The last destination in Europe were the Shetland Islands where I visited Helen (whom I met in my beloved Hogwarts hostel in Dunedin) and her fiancé Davie. To be honest I didn't know anything about the Shetland Islands before I went there, not even where they were. When I decided to go there I was very surprised to find out that the only! direct flights start from – Bergen!! So without knowing it I had planned the perfect route.
And again: it was just wonderful! Helen and Davie made me feel so much being part of their home/family/life that it was very hard to leave when I had to...
I got picked up at that very tiny airport where the landing strip is from one end of the island to the other and even if the plane is very small – when you see it the first time from above you wish really hard that the pilot knows what to do! He/She did, so I could pick up my luggage at the tiniest luggage belt I have ever seen (about 5-10m long) which started when a man opened a tiny door in the wall and you could see him putting the bags one by one on the belt ;-)
My introduction in the culture of the Shetland islands was a quick one – and I loved it! We started it by baking a short bread and scones and I had the best teacher ever! We actually baked for the 100 years celebration of the Scottish women association :-) More about that later on.
After the baking I got introduced to some friends and the musical culture – at a “home music night” at a friends house. Everyone had an instrument with them or at place (drum, piano, flute, violins) and someone started with a melody/rhythm and one after the other joined in and everyone jammed together – magical!
I didn't know that the violin (or fiddle as it is called there) is such a traditional instrument in Shetland. It seems almost everyone knows how to play it and Helen is a member of a widely known group named Hjaltibonhoga which is a part of the Royal Military Tattoo in Edinburgh for 10 years. I didn't even know what a tattoo was, but it seems to be a very big show and normally it is a huge honour to be asked once to be a part of it – and they were asked to be a part of it for the next 10 years! That shows how incredible good they are! And I were allowed to see (and hear!) them several times and really enjoyed it!
One occasion was the 100 years celebration of the Scottish women association – it was the next day after my arrival and I were allowed to help to serve the Sunday tea ;-) I didn't dare to take the huge kettles but helped by holding the delicate tea cups all the time afraid of breaking one, but did manage without (I did brake one, but that was when I helped to do the dishes ... and it was VERY embarrassing, but I survived it ;-)
The celebration itself was quite interesting for me. One old lady had made ALL of those letters and numbers (including the banner) by hand. Another one is collecting tea services and so each table was set with one matching service. Everyone of the ladies who entered got a letter and a number and had to find their table and place ;-)
I was very fascinated by one lady wearing a REAL hat - isn't it impressive?
Another thing which seams to be quite popular in Shetland is the lottery – every Sunday tea use to have one. If it is a public Sunday tea (which is normally held for some social purpose) you'll write your names on your lottery ticket and they'll inform everyone if you win - it's pretty cosy :-)
And every time all the cakes, scones, cookies, wraps.... are made by people in the community and obviously it's no problem to find someone who does the baking/cooking/serving.
(That's a "normal" local Sunday tea we went to another Sunday).
If the weather is fine and you don't want to sit in a cafe or a Sunday tea you can even cruise around, stop by at the cake fridge
and eat those lovely bits somewhere on the islands. And of course we HAD to do so and went to a small garden made in the memory of a child. The special thing about that place is that they planted trees. Originally there are no trees at all on the islands and the trial to plant a whole forest went wrong – first they grew quite well, but when the first row got damaged by a storm more and more trees collapsed. So being in a garden with different kind of trees is a special thing in Shetland. Everywhere were small signs with explanations, riddles or sayings.
We had a lot of fun (as you can see (-; ). Afterwards we went to a waterfall, sat down on the way and enjoyed our delicious cakes.
Another cruising went to a place where the cliffs and the landscape is quite dramatical and you even have leftovers of old windmills.
The social life seems to play a big part on the islands and so I joined in in every part of it. Friends coming by to talk, to have a drink, to eat, to have fun :-)
A big tradition is the traditional food and of course I got a course in how to make bannacks and sassermaet ;-) Just have a look:
And yes, ONE sign that the Shetland islands are a part of Scotland is their love to whiskey. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the impressive collection of empty! whiskey bottles in Helen's and Davie's kitchen. As I had learned in Dunedin that there are actually whiskeys I do like I challenged Davie to find me "my whiskey". So two evenings I got to taste whiskeys and it IS true - there is a whiskey for everyone! Thanks again for helping me, Davie!
The nature in the Shetland islands is really fascinating and as Helen and Davie had to work and the weather was (once again) fabulous I did spend quite a lot of time outside to explore the islands. More about that in the next blog ;-)
(It’s a little awkward to write this blog right now as I have holidays and am actually in Norway – but Northern Norway this time (-; )
So after Sweden I went to Norway. During my studies I was an exchange student in Bergen and that was the start of my love to hiking – and Norway is still one of my favourite places to hike! But this time I didn't hike ;-) I spent one day in Oslo and if I don't have a lot of time there I still go to one of my absolute favourite places there: Vigelandsparken. It actually doesn't matter which time of the year you go there, if it is sunny, cloudy, rainy, snowy – it is always beautiful and very special to me. The park is made by an artist called Vigeland and he made everything in the park. There are scupltures made of stone, made of metal, three-dimensional, two-dimensional, all of them about the circle of live and about all emotions you can think about. Every time I am there I am impressed by the way he captures all those feelings and I hope my pictures make you consider to visit it yourself one day!
Then I flew to Bergen
and once again I was more than lucky. The June had beaten all the records about being the rainiest month since recording - the first 3 weeks.... I came the forth week and had just sunshine – I even got sunburned! In Bergen!!!
I stayed in a really nice hostel in the middle of the city and as the weather was so incredible nice I really took advantage of their roof terrace – which offered the view over the harbour – just beautiful!
And once again I met wonderful women ,Becky and Lenka, in that hostel and spent time with them.
I went to all my favourite places that I had discovered while I was living there:
Like one of the “must do” in Bergen: to walk up the Fløyen, one of the “house mountains” of Bergen. You can either go up there by cable car or first walk through the old part of Bergen with wonderful and colourful old wooden houses which I love
and the rest through the forest with some stunning views over the city on the way and on the top anyway ;-).
This time I discovered a little paradise up there just beside one of the bigger walkways up there. Just about half an hour away from the top of the Fløyen, which is one of the main tourist attractions in Bergen and was overcrowded this sunny day, I was completely on my own without any sound of civilization – amazing!
Another touristic main attraction is the “Tyske Brygge”, a place where the Germans had to live during the time of the German Hanse. Just a small part is preserved as these old wooden houses got caught by fire several times. It is actually worth a visit but this time I was there with good weather and thousands of other tourists... I like it a lot more in spring, autumn or winter ;-)
Another “must do” for me was to visit Fantoft... NO place to go for anyone else – that's the place I used to live and it is as ugly as it used to be!!!
Anyway close to Fantoft is Fantoft stavkirken and that IS worth to go to! It is an old stave church which was rebuilt several times as it was burned down. The best about those churches can't be shown as it is the special smell they have – I love it!
Another place close to Fantoft is a very special place to me. It's a spot at a fjord close to Gamlehaugen (the residence of the Royal family when they stay in Bergen, which was actually given to them as a gift of the inhabitants of Bergen by donations). That was "my place" in Bergen where I used to enjoy the view, reading, writing diary...
I even visited Anne-Grethe and Øyvind (who I met during my time in Bergen) and their three kids to enjoy an afternoon in their garden.
Some more impressions of Bergen:
During my strolls through the city I suddenly came to an exhibition of Lars Lerin, a Swedish artist I really like but never have seen “live” before. It was an unexpected pleasure and I really enjoyed it!
So somehow that got a really lucky connection between Sweden and Norway :-)
Sorry for those extremely long breaks now... I started to work for 6 weeks ago and I have to confess that I underestimated the “going back to new/old every-day-life”... I really struggled to get back to a routine without loosing all the things I learned on my travels. Right now I've holidays and I'll use them to finish the last blogs – I promise! But back to my travels through Europe:
Sweden is my second home country, so normally I am there once a year to visit all my friends. This year I had the time to visit all of them and everyone for several days or even several times – what a luxury!
My first home when I came to Sweden was a small typical Swedish house, which still is my favourite.
It is in a small “vilage” in the middle of nowhere but with one of the most heart-warming couple I ever met – Margareta and Eve, whom I use to call “my Swedish parents” and I am called “their German extra child” (my picture hanging between all children and grandchildren in their bedroom (-; ).
This time I spend quite a lot of time there, having it as a “homebase” where I could come back to whenever I wanted. Their big house and the surrounding garden is my private little paradise- have a look yourself:
and Anders and his family. I even got invited to their children graduation party where his oldest daughter Tilda was host and did a great job!
with Emelia and her family and Anna – all “old” colleagues of mine and had a wonderful time with everyone of them. I really enjoyed my time and my stay with them but didn´t take any pictures, so I can't show you how beautiful their houses and cities/villages are ;-)
I even visited Cindy (a Swedish friend of mine who I met in Hamburg, but who is now living in Sweden again) and her family.
One of the more “crazy” things I did was in Gothenburg. Since about 10 years I listen to some Swedish radio hosts – they changed programs and even the channel but I continued to listen. And obviously I am not the only one who really likes those guys. When they had to change from a 2- hours-program to an 1-hour-program a lot of people complained that that didn't work out for them and the radio talkers themselves realized that they didn't have enough time to talk about everything as they were used to. So the solution was to create a podcast. They started to have one before and one after the show and then one day the “podfolk” was born – the group of people who listen to the podcasts. A facebook group was founded and then the podfolk parties started – once a year, normally on a Friday evening in summer in Gothenburg. So I always had an excuse why I couldn't go (Friday, summer, long way....), but this year I didn't have any excuses... And YES! I did apply and I did go – to a party where I had never met anyone of the other guests. Very scary and probably I wouldn't have done it BEFORE my sabbatical, but all the experiences I did have around the world made that I – just did it! And it was sooo incredible much fun! It is a wired feeling to be with people whose only common thing is to listen to a certain radio program, but that special mix of people made it even more fun and special.
As I never had spend any longer time in Gothenburg (it was kind of “too” close to where I used to live) I decided to do it now. This time I stayed at an airb’n b instead of a hostel. Gothenburg is a really pretty city and has a lot of green and water - a river which meanders through the city and the sea.
There are a lot of small islands in front of Gothenburg and the ferries are included in the public transport system, so I took the chance and spent some hours on one of those islands and it is like everywhere – the moment I enter a ferry/ship I have the feeling of being a very long distance away from the city even if I am still able to see it.
As Adrien in Hungary, Agnieszka was one of the assistant teachers I met for almost 10 years ago and am still in contact with. This time I spent quite a lot time with her and her family and really felt like a part of it - so cosy!
A very special tradition in Sweden is midsommar. It’s quite hard to explain, so if you'd like to know what it is about I would suggest you watch this film:
Anyway – this time I was invited by my friend Agnieszka to celebrate midsommar with her and her family, so I went back to Västerås one more time :-)
We went to a public place where they had the pole and dance and everything ;-) Unfortunately we missed the “frog dance”, but the kids did some pony riding and as it is a tradition the weather was very mixed ;-) a little rainy, a little windy, a little sunny – like every midsommar!
Before I continue my blog: Yes I am quite a lot behind, so by now I am back to Germany and I will be back in Hamburg in the beginning auf August, trying to “settle down” again, so everyone who want to visit is very welcome!!!
The blogs still to come will be about:
Shetland (probably several)
Germany (probably several places again)
I’ll try to write them as soon as possible ;-)
But now I continue with Budapest:
In my family we have since some years ago the tradition to draw a lot with a name. You are supposed to give that person a present, so everyone gets one present. Last Christmas I drew my youngest sister Jana and gave her in present to spend a weekend somewhere with someone sometimes. Off course I offered myself as a company as I had a lot of time – and she chose me :-)
To be honest so were my thoughts that she would pick a city in Germany, but she thought different from the beginning, so we talked about Helsinki, Lisbon and in the end it became Budapest, so I stayed in Hungary ;-)
We had a great time together
- lot more than just a weekend, which made it possible to see a lot of Budapest – and that's worth it! We lived first in an apartment in Pest and then in Buda, so we did experience both sides of Budapest but fell most for the Jewish quarter and spent a lot of time there. With the first apartment
came two bikes, so we learned Budapest by riding a bike and I'll suggest that is one of the best ways!
Budapest has a lot of old fascinating buildings and I could have taken thousands of pictures, but that's what Jana thought about me taking pictures:
(Okay, selfies were never my best pictures... (-; )
In Budapest is the biggest Synagogue in Europe, so we visited this one as well – impressive and interesting as it was build by three non-Jewish architects, including three different styles.
Typical for Budapest (as well for the tourists as for the inhabitants) are the bathes – some really huge and majestic (and touristy)
others smaller and less renovated (and less touristy, which made that one our favourite)
– and the “kerts” , the best known the “szimpla kert”.
These are bars in “ruins”, means old not renovated houses, backyards and parks – all of them highly used by tourists and inhabitants, depending where you are.
All of them have a very laid-back atmosphere and very simple constructions AND home-made lemonade – all different, but all very tasty!
Buda is the side of Budapest which is more green and has a lot of options to go for a walk, so that's what we did.
We went along the “children’s railway” – a relict from socialistic times. It is served by children, aged 10-17 (connected to the scouts), just the engineer and the train driver are adults. It was a little wired to see them wearing uniforms (which did not fit) and that they greeted each other by lifting their arms in a military greeting.
We even tried to visit some caves but that time we were without luck – the electricity broke down, so we had to return after just a couple of minutes. We were more lucky when we looked for a langos-place – we found an absolute exquisite one ;-)
As I wrote before Budapest has a lot of very beautiful old buildings depending on where they are they are more or less renovated. What they are realy good at is to turn "broken things" into something new - my favourite were the painted broken pavement. It is a way to protest, but I actually think it is almost more beautiful broken and colourful as in a good shape...
When I asked around who would like me to come and visit, Adrienn was one who took the chance ;-) We met actually ten years ago when we both were language assistants in Sweden and it is amazing that we still keep contact and even if we see each other once every five years it seems to be yesterday we met. I stayed at her and her husbands Lackós place and I really enjoyed it! It is just one of the best ways to travel a country – to know some local!
The first weekend we drove to the Balaton, where Lackós family has a summer house. We came there and I got introduced to a very special and traditional way of coping the cold: Palinka! A spirit made of fruits – and even if I normally don't like spirits – the home made ones in Hungary are really tasty!
Most of the time I spend in Pécs, looking and strolling around. Pécs is a beautiful old city and has a lot of beautiful old (and mostly renovated) buildings.
I even visited the Synagoge there as there are very few chances in Germany to do so. It's a quite impressive building and l liked the atmosphere.
One evening I got the chance to attend a party of one of Adrienns and Lackós friends, who is a hunter and who cooked a traditional Hungarian dish at a fireplace in the backyard. It was very tasty and I felt very welcome!
By the way: I really like the Hungarian food!
The Hungarian language is so incredible different to all other European languages, so once again I just learned some words... Here the weekdays, to get an impression:
As I was back in Germany I had the chance to take part in the topping out ceremony of my best friend Gunders new house. It was actually the first time I ever have been to such a ceremony and I didn´t know anything more about it than the fact that it´s celebrated when the construction of the roof is finished and that is was traditionally a party for the workers.
Nowadays it´s a party for those who built the house and neighbours and friends who want to have a look ;-)
Traditionally the food is quite simple and so I baked some muffins with the girls
and then there were “Leberkäs-Wecken” – meat loaf in a bread roll - and beer of course! ;-)
all of us had a small glass of schnapps,
he drank directly from the bottle and threw it into the house.
Another tradition is to leave something behind in the wall for further generation. In this case it was a kind of tube-can which got filled with a list with the names of all which were at the party and their relationship to the family,
a newspaper of the day,a 1-Cent-coin and a 1-Pfennig-Coin.
And then one of the builders sealed it in the outer wall.
It were quite a lot of families with small kids around and the best playground you can think about is a building side – so they had a lot of fun, running around, building with mud...
As told before I take the chance to see and meet friends, so I visited Christine and her family. It was just for a couple of days, but it felt as being a part of the family and I really enjoyed it! So we did, what you do with children – rode a pedalo boat,
ate special shaped pizzas at a restaurant,
(I really loved it!)
went to a ceremony at a catholic church,
... and had a good time ;-)
So I came back to Europe in the end of March, spending the first 10 days at my parents home – doing NOTHING. I helped a little bit in the household, went out with the dog
and my mum or dad and otherwise I was just relaxing. And obviously I needed that very badly. I came home to Germany in spring and to see the nature freshly green and all the trees and flowers flowering was fantastic.
My parents live in Singen, in the south of Germany quite close to the Swiss border.
Well okay, one thing I did was decorating my parents house with (almost) all the Easter decoration my mum had collected (a lot of them made by my sisters and brother and me)
One weekend we went to Engen, a small town, close to Singen which is known because of its old inner city. They had an Easter market and I wanted to attend it and once again I was fascinated by the artwork of painting Easter eggs :-)
As I had come back after a long time travelling we had a big happy family meeting in Heidelberg
– and yes with a lot of children ;-) It was so nice to see that my nieces and nephews recognised me and it took just a short moment for them to get familiar with me again – very happy feeling for me!
After spending some time with my parents I spend time with my brother and his family, and being there on Eastern itself I attended the traditional Easter-egg-searching-procedure :-) In Germany there is the tradition of Easter eggs (or more precisely Easter nests) hidden by the Easter bunny – if possible outside in the garden, otherwise somewhere in the house. Normally the nests contain a lot of sweets but I´ve heard about families where Eastern turned into another Christmas with a lot of quite expansive presents as well... So my niece and my nephews looked for their small surprises (some travelled as long as from Taiwan (-; ) in the garden and got super happy as you can see :-)
My sisters children got a little delayed Taiwanese Easter bunny, but were happy to look for surprises once again ;-)
Some more impressions - a visit at IKEA ;-)
As my sister Julia and my brother Sebastian are living quite close to Heidelberg I even visited some old friends and took a stroll through Heidelberg
and had a look at my "old university" and the small villas where they tought special pedagogics.
Somhow that visit turned ot to be typical for my travels in Europe - I visit old places where I have lived,see old friends and meet those ones I met while I was traveling. A kind of connection between the old and the new- and I enjoy that a lot!
Then I even visited my youngest sister in Mainz as she had moved since I had visited last, so I got to know her new room mates and had the opportunity to go to the final rehearsal AND the premiere of a dance theatre which she had been assistant to. I don´t know a lot about dance theatre but I liked that one a lot and was really fascinated because it were young people between 11 and around 20 who danced. Even more interesting for me was all the background information my sister gave me about all the changes about almost everything which took place the last minute – I wasn´t aware of that as I am just used to “classical” theatre where no changes take place (unless very small ones) around the final rehearsal. So I could even attend the premiere party and I enjoyed it a lot – I didn´t realized how much I had missed the special atmosphere around theatre and it was so nice to see all these happy faces – my sisters one among them.
To my big surprise we stopped at a place where a lot of turtles live – quite big ones! I had no clue that there is any place in Germany where turtles live in a river!
After such a long time it was nice to come home and to meet my family again – I had missed them!