Tag: Passau

Passau: Bavaria’s Most Charming Christmas Market And Meeting Adventurous Kate

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Passau Christmas Market

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful time with family, friends, amazing food and presents!

After spending a truly stunning Christmas with my family in the Swiss Alps last year, I enjoyed a much quieter celebration in Hamburg with my Schnucki’s family this time around.

We had a feast on Christmas Eve (this is when Germans celebrate Christmas) and we ate German style Raclette, which is where you prepare ingredients like vegetables and cheese and cook them yourself on tiny pans on a table top grill. The portion sizes are so small that you can potentially eat forever without realising how much you’ve actually eaten! (Our bellies afterwards told us otherwise).

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Handmade candle stalls

To honour my second Christmas in Europe, I wanted to show you my absolute favourite German Christmas market which of course is the one in Passau, where I live at the moment!

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Glühwein stalls with every flavour you can imagine

The Passau Christmas market is held every year for a month from the 24th November to 24th December. The whole city’s streets are decked out with fairy lights leading up to the event and real Christmas trees are put up on every street corner (and I mean literally every corner!)

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Laser cut wood decorations (I snagged a mini version of the Stephansdom one on the left)

Nobody does Christmas like the Germans – they are so good at making a magical atmosphere! Every stall is bursting with handmade wooden crafts, hand knitted scarves, gloves, hats and food…A LOT of food. (Nutella crêpes, German gingerbread and Chinese noodles included!)

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Cute little handmade snowfolk

And of course there is the Glühwein (hot mulled wine) and alcohol free Kinderpunsch (kid’s punch) in every flavour. My favourite was probably the berry Glühwein, but you can also get white Glühwein (which I still haven’t tried). Every stall has their own signature drink with different variations and spices, and it takes a few goes to find the best ones!

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The Simon stall – a famous confectionary shop and cafe in Passau

While the Christmas market was on in December, I also had the opportunity to meet and hang out with Adventurous Kate, who is a famous travel blogger on Instagram. She has been travelling the world as her job for over six years now, and she was one of the first travel bloggers to get really popular online and have a big following.

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Chocolate covered physalis, raspberries and other fruit

Kate was in Munich for a conference and then visiting Bavarian Christmas markets for German Tourism when she posted a photo of herself at the Passau Christmas market.

I was so surprised at seeing her in Passau (a lot of Germans don’t even know where Passau is, let alone American travel bloggers) that I commented on the photo half jokingly that we should have met up for a Glühwein, since I live in Passau right near St. Stephan’s Cathedral. And lo and behold, she commented back saying that she had free time the next day if we wanted to meet up!

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Residenzplatz and St. Stephan’s Cathedral

So I met up with her in front of St. Stephan’s the next day (it’s a strange feeling trying to spot someone that you’ve only ever seen in photos) and I took her to my favourite retro style café close by called Schöffberger. Kate was a super friendly and extroverted person, and we chatted about travels, her life in New York and even some American politics over cake and hot drinks.

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Schokokuss (Chocokiss) sweets with a sweet marshmellow like centre covered in chocolate

After afternoon tea, we perused the Christmas market together and Kate bought some souvenirs and Christmas presents for her family and friends. We walked back along the Ludwigstraße and finally had our promised Glühwein together before saying our good byes.

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Christmas trees in front of Neues Residenz

All in all it was a very spontaneous meeting, but a really fun one! It was great to hear about Kate’s amazing travels and what it’s really like to live a nomadic lifestyle. She also wrote a Bavarian Christmas Market post on her blog about the markets she visited, including the Passau one!

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The half metre Bratwurst – a famous Christmas market delicacy

One of the most famous Christmas market eats might just be the half metre Bratwurst, which is as you guessed, a 50cm long sausage in a bun lathered in mustard or tomato sauce. You may not want to get one of these when it’s really crowded though, because you’ll be prone to hitting someone with it! (Get your mind out of the gutter please).

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My blue Passau Glühwein mug

Another famous treat of the Christmas markets are the unique Glühwein mugs that have different shapes and designs in every town and city. You pay an extra Pfand (bond) whenever you buy a Glühwein or Kinderpunsch (usually 2 Euros) and you get the money back if you return the mug to the stall, or you can keep the mug and forgo the coins.

I’ve collected the different coloured designs of the Passau mugs over the last two years and I have six in total so far!

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The Passau Christmas market crowds at night

I’m always sad to see the Christmas markets go once we hit the new year, but I know that they’ll be back again before we know it!

 


So, did you love the Passau Christmas market as much as I did?

What are the Christmas markets like in your country?


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Amy’s Art: Kimono Cat Collection – The Passau Kunstnacht Exhibition

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Kimono Cat Collection

It was Kimono Day in Japan yesterday (November 15th), so I thought the perfect way to celebrate the occasion is by finally posting about my Kimono Cat Collection exhibition!

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Fukunae, Tsubasa, Ageha and Tama

The Kunstnacht (Art Night) here in Passau is on in midsummer every year and it is arguably the biggest event on the social calender. Every art gallery and atelier in the Altstadt throws open their doors to the public and the majority of the townspeople turn up; crowding the streets, perusing art, wine-ing, dining and having a great time.

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Fukunae and Tsubasa

I attended the event for the first time last year, and I was absolutely blown away with the lively atmosphere and the sheer number of galleries that were usually hidden behind closed doors and crooked alleyways lit up and shining like gems in the night.

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Tsubasa and Ageha

The local schools were also open with music concerts and refreshment stations and the bars had ministands along the streets offering food and cocktails. I was so awestruck with this one night wonder that I vowed to be a part of it the next year if I still happened to be living in Passau.

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Ageha and Tama

So fast forward to July of this year: I was still in Passau and I was still determined to be a part of the Kunstnacht. I sent the organisation messages to plead my case months beforehand, along with photos of my Kimono Cats but I received no answers in return. I was busy with work at the time and I hadn’t finished my latest Maiko cat anyway, so I eventually lost hope and left the matter alone.

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My cute little gallery room (if you squint you can just see my cats!)

The day of Kunstnacht rolled around and I was at work about to finish my shift when my Schnucki came bursting in, saying that he had called one of the organisers for me and that they still had an empty space that they needed to fill. The meeting with the room owner was in an hour and he asked me if I wanted to take it: I said yes, of course!

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My three goauche paintings – ‘Himawari’, ‘Haru’ and ‘Bouquet’

We promptly went to meet the owner and his room – it was a pretty little thing that had just finished its renovation that day. It was so new that the owner didn’t want to put holes in the walls by hanging the other artists’ paintings, so they were all propped up against the walls around the room. The centre of the room was empty, so we carried an old garden table up from the backyard to put in the middle of the room, as the centerpiece for my cats.

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Watercolour and ink ‘Heian I’

After meeting with the owner I was in full panic mode – I had to get ready for this exhibiton within a few hours and I had no idea where to start. I rushed off to buy some much needed supplies like the matching white frames for my paintings which also happened to be on sale (lucky!).

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‘Heian II’

Once I got home, I was on triple speed trying to get everything ready. I carefully wrapped up my cats up in white stuffing that I had just bought and loaded them into a box, praying that they wouldn’t break. Then I had to make and print out short explanations about the cats (that I never ended up using) and business cards. I left total destruction in my wake, my room looking like a bombsite afterwards.

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After getting ready I headed off with my laptop (so I could put on some music in the gallery) and clutched my box of cats for dear life as I walked, knowing one wrong move could damage everything. I got to the gallery early and set everything up (my cats were safe and sound, thank goodness) and then I could finally breathe a sigh of relief, sit down and enjoy the night.

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A lot of people came in throughout the night and my cats were a hit – making people laugh and there were comments about Pokémon more than once. To my delight, children were also enthralled with my cats and there were even some offers to buy them from the adults.

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All in all it was a fantastic night and a real dream come true for me. I am eternally grateful to my Schnucki for making this opportunity for me possible and I hope that I can take part in another exhibition soon!

 


So, did you enjoy my impromptu exhibition? Which one was your favourite piece?

This night was a dream come true for me!


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Germany: One Year On

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Nürnberg old town

It’s strange to think that I’ve been living in Germany for more than a year now. I feel like this time has flown by in the blink of an eye! But my initial reaction to the country still hasn’t changed – I really love living here and the Germans make life so easy.

Here are some German situations that I don’t even bat an eyelid at anymore:

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Cologne Cathedral

Open invitations

Something that constantly surprised me at the start (and I admit, it still sometimes does) is that I got invited to everything. I must have been used to people being more exclusive and ‘invite only’ with their gatherings, because I found that Germans were the complete opposite – so warm and welcoming.

Dinners, barbecues, birthday parties of a friend-of-a-friend’s, it didn’t matter; I was invited along to them all. Even if the person that invited me was the only person I knew there and I felt like I was gate-crashing the event.

It didn’t even matter that I couldn’t speak German – time and time again I found that the whole group at the gathering would completely switch to English for me, even when talking amongst themselves. I was baffled. And totally charmed. Way to go Germany for making the Hobbit in the room feel completely welcome!

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Lüneburg

Street harassment…or lack thereof

One of the very best things that I have experienced since being in Germany is the lack of street harassment.

The pure joy I feel every day at being able to walk the streets day or night and not be whistled at, honked at, catcalled out of car windows or shouted at by leering men passing by is so damn great. And literally all of these things are what I had to endure on a daily basis even just walking down my own street back home. But this surprises no woman – we have all been through this and continue to go through this public victimisation regularly.

Of course, bigger cities in Germany may be a different story, but this is from my personal experience living in a small Bavarian city. It’s so nice to know that in some places, everyone can be left alone to walk, run and bike in peace.

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Old town of Heidelberg

Jeans are the uniform

If you don’t know what to wear, put on your jeans and you’ll fit right in. This is what I would have told myself a year ago when I was fretting about what to wear to a birthday party that I’d been invited to out of the blue.

In Germany, jeans are the uniform. I don’t think I’d ever seen so many people in jeans until I came here! I would say that everyone dresses in a very practical manner. If it’s winter, you wear jeans and a jacket and if it’s summer, you wear jeans and a T-shirt.

You’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you go out in shorts when it’s only (gasp) 20 degrees…this is from experience. (Although I’d be in shorts even at 15 degrees back in NZ).

I’ve also always been used to dressing up when going out, even just to have a drink at the bar, but here, there is no such unwritten social rule. So jeans and a T-shirt to the bar it is – and I ain’t complaining!

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Oktoberfest in Munich

The customer service is so bad that it’s good

It’s always been said the Japanese and Germans get along well because they have some cultural norms in common, but boy, customer service is not one of them!

If you walk into a shop and get a greeting from the shop person, that’s a good sign, but the majority of the time you will be ignored, or grudgingly served like it is the last thing that they want to do. I’ve been in places where the shop assistants are openly chatting across the shop to each other and ignoring customers. A friend once said to me that his bank bluntly told him that there is no customer service there.

This would normally be regarded as a bad thing…but as an introvert, I absolutely love it.

I’ve always just really hated being spoken to in shops. The worst case scenario was when clothes shop assistants would follow me to the changing rooms and call through my door asking if they should bring another size…and I cringed every time. But here, I’m left totally alone to do my own thing, at my own pace, without the weird pressure they put on you to buy something. It’s a godsend, I tell you.

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The old post tower in Hamburg

Supermarket Master Packer (SMP) status

I never realised that the bag packers at supermarket checkouts were a luxury…until I came here and saw that no such job description exists.

When you’re at a German supermarket, you have to have a plan of attack before you go to the checkout because this is war…a war between you and the checkout operator.

They zap your groceries through as fast as greased lightning and if you’re not ready to bag your items just as quickly on the other side, you lose the fight and hold all of the next customers up, your groceries mixing up with theirs. I know, I’ve been there. The horrors. So here’s what you do:

  1. Load your groceries onto the conveyor belt. Make sure your heavy items go first and your fragile, easily squished items like tomatoes and bread goes last.
  2. Get your fabric tote bags ready and open (come on, you’re not paying extra for plastic bags).
  3. Have your wallet at the ready. Preferably nestled under your armpit for quick access.
  4. Start bagging your items as soon as they get zapped, alternating items between your bags so they will each end up with an even load. (You’ll gain a few extra seconds every time the checkout operator has to weigh your vegetables/fruit and look up the price of the bread you’re getting).
  5. Pay quickly with cash (and not all with small change).
  6. Smile, wish them a good day and walk away with your finely packed groceries and know that the battle has been won. (A big explosion goes off behind you and you keep walking in slow motion without looking back).

 

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Europe’s largest Buddhist temple in Düsseldorf

What do I miss?

As I’ve mentioned before, the one thing I’ve really missed since living in Europe is good (and affordable) Japanese food. And Indian food. And Thai food. And Vietnamese and Korean and Chinese food.

I’ve found that a lot of Asian cuisines tend to get lumped together here, under the umbrella term of ‘Asian Fusion’.  And even then, it’s usually just low quality Chinese food with some Thai curry options and a side of suspicious sushi. If you’re lucky enough to find a proper Japanese restaurant with real Japanese cooks, it’s likely to be upmarket and very expensive. (Unless you go to Düsseldorf. Yes please!)

I just really, really miss these different cuisines! Of course bigger cities will have more authentic Asian restaurants with reasonable prices, but there’s not much hope out here in the smaller ones. It makes me realise how spoilt for choice we are in New Zealand with our melting pot of different eateries on every street corner!

 


So, did you like my post about some of my German experiences?

Any other expats got something to add to the list? Let me know!


 

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Passau: The Great Sights

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Passau coat of arms – The Passau Wolf

As I’ve mentioned before in an earlier post, Passau is a beautiful Bavarian city in Germany where I’m living at the moment. The town is known as the Dreiflüssestadt or The City of Three Rivers because it is located at the meeting point of the Donau, Ilz and Inn. So without further ado, let me take you on a tour of the great sights of Passau!

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Stephansdom

St. Stephan’s Cathedral or Stephansdom is Passau’s most famous icon and stands at the highest point of the old town. In 1662 the cathedral was burnt down in The Great Fire and was then rebuilt in Baroque style by Italian architect Carlo Lurago.

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Europe’s largest cathedral organ

The Stephansdom is also home to Europe’s largest cathedral organ, which is made with over 17,000 organ pipes! There is a organ concert every day at midday, which I still need to go and see.

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Neue Residenz

Next to the Stephansdom is the New Residence building (completed in 1730) which served as the palace of the prince bishops. The building was connected to Stephansdom, allowing the bishop to walk from his apartment right into the cathedral.

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Rathaus

The Passau Rathaus or Town Hall stands next to the Donau river and was built in neo-Gothic style in 1892. The square in front of the town hall (Rathausplatz) used to be a fish market.

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Höllgasse

From the Rathausplatz runs the famous street Höllgasse, also known as the Art Alley. The cobblestones are painted red and white and lead you to local artists’ galleries and workshops.

The Höllgasse also intersects with the Kleine Messergasse or Little Knife Alley which commemorates the craft of bladesmith, which was native to Passau. Daggers and swords branded with the Passau Wolf were renowned for its fine quality until the 18th century.

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St. Paul’s church

St. Paul’s church was also built in Baroque style and stands next to the Paulusbogan or Arch of Paul, which is the oldest of the five extant gates into the city.

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The fortress Veste Oberhaus was built in 1219 by the Prince Bishops of Passau so that they could control commerce across the rivers. Today it is a large museum, youth hostel and restaurant with an amazing view over the city.

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View of Stephansdom and the Inn from Veste Oberhaus

The Veste Oberhaus museum showcases a lot of exhibits, one of them is called ‘White Gold’ and shows Passau’s position as the most important salt trading city in the Bavarian region in olden times.

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The pilgrimage church of Mariahilf

Opposite the Veste Oberhaus in the Innstadt is the Mariahilf monastery (1627). The Pilgrims’ Stairs lead up to the Mariahilf, where pilgrims pray as they climb the 321 steps to the top. The pilgrimage church of Mariahilf became famous throughout Germany in 1683 after Emperor Leopold the First prayed there for victory over Turkish forces who had besieged Vienna.

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View over the Inn, Stephansdom and Veste Oberhaus from Mariahilf

Aside from all of the historic buildings and views, Passau is also famous for its university. Out of the Passau town population of around 50,000, about 11,000 of them are students at the University of Passau. The university is most well known for its Computer Science, Law and Cultural Studies departments.

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University of Passau

 


So, did you enjoy the grand tour of Passau?

Is this somewhere you would like to visit?


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Passau: I’m in Love With My New Home Town

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St. Stephan’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) and the river Inn

It’s a funny thing in life that once you get what you wanted for so long, you immediately start wanting what you lost.

After living smack bang in the middle of New Zealand’s biggest and busiest city last year, (I thought I had wanted life in the fast lane…how stupid that idea turned out to be!) I was craving to put my home base down somewhere a little more easy going and peaceful this year. Somewhere a little more ‘me’. Oh, and I got it so right this time.

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Looking out over Passau and the Donau river

Passau is a small city in the lower region of Bavaria, Germany. It is known as ‘The City of Three Rivers’ because it is the point where the Donau river meets the Inn from the south and the river Ilz from the north. The town is right on the border to Austria – you can literally walk across a bridge over the Inn and end up in Austria.

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Cruise boat going along the Inn

But all you really need to know is that Passau is beautiful. Like, how-can-a-place-like-this-still-exist-in-modern-times kind of beautiful. The historic buildings are grand and well maintained, and all of the houses are a candy box of different colours – no house is the same shade.

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Typical Passau houses

The cobblestone streets are narrow and wind through the Altstadt (old town) and it is a pleasure to meander through the streets and marvel at the buildings and quaint shops. It really looks like an elaborate movie set for a fairy tale story.

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Kleine Messergasse

Needless to say, I’ve fallen head over heels for Passau already. I adore the town, the location and most of all I love the peaceful, easy going atmosphere which is like sweet honey for the soul.

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Cherry Blossoms along the Inn

You know that feeling you get when you just know in your bones that you’re finally where you’re supposed to be? Well, that’s how I feel about living here. I already know that Passau and I are going to get along just fine.

And don’t worry, you’ll be hearing a lot more about Passau from me!

 


Has anyone heard of or been to Passau before? What did you think?


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