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.

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Middle Europe Weekly Small Pleasures #8 – Summer thunderstorms

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It was quite a nice week. This summer is much more like my first summer here than last year, with lots of “Gewitter” (thunderstorms) in the evening, bringing heavy downpours of rain. I like summer rain, when it’s been hot and humid, and suddenly with a crash of thunder and a flash of  lightning, the clouds open and drench the earth with water. Since it’s not cold, it’s nice to open the windows and let the cool breeze waft through the apartment, inhale the smell of rain on earth, and listen to the rain pouring down.

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I also enjoyed an impromptu dinner J prepared. I was tired and had come home from German class, and he put together some feta, olives and cherry tomatoes on a plate, which we ate with sesame and rye crackers and a bottle of cider. It’s such a simple meal but somehow so delicious. We ate the same once for breakfast after visiting one of the Turkish supermarkets here and buying a big can of mixed olives and a large pack of good white cheese. When I visited Turkey they served white cheese, olives, tomatoes and cucumber for breakfast, so we did the same.

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On Thursday some friends came around for dinner, and J made one of my favourite Czech dishes, meat and knedlicky (bread dumplings) with a dill sauce. I’ll post the recipe for this some time (and a photo), as it’s a good one. This time he cooked the meat (beef) in the pressure cooker his mom gave him for Christmas, and it turned out lovely and tender. For dessert I made a lemon fridge tart, which required some experimentation with German jelly. In South Africa the jelly includes sugar but here it doesn’t, so I just premixed the packet contents with the amount of sugar suggested on the packet and then used the amount of one packet of the German one (plus sugar), hoping that it’d be a similar quantity to one packet of South African jelly powder. The dessert set nicely, so it worked out.

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In the weekend we went to Czech to visit J’s family on the farm. The weather was great and the plums, apricots and peaches were in season, so we were picking them and eating them directly off the trees. We went swimming at the lake, walked the dogs, spent time outside in the garden and just enjoyed a relaxing weekend, as it’s always nice to see everyone again. For breakfast on Sunday his mom made an amazing savoury “cake”, which consisted of layers of bread, cheese, peppers, ham and salami, sandwiched together and covered with cream cheese. You serve it by cutting a slice and eating it with a knife and fork. I’ll definitely have to try making one of these one day!

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To share the good moments in your week, join the Small Weekly pleasures blog event over at A New Life Wandering. Have a good week!

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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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A Walk in the World (1)

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Often when we are on our way to somewhere or just walking around somewhat randomly (as we do sometimes just to get some fresh air or stretch our legs), we spot many interesting things. And somehow if we could gather all these little things together, that’s what would form our impressions of a place. But normally when I post a blog, it’s about some specific destination or event. So today I decided to start a new blog event called “A Walk in the World”, where the idea is to post a few pictures (or even one) from a walk that you’ve taken, whether in a city, town, village or countryside location. Looking back in a decade or two, it will be interesting just to see how daily life looked in 2015! And for someone living on the other side of the world, that ordinary street you walk down every day might be really interesting.

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Relaxing weekend in the Czech countryside and a visit to Hrad Kunětická Hora

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Kunětická Hora castle

Recently I posted about the new kinds of over-the-counter medications I’d discovered in Germany compared to South Africa (mostly herbal). At the time I was busy optimistically trying them all out since I had a bad cough. Sadly, none of them seemed to help, although the good strong ginger, lemon and honey tea that J kept making me definitely soothed the cough. The terrible, choking cough was just going away when I caught another bad cold just before the Easter weekend. We’d already booked tickets to Vienna, from which we would drive to Slovenia, and nothing was refundable so we went anyway.

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About us

We are a South African and a Czech living in Berlin, Germany, and we love travelling around and seeing new places. We are especially crazy about the outdoors, and when we get the chance we love to head to the mountains, fields, forests, lakes, rivers and sea. Hopefully this blog can be a useful memoir of our experiences living in Germany, our outdoor adventures and our travels to the countries around us, and further afield.

According to Wikipedia the term Middle Europe is obsolete or 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 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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