National “Romantic” Tulip Day!

 

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Tulip picking !

Are you prepared to gather your own  FREE Tulips?

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Tulips in bloom in Keukenhof Gardens, Spring 2017

Is it Spring already? Nope, its still freezing over here in Germany, as it is still winter here in Europe, but in the Netherlands, you can catch an early glimpse of Spring! As a yearly tradition in Amsterdam, once again this year, the TULPENDAG or the National Tulip Day is set! What makes this super exciting and colorful? You can gather your own Tulips, as much as you can, and yes—all for FREE!

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Memories from Keukenhof Gardens, Spring 2017

In lieu of this year’s theme “Romance“, Tulips are such in tune with any romantic occasion. I ,myself love Tulips no matter what the occasion is. Most especially when it is given to me as a gift. Just last week, I got a bunch of Tulips and when I put it in the vase, I can’t help myself comparing the bulbs from the gorgeous Tulips I have seen back in Holland. They are totally in different genes !!

Tulips are such a nice token to give to someone you love.It has a universal symbolism of purity, love and beauty.Though it can be super expensive in other countries, in Holland, tulips has its own pride.

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On January 20, the Dam Square will once again be filled with over 200, 000 Dutch tulips ! On this day, Tulip growers will wow the world once again by creating a temporary Garden right in the touristic Dam square. From 13.00 to 16:30, so if you are in Amsterdam or you have a chance to visit this beautiful city ( like I did!), then grab everyone along with you to see this event!

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Photos are from my last year’s visit to Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, in Holland!

What about you? What is your favorite flower?

Have you ever heard of a Tulip Movie? I found it very interesting and if you love Tulips, then this is something for you to learn more about the pride of Holland.

Enjoy watching!

 

 

 

 

 

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Swarovski Crystal Worlds , A Sparkling place for everyone!

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The Giant, guarding the entrance to the Chambers of Wonders in the Swarovski Crystal World.

I think we’ve just got lucky!

New Year started off with  bright, shimmering sparkles for us, because we found ourselves in the beautiful Winter Wonderland of Crystals—-where else, but  in the Headquarters of Swarovski Crystals in Wattens, Austria! Well, not everyone would consider this place as  a Bucket-List sort of thing, but If you love Crystals and you have a thing for Arts, plus you are in the vicinity of Innsbruck, then this can be a great getaway for everyone in the family!

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Killer view of the rings of snow-capped mountains!

As for me, I love the unique sparkle of Crystals. I like the simple beauty of it whether it’s in a form of jewelry or from an art installation. I have learned that it takes talent and high-end technology to come out with these gorgeous creation. The sparkle is something magical and when you wear something that blings, plus you feel good about it ,then nobody can take away that from you, regardless of how much it costs.

 

So when we’ve learned that the Swarovski HQ is just half an hour drive from Innsbruck, we decided to give it a go. At first I was just super curious of what’s all about the face of the Giant,I’ve only seen it in photos, so I wanted to know the concept behind it. The Giant, is one-of a kind symbol, that is the face of Swarovski, same as the Swan as its current symbol.I find it fascinating how from 1899, Swarovski uses the Edelweiss flower as its logo. Edelweiss symbolizes  Alpinism and purity, for a fact that Edelweiss is one of the most beloved flowers in Austria.

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Into the Lattice Sun exhibit by Lee Bul inside the Chambers of Wonders

All my questions were lost as we stepped into the magical world of the huge Krystallwelten. My eyes feasted, and my mind marveled into the artistic creations that are on display. The company itself , which operates in roughly 2,800 stores in around 170 countries,  and employs more than 32,000 employees, and has a revenue of about 2.6 billion euros (in 2016) looks magnanimous against the azure mountains,it stands out among the hilly country side of Wattens. Now I understand why people from different parts of the world traveled half across the globe just to see what’s in this place. Swarovski is still Innsbruck’s #1 Tourist attraction! Thanks to the great mind of Daniel Swarovski, the founder of Swarovski Crystal Dynasty, a humble glass cutter, and a genius to create a Diamond for everyone!

If you are interested to know how it all started, from Daniel Swarovski’s  humble beginnings to what Swarovski is now to the world, here I found an interesting Swarovski story.

I, myself were fascinated of how crystal is being made, so it’s just fitting to share with you what I’ve found out about the art of making Crystals. The modern Crystal museum is not just a shop where you buy a piece of crystal jewelry. The whole place itself is a platform for Arts with the theme of Crystal, thus making it a top-ranking  Austrian tourist destination for its modern Architecture and facilities. Maybe not everyone loves Art or jewelry, but I must say that the Artistic installations there conveys great minds and concept, and of course  guarantees delight for everyone in the family no matter what the weather is.

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The Giant of Wattens!

Its winter time and just in time for the New Year, so  the whole place is still heavily decorated with Winter Magic Moments where the visualizations were designed by Tord Boontje. There’s a giant Christmas Tree ,carousel and many unique art installations glittering with lights can be seen in the gardens.When we arrived at the Arrival’s Hall where we got our tickets, we already have the glimpse of the grand entrance to the Chambers of Wonders, with The Giant of Wattens, slightly covered in snow and foliage, with its glistening eyes and  mouth  flowing with water.The world renowned-landmark of the World of Crystals created by the great mind of  multi-media Artist, André Heller!

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Magical Winter Moments in the  Swarovski Krystalwellten
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Shimmering bright lights in Swarovski Crystal Worlds!

 

Chambers of Wonders

Little that the world know, inside the Swarovski Crystal Worlds are 16 Chambers of Wonders.These are  special chambers designed by  world-class talented Artists showing their inspiring creations.

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A hallway full of cascading Crystal Chandeliers and Crystal art installation (Into Lattice Sun)

The Artists have one goal in their mind:

Nurturing the sense of wonder of every visitor who came to Wattens! This place offers more than the bling. So it’s not only a place to buy crystal jewelry, it is a place that displays innovative Crystal Technology and artistic minds, with crystal as the main component!

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Mechanical Theater inside the Chambers of Wonders

Some of the notable Artists and Art installations  that I personally found to be inspiring were :

Manish Arora’s “Ready to Love” is super colorful, funky, with dancing lights and a stairs full of colorful inscriptions with the theme Love.It is so fresh and luxurious that my daughter was so delighted to see this.If you are traveling with children, a place like this might be boring for them, but in the chamber of “Ready to Love”, it looks like it’s a colorful play area with interacting lights.

André Heller’s “Heroes of Peace” is an interactive stage.  Heller designed an accessible explorable theater for all the senses to inspire, amuse and fill up the audience with positive energy. We saw Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Ghandi in a hologram-filled space! Looks eerie at first, but it’s quite high-tech!

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El Sol by Fernando Romero

Fernando Romero’s ” El Sol “ is a stunning art installation which focuses on man’s relationship with the sun. This is by far my favorite since it reminds me of the stunning Winter sunsetscapes that I saw while I’m in Tyrol. El Sol is a one-of a kind, large geodesic structure,mimicking the sun made up of 2, 880 individually manufactured Swarovski crystals!

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The grandest and biggest Crystal I have ever seen in my life!

Another beautiful sight inside the Chambers of Wonders is the “The Eden” by Fredrikson Stalard . For me, it is unique, and I love the mystery. My daughter enjoyed this one too. It’s like she is walking in a maze. It’s a forest-fantasy in an archaic, primeval world. At its entrance, a waterfall, filmed in the surrounding Alps, cascades down a screen and is reflected by the walls, while the roar of the water permeates the entire Chamber of Wonder, creating a wall of background sound. Inside, the visitor follows a path that meanders through a dense wilderness of simple polished brass structures, which through mirrored walls appear to go on to infinity.

Within the depths of this dark forest, the wanderer encounters strange, hidden gems in the form of the biggest crystals Swarovski has ever produced. They emerge as beacons of light from the dark, like strange, exotic birds, reptiles, flowers, or fruit, symbolizing the magnificence of nature and the origins of life.

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Talking about Crystals…!

For the rest of the Chambers of Wonders are listed Here. Seeing them one by one is like being transported into a magical world  one after the other where Swarovski crystals shines the best.

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Shop display inside the Swarovski shop

 

Of course, inside as well  is the tempting shop of Swarovski where we’ve seen all beautiful things out of crystals! Adjacent to the Chambers of Wonders is the Swarovski Shop where you can mesmerized yourself with all the beautiful jewelry and items offered by Swarovski. They are currently having a huge Sale so visitors are really flocking and hoarding over it.

We went out to grab a bite inside Daniel’s Cafe & Restaurant which is also dynamically designed. It is very spacious and we loved the food.The price was reasonable and their service is excellent.

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Crystal Clouds and Mirror Pool

Outside, we marvel along the beautiful Crystal Clouds installations.We visited on a snowy, cloudy day but still, the sight of the Krystallwolke is something  that amazes me. It’s made up of 800,000 crystal jewels embedded in a net like structure to mimic  clouds.It is designed by Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot.

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The Playtower inside the Swarovski Crystal Worlds

We continue to wander off through all the Kunst im Garten ( Art in the Garden), Labyrinth (Maze), Roman Excavations, and go inside their one-of -a kind Spielturm ( Playtower) .This is a place that my daughter loves, so do we!She needed a time to release her energy so this place really comes handy.

 

They have a state of the art indoor playground and a tower that is completely amazing! The view from inside seeing the mountains is beautiful even on a cloudy day.The façades of the tower, designed by architecture firm Snøhetta, consist of 160 crystalline facets, though no two are exactly alike. The panes are imprinted with an innovative pattern of millions of tiny animal motifs. The view from inside to outside is visible at all times and at night, the structure is a spectacular body of light.

I have seen that not only  children love this place but also their parents who played with them. There are slide tunnels, maze, puzzles and bouncing areas. Outside there is also an Outdoor playground, a Labyrinth maze and so much more.

To cap up our Swarovski experience, I could say that it has been a well-spent day. I did not expect that my husband would love this place but He said that He actually enjoyed it.We haven’t seen all the other attractions since its cold outside but then, there is always a reason to come back.

How did you start your year?

Do you like Swarovski Crystals over other type of jewelry?

Would you like to visit this place given a chance?

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you follow #myInnsbruck experience from my other posts about our New Year experience in the Alps.

Got Instagram? Follow our Expat Life experiences and my personal Artworks in our Instagram Page and If you have a time to kill, please check out my Etsy shop!

Tschüss!

 

 

 

 

Growth | El Sol and My Tyrolean sunset

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It was sunsets that taught me that beauty is fleeting…only lasts for a couple of moments,

And it was sunrises that showed me that all it takes is patience to experience it all over again…

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The little things?

These tiny moments?

They aren’t little…

They are Life’s Giant milestones.

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One of my top viewed post is “Why do you love watching Sunsets?” It didn’t surprise me at all because it’s one of my favorite post as well. I, personally loved everything about these little moments when the sun says Adieu and the peace that comes along with it.It’s a personal post for myself. This particular sunset is special. It’s one of the times I watched the sun shyly sets in between the mountains. It’s magical when all the different shades of red, oranges, and yellow and all the other hues mixed with each other creating the most original pallete I’ve ever known. It’s incredible how the sun washed away the houses in the villages , in between the hundreds of pine trees with a gentle glow.

I’m sure I am not the only one who took pictures.

It’s not because it’s a brand New Year that I am opting to have a brand new mindset, but watching a sunset definitely changes the way I look about my growth as a person.

All I knew that growth is clearly visible when your mind is set for appreciating your life for what it is and looking forward. Yes, the sun sets, but in your mind, you know that the sun will come once again…the show begins again once the morning comes.

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I’ve read many times that watching a natural beauty doing its own course like sunsets   may boost well-being, increase generosity and enhance life satisfaction. This is one activity that I never get tired of doing, anywhere, given the chance, I know that what matters is for myself to actively engage with the experience. To reap the rewards of that sunset, you need to stop whatever else you’re doing and really notice and appreciate the show in the sky.

This post is also inspired by one of the intriguing Art exhibition that I’ve seen in the amazing Chambers of Wonders  inside the Swarovski Crystal Worlds, the “El Sol”.

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“El Sol ” by Fernando Romero inside the Chambers of Wonders in Swarovski Crystal Worlds.

“El Sol” is Spanish for “The sun.” Fernando Romero’s installation, is made up of  2,880 custom-made Swarovski crystals, weighing more than 500 kgs., symbolizing the exploration of humankind’s relationship with the sun. This spherical structure is exactly one billion times smaller than the sun itself. At the heart of the artwork is a sphere of LEDs, whose light is split by the inner facets of the precisely cut crystals in such a way that it creates a dynamic surface reminiscent of the sun.

The inspiration for El Sol was the remarkable geometry of the pyramids built by the Aztec and Mayan people. Romero’s creation is thus an homage to his Mexican cultural heritage. At the same time, his structure is also based on modern technologies. Three months of design and development were needed before the drawings were ready, and it took the technicians more than 350 hours to construct the artwork. I am over grateful to see this with my own eyes and experience the kaleidoscopic effect from this.

Sans the technology and crystals, I took photos of this Tyrolean sunsets from our balcony in our rental apartment in Tyrol. What makes it unforgettable is that it definitely inspires  me and signals growth in my spirit. I’ve seen sunsets over high towers, buildings, over a lake, a volcano, across the seas, and in forests. This one is my Tyrolean sunset.

This year, I am ready for change, I am ready for growth.

I am ready for more sunsets beauty that 2018 offers!

What about you, Where’s your most memorable sunset  experience?

 

 

 

 

This post is inspired by this week’s DP Challenge |Growth

Unforgettable Winter Sightseeing: Innsbruck

 

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Fancy finds in the Christmas Market in Innsbruck

Before the year ends, we had the chance to explore and visit Innsbruck in Austria. It was actually a spun in the moment , nevertheless, Innsbruck is the beautiful capital of the Alps, a city framed within the gorgeous rings of snow-capped mountains, an Olympic place for the Winter Sports and the famed Olympia Skiworld. I’ve learned that Innsbruck is the first city to host the Olympic Games a third time (Olympic Winter games in 1964, 1976, and the Olympic Youth Winter Games in 2012).

But more than a winter sport magnet, Innsbruck is such a vibrant city. Well, not everything looks inviting especially in Winter time but I wish I could find more words to describe this city, so far, its one of the most diversified cities I’ve ever visited. We are traveling with a toddler so of course our interests are best fitted for her needs. It has by far the most modern architecture in the Alpine region, rich historical sites, stunning nature views, and a winter paradise for all ages. Quite impressive that within minutes you can reach the highest mountain peaks, marvel at the Glacier, and come down to the sophisticated town surrounded with great splendor of Tyrolean rural heritage and history.

I have seen so many photos of Innsbruck in Instagram and I had wished to see this place. It came true and I couldn’t be thankful enough to marvel at the Alpine adventure at the start of this brand New Year. Our New Year spent in Schlick 2000 Wanderzentrum is really unforgettable, especially for my daughter.This beautiful city nestled in between the Alps mountains and the Inn river makes a winter getaway, especially with children something that is enjoyable for parents as well.

Here are some of the sights we’ve visited and the photos I took while we explore the city and the nearby villages in this place.We were standing in front of the Triumphforte facing Theresien Str. with the gleaming mountains and planes passing by, I knew that this city has a lot to offer!

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The Golden Roof ( Goldenes Dachl) in the Old Town

” Use every moment, dance every dance, you can’t take anything with you.”

We stumbled on this square with the giant Christmas tree in front of it and loaded with tourists. I found it  fascinating that this structure is still  impeccably preserved centuries up until the modern times.  I read that the scroll on the relief of this famous Golden Roof  bears this beautiful quote.  This, however, is mere speculation as the writing remains undeciphered. The Golden Roof is decorated with 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles (all still original). Some were stolen but reappeared. One was replaced with a wooden tile while a hay barn was adorned with a shiny one. The exchange was reversed. The Goldenes Dachl in the Old town is still one of the most important gem of Innsbruck.

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Maria-Theresien Str. /Annasäule right in the Innsbruck Centrum

From where we stand and explored Innsbruck by foot.In New Year’s day, where almost all shops are closed, this street is still filled with tourists and locals celebrating New Year. Innsbruck  Christmas Markt still noticeable in the far end corner and I can still smell the glühwein and baked goodies.

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Bergisel (Sprungschanze), Ski Jump

The moment we stepped into the city, this is the view we get. The gorgeous Bergisel floating amidst the fog on a cold winter day. A day before we left, the city was already packed with tourists for the upcoming Winter Ski-Jumping  World Cup tournament of Vier Schanzen Tournee (Four Hills Tournament) 2018.This eye-catching tower is designed by Architect Zaha Hadid, the “Bergisel Sky” panorama restaurant and the panorama terraces.It takes only 20 minutes ride to conquer 2,000 meters.This is definitely one of the best Alpine experience you can have.

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The 28 larger than life monuments guarding the tomb of Emperor Maximilian I inside the Hofkirche

We continue walking through the narrow streets and as we reached the Markplatz,we decided to walk through the Hofburg. I am so glad that visiting the Hofkirche is not boring for my 3-year old daughter and not “too historical” for her age. I was surprised that she actually enjoyed marveling at the 28 ( Twenty-Eight) larger than life Bronze statues guarding the cenotaph of Habsburg Emperor Maximilian I.

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Swarovski Crystal Christmas Tree in front of Markhall, facing the Inn river

We noticed that the sun starts to shine so we head off to admire the beautiful country side near the river. Of course we didn’t miss to admire this Swarovski Christmas Tree in front of the Inn river facing the Markhall.This one really shimmer against the bright sun. We had a pit stop inside the market and had coffee. Compared to the Markthal in Rotterdam, this one in Innsbruck is smaller and not really touristy.

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Cobbled stone streets going to the historical inner city of Innsbruck.

It was a cold day and yet we enjoyed all the surrounding sights along the Theresien Str. with all the Baroque architecture and heavily ornamented buildings and shops.This street is so full of charm and the rows of tempting shops are full of  high-end brands, Christmas displays, enticing tourists and showing that sophistication and modern fashion is totally into this city amidst framed by the mountains.Take for example this unique facade of the Taxispalais. For a second you would think what’s inside.The Taxispalais is a Kunsthalle with an international exhibition profile.Its mission is to debate contemporary life through art and cultural discourse.If you are into Arts, you should not miss to explore this place.

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Taxispalais : Blue men in the building in the busy shops along the Maria-Theresien Str.

Innsbruck is definitely a city with a high-end Architecture! Another eye-catching landmark unique to Innsbruck is the Nordkettenbahnen cable railways, designed once again by famed Zaha Hadid. This is totally the jewel of the Alps.The new Hungerburg Funicular was officially opened in 2007. The funicular set new international standards for modern architecture due to the extraordinary design of the stations. According to Zaha Hadid herself, she was inspired by the ice and snow landscapes of the region. As a result, the four stations, Congress, Löwenhaus, Alpine Zoo and Hungerburg resemble icy glaciers, giving the impression that the nearby mountain is right in the heart of the city.

The contrast between the arched shape of the roofs and the firmly anchored concrete bases make the stations unique, and gives them an almost magical sense of weightlessness. If you’re in Innsbruck, I highly recommend to check this out!

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The modern Nordkettenbahnen cable railway station
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The quaint villages at the foot of the mountains along the Inn River
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Mariahilf, a historical site in Innsbruck

At the end of Theresien Strasse, I was intrigued at the row of colorful houses along the Inn river, just in front of the bridge and the Markthalle because it reminds me of the leaning houses along the canals in Amsterdam. With the background of the mountains, this is definitely a postcard worthy of visiting!

 

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Narrow Areas, thousands discoveries

To cap off our #MyInnsbruck sightseeing experience, we head off to Wattens to visit the headquarters of Swarovski. The trademark image of Swarovski, The Giant is the face guarding the entrance of the Chambers of Wonders. Multimedia artist André Heller created a world of wonder to celebrate Swarovski’s hundredth anniversary in 1995. Heller’s thematic centerpiece for Swarovski Crystal Worlds was the shape of the Giant. And he developed the story of a Giant who set out to experience the world and all of its treasures and wonders.One of the highlights of our Crystal experience is seeing the enormous 800,000 crystal jewels hand-mounted in the Crystal Clouds!

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The Giant, guarding the entrance to the Chamber of Wonders inside the Swarovski Kristallwelten

Even if the weather was not hundred percent perfect for our winter sightseeing, we really had a great time exploring all the sights that Innsbruck had to offer, especially for families. Visiting Innsbruck is totally a kid-friendly place and there are further more attractions to try on our next visit.

Of course, not only our eyes have feasted on this trip, our tummies as well. I can’t leave this place without trying once again one of Austria’s pride ; the Kaisersmarnn!

Have you ever visited Innsbruck?

Do you also take time to explore a city and its historical sights?

 

 

Thank you for reading my friends! Wishing you all a lovely start of a brand new week!

 

Tschüss!

 

 

 

New Year’s Eve in Schlick 2000!

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My view last New Year’s Eve, up above, 2,240 meters above!

It’s my first time to celebrate the New Year away from home. Normally, we celebrate it at home, staying in with the family and watching fireworks. Not so this year.

We decided to go up high in the Alps and enjoy the view from above.

Well, even with an active 3-year-old toddling with us, then why not?

For a couple of weeks, and a week before Christmas, I felt so stressed out, I am like pulling the days to end to finally start the Christmas break. I had my Deutsch class up until the 22nd of December but I badly needed a holiday. I don’t care how long it is or where it is, I just want to be out and have a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, my daughter got sick, she caught a virus right after the other so she was really running on high fevers, coughs and colds. These lasted up throughout Christmas. It causes us a lot of stress and at the end of the week, I also got a nasty sore throat and I am not really up for the holidays.

We are blessed with a fine weather on New Year’s Eve when we climbed up the Schlick 2000 in Stubaital, in Fulpmes, a winter wonderland village, half an hour away from Innsbruck. Our family apartment has a wonderful view of the mountains as well and we enjoyed it in different views. I especially cannot forget how beautiful the last Sunset that I watched in Tirol.

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The view of the valley from above the Schlick 2000

Now who can’t say NO to this view?

I have seen another beautiful side of the Alps. The snow-capped mountains are really living gems of Austria. Looking at the cloudless horizon with the glistening mountain peaks and the serene atmosphere above makes this a whole new experience for me. Though I was really motion-sick while going up through the cable car rides twice to finally get up to the viewing area, my stomach has a nasty somersault while I looked down at the steep slopes. I couldn’t sit still while I hold my daughter’s tiny hands in between my hands.I am just so glad that it went so fast. I was feeling so sick !

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A Winter Sport Paradise in Innsbruck

This view is totally worth it! We found the top piste packed with Skiers and tourists. Young and old, clad in shiny, colorful winter garb, all set for an adventure in the slopes. Some are just lounging , enjoying the sun, sipping a beer, and probably napping. Well, yes, this place looks like a Beer garden up above 2000+ meters!  My daughter was super thrilled to try on different sticks, helmets, and roll over the snow.We left Germany full of snow as well but I was not even happy about the sight of it. But here, I saw the snow with a different charm. It looks like the snow fun is waiting for us. I couldn’t get off my eyes to the gigantic  mountain ranges full of snow in front of me. They are like giants, but I don’t feel small. The great thing about Innsbruck, it gives us the time to just relax and enjoy.

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I personally love to just have a peaceful getaway up above the mountain and admiring the grandeur of the Alps. To reach as far as my eyes can see. I can cover with my thumb an entire village and follow through the clouds that shrouded the whole valley. Everything around me is just magical. A special winter pleasure.

When I looked at my daughter, all my worries are gone. I know it’s another year to face, another challenges, and yet, she made me feel brave to face everything. Remembering that she was crazy sick and finally back to wellness gives me enough strength. She deserves to catch the sun. She deserves the world! Also, I am super grateful that my husband brought us into another winter wonderland at the very start of the year. Austria will always be special for our family. This time, we never felt isolated there because we are only a few kilometers away from the vibrant city of Innsbruck. We could even catch a glimpse of  it. From the windows of our apartment, we watched the fireworks and watch the lights danced in the mountains. It is totally different from the way I grew up celebrating the New Year!

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My Little Explorer!

Cheers to New Routes… New Possibilities.

We are ready to face the New Year!

 

 

 

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Celebrating my Anniversary with WordPress ! Cheers for more Blogging adventures!

Today also marked another special achievement for my Blog, Justbluedutch!  It’s my Blog Anniversary with Word press. It has been 2 years now that I am sharing with this wonderful platform my life in photos, stories, adventures, my artworks, and my Expat Life. I have met great people here who have shared with me their life stories as well. Reading about their life experiences made me appreciate the beauty of Blogging.

I wanted to specially thank all the people who followed my Blog and gave wonderful comments. There are lots of genuine-kind hearted people who totally inspired me and appreciate my Artworks. It means a lot to me.

With the start of the new year, I hope you stay with me as I continue to write about my life experiences here in Germany .It has been a pleasure to share my life and adventures from my Expat Life with all of you.

 

Danke Schön! Thank you and Salamat!

 

If you like to connect with me and follow my Expat Life, please visit my Instagram page and also, if you love Art, you can check out my Etsy shop  and get inspired by authentic, handmade, original Aquarelle and Acrylic paintings!

 

Tchüss !

~Christina

 

 

Only in Bavaria :Epiphanie ( Dreikönigsfest)

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Dreikönigsfest in Bavaria (Three Kings)

January 6 is a public holiday here in Bavaria, Germany. It’s the Epiphanie or the Dreikönigsfest. I grew up that we wait up until the Three Kings to finally say goodbye to the Holidays and hide all the holiday trimmings. A New Year has begun and it is the signal of the end of the Christmas season, meaning— time to tidy up and remove all Christmas decorations, as well as the Christmas trees.

But I am sure there are still many leftover chocolates and Christmas goodies, just like what we still  have right now.

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Epiphany or Dreikönigsfest in Bavaria

Here in Bavaria, I have learned something new.

Ever since I arrived here, I noticed the inscriptions of chalk on top of the houses, especially on doors with these formula. I was really curious what these letters & numbers stands for. I thought for a while that they are just writings of the carpenter for measurements. I was totally wrong.

In the book of Matthew, the Magi, or Wise men (sometimes called Kings) learned of Jesus Christ’s birth, then traveled from the east following a star. In the modern times, we celebrate January 6 as the day the Magi arrived at the stable in Bethlehem to bring gifts to the Christ Child. The Kings are not named, they have come to be known as Melchior, from Persia, Balthezar, an Arab Scholar and Caspar, from India. They brought gifts for the child ; Frankincense (a perfume or incense), Myrrh (an anointing oil) and Gold.   The gifts were important… these were items that were not given to an ordinary man, these are gifts for a King.

2018-DKSPlakat

Also, as tradition, children dressed up as the three kings who visited Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem. The kids knock on doors and offer to write a symbol of blessing over the top of people’s entry-way doors. In exchange, the “blesee” is expected to give a donation to the Sternsinger, an organization that does various charitable works around the world. This year’s target is “Together against Child Labor.”

Here is a great well-produced video about this campaign that you can see on YouTube here.

So, finally, I had answers to my questions. The formula is quite simple: the 20 and the 18 on either end signify the current year.  version is that it stands for the names of the 3 wise men, Kaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. Epiphany is the time when traditional “C+M+B” house-blessing ceremonies are performed with an inscription on or above a door.

 

Inscriptions are either done by families or Sternsingers (Star Singers) as they carol around neighborhoods and raise money for charities. Star Singers are generally boys and girls in groups of four with three dressed as the Wise Men and one carrying a star.

Today, an ornate shrine, a Gold box, containing the bones of the Magi holds a place of honor in the Cologne Cathedral. Legend has it that St. Helena found them in Constantinople, and brought them home. (Maybe that’s why Germans feel so strongly about these Epiphany celebrations?) While the box isn’t very big, it is quite amazing to see.

Do you also celebrate Three Kings Day?

What are the local traditions?

If you wanna know more about what’s special about Three Kings, you can read the other article here.

 

 

 

800,000 Crystal Clouds In Swarovski Kristallwelten

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Crystal Clouds in Swarovski Kristallwelten by Andy Cao & Xavier Perrot 

Happy New Year to you my friends! Thank you and warm welcome to the Blog for my new followers.It’s great to see you all in this brand new year!

I am so sorry for a long absence and updating this Blog. All through out Christmas, my daughter has been sick and I was busy both studying in my Deutsch class and with the 2-weeks break, despite the silence and hustle of the Christmas season here in Germany, we manage to get through with everything!

We spent New Year’s Day visiting the world-famous headquarters of Swarovski Kristallwelten in Wattens, near Innsbruck, Austria. The weather was grey, gloomy and constant snow showers dampen our mood but we can’t afford to go up in the mountains due to bad weather so we decided to wander off to the hilly village of Wattens, a half-an hour drive from Innsbruck. It’s  New Year’s Day, so it was busy as usual,the arrival hall of the Crystal world is packed with many tourists from different places. The entrance ticket costs 19 Euros per person which gives a full admission through the museum. As for me and my family, we’re so glad to see this place because it really exceeds our expectation.  I was totally impressed of how magnificent the crystal world until I saw it with my own eyes. All my life, I have known Swarovski only  as the  crystal and fashion icon and its beautiful  jewelry line, nothing less. But seeing this place, I was really grateful to have this chance. More than the crystal jewelries I have seen in the store, I had no idea how beautiful the world can be with crystals and artistic craftmanship.

It’s winter time, the place is covered in snow.The  company is situated in the foot of the snow-capped Alps mountains .On the day of our visit, I noticed that the company  is undergoing a tremendous expansion, with its modern Arrival’s hall facing the face of Swarovski, the Giant” ,lying in the verdant hills of Wattens, the foliage-covered giant who spews a waterfall from his mouth and guards over a dozen fantastical crystal chambers beneath a hill. It is designed by artist André Heller, who guards its entrance into the shimmering wonderland.

All of these are owned by Swarovski— the 16 Sparkling Chambers of Wonders, the spacious 7.5 hectares  garden surrounding the Giant, the Play Tower and play area,the Labyrinth, Arts in the Garden, but the most impressive thing that caught my eyes is their “Crystal Clouds and the Mirror Pond “. 

With the gorgeous white snow-capped mountains on its background, the Swarovski headquarters evolved into a stunning place for everyone to enjoy. Now people of all ages can visit this place and not only see gems, and crystal jewelry but also left in awe of the wonders inside this place. After we enjoyed a delicious lunch in “Daniel’s Kristallwelten” restaurant, my eyes caught the display of greyish net-like stuff suspended in poles in the spacious garden and wondered what are those. So after we ate, we went out and explore this wonderful work of art.

Talking about Crystal technology of course, the new crowning piece of the beautiful garden is the Crystal Cloud, created by Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot. Formally trained as landscape architects, Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot embrace serendipity, trusting intuition as their guide. They juxtapose the landscape medium with unexpected materials: recycled glass, mother-of-pearl, crystals, fishing line, etc. These materials come to life in outdoor settings, releasing or refracting light, elevating the inherent imperfections as beauty marks.

This monumental installation drifts above the black Mirror Pool, inviting visitors to pause for moment and be inspired.  I, too, have gazed long enough to admire the concept behind this and wished that I have seen this in the night-time where the lights make it like a magical world or while its shimmering against the sun.

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Give the Mundane its beautiful due.

With a surface of around 1,400 square meters, this mystical masterpiece is the largest work of its kind in the world. The Crystal Cloud consists of around 800,000 hand-mounted Swarovski crystals.  Imagine that! The forest of columns holding up the crystal-laden, cloud-like wire structure is proof of this. Visitors can walk along a ramp that drops down into the middle of the pool, allowing them to experience the interplay of light and colours from the height of the water’s surface.

I found a beautiful video of how the Crystal clouds shimmer against a bright sunny day.

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800,000 hand mounted Swarovski Crystals in the Crystal Clouds in Swarovski Kristalwelten in Wattens, Austria
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A Beautiful work of Art in Swarovski Crystal World, Innsbruck, Austria

A descending path draws visitors to the Mirror Pool where the crystals’ light is captured like stars shimmering in the nocturnal sky – even in broad daylight. The innumerable fireflies create magic light; as if in an enchanted fairy tale garden, they flit and dance through the air and accompany the visitors across the footbridge.

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” Making Diamonds affordable for anyone”

The 1,400-square-metre Crystal Cloud is the centre-piece of the 7.5-hectare park, which opened in Wattens on 30 April. The cloud and pool are located in a shallow depression surrounded by graded banks and birch trees. Contoured mounds separate the park from the surrounding area.

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Crystal Clouds in the Swarovski Crystal Worlds

On December 3rd, 2015, CAO PERROT won the Best of Year 2015 Award in the installation category for the Crystal Cloud at Swarovski Crystal Worlds, Wattens (Austria). The award has been presented by the US Interior Design Magazine for the past 10 years. This year’s winner was decided by almost 60,000 voters from the architecture and design industry.

Do you own a diamond?

Not everyone can afford  real diamonds, but  Daniel Swarovski’s vision was to make “a diamond for everyone” by making crystals affordable, and it definitely become a dream come true for myself.

Fake diamonds or not, Swarovski crystals have proven that whether or not you could actually afford anything studded with actual Swarovski crystals, the Crystal Worlds is an incredible sight for anyone with a love of fantasy and this is how we spent the first day of this brand New Year!

How did you spent yours?

 

 

Thank you for reading my friends, Stay tuned for more posts about my Innsbruck holiday, and spending New Year’s Eve and enjoying winter pleasures in the Schlick 2000 Ski area  even if you have a motion sickness riding the cable cars!

Tschüss!

The sweet thing called Chocolate Santa Claus

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Chocolate Santa Claus in Germany

There’s no stopping time, five more days to go and its finally Christmas!!!

Aside from turning into a festive paradise because of the glittering and uniquely German Christmas markets, the appearance of the lovable Chocolate Santa Claus all over  Germany is something that makes  Christmas season here so so special. For me, this is absolutely new so I find it really fascinating. The first time I saw chocolate Santa Claus was last year and I think I have eaten chocolates here in Germany more than I have eaten in my entire life!

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Nikolaustag in Germany is December 6.

In fact, as early as October, most shops  are loaded already with this sweet confectionery figure to anticipate the Sankt Nikolaus ( or Nikolaustag ) almost the same festive celebration in the Netherlands for the Sinterklaas. Add the exciting Advenskalendar which also comes with sweet threats along with it, this time of the year in Germany is all about the good kind of sweets!Ask any kid here and they all know Nikolaustag and the joy that comes with it.  Every kid’s boots or shoe needed to be stuffed with this little  sweet man dressed up in red robe among with other threats such as fruits and toys on Dec.6. Yes, Chocolate Santa Claus is simply a Chocolate, but in alluring figure of Santa Claus.One of the top-selling chocolate brands here in Germany like Lindt, shared their intricate process of how they are making this seasonal chocolate figure and how it stands out from the rest. I was surprised to find out that in Germany alone, they sell approx.  26 million pieces! Globally, they produce about 37 million Chocolate Santas annually. This includes the 10-ounce mini Santa Claus and a one-pound showpiece . Amazing, right!?

To make things extra special this year, I saw that one local shop here named Penny, even sells a limited edition of  gay chocolate men, in tribute to LGBT ( Lesbian, Gay,Bisexual and Transgender) solidarity movement. Indeed, there’s a sweet chocolate for every gender!

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Chocolate Santa Claus and Nikolaustag

Christmas without  snow here in Germany is possible but  Christmas without Santa Claus, is simply unimaginable.It’s a global thing! Turning the symbol of Santa Claus into a sweet piece of lovable figure then its a brilliant idea that becomes a unique tradition.

If you asked me, I love chocolates. All the time. How about you?

From my childhood favorites Toblerone and M&M’s, I think chocolates are also a great gift for any given occasion. I love receiving chocolates, its such a warm token to give to someone special.In Philippines,we never had this type of chocolate in a form of Santa Claus so for me, this is something new. As a child, it is a delight  for me to eat an imported chocolate, especially the ones Swiss- made or from the States. The bonbons from Holland are also very good.The quality and taste is really something because of the Kakao content. My grandfather used to grind Kakao, and make it into Kakao balls with coconut and it’s simply delicious.We had real kakao hot drinks not the ones came from a bottle from supermarket. Nowadays, chocolate is not limited to Valentines Day.Everyday, you can buy it from stores whenever you want. It is loved by everyone, regardless of age. Here in Germany, I noticed that Germans love chocolates and are obviously chocoholics. If you see the amount of chocolates  sold in shops, then you know exactly what I mean.

I found this interesting graph showing the World standing of countries when it comes to Chocolate consumption.This really give me an idea about chocolate madness.

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Yes, in Germany, Beer is considered as a Lebensmittel  (or a staple food like Bread ) and not an alcoholic drink because of the Beer Purity Law. But I was surprised to know that Germany is  also a nation of chocoholics with annual consumption per capita amounting to 17.4 lbs. To quote an article from The Economist that said Germans spend nine billion Euros every year on chocolate, about the same amount that the Supporting Syria Conference in London in early February tried to raise for humanitarian support.

Come to think of it,  Germans roughly spends 31 cents per day or about 2.16 Euros per week or 9 Euros a month on chocolates. But of course, this is something petty compared to the consumption of beer.

The chocolate consumption in Germany is high compared to other nations. With twelve kilograms of chocolate in any form (bars, candy, drinking chocolate etc.), Germany has the highest per-capita consumption in Europe, closely followed by the Switzerland with eleven kilograms. When I broke down the 9-billion figure, however, it really did not amount to that much. Divided by 80 million people, and averaging the price of a 100-gram chocolate bar at 1 euro, that is 112 bars per year. About two bars per week – frankly, most people I know in Germany easily eat that amount, I, myself included.My neighbor always showered my daughter with Kinder eggs and other sweet goodies.Though they love chocolates, the number of Obese person here is less compared to the ones I saw back then in Kuwait.

The chocolate tradition in Germany is very rich. From Santa Claus figures to the amusing Rabbit or Osterhase during Easter says it all.The late 1800s was the golden age of Chocolate production and consumption throughout Europe. Many cities and towns had competing chocolate shops with wonderful window displays filled with intricate, molded solid chocolate figures to entice hungry passersby. By this time, they had perfected the art of molding chocolate by using metal molds. When I am visiting different towns here, I found out that there is always a chocolate confectionery shop that stands in the middle of the main square or in the heart of the town.

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The sweet thing called Chocolate Santa Claus

Germans have the right and work hard to earn the prestige of making good quality choclates. The Anton Reiche Company began manufacturing the chocolate molds in Dresden, Germany during the 1870’s. They even designed and produced very large “show case” molds upwards of 3 feet tall for chocolate shop windows. Unfortunately, metal chocolate mold production in Europe all but ceased during WWII and was eventually replaced by plastic molds which became the material of choice by the 1960s. The “Chocolate Santa” was inspired by this tradition and it is really a perfect calorie-free gift for someone with a sweet tooth.

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Chocolate Santa Claus

If you receive a Chocolate Santa Claus, I am sure it will make your day bright. The same thing goes with giving it away to someone dear to you.

 

 

Do you love chocolate Santa Claus? Have you ever tried it?

What are the unique Christmas threats you love?

Thank you for stopping by and enjoying this post.If you have some thoughts, please feel free to share it in the comments.Cheers for the coming holidays!

 

Tschüss!

Celebrating Christmas, the German way!

Ever wonder what makes Christmas or Weihnachten in Germany different from the rest of the world? Every country has its own traditions, but have you ever wondered how Germans celebrate Christmas?

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Life in Germany : Skating in ice while waiting for Advent and Christmas !

There’s no stopping time now, few more weeks and November is over and here comes the end of 2017. And yes, Christmas is really just around the corner. Snow came early to Germany and winter-feel is definitely in the air. As the fire in the sky continue to pull the days closer to the merriest time of the year, also the darkest time, Christmas  or Weihnachten is heavily anticipated not only here in Germany, but also in the rest of the world. If you are planning to have a white Christmas or visiting Germany in the summer, you can now have the chance to learn about the unique and surprising  German Christmas traditions in the Deutsches Weihnachtsmuseum located in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a well-preserved medieval town, also here in Bavaria.

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Local sightings in Christkindlmarkt : Beautiful hand crafted Christmas figurines

It’s almost a decade now that I don’t celebrate Christmas in my home country, the Philippines. Time really flies,and it feels even surreal. I totally missed the way we do it as a family, just like in the old times. It’s quite the norm from where I grew up that once the calendar months ends in-ber, say from September, it signals the start of Christmas frenzy!We start to hear Christmas songs played in the radio, the shops are flooded already with Christmas decorations, and yes, office Christmas parties are planned. The raffles, the never- ending exchange gifts, and yes—the most awaited Christmas bonus! I will never forget the evening mass and “Noche Buena“, the Kris Kringle madness, the jaw-dropping Christmas foods, and the crazy traffic during Christmas shopping! Everything is just so festive!

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Only in Germany : Angel or what??? This is the Christkind , the star of German Christmas markets

For the past years, I have seen so many differences in the way that other culture celebrate the most colorful time of the year, and for Catholics, it’s probably the most festive. When I was still living in Kuwait, although it’s a Muslim country, the spirit of Christmas can still be felt, unfortunately only in the confines of private accommodation and flat. At work, we were also granted with a holiday from work during Christmas Day. I even attended the midnight mass once. I noticed that more and more shopping malls have their Christmas decor and it is being talked about. The large number of expats in the Middle East is the reason, why  even miles away from home, you can still celebrate Christmas with friends and families. I had my first German Christmas last year here in Bavaria , with full anticipation (since I am very curious). I found many interesting German Christmas traditions that is worthy to document here in my Blog as part of my Expat life.

If you want to know how Germans celebrate Christmas the German way, then you might find this post helpful. So keep on reading and stay with me.

Here I wanna share with you  the surprising German traditions for Christmas that I personally love!

Christmas in Germany is beautiful, unique, homey and very warm!  

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Adventzeit : Light it up…!

The Advent Wreath or Der Adventskranz

The moment I saw these wreaths and candles, I know that Christmas is near. Back in my home country, I see these decorated wreaths as purely decorational, of course, minus the lighted candles.They are used to adorn the doors, and add to the already overwhelming Christmas decorations together with all the garlands in the walls, stairs etc. Not so here in Germany, because  Advent  time is important for Germans.

The German Christmas season officially starts at the first Sunday of Advent, roughly 3rd of December. The Advent wreath (or Adventskranz) is adorned with four candles, one of which is lit on each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas. The first Advent wreath, which appeared in the mid-19th century, had 4 larger candles and 19 smaller ones. Each day, one additional candle was lit to help the children count the days until Christmas. Today only the four larger candles remain. Many Germans love to decorate their Adventskranz up to their own taste but there are also so many different designs of ready-made ones sold in almost every shop.

Adventskalendar —the sweet way of Christmas countdown.

During Advent season, you will never miss the sight of tons of Adventskalendar , (literally a Calendar with small boxes) almost overwhelming  in many designs, colors, and yes, all with yummy goodness chocolates or sweet goodies. This is one of the obvious signs that Christmas is coming. This is a delight for children and the child at heart. In the Adventskalendar, there are 24 “windows” that reveal a picture, poem or even part of a story – often the story of the Nativity – each day through December right up to Christmas Eve when the secret behind the largest window is revealed. Seeing Germans do  panic-buying of Adventskalendars especially when they are on Sale is a typical sight as early as 2nd week of November! This is totally German thing!

Weichnachtsplätzchen or German Christmas Cookies 

You know it’s the Advent season here in Germany when your nose is filled with heavenly delicious German Christmas cookies. Germans are very into home- made baking. They really appreciate if  you made the plätzchen  yourself and not  store-brought. They are great bakers of cookies and other treats.There are lots of baked treats that will surely keep your mouth-watering. My favorites are vanillekipferl (vanilla crescent cookies) Lebkuchen, Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars), Linzer cookies and Spekulaas as well.Germans love to use lots of almonds, hazelnuts, butter flavored marzipan and cinnamon in baking. Believe me, German cookies  are too beautiful and heavily decorated to eat!

Weihnachtsmann Schokolade or Chocolate Santa Claus

Its only here in Germany that Chocolate Santa Claus  ( or Weihnachtsmann) floods the shelf of all supermarkets here in Germany. Prior to Christmas, St. Nikolaus is celebrated on the 5th of December and so most Germans get this yummy figures in many sizes. If you have a child, I am sure you will get this one as well.

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Christmas in Germany

Christmas Tree or  Der Tannenbaum

With over 400 years in history, the Tannenbaum or the Christmas Tree is the real thing in Germany! The German Tannenbaum is usually put up and decorated on Christmas Eve, though some families opt to put up their tree during the Advent season. Please don’t tell anyone, but we already put up our Christmas Tree! Maybe my neighbors are shaking their heads when they see our lighted tree from our windows! I also see my neighbors starts to decorate their windows and garden with white lights. Who doesn’t? For us, Weihnachtsfreude  (Christmas Joy) comes early! In Philippines, this is also the norm.

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German Christmas markets

I grew up in adoration of Christmas Tree. Traditionally, I think it’s not complete when we don’t have a tree. Recently, on my research of German inventions, I found out that Christmas trees or Tannenbaum, actually originates here in Germany. I saw the biggest tree that I have ever seen in my  life, to top it all— a  REAL Evergreen Conifer , decorated with glass baubles, covered in real snow. Although there are lots of varieties for the plastic ones, most Germans still opt to put up the traditional real tree. During Christmas season, almost all town put up a giant tree in the city center adjacent to the place of Christmas market.Decorated with beautiful, handmade balls, and usually adorned with white lights.Compared to the Philippines, here I noticed that they only use white lights instead of colorful, blinking Christmas lights. And NO— they don’t decorate their whole house with lights!It’s also fascinating to know that it was German immigrants who brought the Christmas tree to America.

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Christmas Baubles, authentic German Christmas ornaments

In Germany, Christmas balls are not just an ordinary tree ornament. Where most of the  modern Christmas ornaments and plastic balls  nowadays are made in China, USA or Mexico, the origin of these “baubles” or Glaskugeln came from Germany. The old town of Lauscha in German Thuringia is said to be the place of the handmade, glass-blown Christmas bauble.

Below is the photo of  the family Weschenfelder work on Christmas balls in their combined living room and work space in the small village of Lauscha.

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Image Source   
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These are some of the pretty Baubles I saw in the Christmas market

Christmas Markets  or Christkindlmarkt

In Germany, despite the freezing temperatures, almost all towns are converted into one colorful, festive, unique Christmas wonderland during few weeks before Christmas day. Our local Christkindlmarkt  is open since November 23 up to Dec. 23.  Every place has its own attraction and each one has their own special features that draws attraction to everyone. If you want to have a glimpse of what is Christmas market all about, check this and it will bring you to a winter wonderland!

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O Tannenbaum!

Today there are over 2,500 Christmas markets across Germany. One of my dream came true when I experience Christkindlmarkt last year. Famous ones  are in Nuremberg, Munich and Rothenburg. Most markets are open also on Sundays and draws lots of visitors from neighboring places.This is the best time to see Germany in its most colorful and unique display of celebrating Christmas with the highlights of the Christkindl —the German equivalent for the world-renowned Santa Claus and depicted as an angelic figure with blond hair & wings. It’s really not time of the year without a Christkindlmarkt here in Germany.

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Heart-shaped Lebkuchen or German Gingerbread  cookies.

St. Nikolaus and the Christkind

Santa Claus originated as a Catholic figure. The Christkind was created by Protestants. Christkind transformed from a suggestion of Baby Jesus into a blonde, female angel. In Nürnberg, each year a teenage girl is chosen to represent the Christkind in the weeks leading up to Christmas. She is known as the Nürnberger Christkind and, much like with Santa, children take pictures with her and tell her what gifts they would like for Christmas. The highlight of each Christmas markets is the German’s famous mulled wine or “Glühwein” or hot spiced wine, the Krippenweg, the beautiful craft stalls, and lots of traditional German Christmas food. There are so many attractions for kids like carousel, trains, carousel and the ice skating rink. One thing worth mentioning is the efficiency of  Germans in their way of setting up the whole place into a big arena  winter wonderland within weeks or so.

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Only in Germany : Forget Santa, meet the Christkindl and Saint Nicholas

 Sankt Nikolaustag ( Dec. 5 or 6)

I grew up believing the magical tale of  Santa Claus as someone who is a bearded old man, with a big belly, dressed in red outfit riding the sleigh with sacks of gifts. All the way from the North pole giving gifts to children. But in Philippines, we don’t have snow neither reindeer or chimneys, so this makes me cringe now.  For many children, sitting in the lap of Santa Claus while being photographed is one of the most unforgettable time during Christmas. They either scream in anguish or shriek in delight! Here in Germany, there is no such thing as Santa Claus, only the Weichnachtsmann who is a favorite among children during St. Nicholas Day! My daughter will be celebrating her 2nd St. Nicholas in their Kindergarten this year.

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My daughter’s first Nikolaustag ( St. Nicholas )

In Germany,  December 5th is a very special night. Many children put their cleaned boots and shoes outside the front door on the night of 5 December. They believe that St. Nicholas fills the boot with nuts, oranges, gifts and sweets overnight. Sometimes the Nikolaus also visits the children at the Kindergarden or in the school and asks them if they have been good.My daughter already hung her sock in their Kita for the upcoming St. Nicholas. In Holland, as similar to this celebration, Sinterklaas is also a big celebration before Christmas.

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Frohe Weichnachten!

Christmas Eve – Heiliger Abend (also Heiligabend)

December 24 is still a regular working day here in Germany. But around 2:00 pm, often even earlier, businesses, and most shops are close in preparation for the holiday celebration, a large part of which occurs on Christmas Eve in Germany. The traditional evening meal includes carp and potato salad, but nowadays it varies from what each family loves to prepare. Families sing Christmas carols together and may read the story of Christ’s birth aloud.This is the counterpart of our traditional “Noche Buena” without the roasted pig, Christmas ham and Queso de Bola ( Cheese ball)! Compared to the Philippines and other countries, I don’t see  Christmas Carollers here either that goes from house to house, at least not in our neighborhood.Probably because its hard to sing and be out at night when its freezing cold at night.

Family members exchange gifts and children are typically the focal point of the gift exchange. Here in Germany,  opening gifts on Heiliger Abend is the normal way, compared to other countries who opens the gifts on the morning of December 25th.

I grew up attending Midnight Christmas mass or Simbang Gabi. We usually attend evening mass on a 9-day series of mass up to the” Misa de Gallo “or ( Christmas eve mass) . Here in Bavaria, I only went to the mass on Christmas Day, German families – whether Protestant or Catholic and even those who are not regular church-goers – often attend mass or a church service. While the mass traditionally takes place at midnight, in recent times the services have moved into the earlier evening hours. It is terribly cold around midnight or in early morning so the schedule of the mass usually happens around 9 in the morning. The mass is in German and it was a great experience for a first timer like me who listens to Christmas songs in German.

Second day of Christmas ( or St. Stephen Day)

Here in Germany, you have an excuse to sleep in after the big party from Christmas. Yes, Germans and other countries in Europe including the Netherlands have 2 days of Christmas, both are legal and widely celebrated holidays! This is a mellow day, a quiet day to recover from the hustle of  everything. Depending on the weather, people are still very active, running, jogging and doing sports during the 2nd day of Christmas. For typical Germans, they spend the second day of Christmas with their families, visiting Grandparents, enjoying seasonal threats and of course–ruhe or enjoying some peace & contemplation.

Also, do you know what else Germans do after Christmas?

Christmas won’t be complete without shopping!

They go shopping to grab the year-end clearance sales and buy everything on a decent price! Yes, Germans are practical, and spend their money wisely! Last year, we got our 7- foot Christmas Tree on sale for half of its original price!And we will be on the lookout once again for great things to buy this year!

How about you, do you also have unique Christmas traditions?

How do you prepare for Christmas for your family?

 

Sending you some warm cheers for the coming holidays!

 

Tschüss!

 

 

A Dawn’s Transformation

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The story of the transformation of dawn

“You are always one decision away from a totally different life..”

 

Though I am fully embracing my “Life in Seasons”, everyday, I still struggle about German weather. It changes every now and then and I find it really challenging especially when I am caught up with so many things to do and so little time. I still need to master the way how locals  go on with their day with their mantra :

” There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing “.

As I go on with my day,  I found  wisdom from watching the transformation of the dawn prior to sunrise.Here’s the thing, I am not a fan of the cold. Frost finally arrived in Germany, in some parts it’s already snowing. Although I am not excited about the coming winter, I still embrace it as part of the change, but there is nothing more fascinating than to watch the dawn transforms into a colorful palette of colors in the sky. At least for me, it works.This one I truly love watching and if I have the chance, I go for it! I think watching the sky turns into a myriad of colors and hues can never be a boring sight .

This, amongst other things is special. It’s like an art story that only Artists can tell.

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Today’s Awakening hour

Everyday, as I drop my daughter to her Kindergarten, I passed by to this nearby sports field. It’s a huge field where children play football, rain or shine, showers and fog. Oh yes, if you live in Germany, the sight of people doing sports like running, Nordic walking and especially playing football is normal, no matter what the weather is. On Sundays, where it is considered as “Ruhetag”( or Quiet day) , most teens are playing sports. The place where I live is also near to another sports complex , so this is nothing new to me. I always hear the noise when people are playing so eventually, I knew exactly what is happening when there’s a tournament or a game.

The past weeks have been cloudy and wet, most of the time with constant pouring rains but the last days, we are rewarded with beautiful weather.But as it is the German weather, this things doesn’t last for long. It is fleeting. The transformation is so short, that in span of minutes, the sky is changed into something magical, into a boring, grey, clouded sight.

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Nature’s transformation

Before rushing to my German class, I managed to stop and snap some photos of the sky just to document this fleeting moment. Call me crazy but when I see these things, I can’t help but to admire nature, even in its simplest forms. I recalled that last year, I have witnessed a radical fire-burning Autumn skies, but this year, I noticed that they are less.

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A golden sunrise in Germany

I found my inspiration while watching this dawn’s transformation for about two minutes. As I hopped into my bike and go on with my day, I realized that within this fleeting inch of the fraction of my time, I saw a transformation that can never be recalled. While everybody is in chaotic morning rush mood—- going to work, rushing to school and dropping their children to Kindergarten and running errands,I found minutes to calm me down.

It’s automatic, piloted by nature, something so raw, simple, and yet precious. In modern times where beauty can be tampered with technology, this is called unfiltered beauty.

Have you seen something like this lately?

How do you manage to start your day while in chaotic morning rush?

This post is inspired by this week’s Photo Challenge |Transformation