Osterfeuer in Blankenese, Hamburg

Have you ever celebrated Easter / the Vernal (Spring) Equinox with a gigantic bonfire on the beach?

I certainly hadn’t, until I visited Blankenese for the first time over the Easter weekend in 2014. This year we went back to Hamburg to celebrate Easter with family, driving up from Frankfurt on Thursday (6 hours on the road!) with the Osterfeuer celebration on Saturday night and an Easter-egg hunt for my nephews on Easter Sunday. Blankenese is about 30 minutes outside of Hamburg city centre – it’s part of the Hamburg-Altona district – and it’s famous for its beautiful historic houses perched on the hills overlooking the Elbe River. Altona was once governed by the Danish monarchy, and you can see a lot of Danish influence in the architecture of the houses. It’s one of my favourite places in Germany!

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German Christmas Markets

Christmas in Germany is nothing short of magical, especially to someone whose Decembers have always been hot and sunny. I never quite understood the whole “festive Christmas spirit” until I visited a real Christmas market for the first time, wrapped up in a huge calf-length winter jacket, thermal hat and gloves, and a cup of Glühwein in hand. I actually got excited, whereas back home our plastic Christmas tree, carols about snowmen, and steaming hot Christmas meals simply made no sense in the 30° C beach weather. I still adore summer Christmases back home, with chilled rosé wine, family, and a lekker fish braai by the pool, but European Christmases are extra-special to me due to their novelty.

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Top 3 Hannover Highlights

Hannover was the first city I called home in Germany, and it remains one of my favourite cities in the country. Situated in Northern Germany, about 1.5 hours away from Hamburg by car or high-speed train, Hannover is a small and laid-back city that is often overlooked by travellers. Known as the “City of Gardens” in Germany, Hannover is full of beautiful green spaces – public parks, the grand and breathtaking Herrenhauser Royal Gardens, plenty of wide, tree-lined avenues, the Maschsee Lake, and countless beautiful gardens both public and private.

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Bonanza Coffee Heroes, Berlin

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Considering the current state of my coffee obsession, you may be surprised to learn that I only started drinking coffee at 21 years old, when I met my husband. It all started with an espresso on our first date, hah. Since then, I have learned so much about the world of coffee, and most recently, about the Third Wave coffee movement. On my recent trip to Berlin, I made a point of visiting two of the best artisanal coffee places in the city. One of these is Bonanza Coffee, a small coffee shop located in Oderbergerstrasse, Berlin Mitte. I fell so deeply in love with this place that I had to dedicate a blog post to it!

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Berlin on a Budget

Berlin – the cosmopolitan capital of Germany. A gigantic, gritty city that effortlessly blends East and West – acknowledging the past by building a future right around it. A city saturated in history, horrors, and social liberation. A city of modern art and hipster culture, quirky street fashion and vegan restaurants, and open public green spaces in every direction.

The thought of visiting Berlin has always excited me.  As the guys on the train yelled excitedly as we pulled into Berlin Main Station, I secretly enthused with them – “Berliiiiiiiin!”

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Hameln / Hamelin

The quaint medieval German town of Hamelin (Hameln in German) is perhaps best known for the legendary folk tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin (Der Rattenfänger von Hameln). The first account of this terrible event was recorded 100 years afterwards in the town’s records, and it is unknown whether there is much truth in it or whether it is merely an entertaining myth.

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An Endless Pursuit for First Times

I arrived in Germany a year ago, in the middle of winter. Having come from summer in South Africa, I was wholly unprepared for the mind numbing freezing-ness of January. As the plane descended, I caught a glimpse of an expansive white and brown landscape – beautiful, and utterly foreign. I got off the plane and literally gasped at the sheer impact of the cold as I walked briskly to the transit bus. My boyfriend (now husband!) was waiting for me at arrivals, and we shared an excited embrace after being apart for almost 4 months. Our trying long distance relationship was almost instantly a distant memory as I went outside to see snow up close for the very first time.

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The Black Forest in autumn

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This year, for my birthday, Marco took me to the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) in Germany for a long weekend. We rented a little Fiat 500 with a sunroof, and set off on Friday the 3rd October for our forest escape. We were incredibly lucky to have good weather (crisp, cool, clear, and sunny) the whole weekend, which allowed us lots of outdoor exploring opportunities. Unfortunately I’d hurt my back a few days beforehand, so I was unable to do any strenuous hiking, but we did lots of walking, and saw plenty of things for one weekend! I’d go back in a heartbeat.

I fell swiftly and deeply in love with the Schwarzwald region, with its kilometres of thick pine and spruce forest, winding and sometimes terrifying mountain passes, small towns nestled in the hills,  squat and imposing farm houses, lazy mountain cows, and rich folklore. I had read a few Brother’s Grimm tales before leaving, and I was secretly delighted by the traditional wooden homes on the edge of the forest – I imagined Hansel and Gretel huddled before a wood-burner in autumn, fearful of the dangers in the woods that loomed behind their small house.

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Fernweh

Two weeks ago, I got my second tattoo. It reads, “Fernweh”, which is a German word that translates literally as “far-sickness”. It’s hard to explain in English, but it’s similar to wanderlust – an intense longing and an ache for far-off places, and the feeling of belonging to a place you’ve never been. It’s also very similar to the Swedish resfeber – the irritability and longing that one feels when life feels stagnant without travel and fresh, novel experiences.

It’s kind of somewhere between the enjoyment of wanderlust and the pain of withdrawal from travel – a drive and NEED to wander and see new things.

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Schrebergärten in Germany – Gardens in the City

One of my absolute favourite things about Germany is the abundance of allotment gardens, even in the middle of huge cities. Allotment gardens are small pieces of carefully divided open land used for the sole purpose of gardening, and they often have a small wooden shed at one end, lush flower beds, fruit trees, and garden decorations on display.

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