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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A few days in Saxony

After my canoe paddle adventure had ended, it was time for a bit of family action back in Königstein. First and foremost the 50th birthday of Bodo, but also some downtime with Alex, sightseeing with Laura and catching up with the grandpa’s. A really great time, though I was also happy to get back on the road. Off to London briefly while Alex flies to St Petersburg to spend the second half of his summer holidays with babushka 👵 and dedushka 👴 in Russia.

Bodo turning 50

Great evening to honor the 50th of Bodo with loads of guests and a program boasting everything from magic to songs and dancing. We also put a revised version of we will rock you together while Laura impressed with her very colombian dress. Fun indeed though never enough time to catch up with everyone. Well, there are plenty more occasions this year.

Visit to Königstein fortress (on 2nd attempt) & Klettergarten

A visit to the largest fortress in Europe is almost mandatory for anyone that visits the town first time. Our first attempt was sadly thwarted by a massive rain shower with hail, lightning and thunder. So strong that even the fire alarms went off and a dozen of fire engines turned up (the fortress has a long history with lightnings).

On the 2nd attempt it worked out fine and Frances was helpful throwing in the remaining pieces of info from her time as a guide here (lets call it … patchy 🤣). For me the views remain some of the best in the region. See here for more on the history.

A new activity for me was the high ropes course near the fortress. Alex had been there with grandad before and wanted to try the higher levels now with me. Frances and Laura joined as well. It is tough once you get past the first 4 initial stages and pretty tiring (esprcially if you clear obstacles without cheating). Nice workout.

Dresden… Always a beauty

We didnt have much time to see Dresden, but surely I didn’t want to leave it out completely. So a quick round through the now reborn old town of Dresden. The amount of work put in to restore this beautiful place impresses me time and time again.

Wer das Weinen verlernt hat, der lernt es wieder beim Untergang Dresdens.

– Gerhart Hauptmann

Elbe paddle (day 3): Stadt Wehlen to Coswig

Today: 47km Total: 109km

Great day today. It was flaming hot, but no bad winds. I also reconfigured weight balance of the canoe and managed some 5.8km/h on average. Not bad, but still almost 700km left to Cuxhafen. The scenery was brilliant all the way and i also squeezed in a swim and my russian class (on skype, just to avoid confusion).

 

 

Memory lane continued with Stadt Wehlen (x-mas meet up with fellow a-level students), Pirna (where we did a levels, Dresden (where i studied, partied and more) and Radebeul (well, they been making good wine for a long time). Lunch I took in Pillnitz next the castle and opposite the last Elbe island and an afternoon beer and shopping (steaks!) in ‘Das Dampfschiff’ in Radebeul – a glass of local white included and some good chat with a local angler.

 

Highlight for me though were the great people in the beer garden on the other side of the river to my camping spot at Skopi’s Elbgarten. Great conversations amongst Saxons. Love it. Do visit!

 

Second highlight was the UK visa approval for my better half Laura. Happy! Soon i wont need to paddle alone anymore and won’t have to hike across scotland alone. I hope she will like it. Well, i know she will. Great girl.

 

Time to sleep. Nite, nite.

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).

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!