Ramadan-A day in the Life story from a Non Muslim

Fanous (meaning Light or Lamp in Arabic) is an important symbol during the holy month of Ramadan. These colorful lanterns gives Ramadan a symbolic mood.

I could write a novel about my Ramadan day to day experiences while living for a long time in the Middle East. But then, summing it up, I decided to write it like a day in the life of a Non Muslim surrounded with Islamic culture.Good thing I have taken lots of photos to remind me and yes, as I look back in it, I still think it was all wonderful experience.

I am grateful , I am really glad.

A lady in black Abaya in front of the Murals with Arabic calligraphy

I was born Catholic and growing up with Christianity doctrines made me feel odd when I was exposed to Muslim Culture and religion.Kuwait is a very conservative country and very traditional Islamic state.Islam is the predominant religion and Arabic is the preffered language. Though lifestyle is modern and yes very competitive, in Expat´s eyes, all of these are just temporary living arrangements.

But what ´s the first thing you think when you hear the word Ramadan? Ramadan is derived from the Arabic word Ramad, meaning “intense heat.” So like heat, Ramadan is a chance to burn away bad habits and carry positive ones throughout the year and beyond.

The month of Ramadan is beautiful, I see it as a solemn time of the year.It is a month of goodness and self-inspection.Inormally view my days as work-home statistics, but then during Ramadan, I felt kinda different.It´s not all about self-righteousness, but more of looking at yourself and deciding to do more good.I´ve got the feeling that during Ramadan, people around me just become conscious of others, they become kinder, and yes,more considerate.probably because this is the highlight month where most locals are serving others, donating help and to sum up--strive for repentance and be good.

A local vendor prapare for another busy morning day in the Souk. Dates (or tmar) is staple for Ramadan, and well known food preference in breaking the fast. It can be stuff with cream cheese or eaten as it is .Have read that the date fruit is mentioned 20 times in Quran therefore its closely related to Ramadan. It´s actually quite impossible without Dates during Ramadan.I love dates and I truly missed eating the good ones…

I know its Ramadan when I hear these greetings .”Ramadan Kareem“(or May Ramadan be generous to you) is a muslim greeting I have leaned from my colleagues at work and I think this is better than saying ” Sabah el Khair” ( or Good morning).Another form is also “Ramadan Mubarak” (Blessed Ramadan) and at the end of Ramadan, everyone greets with ” Eid Mubarak” ( Blessed Feast).But if you don´t speak any Arabic, you can just simply say “Salam“.

While I was running today, I saw a small leaflet attached to a tree stating well wishes for everyone for a safe Ramadan. I totally forgotten that this is the second year of the pandemic, and as well Ramadan for my Muslim friends.The holy weeks of Ramadan started last April 13 and will end on May 12 and yes, my Muslim friends are fasting!

Fasting for Muslim is not a way to lose weight, I am telling you, fasting and abstinence from sunrise to sunset is NO joke, it´s hard and not everyone understands it and thinks its ridiculous.

Living in Kuwait have exposed me to this culture though I am not a religious person nor an Atheist. But I do believe in one thing, ” faith without deeds is dead“. I grew up in a very conservative Catholic country so my background is quite a mixture of all the religious beliefs I have learned as a kid and growing up in a multicultural environment.Coming to Kuwait had opened my eyes even more to such beliefs and traditions.Above all, I love trying out new things and living as an expat taught me a lot about respecting my host country and its culture just like how I am embracing German culture now.

Anyway, for Muslims ( as I observed from my colleagues), it´s not really all about fasting.I really commend their discipline and perseverance.I see them still trying their best to do their job and not compromising. I never heard them complaining.After a while, I got used to their behaviour and avoid doing things that is not allowed during Ramadan. I am not forced to fast but we respect it and avoid recklessness, loud music, or eating in public. It´s against the law and you could be jailed if you violate it.We should also learn to respect prayer times. Afterall, everything is quite common sense and self-explanatory.

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and heightened devotion to prayer and repentance . I´m the only one at work that is not Muslim so everything was really new to me especially their bowing and reciting of Quran. In the office, it´s normal when the Quran is played.I find the whole thing ridiculous at first, but then through time I began to understand it all.They prayed numerous times during the day, starting at the break of dawn, but then during Ramadan, I observed that they do more. Most of my male colleagues take their yearly pilgrimage in Mecca and they really devote themselves to it. They saved money for it, and it´s a great achievement if they´ve done it.

At first I am quite excited when Ramadan starts because it means we need to work less.Many shops are closed during the day so people enjoy shopping until midnight and especially eating out in restaurants.Most restaurants have Iftar buffets and packages for companies, even Hotels offers the same.During this period, ( which practically lasts almost a month), our work schedule is shortened, and yes, we really have lesser output than the normal days. This means we need to do all the deadlines before Ramadan starts, and postpone all important meetings until Ramadan is over. Most inspections are preferably scheduled not on Ramadan, its quite normal. This also applies to all parts of the government since most of them worked only for 4,5 hours, maybe even less.Doing paperwork this time is hard because of timings.

There is an unseen sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness. We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox is stuffed full of anything, no music,but if brain and belly are burning clean with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire”. – Rumi

Through time, I have learned that true Fasting with intent is a privilege.I mean anyone can fast if they really want, but fasting without a meaning and purpose is just nonsense! It could even endanger your health.Abstinence is quite rigorous and requires a disciplined stamina.The period of 29 or 30 days—the dates change every year, following the lunar calendar of 13 months is pretty exhilarating.When your stomach is empty, your concentration might suffer and you barely can´t think.

Kuwaitis enjoy some leisure walks with Misbaha (Arabic: مسبحة mas’baha) in their hands. It has 99 pieces of beads corresponding to 99 names of God in Islam and 2 small beads separating every 33 beads.

The weather during this month is actually very warm, with average of 26 -38 degrees , humid & dust storms is frequent.After breaking their fasting, people usually went out to visit the Mosques, eat in restaurants for Iftar, meet friends , walk in the beach or just cool down inside the mall.

Busy Friday at the Souk (market)

I find it also worth mentioning that the Muslim´s tradition of breaking their fast is quite remarkable.It´s a holy ritual of gratitude and thanksgiving. ” Iftar“, the feast of breaking the fast after sunset marks a glorious victory every single day for every family. I have been invited in numerous Iftar, with close friends and their family and it is really amazing, not only the food but also the ambiance. Sharing a local Arabic home cooked meal is one thing that really bonds people and I give high thumbs for their elaborate food preparations. Arabic foods is really good and again, I kinda missed it all.I enjoy myself a platter of dates, nuts and their tea with cardamon and spices.

A local vendor selling the local ” Desert Truffles” which has become a delicacy in Kuwait.This is a traditional prized ingredients for Bedouins who loves to put these into their rice with meat dishes.Fresh Truffles are only available from November to April in Kuwait and the production highly depends on the precipitation.

As i said, ” Ramadan has the invincible power that brings people together” .Families, friends, colleagues sits together and share a meal, talking about the day´s about.It´s a time to focus on seeking forgiveness and being “kinder“. I was once in the Friday market and it´s about sunset so I really saw how normal people breaks their fast. They tedioulsy prepare their meal, pray together and they eat together. It´s very simple but really humbling to watch.One vendor laid out old newspapers on the ground and prepare the dishes elaborately. First the fruits, Laban or fermented drink juices, then some meat, vegetables and bread.I can see from their faces how grateful they are for this simple feast.Then they gather around , chatting and eat with their fingers.

Delicate detail of the walls of the Grand Mosque

In the arid, humid climate of Kuwait, it´s a tough challenge in the days of Ramadan. With scorching heat outside, you won´t even have the energy to go outside.The prayer times seemed like interruptions in our daily routines, but then it´s quite the opposite. My colleagues would get up and get their prayer mats and wait for others to gather around in the big hall patiently. They would do this every single day and watching them really amazes me.

There is no need to hurry, there is a time for everything under the sun.During Ramadan, time goes by slowly, but if you focus on your intent, you´ll realized that you have all the time that you need.

Muslims do the Salah (prayer) and goes to the Masjid together if they can. There are plenty of masjid and prayer halls in Kuwait, even inside malls they have it.In the Grand mosque, they have these racks of slippers to wear after they removed their shoes and washed their feet. The “Fajr“(Sehar) at dawn, the early morning prayer is the start of their spiritual journey during Ramadan.My friend who converted into Muslim since her husband is Muslim would wake up an hour early and gather her children to get some “ Suhoor” to have something to eat .It´s a family ritual so they can have something to last as they go through their day.

They wash their feet and faces, and stand by each other. The color of your skin doesn´t matter. Your title, education, job or what car you drive.Once you´re inside the Masjid ( Mosque) , everybody is equal, everyone is bowing their heads and pray the same prayer, everyone looks up to one Allah.For a non -muslim like me,the sound of the prayer time is heard everywhere and it becomes a natural signal for me to take a moment as well and yes, take some time to meditate.

The next prayer time will be around noon, called “Dhur “(afternoon),so this is the time that I see them praying at work.Afterwards they continue reading the Quran or just meditate or so.Next Prayer time will be on late afternoon called “Asr“which I think is really difficult. By this time, I saw them that they are mostly worn out with fatigue and their energy level is low.For women, they busied themselves preparing for Iftar and wait until “Maghrib”, (after sunset) . After Maghrib, the family gathers around to eat Iftar. The last prayer time is “Isha” (night) .

At the end of Ramadan comes the big celebration of Eid el- Fitr. But this important date depends highly on moon sightings. I remember asking my colleagues how do they know when is Eid, and they told me that it depends on the appearance of the new moon so they usually wait until night to confirm it.

It´s bigger than Christmas I think. It´s a special day filled with celebrations among friends and families and people really take time off or go on family outings. Kids are showered with presents and some give or donate money to the poor.It´s very common as well that everyone dressed up extra on this day. This festive moment reminds me of children waiting to open their gifts left by Santa Claus on Christmas Day or Sinterklaas in the Netherlands.

Did you know that it´s common in the Gulf countries during end of Ramadan to pardon prisoners?

Everyone is just happy , and greeting each other ” Eid Mubarak” ! Most families exchange visits with each other and eating is non-stop. The food is really flooding. Women gets special Henna tatoos on their hands and yes, spends the rest of the day shopping with kids. Most of the shops, especially in Kuwait offers big sales .There is something special about Ramadan evenings, maybe because I just love seeing the lovely lights.

Lovely colorful lights at night
Quran

Because of the pandemic and corona restrictions, I guess it´s a complete Ramadan experience for my muslim friends, but then in solitude of lockdown, would even be more meaningful.

” Ordinary men hate solitude. But the master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one with the whole universe.” –Lao Tzu

Have you ever tried fasting? What do you love to do in solitude?

Ramadan Kareem and stay safe.

Until then, tschüss!

Last day of Magic, Tschüss 2020

Year end reflections and slowly saying Tschüss to 2020

For the past months, the ony highlight in my days were my runs, and long nature walks. I am already happy when I am out from the house and did my usual rounds.These are the only things that helped me ( a lot!) to survived each day.I am not complaining, but then it is just the plain truth since there´s nowhere else to go.At least we have this luxury, in some places you either don´t have nature, or you are not allowed to get out, at least without restrictions.At the end of the day, I scroll down in my phone for my photo gallery, looking for scenic nature views I have seen, wondering if I have caught a nice one. I am sure the nice ones landed in this Blog, if not in social media, or sent to encourage a friend.

You see, nowadays, my destinations are quite limited to errands.Short trips to random supermarkets and Drogerie become a norm.Here in Germany, we call a shop for Toiletries and stuff Drogerie, die Drogerie, a place to get toothpaste, bio products, vitamins and other stuff.Well I can get them as well from Supermarkets, but as I said, a little side trip to the shop already makes our day.They are one of the few chosen shops allowed to stay open against the 2nd Lockdown here which will probably lasts until the 10, January. Aside from Bakeries, Pharmacies, Tankstelle ( or Gas Stations), we spend lots of outdoors in small forests, sometimes to parks, and more and morrrreeee walking. We´ve got to use our hiking shoes anyway…

In few hours, this year ends with silence and I guess most of us wants it to end, or we are still in denial that it happened? Hard to believed it, but yes, it´s all coming to an end. It will be a silent goodbye to 2020, more like a long overdue wish.No party celebrations, no fireworks, we could at least settle with few sparklers and a sip of wine, and of course, a bite into one of those Berliners—a beloved, tasty German tradition during New Year.Berliners are also known as Krapfen, or doughnuts.Most of them are stuffed with sweet marmalade inside. I usually prefer the one without, I find it too sweet.Sometimes I really missed some Crispy creme glazed doughnuts or even simple Silvanas. Too bad they don´t exist here in our place.

The last day of magic this year

Talking about supertitious traditions in New Year, back home , we always make sure that we have several round fruits in the table on New Years. Putting some apples, oranges, melons, pears, grapes and more in a round plate is seen in most household. They say it is a sign of good luck, as well as hanging some grapes in the door.We also wear something with dots, or polka dots.Doesn´nt matter even if its your underwear or so…as long as you´re wearing something with dots then you are bound to attract good fortune.

” Es ist nie zu spät, das Gesicht zur Sonne zu heben, Das darf man nie vergessen…”

( It is never too late to raise your face to the sun…you must never forget that…)

Here´s the last sunset that we´ve watch today in Silvester, the day before New Year here in Germany. My neighborhood becomes alive when the weather is good,minus side but sunny, it´s two days in a row now that we have amazing weather which means perfect day to take long walks.So we did that, and most people here did as well.The streets are full of families, runners, walkers, cyclists,passer-bys, and yes, children.Everone is out to enjoy some fresh air, for us, it´s the only thing that we looked forward before staying in to wait for the New Year.

One fine Silvester walk in 2020

I suddenly remember that my mother always told us to put some coins in our pockets and scatter coins in the floor. It should be that our pockets should have some money before the year changes.I really dont know if it works, I just kind of go through with the flow.Also, I never ever imagined that in my life, watching and feeding ducks could be such a therapeutic activity during lockdown.It was really beautiful watching the ducks and doves fight for food, for survival, in a cold winter morning.They both want the same thing,again,nature does its magic.

Just like most of us fighting to stay fit and healthy everyday, trying not to be sick this year was the constant battle we have fought all throughout the year.I think we have managed to surpass big hurdles and moving on and now, we are finally saying Goodbye to this year.It´s just right time to say Tschüss to 2020 now.

I don´t make New Year´s Resolutions but I am keen on making goals, little goals that I believe could make a big difference in my life as I grow older.I think my fellow friend nailed it with her snappy careful moves, wanting 21 Things to look forward in 2021.This made me eager for fresh starts and joyful beginnings.It never hurts to add excitement for every fresh start,don´t you think as well?

It really doens´t matter, a new book to read, a new hobby to start, or even a new painting, or old painting to finish….maybe a new language or sport to learn for next year…I guess its all in the attitude.

People that I´ve met here in my Blog are precious gems that made this journey worthwhile.People who took their time to read and leave their comments, people who were with me through months of no activity and hibernation but then the moment that I write again, they were still there,with a warm welcome.

I am grateful for the nostalgic, joyful family stories from the Rabbitpatch, the soulful,simple yet carefree living with one beautiful soul in snowmeltssomewhere,or travel more like the humble spirit of travelling in two wheels into theaters and Operas, or just enjoying more pretty skies and landscapes!

Those are the moments of the last day of Magic for year 2020…I would be lucky if I see the skies lit and fireworks glam the skies…Happy New Year everyone!

Take care and see you all in 2021…:-)

Sunflower fields, summer is not yet over!

Random shots I took from the beautiful sunflower fields last Saturday.

Nothing really beats more than more Flower power which reminds me so much of the Golden Rapeseeds , Fields of Gold , Summer fragile beauties, Dandelions secrets and the Showoff Starlet Forsythia .

But in the end, I would always love to go back to the most beautiful Spring garden in the World!

Anyway, summer is not yet over ,right?

Have a lovely week!

The Netherlands : A place with more bicycles than people

A Land where there are more Bicycles than People


Seems like everytime I visit the Netherlands I become more and more into their Bicycle Urbanism. I just can’t get enough of their bicycles! It is so enormous in volume, it is everywhere! I get off from the train and arrived in the Station and see a parking lot full of bikes. I thought I’ve already seen it before and it’s no surprise anymore but then I still found it unbelievable. Different kinds of bicycles, old and new, modern, E-bikes and so on and so forth it’s all there. The sight of bikes is as normal as the sight of beautiful Tulips colors in Spring! I say to myself- Only in the Netherlands ! The country with more Bicycles than people.

Bikes parked along the canals of Utrecht, Netherlands

So I am inspired to write once again about Dutch and their bikes because I think this information is inspiring, as well as informative especially for people who lived in traffic prone places ( like I was before!) . I know it also depends where you are in the world but we can learn something about Dutch people and the way they cycle through all cycles of life through their bikes. Netherlands is so flat compared to Germany so going to places is shorter but can also be very windy. I know how hard it is to cycle when you have strong winds ahead of you, it’s not enjoyable and I hated it always. Also, nobody enjoys cycling in the rain, or when the roads are icy and frozen. So I am asking myself why do Dutch people love cycling?

The Netherlands : a beautiful place with colorful Tulips, canals and BICYCLES!

Cycling as an alternative and healthiest way of transport is the most practical solution of getting from A to B. They say that when you cycle for an average of 30 minutes then it increases your life expectancy. And for Expats who lived in the Netherlands and also here in Germany, I am sure this is one of the culture shock that we all can relate. Once I came here, we bought a bike! Anyway, I have been seeing my Stats and I noticed that I have viewers from different parts of the globe and I think that for someone who have never been to Amsterdam or in the Netherlands in general, they don’t really have an idea how big is the Dutch cycling lifestyle . It is really not just a trend or a tourist attraction to see–it’s a culture, it’s their life.

The average Dutch person cycles around 1,000 km annually and only in the Netherlands that there are more bicycles than people! And—did you know that Dutch old people still cycle even they are 80!

Super chic Dutch Bakfiets

With a country of 17.1 million people, there are 23 Million bikes! Imagine that!Meaning an average Dutch has 1.3 bikes, 2 or more! I saw it by my own eyes in my numerous visits in Holland. Bicycles or Fiets is staple as bread (or Brood) in every household and oftentimes they cycle to buy bread! Both young and old ride their bikes, going to school and to work. Every.single. Day! 32% of journeys for example in Amsterdam is by bike alone.

Utrecht Bike Lot is now OPEN : Biggest Bike park Station in the World

Compared to USA with 325 Million people, they have 70 Million bikes. I think everyone owns a bike than everyone owns a car. Last Easter we visited Utrecht and I discovered something more, it seems like that the number of bicycles is much even more than I could remember from what I’ve seen along the canals of Amsterdam and the bike parking lot in Museumplein. 40% of the visitors going to Utrecht are coming by bike so the largest Bike parking lot is found in this city. The 17,100 SQ/m parking space under the Utrecht Central Station can take up up to 12,500 BIKES! Imagine that!

My daughter trying to ride a bicycle we found parked in a light post

If they love to cycle then they need to build cycling paths for sure.There are 35,000km of bike paths only dedicated for cycling in the Netherlands. Most of the inner cities are car-free and there are endless places to go without the need of a car. Bicycle streets is very common standard in many Dutch cities but Utrecht is on top with 6km and plans for more.Bicycle Urbanism is the trend in Lowlands and I can really see why it’s bent to last.
What’s so fascinating is that they even created a pop-up parking concept for bikes and they have installed the Flo – a speed detection system coupled with digital kiosks that read each cyclist’s speed and help them speed up or slow down in order to catch the next light. It is a more complicated system than the simpler ones in place in Copenhagen .

What’s with the flowers and utility baskets in the bikes in Holland?
Without Helmets , the Netherlands is the safest place in the world to cycle!

Another important thing, as a parent, I can totally appreciate the unique love affair of Dutch with their bicycles and incorporating cycling to their kids at a very young age. For the past 2.5 years that I am now living here in Germany, and married to a Dutchman, I am cycling almost everyday and it’s one of my preferred practical means of transport, especially if I want to get on with everyday routines . I love the freedom, the peace and security I feel when I ride my bike but not on rush hours! Long distance cycling is not for me but here they have E-bikes as well but I appreciate everyday circulation and exercise I get from it. The fresh air that I breathe while riding my bike can be a stress-reliever and at the same time enjoying the surroundings while cycling is so nice. It’s one of the things I called “simplest form of luxury“. I often cycle going to work, getting basic groceries and bring my child to the Kindergarten and yes, I cycle even in Winter ! It’s very common here as well for Kindergarten children ( as young as 2!) to use Lauf Fahrrad (or walking bike) and cycle to their school accompanied by parents. We never had this in Philippines and certainly not in Kuwait so this new culture is something for you to really personally experienced for you to appreciate. It is not just a trend. It’s a way of life.

Bike capital of the World!

On the other side, here in Germany, we use much of the “Anhänger“. Of course, Germans always have the best technology for everything! It’s a compact carriage tagged along in a bike so you can cycle with your toddler everywhere you go. My daughter loves it and its very common here. I think most of families with little children have it. Complete with straps, seat belts and children always wear helmet as much as adults. But not so in the Netherlands.They transport their babies and toddlers in a box-type carriage attached to a bike called “Bakfiets” together with a bag of groceries withe other things as well. It’s what they called “super-utility box “!
In Germany, even if you don’t do cycling professionally, or you’re not into Sport, people wear Lycra and cycling gears, which is a total NO-NO in Holland. Dutch people cycle in normal and work clothes. What is amazing that the women can cycle so classy on skirt while riding a bike!

Bikes parked in Train Station

I lived 200 meters from a nearby school and I observed that young people ( Realschule and up to Gymnasium) also ride their bikes going to school, but most of them are being dropped off by a car every single day or taking the bus.

Should I cycle or should I play?


It is well known that Dutch children are the happiest in the world. I believe cycling is a part of the development of inner security that they feel as a kid. Cycling allows them to reach destinations safely and gives them the feeling of freedom, and achievement.

Parallel motion –Bikes, houses, shops, bars and people

The Dutch train their children at a young age to ride so they can confidently ride in the roads when they are around 12 years of age, just before they start secondary school . Only if they pass their traffic exam are they awarded their Verkeersdiploma (traffic certificate). This training is necessary as 75% of secondary school students cycle to school, rising to 84% riding for those living within 5 km of school. Even for distances of 16 km (9.9 mi) or over, some 8% of secondary school children cycle in each direction to school, though this is mainly in rural areas where the closest secondary schools can be a fair distance away.Some 49% of primary school children ride to school, but distances are shorter and adults often accompany the younger ones .

People cycle like crazy without helmet and children sits in front of the bike without the child seat like we have here. Do you know why it so normal? Street accidents are unheard of. In the Netherlands,the traffic rules are so bike-friendly so safety is not an issue. I have seen it by my eyes, children pedals from school to home but bikes being stolen are another issue.

What about you, what is your opinion about cycling? Do you hold back on riding a bicycle?

If you happen to visit Holland, try to observe and capture people cycling with umbrella and especially on bicycle rush hours, it’s really a sight!

How about you, what is your view of cycling? What do you like about riding a bike?

Some interesting read can be found Here and Here.

If you want to know how others feel about when they are cycling then read on from Here.It’s really good.

Breakfast with Harley-Davidsons and Ferraris

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Ogling for a Ferrari

I’m not so much of a car-fanatic but there’s something I’ve discovered lately this year. I told you, my town is so small and yet so full of hidden facts that are just waiting to be discovered. And yes, not too late to share but—I found a place where you can have a thrilling one-of-a kind experience of having a breakfast with Rolls-Royce, Harley Davidson, and crazy beautiful sleek fast luxury branded sports cars like Ferrari and Lamborghini. All set in one great ambiance in the business Hotel called Classic Old Timer Hotel! Germans are crazy about their cars but here in Ingolstadt, with the giant Audi HQ set within few kilometers away , everyone is just crazy about cars.There’s no doubt that anyone who visits the old town will probably head to Audi Forum!

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Big bikes are on display!

For car enthusiasts, this is something appealing. Even if cars is not your thing, seeing the showroom from a glance is quite an experience, best of all, its free and open to the public.The showroom is actually a private collection of Mayer Classic cars and it is adjacent to the Hotel premises of Old Timer Classic hotel.

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Mayer Classic cars

Few of the worthwhile collection includes a Ferrari F488 GTB, Lamborghini Aventador, Porsche GT2 RS,F458, and so many more luxury branded cars. If you fancy anything and you’ve got the money, you can even buy it because some pieces are for sale.Unlike the Audi Forum in Ingolstadt, this collection is private and more on classic and luxury branded cars.

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Vintage Wall art 

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Located in front of the Saturn Arena, with just few meters away from the lush Klenzepark and the old town . With its premium location, it also holds  various Rock concerts, fashion shows, and other events .The hotel itself offers a conference room and most of the clients are car-related business as well.

The architecture and design are typical of Hotel standards and the concept of combining the Automobile charisma with the business hospitality of a modern hotel is something new and an absolute win. Not only this place ideal for car lovers, but also for adventure seeking and someone who loves the one above the ordinary.

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The grand showroom of Mayer Classic cars

As I’ve written before in many of my posts, Ingolstadt is a small town here in Bavaria,( approx. 80 km)  away from Munich where the Audi Headquarters is  located.Known for the ancient tales of the secret group Illuminati and the birthplace of the fictional Horror character “Frankenstein“, it offers a lot of diversity and cultural highlights that makes it worthwhile to visit. I can say that for almost 2.5 years of living here, I must say that it does not have the big city vibes like Berlin or Munich, but we feel at home here. It’s safe, clean and we feel at home!

I’ve also visited the Audi Forum  and I am totally immersed to this Automobile culture. This hotel  and the Mayer Classic cars is no exception because even the rooms are designed with car decors. Whether you’re a classic car collector or enthusiast, or simple car lover-admirer, then you should not miss this place.Some regards it only as an additional amenity. The important thing is you got the value of your stay from what you’ve paid for!

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Breakfast with a view!

Hotel guests can enjoy  their breakfast in grand buffet with a view because its free. It’s also a nice place to meet friends and enjoy coffee, or beer in  the Lobby or Reception area.The Reception area  as well shows a lot of car collectibles and vintage decors.

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Bright colorful lamps in the Reception area of the Hotel

There’s something for the stomach and there’s something also to please the eyes. Both senses are fulfilled ,visually and gastronomical. I can tell from my own experience that the breakfast experience is also commendable and worth all the cost. The buffet offers a wide range of choices, from traditional Bavarian breakfast of Kaisersmarrn and weisswursts, Brezen  to american or continental breakfast choices of  cold cuts, muesli, cheeses, salmon fillets (Lachs)  breads and assorted salads. The hot drinks includes numerous Tea variations and coffee, and fruit juices.

When was the last time you’ve experienced something unique and out of the ordinary?

Wishing you all a happy weekend and until then!

 

Tschüss!

The beauty of Manholes [Part 2]

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Holiday greetings from Mayen near Koblenz!

It’s been a while and I apologize for lack of posts in this Blog. It’s been a busy, horribly busy year for me. But anyway, this Christmas break I have the chance to sit down and reflect and write once again. So many things had happened for the past months and I guess I just need to move on. Thank you for those who continue to comment, write and visit my Blog. Hopefully I could personally catch up on all my followers and readers!

How are you guys doing? I hope that everyone is doing well and had a wonderful holidays with your love ones.

For those who celebrates Christmas —Merry Christmas and as Germans say “Einen guten Rutsch or a wish for a great slide in the coming New Year!This is one of the great things that I did this year—to learn and speak German!

But the Dutch and Germans do it well since they have the second day of Christmas ( Boxing Day) that is December 26 to celebrate. What’s not to love about this extra day of holiday but to eat more, drink more and be merry?!

How did you guys kept yourselves busy this holiday season? As for me, here’s another sequel for my collection of Manholes—also known as drain covers!

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I am not so looking forward to snow but to seeing more creative art down on the streets

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Holiday greetings from the Mosel valley

If you read my post about “The beauty of Manholes“then you must know my fascination for water drainage. I have this  thing for looking down and set a goal to collect different images of manholes in different places and as I find it very interesting, Germany is a great place to start. These images  showed uniqueness of each place and area. Some are really distinctly creative, some are just plainly functional. But I tell you, for me, It is  always great to look down into something nice, whether its covered with snow, dirt, or leaves, mud or wet with rain.It adds a sentiment while walking on cobbled streets. For these second part of my series, I want to thank my father-in-law for capturing all the new manholes.

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Memories from the Rhein cruise tour

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Greetings from Paderborn in North Rhine, Westphalia in Germany

Soon it will be another year, how time flies. A brand new year for all of us to start new beginnings. Have you already thought about what do you want to accomplish in 2019?

What about starting a “Looking down series“?

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Looking down in Andernach, Germany

I know its human nature to look up. Gazing up on a tall building, or on a clear blue skies is something that we all do especially when we are “visitors”in a foreign land. It only takes a few seconds to look up and appreciate all the new and beautiful things that surrounds us.Same goes with looking down. You see shadow paths from yesterday, footprints and marks that tells a million stories.

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Reading about History and looking down in Koblenz, Germany

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

How does the manholes in your area looks like?

Want to participate in my global project?

If you ever seen an interesting Manhole in your area, please feel free to send me a photo of it or a link so I can include it here in my list.

My goal is to collect as many as possible depending where my path leads me to.

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

I hope you find my story interesting and something to ponder about. Over here in Bavaria in Germany, sending you the best wishes for the coming Silvester and New Year!

Happy New Year to all!

Wishing you all a happy weekend…Tschüss!

Berlin …as I see it!

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One of the green sites inside the Hackesher Markt in Berlin

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

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

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

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The Reichstag in Berlin ( or Deutscher Bundestag)

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

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Holocaust Memorial in Berlin

 

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Little hands, little traveler

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

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Out and about into Berlin’s colorful streets

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

Berlin is BERLIN !

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

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Colorful art Grafitti in the streets of Berlin

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UNESCO World Heritage Site,Museum Insel in Berlin

Berlin is very International

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

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

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

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

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The Berliner Dom (Cathedral)

Berlin is Green

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

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Fascinated with the Ampelmännchen in Berlin

Berlin is a home for Artists 

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

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Graffitti Art, the more , the merrier

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Call me please…

A Walk through  History

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

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Bebelplatz Book Burning Memorial in Berlin

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Walking can lead you to details of History

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

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A Nostalgic shop in Heckesher Markt

Berlin is cheap…or rather affordable.

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

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Art mania or what?

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

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

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Watching shadow cast in Berlin

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

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

 

 

 

 

The Beauty of Manholes

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Manhole cover in Amsterdam,Netherlands

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

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

But the big question is why?

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

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

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

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Manhole in Münich , Germany

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Welcome the Dutch  Royalty, Manhole from the Netherlands

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Manhole image from  Nürnberg, Germany

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

So, why manholes?

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

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

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

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Caught a glimpse of the Manhole in Regensburg, Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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While exploring the oldest city in Germany, Trier

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

How does the manholes in your area looks like?

Want to participate in a global project?

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

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

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

Wishing you all a happy weekend…Tschüss!

Twisted |Golden Skeletons and caged Angels

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Golden Skeleton with scissors and a frantic Angel

I love visiting churches. I am not a religious person but I am a lover of beautiful buildings and architecture. Be it Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance or Modern Art, a great work is timeless. Speaking of churches, I love the peace and tranquility of being inside a solemn place of worship. I also felt the same amazement when I marveled  at the beauty of the Grand Mosque in Kuwait. Here in Germany, there are so many beautiful churches, in fact, too many to mention. In every city we visit, I always find time to visit historical churches and I am always left with wonder. They kind of look all the  same, all had distinct beauty that is worth of admiration, some  have captivating details and carries a legendary tale. Even for half an hour or so, I always felt being recharged when I let the silence while being inside a church. Walking through the marbled floors, sitting and saying a little prayer, marveling at the lines of statues and gazing up through the illuminated wall decorations and stained windows can be a worthwhile experience. So is the saying that when you travel, you become silent, then it makes you a storyteller in the end.

But churches can also be exhilarating! There are so much to see and so much history. One thing, what about the famous priests of kings buried in the crypt, the artists who painted the frescoes, or the reason why it was built?

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Beautiful frescoed ceiling of the Asam Kirche in München done by Cosmas Damian

The solemn stillness of cascading lights through the Holy Altars and grand statues of saints is more than enough to feed my curiosity. A quick look of the Rococo and Stucco designs, the elaborate paintings, or the exhilarating ceiling  vault designs can be stressful, at the same time interesting. Especially on a busy day full of sightseeing in a new city, churches provides an accent which makes any trip worthwhile.This is one of the reasons why  most churches here in Germany are  full of visitors, tourists, and of  religious groups.

Last week, my parents-in-law visited us for a few days so we decided to take a day-trip to show them a bit of  München. The weather was fine and as usual, Munich is super busy. After our visit in the Dino World in Olympia Park, we strolled along Marienplatz and along the Sendlingerstrasse   to check out Asam kirche, also known as St. Johann Nepomuk church. This church had left a lasting impression to me ever since I saw it last year. But this time, I saw another fascinating, yet twisted detail.

Just below the statue of St. Nepomuk lies a captivating golden sculpture of Skeleton, with a  giant scissors and about to cut a thread that an anxious Angel holds. In most churches, sculptures and statues of angels, saints and heavenly divinities are a normal sight, but this one is something different.If you’re keen enough , the skeleton signifies Death and He holds the scissors to cut the thread , obviously the Thread of Life that a frantic angel holds.

Twisted? Creepy, or unusual?

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The Golden Skeleton can cut the Thread of Life anytime

Asam Kirche is a Baroque Church in München, in southern part of Germany.Built around 1733 to 1746 by Asam Brothers, sculpture and stucco plaster Egid  Quirin Asam  and Architect/Painter Cosmas Damian Asam. They work closely together and are considered to be one of the prolific Artists in the Late Baroque period.Their notable works spread throughout Germany, particularly in Bavaria, and in Austria. They are also responsible for the impressive church that we have here in the Old Town of Ingolstadt, the Asam Church of Maria Viktoria.

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Details inside  Asam Kirche in Munich

They built the Asam Kirche for personal place of worship, in fact, they can see the church from their private dwelling house.If you love Architecture, then this place has full of notable details for you to enjoy.The gold-accented ceiling fresco “Life of Saint Nepomuk“is one of the masterpiece from the work  Cosmas Damian Asam.

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The elaborate ceiling fresco by Cosmas Damian

 

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With all the oddities and twisted allegories, this church is worthwhile to check out if you are planning to visit Munich. I must say that  the Asam Kirche is a hidden jewel, “klein aber fein ” ( small yet beautifully done). There’s a lot of hidden surprises that awaits for those who are willing to explore it!

 

 

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

 

Further Reading :

Majestic Dom in Trier , the oldest city in Germany

Architecture above the Liebfrauenmünster

Frauenkirche, the Church with the Devil’s Footprint

Rediscovering the Streets of Regensburg