Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would have fallen in love with Germany. It truly was never on my radar of must see places. So, why is that? I truly have no idea but thank goodness I have always been up for an adventure and ready to travel to any new destination. The recommendation actually came from a Dublin tour guide at Trinity College giving us an inside look at the Book of Kells. She raved about her Rhine Getaway on a Viking River Cruise. Immediately, I looked them up and began planning our next adventure. We traveled from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland along the enchanted Rhine. I was excited and eager to see the new sites but truly had no inkling how beautiful and mesmerizing Germany would be.
We had many stops along our journey throughout the cruise but I fell in love with Heidelberg. We went in late November (our anniversary time) and the Christmas markets where in every little town. I absolutely loved it. I mean it is like the Kentucky State Fair and Ham Festival (my home town festival), food, and crafts all in the spirit of good ole’ St. Nick or for some Grumpus. The smells of fresh bretzels (pretzels – I just taught you some German) Bratwurst, Kolch bier (beer – German Kolch has four ingredients only water, yeast, hops and barley), Gluhwein (spiced wine), and other delicacies were this country girls dream.
We started this day’s adventure docking in Heidelberg. It is a beautiful city along the river with its iconic red sandstone. The Old Town of Heidelberg starts from Sophienstrasse Street and brings you to Heidelberg castle. In the middle there is the Heidelberg University (the oldest university in Germany), the main shopping street (Hauptstrasse – this is where all the vendors were located at and the main Christmas decorations) and it includes to famous Karl-Theodor-Bridge|the Old bridge|the baboon bridge.
Several folks know of my love for National Lampoons Vacation with Chevy Chase. Do you remember in the Christmas vacation movie, Clark is drinking eggnog from his moose cups with Cousin Eddy? Now focus on the Christmas decorations – the windmill, wooden thing sitting on the sofa table. Eddy in all his glory attempts to spin the windmill and all of the wooden pieces fall down. Well did you know it is actually one of the first types of Christmas trees. This type of pyramid shape with the windmill on top was for a purpose. They would decorate the five levels with small wooden figurines and place candles on the outside. The smoke (rising heat) from the candles would cause the windmill to spin giving a carousel type of feel to the tree. When we saw this in Old Town Heidelberg, I immediately thought of Cousin Eddy and did not get too close to it for fear of destroying it..
We toured Heidelberg Castle which was nice and was even visited by our very own Mark Twain many years ago. The gardens were immaculate and the views over the city were breathtaking but what I loved most was the world’s largest vat of wine. Yes, the world’s largest at the castle nonetheless. Once, we went to Henry VIII’s Hampton Castle and I thought there was some cool wine storage areas there and of course Henry’s fountain of wine but nothing on this one! The Heidelberg Tun holds over 58,000 gallons of wine – 58,000! I got to sample some wonderful red wine from the Baden wine region. And chocolate too – heaven!
To bring a little bit of Germany here to Kentucky (cause we can’t be doing that) during our extended Covid-19 isolation, the girls and I used my sourdough starter to make pretzels. If you do not have a starter, you can create your own, buy a starter kit for as little as $8.95 on Amazon, or find a friend who will share 1 cup with you.
Sourdough Pretzels from A Chick in Her Garden is the perfect way to capitalize on the starter and to have loads of fun with your kiddos. So check out her website!
Sourdough Pretzels from A Chick in Her Garden
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 Tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 1/2 cup sourdough starter
- 4-5 cups flour (I use unbleached, all-purpose)
- 1 Tablespoon baking soda
- 1 egg
- Sea/Kosher Salt for sprinkling
- Melt and dissolve butter and sugar with hot water in a mixing bowl.
- When the butter and sugar are dissolved, add your sourdough starter.
- Gradually mix in 3-4 cups of flour.
- Turn out onto a well floured surface.
- Knead in the flour and continue adding flour until you have a firm ball of dough.
- Place the dough in a well greased bowl.
- Put the bowl in a warm place and allow it to rise for 2 hours.
- After the dough has risen, punch the dough down and turn it back out onto a floured surface.
- Knead a few times, (punch it too for good measure) and roll out into a log.
- Cut into 16 equal pieces.
- Roll each piece out (“like playdough snakes”) and tie into a pretzel shape.
- Boil a pot of water and add remaining sugar and baking soda.
- Poach each pretzel for about 1 minute. I was able to fit 3-4 in the pot at a time.
- Remove from the water to a wire rack to drain.
- Brush the tops with beaten egg and sprinkle with salt.
Preheat the oven to 450°F
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- Serve with a dipping sauce of your choice.
This was a huge success and the girls loved it! They especially liked playing in the flour and then eating the pretzels! This made quite a bit so we laid the cooked pretzel on a flat tray in the freezer for about 30 minutes, then I placed them in a freezer bag for another day! Hope you enjoy our adventure to Heidelberg, Germany and some fresh bretzels from our kitchen to yours.
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