Sunday, March 30, 2014

Paddy's day - the usual madness

This year's St. Patrick's day was probably the best I've had since I've been living in Germany. Unfortunately it fell on a Monday this year but I didn't let that stop me from celebrating and took a half day from work. The weather was fantastic, a sunny 20 degrees. Better weather than they were having in Dublin that day ( I checked!).

Standing outside one of the local Irish pubs drinking Guinness with some friends was perfect. Having lived here nearly four years at this stage I know a lot of people and feel more relaxed and at home in general. I was also able to chat away in German to some German friends who came without struggling to find the correct words or follow the conversation.

The few days leading up to Paddy's day I was starting to feel a little homesick though, seeing my Irish friend's facebook pages. And also this video:

I love the generation emigration section of the Irish Times. It makes me feel like I'm part of something bigger- one of many many Irish people who have emigrated and are living abroad and trying to find our way in a new county, while still holding on to our cultural identity. My American friend at work commented that my Irish accent sounded particularly strong the days leading up to Paddy's day which was funny. I also painted my nails bright green, because why the hell not!

How did you celebrate St. Patrick's day?

Friday, January 24, 2014


At the beginning of December my German teacher asked me it I have any "Weihnachtsstimmung" (Christmas spirit). She asked if I have baked any Plätzchen (German Christmas biscuits), bought presents, put up decorations or written Christmas cards. I had done none of it! Despite Christmas somehow starting earlier and earlier each year, even before Halloween, I still always feel like it sneaks up on me and then in the week before Christmas or even the day before, I often find myself running around the shops picking up last minute presents or hurriedly writing cards. Stress! I have also one year ordered gifts online too late so that they didn't end up arriving until a few days AFTER the big day- oh dear.

This time around I managed to be a bit more organized however and sent out a batch of Christmas cards once I had finished writing the wedding thank you cards and bought my presents with time to spare. I didn't end up putting up the tree this time though since we weren't going to be in the apartment for Christmas, so our place certainly lacked holiday spirit. However I think we made up for it by eating three Christmas dinners! How did that happen? Well we spent the 24th with the GerMann's family, the 25th attending our friends' dinner party and my family also did a sort of belated Christmas day for us when we got to Ireland. Lucky us!

Traditions in Germany are a quite different to back in Ireland. On the 6th of December, you are meant to clean your shoes and leave them out and Nikolaus then puts little presents in them. My lovely mother in law visited us and brought lots of chocolate goodies and santa themed tea towels.

Having enjoyed several Glüweins at the christmas market, gone ice skating, xmas shopping, had my office christmas party, received and sent xmas cards and listened to some xmas music I can now say that I experienced plenty of 'Weihnachtsstimmung'. One of the best things about Germany has to be the Christmas markets. Nothing beats meeting up with a few friends over a mulled wine (Glüwein) and if feeling up to it, ice skating afterwards.

This past year was my first German Christmas which meant it was celebrated on December 24th, instead of the 25th. And there was no turkey. Instead we had fish, though goose is also common. There were a lot of similarities nonetheless- mass, overeating, Christmas tree and exchanging gifts. After our dinner on the 24th we had to momentarily leave the room, and a little bell was rung which meant the "Christkind" was there and had left us presents. This is instead of Santa Claus.

It was a nice to learn about new traditions and to spend time with my German family! Then the GerMann and I spent a week in Dublin where we had a really great time as always! We are hoping to travel to Ireland more often this year.

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Autumn days

Autumn is great time of year in Germany. There are loads of festivals which revolve around wine and beer and the weather is normally still nice- there's a bit of a chill in the air but for the most part it's dry with blue skies. Last weekend we went to Heilbronn and walked around the vineyards and enjoyed the scenery over a coffee.

In September we went to the wine festival in Stuttgart with some friends. There were lots of little restaurants constructed for the event, with cute German style décor. We tried lots of lovely wines from the area. My favourite was a kind of sparkling rose. Everything tasted lovely with the German food- I had some Käsespätzle, a Swabian dish.

Another weekend recently my family came to visit and we went to the first Octoberfest in Karlsruhe. It was basically just a huge tent, there was no carnival like there would be at the Munich Octoberfest or Stuttgarter Wasen. But it was really enjoyable nonetheless. I reserved a table for ten and managed to get a group together last minute. We enjoyed the music, drank huge liters of beer and sung and danced.

My sister and I also decided to buy dirndls for the festival, German style traditional dresses. It took us several hours of shopping and about six shops to find nice ones that fit and cost under one hundred euro. Dirndls are big business this time of year! Everyone was fighting over the last ones left in the shop as if their life depended on it. But eventually we found two nice ones. Trying it on in the shop, I felt a little silly and thought, am I really going to wear this? But once we were on our way to the festival, we saw loads of people wearing dirndls and lederhosen and fit right in!

Something I have noticed living here is that the restaurants often update their menus according to what's in season, so at the moment there are lots of dishes with pumpkin. One of my favourites is pumpkin soup, yum.

The clocks went back recently meaning a nice lie in at the weekend. But now when I leave work in the evenings it is already dark. And the last few days the weather has gotten much colder, there was even frost this morning. Looks like winter is nearly here. Tomorrow is a holiday here and looking forward to the long weekend, and I'll be kicking it off in style by attending a Halloween party this evening.

Hope everyone is having a nice autumn and happy Halloween!!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The wedding

Over a month has passed now since our wedding. We both had an absolutely amazing day and loved every minute of it. In fact if I could re-live it over again I would. What they say is true, the day goes by an an unbelievable speed.

What did I love about it? It was just so nice to be surrounded by family and friends on such a special day. And also seeing all the hard work planning the wedding finally pay off! A lot of people travelled from all over to be there for the wedding which we also really appreciated. My brother and his girlfriend flew from Australia which was the furthest distance. But we also had a lot of friends there from Germany. And the great thing about the day was that everyone was mingling, I didn't even have to worry about making introductions. We had 80 guests which I felt was a perfect number for us.

In the morning I enjoyed getting ready with my bridesmaids. We all had a glass of wine at the hairdressers, and it felt strange to be drinking at 10am! Everyone looked gorgeous. It was my first time seeing the girls in the dresses I had picked for them. Then in the house the photographer took some photos and all too soon the car had arrived and it was time to go! Our wedding ceremony was at Trinity college Dublin and being August there were loads of people sightseeing there. When my Dad and I got out of the car outside the chapel there must have been about 50 tourists standing around taking my picture! I found that a bit overwhelming as I was already feeling nervous at that stage! But I turned around and gave them all a little wave before making my way into the church and they all clapped and cheered which was nice.

Walking up the aisle I burst into tears, and the GerMann was also teary eyed. The ceremony itself was beautiful. The sun came out and we got some fantastic pictures outside before it was time to go on to the hotel. The GerMann and I had a moment just the two of us travelling by car to the hotel which was lovely. Then in the hotel we were able to chat to people at the reception drinks a little before the meal. After the dinner there were three speeches, father of the bride, the best man and the groom and I thought everyone did a fantastic job.

After the dinner it was time for cake and dancing! We hadn't rehearsed the first dance at all but amazingly it went really well and people told me afterwards that it looked like we had taken lessons. And then the rest of the night was spent living it up on the dancefloor and chatting to people. It was all over too soon. The next day we had a lunch at my family home with the GerMann's family and we ate leftover wedding cake for dessert. The following day we flew off on our honeymoon.

There is lots to get used to now, having a husband, being a "Mrs", having a new surname! At the wedding dinner, after the meal, one of the waiters asked me if my husband takes milk in his coffee and it sounded really strange to me, "my husband!". It's sad in a way that the wedding is over now, but we have some beautiful photos, and a lovely video that my cousin made and lots of memories.

Once I got back to work everyone shook my hand congratulating me on being married. And I think I am expected to bring a cake in. Better get on that soon! Getting our marriage recognized here was interesting. We went to our local "Bürger büro", citizen's office and handed in our wedding certificate only to be told, it will have to be translated as they don't accept non German documents.

So then we email a translator for a quote and it's going to be 100€. Yikes. The GerMann phones the Standesamt and finds out there is another option where you don't need a translation but you need your birth certs but they cannot be more than 6 months old and it costs about 70€ and it takes 4 weeks. Okay..

Anyway, then we decided to try going to a different Bürger Büro as we heard that it can depend on the person you get, sometimes they are nice about it. So we go in to a different one and hand in our marriage cert and it was no problem at all, the lady there just accepted it as it was in English and had no issues with it and didn't charge us anything!

The next big project is to send out all the thank you cards and then to create a wedding album. And in the meantime we have also started house hunting. Buying a house actually feels like a bigger commitment and a more difficult decision than deciding whether to get married, funny that!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Two hens are better than one

Summer has finally arrived to Germany after what seemed like a never ending Winter! The GerMann and I actually did manage to escape the cold though for a one week Easter trip to Gran Canaria.

Gran Canaria, or any of the Canary islands are great spots to visit when the weather is bad elsewhere as you can normally expect temperatures of around 23 degrees. There are also long sandy beaches though the water is a bit on the cold side! I'm sure we'll go back again sometime as we had a great trip.

Back in Germany April and May were pretty miserable months, cold with lots of rain. My hay fever which I only developed since moving here (a little "welcome to Germany present") was also really bad for a few weeks. It's worst in April and May when the trees are blooming.

In Germany there are a lot of public holidays which is fantastic but for some reason most of them seem to fall in May! It was brilliant to get four extra days off in May, but I would much prefer if the public holidays were more spread out- like over June, July and August. As it stands, the next bank holiday here isn't until October. Since June the weather has changed quite dramatically for the better. And it was a great month since I got to have not one, but two hen parties!

Since the wedding is in Ireland, I knew I wanted to also have my hen party there with my good friends. This was the "official" hen party, planned by my bridesmaids- mainly my maid of honour, my sis. But my circle of friends here also said they would like to celebrate with me and they decided to plan a party for me. Both events were kept secret- I knew the time and day but not what was going to happen, and both were in June, only two weekends apart. I had given a few guidelines beforehand on what sort of things I wouldn't like- nothing too tacky or embarrassing! The two parties were perfect in their own way.

The Irish one was more "girl's night in" style. We stayed in a lovely spa hotel in Westmeath and got beauty treatments and had a pyjama party. I also got lots of time to catch up with everyone, and it was so lovely meeting my friends again, especially the childhood friends who I have known a very long time! That's a lot of shared history there! It was such a lovely weekend. It felt so strange at the end saying my goodbyes knowing the next time I see everyone will be when I'm back in Ireland again for my wedding!! I'll see the bridesmaids on the wedding morning but everyone else not till I'm at the church in my wedding dress!!

One of my friends from here also travelled with me to Ireland for my Irish hen. It was really nice to mix both my worlds- for my Irish friends to meet one of my best friends in Germany and for her to meet my friends from home. When I was back for the weekend it was also fun to see Ireland from a tourist point of view, the weather was phenomenal- it didn't rain once and we had deep blue sunny skies. So now she thinks that we Irish just tell people it rains a lot in Ireland in order to not have to share our wonderful country! The whole weekend reminded me how much I love Ireland, my family and my friends from home, and made me really want to visit more often. I was also very homesick for the few days after I got back to Germany- until I settled back into my German life again.

It was nice having my German hen to look forward to though. I should mention that it was not typical German style hen, or "junggesellenabschiedsfeier" as they call it auf Deutsch. A typical German hen involves the girls going around with baskets and selling little trinkets such as little bottles of liqueur to people to fund their drinking for the night!

For my German hen we had a brunch followed by a treasure hunt then afternoon tea (with champagne of course) and then dinner and dancing in a club. Feel so lucky to have made such a nice group of friends here. The majority of whom are also ex-pats like me. Our group is a mixture of Americans, Canadian and Irish. A good mix.

When I went back to Ireland for my hen party I also brought my wedding dress on the plane. It was less trouble than I was expecting. The bridal shop folded it into a box for me which I just put into the overhead compartment and once I was back at my family home, we hung it up in one of the wardrobes.

Now that the hen parties are over and the dress is in Dublin, the wedding feels that bit closer. The GerMann was saying to me recently, that in less than 6 weeks time we will be married! The time has seriously flown. And now I can even say- next month I'm getting married which just sounds so close!

Up to now I've been counting down in weeks till the wedding but soon I'll need to switch to days..Yikes!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rainy St. Patrick's day celebrations

It's that time of year again, when people celebrate being Irish, Ireland or just wear green and get drunk. I thought we would even end up having snow on St. Patrick's day here since it snowed at the start of the week and it's been freezing, but instead we just had heavy rain. Irish weather I suppose!

The celebrations here are a lot more low key compared to back in Ireland, it's mainly only the irish pub community who organize anything, but it was a fun day all the same. Happy St. Patrick's day to you, wherever you are!

ps. Wedding preparations have been keeping me very busy. Organizing a wedding in Ireland from Germany has been challenging at times. The good thing about my situation? I'll get to have two hen parties! One in each of my two "homes".

Thursday, November 29, 2012

He liked it so he put a ring on it

It's about time I shared my good news on the blog. We are engaged! At the end of the summer, in early September we went on a last minute trip to Mallorca- also known as the 17th German state- based on the number of Germans who live and visit there. We stayed near Cala Millor on the north east of the island- not party central but lively enough, and we loved it. The beaches are stunning- albeit a little crowded at times. You can have a lovely holiday without breaking the bank. We also rented bikes one day and found a little cove with beautiful clear sparkling water and away from the other tourists.

On our last night we went out for a nice meal and after some Sangria the GerMann suggested a stroll on the beach. Halfway down the beach he proposed. I'll keep full details of the proposal private but it was perfect! Who says German men can't be romantic?! I burst into tears when I realized what was happening but managed to get out a "yes"! I was on a complete high after the engagement which lasted about a week until I started thinking about the enormous task ahead of me of organizing a wedding. We (though mainly I) have decided to have the wedding in Ireland. I figure I have moved to Germany and will be here long enough, I can at least have my wedding back in Ireland!

I have also been blown away from the response to our engagement. When I put the announcement up on facebook (easist way to share the news!) I got about 50 comments and "likes"! We have also received lots of engagement cards and even presents which we weren't expecting at all. And everyone is really excited for us.

So the last two months I have been really busy with all the wedding planning. I know everyone says this but I had no idea how much is involved in organizing a wedding! It is also harder when you don't live in the country. I've been back in Dublin twice already since getting engaged- checking out venues and bridal shops! Initially when we discussed our ideas for the wedding, we both agreed it should be small and intimate. Though our ideas of "small" are completely different. Mine- about 80 guests, him about 10! I negotiated up to about 50 guests but when I started working on the guest list I realized it would not be enough and people would end up feeling upset at not being invited. But also you only get married once and I would like the people in our lives to be there to share the moment with us. So now we are at 80 guests which we are both happy with.

I believe there are some women who have their whole wedding mapped out and when they get engaged they know exactly where to start. But I was never like that. I had vague visions of being in a lovely dress and walking down the aisle in a church, but in terms of what style dress or colour schemes or even what sort of venue I would like, I had never given these things much thought.

Looking at the wedding planning checklists online can be overwhelming!! But better to take each step at a time. My first point of call was to try to book the church. I was surprised how many dates were already booked up in the church for next year. The initial date we wanted had an 11am time slot which I feel would have been too early, or a Friday, which I also would prefer not to have as I know it is more awkward for guests. But we booked a time slot two weeks later, on a Saturday at 2pm in August. Perfect.

My next step was looking up venues. I began searching through all the possible venues within an 1hour or so drive from Dublin. Initially I was spending ages thinking about which place would be best, and the GerMann also looked up some info on the venues. But then just as I had picked the ideal venue and was day dreaming about it, I sent them a quick email to check availability, only to find them booked already! So then I tried another place nearby- also booked!

At this stage I started panicking that all the best places would be gone already. So then I emailed about 20 different places checking availability to get the list to work from. We ended up having to rule out loads of places due to them being booked, or having minimum numbers on a Saturday (like 150!). Then we were down to about 10. Of that list we further narrowed it down to 7 which I visited in Ireland all in one day with my Dad!! Yes, it was a tiring day!!

After that we narrowed it down to two and the venue is now booked. So I do feel like things are slowly but surely moving forward!!

The next thing is hopefully to settle on the dress. I have been bridal shopping in both Germany and Ireland. The advantage of getting the dress here is that it is easier to go to the dress fittings, but it would be a pain trying to get the dress and everything to Ireland. Here's a photo from a bridal fashion show I went to here.

I think that there is universal wedding dress fashion in that when I compare German magazines to Irish or American wedding magazines or websites I don't see a big difference in the styles. However, after going to a few German bridal shops here, I have noticed there tend to be a lot more of the traditional big puffy dress styles. With lots of ruffles or flowers. Like the dress on the far right in the picture. Not quite what I'm looking for! Hopefully I'll find the perfect dress soon.

Any wedding planning tips from anyone out there?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Football and Zumba

Well I haven't been blogging much lately as you might have noticed. Sometimes life just takes over. What have I been up to? Well, as a couple, our social life has taken off a lot recently, which has been great. When we moved here, neither of us knew anyone so it has been challenging building up a circle of friends, and it takes time. But lately we have even had to turn down invites!

I have started a Zumba class. Zumba is the new craze which recently arrived in Germany. It is a mixture of dance and aerobics. There are Salsa elements, hip hop, line dancing and some parts that even resemble Irish dancing. It's surprisingly good fun and a really good workout! You will be covered in sweat by the end of the one hour class. My Zumba teacher is a mad German woman who whoops and cheers the whole time and gets really into it. She told us that one of the women in her classes lost 7 kilos in one month from doing Zumba twice a week! 7 Kilos is over one stone!

We also had visitors. Family and a friend from Ireland. The weather was lovely and sunny and everyone had a great time. By this stage, nearly two years living here I also know all the best places to show people- beautiful lakes for swimming, great views, restaurants with delicious food and of course the best pubs!

I also have a busy (and expensive!) Summer ahead of me with lots of weekend trips planed back to Ireland- for two hen parties, for a wedding, for my Dad's 60th birthday, and then of course I'll also go back for Christmas. The GerMann and I are also hoping to go away together for a sun holiday at some stage. Probably to Mallorca, also known as Germany's 17th federal state, as so many Germans holiday there! I guess we'll have to get up really early and put our beach towels on all the pool chairs just to keep the stereotype going!

Everyone has been going European cup crazy here. Or Europa-Meisterschaft as it's called. It's impossible not to get sucked into the excitement a little! All over the place, there are these so called "public viewings" where a big screen or TV is put up and you can watch the game with lots of other people. Whenever Germany were playing and when they scored, people blew horns and cheered, and when Germany won a match there were fireworks and people doing an "autokorso".

When some Germans first explained the term to me, I actually thought they were talking about joy riding! But actually there is nothing illegal about auto-kursing, it's basically when they get into their cars and drive around blowing the horn at passers by and waving the German flag and generally celebrating. In the car.

Unfortunately Ireland lost all our matches and got knocked out of the tournament fairly early. During the match against Italy, I was flying home. When the plane landed the pilot told us all that we were "2 nil" down. It took me only a few minutes to leave the airport and get to the bus area where the aircoach ticket seller told me the score was then "4-nil". So that was disappointing!

The football is over now and in case you are living in a cave and didn't hear, Spain won. The next big football competition will be the World Cup n 2014. Hopefully Thierry Henry's hand won't prevent Ireland from qualifying for the World Cup next time around! By that stage maybe we'll have a car, and if Ireland win a match I can go "autokorson" around the neighbourhood!