Category Archives: Germany

Where do you draw your energy from – the Sea, Rivers, Lakes, Forest or some place else?

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Sometimes I get stuck in a rut only noticing what is not in line with my ideal, which for instance would include both lakes/sea AND plentiful trees. Last week I’ve been able to start enjoying more of something that is important to me: the Forest! To me it’s both cleansing and soothing and helps me re-energise. Just nearby to my home I’ve found many locations where I wanted to linger and identified places that would be perfect for ‘mindfulness moments’, reminding myself to take a blanket with me the next time I go ( & maybe even a little picnic).

 

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I sensed something within me awakening – I felt something like a sensation of déjà vu, it felt comforting and familiar yet awe inspiring! The majestic, towering trees and the beauty of nature help put things into perspective. It’s comforting to rediscover the familiar peace I was often able to regain during moments of teenage angst on walks in the forests of my youth in Finland, but now instead locally in nearby German forests. This is something I couldn’t do easily in Cornwall, as the woods there are quite rare and small!

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Although not quite the sea, but rivers like the Rhine are actually huge; It is the second longest river in Central and Western Europe!

My old home in the south-west of England may have had the sea which I dearly love, but Germany has an abundance of lush forests with trickling streams and flowing rivers. Now that I feel like I’m moving towards a better work – life balance, I seem to have more ‘head-space’ to notice more of the lovely things my new home in Germany has to offer. I know that spending more time in nature is good for our well-being, so making time for this is crucial for me personally and due to too many demands on my time over the past few years I’ve neglected this. After all,  there is much research supporting the importance of spending time outside being crucial for all of us. In fact, Mind (a UK based mental health charity) state that ‘Ecotherapy should be recognised as a clinically valid treatment for mental distress’.

Hello Spring!!

Magnolia blossoms on a tree across the road

Magnolia blossoms on a tree across the road

It’s been very quiet on my blog for too long now… There are good reasons for that though, as I just became too overwhelmed by demands on my time. When a person feels stretched by responsibilities and stress levels elevate, it’s too easy to filter the world through a negative perspective (what’s the opposite of rose-tinted spectacles?). So not only did I lack time for blogging, I didn’t want to moan, as wallowing doesn’t help me, nor anyone who happens to read my blog! My aim is to start updating my blog regularly again, as I have a plan in place which will hopefully ease my schedule a bit 🙂 Afterall, I try to help patients achieve a healthy work/life balance, so I should do this for myself as well!

The woodland walk just 5 minutes from our flat!

The woodland walk just 5 minutes from our flat!

After feeling quite disappointed with several aspects of my life in Germany, I decided that although some things I cannot change (i.e. a couple of very hostile neighbors), I can however try to immerse myself more into the local culture and also start doing more things I enjoy. I decided to sign up for German classes!! This sounds simple enough but unfortunately it wasn’t, as I needed to start at ABSOLUTE beginners level because I haven’t learnt any German at school. English & Swedish are compulsory subjects in Finnish schools, but German isn’t; right now I’m kind of wishing it had been 😉 Unfortunately, there was a 3 month delay in starting the actual lessons as there weren’t enough people with no previous German knowledge to achieve the minimum group size!

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One great aspect about having lessons in a small group is the moral support, from just simply relating to each others struggles in learning the language as adults. German is not easy – I wish I still had the Neuroplasticity of a child!! Luckily, the group is small enough for each of us to get adequate individual instruction from the teacher. At this stage I personally would not want to have lessons in a larger group or completely alone.

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Enjoying the sun with family on a sunny spring day near Wiesbaden’s beautiful Marktkirche!

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In the park

I’m now looking at life here in Germany with cautious optimism, which wavers at times, but the stretches of feeling more content are a bit more frequent. Spring is also well under way in Wiesbaden, which I think is my favourite season here! It’s difficult not to feel more positive when surrounded by all the fresh green leaves in the abundant trees and beautiful blossoms everywhere!! Also, with the translation help of an expat friend, who speaks fantastic German, I’ve been able to start taking life-drawing lessons. This is a nice counterbalance to all the intellectual processing I do with work and now with German lessons as well. In fact I end my week with Friday art lessons usually followed by a glass of wine and nice meal in one of the many lovely restaurant we have here in Wiesbaden. So really, in the grand scheme of things, I can’t complain too much!

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Frankfurter Grüne Soße is in season again – I’m told it’s made with 7 fresh spring herbs. I love having this at the traditional German Restaurant Uhrturm. So delicious with tender braised beef and roast potatoes!

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Hope you have a Happy May Day or ‘Hauskaa Vappua’ as they say in Finland!!

Ps. I’ve neglected to mention the “Liebster Award” award nomination I’ve received from Gill from 
http://coteetcampagne.wordpress.com; I will come back to that soon ☺ Thank you kindly Gill – I’ve enjoyed your blog too!

Balcony ‘garden’!

My small selection of flowers, veggies and herbs are doing quite nicely despite the heat wave we had… In any case I think they enjoyed the soaring temperature more than I did 🙂 I’m very much a novice at growing in pots and on the balcony, as I’ve always owned a garden. However, living in a city now has persuaded me to try my best on the two balconies we have!

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Every morning I’m joined by many buzzing bees while I have my morning tea and yoghurt 🙂

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These chilies seemed to appear in just one very hot day, during which I was concerned that my plants would parish from the heat as there is no shade on the south facing balcony. We are planning on installing an awning at some point, as right now when the sun is at its hottest no-one wants to sit out there!

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The Hungarian peppers made a similar sudden appearance over night – I swear!

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The cat was enjoying a moment of cool temperatures on the east balcony during the early morning before this too over-heated. The oregano, basil and mint planted on the little east balcony have flourished as well. I’ve admittedly been more diligent than usual with my watering schedule during the heat wave.

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This is the first time I’ve grown tomatoes in a pot; I think they are also coming along splendidly.

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The rocket is also flourishing!

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Plum tomatoes are coming along nicely too. Here they are called eier tomate which translates to egg tomatoes 🙂

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Even the small potted gooseberry bush has produced a couple of berries!!

Longing for lakes or the sea…

My yearning for water has intensified with the recent stifling heat we’ve been experiencing!! As I’ve almost always lived near the sea or at least a very large lake, I feel I need to start researching swimming options nearby. There is nothing better than plunging yourself into cool refreshing water to make scorching weather more tolerable 🙂 I know there are plenty of swimming pools and spas here locally, but the thought of them probably becoming over-crowded the minute it’s very warm just isn’t that appealing to me. At least it’s very lush and green in the Wiesbaden area and walking in the woods does cool you down a bit!!

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The only lake I’ve been to so far whilst living in Germany is Lake Constance, which is the country’s largest lake. It was very beautiful, but as we spent Christmas there it was the wrong time of year for swimming!! At the time, however, I thought it would be lovely to visit again in the summer. Below you can see some pics I snapped when it was chilly, now I think it just looks refreshing!!! I can imagine how gorgeous this area is in the summer 🙂

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I’ve also heard that Lake Alpsee by Neuschwanstein castle is very scenic! I wonder if it might be good for swimming as well… If anyone out there has been, I’d love to hear of your experience. I’ve also seen pictures and heard good things about Lake Müritz, Königssee & Titesee. The closest lake I know of, Mummelsee, is still quite a long 2 1/2 hour drive from Wiesbaden and I believe it is rather small, so I suspect it gets packed on balmy weather 😦 Would love to hear of pretty and peaceful lakes that are a shorter drive to Wiesbaden (near Frankfurt)!!!

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konigsee4 The above photos of Königssee are from the website: http://www.bayern.by/koenigssee

For now I’m trying to cool down with fans, ice water, cool showers and by closing all the shutters on the windows to block out the intense sun. To think I initially hated the look of window shutters here in Germany, which are usually not like the pretty wooden shutters on French houses ; they are actually very functional and do serve their purpose. Now I’m so grateful I didn’t have them removed, as our builder talked us out of it!!!!

Historical photo of our building exterior!!

I just thought I’d pop by on this sunny day to quickly post a picture I recently received from one of our neighbours. Below you can see a photo of our Art Nouveau house from back in 1912 (complete with traditionally attired little boys from the era)!! I think it’s charming, but sadly the house facade has not been maintained as regularly as it should have been. This building was owned completely by someone who currently occupies just one flat. He used to rent out all of the apartments in this building, now he only has a couple of smaller flats that he rents out. Before we moved in the people who owned our apartment were unfortunately not interested in renovating the facade of the building (or perhaps could not afford it). Now that we have moved into the building and being fanatic period property lovers, it appears that the majority of the owners in this building are keen to see sympathetic repairs carried out. We are slowly getting building companies to come in to give quotes, so we can hopefully make some progress on this front very soon 🙂

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A list of my 10 favourite things about where I live in Germany to overcome a bout of homesickness…

I woke up the other morning missing the sea and feeling a bit more homesick than usual… I’ve always lived a maximum of 15 mins from the seaside! Obviously in Cornwall it was actually difficult to get very far from the sea as we were surrounded by it. Whereas, in Finland we lived in the Turku area, then for a short while in Kemi and Vaasa, which are all on the coastline of Finland. Even when I lived in the US, our home was only a few minutes away from Lake Michigan, which is HUGE and doesn’t really feel like a lake at all. So apart from a year when I lived in Santa Fe (New Mexico is beautiful in it’s own way), I’ve always resided near a large body of water! So life here in beautiful but land-locked Wiesbaden differs a lot from what I’m accustomed to, as the only way to get a dose of waterside surrounds are to walk/cycle along the Rhine. This in itself is also really pleasant, but not quite the same thing as a beach.

So homesickness motivated me to continue with my theme (inspired by the everyday life challenge) of taking notice and being grateful for what I have. So I decided that rather than complaining about what I’m lacking, I’ll create a list of ten things I really like about Germany and where I live! It actually did make me feel much happier 🙂

1)   Even though I live in a city with a population of 273,000 (plus approximately 19,000 US citizens due to the military base) everything is really clean & tidy and I feel the buildings in Wiesbaden are especially well maintained. I am aware that larger cities like Berlin and Cologne are not quite as super clean as Wiesbaden, but they still aren’t too bad in my opinion. I think Germans just generally appreciate orderliness!

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2)   Healthcare here in Germany is generally very good and so it should be, as the national health insurance contributions are much higher than in the UK. I’ve worked in the NHS for many years and I’m sad to say that no matter how much internal ‘tightening-up’ of budgets takes place, the funding shortage is not going to be resolved. I think the only way England can hope to realistically improve the NHS is by increasing NI contributions or directing more tax money towards healthcare rather than other things.

3)   The forests here are substantial and not just little woods! In Cornwall I used to miss the forests of Finland very badly at times. (I’m trying to remind myself about this each time I miss the sea 😉 ) I find walking in the woods not just enjoyable, but therapeutic and de-stressing. There’s quite a lot of research out there now evidencing how important it is to be in nature, as regularly as possible. This of course doesn’t need to be the woods it can be the seaside, fields & meadows, a park or a garden! Forests just played a big role in my life when growing up; even as a teenager when I was struggling emotionally with something I’d go for a walk in the woods near my house and usually came back feeling better.Image

4)   This may sound silly, but I’m so excited about having wild blueberries and mushrooms again. These were a regular part of our diet in Finland and I often craved them when I lived in the UK! Now in the autumn I can treat myself to many delicious meals with porcinis, chanterelles, truffles etc. and I also freeze berries and mushrooms to eat outside of their season.

5)   This part of Germany has an amazing wine culture. In fact Wiesbaden has the largest Wine festival in all of Germany every summer 🙂 It only takes 10-15 minutes to drive to the closest vineyards from Wiesbaden, where you can take walks surrounded by vines overlooking the Rhein river!!ImageThis is the nearby Schloss Vollrads vineyard and country estate.

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6)   Delicious food and and great cultural experiences! I think many people elsewhere in Europe underestimate the German food experience. I adore the traditional farmers markets most cities have 2-3 times a week. The fruit and vegetables are wonderfully fresh and Germans are very clued up on seasonal eating. Some of the best berries I’ve ever tasted have been here in Germany (can’t wait for strawberry season to kick into full swing)! Also, Germans really know how to prepare their meat properly and portions are usually generous. Furthermore, this region has some fantastic restaurants from various other food cultures, which I’m gradually exploring. See more about eateries and food at http://www.eatingwiesbaden.com – a great food blog run by a British expat! Further cultural delights can be enjoyed by taking walks on the leafy streets of Wiesbaden, lined with lovely buildings and villas. I love the Art Neouveau architecture of this town, as I’ve almost always lived in historical houses, so I feel more at home in this town than I might somewhere completely post-war/postmodern! I should also add that this town has a fantastic theatre, orchestra and ballet.ImageImage

7)   The climate is amazing in comparison to what we usually had in Cornwall and it’s better than Finland as well! OK so Cornwall may be more moderate on average, whereas Hessen (the county where I now live) fluctuates much more, however, it’s fabulous to have a long warm summer and cold enough winters to sometimes get snow. I know many Americans living here may disagree, as some are from the permanently warm southern states. I, however, love the clearly defined change of seasons. It’s what I’m accustomed to while I grew up in Finland and as a little girl in Wisconsin. However, it’s also a blessing that it never gets as unbearably cold here as it does in Finland during winters!

8)   Germany not only has beautiful forests, but also proper mountains for skiing and other winter sport and as a bonus the Swiss Alps are not much further if higher altitudes are required!! I don’t live in the mountainous area of Germany, but it’s not a long drive! We are not lacking in gorgeous scenary here either though, as we have the rivers and lot’s of scenic areas of hills and valleys. In fact I can see the Taunus hills from my windows!

ImageThese photos were, however, taken near Zürich which is only about 4 hours by car from us. This is quicker than it used to take us to drive from Cornwall to London!!

Image9)   Christmas markets and Christmas in general is fantastic in Germany! Even when we still lived in the UK, my daughter and I accompanied B. on his business travels here several times during Christmas market season. They are just so atmospheric with lovely crafts and food to buy, as well as Glühwein of course!!

ImageImage10) Last but not least, the location of Wiesbaden is very handy for travelling to many other European countries. So visit’s to France, Switzerland or Italy only take a few hours by car! It used to take me just as long to drive from Truro in Cornwall to my daughter’s university in Sussex, as it does to drive for a holiday to Lake Como in Northern Italy from Wiesbaden 🙂

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