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I’m so sorry I missed Friday’s post! It slipped away from me without my notice. We had my brother and sister in law over for the weekend, a last visit before the big move, and spending time with them got priority over being in front of the computer.
This was also probably the last weekend of fun and relaxation we’ll have for a while. From here on out, it’s going to be paperwork, packing tape and suitcases.
We’ve had precious few sunshine days this past season, so whenever we had even half a chance of catching a ray or two, we were outside. Feeling bolstered by the cloudless day, we hiked to Duisburg Zoo.
We’ve been at the zoo twice before and this is my second blog about it (hence the 2.0). I just couldn’t resist sharing the experience again. There’s even a video this time! As far as zoos go, Duisburg is really worth the trip. We had a blast there, despite the crowds.
As promised, here’s the bonus Thursday post. 🙂
For the 9th anniversary, we headed to Düsseldorf. This actually happened by accident. The real reason for the trip was to pick up our passports with the brand-spanking-new visas to enter Canada. Both of us had completely forgotten it happened to be our anniversary too. 😛
Since we were already there, we figured a meal would be nice. You know, because it was an event. We conquered the wind and found a cosy restaurant.
We’ve wanted to go to this place since we arrived in Europe, but every time we had the trip planned, something got in the way. We finally drove to the Netherlands on one sunny Sunday to feast our eyes upon the glory that is Castle De Haar.
The original castle suffered major damages in a fire and was rebuilt many years later. The outside was kept in the Neo-Gothic style, but the interior was modernised in places. The castle even sports a beauty salon. It was interesting to see this mesh of new and old pulled off so well. We’ve visited other castles that had been remodelled to the point where the interior spaces lost all resemblance to their original states – a sad thing if you ask me. This wasn’t the case with De Haar.
Would you believe we’d been living in Germany for almost two years before we went for a stroll in Duisburg (our neighbouring town)? I couldn’t either.
Duisburg is a quiet city with an abundance of fountains in the city centre. Colourful and weird, these fountains create a strange contrast to the ancient buildings in the area. Of course there are some modern buildings too, but the city centre hosts many older structures.
We’re not the biggest sports supporters in the world, but there’s something incredible about going to a live soccer game. To those of you who take this seriously, I know it’s called football in Europe. I’m South African, so to me it’s soccer. No offence meant.
Anyway, the last game we went to (which was also the first ever 😛 – I told you we’re not spots-people) was England vs Ukraine in 2012. Since we enjoyed that one so much, we simply had to see at least one game in Germany. Jan’s boss arranged a company event for the employees, which brought us to Essen stadium for this game.
Sunshine has been rare this summer – I don’t know what’s going on. Apart from three or so heat waves, we’ve had an excess of rain and gloom this season. Pretty depressing, if you ask me. Especially considering the fact that I had a tan last year this time.
So, when the sun is out, we are too.
Well, I’m sure some of the other runners still had their fun, but by the time we reached Düsseldorf, it was coming down in buckets. So much so that my water resistant jacket (and shirt underneath) were drenched and we had to stop to buy something dry and warm to wear.
Jan and Mario would have done one of the weekly parkruns in the city, but both decided they’d give it a skip in the heavy rain. We might give it a try again in a week or two, so you could still see running photos. 🙂
As we had nothing better to do, we went exploring. Indoors.
Life is full of little firsts. A while ago, one of these came up for Kayla, when we took her bowling for the first time.
Jan and I used to love bowling back in SA, but haven’t played in about 5 years. Thinking about it now, that puts the last time we played at before my pregnancy. Sad, but true. Anyway, we thought we’d turn a gloomy, rainy Saturday into one of those ‘remember the time when’ memories and headed out to the Rhein-Ruhr Zentrum to bowl.
Another weekend, another fair.
Let me tell you something about this one, though – it was huge. Everything is bigger and better in Düsseldorf, right? I almost felt bad for the Saarner Kirmes we’d visited the weekend before.
On a cloudy Sunday, we headed to the city to see the fair. Loud music, delicious food scents, bright colours and the screams of thrill-seekers – this is what the fair was all about.
One sunny Sunday, we went to Düsseldorf on a macaron-finding quest. It was France festival, after all, so it would be a likely place to find French sweets, right?
Hundreds of stalls were set up along the River Rhein, with long tables across a narrow walkway, filled with wine and cheese connoisseurs. The brunt of the stalls sold cheese and wine from France, but some also offered crepes, olives and a variety of bread. I counted two pastry stalls, and only one of these sold macarons. Honestly, the ugliest, most unappetising macarons I’ve ever seen.
In the post about those things I love about Germany, I mentioned random fairs popping up at every opportunity. This weekend, we found one of those. 🙂
The Saarner Kirmes set up in our hometown of Mülheim an der Ruhr, on the bank of the River Ruhr (Saarn is a suburb of Mülheim). We wouldn’t even have known of the fair’s existence, had we not went out to lunch. I was in the mood for currywurst, but we couldn’t find a nice place to have that. So, we went in the direction of the river.
By chance, Kayla spotted activity on the far bank. I say chance, but I really mean her fun-radar. That thing is accurate within half a centimetre. 🙂
I’d call it a Weekend in Pictures post, only I took too few photos for that. I don’t understand how the picture-drought happened, to be honest. We got up to SO MUCH, I just didn’t think to snap the events. Those moments I did shoot fall off the other side of the spectrum.
I have 32 photos of fish. THIRTY. TWO.
My… month in pictures? The monthly recap? As far as alternative titles go, these aren’t the best. Sorry. 🙂
Since I didn’t do a single post with photos from this month, I thought I’d give you an overview today (all my WIP posts were of adventures from past months). I’ve been toying with this recap post idea for a while, since so many of our photos taken in the week are share-worthy, but never get featured because they weren’t taken on weekends.
You all know how Kayla feels about animals. Here’s a hint, she adores them. One of the greatest things about Germany is that we can throw a stone and hit a petting zoo. If you’ve been around the blog, you know we often hang around these kinds of places. Around the end of May, we upped our game and took her to this awesome mini game reserve, Naturwildpark Granat.
Japan day took place on the 20th of May, in Düsseldorf. This yearly event sees thousands of cosplayers in the city, all to see the firework shows, sumo wrestling, samurai artefacts, talks hosted by the Japanese Embassy and so much more.
Most people come to dress up, though. Some come in full costume, so detailed and realistic that they could have stepped out of the fantasy world they’re representing. It’s insane. Others come with no more than a Pikachu hat and a sign around their necks offering free hugs.
Towards the end of April, we visited Grugapark one day. We found ourselves suddenly alone after our fabulous vacation, and needed some TLC. Hence, the visit to the park. We’ve been to Gruga a few times before, but we’d never seen it covered in tulips. Being nature-folk, you can imagine how much we enjoyed this trip!
This is the end. We had a blast, saw amazing things and bonded with our tribe. We miss them terribly. The house is still quiet. Going through all of these photos somehow amplifies that.
But, before I get too soppy, let’s get on with the post.
While I shared all the main events with you, I have hundreds of photos taken on the in-between days. You know, those ones that didn’t involve buying tickets to enter tourist hot-spots. That’s what I’m sharing today.
Oh, Amsterdam. Still one of my favourite places on earth. The sweet smell in the air (no, not the weed, the pastries :P), the buzz in the streets and the beauty of the city will always draw me to return. Add the fact that we can be understood when speaking Afrikaans and it becomes all the more alluring to visit the Netherlands.
We love these two cities so much, we’ve visited both before. This was our second time in Maastricht, Netherlands, and also our second visit to Aachen, which is a small German border-town. I can highly recommend both.
This was a lazy Sunday trip and would also be the last warm, sunny day we had while the Groenewalds were here.
After the excitement from the night before, we returned to the Pantheon first thing on the third morning.
Well, first thing is relative. The Groenewalds are early risers. An admirable trait, I tell you. Kayla and I, though, *are not* early risers. In fact, we’re some of the grumpiest morning people you’ll ever meet. Nobody wants that. 🙂 Luckily, we walk fast.
In an unfortunate turn of events, we seem to have lost some of the vacation photos. Don’t hyperventilate yet, though. All my photos are still intact. We’ll get the rest at some point in time, but you probably won’t get to see them. Meh.
Our second day in Rome (day one here) was sunny and generally lovely. We hit all the tourist spots, but didn’t actually go into these places. Let’s call what we did the anti-tourist tour of Rome. With three kids under 6, we weren’t going to attempt the snaking lines into the Colosseum or onto Palatine Hill, for example. Still, we found ourselves drooling over the Roman Forum, Altare della Patria and the Colosseum.
There’s a feeling that fills your chest when you round that corner, or take that step out of the train station in Cologne. The first and most undeniable structure in the heart of the city is the Cologne Cathedral – majestic, impossible and awe-inspiring. It claims your every thought and emotion with its sheer size, then slams its hooks into your heart with its gothic spires, stained-glass windows and grotesque gargoyles. You’ll always kind of shiver when you recall this place, never fully capable of wording what it is you felt in the cathedral’s shadow. And an enormous shadow it is.
Well, I’m back.
This vacation was one for the record books. Having friends over was seriously special, and more so because we experienced so many new things together. It was an honour to have them fly half-way around the globe to visit us. All the warm and fuzzies were felt. Having said that, I’ll try to keep the emotions contained while I write this. You know me, a big old softie. 😛 I cry at McDonald’s commercials.
It started with the best of intentions, I swear. I have a half-typed post that was intended for Friday, but my routine was upheaved and that’s where my shit was lost. I went out with Kayla and some friends on Friday morning and returned home after my usual blog-uploading time. I got busy. Kayla had a nasty fall and required more attention than usual (she’s fine now, don’t worry).
Then, after dinner, I realised I’d forgotten to blog altogether. It was a hectic kind of day.
Last week, I mentioned the rain being late. Yeah. Not long after I posted that, it came down in buckets. The rain didn’t stop until Friday afternoon, when the weather jerked into spring mode. As in, it went from cool indoors and winter-jacket-cold outside to ‘hey, we’re in short sleeves, please turn off the heating’. I don’t know how long this about-face will last, but for now, the sunshine is great.
For some reason, the weather situation affected me too. I finished the short story edit on Friday, but didn’t write another word for the rest of the weekend. (Total procrastination and zombie-mindset on my behalf.) This weekend was for the family and catching up on some zees. In fact, Jan was the one working for a change. 🙂
Last year this time, we had maybe an afternoon of sunshine every two weeks. The drizzle was constant, predictable like the beat of my heart. Depressing too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of rain. I come from a place where the thunderstorms are legendary, with rushes of rain like waterfalls and crashing thunder like battles in the sky. Hard rain – I love that. This misty, more-like-wet-wind-than-actual-rain? Hate it.
Still, it left its mark. Last year this time, everything was green. Some trees had already started to blossom and the air smelled sweet and earthy. Spring showers (showers, ha) transformed our surroundings to something magical – something Johannesburgers aren’t used too. I mean, Jozi is awesome, but doesn’t have the same amount of trees and forested areas as we do here in Germany.
With the weather in Germany finally turning, we’ve been seeing some sun. Though, that thought barely crossed my mind when the rain arrived. As I type this, it’s dristing outside. No, that’s not a word. It’s a weather phenomenon that is neither drizzle nor mist, and is so definitive of Europe that you probably have the exact image of this drist in your mind right now. I HATE IT. But OK.
Saturday graced us with some relatively good weather – cloudy, but wind-still. Kayla’s been nagging to go to one of the local animal parks again, so we figured Saturday was perfect for that. I’ve blogged about Kaiserpark before, but this remains one of our favourite places to hang around in nature. If you ever find yourself in Oberhausen with kids, I totally recommend this outing. Entry is free, and you can either bring or purchase carrots to feed to some of the farm animals. There’s a nice restaurant and a small outdoor café too, and some beautiful park-scapes.
If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you’ll know I’m the obsessive type. Whenever I do something, I hurl myself at it until it’s done and I’m exhausted. Then I go into a weird, anti-climactic ‘what the hell now?’ state. That’s what I’m combatting now.
So, since finishing the latest revision of The Physician’s Apprentice, I’ve been focussed on spending time with my family. Because of that, I’ve missed a few days of fanart February, but I’ll make that up with a few quick sketches. Point is, it hasn’t been as rushed for a week or so and I’m actually coping with the quiet.
Our weather has been turning too – this is awesome. One week we were still freezing, and the next was just cool. We actually had some SUNSHINE too. Then, on Thursday, the chill returned. It snowed through Friday night and left us with a frosty surprise Saturday morning. Snowball fights ensued.
I’m happy to report that my insane revision period is over. For the moment. The editing was strong with me this weekend, but I did have some forced breaks mixed in. Also some spontaneous breaks, otherwise known as procrastination, which led me to find my Patronus is a St Bernard. I know.
Anway, while not working, we went for walks along the Ruhr. Since we live about 2 km from the river, we tend to find ourselves next to it quite often. This weekend, however, we followed paths yet unexplored.
Last week, I bombarded you with images of snow. This week, it’s ice. You see a theme here? This winter has been more than a smidge colder than last, but the weather brings many new experiences for those of us originally from warmer parts.
We live close to the River Ruhr, but we also have other water in our area – fountains galore. Having said that, all of these fountains are usually turned off to dry when the daylight savings kick in and the cold starts. This means we’ve never seen water freeze over in the winter. Until this weekend, that is.
We entered 2017 to a chorus of whistles, glittery explosions, pops and sizzles. Fireworks. Hours and hours worth of fireworks.
Just to keep you in the know – in South Africa, fireworks are pretty much illegal. The minority of people still shoot these pretties to celebrate the new year, but on the whole, it’s a big no-no where I come from. For the greater part of my life, I only saw fireworks on special occasions, and then never on a large scale.
You can imagine how weird it was when we came to Germany. Here, tradition dictates that you shoot away all the bad things from the last year, so that you start the new year with a clean slate. The fireworks start when the first early watch says it’s midnight and pretty much continues well into the next morning – this year, it was about 6 o’clock on January 1st.
If you’ve hung around the blog, you’ll know we’re a family of South Africans living in Germany. Johannesburg is our hometown, and is overall not a very snowy place. In fact, we’re used to truckloads of sunshine all year round, with some thunderstorms in the warm season.
We find European weather a strange phenomenon. Here we have misty drizzle and near-constant overcast in the winter, with weather patterns that shift because a baby farted. One thing we’re particularly fond of, though, is snow.
We’ve been ogling this castle for a looooong time. You know how I feel about castles to begin with, but this one was kind of special, and not just because it’s the template for the Disney castle. Imagine this place, with its majestic spires and pristine white bricks, keeping its vigil on the side of a snow-covered mountain, rising above a thin veil of mist. It’s the kind of thing fairytales are born of.
Even if you ignore the incredible imagery that the area has to offer, the history of Neuschwanstein is really interesting – a fairytale backstory in itself. The castle was commissioned by a mad king, who was so indebted to his people because of his obsession with building this castle, that he was taken into custody. While under arrest, he was mysteriously killed while strolling with his psychiatrist, and both bodies were found in a lake. To this day, nobody knows what happened or who killed them. Read more on Wiki.
Hello, all you lovely folks. Hope you had a good weekend.
As I mentioned on Friday, our trip to Munich ended in a zoo, because of a three-year-old’s heartfelt request. For this reason, we braved the cold, ignored the patches of snow on the ground, and went to see some animals.
The highlight of the zoo trip was the aquarium, because it took us out of the cold (win!) and Kayla ADORES fish. Might have mentioned that before.
This zoo was interesting in that it has a lot of indoor areas, built to simulate the climate of the natural habitats the animals would typically live in. With this came the plants, birds etc that would be grouped in each area. Zoo visitors can enter each of these spaces and observe the animals through massive glass panes.
I mentioned on Wednesday that our journey to Munich began on a rainy Sunday morning. We’ve never been to any other German state, so this was a big trip for us, especially considering how much we wanted to see Bavaria.
We’ve been told on many occasions, by both Germans and non-Germans, how incredibly different Bavaria is from the rest of Germany – so much so that they speak a completely different dialect of German there and have their own customs and laws. Maybe it’s because we convinced ourselves it would almost be like another country, but we didn’t find it so unfamiliar.
My baby turned three yesterday, folks. Three. I can’t even.
I baked the cake on Monday afternoon, cleaned the house, wrapped the gifts and then Jan and I decorated the cake in the evening.
We woke up to Kayla bellowing something about her birthday party yesterday morning. 🙂 From there on, it was gift opening, playing, crafts, skype sessions, her friend coming over, cake and waffle eating. We ended the day with a stroll through the city centre and a happy meal – which I didn’t photograph.
We spent Kayla’s first two Christmases in South Africa, but for the one she was 6 weeks old and for the other, just over a year. So I doubt she remembers much. Last year, we didn’t want to make too much of a fuss, because our apartment was still temporary and we didn’t want to buy too much stuff to have to move with. That meant we had no tree. Still, I think she was too young to really appreciate all of the Christmassy stuff.
This year though, Kayla demanded that we buy and decorate a tree.
First of all, I apologise for missing yet another blog post on Friday. I went to my German lesson as always, then received the bad news that one of our doggies in South Africa passed away. I was really sad and shocked by the news, which really just jumbled my mind, I accomplished nothing for the day.
Along with that, Kayla is almost three and Kayla approves of nothing because she is almost three. Good grief, sometimes motherhood is difficult.
Anyway, this weekend went in much the same fashion as our weekends tend to go lately. We met with Mario and Plamena for coffee on Friday afternoon. I totally had ice cream, because, reasons.
Hi there, folks. Good to have you back here!
After dashing off to write on Friday, a severe case of writer’s block made my life miserable. I pretty much wrote a few words, deleted them, wrote a few more and deleted them too.
Jan saved the day on Saturday, by arranging a Dad and Kayla trip. While the two of them had a ton of fun at the River Ruhr and Ruhr park, I smashed out over 5000 words. (Sit down, sanctimommies, this was the first time in 3 months that I didn’t spend the entire day with my daughter.)
As a reward for my uber-productivity, we headed to Düsseldorf with some friends on Sunday.
Hope your weekend was good. Mine sure was. I didn’t take so many photos, but the family and friends will be glad to hear that this post will officially be Kayla-fest. As any typical mother, there will always be tons of photos of my kid. 😛
Inktober is in full swing, but I have honestly been skimming on the drawings. I’m revising and writing. Focusing on more than one project at a time drives me insane – it’s the reason why I rarely read more than one book or watch more than one series at the same time too. Still, I’ve been drawing in the between moments, and I think the added creative endeavour is good for my writing too. It really does help me focus.
So, Oberhausen has a schloss (this word can be used to describe anything from a castle to a manor house – in this case, it’s a manor house) and a park, but we’ve been putting off going there. First of all, the schloss is not that impressive (in our opinions) and we had no idea that Kaiser Park existed, because it doesn’t have a website. Secondly, when we have so many cool places to visit in and around Germany, why would we go to the local spots?
Yeah. We were idiots.
Kaiser Park is amazing and Schloss Oberhausen is quaint. Yes, that’s the word I’m going with. The locals call it the schweinchen schloss – schweinchen being ‘piglet’ – because the schloss is pink. Oink. OK, fine, ‘whimsical’ may have been the better word choice.
Kaiser Park has a free petting farm (we’ve been finding these all over), beautiful river views and hiking trails, and a nice kiosk next to the schloss. There’s also a restaurant and beer garden, if that would tickle your fancy. We’ll go visit the schloss art gallery sometime.
We had a lot of fun here, but nobody loves seeing and feeding the animals as much as Kayla. And then riding in a fire truck trumps all.
I’ve always had pretty good eyesight, but recently it’s been a mission to read the signs at the station, or the subtitles when I watch anime. Plus, the headaches. I knew it was time to have my eyes tested looong before I actually had them tested, but, you know, anxiety. You can guess by the way this story is going that I finally had the test about two weeks ago.
It’s the weirdest thing, getting glasses. For a few minutes after they put the glasses on me, I struggled to focus on anything. Don’t worry, it worked out eventually. High Definition has a new definition to me now. 😛
I said this last week somewhere and I’ll say it again – I feel as if a train ran over my head, realised it was on the wrong course and then reversed. I’ve been unable to stay fully awake at any given time for about 8 days solid. Hello, Monday.
This weekend was a pretty packed one.
My German lessons usually fall on Friday late mornings, but my teacher was on vacation last week, so I had the day off. This meant getting acrylics up to our elbows. Kayla and I both adore art and painting, so this change in schedule fit both our needs perfectly.
You would never guess from the title, but we had one hellishly warm weekend. In fact, all of last week was the kind of weather where your clothes are perpetually stick to your skin – moist and glistening. Yuck.
All I can say is that a lot of ice cream was involved.
On Friday, our landlady offered to look after Kayla so that Jan and I could have a date night. It was honestly the sweetest thing anyone has done for us since coming to Germany and, considering that Thursday was our year-aversary, it was perfect timing. Yes, friends. Kayla and I have officially been in Germany for a year.
This date night was literally the first one Jan and I have had since moving.
This title is probably a little misleading, because everyday is ‘girl’s day’ in my house. You know, because I stay at home with Kayla and all that. The difference is that we don’t usually have girl’s days on weekends when Jan is home.
Last week from Thursday to Sunday was Gamescom in Cologne and, being the calibre of geek that we are, Jan and I really wanted to go. Unfortunately, they don’t allow kids under the age of three, so Jan went on Saturday, leaving me and the Kayster to our own devices.
And… as always, I’m getting ahead of myself.
This second instalment of castle hopping reached over two countries. So exciting. 🙂 You can see day one here, if you haven’t yet.
Maastricht in the Netherlands was our first destination. This is a pretty amazing place, with cobbled streets and beautiful old buildings. You must be getting tired of the words ‘cobbled streets’ and ‘old buildings’. I’m sorry, but I absolutely live for the architecture (specifically Baroque and Gothic, but all of antique Europe makes me hyperventilate). And then, castles and or churches / cathedrals. But you already know that and I’m getting ahead of myself again.
This is what happens when I tell Jan he never smiles for selfies:
Friends – castles. Over the weekend, we saw three of them. OK, fine, we saw one castle and two palaces, but you get the general idea. We also visited some monuments, a small fort with an actual moat and drove between two countries. It was amazing.
Here’s how it went down.
The other day, we went to this muscle car exhibition at CentrO, Oberhausen.
Jan is a pretty big car enthusiast. So when he found out about this car show, he was firing on all cylinders to get there. Especially when he heard there would be Mustangs, among the other American-loved cars. We saw Oldsmobiles, Dodges and Buicks, Fords, Chevs and much more.