July 31, 2013

In the Claws of German Bureaucracy (Part 2)

Roland: 11 weeks after our first encounter with the drivers registry in Leverkusen and over 8 weeks after we finally were allowed to apply for German Driver's licenses we thought it would be about time that we would actually RECEIVE our licenses. So last week on Tuesday I gave them a call to get an update on the status.

The Lady on the phone was very nice, but regretted telling me that the License Department was closed for two days due to being understaffed! So she asked me to try again on Thursday...

Imagine my surprise when I called again on Thursday, not only did I get somebody on the phone after only three rings, but that person was also able to find out within a few minutes that our licenses were indeed there! I could not believe my ears! We anyway had planned a weekend in Leverkusen, so we decided that I would take a day of vacation and we would pick up our licenses on Monday morning.

We arrived at the registry at 8:40 and were right away greeted by a sign saying "today only online appointments!". We did not have such, but we decided to try our luck anyway. When we entered the waiting area we found out that no appointment was necessary for picking up licenses (in fact someone had just "forgotten" to take off the sign from last week), but that we would have to stand in line in front of room 14 and we would be called in. Well, the problem was that the line was quite long already and nobody showed up to call anybody in for a long time.

Shortly after nine the door of room 14 opened, a guy came out and asked "Is there anybody who wants to pick up a driver's license?". Like a perfectly rehearsed choir the whole line answered "Yes that's why we are standing here!" The guy looked a little bit confused, and after a few seconds of reflecting on the situation he said "OK, the first one can come in!".

A few minutes nothing happened, then the door of room 15(!) opened, and a Lady came out asking "Is there anybody who want to pick up a driver's license?" Crowd: "Yes that's why we are standing here!" a startled expression, then "OK, the next one, please come in".

This game repeated a few times (variation: "Are REALLY all of you waiting for their license?"), and then we were finally asked in. The Lady explained to us that she actually is semi-retired already, but was asked to help out due to the staff shortage. So we gave her our Canadian licenses, and she went looking for our German ones. Of course, she found mine, but did not have such luck with Sonja's. She asked here colleague, but he could not help her either. Then she decided to check the other offices and finally came back with Sonja's license. Hallelujah!!!!

At around 10 AM we finally took possession of our German Driver's licenses, and now we are allowed to drive or ride vehicles of the classes AM, A1, A2, A, B, C1, BE, C1E, CE and L. This translates roughly into anything from a 25cc Moped over a Tractor to a 7.5 ton semi trailer...

As long as we ride
Readin' the road
Doesn't even matter
Where we're gonna go

And we'll all be doin' fine
As long as we ride

From Spock's Beard: As Long As We Ride

July 25, 2013

Ever heard of the Blue Banana?

Yeah, neither did we. But Freiburg im Breisgau is one of the cities located in the so called Blue Banana corridor, which covers one of the worldwide highest concentration of money, industry and population. Thanks, Wikipedia!

Left: The Martinstor - one of the towers spared by destruction in WWII.
Right: Traveling back in time on a side street.
The city is about an hour drive away from our new home. We had been in the outskirts a few times to shop around (They have IKEA, too.) and to run some errands but we never made the effort to visit downtown as we had learned that Freiburg got heavily damaged during WWII. However, there is a small core that escaped the bombing.
Freiburg (literally translated: Free fortified town) was founded in the 12th century, and soon became a university town as well as an ecclesiastical center. The construction of the Freiburg Minster took over three centuries and was completed 1513.
Due to its location the city also became an important corridor for trade. In the old times all goods had to be channeled through this red building, a merchants hall built 1530, for taxation purposes.
Another interesting landmark of the old town are the so called 'Bächles', water filled runnels that can be found in almost every street. in the 13th century the water supply was supposed to provide drinking water to the population and help fight fires, as well as dispose of rain water and dirt.
After this historic excursion in temperatures well beyond 30C, we needed a Biergarten to the rescue.
The food and drinks in the restaurant Zum Rauhen Mann (the rough man) were excellent, and despite the name (we expected meat platters galore) there were plenty vege options on the menue. Our favourite drink on those hot days is the Radler, an ice cold mix of beer and lemonade, very refreshing.
Again, we learned some more about the region we live in, and Freiburg will certainly continue to seduce us with its various culinary options.

July 19, 2013

Another Milestone

As per 1st of August we will have a new home. We opted for a condo (what else...), but this time in a low rise building. Hence, not much of a view. Well, it has a garden view, that's something, and the lease also includes our own patch of garden to manage.
We already consider to pour concrete over and paint it green and put up a car bike port instead... But in Germany, it is not very likely to get permission or this. So, we will have to rent a slot in a nearby parkade, as this particular patch is already taken by our neighbour.
As soon as we have the keys in hand renovations will ensue, meaning we hire a painter, and meanwhile go shopping for furniture...

Nearby stork spotting.

July 17, 2013

Out and About - Scenery Snippets

A view from Brandenkopf on 'our' green valley.
The forest is black!
 All along the Watchtower.
It's time for cake!
I get the fruit, he get's the leftovers...
Sweet butterfly.
Longing to scoot along this roads.
A classic example of regional architecture.
Another picturesque farmhouse.
And more of it.
A view towards 'our' village...
...where a stream flows through.
Taking a single file logging road to nowhere.
A Zen moment by the lake (at Glaswaldsee).
It's almost like being back in Canada...
... if it weren't for the castles and ruins around   ;-)
Sunset calm.
So far we can't help comparing the Black Forest area to similar scenery of Eastern Canada, which makes transition and settling in so much easier.

July 16, 2013

Withdrawal Symptoms

Ok, I admit it: I am a Scootaholic. I kinda miss my Harley, yes, but even more so, I really want my Vespa! Ever since I have gotten a first taste of German byways on my new-to-me Italian two-wheeler I have the strong feeling that I need more. Much more, and the roads down here in the Black Forest are simply gorgeous.
Alas, Alonzo, my orange Vespa is tucked away in a garage about 400km away. Also, Bella, the red Vespa and Rover, my Sporty are unavailable, still somewhere stored in a container, and anyway will need technical certification (TÜV) before approved street-legal.
So naturally my attention will be easily drawn to any two-wheeler on the road. On occasion I can be found chatting with their owners, or checking out local dealerships, never mind the brand.
With accelerated heartbeat I watch every motorcycle and scooter pass by, well aware of the beautiful twisty roads that lie ahead of them. Sigh! I need to get my scoot, stat!
Another week to go before we will be headed North again (to deal with some more bureaucratic stuff and) to pick up my orange companion. Patience, young Yedi!

I'm extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end. 
(Margaret Thatcher)

July 14, 2013

Vive la France all over again!

Another beautiful Saturday. Way to nice for chores. So we found ourselves traveling... once again to France. 90 km or a bit short of an hour away lies Colmar, a city that Roland had visited a long time ago and wanted to re-visit.
Founded in the ninth century during the Carolingian Empire Colmar seemed always been in high demand. It belonged once to the French, then to the Germans, and at one time to the Swedish even (not for long, though).
Now Colmar is one of the major cities in Alsace, France, but the German heritage can be found everywhere, embedded in culture, language, names and architecture, naturally enhanced by the French lifestyle and ambience.
Although third biggest city of the province of Alsace, Colmar has the charming atmosphere of a small town. There is no big city rush, and people seem to enjoy themselves (It might have helped that it wasn't a work day, though). So we did the best to adjust by having ice cream and cooling off at a fountain.

And right in the center of the old town, what else could there be... a church. Eglise Staint Martin has the dimensions of a cathedral but never hosted a bishop, so it cannot be called such.
This building is a wild architectural mix, erected on Romanesque foundations it is mainly Gothic with a touch of Renaissance after a fire, and with a hint of Jewish influence found in the gargoyles.
The church is embedded in the historic city core, and hence it is almost impossible to find an ideal vantage point for a good photo. It is an interesting piece of historic architecture nevertheless, and its sandstone bricks look make a beautiful contrast to the blue sky.

And some two-wheelers can make a very nice contrast to the  medieval architecture, too.
And while Sonja could be found admiring this vintage Vespa, Roland was drooling all over this wonderful Citroen:
Colmar is definitely worth a visit, even more so since it can make a good starting point for a trip through the Vosges and the wine country. Next time... on scooters!