We spent the weekend in Salzburg (we spent the weekend in Salzburg!) and stayed with a lovely new friend at her fifth floor apartment in a turn-of-the-century house on the corner of a very normal street. Normal for the Austrian Alps, that is. And by normal, I mean, turning aforementioned corner to be met with mountains. Not yet snow-topped, tumbling, beautiful mountains. I’ve always thought of myself as a coastal person but Alps, oh Alps! How I love you.
Archives for November 2011
Some perfect late autumn days…
A magical sunset bicycle ride to (my new favourite landmark) the Walhalla Temple…
The first SNOWFALL of the winter on the 15th November 2011…a wonderful surprise on an early morning walk to school! (And nobody batted an eyelid whereas I walked around over-excitedly taking pictures…)
A day trip to Nuremberg with some of the loveliest girls on yet another school holiday (this time: Buss- und Bettag, a church holiday), where we admired the Christmas decorations, sat in a warm cafe and walked around the Altstadt (very pretty.)
remembering how much I love the youngest classes with their ten-year-old enthusiasm and endless questions, a twilight drive to Straubing with the Maiers, a fun evening with Piers and Eloise and her visiting friend, organising pen pal writing with the 9. Klasse, a tour of the Schloss Thurn und Taxis (Regensburg’s very own palace) and excitement for the en masse family visit this weekend!!
On Tuesday, cycling home from school, I somehow managed to end up falling off my bike and wind up at the emergency clinic, leaving swathed in bandages and looking very invalid-like. After a few days of not being able to walk, I’m much better and am realising all the nice things that happened as a direct result…
- The old man I’d never met before who spent his lunch break taking me to the hospital, for one. And my friends who visited with chocolate and well wishes. And everyone who has wished me ‘Gute Besserung’, and the teacher at school who is now so worried for my safety I think he wants to adopt me. And thank you to everyone who phoned or sent e-mails, it was most sweet!
- A reminder to always wear my helmet, even if I’m the only person over twelve in the whole of Germany who does so, and even if it makes me look most un-glamorous. As someone recently said to me: staying alive is always in style!
- The 99-year-old woman with a thick Bavarian accent who befriended me in the waiting room and shared some of her wisdom with me…which reminded me of ‘Jazz Hands’ in the best way!
- Being able to spend a whole day reading.
- And, most of all, a reminder to slow down. Not that I cycle particularly fast…but walking instead of cycling is affording me a chance to appreciate architecture in a way one doesn’t when on a bike, and reminding me that sometimes the quickest route isn’t always the most beautiful, the most thought-provoking or the most satisfying.
So perhaps it’s true, every cloud does have a silver lining!
A few weekends ago I accompanied Rudi, Christl and Andi on a weekend trip to visit Christl’s relatives in the lower Bavarian city of Landshut. Actually, Christl’s sister Hildegaard’s family and parents live in a tiny town in the Umgebung; their airy house sits atop a serene hill overlooking the Bavarian Forest and an enchanting garden full of apple trees, tumbling wildflowers, their sweet pet Hasen and even a tree house connects the houses of Christl’s adorable parents and Hildegaard’s family. It was particularly beautiful bathed in afternoon light, the sun filtered through meandering branches as plums and apples ripened quietly in the orchard and a tangle of creepers danced its way around an upstairs window. And Christl’s family, like the Maiers themselves, are endlessly hospitable and kind.
Saturday began with a hike through the Bayerischer Wald to find mushrooms for dinner. How else would one spend one’s Saturday?! Andi and Sabine found this fine specimen in the forest, and we ate it for supper even though it was rather green and poisonous looking. Upon my expressing apprehension about this, Andi took it upon himself to give me a personal and lengthy introduction to the species of mushrooms which grow in Bavaria so I now know how to avoid Knollenblaetterpilzen (deathcap) at least…!
Then Rudi, Christl and I took a trip into the Altstadt of Landshut which boasts exquisite Baroque architecture (my favourite!), the gentle River Isar and an impressive castle perched on the hill above the city. Landshuter hot chocolate comes highly recommended from me!
The big event of the day was, however, the trip to the Windrad
wind turbine) organised by keen Green Party supporter Marlene… Everyone in the neighbourhood was invited. As this is the only wind turbine in the county, the turnout was surprisingly high and enthusiasm was at its zenith as we embarked on the field trip…
Eagerly waiting to set off…
I admire the wind turbine from afar as Andi explains the prevalent misconceptions regarding solar power…
During a lecture on site about the advantages of wind power, already into the tour’s second hour, everyone is enthralled…
…except me, it would seem (it was very cold though!)
During the third hour of the tour Andi and Christl decide to climb to the summit…
…and here’s Andi and I outside the famous turbine!
The day ended with the playing of numerous board games, including Andi’s favourite ‘Siedler’. No rest for the wicked!
If somewhat surreal from an Englishwoman’s eyes, I did still have a marvellous time. When we visit our relatives back home, we generally end up eating, talking and maybe going for a walk (but only maybe!) Not so in Germany. This was the weekend I fully realised just how much Germans love to be busy. Bavaria is a strangely wonderful and peculiarly unique place with a culture all of its own and our visit seemed to embody the Bavarians’ connection to family, surroundings and what they believe in, a combination I have found most heart-warming. Even if Rudi and I did start to lose the will to live as the wind turbine tour entered its fourth hour and the temperature dropped yet further…!
Herbstferien arrived. With Christl’s guidance I became a Stadtbuecherei member, made friends with a sweet librarian (we talked for a long time about the differences between the library service here and in Great Britain) and hugged a bookcase, so ecstatic was I to find English literature in the heart of continental Europe. Franziska and I drank coffee and spoke German for hours at Cafe Lila, which is quickly becoming everyone’s go to coffeehouse for its happy purple blankets and perfect outdoor seating. I can’t, in good faith, recommend their Fruechtetee but everything else about that place is honest-to-goodness
There were more awe-inspiring autumnal sunsets over the Danube and a visit to the farmer’s market on my island. The first evening of half-term was spent baking nutella shortbread for Emmy and Alice and reading my newly acquired novels instead of at the Erasmus party I was invited to. Whoops! I suppose the truth is out; sometimes I prefer books to people (or, at least, people I don’t know.)
Then, of course, BERLIN happened. Beautiful beautiful grand grand Berlin with its streets overflowing with history and its lively energy and its tree-lined avenues. We had such a wonderful and hilarious time and I promise photographs and stories will arrive soon! I arrived back in Regensburg on Tuesday night after an entirely hair-raising train journey through Sachsen, a brief glimpse of Dresden from the train window and two hours spent with another soot-coloured puppy sitting on my feet – oh, and did I mention the man sitting next to me on the Munich train who was taken away for police questioning? Just another normal day with Deutsche Bahn…
The weekend away made me appreciate Regensburg even more. Berlin will always make me weak at the knees but I am glad to live somewhere a little calmer and more authentically ‘German’. Since then lovely Emma and Gemma visited from Kronach and we spent their day trip drinking genuine Earl Grey from my cupboard and reminiscing about home, eating bowls of spaghetti at my mother’s favourite Pam Pam and strolling about town. Today Piers and I explored the Galerie Leerer Beutel, upon finding the Domschatz closed for all of November (schade!), and we bumped into two of my favourite students from Dr Biermeier’s 9. Klasse who, according to Piers, seemed very happy to see me too!
One can feel winter tiptoeing across the bridges now, almost ready to seize the day. Today was a bright, blue-skied morning but the notorious fog returned in the afternoon. But I now have appropriate shoes so, snow, you’re welcome anytime. The Christmas lights are in place and the markets will begin soon. I used to be one of those people who lamented the encroachment of Christmas onto November but now I’ve had a change of heart and don’t mind at all. Gluehwein, Lebkuchen, Stollen (and also good friends, whilst we’re on the subject)…feel free to pay me a visit whenever you wish!
Basically, everything is really wonderful. I feel as though my German, albeit still far from perfect, is improving leaps and bounds every day and am beginning to feel like a true European! I wish I could share this experience with everyone but for now, these words will have to suffice. Bis bald!
P.s. According to my mother, she keeps telling everyone we know to read my blog. So if you are, hi! I miss you!