Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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A photo an hour: 13 September 2014

On Saturday, Janey from Is That You Darling? hosted the September edition of her monthly A Photo an Hour linkup. I was quite excited to take part this time as I had actual plans for the day. For once a photo an hour post that wouldn’t consist solely of me drinking endless cups of tea and maybe going food shopping! Naturally, I was in ;-) So here’s my day at the Wurstmarkt wine festival recorded in one photo per hour.

9 a.m. (I actually got up at 8:30 but forgot it was photo an hour day until after I’d showered). Deciding what to wear is difficult in the current changeable weather conditions!

clothing

10 a.m. Breakfast time! Tea is definitely needed.

Tea and toast

11 a.m. On the train with our tickets (actually, I have a Bahncard 100 so this isn’t my ticket)

Ticket

12 noon. Waiting for our second train to leave. Here’s a terrible picture of Neustadt train station.

Neustadt Weinstraße

1 p.m. Made it! Now to have a walk around and see what food’s on offer.

Wurstmarkt

2 p.m. Food eaten (wild boar Bratwurst and wild boar Saumagen with potato salad – yum!), now for my first glass of wine. Mindful of the long day of wine drinking ahead of us, I went for Schorle (spritzer).

Weinschorle

3 p.m. Selecting my next wine – in the Weindorf area, they have proper menus (and table decorations – notice the plant under the menu)

Wine list

4 p.m. Still drinking Weinschorle in the same tent, so to avoid taking the same photo again (it was a different wine, but it looked the same!) I went with a a selfie in my friend’s sock monkey hat.

Sock monkey selfie

5 p.m. Time to try some different wines in the slightly less posh area – no cushions on the seats here!

Wurstmarkt 2014

6 p.m. Entertainment! A mini “marching band” was playing next to the wine hut thingy we were in.

Wurstmarkt

7 p.m. On to another hut for some different wines. Hmm, what to choose?

Wine list

8 p.m. Moooore wine! Going down nicely ;-)

Wine

9 p.m. Off back to the train station. We came across this fountain on the way.

Fountain

10 p.m. We had to change trains twice on the way home, this photo was taken on train number 2.

Train

10:20 p.m. Bonus photo! We changed trains for the second time in Winden, where we were reunited with the model geese we discovered there last year. Here I am getting reacquainted with my goosey friend ;-)

Goose

11 p.m. We arrived back in Karlsruhe to find this going on at the train station. I have no idea what it was all about! (I’ve blurred out some faces because German privacy laws are strict and I’m paranoid about being punished.)

dancers

And that’s my final photo. By midnight, Jan and I were already tucked up in bed with our glasses of water, a fun day having been had by all. The Wurstmarkt in Bad Dürkheim is the world’s largest wine festival. In 2014, it’s on for one final weekend – from 18-21 September. If you’re in the area, get yourself down there. You won’t regret it!

You can see what the other participants in the linkup got up to on this day by going to Jane’s blog post.


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A day in the Black Forest

After a day in Strasbourg and a day in Basel, on the Friday of my brother’s visit, we decided to just relax. After a lie in, we made crumpets for brunch, went out for a round of mini golf then, in the evening, my friend came over and we watched How to Train Your Dragon as I hadn’t seen it before and said friend had asked me to go to the cinema with her the following week to see the second one. Saturday was back to day trips! Having been to two different countries, I thought it was about time to see some of the local(ish) area, so we headed off into the Schwarzwald. Our first stop was Neuenbürg, or rather the castle above the town.

Black Forest

Looking down from Neunbürg castle

When we arrived, the castle museum in the main building wasn’t open yet, so we went and had a look at the ruins of the “Hinterburg” (literally “back or behind castle), an older building that was presumably used before the present-day castle was built. My photos of it are terrible! Sorry about that…

Once we’d finished exploring the ruins, we decided to head for the restaurant for a coffee while we waited for the museum to open. Once we were brought menus, we decided that, actually, we might as well have lunch since it was already after 12. We each chose to have a Pfanno – a speciality of the restaurant that’s somewhere between a pancake, a pizza and an omlette. It has too much egg to really be a pancake, and it tastes a lot like an omlette, but itthe savoury ones looked kind of like a pizza with the toppings. I went for the tuna version while my brother went for a sweet version with apple and cinnamon. Jan had the Elsass style one (not pictured), which basically had traditional Flammkuchen style topping – bacon, onions and creme fraiche. They were tasty, but very filling! I couldn’t actually finish mine.

By the time we’d finished eating the museum was open and it was also starting to rain (the only time we had bad weather throughout my brother’s stay!), so inside was a good place to be! The museum begins with a retelling of a fairycalled “Das kalte Herz” (The Cold Heart). To go with the stories, there are wood carvings and light sillhouettes of the various characters. My brother was given a set of headphones so he could listen to the story in English. It was kind of a weird thing to find in a castle museum, but somehow cute.

The remainder of the museum had general stuff about the castle and local area. At the end was an exhibition of architects collected from people living in the town, including old games. I took the following picture because the sign amused me:

Schloss Neunbürg

All the things in that particular display case had to do with the railway. For those who don’t read German, the sign says “No smoking and no spitting on the floor.” Hahaha.

By the time we left the castle, it was raining pretty heavily, so our original plan of a possible work in the woods was out. Instead, we headed to Hirsau in the Calw region because I had read there was an Abbey museum there. Museum = indoors! Unfortunately, there was no English information in the museum so I ended up translating things for my brother! The first 2 floors were about the church that the museum is located in and the abbey/life of the monks, then there was a floor with information about Hirsau and the surrounding area, including an album of old photos. Once we’d finished with the museum, it had stopped raining and we were able to head over to the ruins of the abbey itself.

Outside the little chapel (the Lady Chapel), there was a tonne of rose petals on the ground. Since there was no rose bush to be seen, I can only assume somebody had married in the chapel that day and had rose petals strewn on them. What a gorgeous setting to get married! Shame about the awful weather.

I had seen on Facebook that The Seán Treacy Band, who have been mentioned on this blog before, were playing in a village called Schömberg, also not far from Calw, so we decided to finish our day by going to see them perform. The village was having its Glückswoche (happiness/luck week) and there was a mini festival going on. We ate spiralled potatoes on sticks, sausages (my brother) and pork steaks (me), had a few drinks and watched the first half of the band’s performance before heading back to Karlsruhe for the night.


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Initial thoughts on Taiwan

I still have a couple of posts to write on my brother’s visit, but again uploading the photos to WordPress is taking forever, so I’m skipping forward to a general post on my impressions of Taiwan. Obviously I will also be writing detailed posts on our trip with lots of pictures, but this is a start at least. This trip allowed me to complete another item of my 35 Before 35 challenge. Number 29 on the list is “Visit a continent I’ve never been to before”, and I had previously never been to Asia. Thanks, Taiwan! I am also counting this as my August 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge… so it’s a double whammy ;-) Now here are some first impressions/thoughts:

    • Do not drink on the Metro!! (In Taipei at least). You can carry drinks with you, but don’t even think about consuming them. This rule is taken very seriously! We were told off for this within hours of my arrival. Also, on escalators you stand on the right and let people pass on the left. Again, they are very serious about this and apparantly perfect strangers will shout at you for standing on the left (I did not experience this, but Jan says he did)
    • My reaction to bubble tea

      My reaction to bubble tea

      Bubble tea is weird! It was okay at first, but after a while the “bubbles” just became too much. What is that weird chewy stuff anyway? Also, the one we bought had small white things floating in it, each with a black spot in the middle (a seed, I suppose?). They looked like something I usually find in soup, but there they were in my drink. Weird! They tasted of nothing but had a soft/mushy texture. We christened them frog’s spawn.

    • It’s surprisingly difficult to get by with English in Taiwan. Most people speak a few words (hello, please, sorry and maybe a few numbers), but very few are fluent. An smartphone app or dictionary come in very useful! Jan had two – one that you could use to scan Chinese symbols and it would give you the English translation and one where you drew the symbol yourself – useful when the other one couldn’t read what you were pointing it at, because it was unclear or handwritten, for example. Also, before he left Jan had a Chinese colleague write him a sentence saying “I’m allergic to peanuts. Please tell me if there’s anything here I can’t eat”. If possible, I would highly recommend doing something like that if you’re allergic to anything.
No way was I going to eat one of these guys!

No way was I going to eat one of these guys!

  • I am happy to try most things, but just wasn’t brave enough for all the food I saw on offer, like whole squids on a stick (I’m not a fan of squid at the best of times!) and duck’s heads… complete with beak. How does one even eat a duck’s head? And what is there to actually eat? Surely all the good stuff is in the body? Also, oyster omelette is possibly the worst thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. Never again!
  • Drivers in Taiwan are crazy! If a light has only just turned red, it seems to be taken as a suggestion rather than an order. Some busy crossings have police standing at them holding sticks to wave traffic on… despite the existence of a light that’s in perfect working order?! And as for the people on scooters… I’m convinced they have a death wish! They’ll squeeze themselves into the tiniest gaps in traffic… some of them even with their small children perched in front of them on the scooter! Madness!
  • I was amazed by the amount of milk/dairy products the Taiwanese consume. I’d always thought Asians were basically lactose intolerant and rarely used dairy products (with the exception of India, of course). In Taiwan, milk tea is incredibly popular… and by that I mean tea made with milk instead of whatr, not just black tea with a drop of milk. At the hotels, I also saw a lot of Asians drinking milk with breakfast.
  • The temples are beautiful. And everyone is so tolerant. We stopped at one small, local temple near our hotel in Taipei to see what was going on (a celebration of Buddha’s birthday, it turned out). One man explained to us how the temple worked, gave us some incense and told us what to do. Then, when we asked whether it was okay to take a photo of the inside (don’t want to be disrespectful), he insisted on taking a photo of the two of us in front of it. His English wasn’t brilliant, but he was able to make himself understood and he was so, so friendly.
  • On a similar note, the Taiwanese are incredibly polite, to the extent that it’s almost embarrassing. They will thank you profusely for every tiny little thing, and one person even bowed his way out of the hotel room after showing me how everything worked. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond…
  • Sun Moon Lake may be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, and the views of the Pacific along the east coast of the island are stunning! Taroko Gorge is also incredibly impressive. I’m told Alishan national park is also amazing, so I can see I need to go back and experience even more of the amazing sights nature has to offer.

That’s enough for now, I think. More details will follow in individual posts about the places we visited.


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Basel, Switzerland

When I was first speaking to my brother about where he would like to go while visiting us, Basel was one of the places he specifically asked to visit as he’d never been to Switzerland before. It’s within perfect day tripping distance from Karlsruhe and I wanted to eat fondue in Switzerland anyway, so I was happy with his choice. there is an express train from Karlsruhe to Basel which takes about an hour and a half, but we decided to drive down. We parked near the Badische Bahnhof, which is a joint operation between Deutsche Bahn and Swiss rail, meaning it is covered by the German rail pass, the Schönes Wochenende Ticket and the Baden-Württemberg ticket. The latter two can only be used on regional trains though, which will increase the journey time to one and a half hours from Karlsruhe and mean changing trains at least once (in Offenburg or Freiburg). From the Badische Bahnhof it is roughly a 20 minute walk into town.

Crosing the River Rhine on our way into town

Crosing the River Rhine on our way into town

Our first stop in town was at Basel Cathedral. It was a hot day and we were quite glad of the relative coolness inside the church! The first picture below is of the square in front of the cathedral (taken facing away from the cathedral)… one of those buildings is a school, believe it or not!

By the time we’d finished with the cathedral, we were starting to get hungry so we headed off in search of some lunch. I’ve already written about our search for fondue here. After lunch, we continued our walk around the city and came to a small market where there was a stand selling frozen yoghurt. Despite our big lunch, we all agreed that a nice, cold frozen yoghurt would go down well (I told you it was a hot day!). I chose forest fruits as my topping.

It must be yummy... the carton says so ;-)

It must be yummy… the carton says so ;-)

Frozen yoghurts consumed, we headed up to Theaterplatz for a look at the Tinguely Fountain, a water feature consisting of slightly bizarre machine structures in a large pool. It’s quite fascinating! Jean Tinguely was born in Basel but later moved to France. This fountain was installed in 1977.

A walk through the narrow mediavel alleyways of the old town is a must while in Basel, so that’s what we did next. This area is beautiful, and you’ll occasionally see something unusual too… like a model rhino?!

Our walk through the old town eventually lead us to Marktplatz  – Market Square – and the town hall. I couldn’t get far enough aways to get a decent picture of the front with my tiny camera, so I stole the first two photos below from my brother ;-) Phones with their wide screens are much better for getting photos of long things! The sculpture in the inner courtyard is called “Enemies United”.

After checking out the town hall from all angles, we decided to leave Basel and take the scenic route back to Karlsruhe through the countryside. Then we headed to one of my favourite places in Karlsruhe for some cocktails. I also decided to have a mango and avocado salad, which came with walnuts and parmesan. Not a combination that would ever have occurred to me, but it was delicious! The perfect end to a lovely day.

~ I am counting Basel as my August 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge ~


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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 the Booked.netTop Destinations to Go There promotion. 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.


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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!


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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!

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