Tuscan News and Views

Not really that new though, since it really feels like I’ve been sitting on this one for a hot minute. Or nearly two months.

Jan. 1. Every year should start with views like this.

Our Tuscany trip was memorable in a lot of ways. We ate well, we drank well, we saw beautiful sights and soaked up lots and lots of much-needed vitamin D over the ten days.

Sun and city trips in Cortona.

But there was something else as well. On New Year’s Eve afternoon, we went for a rambling hike around and over the hill behind Santa Lucia. Towards the end of the hike, we found a nice place to sit and relax for a bit on a sandy hill with a nice view. After awhile the wind got a bit chilly, but before BV would let us head back down the hill home, he had another thing on the agenda. A small change of scenery…

Yep… after seven years together, it’s time we make this thing official. What that will look like though, I have no idea. And when and where is still very much to be determined. We were thinking sometime this fall, but we’re learning that as two very poor planners, we don’t have much time to act if we really want to make that happen. Next year would not be the end of the world, but we also don’t really want to wait that long! It took two months just to see most of the friends and family here to tell them the news,* so now we’re ready to get this show on the road.

So to add a bit of explanation for anyone who may have been confused about why in the world we embarked on that ridiculous train trip last weekend, it’s because we wanted to check out some venues. The cats and Kaiserschmarren were just a most excellent bonus. More on that later.

Though looking back on photos for this post, maybe we should just scrap all the ideas we’ve had thus far and go back to Tuscany to get married. Decisions, decisions… and planning… not either of our strong suits.

The good news is that neither of us have any interest in a big, fluffy wedding with all of the trimmings; nor do I have any interest in chronicling the entire planning process here. There are plenty of mediocre wedding planning blogs out there for that.

The bad news is that all it takes is some basic wedding-related googling to turn your suggested pages into a scary, scary place. My Pinterest home page, previously full of recipes, has now got lots of wedding to-do lists, suggestions for bridesmaid gifts, and assorted ‘shedding for the wedding’ type content. *insert vomit emoji here* If that stuff takes over my brain, it’s possible in six months I’ll be waxing poetic about cupcake dresses and shopping for tiaras.

But for both our sakes, I’ll try to keep it sane. If BV develops a strong opinion on bow ties though, I’m in trouble.

A special occasion calls for a rare BV facial appearance on the blog!

 

6/52

 

 

*hence this post coming two months after the fact!

2019 in Review

Whew. 2020.

I’m a bit late with last year’s recap post, but I have a good excuse. After saying that we wanted to go to Tuscany for New Year’s since the last time we went in 2012, we actually finally made it there this year. It was full of beautiful, sunny days, lots of reading, lots of relaxing, and veritable mountains of pasta. It was much needed, but we didn’t get back until the 7th and it was pretty much right back into normal life from there.

Anyone who is still regularly checking in here may have noticed that I missed my Sunday photo post last week, and while that was down to me not getting it scheduled before we left, I’ve made a decision. While I’ve enjoyed having a regular excuse to comb through my photo archives, I think I’m going to take a hiatus from them this year. Some months are just… nada. Maybe I’ll come back to them in the future, but not in 2020.

Instead, inspired by the vow of Steven over at Sunshine. Whimsy. Tacos., I’m going to attempt to write here weekly. Or at least often enough that there will be 52 entries when I look at my stats on December 31st. Let’s see how this goes!

Now, onto the recap!

January

Munich in some much-needed sun.

Part of the reason for the general quiet here, which I may have mentioned in my one or two non-photo posts last year, was that I started a new job in December 2018. I was full-time as of January. I’m still doing English training, but it’s a whole new ball game. That meant all new groups starting at once, innumerable names to try to remember, new buildings to find my way around, new everything. It was… a lot. In retrospect, I think I did alright adjusting, but going from a freelance schedule to full time was a shock. I left early, I came home late, I slept like the dead. That was about it.

About the only non-work thing I can remember about January is that we celebrated my 10 years in Europe, and one Saturday we went down to Munich for the day to replace my dying iPhone 6 battery. If anything else of note happened, please tell me.

February

A snow hike around the Eibsee.

In February I ate a lot of Krapfen* (filled doughnuts that are basically thrown at you as you walk past bakeries in the lead-up to Carnival), and at the end of the month we took a fairly spontaneous trip down near Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We didn’t think there would be quite enough snow for snowshoeing, so we just went with snow hiking. It was a good choice.

March

We stuck close to home in March. Just a few walks around town and over the slowly greening fields, and an afternoon with some friends at a craft beer festival in Nürnberg. I’m hoping it takes place again this year as it was pretty quiet, and much closer to home than the BrauKunst! in Munich, which we skipped last year.

April

Spring was upon us, and it was time for some BahnVentures. We opted to go car-free this year, and it was a lot of fun (though a bit more organizing that I usually like to do), to figure out just where we could and couldn’t get to via public transportation. One weekend we met BV’s parents in the Franconian Switzerland for his mom’s birthday lunch and a walk around Weißenohe, and on another weekend we took the train down to the Altmühltal and hiked over to Kipfenburg. I’d seen some cool pictures of the little castle hanging over the town, and it was a perfect day trip.

Kipfenburg

May

The Villager’s had very kindly invited us down to hang out for the weekend with them and celebrate Cinco de Mayo. VillageGuy’s mom comes there every year and makes tamales, and there’s no way I’m saying no to that. We all pitched in to make a tamale assembly line, and before long we had an absolute feast of Mexican goodness.

They had also gotten a huge delivery of their new bee-keeping equipment, and after everyone put some flowers in their hair, BV helped the girls out in assembling the frames.

As per usual, the day before Mother’s Day was the Open House over at the Gardener’s. We baked a few cakes to contribute to the extremely laden table, and inspected the goods for sale.

Also as per usual, we used BV’s May birthday as a good excuse for a getaway. He’s been wanting to go to the Auvergne region of France for years, despite remembering nearly nothing besides “hills and kind of volcanoes” from his childhood trips there. But hey, why not? We flew to Lyon, spent two (aka, not nearly enough) nights there, and then rented a car to tour around for the rest of the week. We will go back.

Lavaudieu, France

June

Hochlandhütte, Bayern

Itchy feet a few weeks after our vacation meant an impromptu hiking trip. We took the train down to Mittenwald, and hiked to the Hochlandhütte. It was a hair more challenging than we had anticipated for our first tour of the year, and definitely hadn’t thought we’d still find snow after the early summer weather, but we made it in the end. We even got to see some mountain goats! Again, we will be back.

Pictures of pictures of the view from Neuschwanstein.

One of my oldest friends came to visit us during the Pentecost holidays. Wanting to see as much as possible in a short time, and show her some of the Alps, we spent a few days in Franconia and then headed south. We stayed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen again, as there’s a ton to do do there, and drove over to Neuschwanstein as well. Then it was back to Munich for a day before she flew out. The American whirlwind tour, as it were.

July

The view from the Lenggrieser Hütte.

Out of public holidays, July was back to normal. Even after all these years, that feels wrong in mid-summer. Oh well. We did manage to escape one weekend, taking BV’s little brother on a promised hiking trip to the Lenggrieser Hütte.

August

What to do if you don’t have kids and thus aren’t forced to take vacation in August? Eat ice cream and drink beer.

Allgäu, Bayern

What to do if you have an August birthday and still want to escape? Learn that there’s a single train going directly from Nürnberg to the Allgäu region on Friday afternoons! I booked a last-minute decent hotel deal, and off we went. 36 was celebrated amongst the cows.

September

Südtirol, I love you so.

After last year’s entirely too short trip, we decided to join the Gardener’s and the Tuscan’s for an entire glorious week in South Tyrol. The trip was wonderful, but it was more than a little exhausting… we were going from morning til night and pretty much operating entirely in German. Though I do have to say, after a bit of a crash on Wednesday, I got on an upswing and was feeling a lot better about my Deutsch skillz by the end of the trip! And with some solo hikes with BV (aka, English time), and views like these, who am I to complain, really?

I speak very good Deutsch hier, ja?

October

Back to reality, sigh. Lots of walks around town, enjoying the last days of autumn. Also, did I mention we got bees? The Gardener gifted BV a colony for his birthday, and they’ve been residing in our garden since June or July. No honey this year, but hopefully next year. Anyway, in October we suited up in our sweet sweet bee suits, and winterized the hive. Fingers pressed that they’re still there in spring!

November

The Dorf Thanksgiving tradition continued again, with us hosting the party for ten. Another evening full of entirely too much food, a lot of laughs, and hopefully comfortable enough chairs for everyone. If not, Marry needs to step up her quality checks.

December

Pre-Christmas madness. Markets, cookies around every turn, the usual. Unfortunately we couldn’t sort out a decent day to do our usual cookie baking party with the Villagers. But they’ve relocated to Amberg where I was working on Thursdays, which meant we could meet on my last day out there and do a cookie exchange instead.

The family celebration this year was low-key as usual, just BV’s parents and brother, who all came over on the 24th for duck. BV and I had a relaxed day at home on the 25th, and on the 26th we left for ten sun-soaked days in Tuscany. Hopefully more on that to come.

Poppi, Tuscany

The view from Santa Lucia

Whew. And that’s it! I think… at least.

To summarize, here’s what IG gave me as my top nine for the year.

If you don’t follow me there, by all means, go for it! @heatherinde, and hopefully next year looks as colorful and varied as this one.

Thanks as always to those of you who read, and have continued to do so even through the quieter times here. Hope 2020 treats us all well!

 

 

 

*These are often called Berliner, but have many many many names, depending where in Germany you are. But here in Franken, they’re Krapfen.

Sunday Snapshots: Fog In, Fog Out

Cinque Terre, Italy 2015

This reminds me of the fact that I never actually finished writing about all the things we did in Cinque Terre, and since that was four years ago… think I have to let that one go. Suffice to say, even the parts that I didn’t post about were also gorgeous and skies were crazy and buildings were sun-kissed and and and… *sigh* Italy.

Sunday Snapshots: A Long Way Up

South Tyrol, 2018

Two years in a row had BV and I walking a long way uphill to get to the Bonnerhütte on their first open day of the season. Since we’re taking a break from South Tyrol this May, we won’t be getting those sweet sweet dumplings this weekend, but hopefully they’ll still be available whenever we do get there next time.

Sunday Snapshots: La Verna in the Mist

Tuscany, 2013

Tuscany, 2013

If one is going to visit the La Verna Sanctuary, might I recommend not doing it on a hot summers day? Instead, go in January. But only if it’s misty, mysterious, and if you have proper time to wander through the forest and around the buildings, wondering if the monks get the same eerie feeling that you do.

2018 in Review

Oh, the top nine insta posts. So succinct, and at least in my case, so pointy.

The highlights this year are decidedly less Scandinavian than last year, but I suppose staying closer to home is okay when it looks like this. For those interested in a slighter closer look at all the things I didn’t get to blogging about (pretty sure I say that every year), click on!

Continue reading

Sunday Snapshots: Bring Back Italy

Nürnberg, 2013

I always make time to get to the Italian Market in the spring and fall, but this picture just reminded me that it used to pop up in summer too. I think it was part of a Venetian weekend in Nürnberg, but I’ll be darned if I can find any information on it now… maybe it no longer exists? Help me if you know! Need more truffle sausage!

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 30

The last thing I said aloud was…

I don’t know exactly, but it was definitely something snake-related. Why snakes? Well, this evening BV got a few nice pictures via WhatsApp from his friend who lives in Tuscany. Long time readers may remember our visit there… sadly it’s been more than five years since we admired the view from their hill and now it may be longer.

Among the nice pictures of the flora and sun-soaked seating areas around their house, was a picture of one of their trees. Hanging out of that tree was a goddamned giant snake. Nooooooo! Nope, nope, nope.

BV then assured me that it’s a GOOD snake. If they have this kind of snake, it means that they don’t have vipers.

VIPERS YOU GUYS.

Nope, nope, nope, nope.

We’ve discussed going back down there nearly every year since our first visit. We haven’t managed it yet, life getting in the way and all, and now the place is crawling (slithering?) with snakes. I want to go back there, but AT WHAT COST? There are so many crooks and crannies in the old farm buildings that house their holiday apartments… my snake protocol before going to bed could be a very time-consuming search.

And please don’t tell me that the snakes are more scared of you than you are of them. I KNOW THAT, THANK YOU. I just don’t need to think about the possibility of getting out of bed in the morning and stepping on a bloody viper.

I’m currently a little more sensitive to this topic than usual though, because I had a VERY CLOSE snake sighting when we were hiking in South Tyrol a few weeks ago. I knew that there were small snakes lurking about, as last year the tripod cat that lived in the house behind ours brought one into our garden after we had befriended her. Coincidentally, that’s when we stopped leaving the bedroom double doors wide open all the time.

The snake I saw hiking though was not small, and no grass snake. Long story short, we were coming down the side of the mountain and the trail was completely buried in snow. It looked like a late-season avalanche, but I’m not sure. Either way, we alternated between trying to get over the snow directly where we could see one set of footprints (maybe that guy knew the way?) or bushwhacking through the fauna alongside the snow.

Note: I do not mean bushwhacking hyperbolically. I mean we were crawling through all kinds of low, scrubby pines, over rocks, working our way down the steep hillside that edged the snow. We went through God-knows-how-many spiderwebs in the pines, I was brushing tiny spiders off of my clothes constantly and just hoping that none took up permanent residence in my hair.

Eventually though we got to the end of the snowy area and found the trail again. Huzzah! Not five minutes later I saw something out of the corner of my eye, and saw a decent-sized tan snake with black markings curling around the trunk and branches of one of those exact same pine trees that we’d been climbing through. OH HELL NO.

Presumably we made enough noise clambering around that any of his compadres would’ve gotten out of our way. Nevertheless, I made eye contact with this snake and his little hissing tongue and he legit haunts my dreams. Not cool, sir.

I relayed part of this story to one of my groups when we were talking hiking in South Tyrol after my trip, and one of my students then told us a story about how he accidentally imported a snake from Tuscany. 

I’m sorry, you did WHAT?

He was staying with his family at a holiday apartment there, and they learned that a bunch of snakes liked to hang out inside this stone wall next to where they parked their cars. Several days after they got back to Germany, he backed his car up in his driveway, looked down, and saw a snake on the ground. He managed to capture it and then went on a wild goose chase of animal shelters that could take the thing. It eventually made its way to one of them, but apparently there was some interest in someone who wanted the snake to breed it. It was a young snake and hard to get (or something), and yes… dangerous. GREAT PLEASE BREED IT, RANDOM GERMAN PERSON.

At this point, I’m 95% sure Italy is covered in snakes. I love Italy. This is a problem. I’m going to have to get knee-high hiking boots and possibly also a shovel to hike with.*

 

*According to Texans, that’s how to deal with seeing  a snake.

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.