Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Germany part 3

So later that same Saturday with the Alpacas we wandered into Irsee to have lunch near the Monastery /Brewery.

Again everything was as picturesque as we could hope, down to the painting of the monk looking out of the window on the brewery's wall.

An old style map of the town on the brewery's wall. I do not remember what one of us was pointing out. You can read the German if you click to enlarge the photo.

The front of the monastery in all of it's glory.

One of the cute paths that cuts through town, and an inkling of how riotous the flowers were in the gardens.

Then back to the Ren Fair for the second night. Really if I am to be candid, the fair was for me a place to have beer, talk with new friends and, and look at the beautiful medieval village. I am making this disclaimer because I have a feeling that I am not going into as much detail of the Ren Fair as some people might hope me to.

Spanish banners abound. Ok I think maybe it had to do with the two of the colors of the German flag, but you have to admit, they are the colors of the Spanish flag too.

Here are some banners in the Bavarian colors, colors which made more sense to me.

A beer tent, and a little alley way. It is a dark photo, but give you a sense of how there were booths tucked into every corner of this twisty medieval town.

On this night we climbed the hill all the way to the top, and we were able to look out over the red-tiled roofs of the town.

This next picture is dark, but I include it because over to the far left of the picture you can see a Farris wheel, and that was near to the huge beer-garden that they also set up for the festival. We did not get a chance to visit it, there was so many things to see in the town itself.

On the top of the hill there was a beer-garden, and some boys playing with fire. Every now and then they would set off this small cannon. You see that there is a table in the front of the picture? That was our table and we needed to abandon it and stand near the trees while the set the cannon off. You could really tell that they were enjoying every minute of it. It was kinda cool.

Quick tip, if you are ever by a cannon and it is going to go off do two things: cover your ears and keep your mouth open. The ears are for the obvious reason, the mouth open is because the sound wave of the cannon is so low that not having your mouth open could damage your ears too. I am very glad that we had a translator to tell us that.

A parade of drummers. There were various parades also going by, and dancing or fencing matches breaking out in little plazas. All in all this was the experience of a lifetime, and I will always remember and cherish this weekend.

So this is not the last post in the German series. Tomorrow is our day trip to Munich.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

LLama adventure - Germany

One of the thing that our gracious host found for us was the existence of a Llama farm nearby Irsee. I will always be grateful for this experience. 
(Thank you Gray!)

As you will see in the pictures that day was unbelievably pretty. Going for a stroll in that beautiful countryside around quaint villages and a roman tower with these unusual beasts (for the area) made it even more like a fairy tale then the day before. This might sound silly, but I believe that this hike will bond the 6 of us for all of time. If nothing more then with the memory of this perfect afternoon.

We were of course visiting the llamas because of  Chrome64's and my addiction to wool. These animals have soft and silky hair that is very nice to spin and knit with. Yes there was yarn in the owners store, and yes we did buy some. 
Look at the gray baby below, how awesome would a blanket be in those colors?

Just look at that dog, he was having the best time. Would that we all would love our jobs that much.

A view of the quint villages in the distance, and the rolling hills of wildflowers.

My Llama companion's (shown here with a rare photo of me on the blog) name is Tatio. I have some of his fleece, I need to process it and turn it into something wonderful. Also for those of you wondering I did speak Spanish to him, he is from Chile, but it did not strengthen our bond as I had hoped. Maybe he was judging my grammer.

A house we past on our way.I walked the llama most of the time while DH was the trip's photographer, but sometimes we switched tasks.

Sigh, Barvaria in the summer time, just look at that sky! And the weather was perfect. Although I am wearing a wool sweater I made.

My first real view of the Alps! They are majestic as I dared hope for. You see what I mean, with scenes like this it is easy to think that you are in a dreamland.

Here is a photo of all of the llamas as seen from the top of a local Roman tower. 

Ahh Barvaria home of potential some of my ancestors, you have captured my heart with your beauty.

Tomorrow more Ren Fair pictures, and then Munich.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Germany - Irsee and Kaufbeuren Part I

So after we got back from Ottawa we set off bright and early on Friday to Munich. There we were met by the two awesome friends that had invited us to come to the oldest Renaissance Festival in Germany (link in German).
Irsee was the town we were staying in, and we drove through the idyllic Bavarian countryside for about an hour to get to it. My friend Chrome64 was right, the whole place looked straight out of a fairy tale.
At the house we met our other partners in crime, a pair from London. We hauled our bags up to our room and then had a traditional Bavarian lunch. For those of you wondering: ham loaf, mustard, soft pretzel bread, and of course beer. It was tasty, and I can see myself getting addicted to that type of food.  Luckily I live in the German neighborhood of Madrid and so I live right by both a German bar / restaurant and a German Market. So this is one type of international food that I can readily get.

Then we were off to a local Friday Market in Irsee.

The building across from this was filled with stalls and it was the here that I first remembered that I have very small Germany vocabulary. The thing that I regret about this trip is that my mind actually seem to reject learning new German words. I mean, I understand why, I need to really only learn Spanish right now, that is a priority for potential work and ease of living. But I wish I could have learned more German. In fact it is really only after coming home that I realized I knew more then I thought.

(Good day, woman, sir, goodbye, thank you, naturally, beer, pretzel, please - Guten Tag, Frau, Herr, auf Wiedersehen, danke, natürlich, Bier, Brezel, bitte - I did learn that last word there).

At this little stall below we bought edible flowers and I made everyone in the group eat Nasturtium flowers for the first time. If you have never eaten one, and you like spicy foods like radishes, go forth directly and try one. To me they are an addictive treat.

Can you see the local village May pole in front of the Monastery? Click to enlarge, I found that most of them had little figures on branches like this one does.

This was a stable that looked like a house. Do you see the cow? In the other window there was a sewing machine. Very random, but cute and picturesque. Then the old woman that own the cow came up smiling and tried to talk to us and we fled smiling and nodding. (Please see note above concerning my limited German vocab.)

I mean look at the views of this village. Sigh, it most reminds me of when I lived in upstate NY, wildflowers all summer, a fresh breeze playing with your hair, and abundant sunshine.

We arrived shortly before the Renaissance festival started because we needed to go to the local wool shop. Which happens to be the one local wool shop that I remembered to take a photograph of. You can see that the woman is closing up after the day. This wool shop is part of a chain and Chrome64 told me that it wasn't very big, so I was not expecting much. Wow, the yarn was so cheap in price but good in quality! There were great brands like Regia and Opal, the colors were amazing, and I had a hard time getting out of there without buying more. In the clearance section I got an generous sweaters (1600m) worth of sock yarn for 16€!

We went on to celebrate in the festival. It s a very local festival and I do not have a doubt that we were the only internationals. Our host told us that there is a law in Germany that the houses cannot be built higher then a certain level, so that the church steeple can be seen well as it towers above the rooftops. It is a beautiful village.

Then after this it started to get dark and the beer started flowing. It did finally rain for quite a while as well.
 I think I shall do a post a day for Germany.
Tomorrow, we visit the Llama farm. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ottawa and overcoming homesickness

Hello everyone! There has been a radio silence because I have been on a series of vacations, or an epic vacation. This epic vacation schedule looked like this:
Going to Ottawa 5-11th.
22 hour layover / rest day/ in Madrid.
Flying to Munich 13-15th.
16th rest day in Madrid.
Taking the AVE to Barcelona 17-19th.

While on the road I found that I could not blog well from the Ipad. well, I could blog, but I could not post pictures. Looking back I should have written up some post picture-less in Ottawa and posted when I got back home. Because now this trip seems like it happened so very long ago. So I am going to do the unfair thing, and make my 5 days in Ottawa post only one post with highlights. The other trips will be posted shortly.

This blog will have the dialogue posted in-between the pictures but not really related to the order. Please look at the captions of the pictures for information.

The river looking toward the Quebec side from Parliament hill.

I was in Ottawa for the simple reason that my DH had a conference there. This meant that his flight, food and hotel were paid for and all we had to do for me to come along is pay for my flight out. I was very eager to go to be in North America again. I was also very curious to see the differences and similarities between the US and Canada from the perpective of someone who has been in Europe a while. I was very homesick, so I probably was not overly objective in viewing their similarities. Meaning I probably saw more then there was.

National Gallery seen from Parliament hill

Ottawa was a very impressive city to me and there was much to be admired. It is a clean city with a mostly bilingual population, a punctual bus system, old buildings, cute markets, it's own china town, and lots of yarn shops. But I am afraid for the first couple of days I was not looking at Ottawa and it's attributes I was looking for the North American similarities and dealing with homesickness. As I had mentioned, DH was there on a conference, so after the first day of exploring together I was wandering the city alone. I would not have done it any other way. It was a good experience to be alone and it really helped me to come to peace with my home sickness. My homesickness will always be there and and at times it will be painful, like when I miss a momentous event. But now I feel like it is only a small tug instead of an all-consuming obsession.

ByWard Market, an open air merket with stalls, small artisan stores and restaurants
The bridge that cross over to Quebec
and the tan building is the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
The banners are for every providence.
In this trip I took buses to different yarn stores across the city. This allowed me to get out of the city center and see more of what Ottawa looked like, and of course, buy yarn.

On these small trips across the city I had gotten to the point where I was looking out the window at things that no North American resident probably ever sees. "AWW American suburbs, I miss American suburbs, AWW look at the way the plumbing pipes and the meter are sticking out of the building, I miss that, AWW look at that trashy house with old cars rusting on the lawn, I miss that...." When it got to the point that I actually shed a tear over seeing a corn field (one yarn store was further out). I finally came to the point where I gave myself permission to miss these things and miss them deeply, but without the pain of something that is gone forever. It is ok to be homesick, but it should not be an overwhelming feeling. I have a new home now that is very far away and different, but it is my home. Now, when I leave Spain I will now always miss it too. Ex-pats are a different culture of people. Once you become an Ex-pat you will never truly belong to a culture or country again. You have changed from the person who you were in your home country and will always be different (even if slightly) from the culture or country you now live in.

I had known this theory for quite some time, but the importent thing about this journey is that I realized that it is "OK". I am finally at peace with being an Ex-pat. I have more cultures / countries to love now. Sure I will always miss the US, and especially Colorado, but that is natural and OK too.

The parliament tower, I loved this building it is so impressively graceful.
There were many castle looking buildings downtown,
I think this one was a government building.

Now, Ottawa. The Capital city of Canada, and one I had never been to before. There is a river that runs through the city that separates Ontario from Quebec. Which means that a good portion of the population are completely fluent in both languages. This means no accent in either language, ahh, to be this fluent I am so envious. 

We got there late at night on the 5th, so we rested and were up disgustingly early (local time) to explore the city. We were staying at the Westin near the convention center so we were in the heart of downtown. We were in walking distance of ByWard market so we went and found an 24 hour dinner in which to have breakfast! (I miss those too.) Then we walked around downtown until 10am when the National Gallery opened. They were having a Van Gogh exhibit, and it was awesome. The way that man chose his colors will always fascinate and amaze me.

National Gallery with it's famous spider statue. 

Then we had Thai food. One of the US things I might the most is the "international" restaurants and sections in the grocery stores. We had to eat out a lot in this trip, and tried to eat at a restaurant with a different nationality each time, it was glorious! We went to Yarns Etc that afternoon which was a very nice yarn store with a very nice owner. She has a lovely selection and we had a very nice chat, and then it was time to go and get ready for the conferences registration / opening reception. 

The main Parliament building

The next day I was on my own and I use the time to go to yarn stores and explore the city. I am afraid that I might have stocked up a bit on yarn at every store during this epic vacation, and I might need to find somewhere in my tiny apartment to store it. The first store was Wabi Sabi which had just reopened from vacation. Which was a very nice store with another very nice employee to chat with. This store was the only one I went to that had spinning fiber, but I was too afraid to drag it through both US and Spanish customs on the way back. It turns out that I shouldn't have been worried I walked merrily through both. Spanish customs has a hallway marked "nothing to declare" and you just walk through.

It was so nice to be able to talk to someone in a store easily (i.e. in my native language). Also it was a relief to "fit in" for a while. Most people assumed that I was from Canada, apparently I have a very BC accent.

A fountain at the Museum of civilization looking towards the Ontario side.

The next store was Wool Tyme. This was the one out in the suburbs. It is HUGE. It was a little overwhelming. Remember that I had already been to two yarn shops in the past 24 hours, and had my "coming to peace with my Ex-pat status experience", and had MASSIVE jet lag. All I remember is that it was huge, and it seemed well organized.

Another castle, this time a hotel.

Sunday was my DH's talk in the morning, and really Sunday I did not do much, I was so tired.
Monday we saw the changing of the Guard at Parliament. A free event that involves bag pipes. It was very intricate, and maybe a bit too long (30 minutes to change).

The rest of the trip was basically eating resting, and shopping for books, and clothes. Also going to conference events.
It was a good trip, and I value it mostly for what I learned about myself.

The changing of the guard.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A pictorial walk through the NE part of Retiro

DH and I went out to lunch last weekend at the best Indian food that we have found in Madrid. Then afterwards we decided to walk it off in the Parque de Buen Retiro. Now this park is huge, I man HUGE. But I am not sure we really comprehended the fact that we have walked in it for several day trips and had no idea this section existed. We started out in the section were the ruined church was transported (in the NE corner) and then we walked South.

This book commemorates the book fair that happens every year in Madrid.

There was a part with these charming tiles.

As well as charming mosaics.

A gigantic creepy elf statue, and I think that this is where it started. What I mean is that the garden started taking on an Alice and Wonderland vibe.

There is this pit to commemorate that there used to be a zoo here. They have an iron cut out and a plaque for every type of animal that they used to have. You see the arbors in the distance? That is the path you need to take to get to Wonderland.

The tree started to take odd shapes.

Ok this is a nice touch. This is where you can leave books for other people to read, a book donation station.

And this is the garden that really reminds me of the Red Queen's garden.

It is a stunningly beautiful section of the park, and remarkably not crowded for a Saturday afternoon.