Friday letters

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!

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.

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Ten things I’ll miss about Karlsruhe

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 ­čśë 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!

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
    S-Bahn
  3. 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.
  4. 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)

    I promise there's a red panda in that tree...
    I promise there’s a red panda in that tree…
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

    A strawberry scone from Sukie's
    A strawberry scone from Sukie’s
  7. 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)
  8. 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!

    Hoepfner beer at Burgfest 2014
    Hoepfner beer at Burgfest 2014
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
    Where my books used to live...
    Where my books used to live…

    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!

Friday letters

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!

Friday letters

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!

Why must everything be so complicated?

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?!

Friday letters

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 Ausl├Ąnderamt (foreigners registration office) in Basel and some people who know about insurance. Ugh, so much to sort out, so little time! Anyway… letters!

Postkasten

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!

Happy Friday, everyone. Have a great weekend!

Those literal Germans

This post was inspired by a conversation I had with Linda of Expat Eye on Germany on 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 + T├╝te = Plastikt├╝te (plastic bag), Schwarz + Tee = Schwarztee (black tea – what we Brits would simply call “tea”) Woll + M├╝tze = Wollm├╝tze (wooly hat), Holz + Kiste = Holzkiste (wooden box/crate).

Even when it's got milk in, it's "Schwarztee"
Even when it’s got milk in, it’s “Schwarztee”

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.┬á 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 B├╝stenhalter (literally bust holder) = bra

Der K├╝hlschrank (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.

Merry Christmas!

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:

Christmas treeEven 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.

Lit Christmas treeMerry 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!