Life right now

Oh, heyy!
I’ve been kind of absent from the blog this week (by which I clearly mean entirely absent!), so here’s a quick rundown on what’s going on in my life right now…

  • I started the 30 Day Squat Challenge on Monday and I am so unbelievably glad that today is a rest day! My thighs hate me already. Back to it tomorrow with 70 squats. Hopefully by the end of it I’ll have lovely toned thights though…
  • I went to a local brewery’s beer festival at the weekend (more on that in a separate post) and it was HOT! According to a local news website, temperatures hit 37.6°C at one point over Pentecost – a record for this time of year apparantly. It’s now down to a “mere” 29°C, which is still too hot for me. Especially since it’s also horribly hot at night, meaning I can NOT sleep!
  • On Tuesday I was at a charity concert here in Karlsruhe (well, Durlach, which is a borough of Karlsruhe). It starred Fools Garden (remember Lemon Tree anyone?) who are from the area, Eva Croissant (who those in Germany might remember from The Voice of Germany), David Hanselmann (who I had never heard of but has apparantly performed with famous bands like Canned Heat and Colesseum II – obviously before my time) and the big special guest of the evening: Fish, of Marillion fame. If nothing else you will have heard of the song Kayleigh. All the artists were accompanied by The Seán Treacy band, who are kind of celebrities in the local area. If there’s a Fest going on in Karlsruhe you can practically guarantee that they’ll be playing. So that was a nice evening. The concert didn’t finish til nearly midnight though, and then we still had to get home! Combined with the heat keeping me awake most of the night before and I was a very tiiiired Bev at work yesterday!
  • We fiiiinally made it to the train station last night to buy our tickets to Vienna! Normally we buy train tickets online, but travelling to a different country with 2 different Bahncards makes things slightly complicated. My Bahncard 100 is valid until Salzburg, so I’ve ended up paying less than €100 for the return train ticket. Result!
  • I was so tired last night that I actually managed to sleep from 11:30 p.m. until 3 a.m. (when I woke up so thirsty my throat actually hurt!). I had some bizarre dreams, which I’m totally blaming on the heat! I don’t remember much, but it involved running away from someone or something in the middle of the desert! I definitely think this was my brain’s reaction to my body being so hot. Also, when I got up at 3 a.m. to fecth more water, I happened to glance out of the window and the moon looked amazing! Sadly, I did not think to take a photo (well it was three in the morning!).
  • I’m currently reading Peony in Love by Lisa See for the reading challenge, and so far I’m disappointed! I will still read the whole thing though. On the other hand, I started reading Captain Cook’s birography this morning as my “train book” and I found myself wishing my commute was longer so I could read more! That almost never happens with non-fiction books 🙂
  • Tomorrow I won’t be at the office, which means I’ve only had to work 3 days this week (Monday was a holiday). I’m not “off” work as such though… I’m spending tomorrow and Saturday(!) at a seminar for translators. It’s about banking terminology, so not sure how much fun it will be! But hopefully it will turn out to be useful anway.

That’s all folks! I need to eat my lunch and then get back to work. Normal blogging service will resume next week, I hope.

P.S WordPress informed me earlier that I registered my blog 6 years ago today… so happy birthday dear bloggy!

Looking forward…

Routine has got me firmly back in its clutches and I am not liking it at all! Any benefits I may have gained from the long weekend and trip to Konstanz  were instantly erased by several small jobs due the next day plus a badly written larger job that required me to do an hour of overtime from home in the evening. OK, an hour doesn’t sound like much… but when you already get up at 6 a.m. (wellll, alright… ten past), the last thing you want to do on arriving home is get back to work… But instead of dwelling on how tired I am and how awful working for 8 hours every single day is (I absolutely love my job, but something about the idea of spending 8 hours in an office every single week day for the next 40-ish years is just soul destroying!), I’ve decided to look forward to all the fun plans I have for this summer. Positive mental attitude, right?

June

On Tuesday, we are going to see a charity concert in Durlach starring our quiz master’s band, who will be accompanying (among others) Fish from Marillion (remember them from the 80s?), and Fools Garden, who became world famous with their song Lemon Tree but are actually from Pforzheim – just down the road from Karlsruhe!

In a mere 17 days, Jan and I are heading to Vienna. Last time we were there, it was New Year and freezing (we went into the butterfly house purely to warm up!), so I’m hoping for good weather this time! We’re actually going there to see Pear Jam perform on the Wednesday night (a gift from me to Jan for our 10th anniversary of being in a relationship), but personally I’m mostly looking forward to the Austrian food 😉 Hopefully this time I will finally manage to try Marillenknödel! This will also be my June trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge.

July

I love hosting visitors, but it so rarely happens. After my sister and her boyfriend came two years ago for the Formula 1, I insisted that now it’s my brother’s turn to visit… and he finally is, at the end of July! He’s actually been to Karlsruhe before, with my mum, but that was 6 years ago (when he was 17), and they were only here for two days. This time he can legally drink (well, he could have had beer or wine last time, but he doesn’t like either) and we have more time. I’m looking forward to showing him more of the local area.

August

Well, it’s my birthday month, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be working so that’s not too exciting.
BUT… I will be spending the last week of August in Taiwan! Jan is presenting a paper at a conference there from 18-22 August, so he decided to take a week’s holiday and hang around to actually see some of the place. Since he warned me far enough in advance this time, I was actually able to save some holiday so that I can go too. Jan will be going over a week before me for the conference, and I can’t say I’m particularly looking forward to taking two long flights on my own (or the four-hour layover in Dubai for that matter!). But hey, I get to go to Taiwan! (And also cross “visit a new continent” off my 35 before 35 list.) We’re currently looking into where exactly we want to go while we’re over there (the tour will obviously start and end in Taipei because, well, that’s where we’re flying from/to), so if you have any tips please send them my way!

And that’s it. OK, officially it’s not autumn unti the autumnal equinox (23 September in 2013), but September to me is an autumn month. And besides, I don’t have any plans past August yet so I couldn’t include September in the list even if I wanted to 😉

What do you have planned for the summer?

Look Up, Look Down – Großes Walsertal

I haven’t taken part in Look Up, Look Down for a while, and today seemed as good a day as any to join in again.
This is an old photo, from when I still lived in Austria. It was taken from up in the mountains of the Großes Walsertal (a Tal is a valley, so technically the Großes Walsertal is somewhere at the bottom, but I couldn’t tell you the name of the mountain!). Is anyone else reminded of The Land Before Time when looking at this scenery?

Großes Walsertal

This photo was taken at the end of May, and it was actually quite sunny down in the valley (although some stubborn bits of snow were still hanging on). It was freezing up in the mountains, though!

To take part in the Look Up, Look Down challenge and see all the other entires, check out Travel With Intent’s blog post.

Travel Theme: Yellow

It’s been a while since I took part in one of Ailsa’s travel themes, so I thought it was about time I did another one. This time, the theme is yellow, so I thought I would start with some cheerful daffodils – one of my favourite flowers (along with poppies, but they’re not yellow).

daffodils

ObviouslyI had to get a lantern picture in somehow. 😉 This one was taken in Berlin.

Berlin lantern

I spotted this hot air balloon hovering over Karlsruhe a few years ago, and I just had to take a photo. Smile, everyone! (Coincidentally, the building it’s next to looks pretty yellow as well!)

balloon

Finally, a photo I’m particularly proud of… a night shot of Salzburg. I love the yellow (and red and blue and green) reflections of the lights in the water!

Salzburg by night

You only have today to get your entries in for the yellow theme – a new travel theme will be up tomorrow (Friday). But you should check out Ailsa’s yellow post anyway, if only for her seriously amazing photo of a goldfinch. And, of course, stop by her blog tomorrow to find out what the next travel theme is.

What is an expat?

*Warning: Long and possibly boring post ahead. I’ve tried to break it up with some pictures, but I will forgive you if you decided not to read…*

The question “What is an expat?” is something I’ve been thinking about recently. You may have noticed that nowhere in my “about me” do I refer to myself as an expat. English girl currently living in Germany, yes… but never using that word. The main reason is that, until this year, it had never even occurred to me to refer to myself in those terms. I basically moved abroad straight from university… my entire real (i.e. grown up) life has been spent outside of my birth country. And after moving around so much with the army, the question “Where are you from?” had always been a difficult one anyway. I’m here now, what does it matter where I was before? And for most of my time abroad, I’m not sure anybody else would have referred to me as an expat either…

Deutsches Eck
All the German state flags

I first came to Germany for a year abroad as part of my degree. Spending a year in a German-speaking country was a requirement to gain my Bachelor’s, and Karlsruhe was where I ended up. I had actually wanted to go to Austria, but we only had one place there and somebody else was quicker, so I got my second choice. During that year, I wasn’t even sure whether I would ever come back to Germany. And I certainly wasn’t experiencing anything like “real life”! As an exchange student, I spent most of the year partying, with the occasional trip thrown in there as well. Even lectures didn’t seem too much like hard work… apart from in German class, I didn’t have to do anything. My university only required us to attend a certain number of lectures, there was no requirement to take part in any assessments. (We did have to make a year abroad dossier to submit to our home university though).

A trip to Speyer during my year abroad
A trip to Speyer during my year abroad

Back in England, a few months before the end of final year, I realised I should probably start thinking about what I was going to do after graduation. Jan and I had been in a long-distance relationship for almost a year at that point (he was actually in America during my final year at university!) and I thought it might be nice to live near him again, so I started looking for opportunities in German. I came across an application form for British Council language assistantships and decided to apply. Then I saw the list of available countries and realised Austria was on there! Immediately, I changed my mind. Sod Germany! I had been dreaming about Austria for years. And Austria and Germany are at least neighbouring countries… nothing like the distance between England and the US! I applied, and managed to get an assistantship in Feldkirch. During that year (well, ten months… an academic year) I still wasn’t really an expat. To all the Austrians I met, I was just another graduate on a gap year. My time there was finite  and, while it would have been possible to extend the assistantship for one more year (two is the maximum they allow), it didn’t take me long to realise that I probably wasn’t going to. My boyfriend was in another country and, although I loved Austria, I had trouble making friends with the other language assistants and no idea how to go about meeting Austrians. I wasn’t supposed to socialise with the people in my classes (although some of the older ones were almost the same age as me!) and most of the teachers were as old as my parents! When it came to time for reapplications, I did, in fact, ask to extend my assistantship… but requested to switch countries. I chose Baden-Württemberg as my Bundesland and added a note saying I was familiar with Karlsruhe… and almost got my wish. I actually ended up at a school closer to Pforzheim, which meant nearly an hour’s tram journey there and back, but it was worth it to be with Jan again…

A snowy day in Feldkirch
A snowy day in Feldkirch

… and still I didn’t think of myself as an expat! I had no idea where my relationship was going or whether we could even survive actually being in the same country again after two years. Until almost the end of my assistantship, I hadn’t even thought about what to do next! Initially I had thought I might go in for a CELTA qualification, but when I ended up hating teaching at the school in Germany I was lost. In the end, I decided to go for a Master’s in translation. I was all set for a move back to England when I discovered two things. 1) A university in Bristol that was offering a Master’s in Translation via remote learning and 2) An internship in Germany that was actually paid! (Very, very rare). I applied for and managed to be accepted on both… so I now had a one-year internship and a three-year study programme ahead of me.

Once again, I had chosen something with a definite end date. At that point, I was also still living in a student residence (I was a student as well as an intern so it was allowed) and couldn’t have afforded anything else. It still all felt very temporary. During my internship, Jan finished university, started a PhD (which comes with a research position and pays a better wage than I get!) and decided to move out of the student residence. A that point, he didn’t want to get a flat with me… in fact, he chose to move in with someone he was only sort of friends with rather commit to us living together! I’m sure you can see why I wasn’t expecting to stay in Germany for too much longer…

As my internship drew to a close, Jan and I discussed what I should do next. For the first time, he actually expressed an interest in me staying in Germany, so I started looking for jobs. I managed to land one at a translation company close to Karlsruhe and, after a few months earning a proper wage, I moved into a little flat of my own… the very first time I’d had my own place! Jan still didn’t want to live with me, although he might as well have considering he spent more time at my place than at his! After ten months of work, I lost that job for financial reasons (the company had lost a lot of customers) and ended up on unemployment benefit (Hartz IV for anyone who is in Germany and knows about these things). At that point, I was seriously considering giving up and moving back to England… but for whatever reason I decided to give it one last try. That’s when I managed to get the job at my current company… and was immediately given a permanent contract.

The bed in my old flat
The bed in my old flat

Roughly six months later, Jan wanted to move out of his flat… and actually agreed that we could move in together! Initially he wanted to look for somewhere big enough for two that I could move in to later, but I was having none of it! There was no way I was moving in to his place. If we were going to live together, I wanted somewhere that would be both of ours from the start!

The sofa, just after we moved in... at that point it was the only item of furniture in the living room
The sofa, just after we moved in… at that point it was the only item of furniture in the living room

Which brings us to today… I’ve been in Germany for seven years, at the same company for four and living with my German boyfriend three and a half. My exchange student days are far behind me and , while I’m not sure whether I’ll stay in Karlsruhe permanently, my gap year days of trying to figure out what I want from life are behind me. Somehow, over the past seven years, I’ve gone from being English girl spending some time away from “real” life to something that, realistically, can only be defined with the term “expat”. I haven’t quite decided what I think of that yet…

Who Am I?

This post was inspired by Charlotte at Sherbet and Sparkles. Recently, she wrote a blog post based around the question “Who am I?” and asked all her readers to get involved too. I’ve actually had quite a few new followers on the blog recently, so I thought this was an appropriate time to finally respond to her request.

So, hello! I’m Beverley, a 30-year-old English girl who is currently living in south-west Germany. Karlsruhe, to be exact. Most Germans should have heard of it because it’s home to both the German constitutional court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) and the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof). The latter is the highest court for all matters relating to criminal and private law, so Karlsruhe is mentioned on the news a lot. I share a flat with my boyfriend, who I will have been in a relationship with for 10 years in February 2014!

The botanic gardens in Karlsruhe
The botanic gardens in Karlsruhe

As an army brat, the question “where are you from?” is not an easy one to answer. Do I say the place I was born, even though I always hated it and never felt like I belonged, even while living there? Should I say the town my parents are from, despite the fact that I’ve never lived there? Or is “home” the place my dad moved to once he got out of the army, and where I also moved to when I was 13? Usually, I tell people I’m from Northumberland without specifying a town – I tend to get away with it because most people couldn’t even locate the county on a map, never mind name any individual towns! My parents are both from Morpeth, where my remaining grandparents still live, and that’s been the most constant place in my life. We went there for at least one holiday every year. Both my parents now live back in Northumberland, although neither of them actually moved back to their home town simply because it’s too expensive!

Stepping stones crossing the River Wansbeck in Morpeth
Stepping stones crossing the River Wansbeck in Morpeth

As you probably know by now, after graduating from university I moved to Austria for 10 months. I still have a slight obsession with all things Austrian! In 2006, I moved back to Karlsruhe and as of September 2012, Karlsruhe is officially the place I’ve lived in longest in one stretch ever! Technically I lived in my birth town for more years in total because we were posted there twice, but Karlsruhe is catching up… if you count my year abroad, I’ve actually spent 8 years in Karlsruhe now.

Snowy Feldkirch, December 2006
Snowy Feldkirch, December 2006

I have one sister, with whom I share two parents, and two half brothers who are not related to each other. My younger half brother, my dad’s son, was born a few days before I moved back to Karlsruhe. He’s 23 years younger than me!

I used to be a natural red head, but based on the photos above, you’re probably thinking I’m a brunette. Here’s a photo of me from the days before I was allowed to dye my hair. See… red! Well, reddish anyway…

Me, aged 3 or 4, with my grandma's dog
Me, aged 3 or 4, with my grandma’s dog

What else can I say? I work at a translation company, which is usually interesting but can get stressful. You won’t read too much about my job on the blog because I’m not sure how much I can say without getting into trouble. I certainly know better than to name any of our customers 😉

My biggest love is reading and I dream of having my own library some day, like the ones you see in old houses and castles. My other big passion is travel – I get restless if I have to stay in one place for too long. So far, regular day trips and holidays have been enough to keep me from getting entirely sick of Karlsruhe but I’m not sure whether I’ll live here for the rest of my life…

So that’s me! I hope I haven’t repeated too much of my blog’s about me page. If there’s anything else you want to know, just ask and I’ll see about answering 😉 Now it’s your turn… tell me about yourself!

Friday letters

I have one more post to come about last weekend’s trip, but first it’s time for Friday letters…

English: Disused letterbox, Callow End A disus...
Disused letterbox (Photo: Wikipedia)

Dear J & M. It was lovely to see you again at the weekend and meet your baby boy!

Dear Austria. You have shown me again exactly why I love you. I will be back!

Dear weather. I know it’s November, but is all this rain really necessary? Also, please make up your mind what temperature you want to be! 10°C one day and 17°C the next is just confusing!

Dear self. If you really want to stop putting on weight, you need to stop eating every piece of food you can get your hands on! Christmas is coming soon and you’ll be doing more than enough eating then…

Dear Christmas shopping. I hope I can put a large dent in you next week. The number of people I now have on my to buy for list is scary!

Dear hot showers. Having no hot water for a couple of days has made me realise how grateful I am to have you in my life!

Dear tea. Without you, I could not cope with these cold, rainy days! Once again, you are my saviour.

That’s all for today. Have a great weekend (hopefully dry) everyone! I’m going whiskey tasting. Should be interesting…

Photobucket

Look Up, Look Down: The Katzenturm

Today’s look up, look down photo was taken in Feldkirch in Austria and shows the Katzenturm. Those of you who speak any German whatsoever may realise that this literally translates as “Cats’ Tower”. Sadly, there were never any actual felines in the tower… the “Katzen” were probably a type of canon. The bell tower of the Katzenturm contains the largest bell in Vorarlberg, and sixth largest in Austria.

Katzenturm Feldkirch

Got a photo that you think would be perfect for the Look Up, Look Down theme? Check out Travel With Intent’s blog post to link up!

Garmisch-Patenkirchen

The party Jan and I were supposed to go to in Switzerland fell through, so we spontaneously decided to go the other way instead. Jan managed to book a hotel room for the night in Garmisch-Patenkirchen in Bavaria, so after bidding farewell to my friends and their baby, that’s where we headed. We decided to take the slightly longer but more scenic route through Austria, rather than heading straight back to Germany. Here are some photos I took along the way. The first few were taken near St. Anton am Arlberg while the others are the view from the “Zugspitzblick” (Zugspitz view) carpark on the Fernpass in Austria. The flattish looking mountain is the Zugspitz and the lake is called the Blindsee. And as usual, I prove I am incapable of smiling like a normal human being on photos… I have no idea what that expression on my face is!

By the time we arrived in Garmisch-Patenkirchen, it was dark, but after driving for so long we wanted to stretch our legs so, after checking in, we went for a night time walk. The part of town we were staying in was Patenkirchen – it’s separated from the Garmisch area of town by a main road, which the lady at the hotel’s reception later jokingly referred to as “the border”.

The hotel also had a restaurant, so while checking in we had asked for a table to be reserved for us. Neither of us was particularly hungry, so we chose something we though would be small… thought being the operative word her! I chose Hackbraten (a kind of meatloaf) and the slice I got covered half the plate! It was served with asparagus in Hollandaise sauce and some very buttery mashed potatoes. Basically fat, fat and more fat… and a huge chunk of meat! It was tasty though! The restaurant was busy, so later we were joined at our table by a woman and her daughter from Leipzig. We got talking and had a very enjoyable evening, before heading up to our room for a relatively early night. The furnishings in the room were very “traditional”… just check out this bed:

bed

The next day (Sunday), we awoke to rain. The plan was to go up the Zugspitz, so we had breakfast, checked out and drove over to the mountain train station. Unfortunately, all the webcam views from the top of the mountain showed that there was no view whatsoever up there! Deciding going up anyway would be a waste of money (a round trip costs 50 euros per person!!), we went for a walk instead, this time in the Garmisch part of town. We were aiming for the Kurhaus, which had a Michael Ende (German children’s author) exhibition, but on arrival it turned out to be closed. It was due to open at 11 a.m., but that would have meant waiting an hour, so we headed back to the car and moved on. Before leaving town, we stopped off at the Garmisch-Patenkirchen olympic ski jump… it’s so famous that even I had heard of it!

It was still raining and showing no signs of clearing, so we jumped back in the car and just starting driving. Initially, we had no goal in mind, but then we noticed we were on the Romatische Straße (Romantic Road) and I remembered that Schloss Neuschwanstein is on that route, so that’s where we decided to go…
I’m not going to tell you about that in this post, though. For that, you’ll have to wait! (Yes, I know how to drag out a weekend trip… 😉 )

Return to Feldkirch

Locator map of Vorarlberg in Austria.
Austria, with Vorarlberg in red (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may or may not know that after graduating from university I moved to Austria for 10 months. I had originally wanted to go to Innsbruck for my year abroad, but my uni only had one exchange place there and somebody else got it. I was left with my second choice… Karlsruhe. So when it came to deciding what to do with myself after graduation, I decided now was my chance to go to Austria. I applied for the position of English Language Assistant through the British Council, selecting Vorarlberg as my first choice Bundesland because it was the closest part of Austria to Baden-Württemberg (where Karlsruhe is) and, because almost nobody actually chooses to got to Vorarlberg, I got what I wanted!

I was assigned to two schools, with the main one – where I would work three times a week – in Feldkirch and a second one  in Götzis, a few train stops away. I decided to live in Feldkirch, partly because I was going to spending most of my working hours there but also because Götzis is a pretty small town, while Feldkirch is the second largest in Vorarlberg (which doesn’t mean much when you consider the size of most towns in Vorarlberg). That year was the start of my love affair with Austria. I had always wanted to go to Austria (thanks to the Chalet School books!) but I was never really in love with it until I actually lived there. Admittedly I didn’t always have the best time there – the other language assistants had a tendency to “forget” to invite me to things and I was lonely a lot of the time – but I never tired of the scenery. Even now, I miss looking out of my window and seeing mountains (climbing the hill with all my shopping not so much!). And if I ever see something Austrian on a menu I will always order it.

I hadn’t actually been back to Vorarlberg since finishing my assistantship, so when Jan and I were invited to a birthday celebration at a hut in Switzerland, close to the Austrian border, and Jan suggested leaving the day before (a public holiday in my part of Germany) to spend some time together first, it was obvious that I was going to want to see Feldkich again. Luckily, Jan agreed so we booked a room at the Best Western in town and he arranged for a car.

The view from our hotel room window
The view from our hotel room window

We arrived in Feldkirch at 3 pm, after driving a route that took us through most of Vorarlberg, and quickly checked in before heading out for a walk around while it was still light.  It was a dull, cloudy day but I took photos anyway. And I discovered that Feldkirch hasn’t changed very much – they now have a Müller, one of the book shops has gone and two of the bars we used to go to have closed down, but other than that everything looks the same.

After walking around for about an hour and a half, we’d basically seen everything – the main centre isn’t very big and there’s not much to see in the other parts of town. We had been driving for about four hours and hadn’t stopped for lunch, so we decided to go for some food. Rösslepark was exactly the same (except that it now has a smoking and non-smoking section). The beer is still good and I enjoyed me real Austrian Wienerschnitzel.  Jan chose the Schlachtteller – literally slaughter or butcher platter – which consisted of meat, meat and more meat! But not just any meat… it included things like liver sausage and blood sausage… and tongue! So I can now say I’ve tried beef tongue (of course I sampled some). It tastes a bit like beef, but has a weird texture and is slightly bitter. Not something I’m likely to eat again…

After eating, we went back out into the dark and had a walk up to the local castle – the Schattenburg. There’s a museum in there, which I’ve never been to, and a restuarant that is best known for its giant Schnitzel. I ate there once when I lived in Feldkirch and I can confirm that those things take up an entire plate! They come with chips (fries), which have to be served separately. Here’s the Schattenburg and some terrible night-time shots of Feldkirch from above – my camera doesn’t do too well in the dark!

The next morning, after checking out of the hotel, we drove over to Dornbirn – the second biggest town in Vorarlberg. A couple who had lived in Feldkirch when I lived there moved to Dornbirn three years ago so we went to visit them and their 11 week old son! It was lovely to see my friends again and the baby was very cute.

A little church in Dornbirn
A little church in Dornbirn

After a cup of tea, some baby hugs and a catch up, it was time to move on as we had another long drive ahead of us…
Check in soon to read about our further adventures over the long weekend!