Germany Travel Tip – Potsdam’s St. Martin’s Day

On the 11th day of the 11th month each year special celebrations take place all over Germany. Also marking the start for the annual carnival season this day is widely known as St. Martin’s Day. Children walk the streets with self-made lanterns singing traditional songs, the St. Martin’s bonfire is ignited and traditionally a Martinsgans, Martin’s-Goose, is served to commemorate the life and legend of St. Martin.The public park of Potsdam, capital city of Brandenburg and very close to Berlin, is a good place to experience this old tradition and cozy restaurants are nearby, where you and your family can share a fresh, oven baked Martin’s Goose.

The history takes us far back to the 4th century and to the young Martinus, who served as an officer in the Roman army. One night he was riding on his horse through a town and was approached by a beggar asking him for warm clothes, since it was freezing cold. Martinus split his coat with his sword and gave a half to the beggar. Later Martinus quit his job in the Roman army and became a soldier of God and lived a life of an anchorite. When the story of his good deed spread he should become a bishop. Legend has it that Martinus was too shy to take this honor and tried to hide in a goose hutch. People equipped with lanterns, searched the half night for him and were finally alerted by the twitter of the geese. The geese were butchered and eaten, Martinus became Bishop Martin and was later canonized and still today his story is told and celebrations take place to remember the good deed of St. Martin.

Although this is a nice story to explain why a goose is on the menu on this particular day, there is a far more rational explanation to that. In the yearly calendar of the church- and farmers, the 11th of November marks the beginning of the winter and the 40 days lent before Christmas, where no fat food is allowed. It was also the day, when the farm laborers were laid-off, got paid and received a present and when the annual land lease had to be paid. As currency and presents a goose came in very handy, since money was not often used in the Middle Ages.

All that is left today, thinking of the goose, is the traditional way of preparing this festive meal. Basic rule is, the more aromatic the filling, the better the taste of the meat. In the north of Germany it is common to fill the Martinsgans with a mix of ground pork, onions, garlic and herbs while in the south soaked buns, chestnuts, roasted nuts, apples, plums, sugar, salt, vinegar and red wine are widely preferred. The goose is placed in an oven and constantly basted with its own stock to ensure the meat doesn’t dry out.

A good place to experience the traditional St. Martin’s Day is in the Public Park of Potsdam, Brandenburg. Celebrations start at 3:30 p.m., on the 11th November 2009. First you can watch or help tinker the lanterns later used in the romantic procession through the park. Before that the St. Martin’s Play, displaying traditional, colorful costumes is shown to all visitors, reminding of Martinus good deed. Finally a bonfire will close this event in the early evening hours and you might like to continue your St. Martin’s Day experience in the nearby restaurant. Beautiful located in the San Sanssouci Park, the Restaurant & CafĂ© Drachenhaus, Dragon-House, invites all guest to a delicious prepared Martinsgans. Starting at 7 p.m., a whole goose with green- and red cabbage, dumplings, potatoes and plenty of tasty brown gravy is served for a party of 4 people. Half a goose with all side dishes can be shared by 2 people. Reservations are recommended and you can contact them through their web site.

This is an example of what you can do in Potsdam while traveling in Germany. If you want learn more about Potsdam we compiled a more comprehensive Potsdam travel guide in collaboration with local residents that provides unique travel insider tips which you can use during your Germany vacation.

Flower Travel – A Bloom Time Guide

Want to attend the violet festival in France? Or see the blue poppies in Bhutan? Or view the carpet of wildflowers in Namaqualand, South Africa?

Yes? Then you need to know when these flowers bloom in those locations. Researching bloom times for your next trip is the pivotal point of including flowers in your itinerary. It’s the “when” of destination research and it is more than just which hemisphere and what season. The bloom times of flowering plants are affected by many things, including the climatic determinates of the previous season (late spring, excess rainfall, drought, etc.), however, they also have an established pattern for blooming in their location. Find that pattern and you will be seeing flowers wherever you travel.

Many parts of the world offer spectacular displays of floral beauty as commercially-grown crops or as wildflowers. For the do-it-yourself destination researcher, basing your itinerary on what’s blooming when means choosing locations that are known for their flowers–either their abundance or their uniqueness–and planning your trip around this blooming event.

Use Flower Crops as an Attraction on Your Trip

There is the beauty of fields of commercially-grown flowers that can stop even a floral ignoramus in their tracks. Lavender is a good example: lavender is grown all over the world, so if you miss the blooming fields in June in Croatia, France, the Channel Isles, England, and Washington State, you can still catch them in Japan in July, Tasmania in December, or New Zealand in January!

Flowers are a world-wide commodity. There are the tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths grown in Holland (April), Michigan (May), and Tasmania (October) for the cut-flower/bulb market. The florists’ roses bloom most of the year in Colombia and Ecuador. And the rose fields in Turkey and Bulgaria are the sources of the world’s supply of rose petals and rose oil–can you imagine the scented air surrounding those fields?

Perhaps not your primary destination, the following places would still be worth a stop if you are in the neighborhood, so to speak: the commercial fields of narcissus on the Isles of Scilly; saffron crocus in Spain and Iran; coffee plantations in India, Costa Rica, and many other countries; and pink, opium poppies in Tasmania. All provide a delicate, sweet fragrance to the air. And although not a commodity, the cherry blossoms in Japan are certainly a commercial success for the tourism industry.

Add Wildflowers into Your Itinerary

Time your travels to view Mother Nature’s spectacular displays of ephemeral beauty: wildflowers. Everyone raves about the wildflowers they saw on their trip, but if you haven’t done your research, you might hear the phrase, “You just missed the flowers!”

Almost every place on the planet has wildflowers; many have become the source of our garden plants and field crops. A meadow, hillside, or other open space filled with a variety of wildflowers is a great memory of your trip; different colors, shapes and heights add another dimension to the natural landscape.

Wildflowers are not limited to summer in the temperate zones. Alpine flowers are also wildflowers that grow closer to the ground at the higher elevations around the world and can include what we call rock garden plants. Flowering plants such as the sea pinks of Portugal, rock samphire on the Isle of Wight, and the varieties of thyme growing throughout the Mediterranean bring color and interest to their native, harsh environments.

Marshes are another open space that provides a bounty of wildflowers. The marshes of Estonia and Jersey in the Channel Isles support orchids, lilies, and primulas. Bogs in Iceland hold beautiful cotton grass while those in Norway feature a variety of orchids. And pastel-colored water lilies sprout year ’round in the lakes and ponds of Vietnam.

Coastal clifftops and dunes also provide a habitat for some of our favorite flowers. The sea lavender of the Azores, foxgloves of the Channel Isles, portulaca from the Galapagos, and the forget-me-nots of Alaska are just a few examples of these now-common garden plants.

Use Unique Flowers as a Focal Point of Your Trip

Timing your travels to include the floral display at your destination can increase your enjoyment of your trip. You might be visiting San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and admiring the Spanish Colonial architecture, but it’s the blooming jacaranda trees surrounding the buildings and throughout the plazas that take your breath away. Or you are in Tokyo in April and come across the Kameido Tenjin Shrine covered with 100 wisteria plants on 15 trellises that were planted 320 years ago. At either location, the perfumed air and the lavender-colored light from so many purple flowers will create a scene (and a scent) that you’ll never forget.

In certain latitudes, some flowers bloom almost year ’round (bougainvillea, jasmine, orchids), so you can be assured of a good floral display whatever time you choose. In addition, these places almost always have some unusual flower that you can plan your trip around. Here’s an example: The ylang ylang plantations on Nosy Be, Madagascar, bloom most of the year, so enjoying their intense aroma and beautiful flowers would already be on your itinerary when you travel to the island to see the black orchid, which only blooms from December to January.

Here are three examples of planning your itinerary around viewing flowers that are known for their uniqueness:
1) If you want to see the silversword in bloom in Maui’s Haleakala Crater–the only place on the planet where it grows–you will have to be there between August and December.
2) You are on safari in Kenya in January, when the white tissue flowers cover the Masai Mara, and you have made sure you include Tanzania in your trip planning in order to see the original African violets in bloom (only between September and March).
3) If you go to Kunming, China, in the spring you will see the Plum Flower Festival, which is also during the Chinese New Year. While you are there, be sure to see the 500 to 800-year-old camellia tree at the Golden Temple in bloom–in February.

Use Flower Festivals as a Marker for Your Planning

Festival times are one of the best ways to determine the flora of an area. If there’s a festival for a flower, then its bloom time is fairly predictable. So a good marker in planning your itinerary is finding out the month a flower festival is held in your chosen destination.

But, here’s the problem: there’s a flower festival somewhere around the world every month! The violet festivals in both France and Japan and the lilac festivals in New York and Michigan compete with the Mimosa Festival in France, the Crabapple Festival in Nanjing, the Rhododendron Festival in Australia, and the Iris Festival in Japan.

The solution? More travel, of course. You’ll just have to research your travel destinations more thoroughly to see the world in bloom.

History Of Plum Trees And Their Hybrids

The documentation of ancient plums growing in antiquity is sparse. The best evidence of that oldest existence is best documented through America’s most famous pomologist, Luther Burbank, who reported in his twelve volume botanical literary classic, Small Fruits, Volume IV page 136, that the European plum, Prunus domestica, and its ancestor fruit originated in the Caucasus Mountains near the Caspian Sea. Burbank detailed evidence that the prune (dried plum) was a staple food of the Tartars, Mongols, Turks, and Huns “who maintained a crude horticulture from a very early period.” Several websites have put forth the absurd idea that, because the European plum, Prunus domestica, seeds were not found in the ruins of Pompeii after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, “whereas, most other old world fruits were,” that this plum could be concluded to be a recent hybrid of “spontaneous chromosome” doubling to produce a hexaploid offspring.

The earliest reference to plum history in the American colonies came from Prince Nursery of Flushing, New York, that was established in 1737 and reported in 1771 in an advertisement “33 kinds of plums” for sale. These plum trees were no doubt European plums, Prunus domestica.

After the year 1755, Henry Laurens, who was a guest and friend of Wililam Bartram, introduced olives, limes, ginger, everbearing strawberry, red raspberry, and blue grapes into the United States. From the south of France he introduced apples, pears, plums, and the white Chasselas grape which bore abundantly. Henry Laurens lived in Charleston, South Carolina and served as a President of the Continental Congress.

William Bartram described two species of American plums in his famous book, Travels, in his 1792 trip to Georgia, where he identified the Chicasaw plum, Prunus chicasaw, and in Alabama, he found a wild plum, Prunus indica.

Luther Burbank contributed more toward improving and hybridizing plum trees of different species than any other person in history. His work on the plum group of stone fruits stands apart from any other person for his unequaled contribution to improving various fruits that are grown and enjoyed today.

Burbank states that his importation of twelve plum seedlings in the year 1885 was the “most important importation of fruit bearers ever made at a single time into America.”

Burbank brought plums from all over the world and intercrossed them in a giant “melting pot” to produce the best characteristics and to reject the wrong ones. These genetic plum mixtures were recombined for many generations and resulted in plum hybrids today that are so different from the original species as to appear to be new species.

Burbank stated that he spent more time hybridizing plums than with any other plant breeding program, and he reported that he screened 7.5 million plum hybrid seedling crosses before releasing outstanding cultivars for sale. His famous line of plum trees that were popular in the late 1890’s are still admired and grown commercially for sale and in backyard gardens today, such as Burbank, Santa Rosa, Wickson, Golden, Satsuma, Shiro, and Ozark Premier. His first huge success was applauded by USDA Professor, H.E. Van Deman, who suggested that the pick-of-the-lot creation of Luther Burbank be named after its creator, thus, the “Burbank Plum.”

The most successful crosses between plums come from the Japanese plum, the most exotic, ‘Satsuma,’ the name suggested by Professor H.E. Van Deman of the USDA, who identified it as being imported from the Satsuma province in Japan. This unique plum grew a red skin with a pale-blue netting bloom overlay. The pulp was dark purplish-red, firm, tasty with an excellent quality to be preferred for home use.

Burbank’s experimental species were Japanese plums, Prunus triflora, that grew wild in Japan and were pickled by the natives. The Japanese plums grew in many colors in skin from white to purple, were large and rather tasteless, but the Japanese natives ate them while green and hard. The Japanese plum genes appear to dominate most hybrid plum offspring. Chinese plums, Prunus simonii, were aromatic, with rich colored skins, a small pit, but the skin cracks and the fruit tastes bitter.

European plums, Prunus domestica, are varied in sizes, largest to small, sweet or sour, complex genes, many colored skins, very widely adaptable, good for fresh eating, drying, or canning. The disadvantage: they are too juicy or watery. “Green Gage” is a well known standard European cultivar. Prunes are very high in sugar content.

Several species of America plums are very hardy and productive to the extent of covering the ground in spring with several layers of fruit. These plums can be tasty but have poor shipping quality. Burbank released an excellent hybrid strain of this cross called “Robinson plum.”

Several American native plum species have been used in hybridization experiments by Luther Burbank. American plums, Prunus Americana, wild goose plums, Prunus hortulans, the chicasaw plum, Prunus augustifolia, Western sand plum, Prunus besseyi, the beach plum, Prunus maritima, and the California wild plum, Prunus subcordata. These native plum trees are unusually cold hardy and frigid temperatures do no harm to them, even in the northernmost part of the central United States.

The “Myrobalan” plum originated as a French species, Prunus cerasifera is used extensively as a peach tree and plum tree rootstock that tends to be compatible with the resulting fruit tree union and appears to be highly resistant to nematodes and root diseases.

Burbank’s goal in hybridizing plums was to produce a tree that had “stability, novelty, variety, hardiness, beauty, shipping quality and adaptability.”

The plum leaves and twigs exhibit many subtle characteristics that can be experienced by the plant hybridizer to predict the future characteristics of fruit that will be grown from small seedling crosses. Most hybridizers known from experience a predictable outcome, even though these plant qualities are too intangible to explain to an audience, like changing facial expressions or minute variations of color changes. If the leaves of a plant are dark red, the fruit will be red. This same phenomenon is applicable to flowers such as the canna lily leaf color, and the red rhizome color; or in the crinum lily cultivars, a red bulb means a red flower; a light green bulb means a white flower.

Luther Burbank developed a seedless plum by hybridizing a French plum cultivar, “Sans noyaii.” These plums develop into various skin colors ranging from white to yellow, orange scarlet, crimson, violet, deep blue, almost black, striped, spotted, and mottled. These seedless plums were delicious and unique, but were never commercially successful with growers or with public demand.

Burbank crossed many plums that had a tendency to produce fruit with a high sugar content, like the sweetness of figs, pineapple and oranges. This high sugar content makes it possible for the plum (prune) to insure long term preservation, when it is dried. The prune contains a thick and tough skin of such texture that is required to not crack when the commercial drying process begins and proceeds to deliver a tasty, honey-sweet fruit that lasts well.

A prune will not dry properly into a marketable fruit, unless the plum contains a sugar concentration of at least 15%. Before drying, the prune is submerged briefly into an alkali solution that prevents future fermentation by preventing microbes from growing on the surface of the skin. For satisfactory prune production commercially, a prune tree must be a reliable grower with an annual substantial crop of fruit. The prune must ripen early, when the days are long and warm and must drop from the tree to avoid expensive picking costs at the proper ripening time. The prune fruit must cure and dry to a black color and grow a small pit. Most prune hybrids have been hybridized from the European plum, Prunus domestica.

There are also three ornamental varieties of flowering plum trees recommend for planting: Newport, Prunus cerasifera ‘Newport’, Purple Pony Prunus cerasifera ‘Purple Pony’, and Red Leaf Plum Prunus cerasifera ‘Thundercloud’, flowering plum trees.

Burbank developed purple leaved plum trees from a French plum ancestor with purple leaves, Prunus pissardi, that commercially are sold as ‘Thundercloud’ flowering plum, Vesuvius, and Othello. Some of these red leaf flowering plums developed by Burbank grew delicious red fruit in addition to the beautiful red ornamental leaves.

Plum fruit is rated high in antioxidant content that offers many health benefits like Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin C, Niacin, and the minerals; Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorus, and Iron.

Burbank sifted out the complexities of plum hybridization and even crossed the plum with the almond, Prunus dulcis, hoping to create a tasty almond kernel and a tasty pulp. He created many crosses with the Apricot, Prunus armeniaca L., and created plumcot trees, a 50/50 blend of plum trees and apricot trees; Pluot trees demonstrate a 75/25 blend of plum trees and apricot trees; and Aprium trees a 75/25 blend of apricot trees and plum trees.

Copyright (c) 2006 Patrick Malcolm