My bi yearly trip to Bavaria to visit my friends Hedi and Franz Muller and their family, has come and gone all too quickly. I flew out for a 4 day trip and as usual we packed a lot in those four days. And I can never go to Bavaria without a visit to the Opera on Lake Constance in Bregenz, over the border in Austria.
This year it was Mozart's Magic Flute and was as spectacular as the Andre Chennin opera about the French Revolution, that I saw two years ago. It was full of the weird and wonderful, set on a surreal stage with colourful, fairy-tale-like and out of this world images that you would normally only see with the help of medical assistance.
For this visit, we didn't book tickets as it was sold out weeks before, but Hedi and I went anyway and on the night managed to track down a ticket tout who we paid a little over the ticket asking price but economic enough not to break the bank.
A scene from the Magic Flute: the lake itself is used as part of the set with many scenes floating past the audience to the main stage.
an opening scene of the Magic Flute
a scene from the Magic Flute
Singing high: one of the best sopranos I've heard.
A piece of stage scenery pops up on the skyline backstage before the start of the opera
the arena on the Bodensee (Lake Constance)
The Bodensee shoreline in Bregenz, Austria
While in Bavaria, I especially wanted to visit Munich. So Hedi and her daughter Sabine along with Sabine's boyfriend Marcus and myself, spent the Sunday on a day trip to the old part of the city.
The fountains at the gates to Munich's old town
Sabine, Hedi and Marcus
The centre of Old Munich in Marianplatz Square, dominated by the Gothic Rathaus or town hall.
the Rathaus clock tower
detail of the clock house figures
The gates to Munich's old town
No visit to Munich would be complete without a visit to the Hofbrauhaus to taste the wonderful and unique white sausage, the weis wirst and traditional beer. They looked disgusting. Their white, poached presentation looking as unappetising as it was possible to be, and with our English eyes used to our darker shade of brown, chargrilled sausages with crispy skins this didn't auger well. But these 'whities' were delicious and very tasty once you've peeled off the outer skin. The taste is especially good when the sausage is dunked in mustard, accompanied with a salty pretzel and washed down with the all important Weis (white traditional ) beer.
taking the plunge: the white sausage in the Hofbrauhaus in Munich
the weis beer
Hedi, Sabine and Marcus and myself in the Hofbrauhaus. Just as well we travelled by train that day!
The tower in Marianplatz in Munich' s old town. Germany has the cleanest buildings and streets I've ever seen, with the exception of Switzerland.
inner courtyard of the Marianplatz Rathaus.
traditional Lederhosen still worn by many Bavarians, even on a guided cycle tour of the city.
The street artists perform in Marianplatz when the sun comes out
The traditional felt hat
bike park in Munich
A heavy shower in Munich doesn't stop this street seller trying to drum up customers as well as being a contender for the wet hosen competition!
We visited a church in Munich whose interior was adorned with live trees, a celebration of life and growth.
The church full of trees with paper birds' flying' across the ornate interior
The Hofbrauhaus and street in Munich's old town
Aside from spending the Sunday in Munich, Hedi took me on a tour of the little towns and villages around Haslach near where they live.
the interior of the cabinet room in the Ravensburg Rathaus
narrow alleyway in Ravensburg
the old flour mill tower in Ravensburg
my love of old historic photos drew me to this picture of the Ravensburg flour mill tower as it used to be when we visited the Ravensburg museum.
A street in Wangen, the nearest town to Hedi and Franz' village of Haslach
Hedi's nearest town, the delightful Wangen not far away is full of creative surprises
round every corner.
'I was standing on a noisy corner,
waiting for the walking green,
Across the street, he stood
and he played real good
on his clarinet, for free'
(Joni Mitchell: For Free: Ladies of the Canyon album) street artist in Ravensburg.
Another tour to Friedrichshafen on the shores of Lake Constance was another interesting trip as it also houses the Zeppelin museum, with its life size replica of the inside of the famous Hindenburg, the fateful airship that sadly, within seconds, went up in flames when it tried to land in New York.
The viewing tower in Friedrichshafen overlooking Lake Constance
The life size mock up of a section of the Hindenburg. You enter by the steps seen in the bottom centre and enter the cabin passenger area of the passenger deck and is surprisingly large inside
Meet the Mullers...
Whenever I visit Bavaria, the most important reason for the visit is to catch up my friends Hedi and Franz who I met on my European cycle trip when I stopped for a beer in the square in Bologna in Italy. After meeting up again a few days later in Florence, we stayed in touch and have been firm friends ever since, visiting each other in our respective countries every alternate year.
I love meeting her ever burgeoning family and since I visited them two years ago, there has been an addition to the Muller family, with the birth of little Lucas to Hedi's son, Andreas and his wife,Tanya. And of course I also love to see the two Great Grandmothers, Franz's mother, Elizabeth and Hedi's mother, Maria.
Hedi and Franz having fun with their first grandchild, Anna who was only a small baby the last time I saw her.
Elizabeth, Franz' mother
Anna Muller growing up fast.
A wistful Anna
Hedi cooing over her new grandson, Lucas in his traditional Bavarian cot.
Mum Tanya with Lucas
Hedi's other granddaughter, the spirited, ebullient and characterful, Maximilliana, with her first love, her pony, Cossini.
Maxi, already an expert and confident rider.........
.......unlike Hedi, who hasn't quite got the same confidence and as a first time rider is led by her strong willed granddaughter....
......much to the amusement of Maxi
Hedi, with her youngest daughter, (also called Tanya) and her daughter, Maxi
while Lucas sleeps on.
Tanya and Maxi
Hedi's eldest daughter, Sabine (who visited me in England last year with Hedi) with her partner, Marcus
A great fun time with the Mullers. However, it hasn't been all good. Just before I set out for my trip, I had an email from Hedi saying that they had had a fire in their factory and that most of the machinery and equipment had gone and fire had gutted the inside of the building.
The Mullers factory where they make doors and flooring and is directly opposite their own house in their village of Haslach.
After their initial devastation at the news, (it happened over a weekend) and grateful that no one was hurt, they have picked themselves up and are in the process of replacing what they can, to get back to full service again. But it was devastating for me to see the gutted insides of something that Franz and Hedi had worked hard at and built up all their married lives. Andrea and Tanya live in a house joined directly onto the building at the back of the factory, so the consequences, if the fire had gone unchecked, could have been dreadful.
the inside of the gutted factory and where the fire started.
But the Mullers are never ones to let something bring them down and after dusting themselves off, they reverted to their capacity to enjoy life and while I was there we spent an afternoon at a small community concert where Franz could immerse himself in one of his favourite passions, harmonica playing. However, this was a concert with a difference as the star guest was Renee Giesson, the world famous harmonica player whose haunting sounds are recognised if you have ever listened or seen the many great Western cowboy films of the Clint Eastwood era. He gave them a free concert and a workshop on the day, as he was born and brought up in a village nearby. He fits this appearance in once a year, in between jetting around the world playing concerts or recording film scores.
Franz practising at home before his big day playing alongside Renee Giesson.
and helping Hedi to practise before the workshop
Renee Giesson, the world famous harmonica player
Renee Giesson playing his very distinctive and haunting sounding harmonica
The Harp Devils Harmonica players at the concert in Isny village
Franz playing with his Devil colleagues
and speaking of Westerns.. a 'bullet belt' of harmonicas
...and I'm in competition with the Bavarian paparazzi, (takes me back a bit! ) recording and
reporting the occasion for the local paper but looking distinctly French !
Meanwhile, Renee Giesson leads a harmonica workshop for the locals
Renee Giesson leading the harmonica workshop for the locals at the outdoor concert in Isny
Hedi having a go at the workshop and encouraged by Franz, she now wants to take it up as
her new hobby.
harmonica workshop in Isny
One workshop player looking a bit unsure
but everyone has a good time regardless.
The Indian restaurant in the tiny village of Isny near Haslach
During Hedi and Sabine's visit to England last year, (their first) I introduced them to Indian food which they devoured greedily and thoroughly enjoyed, as they had never tasted curries before. When they saw my incredulous look as they told me it was because there were no Indian restaurants in Germany, and I must admit, I, myself have never seen any. ....it was quite a surprise when I went to the tiny village of Isny to see Franz and Hedi at the harmonica festival because there, in front of me, was the only Indian restaurant I have ever seen in Germany ! The Mullers had never seen it either.
I always enjoy going to Bavaria to meet up with the Hedi and Franz, touring around the different locations to see the beautiful scenery and meeting all her extended family, which seems to grow by the year! But the thing I remember most and is most precious to me is the evening we spent after downing a few schnapps, and correcting each other on our adopted languages, we fell about about laughing when we practised different intonations of the same phrases. The one thing Hedi and I always do is laugh! Oh! we've had a good few evenings chuckling away. And not forgetting Franz, who despite not speaking a word of English, except the phrase....' I love you' , which he says to me every time we meet and cracks me up, always manages somehow to communicate and have a laugh. The three of us spending one late, enjoyable evening with Franz playing his harmonica and Hedi and I singing along. Normally I keep my singing out loud strictly to times when travelling solo in the middle of nowhere on my bike, where I know nobody can hear me. So anyone listening to me singing along to Obla di Obla da was a sure laugh.
But I can't finish a travel blog without the funnies. They are everywhere you go and here are a few I saw on this latest trip.
traditional dirndl dress with matching handbag !!
Hedi with a dirndl in Friedrichshafen
And I can tell you, this is the closest I will ever get to wearing one!
'How much is that piggy in the window' an interesting window display in Ravensburg
mmm says the dog, ' perhaps the only way I get through this is with a schnapps'
Scenes and landscapes of Hedi's village of Haslach near Lake Constance in southern Bavaria
the local restaurant in Haslach.
the landscape of Haslach and the view from Hedi and Franz' house.
and still little Lucas sleeps on
A modern Zeppelin airship taking tourists on a flight across the Bodensee
(c)copyright Deborah Anne Brady September 2014