Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Remember Germany with a Stein

Have you traveled to Germany and wished you had brought back a souvenir to remember a place you had been or wanted to travel to? It’s not too late, collectible German beer steins are a great way to remember that town or region you had traveled to. The Collectible Steins are the perfect way to remember the German heritage.

Make a collection of them. Collecting Steins are the best thing any person can do to remember the trip to Germany and its culture as well. It is true that authentic German beer Steins are must haves, whatever may be the reason.

Beer steins have been treasured and pasted down through many generations as decorative keepsakes. Beer steins portray the people and the culture of Germany. They come in many deep relief designs with colorful depictions of the lives of the German people and expressions of the German heritage. Some have the names of various places on the  front and sides of the mug, of differentcities and German states inscribed on it to indicate landmarks of Germany.

The best of the German steins are handmade and hand painted giving then that original touch by people that have been involved in the manufacturing process for generations. The artisans are highly skilled and have the ability to inscribe even the minutest details and designs on the mugs. They come in many varied themes and styles celebrating the folklore, traditions and the good living of the German culture.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The German Town of Altomunster Germany

One of the towns we like to stay in when we go to southern Germany is a town called Altomunster. It sits on the end of an S-Baun line just about 23 miles to the NNW of Munich.

It makes it easy to take the S-Baun into Munich so that we are free to visit the Hofbrauhaus and not worry about having to watch what we drink. If you have never been to the Hofbrauhaus make sure you go. We stay in the Brauerei Gasthof Hotel Maierbrau the rooms are excellent and the restaurant is one of the best we have been in at a Gasthof.
What we love to do is check in early in the afternoon and just walk around the village and enjoy how well all these German towns are maintained. This hotel sits at one end of a town square across from a Catholic church at the other end. We have a few pictures of the church so you can see all the intricate design that is used in their churches.

If you going to Munich I recommend you stay here.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What are Gasthaus's and Pensions like and Why Stay in Them

My husband and I like to travel a lot; we have been to Germany three times. We only stay in a Gasthaus (Inn) or a Pension which are similar to a bed and breakfasts here, but quite different. The only differences between these two are that a Gasthaus 
 will have a restaurant for guests and non-guests and a common area such as a lounge where a pension does not have to have a restaurant or common areas for non-residents. If you drive into the village and see a
sign that’s says “Zimmer Frei” that means they have a vacant room for rent. Usually this sign is associated with a private home but can be located on any category of accommodation. They are more like an elegant small hotel, the staff is always very friendly, and usually they are decorated with antiques. Breakfast is served and included with the room; it’s a little different from what we usually consider breakfast here. It is       
cold meats, cheese, fruits, hard bread and rolls, and usually boiled eggs.
We like to stay in these because they are in small towns, where you can get a real feel for the culture and food; we always ask where the locals eat. We want to experience their food, in their surroundings, and enjoy being part of something different.
We also like staying in them because they are normally on a rail line which makes getting into the larger cities much easier. Most of the cities have these S-Bahns extending out to the adjacent districts. You don’t want to drive and have to find a place to park, and then enjoy the BEER, (which I drink over there, but do not drink at home). (Wheat BEER is the BEST.)
You can easily get back to the station after enjoying the city, Oktoberfest, or the local restaurants. It is very inexpensive, clean, safe, and you can just relax on your way back to your room.
We usually book one for our first night there, they can be pre-booked just like hotels. On our last trip, we booked one for the night before we were going into Munich for Oktoberfest, to make sure we had a place on the rail line. Normally we rent a car and take off to an area we think we would like, if we want to stay longer, we rent a room, if it wasn’t what we thought , we continue to another destination, and find one there to stay. We have never been disappointed and find them to be a perfect addition to the experience. Almost every town has these places to stay and they are all clean and just as nice as a big hotel in the larger towns.

Travel in Germany, the People, Culture and Shopping

No one should ever worry about traveling to a country that does not speak English as their first language, such as Germany a lot of people speak English, and if not , a smile, a friendly attitude, and playing Charades will always work, and believe me this girl can shop in any language.
When visiting besides the usual tourist attractions, make sure to enjoy the small towns, they are beautiful. They take great pride in keeping things clean; they even sweep the

street in front of their house. They are a very courteous culture, friendly and they waste no space in their yards. While walking around you will find almost everyone has a garden, but not like ours, they are part of the landscape, and beautiful. You get a feeling of great respect for the people; they have so much pride in taking care of their country.

I love going to Germany. The Black Forrest area, we found some beautiful Cuckoo clocks, and a gorgeous waterfall to climb in Triberg im Schwarzwald, it was breath-taking. My son and I climbed all the way to the top, and learned there was a hotel at the top, so if we had driven up there, we could have walked down the falls. We decided that would not been near as much fun as climbing up and then back down, we had a great time.
Crystal is also a passion of mine; we went to a Crystal factory, which had a seconds store next door. I could not tell any of the flaws, and I tried, the price was much better, my husband said it was a good thing we didn’t live there, because I could only get enough to hand carry back on the plane.
We also went on two different Beer Stein factory tours Zoller & Born and King-Werks; my husband had arranged those before we went. I have never had such an experience of really knowing what handmade is really about. Each section, from the design, casting, drying, cleaning, attaching the handles, painting each of the colors on the steins, was all hands on. There were no machines, conveyor belts, or anything we would presume to be modern, each section had one or two people, repeatedly doing the same job over and over, and they took such pride in each and every one, but even though they were the same, no two were exactly the same because each was done individually by a human hand. I have never been so impressed, now when I buy Steins; I look very closely at the ones that are supposed to be alike to find the little differences, and smile because I know how much work and love went into making it. Those factory tours where the highlight of our last visit. HANDMADE is truly HANDMADE.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What Prompted the Development of the Beer Stein?

The Development of the Lidded Beer Stein

The beer stein features a lid which may be opened or closed. Originally the steins didn’t have the thumb lifts that they have today to aid in opening. The concept of steins after they originated started a continuous rise in popularity. The first steins were created from stones and were very heavy to hold. As time went by, steins started being manufactured from other various materials such as silver, glass, porcelain, earthenware, stoneware, etc. The Germans have perfected the art of stein making and the concept soon started spreading to many other countries around the world. Brazil is now the larger producer of steins but are made more as promotional products for companies and organizations, primarily Budweiser.

Steins became the status symbol of beer lovers. Some of the best beer steins in Germany would have their family household crest and shield emblazoned them. Germans tend to place great respect on their food or their best drink and bear the expense that the status the steins would bring them. Today the German Beer Steins are collectibles worldwide and have grown to be fascinating not only for beer lovers but for their decorative features as well.

True German beer steins are handmade and hand-painted with exceptional relief designs. Because they are handmade and hand-painted they can be expensive depending on the design and coloring. The German beer steins are crafted with perfection with many of the designs having historic origins. They are exported all over the world and are more coveted then those manufactured in other countries. One of the things you want to check to make sure you have the authentic German Beer Stein is that the steins are stamped and numbered with the manufacturer's label as well as country of origin. The country of origin by German law must be labeled Made in Germany if it is to be exported. This is also one of the distinct features of the German Stein.

Germany has been celebrated worldwide for its beautiful innovation with art works in their beer steins. Enjoy your chosen drink using the authentic German Beer Steins.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Trend in Beer Stein Collecting

There has been a recent trend over the last few years of collecting beer steins. You might think it is just beer enthusiasts that collects them but it is actually becoming an interest of many people who just use them for decoration. What may surprise you is that women probably purchase the steins by close to a 4 to 1 margin over men. I’ve found this to be true on my site as well as a top competitor’s site.
We have had several steins of our own for over 10 years now displayed in a glass case in our living room that have never had a liquid in them. Lots of times when I’m watching TV, I notice beer steins in the background especially bar and tavern scenes. I believe one of the reasons they are becoming so popular is the many different designs and styles you can get them in which makes them perfect for collecting.
It’s not only the home that the trend seems to be gaining popularity but also bars and taverns. Some bars have their own custom designed steins you can purchase which lets you start a collection of the pubs you have visited. Some of the local pubs might even have a case or display on their wall so that you can have your stein there for your visits for your beer drinking enjoyment.
What type of stein should you buy? Well if you want to be a true collector I recommend that you just purchase authentic German beer steins. Someone might tell you that any stein will do. What do you think will impress people more, a Ferrari or a chevy Spark, both will get you where you want to go but one with a lot more style. It’s the same with steins, the authentic German stein may cost more but it’s handcrafted and hand painted and much more impressive.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Best way to Get Around Economically in Germany

First off let me start by saying this is only my opinion and my reasons for using this mode of transportation. I’m going to start off by touting the train service although it is not my preference.

Germany has an excellent rail system which can take you to most parts of the country but it can’t take you everywhere you might want to go. It is one of the world’s best and most efficient railway systems and can get you to almost every city of the country including most of the smaller towns. It’s an easy to use system, comfortable, fast, reliable, and reasonably priced. It has many ticket options that allow for lower priced travel over multiple days.

The problem I have with using the train system is if you have a wife like mine that travels with multiple bags you have to tote them on and off the train and then you still have to get a taxi to the hotel. If you plan on seeing attractions that are not within walking distance you will still need a car. If you’re just traveling by yourself or two of you it is a viable option. If you are there with more than two you might want to consider a car.

My favorite mode of transportation is a car. As you drive through the countryside you’re not limited to what you can see out the window of a fast moving train. If you see something that looks interesting it is easy to just stop the car and take your time to see it.

One of the first things we do after renting the car is find a grocery store. My wife loves her diet coke so we get two cases of coke and a case of water that we can keep in the trunk of the car for our travels. This has a two- fold purpose. One is that cokes are very expensive (you can get more beer at a cheaper price) and my wife will go through two of them during the night and the other reason is that when you get water in Germany it is usually mineral water and we like plain water which is hard to find in a restaurant. If you want non carbonated water in a restaurant order” stilles wasser”.

Our first trip we had rented a car and was on our way to Triberg (which is in the Black forest region and famous for cuckoo clocks) and noticed about 4 tour busses to our right. We figured that there must be something worth seeing there so we turned around and went back. It was an area built to look like an old German village with signs in English of the history of why everything was built and designed the way it was. If we had been in a train this would have been missed along with a pleasurable experience.  

Another reason we like to travel by auto is that we like to stay in the small towns in either a Gasthof (which is a restaurant that usually has rooms also) or Pension (Bed and Breakfast) where the stay is about half the price ($60 to $100) of the large cities. In a city like Stutgart you could expect to pay much more and not get anything better. They are clean and the food is great. It has the advantage of meeting the locals. We like to stop around 3 to 4 pm and walk around the village and then after you can usually meet some of the locals at the restaurant over good food and great beer.

Travel in Germany is incredibility easy. The German roads are excellent and using a car can be a great way to tour the country. You can Google some fantastic driving tours.

One drawback I should mention if you want to go into one of the larger cities is that almost all bigger cities have a severe parking problem. One way I avoid this is by staying outside the city and leaving the car at a train station and taking the train or subway into town. Most of the larger cities have these extending out up to 25 miles around the city. It is economical to use and you don’t have to worry about the city driving and maybe have some brews while there.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 5 and 6 of our Germany Visit

I guess I already talked about the start of day 5 at the end of day 4 so I’ll continue it here.

We made our way up the Autobahn towards Hoehr-Grenzhausen and Hillscheid. Like the other autobahns on our trip this one had construction on it also reducing traffic down to one lane in many places. We arrived there a little after two and checked into our room at the Burghotel Grenzau which lies in the heart of the beautiful Westerwald at the foot of the 800 year old castle Grenzau.  As usually we were told our room was on the first floor which of course meant the first floor above the lobby up a flight of stairs. Europe is definitely handicap friendly. It was a very nice hotel and the restaurant was just about a 50 yard walk at the 

After unpacking we decided to look around especially to see where the factories were for the next day’s visits since the restaurant didn’t open till 5pm. The area was beautiful and we found everything easily.
We then came back to the hotel and rested till the restaurant opened and had a very nice meal with good beer to wash it down. We went to bed early since the trip in all the traffic wore us out.
The next morning we had breakfast there in the hotel which was the typical breakfast found in most Gasthauses, probably a little better than most. We had our first factory visit at King-Werks scheduled for 9am. I had been communicating with Johannes Gueenster via email and had already made an inventory purchase with him but he was at Oktoberfest in Munchen that week so we met with his sister Magda who is an owner along with her brother. She spoke English quite well which was lucky for us and gave a great informative tour. I thought we might have gotten out to a bad start because at the front door my wife had stepped in some dogs business unknowingly and tracked it in the office area, but all was forgiven I guess.
It’s very impressive seeing in person all that is required to put out a genuine handcrafted, hand painted stein. Check out our article on the manufacturing process to see how they are made. . My wife was amazed and thought steins weren’t expensive enough after seeing how they were made. When I made my initial order my wife had seen one stein she thought was ugly but when she seen that same stein in person the commented how cute it was. Someone else I had shown some steins to that had never seen then except in a picture commented how pictures don’t do them justice. That gave me an idea so I will some have videos on my site of the various steins in my inventory.

Our next stop was in Hillscheid just two miles away and the home of Zoller & born. The tour there was like the one we received from King-Werks and just as impressive. The manufacturing process is the same with the factory just laid out with slight difference in floor plans.

That left us the afternoon to go drive down the banks of the Rhine to look for the numerous castles in the area. The weather was a little misty but still a nice day to see the sites. We went back to the hotel early to eat dinner and get rest for the next day since we would have to leave the Hotel by 4am to get to the Frankfort airport by 5:30 am for our trip back to London.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Day 4 of Our Germany Visit

On day 4 we started out after breakfast and headed south towards Austria. It isn't exactly on the way to Triberg but my wife was determined that we had to go into Austria and Switzerland so she could say she was there. I made sure there wasn't a lot of extra driving by just catching a little of each country.
If you go there from Germany make sure you get decals for your window for each of those countries since they are required and not too cheap either. The one for Switzerland was the more expensive one. It was a pleasant drive and my wife got to relearn a standard shift again.
I don't want to accuse her of driving fast since I didn’t really look at the speedometer but after we got home I mentioned that 130 kph was about 80 mph and then she asked what 170 kph was. It wasn't all that bad because even at that speed she was passed by motorcycles.
We stopped in Switzerland for lunch at a nice place out away from town and had a nice lunch but we did learn that Switzerland isn't on the Euro system, good thing for master card.
We then drove more into the mountains on our way to Triberg. Triberg is a town nestled in a valley and has the country’s highest waterfall. We had been there once before because it is also known for Cuckoo clocks. That first trip we ended up buying 4 of them.
When we got to Triberg it was raining and we had a hard time finding a place to stay. We finally spotted a nice place across the valley but it took us awhile to find out how to get to it. Finally we seen a sign and followed it. It turned out to be a Best Western and had a restaurant there so we didn't have to go back out in the rain again.
Dinner was nice but it's the first time I seen my wife get high off of desert. She had ice cream with cherries and Egg type of alcohol. By the time she got to the bottom of the bowl she was warmed up.
The next morning we started the walk up the waterfall, not my idea but I was dragged into it by my better half. There are numerous trails that can be taken with different degrees difficulties. I chose the easy one and still I gave up about halfway up.
After that we checked out the Cuckoo clocks from the place we had used years ago. She did buy a few things there for gifts back home. We left there to continue our trip to Hoehr-Grenzhausen and Hillscheid, little villages located on the west side of the Rhine river near Frankfurt Germany where the stein factories are located that we came to visit. 

Day Number 3 in Germany

The third day of our trip started out after breakfast with a short walk down to the Bahnhof to get our approximately 45 minute S-Bahn ride into Munich. We arrived at  main train station which was pretty centrally located to the places we wanted to go. We wanted to go to the Oktoberfest fairgrounds first and it was about 10am opening time. It was a short walk (maybe about 5 to 7 blocks) and being a Monday Morning it wasn’t crowded yet. 
There are lots of rides there that I’m not even sure would be allowed here in the states. We’re both a little old for rides so we walked around and gazed at everything. There was food of all sorts there and everywhere you looked. The Beer halls probably numbered around 12 with about 4 or 5 of them large enough to hold 8,000 people. If you want to sit at one of the tables I hope you reserved one about two years ago.

We walked around and then found an outdoor place to eat that had seating room. We both had a beer of course and I had my Weiswurst and Sauerkraut and she ordered a pretzel so between the two of us we had the typical Bavarian Breakfast and we had it before noon. We walked around a little longer and then decided to go find the Hofbrauhaus which was about as far on the other side of the train station as the fairgrounds on this side.
We were seated with other people at a bench style seating and ordered our beers. My wife had to go use the ladies room so she pointed at something on the German menu we had and said to order that for her. The waitress then came back and I gave her our selections and then she asked if we would prefer a menu in English. I knew pretty much what I had ordered but I looked at the English version anyway hoping my wife had ordered something like Pig’s Feet but she lucked out.
We walked around the downtown area a little while and then headed back for the S-Bahn back to Altomunster. I think it was on the way back that we did have to change trains but that wasn’t too difficult. When we got back we weren’t real hungry but we did want to eat something to keep from having to leave our hotel again. My wife just ordered some bread and cheese and I found a section on the Menu which said for the kleinen Hunger. When the meal was brought to be there was a pile of sauerkraut and four long sausages on the plate. I asked the waitress if this is what they consider Keiner appetite and all she said was that in Bavaria we eat
We went to bed early since we now knew we would get a serenade from the church bells at 6 am so we might as well plan on getting an early start the next morning

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2nd Day In Germany

Our second day after a nice breakfast we started driving east towards Munich. It was the first weekend of Oktoberfest and luckily about two months prior I had booked a room in a town called Altomunster. Even two months prior it was the last room they had and Altomunster is all the way on the end of one of the S-Bahn lines. It took us about 2 ½ hours of driving time to get there.

It was around Lunch time when we got to the Brauereigasthof Maierbrau so we ate there. The food was great and the beer also as good since they brew some of the beer right next door in the attached Brewery building. After lunch we checked in and were told our room was on the second floor. One thing about that I want to mention is that it seems in Germany if you're told you have a first floor room they don't count the floor you entered on, so the first floor room is actually up a flight of stairs. That put our second floor room up two flights. The room was large and nice. My wife decided she was ready for a nap so I started exploring on my own.

I found the S-Bahn just two blocks away so it was very convenient for our trip to Munich the next day. I did get back into the car to find a church we could go to later that day. When I got back from the drive my wife was awake and I had to reproduce my drive and show her the church that I had found. We stopped at the Bahnhof on the way back to see what the cost would be and to get our tickets for the next day. We had trouble figuring out the ticket machine so I saw about 4 train workers over by the rail and ask if any spoke English. Luckily one did and he was very nice and came over to help us. We found out that two one day round trip tickets would actually cost more than a one day family pass. The family pass is good for up to 3 adults and 2 children (perfect for 2 to 3 adults and/or 2 children). We then parked the car back at the Gasthof and started a leisurely walk around the village stopping for a pizza for dinner. After we got back to the Gasthof we had our desert. 
We had a goodnights sleep but at 6am the church right across the square started ringing its very loud bell. I was greatly relieved when I heard the sixth ring and though I could go back to sleep, but no nothing goes as planned because as the big bell stopped a smaller bell started in for the next 5 minutes.
At Breakfast I asked the waitress what the purpose of the second bell was for and she said that there are some people that stay at the church and it was to wake them up. Did they ever hear of someone walking down the hall and yelling "WAKE UP", besides if the big bell didn't wake them what was the little bell going to do.
Well enough of day two.

Our First Day in Germany

The first day in Germany we left from London and arrived in Frankfurt around 9:30 am. By the time we got our luggage and found the car rental it was probably 11:30. The first day we had planned on going and visiting my cousin that I haven’t seen since I was 13.
We drove to a little village in south Germany called Claw which is SE of Stuttgart and got there a little late due to construction on almost every motorway we went on. My cousin had lunch for us and the table was all decorated and had tons of food on it. If they had come to our house the food probably would have been on the stove top and self-serve. We had great food and my second cousin was there to translate for us. I know I’m German and should speak the language but my German is very bad.

About an hour and a half later she said she had a light snack for us. By light she meant a pie and two cakes. A thousand calories a slice type cakes. Then another hour went by and she asked if we would be ready for dinner at 5. It’s a good thing we were only there that one day. We excused ourselves to go check into a small Gasthaus for the night and returned at 6 for a meal of salad, sandwiches and more deserts.
They showed us some pictures of different things around there and one was a picture of a large roasted pig. I asked where they found a place to roast something that large and was told that almost every village had an outdoor oven that was available for anyone in the town to use. While at the Gasthaus I looked out back and seen two outdoor ovens that must have been for that purpose.
The next morning we had breakfast which is included at almost every Gasthaus consisting of boiled eggs, meats, breads, fruit and cereals. All in all it was a pleasant visit and got to meet some relatives I haven’t seen for 50 years. We got some rest that night and traveled to a town NW of Munchen called Altomunster to go to Oktoberfest the next day.