Lens-Artist Photo Challenge- From Large to Small

Patti invites us this week, for a different challenge. “…pick a color and select several photos that feature that color.

Start with a photo of a big subject in that color (for example, a wall) and move all the way down to a small subject in that same color (for example, an earring).” She reminds us of size constancy and the importance of easily recognizable objects for comparing. You will see some of this in my images, but in some there are no perfect objects for comparing.

So, now I can splurge on my favourite color—Turquoise, Turkis, or shade of Aquamarine.

Now that we are slowly easing Corona Lockdown measures here in Germany, I am constantly dreaming to visit a beaches and lakes , splurging and digging my toes into that powder white shores and looking at endless blues, turkis shades of water.probably soon.

Anyways, this challenge took me back to my island hopping and beach adventures in the Philippines where I see endless horizons and infinity turquoise waters.I truly missed them.

Malapascua Island, Palawan, Philippines

The view is magnificent, the color reflects to my sunglasses and it´s beauty blinding me. I could stare at these views forever.

Coron Island, Palawan, Philippines

Even lakes here in Germany and Austria reminds me so much of my beachcapades , this colour is everywhere, thanks to the wonderful weather. Surrounded with mountain cliffs, rocky valleys, Turquoise always captivates me.

Stausee in Kaprun, Austria

Then moving up to one of my favourite hobby, which is watercolor galaxy art painting where I used much shades of Blue combined with white and green to create this shade of Turquoise and make an illusion of the Aurora Borealis, turquoise glow..and northen lights.

Galaxy Art Watercolor painting (JustbluedutchArt)

Then I want to move along to my Expat diaries in Kuwait where I normally visits traditional tents and war torn islands, specifically, the Failaka Island. I feasted on the traditional handmade clay vases and pottery in their charming museum.I found this shade is so refreshing, compared to the predominant beige and ivory shades of Desert life.

Yes, definitely this painting looks delicious and cozy, ladies in Turkis says “Cheers” ! I snapped this photo while visiting a park in the Netherlands.

and lastly, the apple of my eyes, lost in Berlin, continuously exploring, curious as ever, and supercozy wearing a jacket in a fine Autumn weekend in Berlin.

Where to go?….

Thank you, Patti, for this fun and creative challenge! Don’t forget to visit Patti and her inspiring site – and we hope to see you there under the Lens-Artists tag.

Until then, have a great weekend everyone, stay safe & Tchüss!

Exploring Berchtesgadener Land

Great news, we are finally able to do traveling again.

Fresh air, lush mountains and crystal clear emerald lake

I have always wanted to see Königsee in Berchtesgaden for a long time. I have long heard from friends what beautiful nature paradise it is and I can´t wait to see it by my own eyes. Besides, we are really looking forward for proper hikes and just being out in nature. It´s still too cold for swimming but the thought of lakes and boat rides is so tempting.As the temperatures starts to get warmer, the more that I am itching to be out…to explore and to safely travel again. Of course, with Corona, it was not so easy. It really felt odd. I feel uncomfortable just the thought of being in a large crowds and mingling with people once again. The idea of having contacts is somewhat exciting but then the worry is still there…

There were so many “What if´s” ….

A much need breath of fresh air and hiking together

I am telling you, It felt really strange to pack a suitcase once again. I don´t even know where to start…

What to bring?

Of course, masks and dinsinfectants are present.

But then our excitement grows more and more…so we decided to book ahead , pack our stuff and go !

View of the Berchtesgadener Alps from our hotel room

We kept on checking the updates in Berchtesgadener Land for the re-opening of Tourism so we can book our hotel. Luckily, from last week, hotels and vacation houses finally reopened and Königsee reopened for Tourism. These includes the boat rides, cable cars, tours and everything. Some attractions remained closed during our visit but then we didn´t mind it since we planned to stay outdoors as much as possible.The less crowds, the better. We took note of the current Corona situation and scheduled daily Corona Tests just to be sure.We are already partially vaccinated but then we opt to do a PCR test just before leaving since it´s also required for our hotel stay. Schools here in Bavaria have two long weeks of holiday so we are definitely looking for something to do with kids and just be out from the house and staycation in Berchtesgaden made is simply a heaven for us.

Berchtesgaden is quite a great choice for a family staycation.It´s located in the southeastern part of Germany, almost near to the border of Austria ( 30km), south of Salzburg and only 180km drive from Münich.We drived out early, so we reached Berchtesgaden in time.Throughout the planning, I was totally stressed out thinking about the weather and what do we wear. It was predicted to be rainy, cloudy and yes–not so good so I was really frustrated. It would totally ruin our itinerary.But then we pushed through it, and I was really thankful that we are blessed with wonderful blue skies and enjoyable temperatures for the coming days.

It was perfect!

Can´t get enough of these beautiful mountain peaks

Lovely weather, fewer crowds, it´s just perfect time for lots of hiking and enjoying the glorious nature.

I wanted to share this post for families who are planning their first vacation and Staycations with smaller kids.I think it has been quite stressful for everyone but then I am glad to post more positive experiences during this time.The scare and anxiety is real but then I think we all deserve something better than worrying.I was totally happy seeing my daughter singing happily, hiking in the woods and dreaming of playing endlessly under the sun.

Malerwinkel Hike in Berchtesgaden

On the positive note, I must say that I am quite impressed by the system.We felt at least assured since the normal Corona Hygienic measures were strictly observed in Berchtesgaden. When we arrived at the parking area of Königsee, I noticed that there were quite a number of tourists, probably because it is “Ferien” or school holiday. The hotels requires a negative Test results and only in- house guests are allowed to dine -in and eat in the restaurant. The touristic places have very clean bathrooms, complete with Disinfection stations and there were lots of Schnell Tests Stations or ( Corona Quick Test). Doing these tests made us feel assured and safe so it´s really a must to do if you are planning to go on a trip during this time.

Here, ticket purchases can all be done online and reservations are quick to do as well so it really saves us time.

Prost!

And lastly, we were able to finally sit in a Beer garden, but luckily, this time with a majestic view of Watzmann and Hochkalter mountains!

Did you already tried traveling during Corona times? How was it?

Wishing you all a great Sunday, and stay safe. Tschüss.

Not to Scale (NTS) Expat life

Dominating the skyline in Kuwait, the Al Hamra Towers

What do people usually means when they say “Not to Scale“?

Looking back in my college days where we are asked to draw a floor plan, elevations and everything, this term is very common and eventually it becomes a normal terminology. Triangular Scale is a very important tool that I have often used, and through the years, I have learned that in reality, not all things can be presented with the exact proportions. Everything depends on how you make your own perspective.

Just like we gain and lose weight as we grow old…

Idealism has a fair play through the years.I asked myself before where could be a perfect place that expats finally call it a “home”?

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The view of the Skyline of Kuwait from the Liberation Tower , here despite the dusty weather, everything seemed quite a normal day.

To scale means allowing us to understand the relationship between a drawing or an illustration and a presentation or a scale model—against the Reality. If you are able to draw accurately as per scale and you can immediately shift from one scale to another, like from 1:100 to 1:50 then you can do very well in doing architectural drawings and spatial design.Looking at scale models help us to have a perspective of what would it look like once it built, a bird´s eye view, a glimpse of the vision into reality.

I can very well use the principle of Scale in my life as an Expat.

After we leave our homelands, we , too have a perspective in minds. We all carry a luggage of dreams, hopes and expectations.

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Beautiful well-preserved Gable Houses in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

I know from a fact that from an Expat eyes, everything is different from the tourist’s view and from the locals itself. A Tour Package always highlights the best, the most sought-after destinations and attractions, the off the beaten path are reserved for adventurous ones.As tourists, we want to see the icing of the cake.

What´s in? where´s the famous places? where are the top attractions?

The quaint beauty of an old Fortress ,Kaprun Castle where in 1645, the Salzburg Musketeers once occupied

A place is only a setback of your expectations, dreams and aspirations. Everyone has their own reason why they decided to move to a new place—either for work, better life, education, to bridge a relationship, or to just simply fulfill a wanderlust—the longing for a change.But in reality, the moment we started to see things in a different way, our perspective of the new place is changing.Probably this is the stage where we start to integrate, accept and ” do as the locals do“.

Pre Covid-19 Virus Era, where touring historical places like the Reichstag in Berlin can be a good place to entertain your 4 year old daughter and listen to audio guide telling about the charms of this City.

I grew up not knowing what is “Recycling ” or upcycling is.But since I came here, I started to obey and do what is norm and not just to avoid the angry stares of my neighbours if they ever saw me putting plastic in the Restmull, the black container.I started to dispose the Green, white and brown glasses in the Glass Containers as well and yes, I got acquianted with the “Yellow Sack” as well. In my bag is always an extra shopping bag, even in my bicycle and in the car, there is always a place for shopping bags.

Why, because here in Germany, you bring your own bags and pack your own grocery. I even observed the Rühezeit, the silent Sunday where we don´t mow the lawn in the garden and no loud music.I remember our times in Kuwait where the shopping cart is alwys full of plastic bags. There is no recycling there, people totally just throw garbage everywhere.Littering is quite a norm.They are really a big fan of using plastic bags there for grocery shopping.I think you collect up to 20 pieces of shopping bags for every grocery!

Now that I remember it, I felt odd.

Fast forward,5 years after, I began to look at Germany, especially Bavaria, in a “Not to scale”terms.Do I really belong here ? or this place does even exceed my expecation?

Cycling in my new neighborhood offers a new freedom to explore places

If you have your own terms of measurement about the quality of life that you want, or your preferred surroundings, then it is better not to put borders. If you expect too much and then ended up into a mountain of dissapointment, then you just feel worse.

“Why are people here are so unfriendly and “cold”?

“Why the weather keeps on changing every four hours?”

“Why Winter here in Germany is too long”?

” Why learning German is necessary to survive here?”

” Why customer service here sucks or totally non-existent?”

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Because in reality, things can be crooked, out of proportion, partially twisted, and though it looks to be perfect, it will have uneven features. I call this “Reality bites in the life of an Expat.”

As an onlooker, with naked eyes, I always ponder on the views that I see. I think it´s normal.For 5 years that I am walking the streets here in Bavaria, I still am not that fully integrated yet…or maybe I am, but sometimes, I feel like I am feeling at home.A combination of these rollercoaster feelings.

I hate it here during the long winter months but I really love it here during Spring and Summer. I loved how good the roads are and how communting can be so easy and flexible, and yes, that everything adheres to punctuality. I loved that I can even worked from home during this Pandemic times ,do part time jobs and have a job security. I appreciate that women even can take longer maternity leaves to care for their babies and come back to their jobs.

I loved the fact that my child is growing up in a kid-friendly environment and we are surrounded with playgrounds and nature.Its even amazing that traveling becomes easy, and I don´t need to worry about cash when I get sick because of the good Health Insurance System here. I even got new vaccinations ( all for free!) since I came here.

Speaking of Not to scale scenarios, here in Bavaria, the tallest building ( a Tower or a Turm) actually that I have ever been to is the Olympic Tower in Munich and the Pfeifturm here in Ingolstadt, which is btw a former watchpost. The tallest building here in Bavaria is actually the Commerzbank Tower in Frankfurt, reaching up to 259m.Actually, Frankfurt is the only city with lots of Skycrapers.Here in Germany, they try to preserved the German cultural heritage therefore the historical, Medieval and Renaissance skyline still dominates most of the old towns up to this day. It´s actually its unique charm.

There´s nothing compared walking into lovely, German old Town´s unique streets lined up with well-deserved architecture and rich history.

Exploring my own little town where not seeing “Skyscrapers” is actually also nice.The Architecture and landscape is so nice and very picturesque.
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The view deck from the interiors of the luxurious Al Hamra Towers in Kuwait

This is an absolute contrast to the former views that I have while living in Kuwait. Kuwait is a small city but it has skyscrapers and modern buildings. Quite a few are worthy to mention actually, just like my favorite-the Al Hamra Tower, the tallest building in Kuwait.It´s even named as one of the best inventions in 2011 by Times Magazine.After we left I´ve heard that there are more sleek buildings and modern architecture built.We´ve got used to the norm that modernity and functional aesthetics comes with beautiful modern buildings.

Speaking of malls, I haven´t seen quite comes close to the Avenues in Kuwait.It´s really a shopping mall with beautiful architecture.This mall itself is an attraction there.While here in Germany, shopping is like taking a leisure stroll in the inner city lined with authentic, unique shops.I haven´t really had that “mall feeling” even from our local Ingolstadt Village where “branded” marks have their boutiques and it´s already considered high end .I am not a shopaholic and into top end brands.I am more of the functional shopper–getting what I need and love to ogle some pretty nice things.Nowadays, a trip to the Greenhouse, Botanical gartdens and anything with plant shop is my thing.

But then I guess, “not to scale ” in Expat life also means that you perceive things depending on your taste.When you have seen beauty and therefore your standards have been set, then others can either comes to second or outweigh your preferences.

I prefer sightseeing in the beautiful streets where there are unique , wood-timbered houses looks like a fairy tale land.

But, looking through Kuwait from above made me realize that scale is really not important. Some things might quite look a bit odd, or lacking in proportion, but then, it embodies the urban presentation of the area.

Why would the local ladies dressed up to kill , heavily make-up on, nails are done and perfumed when they are covered in Abaya with only the eyes being shown , in stilettos and doing grocery shopping?”

Or why would most of the drivers love to speed up their cars, with children in front without seatbelt and with loud banging music?

Recently we came across a car and it´s driving a bit faster than allowed, with loud Arabic music in the background and then suddenly, I realized that I already made an assumption .They are absolutely Arabic ( doesn´t matter if they came from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon or UAE; or even Kuwait) but when I´ve heard the word “Yalla , then I am sure I haven´t been wrong.

Was my mind programmed? or were my ears gotten used to these local behaviors?

I am sure I would probably recognized in a crowd that they are German,or coming from Bavaria if they say ” Servus, Grüs Gott! ” as well!

What do you loved the most in your city?

Wishing you all Happy Sunday and Stay safe.Tschüss.

Es war eine Mutter ( Art + Work)

Original Aquarelle Artwork “Es war eine Mutter” /JustbluedutchArt 2020

This post is actually inspired by recent events in my life. I recently had this painting done inspired by current situations and I thought it might be a good idea to relate it to ” a day in the life of a Mother”. I have done quite a lot of painting to survive the lockdowns and so far, it has taught me great lessons about motherhood as well. Now you know why I love this subject for my artwork.

Maybe not everyone can actually relate to Motherhood subjects and all about Mother and son/daughter stories but then at least it´s our own story. Mother and daughter is not always full of sweet moments, reality can be tough, it can also be stressful, chaotic, tiring, and yes, just too much to handle.

All parents love their children, there´s no question about that but how to teach them to learn without the classroom. For a fact that in Germany, Homeschooling is actually illegal since 1919 ( European Court of Human Rights).But not in the times of Corona.This article even had quite notable explanations.

Homeschooling is not so “cozy” as it sounds. Because of Covid-19 Pandemic, we´ve been through so many Lockdowns, before and after Christmas actually. And now, in the middle of Winter, with zero public life, schools stays closed along with playfrounds and libraries. Lockdown is supposed to end by Feb.14 but there´s no bright lead yet when will our lives return to normal.We are waiting…

Motherhood in different colors

I realized that I don´t even have the right to complain.Afterall I only have 1 child. There are more parents who juggles between their dayjobs and household responsibilities, and yes, they are bearing more load than I do.I do have high respect for them. I´ve known a friend who even had twins, and had more children to handle.A dear friend of mine just had her baby recently born, and she also have another Grade schooler, a very active one.She bears all these with her two full hands.How do they do that is simply amazing and praiseworthy!

But imagine the chaos…. the “heartfelt” agony.

Homeoffice seemed to be the newest trend nowadays. Working from home has its own benefits, but hey, have you ever tried working while your kid shouts and screams on your videoconferences? Funny as it may sounds but with us, life and struggle during Lockdown is real. I am sure I am not alone in this.

The moment we sit together in the table to go with Home study program doesn´t eventually ensures success in every subject.There has been fights, screaming, yelling and yes, pencils and papers flown in the air. The drama is real and so as the dilemma. The biggest problem that we faced is maintaining her focus and this has been challenging for both me and my daughter.

When I was in college, I did a part-time job tutoring kids from 6-10 years old. I normally help them with the main subjects and help them with their homework. The stress was different. With this Lockdown, the challenge was different as well.

No I was not blaming the virus. Honestly ,sometimes I blame myself as well. Maybe I was not prepared for this and my patience limit is so small that I excuse myself for a meltdown as well. I am tired and in need of a break but yes–motherhood knows no such breaks.I don´t like this isolation anymore and I wanted it to end.

Anyway,one time while we are learning about the seasons of the year ,we encountered this song ;

Es war eine Mutter” song by Nena ( originally in German)

Es war eine Mutter ( There was one Mother)
Die hatte vier Kinder ( She had 4 children)
Den Frühling ( Spring)
Den sommer ( Summer )
Den Herbst und den Winter. ( Autumn and Winter)

So motherhood and seasons of the year have one thing in common, right or maybe I just carried away by nature that I correlate them with Homeschooling and everything.The great thing is, life evolves and I was reminded that this too, shall pass and everything should not be permanent.Soon, everything will be over and chapters of our lives will also evolve, in other words, we are in a journey together.

Homeschooling might feel like Autumn and Winter right now.Parents struggled as well as children but then its not the end.Spring soon will come and Summer too.

Der Frühling bringt Blumen ( Spring bring flowers)
Der Sommer den Klee (Summer brings clover leaves)
Der Herbst bringt die Trauben ( Autumn brings the grapes)
Der Winter den Schnee. ( Winter brings snow)

Und wie sie sich schwingen ( and how they swing together)
Im Jahresreihn ( all year around)
So tanzen und singen ( Dancing and singing)
Wir fröhlich darein. ( we are all happy with it..)

Original Aquarelle artwork “Mutter” / JustbluedutchArt 2020

Homeschooling and on line learning is something that we´ve all embraced this year.There were more time spent in front of computers and tablets instead of actual class participation.Here in Germany, I must say that they had quite handled the crisis well when it comes to distance learning.My daughter spends almost 8 hours in a mask at school before.Washing their hands and divided in groups were her previous routines, then she was confined at home, with homeschooling and with me. I am grateful that the school had a precise plan for this crisis and have given us enough support that we´ve needed and another thing is, we have an access to technology which can be challenging in other countries.We received a weekly Plan for each lessons, and even with a timetable to achieve every day. There was enough Learning Platform offered and the activities listed are varied ,so children won´t feel bored and too squeezed. I particularly appreciate the online help and daily accountability as well. Some of the apps that helped us go through Homeschooling is Antolin app and Sofatutor.They even have Tablets to lend if families are without so everything comes handy.

Mother and son original Watercolor Art by JustbluedutchArt

Lessons learned and experiences gained, so as struggles were credibly overcame.Yes, we´ve been tired and fatigued, but we´ve never given up.As a mother, teaching my child is like feeding them. Its like nourish or undernourish them.Once again, it´s the choices that we make that affects us the most.We´re not yet there but I am sure, the end of the tunnel is not far behind.

Have you had any experience about Homeschooling? How was it?

Dinosaurs are out on the loose in Dinopark Altmühltal, Bavaria

Say Hello to one of thes giant of the Jurassic period, the mighty plant eating- Diplodocus

Happy New Year everyone! I know it´s Winter over here, but we are already dreaming of Summer.We are dreaming of sunshine, tulip fields, strawberries, funparks ,hiking in the mountains, and getting lost in some European cities.

Yesterday while eating luch we are discussing, or rather dreaming, and (hoping!!) that we can fill our suitcases again and able to travel.Travel without health worries, because that is super important.But for now, we can travel back through time and dream away….to Jurassic period!

Have you ever dreamed of walking through the woods with giant dinosaurs in the view ?Those giant claw, magnanimous size, razor sharp teeth, and yes, the presence itself is quite overwhelming.With dinosaurs, we all know that the bigger..the better, the more realistic it is!

Well that is the experience we´ve had while walking and exploring through the Dinopark in Altmühltal.

Real life size Giant Diplodocus dinosaur and unbelievable huge !We couldn´t barely hug its legs!

Gigantic Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex are just a few of the “friends” we met in this beautiful nature park.We were quite amazed of how funtional and cleverly designed it was , considering that we visited this place during Corona pandemic times.This is definitely one of the best open air Dinosaur Museum here in Bavaria.

Did you know that Brachiosaurus only eat plants ?They are one of the Plant eating dinosaurs, so do you think they are friendly?
It is so hard to get them all in one photo because this one is really a long and huge Brachiosaurus , so even the tail is humungous!

My daughter is crazy about Dinosaurs, she knows each dinosaurs with all their crazy names by heart.From the year they were discovered, and from each era , from Jura, Kreide and Trias. Hard to tell, but I really don´t know how and where her fascination started.We have watched couple of Jurassic films and we haven´t even finished it all becaused she got scared of all the screaming and bloody T-Rex manhunt. I guess children loved dinosaurs , adored them and gasped at their powerful statues ,bewildered, and thinking that they were heroes and lovable, or something like the best friend one could ever had, just like in the movie films “The good Dinosaur“, “Dinosaurs“, and” the Land before time“.

And myself only knows “Barney“, the purple dinosaur!

There is something about these claws and freaking sharp teeths! Finally a Dino fan meets T-REX

When she watched Peppa pig, she just loved how George adore his Dinosaur.We have tons of Dinosaur books and she always loved to read about them and yes, I think that´s how she got so hooked with it. So imagine her delight when she saw this giant disnosaurs in the park.She could even put them beside her when she sleep and no, I can never win with her Dinosaur Quizzes…She knows it all!

My daughter thinks that this is Alosaurus

The park itself is HUGE,We haven´t had the energy or the time to even explored it all.There were lots of fun playing activities to be found inside it,of course considering that we need to distance ourselves from the crowds as much as possible.There´s of course a Museum, play areas for big and little children, outdoor recreational spots, picnic areas, restaurants, Fossil exploration areas, shop, and much more.All these fun filled areas are with Dinosaurs views, and that´s what we find so engaging.I was really glad we visited this place, because not only the child with us is entertained, we as parents as well. We can´t complain any further, lots of fresh air, lots of greens, and children will never get bored because they have always something to see and explore!

Therizinosaurus looks like a big bird with absolutely unique elbows and long claws which is 1 meter long!
Spinosaurus we spotted near the playground

And about the Museum, here´s what it looks inside…

We paid 19,50 Euros each for adult fees and children are 9,5 Euros. This includes all access to everything inside the park.We are allowed to bring snacks and drinks so we never really worried about getting hungry.The beergarden were spacious, large enough for Dino-groups.I saw families even brought picknick bags and they just hang out there in the grass, enjoying full sunshiny day.TheParking lot is also admirable and the location of the park is easily accessible from Autobahn.

A take away cup with 3rd Dinosaurs design, a staple for having a quick break under the trees in the outdoor picnic area inside the Dinopark.

Another fun part of this Dinopark is the Fossil area where kids and adulhts have the chance to see, find and explore their own Fossils, with tools and everything! My kid is totally into this and could never stop hammering out from rocks looking for Ammonites! Now that is one way to let go of their energy!We even got freebies when we check-out since we mentioned that it´s her birthday!

Let the whole family enjoy looking and finding fossils and dig the sands!

Since we are observing Hygienic restrictions, I am perfectly impressed as well how the park observed these rules.There are plenty of clean bathrooms, outdoor sinks with sopas and disinfectant for children and families to frequently wash their hands.Mask is required when entering the shops, museums, and Restaurants.Only when wandering through the open air dinosaur park that wearing masks is not required.

The Birthday girl digging and looking for fossils!

I am really excited where would be our next family destination this year…

Meanwhile, while we are still on Holiday break, we stay at home and dream away our worries, hopefully this year would be a better one!

Crazy over Legoland in Günzburg

Adventure park Nature climbing in Beilngries

Cycling through the Danube Trail Adventure

Exploring the Donau Gorges

The taste of Biergarten Culture in Germany

Falling in love with the Romantic Roads in Bavaria

Until then, stay safe and Tschüss!

I want to ride my bike , my Life in two wheels

Life in Germany with a Bicycle

Ask any expat who moved to Germany and they will say the same thing…riding your bike in Germany is pretty normal, it is a culture, a way of life, and the most ideal way to move from A to B.

My bike is one of my precious possesion when I came here. I ride my bike almost everyday, in all season. It became my partner in adventure, and my ever-present help!

Even before Corona pandemic, people here in Germany love riding their bikes to work, school, grocery shopping and to their Sonntags Ruhetag rendez-vous!

Once you moved here, definitely the question of getting your won bike will come to your mind.Just like what they´ve said, do what the Germans do and you´ll be okay.

It´s been decades since I ride my bike before I came here. My husband is Dutch so definitely he came from a country where bikes is more than the Dutch population so it never came to a surprise to me anymore.The first country in Europe that I explored was the Netherlands and seeing its capital, Amsterdam, with its beautiful canals…and bikes was quite a shock to me. I have never seen such number…( and styles!) of bikes in my entire life!

Take for example this Dutch Bakfiets.It´s an infamous Dutch legend. In the Netherlands, people use this so they can transport their babies, groceries, furniture, and even their pets altogether in one time in this sleek carriage, all in two wheels.

Amazingly clever right?!

So do as we are doing here in Germany.Cycling system has become smart, intelligent and the most efficient mode of movement.

Here in Germany, well at least here in Bavaria, I have spotted quite few of wooden Bakfiets in the streets ( or maybe they are also Dutch!), because here, we have a modern one. Bakfiets resembles our sassy Anhängers, or a carrier made of aluminunum, with a water resistant covering panels that is attached to bicyles.Trust me, almost 90% ( or maybe more…) of families here have this in their household.This is the perfect way to tag along your kids and toddlers ( from age 1-5) in almost everywhere you go. We used the Anhänger to go to Kindergartens, playgrounds, shopping, Doctor´s visits, and almost anywhere! We put our stuff in the baggage area and off we go!

Riding a bicyle like Germans do is really something to ponder.Watch a Mama with a Kindersitz in front or back with their child always make me smile and leave me breathless.One time, I even spotted a pregnant woman cycling, with her bump in two wheels! I remember my early days here when my child is still small enough to ride at the back of my bike. It´s such a special bond that we shared. Our first Cycling Tour was so memorable as well!

Nature and Bike always go hand in hand together

If you lived here,you will be amazed by German technology when it comes to cycling.Although everyone owns a car, still, many opt to ride their bikes everyday. Children learnd to ride their bike at a very young age, it´s a skill they need to master even while they are still in Kindergarten.Come to think of it, I learned to ride a bike I think when I was 12 or 13! Most children go to school by bike or by their Roller.One thing, cycling here has been made safe and accessible even for the little children.When you see children learning to ride their bikes for the first time in the streets, you will immediately smile.

It is indeed a beloved culture.

From reflective lights to side bags and different Anhänger types and cool Helmets, they got it all. Not forgetting their expensive E-Bikes,most older people ride their bikes as a beloved form of exercise and exploring the surrounding nature.

Early morning Yoga in the nearby Lake

Every weekend, it is very normal to see people in their bikes, cycling, touring, and sweating.They move from one place to another peacefully, safely, and graciously with their bikes. I asked a friend, where are you going in this time of the year, she´s all amde up, clad in Dirndl and heels, and yes, she´s off to a wedding, in her bike!

Bikes parked along the canals and Bridges became quite a European statement.

Most German cities and town have enough Cycling lanes so pedestrians, cyclists and drivers are seapated in their own traffic.But remember, don´t mess with cyclists because you will hear something that you might not wanted to hear.Cycling is a serious business here.You need to stay on your lane and respect others, that´s how it goes.

My Life with a two wheels

During Corona Pandemic, public transport became the last resort of transportation. Nowadays, if you are taking a bus or a train, then you need to wear a mask so most people prefer riding their bikes for free movement and avoiding contact.But guess what, sales of bikes during Pandemic soars!

Basically, If you asked me, you can survived in Germany without a car. But it totally depends on your location and where you lived.If your work is nearby to where you live, approx. within 5 km range then its doable, regardless of the season.If schools and Kindergarten is just around the next street , then I think a bicycle is a good investment.Travelling, shopping, and out of- town trips are different issues because of distance and weather concern.

But then here , there´s a saying that goes;

There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”!

Bikes, Bicycles, and more Bikes

Germans have the right clothing gear for every season. I find it funny that that in most local shops, they have different clothing trend for every activity, in a given season. So from cycling protective gears, jackets and everything, they have solution for it.they even have covering for your shoes so it can´t be wet when it drizzles.I have seen it with my own eyes and I believe that here in Germany, what matters is you´ve got to do things as efficiently as you can. Most of the towns are car´free so looking for parking is quite always a hassle. If you can get through the city in your bike then it´s much better! Within 15km distance range, most Germans opt to use their Bikes to travel.Cycling has become a global trend and it continuous to be the number 1 choice of mobility here in Germany.

Transporting my kid in a Kindersitz

Living in Germany have opened my eyes for many things. Life in two wheels has became a great lifestyle for me personally, so I beleive that it can work with you as well. Consider this, you can explore your town so well with a bicycle, plus, you have the time in your hands.Daily exercise with your bike and real time sweating out in Summer days is absolutely priceless!When riding my bike, I always have a reason to take a quick break and sit under the tree and just watch life as it goes by.

Here in Germany, there are many Bicycle Flöhmarkts ( Flea market) who sells Bicycles in reduced prices. There are also many models to choose from to suit your preferences.Local shops like Decathlon, Radhaus, Willner Fahrradzentrum,Dropbar Bikes and Coffee and others offers many special offers if you decide to get your very first bike !

Remember, cycling here is not a routinary mode of commuting. Once you get hooked to it, you might explore more your options of travelling by going on Cycling Tours, which we have so much!It is good for your personal fitness and environment friendly so what´s not to love about it?

So when was the last time you ride your bike?

Wordless Wednesday

Tschüss Kindergarten, Hallo Schultüte!

Tchüss Kindergarten, Hallo Schultüte!

Today is the first day of School here in Bavaria, the southern part of Germany and my daughter finally said Tschüss (Goodbye) to Kindergaten and said “Hallo to her Schultüte”…Sie ist endlich ein Schulkind, finally now that she turned 6, she is finally starting School…

As a parent, this whole new experience is bringing us mixed emotions. Schools are finally reopening—with masks, Abstand ( or distance of min. 1.5 Meters) and strict hygienic concepts and many more other restrictions. For the first time , this is all happening, children are finally back to school, as we also all gone back to work, right on the verge of Corona virus chaos.On the other hand, we are proud parents that our child is having her new milestone, new challenge and definitely making big leaps of growth.But then for the same scary virus, part of me always have this fear and a bag full of worries. Fear of the unknown, because we all know that as long as the virus is still out there, we can never feel safe enough.

But then for most of us, especially in the eyes of the little children…life must go on…

Starting school in Germany with a big “Schultüte” or School cone

As an Expat mama, I am sharing this special post because here in Germany, I have seen something else. Something unique, something worthy of sharing . Something that I have never seen in my homeland or in any parts of Europe. Here, children starts school with a “Schultüte” or simply a School cone! This is totally German, and every single child here who enters the first grade in school must bring one on his/her first day of school. That is why this day is so special and celebrated !

What is a ” Schultüte” ?

Schultüte is actually a “Zuckertüte” or sweetbag ,or rather cone. A paper cone full of sweet surprises, like a big fat Christmas socks that is stuff with gifts! I have read that Shultüte is an old German tradition way back since 1810. First stories about Schultüte starts in Jena, Leipzig and Dresden so mainly on the Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia areas in Germany.But then nowadays, this nationwide tradition is widely celebrated by all children whoare about to start school in Germany.

The school normally starts on the 1st week of September, right after a long Summer break. On the first day, you will notice that the streets is filled with children (along with their parents) carrying this huge cone and their trendy Schulranzen (Backpacks). That is really a lovely sight to watch. Most of the time, parents are as excited as their kids!

Why German Schulranzen is Unique?

The Backpack and the School cone (Schultüte)

Here in Germany, Backpacks or Schulranzen says it all. I never imagined that Backpacks were that important here.I remember when I was young, many children does not need to have new things for school, but here…forget it, Schulranzen is very important, let alone expensive! Every child needs to have a decent Schulranzen. It´s like their weapon for their next battle.

But it looks to bulky and heavy…and how can they carry it while riding their bikes? “

Schulranzen is an important matter for every first grade children here in Germany.The backpack must be for functional use, compact, stable ,and will not hurt their backs ! ( Very important!) It is an important factor when buying one is that papers don´t get bent, and snacks dont get squished! Think about German mentality and perfection in every single thing. To give you an idea what children needs on their first grade, take a look at the photos below. This will give you an idea what you need to prepare aside from the Schultüte on the first day of school! This is the list that we´ve got from the School and bought!

With this, you might have an idea that starting school means you will spend probably hundreds and hundreds of Euros, all for a good start.My daughter chose her own design for her Schultüte, which happened to match her Schulranzen.

For me persoally ,the start of school in Germany is quite special. Yesterday we had a simple mass in the church for the first graders to be blessed, and today, they are rewarded with their own Schültute.They have the whole day to enjoy it. Schultüte is filled with many things that brings every 6 year old child loves. Normally it is filled with things that they can use at school like pencils, small stickers, notebooks, or stickers and so much more.It can be filled with small toys, sweets and many other “wished items”. The list are endless.

Since she adores Lego and Ninjago, we´ve had plenty of ideas what to put in her Schultüte!

The thing is, what I love about it is that it really creates that element of excitement and surprise to children.You can really see their eyes get wide full of excitement! My daughter cannot even wait to unpack it all! I think this is very important on their first day in school, a good start is always better than pressure. Instead of directly going to lessons, the children can still enjoy a relaxed first day of school, and of course, enjoying their hard earned sweet threats from their Schultüte.

Here in Germany, months before the school starts, many shops already sells different kinds of Schultüte. You can also make and decorate your own, just like we did. Many schultüte can also be ordered online especially now because of Corona Virus.For us, I just ordered the materials and we did it together with my daughter.

Personalized Schultüte is far by the best!It is far memorable…

Today I have seen that this event is really celebrated by the whole family.Not only parents are present in school but I saw Grandparents and other relatives who were there to celebrate with their child.It is indeed a big thing here.

Starting elementary school in Germany leaves me quite an impression.This is totally non -existent way back in our times where we started Grade 1.I must say that here, it looks like a birthday, or a big family reunion since parents invest so much on this special day. Most parents even take this day as a day off to be with their child on their first day in school.My daughter already spent 3 years in the Kindergarten alone, but then I know, starting school is a big adjustment to her.

Maybe that is why Schultüte signals a new phase–a new life full of surprises!

A Day to remember

This day is really a day to remember.In other parts of the world, people are starting school virtually, and online learning is the solution, a safer way to learn. But here in Germany, we are moving slowly to make things normal, but with strict caution, especially to not stop children from getting into school, the real way.Many children I see posed on their first day wearing a headset and in front of a computer, well, I am not against it. In the end, we all want the best for our children…

The Flaming mountains, dirty shoes and edelweiss flowers

Waking up in a room with a view like this.

As Goethe quoted “A picture book come alive “ is the the best way I can describe this little town in the Bavarian Alps. I had no idea what is this place all about and I was totally clueless. All I know is that we’re going somewhere near Garmisch-Partenkirchen . While on the road,the element of suprise was there for sure and as the days went by, I am just glad that we visited this place. We spent 4 days in Mittenwald and Garmisch-Partenkirchen area and there are bunch of things that really stayed in my memory.

Someone asked me “Why do you always go to the mountains?” I thought, why not?

For me, mountains are so special as beaches are gems in my life, they have such magic to them that nothing substitute. I think ,nature absorbs boredom and everything. It’s another world up there. I wrote here in my Blog how many times nature provides solitude and peace for me personally. I always love a great adventure but somehow I am always guilty that I am scared of heights and altitude. It really takes time to get used to all the deadly curves in the high Alpine roads and the crazy mountain culture. Maybe it is the fact that mountains are can be so dangerous or maybe it is because they make me feel so small, both figuratively and physically speaking.

I was even bewildered seeing myself that finally now I have proper mountain shoes! This is really what expat life does to me.

Tired feet and dirty mountain shoes

I felt that even if I don’t normally climb the mountains so to speak, the mountains really has a way to call you, its like wanderlust.

Beautiful small villages and towns with ornate walls are tucked in at the foot of the Alps

As a parent of an active toddler, we visited many playgrounds that are way up in the mountains and I really find that super exciting. The views pays it all plus the children really have unforgettable experience as well as eating in restaurants with the panoramic views of Glaciers and mountains covered with snow! I have this feeling that all my problems in my life dissolve when I am around them or that life slows down a bit . All that I can tell you is that after spending time surrounded by them, my views about everyday routines were changed. For me, its priceless just to drink my cup of coffee surrounded by these gigantic peaks. It’s pure luxury for me because I don’t have them everyday.

A charming find from the valleys

The mountain views we have from our balcony everyday and the richly ornamented houses especially in Mittenwald’s inner city (or Obermarkt) are really worth the effort. I really wonder if the people living there know how lucky they are.

View of the mountains from our balcony, not a bad birthday threat, right?

In Mittenwald, we rented an apartment with a direct view of the mountains (Karwendel) in our balcony. I think its definitely better than a penthouse view! It’s like having a giant wallpaper changing non- stop. I can’t forget how it looks in any time of the day. At one time covered with clouds, on a rainy day, dawn and dusk and one time with the full moon hovering over it! In the surrounding countryside, the scenery of the Wetterstein and Karwendel peaks constantly changes and one lovely afternoon, it looks like flaming and turns to burning orange! The feeling can be surreal that I can watch it nonstop.

Whenever I see these mountain peaks it directs me to a goal.I wanted to see and explore more but I always wondered how it is to be on top. I can still remember the time we are sitting on a cold winter day on New Year’s day in Fulpmes in Schlick 2000 where we have the snow capped mountain views for hours while I watched my daughter playing with all the skis. It’s becoming a habit now that we celebrate special occasions with mountain views! This summer, my five- year old daughter had her first walking stick when we trek up to view the Krimml Waterfalls where we reached up to 1,390 m (Bergerblick Platform) and wandering and playing through the Mooserboden at 1,200 meters. I think we are getting used to these altitudes more often. What is even fascinating is that mountains nowadays are not intimidating because of the high technology lifts that brings you up in minutes!

The mountains are calling and I must go…
Watching the clouds dissapear from the peaks is magical, like a time relapse!
The elusive mountain flower –the Edelweiss ( Leontopodium nivale)

It’s a surreal feeling when I finally got to see the Edelweiss flowers which are totally highly treasured and valued. The Edelweiss flower symbolizes the Alps and prefers rocky limestone places of about 1,800–3,000 metres (5,900–9,800 ft) altitude. Now I understand why its called the cliffhanger’s flower!

Don’t look at the whole mountain take it one piece at a time…This is something you will come to understand. You will learn to never give up; to know that the reward will be worth the work it takes .
Mountains that teach me to value the small luxuries in life. It taught me how to treasure a great jacket to protect me from cold winds and chill.
I’m sure, every mountain that I see now in my life taught me a lesson.

At the end of the day, its only the good things that we cherish that matters. Flaming mountains, dirty mountain shoes, loaded backpacks, 200+ photos in my camera and empty water bottles meant only one thing : FUN.

Until next time , Tchüss and Have a happy week!

Berlin secrets : Trains to life ,Trains to death

trains to life-trains to death berlin 2
Kindertransport | Frank Meisler

One station, two destination

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

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

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

Trains to life trains to death 2
Berlin’s secrets : Trains to Life, Trains to Death

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

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

train des lebens-berlin
One Station , Two destinations

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

 

berlin statue train des lebens
Kindertransport monument by Frank Meisler, Berlin,Germany

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

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

berlin 4
Empty suitcase

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

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

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

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

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

Have you heard about the Stolpersteine or stumbling stones?

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