Monday, July 28, 2014

Merdingen, Ihringen, A Party and Bruce's Wheels

We were coming home on the tram the other day and a woman got on with four children, looked like she was well on the way to have a fifth. I can’t tell the age of children, but they were all small, eldest looked about five. She admonished them when they got noisy, but was rather calm about it and seemed to handle them well, but goodness me, having five children!

Went to Merdingen to see another Baroque church, St. Remingius, seems many of these small towns have them and I continually wonder how they are funded. 
Fuzzy picture, too much zoom, but see the sculpted legs! Mural with a difference and someone's sense of humour.

This one was being renovated on the exterior, recently been done to the interior. Another WOW as I entered the church, understanding Dawna’s fascination so much more now.

Very stern looking youngster.
More statues
And more... Bored yet? Last one.
Headed for a restaurant for lunch in Ihringen  but it only opens for dinner, Christoph had been there and said it was top notch. But the proprietor said her daughter could do us well in her own restaurant and most certainly did it was called, restaurant and Weinstube. (Sorry to note names of these places sometimes since it cannot be very interesting, but I use this blog as a remembering for ourselves and others should they ever visit.) Food was excellent!

Grape vines and flowers.

Aside, as inquired on an earlier blog, why so many towns are “ingen” named. It apparently means ‘descendants of”. It is however a very loose translation depending on town and timing of when the town was named of course.

Grape terraces on a cloudy day, such even rows!
Bruce’s new wheels. We were downtown, came back to a notice in the mailbox that the bike had been delivered. Written in German but so poorly we couldn’t translate it. I called the company, scanned the document, they confirmed it had been delivered to the Architect who has his office and residence here. Went to see him and they had stored the bike, huge, very huge box in the washroom on the main floor. Took up most of the big room! So now what? We obviously cannot move it into the flat. We take hours to unpack it, lots of cardboard and it’s on a wooden skid.  Meanwhile curious residents of the building are stopping by offering assistance. Next day we install the batteries which are the size of car batteries, very heavy and Bruce takes it for a spin. He loves it! It’s a scooter the size of a motorcycle but has four wheels, can go up to 15 kms/hr.

I went into our local church for the first time. So very stark and completely unlike, farthest spectrum possible, from the other churches we’ve been in. 

Modern, boxy, multi-denominational, with a sliding panel floor to ceiling to make two rooms for two sermons. Learned it is unusual in many ways, architecture, multi denominational, which is why they were allowed to build it when many churches suffer from declining participation.

Stadtteilfest in Rieselfeld at the church square. We went for lunch and decided to stop for a beer at this function. Music provided on stage by school children, lots of booths advertising various products and service organizations. Shared tables as is custom here at festivals especially. We struck up a conversation with a couple and their teenage son. Very enjoyable couple, we learned a lot about the neighbourhood and they learned about Canada. She had lived in the States but their knowledge of Canada was minimal. He had been to Toronto, decided he wanted to go to Vancouver, looked on a map and thought might be a day getting there, so funny, and such a common misconception about the size of Canada.

We were invited to a party in the building – yeah! Their flat is decorated modernly but they also make use of their winter garden as a patio, lots of plants and furniture. Learned more today about German customs. Let’s start at the entry, you don’t take off your shoes and the hosts wear shoes also.

With my gift, I was going through the doorways sideways, look out, wide load coming through! Our gift to them was over the top, but I can only hope that others knew each other so well they didn’t indulge, don’t know. Was advised by two people about what to bring…  So I bought local Gladiolus, hence the wide load, I arranged them cross wise on the basket, French red wine, two jams made by a company that sells out of the Munstermarkt, chocolate “made for wine” and a basket to carry it all in. Spent a bit of time arranging and making it as pretty as possible with my somewhat limited resources and actually was pleased with the result. Jurgen the host has been most kind to Bruce regarding the bike the last few days, if it’s over the top for a social function, I don’t feel bad, a bit of pay back for his kindness.  

There is a core group of three couples here who are very friendly to us foreigners and to our partners as well. Erwin has played pool with them while here. They speak English well and while sometimes need to search for a word it is far better than our German so we appreciate their efforts. Bruce includes all German he knows back to show respect.

I saw four rabbits cavorting in the field early one morning! Put the binoc’s on them to confirm. Lovely to see them chasing each other.

Back at the Mundenhof, we keep going as it is a good five or so kilometere walk for me and always something different that is animal related. Monkeys this time were diving and swimming to chase each other in a pool left by the heavy rain we’d had. Entry was a jump of the rock to belly-flop in. Very fun to watch them having lots of fun.

Starting to get organized since we've only got a week left in Freiburg, then on to Switzerland. Lists are my friends again, they help me not to forget anything and that has a calming effect on me. I know some would say, "why make a list, just pack it". Getting out suitcases early makes Lexi anxious longer than need be, at least that's my excuse...

Will keep blogging, may not have time until we get to Lausanne but will from there for sure.

Cheers, Bx2 & Lexi Cat

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Black Forest Day Trip

In case you’ve been living in a bubble, or not watching news, or just not interested as I have been before, Germany won the World Cup 2014 with a 1-0 in overtime. Must have been nail biting because there were scores on each side deemed faults. Big party in Berlin to welcome the team back and gradually the German flag paraphanalia is disappearing from the streets.

Edge of the Black Forest with church spire, every village has a church.

We drove out to the edge of the Schwarzwald, Black Forest to St. Ulrich to Katholische Pfarrkirche erbaut von Peter Thumb, 1740, Catholic Parish Church, built by Peter Thumb.  It, again, is rather plain on the outside but Rocco inside the webside calls it Baroque but we all agreed it was Rococo. Rococo is 18th century artistic movement and style that came after Baroque and even more highly decorated, hard to believe! Read and see the pictures here.

Read about the style here.

Lovely, if one should call it so, graveyard with elaborate small gardens in front of the stones. 

Christoph said this is a dying, pun intended, tradition as many families are not around to keep the grave sites neat and well tended. I suppose it’s that way all over the world. People also have different choices now, well I won’t go on… We think the gardens are paid for, at least some, in perpetual care. The family pays someone to keep them up to the standard they set. i.e. “Driving Ms. Daisy” movie where she keeps up the garden for her husband but expects her grave to go to perpetual care from her son. Okay, said I wouldn’t go on and did, but it was a lovely stretch of flowering patches.

Elaborate spire at the top of the church

While it seems that with Christoph all we see are churches but he does pick out the lovely ones and the insides are works of art that are always welcome to my eyes. They even have individual hooks on the pews for holding prayer knee pads, so orderly! 

Mural ceiling

The countryside is really beautiful this time of year, still very green, rolling hills and small townships with old style Germanic buildings. The area of the Black Forest we were in is fairly high so the long sloping roofs of the homes are very evident and one needs a 4x4 to drive in the area in winter.

We did have a bit of trouble finding a place for lunch, Ivan, you are not the only one! In these small villages everything closes up from 1400 (2 o’clock) or 1430 for proprietors lunch, re-opening usually around 1700 (5 o’clock). Town after town we were getting later and later and had almost decided to go back to Freiburg, but found this place at the end of their lunch time still serving.

Napkin folded like a tuxedo jacket, yes, that's chocolate...

 Over another wonderful, but too much lunch, at Zum Ochsen, restaurant and hotel in Schallstadt we had a good discussion about Christoph and his partner’s touring business.  They will be doing multi-city European tours by plane, rail, tour boat, and bus next year. We gave him some ideas of what we think Canadians want. I do enjoy talking about ideas for business!

Another great day with Christoph seeing the countryside around Freiburg! We really are not going that far away but landscape changes rather dramatically and we enjoy it very much. Christoph said that in previous farming communities in the area, land and housing was inexpensive to buy. With Freiburg growing outward so much that has changed and now it is expensive. He agreed we made a good purchase in the flat here, relatively new, no maintenance issues with an old building, and a view. Perhaps viewing cattle and horses isn’t everyone’s “cup of tea” but we enjoy it.

Slow travel, staying in one place for a greater period of time means a person has household chores, shopping, general daily things need doing that you do at “home”. Every day is not a vacation but I do like living in a different country, always learning, culture and language even doing every day things. Example, I needed a hair cut, went back to the fellow that did such a good job last time.

Aside - Hah! I’m a semi-real blogger now, I found out how to insert a previous post, easy really and feel free to ignore since the subject isn’t really all that important. Now I know how, be warned…

The hair dresser was running late and got quite stressed about it. Again, language barrier but I was able to calm him down and say no worries, I’m not in a rush. Dual purpose for that, he didn’t cut off my ear! And gave me another good hair cut, once he relaxed some.

Aside - Germans are typically right on time, to the minute really. Personally I’m always early and some people I know are typically late.  Bruce read the story Winston Churchill and his wife Clemintine who were getting ready to go out for an evening. Winston was fiddling about, probably working, but running very late, as apparently he often was. So when he was finally ready, Clementine said “Are you ready?”, “Yes”. She went back to the bedroom, stripped down and started readying of herself all over again. This is from a book called “My Darling Clementine” by a biographer named Jack Fishman, and yes, I looked it up. Christoph is usually late but he is relying on a train and two trams, then picking up the car, which is not always where it is supposed to be, so we don’t fault him on it. 

Cheers, Bx2 & Lexi Cat

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Short trip to Endingen

Hello, hope all is well with you, and the summer is warm. June here was quite nice but the first part of July - very stormy which is nice to see - from the inside of the flat thanks!

We asked Christoph why there are so many towns with the ending "dingen", or "ingen", he's going to find out about it, my two sites that translate don't specify really. Sure are a lot of them in this area!

We did not go back to Emmendingen, Endingen is another town in the Kaiserstuhl we visited with Christoph. It rained the entire day but wasn’t heavy so we walked around. We are from the "wet" coast after all.

Hearty traditional German lunch here, with take away as usual. 

Very traditional Gasthof, Engel is Angel in English, I'm sure you guessed.

Christoph had dumplings with cranberry sauce on the side. He ordered it mainly for that sauce. So as with many poorer times people use everything available in food. These dumplings, he explained are made with stale bread, mixed with egg and then a wet dishrag covers them to give them a dumpling texture. Looked like a mushroom cream sauce added with herbs and the cranberry sauce on the side. Basic, hearty food which the Germans are good at, because, like many countries, they needed to be. My parents always said "waste not, want not".

Our salads we all agreed were wonderful, fresh with homemade dressing. Bruce had the best omelet he's ever eaten with layered, baked potato. My meal was okay but brought much of it home.

We went to a church, Romanesque (read plain) on the outside and Baroque on the inside (read tarted up, or more PC to say beautified) with lots of gold inlay. The ceilings were covered with individual murals, couldn't get a good picture. The walls you can barely see, at the top over the windows are sculptures. For a small town farming community this expanse of gold and detail must have cost "the bomb" so they may have had a wealthy patron. As usual, I didn't get enough information on it, but enjoyed seeing it.

Altar, not the best of pictures, but I wanted you to see the elaborateness of it.
Much better in detail.
Light can be your friend or foe when taking pictures, so even though it was a rather dull, rainy day, the church was filled with light. Must be truly magnificent in sunlight! 

Christoph and Bruce
Meet Christoph, our wonderful guide to this part of Germany! Handsome Bruce on the right.

Crocodile, I think, below the fellow shown next and a better picture of it than what you see above Christoph and Bruce.
Funny, Bruce asked Christoph about this, "what's with the croc?" Christoph said it's not a croc, it's a dragon that St. George, fellow in next picture is slaying. He's the patron Saint in this area, mystical, because, of course, there are no dragons.

Inlay statue outside second church, above the croc, oops, dragon.

Sorry, don't know the tale about this but it was photogenic anyway, on the second church we visited. Inside was much more like "regular" churches, less  decorative.

These flowers lined the streets in boxes, made the town more beautiful and serves to add a little colour into this post.
Aside, our partners with the flat are currently enjoying the lavender fields in France. I wanted to see them but didn't on our last trip through. 

Wow! It really is a sea of lavender! Thanks for the use of the picture Erwin.

Also didn't see the major sites in Paris due to the Lexi hiding in the plumbing incident. Missed seeing the Statue of Liberty due to fog, up in the restaurant at the top of one of the Twin Towers, but have a menu from there I had to steal, not my usual modus operandi but I asked and they were so snotty about it. Maybe it's worth something now due to the towers being destroyed during 911. Making money off a disaster to that scale is not my idea of appropriateness. As Bruce says, you see these famous sites in pictures many times, why see them in person? Many do, but I'd rather do what we are doing, exploring neighbourhoods and finding hidden jewels that the usual tourist doesn't. Off the old soap box now.

Not sure what this represents but doesn't look good for the animal, although the jokers are sure having a good time!
I liked this fellow, done in copper I think, see the bow tie. He's a mascot for the ice cream Cafe and Pizza place.
So that was our lovely, but rainy day in Endingen. 

Walked into our local grocery store, Edeka, to find this!

Naturally I had to show Bruce. It's of course the World Cup done in beer, note the different teams. Perfect! If you didn't know, or aren't interested, Germany plays Argentina the final game on Sunday. Football is a big deal here, all stores are decked out with flags etc. as mentioned before. There are really, to my mind, goofy hats and all sorts of "stuff" for people to look silly in. All in good fun, unless they loose, then not so much.

Cheering for Germany, Bx2 and Lexi Cat

Monday, July 7, 2014

Stacking stones, Mundenhof and Emmendingen


It's been a bit longer for me to send the blog, sorry, I've been doing instead of blogging. Here are a couple of articles about stacking stones from all over the world, from the last post, thanks Erwin!

Went to the Mundenhof to see some animals and to the Stadtgarden to talk to Stephan (I spelled it Steven before incorrectly) about our citrus trees in the winter.

Stephan showed us a grapefruit tree. The interesting thing about it was it was covered in ants going in lines down the trunk, and white grubs were visible on the branches. The ants feed the grubs sugar water. An ant got onto Stephan’s hand and he said, now it’s becoming a protective ant and wants to bite me. Honestly, while fascinating, I wouldn’t want it on my balcony and I hope our trees get stored away from it so ants don’t decide to migrate!

Here’s a service Stephan told us about and I think it’s a great business idea for nurseries. The citrus trees can get damaged below 7 ° Celsius so our options were to heat the winter garden by sealing it up and putting in a heater OR the nursery will come pick them up in October, house them in a greenhouse, take care of them, return them in April or May for a fee of course. The fee to my mind is quite modest, probably as much as it would take to modify the winter garden.  Yes, we won’t get to enjoy the plants while they are at the nursery, guess we would get “visiting rights”. 

Of course, would have made more sense to think of this situation before buying, but worth it to enjoy them now. I think our neighbours upstairs are enjoying as well, they have voiced concern about us watering them.

We had a nice lunch there at the Mundenhof,  but rather noisy under the umbrellas. Noisy because of the multiple groups of children, the age of day school kids. Each group have ball caps in a matching colour so their guides can easily keep track of them. So much energy! We commented to each other that it is a wonderful opportunity for city kids to interact directly with the domestic animals.

For a cafeteria style restaurant they serve a great variety of meals and drinks including beer and wine. Being a Friday afternoon some of the workers were there to have a beer. It amazes me the number of staff they have at both Stadtgarden and Mundenhof. Stadtgarden is a business, Mundenhof is non-profit.

Here are some videos that will give you an idea of the size of the Mundenhof and animals it has in it.,Lde/234675.html

Many storks were in the nests. There were baby monkeys, so cute! The monkeys groom each other, parting the hair on another. I looked up it’s called “social grooming” done to maintain group health, resolve conflicts, advance to mating and other reasons I won’t bore you with.

Meercats were laying flat out, belly to the ground, legs extended out the back or sitting up rather sleepily. 
He/she looks a bit like it is wearing sunglasses! That's another curled around it's base.

We were there mid-afternoon so it was siesta time for many of the animals. A very enjoyable day in the green spaces and seeing the different animals and birds.

Cacti in the greenhouse, so many varieties!
On a different note, Christoph took us by ride-share car to Emmedingen, a village we’d been to before but charming to see again. Weather was stormy with heavy showers we were lucky enough to dodge most of the day, except while driving through a couple that made visibility almost nil.

The entrance gate, beautiful!
He talked to a local to find a local’s pub and it was excellent although took a bit of finding and outside of the downtown. It was called, funny enough, Cheers. Christoph had a lunch translated to “lumber hewer’s lunch” enormous! Three  kinds of meats, salad, home fried potatoes. He couldn’t eat it all and doggy bagged it home. Bruce and I shared a prawn plate and it was great as well.

Protestant church apse
Walked around some more into a Protestant church and then a Catholic one. Christoph is doing research for potential tours in the area so he was investigating legends and gathering pamphlets. 

Loved the slanted windows on the tower

We had a coffee at the Rathaus, City square and drove back through Freiburg home. I find it so very different driving through Freiburg instead of taking the tram. We passed tram stops so knew where we were most of the time but different neighbourhoods and outlooks are seen.

I wasn’t going to write about this in the blog but here goes because the outcome was so very satisfactory and we connected with a great company to fix the problem.

We have a bidet, many homes in Europe have them. It’s a running joke between Bruce and his sister about it’s use, D says it’s for washing socks that the Germans always wear with sandals and honestly they do.

Anyway I keep my toothbrush and paste in a glass in the cabinet above it. The other day it leapt out of the cabinet (of course I knocked it by accident) and smashed into the bidet. Glass did NOT break but bidet DID, large hole, very surprising!

We were figuring out a way to find a plumber or bathroom fixtures retailer when we walked out the door of the condo and there was a van that stated on it’s panels, that’s what they did. Kismet! So Bruce went and explained our need, no English from the fellow but with Bruce’s mime of smashing the bidet he understood and got us a business card.

So the incident happened June 25, I emailed the company after meeting the technician June 26 and the job was finished July 1st. Neatly, efficiently and with what I consider a smart use of computer technology. The bill was prepared on an iPad, I signed it on the iPad and we’re done. He took less time than anticipated, left no mess including the old bidet and box for new one and was very polite. All good! As with all business all over the world there are good companies and not so, but we figured the fact that this company was at our condo building was a sort of reference in itself. Owners here are connected, many retired, and the Architect of this unusual building lives here.

Vinegar, my new friend. Like Windex is to the couple in "My Big Fat Greek wedding". Bruce let a pot of something over-burn on the stove, it was a mess! Scrubbing and scrubbing with purchased for the purpose, a cleaning glove and a SOS pad equivalent made a dent but didn’t finish the job. In desperation, having read somewhere in the back of my mind that vinegar would help. Pot is like new again! Saved about 50 euros to replace it.  So while scrubbing the pot I was rather stupidly wearing one of my favourite blouses. Of course splashes got it dirty, hand washed it, not clean, washing machine, not clean, new hero - vinegar, now clean! A bit more to this, I bought two blouses in Sevilla, rather expensive and let me say, without going into detail, they are very high maintenance! This is me, T-shirt and jean person.

We get to meet Ali and Andy tomorrow at the Taco Truck, looking forward to that. They are professional bloggers from the US, who travel a lot, been following them for close to a year. They live in Freiburg and are in their early thirties.

Met them, only rainy day we’ve had for months, we’ve had showers but this day it rained the entire day, not cold fortunately. Introduced ourselves, got our taco experience, moved a table to a place out of the rain and got to know each other a bit. Weren’t quite finished with that although the meal was, so we moved on to a restaurant to have a drink and continue talking. Andy is a self proclaimed “geek” , Ali has more social skills, they are both professional bloggers, meaning they get paid sometimes for the work, to write about travel, and writers of a couple of ebooks. They are unique in their travel philosophy, taking it slower, learning the culture, having learned that after traveling so many countries, each in a hurry. Ali has been travelling since she was 15 years old and I think has done about 30 countries. 

They have two websites each and a book written and for sale on Amazon each as well. If interested, email me and I'll send you all four sites they have. Andy is a software programmer living in Freiburg six years. He met Ali on Twitter over a technical issue she had while she was in the States. Quite a romantic story really, Bruce and I met on an internet site as well! Anyway won’t go on about them but suffice to say we enjoyed their company for the afternoon very much and hope to meet again in future.

Since we’ve been in Europe I follow travel blogs, to get ideas on how to make mine better and to learn about new places we might consider going to. I do enjoy writing and don’t post everything I write. A good friend asked me if a book was in the future and I cannot see it now, but maybe. The friend is an avid and educated reader so I must be doing something right for her to suggest it, I’m truly honoured.

Went back down to the Mundenhof on a Sunday. Full of families out enjoying the day, well, truthfully not all, some squalling kids, probably they were hot.  I can stand and watch the monkeys for hours, so active and funny! They are just going about their daily routine but from a human‘s perspective it’s hilarious, as said previously. 
See the belt below him, it connects to an aerial ladder across to another tree, he was desperately trying to remove it!
Look at the size of those horns!

Water buffalo, I think, enjoying a bath on a hot day. Again, big horns
Baby goat and Mama, it was hard to get this picture, there were so many people doing the same thing!

I can walk there, around the Park, back out, but enjoy sitting on Bruce’s knee and driving us home. Aside what has been said on other posts, it is a good machine, we certainly get stares, especially when I’m driving. We probably look funny, I usually have my pale blue sun hat on and sunglasses and two of us on the one machine must look a bit weird. Oh well, works for us.

Cheers, Bx2 and Lexi Cat - who is very affectionate these days, walking over the computer, and laying on her back, legs splayed, unusual for a cat to let itself be that vulnerable, to get picked up. Chasing her tail which she remembers to do every few months. Obviously successfully too since I've needed to sweep up tufts of hair from behind and next to the sheer curtains. You see if "I'm behind a curtain, you can't see me!" Sorry Lexi, not so, even when she hides from the birds. Still, always entertaining us.

Heeere's Lexi, for those of you that haven't seen her. She has one white eyebrow and her other is black, her markings on her nose are irregular which for us is part of her charm, along with a sweet and good nature when travelling.
Cheers, again, Bx2 & Lexi Cat