Home Sweet Home

Greetings from a sunny blue-sky November day in Shanghai. It’s been a travel busy few months, which of course I loved but I am also happy to be back home. I hope you all had a wonderfully sun-blissed summer as well.

While I was in Greece with Linh, Christoph was kept busy with work. The factory project, new government policies and visiting colleagues fill his days which turn into weeks. So as the October National Holidays approached, Christoph was definitely ready for a break from the grind. We met in Berlin, re-packed and went on a driving holiday with friends, UM and TM, through Scotland. We flew into Glasgow, picked up a car and headed straight for the Highlands. What a magnificent area!

The pass at Glen Coe

The pass at Glen Coe

Our itinerary was Glasgow-Glen Coe-Dornie-Inverness-Perth-Edinburgh-Glasgow. The country’s landscape is just spectacular and we hope to go back again for a longer visit in the future. The main challenge with a Scotland trip is the unpredictable weather. We had a few days of light drizzle, one day of horizontal rainfall with high winds, a few overcast days but of the 9 full days, we had 3 beautiful clear blue sky days and felt very lucky for it :o)

Some highlights from our trip were the Pass at Glen Coe (see above picture), the Eileen Donan and Urquart Castles, the Porridge Making World Championships at Carrbridge, a cool gin bar in Perth, the Royal Mile and Whisky Experience in Edinburgh and meeting many warm and friendly Scots along the way.

After Scotland, we headed to Switzerland for a very short visit as we promised Christoph’s dad last year that we would attend his Autumn Party on October 13. We were both quite travel weary by then; arriving into Zurich on October 12 and after going up and down a mountain, flew out on October 14. However fatigued we both were, it was worth the effort as we were rewarded with the most fabulous weather, views and company.

The view over the Lake of Lucerne from Stoos. 

The view over the Lake of Lucerne from Stoos. 

I miss all the beautiful landscapes and scenery we saw but it all reminds me of how extraordinary our world is and how lucky we are to be able to see and enjoy it. I’ll post photo galleries of the various trips soon :o)

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

I hope this finds you all well and enjoying the cooler or warmer upcoming weather. Our many family and friends cover both hemispheres and we think of you often so Happy Mid-Autumn Festival everyone!

Linh on Sarakiniko Beach, Milos

Linh on Sarakiniko Beach, Milos

My apologies for the absence from writing but I’ve been held captive by the beauty of my current travels. After Shanghai, I returned to Berlin to meet Linh for our next side EU trip; this time to Greece. Our itinerary is Athens-Sifnos-Milos-Athens. We have our last morning on Milos and will take the ferry back to Athens this afternoon. I will post more extensively once I have a stable internet connection again, but for now, the above photo is a glimpse of what’s been keeping me awe-inspired. And truly, no photoshop or editing required as the colours are perfectly stunning.

Happily Jetlagged in Shanghai

I am back in Shanghai with Christoph for only 10 days before I head off to Berlin again. It’s been wonderful meeting up with my friends through the various activities that I am involved with. I already taught a soap class last night, am manning two Lifeline shifts and have an outreach event over the weekend. It’s been a great kind of busy as I have missed the work I do here.

I took the below photo while I was in Berlin as it confused me greatly when I saw it. The car has Berlin licence plates but the Chinese characters are ‘Shanghai Volkswagon’, can someone please explain?

A Chinese VW in Germany? 

A Chinese VW in Germany? 

The VW leads me to Christoph’s experience with the company buying a new car; a VW Sharan. Early in the year I spent a few days with our driver looking at the various models and comparing leg and head room. We finally decided on the Sharan as it is made in Portugal and had more luggage space but overall is a smaller car than our old Buick; it also handles better. It took a while for the car to arrive due to it being an import, so Christoph made sure that our driver read through the manual to ‘get to know’ the car. He’s definitely taking it seriously as he’s still carefully studying the manual! I haven’t ridden in it yet but soon... :o)

The Travelling Sisters Are At It Again!

Linh joined me couple of weeks ago and we began our tour through the Baltic States. Christoph and I had been there before and I really wanted to share it with my sister. We had an added bonus that a Shanghai friend of mine, VB, also happened to be in Europe this summer and joined us for the second half of the trip.

Linh and I met in Berlin and made our way to Warsaw-Vilnius-Riga-Tallinn-Helsinki. VB joined us in Riga and once we three reached Helsinki, Linh went on to London while VB and I flew back to Berlin.

Top left and clockwise: Warsaw National Opera Theatre, University of Warsaw Library rooftop garden, open-air concert in Vilnius, re-enacting the start of the Baltic Way, Vilnius.

Top left and clockwise: Warsaw National Opera Theatre, University of Warsaw Library rooftop garden, open-air concert in Vilnius, re-enacting the start of the Baltic Way, Vilnius.

Linh and I had a very pleasant train ride from Berlin to Warsaw. That evening, we went to the National Opera Theatre, a fabulous building, and saw the European Union Youth Orchestra play. We then spent the following days exploring the Old Town, the gardens at the Warsaw University Library, the Riverside and a local neighbourhood with Vietnamese markets where we ate quite good Vietnamese food.

Warsaw was followed by Vilnius, a city I loved from my last visit. We were there during the Assumption and so we visited many of the churches while services were underway. We joined a walking tour and found out that Vilnius was in its hey-day considered ‘the Jeruselam of Europe.’ They once had a population comprising of roughly 58,000 Jews and by the end of WWII, only about 2,000 Jews were left. It’s such a violent and regrettable history.

Top left and clockwise: Art Nouveau District, Riga, the interiors of the beautiful buildings, Linh at the Tallinn Old Town, the end of the Baltic Way, Tallinn. 

Top left and clockwise: Art Nouveau District, Riga, the interiors of the beautiful buildings, Linh at the Tallinn Old Town, the end of the Baltic Way, Tallinn. 

We continued our trip with a luxurious bus ride to Riga where we met VB. If you have an interest in Art Nouveau, Riga would be the place for you. It has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe. Also, more and more buildings are gradually being restored each year and walking around the already beautiful district is just stunning. From Riga we again took a bus to Tallinn and soaked in the Old Town and its sights. Keep Tallinn in mind as I won’t be surprised when Tallinn, Estonia pops up to become a leading force in the culinary scene in 5 or so years. The food and beverage were sensational.

Top left and clockwise: at the Sibelius Monument, Helsinki, the amazing Temppeliaukio Church and finally back to Berlin’s East-Side Gallery.

Top left and clockwise: at the Sibelius Monument, Helsinki, the amazing Temppeliaukio Church and finally back to Berlin’s East-Side Gallery.

From Tallinn, a short ferry ride delivered us to Helsinki. The city unfortunately looks quite drab, which is most probably due to the long cold winters. But being faced with those long cold spells, the Fins became fantastic at creating cosy indoor environments. We explored the Design District, popped into many boutique stores, visited the Design Museum and Arabia Design Centre. The city blew me away with its love of all things aesthetically pleasing. An absolute highlight was the Temppeliaukio Church, or also known as the Rock Church. Designed in 1961 with construction completed in 1969, it is a church of which I have never before seen nor imagined. I am determined to re-visit Helsinki with Christoph in tow... along with an empty suitcase!

Heatwave Escape

What a summer hey? It feels almost like an Australian summer in Berlin with temperatures reaching 38 degrees celsius! No worries, we had a last minute change of plans with visitors and found that we suddenly had more time togther before Christoph’s summer vacation ended. So, with such high temperatures, we decided to rent a car and head north to the famed lake district of Mecklenbürgische Seenplatte.

Müritz Lake

Müritz Lake

We weren’t sure if we were going to drive the two hours there, spend the day and head back to Berlin in the evening or stay in the area for the night. In any case, we packed a bag just in case it was too pretty to leave.

Well, it was too pretty to leave and I was so glad we were prepared because the area was so beautiful and relaxing! The water was cooling, the gentle breeze was greatly welcomed and we found a lovely hotel to stay at that was once a military barracks. What a great building!

Top left and clockwise: the Gutshaus in Ludorf, reception area, the exhibition room and our room for the night which was originally the smoking room :o)

Top left and clockwise: the Gutshaus in Ludorf, reception area, the exhibition room and our room for the night which was originally the smoking room :o)

After a day of driving and swimming, the hotel was a perfect place to spend the night. The next morning, we enjoyed a luxurious breakfast and decided to explore a little further north to Uckermünde beach where Angela Merkel used to spend her summers.

Uckermünde Beach

Uckermünde Beach

We really enjoyed our little getaway and I love seeing and learning more about Germany each time I visit. And the bonus was that we came back to a Berlin that was cooling down; perfect!!

Summer Fun

Christoph and I have been thoroughly enjoying our time in Berlin; the slow mornings, long walks, various coffee houses and just being outdoors in the warmth and under clear blue skies makes us happy.

Last Tuesday, we took a train to Hamburg, stayed overnight and visited Christoph’s mum the next day. We had lunch at the Hotel Atlantic which, I didn’t know at the time, is an iconic landmark in Hamburg. It’s also iconic for being the home to Udo Lindenberg, an über famous German rocker, musician and composer who has lived in the hotel for 23 years! So cool!

After lunch we took a walk around the Alster and gawked at the many huge mansions on Schöne Aussicht (that’s the street name, ‘Beautiful View’) and Bellevue (another street meaning ‘Beautiful View’). We stopped frequently for drinks and to watch the people running, walking and paddling by. A great way to spend the day.

We then visited Christoph’s mum in Bordeshölm the next day and had another relaxed and easy time together. In the afternoon, we took the train from Bordeshölm to Hamburg with a connection to Berlin. We arrived with an hour to spare and decided to grab light dinner before taking our 20:34h train. We were back at the station at 20:30h to find out that our train had been delayed and due to depart at the new time of 21:50h. Ugh. There was a brief storm earlier in the day and the delay involved the fire department. Christoph had a sneaky suspicion that the delay will be longer so we went to see if we could rent a car. Two car rental places had run out of cars and we finally found one that technically didn’t have anything left but the nice man at the counter freed a car up for us. 21:00h we were in a car and on the way back to Berlin. While on the road, we kept an eye on the train schedule and saw that the train had indeed been delayed once again, due to depart at 23:15h to arrive in Berlin at 01:30h. You can just imagine how glad we were that we didn’t sit around and wait for the train.

Top and clockwise: Christoph learning about film sets, the garden from a TV story, a typical scene from the Middle Ages, the set for the Three Musketeers show.

Top and clockwise: Christoph learning about film sets, the garden from a TV story, a typical scene from the Middle Ages, the set for the Three Musketeers show.

We got back to Berlin very tired but happy that it worked out somehow. As we had the car for 24 hours, we thought to make the most of it. We ran errands in the morning and in the afternoon, drove out to the Babelsberg Filmpark which is attached to the famous Babelsberg Film Studios. The Babelsberg Film Studios are ‘the Hollywood studios’ of Germany and according to Wikipedia are ‘the oldest large-scale film studios in the world, producing films since 1912’. We always thought to take a look but one needs a car to get there or else it’s a very long bus ride. So off we went to the Filmpark. This is my description of it: You know those B-rated horror movies where a group of friends break into an abandoned theme park and find themselves getting murdered one after the other by a psychotic themepark caretaker? Well this would be the perfect setting. The Filmpark was built in 1991 but feels much older. It has various interactive shows; the stunt show at the volcano, the animal show, the three musketeers... all performed by the same people ;o) If you have a chance, there are many other things to see in Potsdam, you can skip this ‘highlight’.

Berlin’s Turkish Markets

I’m in Berlin for the summer and today went on a little outing with my friend ED after yoga class. She’s Australian of Turkish decent and has always bought her fresh produce from the various Turkish markets around town. I on the other hand, love that we have a farmer’s market around the corner from our apartment each Saturday. We both needed to pick up some groceries today and so out of curiosity, I went along with ED to the Turkish markets she frequents.

The loot. 

The loot. 

The market was jam-packed! I loved the diversity of the market-goers; Arabs, Turkish, Asians and a handful of caucasians thrown in the mix. Our farmer’s market is mainly visited by local Germans and tourists. Prices at the Turkish market were low and produce was aplenty and because we were there in the last hour of operations, vendors were very keen to sell off their wares. I picked up 10 avocados, 10 passion fruit, 4 punnets of blackberrries, 1kg of cherries, 2kg of plums, 1kg of grapes, 3 lemons, tomatoes and a bunch of parsley. Can you guess how much I paid in total? €11. Yes, eleven euros.

I of course, was not well-prepared and had to precariously lug everything back home on my bike. Until now, I’m still in two minds about the pros and cons of each market. I like that ours is in walking distance and I can just pop down and buy something easily. However, you can’t deny that the prices at the Turkish market are amazingly reasonable and I loved watching the mix of people. I’ll also have to taste test the produce and then can have a better opinion, but in the meantime, if the weather is good, then venturing a little further on my bike to the Turkish market is fun and makes a good outing. But when it’s cold and wet, then the higher prices at our local market will be just fine for me as well ;o)

Living And Loving Life

What a week it’s been over here! We had a crazy busy last week of June with Christoph’s boss coming over for an important ceremony, one in which the company has committed to the building of a factory in China! That was a big step for Wolf to take and Christoph has been hard at work laying down the foundation for the project. July then started and I had a milestone week; July 4 was my one year anniversary since becoming a Swiss citizen, July 5 was the first day when I ‘worked’ all three of my jobs and July 6 saw my first small pay check since many many years! (I treated Christoph to breakfast this morning ;o) hehehe)

Top and clockwise: Fan Bingbing publicity at the cardiac hospital, getting crafty and Lifeline Shanghai’s phone lines have been steadily ringing. 

Top and clockwise: Fan Bingbing publicity at the cardiac hospital, getting crafty and Lifeline Shanghai’s phone lines have been steadily ringing. 

If you recognise her, that’s Fan Bingbing in the centre of the group photo. She has since 4 years been a great supporter of Heart to Heart and once a year sponsors the flights of Tibetan children plus their chaperones to come to Shanghai for much needed heart surgery. This year there were 36 children which meant that she kindly sponsored 72 return flight tickets. This is a project that is carefully coordinated with Heart to Heart as we raise the funds for the actual surgeries.

Since the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, Lifeline Shanghai has seen a steady stream of incoming calls. It seems that with the issue of mental health being more frequently publicised, the stigma surrounding mental health has lessened and people are acknowledging their own need to reach out for help. I think this is a good development.

Lastly, I’m having lots of fun being around crafty people! With the three very different ‘jobs’ I do, I love that I get to be a part of three communities that are filled with intelligent, caring and creative individuals from all over the world. And now, after such a busy week, I get to wind down and think about starting to pack for the summer in Berlin. I haven’t had much time to think about Berlin due to my being totally and happily immersed in my daily Shanghai life. But now, I’m good to escape the heat and get back to exploring with friends and family!