Welcome to Tonndorf Castle

One of the many alternative living communities in the area is the artist’s community in Tonndorf, based in a castle located between Erfurt and Weimar. Built in the 12th century and fell into disrepair through the centuries, a group of artists and artisans moved in and are in the process of restoring the castle.

Around 60 people, kids included, live in the castle. The younger kids go to the Waldkindergarten in the castle, while the older kids are bused to the alternative school in Erfurt. There are very definite rules into moving in and out of the castle community, and avoid drama with rules and a 10 thousand euro deposit and a probationary period to see whether the living arrangement will work out.


Spinning wool thread. I thought they existed only in fairy tales

Two weekends ago was the yearly artist’s and artisanal Christmas market at the castle. Products and creations from the castle’s artists, craftsmen and beekeepers were on display. It’s the perfect place to buy a Christmas present for somebody who has everything.

I really like the fact that it was a very interactive market, that you could directly talk to the people who made your product. The fact that they are locally produced is also a very big plus in helping support these artists and craftsmen.

After a cold day shopping, it was really nice to sit in their warm Cafe and sip a hot chocolate. I would definitely like to go back and enroll in their tree-pruning lessons in the summer.

Field Trip

As a kid growing up in Manila, class trips in the fourth grade usually meant a visit to a factory of some sort. Living in the South, that meant that a visit to the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Laguna. You were always given a bottle of refreshing Coke at the end of the visit to quench your thirst. Gotta start them young!

I got that very distinct feeling after visiting the Oettinger brewery in Gotha. What, with the summer weather and the beer at the end. Basically a grown-up version of visiting the Coca-Cola bottling plant. Oettinger, based in Munich, is the largest brewery corportation in Germany. With five breweries spread across Germany, it makes sure that transportation costs are kept to a minimum and that beer could be transported to stores within the next three hours. It doesn’t mean that it’s distribution stops there. It is also one, if not the only,  German beer you will be able to buy in a provincial airport while waiting for your Cessna that will take you to a remote island in the Philippines.

Now, there is something that you have to understand about Oettinger. Because it is able to keep its overhead and bottling costs low, it is very cheap. Being the preferred cheap beer of alkies (PBR?) it has a horrible, if undeserved, reputation. There’s a joke that an Oettinger truck met an accident on the highway, and nobody stopped to loot the beer.

tanksIt’s interesting to see food and fermentation on a massive scale. I’m reading Michael Pollan’s Cooked at the moment, and all I could think of was tiny bacteria that was responsible for brewing 2,500 hectoliters per tank. And there were about 26 (?) of them.

They also export “Made in Germany!” beer to Africa and China. Where Oettinger has a somewhat better reputation (?). Being a journalist I had to ask some very uncomfortable questions.

Me: “Do you change the formula of the beer for the foreign market?”

Braumeister: “No.”

Me: “Why is Oettinger so cheap?”

Braumeister: “We try to keep transportation costs to a minimum, that is why we have five breweries in Germany.”

Me: “Then why does Oettinger the but of jokes?”

Braumeister: (Pause. Silence.) “We were recently featured in Galileo where we were voted as the best beer in Germany. I guess the cheapness of the beer basically…”

I see what you did there Mr. Braumeister. Well played!

He must have hated me after that. I must confess that i tend to be a tactless, nosy busybody, in case no one has noticed it yet!

beerI guess the best part of the field trip was that I got to take home two cans of beer from the reject bin. I mean really slight indentations in the can that you can barely notice. They have got scanning software that recognizes imperfections in the cans and they are immediately sorted out of the bottling line. The yellow ones are for the Chinese market, the white ones for Africa. Since I don’t drink beer, it’s nice to have some in stock for guests.

The only thing that was missing was a roadside stall stop for buko pie.


Zweigniederlassung der Oettinger Brauerei GmbH
Leinastraße 61-63
D-99867 Gotha

Strawberry Season Is Here!

What can compare to fresh fruit picked during the right season? Forget about strawberries  from Spain in winter. This is the real deal right here. These strawberries are so sweet, I might as well be eating candy!

I always eagerly await the first strawberry harvest of Gärtnerei Gloria in Erfurt, since they always come up with the sweetest strawberries. The later harvests tend to be tart, and sour/tart strawberries are better for baking and jam. I normally go to one of their fields that are open for picking by customers, but alas, the recent heavy rains and floods in Thüringen  means that in Erfurt, strawberry-picking season for self-picking customers won’t open this year.

So as soon as they set up their temporary stall in Anger Square, I immediately bought myself a small box, sat myself on a bench, and enjoyed one of  life’s small pleasures: eating strawberries in the warm sun.