Recent doings #28

Before I start this post can we just take a minute to think about the fact that it is now June? The sixth month of the year. We are almost half-way through 2018 and I feel like I have absolutely nothing to show for it. Although I have read 87 books so far this year, so that’s something, I suppose. Anyway, today I am here to tell you about the month that’s just ended. So without further ado, here is what I got up to in May:

whats new with you

Reading. I read 11 books in May and finished another that I had started in April. You’ll find out all about them on Tuesday. I also continued with Pillars of the Earth but I’m still not even halfway through.

Listening to. We hired a car to drive to where my uncle lives near Munich and listened to Welcome to Night Vale on the way there. Coming home, we listened to part of the audiobook of M is for Magic, written and read by Neil Gaiman.

Watching. We are still watching Young Sheldon, so that. Also, we went to the cinema in May – for the first time since moving to Switzerland! We saw Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It was odd but good. I can’t remember whether I watched anything else in May. Jan watched random stuff, as always, but I usually don’t pay much attention.

Eating. Umm… what did I eat in May? I started the month quite well with salads and whatnot. Then after putting the half kilogram I had lost back on then failing to lose any more weight I temporarily gave up and consumed way too much ice cream. The trip to Munich didn’t help either! I’m back on the wagon now, but heavier than ever. Ugh.

Making. Birthday cards for Post Pals kids. I don’t seem to do much else these days.

Cross stitching. I finished the wedding card I started last month and also stitched a goat card for a Post Pals sibling.

Travelling. To just outside Munich for my cousin’s confirmation and then to England at the end of the month for the wedding I stitched the card for. On the way back from Munich we went to the Partnach Gorge near Garmisch-Patenkirchen with my Munich-dwelling uncle plus my aunt and uncle who came over from England for the confirmation. My camera couldn’t cope at all with the combination of bright light outside/darkness in the gorge, but here’s one of the photos that turned out okay-ish.

Partnachklamm

Going. To a set of waterfalls called the Trümmelbachfälle. Basically ten glacier-fed waterfalls inside a mountain. It’s very, very cool to look at! On the way back we stopped in Spiez and were going to play mini golf but we didn’t have cash and the only banks were right on top of the hill.

Celebrating. My cousin’s confirmation. There was a long church service then we went for a three-course meal. I did not, however, celebrate my friend’s wedding in May because it didn’t happen until June 😉

Buying. I put myself on a sort-of mini spending ban in May, but still bought four books because I could not resist. That’s a lot less than usual though. I also bought shoes, which was a necessary expense because I didn’t have a suitable pair for the wedding! And I bought two necklaces from Etsy (they were on sale and they were way too cool for me not to own them). Obviously I suck at not spending.

Walking. I tried to walk into town at least once a week and Jan and I also took a 3-hour walk from our place to the Vitra Design Museum in Germany. The final part of the walk was a sculpture trail called “24 stops” that ends at the Vitra Design Museum (or starts there depending which way round you do it). And we went for a walk along the beach with my mam and brother while we were in England (that was on 31st May so still last month). Once again, walking was my only exercise. The exercise mat I bought continues to watch me accusingly as I consistently ignore it.

Basel 24 stops
One of the 24 Stops sculptures

Seeing/hearing. A musician called Christian Zehnder who Jan performed with once. Christian Zehnder is a “vocal artist” who mainly does what’s known as “throat singing” or “overtone singing”. This time he was with another musician who was playing a hurdy gurdy. If I say it was unusual it sounds as if I didn’t like it, but I actually did. Unusual (or interesting) really is the best adjective to describe it though!

Umm, I can’t think of anything else of note that I did in May. Jan had choir stuff practically every weekend so I spent most of my time home alone either reading or cleaning/sorting. I managed to take about 25 books to the public bookshelf over the course of the month – and still have about another 30 to get rid of!

So, that’s all from me. What have you been doing recently? I’m linking up with Kristen, as always.

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Switzerland, three years on

Basel

Today is exactly three years since we packed the last of our stuff in a van (the rest having been taken a month earlier when Jan moved), said a final goodbye to our flat in Karlsruhe and I came to join Jan here in Basel. So, what’s been going on?

I still have the exact same four friends/acquaintances as last year, but our friends who moved here from Karlsruhe will probably be returning to Germany soon and I’ll be back down to two. I was hoping Jan would make friends for both of us, but despite him being involved in more choirs and singing projects than I can count I rarely get to actually meet any of the people he spends time with. I’ve been to every single one of his concerts and even joined the performers for dinner after some of them, but once it’s been established that I don’t (can’t!) sing, the rest of the conversation goes on without me. Basically I need to find some less antisocial hobbies… and the courage to go out and meet people by myself.

Other than that, we have visited even more places in Switzerland, including Geneva (finally), Spiez (in the dark!) and Castle Chillon, tried quite a few new restaurants in Basel, watched the fireworks for Switzerland’s national day and attended both Fasnacht in Basel and the Liestal fire parade again this year. We had fewer visitors in 2017, but have already had one in 2018 and will hopefully be seeing more later in the year.

basel-rhine

All in all, I am still very much enjoying living here and I hope we can continue living here for a very long time!

If you go down to the woods today…


Es war einmal
“Once upon a time…”

No, you won’t see any teddy bears… not in these particular woods anyway! Last year, at around this time, we wanted to do something on a sunny day that just happened to also be a public holiday in both Germany and Switzerland. I had read about a fairytale sculpture trail in some nearby woods, so we hopped on a tram to Reinach and went exploring.

The sculpture path originally opened in 2005 with 12 sculptures. More were added in 2008, 2009 and 2011, for a total of 46 fairytale characters by 22 artists today. Obviously the later ones are in better condition than the earlier ones. Some of the sculptures represent specific fairytales that I recognised, some are Swiss tales that I didn’t know and others seem to just be general fairytale themes, for example a palace or witch that didn’t seem to be from any particular story.

fairytale palace

The palace above is actually a marble run, which is pretty cool. We found a marble on the floor and managed to give it a go. Then, later on the trail, we found this:

We spent quite a while playing with it because… well, you just would, wouldn’t you? So fun!

Poor Puss in Boots appeared to have fallen victim to a madman with an axe, and Pinnochio had lost his famous nose completely. Does that mean he had been telling too many truths? Telling tales unnecessarily, perhaps?

We found Red Riding Hood, hiding from a rather young looking wolf.

I immediately recognised the following sculpture as a mirror and assumed it was SNow White, but its sign informed me it’s actually Momo’s mirror. Momo is a fantasy novel by Michael Ende, which I started reading ages ago and never finished so I’m not sure where the mirror comes in!

Momo's mirror

Of course, no fairytale trail would be complete without an actual fairy!

fairy sculpture

We didn’t bring any food with us, but there is a picnic area in the woods including a place where you can “grill” over an open fire. The sculpture trail is only in a small part of the woods, and there is also a nature trail throughout the whole thing – the signs are only in German but I’m sure you can still have a nice walk. The photos I’ve shown here are, obviously, just a few of the sculptures. There are plenty more to discover. I can recommend this to anyone visiting Basel who has children or – like me – just loves fairytales!

To get to the sculpture trail, take tram number 11 from Basel to the stop called “Reinach Süd”. The start of the trail is a short walk – about 10-15 minutes. Follow signs for “Schulhaus Fiechten”.

Bletchley Park, August 2017

Jan and I recently watched The Imitation Game, which has inspired me to finally write about the day we spent at Bletchley Park last year! As I’m sure you know, Bletchley Park was the home of the WWII code-breakers. Really, I only had the vaguest idea of what went on there – something to do with decoding the German military’s secret messages? Likewise, although I had heard of Alan Turing, I had no idea who he actually was. Yes, clearly I was very ignorant.

Bletchley Park1

Located in a the grounds of a mansion in Bletchley, a small town that’s part of Milton Keynes, Bletchley Park was the home of home of the Government Code & Cypher School – now known as the Government Communications Headquarters – during the Second World War. Nobody actually knew that at the time though – the work being done at Bletchley Park was highly secret and only started to be discussed publicly in 1974. The site has been a museum since the 90’s and was restored to what it is now in 2014.

The exhibition starts in the welcome centre, where they have a short film and some information about the history of Bletchley Park. Once outside, you can enter some of the restored huts, which have partly been set up as they would have been originally and partly contain some interactive exhibits. Then the main exhibition is in Block B. There, you can read about the history of the Enigma – the machine the Germans used to write their code. Early models had been used commercially, so everybody knew they existed, but of course the military version was more complex. Block B also has an exhibition about Alan Turing, which is where I learned all about him and his sad fate for the first time. He was, of course, part of Hut 8 at Bletchley Park and instrumental in the invention of the machines that were used to crack the Enigma’s codes (although not quite to the extent depicted in the film!), but to computer scientists he is mostly known as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.

In a way, the exhibition at Bletchley Park was the perfect combination and Jan’s and my interests – the codebreaking, Colossus machine used for breaking ciphers (considered to be an early computer), and Alan Turin stuff for computer scientist Jan, and the linguistic component for me: obviously it wasn’t enough to just decrypt the messages… somebody had to translate the German (and later Japanese) text into English as well!

The exhibition was really interesting – it’s fascinating to think of all that happening not even that long ago, certainly within our grandparents’ lifetimes. But there was so much information. We were there for about 5 hours and didn’t even manage to see everything properly. We left right before closing time and I was actually pleased they weren’t open any longer since, by then, I was all museumed out. It was definitely a good start to our holiday though and I can highly recommend it to anyone who is at all interested in history, cryptography, computer science or languages. Tickets are valid for a year, so those who live closer can go back time and again. I feel like smaller doses will make it easier to take everything in 😉

Recent doings #26

Wow… can you believe it’s the first Thursday of another month already? Once again, the year seems to be flying by. Today is actually Jan’s birthday, but he’s a weirdo who never wants to celebrate so I’ve got him some gifts and I’ll cook a slightly nicer meal than usual later. For now, though, I’m linking up with Kristen and Gretch to tell you what I got up to in February.

8fdf5-whats2bnew2bwith2byou

Eating. Porridge – sort of. I don’t have time in the morning to make proper porridge, so I defrost frozen berries by poring boiling water over them then mix them in a bowl with maple syrup, oats and boiling water. It would be nicer with milk, but since we don’t have a microwave boiling the kettle is the best I can do. Apart from that, I’ve been making broth a lot. Warm, comforting food for the cold weather we’ve been having – it was -7°C here on Monday!

Drinking. Matcha latte. It comes in a packet and you just add boiling water. Probably not very healthy but I like it!

Reading. I completed 16 books in February, which I will tell you about soon. Apart from that I’ve been plodding my way through Anna Karenina. It’s taking foreverrrr.

Watching. Pointless and Eggheads. We also watched the first episode of Young Sheldon. It’s cute.

Celebrating. Our anniversary (of getting together – clearly we’re not married). Sort of. Jan had choir practice on the actual day so I cooked a slightly nicer meal the next evening and we actually ate at the table for once. Then on the Saturday after we went to Aarau, walked around the town a bit and had lunch. I gave him a card, he gave me nothing. And that was the extent of our celebration.

Aarau

Travelling. To Dijon, for a day and a half. Turns out it’s really close to us. You can see part of our day in Dijon in my February photo an hour post.

Making. Birthday cards for Post Pals children. Like every month. I feel like this category is getting boring?

Cross stitching. Birthday cards for the sons of two friends. One had a birthday in February, the other’s is next week.

Attending. The fire parade in Liestal (see last year’s post for explanation) and the Morgestraich part of Fasnacht (Basel’s carnival – the link is to 2016’s).

Playing. I bought Jan a Discworld board game called The Witches for Christmas. We played it once in February and I actually won! (When he first got it we played several times and he won all but one of those times).

Buying. Books, obviously. Jan’s birthday presents. I can’t think of anything else.

That’s all for today. How was your February?

A Photo an Hour: 17 February 2018

Saturday was February’s photo an hour date. I didn’t take part on Twitter because I was in France for most of the day and didn’t want to buy a data package, but I did take photos ready for uploading to a blog post. I had actually forgotten about it until Jan said “don’t forget to take a photo every hour”… at 20 past 11! By then I had missed just over two hours worth of photos! So I decided to wait 10 minutes and make it a photos at half past day, rather than on the hour. As a result, getting up and breakfast are missing and my “day” starts shortly after checking out of the hotel.

11:30 a.m. Just left our hotel in Dijon. The red phonebox (with no phone in it) is a meeting point for tour buses.

12:30 p.m. Rainy Dijon. We had just bought tickets from the Tourist Information office to climb the tower you see in this photo.

1:30 p.m. After a tea/coffee break, we’re back out walking in the rain.

2:30 p.m. Our tower tickets were for 2 p.m. At this stage we were at the bottom of the tower waiting for the guide to open the door and let us out.

3:30 p.m. At the museum of Fine Arts, formerly the Ducal Palace.

4:30 p.m. Another museum! This time The Museum of Burgundian Life.

5:30 p.m. All museumed out, we headed to a nearby bar.

6:30 p.m. Still at the bar. There were lots of these drawings on the wall.

7:30 p.m. After collecting the suitcase from the hotel, we picked up some food for the train journey home.

8:30 p.m. On the train reading Anna Karenina.

9:30 p.m. Back in Basel and on the train home – Dijon is only just under 1.5 hours away!

10:30 p.m. So happy to be all snuggly in my PJs!

That was the last photo I took – I did read for a little afterwards, but I was snuggled up with the lights out long before it would have been time to take the next photo.

As always, Photo an Hour was hosted by Louisa and Jane.
What did you get up to on Saturday?

35 before 35: Progress report #8

I would have liked to do this yesterday, when it was exactly 6 months until my birthday and thus the end of the challenge. But I was in the office yesterday so by the time I was back in Switzerland and had eaten there was no way I was switching the computer back on! So today it is. My last progress report was seven months ago. Let’s see what I’ve achieved since then…

Number 6: Travel round Britain again

Technically we only spent time in England and Scotland and it wasn’t a round trip (we flew into Gatwick and left from Edinburgh), but we spent two weeks travelling within Great Britain so I’m counting it as completed in August 2017.

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

Last time I was up to 19… now I am on 20 (and the time before it was 18). This does not bode well! I read The Naming of the Shrew by John Wright. There’s a short review here.

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

Last time I was up to 24, now I’m on 27. So three read. The three were Toten Stille by Daniela Arnold (fairly meh), Mein Leben, mal eben by Nikola Huppertz (really enjoyed it), and Das Mohnblütenjahr by Corina Bomann (good, but not as good as the other book I’ve read by her). And now I have another three to go – should be doable.

Number 18: Bake ten different kinds of biscuits

It’s been a while since I’ve baked biscuits. Last time I didn’t even mention this category! The time before I had been on 7, and now it’s 8. I recently baked coffee shortbread. (I actually baked chocolate brownie biscuits at Christmas, but I’ve done them before so they don’t count).

coffee shortbread2

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

Last time I was up to 56 and now I’ve made it to 63! That leaves another 69 to read in 6 months. Hmm. I’m not going to mention you all the ones I’ve read since last July in this post, but you can find the entire list here. I will say I read the last one, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, yesterday while waiting for my train home and it’s possibly the weirdest book I’ve ever read!

And that’s everything this time. Only one challenge actually completed, but a bit of progress made on some others.

19 items remain incomplete. Some I can finish fairly easily, others will not be happening. I may try to check in one more time before August, but I’m not promising anything. This may well end up being my final progress report. And now to try and complete as many things as I can before August… Wish me luck!