A Splash of Colour.

Gabi and I meet unfortunately only about once a year, even though we just live 25 km apart. Life seems to get in the way a lot when planning some hours together, but we finally managed to see agree on a date; as we had been to the zoo last time (link), we decided to give the Botanic Garden a go.

Gabi und ich schaffen es leider nicht, uns öfter als einmal im Jahr zu treffen, obwohl wir nus 25 km voneinander entfernt wohnen. Irgendwie kommt standing etwas dazwischen, wenn wir einen Termin ansetzen, aber letztendlich hat es dann doch geklappt. Da wir beim letzten Mal im Zoo waren, musste jetzt der Botanische Garten dran glauben.

The diversity of flowers and plants are a wonder to behold (especially in summer), but none of them shine as bright as Gabi.

Die Blumen und Pflanzen erschlagen einen förmlich mit ihrer Vielfalt (vor allem im Sommer), aber keine leuchtet so farbenfroh wie Gabi.

Suomenlinna.

For Tuesday afternoon, the university had organised a trip to Suomenlinna, a former sea fortress built on a couple of islands just off the Helsinki harbour. With – again – perfect weather, 12 of us took the ferry to the islands and walked around for about 2 hours, peering into old houses and bulwarks, climbed walls and crossed bridges, all the time marvelling at the beautiful landscape.

There are around 900 people who live permanently on the islands, but I would be hard-pressed to tell where; most of the building were museums or (former) military installations, so maybe the inhabited part was sealed off to the public. It was nevertheless a truly magnificent experience, finished off with yet another dinner together at a local restaurant.

Für den Dienstag nachmittag hatte die Uni einen Ausflug nach Suomenlinna organisiert, eine alte Seefestung, die auf ein paar Inseln direkt vor Helsinki’s Hafeneinfahrt gebaut wurde. Bei – wieder einmal – perfektem Wetter fuhren zwölf von uns mit der Fähre rüber und wanderten zwei Stunden lang über die Hauptinseln: Wir guckten uns alte Häuser und Bollwerke an, kletterten über Mauern und überquerten Brücken, und waren alle völlig begeistert von der wunderschönen Landschaft.

Es gibt ca. 900 Menschen, die dauerhaft auf den Inseln wohnen, aber ich könnte nicht sagen, wo; die meisten der Gebäude waren entweder Museen oder (ehemalige) Militäranlagen, von daher war der bewohnte Bereich wohl abgesperrt für den Publikumsverkehr. Es war dennoch ein ganz fantastischer Ausflug, den wir mit einem weiteren gemeinsamen Abendessen in einem örtlichen Restaurant Revue passieren ließen.

North by Northwest.

‘Tis the season which sees me on the road again. As per usual for this time of the year, I am doing a company course for which I have to drive more kilometres in three months than I will do for the remaining nine months of the year taken together. The course also means that I have days with really long hours, starting way before dawn and coming home in the early to late evening.

However, there is one day when I actually drive home at about lunch time, and given the quite lovely winter weather we are having at the moment, it provides me with wonderful views of snow-covered trees lining the canal. And sometimes I just stop and have a quick walk along said canal, with the snow crunching below my feet, and the crisp air clearing my head from all the stress and tension these long days bring with them.

A Picture-Perfect Finish.

Juliane and I only see each other about once a year (which is a shame, as we get on so well), but when we do, it is always a cracker. She came by my place in the afternoon; I had texted her before and suggested we go for a walk, as the weather was outstandingly beautiful. Juliane replied that she had expected me to say this and already packed her gloves and a hat. Apparently, I am that predictable.

We walked around 8 km this afternoon, strolling down towards Lake Aa and then all around it. These 2.5 hours were mostly filled by Juliane bringing me up to speed with her life; when we returned to my flat, it was my turn, but not before we had ordered some Greek food. She left at about 10 pm, with me firmly promising to visit her in Mainz the next spring.

Juli and the Lake.

Walking ...

... and walking ...

... and walking ...

No filter. Seriously.

The Rushing of the Sea-Tides of the Soul.

Hilka and I met a couple of years ago when I taught English at the company she worked for at the time. When she moved to Bavaria, we stayed in touch via social networks and the occasional phone call; as we were both experiencing some ups and downs in our lives, it was good to have somebody who could relate to these problems.

However, living in Bavaria proved to be difficult for Hilka (for various reasons), so she moved back north this summer, settling near the North Sea coast. As we hadn’t seen each other for two years and with me longing to be at the sea again before the year closes (I need to spend more time at the sea next year; for me, it really is ointment for the soul), I hopped on a train and visited her for a day.

We took a long walk on a mostly deserted beach; the weather was cold and stormy, so perfect for a day at the sea (in my opinion at least). It was low tide, so I waded a couple of metres into the mud flats to take some pictures … only to suddenly sink in up to my ankles (luckily I was wearing boots). Now, tideland has the property to act almost like quicksand: Once you have sunk in, it is almost impossible to get out, as the mud creates a vacuum, sucking you in even deeper. While I was grumpily trying to dislodge myself from the mud without losing my shoes in the process, Hilka stood on the shoreline and almost wet herself watching me.

Lonely Wanderers.

Sunset approaching.

Tideland.

Close call.

We had some hot chocolate and tea in a little café on the beach, being the only customers in the late afternoon; the grey outside turned into navy blue and finally anthracite. To our mutual surprise, the mud on my boots easily came off once it had completely dried, leaving my boots crispy clean, but my feet still felt slightly damp and cold.

As my train back was not until 7 pm, we decided to take a stroll down the local Christmas market and warm up with some glögg and crepés.

img_2517

We will most definitely do this again – albeit maybe at a slightly warmer time of the year.

“I like her, but I do find her voice a bit grating after a while.”

A lazy weekend with Robert and Neil (well, lazy for me – the guys were distinctively more active than me, with Robert doing most of the cooking and Neil spending all Sunday in the garden and shopping for plants). At least Barkly and I were speaking the same language.

Ein faules Wochenende mit Robert und Neil (ok, ich war als Einzige faul, die Jungs waren deutlich aktiver als ich – Robert hat den Großteil des Kochens übernommen, während Neil den ganzen Sonntag im Garten war und sogar noch Pflanzen eingekauft hat). Einzig Barkly hatte ungefähr den gleichen Bewegungsdrang wie ich.

Barkly.

The very relaxed day was only disturbed by the cackling of the geese on the field next door. Unlike me, they did not seem to care very much for the truly magnificent sunsets we had all weekend. I also stayed up until 3.30am last night to watch the lunar eclipse/ blood moon (only to realise that the iPhone 4 is a shitty camera choice for such a stellar event, so no photos).

Der sehr entspannte Tag wurde nur von dem Schnattern der Gänse auf dem Feld nebenan gestört, die sich im Gegensatz zu mir nichts weiter aus den wunderbaren Sonnenuntergängen machten, die wir das ganze Wochenende über hatten. Ich blieb letzte Nacht sogar bis 3.30 Uhr wach, um mir die Mondfinsternis/den Blutmond anzusehen (nur um dann zu merken, dass das iPhone 4 eine ganz schlechte Kamerawahl für so ein galaktisches Event ist, von daher gibt es auch keine Fotos).

Geese.

Sunset.

PS: In case you are wondering about the title – that was my reaction to Sarah Millican being on TV, at which point Neil turned to me and said, “Could also be the title of your biography”. I laughed so hard that there were tears streaming down my face and I had to take off my glasses as they got completely steamed up. Bless you, Neil.

PS: Falls der Titel (“Ich mag sie, aber ich finde ihre Stimme auf Dauer ziemlich anstrengend”) etwas merkwürdig erscheint – das war meine Reaktion auf die britische Komikerin Sarah Millican, worauf Neil erwiderte: “Könnte auch der Titel Deiner Biographie sein”. Ich habe so sehr gelacht, dass mir die Tränen runterliefen und ich die Brille absetzen musste, weil die Gläser beschlugen.

The Snow People.

After a rather mild winter, I woke up this morning (well, I say morning…) to a world covered with a white blanket. The neighbour’s children basically went mental and built not one, but a whole family of snow people. My favourite was Mummy Snow – she just seemed to enjoy life a lot.

Nach einem bisher eher milden Winter wachte ich heute morgen auf (nun gut, was man so “morgen” nennt…) und entdeckte eine Welt, die unter einer weißen Decke versteckt war. Die Nachbarskinder drehten völlig am Schlappen und bauten nicht einen, sondern direkt eine ganze Familie aus Schneemenschen. Mein Favorit war Mama Schnee – sie sah so aus, als würde sie ihr Leben sehr genießen.

Snow Alert.

Snow Lady.

Dark eyes.

Drifting Mist.

At first I thought I had come upon the set of a horror movie, but it turned out construction workers were grinding stones and hence creating this rather eery scenario.

Zuerst dachte ich, dass ich aus Versehen bei den Dreharbeiten zu einem Horrorfilm gelandet sei. Es stellte sich aber dann heraus, dass Bauarbeiter Steine geschliffen und dadurch diese etwas gespenstische Szene kreiert hatten.

The Fog.

Lost in the fog.

Too much food.

We went home at around lunchtime; Neil took the scenic route, with Robert blissfully snoring in the backseat. As we all needed to recover from a night of drinking and singing, it was a quiet afternoon / evening, finished off with some fish and chips from the local shop. The calory onslaught continued the next morning when the boys prepared a full English breakfast. At that speed, I will need to book two seats for my return flight.

Wir fuhren gegen Mittag nach Hause; Neil entschied sich für die malerische Route, während Robert selig auf dem Rücksitz vor sich hinschnarchte. Da wir uns alle vom Trinken und Singen erholen mussten, war es ein ruhiger Nachmittag bzw. Abend, der mit Fish und Chips aus dem örtlichen Imbiss abgerundet wurde. Der Kalorien-Angriff wurde am nächsten Morgen fortgesetzt, mit einem von den Jungs zubereitetem typischen englischen Frühstück. Wenn das so weitergeht, brauche ich auf dem Rückflug direkt zwei Sitze.

Wales1.

Wales3.

Wales2.

Wales4.

Wales5.

Fish, Chips and Mushed Peas.

Brekkie.

“I think we’re alone now…”

Friday started off with a breakfast on the patio … / Der Freitag begann mit einem Frühstück auf der Terrasse …

Stubborn Strawberry Jam.

… and a walk through the magnificent garden. / … und einem Spaziergang durch den fantastischen Garten. 

Garden #1.

Garden #2.

Garden #3.

Garden #4.

Garden #5.

Garden #6.

Garden #7.

And then we were off to visit Neil’s brother and sister-in-law in Wales!  /  Und dann ging es los zu Neil’s Bruder und Schwägerin in Wales!

Ducks crossing.

Hand Ferry.

Nobbly Bobbly.

The stay with Mark and Lynda turned out to be a brilliant affair: The food was great, wine was flowing (7 bottles shared by 3 people; Mark preferred the cider), laughter was shared. Much to my horror, at some point the Playstation and SingStar were whipped out – but it was the most fun I had in ages (those 7 bottles of wine might have slightly influenced my attitude towards singing…). There is even a video of Lynda and me belting it out – watch at your own risk.

Der Aufenthalt bei Mark und Lynda war fantastisch: Das Essen war lecker, der Wein floss in Strömen (7 Flaschen zu dritt; Mark hielt sich lieber am Cider fest), es wurde viel gelacht. Zu meinem Entsetzen wurden irgendwann die Playstation und SingStar rausgeholt – aber ich hatte soviel Spaß wie seit langem nicht mehr (die 7 Flaschen Wein haben meine Haltung gegenüber dem Singen vielleicht ein wenig beeinflusst…). Es gibt sogar ein Video von Lynda und mir in voller Fahrt – Anschauen auf eigene Gefahr.

Especially for you.

Duets.