Full Christmas Agenda 🎅🎄🎉

It was pretty fresh when i got back from Aruba – a 30 degree temperature swing and most of the weekend was dark & wet. Welcome back to London! Didn’t i just miss it! 😊☔ 🌃 🇬🇧

Card Fraud 💳: Back in london, I found a host of charges on my card for deliveroo, taxi, bus travel and online shopping in the US. Interestingly, the card was active exactly while i was on the plane and couldn’t do anything about it. So i guess someone in Bogota airport copied the details knowing which flight i am on (you always give your flight details for shopping) and probably traded the details online. Clever trick really. But even nicer was the resolution process with Revolut bank. Simple. Quick. Got a new card in 3 days. Money back. Wow!

Star of the week 🌟: Alex was on a post-school playdate with his classmate Nathan when i got back. Nathan and his family are originally from Eritrea and his mum cooks the most delicious Eritrean dishes for the international evenings at school. Alex had been awarded the star of the week award for his good behaviour and effort at school. That means you get to take home Wuffi (the toy dog) and document your time together – Sunday church, time at home (last time together with Ross), sunday football and winter wonderland – London’s annual christmas fair.

New tenant 🇪🇸: While Amazon deliveries had sorted most of my presents, there were a few other things to sort out. First up a new flat mate with Ross moving on to lice with his girlfriend. He will be missed! Glad it didn’t take long and soon Ana from Barcelona will take up his room. Bienvenido!

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Catching up with Tina 🗞: She had just returned from an exhibition in  Turin on her work with African immigrants working in prostitution. Nice job. Generally, she had been busy on her photojournalist work – be it the African topic, lost Mexican children, Chernobyl or else. Always fun to talk with her and her work begins to pay off too with commissions from Der Stern, potentially a National Geographic deal and a new migrant project in Colombia. May all go well!

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A visit at the Chelsea stadium 🏟 ⚽: Wednesday night was a special night for Alex and myself – our first live football game. Obviously it had to be at Stamford bridge to watch the Chelsea play Bournemouth in the Carabao cup quarterfinals. Tight game, but we squeezed a 1:0 out thanks to an Eden Hazard goal – much to the delight of Alex. Next up is Tottenham who qualified the other quarter final.

Godfatherly duties ➕ 👦: Last, but not least was some time down in Dulwich village to hang out with Paul, my godson Atlas George and his sister Liberty. We had a pizza night and the kids enjoyed playing while the adults chatted away – as usual talking about god and the world (literally). I still regret having touched that strange polish liquor Paul offered … 🤢

Frohe Weihnachten! 🤶: Saturday we went to Germany after an exciting two days watching drone activity grounding air traffic in Gatwick. It turned out fine for us though a small knock-on delay made for a long journey and so we missed the 40th birthday party of my cousin and Alex godmother Denise. Well, happy birthday anyway!

Two friends reunited 👬: This year the christmas walk with my former classmates and family didn’t happen (see here last year Uttewalder Grund: Catching up with school friends (& their +1’s, +2’s … +4’s)). Not too tragic given most of us met at a recent school reunion (A wedding, a christening and two reunions). Instead i met up just with katja and her kids, Valentin & Valerie. For valentin and Alex i still had the friendship wristbands to exchange. Last year alex wanted to give one to him and made. A huge drama when i had none left. We had a great time in their house where alex worked on his art skills, we played in the park (yep, parents included owing several rounds of hide and seek) and fed ducks before enjoying lunch near the river elbe. Good times.

Christmas market 🎄: The weather was rainy ☔ throughout and not really inviting to visit the Christmas markets. We just made it to Pirna briefly for my only mulled wine of the year (!). Sadly someone rammed into my mums car in the car park after we left the market. Nuisance!

The Georgiev’s 🇧🇬 🍷🎄 vol. 2: While I had missed Denise’s 40th birthday, i managed to catch up with quite a few people of her husband’s family (aka the Georgiev gang) during their traditional get-together on the 23 December. Very entertaining as we discussed my bike trip (especially the Bulgarian part they had visited too), got some tips for the upcoming Vietnam trip (including, would you believe it, a recommendation to drink Vietnamese rum from my cousin) and laughed a lot. Thanks for the invite! This year i got off the train in time 😴 saving me the long and cold walk back to Königstein of last year 😂🤣

Christmas eve without church, but good vibes at granddad’s: We decided to skip church this year to have a little less busy agenda. Admittedly, I did miss the christmas flair the church visit usually spreads. Instead we had more time in granddad’s 👴 house. He has gotten old, but was on good form. To my surprise, my uncle Jon, wife and daughter joined us. The latter accompanied by her daughter and boyfriend – both of whom i hadn’t met yet. Back in Koenigstein we first stopped by the other grandparents anf then followed the usual protocol of dinner (potato salad, sausages, meat salad) followed by presents. Alex was so happy and got going right away with his huge lego ninjago ship and later we enjoyed a game of Mister X.

Preparing a xmas goose 🦆: Never in my life have i cooked a duck or goose for xmas. Now, most people don’t care yet i was curious. So i offered my help preparing the family meal for 26 December. Granddad Georg, who got comforting news from his hospital visit earlier in the day, had already prepared the birds for seasoning. From here it is simple. Salt and pepper inside and out, stick two apples and  mugwort inside, close it up and put it in a pot with some water. From here is about 3-4h in the oven on 150-180 degrees. Simple. The fat and all other that comes out while cooking then gives you tasty gravvy.

God-children hanging out: Later on the 25th we got a visit from Denise and Anton. Frances had also arrived from xmas at her dads in Munich. Alex and Antin love playing together though (no different from my childhood) need calming down at times. Adults meanwhile indulged in sparkling wine and conversations 😉

Second Xmas day feast 🍽️🍷🍗🍨☕🍿: Tradition has it that we spend the 26th of December with the Rehn section of the family. All kids were around and everyone busy stuffing tasty goose (thanks 👨‍🍳), dumplings, red and green cabbage… The desert, however, was unusual this year. Alex got a popcorn 🍿 machine for present and supplied the whole room – plain, sugary, salty or with whipped cream 🤣😂. The walk about town after lunch was dearly needed to digest!

Bowling bowling 🎳 night at Joe’s: After aan afternoon stroll and hot chocolates, it was time for bowling. Family bowling is also a long-standing tradition. We prefer at Joe’s in Pirna, as they have bounderies to help children score (seriously lowers drama occurrence for Alex). Finished off with a McDonald’s for dinner made this a truly american evening 🙄.

Last stop – Granddad Kurt: After Alex and Frances spent the morning making candles, we visited Opa Kurt in Dresden. Naturally, he had bought Christmas cake from Dresden (Stollen) and so munched and chatted away. Next year he will already be 90 years old and is still doing great!

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Lars in London: Just when i thought all is done and i can focus on my next trip, a close childhood friend of mine visited London. I managed to squeeze two hours out of the little time i had in london to catch up. The world is a village!

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Busy two weeks!

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London: Home sweet home, school & sightseeing

It was nice to be back in London after a month up North in Scotland. Sleeping in your own bed is just different than in your own tent. But it was busy. As usual when i am back home there is a host of things to take care of. First up cleaning all the gear!

Alex was staying over as usual and brought loads of homework with him on top of his busy club schedule – piano, scouts, russian school, football, sunday church… You name it. There was also a new person to be met for all of us… My lodgers girlfriend. We did it in style over a good raclette dinner.

For laura it was the second time in london, but the first one with a bit of time at hand to explore london. Arguably far from everything. But we managed Greenwich & canary wharf, cycled through the west of town, camden lock market, the regents canal by boat, buckingham palace, natural history mueseum and explored tower bridge and its surroundings. I also manged to show some of my favourite hangouts – in particular the world’s best pizza at the Oak in Notting Hill.

Time went past in a heartbeat before laura returned to colombia and i made my way to vienna to start cycling the sultan’s trail (more of that in my next post).

Outdoor season can begin

Almost three weeks back in London are over. Busy as hell to be frank. DIY in Alex house completed, motorcycle license in my pocket, some great time catching up with friends and neighbors, trips to Devon and Liverpool and of course loads of exciting football at home or nearby pubs. Congrats to France. With Alex school also over, the outdoor season can begin… First up is a canoe trip from Usti nad Labem to Cuxhaven on the Elbe.

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Catching up with friends

There were a few this time whether in the Tiroler Hut with Arndt, David and Isaac, in Liverpool with Steve (see here for a little background), at Lord’s cricket ground with the old Morgan Stanley gang, with Jane and Dom over some tasty BBQ, my godson and his parents, Minna & Ed’s summer party or over one of the many world cup games with Alex, Hubert and the boys from the hood. Busy.

Motorcycle license: Tick

After CBT and theory during my previous visit in London, I spent 4 days practicing and testing on the big bike. Passed both tests without problems, but still got a bit of the test anxiety. It was also good that the tests worked out first time, as the DVLA center is pretty busy and the next slot wouldn’t have been before late August. Now I can begin to think about some motorbike trips. But let’s leave that for another day.

DIY done: Tick

Alex flat is back in order, all damp spots removed and new terrace built. Monster job that kept me busy literally all moments that i wasnt training for the license. Good to have it fixed. Makes for an accomplished feeling going into the canoe trip.

Sultan’s Trail: Preparations start in Totnes

My big bicycle adventure on the Sultan’s trail from Vienna to Istanbul is still two month away, but given other trips in the meantime, best not to leave key preparations to the last-minute. Most importantly I need a touring bike (my old one is probably still chained up in Canary Wharf) and a bit of cycling outfit as well as repair and safety gear. So I was off to Totnes, Devon.

Totnes is right in the southwest of england, not too far from Exeter. I found a decent hybrid/touring bike on ebay with the caveat to pick it up down here. The chap selling the bike, as his father told me, is currently travelling in New Zealand. Good deal overall. Just the 5 Ortlieb panniers would have set me back the same amount that I got all-in. Well, i needed a few extras which the ‘hot pursuit bike shop‘ in town happily supplied. All sorted apart from the pre-tour overhaul i will do in london (chain, sprocket, etc).

Since the handover was quick and my nightbus not on for a few hours I took the bike for a little spin. First stop at pub for beer and sandwich (which i had to defend from rather aggressive seagull). From there you pass through fields in all their lovely colours, little villages with mostly ancient stone cottages and cosy pubs that invite you for a stop. Very pretty and enjoyable. Fitness levels on the other hand need a lot of work. I hope the Elbe canoeing and more so the hike on the Scottish National trail preceding the bike journey will get me up to speed.

I didn’t leave it too late to get back to town in order to dismantle the bike still in daylight. Taking off wheels and mud-guards and a bike bag were necessary to travel  on the bus. Hanging out in Totnes while and after packing up the bike and waiting for the bus turned out rather full of conversations…  Covering all topics with older and younger folks alike. Hopefully the way to Istanbul will turn out similar.

London: DIY & The Hero of Maida

The 5 day stint in London went past in a heartbeat. The summer had also arrived in the UK with a record warm bank holiday weekend at 28/29 degrees. I was mainly busy with DIY at Alex house, but also bumped into some old friends (keen Chelsea supporters), had a sunny sit down with  my neighbors Jane & Dom and enjoyed a beer with Hubert in the finally reopened Truscott Arms … wait, ‘The Hero of Maida” as they christened it this time ;o) 

DIY @ Alex’ house: Good weather to do some DIY. I was in Alex and his mum’s flat where some plaster & the terrace needed looking after. Pretty dirty work, but also fun to get your hands dirty and teach your son a few basics. He was a great help, but also liked to spend time with the neighbour. Anyway, good old work with a beer and some really interesting conversations with neighbor Ahmed (from Cairo) and a chap with insomnia living above. He is Palestinian and studied in Russia. We spoke Russian for a while before some conspiracy chats required english skills for both of us (funny that this chat came after a pretty devastating Russian class on Sunday … keep fighting!). 

The Hero of Maida – my local is back open! The story with my local pub is like a never-ending love story. Loads of ups & downs on both sides. When I moved to Maida Vale in summer 2006, the pub was actually closed. It was called Truscott Arms at the time and had a bit of a history as a rough football pub. It reopened as IDLEWILD and had a really good vibe about it, often thanks to an Italian Rasta man. In 2013 ownership changed again and the pub was reopened with its original name Truscott. That went to summer 2016 when to lease for the pub was hiked from £75k to £250k. The owners gave up and the new owner refurbished the place. After almost two years, now it’s back. The new name THE HERO OF MAIDA pays tribute to General Sir John Stuart, whose triumph at the Battle of Maida was said to restore British morale. Hubert joined me for a quick drink on the fine Monday bank holiday. Good to gossip a little bit about what’s happening in the city.