Thursday, December 28, 2006 foggy Christmas eve...

I don't like "Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer", but that line fit this year's holiday weather perfectly. The fog was the only white we got. Actually, it was lovely yesterday morning, when the fog froze and outlined everything beautifully. Even cobwebs look artistic when adorned with tiny frozen droplets! It did make walking a bit treacherous though, as the sidewalks and pathways were slippery.

In Germany, the standard New Year's wish is "einen guten Rutsch" - "a good slide" into the new year. Admittedly, that is meant figuratively, not literally; we'd rather not have icy roads...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christmas to all! Frohe Weihnachten!

May your holidays be happy and the new year filled with joy!

Frohe Feiertage und alles Gute im neuen Jahr!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Apologies to those few readers who still check this blog - it will carry on with pictures of my trip, but I am currently in the midst of holiday preparations with little leisure for other time-consuming activities.

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like...

...early spring? Indian summer? Anything but Christmas! At highs between 15 - 18° C. I don't feel at all like decorating for the season, though it's high (oops - sorry about the pun) time I get started. But when roses, lavender and geraniums are still blooming outside, and autumn leaves tenaciously hang onto tree branches, dreams of a white Christmas are far away.

It's inevitable though - Christmas markets are being set up in cities everywhere. Our local one includes a skating rink that will be an attraction throughout the coming month. It's going to take an awful lot of energy to keep that ice frozen...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

more NZ pictures

Paihia was the northernmost point of my New Zealand trip, on the beautiful Bay of Islands. Here, as always more effective than a thousand words, are pictures:

Sunrise over the bay

Cruising around the islands

Dolphins - lively, and therefore difficult to get in sharp focus

The Hole-in-the Rock

Double rainbow! And yes, that is a swimming pool belonging to the backpackers' accomodation in which I stayed.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Now that I've had time to look through my photos, I'll be sharing some which should be of general interest to my readers. To start off, I caught a rainbow over New Zealand!

Here's the Auckland skyline, seen from the ferry.

Experiencing spring twice this year was one of the great privileges of travelling to the southern hemisphere in our autumn! I took more pictures of blooming flowers and blossoming trees than anyone besides myself would probably want to see. These are in Rotorua, NZ.

Bizarre rock formations and geysers are fascinating to see! (also in Rotorua)

More to come in the next days...

Hier sind nun einige Fotos aus Neuseeland zu sehen - ein Regenbogen, vom Flugzeug aus; die Skyline von Auckland, von der Fähre gesehen; Frühlingsblumen und blühende Bäume, der große Vorteil einer Reise zur südlichen Hemisphäre in unserem Herbst; und bizarre Steinformationen und Geysire. Mehr in den nächsten Tagen...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Though home is familiar, even after an absence of six weeks, I became aware of differences upon arriving. I guess I had gotten used to traffic on the left side of the road, because driving home, I thought we were on the wrong side of the road. Fortunately, old habits kicked in very quickly, and I haven't had any problems when driving myself.

Language was another change; I rarely had opportunity to speak German while travelling, so had to get back into it - not a difficulty, just something of which I was conscious. Money is another difference; I've had to look at Euro coins more closely to be quite sure which are which. As I'd changed currencies several times, I never really became certain in handling them.

The change in season was something of which I was aware, but it still took me by surprise to see the leaves coloured and falling after having experienced spring in the southern hemisphere. The biggest change, though, and the one which is still causing me a bit of difficulty, is the time change. Sydney was eight hours ahead of central Europe, and on the day I arrived back here, daylight time had just ended, making that a nine hour difference. I get tired in the late afternoon and manage to make myself stay awake until early evening, when I drop into bed only to awaken sometime around 3:00 - 4:00 in the morning. Oh well, that will take care of itself within the next days...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Home again / Wieder zu Hause

I arrived back in Germany today and am struggling with a jet lag of 9 hours time difference, as well as waiting for my luggage to catch up with me. More in days to come...

Ich bin heute in Deutschland angekommen und versuche, mit einem Jetlag von 9 Stunden Zeitunterschied klarzukommen; ich warte auch auf mein Gepäck, daß den Anschluß von Frankfurt nicht geschafft hat. Demnächst mehr...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Alive and well in Sydney

I'm enjoying the sights of the big city and the comfort of a hotel room - I've seen the obligatory sights: Harbour Bridge, Opera House etc., then took a walk on famous Bondi Beach today. Tomorrow I plan to take the ferry to Manly Beach, both to enjoy the view from the harbor and to see a different part of the city. I've already found my favourite part - my hotel is near Darling Harbour, and I've enjoyed walking around it when all the lights are on in the evening and lots of people are sitting in the cafes and restaurants.

This may be my last entry here before I fly home in two days...

Ich geniesse den Komfort eines Hotelzimmers und das Leben in der Grossstadt hier - ich bin schon zu der beruehmten Bruecke und dem Opernhaus gegangen und nahm heute den Bus zum beruehmten Bondi Beach, wo ich spazieren gegangen bin. Die Kueste dort ist wunderbar! Morgen plane ich eine Fahrt auf der Faehre nach Manly, einem Stadtteil, wo es ebenfalls einen Strand gibt, denn es soll etwas waermer und sonniger sein als bisher. Mein Lieblingsstadtteil ist ganz in der Naehe meines Hotels, das Hafengebiet Darling Harbour, das viele Wasserspiele und abends fantastische Beleuchtung hat.

Dies wird vielleicht meine letzte Eintragung hier sein, denn in zwei Tagen fliege ich zurueck nach Deutschland - von dort aus mehr...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Back from the outback

I finished my Australien tours and am finishing off my trip with a few days in Sydney before coming back home. I'm happy and satisfied, and still too tired to do more than just check in to let everyone know I'm fine. More to come...

Ich bin zurueck von meiner Tour ins australische Hinterland; es war ein tolles Erlebnis, aber noch bin ich zu muede um mehr zu schreiben. Ich fliege morgen nach Sydney fuer die letzten Tage meiner Reise and werde mich nochmal von dort melden.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Down Under

Gruesse aus Australien! Ich bin in Adelaide, nicht ganz so bekannt wie die ganz grossen Staedte, dafuer gemuetlicher and mit viel Charme. Hier ist es warm - nach der Kaelte in NZ waren die 34 Grad ein grosser Wechsel; heute ist es etwas kuehler, sehr angenehm. Ich geniesse es, die Stadt zu besichtigen und einzukaufen; heute nachmittag treffe ich Freunde hier, mit denen ich das Wochenende verbringe. Dann geht's ab Montag los mit den Reisen.

Greetings from Australia! I'm in Adelaide, enjoying a lovely city with considerable charm, much more relaxed than Auckland was. It's warm and dry, was even hot (over 30 degrees) when the plane landed yesterday. I'll be visiting friends here over the weekend, then begin with my travels on Monday. For today, I' m enjoying the sights and shopping opportunities - I've stocked up on sunscreen and insect repellent...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'm back in Auckland, staying one night to catch the plane to Australia in the morning. I very much enjoyed the northern coast, and I'll try to concentrate in the buzz of conversation surrounding me in the backpackers' accomodation's internet room to write about it.

The most memorable experience was a boat cruise on the Bay of Islands yesterday morning. It was great to see the little, mostly uninhabited islands up close*, but the most special experience was seeing dolphins swimming next to the ship! There's a good chance of sighting them, but it's not 100% certain, so I was happy when they appeared.

I will be travelling a lot during the first week in Australia, so I'm not sure when I'll be able to get internet access. When I do, I'll write from there.

*Those islands reminded me of Tom Hanks' island in "Castaway".

Morgen frueh geht's weiter nach Australien, also bin ich jetzt zurueck in Auckland. Die Inselbucht im Norden hat mir sehr gut gefallen; das bemerkenswerteste Erlebnis war die Schifffahrt um die Inseln, denn dabei gab's auch Delfine zu sehen! Sie schwammen um das Schiff herum und spielten richtig - toll! Die Inseln erinnerten mich an den Film mit Tom Hanks: "Verschollen".

Da ich in den naechsten Tagen viel unterwegs sein werde, weiss ich nicht, wann ich Internetzugang haben werde. Mein Handy funktioniert hier, also bekommt meine Familie ab und zu SMS von mir. Wer will, kann dort erfahren, was es Neues gibt.

Monday, October 09, 2006

South and North

I spent two days at the southernmost point of my journey, the beautiful Art Deco City of Napier and really enjoyed seeing the wonderful buildings. Pictures will say more than thousands of words, so for description, you'll have to wait till I get back - or google the city name to see some of it. On Sunday, I spent almost 12 hours, with a couple of breaks in between, on the bus to get from there to here, the northernmost part of my visit to NZ. I'm now at the Bay of Islands, seeing the sights here, since it's not warm enough for beach weather. More to come...

Nach zwei Tagen ziemlich im Sueden der Nordinsel Neuseelands, in der wunderschoenen Art Deco Stadt Napier, bin ich am Sonntag bis in den hohen Norden, zur Bay of Islands gefahren - 12 Stunden im Bus! Es ist Fruehling, noch nicht wirklich warm genug fuer Strandwetter, also bin ich unterwegs, um die verschiedenen Sehenswuerdigkeiten anzuschauen und zu fotografieren. Ich geniesse es, soviel Neues und Schoenes zu entdecken! Mehr demnaechst...

Ich habe neulich vergessen, auf Deutsch zu erzaehlen, dass ich die Stelle, wo die Hobbitwohnungen zum Filmen gebaut wurden, besichtigt habe. Auch wenn jetzt nur noch Reste zu sehen sind, war es doch eine faszinierende Erfahrung! Der grosse Party-Baum ist wunderschoen und war schon alleine den Eintrittspreis wert.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Das Abenteuer geht weiter/The adventure continues

Ich habe zwei wunderbare Tage hier in Rotorua erlebt! Es gibt viel Historisches zu sehen - die geologische Geschichte der Erde ist sichtbar in heissen, blubbernden Matschbecken, kochenden Gewaesser, Geysire und Dampfschwaden, die aus der Erde entweichen. Es gibt auch vieles aus der Geschichte der Maoris zu sehen - Artefakte und Kunstwerke, Tanz- und Gesangsauffuerungen. Da dieser Ort auch in der Vergangenheit als Badeort bekannt war, gibt es ebenfalls einiges darueber. Es hat mir gut gefallen, ich habe vieles gesehen und erlebt und fuehre mein geschriebenes Tagebuch gewissenhaft, so dass ich nachholen kann, was ich aus Zeitgruenden jetzt nicht erzaehlen kann.

I've had a wonderful time here in Rotorua! I've packed a lot of activity into two days; there's a lot of history to be seen here - geological, in the geothermical activity of geysers, bubbling mud ponds, and steaming waters. There's also a lot of Maori history to be experienced in performances of song and dance and in displays of artefacts and art works - often one and the same. I also tried out the hot baths in the Polynesian spa - a relaxing way to spend an evening out under the stars, going back and forth between the chilly air and the hot water.

Most of all, I went to Hobbiton!! I'll have to tell more about the film site in Matamata at a later time - my bus leaves soon for the next leg of the journey, but it was a fascinating experience. I had my picture taken with the party tree, so I'll have something to show, and of course more photos looking out of Bilbo's hobbit hole window and door - just the bare bones, but still a lot of fun! It really did feel like being in another world, as there was no sign of modern civilization to be seen - just a fabulous view and what remains of the film site. Pics may have to wait till I get home - uploading takes so much precious internet time...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Hi from New Zealand!/Hallo aus Neuseeland!

Now the real adventure begins! Until now, even the exotic location of Hawai'i was still "only" a family visit, but now I'm completely on my own - crossed the equator for the first time in my life, am in the southern hemisphere for the first time, and looking forward to seeing the southern star constellations for the first time.

I arrived in Auckland this noon after losing a day somewhere near the Fiji Islands - but I don't plan to go back to find it. I'm staying at a backpackers' hostel here for the night, a location that is functional rather than luxurious, but as I'm moving on in the morning, that's fine. Internet access is easy and not too expensive, fortunately.

The city is crowded and busy, but I discovered an interesting alternative this afternoon. OK, I confess - it happened because I was looking for a quilt shop, and the one easiest to reach was across the harbour. I enjoyed the ferry ride over - the view of the city on both sides is fantastic from the water. Devonport on the north side is charming, with a small town feeling to it, and an artsy-craftsy flair. After getting some fabric pieces at the quilt shop I strolled around, looking at the quaint houses and enjoying the atmosphere. That was a pleasant start to my NZ adventure! More from the next stops...

Ich bin heute mittag in Auckland angekommen; jetzt kann das Abenteuer wirklich beginnen! Bisher waren meinen Stationen, selbst das exotische Hawai'i, Familien/Freundesbesuche, aber hier kenne ich und kennt mich niemand. Ich freue mich unbaendig, zum ersten Mal in der suedlichen Haemisphaere zu sein, den Aequator zum ersten Mal ueberquert zu haben, und die Sternbilder zu sehen. Der Tag, der mir irgendwo auf dem Weg ueber den Fidschiinseln verlorenging, wird verloren bleiben - ich gehe nicht zurueck, um ihn zu suchen!

Auf der Suche nach einem Patchworkgeschaeft entdeckte ich einen schoenen Ortsteil ueber der Bucht. Ich fuhr mit der Faehre hin - ein toller Blick auf die Stadt! - und fand entzueckende alte Haeuser im Stadtteil Devonport. Das war ein schoener Kontrast zur lauten, beschaeftigten Grossstadt. Morgen geht's weiter mit dem Bus; ich berichte demnaechst von den naechsten Stationen.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Aloha II! (English version)

Since my hosts have kindly taken time off to show me around, I've seen quite a bit of the island of O'ahu this week. We drove up to the North Shore, seeing pineapple and coffee plantations on the way and going through the mountains with the help of a tunnel. It was good that we didn't plan that trip for the weekend - surf's up really big now, and traffic will be no fun. Then we drove over to the windward side of the island - I managed to get at least my feet wet, though the first contact with Pacific water was at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu at the beginning of the week.

After seeing that famous area, full of highrise hotels, crowds of tourists, and fancy shops with equally fancy prices, I was doubly thankful for the opportunity to stay here privately. A lovely residential area is much nicer! We did have cocktails at the beach bar of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, just puttin' on the ritz for the fun of it. We also went to the museum, which was nice to see, though partially closed for renovation.

Today I went fabric shopping, an important priority! I'm bringing fabrics from each country to use for a quilt, and of course browsing those stores is much more fun than shopping at tourist traps! Besides, as a souvenir, fabric is perfect - unbreakable, fairly light, and non-bulky.

Two more days here, and I'll be packing for the next leg of the journey. That gives me time to work on a bit of a tan - I'm being very careful to use sunscreen and stay out of the sun during the middle hours of the day, so it won't go fast. That's definitely healthier and more comfortable!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Es gibt doch Bier auf Hawaii! Nicht dass ich interessiert waere, aber gestern haben mein Bruder, seine Frau und ich Lunch gehabt in einem Lokal, in dem es sogar mehrere Sorten Bier nach deutscher Art gibt - Koelsch, Hefeweizen, usw.

Hier ist es wunderschoen - ueberall gibt es besondere Pflanzen und Voegel und es duftet nach exotischen Blumen. Regenboegen sind oft zu sehen, denn irgendwo regnet es, anderswo scheint die Sonne. Auf dieser Seite der Berge ist es eher trocken - ideal fuer Urlauber, aber die Pflanzen muessen gewaessert werden.

Gestern haben die beiden mir die beruehmte Strandgegend Waikiki gezeigt, wobei ich dankbar bin, nicht dort wohnen zu muessen! Viele Hochhaushotels, viele Geschaefte, Strassen und Menschen - nicht das, was ich als erholsam empfinden wuerde. Allerdings habe ich es genossen, das erste Mal in meinem Leben meine Fuesse im Wasser des Pazifischen Ozeans zu baden. Heute fahren wir an eine weiterentfernte Kueste.

Der Zeitunterschied ist leicht zu berechnen - genau 12 Stunden. (Im Winter sind's elf, da es hier keinen Wechsel gibt.) Also wenn Ihr schlafen geht, faengt mein Tag erst richtig an. Ich wuensche Euch eine gute Nacht!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The adventure of flying/Das Abenteuer des Fliegens

I thought that the purpose of my flights on this trip was to get me to the places where my adventures would take place, and I certainly didn't think of Minneapolis, Minnesota as being an adventurous location, but my flight from there to Dallas turned out to be much longer and more complicated than planned.

I left North Dakota Friday morning and was to reach Dallas via Minneapolis and Chicago (devious because of the two different airlines involved) on the evening. The first leg of the journey went quickly, and I had time to enjoy the airport in Minnesota before boarding the flight to O'Hare. Well, we sat in the plane, parked on the runway for almost two hours, with the occasional information that they were waiting for clearance from Chicago, where there were storms, possibly even reported tornados. OK, it's better to be safe on the ground than to get into stormy weather up in the sky, I thought, but by the time the plane taxied back to the gate, my connecting flight was leaving Chicago.

There was a long line to reroute and rebook flights back in the airport, and no chance for me to get to Dallas that evening, so after the complicated process of rebooking a flight directly from Minneapolis to Dallas the next morning, I had to take a hotel room for the night - at my own expense, since weather is not the airline's responsibility. Up early the next morning, I was on the plane and on the way to Dallas, hoping to be there later in the morning and still have half of that day with my brother and his family.

Well, by that time the weather in Dallas was acting up, and the plane didn't have enough fuel to keep circling for too long, so it flew down to Austin to refuel there. For some reason unknown to me, we did have to deplane there, and the plane did not fly to Dallas, so we all ended up picking up our luggage again and standing in line again to rebook a flight to Dallas. The next few flights were cancelled, but one machine was actually there to take us - but by the time flight time arrived, they said that the pilot and cockpit crew forit hadn't arrived yet, as they were still stuck on the ground in Dallas. By the time they finally got to Austin I had walked around the airport there more than I cared to, not able to leave the building because we never knew when the plane might leave.

I arrived in Dallas Saturday evening, 24 hours after I was scheduled to do so! (Had I left North Dakota by car on Friday morning, I could have ben there by then!) The worst part of it was that I only had the weekend there, as my brother works long hours during the week, so we had hoped to have at least those two+ days together. Two nights and one day were short, but we did our best to make the best of them.

By comparison, yesterday's flight to Hawai'i went smoothly; it took eight hours, and the airlines don't serve food except for expensive sandwiches to buy on domestic flights even of that length, but as everyone has been feeding me better than necessary, it felt good to have a few hours without anything but liquids. I was picked up by my (other) brother and wife here, greeted with two wonderful leis and am looking forward to my week here! More in the days to come...

Die komplizierte Geschichte meines Flugabenteuers am letzten Wochenende werde ich in Deutsch nachholen, wenn ich Zeit habe. Jetzt bin ich gut in Hawai'i angekommen und freue mich auf meine Tage hier - mehr dazu bald, nun geht's los auf Entdeckungsfahrt!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I've come a long way, baby

Besides providing me with internet access, I have a second reason for being thankful to the small town library here - I found a battered old copy of Michener's Hawaii, a gigantic historical novel which I had thought about reading as preparation for next week's trip there, but hadn't had time at home. It's actually so dilapidated that the librarian gave it to me, so I can dispose of it when I've finished reading. How about that for acquiring a book that doesn't weigh down my luggage for the rest of the trip?! I've had time to read, so I'm about a third into it by now, and it's a fascinating look at the history of the islands.

I'm letting my mind wander along with my feet as I walk about town daily, trying to connect to my memories of the years I spent here. The old high school is still there, though it now has students from two neighboring towns as well and carries the name of the county instead of the town. Physically, much has stayed the same, though I don't know a lot of the residents anymore, but I guess I've changed so much that I get little feeling of familiarity when I see it. That old advertising slogan comes to mind: "You've come a long way, baby!" And I have no desire to come back - except to visit and keep in touch with the people here, of course.

Ich habe doppelten Grund, der kleinen oeffentlichen Buecherei hier dankbar zu sein - nicht nur fuer die Moeglichkeit, Internet zu benutzen, sondern auch fuer ein Buch, das ich als Vorbereitung fuer naechste Woche lese. Ich wusste von Michener's grossem historischem Roman "Hawaii", hatte aber keine Zeit, es zu Hause zu lesen. Hier fand ich eine Kopie, die ziemlich auseinander faellt, aber noch so eben ganz ist. Die Bibliothekarin schenkte es mir - ob es hier oder unterwegs weggeworfen wuerde, waere egal - nett, was?! Es liest sich sehr gut und hat viel Information aus der Vergangenheit der Inseln.

Ansonsten faulenze ich und gehe spazieren, versuche dabei Erinnerungen von frueher aufzufrischen. Der Ort hat sich aeusserlich nicht viel veraendert, aber ich habe mich so veraendert, dass mir alles hier sehr fremd ist. Nur die Menschen ver/binden mich noch mit und an das Dorf meiner Jugend.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Next stop/Naechster Halt

It took me three flights to get from Toronto to my next stop, rural North Dakota - really, it's easier to get to Australia, I think. But there was one improvement - I was allowed to keep my lipstick! Anyway, all went well, all flights were punctual, and I'm now spending time visiting my mother and relaxing. As there are no sights to see here, my activities are mostly walking and sitting around, though friends from way back when will be coming over to visit a couple of times this week.

Move on now, nothing to see here...

Ich habe drei relativ kurze Fluege gebraucht, um hier zu landen, im laendlichen North Dakota. Da es sonst nichts zu tun gibt, kann ich sehr gut ausspannen und die Reste meines Jetlags auskurieren. Spaziergaenge und Gespraeche mit meiner Mutter, sowie ein paar Besuche von alten Schulkameraden usw. fuellen die Tage aus bis zur naechsten Reise am Freitag.

Demnaechst mehr...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Soweit, so gut/ So far, so good!

Die erste Etappe ging gut, wenn auch mit einem Verlust - die Bestimmungen in London waren so streng, dass ich sogar meinen Lippenstift ins Hauptgepaeck geben musste! Ich bin noch nie zuvor ohne Lippenstift, nicht mal Labello war erlaubt, gereist. Nun ja, wenn das die einzigen Haerten sind, die ich erlebe, will ich zufrieden sein.

Bin gut in Toronto angekommen, auch mein Gepaeck kam heil an, und wurde von meinen Freunden abgeholt. Erstes Kennenlernen der Stadt bei der Fahrt; in einer Grossstadt gibt es selbst am Abend viel zu sehen. Ein Spaziergang am Seeufer rundete den Tag ab.

Gestern habe ich mit meiner Freundin die lebhafte Innenstadt zu Fuss erkundet; natuerlich sind historische Gebaeude hier nicht so alt wie in Europa, trotzdem fand ich's interessant. Der kroenende Abschluss war Nachmittagstee in einem vornehmen Hotel - mehrgaengig und sehr, sehr lecker! Einen gemuetlichen Abend zu Hause mit der Familie beendete den Tag.

Heute steht der Besuch eines Museums, dass speziell einheimische Kunst zeigt, an. Ich freue mich darauf!

Greetings from Canada, eh! The first leg of my journey went well, though I did experience one hardship - security in London Heathrow applied not only to liquids, but even to cosmetics, so for the first time in my life, I had to travel without a lipstick!! Oh well, if that's the worst it gets, I consider myself fortunate...

I'm thankful for a safe arrival, including my luggage, and am enjoying myself tremendously here. That is due first and foremost to the friends with whom I'm staying - I feel very much at home with them and our conversations are a pleasure. Toronto is an interesting and vibrant city, and exploring it on foot yesterday was fun. Historical buildings always interest me, as do unique shops, pretty parks, and the variety of people one sees.

The highlight of the day was "high tea" in a snazzy hotel lobby. I can't begin to tell you all the kinds of little sandwiches and cakes there were, and delicious scones too. The tea was excellent and generously repleted with hot water several times - those of you who know me know that my capacity for tea is almost limitless!

Except for an embarassing incident involving the accidental inversion of the computer screen display - my friend claims that I was testing what it would be like "down under"! - which was only repairable with knowledgeable help , the evening was cozy and relaxed. I've managed to adjust to normal times of day and night here, so am glad that jet lag is not a big problem. It always seems easier going westwards - and I will always be travelling westwards this trip!

More to come...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Journey's Eve/Reisevorabend

This will be the longest trip I've ever taken, in terms of both time and distance; strangely, I've never been more relaxed on the day before a journey. Perhaps it's because I've planned this for so long - clothing and all necessities have been collected well in advance, and I packed everything yesterday to be sure that I'm under the weight limits. I think it's rather incredible to be travelling for six weeks with only about 20 kilos of baggage for myself! (I have a bit more at the beginning, as I'm taking along some items for family and friends.) Walking and hiking shoes make up a goodly percentage of that weight; they're more important than anything else.

I planned my pre-journey work well too; usually the last day is hectic, with packing, household tasks and errands keeping me busy until late at night. This time I finished all but some details during the past couple of days, and was able to sit outside on the patio this afternoon with a cup of tea. I'm not sure how well I will sleep tonight; my train to the airport leaves at five in the morning. Anyone want to sing "Leaving on a jet plane" for me?

Dies wird die längste Reise sein, die ich je unternommen habe, in Bezug sowohl auf die Zeit als auch auf die Entfernung. Trotzdem (oder gerade deswegen?) bin ich sehr entspannt am letzten Tag zu Hause. Ich habe schon gestern alles gepackt und gewogen, liege weit unter dem, was ich mitnehmen darf, und bin stolz darauf, dass mein eigenes Gepäck unter 20 Kilo liegt! (Dazu kommt noch etwas mehr am Anfang, denn ich nehme Geschenke mit für Familie und Freunde.) Schuhe zum Wandern und Gehen machen einen guten Teil des Gewichts aus, aber sie sind wichtig.

Ich habe gut geplant; alles, was ich mitnehme, war schon vorher bereit; bis auf Kleinigkeiten waren alle Besorgungen, Haushaltsarbeiten, und Vorbereitungen in den letzten Tagen erledigt. Es ist wohl das erste Mal, dass ich nicht am letzten Abend bis spät in die Nacht arbeiten muß. Heute nachmittag hatte ich sogar Zeit, in Ruhe auf der Terrasse zu sitzen und Tee zu trinken! Mal sehen, ob/wie ich schlafen kann - um fünf in der Frühe geht mein Zug zum Flughafen...

Monday, September 11, 2006

"Everywhere you go... always take the weather with you."

That's a great song line to combine both themes of this blog - travel and weather. If I take it literally, I have good chances of having warm and sunny days on my trip - Germany is sending me off with a gorgeous Indian summer! Though it's chilly in the morning, it gets almost hot in the afternoon sunshine.

I presume, however, that the song lyrics are not meant literally, but as a reminder that we take our attitudes with us. That also bodes well for the weeks to come.

And for some reason, that line reminds me of another which I find hilarious:

"Wherever you go, there you are."

Truer words were never spoken...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Jetzt mal in Deutsch

Nachdem die erste Phase meines Reiseblogs auf Englisch gelaufen ist, schreibe ich heute einen Testeintrag für meine deutschsprachigen Freunde. Ihr könnt gerne Rückmeldung geben - dazu einfach auf "comments" direkt unter diesen Zeilen klicken, wo Ihr sowohl die Kommentare, Grüße, und Nachrichten anderer lesen könnt, als auch im Kasten selber etwas zu schreiben. Die Option "sonstiges" gibt Euch die Möglichkeit, Euren Namen zu schreiben; bei "anonym" müsste ich raten, wer es sein könnte, falls Ihr keinen Namen in der Nachricht hinterlassen habt. Ich freue mich, auch unterwegs von meinen Freunden zu hören!

Ich weiß noch nicht, wie regelmäßig ich online sein werde, werde mich aber bemühen, so oft von mir hören zu lassen, wie's mir möglich ist.

Friday, September 08, 2006

If God created the world in six days, I should manage to finish my travel preparations in that time, right?!

Notice for my English-speaking readers - my German friends have asked me if I will be writing for them as well. Rather than taking the complicated path of setting up a second blog, I have decided that I will write part of my entries here in German. That way, should I manage to figure out how to put up pictures, they can be seen by all. Fortunately, those need no translation!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Have towel, will travel

If I take H2G2 (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) as my guide, I'm ready for my trip.

"If with trolley or backpack I can transport my baggage, I will. I have my towel!" (No apologies to the "Lord of the Rings" FotR movie script - lines like that practically beg to be parodied!)

As I collect the clothes, shoes, cosmetics and sundry articles that I must take with me, I am trying to plan well so as to get everything into as small a space as possible while weighing as little as possible. I will have a bit more leeway on the first leg of the journey, which is good, as I'm taking some presents along for family and friends. But by the time I head for New Zealand and Australia, I need to have cut down to 20 kilos - that's not much!

For that reason, my towel is new - though I normally prefer 100% cotton, this one has some modern high-tech fiber content so that it will be lighter and thinner, drying more quickly while still absorbing well. I have been shopping for small sizes of cosmetics to keep volume and weight down some more.

I am planning to dress in basic black and blue (no - I don't mean bruises, silly!) denim - wearing one pair of jeans and packing another, with only one pair of dressy black pants and a thin skirt or two in case I need something like that. Layering is the secret for the rest of my clothes - T-shirts long and short-sleeved, one wool sweater for cool evenings and/or days, and only very basic jewelry (nothing terribly valuable or irreplaceable!) that gets worn constantly to avoid the danger of losing any of it. My double-layered jacket is black and will serve well in all kinds of weather conditions.

I plan to pre-pack and weigh everything several days before I leave to see how I'm doing. I hope I can keep at least some hand luggage as a carry-on; who knows what safety precautions will be in effect next week. I would like to keep my journal and camera with me - I'm not yet sure if I want to take along something to read. What do I do with a book after it's done - drag it with me for the rest of the trip?! I may end up sending myself packages to my home address along the way, especially if I buy more fabric than I can carry...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I love early mornings

I love to get out and walk before breakfast, when the air is cool and fresh, and the rising sun warms my face. OK, sometimes the rain gets me wet instead, but even that isn't bad at the beginning of the day.

I love puttering about the house, picking up things that were left lying around on the previous evening, wandering from one flower pot to another with the watering can, emptying the dishwasher or filling the washing machine. It's delightful to be the only one awake, to sit down with the first cup of tea and the morning paper, enjoying the quiet.

It's great to have a leisurely shower, to choose something nice to wear, to have a real breakfast, to turn on the computer: checking e-mails, new posts on my favorite forum, and the most interesting blogs in hopes of new entries. It's fun to go to my sewing table and rearrange the project I'm working on because I woke up with a great idea.

There's only one thing I don't like about early mornings - they're not nearly long enough!!

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Temperatures have dropped significantly in August; according to Centigrade degrees, we have only half of what we experienced in July - 20° instead of 40°! I don't mind at all; as I have lots of work to do at the computer and sewing machine, which are both located way upstairs, I appreciate the more comfortable temperature range. I feel much more energetic and am getting a lot accomplished.

It's all about priorities, of course - I'm not spending much time online when I'm at my PC, but am translating an article for a Tolkien-related book from German to English. That takes up many hours, though it is an enjoyable task.

Too busy living to blog about it...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hither shores instead of whither weather

This blog, though themed, is of course more personal than generally informative. When I created it, I already had in mind to use it for my personal travel journal on the trip I have planned. Now, with less than two months to departure, I will depart from the theme occasionally to report on travel preparations.

The trip is to take me around the world, though that sounds like something of more scope than it actually will be. I will be touching three continents in six weeks: Europe is my starting point, of course, but I will be here only at the beginning and end of the journey. The first half will be spent visiting family and friends in North America, starting with eastern Canada; then midwest US, both north and south; then Hawaii - which is USA, though I'm not sure it can be technically called North America. From there I fly to the next continent - well, to New Zealand first, then to Australia, for the extravagant part of the journey. I am very much looking forward to seeing the other side of the globe, watching the stars in the southern hemisphere - and getting a glimpse of Middle-earth!

Today I bought the most important piece of luggage - a backpack with wheels, very versatile in all kinds of situations. Now to plan my wardrobe and stuff so that I get it all in there!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Record highs

I'm not sure if this extremely hot, sunny weather still qualifies as "Kaiserwetter", but if so, the old fairy tale suddenly makes sense - the emperor would certainly feel most comfortable wearing the new 'clothing' made by those rascally tailors!

Now that football is no longer the general conversation topic, we are back to the weather, and it does provide plenty of stuff for chatting with others. When meeting other dog owners on the (admittedly brief!) walks in the early morning or late evening, we exchange information about how our pets are surviving the heat. Other garden owners tell of the problems their flowers and produce are having and how much watering it takes to keep the lawn alive. One neighbour informed me that his gooseberries are not ripening on the bush - they're actually cooking in the sun! Unfortunately, that does not improve their flavour, apparently.

We humans wanted sunshine, so I guess we shouldn't complain - it is nice to have summer weather, though it's hard to get much work done. This week is a vacation week for my family; no need to travel - the patio and back yard are as nice as any beach could be, with more shade than most, and have the advantage of close proximity to the refrigerator for cool drinks.

We are all wearing just enough clothing for modesty, though still too much for comfort. I have my long hair pinned up - a style I don't consider flattering, since I look like a prim schoolmarm that way, but vanity must take a back seat to practicality.

As my computer and sewing machine are located on the top floor of the house, I'm not spending much time here, understandably. I'll be back more often when it cools down; thunderstorms are predicted for today, but it's never certain that we will actually get rain in our area, and all that's happening so far is that the air is getting very humid and muggy. Of course, if it really does storm, that will mean keeping the PC switched off, so don't expect me till you see me...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

"Kaiser" weather

"Kaiserwetter" (emperor weather) is an expression for clear, sunny days. I suppose it dates back to the 19th century, when Germany had an emperor, but it seems to hold true for a modern "Kaiser" as well. For whatever reason, probably several, the former football player and now manager who was responsible for getting the World Cup to Germany this year, Franz Beckenbauer, has the nickname "Kaiser Franz".

One of the things that cannot be planned or organized for a four-week-long event is the weather - we are prone to have summers that are distinguishable from the winter merely by the milder temperature of the rain. But the past month was almost entirely sunny - too warm, even, for the players, but very conducive to the outdoor public viewing that made the World Cup so much fun for the spectators outside the stadiums. I'm sure the guests who came from more southern countries felt more comfortable because of the warm days, and the positive mood which swept over Germany certainly owed a lot to the sunshine.

Now how did "Kaiser Franz" manage to accomplish that?!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Temperature drop

Yesterday's thunderstorm brought temperatures down from overwhelming mid-30s to more comfortable lower 20s - a good and welcome change.

The let-down of the temperature of football fever is harder to enjoy - like Icarus, we've been flying high and gotten too close to the sun. The wax has melted, and though the fall isn't fatal, it's definitely produced a hangover-like headache.

I guess that means the conversational opener will go back to the weather condition rather than sharing the excitement of having seen our team win the game on the previous evening...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Blue, blue, the world (cup) is blue

After the collective euphoria of having a home team unexpectedly capable of winning games, yesterday's loss has Germany mourning collectively. It's sad to lose in the last two minutes of a game that went into overtime, just before the draw would have made a victory by penalty shoot-out possible. However, the Italian team did keep our goalie much busier; thank luck and Lehmann for keeping the loss down to less than it could have been. At any rate, all are determined to be good losers and good hosts for the rest of the tournament, even though the Germans are reduced to playing a meaningless game for third place on Saturday, instead of fighting for the championship on Sunday.

Congratulations to the German team for getting farther than anyone had expected four weeks ago!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Too busy enjoying the weather... blog about it! We are having the perfect kind of summer days that turn Germany into a Mediterranean country, even without the World Cup, which definitely adds to that feeling. It's much too hot to walk in the afternoon - even the dog prefers to lay in the grass under a shady tree - so I do my walking early in the morning, heading for the pleasantly cool nearby woods.

In the afternoon, I try to be outside on the patio whenever possible, in the shade until the sun is low enough to be bearable. A good book gives me the feeling of being on vacation somewhere. As my computer and sewing machine are located upstairs, my online and quilting time are of necessity limited. Not to worry - there'll be enough cold, dark, rainy days to catch up, I'm sure. For now, I'll make hay (so to speak, having fortunately survived the hayfever season with a minimum of discomfort) while the sun shines!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Colors of the World Cup

Germany has never been so colourful! During the World Cup, flags are flying everywhere and people walk around in various coloured football shirts.* Of course, the black-red-gold of the German flag is predominant; normally it's only raised over public offices etc., but now the private houses and cars are sporting flags as well. This has caused some discussion, as normal flag-displaying is not normal here as it is in other countries. Any show of patriotism is usually frowned upon, and I don't know who is quicker to condemn the Germans for it, others or they themselves. But now, while hosting the games and (more importantly) while the national team is winning theirs, the colours are worn proudly - not just as flags and T-shirts, but as facial makeup, even dyed hair! How much that will change when the team loses or the tournament is over, whichever comes first, we shall see. At any rate, I think this bit of positive patriotism is all part of the party fun.

It's fun to see the stadiums so colourful when I watch the games on TV. Not only do the fans of the various countries bring their colourful items with them or add to their stock by buying more here, Germans who go to games of other countries often choose a team to support and dress up likewise. If flag manufacturers have stocks, those must have sky-rocketed during these weeks!

I'm already wearing a red summer dress; along with my black hair clip and gold ring, I'm prepared for today's game! Just have to go put the matching stripes on my cheek now...

*Seeing puny shoulders or bulging beer bellies in a shirt with Beckham or Ballack's name on the back just doesn't look right though!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Rainbow Catcher

This picture is a detail from a portrait, called "Rainbow Catcher", by a contemporary artist, David Bowers. Many thanks to my friend MM for finding it for me! It combines a traditional look with a fantasy twist - fascinating combination. For now, it will serve as my avatar here - that is, if I can get it to work as such. Who would have dreamt that there is actually a work of art to go with the name I made up for myself here?!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Reading the morning paper

Years ago, reading at the breakfast table was limited to cereal boxes, as my mother energetically forbade me to bring whatever book I was currently devouring to meals. Now I relish having a newspaper full of reading material to enjoy - and no one to stop me from doing so!

How do I start when I pick up the freshly delivered bundle? There are people who have their rituals, beginning with sports or cultural events or the financial pages, or even with personal ads, but for me it depends on what my personal priorities are at the time.

Am I planning an excursion or a weekend trip? Then the weather forecast (starting with the pictograms on the front page that contain the basic information) may be foremost on my mind. In its extensive version, a bit farther back in the paper, I check the pollen forecast during hayfever season.

The front page headlines are the very first focal point, of course. Depending on my TV newscast viewing on the previous evening, I may read the important articles or just skim them. I usually take a look at the commentary on page two to see if the topic interests me.

I skim the local pages to see if anything there concerns me or people I know (including notices of births, deaths, and weddings), only reading articles when they catch my attention.

I do read the cultural articles if they're of general interest; I have on occasion taken a trip to see an art exhibition elsewhere if it particularly interests me after reading about it. And of course the reports of local concerts, etc. are especially interesting if I was there and want to compare my impressions with those of the reviewer. I do also read movie reviews and check to see what the local theaters are showing.

I normally skip the sports pages, both national and local, as they rarely interest me. Neither I nor anyone close to me is actively involved, so I only glance at the photos to see if I recognize someone. But now, during the World Cup, the football pages are suddenly fascinating to read. I peruse the background information about teams and players, read the post-match reports to compare my own impressions with those of the experts, and enjoy the humorous human-interest anecdotes from the sidelines.

And the advertising that finances much of the paper? Well, news of a sale at one of the favorite stores can be welcome information, but mostly I ignore the ads. I don't need a car, house, or new job, and I have other, more interesting things to do with my time.

When it comes down to it, I normally "use" only a fraction of the flood of information the daily paper brings me - but that bit is important enough that I wouldn't want to miss it!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sunshine and Shadow

Isn't it strange? We wait so long for sunshine, and when it finally comes, we try to find shade!

I know, there are practical health reasons for avoiding the sun's direct rays - heat rash, heat stroke, sunburn, skin cancer, to name some. And of course we do strive to get a tan, hopefully with our skin properly protected. But it seems to me that there's more to it - not only are we not used to this kind of heat, and seek the coolness of the shade. (For example, I chose my walking path early this morning for the trees surrounding it - not only did I keep cooler that way, I got the additional oxygen that the trees emit.) Can it not also be that we can't take too much light, since we are not used to the brightness?

A German saying goes something like this: Nothing is as difficult to endure as a row of good days. I guess we just can't handle too much of a good thing...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Football Quotes

Here, to go along with the big event, are a few of the light-hearted statements people have made about the world's most important sport:

"Soccer is a game for 22 people that run around, play the ball, and one referee who makes a slew of mistakes, and in the end Germany always wins. (-Gary Lineker)

"The offside rule is when the French mustard has to be between the teriyaki sauce and the sea salt." (-Jules' mother, trying to grasp the details of her daughter's chosen sport during a meal in "Bend It Like Beckham".)

"Natürlich drücken wir unserer Mannschaft die Daumen, und ich glaube, die Chancen sind gar nicht schlecht. Die Frauen-Fußballnationalmannschaft ist ja schon Fußballweltmeister, und ich sehe keinen Grund, warum Männer nicht das gleiche leisten können wie Frauen."
(Translation mine, therefore not official: "Of course we're crossing our fingers for our team, and I think their chances aren't too bad. The women's national football team is already world football champion, and I see no reason why men shouldn't be able to achieve the same accomplishment as women." -Angela Merkel, German chancellor, in her address to the nation on last New Year's Eve)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Summer's back!

...and it's just in time. The World Cup football (soccer) championship games begin here in Germany tomorrow, and the cold rainy weather would have been rather depressing for the many foreign guests who have come or are coming for the occasion - to say nothing of us as hosts! Now the open-air giant screen showings of the games can be enjoyed, people can barbecue at home before and after the games, and those few who aren't interested can go for a nice walk, maybe even in the middle of the Autobahn, if it's an important game with the German team. No, I am not recommending this behaviour! Do not hold me responsible and/or liable for any results of such an action on your part!

I'm afraid that even this topical blog will be affected by the all-pervading topic of football in the next four weeks. All aspects of life reflect the great popularity of the sport - and the even greater desire of many to make as much profit as possible from it. Fortunately, the subject of weather can be tied in with it fairly conveniently.

For example, one cartoon in today's morning paper had the Brazilian players asking for the field heating system under the lawn to be turned on so that it's not so cold...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Summer's Tricolor Triumvirate

The typical wildflowers for this time of the year are blooming alongside roads and on fields - red poppies, white daisies, and blue cornflowers. Yes, dear Americans, red, white, and blue - but the tricolore of France is closer to Germany geographically and historically than the U.S. flag.

Red poppies are one of my favorite flowers - they bloom around my birthday, and since the flowers of my birth month, lilies-of-the-valley, are usually no longer blooming at that time, and red is my favorite color family, poppies are my birthday flowers. They don't keep, of course, so there's no sense in picking them and putting them in a vase, but I don't need to own them to enjoy them.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

This is ridiculous!

It is snowing in southern Germany - on May 30th! What kind of global warming is this??!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Rainbow Gems

My love for color and light, which finds expression in rainbows, also means that I enjoy other manifestations that are similar. I love prisms and collect both antique chandelier crystals and new cut glass shapes to hang in windows so I can see the tiny rainbows dancing on walls and floors inside the house. I also have a deep appreciation for stained glass windows - which means that I find great pleasure in spending time in churches and cathedrals, much to the despair of family and friends who might accompany me there. (Those who know me do so at their own risk, or attempt to avoid it whenever possible!)

My favorite gems also shimmer with rainbow colors - I love opals. Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds may flash, but for some reason, they do not fascinate me. The unique patterning of each opal, the colors that change under different lights, the depth of their appearance all make them the stones that I desire most.

My love of opal jewelry goes way back to when I was eighteen. I had just gotten my first tax return, from money hard-earned working my way through college. I needed most of that for financing tuition, etc., but I wanted to buy myself something special from a bit of it. I had access to a wholesale jewelry store and found the ring of my dreams there - a fairly small opal in the middle, surrounded by eight smaller ones, a flower-like cluster, set in gold. I think it cost something like $25, if memory serves me right, and I still have that ring - as a matter of fact, I'm wearing it right now! I should have it assessed to see what it's worth nowadays. I have never tired of seeing each little stone glowing with its tiny specks of color.

Since then, I have been given some opal jewelry (usually on request, as I have a very particular taste) and bought myself both finished jewelry and stones to have set to my own designs. The stones are larger now, since I can afford to pay more than I could back in college, and I wear more white gold and silver than yellow gold. I have a brooch, several pendants, earrings, and rings. The latter are the most fun to own and wear, as I can see them myself - no mirror necessary! My favorite silver ring has a long oval stone that looks dull and gray when no light shines on it, but shows wonderful colors especially under neon light. Other opals look best under sunlight - each is different and unique.

Now that I'm planning a big vacation trip that includes Australia as a destination, I hope to see opal mines there. Coober Pedy is the location that claims to be the most important source of opals in the world, and there are lots of shops selling stones and jewelry there, so of course that's where I want to go! What better souvenir could a traveller bring back than a lasting treasure such as an opal.

I've always seen opals as a picture for an interesting personality too - simple and plain on the surface, almost colorless, seemingly. But when you look into the depths, there are many colors, light flashes, and unique patterns - never boring, always changing, and deeply fascinating in the long run.

Diamonds are not this girl's best friends!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Stormy Weather

I admit, storms scare me.

Not the normal, run-of-the-mill summer thunderstorms; I like to sit on a porch and watch the light show! And though it's been awhile since I experienced a North Dakota blizzard, I don't think I'd be afraid as long as I could stay inside and was well supplied with warmth, food, and a good book.

What triggers my fear is extreme, strong wind. Like the tropical storm (not quite a hurricane) I experienced in Florida last summer - the pressure on the windows of the third floor apartment I stayed in made me hope they wouldn't break and drive slivers into me. I was evacuated before the worst part came, and there was never any real danger; nevertheless, I felt that primeval fear that goes deeper than any logic.

We've had strong winds here this past week, and not too far away a man was killed by a falling branch. When I'm sitting upstairs at my computer or sewing machine, it can feel like the wind is going to take off the roof, and I confess to turning everything off and going downstairs, where I feel safer.

I heard a weather expert talking about the changing global conditions on the radio. He said the averages may not seemed much changed from what they used to be, but they are composed of more extremes. When it rains, it's heavier; droughts are more severe; winds are stronger; floods are more frequent; heat and cold more pronounced. Will we experience a world in which we have to fear for our lives due to natural forces beyond our control?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Indoor gardening

This week I'm doing some work that can only be described as "weeding", though it's not outside in the garden. I'm going through various closets, drawers, and boxes to find and toss out all the belongings that have seemingly collected themselves throughout the years. It's easy for that to happen - all you have to do is buy new things when they're needed and forget to throw or give away the old ones.

There are:
towels too good to throw away, yet too worn to use
round tablecloths - how many years have we already had the rectangular table?
embroidered Christmas doilies, kept for sentimental reasons, yet no longer pretty
bedding no longer regularly used but kept just in case the house is full of company some day
old videos which no one has time to watch, even if we knew what was on them
bottles of cleaning fluid samples for who knows what purposes
window decorations that were used one year but not nice enough to use again
Christmas and Easter decorations from holidays past which don't go with our style anymore
more vases than I can ever fill with flowers

Weeds, weeds, weeds - but there are flowers in there that can be seen now that the other things are gone. I'm keeping old laces and linens for future patchwork possibilities, and of course I still have enough towels and bedding to put up all the company I could wish for.

There is great satisfaction - and a therapeutic effect, certainly - in the orderly contents of my closets now. Is it spring that inspires this?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"In case there's a change in the weather"

This line from the "Surrey with the Fringe" song ("Oklahoma" musical) has been on my mind during the past days. I realized that I was thinking "another sunny day" one morning and asked myself why I was not content. After all, I complain as much as anyone else when the weather is bad (i.e. dark, cloudy, rainy, stormy) for days on end. I guess it's all about change and variety.

A German saying goes:

"Nichts ist schwerer zu ertragen,
als eine Reihe von guten Tagen."

Roughly, that translates as "Nothing is more difficult to handle than a string of good days."

Is it the fact that we don't appreciate things when we have them all the time, so that "bad" weather makes us thankful for "good" weather? (I realize that "bad" and "good" are relative - in desert areas, rainy days would be the "good" ones.) Or does it mean we humans have a basic need for change and get bored when things are always the same?

I can't imagine living in a climate where the weather and vegetation are the same all year round. I love the changing seasons and find variety invigorating. And when it comes down to it, I can't control what the weather does anyway. I have to take it as it comes. But what about other aspects of my life? Should I attempt to bring more change into it? Food for thought there...

Lest this entry should get too philosophical, here's a nice appropriate weather rhyme in German. It parodies the typical farmers' sayings about signs and weather:

"Wenn der Hahn kräht auf dem Mist,
dann ändert sich das Wetter -
oder's bleibt wie es ist!"

(When the rooster crows on the manure pile, the weather will change - or stay the same.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

'Tis the season

Achoo! (or for those sneezing in German, Hatschi!)

"Pollen" does not really rhyme with "jolly", and this is not a jolly season for all those with hayfever and similar allergies. My allergenic is not up and about yet, so for now the yellow dust that covers cars, window sills, and furniture is merely annoying. But it won't be long before I rejoice in every rainy day. My sympathies go out to all who suffer now.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sounds of summer

Birds singing
Wind rustling through grasses and trees
Referee's whistle from the football (soccer) field two blocks away
Waterfall splashing in the village pond
Motorcycle motors (not very aesthetic, but definitely summery!)

Walking is such a wonderfully sensuous experience!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Scentsational season

The sun and the warmth are bringing out the wonderful scents of the season - now that the daffodils and hyacinths are on their way off the spring stage, the next stars are waiting in the wings. May has two, three real highlights to offer - lilacs and lilies-of-the-valley are already budding, and I look forward to their scent on walks in the coming weeks. Then it won't be long till the peonies take over before the summer scents of roses and lavender predominate the coming season.

Those are the most important ones that occur to me - though I should mention the delightful smell of freshly mown lawn, the mysterious, tantalizing scent of something unidentifiable hidden behind a high hedge in the neighborhood, and the numerous flowers and blossoming trees and bushes that I don't know on a first name basis...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Spring green

There's something special about the first green of spring. In part, I'm sure that's due to the fact that there was less green in the winter (though there is almost never *no* green here, what with grass, winter grain fields, and evergreens). But that's not all.

The green of spring is lighter and has more yellow to it. Even the pines and firs have new tips that are lighter and brighter, giving them a more dimensional look than at other times of the year, when the dark green is more bluish. It's a friendly shade, as if reflecting the increase of sunshine.

There's one more thing that I've noticed about spring green. The fact that the leaves are not yet full-sized means that there's still lots of light shimmering through the branches. Later, the shade makes the deeper green look even darker.

At this time of the year, I am acutely aware of green. In the summer, it becomes a backdrop for the other colors of flowers, and gets taken for granted. I love the changing seasons - they make me see the same things every year as if they were brand new. Including green.

I'm reminded of Tolkien's wonderful words in The Lord of the Rings:
He saw no colour but those he knew, gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Weather and the Forecast

The holiday dawned bright and sunny this morning, despite the forecasts of wet, cloudy weather for today. Tout le monde was out on bicycles when I went walking, and though the blue sky with an occasional cloud turned to overcast in the afternoon and the wind had a definite chill to it all day, it looks like the day off was actually rainfree!

What did someone (I think it was me) once say? "The weather forecast is always right, but sometimes the weather forgot to listen to it."

It's interesting about anticipation and fulfillment - if you expect the worst, and the mediocre happens, you're pleased. However, if you expect something to be wonderful and it's 'only' mediocre, you're disappointed. In that case, shouldn't pessimists be the happiest people in the world??

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Holiday weather

Has it ever occurred to you how closely we associate specific holidays with certain weather? "White Christmas" is the most prominent example - the concept, not the song, though the latter certainly reinforces the general idea. "May all your Christmases be white" - to whom does that actually apply?

Well, it leaves out all the millions of people who live in the southern hemisphere, for a start. The only way Australians can have a white Christmas is if they choose a beach with white sand for their holiday picnic! But even in the northern hemisphere, and not only in the temperate zones, snowfall at Christmas is frequently more the exception than the rule. That's certainly the case here in Germany, except for those few areas that are located in a higher altitude with more constant cold temperatures.

Now why on earth am I writing about this topic at the end of April, you may wonder? Bear with me, I'm getting there.

The next holiday on the calendar that I associate with a particular weather condition is Good Friday. It is one of the few holidays on which I don't mind rain and clouds - somehow, it seems appropriate. It's a quiet kind of day, so no one really cares if it's spent indoors.

Easter is a different story - we want sunshine and dry weather for hiding and finding eggs outside, don't we?! We don't always get it, but it's an ideal we hope for.

Next holiday (this one secular, and it may not be a holiday in your country) is May 1st. It's the International Day of Labour, a very important day in Communist countries but also for Socialist politicians and union organizations. Not that most people here celebrate it with that in mind - it's a day for outings and picnics, weather permitting. The beer gardens are open all day long, the streets and paths are crowded with bicycles and walkers, and everyone enjoys a work-free day for revelling in springtime. Alas, this year's weather forecast is daunting; even now, two days before the holiday, it's raining intermittently, there's a chilly wind blowing, and it looks more like getting worse than better.

Ascension Day, later in May, is a holiday here that has two faces - a church holy-day that has been taken as Father's Day as well. Not that the traditional way for the fathers to spend the day is with their families - they get together, go out into nature somewhere and drink all day long! Can you imagine what would be said if the mothers took Mother's Day off and went out carousing with their friends?!

Pentecost is one of the big two-day holidays here in Germany, but in this secularized society, few people remember the reason for it. It's just a conveniently longer weekend for short vacations, and as such, being at the end of May or early in June, warm and sunny weather is expected - and the chances are not too bad, though without guarantee.

The one holiday that we have which involves a national identity is the Day of German Unity on October 3rd. That has no particular weather association that I know of - most official celebrations are indoors, so it doesn't really matter. Good thing, as the weather in autumn is unpredictable.

A few more Catholic holidays are scattered throughout the year, but as I'm Protestant, they're just a day off to me and not associated with weather conditions. I am aware of processions that take place then, so I'm sure Catholics would have preferences there.

There's one American holiday that I associate with hot sunny weather - Independence Day, on the 4th of July! Picnics, parades, and fireworks demand that kind of summer day (though I remember sweating in marching band uniform back in high school!), and in the continental Midwest US summer, the chances are good.

I also have fond memories of Mayday, though it wasn't a holiday over there - do people still give each other the little baskets of flowers and/or sweets on that day?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

"There's no such thing as bad weather..."

"...only inappropriate clothing," a German saying goes. Having a dog means I walk, every day, no matter what the weather, so a weatherproof jacket and ditto walking shoes are vital. The advantage of that fact is that I'm used to going out under (almost) all conditions; mere weather can't faze me! That doesn't mean I always like it though...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A month for all seasons

Yesterday I thought I must have blinked and missed spring - it was as warm as we often wish our summer days were, upper 20°s (Celsius, of course - should be about 80s Fahrenheit). Considering that this month began with icy coldness (I don't remember if the last snowfall was late March or early April), we seem to have gone through three seasons in as many weeks. Then this morning had some similarity with autumn - it was foggy after an early shower, with the sun struggling (unsuccessfully, so far) to come through, and when I walked under blossoming fruit trees, the petals floated to the ground like tiny falling leaves.

I hope it doesn't pass too quickly - I love spring! So much so, actually, that I plan to have it twice this year. How? Easy - by spending part of October in the southern hemisphere, in Australia and New Zealand. I hope that doesn't mean getting all the rain twice...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"Bilbo woke up with the early sun in his eyes"

Sunshine in the morning really makes a day start right, doesn't it?! Today I was reminded of the above line from Tolkien's The Hobbit. It's much easier to wake up and get up when it's light and bright, and my before breakfast dog walk was a pleasure, not a chore.

I know there are scientific explanations for the positive psychological effect of light and sunshine on humans, but who needs them to realize that we feel better when it's bright?! It's enough just to enjoy it when it's there, to hope for it to come back when it's dark and rainy occasionally - and it helps during those times to remember that the lovely greens and bright colors of the plants, flowers and trees could not exist if we had no rain.

All sun makes a desert. But none would also destroy life. As so often, it's the mixture and balance that makes the right conditions for living. Which brings us back to the rainbow...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

It was a warm and sunny day

OK, I guess that doesn't create a suspenseful murder mystery atmosphere like "It was a dark and stormy night" does, but it's sure nicer to have!

The air is warm enough to allow the scents of spring to waft: flowers, earth, freshly mown lawn, and the first open-air barbecue. I love this time of year; you can watch the leaves growing and drown in the Yellow Invasion of daffodil rivers alongside the streets and in the yards. I am a notorious toucher of soft new leaves, and my hands are often running along hedges and bushes when I walk. Pure delight for all senses! (Well, with the exception of the manure the local farmers have distributed on their fields - I could do without that particular smell...)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Where's global warming when you need it?!

Can someone explain why temperatures are allegedly too high in the winter, but it's much too cold so far this spring?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

April showers...

...bring May flowers, so it's said. I'm glad we don't have to wait until next month for flowers; their cheerful colors brighten up even these rainy days.

Spring's triumphant triumvirate is omnipresent - yellow daffodils, blue hyacinths, and red tulips are perennial favorites. But there's more:

Yellow primulas (or is it primuli?), pansies, crocuses (almost gone now), forsythia bushes...

Purple pansies, primulas, violets...

Pinkish violet heather...

White star magnolias...

...and of course green, everpresent in our area of the world. Lawn, winter grains, evergreen bushes and trees, and now leaves, shoots and buds newly appearing.

Rainbow colors down on earth that outlast temporary weather conditions - I'm so glad flowers exist!

Oh, and weather conditions were just right for a rainbow yesterday - a beautiful one, with a second partial rainbow faintly echoing its colors.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Whither weather nick?

When I chose the theme for this blog, I decided to create a nickname for myself that goes with it. My other internet identity is in a specific context, and I decided that this should be, to use a Pythonesque turn of phrase, "something completely different".

My first ideas for weather-related nicks came from songs: "Stormy Weather", "Sunny", "Windy". Not bad, but each is one-sided, and my life, like the weather, consists of many contrasting elements. "Partly Cloudy" was a possibility that seemed more suitable, though it does emphasize the negative aspect, clouds, too much for my taste. Besides, a friend said it makes me sound rather shady! ;)

"Punxatawny Filly" was another name that occurred to me - from a movie that relies heavily on weather for its story, and that I always enjoy seeing. I liked the humor implied in that one, but still didn't feel like it was exactly what I wanted.

Finally I remembered a thought I've pondered for quite awhile. A rainbow, I realized some time ago, is a phenomenon that occurs only when sunshine and rain meet. (I know: "Elementary, my dear Watson", but superficial knowledge of a fact is not the same as grasping the deep truth of it.) One without the other does not produce that outburst of colored light that fascinates me every time I see one. That was it, I knew - precisely what I wanted to say about myself and weather-related, all in one!

But would I be able to register that as a name? There are so many people here that popular words are likely taken already, and I do not care to be "Rainbow123". More importantly, I realized that I am not a rainbow - and do not want to be one! A rainbow is ethereal, elusive - a trick of the light that can't be grasped. No matter how hard you try, you'll never find the end of it, so it doesn't matter whether or not there's a pot of gold there.

No, I'm not a rainbow, but I can see them. I want to look up and see more than the dark clouds and the precipitation that are currently overhead. I want to look up, not down, and see more than the puddles and the next steps lying ahead of my feet. I want those feet firmly planted on the ground, though my head is in the stars. I want to rejoice in the beauty of bright colors that make creation so wonderful.

More than that - I want to sub-create. I want to capture the fleeting moment, to make it visible for longer than the blinking of an eye, to make it tangible - to have and to hold. I want to take a rainbow and make it into a work of art for myself, family, friends, the world to see.

To see and to catch rainbows, then to share them with others - what a purpose in life!

I am RainbowCatcher.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Spring cleaning weather

The sun is shining and a chilly wind is blowing - it's the kind of weather that looks better from the inside than it feels outside. Outdoor activities are fine as long as you wear a windbreaker and keep moving, but the real way to make the best use of this weather is by spring cleaning indoors.

What is it that makes us (at least many of us) want to clean up at this time of the year? I think the light is a major factor. The days are longer, the sun shines brighter, and we suddenly see the dirty windows, the dusty furniture, and the cobwebby corners. (Oh, and the blue metallic paint on my car really glistens when the layer of grime has been washed off!) Of course the light also gets those hormones flowing that demand renewal and rebirth, making us more active, so add those to the mixture. Psychological explanations abound; I won't even go into them here.

The proximity of a holiday does its part as well. Not only does Easter prompt a flurry of decorations, but it often means company - in my case, family members who no longer live here will be home for the weekend. And they're not only coming themselves, but also bringing their special someones along. That gives me a vital reason to finish projects, get everything spic and span, and cook and bake besides. To say nothing of the additional church services, which keep a musician busy for Christian holidays.

Hmm, I guess that explains the phenomenon of spring tiredness, doesn't it?!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Weather records…

...have a short shelf life. Just four years ago, the Elbe River here in Germany flooded, and it was called the flood of the century. Admittedly, it's a bit risky to set up a record like that in 2002, so early in the new century. Now the inevitable has happened. This spring the river is flooding higher than it did then. So what do you call it? The new flood of the century? The real flood of the century? The even better flood of the century? The whiter than white flood of the century? The flood of the millenium? The problem with the latter is, the millenium is just as new as the century, and it has to last a lot longer!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Is weather blogworthy?

Of course it is! Weather is a time-honoured conversational opening, not only in England. It's a neutral start for talking to strangers that can lead to more, yet doesn't oblige either speaker. It's a common factor to people all over the world - we all experience weather, some more directly, some less. And above all, it is something that is not man-made, so that remarks about it need not be taken personally.

Weather begins conversations that can develop in many directions. It can be a highly political topic - global warming anyone?! - or deeply personal (the aches and pains that often plague people with rheumatism when the wind's from a certain direction, for example). It can serve as a take-off for philosophical remarks, be the subject of jokes and puns, and give us a vent for personal feelings.

Weather is the subject of songs and poems, of movies, and an important part of many books. But the most important reason for my choice of this blog theme is - weather is a vital part of my everyday life! It often determines my activities (outdoor or indoor today?) and influences my mood (feeling bright and energetic or down in the dumps). As a walker, rain or shine, I'm directly subjected to it every day.

Will this blog be a weather report? Yes and no - I'm sure it will include much more than that, but that's where I'll start. I hope you'll enjoy reading it!