Simons Adventure

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

Ye old houses on Fjord Isles

We awoke to the sound of…. Well, to no sound at all, we had a great flat 😁

View from the room

View from the room

We quickly got ready, packed all our gear, and grabbed some food at the bakery on the way to the port. We decided to make use of our last morning by taking a boat tour into the Fjord, by simply taking the ferry which did a round-trip for about an hour. We arrived at the port a bit early and had our breakfast on a bench overlooking the harbour, a bit cold but somehow magical.

Breakfast view from our bench in the harbour

Breakfast view from our bench in the harbour

Next stop was the ticket machine, which decided to be a bit difficult: You could only purchase one ticket on the same credit card…  I assume this is to prevent accidental multi-purchases…. sigh…  luckily Manja had her card handy too and we managed to get a ticket each.  We boarded the ferry and headed straight for the top deck, where we remained for about half the trip. On the way back I couldn’t really feel my toes anymore because of the cold, so we decided to warm up inside. Not long after we go there, a crew member came by and asked if we would mind participating in an emergency drill. Well, sure! So when the test-alarm went off we headed to the front of the ferry and got to put on some pretty cool life-jackets. It amused me to realise that I struggled to put the thing on properly, needing the help of the crew!😅
Luckily we did not have to dive into the freezing water, and just had to wait outside until the captain gave an all-clear. We remained on the ferry just long enough to heat up again before arriving at the Oslo Harbour once more.

We walked back to our station, purchased a standard ticket and caught the train back to the Oslo airport. You can take the express here, but it’s only about 5 minutes faster but €10 per person more expensive….  Feeling savvy we boarded the standard train and saved some money 🧐

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Going through security was super modern: Each terminal had a 90degree area supervised by a guard. This area had two levels: One where a computer placed a tray each time one was removed, and directly above one where you could place two trays next to each other and place all your things into. This means that, rather than waiting in line for each person to drop their gear off, one at a time, each counter was sorting out 5 people in the same moment. The trays were moving through the scanners at a steady rate. On the other side of the metal detectors the trays were automatically separated into “All clear” and “need human to check something”. The all-clear queue had all our gear in it, so we pulled our trays off the conveyer belt and took our stuff. Our trays were placed back into a small stack, which was appropriately labeled “Please feed me” in several languages. I would have LOVED to take a photo, but this was not allowed. None the less, I was super impressed with the efficiency of the place, especially compared to Dubai or, even worse, Tegel airport.

Our flight back was totally uneventful. Back in Berlin we got out and saw just how bad Tegel security checks were: The line was about 100 meters past the last official queuing point. Totally insane! We cut through the madness against a flow of people wanting to get into the airport, and eventually got onto the second bus which arrived, because the first was over-full. Even though the first bus was over-full, at least 3 more people squeezed on. Welcome back to Berlin! 😂

We got a seat with no problems, by waiting for the next bus… for 5 minutes.

Once back home we had to drop by a neighbours who was kind enough to accept our deliveries of 2 shelves for the storage unit. We picked them up, transported them by using my bike as a wheelbarrow and pushing them to the storage place.

About 45 minutes later they were all setup and we headed for an early dinner at the local Asian place. The Ban-Mi I had was unfortunately not that great, but the dinner was a lovely way to finish up our weekend. A movie later we dropped into bed😴

Oslos overwhelming overture to ordinary occurrences

We awoke feeling a little sore from walking and a little groggy… which was probably related to the choice of dinner last night 😅

Seriously though, Manja was feeling a bit ill last night already and awoke with a stomach ache. Not the best start for the day…

None the less, we got ourselves up and ready.  As we left we got a message from our host, asking us to leave a spare set of keys in the flowerpot outside….  Errr… Okay.  Well, not our flat, so: Done!

This tree grows keys now

We decided to try out the bakery downstairs, which looked fancy.  As we headed in we had two problems: Manja was overwhelmed with choice for sweet breakfasts and I was underwhelmed with choice of savoury breakfasts…  especially the €8-10 price-tag for a sandwich option. So we asked the Google-Oracle for an alternate option and it provided one en-route for our daytrip with excellent reviews.  Once there Manja settled on an “Apple pocket” with Chamomile tea while I had a tomato-mozerella-egg giant baguette with coffee.

It’s not the size that… Well, no, okay, it’s all about the size.

Charged up for the day we walked down to the Habour, making the most of the few rays of sunlight to take some nice pictures.  This was followed by a walk across “Akershus Festning” which was the original castle of Oslo and actually survived a bunch of attacks, and is still used as a military base even though it’s open to the public.  Amongst brilliant views of the Fjord from the ramparts, it also had a bunch of cannons of various eras to inspect.  There is also a church and two museums to visit, but we opted to use the daylight to continue our exploration of Oslo.

Our next stop was the Opera of Oslo, which is a fantastic bit of architecture.  You can walk all the way up the building and appreciate yet another view over the Fjord.  Along the side you can also see some Sauna Boats, basically a houseboat converted into a sauna with the option of jumping into the freezing cold Fjord water at the end…  Brrrrr….. 🥶.  We use the Opera itself to spend a few minutes inside and warm up again ourselves.

From there we headed to the Oslo Mathallen, which is a really cool and fancy food-court. Just outside we also found this place:

I think I would feel riiight at home in this area, particularly when I spotted a rock-climbing gym not 5 minutes away!  We decided to have a small cupcake and coffee break, just to give us some energy while making sure we’d still be hungry for dinner.

Charged up, our next stop would be “Æreslunden” which is the main Honorific Graveyard in Norway. We didn’t know much abou the history, but Manja pointed out that it was the burrial place of Edvard Munch, who famously painted the scream. We wandered the graveyard for a while, being delighted by some stories we found by way of QR codes on the graves. I also found a cool goose.

With daylight starting to run out, we had one more important stop to make: Frogner Park. Now, contrary to what a metal goose may tell you, I’ve got to say that I am generally not a huge fan of sculptures, but this place was amazing. A whole lot of sculptures of people and families and human life represented in bronze and granite, including a monolith in the center which is, upon closer inspection, a pile of people.  I was honestly taken aback by this, in terms of the emotion displayed in many sculptures, by the volume of sculptures and by their life-like appearance. I mean, the bodies used were not idealized in any way, they were simply representing normal people, which seems unusual to me. In addition, many sculptures had multiple people as part of them, some even whole groups of children. As the sun set we headed back to our Airbnb, and I was very happy to have come here and experienced this place – especially because I would have never thought to go if it were left up to my planning!

Pretty exhausted we arrived back at our Airbnb, with just enough time to freshen up a bit and select a place for dinner. We had been seeing pizza all around us all day, so that was the flavour of the evening. We found a nice place just 5 minutes away, but when we got there they were all booked out…  dang! Not to be discouraged we headed over to another place, which was 10 minutes away from our accomodation, unfortunately in the other direction…  Manja was getting a touch tired, so I offered to carry her for a bit…  Which she actually accepted. So I walked with her on my back for a block, much to the amusement of passer bys, and our own giggles. I maintain that I just had to put her down because I was laughing too much 😉

When we got to the pizza place we were lucky – getting the last available table in the house. The place was small, run by an old skinny Italian guy who spent his time behind the counter greeting everyone and continuously making Pizzas. We opted for the Vegetarian and the three-cheese version, spending our waiting time observing the other guests, as our table was perched on a platform in the corner of the restaurant. The pizza arrived not long after and we were pleasantly surprised by how good they looked. The flavour wasn’t as great but not bad either.

Happy and full we walked the final 10 minutes to our Airbnb and spent the night relaxing and updating this blog 🙂

Date-trip to Norway!

For Christmas Manja had arranged a trip to Oslo for me. I chose to interpret it as an extended date-trip 🥰

So Friday morning we got ready and headed over to the airport.  Traffic wasn’t great, so the Taxi took a bit longer but we knew about this in advance and left early enough. We got through security and boarded a short time later. Take-off was a bit bumpy, but the flight was fine and we landed in Oslo 1.5 hours later to a beautiful snowy landscape.

As always, Manja had pre-organised everything and we knew we just had to find our way to the normal train to get to our Airbnb near the city center.  At the airport we had the most friendly guy sort out the tickets for us, and we were off without any issues.  25 Minutes later we arrived at the trainstation but could not find our connection – we knew from Google that we had to go to platform “A”.  After walking around a bunch, Manja spotted a map which showed us the location of Platform A, but it took us OUT of the trainstation.  I mean, WTF? As I looked around confused we both realised what was going on at the same moment.  “Platform A” was the bus station. Two stops later we were at our Airbnb, ready to do an escape-room like adventure to get the keys. We found the shop across the road, managed to find the “Key sharing booth” and opened the key compartment with an SMS.

The appartment where we’re staying looks great: while it’s on the 5th floor of an old-school building, they had installed the tiniest elevator in between the circular staircase to the top: Only just space enough for Manja and I to fit in at the same time.

After dropping our bags, the next challenge would be finding lunch.  We consulted the google oracle and found an interesting sounding place “San Francisco Bread Bowl”, which was conveniently located between our Airbnb and the City center.  Everything in Oslo itself appears to be walking distance, so we headed over and ended up walking along “Balders Gate”.  For those who don’t get why I thought this was funny, here is a hint.

Lunch was as delicious as it was simple and plentiful.  Very much sated we stumbled down to the harbour for a bit of a walk around. The scenery is just amazing, the area has several arts centers in it too.  From the banks we could also see this colorful tree, which encouraged us to stop and make a video 🙂

At one point we got a message from our Airbnb host who asked us to check if she left the keys behind… As we were not there yet we could not check.  She let us know that it didn’t matter, because she wouldn’t be home tonight anyway… Which meant we would have the flat to ourselves and could have a chilled night in after sunset.

On our way back we checked out a few stores to see if we could find a replacement for Manjas breaking jacket, but with limited success.  As we were both super tired by this point, but with very little hunger, we decided to head back to our Airbnb with a bag of chips to watch a movie. The idea is to head to bed timely so that we can make the most of the daylight hours tomorrow.

Twenty Twenty starts well!

After a day of recovery from New Years (and writing blogs!), it was already back to work for me.  It’s been a year, and I still enjoy working at my company 🙂

On Sunday we had to head back to Cottbus…  To spend some time with Hagen and play more Smash-Up!

The next weekend we spent Saturday morning sorting out storage for my stuff which will arrive soon, and dropping past Ikea for the first version of a Jewellery drawer which I promised Manja for her Bday last year. Version one is functional but with room for improvements 😁
In the evening were back to Butzi and Akis place for a games night.  I brought along Code Names which was a hit, and we also played the party game we played at Butzi birthday last year… but with less people it wasn’t that great.  Agreeing that we need to do this sort of thing more, we got home a bit past midnight and dropped into bed.

Sunday we did a bit of a New Years cleanup, where Manja and I finally had a chance to re-sort the kitchen which we had been meaning to do since we installed it 🙃
In the afternoon we decided to head over and start playing squash again, given that Manjas foot finally seemed up for it…. and I got THRASHED.  She beat me Three Nil! I really need to find a way to practice 😅

Another week passed and Friday night was date-and-explore-restaurants night.  We headed over to an Indian place which was near where Manja was meeting a friend earlier in the afternoon.  It was non-spectacular, but not terrible.

Saturday it was time for us to go to the Ball, but not before being first to wish Niko a happy birthday at midnight Adelaide time.  Turns out that the parents were looking after the kids and Niko and Anna were out with friends, so I wasn’t really first, but the thought counts!

The Ball we were heading to is the Vikings Rowing club (Wikinger Rudergemeinschaft) annual Winter Ball, and Mathias and Gabi had invited us to come along.  We did not quite have the perfect Attire, but we came along anyway, and we had a ball…  hah. But Seriously, it was a great night out.  When we arrived we said hi to Gabi and Mathias, as the guests arrived, initially skipping the photographer. Once everyone was in, Mathias, Gabi, Manja and I headed back a bit and had a photo or two taken.

When we headed back in it was already time to get seated and meet our table. Because Mathias and Gabi were officials for the club, they had to sit at the official table one over from us. The guy next to us recently started his own business, selling the experience of self-made whiskey to businesses at around €2500 upward per 30L barrel.  You get to do the whole thing end-to-end: from creating a flavour profile, regular testings and the end product 3-5 years later.
We soaked in the event, which had a fantastic atmosphere, brilliant Band (We need to learn to dance standard dances), great food and even a really cool lottery.  We spent a couple of songs on the dancefloor swaying along to the music anyway though 🤪.  Mathias was kind enough to take Manja out for a Dance properly too, she felt a bit overwhelmed but did really well!

One of the great things about the evening was a Raffle, which we spend a few euros on just to buy a ticket for Manja and Myself.  Manja drew both of them, and picked me a winner! Number 60.  Expecting to get a DVD player or wine decanter, we headed over to the table to check out what it was…  And it turned out to be an envelope, meaning we still had NO IDEA what we had won. Manja walked the raffle tables like a tiger, checking out peoples reactions as they checked out what they had won. It wasn’t too long before pickup time began and we raced over, the envelope revealing itself as being a three-course dinner for two! Score!!

As the evening drew to a close, Manja noticed someone walked away with a flower arrangement, including mini-vase. We quickly let Gabi know, who said that this was totally fine – people were welcome to pick some up… As we said our farewells, Gabi gifted us with a Wine-decanter which she had won but did not need, and even encouraged Manja to also take along a flower-vase. Loaded with nice things, we caught the U-bahn home, it must have looked hilarious to anyone watching: Two people in fine clothes taking their loot home on public transport 😂

It was a really fantastic night, and we were so happy to have been invited to it.

On Sunday I spent the morning making breakfast and then chatting to Niko for a couple of hours.  The afternoon had our scheduled re-match of squash…  Which I lost again, Three Nil.  I keep loosing but keep having fun with it 😁

The following Tuesday it was finally time for all my stuff to arrive.  I met the truck at the storage units at 11am and we unloaded everything, after which I did a basic sort: Creating piles of boxes with related content.

Manja and I had agreed that we would go through everything together on Sunday, by which time we should hopefully also have some shelves to keep things sorted.  As I was about to leave and head to work, I got a call from the removalists…  Turns out they had missed 4 boxes when they unpacked. That also explained why my numbering didn’t make sense 😂

They were at the next client, and had found said boxes mixed in.  Luckily they were not far away, so I took the tram there and headed back to the storage with 4 boxes by way of Uber.

That Saturday we decided to go shopping for a bit and see if we could find some more appropriate formalwear for both of us. We found some places we can go again when we have time and interest in buying things, but didn’t buy anything on the day. In the late afternoon we headed over to Ilkas place and spent the evening with her, chatting and making falafels. The first batch turned out to be a bit too watery to be baked, but when we fried the second set they turned out really well! We had a fantastic night but unfortunately had to head off eventually.

Sunday we dropped past a neighbours place to get the shelves and transporting them to the storage unit.

How do you transport shelves without a car you ask? Great question! By over-loading the bike and walking it with two people: like a wheelbarrow, just difficult to steer!

We put them together and then cleaned up a bit, taking some things back to the flat to get washed. We had to do this because you can’t keep unprotected clothes in the units, just in case an infestation of some sort breaks out. So we had decided to take everything made of cloth out, wash it, vacuum seal it and bring it back. With that done the storage was ready to survive without us for a bit while we headed to Oslo the next weekend ☺️

A short trip to Doris and Another Year over

While Manja got to relax a bit the next day I headed to work, and upon returning we prepared for our upcoming trip to Wiesbaden to visit Doris.  We dropped into bed early, exhausted from the week and knowing we had an early flight the next day.

The flight to Doris was uneventful – it went as smoothly as a flight can. When we got to Frankfurt airport, though, we spent just over an hour getting our rental car….  We had booked online through a third-party provider at Dollar. They, in turn, have a partnership with Hertz. But, dollar customers are only serviced in Terminal 1, and we arrived at Terminal 2.  (we found this out only after waiting in line to pick up the car…).  The person at the counter did give us directions, but they were wrong, so we walked away from the shuttle bus for 5 minutes before giving up, turning around and finding a sign to guide us to the shuttle.  Once at Terminal 1 we followed the signs for rental car pickups, until we got to the Hertz parking bay….  Where we obviously couldn’t pick up the car, we had to go to the service desk first… We found the service desk, waited in line and finally got our car. Unfortunately all the small cars had already been rented out, so we got an upgrade, which was nice.  The only problem was that he upgrade was quite a bit larger and felt like driving a limousine! Much later we saw that it was long enough to not properly fit into a standard carpark. But for all of that the car was very modern and nice, especially while driving on the Autobahn 😀

We got to Doris’ place around Lunchtime, and Doris had prepared some food for us all – a nice beef goulash prepared by the local butcher. Given that we were there on the first non-holiday, Doris hadn’t had a chance to go shopping, so we went to the supermarket together, getting everything we’d need for the next few days.  With the shopping done Doris decided to give us a bit of a tour of Wiesbaden, and we stopped at a few sights, including the Russian Orthodox Church, which was really impressive. Toward evening we were supposed to meet up with Helga and Ditmar at a local wine bar, and we headed into the general direction by following googles instructions.  When we got there, there was no wine bar in sight, we were cruising up and down what appeared to be a construction site….  Manja spotted a local resident and asked for directions – turns out google had sent us down the back way, the entrance to the place was one street further along. So we arrived a few minutes late, but with a story.  We chatted throughout the evening over wine, a meat and cheese platter and eventually some pizza – the wine bar had a deal with a local pizza place to supply their patrons with food.  Unfortunately the wine Bar already closed around 6, so we decided to take our party to the local sports bar near Doris’s place. We spent another hour chatting over wine and non-alcoholic cocktails before calling it a night and heading back to Doris’ place where I setup her computer to connect to Nikos photo blogs.

 

Bounchy squirrel!

Dancing Simon 1

Dancing Simon 2

Sunday morning we got to visit the Friedwald, which is like a cemetery/burial forest. The idea is that biodegradable urns are buried around a memorial tree shared by up to 12 people. Doris had decided on doing this for her own funeral but had only been able to purchase her spot from a map so far. Knowing this, we decided to check out her tree. I got to say that this is an excellent alternative to traditional cemeteries, and I loved how peaceful the whole place is.

We lost track of time a bit and had to rush back because we were meeting Manjas Aunt Jana and her family at Doris’ local greek restaurant. Jana lives about 30 minutes away, so Manja had arranged all this a couple of weeks before. The lunch was delicious and it was nice to connect the families a bit, I think everyone enjoyed it. After lunch Manja headed over to the Palace gardens with the family while Doris and I returned to the flat and prepared some coffee and cake.  When the group returned from their walk we chatted until after dark! Eventually they had to head off, and we spent the evening together over a glass or two of champagne, some guitar music and some final touches in the updates and setups of Doris’ tech equipment.

 

On Monday Morning it was already time to head back. We had booked into an early flight because it was a workday and I would have to go to work making rare use of our flexible working arrangements. In the evening we were totally exhausted and dropped into bed.

Tuesday was already New Years Eve.  We spent the day lazing about the house before heading over to Katrins for the NYE celebration. She was having a party with Kilians family and a few friends, and we were welcome to come along even though Manja was coming down with a bit of a cold.  We had a delicious cheese fondue and Tiramisu before the clock struck 12 and fireworks exploded all around.  The flat has a great vantage point in terms of the view, and we were regaled with fireworks all over the Berlin skyline.  When that started to die down we even got some close-up fireworks as the gang went downstairs to set off a few of their own, some of which exploded at our eye level standing on the balcony 🙂

It wasn’t long before we had to head off to another engagement for the evening.  We decided to walk to the Alexanderplatz, soaking in the athosphere, smoke and fireworks all around.  By the time we got there, though, Manja was really not feeling well so we decided to head home instead.

 

Happy New Year everyone! I finally made it to updating everything that happened in 2019.  We should be up to date soon 🤪

Have ourselves a Merry little Christmas 🎶

The next week was a bit more quiet for me. Manja had her company Christmas event on Tuesday while I got to chill and update my blog!
On Wednesday night we caught up a bit earlier to walk through the Rotes Rathaus Christmas Market, right in the center of town.  It was predictably crowded, but we enjoyed a nice walk in the crisp winter air.

Symbol of Berlin: The TV tower at Christmas

Thursday evening we headed to Katrin and Kilians place for a Christmas dinner. Katrin had selected a three-course-menu, which we all cooked together.  It was a delicious and creative mix of food.  Ilka and Jana joined us as well and we chatted the night away, reminiscing about the year and talking about plans for the future.

By Friday evening we just needed a break and decided to make pizza and watch Christmas movies for the evening 🥱😴

On Saturday we prepared for the Christmas trip to Cottbus (wrapping presents, packing) and went over to the Königliche Gartenakademie.  The plan was to head over to the Christmas Gardens at the Botanic Gardens, but it was bitterly cold and we were not quite prepared for it appropriately.  Rather than freeze we decided to head home and spend another evening watching Christmas movies 🙃

Sunday, Manja headed over to Cottbus to spend time with her family. I still had to work Monday and this way Odin, the cat, would not be alone quite as long.  I made use of the free afternoon to finally get my Scrum Master Certificate from training I did in October.  Passed first go too, might have over-prepared on the day 😅

Monday night I did my last-minute Christmas shopping.  I knew exactly what I wanted to get Manja, but didn’t have a chance to actually buy it yet, so spent the whole evening at the Kudamm, mostly waiting in line for the cashiers 😂

On the morning of Christmas Eve I spent a few hours chatting to my family, coincidentally hitting the exact moment where they unwrapped my gift to them: The Annual Family Calendar. Right after I finished chatting, Butzi and Aki picked me up on their way to Cottbus. They dropped me right at the doorstep of Steffis place while entertaining me with conversation for the whole drive.  A more relaxed method of transport would not have been possible! I arrived dressed for Christmas – including a new jumper I obtained as a Gift for Manja.  She really wanted me to wear a Christmas sweater last year, but I refused, so I thought I’d make up for it this year by turning up in one… turned out to be a good idea, she really loved it 🙂

We set everything up for Coffee and Cake just in time for Hagen, Henri, Sophia and Manjas Grandparents to arrive. We feasted on too much cake before doing a big present opening moment, where gifts and wrapping paper were flying everywhere.  This resulted in an extended wrapping-paper-throwing battle between Henri and I 😁.

For dinner Steffi had organised a traditional Christmas dinner to be catered, as her kitchen would habe been way too small for a roast for 10 people.  Hagen, Henri and I went to pick it up.  The place was sending out orders like ours all night, and we arrived in our designated time-slot only to realise that we had left the order docket at home and Steffi had put her name down for the order.  A brief phone-chat later we were allowed to take along the food, which was ready to go in commercial bain-maries. Unfortunately they were filled with water to keep them hot, but not sealed at the top. This made them awkward and heavy to carry, and prone to spilling water in Hagens car.  We placed them in the boot strategically, dropping the back seat so that I could do my best to hold them. We proceeded to slowly drive the calmest possible route home, while I attended to spilling water with my (clean!) hanky.  We avoided hills, but got caught on a couple of cobblestone streets, and by the time we got back my hankies were soaked with hot water, though the car was mostly dry.  Success!
Dinner really was delicious, while we all ate too much there was still plenty left over. One of the gifts we got for Hagen was a card game called smash-up.  We familiarised ourselves with the rules and played a round before Hagen had to go home for the night and us making a plan to play more tomorrow.

We started early on Boxing Day, as I dropped Manja off to catch up with Anne – you may remember her from the wedding we went to last year.  While Manja and Anne went for a walk, I headed back and spent the morning watching fairytales with Steffi – the fairytales being a well established family tradition for Christmas 😁

Toward noon  I picked Manja up and we headed over to Hagens, where we went on a tour of his Cattle Yard. It was super interesting but also freezing cold! On our way back we picked up Kai and then played Smash-up the remainder of the day.  After an early dinner we dropped Kai off home and picked up our stuff, returning to Hagens place where we spent the evening chatting about Life, the Universe and everything.  We also patched the air mattress we would be sleeping on as it had sprung a leak…. Though apparently not perfectly successful as the next morning we awoke almost lying on the floor.

After a nice breakfast we headed back to Steffis where we spent a couple of hours before going to Manjas Grandparents place for Coffee and Cake in the afternoon.  This is the day and place where most of the family gets together and people were arriving throughout the day, including Alex and his family from Remagen.  We had many conversations and ate too much once more, and I got to try out Henris Lego “Hidden Side” kit.  I came into the picture about half way through the building process and once done loaded the AR kit onto my phone.  I got to say, they did a good job at combining lego and AR, allowing you to hunt various ghosts in your actual kit.  Great fun! As the day drew to a close Kai was kind enough to drop us off at the Train station as we headed back home.

Gift to the grandparents: LED Torches for the garden.

Wonderful pre-christmas time

The flight home from Costa Rica was a bit rough for me. Something I had eaten, probably the breakfast on the last day in Costa Rica, had given me food poisoning. I’ll spare you the details, but the plane trip home was hell and I spent the next few days in bed recovering and hardly being able to eat anything. C’est la vie!

A week later it was already December. I was feeling much better and so we took the train over to Cottbus to celebrate Manjas grandfathers birthday and spend the weekend with the family. Manjas mum picked us up from the train station and we headed over for lunch. It was a great afternoon chatting and catching up with everyone, and had fantastic food – the first I really enjoyed in over a week! I even had a coffee at the end.

 

After lunch we decided to visit the Christmas markets, which were really nice. One of the good things about the market in the smaller town, and that we were there a bit early, is that it wasn’t totally crowded and we had the chance to browse a bit.  One of the places I got stuck at sold Moonshine: Basically flavoured whiskey.  It was so delicious that Manjas mum decided to buy a bottle…  well a jar really, which was an awesome design.

 

We headed back to have dinner and then spend the evening solving the “escape room in a box” which Manja and I got for Kai last year. While Kai and I had an awesome time solving it, Manja and her mum had a nice time watching us and chatting 😂.  The Moonshine probably did not help my problem solving skills, but we still managed to figure it out in time 🙂

Tomorrow we will go and bake Christmas cookies at Hagens place and we had to bring the dough. So we braved the cold and mozied over to the supermarket to get some ingredients. A walk back and some mixing later we realised that we’d need more…. So I returned to the supermarket once more and bought another batch of ingredients for a chocolate dough! After another round of mixing we were ready for the next day.

On Sunday I spend the morning chatting to the family back in Adelaide, before heading to Hagens place to bake cookies. We got a production line going, with Hagen, Henri (his son), Kai and I stencilling out cookies while Manja placed them on trays and Steffi (Manjas mum) glazed and decorated.  A few hours later we had a couple of hundred Christmas cookies to split between us.  We ordered some pizza for lunch and chatted for a while before heading back home by train.

Roll, roll roll the dough…

Cut them out in shapes…

 

The next week was full of end of year work events for me, I headed to a projects end of year event on Wednesday night where the biggest project had a Christmas Dinner. It was great catching up with everyone in a less formal setting.  On Thursday we had planned our end of year event for the support team.  We initially thought about doing an underground tour, but given the cold and that we were not perfectly organised, we changed to an escape room last minute. I can’t say too much, but I quite enjoyed the space mission at Smart Room!

Friday Manja and I had our traditional Friday-night-date-night where we explore local eateries. This time we went to Zia Maria, a little pizzeria nearby, which was recommended to us.  It was really good! We chatted the night away and made our Christmas plans over dinner and while meandering back home through the Kiez.

Happy Simon looking forward to great pizza!

On Saturday we visited Falkensee – one of the suburbs we would consider moving to. We walked around for a couple of hours to see if we could imagine living there, wandering by a couple of places which are for sale.  After we roamed around for a few hours we briefly met up with Gaby and Mathias who live just around the corner from there, before going to spend the evening at a friends parents house: They were having a birthday party with a whole bunch of musician friends, just getting together and jamming the night away.  It was a spectacular evening – plenty of very skilled musicians there! I was definitely out of my league but still enjoyed the evening a lot.

On Sunday I finally had a chance to catch up with Glen and we chatted the morning away. It was so great catching up; it had pretty much been a year!  In the afternoon we took it easy, using the time to clean the flat a bit.

The following week I went bouldering while Manja had a team Christmas event. As we were in the same area, and we had some food after bouldering, I picked her up on the way home and got to meet some of her colleagues – a motley group of nice people.

Motley group of nice people

We used the remainder of the week to finalise the Christmas gift shopping 😁

Friday night Manja caught up with some friends at a local Christmas market, and I joined them a bit later in the evening.  The place was so crowded that you could barely move, so we adjourned and hit up a local wine bar instead.  The temperature was much better, everyone felt frozen from the markets, and the acoustics were much better too, we could suddenly hear each other properly without yelling 😬

dinner at the christmas market

On Saturday morning I briefly chatted to the family for Opas Birthday, before we caught up with Stefan and Stefanie for brunch. They are planning a trip to Costa Rica in January.  We shared our experiences and gave some advice about what worked for us.  In the afternoon we walked around the Kiez near the restaurant, finding a few more small bits for Christmas gifts and noticing that the Moonshine we bought in Cottbus comes from a local place here!

Sunday morning I chatted to Johan and Stef for a bit.  Making an effort to catch up with OZ friends! It was great to catch up and chat about the year 🙂
A bit later Butzi dropped by to join us on a trip to Lübben for a Christmas Market at the “Museum Schloss Lübben”.  Butzi was kind enough to drive, so we chatted as we drove. The Markets were much smaller than we expected – we were through in under 10 minutes – so we decided to check out the Palace grounds for a bit. We found some beavers and followed a “heights trail” which was installed as a kids activity for the warmer months. It was cold so there were no kids and not every part of the path was sensible to do, so we skipped the part where we would have to climb over the icy river 😂.

On the way back we also noticed that the park had other kids activities, such as trampolines and a sensory playground with spinning optical illusions and various instruments. We spent some time playing with everything, including some slow-mo bouncing videos 😅

Finally we found ourselves in the labyrinth which we Aced – following the well-trodden path to the exit 😁. While it’s not ideal for winter, I have to say it is an awesome play area for kids in summer. This type of things is one of the things Germany really does well! By the time we drove home it was evening. I made us some dinner before we dropped into bed.

San-Jose with Sand-flea itching

You know the problem with a central hotel? It’s central and has traffic all night long. We did not get a restful night of sleep unfortunately, so we headed down to breakfast at around 7:30. But before we did, we managed to spot some birds getting colourful berries out of a tree just outside of our window.

 

Breakfast was nice, but the itching on Manjas sand-flea-bites had gotten a lot worse. So after breakfast we went straight to a Pharmacy, but when we got there it was closed… Even though google and the concierge had said it should be open. Nearing tears from having her legs covered in super-itchy spots, Manja none the less kept her cool and walked all the way back to the hotel. I asked the concierge again, and he pointed us to another one, which was a bit further away. We walked all the way back into town (a 10-minute walk) to this other pharmacy. At one point I may have taken a wrong turn, and Manja got a little testy for some reason…. but we found the place a short time later. They gave us a cream which was supposed to help. It didn’t help immediately and we headed back to the hotel in double step. As we packed Manja tried to keep mostly still, because movement seemed to aggravate everything. Eventually the gel started to work and changed the itch level from “OMG I want to cry” to  “bearable” – not gone, not good, only “bearable”. I’m so proud of her for resisting to scratch her legs open!

With our luggage packed and Manjas itching remaining at a level of  “bearable”, we stored our bags and went for a walk through town, hitting a couple of souvenir shops, leaving them disappointed while aiming at the San Jose Municipal Craft Market. We expected to see a variety of hand-made crafts, but instead got overwhelmed by mini souvenir stores all selling identical items at prices too low to not be mass produced. The good news was that we could now identify things which were mass-produced because everyone was selling them, and walked away without wasting our money.

Eventually we headed over to a cafe which was recommended to us. There we had a smoothie and iced coffee, re-applied the anti-itch cream and decided on a route back. As we were about to leave we got a message telling us our plane was going to be delayed – from 22:00 to 23:00. Given that we were going to return the car around 17:00 we already knew we would be spending more time at the little airport than we really wanted. Ah well, could not be changed… We did upgrade our seats to allow us to leave the plane early so we would hopefully not miss the connecting flight.

We walked on, and one of the places we visited was the National park which had this great statue, I just could not resist a photo.

 

We temporarily debated visiting another Museum, but decided that we really wanted to spend the last few hours in the sun, even if we were walking around town. As the anti-itch cream was not really doing a fantastic job, we decided to visit another couple of pharmacies to see if anyone had a better remedy. Turns out they all sell stuff with the same ingredients, which made trying them pointless. The oral medication is supposed to be better, but Manja decided against this, arguing that any sort of reaction she may have to medication would be bad on the plane… Fair point!