My 2016

I’m sure you’re all sick of recap posts, what with my monthly recent doings/participation in the what’s new with you? link up, but I always review my year and I’m not about to break tradition now 😉 If you really don’t care what I did this year, you might want to stop reading at this point…

January

We invited some friends from Karlsruhe down to spend New Year with us, so after a dinner of raclette (So. Much. Raclette) we headed down to the banks of the Rhine and, for the first time ever, saw in the New Year in the actual town that we were living in! I’m not sure whether people were scared of large gatherings after Paris or everybody always leaves Basel for the New Year, but either way there was plenty of space and we had an amazing view of the fireworks.

Our friends stayed until the 2nd, so New Year’s day saw us taking a walk around the local area with them and the 2nd became a museum day since it was chucking it down! We went to the PapiermĂŒhle (Paper Mill). The next day, Jan and I headed to Zurich for a Lego exhibition called The Art of the Brick – such a cultural weekend 😉

The reason we hadn’t spent Christmas in Germany (although it would technically have been my family’s “turn”) was because we planned to go over for my sister’s 30th birthday, on the 7th. I needed to present her with her birthday gift myself because it was awesome! After a few days there, we headed back to Switzerland and I finally went back to work on 12th January. This was also the month that we spontaneously decided to take a trip to New Zealand.. as you do.

At the end of the month, we saw Dylan Moran perform in Basel. He was very funny.

February

February is always such a dreary month, don’t you think? Spring isn’t in the air yet, but it’s been winter for so long that you start to feel it should be! Luckily the weather did brighten up at least once, an occasion we took advantage of for a trip to Arlesheim. We had a look in the cathedral and found two castles.

The people of Basel know how to deal with the dreariness of February! This month also saw us attending our first Fasnacht (Carnival), starting with the Morgestraich at 4 am! Our little town also had its own mini Fasnacht where I managed to collect a lot of sweets and, randomly, a sausage. Right at the end of the month we had some visitors, so we had a fun weekend of showing them around Basel.

February is also the month Jan and I got together, and in 2016 we celebrated 12 years as a couple!

March

Our visitors moved on to Lausanne and, since we hadn’t been there yet, we decided to join them for a day. It was raining when we arrived so we went to the Olympic Museum, then the sun came out and we had a look round the old town. Finally, the day ended with snow! Three seasons in  day… it was almost like being back in Britain!

We then didn’t do much until mid-month when it was off to New Zealand, baby! We had the most amazing time there, meeting up with my cousin in Devonport, exploring the south island (and finding Paradise), visiting my uncle in Rotorua where I met his little daughter for the first time and he took us to Hobbiton… every single minute was just magical! The best spontaneous decision ever.

April

After two weeks in New Zealand, April was a bit of a let down. We did at least manage to buy a wardrobe though (well, order one… we had to wait another 2 months for delivery!) and on the 26th it was exactly one year since I had moved to Switzerland. I only managed to take one trip all month… to a neighbouring town – Allschwil.

May

This was another slow month, although we did manage to go hiking on the 5th. The only other things I can remember doing in May are briefly visiting a street food festival and seeing a concert by the Philadelphia Philharmonic orchestra. I think I also read a lot?

June

There was some football thingy on in June, I believe? 😉 We didn’t actually watch much of the Euros this time and the few matches I did see were fairly boring, but it was impossible to avoid it entirely. I think we saw two Switzerland matches? We also finally received our wardrobe in June, although it wasn’t put up until July because one part was missing!

In terms of travel, at the beginning of the month, we had a weekend away in GraubĂŒnden, so that’s another canton we can cross off the list. We arrived before the hiking paths were officially open for the season but decided to brave the snowy trails anyways. The views were stunning but we didn’t make it to the source of the Rhine.

At the end of the month my mum and brother visited and I had a great time showing them around Basel. We also visited Zurich and the Rhine Falls – you can’t beat a good waterfall – and on another day took a walk from Mariastein Abbey to the ruins of Landskron Castle.

The UK’s EU referendum also happened in June, but we won’t talk about that…

July

Finally the missing piece of our wardrobe was delivered and the wardrobe was put together! As sad as it sounds, actually being able to put all my clothes away properly was one of the highlights of my year (apart from New Zealand, obviously. Nothing tops that). Jan’s mum and her partner came to visit near the end of the month and we climbed the tower in Basel cathedral, and on the very last day of the month we went for a hike around DelĂ©mont before watching the fireworks for Switzerland’s national day (actually on 1st August, but Basel is greedy and has fireworks twice).

We also went to see Travis perform  in Arlesheim during July – a blast from the past!

August

1st August is a holiday in Switzerland, but not in Germany so while Jan slept I had to work. *Sigh* Next year I’m seriously considering taking the day off!

The first event of the month was a wedding in Luxembourg. My former colleague, who is German, married a Hungarian so it was all very international! It was a beautiful day and a fantastic wedding.

My birthday fell on a Saturday this year, which was nice. No need to take time off! K came down for the weekend and we had a fabulous day in Bad SĂ€ckingen in Germany.

We continued the celebrations with cocktails that evening and a barbecue by the river the following day. Not too shabby!

I attended a jazz festival at the end of the month, but it wasn’t much fun by myself.

Apart from that, Jan and I swam in the Rhine a couple of times… because that’s what you do in Basel.

September

In September Amanda from Rhyme and Ribbons hosted a Breat British Bake Off Bakealong and I took part a few times. I even experimented with making a toad in the hole with meatballs. This was also the month that my brother turned 10, my godson turned 4 and my sister got engaged! Lots of celebrations going on.

Jan’s dad visited us in September, which we didn’t think was ever actually going to happen! Every time we brought it up he had other plans, then he suddenly wrote to say “I’ll be there next weekend.” Umm, okay. Luckily we didn’t have plans 😉 After spending a day showing him round Basel, we took him to Rheinfelden and Augusta Raurica. (He and Jan also to Rigi but we won’t discuss that since I had to work that day!)

I took the last week of September off work to use up some holiday and spent most of my time reading and cleaning. I did manage a walk in the woods and a visit to a castle ruin in between though. (Hmm, come to think of it I haven’t blogged about that castle yet…)

October

We started October with a trip to a pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg. I loved the food but thought last year’s sculptures were better.

I also started the month by falling over and hurting my knees, resulting in me spending the rest of the month hobbling around and having to visit doctors. Grr, so silly! Other October events included my other brother’s birthday (I made him a card), a training course on banking for work, and a visit from two friends who wanted to see Jan perform with one of his choirs. And, as you may have deduced from the previous sentence, October involved Jan performing with choirs… and accordingly Jan rehearsing with choirs so I didn’t see all that much of him.

November

Another month, another visitor 😉 No, not really, but it felt a bit like that this year. A friend from Karslruhe came for a weekend and we visited an art exhibition on Kandinsky, Marx and der blaue Reiter. (But of course you know that because I only just wrote about it).

Jan’s mum turned 60 in November and we took a trip up north(ish) for her birthday brunch then came back down and spent one weekend doing not very much (well, I spent it working on Christmas cards) before hosting more visitors the following weekend: my mum, brother and two of my mum’s friends. They got incredibly lucky with the weather and we had a really nice time looking around Basel and, of course, checking out the Christmas markets. Jan and I also went to see West Side Story while they were here (yes, I abandoned my guests but in my defence the tickets were a birthday present and I’d forgotten it was that weekend).

December

After so many busy weekends, the first weekend in December was a quiet one. I mainly cross stitched more Christmas cards and got the guest room ready because… the weekend after that we had more visitors. My sister and her fiancĂ© this time. More showing people round Basel, more Christmas market. Lots of fun.

Also, something I haven’t mentioned on the blog yet because the next monthly recap won’t be happening until next month, while she was here my sister asked me to be her bridesmaid! So I have that honour to look forward to next year.

The rest of December hasn’t happened yet, but let me tell you about it anyway… this evening we are meeting some friends to eat cheese fondue before we all go our separate ways for Christmas. I will work for four days next week, then on Friday we will get on a plane at a ridiculously early hour and fly to England – we change in London this time and while we’re between flights I plan to track down a proper British sausage sandwich. Mmmm! Christmas will be spent with my family, the remainder of the time in England will be spent trying to catch up with as many friends as possible (remember, I haven’t been over since January!) and then, on 29th December, we shall catch a train to Glasgow and spend the rest of the year having K show us all the best places to eat up there. Oh, and at some point some bells will ring and we will welcome another year. Hopefully an awesome one!

Well, for some reason I thought 2016 had been slower than other years (apart from the crazy bit at the end with visitors, visitors and even more visitors), but looking at it all together like that, it has actually been jam-packed! New Zealand was definitely the highlight, of course, but there have been  a few other good times in there as well. And we actually travelled more than I thought we had, even if most of it was local.

Of course, other things have been happening, not all of which are suitable for the blog, and I am really hopefully that some plans will come to fruition in 2017. Fingers crossed!

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival 2016

Ludwigsburg KĂŒrbisfest 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.

Rheinfelden and Augusta Raurica

Wow, my last post got a bit deep, didn’t it? I think it’s about time I counteracted that with another travel post.

In September, Jan’s dad came to visit us for a weekend and we took a day trip to Rheinfelden and Kaiseraugst. I’ve already shared photos of Rheinfelden on the blog once, but our last visit was in December. This time the sky was a lot less grey!

We didn’t cross over into the German Rheinfelden on this visit (it’s really not worth it, except to say you walked across a border), but we did go onto the little island that can be accessed from the bridge. It was a boiling hot day and plenty of people (and dogs!) were bathing in the river.

Once we’d seen enough of the island, it was time to head back to the train station and on to Kaiseraugst, home of the Augusta Raurica Roman site.

We walked for ages through farmland, the sun baking us alive and birds circling overhead.

Eventually we spied some Roman ruins. This is the ruins of a temple:

We had been following signs for the amphitheatre because we thought that was what we wanted to see. Turns out there isn’t much left of the amphitheatre:

What we were actually looking for was just the plain old theatre, so that’s where we headed next.

Aha… that’s more like it!

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Augusta Raurica hosts events throughout the summer (including a Roman festival) and on this particular day they were setting up for a concert. Luckily we managed to get in and have a look around before they blocked off the entrances.

There’s also an indoor museum area (with a Roman house), which we did not go into, and a few other Roman bits and bobs dotted around.

After enjoying a nice cold beer, we walked back towards town past the train station and down to the river… instead of taking another train, the plan was to travel back to Basel by boat. We had a bit of time to spare, so we took off our shoes and stood on some steps with our feet in the water. It was lovely and refreshing!

The boat back to Basel passes through two locks, at the Augst and Birsfelden run-of-the-river power plants.

This post is getting rather long, so I’ll only include a few of the photos I took during our boat trip. Also, until we were actually approaching Basel I have no idea where the majority of the photos were taken.

Our boat was the Christoph Merian, for those who are interested.

All in all it was a lovely day out and one I would definitely take again if future visitors showed an interest.

This was my September trip for Take 12 Trips 2016 (I’m slowly catching up!)

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 KĂŒrbisfest 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 fiancĂ© will be here for a weekend (oooh, first time I’ve written “sister’s fiancĂ©“!).

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 SĂ€ckingen

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 SĂ€ckingen thanks to a restaurant in Karlsruhe with the name Trompeter von SĂ€ckingen (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 SĂ€ckingen (which back then was just called SĂ€ckingen – Bad in the name of a town means it’s a spa town, and SĂ€ckingen became Bad SĂ€ckingen 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.

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My friend K came down for my birthday and came with us to Bad SĂ€ckingen. 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 SĂ€ckingen 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.

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The Rhine, the bridge and Bad SĂ€ckingen (plus green, green hills!)

Bad SĂ€ckingen 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 SĂ€ckingen was my August trip for Take 12 Trips 2016.

Delémont, Switzerland

After a very few hot days, July 31st promised to be a lot cooler, so Jan and I decided to go hiking… just in time for me to sneak it in for July’s contribution to take 12 trips ;-). Jan suggested heading bit further afield than we had on previous hikes and mentioned DelĂ©mont, so I looked for a hike that started there and found one that took roughly 2 hours and went up the hill beside the town. We were supposed to come past the Chapelle du Vorbourg and the ruins of Vorbourg castle, but the route description wasn’t very good and somehow we missed them. Oh well.

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As you can see from the photo above, it was chucking it down when we arrived in DelĂ©mont. It was also thundering, but we decided to continue with our hike anyway and see how things went. After all, skin is waterproof…

It wasn’t long before we saw the Jura coat of arms in the side of the mountain… just in case we hadn’t realised which canton we were in 😉

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The first part of the hike took us around the outskirts of town, past housing estates along paved roads. By the time we reached the part where we were to enter the woods, the thunder had stopped and the rain had died down, so we decided it would be safe enough to enter the trees…

Having difficulty following the instructions I had printed, we decided that the place where we were must have been where it wanted us to start heading up through the trees. In hindsight, we were wrong since we never did come across any chapel! We did, however, eventually find a break in the trees from where we could look down on the town.

Just up the hill from there was a proper viewing platform, so I had shoved my way into the gap between the trees for nothing!

With all the rain, the snails were out in full force. We had to be careful not to tread on the ones that were hanging out in the middle of the path!

How pretty is that shell though?

After admiring the view, we headed back down the mountain and towards the old town. Pretty much as soon as we were away from the woods the sun came out!

The whole old town was full of flag bunting. I’m not sure whether it’s always there or they had hung it up specially because the next day was the national holiday. I only recognised two of the coats of arms – the one for Jura and the one for DelĂ©mont town. You can see both of those on the first picture below. The others are presumably from the other towns that belong to DelĂ©mont district?

The old town of Delémont is small but very pretty and we had a nice wander round in the sunshine.

Too soon it was time to head back to the train station – we were meeting people to watch the fireworks and wanted to shower first. We grabbed some tasty food from the station cafĂ© and a beer from the little Coop supermarket at the station and ate and drank those while waiting for the train.

This is a nice little hike for a day that you don’t have time for a longer one (just make sure not to miss the chapel and castle like we did!) and DelĂ©mont old town is worth a look at, although it’s so small that I wouldn’t make that the entire itinerary for your day trip!

Monday Escapes has been revived with new hosts, so I’m linking up with Travel Loving Family, Extraordinary Chaos, Tin Box Traveller and Mini Travellers for that. And of course I’ve already mentioned that this was my July trip for #Take12Trips, which was originally the brainchild of Clare at Need Another Holiday.Travel Loving Family

The Rhine Falls (Rheinfall)

At the end of June, my mum and brother came to visit for a few days. I wanted to take at least one trip outside Basel with them, so on the Sunday we went to Zurich and the Rhine Falls.

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The Rhine Falls, or Rheinfall in German, is the largest plain waterfall in Europe. When we went, it was the end of what had been a very wet spring so they contained pretty much the maximum possible amount of water. On the image above, you see a rock with a flag at the top and a staircase going down. Usually a boat takes you over to that rock, but on the day we went they weren’t stopping there. The platform where you’re supposed to disembark was almost entirely covered with water…

We used a RailAway offer (seriously – if you live in Switzerland and want to visit anywhere check whether RailAway has an offer first!). With this, we got a reduction on the train ticket, entry to the exhibition at Schloss Laufen, the castle above the falls, and a ticket for the glass elevator that takes you down to a walkway on the castle side of the falls. We were also supposed to get a boat ride over to the castle (which would have saved us a not particularly strenuous walk), but the landing place by the castle was closed due to high water so instead we were allowed to go on the small round boat trip, which took us up to the falls and then came back. Actually that was a better option so we didn’t mind 😉

If you take the boat make sure you wear something waterproof!

After our boat trip, we walked around to the castle and had a look at the exhibition. It’s pretty small and basically gives you a bit of information about the history of the castle (also fairly small). Afterwards, we took the glass elevator down and had a look at the falls from another angle.

Tired and thirsty after all that, before heading for the train home we went and had a beer and some cake at the castle restaurant. And of course the little birdy friend that came to join us got some cake too!

Although the Rhine Falls are very touristy and – as you can probably see from the photos – pretty crowded, it somehow manages not to be too much, at least not on a Sunday in June! I can definitely recommend this as a nice day or afternoon out.

Linking up with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey for Monday Escapes, for the last time! Click the button to see lots more travel inspiration.

Travel Monkey