The blogosphere seems strangely quiet lately. Or maybe it’s just me? I don’t know.
Anyway, exciting news people… tonight Jan and I are booking flights to New Zealand! We’ve only got about 12 days there, so we need to narrow down what we see a bit. We are definitely going to Roturua to visit my uncle and his partner (and meet my cousin for the first time!) and we’ll be flying into Auckland, where my aunt lives with her daughters and my other cousin, who is her au pair. But other than that, nothing is sorted yet. If anyone out there has been to New Zealand, please tell me your absolute must sees!
And now, letters!
Dear January. Nearly over already? What happened? Don’t tell me this year is going to be another one that’s half over before I can even get my head around the fact that it’s started!
Dear little birds. I love watching you on the balcony when I’m having my morning tea break. I just wish you wouldn’t get scared when I enter the dining room. I promise, I have no intention of opening the balcony door!
Dear BBC Big Read. Why are so many of the books on you so long? I recently received The Magus and it has 667 pages! (Maybe this letter should have been addressed to the people that voted on the books. Doesn’t anybody like normal length novels?!).
Dear New Zealand. If we get the flights we want, in just 50 days we’ll be on a plane to you! We really must get planning.
Dear Swiss health insurance. I’ve had you for 7 months now and I still don’t understand you! All I know is when I go to the doctor, I will be receiving a bill for a lot of money! So why do I have health insurance again!? (Alternative letter: Dear NHS. I miss you! People who complain about you should try living abroad for a while!).
Happy Friday, everyone. I hope your weekend is a happy one.
I’m not including people on this list, because I think it goes without saying that I’ll miss my friends! Also, people can move so theoretically it would be possible for the people I like to also come to Basel 😉 But even ignoring the people, I will miss some things about the place that’s been my home for the past eight and a half years!
My “local” Irish pub… and of course the quiz. (My team came 3rd last week, by the way, which was a nice way to say goodbye).
The trams. I know, it seems like an odd thing to miss, but they’re bright yellow and whenever I spied one from a train window I knew I was nearly home.
The Schlosspark (castle grounds). I don’t even think I spent any time there last year with the weather in the summer being so bad, but it’s the perfect place to sit when the sun’s out. I hope we’ll find somewhere just as good in Basel.
The red pandas, of course! I’ll miss seeing them hanging out in their trees on my way to and from work. (I will also miss living literally oppostie the zoo! We’re fairly close in Basel but it’s still a ten-minute walk. At the weekend, we took a last trip to Karlsruhe zoo, so look out for those photos on the blog once I can upload again – the ones in this post were all already uploaded for previous posts)
Soul bar, not just because of the very tasty cocktails, but also because the owners are so lovely. They greeted us like old friends every time we came in – even if it had been months since our last visit – and did an excellent job for my 30th birthday party.
Sukie’s Cake Shop. I’ve only actually been there three times, but I will miss knowing I can go to a place where I can eat scones and clotted cream to my heart’s content and won’t get funny looks for asking for milk with my tea. Also, they sell cans of Dandelion & Burdock and Irn Bru!
Knowing my way around. Okay, this is something that I’m sure will come with time in Basel, but nothing could be quite as easy as Karlsruhe’s layout. All streets either lead to the castle or away from it (or, in the case of cross streets, parallel to it), so if you can’t see the castle turn around and walk the other way until you do! (Only applies for the twon centre, obviously)
Hoepfner Burgfest. Beer, live music and good food. What’s not to love? And even if we do find a beer festival in Basel, the Karlsruhe one will win on price!
The excellent connections. It sounds odd, but one of the things I love about Karlsruhe is how easy it is to get away from. By train, you can be in Paris, Munich or Lucerne in three hours, Zurich in two and a half, Frankfurt in just over an hour and Strasbourg or Heidelberg in roughly half an hour. There’s even a direct connection to Marseilles (although it admittedly takes 6 and a half hours) and a few years ago, Jan and I took a night train to Amsterdam, arriving at our final destination (Delft) refreshed and ready for the day.
Our flat. It was the first place Jan and I ever lived together (unless you count the student residence, which I don’t!) and it really is a lovely flat. Of course, after two weeks of listening to the empty rooms echo I’m looking forward to living in a place with furniture again, and our new flat is also lovely, but this place will always hold a special place in my heart.
With all that said, I am looking forward to being in Basel full time and find new places that I love just as much as my favourites in Karlsruhe. And the cheese… I’m definitely looking forward to the cheese!
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, what with packing and everything. Today seems like good day for some letters, though!
Dear Grandpa. Wednesday would have been your 81st birthday. If there is a heaven, I hope you were partying in it!
Dear sunshine. It’s been lovely seeing you in the evenings after work this week. Now, could you please stick around for another day so we don’t get rained on while out and about tomorrow?
Dear new shoes. I love you so much, and I don’t even care that you’re from Primark and therefore promoting evilness!
Dear boyfriend. Thank you for doing so much furniture arranging and unpacking before I even made it to Switzerland. It was nice that it already looked somewhat homely when I arrived last weekend.
Dear German banks and administrative offices. Why are your opening hours so crap? Don’t you realise that most of us have to work full time and can’t deal with all our bureaucratic stuff before 4 p.m. on a week day?!
That’s all for now. Just 15 days til I move, then hopefully I’ll be back to regular blogging again!
Once I move, I will no longer be able to have an account at my bank in Karlsruhe… because Germans are awkward and only allow you to bank at a specific branch. But I will still need a German bank account for my wages, so I decided to open one at the online bank where Jan has his account. I got all the forms, filled them in just fine and was ready to send them off… or at least I thought I was…
To send these forms, you have to use a procedure called “PostIdent”, which means you place the filled in form in an envelope then take it to the post office, give a separate little card to the post office employee and show your ID. The post office employee uses the extra form to confirm that you are who you say you are, sends your completed form plus the PostIdent thing to the bank and your account is set up. Easy! I had planned to do that tonight after work, but then I noticed the small print: “If using a passport for ID, you will also need to include a copy of your registration confirmation that’s no more than 6 months old”. So now I need to go to the citizen’s office (which is only open while I’m atwork!), pay 8 euros for a copy of the bit of paper that says I’m registered as living in Karlsruhe, put that in the envelope and then I can finally go to the post office and send off my form.
Could just one thing in this moving process not be complicated?!
Guys… this is my final Friday letters post for January. How did that happen?! I’m kind of freaking out right now because it’s February on Sunday and we still don’t even know what country we’ll be moving to. And Jan may or may not be spending Monday-Thursday in Munich for most of Feburary. The good news is the tax advisors got back to us. The bad news is they didn’t have all the answers, so now we have to contact the Ausländeramt (foreigners registration office) in Basel and some people who know about insurance. Ugh, so much to sort out, so little time! Anyway… letters!
Dear train conductor. If we haven’t even entered the tunnel yet, we will not be reaching our destination in a few minutes. Shut up and let me sleep!
Dear weather. I can cope with cold, I can cope with rain, but does it really have to be a mixture of both plus wind to blow it all in my face?!
Dear spare room. You currently look like you’ve been hit by a hurricane. I promise to do something about that this weekend!
Dear shredder. I hope you’re prepared for some action – I shall have lots of papers for you when I’m done with the spare room!
Dear readers. I hope your weekends are more relaxing than mine is shaping up to be!
This post was inspired by a conversation I had with Linda of Expat Eye on Germanyon her blog. It’s been buzzing around in my head for a while, and now I’m finally getting around to writing it.
We all know that Germans like to shove words together to form new ones, often resulting in crazily long constructions that seem to exist for the sole purpose of putting off learners. One example has been going round on Facebook… a photo of a Fussbodenschleifmaschinenverleih with the caption “The reason Germans don’t play Scrabble…” (here it is). If you break the word down into its component parts, it actually makes perfect sense: Fussboden = floor, schleifen = to grind or sand, Maschine = machine (Schleifmaschine = sanding machine) and Verlei = rental service. So it’s a floor sanding machine rental service. Where English uses five words, the Germans stick them all together to create one giant word. This can be done with almost any combination of words – Musik + Schule = Musikschule (music school), Plastik + Tüte = Plastiktüte (plastic bag), Schwarz + Tee = Schwarztee (black tea – what we Brits would simply call “tea”) Woll + Mütze = Wollmütze (wooly hat), Holz + Kiste = Holzkiste (wooden box/crate).
The examples above would still make sense if you exchanged some of their parts – they’re mostly just used as descriptions. So instead of a Musikschule you might have a Kunstschule (art school) and if your box was made of cardboard, it would be a Pappkiste. In other cases, two words are put together to form an entirely new word, which can be a lot of fun when you stop to consider what the individual words mean! (And also useful for learners who can work out the translation from the very literal German word). Here are a few of my favourites:
Der Handschuh (literally hand shoe) = glove
Die Nacktschnecke (literally naked snail) = slug
Der Selbstmord (literally self murder) = suicide
Der Fingerhut (literally finger hat) = thimble (and also Foxglove, as in the plant – presumably because the flowers look a bit like thimbles)
Der Büstenhalter (literally bust holder) = bra
Der Kühlschrank (literally cool(ing) cupboard) = fridge
Der Staubsauger (literally dust sucker) = hoover/vaccuum cleaner
Das Katzenklo (literally cat toilet/loo – I always imagine a tiny flushable toilet for cats) = cat’s litter tray
Das Stinktier (literally stinky animal) = skunk
Das Zahnfleisch (literally tooth meat) = gums
And finally, my absolute favourite: der Vorschlaghammer. It means sledgehammer, but the component parts are der Vorschlag, meaning suggestion, and der Hammer, which means exactly what you think it means. That’s one hell of a suggestion…
Do you have any favourite literal words, in German or any other language? Let me know in the comments.
I wasn’t supposed to get a Christmas tree… we had originally planned on going away for the holidays and Jan doesn’t believe in putting up trees any earlier than Christmas Eve. Then when we spontaneously decided to stay, I assumed there wouldn’t be time. But then Jan surprised me with this little fellow:
Even though it’s not very big, I didn’t have enough decorations to fill it and I have no topper because I’ve never had a tree before, but it’s cute and festive and looks pretty all lit up. I’m very happy with my first ever Christmas tree.
Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you’re all having a wonderful time, wherever and however you’re celebrating. And now I’m off to eat pancakes filled with mince and vegetables followed by apple crumble. Christmas is for eating, after all!
For the past two years, I’ve done a kind of month-by-month recap at the end of the year as I way to remind myself of everything I’ve done that year – where I’ve been and what I’ve achieved. Here’s this year’s version. I’m keeping photos small for this post so as not to overwhelm. Clicking on them should make them bigger.
We started the year on a high note watching the fireworks display in Madeira, which just happened to be on my 35 before 35 list. Woo hoo! I also counted that as my January trip for the take 12 trips challenge. And that was pretty much it for events in January. It was the first month of my English colleague’s maternity leave, and while my German colleagues complained of having very little to do, I was utterly swamped!
On 5th February, Jan and I celebrated our ten-year anniversary, which is quite frankly terrifying! A decade! What? How? And soon we’ll be celebrating 11 years. I just can’t get my head around it. We didn’t do anything on the actual day as Jan had a paper to finish, but a few days later we went for a (rather disappointing) Italian meal.
A week, later, I received a phone call from England with the news that my grandpa was seriously ill in hospital and wasn’t expected to last much longer (abdominal cancer). Thanks to my boss being lovely, I managed to get a week off at short notice and fly to England to be with him one last time. As it turned out, he survived for longer than the mere days or weeks that had been predicted, but I’m glad I saw him before he went really down hill so I was able to actually speak to him and have him know who I was.
At the end of the month, I took a spontaneous day trip to Bruchsal (the next larger town to the North of Karlsruhe) so that my trip for February wouldn’t have to be watching my grandpa die! It isn’t the most exciting town, but I did manage to see a few pretty things.
Jan’s birthday is the 1st of March, and this year I made him chocolate cupcakes to take to work. I’m informed they went down well.
Also in March, my grandpa was moved to another hospital (coincidentally the one where my mum works as a nurse – my grandma had to give her permission for my mum to work with him!).
17th March is, of course, St. Patrick’s Day. Our favourite Irish pub did a full Irish breakfast the day before and on actual St. Patrick’s Day (a Monday) there was a party at the pub with live music. This year I was actually clever enough to take the day after St. Patrick’s Day off work so I could party all night!
March was another ridiculously busy month at work and involved lost of overtime, but I still managed to fit in my monthly trip. I went to the Gutenberg market in Karlsruhe for it. The next day, Jan and I took a trip to Colmar in France which is gorgeous!
April was Easter month, which meant a much-needed long weekend. Yay! Jan, K and I took a trip to Amnévile zoo. It was K’s first time there, but for Jan and I it was the second. The falconry display is amazing! On the way home from the zoo, K introduced us to Welcome to Night Vale, and we both instantly became big fans.
Also, Jan and I looked after some friends’ pet birds over Easter weekend and succeeded in not killing them. Achievement of the year! 😉 At the end of the month, I took a trip to Heidelberg to meet up with some fellow English speakers in Germany. It was a great day out! Hopefully we’ll be having a winter meet up in January.
May 2014 will forever be known as the month my grandpa died. When the phone rang before I’d even left for work in the morning, I knew immediately what it was going to be, and I was correct. Again, my boss allowed me to spontaneously take time off (only 2 days this time) so I was able to go home for the funeral.
Also in May, I published my 1,000th post on this here little bloggy! Unbelievable! At the end of the month, another public holiday meant a long weekend, so Jan and I took a trip to Konstanz for a couple of days.
In June, we went to see a charity concert in Karlsruhe featuring Fish of Marillion fame, among others. We also went to the Hoepfner Burgfest (a beer festival at Hoepfner – a local brewery) and almost melted! It was hot. In the middle of the month, I attended a seminar in Mainz for work and managed to snap some shots of the pretty old town area.
For our anniversary, I had bought Jan tickets to see Pearl Jam in Vienna, and in June it was finally time for our trip there. Since the concert was on a Wednesday, we decided to go for the entire week. Last time we were in Vienna was for New Year and it was freezing, so it was a treat to be there when the weather was nice! We also popped across to Bratislava for a day trip.
My little brother came to visit us in July and we went to lots of places… Strasbourg, Basel, the Black Forest and Frankfurt. Not bad for a week! I also made crumpets while he was visiting, based on a recipe that my dad’s cousin gave me.
My birthday month… in which I turned 31! I didn’t do much for it though – worked all day then headed to the Irish pub for curry and a few drinks that night. I was working the next day as well so we didn’t stay out too long.
At the end of the month, Jan had to go to a conference in Taiwan, so we decided that he would take holiday and stay out there for an extra week, and that I would join him for that week. I had never had Taiwan on my radar, but I’m so glad we went! It was amazing and beautiful and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Also, Jan keeps telling people it’s like “China for beginners”, so if you want to go to China but aren’t quite brave enough for something that’s so different to the West, try Taiwan first. I just wish we could have stayed for more than a week, but I was short on holiday after all the time spent in England.
5th September marked 8 years since I moved to Germany, which came as a bit of a shock to me once I realised it! I accidently marked the occasion by heading to a cocktail bar I’d never visted befoe with Jan and K.
Travel-wise, we didn’t do a great deal – I think we needed to recharge our batteries after the insanity of June, July and August! But we did manage to go the wine festival in Bad Dürkheim again and also fitted in a day trip to Weinheim so that I could complete my take 12 trips challenge.
I spent most of this month trying to figure out exactly why my stomach was hurting practically every time I ate (culminating in a gastroscopy in the middle of the month). On a day when I was feeling okay, I managed to go to a new café in Karlsruhe and sample some delicious scones. We then went there again later in the month for breakfast. So much deliciousness!
The fact that my 12 trips challenge was over didn’t stop me from travelling! Jan, K and I took a day trip to Bad Bergzabern one warm Sunday then we spent Halloween in Paris watching a live show of Welcome to Night Vale. So amazing!
November was also the month of my annual Christmas dinner for friends. Usually I don’t have it so early but all other dates were taken!
On the final Saturday of the month, Jan and I took part in a culinary tour of Karlsruhe, which could have included more information but did not disappoint in terms of the food!
That brings us to this month, which is currently still in progress. I’m sure I don’t really need to remind you of what I’ve been up to over the past few weeks seeing as they’ve only just happened 😉 But this is supposed to be a reminder for my future self, so I will quickly mention a few things. December is, of course, the month of Christmas markets here in Germany and we kicked things off in style by visiting one at a castle! The following weekend, it was off to Speyer for their Christmas market.
Other than that, December has as usual been a whirlwind of gift buying, gift wrapping and queueing for hours at the post office to send said gifts. This year, I’ve also had the added stress of trying to get Christmas cards cross stitched and sent on time. I’m not sure what I was thinking there, but I’m starting to make the things in about March next year!
We were planning on heading to Jan’s mum’s on Saturday for Christmas, but after he failed to organise things in time, it turned out his dad is away from 23-29 December and his mum informed us that she has a full house, we decided to spend Christmas at home. We’ll be heading up North on boxing day instead then after a few days with Jan’s family, we’ll take the train from there straight to Zurich for New Year (the original plan of Iceland was vetoed because it was too expensive, then Bruges fell through because we left it too late and there were no more reasonably priced hotel rooms available…)
This has been a bit of a rollercoaster year to be honest… or maybe more like a yo-yo? It’s definitely had its ups… but there have been a few downs as well. Obviously losing my grandpa was devastating and will forever cast a shadow over 2014, but visiting Taiwan was absolutely amazing! I also feel like Jan and I have grown closer again this year, which is obviously good. 🙂 On the other hand, I had no idea just how much extra work was going to result from my colleague being away for an entire year! I can’t wait for February when her baby turns one and she comes back to work! Next year is mostly definitely going to bring changes it with it, and I’m both nervous and incredibly excited to see where life is going to take me next. Here’s to a fabulous 2015, for me and also for you, dear readers.
A week ago, Jan and I took the train to Speyer for the Christmas market. It’s a fairly small market, but Speyer is a lovely setting with it. One thing I really liked was that almost every Glühwein mentioned what kind of wine it was (e.g. Dornfelder). Here, most stands just say “Glühwein” with a few mentioning that theirs is a specific type as a way to distinguish themselves from the rest. And this, my friends, is how you can tell Rheinland-Pfalz is Germany’s wine region! All the usual foods and drinks were on offer, of course, but there were a few more unusual things. I got to try horse sausage! I’ve been curious to find out what horsemeat tastes like ever since the scandal and this was the perfect opportunity. The sausage was so well spiced that I’m still not sure what horse actually tastes like, but it was nice anyway. I also had something called a Schneemann (snowman), which was a layer of eggnog, a layer of Glühwein and a layer of whipped cream. It was very alcoholic, but very good! Sweet and fruity and creamy. Mmm! Here are some photos:
One of the first things we saw on arriving in town
This building houses the Volkshochschule, an institution offering evening classes
There were trees all along the main shopping street with decorations made by school children, etc. from recycled materials
This stand had some unusual nuts. Apart from these ones, there were strawberry almonds and Baileys almonds
Pferdewurst! (=horsemeat sausage)
I loved this stall decoration
Stalls in front of pretty buildings
Once we’d seen everything at the market and had a few drinks each, we briefly headed to the cathedral. Speyer is a pilgrimage site, apparently, and the cathedral is a UNESCO world heritage building.
Christmas tree in front of the cathedral
inside the cathedral
After the cathedral, Jan bought me a snowman shaped tree ornament from the French partner town’s stall then we headed back to the train station. In all, we spent about three hours in Speyer, which is as much as you need really – as I mentioned, it is a small market (obviously you can always spend longer there if you just want to hang around drinking Glühwein and chatting to friends, but just for looking at the market you won’t need much more than 3 hours including food and drink breaks). Speyer itself is a very pretty town as well, and the museum is well worth a visit (even when there isn’t an exhibition about the history of Playmobil going on).
I’m linking this post up to day 5 of Becster’s 12 Days of Christmas, which was Christmas outings/parties. (I should have linked up ages ago but I’m way behind on blog posts!)
What with Christmas and New Year, I’m not going to be around much over the next couple of weeks, so this will be my final Friday letters for the year. Today is my last day at work, tonight we have a birthday party to go to and tomorrow we head North to visit Jan’s family for the holidays. Hopefully I can get my final Christmas card finished before the party tonight (for his mum), then I can actually relax for a while! For now, though, I give you letters…
Dear German bakers. Why must 90% of your sandwiches have remoulade in? And so much of it as well! If I can’t taste the cheese properly you’re doing something wrong!
Dear life. When did you become so complicated?! Please stop it!
Dear Christmas. For something that only lasts two days, you bring an awful lot of work with you! Thankfully I’m pretty much finished now.
Dear final Christmas gift. You never did turn up, so now the package for my dad’s household isn’t going to arrive til after Christmas. Thanks for that!
Dear gift recipients. I hope you all like what I’ve got you.
Dear 2014. Although I’ve had some amazing experiences (Taiwan!), you haven’t been my favourite year. Honestly, I’m glad you’re ending even if I do feel like you only just started!
Dear 2015. All I know about you right now is that you’re going to be very different to 2015. Here’s hoping the adventure is a good one!
No links this week because I’ve been to busy to gather anyway. Instead I shall wish you all a very merry Christmas and all the best for 2015. Here’s hoping it’s an amazing year for all of us!