Getting Married in Germany: Practically Speaking

Whoops, it’s been nearly seven months since my last post. Didn’t really intend that, started a 2020 recap post somewhere along the way that I never finished, and though this feels a little bit like tonal whiplash if someone stumbled across this blog and just scrolled through, oh well, I’m going with it.

It’s been nearly a year since we got married and I thought if anyone else was looking to go through the process, I’d give a little bit of insight into how it looked for us, as well as how much it cost. As with any post here that has to deal with the oh-so-romantic aspects of German bureaucracy, it’s important for me to say this:

Via: https://giphy.com/gifs/theoffice-the-office-tv-secret-santa-BXOEmFSzNkOObZhIA3

Disclaimer: This is how it worked here, in our corner of Franconia, in the year of our Lord, 2020, for a German citizen and an American who’s been here 10 years (9 at the time), with a well-established working permit (now permanent resident), and depending on where you are, your mileage may vary. There are differences on what might be required depending on what German Bundesland you’re in, which district, which official you’re dealing with, what moon phase you might be in, and how quickly Germany gets knocked out of whatever football championship is currently ongoing. Also, pandemics are apparently a thing now so already-terrible government office hours are, surprise!, even worse than before.

Ahem. Moving on.

As I mentioned in the first wedding post, we started looking at planning in February, visited some locations, and were pretty darn close to putting down money. Thankfully we didn’t go through with it, and then the world shut down and we started to regroup. Given the fact that we had all these documents that needed renewing in October/November, we decided pretty quickly that either way we’d do the civil ceremony in 2020, and play it by ear with how we celebrated at the time.

In mid-April, BV reached out to the local registrar to see what documents we’d need, and what the process would be. Within a few days we had our list, and paid a small fee of €25 for the privilege of the information.

We needed:

  1. A certified copy of BV’s birth certificate (ordered from the city of Nürnberg for ca. €13)
  2. A long-form certified original of my birth certificate, which must be issued no more than 6 months out from filing date (ordered online from the state of Wisconsin with postage for $33)
  3. A German translation of said birth certificate from a certified translator (€35.04, and translator found via the official portal http://www.justiz-dolmetscher.de)
  4. Both of our current valid passports (or BV’s ID card would do)
  5. My current work/residence permit
  6. A sworn affidavit of my current marital status and allowance to marry (done in front of registrar in the office)
  7. Express declaration of both of our domiciles*
  8. Proof of income for both of us (i.e. pay slips for the last 3 months)

*The domicile thing had us both a bit confused, but basically what it broke down to was your birthplace and where you live now. For me it was fairly uncomplicated as the only place I lived in the U.S. was in Wisconsin, and they really don’t care how often you moved within the state or where your last address was. So when we had our appointment I said yes I was born in Wisconsin, that’s where I lived, now I live here, done.

Another thing to note: Bavaria is a bit different, in that they only require the affidavit that you are free to marry. As far as I know, in the other German states, you do need official documentation of this from the U.S. Not mad about missing out on that one.

Edited to add: upon publication I was informed that as of 2021, swearing an affidavit is allowed in all areas of Germany without documentation. Again, if it’s 2022, Venus is in retrograde, or you live in Landkreis OberUnterDorfau, they may do things their own way so always speak to your friendly local Beamter*innen.

So we gathered up our documents, I ordered my birth certificate at the beginning of May and that arrived in about three weeks, I had it translated, and we submitted everything first via email/pdf. Then, we waited.

A couple of weeks went by and we got a call from the registrar that everything looked good, so the next step was for us to come in and have an appointment to go through everything, me to swear the affidavit, etc. She was very adamant that if I was not a native German speaker, we MUST have a translator as we were doing a Very Legal Proceeding, and BV was not allowed to translate for me when necessary. I appreciate her commitment to her job and not getting accidentally sold for a small herd of cattle or something, but I know from other people that they have gotten away with less than perfect German and no translator so again… variance.

The gal who had translated my birth certificate was unable to join us, so it was back to the portal and I was lucky to find a lovely woman who was a dual citizen born in the U.S. and normally worked at conferences, etc., but was free to join us for several hours one afternoon in July at our appointment. We were there for nearly three hours going through all the paperwork, and reading in great detail, because both the laws of Germany and Wisconsin (that domicile again), the laws that apply to Wisconsin/Germany that would or would not preclude us from marrying.

Fun fact! In the state of Wisconsin, you can legally marry your cousin IF either the bride is old enough that children are no longer a possibility or the groom is proven to be impotent.

You’re welcome for this knowledge. I paid the translator €271.44 to learn it. I accept both Paypal and snacks, if you’re so inclined. But again, the translator was really great, super helpful, and said afterwards that our registrar was, in her experience… unusually detailed.

At that point all the t’s were crossed, all the i’s were dotted, and our paperwork was sent off to the Oberlandesgericht Nürnberg, or the Nürnberg High Court. Three weeks later in mid-August, our registrar got the okay from them, we submitted the final fee of €185, and were free to set our date for our civil ceremony. And that was it.

All told from first contact with the registrar to ceremony date, the whole thing took 5 months and one day, with a cost of about €557, give or take a Euro for whatever the dollar exchange rate was in May last year.

As far as the ease of the process goes, for me after 10 years here and the wealth of bureaucratic hoops I’ve had to jump through due to my own error or just life, this was SHOCKINGLY EASY. I know people have gone abroad specifically to avoid the pain of marrying in Germany, but if you’re not under an enormous time crunch, I really can’t say that any part of this was problematic for us. I’ve also never longed for a big, fancy wedding with all the trimmings, so keeping it just us was actually kind of perfect. Yes we still do want to celebrate at some point in the future with other people, but as it’s (checks watch) a year and a half into the pandemic and it’s just now maybe? a little bit? getting better here, we have no idea when that will be. For now, we’re married, and that’s what we wanted.

Bonus pic from our honeymoon. 🙂

Sound like fun? Sound like a nightmare? Leave a comment and let me know where you stand… ’til the next time (hopefully sooner than six months from now…)

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

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

Week Two Down.

Twelve days by the calendar since my last post, though time seems to have developed some curious warping and stretching tendencies. Apparently this morning we were all supposed to change that odd clock in the house that isn’t controlled by satellite… daylight savings time didn’t seem to get the memo that days have gotten all fuzzy.

Twelve days ago, I was working from home mostly by choice. My people that I have contact weren’t in the office, so what was the point of me going anywhere? That was Tuesday. Most of last week was truly glorious weather, so I took advantage of my freed-up commute time and took long walks in the warm sun every afternoon. I tried dodging people as best as I could, but it seems that all around Germany the social distancing that was encouraged by the government was not quite taking hold. On Friday at midnight, Bavaria became the first federal state to institute stricter measures.

All non-essential businesses are now closed, restaurants and cafes are limited to take-out, and everyone who can is to work from home. BV was still going in the first week, but last week he and his boss worked out a plan so they can alternate days. It’s not ideal, but its the best they can do for now, and at least it cuts down on his train/bus commuting by half.

For our first official weekend at home with nowhere to go and nothing to do, I spent most of my time in the kitchen. I tried and partially succeeded in making an apple strudel (more on that later), and finally got around to reorganizing the disaster area that we had been calling a pantry.

Still has some ways to go, but we shall not be buying anymore canned fruit unless there’s a specific purpose for it. And expired pickles will be the new salty snack until further notice.

My classes rolled on this week, with the exception of one or two last-minute cancellations. Really, that made it more like a normal week in some ways. The only difference being that here I could do my in-between administrative tasks with Marry die Katze looking over my shoulder, rather than hunting for a free desk in the wild plains of the open office concept. I’m grateful that I’m still working, and I do think that the people I work with are appreciative to have that sense of normalcy. Thank goodness they’re used to spending half the day on telephone conferences and didn’t bat an eye at changing our English lessons.

Beyond work, I didn’t leave the house/our garden from last week Friday afternoon until this week Friday afternoon. Besides the harder restrictions being in place, I had a few more late meetings this week, and the weather took a hard turn back to cold. It was deceptively nice-looking out the window, but the wind had a distinct bite and I decided it wasn’t worth it. Instead, I spent more time cooking because at least we will eat well during all of this. By the end of the week it warmed up a tad, so we were able to have a nice Feierabendbier at our garden table for the first time on Friday afternoon. Plus, we were joined by our new part-time garden residents!

These two wee nuts have been frequent visitors so far this spring. They are very playful, very rumbly, and very intent on causing a ruckus over at our neighbor’s chicken coop on a regular basis.

They also joined me for much of yesterday afternoon while I did some recipe recording in the garden. BV took care of the manual garden labor portion of the day, and we got the grill going later in the evening for the first grilled bratwursts of the season. The next few days look rather chilly again, but we’re hoping for more nice days to take advantage of the weather and approximate the Biergarten experience at home as best as we can. It seems we may have to for quite a while.

After two weeks of this strange new world, I’d say we’re coping fairly well with it most days. Thank goodness we already did a fair amount of meal planning and didn’t rely too heavily on eating out (though I was VERY excited to have sushi delivered to the village on Monday. That was not possible before). We’re both more homebody types anyway, but I’m guessing that in a week or two, I’ll be wanting to see… someone else. Since BV will still be in the office at least 50% of the time, he’ll have some outside contact. I’ll have to make do with virtual connection. Or order more food so I can at least talk to the sushi guy.

I did have a small crisis on Wednesday or Thursday. I was scrolling through something or another and just really wanted to go… somewhere. It’s very rare that we have no vacations, no weekends away, no hiking trips, absolutely nothing planned. I get itchy if we don’t. Intellectually I know that we can’t plan anything right now, but that did not stop me from hopping onto one booking platform or another and just bemoaning all the nice, cozy places that might as well be on Mars now. I doubt that will be the last time it happens, so if you’ve got a tip on a solid distraction or coping mechanism, leave it in the comments?

Whew. This got rambly. Sorry about that.

Stay home, stay healthy, stay sane. We’re all in this together (separately, at home, alone).

 

 

10/52

Overnight Trains: 17 vs 36

Living the last year car free has given us the chance to explore some travel options that we had previously only thought about in terms of vague “somedays.” In the past, it would’ve been only too easy for us to say, “oh no, it’s so much easier to drive for 10 hours,” when we were starting to plan our Tuscany trip.

Truth is, it probably wouldn’t have been easier. When we drove there last time, we traveled with friends, so the two gents traded off driving duties. Since I still can’t/don’t drive here, BV would’ve been the only one behind the wheel. That would have meant instead of a 10-hour trip (assuming the best conditions), we more than likely would’ve needed to schedule in an overnight stay somewhere (losing valuable Tuscan time), or sleep in the car (in December), and it would’ve been more like two lost days coming and going. But as we have no car, we had no choice… to the train!

I’d been curious about doing an overnight train for quite some time. I had taken one before on our high school France trip, but BV never had. Strangely, in the 11 years I’ve lived in Europe, I have never managed to repeat the experience. The Js and I did try, once, on our ill-fated roommate Krakow trip, but were brutally rebuffed.*

So how was it? Pretty good, as far as I’m concerned. But I have to say, the experience was sliiiiightly different nearly 20 years (oh God) on.

It was the summer of 2001, I was 17. We’d been tooling around France for about a week and a half, shepherded on and off of our coach bus by my delightfully loopy French teacher, Madame Coe, and our tour guide. Madame was a school tour veteran, and had the whole thing down to a science. When she learned that we’d be taking an overnight train from Paris to Nice, she had her whole strategy in place. She didn’t count on us though.

The girls on our trip outnumbered the boys, but she distributed us throughout our sleeper cars so we’d have at least one male in each of the 6-person compartments “for protection.” Our compartment was to have four girls and two boys, but we immediately folded up the upper bunks and packed about twelve people in there for a night full of playing cards and drinking the provisions that the guys had picked up in the train station. Madame stopped by our bunk a few times before she retired, wine glass in hand, advising us not to stay up too late.

Needless to say, she was right and we probably should have listened. All these years on, I have no idea how late we stayed up, being 17 and 18, probably unforgivably loud**, but having an excellent time.

What I do remember, is the next morning. The train had metal shutters for the windows, which we had wisely pulled down when we went to sleep. When one of the guys slid out of his bunk in the morning and cracked open the door, OH GOD THE LIGHT.

We were in the South of France. The sun was BLINDING. We were all awake now, and he stumbled into the hallway and slammed the door shut. I assume he felt his way to the restroom, because it had to have taken a few minutes for his eyes to adjust.

When we rolled up the shutters a bit later, the train was rolling along the coast. The endless blue of the Mediterranean and that blinding sun was gorgeous… once we had chugged some water and located our sunglasses. I almost wish I had my France photo albums here so I could see if the evidence of the night before was visible on any of our faces.

At 36, the experience was a little bit different.

Our train was scheduled to depart Munich at 8:10pm, which allowed for a very relaxed day. We finished up packing, and were ready to go in plenty of time. Though I did once again bring too much stuff, I thought this was decent for both of us for ten days:

Not bad.

The biggest hassle was the ‘carry-on’ bag under my purse. It contained an extra coat, my camera bag, and a pile of books. It was manageable, but awkward to carry.

BV and I met with our cat-sitting friend in Nürnberg to pass off our keys, and then boarded our train to Munich. We opted for a few trains ahead, just in case, and had more than enough time to spare. Since the Augustiner Keller is just up the street from the Munich Hauptbahnhof, we went there and had a relaxed, early dinner.

Back at the train station, we picked up some completely unnecessary train snacks, a mini bottle of ‘we are on holiday!’ prosecco, and found our platform. Bang on time, there she is!

Pardon the blurriness of a moving train, and a moving Heather as BV says, “you’re going to miss it! It’s coming… awwww, I thought it would be an ÖBB train!”

Yep, despite the fact that this train was operated by the ÖBB, (Österreichische Bundesbahnen= Austrian Federal Railway), it had a DB engine. Tragic.

Still moving, sorry.

We spotted our car easily, and climbed aboard. The price difference between sleeper cars and seated compartments had been WILD when we bought our tickets, so we went with the seats. I doubted I’d sleep either way, so why pay twice as much?

About thirty minutes later, again, bang on time, the train pulled out and we were on our way. By some miracle, we had the 6-seater compartment to ourselves for nearly the entire 11 hour trip. Look how comfy I am!

Spacious! With outlets!

In Salzburg, we were joined by a family for an hour or so until the next stop. That was mostly fine, even if the woman did de-shell peanuts and crinkle plastic for the entire hour. But they got off, and we were alone again.

BV managed to doze off and on, but I hardly slept. We wound our way through the Austrian Alps, and all I could see was a bit of white snow, pine trees, and then blackness again. Occasionally, there were the lights of a town spread out in the valley far, far below us, making me really want to take this trip during the day sometime as I suspect it’s spectacularly beautiful.

Crossing into Italy, we sped downhill through tunnels at a slightly alarming rate. We were briefly joined in our compartment between Bologna and Florence, but after that, we were alone again until we got off in Arezzo.

As we rolled through Tuscany towards our final destination, the sun was just starting to come up. Light bits of fog and cloud hovered over the hills around town as the sky brightened. It was lovely.

We reached Arezzo ten minutes behind schedule at 7:20am, which let’s be honest, is nothing. Apparently those trains are regularly fairly late, so much so that G, our host, wasn’t picking us up until 9:30. We grabbed some espresso, and wandered around town until she collected us. Was I loopy at that point? Absolutely. Would I do it again? also yes.

Was the experience a hair bit different almost 20 years older? You bet. But I can’t argue with this trip. We will most definitely be taking an overnight train again. I just hope it doesn’t take another 20 years, and also, I hope I can sleep a bit the next time!***

Have you taken an overnight train? Any trips to recommend?

 

2/52

 

*TM Cher Horowitz

**Thank goodness our large group took up the majority of the car, if not the whole thing.

***I did manage to sleep a bit on the return trip, even though we had to share our compartment and had less space to sprawl. Go figure.

And Suddenly, It Was May

May 1st, Labor Day here in Germany. For perhaps the first time since I moved here, I actually feel like I’ve earned the day off this year. I do however, feel guilty about the lack of work I’ve been doing in this space.

To say that the first four months of this year flew by would be a gross understatement. Even having a reduced workload for the last two weeks due to Easter school holidays didn’t offer me much time to spend on the internet. Or at least, not this kind of internetting. But here we are, the third short week in a row and I have a minute to check in.

It also occurred to me that for the past two Mays, I have tried to do some sort of writing challenge. I very briefly entertained the thought of doing that again this month, but there’s just no way I can muster up that kind of energy.

So what’s keeping me so busy? My new gig, aka the first full-time job I’ve had in ten years. Turns out working 40 hours a week plus commuting time doesn’t leave tons of extra time for… anything, really. We’ve been trying to plan meals out a bit better, and BV has taken over more of the weeknight cooking responsibilities. But yoga has been tricky to fit in, baking and more ambitious cooking has to wait for the weekends… you know, all those things that normal adults manage to fit around full-time jobs. I’m still trying to figure all of it out. It’s a good thing, I think, thus far.

I’m still technically freelance because German bureaucracy moves slower than a snail. I thought we’d be able to transition my work permit back in March, but when we went to my appointment, my Beamter was on vacation. Slight miscommunication there. We then spent three weeks trying to get him on the phone (as instructed, by the gal who WAS there that day), before giving up and emailing him yet again. We now have an appointment in two weeks, conveniently right before we leave on vacation. It would be nice if that week off was covered by my shiny-new vacation days, but I don’t know if it’ll work out that easily.

On the plus side, we’ll be in France. So even if it’s not paid, it’ll still be France. I cannot wait.

While everyone else in Germany seemed to be protesting, in a Biergarten, or perhaps both of those things, we had a pretty low-key day. We did some stuff around the house that needed doing, and I went out for a long walk.

Now BV is back in the spare room tinkering with more odds and ends, and I’m about to do some yoga and head to bed early. Thursdays I leave the house at 6am and no matter how disciplined I try to be, making myself go to sleep at a reasonable hour on Wednesday never goes according to plan.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Light work on Labor Day is acceptable, right?

Ten.

On the night of January 7th, I tossed and turned, unable to fall asleep. The previous day had been my first day back to work after the Christmas break and it had also been the first day of getting into my new job. It was a rather fragmented day, and my mind was spinning.

I needed to sleep… the 8th would be my first really full day. I would leave the house at 7:30am and not get home until 8pm. I had several meetings scheduled, and a mental to-do list to get through in between them. I would start a new class in the evening and was running through my list of introductory activities, trying to decide which one I wanted to use on a new class that I had hardly any information about. What to do? Not sleep, that was for sure.

Alternating with these thoughts was another theme… 10 years ago on this same night, I was also not sleeping much. I was on a plane, and sleeping on planes is not one of my strong points. That was the night I flew from Chicago to Prague with plans to do a TEFL course and… not much else.

10 years ago. My god.

Since I wasn’t sleeping, I mentally drafted all sorts of brilliant things to say in this blog post that would wrap up the last decade. But because I wasn’t sleeping, I also spent the next few days alternately running around, learning way too many new names, trying my best to absorb piles of new information, and failing miserably at getting my body back into some sort of normal rhythm. Needless to say, whatever I mentally drafted has been lost, which is probably for the best… 2:30am brilliance can be pretty weird in the light of day.

My second original plan for this post was to have a picture from my first day in Prague, and one from now. Then, the Facebook “challenge” hit.

Via Giphy

Okay, number 1: posting a picture of yourself from ten years ago and now is not a challenge. It’s clicking things on a computer, not performing surgery while blindfolded. Secondly, posting multiple versions of this “challenge” in an attempt to maximize the ‘ooooh, you haven’t aged a day’ comments is incredibly obnoxious.

It was, however, a neat comparison for me personally on how I have and have not changed. Clearly I haven’t changed much when it comes to saltiness/judgement.

Via Giphy

Not the most flattering self-assessment in the world, but I strive for honesty here. *shrug*

On the other hand, all these years in Germany among people with a healthy distrust of social media immediately made me reach for my tinfoil hat, particularly after reading things like this Wired article. Ten years ago, I probably would’ve been all “fun! Why not?” Now? Hard pass. At least, not on FB. Or Twitter. Or the ‘gram.

But luckily, my blog is none of those places… it’s my own little space, and I still want to do it here. Not because of some viral bs challenge, but because these last ten years have been  A CHALLENGE. Like, a real one.

January 9th, 2009 (no photos from the 8th… which given the long travel day is probably for the best). I was 25. I was in Europe with people I’d never met before, wandering through a city covered in snow.

Petrin Hill with magnificent people.

The next ten years of challenges meant making friends and losing them. They meant missing births and deaths and feeling insanely guilty for my life choices. They meant plane tickets and trips to the foreign police and screwing up on insurances and asking for help and muddling my way through the bureaucratic maze that leads you to start considering yourself an immigrant.

They meant learning to appreciate red wine,  and to celebrate any excuse to see somewhere new. They meant visitors and book exchanges and thousands of pictures that spread across continents. They meant abandoning the flared jean and embracing the legging (at least, in the comfort of my home… I still have limits).

January 8th, 2019. I am 35. I usually wear glasses now and I may still have one pair of flared jeans but those are regulated to garden work.

See? Here I am, enjoying Tchibo’s finest leggings and a hoodie (forever a hoodie person), in a very odd couch pose at the end of an incredibly long day.

The celebration consisted of leftover pasta, Sekt, and a very nice bottle of red from South Tyrol’s Elena Walch. BV even stopped at a bakery on the way home and got us two slices of Sachertorte to mark the occasion. Naturally the only classy viewing option for all of these delicious goodies was the season premier of The Bachelor. Because frankly, some things shouldn’t change.

Ten. Wild.

Two Months on Tour

Considering that we didn’t take an official summer vacation this year, the last two months have been a whole lot of all over the place. BV and I did spend five days in Oberbayern with his parents in July, but that was more like another extended weekend than an actual vacation. I’m hoping we make up for it next year but that all remains to be seen.

So what did I get up to in August and September (besides baking?), click on to find out…

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