I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Germany (55)


On that same afternoon

We arrived back in Warnemünde in time to explore the town itself because by all accounts, it was well worth a visit.




It was only a short walk, past this Russian tall ship and through a tunnel beneath the railway tracks into town.




On such a glorious afternoon, everyone was out enjoying the fine weather and the harbour was bustling with visitors and locals alike.




We wandered up the riverside walk, taking note of the ice cream shops, the smoked fish shops and the inevitable bucket and spade emporia.




A short trip around the bay would have been a good idea, had we not got something a little longer in mind for the next few days.




The mouth of the river was marked by a lighthouse and an elegant bronze statue.




As we stood admiring it all, a small boat came in, returning from a fishing trip.  That had been one of our options for this morning and though it might have been fun, it was hard to imagine how we could have enjoyed anything as much as our visit to Schwerin.




Hot on the tails of the fishing boat was a Scandinavian ferry.  It would be easy to sit and pass several hours here, just watching the ships come and go.




But we wanted to see more of the town and the beach.  As you can see, we weren’t very far from home.




We ambled along the promenade until we came to an opening and turned right to head for the beach.




This was a well maintained stretch of sand, perfect to bring the family, as many had done today.




Typical of the Baltic Sea beaches, the Strandkorbchen were available for hire.  the German equivalent of a deckchair, they were set out in rows for miles along the sand.




As far as the eye can see.




Not everyone wants to sit in a Strandkorbchen though, and there were areas where some were simply sitting on towels, but others had brought small tent-type sunshades.  These seemed especially popular with families who had very small children, who very sensibly take sun care seriously.




I was impressed too, by the accessibility of the beach.  Not only was there a walkway from the promenade right down to the water, with changing rooms and loos nearby,




there were facilities for those needing assistance to get into the water too.  So good that everyone here can enjoy the fresh, clear water of the Baltic Sea.




Yes, of course I couldn’t resist!  As I stood, ankle deep in the clear, fresh water, I had a conversation with a German woman nearby.  Was the water “frisch” or was it “kalt”?  We ummed and aahed and decided that yes, it as “kalt”!  She didn’t go any further than knee deep!

I have swum in these waters, just before I met my Hero, when I was in this part of Germany with the Isle of Wight Youth Orchestra.  Maybe I’d have gone in again today, but I didn’t have swimming things with me and the German FKK tradition wasn’t so appealing right now.




Back to the prom, then, with fresh, cool (and sandy) feet!




We walked back past the artdeco Kurhaus, where people would come to stay for a therapeutic holiday and enjoy treatments for various ailments.  Germany has a long tradition of “kur” and in the pre-reunification days, workers would be prescribed time here every few years.  I can imagine that a week in such surroundings would be very therapeutic indeed, but I’d want this weather too!




Our route back to the ship took us along leafy streets lined with guest houses and small hotels.




Past more bucket and spade type stores.




And past a small supermarket, where I nipped in to get a few packets of our favourite sauce and a couple of magazines.  I was interested to see the plastic bottle recycling unit here in the entrance, and the queue of youngsters waiting to deposit their empty water bottles in it.  I didn’t get a close look but it appeared to do more than simply store the bottles in there – it certainly crushed them and possibly offered a small financial incentive too.




In no time at all, we were home again, feeling ready for a shower and a cool glass of something.  The evening promised to be interesting: we had arranged to meet friends for drinks, we had dinner planned and then a show.

Not a dull moment whatsoever.

(which is probably why I’m still blogging about yesterday today!)


and then

we crossed the landing, with Hans Peter, the castle guide, and were shown into the first of several beautiful rooms.




On the way, I noticed this lovely frieze, the motifs beautifully picked out in finely painted detail.  The castle was in great shape and had been very well restored/maintained.




The first room, the “room of legends” was decorated with scenes from traditional German history and folklore.  I imagine that, if you are the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, you would have a rich history of your own family to record in this way, too.  Suffice to say, this was a lovely room indeed and it was a good job Hans Peter pointed out the floor or else I might have overlooked it completely.




Fine marquetry patterns were worked in there, reminiscent of Hawaiian quilting and applique designs.  Right up my street.




Though there was time to look at things properly and listen to Hans Peter, he kept things moving along and we were soon in the next room, named after the gentleman in the cameo above our heads: Field Marshall Blücher




Another beautiful wooden floor, with exquisite marquetry patterns making the most of the wide range of colours and grain of the timber.




“Anyone from Canada?” Hans Peter asked in the next room.  Someone identified herself, to which Hans Peter replied “Thank you!”  This room was panelled in Canadian Maple, and if your attention was not overwhelmed by the amazing porcelain displays, gifts sent down the river from Russia, you’d have noted yet another superb floor.  An interesting fact about the porcelain was shared by Hans Peter, though: the huge and very fragile porcelain vessels were packed with butter for their journey down the river – what a great means of keeping them intact, don’t you agree?




The ceiling in here was interesting too, and we were challenged to suggest the material from which it had been made.  It wasn’t wood, nor was it plaster. Quite often in such circumstances, the answer is leather, but I imagined it to be way too fine for that to be correct.  In the end, Hans Peter had to tell us: Papier mache!




Moving through the rooms, via the Sylvesterzimmer,  a narrow room with a fireplace where lead would be melted on New Year’s Eve and dropped into water to form a shape, from which the future could be told.  “You British read tea leaves.  We have a slightly different method”.  As we progressed, I scribbled notes, no longer attempting to draw those floor patterns though, for they were coming thick and fast and every one was different.  The floor in Grand Duchess Augusta’s tea room above, was slightly different, however.




Hans Peter pointed out the slight variation in pattern, where the spot design is replaced by a cross.  This marks the place where Augusta died.




We continued on the next floor, through the library with a secret passage behind the bookshelves.




Here, I lingered a little, to speak to one of the museum stewards about the jewellery in the case.  An exquisite set of mourning jewellery, I asked about the material from which it was made.  I couldn’t imagine it to be made of jet, so fine was it carved.  Quite so, it was actually all made from iron – and incredibly beautiful.  We remarked how contemporary the design appears too, and agreed, we’d both wear any piece of it today!  Sadly the lighting made photographs difficult, so I only managed this single braclet – the earrings, brooches and necklaces were remarkable.




Whilst I’d been lingering and chatting, the group had moved on into the richly decorated Throne Room.  High above our heads were panels depicting the major towns of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and of course, Schwerin itself was right there, centre stage right above the throne.






Here was the finest floor of all, needless to say.




Leaving the throne room, we found ourselves in the midst of the ancestors.  Here were huge portraits of former Dukes, including Albrecht,




Oho, we were told to take note of the size of his feet for the richer the man, the bigger his feet!




We were also advised to take note of the pair of clippers dangling from his belt, used, we were told, to snip of the ears of anyone who might get in his way.  Eeeeeuuwww.

What do you think of his knees, anyway?




On that note, we were more or less done with the castle.  Hans Peter took us out through the room with pictures of the family homes here and there.  In 1918, when the family were ousted from the castle after WW1, they’d had to make do with the rather less grand property they owned in Ludwigslust.  As was noted, it was hardly slumming it…




And that was more or less it for the castle.  We retraced our steps over the bridge and back to the edge of town where we had been dropped off earlier this morning.




We wandered past the fine state properties: the museum and the theatre and then past the government offices into the square.




We had a short time to explore Schwerin independently, then, so headed across the square to the cathedral.




We had just long enough to take a look inside.




A little musical concert was about to begin and a couple of recorder players were getting themselves tuned and ready, so we quietly walked around the outer perimeter of the lofty nave, heading first for the area behind the altar, beneath some fine stained glass windows.




Here, in a rather shabby area of the church, were two grand memorials.




They were commemorating the lives of two Grand Dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin: two of the people who had inhabited the castle we’d just viewed, in fact.




Though the actual tombs were grand, in a solid, Germanic style, the area itself was a little careworn.  No flowers, no polish or candles, just a few broken stones and a rather watermarked floor.  I felt a little sad about that.




A little further along was another tomb, I presume for another member of the family.




And more: I felt that surely the people who had built Schwerin deserved rather better.




Taking note of a couple of war memorials as we went, we made our way back to the huge doorway where we’d come in.




The recorder players were about to start their concert and we had to keep an eye on the time.




Nevertheless, we couldn’t pass a Niederegger Marzipan shop without popping in to make a small purchase, could we?




A short walk back through the small alley and we were back where we’d started.




The castle was well worth a visit and we’ll remember our morning in Schwerin fondly.




It was just about lunchtime too – maybe time for a little something?


Our kind of day

Filled with interesting things, people and places from beginning to end.  (Oh, and there might have been a bit of food and drink in there too)




It began pretty early.  We’d set the alarm for six, because we had an early start for our trip to Schwerin today.  I poked my nose out of the verandah to see the sun rising above an undoubtedly German landscape.  Welcome to Warnemünde!  We had just arrived.




We began with breakfast in our favourite spot.  A bit breezy out there at this early hour but we enjoyed the fresh air as always.




A bit like Richard Scarry’s Busy World, we watched as trains went to and fro, the ferries crossed the harbour and the traffic on the large dual carriageway sped past.  Come on, we’re ready to get going!




Hello Germany!




Our day began with an hour’s ride in a westerly direction, past the former Eastern bloc apartment buildings, now smartened up but still looking pretty bleak and forbidding in places.




But soon we were out into the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern countryside, some of the richest arable land in the country.




Arriving in Schwerin, we immediately understood what our guide had been telling us, that this was a city of lakes and fine buildings. 




We were about to get a feel for the place from the largest of the lakes; the second largest lake in Germany, in fact.




As soon as we were out of the small harbour, we got the picture!




Now Schwerin is the capital of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and as such, has all the parliamentary offices and departments here around the lake.  This former stable complex was now a large part of that.




As we sailed further out into the lake, we could see what we had really come to see: the Castle.




But it was a lovely morning and we enjoyed an half hour cruise on the water, eyeing up some of those lakeside properties and wondering which one would suit us best.




One of these two, do you think?  Might do nicely…




Of course, really there was only one lakeside property worthy of our consideration, though half of it was taken up by the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern government.  It being rather picturesque and the home state of Angela Merkel as well, it frequently finds itself hosting visiting dignitaries too.




In the morning sunshine, it was looking pretty lovely, in spite of the crane and restoration works.  We looked forward to seeing inside.




Having disembarked for the second time this morning, we made our way to the entrance.  Not this one though, which leads to the government offices – we were shown to the other side, to the historic part of the castle at the rear.  But which is the tradesman’s entrance?




Walking around the pathway gave us a good opportunity to get a closer look, though, especially at these gables which had provoked our curiosity when we saw them from the boat.




Each one was slightly different, being made up of individual motifs and figures.  I had no idea about any of it, but just admired the interest and personal touches to the design.




We were pleased to have enough time to take a quick look around the gardens.




The Orangery and the sunken Parterre were beautiful and would have been a great place to sit with a coffee and a pastry…




With a wonderful view of the lake, we could have sat and gazed at the landscape for a while.




But it was time to move on, time was pressing and we were going to take a look inside as well.  So, having taken a quick snap from the terrace, off we went.




The front/back entrance to the castle is undergoing restoration and, it appears, this is taking quite some time.  Still, they are doing their best to minimise the effect on the appearance of the place.




Stepping inside, my first instinct was to look up at the beautifully painted ceiling vaults.  Somehow, it was exactly as I’d expected – brown and white, simple but decorative.  Rather lovely, in fact.




Hans Peter, our guide said that our visit began with some training, to climb the stairs.  Thankfully, the stairs were rather well designed for ease of climbing, being shallow and wide.  I’ll share what we found at the top of them in my next post!


Jetzt fängt das gute Leben an


It’s December.  Yesterday, we were still in Berlin but packed and ready for home last evening.  There were just one or two things left on our list and having tracked them down, we planned a long, late lunch before heading back to the airport and home.




Checking the first thing off our list was easy.  Every time we passed this stall in the Christmas Market outside our hotel, we noted the candles for our windmill at home but hadn’t wanted to schlep them around all day.  Whenever we came back later in the day, we forgot.  So this morning, we decided that we had to buy them then or risk going home without any.  We had a jolly chat with the lady running the stall who said she’d be there from 9am until 10pm.  That’s a working day and a half!




The giant sized windmill outside the shopping centre was doing brisk business for it was a chilly morning with a cold wind blowing.




We headed for Leipzigerplatz, where we’d read there was an enormous shopping mall.  Really?




Really.  Who’d have known?  The shop fronts are small and unassuming from the street and though we’ve been walking past the square every day when we went to the U Bahn, we’d never noticed it.




Though the majority of the stores inside were the usual familiar names, one stood out for me.  I had come across Idee in Wiesbaden a couple of years ago, but had forgotten about it till now.  My hero happily sat using the free wifi whilst I browsed the wonderful selection of classy craft materials.  There’s the morning gone, then Winking smile




No, not really!  I’d still been looking out for my socks and the Peek und Cloppenburg department store in the mall here didn’t sell Falke, sadly.  We discovered the reason why when we looked in the shop next door.  Hooray!  Two pairs of Falke Berlin wool-cotton knee socks to add to my collection.




It was good browsing the mall at this time of day – nobody much around.  Both of us were ready for a hot drink now though, so decided we’d head back to the Christmas market and find a little something there.




We went back across the square and over the ever-present reminder of days gone by.  The wall went right through the centre of Leipzigerplatz and we have spent the last few days criss-crossing it.




A hot Eierpunsch hit the spot. It was pretty potent, too!




We giggled and wondered if the man on the crepes stall has a special Nutella knife to get into the corners?!




Later, having checked out of the hotel, we enjoyed lunch in Lindenbräu, watching as a lady took a folding ruler from her orange handbag and carefully measured the base of each of those fairy-light figures.  Having done that, she fiddled about with something amongst the Christmas trees.  Why?  We have no idea, but that didn’t stop us coming up with a few silly reasons anyway.




And that was that.  Stuffed full of beer and Bavarian goodness, we grabbed a taxi to the funny old airport at Tegel.




I went in search of a couple of favourite magazines and came across this interesting translation: Julia’s Kinderschokolade = Julia Child’s chocolate?  (or should that be Julia’s Children’s chocolate, do you think?)




My favourite Schöner Wohnen and Living at Home magazines, both chock full of Christmassy ideas and seasonal recipes.  I love them.  As I headed for the till, I spotted an eye-catching new title  – Ma Vie.  I flicked through it and added it to my bundle.  A card was attached to the cover with the words:

Jetzt fängt das gute Leben an

though somehow, I think it started some time ago…


In the Bundestag

We’d tried to book a visit to the Bundestag when we arrived but were unsuccessful; there was no availability until next weekend.  We felt cross that we hadn’t thought ahead, but the concierge in our hotel had an idea – he’d book us a table for dinner!




So this evening, we set out in drizzly rain and found ourselves in front of the Brandenburgertor with hardly any traffic.  Picture time!




Just to our left, outside the French Embassy lay hundreds of flowers and candles.  Another sad reminder of events in Paris the weekend before last.




By the time we reached the Bundestag, the rain was falling heavily and though that looks like a lovely moon in the photo, it’s actually a raindrop (or two…)




Through security and up in the lift, we dodged the rain a couple more times as we scuttled across the roof to the restaurant entrance.




We had a beautiful window table with a fine view of the city – though as we noted, looking east there’s not much of a skyline, although the TV tower at Alexanderplatz kept coming into view and disappearing again as the clouds came down during the evening.




The food was delicious, although we’d both choose somewhere offering more hearty fare normally.  In particular, my pudding was quite cute I thought – a hazelnut parfait wearing a spiced prune beret with winter spiced biscuits and tiny plums.  As yummy as it looks, believe me!




Before leaving, we walked up to the top of the dome and down again, getting dripped on from time to time because it was still pouring with rain outside.




A fine view of the cabinet meeting rooms from here, too.  Don’t you love the transparency of government here?




No—one sitting at this time of night, of course.




With a last look through the “ja”, “nein” and “enthaltung” division doors, we went out into the rain and back to the S bahn.




Fingers crossed, the weather front will have passed through by morning.