Gatherings & Celebrations: Celebrating Christmas in Germany - #116

Of all the gatherings and celebrations in the Western world, none is more important  than Christmas.  Originally it was a purely religious occasion, celebrating the birth of Christ.  Commercial elements in our modern society, however, have made a great effort to broaden the event.  Their hope is to have Christmas include everyone who could possibly buy something. Anything!!!

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  During the fourth century, the emperor Constantine the Great declared Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire.  Very often when a new religion takes over, it marks the days for its feasts at about the same time as the days for the feasts of the old religion.  It makes the transition easier.  Christmas is a good example of what I mean.  December 21st is the day of the year with  the longest night.  The ancient Romans used that day for a feast to say that even though you couldn’t see much sun on that day, the sun was unconquerable and eventually would return.  The idea of light returning became a symbol for Christ.  As a matter of fact, for hundreds of years one of Christ’s titles was “Unconquerable Sun.” And that’s one of the reasons that light plays such an important part in the Christmas feast.

The straw, radiating like rays of light around the baby in the manger, is a graphic symbol of the idea.

This is the German city of Trier, and it was once the home of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great.  At the time, Trier was considered to be among the four great centers of the world, along with Constantinople, Rome and Alexandria in Egypt.  Trier is thought to be the oldest city in Germany, and we’ve come here to take a look at the celebration of Christmas.  We decided to look at Christmas in this part of the world for a very simple reason.  As our research on the history of Christmas traditions got started, we found out that many of the rituals of Christmas in the English-speaking world actually began in Germany.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  There are two important periods of abstinence during the Christian year.  The first is Lent, which takes place during the six weeks before Easter, and the second is Advent, which takes place during the four weeks before Christmas.  In both cases the idea is to prepare for a feast by not feasting.  The word Advent means “Coming” and it is a period that is marked by a heightened sense of expectation.

These days Advent calendars are found all over the Christian world, but the custom began in Germany.  The calendar starts with the first day of Advent, and there is a little door for each day until Christmas.  Inside the door there is a picture or saying or a little gift. On each day of Advent one of the doors is opened.  The sense of expectancy increases as the number of days to Christmas is visibly decreased.

Germany is also the home of the Christkindlemarkt. It is an ancient market that starts each year on or about December 4th.  It is held in the old marketplaces and continues until Christmas. 

BURT WOLF:   Are you obligated to kiss if you’re standing under the mistletoe, or is it an option?

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  Well, I don’t really know -- I think one can call you on it, but it always depends, you know?

I learned about this market in Trier when I came to this area of Germany to talk to Barbara Rundquist-Muller about the Christmas traditions of the region.

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  During Christmas time, obviously a lot of candles are used, but mostly green, white and red.  And now you have them also with all the kind of flavors to them.  This here’s called “Christmas Miracle.”  And you can smell it...

BURT WOLF:   Oh, it has a wonderful smell!

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  Yeah.  It’s a little bit like in a church, you know?  The real Christmassy --

BURT WOLF:   Oh yes --

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  -- the little traditional Christmassy way...

BURT WOLF:   Not quite a miracle, but not bad.

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  No!  And that one... this one is Christmas tree.


SHOPKEEPER:  That one tastes cinnamon, very much like...

BURT WOLF:   Cinnamon? 

SHOPKEEPER:  Cinnamon, zimt, that brown one.

BURT WOLF:   Zimt?

CUSTOMER:  Do you have candles for pyramids?

SHOPKEEPER:  No, we don’t...

BURT WOLF:   Oh, yeah! 

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  (laughing)  Eat it, eat it.

BURT WOLF:   I’d take a bite outa that if it was any more cinnamonny.


BURT WOLF:   Thank you.

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  Here you have all the pieces of the traditional crib that is used under the Christmas tree, carved out of wood -- the donkey, the ox, the Child, mother Mary, Joseph... you just have the whole scenery that is traditionally put under the Christmas tree for the kids to look at. 

The idea of gift-giving is actually a major part of the story of Christmas. The Christ child is seen as a Christmas present from God to humanity.  The three kings also brought presents.  And human beings are expected to respond to God’s generosity by continuing the giving of gifts.

Of the things that are offered for sale in the Christmas market the most significant are the foods and things made of food.  One of the most important rules in any festival is that the festival itself and most of the objects within it must be temporary.  A festival by definition is something out of the ordinary, different from everyday life.  It must come and then it must go. If it stays around too long it will lose its impact.  Food is perfect for this role because it doesn’t last.

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  Now, this is a typical specialty also for the Christmas market -- it’s mulled wines.  It’s spiced wine, you have cinnamon, you have clove, and it’s hot, and that’s what makes it most attractive on this kind of market.

BURT WOLF:   Warms your inside and your outside.

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  Yes, and especially the hands and everything. 

The market has stands with Pfefferkuchen, which means “peppernuts.”  There are lebkuchen or honey cakes, frosted cookies with elaborate designs. The foods that are part of a feast like Christmas must feel ancient in order to fulfill their role of connecting us to the past. Using pepper and strong spices in cakes goes all the way back to the time of the ancient Romans and the birth of Christ.

The traditional pre-Christmas meal is rather simple.  The main dish is usually fish, most often carp.  In Germany it’s lucky to receive the roe with your portion. The common idea is that a lot of little eggs mean a lot of good fortune.   The vegetable dish will include cabbage and beets.  Red and green are always the colors of Christmas.  Red is there for the warmth and brightness; green is a promise that the leaves will return to the trees which are now barren.  There are lots of special breads and cakes. One of the most typical is Christstollen, filled with nuts and raisins, and other dried fruits.  It is almost the German version of the English Christmas pudding.  And there are dozens of different baked sweet cakes and cookies -- marzipan, anise cakes, almond cookies, hazelnut macaroons, chocolate pretzels.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  Apples are also very important at Christmas time.  They are bright and shiny, very much part of our modern diet.  But they are also a symbol of the apple on the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.  They show our intelligence, our resourcefulness, our ability to keep foods edible during the long winter.  They are another symbol of light and hope or during a time of darkness.

Nuts keep showing up.  They represent the puzzles of life.  You must open them up to find your destiny. 

Traaben-Trarbach is a picturesque town on the Mosel River, and in the middle of the town there’s a great little restaurant called Die Goldenen Traube, with means “The Golden Grape.”

BURT WOLF:   In the front hall there is a Christmas tree that is famous for its nutty decorations.  It’s covered with hazelnuts, and the technique is rather simple.  You take the nuts, with the shells on, you put them into boiling water and you keep them there for ten minutes.  Then you drain them from the water, and while they are still warm, you crack it, but you don’t crack it all the way through.  You just want that little opening, and you hold the opening open, and you put it over one of the needles, and it closes up and stays on.  Ally, is this an old thing in your family?

ALLY ALLMACKER:  It’s a very old thing in my family, from my grandfather, who did it as long as he lived, and he was born in 1885 and started it about 1910.  And since that time, he did that tradition every year.

BURT WOLF:   Is it done by other families, or it’s just your family? 

ALLY ALLMACKER:  It’s just our family doing it still today.  The old families knew it years ago before, but actually it’s a lot of work!  (laughs)

BURT WOLF:   It’s natural, it’s beautiful -- oh, sorry -- and you can eat your mistakes.

ERIK LUNDQUIST:  You know, these steep vineyards are very important...

Barbara Rundquist-Muller and her husband, Erik Rundquist, help manage the family winery, which is named after her grandfather, Rudolf Muller.  Making wine in the Mosel is not easy work.  This is some of the hilliest country in Germany.  The slopes along the river banks are nearly vertical and the cultivation and harvesting is really work for mountaineers. 

ERIK LUNDQUIST:  When the Romans came north, about two thousand years ago, they brought winegrowing with them.  And winegrowing this far north is only possible due to these very special climatic conditions.  It’s a microclimate, where the steep, slatey vineyards go down to the Mosel River.  You know, sugar in the grapes develops by the sun shining down on the leaves.  So the more inclination the vineyard has, the more sun touches the leaves of the grapes, and the more sugar we have.

The Mullers are some of the most traditional winemakers in the Mosel valley.  Their family has been making wine in this area since the 12th Century.

ERIK LUNDQUIST:  So this cellar was carved here into the rock under the Berncasteler Doctor vineyard about 350 years ago.  The constant temperature here in the cellar is 45 Fahrenheit, and the grape must is brought in here after being pressed and put in these wooden barrels, where it is then fermented into wine.  Okay, bye-bye.  I’m gonna get some wine for our lunch.

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  My favorite wine, actually, on an everyday basis, is our Bishop of Riesling, which we named in honor of the local archbishop, [his name], who was not only an archbishop but he was the local governor.  And actually two hundred years ago, he issued The Riesling Decree.  In the valley there had been growing a lot of other, or minor grape varieties; he forced the growers to do away with them and to replant the valley with Riesling, because he knew that that gave the best results and made the most beautiful wines here.

BURT WOLF:   What a good bishop!           

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  It’s a fantastic bishop!  And we decided to honor him by naming our most widely-distributed wine in his honor.

BURT WOLF:   And the Doctor?

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  Well, that is the best we have.  That’s our whole pride.  The Berncasteler Doctor is actually right above us, the vineyard, and the vineyard was given its name after a legend.  The legend says that in the Fourteenth Century, there was a prince living in the castle.  He was very ill and he was about to die; his doctors couldn’t help him.  So he sent them away and said, “At least let me die in peace.”  But the local people, they liked him very much.  So one grower from the town, he took his best barrel of wine and carried it all the way up to the castle, and offered it to the prince and said, “Well, this wine has always helped my family; why don’t you take that?  It might cure you.”  And believe it or not, the prince, he sat and sipped and sipped and sat, and by the time the barrel was empty he had recovered.  So he called again for the grower and said, “What can I give you?  You saved my life!”  The grower said, “Well, there’s actually nothing I lack.  I’m just happy the way it is.”  So the prince said, “Well, if I can’t give you anything, then please do something.  Call this wine from now on The Doctor, because it’s the only real doctor in the world.”

BURT WOLF:   Seven hundred years later my doctors are giving me the same advice.


BURT WOLF:   Let’s go to the kitchen.

The wines of the Mosel are naturally low in alcohol content, which makes them a naturally good companion to food.  Which is my not-very-subtle way of leading up to the fact that Barbara is going to teach us one of her family’s traditional Christmas recipes.  It’s a vegetable and Riesling soup.

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  I’m cooking together turnip, leeks and onion, and turnip basically takes the longest to get soft.  So when I grate it very fine, which it does on every food grater, then it will kind of cook at the same speed as the onion and the leeks.  I use about the same quantity of each three of them.  Now I have the basic ingredients, so I’ll take a pan, and I take some butter -- just a lump of butter -- and I add the turnip, the onions, and the leeks.  Now I put the pan on the stove and let basically the butter melt on it, and then slowly cook the vegetables in the butter.  You have to stir them constantly so that it won’t fry; they’re not supposed to get brown.  They’re just supposed to get soft.  Now that the butter has melted and they’re a little bit soft, I take some white wine; I mostly use -- basically it’s a Riesling soup, so it’s Riesling.  I take The Bishop of Riesling; it’s a hundred percent Riesling from our area, and I let it boil in the wine, because like that the flavors of the vegetables and the flavors of the Riesling get together.  You have to stir it to make sure that they don’t get browned, you don’t want them brown.  You want them just cooked in the wine.  Now I will take off the pot from the stove and I will use a food blender, and I will puree.  Doesn’t have to be completely pureed; it’s just that the whole flavors kind of get together.

BURT WOLF:   A little chunkiness is kind of nice; I like that.

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  Yes, it’s better -- I think I prefer that to having it completely mashy.  Now what I do, I take some beef broth.  As you can see I used about half a bottle of wine, and so I add the same amount of beef broth to it.

BURT WOLF:   About two cups.

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  Yes, about two cups.  I put it back on the stove.

BURT WOLF:   That’s a very easy soup.

BARBARA RUNDQUIST-MULLER:  Yes, but for me, that’s what holidays are all about.  I love cooking, I love to cook for my family and friends, but at the same time it’s also supposed to be a holiday for the housewife.  And so it’s nice to have something that is tasty but that is easy to prepare, where you don’t have to run for hours to get the ingredients home, and you don’t have to stand for five hours in the kitchen.  And just to round the whole off, about a cup of cream -- just a little bit for the taste.  So this is our perfect holiday starter in our family.

BURT WOLF:   Beautiful!

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): In Europe, every country has its own Christmas foods and its Christmas Eve dinner rituals.  In Poland, people will often put a piece of straw under the tablecloth so that the dishes sit on a slant. It reminds them of Christ’s poverty.  In Russia they will often invite a foreign visitor to dinner, or leave a chair open for a passing stranger.

In many towns St. Nicholas actually comes to the homes of the residents and meets the children.  The parents will often slip him a note with information about each child.  He reads the list, announcing what each child has done throughout the past year, both good and bad.  The children have no idea how he knows.  Very often good old St. Nick is accompanied by a “darker self” -- a frightening figure.

In parts of Germany where St. Nicholas does not actually appear but passes in the night like Santa Claus, children will leave a shoe or a stocking beside their beds or outside the door. In the case of a good child St. Nicholas will leave a present; bad children get a stick. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  When I was a kid, the custom in my family was to leave a bad child a potato and a piece of charcoal, which is, of course, why I know so much about cooking potatoes. 

Sometime around the year 10 B.C., the Roman legions marched into this part of what is now the German city of Wiesbaden.  They were attracted by a series of hot springs that came up in the area and built a fortified camp on the spot.  The Romans loved hot springs.  They felt that a nice warm bath was an essential part of preserving good health.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  About a hundred years later, the Romans built a fortress in what is now the very center of town. A few years after that, they turned the fortress into a spa for their troops, a little place for the soldiers to stop between battles and maybe have a facial or a pedicure.  You know, they wore those open-toed sandals and they were very sensitive about the way their feet looked.  During the Middle Ages it became an inn, and in the 1800’s it was turned into a hotel, which eventually became known as the Nassauer Hof.  All of which is to say that people have been having a very good time at this location for over 2,000 years.

The hot waters of the spa are still here. And the rest of the Nassauer Hof is pretty hot stuff, too.  The hotel’s restaurants are considered to be some of the finest.  And they really turn it out for Christmas.  Chef Andreas Hauk has put together a table of his Christmas favorites.

ANDREAS HAUK:  So we start with the Red Cabbage. 

BURT WOLF:   Okay.

ANDREAS HAUK:  First we have to cut him  [sic; he uses “him” for “it” often].  This is a special machine there, yah?  We put in some clove...

BURT WOLF:   Cloves...

ANDREAS HAUK:  How you say...?

BURT WOLF:   Juniper berries!

ANDREAS HAUK:  Juniper berries, oh.  Laurel leaves, cinnamon, salt -- season it -- and some pepper.  We put some red wine on him;  then you have to press him, you know?  That’s better to get all the wine in there.  Now we put cling film on the top, put it twenty-four hours in the fridge. 

BURT WOLF:   Okay.

ANDREAS HAUK:  To marinate it, yah?

BURT WOLF:   Yeah.

ANDREAS HAUK:  Okay.  So now, put in some sliced onions, press the cabbage to get the wine out.  He must be cooked down.  Sometimes you have to taste it.  Put in some sugar.  He must be cooked very softly, you know? 

BURT WOLF:   How long?

ANDREAS HAUK:  One hour.  Soft, yah?

BURT WOLF:   Low flame.

ANDREAS HAUK:  Low, low.  Now we have to grate an apple in there, peeled apple.  So that’s normally the red cabbage finished now, yah?  It’s one of the most favorite in Germany on Christmas.

In some German homes you will also see a “Star of Seven,” a seven-branched candlestick that was inherited from the Jewish tradition.  They are lit every evening during Advent, and eventually carried to the midnight service on Christmas Eve.  The custom was one of the rituals that eventually led to the lights on the Christmas tree.

The Christmas tree was already a well-established tradition in Germany when Prince Albert, the German husband of Britain’s Queen Victoria, introduced it to England during the 1840s.  The Christmas tree then made its way from England to North America.  It also used the more direct route from Germany, coming over with the great immigrations of the 19th Century.  Families may have home-made Christmas tree decorations, often extremely elaborate, and often inherited as family heirlooms.  Each will have its own story.  Who made it.  When.  How.  Stories about things that happened in connection with it.  The decorations and the stories are a way of keeping the family’s memory alive.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):   In obedience to the rule that festivals are only temporary, the tree must come down right after Epiphany, on the sixth of January.  The tree is there for the feast and only for the feast.  Germans are very strict about this rule.  They feel if the tree is kept up too long, the house will be haunted by bad luck.

And finally there is Santa Claus -- the symbol of a benevolent figure, giving gifts, laughing, old and vigorous like the history of the Christmas feast.  He comes out of the sky and brings happiness to children.  Nice guy, but at some point we discover that he is not real.  A fictional character put in place by the adult world.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  Some people believe that Santa Claus was developed as a clever initiation device, and that a child would find out The Truth about Santa Claus when it was time to make the passage between the age of innocence and the age of reason -- a passage that I certainly made when I was a kid.  But as I got older I began to think that maybe there were additional messages from Christmas -- that perhaps  the greatest gifts of life were not the material objects being offered me by adults, and perhaps the greatest light was not the light around me but the light inside me.  And those two became the most important messages of the season for me.  Well, that’s alook at Christmas in Germany; I hope you will join us next time as we travel around he world looking at the gatherings and celebrations that mark the passages of our lives.  I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Amsterdam to Cologne - #1202

BURT WOLF: Each year millions of tourist visit Europe. They come from all over the world to walk through the great museums. They look at the celebrated monuments. They visit the historic homes. They taste the traditional foods and drinks.

And this has been going on for almost 500 years. Beginning in the late 1500s, it became fashionable for wealthy aristocrats to send their sons on a tour of Europe, in the hope of completing their education with a look at Europe’s classical art and architecture. Eventually it became known as the Grand Tour.

They saw the great Gothic Cathedrals of France. The Renaissance frescos of Italy. The Rembrandts of Holland. They were exposed to Europe’s finest works of art. But they were also exposed to a variety of less scholarly experiences.

I have been traveling since I was 6 years old. My mother would put me on a plane and I would fly, by myself, from New York to Boston where my aunt would pick me up and take me to see everything she thought I was old enough to appreciate. I loved it. The Toll House cookies were the best.

Traveling always brings back my sense of childhood wonder. It takes me away from the familiar comforts and the security of my home. Suddenly I am alone. I have a heightened sense of awareness. I’m forced to pay attention to everything that is going on around me because it is all new. The Swiss travel writer Nicolas Bouvier said that when you travel you are more open to curiosity, to intuition, to love at first sight. 

That’s why I always bring a new pair of glasses and that’s how I met my wife.

During the past few years I have made two alterations in my approach to travel. First, unless there’s a special reason, I like to travel to a particular location when most other people aren’t. If you avoid the peak travel periods almost everything is easier and less expensive.

You don’t want to show up in Asia during the weeks of the Lunar New Year celebration --- usually in late February or March. Everyone is coming home for the holidays and its fun but it’s a madhouse.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): I often go in the early spring or the fall. And I never worry about the weather. I remember what my youngest son tells me. ‘There is no bad weather, there’s just inappropriate clothing. And that from a five year old.

BURT WOLF: This is the first of a series of programs that present my personal, slightly off beaten Grand Tour of Europe. I decided to base them on one of the modern river cruisers. They offer the extraordinary convenience of having your hotel come with you as you travel. This is the Amadolce which is one of the AMAWaterways ships.

We started in Amsterdam in early November. Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities. It’s filled with art, architecture, great museums and places to shop.

One of the guides on the AMA ship told me about Amsterdam’s Museum of Handbags and Purses. It has over 4,000 objects with some that date back to the 14th century. I’d been to Amsterdam dozens of times and I thought I knew the city. But this museum was an extraordinary surprise.

The collection was started by Hendrikje Ivo. Today it’s run by her daughter Sigrid.

SEGRID IVO (ON CAMERA): My mother, she was an antique dealer traveling through Europe to find her antiques, small silver items on the table. Cutlery and those kinds of things. 

SEGRID IVO: And then she saw a very beautiful bag made of tortoise shell inlaid with mother-of-pearl and she fell in love. 

BURT WOLF: Her mother spent over 30 years collecting hand bags and displaying them in her home on the outskirts of Amsterdam, but eventually she needed a bigger space.

SEGRID IVO (ON CAMERA)L: And we spoke a lot with the local government but that didn't work out. And then she put a sign on the door ... and ... saying ... "S.O.S. Who can help us for a new location?" And she asked also a lot of people, "Can you help me with a new location. Do you know a millionaire? I don't like to have them only for myself. But half of it maybe." 

BURT WOLF: And then one Sunday afternoon a millionaire came along, visited the museum, read the sign, and bought them a building in the middle of Amsterdam. 

BURT WOLF: The museum illustrates the history of the handbag from the 14th century to the present. The earliest women’s handbags were worn underneath their dresses.

SEGRID IVO: They had a ribbon with two pockets hanging on it. And then you have two or three underskirts. Then this ribbon goes around your waist. And then your nice dress goes over it and there's an opening in the dress. So you could reach your pockets.

In the late 19th century it changed because the fashion got very slim. And we are looking back to the Greek and Roman periods and the waist goes up into the breast. And then you get very slim tiny dresses. They have to look like a Greek dress. Because that was fashionable in that period. 

SIGRID IVO: And they were made of fine muslin, a very fine material, sometimes very transparent. So then you can't wear these pockets inside. Then you see that the ladies wear, for the first time the bag in the hand.

BURT WOLF: And what did they put in their bag? 

SIGRID IVO: A coin purse, you had a letter case for your letters. They were writing a lot. Maybe also the card, a calling card holder. Because when you went to visit somebody, you go there and then you say to the servant I would like to visit the lady of the house. Then she's giving the calling card to the lady of the house. And she is deciding if she wants to see you.

BURT WOLF: I've always wondered about the Queen of England. What does she have in her handbag? Cab fare? A Swiss Army Knife? Keys to the Palace? Enquiring minds need to know.

SIGRID IVO: She has never money with her. No, she has a camera because she wants always to show where she is to her children and grandchildren. A lipstick. She has a powder compact because that was given by her husband 50 years ago, 60 years ago. Sometimes for her dogs things because she likes her dogs. 

BURT WOLF: I also noticed that in the last maybe ten or fifteen years handbags have become a status symbol.

SIGRID IVO: Until the 60s, you could show that you were rich or you're different by your clothing. But in the last decades, it's getting more and more difficult. Because what we see in the fashion show in Paris or Milan or New York, you can buy it a little bit later in the shops and you can buy it expensive or cheap. It's copied all over. So it's very difficult to be different.

SIGRID IVO: And that you see that these big brands, they come with handbags because that's something you can show that you can be different. Not everything that’s in fashion will be fit you very nice. But a handbag will always fit you. So the brands have more emphasis on the handbags because everybody can buy a handbag from a brand if you have the money, of course. But it's everybody will shoot a handbag. Everybody will fit a handbag.

BURT WOLF: I may not be able to get into that dress.

SIGRID IVO: Exactly.

BURT WOLF: But I certainly can carry that handbag.

SIGRID IVO: Yea. The handbag is the soul of women because all your personal items go into it. And you don't want to show it to other people. 

SIGRID IVO (ON CAMERA): But there are an also lot of things people, ladies don't want to tell about.

BURT WOLF: For instance? 

SIGRID IVO (ON CAMERA): That I can't tell you, because that's a secret. 

BURT WOLF: Quite honestly, I think this is one of the most interesting museums I’ve ever seen. And I strongly recommend it to you.

At lunch time we headed back to the ship. Each day on board there was a buffet with appetizers, soups, sandwiches, cold cuts, breads, a salad bar, two main courses, one of which is usually a carving station, a dessert table.

PASSENGER (ON CAMERA): Delicious. I love ice cream.

BURT WOLF: A cheese board and fresh fruit.

One of the keys to an enjoyable river cruise is the knowledge of the cruise directors. They need to know what is going on in town and the right time for you to make your visit.

At the suggestion of the AMAWaterways Cruise Director we spent the afternoon on a tour of the Hermitage Museum.

FRANS VAN DER VERT: It’s an old building, it’s an Amsterdam building, it’s a landmark building on the river Amstel which is interesting because the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg is also on a river, on the Neva.

FRANS VAN DER VERT (ON CAMERA): Well the relationships between Russia and Netherlands are very old.

FRANS VAN DER VERT: Peter the Great already came in the 18th Century to Amsterdam to get inspiration for his new city St. Petersburg. And the museum in St. Petersburg is very large, and they really wanted to share their collection with the rest of the world. Since we already here in Amsterdam organize so many exhibitions from the collection of St. Petersburg, naturally we sort of started talking about a way of cooperation. Then this wonderful building came available and then finally in 2010 we decided to open up this beautiful museum. 

What we do here is we make exhibitions. We make large big exhibitions every six months from the holdings of The State Hermitage Museum. But also from other museums. So in the future we will do work with other museums too. Behind me now you see part of the new exhibitions we have on Alexander the Great. But we’re doing exhibitions on Rubens, we’re doing exhibitions on Russian icons. They are all exhibitions with topics you can’t find in Dutch museums. And one of the most beautiful things the golden crown we have here, from the beginning of the 2nd Century. 

It’s a building from 1683. And actually built not for a museum, but built for old ladies, to take care of old ladies. It was a church institution and it stayed that way until 2007 when the last person left the building

FRANS VAN DER VERT (ON CAMERA): And we could start renovating and building the museum here. 

FRANS VAN DER VERT: This is the Amstel River which is the heart of Amsterdam. And you can see also all the big houses are here. And it’s interesting that this building is on the central river here in Amsterdam. Like the state rooms you usually see in the center of St. Petersburg. 

FRANS VAN DER VERT (ON CAMERA): This used to be a church. It was a Protestant building. So everybody came here every Sunday to have supper here. But also went to the church.

FRANS VAN DER VERT: So this what you see here is the organ which was given by a lady called Mrs. Contaler in 1810. For the dinners here. And now we have sort of changed it in a different room we have music and concerts here. But you see some of the things here still. What we tried to do is also make a modern design. That’s why we did this lamp.

FRANS VAN DER VERT (ON CAMERA): It’s very interesting because you think it’s paper, then in the end you see it’s all very very thin porcelain. It’s very difficult to make. Of course the nice thing you see here is the garden and you see the river there. This is a beaching field where people used to bleach the laundry. And these used to be in Amsterdam everywhere.

BURT WOLF: Where they do the laundry out here.

FRANS VAN DER VERT: They do the laundry, and put it on the grass and then it bleaches. 

FRANS VAN DER VERT (ON CAMERA): And know an architect sort of reinvented this whole thing.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): I should have brought my laundry.

BURT WOLF: That evening we returned to our ship for dinner. Dinner is a traditional four course meal: appetizer, soup, main course, and desert. And there is always a red wine, a white wine and a selection of beers and soft drinks that are free. 

Another great suggestion from the AMA crew sent us to The Dutch East Indiaman.

The period between 1579 and the end of the1700s is described as Amsterdam’s golden age, and much of that gold came from importing spices from the islands of Bali, Java, Sumatra, Borneo and New Guinea. Islands which are now part of Indonesia.

In 1748, that trade was dominated by the Dutch East India Company which was the largest trading company in the world. A replica of one of their ships is docked in Amsterdam’s harbor.

HENK DESSINS: So from here you can see the compasses that were used during steering.

BURT WOLF: The director of collections, Dr. Henk Dessens showed me around.

HENK DESSENS: In the beginning they used just the ships that were used to sail with in European waters.

HENK DESSENS (ON CAMERA): But in a short time the East India Company discovered that it was important to make more standardized vessels.

HENK DESSENS: The journey was very long, the ships were expensive. So it was very important to plan all the journeys as much as possible. 

Ship building was a kind of a magic art. It was an art which was brought over from father to son, and the governors of the company didn’t like that. They wanted to have more grip on the technical aspects of the ship. 

The main space onboard was of course the hold. That was the place that the ship was built for essentially. Because she had to get spices and other trade from Asia and bring it back for high profits to the Netherlands. 

Most of the crew lived on the quarter deck. You must imagine that on this quarter deck here lived about 300 people. There was no daylight in this space. Many people died during the voyage and people who survived got more space.

The captain had in fact two cabins on board. One was his working cabin, where he did navigation, had a meeting with his mates, with officers. And he also had a separate bedroom. He was the only person onboard with his own bedroom, with an ordinary bed. He didn’t sleep in a hammock. But he had more privacy. 

BURT WOLF: I notice he had two toilets. How did he choose?

HENK DESSENS (ON CAMERA): I think that was dependant on the direction of the wind.

BURT WOLF: One of the things I liked about the AMA itineraries is the open times they give you. You can do whatever you want to and the staff supplies you with the information you need to make the best use of that time. Which I spent shopping. 

I have two favorite spots. One of them is a beer store.

BEER MAN: It’s a beer store with 12 hundred different kinds of beer from all over the world. And all different styles. This is the German section lots of lagers and wheat beers. The Dutch people love wheat beers now a days.

BURT WOLF: You know I learned a years ago that when you clink glasses with regular beer you go straight, but if you have a wheat beer you only clink the bottom. A great wheat beer glass is very thin at the top, as opposed to the mass the ones you can bang.


BURT WOLF VO: There was also a large section of beers from the United States. It appears that small breweries in the U.S. are experimenting with different styles and that they are becoming more and more popular in Europe.

BEER MAN: Because the hopy beers are getting very very popular with the real beer geeks. But what is also very popular are the Belgium ales. That’s where the beer lovers start their hobby. The Belgium beers are very accessible. 

BURT WOLF: St. Arnold the patron saint of Brewers is credited with spreading the brewer’s skill throughout Belgium.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): He was curious as to why the rich seemed to live longer than the poor. And he finally decided it was because they drank beer instead of water. And he was absolutely right. For centuries the safest thing to drink was beer.

BURT WOLF: Today, Belgium produces over six hundred different beers and beer experts have chosen some of them as best of class, worldwide. The beer brewers of Belgium are the great artists in the business. And one of the oldest brewers is Lindemans.

It’s been in the same family for over 200 years. Their most unusual beers are called Lambics. Lambics are fermented by natural yeasts in the air and the fermentation process takes place over many months in wooden barrels and tanks.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Lambic is the meeting point between a beer and a wine. It is made from wild yeast in a process that’s very similar to that used for making sherry. And like a sherry it’s aged for years in wooden casks.

BURT WOLF: Some lambics are blended together and aged to make a gueuze which has a wine-like flavor and complexity. Lambic brewers never want to make the slightest physical change to their brewery buildings because it might disturb the yeast.

Belgian beers are also fermented with cherries to produce a drink called kriek or with raspberries to make a brew called framboise. Kriek is the Flemish word for black cherry. Lindemans adds cherries to their lambic and the fresh pure fruit flavor makes a great pairing with the tart complexity of the lambic.

The bar on the ship had a nice selection of Belgian beers and we put them to good use.

The next shop we visited is one of the finest shops in the city. It’s called the Cheese Room of Amsterdam and it carries over 400 different cheeses. The owner is Luke De Lure. He took me through the shop and had me taste an assortment of different cheeses, pointing out that as cheese gets older it gets stronger, as opposed to my own pattern which appears to be quite the opposite.

LUKE DE LURE (ON CAMERA): And this is organic. You add nothing, just milk. Here you are. Ya.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Oh amazing. A very different taste.

LUKE DE LURE (ON CAMERA): Ya. Also different farmers. Every farmer has his own specialty of making cheese.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Like the wine makers.

LUKE DE LURE (ON CAMERA): Ya. Exactly. Ya. 

BURT WOLF: Cheese is one of our oldest foods dating back at least 3,000 years. One theory is that someone in Central Asia or the Near East was carrying milk in a bag made from the stomach of a calf and the acid in the stomach, known as rennet, interacted with the milk and caused the liquid called whey to separate from the solids know as curds. The liquid was drained away and curds pressed together to form the solid cheese.

In terms of survival, cheese has some distinct advantages over milk. It lasts longer, than milk without spoiling. It’s easy to carry. And it takes up less space – about one-tenth of the volume of the milk from which it was made.

I only have one problem with cheeses. If some cheeses are aged for months, even years by the cheese makers, how come they only last for weeks in my refrigerator? Is this some kind of manufacturers built in obsolesces. Enquiring minds need to know.

CAMERAMAN: What do you call it?

LUKE DE LURE (ON CAMERA): Sticky finger. Do you want to smell?

CAMERAMAN: No thank you.

BURT WOLF: This was the first leg of the voyage that took us from Amsterdam to Luxembourg.

Along the way we stopped in Cologne, Rudesheim, Koblenz, Winningen, Cochem, Zell, Bernkastel and Trier. Some of the passenger went on to Paris and some to Luxembourg. 

BURT WOLF: In part two of this series our ship docks in Cologne. We’ll take a tour of the city, visit the great cathedral which has become the most visited tourist attraction in Germany, stop into a museum that is totally devoted to chocolate and serves a chocolate drink that made my day.

We’ll find out the origin of Eau de Cologne, and drink some of the local beer called Kolch. Then we’ll sail on to Rudesheim to visit Siegfried’s mechanical music museum, a collection of robotic and self-playing instruments. And we’ll meet the great Siegfried.

We taste the local specialties, encounter the challenge of the drinking log and finish off with a cup of Rudesheimer Coffee spiked with the local brandy.

I hope you’ll join us.


Travels & Traditions: Hamburg, Germany - #706

BURT WOLF: Hamburg, with a population of just under two million, is the second-largest city in Germany, right behind Berlin.

In the year 831, Ludwig the Pious, son of Charlemagne, realized that a little village called Hamburg, at the meeting point of three important rivers, could become a source of great wealth. Not that he was short of cash or anything like that, but even then, the rich liked getting richer.

Its seaport is the largest in the nation and has dominated northern European trade for over four hundred years.

It's a media center and publishes half the newspapers and magazines in the country.

It claims to have more millionaires per capita than any other city in Europe.

And, it is the home of the fountain pen---which makes it easier for the millionaires to sign their checks.

I got to know the city with Ulrike Schroder one of Hamburg’s top tour guides.

ULRIKE SCHRODER ON CAMERA: We have a lake here in the city. This lake is called Alster and there are two parts. We’re going to go to the outer Alster Lake, which is the larger part of the lake. We have a saying here in Hamburg. We say if you fall in the lake and drown, you’re too lazy to get up. It’s only one and a half meters deep, two and a half sometimes. And so it’s a paradise for free time. You can do sailing here, anything.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Those are the houses of the Rich?

ULRIKE SCHRODER ON CAMERA: Those are the houses of the rich. This is the most beautiful residential area here.

BURT WOLF: This is the warehouse district. I understand it was built in the late 1800s and it was where the goods that came off the boats were stored.

ULRIKE SCHRODER ON CAMERA: Hamburg has more bridges than any other city in Europe. The people of Venice don’t want to hear that. The people of Amsterdam don’t want to hear that. Their cities are quite small and they only have a few hundred. And we have more than 2,000 because we have so much water here.


ULRIKE SCHRODER ON CAMERA: The building in front of us?

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The tall tower.

ULRIKE SCHRODER ON CAMERA: Yes that's our television tower as we call it and it's the tallest building in Hamburg and it has a revolving restaurant and a view platform. You can also do some bungy jumping from the television tower.


ULRIKE SCHRODER ON CAMERA: Not you. You know there's a building straight ahead of us and I think it's a pretty building but if you knew what's inside you wouldn't like it -- this is our main tax office.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Taxes. Let's make a quick turn.

ULRIKE SCHRODER ON CAMERA: No, let's just go by it. Today they're not open I hope. And anyway you know in this building there are no stairs…you know why the people there crawl up the walls.


ULRIKE SCHRODER ON CAMERA: This is our underground and our underground is partly an above ground and the reason behind is we have a very muddy ground here, it's very soft, it's not like New York. New York is built on solid rock so that's also one of the reasons why we can’t have so many skyscrapers here because the ground is not made for it and that's why at the beginning of the 20th Century when we had our first underground they built it upstairs like on stilts and I like it particularly because it goes towards the port and from there you have the most wonderful view.

BURT WOLF: In the 1100s Hamburg became a member of the Hanseatic League which was a big deal. The league was made up of about 200 cities that joined together and became exclusive trading partners. If you were going to do business in Northern Europe you had to deal with the Hanseatic League.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: By the middle of the 1300s, the league was so powerful that it attacked Denmark because the King of Denmark was not following the league's rules. It won the war and installed its own king. But by the end of the 1600s the development of powerful nations like Russia and Sweden and England put an end to the league. But Hamburg continued to grow and ended up as the third-largest seaport in the world after New York and London.

BURT WOLF: Dr. Juergen Sorgenfrei is in charge of port information.

DR. JUERGEN SORGENFREI ON CAMERA: We are now entering the container area of the port of Hamburg. You see ships are coming from all over the world. This one is CSC Shanghai. It is one of the biggest container vessels today. Handling more than 8,000 containers. This is the cargo operation which is typical for Hamburg. You see this is a spreader as we call it. It’s just going, this is a typical 20 feet box. And now he’s setting on, he’s switching the locks, and up. It takes about 40 to 70 seconds to unload one box. The complete operation and this means between 50 to 70 - 80 of these boxes we can load and unload in one hour. After, the what we call her in Germany, the Reunification between Eastern Germany and Western Germany, and we are now again in the center of the market. And since that day, since 1990, we are in a boom phase. Because the interland areas like Poland, like Czech Republic, like Russia today is served by Hamburg.

Because the big ocean vessels can come to Hamburg, but they can not go to St. Petersburg, or Rega, or the Baltic Sea area for example.

BURT WOLF: At the edge of the port is the Fish Market. Hamburg merchants have been in the fish business for hundreds of years and this market is still a primary source of supply.

The market is an active site for the sale of fish but the stalls around the fish merchants sell hundreds of other things.

At some stalls the goods are sold through an unusual auction. The auctioneer holds up a box and yells out a price. The person who buys the box gets everything in it. If no one buys the box the auctioneer keeps putting more stuff into the box until it sells.

The Fish Market also has an enclosed hall that is famous for its Sunday morning party.

Maike Grimpe is the hall’s manager.

MAIKE GRIMPE ON CAMERA: People are just celebrating after a night already been out, or just to come over here in the morning.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: So it’s a celebration after the celebration.


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: What time does it start?

MAIKE GRIMPE ON CAMERA: It starts in the morning, at five a.m. and it goes up to noon to twelve.

BURT WOLF: Live bands, music, food.

MAIKE GRIMPE: Exactly. Everything you need in the morning on a Sunday.

Upstairs we have three galleries where we serve breakfast. You pay one price and you have a buffet and you can use that from like six in the morning to twelve, until you’re not hungry anymore. And then just relax, or have a beer and champagne.

BURT WOLF: And an aspirin.

MAIKE GRIMPE: And an aspirin.


BURT WOLF: Around the start of the 17th century a plague ravaged the city of Hamburg. The death toll was so great that a new burial ground had to be set up outside the city walls.

St. Michael’s Church was built to accommodate the mourners.

Dean Alexander Röder is the head pastor.

DEAN ALEXANDER RÖDER ON CAMERA: What we have downstairs in the so-called under church, crypt actually, is the largest Baroque-style crypt in Northern Europe. It’s a basement with more than 400 graveyards, from the 18th and early 19th century. And it is a piece of history of the democratic building of this city because you have mayors, you have people in mass graves who were members of burial societies as they were called. They paid in during their lives and then they were buried in the church.

So people could go down into the crypt, mourn their deceased ones, and still be united with them when celebrating mass up here.

This church is so important because it’s, a landmark of Hamburg, so to say. The spire of this church was the last thing the people who went out on the oceans could see and it was the first thing to see when they came back. And that’s why it became so prominent in the city and so prominent with all the people, even people who do not belong to the church.

When this church burned down in 1906 it was completely destroyed and saved these tiny little pieces that could be carried out at that time. Everything was destroyed and of course a discussion began among architects, how are we to rebuild this church? Well they decided we want this St. Michael’s back the way we had it. But they changed things. Where the centerpiece of the altar painting depicting the Resurrection of Christ they put in a little mosaic now depicting some mixture of style between art nouveau and art deco.

The old parts of the church that were saved, that is the baptismal fount. It’s beautifully done out of marble and three little angels carry this marble shell in which the water is carried. Two of them work very hard. The other one that is not to be seen by the congregation, says well, if nobody sees me, why should I work? So it stands a little bit like this, you know, just pretending to work. And it’s a wonderful, tiny, humorous piece of art here in the church.

This is probably one of the most vivid churches we have in Germany. We have a wonderful 12 noontime short organ service everyday of the year, where all three organs of this church are played from the smallest to the largest and we still have the largest organ in Hamburg with more than 6,666 pipes. We have still five services every Sunday and we have lots of concerts.


BURT WOLF: The written word has always had an amazing impact. Messages that would have been totally disregarded if they had come by word of mouth were taken as the gospel truth because they were written.

One of the great breakthroughs in western writing came when the ancient Greeks developed the alphabet. The alphabet made it much easier for people to learn to read and write. And as those skills became more wide spread it changed everything in western society. 

Another advance, not on the scale of inventing the alphabet, but never-the-less an important step, took place when the No-Leak-Fountain-Pen was invented by the Montblanc Company.

Wolff Heinrichsdorff is the managing director of Montblanc International.

WOLFF HEINRICHSDORFF ON CAMERA: Nineteen-hundred and six three gentlemen came together and one had the idea. He traveled America and he saw in America a fountain pen which was an innovation. It had ink in a tank in the pen, rather than always dipping the nib into the ink. So it was a great idea but the quality was still lousy. You had ink spots on your shirts when you were wearing that around. So they said the idea is good, the execution is not good enough. Let’s go after top quality and start that kind of a business in Europe.

They wanted to be a little bit sophisticated. A little bit French, so they related the name of the pen to a famous book at that time. Rouge et Noir of Stendhal which means, red and black. But the Germans at that time never spoke French. So they looked at the pen and said it looks like Little Red Riding Hood. So their innovation was then to make the same pen with a white cap, staying a French name they chose Montblanc, the highest mountain of Europe. 4,810 meters high. The pen name became so well known that they decided to change the name of the company into Montblanc Fuller Pen Company and that is I think a very rare moment in the history of a company that a success of a product is giving the company’s name rather than visa versa.

So we call the balance to high-tech, high-touch. Things which are staying with you which have continuity which become a friend of yours through many, many years. So this pen for example will be one day a pen I proudly will pass down to my kids and this pen is made forever in a top quality and you see in the cap a diamond cut in the shape of Montblanc symbol the star.

The founders never would have thought this business would become a diamond business but this year we bought around about 3,500 carat in brilliance in diamonds and put them into the caps of our writing instruments, cut like the star, the symbol of Montblanc.

BURT WOLF: In 1992, they began producing an annual limited edition pen that honors a famous patron of the arts or an author. The pens are on display in the Montblanc Museum.

WOLFF HEINRICHSDORFF ON CAMERA: We want to celebrate the unsung heroes which are the patrons of the arts. They are the ones who make culture strong. They finance culture and they know that culture is the backbone of civilization and we believe in that as well.

This is financing our activities we do year by year and we sell these limited editions. And at the end of the day it allows us to do something for culture.

So I would like to show you as well in the same year like 1992 introduced to the market a author’s editions. Because authors have something to do with writing, at least most of them. And Ernest Hemmingway was writing a lot as well by hand. And this is by the way one of his letters he was writing from the Finca Vigia San Francisco De Paula Cuba.


WOLFF HEINRICHSDORFF ON CAMERA: One of his major places where he was writing a lot. This writing instrument was a first. It is very, very famous. It is a collectors item. Hard to get. Even our friend Johnny Depp was not able to get it. Rather he received it as a present when he came to us to Geneva to our ...

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: ..from your collection.

WOLFF HEINRICHSDORFF ON CAMERA: Unfortunately now I’m missing the number five out of my own collection. But I know it’s in good hands with him.

BURT WOLF: The heart and soul of the Montblanc pen is the nib, which is the point. Producing just one nib requires 50 processes. And many carefully trained craftsmen and women. Carsten Hense is Production Manager.

CARSTEN HENSE ON CAMERA: This room is closed. Why? Because we must insure that no sound from outside will come in. Because a sound should only be coming from the nib.

They are writing with transparent ink, and only eights and lines, so that they can hear if there’s any scratches on the paper. So for that we have to rework the nib.

BURT WOLF: The history of Montblanc is, to a great extent, the history of the luxury brand business in the 20th century. In 1919, it established its own advertising department which was headed by Grete Gross. She was a master at promoting the name and made Montblanc an internationally recognized and widely respected brand. She took a group of automobiles, mounted giant fountain-pens on their roof, formed them into a cavalcade and sent them off on the roads of Europe. She also put the logo on early bi-planes and flew them from country to country.

Recently they decided it to extend their brand to other things. And it’s about time. In 1997 Montblanc purchased a beautiful old villa in the Jura mountains of Switzerland and restored it to it’s original condition. At the same time on the sloping hill behind it, they built a small almost hidden facility for making watches. The Jura has been home to the world's great watchmakers for hundreds of years. A craft that is passed on from generation to generation.

The new generation however is not only skilled in the traditional techniques, but highly trained in the use of computers and advanced technology. Computer programs are used to help design the watches and set the precise criteria for production. The actual assembly has a number of elements that are so exact that robotic machines were invented to help the watchmakers.

In business schools it’s called horizontal integration. You can use their pen to write down your appointment and their watch to see how late you are.

Today the company still has a program for displaying it’s logo in unusual places. Ingrid Roosen-Trinks is the Director of Montblanc’s Cultural Foundation.

INGRID ROOSEN-TRINKS ON CAMERA: Since the very beginning we had a close connection to literature, to writers and authors, and from this we explored our relationship with artists.

We have now almost 90 art pieces of international artists who did their work of art on the white star of Montblanc. That makes it so exciting to see the variety and the imagination regarding a logo of a brand.

I like very much the hanging art piece called Big Lunar Module, from one of my dearest friends from United States, Tom Sachs. And it’s hanging right in front of the entrance of Montblanc. And this is not a piece of the art -- it is… a toy of a Montblanc employee -- you know they are not shy to approach the artwork of Montblanc.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: They just put it there.

INGRID ROOSEN-TRINKS ON CAMERA: They just put it there whenever they go to the cantina or come back, they push the button, so they play with the artwork. Which I like.

Art Bags which are sculptures made out of aluminum which are three meters high, and two meters twenty wide, which you see outside on the lawn outside of our headquarters building. They have been traveling all over the world. They had been at the Rockefeller Center in New York for a couple of weeks. They have been on Champs d’Elise in Paris. On the waterfront in Cape Town in South Africa. They have been to Bilbao, to Barcelona, they are on tour.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Why this is just the size shopping bag my wife always uses.



BURT WOLF: The Raffles Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten was opened in 1897 and has been a Hamburg landmark ever since. In spite of its age it has been able to maintain its original elegance. In fact, it's in perfect shape. I’d like to look this good when I'm a hundred.

Of course, a proper diet is one of the keys to staying in good shape. And part of that process is to eat as many different foods as possible---variety is essential. And in order to make that task easier for you the hotel has four different restaurants.

The Haerling is their gourmet room---a Michelin one-star offering classic French dishes with a Mediterranean accent.


BURT WOLF: The Grill has a roaring 20s Art Deco feel. Its menu lets you choose a grilled specialty from the list of meat, fish and poultry. Then you decide which sauce and side dishes you would like to add from a separate list.

The hotel has an Asian restaurant called Doc Cheng’s.

Cheng was born in Penang in 1882, spent the first part of his life as a playboy, then as a doctor. The restaurant is a tribute to his memory and his belief in the restorative powers of good food and drink.

During Doc’s playboy days, he traveled to Italy where he discovered his passion for pasta. When he got to Singapore he prepared a dish of wok-fried Italian noodles with shrimp, egg, lemongrass and mushrooms – east meets west.

Attached to Doc Cheng is the Indochine Bar with over 35 different beers and a selection of sake based cocktails. Doc’s favorite drink was a Singapore Sling.

Breakfasts are served in the Café Condi which is decorated in a style called Biedermeier. Biedermeier was a character in a play who became a symbol for responsible middle class behavior. The woods are usually light in color and the attention to detail is meticulous. Herr Biedermeier would have loved this place.

The floating Terrace offers light snacks, drinks and a great view of the lake.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: There was a great German philosopher Gerter who once said, “Have dessert first. Life is uncertain.”


BURT WOLF: During the early 60s, the music scene in Hamburg produced a new form of music that became known as “The Hamburg Sound”, a sound that was made famous by the Beatles as well as Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley and the Everly Brothers. The Hamburg Museum of history has put on an exhibition honoring that period.

It not only deals with the music but also the social background of the period and how the new music reflected and influenced the changes that took place in fashion, consumer behavior and politics.

Ulf Krüger is the curator of the exhibit.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: What was The Hamburg Sound?

ULF KRÜGER ON CAMERA: It was basically a mixture of skiffle, a very simply British music style, and rock ‘n roll.

Hamburg is a big seaport, and many many people came in from abroad looking for amusement. Sailors, of course, because they stayed longer in those days. Three or four days, and not just two or three hours to unload the containers.

So club owners were looking for cheap bands. And they found them in England. So the Beatles being an amateur band then, came to Hamburg, and here they learned their craftsmanship and became professionals.

When the Beatles came to Hamburg, they started in a little club called Viendra. So they were transplanted into another bigger club the Kaiserkeller. And over there we have the original doors of the Kaiserkeller. From the Kaiserkeller they went to another club, bigger club. And The Star-Club became a real success. They had Little Richard, they had Jerry Lee Lewis, they had Fats Domino, they had everybody. Even Ray Charles, who was really big then.

Over there, we’ve got a collection of Astrid Kirchherr photos, world famous shots of the Beatles in the very early days. And where Stuart Sutcliffe the fifth Beatle who used to play the bass guitar in the beginning. And he stayed in Hamburg with Astrid. And unfortunately he died in Hamburg, as well. A couple of days before the Beatles started their stint at The Star-Club.

The Beatles were just the tip of the iceberg. There were lots and lots and lots of bands, mainly coming from Liverpool, London and a couple of upcoming German bands as well, who created The Hamburg Sound together.

BURT WOLF: For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.


Travels & Traditions: Aachen, Germany - #705

BURT WOLF: The city of Aachen lies in the most western part of Germany and borders with Belgium and the Netherlands. Ancient Celtic families liked the neighborhood and so did the Romans. But what really put Aachen on the map were the kings of the Franks. The Franks were German-speaking people who invaded Western Europe. And the superstar of the Franks was a guy named Charlemagne who came to power at the end of the 700s.

CARL ANDERSON ON CAMERA: Charlemagne was more than just a warrior king. In his court in Aachen he collected some of the great intellectuals of his time. And he was interested in bettering the welfare of his people: the rule of law, promoting education and religious reform.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Charlemagne had created a super-state by bringing together all of the Christian communities in Western Europe, it stretched from Denmark to Hungary. But his favorite city and the seat of his royal household was Aachen.

BURT WOLF: And the Cathedral that he built for his court is still standing.

DR. HEIKE NELSEN-MINKENBERG ON CAMERA: When this church was built, in the 8th century, it was for 200 years the highest building north of the Alps, because only in Italy, in the ancient Roman Empire, people were able to build architecture of this height and of this kind. So we think Charlemagne took the man who constructed this church from Italy to Aachen to build this church.

We’ve got an octagonal room in the middle, and its character reminds us to Eastern churches, because Charlemagne looked to the mighty emperor of Bisons, to the churches he built when he chose the design for his church here in Aachen.

I want to show you the so-called Barbarossa chandelier. A chandelier which looks like a crown. It’s a donation of Fredrick Barbarossa the Emperor and his wife, Beatrice. And it was given to the cathedral for the scarification of Charlemagne in 1165. In medieval Europe, we have to imagine many of these chandeliers in every big church, in every important basilica or cathedral, was a chandelier like that. But in our days, only three of them are left. And this one is the one which is best preserved, and so it’s the most important chandelier of the Middle Ages still existing.

Most visitors are very astonished when they see Charlemagne’s throne, because in comparison to the precious things we’ve seen beneath, it’s very archaic, it’s very simple.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Modest, to say the least. Just stones.

DR. HEIKE NELSEN-MINKENBERG ON CAMERA: Yes. But very special stones. The throne was built from stone which came from Jerusalem as a present to him from the grave of Jesus. So the throne was built from these holy items and didn’t need any more decoration.

DR. HEIKE NELSEN-MINKENBERG ON CAMERA: That’s the pulpit of the cathedral. And it’s 1,000 years old. And it’s so precious because during the mass of his coronation, the king had to read from the Bible. And he read from the Bible at the pulpit. And so, king and emperor, Henry II, gave this very precious pulpit to the cathedral so that the other kings who were crowned after him had such a precious place to read.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: So, the kings actually stood up there and read from the Bible.


BURT WOLF: Charlemagne made Aachen the capital of what we now call Europe and for hundreds of years it was the city in which rulers of Germany were crowned.

Precious relics were brought to Aachen by Charlemagne and placed in his imperial chapel. After his death hundreds of thousands of pilgrims came to Aachen to see them.

CARL ANDERSON ON CAMERA: In the Christian tradition there are two types of relics. One, the remains from a saint's body, such as bone. The other is an object that has been touched to a saint’s body such as a piece of cloth.

DR. HEIKE NELSEN-MINKENBERG ON CAMERA: The church of Aachen is an important place for pilgrims, because of the four holy relics which are in the shrine of Mary. The four holy items and the clothes in which the body of John the Baptist was wrapped, a dress of Mary, the cloth which Jesus wore when he was crucified, and the pampers of Jesus.

BURT WOLF: The great pilgrimages to Aachen and other sacred sites in Europe started during the 1300s and were known as Shrine Pilgrimages. To a considerable extent these journeys were the forerunners of today’s holiday travel. You took a break from your normal day-to-day life and headed off to see something new. During the past few years sacred travel has become one of the fastest growing parts of the tourist business and you don’t have to look far to understand why.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Every once in a while I wonder what life is all about. At which point I know it’s time for me to reestablish a more spiritual relationship with the world around me. And one of the best ways I know for doing that is to take a trip to a sacred place. Kind of a mini pilgrimage. It always resets my clock.


BURT WOLF: The center of Aachen is the town square and it tells the story of Aachen’s history for the past 650 years. Originally, it was part of an important road that connected Rome to the Netherlands and was used as a stopping point and a market place. It’s still a market place where local farmers from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands come to sell their goods.

In the middle of the market is Aachen’s oldest fountain. It was cast in 1620 and presents Charlemagne holding the symbols of his office.

The buildings around the square were once the homes of Aachen's richest families.

The Lowenstein House is the show-piece of the square. It’s named after Anna Lowenstein who built it in 1344.

The building that houses the Goldener Einhorn Restaurant dates back to the middle Ages and was a hotel for pilgrims visiting the shrine at Aachen.

Across the square is the Postwagen building which is one of the few remaining structures made of wood and probably the oldest. Today it contains a restaurant serving the local specialties of the area.

On one side of the square is Aachen’s ancient Town Hall. It was originally built in the 1300s and its foundation and dimensions are identical with Charlemagne’s old Royal Hall.

Inside are a set of frescos that tell the story of Charlemagne’s life. Even during his lifetime, Charlemagne was called the father of Europe, particularly of France and Germany.

The hall also contains the crown jewels, well; actually they are copies of the crown jewels. Just before Napoleon invaded Aachen in 1794, the Crown Jewels were sent to the Emperor of Austria with a note that said keep these jewels safe. But the Emperor misread the note, he thought it read "keep these jewels in your safe" and today they are still there. It’s all about penmanship.


BURT WOLF: The name of Aachen refers back to the ancient Celtic god of healing and the god of hot spring waters. Roman soldiers were particularly attracted to hot springs and often built settlements nearby. The salts in the hot water increased the buoyancy of their bodies and helped relieve their pain and exhaustion. The troops felt that they were floating back to health.

BURT WALKING ON CAMERA: It was the hot springs that originally attracted Charlemagne to the area. But he was not the only big name to come to Aachen. Casanova came here on three separate occasions, but he was always cleverly disguised during his visit. Didn’t want anybody to know that his sexual powers were being medically enhanced. And the Empress Josephine came here because she was having problems conceiving a child with the Emperor Napoleon. Fortunately however Josephine and Casanova were never here at the same time.

BURT WOLF: For centuries mineral springs were thought to have magical powers that could heal the sick. Sometimes the magic was attributed to the water and sometimes to powerful spirits who were thought to live in the water. It really didn’t make any difference to the people who came for relief as long as they got better.

The original springs in Aachen contain hydrogen sulfate with an odor you will recognize because it smells like rotten eggs. People drink it and bath in it and give it credit for an assortment of cures.

WERNER SCHLÖSSER ON CAMERA: Our water contains a lot of sulfur and if you had an operation for example at the knee or at the hip, then you can train in the water or you do special exercises and that will help you on walking again.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: During the 1800s the hot spring became a preferred hangout of the rich and famous. They felt that a couple of weeks at a spa would rejuvenate their health. The problem was the environment in a spa was very relaxed and open. And theses guests, totally on their own, and away from their families, were getting into hot water.


BURT WOLF: For thousands of years, people have believed that any place where water came up from the earth was sacred and those spots were often surrounded by fountains or temples. Sabine Mathieu took me on a tour of Aachen’s fountains.

SABINE MATHIEU ON CAMERA: Okay. Here we meet the hot spring water coming directly from the source. This spring is coming from 1500 meters and it is sent the earth with a temperature of 52.8 degrees. And it arrives here with a temperature nearly 50 degrees. It loses a little bit in the pipeline, but it is really hot.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: That’s centigrade. Fahrenheit it’s about 85 degrees.

SABINE MATHIEU ON CAMERA: Yes. But it is you smell it? A little stinky. And taste it. It’s a very...

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Oh it’s a lot stinky yes.

SABINE MATHIEU ON CAMERA: Yes, it’s sulfured water and it is a very salty water. But it is very good against illnesses of the skin yes. And it doesn’t smell anymore. It’s not true; yes it’s like old eggs I know.


SABINE MATHIEU ON CAMERA: Here we have one of the nicest fountains of Aachen. The Puppet Fountain. An invitation for the big and the little children to play with the figures.

This young lady is representing fashion industry and the drape industry. We have for since a thousand years in Aachen.

And she’s representing the needle industry. And here we have the Bishop representing the cathedral and the Catholic Church.

And then we have a very nice wife over there. She is a very sympathetic wife. Oh no, she’s not representing the dentists of Aachen. Oh no, she’s representing the clever wives of Aachen. Because she is a market wife, and she’s representing commerce. Commercial times began in 1166 when Frederick Red Beard gave us the town right and the right to have a market here in Aachen. And you see she’s clutching the money.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Clutching the money.


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Clutching the money.

SABINE MATHIEU ON CAMERA: Yea. The clever Aachen woman.

And let's go onto the most important man of Aachen. The scientific man, the teacher of the University. A professor who is representing our main polytechnical university with 29,000 students and our academy’s also have 8,000 students from all countries in the world. Do you know that every car engine of Germany has been constructed in Aachen?

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: No. And there’s the teacher who taught them how to do it.

SABINE MATHIEU ON CAMERA: Yea, that’s the reason why we are so. Yea there’s the teacher of university.


BURT WOLF: One of Charlemagne’s objectives was to make Aachen a cultural and educational center. Accordingly, he brought some of Europe’s most talented scholars to the city. His vision is still in operation at the Rhineland-Westphalia Technical University. It has transformed the region into a focal point for researchers working on automobile technology, laser development, and medicine, as well as the design and manufacturing of microchips. INTERNATIONAL NEWSPAPER MUSEUM

BURT WOLF: Aachen’s intellectual environment is also reflected in the city’s International Newspaper Museum which is based in the house where in 1850 Israel Reuter established the Reuters News Service.

The building contains over 170,000 newspapers with the earliest examples dating back to the 1600’s.

ANDREAS DÜSPOHL ON CAMERA: We are, we are now in the International Newspaper Museum of Aachen, which was founded in the year 1886, by a man called Oscar von Forckenbeck, who started to collect newspapers from all over the world. And when he died, he gave all the newspapers that he collected to the city of Aachen, who chose this house to display all these newspapers.

The oldest newspaper that we have in our stock is from 1609 and we also have the oldest daily newspaper that was published in Leipzig in the year 1650.

The newspapers that we have show that the press has always been controlled by authorities. And especially in years of war newspapers were of course used for propaganda reasons. And in one of the displays you can see some newspapers where the French authorities have actually censored a newspaper freshly.

Also we display a couple of newspapers which deal with important historical events. For instance, the assassination of Kennedy, or the death of Sir Winston Churchill. Or the events related to the German reunification.


BURT WOLF: In the late 1700s, a French revolutionary army occupied Aachen and incorporated the town into the French empire. Napoleon had a soft spot for the city, since he considered himself the cultural descendent of Charlemagne and believed that like Charlemagne he would unite all of Europe under one rule.

BURT ON CAMERA: But Aachen’s time under French influence had some very positive benefits. The destructive guild system was dissolved. Currency was standardized. Transportation and the economy improved. But for me the most important French influence that still remains here in Aachen can be found in a small, almost hidden, restaurant.

BURT WOLF: It’s named Maier-Peveling's and its specialty is a typical German fast-food called a “currywurst”. Currywurst was invented in Berlin in 1949 and consists of a grilled Bratwurst sausage, covered with ketchup that has been laced with curry. It is traditionally served with French fried potatoes and a bread roll.

Maier-Peveling's was designed to represent the ultimate in currywurst culture. The sausages are made daily from the owners’ family recipe. The French fries, which are truly outstanding, are made to order and served with six different sauces that are made in an elegant French restaurant, also owned by the family. The only sauce they don’t make is the tomato ketchup which is Heinz---some things just can’t be improved upon.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Hello. This is the wurst connection I ever had.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: And as long as we are talking about what’s cooking in Aachen, allow me to introduce you to printen. The word printen comes from the English word to print, but in Aachen it is a reference to a spicy, sweet, flat, hard cookie that is made in a mold.

BURT WOLF: They were developed by an Aachen baker about 300 years ago and became the favorite of the pilgrims.

The Klein Printen Bakery is one of the most respected in Aachen.

ULLA KLEIN ON CAMERA: We sell very different kinds of printen. The original one is the Kräuterprinten, with spices. You see it here, with almonds on it. And there are different sorts of printen, different kinds with chocolates, with nuts, white chocolate, or milk chocolate on it. And different forms, they taste very delicious.

BURT WOLF: Printens have an interesting taste, they’re nourishing, easy to carry around and they don’t get stale for months. These days, the bakers of Aachen produce over 4,500 tons of Printen each year.

And this is the Cafe Van Den Daele which was founded by a Belgian pastry chef.

It consists of four historic buildings---the oldest dates to1655.

Because each building was built at a different time and designed to meet the needs of a different family the inside rooms are connected by staircases and steps that lead in and out of seven different rooms. Picturesque for the patrons not that much fun for the waiters. The original baker was a collector of furniture, pictures and baking tins which are still on display.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The restaurant menu has a number of classic German dishes. But they’ve each been given a slight twist that makes them quite interesting. This is sauerbraten, its beef that's been marinated in vinegar and wine for a couple of days, and then roasted. Then the marinade is used to make a sauce. But when they’re making the sauce here they add printen cookies which gives it a gingerbread sweetness.

This is a rolled beef dish. The beef is filled with sautéed onions, bacon, and pesto sauce and served with sauerkraut and roasted potatoes. Very nice.

BURT WOLF: Van Den Daele is considered to be one of the finest cafes in Germany and particularly famous for its baked goods.

HANS-PETER MEIER ON CAMERA: Well the most popular one is this one. It’s called Belgium Rice Cake. And the best way to eat it when it’s warm coming out of the bakery. This is very popular. Especially in summer because it’s with the fruits. This is with apple and almond. And number three, again something for summer with seasonal fruits. For example, here we have a rice with strawberries.

BURT WOLF: What is that cake you’re hiding behind you?

HANS-PETER MEIER ON CAMERA: Well this is my top favorite maybe. It’s a French Apple Tart. It’s very thin with apple of course. Very tasty, very sweet, it’s just delicious.


BURT WOLF: Every year in June hundreds of thousands of visitors come to Aachen for one week to admire the horses at the World Equestrian Festival. The competition includes everything from show jumping to carriage driving.

Horses have been in the neighborhood for at least 30,000 years and it was Charlemagne’s horse pawing the ground that uncovered the hot springs that made Aachen Charlemagne’s favorite town. Charlemagne himself was passionate about breeding horses.

At the end of the festival everyone celebrates, music, dancing and a promise to return next year.

For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.


Travels & Traditions: Cologne, Germany - #704

BURT WOLF: Cologne was built by the ancient Romans in 38AD at a point where the Rhine River crossed a major east-west trade route. It was an ideal spot for commercial development and by the Middle Ages Cologne had become the largest and one of the richest towns in northern Europe.

Today, it's home to the largest university in Germany with more than 60,000 students living and from time to time even studying in the city. 

In general, the citizens of Cologne have done a good job of preserving and honoring their art and architecture.

A thousand-year-old Romanesque church in the middle of a shopping street that was put up in the 1980s. It's an unusual mixture of the very old next to the very new.

Since the Middle Ages Cologne has been a religious center and a destination for pilgrims. Pilgrims came from all over Europe to visit “Holy Cologne”, and the city’s great pilgrimage site was its Gothic cathedral. Even today, over five million visitors come here each year, which has made the Cathedral Germany’s main tourist attraction.

These days, more and more people are using their vacation time to make a pilgrimage, but a pilgrimage is really designed for more than just holiday travel. A pilgrimage is also a sacred journey. It’s a way of healing yourself. Physically you travel to a new place, but the big voyage is the one you make inside, the one that might transform you. 

CARL ANDERSON ON CAMERA: To really understand the medieval cathedral, you have to understand the medieval Christian's vision of life as a journey, as even a pilgrimage, and how different that was to what had come before. The medieval Christian didn't think about a golden age in the past. He wasn't interested in getting back to the Garden of Eden because he was on a journey to something completely new, the new heavenly Jerusalem and the place on earth where he could glimpse where his journey was headed was within the cathedral. The massive walls of the cathedral divided the outside, the worldly and secular from the inside, the heavenly and the holy. And the way to enter into this sacred space were through the great western door of the cathedral often called the Gate of Heaven where you could see the angels and saints depicted over the doorway, and on the doors themselves you often saw scenes from the life of Christ, the journey which the believer, too, had to follow, if he, like Christ, was to follow and meet him in heaven. 

DR. KLAUS HARDERING ON CAMERA: Cologne Cathedral is the largest Gothic Cathedral we have in Europe. It's kind of high point in the development of Gothic architecture.

BURT WOLF: Construction began during the 1200's and did not finish up until the 1880s. A time span of over 600 years.

DR. KLAUS HARDERING: The choir stalls are the largest in Germany we have of that Gothic period. And they are richly carved. There are more than 500 figures and reliefs. We made an examination of the wood material so we can say all those things must have been carved between 1308 and 1311, that means within 4 years.

In the mosaic floor there is a representation of the wheel of life. It's shown that a young man is going to move that wheel with all his power, he reaches the high point of his life as a rich man, he can give alms to the poor but the wheel moves on and he looses his hold so he falls down, all his money is lost, he wants to stop the movement of the wheel but he can't.

We have almost 10,000 square meters of stained glass windows inside Cologne Cathedral and about 1,300 are original Gothic. So that's a treasure because we don’t have so much medieval glass in Germany. In 1939, that means in the first year of the Second World War they were taken out. So they survived the Second World War.

We have several funeral monuments of tombs of Cologne archbishops and they

are normally placed in the so-called choir chapels. One of the most important funeral monuments is the tomb of Archbishop Conrad von Hochstaden who laid the foundation stone in 1248 and he got a very beautiful bronze tomb. 

DR. KLAUS HARDERING ON CAMERA: In the chapel of St. John's you find a monumental medieval drawing, the largest we have in the world, more than 4 meters high and representing the main facade of Cologne Cathedral with the two monumental towers as they were built in the 19th Century but as they must have been planned in the Middle Ages because that drawing was made before 1283.

BURT WOLF: The Cathedral's greatest attraction for pilgrims is the gold shrine said to contain the remains of the three kings. In 1164 the Emperor Barbarossa, who was living in Milan, gave the remains of the three kings to the Archbishop of Cologne. As soon as he got them back to Cologne work began on a golden shrine to hold the relics. The shrine of the three kings became the most important pilgrimage site in northern Europe. 

CARL ANDERSON ON CAMERA: In the New Testament, the three kings are referred to as wise men who traveled from a distant land to bring gifts to the Baby Jesus at his birth. In the Third Century, the Christian writer, Tertullian, refers to them as almost kings. And as time goes on, the "almost" disappears. The three kings are tremendously important for the development of Europe because, as time goes on in the West, they become identified with the Feast of the Epiphany which is the manifestation of Jesus as Lord to the Gentiles.

And this comes at a very important time in European history because during the Middle Ages Europe is beginning to see itself as a Christian society, even as the Christian society because the Holy Land now is under the control of the Muslims. The three kings also have an important political meaning. You might say, on their trip to Bethlehem, the three kings were on a divine mission, maybe even as divine agents. And if those three kings could be divine agents, then, maybe, kings in medieval Germany could also be divine agents and even have a kind of divine authority.

BURT WOLF: When the Three Kings discovered the Christ Child they gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Frankincense and myrrh are gummy resins that were used to make perfumes that were part of religious services. During biblical times they were considered quite valuable.

They are still around but their value is considerably diminished. Gold however has kept its value quite well.


BURT WOLF: During the 400s, the Emperor Charlemagne made Cologne an archbishopric and since then the city has been an important religious center. It has 12 Romanesque churches that have been built on the graves of martyrs and early bishops.

One of the most interesting is St. Ursula’s.

Father Dominik Meiering is in charge of St. Ursula's

FATHER DOMINIK MEIERING: Well this is the wonderful church St. Ursula here in Cologne one of the twelve romantic churches. One of the most wonderful and one of the most important because here is the place where the 11,000 virgin martyrs are buried as the legend of St. Ursula tells us.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The legend of St. Ursula goes like this.

Ursula was a British princess who lived during the 4th century and with a group of her friends made a pilgrimage to Rome. On her way back, she passed through Cologne, where she and her companions were murdered by a group of nomadic tribesman and generally unpleasant people, known as the Huns. 

BURT WOLF: In 1155, an ancient Roman burial ground was discovered and designated as the spot that contained the relics of the legend. Ursula was elevated to sainthood and became the patron of the Ursulines, a congregation of nuns dedicated to educating young girls.

FATHER DOMINIK MEIERING: The Golden Chamber as we call it here is a wonderful place. It is absolutely unique, it's a reliquary but very special because you enter into a place where many busts of the virgin martyr's with the skulls inside look onto you.

FATHER DOMINIK MEIERING ON CAMERA: That means you go into the place of holiness, you are surrounded by the holy spirit of all these people who are buried here. 

In the upper part we've got a decoration for you made out of bones. And there are even inscriptions you can read for example, Saint Ursula ora pro nobis, that means holy Ursula, pray for us, and this is built out of bones.

FATHER DOMINIK MEIERING & BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: You can find the relics, the bones not only here behind this Gothic architecture but you can find it also here in the hat, you can open the hat, and underneath this wooden plate, you find a skull of one of the virgins.

BURT WOLF: Wrapped in cloth.

FATHER DOMINIK MEIERING: Wrapped in cloth of the Middle Ages which is very precious. We have got in this church two old golden shrines. One is the relacory of St. Ursula and one is of Aetherius who was the man who should become the husband of St. Ursula.

FATHER DOMINIK MEIERING ON CAMERA: The specialty of Cologne is also that you have the possibility to go under the shrines.

FATHER DOMINIK MEIERING & BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: So now we can go underneath the shrines as the pilgrims of the Middle Ages

did and we can say our prayer and we can hope of the benediction of the saints and of God.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Very unusual to have it above you like that.



BURT WOLF: The Excelsior Hotel Ernst directly across the street from the Cathedral was built in 1863. The owner was part of Cologne’s high society and the hotel became a favorite hangout for the rich and royal. It's an ideal spot for tourists and business travelers, the hotel is within walking distance of theaters, museums, concert halls and the opera. It offers excellent service and a high degree of individual attention with a number of Presidential suites.

I always wondered who stayed in these Presidential suites since most traveling Presidents stay in their embassies. I was recently reminded that corporations also have Presidents and many of them have bigger expense accounts than small nations.

The hotel is home to two of the best restaurants in the city.

The first is the Hanse Stube. The food has an upper class French accent and it has been awarded 16 points by the Gault Millau food guide.

The Excelsior Ernst is also home to an Asian restaurant call Taku.

Taku is a great idea. It’s one restaurant but it has four different cuisines.

One team of chefs prepares Japanese dishes. Another Chinese. The third is Thai.

And the fourth is Vietnamese.

And all the dishes are on the same menu. You can order from all four kitchens at the same time.

Besides being a religious center Cologne has been a cultural focal point for hundreds of years. Today, it has 118 galleries and 36 museums.

And the sweetest museum of all is the chocolate museum. Built in the shape of a futuristic ship, sitting on the banks of the Rhine, the three-story museum presents the history and technology of chocolate.

Martin van Almsick is the marketing rep ---- sweet guy.

MARTIN VAN ALMSICK ON CAMERA: This is the factory. It's the main attraction of the chocolate museum here. It can be part of an entire production line. We produce hollow figures, we produce pralinees, normal bars, all this you can see here.

BURT WOLF: What does this machine do?

MARTIN VAN ALMSICK ON CAMERA: Well here we are producing pralinees, it a mousse a chocolat filling, very nice and you can see here beautifully how it originally consisted of two halves.


MARTIN VAN ALMSICK ON CAMERA: The mold consists of two halves, we are stirring, spinning, and now we filled it with mousse a chocolat filling you can see that very nicely here and now we make a little decorative element here, we give it some chocolate marks on top so it looks nicer. Ice first they call it in English, we say _____ in German. Okay you see we fill it in here and give it a liquid chocolate mix over it.

What we do here is we turn it in circles, you could just as well do it with forks but this is of course more economical to do it like this with this machinery, you develop a very special design.

So Burt what we see here is the cooling tunnel. The pralinees are almost ready.

They have their coating, their design, but we need to cool it for another say 10 minutes or so. Then they come out on the other side and are ready to be shipped.

Burt what we see here are the ready to eat pralinees. This is the final product, looks beautifully.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Can I have one?

MARTIN VAN ALMSICK ON CAMERA: Sure help yourself, real nice aren’t they.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: And that's the coating?

MARTIN VAN ALMSICK ON CAMERA: That's the coating, mousse alla chocolat and it's surrounded by milk chocolate.

BURT WOLF: What holds it in place there?

MARTIN VAN ALMSICK: Oh this is the bliss that we call it.

BURT WOLF: Beautiful thank you.

MARTIN VAN ALMSICK ON CAMERA: This is our legendary chocolate fountain, the one and only 200 liters of liquid chocolate bars. It's paradise isn't it?!



BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: This is known as hand dipping.

MARTIN VAN ALMSICK ON CAMERA: And if it's warm and fresh it's a lot better than normal supermarket chocolate. Can you tell the difference? This must be paradise huh, 200 liters of liquid chocolate and it's great.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: I'll go for a swim later.


BURT WOLF: The entire place is in keeping with Cologne’s history. The scientific name for chocolate is “Theobroma cacao”, which means “Food of the Gods”.


HEINRICH BECKER, JR N CAMERA: Cologne is famous for Kölsch which is the local beer. There are several different brands but they are always called Kölsch and it can only be produced within Cologne. Naturally it's being shipped all over the world. We sell it the United States and in China and Russia but it's mostly being sold and of course it can only be reproduced here within the city boundaries.

It comes in an extremely small glasses, they are only 0.2 liters which is approximately 8 ounces of a glass which has an advantage of our competitors in Bavaria which drink out of the big steins because this beer always stays fresh. The waiter always keeps bringing you glasses until you've had enough but he doesn’t know when you've had enough so as a matter of fact you have to take this little coaster here and put it on top of your glass, then when he's walking around through the restaurant he would actually see that you've been served, literally.


BURT WOLF: Even before I knew there was a city named Cologne I knew the word Cologne from the bottle of Eau de Cologne on my mother's dresser.

Eau de Cologne is French for water of Cologne which is a form of light perfume. It was originally developed in 1709. It’s primary ingredient is alcohol which is mixed with citrus oil and herbs. The objective was to make a perfume that smelled like a spring morning in Italy, after a rain. Napoleon was a big fan of the perfume.

In 1794, a French army under Napoleon occupied Cologne. At the time, houses were not marked with numbers, which was a constant source of frustration for the French General in charge of the city. So he sent his troops out to mark each building with a number. The number 4711 was assigned to a house where a family was making their own version of Eau de Cologne and it's became a world wide brand. 

The manufacturing process consists of mixing a series of scented oils into alcohol and letting the blend steep for a least three months.

During the 1950s, the company began using television commercials to promote its products.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Eau de Cologne was originally sold as a medicine that would cure every known illness and it was made from a secret formula. Secret formulas are fascinating. They give the holder the power to alter the forces of destiny to change his fate. It’s like giving somebody a hit of love potion number nine. It’s magic.


BURT WOLF: For almost 2,000 years, this city has been celebrating the Feast of Saturn in one form or another. Cologne's Carnival is known as the “Fifth Season”, and it has become world famous for the “three mad days” at the height of the celebration. Every year on Rose Monday more than a million people watch the Rose Monday Parade as it winds its way through the streets of the city.

Carnival is always chaotic: it turns life upside-down. It destroys the structure of daily life---people are encouraged to cross over barriers, break rules and violate customs

---Carnival literally demands excess. It's a time to make fun of famous people, respected cultural symbols and traditional social events. It is a time to satirize everything the society values. But the party only last for a short time.

To a certain extent, Carnival is designed to show people that chaos is not what they want to live with on a regular basis. And that a structure is essential for the survival of a community, and at the end of Carnival a structure is always reestablished.

For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Christmas in Vienna - #702

BURT WOLF: Christmas is celebrated in cities throughout the world, but what takes place in the Austrian city of Vienna is unique. These are the darkest days of the year and the need to be reminded that the sun will return goes back to prehistoric times. The ancient Romans handled the problem with the Feast of the Unconquered Sun, which declared that sun filled days were just around the corner.

As Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire the idea of light overcoming the powers of darkness became a symbol for the birth of Christ---the arrival of hope when times were darkest.

For centuries, Christ was called the “Unconquered Sun” and the straw radiating like rays of light from the baby Jesus in the manger is a visual presentation of that idea. The theme of Christ bringing light to the world is the reason fires and bright objects are part of the Christmas celebration.

Vienna has been celebrating the Unconquered Sun, in one form or another, for over 2,000 years. 


BURT WOLF: Central to Vienna’s celebration are the Christmas markets. The Viennese have been setting them up since the year 1296 when the Emperor decided that the markets were needed in order to guarantee sufficient supplies to the population during Christmas.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: One of the central rules for a festival is that the festival itself and the things associated with it must be temporary. By the very nature a festival is something out of the ordinary, not part of the everyday. And if it stays around too long it loses its impact. One of the reasons that food is so important is that food doesn’t last long.

BURT WOLF: The ancient Roman festival that predated Christmas made no special reference to children or family, but the story of the birth of the Christ child changed the focus of the holiday---children and family became central to the festivities. Vienna’s City Hall is transformed into a fairy tale world for kids with luminous hearts, giant sweets, golden leaves and glittering stars. There’s an old Viennese carousel. A mini-railway. And pony rides. Inside the hall, there is a workshop where experts help children make their own Christmas presents or bake their own cookies. The City Hall market is a traditional market and the oldest in the city.


BURT WOLF: December 6th is St. Nicholas Day and St. Nicholas dressed as a bishop walks through the streets passing out candy. St. Nicholas is often accompanied by his “dark side”, a scary fur-covered creature called Krampus. Sometimes, Nicholas will question children as to their behavior during the past year. Parents often warn their children that if they don't behave properly Krampus will carry them off. It's difficult to estimate the number of children who have gone into therapy as a result of this experience but there appears to be little concern---after all---Vienna was the home town of Sigmund Freud.


BURT WOLF: The Christmas market is also the place to buy your Christmas tree. Ancient societies from the Celts to the Egyptians marked the darkest days of winter by decorating their homes with evergreen plants.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: In Catholic communities, the Christ Child, The Three Kings and St. Nicholas were represented in human form. But the Protestant community didn’t think that was appropriate, so during the 1500s they introduced the Christmas tree.

BURT WOLF: It was man-sized but had no personality. It could signify Christmas in an abstract way and was therefore thought to be pure. Like Christmas, the tree was new every year and yet it was always the same---bringing light during the darkest days of the year. And it took over the role of the Three Kings and St. Nicholas by bringing presents. Eventually Catholics decided that the tree was okay and Protestants decided that even though

St. Nick was human, he was still welcome. 

Austrian families often have homemade Christmas tree decorations or a collection that they purchased over the years in the market. They are passed down from generation to generation as family heirlooms.


BURT WOLF: Vienna was built at the crossroads of two major trade routes. The north-south axis was the Amber Road that went from Northern Germany to Greece. The east-west traffic was handled by the Danube River. The Danube was essential for the growth of international trade. Vienna got rich because the city controlled the traffic heading down river.

And Vienna was controlled by the Hapsburgs. The Hapsburg family came to power at end of the 1200s and hung onto it for almost 700 years. This is Schonbrunn Palace, it was their summer place. Now, most royal families increased their land and their power by using military might, but the Hapsburgs used marriage.

It all started when Maximilian who married Mary, the daughter of the Duke of Burgundy, which added the Netherlands and Luxembourg to his lands in Austria. Then Max’s son Phil married Joan, the heiress of Castile. And that got him Spain and Naples and Sicily and Sardinia and all the newly conquered Spanish lands in the Americas.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: These guys were getting married all over the place and getting all the places where they got married. But at one point they made a fatal mistake. In order to avoid anybody marrying a Hapsburg and getting their land they started marrying each other---

a genetic disaster. It’s good to have a close family but not that close.

BURT WOLF: Swimming in the same gene pool made them weirder and weirder and in the end they lost everything.

Fortunately, what they lost is now on display to the public.


BURT WOLF: Robert Tidmarsh has been a senior guide to Schonbrunn Palace for over twenty years.

ROBERT TIDMARSH ON CAMERA: This room is the so called Marie Antoinette Room; it dates back to the time of the Emperor. What we've done is to try to show the public what a dining room was like at the time of the Emperor.

The napkins are the so called Kaiser Serviette. They're shaped similar to a fleur d'lys, and they were used, or are used for the head of state. Even today when we have a state reception, if the President of Austria gives the reception then they will use the Kaiser Serviette. If it's the Chancellor, then they don't. 

The Master of Ceremonies chose the length of the candles. So if it was going to be a long reception he would use long candles, if it was going to be a short reception, the short ones. Most of the people that came to a state reception were Austrians that had been to thousands of receptions before, and they would automatically look at the chandeliers to see how long the reception was going to take.

The Emperor ate very quickly, which is not quite true. If he did, he would have looked like me. He ate very little and finished very quickly, and that led to a problem. 

As soon as the Emperor stopped eating everybody else was obliged to stop.

Most of the restaurants near to the Schonbrunn or near to the Hofburg or the hotels, knew about the problem. They knew that the reception would be over very quickly, and they were getting ready for the end of the reception. And the end of the reception would have been that moment, as soon as the Emperor stopped eating and everybody left the Hofburg or Schonbrunn and went to the next best hotel for a meal.

BURT WOLF: Schonbrunn has its own Christmas market with a focus on hand crafts, decorations and food.

Families shop for Christmas tree decorations that will be passed down from one generation to the next.

Festive candles bring light and wonderful fragrances.

The most significant things offered for sale in the Christmas market are foods and things made of food. 

At the market, stands are loaded with Kaiserschmarren, a traditional dessert made from fluffy pancakes that have been scrambled and topped with jam.

Another holiday tradition is hot mulled wine. It's wine that's been sweetened and spiced. Warms you inside and out.

And every weekend during the Christmas season Mozart’s Magic Flute is presented in the marionette theater.

MARIONETTE ON CAMERA: This Company in Vienna existed 10 years in the castle of Schonbrunn and also this very famous tradition, because Maria Theresa, you now her?

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Yes, well not personally.

MARIONETTE ON CAMERA: Not personally because it was 250 years ago ---something like that.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: I'm old but I'm not that old.

MARIONETTE ON CAMERA: Not that old, no---she had marionettes here in the castle of Schonbrunn 250 years also --- you know Joseph Haydn?


MARIONETTE ON CAMERA: He was the composer and they did lots of operas for marionettes. Yeah he was famous at this time.


MARIONETTE ON CAMERA: Then he got a short break and we are here since 10 years now.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Wonderful. What made you want to be a puppet?

MARIONETTE ON CAMERA: The Magic Flute is very special for marionettes you know. As marionettes sometimes they can do things on stage what human people cannot do.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: How many performances do you have a year?

MARIONETTE ON CAMERA: We have The Magic Flute opera all year long.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: I understand you have some new make-up.

MARIONETTE ON CAMERA: Ah yes new make-up. Juts a few days ago because I have to do kisses with Papa Gino and when I do too much kissing my make-up is not so nice.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Do you guys always get along?

MARIONETTE ON CAMERA: Yes we always get along.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: No tension, no anxiety?


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: You're in wonderful shape do you have a special diet?

MARIONETTE ON CAMERA: Oh I have many performances and I always have to jump something like that…

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: So your physical exercise is part of the program.




BURT WOLF: Along with Christmas food and Christmas trees, Christmas music plays an essential role. There are thousands of musical compositions from Silent Night to Jingle Bells that are only played at Christmas and they always bring back memories of the celebration. Silent Night, by the way, is Austria’s most beloved Christmas carol. It was first performed on Christmas Eve in 1818 in a small Austrian village.

During the second half of the 1700s, the Hapsburgs played a critical role in turning Vienna into the music capital of Europe--- a title which it held onto for over 100 years. Mozart, Hayden, Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss, Brahms, and Mahler all worked in Vienna.

At Christmas time the city is filled with music and some of the finest can be heard as part of the regular church services.


BURT WOLF: A central element in Vienna’s Christmas celebration is Advent.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Advent is a four-week period leading up to Christmas. It represents the 4,000 years of the Old Testament that were thought to have existed between creation and the birth of Jesus.

BURT WOLF: One of the most common traditions during Advent is the keeping of an Advent calendar. It's made up of a series of miniature doors---one for each day from the first day of Advent

through Christmas, and each day, one of the doors is opened. Inside is a picture or a saying or a little present---a little promo for what’s coming up.


BURT WOLF: The tradition of Nativity scenes outside a church goes back to St. Francis of Assisi. In the year 1223, St. Francis set up a live Nativity scene in the forest, he used a manger and real animals and invited the local population to come and join him in celebrating the birth of the Christ Child. At a time when very few people could read or write the scene was a powerful teaching tool.

In Austria, the custom of setting up a nativity scene at Christmas began in the mid-1500s. The early scenes were simple---Mary, Joseph, the Christ Child, and a few animals. But as the tradition took hold additional biblical elements were added. The shepherds joined in and the Three Kings arrived with their gifts. Eventually, the entire village of Bethlehem surrounded the manger.


BURT WOLF: The Imperial Hotel was originally built as a palace for the Duke of Wurttemberg. But when the Duke heard that a new street was going to pass near the building he decided to move to the suburbs. He sold his palace and never really lived here. The new owner had it refurbished into a hotel. But it still feels like a palace. 

During the month of December the hotel presents the dishes that make up the traditional foods of Christmas in Vienna.

The usual pre-Christmas meal on Christmas Eve is rather simple. The main dish is fish, most often carp. It is considered to be a sign of good fortune if you get the fish roe with your portion. It’s a common belief that a lot of little eggs will bring you a lot of good luck. The vegetable dishes usually include beets and cabbage.

The Christmas Eve meal is simple, but the Christmas feast, which in Vienna is the mid-day meal on Christmas Day, is anything but plain. At the Imperial Hotel's Christmas gathering, the meal begins with a Truffled Terrine with Mango Chutney.

The second course is Consommé with Cep Mushrooms and Pistachio Dumplings. 

Roast Goose is the traditional main course and its served with Imperial Stuffing made with Red Cabbage and Apples. Every family will have its own stuffing recipe which will often include sauerkraut, dried fruits, apples or chestnuts. At any feast we try to do two things: we make an effort to show that we are united, a part of a group, but while at the same time we try to show our individuality. The goose is a universal container; it’s the same bird that’s being roasted by all the other families. But the stuffing is unique. It is the family stuffing and makes one family different from all the others.

And there are dozens of sweet desserts like a Soufflé of Gingerbread with Chocolate Sauce and Stewed Kumquats.

And there are lots of festive breads. Christstollen is a good example---filled with nuts, raisins and dried fruits, it's the Austrian answer to Christmas pudding.

Apples and nuts are important symbols for Christmas. The apple represents the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. It’s an ancient fruit, bright and shiny; it symbolizes hope and light during the darkness of winter. Austrians have been making apples part of their Christmas celebration for hundreds of years. Nuts represent destiny and life’s great puzzles. You must break them open to find out what’s going on inside.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Red and green are the colors of Christmas. Red reminds us of summer warmth and fresh flowers and green is for the leaves that we hope will return to the trees. Santa Claus is always red and green is the color of real Christmas trees.


BURT WOLF: Of all the foods associated with Christmas in Vienna, the most significant are the cookies and they are on sale throughout the city.

The official home of Vienna’s cookie monster is Demel. Demel got started in 1786 when a confectionary assistant settled in Vienna and started selling decorated baked goods. His shop, which served coffee and hot chocolate along with the pastries, became a gathering spot for the local aristocracy and his cookies became an essential part of Vienna’s Christmas celebration.


BURT WOLF: At some point during Vienna’s Christmas celebration you will end up in a coffee house. Coffee houses have been part of Viennese life since the 1600s. Coffee originated in Ethiopia, and by the sixth century Arab communities in the area were cultivating coffee. The Moslem sect called the Dervishes loved the stuff. They realized that when they drank coffee, they had more energy and they were able to stay up longer. That gave them more time at prayer. So they figured it was a gift from God. They called it 'kava,' which is where our word coffee comes from. Moslem armies attacked Vienna in 1683. When their siege failed and they headed back to the Near East, they left behind sacks of coffee beans. The Viennese discovered it, figured out how to brew it and opened up their first coffee house. A coffee house is a place to read the newspaper, play a game of billiards, have a light meal or a dessert, a glass of wine, and definitely a cup of coffee. The waiters in a true Viennese coffee house will be dressed in tuxedos and they will offer you over 20 different types of coffee and with each cup there will be a small glass of water to aid your digestion.


BURT WOLF: Vienna celebrates a very traditional Christmas, with most of the religious elements in place. But there are cities around the world where people feel that the religious aspects have been pushed out and the only thing that's left is the need to buy presents. But gift-giving is a central part of the story of Christmas.

The Christ Child was a present from god. The Three Kings brought presents for the child in the manger. And we're expected to respond to God's generosity by continuing to give gifts.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that Christmas offers us the opportunity to remember that the most important lights may not be the lights around us but the lights inside us. And the darker the outside world looks the more important it is to keep the lights inside us from going out.

For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Munich, Germany - #101

This is the city of Munich, in a part of Germany known as Bavaria.  At the end of the Second World War, it became one of the most important cultural centers in the nation. It also became a city of great corporate wealth. The wealth combined with the culture and the natural beauty of the area to make Munich a major tourist attraction.

Beneath Munich’s commitment to its culture and its corporations is an even greater devotion to its local customs and its everyday pleasures.  Munich has a big-city intellect with a small-town heart.

During the next half-hour we’ll visit the most popular beer garden in Europe... discover why Bavarian maypoles must be guarded 24 hours a day... visit a palace that didn’t quite turn out the way the king expected... and take a driving tour through some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe.  So join me, Burt Wolf, with TRAVELS & TRADITIONS in Munich, Germany.

Most of the important sites in Munich can be reached on foot, and as you move around the city you can’t help noticing the fountains. There are over one thousand of them. Donating a public fountain has become a local fashion. Public fountains and public gardens have been placed throughout Munich. They bring in light, and quiet space, and give the city an open feeling.

One of Munich’s most beautiful open spaces is the 900-acre English Garden, which sits in the center of town. It was constructed during the late 1700s as a park open to all, where people of different classes could come together in a relaxed and natural setting. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): The English Garden was the idea of a man named Benjamin Thompson, who was born in Woburn, Massachusetts in the middle of the 1700s.  But when the American Revolutionary War came along, he sided with the English and moved to Europe. He became friendly with the Prince of Bavaria who gave him the title of Count Rumford. Everybody in Munich thinks of him in connection with the English Garden. But I think of Rumford as the man who invented the original prototype for the modern kitchen stove -- and that was an extraordinary achievement.

The rulers of Bavaria were into parks, but they were also into music and they made Munich a great city for music lovers. The National Theater is one of the finest opera houses in the world, with a special interest in the works of Mozart, Wagner and Richard Strauss.

Down the block from the theater is a statue of one of the rulers of Bavaria, Maximilian I. He was hoping to be shown on a horse, but the sculptor felt that for the long haul he’d be more comfortable in a nice chair. The word around town is that his hand is directed to the cafe across the street and that he is gesturing for a waiter. Along with everyone else.

A few blocks down the pedestrian street from Maximilian is Marienplatz, which is in many ways the center of Munich. The area is named after the statue of the Virgin Mary that stands in the middle of the square. The Town Hall contains a mechanical clock which goes into action every day at 11am, noon, and 5pm. The figures are performing the “Coopers’ Dance.”  During the early 1500s there was a great plague in Munich. The first group of people to realize that the plague was coming to an end were the barrelmakers, who were known as coopers. In 1517 the coopers came out into Marienplatz square to perform a dance of thanks to the Virgin Mary, marking the ending of the plague and cheering up the city. And they are still cheering up the city.

Behind the square you can see the twin towers of the 500-year-old Church of Our Lady. The onion-shaped domes were put on originally as a temporary measure, and they don’t match the rest of the church’s Gothic architecture.  But with one thing and another, they never got replaced. Today they are the symbol of the city’s skyline.

Just down the road is another church worth visiting. It’s called the Asam church and it is a magnificent example of the architectural style known as German Baroque. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): The Catholic church was always interested in monumental architecture.  But the Protestant Reformation was against ornate buildings. They wanted a  plainer style.

To reaffirm the greatness of the Catholic church, Baroque architecture was introduced. The Catholic church was saying... “you want to see the majestic, take a look at this.”

And speaking of majestic, if you’d like to see how the rulers of Bavaria lived during the good old days, you have two locations. Their in-town winter place is known as the Residenz. It belonged to the Wittelsbach family, who controlled Bavaria from the middle of the 12th century to the beginning of the 20th. An 800-year reign, the kind you could have in the old days before term limits. You can see the royal apartments, the crown jewels, and an extraordinary collection of objects from the royal court of Bavaria.

The Nymphenburg Castle was their edge-of-town summer place... though they did come here from time to time during the winter when the water would freeze over and the family could practice their ice skating. We estimated seventy-six bedrooms, fifty-three sitting rooms, thirty-three reception areas, four ballrooms... no bathrooms.

But the ballrooms in the Nymphenburg Palace were not the only ballrooms in town. In 1875 Stutzel’s Ballhaus was built for debutante balls and concerts. And since then, it has been the focal point of Munich’s social scene. 

Today it is the Hotel Rafael, and its owners have restored the rooms to their previous elegance. Hanging in the center of the lobby is a work by the famous German sculptor Josef Boyce -- a giant fedora and an oversized trenchcoat with a copy of the Herald-Tribune in the pocket.  It was given to the hotel as a gift for its opening day.  There’s also a work by the British artist Richard Long, who paints in mud.  The work is called the “Rafael Circles,” and the mud comes from the Avon River in England.

The furnishings are in a style called Biedermeier, which was popular in Germany and Austria during the first half of the 1800s. Biedermeier was a character in a play who became a symbol of the responsible middle class. Biedermeier furniture is made from woods that are usually light in color. The design elements are drawn from Greek and Roman architecture and there is always a meticulous attention to detail.

One of the things that makes the hotel unusual is that it reflects Munich’s unique balance between modern metropolis and Bavarian village. The rooms give you the feeling of a wealthy family residence. Some of the rooms have private terraces that look out over the city. I was particularly impressed with the bathrooms. High ceilings, huge mirrors, marble all over the place, spacious showers, and over-sized soaking tubs. You can even soak in the tub and look out at the skyline. And the place is so quiet, you’d never know that you were right in the middle of the Old City. There’s a swimming pool on the roof with spectacular views.  And during the summer the pool is heated.

The hotel’s restaurant is a good place to begin eating your way through Munich. The executive chef prepared a five-course meal of traditional Bavarian foods updated for a city restaurant.

He started with a plate of sliced beets and apples with a balsamic vinaigrette.  The second course was beef consommé with chanterelle mushrooms and dumplings made from pretzels.  That was followed by panfried catfish with celeriac sauce.  Then medallions of beef in a dill sauce, topped with horseradish butter... and for dessert, a strudel of mango with a lime and vanilla sauce.

A tour of what’s good to eat in Munich should also include a visit to the outdoor food market. This may be the spot where Munich began over a thousand years ago when a group of Benedictine monks founded a monastery nearby. Many of the present-day stalls have been in the same family for generations. The square feels like a village marketplace, a gathering spot for hanging out, as well as eating and shopping.

A few blocks away is St. Michael’s Church. Its construction began in 1583. When it was finished it turned out to be the largest Renaissance church built outside of Italy, and the cost of the project almost bankrupt the government.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): In order to find a source of new revenue, the chief accountant for the Duke of Bavaria suggested that instead of buying beer from an out-of-state brewery, a royal brewery be set up right in Munich. And it was a great idea --  kept all the cash in town and resulted in the introduction of the first Hofbrauhaus.

The beer is served in a liter mug called a mass. If you are the designated driver you might skip the mass and have a radler, which was designed for people going about on bicycles. It’s half beer and half lemonade.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Along with the beer you should have a sausage. The German word for sausage is wurst. And there are dozens of different kinds of wursts in German cooking. But the people of Munich think that the best of the wurst is a white sausage called weisswurst.

Locals think that the place to have it is Franziskaner, where the rules of weisswurst eating are carefully followed. First of all, weisswurst is morning food. Anyone ordering weisswurst past noon is committing a serious faux pas -- one of the wurst. The meat is removed from the casing in what could easily be considered a surgical procedure. Then, for better or wurst, it’s dipped in sweet mustard, and taken with a pretzel and a wheat beer.

When you toast with a regular beer you clink glasses with a full broadside. Wheat beer toasting, however, uses only the base of the glass.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): And there’s a bit of protocol around the pretzel, too. Munich is the center of pretzel mania. Pretzel folklore says that they were developed by German monks as a symbol of hands praying, and given to people to remind them of the importance of prayer. The word “pretzel” comes from a Latin word meaning “little arms.”

In Munich pretzels are found everywhere and at all times. Usually they are presented as a bread in a basket rather than as a snack. At the end of the meal the waitress will ask you how many you ate and you will be  charged accordingly. If you visit Munich, remember to keep track of your pretzel intake. There’s a question period at the end of the meal. 

Other Bavarian specialties include a liver cheese, which is a little strange since it doesn’t contain any liver or any cheese. It’s actually a form of meatloaf that tastes like bologna. Then there’s a plate of five or six different sausages served with sauerkraut and potatoes.  Another classic is roast pork with cabbage and dumplings... a homemade pasta with melted cheese and onion... There are also mushrooms in a cream sauce served over giant dumplings... and pork’s knuckle, a very traditional Bavarian dish.  And for dessert, Kaiserschmarrn -- kind of a scrambled pancake with almonds and raisins and applesauce served on the side. Big food for big appetites, and quite frankly, all of it’s worth the calories.

Munich is also the home of the high performance automobile, and a number of manufacturers offer a purchase option known as a European Delivery Plan, which can be quite valuable for a tourist.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): I’m gonna test drive the plan with a BMW. You order whatever car you like in the United States, pick it up in Munich, and head off on your European vacation. Depending on how you work out the plan you can save up to seven percent of the U.S. cost of the car. And there are additional savings during your holiday.  There will be no costs for planes, trains, taxis or buses.  And if you have two or more people travelling together, those costs can really add up.

The dealers in the States handle all the paperwork for the insurance and registration. They’ll also make arrangements for shipping your new car back to the U.S. after your holiday.  Just head into the Munich delivery center and get your official introduction.

You can also schedule a visit to the Munich factory and see how the cars are made.

The BMW Museum is also nearby. It illustrates the history of transportation technology through five generations. The company started as a manufacturer of airplane engines. The logo represents the propeller. The museum presents the story of the consumer automobile as well as the racing automobile. And along with the cars they have some of the oldest and some of the newest motorcycles.

Of course, what you’ve really come here for is the car.  It arrives in the delivery area, and before you take off, you get a complete briefing on every aspect... sort of a hands-on instruction manual.

BURT WOLF:   All right, what do I need to know?

BERNHARD HAUSMANINGER:  Is it your first BMW?  That’s my first question to you...

BURT WOLF:   Yes.  It isn’t even mine, I’m only borrowing it.

And now, once you are suitably informed, it’s time to take the top down, buckle up, and hit the road.

BURT WOLF:   I’m outa here.

The part of Bavaria I’m heading to is about fifty miles southeast of Munich. And part of the trip is on the Autobahn.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): The Autobahn is a major German highway system that was designed with high precision automobiles in mind. There are large parts of it without any speed limit at all.  It’s a place to find a balance between your own driving skills and the technology of the car. This car was designed to do up to 150 miles an hour... and here it is perfectly legal. 

Long before the New World was added to the map, the roads of Europe were well-known highways for traders and troops. Many of the roads were built by the Romans, and many of the original routes are still in use. Driving these roads will show you Europe in a way that most tourists never see.

You set up an itinerary tailored to your specific interests and time schedule.  For example, you could base a tour on the Romantic Roads of Bavaria... stopping off at medieval castles... or you could pay a visit to a gilded palace right out of a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm... or drive through the charming villages of Bavaria -- the settings for some of the great romantic stories of European literature.

Virtually every village has a Maypole. The cutouts on the pole present the occupations and favorite pastimes of the townspeople. A century’s-old custom calls for the villagers to go out into the forest in January and find the finest spruce tree, cut it down and guard it day and night until May 1st, when it is erected in the center of the town. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): The reason for the guards is to protect the Maypole from being stolen by a neighboring village. If that happens, the pole has to be ransomed, and some of the ransoms can get pretty bizarre.  A recent ransom consisted of 120 liters of beer, plus forty servings of roast pork with cabbage and dumplings. The folklore around the Maypole says that if you live within sight of the Maypole you will be protected from evil spirits and have lots of good luck.

You can also base a driving tour on the Garden Roads, which will show you the horticultural centers of Europe.  Or chart a course based on good eating that will transport you from one great restaurant to another.  Or base your trip on the Mountain Roads... serpentine strips... deep passes... beautiful scenery... and routes designed to challenge your driving skill.

The first production cars started coming off assembly lines just over a hundred years ago, and since then they have changed the world. We could easily look back at the 20th Century and describe it as “The Age of the Automobile.”

The automobile was one of the first high-priced products for the mass market. Most people didn’t have the money to buy one. So the automobile manufacturers developed installment purchasing. And for the first time, it became acceptable, even fashionable for the average person to go into debt.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): The gasoline companies introduced credit cards for the purchase of their products, so you could increase your indebtedness at many points along the road. And how we used and misused our automobiles stimulated the growth of the insurance companies.

The automobile also changed the economics of real estate. Land that had been too far away from cities to be valuable soon became high-priced because the automobile made these places accessible. Welcome to the suburbs.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): The automobile brought us the motel, fast food restaurants, the drive-up shopping mall and the drive-up bank.  As a matter of fact, it brought us the drive-up everything.

The world became laced with highways.  The cities changed their shape to accommodate the needs of the car and the driver.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): The automobile on the open road created a more open society. Teenagers in love, previously confined to the front porch, suddenly discovered an ideal spot for the rituals of mating.

The automobile even affected our DNA and changed the genetic pool. In the past, most marriages took place between people who lived within walking distance.  Since the introduction of the car, people have been courting over hundreds of miles.

For many people the car is an extension of their desire for power, adventure and romance. But lots of real power, adventure and romance can involve lots of real danger. We may want to experience the edge of life like our heroes, but most of us don’t want to experience the risks.

Manufacturers know that -- and they are, in their own way, trying to help. They offer us objects that represent the experience. Now we can skip the peril and just purchase the product. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Can’t make this year’s climb on Mount Everest? Well... wear the boots. Missed your opportunity to learn how to fly a jet plane? Get the watch. And if we can’t live like James Bond, well, at least we can drive his car.

The way the product is advertised stamps it with an image. And when we buy that product, we stamp the image on ourselves.

Most of the time the automobile only gets to live out its image in advertising, but the European Delivery Plan is at least one way to buy a car and get a fair shot at living out the dream of performance, adventure and romance, surrounded by some of Europe’s most beautiful scenery.

Chiemsee is a lake. It’s the largest lake in the district of Chiemgau, and known as the Bavarian Sea. There are a number of islands in the lake which can be visited with a tour boat that runs up and back throughout the day.  For me, the most interesting of the islands is Herrenchiemsee... the home of one of the most unusual palaces in Europe.

In the middle of the 1800s, Ludwig the Second became King of Bavaria. But Ludwig was not into power or politics. His thing was palaces. And while his money lasted he built some beauties. This was the last of his palaces. It’s called Herrenchiemsee.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Ludwig had visited the palace of Versailles just outside of Paris and Herrenchiemsee was his version of Versailles.

Sandra Moder is one of the guides and she took me on a tour of the palace.

SANDRA MODER:  So this is the main entrance of the palace.  Herrenchiemsee Palace was built by King Ludwig the Second of Bavaria from 1878 to 1885.  Seven years is a very short time to build a palace like this, and you can probably imagine that the whole palace could not be finished in only seven years.  So only twenty out of seventy rooms are finished, fifty are unfinished.

BURT WOLF:   Seventy rooms, twenty finished, fifty unfinished.


BURT WOLF:   Why is that?

SANDRA MODER:  That’s because the king ran out of money; he had two other palaces built before, and so the king simply ran out of money in 1885, one year before he died, and so they had to stop building.

BURT WOLF:   I’m glad to see that somebody else is bad with budgets.

SANDRA MODER:  And you can see sixteen different kinds of marble in here.  There are more than forty different kinds in the whole palace, but only the floor, the stairs, and the fountain are made of real marble.  And everything else that you can see on the walls -- that is fake.  And you can see on the doors, that is just gold paint, because there are only about nine pounds of real gold in the whole palace.  So almost everything that you can see on the doors and the walls -- that’s only gold paint. . . .  Well, this is the “Table Which Sets Itself...”

BURT WOLF:   “The Table That Sets Itself”?


BURT WOLF:   Okayyy...

SANDRA MODER:  ...because underneath this table there’s a huge construction made of iron, so you can lower the whole table down there.  The servants were supposed to set it there, and they would bring it back up here so that King Ludwig the Second, [who] was a very shy person, could have dinner here all by himself without being disturbed by anybody or having any servants around him.

BURT WOLF:   Amazing.

SANDRA MODER: So this is the king’s bathtub, totally made of marble.  It is twenty-one feet wide, almost six feet deep, and they’d fill about sixty thousand liters of water in it.  The water was supposed to be pumped in there from the lake, and then was supposed to be heated by steam from underneath. . . .  Now this is one of the fifty unfinished rooms of the palace.  It was supposed to look just like the so-called State Staircase that you saw before; the only difference is that this was supposed to be the private entrance, just for the king, while he wanted to receive all his guests in the first one.  But unfortunately he ran out of money, as you can see.

This palace was built as a memorial to Louis XIV, king of France, who was the symbol of absolute monarchy. But those days had come to an end.  Ludwig, however, built this castle dreaming of those old days, of a time when it was good to be King. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  And I am dreaming of the open road. Freedom, adventure, romance... And I hope you will be joining me as we hit the road next time on TRAVELS & TRADITIONS. I’m Burt Wolf.