Travel

A few days in Basel

It seems to me that I have an unknown penchant for cities beginning with the letter ‚B‘ (see Brussels, Barcelona, Berchtesgaden). Or at least fate seems to take me there. A family get-together this weekend was a wonderful chance to discover Basel. And what a pretty little city it is.

The beautiful old-town was a perfect Swiss combination of German orderliness and French charm and was completely free from cars, and in quite a few streets seemed to be completely free of people.

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Probably because the blazing sun on this summer weekend took the residents of the city down to the Rhine. And the Rhine had a completely different character to the one I am familiar with from my time in Duesseldorf – clear, blue and full of swimmers and pleasure boats.

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And so after a wander around the old town, we too took a stroll along the hot riverside paving and cooled off by diving into the Rhine and drifting pleasantly down stream to a handily placed beach bar.

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This seems to be a city with an astounding quality of life. The weekend was rounded off with a Sunday morning walk along the Rhine, a strong coffee from a riverside cafe and the promise to visit the city again.

On Europe

One of the things I like about living in Germany is that I feel more a part of Europe and much more a European. And it’s purely an emotional thing.

Our summer holiday saw us driving through southern Germany, Austria, Italy and France in a matter of a week. Miles of breath-taking alpine scenery, picturesque hilltop villages , sprawling towns in the valleys below and lakeside panoramas. The border between these countries was more marked by the change in architecture, town planning, traffic signs and toll charges than the largely redundant border controls. This free passage is something I never take for granted.

As we dined on delicious pasta and took in the romance of the Italian lakeside towns, as we breakfasted on coffee and scrumptious croissants in a simple French bar, as I conversed with American wedding guests who marvelled at the diversity and charm of Europe and as we returned home to beautiful Munich (and finally to some good German bread), I could only hope that Europe is not dying.

As the Greeks head to the polls today, as the nations decide on the future of Europe, I hope that in a non-political, non-financial and completely emotional way that our neighbours will be ok and that I will one day stand in awe of the Acropolis and dip my feet in the Aegean sea and still feel as if I am in the heart of Europe.

A few days in Duesseldorf

I left Duesseldorf with my heels dragging almost exactly one year ago. And as great a city as Munich is, with its wonderful backdrop of mountains and lakes, Duesseldorf will always have a special meaning for me. The time when a foreign city and country started to feel like home.

How lovely it was to spend a weekend in Duesseldorf again. To arrive just in time to enjoy a sunset walk along the Rhine.photoDUS1

To walk familiar streets and notice everything new and old. To feel instantly at home and yet view the city as a guest.

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To discover new sides to the city.

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To be bathed in sunshine.

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And to be reunited with friends. Ah, Duesseldorf.

A few days in Venice

Everybody seems to have advice for expecting parents. And I’m not averse to listening to it. It mainly seems to centre around get as much sleep as you can (which is not as easy as said with an increasingly uncomfortable belly), relax, go to the cinema lots (done pretty well on this one) and enjoy the time together before your relationship changes in an indescribable way, forever.

A weekend aways exploring a new city seemed like the perfect thing to do. And we couldn’t have picked a better place than Venice for our last trip away together as a couple.

A city so different from any I have ever seen, drenched in wistful romance and encumbered with so many bridges and steps that the idea of going there with a small child just seems silly. And what do you know it? A 6.5 hour train journey from Munich.

Being an early riser, I was rewarded with this wonderfully warm, springtime light on our first morning.

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The city is perfect for aimless wandering. Every second turn seemed to lead onto a lively square with the next bar ready to serve you an espresso in the sun.

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The mixture of fully renovated facades mixed with more run-down buildings, added charm and made it feel less like a full-blown disney land. The vaguely present images in my head of Canaletto’s Venice were however not disappointed.

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DSCF4083And the sight of Gondoliers in their wonderful costumes was to me, fitting rather than kitschy.

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Watching the sunset whilst sitting along one of the city’s many promenades, revelling in that glorious light….that’s something which will surely stand us in good stead for the chaotic weeks and months ahead.

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Back to work

 

20140602-000202-122400.jpgThe long summer days spent under the Mallorcan sun have come to an end. After swimming in the turquoise sea, running among the orange trees, discovering new sides to an island I have come to love (how very German of me), spending time with family and friends and a happy first anniversary with my husband, I’m tanked up on energy and ready for work.

 

How do you stop the time flying?

As the second month of the year hurtles to a close and Spring nudges around the corner, there seems to be one question: how do you stop time flying? One answer may be to do things which are memorable. Things your mind can hold on to. This is easier on holiday, but it should be something to aspire to all the time.

This week I had some free time and collected many impressions for my mind to hang on to. But was reminded of something else; there are few feelings comparable to that of kicking off a heavy pair of walking boots at the end of a day’s walking and the aching muscles which tend to follow the morning after.

wpid-IMG_20140222_144233.jpgLess then 30 minutes from Munich lies the beautiful lake Starnberg. Isn’t this just the perfect spot to stop and think? A few hours strolling along its shores made us wish we could just keep going.

Another area of quiet can be found even closer to the centre of Munich. Arriving by tram to a neighbourhood in the west of Munich does not prepare you for the beautiful grounds at ‚Schloss Nymphenburg‘, a summer residence for royals.
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We marvelled at the romance of the swans greeting us on our arrival  – at their pristine white feathers and wondered if it’s true that they mate for life.

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We skipped the tour of the Schloss itself, but were rewarded with a huge garden to ramble through.  Joggers, dog-walkers and happy tourists on a quiet weekday morning.

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Day 1 back at work, and I am still benefiting from the fresh air, the rays of sunshine and the many impressive images both from nature those man-made. And the memory that for a few days at least, time didn’t fly.

A FEW DAYS IN BARCELONA

Barcelona is a city with a good reputation. Architecturally rich, warm and friendly, beach bars, las ramblas, tree-lined romantic streets, a decent underground and apparently good red wine in every restaurant – it’s easy to see why visitors fall in love with it.

Having the luxury of having been here before has meant that I can afford to practice some slow tourism. That means not carrying around a guide book, not having an itinerary and not consulting tripadvisor for restaurant tips. It has meant going for a run along the coast, getting a bit lost on the streets, tumbling into random bars with various colleagues (attending the ERS 2013) and pretending to be a local by renting an airbnb apartment in one of the narrow and vibrant streets (and yes, by that I mean it can get loud) in the gothic quarter.

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 Yesterday was the national day of Catalonia. This officially means a day of demonstrations to commemorate the defeat of Catalan troops in 1714. This somehow passed me by, apart from spotting groups dressed in yellow, albeit wrapped in Catalan’s flag, sipping beer and eating tapas in the plazas nearby. Leading up to the day however, I bumped into colourful street parties and a rather fun looking game of street bingo.

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 What I like most of all about the city (apart from Gaudi’s work) is the feeling of family life despite the size of the city. The central boulevards along major streets where you can see retired couples, young families and not infrequently all three generations strolling together and looking like they have all the time in the world. This is the feeling I would like to take back with me as autumn sets in across Europe.

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ERASMUS FOR GROWN-UPS

Just a little over a 2-hour drive on an end-of-summer Friday evening, crossing over from Germany into Holland and finally across the Belgian border brought us to Brussels for the weekend.

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 In itself, the city doesn’t jump at you with its beauty or irresistible charm, but it certainly has something about it: Flemish town houses, Parisien standard bakeries, a maze of one way streets and a hotch potch of residents. More than half of the city’s residents are immigrants, and you can feel this as you traverse its streets and stroll through its parks.

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 We spent the majority of our time on the wonderful terrace of our host, close to the European Quarter. Lazy tourism but also a wonderful kind. Sipping red wine by candlelight late into the night (with only the occasional sprinkle of light rain) whilst conversing with a table full of guests, naturally from all over Europe.

Brussels seems to be the ERASMUS for grown-ups. And I just about remember how much fun that looked like at university.

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