Nena – ambassador for hope

Nena's massive hit 99 Luftballons (1983) was a catchy peace song protest against the deployment of Pershing-II missiles. Good fortune meant that Nena's song reached the USA and, after being released as 99 Red Balloons, it went to the number one spot even in Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia and the UK.

Nena, real name Gabriele Kerner, was born in 1960 in Hagen. At first, Nena was the name of the band she founded in West Berlin in 1982 in the wake of the New German Wave, but she used this name later as a solo artist. Nena was also an actress, TV presenter, voice actor and writer of children's songs. In 2002 she celebrated her successful comeback with new versions of her old songs. Three years later she published her autobiography and her song 'Liebe ist' gave her a second number one hit in Germany.

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Königsallee in Düsseldorf

Recordando el Carnaval de Düsseldorf

A falta de 4 meses para un nuevo Carnaval, me encuentro mirando fotos y recordando mi experiencia allí este año. Düsseldorf es una ciudad que se vuelca con esta fiesta pagana. A pesar de que los alemanes no tienen, precisamente, fama de grandes fiesteros, tengo que reconocer que este Carnaval de Düsseldorf me dejó completamente sorprendido. Toda la ciudad se entrega a la fiesta y las calles son un escaparate de disfraces y carrozas sin igual. La céntrica calle Königsallee concentra la mayor parte de los eventos y es el lugar donde se debe estar estos días. El resto del año es uno de los bulevares de compras más caros y exclusivos de toda Europa. Espero regresar el próximo año!

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Quirky Things You Didn’t Know About the Rheingau Region of Germany

Home to world-famous Riesling wines, ancient castles, postcard villages with half-timbered homes, and dramatic scenery along the River Rhine, the Rheingau region of Germany is full of surprises. Here are ten quirky things you didn’t know! 1) A German family owns and lives in the Rheinstein Castle This elegant 14th century castle perched above the Rhine River passed through the hands of many royal families before it went up for sale in a dilapidated state in the 1970s. The Hecher family bought it in 1975, made it their home, started renovating, and opened parts to the public to travel back in time with panoramic views on the Rhine. 2) Queen Victoria’s favorite Riesling vineyard is in the little village of Hochheim. Sleepily located along the Rhine, the village of Hochheim has a rare claim to fame – it is home to Queen Victoria’s favorite Riesling vineyard, and Queen Elizabeth was its most recent royal guest. Currently managed by the Flick family, it is possible to rent part of the vineyard, join the harvest, and have your own Riesling – finally something in common with the queen! 3) The Rhine valley is among the northernmost places that can grow Riesling grapes One of the northernmost regions of Europe to produce wines, the Rheingau region is blessed with sunshine, relatively moderate climate, and the right soils and inclines for wine growing. The northern location results in less ripe grapes and more acidic wines – hence some of the finest Rieslings in Europe! 4) Every wine-growing village in the Rheingau has a “wine queen” Traditionally, wine queens were the daughters of wine merchants, but with time, the title evolved into elected icons to represent the wineries of each of Rheingau village. Wine festivals are a great time to mingle with them and hear all the inside stories, challenges and joys of wine making. 5) You can sleep in a real wine barrel! Sturdy large oak barrels were once heavily used in wine production, but when some of them were rendered unusable, Hotel Lindenwirt in Rudesheim am Rhein decided to convert them into hotel rooms! Imagine sleeping with the aromas of wine and waking up to peep out of your own barrel. 6) The nuns of Hildegard Abbey have been making wine since the Middle Ages The living traditions of the Rheingau never cease to amaze! On the hill above the vineyards of Rudesheim, the abbey of St. Hildergard is the only one in Germany that has been making fine Riesling wines since the Middle Ages. You can chat with the nuns and their austere way of life, as you taste their wines. 7) There’s a summer / fall wine festival in every Rheingau village What better way to immerse yourself in the wine culture of the Rhine region than attending a traditional wine festival in one of its wine-growing villages? From Rudesheim Wine Festival dating back 80+ years to the Rheingau Musik Festival, there’s something for all ages and interests, and there’s always plenty of wines to taste! 8) Assmannshausen is the only Rheingau village that can grow Pinot Noir (red wine) grapes While majority of the Rheingau region grows white Riesling grapes, Assmannshausen, on the river bend after Rudesheim, is the only village to have soils apt for the Pinot Noir grapes – hence producing the region’s only red wines. 9) There’s a “toll castle” on an island in the Rhine River The picturesque 14th century Pfalzgrafenstein Castle sits on an island in the River Rhine, and once served as a toll collection castle for all boats that passed on the river. It is accessible by a boat from the town of Kaub, and a walk down the memory lanes of the Rhine. 10) Late harvest wines were accidentally discovered at Schloss Johannisberg in 1775! Germany’s oldest Riesling winery, dating back 900 years, is also the home of the wonderfully sweet late harvest wines in the region. Legend has it that in 1775, the harvest orders reached the monks a few weeks late, leading to the serendipitous discovery of Spatlese, the cherished late harvest Rieslings of the Rheingau.

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24 Hours in Frankfurt

Frankfurt, the business and financial hub of Germany, is where the modern meets the traditional. Glance up at its skyline and you can see centuries-old refurbished architecture sharing the space with modern state-of-the-art buildings. Here’s how to make the most of 24 hours in this surprising city: Morning: Grab a coffee at Frankfurt’s oldest coffee house: Let the city’s favorite coffee shop – Café Wacker, in the old city – wake you out of your slumber like it did the famous German writer Goethe. It’s something of an institution for the residents of Frankfurt now, and will keep you coming back for more. Glimpse the passive house district: Peak out your tram window to see the historic district of DonRomer, where town houses, office buildings and schools have been converted into passive buildings, that require no external energy source for heat. Solar, cooking and human energy get stored up for internal heating in winter – isn’t that the future of energy sustainability? Take a walking tour of old city: Walk into the Frankfurt city tourist office at the main train station and book yourself on a walking tour of the central district. From quirky facts and little-known stories of the city, to spectacular views above it, this will be 3 hours of your time well spent. Afternoon: Shop at an indoor farmer’s market: Lose yourself in Kleinmarkthalle, a long-running indoor market in the old city of Frankfurt, where you can find everything from seasonal vegetables to local delicacies to European street food and flowers! Have a meal at a vegan café: With the vegan movement gaining pace in Frankfurt, many charming cafes and restaurants have popped up through the city for sumptuous and healthy vegan food. Pick one off, or wander around town to find a local favorite. Spend time at the museums at the River Main embankment: If you’re visiting at the end of August, coincide your dates with Frankfurt’s popular Museum Embankment Festival, which grants discounted entries to most museums along the banks of the River Main – in addition to spectacular fireworks on the last night! If not, pick from one of the many museums (the Museum of World Cultures is a personal favorite) to while away your afternoon. Evening: Cruise along the River Main: Spend a lazy afternoon on-board a ferry for a slow tour of the River Main and Frankfurt’s many sights. Grab a beer, soak in the sun, and feel the vibes you can’t quite gather on land. Soak in the view at the top of Mainz Tower: Don’t miss this one! Buy an entry ticket and ride the elevator 42 floors above Frankfurt to the top of Mainz Tower, for a breathtaking view of the city and the River Main. Ever better if you can get up at sunset and witness the sky drenched in colors! After hours: Try apple wine at a traditional cider house: Frankfurt doesn’t grow its own grapes, but is surrounded by organic apple orchards, and the traditional cider houses of Zum Gemalten Haus and Wagner in Frankfurt’s Sachsenhausen district serve up delicious apple wine! What better way to end your day in this city full of surprises?

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Rheingau wineries

Must-Try Wineries in Germany’s Rhine and Mosel Valleys

Known the world over for its fine Riesling wines, the Rhine and Mosel regions of Germany are home to passionate wine-making families, traditional abbeys where monks and nuns have produced wine since the Middle Ages, and experimental new age wineries. Here are some must stop-and-taste cellars in the region: Schloss Johannisberg The oldest Riesling winery in the region was once a monastery where monks began producing wine over 900 years ago! It is here that late harvest wines were serendipitously discovered in 1775, and on a warm sunny afternoon, you can try their finest Rieslings in an ancient cellar or with a panoramic view of Johannisberg and its vineyards. St Hildegard Abbey The only nunnery in Germany that has been producing wine since the Middle Ages, St Hildegard Abbey, perched on a hill above the popular town of Rudesheim, is an experience. Stop by the majestic church on the premises, walk through the carefully pruned vineyards, chat with the traditionally attired nuns about their austere way of life, and sip some of their finest Rieslings. Kloster Eberbach A Cistercian monastery up until the 1800s, Kloster Eberbach, located near the village of Eltville, continues its wine traditions to this day, while also playing host to the famous Rheingau Musik Festival. Taste wines as you walk through time along the stunning Gothic and Romanesque architecture, and sneak a peek at the historic wine presses once used in wine production. Weingut Allendorf Have you ever considered the role of color on your taste buds? You’ll think about it when you sip the same glass of wine at Weingut Allendorf in different colored lights. You have to experience this family-run winery’s tastings to believe it, in the twin town of Oestrich-Winkel along the Rhine. Weingut Rossler If you’re looking for a hands-on wine growing and tasting experience, look no further than Weingut Rossler in the sleepy little village of Lorch. Follow the Rossler family to their vineyards to help with pruning or harvesting, taste their fine home-made Rieslings in their modern cellar, or sit back at their cozy outdoor restaurant with a glass of wine; everyone knows everyone else in this village and you won’t be a stranger for long! Flick Winery aka Queen Victoria vineyard You need a reason to take a detour to the small village of Hochheim along the Rhine, and I’ll give you a good one – this is Queen Victoria’s favorite Riesling vineyard and Queen Elizabeth was its most recent guest. Meet the Flick family and feel a little like royalty, as you taste their ‘royal’ wines! Need I say more? Berg’s Alte Bauernschanke The only village to grow Pinot Noir (red wine) grapes along the Rhine is the picturesque half-timbered village of Assmannshausen; homed in one such building is Berg’s – a horse stable in the 1400s! Konrad Berg, the third generation owner, is a hobbyist wine maker, with vineyards scattered across the Rheingau for different grape variety. Stop by for a glass of wine, indulge in a wine spa and peek into life in the bygone days. Weinsinnig The Mosel is home to the steepest vineyards of Germany, and you don’t have to stray far from the quirky city of Trier to realize that. Take in the majestic Roman ruins and the youthful vibe of the city, but don’t forget to show up for a wine tasting of the finest Mosel Rieslings at Weinsinning, a charming neighborhood restaurant and wine bar that handpicks and displays the region’s best wines on its wine wall. Traditional cider houses Back in the 1500s, the vineyards of Frankfurt were irrevocably attacked by parasites, leading locals to the realization that growing grapes in this soil was near impossible. They turned to apple orchards for wine, and the famous Apfelwein (apple wine) is served to this day in the traditional cider houses of Zum Gemalten Haus and Wagner in Frankfurt’s Sachsenhausen district.

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Rudesheim Wine Festival

Germany’s Wine and Rhine Traditions at the Rudesheim Wine Festival

For years, my trips to Germany were synonymous with beer. From Munich to Hamburg to Berlin, whichever part of the country I found myself in, I would seek out the sunniest beer gardens and find myself chugging a pint of home-brewed Weissbier or Radler, cheering prost as our glasses clinked, and dreaming, perhaps like any other beer lover, of reveling in the Oktoberfest of Bavaria. Then one day, in a casual chat with a German friend, I was let into a world I didn’t know existed in Germany – the world of German wine-makers in the Rheingau region, only an hour from Frankfurt. The next thing I knew, it was mid-August and I was boarding a train to Rudesheim Am Rhein, a town that sits prettily by the River Rhine and is best known for cruise ship day-trippers, to attend the Rudesheim Wine Festival, one of the oldest wine festivals in the region dating back 80+ years! The warm summer breeze of Rudesheim welcomed me as the sun set above the lush vineyards dotting the surrounding hills. The River Rhine flowed along gently, echoing the festivities in the cobbled town square. The wine queens – traditionally the daughters of wine merchants and now ambassadors of wineries in each Rheingau village – had just been crowned and were being welcomed with music and dancing on the stage. Stalls of local wineries, including the 12th century Eberbach monastery and the incidental home of late harvest wines – Schloss Johannisberg – lined the square, bringing their traditions and stories to the visitors. Cheers of zumwohl replaced prost, cozy wine gardens decked with grape vines replaced beer gardens, and old wine cellars replaced microbreweries. My discovery of Germany’s lesser-known wine culture was just getting started! The four days of Rudesheim Wine Festival felt like the gentle unwrapping of a precious present. One afternoon, I found myself hiking with the locals in the vineyards of Rudesheim, greeted every now and then by local wine makers for a taste of their finest Rieslings. On another, a wine merchant invited me to a special parade of wine queens and wine makers across the town and its vineyards. Nights were spent sampling Rieslings and tales of bygone days with the local wine growers, as the church bells tolled to compliment German music and the aroma of freshly baked flamkuchens. But the highlight of the festival came unexpectedly on the last night, when most visitors had retired home, leaving only the residents of Rudesheim to celebrate centuries of a close-knit wine culture. Three generations of each family descended upon the town square, held hands and sang songs about Rudesheim and the Rhine, cheered the wine queens and wine makers on stage, and danced unreservedly into the night. I felt far from Bavaria and yet in the heart of Germany!

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DAS RUHRGEBIET: VAN INDUSTRIEEL BRAAKLAND TOT KUNSTLANDSCHAP. Elk jaar midden augustus tot midden oktober palmt het prestigieuze kunstenfestival Ruhrtriennale weer het halve Ruhrgebied in. Wij gingen tijdens de vorige editie eens kijken en werden zowat letterlijk van onze sokken geblazen. Vooral het post-industirële Ruhrlandschap wist ons te overdonderen met z'n unieke atmosfeer.

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Blutenfest des Rotes Moselweinbergpfirsich


We hebben éven moeten oefenen, maar na een tijdje rolde Rote Moselweinbergpfirsich vanzelf uit onze mond. Toch kan je in Cochem ook gewoon Rud Peesche zeggen, het plaatselijke dialect voor deze kleine perzik met haar robijnrode vruchtvlees die overal in de Moezelvallei groeit. Terwijl de wijngaarden er nog kaal bijliggen, zijn de roze bloemen van de Moezel-Wijnbergperzik al een fleurige voorbode van de lente. Goed nieuws voor de plaatselijke wijnboeren dus, maar ook voor al wie dol is op perziken, want dan wordt er in Cochem smakelijk gefeest.

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Voor de ene is het een stukje Frankrijk in Duitsland, voor de andere is het een stukje Duitsland dat ook in Frankrijk niet zou misstaan. Wij houden het bij typisch Duits met een stevige Franse twist: Saarland. De kleinste Duitse deelstaat ging een paar keer over en weer tussen beide landen, was tweemaal op zichzelf en werd in 1957 definitief bij Duitsland ingelijfd. Het resultaat is een grensoverschrijdende kruisbestuiving van savoir-vivre en savoir-faire die zich vooral in de lokale gastronomie laat gelden. Wij trokken in Saarland letterlijk van de ene rijk gedekte tafel naar de andere, gingen er tafeltoeren en lieten ons galant overtuigen van het feit dat je van 'een schone tafel' wél kan eten.

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