Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Indian Summer

Wikipedia describes an Indian Summer as a meteorological phenomenon that occurs in the autumn. It refers to a period of considerably above normal temperatures, accompanied by dry and hazy conditions, usually after there has been a killing frost. Depending on latitude and elevation, the phenomenon can occur in the Northern Hemisphere between late September and mid November. 
Horray for Indian Summer!! I was just complaining last week how cold the weather had become, and rushed out to buy a couple of vests.  My Winter wardrobe is in our container, and honestly I was beginning to freeze! Then, suddenly, it feels like summer again. We're back to shorts and t-shirts, and brilliant sunny, warm days.
We took a walk around Frankfurt this weekend 
Sunny day in Frankfurt, walking over the Main River

Interesting ... the bridge is full of padlocks - a different kind of "graffiti"

People engrave their names onto the locks and lock them onto the bridge.

Movies in Frankfurt
On Saturday we ventured into Frankfurt central to watch a film in English.  We saw "Crazy, Stupid Love" a rom-com with a difference.   The cinema we went to shows a few films in English at various times, so the selection isn't vast, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.  The outing was quite an expensive one. In SA we were spoilt by having movie-club cards, where movies would cost us R19 each, equivalent to about 2€.  At Cinestar the movies on Saturday cost us 8.80€ each, and popcorn and drinks for two came 15€! Plus the popcorn comes in either "sweet" or "salty", and let's just say they’re not joking when they say SALTY.  Make sure you have an extra large drink when ordering this popcorn, and be ready to consume an entire week's worth of your salt quota.  I felt compelled to eat mine since we'd paid so much for it. But perhaps next time I'll try the 'sweet' one. There is no plain option, by the way! We also discovered that it will be much easier next time to take the train into Frankfurt when going to movies, rather than drive around the block a few times searching for parking - parking is scarce in Frankfurt.  I have a monthly travel card, and on weekends, we learnt - thanks Nicola :-) that Arne can ride for free on my card.
On our way to the cinema - Eschenheimer Tor

Autumn Fever
The supermarkets in Germany put on Autumn (Herbst) displays for people to get into the spirit of the change of season, by purchasing kites, wreaths, scarecrows and more.  I found it to be quite sweet and took some pics of the Herbst displays. The hedgehog "garden gnome" was my favourite - der Igel in deutsch.  Oh! to be a child again; there's so much fun stuff here!
Hedgehog instead of garden gnome :-)
Owl made of leaves
Hedgehog made of bark

Friday, 23 September 2011

Dust, dust and more dust!

In SA we were lucky enough to have a domestic helper once a week to do our cleaning.  We also had carpets in most of our house, so vacuuming once a week was (hopefully) enough.   However, the hayfever I had on a weekly basis was unexplained... until now ...

Since I’ve been doing the housework here in Germany, I’ve seen dust in a whole new light! Or should I say, I’ve been seeing far too much dust. Dust, dust and more dust!  Where is it all coming from?? I can see now why most the houses we looked at on our house-hunt were not carpeted.  Good thing our new home has wooden floors.  Cleaning isn’t always fun, but lately I get a strange satisfaction from seeing the amount of dust that collects in just one week in our apartment.  It’s like a competition – which room/week  will collect the most dust?!

This is dust from one week:
Here is dust from last week’s clean:
And the winner is....
Here is dust from today's clean. Oh my gosh!  And it’s not as if it’s coming from outside, because the windows are generally kept closed.  It’s a mystery to me. 

And check out the final picture with dust from our bedroom alone! I cringe at the thought of how much dust is collecting on our bed and curtains on a daily basis!

At least doing my own cleaning, I know for sure it’s done properly, 
and it’s quite satisfying :-) ...Or perhaps just a ‘morbid fascination’?!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Autumn in September, day trips and more...

Autumn days
Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 2 weeks since I lasted posted on my blog. Time seems to be going quickly now.  The good news is we only have 2 more weeks left in our temporary accommodation.  We move out on 30th September as our agreement with the landlady was only for 2 months – and we could’ve extended our stay, but 2 months is enough for us in this apartment.  Our friends, Nicola and Dave, have kindly offered for us to stay with them for a few days in October, until we get the thumbs up that our bond is registered and we can move into our new home. We should hear news by the end of next week hopefully.  Nicola and Dave are renting a beautiful home in Bad Soden and it will be ready for them to move in next week sometime.  So as they move in, we will be leaving Bad Soden – which a bit sad, cos we would’ve been down the road neighbours.  Anyway, I’m sure we will be visiting them lots in Bad Soden, and they can come visit our new home in Eppstein.  

The days are getting shorter, and although it’s still light at 6.30pm (it used to be light until after 10pm when we arrived 7 weeks ago) the weather is really become quite cold. Brrrr! Autumn is upon us.  I’m glad I got a few weeks of Summer, but quite frankly I’ve had cold weather since about April this year.  I've already had one Autumn this year...and a Winter. The other day I walked from the train station to my language school and my face was freezing…and it’s only September.  At least I’m getting lots of exercise, because I foresee hot chocolate and Gluwein being the order of the day in Winter to warm up.  It feels quite strange to be having Autumn in September.  The other day I saw some of my friends post on Facebook things like "Ahh, the first Spring rains", and I remember how much I loved that in Joburg.  The first Spring rains after a long, dry winter.  All the little blossoms come out, and the dust is cleared and the air smells so fresh and crisp. Enjoy it, my friends back in SA! Its a wonderful time of the year.  Hey guys, please drop me an email every now and then, I would love to hear from you. It means the world to me to get an email, text or chat on skype.

This afternoon we walked down into Bad Soden for their “Herbst”/Autumn Sunday trading. Usually all the shops are closed in Germany on a Sunday. But once in a blue moon they are allowed to trade on a Sunday. So they closed off the main road in Bad Soden, and had some stalls with yummy food, drinks, a band playing, and other stalls selling homemade jams, breads and clothing etc.    It was interesting to see and very nicely supported by the locals, considering it was a cold, wet day.   

Day trip to Worms
Last Sunday we had a great day out with friends Gregor and Irene, and their little son Jonathan.  Kerrin and Chris, from SA, introduced us to Gregor and Irene.   They met many years ago on their travels through Africa.  I was very sad to say goodbye to my friend Kerrin, but very pleased she introduced us to such nice people – thanks Kez.   
They took us to a little town called Worms (pronounced Vorms, which rhymes with forms) about 80km from Frankfurt. 
We crossed the Rhine River on a ferry, in the car. 
One can see how this sign could be useful...
On the ferry crossing the river
On the way we stopped at Eich See, which is actually a lake, not the sea.  We had a delicious lunch there and took a wander along the water to check out the area.
In Worms we visited the stunning cathedral, Dom St. Peter.  

I’m not too clued up when it comes to the architectural history of some places, but I was really blown away by the beauty of this cathedral – the exterior and the interior. A sight well worth a visit.   

We browsed the small town, including the Aldstadt (old town) while Gregor read us little snippets of info on the different areas.   
Raschi Tor in the Jewish Quarter of the Altstadt
Don't drink the water
Jonathan was so good and easy-going; he walked with us and is such a jolly little fellow.    
Ice cream - Yummy!

We enjoyed the day with great weather and friends, and it only rained on our way home, so we considered ourselves lucky.

"Ich lerne deutsch"
I’ve had 2 weeks of language school and it’s going well.  It’s easy on some days, and then just when I think I’m getting the hang of it, it becomes confusing.  The German grammar rules are quite complex. So it’s not just about learning a bunch of vocabulary, but also learning the gender of each noun (masculine, feminine, neutrum), plus learning how it changes when different verbs are added to them in a sentence, plus how the verbs change too when someone does something to it, you, me, I, he, she, we, they,  omg!   Anyway, sometimes Arne is the good guy because he can speak German and explain things to me, and sometimes he’s the bad guy for the same reason!  I am very grateful for his help and patience :-) The classes are every day till 12.30, and we get lots of homework to do everyday too. It’s great though, and I finally feel like I’m starting to understand bits of conversations that I hear on the street or on the radio/TV.  The course runs for 12 weeks, and by December I’m sure to be a real “Frau” Bier! 
Arne is settling in at work slowly but surely.  The work culture is quite different here, and I suppose because he’s mostly at the customer site, he has to be quite formal most the time. But he is making some friends, and is going with some of the guys from work to the car show tomorrow in Frankfurt.  It’s the biggest international car show, I’ve been told.   

I decided I needed to go to the physiotherapist for my knee - after my bike crash it’s been sore with all the walking.  But here one has to see a GP Doctor, to get a referral to the physio.  So it took about a week to get a Dr’s appointment, only to be given a prescription (literally) for 6 sessions at the physio. Here it’s called “krankengymnastik”.  I’ve had 3 sessions already, and it’s been quite different from what I expected.  Not good or bad, just different.  At least our medical insurance is paying for it, let’s just say that.   

Day trip to Heidelberg
Yesterday we took a day trip to Heidelberg.  It’s only about 90km from Frankfurt.

It was one of the places we wanted to visit while we had our holiday in Germany in June, but we had to scrap it off the list to do admin things like finding accommodation.  It’s great that we can visit these places now with no pressure or timelines.  Nicola and Dave came with us as it was on their list of must-see places too. 

Heidelberg was not destroyed by the WWII bombers, so it still has it’s original buildings from the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance (thanks to my Frommer’s Germany book, I had some info on the town).  The buildings are beautiful and the town has a stunning castle.  The castle is a preserved ruin so to speak, as it’s uninhabited but preserved for its beauty.  It is surrounded by green woodlands, and the castle can be reached by walking up steps, a steep (very steep) path, or by Bergbahn (funicular).   
We chose to walk up and take the funicular down. It was a lovely walk, and although quite steep, we took our time admiring the beauty for the castle walls and garden.
Nicola and Dave
Taking a breather half way up the hill

Sign reads "Water not potable"...Hmm, I don't think I need a sign to know that!

In one of the sections inside the castle is the world’s largest wine vat.  Germany has some regions that are very big on wine, with stunning vineyards.  We thought that it was just beer that Germans love, but it’s wine too.  
World's largest wine vat

I loved this house with the chimney smoking
Stunning view of the Neckar River
We explored the Altstadt and fought our way through the crowds. Heidelberg is a popular tourist destination.  Apparently in summer it’s so overcrowded with queues of people for everything.  Glad we missed the summer rush, because it was pretty busy now.   

The town is well-known for its university.  We visited the old student jail/“Studentinkarzer” where unruly and drunken students would be locked up.  The last students were locked up there in about 1914.  The walls were covered with graffiti and fellow cell mates’ silhouettes.
Entrance to the student prison
Dave reads us some interesting factoids
The toilet
During my days at university, and most of the friends I know who went to university, I think we would have needed a pretty big prison! 

We walked across Karl Theodore Bridge, where buskers played music. It felt a bit like Italy for a moment. Sometimes I forget that I’m actually in Europe, until we have moments like this, and then I realize. It’s really amazing!

The lines show the flood levels over the past hundreds of years. In 1784 the water level was the highest.
I rubbed the monkey's mirror for wealth.
We had great fun with Nicola and Dave. I must of course thank my dear friend Antoinette in SA for introducing me to Nicola.  

Then of course, my sweet tooth got the better of me, and I just had to try a "Schneeball"/ snowball.   I had read about it in the travel book.  
It’s like a giant biscuit, made up of pieces of biscuit-type dough (baked) covered in icing, or the toping of your choice, from chocolate to liqueur. I chose caramel, and annoyed Arne in the car for munching and crunching it the whole way home, heh heh! I felt like a kid again.
Yum yum