Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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Laufen, Basel-Landschaft

Last month we decided to go and watch a choir perform at a church in Laufen, which just happens to be the nearest town to where Jan works. I’d never actually been there before, so I jumped at the chance to see where he walks most mornings (sometimes he gets off the train in a neighbouring town since his work is between the two). Laufen is small (population just over 5,500) but it has a very pretty old town, and luckily we arrived for the concert before it got dark. Here are some photos:

The concert itself was in the Katharinenkirche (St Catherine’s Church). No matter what setting I put my camera on, I couldn’t managed to get a decent photo inside. Behold:

Grr, I should be able to use my camera by now!

There isn’t really a great deal to do in Laufen itself so you couldn’t really spend a whole day there, but various hiking routes pass by, start or end there – for example, you could start in Flüh and finish in Laufen, ending your afternoon of hiking with a look around Laufen’s old town followed by a meal.

I’m linking this post up with Monday Escapes (and yes, I am aware that today is Tuesday!)

Packing my Suitcase


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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):

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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.

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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


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My 2015

We had visitors over New Year who left on 2nd January, but now things are sloooowly starting to get back to normal (for a few days at least!) and I’ve found time to catch up on a little bit of my blog reading. I also have a number of posts still to write before I can start looking forward to what’s to come in 2016. For now, though, here’s my traditional recap of the year that’s just been…

January

We already knew that we were moving to Switzerland (although hardly anybody else did), so after our original plan to spend New Year in Iceland fell through due to the flights being so expensive, we decided to start the year in our new country. Midnight found us clinking mini sparking wine bottles on the banks of the Zürisee (Lake Zurich) before the offficial fireworks were set off at quarter past the hour.

Zürich fireworks show

I then returned to work, where I informed my boss that I would be moving to Switzerland. Thankfully, I ended up not having to quit because I was offered a telecommuting contract instead. Phew! I was then able to tell my colleagues, and finally announce the news on my blog. The rest of January was fairly uneventful, although we did begin the process of preparing for the move – responding to a few ads for flats in Basel and writing a cancellation letter for my Bahncard 100.

February

This month was mainly taking up with flat hunting – reading ads, emailing people, phoning people and travelling down to Basel to look at flats. It was a very busy and frustrating time! We did manage to have a look round Basel zoo on one of those trips though.

Basel zoo

March

In March, we finally actually found a flat! It was the 24th one we had looked at (out of 25) and was also the one with the most expensive rent, but it was also our favourite and to be honest by that time we’d given up being concerned about money. We just wanted somewhere to live! We signed the contract on Friday the 13th… not so unlucky for some! We then began the process of packing our entire lives into boxes ready for the removal men to pick up.

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At the end of the month, we had a leaving party, for which I made Toblerone cheesecake (yay, something crossed off my 35 before 35 list!), the removal men took away all the boxes and most of our furniture – leaving me to spend a month in a flat that contained a bed, a coffee table and two folding chairs – and Jan moved to Basel ready to start work.

April

Jan started his new job on 1 April and also got Internet set up in the new place so I could actually start working from home once I moved. In the meantime, I sorted out the remaining things that still needed doing back in Karlsruhe, including cancelling the Internet there and cleaning all the things! For Easter, I took a trip down to Basel to help Jan with some of the unpacking and furniture arranging. We also took a walk in the woods near our new home, where we spotted what I think was a mouse.

Mouse?

On the 26 April, I finally moved to Switzerland, but before that we did a beer tour of Karlsruhe with some friends. A fitting way to say goodbye to the place I had lived in for longer than any other!

May

This month saw me exploring my new home, in between unpacking more boxes and getting used to working from home every day! I also started the process of applying for my Swiss residency permit (including multiple trips to the Gemeindeverwaltung!) and joined in with Foodie Penpals for the first time.

June

June saw us exploring Basel some more, as well as taking part in a traditional walk around the boundary of our own small town. We also took a trip to Fribourg (also called Freiburg, but not the one in Germany) and I actually received my residence permit (Aufenthaltsbewilligung). Yay! I then wrote a post on how to move to Switzerland with a partner you’re not married to (just thought I’d throw that in there in case it’s useful to anyone). June always seems to be the month with all the long weekends, and 2015 was no exception, so we took advantage of that fact and went to Luzern and Mount Pilatus for the day. The top was mostly in the clouds, but it was still pretty great (but cold!).

Pilatus

View from Mount Pilatus

We also hiked from Sissach to Liestal on one weekend and on another visited a street food festival in Olten. Phew! A busy month.

July

In July, we took a walk to Mariastein Abbey, visited the beautiful church there and then walked to Landskron Castle. We saw bees there, which made me very happy!

Bee

Bzzz!

Jan’s mum and her partner came to see us for a day since they were on holiday close by. It turned out to be the hottest day of the year and it was waaay to warm to walk around much, but we showed them a bit of Basel. At the end of the month, I flew to England alone to attend my cousin’s wedding. It was a very brief visit, but it was lovely to see so many family members in one place!

August

Long term readers may remember that August is my birthday month. It turns out it’s also Switzerland’s – they celebrate their national holiday (Bundesfeiertag) on 1st August. So this month started with fireworks and Swiss flags.

Bundesfeier

Moo!

I spent my own birthday working, but we did go out for delicious Thai food in the evening. Later in the month, we took a trip to a butterfly house (where we saw real live toucans!) and some friends came down from Karlsruhe to belatedly celebrate my birthday with me. The day they were here, all of Basel’s towers had an open day so we went up the one that’s closest to where we live, Spalentor.

September

A friend came all the way from Luxembourg at the beginning of the month to watch the Lion King musical with us, and we also visited the Tinguely Museum with her. We finally managed to buy a proper ceiling light for my “office” – useful as the days were starting to get shorter! And I started my Christmas stitching to make sure it would get done in time. We also visited Karlsruhe to see Jan’s former choir perform at an annual festival.

Tinguely museum

October

Finally, a holiday! My first since I took a week off to move in April. We flew to England on 1st October so we could go out for a meal with my brother on the 2nd for his 25th birthday! We also attended three World Cup rugby matches, saw the “Wave” sculpture in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, visited Manchester and Alnwick (which I haven’t actually posted about yet!) and met up with many friends and family – all over the course of a mere 10 days! Having returned to Switzerland, we briefly relaxed before taking a trip to Germany on Halloween for the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival.

The Wave

November

A lot of cross stitching happened this month! Apart from that, we went to Engelberg-Titlis for a day (blog post to follow!), took a trip to Karlsruhe for my friend’s flat warming party and, at the end of the month, went to Colmar for the day to visit the Christmas markets.

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December

I barely managed to blog in December thanks to all the Christmas card stitching I was doing! We also briefly went to Karlsruhe to watch Jan’s former choir perform, returning immediately after the concert because Jan was also singing with a choir that evening! The next day, two of my colleague’s came down to Basel to visit the Christmas market and the following weekend we went to Bern where we visited the Christmas markets and looked around the town (blog post to follow). This means I’ve now completed the “visit 5 Christmas markets” item from my 35 before 35 challenge!

Bern town hall

Christmas was spent with Jan’s dad and his partner, before we headed up to his mum’s for a few days on the 26th. While we were there, we spent an afternoon in Göttingen and for the first time I actually managed to take photos there! (That’s another post that will follow). We returned to Switzerland on the evening of the 28th, leaving us two days to get everything sorted ready for our friends arriving on the 31st. We all ate raclette together (when in Switzerland…) before heading into town to watch the fireworks over the Rhine… and thus, for the first time since we’ve been together, Jan and I actually finished the year in the same country that we started it in!

Basel New Year's fireworks

Overall, 2015 was a year of big changes and we spent most of it getting used to our new home and, in my case, a new way of working. We also managed to see quite a bit of our new country, which was nice. Tomorrow, we leave for England for a few days, where we will be helping my sister celebrate her 30th birthday, and after that I’m looking forward to relaxing for a bit and getting back into a routine before we start thinking about what 2016 might bring!

 


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The Art of the Brick in Zurich

I still have some things from last year to write about, but I’m skipping ahead a bit since this exhibition is still on and some people reading this might be interested in it.

I had seen photos from this Lego exhibition on various blogs and really wanted to go to it, but so far it had never been anywhere near me, so when I discovered that it was coming to Zurich I was determined to go. It’s on until 10th January, but Jan is back at work today and on Wednesday we fly to England, so if we were going to go, it had to be yesterday. We took advantage of a RailAway offer, which gave us 10% off the train ticket and entrance fee and also included a day ticket for the Zurich tram network, and caught a train at just after 1 p.m.

The exhibition contained more than I expected considering it took up such a small space. The sculptures were amazing and I can recommend a visit if the exhibition is anywhere near you. The one thing both of us found slightly annoying was that the audio guide and most of the explanatory signs focused on the artist and how amazing it is that he was the first person ever to make art from Lego (was he really? Not sure!). Jan described it as being a little egoistic. Anyway, here are some photos of some of my favourite sculptures:

Of course, the iconic sculpture that’s used on all the posters, entitled “Yellow”, was also on display:

Lego sculpture

One section contained replicas of famous sculptures and paintings:

Finally, I loved this stained glass window, made from transparent coloured Lego bricks. It was hung in front of a light and the blue photo below shows the reflection it made on the floor.

Being in Zurich, we obviously couldn’t go straight home after the exhibition but just had to stop by the Sprüngli cafe for some hot chocolate and cake. Jan rolled his eyes at me for taking the photo below, but I don’t care ;-)

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The Art of the Brick is being shown at Puls 5 in Zurich until 10 January 2016. Adult tickets cost CHF 24, or if you live elsewhere in Switzerland you can get a RailAway combi offer with 10% off the train fare and entrance fee plus a day ticket for the Zurich tram network. The offer is only available by phone or at the train station – it can’t be purchased online.

I’m linking this up with the first 2016 edition of Monday Escapes.

Travel Monkey


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A Photo an Hour: 21 November 2015

This post isn’t so much “A Photo an Hour” as “a photo whenever I remembered I was actually supposed to be taking photos”. We were invited to a party back in Karlsruhe on Saturday, and between missing trains, buying tram tickets in the rain and helping refugees find their stop, taking photos kind of fell by the wayside occasionally. Oops!

9.30 a.m. Oh dear, I forgot to take a photo when I got up! Better take one now! Packing the overnight bag.

11 a.m. After just missing the tram we needed, arriving at the station one minute after our train left and then having to buy new tickets because we had ones that we valid only for that connection, I finally got round to taking a photo again! Waiting for the train to arrive…

12 noon. Reading on the train.

1.30 p.m. At one, we were helping refugees figure out where they were going, so I decided to switch back to photos on the half hour. At 1.30 we were eating lunch at Café Pan.

2. 30 p.m. Still at the café. These are some decorations.

3.30 p.m. A spot of shopping while we’re in nice, cheap Germany!

4.30 p.m. A quick stop for some tea and cake at Sukie’s. We shared a slice of pumpkin cake and it was delicious!

5.30 p.m. On the tram to the party, carrying a gift in a cute froggy bag.

6.30 p.m. One of the other guests brought yummy éclairs from France!

Midnight-ish. Coat and shoes back on, ready to leave!

Well, I may not have taken a photo every hour, but at least I managed an even number this month ;-)

Thanks as always to Jane and Louisa for hosting!

 

 


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Paris on my mind

Inspired by this post the lovely Katyboo, today I wanted to write something positive about Paris to counteract the awful images we’ve been seeing all weekend. A sort of projecting of light into the darkness, if you will. Luckily, it turns out that, although I blogged about where we ate, the Welcome to Night Vale live show we saw and an amazing bar, I never actually got round to sharing the other photos from our stay.

Much like this autumn has been, the end of October/beginning of November was unseasonably warm in 2014, and we were able to enjoy lunch outside and a stroll around some of the sights of Paris. We didn’t have much time, but that didn’t matter. It was a lovely two days spent with my boyfriend and a good friend. Paris will never be my favourite place (sorry, but no big city will ever take that honour – I’m more of a small, quaint places kind of girl), but I have good memories from the times I’ve been there. And that’s something no terrorist will ever be able to take away from me.

Here are a few photos from last year’s Paris trip:

My thoughts are with the people of Paris, and also of all those other countries that are experiencing acts of terrorism and war every single day, but rarely receive as much news coverage as Friday’s attacks did.

I’m linking up with Monday Escapes again this week. I think we could all use an escape from sadness and hate right now.

Packing my Suitcase


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Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival 2015

I’m aware I haven’t actually finished telling you about our holiday in England yet, but today I want to skip to what we did this weekend because the festival isn’t over yet and there might be people in the area who feel like going.

Each year, the castle in Ludwigsburg hosts a huge pumpkin festival in its gardens. A few bloggers went last year and it looked amazing, but sadly I wasn’t able to go then, so when Meredith wrote a blog post about this year’s event I was determined to make it there this time. From Karlsruhe, it would have been fairly easy to get to. This year we were further away, meaning the journey took us around 3 hours (changing trains twice), but we decided that was just about doable. Since we had to change trains in Karlsruhe, I asked whether any of my friends there would like to join us and two of them did.

Tiny pumpkinsEach year, there is a theme for the sculptures at the festival to fit into and this year’s was Fliegen, which mines flight. However, there were some interesting interpretations of the word, for instance one sculpture was of a grand piano, which is der Flügel in German… and Flügel is also the German word for wing (as in what birds have, not the wing of a house), giving it a (slightly contrived) connection to flight. Here are some of my favourite photos that I took of the sculptures. The smaller carved pumpkins aren’t part of the “main” exhibition and therefore don’t have to follow the flight theme (hence cows and snakes).

I managed to take my camera along without it’s memory card because I’m a moron ;-) Luckily I can actually take some photos with the camera’s own memory, but it meant I had to ration myself. Luckily my friend K took lots of photos, which she very kindly shared with me, so the next gallery is all her work.

As well as the sculptures, there were various culinary offerings involving pumpkin. We had roast pumpkin seeds – I bought ones with chilli and sugar while K chose sugar and cinnamon, pumpkin popcorn (boring – it was just ordinary sweet popcorn with crushed pumpkin seeds sprinkled on, and taste of just… popcorn), pumpkin burgers (amazing! Would eat again!), pumpkin chips/fries (also amazing! I plan to try and make my own), pumpkin Schorle (juice mixed with fizzy water) and pumpkin prosecco (“Kürbissecco”), and also sampled some of the items that were available to buy for taking home – including pumpkin seed pesto, pumpkin ketchup and pumpkin chutney. All were delicious!

As well as the sculptures, the entire place is decorated with pumpkins and the winners of the German and European giant pumpkin contests were also in display. Here are a few general impressions of the pumpkins, the park and the gorgeous autumn colours. First gallery contains my photos:

And the following photos are by K:

Sorry about the photo overload – I couldn’t narrow it down any further!

If anyone is in the Stuttgart/Ludwigsburg/Heidelberg area and wants to see the pumpkins for themselves, the festival is on until Saturday 8th November. The exhibition area is not lit, so I recommend going during the day/before dark. Entrance to the garden is €8.50 – and make sure you do ask for a ticket to just the garden, unless you actually want to go into the castle! Apart from the pumpkins, the garden itself has a lot to offer, including a huge walk in aviary (which we sadly didn’t have time to go into this time, but Jan and I have been before and it’s amazing!) and a fairytale forest.

Phew! That was a long post, so congratulations if you’ve made it to the end!
I’m linking this up for Monday Escapes with Packing my Suitcase and My Travel Monkey. Click the button for more information.

Packing my Suitcase
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