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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Leaving home – again

We just returned from three weeks in South Africa – my home. After one week back at work, I’m already ALMOST back in Berlin mode, but arriving back to the cold and dark was difficult. Here were my thoughts the first day back.

It  never gets easier leaving home. As I walk down the tunnel onto the plane, my heart is kicking and screaming inside. But the reality is, I work away from home (South Africa) and my husband is European (Czech), so I can’t just pack up and leave Europe when I feel like it. As it came up in conversation with another South African-European couple over the weekend – one of you always has to make sacrifices. The family of one of you will always be far away. One of you has to live outside your comfort zone. There are times I regret ever coming to Europe in the first place, because now I feel I am stuck here – at least for the moment. Of course, I cannot regret meeting my husband, and I have enjoyed our travels around Europe. We live in Germany, and while there are plenty of things I like about the place, it’s just not home. I miss the blue skies and sunshine of South Africa, and the (mostly) relaxed, friendly people. Continue reading

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My culture shocks in Germany

All countries have their own cultures, lifestyle, ways and habits and one of the interesting things about travelling is being exposed to other ways of doing things, and other ways of thinking. Coming across these differences is referred to as culture shock, although sometimes “shocks” is a strong word and they are rather just “surprises”. I’ve been in Germany a while now so I don’t notice these things so much any more, but these are some of the things that surprised me when I first arrived. I started this post a while ago and never finished it, but coming back from holidays at home I noticed some of the things again so I thought I’d finish it. Continue reading

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Middle Europe Weekly Small Pleasures #32 – Roses and burrs

If I haven’t been posting lately, it’s because not much has been happening. That said, nothing happening is probably a good thing, taking into account all the bad news lately worldwide.

I still want to write a post about our hiking trip to the Alps in May, but I have to sort out all of my photos first. Anyway, for now, I thought I’d have a quick catch up over a Weekly small pleasures post. Weekly small pleasures as you probably know by now, is Mani’s blog event where you try to remember the good things that happened during the week. This is an easy way to be grateful for what you have and to focus on the good. Continue reading

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Notes from the Czech countryside – June, the red month

In Czech, June is called červen, which might be related to the word červený, meaning red. Another theory is that červen could come from červ (worm), because the cochineal larvae used for making red dye were around in early summer. Apparently they are now almost all extinct. Either way, June is a red month. The red poppies are out in all the fields and some of the red fruits (cherries, strawberries) are ripe too.

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Crunchies (a South African biscuit)

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of many German foods and drinks: Lebkuchen (and all the other Christmas cookies), Stollen, marzipan, anything with Holunder (elderflower), Knödel (dumplings), rye bread, quark, Mohnkuchen (poppyseed cake), Bergkäse (a smokey cheese), Mandelhörnchen (an almond confectionary), and so on. But as an expat, sometimes you just feel like eating something from home. As a result, every now and then my mother gets emails asking for recipes for things we used to make, and my latest craving is for Crunchies, an oaty baked square that is great for a quick breakfast or in-between snack. I honestly didn’t realize it was a South African thing until I noticed you can’t find them anything else. The closest thing we ate to them outside of SA was in the UK, and it was also good, but not as crunchy and a bit sweeter.

Here is the recipe she sent: (complete with her notes) Continue reading

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Brandenburg Bike rides: Fürstenberg/Havel to Templin

The state of Brandenburg around Berlin is a paradise for biking, and we’ve spent many a happy day riding through forests and countrysides, past lakes, villages and orchards. From Berlin you can catch a train to any of numerous towns that can act as a starting point and then with the help of google maps and signposts, find your way to another town from where you can take the train back to Berlin. This weekend we headed off to Fürstenberg with a friend who felt like going for a bike ride on her birthday. Continue reading

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Easy Boiled Fruit Cake

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, but this is a good one! While busy in the kitchen tonight making this fruitcake it occurred to me to share this quick and easy recipe on my blog. Although it’s called “boiled fruitcake”, it’s baked – the name comes from the fact that some of the ingredients (fruit, butter, sugar) are boiled together beforehand, giving the cake a more complex flavour. It’s a lovely, light fruitcake, perfect for tea or a snack. This recipe was passed down from my grandmother to my mother and now to me.

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