Tag Archives: Germany

An Unlucky Star…Friday Fictioneers.

The doors of Alcatraz slammed shut on Jack’s trip, and the key turned one way and wouldn’t turn back. Indeed, that damned key was jammed in the keyhole. Wouldn’t budge.
Jack was 16 years old and about to launch out of the nest on the school trip of a lifetime… Sydney, Berlin, Munich, Rome, Pompeii., Paris. Then, it all went up in smoke thanks to the coronavirus. Why did it have to happen now? Right at this very moment in time? Gran was right. We were born under an unlucky star.

Now, all he had was his new cap:”Stay Home”.

13th March, 2020

100 Words exactly.

…..

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. This week’s featured image was kindly provided by  © Jan Wayne Fields.

This story is more fact than fiction. Just over a month ago, our son was supposed to be flying out of Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith International Airport bound for Berlin on a school history excursion. It was a strange thing sending him on this trip, because my husband and I haven’t been overseas since our honeymoon almost 20 years ago. Of course, it would’ve been nice to go ourselves. However, sometimes you make those sacrifices as parents, the same way mine have done for me through the years. You’d give your kids the shirt off your back at times. Besides, our son’s been through a lot due to my health most of his life and I sort of viewed this trip as a kind of compensation package. Yet, it wasn’t guilt money. It was a gift straight from the heart, especially for that blond curley-haired 3 years old who saw me looking absolutely wrecked in hospital and asked: “Mummy better?”

I felt absolutely shattered when the trip was cancelled. That this very special treasure we’ve all but handed over to him was smashed to smithereens and destroyed.

That was on the 2nd of March when the NSW Health Department banned all out of state travel due to the coronavirus. It was at least a week before the WHO declared a pandemic, and while we were starting to think that the trip might be cancelled, it still seemed a bit premature when the axe fell. However, their decision was on the money. A day or two later, the coronavirus struck Italy with a vengeance, and the rest as they say, was history. We are very thankful that the trip was cancelled and the group wasn’t overseas when this all happened. Indeed, like the rest of us, he’s had to stay home along with mum, dad and his sister. In many ways, he should be thanking his lucky stars and yet…

I guess there a lot us out there wanting to hit the coronavirus over the head with a baseball bat and put it out of action. You can add us to the list, but our concerns go beyond the loss of his trip. We’re very aware of all the people who’ve lost their lives and the grief of their family and friends. Each and every one was loved and cherished. I have acute lung issues and know many people who are equally vulnerable as well as our seniors. We all keep hoping it will all just blow over, but it seems to have a mind of it’s own.

I hope you and yours are well and safe and please take care.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long. I started researching my Great Great Uncle’s service in France during WWI and the project snowballed into a pending book (which still has a very long way to go!!)

K – Köln (Cologne), Germany…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to what I surely hope is Day 11, of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge, where we’ll be touching down in Köln (Cologne) on the River Rhine. I was in Köln back in May, 1992 with my best friend Lisa, and it was our second port of call on our great European backpacking adventure. I didn’t know much about about Köln before the trip. However, my grandmother used to wear 4711 Eau de Cologne when I was a little girl, and while it was mesmerising then, it was more of a “granny fragrance” and most definitely not something I’d wear myself. However, you’re welcome to visit the Farina Fragrance Museum near the Town Hall.

4711

When I think back to our time in Köln, the first thing that comes to mind is hunger. The second is food envy. By this stage, our initial stash of bread rolls from our first free night’s accommodation in the KLM Hotel in Amsterdam, had well and truly run out. Ever conserving our pennies, we thought very carefully before lashing out on a punnet of strawberries to share for dinner, which tragically turned out to be sour. So, it take much imagination to put yourself in that picture. Just to rub salt in the wound, we were staying at the Youth Hostel, and a group of German high school students was also staying there and while we were starving, they were all being dished up huge, delectable bowls full of spaghetti. While we were drooling, crippled with growling hunger and covertous food envy; these spoiled brats, didn’t finish their meals. Indeed, the dining room was filled with half-empty bowls and if we didn’t have any self-dignity (or perhaps if we’d been travelling alone and didn’t have an eye witness) we could’ve polished off their leftovers, and even licked the bowls. The irony is, of course, that we were still flush with funds at this point, and I actually arrived home with enough money to buy a return ticket to Europe. However, it was that uncertainty of not knowing what lay ahead, which reigned our spending in (something we know all too well in these particularly uncertain times).

Aside from the hunger,  magnificent Köln Cathedral was absolutely sensational, particularly since this was the first cathedral we’d ever visited in Europe and it was so far beyond anything we have back in Australia , that it blew me away. . Apparently, the cathedral is Germany’s most visited landmark. Construction began back in 1248 but was halted in 1473, unfinished and work did not restart until the 1840s, when the edifice was completed to its original Medieval plan in 1880. It’s hard to imagine something being unfinished for so long, and it makes me feel so much better about all my own unfinished projects. 

DSC_9050

There was another aspect to our visit to Köln Cathedral. As it turned out, we were in Köln during the 50th Anniversary of “Operation Millenium” where Britain almost bombed Köln out of existence in retaliation for German attacks on London and Warsaw. Indeed, on the evening of 30 May 1942, over 1,000 bombers took off for Cologne under the Command of Bomber Harris. Köln was decimated. All but flattened, except for the magnificent Cathedral which miraculously survived peering imperiously over the carnage. I’m not going to make any apologies for not liking war or its after effects. This wasn’t some virtual experience in a video game. You can find out more about it here HERE. I’m yet to finish watching this documentary but it seems rather balanced and definitely has some incredible and very sobering footage.

National-Archives-Mass_bomber_raid_on_Cologne_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqRW1mvIVYlV4JG0MIT8wtjBRjid0pkpSoel9MG7q99NA

As part of the anniversary commemorations, there was a small protest outside Köln Cathedral called the “Cologne Complaining Wall for Peace”. I was fascinated by this at the time, particular as an Australian who’d only been in Europe for a week and it really opened my eyes. It’s always good to hear more than one side of any story, and I usually prefer multiple angles to really shake things up. So, now I’m going to peer at these photos from 28 years ago hoping my dodgy eyesight can glean something from all those years ago.

Here goes:

A Monument for “Bomber Harris”.

May 31, 1992 is the 50th Anniversary of the 1,000 bomber attack on Cologne. British Airfield Marshal Arthur Harris ordered the attack. The destruction of Dresden on February 1, 1945 was his work, too.

In May

The British Government plans to dedicate a monument to him in Central London with funds from the veterans’ organization.

“Bomber Command Harris”

KILL ONE,

and you’re a murderer.

Kill 100,000

and you are a hero.

To keep matters straight- Harris’s carpet bombing attacks “to demoralise the civilian population” were a reaction to the raids which Nazi Germany committed against cities like:

Guernica (1937)

Warsaw (1939)

Rotterdam (1940)

Coventry (1940)

Belgrade (     )

Cologne-and-Cathedral-1944

Köln in 1944. 

The display also included photos of Köln after the bombings, showing the monumental devastation. Look at it now, and on first impressions, you’d never know until you  take a deeper look and discern the new from the old.

While I acknowledge bringing up controversial and rather grim details of WWII is rather hard hitting, I do believe we need to know about this things. That we can’t just fill our head with happy thoughts, and hope to acquire wisdom. That as much as we campaign and long for peace, that war inevitably seems to comes in one form or another and we not only need to be prepared, we need to know how to fight and defend ourselves against the enemy. As it stands at the moment, that enemy is a virus but the principles remain, especially if you don’t want to be a sitting duck for attack.

DSC_9052

However, before I move on from its beautiful Churches and cathedrals, I thought we might check out Groß St Martin’s Cathedral. It’s a Romanesque Catholic church and its foundations (circa 960 AD) rest on remnants of a Roman chapel, built on what was then an island in the Rhine. The church was later transformed into a Benedictine monastery. The current buildings, including a soaring crossing tower that is a landmark of Cologne’s Old Town, were erected between 1150-1250.

St Martins 1946

The church was badly damaged during World War II, and there was a question of whether the church should be restored, and how it should be restored, was the subject of debate. Should the church be left as a ruined memorial to the war? Or should it be fully restored? And if so, which period in the history of Great Saint Martin represents the “original” church? A series of public lectures were held in 1946/47, under the theme “What happens to the Cologne Churches?”. These lectures involved artists, politicians, architects and restorers, and mirrored public debates on the issue. In spite of some public scepticism, restoration work began in 1948, and the church was opened to worshippers when the interior restorations were completed in 1985, after a long wait of forty years. The altar was consecrated by Archbishop Joseph Höffner, who installed holy relics of Brigitta von Schweden, Sebastianus and Engelbert of Cologne, in its sepulchre. So, it hadn’t been open long before I was there.

Cologne Hot Chocolate

Lastly, after rousing your sympathy for this little Aussie Battler starving away over in Germany, I do have a confession to make. I did manage to find one indulgence. This was a hot chocolate with whipped cream. I’d never had one before, but a pact was made. It was divine. I absolutely loved its pure indulgence. Loved it enough to endure the disapproval of the skim brigade. After all, everybody needs a little bit of naughtiness.

On that note, it’s time for us to leave Köln behind. Back in 1992, Köln marked a fork in the road. With Germany in the grip of a train and garbage strike with trains difficult to catch and rubbish piling in the streets, Lisa decided to leave Germany and I can’t remember whether she went back to Amsterdam, or headed onto Prague and Budapest. Meanwhile, I continued further South bound for Heidelberg, accidentally leaving my passport behind in Köln just to complicate matters a little more after having my wallet stolen in Amsterdam only days before. However, as we head along to L in the Blogging A to Z Challenge, we’ll be heading somewhere else but you can visit Heidelberg HERE.

Have you ever been to Köln? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

H- Heidelberg…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to Day 8 of the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Today, we’re flying from Geraldton in Western Australia, back across to Europe and touching down in Heidelberg, Germany where I live for around 6 months back in 1992 while backpacking through Europe.

Heidelberg Castle Door

Knocking on the door of Heidelberg Castle. 

I first arrived in Heidelberg about a week after I arrived in Europe. There was a rail and garbage strike in Germany at the time, and it was difficult to get around. So, when it came to leaving Cologne, my friend decided to head to Budapest while I came to Heidelberg.

At this point, I was incredibly homesick and I remember locking my backpack in the lockers at Heidelberg Railway Station and bursting into tears. I wanted to go home. As you may recall, I’d had my wallet stolen in Amsterdam at the Orange festival and I’d lost my passport in Cologne.  I was missing a very close friend back in Sydney, who was one of the closest friends I’ve ever had. It was one of those friendships which hovered along the very brink between friendship and romance with a bubbling intensity all of its own. Being on a pretty tight budget, I was trying not to call him, but oh me of little self-control buckled when I spotted a phone booth outside the station. Standing there with a handful of German Marks, I poured the coins through the slot and those few precious minutes  were gone in a flash and my emotions were churning around like a washing machine. I wanted to go home, but I’d had a big farewell party before I left, and wasn’t due back for a year. So, I had to tough it out, or I’d have major egg on face.

 

DSC_9106

It was at this point that I came across a group of Christians doing street mission work near the train station. They didn’t know me from a bar of soap. However, when they heard that I’d lost my passport and was feeling lost, they invited me to stay for a few days initially until I could get to the Australian Embassy in Frankfurt for a replacement. I ended up staying with them for about a month then, attending their German Church while also going to an American Baptist Church. This is just what I needed and it suited me better to have more of a lived-in experience than to be moving around like a rolling stone for 6-12 months without any roots in the ground.

DSC_9103

y initial room in the attic where I slept in the blue sleeping bag alongside a young woman from Rottweil who spoke a German dialect and no English. Talk about jumping in the deep end, but so worthwhile and incredibly special. 

 

 

Of course, it would’ve been great to have seen more and especially travelled to places like Rome, Greece, Scotland and Ireland, which I’m still hanging out to see. However, it’s much harder to camp out on someone’s floor when you’re older and now I’m married with family commitments. So, it isn’t an experience I could have later in life. Moreover, I’m exceptionally grateful for the love and hospitality I was shown, and the love we continue to share. It was the experience of a lifetime and probably more in tune with being an exchange student than a backpacker.

DSC_9108

In the Altstadt.

Ultimately, I ended up living in Heidelberg for something like 5-6 months all up. While I was there, I took the family’s daughter to school in Kahlsruhe and while she was in school, I worked in a plant nursery or Gartnerei just helping out. My boss asked me once what I wanted to do when I got back to Australia. I mentioned journalism. Well, she didn’t think I was cut out for this more practical work. She said she’d found it much much easier to communicate with the Polish workers across a language barrier than with me. I’d had no experience of outdoor work like this, and these days I’m renowned for my brown fingers. Yes, I’m a plant killer.

DSC_9100

My desk later on down in the cellar. You will notice there are two clocks on the desks with different times. I was so incredibly homesick that I stuck an Australian $5.00 note to the wall and an American friend gave me the photo of the Sydney Opera House which takes such a prominent position on the wall. There’s also my diary with my poetry and reflections of seeing the Mona Lisa on top of my Bible. Such a time capsule. So precious. 

So, as you can see, my experience of Heidelberg was more of a lived experience, living in between the German locals and American Army families there. I used to go to aerobics at the US Military base down the road where they incorporated square dancing, and in true military style called out “Move it! Move it! Move it!” The US Military had shipped America to Heidelberg and some of the troops had their “Yank tanks” shipped out, which dwarfed the local German cars. There was even a Burger King on base. I was trying to improve on my German, but it was quite struggle living in another country and not knowing the language well. I was seriously regretting mucking around during my German lessons at school and not paying more attention. Yet, at the same time, I found a real sense of community and belonging there, which has touched me for life. After all, people matter. I have no doubt that God was holding me in the palm of his hand throughout these travels and keeping me safe, sometimes in spite of myself and I am very grateful that so many people  heard his voice and took such special care of me.

Heidelberg castle by night

Heidelberg Castle By Night. 

Architecturally speaking, Heidelberg is a beautiful city, even by European standards and is best known for it’s castle, the Philosopher’s Walk and Baroque Altstadt. I also had an experience of a different kind in Heidelberg. That was driving along the Autobarn at 240 kph in my friend’s BMW. That was ever so much faster than my bicycle. There are no photos of that experience, but there was a deal of heartbreak down the track, which leads me into German musical classic: I Lost My Heart in Heidelberg.

It was very hard returning to Australia after living in Heidelberg. I came home to Sydney for Christmas and was undecided about heading back. Indeed, I had no idea how it would pan out when I flew out of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and touched down in Sydney. After being the only Australian in my communities in Heidelberg, I returned to Sydney feeling culturally dislocated and very torn. However, as I started reconnecting with people back home, the penny dropped. I was Australian and I belonged here. Besides, on top of that, the economic realities of life also hit me smack on the face. While it was okay to scoot off to Europe for a year, my father reminded me of the need to make a living, while pointing out the difficulties of meeting someone overseas and how that would work out. Ouch! It was time for me to get a proper job, and when I had all my family here, I didn’t need to recreate that on the other side of the world.

It’s taken me almost 30 years to write that. Leaving Heidelberg and my friends behind was like ripping velcro apart. However, there are times where that fork in the road isn’t an easy choice and either road is going to involve some pain. It is during these times, that we just have to keep putting one foot after the other and keep walking. Of course, it can be hard to see what God is doing during these times. However, that’s what I love about the  Footprints Poem. That when we feel like we’re alone and can only see one set of footprints, that’s when Jesus is carrying us and sharing our burdens.

Returning every day to all these places I’ve been during the A-Z Challenge, has actually been a lot more emotionally confronting than I’d expected. I’ve never been good with goodbyes, and that’s what travel is….constantly leaving people, places, memories and even parts of yourself behind, and then moving onto the next place like turning the page of a book and letting go of every page that’s gone before. I can’t do it, which is probably why I’ve been living in the same house now for almost 20 years. That, along with my acute health conditions, which hasn’t stopped me from being a traveller, but have certainly redefined the perimeters of travel.

I probably should’ve expected this. However, my inspiration behind this series was very different. I wanted to post a series of inspirational travel photos to lift our spirits at this unprecedented time where travel of any sort beyond work is not only banned, but most of the planes are also strangely grounded. Moreover, even if we could magically transport overseas across the globe, nowhere would take us in. Well, at least, not without throwing us into deepest darkest quarantine for 14 days. After all, travellers have become the unwitting conduits of this modern plague. However, that doesn’t mean that we should ultimately lose our love of travel or our insatiable zest to explore new places, their people and cultures. No one knows what the world is going to look like when we get to the other side of this pandemic, but the cogs will continue moving forward going somewhere and hopefully we’ll till be going along for the ride.

Have you ever been to Heidelberg? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS- Perhaps, you’d like to read a flash fiction piece I wrote about that phone call to my friend in Australia: Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle – Friday Fictioneers

 

Berlin – A-Z Challenge.

“I still keep a suitcase in Berlin.”

– Marlene Dietrich, Singer, 1957

Welcome to Berlin on Day two of the Blogging A to Z April Challenge, where we’re revisiting Places I’ve Been. Of course, this was back in the day when we could leave our homes and ordinary travel wasn’t a matter of life, death or being quarantined for 14 days on your return.

Today, we’re returning to 1992 and continuing further along my backpacking trip through Europe. After landing in Amsterdam, Lisa and I caught the train to Koln (Cologne) in Germany. We went our separate ways there and I continued onto Heidelberg, stayed with friends at Grenzach-Whylen on the Swiss border where we went on a day trip through Basel and into France. This area is called “Die Drei Ecke”, or “Three Corners” because Germany, Switzerland and France border each other. Being able to visit three countries in one day was mind-blowing for an Australian used to being confined to one country almost all of my life.

From Grenzach, I caught the train all the way through to Berlin. Back then, the track on what had been the East German side of the border, hadn’t been upgraded and the train slowed right down. It felt like it was crawling, and from memory it was also delivering the mail. Of course, I was starting to wonder if I was ever going to get there!

However, as we pull into Berlin Station, let’s play a bit of Bowie. It’s only fitting after all. In the late 70s, he lived in Schöneberg for two years and recorded the biggest hits of his singing career there and his song ‘Heroes’ has become a kind of anthem for Berlin.

Berlin, the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine.’

 David Bowie, Singer, 1970s

“I couldn’t have written things like ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes,’ those particular

albums, if it hadn’t have been for Berlin and the kind of atmosphere I

felt there.”

David Bowie

I was meeting up with my parents in Berlin. However, while they’d booked themselves into a swanky hotel, I was heading for the backpackers. Well, that was until I ran into a student at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, who invited me to stay in students’ quarters  in what had been East Berlin. Wow! That not only save me precious dosh, but it would also be an experience. I loved meeting the local people and getting a real feel for life on the ground away from the tourist traps. That night, I was invited to an intimate student party. They’d all grown up in East Germany and talked with me about their hopes for Germany post-reunification, especially for improving the environment. It was riveting. As much as it was incredible to soak up the museums and visit old Churches and the like, meeting real life locals was through the roof exciting.

280px-Aerial_view_of_Berlin_(32881394137)

Of course, I was also very excited to meet up with Mum and Dad. I’d been away for a couple of months by now and we didn’t have email, Facebook or Skype back then. We had to tough it out with the odd very expensive phone and the only form of mail…snail mail. Mum and Dad were on the clock and were only in Europe for a few weeks. So, instead of walking everywhere like the impoverished backpacker that I was, we zoomed around Berlin in black Mercedes Benz taxis…very posh!

“My first visit to West Berlin was in February 1983. The drive through East Berlin, the fact that West Berlin was surrounded by a wall that was more than 100 miles long – the absurdity and intensity of it really knocked me out.”

Henry Rollins

The highlights with Mum and Dad included being able to walk through the Brandenburg Gate and going to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. I’d studied German at school and our teacher used to read us stories of daring escapes across, under and through the Berlin Wall which had us all enthralled. We met an American family who were living in Berlin and they actually gave us a chunk of the Berlin Wall. It looks very simple and is just a chunk of concrete with white paint on one side, but to me, it’s priceless treasure.

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin. And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!”

 John F. Kennedy, U.S. President, 1963

Leave Berlin

This sign used to be at Checkpoint Charlie.

Our son was meant to be in Berlin around now on a school history excursion. It’s very hard even for me to to think about where he’d be now and what he’s missing out on. However, it’s obviously a relief that he’s home with us in Australia. There’s going to be a lot of people with some very special things they’ve missed out on thanks to the Coronavirus, and some will lose their lives or their loved ones. It all reminds me very much of 9/11 and how the world was just going along and minding its own business, and then BANG. Nothing was ever the same. Let’s hope not!.

Obviously, I’ve left most of Berlin out, but this is just a fleeting visit and hopefully one day I’ll get back.

Have you been to Berlin? Perhaps, you live there? I’d love to hear from you and please link me through to any posts and do the same if you”re taking part in the Blogging A to Z April Challenge.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS: I thought some of you might find this article of interest, which talks about artists’ plans to rebuild and re-demolish the wall as an art installation. https://www.afar.com/magazine/this-fall-artists-plan-to-rebuild-and-redemolish-the-berlin-wall

A-Z April Blogging Challenge- Theme Reveal – Places I’ve Been.

Once again, yours truly is completely unprepared for the annual A-Z April Blogging Challenge, despite fervid vows to “Be Prepared” next year and have all my posts written up in advance. Well, I guess my disorganized, last minute response could well be in keeping  with the theme of today…April Fool’s Day. Last night, I decided to change direction from ANZAC Soldiers serving in France during WWI to a photography travel series covering places I’ve been. I chose this theme because much of our world is currently in some form of social isolation at home and any form of travel has been outlawed and a plane has become a rare sight.

So, let me introduce myself.

Rowena 2018

My name’s Rowena Curtin and I’m no longer a 40 something writer, researcher, wife, mother, photographer and poor impersonation of a violinist. I am now 50. However, let’s be quite clear. I haven’t become 50 something YET!!!

Family

The Family at Christmas 2019

The other cast members here are my husband Geoff and two teenagers simply known as Mr and Miss. Geoff is currently working from home having conference calls and the like from our kitchen dining area which has now become his office. Our kids are doing schoolwork from home until the end of the week when they go on holidays. Our daughter has also been turning our kitchen into a dance studio right through dinner time and then there are the three dogs who are overjoyed to have all their ball and stick throwers at home. So, as you can see. Our place is rather cozy at the moment and will be for the unpredictable future.

Lady at Ocean Beach

Lady at Ocean Beach, Umina, NSW.

By the way, we live at Umina Beach just North of Sydney Australia. The beach is only a short walk away, which has been a blessed escape hatch from being imprisoned at home. Well, being stuck at home hasn’t quite become a prison yet. So, perhaps I was exaggerating things just a little for creative effect. However, whichever way you look at it. The world as we know it right now is hardly situation normal.

Of course, we’ll be travelling around the world alphabetically. However, there will be a particular emphasis on revisiting my 1992 backpacking trip around Europe where I landed in Amsterdam and then caught a train to Koln (Cologne) in Germany and onto Heidelberg, where I ultimately ended up living for roughly 6 months with a local family which was the experience of a lifetime. I also spent a week in Berlin living in what had been an East Berlin student house which still had all the authentic “interior design”. Then, I spent two weeks in Mons which included seeing Van Gough’s house nearby. There was about 6 weeks in Paris, a weekend in Florence and a week in London. It has become the trip of a lifetime, despite my desire to get back. Added salt to the wound, was when our son’s 3 week school history tour of Europe was cancelled due to the Coronavirus. He was due to be there now, but my goodness! We’re so glad he’s home.

So, I invite you to join me for these vicarious travels and I hope these photos and stories lift you out of the coronacrisis and possibly even taken you to your happy place. Indeed, that is the hope for myself.

Moreover, if you are doing the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, please leave a link to your theme reveal in the comments below.

Stay tuned!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share…2nd September, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Since this is all about virtual sharing, I can offer you a slice of passion fruit sponge cake with a generous dollop of cream without having to fend you off with my fork. You see, in reality this cake is mine, ALL mine. However, I can be very generous with all of you. Almost all of you are too faraway to collect.

DSC_5849

Passion Fruit Sponge Cake (butter needed to be mixed in better…oops)

Yesterday, it was Father’s Day here in Australia. A day which promises so much, but frequently under delivers. Or, completely contrary to one’s hopes and aspirations is catastrophic. I know we all try to hold back the tide for special occasions, but it isn’t always possible. It is what it is. I explored realities versus expectations in yesterday’s post Not Quite A Perfect Father’s Day

Yesterday, was not only Father’s Day. It was also the first day of Spring…yippee! Sunshine here we come. I have to admit I’m looking forward to warmer weather, especially the in between months of Spring before the place turns into a furnace in Summer. The beach is only down the road as well…heaven on earth.

The last week was rather uninspiring. We had a few days of ferocious rain and wind, which while nothing like the force of Cyclone Dorian which is hitting the US, it was still quite intimidating and made its presence felt. By day, I bunkered down in bed underneath the doona reading Oliver Twist.

Indeed, speaking of Oliver Twist, I finally finished it over the weekend. Have you ever read it? I absolutely loved it. While I read A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities at school, Oliver Twist is the first of Dickens’ novels, I’ve read by choice. I also prefer to read shorter works. So, for me to actually make it through to the end of a 500 page novel, was also a personal triumph. I found myself completely absorbed in the story. Although I know the musical and we actually put it on when I was about 12 at school, I found the novel was in a league of its own. The characters were much richer and complex and the novel is deeply philosophical as Dickens explores the aftermath of the Poor Laws of 1832 and the horrors of the workhouse, child labour and the world of crime. London comes across as a veritable cesspit, a place to escape at all costs. Knowing that Geoff’s family was living through these times in London, further brings Dickens’ stories to life for me.  These weren’t just characters in a novel. These characters represented real people… thousands and thousands of people grappling with extreme poverty and crime as the only way out. I’m certainly glad I wasn’t living through these times.

Oliver_Twist_02

“Please, Sir. Could I have some more?”

Have you read Oliver Twist or any of Dickens other works? Are you a fan? Do you feel Dickens has a place in the modern era or belongs in the past?

The main reason I’ve been reading Dickens is that I’m working on writing a book of short biographical stories about our ancestors and the stories at the beginning are from this era, or even a bit earlier. To really tell a story well, there are so many details to absorb and yet these need to become the wallpaper and not the story itself or you’ll bore your reader to death. To be honest, I thought I’d have got there by now but I still feel like I’m having to process more before I’m quite ready to tell the story right. I’m not sure if this is the perfectionist in me or whether I’m not there yet. However, I’m trying to hang in there.

Meanwhile, my reading has gone off onto a different tangent. I was trying very, very hard to keep walking past our local bookshop Book Bazaar and  yet like a kid being lured into a candy shop, I ducked my head in through the door and spotted John Marsden’s: The Art of Growing Up. John Marsden is a distinguished Australian author of Young Adult fiction and was the founder and principal of two schools. As a writer myself, this had to be my kind of parenting book, although he’s quite hard-hitting and certainly not into free-range parenting by feel. Probably a good thing really. Anyway, thought I’d share a quote with you…

When I hear parents say ‘I want my children to enjoy their childhood; there’ll be time when they’re older to learn about those things’, I hear the voices of those who are scared of the vastness of the universe. These adults have a view of childhood as some kind of discrete interval, rather than just a few years from the continuum of life. How fortunate that the spirit, courage and curiosity of many young people remain largely undefeated by such adults.

-John Marsden, The Art of Growing Up

So, you could say that last week was book week.

In terms of blogging, I’ve done the following posts:

On The Run…Friday Fictioneers

A Festival of Red Doors…Friday Fictioneers

Hey, just when I thought I hadn’t done anything very exciting, I forgot that I revisited Heidelberg, Germany where I lived for six months back in 1992 when I was 22 years old. I had the time of my life there and made some life-long friends. We recently got a few crate loads of photos out of the shed, which included a second photo album of overseas photos. There was Heidelberg again. How beautiful. I showed the photos to my daughter and she asked why I came back. I must admit, I was wondering myself for quite a few years. Anyway, I ended up revisiting Heidelberg via Youtube. It was amazing. Here’s the link: Heidelberg Tour

So last week wasn’t quite so uneventful after all. How was your week? I look forward to hearing from you.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Mum’s Watching Peppa Pig…!!!

Today, I was caught in the act.  Lost in my own little world watching Peppa Pig, I’d forgotten that my husband was working from home and my son was home sick and they might find this a little strange.  That while I am renowned for being a little quirky both on and off the world wide web, watching Peppa Pig was setting new bounds of personal madness even for me. After all, I’m in my 40s and there weren’t any kids around. Surely, I coudl find something more intellectually stimulating, humorous or at the very least grown up to watch? What was wrong with me? Had my brain blown a fuse…or even worse?

However, as Geoff moved closer, that triumphant look of smug ridicule disappeared once he realized that Peppa Pig was making no sense. Indeed, Peppa Pig and friends were speaking German.

Peppa-Pig-Wutz_4-Germany-German-Deutschland

Peppa Pig in German

This is the first time I’ve watched Peppa Pig in German. You see, my blogging friend, Solveig Werner is teaching German and she recommended it in her Links for German Students. I’d never thought of brushing up my languages using you tube before. Obviously, you tube didn’t exist when I was at school and we were dependent on the very out-of-date German videos. On exceptionally rare occasions, I might run into a German tourist and might be able to have a go. Fortunately, my grandfather was fluent and had even taught German and took great pleasure writing to me in German. He was such a lovely man.

Well, you could ask me why I’m brushing up on  my German now. It’s not like I’m about to head over, and there are very few opportunities to speak German here. Well, let’s just say I was curious and wondering how much of it I could understand.

Rowena Backpacking

 

You see, after leaving university, I was backpacking through Europe for almost a year and much of that time, I was in Germany. Indeed, I lived in Heidelberg for around six months with a German family. So, my comprehension of German isn’t too bad, especially when we’re talking about “Bahnhof Deutsch” (Railway Station or tourist German) or cartoon German.

Anyway, returning to the home front. Having given my husband a bit of entertainment, he let our son in on the action and you could just imagine how he reacted when he found out his own mother was watching Peppa Pig!!!!  There are embarrassing mums, but this was right off the Richter Scale.

Geoff returned and goads him on: “You have to get her outside for a walk before she goes completely insane.”

At this point, a discussion also started up about how they were going to lure me out of the house. I’m not sure whether it was my husband or son who first came up with the idea. However, our son threatened to remove the kettle to get some movement. Funny that. I wouldn’t have thought I was that dependent, until I saw the huge mountain of used tea bags ready to head out to the worm farm.

To be honest, they probably have a point. It’s actually 2.30pm and I’m still in my PJs on a school day. While even the most devoted fashionista would agree that everyone needs a pyjama day now and then, it could well be the case that my PJ days are flowing together and are amounting to a reality break.

I’m not sure. While today, I’m definitely guilty as charged, I was out and about yesterday and I’ve since got dressed and taken all three dogs for a very energetic run along the beach. I managed to clock up 1.5km. So,I haven’t been bone idle. I’ve also been researching conscription and the Vietnam War. Surely, kilometres of thought must count for something to somebody out there? If so, could you please leave your details in the comments. You’ll be my new best friend.

Meanwhile, Peppa Pig is calling…

xx Ro

 

 

 

The Snow Job – Friday Fictioneers.

The instant Inge saw the ad, she leaped at the chance to work on the Australian ski fields. Skiing was in her blood. Yet, although her parents had met at the Nagano Olympics and ran the ski school in Grosser Arber, Inge hadn’t claimed it as her own. Rather, it took crossing that vast expanse of desert they called “the Nullarboring”, to get a sense of who she was and claim skiing as her own.

However, as the bus headed into Perisher, something was wrong. Where were the mountains? What about the snow?

All she wanted was a white Christmas.

——-

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields The photo prompt for this week was kindly provided by © Dale Rogerson.

I have crossed the Nullarbor by car, train and plane and personally, I find something inspirational in that vast expanse of seeming nothingness. It reminds me of Jesus going out into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. There’s so much space, that your thoughts can just keep going and going and going without being pinned in by concrete and steel.

The Nullarbor Plain (/ˈnʌlərbɔːr/ NUL-ər-bor; Latin: nullus, “no”, and arbor, “tree”[1]) is part of the area of flat, almost treeless, arid or semi-arid country of southern Australia, located on the Great Australian Bight coast with the Great Victoria Desert to its north. It is the world’s largest single exposure of limestone bedrock, and occupies an area of about 200,000 square kilometres (77,000 sq mi).[2] At its widest point, it stretches about 1,100 kilometres (684 mi) from east to west across the border between South Australia and Western Australia -Wikipaedia.

BTW thought you might appreciate reading my Valentine’s Day post about the snow bear’s search for love Snowy…A Valentine’s Day Hopeful.

xx Rowena

 

 

Hahndorf, South Australia: the Blacksmith and the Artists.

Welcome to Hahndorf, a German-Australian village in South Australia’s Adelaide Hills.  As you prepare for landing, could you please switch you clocks back well into last century to an era where there were few, if any, cars and the horse and cart were still being serviced at HA Haebich’s Smithy on Main Road, Hahndorf. That was before WWI when Hahndorf’s name was changed to Ambleside, as a reflection of fierce anti-German sentiment and changed back again in 1935.

Map showing the location of Hahndorf.

I send my apologies in advance as this is only going to be a rudimentary tour. This will only be a fleeting day trip for the Blogging from A-Z Challenge. I promise I’ll pop back later for a more in depth visit.

My much loved Grandfather, Bert Haebich, was not only born in Hahndorf but was also descended from the Hartmann and Paech families, who were among the very first German settlers to arrive in Australia back in 1838. These Lutherans were escaping persecution in Prussia and came to South Australia in search of religious freedom. They were an extremely stoic and hardworking community who used to walk their produce into Adelaide on foot and certainly weren’t afraid of backbreaking hard work!!

Hahndorf is a thriving tourist attraction these days and something of a living museum. In so many ways, it looks like a chunk of 19th century Germany, which was dug up and transplanted to the South Australia. Many of the original houses have been retained and restored including Haebich’s Cottage, the family’s home on Main Street, which was built in the late 1850’s by J.Georg. Haebich. It is a substantial ‘fachwerk’ (basically a timber skeleton with infill of pug [straw/mud], brick or stone) German cottage and is absolutely gorgeous.

As this is just a fleeting tour, I’m going to cut to the chase and introduce you to the Blacksmith and the artists.

Heinrich August Haebich, my Great Great Grandfather had a Smithy on Main Street, Hahndorf and lived in Haebich’s Cottage next door. August was was born in Hahndorf on the 17th March, 1851 to Johann George HAEBICH (1813-1872) and Christiane SCHILLER (-1857). August married Maria Amalie Thiele in 1874 but she died less than a year later and on 12th April, 1877, he married Caroline Maria Paech. They had 9 children and I think all four boys worked in the Smithy at some time. With the advent of the car, the business slowly wound down and my Great Grandfather Ed left to work as an engineer with the railways and later as a market gardener. His brother Bill was the last Haebich blacksmith…the end of the line.

My grandfather loved telling me stories of growing up in Hahndorf and I was enchanted. There was an incredible cast of characters and antics like tying a goat to the Church bells so they rang every time to goat reached out to eat more grass. There was also an explosion of some sort during WWII, which sparked fears of a Japanese invasion but was yet another prank. There was a cockatoo which allegedly used to walk across the road leaning to one side with its wing bent staggering along saying: “Drunk again! Drunk again!” Hahndorf is a short distance from the Barossa Valley, one of Australia’s most famous wine-growing regions and there is even a Lutheran Church planted, or should I surrounded by vineyards. I think that should put you in the picture!

While most of the characters in my grandfather’s stories remained anonymous, one name certainly stood out. That was the world-renowned artist Sir Hans Heysen, who lived in Hahndorf with his wife Sallie and family in a spectacular home called: “The Cedars”.

Hans Heysen, "White Gums".

Hans Heysen, “White Gums”.

“Its (the gum tree) main appeal to me has been its combination of mightiness and delicacy – mighty in its strength of limb and delicate in the colouring of its covering. Then it has distinctive qualities; in fact I know of no other tree which is more decorative, both as regards the flow of its limbs and the patterns the bark makes on its main trunk. In all its stages the gum tree is extremely beautiful.”

SIR HANS HEYSEN

 

Heysen had what you could describe as a spiritual relationship with the Australian Gum Tree and he was also captivated by light and trying to capture and infuse light onto the canvas. Understandably, Heysen was quite the conservationist, particularly where saving these glorious gum trees, which were threatened by the installation of electric wires but also by development. He deeply lamented each tree which was lost. Indeed, it was his through his protection of the local gum trees that Hans Heysen entered my Grandfather’s stories. It was known that if anybody wanted to chop down one of these trees, they would have to speak to Hans Heysen first and he was a formidable force. I also found out that my grandfather’s sister, Ivy, worked as a housekeeper for the Heysen’s. That still intrigues me and unfortunately I need had the chance to discuss this with her.

My grandfather took this photo at the Hahndorf Centenary Celebrations in 1938 and I believe that in Hans Heysen standing on the RHS wearing a white coat and his characteristic knickerbockers and long boots.

My grandfather took this photo at the Hahndorf Centenary Celebrations in 1938 and I believe that in Hans Heysen standing on the RHS wearing a white coat and his characteristic knickerbockers and long boots.

Here is a link to some of Hans Heysen’s works: http://www.artgallery.sa.gov.au/agsa/home/Learning/docs/Online_Resources/Heysen_Trail.pdf

With his love and reverence for the Australian Gum Tree, I guess it is fair to say that Heysen’s outlook fitted in better with the more pastoral and bush portrayal of Australia and Heysen certainly despised Modernism and all its trappings. This was reflected in paintings such as The Toilers (1920) where Hans Heysen painted a local farmer “Old Kramm” and his horses.

Perhaps, it was Heysen’s love for this passing pre-mechanised world,which inspired Hans Heysen to undertake an etching of Haebich’s Smithy in 1912. My grandfather had a print of this painting and it was something we knew about and I guess were proud of without knowing any background to it at all.

Hans Heysen, "The Old Blacksmith's Shop, Hahndorf." (1912)

Hans Heysen, “The Old Blacksmith’s Shop, Hahndorf.” (1912)

It was only last year, that I really questioned Heysen’s perspective of the Blacksmith’s shop and how his still life contrasted to my grandfather’s animated stories of a busy, flourishing workshop. I remember how my grandfather;s face would light up, even as an old man, talking about how the water would whoosh up when the red hot steel rim for the wheel would be dunked in water producing an incredible gush of steam. He was a small boy once again mesmerised by the whole experience and and there was such theatre.

In addition to questioning Heysen’s still life of a place which was anything but still, I also realised that Heysen’s work portrayed the more traditional tools of blacksmithing at a time when the Smithy was already being mechanised. August Haebich and his eldest son Otto, were innovative engineers who invented the Wattle Stripper and engines. They were hardly relics from the past or living and breathing museum pieces.

So, there was a bit of food for thought, which I’ll need to investigate further.

In the meantime, while  doing yet another Google search and romping through the online newspapers at Trove, I made quite a discovery. It might not warrant global acclaim but it felt like I’d found a gold nugget in my own backyard. Believe me!  I was shouting “Eureka”from the rafters even though no one else was listening!

It turned out that Hans Heysen wasn’t the only famous artist who had depicted the Haebich Smithy. Hans and Sallie Heysen entertained numerous artists and performers at The Cedars. Indeed, famous singer Dame Nellie Melba was a regular visitor and naturally fellow artists also came to stay. Naturally, they roamed around Hahndorf and did what artists do…sketch. After all, the very quaint German buildings are what we would now call very “photogenic”.

Lionel Lindsay: "The Smithy Window, Ambleside" (1924).

Lionel Lindsay: “The Smithy Window, Ambleside” (1924).

So, consequently, I have unearthed other sketches of the Haebich Smithy. There was one by Sir Lionel Lindsay, brother of artist and author Norman Lindsay of Magic Pudding fame as well as artist and art publisher Sydney Ure Smith. Sydney Ure Smith was so smitten with Hahndorf, that he included scenes in his book: Old Colonial By-Ways (1928)…alongside much more recognised Sydney landmarks such as the buildings in Macquarie Street and Elizabeth Farm House in Parramatta, which is the oldest house in Australasia. Elizabeth Farm House was built In 1793 Sir John MacArthur and was where he con ducted his experiments with merino sheep, giving birth to the Australian wool industry.

Sydney Ure Smith: The Blacksmith's Shop, Ambleside (1925).

Sydney Ure Smith: The Blacksmith’s Shop, Ambleside (1925).

So, immortalised alongside, Elizabeth Farm House, is Haebich’s Smithy.

When you look at it like that, it really does seem rather incredible and amazing and yes, I’m impressed, proud and so many superlatives that I couldn’t possibly get them all down without sounding like a thesaurus!

xx Rowena

Easter is Growing Up!

This year, there was no Easter Hat parade with all the school children singing: “Here Comes Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail…” www.youtube.com/watch?v=0G6F0pyaT7c Both kids are in primary now and considered too mature for such childish things.

Yum! All that yummy Easter chocolate!

Yum! All that yummy Easter chocolate!

To add salt to the wound,  crime to end all crimes, the kids shot the Easter Bunny, Santa and the Tooth Fairy with one very effective bullet not so long ago. For years I’ve been telling them they had to “believe to receive” but seemingly weren’t listening. They weren’t happy when I didn’t leave any Easter eggs out.However, they hadn’t left any baskets out either.

A very Happy Chappy!

A very Happy Chappy!

Somehow, I don't think eating a Lindt carrot quite qualifies for the Paleo Diet!!

Somehow, I don’t think eating a Lindt carrot quite qualifies for the Paleo Diet!!

Further breaking with tradition, we’re on holidays and so we didn’t make it to Church and even though we did try to find a service, we still missed out.

It’s also hard to think about the symbolism rebirth of the resurrection which is more in tune with a Northern Spring than Autumn in Australia where the leaves are changing colour and starting to die  as we head towards Winter.

In other words, our Easter was all topsy turvey and upside down. No regrets because we had a fabulous day. It just wasn’t how we usually spend Easter.

Yet, as John Lennon said:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.

However, while the kids were too grown up to believe in the Easter Bunny anymore, they were still keen for an Easter Egg Hunt and we invited the kids from next door over to join in the fun. We had a second hunt today and the rain hit just as the search began. Oh yes! Our scruffy Lady puppy dog snatched one of the eggs and tried making a speedy getaway as Geoff chased the dogs out of the hunting grounds. We don’t feed our dogs chocolate but we’ve only had Lady for about 6 months and she knows all about chocolate. She loves it and appears at the light whenever chocolate appears much to her disappointment. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate can kill dogs.

"Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day. I have a wonderful feeling, Everything's going my way"-"Oklahoma".

“Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day. I have a wonderful feeling, Everything’s going my way”-“Oklahoma” Frank Sinatra: www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNm76stOJis

We were also thrilled that after two days of solid rain and predictions of more to come, that the clouds lifted and we woke up to bright, glorious sunshine and we were out the door to make the most of what had been “the view”. The dogs were particularly thrilled and as soon as the gate was open they sped down to the beach. However, it was high tide meaning they couldn’t get very far on foot and so we bungled them into the kayak with me and they certainly got more than they bargained. Bilbo’s lucky his claws didn’t get stuck in the plastic. He was very uncomfortable and not the courageous adventurer at all!! You’ll read more about that as the A-K Blogging Challenge continues under K: Kayaking with Dogs.

Kayaking with two dogs onboard certainly is an acquired skill, especially with Bilbo who hates getting his paws wet and prefers terra firma.

Kayaking with two dogs onboard certainly is an acquired skill, especially with Bilbo who hates getting his paws wet and prefers terra firma.

My parents came round for an Easter meal. While setting the table, I discovered the glass table top reflected the clouds and immediately grabbed the camera:

Sunseting over Pittwater with the cloudy sky reflected on the dining table.

Sunsetting over Pittwater with the cloudy sky reflected on the dining table.

Despite wanting to keep this post simple, I couldn’t resist looking up Easter traditions around the world:

Sydney, Australia: The Royal Easter Show: http://www.eastershow.com.au/

France: If you fancy some spring cleaning, head to Alsace in France: http://www.frenchmoments.eu/easter-in-alsace/

Italy: we have Pan di Ramarino: http://sociopalate.com/2015/04/02/golossary-pan-di-ramarino/ and Agnello Pasquale, A marzipan lamb, is a typical Sicilian Easter dessert.http://sociopalate.com/2015/03/30/golossary-agnello-pasquale/

Ireland: http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/how-the-traditional-irish-easter-was-celebrated-120536204-237383821.html#

Germany: A beautiful German Easter tradition is the Osterstrauch. This is a branch or small tree decorated with hollowed-out eggs: http://www.quick-german-recipes.com/easter-in-germany.html

Argentina: the world’s biggest hand-made chocolate Easter Egg:http://globalnews.ca/news/1922341/giant-easter-egg-cracked-open-in-argentina/

Latvia:When I was in infant’s school one of the Mums who came from Latvia taught us how to make coloured eggs boiling up brown onion skins to make the dye. As young child, I was amazed! Check this out: http://www.latvianstuff.com/Lieldienas.html

The Phillipines: https://mangosalute.com/magazine/what-do-filipinos-do-during-easter

Weird Easter Traditions Around the World: http://www.mirror.co.uk/usvsth3m/flying-bell-weird-easter-traditions-5451736

Preparations for the Easter Hunt.

Preparations for the Easter Hunt.

How did you spend your Easter? I hope you had a wonderful day!

Anyway, we would like to wish you all a Happy & Blessed Easter reflecting on Christ’s resurrection while also enjoying all the fun stuff as well…Easter eggs, Easter Egg hunts and making all sorts of Easter arts and crafts.

Love and Easter Blessings,

Rowena

PS Here are some interesting Easter curiosities from around the world: