Würzburg: A rough start

In the middle of November, my husband and I moved from Berlin to Würzburg to start our new jobs. I’d be lying if I said everything went smoothly and we adjusted easily to our new home.

Once you’ve been living in a place for a while, it’s interesting to go back and remember how you felt when you first moved there. For this reason, I kept a record of our first month in Würzburg. In future I’ll go back to more travel-oriented blog posts. Continue reading

Cross-country skiing in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains)

The Ore mountains on the German-Czech border are home to a large area of interconnected skiing trails and are hugely popular due to their proximity to Dresden (45 minutes) and Prague (1h15 minutes). From Berlin it takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to reach them, which is close enough for a great weekend getaway. There are also downhill ski slopes in the region, but at the end of January we headed off for another weekend of cross-country skiing, which allows you to take a nice tour of the surroundings. Continue reading

Snow sports in the Czech Republic: Bedřichov

Boy are we good at picking weekends with lots of snow. Last year we ended up visiting Spitzensee in Bavaria on a long weekend where it snowed so much that the bus stop disappeared and the avalanche level across the border in Austria rose to a maximum of 5. A few weekends ago we spent a similarly snowy weekend in Bedřichov, a popular destination for winter sports in the Jizera mountains of the Czech Republic. It snowed so much on Saturday night that on Sunday morning there were many fallen branches and trees strewn across the track we’d been on just the day before. Continue reading

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

More cross country skiing adventures in the Harz mountains

Spring is in full bloom now, so time to quickly finish telling all those winter stories!

Unfortunately we only managed to go downhill skiing once this winter, but we squeezed in two weekend trips to the Harz mountains for cross country skiing. Last year I wrote about my first time cross country skiing and how I fell a lot. Well, this year was no exception, but at least other people were falling a lot as well. If you’d like to hear more about our cross country skiing experiences, read on!

Here is my most spectacular crash – yes, that is me eating snow!

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First snow: hiking in the Harz mountains



This weekend a friend organized a spontaneous trip to the Harz mountains when a colleague mentioned to her that it was snowing there. Although the highest peak, the Brocken, is only 1141m, the area has an alpine character with lots of fir trees and receives much more snow than the surrounding areas. It was amazing as we drove from autumnal forests full of orange and gold up to a snow-covered winter wonderland. We visited earlier this year in January or February when the snow was deep for cross country skiing. This year we did some hiking in the hills instead, another way to enjoy the beauty of the snowy trees. I can hardly wait to visit again. Continue reading

Les Diablerets in the Swiss Alps – Photo Diary

les diablerets

As I mentioned, recently I spent a week in the village of Les Diablerets, tucked away in the Swiss Alps at 1160m. There was no time for skiing unfortunately as it was a work trip, but in the evenings I went for a few walks in the woods, and on the last afternoon I went up to the glacier with some friends. When I arrived the forests were quite green, the paths were icy, and the snow levels in the village were not as high as the previous years – it was a snow-poor winter all round in  Europe this year. However on about day two or three it started snowing…and snowing…and snowing…the mountain disappeared in mist, and soon the forest and village were transformed into a winter wonderland. Following that was another day of snow, and then the sun came out and we were able to experience the village and the mountains with sunshine and deep blue skies, perfect for a visit to the glacier at 3000m. It was great to experience the area in all types of weather. Without further ado, here are some photos from my visit. Continue reading

Middle Europe Weekly Small Pleasures #14 – Frost and Christmas


Well, the last week or two (or months says J) I have been working very long hours and it’s been a bit stressful, but the good thing is that it’s almost Christmas holidays! Just one more week to get through. The weekend trip to Norway was also good and very interesting, but I’ll write about that another time.

In between all the work, here were a few of the good moments:

Hanging up our Christmas star. We have yet to decorate our Christmas tree (it’s a living one, still in a pot since last year), ice our pernicky cookies (gingerbread without ginger as my uncle calls it 😉 ) and cut out and assemble the paper Betlem (nativity scene) we bought last year in Třebechovice.


Visiting the Christmas market with some work colleagues and friends. It was crowded but it’s always nice to drink some gluhwein, eat some hot caramelized almonds and eat some German food (this time I had some flammkuchen).


Some photos of goodies picked up at various Christmas markets, except for the fudge, which despite the name was not like fudge at all, but nice try 😉 At the markets they sell caramelized nuts in the cones pictured on the right, these are delicious!

Seeing the Christmas tree at Hauptbahnhof (the main station, Berlin). I arrived in Berlin on the 1 December 2012, just in time for the Christmas season. So somehow seeing all the Christmas trees up around Berlin always reminds me of that first month where everything was new and exciting although a bit lonely. I used to look for the huge Christmas tree at Hauptbahnhof to find the right exit from the station so that i could find my way back back home.


Small pleasures in Norway. More on Norway another time, but a few of the small things that stood out for me were the space-saving bed in an alcove in our airbnb apartment, which I found so cosy, the very low sun in the sky (it popped up late, dashed in a low arc across the horizon and then back down again at about 3pm) and the beautiful frost, something we don’t see that much in Berlin.

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Wishing you all a lovely week.


Middle Europe Weekly Small Pleasures #12 – Christmas is coming

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Our apartment is filled with the delicious smells of roasting turkey, herb stuffing and pumpkin cheesecake, prepared while snowflakes flutter gently down outside the window. In between cooking we sip jasmine tea and eat mandarin oranges. Our friend is visiting so that we can prepare some food together for a Thanksgiving-inspired potluck we’ve been invited to for dinner. Winter has (unofficially) reached Berlin, but that doesn’t mean there are no small pleasures!

I haven’t written anything for Weekly Small Pleasures for a while, but here’s the moments I enjoyed this week: Continue reading