Christmas in Germany kicks off pretty early on the 24th in the evening (usually with the closest family), followed by two bank holidays that are usually spent with either set of grandparents (mum’s side and dad’s side).
Striezelmarkt: Before we even got to the delights of this years’ xmas, we enjoyed a day on one of Germany’s most famous xmas markets in Dresden. 8 degrees plus didn’t really give it an authentic xmas feeling, but heh. First up a long overdue catch up with Sandra, a former fellow Commerzbanker. She was part of the insane group of people to offer me a job many years ago ;o) Then straight into mulled wine, snacks and shopping with Alex, mum and sister. Good times. Even had the time to catch up with my cousin Denise and the family of her better half. Great evening!
Take me to church: People from Saxony are mostly not religious. Those that are tend to be protestant – a statue of Martin Luther in front of the Frauenkirche (Dresden) underlines that. Our family has always been protestant yet we didn’t visit Church all that often and usually only on Dec 24th. Could be a byproduct of anti-religious policies in East Germany (the central government disliked competition) or that freely available schooling made a lot of the wanna be believers i meet in London redundant (‘pay or prey’ to get your kid into a good school). Who knows. Anyway, after a brief stop in my home village Naundorf and granddad Kaiser, we made it to church in Struppen and enjoyed this year’s nativity play. Always good fun.
Kartoffelsalat: Most of my fellow students in Russia will remember my praises for my mum’s potato salat. A tradition in Germany in most families. Each mum has her own recipe passed on from previous generations. Add a few frankfurters and you have a basic yet tasty meal … and afterwards its time for presents. Dominated by lego sets this year. I got 5 finger shoes … as inspired by ‘Born to Run’. Lets see if it helps me reducing running related injuries.
Stollen in Dresden: After our family trek to the Barbarinea, we visited granddad in Dresden. Like the one in Naundorf, he lives by himself and so we usually just swing by for coffee instead of a full festive meal. Part of any coffee that time of the year has to be Stollen (Stollen is a cake-like fruit bread, see here). And there is none better than the one from Dresden! Taaaaasty!
Goose & green dumplings: Traditionally the 2nd bank holiday is reserved for dad’s side of the family. Originally we picked that day due to them being busy on the first bank holioday serving xmas lunches to guests in our restaurant, while they closed the 2nd. Now I guess it’s a routine even though the restaurant is just a B&B by now. A lot of the lot i hadn’t seen for a year (and some like Steve’s new girlfriend Anastasia not at all really) and so we discussed a bit the Lhotse adventures and future plans. Food is always excellent including tasty & tender goose, dumpling (Klösse) made with raw potatoes giving them a slightly green-ish colour and red cabbage. Wine is also never in short supply teaditionally kicikng off with a glass of Pinot as aperitif. Its tradition in Thuringia where my grandma is from … and tradition matters (and is super tasty).
The tradition to meet up with former classmates from Pirna’s Rainer-Fetscher high school has been around for some time though, depending on family commitments and how the calendar around xmas comes out, it is not always possible for all to join. For me it was the second time and first time with Alex. In total we were 26, if I counted the group picture well, dominated by loads of young-guns. A productive vintage! Go Saxony!
My silent protest: To unite both of Pirna’s high schools is fine by me and was probably underpinned by ever fewer babies. HOWEVER, to rename a long standing institution like the Rainer Fetscher into ‘Schiller’ is either a very dark form of humour or plain stupidity. I strongly suspect the latter.
We met up in Stadt Wehlen and hiked along the Uttewalder Grund. Kids found to each other quickly and i guess alex got one or the other free german lesson. There is a little creek along the way, which proved tempting for most kids and got some of them a pair of wet shoes. Life! After about 1:20h we reached the inn ‘Waldidylle’ for some well deserved refreshments.
Geocaching: Along the way the Schill family located a geocash. A little tube hidden in the rocks where you can record yourself in a little logbook. Theses cashes were new to me, but are a global thing that can lead you to nice places. Read here for more.
There was plenty to catch-up on. A clear trend seemed the drive for folks to move back home – be it Anja, Schmitti or Jens. I guess a global phenomenon once kids are about or the right job comes along.
On the way back we had torches and lampingnon’s for the kids as well as a few fire crackers supplied by us. It was dark already by the time we got back to the ferry in Wehlen. Mum already waiting on the other side for our bowling night – she hates being late (while i have a somewhat larger tolerance by now).
What a fun afternoon! Alex almost in tears as we concluded the event … given that we didn’t have anymore wristbands to give to his new friend Valentin. I promised to fix that via mail. Let’s see.
More posts about my home region Saxon Switzerland
Thanks go to Heiko (aka RAUMSTATION) for putting this together & to everyone else for attending of course. His email is clear evidence that sometimes democracy ain’t the right thing, but we need dictatorship. Just like the Roman’s did in their days.
When travelling around the world it is all too easy to forget all the nice places back home. Having spent some time this summer in Saxon Switzerland, we took a family stroll to digest all the festive & heavy food such as my mum’s tasty potato salad and homemade sausages.
The hike up the Pfaffenstein offers fantastic views of the surrounding rock formations such as Königstein castle and Lilienstein as well as the Elbe valley more general. Especially the Barbarine (the rock that looks like a needle) is as iconic as can be for my beautiful home region.
Alex’ christmas holidays started pretty early this year leaving a whole week before x-mas eve would arrive. Given my apartment is rented out anyway I figured time (&money) is much better spent on the slopes than trying to kill time in London cinema’s or Museums. Alex loves Chamonix anyway – the place of his first time outdoor rock climbing & canyoning (see here) and home of Mt Blanc. Many happy memories for him.
The trip was arguably at the cost of my first year almost without a x-mas lunch had it not been for my good friends Sara & Paul who I visited on the one night i had between Colombia and Chamonix. Both kids including my godson Bobby were thrilled and we had a great time together. In the morning the kids could even reunite with Alex … the only small disappointment when i rocked up alone the night before.
The way to Chamonix wasn’t too bad though with some delays and heavy bags given i carried my snowboard on top of winter clothing and presents. No one was happier than my little prince when we finally got to our destination … temperatures well below zero and loads of snow. Alex wasted no time getting his gloves wet (although he had an entirely different perspective on this). Thankfully the girls from ‘Chalet le Chatelle’ picked us up quickly and soon we hit the bed. I was devastated having had my last full nights’ sleep in a bed 4 days prior in Colombia!
The next days were simply great fun as usual. After 15cm on Monday (read: no sun), we were blessed with great conditions and few other skiers. 3,5 days of good snow action! Alex on ski’s (we’ll try snowboard in Austria in Feb’18) and me on snowboard. His first red run (le cornu in Brevent) still caused some tears, but I know his level and by day two the piste had become his favourite). No issues after that one run, as he rediscovered his confidence. We spent time mostly in nearby Brevent and la Flegere, but also Grand Montets – dominated by red pistes and with a great run all the way down into the valley.
Evenings were usually dedicated to a Tartiflette at ‘elevation 1904’ (tasty & good value at eur11) or the odd raclette in town, the chalet’s hot tub (his russian soul coming to the fore big time ;o) and movie time. Quality boys time!
We finished off our 1,300km roundtrip in style before saying goodbye to Spain. Roman bath in Alange, game of thrones castle in Trujillo and amazing Toledo didn’t make it easier to climb into our Ryanair seats bound for London.
Alange – do it like the Roman’s: the village is only a 15km drive from merida and located on the hills and shores of a large reservoir. We skipped the town though and headed straight for the roman thermal bath (balneario de alange). The complex is much larger than the one we visited in Banos de Montemayor, also part of a hotel (open to external guests) and mostly used by older generations. We booked the roman circuit (eur25/head) though not quite sure what we signed up for given language barrier. The circuit includes 15min in an inhalation room (air & moisture), 30min thermal bath and 20min hot mud pack. Very relaxing! Before heading towards Toledo, we stopped at the reservoir to take in some beautiful views.
Trujillo – winter is coming! Couldn’t resist to stop here after i found out that the castle towering over the city was used as backdrop for game of thrones as it served as template for casterly rock in season 7. Indeed one could think to be right in alleys of kings landing when trying to find where the car was parked exactly ;o) beautiful. You can actually drive all the way up to the castle through the old town. Just com with a small car rather than a SUV – it is tight for these roads were made for people & horses only.
Toledo – the imperial city: By now we had already left Extremadura and were in the autonomous region of castile-la mancha. We didn’t have / pllan much time to see the city and rather added it to the itinerary to be close to the airport for our journey home. Still, we both were stunned at how Toledo welcomed us on this fine evening.
Toledo, which has been declared world heritage, is essentially built on a hill (or several?) and thus stands out already. Add a few landmark buildings like a cathedral, a huge convent and loads of stone walls and it stands out even more. Also the inner fabrics of Toledo are intriguing with strong influences of christian, jewish and muslim history and a long tradition for bladed weapon production. There is a lot more, but i leave that to wikipledia.
Our hotel was located on a hill opposite with beautiful panoramic views over Toledo. Hard to imagine a better place to take this all in.
Adios España! It was wonderful.