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

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

river rat

A rat was sitting on our door step as I opened the door to go to work. A big, white, creepy albino rat with red eyes and a long tail just sitting there. Now, I come from Alberta…rat-free Alberta. I have never seen a rat, unless you count ‘ratatouille’ and I don’t ever want to see another one, unless it’s animated.

Of course, it turns out that it was my fault that the rat was hanging out at our house. I am trying to endear another cat to hang out at our place with food and milk. This cat is very small and I think it’s hungry, ergo the cat food on our doorstep.

The romanian happened to be nearby, and after I screamed, he came and right away said that the rat had to be killed. I have been haunted by the noise the rat made during that process. In order to spare future lives I will try hard not to entice any more unwanted creatures to our door. Does that include rock ‘n roller?

So, note to self: do not place cat food outside your door when you live by 2 rivers…and start closing your doors.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

spanish solstice

Spain greeted great guy and I with field upon field of happy sunflowers. Storks had gathered in parties atop their electrical-post nests. And roosters and small, yappy dogs welcomed us loudly with their never-ending salutas.

We have spent the past few days soaking up the sun, walking in the cool, wet sand, body-surfing in the rolling waves, and reading. The mornings and late evenings are spent at the father's and maid marion's quiet, flower-filled, ferien wohnung (holiday house). Great guy, remarked on our second day here, how nice it is to have privacy...to sit in the garden or in the house and not have people constantly walking by or coming in. We are relishing the time of just being alone, together, and totally relaxing.

I have loved walking on the beach, in the footprints of small children and older ones, in the footprints of people from all over the world, and even some hoof prints from a group of riders who galloped past me in the sand. We have spent evenings in the ocean harbour, watching the hobby fisherman returning, who park their boats loudly by bumping and grinding along the docked boats until there is room enough for their own.

Last night, we spent the longest evening of the year on a secluded beach, sitting close together in the sand, leaning against a heavy rock, watching the sun disappear into the calm sea. We opened a bottle of wine and toasted the sun and the water. Happy.
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Friday, June 17, 2011

singing catholic?

I could never have cracked the Da Vinci Code…well maybe with Tom Hanks.

On Wednesday evening, I was sitting beside a Catholic woman, who is the mother of one of the girls I tutor in English. She had invited me to sing in her choir…a new, fun, casual, community choir. Well, actually I didn’t know at the time that it was a community choir. She had only mentioned that choir practice was Wednesday evenings, in a church, in a nearby neighbourhood.

It is shocking to me how little attention I pay to some things. We already know that I am a very unhelpful witness at a crime scene, and on Wednesday it struck me again, that I need to buck up and take more notice of the things around me. I had driven to and then entered a building which I just totally assumed was a Catholic church. I hadn’t looked at any church signs, hadn’t noticed that the building totally didn’t look like any Catholic church I’ve ever seen (you know, like how most of them, or maybe all of them, have a steeple?), and hadn’t noticed that there was not one single crucifix (should ‘crucifix’ be capitalized? Hmm, I don’t know. Shoot, now I feel guilty).

So, I’m sitting beside this nice woman and, after a few moments, as more and more (I’m assuming) Catholic choir members fill the side room we are in, I lean over to her and say, in a hushed tone, ‘Am I actually allowed to be in a Catholic church choir, even though I’m not Catholic?’ You know, I was thinking that it’s like going to a Catholic school, you need to be Catholic, don’t you?

As you can probably guess, she started laughing, and it wasn’t too quietly. Then she said, again not too quietly, ‘We aren’t in a Catholic church. I’m the one who’s out of place here!’ Heads started to turn to look at the moron who warranted that response, and immediately I wanted to say, ‘Sorry, I’m from Canada, I didn’t know!’ Which is what I say many times a day, when I make some sort of social, cultural or directional error, but in this case, that didn’t make any sense. I opened my eyes, and my brain, and looked around and realized that this church looked pretty much exactly the same as the hundreds of humble, unassuming Protestant (or branch thereof) churches I have been to in Canada. I seriously would not have known what country I was in if I woke up and found myself sleeping on a pew in this particular church. Even the songs we were singing are exactly the same…some in English and some in German…like any good ‘ole Mennonite church I’ve ever sat in.

Come to think of it, even the choir director reminded me of Duff, the kind, dictatorial but witty choir director I was blessed to sing with back home. Only this new guy spoke German. Actually Duff spewed German tidbits every once in a while too. At least there the trains zooming past the back door made it obvious to me that we were practicing in an old CP Rail station. Even I noticed that.

At the end of the day, I don’t really care where I am singing, but just happy to be doing it again…as long as my fellow choir members sing louder than me!
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Monday, June 13, 2011

oldtimers

We spent Sunday looking at oldtimers...while being accompanied by some oldtimers.

In the morning, great guy and I hopped on his ’76 BMW motorbike (a beautiful, but scruffy relic) and headed up into the hills to look at an oldtimer tractor and bike show. We rolled up to the entry tent and as the lady was about to tell us how much the entrance fee was, great guy said, ‘I’m actually riding an oldtimer, can we just take the bike in?’ She looked at us, a little suspectly, but then said, ‘okay, sure, go on in.’ Great guy was quite proud of himself that he saved us the 4 Euros!

Later, after looking at rows and rows of tractors in a field, and then returning home, another oldtimer rolled up to our house-the father. Well, he rolled up in his car and then, he and his not-so-oldtimer dog, Golfo, walked the rest of the way.

The 3 of us, plus dog, spent a really nice afternoon at the Wein-Höfefest (vineyard fest) around Burg Layen. Burg Layen is a little, rolling, wine town in a valley enclosed with steep vineyards. About every third house is a wine family’s hof (a hof is foreign to North Americans-it’s kind of like a farm yard, but can be right in the middle of a town or city, and in wine regions they are often very elegant and high-end places).

In Burg Layen, on this weekend every year, you will find wine tours and live music, wine tasting and excellent food, wine consumption and oldtimers. This particular oldtimertreffen (a meeting of oldtimer vehicles, in this case, cars at least 30 years old) weaves through the entire town. There were old porsches, mercedes, alfa romeos, bmws, rolls royces, and even some oldtimer Volkswagens. As Golfo and I walked a few steps behind great guy and the father (dogs need to stop every 5 seconds!) I found myself being quite interested in some of these oldtimers. These old cars had so much class and style…like black and white photos of the ‘20’s. I think these oldtimers should become the new trend, just like legwarmers and pleats.

The atmosphere of music, lots of people, sunshine and cool cars; along with classy wine höfe offering scrumptious smelling spießbraten or jägerschnitzel and delightful pouring riesling, weißbürgunder or dornfelder wines, all the while being surrounded by hills of grapes, was wonderful. Sorry, that is much too lame a word to describe the experience. One downfall of my improving German is that I have complete brain freeze when trying to think of interesting English words. Apologies.

A side note: For anyone wondering, really old tractors sitting in farmer’s fields in Germany look exactly the same as really old tractors sitting in farmer’s fields in Saskatchewan. Just saying…
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Friday, June 10, 2011

robbery

Best friend tried to take down some robbers the other day.

Great guy and I had gone out in the evening. As we had driven away from home, on his motorbike, we noticed a schick, black car with a guy in the driver’s seat, talking on his cellphone. He was parked beside our little driveway, on the parking lot of an empty building which is between us and a small grocery store. The only people who ever use that lot are our friends, when they come to visit us. So, great guy slowed down and we got a good look at him, but we didn’t stop. I remember thinking, surely this guy isn’t here to rob our house, cause he’s so obviously sitting right where we can see him.

He wasn’t there to rob us.

But, about 15 minutes later, as best friend was returning from her Nordic-walking outing (so funny how many under-50 folks partake in this sport…is it really a sport?), she noticed this vehicle, again, now standing right in the middle of our driveway. She asked the guy what he is doing there, and he just looked at her and jumped in the car and drove away.

As she was alone, she decided not to continue along the driveway, but to go up the bridge and down the stairs, which is closer to our houses. All of a sudden, 4 young guys ran up the stairs and jumped into the car, which had stopped at the top of the bridge. She knew something was amiss.

Instead of calling the police, best friend took matters into her own hands. She ran down to her car, jumped in, and started a mad pursuit. As she zoomed up into the neighbourhood, frantically trying to find the suspects, the police (who had been called by the grocery store workers who were just robbed), noticed a speeding, crazy person and stopped her, thinking she must be involved in this caper.

Anyways, about 5 minutes after great guy and I returned home, the police descended on our house, in the darkness with flashlights emitting an erratic, scary light. Needless to say, I was worried and had no idea what was going on. In the end, they had to come to talk to all of us and to get info, and eventually witness statements.

You know that you’re living ‘real life’ when you spend one and a half hours in a police station trying to identify a man you saw for about 30 seconds. We all ended up pointing the finger at a dummy photo. It’s anything but boring here. Spannend.
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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

rheinswimming

Rheinswimming deserves a stifling day
The freighterships on the current, glide on by us,
Turned around backwards I am stronger now
Every shipwave reveals the power in its course
Still, I’m so much stronger
I willnot fall down in this water’s deep
Cause great guy will watchme

Rheinswimming deserves a muggy day
I’m not sure all my people understand
It’s not like months ago
The fear of getting dead
I’m recklessnes in water
He cannot see me drowned
These streams, I go again,
Revealed by every wave

Rheinswimming, relinquishing my might
Great guy is leading me
I’m feeling for the stream
And what if we were two
Side by side in current
Amidst the wild Strom?
That bright, light endless hum
Does not describe Rheinswimming

Rhein, I think I know you
Rhein, I willnot judge
Rhein, I doubt you know me
I am laughing excitedly overcome with free
Rheinswimming

The freightership recoils,
Every waveline an invitation
Rheinswimming deserves a nother day, deserves a nother day.

Note: Thank you, R.E.M., for the tune that would not leave my mind since I was Rheinswimming.
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Saturday, June 4, 2011

wine fest

On a hill, high above the Rhein, with vineyards stretching out in every direction, there is a quaint, romantic, nighttime wine festival which takes place each June under a giant nuss baum (walnut tree). Die Nacht der Verführung.

For three evenings, under lights strung through branches, people sit on long wooden benches, tasting and enjoying wine from a few different, local wine houses, while a band plays in the background. The atmosphere is light and happy and the view is spectacular.

For the past couple of nights I have been working at the festival in the wine stand of my new employer. There are tons of people, some I know and many I don’t, but the work is happy and busy, and the wine is not so bad either. I haven’t had an employer before who makes sure I drink before the customers arrive! Of course, he just wants to make sure I can describe the various wines to customers if they ask for my suggestion. After a couple of sips though, I can’t really remember the differences.

The other night, great guy came, with best friend and some others, and we had fun while I poured and he tasted. That seemed to be a combination which he enjoyed. Zum wohl!
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