Monday Miscellanea

Today’s my third day of work after my lovely long vacation over Christmas and the New Year. I’m underwhelmed. Basically, it’s the same situation as last year. Our tools are slow and buggy. I had to update and republish some documents that I already updated last year because someone had missed the deadlines. But I’m still feeling well-rested and optimistic mostly because I’ve succeeded in convincing my manager to let me drop a project that was getting too much last year (on top of all my other, regular projects). That’s very positive and frees me up to work on testing improvements to our software tools which are planned for this year. Maybe the situation with our tools will improve later in the year. It can hardly get worse. Although it might be interesting if things did get worse – what would happen if we couldn’t publish our documents on the planned publication date? It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s been close. It would be super embarrassing for the company and very stressful for my team, which is why I don’t wish for it. Something like that would, however, be guaranteed to galvanize the management of the department responsible for our tools to invest properly in real improvements instead of patching here and patching there. Heads might even roll (but then you never know if the new heads would be better). At least we’ve been open about communicating, so no-one can say they weren’t warned. I expect we will muddle through as usual until the planned tool improvements go live, then we will deal with new bugs, and eventually our processes should run smoother than they do at the moment. That’s the plan.

I’ve been to the dentist’s twice this month (on my first day of work and last Friday). I’ve found a new dentist here at my place, because it’s easier than staying with the one I used to go to in Bavaria. For one thing, I haven’t been since early 2019 (I think) which is when they told me I should get two of my wisdom teeth removed. The horror! I procrastinated about it, then Mum had her cancer episode, and then we got hit by Corona. I didn’t want to get teeth pulled during a pandemic (a good excuse, right?). I didn’t have any pain, so there wasn’t an incentive to do anything but just before Christmas I noticed that one of my back teeth had developed a vertical fissure and seemed to be on the verge of falling apart. It didn’t hurt but scared me enough that I finally made an appointment. The dentist’s surgery a short walk away from our house which is great (no driving to the next town like in Bavaria). During my first appointment, my teeth were x-rayed, and the dentist explained the findings to me very well. On the second appointment, he removed an old filling from the tooth in question and found that its nerve had died. So now I need a root canal treatment – that’s the next appointment coming up in February. Eventually, the tooth will need to get a crown. The dentist also filled a hole in one of my wisdom teeth and said that another one will probably need to be pulled. That’s only one tooth to be pulled, not two (as my old dentist said) so that’s a win. Also, it’s not urgent, so I can ignore it for another good while (I hope). In this case, my procrastination about getting those two wisdom teeth pulled was actually good! During my last appointment, I also had my first ever anesthetic injection for a dental procedure and I’m happy to report that it wasn’t half as bad as I’d feared. In the past I’d always gone without the injection because the thought of an injection in my mouth terrified me. Maybe the whole tooth extraction thing will turn out to be not as horrific as my imagination makes it out to be, too. Let’s see how the root canal will turn out…

On Saturday, when I went out walking with Curious Dog, I found that someone had stuck anti-Corona vaccination stickers onto the dog poo bins. I peeled them off and threw them into the bin, and for good measure removed two more of those things from a lamppost and another bin. These stickers are appearing everywhere – it’s annoying. I can’t remove them everywhere, but I decided on the spur of the moment that my dog taxes pay for the dog poo stations and I don’t want to see those stickers on them. It’s defacing public property, too. It was kind of fun removing them.

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The last week or so the weather has been cold with subzero temperatures during the nights and not much above zero during the days, so all the mud was frozen and the walks with Curious Dog were much nicer, not so much of the wallowing in mud. Very overcast, hardly any sun. Today, the wet weather has returned but colder temperatures are forecast, so I’m hoping we’ll have some more cold days. Mum, CD, and I will be returning to Bavaria on Friday to stay until January 30, and I would very much prefer to not get wet all the time while walking with CD, like we did during December.

My 11 days of vacation in January were very relaxed, but I also took some time to deep clean half of my kitchen – the fridge, all the countertops (including the kitchen appliances that live on top of them) and the backsplash tiles as well as the outsides of the top cabinets (the insides are in good shape). So now I only have to clean the oven and the cabinets beneath the countertops. I’ll get around to those when we return from Bavaria (and I have plans for a small special cleaning project there too). I also did my normal cleaning of our house (Partner did the vacuuming), so I feel that I started the year well, with only a minimal amount of procrastination.

I didn’t manage to read as much in January as I did in December (so far) because Partner and I also watched a lot of series and films. We finished Hawkeye and started The Book of Boba Fett (on Disney+) and watched the final season of The Expanse (on Amazon Prime). All pretty good. We also watched Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (very nice) and Eternals (kind of meh – too sentimental and a weird plot). I haven’t managed to watch Black Widow yet because Partner doesn’t seem keen. Perhaps I’ll watch it by myself on my notebook while in Bavaria. We also watched Nomadland (also Disney+) which was an excellent movie about low-income older people living in vans as itinerant workers in the US.

We’re also watching the second season of a German-Danish series called Sløborn, about a pandemic and the ensuring breakdown of civilization on the eponymous fictional island. It’s not bad although some of the characters are a bunch of stupid idiots. We’ll be watching the season finale tonight. There are supposed to be two more seasons (the first season had eight, the second six episodes). And then we saw three films of Nord by Nordwest (one was a Christmas special). This is a German series of (so far) 16 feature length films about a police detective in a small fictional town on the Baltic who’s also a veterinary with a dog. He and his dog live on a houseboat. It’s a crime series with comedic elements which I like a lot. There’s another of those films airing this Thursday. Last but not least, on Sunday we had an episode of Tatort with my favourite police detective/coroner duo stationed in the German town of Münster. This is also a series of crime films with comic relief (at least in the case of these two main characters). That was a nice ending to the weekend.

Keep safe, world.

More Holiday Doings

We stayed for a week from October 2 to October 9 at our rented holiday cottage in the South Tyrol (but we arrived in the afternoon on the first day and left in the morning on the last day, so those two days don’t really count). We had lovely sunny weather the first couple of days, then a couple of days of rain and snow. It got quite cold during the second part of the week and the snow stayed on the higher peaks around our plateau. We did a lot of walking and hikes, although I kept to non-challenging paths, as Curious Dog isn’t the dog for demanding trails what with his inability to stop pulling on his leash. The others once took a cable car up to one end of the Rosengarten mountain range and walked across the western face of it. I took them to the cable car terminal and picked them up at the point where they came down again. They did the walk on the day after it had snowed during the night and I think they took about 3 or 3,5 hours. They loved it and I would have enjoyed it too, but having CD pull you on a potentially slippery steep track on the side of a mountain was just too dangerous. And I didn’t mind. CD and I did an easier hike and I also read a bit, so that was fun, too. Also, I wasn’t sure what CD would think about a cable car – much to my surprise he didn’t mind the suspension bridge that crossed a small ravine on the way from our cottage to the nearby lake. He didn’t turn a hair at its swinging at our every step. Maybe he would have liked a trip with a cable car.

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We went hiking every day, except on the one day when it rained so incessantly that we only went on a couple of short walks with CD. The rest of the day we spent watching DVDs, playing games, and cooking. We’d brought along Partner’s DVD player, as there wasn’t one in the cottage (also no internet) and we brought the game Settlers of Catan which all of us had played before except Cousin 1’s boyfriend. I don’t know whether he entirely enjoyed it, but he was a good sport and joined us anyway.

Partner and I never had to go grocery shopping, because Cousin 1 and her boyfriend did it for us, since we had paid for the cottage. We told them that they didn’t need to do it, because we would have had the cottage anyway even if they hadn’t been able to join us. It was apparently a point of honour (my little Cousin, all grown up). On the last evening, they treated us to a take-out pizza (we didn’t want to eat at the restaurant because of Corona). It was quite hard to find a restaurant that was open. It seems that during the off-season between summer (hiking) and winter (skiing), a lot of places shut down (or maybe it was because during Corona the off-season was quieter than ever). I tried a pizza that I’d never had before, with Radicchio salat leaves and melted goat’s cheese on the side. It was interesting but not as good as I’d imagined. The cheese was very nice but those big salad leaves on the pizza were a little strange. I believe it would have been better if the leaves had been shredded into smaller pieces and spread more evenly across the pizza. I may try it on one of our homemade pizzas sometime (except without the cheese, as I only eat dairy when on vacation).

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The hiking trails were very scenic, but sometimes puzzling to follow. On the longest hike we took, the signs at one place suddenly pointed straight across a meadow where you couldn’t see any trail. We crossed the meadow and then cast about right and left along a wooden fence until we managed to find the next sign, painted on the fence but around a corner. We then walked a narrow trail through woods, until at the bottom of a hill we came upon a sign that said “Trail closed for logging by order of the council of …” We didn’t feel like walking back up the hill and we also couldn’t see or hear any logging going on, so we ignored the sign. Luckily, we got to the other end of the closed off part of the trail without running into any logging whatsoever. Still – if you’re going to close off part of a trail, it makes more sense to post signs about it at the start of the trail and not just somewhere in the middle. That was weird.

The countryside was very lovely. Lots of views across the valleys and the mountains, with the higher mountains of the Alps in the distance, showing off their snow-topped peaks. A lot of the pine woods in the area are in a dire state (some of the views would not have existed if it hadn’t been for all the fallen trees). In 2018 a huge storm swept through the mountains and destroyed a lot of the pines. Some of the mountainsides are full of tree stumps – part of the reason for all that logging. In one of the valleys, we saw a huge number of logs collected for processing beside a saw mill. In front of our cottage, a big stump had been carved at the top into the shape of an eagle. A nice way of making the best of the situation. It must have been a very devastating storm.

I enjoyed our vacation a lot more than I had expected, but did I like it more than our usual vacation on the Baltic or the North Sea? No, not really. Mostly because of Curious Dog. His pulling on the leash all the time when we were hiking was just a real pain. He always pulls a bit, but on our familiar walks he usually stops pulling after the first excitement of starting out. In unfamiliar places, he never stops. In October at the seaside, when the beaches are always quite deserted, we can let him off the leash, because you can see what’s coming for miles and there are no cars. But he’s not very good at returning to us when we call, so it’s too dangerous to let him off leash when you can’t see what’s round the next bend of the trail. Being yanked along by CD was terribly annoying. He walks till he’s reached the end of the leash, then he leans into it and pulls. Then I stop and wait till the leash is slack. When we start up again, he dashes forward and yanks, because the others have overtaken us which he can’t stand. And again, and again until I’m thoroughly fed up. I’ve tried all sorts of things to make him walk properly on the leash (walking in circles, changing directions, stopping and waiting…) so far nothing has worked. I know he can do it, because he does it properly on our usual walks, both at my place and in Bavaria, but as soon as he’s in an unfamiliar place, he gets excited and forgets all his training. Also, in towns. He’s terrible in towns. So, with CD I prefer vacations during the off-season at the seaside.

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Otherwise, the mountains were lovely. One of the biggest perks was that the cottage in South Tyrol was a lot closer to southern Germany than the Baltic or the North Sea. The trip took only about 5 hours (or maybe a bit less) as opposed to 9 hours. But vacations at the seaside are more relaxing. You can walk along the beach in two directions and that’s it. There’s no incentive to try out a large number of different trails and nobody minds if you want to spend the afternoon reading. I’m a lazy vacationer as opposed to Partner, who always wants to do and see everything that’s to be done and seen. Very exhausting. When I’ve been up on my feet sightseeing (or whatever) all morning, I need a nice long break in the afternoon. But I usually go with the flow. I can always read on those vacations when we don’t go anywhere, like my long vacation over Christmas and the New Year (which I’m already looking forward to).

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The trails we hiked on our vacation were quite mild. That’s why I enjoyed myself more than I had predicted. I’d expected the trails to be more hair-raising in combination with Curious Dog. On our return, though, Partner and I once left CD at home with Mum and went to try out a trail just around the corner from my home in Bavaria. It was supposed to be a bit steep and narrow, and the description said that you needed to be sure on your feet. I’d wanted to try it for years, but it’s not suitable for dogs and I didn’t want to do it by myself. So, I got Partner to do it with me. It turned out that you had to scramble up and over rocky outcroppings in the hillside, gripping onto roots or rocks in places, which was occasionally quite scary. I’ve walked around the bottom of the hill many times and would never have guessed that the trail was so challenging. The hill is wooded, and it seems the woods hide the scary parts. The hike took us about three hours up and around about 10 rocky cliffs that jut out of the hillside (though we had to wait for a couple of other people on the trail as you couldn’t overtake anyone). Walking along the bottom of the hill only takes about an hour (I’ve done it tons of times with CD). I’m glad I’ve finally done the trail, but I don’t think I’ll be repeating it. I pulled a muscle (or strained something) in one of my legs, which was painful for a couple of days.

Partner and I also went sightseeing to a Catholic pilgrimage church, built in the Roccoco style, which had an exceedingly creepy decorated skeleton of a saint or a martyr (I’ve forgotten his name) displayed in a glass coffin and a statue of the Virgin Mary which has supposedly once or twice “turned her eyes away” as a miracle. A very odd miracle if you ask me.

Those were the highlights of our vacation, managed before Corona took off again.
Now, we’re back at my place in Baden-Württemberg with absolutely terrible weather. Rain, sleet, and wind all day. Curious Dog and I got drenched twice, in the morning and the afternoon.

I’ve got an appointment for getting a booster vaccination for Covid 19 at the beginning of February at my place of work. My company has restarted its vaccination offering. As my Mum has already had her booster, only Partner needs to get a booster early next year, too.

Keep safe, world.

Holiday Doings

Instead of ranting some more about the current Corona situation in Germany, like I did yesterday (which is useless and depressing), I’m going to share some of the things we did on our vacation early in October. Somehow, I never get around to writing anything when I’m on holiday, as there are usually so many other things that take up my time. I haven’t had time to write about it after my vacation, but late is better than never.

My first day of vacation was on September 29. Mum and I were already in Bavaria at that point. As we were going to spend a week at a vacation cottage in Italy, that is, South Tyrol, driving from Bavaria was a lot nearer than from my place.

Rosengarten

I spent the first couple of days of my vacation cleaning up our house in Bavaria because Partner and Cousin 1 with her partner were also coming to stay for at least one night. We had to clean out the guest room (where things tend to accumulate) and I had to clean out my room, because I didn’t want Partner, who slept on a mattress on the floor, to have to wade though all my dust balls. Cousin 1 and her partner got the guestroom. We also had to pack a lot things like spices for cooking, all of Curious Dog’s bedding, food, toys, leashes and harnesses, and groceries to tide us over the first weekend in South Tyrol (we didn’t know if we would have time to go shopping or if any shops would be open on Sunday). Plus our clothing, some games, and some DVDs (no internet at the cottage). So, a lot of organization. And a lot of excitement on Curious Dog’s part. Also, I had to shop for Mum, so that she wouldn’t run out of groceries while we were away, since the small grocery shop in our village has closed down.

We were planning to set out on Saturday, not too early, because we couldn’t get the keys for our holiday cottage before 4 p.m. Cousin 1 and her partner (who is very nice) could only start for our place in Bavaria in the early afternoon, after work, so they arrived quite late on Friday, at 9 p.m. They had quite a strange trip. Our village is in the middle of nowhere and the satnav systems usually choose very strange routes along third rate roads and through a lot of other small villages. Since Cousin 1 and her partner had to drive in the dark, their nerves were slightly frazzled by the time they arrived.

The next morning things were a bit chaotic. I had to take Curious Dog for his walk and Cousin 1 had to be shown the house (as she hadn’t visited since she was about 4). Mum showed her a lot of photographs and things, while I tried to collect all our baggage and load the car with Partner’s help. We ended up forgetting some of our groceries, but it didn’t matter because Cousin 1 had brought a lot of food along.
After we reached the Autobahn, there was quite a bit of traffic, as we had to go via Munich and that’s often a traffic nightmare. We then continued via Rosenheim in Bavaria to Innsbruck in Austria and over the Brenner Pass into Italy. A very scenic route and traffic wasn’t too bad. When we left the motorway in Italy just before Bozen (or Bolzano in Italian), we straight away entered a tunnel which took us up into the mountains for a very long way. It was most odd. After the tunnel, we wound our way up and up again along many hairpin bends and hair-raising precipices. A beautiful landscape, but the roads were a bit scary for us lowlanders.

We arrived at our cottage quite on the dot at 4 p.m. Our landlady welcomed us very kindly, gave us the keys and explained how everything worked (specially how to separate our rubbish for recycling). It was a very cozy cottage with absolutely everything we needed. Lots of cooking utensils and towels – quite the best equipped holiday cottage we’ve ever stayed in. And the landlady spoke German (which more or less everybody does in the South Tyrol), so we had no problem communicating (once, in 2014, before we got Curious Dog, we had a holiday near Genoa in Liguria where the landlady spoke neither German nor English and we basically communicated with sign language – I only know English and some rudimentary French. No Italian, sadly).

Karersee

We unpacked all our things, had a cup of tea, and went off on our first small hike, to the Karersee (Lago di Carezza), a very small but exceedingly picturesque lake that was only about a 20 minutes’ walk from our cottage. The cottage was at the edge of the small community Karersee (Carezza), with a very large meadow as the back yard and a roofed-over balcony at the fron where we could sit outside when it was sunny (at least at the beginning of our stay, it got cold with snow later on – well, it was in October). There was a lovely view of the Latemar mountain range from the balcony and the Rosengarten range from the meadow (the view in the first photo above).

That night, we cooked some vegan Bolognese sauce with pasta (appropriately Italien) and then we spent the evening planning what to do during the next days. Which I will report on later.

Keep safe, world.

October Update

I haven’t posted for so long… since mid of September. At first, I had a lot on my plate, then I was on vacation and after my vacation I had completely lost the habit of writing. I kept composing posts in my head, but never actually sat down, opened Word and started to write. So, here’s what I’ve been up to (short version):

On the third weekend of September, Mum and I travelled to Düsseldorf to visit my Dad’s only sister to pick up some tableware that belonged to my grandmother and that my aunt wanted to get rid of. That took the entire day, 7 hours on the Autobahn (there-and-back in one day). I had dreaded it, but it was fine. A lovely sunny day after a foggy start and no traffic jams to speak of. Seeing my aunt was lovely.

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Then I spent the rest of September prepping my workload so that my colleagues wouldn’t have to pick up too much while I was away and that I wouldn’t have a huge backlog after my vacation. That worked out well but left me too tired to post anything.
Then I had to pack everything we needed for our vacation and for our regular week in Bavaria. We took our place in Bavaria as the starting point for our vacation, as it was in the South Tyrol, which is much nearer to Bavaria than to my place in Baden-Württemberg. This meant more luggage than usual. The car was loaded with extra dog paraphernalia and other stuff we needed for the vacation.

In Bavaria, Mum and I were busy cleaning up the house for guests, since Cousin 1 and her boyfriend stayed a night before we left for Italy, and Partner was staying too. And I still had a couple of days to work and stuff to organize, so I was quite busy then as well.

Our trip to Italy was great. We stayed in a cute small holiday house, in a small town called Karersee (Carezza al Lago in Italian). It was very cosy, very well equipped (the best vacation home I’ve ever stayed in), had a lovely view of the Rosengarten and the Latemar mountain ridges in the Dolomites. We had two days of bad weather, but the rest of the week was sunny (a bit cold but perfect for hiking). We went for long scenic walks and Partner and the others once took a funicular up the mountains and walked a mountain track. Not suitable for dogs, so I didn’t go (but I didn’t mind as I don’t care much for heights). We had a good time. Curious Dog pulled on the leash like a champion, but we managed anyway. I had thought it would have been worse.

On our return, Partner stayed a few days in Bavaria, and we did a few things near my place. I took him on a steep track just a few kilometres from my house. I’ve been wanting to walk that track for years, but had never done so, because it isn’t suitable for dogs. It was much scarier than any hike we did in the Dolomites. Very steep, lots of climbing around the Jurassic cliffs that exist near my place. A real adventure. I was happy to have managed it, but I’m not doing it again. I hadn’t known it would involve such a lot of scrambling up the sides of cliffs, holding on to roots and rocks. Once we’d gone up one steep part, it was too daunting to turn back, so we had to keep on. It took about 2.5 to 3 hours, up and down all the way. The next few days were painful, as I’d pulled a muscle or something in my leg and could hardly move.

Work started again on October 13 and since then I’ve been thinking about posting but not actually doing it. I think I’ll try to do a blog post per day in November (which I think I did last year as well). My version of doing NaNoWriMo. I’ll expand a bit on my vacation adventures and on the books I’ve been reading. I’m very behind on my book reviews.

Keep safe, world.

Back at Work

The last few days of my vacation were really uneventful. It rained a lot and I hung around a lot, doing nothing except taking Curious Dog for walks, reading, surfing, watching TV and going grocery shopping. Also planting the shrubs we bought in our garden while it was sopping wet, not much fun (but hopefully good for the plants).

Last Sunday we returned to my place and on Monday I started work again. The work week was a repeat of the two weeks before my vacations. Lots of tasks to finalize for deadlines, but our tools were on the blink again, so we had to postpone deadlines and do weird workarounds. Some colleagues were on vacation, some were ill, one is on parental leave and so things were a bit stressful. On my first day, I dealt with about 600 emails (or more, I can’t remember). But quite a lot of them were automatically generated ones (feed updates) that I deleted after reading the subject line and the rest had more or less interesting things to say, but only about three of them actually contained something I had to deal with. So, I got them all done, and got myself sorted and then by Tuesday things started to fall apart. Wednesday was stressful, but we rolled out a mitigation plan and Thursday I spent all day finalizing four documents for a deadline next week and doing quality checks that I couldn’t do before my vacation, because of the tool problems we had at that time.

Today, Friday, my day off, I had a crisis call with my work colleagues, but it turned out that the support colleagues had fixed our tool issues during the night. Crisis averted. All that work stress tired me out and I didn’t feel like doing anything as strenuous as writing a blog post (not to mention that I’d got out of the habit during my vacation). But now things are hopefully on an even keel again.

Now I’m planning on enjoying the weekend and maybe catching up on my book reports. In the meantime, I’ve finished Great Expectations. I loved it ̶ it may be my favourite Dickens so far. I’ve only got Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities to go, then I will have read all Dickens’ completed novels. I’ve read both of them before but can’t really remember much although I don’t think Oliver Twist will be a favourite.

Poor Curious Dog had a stressful week, too. On Monday morning, while Partner and I were on our morning walk with him, he managed to give himself a shock by touching an electric cattle fence (Partner and I were talking and didn’t notice it in time). Poor guy, he gave a yelp and a huge jump and was kind of on edge for the rest of the walk. Then we also had to walk by a noisy power shovel and the garbage collection truck was in our street as we returned ̶ Curious Dog is scared of all big noisy machinery, so that was stressful for him on top of the shock. So, for the rest of the week, every morning at some point on our walk he’d remember these incidents, sit down and refuse to go on (even though we walked other routes). He was fine on our afternoon walks. This morning he refused to go out at all and only changed his mind when I decided to give up trying to entice him out. Hope he gives up on this weird behaviour soon. It’s a little like around the New Year when people set off loud fireworks at random times during the day (even though that’s illegal) and he always has to return straight home whenever that happens. Considering that he is otherwise a boisterous and rough dog, he can be quite touchy and anxious about some things, especially electric fences and loud noise.

It was raining today, a soft sort of country rain. Should be good for the environment. I’m always happy when it rains nowadays since the last few summers have been so hot and dry. After walking with CD (once he’d made up his mind about going out) and dialing in to work for a couple of calls, I went grocery shopping and did a load of washing. I’ll have to hang it up in our bedroom since it’s raining outside. Or maybe I’ll hang it up in the living room before we go to bed so that the clothes can dry overnight. Always the winter solution. I don’t have a dryer, as I think it’s a waste of power and I don’t like the feel of clothes dried in a dryer but hanging stuff up in the house in winter is a bit of a nuisance. It’s a pity there’s no big attic to hang the washing up to dry, but we manage.

It continued raining all afternoon, but Curious Dog and I still went out and got rather wet. CD doesn’t mind rain and I don’t really either. It’s just a bore drying everything afterwards. CD gets lovely soft fur when he’s been rained on. After our walk I made a delicious vegan goulash soup for dinner (with soy cubes instead of meat ̶ they soak up the flavours of the soup very nicely and have a pleasant texture). Also cubed onions, carrots and potatoes, as well as a tin of chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, spices and red wine. Nice and warming on a rainy October night. Later we are going to watch the DVD of Little Women. We got it for our vacation, but didn’t get round to it, as we were playing Settlers of Catan all the time. I love Louisa May Alcott’s novels, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film based on them, so I’m looking forward to it.

Keep safe world.

Vacation Report 1

Lots of vacation preparations in the last week before our vacation’s start. I’d had everything planned for the last two weeks before October 01, but events threw those plans topsy-turvy. So, I had lots of things to finalize and some things (small ones, luckily) that I had to write handover instructions for my colleagues, as they had to be done during my vacation and couldn’t be done before. Also suddenly two other colleagues raised the idea that they wanted to go on vacation during the time I was going, which was a pain for the single other colleague who would have been the only one left at work (in our little team). Luckily, one of the colleagues changed their mind (and anyway, I don’t think our manager would have approved all of us except for one being away, and quite right, too).

Partner left already for his place on October 01. He took a lot of things along that we needed in our vacation flat. I also went shopping one last time, mainly to fill up our depleted pantry, as it’s no fun returning and having no staples at home. Once he’d left, I finished up work and took Curious Dog for his walk. It was generally overcast with a bit of light rain and a bit of sunshine in between on Friday and Saturday. I collected a lot of walnuts as they are currently ripe, and the wind and rain make them fall. There are lots of walnut trees on our walks and quite a few people who collect them. But if you are early, as I generally am with CD, you have the pick. It’s quite interesting how different trees have differently shaped nuts. Some are rather oval and pointy at the ends while some are quite round. One tree has especially huge round ones, but that one is in someone’s yard and I only picked up a few that had fallen outside the fence.

In the evening, after work, on October 01, I cooked a big pot of lentil and leek, carrot and potato soup (all the vegetables I had left) and kept heating up portions for lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday. I like soup and that way I didn’t need to cook on those days. I was quite busy, because I always go into a cleaning frenzy before vacation for some weird reason. I vacuumed and cleaned the ground floor, tidied up the patio and put the plants that spent the summer outside back inside (only two pots, but there’s not much space for plants in the house). On Saturday I vacuumed the first story and washed all the windows of the living room (three, but two are quite small) as well as the glass patio door and window. That tired me out but made me feel accomplished. I spent the evening pottering around packing up my and Curious Dog’s stuff. He was quite surprised, because I put all the luggage in the hall before going to bed, ready for loading the car in the morning. I also took a shower, which I never do at night, and prepared CD and my food for the trip. Despite all that cleaning and walking with CD, I found time to finish War and Peace (this will need a separate post, eventually).

On Sunday, I got up at 4:45 a.m., got dressed, put Curious Dog into the car (he only barked three times, not bad), loaded the rest of the stuff and took off at about 5:15 a.m. It was still pitch dark and quite windy. I was heading for my birthplace in Hessia to pick up my Cousin 1 and Cousin 2 and their luggage (always a lot, those two are incapable of travelling light). I’ve done that trip quite a few times and only needed my smartphone navigation for the first few kilometres until I got onto the Autobahn, but somehow, in the dark, I ended up on the wrong Autobahn near Darmstadt where another one splits off the A5. The navigation app (Google Maps) fixed it in a few minutes ̶ I took a turn around the Forrest Graveyard in Darmstadt, it’s apparently surrounded by motorways. When it got light, I stopped at a rest stop and fed CD. At just before 9:00 I arrived at my cousins’ and let Curious Dog run around their huge back yard for a while. Weirdly, he at first didn’t want to get out of his box in the car and kept jumping back in. Maybe he didn’t like the wind, which was still quite strong (but not stormy). Anyway, just before 9:30 a.m. we’d stowed the cousin’s stuff in the car and headed onward. It was Sunday and therefore no trucks on the Autobahn, but there were tons of road works where you could only drive slowly as well as a few traffic jams (though not longer than 15 minutes). We arrived at Rerik, a little tourist town on the Baltic, at 15:30 p.m. Partner had already arrived and had picked up the keys to the flat and paid the visitor’s tax. It was quite a nice little flat, but too small for everyday living. But perfectly fine for a week of vacation, and it was only two minutes to the beach. There are clay cliffs around there and you get to the beach via long stairways, which was a bit dicey with Curious Dog in his usual leash-pulling mood.

It was quite warm, 18°C, when we arrived and quite a few people on the beach (but one could keep one’s distance). It turned out that they were mostly day trippers who had disappeared by the next day. The weather was otherwise a mix of overcast, rain and sun, but the rain never lasted long. The beach was lovely, lots of sand interspersed with rocks that people use to build cairns and lovely little stone arches in one place. We took a lot of walks on the beach and at the top of the cliffs which are wooded. A nice mixture: sea and woods, my two favourite places. Curious Dog did his usual pulling on the leash and we couldn’t let him off as I was afraid he’d disappear up small tracks in the clayey and woodsy cliffs. So that’s not as nice as when we spend our October holidays on Fehmarn. There he can run around, and we can keep him in sight. But on the whole, it was lovely at the seaside and very calming.

On Monday (October 05), after breakfast (toast, jam, and cheese, with coffee or tea ̶ a break from our usual porridge) we took a long walk on the beach and returned before lunch. The cousins and Partner then went grocery shopping and reported that nobody was taking physical distancing very seriously and I must say that I found the same when I went on Tuesday. But it wasn’t very full, so it shouldn’t be a problem. At least everybody was wearing masks in the store, except for the cashiers, who were ensconced behind transparent plastic barriers. In the afternoon, we took another walk on the beach. In the evening Partner and the cousins watched the sun set on the sea. Exhausted from all that walking and being pulled around by Curious Dog, I slept quite well despite the unfamiliar bed. There were about 20 to 30 mosquitoes in the bedroom which Partner hunted down and swatted. I guess they came in the window which I had opened when calling Mum as my smartphone’s connection was better with the open window. I didn’t notice them then.

In between walks and at night, we watched the first part of the Lord of the Rings (extended edition). If we had watched the other two parts as well, we wouldn’t have had time for any other films (we’ve brought Little Women and Matrix along, as well as some other DVDs ̶ too many to watch all).

Tuesday, Partner and the cousins drove off to see Heiligendamm, a very well-known beach resort for the rich and famous. It has lovely old white hotels along the beach and is very pretty to look at. It used to be a haunt of the aristocracy around 1900, when there was still a Kaiser in Berlin. It got run down during the German Democratic Republic but was restored after the German reunification. I’d seen it before and didn’t want to go, mostly because I didn’t want to be pulled around by CD. I preferred taking him for a walk on the beach in Rerik. They brought back some delicious Italian ice-cream on the way back. Amazing that it was still being sold in October!
Over lunch it started raining and we spent the early afternoon playing Settlers of Catan, which we hadn’t done in an age and was great fun. Later, we went for another trip to the beach. Curious Dog so annoyed me with his incessant pulling on the leash that I took him for a round through the woods at the top of the cliff and insisted on him behaving himself. I’m quite fed up and do need to get him to walk properly on the leash. He can do it ̶ he always does it at dog school ̶ but he’s just always very excited. I have to be stricter. He did walk better when we were done, also when we went to look at the sunset again, but it didn’t last. Why can’t he be a bit calmer? It’s always worse when we are somewhere strange, probably because everything is new and exciting.

During the first two days, in between other activities and at night in bed, I read and finished the autobiography of Mary Seacole, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands (1857). BookTube inspired me to read this for Victober (reading Victorian literature in October). It’s very interesting, I’ll write a review later. I started Dicken’s Old Curiosity Shop.

On Wednesday, Partner and Cousin 2 got up early again to watch the sunrise, but it was overcast and there was nothing much to see. They then didn’t feel like going to the beach again for Curious Dog’s morning walk, and so I took him by myself. He walked very calmly down the stairs to the beach and was generally fairly well behaved, but I kept it up and didn’t let him pull, although of course he did try to. On the whole, much better than on the previous days. I guess I just need to be stricter in general and not let him have his head most of the time. Maybe he will then become habitually well-behaved on the leash. Still, I’ve tried this many times and it never stuck.

Later in the day, the cousins went off with Partner to have a look at Kühlungsborn, another resort nearby which I have been to before and didn’t want to visit with CD in tow, as he’s dreadful in strange towns. Maybe, if I practice a lot with him, we can take him to strange towns next year. Although now that I’ve put this plan in writing, I’m not sure. Maybe he just isn’t a “take everywhere” dog and we’ll just have to live with it. We used to go for walks in the nearest towns with his dog school for training purposes and it was always a nightmare. He was super excited and only walked nicely when the trainer took him in hand. This probably shows that it’s all my fault. Ah well, I usually only care about this when we are on vacation, and we only go on a real vacation away from home once a year for a week. Still, he pulls at home too, though not as badly. A bit of stricter training for a while is really indicated, it seems.

The rest of the week, we didn’t go on any excursions. We either walked up and down the beach, had some Italian ice-cream near the pier (which was closed for repair and sometimes full of seagulls sitting on the railings). Once, on Thursday afternoon, it rained a lot and Curious Dog and I walked in the rain on the beach. Only a couple of other dog-walkers were around and it was surprisingly nice although we did get drenched. There was a rain-induced small creek running into the sea near one of the cliff-side staircases. It cut quite a little creek bed into the beach. I noticed later that it was overflow from a rain-water retention basin at the top of the cliffs. Otherwise, we finished watching the first part of the extended version of Lord of the Rings but didn’t get around to watching the other parts as we had all got very much addicted to playing Settlers. Friday afternoon we did watch Matrix, which I hadn’t seen for ages and didn’t really remember in detail. The cousins hadn’t ever seen it and I think enjoyed it.

We cooked for ourselves all the time except on the last day, Friday evening. We didn’t have anything particularly adventurous, just things like pasta and sauce. Once Cousin 1 made a nice vegan Mac and Cheese version (I need to get the recipe). Last year on our vacation we cooked and baked a lot of special dishes and cakes but this year we were too lazy. Also, the pots in the vacation flat were quite small and it was a bit difficult to cook for four people with them. Had to cook pasta in two pots, for instance. We didn’t do any baking at all but picked up something for afternoon coffee from the bakeries in town. We were too busy playing Settlers.

Friday evening, Partner and Cousin 1 had smoked mackerel with potato chips, while Cousin 2 and I had burgers. I had a Beyond Meat burger and didn’t like it much. The patty was not bad, but the whole thing was rather soggy and messy to eat. It was much too expensive, but I wanted to try it ̶ won’t be repeating the experience.

We packed up all our luggage Friday night and got off early on Saturday, at 6:00 a.m (I was aiming for 5:30 a.m. but that didn’t work out). Partner headed off to his place and I took the cousins back to their town in Hessia. We managed to get through Hamburg early and avoided the usual traffic jams and arrived at 11:30 a.m. Curious Dog and I had half an hour’s break in the cousin’s backyard, where we met up with my aunt and uncle (the cousin’s grandparents). We kept our distance for Corona reasons. CD chased his ball around the garden and behaved very well. Much better than in previous years when he’d always shot out of the car and jumped on everyone around. He must be getting a little sensible now that he’s older. At noon, CD jumped back into his box and we drove on to Bavaria, where Mum was waiting for us. The drive was just over 4 hours. There was a short traffic jam on the Autobahn, where a new construction site has been set up ̶ what a bore, it will affect Mum and me when we drive back to my place in Baden-Württemberg next Sunday. Hope they’ll be done soon. Anyway, all in all the day’s drive from the Baltic to Bavaria took almost 9 hours of driving. It went better than I expected, but I was quite tired that evening. Curious Dog was great. I took him for a short walk after we arrived at home, but other than that and our break in Hessia, he spent most of the day in the car and didn’t make a fuss.

The following day, Sunday, I slept in and did nothing except walk with Curious Dog (still insisting on proper behaviour on the leash), read and surf the Internet. On Monday, I went grocery shopping and otherwise hung around all day. Went to dog school with CD in the evening. I started reading Dickens’ Great Expectations (having finished The Old Curiosity Shop on Sunday) but haven’t got very far yet. I’m really behind on book reports but couldn’t bring myself to get started on them. Tuesday morning Mum and I drove to a large gardening centre hereabouts and picked up a Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) to plant on Dad’s and brother’s grave for the winter. We also wanted to pick up a few shrubs for our garden but didn’t find all the ones we wanted. We improvised and got three small red Barberry shrubs which we will plant up against a part of the fence and a Juneberry (Amelanchier lamarckii). And a dwarf apple tree (Galina apples) which we’ve already planted. It’s supposed to require porous soil, but the soil in our garden, after 30 cm of topsoil, is a stony kind of clay. Hope the tree will flourish anyway. Our neighbours have a couple of dwarf apple trees and they are doing well, so there’s hope. We did put some compost soil into the hole I dug for the tree. We haven’t planted the other plants yet but will do so before our return to Baden-Württemberg.

It appears that we took our vacation just in the nick of time. Currently the corona infections are on the rise again, and, if our county should come to have more than 50 new infections per week per 100 000 inhabitants, travel will become difficult if not impossible. I’m nervous that this will interfere with our next trip to Bavaria in November. I wouldn’t like to leave our house unattended all winter and I’m not sure if travel restrictions within Germany are valid if one is only travelling from one place of residence to another and isn’t planning to host other people. I will have to research this if it becomes necessary, which hopefully it won’t. Both my rented house in Baden-Württemberg and our family home in Bavaria are in country areas where the numbers are currently still fairly low (though in B-W it’s already at 29 per 100 000), so I’m hoping for the best.

Keep safe, world.