Summer Days

Last week we rented a car to visit Christoph’s mum up north of Hamburg. We decided to use the opportunity with the car to do some exploring on the way back to Berlin. We therefore, drove through Lübeck and Schwerin; both wonderful cities.

Lübeck is home to Christoph’s favourite chocolate-covered marzipan and due to it’s location at the mouth of the Trave, has a rich trading history. The old town is UNESCO Heritage listed due to the extensive brick Gothic architecture. When we walked through the old town, you could really see how wealthy that city must have been back in the day. Buildings dating back to nearly 1,000 years are still standing, have been restored and are presently used for businesses and dwellings. One of the oldest buildings in the city is the Holy Spirit Hospital (built in 1286) which is believed to be one of the oldest social institutions in the world. Another highlight was the European Hansemuseum which has been restored and updated. It shows us how important architecture is in helping us keep the stories of times long forgotten alive.

Lübeck is a small city so it didn’t take us long to walk around the historic centre. On our way back to our hotel, we then had the luck of stumbling into a beer festival hosted by one of the local breweries. There were loads of people in attendance, food and drink stalls galore and best of all, a band playing on a floating pontoon. The artist playing was Florian Künstler and he was really good! It was such an unexpectedly nice way spend the evening; sitting by a river, drinking a G&T and enjoying great live music.

Top left and clockwise: Lübeck’s Holstentor Gate (built 1478), Christoph enjoying the music, Schwerin Palace and getting eggs from the source!

Top left and clockwise: Lübeck’s Holstentor Gate (built 1478), Christoph enjoying the music, Schwerin Palace and getting eggs from the source!

After Lübeck we drove to Schwerin. We had no idea what was there and so Christoph drove in the direction of the city centre and parked the car. There was not much around us and we thought…hmmm…Schwerin doesn’t look like much. So this is when your mobile phone comes in handy. I looked up the city and directed us towards the Schwerin Palace. We parked again and went by foot towards the castle. This turned into a magnificent walk through a picturesque town and around a fabulously restored castle and town centre. Beautiful! The first spot we parked at was only three blocks away from all the beauty the town had to offer! We were so glad we didn’t give up after the first stop. The Palace (also known as the Castle) was first recorded in history in AD 973!!! Amazing!

The afternoon drew close and so we hopped back in the car and hit the road. I had wanted to pick up some fresh eggs for a recipe I have and so was constantly keeping an eye out for chicken farms. We found one and after I collected my eggs from the sales point, I went over to thank the chickens for their hard work. Have you ever seen happier or healthier chickens? These ladies were all clucking away and free-ranging as chickens do. Happy Days :o)

Berlin Summer

Happy Swiss National Day everyone and greetings from Berlin! It’s great to be back in our neighbourhood, to catch up with our local friends as well as our visiting friends.

Top left and clockwise; Christoph and I joined the party on Christopher Street Day, I finally got to hoon around the city with friends in my little Hot Rod, sharing the fun of bouldering with little AG and Christoph giving AH a lift when she was visiting us with her dad, CH.

Top left and clockwise; Christoph and I joined the party on Christopher Street Day, I finally got to hoon around the city with friends in my little Hot Rod, sharing the fun of bouldering with little AG and Christoph giving AH a lift when she was visiting us with her dad, CH.

Despite the unpredictable weather, we’ve been thoroughly enjoying being outdoors, on our bikes and sharing our love of Berlin with our wonderful friends. We have another few days with our current visitor, BF, and then we’ll head north to visit Christoph’s mum.

A good friend told me a long time ago that the three keys to happiness is to have someone to love, something to do each day and something to look forward to. We try to keep that in mind whenever we make plans and I can tell you that so far, this summer has been a blast! Hope your summer (or winter, for those in the southern hemisphere) is too! Happy Days!

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!!

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)

Suddenly Famous in Bavaria

On Christoph’s last business trip to Mainburg, he was joined by his National Sales Manager, GL, and Technical Director, VW. On their last day, the two Chinese colleagues found themselves featured in the local newspaper. We found it hilarious and are so happy that they’re now small local celebrities ;o)

The only two Chinese in town that day.

The only two Chinese in town that day.

The article is about restuarant outdoor seating but the fun banter from the company went like this: Newspaper in Mainburg reporting on lazy Chinese who seem to be unemployed and therefore sitting in the streets and drinking alcohol while Bavarians have to work. Hehehe

And The Summer Continues...

Yes I am still in Berlin! Woohoo! Christoph is back in Shanghai battling the high humidity and heat while I continue my German language immersion through fun activities like bike riding and yoga. I recently spent a day riding through Potsdam with a friend, ED, and in between coffee breaks and gelato breaks, we managed to see a lot of what the area has to offer.

A brilliant day in Potsdam. Here at the Babelsberg Castle.

A brilliant day in Potsdam. Here at the Babelsberg Castle.

I love the freedom that comes from being on a bike. You travel faster than walking but slow enough to soak in your surroundings and stop at the very last minute when you see something you like. We were riding towards Glienicke Bridge (for those of you who saw the film 'The Bridge of Spies', well that's the bridge) I caught a glimpse of a stunning garden behind a wall that I coudn't resist but to investigate. Lo and behold, we had accidentally stumbled onto the Villa Schöningen which dates back to 1843. The villa has a tumultous history and after many years of neglect, it is now an exhibition venue and part of the Berlin-Potsdam's UNESCO World Heritage Site. Should you ever find yourself in this particular part of world, this house and garden by a significant bridge is worth seeking out.

Top left and clockwise: The Glienicke Bridge in the distance, part of the Wall that ran past the villa - can you spot Merkel's signature?, the villa's garden, there's Angela!

Top left and clockwise: The Glienicke Bridge in the distance, part of the Wall that ran past the villa - can you spot Merkel's signature?, the villa's garden, there's Angela!

It was an excellent day of discovery and I can't wait to get Christoph out here with me next summer!

A Chinese European Holiday

Almost every country in the world has seen an influx of Chinese tourists in some form or other. The projection for Europe will be 5.5 million inbound Chinese tourists for 2017, a 10% increase from 2016 (I'm double-checking these numbers as they appear to be too low, will update when I find out for sure). The latest catch phrase for them is that 'They are out of the buses and into the rental cars.'

Chinese drivers have been causing a lot of chaos on European roads, well, many of them anyway. The German Autobahn has always been a popular experience for visitors but now with many driving from Italy, through France, Switzerland and Germany, it's been a learning experience for all. If you've been to Switzerland, you'll remember the many winding mountain passes. What's been happening this summer on Swiss mountain passes is that the Chinese drivers are, instead of staying in their lanes, driving on the dividing line. They then stop in the middle of the road, get out and take scenic photos all the while with a bevy of cars behind them.

Image source: newlyswissed.ch, The Grimsel Pass

Image source: newlyswissed.ch, The Grimsel Pass

The Swiss are great mountain drivers, they even roll their eyes at Dutch tourist drivers, who live in a very flat country, so you can just imagine how annoyed they would be at Chinese drivers. I do sympathize with all tourist drivers driving through Switzerland though. When we lived there, it freaked me out driving on those narrow winding roads. Christoph urged me to do it regularly for practice. My first time driving up and down a mountain was NOT fun. I did not dare look out my side window in case I steered us down the side of the mountain! Mind you, it was also raining that day... great.

Another faux pas that happened recently was in Berlin where two Chinese tourists were arrested for taking photos of themselves doing Nazi salutes in front of the Parliament building (they were each fined 500 EUR and have continued their vacation outside of Germany). The Chinese government has been doing its part to try and circumvent such cultural misunderstandings. Our Chinese friends tell us that the moment they switch their mobile phones on in Europe, they instantly receive numerous messages reminding them to keep up China's image by respecting the cultural dos and don'ts while vacationing. The messages will most probably add tips on driving and photo-taking as well now.

Happy summer everyone!