Friday, 17 November 2017

Life returns to normal

Life has returned to normal around here. The day after we returned home, my wife and I went and picked up our kitty from S who had been looking after her. I was in favor of holding off until Saturday but my wife was going through kitty withdraw. OK, fine, I'll admit it, I was going through a little kitty withdrawal too. Anyway... That evening we took S out for dinner to a nice little Italian place in town. Then we dropped by her place after dinner and picked up Puttie Tat.

Then next day I started on the winter preps with a vengeance because the clock was ticking. The last lawn mow didn't happen because the starter on the old lawn tractor went south. I'll fix it in the spring, it's gotten to damn cold to be working on starters in the drive way.

I did manage to get all the other little jobs done. The snowblower is all ready to go, batteries in the smoke detectors were swapped out, the interior storms are up and the exterior screens are down. 

I got the winter tires on the truck put on and an alignment done. That was another fun day. While I was at the shop the service guy calmly dropped the ball joint bomb on me. The front driver's side ball joint was toast. I had budgeted the money for the alignment and tire swap but this smacked me from right out of the blue. Smiling on the outside and grimacing on the inside, I gave the OK for the work. It was a good thing too because a few days later we had the first snow storm of the season. 

One big job I was happy to get finished was deploying the humungus sized tarp along the side of the house. My wife wants a flower garden and path next year so using the tarp is the first step in killing the vegetation in that area. I've got to sat that because of the size (30'X50") I should have held off until my wife was around but I didn't want her to hurt her back any more than it was. Oh, and yes there was a little cussing that took place during the operation.

After the killer cold and snow I had the opportunity to do a little areal work over at S's place. S worries about leaf build up effecting the water drainage so being the gallant guy I am I promised to get rid of as many leafs as I could. It's not like S couldn't do the job but she has a history of bad luck with heights. 

Using a roof rake to pull off the leafs
Chivalry only goes so far,
I left this for S to deal with
The first attempt ended early because of the cold. The water on the roof had frozen up nicely and short of getting up there with a big ice scraper/pick and risk damaging the roof, it wasn't going to happen. I let it sit for a few days and after the temperature returned to something resembling normal I was back at it. I didn't get all of it but I did put a serious dent into the leaf population. 

Yes we had a little cold
and snow
There were other minutiae that happened since we got home but they really aren't worth the time to write about. So that's about it from me for now. It's Friday and I'm taking the weekend off so this is it until Monday. Bye-bye...

Thursday, 16 November 2017

“And then there will be one last perfect day.”

The clock was running down to zero, this was the last full day of our visit. Today we were going to see the Giessen Gang in the afternoon for coffee and pastries then out for a late dinner. I was looking forward to seeing them all.

The trip into Giessen was fine and when we got to our destination there was a bit of a challenge in finding the entrance to the apartment building. That was solved when our host U came down to shepherd us in.

Our host U
Afternoon coffee was a delightful affair. When we walked in to U's apartment there were hugs and hellos all around. Of all the people there the one I was really looking forward seeing was Tante Inge. She was the one who opened her door to us the first time I visited Germany. A fun filled feisty lady if ever there was one. 

Tante Inge

A light cake
Seriously look at the size of the wedge B cut for me...

Shortly after our arrival coffee and cake was served. Oh my, the chef, B, had out done herself. The cake that was served was out of this world. Of course B had to carve me out a huge wedge which, I'm sorry to say, I couldn't finish but such is life. The afternoon conversation was fast and I had to keep begging for translations but surprisingly after being in country for over two weeks I was getting the gist of a lot . 

B's little boy S chatting
Missing from the menagerie was B's son, daughter and significant other R. I'm sorry we missed R because I wanted to catch up but he was feeling under the weather. I also missed seeing S who was B's little girl. She's one of those people that just lights up a room with her witty repartee. B's son was absent because he was working, mind you that didn't stop him from coming by for a short chat. He made me laugh when he pulled the ambulance into the parking lot lights and sirens ablaze.

After coffee was done we sat around and gabbed for a couple of hours then it was time to head out for dinner. We were eating at a real medieval castle. It was the first time since we had entered Germany that I had the chance to have honest to God schnitzel, no pizza tonight. Our host for the day, U, insisted on picking up the cheque. I have to say that I am forever in her debt because this was a wonderful event with great food and awesome people. Sooner than I wanted it was time to head back to L&J's place. There was packing to get done and sleep to be had. 

One last sunset

The restaurant entrance
The last morning broke to a grey fog covering the landscape. One last hearty meal and we saddled up. L couldn't come with us to the airport so hugs, goodbyes were given on the doorstep. With J at the helm we were off. Once at the airport there were no long lingering goodbyes which was just as well, I hate people seeing me with tears in my eyes. 

A grey dawn to match my grey mood

Chasing the sun
The lights of home
The flight home was fine and that night after an eleven hour trip and a hour and a half drive we were home.

That's it for now. To the gang in Germany, if we missed seeing you I'm sorry but there was only so much time and so vast an area to cover. We will, in a few years, return so hopefully the logistics will get straightened out and we will all party together.

That's it for me until the morrow so until then bye-bye.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Counting down the clock

The twenty fourth came as a bit of a surprise. I was up at the usual time when it dawned on me that our time in Germany was fast coming to a close with so much still to do. There were presents to buy for the kids back home and one special group yet to see and spend time with. Today's exercise was to visit Marburg for gift shopping. 

I've been to Marburg numerous times over the years and it still hasn't lost any of it's magical charm. The city has been around for a while having been founded in 1140AD. Today we were bound for the Marktplatz (marketplace) to do some shopping. J was staying home because he been unlucky enough to catch L's cold. L, being a woman, had simply taken her cold in stride and was soldiering on.

Wondering in and out of the shops
The trip in was a quick one since we weren't that far away and L was driving. L works in Marburg so there was no “find the parking spot” game, she simply drove to her workplace and parked. Then we were off, all we had to do was climb the steps to the shops and have at it in the stores. Hey there was only several hundred meters of very steep incline to traverse, no problem.
Just your friendly
neighborhood Spiderman
I got to the top and after my heart rate returned to something approaching normal and I had stopped heaving for breath, I started to look around. The shops were all cozy affairs with plenty of selection. This meant I did a lot of standing around while the ladies fussed over this or that trinket. It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. In short order the ladies were done and we were simply walking around gawking at the sights. Looking back I only made one mistake in this shopping expedition, I should have visited the whisky shop. I had saved my whisky shopping for the duty free at the airport and while the deals were good the selection sucked. 

The one that got away. Next time I promise to visit.
Shopping done we were off for L&J's humble abode with another day's adventure completed. One more adventure then it would be time for our trip home.

L relaxing after a long day of walking
Well that's it from me, until the morrow bye-bye.

Monday, 13 November 2017

No rest for the wicked

While I was content with lounging around sipping fine scotch and enjoying myself, our hosts had other plans and those plans included sightseeing. After a nice breakfast, over which the days excursion was explained, we were bundled into L's SUV and sped off. Our destination was the city of of Darmstadt. A city that our host J knew very well since he was born there.

The trip there was made at a moderate speed (one hundred and sixty or so) since J was at the helm. When we got to Darmstadt we played the ever popular “where to find a parking spot” game but in the end J managed. Out on foot the world was ours to gawk at.

St. Mary Magdalene Chapel
Exploring the grounds
One of the places we visited was the the Mathildenhöhe also known as the wedding tower because, well, they do a lot of weddings there. The area was very pretty even if it was an overcast day. We walked around the grounds for a while and looked at the St. Mary Magdalene Chapel. The Chapel was named in honor of the patron saint of Tsar Nicholas' mother and was built of Russian stone on Russian soil brought to Darmstadt by train. It was used by the Russian imperial family and court during regular visits to the Tsarina's brother and family in Darmstadt. Of course after walking around the grounds our hosts wanted to take us inside the tower. 

So many views, so little time
Once inside the wedding tower we waited for the elevator and J calmly announced that he wass going to walk up the seven stories. Then he asked me if I wanted to join him. Before I could tactfully phrase a reply, the stupid seventeen year old part of my brain says “Sure, lets go!” As I slugged my way up those seven long stories I silently, and very eloquently, cussed out that seventeen year old brain part. The view of the city from the top of the tower was great and it only took five minutes or so for my lungs to stop heaving, but I made it. After sightseeing from the tower We went back to the SUV where J piloted us over to a spot nearer to the Ducal Palace. 

The view from the top of the tower
On the grounds at the Ducal Palas
We wandered through the Schlossplatz (a market square) where we stopped and had a coffee to warm up. It was there that I surprised my wife by having a bowel of Kürbis suppe (pumpkin soup) to warm up. 

Then it was over to the Ducal Palace where J showed us around the grounds. Before we left he insisted we wander over to another part of the palace grounds and look at “the tree.” The tree was located in the central courtyard and when I first saw it I thought it would be right at home in the Hobbit shire of middle earth. He was right, the tree was way too cool. 

The Tree
By this time the light was fading and it was time for dinner so L&J treated us to a nice little dinner at another Italian restaurant.

One never knows what goes through the mind
of a person like J  :^)
Dinner done we wandered around a bit then headed for the barn. All warn out (thank you seventeen year old hind brain) I went to bed early. 

That's about all for now, until tomorrow bye-bye.

Friday, 10 November 2017

The booming metropolis of Ginseldorf

The first day or so at L&J's place was nice and restive, a time to recharge the batteries as it were. Don't get me wrong, the other places we stayed at were great with a lot of fun adventures being had however now it was a time to slow down a bit. One of the first things that came to mind after when we got there was the noise, or lack there of. L&J's home was in a quiet little one shop village where, on a busy day, there might be as many as three or four cars moving on their street. Their place was on the end of a street at the edge of town bordering on farm fields. It was very nice to be there.

The first day when we got there L made an amazing meal and of course I had to throw a wrench into the works because I'm a... Well I'm sure there are children who read this so I will not go into great detail as to what a horses ass I was. I made mention that I'm not fond of crustaceans AKA shrimp. I've just never found the taste and texture palatable. I could have eaten around the crustaceans but our host L went and brewed up a different sauce just for me. While I did feel bad about it I also enjoyed the meal, it was delicious.

Our first full day at L&J's found us not doing very much. I considered it a rest and recharge day. In the middle of the afternoon J announced that he was off to get some pastries for an afternoon snack and asked if I wanted to join him. Did somebody say pastries? Up, shoes on and out; in a flash we were in J's car outbound.

So J says "Pick something", sure... decisions, decisions...
Time's up J steps up and does the picking. Have to say
his choices were excellent.
One of the things I miss when I return home is the assortment of bakeries there are in Germany. The first thing that hit me when we entered the bakery was the visual of all the cakes, pies and other goodies. J asked me if I had any preferences and, for one of the few times during the trip, I was tongue tied and couldn't answer. J smiled then turned and made his order. 

When we got home, over coffee we four polished off the goodies in nothing flat. It was just good manners that prevented me from licking the plate.

That evening L&J took us out to one of their favorite haunts, a little Italian restaurant where we had been before. The meal didn't disappoint and the only issue I had was there was too much food. I figured if I ate like this on a regular basis I'd be the size of a Buick. I had to be all but rolled out the door and when we got back to L&J's place while the others chatted I fought to stay awake and ended up going to bed early. 

Dining with L&J is always an... interesting event.
The biggest issue is trying not to laugh while eating.
Well that's the end of another episode of my life. No blog tomorrow, I will be back on Monday with another installment. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

I feel the need for speed

I thought for a change I'd write about my views on something I had seen as opposed to just reminiscing. Today's topic is about driving. 

Along the autobahn on the way to L&J's* place we hit speeds as high as one hundred and ninety KPH and no speeding tickets were issued. It was the only time on the trip where we came anywhere close to the ICE speeds. Other times we were slowed by the variable speed limits they have. As a guy who is used to a posted speed limit being the speed limit the first time I encountered the concept of variable speed limits I was surprised.

The way it works, or so I am led to believe, is like this. Every few kilometers above the highway there were large electronic signs. These signs were mostly blank but there were times where speed limits were posted electronically over each lane. There were even times while in the various vehicles we traveled when I saw speed limits that were different for each lane. For example when we passed some construction on the side of the road, depending upon the traffic flow sometimes that lane would have a posted speed limit slower than the other lanes.

Here we see the speed limited to
120 KPH and trucks can't pass

One of the other nice things was the traffic control of large trucks. Once again depending upon the amount of traffic there were times when big trucks were confined to the slow lane so traffic could move. This was all done via the electronic traffic control signs. Using this form of control and rigorous enforcement made the traffic flow well most days. Oh, and one other thing I noticed; while driving on Sundays all the heavy trucks were parked in the truck stops. I was told that unless they vehicle had a special permit to be driven on a Sunday it had to be parked. The permits were only issued for trucks delivering critical items. 

Of the two J is the more sedate driver, at least he was
when we ere in the car. Please forgive the quality of the pic,
at those speeds it was hard to keep the cellphone still.

Something else they have in Germany for traffic control that we don't have here are radar cameras. When they tried to do the radar cameras here the did it ass backwards. What they did was take a photo of the back license plate after the car had passed the camera and the owner got the ticket not necessarily the driver. This was wrong and the courts soon came to this conclusion and the photo radar went away. 

In Germany the photo radar takes a photo of the front of the car to identify the driver. If there is a passenger, the passenger is removed from the photo so he/she can't be seen to preserve privacy. Then a check of the vehicle registration is done and if the driver isn't the owner the owner gets a photo in the mail with a request to identify  who the driver was.  Then once the driver is identified that's who gets the ticket. Personally if this was the way it was done over here I would not have had any problems with it. 

By looking at the plates I could tell the vehicle on the
left was from Marburg while the van on the right was from
Giessen (I think)

Another thing that I noticed while on the road was the way the vehicle licenses were numbered. Just by looking at a license you were able to tell where the vehicle was from. This was done by looking at the first two letters of the plate. Those letters represented the area the vehicle was from. Personally I'm not fond of the idea that a car can be tracked that easily but that's just me.I guess that's a hold over from before computers and the ability to easily run plates.

Tomorrow I'll delve into the stuff we got into with L&J but that's it for now.

* My kind wife, who reads this blog, was nice enough to inform me that I had given J the wrong first initial. His first name starts with a J not a Y. J you have my apologies...

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Farewell to Werl

Today was the final day in Werl with tonight being the October fest but first there was a morning of festivities to get through. Tante had invited everybody over for breakfast at her little place and I was up and at 'em looking forward to the fun and games. Cell phone all charged, we were at the ready and my wife and I were out the door and into F&M's truck around nine thirty(ish)

On the way over we stopped and M picked up an assortment of buns and bread. Then before I knew it we were there. Hugs and kisses all around and the breakfast had begun. It was one of those very cool events where people drifted in and drifted out, pictures taken and always the ever present smiles and lots of laughter. During this momentous occasion some of the crew were laughing at me and calling me a paparazzi but I didn't care, if it looked cool I took a photo. Some of the candid photos were just great and others... were deleted. 
Breakfast is ready

Laughter with Tante
Being the paparazzi
Kids being adult kids
Just a wonderful gathering

Sooner than I would have liked it was time to haul ass and head back to F&M's place. Our next hosts L&Y were going to be arriving in an hour or so and there was packing to get done. During this time I was keeping quiet about the October fest tonight. The thought of wearing the lether shorts etc. Wasn't a pleasant one. I just don't have the legs for it.

Our next hosts L&Y arrived a couple of hours later and we saddled up. Before bidding farewell to the town of Werl there was one last stop. One of the cousins G and her beau H had just taken posession of their new home a day or so before and we, being nosey, wanted to take a look. 

The view from G&H's place

G&H's new place was a really nice two story one in the country just on the outskirts of Werl. Where they were before there was always the noise from the street, but here it was very peaceful and quiet with a nice country view. The layout was a good one and I have garage envy because they have a nice one and I don't have any.

Lat the wheel as we make our
egress from Werl
After the tour of the new place there were the hugs, kisses and goodbyes and we piled into L's SUV for the road trip to our next destination, Ginseldorf. The trip to Ginseldorf should have taken around two hours, but L was at the helm a little over an hour and a half later we were pulling into their driveway. Thanks to sections of the autobahn without speed limits and L's driving skills we managed to cheat the jaws of death yet again.
Sorry for the quality of the pic but it's hard to steady a
cellphone when you're traveling at 190 KPH.
That's it for today. Tomorrow I'm going to chat about autobahns, traffic and things driving. So until then bye-bye. 

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Learning to get a kick out of soccer

It was Friday and after a nice hot shower and a big breakfast our host F described what was in store for us. Today we were going to take a sightseeing trip into the city of Soest then after dinner we were going to watch F&M's two boys S&D play soccer. With the last dregs of coffee consumed we saddled up and headed out.

The first thing we did was pay a visit to where F&M's son S was building his first house. Looking at the goings on brought back memories of when my wife and I built our log home. With the “home inspection” done we dropped M off at the house (things to do, places to go) and proceeded to Soest.

Top of the town wall
Bottom of the wall
What a nice little city Soest is. When we got there F went through the "find a parking spot" game and then we headed off to explore. The first place we strode along was the city wall. This wall is around a thousand or so years old and for it's age is in good shape. These days it's part of a walking trail for residents. After the wall we moseyed over to the town square and from there into the pedestrian shopping area. 

The town square

The shops were varied and the window shopping was nice but we were saving our selves for the next part of the magical mystery tour, Marburg. While strolling along we entered one of the many churches, St Patrolki. As luck would have it there was a rehearsal going on. The organ players were belting out some seriously good music, add in the acoustics of the church and it was pretty cool. After filling our ears for a while we wandered out and after a short stroll entered another church, St. Maria zur Wiese, a wonderful old Gothic place.

Practice makes perfect

German Gothic at it's best

All churched out we started back to the SUV. Of course it started to rain so we deked into the foyer of a shop being renovated. When the deluge subsided enough we went to a little restaurant and waited the rain out sipping hot coffee. The rain ended and we were off for home.

After supper we headed over to the soccer field to watch the “kids” play. These kids were all adult males with a passion for their sport. The team that S&D were on (the good guys) was ranked twelfth while the other team (the bad guys) was ranked third. When we got there the game had already started and started to watch. For a while I thought the bad guys were going to maul the good guys but I shouldn't have worried, the luck of the Canadians (us) rubbed off on the good guys. Not only had S scored before we got there, a few minutes after we arrived one of the bad guy players scored on his own team to the cheers of the good guy's supporters. In the end it was a good game with the good guys beating the bad guys as it should. 

S as No.9 AKA the Flash
After the game we had a couple of beers in the little bar that was at the field. While chatting with some of the players about the game there were a few shots of schnapps added to the fun. Yes it was a very pleasant way to spend an evening. As I laughed and sipped on my beer I couldn't help but think about the way games like this go on back in Canada. After seeing my Sister-in-law play baseball we would go out for drinks or head home depending upon the outcome. In Germany there was a serious food stand at the field along with a bar for after game celebrations or mourning. Heaven forbid that back home we be treated like adults.
Post game having a few beers like adults

Rant mode off, sorry.

Anyway that's about all for now so until the morrow I bid you adeiu.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Off to Dortmund

When last we saw our intrepid explorers...

Thursday dawned bright and sunny with the temps climbing. On the agenda today was a trip into the city of Dortmund the home of a soccer team known as BVB. I have to be careful here about what I write when I talk about the BVB soccer. Suffice to say this year they've played like crap hasn't been one of BVB's best but next year looks a lot better. Our hosts F&M plus their kids and their families are soccer fans and BVB fan(atics)

But I digress...

We were off to Dortmund for a look see and a little shopping. Today's trip only saw the four of us going. The trip there wasn't too long even considering the slow speeds F was driving on the autobahn. His speed would have fit nicely with the average speeds driven here in Ontario. One thing I did notice was a lot of cars were being driven slower these days the simple reason was the cost of fuel, at around one point three Euros per liter for the cheapest stuff from the pump it soon added up.

Dortmund was a nice city with, yet again, a big swath of downtown being set aside as a pedestrian mall. The shopping variety was outstanding with none of the major retailers in evidence, just small to medium sized shops. Mind you at one point we did enter a mall maze where the big boys were selling stuff. The object was to find the food court and grab a bite. I wasn't that hungry so I picked up a plate of pommes frites with mayonnaise. It was a good walk with plenty of spooking and gawking involved but once again M was the only one with shopping bags.

After parking we entered the shopping area
It's nice to wander and
not have to dodge cars
The escalators at the
mall looked like
something by Escher
Well there's always
one but the owner
had a reason,
they're renovating

All shopped out we headed for the barn as it were. When we got back to F&M's place there was a light meal and we ended the day with some soccer on TV and a few beers.

Our host F beer in hand after
another long day
Well that's it for now so until tomorrow when I write about our day in Soest, TTFN*

* Ta Ta For Now