Kindergeld : My 3- year old’s basic income in Germany

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A Third Culture Kid enjoying the cold Autumn walks

It has been revealed by Internations, and there’s no denying that Germany is probably one of the best place on earth to raise a family. I am a first- time parent and raising my child in a culture totally different from where I grew up with, has been the focal point of our expat move. Of course I know that all parents ,in general, desires the best for their child, and this is the reason why I wanted to share my personal experience why despite of the crazy weather and difficulty to learn the language, I think Germany is a better place to raise a kid and be a child!

 

You might be surprised, having a child is Germany seems more of a blessing, an enjoyable reason to defray the nonchalant first-world country problems that weighs every family on a daily basis. With its excellent health benefits and support to parents, both financially & socially, raising a child here can be rewarding!

Raising an Expat child, which has windows to multiculturalism or rather, raising a  Third Culture-Kid child in Germany is a privilege . Aside from the extensive leisure activities, safe environment, a more play-based educational system in the early years, every child has their own allowance up until they reached the age of 18.

My three-year old daughter has a monthly income of 192 Euros that goes to our German  bank account paid by the German government. So simple as it sounds and yet so generous. When we came to live here in Germany and heard about this, we are extremely happy. Happy in a way that as parents, we all know that every single Euro matters when you are raising a child. Kindergeld is a great help to our family budget.It is granted as a tax refund, primarily to meet the constitutional rule that income is untaxable up to a child’s subsistence level.I am not talking about the amount itself, but as an expatriate parent like me, this amount is really something tangible, with this I can feel that the government “cares” about my child, and to every single child living here.

I am sure that I’m not the only one who is grateful for this. Although it seems to me that this country is an advocate of  “Ordnung“( or order) and everything seems to be ruled by rules, I see that hard work really pays off. All taxpaying expatriate residents of Germany are, like Germans, entitled to Kindergeld if they have children. Also called as” Child Benefit“,  the German government give all families, expats included, to help defray some of the cost of raising children. It can run from €190 to €221 per child per month, and is usually made by a fund transfer into a German bank account. We all know that raising a child is expensive. From diapers to milk, Kindergarten expenses and other essentials, plus the never-ending cycle of buying toys!

Just about any taxpayer living in Germany with children can get the Kindergeld, whether employed, self-employed or independent. You get it as a rule that until the children turn 18, though it can continue until they are 25 if they are still in school or meet other requirements for an extension.

This amount also varies depending on where region in Germany you are living.

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Kindergeld amount 2017 (standard amount):

Child benefit for the first child: 192 Euros per month
Child benefit for the second child: 192 Euros per month
Child benefit for the third child: 198 Euros per month
Child benefit from the fourth child: 223 Euros per month
The child benefit amount will be increased by 2 euros per child compared to the end of 2016 for 2017.

If you are a parent and planning to move to Germany or living here and about to have a baby, then this is good news for you! If you’re interested to know more about this, you can check it Here.  I will share to you the steps we took for us to avail of this benefit. It was easy, smooth and practical in all sense. The child benefit application must be submitted in writing and signed. Note that all the forms will be in German . Applications may also be submitted by an authorized representative, who must submit a written power of attorney (for example by members of the tax-consulting professions). An oral application, for example by telephone, is not possible

Official details in English are given Here.

Here’s how to apply :

  1. Anmeldung ( Application) – Open to all family members. This is to prove that the family is living in Germany.
  2. Birth Certificate : translations of them if they are not in English / German. If child is born in Germany, a birth certificate is issued separately to apply for Kindergeld, which should be attached in original. We translated my daughter’s Arabic birth certificate into Dutch & German languages because her nationality is Dutch. We also brought along  the originals with the attestations showing it was legalized both from the German embassy in Kuwait and the Netherlands embassy there.
  3. Your passport
  4. Forms to fill up are listed Here.
    • Haushaltbescheinigung (KG3a) – A proof with your address (This has to be certified as per procedure below)
    • Tax identification Number ( both parents & child)
    • German Bank account ( where the transfer will be made)

Procedure:

  1. Fill in following Forms:
  2. Take the Haushaltbescheinigung, and your passport to your local KVR/Rathaus (The place where did you registration/anmeldung)
    • Officer will verify the form and  pay the applicable fee. You will be issued stamped Haushaltbescheinigung.
  3. Put in the envelope:
    • Stamped Haushaltbescheinigung 
    • Antrag auf Kindergeld (filled in)
    • Birth certificate
    • Residence permit copy (Aufenhaltstitel)
  4. Post it to the office of Familienkasse belonging to the city you live in !

That’s it. You will now get your Kindergeld in 3-4 weeks. Keep the letters from Finanzamt safely for future references.

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Can’t make up her mind: Aspiring to become a Doctor today, tomorrow a Gardener, and next week will be a Veterinarian!

More than the benefit itself, I am really grateful that my child is growing up in a place where the family oriented lifestyle is very high.When I am writing this post, I am not actually surprised that Germany is considered a great place to raise a child and live abroad. Generally speaking, Germany is an economically strong nation, it’s a hard-working nation, and it’s a nation where the people feel a strong pride in their country. Right from the beginning, from childhood, they feel important !

Back in my home country, we don’t have such things as  child benefit. You as a parent is responsible to allot savings for your child. I grew up in a culture where there is an endless pressure on “getting rich” to be able to afford everything, seeing money as an achievement or a social standing. As a child, I don’t have such as this “benefit“. I have other siblings who, along with me, strive for all our needs to be met along with all other basic necessities.I saw both the joys and misery of raising multiple kids and I realize the effect of poverty and the support from government, or the lack of it. Families with more children  struggles to meet both ends.I think that beyond the cost, it is also the reason of advocating Family planning.

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My Third Culture Kid

Kindergeld is a form of love. There’s so much love for children here in Germany that I cannot sum up in this post. I will try to write more in my next post about this. Anyhow, top it all, let us not forget that having a child, and children are special gift. With toddler tantrums and all their screaming, Yes, they all deserved to be raised in the best way that we can give to them.

 

Have you ever had a “child allowance”when you were a child?

How did it make you feel?

 

 

 

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Peek |Sneak preview of the “What Ifs?”

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We all love to have a sneak peek of all the What-Ifs” of life… It’s normal, ingrained in our human nature.

I , myself have a habit of having a sneak peek of almost everything, especially when I have the chance to do it. But, I am not so fond of taking a look through the lenses of the viewing binoculars to admire a view from a top. I don’t know why.

For me, I prefer to gaze through the vast expanse and look at a view from my own vantage point.I like this way of having perspective of things in front of me.

It’s common to see these coin-operated binoculars in any observatory deck. Even on top of Zugspitze, from the top of Alps, you can have a stunning view through these binoculars. Most of the towers I have visited in Kuwait have this same  amenities where aside from enjoying the view from above, visitors are given a chance to look further, for an intent close up of any sight they wanted to explore, for sight seeing purposes.

I had the chance to visit the Liberation Tower in Kuwait. It was one of the striking tower where you can see a great skyline of Kuwait in between skycrapers. The tour was privately arranged, and in Arabic, but I don’t really mind. I’ve always wanted to visit this tower so I grabbed the chance when the tour was offered by Aware Center.  At 372 m, the Liberation Tower is the world’s 38th tallest free-standing structure, by pinnacle height. It is standing proud & big symbolizing Kuwait’s liberation from Iraqi invasion. When we reached the 150th floor, within span of seconds, these views from the photos below  greeted me. I can’t really recall how fast it took for us to be on the top observation deck, all I know is that it was fast. Although the weather was fine, it was not a clear view because of the glass windows. Unfortunately, they are dirty, smudgy, and dusty, which is actually common in Kuwait because of frequent dust storms.

But then, it was a great experience to see the skyline of Kuwait from a view on top, almost desert. The buildings, the urban panoramic setting, with all of its beige tone dwellings. I can almost see the rummage  with all the trash piled up. The busy city center, in between the skyscrapers, and the crowded Souks (market place), and yes, the traffic jam. It’s surreal to see that this country is so small and yet managed to rise up, developed its own identity when it comes to architecture and modernization.

While I was still living in this place, I’ve always been a stranger on a daily basis, always roaming around, exploring like locals, and discovering the many facets of this city. I wanted to have a sneak preview of  everyday life in Kuwait, naturally. This particular view from the Liberation tower is no exception.

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Sometimes its good to look through the binoculars, to see things at a large range. But then, which is really a better view? After quite some time, your views will change eventually. Real experiences unfolds each facade of the postcard beauty you see .

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Sightseeing from above the tower is like a sneak peek of  “what is life in Kuwait?” It gives you a swift scan of all the what ifs of living in this place, dust, heat and all.

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In the end, it takes one to experience a certain culture in order to really know one.

Have you ever tried visiting a new place, and taking a look into the Observation binoculars and thought “what is it to live in this place? ”

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

The beauty of Autumn in Germany

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Autumn in Bavaria, Germany

I owe this post to the raw, pure and simple beauty of Autumn, the season of layers and golden glow. The season where I  created my Art gallery series “The rhythm of Crimson“and the “Hues of Malachite“. As much as I love nature, I think its just proper to document these moments and share with you some snapshots around my neighborhood . It’s been in my drafts folder for a week now and it really deserves to be published.Today, I finally squeezed some time to sit behind my laptop and search through my photo archives to complete this post.  I know its been a while since I write about my Wandertags , but yes, I  must confess that time is super precious, and life really happens when you are in constant motion. No day-off,in lay man terms!

But when we are silent, it doesn’t mean that our lives are boring, it’s just means that adventures are happening.

I’m sure many expats like me can relate to this.Though I grew up in a tropical climate and live almost a decade in a dry, hot climate, I began to appreciate the beauty of the changing seasons here in Europe. Someone even told me that it must be  heaven or paradise living in Germany. I humbly retorted — there is no such thing as paradise. Your happiness doesn’t depend on places, let alone tangible things. Though I love summer and I get cold easily, I am such an Autumn person. Give me a quiet, serene place with a simple view of gorgeous colorful trees and leaves on a bright, chilly autumn day, with warm socks, big sweaters, and a pocket of time to paint, then I will be in all my glory. My soul would be happy.

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A typical sight in Germany— a Farrad ( bike) amongst the fallen leaves.

As me and my family entered into new routines and big changes, we are colliding with changes in nature as well. October is the time comes to dressed up in layers once again.Everyday, my feet stepped into a myriad of colors, the streets are covered in yellow-brown mosaic of leaves, it is really beautiful! As I go out in my day, in a rush but kissing and chasing the fog relentlessly. I am fully embracing my life in layers. With the beginning of late sunrises, and dark nights, I find comfort knowing that my life continues to eveolve.I won’t lie, it is a struggle to wake up 5:30 in the morning every single day. It is still dark when we go out, with crisp air, cloudy, wet and very foggy. It’s like the sun is  also too sluggish to put on a show. I am most ecstatic when the sun starts to shine, because I know, it gets better  during the day when its sunny.

Anyway, here I wanna share with you my side of the world , these photos reflect the life we have as an Expat family here in Bavaria, the south of Germany.This is what my everyday life looks like. As much as we love the European summers, I love the serene, quiet evenings, chilly mornings, and a soulful meditation that the Autumn weather brings.

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Autumn (or der Herbst) means walking back to nature. Taking walks plays an important role in German lifestyle. Here, I’ve seen the other side of walking. Back then in Kuwait, I see walking as a penitence. With the dry and heat, walking is never enjoyable.Whilst here, it’s a physical activity, exercising your self-wellness . During Fall, walking is even more special on  a carpet of  crisp fallen leaves. Nothing beats the “Psithurism“or the sound of the rustling of leaves,  the graceful descending movement of  leaves falling to the ground, obedient to the course of gravity. The sound it makes is raw, making each step exciting. The different shades of leaves creates a unique mosaic, which only nature can do. I have tried to replicate the textures when I made some “Painting with Leaves”.  I find the sight of the fallen leaves on the ground a pleasant reminder that even though everything is dying and falling  during Fall, life can still be beautiful.

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Chasing the fog

“All the trees are losing their leaves, and not one of them is worried “

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Foggy mornings, maybe a future painting inspiration.

Do you like foggy, hazy mornings?

Have you ever tried chasing a Fog? Another thing that makes Autumn in Germany special are the chilly, foggy mornings which starts from late September and can last up until November. The fog here stays up until 11 am!Have you ever tried cycling in the fog? Or just take a walk through the foggy forest on an early Saturday morning?

When I see fog, I feel like I am into a quest. I remember last year when I was so engulfed with these foggy mornings and crystallized spider webs, making me spent most my weekend mornings chasing the fog. There’s something about it that is so eerie, so mystical, and mysterious . The cast that it makes on the trees and surroundings is a sight that is imprinted in my mind. I love photographing these moments. In this photo,the Donau river almost disappeared, it’s unseen because of the thick fog, but you know it’s there.

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Of course if I talked about Fall in Germany, Oktoberfest and every city’s Volksfest will surely cross your mind. All these festival are almost legendary. Just right before the chill creeps into our window sill, we enjoyed once again the warmth inside the beer tents, with a Breze (Pretzel) in the hand and danced through the groove of  traditional volk music. Our Herbstfest ( Fall Beer Festival) is one of my favorite festivities,the carnival, and the total coziness of celebration is really one of -a-kind, especially in our region, the beer capital of the world—Bavaria!

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Foggy, hazy mornings

What I like about taking time to observe nature during the morning rush is that you can capture it in its raw form. When I passed by to this street everyday, it is full of students, in a hurry, everyone is chasing the time. These trees itself are witness of time,  enduring the cold, and obediently abiding to the call of nature to shed all its leaves in order to give way to another growth. Through all these process, she cast no worries.

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The golden shadow cast of Autumn

Since the time that my daughter started in the Kindergarten, Fall brought us a new meaning as well. It signals growth and moving forward. The time for Big Little steps to be made, and taking the leap on second chances. I, too, had been moving forward in my life. It was not an easy, or comfortable one, but then this is where I find meaning of my daily purpose.

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Big Little Steps of a Third Culture Kid
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Purple bloom against the fallen leaves

Just like this flower in between the fallen leaves, it still stands out and  bloom. Autumn is her season to shine. A purple one against the browns. Sometimes, life’s challenges comes like a contrast and its the way we respond that resonates with our surroundings. Lately, my family is plagued by the challenges that my daughter faced in her “Eingewohnung” in the Kita ( Kindergarten). This is the phase where she faced with so many new things and her skills are challenged, she, herself is being challenged physically, emotionally, and most important —socially. As parents, we feel the stress as well, but then we decided to hold on to each other and stand out.

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The orange , red and yellow leaves in constant transformation gives me glorious sight everyday, invoking positive vibes and encouraging resistance. The cold, long German Winter will come soon, but we are staying still.

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If you might wanna know, there are so many things that comes up only in Autumn, a seasonal thing I must say. Like for example these clouds of mushrooms, they are everywhere, almost invincible! Our streets are also full of chestnuts, acorns, pine cones, and beautiful twigs. We have adorned our home with the pumpkins we’ve got from the fresh market and yes, my plant sanctuary gets even more cozier with the addition of colorful callunas!Germans are crazy about their gardens, and indoor plant sanctuaries are as common as Biergartens!

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You know its Autumn in Germany when almost all house is adorned with these beautiful Calluna Vulgaris plant.
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Clusters of mushroom I saw during Fall
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Autumn in Germany
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Pumpkin patch

German Autumn won’t be complete without the warm orange shades of Pumpkins. The warm colors of Fall —the burnt orange, reddish, plum, and burnt sienna are my favorite shades .A parade of pumpkins or Kurbis is every child’s delight. Pumpkin pie, Lebkucken, Stollen, Apple picking and cozy sweaters are always a hit everywhere. The smell of freshly baked goodies, gorgeous warm glow of candle lights while tucked into warm socks–all these are simple comforts for the soul during Fall.

One thing that I have learned lately  in my life is to be content, with what I am and with what I have. Autumn in the same way is the season where I appreciate the contentment in my own home by paying attention to what I already have. A time when the year is on its last leg and it doesn’t do you good have regrets. Lastly, we don’t have Fall season in the Philippines and so I am grateful that I have this “privilege” to live in this place.

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“The Trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go…”

Have you enjoyed this post? If you live in a place with a season like Fall, what do you appreciate the most during this time? and if you have one photo that describes your life right now, what could it be?

Would it also be fallen leaves?

Feel free to share your thoughts about your favorite moments during the changing seasons.

Thank you for reading my friends! If you have more time to kill and you want to see more of my personal Art Gallery like my current obsession now, the art of Fluid Painting using acrylics,  please add me in Instagram. I share and post there my current artworks and I think its worth the follow.

Tschüss!

 

Pedestrian with a view

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Flower mania Pedestrian traffic!

When there’s the bulbs, there’s traffic.

It’s probably bicycles and Tulips which are obviously  one of the great statistics coming from the Netherlands, not to mention the Great Dutch masters and painters. But when it comes to Flower-mania, the pedestrian crowd in the Keukenhof gardens is something that I really find fascinating.Look, my photos maybe didn’t do justice but these photos says it all.

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Taking it all in because of the killer views above the windmill.

Few weeks ago, as a jump-start for Autumn, thousands of tulips bulbs were once again prepared for planting  in the Keukenhof gardens in Lisse, The Netherlands for the preparation for the Spring  Garden season opening in March 2018. Looking back from our last visit last Spring, these was my pedestrian experience when we are in this place, add the fact that it was also an Easter holiday! Tulips are as common as Biergartens here in Germany. It flocks everywhere, in gardens, balconies, along the road, and even on the wild outskirts.

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A bad weather is not an obstacle to admire the flowers.

But the most extravagant au-naturelle display of the tulips grandeur is along the side of the road, where flower enthusiasts and botanical addicts just like me, likes to wander and linger, for free. I’m telling you, the crowds are huge, the traffic is crazy. More than the crazy crowds I’ve seen during grand sale in Avenues in my life in Kuwait. People are in constant motion. Photographs are endless!

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Pedestrian lane with a view.

Wherever you go in the neighborhood in Lisse in the Netherlands, you are always guaranteed with a view. Tourists and locals, are rewarded with a scenic view of the tulip fields, acres and acres of flower fields, blooming like a rainbow plastered on the ground, which gives endless panoramic vistas even to passers- by or in-transit passengers.

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Pedestrian lane with a view

Pedestrian lanes in the Netherlands has a signature of this. You can’t take your eyes off from the beauty of nature in front of you. Seriously, whether you are driving, cycling or walking, it really doesn’t matter.

It is a journey always guaranteed to be pleasant and any pedestrian is rewarded with a view !

How about you, Do you like crowds?

This post is inspired by this week’s Photo Challenge : Pedestrian

The Blue Flock Art project

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Der Blauschäfer by Rainer Bonk ( Blaue Friedensherde )

I know the nursery rhyme ‘ Baba Black Sheep’ but Blue Sheep ???!!

While I was living in Kuwait, I knew Sheep because of Ramadan and Eid Al- Adha. If you must know, they are prime element of Islamic celebrations.I saw them from the same “Camel farms” I’ve visited and they don’t  normally “graze“in Kuwait city but they are being ushered to the animal market especially during the Muslim festivities of sheep ritual slaughtering.

But here in Germany I’ve seen something different.

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Blaue Schafe!

Why Blue?

Today we’ve seen a flock of ‘Blue Sheep ‘ grazing right in front of our Altes Rathaus ( or City town Hall ). Totally eye-catching and one-of a kind. In the middle of the square, there are approximately 150 pieces of Blue  sheep sculptures, erected as a symbolic art project which promotes mutual tolerance and peace.

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Someone is feeling ecstatic watching and counting all these Blue Sheep.

From the artistic minds of German artists Rainer Bonk and Bertamaria Reetz from the design series ‘Blue Sheep’, the Blue Flock Art Project  was first exhibited to public in Lido, Venice in 2009 as Germany’s contribution to the “OPEN 12” , an international sculpture and art exhibition. Since then, they continue to roam around all over Europe to promote their advocacy for peace , tolerance and equality. They normally “graze“in historical places, landmarks and iconic cities to create an artistic juxtaposition.

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Where Art and Culture meets

I live in Bavaria and our region is celebrating now the world-renowned Oktoberfest and the sight of overwhelming men in Lederhosen and lots of cleavage sight for women in Dirndls in beer tents downing mugs of beer has now been a  typical sight for me. But seeing these blue sheep for a change is really refreshing, especially for kids. You can imagine how delighted my daughter is when she saw the sheep, and she explained how many are they!

Why they are painted Blue?

They  come in bright Ultramarine Blue color, which is the color of the Earth, ocean and the sky. I recognized this color since I have these in my paints. Blue is a primary color, a powerful base of the color spectrum. It symbolizes peace, unity, freedom and space. It embodies all good moral aspects.

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Grazing in Bavaria !

What makes the Blue Sheep special?

Every blue sheep is  painted and crafted in the workshop for mentally disabled people  ( Duisburger Werkstatt für Menschen mit Behinderung GmbH) , SBK Gmbh in Cologne,Germany. If you are interested to get a collector’s item ,you can learn more about this project here.They have a special offer for schools and hotels.

 

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Blaue Schafe ( The Blue Sheep Art Project)

The Blue Flock of Peace Art Project have been to key places around Europe like Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Köln, Bozen, Dresden, Heilbronn,Dessau, Berlin, Hannover and Strasbourg among others.

 

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( Alles sind gleigh Jeder ist wichtig ) Ambassadors of Peace, Tolerance and Equality

I must say that my Wandertag with my daughter today has been a fascinating one. It’s definitely Fall here now in Germany and I am so looking forward to wander and discover nature’s best, its vibrant colors and festivities.

How about you, have you ever seen this type of sculpture?

Are you fond of sheep?

 

Germany’s Flower of the Year 2017 [Poppy]

 

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New painting inspiration : Germany’s Flower of the Year 2017 : Papaver rhoeas or Poppy

Summer is doing its sluggish exit by now. The sight of this beautiful, fragile flower is nowhere to be found in the wild fields here in Bavaria. Once full of wild flowers and Poppy, the fields of Golden yellow Rapeseeds , the Ooh Shiny and glorious Sunflowers  and Gladiolas are slowly fading. As I relive the memory of Summer this year, I discovered by chance that 2017 Germany’s Flower of the Year is none other than the Poppy or commonly known as Papaver rhoeas . It’s no surprise that due to its delicate and vulnerability features, this flower is the symbol of remembrance for dead soldiers from World War I.

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Scharmel Iris – “The poppy opes her scarlet purse of dreams

Poppy seeds are rich in oil, carbohydrates, calcium and protein. Poppy oil is often used as cooking oil, salad dressing oil, or in products such as margarine. Poppy oil can also be added to spices for cakes, or breads. Poppy products are also used in different paints, varnishes, and some cosmetics.Poppies have been used as a symbol of sleep, peace, and death. Sleep because the opium extracted from them is a sedative, and death because of the common blood-red color of the red poppy in particular. In Greek and Roman myths, poppies were used as offerings to the dead.Fascinating facts about this flower, right?

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Germany’s Flower of the Year 2017 : Poppy

Since 1980,  Loki Schimdt of “Blumes des Jahres “(or Flower of the Year) initiated the campaign for Stiftung zum Schutze gefährdeter Pflanzen (“Foundation for the protection of endangered plants”) which became the Stiftung Naturschutz Hamburg und Stiftung zum Schutze gefährdeter Pflanzen (“Foundation Nature Conservancy Hamburg and for the protection of endangered plants”) in 1985. One of the main purposes of this organisation is a public awareness campaign about the ecological value of wildflowers. Every autumn, the Loki Schmidt foundation announces their chosen flower of the year.

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Poppy flowers I spotted while cycling!

I find the sight of wild red poppy flowers in many fields here in Bavaria so beautiful. I felt like I am transported into another world just by gazing to a wild field full of these blooming Poppy. It grows abundantly here in the Bavarian region and when its sunny, we have a very nice scenery . It was actually the first signs that the heat is on and its summer officially here.

Do you love Kenzo Flower inspiration perfumes?

Then you might love that this flower is an iconic symbol of their perfume line. As Kenzo quoted What if the poppy previously planted in the city, could now rise into the air? It would blossom the sky… 

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Wild flowers and Poppy, summer 2017 in Bavaria

The idea of this Flower of the Year campaign, called ‘Blume des Jahres’ in German, is to draw attention to the plight of certain flowers which are slowly becoming endangered in our countryside. I hope it helps with awareness, as it would be tragic to lose more of our beautiful wild flowers.If you’d like to know more of this campaign and want to know the other endangered wild flowers, you can see it Here.

 

What are your favorite summer flowers?

Do you know any flowers that are also endangered ?

 

 

Ooh Shiny: What summer means to me, the Sunflower fields

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What summer really means to me : Sunflower fields!

Ohhhh Sunflowers! 

William Blake – 
“Ah Sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun,
Seeking after that sweet golden clime,
Where the traveller’s journey is done.
Where the youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire,
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!

I have never seen sunflowers in my life for I think more than 8 years and seeing them once again brings back summer memories. Back then in my home country,  I saw them quite often but not in Kuwait. Yes, I saw some bulbs in flower shops, but not really the same wild sunflower fields that I knew.

The last few weeks here in Bavaria have been pretty toasty weather. Great time to stay outdoors, more water fun, and when its sunny, the sight of summer flowers can be refreshing. Fields of  blooming sunflower is what summer means to me here in Germany! These golden-yellow shiny beauties are my favorite summer flowers and here in the southern part where we are rewarded with more sunshine, they grew beautifully wild in many fields. I’m telling you, it’s such a beautiful sight. They are a complete distraction when we cycle along the countryside. I don’t know with you but the sight of them makes me happy, makes me somehow excited. Something about them  gives sunshine to my soul.

Standing in front of them, while you can hear the  sounds of nature, crisp winds,  buzzing of the bees, swaying of the golden glow of strong, fresh sunflowers against the blue sky is to die for. I love the peace and serenity it brings. So simple, so raw, a pure nature’s delight. They are the brightest replica image of the sun. They simply brings warmth!

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Sunflower fields in Bavaria on a bright sunny day

For me summer is no summer without the bright, shiny , golden sunflower fields! Remember how I shared with you how I bursts out in excitement when I saw the tulip fields in Keukenhof, and gazing at those gazillions of multi-colored tulips?

Or my delight when we visited the Rapeseeds? almost as golden-yellow of goodness as the hundreds of sunflowers looking up through the sun. I actually cycled for many times going through the same fields, I can’t get enough  of them. I need to indulge in them before Fall comes and turn these fields into grey, empty and dullness of hibernating earth.

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Summer goodness

I guess this summer we explored so many fields, not only of summer blooms, but also of many different crops. Just beside every sunflower fields we drowned into the acres of sweet corns too. I noticed by now the certain crops that grow in each season. This sunflower fields is the same Rape seed fields that we’ve been ogling for months last Springtime!

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My sunshine

You can see that my daughter was quite enamored of the big yellow sunflower. But hey, she is just as crazy as the wasps who flutters around it! She’s bent on chasing them! Brought her in many sunflower fields many times and she knows how to bring the sunshine home.

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Cycling with my most favorite travel Buddy along the Sunflower fields

A bike ride with this Little One makes it even more special and I can’t complain for anything. Visiting sunflower fields on hot,summer months gives us that holiday feeling for an ordinary day .Here in Bavaria, we have plentiful of these and you can pick them up by yourself and self-pay. The flower fields also have so many different kinds of lilies, and other summer flowers.

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Wandering in the sunflower fields

Sunflowers become one of my painting inspiration. Their image is left in my mind so I decided to paint and make some cards out of it, of course, I didn’t forget to get some bulbs to brighten up our living room.Wild sunflowers are often photographed with their tall stalks and bright petals stretched towards the sun. This interesting behavior, known as phototropism, inspired a motif that has appeared in many ancient works.

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Flower art therapy

Though they are a crop planted with a purpose, their bright colours spread an instant happiness and positive energies. They look pretty, they give us healthy seeds to eat and oil for our cars.  Sunflowers are the ultimate sign of summer and I love their simplicity and versatility.

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Some of the cards I’ve made  inspired by sunflower

Do you also have a sunflower story? I think for a flower that reflects so many of the sun’s positive characteristics, it isn’t surprising that people enjoy basking in the sunflower’s warming glow so much, just like I do.

How about you? How are you spending your summer?

What’s your favorite summer flower?

This post is inspired by this weeks’ photo Challenge |Ooh, Shiny!

Prost! Biergarten and the Beer Culture in Germany

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Beer tasting in Abensberg, Bavaria ,Germany
What is it about Germans and their Beers?

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Prost! 

Or what about  German Beer tents, Lederhosens and Dirndls and more Beer?

 

 

Imagine, I’ve been living here in Germany for almost more than a year now, and I realized that I’ve never written anything about Bier— the “liquid gold” of this country , or worldly known as Beer.  My daughter has been obsessed  with Pretzel ( or Brezen)  been into Beer tents and Volksfests, and I, shamelessly confessing my love for German Beer culture.

 

I think it’s  just fitting that I write about it for a fact that I am living in the Beer capital of the world : Bavaria! My personal views are honest observations as an Asian expat who have learned to embraced their Beer culture, (and loving it!, of course )

“Where people brew beer, that’s a good place to live!”  {an old Czech saying}

Unique, Bavarian Beer

I don’t know any other place in this world where in Beer is regarded as important as staple food in everyday lifestyle. I grow up knowing that beer is seen as a drink of pleasure. I have never had a liking to it, I find it too bitter and I hate frequent trips to the toilet as I am not a drinker. Here in Bavaria it is considered more as a basic food. It’s no wonder on average a Bavarian consumes from birth to the grave some 150 litres (40 gallons) of beer per year. Just like German’s world-record breaking number of Breads and Sausages,  For the record, Bavaria is known to have 40 types of beer, over 600 Breweries and approximately 4,000 brands! Imagine that! It all depends on your preferences, and of course, the price. You can read more of it Here.

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Biergarten in front of New Castle
Need I say more, I told you, Beer is THE BIG thing here.

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Biergarten with the view of the Church on a hill in Walhalla.

Biergarten is the place to be!

Where else is the best place to enjoy Bier ?

Biergartens ( or Beer gardens)  are normal garden halls or part of the restaurant under shady green trees, with wooden benches, and shared tables in a cozy setting where people meet together, eating, chatting, lounging, and of course—with a beer. Every meeting is best celebrated with a cold, tall glass, pils or  Maß  of bubbly beer. All Biergartens are closed during Winter and  officially opens during beautiful weather around May in true style round the maypole with traditional May dances and a barrel of tasty “Maibock”. The moment you see those tables and chairs laid down, you know, good times are bound to come.

The thing is, most people doesn’t know that Beer is not just part of German culture —it’s their  culture, life, lifeblood, a legacy  and undying tradition passed on to generations to generations.

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German pride!

Back then in Kuwait, people spend more time in shopping malls because of the heat outside. Here in Bavaria, especially on warm summer months,  Biergarten is the best place to go, or celebrate everything. It’s not just a place to get drunk. I once saw a wedding reception in the Biergarten and family gatherings. For the locals, the moment the sun shines, people flocked here as early as 9 A.M . As a mother, I find it so cool that some Biergartens are kid-friendly. They have “spielplatz”or play areas , and even have kids meal and kinder beer. Families enjoy time with their friends while kids can play.

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Beautiful Biergarten beside the well-known Kuchlbauer Brewery and Kuchlbauer Turm.
When we visited the “Kuchlbauer Brewery”with the Kuchlbauer Turm inspired by Hundertwasser in Abensberg, the atmosphere in the Biergarten is super cozy. Imagine, they even built a tower to honor beer! With a nice view of the tower, everyone is having a great time! Bavaria’s largest beer garden (and probably the largest in the world) is Munich’s Hirschgarten that can cater for some 8,000 people. Here in Ingolstadt, here are some of our favorite Biergartens to visit.

It’s also typical in Bavaria where  old people regularly meet in Biergartens, locally known as “Stammtisch”. Sometimes they even have games, party, dancing, with traditional Volk music, and yes, all throughout Sunday! Another unique thing is that people wears their traditional “Trachten“, the Lederhosen and Dirndls! 

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Biergarten above the hill in Nürnberg

Only Pure Beer

Did you know that in Germany, especially in Bavaria where it all originated, the German Beer Purity Law rules, the Reinheitsgebot is a L-A-W. 500 Years of regulated law for Beer Brewing is no joke. Its a serious business, and for Germans, there is high respect for this regulation.

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The German Beer Purity Law
“Reinheitsgebot, also known as the Bavarian Beer Purity Law and Bavarian Beer Ingredient Law, was enacted in 1516 , in Ingolstadt by the Duke of Bavaria, so that only beers made with just three ingredients — hops, barley malt and water (yeast was unknown at the time) — were allowed to be labeled a “pure” German beer and fit to drink “. This law has 3 aims :

  • To protect drinkers from high prices
  • To ban the use of wheat beer so more bread could be made
  • And to stop the unscrupulous brewers from adding “dubious”toxic , even hallucinogenic ingredients as preservatives or flavourings.

Everything sounds great, right?

They included herbs and spices such as rosemary and caraway, henbane, thorn-apple, wood shavings, roots, soot or even pitch, according to the German Brewers’ Association (DBB).The DBB claims that the Reinheitsgebot is the oldest currently valid consumer protection law in the world. Germany exports 1.5 billion litres of beer every year, and the country is pretty proud of its beer and the purity law.

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A Festival is no Festival without Beer

From the time that I’ve lived here, I have never seen a German as drunk as hell, swaying and getting wasted in the streets, let alone getting amok because of  beer intoxication. During Oktoberfest, if you see a wasted man or woman from the festival, it’s most likely that He/ She is a tourist. Germans sits in the Biergarten for 3-5 hours on Sunday and still rides their bike afterwards going home, even old people.

In Germany,  beer is more than the  Beer Festival  in Munich or the world known as “Oktoberfest”. Before, I only knew of Oktoberfest as a time to get totally drunk and wasted in club or in a bar, drinking buckets of beer,watching live bands–having a great night out—that’s it. While living here, when I first have a taste of my very first “pure” Bavarian beer” , I realized how little I know. Germany has more to offer than just Oktoberfest.  It has so many festivals celebrated all throughout the year, all celebrated with beer. Starting with Frühlingsfest ( Spring Festival), Herbstfest-Volksfest ( Autumn Festival) , Oktoberfest ( Beer Festival in Bavarian capital-Munich) , add the Easter, Bürgerfest, and the Christkindlmarkts ( or  Christmas Markets) —everything is celebrated with O’zapft is!  or the tapping of Beer barrel.

Drink, Eat, Repeat

In the beginning of beer gardens, there was plenty to drink but nothing to eat. Because brewers were not allowed to sell food, many Germans brought their own pretzel and wurst to the beer garden. But nowadays, there are plenty of specialties to indulge, so there’s always a reason to taste the local delicacies especially served in Biergartens.Along with local beer, served in 1-liter steins, German beer garden specialties include:

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  • Brotzeit – a platter with cold cuts, artisan cheese, sausages, pretzel, horseradish, and cucumbers
  • Currywurst swimming in currysauce with pommes ( potato fries)
  • Obatzter – a soft, white cheese, mixed with onions and chives
  • Weisswurst – white sausage, complimented by sweet mustard and a pretzel
  • Kartoffelsalat ( potato salad)
  • Hendl  (Half-roasted chicken)
  • Schnitzel with pommes

Germans are best described as people who work hard, and play hard. Just look at their Beer and Biergarten culture and you’ll understand what I mean.

How about you, do you like to drink Bier? What do you think of their Biergartens?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walhalla : The German Parthenon

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Walhalla , the German Parthenon
Finally, we’ve reached our destination , the Walhalla , the German Parthenon as they called it, a revival from the one in Acropolis, in Athens. After  almost an hour of pleasant cruising along the Danube, we embark from the ship and set our foot in Donaustauf, directly looking at the foot of the mountain.

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Lots of green in different shades , cloisters, and castle ruins

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View of Walhalla from the boat
It was indeed a pleasant ride, add the fact that we are rewarded with scenic views along the river. I am so thankful that the weather has been perfect, a sunny, around 30-34 degrees, toasty, but nevertheless, we are happy that we were not bothered by rain, otherwise, we would have cancelled this trip.

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Took this photo of the scenic vista of Bavarian countryside up from the massive Walhalla temple, east of Regensburg
Guys, going to Walhalla with a 3-year old toddler is no joke. I wouldn’t even called it as an ideal destination to bring a toddler. It’s not a place to play.

I mean, yes, we are adventurous, strong and able, but not stupid enough to exhaust ourselves climbing the steep mountain with a stroller in hand. Looking at our group, I didn’t see anyone with a stroller, there are lots of bikes in the foot of the mountain, but no stroller. For a minute I thought that we  made a mistake in going to this place. Looking at the 300+ steep steps, the elevation, there is no way a stroller can go up there, nope. I wanted to go back, as I am already feeling tired. I am in the brink of giving up, and in a helpless blank mode, since I don’t know where to go. Taking a deep breath, I just smiled when I looked at my daughter, my busy talkative  Little travel Buddy . She said she just want to see the orca in Walhalla!

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Tourists braving the steps

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Colonnade
But my husband is my lifesaver. Google maps aren’t working but then He managed to find the foot path that leads us to the alternate route going up the mountain. Honestly speaking, I have high respect to German sites such as these. I knew it’s not a tourist trap. I knew from experience that they make sure that the place is accessible and always give considerations for the physically challenged, disabled, with wheelchairs, let alone strollers with very young children. I’ve seen even cows and horses goes up to the Zugspitze  or in the Alps, in a comfy cable cars! Why not here?

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Fine details inside the Memorial Hall
With the gigantic view of the massive Walhalla in front of us, we decided to head to the left side road, a small foot path leading to Walhallastrasse in the village of Donaustauf, in the direction of the backside of the mountain.We took the skimpy foot path where we came across a lady with 2 little boys who told us that the foot path going up the mountain is currently closed, and the one which goes through the forest is difficult to follow for lack of directions. We chose to stick to the highway that leads up to the main parking area, and climb  uphill. This is the best possible option if we can’t make the 358 steps.

The walk uphill is not that bad actually, it’s a 20-30 minute walk depending on your pace. The moment I saw from a distance so many cyclists and horses with people climbing up, I felt hopeful, and positive. We entertained ourselves by listening to my daughter’s ramblings and singing. She was just in a happy mood. We decided to climb the remaining steps and she’s fine with it. At the ride side of the temple, finally there is a ramp.

Hooorrraayyy, we’ve made it!

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The Hall dedicated to honor the notable Germans
Something about Walhalla

The Walhalla is located in a dominant position high above the Danube in the east of Regensburg. This Neoclassical building in the form of a temple surrounded by a portico with gigantic columns that  represents one of the most important German national monuments of the 19th century. Created by order of  Bavarian King Ludwig I (reigned 1825-1848). The Walhalla was built by Ludwig’s I favourite architect, Leo von Klenze (1784-1864), one of the most important Neoclassical architects of the 19th century. The foundation stone was laid in 1830 and the building was ceremoniously opened twelve years later, on 18 October 1842. Klenze’s design was primarily inspired by the famous Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens dating from 5th century B.C.  The combination of colonnaded temple and massive substructure and the free design of the interior however prevents the architecture from being a mere copy of the ancient building. The temple building, which is clad inside and out with precious marble, rises above the massive tiered substructure. This was originally intended to house the ‘Hall of Expectation’ containing the busts of people to be honoured in the future.

In short, Walhalla is one great site to see!!

 

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King Ludwig of Bavaria, the man who made all these things possible. Without him, we won’t have this place to explore.

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I find this door really intriguing…
 

The memorial  Hall displays some 65 plaques and 130 busts covering 2,000 years of history, beginning with Arminius, victor at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD. Inside the temple is a striking hall, filled with busts of people, gigantic monuments and the ceiling is quite impressive. Notable people whom I recognized (at least  from which I am familiar with )  were Goethe, Richard Strauss, Alfred Einstein, Wilhelm von Oranje, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Albrecht Dürer , Erasmus of Rotterdam, Nikolaus Copernicus,Martin Luther,Johann Sebastian Bach, and of course, King Ludwig of Bavaria.

The rest I don’t know, or at least I haven’t heard of them. Most of them are really notable and made a great impact in German history, to be in this hall of fame, at least you need to be dead for 20 years…

I wonder whose going to be included in this list?

The columns in Walhalla are huge and gigantic. I find the whole place so majestic, like I imagine it would be, suddenly I thought about the Greek Mythology and the mighty Gods in Mt. Olympus. It’s a surreal experience to be on top. We arrived on a bright sunny day, perfect weather, and yes, as expected, packed with tourists, but the views are breathtaking. I couldn’t find a place in the front colonnade to be empty. Everyone was busy taking their photos, having a picnic, lounging in the floor of the temple, admiring the scenic vista in front of them. Acres and acres of different shades of greens, the graceful flow of the Danube and the beautiful skyline of this region. I never imagined that this place could be so beautiful.

I have a thing with vertigo and I am scared for my daughter. I can’t ever let her go, even for a second. There is  a warning and precaution for this place since fatal accidents  already happened if ever you slipped in the edges of the temple.

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Not afraid of the heights…
If you are exploring Bavaria and the neighboring cities like Regensburg, Weltenburg and Kelheim, this trip should not be  missed. Once you are at the top, you forget that you sweat out.Traveling with kids has never been easy, be it by car, plane or whatever means. Imagine the  chaos, but also imagine the joy you feel as you create memories as a family.

No matter how you choose to explore the beautiful Bavaria, it’s gonna be amazing!

What do you think about Walhalla Temple? would you consider exploring it with your child?

More information about this place can be found Here, and if you want further reading about spending 48 hours in Regensburg, then you might want to check out these links.

Exploring the Streets of Regensburg

Wurstkuchl: the 870 Historical Sausage Kitchen of the World

Cruising along the Danube

Hundertwasser and Kuchlbauer : When Beer and Art meets

 

Cruising along the Danube

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Sittin’ on the dock of the bay…

I guess everyone dreamed of  cruising along a river…I’m one of them.

The chance came and I just did! and it was a wonderful ! I remembered how I was enchanted by the beautiful Moselle river and by far, the Danube river has its own charm.This post is really special to me because this is something that I really enjoyed from our last trip. It was also the most exhausting one, but then, as the saying goes “when the going gets tough, the tough get going…”

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I wrote many things about the mighty river “Danube” (or Donau) in this Blog. How can’t I?, the river is just 10 minutes away from where I live, I see it everyday, it has become my daily backdrop and a favorite subject for photos. Seeing its different faces through all seasons becomes so normal for me. But  then we discovered something else about its charm. We’ve seen another phase of this mighty river in Regensburg. Cruising through its magical waters is different, especially if you are traveling with a hyperactive toddler. Yes, she loved the boat idea, but to keep her calm through the whole boat ride is another innuendo!

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The boat is turning around…
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And off we go…! Germans adore the sun , lots and lots of sunshine, so they prefer to sit in the open deck for better views and winds, but my daughter wants to jump off the water!

So anyway, last Tuesday, while we are in Regensburg, we decided to take a cruising along the Danube trip to visit one of the most notable off -the-beaten path destination——- the German Parthenon, a replica of the one in Athens, Greece, the Walhalla Temple. Another hidden gem in Bavaria and I think it deserves more recognition because this place is both educational and not for the faint-hearted. It takes guts to be up there, but the views are totally worth it.  Bavarian King Ludwig I (reigned 1825-1848) ordered his great Architect Leo von Klenze to build this place to dedicate to all great German speakers and notable persons. Quite extraordinary tribute, right? Aren’t you curious whose on the list?

Walhalla is a temple built high above the mountains, I thought, how are we going to make it there with a 3-year old plus a bulky stroller? Can we climb the hilly terrain plus  the 358 steps ?

From the cruising to hiking? Possible? YES!

But first, we relaxed and enjoyed the comfortable cruise ride to go to our main destination.

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We have some company in the river, so many ships and barges crossing over.

The Charm of the Danube

The river Danube seen from the Old Stone Bridge (Steinerne Brücke) in Regensburg looks so calm, graceful and deep. I spent quite sometime just admiring the view in front of me, with all the boats,  ships, museum, and cruise ships passing by me, and of course, a mass of people. Everyone just love to lounge in the banks of the river.

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Took this photo from above the Walhalla, the route where the ships go crossing the Danube.

Napoleon once referred to the Danube River as the “Queen of Europe’s Rivers,” a fitting title for Europe’s second-longest river. It measures 1,775 miles long and up to nearly 1 mile wide and touches 10 countries — Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, GermanyHungary, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine — and four capitals. That alone has made the Danube a vital transportation route for more than 2,000 years. The Danube cycling path is also well-known for cycling enthusiasts and wanderers. It is my dream also to cycle on one of its paths, maybe someday when  my toddler can also join this type of adventure.

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Today, ships can navigate 87 percent of the waterway’s length, meaning Danube River cruises can sail from the North Sea to the Black Sea. The Main-Danube Canal, which got its major start in the 18th century, was completed in 2002 when the final piece was put in place for the 106 mile, 16-lock waterway.

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The cruise experience from Regensburg to Walhalla

We got our ticket from the Regensburger Schifffahrt ( Klinger) and by 10:30 a.m, the boat docked in front of us and off we go.There was quite a crowd already but I am impressed that even strollers, pets, and persons with wheelchair can join this trip. The staffs are both helpful and mindful.

We found a place near the window but we often go to the open deck to have better views and took photos. There is an audio tour both in German and English so that was very handy for me. At the beginning, my daughter was so excited but then after 10 minutes or so, she started to get whiny and cranky. It was time for her midday nap.She crashed into her nap and woke up when we are already in the foot of the temple.

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Beautiful nature sights during the trip.

Cruising along the Danube is wonderful , especially for families. If you want to explore from what is beyond the norm then it’s a great break from the claustrophobic and touristy streets in Regensburg . The views along the river is very scenic, enough to put you in a trance. We passed by  some notable arches, bridges, and castle ruins in the hills surrounding the Danube. The atmosphere inside the boat is very cozy, the bathrooms are clean and you can order food & drinks as you like.

The trip lasts for more than 45 mins, from which my daughter just sleep through out the whole time. The drop off was easy and the guests are allowed to wander &  explore Walhalla for 75 minutes, after this, the boat comes back for the trip going back to Regensburg.

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The striking Walhalla Temple

Finally, we’ve reached our destination.We stood on this spot for quite sometime trying to figure out how to navigate this place, pushing the stroller, I thought, how are we going to be on top?

I’ll tell you more about the rest of our adventure in my post about this mighty Walhalla temple.Until then, thank you for reading my friends.

If you are visiting Regensburg, make sure not to miss this. The information about this trip is available in the Tourist Information in the Old Town of Regensburg and the ticket booth is just beside the Old Stone Bridge and the Wurstkuchl. It’s a hotspot location and you won’t miss it!