It’s been a while since my last blog post as not much transpired before the Easter holidays. One week there was an intense storm and the school was struck by lightning which caused some damage to the water pipes, so school was closed down for two days.
During the last week of school my mum arrived in Munich from Australia as we had planned a small trip in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. So I spent the entirety of that Wednesday travelling to Munich Airport and then back to Erlangen.
One of my colleagues had offered to accommodate my mum for a few days, so she got to see a bit of the town that’s been my home since last September. On Friday, Jo and I took her to a very traditional Franconian restaurant called Alter Simpl for the excellent food and local beer.
On Saturday we left for Munich where we got tickets for the Hop On Hop Off bus tour and got off to explore the Nymphenburg Palace which was actually much smaller than I had expected. That night we dined at a modern Asian fusion place called Le Du, one of the rare places you can get Chinese-style dumplings in Germany. The menu and food were quite interesting, and customers can select four items from the menu for a fixed price of 23.40 Euros, which is a little pricey.
Over the next couple of days, my mum dragged me to a couple of art galleries: Brandhorst and Pinakothek der Moderne, we explored the English Garden, the largest city park in the world and I tried the infamous white asparagus (normally served with hollandaise sauce, ham and boiled potatoes) for the first time at a very nice Italian restaurant called Storia.
On Tuesday, we caught a bus to Zürich from Munich. During check-in at Hotel St. Gotthard in Zürich, the hotel staff tried to scam us by suggesting that we pay extra for an upgrade but not making any changes even if we accepted the upgrade. I declined the offer in German to send them the message that I could understand everything they had said.
After this unfortunate experience, we had dinner at Zur Schtund, a quaint Swiss restaurant, where we enjoyed Flammkuchen and I had a Cremeschnitte (mille feuille) for dessert. Another highlight of Switzerland included a day trip to the beautiful city of Lucerne which included a scenic one hour cruise on the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne), a lake so clean and crystal clear you can drink from it.
Innsbruck in Austria was our next destination after the most cram-packed train ride I had ever experienced. Since everyone was travelling due to the Easter long weekend, every seat had been taken, so the aisles were overflowing with people, baggage and even dogs. We stayed in an apartment at Kaiser Max right in the center of the old town and a stone’s throw from the Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) and purchased the Innsbruck Card which includes the city bus tour as well as free admission to almost every tourist attraction.
The Tyrolean capital was one of the most beautiful cities we had visited so far since the high mountains which surround the cit are easily viewable from the city centre. At the restaurant Altstadtbeisl, I tried the regional specialty Gröstl, a hearty mix of fried potatoes, onions, bacon, beef and egg, and, for the second time, the rich Austrian dessert Sachertorte. Other highlights included taking the cable car up the Nordkette mountain range where numerous holidaying Austrians were equipped with mini skis called Firnbegleiter, visiting Ambras Castle which houses numerous medieval artefacts and partaking in a delicious and creamy veal goulash at the restaurant Ottoburg.
On Easter Sunday, we enjoyed a much more relaxed train ride to the city of Salzburg, the home of Sound of Music, Mozart and Mozart balls. Salzburg was perhaps even more beautiful than Innsbruck with the lovely Salzach river cutting through the old town and the Salzburg Fortress overlooking the city with the alps in the far distance.
Unfortunately, we didn’t do a Sound of Music tour but still got to see and do plenty, including enjoying braised pork cheek, white cabbage ravioli, Backhendl and Sachertorte at the excellent Hotel Sacher, trying the famous “Mozart Balls”, a confection consisting of pistachio marzipan and nougat covered in dark chocolate, by Fürst, seeing a concert in the Mirabell Palace and taking a cable car up to the massive Salzburg fortress. We also got free entry to the Stiegl Brauwelt, the local brewery, which is one of the lesser known breweries in the German-speaking world and whose beers are not particularly great (their Zwickl is okay, though), but it was an enjoyable attraction nonetheless.
On Wednesday we reached our final destination, Vienna, after a very scenic train ride which briefly entered Germany. It was my second visit to the Austrian capital; during my first visit some years ago I had been quite sick and was not able to enjoy it as much as I would have liked. Vienna was flooded with visitors; Schönbrunn Palace was absolutely inundated, and I have never seen so many tourists in my life in any city.
I also wanted to take my mum to the famous schnitzel restaurant, Figlmüller, which operates two separate establishments in the old town, but unfortunately both were booked out for lunch and dinner for the next two weeks, and the lines at the door were consistently enormous. Therefore, I settled on an authentic Wiener Schnitzel from a very old-fashioned restaurant called Puerstner.
Another highlight of Vienna was the Leopold Museum which houses the largest collection of works by Egon Schiele and a large collection of works by Klimt. We also took a day trip to the Wachau Valley which included a stop at the town of Dürnstein, then a long relaxing cruise from Krems to Melk on the Danube, and finally a tour of the grandiose Stift Melk, a Benedictine abbey still in operation.
On Saturday, my mum had to catch an early flight to Edinburgh, Scotland, and I took a long train back to Erlangen to finish the last month of my assistantship.
Once back Jo and I had dinner at the other super Franconian restaurant in Erlangen, Spezerei. It was definitely a touch friendlier and modern than Alter Simpl, and the food was fantastic. I naturally had the white asparagus (it’s in season!) which was only 13.50 Euros for 7 large stalks (incredibly good value) and tried an intense Franconian Schnaps called Hochmoorgeist which our waitress gladly set alight.
There are only four weeks to go of teaching, and once my contract ends I don’t really know what I’ll be doing; I have several options: (a) find a job here which is slightly complicated because Australia isn’t in the EU, (b) find a job in another country where they need English teachers, (c) do another assistantship, or (d) go back to Aus to do a Masters of Teaching. Ideally, I’d like to stay here in Germany, but we’ll see what happens.