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".