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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Crossing the Alps

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Yesterday we left Munich, to cross the alps and go southwards. Our goal was Bled in Slovenia, and the way from Munich to Bled was originally the shortest etappe of our journey. So we packed our tents and hit the road again. We crossed the border to Austria, listening to our trusted audiobook "Holes" by Louis Sachar again, while driving through the rain and looking at the scenery in the rain...

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...when a sign popped up, saying "Eisriesen Werfen".

That means, roughly trnslated, something called "Throwing Ice Giants".
Sounds cool, right?
So we decided to take a little break, I mean, it can´t take longer than an hour to check out what that meant, right?

Turns out, Werfen is a small town in Austria, and "Eisriesen" is the name of the worlds largest ice cave. To reach it, you have to hike until you reach a height of 1600 metres in the alps.

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Which we then did, assisted by a super cool cable cart, but still.

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The air tastes different up there.

And it´s so, so stunning, seeing those gigantic mountains. I saw them and thought about the utter determination humans before me must have had crossing those. Carving paths and tunnels in them and through them, marking passages, hammering out stairs to climb.

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It´s an utter miracle for me that the land north of the alps and the land south of the alps has a connection at all. I mean, I see the reason behind building a boat and crossing an ocean. That feels... natural. But the idea that people ever looked at those mountains and thought... Yeah, I´m going to climb that? Wow. Just wow.

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The caves itselves were not less impressive. Unfortunately, it wasn´t allowed to take any pictures, so here´s one from their official website...

...which you can find here.

The tour took 80 minutes, during which one had to climb 1400 frozen stairs, carrying small lamps with open fire. It was dark and icy cold and Miro and I always felt like slipping, and we were hungry and tired and freezing, and it was beyond amazing and an incredible adventure that made us bond and feel alive. Our trip went only about 1 kilometre into the mountain, but the whole system of caves is more than 42 kilometres long.

When you go in and out, there´s an incredibly strong wind, due to the exchange of cold and warm air, and that alone is awesome. 

Of course, this whole endeavour didn´t just take an hour. We spent more than 6 hours in Werfen, Austria, 6 amazing hours, but it really delayed our arrival in Slovenia. We reached our campsite at almost midnight, where we pitched up our tents in complete darkness (with the help of the headlights of the car), on really muddy ground. Mehmet and Miro where asleep allready, but we had to tired, fighting little girls - and then it rained all through the night. We got lucky it didn´t rain when we arrived.

I´ll show you more of Slovenia tomorrow - it is nice here, picture-postcard-nice, though wet and muddy, but for now, I´m going to check whether I find a way to dry our wet sleeping bags and whether there´s a place where I can buy new shoes for Miro, who´s soles are no longer attached to the rest of his shoes. We do love adventures :)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Munich - Day 1

My name is Bond - Vagabond.
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Yeah, I know it´s a bad pun, but I saw it on a bumper sticker on the road today, and I love bad puns. Also, I loved the sticker, because it made me feel like We´re on the road again - which we are.

We´re on our way to Croatia, and Munich is our first stop - right now, I´m sitting in a little bar with a campfire and lots of drunken Dutch guys wearing no shirt - it really is lovely. It´s a cheap backpacker´s place with a huge common dorm room (though we sleep in our tent - and isn´t it awesome?)
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 ... and where people share their food and everyone speaks English and there´s a piano for everyone to play - something I´ve never had before on any campsite. Really cool.

As soon as we arrived Eva vanished to her friend - a friend of hers moved here in January, and the two of them have been missing each other dearly. Now they´re whispering together in their own tent.

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The rest of us checked out Munich city for a bit - Mehmet and Miro discovered the fountains and got completely wet so I had to get them new shorts.

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We found a Garden of Eden themed art installation in a church that looked really pretty,

and  guy with a grand piano playing in front of a Dirndl store.
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So that´s Munich so far :)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

What we´re doing in our summer break


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Experiments. Eva, especially. Preferably with a little audience.

 A nice experiment for a hot summer day is the instant slushie - we found  this video and had wanted to see if it really works for a while. It does :)
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...and if you need to crush some lemons for the drink and don´t have a pestle, a beekeeper´s pic does the job quite well. :)
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Meeting friends we haven´t seen in a while. During work/school time, social life has to lay pretty low, which is a shame, and over now.
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That´s Ronnie and her very best childhood friend, who spent so many days and nights with us she practically is family. The two of them had a lot of silly bets and dares over the last weeks, most of them ending with buckets of water being emptied on each other´s heads.

Going to town, to see what they´ve got to offer in the local mall is a nice idea when it rains...
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...and so is reading - of course!
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Mehmet has read 3 (!) books so far, all by him self, and I am so relieved at least one of my boys has finally found out about the joy of reading! They love listening to me or Tim reading books, but so far, they´ve never read for themselves. I´m happy to see that changing!

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Ronnie and I have been making duct tape wallets, so both of us stop carrying all our stuff in various pockets and purses, as we´ve done so far. There are tons of tutorials on youtube on how to make one.
And the pictures of Mehmet and Miro are really, really sad. They are their new passport pictures, we´ve been taking them last week. Mehmet and Miro were very impressed with the many rules for passport pictures, especially the "Don´t smile" rule. They took that very serious.

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...and Eva and I have been making super soft handbalm with almond oil, honey and beeswax. So awesome!

Also, we´ve been busy packing and organizing the last things for our trip - on Monday, we´ll be leaving for a three week trip to Austria, Slovenia and Croatia, and we spent quite some time washing the sleeping bags, finding the camping stuff, trying out which tent stil works, finding campsites and holiday homes and learning how to say "Thank you" in Croatian. It´s Hvala, by the way.

I know that´s I´ll have wireless internet from at least three places on the road so far, so I´m looking forward to blogging from the road, which is my favourite kind of blogging - the posts I wrote when we were in Spain or England or Russia are the ones I still enjoy reading the most myself. 

If I find the time, I might write some pre-sceduled posts in advance, but I´m not sure about that.

Music:

This is the one song all six of us want on the mixtape for the long ride. The one song we all agree on. I know it´s been totally overplayed into annoyingness, but dang, it´s got swing!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pillow talk

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This is a surprisingly easy project, and I don´t know why I´ve never tried it before - sew a pillow!

I got the basic pillow from Ikea - about four Euro, I think - and I had it lying around here for a while.

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I took some quilting scraps, and began placing them on the pillow, to see what looked nice, and how many I needed to safely cover the surface. I made a whole science out of which colour should go next to the other, and this is what probably took longest, but also was lots of fun.

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After I was convinced I had the right layout, I began connecting the fabric squares, right side on right side, to form strips.

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And then assembled those strips...

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...to form a square. Now, doesn´t it look nice?

For the back, I still had an old sofa-cover in the basement, that was about to be thrown away in the process of cleaning out the basement to create space for our beekeeper´s equipment - so I took it, had a close look at it to find the one clean spot, and placed my pretty newly quilted spare on top of it:
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Then I cut around it:
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And sewed the two sides together, pushed in the pillow, and sewed it shut. And that was it.

Now I´ve got less scraps, more space in my basement, and a nice cushion - when Tim and I watch Game of Thrones on the sofa and I lay my head on his lap, his hip bones won´t poke my shoulder again :)

Music:

Something dutch again, fit for summer :)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Harvest

We brought in our honey today. And yesterday. 

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That bucket? That´s 27 kg honey. 27 freakin´ kilogram.Twice as much as our first harvest, a couple of weeks ago.

We worked both today and yesterday, and work it was, it was hot, around 30 °C, and the bees weren´t really happy being robbed this time - that´s normal, because they feel winter is coming, so they want to keep what they´ve worked for. I got stung, and my left hand is still swollen. I guess wearing gloves is a good idea, but I can feel more without, so I usually go without gloves... and the hand isn´t so bad.

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I´ve also harvested some of the wax - I melted the empty honeycombs in a pot, and strained it all through some pantyhose. Now I´ve got lots of good, almost white way I can use as an excellent base for creams and soaps.

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The honey we got this time tasted surprisingly really different to the one from 6 weeks before - our new honey has a very distinct herbal aroma which tastes really rich - I trace it back to the blossom of our oregano:

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Oregano grows like mad in our garden, and the bees love it. So I suppose we´ve got oregano honey now, I bet that´s rare :) But very, very delicious. It´s also a little more clear, and less golden than the one we harvested before.

The reason we´re harvesting our honey now is that we need to do the varroa prevention around this time of year, which means that we have to work with acid. And we don´t want our honey to be spoiled by that procedure, so we take the honey away first. And we´ve got to get i
 done before we go on vacation, which is - oops! next week.

Our kitchen is still slightly sticky, and we have yet to fill it in glasses,and we´re tired, but I like working sied by side with Tim. We also harvested our pears, and apples, which will give some nice fresh juice tonight, and blackberries, oh so many blackberries, which I´ve cooked into jam.

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One twig of our pear tree broke off, so we could pick pears in the kitchen. Awesome!

Music for today is:

I know I´m posting way too much Ed Sheeran, but I´m listening to that album all around the clock right now, and I find something beautiful I hadn´t heard before every time again.
This must be the most beautiful dementia-related love song in the world. Very, very sweet.

Friday, July 18, 2014

On Refugees

Yesterday morning, my kids and I went to the market. It was bright and sunny, and we took Mehmet´s bike to the repair store and then went to the market, to find the marketstand that sells cherries really cheap. We got 3 kilos of cherries to make juice of, and the nice guy at the market gave my kids three tomatoe plants for free.

We then headed off to our favourite café, Harald´s - the one with the really sweet barrista that always makes cheeky jokes with me whom we´ve known for 8 years now.

And while we were sitting in that café, sipping our luxury ice chocolate and debating over where to plant the tomatoes and who was being allowed to get the stones out of the cherries, we met a friend of us.

This friend works at the women´s helpline, she has several kids who are friends with my kids, but yesterday, she had two little boys in tow I´d never seen before, plus a very, very sad and tired looking mom, with a very tiny bag. The boys - two and four years old - kind of reminded me of my own twins at that stage - they were running around, playing very wild, shouting and taking things from stores, and my kids became very interested.

So I said hi to my friend - with whom, by the way, we had a date at the pool that afternoon anyway - and she told me that this woman had just stumbled into her office, seeking her help. Of Ghanaan origin, she had lived in refugee camps in Italy for some time, together with her abusive husband, but she decided she needed to put some distance between her and him, so she had just hid in a train to Germany, and gotten off when her kids woke up and began to be too loud to be kept undetected. And that, apparantly, was when they passed our smalltown.

So I said - wow, that´s a really sad story, and my heart broke for her, with her tiny bag that apparently contained all her and her sons´ belongings, and for her two little sons as well, but I went back to my café table and went on drinking my frappé, now telling my kids about refugees instead of tomatoes.

Meanwhile, my friend and this family stayed where they were - in the middle of our precinct - waiting for the mobile social service, while the two boys continued being two little boys - making a scene. The mobile social service is a small red bus, with a telephone and an intercom and two social workers, equipped to deal with people in need, which definetly applied to this family.

The small red bus came, the woman and her kids and my friend got on, they began telephoning, and we continued our breakfast at Harald´s. They phoned a lot, and from time to time my friend came and asked me to translate, but apparently, nobody felt responsible, and there was no legal ground on which she could have stayed anywhere.
The asylum? Only for people who first applied for asylum from their home countries, and then came here. The women´s shelter? Full. The homeless shelter? Only for germans. (Really? Really???) It was pretty much like Mary and Joseph in the bible.
Legally, as soon as she arrived in Italy, she was under italian responsibility, and though Germany and Italy are partners in the European Union, it is not possible to help a woman in her situation here - there´s no money for that, from no institution, and it quickly seemed the only option was taking her to the police, which would put her on the next train back to Italy.

Well.

She looked terribly exhausted and tired and resigned. And I know how it is to ride with kids on a train. It´s tiresome if you only go for 2 hours. Also, she was devasted - under no circumstances would she go back, she´d rather hide somewhere and sleep on the street with her sons.

So.

I can´t let a Mama and her boys sleep on the street and still look at myself straight in the mirror, right? I can´t proclaim that I´d want Germany to take more refugees, but not be willing to open my doors for them when I´ve got a big house, right? You´ve got to be consequent.

Right?

So, we took them in for the night. At that point, my kids had allready asked why she couldn´t sleep at our place. And Tim and I had long mourned that we were so out of this whole Couchsurfing business, and needed to get back into the saddle hosting people. I know my husband well enough to know he´d be okay with this. I also know this was in no way a regular couchsurfing issue. But it gave her more time.

Eva and I quickly cleaned Eva´s room, Mehmet and Miro got their old toys and small shirts and Ronja babysat the boys, while I planted the Mama on my sofa, with a cool drink. Then we let her sleep for a while, occupying her really wild little sons so they wouldn´t pull everything out off the shelves and set the house on fire by randomly switching all buttons on my oven - my house hasn´t  been toddler-proof for a long time.

And then we went to the pool, just as I had planned, and we took our new guests with us and met with a whole bunch of our friends, and sat on blankets in the sunshine and let the kids splash with water, which is quite an international fun. We ate together, and we talked a little. I wonder how that felt for her, being there. I mean, Germany is definetly not the promised land. But on a summer day, at the pool, eating popsicles, it might seem like one. I didn´t ask her. I thought she´d tell me if she felt like it.

I tried googling that night, when she was asleep, without much success. If she was paperless, she would have had the right to receive help. But she did have papers. Papers that gave her the right to stay in Italy.

So I told her, and tried to comfort her, and took her to the office of immigration, where I´d never been before in my whole life. And while she´d stayed with us for the night, they had actually found her a place to stay - not for long term, but at least until Monday. And they had found her an official at the women´s shelter who is willing to provide her with contacts to an italian organisation for women who suffer from domestic violence. Who are, by european law, bound to help her. The people at the office of immigration were very friendly, and very helpful, and they really cared for them. As far as they could. Legally.
So we sent our guests off, with some cookies and toy cars and shirts and a hug, and, maybe, some hope.

Maybe we also sent her off with the illusion that life in Germany is paradise, because yesterday, it sure seemed like it, and the desperation that she will never reach this paradise. But at least she can go back with the feeling she has been treated like a friend, not like some nuisance, and I´m happy there´s that.

So.

My original plan for today´s post was to write about the new dress I made, or the super stylish throw pillow, or our instant coke slushy, or Ronja trying to learn Croatian, but...well... this was unexpected, and adventurous, and surely made everything else seem minor. And now you know about my brief encounter with an African refugee family.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mowgli

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 Just coming back from one of my favourite spots on earth and wanted to show off my gorgeous sons.

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Going out whenever we want to, and dawdle our time away at the creek - that´s exactly what I´ve been missing during the year I was working.

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And days like these are pretty much the reason I quit my job. Because there´s so much more than money.
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And while I´m at it, I´d like to point out the awesomeness of Mehmet´s hair :)

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I´m closing this post with my favourite - really, my very, very favourite Tyler Ward song, Dashes.


I´ve loudly sang along to this on countless live shows - you  miss your chances if you´re marching in time? Yep, that´s pretty much it, just this line alone. 

And now I´m off, cooking a delicious dinner for the girls, who are coming back tonight after an extended stay with Tim´s parents, while my sons wash off the creek water and make a lake out of our bathroom :)