Wednesday, 26 June 2013


"We have beer as cold as your ex's heart": the sign at Zoe's a bar in Ravensburg that we found pretty amusing

Last weekend I went on a romantic get-a-way to Ravensburg, a picturesque town in Upper Swabia not too far from Konstanz, with my good friend Laura. The Aldstadt (the 'historic' part of town, the best and most interesting part of any town) remains the central focus of Ravensburg and luckily the hotel we stayed in was situated right in the middle, flanked by Ravensburg's 10 towers.  
The view from Blasetürm

The first evening I took Laura on a romantic date to Barbarossa's where I introduced her to the Summer wonder drink that is a Hugo (White wine and soda or Champagne long drink mixed with elderflower cordial, mint, lime and ice) and so began a very enjoyable weekend. The food at Barbarossa's, we both agreed, was the best meal either of us had had in a long time. We shared a steak and asparagus and tomato risotto and everything was just cooked perfectly. The restaurant itself attracted us because of its outdoor seating area which seemed modern yet summery and an ideal place to enjoy the sunshine into the evening. The menu offered a strange mix between Thai and Italian which we initially found quite dubious, but after the meal we realised that our South German restaurant restrictions to Jaegerschnitzel and Flammkuchen had closed our minds to new culinary adventures! (Although both are obviously delicious). 

Enjoying a meal and Hugo's in Colours for lunch
After a Brandy Alexander in Barbarossa we went for a drink in Colours a bar-restaurant recommended to us by our friend Tobi- who lives in Ravensburg, so we didn't want to pass up the insiders tip! Colours is popular for after dinner cocktails and coffees. They had a huge choice and had specialist bartenders making them, and we were not disappointed. They had an indoor/ outdoor grotto area with fairy lights, cushions and a large, imposing deer head as part of their decoration. After we followed the crowds to a parade of bars in the center of town, the outdoor seating was filled to maximum on a Friday night as it was a pleasant evening. We found a seat in a bar called Gyspies. While it had a nice holiday atmosphere Laura ordered a cocktail and it was not drinkable. Go to enjoy the atmosphere, but order a beer! 

A selection of tiny antlers at the Saturday market
Inside an antiques store
View of the market
On the Saturday, greeted with doom and gloom from the sky, we decided to brave the weather with some umbrella's and explore the town. The Saturday morning market was in full swing and we enjoyed looking at the bio Falafal, the Churros, the traditional "echt" Spaetzle stalls as well as the many fully stocked anti-pasti stalls. It really put Konstanz's rather provincial Saturday morning market to shame, although I didn't see any of that amazing cheesecake that the Konstanz market offers. 

Vogel Art Papier Laden

Vogel Art Papier Laden
We also found a Papier Laden, Vogel Art, in which we spent far too much time poring over stationary, notebooks, letter writing sets and gift wrapping that we had no means to transport home. The little shop was filled with all those amazing "one off" pieces you see one or two examples of in ordinary stationary and art shops. The shop owner was very friendly and easy to talk to and allowed me to take a few photo's to "take back to London"! Here's the website to the shop if you like the look of it

After a coffee, the day had brightened up a bit so we climbed two of Ravensburg's towers to get a panoramic view of the town. The first, Blasetürm, was the old fire clock tower and and look out tower. The second, Mehlsack, was built to defend the town against attacks from the castle situated higher up. It's called Mehlsack because the shape of the tower apparently looks like a flour bag. Very intimidating.  

Some of the puppets in the Figuren Theatre

In the evening we attended a performance of Der Kleine Prinz (better known as Le Petit Prince) in which all the characters, aside from the narrator, were little puppets (similar to the ones pictured). It was a really interesting show, really atmospheric. The puppets suitcases represented the separate worlds from the book and the show opened with a miniature aeroplane center stage. The portrayal of the characters, especially the drunkard, was unflinchingly morose and the business man was full of chaotic vigour. Although there were a few children in the audience, the play managed to convey the sensitive sadness of Der Kleine Prinz even through the medium of puppets. The narrator was an experienced story teller and he really invigorated the story with new meaning (which is a challenge seeing as he read it fully in German and I'm not all that familiar with the original story). If you are ever in Ravensburg the Figuren Theatre is a must see especaially as the student prices are only 7 euros a performance. 

A mysterious lady in the Figuren Theatre
The next day we met up with our friend's Tobi and Elias and took our final adventure in Ravensburg to Spieleland! Admittedly, not our age demographic, but it was fun to play and be silly for the day... particular favourite would be the Labyrinth race in which I got slightly competitive and raced for my life (to great victory)! To conclude the weekend, Tobi took us to a typical Swabisch restaurant hidden away behind a farm and several country lanes. We unfortunately had to sit outside and share a blanket as we hadn't booked a table but the Maultaschen tasted just as good. Maultaschen, a very typical meat ravioli type dish in Baden-Württemberg, so the legend goes was created especially by a sneaky monk during Lent when eating meat is discouraged. The pasta covering the filling means that the meat cannot be seen by God and so no religious rules are broken! The Swabian nickname for Maultaschen is Herrgottsbescheißerle which means "little cheaters of God" and vegetarian eaters of the pasta are considered morally abhorrent because it's considered very bad form to cheat God twice. "Echt" German humour. 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Gassenfreitag and the 24 hour shopping spree

Visiting Germany: Tourist in my Own Town

The sun has finally arrived in Germany and it almost feels like it’s here to stay. When it first made an appearance, being English I instantly donned the sundress but I noticed, if anything, the Germans had put on more layers. They bundled up in scarves and jackets, huddled together at the bus stop, squinting suspiciously into the glorious sunshine or ignoring it entirely. It’s almost as if they don’t dare to trust it. Like when that annoying friend offers you a bag of sweets and then snatches it away again, smirking, before you can grab one. When he then re-offers the bag with false promises about not to repeat the trick, you have three choices with how to deal with the miscreant. Violence (too risky), self blame, ("I probably deserve this") or the most effective, and therefore the clear German choice: the guilt trip. We’ve just been hurt too many times, their sad eyes seem to say, blinking away a bead of sweat. 

Anyway, it's been steadily sunny for a week now and we've all learned to trust the weather again. Everyone is having barbecues and drinking at the Strand Bar on the Rheine. I almost doomed a sunny Saturday to nursing a 'dehydration' headache and looking balefully at my essay but I decided to take it outside instead. And to forget the essay... at least for the weekend. 


Today in Konstanz (Saturday 9th June) we have a 24 hour trans-border Flohmarkt (flea market), which is 14km long with over 1000 stalls and ends in Kruezlingen, Switzerland. I feel like I’ve been training my whole life for this moment: Summer boot sales, Charity shop raids, El Rastro on a Sunday in Madrid and the warm up Flohmarkts here in Konstanz happening more frequently now that its Summer. Konstanz has undergone a colossal transformation since the long, long Winter months. Last night was the second Gassenfreitag, a mini street 'festival' that happens in the evening on the first Friday of every month from May-October in Niederburg, the old town in Konstanz around the Cathedral. Down the cobbled-stone streets people set up stalls outside their houses or on the street selling clothes and bric-a-brac and others come to sell sausages, beer and kuchen or to give away gold paper crowns. There are different musicians playing in different parts of the street and people get up and start clapping, waltzing, Zweifach-ing. Two couples had brought their own table outside and had their wine and candlelit dinner on the street watching the hustle and bustle. Later in the evening the bars in Niederburg often host local bands or singers too, it’s always a great atmosphere and flocks of people attend. I managed to find a pretty great vintage suede jacket, complete with Pocohauntus tassels, so it’s really worth a visit even for the shopping. Though I do like the beer and sausage consumption. So, that was yesterdays festivities and then tonight a slow Summer evening stroll along the bank of the Rheine, bargain hunting.

Me and the team in the newspaper with the title "Fashion with good conscience"
In other news, I’ve had a hiatus from writing as I had Future Fashion Day, brain child of Leila Kasimova, to prepare and recover from. It was a lot of hard work and took up a lot of time, but was worth it in the end. Lots of people came (a bit nerve-wracking before the show) and amazingly the show came off without a hitch due to the hard work and organisation of a fantastic team (well done everyone, too many to list here but see articles and pages below for more details!). We all organised it totally from scratch, just a small team of students and oikos members: emailing designers, gaining sponsors, designing the label, making a website, writing press releases, organising the venue...etc. I also chose the outfits and fitted and styled the models- which was a lot of fun. I then made the models sequence and generally rushed around backstage on the day making sure  all 20 models had their make up and hair perfect and knew what outfit changes they had to do, with particular help from my amazing wardrobe assistant Cynthia who we thankfully managed to recruit only a week before the show. We ended up being in quite a few German newspapers and online magazines! But now that I have a bit more time I’d like to return to writing here and maybe start writing about the different places that I’ve been to here in Germany. I haven't only been a tourist in my own town! Hopefully that would be of interest.

The end of the Future Fashion show

Update: I was supposed to post that yesterday but didn't have the chance to go before the Flohmarket., so I'll write what I thought about the Flohmarket. For starters, it was a lot bigger than I was expecting. Was absolutely... huge! And even so, with 14 Kilometers of road, often with triple lanes of market stalls ,  every inch was rammed with people until we left at about 1am. It started petering out at about 22:00, but there was still a continuos stream of determined browsers. It was great though - think enormous car boot sale mixed with a German Christmas Market. It seems like an absolute must to attend for anyone who lives within a 100km radius- grannies, mothers and babies, young trendy kids, concerned citizens and hippies alike, everyone was there. Browsing after dark was a particularly fun novelty. The torch beam (a necessity I'm glad I was prepared for) becomes your line of sight and when your hunting through hundreds of stalls you really become aware of the rapid, predator-like speed the light flicks across venetian masks to wooden nutcrackers, focusing briefly on a promising looking glitter, and then swooping off onto the next stall. I felt a bit like the Eye of Sauron searching for the one ring. I tried to find a good clip but just imagine searching a 14km Flohmarkt with a torch and this playing: We couldn't handle any more than 4 hours of shopping, and I'm sure that we barely made it 4 K but for anyone who has determination and stamina you could make it the whole 14 K and still have time for an 8 hour sleep in the middle.
The 24hr Trans-border Flohmarkt viewed from the Rheine, Konstanz

More info about Future Fashion Day
Our facebook page: 
Links to articles about the show (In German and no particular order)

More info about Gassenfreitag: 

More info about 24 hour transborder Flohmarkt:

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The day I tried to go to the Library on a Saturday

I suddenly realised that I had better go put some time in the library if I was going to ever get anything done. After a few days of planning and playing card games it was once again the weekend. Saturday Library trip it was then! After finally making it out at 17:30 - with a spotless room and immaculate grooming - for my "full day at the lib'" I began to notice something rather odd...

Germans wearing bells and masks on the train. Is it Chinese new year? They seem to be wearing felt, hand stitched scales and the masks seem to be of the traditional Chinese dragon face - with the lolling tongue and wide staring eyes - but I try not to stare too much as there's a goggle eyed girl who already used up everyones polite stare-time. At Markelfingen a group of witches board the train. Most irregular. I might impulsively follow them when they get off the train. Or, I should maybe miss my stop to Uni when it comes and see what's happening... I begin writing excitedly about it when abruptly they all vacate the train at Allensbach. It would not be cool to leap up and follow them now, and I'd prefer to be accepted as a passer by that potentially lived in the area rather than the truth - a culturally oblivious procrastinating English student looking for a diversion.

I accept my fate, and alight the train at the University stop. I wait at the bustop for some minutes thinking about how silly I was to write off my Erasmus year after rencountering a few road bumps. Ok road blocks. While I'm happily thinking of more and more extended traffic and diversion metaphors I notice that I've been getting some pretty sceptical looks from the youths on the busstop over the road from me and it clicks that I've been waiting a comparatively long time. I wait until they board their own bus and check the time table. Of course - no busses to Uni on a Saturday, or at all from this bus stop. Elated, I cross the tracks and wait for the return journey to Allensbach, accompanied by a family of scaled, jangling Dragons.

Should I ask them what is going on? Do I know how to do that? "Warum sind sie... dragons?" One of them is a bear! And I can see pirates. Though the dragons seem the favoured costume. Actually, the new family that have also just arrived, I mistook for dragons but they appear to be, on closer inspection, a kind of Norweigan wood elf with bells on. Bells seem important. They cross characters. I decide not to ask and ruin the mystery, I may lose the impetus to follow them if I know. Plus, it will definitely blow my cover of casual commuter.

I can also tell it is a repeated tradition as the costume are pretty serious and mostly hand made. Someone has now arrived at the train station wearing a Swiss cow bell attached to his arm and is handing out wreathes of Chinese bells for people to hang around their necks. Presumably to the unfortunate bell-less. I wonder if there will be dancing. Individual groups have started to establish themselves now and within the groups they all wear the same theme of costume. Maybe they are like clans. The Norweigan Wood Elves have bundles of fur with them and bells on their legs and drawn on tree symbols. They wear hand sewn felt jerseys of overlapping leaves and identical brown and white striped hats that end in a plait strung with -of course - miniature bells. The group I mistook for pirates are actually... not. They wear large red, white and black feathers in their wide brimmed black hats, long black coats or coats bucked with a leather belt and heavy black boots. From the belt hangs a number of essential items - horns made from bone, wide bottomed vials stopped with a cork, pewter tankers - and fake blood drips down their faces.

As I board the train suddenly there are too many varieties to keep track of. My carriage is mainly dominated by rainbow scaled people with wooden donkey heads. Some carry wooden "clacking sticks" and the prospect of dancing now seems inevitable. I am seriously confused at this point, but as I disembark the train I follow the jangling crowd up a hill I finally break cover and ask two rainbow donkeys what is going on.

It's a Carnival! Of course, though I didn't think it started until February. Oh Germans, early to your own party. Apparently it's on slightly different days according to when Ash Wednesday falls. I can tell they are slightly uncomfortable with this level unpredictability "but it can't be helped" they sigh. They tell me that some say its for welcoming in the Spring, but one waves this off dismissively. When I say happily, "Ah, it's just for fun then!" I am dealt a look of offense - "No! It's a tradition". Ah. Of course. The muti-coloured overlapping strips also have a significance - they harken back to when the carnival first started and the poor peasants would sew any old scraps of fabric they had together in this particular way to make a "costume". Very important, Carnival. No really, they are absolutely MAD about it here.

I buy a beer - in my best German - which leaves the poor woman stricken and confused until the transaction is carried out as culturally agreed. "English sprachen!" she exclaims, shaking her hands to rid the bad air of bad juju as I leave. "Ja, ja", yeah, yeah. I've found myself in the pre-procession street gathering which is largely (totally) for the people involved in the procession but I wonder along, regardless. People have set up shop outside their houses and several different brass bands are all playing at once. There's even a rooftop DJ and an oversized novelty Reindeer "float" which pumps forth German Europop in it's wake. Little pilgrim witch children eye me with suspicion as I sit costume-less and alone outside a tombstone salesman's garden. The family - similarly witchily dressed - begin dealing with me much in the same way white blood cell eradicate bacteria or foreign bodies from blood. They gradually increase in number and slowly encroach upon me until I am almost swallowed by the mass. I am forced to move lengthways along the granite wall, hauling beer and bag, and immediately I hear a satisfied, "Ahhh," as a German lady plomps herself in my recently vacated seat. The ranks close around and I am happily forgotten about, though the youngest daughter gives me a weak smile, but to be honest it was kinda half arsed so I return the favour and go buy a bratwurst.

Te actual procession was as you might expect - like a village Chinese spirit procession but with Germans and a brass band playing Mambo Number 5. Strange fish faces led the procession - on a float boat - (and after I noticed a statue with the same fish face on. Maybe some sort of mascot of Allensbach? Will take photo and endeavour to find out more info.) Some of the costumes were truly terrifying - hideous demons that stormed down holding firelighters - and some were just bizarre - wrinkled masks of half crying half sneering droopy nosed old men. It all lasted about 30 minutes and was brilliant. I was standing next to mothers with two children so I really had the opportunity to come to terms with my own fragmented memories of carnival as a child. Carnival is literally an excuse to freak out children. During day to day life you have to be "sensible" around children - but during carnival - sure! Peer into strangers child's face as a devil and caress their face - it's hilarious! The parents love it! Come a-bounding and a-jangling and a-clanging from across the road, terrifying the mother in the process and lob sweets at the prams. Totally acceptable.

Though, nobody lobbed sweets at me which was pretty disappointing. Luckily, the children in the procession were so begrudging with their sweet giving that would walk over to the babies, stop about 5 feet in front of them and just kind of sprinkle sweets in their wake before running off that I managed to claim an abandoned lolly pop. I should really get some work done...

Saturday, 17 November 2012


You know you're feeling rubbish when Germans dancing to Turkish men playing Bavarian Polka music next to a Llama during the Saturday market in your tiny home town in Germany fails to lift a smile.

Unfortunately, have had some bad news about Tom - he had to have an operation and looks like he'll be getting chemotherapy. Poor Tom. Please send happy, healing thoughts for him.


I'll keep it short this week as I'm feeling quite down about Tom, so pictures will have to do! Dave and I went to Zurich for the weekend, it was a very Christmassy and cosy. See below for further evidence:
The snail was the best bit

Over looking the Alps and Zurich
So, the last photo has decided to be a bit rebellious and not fall in line with the other photos. Never mind. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The hunt for Blueberry Pie

Ferdinand Hodler: Abend am Genfersee von Chexbreas aus 1894-95 Zurich art museum
After cycling around Radolfzell for an embarrassingly long amount of time (especially given the size of the place) looking for that exact coffee and cake shop that exists in such a sure and secure place in the minds eye (of course it will be there, I’ll know it when I see it) Starbucks swam subliminally into the forefront of my thoughts. Why? I don’t want to go there... but you know – if it wasn’t "Starbucks" it probably would have been perfect. The real reason why I thought of it was because of a very good friend of mine from Madrid (though herself from Sweden) named Helena. Let me preface this with the fact that Helena and I were both preternaturally bored human beings – once while planning an night out we came to the conclusion that the only interesting thing to do that evening was to try to take over the world. We even made a pictoral mind map.I would compare us at that stage in our lives to chocolate easter bunnies – on the surface we did interesting things and seemed like we were interested in things but inside we needed more. More chocolate in my case, I’m not so sure about Helena’s. Maybe lingonberry jam or something?
La Reina Sofia: no, that's not scaffolding. That's supposed to be there.
 Anyway, we sought refuge in a Starbucks after our (definitely mine in any case) one and only attempt to look at an Art Gallery in Madrid. Again, this sounds awful – what an uncultured buffoon I turn out to be – but whatever. I had a mental block about it. The buildings were so impressive and large that I couldn’t figure out what was the entrance while trying to casually walk past it. The one time I attempted to go to El Museo Del Prado – after saying that I was going to go for quite some time and making a definite journey out of my apartment to go there – the queues to get into the “free after 6” time period were laughable. So I went and got a caña instead.

Museo del Prado: intimidatingly looming
 So you can see the sense of achievement Helena and I had when we tentatively walked through the entrance of the comparatively hideous Reina Sofia. The visit turned out to be both disappointing and frustrating. Both of us were restless from caffeine and before us stretched out endless wide white empty corridors on all sides (not forgetting an equally endless up). Everything seemed separated by an enormous gulf as we wandered helplessly in wide circles stumbling upon the odd small pockets of Goya and Picassos which we both looked upon dubiously; skeptically eyeing the paintings from a distance not wanting to show too much enthusiasm. In case it was a trick.
The corridors in the Reina Sofia: yes they really were that big
 Though I know what to expect from Art Galleries, some small part in the back of my mind always expects a triumphant gallery guide or Tv presenter to present each masterpiece with a reverent flourish and an expectant grin. I mean, anyone could just walk right in here and see it. We weren’t even looking for this painting and yet here it is. No one seemed to be paying any attention anyway. I painstakingly studied that painting for my A Levels – give it at least a passing glance! We stumbled upon Piccasso's Guernica by complete accident. Didn't even realise it was here, assumed it would be in the Guggenheim in Bilbao - for logical reasons. That shouldn't be right. After getting the be-dreaded “gallery fatigue” and the lesser heard “leg fatigue” from navigating many miles of offputting blank corridors we descended in the glass lift over looking white statues in an almost entirely unoccupied green garden (thought the day was pleasant) which was certainly the most memorable part of the visit; we both caught each other guiltily eyeing the Starbucks convieniently placed outside.
Starbucks: you could be anywhere

“I don’t really go into it at home”
“No, no me either”
“I’m sick of walking to find the “typical Spanish experience”” Madrileño's do love to walk about
“It just looks so comforting”
“They have the same sofas as mine back at home”
“It’s so easy, I know how to act in a Starbucks – we could almost be at home”
That is the clincher really. After spending so much time struggling to communicate, feeling like a bad person who “needs to learn more Spanish” with a bad accent, where buying milk from the friendly, chatty guy just underneath your apartment is an ordeal you grow to dread and feel guiltier about each time when you can only nod and say “si, si... ha ha…err leche por favoure?” because it’s in the fridge behind the counter so you can't just give the correct money and run... So yes, while we both acknowledged the greater evil of Starbucks and to a certain extent globalization we both – Swedish and English – managed to salve our homesickness (a bit) with over priced coffee and mass produced chintz sofas. We peered out the window. We browsed our leaflets. We sat and sipped. They are doing something right, there's no denying it. 
In case you don't know what I mean - which you probably don't.
Back in Radolfzell, I knew that there wasn't a Starbucks- not that I wanted there to be one - and all the bakeries were shutting and I was not prepared to accept “bar cake” having worked in many bars before – I knew the standard of plastic selophaned sugar with “flavouring of chocolate” I’d be served- I was getting ready to give up. One large, fluorescently lit bakery remained open, however, at this desperately late hour of 5:30pm. From the outside it reminded me of the Salt Beef Bagel shop in Brick Lane actually – so obviously I avoided it initially, not wanting a Salt Beef Bagel or food poisoning. However, it had a suspicious number of old people lingering outside happily chatting and making their way gradually away or into the café. Another suspicious thing about it was that this was Radolfzell, and definitely not East London. Plus, old people always know about these sorts of things, so I decided to trust my oblivious guides and made a U-turn in the road for which I was rewarded with a dirty look and a tut from a man with a baby puller on the back of his bicycle (they are unavoidable here - all the rage). 

Two old ladies on a caffeine and sugar high seemingly congratulated me on having a bicycle as I locked up, I gave a nervous smile as they departed cackling hysterically at my foreign person reaction. As the lights hit me I realised the exterior was a deception to ward off bothersome young’uns! Typical old person trickery. Inside was quaint round tables and low level lighting – the only fluorescent light came from their bakery counter which was sparsely stocked. What they did have however and what every table bore the weight of a generous slab of was blueberry pie. Oh sure, they had bread but – I wasn’t here for bread. It was the only cake they did (other than a convincing looking Seable pie which I nearly got before reasling seable meant Onion!) I joined the masses with a cappuccino and I sat on my circular table with my book and I ate a good, simple hearty blueberry pie and I saved half for the next day because it was massive.

The closest internet approximation of the pie I could find
I’m living in a town where building work attracts a crowd so blueberry pie success stories are about as good as it gets. Ok, so maybe I started the crowd by squealing my old bike to a halt to peer in surprise at three dungaree clad young (attractive) women swinging pickaxes at rubble wearing yellow hard hats in the middle of a building site beside a church. One of them had pigtails. I thought they may have been recording a German music video, but no, just real life. It was difficult not to stare!

As a quick last minute aside - in Radolfzell there is a market every Wednesday and Saturday that for various reasons I haven’t been able to attend so far. Or failed to notice – I mean I must have cycled through it at least three times so far – and I did wonder why Birgit looked so confused when she asked if I’d seen the Wednesday market last week and I said no. It’s huge – sprawls out over the whole of Radolfzell town center and I would have had to cycle through it regardless of which detour I happened to take on my way to the train station. Maybe I was late, in which case I would have mown down a few pensioners as I whizzed through the center – but I checked, no old people residue. Market day is obviously a huge day for the residents of Radolfzell as they were all there gathering round Heisse Marroni (Roasted Chestnuts) and eating Würst under plastic sheeting next to variously bristled broom ends and woolen slippers. Glühwein was for sale – it’s very cheap here- but I’m sure the market only goes on until 1 o clock – the thought of drinking sickly sweet alcohol before lunch turns my stomach just thinking about it. Although that may be because I over did it 2 years ago on the Mulled Wine because it snowed unseasonably early and I wanted to douse myself in Christmas nostalgia.

Stupidity update: It turns out the market was not a typical Wednesday market, as I found out on the way home from Universität as it was still open and only happens once as a build up to Christmas market time. I spent the whole day feeling extremely foolish as well. At least it didn't go to waste..!

Sunday, 28 October 2012


Today (Sunday) is the close of another challenging week, not because I’ve been besting and befriending armored polar bears (sadly), but because a lot of menial things have all begun to pile up. A lot like the unwelcome sight of the snow on my sun roof (I can’t remember the official name for attic windows, maybe if I call it sun roof it will know what it has to live up to). There isn’t even a blind to block it out, I have to physically hide under my duvet and sniffle. Have been trying to melt it away with exorbitant amounts of central heating but it's not really economically viable. So instead of watching Disney films in bed and drinking tea I thought I'd cheer everyone up with a new blog post. 

I keep wanting to take photo’s of where I live and the things I'm doing to belatedly share the moment with someone. I particularly wanted to capture autumn, in my mind I took some pretty cool artistic photos of multicoloured umbrellas and petals on a wet black bough etc. But as I was waiting impatiently for my money to arrive so that I could buy a cheap camera I realised it would be gone before I had the chance. Plus, taking cool photos probably isn't as easy or satisfying as my imagination makes out. Soon it will be winter and the leaves will have faded and crumbled to be replaced by sparkling lights and perpetually cheery music and alcoholic hot drinks. So, I realised that I would have to (try) to share my experiences the old fashioned way – with words and “illustrations”. I can’t draw, but then again I can’t speak German yet I somehow manage to communicate… just quite badly and with much frustration; a collage of words and gestures. Today I have written a bit about the town I live in - Radolfzell, because although it is very small and not at all grand or impressive or chaotic it is where I live and I think it is beautiful. Plus, I have had the chance to spend a fair amount of free time there. 

About Radolfzell
The view from the steps
Conkers have been stored in generous piles inside wicker bicycle baskets. The bikes, which lean against a grey stone wall dappled with slick, wet leaves curling auburn at the edges, have been abandoned by their owners. Their laughter and chatter can be heard through the surrounding hedges of the park as they squeak higher and higher on the swing set. Stone steps lead down away from the children and the gardens and into the hazy blue sky reflected in the calm Bodensee. Boats are resting on the water, side by side with bobbing black moorhens and neurotic seagulls making their fray. Couples canoe gently past. A dark haired woman with a beige shirt and red collar leans happily over her balcony with dark red geraniums to laugh with her passing friend. Her view of the lake is panoramic as it curves outwards on all sides allowing a glimpse of Radofzell’s modest skyline; the white sail of the concert hall (Konzert Segel) and the ocher Gothic spire of the town church are revealed by intermissions between the trees. The afternoon is serene – it seems as though it could always stay this way, frozen azure, the white glare of the afternoon sun lashed in streaks across the water. There is another view I know, just outside of Radolfzell, where you can climb to the top of lookout tower and see the Bodensee surround you on three sides. The final side, behind, is a scorched umber field of wheat-like flood plains. It is in a place called Halbinsel Mettinau roughly means Half Island, it’s a kind of fjord or finger of land pointing into the lake. Every few minutes the train makes its circular progression around the other side of the lake, you can track its progress through glimpses between the olive and golden trees.

A typical church clock tower
The shadows have begun to lengthen and the water, steel grey only moments before, begins to ripple and burn. Across the lake orange lights flicker into focus in the blue shadow of the hill and a small village reveals itself, tucked away arboreal hills across the Bodensee. Against the setting sun's last notes the pier is silhouetted black against thick daubs of pink ribboned with violet. The church bells have begun to ring, loud clear peals chiming through the crisp evening. All of Radolfzell can hear their toll; even those already warm behind double glazed windows. A swan makes her shimmering escapade across the lake side splintering the clarity of the reflected dusk. Gold threads spin away to be absorbed by the indigo ink seeping from the edges of the lake. The clouds are soon just swirls of ash against the fading light of day, evening brings a new peace and new character unfurls from the darkness. 

A side street in Radolfzell
The boats now moored neatly in a line burble and grumble like a brood of hungry goblins. Strangers alight together from their train and begin their solitary walks home through the Marktplatz. It’s has reached that time of year where darkness falls and yet the shop windows are brightly lit, their wares  -fur collared suede coats, whiskey leather bags and uncut, rough emeralds set in burnished gold -  are supervised by store clerks who watch the darkness anxiously for supper time. Fires are lit inside popular German restaurants and bars as the Italian coffee-and-ice-cream shops begin stacking their chairs and refrigerating the tiramisu. There’s a frosted star on the window left over from last Christmas and anticipating the next, and 70’s rock and roll overflows through the open door of the local like plumes of cigarette smoke and tumbles out across the cobble stones.  An emphysemic marionette maker puffs on a filterless roll up as he doggedly scans the crowd for someone to talk to. It doesn't matter if they can't speak any German.

By the lake in Radolfzell
So that's my experience with Radolfzell so far, it's different now because of the blanket of snow. I also went to Meersburg with Klauss my housemate from Taiwan. We went last Sunday and it just so happened to be one of 2 special market days throughout the year in Konstanz. We ate a free lunch of chocolate tasters and different types of cheeses. And I started classes this week - even though I haven't managed to register with the University yet due to a long chain of stupid - which was exciting. Looks like I'll be taking quite a few! Hope everyone is feeling okay, I miss you all and hope to hear from you soon!

On the Ferry to Meersburg