Saturday, 23 September 2023


As you know from my previous post, I arrived at O.K.'s on Friday, the 8th of September, marking the start of another two weeks off work. (Yes, we are spoiled in this country - I am due six weeks off work every year, and if I accumulate enough extra hours, I can have even more time off. But having so much time off needs that all your tasks at work have to be crammed into those days and weeks when you actually are working - there are two sides to everything...)

On Saturday, the 9th of September, we were up much earlier than what is usual for us on a weekend. We were to pick up friends M and A at their house in a nearby village and then meet with a few more friends to drive deep and high into the Black Forest for about an hour and a half, to a settlement called Schönwald ("beautiful forest").

What for?

It had been M's 50th birthday a short while ago, and as a gift for her, all of us (five couples) had chipped in to book a "cheese seminar" for her. We were to learn how to make cheese, and all in the beautiful surroundings of the Black Forest.

To sum it up: The day was fun, we had a good time, learned a lot and went home with our own cheese. For me, the best part was a walk through a nature reserve.

I won't show you pictures of the actual cheese-making, as I have not asked anyone's permission to show them here on my blog. Trust me that we all looked a little different to normal, wearing hair nets and aprons.

The place from outside:

And inside (not the "cheese kitchen", just a corner in the dining room):

View from the house - talk of a quiet neighbourhood:

Path through the moorland nature reserve nearby; it is forbidden to leave the path, pick any plants, light a fire, catch/harm/scare animals or leave rubbish about - and I am pleased to say that there really was no rubbish anywhere:

O.K. and I were back mid-afternoon. The day was still very warm (much warmer in town than it had been up there in the woods at about 1,000 m above sea level), and so we bought ice creams and had a stroll around town (talking of Offenburg here, not Ludwigsburg, obviously).

We spent good part of the evening on the balcony of O.K.'s cottage, enjoying glasses of Apérol Spritz to celebrate the weekend, the start of our holiday, and life in general.

Next stop: Austria!

Friday, 22 September 2023

Catching Up: September 3 to 8

It was the 21st of September yesterday - the second of two days each year when day and night are of equal length in my part of the world (equinox). From now on, the days won't just feel shorter, they really ARE shorter than the nights. 

But back to where I left off: Saturday, the 2nd of September, was the family outing with the boat trip to Besigheim. I'll try to be quick with describing the last week before we left for Austria.

Sunday, Sept. 3, was as sunny and warm as the Saturday had been. O.K. and I had a quiet day, starting with a morning run at 10 on the fields. We'd not been running in a VERY long time (a year or more), and I had no idea how I was going to fare, but it turned out to be rather good. 

"Breakfast" was around 1:00 pm, then a bit of a rest until we set off for a short stroll into town. We were meeting friends at the pub at 5:30 pm, a couple we rarely see although they live only in the next town. We started out having drinks outside on the sunny market square. For food, we fled inside - wasps were bugging us (me in particular!) too much, and we were not the only people to move inside.

The warm, sunny weather continued for the entire week. Monday (4th of September) was a succession of online meetings at work, an afternoon visit from my former neighbour who had just returned from Turkey where the family celebrated the older daughter's wedding, and an early evening walk with my friend V who was back from visiting her family in the US.

Sunset on Monday as seen during our evening walk.

I very briefly dropped in at my Mum's during lunch break on Tuesday, Sept. 5, and later went for an after-work walk in a part of town where I had not been in a while.
The palace grounds are behind this wall.

Wednesday (Sept. 6) saw me taking a train into Stuttgart for my regular eye examination. For a change, my doctor was not entirely happy, and prescribed me additional drops to keep my left eye's inner-eye pressure in check. After work, part of my volunteer group met at a beer garden in town for the first time since the start of summer.

From May to September, Thursdays mean "Wine After Work" at the Duke of Wuerttemberg's winery by the lake, and this Thursday (Sept. 7) was no exception. My sister and I walked down together, meeting our Mum and friend R there. Other friends and acquaintances joined us (unplanned), and apart from the wasps (which were of course only bugging ME), it was a lovely evening. My sister and I walked back together; it was dark by the time we reached our respective homes.

View towards Asperg on our way home.

Friday, the 8th of September, was a tad warmer at 29 C (84 F). I worked on-site at a client's in the middle of Stuttgart until lunch time. Back home, I wrapped up work tasks before I started on a quick cleaning round and then dragged my big suitcase up from the basement. Packing never takes me very long, and well before 6:00 pm I was ready to go. My trains to O.K. were about 15 minutes late; nothing out of the ordinary.

It was when we arrived at O.K.'s cottage that I felt my holiday was beginning. We had a quick snack and then joined the many neighbours who had gathered round the fountain on the small square in front of the group of houses where O.K. and his parents live. It was their annual Brunnenfest ("fountain fest"), an informal gathering where everyone brings their own food, drink, chairs and tables. For the first time this year, a live band were playing, and everybody had a good time.

We retreated to the cottage at around 11:00 pm, but sleep was nearly impossible - the musicians later moved to the neighbour's garden directly in front of our bedroom window, where they kept bawling singing old favourites until the early hours, Loch Lomond strangely featuring several times.

Regardless of little sleep, we were up very early on Saturday morning - what for, will be the subject of my next post (not yet Austria!).

Saturday, 9 September 2023

Off to Austria

Tomorrow, Sunday, O.K. and I will be off to Austria for ten days of (hopefully) walking and hiking in the region Bregenzerwald. Our hotel deliberately does not have WiFi in the bedrooms; my occasions for reading and commenting on your blogs will therefore be very limited, and I doubt I will do much blogging myself.

Just to let you know, so that nobody needs to worry when you don‘t see me around as much as usual.

Tuesday, 5 September 2023

A Day Out

At the end of my previous post I have mentioned a family outing on Saturday. Back in August, my sister and I gave our Mum a birthday present: A trip on a pleasure boat on the river Neckar.

Such river cruises were more common for us when I was younger. As a child, I remember boat trips with my parents and grandparents as well as with my class at school when I was 9 or 10 years old. I always enjoyed those cruises; watching the landscape slowly change from vineyards to villages and towns and back to vineyards and meadows, seeing other boats, waving to people walking along the river or on those other boats, and so on.

My Mum had the choice of various lengths of trips (one way or a round trip), of the direction of travel (north or south) and of the people she wanted to come with her.

On Saturday, five of us met at the pier down by the Neckar in Hoheneck, a suburb of Ludwigsburg (and many centuries older than the city itself) at 10:30 in the morning: My Mum, my sister and I, O.K. and Mum's friend R.

Our boat was the "Weinkönigin" - Wine Queen - and it was chock full of people! The five of us just about managed to find a table on board; not outside but in (which was just as well in view of the sun and the possibility of wasps, but not ideal in terms of noise).

Of course nearly everyone was talking, chatting, laughing or asking questions at the same time - the level of noise was not far away from what it's like at "my" Irish Pub on quiz nights.

Never mind - we were here to have fun, and fun we had! We ordered snacks and drinks and did what everybody else did: Watch the landscape outside, listen to the occasional commentary provided, and talk.

Three hours, several stops and locks later, we arrived at Besigheim, famous for its wines.

We had a stroll around the picturesque old town before settling for a restaurant where we had a late but delicious lunch. Another short stroll took us past a café where some of us bought ice creams to take away.

As you can see from the photos, the day couldn't have been more beautiful: Blue sky, fluffy white clouds, not too hot - just really gorgeous.

We stopped at a church for a while, listening to organ practice and admiring the carved altar (which had its 500th birthday in 2020).

The garlands were strung in preparation for Besigheim's wine fest next week.

View of the old town from across the bridge. The river here is the Enz, not the Neckar (on which we came).

Oddly shaped old houses were everywhere.

Who's scaling the wall here?

Click to enlarge for this panoramic view from the top of the old city wall.

Shortly after 5:00 pm, we boarded a packed train back to Ludwigsburg. The train ride took only 15 minutes as opposed to the 3 hours the boat would have taken.

Somehow we were not quite ready to split up and go home yet, and so we remained for another couple of hours or so at the open-air bar at the train station, listening to the music, people-watching and enjoying a few drinks.

In between, something like a fashion show took place: Women in Burkina Faso, as part of a project organised by volunteers from Ludwigsburg, had been working on skirts, bags and other accessories made from colourful traditional fabrics, and were now presenting the items (which were all for sale, with the proceeds going to the project).

It was dark by the time we left; a pleasant end to a good day out.

Monday, 4 September 2023

Last of August, First of September

Both in comments on other blogs as well as on my own blog, I have mentioned several times how I find the transition between seasons affecting me most with the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) changes from late summer to early autumn, mainly happening around the end of August and start of September. Last year, I described those days here.

This year, the last four days of August and first three of September saw quite a change in the weather: It was chilly and wet until Thursday, but began to warm up considerably on Friday. The coldest day was no warmer than 16C (60F), while the hottest saw the thermometer reach 27C and beyond (80F).

On Monday (28th of August), my trains back from O.K.'s were on time, and I was able to start work at 9:30. That in turn enabled me to finish work at 5:00 pm; a few minutes later, I was on my way to Benningen. A maximum of seven or eight single rain drops reached me (I am not kidding), and the entire walk felt so good.

I was out walking again after work on Tuesday, chosing an area where I had not been in months. There was rain during the day, and I was wearing/carrying my rain coat for the walk, but never needed it.

Wednesday was an office day (as opposed to working from home), and already a little warmer than the start of the week had been. After a rainy start and another shower during the afternoon, the sun came out later, in time for my Mum, my sister and I to sit outside the pub on the market square for food and drinks and to discuss our outing planned for Saturday.

The last day of August, Thursday, was overcast and relatively chilly again. That did not stop my Mum, her friend R and me to meet at the small palace by the lake for "Wine After Work" (as described here). We were dressed accordingly and were lucky in that the rain clouds decided to move on after having graced us with only a few droplets.

Walking down to Lake Monrepos takes about 45 minutes from my home.

It still looked like rain, but no more than a few droplets reached us.

On the 1st of September (Friday), I worked until early afternoon and then did my usual cleaning, changing of bed sheets and so on. O.K. arrived at around 7:30 pm. We enjoyed our meal of oven-roasted spuds, grilled cheese and salad, combined with a well chilled rosé wine from the same winery where I had been the day before.

The full moon was at its fullest and nearest during Wednesday and Thursday night, but both nights were cloudy and rainy - no chance to see the moon. However, I woke up at around 2:30 am on Thursday morning and found my living room flooded by moon light - and could not look directly at the moon for more than a split second, as it was almost as blindingly bright as the sun.

Friday night, I took this picture of the moon in an array of clouds, as seen from my kitchen window.

Our family outing on Saturday will be my next post.

Thursday, 31 August 2023

Read in 2023 - 23: Janet Jackson's Yorkshire B&B

Janet Jackson's Yorkshire B&B
by Becky Papworth

This was another free find at Amazon's kindle shop, yielded after a search with the keyword "Yorkshire". It was a fun read, even though more often than not, I shook my head at the heroine.

Janet Jackson (no relation whatsoever to Michael's sister) lives in a small town in Yorkshire and has just converted her garage into a B&B. 
Sounds straightforward enough - but the opposite is the case.
The good Janet has started out on this business adventure with no preparation and no plan whatsoever, something I find truly exasperating. In the end, though, she is successful, and the reader (at least this one) can't help but feeling relieved - for her as much as for oneself.

Not only does she lack preparation or even the most basic sense of business. As if that wasn't enough, she is surrounded by obstacles in the form of envious neighbours, a high maintenance teenage daughter and her unemployed and alcoholic sister living with her, and an ex husband who manages to time his surprise visits just when she least needs them.

And that's not having said anything about the B&B guests yet! They range from horrible to absolute sweethearts, but even the sweetest ones mean (surprise, surprise) work for Janet.

There is romance thrown in, and humour; all in all, I found it really entertaining but would not put it on a "must read" list. I grew to like Janet a little bit when she finally asserted herself (at least in one situation).

Becky Papworth has her own website here; as far as I can see, this is her first and so far only book. If Janet embarks on future adventures, I might go and read them.

Monday, 28 August 2023

Last "Proper" Summer Week?

The past week may well turn out to be the last one for 2023 we can justly call summer. After nearly every day saw the temperature reach above 30C (mid-/high 80s F) and brought several thunderstorms with rain, Saturday and Sunday were considerably cooler with an overnight drop to around 20C and under (68F).

My trains back to Ludwigsburg were on time on Monday morning (21st of August). It was too hot for a comfortable walk right after work, and so I waited until the main TV news were over and left the house at 20 past 8 in the evening, going for a sunset walk of about 1 1/2 hours. 

I worked at the office in Weilimdorf on Tuesday, the 22nd of August, and again it was too hot for a walk, and since I'd been away all day, I quite enjoyed spending a quiet evening home, playing my favourite computer game, watching TV, reading, and talking to O.K. on the phone after he'd returned from his sister's birthday party.

View from my kitchen window, Tuesday morning just before 7:00.
Wednesday was my second office day of this week. It was not quite as hot as the previous days, but still enough to keep me from a proper walk. Also, there was an open "after work do" (a kind of meet & greet) at the office, and I used the opportunity to get to know a few colleagues from different departments.

Thursday, the 24th of August, meant working from home like most Thursdays. The date itself made me think of Christmas Eve - one of my favourite days of the year - being only four months away. 

A very unpredictable mix of sun and rain and more sun and more rain made me abandon the idea of a walk - the weather app on my phone was wrong every time it rained, saying that Ludwigsburg was just "partly cloudy" :-D

The same view on Thursday morning.
The weather started similarly unsettled on Friday (in spite of my rain coat, I got soaked twice on my way to a client in Stuttgart, where worked until shortly after 1:00 pm), but the afternoon saw an improvement, and so my Mum and I decided to pay one last visit to the Weinlaube (wine fest, as mentioned in a few previous posts). Saturday was going to be the last day for another year, and since I was going to O.K.'s for the weekend, this was our only chance for a good-bye visit.

We had fun and got talking to people at our table; not even getting stung by a wasp put a real damper on the evening. Can you believe I was the ONLY person at our table constantly surrounded by wasps? Unlike the others, I did not even have food in front of me, plus I had sprayed myself with a repellant - it seemed to have the opposite effect! Good job I carried an instant treatment stick with me; it helped a little. But even today, three days after the sting, the spot on the inside of my upper arm is still red and itchy. 

Minutes after this picture was taken, I was stung by a wasp.

The live band were good, but once again had to take a long break (1 1/2 hours) because of an open air theatre performance nearby. We used that time slot to go to the bus stop where I waited with my Mum until I knew her safely settled in the bus, then I returned to the fest. I did not buy any more drinks but just kept close to the stage, singing and dancing along to the music until about 11 pm, when it started to rain. Good job I live so close to the town centre - I was home in under 10 minutes.

On Saturday, I wrapped up my house work and then made my way to the train station. It was considerably cooler at 21C, and there were showers all along the way to Offenburg, where I arrived early afternoon.

We joined O.K.'s parents, his sister and her husband, a few friends and neighbours on their patio for coffee and cakes (delicious!) to celebrate the birthday of O.K.'s Mum - she turned 83.

O.K. and I could not stay for the evening meal, since we had another birthday party to attend: The youngest sister of O.K.'s ex wife turned 50. The party was held in their beautiful garden; a few drops of rain did not bother us under the tents and umbrellas that had been erected. There was plenty of food (salad bar and BBQ) and drink, and we enjoyed talking to the family and friends.

At night, of course it cooled off further, and even though we had prepared ourselves with extra layers of clothing, eventually it just didn't feel comfortable anymore to sit and talk. We were among the last guests to leave and arrived at the cottage just before midnight.

Sunday started sunny, but more rain was forecast, and so we made sure to be out for a walk after our (late) breakfast. The temperature was hard to judge; although it did not show more than about 20 on the thermometer, it felt rather hot and humid in the sun, and I was glad that I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. We returned home after about 7.5 km, and just in time - maybe 2 minutes later, it began to rain again.

By early evening, the sun made an attempt to return, but it was really chilly; good job O.K.'s Mum had booked a table indoors at a pizzeria/restaurant in the neighbouring village. This time, there were only the six of us (O.K.'s parents, his sister and her husband, O.K. and I), no neighbours, friends or relatives - but by coincidence, some (distant?) relatives had the table next to ours.

Afterwards, O.K. and I spent the rest of the evening quietly; Monday mornings mean an early start for both of us (5:20), since O.K. takes me to the train station in Offenburg and then drives on to work.