Friday, May 23, 2014

Kaiserstuhl and more

Our partner D with the flat got her voting cards and honestly I don’t know why we didn’t get voting docs as well, but she’s been a Freiburger longer than us, maybe we aren’t on the “list” yet. Anyway since it is a vote over the entire EU, taking several days, the process facsinates me. I don’t follow politics but if you know me at all, I do appreciate good processes. The envelope came, unsealed, with the long sheets of paper per party. Here is a website that describes what the vote entails, I certainly didn't know the consequences of this vote!

- 13 German parties 
- addresses are listed next to the candidate and their career title
- all parties have 47 candidates except Die Partei has 14
- the lists are long narrow yellow paper with instructions being the first page and then a page per party
- numbered candidates listed starting at 101, next party 201 etc.
- they came in an unsealed envelope that you take with you to the voting station

Impressive I thought.

We went to the local Mac store and bought Bruce a new computer. He spills drinks and smokes, the keyboard gets ruined. When in Heidelberg the technician said “why do you use this as a coffee table?” He was horrified that someone would abuse a machine. It is the way it is, not the first time…Bruce has been using an external key board and mouse for a while now to maintain using a big screen but they weren’t working too well either. On to the Mac store and an hour later he’s got what is most important  -  a film keyboard that turns the German keyboard into an American one i.e. Z and Y are on opposite directions from the other and if you’ve ever tried typing on another language keyboard it takes time to get used to. More importantly it protects the keyboard!

Anyway, this fellow spoke English, they seem to do at this store, been before, and we walked out poorer but Bruce is now functional again on a lighter in weight computer, easier for travel. For those that care it’s a MacBook Pro and he’s happy with it.

While in the shop Bruce struck up a conversation with a fellow who’s current project is promoting German wines in China. But they, in China, don’t appreciate the taste and mix them with other beverages like pop and whatever else.

Really, really needed a hair cut, with the wind looked like I’d put my finger in a socket most days and certainly doesn’t do anything for my look. Made the termin/appointment and next day I’m there. This guy is a hairdresser genius! I have had the best haircut in a very long time, certainly in the time we’ve spent in Europe. I won’t go into the fact that he’s very nice to look at or does an excellent head massage while shampooing, but his assessment of my naturally curly hair made me think of him as a real professional first off. Walked out feeling like a new woman and will certainly go back to him.

Next I finally decided I need sunglasses. My one pair of vision correction glasses is tinted which I wear around my neck for the dual purpose of seeing things and a bit of tint from the sun. Our local Optometrist speaks English and I have taken Bruce’s slightly broken glasses to him on occasion. He has always warned he might break them further but with gentle re-adjustment has always fixed with no charge. So this day I walked in to try on sunglasses. He immediately sees the look I’m going for and produces a pair that fits my face perfectly, I’m sold.  Part of the reason for not wearing sunglasses before is the switching between vision and sun constantly. So in answer to that, which I wondered why no one had thought before, I already had, but done nothing about, a hanging necklace with a hole in  the middle that you just exchange when needed. He had them! And rather stylish in the design too, all good.

Another good day on  the service meter.

We went back to Breisach to meet up with Christoph, our hopeful guide for Germany and into France. 
This is a floating ball sculpture in Breisach I liked.

We want this to work and he didn’t quite understand our wants. It was easier to explain in person which he also appreciated, so we told him, short day trips concentrated on cultural, food and wine experiences with local knowledge. 

Same restaurant in Breisach we were at before, picture of the wall mural instead of food this time.

We had thought we could use public transport for these excursions but with Bruce’s problems walking long distances have decided that hiring a car would be best. Freiburg has a car sharing program so Christoph is looking into the feasibility of doing that versus renting. This way we can easily get into the  smaller towns and wine producers. 

Weather here right now is so changeable by moment, isn’t so much fun honestly. I thought we were complaining too much but our partners have had emails from German friends who say it isn’t good either. It’s the wind that whistles over you that chills. I’ve always said no whinging about that cannot be changed, but we do anyway. Poor citrus trees on the patio must wonder what type of spot they are living in, although I suspect they would encounter the same from the nursery they were bought from. Warmed up by the time we went to the Kaiserstuhl. Summer’s here! Oops spoke too soon...

Pollen which is really evident right now, floating bits of fluff is making our eyes stream with tears unrelated to sadness. I have a new appreciation to a friend in Victoria who had allergies to hay and had to walk by our farm going to school. She’d arrive with eyes and nose going off, not comfortable, and I being the one living on the farm didn’t really get it. Now I do. Sorry J.

Roses and iris, my favourites are in full bloom right now! The roses are especially pretty and often climb up walls to enliven them with full colour, beautiful!

Our tour guide Christoph drove us into the Kaiserstuhl area around Freiburg. It is a large wine growing region in Southern Germany, close to the French and Swiss borders. We used a car sharing program that is the best I’ve ever seen, so efficient and inexpensive. If interested it’s called Gruene Flotte. I won’t go on about it but was impressed! This company uses a chip on your driver’s license to activate and finish the rental, okay, said I wouldn’t go on about it, but truly a great idea!

Kaiserstuhl means Emperor's chair and the mountain (more hills, really) ridges are arranged somewhat like one. The area is covered in volcanic rock, excellent for growing grapes and still experiences small eruptions due to the earth’s crust being quite shallow there. Read above link if interested.

This commemorates when the District became Baden.

The vines are terraced up and over the hills. Most vineyards are owned by large companies who employ migrant workers from other countries but some are still family owned. I took a picture of the terraces but didn't turn out. There are small narrow tractors that are used to work the vineyards, I’ve never seen such narrow ones. Larger are for transporting wagons of grapes over the roads and often both types often hold up traffic, “kings of the road”, they are working after all, everyone else can jolly well wait! Roads are narrow in places and have berms, reminded me of England a bit. Seven small towns have united under the name of Vogtsburg. So they are called Vogtsburg-Burkheim for example.

Christoph had phoned ahead and made reservations at a Weinstube restaurant by the name of Krone in Achkarren about half hour from Rieselfeld along back roads and through charming villages.  

The terrace is to the right, umbrella covered and very comfortable, but the flies...

We sat outside under an umbrella, enjoyed wine from their Stube and I ate my first spargel, white asparagus, meal. I figured I’d better see what all the fuss is about spargel, Germans love it, have spargel menus, season is the spring time and it is everywhere! Often teamed for sale with strawberries, same season, give or take a week. Strawberries are really good here! Read more about spargel from a non-German blogger.

Since this is our third Spring in Germany it is about time to try it. The meal consisted of a few large spears of spargel, boiled potatoes, a crepe, Hollandaise sauce and what ever you wanted to add to it, meat, ham, sausage, salmon, just whatever. I added a barlauch (bärlauch) sauce, translated, "bear's leek" it is like a leafy garlic and tastes and smells wonderful! We add it to salads etc.

The spargel plate came out of the kitchen under dome! Rather dramatic, but that shows the reverence Germans have for their spargel!  It was a very good lunch, presentation was excellent, chef prepared, gratis, an appetiser of small things I would not have tried like wurst (grated sausage) and cheese salad. That’s another thing that is sold everywhere. All restaurants and deli’s do them and I looked and said “I don’t think so”. But again, when in Rome, and with someone to recommend the best food, it’s great to try.

Drove on to Burkheim a medieval town with half timbered houses and lovely courtyards. 
This half timbered beauty was particularly ornate!

Large arched doorways which allow for tractors and trailers into the Weinstube warehouses. 
See the roses!

In the area, and north as well, each stube has a courtyard with tables and chairs, sometimes a restaurant, sometimes a guesthouse and their warehouse for production. Around here they use mostly the white Pinot grape. Pinot Blanc called Weissburgunder; Pinot Gris called Grauerburgunder, well you get the picture.

We walked around Burkheim a bit before having a coffee. Saw this fellow and had to take a picture!

Advertising the Corkscrew Museum - Hmm...

We really enjoyed the afternoon with good food and seeing the countryside. Christoph was the perfect host and we can’t wait to go out with him again! Christoph knows this region very well, especially the churches and what they have inside, no time today, and churches aren’t as interesting to us as you know, but with his guidance to go inside we will. 

We feel lucky to have our guides to give us a richer, fuller experience of the cultures in Germany and Spain, it truly makes a difference!

Cheers, Bx2 and Lexi Cat

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

Shopping, shopping – not my favourite activity honestly, unless it’s for food, clothing not so much. Bruce was walking out of his shoes so we went to a brand name store he’s bought from before, ten minutes later and he’s shod. For me it takes a lot longer but I got lucky yesterday for shoes and the day before with trousers. Bought four pair because when I find trousers that fit, unusual, I don’t want to shop any further for some time! We needed these things and decided since it has rained most of this week we might as well get it done.  Not quite as bad as going to the dentist. Okay, I know I’m probably the only female on the planet who doesn’t enjoy clothes shopping.

Went to Zoo Burkart to get food for Lexi, they have great paintings on their large building and live rabbits and mice of all types, fun to watch. I took a picture but it isn't a good one so didn't post.

May 1st in Europe is Labour Day,  a National holiday. April 30th evening is like our Halloween called Walpurgis Night. No evidence of anything happening this year. Last year there were broken eggs and shaving cream all over the ground, all through the neighbourhood, a real mess!

In rural parts of southern Germany, it is part of popular youth culture to play pranks such as tampering with neighbours' gardens, hiding possessions, or spraying graffiti on private property. from Wikipedia 

Our hopeful tour guide came back with an agenda that was good but too vigourous for one day so we needed to work with him some more and now have a day trip planned in France. So funny to me, still, how close the countries are here.

Downtown Saturday May 4th and it is a complete zoo! 

There is a football game going to happen, blue team vs red team, know nothing more than that and don’t care. Roving groups of people wandering and clogging up the trams wearing their team colours especially scarves.

Then there is an election May 25th in Europe so all political parties are out with their umbrellas and balloons to give the kids. You can read about the parties running in it here. Seemed complex to me until reading because there are so many parties. The streets are littered with Party signs tied to the poles showing pictures of the earnest looking party candidates.

Then it was “shop til you drop” day with the stores opening later than usual and they had goodies like champagne and other drinks out for free and snacks. It seemed, and rightly so from a retailer’s point of view, there was a lot happening to bring out the buyers. Good for them, crowded for us but lively, certainly was that!

Another Saturday and there is a humongous protest march downtown which held up the trams from running for about fifteen minutes. I “read” in the paper that it was a protest to be able to continue using mid-wives services. Hmm, since the election is coming I thought it had to do with that, not. Rather fitting since the next day is Mother’s Day.

                                         HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

African Violet really blooming well

 I'm a bit short on pictures this post (and content as well... ) so will add these fellows. Our partners bought them to decorate the coffee table. They come from Barcelona and are reminiscent of Antoni Gaudi's art and architecture there.

Cheers, Bx2 & Lexi Cat

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Lemons, Oranges and a Palm plant

Okay, Okay, I was wrong, I was wrong… Ms. Doubtful that’s me… The Mundenhof Nursery has a very wide selection of every kind of fruit tree imaginable and I don’t know how many hectares of greenhouses and plants. Who knew it was such a large place?! Not I. Here’s the url to the show and nursery no English but gives you an idea of the size of the place.

Yes! The blossoms smell wonderful.

 Bruce had written out in German what he wanted, an orange or lemon tree with a graft of the other fruit. Now it just took finding the right person to get it for us and we did. Steven is a true and knowledgeable gardener. He spoke English which was a bonus for us. He explained that grafting often weakens the tree so we got one of each. 

To work at a nursery and become an expert as Steven is, you really have to love it, it is a vocation rather than just a job. My friend Jenn in Victoria knows this as a florist. Working with plants is a very large area of expertise, and then you’ve got the Latin names to remember along with the English ones. Pay is usually low and work is physically demanding in all seasons and associated weather. We liked Steven very much and hope to get to know him a little better.

Expected delivery of one lemon, one orange tree and a palm plant was to be next week. Expected by us, knowing they are very busy this weekend with the show and all three plants had to be re-potted.  He tracked us down and said delivery could be today! Now that’s good service. Steven explained that above a specific euro amount delivery would be free so he helped us select the palm to make up the amount, otherwise it would be 100 euro, a bit steep since we live on the edge of the Mundenhof. The whole while, which took about an hour, he guided us through the purchase, meticulously wrote up the bill and explained everything in detail. Many people waited in vain while he did so and he didn’t rush the process, we were the only customers he cared about at that time. Brought Bruce a chair to make him comfortable. He gave me a lemon that had fallen off the tree so, again, I had a fresh lemon in my purse.  His knowledge, his caring and his way of taking time with each customer made him, in our minds, a reason to re-visit. Trees delivered in the time-frame expected, a bit of dirt on the entry way, I got out the broom to deal with after they’d left and I find the one fellow sweeping it up for me. I certainly hadn’t meant for him to do that.

We have found service in Germany to be excellent, sometimes slow, because each customer is not rushed to get to the next one. Remember the Taco truck? Same went with our experience today. We haven’t even paid yet, they will send us a bill by Post so I can do a bank transfer. When I offered to pay Steven said “what’s not to trust”. Sorry to say but unfortunately we don’t seem to be “there” in Canada, either the service or the trust that payment will come forth for goods already received, perhaps I’m just being cynical.

The show in the nursery included about sixty vendors showcasing foods, gardening equipment, fake turf, greenhouses for the home, clothing, etc, etc. 
Multitude of flavoured olive oils
It was large and comprehensive. Reminded me of the Van Dusen Garden show in Vancouver and was probably as large and as varied. 
Hoist to provide a view, really included to show the horse chestnut tree blossoms

This was the first day for the three day show and it was busy! There was a muted sense of excitement in the air as gardeners found plants and products to brighten up their gardens and patios. People were filling carts and toting lovely plants.  I bought a great sun shade hat that can be folded up to put in my purse.  Storks were flying overhead – yes – storks, they have many nests on the posts around the Mundenhof. 

All in all a successful and very nice day, especially now Bruce and I, Ms. Doubtful, have a bit of “Sevilla” in Freiburg. Can we offer you a fresh lemonade?!

Our patio now
Cheers, the citrus people and a cat