Lost and Found No. 2

Hello, all! It’s Easter weekend, and here in Germany we have a lovely four-day weekend to give us a break from the daily grind of our jobs. As spring has hit its stride, so have my allergies. As much as I want to be outdoors, I’m spending a lot of time sitting indoors trying to avoid the pollen. We could do with a nice rain shower to clean the air, but there sadly isn’t any precipitation in the forecast in the next days.

Anyway, let’s get down to it. What has been lost and found in my life and the greater world lately?

Cherry blossoms

Found: Spring blooms, ducklings, and swans

As you can probably guess from my spring allergy statement, the trees are turning green, flowers are blooming, and nature is going wild. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom (yes, they’re in Germany, too), as well as another tree with small white blossoms of which I do not know the name.

I sometimes hop off of the bus a few stops early on my way home from work so that I can walk along the small lake near my flat. This past week, eight new ducklings were chirping their way around the lake.

Mother duck with ducklings.

At the end near my flat, a swan pair have built a nest and are protecting it from passersby (meaning any duck stupid enough to come near). Still waiting for their offspring to appear.

Found: An ache to read more from Margaret Atwood

Last October, I bought some new English books in the London airport where they are not as expensive as in Germany. Two of them were my very first Margaret Atwood volumes: Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale.

I read the latter quite soon after my purchase. And yes, I already saw both seasons of the series. Alias Grace was different. I’d seen the mini-series on Netflix back in 2017 and was not quite sure what to make of it. The book is really an amazing work of art, tying in many themes that are just too subtle to come through in the TV version.

Having read both of these, I’m hungry to read more of Atwood’s books. Not that I’m lacking any reading material at present, but any advice on which ones I should tackle next?

Found: New growth

After not doing much of anything all winter except protesting because I accidentally exposed him to direct sun, my avocado plant has finally started shooting up some new growth.

New growth on my avocado plant.

New leaves are shooting out of the top like a little crown of velvety new green. Let’s see if I manage to nurse him back to a happier state. For a while in the winter I thought I might have to scrap the tree and try again with another seed.

Lost: History

What has been very sad is the news of not only Notre Dame burning, but also the burning of three historically black churches in Louisiana. While Notre Dame is an accident and a loss of symbolic European history, the burning of historically black churches in the States is something that has been going on for decades.

I’ll never understand racism and hate against an ethnicity or religious community, but at least one can take heart in the fact that those donating to help restore Notre Dame in Paris have also been donating to the churches in Louisiana. I hope that communities on both sides of the pond are able to rebuild and find a sense of peace and safety again.

Found: The bees of Notre Dame

In the aftermath of the fire at Notre Dame, many have been focused on structural stability, the historic art inside, the stained glass… But some Parisians who knew that there were also bee hives up on the roof were curious to know if the bees made it.

While it isn’t clear how many survived the blaze, there’s evidence that these bees are quite hardy and the hives will live on!


So that’s what’s been lost and found in my life view lately. Hope you all have enjoyed / are enjoying a lovely Easter weekend, and please keep your fingers crossed that the rain comes to Germany soon!

Cheers!

Mountains to Milan

Heya, friends! Today I’m digging back into my travel journal to tell you about my first trip to Italy.

This long weekend back in May of 2017 was… not what I expected. But hey, travel isn’t always perfect 100% of the time, and I have committed to sharing my honest experiences with you all.

I guess the best place to start is, obviously, the beginning. A and I had decided to take a road trip passing through Switzerland. We got up early on a slightly chilly morning in Konstanz, drove through a deserted Altstadt, and then over the border into Switzerland.

The weather was perfect for a roadtrip and the drive was actually pretty enjoyable. We even had gorgeous scenery.

Swiss roadtrip

Driving into Italy, we decided to go up over the mountains instead through the mountain tunnel. At that point, I seriously had never seen so much snow in my life. (I have seen quite a bit more since then!)

After getting over the mountain pass, we arrived in Italy, where it was indeed much warmer than it had been up in the mountains.

We parked outside the city, rode the subway in, and dropped our things at the hostel before heading out to explore.

Oh, Milan. I so wanted to love you. I wanted to bask in your sunshine, listen to the song of the Italian language, devour every morsel of legendary Italian cuisine… But, this didn’t happen.

I’m sure that Milan, like most places, can feel like home for some people. But, Milan is a city where I just wasn’t able to get that this-is-my-kind-of-city feeling in the time we spent there.

I enjoyed walking the streets and trying to imagine the history. I marveled at Sforza Castle, remembering tidbits of history related to the Sforzas.

Milan

I sauntered along in the heat, checking out some marble statues but not feeling any real connection to the art. How can that even be in this country which is so significant to the history of Western art ?

There were a few highlights though. One afternoon we spent well over an hour in a botanical garden, examining each specimen as if my life depended on it… until I would see a butterfly that is.

Milan Botanical Garden

And for anyone who knows me, they could probably guess that my other love in Milan was a cemetery. The Monumental Cemetery. Those Italians know how to make a beautiful cemetery, with sculptures, plants, and such a serene atmosphere.

I may not have fallen in love with Italy on my first visit, but I guess that’s a good enough reason to need to go back and try out some of Italy’s other destinations.

Cheers!

I Didn’t Think I’d Like You, Frankfurt

Back into the travel journal we go! This time we’re heading to Frankfurt in January. Cold, right? It actually snowed while we were there. Maybe that’s a factor in me liking it even more!

Speaking of snow, it’s snowing as I write this, as it has been doing off and on the last months. Anyway, Frankfurt….

Most of the weekend was spent socializing with friends, as one does when visiting friends in other cities. It was also my first time there, and we spent a good part of Saturday running around to take in the nearby sights.

We walked along and crossed over the Main (the river that runs through the city). From there we had a view of the city center which houses all of the tall financial towers.

Coincidentally, on this same weekend not too far from where we were, a bomb from WWII had been found in the river. Finding these old bombs is actually not that uncommon in Germany. They usually just evacuate the area and either defuse the bomb or, in some cases, safely detonate the bomb. The same thing happened not that long ago here in Munich.

We continued on to the Old Town where we passed by the old city hall. As it was quite cold, we didn’t linger. Arriving at the Frankfurt Cathedral, our group made the decision to walk up to the top despite how chilly and windy we suspected it would be.

Indeed, it was freezing up on top of the cathedral, but it also gave great views of the city.

After escaping from the wind, we headed to an indoor market called Kleinmarkthalle (Small Market Hall). You can buy everything from flowers and fresh produce to regional specialties and ready-to-eat snacks. We munched a bit and explored what the vendors had to offer before touring some of the shopping in the city center.

In the evenings we explored the night life a bit. We visited an Irish pub, and the next night a very fancy bar before heading to two ritzy clubs.

Initially, I thought Frankfurt was pretty much just the financial capital of Germany, full of high-minded Germans with advanced degrees in finance and related fields. It is a little bit that, but it’s also something more. Here I found a city that didn’t feel as busy as some I’ve been been in (ehem, Munich…), had great night life, and an excellent mix of walking and shops to keep one occupied for a weekend.

Cheers!

Lost and Found No. 1

Welcome to my new “Lost and Found” series. In an effort to be more mindful of myself, the space around me, and the world at large, I want to share some tidbits of note for me that were either lost or found. Simple, right? Let’s get to it

Found: My Blogging Mojo

Blogging is hard. I don’t mean the thing itself really, but I mean keeping up with it. I have so many ideas of what I want to write, but sometimes I just run out of energy. During the final part of my studies, I even managed to lose interest in making time for blogging all together. I wasn’t sure if I would ever fully come back to the space, or just pump out a post every once in a while when I felt inspired to do so.

As of right now, I’m feeling more excited about this space than I have since I arrived in Germany. I sure hope I can keep the ball rolling, because it’s doing wonders for my motivation and emotional energy.

Lost: Snow

We had quite a bit of snow in Munich this winter. Thankfully, the warm weather lately has pretty much melted away all of the snow. I’m hopeful that this means spring will come soon and the bitterly cold weather will stay away. Looking at the chilly gales and rain outside, I’m not so sure when we will get properly warm weather, but at least it’s above freezing.

What I have seen still hanging out are piles of dirty snow next to the parking garages of the shopping mall. I’m still waiting for those to finally melt.

Found: Snow Drops

I have seen the first snow drops of the year! If you don’t know what they are, they’re the small white flowers that pop up as winter transitions into spring, sometimes coming straight up through late snow and blooming before trees even start to wake up after winter. I unfortunately don’t have a photo because the lighting was so bad, but it’s a pleasure to see these little guys in Munich after having watched for them in Virginia as well.


That’s all for now. I hope to be back in this space more often going forwards.

Cheers!

Germany Thus Far: 3 Years, Can It Be True?

It was shortly before my three-year anniversary of living in Germany when I realized it was coming up. It doesn’t seem like I’ve been here that long, but the calendar says that it is true!

So in the past year, what are the most significant things I’ve done?

1. Got a Job in Munich

Since I handed in my Master’s thesis in early September last year, I also had to get a job. I started applying in July of last year and was very lucky with timing, as I then started working in October.

The challenges of transitioning from academic life to work life are enough to begin with. Add in that I somehow did it in another country, succeeded in changing over my residence permit, and moved to the city (I’m not a city gal), well… That’s pretty impressive for me personally.

Do I love working more than I loved studying and doing research? Nope. But hey, I guess that’s part of your first few years working; you learn what you like and what you don’t.

2.Visited the Family

It was September 2015 when I moved to Germany, and throughout my entire Master’s program I could not afford to make the trip back home. Therefore, going home last December was the first time in over two years that I saw my family in person. It was also the first time in two years that I used US dollars, that everyone I spoke with had a Midwestern accent, and that I was surrounded by American flags everywhere I went. Yes, I suffered from reverse-culture shock.

LOZ

It was a nice little adventure to go back home, although it was the dead of winter. At least my Grandma can’t be upset that I always miss the holidays since I finally made it for Christmas!

3. Distortion in Copenhagen

After several years of A telling me about Copenhagen and how great it is, I finally went. The first few days were filled with bike rides around the city to do all the touristy things. The second half of the week was all about the electronic music festival.

While it’s true that Copenhagen is quite expensive, the city has a great vibe, amazing architecture, and delicious food. I even had my first bagel in several years (my life without bagels is very sad, indeed). Copenhagen is pretty spectacular, one of the few cities in which I can see myself living happily, albeit probably broke.

4. Another Trip to the US

So the trip that I was not planning to make was to head back home in the middle of summer. Living away from home when someone in your family is in poor health is pretty tough. I eventually got to the point where it didn’t make sense to keep stressing in Germany when I have a regular paycheck that can get me over the ocean to check in with my family in person.

Although it’s not what I planned, I now remember how flaming hot and humid Missouri gets in the summer, and why Missourians actually need air conditioning. A more pleasant part of the weather was walking barefoot through a summer storm to pick up my aunt’s car.

Family’s all okay now, too, in case you’re wondering.

5. Isle of Skye

The first trips I made to Scotland were back in 2014, and I documented them on the blog. (Read about them here and here.) Those two trips led me to falling as much in love with Scotland as I already was in with Ireland. One thing that A and I have wanted to do for several years now is to make it to the Isle of Skye. This year was the year to do it.

We rented a car and attempted Ben Nevis before going on to the Isle of Skye. That trip was an absolute dream, and the cool weather was dearly cherished after a brutally hot summer in Munich. I’ll eventually write about it here, but for now, I’ll just say that I can’t wait to go back to Scotland again.

Learnings

So those are the big things, but my international adventures are not the entire takeaway. Here’s a short list of some things I learned this year.

  1. Skiing is not for me. Tried that in Austria on a company ski trip, and the conclusion is that I will just skip straight to sledding and hot cocoa.
  2. I need to put the plant down, and walk away. I now have… seven plants? I think it’s seven, maybe there are more… Having a green thumb doesn’t go away just because one moves abroad!
  3. My German has gotten better. In fact, a few weeks ago I made a trip to the foreigners’ office and spoke in German during the entire appointment with the Munich bureaucrats.
  4. I need to plan a lot of hiking trips. Since I didn’t painstakingly plan out any options, I didn’t end up going on any. I tried to be a bit more relaxed, but it seems that being a planning freak does lead to more adventures into nature.
  5. Legal residence doesn’t get easier with time. In fact, the bureaucracy is so large that it even lost my file, resulting in multiple temporary permits and a long wait until they find my file before they’ll process the application that I already submitted. Never-ending story, this residency thing.
  6. December is too short, and there are too many Christmas markets to visit. Last year, I tried very hard to experience some new markets because I have had a love affair with them since my personal discovery of Christmas markets back in 2014. This year I will have to map out every one that I want to visit and be a bit more calculated in my excursions (and my Glühwein fund).
  7. Forcing myself to live in a city does not mean that I will learn to like it. Nine months into living here, and 12 months into working here, Munich still isn’t my favorite place. If anything, it’s more of a headache. If only I could find Munich-style jobs in the mountains….

Seven seems like a perfectly arbitrary number at which to pause here. So I guess that’s a wrap on year number three in Germany. I don’t really have a lot of plans for the next year yet (apart from Christmas markets), so let’s see where life takes me!

Cheers!