The Art of Handwritten Mails

When was the last time you’ve received a handwritten mail or a card? or a postcard with a distinct handwriting of the one who send it to you? Doesn’t it feels great, your eyes are wide with wonder as you gaze to an envelop addressed with your own name on it, a mix of wonder and surprise…

You deserved to feel special once in a while
We all could use a little bit of Snail Mails

Few days before Christmas I received a surprise mail (snail mail) from a dear friend from Finland.One of my favorite Blogger, thesnowmeltssomewhere sent me a little surprise which turned out to have a “big love” inside it, she shared her traditional Finnish “Little Christmas” with us. I was feeling ecstatic and grateful that I felt special. It feels good to be thought of, especially from a person who lives across the miles. We haven’t met personally but we shared thousands of messages about life, babies, worries, and laughs! Last year, my other good friend ,Ann, from Grubbs n’Critters sent me handwritten mail together with a box of different spices, which up to now lies in my kitchen and is a daily addition to my cooking!It’s hard not to remember her whenever I cook something with cardamon or fennels! We seemed to be modern-day-Penpals or Penfriends, minus the videocalling.

Handmade and self-crafted cards for all occasions!

Personally, I am a huge fan of snail mail and I totally love it! In High School, i remembered that our class have this Penfriends around the World and we’ve got the chance to have a Penfriend from different countries. It was totally snail mail long time ago. I think I received a mail once a month. I had Penpal from Germany and Finland. Through time I lost in touch because I moved to different places but then the whole experience lingered.

Last year I have also shared about my project to make Handmade Christmas cards to be sent to friends and families during the holidays. This year, I think I’ve sent 40+ cars to 3 different continents and approximately 10 different countries! I worked on this project normally 3 weeks before Christmas. I dedicate 2 weekends to paint and to craft the cards and personally sealed them and post. That is how far I’ve remembered the process. I painted them one by one, and write on each of them personally. I write to each one of them personal message and it really boost my creativity. A simple card becomes so meaningful, so treasured. here’s a snap of the cards and letters we received by post this Christmas. Totally a whole lotta love!

Love in an envelop: Schneckenpost or snail mail

I think that when we write things personally by hand, and not by typing, we retain the original information better. It boost our self-worth and creativity. I even got a new calligraphy pen to enhance my handwriting skills! Just like holding a brush (Pinsel) while painting, you give something from yourself out of what you’ve written.Nowadays that we often used our fingers to tip and swipe on our smartphones, writing manually becomes a whole new experience! I am always impressed with a person who has a unique handwriting. It’s a distinguished character and totally unforgettable.

It’s a whole lotta LOVE!

I am sharing this post to tell you about my personal experience about snail mails. Schneckenpost as we called it here in Germany or snail mail (Post) has totally become vintage compared to the high technology gadgets that we are having now especially with smartphones, iPads and computers. The young people today maybe are totally oblivious of using it or people only knew Post because of Online shopping.I read an interesting article about this and if you have time to kill, you can read it Here.

I have no problem having all these instant technology that we have.In fact, this new millenium of E-commerce and its benefits are one of the technological advances we all enjoy. I value its benefits since I live so far away from my family in Philippines and I’ve lived almost a decade as a “foreigner”in other lands. Emails, money transfers, voice mail recordings, chats via Whatsapp, Kakao and Viber are such a convenient way to get in touch! But there’s something totally different from snail mail. It’s more on the sentiments and personal feelings. From the time that you write your letter, lick the envelop , put stamps and go to Post Office to send it—it’s both a tedious but an exciting journey! The thrill of opening your mailbox and finding a square envelop with stamps and you search where it came from is like opening a present. A journey of wonder.It’s more fun!

From the Little One with Love

When we write to someone, I must say that it increases our levels of happiness and feelings of gratitude. When we think about a person, we search in our memory , the link that bonds us and the gratefulness that we want to rekindle, or to give with this process. Just imagine the same feeling you have the very first time you’ve ever received a “Love letter”from your sweetheart or a letter from your partner that is far away from you, or a surprise letter from someone you’ve never seen for a long time. Snailmail letters bridges the distance!The connection and meaning is far deeper than any mbps from Internet! Handwritten letters and cards spreads love and definitely makes you smile.If you want to let someone know you care—send them a handwritten card, letter or even a simple note.

Give it a thought, don’t you think that simple gestures—done randomly–adds more excitement to a dull moments? Last month, as I was rushing to go to work I found out that our basement storage had a pipe leak and I hurried up to inform my husband to call and inform the “Hausverwaltung/meister” who will fix the leak. By the time I got home, I found a handwritten note from my next door neighbor writing and informing me that he also had seen the leak and called the Hausmeister. His simple gesture really showed that He cares. Aside from the random gifts for the little one which he left on our door, I find his gesture a very valuable one.

It’s the care that comes out from our actions that signals love.

One day we received a handwritten letter from my 4-year old daughter! Yes, she already sent us a letter with a stamp! In the Kindergarten, they make small trips and one of it is to visit the Postal Office. The children are asked to draw and write something to their parents and sent the letter by post. I kept this letter up to this day. When my daughter was born in Kuwait, where we don’t have any relatives, we were totally on our own. My parents-in-law collected handwritten cards from relatives in Holland and sent all the letters to us in Kuwait ( not to mention all their loving gifts for the baby). I was totally speechless.My mother-in-law makes very beautiful handcrafted cards for all occasions, stenciled and crafted by hand. I think that’s beyond hobby—it is a way to show her love. I think she is successful in her craft because she transmit this through her cards!

Crafting for Mother’s Day

We all feel the rush and we have all the excuse to say we are busy. Our schedules are packed, full and noted. Just like when we rushed to checked all our emails everyday and check Facebook, Instagram and chats. We spend time, we decide on how to spend it actually, the way we want it. We all have our errands to do and time flies when we are on the go. I know it’s not that easy to sit and gather our thoughts to write something, compose a letter or to even create something for a special person. I have this stress to create a letter in German ( a challenge in fact!). I try to find the right words.But come to think of it—isn’t it awesome to discover how someone thought of every single detail, just to make someone feel good.The more frequent you do it, the less you think it’s hard, it only takes a little effort.

So how am I doing it?

If it’s not your hobby or you think that “I don’t have the talent to do it!” then you don’t need to panic. Snail mail writing should not come as a stress. For me, I avoid buying the overpriced ready made cards that are really overpriced. I look for craft materials, nude and classic papers, stamps, unique decorating materials that I usually find it art shops, or in flea markets. I even used traditional materials as recycled papers, dried leaves, pins and clippers etc to add more personal touch. I love motif papers or paperDeco that can easily folded into your base for a card. I invested in a good calligraphy pen of different shades and some trendy stickers.Getting started is not as hard as you think!

I have a challenge for you:

Do you want to start and participate in a “Gratitude project”?

Think of someone you want to give a surprise. Someone that you love, or someone that you really thought of. You can start to gather their mailing addresses and create your handmade, handwritten letters, cards or just a simple thank you note and send it. It doesn’t even need a special occasion to send a letter to someone you missed, loved or to a new friend . You will see by your own eyes the result and impact of your action.A snail mail is slow, ( maybe if it crosses continents!) or slower than a click and swoosh from electronic mails, but you must know that it is more memorable than other things.

Once you’ve done this, tell me how does it made you feel.

We are on the countdown to Silvester, few more hours and we approach New Year’s Eve. It’s time to reflect on doing something radical or out from ordinary in 2019. Happy New Year everyone!

Until then, Tschüss!

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One of a kind: Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt

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Falling in love with the Glühwein tradition in German Christmas Markets

One of my wishes came true this year and that is to visit the world-famous Nürnberg Christkindlesmarkt, or probably the best Christmas market in the world, as far as Christmas markets are concerned. It’s one of the oldest, grandest and also the biggest ! Yes, I am saying it’s of world-class— and simply one of a kind, unforgettable and extraordinary Christmas market-fair-trade-fest rolled into one!

I cannot use too many more adjective for it but it is really worth a visit.From an Asian like me, I love everything about Christmas Markets! As an Expat, its one of the culture that I have fully integrated and loved. Despite the cold weather, everyone should try to experience this if they have a chance. I say this because I am totally thrilled and pleased with the experience of seeing everything that I’ve read in internet in full life and colors. Just like Oktoberfest—another magnet here in Bavaria, Nuremberg set a world record of number of visitors during Adventzeit. The crowd is simply overwhelming!

It’s a shame not to write about it since it’s really on my Bucket List–something that I never expected to be. I can’t get enough of the nostalgia from the Bitter-Sweet  Marriage Carousel so we end up exploring the Christmas Market and we were really blown away!

 

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Once in a lifetime experience in Germany’s Christmas Market

Maybe its a mistake when we decided to visit Nuremberg on the second week of Advent because it was packed, crowded, beautiful,charming and definitely exhausting! The crowd was something that I never expected to be. Despite of the grey , cold, windy, storm-ish winter weather, people, old and young, on different ages flocked to the streets of the central Hauptmarkt  square to witness the grand and only one Nürnberger Christkindlmarkt!

We arrived at around 11:30 am but we were lucky to find a table for lunch only around 2pm! Everything was packed, but the atmosphere is really something different. People are smiling, the vendors in the stalls are courteous and everyone is just in jolly mood.

 

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Not a Winter Wonderland, but still beautiful

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Creating memories in Nuremberg

We visited Nüremberg before  but the atmosphere in Winter is something different. The surrounding is filled with Christmas decors- in fact, what’s make it unique it its very traditional decors made of copper, wood and one-of a kind materials! Bright lights and the colors of Christmas is seen everywhere. Every shop compete with its own unique charming decors. The smell?— Oh your senses will be filled with the aroma of cinnamon, pastries, fruit cakes, Bratwurts, Nuremberg sausages and Glühwein. The taste of Nurnberger Christkindlesmarkt!

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Aniseed, cinnamon, Lebkuchen and more Lebkuchen!

As a child, I can’t recall a Christmas market experience. I remember, we attended the midnight mass during Advent and there are few stalls of vendors selling traditional “Puto bungbong and Bibingka” ( sticky rice cakes) outside the church and nearby is a Carnival where we play and had fun rides. But nothing like the Kinder Weihnachtsmarkt in Nüremberg. For little ones, the rides, the grand carousel and the overwhelming threats for children is so tempting. From chocolate covered fruits to kinder punches and tasty threats that are beautifully displayed in every stall.

The first time I’ve ever tasted Lebkuchen from Nürnberg is when my husband brought some when he had a trip in Germany while we are still living in Kuwait. The taste of Spekulatius, cinnamon and Lebkuchen is unforgettable. I have tasted different Lebkuchen and Ginger breads here in Germany but I must say that I would always come back to Lebkuchen Schmidt.Highly recommended and worthy to bring as a gift to your love ones. Only be wary of the long lines especially during peak seasons! It’s not only their Lebkuchen but their cakes and Pastries are mouth-watering too!

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I’ve visited Nuremberg in Summer and my neck was cramped looking at beautiful old architecture, and the old city has always something to offers. The streets of Nuremberg during Christmas season are endless, chaotic,but really unforgettable. There’s always something to explore, to see and even if your feet already aches from walking, then just take a break and melt into the crowd.

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Christmas decors, balls and other Traditional Christmas ornaments made from different materials.

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Crowds in Nuremberg Christmas market

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Frohe Weihnachten

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Time to rekindle your childhood in the Kinder Weihnachtmarkt.The fairground is beautifully decorated with Nativity stalls, snowmen, sleighs and a winter wonderland for children. It offers lots of food stalls as well as toys stalls so it’s a perfect timing for gift buying too. I went to this Kinder Weihnachtsmarkt when the Christkindlesmarkt is too crowded for my daughter and I am even afraid to get lost!

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Happy writing— Giant pencils as a gift for the Little ones.

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Mistletoe!

Or kiss your Honey while taking a quick stop on this Mistletoe bundle!

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The world is your Oyster when it comes to food while you are in the Market. You find every type of food depends on your taste. The only downside is if you get a place to sit! On our visit we tried dome Balkan food and despite that its quite expensive, we were not disappointed with the taste.

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Tropical dried Fruits ! Yumm…

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Take the Carousel ride rain or shine!

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One happy little visitor!

There are thousands of Christmas Markets all over Germany and you can never have enough or shortage of it. Even our local Ingolstädter Christkindlemarkt can never be ignored but then if you have the chance to visit a Christmas Market, then go to something that worth the travel–and that is the Nürnberger Christkindlmarkt! I’ve just read that it’s almost 400 years old since the earliest writing about it was since 1628!

Nürnberg left me an impression and continue to do so… I wish it does the same to you. Maybe on my next visit, I’ll discover something else. From the mystical Kaiserburg Old Castle up to the overwhelming Tiergarten, I’ll leave you with endless options. My writing is not enough , you should be able to experience it with your own eyes.If there’s a market that I would like to bring my family in Philippines to see–then it is here.

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

What do you think of German Christmas Markets?

Here in Germany we have 2nd day of Christmas so here’s wishing you all Happy 2nd Day of Christmas and a Happy New Year! Until next time.

Tschüss!

 

 

Berlin …as I see it!

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One of the green sites inside the Hackesher Markt in Berlin

After 2 years of living in Germany, I finally have the chance to see Berlin! 

Why it took it so long I also don’t know. Perhaps because, we never had the chance or there are wayyyy to many beautiful cities and places in Germany , including Berlin of course to see and visit. I am living in the Southern part of Germany (Bayern) and Berlin is up in the north. People greets you with “Hello ” or Moin Moin up there, something that is totally not a norm in Bavaria. The Bavarian culture is definitely so much different from Berlin I realized that now. One thing for sure, I couldn’t find a decent Bretzel like our favorite, there’s no one wearing Tracht–Lederhosen and Dirndls and nobody greets you “Servus!

Yes, with so many things to do, life can be busy, so we are taking our time, sometimes unplanned things leads to bigger adventures. This gives me opportunity to look for fascinating Manholes and of course, some of  Berlin secrets!

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The Reichstag in Berlin ( or Deutscher Bundestag)

Coincidentally  that I am doing my Orientierungskurs ( Leben In Deutschland ) , it heightened more my curiosity about Berlin.Everyday we learned about the country’s  political system, history and  everyday living. Imagine my excitement seeing the things from the books I am reading and now with my own eyes. Over the days, I become so engrossed with  World War II history and related events so I busied myself reading a lot and watching German movies. It’s unbelievable for myself that I can now watch German movies with comprehension! I’ve read about horrific stories and I can’t even imagine it happened. I just realized how little I know about Germany. As someone who grew up in Asia, I had zero knowledge about Holocaust and what happened to Berlin during the war, totally out of touch & not having a grip on world History. I think if I didn’t live here then I wouldn’t be able to learn so much about this country like this. Integration in a foreign culture is really the key.

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Holocaust Memorial in Berlin

 

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Little hands, little traveler

 Another thing, it also happened that my cousins from 2 different side of the world arranged to meet with me for the very first time here in Europe and our meeting point is Berlin. My daughter and her second-generation cousin met also for the first time! Both Expat children! There’s no other better place of course to meet up, because they had participated in the Berlin42 Marathon  and that’s what makes it even more exciting. I haven’t seen them for almost 3 decades so imagine our excitement!

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Out and about into Berlin’s colorful streets

So here’s how I find Berlin as a first time visitor!

Berlin is BERLIN !

Berlin is one of the famous city in Europe and beside the capital of Germany, you should visit Berlin because–it is BERLIN. Something about this place stands out from the rest. I also don’t know why. You need to personally experience it!  Maybe because of the vibes, its alive, free-spirited, artistic aura and world-class travel destination it became over the years. I think you can’t be in Berlin without thinking about the past, the Cold Warthe Nazi and Hitler WW II and the Berlin Mauer (or wall). Germany has a fair share of dark past and it plays a great deal of what is Germany now and its people.It’s an appendage of the city’s history. But in fact, Berlin is not a typical, traditional “German” city. When I say, “traditional”, then it must be “Bavaria“! Apart from the utilitarian “Box- type” buildings which influenced by the Communist time and cold-war era, I learned that Berlin is still on continuous repairs. It was severely bombed during WW II so almost all of the city’s relics were restored or rather renovated. During the time of our visit, the other section of the Berliner Dom is still undergoing some repairs .Berlin is still repainting, rebuilding, restoring and its history is just yesterday’s news!

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Colorful art Grafitti in the streets of Berlin

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UNESCO World Heritage Site,Museum Insel in Berlin

Berlin is very International

Well, Berlin absolutely left an impression on me apart from it being a busy metropolis. I love this wonderful, international city! It is a home for all people around the world. For a minute, I was shocked to hear so many people are speaking English, which totally surprised me because in Bavaria, I barely hear people speaking in English. So when I heard it, I was really jolted. “Wow, I feel at home! “. Berlin is so diversified, relax, busy, multi-cultural and naturally very touristy.  Over the weekend, Berlin was flocked with tourists because of the Marathon so it’s really not surprising to see lots of people visiting.

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Inside the Cupola Dome of the Reichstag /Parliament Building in Berlin

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The magnet for visitors : The Reichstag Dome where the Bundestag (Parliament) sits in Berlin

People of different skin flooded the streets. Tourists from all over the world flocked over the Brandenburg Tor  and the Reichstag Building. People are super carefree and very welcoming. You can wear whatever you want and dress up to whatever style you like.  While taking the  U-Bahn and S-Bahn, I observed people.People from different walks of life come in and out of the train and chasing every second. People are kind and one time in a busy S-Bahn,  someone even gave us a seat.

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The Berliner Dom (Cathedral)

Berlin is Green

Berlin is often called Green metropolis. I can imagine that in summer, parks and green spaces are full of people relaxing under the sun. Another thing is that it’s  bicycle-friendly . I was surprise to see rental bikes all around but I don’t really know how does it works. Although Berlin has an excellent public transportation,tourist can explore the city by renting a bike as well. Berlin has another  unique Green feature as well–it’s Green Ampelmännchen, or the  pedestrian crossing traffic lights. In 1924, the first traffic lights in Berlin were ceremonially put into service on Potsdamer Platz.It was a surreal experience to saw the old traffic lights that still operates up until now.

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Fascinated with the Ampelmännchen in Berlin

Berlin is a home for Artists 

Berlin is very artsy, the graffitti Artwork is unbelievable! Art  is in every  corner and that’s what makes it so unique. With so many beautiful Architecture all around to ponder, you are left with many choices.It’s not the lack of high rise buildings, but the sense of modernity that blends with lots of historical artifacts. From the Berlin’s classic S-Bahn from Friedrichstrasse Station to the modern Aqua Dom in Radisson Blu hotel up to the Fernsehen Tower (TV Tower), Berlin has the mixture of both the past and the present.

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Graffitti Art, the more , the merrier

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Call me please…

A Walk through  History

If you wanna explore Berlin, then you need to do a lot of walking.Berlin is like a big treasure hunt place. If you are in search of something without knowing where it is, then you are into a threat, maybe you’ll stumble upon a great secret! That’s how we did it.Walking through the paths of historical sites, starting from the Brandenburg Tor,and tracing the marks of the traces of the Berlin wall, up to the Postdamer Platz and the Holocaust Memorial, you feel some kind of significance. You will be grateful about the life you are having considering the tragic stories behind these memorials. After a quite morning at the Museum Insel where we saw the Berliner Dom, Alte Museum and Pergamon, we walked straight to the Bebelplatz, and wondering why people are flocking there. It took time for me to realized what they are staring down to the ground–a squared-looking glass directly showing the   empty bookcases. Bebelplatz is the place directly in front of Humbolt University, the oldest university in Berlin and which has had famous professors, including  Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, and the Brothers Grimm. The same place where the Nazi burned the writings and all the books of the Jews about Jewish faith occurred in 1933.It was not a grand memorial, it was in fact a void.If you don’t see it closely and reflect, then you are just wasting your time. It was considered a voided memorial because the books burned that night in 1933 can’t be replaced, but the void for them can be, hence the empty rows of bookshelves.

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Bebelplatz Book Burning Memorial in Berlin

Hidden secrets of Berlin
Walking can lead you to details of History

You feel invincible knowing that great men and women have walked there, also people lost their lives on these memorable places, just like the story of the Kindertransport. I have learned much about German history just by walking through the city. Walking through a new city can be life changing as well.

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A Nostalgic shop in Heckesher Markt

Berlin is cheap…or rather affordable.

For budget travelers like me, I find Berlin affordable.In Berlin, you can do many stuff without spending much money. With almost all of the key landmarks which are situated close to each other, from Museums to clubs, to tourist spots and tours, you can easily find whatever suits your tastes. I find it easy to navigate on its busy streets.We had a nice hotel along Tiergarten with a very good buffet breakfast for only 8 Euros  and we can’t complain anymore! Because it’s very international, food is  no problem. I find it actually hard to choose what to eat because there are so many choices to choose from. From well-known fast foods,to dominating Turkish döners, Lebanese Koftas, Indian currys, Thai, Korean, Arabic dishes and of course, the native German delicacies served in Biergartens and restaurants, you can never get hungry in Berlin, never! Almost every corner has a Currywürst mit Pommes as well. If you want to spend some quiet time, then head to the line of restaurants on the banks of the Spree river and watch the boats passed by! The only thing that will bother you is the sound of street musicians trying to amuse you. One thing through, beer is cheaper than water in Berlin !

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Art mania or what?

Berlin has a place in  world history and always a special place in Germany.There are places being known because of its natural beauty or something that originates from it, or it’s just cheap to visit. For me, Berlin is a place to remember, either you visited it for leisure, business, or visiting a family or just plain navigation.

It has something that can never be bought from the souvenir shops–it’s enigma and it is really priceless!

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Watching shadow cast in Berlin

I could write so much more about this experience but I guess its all up to you to make your own experience and story about Berlin.This is a small part of how I saw Berlin.We are already looking forward for our next visit in Spring and see the city turns into pink paradise from the cherry blossoms! I am sure I will have another versions of how I see this city!

How about you, have you ever been to Berlin? How was your experience?

 

 

 

 

The Beauty of Manholes

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Manhole cover in Amsterdam,Netherlands

The title says it all, this post is all about my fascination of Manholes or drainage covers.

Well, since I came to live here in Germany I got hooked into looking down , staring for a couple of minutes and just marveling at these drains.I find it  interesting to look down and taking photos ( if I have the chance to do so…) of unique water drain designs and the way every city has its own pride, normally it shows the city’s  name and the official seal.

But the big question is why?

In my home country and way back in Kuwait, it is quite different.Manholes are usually plain, dull or somewhat far from sight of the pedestrian or I’m just oblivious then. From the time I remember, I heard about accidents involving people falling off crazy in these filthy holes.With traffic crazy streets in Kuwait, no one stays longer in the streets or you’ll be ran-over ! Ok, maybe I sound a bit dramatic but the thing is, the culture says it all. For me, in Philippines, manholes never appeals to me because I grew up never having the “liking”into it or it sounds dangerous  and traumatic experience especially during rainy season and heavy flooding. People falling into a manhole may sound funny but actually it is NOT. It’s a serious accident.

I guess it shows how different each country value the water drainage system and its covers here in Europe especially in big cities. In a very touristic areas here in Germany, most inner cities observed car-free , therefore encouraging more people to walk, rather than drive into the city. So it means, we have more means to explore by foot at our own pace.

I must say that here in Germany, I have seen quite few interesting manholes. I haven’t had the chance to photograph them all , or I forget about it but this post will be updated from time to time once new updates are available. For starters, here are some of the fascinating manholes I’ve discovered.

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Manhole in Münich , Germany

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Welcome the Dutch  Royalty, Manhole from the Netherlands

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Manhole image from  Nürnberg, Germany

Sometimes it’s easy to spot them on but sometimes it’s also hard , especially when we are walking in a hurry or traveling by car.I know it’s not  everyone’s fancy , but one thing I noticed, in social media, I see so many photos of feet selfies, or shoe selfies . They all show a sort of individuality and personal choices.For photography, It’s all about our choice of subject and we have all the right to take photos of anything we want as long as it is rightful and doesn’t harm others. But here in Germany, public photography has some limitations as well.

So, why manholes?

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Looking down on a manhole in Berlin, capital city of Germany

First I got this habit of looking down where I walked into the streets when I ventured into exploring all the Stolpersteine or stumbling blocks or stones— those artistic stones for the victims of Holocaust and murdered Jews. I am living in Germany and I have learned these things in my class and everyday, as I explore the historical places, It is impossible not to be aware of the dark past of German history including the stumbling stones. It made a great impact on me to stop for a minute and think ..“Oh, there’s a victim of Holocaust who lived here…” I think its a very decent way of paying respect to their story and being grateful that war is finally over and hoping “Never again...”

So, back to my old habit, whenever I walk around into a new place, I took particular notice of where I’m stepping into. There’s so many landmarks, engravings, plaques of memorials, grave stones, or some sort of legendary marks which is imprinted into the ground for the sake of  history  and remembrance . One thing for sure,  you can learn so much from it.

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Caught a glimpse of the Manhole in Regensburg, Germany

Just like standing over a precious stone or a border mark, it has a profound effect, like “I’m walking over where a great war happened ,where heroes dies and fought for somethingor “I’m standing where the  wall of Berlin before stands “. So just like taking a minute to appreciate manholes, I also took time to admire an important city’s  landmark. I realized that what they do underground is as much as important as what they do over it. The street’s quality are also differ from place to place and the way they build it. Normally, these manholes are built with high-end steel, painted or engraved, or just personalised to city’s parameters.

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Walking through the cobble stone pavement in our little town of Ingolstadt in Bavaria, Germany here shows the official seal .

There’s also something nice about looking at manholes through each season. Here in our old town, summer time is the time where road maintenance is being done and road works are really important especially the “Fußgängerzone” or walking path. Manholes or drain covers withstand the never-ending change of weather and seasons.

I therefore conclude that It takes a good government to pay attention of where the normal people drive, cycle, walk, and run into. So it goes with drain covers. 

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Looking down on a Manhole in Ingolstadt during first layer of snow last year’s Winter

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While exploring the oldest city in Germany, Trier

Do you also have a habit of looking down while walking?

How does the manholes in your area looks like?

Want to participate in a global project?

If you ever seen an interesting Manhole in your area, please feel free to send me a photo of it or a link so I can include it here in my list. My goal is to collect as many as possible depending where my feet leads me to.

Send me some photos in my Email : justbluedutch@gmail.com.

I hope you find my story interesting and something to ponder about. Over here, Autumn season has begun here in Bavaria and I am excited to wander off in the streets and continue exploring!

Wishing you all a happy weekend…Tschüss!

Donau Radweg Cycling Tour

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Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bicycle…~JFK

Yup it’s officially Autumn here in Germany but let me ask you, what’s the most unforgettable experience you did last summer?

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The unexpected resurgence of the bicycle

This is a late post but last summer, we did our first Donau Radweg Cycling adventure as a family! It was pretty special, because for me, that was the farthest I’ve cycled non-stop in my life! And yes, we cycled with my daughter along and she behaved so well. I haven’t written much about what have I done for the past months mainly because lack of time and I am sorry for lack of posts and updates.This Blog is still alive and I wanna say a quick Thank you for all of you who paid a visit in my page and left some sweet comments.I’ll do my best to respond shortly soon!

So anyway, last summer felt so different from last year here in Bavaria. First, the temperature was warmer than I expected and as I have seen, so many fields and plants were ‘affected’ by the heat, even our garden was not spared. It’s kind of scorching and for quite sometime uncomfortable, reminding me of 40 degree-ish we had in Kuwait.This leaves us with only few options to enjoy leisure times outside. Best option we’ve had is anything with water. Swimming here and over there, and yes, even the pool in the garden had been a constant companion for my daughter.But aside from water activities, last summer was unforgettable because we’ve made it through our first Donau Radweg tour!

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Our destination : Donau radweg tour 

So how about doing a long-distance cycling? Oh yes, to start, approximately 23 kilometers, with a normal bicycle, with a 4-year old child in an Anhänger tagged along with us!

As I’ve written before, the moment I’ve moved to Germany, I think I have cycled more than I have ever cycled in my entire life! I ride my bike in every season, even when its winter and minus temps. I have heard about the classic Donau Radweg but I am always b intimidated of doing it, first, because I thought that it could be exhilarating plus I don’t know how would my daughter deal with it. Second, am I fit enough to do it? or would I cycle back home after 10 kilometers back home?

What if I had a tire burst?

But then long distance cycling for me is something different, it’s an adventure. I wanted to do something that is new and also fun. There’s something about reaching a goal. I guess I managed to integrate in the cycling culture here. When you live in Germany, you’ll be amazed to see that cycling is a very normal lifestyle. Everyone here I think owns a bicycle and cycle at least every day. It’s healthy, easy, practical and the best of all, environment-friendly. Add to the fact that Germany , or at least here in Bavaria, they have a superb cycling paths. I have read one time in the newspaper that in our city alone, its kind of look like Amsterdam now because of  the number of bicycles that they are planning to build more bike stands.

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I think one of the most important thing in my life is when I learn how to ride a bicycle…

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Backside facade of the castle Grünau

Another thing, cycling tours in midsummer is no joke, but since we finished our first Biotope Cycling Tour last year, with almost 30 kms within 2 hours, I knew it can be done.  I was  inspired when one morning, my teacher came to our class and shared that she had cycled from Neuburg to Ingolstadt, a sweet 23 kms within an hour to go to work and back!Okay she had an E-Bike, but still, I had great respect for the adventure part. It’s what I wanted to. Cycling through the Danube is a dream come true for me.

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A beautiful fountain in front of the Rathaus (City hall) of Neuburg an der Donau

Before the Radweg tour

We planned to start early morning and prepare our way to Neuburg an der Donau. Neuburg is famous as the “Renaissance City”along the banks of the Danube.When I saw photos of this city, I knew I wanted to see it by my own eyes. So my goal is why can’t I combine a small city tour and a cycling Tour?

We searched about our cycling path and we were confident  doing one of the old-time favorite tour along the Donau river, the Ingolstadt to Neuburg, with 23 kilometers over Weichering road. The only thing that is not sure is the weather. We checked the  weather numerous times, it’s a little bit cloudy, but enjoyable enough to cycle. We brought along the  daughter but this time she sits in an Änhanger, German’s version of the Bakfiets! It goes easy for her because she can read, eat, or sleep while we cycle. We packed very  light, with only few snacks and water  in our side packets. My Dutch husband cycled with an additional 40kgs ( total weight of the Änhanger +Natalie).Of course we had an emergency kit with us, and a huge packet of determination and crazy energy!

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The bicycle is a curious vehicle, its passenger is its engine…

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Exploring the Renaissance City of Neuburg

The Radweg tour

We started off cycling very light. The path is almost flat and through green forests. This bike path runs south of the Danube through the Danube floodplains, partly on paved roads with little traffic, partly (in the woods) over well-paved dirt roads, partly asphalted separate bike paths. Lots of nature, riparian forests, avenues, meadows and even resting benches along the way.

 

The first of the three sections leads from Ingolstadt to Weichering. The second section runs on rather long-curved-curvy Weldwegen to the castle Grünau. From there it goes with a paved separate cycle path next to the road without detours directly into the center of Neuburg. I knew we are almost in our destination when we were in front of the old castle of “Grünau”.  Our journey begins at the Baggerweg and runs close to the Danube along the direction of the Baggersee, where the Danube is crossed.I find the path very enjoyable, with plenty of fields and greeneries to watch while cycling. We came across with so many cyclists, everyone is loaded up with adventure packs. Along the way I was smiling to myself because I can’t believe that I’m doing this!

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Inscription on a giant Tree in Grünau Castle

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Grünau Castle 

Reaching our destination

Of course I need to make some stops when I see something worth photographing.After the Caste Grünau I thought we were almost in the city but I was mistaken. I need to cycle for at least 8 kilometers more! My daughter keeps on shouting “why is it so far?”where is the playground? ” But then once we see the beautiful architecture and the Donau river, I was completely excited.It’s even prettier than in the photos I have seen.We parked our bikes just beside the river and off we go to explore the city.

Fascinating finds

What is fascinating about cycling tours is that you can explore a new city by foot and that gives you more windows to explore– especially the hidden gems of the city.Neuburg an der Donau is a historical city which has a lot to offer, both to locals and visitors. The city hall itself is situated above the town proper, on a hilly top so it also requires stamina add challenge of cycling on a cobble stone pavement. The Hofkirche is situated beside the Residenz Schloss ( Residence Castle)  which is quite an impressive architecture.It is quite a norm in this region to be wedded in a Castle, like a fairy tale dream. In Ingolstadt, I often watched a wedding where almost all the entourage are dressed up in a traditional Bayerische Tracht ( traditional clothing) ,with Lederhosen and Dirndls, but the atmosphere of a wedding in a castle is something different.

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Door detail at the Residenz Schloss

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Intricate ceiling detail of the castle

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Sharing adventures together in two wheels !

Enjoying summer holidays with a family doesn’t need to be expensive. I realized that when you’ve never even tried something that intimidates you then you can’t even say if you are capable of doing it or not. I am so grateful that I have the chance to explore Bavaria through a cycling activity like this. Every place we go is really unique and worth telling.You don’t need expensive equipment either. Just make sure your bikes are in great condition and you are physically fit as well. Start slowly and take your time. I always remind myself that it’s not a race and to have lots of fun along the way! If you are looking for things to do next summer then you might try  long-distance cycling as well!

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Little Explorer

 

How about you, did you spent an active Summer?

When was the last time you’ve challenged yourself to do something for the first time?

 

 

 

 

Spring All time Favorites

I’ve tried to gather my all-time favorite photos for Spring. Each photo has a story to tell, a fragment of special, well-spent and gratified moments of solitude and self-nurturing experience captured in photos. For me, Spring is a wonderful season to cherish, a quick one, but also the most treasured of all because it signals rebirth. The first days of Frühling always bring to me much energy, excitement, renewed spirit and yes, new dreams to chase. This week’s theme is so timely, a collection of primed, all time favorites and I was excited to participate.

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Savoring life’s simple pleasures…

Last night it rained, and for me, it’s one of the few times here in Southern Bavaria where the rain really soaked up the grass. It’s followed by lightning and roars of thunders, it definitely sounds like typical Springtime! I love it because it watered all my plants in the garden and  eventually cooling down the house. Nowadays, it gets really toasty during the day and a simple retreat through the woods and green sanctuaries is quite a threat.Can’t believe that May is  already over and today we welcome the warm June breeze.

Few more weeks and its officially Summer here in Germany. Anyway, to start my all time favorites, above is a photo from Baggersee, a nature park with a beautiful lake which is only 15 minutes away by bike from our home. It’s always a great time cycling around in this place and having picnics.  In Winter, we enjoyed walking in the frozen lake  and watching the birds . The wooden bench in the photo against the golden sunshine is my perfect symbolism for a warm welcome invite, a reassurance that for  a short time to sit and appreciate the view, I can forget my worries and let nature communicate.

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Spring blooms in front of the Museum für Konkrete Kunst

On the other side, I love as well how nature can add more colors in a  dull, solitary place. Last month, I visited the Museum für Konkrete Kunst with some classmates. They had an exhibition about “Colors in Motion ” by Carlos Cruz-Diez. I love everything about Art and the color composition with Optical technology.  Colors creates an astounding  effect  same as the simple blooming spring flowers rejuvenate the drag moments from Winter, the Artist also showed the effects of colors in everyday motion.

He quoted “Do not complicate, simplify ..”

Below is one of my favorite photo from the art exhibit.

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Carlos Cruz-Diez ‘s Color in Motion Art Exhibition in Museum für Konkrete Kunst

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Fairy tale city and Cherry Blossoms

Some parts here in my town turns into  a fairy tale like setting during Spring. With the pink cherry blossoms trees surrounding the Neues Schloss  which create a postcard worthy shot. Ingolstadt has a fascinating inner city but surrounding the zentrum are  the old walls that creates a historical path in lush greens for exploration for visitors. Along the river Danube, a beautiful post-card scenery awaits for those who took time to wander around.

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Wild flower fields for your dreams

Cycling around the city is never a bore when I see fields covered with wild flowers like these. Here, there are so many of them. They are unkempt, but so wildly beautiful. I wanted to gather all these flowers and make hundreds of photos of them.Just like Dandelions and Poppy flowers, they are a sight to behold. You won’t see them all-year around, but when you saw them popping out everywhere, you know change is coming.

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My burst of sunshine in the garden!

“Gardening is like an Art, you use plants and flowers like paint, and the soil like your canvas “.

A great part of my Spring time is spent working in our garden.I am trying to squeeze my time to give way to my personal addiction : Plants!  This photo below is our Lavender shrubs blooming with gorgeous locks of purple buds! Whenever I looked at them, I am reminded that a change is essential for growth. These shrubs have withstand the long cold winters but then when the sun finally comes out, they are blooming, announcing their beauty. Their scent, their proud stems alongside with my roses exudes a character of resilience, elegance, and classic beauty. I am only using my iPhone in capturing this photo and yet, it does not need any more filter!

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My Lavender shines against the bright Spring sun

Most of the things I share here in the Blog are my personal passions. From art, traveling, expat life, and of course, nature. I love  gardening and creating an urban jungle inside our house and recreating a cozy garden. Aside from my indoor plants, this year, I planned to create a pot garden in our terrace. I combine different flowering plants to create a personal pallet of colors and life. Spring had given me the chance to nurture and grow plants that give me so much positive energy. I am not a plant expert, but I am a plant lover and I embrace the positivity it brings.

“I truly believe that when you start to learn how to grow things, you let yourself grow as well.”

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Spargelzeit is here once again

Spring time is the time for white Spargel  ( white asparagus) here in Germany. It’s lovely to see how this seasonal vegetable creates a nostalgic moment in restaurants, supermarkets and in the weekend market. Germans love them I see it almost everywhere!

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Hops, the heart of Bavarian beer

The flower Hops is the vital ingredient in beer brewing. Last month we had our Frühlingsfest and once again we recall the 1516 Beer Purity Law which is now almost 500+ years old. In fact, it is the oldest food decree in the world! Spring signals the new growth of Hops and just looking at this photo reminds me that I am living in a place where beer is a food, and not an alcoholic drink! My previous post talks more about this German culture and the ever-unforgettable beer feast!

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The secrets of Water lilies

When I took this photo from our last visit in the Mediziniches Historisches Museum last month, I am quickly transported to my childhood in the Philippines. The sister of my Grandmother had a big garden with a big fish pond where water lilies grow in abundance. I always love to spend time looking at these floating leaves with their gorgeous white and purple flowers. I love the solitary moment I spent in that pond.They remind me of the “Water Lilies paintings and  murals by Monet. To think they are the birth flower for July, seems to me that they are also present in welcoming Spring!

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Biotechnical border crossings

Also one of my favorite photos for Spring is the captured  Baroque building in front of the growing shrubs in the  Deutschen Medizinhistorischen Museum  in front the  Botanical garden. If you are following my Blog, then you must have read why this place is quite special, and definitely historical. I am not a history buff but I love stories behind a story. It’s a chain that I love to follow. It’s one of the setting of the novel of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus” . Surprisingly, she had the young Swiss Victor Frankenstein study at the Bavarian State University in Ingolstadt. Here he discovered the secret of life, and here he finally brought his own “creature” to life. Thus, “Frankenstein” became the most effective symbol of Biotechnical border crossings

I love visiting this place  I found new things for learning . Just recently, I watched the exhibition about “Radiologie im Nationalsozialismus “( Radiology in Nazi era 1933~1945 ) . This year, the Deutschen Medizinhistorische Museum is celebrating the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein with a diverse program.

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Yellow fields forever

Of course, Spring won’t be complete without the yellow fields. Be it rapeseeds or summer  yellow wood forget-me-nots, periwinkle, or milky orchids, a field full of wild yellow spring flowers are a magnet.I  must stop and enjoy the view. Full horizon is painted in yellow and it seems endless like hope. When I see a field like this, I am happy.This is what I love about taking bike rides, it gives me a way to discover and slow down.

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Fresh strawberries on a sunny day!

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love strawberries and when I say strawberries, we like it hand-picked. Here in Germany, strawberry season starts from last week of May and runs up until a month. Last Sunday, we went to the strawberry fields and picked out a bucket of juicy strawberries and eat almost a kilo while picking! Every single piece is so delicious! My daughter went home with a red mouth and stains on her face because she just devoured strawberries non-stop. I love the simple pleasures in life like this, savoring and feeding your taste buds ! Whenever I look at this photo, I am reminded of the smell, the taste and of course, the whole lot of fun we had!

So, these are my Spring  all-time favorites! Spring is not over yet but within a couple of months, it has been all good and I am enjoying every singe minute of this beautiful weather!

What about you, what are your Spring time favorites?

This post was inspired by this week’s Photo Challenge | All-Time Favorites

1516 Beer Purity Law (Bayerisches Reinheitsgebot)

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In Ingolstadt, we always have a reason to celebrate and say “Prost!”

Let me tell you something, I don’t know anything about beer. But since I came to Germany, I got somehow “educated” about German culture and yes, about beer drinking culture.

Here’s how Beer changed my view ;

I live in a town where not only the sleek Audi cars rule the streets, but also a town full of fun-loving Bavarians  who loves to drink beer. It’s a lifestyle here, a culture, a tradition and a LIFE. It’s like everyday, people here have a reason to always celebrate and sit in the Biergartens and of course, its not complete without  a Beer!I have written about this in so many posts here in my Blog and this one is not an exception, after all, this is a expat-lifestyle Blog!

Wilkommen in Bayern, that’s what my neighbors say.I think everyone who moves to Germany can relate to this. In Germany, beer is a F-O-O-D, and not an alcoholic drink. I learned this from my Deutsch teacher. That only means that here in Bayern, beer is considered as important as staple foods such as bread.Speaking of bread, Germans have a wonderful world of bread.It’s also another culture but I’m not going to talk more about breads since this post is intended for beer.

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Hops , And from these came the world famous Bavarian Beer

I have to agree that after almost 2 years of living  here, I am convinced that Bavarian beer is  among the best in the world. It is in fact a “No wonder”.Since 1516, for centuries now, this amber golden liquid has been brewed from nothing other than barley, hops and water of the highest quality.  Duke William IV issued a decree for the Bavarian Purity Law in 1516 at a meeting of the Bavarian Estates in Ingolstadt. The ruling was proclaimed in the spacious courtyard of the Neues Schloss and extended the existing brewing regulations to the whole of Bavaria.

And to think that I don’t know anything about Hops!
For beer brewing, hops are so important because they add spice, durability and, last but not least, lather to the drink. But in hops  is  so much more! This creeper plant  contains a resin with valuable bitter substances and essential oils. They are also used as Arnzei and help with loss of appetite, stomach weakness and restlessness. Hops generally have a calming effect but stimulate the metabolism!

Last month, I attended a private Stadt führung (an organized tour)  and our Tour Guide explained to us that in the early days, people are getting sick from drinking beer. Not only getting highly intoxicated but for longer times of drinking, its quite unhealthy. Up in the north of Germany, there are rumors that they are adding intoxicating herbs in their brew that’s why they came up with Beer Purity Law. So you see, be it consumer protection or not, Germans not only wants to enjoy drinking beer, they also take care of what they drink, making sure it does not damage the health.

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My Little Sunshine enjoying the Beer Fest last April and gamely posing beside the Bier brunnen (Beer Fountain).

In short, here’s the apex of the 1516 Beer Purity Law :

“In particular we decree that from now on, no ingredients other than barley, hops and water are to be used in all beers in all our towns and markets as well as in the country.”

Bier ist unter den Getränken das nützlichste, unter den Arzneien das schmackhafteste und unter den Nahrungsmitteln das angenehmste.” 
{Plutarch}

or in English ;

“Beer is the most useful among the drinks, the tastiest among the medicines and the most pleasant among the foods.”
{Plutarch}

What is so interesting to know that half of the world might not know this but Beer here in Bavaria is actually made from finest ingredients.Water, hops, malt and yeast. These are the ingredients prescribed in the Bayerisches Reinheitsgebot which are predominantly essentials in  brewing beer. The plus points:  these ingredients not only provide a tasty result, but also provide valuable ingredients.

Every year, we have 2 major feasts here. The Frühlingsfest and the Herbsfest. In this time we have the traditional Volksfest where Beer tents are laid for 2 weeks just like the major Oktoberfest in Munich. On a typical day, like on Weekend markets, the market square in the city center is always filled with locals enjoying this tradition.

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Yes, we have Beer Queens as well!

From April 27~29, we had our “Fest zum Reinen Bier” and we watched the reenactment or “Die Ausfuhrung des Reinheitsgebot 1516 “. What is so exciting about this historical event is that the declaration of the law was read  at exactly 15:16 hours, or 3:15 in the afternoon.The festivity started with a colorful parade and lead up to the Beer exhibition tents  near the Hohe Schule and to the Bier brunnen. On the following days, a series of “Walking Act”through the Dollstrasse, Roseneckstrasse  and Kanalstrasse was made.All tables are full of people, visitors, and families enjoying beer .

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Bavarians always parading in style.

This event was filled of many fascinating programs.I find it quite cool because they always have something for children so the parents can enjoy time while kids are playing.There’s also the Probierführung 1516 ( or the Beer Tasting) organized by the top Breweries where participants can learn more of the history of Beer brewing and sample a taste of different types of Beer.

 

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Fest zum Reinen Bier 2018, Ingolstadt, Germany

Classical performances by different bands and talented artists graced the event with their musicals and concerts.

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1516 Bayerisches Reinheitsgebot or Beer Purity Law

The Georgitag, which happens on Monday, April 23 was the actual date of announcing the most important Food Law probably in the whole world here in Ingolstadt.On this day, almost 100 Liters of Beer flows from the fountain for everyone to enjoy! FOR FREE! Two of the major breweries here in Ingolstadt, the Herrnbräu and Nordbräu sponsored this wonderful event.

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More free beer please!

I am not a heavy beer drinker, but what I like about this culture is  the “gemutlich ” or the coziness it brings. It’s always lovely to see people dressed up in Lederhose and Dirndls and having a festive mood no matter what your status in life. Germans still rides their bikes after drinking beer and I find that outstanding!

On the health side, its good to know that drinking beer also has proven to be a means of preventing osteoporosis, it reduces the risk of getting kidney stones and its blood-thinning effect affects strokes. The important thing is an “appropriate and moderate drinking pattern”. Those who consume about 0.5 to 1 liter of beer a day in connection with food achieve, on average, the greatest health-promoting effect.

So what happens when you enjoy the Beer culture? This photo of my daughter says it all.

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Fully Integrated, fully enjoyed!

When you have the chance to visit Germany, you should try it yourself and have a taste of the authentic Bavarian beer, and don’t forget, when you say “Prost!” (Cheers) , you should have an eye contact!

Until next time, Tschüss!

Show off Starlet Forsythia

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A total Show-Off : The Show Off Starlet Forsythia

“A Flower blossoms for its own joy”

After a long break, I am back ! Sorry for the long absence, but there has been so many things going on in my life and it’s always a struggle to find time to update my Blog. Nevertheless, I thought its great to share with you Guys some warm Spring -love , all the way from Bavaria!

I couldn’t agree no more, it’s so true in all sense. I have written in so many ways about my admiration for Tulips, Dandelions, and almost all exotic blooms. Flowers have their own language to For me, the warmest welcome for give unexplainable wonder, a stress reliever. I guess you can only relate with me if you are a plant-lover or you love flowers and yes….when its Spring!Here in Germany, it’s very obvious that Germans love flowers and when its Spring, they all go crazy working in their gardens!No matter how small their balcony , there’s always a way to hang a planter box full of Spring flowers.

Anyway, Every Spring, is a wonderful time to enjoy the bright, shiny, and golden  blooms of Show Off Starlet Forsythia in our garden. The moment I see the early buds sprouting out from its stems, then I know, sunny days are coming.Yellow is such a happy color, don’t you agree? It symbolizes fresh beginnings, optimism, energy and of course, joy.

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Show Off Starlet Forsythia in our garden!

The flowers of Forsythia always exudes a grand sight.Our gloomy garden, out from the winter slumber suddenly brightens up when the yellow flowers blooms.Alongside with the bright Daffodils and Dandelions, it is always a lovely sight to enjoy.

Don’t you feel a surge of energy when you see yellow?

In our neighborhood, Forsythia is very common. Almost all gardens from where I lived have a yellow shrub or tree during the early days of Spring. That’s a sure sign for me that Forsythia is well-loved by Germans, maybe because they are also easy to propagate.

Plant lovers like me who look forward to early spring color  absolutely love this plant. No doubt at all that Show Off Starlet Forsythia makes a great choice for an accent plant in mixed borders or foundation plantings.

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Early spring brings a bright gold profusion of 4- petalled blooms from tip to stem. Butterflies absolutely love them. On the other hand, their beauty is short-lived, the blooms only lasts for at least 2 weeks just like the Cherry Blossoms.

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Show Off Starlet Forsythia

Show Off Starlet Forsythia has a nice and tidy compact, upright habit. It matures to 2′-3′ with a spread of 3′-4′.  It has dark green lance shaped leaves that turn bronze in Autumn.

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Show Off Starlet Forsythia is air pollution tolerant, along with being deer resistant. It prefers a good, loose soil and is very adaptable. I think they are very easy to care for. Prune after flowering if needed, or if you want to boost its growth.If you wish to maintain a smaller plant, remove a few of the oldest stems at ground level.  It may be trimmed back to the ground if desired.We had pruned ours last weekend to maintain it from being so bushy. Its stems can grow so long and can be leggy as well.

What about you, do you have any Spring flower favorite?

What is the color of Spring in your side of the world?

Sending you warm greetings from Bavaria and enjoy the wonderful colors of Spring!

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

 

 

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!