Last Week

One of the goals I had for this year was to spend 10 minutes each day writing about whatever came into my head. I missed last Wednesday, but here I’d like to share what I wrote on Thursday evening.

…….

January 7th, 2021, 11:50pm.

Well, less than a week in and I already missed a day. I thought I’d have plenty of time. We had a perfectly nice of evening on a nice, quiet public holiday. Ate a small dinner, made a magnificent batch of popcorn, watched the season premiere of the first Black Bachelor… all lovely. Then we stopped. BV headed for the office, I looked at my phone and… oh shit.

Crazed Trump protestors* storming the Capitol. A meager police force overwhelmed, or maybe allowing them to push through. Some yes, more concerned with getting the Senators, House Reps, and other staff to safety, which they did, but so many questions remain.

Watching it all unfold live was surreal. They went where they wanted, posed gleefully for pictures, defaced property, stole. And then, slowly, slowly, back up forces arrived, pushed them out, and for most of them, off they went. Video footage today showed a full luxury hotel lobby packed with them last night. Drinking, laughing, considering themselves the winners. And why wouldn’t they? The President, in a pre-taped video told them to go home but barely. The emphasis on his stolen election was stronger. His sentiment that he loved them, and that they are very special people, was stronger. Of course they feel victorious. The number of arrests is pathetic, and it seems from the mixed reporting today, that most of those came after curfew at 6pm. By then many of all were already out of the building and bragging about their exploits. Four people have now died; one woman having been shot inside.

They found pipe bombs, and a truck loaded with weaponry. The authorities are asking for tips and the internet is on top of ID-ing many, but why, why is it necessary? Once they were inside, how were they allowed to walk out? It’s unfathomable.

The news cycle today was a mess of who’s responsible, what now, and speculation. This is exactly what so many thought would happen and yet again it seems that the people who have the power to do something, will not. He’s got 13 days left and could certainly do a lot more damage in that time. But do the people who matter have the conviction to do anything? They haven’t so far. I’ve often felt over the last four years, and 2020 was by far the worst bit, that I was watching my home country burn in real time. Yesterday topped it all.

*what they were called at the beginning of the day

…….

It’s now Monday night/Tuesday morning. In the days since, the pictures, videos, and first-hand accounts have continued to horrify. As of now, there have been five deaths, two of them Capitol Police. Many of the insurrectionists involved have been identified by friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, you know name it. Mug shots of many have been released as they’ve been arrested. Others found themselves suddenly on the no-fly list, trapped in D.C., loudly protesting all of the injustices against them as they stormed around airport gates maskless. The injustices against them. Unreal.

The variety of people who showed up for this event is vast. Yes, they were little old ladies and suburban couples, and others that did not appear to be an immediate threat. But there were also a huge number of them who were armed, maybe not with firearms on their person, but with anything else they could find that would do harm. Tactical gear, bear spray, zip ties ready for what? Taking lawmakers hostage until they could march them out to the gallows, A GALLOWS, that was erected outside the building? News crews had their equipment smashed and destroyed, but their cables were stolen and twisted into nooses.

Rioters flying the Thin Blue Line flag were right there as a policeman was beaten with a flagpole attached to an American flag. So the police are on your side? Not today? When exactly?

All of it was unreal to see. It’s unreal to think that it happened, so predictably and seemingly so easily.

And the question of what happens now is still up in the air. Articles of impeachment seem to be ready to go, but do they have the votes? Pence isn’t ruling out the 25th Amendment, but he is? Many lawmakers, mostly on the right, calling for unity, that moving ahead with any of this won’t repair the country.

The man should have been removed during the first impeachment. After last week, let’s not fool ourselves that throwing him out of office even a week ahead of schedule couldn’t stop him from doing more irreparable damage.

Four years ago I could not believe that Donald Trump, the slimy host of The Apprentice, the man with the golden tower, possibly got elected to the highest office in the land. I thought Americans were smarter. I did not understand how the Republican party, the party of fiscal conservatism could get behind such a incredibly bad businessman, who ran nearly every business he was in into the ground. What about the Republican party, the party of family values? So they elect someone thrice-divorced (okay, hey, not everyone gets it right the first time. Or the second.), but then the Access Hollywood tape hit. Beyond that, there was an endless parade of women saying he’d done this, said that, touched them. But that was okay too. I wondered how many Trump-supporting parents of young daughters on my FB feed would react if their girls came home from school saying a boy had done something to them. How could they defend his representing those family values?

When he put out a call to march on the Capitol, thousands showed up. Armed, willing to beat police officers to death with the same flags that represent them. White supremacists, neo-Nazis, people who have been screaming that their guns were being taken away for years and yet they still have guns. Are those the ones anyone wants to align themselves with? Trump enabled and emboldened all of these types to crawl out from the dark underbelly of the internet and feel comfortable and confident enough to step into the light. You might think your lawyer is slightly right-wing but seeing him in camo banging on the doors of the Capitol building should be a wake-up call. If you are marching at a protest and see that the guy next to you has a Nazi tattoo, wouldn’t you think… hmm… maybe this is not a place I should be? These are not the people I should be marching alongside?

It makes no sense. It’s a cult of personality at this point. They are now the party of Trump and it is a train run wild that could destroy the entire country. They spent the last four-plus years putting him forward as the face of something that the party is not, though a lot of Republicans hold their nose and pretend. The myth of the party, if you will.

The only conclusion that I can come to is that anyone saying that the Republican party is still whatever ideal of the Republican party existed in the past, small government, fiscal conservatism, all those things we talked about in A.P. History a thousand years ago, is dead and gone. Now it’s propping up business and failing the worker, stomping for one religion over all others, quashing the hard-won rights of people who look different, love differently, or worship differently than you do. Asking for unity after a Confederate flag walked through the Capitol building.

No. You look and see what you’ve done. You reap what you’ve sown, since the Bible is so important.

Now I’m no expert, but this is what I know. Over the years it has twisted into propping up huge business and that whole trickle-down effect that Reagan promised… never happened. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with working hard and building a successful business. I am, however, saying that the wealth gap is bigger than ever. Jeff Bezos has more money than he could literally ever spend, but his warehouse workers break their backs for peanuts. Drivers are often contracted out, with little to no oversight, they have no security, no insurance, they pee in bottles during their shifts just to make their routes. And the same things happens at countless companies, Amazon is just one example. The days of getting a job at the local factory that had benefits and paid well enough for a small house and a family are long gone but the myth of their existence still lingers. The cost of living has only gone up with the minimum wage far behind in the dust.

Extreme religious conservatives have taken further and further hold, putting every gain women have made over the years into more and more danger, along with other minority groups. And somehow, Donald Trump came along and conned the vast majority of them into going along with him. Donald Trump, a man so religious that he tear-gassed peaceful protestors in order to wave a Bible (a book he’s most assuredly never read as the man DOES NOT READ BOOKS) awkwardly in front of a church. Even those conservatives that may have disagreed were, and are mostly even now, too afraid of his rabid fan base to go against him. And those that agree? I don’t know how they could agree after literally fleeing an angry mob last week, but some still hold out. Good thing so many of their staffers grew up doing active shooter drills in school and knew how to hide effectively.

It’s nauseating. It’s infuriating. It’s been said before but I’ll say it again. Trump is not the entire problem, but he’s a symptom. He’s the face of the problem, he’s incredibly dangerous, and should never have gotten within 100 feet of the Oval Office to begin with. He needs to go, and he needs to never happen again. Nor should any member of his family get within any close number of votes or hope of winning another election.

Normally this is not the sort of post I want to write here. I’ve had a lot of these thoughts over the last four years. I had a lot of thoughts over the summer, what with the global pandemic and the BLM protests sweeping across the country. But no one needs to hear a middle-class white millenial’s take on that. I focused on supporting where I could afford to, educating myself as best I could with various media, and spent a lot of time thinking back on how I was raised. Comments, asides, things that I now wonder about, things that I might now question if they came up again.

When I was 7, we moved from Milwaukee out to the rural suburbs of what is now one of the most strongly Republican counties of the state. Google tells me the distance is 45.3 miles on the route we usually took, so let’s say 45-60 minutes depending on traffic. In the city, I had attended a private, Lutheran school. When we moved, I switched to public. I distinctly remember being asked by my new classmates if I knew Black people. I also remember being 1) incredibly confused by the question… don’t you know Black people? No, some of them had never seen one (at least that they could remember at 7 years old) and 2) where were all of them? My previous school had been a mix of kids from different backgrounds. Here, everyone was White. There wouldn’t be a single minority until we hit middle school, when there was one in my class. Again, the difference is 45 miles. Milwaukee was not the moon, but it may as well have been to some of those kids. To say that the new environment was insular is an understatement. And despite going to the same school, with mostly those same kids, from grades 2-12, I never felt like I fit in.

I got my first job when I was 15, as most of those kids did. Living out in the boonies, learning to drive was a necessity and if you ever wanted a prayer of getting a car, you’d better get to work. I remember my indignation at seeing how much came out in taxes from my first paycheck. I’d covered myself in milkshake for two weeks, wearing horrible white pants that were immediately filthy and sliding on grease on the floor for minimum wage ($5.15/hour at that time) and this was all that was left? Pretty sure my dad laughed at me and told me to thank the Democratic administration that was in power. I was incredibly annoyed at the loss of that money, but I was also 15 years old and working my very first, very sticky, part-time job.

Since then I’ve had lots of different jobs, and some of those in different countries even. And you know what? I grew up a bit, too. Now I understand that taxes… can pay for things! Roads! Infrastructure! Schools! All sorts of fun stuff! And when people pay more into that, the entire society benefits. Fun fact: of all the visitors I’ve had over the years, both here and during my time in Prague, nearly all of them have commented on the same three things.

  1. Wow, there are a lot less crappy cars here!
  2. Wow, the cities are so clean!
  3. Wow, the roads are in such smooth and nice condition! (They’re visitors, they don’t get annoyed at getting stuck at the same construction site constantly for years on end)

Numbers two and three are pretty clear benefits of higher taxes, and number one is down to higher regulation of the cars you are allowed to drive and their environmental impact, as well as their potential for harm to yourself/others. Considering I was once in an old Dodge Dart going downhill with a train track and a stop sign at the bottom of it when the brakes decided not to work, I’m on board with them checking on the cars here every few years.

I don’t look too often anymore to see how much I paid in taxes. It is what it is, and I’m okay with that. I choose to live here, and I choose to pay that price. But there are a lot of people, many of those who were running burgers beside me, or operating presses around me, or slinging laundry, who may never have had that realization. Maybe never will. May never put together that more money in their pocket, or that the tax return they look forward to every year means that Domino’s Pizza stepped in to fix the roads in the community. Yes, that happened. Great publicity for Domino’s, but shouldn’t it be a sign that there’s something wrong? Just like those “heartwarming” stories of teachers pooling their sick days to donate to a co-worker undergoing cancer treatment who has run out of her own. That’s not heartwarming, that’s dystopian. But healthcare is another long rambling post for another day.

Like many, I had former military members in my family and it was something to be proud of. We wore red, white and blue on the 4th, we were rich in ‘Americana’ decor. We were taught that the U.S. was the greatest country on Earth and I never questioned that for a long time. Is it great? Yes. Is it the greatest? No, but I don’t think any country is. They all have problems. Every country, like every person, is fallible. The U.S., like Germany, like every other country on Earth, has things that they do well, and they they do poorly.

It will always be my birth country, whether or not I ever live there again. But I do not recognize it today as we were taught it was. I don’t know if it was ever that way, or if that was all part of the myth… the one that people still try to keep alive. White picket fences (where my parents live, you can’t even build a fence unless you get a special permit and know someone on city council), those steady factory jobs (already covered that), mom in an apron getting dinner on the table by the time dad comes in at 5 (how many of those moms had drinking problems or addictions to questionable ’50s-era drugs for the nerves and how many of those dads stopped at the bar on the way home and maybe whacked her around once in a while, or the kids for that matter). And at some point, the Black family moved in and everyone else moved out.

I can’t say I see the appeal. Maybe it looked good in magazines, we’ve all seen Mad Men, but the underbelly was there. The rose-colored glasses, the nostalgia, the myth, they forget that part.

There is potential to come back from all of this. There is potential for people to learn, to grow, to accept the reality of the country as it is, vibrant, inventive, ingenious as ever, but that myth has to die. There can be a better country, but it has to be better for everyone. Partisan entrenchment can only hurt, can only drive the divisions deeper. I just hope enough people can grow, can learn, can think outside of what they know now, to see what could be.

…..

So that got really long and kind of weird but as I said, I’ve had a lot of these thoughts over the last four years and I just really needed to get them out.

If anyone read all of that, I salute you. I’m sorry it might not make a lot of sense. It’s 5:30am and it had to get out of my head if I have any chance of sleep.

Photo an Hour: A Lazy Lockdown Saturday

I always mean to do these things but usually miss them. So yesterday morning when I looked at twitter and saw Bev post a photo around 10am, I went, “hey, why not today?”

True to form though, I started a few minutes later and pretty much continued that way all day. It was a very cold and foggy day here in Franconia, and neither a walk nor a trip to the supermarket sounded terribly appealing, so it was a pretty quiet day at home.

Just after 10 and I was drinking tea in bed. Tea or coffee in bed and the New York Times crossword is my standard weekend start mode these days. At 11, I was up (briefly) for a tea refill and to check in on Marry while she supervised bird activity out the front window.

12pm and time for some yoga. My arm looks incredibly weird here, but slightly less awkward than trying to take a picture while actually doing the yoga? Finished with yoga, I was forced to take a breakfast break and catch up on my habit chart in the ol’ bullet journal because BV snaked my shower slot around 1pm.

Finally showered at 2, and got “ready” for the day. Though if you’re not really going anywhere, what are you really ready for? Anyway. I recently got this new facial cream with some points I’d saved up. It’s a bit thicker than what I’m used to, so I don’t think I’ll be using it every day but I think it’ll be great this winter when it gets so dry in here. 3pm and it was off to the kitchen to do some dishes (what else?) and refresh my sourdough starter.

Dishes finished, I was off to the living room at 4pm to figure out how to mess up the kitchen again. We had a few late zucchini from the garden that were starting to get weird, which meant I had the chance to test out a new recipe from Flavour. Marry was unimpressed as usual. My 5pm photo was even later than the others because I spent a good 30 minutes struggling to get the fire lit. I suspect the kid who delivers our adverts on the weekends (aka a giant pile of fire-starting paper) has been skipping our house. So lately it’s been a lot of struggling to get it going with strictly the pressed wood and cardboard. And ca. 52 matches per attempt.

Dinner prep/kitchen destruction underway at 6pm. Though all things considered, this recipe was pretty easy on the dish front. One cutting board, one knife, a wooden spoon, one pan, a bowl and spoon for the sauce. Plus, the simple sautéed zucchini with a harissa sauce was very tasty.

Possibly too tasty as I was too busy eating and watching a movie to catch the 7 or 8pm photos. We watched ‘Die Kleine Hexe,’ which is a classic children’s book, and had been one of BV’s favorites. I didn’t know the story, but thought it was a cute movie.

After the movie, BV retreated back to the office to continue cleaning and sorting. He’s still in the process of changing his name on everything/trying to figure out what he’s missed so far. I was still in the living room at 9, watching more nonsense on Netflix and continuing to work on this ridiculous cat coloring book that my sister brought me from Korea a few years ago.

10pm was time for an evening cup of after-dinner tea while Marry enjoyed her fire which had finally gotten the room heated up. At 11 I was contemplating going to bed, but got distracted flipping through the latest issue of Panorama, the German Alpine Club magazine. This article about a hiking trail that goes all the way across Slovenia especially caught my eye. We were there in September and I already can’t wait to get back!

I finally headed for bed around 12, but got slightly distracted for a few minutes trying to figure out if I remembered what was happening when I left off reading this book on our vacation. Nope, no clue, so I will be starting this one over. And that was it for a very quiet and cold November Saturday. The kitchen is already a mess again though, go figure.

22/52

Lockdown V.2.0: The Lightening

Germany is currently two weeks into our second lockdown, but once again, it has little to no effect on anything I’m doing. I hear gyms are closed, but as long as I can do yoga at home and go for long walks, I’m all set. I’m still working from home, minus two weeks I recently had to go to work in person. It was the first time since March, and let me tell you, it was really weird after seven months. Trying to get teenagers to put masks on before they get up from their desks or open the windows with regularity in November was… a new aspect of my job that I wasn’t expecting.

But while I was out for those few days, I did get a chance to walk through Fürth and see what was happening. The first week I went out was in October, when case numbers had been steadily climbing but there were no new restrictions yet, and the second week I was out was the first week of the new “lockdown” restrictions in the beginning of November. To be honest, I saw nearly no difference.

I had to stop at the bakery and the supermarket while I was out, and both of those places were open during the first round of lockdown back in the spring. The new restrictions came into effect during the fall school holidays here in Bavaria, so I was looking forward to emptier trains, more space, and fewer school kids than in a normal week. To be fair, there were fewer kids, but the trains when I was coming home at ca. 1-1:30 pm were oddly full. Walking through Fürth, all the stores (most of which were closed in spring), were open and people were out and about shopping. My train was full with middle-aged folks with shopping bags. I was… confused.

There were signs that masks should be worn, even outdoors, in the pedestrian areas. That was mixed at best. And since then, the numbers in our region have gone through the roof. It’s incredibly discouraging. I know there are plenty of people staying home and only going out for necessities, but it seems not enough of us.

I was expecting the government to tighten things up even more soon, but some news came out this evening that there’s disagreement among the state leaders, and they’re meeting again in about two weeks to see where the situation is. Seems like a long time with these numbers, but who asked me?

I do feel a bit hypocritical because this seems to be the price we’re paying for amongst other things, people travelling on their summer holidays. We travelled as well, but it was after peak season, we went to low-risk areas, avoided people as best we could, masked up everywhere, and got tested when we came home. Both of our tests came back negative, which helped the peace of mind a bit.

On the other hand, if we do have harder and longer lockdowns coming, I think I’m going to be really really really glad that we had that nice, long, late fall holiday. With no Christmas markets, no big village Thanksgiving, and likely the bare minimum for Christmas itself…. it’s going to be pretty dull. I was really hoping that we could go back to Tuscany for New Year’s again this year but the chances of that look like they’re slim to none. The prospect of cleaning the office instead is less than appealing.

This was all a lot less bleak-looking in March when the weather was getting warmer and the days are getting longer. Now I’m going to have to try to shoehorn walks in during my workday somehow, as normally I don’t finish until it’s already dark out. It’s going to be a long winter, that’s for sure. But at the end of the day, this is what we all have to do, or what we all should be doing, so maybe we can actually see each other in person again. At some point.

Until then, I’ll be here. In the living room. Where I’ve been. For eight months. EIGHT MONTHS.

Gratuitous fall shots, for as long as it lasts…

21/52

And Just Like That, We Were Married

Well not quite. This being Germany, there was, of course, a healthy amount of paperwork that went along with the whole thing. I might do a post on that subject specifically (interest, anyone? Bueller?) at some point, but since it’s not the important part, let’s start with the good stuff.

Photos by Martina Strauß Fotografie

We started planning back in February/March, and I have to say that a global pandemic was really not a factor that I had ever figured into my very few ideas about how/when we might get married at some point. All things considered though, I’m glad we hadn’t gotten too far down the planning road. So many people lost so much time, money, energy, and hope, really, this year. Right before everything in Germany shut down, we were very close to putting down money on a location for a date at the end of October and I am so so so glad that we took a few days to think about it.

I wasn’t wild about October 31st (not a Halloween fan), and the weather possibilities, but the pro of that location was that they had the possibility of doing your standesamtliche Trauung, or civil ceremony, on-site. The civil ceremony is a must in Germany, and it’s rare to find a location that has permission to do those ceremonies outside of the local town hall.

Why the rush? Why not just wait until next year? Well, that particular location was already booked up for all the preferable (aka, summer) dates, and also surprise surprise bureaucracy!

In a nutshell: we wanted to do it this year because 1) my passport is up for renewal in November, 2) my residence permit (tied to passport validity length) is up in November, and also 3) BV’s passport is up for renewal in October.

I’m not worried about a new residency permit at all and should be eligible for permanent residency either way at this point as I’ve been here more than seven years, but we figured that if had to do all this paperwork this year, let’s not do it again next year for an additional spousal status change? Not to mention changing names on all that crap? Nein, danke. So this year it would be.

So as the months of pandemic wore on, we decided we’d just get our ducks in a row, and if everything got the green light, we’d do the civil ceremony as soon as we could, and hopefully have the party and some type of “free ceremony” next year.

In the end, our plan went off without a hitch. We submitted everything we needed to submit, got the ‘okay’ from the high court, and set the date for September 18th.

We went back and forth a bit on if we’d want to have anyone there or not, but with all the restrictions on how many people from how many households and who would or could or should attend, we decided that the best choice was no one besides ourselves and a photographer. We wanted at least a few decent pictures to show our families if they couldn’t be there, and luckily for us, Martina, a very lovely and talented local Fotographerin* was available that day.

She was the only one who joined us for the ceremony, which took place in a large room in our Rathaus, or town hall, and was officiated by the same registrar which had handled our paperwork. Where we live it would have either been one of two town registrars, or our mayor. Masks were necessary as we came in, but when we all sat down, with our registrar separated from us by a Plexiglass shield, we were welcome to take them off if we wanted. The registrar did a nice job, and tried to personalize it a bit, which was nice. My personal favorite part was when she talked a bit about how she was the type of person who likes things to be very neat and orderly and I’m just very happy that she found a career as a Beamtin which most definitely fits that personality type. Folks in Germany know what I mean. 😉

Photos by Martina Strauß Fotografie

The ceremony itself lasted about fifteen minutes, we said ‘ja‘ (seriously, that’s all you have to say), and of course signed more paperwork.

Check all ze papers! Photos by Martina Strauß Fotografie

Then the deed was done, we accepted the registrar’s congratulations and headed out. Afterwards, we planned to go over to the local castle garden and take some more pictures. However, we had to delay that just a little bit as we rounded the corner of the Rathaus and saw that a few people had turned up to surprise us with mostly-distanced Sekt, bubbles, and a few hugs if they were feeling risky (not pictured, don’t want to incur the wrath of the Antirisikoamt).

Photos by Martina Strauß Fotografie
Photos by Martina Strauß Fotografie

The surprises were lovely and we all had a good laugh at their having bumped into each other outside (three separate parties) and their debates over just which door we’d emerge from. But then, toasted and congratulated, and with the next wedding guests and bride arriving (most Standesamt ceremonies are on Fridays), we said goodbye to the surprise crew and went over to the castle garden.

Surprise! Informational signage!

We had a gorgeous day, and even better, there was nearly no one around so we had the gardens all to ourselves. I’ve always loved the Fachwerk, warm sandstone tones, and dramatic archways to our friendly local castle, and we really couldn’t be happier as to how these came out.

Photos by Martina Strauß Fotografie

After we finished with the photos, we bid Tschüss to Martina and went back home to drop off gifts, etc. Then it was back in the car (we had a rental for the day), and to the bakery to pick up some cake to take over to BV’s dad’s place. The rest of the afternoon was spent having coffee and cake with his parents, before dropping off the car and hopping onto the U-Bahn for a very overdressed ride to Nürnberg.

We had invited a few people to join us for dinner, and between pandemic and babysitters, it wound up being just six of us. It was a lovely, small round, and nice for the Villagers to be able to finally meet some of our more local friends. We also managed to eat a truly impressive amount of food at da Gallo, one of our favorite Nbg spots. Some less professional pictures…

The Villagers gifted us with a Nürnberg Bridal Cup, so that’s what is happening in that first picture. Technically the groom should probably take the larger part but… oh well. It was a nice red wine though, so I really do not recommend trying this at home.

The party broke up when they closed the restaurant, and L. saved us a trip on the train by chauffeuring us home. And that was it.

As I said before, we are hoping to do some sort of larger celebration in the future. I’m hoping that can still happen but I’ve also been hoping the US can get their shit together for months and… well, you’ve probably all seen how that’s gone. If we could do it on our first anniversary it would be rather nice and neat, but at the end of the day, I’m not a Beamtin and it’s not the most important thing in the world. It would be nice to celebrate with the other people who couldn’t make it, and we’ll make that happen whenever we can.

To the next chapter…

20/52

*linked in the photo captions

Eight to Twenty-Two. Somehow.

It’s been roughly a thousand and one years since my last life lately post way back at the end of the 7th week of being home. Having a computer that takes several hours to start (on a good day) has meant that a lot of days I just ran out of patience trying to get the damn thing to start. It’s also meant that my goal of a post per week this year has… not been very successful thus far.

However, I’m happy to report that I’m typing this post on my brand-new, shiny, glorious laptop! When you push the ‘on’ button, it starts! A miracle! My old one was bought way back in 2012, and has been literally falling apart for the last several years, so this is a very exciting day.

While being inside and typing away isn’t perhaps the best use of a Sunday, it’s currently about 32C (or 90F) here in Franconia and hiding inside with the shutters down during the day is about the best way to get through it. I’m a big summer fan, but as with every summer, I find myself wishing for water access!

But what’s been going on since my last update on life around here in the beginning of May? Both a lot, and a lot of nothing… which I think has been a theme of 2020.

I mentioned at the end of the last update that they were starting to open up more things here in Bayern, and that has remained the case. Around town, things got greener and greener. My usual walking route got absurdly busy for a few weeks as one of the local farms had this stunning field of big purple poppies, and drew far more visitors than I’ve ever seen out there before!

According to a sign next to the field, the farm was partnering with a local bakery chain so I guess in the future we can look forward to more poppy-seed rolls and the like. They advertised the field a fair bit in local media as well, so between that and the ‘gram, it was a hopping place. At home, tiny kitten continued to rule our garden, sometimes with her friend in hot pursuit.

We both had a week of holidays as usual in May, but decided to stay at home. Hotels and the like were allowed to reopen either that week, or in the next week or two (hard to keep track of all the changes), but since we didn’t know what travel would look like, we stayed put. We were fairly productive though, doing a lot of cleaning, reorganizing, and garden work. We also slowly started to venture out a bit, but cautiously so. We met up with friends (woo! other humans!) one weekend in the Franconian Switzerland and (while keeping distance) took a nice day hike where we got this great view of the Walberla. On the way back home, we spontaneously decided to stop at a Biergarten for dinner and as you can see, I was incredibly happy about both tap beer and a meal that I didn’t have to cook! The excitement was real.

These are from another day and another trip out to a local place. So far, every time we’ve dined out or even just gone for a beer, we’ve had to leave contact details, etc. I hear some places are starting to slack on that, but now that numbers have started to go up again, we’ll see if they crack down, or start to close more things down again. We shall see.

Rolling into June, BV’s balcony garden was popping so he built that big brown box in the background of the lavender photo to expand his planting. Tiny kitten was stalking and supervising throughout the process, of course.

The Villagers moved to Amberg at the end of last year, but since BV hadn’t had a chance to see their new place yet, we headed out there for a mini-weekend trip. I spent every Thursday last year in Amberg, but hardly got to see anything besides the stretch from the train station to the company and it was nice to 1) see other humans (again!) and 2) have a change of scenery! We walked up to the Mariahilfberg with its old monastery and also lots of old trees for the kids to run around…

Amberg is very cute. That stone building is part of the old city wall, which still runs around most (maybe all?) of the city center. There are lots of really old houses that date from the middle ages and it is really very charming to wander around.

Starting to feel more comfortable going out, we planned a full weekend away in July. However, I do want to note that though we have gone out a bit, anytime we saw friends or traveled, or had extended contact with anyone, we always took two full weeks before doing anything else. BV is still going into the office only once or twice a week, and I’m still home 100% of the time, so we’re still being extremely cautious. Disclaimer!

Anyway, in July we took a weekend trip down to the Allgäu to spend a few nights at a potential destination for our wedding, whenever that might happen. Apart from some truly horrible guests the first night, we really liked the place. Presumably, our guests would be much better behaved. Maybe.

Since we were in the area, we decided to spend our Saturday revisiting one of my favorite shelter tours we’ve ever done, and hike up to the Kemptner Hütte.

I’m very pleased to report that the hike was exactly as gorgeous as I remembered it, seven years later.

Before we left on Sunday, we stretched our aching legs just a bit and hiked about an hour up to an Alm. After weeks of relatively little activity, we were both in a bit of pain, but considering we had a few hours of train rides ahead of us, we had to move a bit first. Plus, cows.

The rest of July was pretty dull. It either rained or was ungodly hot (see, now), which meant that the garden and the supermarket was about as far as I went.

One Saturday did involve a trip over to the Gardener’s for his birthday, entirely too much cake, and some time under these very impressive blooms. But other than that, we’ve been home. Work got oddly busy, despite the impending holidays, and I’ve had my hands full for the last few weeks.

It’s been a lot of watching the pears slowly ripen, trying to keep the plants watered, Marry supervising both of us working from home, and the occasional daylight hedgehog sighting. We hadn’t seen one in the garden yet this year and I’m feeling entirely better now that he turned up.

One other recent highlight, was that we had our appointment at the local registry office to file all the paperwork in order to get married. So now, we wait. I’ll maybe do a more thorough post on that whole process in the future, but let’s see what the outcome is first, shall we?

Back in March, I don’t think any of us envisioned still being at home now in August, but here we are. I doubt I’ll be doing anything in person until maybe October or November, but given the trends the last few days, it’s really a case of wait and see. A good portion of Germany is on holiday this month, with another good portion about to start school. So we wait. And we see.

19/52

The Allure of the E-Bike

No, I don’t have one. But living in Germany, biking, bike equipment, and the merits of various models of bicycle are a frequent topic of conversation. It seems that not a week goes by that I don’t have a discussion in one of my groups that involves someone in the process of buying or repairing a bike, and nearly everyone has opinions on which types or methods are best.

As a walker, not a biker, I don’t really have a horse in this race. Which type of bike is best? Well which activity are you doing? Are you going for speed or comfort? Mountains or streets? Is an e-bike an option? Are you too old for a normal bike? Or too young for an e-bike? So many questions.

To be 100% honest, I don’t even know that I was aware of the existence of electronic bikes before moving here. And at first, I was a bit perplexed. Why? But then I heard people passionately defend them, or alternately, firmly state that they were NOT that type of person and most definitely far too young to even consider it yet. Okay. Cool.

I’m quite sure that I had seen an e-bike for the first time zip past me in the city at some point along the way, but it didn’t register for me until one specific day in the Alps. And then, the advantage finally became clear.

BV, his brother M, and I had spent the night at the Tegernseer Hütte. After an exhausting, damp and speedy hike up the night before, the next day dawned bright and sunny. As we were quite sure that the steep forest path that we had climbed the evening before would still be fairly wet, we opted to take the other route down. This led us down a path to an Alm, and then turned onto a gravel road that would take us back down to where we’d left the car.

The long and winding road…

As is typical with these roads, it was long with juuuuust enough of an incline to make me glad that we were going down it instead of going up. We hopped along, greeting the grazing cows as we went past, and enjoyed our last looks up at the Hütte, perched high above between the two peaks of the Roßstein und Buchstein. 

A post from the Alps without cows is not possible. Sorry.

Tegernseer Hütte, Roßstein and Buchstein

Going down was no problem of course, but the few other hikers we passed on the way up were breathing a bit heavier. More than the hikers though, were the bikers. A few mountain bikers labored past us, bent low over their bikes, leg muscles straining, breathing hard. The few times I’ve been on a bike in recent years, I’ve struggled with any sort of incline, and I always wonder at the folks in the mountains. I prefer my feet, for sure. Here are a couple of them, high above us (the ones in the brightly colored athletic wear, not the cows).

Just a few minutes after a particularly hard-working biker huffed by us, we noticed something approaching from below. Another cyclist, but this time, something was different.

No sportswear, no bent posture. No helmet, but a jaunty Tiroler hat. A typically Bavarian coat (think, one of these), and a few more gray hairs than the other bikers. He was sitting straight up, and zipping up at an improbable pace.

As he passed us, he greeted us with a “Servus” and didn’t even need to pause for breath. Not a drop of sweat was to be seen, and then, if you hadn’t already figured it out, the whirr of the bike and the giant battery pack gave it away. I so regret not getting a picture of him, but I assume I was too busy giggling like mad.

And that, my friends, is when I figured out the appeal of the e-bike. Compared to the other people who were working hard, this fellow was out, having a lovely day, enjoying the mountains and a leisurely ride no matter if he was going uphill or down.

Since I’m not a big biker now, I don’t see myself rushing out to buy an e-bike anytime soon. We’ve already determined that neither of us is old enough to become bus people, so I think we’ve got a few years to go before e-bikes or buses become a more appealing idea. But I can certainly see the appeal of a gentleman of a certain age, who wants to reach the Alm, with a fraction of the work.

And with views like these, who can argue?

The view from the Tegernseer Hütte

 

And you? Team e-bike? Or team ‘not that old yet’?

 

18/52

 

Five, Six, Seven

Alternative title, “Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’… into the future…”

Has anyone else had that darn Steve Miller Band song stuck in their heads a lot lately? Just me?

Slipping into the future feels about right. Somehow, it’s May, and tomorrow will begin the 8th week of working from home, self-isolating, sheltering in place, pick your description of choice. Not much has changed here since my post after the fourth week.

I’ve taken a few more long walks, which alternate between helping and making me all ragey at people who couldn’t possibly scootch over a bit. Nature has been tremendously helpful, the people less so. Typical.

Marry helped me identify some of the mystery produce in our new veggie delivery box. Turns out that this one was a rutabaga, which falls into the category of ‘shit I’ve never sought out before, but let’s figure out what to do with it!’ And no, we don’t normally let her on the countertops.

To shake things up a bit, and also to get out of the stretchy pants for a change, BV and I made good on our vow to try to do more cultural things. When he had to go into the office one day, he picked up some good pizza on the way home, we both donned our finest, and we ate pizza and watched an opera in the living room. The way that so many arts organizations have been putting up free content is pretty cool. And if we have no chance to get to New York anytime soon, at least we can enjoy the Met Opera’s daily stream for free.

Our friendly local kitten visited some more, and I made another focaccia bread. The yeast in the freezer is nearly gone now though, and there was still none to be found at Edeka this week, so I’ll have to put the bread trials on hold. Or get into sourdough like the rest of the world, apparently.

BV is a huge rhubarb fan, so I took a crack at this tart from the NYT. However, I didn’t have enough coconut to make the recipe’s crust. Instead, I made a Spekulatius crust, which is something I’d been wanting to try for awhile. I took a package of Spekulatius that were leftover from the holidays, crushed them up with butter, and some flour until I got a decent consistency that could be pressed into the cake pan. Then I just crossed my fingers and hoped that it would hold the custard, which it did. Fantastic!

Continuing the theme of occasionally putting on real clothes, we dressed up to go to the Biergarten: home edition, and spent more time clearing out the endless brush in the garden. I feel like it’s improving, but the bar was pretty low.

Pardon the roadworks sign there. It’s been suspiciously silent, and we nearly never walk down that street there, so I’m not entirely convinced they’re actually doing any work. Who knows.

So that’s where things stand in our little corner of Franconia. The May 1 holiday kicks off what is normally my favorite time of year here, where nearly every week or two means another public holiday in May and June. Of course we’ll still have those, and they’ll still be nice breaks from the work week, but the luster of ‘ooooh, what should we do with the long weekend?’ is missing.

They’re starting to slowly open some things up here, though more in some of other German states than in Bavaria. I guess all we can do is see how that goes and hope for the best.

And you? How are you staying sane wherever you are?

 

17/52

Our Germany Travel Wish Lists: A Link Up

A few weeks ago, the lovely Cynthia over at adventurings did a great post about places that she’d like to visit in the Czech Republic if (in this whole weird world we now live in), the borders remained closed but domestic travel was possible. I thought this was a great idea, and it certainly encouraged me to think a bit more about the places we might want to go if we can travel. Sure it might not be as far as before, but what was still possible? 

 

The two of us decided to make this post a link up, so I picked a few places, she picked a few places, and we thought it’d be fun to choose which of the other person’s was our top choice. As a side challenge for myself, I decided to avoid the Alps. There are still places there that I haven’t been, for sure, but at some point I should probably branch out, right? 

Having said that… my picks are after the jump! Click on…

1) Hamburg

Hamburg has to top my list as 1) I’m pretty sure it’s the opposite of the Alps, and 2) I have yet to hear anything bad about it. I’m intensely curious about what a German city with a Scandinavian vibe could be, and the maritime history, proximity to water, and the ready availability of fish stuffed into bread (for BV), definitely don’t hurt. I’ve also heard many a tale of the musical scene (Hamilton auf Deutsch, what?) or the Miniatur Wunderland, but I think I’d prefer to wander along the waterways, look up at all those brick facades, and then have to chase down BV every time he gets a whiff of grilled fish.

2) Sächsische Schweiz 

Aka, the Saxon Switzerland. We’ve spent a weekend in Chemnitz, and a day in Dresden, but more time in the wild, rolling hills of Saxony sounds like a great idea. While it lacks the high peaks, the incredible rock formations can be seen all over ze Instagram travel feeds. I still remember the first time I took the train between Prague and Berlin, and the way that the train rolled through the hills along the Elba, rock formations popping in and out of the greenery… I could kick myself for still not having explored that area more. 

3) Sylt

Ummm… rumor has it that Germany has beaches? And having seen those Strandkorb all over gardens and in the garden furniture section of the OBI for the last nine years, I think it’s time I saw them in their natural habitat? Personally, I’m a big baby when it comes to cold water so I’m a liiiiitle nervous about the possible temperatures at the North Sea, but look at that beach! I’ll probably live, even if I can just lie out and read a book or ten on the sand. 

4) the Triberg Waterfalls

The very first trip that BV and I ever took together was to Freiburg and the Black Forest. It was a quick weekend getaway, and though we’ve driven through, and stopped in Freiburg since then, I feel like it’s only a drop in the bucket. I’m especially interested to see the place that is billed as having “Germany’s highest waterfall.” It seems that it isn’t really, but it’s relatively easy to access, so that helps? Either way, it looks lovely, and I do think that I really need to revisit the Black Forest as the first time we were there, we went to the highest mountain and got to see this…

At the Feldberg summit, 1493m.

Ah yes, the good old days when I hiked in beat up sneakers and jeans. It did clear up a tad, as the day went on. But I need to see more! Preferably, of the falling water variety.

At the Feldberg.

5) Aachen

Sitting right near the border with the Netherlands and Belgium, Aachen is rumored to be another city with a great mix of culture and history. Though Charlemagne is long gone, his influence remains. I’d love to have a poke around the cathedral and its treasury, or spend a day walking the Route Charlemagne. And if you’re not in Germany, you can do it virtually

If you missed the link up at the top, Cynthia’s posts can be found right here, and as for me, I’m adding the Spreewald to my list. Berlin is always worth a visit, but I’d love to see where the Berliner’s go to escape the city life. We might even get crazy and rent a kayak. Who knows? 

Second choice goes to the Baltic coast, as the unexpected beachfront continues. Being able to smell the sea air on Rügen, as opposed to just seeing postcards of it or hearing about it, would be a welcome change of  pace. 

And you? What’s on your Germany wish list?

 

16/52

Quelle Surprise!

Who doesn’t love a good surprise when traveling?

Most of our visit to the Auvergne region of France was fairly surprising, mostly down to the fact that I’m not a huge pre-trip planner in general, plus my crazy new work schedule last spring that left little to no spare brain space to plan for our trip anyways. I’m sure at some point this laissez-faire approach will bite me in the butt, but so far, I’ve done okay. Auvergne worked out fairly well for us, with a fantastic variety of activities, and an extremely helpful host at the holiday apartment that we chose for our five days in the region.

On our first full day, he advised us to head towards a few villages that were about an hour away from our location, and so off we went. However, on the way there, we saw something that made us say “WHAT IS THAT?” and a few minutes later we pulled the car over into a helpfully placed viewpoint parking lot.

So what did we see? Click on for details…

Continue reading

Odd Side Effects

This post is an entirely unscientific list of things that I wouldn’t have thought about before all this happened:

  • Virtually no contrails in the sky on these super beautiful spring days.
  • Piggybacking onto that, one of my random hobbies is checking on the Flightradar24 app when I see a plane overhead. Lately, they’re nearly all cargo planes.
  • And again piggybacking: we are quite close to a small airfield and on aforementioned beautiful spring (and summer) days, we see piles and piles of gliders. Now? None. I haven’t checked to see if it’s officially banned, but I’m guessing it falls under ‘sports activities that can’t be done alone’ and so it is.
  • I’ve mentioned in some of the weekly posts that I’ve been cooking a lot. The dish piles have been LEGENDARY.
  • On the opposite end, we’re doing nearly no laundry. That side is nice. Stretchy pants for dayzzzz.
  • I had a few pairs of mid-season shoes/boots that either 1) needed replacing or 2) nearly did, and I can happily push that off until fall at least. Saving wear and tear on clothes is okay as far as I’m concerned.
  • We’ve gotten some solid cleaning done. If you only have a weekend, it’s the last thing you want to do, but now we have no other options, and can get some little things done after work during the week.
  • I kinda miss riding trains. I do not miss the commute.
  • There are daily vacillations between, “oh my goodness, I’m so glad we live out here and can be in the forest and nearly alone in less than 10 minutes,” and “oh my goodness, I would murder for a take out burrito or pizza or anything else but there’s nowhere to walk to.” Not knowing what will become of our favorite places in the city is deeply frustrating.
  • Some places have expanded delivery options, which is fantastic. Also BV owes me sushi, and I think I’m going to try cashing that in next week for some sweet, sweet, sushi delivery.
  • This spring has been prime Biergarten weather, but we can’t visit our favorite one. And we have no idea if it’s even open. They were maybe closing, then definitely closing for a bit then opening under new management, but then the last time we walked past, the menu outside still had the same family name on it. I NEED TO KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING. Also, I miss the lovely waitresses and the terrace cats. *sigh*

 

Here’s hoping we all get through this. Back to beer gardens and trains, back to making plans, and not seeing people only through ambush video calls.

 

14/52