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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Road Trip through Europe: from Cote d’Azur to Gorges du Verdon

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 VecchiaMonacoÉze – Gorges du Verdon – Moustiers-Sainte-Marie – ValensoleChamonixTübingenSwäbisch Hall – Berlin. 

In my last entry about this road trip, we had just spent the evening wandering around the pretty medieval town of Éze. After a quick breakfast the next morning, which involved a visit to a pastry shop (when in France…!), we headed to our car for the next stage of our road trip.  Éze is located in the province Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, which covers a wide variety of landscapes and has Marseilles as a capital. It encompasses the area formally known as Provence and some additional territory. Today we would travel from Éze over the mountains to the Gorges du Verdon, a famous canyon, visit a beautiful village tucked in the gorge (Moustiers-Sainte-Marie) and end our day in Valensole, in the lavender region of France. But first things first: a visit to the beach. Continue reading

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Canoeing on the Havel river: Pritzerbe to Hohennauener See via Rathenow

Good weather brings opportunities for weekend canoeing or biking trips. Somehow these trips are always the highlight of my year. Being constantly active during the day leaves no time for pondering over work stresses, and getting from one place to the next by your own horsepower is somehow very satisfying. Taking in the countryside and village scenery at a slow pace instead of racing from one destination to the next by car, train or plane like one usually does when travelling makes all the difference. Camping also brings you back to basics, and you realize that you actually don’t need many things to live quite happily. It also makes you appreciate luxuries like having your own bathroom and a soft bed when you get back home! There is also a thrilling sense of adventure when you set off for a trip with just a backpack and a tent, not knowing what the days ahead will hold. Continue reading

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A Morning in Venice

En route to a wedding in Tirol, we decided to make a stopover in Venice. The Venice Marco Polo airport was a couple of hours drive from the Ötztal Alps, where the wedding would be held, and seemed like as good a way as any to reach our final destination. We’d been wanting to visit Venice for a while, although the plan was always to go in winter when it’s less crowded. Both of us had been to Venice briefly before in summer on separate occasions and remembered clearly the tremendous crush of tourists and oppressively hot weather. Continue reading

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