for you.

After visiting one or all of the Christmas Markets close to Frankfurt you’ll know why I love Christmas in Germany. So, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.




An Autumn Day in Germany

It seems as if autumn has passed me by this year. It’s early November and the leaves from the plantain tree in front of my balcony are softly falling to the ground like a light spring rain—low, mellow, and uncoordinated. The leaves quickly pile up meaning I should sweep and dispose of them on a daily basis, but I don’t. I postponed the chore because yesterday was the perfect late Autumn day in Germany. So I blew off housework to capture autumn along the Deutsche Weinstrasse. The drive from our home to Deidesheim, a quaint wine town, is only 30 minutes away, but as soon as I enter the beginning of the Deutsche Weinstrasse (German Wine Route) the distance feels as if I’m miles away from our city-village.

I notice a group of laborers harvesting radishes which appear like bouquets of red flowers surrounded by leafy green petals. The field workers carefully pull them from the moist and fertile soil. They had better hurry though, radishes mature quickly. I had better hurry too as my hunger pains are also maturing and the hours of sunshine this time of year are reduced.

The roads leading towards the Deutsche Weinstrasse soon appear well-paved and the trees spaced evenly apart are orderly and well manicured. It’s very clean and pristine, but not pretentious compared to other wine towns and regions I’ve visited. Judging by the amount of vineyards, villas, and plastic surgery clinics, there’s money in this wine-producing region, but the atmosphere is low-key and so is the mood.

As we approach the Deidesheim city limits the vineyards appear like gold-colored match sticks lined up horizontally and diagonally. The tiny grapes have been harvested except for the Beerenauslese (selected harvest of berries) made from overripe grapes often affected by noble rot.

The day was meant to meander throughout the vineyards and get a good workout, but it’s after 12 noon. That means many of the restaurant kitchens will take a break before the supper crowd, so I frantically pick up the pace passing antique shops and closed shops rushing to find a good restaurant that’s still open.

The local Gaststätte looks homey and is full of patrons enjoying a late lunch, so we decide to eat there. The day’s regional specials include kidneys in a Dijon mustard sauce served with fried potatoes and a side salad. Good old German cooking, perfect for an autumn day in Germany.

I should order the Saumagen (pig casing stuffed with potatoes, carrots, pork, spiced with onions and seasonings), but due to the chilled air, opt for something even heartier.

Now onto the vineyards to work off the calories from the Tiramisu I ordered—not exactly German food, but nonetheless delicious.

Here, Mother Earth is sympathetic to the vineyards located in the Palatinate region so blesses the fertile soil with grapes, fig, lemon and almond trees. It’s so refreshing walking amongst the vineyards which connect one little village to the next. This time of year the golden hues amongst the backdrop of the blue sky are simply amazing as the sun shines through the leafy vines.

It’s just another typical autumn day in Germany, but every time as I embark on to the vineyards, the oxygen fills my lungs and my spirit. This day was an amazing “feel good” moment to remember.




How to Book a Table at Munich’s Oktoberfest

People ask me all the time how to book a table at Munich’s Oktoberfest, so here’s how you do it. First of all, If you want to book a table at Munich’s Oktoberfest, the world’s greatest beer festival, you’d better act fast since the 2013 season begins on Saturday, September 21. It’s best to book a table at Oktoberfest early in the year since the demand is high and available spots are gone rather quickly, but it is also worth a try to see if any seats are available. Sorry, our table is fully booked 🙂

Oktoberfest 2013
Oktoberfest 2013

Entering the Oktoberfest grounds (Wiesn) as the locals call it is free  and so is entering a tent, but without a seat in one of the tents, you can’t order beer which would be a pity.

Contact the beer tent for reservations

You will need to contact one of the 34 Oktoberfest tents and not the Oktoberfest or Munich tourism site to reserve a table. There are companies that reserve table for you but, don’t waste your money paying for that service when you can easily do it yourself.

Complete the Oktoberfest tent form

Determine how many people will join your party. The minimum number for Oktoberfest reservations is 10 persons (one table). You cannot reserve a table for a few friends, so just reserve for 10 people even if your party is small. If this is not an option, you’ll need to take a chance and enter a tent and hope you will find seats.

You can make morning and/or evening reservations so, choose a few of the open slots since peak periods such as evening, weekend, and bank holiday slots are quickly gone. Many reservations are given to corporations or local businesses, so don’t be disappointed if your desired tent is full. Check the smaller tents which are often overlooked by international visitors.

Many tents require that you purchase food and beer vouchers ahead of time, so figure out what you’ll initially eat and drink. This would mean if you have 10 people in your party, you’d need to order for example, 10 beers and 10 half-chicken vouchers. If you want to eat or drink more, just order more once you are in the tent.

Be patient!

There a thousands of people from all over the world searching for Oktoberfest table reservations. While you wait for a response from the tent, search the internet for a Dirndl or Lederhosen to wear. The traditional Bavarian clothing called Tracht will get you in the mood for Oktoberfest and looks sexy!.

Search for a place to hang you head

There are many hotels in and around Munich and they fill up as quickly as the beer tents. If you won’t be staying in Munich, you should also determine how to get to Munich. I recommend the train and not driving as the Autobahn gets busy and is often at a standstill during Oktoberfest.

Play the waiting game

Along with your confirmation, the tent will send your food and beers vouchers if you’ve ordered them or tell you where to pick them up. Many beer tents only accept bank transfers and most tents do not accept credit cards. Therefore, you’ll need to have cash on hand. Leave any valuables at the hotel especially if you plan to drink a lot. Just bring cash.

Be punctual

On the day of your reservation, arrive at your tent about 10 minutes early. If you show up late your table might be given away to someone who does not have a reservation.

Chill and order a Mass

Now it’s time to enjoy Oktoberfest, so go ahead and order a Mass (liter of beer), some great German food, and enjoy the Oktoberfest atmosphere. Just hand the waitress your beer and/or food vouchers and she’ll return with your order. Some beer vouchers include a tip, but I recommend leaving an additional tip.

If you couldn’t find a table, now you know how to book a table at Munich’s Oktoberfest 2014 which begins on Saturday, September 20, 2014.