Monthly Archives: March 2016

Middle Europe Weekly Small Pleasures #15 – Emerging from winter

It’s been a while since I participated in Mani’s Weekly Small Pleasures blog event, I guess to be honest this year has been dominated by work so far and January/Feburary in Berlin are pretty grey and not so much goes on in Berlin. Not only that, but often it was hard to squeeze in time to blog, so when I had time I updated mostly on special trips I’d taken, for example to the Harz mountains for cross country skiing or to a meeting in Switzerland. Anyway, in the beginning of this year my small pleasures mostly included making it to the weekend, getting to catch up on an hour of sleep or so and having a nice meal at a restaurant now and then, as well as some visits to the farm in Czech where we catch up with the family and pets. Maybe I’ll do a Janurary/Feburary update some time, but for now here were this week’s small pleasures: Continue reading

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How to make an Easter Egg Tree

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Easter is coming and so is spring! Although I quite like the warm Christmas we have in the southern hemisphere, I do find that spring is probably a nicer time to have Easter, like they do in the northern hemisphere, since it comes with the added excitement of the arrival of spring. In Germany I first came into contact with the Easter egg tree, and have since also seen them in other countries such as Czech and Slovenia (apparently you can also see them in Austria, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary). Sometimes people decorate trees or shrubs outside, but you also see cut branches decorated in vases. This year I decided to make my own Easter egg tree. Continue reading

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Hello Chrudim!

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About an hour from Prague are other cities and towns well worth a visit. We’ve made a couple of day trips to several of them. Two cities, Pardubice and Hradec Kralove, lie relatively close to each other, and not far from Pardubice lies the town of Chrudim. We visited this lovely town again this weekend and I thought it was about time I posted some photos of it. Continue reading

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The wedding planning continues…

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(Look away now if weddings bore you.) I’ve just discovered the world of online shopping. And let me tell you that many hours can pass while you are looking through online catalogs of wedding paraphenalia. You can find almost anything you want on ebay or in online stores (I switched to looking at German online stores, since the postage from other places is pretty high on average). Once you start looking, you see things that you hadn’t thought about, but of course you need at a wedding. Pininterest is another good place for getting wedding theme inspiration, although I don’t find it very practical for finding items, it’s more just eye candy. Weddix is a useful German site, I spent ages looking at all their table decorations, guest presents and other ideas. Giving sugared almonds is a wedding tradition I remember from childhood; you can buy different kinds of sugared almonds and bags now. I chose bags to match with our planned woodland / nature theme, but there are lots of options. Continue reading

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March: Wildlife in the Garden

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Bumblebee enjoying some echinacea flowers.

We are in the dark days still here in Berlin – lots of gloomy grey skies, and I am counting the days until spring! This is the time of year I feel most homesick, and miss blue skies, sunshine and greenery. From our laboratory window we can see a two crows building a nest in the tree outside. The one flies back and forwards with new twigs, clearly preparing a nice home for some little ones. In the evenings now it’s a little bit lighter, and many times at twilight I’ve heard a nightingale singing. It’s amazing to hear its melodious, loud song calling out over the grey, empty streets, sometimes I just stop and listen, and I’ve seen others doing the same. It’s a song of hope, spring will come! Soon the gardens and parks will be bustling with life again, insects and birds, frogs and foxes. In the meanwhile, I decided to dig up some old “garden wildlife” photos from previous years to take part in Heyjude’s Garden photography event. We have until the end of March to submit some photographs, so perhaps I’ll find some early spring garden wildlife before then, but in the meanwhile I thought I’d post some old photos.

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My fiance volunteered his finger to show how tiny this pretty little frog is.

Heyjude has some inspiring advice for taking photos of garden wildlife, and I’d encourage you to check out her page. Every month she has a different garden-themed photography challenge. Here are the instructions for this month:

“This month I want to see photos and stories about wildlife in the ‘garden’ – insects, spider, birds, rabbits, hedgehog, fox, snake (!) whatever you can find in your garden, public gardens, lakes, parks. But please not the family dog!”

Like most city-dwellers, we only have an apartment balcony, but luckily Berlin has lots of parks and botanical gardens to enjoy, and when we visit my fiance’ s family in the Czech republic there is also a garden. Here are some photos of the garden wildlife we’ve spotted in Berlin and in Czech republic, and even some old ones from my Cape Town garden. Continue reading

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The Garden Route, South Africa

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The Garden Route is a popular road trip that many tourists take when they come to South Africa. Officially it stretches from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms river in the Eastern Cape, but many people make the whole road trip from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. ending at Addo Elephant national park.

Why is this drive called the Garden route? The simple reason is, it’s very green. This region has the second mildest climate in the world, with temperatures rarely falling below 10 degrees C or rising above 28 degrees C. The route lies between mountains and the Indian ocean; inland on the other side of the mountains it is hotter and there is another driving route with beautiful mountain scenery called Route 62.

Why is this drive so special? There are many nature reserves and coastal towns on this drive, which makes it easy to find great stopovers for exploring. For example, you can visit the forests and rivers of the Tsitsikamma national park or the Knysna forests and lagoon, where once a year there is an Oyster Festival. Activities like hiking, canoeing, surfing, sailing, wind-surfing, and fishing are all popular in this area. The area from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth is also great for whale watching, and in the De Hoop nature reserve you can walk the Whale Trail, passing through fragrant fynbos and over white sand dunes. At Addo Elephant National park you can watch families of elephants hanging out at the waterholes, and see many other animals such as warthogs, zebras, kudus and even some lions.

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Our Garden route stopovers: When we visited South Africa last year, we spent five days driving from Cape Town to Addo Elephant park and back again. We had planned stopovers for accommodation at night and unplanned stopovers while driving along. Five days is not so long and we could have spent longer in all of our stopovers, but we had a great time nonetheless and saw many amazing places. This was our itinerary: Continue reading

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