The Story Behind Opa’s Home-Distilled Schnapps

For the past 18 years, I have been trying to pass on this homemade Schnaps to my friends. Whenever they come for a visit, they have to have a little shot of schnapps to help me get rid of it. It is from the 1960s, and its alcohol content is around 60-65%.

When my father passed away in 2005, I was given this demijohn wrapped in packing straw and a metal basket. I guess it holds about 50 liters. When we first got it, I did not check to see how much schnapps was left. Instead we filled some into a jam jar, and stored the demijohn in the basement.

Since then, my husband has taken frequent trips to the basement, where he needed a second pair of hands to pour it into the same jam jar. Every time he came back up, I asked him, if it were empty yet. He always replied, “Not yet.”

Demijohn of German Schnapps

18 years later… we still have some, and I have stopped asking. Instead, we brought it upstairs, so it can spend its final years in good company and daylight.

Back then, when I took it off my brother’s hand, I imagined to use this little artifact sometime soon for an up-cycling project. Well, I use it now for decoration. As is. 🙂

When I was a young girl, I had to help with collecting the fallen plums. We did not have protective gloves either, when we reached into the nettles to retrieve most of them.

Then the plums were taken to a neighbor, who was the only one with a distillery in the village.

In the 1960s, we had no dentist in the village. When we kids had a toothache, we were told to rinse our pain away with schnapps. When our live-in aunt had a fever, her room smelled like schnapps because of the leg compresses she made from soaking them in it.

Growing up, I had never actually seen anybody drinking this stuff. I only thought of it as a pain reliever.

Now it has become a family joke. “You want to come for a visit? You know you have to have some of Opa’s schnapps!” Once, we actually used it as a pain reliever. One of our American friends arrived from Amsterdam with a bad toothache in tow. While he was here, he used schnapps to tie him over before he could see his dentist in Croatia a couple of days later.

Another time it became a study object of a former student of mine, who, at the time of his visit, studied history at university in Korea.

This schnapps has provided us with so many funny moments to share and remember. For that, I’m forever grateful.

Touring the Mainberg Castle Grounds, Germany

On New Year’s Eve, after a very pleasant stay at the Martinshotel in close proximity, we decided to give our London visitor a little taste of one of Germany’s more 20.000 – 25.000 castles. No one knows exactly how many castles there really are in Germany. The estimate for Bavaria, my home state, is 5.000 castles alone.

We arrived at a locked gate, which had to be expected at this time of year. We were still able though to tour the grounds a bit.

Gunter Sachs, a German photographer, author, art collector and industrialist, was born in this castle. Gunter, also known as Gunter Sachs von Opel in his earlier days, was one of Germany’s most famous playboys in his days. He was also married to Brigitte Bardot in the 1960s.

Mainberg Castle, Germany

The castle park used to be a place of fun for some U.S. army soldiers in post-war Germany.

Mainberg Castle grounds

We enjoyed our view overlooking the Main River valley on this overcast morning.

The Main River in Lower Franconia

Last, but not least, for all of you, who remember the nuclear power plant… Luke & Duke are still standing. The plant was in operation from 1982 – 2015, and then it was taken offline as part of the phase out policy for nuclear power in Germany.

This photo was taken from the castle on the hill.

Luke & Duke, the Nukes

Die Franken sind die Sanguiniker unter den Deutschen. – Theodor Heuss

(The Franconians are the sanguine among the Germans)

We will come back again.

Martinshotel Near Mainberg Castle, Germany

This Christmas holiday, while visiting my four siblings in my hometown area of lower Franconia, we decided to stay in this newly renovated historic building, which was turned into a hotel in 2021.

The hotel itself is in the center of the village (Mainberg, a district of Schonungen), and the castle sits up on the hill overlooking the Main River and other villages.

The hotel entrance reflects where the old meets modern.

Martinshotel in Mainberg

We had a splendid time there. The rooms are spacious and arranged in a modern way. We had our breakfast in a beautiful ambiance (this room is a wine pub in the evenings).

From the parking lot, you can see part of the castle. It is a good 10-minute walk there, which we did on this overcast morning of New Year’s Eve.

I can highly recommend this hotel. The service is excellent. Mr. Martin, the owner, speaks English as well, and this made our stay more comfortable for our non-German speaking friend, who had come along from London.

If you want to know more about the hotel, then visit Martinshotel.

Maria’s Beer Balcony in Germany

In late October, I got an email from one of my friends in the States. Her son, who also happened to be our son’s former playmate at FIS (Frankfurt International School) many years ago, was coming to Oberursel on a business trip.

Of course, we managed a friendly get-together on the Beer Balcony. Can’t leave town without a pit stop here. It was fun having you here, Seth.

Seth in Oberursel

I’ve decided to let my Beer Balcony get taken over by vines. Time for a change. But our spirits remain the same.

What is There to See in Franconian Switzerland

On our three-day trip to the Fränkische Schweiz (Franconian Switzerland), we got to see and do quite a bit of everything.


Pottenstein is always worth a visit. There are many shops along the main road, but some were closed during this off-season.

Pottenstein main road

We also went to our first Christmas market of the season. This one was in Ebermannstadt (25km southeast of Bamberg). What a lovely small market it was. We bought many things such as mulled wine, Bratwurst, Christmas cookies, Gin&Tonic jam, and much more.

Prices are still lower in that part of Germany, so spending money is more fun.

Ebermannstadt (near Bamberg)

After the Christmas market, we entered one of the restaurants located at the market square. This one, Brauereigasthof Schwanenbräu Ebermannstadt, is one of the finest restaurants I’ve ever been to.

Our view reminded me a bit of looking out at Rockefeller Plaza in New York, also in November of one year.

Service was outstanding (very quick and with a smile each time), and my husband and I both had one of the local specialties. He had breaded carp, and I had a small order of Krenfleisch (boiled pork or beef) in a horseradish sauce with a dumpling.

In my hometown area of lower Franconia, this dish is also known as Fränkisches Hochzeitsessen (Franconian Wedding Meal), and is always served with Bandnudeln (ribbon noodles).

Once I posted a photo of this kind of meal with ribbon noodles on my Facebook page Fränkisch für Ausländer (Franconian Dialect for Foreigners), and this caused quite a stir. Some readers insisted this can only be served with potato dumplings, or boiled potatoes. In my 40+years of cooking and eating out, I had only seen this dish served with noodles.

Then there it was on the menu – with a dumpling! From now on, I will only eat this version. The small white strings you see on the outer part of the plate are radish strips.

This dish is always served with Preiselbeeren (lingonberries).

Krenfleisch with potato dumpling

And yes, we got a six-pack of dunkles Lager to take home.

Visiting Franconian Switzerland means eating and drinking well. At least, to me.

For a mini lesson in the upper Franconian dialect, learn how to say “Of course!”:

“No freili!” The literal translation would be: Ja, freilich = Yes, of course.

So if someone asks you whether you wanted another beer, “Möchten Sie noch ein Bier?”

“No freili!” is the perfect response.

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