Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Photographer's Wife, Yosemite

Charis, Lake Ediza, California, 1937 by Edward Weston

Lips unmoving,
there's too little to say.

With feet propped on stone,
a new kind of cold.

Ice sheets below,
where silence pervades

And against this wall
a soul waits, unfazed.

Girded for war,
but heaving to be free

Why bother to blink,
with one's heart frozen shut?

Now once more, please,
and relax this time.

Then ready a fire
for the photographer's wife.

~a bit of poetry I wrote for Mag 142

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Lovely medieval Rothenburg, eighteen years after our last visit. This time, with The Girl, The Boy, and The Dog in tow. More touristy now, but still entirely charming. Christmas shops, the obligatory schneeballen (only fan: The Boy), an afternoon walk along the Wall, the Night Watchman's tour after sundown, and an enjoyable (but unphotographed) rustic country meal in Hotel Markusturm (dinner and hotel both recommended). A delightful autumn weekend away.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ireland: The Burren Perfumery

While driving around the near-lunar landscape of the area known as The Burren in County Clare, we managed to make our way to a stop recommended in one of my guidebooks. The Burren Perfumery is buried deep within this already-isolated region, so getting there via the tiny back-country roads wasn't exactly easy. We almost turned around in frustration a couple of times, but we ended up being glad we didn't.

We were rewarded with a visit to this lovely place, which became a highlight of our trip.

All of their herbal products, from the soap I bought for the friend watching Yoshi for us, to the calendula balm I bought myself, to the Harvest fragrances I coveted, are truly all-natural and often organic.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. After making my purchases in the shop, I thoroughly enjoyed wandering the award-winning herb garden paths, taking way too many photos of various plantings. Aren't the spiral wire plant markers cute? I think I'll make some of those for my own garden.

We were pretty hungry and thirsty after our meandering drive, so we couldn't resist ordering something from the adorable tearoom.

We saw this guard-kitty and also the Perfumery's owner, Sadie Chowen, with her little daughter in tow.

Let's just say that it was all very much my cup of tea.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Top 10 Tips for Moving to Germany

Planning a move to Germany? Here are some tips, both interesting and practical, to help prepare you for your upcoming move. Our move here three years ago was pretty straightforward, since my husband works for the U.S. Department of Defense and our move from Japan was taken care of by them. If you are moving here in an official capacity, as we were, some of these tips won't apply to you--especially the ones about proving residency and car registration/ getting a driver's license. But if you're making the move on your own, and especially if you're coming from the UK, you may find all of the tips to be quite helpful. Best of luck to you in your new adventure!

Top 10 Tips for Moving to Germany

Moving to Germany can be a nerve-racking experience for a first-time or even a seasoned expat. However, the route is a well worn one, as this brief Top 10 shows. Many people have made the move before you, so there is a wealth of experience to draw upon. This Top 10 comes from a guide found on UK removals firm Schepens website; the full guide can be found here: http://www.schepens.co.uk/germany+resources/

1. You will find that when dealing with any kind of officialdom in Germany, you will need to prove your residency (i.e. registered address), so let’s get that out of the way first, and everything else is easy (relatively)! Okay, so it's probably not that easy...
2. Within a week of finding permanent accommodation (i.e. not a hotel), you have to register your address at the local Residence Registration Office (Einwohnermeldeamt), usually located in the town hall (Rathaus).
3.  Generally speaking, Germany, with its toll-free/no-limit autobahns, is the place to be for drivers, but make sure your license if valid. Regulations vary depending on your situation.   
4. Foreign vehicles staying for up to one year in Germany do not have to be registered, but after that period the vehicle will become liable for German registration and the accompanying statutory roadworthiness tests. Again, regulations on this will vary depending on how and why you are living in Germany.
5. The biggest supplier in Germany is probably E.on but many companies offer an online facility (unfortunately only in German) for registering as a new customer (Anmelden). Check the website of your respective supplier.
6.  Competition in the Internet market in Germany is intense and, like all areas of the telecoms market, there is a wide range of companies offering services and promotional rates to new customers.
7. Education is free in Germany, and also mostly coeducational. Attendance is compulsory from age 6 to 18, with ‘home schooling’ deemed illegal (and the state willing to prosecute families who keep their children away). Note: if your country has a Status of Forces agreement with Germany, you may be allowed to homeschool (this currently applies to U.S. military and DOD civilians).
8. Children who are in kindergarten and possibly early-primary school will likely be allowed to enroll in German schools even if they do not speak German. Older students will need to speak German fairly well. Secondary education is divided into two levels: junior and senior secondary education. Upon completion of the Grundschule (from age 6 to 10), pupils between the ages of 10 and 16 attend one of the following main types of secondary schools: the Hauptschule, the Realschule, or the Gymnasium. Students who complete this level of education receive an intermediate school certificate.
9. Germany has one of the most highly regulated labour markets in the world, with its Labour law designed to protect employees. Whether or not an employment contract exists, all employees have basic rights to such things as holidays, sick pay etc. But, despite what the UK news may tell you, finding a job in Germany isn't easy - especially as a foreigner. And obviously, you'll need to be able to speak German fluently!
10. It may be called "Oktoberfest," but the big event actually starts in September, and has been celebrated every year since 1811. The massive Bavarian shindig is held annually in Munich, beginning on a Saturday in September and ending 16-18 days later (usually) on the first Sunday in October. You'll find mini-Oktoberfest celebrations all around the country--hey, any excuse for a beer, in Germany!

*This is a sponsored post. Schepens are a UK removals firm that have experience in removals to Germany, removals to France and removals to Spain. Contact them now for a free quote.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ireland in May, part 1

Yes, you read that right: Ireland in May. And it's August--almost September, already! Let's just say that things got more than a little busy near the end of our school year, and blogging was not--could not be, really--a priority. Then came our annual six weeks or so of summer vacation in Texas, followed by jet-lagged stupor back here in Germany, combined with compulsive late-summer daily hijacking of my laptop by The Boy. See why I haven't been around for a while?

But now the dust is settling, and I have time to revisit our five-day trip to western Ireland. What a charmer, this place! Honestly, I wasn't quite prepared for so much beauty in counties Clare, Kerry, and Cork. And so much stone! Today I'm showing you sweet little Kilkee, where we spent our first night in a spotless and lovely seaside B&B, and a couple of pics at the touristy but required Cliffs of Moher. Scary cliff edges, a Full Irish, surprising sunlight, roads with no shoulder, and a Boy desperately in need of a haircut (he got one a couple of days later, from an English barber in Dingle!).

Monday, June 11, 2012

Berlin, Again

I have been, very literally, away. In just over two weeks, I saw the first day of The Girl's European soccer tournament, went to Ireland with the fam for five days (more on that soon), and visited Texas for four days to attend my grandmother's funeral. It's been a whirlwind, and next week we'll be heading to Texas again, for the summer.

But back to Berlin:

Brandenburg, bier, the Wall, and--the kids!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Berlin Briefly by Coach

Two weeks ago, I went to Berlin with The Boy's eighth-grade class, for their middle-school "graduation" trip. I repeat, I went to Berlin with eighth-graders--thirty of them.

We left from the school parking lot on a bus, at midnight. We spent that whole night on the bus. I repeat, I spent all night riding a bus with eighth-graders. After stopping for breakfast outside Berlin at a McDonald's and letting the kids burn some energy, we headed into the city.

We met our guide and started on a two-hour bus tour--mind you, after having been up all night. Actually, I did sleep a fair amount, as I was able to curl up across two seats, like a cat. But still. I don't think The Boy and his buddies got much sleep. Until the city tour began.

It was a characteristically gray day, with showers from time to time, and it was also unfortunately rather chilly. The kids didn't really care about that, of course.

Our first stop on our city tour was at Checkpoint Charlie, which was cool, though I didn't pay the couple of euros to have our picture taken with the costumed re-enactors there. I preferred photographing these parts of the Wall. 

I also took pictures of random things, such as this circus-and-road scene, that somehow spoke to me. They said, "This is the real Berlin--almost."

I snapped this out the bus window. It's of a bahnhof (train station) entrance; I found these enchanting in Berlin.

True, isn't it? I'll be back soon with another post about our two-day adventure, which turned out to be quite fun after all--despite spending a night on a bus.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Ball, a Burn, a Bike

The sun came out for a few hours sometime last week. Then it went away again. Then it came back full-on for a whole Saturday, with temps in the 70s, just in time for an away-day of high school soccer at Ramstein. Many of our girls, unaccustomed as they were to all of this sunlight and warmth ("What is this giant heat-making yellow ball in the sky??"), later attempted to cover up sunburns while getting ready for Prom that evening at Kloster Machern. It was a busy, bright, fun day.

Sunday was partly-cloudy, and Husband took off in the early-a.m., before anyone else was awake, for a long bike ride.

He's very happy with his new German bike, a Bergamont. His friend made fun of him for getting a basket on the back, but hello--how else are you supposed to haul groceries or a small, not-entirely-thrilled-about-it Yorkie (not pictured this time)?

It's looking really green around here. Have I mentioned it's rained a lot?

Home from his ride, Husband also got a shot of the back of our rock garden. We're starting to see some color back there.

Here's hoping you have a pleasant weekend. I'll be hanging with a group of thirty eighth-graders in Berlin for two nights!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Once Upon a Time

The sun shone here in Germany, several weeks ago. Two kids and their dog went for a ramble on their village's farm paths and did a brief photo-shoot. They got lots of great shots, including this one of some concrete. And they didn't punch each other at all.

Their dog found himself in high spirits, as is his norm when being allowed to roam free, chasing with wild abandon anything soaring through the air--be it ball or bird. 

During the foray, parents of the three youngsters remained at the haus, tending to planting and general outdoor beautification efforts. 'Twas a lovely day for all. 

But the mild temperatures and cloudless skies didn't last. They were replaced by wind, chill, and intermittent rain and hail, for days (weeks?) on end. The resident matron haus photographer took leave of her camera, temporarily giving up hope of a photogenic outdoor environment.

But something tempered the chill: the appearance of incredible full, sometimes double, rainbows off and on. The kids were almost prompted to head out in search of pots of gold.
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