Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe...join me!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

love

What is love?

I think I have wondered about the answer to this question my whole life, starting when I was about 6 years old, thinking about the love of my parents, as they contemplate divorce, and the love of God, as I started going to church.

Right now, I sit, writing in a field surrounded by blossoming plum trees, and I am thinking about love…and thinking about heading to Canada tomorrow to meet my new niece or nephew. At this moment little baby k is in the process of squeezing him or herself out into this big, wide world, with my brother’s strong, capable hands waiting. Lots of love is in this baby’s future.

Is the definition of ‘love’ dependant on each, individual person? Do we define ‘love’ for ourselves? And is the key making sure that you show or tell those you love how you define it? It seems to me that every parent, every lover, every friend loves differently. Right?

So, today, I am going to try and define my love, for my love, as:

-when you whistle or sing (dat, da, dat, da) along to songs on the radio, just because it makes me laugh so hard tears stream down my face.

-hearing, ‘Hunny, bunny, was macht’s du?’ about 100 times a day, even if the question is coming from outside of the bathroom door.

-not smothering you with a pillow, when I’m so tired and can’t sleep because you’re snoring SO loud.

-saying ‘I’m sorry’ and truly meaning it.

-seeing your interest in everything that I write.

-hiking above Waterton, and you pointing out ‘Charlie’s motel’ every time we could see it through the trees…while using the walking stick you ripped off of a tree for me.

-forcing me to drive your car, because you know that it will be good for me to have some ‘wheels’.

-seeing you laugh hysterically whenever we play in the pool.

-buying a ring for me because you know I love it, even though you liked the other one better.

-sitting on a secluded beach, talking about good ideas for the future…babies, puppies, boats and chickens? (not particularly in that order).

-knowing that you are trying so hard to make me feel comfortable and happy in your life here.

-ironing your shirts, even though I truly hate ironing.

-having the ugly, difficult, tear-filled conversations, but never saying, ‘I’m done’.

-wanting, more than anything, to see you laughing and happy and feeling great…with your arms around me.

Is this love? Can it be this simple? Or am I missing something?
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

firelight

Last night we invited some wonderful folks over for the first fire of the year. We gathered on wooden chairs and benches, sitting around the burning cherry wood, just meters from the river’s edge. Beautiful.

Great guy grilled bratwurst and I put out buns, homemade potato salad and freshly baked pretzels on a long table under the now-blooming tree. Bottles of beer, sparkling water and Riesling held court as well. All of the ingredients were present for my new favorite drink, a sauergespritzten, sparkling water mixed with dry, white, Riesling, and by evening’s end I had had more than one.

Rock ‘n roller and his daughter came, along with best friend, max and bärbel, and balu’s owners. The romanian was present in spirit, but his hard core work pace kept him absent. I enjoyed hanging outside with these friends and loved catching great guy’s eye through the firelight, seeing him smile at me. Lovely.
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Saturday, March 26, 2011

motorbike

spring = motorbike.

The low drum of motorbikes zooming up and down the bridge above has been steady over the past week. The temperatures are so springy now…fresh and crisp and lovely. The biking bug has hit great guy too. So, the other day he rolled his ’76 BMW motorbike (sorry bike fans, I don’t know much more than that…it’s black and it’s old and it’s pretty cool) out of its winter resting place and got started sprucing it up.

After primping and preening and gassing it up, great guy hauled out his accumulated collection of helmets and leather coats and proceeded to try and outfit me for the first spin of the year. Listen, I am a titch taller than all the previous motorbike passengers he has had, an obvious fact made clear on more than one occasion, and so when I slid the pretty black helmet onto my lovely, delicate head, he was surprised that it fit. Ha. Unfortunately, there is not a hope in hell that I will fit into the tiny, black leather pants which were also left behind by a previous cool rider, so I’ll just be happy for now that the helmet fit me. And, maybe I’ll go and run 100 km later today…well, and turn them in capris.

We cruised up through town, up and up into the hills, through the forest, stopping for a late afternoon nip out on the terrace of the Heilig Kreuz, a quaint, old wald wirtschaft (restaurant in the woods) where great sister used to run her butt off as a waitress years ago. Then, jumping back on to the bike, we came out on the other side of the forest, combing the side of the berg, with a breathtaking view of the Rhein valley. Blue sky and sunshine above, slow-moving freighters and wide water below, trees and birds close by, all clipping past us. I hung on, loving the fresh air in my face and snuggling close to my guy.

The ride ended with us sitting outside, on the river bank, at great guy’s favorite weingarten. Now the freighters, some as long as 99 meters, moved at snail’s pace right in front of us…almost so close you could touch them. We tried to guess what loads they had on board while the three resident weingarten ducks, tall and thin, brown, black and white, waddled in single file around us, honking in greeting. I felt like I was on holidays.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

loreley foto

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loreley

The legend of the Loreley says that a blonde-haired nymph sits on the rocks below the cliffs, combing her hair to distract sailors from the perilous curve in the river, sending them to their watery deaths. The area is incredibly beautiful, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and I think that if I were a nymph I would spend my time grooming there too-why not?

Two weeks ago, as we walked atop the Loreley, big franky says to his wife, after she avoids telling him details about a camping trip which took place about a hundred years ago:

Honey, I’m an open book, but yours is written in Braille.

And a few day later in Vejer, Spain, as they are disagreeing on the version of some event which has happened, he says:

Well, you have your version, I have mine. Nobody’s going to read Braille anyways.

It’s a little embarrassing for me because I laugh and laugh at the things that come out of his mouth. I find them pretty fun to be around, and am sad to see them head back to Canada tomorrow.

The cliffs of the Loreley rise 130 feet straight up, creating a narrowing in the Rhein a quarter of its normal width. This squeezing of the water through the passage causes a torrential current, making ship navigation around the cliffs incredibly challenging.

About three weeks after I arrived in Germany, a large freighter capsized at this point, killing two sailors and closing the Rhein for the next 2 months. Great guy and I went to see the ship lying on its side, at the feet of the Loreley nymph statue, a few days after the havarie (nautical accident) happened. It was a sad sight, and one that is very rare in these times of electronic navigation. The Rhein was experiencing very high waters, and many towns were flooding, but the exact cause of the accident is still unknown.

Personally, I don’t believe that any nymph, whether she’s called Loreley or not, would enjoy watching these watery disasters.
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

spider

An itsy, bitsy spider...crawled up my pants and bit me!

Last weekend, not exactly sure when, I apparently got a little intimate with a spanish creature. It's name wasn't Jorge or Julio and it wasn't great guy. No, it was a spider, and based on my indepth google research, it was a brown recluse spider.

We are in day seven of Bite Watch 2011...and there is little change. What was a small, red blot about the size of a nickel on Sunday, is now the size of my palm with undertones of bruise-blue, on my inner thigh.

I don't want to be a baby, especially because since arriving in Germany I have had almost every strange infection, and great guy now thinks that all Canadians are wimps. Back in Canada all one has to deal with is lots of snow, -40 temps, runny noses, mosquitos, and the odd grizzly bear. I can handle that (except for bears, I'm totally terrified of them). Easy. Maybe it's the constant mild temperatures and greenness here which my body is allergic to. That would be sad.

Tomorrow will be d-day...doctor day.
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

rheinfels castle

Above St. Goar, seemingly on a ledge overlooking the Rhein, sits a castle. It was one of Germany's strongest fortresses, dating back to 1245. It is a majestic structure, allowing one's imagination to run rampant with thoughts of ancient duels, deep moats, knights of the round table, princesses and unicorns...okay, mine might be going a bit far.

Last week, on a day when great guy was 'sick' from work (no, I'm kidding, he booked it off) we, along with sister and big franky, went for a scenic drive to Burg Rheinfels. The day was perfect for sightseeing; blue sky, light breeze, sunshine. Unfortunately, the tourist season hasn't quite begun yet and so the castle museum was closed.

We walked across the drawbridge, over the now-empty moat, taking in the ruins of huge enclosed areas which once housed a small city of people, animals, and weaponry of the time. On the Rhein side, sister and I hung over the side of the mighty rock wall (just a little bit) taking self pics of us with our fellas, with big franky's constant refrain of, 'If I see those on facebook I'll sue! I have rights too!' So funny.

I, as always, used a washroom break to get 'inside'. I love exteriors of great buildings, but I always want to go inside and look around. So, I headed inside...and, oh my, do I want to go back there and stay for a while. Part of the castle is now a small, boutique hotel, with a restaurant overlooking the river valley. Large windows, baroque furniture, hints of gold along with modern accents were everywhere. Staff at attention ready to serve...an old-fashioned quality? And, a spa, with a garden terrace nestled admidst the ancient stone arches.

This would be the perfect venue to be a princess for a day...or two. Hmmm. Where to find a prince?
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Monday, March 14, 2011

pig

The other day, I stood on the southern-most tip of Spain and saw Africa. Great guy, his family and I had spent the afternoon walking on the beach, stopping periodically to pick up an interesting shell, rock or piece of beach glass. The waves were crashing lightly against the shore and the fine sand was parting easily under our feet. The Father and I kept looking out across the water hoping to catch a glimpse of a leaping whale…man, would I love to see that. Instead, we saw Africa.

The last few days have been filled with sun amidst periods of rain and cloud, lots of fish and rice, sand and seashells, some ‘oh my’comments (the Father saying it would be much better in Spain if there wasn’t so much Spanish everywhere…even the kids speak it!) which I frantically tried to write down so that I wouldn’t forget them, and lots of laughter and silliness with great guy. I loved it.

Big franky told a story the other day, which with his permission (cause he has rights too!) I might try and turn into a little children’s book. He grew up on a farm in central Alberta, the oldest boy amongst many siblings (I think 8). One day his parents needed to bring their sow (large, mama pig) to the butcher, cause that’s just what happens to a sow.

All the kids jammed into the front and back seats of the family’s station wagon (back then seat belts were just a good suggestion) and the pig got heaved into the back cargo area. Pigs aren’t really the cleanest of animals and so, apparently the stench was remarkable. The kids thought it was all a little funny, having the pig sitting (well, more like standing) behind their seats, and they kept turning around, laughing and giggling at it.

The ride went fairly smoothly until…mayhem broke out. The pig decided she wanted to sit in the front and began climbing over the back seat and over the children. It was pure pig-demoniam! Somehow, his parents and the older kids managed to get the pig back into the back of the car and on they went to meet her maker. I just have one question, ‘Why would a pig suddenly decide she wants to sit in the front? Did she call shotgun?’
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Friday, March 11, 2011

spain

We are visiting great guy's father (the Father) and his partner, let's call her maid marion. They spend the winters in the souther- most part of Spain, in a spanish-style (of course) bungalow. The spacious yard contains a lemon and orange tree, about a hundred tall, shade trees, a terrace, and a few water taps with large, cement basins underneath; easy to wash off fresh-cut flowers or the dog's dirty paws.

Maid marion and the Father, are very hospitable hosts. She cooks like crazy; great guy says that it's for sure 3 star cooking (he says I might get away with a 1 star rating!). Each meal has multiple courses, served in beautiful German crockery, with every alcoholic or fruit juice wish you could have to accompany it, starting with breakfast.

This morning, after a breakfast of fresh bread and sekt (kind of like the every man's champagne) we headed out to see some sights. In Vejer, a town on a hilltop built with white houses, and at least 700 years old, we wandered the very, narrow, cobblestoned streets, admiring the tiled entry ways of each house and the plethora of blooming flower boxes on each windowsill.

It was here that maid marion insisted we all duck into a small bodega (hole-in-the-wall pub), filled with spanish men and no tourists. She ordered sherry for each of us...it being sherry-time apparently, at only 11 am. I drank mine, because big franky almost dared me to, and after that, I was a little happy.

Hooking my arm into great guy's arm, I negotiated the cobblestones perfectly (if I do say so myself) and sang little ditties which popped into my head, much to the delight of great guy (I'm sure) and the spanish men who watched us go by. I, being the friendly Canadian that I am (or just sekt and sherry induced), said 'Ola!!' to everyone I saw.

Great guy sarcastically asked if I needed another drink (he never drinks during the day) and I said, 'no, that would just make me a bit frisky'. I asked him if he knew what that meant. He repeated the word and said, 'frisky. is that whisky with fries?' oh my.

After touring a couple of other small towns, and taking a long walk on the beach, great guy and I broke free from the rest of the family and headed to a secluded, cliffside, beach where I did as the spaniards do, and swam naked in the ocean. Olé!
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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

sister

We've been having wonderful days with great guy's sister and her husband; beautiful drives along the Rhein, great lunch at Benno's Truck Stop at Kaub-on-the-Rhein, walks along the cliffs of the Loreley (more stories about that to come), handkäs dinner at the Sonne (I loved it!), tours of the wildlife rescue park in Rheinböllen, super supper with Max and Bärbel, and Spain tomorrow.

Yup, we are heading to Spain for a quick visit to see great guy's dad. I am so excited to get away from the daily grind of this beautiful place and to experience another beautiful place...finally.

I will try and send some pithy stories from Andalusia...stay tuned...please.
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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

carneval

I have decided to dye my hair a soft shade of pink. It is a look which I can totally pull off, if I do say so myself…and great guy seemed to quite enjoy the ‘new’ me, for the day-carneval day, rosenmontag.

We spent the day, yesterday, with 500 hundred thousand of our, now, closest friends (you get pretty darn close to people when you’re jammed together on the streets, dancing together, having a drink or two, singing and laughing, for six hours). We watched the umzug (parade) for three of those hours. It was the longest, biggest parade, any of us 2 + 1 Canadians had ever seen.

One thing I love about Europeans…the singing together when they are very happy (aka drunk). I experienced it in ’99 at the rugby world cup in the U.K. and in ’09 at Oktoberfest in Munich, where, in every little pub we went into, people of all ages would sing, arm in arm, all the old songs which normally nobody would listen to. It is so much fun.

Every big, colourful, politically or socially-inspired float which passed by had music blasting from it. Angela Merkel (the German chancellor) was parodied as a frog princess, a teacher, and the Loreley river maiden. The funniest float was of the Google Street View exhibionist, which showed a giant, fat guy, standing at the window flashing, full-frontal, the Google Street View cameras. The baker float threw fresh buns, the pretzel float threw fresh pretzels, the handkäs mafia threw, of course, handkäs, and the rest of the floats threw bags of popcorn, candies, mousepads, and bags of Haribo gummi bears. And, all the spectators, who scrambled and jumped to catch the loot, were costumed, like I have never seen before. ..egyptian princesses, devils, witches, a fairy, a cowboy (big franky), and every other character under the sun.

After the parade, we warmed up with a glüwein and a bratwurst, and wandered through the throngs of very happy people, through the altstadt and to the straßen disco (street party). It was mayhem, but so much fun. Great guy hated it, of course, because he’s kind of used to it, but the three of us were enthralled and couldn’t believe the huge numbers of people, the incredible mess on the streets, and the overall electric energy in the air. Carneval.

P.S. Great guy and I stood on the river bank, at home, on Sunday afternoon, and watched 2 geese in the water doing sommersaults – I’m not kidding. They would flip right over backwards, then their little orange feet would kick and kick in the air, until then came up over the other side…seriously, one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
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Saturday, March 5, 2011

ring

Great guy bought me a ring today…from the fleamarket…and I kind of love it. It has a very large white topaz rock, and some might say it looks a bit gaudy. No matter. I kind of love it.

We were at the fleamarket, and a fastnacht parade (finally found carnival) with great guy’s sister and her husband, big Franky (little Franky, I learned today, is about 2 inches tall, looks exactly like big Franky, and is one of the mainzelmännchen). They arrived from Canada yesterday and great guy and I were very excited to see them. They are two very nice, fun people who, combined, make a funny, outgoing, and interesting couple to hang out with. I love seeing great guy with his sister (I’m such a sucker for family) and I love being around an old friend again-some one who knows me, who I can speak English with, and who I can just totally be myself with…to bitch with, to laugh with, and to really talk with.

Tonight the haus folks are coming over; rock ‘n roller (who will probably tell Franky all about ‘how it is in Kanada’), jülchen, the romanian and best friend. And, tomorrow, the four of us will take a long walk along the Rhein and maybe stop in on a burg or two. Fun, fun. My ring and I are happy.
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

carneval

I’m on the hunt for fastnacht (carneval, mardi gras). It’s that time of year here and from what I can gather it’s like Stampede on speed, but without the horses. The other night I watched a sitzung (there is no translation as far as I can tell-a huge gathering of costumed people who sit in a hall, drink and listen to funny speeches-there’s a sitzung every night and some are televised), while best friend was teaching me how to sew a dress. She watches these things only on TV and kept laughing and giggling at various points throughout the televised silliness. There were crazy skits, dancing girls, and oom pa pa music.

But, there must be more to fastnacht, because everyone is talking about it. I have tons of photos of my mom all dressed up and going to carnival in Köln, my step mom called and said that I have to go and participate, there are flyers all over town, and friends of great guy’s are talking about their costumes. So, I want to go to fastnacht.

I just don’t know what it is…and I can’t find it anywhere. Where is the craziness? Where are the costumes? Maybe I’m too early.

Great guy called me from work today and said that it’s all starting at 11:11 am in the town square. So, I armed myself with my camera, all excited about finally ‘seeing’ carnival. I searched and searched, all through town, and nothing. His info was wrong.

That’s okay. I did the second-hand store run and have the pink wig, the crazy dress with multi-coloured frills, the blue fishnets and feather boa, sparkly make-up, fuscia lipstick, and the loud jewellery. I am ready. Whenever, whereever, I will be there.
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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

tutoring

Today I had a long walk home after my tutoring session. Great guy wanted the car, and as it's his car, I couldn't really say anything. But, the weather was beautiful; sunny, blue sky, cool-ish but not cold, spring-jacket-type day equals a very nice walk.

The path I walked edged a large, hillside weinberg (vineyard) with rows and rows of barren, naked vines. They looked ready. Ready for spring and growth and grapes. And, I looked ready for wine.

My English tutoring sessions are mostly lovely. The 17-year-old girl, who I was with today, is bright and chipper, sweet and warm. But, she is frustrated with her English. Or, maybe she's just frustrated with her English teacher. He, according her and her classmates, hates anyone who doesn't speak English well. I think that definition would probably include most native English speakers!

Today, she had to write an essay about the movie, 'An Inconvenient Truth'. They watched the movie over 2 classes, in English, with no English sub-titles. Needless to say, not many students understood much about what Al Gore was saying. It's a great movie, but I know plenty of English speakers who would have trouble understanding the heavy concepts and quick, wordiness of that movie. There is little chance I would understand it if I watched it in German.

So, I helped her a bit, hopefully, and tried to boost her self-confidence. She speaks English well, probably the best of all my students, so I find it a shame that she's so insecure and frightened about speaking. Teachers have a lot of power...wish they would all use their power for good.
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