A Silvester kind of day in Germany

“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind …”

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A Silvester kind of day in Bavaria, Germany

Guten Rutsch!

My German friends are sending me greetings with this German phrase and I’ve learned that it means to have a good start of the new year. We all deserved to have new beginnings. This is a typical greeting during Silvester day for Germans. I didn’t even know that New Year’s Eve is calledSilvester here and  if you don’t know Krapfen ( or doughnuts) then you are simply not from Bavaria ! The bakeries are flooded with these goodies so I had to try to taste it as well. It has a soft fried dough with a fruity filling and perfect for coffee & tea. This year-end festivities would not be complete without these.

Silvester is the German name for New Year’s Eve – owing to the fourth century Pope Sylvester I. Eventually made a saint by the Catholic Church, his feast day is observed on December 31. So today was my first Silvester Day!

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The river Danube on Silvester day, Dec.31,2016

I decided to take my last walk for 2016 and have final glimpses before the year ends. For those of you who follows me, you must have seen my posts about my Wandertags and seen the how the season changes in my eyes. The freezing air calls for warm functional clothing and my gloves are ready to keep my fingers warm. My Wandertags during the past weeks are filled with A Touch of Frost here in Bavaria and have been a delight to me no matter what. Today was no exception, and I’m glad to have a breath of fresh air even though its bleak and grey.The trees are covered in white frost that makes it totally different, almost ethereal. There are few leaves still hanging, like frozen survivors. Everywhere I look, I see an image of resilience, of how nature is doing its own metamorphosis in its own cycle.

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Frozen cobwebs

Though the year is ending in a few more hours, the promise of nature and its course is still unlimited. There’s still so much beauty in the barren coldness and despite the stillness. The water in the Danube river is so calm,yet showing its full of life.I see families taking their stroll with babies as in normal days. Couples are walking hand-in-hand ,and children are running around in their thick parkas.Everything seems to be taking their own pace to spend their day.

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The best is yet to come…

Walking through the woods has always been therapeutic for me. I enjoy the peace where the only sound I hear is the cooing of the birds and the crisp sound of my steps that makes me feel like I am walking in a wonderland.Today, the sun is nowhere to be seen. It decided to stay cloudy and grey all day and yet, my last glimpses for this year has been worth the walk. A Silvester kind of day indeed.

What is so interesting about living here in Bavaria is that all year around, the festivities are full of interesting stories and legends. Like for example instead of recognizing a single day as the winter solstice, the Germanic tribes observed twelve Rauhnächte – hairy nights, so-called due to the furry forms of the deep winter demons – or Rauchnächte – smoky nights, due to the practice of smoking the spirits out of one’s house on January 5. Bringing very little sun to the northern regions, the twelve Rauhnächte were considered days outside of time, when the solar and lunar years were allowed to re-synchronise. Silvester took place right in the middle of the twelve Rauhnächte and was the night of the god Wotan’s wild hunt, a time of particular commotion and celebration.

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Where the time stood still in the woods

The belief that the sun was slowing to a stop also led to the German tradition of doing no work on New Year’s Eve. The shops closed today at around 4pm and everyone seems to be taking their time, doing last-minute errands, shopping and taking walks. Everything is standing still. I watched the birds standing motionless in the middle of the Danube and I have this calm feeling inside me, being carried away too. I look forward to see some fireworks later and see more how my neighborhood turns the last page for this year.

And,as weird as it may sound,  they say that  no one should do any laundry, because the god Wotan made his rounds with his army of devils for a wild hunt during Silvester and would be terribly angry if he got caught in any clothes lines. So our laundry can wait too!

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The Path where it begins and ends

In a few more hours and we are on the countdown to midnight where we greet the coming new year. We got the Wunderkerzen for my daughter to enjoy the fireworks since I’m sure she will be snoring by midnight. I know its weird but I made an Apple pie, I know Fall is over but I have this craving for an apple pie so that has to grace our New Year’s dinner as well. This is what happens when you get bored of all the eating during this holiday. Me & my little family is ready to start a new chapter, a new chance in our Expat Life, a fresh beginning.

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See you all in my Wandertags in 2017!!!

I have made a truce with myself to leave all the negativity and dramas of 2016 and embrace new beginnings on a clean sheet and carry only positive vibes.

How about you, how do you prepare for the coming New Year?

“And suddenly you know..its time to start something new and start the magic of new beginnings..”

 

Cheers to a Happy New Year, for a brand new 12 chapters, and 365 new Chances!

Wishing you all with Peace, Love and lots of laughter in the new year. I hope to see you all here in 2017! ~Christina

Christmas trees of good wishes| Wunschbäume

“If you don’t have Christmas in your heart, you will never find it under a Tree “

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Christmas Trees of Good Wishes

Less than 2 days and it’s Christmas! The loonggg wait would soon be over…

Is your Christmas tree already up? I bet that by this time, presents were already packed too,neatly piled up under the tree and you’ve been enjoying the magical lights that is flooding your living room every night for quite sometime now.

Today was the first day of break from work and we are all good. Oh Yes, we feel good. My little family is all set to have a wonderful Christmas together, stress-free! This is what we want and what we need. We’ve been hit by the flu bug for the past weeks and we were sick but we are getting better now. The cold air outside still gives us chills but our hearts are warm, excited,and looking forward for more better days. We did some errands today , did some Christmas shopping and as I passed by the Christmas market in the city center, I pondered that tomorrow is its last day. We had fun out there and we have made great memories out of it. This time,I want to share another fascinating thing that I found out about German Christmas Markets (Christkindlmarkt), it’s about the Christmas trees of Good Wishes.

Have you heard anything like this? I tell you, it’s not your  ordinary Christmas Tree.

I just discovered another way to maximize my visits to Christmas markets, and not just collecting mugs from the Glühwein ,or buying those little presents, that is by taking a look at the Christmas Trees of Good wishes. These trees are normal pine or fir trees put up inside the market, normally located near the stage where the Giant Adventkalendar and the place where the actual carving of ‘Krippe’ is being done. Any visitor who may wish or try to decorate the Christmas trees of good wishes can do so, anytime, everyone is encouraged and welcome to participate. During this time where anybody can do a bit of reflection during the busy holidays, you can also let your own wishes be with the  four “naked”trees erected just opposite the Adventsbühne. Anyone who wishes to hang their own personal choice of ornaments such as star, straw , ball or other Christmas decoration can choose from the wide array of choices of the Baubles being sold there or you can even bring your own. After the 4th Advent weekend, the trees will be move in front of the city  town hall (Rathaus) where people can publicly admire them until the beginning of the brand new year.

 

I remember visiting the Labyrinth Garden and I saw something similar like this. It’s like the Apple Tree  , located in the center of the garden,where in you can think in silence , make a wish for another person, a time of solitude and best wishes, then hang an ornament, a memento, a special token or a symbol for your wishes.

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Christmas tree of good wishes

The Christmas trees of Good wishes is a perfect symbol for a sort of Christmas reflection. I find it meaningful to have something like this. It’s a nice way to remind us that this Advent season is also a time for reflection and to think of others and do charitable work, to be grateful, no matter what. I was personally saddened by the news of what happened to Berlin Christmas Market. Those innocent victims and the poor souls who end up being injured and traumatized by the incident. They came there to enjoy and have a great time and ended up injured,harassed, even some lost their lives. Such a tragic thing happened in a Christmas Market.No one has the right to steal our joy during this happiest time of the year and yet, things like this happened. We need to spread more love, and not hate. More good wishes, and not bitterness.

I reflect on this and thought that if wishes could have a power to change things then it is powerful. Imagine if all our silent wishes can be granted in an instant?

Do you still remember your feeling when you were decorating your Christmas tree?  What did you feel?

Excitement? Anticipation? Joy?

Worry, Fear,Hopeful maybe?

Or  or you see it only as a chore? But the thing is, only yourself knows…

” I am thinking how amazing it could be if you could  make one wish for someone in your life, or even utter a silent prayer for every ornament you hang in your tree…wouldn’t it be such a great time decorating? and how fulfilling the Tree-trimming could be …”

 

Here’s my wish for you this Christmas and for the coming New Year ;

May your heart grow three sizes this year –Love and only Love. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you! Looking forward to seeing you all in 2017!

~Christina

 

 

When the sun stood still

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When the sun stood still…

Wordless Wednesday

Anticipating in Silence

“Some Days are made of Silent Anticipation “

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A lighted candle always brings anticipation and I love how it creates a “Silent moment”in any child.

Waiting for Christmas has always been exciting for both young and old ones, but here in Bavaria, it’s as big as Oktoberfest I must say. Though people look forward more to a warm mug of Glühwein instead of beer and Zimtstern  (Cinnamon Star cookies) than Pretzels. I, myself is looking forward to see all these new things in my eyes.There’s something about experiencing things for the first time–everything seems special. I can still remember my daughter’s excitement when she saw her boot was filled with goodies during St. Nicholas Day ( Nikolaustag) . All around the city and on each home, everywhere is decorated and the atmosphere of Christmas is so heavy here in Bavaria. I know that in other regions, the traditions vary and things are celebrated differently, but with same looking forward for Christmas Day.

Children have this big anticipation in their eyes, a longing for something exciting! There’s the glow in their eyes when they know that they are counting the days for the big day comes starting with the Adventkalendars. It is practically a calendar with treats or chocolates in every date with small doors.On the 1st of December children get to open the first little door, behind which they find a chocolate or some other little treat. On the 2nd of December they get to open the 2nd door, and so on and so forth up to 24 December. Now, which kid will complain? Even the adults loved this one. Enjoying every piece of chocolate in silence.

Christmas in Germany is one of the happiest and most celebrated holidays of all times here,but Christmas here comes in a long, sweet, waiting game. As early as November, the city center was transformed into a winter wonderland and place for the Christkindlmarkt. Another custom that I have observed here is their Adventkranz  or the Advent wreath. This is a truly one German cozy tradition,though the concept of Advent wreath originated from German Lutherans in the 16th century, but spread out to other denominations. German families celebrates the 4-Sundays of Advent before Christmas  with an Advent wreath  shaped into a round, flat wound of fir pine It is adorned with cinnamon sticks,orange peels and with 4 red candles.

From Hamburg, the Advent wreath started its triumphal procession out to the Christian world: In 1925 an Advent wreath with four candles was set up in a catholic church in Cologne for the first time. Since 1930 as well in Munich.

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Advent, Advent, a Little Candle is burning.

On every Sunday during Advent another candle is lit until in the end all four are burning. “Advent, Advent, ein Lichtlein brennt,” goes one children’s rhyme. “Erst eins, dann zwei, dann drei, dann vier, dann steht das Christkind vor der Tür.” “Advent, Advent, a little candle’s burning. First one, then two, then three, then four. Then the Christ Child’s at the door.”

Children watching the candle in silence, but with eager anticipation. Looking admiringly on the packed gifts under the Christmas Tree and watching the lights flood the living room while listening to Christmas carols. One of the things that I love doing here nowadays is watching the locals decorate their houses in a very unique way, totally different from the culture that I grew up with.When I am out,I love watching people in silence as they all go around with their busy hustle and bustle during Christmas season. Busy shopping, gift wrapping, and some are just celebrating life everyday in the coziness of the German Christmas markets. With a warm mug of Glühwein and with tasty treats, or a bucket of roasted almonds or chestnuts. Some towns are famed for their Christmas markets, for example Dresden’s Striezelmarkt (named after a type of cake – now known as Stollen – traditionally sold there) and Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt (“Christ Child Market”).

Anticipation doesn’t need to be loud or grand, because  some days in Christmas season are made with silent anticipation.

 

In response to this week’s Photo Challenge :Anticipation

Window Shopping in Kuwait

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Window Display in the Souk al-Kabeer in Kuwait

Window shopping and sighting in Kuwait is definitely a treat.It certainly gives you a window of the local culture. From the posh window displays inside the high-end luxury shops inside the Avenues mall  up to the cosmic traditional Souks, the sight of unique display could bring a smile on your face. Take for example this particular display inside the Souk Al Kabeer. For Kuwaitis on the bigger sizes, it certainly offers the suitable clothing for a fact that there are no changing rooms inside the Souk.

Kuwait is ranked first with 42.8 %, Saudi Arabia (35.2 %), the Kingdom of Belize (34.9), Egypt (34.6), Jordan (34.3), the UAE (33.7) South Africa (33.5), Qatar (33.1), Mexico (32.8) and the United States (31.8) when it comes to Obesity and overweight people.

Kuwait’s love for fast food is one of the factor of the obese lifestyle. Where else can you find where there are more than number of Burger chains you can found in such a small country. Even the Starbucks giant is located almost in every corner. From my neighborhood before alone, we have 4-5 Starbucks within 500 meters range!  It’s no wonder that Kuwait also has high rates of Stomach Stapling than any country–Another American branding that landed on Kuwait.

 

 

 

Postcards from a Wander-full Life | Expat Mama in Johannesburg

 

 

For our 10th series of Expat Mama interview stories for this year,I am excited to feature another amazing Expat Mama all the way from Sweden but making wander-full postcards from Geneva, up to her new-found home in South Africa, in the city of Gold, the eGoli, or locally known as Jo’burg–or what the world known as Johannesburg!

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Josefine is a Swede Expat Mama living abroad with her husband Tobias, her dog, London and her 1-year old adorable daughter, Claudine. She blogs about her wanderlust and travel adventures from  Switzerland/France and shares her interests on expat life, food, wine,fashion and all things beautiful. Her expat-life right  can be summed up into these words: Across the world with a baby, husband and a container full of furniture. Her Blog –Postcards from Josefine is an epitome of today’s  modern woman’s world –beautiful, whimsical, and full of zest about exploring new horizons in life as part of embracing motherhood.

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Josefine, posing for Isabell N Wedin in Chamonix 

Aside from enjoying outdoors, Josefine writes on best of both worlds! Her practical tips on Exploring a New City ,enjoying the Italian coffee and Finding those Little Gems and her OOTD’s tips for trendy outfits are worth checking out. Josefine is a natural model and posted for a photoshoot with her childhood friend  Isabell N Wedin, a Malmö (swe) photographer |Harvest Agency. One of her bohemian flair photoshoot is shown in one of the worlds best photography museums – Fotografiska .

 

If you’re a jetsetter as well as have a dog and wanted to bring your dog to Geneva then you might find her tip on travelling with Pets Here.

Josefine’s Background 

I was born in a tiny village in southern Sweden where the forests where dense, the fields endless and the freedom was absolute. I was born as child number three in a line of four siblings. My world revolved around the horse farm where I grew up, school and my friends and the walls of my room was covered with posters of horses, Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys. I vividly remember the smell of fresh hay in the summers, the warmth of a horseback underneath me riding through the snow and gazing up at the stars in winter, hours and hours spent in the stable with my friends. Everything outside of my little village felt extremely far away, even Denmark that was within an hour from us felt very exotic and distant.

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Taking it slow, savoring life’s goodness

It was first when I was 13 years old and my sister moved to London for a year that I realized that there was a world outside of my little bubble. The longing of getting away grew stronger and stronger. At 17 I went to Italy to work in a stable outside of Venice for a couple of weeks, at 24 I did the research for my Bachelor’s essay in Bombay, India. At 25 I started working for as Relocation Consultant in Stockholm, helping families moving to Sweden with everything from housing to bank account, registrations and schools. The same year I met my husband and shortly after we met we started dreaming about moving abroad together. A year into our relationship he was sent to Johannesburg, South Africa for 5 months. I stayed in Stockholm for work but visited him for a month and he proposed. Shortly after we got married and then we moved together to Geneva where he had signed a new job contract for one of the banks. I got pregnant during our time in Geneva and as we lived on the French side of the border, spent a lot of our time in Switzerland and I had my midwife in Sweden it was truly a challenge because of different cultures and recommendations.

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Exploring the Cape of good hope and Cape town with a Toddler!
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Beautiful journey through Motherhood

On wearing the harmony ball and Längtan

A gift from my mother is a beautiful necklace with a pendant harmony ball. The harmony ball has the inscription “Längtan”, Swedish for ‘longing for’ or ‘to long for’ which is very suitable as we really are longing for this baby to arrive.Harmony Ball Pendants worn as necklaces have been used in various cultures for centuries by pregnant women and hence harmony balls are often called pregnancy harmony ball pendants. Pregnant women in Bali and Mexico are known to have traditionally worn these harmony balls when pregnant.
A Harmony Ball typically is made from sterling silver and contains a small bell-like item that emits very subtle but audible chimes with movement, not unlike the sound of wind charms in a very soft breeze.
It is said that from about 16-20 weeks into the pregnancy that the unborn baby will hear the soft chimes sound coming from the harmony ball.

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The privilege of raising a little girl in another culture!

On when Life give you lemons…go for the next adventure!

When Claudine was 3 months my husband called from work and the bank he was working for was cutting down on consultants which meant that he only had one more month of work there. My world totally fell apart. I loved the little French village we lived in and my friends there and I totally didn’t want to move, especially not with a three-month old baby. The next couple of months we mentally moved to six different countries in three different continents and when we finally signed the contract for Johannesburg, South Africa I had already cried for a week just thinking about moving to the other side of the world, far from everyone and everything I knew. Becoming a mother changed me more than I ever could have imagined. What pre-baby would have been an adventure that would have made my heart skip a beat and the blood run faster in my veins now totally scared the crap out of me.

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Baby wearing is the best way to explore with a Baby!

On the reality Bites of an Expat Life

Being an expat and a mother is great! I’m so lucky to be able to spend so much time with my baby girl and our whole life is an adventure! To meet new people, to see new places and to get new perspectives. I’ve grown so much as a person these last couple of years abroad. We’ve also grown  much closer as a family after relocating as you really have to be a team to make it! However, I’m not going to lie – this kind of life has its challenges. Relocating can be stressful, scary and lonely. Every time Claudine learns something new, every time she gets taller, gets a new tooth or says new words I wish my family back home could see her evolving. Next time they’ll see her it’s been 6 months since the last time we met and it sometimes makes me sad that they’ve missed out on so much.

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Postcard from South Africa
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Enjoying the scenic landscapes and the South African sun

On Life in Johannesburg

There’s absolutely pro’s and con’s living as an expat mom in Johannesburg. The biggest con with living here I must say is safety. We live in an extremely safe estate with high walls and to get in you need to swipe your finger. They say living here is safer than the Buckingham Palace and so far I can’t disagree. However, you’re very aware of things going on in this town as you hear new stories everyday about people getting robbed etc. I’m always very aware of safety when I leave the estate. I always put my bag where it’s not visible in the car, never wear jewelry and would never ever take my eyes of my baby when outside of these walls. It’s very different to live here compared to Europe and the inequalities in the society is huge, you have people living in shacks next to luxury estates. We could never go anywhere with public transportation but have to take the car everywhere and you would never walk outside of the estate. I miss just being able to go outside and go for a leisurely stroll, walk around without a plan, maybe stop by at a coffee shop for a take away coffee or a shop that has a sale.

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At Bois Cheri Tea plantation in Mauritius

On Johannesburg for Babies

We managed to sign Claudine up for four different activities a week – swimming twice a week, Bouncing Bunnies (gymnastics for babies) and Music Box (music and dance class). She loves all the activities and she’s having so much fun with the other babies! She’s at a stage right now where she screams of excitement as soon as she see’s another kid, haha! It might sound crazy to put a 15 month old in swim school but considering how much time you spend in the water in this heat it’s really good to teach them early! Claudine is already kicking, going under the surface, climbs out of the pool and last week she took her first swim strokes – need I say this was one proud mama?!

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One fine winter day full of sunshine in Jo’burg!

On breaching the South African Culture

The biggest pro’s are definitely the weather! The sun is always shining and you spend lots of time outdoors. There’s so much activities here for kids and a lot of kiddie friendly restaurants with playgrounds. All expats I know have a helper that takes care of the house and babysits, it’s also a way to give back to the community. The South Africans we’ve had the pleasure to get to know are very much alive and live for the moment. They are very open-hearted, generous and welcoming – the total opposite of people in Sweden and Switzerland. There’s always something new to do or to see – restaurants, markets, lion parks, mountain biking, horseback riding, golf or just enjoying the sunshine and taking a dip in the pool.

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Claudine’s bonding times with Daddy!

On making an impact as an Expat Mama

When we left Europe earlier this year I was on the plane with insomnia so I watched Out of Africa. In that movie Meryl Streep keeps repeating the phrase ”I had a farm in Africa”. This has kind of become my mantra and everytime it feels difficult to be here, everytime the home-sickness lingers over me I think of this phrase. One day I’ll think back on the time we lived in Africa and I know I won’t regret it. We try to enjoy this moment as much as we can as we know it’s not forever. One day we’ll move back to Europe but the experience and the memories will stay with us forever. I will think back on the time when I had exotic birds in my garden, that I once almost hit a wild peacock on the way to swim school, that there are lions just a 10 minute drive from us (well, well, in a fenced in park but still), that because we’re here we can support the locals with job opportunities, that I had a fundraising to support a local organization who helps exposed women and children in the neighbouring township and that I’ve managed to start a life on the other side of the world.

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Follow Josefine to get updates on what is trendy & chic comfy outfits for those who are expecting and always on the go !

A Wanderer who had once a restless nomadic soul finally finds HOME…

I also know that my restless soul has found my place in life, it’s not a geographic spot it’s with my little family.

P.S

All photos and images are owned by Josefine & Postcards from Josefine’s Blog. Should you wish to use it please kindly inform the owner. 

If you wish to get to know more of Josefine and her OOTD & Fashion- Life hacks for Mommy’s out there, you can check out her Instagram and follow her Blog-Postcards from Josefine.

Have you enjoyed this post?  Make sure to check out our other Expat Mamas & Papa stories in The Netherlands, Kuwait, Philippines, Thailand, Berlin , Saudi Arabia , China , Italy  and of course, how a German-Finnish Expat Papa take on how to Raise a Kung Fu Baby in Germany .

We have 10 amazing stories of different Expats mamas & Papa for 2016. I am looking forward to have another series of stories next year so stay tuned!

Make sure to follow Justbluedutch & Pinays in Germany  for more of my  Expat stories  and Hey, if you are an Expat Mama, you might want to be featured in this Blog for our series on Expat Mamas around the World! Drop me an email at justbluedutch@gmail.com.

Are you on Twitter?  follow me on my  Twitter  and my Instagram  for more updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.Thank you for reading friends!

Walking in the Red Light District with a Baby

Now who among you parents out there would bring out your little ones in the Red Light District or locally known as “De Wallen ” in Amsterdam?

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Red Light District in Amsterdam or locally known as De Wallen

Nope, it’s not the Disneyland of Amsterdam, and if its your first time to see Amsterdam sure thing it has many attractions  that might catch you off guard! I have written before how to enjoy the free things in Amsterdam but this one is totally different. Different in a way that the Netherlands is a country more than sex & drugs! You really need to see the country for you to have an impression since what you read in the internet is not always true. This country is totally laid back and relaxed, highly tolerant and the Dutch people are very liberal. No wonder that Dutch Teen pregnancy rates the lowest in world standing, and as what the experts and studies shows,  Dutch kids are the happiest kids in the world.

Okay, I’m sure most of you who have traveled in the Netherlands specifically in Amsterdam knows the “Red Light District “that I am talking about. But for those of you who are clueless, here’s a brief description of what Red Light District is all about. Before I had our trip, my vision of the Netherlands is mainly of Tulips, clogs, cheese, canals, and beautiful architecture of the leaning gabled houses. Even the taste of Poffertjes and Stroofwafels are unknown to my taste buds so imagine my surprise when my husband & I with our 1 year -old daughter took a walk along the streets near the Zeedijk up to the Oudekerksplein.My husband is Dutch and visited Amsterdam frequently but He rarely went to the Red Light District. So for people who think that Dutch people are fond of taking drugs and fooling around in the RLD, on any given day, then you are completely  wrong!  I noticed that this place really thrives on tourists and visitors and not the locals!

We decided to pass by the streets of the Red Light District in the morning, where there are less crowds. We had previously explored the city and thought of having a break from the Museums since my daughter easily gets bored and in dire need of playtime.So then we found ourselves strolling through the alleys where its best known to be a public display of prostitutes and marijuana! Yes, prostitution and drugs is legal in the Netherlands! It is also came as a surprise to me knowing that the Netherlands is the first country to legalize gay marriages. The red-light district in Amsterdam  consists of a network of alleys containing approximately  three hundred one-room cabins rented by prostitutes who display their goods and offer their services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated with red lights. These “kamers” are the most visible and typical kind of red light district sex work in Amsterdam and are a large tourist attraction. I have read about it but seeing these girls , totally made up as early as 10am in the morning  still gives me a different experience. In the broad daylight,they all looked bored and there’s so much in their stares, some are just playing with their phones and fidgeting with their shiny underwear.

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Street sightings in Amsterdam

De Wallen, together with the prostitution areas Singelgebied and Ruysdaelkade, form the Rosse Buurt (red light areas) of Amsterdam. Of these, De Wallen is the oldest and largest area.The area also has a number of sex shops, sex theatres, peep shows, a sex museum,brothels, a cannabis museum, and a number of coffee shops that sell marijuana, legally. My 1-year-old  certainly had no idea what these are all about and doesn’t pick up anything about what is in the billboards and signage. Taking photos of the ladies is highly prohibited and the whole area is on surveillance of camera so every visitor is expected to be discreet.

So, am I a bad mother for dragging my innocent daughter into this place?

After we’ve seen the Miffy  (or Nijntje ) exhibition in Museumplein, then we took her into a place full of things she doesn’t even have an idea of what it is. Well, as shocking as it may look to the world that a toddler can have a glimpse of ladies parading their almost naked bodies, I find the whole experience normal.Just like in other cities. Of course we didn’t get inside of those Sex museums or lounge in the Coffee shops, we merely passed by to take a look. Strolling around the Red Light District with a toddler was peaceful, calm, and safe. The only disturbance we’ve had is my toddler’s whining and wanting to run all over the place.

Although the Red Light District is for adults, its  only after dark that there are throngs of people just walking around to soak up the atmosphere, I too, as a visiting tourist have spent some good times just watching the world go by.Most of the tourists there are actually not there to indulge in those activities,they’re just there simply to watch. I found it a very  relaxed friendly place. Although I don’t recommend to go in there at night , and yes, not even with a baby with me.

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Street art in Amsterdam

Amsterdam city centre has a romantic image. I truly enjoyed the cozy strolls along the city center and now I know why Amsterdam is such a vibrant city. The city is gorgeous and a place for kids to enjoy. Sure it has its seedy and naughty parts of the city but its a beautiful place to explore and I am even grateful that my daughter experience the benefits of traveling at such a young age. The neighborhood is full of interesting shops, pubs, fantastic restaurants, leaning gabled houses and the city’s most charming canals. It is the same location of the Nieuwmarktsquare, the gothic Oude Kerk  and just a stones throw away,you will be in Amsterdam’s Chinatown, the Zeedijk (also home to an impressive Buddhist temple). It is unbelievable that after a few minutes strolling along the RLD, you will be in another place, a totally different atmosphere.

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Dutch Gezelligheid

Our trip to Amsterdam became a memorable one, and not because of the things we’ve seen in the Red Light District, but because, it is a beautiful city that is rich in culture. More than the bike culture, Amsterdam will always be special for us. It was our first trip as a family and I am sure, I can tell stories to my little girl that during the first year of her life, she had been there…through the secrets of the Red Light District!

If you want to visit Amsterdam and have a look in the RLD, this page might give you some interesting information.

Would you stroll along the Red Light District with your baby if given the chance?

 

 

The Dutch life: Habitual Element of Surprise

Do you like surprises?

If there’s any inspiring quality out of being married into a Dutch family that  I could share here with you, it is the Dutch’s habitual element of surprises.You might wonder why,  but aside from their lifestyle full of ‘Gezelligheid,up to their unbelievable generosity despite of the infamous Going Dutch‘. I found Dutch people, particularly the family I’ve married into, to be very good in making surprises.

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My Dutch Parents-in-law enjoying the busy stalls in Souk Mubarakiya in Kuwait. They were surprised to see the famous kissing Dutch figurine here.

Even here in my own Blogging community , I have met  Dutchies who are worth mentioning. When I was a newbie in Blogging (Still I am..!) here and made my first 5 posts, Frank Jansen of Dutch goes the Photo is  very supportive through his meaningful comments. He took time to comment and give me encouragement, even boost my confidence by giving me my very first Blog award– the Liebster which I really find to be a kind gesture. His Yoga tree photos are total stunner and if you love fine photography in your own wall, check it out Here. There is also my good friend Ann, of Grubbs ‘n Critters , a fellow Expat-Mama, who is actually married also to a Dutchman.She made a wonderful surprise to me when she sent over a box full of spices! How cool was that? Now everytime I cook, I remember her. It was just purely coincidental that we have met here and shared common parenting stories and  I often steal her luscious recipes! Finally, I was really thrilled when  Diana,a total congenial person, a Book Author by heart, and the soul behind Myths of the Mirror became one of my reader,we’ve beautifully connected and eventually  I felt I belonged, to the right circle in internet. I love the fact that I have these people in my life. All of them came also by surprise, along with all my friends here, as fate leads me to know them through their Blogs. If you have time,make sure to check out their Blogs and if you are a bookworm and still thinking of a gift to give to someone you love, you should check out Diana’s books  that will leave you in trance!

Now back to my subject, who doesn’t like surprises, I guess everybody does. I am talking about a good kind of surprise, not the prank type, obviously a good kind of surprise is always great, personal, always unforgettable and lastly,  full of fun.

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FIL enjoying the beautiful sunset along the Arabian Gulf in Kuwait

On the side note, I can only talk about my own experience with my own Dutch family. I don’t know how is it with other Dutch interracial marriages  so this post really doesn’t intend to do a rationalization of Dutch people.

“Surprises are beautiful because they come without waiting! “

My Parents in Law (PIL) are really unique and one of a kind individuals. First, my FIL (Father-in-Law) subscribed and reads my Blog so obviously He will read this post and how cool is that?! They are two people who loves to plan out surprises for us, without giving us the hassle of waiting.

There’s something about having a surprise from unexpected people and time. It is the element of surprise that keeps me on high and really appreciate the thought of it. Since I was married into this Dutch family, my life was full of surprises that made me fall in love with them even more, each day. Here I wanna share with you why my Dutch family are people who have a thing with habitual surprises  and their surprises keep on blowing my mind away each time they do it. Call me old fashioned, but I find this a rarity.

“Surprise them once in a while and let them know how special

they are!”

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A beautiful surprise with a unique Dutch Baby tradition – Beschuit met Muisjes

My PIL surely knows how to let us feel loved. They gave us special surprises on their visits while we are still living in Kuwait. I find it special when they surprised us in coming over to our wedding with such a very short notice from us. Once we came back from our short stay in our hotel, we found out that our flat was fully decorated with colorful buntings and balloons! Something that I never expected because I wondered how they got the key. Later on, they gave us a photo book of our wedding photos which came from all the photos which my MIL took. She really loved taking photos and  wrapped up  a beautiful surprise and of course, a film made by my FIL.

 

Then again, they brought another strange yet  unique Dutch tradition of Beschuit met Muisjes  when my daughter was born. Far away from Holland, they have made us so close to home. They are not that young anymore, but they are full of vigor, strength and vitality. They have brought 2 suitcases full of gifts for my daughter, they have collected cards from our relatives in the Netherlands prior to going to Kuwait. I was amazed with their organization skills when they lay out all the gifts that fit the whole couch ! Their effort was worthy of appreciation.

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My MIL wearing an Abaya during our visit in the Grand Mosque in Kuwait

“Surprises are better than promises ! “

When my daughter celebrated her 2nd Birthday here in Germany, they came for a week- long visit. The surprise came in later when they asked us to check out the door and my face was full of delight to see my husband’s sister and her whole family came by to join my daughter’s birthday!It was totally unexpected,even my husband is clueless. It was such a crazy surprise for me because we don’t even have enough plates for more than 5 people, I haven’t even prepared enough food to feed them ! Despite the frenzy preparations, in the end, it turned out a great day because indeed, surprises are better than promises!

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Trying out Indian food in Germany where we reminisce the grilled foods ,kebabs, flat bread and Hummus in Kuwait.

 

Last week, we were planning to go to Nuremberg to visit the Christmas Market, also to have a weekend trip to celebrate my husband’s birthday. It was planned from last month but was postponed when my daughter got sick. We were still having second thoughts  because my daughter still had a bad cough and the weather is always grey, and gloomy, it’s not just the mood to do some sightseeing. While taking a walk before we do our grocery shopping, a car pulled down in front of us and there they are again–my PIL smiling and waving at us! They did it once again. Totally out of the blue, they came to join us to celebrate the weekend with us for my husband’s birthday. We spent a great time in the Christkindlmarkt ,drank Glühwein, visited the Nativity or the Krippenweg, and devoured Schnitzels and curry wurst with delight.

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It was their turn to be surprised and get mesmerized by Kuwaiti food !
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Now I know that a couple who  travels together, stays together.

“Expect Nothing. Live Frugally on Surprises! “~Alice Walker

Again, they filled our home with their sunshine and made everything better.I know that they can always come over to our place from 6-7 hours drive from the Netherlands but still, they do it in a beautiful surprise. When I saw the face of my husband and the delight in my daughter’s face, I couldn’t agree no more because I am, too, was overwhelmed. They know how to bring us cheer, and they are so good at it.Also, every time they bring tons of goodies which we all enjoyed, then who am I to complain?

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Enjoying the waves of the Arabian Gulf, my PIL finds it Gezelling despite the winds!

The surprise continues when they brought Sinterklaas to my daughter in line of her celebrating  her first St. Nicholas here in Germany. My MIL packed a handful of my favorite spices like Gehakt and Spekulaas which I really find it sweet. We are so overwhelmed with the Sinterklaas goodies they’ve brought like the Chocolate letters,Kruidnoten, Stroofwafels,Gevuldekoeken, so much more. They know that my husband adores these things and I am a convert now myself. At the end of their visit, I was surprised again to see another ornaments in our little tree. I was so busy that I didn’t notice it hanging in there. They adorned it with their love. Another lovely surprise.

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Airport moments while leaving Kuwait

Near or far, they  always try to bridge the gap and cross the distance to let us feel loved. Habit or not, my Dutch family has certainly a trait that I’ve learned to appreciate. Beyond gifts and everything, it’s their thoughts behind it that really matters. I have learned to appreciate surprises but right now, I am enjoying the Dutch’s life habitual element of surprises!

And how sweet that this post falls as my 200th post here ! Surprising that I have made it this far, Thank you my friends for following and reading my posts!

How about you, when was the last time you’ve made a surprise ? Or the last time you’ve been surprised?

How was your experience?

 

Early morning with a view | Neues Schloss

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Relaxing morning with a view of Neues Schloss

I love simple pleasures in life and one of those is having early morning reflections.Lately, where the air gets crisp and colder each day, there’s no better way to spend a quiet morning with a relaxing view like this, with the Neues Schloss seems floating along the peaceful Danube river. I am even grateful when the sun decided to bring sunshine even for a few hours. I have posted about New Castle for numerous times here, seen from different perspectives, but I just love to capture it also  in different seasons. I am bent on making better photos because I wanted to do justice to the beauty that’s in front of me.Nowadays that almost everything is covered with fog, frost and the other night, we had snow, well I think it’s that thin, drizzle of fresh snow! I am not so looking forward to the cold, but a sight of snow gives an excitement in my heart. Couldn’t believe that its only few more days, and then it’s Christmas. It will be our first Christmas here in Germany and so far, alles gut!

So again, I thought of dropping by a  visit to my favorite spot in front of the river, just in the front of Reduit Tilly where I can have a perfect view of the Kavalier and the Neues Schloss. I love the open Shanz architecture  and I found more details every time I visit. I love this particular view where I see a different perspective of the castle.Even with the blunder, the castle in the background always brings a nostalgic effect to me. This is the best postcard that I brought home from last week’s  Wandertag.

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A wire coated with frost creates a beautiful blunder for the castle

 

I have always been fascinated with castles and dreamed  of seeing one someday. It’s always been a childhood dream. I have always been looking forward to see real castles and even be inside of it! The thrill, the excitement, the sight and the whole experience of finally making it real is unforgettable.When I visited the Burg Eltz , I fell in love at it first sight, more like a fairy tale trip.First, Burg Eltz was a beautiful castle tucked in the middle of the forest. That makes it even more enigmatic. Walking inside the steep stairs and those grand cellars and viewing the  halls was a delight even thought I have a wiggling toddler wrapped in front of my chest. I grew up thinking that the Walt Disney’s Disneyland castle is the best, but then I moved to Germany and learned that there are so much  more than castles and fairy tales. That my Expat  life is even larger than what I think…it has its own reality bites. I am telling you, it’s not always good. Some days there are times I find myself clueless how can I get by especially now that I can’t speak ‘passable’ German yet. Even my thoughts are just a minute of a fraction of what I could be able to conceive from life itself.

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A new perspective of the New Castle,signalling a new chapter in my life.

But then, I know that in the absence of everything, then ANYTHING is possible. I know that the new castle in front of me has something in store for me here. Having new friends, learning the language, and finally integrating into a new culture gives me whole new motivation everyday.

For now, I feast my eyes from the beauty of nature that offers me everyday. Feeling grateful, and full of hope for better days.

How about you, do you like Castles?

 

 

When St. Nicholas beats Santa Claus

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St. Nicholas  dropped some presents  and stuffed into the Little one’s  boots!

I grew up adoring Santa Claus. Almost every Christmas, someone would dressed up as Santa Claus to make the occasion even more festive. The party gets more alive and kids shrieked with glee once they see him. From decorations ,cards, Christmas socks, to figurines set up  in shops, there is this heavily- bearded old man dressed in red suit  with a hat and black boots, carrying a sack full of gifts.  It has even become a tradition for kids to sit in the lap of Santa Claus and take  photos. The sight of him elevates our excitement for the great gifts that He brings. As a kid, I am also enamored to the old tale that if you have been good all through out the year, you will receive presents from Santa Claus. Santa  flies through the air on a winter night of Christmas eve  with his sleigh full of gifts pulled by  reindeer, especially  led by  Rudolf, the one with a red nose. Santa Claus climbs up to the chimney and then leave the gifts under the Christmas tree.

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My husband looks so happy when He received a gift from Sinterklaas

On the other side,my Dutch husband  grew up adoring Sinterklaas or the De Goede Sint (The Good Saint) which is the big thing for kids in the Netherlands . Sinterklaas is widely celebrated on Dec. 5th and most anticipated by Dutch  kids during December more than Christmas day itself. Sinterklaas  wears a long red cape or chasuble over a traditional white bishop’s alb and sometimes red stola, dons a red mitre and ruby ring, and holds a gold-coloured crosier, a long ceremonial shepherd’s staff with a fancy curled top. He traditionally rides a white horse. In the Netherlands, the horse is called Amerigo. Sinterklaas with his Zwarte piets roam around the neighborhood and give gifts to children.This festivity is full of Kruidnoten, Gevuldekoeken,chocolate letters, spekulaas cookies and so many different treats for the little ones. It’s really the biggest event for Dutch kids.

There are so many Santa Claus figures all over the world but I believe that they all portray the same role as the mythical Santa Claus and its connection to Christmas.But here in Germany, Santa Claus is nowhere to be found because St. Nicholas beats him. In this festive season,all German kids look forward for St. Nicholas Day or Nikolaustag on December 6, more than Christmas Day on December 25th.

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Shoes has been stuffed by St. Nicholas for Nikolaustag in Germany!

But who is the real St. Nicholas?

Across the German-speaking region of Europe there are many kinds of Santa Clauses with many different names. Despite their many names, they are all basically the same mythic character. But few of them have anything to do with the real Saint Nicholas (Sankt Nikolaus or der Heilige Nikolaus), who was probably born around A.D. 245 in the port city of Patara in what we now call Turkey.He is credited with several miracles and his feast day is December 6, which is the main reason he is connected with Christmas. In Austria, parts of Germany, and Switzerland, der Heilige Nikolaus (or Pelznickel) brings his gifts for children on Nikolaustag, Dec. 6, not Dec. 25.

So what happens during Nikolaustag in Germany?

I noticed that German kids are very very  spoiled during Christmas season here in Germany. As early as October, the shops are already filled with Adventkalendar which is literally  a calendar with chocolates , toys and sweets! German kids count the days before St. Nicholas ‘s arrival through the Adventkalendar which also coincide with the 4 weeks of Advent season before Christmas day. Around November, the shops are already adorned with Christmas decorations, there’s the wide array of different Adventkranz, and the Weihnachtsmann or  (Father Christmas )  strolls inside the shops with a sack  giving out chocolate balls and sweets for kids. He also visit the Christkindlmarkt  during Frohe festtages where there again, giving away candy bracelets, toys and chocolate balls to eager kids. One happy day for kids, and for parents too!

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St. Nicholas with the Christkind in the Christkindlmarkt

On the night of December 5th , in small communities in Austria and the Catholic regions of Germany, a man dressed as der Heilige Nikolaus (St. Nicholas)  who resembles a bishop and carries a staff) goes from house to house to bring small gifts to the children. Accompanying him are several ragged looking, devil-like Krampusse, who mildly scare the children. Although Krampus/Knecht Ruprecht carries eine Rute (a switch), He only teases the children with it, while St. Nicholas hands out small gifts to the children. In some regions, there are other names for both Nikolaus and Krampus (Knecht Ruprecht in northern Germany).  The Krampuslauf custom found in Austria and Bavaria also happens around December 5 or 6, but it also can take place at various times during November or December, depending on the community. While Santa Claus is more gay and cheerful ,take note that St. Nicholas doesn’t  even say Ho ho ho !

Now that we live in Bavaria, my daughter had her first taste of Nikolaustag. She shrieked with delight when she saw  her yellow boots is filled with goodies and gifts . Her first taste of Nikolaustag came as a bright and sweet surprise!  This experience is new to us but then I am so glad that my daughter can have things such as this. This is one of the local traditions that we are looking forward to celebrate through the coming years.

Do you believe in Santa Claus?

What Christmas traditions do you do during this holiday season?

 

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