OUR TRIP TOGETHER WITH THE “PENSIONER GANG” by Rita Thieunissen Go to fullsize image Again we made a trip with the pensioner union of Herbert’s company as we do every year. It is to say that this firm has big settlings in some cities in the South of Germany. There is a big factory in Schwaebisch-Gmuend / Swabia and the Berliners and the Gmuender have a good connection to each other. When they got to know that we celebrate our 20th anniversary they invited us to come and to have a party together. That’s the reason why we travelled in summer this year instead of Advent. We started our travel on Tuesday. It was nice to meet people whom one sees only on this occasion. Everyone was in a great mood when the bus left Berlin. Although it was a modern and comfortable coach we were glad when we arrived at Schwaebisch-Gmuend 9 hours later. After dinner we went to bed because the Gmuenders had prepared an extensive program for us and we should start next day early in the morning. Wednesday We started after breakfast at 8.00 am. Our first destination was the Daimler-Benz-Museum in Stuttgart. I didn’t feel like watching old cars, but I experienced a big surprise. Never before I have seen such an architecture. Here is a description from a pamphlet: It’s a double helix as unique and elementary as a strand of human genetic makeup. Descending through a series of Legend floors and Collection rooms , 2 inter-twined tours ultimately arrived a common destination. The selection of exhibits is as extraordinary as the museum itself., for the first time showcasing key representatives of the company’s commercial vehicles history along sides its passengers cars. From every model Daimler-Benz ever did produce they show a specimen. (You would have been enthusiastic, David!). After lunch in a nice restaurant we went by coach to a big farm situated in a village outside Schwaebisch-Gmuend. Covered wagons, each pulled by 2 horses, were waiting for us for a trip through the beautiful landscapes. When we were back again a Vesper was served.  In the South of Germany and in Austria this kind of meal is very important. In Bavaria they call it “Brotzeit” and in Austria “Brettl-Jause”. It means different kinds of sausages, cheese, potato salad and brown bread , accompanied by a bottle of beer. Thursday In the morning there was leisure time. At 1 pm we left our hotel for the garden party in Mutlangen. At first we have been disappointed because the garden turned out to be a big schoolyard with many tables and benches and a stage for the Big Band. We got vouchers for cold drinks, liver cheese and salt tarte (thin dough covered with diced bacon, onion rings and lots of sour cream). Little by little much more pensioners reached the yard and the banks were occupied in a jiffy. Then the band began to play and we forgot our disappointment immediately. The music was wonderful and the Berliners started dancing although it was not planned by the organizers. In the evening we left for another Vesper. Our destination was an inn near Goeggingen. It was a strenuous effort for the waitresses to serve cold drinks when 52 Berliners and a lot of Gmuender rushed into the taproom. One of the Gmuenders took his guitar and he asked us to sing with him. You don’t have to tell this twice to the Berlin pensioners. We started to sing instantly and we sang German folk songs and silly pop songs and of course we swayed with the music (very German!!!). The owner of the restaurant and the waitresses were amazed. When we sang a well-known waltz they stand arm in arm behind the bar and they swayed too. We all were in a great mood when we arrived at our hotel late in the evening. Friday After breakfast a guide was waiting for us to show us the old town of Schwaebisch-Gmünd.. The man who took us was more than 8o years old but spry. Because he was born and grown up there he could tell us a number of stories that you can’t find inside a guide book. The Gmuenders are proud of their minster and I must say they have every reason to do that. There are sculptures from the 11th century and windows from the 13th century. The guidance was soooo interesting and our guide was so nice that we forgot the time and when we finally reached the coach we where 30 minutes to late. Peter, our driver, took us to the ZF-canteen (ZF is the name of the firm) where we had lunch. Then we went to a restaurant in Eschbach where we had an evening of entertainment and – you have a presentiment – a Vesper. Please, don’t believe that we got the same food every day. There was always a big selection of different sausages, ham, cheese, and, and, and…. We knew Otto, the entertainer from our stay 5 years ago. He is a handsome man with a good voice and he is an excellent musician on the accordion. We had a nice evening with singing and dancing, but it was too long because our chairman didn’t find an end. Finally at 1.30 am we all got up and left the restaurant. What could he do? He must follow us. We reached the hotel at 2.00 am knowing, that we must get up at the next (or should I say the same) morning. Saturday Of course we all where tired when we left the hotel early in the morning.  We were announced for a visit at the medicinal herbs garden of the Welleda company. Welleda is a firm which applys a different strict standard to the cosmetic and medicaments which are produced there. No chemistry!!! For me it was the high light of the trip and the garden came up to my expectations. It was a dream. A calm place with trees and ponds, surrounded by blooming medicinal herbs.  We also saw big fields with vine ( for a medicine against liver diseases!!!); marigolds with an intensive orange colour (a feast for the eyes), Echinacea (a dream in mauve). I forgot my tiredness for a while. After lunch in a restaurant we had time for a nap Everyone made for his bed. In the afternoon we met all the Gmuendesr in the restaurant of the company. The tables were decorated in white and wine-red colours. We had a 3-course-meal. After that the Gmuenders surprised us with a festive program and we were sad when we finally must leave. They promised  to visit us in Berlin next year in September. We are looking forward to this event. Sunday Believe it or not: When we left the hotel early in the morning a lot of our friends were standing in front the bus to say good bye once more and to wave to us.

The Taste of Food in China

There is something wonderful about the food in China.

It has taste.

Every fruit and vegetable has its own unique flavor. You can taste the individual flavor of everything you eat here. Fresh fruit and vegetables are simply delicious.

I bought some eggplant, onions, ginger and one chillie. I sliced and cooked these in peanut oil with some chilli oil added for extra flavor. I was astounded at the delicious taste of my simple cooking.

Yesterday I bought some peaches and grapes. The grapes are rich with flavor and delightful to eat. I had forgotten how tasty fruit can be.

I also bought some melon like fruits and a fruit that looked like  a green apple  with the texture of a pear. I was told it is a mixture of both the apple and the pear.

All foods at restaurants are delicious. I do not buy the food at the numerous street stalls along the way, but they too look delicious.

I am also drinking green tea because it tastes so different in China. It is made from fresh tea leaves and each variety of tea has its own individual flavor. I now have 4 varieties of green tea and love them all.

China is the place for food…it all tastes wonderful

First Lunch in China

Mid Autumn Festival 15th Day of the 8th Lunar Month

Held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second grandest festival after the Spring Festival in China. The festival takes its name from the fact that it is always celebrated in the middle of the autumn season. The Festival is also known as the Moon Festival, as at that time of the year the moon is at its roundest. On this day, family members gather to appreciate the bright full moon, eat moon cakes at night, and think of family members who live far away.

Legend about the Festival:

Chang E flying to the moon
Chang E flying to the moon

The story of Chang Er is the most widely accepted tale regarding the origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival. It is said that in ancient times, ten suns existed and the extreme heat made people’s lives very difficult. It was the hero Hou Yi who, owing to his great strength, shot down the nine of the ten suns. On hearing of this amazing feat and the hero who performed it, people came from far and wide to learn from him. Peng Meng was among these people. Later, Hou Yi married a beautiful and kind woman named Chang Er and lived a happy life.

One day, Hou Yi came upon Wangmu (the queen of heaven) on the way to meet his old friend. Wangmu presented him an elixir which, if drunk, would cause him to ascend immediately to heaven and become an immortal. Instead of drinking the potion himself, Hou Yi took it home and presented it to Chang Er to keep. Unfortunately, Peng Meng secretly saw Hou Yi give the potion to his wife and three days later, while Hou Yi was out hunting, Peng Meng rushed into the backyard and demanded that Chang Er hand over the elixir. Knowing that she could not win, she took out the elixir and swallowed it immediately. The moment she drank it, she flew out of the window and up into the sky. Chang Er’s great love for her husband drew her towards the Moon, which is the nearest heavenly body to the earth.

On realising what happened to his wife, Hou Yi was so grief stricken that he shouted Chang Er’ s name to the sky. He was amazed to see a figure which looked just like his wife appeared in the Moon. He took the food liked by Chang Er to an altar and offered it as a sacrifice for her. Hou Yi’s neighbours also burned incense and prepared food to express their good wishes to the kind Chang Er. This became a custom later every year.


Different customs have evolved in different areas regarding the Mid-Autumn Festival. The most significant customs are to appreciate and offer sacrifice to the round bright moon and eat moon cakes. Other activities like dragon dancing and doing obeisance to the moon are also considered highly important.

Appreciating and Offering Sacrifice to the Moonlight:

Moon cakes, the special food for the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Moon cakes, the special food for
the Mid-Autumn Festival

Since ancient times, Chinese emperors offered sacrifices to the sun in the spring and the moon in autumn. Especially in the Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC – 221 BC), the big incense burn table was arranged and all kinds of food were offered in sacrifice that day. However, appreciating the moon became more popular in the Tang (618 – 907) and Song Dynasties (960 – 1279). Many famous poems for praising the moon on the night of the festival were created during those periods. In the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), the Moon Altar was built for the purpose of sacrifice to the moon on the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Today, sacrifice has been replaced by a simple appreciation of the moon. Members of a family usually sit around a table eating and talking to their heart content and at the same time admiring the bright moon. While looking up the moon, people will think of their relatives afar and good wishes are expressed in their mind.

Eating Moon Cakes

As with every Chinese holiday, the Mid-Autumn Festival has its own special food. People eat moon cakes at Mid-Autumn Festival. The moon cake is a kind of cookie with various  fillings and on the surface are printed different artistic patterns depicting the story of Chang Er flying to the moon. People treated this kind of food as one of the sacrificial offerings to the moon in the old days. Today, it has become an indispensable food while appreciating the bright moon for every family. Moon cakes come in various flavors which change according to the region but common fillings are nuts, sugar, sesame, ham and egg yolk.

Making noodles by hand

Today I watched a street vendor make noodles, and took a video of the action.

It was wonderful. He was so clever.

Now I see a video on China Daily showing the noodle maker at work and am sharing the link here for you.

It all comes from this finely ground white powder, soft to touch, yet essential to our existence. On the way flour turns into noodle, however, there is some magic involved.

They knead it and beat it.

They slice it and dice it.

They fling it and swing it.

They wiggle it and jiggle it.

They make it long enough to go around the city, and as thin as a strand of hair.

They turn it into a feat for the eye – before turning it into a delight for the palate.

In Shanxi, you can have the magic and eat it, too.

Camera: Raymond Zhou

Video: Lou Yi

Shanxi China

Shanxi is well known for its abundant coal production. But the province of 34 million people and 156,000 square kilometers in area offers much more than natural resources. A trip to Shanxi can be a walk down history lane. So many filmmakers come here that it is the only province I know that shies away from this kind of free publicity.

Taiyuan, the capital city, is roughly at the center of Shanxi province. It divides the attention of a traveler into two equally enticing choices: The north route is rich in Buddhist culture, highlighted by Mount Wutai and Yungang Grottoes, both UNESCO-endorsed world heritage sites.

But you don’t have to be a Buddhist to be fascinated. This used to be the frontier land, where the Han-dominated “central plains” met the nomadic tribes of the north, violently clashing or joined by a shared faith. The ruins of ancient barracks and fortresses and the remnants of the Great Wall speak of a time when the clouds of war hovered over many heads.

Following in the footsteps of giants

South of Taiyuan is a different story. Here you’ll encounter old towns and spacious courtyards that are testament to the thriving business communities once active here. For a while this was the verifiable center of China’s financial industry, an equivalent of Wall Street, so to speak. The bankers are long gone, but some of the homes and towns they built are still intact or restored to their former splendor.

The western and part of the southern border of the province is encircled by the Yellow River, creating a swath of fertile land where numerous relics from antiquity are preserved. At Hukou, the river falls precipitously, forming the most frequently filmed background of China’s “mother river”.


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