Sunday, December 28, 2008

Nordic Combination World Cup

Yesterday we were up in Oberhof to watch the Nordic Combination World Cup which is the ski-jumping and then skiing.  I always thought that people watching winter sport were very excited (or a little drunk) because they were always dancing but after 5 hours yesterday in - 6 degrees (felt a whole lot less with some windchill thrown in)...I quickly realised that people are dancing so they can retain some feeling in their extremeties!

It was great to watch, the ski-jumping is just amazing, it is soooo very steep!  Much steeper than it even looks on tv.

After a great 10 days or so with 'the group'....mum, dad, Sam, Heather, family Kaebisch and I...our group was halved.  Sam and Heather drove back to Rome today and we dropped mum and dad at the airport.  The weather was cold but sunny and we were so tempted to head back up to the mountains for some skiing but we had a quite day instead and we'll save it for tomorrow :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to all :)

Merry Christmas and Frohe Weihnachten to all.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More Christmas markets....

It has been a great week here in wintery Germany.  I have been baking, swimming, bike riding, cross-country skiing and Christmas market visiting.  I have been back to the Erfurt Christmas market and then yesterday we were in Dresden, visiting good friends Angela and Stefan Henig.  I really like the feel of Dresden, it has a good feeling about....but I think many people have the same idea and the markets were absolutely packed.  Trying to move through the crowds with Gluhwein in hand required both an exceptional amount of agility and dexterity.  I, for one, do not have that to begin with...let alone for a few Gluhwein's.  Dresden calls their Christmas market the 'Strietzelmarkt'....none of the German's could tell me what Strietzelmarkt means.  Thank god for Google :)  Apparently, Strietzel is the name of a cake that lent its name to the whole market, the markets originated in 1434, making this one the 574th....quite impressive....I don't think there was much in the way of Christmas markets going on in Australia at this time!
After Dresden we popped in to Freiberg's Christmas market, to see Gunnar's younger brother Bertie who is studying there.  It is a nice town, quite small and the Christmas markets have everything that one could need....including enough space to move :)

Today we headed out on the bikes early, it was a little icy in patches so I was feeling quite brave being out and about.  It was quite magic to be riding with snow around everywhere and this morning the sky was a pinky, orange colour....really beautiful.  After  a hearty German lunch we headed up into the mountains.  The sun had come out which always makes the colours brighter and everything seem a bit shinier.  True to form I spent nearly as much time on my bum as upright...I still haven't mastered the art of being able to stop and remain upright and have to rely on the use of my 'Arschbremsen' - ass brake :)  After several hours out in forest the sun began to set which was a sign for us to call it a day.  Many people were heading out with lights on to make the most of the snow....but we just headed into a Huette for some Jagertee to warm us before the drive home.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Natty's Tour de Weihnachtsmaerkte

Yesterday dawned quite rainy and cold and I found myself disappointed that it wasn't snowing....rather than accepting the weather situation and enjoying the down time, I had that niggling feeling of wanting to get out and enjoy a 'real' winter.  Instead we had a quite morning and then in the afternoon headed out and about.  We drove up to Leipzig to meet some friends of Gunnar and I had my 3rd Weihnachtsmarkt experience.  In Erfurt much of the market is in the Domplatz, the piazza underneath the old, gothic style church; however in Leipzig the market ran down many streets, taking up most of the city centre.  Every street you turned down there was more stalls, more things to buy or eat :)  We stuffed ourselves on vanilla creme waffles and rahmfleck (doughy filled goodness) washed it down with Gluhwein or Feurzangbowle.  It was raining and cold but this didn't diminish the experience, instead it was great to warm up with hot drinks and feel invigorated by the crispness of the air.  It becomes dark around 4:30pm which feels strange to me considering I was in Sydney on Monday night, sitting outside at 7:30pm in daylight.  The bonus of this is that I feel like I've had a real night out by 8pm....we've already been out for hours and by then I am feeling sleepy (haven't quite gotten over the jet-lag yet).
It's been another rainy morning here but now it is clearing and the sun is trying to push its way through the clouds.  We might even go out on the bike for a bit and then head into the mountains so I can have some of my much awaited 'real' winter experience...I've seen photos of people sliding down the slopes in inner tubes and I'm thinking maybe that is the way for me to go.  I have yet to master the art of skiing, and although I've found cross-country skiing a much more successful process of skill acquisition, anyone that knows me well knows that such things are not really my forte.  My sister tried to put it as nicely as possible when she said to me, just a month or so ago, "I'm sure you'll be successful at anything you try in life, just as long as it doesn't require any skill or co-ordination." 

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Saint Nikolaus Day

Today is Saint Nikolaus day in Germany.  Last night before bed we had to clean a pair of shoes and put them out for St Nikolaus.  The way it goes is that if you have been good throughout the year and cleaned your shoes then St Nikolaus puts a treat in them.  I think this is a big day for the kiddies but I thought it was great as well....what fun....more presents!! 

I must have been good this year because I did well from St Nikolaus, apart from the customary chocolate Weihnactsmann (think chocolate easter bunny but in the shape of Santa Claus) and Lebkuchen (yummy German Christmas time cookie) I got a beautiful ceramic Engel (angel) and a book - 'Crime and Punishment' by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  I've been wanting to read some Dostoyevsky but haven't had a chance until now....lucky that St Nik can read thoughts :)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Yet again I begin this blog lamenting the fact that it has been so long since my last one.  So much has happened since I last wrote and I haven't really had the chance to sit down and put pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard!

I have now officially retired as a professional last race was the World Championships at the end of September.  Since then I have had holidays in Spain, some time back in Germany, five weeks back in Australia and now I'm back here in Germany for some quality time with my boy, his family and the Christmas holidays.

I expected to have quite an identity crisis when hanging up the bike (not that I haven't been riding at all).  I have been a cyclist for a greater proportion of my life than not, and this has been the guiding force for the twists and turns of my life for the last ten years.  Fortunately, I have found that this hasn't been the case and I have been enjoying the freedom and time to do other things....go hiking for the day, go away for a few days to visit friends without my bike as well as have more time for family and friends.  I'm sure some of the jittery feelings will come back to me once the racing season starts but I have plenty of goals for the future and hopefully after a good bunch ride or two I will be grateful to not be racing over the cobblestones of Belgium.  

I have some work lined up to begin at the start of February but until then I can enjoy myself (although there is much studying to be done!), and enjoy my time in Europe.  I'm not sure when I will be back which is a strange thought in itself!

Here are some photos from my first night back in Germany, at the Erfurter Weihnachtsmarkt (Erfurt Christmas markets)....after you've thrown back a Gluehwein (a German version of mulled wine made with red wine which is heated and spiced with cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, citrus and sugar) or two, you're warm enough to spend hours walking around exploring the markets.