Sunday, 6 December 2009

St Nicholas Day

Before I came to Germany I didn't realise that here - and in many other European countries - Saint Nicholas is celebrated with a feast day held on 6th December.

In the Christian church St Nicholas is the patron saint of children, merchants, sailors and pawnbrokers. During his lifetime (270-346) this bishop of Myra (now a part of Turkey) was said to have given generously, and secretly, to the poor.

Here in Germany children put out their shoes on the eve of December 5th, hoping to find them filled with small gifts, such as chocolates or nuts, in the morning.

Homemade St NickApril decorated this bushy-faced St Nicholas figure at her German playgroup. On the quiet, the playgroup ladies filled it with goodies for today. Of course, April was delighted this morning when she found out that her figure had been turned into a receptacle for chocolates and they were all for her.

Our neighbours hold a 'St Nicholas Brunch' every Sunday closest to St Nicholas Day. So, once April was suitably high on sugar, we headed next door where we enjoyed great company and fabulous food. I think the boozing started before midday too. Cheers St Nicholas!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

My first Christmas market this year

Christmas market at RudolplatzThe Christmas Markets open this week. There are six to choose from. I took April and Alexander to our local one today, which stands in front of the medieval gate known as the Hahnentor (one of three medieval gatehouses which remain from the late 12th Century city fortifications). This market is based in the square known as Rudolfplatz, which I always think is a very appropriately named venue.

April had a go on the carousel - in fact she had it all to herself as we got there quite early. After that we shared some chips. April managed to get ketchup on her hands, face, coat, gloves and the pram.

The market here is known as the fairytale market - it is distinguished by large fibre glass fairy tale characters on top of the stalls and there is a reading by a 'fairy' every afternoon. See the slightly tipsy dwarves atop of the stall to the far left of this photo: they've been at the glühwein early.

Find out more about this year's Christmas markets...

Post about the Neumarkt Christmas market 2007...

Video about the Medieval Christmas market 2007...

Saturday, 7 November 2009

St Martin's Zug

April's lanternApril goes to a little German playgroup two mornings a week and it was through this that we were invited to join in a German custom - the 'St Martin's Zug' (Zug = Train).

Every year the young children of each neighbourhood gather with their parents at twilight, carrying lanterns. Here is April with the colourful tissue paper lantern she made at playgroup.

At the appointed time we met with the other parents at the local church, perplexed as to what might happen next. While we waited for whatever was going to happen, to happen, Simon had a conversation with a bold young German girl (about 8 perhaps?) who wanted to practise her English by asking the vocab for different 3-dimensional shapes.

St Martin on horsebackI stopped listening in when I looked up and was surprised to see a man dressed as a Roman soldier, riding towards us on a white horse. Apparently, he represented 'St Martin' of the 'St Martin's train'.

The St Martin's trainSoon our number was swelled by parade guides carrying flaming torches, a police escort and the city's official brass band.

When everyone was assembled we formed a very long column and we began to parade down the middle of the road. We heard music, laughter and people singing the song, 'Laterne, laterne' (Lantern, lantern). We did this for about half an hour, snaking around the block.

St Martin's fireEventually we arrived at the local park where a massive bonfire had been set alight. A man spoke about the importance of St Martin and led a prayer. Then the band started up again and people were invited to partake of the mulled wine.

By this time our little ones were shattered, so we headed home, pleased to have been involved in this event and very proud of April for her lantern-bearing duties.

More information:

St Martin was a Roman soldier who supposedly shared his cloak with a beggar during a snowstorm. He is also known as 'Martin of Tours'. St Martin's Day is celebrated on 11th November in Catholic parts of Germany. There are also many other celebrations across Europe to celebrate St Martin around this date. More about St Martin...

Video of the St Martin's Train Cologne 2008...

Video of the Laterne, laterne song...

Here is my description of the St Martin's Festival 2008...

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Seasonal photos

leaf collageYesterday we collected leaves in the park and April made a couple of collages with them. Here's one. Needless to say, we are still wiping glitter off our faces.

pumpkinThis week Simon, April and me made a pumpkin head. Simon did the design (of course); April helped by removing individual seeds as Simon scooped them out; and I was face carver. It was the first time Simon had seen inside a pumpkin. He admitted to being surprised that it wasn't a solid mass, but a cavity full of seeds and a bit of flesh.

Here the Devil contemplates the enormous Halloween 'To do' list.April dressed as the devil

Friday, 30 October 2009

A world in a grain of sand

This morning was good.

Well, it started a bit sooner than I'd like, with Little Man crying 'Mmm, Mum, Mhm' at 6:15. Ouch. However, as we were all up and dressed so early I decided to make the most of the time and took the kids to the park.

The playgrounds here are built on sand, which means that if you go equipped with a bucket and spade it's possible to build sandcastles, which is just what we did. We dug some lovely holes and built some interesting structures which we decorated with autumn leaves. When we dug one hole we found a tiny green bucket that someone must have left behind - some exciting treasure for April!

The park was particularly beautiful today because it was completely covered in a carpet of leaves. The sun was low and shining and it caused the dew-spotted leaves to sparkle. There were so many leaves falling down that it looked like the sky was snowing gold.

In the trees there were rose-ringed parakeets (they can be found living wild all over the city) and on the ground we saw two foraging jays.

April also said she saw some worms. She was very pleased with this nature 'spot'.

One of few pieces of poetry I can quote is the opening stanza of William Blake's 'Auguries of Innocence':

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

Full version here...

I like to think we followed Blake's advice today, by drinking in all the small details around us.

Monday, 26 October 2009

We came, we saw and we had pizza

Simon's younger brother came to visit this weekend. We thought we should show him something of the city so we took him to the Romano-German museum in the centre of town. I hadn't been there for over two years so it was lovely to have an excuse to go again.

Roman Museum collageThis collage shows some of the interesting exhibits we saw: including a fabulous Dionysian floor mosaic from around 200 AD (top right); the reconstructed tomb of legionary infantryman Poblicius (bottom left); and some fantastic glass animals (bottom right).

If you ever find yourself in Cologne I really do recommend taking in this museum, as it is packed full of fabulous artefacts.

Afterwards we continued the vaguely Italian theme by stopping off for a pizza. Though whether the ancient Romans would have understood the concept of a 'Hawaiian' is anyone's guess.

Read about my previous visit...

Find out more about the museum...

Friday, 23 October 2009

Birthday monkey fun

Well yesterday was my birthday ('Geburtstag') and so I moved another year closer to 'The big ticket birthday'. The main thing is that I am not there YET.
squirrel monkey
I decided that the best way to cling to my youth was to act like a kid - so I spent my birthday with Simon and the children at a monkey park an hour's drive from here. We saw monkeys, reptiles, exotic birds and meerkats. (The photo is of a squirrel monkey. I only had my camera phone to hand, so it's not the best quality.) The park was laid out over a huge area of German forest, amongst steep hills of firs, giving it quite an Alpine feel.

There were also lots of un-manned rides at the park and these provided many opportunities for cheeky monkey fun - Heath-Robinson contraptions such as a small carousel powered by one person on a bicycle; or a cable car operated at your own risk by the insertion of 50 cents; and a circular multiperson bicycle that just went round and round and round about its centre point.

More about the monkey park...

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Oktoberfest by proxy

This morning I went to the supermarket to buy a chicken to roast for tomorrow's lunch. There was one lonely chicken left and it was labelled as an 'Oktoberfest' chicken. (It didn't look particularly festive, unless you count being covered in spices as something to party about. And, hang on, isn't it still only September? And isn't Oktoberfest in Munich?) My brain. My brain!

traditional German dressIn the afternoon I took the kids to the park as Simon had to work. He'll be kicking himself for not coming. I went by tram and it was rammed full of women in revealing dirndl wench dresses with hair in plaits. Incidentally, there was a good quota of lederhosen-clad men too. It was 3pm and they were all off to start drinking.

This evening I've been asking the web to account for my Oktoberfest encounters.

Now I always thought that Oktoberfest happened in Munich. Apparently not: there's also been one in Cologne since 2004.
Although it is called Oktoberfest, it starts in September.
How does one celebrate it? Drinking. Lots. And eating grilled spicy chicken.

Tomorrow I shall be entering the spirit of the event when I eat my chicken. Maybe I'll have a drink. I'm telling you now that I shall not be dressing up as a wench to do so*.

*Though if I were to do so, I'd be getting my costume from the local C and A.

*Note: the image is courtesy of iStock Photography - because I didn't have the guts to ask if I could take someone's photo!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Oh yeah mate, build you one of them in an evening, no probs

Kolner Dom made out of LegoWe went to a very impressive exhibition of Lego models this week, held in the 'Rhein Centre' shopping mall. All the models are by a very talented group of Lego fanatics called the 'Modellbaufans Rheinland'.

There were recreations of whole towns and villages as well as models of the Taj Mahal, the Whitehouse, Eifel Tower and Notre Dame cathedral. The one that really stood out for me was a 2.9m high version of Cologne Cathedral. It is by a man called Jurgen Bramigk and it took him 2 years to make.

If you look at the amount of work in this close up then I think he did amazingly well to finish it in just two years. Detail from Lego cathedral

The features of the original have been lovingly recreated. There is an amazing attention to detail. For example, the dark and light grey tones of the bricks used really do give the impression of the real building, which is very sooty and grimy due to its great age.

In the close up above you can see a couple of little painted Lego men posing as decorative grotesques, as well as two small pigeons for authenticity.

Jurgen's masterpiece inspired me to make my own cathedral. Luckily Simon had been given a cardboard kit of Cologne Cathedral as a birthday present - which lay unopened on a shelf. I opened it for him. Well, we're married so what's his is mine and all that.Make Cologne Cathedral parts

Inside there were 47 numbered pieces to remove from their cardboard sheets and then fold and slot all together. (See all of the bits laid out ready to join up.)Building the cathedral

I managed to construct my version of the cathedral in a couple of hours last night. With Eastenders on in the background and other quality start-of-the-weekend TV shows.

This photo shows me mid-build. Witness a master mason at work! (Ahem)

Nave, transepts and apse completed and roof on, but no towers or spires yet. What you cannot appreciate from the pic is that at this point I was swearing and red faced because the buttresses were refusing to slot into the holes. And there were A LOT of buttresses.

The wine helped with the build process but may have contributed to the wobbly (jolly?) style of the finished project. My cathedral - finished!

Ta da! Here's the finished model. I've added the twin spires at the front, which are Cologne Cathedral's most recognisable motif (and indeed, of the city). Incidentally the arrangement of the two spires side-by-side means that Cologne Cathedral has the widest façade of any church in the world.

Cologne Cathedral's two towersHere's something to think about: My model took a mere 2 hours; the cathedral itself took from 1248 - 1880 (with some interruptions) - which is over 600 years!

More info about the cathedral:

Website of Cologne Cathedral...

Wikipedia entry for Cologne Cathedral...

Info about the Lego exhibition:
Modellbaufans Rheinland...

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Bake in foil

It is 34 degrees today!

That would be okay if I were by a pool, my needs being tended to by waiters carrying trays of icecream sundaes and refreshing cocktails. It is not quite so comfortable when you live in an apartment that has lots of large windows and no natural shade.

To try to keep out some of the heat I have covered the windows in baking foil. I expect I probably looked quite odd to the people working in the office block opposite, as I was taping up strips of foil, but I'd rather lose my dignity than my cool.

PS - the fridge freezer got fixed last week, so I have a stock of Magnum lollies at my disposal if my foil plan turns out to be a folly.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Englishmen in the midday sun

It's been very, very hot this week and the freezer remains broken (hopefully to be fixed in 8 days time). With no ice lollies to keep us cool the heat seems to be affecting our brains...

April has created an imaginary friend. This friend is called 'Pae-ya!' (always said with exclamation) and is, apparently, sometimes cuboid, sometimes pyramid-shaped, with blonde hair and a green face.

Yesterday we received polling cards allowing us to vote in the upcoming election for the mayor of Cologne. There are five candidates to choose from. I know nothing about politics in Cologne so I was initially concerned by this unexpected responsibility. However, the worry was taken away when Alexander ate the polling card and regurgitated it in bits.vacuuming wasps

It is wasp season and the little bu$$ers are thriving. When they go near April and Alexander I have to try to hide my panic and claim 'There's nothing to worry about!' while doing a crazy mad woman jig to flick them (the wasps, not the children) away.

Simon has found an ingenious way to deal with wasps: a vacuum cleaner. Here he is doing a bit of light 'wasp extermination' yesterday afternoon (al fresco).

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Oh, for a Sainsburys ready meal...

The fridge freezer is still broken. The guy who came to fix it last week said it needed an electrical part and he would order it. Then we didn't see him for dust. A German friend rang the repair man to get an explanation for his odd behaviour - but he was evasive. We can only assume that the fridge freezer parts ordering process is too onerous.

So we contacted the manufacturer direct and they are sending someone next Thursday. That is still a long time.

I am starting to run out of ideas for what to eat now. We've done things in tins. We've done salads to death. Pizza likewise. I find myself hankering after the huge variety of ready meals available in UK supermarkets. Yes, yes, I know they are full of fat, sugar and salt, but oh, what a selection and what convenience.

For now I shall just keep perusing recipe books and hoping for some inspiration.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

At least it's cool in the pool

This morning has been good and bad.

The bad? Our fridge freezer has stopped working and we cannot get anyone to repair it until FRIDAY. Simon's going out to buy one of those cheap mini fridges after work today*, to see us through. It's about 27 degrees today, so it would be nice to have some way to keep milk from turning to cottage cheese.

The good? Alexander had his first swimming lesson today and it went really well. I was nervous as I thought he might be a bit frightened and also that I might not be able to keep up with the instructions. There was no need to be worried as the teacher was so nice and the environment so well set up for babies. We both had fun. And we learned a new German song about being little fishies.

*Then after the big fridge is better we can keep the mini one in the bedroom and pretend we are in a hotel, on our holidays.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Punch drunk

We went to our neighbours' house for a party last night. Today I feel a little bit fragile.

Obviously the preceding two sentences are in no way statements of cause and effect.

Oh. Was that my nose growing?

It was at the party that I got my first taste of a German drink called 'Bowle'. It is a fruit punch made in a big bowl (hence the name) which typically contains champagne, white wine and chunks of fruit. The bowle is ladled out into glasses, along with the fruit (you're provided with a tooth pick to eat the fruit). Not only is it a lovely drink, but it counts towards your 'five a day'. Hurrah!

Link for recipe...

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

High dining

Cathedral from Media Park towerOn Monday I was lucky enough to share a meal with friends in a restaurant on the 30th floor of a skyscraper (almost 150 m high) known as the 'Media Turm'.

We started with drinks. So far so good. Even better was the fact that we sipped our drinks while out on the 30th floor viewing terrace - which gave me the chance to see Cologne from a different perspective.

The first photo was taken with the camera pointing across the spread of the city and features the twin peaks of the cathedral.

View of the Cologne 'MediaPark' from the towerThe Media Turm is part of Cologne's 'MediaPark' district, which is a leisure and business zone developed just 11 years ago.

In the second photo the camera is pointing down to street level. The wedge-shaped group of buildings in the middle make up the forum area of the MediaPark. If you look closely you will see that they are shaped like segments of circles, with the curved facades facing inwards. Apparently this unusual layout was chosen by the architects so that people congregating in the centre of the forum area would be able to appreciate the interesting curved facades, while the more boring flat facades would be facing outwards where people are less likely to hang around. I think it also works as a scheme when viewed from above as I found it much more enjoyable to look at than rows of rectangular buildings.

More about the MediaPark...

Monday, 1 June 2009


A pinch and a punch and, gosh, it's the first of the month. Here it's also one of the wonderfully abundant public holidays.

This public holiday is called Pfingsmontag, which means 'Pentecost Monday'. It has traditionally been a day for celebration as Pentecost is an important date in the Christian calendar (it marks the time when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples).

When I was trying to find out about the festival I came across a lovely article from The New York Times describing a Pfingstmontag gathering by Germans in New York in 1860. Here are some excerpts which give a flavour of the event:

'The recurrence of the German May festivals was hailed this year with unusual enthusiasm...
Motion was the order of the day, either in dancing, running, leaping, walking, turning, twisting, swinging, gyrating, rolling, riding or tumbling - all was a continued scene of unceasing, uninterrupted, continual, perpetual motion...
But, of all the amusements of the day, quaffing the foaming lager was the most universal.'
NY Times, May 29th, 1860
View full article...

My celebrations have been more humble. We all went out to an icecream parlour and I had a banana split. Oh, and I did some spins on the carpet with April this morning, which must count towards my quota of motion-based activities.

Friday, 22 May 2009

The very depth of fashion

Yesterday I had a little time to myself and went into town to see what's in fashion. (Because whatever is in fashion, it surely isn't me. For the last three years I seem to have been either being pregnant or breast feeding: not situations where you tend to worry about being the in-thing.)

When shopping for clothes in Germany I have started to wonder if something is truly stylish and, indeed, whether I can be objective about this anymore. Is it the fact that...

a) My head has been turned by a world where mullets for the gent and leather trousers for the lady are more common than is strictly necessary...

b) I am too close to a significant birthday for my brain to be able to comprehend 'contemporary' and for my frame to flatter it...

c) Due to globalisation, clothing is more or less the same wherever you go - and so I'd be facing such sartorial dilemmas whether in Germany or England...

Or d) all of the above?

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Using our new vocab

On the one hand it has not been a particularly remarkable day. It rained a lot and so we stayed inside a lot. However, April and I both did some good chatting.

A nice man came to fix the water heater. We nattered about what was wrong with the heater and what he needed to do to repair it. We briefly exchanged information about our respective kids (gender and age). As we did all of this in German I am feeling quite chuffed with myself.

In the afternoon April went up to Alexander, gave him a hug and told him she loves him. As they say here: 'süß' (sweet)

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Wunderbar at the weekend

April opening presentsApril turned two at the weekend. (Where did those 24 months go?)

My parents were here to join in the fun. It was hot on April's birthday so we were able to open presents on the balcony, in the sunshine. April's old enough to understand the concept of gifts, so she got stuck in with gusto.

In the afternoon Simon and my Dad took April to the park, so she could ride the new bike that my parents bought her. Apparently the expedition went rather well. Well, until it came to going home. At which point April decided to lay down in the gravel and have a tantrum - several times. My Dad was mortified, but Simon was unfazed, having seen such displays before.

fairy cakesLuckily I avoided all the kerfuffle by staying at home. While Mum got her fill of cuddles with baby Alexander, I embarked on a baking bonanza.

I made two birthday cakes and a pile of fairy cakes, ready for April's party the day after. I must say that I am pleased with how they came out. It's a while since I baked and I was surprised the cakes didn't burn/go soggy/sink in the middle. I enjoyed decorating them with a lavish amount of sprinkles, chocolate drops, marzipan and Smarties.

The next day April had a little party with some of her toddler chums. I think she enjoyed herself. She was a bit shy at first - but soon overcame this when the party spread was unveiled and her mind turned to thoughts of CAKE.

On Monday we went sightseeing with my folks. We took a trip to the opposite side of the Rhine, via the Cologne cable car. (More info here: I was a little nervous when we started to sway in the wind. However, I was consoled by the thought that if the cable snapped and we fell to our doom, at least I'd have died happy (well, apart from the falling to our doom bit at the end). Here's a photo Simon took from our cable car.

View from Triangle TurmWhen we arrived at the opposite bank we had a little picnic to celebrate (and give thanks for still being alive). After lunch we visited a building called the 'Triangle Tower'. It is 28 storeys high and you can take a lift to the top where there is a viewing platform that you can walk around. Here is a snap my Dad took from the top of the tower, looking back across the Rhine at the cathedral. More info about the tower is available here:

April may be too young to remember all the things we did over her birthday weekend, but I'll always recall those days with fondness.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Just another of April's things

Yesterday, when I was feeding Alexander, April came up to me. She put her arms around my neck and said, 'It's meine' (pronounced like 'miner', as in coal). It was a clear message to Alexander about who she believes has first dibs on Mummy. Also, it's a neat example of April's habit of mixing up English and German.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Time flies

Dear Blog,
Sorry, it's not you, it's me.
I've just had a few things going on and before you know it, the month has nearly passed without us spending any quality time together. I WILL put more effort into our relationship in May. Promise.
Forgive me?

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Botanic Gardens

pink cameliaWith the weather in Cologne having turned back to wintry in the last few days, I had the urge to see some spring flowers to brighten my mood. I dragged my mate Nina to join the pensioners at the Botanic Gardens in Cologne.

By the time we got there it had started to sleet so we decided to take shelter in the nearest greenhouse.

purple flowerWe found ourselves in a tropical glass house full of beautifully blousy white, pink and red camellias. They were on display as a temporary exhibition. There was even gentle oriental music playing in the background to create a tranquil ambience.

Following us on the circuit of the greenhouse was a man sporting a 10 cm long powdery yellow line down his nose. Perhaps a man-bee hybrid who'd got too close to the pollen. (How do I manage to attract these people?)

palm frondsThe photos show just some of the wonderful specimens we saw.

So, now for the info-burst:
The gardens date back to the mid 19th century and cover an impressive 10 hectares/25 acres. They are home to around 12,000 plant species. I recommend a visit if you're ever in Cologne. Find out more...

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Cologne main station

collage of photos of Cologne's central train stationAnother journey with my kids, but this time much shorter and less hassled...

Yesterday I took a train from the main station in Cologne (Köln Hauptbanhof) to a nearby town called Pulheim, in order to get to a baby shower being held for a friend of mine. It was my first ever time on a German overland train and I was a little nervous of how I would get on transporting myself and two small people. I needn't have worried as a friendly lady offered to help me lift the pram on and off the train. Even better, both children were happy and relaxed, content to watch the scenery go by, throughout the journey. I wasn't surprised to find that the train ran exactly to the timetable (as I have always found the tram service to be very efficient).

Here are a few snaps I took in and around the station. I'd like to blame the dreary ambience of the photos on the fact that it was drizzling and not on my lack of ability.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Long winding road

We came back to Cologne yesterday after a wonderful holiday in England. We travelled by car, via the Eurotunnel. The trip was eventful:

1. April threw up half an hour after departure. We had to continue the rest of the journey (9 and a half hours) surrounded by the putrid smell of warm vomit . On a more positive note, April was much more content - perhaps even euphoric - after she'd purged herself of her breakfast of Shreddies and toast.

2. More purging, this time from little man: Alexander did a massive poo, five minutes after we'd changed him at the services near Stansted airport.

3. At a services in Belgium I picked up a balloon for April to play with while we had some coffee. She insisted on bringing it (why didn't I anticipate this?). For the rest of the journey we were interrupted with cries of 'boon' (which means 'balloon' in April-ese) every time she dropped it down the side of her car seat and was unable to retrieve it.

4. We enjoyed a wonderfully relaxing half hour traffic jam on the southern part of the Brussels ring road.

5. April escaped from her car seat by means of persistent wriggling. I only noticed when she raised both arms to the roof of the car for a good stretch. I noticed while we were driving at a reasonable speed along the motorway.

6. I had a little 'moment' at a services in the Netherlands. We were only an hour from home, but if you'd sat in a car with two crying kids, the smell of sick and a balloon bouncing around, your patience would be tried too.

We were very, very relieved to get home.

That is, until Simon opened a letter from the tax office claiming we owed 16,000 Euros!

Luckily all is well today. We have recovered from our tortuous journey and are enjoying being back in our house. Even better, having enquired after the tax bill we found it was an error. (Boy, what an error!)

Monday, 16 February 2009

Home sweet home

I do like this city. It's laid-back and friendly. Creative and buzzy. However, I do miss my home city of Norwich quite a lot. It's been five and a half months since I have been home, which is too, too long. I am heading back in three days and I really cannot wait. It is the place where my heart resides and I don't think that will ever change.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Street of surprises

street signI have just read an article* which claimed that a road I live 10 minutes walk from is Europe’s busiest shopping street. Apparently almost 13,000 people pass through it every hour, making it more popular than Oxford Street. It's a road I know very well as it is where we do most of our 'high street' shopping.

The street is called Schildergasse (roughly translated as 'sign lane') and is named named after the painters & sign makers who used to work there.

I took a little walk there today to run some errands. I was keen to revel in my new-found knowledge so I spent a little time taking in the sights. This is what I saw:

llama1. A small llama advertising that the circus is in town.

(Well the llama is. I don't know what his friend in the fair isle jumper, leisure-wear blouson and bright blue slacks is doing.)

ice cream2. A giant ice cream atop of a shopping centre.

According to the artists they chose this motif because ice cream parlours are very popular in Cologne and the word 'cone' can be found in the name of the city.

Apparently several 'flavours' were trialled in the design phase but one of the artists decided the final version should be vanilla. Yes, really.

snow globe3. A lady trapped inside a snow globe.

She was trapped in there by an evil crone and her only hope of escape to a normal life - where she can order a takeaway, enjoy HD TV and collect virtual friends all from the comfort of the bubble that is her home - is to be kissed by a man in an unfeasibly pink fleecy sweatshirt.

Oh, it looks like her luck's in.

carnival man4. A green-coated dandy with a satsuma head.

He's one of many small pieces of street art which are put up at this time every year to herald carnival time.


*Read full article on the Deutsche Welle website

Friday, 23 January 2009


I have nothing exciting to report regarding the Cologne that exists outside our little flat as I have been in hibernation. It's too cold to go outside. It's also a complex operation getting myself and two little ones ready and out of the house - especially when you have to factor in the time it takes for everyone to get kitted out with gloves, hats, scarves and fresh nappies (this last item only applies to the kids you understand). I've found it easier to stay at home and limit our activities to building towers of blocks and knocking them down, counting to ten, sticking things with glue, and finger painting. This is about as much as my brain can cope with in its current sleep deprived state anyway.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009


snow on weeping willowIt's very, very cold here this morning.


I wonder if I have ever known it to be this cold before?

Here in Cologne it is so cold that people are skating on park lakes. I, however, have a phobia* of ice, so I won't be joining them.

*My phobia is based on rational thinking - ie I find that slipping over is not usually fun. Luckily my phobia only affects me in winter. I feel sorry for people who fear spiders, for those wee beasties are omnipresent.