Swapping Homes Anybody?


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Money- or your Life!

The wonderful house we swapped with a German family in the East near the Baltic Sea came with a boat house and a small craft that didn’t need a license. Engines over 5 hp on Germany lakes etc. do.
 My son and his friend, strapping young lads that they are, had taken the rowing boat out to begin with but hubby felt lazy and privileged to have a “motor boat’ at his disposal .
On our last night, a beautiful warm evening, he got it started and cleaned it from cobwebs. Normally, I’m not particularly seaworthy but this I could do, I thought hopping into the vessel.
We went along the little canal that connected to the adjacent lake where we had done a lot of constitutional walks, passing all these cute little vacation or weekend houses;  datschas - I presume they were called in the ‘olden days’. Owners were out on their porches  barbecuing, having a beer or just sitting out enjoying the balmy evening. My friendly greetings and “Guten Appetit!” mostly went unanswered; instead we got stares.
My family had commented on the fact before that the locals seemed to be rather reserved, looking away or looking at us outright suspiciously. Hubby had his theories about them being former communists who had lived in a supervised state where neighbors spied on each other and were naturally suspicious. Could that be the case almost a generation after the fall of the Iron Curtain? I wonder. The difference in behavior to other parts of Germany that I am familiar with was striking, however.
So here we were put-putting along.  At a tight spot in the canal we had to slow down from our snail space to make rooms for 2 canoeists. The engine died.”Not to worry, there is a second battery. I just have to switch over to that one.” To be on the safe side we decided not to continue our journey to the lake with only one battery and turn around instead. But the second battery never started. The canoeists enquired if we had paddles. I hadn’t yet spotted them, but gracefully there was a pair on the floor of our boat.
(View from our boathouse onto canal)
So paddling it was, back past the houses and people we had just passed. Their behavior and demeanor had miraculously changed. Some got up form their seats to throw a funny remark, “Machine kaputt?” or “Need a push?” Others interrupted their meal to get a good view of the spectacle.  All of a sudden we encountered a lot of smiles and laughter. We are not practiced paddlers…
One older guy, alone on his deck, pointed what looked like an antique pistol at us, “Money or your life”. He was probably just lonely or thought he was funny. I started to get peeved. Why had nobody bothered to engage with us before? There is something about Schadenfreude that we Germans are verifiably good at. The self-proclaimed pirate invited us to join him. “I’ll throw a couple of bratwurst on the Barbie for when you return” not realizing that we were on our way back already and wouldn’t paddle by again. Maybe he’s still standing there, waiting.
It was either that the batteries had not fully charged or the connections had come loose. We made it back through the sweat of our own hands. The behavior of our neighbors there remains a mystery, however. To do the people form Meck Pomm justice, our exchange partners, some of their friends and neighbor who we met were totally friendly; some even stepped out of their way to give us a helping hand. It remains a mystery until I get some enlightening comments from people in the know.

Fallen off the face of the Earth?

No- Just technical challenges in modern day Germany
In case you worried- thank you- I didn’t get lost in my own country or fall off the face of the earth. Blogging from the road can be quite a challenge. If you’re stationary and have a good broadband connection, not so much. I was experiencing the joys of  a data stick - and the technical problems that go with it. We never had that in the States. Maybe it was the mountains that surround us there that are responsible. A mobile data stick works on the principle of a cell phone where your reception depends on the signal and amount of bars that you get – or that you don’t get.
In the first week after my last report we traveled from eastern Germany via friends and family who didn’t have a viable connection either or where we just stayed for one night and I didn’t want to ask, ”Can I use your Internet?” instead of spending time with them.
Always planning ahead, we had ordered the first stick to the address where we stayed for 3 weeks. It arrived but we never got it to work. Like with the return of our damaged bags, there was an unbelievable song and dance to get it replaced. It duly arrived but this replacement didn’t work either. I think I still have a good command of my native tongue but these good customer people were as obtuse as if I spoke Chinese. Maybe they train them this way. We had to pay them for their good telephone support a mere 42 Cents/minute. Waiting in line for one to come on and listen to my grievances had to be paid for as well. So we heard the Euros clicking by.
Something that doesn’t often happen in the US. Ten Euros later, their data stick wasn’t compatible with Windows 7, according to their expert knowledge. Well, hello if that is the case and they know it, make it compatible, or please refund this customer.
Their position, however, was that once the data stick- −which is just a cell phone numbers − registered on your computer you have activated it and that’s it. They are not obliged to take it back and refund you. A fact we weren’t willing to swallow. 2 weeks and a stinker of a letter later, I got my money back yesterday.
We bought another one in a store where we coaxed a friendly employee into installing it for us by playing ignorant. Their policy also was once the stick is registered…Then you’re on your own. Good luck. We spent over an hour until the guy got it fixed. He had learned his superb English from the internet; not through an online course but by playing games online and interacting with English speakers.
Before I bore you too much with too many details let me finish off the first part of our trip to the former East on an episode in our eastern abode before we left. The data stick problems didn't allow me to upload photos or get on to FB to promote. The speed is just too slow to find FB or Twitter for that matter.
But I'm back in circulation now, thank goodness!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

3 Day Blitz Summer

Germany's biggest tabloid, Bild (or Bildzeitung) declares the summer over almost before it got started on its front page today:"3 Day Blitz Summer".
In contrast to British minds, nobody here associates the word Blitz with the war anymore.It means lightning and appears in weather reports.Not even remotely, secretly in the back of their minds does it connote to WWII.
It appears in word combinations like blitzschnell (as fast as lightning), blitzartig (like a lightning) or blitzsauber (so clean it sparkles). War references, Blitzkrieg, mean The First Gulf War or Israel's 6 Days War.
Anyway, Bild, not exactly the paragon of journalism, knows our bliss with the sun is going to be short-lived.We shall see and I'll let you know. Today certainly is another day for the swimming pool.In Berlin that means that the lucky ones who needn't go to work hang out on the banks of the River Spree, Havel or at Wannsee.  
All of Meck Pomm with its hundreds of lakes and waterways imbedded in a gorgeous landscape of unspoilt forests is basking in the sun. Really worth a vacation for nature lovers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Next Stop: Berlin

(Brandenburg Gate with its Quadriga on top)

Eventually, it also feels like summer. Now we can leave the old brollie and coat at home. We didn’t come here for the weather; on the contrary, we needed to escape the Floridian heat. Locals said that at least they don’t have brush fires here. Southern Europe, Mallorca & Greece in particular, are literally being scorched.
The weekend was spent at my daughter’s in Berlin. I’ve been to Berlin several times, yet like in any other capital, there is so much to see! Berlin became the capital of reunified Germany in 1990 and the seat of the German government since 1999 – much to the dismay of some countries who feared that Germany’s position in Europe was becoming too big again and felt reminded of a certain time in our history. Its dominant position within the European Union and especially during the recent fiscal crisis have renewed and aggravated these sentiments.
During previous visits, Berlin was one big construction site but this has come to an end over 20 years after reunification. A lot of hip young people are drawn to the capital and there is a lot of entertainment. We primarily explored the neighborhood (“Kietz”) where my daughter just moved to. Berlin is like a conglomerate of many little villages with their distinct features, many pubs, restaurants of almost every nation under the sun, and flea markets at the weekend. Even after 2 days of walking around and eating out, some faces seemed familiar already.
.(Picture of Berliner Dom / Cathedral in the city center).The best way to get a first impression of the city (3.5 million inhabitants) is a guided bus tour

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Seaside resort Warnemuende

The coastal town and seaside resort of Warnemuende is worth a trip. Like many others that I know - on the North Sea that belonged to the Federal Republic-, this has been lovingly restored as well since the “Wende” or reunification.
We were warned it would be busy because since the beginning of seaside tourism, Saturday is change-over day; tourists leave and new ones arrive. Similar beach “Koerbe” to the ones on the top of my blog were lined up, but there were hardly any customers. It’s just not that kind of a summer here at present. We had a healthy constitutional along the sea front preparing us for our lunch in one of the many restaurants leading to the harbor. From here, only smaller boats do round trips.
My daughter was snap- shotting away with her camera when she gave us the shock of a lifetime. A heavily overweight middle-aged woman was stripping down into her birth costume and took to the sea. This was not a nudist beach, so nobody could believe their eyes; an eye brow raising sight even for a German who is used to nudity and topless women on the beach. Nobody would have stared if she had the body of a beach girl instead of a whale. If there is interest, I’ll post a picture….
At the end of the pier, a carnival awaited, stalls with drinks, food and sweets. An orchestra from Hamburg- Stade played old fishermen’s songs accompanied by their accordions. The North German radio station was there to broadcast it. For me that was a little glimpse down memory lane. My father used to play this instrument and exactly these songs.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

First road trip "Rostock"

My ever energetic daughter came to visit for the weekend and we went on our first road trip, first to a seaside resort called Warnemuende and then into the "Hansestadt of Rostock". In medieval times northern German cities created a federation of trading cities around the North Sea and Baltic Sea. The Hanseatic League.Since the war, the Northern towns were pretty much on their own, but have been rejoined now by the East which have been rejuvenated by big money from the West. I just learned that every working person must contribute a solidarity fee to rebuild the eastern part. In contrast to tithing the church (Church Tax) you cannot opt out of this one.

It was only a 50km drive. Again new roads and motorways.Especially in the inner harbor, the rejuvenated brick buildings that were used during Hanse times for storage of grains, cloths etc. look very impressive with their pulleys on top. A style you don't see much anymore.The city center, historic market place, and around the university (founded in 1419) everything was restored lovingly. If you leave the main drag, however, you will find buildings totally unchanged from since before the war. The GDR had no building materials to speak of. My relatives got their last wallpaper before the war.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Feels more like winter in FL

And now you’re all eager to know how our swapped home turned out – I know. It is a spacious house that can easily accommodate 7 people, clean but showing the sign of the times in some rooms. The family room furniture must have been handed down from grandmother’s time whose picture is on the wall. Very dark wood and lots of bric-a-brac (or collectibles) from that era. The thatched roof gives it a very cozy feel but is also responsible for some mess on the ground. The birds on that roof like to play with the straw.  The outside swimming pool has brown water in it, not out of neglect but it’s taken from a nearby lake of the “blue flagged lake “variety. I only read about blue flagged beaches recently in the US. Florida got none, CA only one. It’s too cold for these Floridians anyways.
They just recently installed a fancy new bathroom upstairs for their teenage kids, something you will see in hip hotels. Thank goodness there was room enough left in the closets for our stuff in contrast to last year’s experience. In the meantime, it has gone so cold that we lit a fire in the living-room. That doesn’t warm the bathroom where I need it most. First the radiators started to warm up a little- and then there was none. A sure sign of having run out of oil/ kerosene. Hubby asked how I knew. I only know too well from my experience in Ireland and Germany. In a normal summer, you don’t need heat and oil and turn it off in the spring when the weather picks up. You reorder some time during the summer months watching heating oil prices like a hawk and strike when it’s low. We had a tank of 12,000 l; so a difference in price of 2-10 cents makes quite a difference. But low and behold, especially in Ireland, the weather gods weren’t in the mood for summer and in the middle of July, more than once, I ran out of the last drops.
Who needs heat in the summer? I do when daytime temperatures hover around 14 Celsius and nights are even colder. Delicate me wouldn’t have made it far down the line through Evolution…
Yesterday, the last night my son was here, the “Men” barbecued outside while we had the fire going and watched Mamma Mia. We were happy we only had to do the kitchen chores. Now it’s sheet changing time because my daughter is on her merry way from Berlin to visit us. Yeah! She wants to visit on of the seaside resorts. In this weather?
I fought and lost a battle with the dryer which is of a new technical generation we hadn’t encountered yet. Thanks to a technically minded husband the problem was solved. This apparatus doesn’t blow hot air out anymore while spinning and drying but accumulates the water in a plastic container on the top left where a washer has its soap dispenser. So now for you. My daughter said,"Of course, a condensation dryer!"

Monday, July 9, 2012

We're here!

How did I ever keep it up last year? We've arrived in Germany in the sticks of formerly Eastern Germany and I virtually have no time for blogging in spite of my best intentions. I was going to write details about the journey, actually have some drafts I wrote on the plane when I couldn't sleep and now this all seems to be water under the bridge since we're already here.
In brief: last minute arrangements with cleaners and home exchangers as well as home security company shortly before boarding...and spending precious yet  wasted time on the phone with their "outstanding customer service representatives" (sic!), lousy food, dirty restrooms on the plane; obnoxious people kept us from sleeping one wink arriving totally knackered (Irish English for beat) only to have one of our 4 bags missing and another one badly damaged. Another hour wasted on reporting this to the Hamburg airport authorities before we could set out on an almost 3 hour drive to our final destination half asleep.
That journey took us from Hamburg across what used to be the border between the German Federal and the Democratic Republic.I never understood why the former Eastern, communist State of Germany called itself Democratic Republic while the Stasi imprisoned citizens just for looking the wrong way and the West- the Federal Republic- was the only one that was really democratic.
The Eastern part is still underdeveloped in comparison to the West, but no, there are no ruins or signs of the war left....(just answering the question of one follower here!)
Part of the territory we drove through was no-man's land with border control towers until 1990 where citizens would be shot who tried to escape. The united new Germany built a completely new Autobahn (A24) across what to this day (22 years later) is beautiful unspoilt countryside, mostly used agriculturally or consisting of impressive woods and tree lined "chaussees".
We just dropped into our beds on arrival. Does jet lag get worse when you get older? It really hit us hard this time and we spent most of the next day sleeping - or on the phone again trying to find out why the USPS was still delivering mail to our home instead of forwarding it as requested and what to do about the other bag that KLM had also delayed and was broken when it eventually made it to our door.
The weather is behaving very Irish :sun followed by wind and rain while our exchange partners inform us it's hot. To them it feels like 50 degrees Celsius (120 F ?). That's why we like to get away from Florida in the summer months....
On our second day my son arrived, our first visitor, whom I hadn't seen in  a year, ( and his new girl-friend!) Excuse me, I have to cook for the gang...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Heat is on...

Not only in the States where temperatures are searing but also in Germany where we are going...in 3 days!  (And there will be no AC!) My old saying 'Time flies whether you're having fun or not' was modified this week on FBby a cutsie to 'Time flies- remember: you're the pilot!'
Today, however - not so much. I thought we'd be packing by now or at least tidying up the house and storing stuff away into the owners' closet. But hubby starts sanding a wall in the house. After the sanding machine was repaired, of course! How come tools are never where you saw them last or not in working order? When the wall is dry -after 24 hours- it can be patched up and then, eventually painted. I had just touched up that wall a few days ago in preparation.
But we're speeding up the drying process: I hear the hair dryer going incessantly. So much for conserving energy. So there is hope!
Those of you who read last year's blog will remember our 6 Big Berthas including one that just had tools, adapters, cables, connectors, you name it. This year we are going to reduce them! Promised! Now there is problem with his work laptop. 'How big is your desktop monitor? If they fail to repair it, would it fit into a suitcase?'
I feel a migraine coming on...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

There is a lot to do...

Other people would be packing bags already or at least think about what they are going to take. We spent another preparation-marathon-weekend doing up the porch. Thank goodness, it wasn't as scorching hot as before when we did the outside painting.On Saturday, hubby power washed. We had only painted the floor of the lanai last year before our trip, but watering plants had left unsightly stains, rusty and some algae-green. While we were at it, some plants had to be repotted and the urns they went into---you guessed it: They had to be derusted and painted too. That's the trouble when two perfectionists come together.
On Sunday, we painted the floor and I cleaned the garage. Yes, I hear you ask...but you know yourself: Whose garage is in ship shape? Certainly not ours. There were even some remnants of the last (French) visitors beach erosion that they must have caused judging from the amount of sand we found in some corners. Now there is only the indoor touch up jobs to be done, be that walls or skirting boards and doors. I'm sure, we'll find some last minute extra job that needs doing urgently....2 weeks and counting!
In the meantime, we've also got a schedule for our roaming visitors. I didn't really want to run an open house again, but the nature of the beast is that you want to see your nearest and dearest. And no better place than in a house that can accommodate 7 people easily although they won't all be there at the same time.
Exciting times! And it will all be worth it. We can relax when we're there!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Main Differences

When I told people that we're doing home swaps they asked me about the main differences between the countries: in this case Germany and the USA. The biggest and probably the most hard to take for an American from the South like is the lack of Air Conditioning. I don't know any private homes in Germany that has an AC. Public places and hotels are different. In Germany, we open all the windows to create a breeze and love living outdoors -weather permitting. Mind you, we hardly ever have the temperatures nor the humidity that prevail in Florida for almost half of the year. AC even has a bad reputation in Germany  for some reason: it causes colds, spreads germs and is a waste of electricity. Well, here it's a different kettle of fish and we encourage our house guest to keep the AC on even they may think doing us a great job in saving money for us when they switch it off. They learn soon enough.
With open windows come flies and midges.There aren't really any mosquitoes in Germany. But they annoying midges will find their way into the house and bedroom. You just have to switch off the lights when the windows are open.
Another difference are the fridges.People tend to have smaller fridge-freezers that have no ice-makers.That's what my poor hubby really misses. We even take an extra old fashioned cube tray with us so that we have enough ice cubes. For some reason, Germans don't need ice cubes in their drinks as we do here. Once their drink is chilled in the fridge- that's good enough.
Germany has its famous Autbahn. Many foreigners dream of driving there at top speeds. In reality, in many areas speed is restricted due to heavy traffic in densely populated areas. But I have done my 240 km/h legally. The rest of the country has Bundesstrassen which often are only 2 lane roads. In fact, traveling in the countryside that is the type of road you're likely to encounter. There is only one or 2 of this type of narrow roads left where we live. As my neighbor called it:"The dangerous road..."Ooh, and also windy...scary, scary.

Other differences are the ones that I miss dearly: foods! My favorite foods like white asparagus, Italian Gelaterias (ice cream parlors), a gazillion different breads and Broetchen, (bread rolls), most of them not sweet -thank goodness- exquisite cakes and tortes (tartes) as well as beer gardens. I wrote about some of these before in last years blog, Season 1 as an eBook.(http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005N0N3CO). With less than 4 weeks to go, my excitement is growing. I'll keep you posted! For more information see www.Intrepidhomeswappers.blogspot.com

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Evaluating Site for Seniors

With only 30 days to go on our adventure, I want to report about home swapping website today that exclusively caters to people over 50. If you belong into that category and are thinking about joining one of these agencies, here is the address: www.SeniorHomeSwaps.com.Surprisingly, there is always room for another version to a product by going into niche markets. What may the benefit of it be? People without children. If you don't want children to be running around your house and precious belongings, this may be an obvious possibility. On the other hand, you can always rule children out on the site where we are paid up, like pets. Just tick off the appropriate boxes. You may be limiting your choices, but there you are.
I had a look at this site as a visitor. You can do that and look at individual countries free of charge, of course you cannot connect with the advertising people yet.They only had 7 exchange partners in the whole of Germany. Only one had a photo on offer and only 2 were willing to swap cars too.The may have to grow for more members or they may have more participating partners in the SA and Canada. I didn't look there. They do, however, offer, paid accommodation in private houses.It would be worth checking out comparing the size of houses. Goes to reason that "Seniors" have downsized and families have bigger houses. I wouldn't want to end up in a "Retirement community".
For now,  I'll stick to mine...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Another Swap

With our trip to Germany being only 6 weeks away, it's high time to tell you about our second swap this year.
We'll be driving from pretty much the most north-eastern part of Germany (Baltic Sea) to the most southern-west on the border to France and nearby Switzerland: Baden-Baden. We'll be doing a couple of pit stops to see family and to break up the trip that would take about 10 hours. I did these marathons when I lived in Ireland and did purchasing trips to Germany via England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands: I did those in 2 days at 13 hours a day and one overnight in England. Well, these days are over, I don't enjoy driving long distances that much anymore.
Baden Baden is a renowned spa resort, one of the more high end ones with beautiful thermal baths and a casino. We hope to fill up our coffers there for the rest of the vacation....:) only kidding!
Baden Baden is a famous tourist resort nestling against the foothills of the Black Forest and a mere hop over to Alsace in France. Our exchange partners are a family of three who have been to Florida several times and don't seem to mind the heat that they will encounter. This time our abode is a little smaller, a duplex as we say in Ireland--or rather half a house with  a tiny walled-in garden. In a high end area real estate prices are of a premium and it's still big enough for us. I had sworn to myself after last year's experience that I won't run a B&B anymore m, meaning I won't invite several sets of family and friends and be busy playing the hostess.
What does the town offer? 2 castles :
  • Old Castle "Hohenbaden", built in 1102, a ruin since the 15th century
  • New Castle (Neues Schloss), 15th century
  • Lots of Roman ruins and sights : Caracalla Spa. A thermal bath is so soothing on the ole bones...
  • SHOPPING, restaurants, ice cafes (if you read last year's blog you know about my love for Italian icecreams -gelaterias.

                             Here's another pic that I got from Wikipedia: The Kurhaus/ Spa Centrum

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Whenever I open this blog...I long for the sea..already. Though it's probably way colder there than what we currently have in Florida. Where could I get such a beach basket? Where would I put it, however?

The company we signed up with for home exchanges has bi-annual newsletters. They always share good stories of successful exchanges. Did I mention I wanted to post our last not so convincing exchange in France on their Forum and they wanted me to rethink my sarcasm? And be more positive? Well, that's my writing style and I don't want to lie to my readers. It's all in my little booklet:Intrepid Home Swapping:Secrets to Successful Home Swaps.Go to Amazon and invest into 99cent and you can rad the nitty-gritty.
I want to share an inspirational piece of yesterday's newsletter here with you. Too late for this year's exchange but  a great thought:


I often try to sell the home exchange idea to our friends, and in the process, I cite some of our best experiences. Number one in this category is the wonderful people we have met as a result of these exchanges. Our procedure when we initiate an exchange is to let our hosts know that
we will meet them at the airport—usually Phoenix, but sometimes Boise— bring them to our home which will have the master bedroom ready for them (we sleep in the guest room that night and leave for the airport the next morning); then host a cocktail party with friends and neighbors to meet them. At this party, when the couple is introduced, we say something to the effect that we are leaving to stay in these folksʼ home and weʼre hoping, while they are here, you will look after them. We donʼt go into specifics like we hope you can invite them for dinner, cocktails etc. Our friends and neighbors get the idea and all of the couples we have hosted have bragged on how well treated they were during their stay in our home.
Since this was arranged ahead of time and our host couple knew what was going to happen here, they, in turn, contacted their friends and asked them to do the same for us. Now, the best part. Let me tell you about some experiences.
When we got to our hostsʼ home in Hamilton, New Zealand—a beautiful home overlooking the Waikato River—we heard the doorbell ring and when I answered, there was this beautiful lady there and she said, “Hi, Iʼm Lynnie, a friend of the hosts, and if you will invite me in and pour me a
glass of wine, Iʼll tell you how you can come to our house for dinner.” This incident led to numerous dinners both at their place and ours, and..." on the story goes.

Not only is everybody making friends all around but everybody keeps an amicable eye on each other-- for all you doubting Thomases out there!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The clock is ticking

Nothing much to report on the home swap front at the moment except that the countdown is ticking: about 100 days and counting. We're mulling over whether we should book a rental car for the trip from Hamburg to our final destination. It's about two and a half hours from the airport by public transport which is excellent in Germany. However, for those of you who followed us last year, you know that we don't travel light and have 6 big Berthas with us. Why? Don't ask. To schlepp those around from train to train is very tedious, however, and backbreaking. We'll see who wins: convenience or reason.
Here's a picture of the house we're going to spend 3 weeks in. it has a thatched roof like its boathouse.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

That's the Life

Have you got your head around the idea of Home Swapping yet? It has a lot of advantages once you jump the mental hurdle of having strangers in your house. Don't forget they will want to have their house treated in an equally respectful fashion: a variation on the Golden Rule.You're trading house of similar standards, not with low lives who want the chance of a lifetime to holiday in a nice villa and trash it while at it....:)
We spent the last 2-3 weeks on finding an extra spot that we could add on or visit before our stint in Meck-Pomm..This spa resort is one of the most prestigious At long last, we found it! A beautiful second home of a family in Baden-Baden.Lovely scenery, a Casino to satisfy all our gambling needs, shopping!!!All of this in walking distance. Pretty cafes  to watch the world go by ( and it will be a nice world in that town...),
great restaurants and food ( and it will be an expensive one at that). Oh I know why I miss my home country!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Visiting Meck Pomm

Anyhow,we are going to the one that borders on the Baltic Sea, Mecklenburg -Vorpommern, or Meck-Pomm as a British friend called it.(Even for German speakers it's a mouth full!). That’s where Wismar is located, a Unesco World Heritage Town that belonged to the Hanseatic League. And Heiligendamm where  from June 6 to 8, 2007, Heiligendamm's Grand Hotel hosted the 33rd summit of G8 leaders. Many beautiful seaside resorts, including Usedom, the island of Ruegen that got facelifts since reunification and are favorites among Wessis now. My former in-laws hailed from Greifswald, a long trek away to their new home in the west after the Russian troops evicted millions of German after the war. My own family from my mother’s side came from Silesia which fell into the hands of Polish and Russian troops after the war. In fact my family was only evicted in the winter of 1946-47. There is a short story I wrote about it a couple of years ago:  There is no going back. I don’t have any emotional bond to that part of Germany, but my aunt who is still alive does. She and my mother feature in the story. And now we’re going to visit.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Meck Pomm- one of the “new” states

Meck Pomm- is one of the “new” states- and short for Mecklenburg -Vorpommern.
After reunification, the federal Republic of Germany got six more states (Bundeslaender) which until then had belonged to the GDR (German Democratic Republic). As a Wessie (from Western Germany), I had always been annoyed about their claim to democracy. There were so many proofs of the contrary…
Germany now has 16 federal states; only 10 until 1990. Berlin was never one of them but had a special status, a city ruled by the four allied powers since the end of World War II. Now it’s the capital of reunited Germany. Most people will be hard pressed to name them all, maybe now after twenty years plus, they are well-known. Here’s the challenge to Germans and all other readers alike: fill in this picture below…:)