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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Road trip through Europe: Tübingen and Schwäbisch Hall

Last summer, we did a 10 day road trip through parts of Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France. Our itinerary was: BerlinWeimarHeidelburgFreiburgLucerne Lake ComoLa-SpeziaCinque TerreBussana VecchiaMonacoÉzeGorges du VerdonMoustiers-Sainte-Marie – ValensoleChamonix – Tübingen – Swäbisch Hall – Berlin. 

Finally, we had reached the last day of our road trip. We started our day in Tübingen, and would drive from there to Swäbisch Hall, another Swabian town, and from there onto Berlin. But before leaving Tübingen, we went for a walk around this lovely town. I’d been there before on a work trip (see here), but neither my husband nor my friend had, and I was keen to show it off to both of them. The old town centre looks like one of the fairytale villages in the Shrek movies or Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, all half-timbered houses and charming views. Continue reading

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Road trip through Europe: Chamonix to Tübingen

Last summer, we did a 10 day road trip through parts of Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France. Our itinerary was: BerlinWeimarHeidelburgFreiburgLucerne Lake ComoLa-SpeziaCinque TerreBussana VecchiaMonacoÉzeGorges du VerdonMoustiers-Sainte-Marie – Valensole – Chamonix – TübingenSwäbisch HallBerlin

Mont Blanc was the only thing on my mind as we woke up early on Day 9 of our road trip. Would we see the White Mountain, or would it be covered in clouds? The weather forecast had been bad, but we awoke to blue skies and sunshine, though there were still a fair number of clouds swirling around the peaks. Already from where we were staying in Les Houches, we had a beautiful view of the mountain. So our wish had already come true.

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Road trip through Europe: Valensole to Chamonix

Last summer, we did a 10 day road trip through parts of Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France. Our itinerary was: BerlinWeimarHeidelburgFreiburgLucerne Lake ComoLa-SpeziaCinque TerreBussana VecchiaMonacoÉzeGorges du VerdonMoustiers-Sainte-Marie – Valensole – ChamonixTübingenSwäbisch Hall – Berlin. 

On day 8 of our road trip we drove from the rustic villages of the lavender region of France to the foothills of the highest mountain in Europe west of the Caucasus peaks, the majestic, snow-capped 4810m high Mont Blanc. We were now on our way back to Germany. Continue reading

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