Friday letters

I took part in Friday letters last Saturday and I’ve been meaning to write up my blog post on it all week, but I’ve just been far too busy. So for now you’ll have to make do with Friday letters. Maybe I’ll get round to photo and hour over the weekend… although we have a visitor coming next weekend and I’m in Germany from Thursday afternoon to Friday evening, so this weekend will be my only opportunity to get the flat into a shape that I’m not ashamed of letting people see. Hmm. Anyway, here are some letters for you.

Friday letters

Dear customers. While I am glad not to be sitting around doing nothing, I would appreciate it if you could distribute your languages a little more evenly so everything doesn’t end up on my desk…

Dear books. Despite last week’s message to myself, you appear to have multiplied again. I wonder how that happened…?

Dear flat. How do you actually even get into such a state anyway? I mean, I get that I’m lazy but the speed at which you get messed up seems excessive!

Dear Christmas markets. Soo, you’re here again. Yay! Unfortunately I don’t going to get a chance to visit any of you this weekend with all the cleaning I have to do… Oh well, it’s supposed to rain tomorrow anyway.

Dear weekend. Even though I am probably going to be spend half of you cleaning, I am so glad you’re here! Now if only you were longer than a measly two days…

Right, that’s all from me. I’m waiting for a phone call then I have to go to the post box, buy some bread and start making tea. All in an evening’s work…

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

Laufenburg Cross-Border Christmas Market

This is the final post for my 2016 Take 12 Trips challenge, then I will be all caught up. So, let’s get on with it shall we?

Laufenburg in Aargau, Switzerland and Laufenburg in Baden, Germany are two towns that used to be one… until Napolean decided to place the Swiss/German border right in the middle of the Rhine, leaving the two parts of the town in two different countries. A bridge connects the two, and every year the towns join together to hold a cross-border Christmas market, with stalls in each of the towns and also across the bridge. I loved the idea of a Christmas market in two countries at once and as soon as I read about it I knew I wanted to go. The market is only on for one weekend in December, but luckily we had time that weekend – and Laufenburg is only about a 20-minute train ride away.

On arriving in the Swiss Laufenburg, we immediately saw the ruins of a castle on the hill, so that was our first stop. You can climb the tower that is all that remains of the castle and get a nice view of both Laufenburgs. We could actually see the market from up there as well, but I couldn’t get a photo because there were trees in the way.

Back down from the tower, we took a wander through town in the general direction of the river, working on the assumption that we would have to come across the bridge (and thus the Christmas market) somewhere down there. The town turned out to be really pretty, so of course I took photos.

After a while, we reached the Rathaus (town hall), where we could already see signs of the Christmas market.

The Christmas market stands did look very cool crossing the bridge! Also, the two photos below were taken from different countries.

Before buying anything from the Christmas market, we had a wander through, across the bridge and into Germany, to see what was on offer. The German side turned out to be very pretty too! (Unlike in Rheinfelden, where Switzerland got the pretty old town while Germany has nothing worth looking at.)

Apologies for the photo overload… and I haven’t even included all of them!

There was a Rathaus on the German side as well, and the Christmas market ended on the square in front of it. From town hall to town hall, via the bridge 🙂

By this time it was getting a bit chilly, so it was time for some Glühwein. We chose a stand that was selling a cherry version. Then we moved on to another stand for a bacon waffle… I had never seen anyone put bacon bits in waffle batter before but it was very tasty!

Having eaten , we wandered our way back through the German side and back onto the bridge, where we picked up a Christmas gift for Jan’s mum and grabbed another Glühwein.

Back on the Swiss side, we found another bit of market round the corner from the bridge, bought some biscuits and a marshmallow snowman from a stand run by a school (the snowman later went in some hot chocolate) and even spied a Santa on a motorbike before deciding it was time to head back to catch our train.

I was expecting Laufenburg market to be tiny, just going across the bridge with maybe one or two stands on either side, but it turned out to have a lot to offer. There are various different food and drink stands along with ones selling hand-made items (there were some lovely bird feeders!), jams and condiments, candles and more. They certainly go to a lot of effort for something that’s only on for three days! The Christmas market and both of the towns are well worth a visit, and we’ve already decided that it would make a nice day trip with any visitors we happen to have in the summer. If you’re ever in the area and fancy doing something in two countries in one afternoon I would definitely recommend Laufenburg!

This was my December trip for Take 12 Trips 2016, and meant I had completed the challenge for the second time!

 

Photo an hour: 17 December 2016

Saturday was the final photo an hour of 2016, so obviously I had to join in. Some of you might have seen that I posted some of the photos on Twitter when I had a wifi connection, but for most of the time I was out and about with no Internet, so the majority of these are totally new. Here’s what I got up to:

10:30 a.m. A different start for a change – checking what’s in my advent calendar (don’t worry, the kettle was already on and tea was had shortly after!)

11:30 a.m. Time for a shower.

12:30 p.m. On the tram heading to the train station.

1:30 p.m. Just arrived in Laufenburg (clock as evidence that I took my photo on time 😉 )

2:30 p.m. Cherry mulled wine in the German town of Laufenburg

3:30 p.m. Back on the Swiss side of the river to catch a train home – the train you can see in the photo is the one we took.

4:30 p.m. After a quick stop in town to pick something up, we were waiting to catch another tram.

5:30 p.m. Home, taking advantage of the brief free time to make some more Christmas cards

6:30 p.m. Another card made up and ready to post.

7:30 p.m. Feuerzangenbowle at Basel Christmas market.

8:30 p.m. Meeting a friend for dinner.

9:30 p.m. In my 2016 recap, I said I was meeting friends for fondue. Since the person who suggested fondue was ill and the rest of us had eaten it recently, I went for something equally Swiss: raclette. Yes, that is pretty much a plate of cheese!

10:30 p.m. Heading home – the window display in the toy museum looked rather impressive!

11:30 p.m. We were in for the night, so that meant time for pyjamas and fluffy socks. I was in bed by midnight so this was the final photo of the day.

Linking up with Jane and Louisa, as always.

What did you get up to on Saturday? I hope it was lovely, whatever it was.

Friday letters (it’s all about Christmas)

Hello! How is everyone doing? Christmas plans coming along okay? I feel like now December has hit it’s all I can think about! Will I get my cards made and set in time? What will I get that final difficult person for Christmas? Should I bake biscuits this weekend? Question upon question…

Anyway, some letters are in order, I think.

Friday letters

 

 

Dear sunshine. How lovely to see you! Do you think you could maybe stick around for the weekend as well?

Dear Christmas gifts. I finally only have one more of you to get, then everyone I need to buy for is sorted. Next step: wrapping.

Dear Christmas markets. Thank you for making the dark, cold days so much more bearable! (Let’s not talk about what we’re going to do when it’s still cold and grey in January yet, okay?)

Dear Lebkuchen. Now it’s December, I think it’s about time I started eating you. Tis the season (to stuff our faces) after all 😉

Dear 2017. I see you lurking! You’d better be planning good things for me 😉

Happy weekend, dear readers! I hope you all have a good one.

35 Before 35: Progress report 5

The last time I reported on where I’m at with my 35 before 35 list was my birthday last year! You can read that post here if you’re interested. With precisely two months until my next birthday (33! Yikes!), I thought it was about time I updated you all on my progress. Not that I’ve managed to cross much off entirely, but I’ve at least made some progress on the reading front. Here’s what I’ve done since 13th August 2015:

Number 13:  Read (or re-read) 50 non-fiction books

I had to go all the way back to the progress report before last to see where I was up to before! I had previously read six non-fiction books, now I’m up to 12. I had actually read Swiss Watching by Diccon Bewes, Victorian London by Liza Picard and Dear Fatty by Dawn French last time I updated, but apparently forgot to include them in my progress report. Since then I’ve read Everything You Wanted to Know About Rugby But Were Afraid to Ask by Iain Macintosh (which I actually bought for Jan) and Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine by Anna Reid.

 

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

I had read 20 last time, now I’m up to 21. I read Apfelrosenzeit by Anneke Mohn. It was okay but not brilliant.

Number 18: Bake 10 different types of biscuits

Again, I had to go back to the time before last. I didn’t say how many types I’d baked them though, but research tells me it was 4. I’ve since baked Spiced Oat Cookies and Maple Pecan Nut Cookies, which makes six. Four more to go!

Number 20: Attend a World Cup rugby match

My dad actually managed to get us tickets for three rugby matches during the world cup in England, so I’ve more than completed this one!

RWC 2015

Number 21: Read all the books from the BBC Big Read that I hadn’t before starting this challenge

I’ve been trying sooo hard to read Big Read books lately! Last time I was on 13, now I’m up to 27! Not going to list them all here. I’m currently reading The Magus for Megan’s reading challenge and I’m part-way through The Unbearable Lightness of Being as well (started it a while ago), so I’ll hopefully be adding more to the list soon. Still over 100 to go 😮

Number 24. Go to 5 different Christmas markets (other than Karlsruhe and Durlach)

So, I originally excluded Karlsruhe and Durlach since I lived there and the idea was to go further afield. Based on the same principle, I excluded Basel last year. But I still managed to complete this item: I had been to two already so Colmar, Rheinfelden and Bern last year makes five.

Number 31. Watch 35 films I’ve never seen before.

I’d managed 18 last time (which was only 2 more than the previous check in). Thanks to a looong flight to New Zealand and back, I’ve actually managed a few more since last year and I’m now up to 27. Woo hoo!

That’s everything this time. I’m not sure I’ll actually managed to complete the list before I turn 35 (can’t see me actually affording 3 OU courses in the next 2 years!), but that’s okay. I already feel like the list has helped me make the most of my time. Next progress report… when I remember! 😉

Bern and its Christmas markets

Back in December, we decided to finally visit our new capital city, Bern – and also add another Christmas market to my list. We took advantage of another RailAway offer (I love that site!), which gave us money off the train ticket – I don’t remember how much – plus a voucher each for one Glühwein or tea from the Christmas market on Waisenplatz and a 5 CHF voucher for money off anything but Glühwein from one of the stands at the Christmas markets on Münsterplatz. There was nothing we wanted to buy at Münsterplatz, so we used our vouchers towards some food 😉

On arriving in Bern, we first walked to Bundesplatz to see the Bundeshaus, or Federal Palace – the place Switzerland is governed from.

In some of the photos above, you might have noticed cantonal coats of arms going around the top. Half cantons have to share a space. Here are the ones for Basel-Stadt (the black one) and Basel-Landschaft (ours! The red one):

DSCN4625
Basel staffs for Basel-Stadt and Basel-Land

Here’s a photo of the front of the Bundeshaus. The market is a normal one, not a Christmas one.

DSCN4633

Confoederatio Helvetica is Latin for the Swiss Federation and is where the country code CH for Switzerland comes from. So now you know 😉

According to a local legend, Berchtold V, Duke of Zähringen, who founded Bern, vowed to name the city after the first animal he met on the hunt. Said animal turned out to be a bear. Obviously this isn’t true, but the bear has been the heraldic animal of Bern since the 1220s and appears on the coat of arms. There are various bears all around the city, and even some real live ones in the Bärengraben (bear pit) at the eastern edge of the old town. We didn’t get to see any live ones though – the weather may have been incredibly mild for December, but bears’ body clocks aren’t affected by the temperature and they were all hibernating.

The balancing bear is my favourite 🙂

After a bit more wandering around, we eventually came to Waisenplatz and the first of the Christmas markets. Of course, we claimed our free Glühwein – who cares that it was far too warm for hot drinks? Free is free!

After drinking our Glühwein and looking at the Christmas market for a bit, we continued our wander through Bern. Our walk took us past the Rathaus (town hall), down to the river and the Bärengraben and finally to the Münster (cathedral)

Next to the Münster was the next Christmas market. We had a look round all the stalls before deciding it was about time for food. I had a hamburger with garlic sauce and Jan had a sausage. I didn’t really take any photos of the market, so the next few are mainly of the Cathedral and things on the square. We did also go inside, but no photos were allowed in there – even without the flash!

After eating, we had our Glühwein cups refilled – this time with white Glühwein -drank up, then continued walking round Bern. We were trying to find somewhere to eat that evening but everywhere was fully booked! Eventually we decided to head back to Basel and eat there, but not before passing by the Münsterplatz Christmas market again, where the lights above the archways were now on!

Bern was my 5th Christmas market that I’m willing to count towards the list (my “home” market doesn’t count!), and marked the achievement of that goal for my 35 before 35!

I’m linking this post up with Monday Escapes. Click the button to see where everyone else is virtually escaping to this week!

Packing my Suitcase

Rheinfelden, Switzerland and Rheinfelden Christmas Market, Germany

I feel like I need to get all my Christmassy posts out of the way before we get any further into January, so here’s the first.

Rheinfelden used to be one town with the River Rhine flowing through it, but then in 1802 when Napoleon Bonepart fixed the border between Switzerland and Germany on the Rhine. Now there are two towns with the same name, one in Switzerland and one in Germany. Switzerland has the pretty, old-town side, while Germany’s Reinfelden isn’t all that nice but was where a Christmas market was being held for one weekend only… and I still needed Christmas markets for my 35 before 35!

We took the train to the Swiss Rheinfelden and started by walking into the old town.

As you can see, it wasn’t the prettiest of days. We were lucky enough to avoid the rain but the heavens were threatening to open at any minute!

Prettiness photographed, it was time to cross the bridge to Germany.

DSCN4508

The Christmas market was even tinier than I expected and had very few interesting stands, but I did manage to buy some pumpkin and ginger pasta, and we bought some kind of alcoholic punch from a Peruvian stand.

After that I ate a wild boar sausage, Jan ate some cheese bread thing and we headed back across the river to Switzerland, where we caught a train back to Basel, stopping at the Christmas market there for a Glühwein and to buy a bird feeder for our balcony.

Rheinfelden was the fourth Christmas market to be crossed off my list, and Basel doesn’t count, so that left me with one more Christmas market before I could consider that item complete… stay tuned to see which one I went to.

Colmar Christmas market(s)

This has been a weekend of Christmas markets! Although, actually, it was far too warm to be standing around drinking mulled wine. No wonder I’m not ready for Christmas… the weather’s telling me it’s still no later than September!

Our first Christmas market of the weekend was Colmar, which is only about 45-50 minutes away from Basel by train. Perfect for a day trip. There are, in fact, five markets in Colmar! Although one of those is just the normal indoor market with a few Christmassy stalls in addition to the normal ones that are there anyway, so it doesn’t really count as a Christmas market for me. One disappointing thing was a distinct lack of interesting food items – it took us ages to find anything we were even vaguely interested in. But Colmar is a beautiful town, and it looks even more magical all dressed up in its Christmas decorations. We were mostly there during the day, so I hardly got any photos with the lights switched on, but there are a few near the end. This will mainly be a post of images since there isn’t much to say beyond “We looked at stalls, drank mulled and managed to buy a few Christmas presents”. Also, the drinks came in horrible plastic glasses so I didn’t even get my usual souvenir cup!

The first thing we saw on arriving in Colmar was this, outside the train station:

Yay, signs of Christmas already! Also, note the blue sky… most of the afternoon was slightly cloudy, but it was more like late September than the last weekend in November!

On our walk into town, we found a children’s roller coaster and, beside it, this:

Colmar carousel

 

 

It’s a “carousel bar” and it was actually rotating! There are no words.

Finally, we reached the first part of the actual Christmas market and grabbed our first mulled wine, or “hot wine” as the French say.

Colmar Christmas market

Wine in hand, we wandered on through the streets in search of the other markets, admiring the pretty buildings decked out in all their finery along the way.

Various bits of the market also had random animals. They were in all different parts of town and didn’t seem to be meant for petting, so I’m not sure what the point was…

Some more photos of the town and markets. I love all the brightly coloured buildings!

We finally decided on something to eat… some kind of bread thing with cheese on top and… Escargot! Yes, we decided to be brave and try eating snails! After all, nothing could be worse than the oyster omelet in Taiwan…

It turned out the snails didn’t taste of anything much… they were a bit rubbery and that was it. We also ordered a second, “normal” slice of bread in “Alsace” style, with onions, bacon bits and Munster cheese. That one basically tasted like burnt cheese on toast. Oh well, at least they weren’t expensive. I can’t say I particularly “liked” snails, but at least they didn’t make me gag and almost throw up (looking at you, oyster slime!).

Finally, it started getting dark and I could see all the pretty lights!

I wasn’t sure what time the last train home was, but I knew when we were in Mulhouse the last one left at 9ish, and Colmar is before that, so we decided to take a train home at 7 p.m. to be safe. The markets close at 8 anyway so we couldn’t really have stayed much longer…

So, in conclusion, the Colmar Christmas markets are worth a visit and there are some lovely home-made items in the special crafts bit, bit I would recommend popping into a restaurant to eat (or bringing your own food!). The town itself is fairytale like at any time of year, and even more so when it’s all sparkly and Christmassy.

The Christmas markets in Colmar are on until 31st December 2015. During the week, they close at 7 p.m. and on weekends (Fri/Sat/Sun) at 8 p.m.

I’m linking this up to Monday Escapes with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey. Click the button for more travel tales to brighten up your Monday.

Packing my Suitcase

35 Before 35: Progress report 4

Wow, my blogging has been really sporadic recently, hasn’t it? It’s not that I don’t want to blog, I just don’t seem to have anything to talk about. Also if you’re on blogspot (and use the blogspot comments form) I apologise if I haven’t commented on your blog for a while – I am reading but when I try to comment from my work laptop it just disappears into thin air when I press post. I assume it has to do with the (ridiculously high) security settings for the Internet browser…

Anyway, today seemed like a good day to post another progress report for my 35 before 35, seeing as I now have precisely 3 years to complete the challenge (why yes, that was a not-very-well veiled reference to the fact that today is my birthday). I haven’t actually done much towards it recently, what with moving countries and everything, but I can at least cross a few things off. My last progress all the way back in October 2014! You can read it here, if you’re interested. And here’s what I’ve done since then:

Number 9: Make cheesecake

I made a Toblerone cheesecake for my leaving party. It was delicious!

Toblerone cheesecake

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

I had read 17 books in German last time I updated, and now I’m up to a whole 20! I read Die Nacht des Zorns (original French title: L’armée furieuse) by Fred Vargas (thank you to the winter reading challenge for that one!), Liebesfluch by  Beatrix Gurian (also read for the winter reading challenge), MUH! by David Safir (a Christmas present) and Apfelrosenzeit by Anneke Mohn.

Number 21: Read all the books from the BBC Big Read that I hadn’t before starting this challenge

I was up to 9 last time I updated (plus a few I’d started but hadn’t finished). Now I’m on 13, so that’s 4 read for this category, too. I haven’t finished any of the ones I was working on before though. The one’s I’ve read since October are The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde, The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (for the summer reading challenge), Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafón (highly recommend by the way – I LOVED this one!)

Number 24. Go to 5 different Christmas markets (other than Karlsruhe and Durlach)

I hadn’t been to any Christmas markets the last time I updated, so this is a new category! In December 2014, I went to the Christmas market at Burg Hohenzollern and the one in Speyer (those are links. Click them.).

Burg Hohenzollern

Number 31. Watch 35 films I’ve never seen before.

I was up to 16 last time, and now I’m on 18. Since October, I’ve watched Birdman (weird!) and Rush (really good).

Number 35: The KVV beer tour (drink a beer in all the breweries local to Karlsruhe that can be reached by tram/S-Bahn)

I did this right before I left Karlsruhe, in April. I’m glad I had it on my list because it was an amazing day out! Read about it here.

Wow, that’s actually quite a lot! It seems I did more than I thought I had – which I suppose is the advantage of leaving 10 months between updates 😉

Bring on the next three years!

My 2014

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.

January

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!

The famous Madeira fireworks
The famous Madeira fireworks

February

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.

A stream running through Bruchsal
A stream running through Bruchsal

March

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.

Cupcakes
Cupcakes

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!

Full Irish breakfast
Full Irish breakfast

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

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.

Amneville zooAlso, 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.

Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Castle

May

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.

Before heading to England, I took part in my first reading challenge with Megan from Semi-charmed Kinda Life and Jan and I took a trip to Speyer to see an exhibition celebrating 40 years of Playmobil.

Playmobil "Indians"
Playmobil “Indians”

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.

June

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.

Hoepfner beer
Hoepfner beer

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.

The UN headquarters in Vienna
The UN headquarters in Vienna

July

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.

Römerplatz, Frankfurt
Römerplatz, Frankfurt

August

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.

A firned in the UK sent me this lovely card and mini Smarties cake, along with other British goodies
A firned in the UK sent me this lovely card and mini Smarties cake, along with other British goodies

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.

View of Sun Moon Lake from Wen Wu Temple, Taiwan
View of Sun Moon Lake from Wen Wu Temple, Taiwan

The end of August also marked the end of the summer reading challenge. Sadly, I didn’t complete it, but I was only one book away!

September

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.

cocktails

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.

October

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!

Sukie's cake shop
Sukie’s cake shop

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!

Meeting Cecil Baldwin!
Meeting Cecil Baldwin!

November

On the first of the month, we were still in Paris. We took in a few of the sights then visited an incredibly cool bar. And I decided to take part in another reading challenge with Megan. I started reading my first book on the train home.

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!

Christmas dinner 2014

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!

Delicious dessert at Zum kleinen Ketterer
Delicious dessert at Zum kleinen Ketterer

December

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.

Burg Hohenzollern Christmas market
Burg Hohenzollern 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!

Santa and snowman card

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.