February 25, 2014

It's official: Spring is Here!

Roland: The storks are back already, and some of them actually never left the area this winter! We could see a pair of them flying up and down the valley for quite a few days, and now we already find the results of their busy schedule: a nest on top of the "Storchenturm" (stork's tower) right next to our market square!

When we were little we knew storks only from stories and photos. We are really grateful that these beautiful birds re-discovered Germany as their habitat! Hopefully we will get an opportunity this spring to catch them with a better camera than my iPhone...

February 23, 2014

Criss-crossing the County

The weather forecast had us up early. There was a promise of blue skies and temperatures reaching 14C (57F). We started out at around 4C end encountered leftovers of yesterday's snowfall. It wasn't much but enough to keep us alert and pay utmost attention to the road surface.
St. Cyriac
We passed St. Cyriac, the Baroque church of Schapbach, which was founded in the 17th century, and finished late 20th century, when it finally got its unusual twin cupolas.
Say hello to a curious onlooker
The stretch between Bad Rippoldsau and Loßburg, during season a motorcycle destination popular for its sharp corners, was deserted and when we reached the pass it became obvious why. At its peak (height 845m - 2772ft) we encountered a bit more of yesterday's white deposit.
First the white stuff had us worried for a bit, but only a few kilometers ahead everything had cleared up again. No sign of snow. It was like it never happened.
We were on the road for almost three hours, and found that a break was in order. In historic Schiltach, famous for its half-timbered houses, we knew that we would find a culinary pitstop.

The old town is under cultural heritage management, which would only allow careful restoration. Hence the streets are still made of cobblestones, and very narrow. SUV's or trucks wouldn't fit through, but it wasn't a problem for our sleek and nimble Vespas.
We wandered around and admired the architecture. For lunch break we selected cafe and bakery Kaffeebohne (coffee bean), which was located directly on the marketplace. The menu offered local cuisine and home-made cake in a rustic atmosphere. Certainly recommended!
Roland's choice was a warming lentil soup with franks while I picked the vegetarian "French Pizza" (Flammkuchen).

After this filling and refreshing meal we hit the road again for another hour of twisted bliss. "Minna" (from Wilhelmina, meaning willing to protect), my trusty GPS, found another set of fantastic backroads unknown to us, and most likely to others as well, because traffic was virtually nonexistent. Four hours later we returned home, happy and very satisfied with this winter outing.
Here's the route:
120 km and a felt 100+ turns

Kreuz und quer durch's Ländle
Mit der viel versprechenden Wettervorhersage von Sonnenschein und bis zu 14 Grad machten wir uns auf den Weg nach Loßburg. Es ging über den Löcherberg nach Bad Peterstal, dann Richtung Schapbach, und vorbei an der barocken Kirche mit ihren ungewöhnlichen Kuppeltürmen. Der Niederschlag vom Vortag hatte uns noch einmal Schnee auf den Höhen beschert und sorgte in schattigen Kurven immer noch für leichte Straßenglätte. Zwischen Bad Rippoldsau und Loßburg befuhren wir eine populäre Motorradstrecke und wir hatten dieses Kurvenparadies ganz für uns alleine. Warum, fragten wir uns? Nun, als wir auf der Passhöhe ankamen wussten wir warum… es lag Schnee. Doch nur wenige Kilometer später war dieser weiße Spuk wieder vorbei und die Landschaft wurde wieder grün. Nach fast drei Stunden auf den Rollern waren wir hungrig und steuerten Schiltach an. Wir holperten über das Kopfsteinpflaster zum historischen Ortskern und steuerten zielgenau auf das Café Kaffeebohne zu. Hier gab es Linsensuppe und Flammkuchen für uns. Es war köstlich! So gestärkt ging es wieder auf die Straße. Unser Navi führte uns noch einmal über kleinste Sträßchen, die wir bisher noch nicht kannten (und auch viele andere wohl nicht kennen, denn herrschte kaum Verkehr). Nach 120km und vier Stunden kehrten wir schließlich glücklich und zufrieden über diesen schönen Winterausflug nach Hause zurück.

February 20, 2014

Rover is getting Surgery

A few weeks ago Rover, my Sportster 883, went to the shop for some minor upgrades. Today I visited in order to deliver my paperwork for a repeat TÜV approval. Why again? you might wonder.

Because in Germany pretty much every single change in the build of the motorcycle will have to be documented in the papers, or else… Imagine getting stopped in a traffic control, and not being able to present a valid operating permit for your vehicle. The PTB (powers that be) will likely consider your bike unsafe for riding, put it out of service immediately to be towed away, and it goes without saying that you'll be getting fined.

Rover meanwhile is in the midst of its cosmetic surgery, and currently stripped to the guts. It was almost heartbreaking to see my bike unprotected and defenseless like this. There is some rewiring to do, and some minor tinkering planned with the front and the rear end. More on this soon… provided that TÜV is going to approve of it.


Rover kommt "unter's Messer"
Vor ein paar Wochen habe ich Rover, meine Harley Davidson Sportster 883, für einige Anpassungen in die Werkstatt gebracht. Heute lieferte ich meine Zulassungspapiere ab. Warum, das weiß der deutsche Bürger (die Bürgerin) nur zu genau… damit nämlich die baulichen Veränderungen eingetragen werden können. Ansonsten sieht man nämlich bei der Polizeikontrolle ganz blass aus. Meine Sportster ist inzwischen auf dem Seziertisch gelandet. Was genau verändert wird, verrate ich noch nicht, solange der TÜV dazu nicht seinen Segen gegeben hat.

February 19, 2014

Homesickness vs. Reverse Culture Shock

Germans live to work!
Most Germans live a very pre-programmed life: It starts with school, then education in form of an apprenticeship and/or a study. And the rest of work life one will work endless hours to build a career, build a house, pay taxes, save into the retirement plan, and think of all the things one wants to do after one will be retired. This was pretty much us.

Canadians (and most other people not German) work to live!
At one point we asked ourselves, is this it? Are we going to continue slaving away until we can’t no more? We wanted something new, exciting, exhilarating. So, that’s why we left for Canada. We built up a new life, and it worked well. Living abroad for us meant dealing in a foreign language in our everyday life. We learned something new every day, it was challenging but in a good way and full of enriching experiences. And Canada was good to us. Not only were we successful professionally, but we also managed to make wonderful new friends and felt integrated into society. And we lived greatly! All was going well. So, why change this perfectly good life? 

Eight years is a long time. For Sonja Canada was home, the mountain view and the ocean breeze alone would simply make her feel glad to be alive. But Roland was feeling increasingly discontent. Frustration was sneaking up upon the homesickness affected. Suddenly he increasingly started noticing negative things happening around (the annoying neighbour, the traffic, the weather... the list became endless). He became unable to appreciate and enjoy the beauty anymore, and ended up making a mountain out of every molehill. He felt lonely and alienated, and started suffering from depressions. It was contagious, and also began affecting our relationship. Hence, the only cure for homesickness was actually returning home to Germany.

A Stranger at Home
The irony of it is, that while Roland was instantly happy to be home again, Sonja had started feeling disengaged, irritated and depressed for a long while until finally realization, re-adjustment and adaptation kicked in. (well, she’s actually still working on it...)

In the first months of our return we both felt out of place. We reconnected with friends and family but everything previously familiar seemed to feel different, not because they had changed, but our experiences had changed us more than we thought. We had gone through a roller coaster of feelings. Similar to the process of grieving we went through sadness of leaving Canada, to anger over the friggin’ German bureaucracy, to acceptance through the familiar faces around, and having a regular work life again.

As a repatriate one has to be prepared that friends and family might not care much about how you feel upon your return. Some of them might not even have overcome why you left the country and your safe jobs in the first place. They will just be glad to have you back in their unchanged reality.

Naturally, we sought other traveling folks who we could relate to (the internet is the perfect tool for such). It is however not always beneficial to exchange experiences with other repatriates as it might fuel unwanted Fernweh (the yen to travel), or Wanderlust as the English speaking world puts it. But talking to people who will likely understand provides an helpful outlet. 

Culture without the shock
Exploring the local culture, architecture and history certainly helps a lot. Well, there is this, and there is our motorcycling and scootering, too. The roads are great and the Black Forest offers a pretty scenery, plus is geographically a perfect spot to re-visit some of our most favourite countries such as France, or Italy, and discover some new territory in Eastern Europe. We have also made plans to rediscover the four corners of our native country. Germany has a coast, too, you know. 

We are going to make the most out of it, that is until the travel bug bites again, and if hard enough, might catapult us in a completely different world again. It’s not over. Not for a long time! Life is good!
Sonja & Roland - December 2013

February 18, 2014

Like-minded People

New Zealand, South Island - Photo: courtesy Gorgeous Stella
Did I fool you? No it's not us on Bella and Alonzo. When browsing the Modern Vespa Forum I came across a posting from a Kiwi couple from Napier (North Island) who lived a Vespista's dream… (for insiders: they run under the aliases Owie and Gorgeous Stella). Here is their ride report from their Christmas trip to the South Island:
Please take a closer look at the scooter's colour scheme. The couple certainly has a very specific taste, quite similar to our own. I wish we could travel down under, and take with Alonzo and Bella for an extended visit of both, the North and the South island. Wouldn't that be something? One can dream…


Na, konnte ich Euch in die Irre führen? Im Modern Vespa Forum fand ich neulich ein Posting von einem Paar Vespa Reitern aus Neuseeland, die genau die gleichen Rollerfarben fahren, wie wir. Ein Zeichen guten Geschmacks! Es hätte schon etwas, mit Bella und Alonzo auf den Straßen auf der anderen Seite der Welt zu fahren… der Mensch muss ja Träume haben.

February 16, 2014

Call of Duty

Weather forecast had been promising for the weekend… well, on Thursday it was. So we made tentative plans to meet up with a fellow scooterist for a Saturday jaunt. On Saturday it rained cats and dogs, and we ended up spending most of the time indoors taking care of the household chores.
Our friend phoned us up on Sunday morning again, the sky was grey, the roads were wet, there was a high wind warning, and he was down with the sniffles. Hence, we decided to take a raincheck on a major road trip together. However, Roland and I still thought, we'd give it a try, and fired up the scooters for a little spin on our home turf. The Vespas needed to get out for some exercise (and we could use the fresh air, too)!
The wind wasn't as bad as forecasted but the small country roads were slippery and covered in mud and debris, by far not the best scootering conditions. Meanwhile it had started drizzling, and Roland didn't find his Zen of riding, and also complained about a sore throat. So we made a pit-stop for tea at our favorite cafe and bakery, and decided to cut short our outing to return home. Some days just are not made for riding… but the Vespas seemed to have enjoyed our little outing.

PS: It's now Sunday afternoon around 4PM, and the sun we had been waiting for the whole weekend is finally coming out. Great! Plus now I have a man down with a serious case of man flu.


Die Pflicht ruft!
Am Donnerstag hatten wir noch eine viel versprechende Wettervorhersage für das Wochenende mit Sonnenschein und Temperaturen bis 14 Grad. Also verabredeten wir uns für Samstag mit einem Freund für eine Ausfahrt ins Elsass. Natürlich regnete es dann in Strömen. Am Sonntag morgen telefonierten wir noch einmal, aber es war kühl, grau und windig und der Roller-Kollege hatte Schnupfen. Na ja, vielleicht klappt es beim nächsten Mal. 
Wir wollten wenigstens eine kleine Runde auf unserer Hausstrecke drehen, denn die Vespen brauchten Bewegung (und wir die frische Luft). Die Straßen waren übersät mit Ästen und es war matschig, nicht die besten Voraussetzungen für eine sorglose Tour. Dann fing Roland an, über Halsschmerzen zu klagen. Also entschieden wir uns, die Route abzukürzen und machten noch einen kleinen Abstecher für eine Tasse Tee zu unserem Lieblingscafe in Oberwolfach. Inzwischen hatte es auch noch angefangen zu nieseln… Auch wenn wir (und das Wetter) nicht in Topform waren, unseren Vespas hat der kleine Ausflug gut getan.

PS: Um 16 Uhr nachmittags reißt der Himmel auf und die Sonne schaut heraus. Aber mittlerweile liegt der Gatte mit Männergrippe auf dem Sofa...

February 12, 2014

Now THAT's a pretty sight!

Source: theguardian

In Europe the Olympic Medal Count is ranked by number of Gold medals rather than total number of medals, so right now it looks very good for us German-Canadians, with Germany being in front and Canada as first runner-up! Canada had started very strong, but in the last two days Germany won four Gold and one Silver medals, so they really went ahead in the count.

It is quite surprising how well Germany does at Winter Games in general considering that it is not a country that knows hard winters. But even the All-Time Winter Olympics count is being led by Germany, although this counts both previous German states as one.

One medal that Germany will not take home for sure this time is one for Hockey. For the first time since, like, forever, the team did not qualify for the Games. This is a huge decline since the legendary Bronze medal from Innsbruck 1976 when they managed to get into third place due to a) the absence of Canada and Sweden, and b) a very strange rule that put them ahead of Finland although ending up with the same number of points and a worse goal difference, and having lost to Finland. No problem for us anyway, we say "Go Canada"!

February 09, 2014

2012 - The Final Year (Part 8 of the 'Magers in Canada' Miniseries)

This will be the final installation of the 'Magers in Canada' Miniseries.
After having run into unspecific health issues Sonja had decided to change her diet, and went (mostly) vegan. We also concluded that with all this beautiful scenery at our doorsteps taking up hiking and kayaking was in order. 2012 certainly became the most outdoor active year in our Canadian records. 

In spring we visited our families in Germany again, and of course we also paid our dear friends in California another visit, and how could we not, as their weather turned out to be splendid and mild, contrary to the chilly dampness of the we(s)t coast. 
Burg, Germany
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Also, as one of the perks of working in a New Zealand company Sonja got sent off to Kiwiland again, where new (moto-blogger) friends were made, and more of the beauty of this country was discovered. 
Kiwi Scenery
Auckland, New Zealand
Street Tripling on Coromandel Island (Photo: Geoff James)

After many miles on his Vespa Roland was ready to take the next step and procured himself a maxi scooter. There were two-wheeled road-trips around the Lillooet Loop, along the Sunshine Coast, and down to Washington and Oregon to meet our moto-blogger friends at the IMBC2012

Later the year we had another stopover in Europe with Norway, Sweden and Germany on our list. While Norway was a rather spontaneous decision, our business in Sweden was of more 'serious' matter, as a good friends of Roland's got married. Norway had impressed us, and reminded us dearly of the landscape of Newfoundland, while Sweden seemed to be more like Ontario. Contrary to our previous years in Canada we seemed to become quite the world travelers in 2012.  
Somewhere in Norway
Norway Fjord
Norway Scenery

A bit unexpected (for Sonja), homesickness had kicked in for Roland after so many fantastic years in our dreamland. So, on the verge of the new year, the decision to return to Germany had been firm, and we prepared for the move, sold Paolo (Sonja's Vespa) and Whitey (Roland's Maxi Scoot), and got rid of furniture and other items we didn't want to (or couldn't - such as electrical stuff) take with.
View on Downtown Vancouver
Howe Sound
A last ride to Buntzen Lake
Sunset at Burrard Inlet, a five minute walk from home
At Duffey Lake

We said our goodbyes to our friends and the country we had called home for eight years, packed up our belongings, sold some of the vehicles (the red Vespa and the Sportster stayed with us), put the condo up for sale… the rest is history. Will we ever come back? Or settle down somewhere else? In Europe? In Canada? We don't know yet. But we are sure about this:
Found in a bookstore in North Vancouver

February 07, 2014

2011 - Traveling Canadians. (Part 7 of the 'Magers in Canada' Miniseries)

On our return from the winter wonderland in Germany we were welcomed by a different scenery in BC. Instead of the usual rain and clouds we got frost and sun.
Picture perfect at Pitt River
Back in 2011 we thought, this is it, we have arrived, here's where we always wanted to be. With this in mind we sold our Calgary apartment and purchased a condo with a view on the inlet and the mountains in Port Moody. Little did we know where life would take us only two years later.

The best thing happened to us in February that year. In a festive ceremony we became Canadian citizens. 

Roland, although having put his feelers out on the BC job market, continued working for his employer in Alberta, who had generously approved his commute between Vancouver and Calgary, and partly working out of his home office.

Spring time did reunite us with Andrea and Guido for a recharge of our batteries, and we escaped the rainy west coast by having a splendid time on Maui.
Aloha, Hawaii!

Another highlight of the year came in form of Roland getting into motorcycling. Sonja had meanwhile a lot of two-wheeled solo travels under her belt, or went off with a riding buddy. However, when Roland fell in love with a certain red Italian beauty, he insisted that Sonja should get a Vespa, too.
Going Vespa - Bella & Paolo
With our newly acquired Canadian passports at hand traveling to the US of A became so much less cumbersome, and so we decided on a trip down to Oregon. Oregon had inspired us on previous visits and we had secretly voted it our most favourite American state.
Columbia River
Some time in May we swapped our Merc against a small Audi, which was so much more fun to drive on the twisty roads of the BC hinterland.
Route 99 at Duffey Lake
We also explored the local scenery on our newly acquired scooters. It was fun, and Sonja thought that selling her Beemer was an acceptable decision. However, by summer she got a craving again for a real motorcycle. This is how this most beautiful American Iron came into her life.
Hear me roar! A sportster purchase.
Vespa-ing through Washington
Solo on a Harley
The Summer in BC turned out to be awesome, no reason to go anywhere else. We spent a lot of time riding in the hinterland, hiking in the rainforest or walking on the beach, all available at our doorsteps. Life couldn't be better!

Our main vacation would take us once again to the US of A. We had planned a Best-of-the-West tour that included as many national parks as we could find along the route. Road-tripping America certainly is (almost) every European's dream.
Arches NP, Utah
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Death Valley, California
We really made good use of our new passports this year. Countless business trips would send each of us to the midwest of America mostly. But we also got to explore Washington and Oregon some more, and meet with friends. 
View on Portland, OR
Pike Market, Seattle, WA
Becoming Canadians was the very last step in our immigration process. We had moved to BC, made Port Moody our new home, traveled a lot, and felt fully integrated in the Canadian society. It was another perfect year.
Lower Mainland Winter