Monday, 23 March 2009

My trip to Bavaria

So here I am looking out over the beautiful town of Hollfeld. I am staying with my mother's second cousin Heinz Hüller. He is an absolutely wonderful host. Upon arriving at the airport he greeted me with a giant sunflower! Then I was swept off to the Bavarian country side. We avoided the autobahn, and decided to take the scenic route throughout the German country side. Bavaria is known for its rolling hills that are peppered with giant rock outcroppings as well as Chateaux. Nearly every mountain peak has a giant palace on it- sign markers of the wealth that is now characteristic of the Bavarian state.

This blue building is known as the 'blue tower'- like a beakon in the night it is one of the only modern buildings in the small town of Hollfeld- and as you can see it makes quite an impression as the center of arts. We dined at a restaurant nearby where I tried a Hollfeld specialty- smoked river fish on a cold green salad. The fish was so tender and was complimented perfectly by the fresh greens- what a treat!

This is a picture of Heinz's family tree- His father made a complicated geneology of both his and his wife's family lines. My mother's side of the family the 'Gardill's' are located about halfway down the tree on the left.

This is a small little German shopping center that we stopped at to have a Cappuchino on one of our many excursions throughout the German countryside. The sun was shining and a light breeze carrying the smell of spring flowers brushed the city walls lightly. It was the only warm day that we have had so far on our trip throughout Germany.

This is a picture of Heinz's kitchen. Every morning I wake up to find a beautiful feast waiting for me. There are freshly baked sour dough rolls, local yogurt with fresh fruit, freshly squeezed juice, hot cappuchinos, cakes of all kinds as well as a variety of amazingly delicious meats! It is such a treat to wake up to a table not only laden with great food, but decorated with fresh flowers, candles, and traditional Easter decor!

Here is another chateau located near Heinz's house- We like to take little day trips through the surrounding country side and poke around these beautiful landmarks that have fascinating histories!

Suprise, suprise...this is another chateau located on this rocky little hill about 30 minutes from Heinz's house. There is also a charming little church next to the chateau which you cant see in this photo- but its painted in the traditional butter yellow and has a pitch black roof. The contrast is striking and the church is like a dazzling sign calling the mainly catholic german population to prayer.

Here I am chatting with Genda and Loni at Gunda's house. These were my grandmother's cousins. They are absolutely adorable and invited me over to their house the very first night for tea. Genda had set out her finest china and made apple cake and other German desserts just for my visit! She, like her son Heinz, is a wonderful host! She does not speak a word of English, and I do not speak more than a few words of German, but we somehow were able to hold conversations with one another, and if anything we could feel the connection of our family ties.

This is a photo of a gorgeous church in Nürnberg. I went to Nürnberg to see the Italian Opera, Aida, which Heinz's girlfriend Juliana was in. The Opera was absolutely fantastic! I have never heard such talent. When the leads would sing, their amazing voices rang like church bells in the Opera House...such a pure sound! It was increadible! I am so glad that I was able to see the Opera and experience some of Europe's finest art while I was here on my adventure!

This is one of the abodes of a very famous king in the city of Bamberg. King Henry and his wife Kunigunda established the city of Bamberg as a catholic cultural center hundreds of years ago. There is a story that one day a man claimed that Kunigunda was having an affair with a local townsman so the King had his wife walk on hot iron plates as a punishment. Her feet were untouched by the scorching metal, so King Henry decided it was God's divine will telling him that his wife was innocent and so they continued to live happily together. (A miracle, if you will)

This is the large church and the hub of the catholic faith in Bamberg. This church rests upon the highest peak in the citz of Bamberg in a section of the town that is hundreds of years older than the rest and simply exudes authority. From this point the chuch could literally and figurativelý look down upon their domain in the city of Bamberg. There is a large watch tower attached to this church, which you cannot see in the picture. Throughout Bamberg's historý, someone lived in the tower and watched for fires throughout the night. There is a story that says the last watchman in the tower was a woman, and she was so fat that she didnt fit into the coffin they tried to put her in to bring her down from the top of the tower!

This is a BEAUTIFUL picture of one of the rivers that sweeps throughout the city of Bamberg. Like Pittsburgh, Bamberg has three rivers which play an integral role to the cities development. Bamberg is my FAVORITE city that I have visited in southern Germany. It is absolutely charming and during my visit its streets were full of markets and bustling people. They sold cakes, fresh fruit, baskets, meats, roasted nuts and many many special artistic trinkets. I was mesmorized by the Baroque styled buildings and the brightly painted residences that were the colors of the easter eggs and spring flowers that decorated the window displays of the local artist shops. Fabulous!

Here I was this past Sunday at a traditional German Guesthouse (their form of a pub) having traditional sunday roast with the whole family. The roast is served with Kluße 'cloo-suh' which are giant potato balls that are similar to matza balls. The roast is also served with creamed spinach and a side salad- sooo good! Yum!

Here is a picture of one of the many giant squares in Nürnberg. This one is famous for housing a famous Christmas market in late December. You can see in the background of the picture a giant golden steeple that was supposed to rest on top of a nearby church, but they decided to keep it in the square at ground level so everyone could appreciate its beauty. After we meandered throughout the city we made our way to the house of the famous artist Dürer! AMAZING! Yale has many of his origional woodcuts which are nearly priceless in the art world!

Here I am with Heinz in front of the RatHaus (or city council building) in Bamberg. As you can see the building is painted beautifully. This section of town (which is built right on top of the river with canals below it) is known as 'little Venice' and although I have never been to Venice this area radiated what I know as Italian charm.
Overall, my visit to Germany has been marvelous. Meeting my distant relatives and being welcomed with open arms into their homes has been the greatest gift imagineable! I have 2 more days in this wonderful country and I am sure they will be as wonderful as my first 5 days here. Cheuss!

Sunday, 15 March 2009


I had the most magical walk today in Oxford! After I triumphantly turned in my last essay for the term, I decided to stroll around the town and take in the sights. I meandered down to the French farmer's market in Gloucester Green and had a quick yet exciting conversation with one of the vendors in French. I told him that I was heading to Paris in just over a week, and that I was excited to see my family. He was a very nice man and I am glad to have dusted away some of the cobwebs that no doubt started to cloud my ability to speak french.

I went to one of my favorite cafes and grabbed a hazelnut steamer- sipping my favorite drink as I let my thoughts flutter and float away in the surprisingly warm wind. The sun was brilliant and I wished I had thought to bring my sunglasses.

After I left the cafe, I went poked my head in and out of some shops along the main drag of town and I finally found myself heading towards Christ Church Meadows- a 150 acre plot of land that boarders along two of Oxford most charming rivers: the Iris and the Cherwall.

The hard-packed earth paths were riddled with excited school children, joggers, and even the occasional couple- we were all reveling in the magnificent day. I took the path that snaked along the east wall of Christ Church College and then made its way down to the Iris where I watched several of the rowing teams practice. There is something mesmerizing about the beat of their oars in time. I was surprised at how quickly the boats were able to move up and down the river, and I have to admit I fancied myself as a rower- for however a brief moment.

I then followed a side path that wound its way along the smaller of the two rivers, the Cherwall. It was a completely different atmosphere that the main path- a hidden Eden if you will. Daffodils were blooming in little pockets across the ever greening grass...they were like little yellow traffic lights signaling to the world that it was almost time for spring!

In this small oasis the birds were singing at full force. A symphony of bird calls that were so magical in the ambiance of the late afternoon. On the twisting river, that looked more like a stream, there were many people punting. Punting is when you push your boat along a waterway with a large pole (like they do in the canals of Venice). Its quite entertaining to see people trying to master punting- its more difficult than you might think. As I rounded one corner of the path I saw two friends punting and one of them lost his balance and fell into the water! It was quite a comical scene and he took it well. Many of the people walking along the path had a good laugh.

The path took its final turn towards the Botanic Gardens which gave me a fantastic view of the spring flowers. It was a perfect walk that made me realize that my time here at Oxford is flying by...and for the first time I realized that things were moving too quickly! I am leaving for Germany in 3 days and by the time I return to Oxford in 5 weeks time the trees will be covered with green foliage, the streets will be overcrowded with tourists, and I will be able to put my coat into retirement as summer washes over the cold stone walls of Oxford.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Real Inspector Hound

Exciting news- I was cast in the Regent's college spring production of The Real Inspector Hound. The original plot, written by Tom Stoppard, follows two theater critics named Moon and Birdfoot who are watching a ludicrous setup of a country house murder mystery, in the style of a whodunit! By chance, they become involved in the action causing a series of events that parallel the play they are watching. This should be a very fun production! We will perform it in late May in our college courtyard- hopefully summer will be in full swing by then!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Laura's Visit

I am so lucky to have just spent a lovely weekend with Laura. She was in London for a family get together and she decided to pop down to Oxford for a few days.

We toured the Botanic Gardens, tried some of Ben's Famous Cookies, Climbed up the 107 steps to the top of St. Mary's Cathedral, had a delightful lunch at Jamie Oliver's Restaurant, and saw the new movie: He's Just Not That Into You. It was a short but super sweet trip that brightened up my entire week!

The Botanic Gardens:

St. Mary's Cathedral View From the Top:

Christ Church Dining Hall:

And to make the whole trip wonderful, the sun was shining

"Pennsylvania and Some Homemade Pumpkin Pie"

I always think it is a tragedy when I learn that people have never had pumpkin pie! Which, as many of you know, is my ALL TIME FAVORITE holiday dessert! The great thing about pumpkin pie is that its so easy to make! I was wondering around in the Oxford covered market the other day and I stumbled across this little delicatessen that sold canned pumpkin- and I thought to myself, "Self...I think its time we introduce our new British friends to a taste of America!" So Laura came down to visit me this weekend and we made the pumpkin pie together. She did a fabulous job of making the pie crust (I have to admit- something I have never mastered) and I whipped up (literally) the filling. To say the least it was a success- I let the crumbs speak for themselves...

Drama Drama Drama

This week has been full of Drama- just not in the emotional sense! I have had a few more auditions including an audition entirely in French for the tragedy Phedre. That was an interesting audition and I would not necessarily take the leap to audition in another language again. I also had an audition for the HMS Pinafore which is a light hearted Gilbert and Sullivan production and I was cast as a member of the women's chorus! I am VERY excited- I think this will be a nice introduction into theater here at Oxford. I also had an audition for another tragedy called the Women of Troy. The Director is the head of experimental theater here at Oxford and he certainly had an interesting take on how he wanted to direct the play. He has this brilliant plan to send the patrons to a pub where they will be "guided to a secret location to see the play". Unannounced to the play-goers they will be ambushed by the actors of the play while at the pub and blind folded and taken into one of the black box theaters at Oxford. He wants to set up a very tragic and emotional yet also disturbing environment from the very beginning. I do no think I will be cast in this play, but it was certainly fun to be let in on a little secret about its location. And I have my final audition tonight for my college's summer play. We do no know what we are going to be performing yet, but it is likely to be a comedy. I hope I get a role in this production because it will be so much fun to act along side all of the new friends I have made here at Oxford! Wish me luck or as they say in the theater business "Break a leg!"