Traveling Through Time: Down the Danube Narrows to Weltenburg Abbey

Weltenburg Abbey was more than four centuries old before the monks first began brewing ale—or at least ale worth noting–in 1050. Now vying for the title of the oldest monastic brewery in the world (Weihenstephan Abbey also claims the honor), they set their claim on maintaining the original brewing process. Like the beer, much is as it was remains at the Abbey, the somewhat plain exterior of the cathedral opens onto an elaborately ornate and gilded interior. Services are still held regularly, and monks still live and work on the premises. And just as abbeys were places for gatherings for a millennium and more, Weltenburg also remains a destination. Located 25 miles west of the charming Bavarian city of Regensburg, a UNESCO World Heritage City and just three miles from Kelheim, it is accessible by car. But I totally like immersing myself in history and my goal today is to replicate—as much as I can—the 1050 experience.

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Long Wall and St. Nepomuk

On the ferry from Kelheim, I watch as the boat’s wake cuts through waters reflecting the dark greens of dense woods and whites of limestone rocks of the Fränkische Alb mountains, some rising 300-feet high. Winds, water and time have carved caves and nooks in the limestone and in one of these crannies on an expansive stretch of stone called the Long Wall someone has tucked a statue of St. Nepomuk, the patron saint of water and bridges who was drowned when he refused to reveal the confessions made to him by the Queen of Bavaria. Her husband must have really wanted to know what she was up to.

The Danube Narrows

Today it will take 40 minutes to travel the Danube Narrows, an ancient waterway to and from Weltenburg Abbey or if you want to be really German about it, Weltenburger Klosterbrauerei, a sprawling complex of Baroque stone buildings surrounded by the lush rural beauty of Southern Bavaria.

There are times when the river is a lively place with small boats passing by and bicyclists and hikers making their way along the riverbank. Then suddenly, navigating a bend, it’s all calm waters and quiet.  I imagine this is how it was when pilgrims and tradesmen (and hopefully tradeswomen as well) came to the abbey to retreat from the world, rest or conduct business. It was a time when travel was mainly by water as roads barely existed and their trip would have taken much longer without our gas powered engines. But the sight they saw when making the final curve is much the same as today—Weltenburg’s blue tower roof and the washed pink walls.

Weltenburger Klosterbrauerei

The abbey sits on a bend of the river and in front is a small sandy beach and shallow waters where people play. It’s hot today—a heat wave is moving across Europe—and I envy them as the water looks cool and refreshing. But history calls and instead I move up the walk leading from the dock to the entrance already awed by the size and beauty of the place.

There are always hard choices and today I need to decide whether to tour first (there are self-guided and guided tours available) or take a seat in the sun at the biergarten, It appears that most people have chosen the latter and rather than wait for a table or sit inside the restaurant, I enter the church.

St. Georg Church

We’re talking seriously rococo inside, an overdrive of theatrical flourishes mixed with more Gothic elements. Paintings date back to the 1300s, a statue of the church’s namesake St. George or St. Georg as its spelled here, sculpted in smooth, sleek marble, rides his horse most likely on his way to slay the dragon. The main room, its ceiling 65-feet high, has alcoves off to the sides, each one just as ornate. It’s hard to take in everything at once, the artistry, pageantry and craftsmanship are so amazing.  Standing near a group tour, I hear phrases like “eight ionic columns, Weltenburg marble and gold fresco” and hurriedly write the words down as it helps sort out this wonderment of riches.

Bavarian Fare

Back outside, I spot an empty table and grab it. Addicted to German fare (yes, really), I order pigs’ knuckle known as schweinshaxe, schnitzel and even though I’m in Bavarian and not the Black Forest (hey, it’s nearby) the famous cake from that region. Of course, I need a glass of their Kloster Barock Dunkel—an almost black in color ale which is still made on site in a rock cave and then sent by pipeline to the monastery taps. Also available—to drink or take home, there is a gift store of course–are other brews and such medicinal spirits as their Weltenburg monastery bitters and liqueurs. And if you want to go full abbey, there’s their klosterkas and monastery sausage both based on ancient Weltenburg recipes.

Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten that last schnitzel and definitely not the cake. To assuage my conscience, I climb the mountain path as it winds past the Stations of the Cross. It’s steep but the gaps in the woods offer commanding views of the valley, abbey and gorge below. I briefly contemplate spending the night at the St. Georg Guest House to be able to walk the abbey grounds late at night when all the visitors are gone but I don’t have a reservation. Next time for sure.

The Oldest Wheat Beer Brewery in Bavaria

          Returning to Kelheim isn’t exactly like entering the 21st century. In the old town I wander the narrow streets snapping photos of perfectly maintained Medieval-era buildings just a short walk from the docks and on the way to where I parked my car, I let my friends talk me into stopping at Weisses Bauhaus Kelheim.

It’s a beautiful place, all wood, vaulted ceilings and archways leading from room to room. Outside we sit in, yes another beer garden, this one next to a small stream, and order a round of their wheat beer. Really, I had to since they’ve been brewing beer here since 1607, making the Weisses Brauhaus the oldest wheat beer brewery in Bavaria.

 

I’m not typically a beer lover but both the Kloster Barock Dunkel at the abbey and the TAP7 here, made from the original 1872 recipe, are robust and flavorful without bitterness or an overly hoppy taste. I’m driving so instead of more beer, I listen to the live music, enjoy the myriad of colorful blooms cascading from window boxes, baskets and containers and contemplate how I’ve spent the day moving through history and only now have reached the 17th century.

In 2022, the Cultural City of Dresden Hosts Special Exhibitions in Saxony’s State of the Arts

Celebrate arts and culture in Dresden in 2022.

Special exhibitions include Gerhard Richter at 90 with selections by the artist and Bernardo Bellotto, at 300, with his extraordinary cityscapes. Dresden also celebrates the father of its classical music lineage: Heinrich Schütz.  

Baroque Spendor

Restored now to its original baroque splendor, Dresden’s gleaming buildings, including the Royal Palace, the cathedral, the opera, the Brühlsche Terrasse among others, along the banks of the Elbe are a sight to behold. And, inside these buildings are arguably some of the world’s finest treasures. There are many exhibitions in 2022 and Dresden artists, Gerhard Richter and Bernardo Bellotto, lead the way. 

Starting off the year with a contemporary flare, is the Gerhard Richter exhibition celebrating the 90th birthday of this special Dresden citizen. Not only was Richter born in Dresden but he also has a special professional connection to the city as his archive is housed at the Dresden State Art Collections. The exhibition, “GERHARD RICHTER. Portraits. Glass. Abstractions” will run from February 5 to May 1 in three rooms of the upper floor of the Albertinum, also a part of the Dresden State Art Collections. Richter picked the pieces for the exhibition from his private collection as well as from the archive while additional of his works are lent by other international institutions.

Bernardo Bellotto’s 300th Birthday

Next up is the exhibition on Bernardo Bellotto, the nephew of the Canaletto, and often referred to as Canaletto the Younger or also just Canaletto. His 300th birthday is an enormous cause célèbre in the Elbe city as he painted extraordinary landscapes that depicted Dresden as it was in its golden age in the mid1700s.

From May 21 to August 28, the Dresden State Art Collections will be showing the exhibition “Enchantingly Real: Bernardo Bellotto at the Court of Saxony” where there will be paintings from the Dresden State Art Collections as well as from other institutions. Bellotto became famous as the court painter for the elector of Saxony, Frederick Augustus II. His famous works are breath- taking depictions of the city and its environs, most measuring over eight feet in width. Dresden and the nearby Pirna will be celebrating the anniversary especially during the Dresden City Festival from August 19 to 21. 

Dresden: Musical City

Dresden is also a musical city and one of the most important musicians in setting this foundation is Heinrich Schütz, the royal organist and music director of the Royal Palace in the mid1600s. His work will be celebrated and played at the ‘Barock.Musik.Fest’ from May 2 to May 8 in the Royal Palace as well as from October 7 to 17 during the eponymous festival dedicated to the musician. Schütz is known for writing vocal solos, duets and choir works with and without instruments. He was strongly influenced by Italian composers of the time and yet created a strong German choral tradition that is still lively in the city today.

German Hygiene Museum Dresden

 A daring exhibition will take place at the German Hygiene Museum Dresden from April 2, 2022 to January 2, 2023: ‘Artful Intelligence. Machine Learning Human Dreams’ highlights the extent that artificial intelligence can be used in our lives even in such intimate topics about how to realize whether a person is lying, even to him or herself, and what criteria AI is using to make decisions.

Pillnitz Castle

“Plant Fever” is a multifaceted exhibition that will be displayed in Pillnitz Castle, the erstwhile summer palace of Augustus the Strong. Pillnitz is only 20 minutes from Dresden by a very pleasant river boat ride that will take you past beautiful villas and palaces from the 1700s. Designers, scientists, technology experts and plant enthusiasts will be interested in this project that will showcase 50 international projects from April 29 to November 6.

Meissen Porcelain

Blick auf die Albrechtsburg / Dom zu Meißen. Foto Tommy Halfter (DML-BY) // View of Albrechtsburg Castle / Meissen Cathedral! Photo: Tommy Halfter (DML-BY)

Close by will be the Meissen Porcelain Manufactory and showroom with some of the most beautiful porcelain pieces in the world. A special exhibition, called “Johann,” after Johann Boettger, the alchemist who was after gold but ended up with porcelain, or white gold, will be located in the Albrechtsburg (fortress close to the manufactory) for people interested in international and contemporary porcelain. It will run from April 16 to July 2022.

Celebrate the Outdoors

If you are planning a trip to Dresden for spring and summer especially, Dresden has many outdoor cultural events, including film nights on the banks of the Elbe, daily classes at the Japanese Palace, walking and bicycle tours throughout the city and the region. One special way to enjoy and experience the Elbe region is to ride along the Elbe Wine Road from Pirna to Dirnbar-Seusslitz. August 27 and 28 and September 23 and 25 are the local wine festivals in Radebeul and Meissen respectively. Although it is technically Germany’s smallest and most northern wine region, the wines are popular while the landscape and wineries are beautiful places to visit and enjoy a meal. 

Dramatic History Comes Alive

Foto: Michael R. Hennig (DML-BY)

In the past year, two excellent permanent exhibitions, the “Zwinger Xperience,” and the “Festung Xperience,” were created to make Dresden’s dramatic history come alive. These 3-D presentations show battles, art, and the people of Dresden’s past. You stand inside Dresden’s fortress underground and in the Zwinger Museum while images and films are projected against the walls and tell deeds of conquests, battles and romance.

State Arts Collection Dresden

Die Prager Straße Dresden. Foto: Tommy Halfter (DML-BY)

There are a number of other exhibitions at the State Art Collections Dresden as well as in the region that are worth visiting throughout the year. Dresden is a cultural jewel on the Elbe so make sure when you come to arrange for walking tours to see the architectures and the landscapes as well as to secure tickets for the museums and the collections. You will be overjoyed at the cultural wealth at every corner at all times of the day.

Foto: Michael R. Hennig

For further information, please contact Victoria Larson, USA Press Representative, State Tourist Board of Saxony at Victoria@vklarsoncommunications.com

Germany’s Oldest Palace, Original Home to Meissen, Innovates with the Histopad, an Augmented Reality Tour, in 2020

Albrechtsburg Castle above the River Elbe.


Just outside of Saxony’s cultural city of Dresden, Germany’s fourth most popular destination, the
palace of Albrechtsburg in the town of Meissen awes its visitors with its extraordinary murals and
original interiors as well as state of the art video installations about the making of porcelain, or
“white gold.” But now this famous palace has gone a step further by implementing an Augmented
Reality Tour with the Histopad that facilitates an unprecedented depth and breadth of discovery.

Already at the time when it was being built in the 15th century, the Albrechtsburg Castle that
towers over the River Elbe was considered cutting edge architecture. The sophisticated arched
curtain windows and the cellular vaulting throughout the castle as well as the large spiral
staircase were architectural novelties. Today, however, the innovation lies in technology and
beautifully crafted, highly interactive 3D videos that engage visitors on a very sophisticated and
comprehensive level that is fun at the same time as educational.

The so-called “Histopad,” the first in Germany, is an augmented reality tour created by
Schlösserland Sachsen and a French firm, Histovery. The tablet guide brings history alive in 3D,
uncovering delightful facts and tidbits about the palace’s hidden secrets, such as where the
treasure was stored; what they ate for dinner; what they would be talking about in the morning;
what they wore to work or on a weekend; what was served at their banquets; how did the
chemical laboratory for the porcelain really look? It takes history to a whole new level of detail of
day to day life that makes the characters and their palaces come alive as real people and
places. Every detail has been researched and verified by the well-respected experts at the
Stately Palaces and Gardens of Saxony.

Dresden

The late-Gothic castle complex – the Meissen Albrechtsburg Castle – was built between 1471
and 1524 on behalf of the two brothers, Ernest and Albert of Wettin, who jointly ruled Saxony in
the Middle Ages. The new residence was a representative administration center and residential
palace – the first of its kind in German architectural history. It was meant to showcase the power
of the Wettin Dynasty and how closely this was tied to the Saxon kingdom. The architect, Albert
von Westfalen, was considered a trendsetter in building design and the palace he created was
considered the best in all of Europe. Soon after the palace was built however, the Wettin
brothers split their kingdom and so the palace went unused except for an occasional ceremony.

The beautiful Saxon capital of Dresden.

It was not until a few hundred years later, in 1710, that Augustus the Strong floated 20 miles
down the Elbe to Meissen and mandated the creation of a porcelain manufactory right in the
middle of Albrechtsburg Palace. He imprisoned his top scientific minds of the day in the
fortifications of Dresden to work together to create the white porcelain and after many years,
they succeeded in 1708, and the European hard porcelain was born. All of the European
aristocracy, and Augustus the Strong in particular, were seized by the lust for porcelain, or white
gold. He called it the maladie de porcelaine or porcelain fever. Today, many of the best pieces of
Augustus the Strong’s extraordinary porcelain collection are located in the Dresden State
Art Collection’s Porcelain Collection in the Zwinger Museum. They are a testament to his
17th century pursuits and ultimate success not only in amassing an enormous collection of
porcelain from around the world but also for building and creating Europe’s finest porcelain
manufactory.

The special exhibition “Augustus the Strong – History. His Myths. His Legends.” at Moritzburg Castle (Schloss Moritzburg) deals with the glorious life of the former Elector of Saxony.

The Meissen Manufactory stayed in the Albrechtsburg Palace until 1853 when it was then
moved just a few blocks away to today’s state of the art facility where visitors can visit the
Meissen museum, shop in the showroom, dine on Meissen porcelain and watch the artists at
work and even participate in workshops. Meissen porcelain is a signature product of Saxony and
has been a mainstay of the state’s economy providing jobs, income and hard currency revenue
even during the reign of the GDR. Today it is still an important company in the state of Saxony
and Germany and it has become a cultural center hosting artists each year to participate in its
exhibitions and add to the famous Meissen designs.

Weesenstein Castle (Schloss Weesenstein)! The unique ensemble is located in the Mueglitz valley near Dresden 

In addition to the porcelain exhibition in the Albrechtsburg, the other tours include the palace
architecture, the dynasty of the Wettins and the monumental murals. Unlike other major projects
in their time, Albrechtsburg Castle did not grow over many building stages, but as a holistic
design of the master builder Arnold von Westfalen. From 1471 on, it was he who created a real
trendsetter for late-Gothic architecture. The Wettin Dynasty ruled in the heart of Europe and
were influential in spreading Luther’s ideas.

The dynasty ruled until 1918 at the heart of Europe.

At the end of the 19th century, after the porcelain manufactory had moved out, Wilhelm
Rossmann, Privy Court Councillor, developed his artistic design: “a painted picture book” which
are actually enormous murals that show visitors historical events of Saxony and have become a
central memorial site of Saxon identity that goes back to the original founding dynasty.
Today Meissen and Dresden are an extraordinary destination for people interested in history,
culture, architecture and, especially, decorative and applied arts. But this also applies to all of
Saxony where there is so much art, history, classical music and culture. Saxony is a place of
history but also of the future and technology is appreciated and used to make the arts and
culture come alive in the 21st century.

Dresden Christmas Garden

http://www.saxonytraveldreams.com is the new microsite from Saxony Germany where lovers of
history, castles, classical music, art museums and charming towns can experience Saxony at its
most beautiful. A perfect antidote to the stay at home corona virus regulations, this microsite
takes you there, to Saxony, creating an immersive visual and audio experience.

For further information, please contact Victoria Larson, USA Press Representative, State Tourist Board of Saxony at Victoria@vklarsoncommunications.com

www.https://www.sachsen-tourismus.de/en/www.saxonytraveldreams.com

http://www.facebook.com/SaxonyTourismwww.instagram.com/SaxonyTourism #saxonytraveldreams #visitsaxony

All photos are courtesy of Saxony Tourism.

Buttermilchplinsen

A Taste of Saxony

Upper Lusatian Buttermilk Pancakes, in German Buttermilchplinsen, are easy to prepare and taste like heaven.

Ingredients for 6 people:
2 1/8 cups buttermilk
8.2 ounces flour
1 dash of salt
1 pinch of baking soda
2 eggs

Mix buttermilk with eggs, then add flour, baking soda and salt and mix until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Allow the dough to rest for ten minutes. Melt some butter in a pan, put some dough in it to and fry the pancakes from both sides until they are golden brown. Sprinkle sugar on top and serve with apple puree.

Saxony Travel Dreams: A New Microsite for Immersive Visual and Audio Experiences

Saxony Engages Travelers with Compelling Microsite
www.saxonytraveldreams.com is the new microsite from Saxony Germany where lovers of history, castles, classical music, art museums and charming towns can experience Saxony at its most beautiful. A perfect antidote to the stay at home corona virus regulations, this microsite takes you there, to Saxony, creating an immersive visual and audio experience.

” We are making sure that memories of Saxony are kept alive in the minds of our international guests,” says TMGS managing director Veronika Hiebl.Whether you love history, castles, wine, charming towns and palaces, classical music or art museums, Saxony has it all so you don’t have to choose.

The land of Luther and Bach brings its charm and talents to the fore in the new #saxonytraveldreams campaign. Stocked with beautiful videos and photographs, visitors get a taste of the beauty and creativity that is alive in Saxony today. Although you may not be able to hop on a plane and travel there, this eastern state in Germany is a bastion for the arts and music and you can get a sense of these treasurers from your own home. The videos from journalists, bloggers and influencers are outstanding and objectively showcase Saxony at its most beautiful. 

Two times per week the music city of Leipzig, broadcasts live stream performances from the world-famous Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Broadcasts start every Thursday and Friday at 12 pm (Europe time) and are then available for 24 hours. In Dresden, the landmark Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) that rose from the GDR ashes produces a short“musical greetings”on the church’s YouTube channel or visitors can choose to go on a 360-degree tour. Jan Vogler, the director of the Dresden Music Festival has organized an online music festival to replace the recently cancelled Dresden Music Festival.

The spa town of Bad Elster, a hidden gem in southern Saxony, goes digital with its philharmonic and presents a range of live recordings every Wednesday and Saturday at 7.30 pm (Europe time) plus special music performances by individual orchestra members. But it’s not just music, there is art and incredible towns to explore. From the movie town of Görlitz, where The Grand Budapest Hotel among many other movies was filmed, to Radebeul, Leipzig and Torgau: Saxony’s enchanting towns and cities delight with unique architecture, fascinating history, interesting museums and character.  

Truly there are many undiscovered gems and places that are not crowded and worth every penny to visit. Also, many of Saxony’s castles are off the beaten track and in this site, you will visit some of them and receive two very special immersive experiences created by local students built around famous palaces and castles in Dresden. Two sites which have been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status impressively underline Saxony’s reputation as the number one cultural tourist destination in Germany: “Muskauer Park/Park Muzakowski”, a joint Polish-German site, and the “Ore Mountains/Krusnohori Mining Region” site of German/Czech cultural heritage. You can take 360 tours of these beautiful areas.

For example, known as Saxony’s “silver town”, 800-year-old Freiberg at the foot of the “Ore Mountains has beautiful patrician townhouses, reflecting the wealth derived from the once thriving mining industry, and features a fascinating cathedral – discover the town on a 360-degree tour. These are only a few of the highlights that Saxony has to offer and they will whet your appetite for when you are able to travel again. 

saxonytraveldreams.com

facebook.com/SaxonyTourism

instagram.com/SaxonyTourism

saxonytraveldreams

visitsaxony

A Visit to Julius Renner Weinhaus & Weinkellerei in Historic Oberkirch

Following the Muhlbach Stream as it  gently flows through downtown Oberkirch, a marvelous collection of timber-framed, multi-stories houses, cobblestone streets, brightly painted shutters and window boxes overflowing with cascading blooms, we bounce along in Martin Renner’s topless  Range Rover into the vast orchards and vineyards, climbing the ever narrowing road up the verdant hills of the Black Forest.p1010185.jpg

The journey is Renner’s Weinburg Safari, which in better weather includes both the Range Rover ride and a hike. But today it’s raining and though Renner, who is giving the tour, has handed us layers of warm clothing, I’m guessing that the reason why none of us are complaining about getting pelted by rain are the samples of wine we had earlier at Julius Renner Weinhaus & Weinkellerei, his family’s third generation business founded by his grandfather, Julius, in 1937.

The wines we tasted are made from the classic varieties such as Klingelberger, Muller-Thurgen, Ruländer and Blauer Spätburgunder that thrive in the special climate and topography that makes this part of the Black Forest perfect for growing a cornucopia of luscious fruit. As usual, I’m impressed not only by the quality of German wines but also their low cost. Indeed, their Pinot Rose Brut is 9.99 euros and the dry Oberkircher Blanc de Noir, made from Blue Pinot Noir grapes, goes for 5.99.

To add to the picturesque scene, lovely even in rain, the Renner vineyards are nestled beneath the ruins of Schauenburg Castle, a long abandoned citadel built in the 10th century, part of the dowry that Uta, Duchess of Eberstein, the richest heiress in Germany at the time, brought to her marriage to Duke Welf VI in 1131.  P1010175

But if we’re looking for real history, Martin Renner tells me after we’ve returned to the weinhaus, housed in what was once a butcher shop built in 1708 (you can tell by the sketch of a butcher’s clever along with the date on the building’s corner edge),  you won’t find it here. After all, he says, as if the event just happened a few months ago, French troops sacked Oberkirch, burning the Medieval village to the ground in the late 1600s during one of those interminable European wars—this one lasted 30 years which is much better than the 100 year war waged by the French and British from 1337 to 1453. As an aside, if you’re wondering about the disparity between the dates and the name of that war, they took a few years off to rest before fighting again.

There’s disdain in his voice about the newness of it all and I try to explain how in America, old is anything built before 1950 and that we probably have fewer than fifty or so buildings in the entire country dating back to 1700. But then this is Germany where you can walk into the Kessler Champagne cellar in Esslingen and when you ask the guide how old the place is, there’s a nonchalant shrug accompanied with the year 1200 as if it’s no big deal. So maybe 1708 is a little too nouveau after all.P1010210 Martin Renner and writer Jane Simon Ammeson

Next door to the wine store, the Renner Wine Tavern is all cozy Germanic charm. The menu is intriguing and very reasonably priced and more so when I make the conversion from Euros to dollars for such items as lamb chops with rosemary potatoes and homemade garlic sauce,  Walachian trout with creamy horseradish, Strasbourg sausage salad with Gruyere cheese and spaetzli–those wonderful German dumplings often baked with ham and cheese. There’s also bread served with either butter or Bohnert’s apple lard. Lard is frequently on menus here in southwest Germany and it is amazingly delicious. A quick fact check: Pure lard, rendered from pork, is much healthier—yes, really—than the oleos and processed shortenings we consume here.P1010198

Noticing that the restaurant doesn’t open until 6 p.m., I ask why so late?

“We’re farmers and wine makers,” Martin, a graduate engineer in viticulture and oenology, tells me. “We don’t eat until then.”

Karotten or karotten in bier gedunstet (carrots in beer) and spaetzli are both on the menu at Renner Wine Tavern. Here are Americanized versions of those dishes.

Karotten (Carrots in Beer)

4 large carrots

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup dark beer, any brand

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

Peel and slice carrots into long, thin slices.

Melt butter in medium-size frypan; add beer and carrots. Cook slowly until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in salt and sugar.

Cook for another 2 minutes and serve hot.

Spaetzli

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

2 large eggs

1/4 cup milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Making a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the egg-milk mixture. Gradually mix well until the dough should be smooth and thick. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot, then reduce to a simmer. To form the spaetzli, hold a large holed colander or slotted spoon over the simmering water and push the dough through the holes with a spatula or spoon. Do this in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pot. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the spaetzli floats to the surface, stirring gently to prevent sticking. Dump the spaetzli into a colander and rinse quickly in cool water.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the spaetzli and toss to coat. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes and then sprinkle with the chopped chives.  Season with salt and pepper before serving.

For more information:

Juluis Renner Winery & Winehouse

facebook.com/WeingutJuliusRenner

facebook.com/wirsindsueden

renchtal-tourismus.de/en/Oberkirch_66.html

tourism-bw.com

twitter.com/visitbawu

instagram.com/visitbawu/#

Making Maultaschen at Maulbronn Monastery

In a room where flickering flames highlight low beamed ceilings blackened with centuries of smoke and glass windows wavy from almost a millennium of time give views onto a cobblestone courtyard bordered by half-timbered buildings. I am at Maulbronn Monastery learning to make maultaschen, a centuries old dish that originated  here.  If I succeed, I’ll earn a coveted but very little known diploma in maultaschen making.P1010274

Built in 1147 and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the monastery was founded by Cistercians, a religious order of the Benedictines retreating from the world to establish a simpler life and find a balance between manual labor and prayers. Located in the village of Maulbronn in the Black Forest region of southwestern Germany, the monastery was a self-sufficient, fortified city within the boundaries of what was once the Duchy of Swabia.  It’s all very charmingly Germanic, a storybook type place that has survived tumultuous times. Now Maulbronn Monastery, the best preserved medieval monastic complex north of the Alps, functions as a Protestant primary boarding school for both boys and girls. It’s most famous pupil is probably the author Hermann Hesse whose book Beneath the Wheel tells the story of a boy sent to a seminary in the village of Maulbronn.P1010313 (1)

The gates, once locking out the world, are open to visitors, the Romanesque cathedral offers services and tours and historic buildings house a restaurant, visitor center and shops. Frequent events include concerts, fairs, a farmer’s markets during warm weather and those famous Christmas markets they have in Germany. Besides that, this being Germany after all, there’s also Maulbronner Klosterbräu, a beer brewed according to an ancient recipe. Back then water wasn’t safe, so drinking beer, ale and wine started in the a.m. and continued on to night. Which may be one reason why the monks, who were given little food and often prayed for 16 hours straight in the Cathedral were able to do so.P1010302

Back in the day, all was lit by fire and in twilight I can almost sense the friendly ghosts of years past. This feel of what life was like a millennium or more ago includes making maultaschen, sometimes described as a German ravioli but so much more than that. Also, as an aside, if you think maultaschen is hard to pronounce, consider that in Swabian the term is Herrgotts-Bescheißerle, meaning “small God-cheaters.”P1010318

“It’s a dish created when two poor brothers were sent to the monastery because their father couldn’t afford to feed them,” our monastery guide, Barbara Gittinger, tells us as we roll out thin sheets of a shiny dough (note to those who don’t want to totally follow the ancient recipe—if you’re in Southwest Germany you can buy maultaschen dough at many of the markets; in the U.S., substitute egg roll wrappers instead) into perfect squares.

Seems one of the brothers took a delivery of meat during Lent. Not wanting it to go to waste, he chopped up the meat with vegetables and wrapped the mixture in dough. The idea was that God wouldn’t see the meat because of all the veggies and dough. Since that was centuries ago  and they’ve been eating maultaschen ever since the subterfuge obviously worked.P1010261

But there are other stories about the dish’s origins as well including the one about the scandalous Countess of Tyrol who earned the nickname Maultasch, meaning vicious woman (they said worse too but we won’t go there) because of her political machinations and marriage to one man before divorcing her current husband. But you know, these things happen. Anyway, said to be amazingly beautiful, the Countess was also a culinary traveler and she supposedly brought the maultaschen recipe to Maulbronn from Tyrol in the Austrian Alps.P1010342

 

As I listen to the origins of maultaschen, I’m busy mincing Black Forest ham, one of several “forbidden” meats typically used to make the filling, mixing it with leeks, onions and dried bread soaked in water and then squeezed dry. Gittinger says that her family makes theirs with a type of beef mixture that sounds a lot like suet, blood sausage and vegetables such as spinach.  Of course, maultaschen has gone modern and Gittinger says some substitute salmon for the meat.P1010310

I drop a tablespoonful of the mixture on the square of dough, fold it and pinch the seams tightly together (“so it doesn’t open up when cooking,” Gittinger tells me).

Originally, maultaschen would have simmered in a kettle of broth hanging over the open fire. Now, we use a gas stovetop hidden from sight.

Tasting maultaschen and schwäbischer kartoffelsalat (German potato salad), its traditional accompaniment, along with a glass of a dry red German wine) I reflect that the flavors must be different—the wheat milled for the flour to make the dough would be different from the wheat varieties we grow today. The same with the vegetables. But that’s not the case with the Black Forest ham, a variety of dry-cured smoked ham produced in this region since at least Renaissance times. Making and eating maultaschen at Maulbronn Monastery is a historic connection between past and present.

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Oh, and I received my diploma. I’m officially a maultaschen maker now.

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Swabian Maultaschen

2 2/3 cups flour (all-purpose)

1/2 teaspoons salt

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon oil

3 tablespoons water

½ pound Black Forest Ham, American ham or bacon (or a combination of all—you can also use hamburger meat), cooked and chopped

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic (chopped)

2 ounces day-old bread or rolls, soaked in water and then torn into small pieces

1 leek including the green stalk, chopped

2 ounces spinach, cooked and squeezed dry

1 large egg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pinch ​pepper (fresh, ground)

1 to 2 quarts broth (beef or other)

For the dough:

Mix flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 eggs, oil and just enough of the 3 tablespoons water to make a smooth dough.

Knead for 5 to 10 minutes, until satiny. Form dough into a ball, oil surface, wrap in plastic and let rest for at least 1 hour.

For the Filling:

Cook bacon and remove from pan. Sauté onions, garlic and leeks in bacon drippings, butter or a little vegetable oil until translucent.

Mix remaining filling ingredients together until well mixed.

For the Dumplings:

Roll out half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness or thinner. You should have a sheet about 12 inches by 18 inches. (You also can use a noodle roller to make flat sheets with 1/5 of dough at a time.)

Score the dough with a knife, one time through lengthwise and five perpendicular cuts to make 1 dozen rectangles.

Place 1 tablespoon dough on each rectangle.

Fold rectangle over and pinch sides to close.

Repeat with the other half of dough.

Bring broth to a simmer and place 1/3 of the maultaschen in the broth. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove and drain. Keep warm if not serving immediately. Repeat with the rest of the maultaschen.

Serve in a bowl with some broth. Serve with Schwäbischer Kartoffelsalat (recipe below).

Schwäbischer Kartoffelsalat

(Swabian Potato Salad)

3 pounds small Yukon gold potatoes of similar size, skins scrubbed and peels left on

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1½ cups beef stock or bouillon

½ cup white vinegar

¾ tablespoon salt

¾ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons mild German mustard (can use regular mustard)

⅓ cup vegetable oil

Fresh chopped chives for garnish

Boil the potatoes in their skins in lightly salted water until tender. Allow the potatoes to cool until you can handle them. Peel the potatoes and slice them into ¼ inch slices. Put the sliced potatoes in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Add onions, beef broth, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar, and mustard in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, remove from heat and pour the mixture over the potatoes. Cover the bowl of potatoes and let sit for at least one hour.

After at least one hour, gently stir in the vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. If too much liquid remains, use a slotted spoon to serve. Serve garnished with fresh chopped chives. Serve warm.

For more information, visit kloster-maulbronn.de