Monday, November 24, 2014

Christmas 365 Days A Year--Seiffen, Germany

Last week I highlighted my trip to Poland, today is the final installment of that fantastically fun girls trip.  On our 3rd day we hit the road early to be in Seiffen by 10am when all the stores opened. Seiffen sits on the eastern border next to the Czech Republic in the Erzgebirge--or Ore Mountains.  It is a delightful German town that prepares for Christmas 365 days a year--artisans work from January to September filling their shelves with every kind of of wooden ornament, then from October to December they sell, sell, sell and when it's gone, it's gone.  My friend went back last week and she said some of the items we bough a month ago were already sold out, so it pays to hit Seiffen before the Christmas rush, which begins in November.  

Even if you don't buy anything (which you'd be crazy not to because prices are up to 30% less than what you'll find in Munich), Seiffen is a charming town to walk through with all of it's larger than life outdoor Christmas displays.  I was particularly fond of the mechanical kissing figurines who come together for a loud smack.   
Another draw to Seiffen is the factory tour at the Richard Glässer workshop. Watch as artisans carve trees, paint Nutcrackers and assemble spinning pyramids. The self guided tour only takes about 30 minutes and costs about €2.  Children will be fascinated and everyone will love how close they are to the production process. Check website for times. 
A couple of things to note
1. There is a large parking lot as you enter the city from the north. Park here and walk down the hill into the main part of town.
2. The farther from the city center, the better the prices.  We found the store right across from the parking lot had prices that were often €5-10 less than the stores in town.  We started and ended our day there.
3. Ask about shipping--not everyone is set up to do so.  One that does is the Seiffener Pyramidenhaus.   They were fantastic to work with and shipped the 4 large pyramids I purchased to my home in Munich for only €15.
4.  Not every store keeper speaks English.  I was surprised that we did not run into any other American or English speaking tourists, so don't automatically expect English.
Two things you will see all over town are the Angel and Miner and the Seiffen Church--both have sweet stories and make a unique regional gift.  The Angel and Miner are indicative of the area's mining culture. The angle watches over the miner and provides light in the early morning hours and deep in the shafts.  It was a tradition that a father would carve an angel when a daughter was born and a miner for a son.

The Bergkirche (church) with it's choir features in many of the Christmas ornaments sold in town. If you've ever purchased a wooden music box, pyramid or light arc with a church on it, chances are it is the Seiffener Kirche.  As a matter of fact, last week when I was unpacking all my Christmas decorations I noticed the music box I bought 3 years ago at the Munich Christmas market has the Seiffener Kirche in the middle surrounded by little singers.  Now, I know the rest of the story--The Lutheran church was built in 1779.  The children's choir is quite famous and performs every Sunday.  During the season of Advent a special concert is held Sunday's at 2:30pm.

I can't say enough about this delightful Christmas town.  One last suggestion--we ate lunch at the Gastsäatte Holzwurm 
Address: Hauptstr. 71 09548
Hours: 11am-11pm
It was more expensive than what I normally go for, but it was highly recommended and did not disappoint.  I had cream of garlic soup that could have kept vampires away for months, but boy was it good.  The other ladies raved about their dishes, but the Quark Knödel dessert with apricot and pear compote was the reason we chose this restaurant.

I don't remember ever having such a fun girl's trip! These two destinations, Boleslawiec and Seiffen make the perfect weekend holiday for families or girl friends.  Drive time from Munich to Poland is about 6 hours.  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Silent Sunday

Not the most thrilling pictures, or even great quality, but I just wanted to capture how this small Greek Orthodox church built 1000 years ago has been preserved and built over by the modern sprawl that is Athens, Greece. 
OneDad3Girls Silent Sunday @ Nicer Than New
Unknown Mami

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Polish Pottery 101

So, you've traveled all the way to this remote part of Poland for a pottery buying extravaganza.  You only have two days, maybe even less?  Well, don't worry, because with the following tips you are going to be organized, quick and buy way more than you had anticipated (at least I did)!

Truly, I had intended to buy a couple of serving dishes because honestly, I need more dishes like I need a hole in the head, but guess what--my husband called me on the road and said, "Splurge!  This is your one chance, buy more, not less!"  How often do you get that kind of permission?  Naturally, I complied with his instructions.

This list is intended to help you be organized as you shop because, if this is your first time to Boleslawiec, it can be overwhelming.  The sheer number of patterns, sizes and dishes is incredible, way more than you've ever seen before, so memorize this list--and get ready for some fun retail therapy!
 All pottery pics were snagged from Carla's blog because I was too busy shopping to actually take pictures.  

1. Come with an idea of what you need or want to purchase. It is very likely you will still make a few impulse purchases, but it will be easier to keep yourself in check if you have a plan beforehand.

2. Start early: plan to visit stores as they open--Most stores open at 10:00am and close at 5:00pm, but some open as early as 7:00am and close as early as 4:00pm.  You'll want to hit those early openers first thing so that if you need to go back later in the day you can.

3. Head straight for the Tourist Information center and get a list of the stores. It is a spreadsheet with addresses and opening hours of all the stores.

4. Spend a few hours visiting as many shops as possible to familiarize yourself with patterns.  DO NOT BUY, JUST LOOK!

5. TIME: Use your time wisely, there are many stores to get to. Some of our favorites were towards the end of the day when time was running out.

6. During the "look not buy" phase, take a picture of the store front as you enter and any pieces you like inside that store--Trust me, you will forget.

7. Take pictures of what you buy--you will forget! When I unwrapped all my purchases (at home and too late) I realized I was a bit lopsided in one pattern.

8. Carry a sharpie marker with you and name your bags.  Once is it all wrapped up you can't tell which bag belongs to whom.

9. Build a few extra bucks into your budget to allow for the impulse purchase.

10. Stores take euros, dollars or polish zloty, cash or credit--they will perform the exchange rate right there in front of you.  All shop owners calculate the same way, you can feel safe you are getting a fair deal.

11. Understand the 1-5 rating system.  Simply put, 1 is perfect and the most expensive, 5 is the least expensive, but for decorative purposes only.  Pottery rated 1-4 is dishwasher safe, oven save, microwave safe and yes, you can cook in it and eat off of it.

12. In general, the more color and more pattern on a piece of pottery, the more expensive it will be. Unikat means one of a kind and will be more expensive.

13. Take the Manufaktura Factory tour.  You will see the entire process up close and personal.  From start to finish you will see pottery being molded, smoothed, painted, glazed and fired.  Best of all, it only costs about €1.50.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Recommendations for Boleslawiec, Poland

We stayed two nights at a restored barn called The Blue Beetroot Inn--it was a fantastic place to stay as it was close to pottery shopping, the hotel manager was helpful and efficient, the room we stayed in was spacious for our group of 4 and the onsite restaurant was so good we ate all our meals there.  Two nights and 6 meals cost each of us €100--a bargain if you ask me. 

Inside the cozy inn you will find pictures lining the entry wall of the restoration process taking the rundown barn to the inn as it is today.  You will see the structural features they kept and appreciate the modern conveniences they added. Two thumbs way up for the Blue Beetroot Inn. 
The Details
The Blue Beetroot Inn
Address:"Niebieski Burak" Laziska 50 59-700
Telephone: (0048) (0) 757 364 420
Parking: onsite and free

Breakfast consisted of an assortment of fruit, meats, veggies and bread along with eggs cooked to order.  We tried several different things on the lunch/dinner menu including the pumpkin soup, chicken done a couple of different ways, the fish and a couple of different salads.  We were each very pleased with our selections--and eating in house meant we never had to exchange euros for polish zloty.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Girl's Trip Day 2--Factory Tour of Manufaktura

We started day two bright and early to maximize our shopping opportunities.  Boleslawiec, Poland is home base for the Polish pottery industry.  The area around Boleslawiec is rich in clay and for 1000 years inhabitants have been putting it to good use. Today the hand painted blue and cream pottery is manufactured in this small town by several companies; some small, some big. 

Carla arranged for us to take a tour of the the Manufaktura factory--which if you have time for, is very worthwhile and it only costs €1.50. Click here to book your own tour.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Day 1 Girl's Trip--Görlitz, Germany

It is not often that I take girls' trips...getting 4 families' schedules arranged and in line isn't easy, but back in October 3 girlfriends and I set out for an adventure to Poland to buy pottery.  And was it an adventure, we had loads of fun! 

We left Munich around 10am and didn't stop until we reached Görlitz on the Germany/Poland border.  What a delightful town!  Görlitz is a favorite with Hollywood as a movie background because while the town architecture remains historic and intact it isn't on the tourist trail, so it's easier to get in and out.  The most recent movie filmed here was The Book Thief.  
My friend Carla (you can read her blog here) pointed out that those windows in the attic look like eyes--creepy huh!  I took loads of pictures and many of doors.  It's been a while since I've seen so many great looking doors--I just love the rich colors.

Sunday, November 16, 2014