Aug 122015
aircraft jet streams, dusk svendborg

aircraft jet streams, dusk svendborg

our 2 weeks in denmark has come to an end and we are back in zürich for a while, our time in svendborg with the brieghel family was just awesome. its a special thing when you can just reconnect with friends after a long time and seemingly just pick up where you left off.

its seven years since we last spent time with them, jonas was just a bump in mie’s tummy! despite the long time apart we just fell into such a comfortable and happy space with mie, thomas, ida, benji & jonas. 8 people is a lot to share a house for 2 weeks and feed at every meal, yet it never seemed to be a chore or an issue, (you would have to check with the brieghels to see if that was mutual!).

it was a joy to watch kai spend time having fun and playing with other kids again, something I am acutely aware has been largely missing on this gap year. ida took him under her wing and they went swimming at the pool with other girl friends of ida’s and went to the theatre together and then caught a bus home, she also got him cooking cinnamon snails and translating the recipe into english!

mie’s parents took us to egeskov, an amazing castle with car, motorbike and plane museums, mazes, treetop walks, playgrounds, gardens etc, where the kids had an absolute ball for the day. sal, thomas & i snuck off early to go and visit a few microbreweries on the island and ended up with a couple of cases of delicious beers to take with us back to switzerland.

benji was also wonderful, playing endlessly with kai, and it was great seeing how much his english improved over the two weeks. (not that the same could be said for kai’s danish!)

once again the highlights of this part of our journey was the people and the food – we had some wonderful times with mie’s parents at their summer house, caught up with cindy whom we spent some time with in italy and met friends and neighbors from the local area.

i had another moment of what i describe as confirmation bliss – the welling up of a feeling of intense satisfaction in the moment cominciding with a reflection on the decision to take off for a gap year. i had gone to one of the neighbors to look for the kids, and when i got there i found thomas with them in their backyard – all sitting round a fire pit, chatting and drinking local boutique beers, so i ended up just sitting with them in the twilight, tasting beers, talking about travel, places, people and so on.

other than thomas, people i had never met, but instantly welcomed like an old friend, special.

it was another of those moments where i thought it alone made the whole trip worth it in one instant.

anyway, enough of the purple moments, like all great things, our visit had to come to an end and it was time to head back to zürich so we said our sad goodbyes, tempered by the knowledge we were all going to catch up in piedmont in italy for a week at a villa in the last week of august!

then it was back in the citroen and down the autobahn to germany for a quick night with carl & dorathea in schöneck before heading back to zürich. due to a mis-communication between carl and myself our arrival at their house came as a total surprise – as they thought we were turning up the following week! luckily they took it in their stride and gave us their usual warm welcome.

we ended up doing about 2800km in the citroen, driving from zürich to svendborg and back along with the side trips. my impression of the autobahns is mixed, its wonderful that they have open speed limits and I was constantly reminded of the stupidity of australian speed limits on divided highways, its an amazing experience to blast along at 180+kmh in a modern car – the trouble is that in germany its an experience that is frequently interrupted by being stopped, or crawling along at 15kmh.

the net result is that its really hard to average even 100kmh, thats with quick pee and fuel stops and a very quick picnic lunch on the side of the road in a forest somewhere. there are just too many times when roadworks, heavy traffic or a broken down vehicle brings the autobahn to a grinding halt.

anyway, we are back in zürich, christian and his family get home tomorrow, we will have a few more days with them, then head up to his brothers house which is about 30km away on the north side of the zürich lake, we are looking after it for a week.

then we will drive across the swiss alps and down to piedmont in italy where we are staying for a week with the brieghel family.

Jul 152015
kai and carl hamming it up

kai and carl hamming it up

carl & dorathea took kai and i to ronneburg castle near where they live, its a medieval castle that hosts role play events for jousting etc. the weekend we visited they were running bow and arrow and cross bow shooting for kids – kai’s idea of heaven on a stick!

the castle was filled with interesting stuff from early furniture to armour and torture equipment. kai had fun with the target practice as well as exploring the castle. there was an amazing well that is 100m down to the water – they chucked in a bucket of water and it was 10 seconds until you heard the splash!

the drive thru the local villages was interesting too, so much agriculture – and of course everything is flourishing mid summer, corn and barley crops everywhere – the houses in the state of hessen are fascinating too, very specific to the state with their timber frames with all sorts of angles and shapes that are then filled with a mix of clay and sticks. the clay filling is painted white and the timber brown generally.

carl and dorathea had also bought tickets for us to go with them to see dirty dancing at the alte oper in frankfurt, i am not normally much of a fan of shows like this, but it would have been a pity to come to europe and not go to at least one live show in one of their amazing venues and see everyone dressed up for a night out! it was actually better than i expected and we all had a very pleasant night!

the alte oper was badly damaged in the war but renovated to its former glory at the cost of half a billion euros!

i am rushing through these activities a bit, I have left it far too long to do a catch up – partly to blame is germany’s atrocious mobile broadband, despite being on their main providers network the mobile internet was basically useless.

as carl only had fixed internet with no wifi we couldnt use his either so i was very restricted in my web activity! hence the all too brief summary of what was a fabulous time with the gerdes family!

we also had the pleasure of meeting their son, ardnt, his wife diane, and their cute daughter, själla, they came over for a couple of dinners with us and we enjoyed their company.

our final activity with carl was a visit to the natural history museum, kai had an absolute ball and we all enjoyed it – the amount to look at was just the right size, a couple of hours of looking at all the exhibits and we had covered the scope of the museum without feeling exhausted or overwhelmed!

we have taken a couple of jars of carl’s honey with us on our travels, very yummy it is too!

it has been an amazing, if all too short stay in frankfurt and more particularly with carl and dorathea in shöneck. i wish we had longer to spend with them in their very comfortable home. it was lovely to have the time we did together and they were such hospitable and generous hosts. luckily we will see carl again in october – when he comes and stays with us again in nhulunbuy!

Jul 052015

the outside of carl & dorathea’s house

we arrived in frankfurt at about 11pm on thursday night, after collecting our luggage we caught a taxi to our friends carl and dorathea – they live in a beautiful rural village called schöneck, about 30km north east of frankfurt. schöneck is close to the river main which connects to the river rhine. it is very peaceful, i think there are about 3000 people in this village and it is surrounded by farmland and forest.

carl & dorathea’s house was originally a large farmhouse and barns on a large farm at the village, the house is 250 years old and made in the traditional style of the region. it has a cellar where all the fresh vegetables and beer and wine is kept – and despite the constant days of around 40ºC, it is very cool, maybe 8 or 10º. The main house has 3 levels where carl & dorathea live and there is an outbuilding that carl has converted into his yidaki studio where we are sleeping, it is 2 story. the garden is very green and shady so we can spend even the hot days outside and the construction of thick walls made from clay reinforced with woven sticks is very good insulation so the houses stay cool inside.

they have been incredibly hospitable and accommodating, driving us all round the local area to explore the sights. we visited a lake called, “alzenau see” (alzenua is a town and see is german for lake) which was a welcome relief in the stifling heat and we enjoyed an afternoon of swimming. they then drove us to the village of seligenstadt – we had to cross the river main by car ferry to reach it – we had a coffee and ice cream at a cafe there and then explored some lovely gardens filled with herbs that are an attraction in the village.

yesterday we visited the local city of hanau, the birthplace and home of the grimm brothers, and explored the local produce market buying some lovely fresh fruit and vegies, later in the day we visited a sort of bio dynamic farm and ‘supermarket’ where they grow a lot of organic vegetables and have cows they milk and pigs and so on.

it is a unique experience to be able to say in a rural village and see how ordinary people live day to day in germany and have absolutely no tourists in site! i think we are very lucky to be able to this and although we only have a week before we need to be in zurich, i think its going to be a very memorable experience.

we having lots of fun exploring the local german cuisine also – accompanied by bavarian beers and local wines! its certainly a foodie paradise with lots of interesting meats products, cheeses, breads, cakes and so on. dorathea is also a very good cook so between the two of us we are keeping everyone fat and full.