Foodie Heaven in Augsburg: The Bavarian City No One’s Heard Of.

With the charms of the alluring Munich, Regensburg and Nuremberg all nearby, Augsburg doesn’t get much of a look-in on the Bavarian tourist trail.

In fact we have lived an hour’s drive away from here for two years now and hadn’t even bothered to visit Augsburg ourselves until this weekend.

This was due to a bad review from an American expat friend (who wasn’t that impressed) and a less than enthusiastic write-up in the Lonely Planet.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Germany’s third oldest city is a beautifully buzzy place with astounding architecture and a thriving market perfect for foodie types.

In typical German style the Stadtmarkt (city market) must also be one of the world’s cleanest and most organised.

In one lane you will find around half a dozen bakeries, selling delicious German breads and mouth-watering cakes.

In another there are the colourful fruit and veg stalls peddling autumn truffles among the florists and a few home ware shops.

Then on a third aisle you have all the fishmongers and a few eateries where you can snack on fresh fish buns while watching the world go by.

As if that’s not enough the market also boasts a food hall full of international goodies in its Viktualienhalle.

Here you’ll find stalls brimming with Italian antipasti, Asian spices and fine smoked meats as well as a couple of pop-up bars where weary shoppers pause for a wine or beer. Nice!

It’s the perfect place for stocking up (particularly at Christmas time) and soaking up a great atmosphere at the same time.

As I grew up in Essex in the UK I used to think of markets as being the kind of place where dodgy guys sold cheap clothes and knocked off shampoo somewhere under a grimy underpass.

So I’m forever impressed when I stumble on a market that has charm, class and sells fruit a bit more exotic than apples.

After munching our way through the market we checked out Augsburg’s colourful Altstadt (old city) with its 17th century Renaissance Town Hall and gothic cathedral.

The sun even popped out for a bit, causing a rush of Germans to the nearest ice-cream sellers (they are mad for ice-cream here. When sun shines,  Brits sunbathe. Germans buy ice-cream).

Large chains and independent shops are in abundance in compact Augsburg too (perfect for shopping) with some cool arty places dotted along winding backstreets such as Dominikanergasse. I was impressed and wondered why the hell no one had gushed to me about this wonderful place before.

I guess the moral of the story is, don’t trust American dudes or Lonely Planet. Find out for yourself.

After being seduced by the market and the shops we didn’t have time to see much else, but hopefully we’ll pop back one day to see the Art Nouveau synagogue and the famous Augsburg Puppet Box.

Until then, Auf Wiedersehen!

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How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days: Drag Him Around All of King Ludwig’s Castles.

After almost two years in Bavaria, I can finally say that I have been to all three of King Ludwig’s ridiculously over-the-top castles.

And so can my boyfriend, who pretended to be as impressed as I was as he was marched around them all.

When I first arrived in this barmy little part of Germany I couldn’t help but notice that the name and face of “Konig Ludwig” was everywhere. Here he is:

English: photograph of King Ludwig II of Bavaria

Dashing chap. Photo credit: Wikipedia

From beer bottles to beer mats, from pub signs, to pub lanterns, and from bread bags, to fridge magnets; the late Bavarian King is on all of them. There’s even a signposted walk that goes through our town called the King Ludwig Way. He is clearly Bavaria’s most famous person, besides that Pope who did a runner.

Hundreds of thousands of people a year come to this part of Germany to visit Ludwig’s castles, and it’s not hard to see why. The thought, craftsmanship, attention to detail and money Ludwig II ploughed into these beautiful palaces is beyond belief. And kind of depressing when you think that most of our stuff comes from Ikea.

Sadly Ludwig died in mysterious circumstances at aged 40 in 1886 and barely spent much time in his eccentric creations or live to build more he had planned.

The King is said to have had a very sheltered childhood with little contact with the real world. This led to him being ill-prepared when he became King of Bavaria aged just 18. He developed a fascination with the operatic composer Richard Wagner, and was at odds with his catholic beliefs and supposed homosexuality. He was shy, felt misunderstood, and built his dream castles as a way to escape the pressures of his life.

After whittling away most of the royal family’s fortunes on his castles, Ludwig was declared “insane” by doctors who had never examined him in person. He was banished to Berg Castle on the Starnberg Lake. It had once been one of his favourite residences but was practically turned into a prison after his arrest.

The following day Ludwig and his doctor were found dead, floating in the lake after going for a walk. It is not known whether they were murdered, if they died accidentally, or if Ludwig killed the doctor then committed suicide.

I have developed a bit of a fascination with Ludwig myself, and have been captivated by his remarkable and tragic story. As a result I have not only visited his palaces, but also his summer holiday home, the spot where he died and also his tomb (morbid I know). I saved my German guy from the tomb visit, but the rest he has most definitely seen. “I would never have bothered if I hadn’t met you,” he added cheerfully.

The castles now belong to the Bavarian State, although some of the entry fees still go to Bavarian royalty.

Here’s my insider guide to the castles and other locations associated with the ‘mad fairy tale’ king.

Neuschwantein - scaffolding hidden

Neuschwantein – scaffolding hidden

Neuschwanstein: No I can’t pronounce it either. Sounds like “Noishvanstine”.

If you’ve ever wondered where the hell everyone in Bavaria is, they are here at Neuschwanstein. Germany’s most popular tourist attraction heaves with people from all over the world even on a quiet day, but even at its busiest, it’s well worth a visit. The palace sits in a gorgeous setting in the mountains and is believed to have been the inspiration behind Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Construction began on Ludwig’s dream medieval palace near Fuessen in 1869. He dedicated it to Richard Wagner and many of the artworks inside depict scenes from his operas. Sadly the castle wasn’t finished before Ludwig died, and he only spent around 170 days in it.

My favourite bits inside were the King’s wood-panelled bedroom and his bathroom, where his toilet is actually disguised as a very regal-looking chair. The water from the taps here came direct from a nearby spa (as you do). The palace also features an artificial grotto and an amazing kitchen beautifully advanced for its time. Ludwig loved technology, and he also had one of Germany’s first telephones here. Sadly you can’t take pictures inside any of the castles.

The palace is about a 40-minute uphill walk from the town of Hohenschwangau. (There are horse-drawn carriages for those unable to walk and lazy people). You need to buy tickets from the ticket centre in the town for a 30-minute tour of the palace.  As these get booked up you may have to wait a few hours for your tour, so leave plenty of time. In the meantime you can also visit 12th century Schloss Hohenschwangau, which was renovated by Ludwig’s father Max. There are lovely views from here of the green hills and stunning alpine lake below.

The views from outside Neuschwanstein of the Bavarian countryside below is also great, plus you can take a walk along Mary’s Bridge for that all-important photo of the castle nestled in the mountains. Unfortunately it was really foggy when we went so we couldn’t see said castle. The castle was also undergoing renovations on one day we visited (I’ve been twice) and it was covered in scaffolding in parts. Hardly the fairy tale we were expecting, but still.

You can catch a train to Fuessen from Munich and catch a bus to the castle. For latest ticket prices and opening times, please see the official website here.

Charming Linderhof

Charming Linderhof

Linderhof: My personal favourite.

Much less touristy than both of the other castles, stunning Linderhof in Ettal is the one I would most recommend seeing if you only can do one and you’re blessed with decent weather.  Although this palace is smaller than the others, it is set in a stunning green valley with wonderful gardens, forests and a few out-buildings including a Moorish Kiosk. This was Ludwig’s private retreat, where he hardly had visitors, and it just feels much more personal than the grander palaces of Neuschwanstein and Herrenchiemsee but nonetheless extravagant.

You could easily spend a day here exploring the gardens and surrounding land (only open in summer). But if you’re pushed for time you could see Linderhof and Neuschwanstein in the same day, as they are about an hour’s drive from one another and looped together on tours. Again Linderhof, inspired by Versailles, can only be seen by joining a tour of the inside but you can wander the grounds in your own time.

If taking public transport you can catch a train to Oberammergau and then a bus.  See the official site here for more information.

Herrenchiemsee at the back

Herrenchiemsee at the back

Herrenchiemsee: The one Ludwig only spent 10 days in.

Built on an island on the stunning Chiemsee with the Alps in the distance, this palace was also modelled on Versailles and dedicated to King Louis XIV of France. Ludwig went to great lengths to ensure that this palace was similar or even better than the one in France. The most famous room is the Hall of Mirrors, which also features more then 2, 000 candles. The palace also boasts a 60,000 litre capacity bath and one of the world’s finest porcelain collections.

What’s more surprising than the extravagance of this place is the fact that Ludwig only spent 10 days here and even then it wasn’t complete as his money ran out (this palace cost more than Linderhof and Neuschwanstein combined). He never intended to really use it for anything either. It was, as the knowledgeable guide said, just a ‘time capsule’ for him to escape his everyday life. There is also a great museum on site telling you all about Ludwig’s life and a self-service restaurant with a terrace on the palace’s forecourt. Nice touch.

To get to the palace you need to catch a boat to the Herreninsel from one of the departure points on the Chiemsee. We caught the short boat trip from Prien, about an hour’s drive from Munich and on the Munich-Salzburg train line. It is then a 15-20 minute walk through countryside and woodland to the palace (horse-drawn carriages also available). Again the palace can only be seen by joining a tour, lasting around 30-minutes.

For information, visit the official site here.

Ludwig’s Island Retreat: The Casino, on Rose Island, Starnberg Lake.

This is nothing like a casino at all, so gamblers don’t come disappointed. Instead the Roseninsel is a romantic little island with a very sweet-smelling rose garden and villa, where Ludwig used to hang out with his friends. You can catch a tiny boat to the island from the small town of Feldafing on the Starnberg lake, then spend a couple of hours wandering through the gardens and touring the inside of the summer house for a few Euros. Starnberg is about a 15-minute drive from Munich, with trains stopping at Feldafing from Munich on the S6 line.

We attempted to tour the house with our 18-month-old son in tow. Ever tried doing a historical tour with a loud little man and a group of unimpressed Germans? Big mistake. I dropped out, leaving my boyfriend to go it alone while I entertained our little chap in the garden. “Take some pictures” I instructed. This is one that came back.

Fortunately he did take some more, revealing the intricate and sometimes simple interior.

Although no where near as grand as the castles, the villa was built without a kitchen (that was situated in a building to the side of the villa instead) so the cooking fumes did not overcome the smell of the roses from the garden. Tall trees were also planted around the garden to stop the rose smell from escaping. The smell is amazing and I would recommend visiting in summer when the flowers are in bloom.

It was a lovely afternoon out, and one that can be combined with a trip to….

The spot where Ludwig Died: Berg, Starnberg Lake.

Marked by a simple cross erected by his mother, this is where Ludwig was found dead. Although Berg Castle is closed, you can wander through the woodland leading to the cross. There is also a pretty neo-Romanesque memorial chapel built in honour of Ludwig. Berg is about an hour’s walk from the town of Starnberg (one of Germany’s richest areas. Look out for women dressed as Cruella De Vil).

For details on the chapel, call +49 (0)8151 5276. For details on catching the boat to the Rose Island, call +49 (0)171 722 2266.

Ludwig’s final resting place. The crypt of Michael’s Church, central Munich.

Drawn in to the Renaissance church from the busy shopping street of Kaufingerstrasse, I discovered this was actually where poor Ludwig was finally laid to rest – in a rather creepy crypt besieged by visitors and worshippers (entrance 2 Euros). The crypt is full of tombs of late Bavarian Royals, but there’s no second guessing who the largest and most decorated one that sits behind iron gates belongs to.

King Ludwig's tomb

King Ludwig’s tomb

It’s also ironic that the king’s tomb is in Munich because he grew to hate the city’s residents for their opposition to his close friend Richard Wagner.

It seems the troubled King, who in the end just wanted to cut himself off from the world bestowed upon him, will never truly be left to rest in peace.

Awards and shiz.

Me AKA Auds

Collecting one of my awards. Thanks Wikipedia.

There I was enjoying a nice cup of tea as I put away my tweeds following that morning’s hunt when up popped a message: “Brit has won an award”.

In fact, it isn’t just one award, but three. People must like reading about Germans a lot more than I thought.

I only started blogging about life as a Brit in Bavaria 10 months ago, as the harsh German winter plus my first stint as a stay-at-home mum threatened to override all of my brain cells and make me spontaneously combust.

Waaaaaaaa!

Since then I have connected with many other bloggers, travellers, expats and wonderful Bavarians whose support is what makes the effort to blog worthwhile. A big thanks to them all!

The awards I have received are hardly the Oscars of the blogging world. In fact, they have been given to me by other bloggers who I paid a neat sum to say they like me. I in turn have to nominate other bloggers who I feel deserve the awards too (thanks for the cash my dears) and they also pass them on. Some may see these awards as an annoying chain, like those letters you used to get at school in the eighties.  But I like to look at them as one big happy cyber conga that just keeps on growing.

Some may choose not to accept the award and the rules that come with doing so. And that’s fine.  But on the plus point the recognition is about awarding up-and-coming blogs and increasing the number of links to them. Plus I thought I better get my arse into gear and nominate after reading how those who have refused to accept these ‘chains’ have seen their blogs die slow horrible deaths.

Germerican Denglish nominated me for three accolades – The Liebster Award, The Sunshine Award AND the Versatile Blogger Award. WOW. Germerican Denglish is all about an American dad, a German mum and their young son ‘who most definitely speaks Denglish.’ As the mother of a bilingual young one, I feel their pride and pain. Thank you for taking the time to nominate me, not once, but three times!

Meanwhile, Deanna of From Casinos to Castles also thought me worthy of the Versatile Blogger Award. A big thank you to her too! Deanna is a Vegas girl who now lives in Germany with her German husband and their child. My partner is German too (violins please) and we have sons around the same age, so I can really relate to her blog about expat life as a mum (DON’T DO IT).

Definitely give both of those a read if you have a moment.

The rules for receiving these awards include posting random facts about myself and answering a set of questions. To spare you from a long post with too much information about me you can read my answers for each award on this page instead.

So, with no further ado, here are the blogs I would like to pass these awards on to. The recipients will either love me or hate me for it. The first I hope. If not, then just take it as a way of me saying “Thanks for taking the time to create a great blog.” As I said, don’t feel that you have to acknowledge the award. But remember your blog WILL DIE if you don’t.

In line with the rules these are all rising star blogs with less than 1,000 followers. See this page for details on how to pass them on and annoy lots of other bloggers. In all honesty I don’t read too many blogs due to time constraints (a toddler, a home, part-time work, this blog, and a Bavarian to pick beer bottles up after). But the ones I’ve listed here are the ones I look forward to reading when I see they have posted something new. They mainly make me laugh and/or inspire me to travel.

So spread the BLOVE.

Word.

The Liebster Award: (Liebster is German for dearest, sweetheart, kindest, nicest. Yes this is slightly embarrassing. Germans use this word sparingly. Well, no one’s ever said it to me. )

Homesick and Heatstruck For an entertaining, touching, and laugh-out-loud blog on life in the Middle East.

Tricia A Mitchell For a great,  insightful travel blog that really makes you feel as if you are there on the journey with her.

James and Pierre For cycling the west coast of the USA for charity and creating a superb blog to match their efforts.

hayleylyla For being so wonderfully Liebster-like and bringing a touch of glamour into my cold, Bavarian, fashion-starved world.

Germerican Denglish Right back at ya! For a funny and sweet blog about life here in Germany.

The Sunshine Award: (For those who have brought sunshine into my life. I might be sick now.)

Living in the Langhe Funny blog from a fellow Essex lad living in Italy (although he doesn’t admit he is from Essex in his ‘about’ page).

Had a Few Beers For being really crude. That kind of humour is really missing here in Germany.

Observing Hermann For keeping me up to date with Germany’s current affairs in a deadpan style.

Englishman in Italy For being so downright hilarious (English).

Good Day to Live Written by a Bavarian who shows that life enriched with travel doesn’t have to be rich.

From Casinos to Castles For being brave enough to share her struggles as an expat mum in a humorous way.

Versatile Blogger Award: (As it says on the tin.)

Well I have now run out of blogs to nominate. I clearly need to get reading more before I die a slow horrible death for breaking this chain. If you don’t hear from me for a while, you know what happened.

Brit Joins German Gym – Finds Everyone Gets Naked There Too.

Original image description from the Deutsche F...

Workout done. Let’s get naked. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been living in Germany for almost two years. And in those two years I have seen more strangers’ penises and bottoms than I ever could have imagined.

That’s because life in Germany goes like this:

It’s summer! Let’s go down to the local lake! Get down to the local lake – oh look, there’s an old codger sunbathing with his willy out! And there’s another emerging from the lake, with all his bits on show! And wait! There’s another, changing out of his swimwear with all of his manhood dangling out! In England you would be arrested for this kind of behaviour. But in Germany? That’s just how they roll.

Or:

Let’s go to the local swimming pool! Get there to find that the changing rooms are just one big room. Mixed. No curtains. No dividers. Number of strangers’ penises I have seen now doubles in one go.

Then there was the time we went for a nice family swim only to find that it was naked sauna day and we were the only ones wearing any clothes.

Even when I was on the beach recently in Gozo, Malta – where nude or even topless sunbathing is banned – I ended up having a conversation with a German man whose willy was on show. He was wearing trunks but they were so small his manhood had manoevured its way out of there. Or maybe it was so used to being out on the beach it was like: “Hey, what’s going on? Why am I locked up? It’s so dark in here! Let me out!” And with that it found its usual freedom, pulled up a sunlounger and enjoyed the nice cool breeze.

Swimming trunks

Let me out!  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In short, there’s no avoiding cocks and bottoms in Bavaria, unless you always go out with a big black bag over your head.

So it’s no surprise that Germans get naked at the gym too. I joined a gym in Germany for the first time last week, and with that I took my German cock count up from 100 to 125.

Now don’t get me wrong. From what I have experienced so far, German gyms are amazing. Firstly, they are absolutely spotless. Secondly, when you walk in everyone using the gym turns and says hello to you. When you leave, you’re expected to say goodbye to everyone too. I think that’s really cute. Another difference is that as all Germans have OCD, you are expected to carry a little towel around the gym with you that must act as a barrier between your sweaty self and whatever equipment you are using at ALL times. Forget your little towel and expect to be on the receiving end of some scary German looks. Considering Germans are so frightened of germs, I’m surprised that they are called Germans and not Cleanmans or something like that.

After my very satisfying gym session I decided to pop into the sauna. In England most people wear their swimwear in the sauna even if it’s not a mixed one. That’s because we are prudes who would rather die than let anyone other than a very select few see us naked. However, my previous experiences of German saunas have taught me that wearing any clothes at all is not the done thing, whether it’s a mixed sauna or not.

Deutsch: Keltenthron Sauna

Don’t be fooled. The towels must come off. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

But what about a gym sauna? Surely it’s a bit awkward to get completely naked in front of that old bloke you just exchanged niceties with over the chest press machine? The one thing that got me through going naked in a German sauna once before was the fact I wouldn’t see any of the other people in it ever again. It’s a different story if you use the one at the new gym you’ve just joined.

Reily

After this we’re all going to get naked! Ja! Photo credit: Tulane Public Relations

Holding my towel close to my chest, I opened the door to the mixed sauna, and found a spot right next to the door. There was a man aged approximately in his sixties and two women around the same age already in there, all naked of course. From their conversation I gathered they all knew each other from the neighbourhood, and had probably seen each others bits and bobs on numerous occasions before. There was no awkwardness between them at all, and none of them seemed worried about having boobs down to their ankles, pot bellies, or pubes as long as their noses.

Floating sauna

At least it wasn’t a floating sauna. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, one of the women even got up and did a funny little dance in tune to whatever they were all chatting about, and the others laughed as her big, wobbly bits jangled about and almost knocked me in the face. After she left and everyone fell silent it was really hard to stiffle my massive internal giggles.

This time I decided to keep my towel on, much to the amazement of the other members They were all giving me rather strange looks that said: “Is your body covered in warts or something? Come on, get your kit off!” While I commend the Germans for having the guts to get naked in front of each other without a care in the world, it’s just one culture shock that I will never be able to comfortably adapt too. Especially down at the local gym and in front of men I don’t know.

Nudity will always be associated with sex in my eyes because sadly that’s the kind of society I grew up in. The society I’m more used to is also not as safe as in Bavaria. If a woman went nude in a mixed sauna back at home it would be a risk as unfortunately some might see it as an invitation. When you have been used to certain constraints for most of your life it is very hard to shrug them off when you move abroad and things are a lot different.

And on a less serious note I have yet to see a hottie in the sauna. Maybe I’ll change my mind about German saunas when I do. Until then, it’s just old men’s wrinklies all the way.

Oktoberfest 2013: A Guide for the Lazy and Unorganised

Oktoberfest. The one time slightly uptight Munich actually explodes into a riot of fun, drunken debauchery! Merry people everywhere, girls in slutty dresses, and piles of vomit on every pavement slab. Just like London at 4pm every Friday then.

Last year was my first time at Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival – and I was lucky to experience it with a local Bavarian who has been a lot. I discovered that you don’t need to be a beer drinker to have fun, although the prices of any other beverage there will make you wish you were one. You don’t have to book a table or buy a ticket. Just turn up and get involved. Ja wohl!

The first thing you notice when you arrive at Oktoberfest is the huge fair. It’s hard not to, as it is the largest in the world. The rides seem to go on for miles. They also look positively retro, and they’re great fun, especially after a litre or two of strong Bavarian beer. Word of warning – look out for projectile vomit when standing under them. Really drunk people and fairground rides don’t mix.

I’d like to point out that we didn’t see one female in this state. Just men. WIMPS.

After having a few rides (ahem) get yourself to a beer tent and find a space on one of the many long tables. I’d recommend doing this pretty early, as those tables do get busy and the punters don’t tend to budge much (except for the loo). Avoid being in large groups too. We were a three, and found it pretty easy to slide onto the end of another group’s table.

The social side to Oktoberfest is great. Of course the beer gets everybody chatting, and it’s a great way to meet people who have come from all over the world to enjoy the festivities. Everyone is there to have a good time. We got chatting to a very nice Croatian boxer and also a sixties British hippie who was selling glow in the dark thumbs. Here he is.

And here we are with our massive jugs.

But the real fun to be had is inside those beer halls. That’s where there’s loud band music, people dancing on tables and an all-round amazing atmosphere. They had already stopped admitting people when we arrived that afternoon, but we managed to get into one later on thanks to my cousin flirting with one of the doormen, telling him she had come all the way to Munich from Australia. Which she actually had. Not many men can resist a young, blonde Aussie, and with that, WE WERE IN.

The carnage inside was bloody brilliant. Hundreds of people all high on Bavaria’s finest. Men in Lederhosen, women spilling out of dirndls, and ‘liquid gold’ slopped all over the place. There was a great live band playing pop songs, and when they belted out ‘Hey Jude’ everyone got on the tables and sang along. It was a moment I will never forget.

Get yourself to Oktoberfest this year. You won’t regret it! (Unless you’re one of those guys throwing up in my pictures above).

Oktoberfest facts:

  • Oktoberfest 2013 actually takes place from September 21 to October 6.
  • It has been running since 1810 and is called ‘die Wiesn’ by the Bavarians
  • Oktoberfestbiers are the beers that have been served at the festival since 1818. They come from six brewers and must be brewed within the city limits of Munich.
  • They are strong – 6% alcohol minimum.
  • The fair is held right in the centre of Munich at the Theresienwiese. The underground trains take you right there. Don’t drive unless you’re crazy.
  • A majority of visitors are Bavarian. Be aware of the local guys girls. I have been told it’s a real badge of honour if one manages to pull a foreign female in front of his mates.
  • If you haven’t booked accommodation already, then good luck. Prices rocket in Munich during the festival. Consider staying somewhere outside of Munich, like the Five-Lakes district. It’s an easy commute from there into the city.

Prost!

And Then The Pigs Magically Became….Sausages

On Saturday we went to one of my favourite local spots in Bavaria, a tiny, picturesque village up in the hills with a farm, adjoining restaurant, and a 5-star bakery.

I’ve never heard of a 5-star bakery before and I’m not exactly sure why the Kasprowicz in Gut Kerschlach is one, except for the sign outside saying it is and the exceptionally good cakes.

But at least I can now say that I have been to a 5-star bakery, even if there weren’t any limos parked outside, high-class hookers hanging out at the counter or bread rolls lounging around in tuxedos smoking cigars.

To get to the village you have to drive to another small village in the south of Bavaria called Pahl, and walk 20 minutes or so along a trail through tall forests and rolling countryside with gorgeous Alpine views.

It’s very pretty to say the least.

Once more it’s great for kids, because there’s very little traffic up there, and you can tour the farm with its kids’ park and zoo, with  moo moos, bunnies, baa baas and neeeee-ighs! (This is how I talk now I have a 16-month-old).

Now we all know how much kids love animals. And how much nicer it is to see them on an ‘eco’ farm, being treated all humanely and stuff. It was a lovely family outing, and our hearts were literally singing with joy as we skipped around in the sunshine like characters from a Disney movie, talking to the animals all Dr Dolittle like.

But sadly we were unable to find the oink oinks. The map showed their barn as being at the back of the farm. But they were nowhere to be found.

Max has just learnt how to make grunts like a pig.  When you’re a parent and your child learns to make grunts like a pig, THIS IS ONE OF THE HIGLIGHTS OF YOUR YEAR.  Therefore, we had to find those smelly noisy pink buggers as if our lives depended on it.

After ten minutes of frantic searching, we found what we thought was the pig area. Hooray! Max’s face lit up, and he started making his cute oink oink noises.

We all skipped over holding hands, with grins like the Cheshire Cat (not really but got to keep up the Disney-esque-ness of it all). We had found the pigs!

But instead of the pigs we actually found this….a sausage factory.

Are you having a laugh? Who puts a sausage factory on a farm for kids, right where the pigs are meant to be? That’s the wurst!

There wasn’t even an attempt to disguise the factory of horrors. There’s a whopping great big sign on the sausage factory announcing it’s a sausage factory, explaining to the children what happens to the animals inside. The way they break the news is quite hilarious. The sign is in German, but let me (or Google) translate.

“Kerschlach Factory. Here the animals that come from the farm and from partner companies are slaughtered in an animal friendly-way and are transformed into speciality sausages.”

“Transformed.” What a nice way of putting it.

It was a sad end to a beautiful day. We trundled off, heads bowed,  looking and feeling grim. Damn those Germans for always being so brutally honest and direct. Practicality rules over everything here. Feelings don’t always count. That’s why there was a sausage factory on a farm for kids. That’s why my friend’s nan lives in a sheltered housing scheme for the elderly with great views of the cemetery over the road. That’s why people here still wear Crocs – in public.

Although I have to admit, I have enjoyed a German sausage or two in my time.  They taste amazing. I guess there’s no point hiding the truth of what happens to most pigs in what is the land of sausages. In Britain I doubt this scenario would have existed, for fear of being insensitive and giving children nightmares. Not in Bavaria!

And at least, like whenever something doesn’t go to plan here, we can cheer up over five-star cake.

German Hospitals Rule – There is Beer!

As regular readers of my blog will know (all five of you), I recently spent a week in a German hospital following an unpleasant car crash.

This was actually my second week in a German hospital, having spent a week in the same one last year after having my baby there. (Yes, an entire week! No chucking you out after a few hours here!)

So I wasn’t that shocked to discover on my second stay that German hospitals are very different to English ones – i.e. they are nice.

Or should I say Bavarian hospitals. I have come in for some stick lately for referring to Bavaria as German. Tut tut!  How dare I confuse a German state as actually being part of Germany!

I even took a few pictures to back up my claims. Do all German hospitals look like this or is it a case of mega-rich Bavaria coming up trumps again? If so, I really undersand why the rest of Germany is so jealous hates this state. Take a look for yourself.

Spotlights and polished wooden floors? Ja Danke!

Wards with balconies overlooking the gardens? Naturlich!

Plenty of green space for patients to wander about in? In England this would have been turned into a money-making car park long ago!

An empty bed? Definitely not an English hospital then! Watch and weep, David Cameron.

Fancy artwork on the walls? This would never have made it on to the wall of an English hospital, for fear someone would use it to attack one of the staff then steal some morphine.

And a kitchen for patients with free tea, and use of a coffee machine. How lovely!

However, it was in this said kitchen that I also found someone’s secret stash of beer. Remember this is a Bavarian hospital, where prescriptions for beer are readily handed out. (Americans – that was a joke).

My only complaint of the German hospital was the food.

This was breakfast, and the same was ‘dished up’ for dinner.

Bavarians eat a lot, so I was surprised to find really meagre portions existing anywhere in Bavaria. So meagre in fact that when my little German couldn’t bring me food, I had to order take-away from the pizza place across the road. And I honestly don’t eat that much. That pizza man must make a killing from all of the hungry Bavarian patients! Especially the ones with the beer munchies! The most profitable businesses in Germany must be the restaurants close to hospitals! Open one if you can.

Finally, I couldn’t help but laugh at this poster for the hospital hairdresser that I spotted by the lifts.  It’s amazing what men can get for 29 Euros these days.