Friday, May 31, 2013

High Water at the Floßhaus!

I can't really say that this came out of the blue or anything, we pretty much banked on having water in the basement after seeing the house and noticing that there was NOTHING in the basement, and the furnace and whatever scant supplies were down there were elevated.  Here it is, the water! 

 So there's just a couple of inches of water in the basement, thanks to the pump that's been running since this morning.

The quiet little stream that comes from the forest across the street has turned into roaring little river. 
 The waterfront has gotten closer to the Haus!
 Those trees are usually on dry land.
Here's the view from where I'm sitting now. 

The real danger appears to come not from the Zschopau, but from the forest across the street.  I just noticed that there is lovely clear water trickling down the path directly across from the Haus, and have heard that this can also turn into a roaring waterfall.  I didn't just buy a house here, I bought a whitewater adventure!

And a pretty one to boot:
So far we haven't been hit so hard, the people in Neudörfchen a little closer to town have more water in their yards.  In Chemnitz, where I was teaching today, there was hard rain most of the afternoon, Neukirchen was half under water, and on the way back to Mittweida a farm in Ottendorf was completely under water.  So right now we're hanging in there pretty well, let's see what the next 2 days of rain bring.  I heard today that the water will reach its highest this weekend. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"I'm the one who's suffering here!"

Finally it seems like someone is interested in our crappy little hole of a garden, so I made the trek out to the garden club today to show it to her.  Upon entering the garden I knew I was going to face some trouble from the neighbor who lives next door.  The weeds were mostly about knee-high.  Last year he freaked out because a couple of little sprigs of oats and wheat came up between our rows of plants, this year the whole garden is full of so-called weeds. 

What was my greeting?  A hollered "When is your husband coming?"  My answer?  "I don't know."  Neighbor who lives there, aka drunken truck driver, kept increasing his volume and angry tones, demanding to know when we are planning to weed the garden, threatening to get us in trouble with the board (ooooh!), yelling at me that HE'S the one who's suffering from OUR weeds.  Pardon my French, but what the f$/§)`?  If that makes you suffer, then something is wrong.  He continued harassing me, demanding to know if we'd picked up our bill for the yearly lease, if my husband had informed the club of our new address and all I could say is that I don't know.  Because I don't.  And I really don't care.  I have enough other things to deal with, and that stupid garden was and is not my baby.  I hated it for 2 years and never want to see it again.  I tried to love it, and I did like the vegetables and the flowers, but the garden itself?  No thanks.  I told him repeatedly that I have nothing to do with the garden, and finally yelled "THIS GARDEN IS NOT MY PROBLEM!" and stalked off.  He continued yelling even after I was out of sight.

I would love to add my entire vocabulary of expletives and a few new ones for good measure here, explaining exactly how I feel about the situation in the garden this afternoon, but that wouldn't make the situation any better.  It would just make me look stupid and immature, and that's not what I want. I'm not usually a screaming, foul-mouthed emotional mess, but some things can push me in this direction.

Normally, I'm pretty relaxed, patient, and can keep my cool even in ridiculous situations.  There are not many people who can drive me to yelling, I can think of 3 or 4, and drunken truck driver who lives in the garden colony is now among their ranks.  So congratulations, drunken truck driver, that's quite an achievement.  And have fun dealing with my firing squad.  If you harass me, I will release the wrath of Sauer Kraut upon you.  You got a little taste of that on the phone this evening.  Enjoy. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Attack Swan at the Schwanenteich

We've been having some fun exploring our new town, Mittweida.  All in all it's a cozy, very pretty town with a good library:  my test was a search for David Sedaris and Wladimir Kaminer books, both were present.  Yes!  Even the Cashbags have played here.  Regardless of everything, our awesome Floßhaus can't be beat.  But last week's adventure was pretty cool.

The weather has finally warmed up, so we aren't freezing in sub-zero temperatures any more, but rather, we're feeling quite summery.  I decided to get some ice cream bars with the kids and check out the famed Schwanenteich (Swan Pond) here in town.  It was better than I could have imagined:  not only are there swans, ducks, and geese, but there's also a voliere with exotic birds and peacocks and even some deer!  The main attraction was the swans, though.  First we noticed how friendly the ducks seemed, they were coming out of the water toward us, probably because they were hungry for our ice cream.  After watching the ducks a bit, I noticed one of the two swans swimming faster than I'd ever seen a swan swim ever before.  Hmm, that's strange, I thought, and observed it a little longer.  Upon further observation, it became clear that this swan was duck hunting.  Any duck that came within a three-meter radius of it, or actually any duck that it happened to swim near for that matter, became a target. The swan would start swimming really fast, tip its wingtips upward, and when it got near the duck, it would lunge and snap.  I wondered if this was a one-time thing, but no, the swan circulated around the whole pond, speeding, lunging and snapping away.  I decided to take a few photos, because I'd never seen anything like it before.

Fast Swan swimming...




Was this duck (also seen at the Schwanenteich) a victim of Fast Swan?  Friedrich didn't think so, he said it just flew too fast and crashed into the rocks.  We will never know what his true demise was.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Now coming to you from...Mittweida!!!

Dear Readers,

I know it's been a while.  It's been a very stressful, crazy time since October, when I found this gem on ImmobilienScout: 

The Sunday evening I found this lovely shack I had been searching for houses or even apartments in or near Dresden.  I found nothing, nothing and nothing.  My frustration grew to a level I'd never reached before, and just for fun, I typed in Mittweida.  And there it was, the Flosshaus.  I fell in love immediately, and could think of nothing but this house for the whole week.  On Friday we went to look at the house, expecting to find some horrible problems with it, some reason that nobody wanted it.  It seemed too good to be true.  But no, it was fine.  Over the weekend, we more or less moved into the house in our minds.  Our time in Dresden had come to an end. 

We called the real estate agent on Monday to tell him we'd take it, but the people who'd looked at the house after us were also of the opinion that they'd like to buy it.  He told us we were too late.  That day we fell into a black hole, we just couldn't imagine living anywhere but in the Flosshaus.  We couldn't imagine our lives without the Flosshaus!  This would eat away at us for the rest of our days.  But by some act of someone, somewhere, the owner decided to sell to us a few days later. 

So now when I'm preparing my lessons or doing translations, I'm sitting here in my office with a view of the Zschopau River.  This room also used to be a whole different kind of workroom.  The Flosshaus is well known in Mittweida as an adult establishment.  Word on the street has it that the previous owners were operating a type of, ahem, club here before the flood in 2002.  It appears that the high water ended their business venture, and tenants moved in.

Three weeks ago, we moved in.  I am absolutely thrilled with our new location and our new town.  I'm also lucky to have the best of both worlds:  I still can work in Dresden a few days a week, so I can get my dose of city life, but when I go home it's like a little vacation every time.  On the way home I drive along the river on a curvy road, then the house appears on the horizon.  The kids and I cheer every time we pop around the last curve and see the Haus.

This is the start of a whole new chapter, and a whole new set of adventures.  We've got a little land, what will we do with it?  We sure did get a lot out of our garden, which was not even a tenth of the size of our land here.  Plus, we can have animals here! On my list are cats, bunnies, chickens and Indian runner ducks.  An ostrich would be quite a novelty, but a bit too eccentric and sensitive.  I suggested a cow today, to which Wilhelm replied:  "But then we'd need a creamery!"  But before all of that can happen, it needs to turn into spring!  We seriously need some warmer weather.  We thought we'd have a nice time to move in, when the heating season was drawing to a close, but no, it's freezing, and we have to heat with coal and wood.  Oh, yeah, and our wood shipment?  It's completely wet.  There's no burning that.  So last week I brought home 900 kilograms of coal in three trips.  On my last trip, the guy at the store started to help load the packages of coal into the trunk after he'd gotten down my pallet of coal with the forklift, and I think he was a little surprised when I so matter-of-factly started heaving the coal into the trunk myself.  He made a sort of surprised noise, and I said "You're welcome to help, but I loaded the last 60 packages into the car myself".  He seemed a little miffed, parked his forklift then came back and helped with the last few packages.  He was also impressed with how exactly 30 packages of coal fit into the trunk of the car.  I probably could've transported more had my lovely car not suffered so horribly during the move: 
Just to set the record straight, this was not my doing.  My poor, pretty red station wagon's days are numbered now.  It still drives okay, but the crasher drives it now.  I took his car, which is even bigger than my A6 and a pretty smooth ride, except that the heat doesn't work. And there we are, back at the heating issue.  Spring, please come soon!  I've had enough of the sub-zero temperatures and ugly gray weather!

That's all from here for now, I'm sure there'll be more soon!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

El Hierro!

  After our first week of vacation, we jumped on the Benchijigua Express and ferried over the El Hierro, the smallest and furthest west of the Canary Islands.

  Here's the car line before the ferry arrived and before we could drive on.

 We're on our way!  We've actually taken this ferry before, back in 2007 over to La Gomera.  That's a trip for lightweights, it only takes about 30 minutes from Tenerife to La Gomera.  It takes 2 hours to get to El Hierro.  And not many people make the trip:  the boat was pretty full on the first leg of the journey to La Gomera, but cleared right out when we got there.  We had a relatively quiet and relaxed trip over.
 There you can see La Gomera and Tenerife behind the boat.  The water was really calm and the air was super clear, I think this view is unusual.

Puerto de la Estaca, El Hierro.  on the right side you can see the Fred Olsen Express on which we came.

El Hierro is much smaller than Tenerife, which you certainly can feel after you've gotten used to following maps in Tenerife.  At first I often expected a relatively short drive to take at least twice as long, despite knowing the scale of the map.  My first impressions of El Hierro were that it's very quiet:  there are very few tourists. Also, it seemed to be more "original", meaning that in Tenerife you can find a lot of British and German products in the supermarkets, and in La Palma and La Gomera we came across lots of products made by German expatriates (bread, sweets, tofu products), whereas we didn't spot any of this in El Hierro, just lots of Spanish stuff!  This isn't to say that it's not there, we just didn't notice any.  I really liked that, because it really felt like I was away.  When I go on vacation, I don't want things from home, I want to try different things, and this was a great place to do it. Herreno cheese, Herreno cheesecake, lots of delicious fruits and vegetables, yum, yum, yum...

Another very pleasing aspect of this island is the small population:  about 10,800 people live there!  On the whole island!  That's about 40 people per square kilometer.  It was quiet, the nature areas weren't overrun, even the "tourist towns" were very civilized.  I instantly fell in love with this little island, even though it doesn't have any of the heavy hitting major attractions like Tenerife with El Teide, La Palma with the Caldera and Cumbre, etc.  In a way, it's almost like a mini format of the other islands without the extremes.  Even with the small population, however, I found the capital city to be pretty hip, with lots of interesting shops and cafes.  El Hierro definitely has its own flair, and if you want to go off the beaten path, I'd say that this is a great place to do it.

 We stayed in Casa Elvira in the town of Isora, which was relatively centrally located.  It wasn't too long of a drive to get anywhere.  The only trouble was that the house is about 700 meters above sea level, which we didn't expect to be so questionable, but it was.  The first couple of days were gorgeous...
 ...the orange tree was blooming and smelled fantastic...
 ...from Casa Elvira we could even see La Gomera and Tenerife.  We read in our travel guides that you can't usually see the other islands, and thought this was a joke to keep the tourists away, but it seems like we were very lucky on our first 2 days and our last day.  In between there was an awful windstorm and it was gray and cloudy.  It wasn't possible to sit outside and it was even relatively cold inside because the house was pretty drafty.  The real downside:  the fireplace didn't work, it just smoked up the whole house, and when we turned on the electric radiators, we kept blowing fuses.  That was unfortunate, but I think these problems can be avoided if you don't stay at such a high elevation, at least in the winter.  On the coast it was always at least 7 degrees warmer, even if it was windy.
 Here's a view from La Restinga, on the southern tip of El Hierro, to the ocean.  La Restinga is one of the tourist towns on the island, and it was just my style of tourist town:  not at all overrun, pretty calm and civilized.  This town also seems like the one to be in to avoid the windstorms...maybe we'll stay there next time!
 As usual, we did some creature watching, and even found a crocodile this time!
We got to witness quite a sunset in La Restinga.

Tenerife: Igueste

We returned to one of our favorite small towns, Igueste, where we remembered being chased down by Esther two years ago (  This time around, we got her phone number, because not only does she peddle mangos from her garden, she has a couple of vacation houses in town that we'd love to stay in next time. 

 In Igueste.
 The fruit and vegetable gardens in the barranco, right in the middle of the town.
 The coast by Esther's house.
 Creature watching.
 More creature watching. 
 We continued our very relaxed day with a trip to some beaches.  Our first stop was Playa de las Gaviotas, which was actually closed.  There was a sign from the main street stating that it was closed, and when we drove in we reached a large metal gate which completely closed off the street.  This did not bother the beachgoers, however, some of the bars on the gate had been simply cut out, so you could still walk through, around a few more curves in the street and to the quiet black, sandy beach.  Above you can see the remains of Casa Charly, which appears to have been a snack stand on this beach.  It must have been a nice and well-frequented public beach, there was a relatively large abandoned parking area, too.
 Judging by the graffiti around the gate and around the beach, it seems that this property has been sold and is now private.  So in a few years, there'll probably be a big, fancy-shmancy hotel development on this lovely, quiet bit of coast that is otherwise far away from the tourists.

Our second stop was Playa de las Teresitas, probably one of the more famous beaches of the island, which we'd never visited on our previous trips.  It's a really big beach with white sand shipped in from the Sahara.  We were pleasantly surprised:  it was well-frequented but not too crowded, pretty quiet, and the kids had a great time.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tenerife: Chinobre Hike in the Anaga Mountains

When we were in La Gomera in 2007 I became infatuated with Laurel forests, and whenever one is within reach, we try to get in at least one hike.  The trees are kind of spooky, twisted and strange, like no other forest I've ever been in. 

 Often there are big clumps of moss clinging to the trees' trunks. 

The green of these forests is just magical, it's a really cool feeling to be in there.  We had a sunny day for this hike, but the atmosphere is even more interesting when it's foggy, which is often the case.  This vegetation needs a lot of moisture.  You almost expect the Gruffalo or Rumpelstilzchen to come hobbling out when it's foggy!

But not only did we see those fascinating trees on this hike, we were often distracted by some breathtaking views of the coast...
 ...of El Teide...
 ...of the Anaga Mountains...
 ...and the towns lying below us!
We had a lunch break at Roque de Anambro, a holy rock for the native Tinerfenos, the Guanches.
There were a couple of lovely natural treats along the way, too.  We saw tons of Canarina canariensis on this walk, this lovely native flower is plentiful in the Anaga Mountains.

I also spotted this little guy, who was quite pretty.  I think it's a kind of finch, but can't really find an exact match for him online: 
I was hoping he was an elusive Laurel Pigeon, but alas, he was not. I have yet to spot one of those...  The elusive Laurel Pigeon has become a running joke of ours, we've read of this rare bird found only in the Laurel forests in travel guides, but have never found one.  There are loads of regular pigeons everywhere, just no Laurel pigeons!  Maybe on the next trip...

Tenerife: From Chamorga to Roque Bermejo

The day after our encounter with the Trail of Tears, we decided to tackle another hike.  This is one that we've always wanted to do, but never completed because we always got too late of a start and didn't want to get caught in the dark--when dusk comes around 6 or 7, night quickly follows at this time of year.  This trip was the three-kilometer walk from the village of Chamorga to Roque Bermejo, right at the northern tip of Tenerife.  The hike is kind of strenuous only due to the difference in elevation that you have to deal with, but the trail is really good and not scary at all.  The kids did great on this one.

 Some giant boulders in the valley!

I really love the rocks, vegetation and peaks you see in this valley.   We'd actually only accomplished a very small portion of this trail on our earlier attempts, and on this day we made it the whole way to the coast.  After a while, the rocks change to orange and red, and the view opens up to the ocean.  It's really fantastic.

After a long time of seeing no people or houses, just lizards, we came upon a couple of goats.  You can see in the background that we were approaching the ocean, nearby there were some houses, gardens and banana plantations in this area.  Remember:  this area is not accessible by car!  You can either walk the 3 km from Chamorga or get to Roque Bermejo by boat!

Right on the edge of the town there's this really old little church on a tiny town square.  The pictures on the altar seem to be in memory of deceased people, I found it quite sad that a lot of rather young adults were pictured.
 Finally, we reached Roque Bermejo.  There is certainly not much going on in this tiny town, but it was just what we were looking for.  Fortunately we'd packed enough sandwiches and drinks, the supermarket/snack stand is only open on the weekend!   We had a really humorous encounter when we entered town:  a little dog came running out, barking loudly.  Friedrich, who is only 3 and not such a fan of dogs, was certainly not happy to see him and let out such a shrill scream that the dog took off and didn't come anywhere near us again!  The owner of the dog then came out and had a look around, greeted us nicely and returned to his abode after seeing that nothing had happened.  

This was just a perfect stony beach to spend an afternoon on, watch the waves and the crabs and enjoy the quiet.