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: Lucerne

In summer, we did a 10 day road trip through parts of Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France. Our itinerary was: Berlin – WeimarHeidelburgFreiburg – Lucerne – Lake Como – La Spezia – Cinque Terre – Bussana Vecchia – Monaco – Éze – Gorges du Verdon – Moustiers-Ste-Marie – Valensole – Chamonix – Tübingen – Swäbisch Hall – Berlin.

Lucerne (or Luzern as it is called there) was a great surprise. We’d picked it as a half way point between Freiburg and Lake Como, not expecting so much as we’d never heard anything about it before. However, it is a beautiful Swiss town, with lots of old buildings, a rushing mountain stream though the middle of the town, old fortress walls you can climb and a historic old  bridge bedecked with flowers. Continue reading

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Road trip through Europe: Freiburg

In summer, we did a 10 day road trip through parts of Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France. Our itinerary was: Berlin – WeimarHeidelburgFreiburgLucerne – Lake Como – La Spezia – Cinque Terre – Bussana Vecchia – Monaco – Éze – Gorges du Verdon – Moustiers-Ste-Marie – Valensole – Chamonix – Tübingen – Swäbisch Hall – Berlin.

We drove towards Freiburg from Heidelberg on Day 2 of our road trip around part of Europe (see here for the itinerary), arriving in the evening at our accommodation: a room on a wine farm just outside of Freiburg. Our hostess was lovely, and gave us a good tip for dinner, an Italian restaurant in their village. we headed straight there as it was dinner time and enjoyed a delicious meal, with the owner bringing us bread with olive oil, parmesan, aïoli and other toppings and a surprise starter of smoked salmon and cream cheese roulade. That was followed by the mail meal (risotto) and of course we accompanied it with wine, since we were right in the wine region.

Continue reading

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Biking in the Moravian winelands of Czechia

I still can’t get used to calling Czech Republic “Czechia”, but I thought I’d try, at least for this post! Even my Czech husband still calls it Czech Republic (or normally Czech for short). Anyway, for years he has been telling me that we should visit the Moravian winelands, in the east of Czechia, more specifically in new wine season (more on new wine later). This year we finally did it, as a group of friends with whom we did Wine-and-Cycling Trip 1.0 with last year in the Alsace wanted to go on Wine-and-Cycling Trip 2.0. In fact for us it was actually the third wine and cycling trip, since we also rode along the Saale river valley. We planned our trip to Moravia in September, which is new wine season.

Continue reading

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Tübingen in Photos

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Tübingen is a picturesque, hilly university town in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, only 30km from Stuttgart. To the north is Schönbuch, voted one of the most beautiful forests in Germany, and to the south east are the Swabian Alb mountains. The river Neckar flows through the town, which has many beautiful old buildings, canals and cobblestone streets. In fact, Tübingen has one of the most intact historic old towns in Germany, so it’s surprising that it’s not on most people’s tourist radar. Like in another famous university town, Cambridge, boating is popular in Tübingen, which has its own version of the famous Cambridge punt boats, called Stocherkähne. It’s very pleasant to visit Tübingen and wander its streets. Here are some of the photographs I took during my visit. Continue reading

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Middle Europe Weekly Small Pleasures #6 – Summer days

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On the beach in Boltenhagen

This week a heatwave struck Europe, and the summer we had been longing for suddenly struck full force! We’d booked tickets in advance to go and visit my uncle and aunt who were on a three week holiday by the Baltic sea (Ostsee) in  Boltenhagen, but had a three hour travail trying to catch the train out of Berlin because so many people had flooded to the station to escape to the coast that we could not get on the train with our bicycles. However, after a long wait and a detour, we finally made it to the coast and countryside of the Bundesland (province) Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and enjoyed a weekend there catching up with family, cycling, swimming and walking around. More about that later, but in the meanwhile here are a few of the highlights of the week. Join the blog event Weekly Small Pleasures to share your own!

1) It’s been drier than usual for this time of year, in fact, many farms in Brandenburg have been suffering from lack of rain. In Czech, the rivers are also very low at the moment. During the weekend after the extremely high temperatures there were thunderstorms both Saturday and Sunday evening, so at least that brought some rain. I’m not sure if it was just a coincidence or if it was related to the dryness and then the two weeks of cool weather we had before the heat, but I found a beautiful leaf in Berlin last Monday morning – maybe from a confused tree!

2) A friend organized a BBQ in the park on Thursday evening. It was so relaxing to spend a summer’s night outdoors that it felt almost like a Friday.

3) On Friday we went to Prater biergarten with some friends. i really like it there – it’s full so it has a good atmosphere but there always seems to be somewhere to sit. My friend B and I both had a classic Berlin drink: Berliner Weisse (wheat beer) mixed with  red (raspberry) or green (Waldmeister) syrup. It’s great and refreshing for those who prefer something sweet to a more bitter beer!

4) The strawberries on our balcony are still yielding fruit!

5) I didn’t know this before I moved to Berlin, but there is a big Turkish community here. In many neighbourhoods you can find shops selling delicious Turkish sweets, including baklava. I don’t know the names of all of the different varieties, but they are all variants of sweet pastries containing nuts such as pistachio or walnuts.

6) And to the seaside! About 4 hours from Berlin on the train, but so worth it.

Have a good week!

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About us

We are a South African and a Czech living in Berlin, Germany, and we love visiting new places, whether close to home or far away. We love the outdoors, and whenever we get the chance we head to the mountains, fields, forests, lakes, rivers, seas and oceans. I started this blog as a memoir of our experiences living in Germany, our outdoor adventures and our travels to the countries around us, and further afield. Some of them may be about places you have visited, and some of them may give you ideas for your own travels. On our outdoor page, you can search for posts specifically about sports such as cross-country skiing and hiking.

Why did we name this blog Middle Europe? In English, the term Middle Europe is rarely used – Central Europe is the usual term. However when visiting a friend in Finland I was curious to hear that up north that’s what they call us down here. And coming from the southern hemisphere, travelling through the countryside and forests of central Europe reminds me very much of scenes from Middle Earth in “Lord of the rings”. Whatever you choose to call it, this region basically refers to the countries in the middle or central region of Europe which share some common landscapes and history (although of course each country also has its own histories and culture). This includes countries such as Czech republic, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Hungary and Liechtenstein.

Central Europe

Central/Middle Europe

Of course, I will also share some stories from South Africa (my home) and about our travels to other regions beyond Middle Europe.

Enjoy!

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