While studying for my WSET level 1, I had come across Reisling. A white wine which is known to have a crisp taste with a bouquet of flavours and aroma. My class with Magandeep had me tasting Reisling for the first time and I truly fell in love with. Since then, I have tried this German wine quite a few number of times and each time came back wanting more. So when an opportunity arose for me to explore the famous wines of Germany, I couldn’t refuse.
The monks and wine
Now wine in Germany is intricately linked with their monks and monasteries. The initial production of wine started west of the Rhine. But with Charlemagne’s campaign across the Rhine, the areas east of the Rhine also started with viniculture. The pioneers of this explosion of vineyards were the monks. The monastery of Eberbach was one of the first to start in the Rheingau valley in mid 12th century. Many of these monks had migrated over from Pinot region in France and brought their grape, Pinot Noir with them. Through the centuries the Eberbach monastery increased its influence and ruled the roost. But with the wars of the 17th and 18th century combined with the secularization of early 19th century, there was a gradual decrease in their prosperity. But its wine still endures to this day as we take you around this medieval European monastery.
There is a sense of going back in history as we strolled through the timeless Roman arches of the monastery. The Cistercians had a very simple lifestyle and it is evident from the strong wooden arches with bare furnishings. The church is central to the workings of a monastery and the Roman architecture will make you fall in love with its simplicity. The dining hall of the lay brothers is where all the action used to take place. The wooden wine presses of the 17-19th century are still visible. Although the monks were known for their austerity, but the Baroque period saw the monks showcasing their worldly wealth. The Baroque residence was one of the most elegantly decorated rooms in all of medieval Europe. The richly decorated ceiling takes your breath away.
Enough of the medieval Europe mumbo jumbo, let’s move onto the wines now. The strolling wine tour provides for a trip through the magnificence of the monastery along with a selection of wines. We tried out the Kloster Eberbach 2013 and Crescentia Pinot Noir 2012. Well medieval European castles and wines make for one heady concoction and this is one combination I would like to repeat again. The tour goes on for around one and a half hours and sets you back by €23.
Germany’s wines are something that you must try while visiting Germany. Although beer may be a drink which is consumed mostly, but the history linked to wines is something definitely worth exploring.
A lot has been written about England as the huge Indian diaspora has always held it in high regard. But we get you on a fast track on the things to do in London before we cover it in detail. This is for people who are short of time and would like to breeze through the capital before settling on other areas. With the new exchange rates coming into being, right now is the best time to travel to London with British Airways as we discovered the best of prices.
One of the most iconic places, the Trafalgar Square is owned by the Queen in Right of the Crown. The square contains a large central area with the Nelson’s column flanked with fountains. The National Gallery is in walking distance from the square. The beauty of this place lies in beautiful architecture and sculpture work all over the place. Trafalgar Square is also a major shopping attraction of London. With the GBP losing ground from INR 100 to INR 82, it is perfect for your Christmas and New Year shopping. British Airways customers get special offers for shopping this festive season.
The seat of one of the strongest monarchical powers that ruled large swathes of the world. Some of the older rooms of the Palace are done in bright colours and gilt. A plethora of functions are held over the palace including the large gardens for the Queen’s tea parties. The forecourt is used for the impressive Change of Guard which takes places every day during the three summer months and on alternate days in the other months.
The Elizabeth Tower or the Big Ben is one of the most recognizable locations of London. Every movie or feature shows the camera panning out to the famous clock tower. Located right next to the House of Commons or the lower house of the English Parliament, this iconic tower has been built in a neo-Gothic Style. The interiors of the tower aren’t usually open to the public although it does have a stairs of more than 300 limestone steps.
The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames. Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel, it offers a perfect view of the whole city of London. With slowly rotating chambers where you can stroll around or sit, the view over the Thames river and the metropolis of London is a sight to behold.
Another common depiction from the movies, the Tower Bridge is best seen from the Thames river cruise. One of the most interesting parts of this bridge is that it is a bascule bridge and a suspension bridge. The Bascule bridge is the central part of the bridge flanked by two towers which can be raised for river traffic to pass through. Although the bridge is raised enough for the ships to pass through, but the Bascules are raised to their full height when a monarch is on the vessel. But the best way to enjoy the London skyline is during the Christmas and New Year fireworks on river Thames.
We are heading to London this festive season with British Airways. How about you?
Pumpkins are something that are very much loved during the Navratras. It occupies a central position in many of North Indian dishes especially the vegetarian ones. But the types of pumpkin available in our country has always been limited. Pumpkins are especially famous in the Western World like America and Europe. On our recent trip to Lucerne in Switzerland, we were blown away by the amazing range of pumpkins that we were able to sample. They are used in a plethora of dishes and every part of the vegetable can be used. We’ll just tell you about the ones we liked the most.
Small Sugar or New England Pie
The classic pie pumpkin. The sweet taste and the rich orange colour is something that we enjoyed a lot.
The Cinderella pumpkin is a French pumpkin that derives it’s name from the Pumpkin that the fairy Godmother transformed into the carriage. This pumpkin has a fragrance that will make you fall in love with it.
It is a squash of the same family with a sweeter taste and a granular texture.
This big hulky type of pumpkin is perfect for the soups. With a bit of control on the sweetness and a hard rind, they are a perfect warhorse for your cooking.
This green coloured pumpkin with a yellow centre is the one which is also a lot in Indian cooking. With a slightly sweet flavour, this is another of the workhorses for cooking.
The Butternut squash has a typical buttery flavour which complements it’s nutty flavour. The sweetness also comes through and it leaves a delectable flavour in the mouth.
This was one part of the journey that we will never forget. The Jucker Farm in Zurich is a perfect place to enjoy pumpkins in Switzerland. Do tell us which pumpkin do you like the most?
The Kahlenberg Hill located in Vienna is our next stop on the Eurotrip itinerary. A small hill of the Eastern Alps, the Kahlenberg witnessed one of the most massive cavalry charges in the history of warfare. Medieval Europe was a hotbed of power tussle between the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Turks. The Battle of Vienna in September 1683 redefined the socio-political forces in the area for centuries to come.
With the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, Vienna had become their next acquisition which would have allowed them immense control over Western Europe. A massive force of nearly 300,000 Turkish soldiers accumulated at the gates of Vienna and started pounding the hapless city for nearly two months. The Christian forces were under the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I but the Commander in Chief of the forces under the Polish-Lithuanian alliance of King of Poland John III Sobieski.
The Ottoman Turks
The Ottoman empire had been funding Anti-Catholic empires for a last few decades. The culmination of these conflicts led to the Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa declaring war on the Viennese in March 1683 under the behest of Mehmet IV. The Main Ottoman Army started the siege of Vienna on 14th July 1683 and immediately set about trying to punch through it’s ramparts. For nearly two months, the hapless Viennese got pounded until the relief forces turned up.
The Imperial Army
John III Sobieski commanded one of the most cavalries in the world at that moment. The Winged Hussars charging in their full body armour and lancers at the ready were a fearful sight indeed for the enemy. Huge miscalculations by the Grand Vizier meant that he left the defence of the rear to the Tartars whose Khan refused to attack the gathering relief army. By the early morning of 12th September, the Imperial army had started winning skirmishes on the border towns. The Turks made their final fatal mistake of still trying to take the city instead of preparing for defences against the Imperial army. By the afternoon of 13th September, King John III Sobieski led the largest cavalry charge of nearly 18,000 horses down the slopes of Kahlenberg. This large force smashed against the main army of the Turkish army totally disintegrating it.
Today, Kahlenberg stands as a beautiful day trip from Vienna. The whole of the city of Vienna sits in a majestic panoramic view. Do remember the people who charged down those hills to save the city.
Fun Fact: There are more than 30 bridges that cross over the Thames river in London. But two bridges, the London and the Tower bridges are the ones that are known by everyone. Today, we are going to go through these two famous bridges and understand what makes them so special.
Let’s start with the namesake London Bridge. First built during the Roman era in the first century, the Bridge used to connect Londinium and Southwark at that time. The medieval ages saw the bridge being destroyed and rebuilt many times. The Bridge built by King Henry II in the early 13th century had houses, shops and latrines over the bridge. The London Bridge has endured many a natural disasters including the Great London Fire of 1666. By 1722, Lane driving was instituted leading to the British laws of driving on the left. The Modern London Bridge was constructed from 1967-1972. Made with pre-stressed concrete, the bridge has huge arches under which river traffic can pass.
A common depiction from the movies, the Tower Bridge is best seen from the Thames river cruise. One of the bridges standing from the Victorian Era, this bridge was constructed in the late 19th century. One of the most interesting parts of this bridge is that it is a bascule bridge and a suspension bridge. The Bascule bridge is the central part of the bridge flanked by two towers which can be raised for river traffic to pass through. Although the bridge is raised enough for the ships to pass through, but the Bascules are raised to their full height when a monarch is on the vessel.
Although the London Bridge gets it’s name from the city, but it’s the Tower Bridge which draws quite a large audience thanks to it’s impressive architecture. The Tower Bridge named after the London Tower situated nearby. The medieval towers on the bridges give them an even older look thus making people think that this is the older London Tower. The towers also host the Bascule pivots and operating machinery. A popular urban legend states that Robert P McCulloch mistakenly bought the old London Bridge thinking it to be the Tower Bridge. The Tower Bridge Experience is a beautiful way to experience the bridge along with it’s open air walkway. Tell us which is your favourite of the two?