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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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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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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Mixed traditions

Australians are a little bit special – most of us carry something extra around with us, something that confuses a few but mostly adds a little spice to who we are.

I’ve always grown up saying I was an Aussie – and with my mum’s strong bush accent, and childhood stories she shared at the dinner table, it wasn’t hard for me to figure out where I came from. When I learnt that this wasn’t the whole story, things got interesting. With both grandparents and my father having made the 4 week journey by sea to Australia from Greece, deciding to make a life for themselves on the land of opportunity, it was obvious that there was something more to me. This became clear to me as my family intertwined small aspects of the Greek “ways of life” between the picket fence and Hills Hoist.

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Incomparable

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’m a weather girl. When the sun sneaks its way on to my cheek of a morning through the small opening of my bedroom shutters I can’t help but get out of bed and get outside. The dark days of winter, those days where the drizzle just didn’t stop, only made me feel like battling with the kitchen knife and a 2 kilogram pumpkin to indulge in a creamy soup.

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As I’ve mentioned, we’ve been blessed with some unbelievably beautiful weather as of late. Germany’s not known for its sunshine – in fact when summer brings a solid two weeks of heat and sun, the crowds are more than pleased.

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Happily ever after

Forget the news about efficiency, debt bailout packages, Oktoberfest records and NSA phone-tapping – Germany really is just one big fairytale.

Like many young girls, I grew up reading and was read the classical fairy tales from The Brothers Grimm (Die Gebrüder Grimm) and Hans Christian Andersen. Yes very cliched, but just for the record – Rapunzel, The Princess and the Pea and Snow White were my favourites.

Little did I know that decades later I would live amongst the settings and inspiration of my childhood fantasies. Since moving, I have managed to prance around the royal gardens and courtyards of some (or, lets say a handful) of Germany’s many palaces and castles.

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The Hopeless Wanderers 3.0 – the last leg

And the road trip re-cap continues. I hope you’re not over it yet, we’ve still got a little left! I promise I will go back to discussing all things German very soon – pork-knuckles, snow flakes and fairytale castles, it’s all coming.

I last left off in Esperance, where, after a day of absolute bliss, the weather had again turned. This didn’t stop us from trekking on.

Cape Le Grand National Park

Located approximately 45km east of Esperance, Cape le Grand set up some high expectations for us with its marketing campaigns containing the below:

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Up until this point we had not made a single kangaroo spotting, a live one that is. For tourists and homesick natives, you can imagine how disappointing this would be. As we drove in to the Lucky Bay campsite, where we had planned to set up base for the night, we were pleasantly greeted by two roos, foraging for scraps left from campers (not the healthiest of options). We squealed, Alex jumped out of the van with the camera – nothing could wipe the smiles off our faces.

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The hopeless wanderers 1.0

Being an Aussie in a foreign country is hard. When introducing myself to any non-Aussies I meet along my adventures, 9 times out of 10 and the (naturally) well-travelled German will ask what I think of Australia’s list of natural wonders. Alongside the other 9 out of 10 Australians – my standard reply is, “I haven’t had a chance to go (insert famous landmark here) yet”. To a foreigner this doesn’t make us look too good – especially given the way Australia is marketed – the unknown outback, boxing kangaroos, endless dessert, snakes, spiders and crocodiles.

Being an Aussie in Australia is on the other hand, is easy – most of us haven’t seen much past our back fence, except for the mandatory school trips to Canberra and perhaps a trip or two to Melbourne/Sydney, the Gold Coast and Byron Bay. Not having travelled across Australia is more ‘Aussie’ than we think.

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