Berlin secrets : Trains to life ,Trains to death

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Kindertransport | Frank Meisler
One station, two destination

October 3 is the German Unification Day or the Tag der Deutschen Einheit , the day that commemorates the unification of East and West Germany. In line of this holiday, I wanted to write something about  Berlin and how it reminds me of a fascinating, and yet sad “secret”I have found from our last trip in Berlin. The story itself is not a secret, it’s not on the top 10 tourist destination in Berlin, but rather, a must-see for anyone who wants to deviate from stereotype Berlin, or dvelve unto something different.

Personally,whenever I am in a new place, I try to discover some off-beaten tracks or beyond the usual-touristy spots, at least if I have the chance.Sometimes, what appears to look  ordinary, plain, and insignificant held quite a mystery, a profound story behind it. But only the keen eyes sees it.

Last time when we were in Berlin, we don’t have an itinerary. We want to make it spontaneous and explore it like a local. Surprisingly,  I don’t feel like a tourist anymore. I felt like I can blend more easily , since I finally got a hold of  my German  and I can understand what’s going on around me. I find it easy now to navigate and read the signs which happened to be all in German, not like a year ago that I basically don’t have an idea what does it mean.I got to ask my friend Google translate for a help!

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Berlin’s secrets : Trains to Life, Trains to Death

One of the Berlin secrets that I discovered is found just outside  the busy station of –Friedrichstraße–the known entertainment center in Berlin. It’s located in the Mitte of Berlin and adjacent to the street that crosses the Spree river.  It’s an important station in Berlin because of many reasons. First, this station was the station used during the Nazi regime to transport the Jews to many deportation camps, or to worst, to their death camps. In the same location can be found is the “Tränenpalast” or the Palace of Tears where East Germans said goodbye to family and friends going back to West Germany. From 1962 to 1989 it was the border crossing for travellers by S-bahn, U-bahn and train between East and West Germany.It is a place of tears, and woeful goodbyes!

Secondly, for all visitors in Berlin, this station is known to  tourists to famous destinations such as Unter den Linden, Brandenburg, and the Reichstag or the Deutscher Parliament.During the cold war, Friedrichstraße station belongs to East Germany and the major border crossing between the East and the West.

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One Station , Two destinations

While waiting for my cousins, we get on to Friedrichstraße  and kill our time. I didn’t expect to find some fascinating discovery—The monument of “The Trains to Life, Trains to Death” built by  Israeli Architect and Sculptor Frank Meisler in November 2008. Meisler himself travelled with a 1939  children’s transport from Berlin-Friedrichstraße to England called “Kindertransport” ( Refugee Children’s Movement ). Imagine, out of 1.6 million children murdered during Holocaust, only approx. 10,000 of them had a luck to escape and saved their lives through the help of Great Britain. The children traveled in a sealed trains, sometimes children carried babies as well.After arriving in Great Britain, they were transferred to Foster homes or reception camps and most of them never see their parents again.

 

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Kindertransport monument by Frank Meisler, Berlin,Germany

It’s  easy to miss this memorial monument especially when you don’t pay attention to details around you. It bears inscriptions both in English and Deutsch and mentions “In gratitude to the people of Great Britain” .When we are out from the station, I was trying to look around to look for landmarks but what I notice is a plain wall with this inscription in the information panels ( Stiftung Denkmal) –” Züge in das Leben, Züge in den Tod ” ( Trains to Life, Trains to Death), upon reading this, I was really struck, moved and my mind fixated on the inscription and was trying to read the rest for me to understand what’s the story behind it. This time, I happened not to look at the Bronze sculpture yet. There was a lady sitting on the side of it, she probably waiting for someone. I noticed that few people were photographing in front of us and I was telling my daughter to clear the spot. I found the story of the Kindertransport very intriguing, it is not your ordinary memorial. This memorial is for children. It’s hard to accept the fact that innocent little children were victims of the horrific Holocaust. Whether you are a parent or not, this piece of story is disturbing.

Then my daughter walked on the other side and decided to climb the statues. It consists of 2 groups, with seven figures of children. On their coats they wear yellow stars. The bronze colored statues , a boy and a girl facing the Spree river symbolise the lucky ones who escaped and were transported to Great Britain. The greyish-bronze group had another destination–they represent the unlucky ones who were transported to the Death camps in the East. What caught my attention was the empty suitcase with a broken doll inside it. The doll has is abandoned and there was a withering violet flower lying beside it. My daughter was saying “Mama, die Puppen ist schon kaputt!” was is passiert?!  ( the doll is already broken, Mama! what happened?!)

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Empty suitcase

I couldn’t find words to explain to my daughter…it is hard to explain.

This is probably the most disturbing memorial, and yet the most moving monument that I have ever seen in my whole life. It really touches you,provokes you, unless you are immune to human feelings. I am not born yet on this dark times in Germany but reading about the stories and seeing all the memorial sites for all the victims of Holocaust made me appreciate life even better, and understand it. Never again, it should never happen again.

My visit to Berlin is not only filled with photographs, or busy tourist spots, it was also full of valuable lessons. This is one of the Berlin secrets that is worth to explore and find. Frank Meisler remind us with this monument that life may lead you  in different destinations, some path leading us to life,the route to safety, or sadly some path leads to death.

This experience encouraged me to see the other “Kindertransport”works of Frank Meisler–one in his hometown in Danzig, Poland, “Kindertransport the Arrival” in Liverpool Station in London and the “Channel of Life “at the hook of  Holland , in Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

How’s your travelogues lately? Have you discovered anything sort of “secret” ?

Have you heard about the Stolpersteine or stumbling stones?

If you happen to visit Berlin, make sure you drop by in Friedrichstraße Station, you’ll not regret the experience. If you’re interested about Kindertransport story, here’s an interesting read about it.You’ll find as well some of the famous Jews children who told their stories about their experience.

 

 

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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!

Tour guide : My Town in Winter

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My Town : Morning after the snow in Bavaria

Mind you, I am already looking forward for Spring but then from the last few days, I woke up once again with all the streets, houses, and trees all covered in snow . I was dreaming that Winter is finally over, reminding myself once again that to love the cold and winter is a privilege. When its winter, my  own little town is transformed into a wonderland. Well, for people who work and have enormous errands to do, the sight of snow in their doorstep is never a sign of good morning, let alone for me.

Just in time for this week’s Photo Challenge | Tour Guide, let me share with you some photos of what it looks like over here in Bavaria.

As much as I have been mesmerized by the view of my town in bright sunny day on top of the Pfeifturm, seeing it from above once again covered in snow is also a great experience.

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The Danube in Winter time

The still waters of the second longest River in Europe, the Danube ,is a sight to behold, it is like a reflecting glass. Sometimes when I looked over the bridge, I’m thinking what if the river freezes? How nice it would be to be able to walk on top of it.This panoramic sight is such a splendor to see while the seasons change its course.

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Winter mood in the woods

The  morning after a night of snow gives an outstanding stillness and silence . It is so peaceful.This is a path I always pass by almost every single day.The river is sleeping, covered in icy cold fog.

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There’s still beauty even when everything is covered in snow.

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It’s like a scene from a movie that I cannot recall anymore.

Winter is like a dream. You know that soon you need to wake up and realize that reality is just around the corner. On normal days, I don’t see anything special in this place. In Winter, it’s almost like walking into a dreamland, everything is so white. The trees and its wilted branches are quiet witnesses of the cold yet they remain peaceful,  agile  as ever when the snow embrace them once again, all over again.

This path is always frequented by morning joggers and runners, but this time, the path is deserted. I was quite early. I parked my bike a bit further to capture this serene state. It amuses me that there’s not a single footprint or dog footprints yet.

Undisturbed beauty, unparalleled serenity of German long cold winters.

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I love patterns and natural accents.

Beware of walking into the streets, it can be slippery. I’ve seen many people slip and slide through the snow. It’s not a funny sight.

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Nature comes so close, no matter what the season.

One of the things that I love personally is encounters with nature. I love to photograph nature and living here gives me the access for all of it. The thing about Winter in Germany is that people go by all means what they want to do. As the saying goes “Es gibt kein schlechtes wetter, nur schlechte Kleidung” or ” There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing “. This is so true here.Winter is a season to experience, not a time to slow down the time. People still go out, walking and exploring, as they do when the sun is out.Only the type of  outdoor clothing changes.

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What weekends are made of
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Ingolstadt sewer cover : Always remember where YOU Step!

I find it truly special here in Germany that they have an impressive Manholes ( or sewerage system covers). From where I came from, I don’t see anything fascinating about looking down at these manholes. I don’t recall seeing a fascinating one in my times in Kuwait! They are often dangerous especially when its flooding, or dirty, and mostly broken. But when I came to live here, I came to appreciate the great engineering behind it. The craftmanship and history with its logo, the seal ,the coat of arms of each city that I’ve visited. Maybe for others its nonsense, but for me, they are quite extraordinary. So in Winter, of course, there’s still the Bavarian pride!

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

Only in Bavaria :Epiphanie ( Dreikönigsfest)

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Dreikönigsfest in Bavaria (Three Kings)

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

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

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Epiphany or Dreikönigsfest in Bavaria

Here in Bavaria, I have learned something new.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Do you also celebrate Three Kings Day?

What are the local traditions?

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

 

 

 

The sweet thing called Chocolate Santa Claus

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Chocolate Santa Claus in Germany

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

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

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Nikolaustag in Germany is December 6.

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

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

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Chocolate Santa Claus and Nikolaustag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The sweet thing called Chocolate Santa Claus

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

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Chocolate Santa Claus

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

 

 

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

What are the unique Christmas threats you love?

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

 

Tschüss!

Celebrating Christmas, the German way!

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

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

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

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Local sightings in Christkindlmarkt : Beautiful hand crafted Christmas figurines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Adventzeit : Light it up…!

The Advent Wreath or Der Adventskranz

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

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

Adventskalendar —the sweet way of Christmas countdown.

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

Weichnachtsplätzchen or German Christmas Cookies 

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

Weihnachtsmann Schokolade or Chocolate Santa Claus

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

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Christmas in Germany

Christmas Tree or  Der Tannenbaum

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

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German Christmas markets

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

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Christmas Baubles, authentic German Christmas ornaments

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

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

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

Christmas Markets  or Christkindlmarkt

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

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O Tannenbaum!

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

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Heart-shaped Lebkuchen or German Gingerbread  cookies.

St. Nikolaus and the Christkind

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

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

 Sankt Nikolaustag ( Dec. 5 or 6)

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

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My daughter’s first Nikolaustag ( St. Nicholas )

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

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Frohe Weichnachten!

Christmas Eve – Heiliger Abend (also Heiligabend)

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

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

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

Second day of Christmas ( or St. Stephen Day)

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

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

Christmas won’t be complete without shopping!

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

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

How do you prepare for Christmas for your family?

 

Sending you some warm cheers for the coming holidays!

 

Tschüss!

 

 

A Dawn’s Transformation

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The story of the transformation of dawn

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Today’s Awakening hour

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

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

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Nature’s transformation

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

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A golden sunrise in Germany

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

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

Have you seen something like this lately?

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

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

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 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.

Natalie 4
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, Children are special gift, with tantrums and all their screaming, and Yes, they 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?