“A Christmas market, also known as Christkindlmarkt (literally: Baby Jesus Market), Christkindlesmarkt, Christkindlmarket, Christkindlimarkt, and Weihnachtsmarkt, is a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent. These markets originated in Germany, but are now being held in many other countries. The history of Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in the German-speaking part of Europe, and in many parts of the former Holy Roman Empire that includes many eastern regions of France. The Christmas markets of Bautzen were first held in 1384.Dresden‘s Striezelmarkt was first held in 1434. Frankfurt was first mentioned in 1393, Munich in 1310, and Augsburg in 1498. In Austria, Vienna’s “December market” can be considered a forerunner of Christmas markets and dates back to 1298.
One of the things that I miss about America, is celebrating Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is an American national holiday which occurs on the third Thursday of November.
According to the History website, “Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States, and Thanksgiving 2018 occurs on Thursday, November 22. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.” To learn more about Thanksgiving, click on the attached link.
Last year I hosted a Thanksgiving at my apartment, but it was super complicated. This year I decided to host a dinner at Tamu Sana, an East African restaurant in Linz. If you go with four or more people, you can order the family style meal. You can tell them whether you want vegetarian or meat.
Once ruled by gangs, this cute little street in Copenhagen has been taken over by unique shops, including artist galleries, second-hand clothing stores, organic eateries, and cafes.
My boyfriend and I spent hours on this street, just popping into the little shops and browsing. On the weekend there are limited hours (sometimes only 11-2pm), so if you plan to visit, you should pay attention to the opening hours.
Copenhagen is much more expensive than in Austria. In Austria, a good latte can be purchased for around €3-€4 at a cafe. In Copenhagen, we spent around €6 per latte. Since I cannot eat gluten, I left it to my boyfriend to try the Danish pastries. The one depicted below is basically a cinnamon roll, which I am told was delicious. And, since I am addicted to Kombucha, I had to try the coffee Kombucha. It had a very unique flavor which I will definitely have to try to recreate at home.
Brew kombucha like normal, and wait until it becomes vinegar.
Place 1/2 cup of yellow mustard seeds in a jar, and cover them with the kombucha vinegar. It is possible that the seeds will plump up slightly as they soak. If the mustard seeds start popping over the top of the kombucha vinegar, cover them with more kombucha vinegar.
Let the seeds soak for at least 3 days (I waited 6 days).
After waiting the sufficient amount of time, pour the whole jar into the blender
Add 1 1/4 teaspoons tumeric and 1/4 teaspoon salt. I added 1/2 a clove of garlic, but at the end of the day I didn’t like the taste of it in the mustard, so I would say to not use it.
Add 5 teaspoons of honey
Blend. If the consistency is too grainy, keep adding more kombucha vinegar until smooth.
1. Kohr’s Frozen Custard. If you like icecream, you will love Kohr’s. It is so thick and creamy. The best flavor by far is the orange / vanilla twist. You can find it at the Pt. Pleasant Beach boardwalk, down by Jenkinsons.
2. Mueller’s Bakery. Around since the late 1800’s, this place is great for baked goods. It used to have much better coffee (when it was brewed fresh). I guess due to supply and demand issues, the coffee is brewed and put into “self-service” pots against the back wall of the bakery. If you don’t come just when it was brewed, you could be disappointed.
3. Martell’s Tiki Bar. This place is super fun during the summer months. On the weekends they usually have live bands. There is a bar conveniently located at the end of the pier, so you can enjoy a drink and watch the waves crash against the shore.
4. Jenkinson’s Sweet Shop. This sweet shop is open year round, and is a great place to get homemade fudge and New Jersey saltwater taffy.
Ask for a taste test of the homemade fudge. My favorite is the peanut butter chocolate.
Taffy comes in all sorts of flavors and makes a great gift!
Salt water taffy
5. Jenkinson’s Aquarium. Located at the end of the commercial portion of the boardwalk, this place is really fun for kids (and even if you are an adult). The animals are really nice to see, and there are shows (like feeding the Penguins) that you can watch. We would always take my niece and nephew here on the weekends–especially if it was a rainy day.
6. Running on the Boardwalk. The boardwalk is about 1 mile long, and is a great place to run (in the off season). Since it is super croweded during the on-season, I cannot recommend this as a good place to run, unless you come either really early in the morning or really late.
7. Bayhead. Bayhead is a cute little town near to Pt. Pleasant Beach. It has quaint little shops (e.g. Coffee at Noon) and is an overall good place just to walk around and see the sights.
8. Sushi. Living in Austria, American style sushi is hard to come by, so whenever I am in town I love to go out for sushi. My favorite place is a small restaurant in Normandy Beach called Blue Sushi. The food is fresh and tasty. The restaurant is BYOB. Price for Amazing Roll was $17, and 3 pieces of sashimi was $6. A normal roll like Spicy Tuna was about $7. If sushi is not your thing, they also had typical Japanese restaurant food, like Udon noodle soup and teryaki.
9. Spikes: My family and I have been going to spikes for decades. It is a small fish market and restaurant with wooden tables and benches. The food is always fresh and consistently good. If you go in the summer time, expect to wait up to an hour for an available table as they do not take reservations.
10. Local Urban Kitchen. This little restaurant has great food (vegan and gluten free options available), great coffee, and homebrewed teas. I meant to take a picture of the blackbean burger on gluten free bread, with raw kale chips, but I was so hungry and it looked so good that I totally forgot. After lunch, I had a non-fat latte. My tastebuds thanked me. Being a kombucha homebrewer and general kombucha enthusiast, I had to try the kombucha on tap. It was lavender-mint flavored, and was very crisp and refreshing. Kulture Kombucha is a local NJ brewery.
My mom and I had just finished our 5k run / walk at the boardwalk, and we decided to go for lunch. Local Urban Kitchen opened at the Pt. Pleasant location in 2014. In the last four years, I think that I have only been here a couple of times — this was definetely my huge loss!
Everything in the restaurant is locally sourced and is just absolutely fresh and delicious. There are tons of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options, which for me is a huge PLUS! Their website also mentions that the tables and benches are handbuilt and “upcycled” by a local contractor, and the plates are made by a local potter.
Craving good coffee? This place hits the spot. If you are feeling adventurous, you could even try fall inspired flavors like vanilla maple or pumpkin.
What can I say about kombucha that isn’t positive? As a homebrewer and general kombucha lover, I have tried many different flavors and breweries. On tap at the Local Urban Kitchen is Kulture Kombucha‘s lavender mint. They also sell a variety of flavors in bottles. Definetely worth a try!
I have been coming to Pt. Pleasant Beach for the past 20+ years. Kohr’s frozen custard shop on the boardwalk is a staple of the Jersey Shore experience. It is the best icecream I have ever had (it is so thick and creamy). Whenever I take a lick, I am transported back to the summer of my childhood, spent playing in the waves and building castles in the sand.
A little more than an hour from Linz is a small village in Styria (Steirmark). During the winter time it is a great place for skiing, but during the rest of the year it is possible to hike up the skiing trails.
It is a wonderful little place for a day hiking trip. There are many trails to chose from for all levels of fitness.
It is also possible to stay for the weekend and there are several hotels in the area. I have personally not stayed in any of these hotels so I cannot make any recommendations.
If you are in the mood for a bite to eat at a cute Austrian restaurant, I would recommend the Passhöhe. Family owned and operated for more than 100 years, this place will not disappoint. However, there are not so many vegetarian or gluten free options as it is very traditional Austrian food.
When I first visited Bratislava 18 years ago, it was not yet part of the European Union. I had traveled to Europe with my High School German class during winter break. After visiting Vienna, Austria (see post My First Austrian Encounter), our bus traveled to Slovakia. Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is about a 30 minute drive from Vienna. There isn’t much to distinguish the two countries, especially now that there is no border control to speak of, except for the Soviet Era architecture of the buildings.
Back in 2000, however, it wasn’t so simple. I wrote in my diary that our bus was boarded by boarder guards, who collected a passport and $20 from each person. Reflecting on it now, it was probably the fee for the Visa to enter the country. In my diary I remarked that lunch was cheap, only about $4. I didn’t write the name of the restaurant in my diary, but I can report that lunch is no longer as cheap (but it is in no way expensive).
Having returned to Bratislava in February, 2018, I can highly recommend it for a weekend trip. According to Google Maps, the drive from Linz to Bratislava takes about 2 hours and 28 minutes. We left on a Saturday morning and arrived in Bratislava around early afternoon. We stayed at the Falkensteiner. The hotel room was decent, and the price we paid was about €60 per night. If you want to eat breakfast at the hotel, there would be an additional fee. We did not chose this option.
Interestingly, the Falkensteiner rooms were designed to have a window between the bathroom and the bedroom. In the photo below, I am in the bathroom, and my boyfriend is looking in at me from the bed. Needless to say, this feature was fun, if not also slightly creepy.
After checking in and playing Peeping Tom, we went for a walk in Old Town, which is only about a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel. On the way we found cute little shops like the one pictured below.
We had not pre-selected a place to eat lunch and we figured that we would just walk around and find something. Since Old Town is a very touristy spot, we were expecting many tourist places. We were surprised to find a cute cafe on the main street called Enjoy Coffee. This place sold its own blends of tea (both to enjoy at the table and to take home).
As a person who is both vegetarian and gluten intolerant, I was able to find several options on the menu. I had the mushroom buckwheat risotto with feta cheese. My boyfriend, who is not vegetarian, had the duck sandwich. If one has kids, this place was also extremely kid friendly, with a small play area in the back.
After lunch, we walked around Old Town. Since the town is rather small, it is possible to see all the tourist sites within one afternoon. To see some good suggestions on what to do, check out this article from The Huffpost.
We had no itinerary, and found that walking around had its advantages. Along we way we spotted:
Statue of the Man at Work.
Old Town Hall. When we were in Bratislava, we tried to purchase tickets to walk up to the top of the tower, but it was closed. If you would like to do the same, go through the archway (bottom right hand of below picture). On the other side you will find a small square. To the right are glass doors. You purchase the tickets inside from a very unfriendly woman who doesn’t speak any English whatsoever. Don’t worry, there will be signs posted in English if the tower is closed.
In the square by the Old Town Hall, we found (purely by chance) an awesome wine bar called Wine Not. They have literally hundreds of different wines from all over the world, including from Slovakia. One in particular that we absolutely loved was called Vulcanica. It was a white wine that was self carbonated due to the fermentation process. As lovers of all things fermented, we just had to try and we were not disappointed. Price per bottle was around €26. We loved it so much we ended up taking a bottle home with us.
This place is cool not only for its enormous selection, but also due to its ambiance. It was warm and inviting, and the staff was super friendly. They answered all of our questions regarding the wine. If you visit on a weekend night, it is advisable to make a reservation, especially if you want to sit in the front room looking out on the square.
For dinner, we walked from our hotel to Lemon Tree, a Thai fusion place. Unlike the other places we had been to, Lemon Tree was a little on the expensive side. It is located next to the American Embassy on the top floor of the building. We stopped to take pictures in front of the American flag (because MURICKA!)–the guards with the automatic rifles were watching us closely from the other side of the fence.
The view from the restaurant (in the background of the picture below) was of the St. Martin’s Cathedral, which I visited in 2000, but did not have the chance to again in the 2018 trip. My fruity Prosecco drink pictured below is topped with cotton candy. It was very tasty.
The St. Martin’s Cathedral can also been seen from the Bratislava Castle. In my diary from 2000, I wrote that the inside of the cathedral was much plainer than the cathedrals of Austria, but more decorative than the ones in America. I also wrote that “the wooden pews were so rigid that when you sat in them, you were forced to sit straight up.” I remarked that I was not allowed to take photos of the inside, but purchased a post card (which has been since lost to time). Had I remembered I had visited the Cathedral back in 2000, I would have made a point to go inside for comparison. Next time.
If you like dancing to Latin music, drinking cocktails, or even smoking cigars, the place to visit in Bratislava is Cuba Libre. This place was packed with what appeared to be locals as well as tourists. I even observed some high local drama, as a man escorted the scantily clad woman he had been closely dancing with out of the bar. 10 minutes later he reappeared with a more demurely dressed, plainer woman, who could only have been his girlfriend. Crisis avoided(?) People watching is hilarious.
The next day before heading back to Linz, we ate brunch at Ranno Ptacka. The food was good, but the service was horrendous. The waitress forgot to put my order in. After finally noticing that I had not gotten my food (as everyone else’s food was dropped off by another waitress), she asked me “if I still wanted my food”. To which I answered, “Of course!”
Finally, after everyone had finished eating, I received my food. It was good, but I am not sure it was worth a 30 minute wait to receive it. In any event, if I even find myself in Bratislava again, I would still go back there.
Lastly, on the way out of town, we visited Bratislava Castle. We didn’t go inside, as we were tired from our previous night out.
All in all, Bratislava is a great weekend trip, and one that I would recommend to anyone.