Weihnachten zu Hause

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).

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Uttewalder Grund: Catching up with school friends (& their +1’s, +2’s … +4’s)

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.
img_0902-1Geocaching
: 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.

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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.

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X-mas stroll to Pfaffenstein & Barbarine

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.

A few days in Saxon Switzerland: home sweet home

Coming home always feels a little special, even more though with the prospect of catching up with family & friends over the annual village festivities in Naundorf and the 70th anniversary of my old football club (SV Struppen).

Admittedly the number of people that i still know in Struppen, having played my last game here 19y ago, weren’t all that many. But there were some like my best boyhood mate lars.

His wife didn’t drink and took me over to my home village Naundorf where the annual festivities were in full swing. Mum and alex were still there though headed home shortly after. I spent time with grand cousins and other familiar faces from the village. Many congratulated me to reaching Lhotse summit.

After many beers and sausages we headed for the place of my grand-cousin sandra and continued on her terrace. Was fun, but having woken up more than a day earlier in st pete i was basically dead and hit the sofa-bed. The morning turned out a bit blurry for all of us. A good german breakfast brought about some recovery and we made it (belatedly) the the ‘Frühschoppen’ – a german tradition that basically means you come back to the party and continue to drink. Mum and alex where waiting. It was interesting to peep back in time with a display of 30 years of festivities – even found a few pics of myself.

In the afternoon, mum and I headed to the village of Rathen. A rather pretty be it slightly touristy place that offers some great hiking up to the ‘Bastei’ as well as an amphitheatre. We watched ‘Der Freischütz’ (carl maria von weber) after a brief delay due to rain. Its amazing how much more you can do in an opera outdoor – horses running about, fireworks etc. Great place and something i had wanted to do for a long time.

In the evening we stayed home and spent some quality time with somewhat distant relatives from france who had been visiting. Thank god they spoke german – no chance for me with my rudimentary school french.

Monday was a hot and sunny day. Alex and I packed our stuff and went back to naundorf to see grandpa. I handed the flag I carried up Lhotse for him and, as expected, was told not to do such dangerous thing again. Let’s see ;o)

Afterwards i made true my promise to alex to spend some time in my childhood places – the forests surrounding naundorf called ‘Bärensteine’. We had all provisions for an overnight stay in one of the caves (referred to as Boofe in saxony). We gathered wood, played music, made fire and mum and dad joined for dinner. Great night out in the woods though we were dirty like coal workers next day and smelled worse i reckon.

After a fair amount of time cleaning ourselves and the gear we went to dresden to meet my cousin and alex’ godmother Denise alongside husband mitko and son anton. Kids enjoyed themselves and so did we. First over coffee and cake at home, then in a nearby beer-garden.

The remainder of my time home was filled with more visits to relatives, a family pizza dinner and the arrival of my sister on Thursday evening. Time was up and after a few goodbyes Friday morning, we drove to hradec kralove (1,5h behind prague) for a hip hop festival.

Good bye Germany, see you in December!

Weekend stroll through Munich and the zoo

‘Great minds discuss ideas, average people discuss events, small minds discuss people’ (chalk board in Francesco’s kitchen)

It is now the second year that we stop over for a weekend in Munich at my sisters place after our family ski trip. Partly this is related to flights into Munich being more affordable around half-term school holidays (than say Salzburg or Innsbruck), but part is also that it’s actually a nice place to spend some time especially if you have as lovely a sister living there as I do.

We arrived around midday on Saturday having managed to avoid overly bad  traffic out of Austria (our parents weren’t quite as lucky). Steve helped us carry up the luggage and, to my positive surprise, this time the elevator in my sister’s house was actually functioning. Steve then left to drop off the rental at the airport and we loosely aimed to meet up for dinner at the Hofbräuhaus (tourist trap, but fun).

Toy museum, Viktualienmarkt & Hofbräuhaus

After a little rest and some dress-up action of Alex & aunty Frances we set out to visit the ‘Deutsches Museum’ (German museum, bit like science museum in London). However, we then figured 3pm was a little late in the day given the museum closes 5pm and so we headed for the toy museum instead.

As we left the subway at ‘Sendlinger Tor’  we headed over to Marienplatz where an anti NATO / war demonstration was in full swing and plenty of police about. The demonstration was aimed at the security conference that takes place annually here at the Bayerischer Hof hotel (I hope they have refurbished the place by now!). We glanced at some of the banners, but then swiftly left the noisy pack behind us and dived into toy history instead.

The museum is situated in a tower-like building with a circular staircase leading you up (no prams allowed though, which does question how family friendly the place really is). Exhibited are historical toys on the 2nd, 3rd and 5th floor. You find items like trains (e.g. the old Merklin brand), loads of Barbie’s, regular dolls, doll houses, robots, ships, regional German toys such from the Erzgebirge (known for their craftsmanship manufacturing Christmas decoration of all sorts) etc. After an hour or so we were done, but didn’t leave before buying two old-fashioned children books for Alex: ‘Max & Moritz’ and the ‘Der Struwelpeter’ (he loved the first one immediately when we read it to him later).

After the museum we continued our stroll through the city center across the famous Viktualienmarkt. Essentially something like Borough market with a lot of local and European food such as veggies, fruit, sausages, cheese, oil, truffles etc. It’s always nice to hang out there. In the end we headed to ‘Eataly’ … as the name suggests an Italian dedicated lifestyle shopping spot. Alex got a Nutella crepe  to satisfy his cravings while we enjoyed some nice Italian wine and chatted about life. Alex even rediscovered his love for books when I read the stories of ‘Max & Moritz’ to him. He could literally not get enough (well, there is only 7 stories …).

In the evening we met Steve and Robert (they are uni friends from their time in Dresden). Originally from the northern island of Rügen, Robert now lives in Munich. Some good times ensued as we all feasted traditional Bavarian food amidst  good beer, live music and a hyperactive Alex (well, Robert took it easy as he was still digesting the previous night out and had some commitments Sunday a.m.). In the end, I decided to stay with the boys for a night out and so Frances and Alex went home alone.

A boys night out …

The night kicked off fairly civilised at the flat of an Italian mate of Robert called Francesco. We spent a good hour discussing the European project and touched on each others backgrounds a bit before we left for a pretty posh bar (called ‘Brenner’) close to Munich’s famous Maximilianstrasse. The prices seemed reasonable though with cocktails going for EUR9ish. Once at the bar, we met two female Italian friends of Francesco who both work in Munich (logistics or so). We didn’t talk too much, but it transpired that the girls were actively looking for a husband here. I guess they look for someone with money. Apparently  two guys had already fit the criteria of one of the girls, but I didn’t get much detail as to what their requirements are (‘he must be cool’).

Not really a place we felt was right for us and so we went to an Irish pub instead  and got the party going. Kilkenny beers and the occasional Jaegermeister were sufficient that by 2am we had to retreat (after the mandatory stop at McD). It turned out to be a noisy finale as we all rediscovered our singing voices and football chants! Apologies if anyone woke up to that sound ;o) Anyway, some good vibes with the boys and well deserved rest on my sisters sofa.

Visit at Munich zoo and a first taste of spring

Sunday weather was as pleasant as forecast and looked very much like an early day in spring. We had decided to visit the zoo and were joined by Frances’ mate Peter (or Pidi). He is a die-heart FC Cologne supporter, works in sport sponsoring for a living and lives a single life just like my sister. Alex dressed in a Cologne fan scarf made for a flying start (he remains committed to Chelsea though). Alex found some further excitement in the Polaroid camera my sister has got (so now both dad and son were busy taking pics with their toys).

Our trip was then slightly delayed by a lengthy hunt for a parking spot. Clearly we weren’t the only folks that wanted to make use of such fine weather. Once in, I reckon we made it almost all the way round the zoo. But I let the pictures speak. Nice Sunday out anyway.

Then it was already time to say good-bye from Frances and Steve (back to Copenhagen) and for me time to think ahead for the upcoming trip to Marrakesh (at 6am!) where climbing training will resume in the Atlas mountains.

It was a fun finale after our ski trip. Danke Schwesterchen!

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