I’m typing this as the snow is falling and slowly… Read More »CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium (My WIP)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
So, the time of year is officially here, as I mentioned the other day. Today I want to talk about the markets in depth, and maybe give some advice to first-time market-goers, because this stuff can be a little overwhelming.
The markets are a pretty amazing part of the German Christmas experience, even if you don’t like Christmas. Or the cold. Or crowds, for that matter.
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.
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 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.
These photos are actually from my Mother’s Day weekend. It’s late, I know, but I was writing a novel! Yes, the keyword in that sentence is ‘was’. More on that soon. 😀
With the amazing spring weather, we’ve been sightseeing a lot lately. There are some pretty awesome sights to see right in our back yard, a fact we didn’t know until recently. You can’t blame us for sticking to indoor activities in our first European winter!
But anyway, sightseeing is how we came across Schloss Broich. It’s like 4 km from our apartment and is adjacent to one of the most beautiful garden parks we’ve been to so far.
Inside the Schloss itself is a mini museum with some treasures from the area in olden days. In fact, as far as we understand, they’re still excavating antiquities on the site, while restoring the tower.
You know how I feel about castles by now, otherwise you must be new here. Welcome! As always when faced with a castle, I was pretty giddy with excitement. Add to it the fact that there’s a museum inside, FREE OF CHARGE, with chainmail and all the old weaponry you can think of, and all my weaknesses were exploited. 🙂
On Ascension Day, we hopped a train to Werden. This picturesque place is a suburb of Essen and is seriously gorgeous. The buildings are still in the old style and there’s almost a fantasy-type vibe to the old taverns turned cafés. Walking through those cobblestone ways certainly piqued my creative flow.
Then, there’s the parks and greenery. I could tell you how brilliantly green the grass is, or how amazing the trees look. I could tell you how warm the sun was and how tranquil the flow of the river made me feel. But then, I’ve recently been instructed to ‘show, don’t tell’, and you know what they say about pictures and words. 🙂 So, have a look!
We’ve been living in Germany for seven months. Can you believe that?
It’s been interesting. We’ve been adapting. There are still better days and worse days, but overall, we’re finding our feet. Jan is starting with German classes soon, and our landlady has undertaken to teach me too. Once he learns, I’m sure my own learning will accelerate. Honestly, I’ve been so caught up in my book, that I haven’t focussed on learning German like I used to. It’s my fault, I know. I just have divided priorities between my kid and hubs, my writing and keeping house. Being a work at home mom is difficult enough without adding learning a language to that. 😛 But as soon as the book is in for round two of edits, I’ll throw myself at learning German again.
OK. Obligatory update out of the way. (If you want a more detailed update, let me know.)
So spring in Germany. I mean, WOW.
Fair warning, this is going to be an image rich post. 😛
We set out for London from Düsseldorf airport in pretty much perfect weather. The flight itself was only 55 minutes, but of course we stood in the line at passport control for over an hour and a half. 🙂
I honestly don’t blame the airports for the higher security than usual, with all of the terrorist activity lately. Having said that, waiting in line with an exhausted and irritated toddler is no fun for anyone. Including the people waiting in a radius near said toddler. At least some people made the best of the situation and tried to keep Kayla occupied by playing peek-a-boo with her. Awesome people still exist.
Anyway. We were lucky enough to be able to rent a car for the week. I love public transport, but having wheels for a week was still awesome. It makes me miss having a car at our disposal, not that I would drive it personally. 😀 So, after we got through passport control, we met Willem and picked up the car.
Obviously, there was a lot of wedding stuff happening during the week. This means that our sightseeing time was limited. Not to mention the fact that we were sick. Don’t ask me how these things happen, but I reckon our vacation illness was a pre-runner to our back-home illness (more on that here).
This post is to show you all of the vacation photos that didn’t make it into other blog posts. Because if you know my family at all, you’ll know that very little is ever done without cellphones or cameras in the air, clicking away. Pictures or it didn’t happen, right?
So here are some of the ones that you haven’t seen already. Enjoy.
Everybody who knows me is aware of my absolute fascination and obsession with castles. There is something mystical and magical about castles and the age they were constructed in. I often find myself at the base of one of these structures and I wonder how it’s even possible that they exist. How did those people with their ancient technology manage to build these massive, MASSIVE buildings and have them survive the passing of time.
Schloss (German word for castle) Burg was the first castle I’ve seen in its particular style. Unfortunately, the larger part of the castle was destroyed in a siege and was left to decay for a long time after that. It was restored in the 1920’s and is now a museum and tourist attraction. More on the history of it here.
We chose one of the coldest days of the vacation to visit this incredible place, but though our fingers were freezing, we had a blast. Painted ceilings, suits of armour, potsherds and ancient weapons fill the interior spaces. And once we were done exploring, we had a lovely waffle at the Wafflehouse.
While my folks were here, we spent a day in Amsterdam. The last time I was there, the place absolutely stole my heart. I mean, it’s not only beautiful, but the people were incredibly warm towards us and understood when we spoke Afrikaans. I loved the sights there.
This time was no different. I still love the vibe in Amsterdam, the amazing beauty of the place and the friendly people. What got me down was the sheer amount of people. 😛 With the holidays around the corner at that stage, Amsterdam was packed to overflowing. In fact, I remarked on more than one occasion that the entire population of Amsterdam (almost 800 000 people) were in the city plain at the exact same moment. It felt that way for sure.
The other difference between my first and second visits to Amsterdam was the weather. The last time we were there it was all sunshine and warmth. This time it was pretty much freezing. Did that take away from the experience? No.
Am I addicted to great architecture and lead-glass installations? Why, yes, I sure am.
That statement means cathedral and church-hopping is on my A-list of things to do and sights to see. The Cologne Cathedral (Or Kölner Dom, as the Germans call it) is AH-MAZE-ING. It is, without any trace of a doubt, the biggest structure I have seen in my life.
The Gothic style has always been one of my favourites. The detail, arches, gargoyles and just everything about it screams to me, and I feel a deep affinity with it. The Kölner Dom does not disappoint. The structure took over 600 years to build (with a time of rest included in that period) and was only complete for a short time before the Second World War, which saw it heavily damaged by bombings. The tall peaks of the cathedral were easy targets in the war, so it was often attacked. This tragedy means that a lot of the structure as it now stands is the work of modern repair, clearly distinguishing the original stones from the new ones.
Having said that, the building is still absolutely majestic and unbelievable. The sheer mass of it is mind-blowing and has already inspired magical stories in the back of my mind. I would recommend it to any lover of architecture and anyone else who wants to be awed. It’s absolutely worth the trip.