Friday, November 28, 2014

Freiburg, Colmar, Staufen and Christmas Markets

Bruce’s eyes have been changing, particularly the right one, getting worse in time. We made an appointment with the Hospital clinic a month ago, it takes that long, and finally had it. They send a driver to pick you up, you pay in advance for whatever might happen and get an interpreter. So it is rather expensive but the service is very good and the interpreter is invaluable because they know where to go in the gigantic facility, know the language of course, but are there to help out in any way, like when my cell phone wouldn’t work.

Bruce sees four maybe five technicians performing various duties and tests on his eyes before the final analysis by
 the Senior Doctor who analyses the tests and confirms that Bruce has cataract in the eye. Relief, really, means an operation but not too serious. Not urgent so we don’t have to delay our plans for Sevilla – wonderful! So while Bruce has trouble seeing out of that eye he can still enjoy Spain and get operated on in the Spring when we come back to Freiburg.

We had booked our guide Christoph for after the appointment but when Bruce hadn’t seen anyone until around 10:00 I phoned and cancelled. Instead we went to a local restaurant for lunch. Returned earlier than usual on a Thursday because our cleaner Crina is in and usually we want to stay out of her way. She indicated a water leak in the kitchen, so I think she was rather glad we came in early to deal with it. Plumber came the next day, easy fix.

A stressful day in a few ways but I am thankful because it could have been so much worse! Most importantly, Bruce could have had a more threatening medical condition. We were able to work on the water problem and have Crina call the company to make an appointment. Christoph may not have got my message in time, he would have hired the car and we would have gone off with him without seeing Crina… Counting the good and glad to be able to do so.

Colmar, France. Christoph drove us there, takes about an hour, still amazes me how close countries are, as I’ve said many times. Oh, "la-de-dah" we just popped into France for a couple of hours, when it isn't "la-de-dah" it's just driving to another town. We’d been to Colmar before but Christoph showed us a different part of it so saw it anew. 

Ornate balcony plus all the street lights had these Christmas balls hanging from them.

River running between buildings, in summer they punt along it for tourists.

The town is full of half timbered houses and almost fairy tale in appearance, a real tourist mecca actually. 

Christmas markets doing a roaring trade and it was cold enough to feel like Christmas. 

They look like this in Freiburg too.
Day before had been sunny and warm enough to sit outside for lunch, not so this day. Went to Bartholdi for lunch had been recommended to Christoph as original Alsace, French cuisine. Certainly food and service was most excellent. They use warming plates at the side of the table and serve a portion, then another, fuelled by tea lights.

We went into St. Stephen’s Church which is typical of the area, very dark inside and “silence” signs all over. There is legend around this Church and the following photos explain some of it, I did look it up but didn't find anything explaining it properly. There are so many St. Stephen's churches and I should probably look that up as well but won't, but you can if you are really interested.

Female version

Apparently if you look under this fellow with legs crossed you'll see his anatomy. Didn't need to look.

Liked their expressions

Bruce was starting to tire and was leaning against a wall waiting for Christoph to pick us up when a gentleman came and gave him a mulled wine called Gluehwein, very kind of him and very welcome! (Don't forget an 'e' after a 'u' means dots on top of the 'u'. Sorry I could do this properly by copying from Google translate but don't, so just live with it.)

On the subject of drink, one served infrequently in some restaurants called Hollundersaft, in English Elderberry juice, sometimes mixed with lemonade. Very tasty and reportedly good for you too.

Christmas markets opened in Freiburg this week in five different outdoor plazas, the City rents out the booths to the vendors. We’ll go to experience them. It is a big deal all over Europe, with city tours and river cruises on offer to see them, like a large outdoor fair really.

Christoph picked us up again for lunch out and a look at an ancient Abby still in use. We went back to Staufen and it had many Christmas trees, very tall ones decorated with silver and red large balls and bells. More interestingly the school children had been given a tree to decorate for their class. Innovative use of what you may not expect on a tree included turning single milk containers for coffee upside down and putting angel wings on them; pipe cleaners bent to make stars; pottery bits decorated; and it goes on. Teachers and children must have had great fun making them and displaying in the street! 

Mural, honestly I don't know anything about and won't look up this time... lazy again....

Here they string swags of greenery between windows anchored by a decoration on either side. All very pretty and would look even better with lights lit at night.

Liked the teddy bears.

The abby is called Muenstertal St. Trudpert and is still used as accommodation for nuns and monks today. It is a very large property on top of a hill. One is allowed in the church which was had a style I don’t know the name of. It had sculptures posed in moving stances I’ve never seen before. As usual the angels attached to the altar but these were free form statues on a platform. No pictures allowed, or since there were people sitting in pews silently I take that as a clue, don’t be the “damn” tourist interrupting our peace and commune with God. Another indication not to take pictures is if the church has postcards for sale and they did.

I’ve written about the graveyards before and this one was beautiful if you can say that about one. Each plot had a mini-garden in front and with Christmas nearing relatives and I suppose the paid plot keepers were at work.

It being on top of a hill, actually on the edge of the Black Forest, meant change in architecture of the surrounding homes, barns and hotels. The roofs looked more suitable to what we’ve seen in Switzerland, and other parts of Germany, large, low roof lines to get rid of the snow.

The day was dull and foggy and I was honking like a goose with a cold but in spite of that we had a good day. Better to be out and about and learning about a new area than sitting around feeling sorry for myself and not seeing anything new. Christoph had a rough week as well so it was good for all of us to get out and explore.

Went to the Freiburg Christmas Market, WOW, so much colourful product and so many people! A real mix if high quality items and not so much. Lots of food on offer and lots of mulled wine. For food or wine they give you the plate or cup, you can wander but need to take it back to the original vendor bought from to get your euro deposit back. It had a carnival atmosphere about it with children’s rides, and lots of flashing lights. Oh, and if you hang a star in your window at home that indicates you are ready to celebrate Christmas.

In a few days we leave Freiburg to fly from Zurich to Sevilla so you know what I’m doing! Packing and making lists again, but this time it isn’t into the unknown, we have seen the flat, know the landlord who is a great fellow, know the area so it will be good to return. They have Christmas markets there too so that will be interesting to see the difference in product and culture.

Back to packing, Cheers Bx2 and Lexi Cat

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bahlingen and Riegel in Kaiserstuhl

Downtown to retreive Bruce’s rain coat, gave it to a seamstress to get a new buckle put on the belt. Well they looked for a buckle but didn’t find one so it’s not fixed. I looked too and didn’t find one either. This coat came from Italy and has a two prong buckle type that I guess Germany doesn’t use. So we changed the design to a slip through one and I’ll take it back to have sewn on. Sometimes you just have to get a bit creative when you cannot find what’s needed.

Early in the evening I heard music coming from outside, looked and there were several lit lanterns going down the path to the Mundenhof – St. Martin’s Day celebration! (Read about it previous blog post) Cool! Was glad to witness it.  Took a picture but it’s rather blurry with them being in motion. 

Bruce’s computer keyboard broke AGAIN! Nothing he did this time, or the last in fact, but it seems to have been in the shop more than being used. We are terribly reliant on computers for research and entertainment so being without one is a pain in the keester. Back to the shop he goes and they are not sympathetic at all, as usual. We’re going to buy a spare, from another dealer, seems to be extravagant but since we don’t watch TV, more choices for reading English books on Kindle, we need a computer each. I have an iPad but don’t, or won’t, get used to the virtual keypad for writing, well, it doesn’t have Word on it anyway and I write more than I post. 

Back out with Christoph and since we have found in the past, touring first and lunching later doesn’t really work well in the Kaiserstuhl area since they close up around 1400 for their lunch. So we went to Bahlingen to a restaurant called Landgasthof zum Lamm. 

Outside the Restaurant

Fourth generation in operation with a fifth being trained, it’s also a hotel and they do catering and have been in business for years, see the website at for further information. Food was excellent and well presented. We’d definitely go back especially in the summer for the outside seating they are well set up for and curios hung everywhere, mostly old farm equipment but I liked this sculpture too.

The Village garden and roof line of old building

Moved on to an exhibition of Chinese art and pottery in Riegel am Kaiserstuhl, another charming village. The exhibition was – well I’ll just say it – weird. (note the English tab doesn’t work). A true mix of wonderfully coloured and shaped very old pottery and modern paintings  that were bizarre to all three of us. It’s all in a person’s taste when it comes to art of course. They had lockers for purses and no cameras allowed inside. Christoph thought there should have been more explanation on each piece so he could “get the joke”. This is a privately funded museum with the patron using his business contacts in Asia to provide works although there were pieces from all over the world depending on the type. An “interesting” exhibit, and you know what that means when used to describe art … previous blog March 21, 2014

Outside the Church

Just Googled this since I'd seen it before in Canada. Yarn bombing happens in Riegel, Germany too, worldwide in fact.

Then we went to St. Stephans church in Riegel, Baroque in style as many are in the area. 

Ornate table in the alter

I think Christoph had to refresh his memory with painting he likes rather than hold onto what he clearly didn’t at the museum.

Handsome fellows, handsome door.
"Different" or interesting sculpture on top of a water fountain.
Another very good day about in the Kaiserstuhl in weather that was cloudy but not raining or cold.

 Birthday Day for me and the sun came out in the afternoon – Thank You! Went downtown to Ergo Sum the computer store. Different dealer than where Bruce's broken computer is - still.  Woman there seemed to know what she was talking about. Walked out with new computer and lighter wallet once again. On to Eigan Art, the store we’ve bought curios from to see what she has that is different. Always a pleasure to talk to her, then home after a nice Italian lunch.

Working away on my computer and felt the light change and looked out to see this! Wow! Impressive light show. Doesn't look real but I haven't altered the photo one bit.

Then to top it off - a rainbow!

Nature can be very impressive and beautiful.

Cheers, Bx2 & Lexi Cat

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


We drove Bruce’s wheels, Pepe Le Pew, down to the Stadtgarten to talk to Stephan about them coming to pick up the lemon and orange trees for the winter. It was quite fun and we garnered many smiles, you see I sit on his knees and since he can't see through me, I drive, we do look unusual I'm sure.

Pretty red berries, don't know what they are, along the way.
Went to Obi, a big box store, think Home Depot, Bruce was looking for tools. We came away with a BBQ chicken! So funny, there was a rotissarie truck in the parking lot and the smell drove me crazy so bought one for dinner. Not the usual place one expects to find BBQ chicken, but we did. 

The people from Stadtgarten came and took away the lemon and orange trees, so sad, the patio looks rather empty now. The orange is blooming and the smell a real reminder of Sevilla, why we got them in the first place. So they get to live in a greenhouse for the winter because they are not good under about 7 degrees C and it does get that cold here in Freiburg. Must remember to tell our upstairs neighbours, they look down on the patio and comment on the care we are, or not, giving them. Don’t want them to think they’ve been stolen, now, that would be pretty hard to do! Moved Peli, our pelican sculpture into the winter garden as well because if her/his beak gets filled with water and freezes it will crack the concrete. 

Another oops, Saturday Nov 1st, I look in my calendar and I’ve written All Saints Day, didn’t think too much more about it until we passed the empty local outdoor market and realized all stores are closed, stat holiday. Should have remembered from last year but didn’t. Luckily we have all this soup! 

Having September like weather the last few days and it’s very much appreciated! The fall colours are vibrant!

Ivy on a telephone pole
Got on the tram coming home and this lady put her package/purse on her lap to give me the seat, there was a dog in it! It slept the entire way with one rather large ear hanging out. We see a lot of different types of animal carriers, but hadn’t seen this type before. I’ve got my Christmas cards done, feel free to groan here, knowing it is insanely early, just won’t post yet. Several comments last year indicated I was completely nuts for sending in October, agreed, but that year we were travelling so needed to get them out. Probably most people don’t want to be reminded too early about Christmas, I’m one of them. This year we don’t leave until beginning of December so while still early they won’t come as such a shock to recipients. Christmas product advertising started around the last week of October here in Freiburg in some stores. It was mixed with Halloween and fall but is now fully in the fliers being sent out November 2nd City crews are busy stringing outside lights across the streets and trees, so many, must take a large crew and a couple of weeks to complete!

At the same time walked by a neighbour who was mowing his lawn, the smell of fresh mown lawn is unexpected for me, in November but we’ve had some sunny, cool days.

 Food once again, Spring is Spargel (asparagus); Summer is Pfifferling, (mushrooms); Fall is Kuerbis (pumpkin), haven’t been here in real Winter so don’t know about that season. In Canada we have seasonal vegetable of course but entire menus are not built around them, the way it is here. More on this a bit later in the post. 

I brought up all our clothing from storage. Bruce has about five containers, I had two. A bit sad when the man of the house has so much more clothing than you do, but I think a lot of it is sentimental or something to him. Actually, he just doesn’t want to shop for new stuff, got it. Got mine sorted into keep, give away and trash. Will start on his tomorrow as suggestions.

Forecasted last nice day of fall so we went down to Mundenhof again, for lunch basically and always, another view of the variety of animals. This time we took a slightly different route and encountered deer. Such lovely brown eyes they have. There are even Canadian Geese in the park, Bruce said they aren’t Canadian they are Irish, haha…  

Not a deer or goose, a monkey

I was trying to avoid a child riding with what I thought was no control on a mini-bike. I guess she had more control than thought, she targeted me and started running through my legs. I put a hand out to stop her which came to her face, thankfully her mom saw the whole thing and apologized to me,  and I said it’s okay. Glad my hand didn’t hurt the kid is all, a bit weird.

They pick at the ground to eat grubs I guess
We have many, many fruit flies around right now. They go for a swim in my wine, a tapa would be handy, they are even in the bathroom and fly by my face in the tub. Why? I’m careful with not leaving food out and what puzzles me is the bathroom? No food in there. But I have noticed them around restaurants and shops too so suppose it’s just an influx and they will die off in the colder weather. Actually maybe not, read about them, they reproduce rapidly, hmm, war on fruit flies coming up. To the Drains! 

A method of cleaning drains a plumber told me about years ago is put down some baking soda followed by white vinegar. The concoction bubbles and cleans whatever it encounters. I’ve used this to clean coffee pots etc, etc. When I looked for baking soda about six times in the grocers baking section, couldn’t find. Finally asked and they have small packets of it. Guess it it isn’t used in German baking although they have to use something to make their bread rise, mystery to me. Talking it over with Bruce, we do talk about the most trivial of things, he noted that there aren’t a lot of quick breads here, breads are all made with yeast. Good point. 

Went downtown for lunch and then Bruce wanted to look for a part for the kinetic sculpture he has started working on again, the one with marbles that move around a sculpture, pushed by a water pump. If you want to know more, ask him. Quite complicated but he’s enjoying the creation of it. Smart minds need to stay busy to stay smart. 

We ended up walking quite a long way and through many stores before we were done, didn’t find what he wanted but had a good time looking. Understand my previous posts about hating shopping apply to clothes, not something unique which we were looking for that day. There is a store in Germany, and maybe elsewhere called Idee, went to one in Heidelberg also. It’s a artists, craft person’s store with more interesting product, than a Michael’s in Canada but similar so you get the idea, pun intended.  Now I don’t describe myself as either crafty or artistic but just walking through the store makes me want to try Something! 

Went to our local Indian food restaurant and have to say we think they do a better job of it than one of them downtown. They have a sister restaurant we’ve never eaten at but has good reviews. Ah, the taste of spice was just wonderful! 

We had a flea market at the neighbourhood main square on a Saturday. If you are looking for ski gear for any age this would be a real bonus, or coats, lovely coats of every style. I was tempted by a couple but have enough already. Should have set up a table for the clothing I put in the recycle box same day. Tables were not uniform so whatever one brought and monies made I don’t think was regulated at all. Quite a lot of children’s clothing of course.   

There is a blogger I sometimes read from Helsinki, Sweden. I like this quote she uses on her site, although I didn’t know where it came from “ dance while you still have feet and smile while you still have teeth.” It’s from a band called Caesars, song, Burn the City Down, Googled it. Her blog can be read at Sometimes she just outlines life at the moment, other times she talks about trips taken previously but I like her style. Since we are living in Freiburg with no real trips planned except day trips on Thursdays with Christoph until beginning of December when we go to Sevilla sometimes the blog cannot be all about travelling, but just about living in Europe, as this post is. 

Aside, at the Mundenhof I used to get white, nicely herbed, sausage with a bretzel and wonderful mustard. As of two weeks ago or so white sausage doesn’t seem to be available anywhere, in the stores, so I guess it is another seasonal thing although I wouldn’t have thought of sausage that way. Right now it’s all about the Kuerbis – squash everything, especially soup.  I reckon that making use of what is available in the season means much more here in Europe than Canada. I suppose Canada will come back to that tradition with movements like the “100 mile diet” relearning what it is to use what is available in the season.

Lexi needed more food so off to Zoo Burkart again. They have rodents of types, most ones we can’t identify but they are fun to watch. 

Busy little rodent running his wheel, he'd run, stop, eat, run...

We also needed new nail clippers for Lexi, we all are really bad about clipping, she hates it and screams "blue murder" so we hate it too. Thought a new set of clippers might help. A fellow in the store took my finger to demonstrate how to use them – yes, I’ve still got all my fingers! 

Coming home on the tram it was crammed with teenagers and they were actually quite rude, unusual behaviour from what we’ve seen before. A couple of fellows were jostling each other before getting off the tram and the driver locked the doors on them not allowing them to get out at their stop. I thought “good for you Mr. Driver” next stop is only two blocks away so it was no big deal really but the tram driver must have had a chuckle, and it was raining. 

Tomorrow is Rememberance Day in North America. Here it is Saint Martin’s Day. Read about it here
 Sundays from now to Christmas are named for various religious reasons.
    All Saints' Day ―Saturday, November 1, 2014
   National Day of Mourning ―Sunday, November 16, 2014
   Repentance Day ―Wednesday, November 19, 2014
   Sunday of the Dead ―Sunday, November 23, 2014
First Sunday Advent ―Sunday, November 30, 2014

That's life in Freiburg for now, Cheers, Bx2 & Lexi Cat who will get a reluctant pedicure soon.