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!)
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.
Alongside the skiing, it’s safe to say that this winter is really feeling like winter.
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.
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).
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.
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…
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.
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…
Every Wednesday morning, I walk out of the apartment on my way to the station, to be greeted by the bright orange rubbish truck that slowly rumbles its way along the street. It’s fun to watch the routine of the brigade of orange-clad men as they hang off the back of the truck, hopping off in unison and dispersing to various houses.
Although I try to avoid walking past the truck (nothing like the waft of rubbish to kill any sense of a fresh morning) it is often the case that two of said trucks are making their rounds on both potential routes out of my street, making the pass-by unavoidable. Each time I walk past the orange brigade (with my breath held of course), I receive the most cheery ‘Guten Morgen!’ from all of them (such a greeting you would gladly welcome at the city’s local authorities office i.e. das Kreisverwaltungsreferat). I’m proud to say that I’ve put aside my cold Sydney ways and return the greeting with a smile and the pleasant reminder of unfamiliar friendliness. This is what I like about the Germans – they love to greet.