fly the seven seas

Observations of a Sydney girl rocking Germany


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Shades of grey

It’s officially here. I don’t have to look past the long faces on the train passengers every mornings to know that its that time of year again. That time where, everyone would happily donate every woolly jumper in aid for some small hint of warmth.

After the excitement of Christmas has worn out and a few days on the slopes have been enjoyed, the sight of snow is just bleh. The once-dreamy, romantic and festive love of snow is replaced with awkward-looking piles of icy mounds on the side of the road.

The days of sunshine here and there are too easily missed when most days are just plain grey. The nights’ frost draws a silver grey outline on trees. Street pollution paints the unmelted snow on the roads with a dirty grey. Frost and snowfall shadow cars in a dark grey. Look around at the train station and you’ll notice the sea of blacks, browns and greys (with the odd fur trim) of coats and scarves – this grey is contagious. And simply just endless. (I’m not going to dare post any photos of this bleak grey – no thank you!)

This feeling is not just because I’m a “displaced” aussie unaccustomed to the endless winter – with every third person down with the flu, or simply just over it – its quite obvious that if a petition to end winter now were created, we’d be seeing the buds of the crocus’ popping out of the grass next week. Sadly we know this just isn’t going to happen. It also doesn’t help to see the latest spring fashion flood all shop windows, knowing that anything new bought will sit in the cupboards for at least another 5 weeks.

Now I agree, this post is far from being cheery – and rightfully so – what I wouldn’t give to be sitting on the balcony in a loose singlet, listening to the hum of bees sucking the nectar from the parade of lavender, while the sun beats on my cheeks causing sweat beads to drip down my arms. Much better than shielding my eyes from chaotic snow flakes. So – what do I do when I know that such days are simply out of reach? I dream. Of sunny days. Of endless blue. Of shorts and flip-flops. Of sticky nights. Of days by the lake. Of sand-covered ankles. Of mango smoothies by the pool. I dream. And it helps.

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I also like listening to these guys.

Join me – let’s fight this grey.

Cheers,

Alex


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Winter wonderland

My alarm bell went off yesterday at 5:45 am, which for a Sunday does not go down so well (or so often) within these four walls. But – I rolled out under the warm covers, peered under the small slit left open in the blinds to see a fresh layer of white, powdery snow and reconsidered whether I really wanted to join the crazy snow freaks in their bulky and uncomfortable boots to hit the slopes.

It was a tough call but the little devil on my shoulder didn’t win – I woke up with an aim; to master that snow plough*. And after a few hours, sore shins, frozen fingertips and an elegant fall in an unexpected mound of deep, fresh snow, I had mastered it – and even on some “proper” slopes. I wouldn’t be lying if I said that I’m a little proud of myself. Having donned the skis for the second time after almost 27 years of missed opportunities, I don’t think I’ve done too bad for myself – but I won’t be seeing any black runs any time soon thanks.

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Alongside the skiing, it’s safe to say that this winter is really feeling like winter.

We were blessed with a winter wonderland one only dreams of over the festive holiday.

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We built a snowman outside the apartment on New Years Eve, who resembled my grandfather but was sadly defaced with leftover fireworks.

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I enjoyed watching my brother and my Alex shovel the sidewalks, only to have them recovered in snow only three hours later.

We escaped to the alps, where we sipped fancy drinks by wooden fires and woke up surrounded by snow-covered peaks.

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I’ve even had more than one opportunity to wear my favourite ear muffs (not that one should really have to find a reason to do so).

And while December brought some unbelievably rare, blue skies for German winter standards, January has seen my tally of sunny-winter-days looking a little sad. Let’s hope this changes.

And with my newly acquired skiing skills, I’m happy to say that I’ve so far made the most of these below-freezing temperatures.

I hiked across landscapes to see wild deer grazing and icy waterfalls.

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Bavarian charm

I hiked up a mountain purely to fulfil a childhood dream; to sled all the way back down. While I sled down with a little caution (on a natural mountain track, your only barrier are the trees that line the hillside) there was not a moment you couldn’t see a grin across my face.IMG_5609 3

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I have laid my exercise mat in the icy snow of my favourite nearby park to complete a good set of burpee frog jumps, lunges and high jumps (thanks Freeletics) and as a result, eat a good mouthful of snow.

I put on an awkward looking and even more awkward feeling pair of snowshoes to trek up untrodden tracks while listening to the mountain stories of a local.

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And I hit the ground countless times as I made a brave attempt at cross-country skiing.

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No winter adventure is complete without an Apfelstrudel

So, from someone who had only known winter to be a 15 degree sunny day, who’s winter wardrobe contained only one wool coat and who’s hands would be ice cold in 26 degree heat, you could say that I haven’t shied away from the German winter. By dressing warm enough, I’ve finally realised why so many Germans don’t seem to be bothered by getting out there and embracing winter.

But let’s not get too carried away here, over the last few grey days I have been constantly dreaming of the blazing sun on my skin, seeing the heat steam off the asphalt roads, the sand found at the bottom of every handbag and how much I’m definitely going to miss a truly sticky Australia Day celebration (code for lamingtons). Hurry up summer!

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*Yes, I managed a little more than this – but there’s no need to talk it up too much…


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The festive days

And just like that, Christmas has come and gone. Just when the magical feeling finally manages to become a welcome distraction, I find myself taking my last bite of the Christmas pudding, wishing the past few days would extend a little longer.

This year however, we created something extra special, something for the books. This year saw two families unite for Christmas – my parents and younger brother flew from Sydney to join the Christmas rituals with Alex’s immediate family. And although this meant that the usual Sydney contingency was a little smaller than usual, we hope the crew will understand (perhaps not with all the tempting photos of snow and oversized portions of turkey we sent)…

Our german Christmas celebrations, in comparison to my Sydney celebrations, stretch over a few days – appropriately titled by Alex’s father as ‘the christmas rally’ – with multiple meals shared together, elaborate brunches, nights of singing and dancing until the candles burn out, walks in open fields, some Christmas socks, indulgences and the wish for snow. And given the extra special occasion this year, we had it all – including a good 20cm of snowfall overnight.

The rally officially kicks off on the eve of the 24th – with special family rituals and traditions – and usually ends on the 26th, known as the 2. Weihnachtstag (Stephan’s Tag / Boxing Day). This year we were lucky enough to extend this for another day – any excuse to let the rally continue.

I’ve infiltrated some “australiana” in to the festivities, for it wouldn’t be Christmas to me without the annual booze-filled Christmas cake and Christmas pudding (with lucky coin of course). And with the addition of mum’s true blue accent and dad’s recurring cry of “oh sheeeet” – the australiana was definitely present among the Stollen and tunes of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Since I’ve joined Alex’s family celebrations, Alex and I have taken responsibility over the official bird served on the 26th. This year it was a mega Turkey, served with baked sweet potato and Schmorkraut (sweetened sauerkraut) – boy it was good.

Rather than bantering on, I’ll leave you with a glimpse of the festivities while I go and burn off the extra something I’ve found around my waist.

I hope the festive days were just as special where you were – Happy Christmas, Frohe Weihnachten and bring on 2015!

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Weihnachtsmarkt München

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Rindermarkt, München

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Roasted chestnuts

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The mother of all drinks – the Feuerzangenbowle

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Last minute butcher action in the old town

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The Christmas cake

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Langoustin

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The hilltops of Bronnbach

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A snowy Altstadt, Wertheim

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The Wertheimer Burg, all dressed in white

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The golden days

It’s been a little bit quiet around here lately on the blog front. My apologies. On the life-front however, it’s been quite the opposite. After a bit of a slump I’ve embraced a change of mindset and have immersed myself in positive changes and experiences:

I explored London with good friends from Sydney, escaped to the idyllic island of Limnos in Greece, spent afternoons along the Isar in Munich, started an amazing new job with perhaps the coolest team ever(!!), spent a weekend in Düsseldorf, watched a couple exchange sacred vows at the Wasserschloss (palace surrounded by water) of Nordkirchen, and enjoyed a last taste of summer for the year as I soaked in the Spanish sun in Fuerteventura (with abovementioned cool team).

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Fanaraki Beach, Limnos – Greece

 

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Mornings at Jandia Playa, Fuerteventura

 

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Hinterbrühler See

 

While it may just sound like a lot of travelling – and indeed it was enough – I allowed myself the time to recalibrate, refocus and re-embrace my mojo. Amen to that.

After the warm days, the rainy days and the upside-down days of summer, the Oktoberfest sunshine and the confusion that is early autumn, we now find ourselves in the zone of golden days – a pocket of time between the last (sticky) Bierbank from the Oktoberfest is packed away and friends begin to huddle around the Christmas stands clutching mugs of Glühwein with fingerless gloves. These golden days parade the beauty of warmer days passed and at the same time serve as a warning for the grey winter skies ahead.

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The Rhein

 

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The pigeons of Düsseldorf

 

 

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Mornings are crisp but warm enough to enjoy the empty streets without frostbite.

The brigade of quilted-jacket-clad commuters catch glimpses of golden rays before making their way to their desks.

Greedy squirrels, scurry, scavenge and spring from tree branches with cheeks full of nuts.

Clear blue skies end with firey-skied evenings.

And this is what hits me the most about this time of year – the unbelievable beauty of these pre-winter skies. In the brief moment following day break you’ll see the grey skies open to reveal psychedelic streams of purple, orange, red – signaling a cloudless, turquoise day to come.

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I’ve always, and most probably always will be, fascinated by the many personalities of the sky. For me it is a realm of endless possibilities, it is at the same time simple and complex, spiritual, influential, and with all its pleasantness has the potential to cause inconceivable disaster.

And although the clocks tell us how close winter really is, take a second to look around. This moment is enchanting and breathtaking – but if you stay in bed too long, can be too easily missed.

Inspired by the gorgeous weather last weekend we took a drive to Andechs, just south of Munich. After admiring the impressive Cathedral grounds which sits perched upon the Andechs “Berg” (where they even brew their own beer), we headed along the pilgrim trail towards Ammersee in Hersching.

Despite the foot traffic the route was calming, with streams of sun weaving itself through gaps in the forest around us and of course the sound of running streams in the background. We arrived at the promenade along Lake Ammersee at the perfect moment – just as the autumn sun reared itself towards the horizon, drenching the icre-cream eating crowds in a deep golden light. I was in peace – the light creating a feeling of serenity – a perfect way to feel on Sundays.

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And without a doubt the Biergarten crowd and I were on the same page…

I’m still searching for an explanation for this golden phenomenon but for the moment I’m happy to just accept it and appreciate every beautiful day (especially when it falls on the weekend) as it comes.

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Embracing Oktoberfest

Tomorrow at 12pm Oberbürgermeister (Lord Mayor) Dieter Reiter will mark the official begin of München’s most renowned annual event as he taps the first keg of Oktoberfest Bier in the Schottenhamel Bier tent, follows this with an “O’zapft’ is” and a good swig of his Maß.

Once tapped, the 13 other tents can begin to serve the München-brewed Bier to their thirsty guests.

For the next two weeks to follow, the sights and smells of the Oktoberfest will be ever-present throughout the city; throngs of tourists crowd the main train stations and the city centre, Tracht will be worn from dawn to dusk and the streets will buzz with groups of extra jolly, sometimes sweaty and most often tipsy, red-cheeked revellers.

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Settling in

Establishing home in a new country and ‘settling in’ takes time. Regardless of how long you find yourself away from where you once called home, there will always be times where you find yourself yearning for specific moments, people, routines and everyday scenes that ultimately typified ‘home’. Although it is slowly creeping towards the three year (!!!!!) mark since I lugged more than 30kg of cookbooks across the seas, I often dream of the small things that were my Sydney; my local barista remembering my coffee order, the daily chin-wag with commuter friends who’d catch the same train en route to work, and the city landmarks that were the highlight of memorable evenings…

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You know it’s summer when…

you are bombarded in the face with an army of 1000 fruit flies when throwing your rubbish into the communal garbage bin. Fruchtfliegen are definitely on everyones hit-list during the summer. Only after reading that the female fruit fly can lay up to 400 eggs in a few days and the entire next generation of flies within 10 days, did I realise how disgusting a swarm of flies to the face really was.

Once the temperature and humidity rises, you are bound to find a mini convoy of flies hovering over any fruit or vegetables left on the kitchen bench, around the bin or around the vinegar jars. But this isn’t a German phenomenon – these little beasts are everywhere.

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Fußball fever

The last few weeks have been intense. I had never thought I’d need to recover from a football (soccer for my fellow Aussies) tournament – as a mere spectator. Now I thought I knew what I was in for. Germany, is a football nation – a trip to the stadium will not only prove the devote commitment and passion of the fans but illustrate how talented the football professionals are. Having now earned their fourth star, the deutsche Mannschaft are a football force to be reckoned with.

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Image source: http://www.adidas.de

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Of pot plants, golf balls and beer…

It has been a little quiet around here. I apologise.

My mind has been working on over-drive lately – pondering, processing questions and hypotheticals and making big decisions.

There have been moments i have wished I was sitting cross-legged on my favourite strip of Sydney sand, hoping for that aha! moment to appear before me.

There have been other moments where I see the beauty around me, realise the things I have achieved in Germany and the family and friends that have enriched my life here, and for that moment, its all ok again.

Its a little more than just being ‘home sick’ (when will they introduce the express-route to Sydney?) – this is something that will always linger around but likes to make an extra appearance when things get a little ‘tough’. 

In perfect timing, this short story landed in front of me – and helped me put things back into perspective. Its surprising that a friendly reminder is sometimes all we need to realise that the issues we create mountains of in our mind are simply molehills when considering the real problems of the world. OK, enough metaphoring…

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The lifeblood of München

In celebration of Pentecost (Pfingsten) over last week’s long weekend, Germany was blessed with blistering sunshine and temperatures over 34 degrees. The summer feeling has definitely arrived, which only means one thing: I am in my element.

I particularly love this weather – the hot breeze, light cotton dresses, sticky skin and jugs of iced, lemon water to cool down. Knowing that it probably won’t last long, I pull out my favourite summer pieces, courtesy of my Australian wardrobe, and embrace the heat.

Given that Germans are basically always partaking in some sort of outdoor activity regardless of the weather, it was without surprise that the flip-flops were out over the weekend. Returning back to München in the afternoon after a short getaway to the neighbouring state of Baden-Württemberg, the first thing we did was head down to the Isar for some waterside bliss. Naturally, we weren’t the only ones with this idea.

The Isar can be described as the lifeblood of München – running approximately 14km through München, it plays a central role in the lives of Müncheners – each person undoubtedly holding a unique relationship with this alpine river.

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