Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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Basel zoo and a “hedgehog” for lunch

On Saturday, we were up bright and early to drive to Basel again. Our first of three flat viewings was at 11 am, meaning the latest possible time we could leave Karlsruhe was 9! And that is why we spent Valentine’s Day driving and looking at flats. Good job neither of us actually cares about the day of lurrrve ;-) We did, however, manage to stop for lunch in between the first two flat viewings. We went to a little baker’s/cafe where we each drank a home-made hot chocolate with chilli and I couldn’t resist eating an “Igeli”. Der Igel is German for hedgehog, but the Swiss like to diminutise (is that a word?) everything, and so it becomes Igeli. The English equivalent I suppose would be hedgehogling – in the sense of duckling or gosling (or maybe it would be hedgehoglet? Piglet… hoglet… hedgehoglet? You get the idea, anyway). Before I ate him, I had to snap a picture. Just look how cute he is!

Igeli

Later, we had a slightly longer gap between viewings and the sun had come out (after pouring rain in the morning), so we decided to check out the zoo. Sadly, there are no red pandas there, but they do have meerkats, orangutans and some interesting birds. My camera battery was low, so I didn’t take many pictures, but here are a few:

As for the flats: the first one was most suitable, the second was nice but not in the best area and the third was expensive and also the available date has been moved back, but was very large and central. We took forms for all three of them anyway. And now, we go back to waiting… and in the meantime continue to try to arrange viewing appointments. We’ve managed to get 2 more for Friday afternoon, so I’ll be working overtime from now until Thursday and taking Friday afternoon off work. *Sigh* Flat hunting is exhausting!

 


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I am a bad blogger…

The Lebanese flag

The Lebanese flag

As I mentioned on Friday, we went to look at a flat in Basel on Saturday. The appointment was late afternoon, so we decided to stay the night in Lörrach (on the German side of the border, where hotels are cheaper) and take some time on Sunday to drive around all the areas of Basel where we have inquired about flats. On Saturday night, we went out to eat at a Lebanese restaurant in Lörrach where I failed to take a single photo. Bad blogger! I can assure you that Lebanese food is very tasty, though. For me, it seemed like a mixture of Greek and Turkish cuisine, which is interesting seeing as it’s nowhere near either of those! The menu contained lots of aubergine, chickpeas and lamb dishes. Making a decision was difficult, so we chose a four-course set meal to get a bit of everything. There was a mixed starter plate followed by salad then a main course of meat, meat and more meat served with a spicy tomato cous cous. Dessert was some kind of coconut/cream cake plus a plate of different fruits. It was all delicious and I can highly recommend Cedar’s Lebanese Restaurant if you ever find yourself in Lörrach. You might want to reserve though – it was busy! We were initially sent away for an hour and then asked whether we minded sharing a table with another couple.

In other news, the flat we looked at was nice but much smaller than our current one! It’s in a nice area and has a big balcony out the back, though. We’re currently in the process of filling out forms for the (potential) landlady and gathering evidence that, should we move in, we can actually pay the rent! It seems there are many hoops to jump through before you can actually rent a flat in Switzerland… Meanwhile, we have 2 more appointments arranged for next weekend and are still frantically checking rental websites for new ads every day. Fingers crossed something works out soon!


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More from Zurich

I tried to write this post a few days ago but WordPress lost it and I couldn’t be bothered to type it all out again…

1 January was our final day in Zurich. We started 2015 by sleeping til 1.30 p.m., then eventually managed to drag ourselves out of the hotel and to the main train station, where we found a cafe for breakfast. I had a hazelnut-filled croissant (which are called Gipfeli in Swiss German!) and a far-too-sweet cinnamon latte. Then it was time for some more walking. We took a different parallel street to Bahnhofstrasse, one we’d never been down before, and eventually came to Zurich’s “other” river – the Sihl. Apparently it flows below the Hauptbahnhof (main station) and parts of the station are actually below the river! The things you learn from Wikipedia… Once we got away from the town centre, the path was slippy but it looked pretty with the river alongside and the tree branches hanging over it.

After we’d walked for a while, Jan consulted the map on his phone then decided we needed to turn left if we were eventually going to end up back in town. He then proceeded to make me go up this set of steps:

 

Narnia eat your heart out!

I didn’t so much walk up them as haul myself up, clinging to the handrail for dear life the whole time! What looks like pretty snow had been trodden on so often that it was actually more like ice. Very, very slippy ice! At the top, we found a park area set on a hillside. All the local kids were out playing with their bobsleighs. I wish we could have borrowed one… it would have been slightly easy than walking/slipping down the frozen path!

After leaving that park and walking down some random streets, we entered another park where we found more people sledding and another snowman. From there, we also had a view of the lake.

Finally, after walking for what seemed like days, we reached the lake. By this time it was dark and we were cold and hungry, but we still stopped to take a few photos of the lake. By which I mean Jan stole my camera and took pictures after witnessing me failing to get any good ones. Hmph!

After all the walking we’d done, Jan decided he wanted a hearty meal of the type served by a brew-house. The first Bierhalle we tried was closed (for future reference, lots of places in Zurich seem to close on New Year’s Day), so we headed to a place called Restaurant Johanniter. Jan chose a dark beer that was delicious! Unfortunately it was on special and the card only said “Schwarzbier” so we don’t know what it was to look out for in future. I went for the Appenzeller Quöllfrisch, which was also tasty. To eat I had vension “geschnetzeltes” – geschnetzeltes is a word for strips of meat cut in a certain way. Jan had the traditional Zürcher Geschnetzeltes, which I’m not keen on because it comes in a sauce with mushrooms. I then treated myself to some apple strudel for dessert (no picture of that because I was too busy stuffing my face ;-) )

Once we’d eaten, we headed back to the hotel to pack and relax for a while. And that was the end of our trip to Zurich. A lovely city, if fairly small. I’m sure we’ll be back… Basel to Zurich is only a little over an hour by train, which makes it pretty perfect for a day trip with visitors.


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2014 resolution recap

We’re already a week into 2015 and I’m only just getting round to recapping my resolutions from last year! Oh well, the new year doesn’t properly start until I’m back at work anyway, and while I was technically back on Monday, yesterday was another holiday in Germany so I’m only just starting to get back into a routine now. That’s my excuse anyway ;-) So how did I do on last year’s resolutions? Well, I actually only made three, and I managed to stick to them all. Here’s a recap:

  1. Travel more. I wanted to at least make an effort to go on day trips, and I managed that plus much, much more, spending time in 8 different countries over the course of 2014! Taiwan and Vienna were just two of the bigger trips I took, with a few day trips to France (Colmar), Switzerland (Basel) and some new-to-me German towns (Bad Bergzabern) thrown into the mix as well.
  2. Keep not biting my nails. Most of my nails are still not long because they insist on splitting, getting caught on things and just generally being annoying. But I can honestly say I haven’t bitten any of them off. Success!
  3. Enjoy the time I have with my boyfriend and stop worrying so much about the future. It’s difficult for me not to worry about the future… I need to know that what I have right now isn’t all there is! But I think I’ve done a reasonably good job of living in the moment and not nagging about what’s next. And no sooner did I manage to starting living in the moment than something came up that meant Jan had to make a decision about our future together anyway. Oh universe, you’re such a tease!

So that’s three resolutions made and three kept. I do have a number of goals for this year, but I’m still busy finalising and thinking about them, so you’re just going to have to wait for that post – by which time I’m sure you’ll all be completely sick of resolution posts anyway so you’ll most likely never even read mine ;-). Oh well, c’est la vie as the French would say.

 


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Seeing in 2015 in Zurich

New Year’s Eve dawned bright and sunny…  which was a bit of a waste really seeing as we’d decided to spend the day at the Landesmuseum (Swiss national museum). I did take a couple of photos of the building before we went in though, luckily. They ended up being my only blue-sky photos of Zurich!

In the museum, we learned a bit about Swiss history, including their policy of being neutral during the world wars and also the fact that the final canton only gave women the right to vote in 1990! (That would be you, Appenzell Innerrhoden. Tut, tut, tut!) There was also an exhibition of Swiss furniture and a whole section on archaeology. We decided to skip the special exhibition on Christmas cribs (nativity scenes) as we were all museumed out by that time and also it was closing soon. It was nearly 5 o’clock by that time and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast so we headed into the train station to grab some soup and a sandwich from one of the cafes there. We did 90% of our eating at the train station because it was the only place that had even vaguely affordable food (bakeries have fairly normal prices… restaurant food is almost double what we would expect to pay in Germany!). We then went for a bit of a walk around, ending up by the university which is on a hill and provides a nice view over Zurich.

 

Once we were back in town, we went for a quick beer then decided to head back to the hotel for a bit and chill before joining the festivities at the lakeside. We watched Pirates of the Caribbean, which Jan had somehow never seen before!

On leaving the hotel, we stopped off at Coop to buy some small bottles of Prosecco before taking the train back into town then heading down to the lake via the quieter back streets. I prefer not to have fireworks thrown at me, thank you very much! On the banks of the river itself fireworks were forbidden, which made me very happy! There were hundreds of food/drink stands lined up all along the lake, so before going to join the crowd who were waiting for the fireworks we grabbed a Glühwein and this:

"Alpler Rösti"

“Alpler Rösti”

That is Rösti – a Swiss speciality consisting of grated potatoes – with pieces of smoked bacon that was then covered with a generous helping of raclette cheese. Not particularly healthy but so, so good!! We then joined everyone else down by the lakeside. As twelve approached, there was a countdown and then the church bells all over the city chimed at midnight… that was the idea anyway! We couldn’t actually hear any chiming because one stall somewhere hadn’t turned off its incredibly loud music! Everybody chinked glasses (or bottles in our case… we don’t do classy), hugged, kissed and wished each other a happy New Year. Then, at 19 minutes past 12, all the lights in the city were switched off and the fireworks finally started. We got an entire 20 minutes of fireworks, set off from three boats on the lake. It was amazing! Here’s just a small selection of the photos I took:

Some of the fireworks formed shapes, like hearts and smiley faces, but it was difficult to capture that on camera. You can just about make out a face (upside-down!) on one of the photos above, though.

After the fireworks, the lakeside cleared fairly quickly. I assume people wanted to get into the warm! Although it wasn’t as cold as on the previous day, there was still snow on the ground. I finished my Prosecco (which Jan had been holding for while I took photos), then we walked around for a bit looking for some interesting food to snack on. We finally chose a stall selling Indian food, where we bought some delicious samosas and pakora. It was after 1 by this time and I didn’t really feel like going into a crowded bar, so instead we headed back to the hotel and switched on the TV. Not a bad start to the New Year!


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Zurich: the beginning

After several changes of plan, Jan and I eventually decided to spend New Year in Zurich. We booked a room at an IBIS hotel and travelled there on 29th December. After checking in and dumping our luggage, we went for a cheeky Burger King before heading into town for a first look at the sights. It was dark by that time and snow was falling… prefect for testing how good my new camera is in not the best conditions ;-)

While we were walking around, we spotted a pub that had a quiz on that night, so after stopping for a beer elsewhere (Feldschlösschen Amber is very tasty) we headed on over the the pub quiz. We didn’t do badly for only having 2 people, managing to come in the top 5.

The next day we went for a wander round Zurich, following a route that Jan had downloaded onto his phone. We started at the main train station, where a statue outside reminded us of why cities normally turn off their fountains in winter…

Then it was off down Bahnhofstrasse, along the River Limmat and up the hill until we reached Lindenhof, from where we had a view over the city.

 

Once we’d taken a few photos at Lindenhof and spent some time trying to catch perfect snowflakes, we headed back down the hill on the other side, passing St Peter’s Church and walking through some pretty streets before taking a break at the Sprüngli cafe for delicious but expensive hot chocolate.

Once we’d finished our hot chocolate, we headed back out into the snow. Our next stop was the Fraumünster church (literally “Lady’s Minster”). No photos were allowed inside, but here are some from outside:

After taking a look at the inside of the church with its famous stained-glass windows (by Marc Chagall), we walked down to Lake Zurich, which is where the fireworks would be the following night. A group of Asians were down there feeding bread to the gulls, which was quite a sight. So. Many. Gulls! There were also swans and ducks, including one very pretty green duck that I spent ages trying to get a photo of.

Once I finally managed to drag Jan away from the lake, we walked back along the river towards the Niederdorf, or old town, area and headed to the Grossmünster (“Great Minster” – note that in normal German the church name would be spelled Großmünster, but there are no ess-zetts in Swiss German!). Again, no photos were allowed inside, but we climbed the tower and I was able to take some of Zurich from above.

Once we’d climbed back down from the tower, out tour was almost done. All that remained was a quick walk through the old town and a glimpse at the Rathaus (city hall) before our tour took us back to Bahnhofstrasse, where the Christmas lights had now been switched on. Then we decided to build a snowman on a wall next to the city police station. We named him Travis.

Snowman built and duly photographed, it was finally time for a break! We went back to the Niederdorf and found a small bar/restaurant where we treated ourselves to a beer and some cheese fondue… which I forgot to take a photo of because I’m a bad blogger!

And that’s (more than) enough for one blog post, so I’ll save New Year’s Eve for the next one.


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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.

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