Koblenz

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“I pity you”, my beloved late grandpa used to say. “You have to travel so far by plane while I can be content with what Germany has to offer within such a short distance of my home”. He would have been proud of me this weekend because I went to Koblenz – two hours from Dizzel. And just like grandpa always preached, you don’t have to go far to see wonderful things.

Koblenz’s name is derived from the Latin Confluentes, referring to the river Rhine and the river Moselle meeting just there, in more than 2000 year old Koblenz. The rivers are surrounded by four low mountain ranges that are adorned with an abundance of castles. Already as a child when we always passed Koblenz on the way to my grandparents, I marvelled at the sight, and when we contemplated places to visit for a weekend getaway, the choice was not difficult.

The town easily took me by storm! I kept saying, “Look at how beautiful it is!” and wanted to photograph every other restaurant because even those are so picturesque. Strolling down the river promenade provides instant holiday feeling and there are actually a good deal of international tourists adding to the flair. Emperor Wilhelm I had his summer residence here and we dined at the restaurant “Augusta” named after his wife. Wilhelm himself is represented as a giant statue at the so called German corner. That’s the name of a headland where the two rivers unite and there, the 16 flags of the federal states of Germany fly – my inner patriot rejoiced pointing at the flags of the states I’ve already lived in. The 16 state flags are joined by the German, European and American flag. Actually, the American flag is there as a memorial to 9/11, “united in friendship with the American people”, it says on the flag pole.

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The German corner could also be called the German triangle

 

 

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Statue of Father Rhine and Mother Moselle

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Wilhelm’s summer residence, not too shabby

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Gates of Koblenz

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The Forum Confluentes and the mall opposite it are just two of several architectural achievements in the city

Something I could not find out was why there are so many rubber ducks in Koblenz. In our hotel bathroom, there was one (no, that’s not customary in Germany) and then in several shops, you could buy rubber ducks of all kinds – I’ve never seen such a wide range of rubber ducks: State of Liberty ducks, Queen Elizabeth ducks, Beethoven ducks, you name it.

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Is the Playmobil figure small or the church it stands in?

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Our room included newspapers so we could be very cosmopolitan reading the NY Times for breakfast

Koblenz is also home to one of the German Train Museums, ideal for our first day that was a little cloudly. As a frequent train traveler and historian, I especially enjoyed meandering between the trains from the 1930s. They had tried to conceal the swastika on the trains (debatable…), but the interiors were impressive. I would not have minded going on a trip in those parlor cars.

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I can’t help but like model railroads – so much to look at!

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German readers, observe the “Ludolfs” sign

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Historical advertisement (two of my favorite things combined): “Safe, fast, comfortable: German Railways”

I can recommend going to Koblenz and if you don’t believe me, trust the German prince of poets, Goethe:

“Until Koblenz we floated calmly and I remember vividly that there I saw the most beautiful image of nature that I might ever have laid eyes on. […] The picture was a magnificient delight”.

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Hello darkness, my old friend

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Geez, it’s gotten so dark so quickly?! I kept pretending it’s still summer, I live down here south after all, and then the shadows fall before eight and there’s no denying it: autumn. It also shows in the rain that’s pouring down like nobody’s business which makes me almost regret I didn’t buy that rain coat at Lindex last week. (It had no zipper why is why I did not buy it.)

But really, a bunch of good things happened at work today and autumn means lighting candles and switching on window lamps inside and cuddling up on the sofa (when all the U.S. series finally resume), so it’s not the worst of seasons after all.

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In Stockholm, I of course wandered into Svenskt Tenn, the store with my favorite patterns, even at the bike stand

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I don’t wanna be nagging, but Swedes don’t know Swedish anymore. This is the fifth mistake I’ve seen in a week.

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Exploring the Dizzel surroundings, I visited Solingen which, somewhat surprising, has very cute houses and very nice cars.

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My tomato plant on the balcony has grown exactly one [green] tomato in 5 months. So I harvested vegetable elsewhere.

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When I moved to Dizzel I thought I’d be going to fancy bars for after work cocktails all the time. It happened for the maybe 8th time in two years this week, with the always lovely Anja.

 

Stockholm Thursday

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Three days feels just the right amount of time to be here, this time. Immensely enjoying being able to have scones at Haymarket (I love that cafe too much), browsing through the stores (not helpful that they gave me a coupon booklet with lots of 20% off) and meeting the people I couldn’t meet when I was here last, or the ones I always just have to see. And at the same time not staying so long that I get too much back into the habit of thinking I live here.

Actually, it’s really just two days because the first day was completely dedicated to work. That 10-hour-conference was great: Lots of inspiring people, especially women, best practice that motivates me to go back to my desk on Monday, and a creative atmosphere where we all share the same goal and challenge, just in different parts of the world. That actually gave me an appetite to look beyond Germany-Sweden again…wouldn’t the UK be a great place to work, couldn’t New York be a developing experience? No worries, I am boarding the flight to Dizzel tomorrow and I’m not pulling up stakes, yet.

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Snö, a nice Swedish jewellery brand, had a showroom sale. With balloons!

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Finally got to meet Evelina again, took her to Haymarket, of course.

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The other home

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I can’t help looking at apartment postings close to Marita’s home

“I feel like I forgot to pack something”, I said last night, “but really, it’s not that dramatic because I’m going to Marita’s and that’s almost like home”. After work today, I boarded the familiar plane at the well-known gate (always A39) and now I’m here, to attend a conference at work tomorrow. A conference that has two of my friends as participants on the attendance list and that will take place here, with home track advantage. Those are the best work days.

 

Zons

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“Where did you go, to the zone?” is what my friend Maike asked when I told her about my most recent endeavor to acquaint myself with the Dizzel surroundings. Zons, the name of the village we visited, sounds a bit like zone or Zonis which is what the people living in the GDR were, ironically, called. Zons does not have the least to do with all that, though.

The reason I knew about Zons is Lil’ Pesto’s girlfriend who a few months ago took Lil’ Pesto on a romantic bike tour there. We skipped the athletic part with the bike and went there on a Saturday afternoon which in itself, to me, felt very adult and thus super accomplished to me. I rarely feel I have my life together to the extent that I can do anything else but clean and cook on Saturdays. And now look at me, adulting all over the place.  

Zons was formely known as Fortress Zons which already hints at why the 5,000-people-place with town rights exists: In 1372 the Archbishop of Cologne moved the Rhine toll castle upstream to Zons protecting it with walls and moats and granting Zons town privileges in 1373. Big deal back then!

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Below the mill, there is a giant field of nessles. Don’t fall, I guess.

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I will remember Zons as the town of pretty window shutters.

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Apple Pie and Coffee. Many adult, such grown up, much mature, wow. Also notice the real old people in the background.

Nowadays you can walk around the fortified Friedestrom Castle and marvel at the old mill or enjoy meandering on the dike next to the Rhine that almost feels like home, i.e. Northern Germany.

After visiting all sights, the church (including a wedding with a Schützenverein), the mill, the castle, the tourist information, and writing postcards, our adultness culminated in getting coffee and cake at the market square (that might have been the size of my apartment because Zons is tiny).

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Zons even has adorable sheep

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Norddeich or Zons?

Heavy Industry

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The Tetraeder, a sculpture you can climb in Bottrop. It’s on a hill (that really is a mine waste tip)

Such an exhausting day – but oh so interesting! Today I took a day off to join on a class trip our bonus co-workers organised for their students. The ten hour trip took us through four cities in the Ruhr area, a region in Germany that non-locals often believe is a stinking dump, the black lung of Germany. I will never forget how my grandpa told the story of how you couldn’t hang laundry outside there because it would get too dirty.

But today Germany’s industrial belt, the Ruhrgebiet, is no longer smoking chimneys and coal mine workers. They have worked hard to transform the pits into culture venues and redidicated what once belonged to the steel and coal industry. For anyone interested in history and urban planning, the Ruhr area is extremely fascinating. The structural changes the region has experienced from the 1800s to today are amazing: the city of Essen, for example, grew tenfold within ten years.

I have such a hard time grasping distances in the Ruhr area because my mind doesn’t seemt to be able to wrap itself around the fact that basically  – that’s our guide’s narrative – the Ruhr area is one giant city: So many city names I’ve known since childhood all right next to each other with the borders barely discernable. And those cities are, especially if you compare to Swedish standards, huge. Dortmund and Essen both exceed the size of Gothenburg, and in total, the Ruhr area is home to five million people, five well known (meaning even I know them) soccer clubs and five universities. It is also drowning: because of all the mines that are not used anymore and could not be completely filled up again, water has to be pumped down all the time to keep the cities from turning into a lake. I really hope they keep those pumps going because I put a few new items on my North-Rhine-Westphalia-bucket list.

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The Coal Mine Zollverein which was the largest mine and designed by architects

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Zeche Zollverein is part of the UNESCO World Heritage

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On top of the Gasometer in Oberhausen

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The Gasometer in Oberhausen is a former gas storage facility, can be seen from a great distance, making it a high-visibility landmark for the Ruhr Area, and is one of the most impressive exhibition venues in Europe.

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Currently, they have an exhibit called “Wonders of Nature” that shows amazing photographs of nature and this huge installation of the earth

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It almost felt like being in space!

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The Duisburg-Nord landscape park is a decommissioned iron smelting works, the landscape park is now one of the most important industrial monuments, as well as being an excursion destination, a venue for events, climbing and diving. Yes, diving – they flooded their gas storage tank. This photo shows the names of the climbing routes, this one called “change of shift”.

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More climbing among former blast furnaces

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The nature returns to the industrial site

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Also, the landscape park offers amusing graffiti

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Immortalizing summer

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Today, I saw a sign in a gallery for tasteless photo art that said, “Immortalizing summer”. I couldn’t really understand how it related to the photos but it occured to me that my attempt to immortalize my lovely Swedish summer was kind of washed-up the moment I landed and started, almost compulsively, working off my to do lists again.

Actually, my trip back already began, let’s say, interestingly. I was planning to check in online and add a bag only to find that I was no longer booked on the 12-am-flight with airberlin but on the 9-am-flight with Eurowings. After 52 minutes in their waiting loop, they told me I should have gotten an email about that. Well, I didn’t.

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On my last night, Stockholm saw a lovely rainbow. The end of the rainbow is in Farsta. I am not surprised because that’s where my dear Marita lives.

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This last weekend I also attended my friends’ wedding in Örebro. So much love!

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They had lots of beautiful decorations around the theme music but this one was my favorite. We all had different parts of the song “Vilar glad i din famn” (I rest happily in your embrace) around our cutlery. Internet tells me it was written for Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding. No wonder I like it so much. “I stand holding hands with you / Darkness falls and you shine so […] Where you wander / my yearning wants to live […] Close to you I want to be / calm with your warm soul […] I look for you / I call out your name everywhere/ until I rest happily in your embrace”.

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Malin, Axel, Kristina and I were the Uppsala-choir-friends attending. Malin took a photo of Axel of me that looks as if I had just inaugurated something at Axel’s extremely successful company/super important state authority/very historic family castle.

And now that’s all behind me, the remote lakes, the best friends, the shopping sprees. Work made its demands on me the second I walked in, and it’s a lot these days, but it’s also the place where I was greeted so enthusiastically this morning that it almost makes up for not being Stockhome anymore.