Two late-winter walks in Brandenburg

Temperatures shot up in Berlin and its surroundings in February, bringing a sudden end to winter. It’s possible that this is just a “Fool’s spring” as people call it, and the temperatures could drop again in March or April, but so far the warm weather is holding. Last weekend and this weekend we made use of the warmer weather to go for some day walks in Brandenburg. There are endless possibilities for nice walks in the countryside of Brandenburg, and you could do a different walk every weekend of the year without running out of options. Continue reading

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The Disa hunters: exploring the top of Table Mountain

Everyone has seen the iconic postcard-perfect view of Table Mountain with its flat top. But did you know that up on top it is not as flat as it seems and there is a whole world up there to discover? When I lived in Cape Town, I used to go hiking often with friends, and I have already explained why Table Mountain is so special here. Recently I was back for a holiday so once again we went up Table Mountain. There are numerous ways you can hike up; often we would go up Skeleton Gorge starting at Kirstenbosch or Cecilia forest. Skeleton Gorge is a lovely shady route in summer and has fun wooden ladders to climb and a few boulders to scramble over.  From there you can take the Smuts track to the highest point of Table Mountain, MacClear’s beacon, and then walk along the edge of the mountain with beautiful views until you reach the cable station. Then we would walk back through Echo valley and past the dams to come down at Constantia Nek (we always left one car there and took one to the start of the hike). Continue reading

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Cross-country skiing in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains)

The Ore mountains on the German-Czech border are home to a large area of interconnected skiing trails and are hugely popular due to their proximity to Dresden (45 minutes) and Prague (1h15 minutes). From Berlin it takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to reach them, which is close enough for a great weekend getaway. There are also downhill ski slopes in the region, but at the end of January we headed off for another weekend of cross-country skiing, which allows you to take a nice tour of the surroundings. Continue reading

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Snow sports in the Czech Republic: Bedřichov

Boy are we good at picking weekends with lots of snow. Last year we ended up visiting Spitzensee in Bavaria on a long weekend where it snowed so much that the bus stop disappeared and the avalanche level across the border in Austria rose to a maximum of 5. A few weekends ago we spent a similarly snowy weekend in Bedřichov, a popular destination for winter sports in the Jizera mountains of the Czech Republic. It snowed so much on Saturday night that on Sunday morning there were many fallen branches and trees strewn across the track we’d been on just the day before. Continue reading

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Cross-country skiing in the Czech Republic: Smědava/Hejnice

When people hear the word skiing, they mostly think about downhill skiing, which features more prominently in outdoor film festivals and the media because it is faster and more dramatic. However, cross-country skiing (or Langlaufen in German) is also popular in many snowy countries, particularly with outdoorsy people who enjoy being in the forests and doing some exercise. Having tested out the cross-country ski trails in the Harz mountains in Germany over the last years, we started exploring the cross-country trails across the border in Czech Republic over 2018/2019 winter season. For some practical tips on visiting the Czech republic for cross-country skiing, see the bottom of this post.

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My travel highlights in 2018

As a new year starts, full of possibilities, I thought I’d take a look back on 2018! I’ve been enjoying reading other bloggers’ 2018 travel highlights, so here are mine.

This year we went to three weddings and none of them were in Berlin, so that was a good excuse to do a bit of traveling. When I have to travel for work I also try to take a weekend before or after the meeting to make the flying more worthwhile. And of course, when possible we also try to get to the mountains to do some hiking or skiing, since Berlin is located in a flat part of Europe. Here’s where we went in 2018. Continue reading

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8 things I miss at Christmas

I am a South African, living in Germany and married to a Czech. When you’re living away from your home country, for the most part you settle into a new daily routine, acquire new habits and generally get on with things. However there’s always going to be those times where you are reminded that you’re a bit of a square peg in a round hole. For me, Christmas is one of those times , because no matter how great the Christmas celebration is here, I always have that feeling that it’s just not 100% Christmas. Here are the things I miss most about my South African Christmas: Continue reading

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The Season Wheel turns

How many of you had to make a Season Wheel at school, where you divided a paper plate into quarters and drew a picture for spring, summer, autumn and winter? Growing up in Cape Town, you’d draw flowers for spring, sunshine for summer, falling leaves for autumn and rain for winter. Yet, it was only when I moved to Berlin that I really experienced the dramatic four seasons. In Cape Town it’s too warm for very strong autumn colours, there’s no snow, and there’s less flowering trees. I imagine if you grew up somewhere like Thailand or Senegal where it’s always warm, you’d draw your seasons very differently too, maybe with wet and dry, windy or stormy seasons.  And in some countries, it might rain all year round.

Rain clouds looming one summer day in Ireland

Right now it’s autumn in Berlin, and the trees are getting noticeably barer as the last of the golden leaves fall off. It starts getting darker by 3:30pm already and it looks like midnight by 5pm. We’re heading to the long, dark time of year. We had a great long summer this year, with warm temperatures starting in May and lasting right up till October. This was a big contrast to last year, when there was basically no summer, and it stayed cold and rainy throughout the year. This year winter was very long, but spring flew by very quickly as temperatures warmed up fast, leading to a long warm summer.  Autumn seemed fairly short as well, since the summer was so long.

Summer sunset in Brandenburg

As I haven’t posted any seasonal updates all year despite taking a gazillion leaf and flower pictures as usual, I thought I’d do a round up of the months and seasons before we enter winter, to show how the seasons look in central Europe. Unlike in English or German where the month names are derived from the names of Roman gods (e.g. March from Mars), numbers (e.g. September from septem, meaning seven) or the Caesars (e.g. July from Julius Caesar), in Czech, the month names are often related to the season. For fun (and because I should learn them) I thought I would list the Czech month names here too, along with their meanings. Note that in Czech the names of months are not capitalized. Continue reading

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