Simons Adventure

On the road, there's adventure waiting every day.

Kangaroo Chronicles and Seals on Wyk

Monday was an early start so that we would make the 9am departure from the central station. We packed the last few things, patted the cat and were on our way. Everything worked really well, though our last connection of the 7 hour ride was a few minutes late, putting us at risk of missing the ferry…. Which made us worry a bit and we jumped out of the train as quickly as we could. On the ferry we spent the hour on the deck enjoying the sea-air and sun. When we finally arrived on Föhr, Stefan was already waiting for us at the dock.

We handed over “Stefanie” the chili plant which Manja had raised from seed for him, and headed to his place. About half way there, Manja suddenly realised that her mask was missing, and ran back along our route to find it, while Stefan and I chilled on the steps of the water fountain. She was lucky and found it quickly and we arrived a few minutes later.  Stefan tested our sense of direction the whole time, seeing if we could remember anything from the previous year. We did okay, but probably would have taken the very long way to his place 😅

After briefly unpacking we headed for a stroll along the beach while catching up. As we headed back, it was already time to head to the shops and organise dinner. Stefan made us some awesome meatballs, potatoes and asparagus.

As night fell, Stefan and I played a few rounds of Polarity before we all headed to bed.

Tuesday we woke up early to the sound of Manja forgetting to disable her alarm from yesterday. After breakfast I spent some time chatting to my family while Manja and Stefan headed to the beach. In the early afternoon I joined them, and a bit later we got the bikes ready and rode back to the Apfelgarten Cafe, which had the best cakes last year when we were here. The ride was nice, and the Cake was good, but unfortunately not the 11/10 we gave the raspberry cake last year. Ah well, it can’t ALWAYS be perfect.

The milk bar, however, which was closed last year was open, and we dropped by to buy some local cheese.

By the time we rode home we sat outside for a bit and enjoyed the warm weather, before eventually going on an epic quest for Pizza. We didn’t think it would be an epic quest, but it turned out to be one. The Pizza place across the road was closed, so we headed to one nearby, which was also closed. Toward the beach we went only to find this third option closed too, as was the one at the end of the promenade. By now we’d almost walked in a square, and were heading back along the street the house was on, all the way to the end of the street where the final pizza store was. And they were open – or more to the point had just opened. We could give them our order, but they would take another 30 minutes to prepare the pizza. So we walked back, set the table and then Stefan headed back over to pick up the pizza which we ate in the evening sun outside. As it cooled we headed inside and Stefan and I played a few rounds of Hanabi which were fun. Once we got the hang of it we got some pretty good scores too, even in the harder modes. Eventually Manja pointed out it was getting late and we called it a night.

Wednesday we slept in. With no alarm clock we ended up getting out of bed well past 9 and had a relaxed start to the day. Stefan made us some awesome pancakes, with apples and cheese fried into them. Delicious!
Manja wanted to head back to the beach, so we went. At some point Stefan started to burn, having had less sunscreen on than us, so we decided to save his skin and head back, picking up a traditional 50c ice-cream on the way.

We spent some time inside reading and avoiding the afternoon sun, before heading out once more – this time with a mission. Get coffee and cake and clean up some of the plastic rubbish around the yacht pier, which we remembered from last year. Armed with our collecting bags, we had a really nice bit of cake for strength and then collected two bags full of plastic strings. We still have no real idea where it comes from – probably ropes used by the yachts.

By the time we got home we were a bit over-heated once more, so we chilled for a bit before I went shopping  for dinner. I decided to make burritos, but finding everything in the supermarket was complicated. It took a bit over an hour before I finally returned with the ingredients. Turned out delicious though!

In the evening I updated this blog, and we played an Exit Game (Escape room in a box) which Stefan had picked up earlier – The Kangaroo Chronicles! Took a bit longer than expected, so we ended up going to bed a bit before midnight.

 

Thursday we had an early start. There is this beautiful grandfather clock here, which tolls to announce each hour. Normally I don’t really notice it at night, but tonight I woke on every hour.

At midnight we went to sleep.
At One I thought “Huh, am I really still awake?”
At Two I thought “But I slept this time”
At four I though “Wow, I’m really noticing every time the clock chimes tonight.
At five I thought ” Wait, did I miss 3 am?”
At 6 I thought “I don’t think I slept well”
At 7 I thought “I have to get up in a moment”
At 7:30 Manjas alarm went off and I zombie-walked into the bathroom and got ready.

I did sleep between the chimes, I think, but I definitely felt groggy. So I prepared breakfast and woke Stefan while Manja got ready. A coffee and some toast later I felt good to face the day and we headed out to the bus stop. We were just discussing that the stop wasn’t all that obvious when a bus came by from the OTHER direction. Luckily he saw us and stopped, kindly picking us up where there was no stop.

It took about 45 minutes to cross the island and head to the “Watt” of “Wadden sea” – which is a flat area of sea where the tides completely recede meaning you can walk out on the ocean floor between the islands. Rather than wandering between two cities, we had decided to go and see some seals on the sandbanks.

Walking the watt is like walking along the desert floor at the precise moment that the water recedes for the first time. It’s both awesome and a little weird.

The guide was good, and had been doing these tours for around 20 years, making him knowledgable but also noticeably bored at some points.

Our first stop was around oysters. They used to have European oyster, but in the early 1900’s it was over-fished, and eventually became extinct when a super-cold winter hit in 1928/29. The oysters which plague the area now are actually imported pacific oysters, which have a distinct disadvantage for wandering the watt: They cut your feet open if you step on them.

The local seaweed, including free tasting, was next. A bit salty, it tastes a bit like plastic nori in my opinion. Crabs rounded out this stop – including an explanation of the difference between males and females, which I promptly forgot, and a demo of how they can take off a hat.

About 20 minutes later we stopped again, this time at a pitchfork which the guide leaves on a high sand-bank to use during tours. He showed us watt-worms, which are used for fishing and as a species turn-over the whole of the floor 1-5 to 2 meters each year, eating the sand and cleaning it by absorbing nutrients within it. They also have the brightly-coloured rubber-band worms, which are tiny but extremely stretchable.

The next stop another 10 minutes later was with mussels – showing how these dig themselves back into the sand. Fascinating to watch!

 

Eventually we has almost reached our destination when the guide pointed out a baby seal sunning itself. Mama seal had left It there in safety while going out to hunt in the low tide. This was lucky because the seals on the far side didn’t want to move, so we only saw them in the far distance.

On our way back we stopped at another pool of water where a couple of gray seals – the other type native to the area, were having a swim.

Walking back to shore was more difficult as we were suddenly walking into the wind, so by the time we got back to shore about an hour later we were all a bit exhausted. We had a short break at the foreshore before heading to the bus stop, where a small swallow had made its nest in the roof.

We waited about 20 minutes until the bus came, another hour and we were back home. I was super hungry, so I made a very late lunch of the leftover salsa and rice, which tided us over until dinner while we recuperated a bit. By the time it was dinner time we decided to walk to the Chinese place in Wyk, where Stefan even made the effort of putting on his red Chinese shirt. Dinner was excellent and when we got back we played a game before dropping into bed exhausted from the late night last night, the early start and the long walk along the Watt.

Friday was the hottest day in our trip. After Stefan made us his fried eggs and bacon for breakfast, we headed out with the intention of going to the beach.  Stefan had forgotten his bathers at home, so we headed into town to buy him some, also looking to get a haircut arranged for me. We arrived at the hairdresser who had a sign out front saying “You must call to make an appointment” with the number to call. I was just picking up the phone when one of the hairdressers came outside and took my booking directly for their next free slot: 5pm. Stefan managed to find bathers quickly, and we were about to turn to the beach when Manja suggested we should probably consider getting something to give us shade on the beach. Stefan actually had a beach tent, so we detoured slightly to walk past the house again and pick it up.

When we hit the beach promenade we realised that it was around low tide… Damn. This meant that the water was quite muddy, far away and about half a meter deep – just enough to cool our feet but not much more. So we setup the tent, got comfy and spent some time relaxing at the beach, reading and chatting. All of our legs were sticking out of the tent, so to prevent sunburn Manja decided to burry mine and Stefans while we read. I expected a small layer of sand, but when I turned around I suddenly found a pile of sand covering both our legs about 30-50 cm high, while Manjas legs dangled into the hole she made to keep them shaded and cool.

While I hated destroying her work of art, the tide had come in again and we could finally go for a swim, so I freed myself and headed into the water with Manja. We had just gotten to the point of actual swimming when a jellyfish strafed Manjas arm, causing a pretty strong burn. We’re pretty sure it was a so-called “Nettle Jellyfish” – painful but not dangerous at all. We’re confirming with iNaturalist though, having seen some beached once later on which Manja took some nice photos of. I immediately thought we should have brought some vinegar along too – and later confirmed that it would have worked too. Will add it to my beach-kit in future.

Manja just soldiered thought the pain and about 30 minutes later it was gone, leaving only a small red mark on her arm. We stayed a bit longer, giving Stefan an opportunity to also go for a swim while I built smilies out of similar stones I was finding in the sand.

Eventually we decided to head back to the house to cool down and get some shade before I had to head off to my haircut. Given that we had plenty of spare time, Manja even did a before and after 😂.

Having my hair shortened again for the first time since February, I left it a bit longer, but definitely felt much more civilised again. Stefan asked, retrospectively quite rightly “Wait, weren’t you going in for a haircut?”

We had an hour to kill before dinner, so Stefan and I played another round of Hanabi outside.

For dinner we had booked back into the Syd-bar, which was where we went for our last dinner last time also. It’s a beautiful little restaurant right at the beach – unfortunately not facing the sunset, but still good location and nice food. I say nice food, but the burgers which Stefan and I had were a bit too salty – not quite spoilt but close. I was super hungry, so eagerly ate mine, but Stefan showed great German principle, by leaving the last quarter and advising the waitress that it was spoilt. She apologised and said she’ll let the kitchen know, to which he responded with “Please do, and I won’t be paying for it”. The waitress agreed to this without missing a beat, offering an espresso to make up for it – and asking me if mine was too salty as well. I let her know it was very salty, but still edible. A few minutes later we got two espressos on the house by way of apology, and when it came time to pay later we only paid for one of the burgers. I’d still struggle to complain like this, and I’m always impressed when people do, after all the restaurant desperately needs this feedback.

As the days were long, we walked back home along the beach while chatting. Well, while I talked. Between the beer with the burger and the shot of espresso I was in talking mode and didn’t really take a breath between thoughts and stories. Stefan very patiently listened to me blather on, while Manja hung back and picked up some rubbish along the beach.

By the time we got back it was around 11, and we all dropped into bed.

 

Saturday was the last day on the island for us. In the morning I made my poached eggs on avocado toast with salmon for Stefan and Manja, after which we packed everything and headed to the beach one last time. Stefan and I chatted while Manja picked up rubbish, on what was a Jellyfish littered beach today.
One of the random highlights of the morning happened while we were standing at the Pier. Two girls walked by, one carrying a skateboard and the other roller skates. Stefan struck up a conversation by asking if the skateboard could be used for surfing, and she patiently explained that they had skated along the promenade and were walking back in the water. When he told them to be careful, lest they cut their feet on the barnacles or razorfish, they cheerily replied “That’s not a problem. Our feet are all cut up anyway”. Ah, that youthful spirit of invincibility! 😂

On the way back we got a last ice-cream at Hansis which is a small bakery and ice-cream shop where the ice-cream is still constantly churned in old barrels and a scoop only sets you back 50c. If you go to Föhr, I recommend dropping by – you can only ever choose from Vanilla, Chocolate and Lemon and the Chocolate is definitely best.

It wasn’t long before it was already time to leave. We walked down to the Pier and headed back onto the ferry, saying farewell to Stefan and Föhr once more, but feeling way more relaxed. After the ferry ride we had a 6.5 hour train trip which took us right back into Berlin, long, but comfortable enough.

Not your average June

Remember that short note about elderflowers in the previous month? We collected a bag full from Ilkas garden and decided to make some elderflower syrup – by soaking the flowers, adding them to sugar syrup and storing them in a jar with orange slices. A few days later they were ready to bottle. Turns out neither Manja or I love the stuff, but it was fun making it anyway, plus we can just use it in any upcoming sparkling wines 🥂
After that we decided to head down to a local lake by bike, just to get outside a bit. It was really lovely at the water!

The following Saturday we headed back over to the house from the old lady, because she was willing to discount it…. Which made us take a second look. But even though we really liked her, and we really wanted to make it work, the low ceiling ended up being a dealbreaker even on second look. On Sunday we headed to a place near Heiligensee – a rather posh suburb by our standards. The place was unspectacular from the outside, but really quite nice on the inside. There was only one problem, which I was surprised to have to bring up with the Agent: The facade was made of Asbestos! It also had another quirk – a really old heating oil store was buried under the lawn….  It was apparently empty, but pretty expensive to remove, so they just disconnected it and left it there….. Seems a disaster waiting to happen! Needless to say we decided against the place pretty quickly. As we got out of the train at Alexanderplatz in the city center, we noticed that there was some sort of demonstration happening which the Police had come out in force to deal with. We didn’t know it at the time, but it turned out to be the Black Lives Matter rally, which was peaceful until the crowd got so large that they were breaching corona rules and were told to disperse. Apparently some people didn’t appreciate that, and started having a go at the police. After the dog squad were brought in to separate the crowd by creating a one-way line which allowed people to leave the demonstration but not enter, we left too. I have to say – respect for the professional nature in which the Police dealt with this here. We repeatedly saw them target and remove key aggitators from the crowd by going in as a small group focussing, removing and backing out; all without being needlessly brutal. (It’s always going to have a degree of violence to it, but it doesn’t have to be brutal).

Anyway after the dogsquad was called in we decided to leave before it escalated further.

 

The next Saturday we headed over to Manjas family early. The train driver had a sense of humour and when we arrived at the station all the displays suddenly said “Kiss me”.  Manjas Mum picked us up and was kind enough to loan us the car for the day, so we headed straight over to the Grandparents place for an early lunch. When we arrived we found that the whole garden had totally sprung to life!  Her Grandfather even has a Banana tree which is growing well. We fixed Omas Alexa before heading over to Hagens place for the afternoon.

At Hagens place we helped him prepare for his Birthday party a bit, which included putting up a rain cover across the whole courtyard to deal with the downpour which had been forecast. We also got to meet Franzi – his new girlfriend who is really awesome. She’s still a bit shy about meeting the whole family (it’s a new relationship, kids involved etc. etc.) and so we got to be the first people in the family to meet her. But of course the family were all super curious, and asked us to send photos. We complied with the request, and sent a whole lot of photos from the birthday party where Franzi was either just visible as a silhouette, or behind people or in some way unrecognisable. 😂
Hagen also once more made his famous BBQ – he really is the man at the grill. Beers were prepared in the kids pool and when the rain did come we all remained reasonably dry. I say reasonably, because I took a seat at the edge and only realised much later that the back of my shirt was soaked from a continuous subtle drizzle.

It was a great afternoon none the less, but we eventually had to head off to catch our train back.

We had to be back home because the next day was my birthday, and Manja and my family had gotten together to arrange a surprise. When we got up I got a Skype call from my parents, and to my surprise they had invited a whole group of my friends to come together and have a party to celebrate my birthday. It was really touching to see everyone, and I was honestly a bit overwhelmed!
In the early afternoon we headed over to Ilkas place to have a birthday party in the garden and make use of the really awesome weather.  Katrin, Killian and the Kids all joined too, so we had a day of playing in the garden, having some cookies, cake and coffee, dancing, having punch and champagne, being silly and eventually having a really nice BBQ.  It was a really really nice day.

Over the next week we checked out a few more houses in the evenings – one as far as Caputh; which is a 1,5 hour train ride away. The house was awesome, as were the surrounds. It’s pretty much living in a holiday location, near a river. We decided against it for one reason only: the 1.5 hour train ride. It would be too intense to loose 3 hours every day going to and from work. We also checked out a place a bit north of Berlin in a suburb called Birkenwerder, but it didn’t match our needs.

The following Saturday we were back to Cottbus once more – this time to the Grandparents place to celebrate all the Birthday which happened in June with the family – there’s 5 all up in the family!

The following Sunday we looked at another house, this time in Karow, wich was unfortunately a complete dump. We also prepared to head over to Föhr where we would catch up with Stefan again!

On the 28th, just before leaving, we had another house – this one we lovingly called “tiny house with big tree”. It was a nice enough place, but really not what we were looking for in the end.

In pandemic mode May

By the time it came to be mid May, I had setup the office for a soft re-opening, which really meant blocking half the desks so that there would be sufficient space, and ensuring that all the extra hygiene requirements, such as masks and disinfectant, were in place. By this point we’d been in home office for about 2 months and this would give people the option of returning to the office once in a while if this was more convenient.

On the way home I dropped past the shops, to a new phenomena: As of now, there was a limited number of people allowed in shops, and security guards made people stand in line and ensure they were wearing masks on entry. It was kind of strange to be waiting to go in, but at least there was plenty of stock of all essentials again. For a while during this crisis all sorts of things had been out, besides the worldwide toilet paper shortages, we also had delivery issues with yeast and flour, for example.

As we couldn’t get together with people to play games, that Friday night we played pandemic with Katrin and Killian virtually. It was not perfectly stable, but we made it work! We were on a roll with this whole pizza thing, so we made pizza from fresh dough for dinner too – Yum!

On Saturday we decided to check out Falkensee, as there is a house there we were considering in the area. It’s quite a nice suburb, so we decided to make an appointment to see the house. After that we dropped past Ilkas place to water the garden and feed her cats for her, while she was on holiday.

On Sunday we did yet another bike tour, this time deciding to visit Gabi in the process. She’d invited us over for some seasonal fresh white asparagus and homemade hollandaise sauce. We spent the whole evening there, by the time we left it was getting dark. Rather than ride all the way back, we just rode to the train station and caught the train back.

On Sunday we spent the day at home, and I spent the morning playing board games online with Glen and Johan. It was great to get together again; I really do miss the board games nights with the gang!

The following week we had an appointment to go to our first house inspection. Yes – in Germany you need an appointment to view a house, they don’t just have open houses the way they do in Australia. To be honest, the whole real estate website in Australia is soooo good. You don’t really appreciate what you have until it’s gone sometimes.  Anyway, just after we jumped onto the tram there was a loud ringing of a bell and a massive “THUD” as the tram lurched to a halt. Manja and I were both startled as the doors sprang open. Turns out the tram hit a car which had stupidly turned in front of it. The driver, a mother, was temporarily distracted by her kids in a bad moment. Luckily the damage was only to the car and tram, no one was hurt at all.

The house wasn’t bad, but we decided not to make an offer. The property was being subdivided and a house put into the front part of it. The back property had an awesome view of a field, Buuuut: There was another vacant lot between the house and the field. If anyone ever builds there, we’d be completely closed in.

A bit later that day we had another appointment – this time to consider building a place.  Manja had found an agent who connected vacant properties and purchasers. As we waited for the bus, it decided to drive right past the stop without stopping… We called the agent to let him know we’d be about 30 minutes late and he also just said he’d swing by to pick us up. “Look for an old American car” he said. A bit later a white 1980’s Chevy limousine pulled up. Turns out the guy spent some time in America and fell in love with the cars. When he moved back, he imported and restored one.
He took us to the lot where the house would get built, and found that it had a really old wooden house on it. It would get torn down in the process but would have almost been worth restoring – I can only imagine how nice it would have been before the city sprawled around it. Unfortunately in the last few years it had squatters in it, so it was definitely rundown. We left with some idea on prices and options on what could be built there.