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

Saturday, January 19, 2013

small town...germany

So, how are living in small town, Saskatchewan and small city, Germany similar?  Surprisingly, in more ways than you might think.

Yesterday evening, as great guy was getting ready for a ‘business’ meeting in our little stellwerk (finally learned the English translation…signal tower!) I decided to make myself scarce.  Our home is not too small for us, but it’s all open, with each room on a different floor, separated by open stairs.  This is a hazard for small children, older folks and…noisy people.  There isn’t much opportunity to not disturb, so I headed out into the freezing cold (-3 brrrr) and walked over the bridge into ‘downtown’ to give the men some alone space.

I had made myself comfortable in the back of a cozy café, after ordering a nussecke (nutcorner – does not translate well) and green tea, when three minutes later I heard, “can I join you?” (in German, of course, otherwise I really would’ve been knocked off my rocker!).  It was the husband of one of the mädels (the group of girls I meet with regularly).  Great guy and I had just been at their flat for a wonderful dinner two weeks ago.  Now, he was in the café, after just finishing work and starting his holidays, waiting for his wife to join him so that they can kick-off their ski trip with a pre-ski cake and coffee.   So sweet.

An hour later, after a lovely time with these two warm, fun people, I headed out to do some shopping (German: to bummel).  Seriously, not five minutes later, I ran into our smart, very-short, long-time friend of great-guy’s, bienchen.  I tutor her whip-quick, slightly arrogant, but sweet-as-heck, sons in English.  The older one, at only 14 actually challenged me on some English, saying he didn’t think I was right.  I was impressed and annoyed at the time, but it sure makes me laugh thinking about it now.  She has her hands full with those two and handles parenting elegantly, in my opinion.  Bienchen and I chatted for a minute or two amidst the hanging flowers and glass vases of the home décor store we were standing in, when she said ‘hey, do you have time for a glass of sekt?’  Hello?  Do I ever!  As much as a Saskatchewan-ite wants a great west light!

I really had such a nice, unexpected evening, that as I was walking home, I thought that these kinds of experiences were what I so loved and missed about living in my small town Saskatchewan. 

Arriving home, great guy was still in his meeting with peter rabbit and the other sven, talking about potentially working together (would be so great for g.g!), with a smile on my face, I headed downstairs and started to write. 

So, here are (in my humble opinion) a few ways in which I think living here on the Rhein in a small city, big town and my experience of living in a beautiful, biggish prairie town remind me of each other.  These things make me so thankful of both places which have given me a home and the few incredible people who have filled them and me:

1) The run-in.  I know only like twelve people here and whenever I go into ‘town’ I meet one of them.  Just like in Rosthern.  There, you just had to look for the cars you recognized parked on the side of the street…because nobody walks in small town Saskatchewan! Like running into bienchen here, or back in SK…meeting jeff outside of the hardware store, then shooting the breeze while sitting on the tailgate of his pickup (of course) watching the town folk walk by…saying hi or waving every now and then.  Awesome.

2) Spontaneity. People just popping by your house on a Saturday afternoon or weekday evening, bringing supper (fried chicken in SK or donairs here-thank you Max and Bärbel!), icecream or cake or wine (okay, that’s just in Germany!).  But, what I wouldn’t give for a BLL with my BFFs in SK right now!!

3) Water.  The power of being so near to a huge river; the mighty north Saskatchewan and now the bustling Rhein…the former was busy with transportation oh a hundred years ago and the latter has quite the traffic problems now.  The best thing I’ve seen on the Rhein so far was a long, slow-moving freighter carrying rows and rows of John Deere tractors.  I couldn’t believe it.  It felt like a little bit of Saskatchewan was floating by.

4) Ach, men. Moving faraway to be in relationships with smart, good-looking, unassuming men who barely talk, but can easily chop down a tree, cook a great meal, or build anything they set their minds on…very cool and total pains in the ass…did I write that?  And, interestingly both are brothers of a friend of mine (not the same friend, of course).

5) The language. Since being in Germany I’ve had to majorly brush up my German skills and, well, in Saskatchwan I had to brush up my small talk…about a) the weather and b) the insects…grasshoppers, mosquitos, rats, etc. Is there anything else people talk about there?

6) History.  Small, French men of yore…Louis Riel and Napoleon.  Okay, I’m not exactly sure how short or tall Louis was, but he was at least half-french.  Two remarkable characters, creating a bit of drama and a bit of bloodshed, with stories taking place right where I was and am living; and leaving interesting buildings, traditions, and fascinating words behind as proof that they were ‘here’.  Cool.

7) God.  Being on this and every journey…not knowing what I’m doing; if it’s right or wrong or just plain stupid, but knowing that at least I’m not alone.  I will be okay, I will survive (okay that’s Gloria…kind of close), knowing that all is well with my soul.

8) and last but not least, wheat kings….and real kings!

Monday, January 7, 2013

secrets de l'table

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.  It will not lead you astray.” -Rumi

It’s a new year, and a new me.  Well, I’m hopin' anyways.

I am in the mood to re-invent myself. Maybe it's because I feel like I need to finally grow up and be the woman I'm supposed to be.  But, how do I find out who or what that is?  This year is a big birthday year for me, and in all honestly, I'm not looking forward to it one bit.  I had really thought that I would be waaay further along in my becoming a supermodel.  So, I have decided to start working on being all that I can be (thanks Oprah) so that I will feel as great about myself as I can when that dreaded day comes knocking.  

I'm looking at it like training for a marathon (not that I've ever done that).  I have challenged myself to write least something (but not just the grocery list) and I have been doing that now, going on, what day is it today? Seven days now.  My writing classes through U of C will start at the end of January and then I'll really have to write! I'm finally going to read some of the books I've put know the ones that are challenging, uncomfortable maybe, but excellent.  And, I'm off bread and sugar, which if you keep reading you will know why.  I'm going to start popping into church again, and not just at Christmas.  I miss the community of believers.  And, I want to sing again, like with people.  So, I will join a choir again, finally.  

And, along with yoga-ing and a bit of outdoor running, I think I can whip myself into the smart, kind, clever, confident, good-partner, great-friend, interesting, healthy (in body and mind) person I really want to be.  And, the only reason I'm blogging about this is so that I keep myself accountable...cause at least you four now know what my plans are. What are your plans for the new year`?  I'd love to hear them!

Now, here's my newest, new year, travel goody:

Great guy and I spent New Year’s in the French city of Strasbourg.  It’s an incredibly beautiful city, lying on the Rhein, which also serves as the French/German border for a little while.  The city is French, but was German once upon a time, and so (not unlike visiting Montreal) you can try speaking French, but about three words in the other person begins speaking (in this case) German.  The buildings in the inner city are old and wonderful, long intact and left in peace during the one or two past European wars.

We spent the days wandering and gawking and snapping photos, and eating.  Oh, how I love the French culture of eating…and shopping (though I did none of that this trip).

Our first evening, we explored the countless, beautiful Christmas markets and Christmas decorations hanging tastefully from balconies and over the streets; such as chandaliers by Baccarat hanging in intervals over the cobbled pedestrian street.  When we finally felt peckish, we headed along the canal, over two bridges and a cobblestoned road, and found a casual, three-storied restaurant right on the water.  The air smelt of cheese…baked cheese.  Great guy spoke a perfect (to my ears) French sentence and we were led to a wooden table beside rows of windows, on the other side of which the water swirled just below.

I told him that on our trip I wanted him to order everything…just an excuse to hear him speak French.  He ordered Fromage blanc, galette de pomme de terre et munster and L’escalope de porc pane, frites et salade, Côte du Rhône and Coca-Cola.  Doesn’t that just sound lovely?  The great thing is that it also tasted lovely.  The cheese and bread…yum.  It all just tastes French.

The next day, we explored le petite France (an island chaulk full of old, traditional Fachwerk (log?) houses, some perched on bridges with movable drawbridges and still-running mills.  We cruised through the glorious Galerie Lafayette, a high-end, French department store…looking, but not touching.  All of this, after first enjoying café and croissant on a rickety barge tied to the side of the canal serving petite dejeuner (doesn’t that sound a hundred times classier than ‘breakfast’?).

For lunch (as if we needed lunch), we ate at Brasserie Le Grenadier, close to the imposing Cathedrale Notre Dame Strasbourg and ate Tartine epinards with bleu d’Auvergne, chévre, noix noisette topped off with Mousse au chocolat!

After all of that, we needed to rest up at the comfi inn (as great guy called it – actually just the Comfort Inn, nothing spectacular) in time for new years-ing later.  To end the year off (which in my opinion wasn’t my finest year) we chose Les escargots and a bottle of le Bordeaux first off.  Then, great guy ordered Choucroute Strasbourgeoise (which is actually just a helluva lot of sauerkraut-a Strasbourg tradition-with meat) and le Cordon bleu de porc pané àla crème for me.  We were totally stuffed as we stumbled out on to the streets, along with thousands of other revellers to ring in the new year; with shouts and fireworks, banging firecrackers and raketten, böller, und knaller!  Welcome 2013!

"Es ist ein Ros entsprungen au seiner Wurzel zart, wie uns die Alten sungen, von Jesse kam die Art und hat ein Blümlein bracht mitten im kalten Winter, wohl zu der halben Nacht."

It’s a new year, and the flowers are coming up here in Germany, close to the rivers.  Seriously.  My tulips and onions are already four inches high.  I fight the urge to push them back into the damp earth…knowing that it surely must freeze again. Won’t it?  We had winter for about one week and now it’s spring.  Crazy.  Sometimes I do miss Canada.

My new year’s wish for you (stolen from my favourite card):

“If I could, I’d find a fairy godmother with a magical wand and combat boots so that she could grant your wishes and kick the crap outta anything that tried to get in the way of your happiness.”
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