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Forum Vini 2012 – Around the World

The variety of wines, spirits, delicacies, and snacks at Forum Vini is truly amazing. Every year there is something new! Here’s what I found at Forum Vini 2012 to write home about.

First: we all know that certain foods go perfectly when paired with the right wine (or beer, or liquor). Well, at Winz Feines zum Wein they’ve simplified the selection process by explaining which snacks (“Knabberei” auf Deutsch) go best with which variety of wine. Great for those who, like me, haven’t yet memorized what mix of salty, sour, dry, sweet, etc goes with which wine.

Snacks for Wine

Next up is a second wine (besides the Grappa in the last post) that I just *had* to buy. Wayne Dutschke makes some tasty Australian wines, and was one of the few wine sellers who had traveled from outside Germany/Austria for Forum Vini (rather than just have a distributor do the selling).

I have to tell you: when I tasted Dutschke’s (average of) 22-year-old Tawny, I turned to my colleague and said “Holy &#%$, this is amazing. I’m going to have to buy some.” Really, it was so good it blew my mind, and that’s coming from a spirits expert who is currently brewing his own Christmas Brown Ale. Tawny is basically a fortified aged wine, which if made in a certain region of Portugal would be called port. That makes Dutschke’s wine even more amazing, because it means the best port I’ve ever had is from Australia!

Wayne Dutschke

The spirits at Zeiss are always delicious, I’ve occasionally bought them as Christmas gifts. The bottles are at least as much fun to look at as the liquor is to drink!

Zeiss Bottles

These delicious French Bordeaux wines from Chateau Perayne are for my Aunt who loves butterflies:

Butterflies

And finally, let me close with something that’s not even related to wine. It’s BEER! Those who know me personally know that I am a beer guy. And not because I drink a lot of it; because I try every single various beer, of every style, from every country that I can get my hands on. For some reason I just remember great beers and brands, where with wines I usually don’t.

This is why I was really psyched to see Braufactum, a German craft brewery, represented at Forum Vini. These are Germans who are not prejudiced against beers outside the Rheinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Law). This no-longer-mandatory archaic convention is now just used as marketing to persuade the narrow-minded not to buy any beer that isn’t made in Germany because “all non-German beers are filled with toxic chemicals and unnatural things” (yeah right – what is toxic or unnatural about fruits, coffee, or chocolate?).

But Braufactum is one of the brands that is starting to slowly open Germany up to new flavors of beer! Here is their Märzen bier; in the past this variety was traditionally brewed in March and then stored until Oktoberfest (if I got the story right). They sell various craft beers from all around the world (USA and Belgium among others), and brew several tasty beers of their own including a STRONG India Pale Ale that is delicious and super hoppy.

Braufactum

Overall it was the best Forum Vini yet, and I look forward to Forum Vini 2013 already!

Posted 4 years, 9 months ago.

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Haidhausen Weihnachtsmarkt

Christmas Markets in Germany are something special, where you can enjoy a mulled wine, a tasty dessert, and a bit of craft-oriented shopping. Here are a few shots from this year!

The famous Glühwein hut, where you can get a mini Feuerzangenbowle (flaming punch made with 80% rum):

Gluehwein Hut in Haidhausen

Beautiful glowing candles.

Candles at the Haidhausen Christmas Market

Delicious cakes, cookies, and desserts abound at the Christmas Markets!

Cakes and sweets

This water bowl from Grünhorn was particularly cool. The German word, Wasserspringschale, literally means jumping water bowl. By rubbing the handles you get a variety of tones, and the vibrations make the water move in some interesting ways!

Wasserspringschale - jumping water bowl

With a bit more effort, the water springs out of the bowl as if it were boiling madly, though it’s just room temperature.

Wasserspringschale in full action

If you’re looking for a cool decoration with endless relaxation and entertainment potential, check out a water spring bowl!

So far it’s a wonderful Christmas Market season. There are just a few days left, so for those in Germany who haven’t been to one yet, now is your chance!

Posted 6 years, 8 months ago.

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Forum Vini 2010

By: David Douglas

For longtime readers, you might remember last year’s Forum Vini article. I went back this year for my fourth Forum Vini dose of fine food, wine, and spirits! This year I experimented with only natural light: no flash, and all photos are using my Nikon 35mm f/2 lens + Nikon D90. I often white-balanced on an index card before each shot.

Delicious Goufrais chocolates… amazingly cool on the tongue. True fine chocolate truffles.

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Once again, Enoteca Palmieri was in full force with some great wines (more photos below in the full album). Check out the shop at Augsburgerstr. 25 in Dachau. Palmieri had the largest bottle of wine that I saw at Forum Vini!

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Palmieri also had something else special: grappa infused with olives! This is a really unique, delicious spirit. And that’s coming from someone with a big (and varied) liquor cabinet.

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Delicious oil, vinegar, and sherries from Aecovi Jerez:

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Once again I stopped by Dr. Schätzl of Moosburg to check out this year’s display. Here’s a stunning array of different exotic oil: pumpkin seed, poppy seed, walnut, and more…

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And a list of other exhibitors who are shown below in the gallery:

Thanks to those at the stands who allowed me permission to photograph them or their products. I had a great time, and (I think) found some great photographic opportunities!

Full album of photos: [salbumphotos=9,144,max,y,n]

Posted 6 years, 9 months ago.

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Double-Wide Bank

This ain’t gonna win any photo contests, but it made me laugh. I saw this temporary institution near where I live in Munich. The normal Commerzbank building was being renovated, so the bank moved into a trailer home.

Double-wide-trailer bank

It occurred to me: if someone wanted to rob this bank, they could just drive up with a big trailer (or a huge helicopter?) and steal the whole bank.

Now, the getaway plan would have to be something special to make that work. I’m thinking Ocean’s 14… this plot idea (© 2010 David Douglas) is now up for sale!

Posted 6 years, 10 months ago.

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Oktoberfest Lights

On my way to a friend’s party I saw these spotlights over Oktoberfest 2010. As I didn’t have my camera or half an hour to spare, I made sure to go back another day and try these long exposures.

Oktoberfest 2010 Lights 1

The church in the foreground is the St. Maximilian Kirche.

Oktoberfest 2010 Lights 2

All these exposures are 10s at ISO200 with a wide aperture. I didn’t want to go longer, because the lights moved too frequently.

Oktoberfest 2010 Lights 3

It was a great Oktoberfest 2010; hopefully Oktoberfest 2011 is just as much fun!

Posted 6 years, 10 months ago.

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Weilheim Discgolf Sunset

Indisputably, the best place to play frisbee golf near Munich is Weilheim. It’s a town near the south end of Starnberger See, about 30-45 minutes from Munich. I met up with a few locals who were already on the course and we had a great time playing together. Here’s the evening view from hole 13:

View of Weilheim's hole 13

The sunlight only got better as evening approached. Just picture yourself in this red-orange, side-lit forest:

Pines in beautiful evening light

The texture on this tree struck me, highlighted by the orange sunlight.

Blur to texture

I only had my 35mm f/2 on hand, but it gives a good idea of the forest-feel as the last edge of the sun slipped below the horizon.

Sunset in the forest

Hole 19 at Weilheim: whoever is closest to the hole 1 basket wins. You can barely see it at the bottom of the hill, right side. A tricky throw!

Overlooking hole 19

Bonus points to whoever can tell me exactly what this picture is!

What is this photo?

A beautiful sunset silhouette…

Sunset silhouette

And a realistic HDR of the same scene.

HDR Sunset over Weilheim corn

So, the next time I’m fired up to play disc golf at Weilheim, you’ll know why – friendly locals, and the course is at one of the most beautiful parks in Bavaria!

Posted 6 years, 10 months ago.

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Shocker at the Oktoberfest

This one is for my Skydive Orange peeps. Some of whom will be here starting tomorrow, for Oktoberfest 2010 (200th anniversary)! This shadowy shocker is compliments of the Nikon 35mm f/2.

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A tasty beer at Hacker-Pschorr near the Theresienwiese.

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I love this picture of my buddy eating a Steaksemmel. Blurry-background-girl must have been wondering, “Why is that guy aiming such a huge camera at someone eating a sandwich?”

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I’ve posted a few other pics from this day on the Guided Munich Blog.

Can’t wait to see Scott, Amy, and Eric here for Oktoberfest – it’s gonna be a blast!

Posted 6 years, 11 months ago.

5 comments

Zugspitze: Wiener-Neustädt route

I met Neil, a fellow Zugspitze enthusiast, via an English-speaking web forum. He was kind enough to write a great post about his love for Germany’s highest mountain, and a recent hike up one via ferrata section. Complete with fantastic Zugspitze photos! On to his story…

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When I was 12 years old, I went, with my family, to the Tyrol for the first time. We’d always been on holiday a lot, but this was only my second trip abroad and my first trip to see “proper” mountains. Sure, Wales and Scotland have mountains, but it’s not quite the same! I found the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak at 2,962m, on the border with Austria, particularly awesome, and enjoyed the cable car trip to the summit immensely. The holiday to Ehrwald (Austria) made a huge impression on me and has remained one of my favourite destinations.

Zugspize / Ehrwald Signpost

Fast forward 22 years and this (admittedly slightly weedy) 12-year-old is now 6 foot 2 and a keen hiker. This year, we repeated the holiday – parents, me (and my wife), as a 60th birthday present for my Mum. As our holiday commenced, my sister was drinking fermented mares’ milk in Mongolia on her honeymoon having not washed for 6 days, I was drinking European lagers in the mountains and swimming in crystal clear warm mountain lakes. Sometimes, the world has a wonderful unfairness about it!

If you’ve never been to the Tyrol, imagine for a moment a paradise of good rustic food, refreshing lagers and unusual Austrian wines, snow-capped mountains, beautiful sunshine, meadows of wild flowers, friendly people, mountain lakes, glacial fountains in town centres from which the water is clean enough to drink, pretty houses with flowers bursting from their window boxes. Oh, and Obstler: the local schnapps which is like drinking burning sandpaper, and which is used to toast almost everything.

When my wife and I go on holiday, we usually spend at least a couple of days apart. It’s not that we’ve been married so long that we can’t bear to be together, it’s just that we have different ideas of fun. I like walking, she doesn’t. Ten years ago, our “solo days” would involve my wife painting or relaxing and me going for a country walk. Over the years, “walk” has gradually yet steadily evolved into “fairly dangerous hike/climb”. So this year, against the advice of the man in the hiking shop, I decided to tackle the front of the Zugspitze, via the Wiener-Neustädte-hütte route. There are a number of routes up this mountain, ranging from relatively mild (but long) beautifully scenic routes round the back of the mountain, to this in-your-face, straight up, and slightly shorter trek. And it was fun!

Setting off just after 8am from the village centre, I began the lovely varied walk by making my way through the village, through the meadow, and into one of the larch woods which are so common in the area. Car-wide tracks lull you into a slightly false sense of security, and it took only 40 minutes to reach my breakfast stop, the Gamsalmhütte. Unfortunately, I hadn’t checked their opening times, and Tuesday is their closed day. Hungry walk for me then!

Zugspitze hiking path

I’d like to interrupt my hike story for a second to tell you a little more about hüttes. Basically, these mountain huts, located anywhere from the busy top of a cable car, to the middle of nowhere on a desolate ridge behind a huge mountain. They provide mattresses on which weary travellers can spend the night, as well as a varying range of food and drink items, ranging from a large and diverse menu at the busier huts, to a more limited range of home-made produce at some of the more remote ones. Beer is a staple, although I wonder how they manage to deliver to some of the higher ones!

Back to the Zugspitze, and I proceeded from the Gamsalmhütte up what would be, in winter, a busy ski slope. It was steep yet enjoyable, and looking back there were fabulous views across the valley. From here, already fairly high, the vegetation began to thin out and the hike continued across, at various times, grassland, scree slopes, rocks, unsafe-looking wooden platforms, and snow. The route passed under the cable car, from which the lazy people waved to me, and past some derelict buildings until eventually, after what felt like about 3 days to my stomach, but was nearer 2 hours, I reached the Wiener-Neustädte-hütte, probably the most remote hut in the region.

Zugspitze cable car

Deliveries to the hut are obviously difficult, and the chap inside informed me that I could choose between sausage and bread or soup, nothing else. I had a kasknödelsuppe – a clear soup of beef stock with a cheese dumpling in the middle, which was delicious (although to be fair, fermented mare’s milk would probably have tasted good by this point!). The hut itself was built in the late 1800s and was a beautiful cross between refuge, café and museum. For people staying overnight, there was no television, but an “entertainment corner” consisting of board games, a few books, and a guitar. The interior was of dark mellow wood with little natural light, and a number of antique hiking and objects hanging from the walls. There was also a guest book to sign, the first entry having been made in the 1960s. There are various hikes from this hut, but the most popular is obviously upwards. As I left, I looked at the photograph in the porch showing the route up from the hut – basically a wiggly red line up from the rock face!

Bridges along the route

The last bit is by far the most fun. This is the start of the via ferrata: metal rungs in the rock with a cable to attach safety ropes (which I didn’t have – oops!). The first part after the hut is across scree to the bottom of the rock, and at this point the via ferrata begins, firstly up the side of the mountain, and then for a while through a cave. The views behind and down are truly breathtaking and as the path, marked by red paint (blood?), winds its way up, the ascent is quite rapid.

Cave via ferrata

About half way between the scree and the summit, the via ferrata comes to an end, and what remains is of equal steepness but without the mechanical aids. At times the path is indistinct and you just have to follow the person in front, at other times it’s quite clear. Eventually you reach the ridge, where you join with the Gatterl and Reintal routes for the final ascent, which is a little easier.

Rungs and Ladders - via ferrata

The last few yards to the tourist platform are, disappointingly, via a metal staircase, after which you have to get through the crowds of day-trippers (who’d ascended via the cable car) and queue for the final few yards to the summit. When I was there, those queuing for the summit were a mixture of elderly tourists and children wearing plimsolls, and over-cautious 30-somethings with full climbing gear, who looked a little out of place! From the summit, you can see the various routs up in each direction, after which it’s a queue back down to the platform and a celebratory schnapps and germknödel (sweet dumpling) in the café! Remember to take lots of cash with you, as they don’t take cards for the cable car down and it’s a long walk back!

Zugspitze seen across the glacier

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Thanks again, Neil! If readers enjoyed this article, please check out Neil’s Hiking Site for more.

Posted 6 years, 11 months ago.

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Munich’s Olympiapark in HDR

I’ve prepared some more HDR photos to show you the view from Olympiaberg (made of WWII rubble) around sunset. It’s a bit too far away for a view of Munich’s downtown, but the Olympic buildings themselves are stunning! Here’s the Olympiastadion (where I saw Genesis a few years back):

Olympiastadion HDR

The last few moments of sun before the disc slipped below the horizon:

Olympiastadion HDR Sunset

And a perspective-corrected view of the Olympiaturm, with BMW Vierzylinder (the HQ of BMW, called “four cylinders”) in the background. BMW Welt and BMW Museum are tiny.

Olympiaturm HDR Sunset

High Dynamic Range photography is an interesting way to show detail in areas of shadow, without blowing out the highlights in a photo. It currently requires taking several shots of the scene, then doing lots of PC processing after taking the pictures. Due to this post-processing, I’m anxious to hear if any of you have problems viewing the photos on your monitors (do they look too dark)? If so I might need to calibrate my monitor.

Now I’m just waiting for the first camera to come out with built-in HDR processing. I predict this will be on a pro- or pro-sumer camera in less than five years, more likely 2-3. What do you think?

Posted 6 years, 12 months ago.

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Guided Munich

I’ve been home for two weeks, and am finally writing the first post in months that isn’t categorized “around the world.” While on the RTW trip, though, I had the idea to start a guided photography tour of Munich!

View looking past Marienplatz, Munich

What is a guided photo tour, you ask? I will be giving a three hour private photo course, explaining to my customers how to use their cameras (either D-SLR or pocket cameras) to take better pictures. The photo subjects during this walking tour will be all the best sights and monuments in Munich. I know a few secret vantage points, as well. Private tour means just one small group: no strangers arguing about what to see next.

BMW buildings as seen from Olympiaturm

I’ve seen a lot of people taking tourist photos around town. So I tried to duplicate their work! It wasn’t hard. I put my big D-SLR in “Auto” mode, stood directly in front of each monument or building, aimed the camera nearly straight up, and clicked the shutter release as fast as possible. Then I closed the flash unit, set the camera to “Program” mode, and tried again – while using the big computer behind the camera. Here are some examples of the difference:

Sendlinger Tor Comparison

Siegestor Comparison

If you’re interested to improve your photography skills while in Munich, please check out Guided Munich Photo Tours! And if you know anyone traveling here, I’d certainly appreciate the referral as I get started. Hope you enjoy the summer, and take lots of great photographs!

Posted 7 years ago.

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