Middle Europe Weekly Small Pleasures #12 – Christmas is coming

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Our apartment is filled with the delicious smells of roasting turkey, herb stuffing and pumpkin cheesecake, prepared while snowflakes flutter gently down outside the window. In between cooking we sip jasmine tea and eat mandarin oranges. Our friend is visiting so that we can prepare some food together for a Thanksgiving-inspired potluck we’ve been invited to for dinner. Winter has (unofficially) reached Berlin, but that doesn’t mean there are no small pleasures!

I haven’t written anything for Weekly Small Pleasures for a while, but here’s the moments I enjoyed this week: Continue reading

Hiking in the fairytale forests of Czech Switzerland


In our area of Germany, which is relatively flat, any place with some hills gets named after Switzerland (in German: Schweiz). And so we have places such as Märkisches Schweiz, Mecklenburgische Schweiz and Sächisches Schweiz (Saxon Switzerland), which I wrote about previously. The Elbe Sandstone mountains with their wonderful rock formations formed by ancient seas extend across the border of  Germany into the Czech republic, an area that was thus named by the  Germans “Böhmisches Schweiz” (Bohemian Switzerland). In Czech it is called České Švýcarsko (Czech Switzerland). Continue reading

Autumn biking in Naturpark Barnim



We enjoyed a long, warm and golden autumn this year, but finally the rain came, followed by strong winds, and now the trees are bare again. It made me sad to see them at first, knowing that it would be many months before we would see them coming alive again. Once the leaves had fallen, the temperatures dropped rapidly, and we have even had some light snow already. Before we get too far into deep, dark winter, I wanted to share some photos of our glorious autumn season. To start with, here are some photos from a bike ride we did in Naturpark Barnim, a big nature area in Brandenburg near Berlin. We started at Karow and followed lovely cycle paths all the way to Eberswalde. Brandenburg is really the perfect place for cycling. Continue reading

The legend of Drachenfels (Dragon Rock)


This weekend we went to visit family who live near Bonn in North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous state in Germany, which encompasses the plains of the river Rhine and the Mittelgebirge (small mountains/central uplands) which stretch towards Belgium, where they continue as the Ardennes. The lands on one side of the Rhine were colonized by Romans (the Cologne/Bonn side), whereas the other side was left to the local tribes after the Romans suffered a heavy defeat. Southeast of Bonn near the Rhine are the Siebengeberge, hills of ancient volcanic origin, formed by magma rising up beneath the surface and then cooling and becoming solid. Now as I’ve mentioned before, the usual practice in Europe is: if there’s a hill put a castle of top of it (it makes for a good lookout/defensive position), and indeed, you will find several castles and monuments on top of the many hills in the area. The rock of the area was also quarried, since the nearby Rhine made it convenient to transport the rocks, and used  to build the massive Cologne cathedral, amongst other things. Continue reading