Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


19 Comments

My top 5 destinations to return to

After leaving a comment on a similar post at On The Luce, I was asked to take part in a promotion by booked.net. The idea is to write a post about my top 5 destinations that I would return to, complete with pictures and then nominate five bloggers to do the same. Once 100 entries have been written, all the posts will be entered in a competition to win an iPhone 6.

I have a huge list of places I want to visit, and it’s growing all the time! But who doesn’t dream of going back to a place they’ve been before? Whether it’s an old, familiar place that you visit often and where returning is almost like coming home, or somewhere you’ve only been to once but that left such an impression that you long to return and do more exploring? Here are my top 5, not really in chronological order because that would be too difficult!

Edinburgh, Scotland

As a child, I used to go to Edinburgh specifically to visit the zoo (Newcastle doesn’t have one). As an adult, I’ve been three times, and still there is more to explore. I haven’t even climbed Arthur’s Seat yet! The beautiful architecture, the pubs, the friendliness of Scots, its proximity to the sea (which I miss so much in landlocked Karlsruhe!) all combine to make Edinburgh one of my favourite places on Earth! And the castle is pretty impressive too ;-)

Edinburgh castle

Edinburgh castle

Austria

It’s probably cheating to choose an entire country rather than a city, but Austria is only a small country after all ;-) I lived in Vorarlberg for almost a year, so obviously that area has a special place in my heart, but I will always get excited about a trip to Austria, no matter what the specific destination. Innsbruck is gorgeous, Vienna has so much to offer and I adore Salzburg with its narrow, winding streets and views of mountains!

How could I not want to see this view again?

How could I not want to see this view again?

Stockholm, Sweden

I went to Stockholm in the summer of 2012 and instantly fell in love with the place! Despite having a population of 905,184, it felt so open and spacious… probably because of all the water. Admittedly some areas were crowded, but finding a quite place to sit down or have a nice walk was simply a matter of switching islands. With so many museums, palaces, parks and other attractions, I imagine it would take me a very long time to get bored! And the temperature in summer is perfect for me, with my pale skin and tendency to wilt like a flower as soon as it gets above 28 °C!

So beautiful and peaceful

So beautiful and peaceful

Berlin, Germany

Despite living in Germany since 2006, it was 2013 before I finally made my to the capital! I had been once before with my grandparents, but it was just one brief stop on a tour of Europe and all I remembered seeing was Checkpoint Charlie. This time was different! We walked a lot, visited hundreds of historical sites, including the Stasi prison at Hohenschönhausen, admired the East Side Gallery, ate delicious food (including the obvious Currywurst) and left with the feeling that we hadn’t experienced even a small fraction of what Germany’s capital has to offer. I mean, they have an entire island just for museums… of which we visited precisely one! I definitely need to go back some time and remedy this situation!

Museum island

Museum island

Ireland

Again nominating an entire country rather than a specific place, but with so much on offer how could I possibly narrow it down? I’ve been to Dublin a few times, and while it’s always good I’ve seen most of what I wanted to see there, but there are plenty of places I do want to see again. The time we spent in Galway wasn’t nearly enough and I would love to go back there, but I also want to explore more of the area around Killarney and the Dingle Peninsular, actually make it to the North-East of the country and take a trip or two to the various islands.

How could anyone resist something this green?

How could anyone resist something this green?

And that would be five. What do you think of my choices?
Now I’m supposed to nominate five fellow bloggers to take up the challenge. I pick Charlotte Steggz, Amanda from Rhyme and Ribbons, Alex at Speaking Denglisch, Simone aka Lady of the Cakes and Elaine from I Used to Be Indecisive.


11 Comments

Summer Reading Challenge 2014 – final check in

Unfortunately, I don’t have anything new to add for the summer reading challenge. I had one category left to complete, and I failed to finish reading the book I had chosen for it, so my first Semi-Charmed Kind of Life reading challenge remains incomplete. Better luck next time! Here’s a finally summary of all the books I read for the various categories, just so that everything is in one place.

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 200 pages long.
The Night She Disappeared by April Henry – 229 pages. A young-adult crime thriller. I have no idea how I came across this book, but I’m glad I did. This was a quick read but an enjoyable one.

10 points: Read a book that was written before you were born.
Flowers for Algernon by David Keyes (published 1966) – 311 pages. I loved this book and am glad I read it!

10 points: Finish reading a book you couldn’t finish the first time around. (You must have at least 150 pages left in the book.)
The 1312 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers. I started re-reading this book and got as far as Chapter 6 (compared to Chapter 3 last time), but I just couldn’t get it finished in time…

10 points: Read a book from the children’s section of a library or bookstore.
The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root by Christopher Pennell – 215 pages, for age 9-12. Another great book. I would have adored this as a child! Read my review here.

15 points: Read a book that is on The New York Times’ Best Sellers List when you start reading it.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – 313 pages. Number 1 in the Young Adult Fiction category at the time of reading.I thought this book was quite good, but nowhere near as brilliant as everyone kept saying. I think I might have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t heard all the hype about it beforehand. As it was, I ended up feeling slightly disappointed and wondering what I’d missed.

15 points: Read a historical fiction book that does not take place in Europe.
Peony in Love by Lisa See – 387 pages. I LOVED Snowflower and the Secret Fan by the same author and was hoping for more of the same. What I got was basically a weird ghost story. I wish I’d chosen a better book for this category!

 15 points: Read a book another blogger has read for the challenge. (That means you have to wait till the first check in in June to see what other people have read already.)
Bedknobs and Broomsticks by Mary Norton. Before seeing that aother blogger had read this book, I had no idea that the Disney film was based on a book… or that the author of The Borrowers books had written anything else! This was a quick, fun read. Not as good as The Borrowers, but pretty decent. Here’s a review by the blooger who I got the idea from.

20 points: Read a book with “son(s),” “daughter(s),” or “child(ren)” in the title.
The Murderer’s Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers – 307 pages. This book had been on my Amazon wishlist for ages and I was looking forward to finally reading it. The idea for the story was great, but in the end the book was just okay. Disappointing.

 20 points: Read a book that will be/was adapted into a film in 2014.
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby – 256 pages. Again an interesting idea for a story, but ended up being just okay. Most of the characters annoyed me! Read my full review here.

25 points: Read a book by a blogger.
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. I adored this book, but I already knew I would based on the blog. Read my review here.

 25 points: Read a biography, autobiography or memoir.
Captain James Cook by Richard Hough – 445 pages. A thoroughly enjoyable book! Well written and interesting, and also quite entertaining. No dry facts for this author. Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in Captain James Cook and/or the history of discovery/navigation.

30 points: Read a pair of books with antonyms in the title.
The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell – 309 pages and Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien – 360 pages. (Antonyms: Birth and Death). I absolutely loved The Death of Bees and am really glad I chose this one! Review here. Birthmarked started off brilliantly but ended up being slightly disappointing. I’ve read better teen distopian-future novels! A review of that one is here.

And that was that. A few disappointing books, but also some interesting ones that I may not have read without the categories for encouragement. I’m excited for the next reading challenge!


6 Comments

Summer stitching

What with first my sister then a friend moving house, a penpal giving birth to a baby girl (yes, I have penpals) and my godson’s 2nd birthday coming up in September, I ended up stitching a few cross stitch cards over the summer. Obviously I took photos of all my stitching (wellll… apparantly not all, see next paragraph), and where better to save them for posterity than on my blog? ;-)

For my sister’s new home card, I choose a bird house design that had appeared in a collection of “spring stitches” in one of my magazines. Not very imaginative (is it just me or do loads of new home cards feature bird houses?), but cute. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have taken a photo of it… and if I did it’s gone now! In my attempt to figure out why there was no photo of this card anywhere, I managed to accidently delete all the folders on my camera’s memory card… 2 days before I was due to fly to Taiwan!! When a friend moved home a few weeks later, it occurred to me that a beehive would also make an excellent theme for a new home card! I knew I’d seen bees somewhere in one of my magazines, so I went on a search through some back issues, and was soon rewarded. This little beehive is actually part of a larger sampler that I don’t like very much – too old fashioned for my tastes! But this little picture alone is cute, and the perfect size for a card!

cross stitch

In June, a penpal in Germany gave birth to a baby girl. I knew she was having a girl in advance, so I stitched most of the card then spent the rest of the month waiting to find out the name. A birth announcement card was waiting for me when I returned from Vienna, so I was able to quickly finish the card and get it sent off along with the gift I had bought. I’ve blurred out the name on the photo because I don’t like to share the names of other people’s babies on my blog… even if there is zero chance of you ever working out who she is!

cross stitch
Finally, having failed to find a nice birthday card for my godson in the shops (where are all the decent kids’ birthday cards?!), I decided to stitch my own. It took me a looong time to find an image in my magazines that was suitable for a small boy… sooo many fairies and cutsie mice! But I eventually decided on a skateboarding tortoise. I haven’t actually turned this one into a card yet (that will happen when I get back from Taiwan – tomorrow, in case anyone is wondering. Assuming no Icelandic volcanoes have erupted since I sheduled this post!), but here’s a photo of the cross stitch itself:

Tortoise

And that’s what I’ve been stitching for other people this summer. I also mentioned in my latest photo an hour post that I’m working on something for my kitchen. I still have one more thing to stitch for that (I have a frame with four gaps), then all four little pictures will be up on the blog, so look out for that!


11 Comments

35 Before 35: Eat fondue in Switzerland

KäsefondueFondue is technically more of a winter food (for obvious reasons!), but when we took my brother to Basel for the day I was determined to find some despite the fact that it was July! Amazingly, I actually managed to find two restaurants in Basel that serve fondue year round. The first place we tried turned out to be closed as the owners were on holiday, so we ended up at a restaurant called Steinbock. (Steinbock, by the way, is the German name for the star sign Capricorn).

The restaurant was a fairly unassuming place on a busy street near the Schweizerische Bahnhof (Swiss railway station – there is also a Badische Bahnhof, which is the German train station, meaning you can travel there from Germany on a German rail pass). If I hadn’t discovered beforehand from the Internet that this was one of very few restaurants in Basel that does fondue year round I doubt we would have stopped there! However, it turned out to be a good choice. Apart from the many different types of fondue (including meat ones), the restaurant also had raclette and several different dishes involving Rösti, as well as some other traditional Swiss dishes and some pasta/gnocchi dishes. Jan initially wanted to order cheese fondue for three, but I suggested it might be better for just the two of us to get fondue, that way my brother could try a little bit but wouldn’t be left without any food if he didn’t like it. So we ordered fondue for two, while my brother went for the Schnitzel.
Just look at all the cheese in this pot… and remember, that’s for two people:

You can’t even tell what it is I’m dipping in! (For those who aren’t familiar with fondue, it’s bread).

The fondue was nice enough, although it had a little too much alcoho for my taste (cheese fondue is not just melted cheese – it actually consists of cheese, white wine, “Kirschwasser” – a kind of cherry schnapps – and usually some garlic). Most of the times I’ve eaten fondue, it’s been at work (we have a Swiss costumer who likes to send us fondue cheese), and obviously we’re sparing with the alcohol there. I prefer my fondue to taste more of cheese! It was still nice though, and Jan enjoyed it. But I do have to admit, my favourite part of the meal was the bread basket they brought out before we’d even ordered… filled with warm bread rolls that I’m sure had a hint of cheese in them I would go back there just for those! And for the record, no we did not finish the cheese! We used up all our bread and decided we were both too full to ask for more (trust me, it was a loooot of cheese!)

The food was fairly expensive – Jan spent nearly all of the 100 Swiss francs (just over 82 euros) he had on him just on our three meals plus three drinks! But by Swiss standards it was actually quite reasonable… I have seen Swiss cafés that charged 15 Swiss francs (about 12 euros) for basically cheese on toast! If you ever find yourself in Basel, I would certainly recommend Restaurant Steinbock. But do make sure you have plenty of cash on you – the waiter said they didn’t accept credit cards, and Switzerland is far from cheap!

And there’s another thing crossed off my 35 before 35 list. Just 31 left to go!


24 Comments

The best (or worst?) of Denglish

Denglish, according to Wikpedia, is a term “used in all German-speaking countries to refer to the increasingly strong influx of English or pseudo-English vocabulary into German.” In its simplest form, Denglish involves replacing some German words with their English equivalents, so someone might say “Ich habe die Files gedownloadet” instead of “Ich habe die Dateien heruntergeladen”. Here, there are perfectly good German words, the speaker just chooses not to use them for some reason.

In other cases, either an English word has replaced the original German to such an extent that most people don’t even know the real German word any more or there never was a German word in the fist place (e.g. der Browser for an Internet broswer) – usually this occurs with new technology that exists in an English-speaking country before it ever comes to Germany. Sometimes (as with the technologies), Denglish involves real English words, used in their correct context. Other times the words Germans use may sound English, but nobody really knows where they came from… or English words have been taken and used in an entirely different context. Mostly, this practice is harmless (although it can get confusing when a German starts speaking to an English native speaker using Denglish words!), but sometimes this practice of insisting on using English words at all costs can be very, very amusing. Here are some Denglish words and phrases that you may hear if you happen to find yourself in Germany…

Handy
We’ll start with the most common. In German, a Handy (pronounced Hendy) is a mobile phone. While a small, portable phone is admittedly pretty handy, I’ve no idea how the phrase came about! I have, however, been asked in English “Do you have a handy?”. Needless to say, if I didn’t actually speak German I would have had no idea what they wanted! And just to make things even more confusing, the Swiss don’t use the word Handy! (Their word for mobile phone is Natel).

Beamer
This was one of the first Denglish words I heard when I came to Germany, and I had no idea what they were talking about. From the context, it was clear that they didn’t mean a car which would be spelled Beemer anyway), but what did they mean? After being shown the object in question, it all became clear. A Beamer is a projector! I suppose it does beam images onto a screen, so it makes sense in a way…

Despite the scary sounding name, it won't ACTUALLY peel all your skin off...

Despite the scary sounding name, it won’t ACTUALLY peel all your skin off…

Peeling
Nope, not what you do with an orange. Shower scrub or body scrub. I really, really hope this doesn’t do what it says on the tin…

die City
To English speakers, a city is a large town… London, Paris, Rome, Sydney… all cities. (Well, in certain circles London is The City, but that’s irrelevant here). Not so in Germany… here “die City” is merely part of a large town. The bit that we would call the city centre, or down town. So don’t be confused if you see signs pointing you towards “City” when you think you’ve already entered the city you were aiming for. It’s just the Germans messing with English again! (For fairness’ sake, I should add that lots of places do still use the German words Zentrum (centre) or Stadtmitte (town/city centre) on their official signs.)

"Public viewing" at the 2014 world cup final... I promise there were no bodies in sight!

“Public viewing” at the 2014 world cup final… I promise there were no bodies in sight!

Public Viewing
While Germans used to get together to watch sporting events “auf Großleinwand” (on a big screen), in recent years the term Public Viewing has become more popular. This year, Karlsruhe even had Public Viewing at the football stadium for Germany matches! The only problem is that, in British English at least, public viewing traditionally refers to the practice of leaving a deceased person in an open coffin during the wake, so that the public could come and have alook/pay their last respects (this is also known as lying in state and was done when the Queen Mother died, for example).

Bodybag
This one technically goes back to a brand name, but I had to include it because it’s just too amusing! I’m sure well all know that an English body bag is something used for storing and transporting corpses. In Germany, meanwhile, since the mid-90s the term Bodybag has been used to refer to a type of bag that’s worn on the back with a strap going diagonally across the front. (A messenger bag is a type of “Bodybag”, but I’ve also seen some that look like a backpack but with only one strap). Somebody at whichever company started this trend obviously didn’t do their research properly…

There are, of course, other Denglish expressions, but these are the only ones I’m going to go into for now. If you have a favourite Denglish expression (or even something similar in another language) please feel free to let me know in the comments!


23 Comments

Friday letters and links

Today is my final day at work before a week off… and on Sunday I fly to Taiwan! Very exciting – although I’m not sure I’m looking forward to 13 hours of planes plus four hours of Dubai airport all by myself!. I’m sure I’ll survive though. In the meantime, here are this week’s Friday letters:

Postkasten

Dear child on the train. Yes, I know my teeth a wonky, thanks. Apparantly you don’t know it’s rude to point that out though! At nine, you should really know better than to make personal remarks.

Dear flat. I’ve done at least a little bit of tidying/cleaning every day this week, so why do you still look like a tornado went through you? Looks like tomorrow is going to be taken up entirely with packing and housework so we at least get to come home to a semi-decent looking place!

Dear work. You have once again been insane for the past few weeks. Much as I enjoy my job, I am sooo looking forward to an entire week of no translations!

Dear flights. Please be kind! If I’m going to be stuck on planes for half a day, I’d really rather it was without turbulence.

Dear tickly throat and occasional sneezed. Don’t even think about turning into a full-blown cold just in time for my holiday! Pre-emptive Lemsip will definitely be consumed tonight…

Dear boyfriend. Can’t wait to see you again!

Dear readers. Have a great weekend and don’t get into any trouble while I’m away ;-)

And now here are some links for you:

Ok, that’s it. Those should be enough to keep you entertained for a while anyway ;-)

Daily Diaries with The Lotus Creative


12 Comments

Strasbourg and La Petite Pierre

Day 1 of my brother’s visit was spent in Karlsruhe, eating crepes and having a wander around. He had been before (about seven years ago!) so it was interesting to see what he remembered. Of course, some of the things he might have found familiar are now no longer visible due to ongoing construction for the tram tunnel!

After checking the weather for various places, we decided to make our first trip of the week Strasbourg simply because it wasn’t supposed to rain there! Strasbourg is about an hour’s drive from Karlsruhe (or between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours by train, depending on whether you take the express of regional transport). I didn’t actually take as many photos in Strasbourg as I normally would on day trips because I’ve been several times before (there’s only so many times you can photograph the same building!), but here are a few:

After walking around for a while and taking in the “main” sights (cathedral, canal), we decided to stop for lunch in the Petite-France area. It’s pretty touristy down there, but whatever. We were tourists, right? ;-) I decided to go traditionally Alsatian and have Tarte flambée (actually not 100% traditional, because while I did go with the baon and onion topping, I chose one that also included cheese… because cheese! No further explanation necessary).

Tarte flambée, or Flammkuchen in German

Tarte flambée, or Flammkuchen in German

Once we’d eaten, I wandered down the water’s edge and attempted to take a photo of a mother duck and her ducklings. I swear I’ve seen ducklings in Strasbourg every single time I’ve visited! No matter what the time of year, there are ducklings! (The one exception is the time I went for the Christmas market, but we were nowhere near the water then.)

Strasbourg

From Petite-France, we wandered down to the Barrage Vauban… the Vauban weir. Inside the weir there are sculptures and, when we were there, also an exhibition showing the various suburbs of Strasbourg as they used to be and as they are now they’ve been incorporated into Strasbourg (most were originally little villages). Vauban, who built the wier, was actually a military engineer and built numerous fortifications, all in a very specific style. On top of the weir, there is a panoramic terrace with a lovely view of the various bridges.

After walking around for a little longer, we decided to head back to the car. Instead of heading straight home, we used the sat nav to look for places of interest in the general vicinity and came up with La Petite Pierre, where there was supposedly a castle. It meant a bit of a detour, but still wasn’t too far from home, so we added it as an intermediate destination. Also, Jan told me the name of the village means “little rock”, which amused me because that means anyone whose name is Pierre is actually named rock! (Yes, the mame Peter actually means stone or rock as well, but that’s not the same as having the actual name Rock). By the time we arrived, the evening sky was the perfect colour for taking photos! Here’s the castle and the little church beside it:

In the grounds of the castle there was the following sculpture, carved entirely from a single tree branch. I thought it was cool!

There was some kind of exhibition in the castle, but none of us was really interested in seeing it, so instead we wandered over to a little garden/picnic area opposite. There, we found large stone coats of arms from the neighbouring villages. I’m pretty sure the hat on the first one once belonged to the Sorceror’s Apprentice ;-) Sorry, but I don’t actually remember which villages/regions the coats of arms were for. Any French people out there want to help?

On the way in to La Petite Pierre we had driven past a tearoom, so we decided to have a walk back down the hill and head there for a drink. On the way back through the village, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of a tiny door with carvings of girls carrying pretzels on it. It looked to me like it should be in a fairytale!

La Petite Pierre

The tearoom turned out to be fascinating… crammed full of all sorts of odds and ends, from various different teapots (okay, not that bizarre) to shoes randomly hanging on the wall. Sorry my second photo is a bit blurry, but I’m sure you get the idea!

After a quick look at the menu, I decided a hot chocolate with cream was the way forward.. and once it arrived the cup and saucer just begged for me to take a photo! We also all decided to have a piece of cake – lemon meringue pie for my brother and I and something with bergamot for Jan (I tried his – the bergamot doesn’t taste quite as perfumy in cake as in Earl Grey tea but it’s still not my favourite thing in the world!). My meringue was slightly chewy, but not too bad.

Once we’d finished eating and drinking, it was time to return to the car for the drive back to Karlsruhe. Day trip one done! next up is Basel, which I’m counting as my July trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge. Stay tuned!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 486 other followers