Monday, November 25, 2013

Planes, Trains, Automobiles ...

To ensure Lexi is "legal" she has to go to a veterinarian within ten days of travel. We took her and she got her own passport this time since we are going to Britain and they require it. Imagine, a cat with a passport! How silly is that. It just shows what vaccinations she has had and when.

I now have a bicycle and need to learn how to cycle again. It's rather gaudy in colour, pink and teal, a real "girly" bike. Oh well it fits and that's all I really care about.

We had snow for a bit one morning, didn't stick or last, but again, glad of the parka.

Been "stocking" up for our return so we don't have to do an immediate shop when jet lagged. Although it won't be too bad coming back, Seville, stop in Madrid, on to Frankfurt and train to Freiburg. Short hops that is not like coming from Canada.

Christmas markets open on Monday, being exactly a month away from the day. I have to go downtown to collect that picture I mentioned so will take a quick boo.  The city is tarted up for Christmas. They use red octagonal shaped stars everywhere and sheets of tiny lights hang from the buildings. Very pretty! Interesting to see the different methods and ways they decorate here compared to Canada. The best chocolate house in the city has beautifully made Santa Clauses, Hansel and Gretel houses complete with witch. They are works of art really.

I packed the camera card reader and it is truly counterproductive to unpack so no pictures this post. We've spent hours getting ready to go and the flat ready for our partners. All good. Lexi doesn't want to be left behind so she sits on the suitcases and follows us around.

We will have sporadic WiFi while in Britain, until we get to Spain, but I promise to keep in touch as often as I can and will take more pictures to post.

Cheers, the travellers, Bx2 & Lexi Cat

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Staufen and synchronicity with next summer's plans

We've been planning our summer next year since our partners have August, September and first half of October in the flat. Finding accommodation that will take pets is always somewhat of a challenge and thinking it's the summer months will book up faster, I'm working on it now.

We are looking at Strasbourg, France for August. I had a flat picked out but on further consideration it looked a bit dingy so kept looking and found one where the woman is working out of town and letting her flat out. Guess where she is working? Freiburg! What a coincidence! So we met her this week and she is nice, intelligent and is welcoming us to use her flat. Wonderful, synchronicity, all those words apply.

So now what about September? - There was not a lot of choice in Avignon, France, our first thought, but nearby Arles had more so we've secured a lovely flat there. Public transport is good going between Arles and Avignon. Arles looks to be a charming place, smaller than Avignon.

I'm using a long term rental booking agency that renters advertise through. The only downside is that you have to pay the entire amount upon booking which means a substantial outlay months in advance. I have now found a way to "skirt" that process. No names here because I don't want to get anyone in trouble, least of all myself!

We had a framed picture with cracked glass; took it into a shop and the fellow rattles off in German of course, I look puzzled, of course, and he says you speak English? Yes. He says, in perfect English, why didn't you tell me I'm not telepathic you know! I don't expect people here to speak English although many do, I try to get by with my limited German, I am after all in Germany and it's MY failing to not know the language of the country I now live in. However, learning more every day by osmosis.

The lovely lady that I get a pedicure from is, I think Russian originally, and doesn't speak English but she is learning and she helps me with my German so it's good all around. Went into her shop and she's decorated for Christmas - wow! Red and green spotted lights moving across the ceiling, large snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, etc etc.

We went to Staufen, about 30 minutes by train south of Freiburg. We'd been there before with our partners D & E but it was raining so hard it was uncomfortable to walk around, this day it was just chilly. It is a quaint town where Faust is rumoured to have sold his soul to the devil. Unfortunately I cut off the top part but included because it is a work of art, although a slightly disturbing one.

Staufen's buildings have large cracks down them which it is now well known for, much to the consternation of the locals. Geothermal drilling caused water to seep into a mineral underground and caused sinking and raising of the ground under the buildings. I had thought they wanted to become another spa town like neighbouring Bad Kronzingen but reading further it was to provide energy efficient heat for the town. Read about it here or on Wiki, there are many articles about it, all different opinions but I think these two explain it. The city cannot restore itself until the problem is fixed and although many studies and scientists have weighed in on it, it is still not resolved.

Link to Staufen City website

There are beautiful castle ruins or schloss on the hill above town with deeply terraced wine and fruit groves below it.  You can walk up a path to it and get 360 degree views of the area, we didn't, very steep. The statue on the road below is holding a bunch of grapes and pointing towards the village. I didn't read about it.

Christmas decorating has not started yet in Staufen, still fall motif's, but we did get a coupon for 25 cents to the coming Christmas market in December. Heavens it would have cost them more than 25 cents to print the coupon!

We had a wonderful German lunch with a glass of wine to celebrate my birthday. We haven't eaten a lot of German food while being here. I did taste testing with sauerkraut a couple of weeks ago, there is dry and wet which I didn't know about (prefer the wet). We've been lunching out in other ethnic restaurants and for dinner eating in, quite often on what was left over from lunch.

Walking about the town I found these rusty garden spikes but I liked the shapes and whimsical aspect to them, especially the cupid.

So that is Staufen with it's substantial problem, although it is a pretty town with the river running through and the neighbouring grape terraces.

I just returned on the tram from downtown. I think every school kid in Freiburg was on it or waiting to get on at every stop! Bedlam! Door alarms going off because they are timed to close and couldn't with people still coming and going. Reminder to self, do NOT travel on the tram between 1:00 and 1:30...

So since we have to leave soon we've been getting ready. All four of us that share this space are always sad to leave and excited to come back!

Cheers, Bev, Bruce and Lexi Cat

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Emmendingen and ...

Just to let you know, if you double click on the pictures they get a lot bigger. There are a couple in this post you might want to do that with, didn't use the zoom as much and it shows.

There are many street performers in Freiburg of various types. Many stand on boxes in costumes like this fellow, with their coin box for donations in front of them.

I have seen him many times but this time he blew me a kiss so I blew one back. Then he beckoned me over took my hand and kissed it. So now I have to pay him of course so took advantage and asked for a picture as well. Others, there are three guys, one sitting on the pavement with two guys sitting on posts he is holding up mid-air - still haven't figured out how they do that one. There are people dressed entirely in gold or silver looking like statues (wonder what that does to the skin) and many more, including the many fellows who play accordion, definitely NOT my favourite.

We got misplaced, what I mean by that is we took the wrong bus but it doesn't really matter because you usually end up at a tram stop anyway and the bonus, you get to see more of the countryside! We went through St. Georgen, a lovely quaint village in Freiburg. I had been planning to do that anyway, just hop a bus and see where it goes. So when we noticed he is not going the way we expected, okaaay, now what? Stay on and just see where we go. We did get to our destination it just took longer.

Another sunny day we decided to make the best of it and visit Emmendingen, about 15 minutes north by Regional train. It looked to me like a mini-Freiburg because it has bachles as well. Very pretty town with small Saturday market. This fellow not the only snail sculpture there. Apparently the region has many snails making gardening a challenge. Could have fooled me with the lovely gardens that exist here.

You have probably heard, Christmas markets are huge in Germany. This is a store specializing in Christmas decorations. See the Santa, he rides back and forth on a string. The puppet in the window is "airing" out the bedding. The markets start the end of this month and I think we will just miss them which is too bad, or bad planning on our part.

A retail store with a handsome door next to it. I liked the rabbit logo which doesn't show well in the picture unfortunately. Click Click.

Emmendingen is building a new rail station, their advertisement for it features this thing. She looks to be a cross between a pig and a hedgehog? I'm not sure but look at those nails!

Well it's a rainy Sunday so I'd better make use of it to start packing and making lists, my friends, those lists that keep me organized and ensure nothing is forgotten. This trip really is going to be a planes, trains and automobiles one. Lexi Cat's needs almost take up more room than ours due to bringing her food and litter, ah well she's worth it!

Tomorrow is St. Martin's Day. Children make their own lanterns and parade around the neighbourhood. It is not a Public Holiday so business as usual. Read more detail here.

I'm excited to come back to Freiburg in the Spring. As mentioned in the previous post we met those entrepreneurs in the Market. I realized yesterday they are my target business market for when I had my business in Vancouver. So I will approach them to see if I can help. I cannot charge for any services provided because then I incur German taxes but it would be fun to use my business knowledge to help again. Okay, I'm just weird I guess.

Cheers, Bx2 & Lexi Cat

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Shaving Cream and Eggs

It's All Saint's Day and a public holiday so the streets are very quiet, transportation running on Sunday hours. So I walked the neighbourhood again. Keep discovering new things a few blocks off the main drag. Like finding a pond and a stream in among the condos through a pedestrian pathway that weaves through the vast amount of condos that make up this place. Children's play parks too, complete with slides and swings. Many gardens in people's yards and on balconies. For being "condo alley" it has been made pretty by these additions to the landscape.

About the title - pathways and sidewalks are dotted with blobs of shaving cream and smashed eggs! Didn't know what to think on my first sighting. Maybe someone dropped their groceries? But no, it was all over the place shaving cans discarded and egg boxes too. Guess that is how our local German kids celebrate Halloween!

We had our first frost this week, the pasture was all white. Burned off by mid-day but was very pretty. I've taken many pictures of the pasture so won't include another. But ha! you get another sunset, scroll fast!

We had the perfect day yesterday, sunny and warm so we walked the market at the Munsterplatz again. This time I was searching for mustards that I saw on a stall a while back and didn't buy. If you know me, I like my mustard. So while I found that stall and bought a sample set of 5 different kinds we also found another stall with cassis syrup. We spoke at length with the fellow and found him to be quite the entrepreneur. He and his partner (who was apparently in the kitchen) started up a year ago and make products for sale at the market. Many are based on figs and are aged for months before ready for sale.

When we got home I looked at the marketing of both entrepreneurs. The mustard guy had coloured cards included with our wrapped products, very professional and classy looking but he's been at it a while. The other fellow has a way to go yet, but as always, getting started takes time.

So we are recognized by about four or five vendors in the market now and that makes it feel more like home. The local market in Rieselfeld just doesn't seem to carry as fresh a produce as downtown. Too bad because I would like to support our local people.

We have thought for a long time it would be fun to visit the farms the market produce comes from. Sort of like a "tasting" tour. Take a van, some interested people, a guide and go. Visit the butcher, the baker, the candle stick maker ... They are all there! I may develop more on this idea in the Spring when we return to Freiburg.

There were more flowers for sale than usual. I think due to it being All Saint's Day when people here remember the Saints and their deceased friends and relatives. You can read about it on this link.

Every week the market produce changes according to what's available in season. They still carry berries and things that aren't grown around here though. That begs the question - where do they get that produce? I can imagine a produce auction somewhere, like the flower auction in Amsterdam. Curious minds (probably only mine) want to know so I will ask.

Further winter trip planning and I am getting stressed about it without really identifying why. Driving around Ireland in the winter didn't seem to make a lot of sense mostly due to expecting inclement weather. We decided to spend the rest of the trip in the warmer climate of Seville, Spain. I have sourced an apartment there which looks great and has wonderful reviews. Both of us are feeling better now. Sometimes you just have to go with a basic feeling, although I will miss out on seeing my Irish relies. We are now all booked. Two travel agents, one for trains and the other for flights and me for rooms and schedules. Whew, that took a while. I was at the travel agent yesterday for an extended amount of time, left Bruce to do the shop. He had no cash to pay with and so parked himself in an aisle and wondered if I'd got smashed into a tram. That is one thing we need to revise, bring our handys (German cell phones) with us to communicate if one gets lost or held up or there is an actual emergency.

Weather here has been so varied, it's like when I lived in Calgary and locals said "if you don't like the weather wait five minutes". We used our Canada Goose parkas yesterday for the first time and were glad to have them. Bruce is highly visible because his is bright red and makes him look twice his actual size due to the bulk of it, almost like a Santa Claus! Enormous hoods on them too with fur lining.

Haven't taken pictures this week so you get one from last, goat from the Mundenhof.

Cheers, Bx2 and Lexi cat