Expat Qs

Has it really been an entire two weeks since my last post? Wow… sorry. I didn’t mean to stay away that long. I am juggling so many things right now and blogging keeps getting pushed further down my list.
Anywaaay… I stole this post from Kristen because I thought it might be fun and an easy way to get back into blogging. I hate being called an expat (please don’t single me out from other “migrants”!) but didn’t have an alternative title, so it stays.

1. WHERE WERE YOU BORN, WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?

I was born in Aldershot (“Home of the British Army”) and I guess grew up there, in Northern Ireland and in Northumberland – although, when does the “growing up” stage finish? I was a teenager by the time I moved up North…
I currently live just outside Basel in Switzerland.

Basel
Basel town hall

 

2. WHAT MADE YOU LEAVE YOUR HOME COUNTRY

Originally university. I was studying German and a year in a German-speaking country was a requirement to get my degree. I met Jan there, and after 2 years in a long-distance relationship decided to move back to Germany. Such a cliché.

3. WHAT TYPE OF REACTIONS DO YOU GET WHEN YOU MEET NEW PEOPLE AND TELL THEM WHERE YOU ARE FROM?

It varies. “What brought you to Switzerland?” mainly. A lot of people ask whether I work at Roche or Novartis (two pharmaceutical companies that are the main employers in Basel, particularly of “expats” – ugh, that word again).  When I lived in Germany I occasionally got “Do you really put vinegar on your chips?”, and people would ask why Karlsruhe of all places (I guess most Brits go to Berlin or Munich).

4. WHAT WAS THE EASIEST/HARDEST PART IN ADJUSTING TO YOUR NEW COUNTRY?

To Switzerland? It wasn’t actually that hard because I’d been in Germany for over 8 years and Basel at least is quite similar to Germany in many ways. So I guess that was the easiest part? Going back to not understanding people was difficult – Swiss German is hard! Just yesterday a neighbour came and spoke to me while I was doing laundry and I only understood about half of what he said.

5. IMAGES, WORDS OR SOUNDS THAT SUM UP THE EXPAT EXPERIENCE YOU’VE HAD SO FAR.

Are we talking my entire expat experience? As in Austria, Germany and Switzerland? Because that’s a lot! But as Kristen said, my life here is just life. I work, I shop, I cook, I do laundry just as I would anywhere else. I guess regularly speaking two languages is different, and we eat food that isn’t available in England (and, conversely, don’t eat other food because it isn’t available here). So I guess speaking German and food are my  words? Here’s an image that seems to fit:

fondue

6. YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD OR DRINK ITEM IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY

Oh wow, that’s difficult. Maybe Rösti? Although I rarely eat it because I’m too lazy to make my own 😉 For drink I guess some local beer? I can’t think of anything else that isn’t available elsewhere… oh, except some fizzy pops like “Rivella” and “Flauder” (I do like that second one) but I rarely drink pop soo…

7. WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU SAID “YES” TO IN YOUR NEW CITY THAT YOU WOULDN’T SAY “YES” TO, BACK HOME?

Umm… I have no idea? I probably wouldn’t have gone hiking at home but only because I would never have had Jan to drag me out 😉

8. ARE THERE ANY CULTURAL NORMS/PHRASES IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY WHICH YOU CANNOT STAND?

Quiet hours! In Switzerland, the law states that from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. plus all day on Sundays and public holidays are “quiet hours”. During those times you are not allowed to do anything that makes a noise… so no hammering/drilling, no hoovering (vacuuming ;-)), no doing laundry, no mowing the lawn, no playing instruments. And, of course, no using the glass recycling bins. In our building, you are actually not supposed to drill/hammer after 6 p.m. and hoovering and instruments are banned after 8 p.m. (Drums are banned at every time unless in a sound-proofed room). I understand the night-time quiet rules – those with kids especially probably appreciate it being quiet when they’re sleeping – BUT WHEN AM I SUPPOSED TO DO MY HOUSEWORK?! The lack of recycling annoys me as well, especially coming from Germany where practically everything gets recycled! Ooh, and I hate that practically everything is closed on Sundays. I mean, I’m used to shops being closed on Sundays after Germany, but finding a café or restaurant that’s open should not be as difficult as it is! As for phrases… I guess that question assumes I live in an English-speaking country?

9. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST DOING IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY?

I enjoy going down to the river and just sitting… I love having the river flow right through town. But that’s a Basel thing, not a Switzerland thing. I also enjoying travelling and exploring Switzerland, but I also did that in Germany and would do it even if I lived in England. Umm, does that answer the question in any way?

basel-rhine

10. DO YOU THINK YOU WILL EVER MOVE HOME FOR GOOD?

Nope. A few years ago it might have been a possibility, but after Brexit no way. Why would I want to live in a country where half the population have said my partner is not welcome? And by extension my future kids who will be way more German than British. Of course, Brexit may end up being the reason I am forced to move home if the “hard-Brexit” brigade gets their way…

That was the last question, but I hate to end on a bad note so I would like to add that I love living here and it feels like home more than any place has ever felt like home in my life (I mean, Karlsruhe felt like in the last few years there – and is still the place I’ve lived the longest in one stretch ever – but I felt an instant connection with Basel that made me wonder what I ever saw in Karlsruhe). It’s only been 2 and a half years though, so who knows what the future will hold…

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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.

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival 2016

Ludwigsburg Kürbisfest 2016

Wow, I have actually reached October in my travel posts, which means I’m almost caught up with #Take12Trips, Take 2.

This year, we went to the pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg again. A Finnish friend we have made in Basel (who from now on shall be referred to as The Finn) plus two friends from Karlsruhe also joined us.

As you may have guessed from the picture above, the theme this year was “circus”, or rather “The Pumpkin Circus is Coming to Town”. Apparently, that was mostly interpreted as clowns (if you don’t like clowns you may want to look away now…)

Even those who don’t mind clowns have to admit the last one is creepy. A clown throwing knives? Who came up with that?

There were a few other things as well:

This little group is called the Hubbard Family (because they’re carved using hubbard pumpkins). Personally I like to think of them as the Dumpty family because they remind me of Humpty Dumpty ! (I know he’s usually pictured as an egg and was actually probably a cannon). They’re the work of American artist Ray Villafane and the Hubbard family was featured in Ludwigsburg for the 4th time in a row in 2016 (although I don’t remember seeing them last year).

Here are some more photos from around the festival:

This year I ate pumpkin Maultaschen in pumpkin soup, orange and hokkaido ice cream and pumpkin strudel. All were delicious!

While wandering around, we spotted a bird. A survey of my Facebook friends came to the conclusion that it’s a common buzzard:

Once we’d seen everything at the actual festival, we had a wander round the fairytale garden then went looking for the aviary. There weren’t many birds around – I’m sure there were more when I went there before? It was raining on and off all day though, so maybe they were all hiding somewhere dry?

Of course, before heading home we hit the shop and bought a few pumpkin varieties that aren’t available in supermarkets plus some pumpkin seed pesto.

Despite the rain, it was a fun day out (although I thought last year’s “flight” theme had some more interesting interpretations for the sculptures!).

The festival has finished for this year since I’ve taken so long to write my post, but if you’re in the Stuttgart area definitely look out for it next September/October. This year’s festival took place from 2 September-6 November and next year’s will probably be roughly the same.

This was my October trip for Take 12 Trips 2016.

Recent doings #11

Another month has gone, and now it’s November. Aaah!! Less than two months left until 2016 is over! While I’m hoping for good things in 2017, I’m so not ready for it to be here yet.

Anyway, before I completely dissolve into panic, it’s time to look back on October as Gretch and Kristen ask “What’s new with you?“.

What's New With You

Firstly, as some of you may have seen on Twitter, I managed to fall over right at the beginning of the month and land heavily on both my knees, so I spent most of October not being able to work properly. I did call the doctor after waiting a week (plus one day because it was a Sunday) and was told it probably wasn’t anything serious and to come back in a week if it wasn’t better. The following week I was actually not in Basel so I couldn’t go, and after that I decided that since I wasn’t in pain and could manage stairs okay again I would just leave it. My legs are still a bit stiff and annoying at times, but the bruising has gone and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be fine.

Despite having to hobble around, I managed to get up to quite a lot, as you will see below:

Reading. After finishing my last few books for Erin’s challenge, I wanted something a bit lighter (and more modern) so I started reading The Dandelion Years by Erica James. Then I didn’t even finish it because November happened and it was time to start Megan’s winter challenge. *Sigh*

Visiting. The pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg. I preferred last year’s theme, but it was still a fun day out. And I got to see my friends, which is always a win! (Blog post to follow… eventually.) That was before I fell over luckily since the festival always involves quite a bit of walking around!

Ludwigsburg Kürbisfest 2016

Attending. A seminar in Frankfurt for work. It was all about banking terminology… not my most favourite subject.

Listening to. Jan singing in choirs. He had concerts with two different choirs in October so of course I went.

Buying. Christmas presents. Last year a few didn’t arrive in time even though I thought I had ordered them far enough in advance, so this year I’m being extra organised. Also the most amazing pair of tights.

Cross stitching. Still pictures for Christmas cards… lots and lots of Christmas cards. I think I have about half of them done now, ready to actually be transformed into cards. Also, a Santa shaped like a star that I wanted to experiment with turning into a Christmas tree ornament. It worked really well! *Proud face*

santa-star

Subscribing. To another cross stitch magazine… because one subscription clearly isn’t enough. Sadly they would only let me start my subscription from January, February or March next year! I was hoping for the December issue at least so I could get more Christmas designs (I subscribed two weeks ago – you’d think that would be plenty of time for them to get me on the December mailing list?!)

Arranging. To host more visitors. Apparently everyone wants to see the Christmas markets. First my mum and brother are coming again, this time with a friend of my mum’s as well, and then my sister and her fiancé will be here for a weekend (oooh, first time I’ve written “sister’s fiancé“!).

Eating. Pumpkins, purchased at the pumpkin festival, and also chickpeas. I seem to put chickpeas in everything lately.

I think that’s all that’s been happening in my world. What have you been doing recently?

Bad Säckingen

Since tomorrow is NOVEMBER I think it’s about time I catch up on my travel posts, especially since the trip I’m about to tell you about took place on my birthday, which was back in August! Bad blogger. Bad, bad blogger.

I first heard of Bad Säckingen thanks to a restaurant in Karlsruhe with the name Trompeter von Säckingen (which has since closed… there’s now an African restaurant in the premises). Intrigued by the name, I asked Jan about it and he told me it was the name of a book by Joseph Viktor von Scheffel, which is loosely based on a true story that took place in Bad Säckingen (which back then was just called Säckingen – Bad in the name of a town means it’s a spa town, and Säckingen became Bad Säckingen in 1978. There’s your German/history lesson for today). Intrigued by the story, I looked the town up and discovered it was supposed to be pretty and decided I wanted to go there… a fact that Jan reminded me of when I was debating where to go on my birthday.

dscn9329

My friend K came down for my birthday and came with us to Bad Säckingen. It’s in Germany, but only takes about 20 minutes to get to from Basel Badischer Bahnhof.

First of all, we went for a little walk around the town. I promise the only editing I’ve done on the photos below is resizing them to save space on the blog. It just was that nice a day!

The town centre isn’t huge and before long we were back down at the river and the other thing Bad Säckingen is famous for (for a given vale of the word “famous”) – its wooden bridge. The town on the other side of the bridge is called Stein and it’s in Switzerland. The border is in the middle of the river, so of course we had to have some fun standing in two countries at once. In one of the photos below, you can see mine and K’s feet right on the border marking… the closest you will ever get to seeing a photo of one of my friends on this here blog 😉

We headed to the Schlosspark (castle gardens) next, where we found a few trumpeters!

Finally it was time for a late lunch. We went to a steak restaurant called Marco Polo where I had bison because I had never tried it before. Plus a beer… it was my birthday after all!

I took another few photos as we wandered back down towards the river, then we walked along to the weir where many cormorants were hanging out waiting for the easy fish pickings.

One more quick glance down the river, and it was off back to the train station and home to Basel.

dscn9411
The Rhine, the bridge and Bad Säckingen (plus green, green hills!)

Bad Säckingen is not exactly huge and I’m not sure what you would do there on a rainy day (although there is a trumpet museum in the castle), but on a sunny afternoon it’s well worth a wander around. If you had a bit more time you could even cross the river and take a walk into Stein… I’m not sure whether there’s anything there worth looking at, but you could at least say you’d spent the day in both Germany and Switzerland…

Bad Säckingen was my August trip for Take 12 Trips 2016.

Recent doings #9

Umm, I know I say this every month, but how is it time for another What’s New With You link up? It’s September guys! September!! We’re officially in the final quarter of 2016! Waaaahh!! Okay… and breath…

Here’s what I got up to in August:

What's New With You

Reading. Actually, I already told you what I read in August (see my reading challenge check ins here and here), but I’m including this category anyway to say that Brave New World marked my 100th book read from the BBC Big Read list. Sadly I had read most of those before starting my 35 before 35 challenge so I still have 98 books to read, but still!

Watching. Pete’s Dragon! Not the new film, sadly. I bought the 1970s version on DVD a while ago and we decided to watch it one night. It’s a lot cheesier than I remembered, but still good.

Listening to. Alice Isn’t Dead, a new(ish) podcast by one of the writer’s of Welcome to Night Vale. Jan doesn’t want me to continue with Night Vale without him – although he currently has no interest in actually continuing with it – so I started listening to Alice Isn’t Dead on the recommendation of my friend K (the same person who originally introduced me to Night Vale!) and now I love it! So that’s what I’m listening to while cross stitching these days.

Swimming. In the Rhine! We’ve been three times this year (it was mega hot last week) and so far I haven’t drowned. I feel a bit like I’m tempting fate 😉 Everyone here swims in the Rhine and there are even special waterproof bags to put your clothes in called Wickelfisch (which means wrap fish or wind fish because you fold down or “wind” the edge seven times to close it). When they’re closed, they fill with air and you can use them to float down the river – although you do need to be able to swim as well to avoid obstacles and – most importantly – actually get out! Don’t go in the water if you need to rely on the bag to keep you afloat!

fishes
People (not me!) in the Rhine with their Wickelfische last year

Celebrating. My birthday! I am now 33, which means I officially only have 2 years to complete my 35 before 35 list. Gulp! K came down for my birthday and we spent the day in Germany before having cocktails in the evening then took our portable barbecue down to the river on the Sunday and had a barbecue with the two whole acquaintances (can’t even say friends yet!) I’ve managed to make in over a year in Basel. It was a pretty nice way to start my 33rd year.

Travelling. To Bad Säckingen on my birthday (see above!). We had a lovely day, but you’ll have to wait to read all about it… my travel posts are still stuck in June 😉 I also went to Luxembourg for a wedding at the beginning of the month (should that also be under celebrating?)

Cross stitching. Birthday cards galore! Why do all the children I know seem to have birthdays in August and September? Also Christmas cards. I know, I know… in August! Please don’t hate me – it’s the only way I can actually get them all done in time!

Buying. Surprisingly only a few books this month. Actually what I’ve mostly been buying is birthday presents for the recipients of the aforementioned cards.

Failing. Miserably at adulting… specifically at maintaining standards of cleanliness. Let’s just say it involved hot weather and some organic waste that I failed to take away in time. Trust me, you do not want any more details than that… (I am a disgusting person and to prove that I haven’t learned my lesson, yesterday I had to deal with a potato that had rotted in the potato container. Oh well, it’s not like I actually wanted to eat lunch or anything…)

Aaaand on that note I shall leave you. I can’t think of anything special I ate or drank in August. What have you been doing lately?

Check out the link up to see what everyone else did in August.