Swapping Homes Anybody?


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...