Published: February 8th 2011February 4th 2011
Panorama A German village in the snow
What a contrast my life is to this time last year. One year ago I was finishing up a teaching contract in China. Since then I've been home to Australia twice, travelled in England, Wales, France, Morocco, Germany and walked across Spain. You could say that the last year has been one of growth and realising new strengths in me that I didn't know I possessed. I've learned to be on my own and enjoy my company. I've also learned to open my heart again which has brought me a wonderful gift.
What seemed to be something I thought would be beyond reach, is now a normal part of my life. That is travel. I can look at the world in a new light, feel like I'm part of it, and feel empowered to involve myself in new communities easily. I see the good in everything. I have learned to let go of the little things. And importantly for me, I know that happiness is what I make of it. So, now I am exploring a new happiness by being here in Germany.
There is a dreamlike quality about
Weihnachtsmarkt - Buhl
this part of Germany. The snow started falling soon after I arrived. The landscape transformed under a white doona. The magic appears when the sun shines. Breathtaking! Crystals form and sparkle. The air is clean, clear and crisp...thank goodness I stocked up on the arctic gear when I was in London. The snow stayed until after New Year when an unusually warm spell hit us. Yes the temperature actually rose to the positives. Under the snow is a brilliant green. It is truly beautiful.
My days have been simple. I explore the area in an expanding fashion. I started meeting people in the street then in the nearest village, then the town of Buhl. I ventured to Kehl near Strasbourg. I hadn't looked at a map and learned, later, that I was only 200 metres from the French border. Doh!
We've visited Andi's friends and family dotted around the countryside in Offenburg, Heidelberg and Altenheim. We went to the Gengenbach Christmas Markets which are quite famous in these parts. Also the Christmas Markets in Buhl and Achern. I met many people at the Buhl Market on the first afternoon of the festival. Much to Andi's surprise the next
day we were walking through town and many people would say hi to me. It seems that my quick way of becoming known fascinates him. I really like the markets. I went to one store to buy a star lantern to put in the window (that's what they do here for decoration among other things). It was 10.30am and the man offered me a glass of Schnapps saying 'the first five customers of the day get a Schapps'. Not to be one to go against custom, I accepted. He poured me a glass and waited. I looked at him and said that I wasn't going to drink alone. He didn't hesitate and poured himself a drink too. We sipped at the fire liquid and I asked him how many customers so far today. Three, he said, with a twinkle in his eye. Another custom at Christmas is to drink Gluhwein. It's a spicy wine served hot. On these cold days, a cup of Gluhwein quickly heats up the insides. They serve it at all times of the day, too. I took to this custom very quickly. Ha!
We've visited my friends in Dresden for New Year's. Hi Sylke and
Jens! (Separate blog for this everyone). We've walked through nature reserves and the Black Forest. We walk in the snow often and, one day, when there was a blizzard, we walked in that, too. At 9 o'clock at night. Amazing!
I've spent time with new friends, Barbara, Ingrid and Antya. We went out for a night in Offenburg, drinks at an Aussie pub of all places, and dinner, then all four of us worked in a bar/dance club for free drinks until 3. Great fun. An interesting exercise for me not speaking the language but I managed by showing the menu, pointing and saying that I'm Australian. Everyone understood my language deficiency and were quick to switch to English. Pretty desperate for a drink, I'd say. This was before I took up German classes. It was a great night and I also collected 20 Euro in tips! Obviously, they felt sorry for me. The music was great and we danced often. It's been a long time since I worked in a bar. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
These past few months have been a simple and happy life for me. I have enjoyed cooking again. I know, a moment
of shock for most of you, the ones who remember my dinner parties from the early 90's. As most of you know I haven't cooked for many years. You wouldn't believe it but I made 'real' custard one day (from scratch) to go with an apple pie I baked. How domesticated of me! I have made quite a few dishes but in this cold winter my favourite is rice pudding. Which happened to be what I was cooking when the old oven had had enough and exploded. The glass door shattered, inside and out. What a mess!
I'm studying German language for a month in Baden Baden. I took German for 3 years at high school but don't remember a thing except the numbers. In 3 short weeks, I understand more than ever before but still lack confidence in speaking out. My classmates are from South America. Two teenage boys from Peru and a lovely lady from Argentina. Our teacher is from Russia. ha ha! Go figure! Our speech is a mixture of English, Spanish and German. Now for the last week we have a man from Turkey join us. Each morning I take the bus, drink cappuccinos at
a restaurant near Augustaplatz and do my homework. I try to practice everywhere I go, but it seems that once people know I'm not German they want to speak in English so THEY can practice. I am struggling with this. But I have to say that it's getting much easier for me to ask for things instead of pointing and making 'how much is it' sounds.
There are more photos below