Strawberry Paradise 

Summer is finally here and I am fully in jelly-making-mode.  I want to preserve all the delicious flavors of summer in a hundred different ways.


Recently, I’ve been busy with rhubarb and elder flowers, and now strawberry is where it’s at.  This Spring I preemptively prepared a strong tee made from freshly picked sweet woodruff on one of my hikes bc it pairs wonderfully with strawberry.


Yesterday we drove out to the small town of Wolkersdorf where there is a strawberry plantation, and we picked 9 pounds of tiny super intensely flavored strawberries.


It’s hard work picking strawberries, and I have really soar thighs today from crouching through strawberry patches for 2 hours.  It was well worth it however!  Ironically, there were so many people who passed by us and we continuously heard “there are no more strawberries left to pick”.  I guess they don’t know that you really have to get down on your hands and knees to find them hiding in the shade of their own leaves.


As you can see from our bounty, we picked quite a few white-tipped strawberries.  We did this on purpose since partially ripe berries have a stronger more intense flavor, and when made into jams and jellies the flavor come out better.

I spent an hour plucking off the green tops, but it was well worth it – the smaller the berry the more flavor that is jam-packed inside.  And, of the nine pounds of berries I made strawberry jam, strawberry-sweet woodruff jam, strawberry-tarragon jam, strawberry-kiwi jam, and strawberry-chocolte-mint jam.  A little goes a long way and there are so many combinations.  Another favorite of mine is strawberry-pineapple jam.

No matter what combination of fruit I use, I always use a 3:1 ratio of fruit to sugar, and top off each boiling pot with the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon.  Get out and get jamming to preserve the flavors of summer!

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Erlebnisbauernhof Auhof


Today we decided to visit our “colleagues” at the Erlebnisbauernhof Auhof (Experience-Farm of Auhof) which is a special-education farm run by mentally handicapped adults and caregivers.


The farm is open to the general public and has a really big playground that kids of all ages can enjoying.  Many decades ago, this used to be a real farm where they raised livestock and grew carrots and potatoes.  Today there a a few animals of each kind: pigs, chickens, rabbits, turkeys, peacocks, horses, goats, and donkeys are “scattered” around the different areas of the farm.  They sell plants in a self-run nursery and grow a lot of their own vegetables that you can enjoy in the salads that sell in a small restaurant with outdoor seating next to the playground.  The playground is capped off by a field of fruit trees and a lovely relaxation garden that is cared for by a former employee who is retired and volunteers her time to keep the garden in tip top shape.  The handicapped people who live in assisted-living apartments a block away come here regularly to enjoy the peacefulness of the garden, get their hands dirty with garden work, and do arts and crafts that are hung up in the different corners of the garden.


This is such a lovely oasis, and they are different events being held all summer long.  There is no entry fee, so this is a great palce to visit with the whole family’s.


The University of Erlangen’s Botanical Garden 

It is pre-summer vacation here, and we are always on the lookout for a fun place to go where the kids can run around a lot.  One of out favorite places to visit is the botanical garden of the University of Erlangen.  The entire garden is open to the public free of charge and they have a nice selection of different types of plants.


My kids are camera-fanatics, so they each get a camera in their hands and click away at all the interesting things they discover.  Their favorite creatures to photograph are the frogs and koi swimming in the raised ponds outside of the garden houses.


My favorite corners are those filled with roses, and if you are a rose lover yourself, you will not be disappointed here.  The botanical garden spills out into the local palace garden that is surrounded by the university, and you can really spend hours strolling around.


I recommend packing a pick nick and setting down on the ledge of one of the ponds or a park benches and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature in the midst of the city.













Birkensee Summer 

I cannot say it enough: summer is finally here.  We had such a icy winter and such a cold wet Spring that it is hard to believe that it’s warm and sunny.  It still feels like a dream and we try to take advantage of the summer rays because once September rolls around, the summer fun will be over.


Today we decided to drive out to the town of Reichelsdord west of Nuremberg and take our little bbq grill for a walk to the Birkensee (Birch lake).  I habe to say that I was really surprised by the beauty of this small lake.  We parked our car at the edge of a forest and walked through the woods for 10 minutes until we landed right at the wdge of the lake.  It’s a family-friendly lake with sandy beaches and tree-covered enclaves, bbq areas, and refreshing water to swim in.  The only thing you should be prepared for is that nudity is allowed here, so if you’re uncomfortable with nude people swimming, sunning, or walking around you, then you should go to another local lake.  Otherwise, this is a great gem tucked away at the edge of the city that we will definitely return to for a summer refreshment.







Father’s Day Hiking 

Today we went for a nice short hike around the forest surrounding the town of Heroldsberg.  There a quite a few natural elements to see around here in the line of caves and stone formations.


It was father’s day so there were a lot of families hiking the same path as us, and however much I enjoy being in the forest when it’s silent, I think it’s great for families to get out in nature together.


Happy Father’s Day to all the dass out there.

Trekking to Bird Island


We are taking advantage of the beautiful weather around here and drove out to Muhr am See – a tiny town on the Altmühlsee (Old Mill Lake).  From here we gave the kids the task of leading the way to the lake where we wanted to visit the Vogelinsel (Bird Island) – a sanctuary built in the 80s for the local bird population.


I was a bit sceptical about the kids leading the way, but we made it – by walking through a field – to the island.  The sanctuary is actually made up of many little islands and visitors can only reach a few by way of a series of bridges.  It is a beautiful walk through shaddy grove.  We didn’t see birds along our entire walk, but we definitely heard them, and there is a great lookout post built on one of the islands close to a beach filled with tons of different birds.  We were really glad to visit at this time of the year because there were so many baby animals.


This is a really beautiful corner of Franconia, and if you are up for a longer trip, you can ride your bike around the entire lake on the smooth bike paths and stop and swim in the lake on one of its beaches or join one of the many wind surfers.  There’s plenty to do here for the whole family.

Hikers Paradise – La Palma, Canary Islands – Day 10

Ah, my friend the old rusty rooster, how I will miss you 4:30am calls.  We are up early and watch the sun rise on our balcony while enjoying a breakfast of local Canary fruits and coffee.

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The sun rises over the neighboring volcano and silence sets in.  We have to go back.  Why do we have to go back?

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We pack our bags and drive into Los Llanos to pick up our friend with whom we will go to the airport to.  We arrive early and drive to Parque Gómez Felipe –  a small Gaudi-styled park in Los Llanos.  And, as life would have it, there is a rooster walking around the playground.  I tell you, these things are like the plague.

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We enjoy our stroll and then travel on to the airport in Santa Cruz.  We whisk away into the air and watch the tiny island disappear behind us.

As we arrive in Frankfurt we are hit with a whiff of “city smell”.  It smell dirt and unnatural.  Odd how I never noticed that before.  Luckily it is hot and sunny here too so getting used to being back won’t be so hard.

The sun definitely shines differently here – it feels further away.  I will be back La Palma.  I will be back.

Hikers Paradise – La Palma, Canary Islands – Day 9

Today is our last full day on La Palma and it is starting to sink in that we will soon be leaving this paradise.  We decide to deive to the northeastern part of the island to hike the Cubo de la Galga.

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It is really nice and hot today as the sun shines down on us, we feel lucky to be here and get so much hiking in.  We enter the national park and make a comfortable hike for about 3 hours through forests full of long jurasic-sized blackberry vines.  The shade if the trees is a nice respite from the hot sun.

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Our entire hike takes us along the side of a creek bed filled with boulders.  About 2/3 of the way through we break through the crown of trees and are rewarded with a grand view of the neighboring islands of Tenerrifa and La Gomera off in the distance.

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My heart aches and I take in a deep breath to make a memory of such a wonderful place.  I will come back one day – it feels like home here.

We drive back home from our hike and enjoy one last home cooked meal on our balcony overlooking the Atlantic.  We watch the sun set and then sip a glass of Vegan Norte white wine under a blanket of stars.

Hikers Paradise – La Palma, Canary Islands – Day 8

Today we wake up, slowly enjoy breakfast on our patio overlooking the Atlantic and a huge platano plantation, and decide to take a break from hiking for a day and visiting a few places that we have driven past on our journeys.  It is a nice hot day, with a light cool breeze.  We get in our car and drive down to the tip of the island to the visit Las Salinas.  It is so barren and rocky here.

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We take a self guides tour along the different salt pools and discover a multitude of small sea birds that walk around the pools looking for food.  The salt is so beautiful glittering in the sun, and every once in a while we see sea foam swaying in the wind and clinging on to the black volcanic rocks.

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We walk all the way down to the tip of the island and can see the eastern and western Atlantic currents colliding off the coast.  It is very windy here and the waves breaking on the coast make for a spectacular view.

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Afterwards, we get in our car and make out way back north and spontaneously decided to take a detour to the town of Tazacorte.  It is a really beautiful small town with a lot of Spanish influences.  We take a stroll – which is a nice break from the endless winding roads on the island.

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We then hop back in out car and drive into Los Llanos where our friends live and meet then for dinner at the organic restaurant El Duende del Fuego.  The this an amazingly delicious dining experience.  The setting is very simple, the menu is full of dietary specialties (vegan, vegetarian, gluten free) all made of local products.  I ate a vegan Canary Rice with Artichokes and Garlic.  It was so flavorful.  We were also served potatoes with a guava dipping sauce.  I would never have paired the two, but guava and potato make a great team.  We each enjoyed a glass of a different Canary wine grown in the different volcanic regions of the island.  The flavors that sing through are absolutely amazing: peaches, passion fruit, cherry – all complements of the various minerals in the soil where the grape vines grow.  Simply put, volcanic wine is spectacular!

After a nice evening with our friends, we strolled through the quiet streets of Los Llanos.  In the distance a crow calls goodnight, and we head home to our apartment for a good nights sleep.

 

Hikers Paradise – La Palma, Canary Islands – Day 7

Oh man, my buddy the rooster is really going at it this morning.  Maybe when roosters get older they lose track of time?  He’s a 4am kind of guy…

Finally, my alarm goes off to remind me how much longer I could have slept had the rooster been able to tell that it was still dark outside.  We are up very early, again, eating breakfast under the stars before meeting our friend for another hike.  Today, we are hiking to the top of El Bejenado – a huge mountain on La Palma , but my stomach is not feeling so well from the meal at Franchipani last night…and I have to really make myself get going.

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Our friend shows up, and we drive together to the base of the mountain to begin our hike.  Yet again, we wide around some crazy dirt roads with pot holes large enough to dislocate the axle of many a car, and we start our hike.  We don’t have a lot of gear with us this time – just water and some dried mango and dried canary platanos (which I could live off of if you could get them off the island).

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As we start our hike, I notice that the landscape has changed.  We are hiking on soft fine beige sand combined with jagged rocks on a path that snakes through really thick pine trees.  The smell is amazing.  The hot sun warms the sap in the local canary pine trees and it smells of tangy wood mixed with the salty Atlantic smoothly flowing in off the coast.  It is absolutely delicious, and I try to take in as much as possible – I want to remember this smell forever.

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The Canary Island Pine (Pinus canariensis) is a very fascinating tree.  It is not only very drought-resistant, but also fire-resistant!  Our friend has told us a few times along our hikes about the occasional forest fire that breaks out on the island, burning everything in sight – except the trees!  The pine needles just grow back a year or two later, and life goes on.  Crazy.

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Our hike is rather comfortable, and, after a while, we make it to the top where we are rewarded with a spectacular view of the other Canary Islands of La Gomera, El Hiero, and Teneriffa.  On Teneriffa, shooting through the clouds, we can see the volcano of El Teide – Spain’s tallest mountain.  It didn’t feel like we had climbed so high, but everything down bellow looks so small – we are 1854 meters up in the clouds.  We sit down and soak in the view, and then make our way back down.  I have now chewed enough gum to settle my stomach, and can enjoy the decent even more.

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Once we get back “home” – this place grows on you quickly – we make a delicious dinner of corn spaghetti with a sweet and tangy tamarillo sauce from our farmer’s market’s bounty.  Afterwards, we enjoy it with a glass of local Vega Norte white wine (which tastes like creamy peaches!) while we watch the sunset over the horizon.  Every day could be like this.

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