Tag Archives: Germany

Holiday at home

September / October 2016

I cannot begin to describe how much our break at home meant to me. After two years of continuous travels I just needed to be in one place for a while. And so, after staying with Torsten’s family in Berlin for a few days, I finally boarded that last train that would bring me to my family.

With what words should I even begin to describe that welcome… Let’s just say, I loved seeing everyone again and for the first days we could not stop talking.

I had anticipated that I would need a lot of time to myself after being with people almost all the time for the past two years. Instead I was delighted to spend as much time with my family as I possibly could. For the first month my parents had a lot of free time as well, so we would enjoy long breakfasts and share our lives once more. So much had happened and we could never catch up entirely but we sure did try.

We also spent a lot of time preparing my sister’s wedding. Being able to help with that and not just hear about it on the phone was the best present for me. The wedding itself was utterly beautiful with all the family and friends being together and seeing so many people again for the first time in two years.

After the wedding my parents and Torsten and I went for a small hike…

… while my new brother in law slept it off :).

We also got to celebrate my father’s 60th birthday together. We hiked up to a hut and stayed there overnight.

What a fantastic way to celebrate a birthday and welcome a new year of life!

As my parents love being in nature we went hiking for a few more times…

After a month of enjoying the company of family I went back to Berlin and we applied for our Russian, Indian and Pakistani Visa. Here are some less than pretty passport pictures:

I also got to visit several of my friends in Bamberg and Rostock, unfortunately I was mostly to busy enjoying the company to take pictures. Here are some impressions from Rostock in autumn though:

As we stayed way longer than originally planned I also got to join my family for All Saints Day which made for a nice if slightly chilly day out with my grandfather.

A few hikes later and we found ourselves saying Goodbye again. I was and am so happy and grateful to have such a wonderful family and friends in my life. Which makes Goodbyes a sad and rather hard affair. One thing was different this time around though. While we didn’t really know how long we would be gone when we left for the first time, we now do have a time frame. We should be back in Germany in spring 2018. That should be halfway realistic considering mileage and seasons and also feels good to us. At some point we want to be closer to friends and family and also live in one place for a while.

The pleasures of home – a break in Germany

Some of you might remember – there was this wedding I didn’t want to miss in September. So after about a year of cycling we changed our plans slightly, ditched the bicycles in southern China and boarded a lot of trains and busses through China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Poland to finally step off in Berlin, Germany, about a month later. We did miss our bicycles but since I had experienced quite a bit of travel fatigue in the past months I was all for a change of pace. And I fell head over heels in love with travelling by train.
But all of that is nothing in comparison to arriving at my home town train station and hugging my parents for the first time in over a year. Or to actually being there to help with wedding preparations and thus creating some more family stories instead of listening to those stories over the phone. And oh yeah, there’s all the food that came with us celebrating being together.
Suffice to say, I’m pretty happy at the moment. There’s time for rest, time to be alone, time to process some of all the things that happened. And also time to organise some things for the rest of our trip. After two years of travelling, pretty much all of my clothes have been mended at least once, have either several holes in them or are totally sun bleached or stretched beyond wearable. So some replacements are due. Also, my sleeping pad literally popped a while back in Hanoi and I had to build a funny charging construction with a sawing needle for my laptop as the original needle thing broke. So, also time for a new (used) one. Oh and we’re getting a second passport with hopefully some Visa stamps in it.
But most importantly, there is time to see and hug all the people I’ve been missing a lot for the past two years. With all the Internet, cheap phone plans and messaging apps we have, there is nothing like talking to each other in person.
So, don’t worry, there will be more updates and stories on our cycling trip some time soon. But for now I’m a bit busy trying to locate a used ThermaRest sleeping pad and coordinate a lot of visits to friends and family. See you all soon!

Refugees welcome: on racism and the usual challenges

While we had a wonderful few days with Kay and Mozzy in Townsville, the next few days would bring quite a few challenges – mentally and physically. As we still had some time left before flying out of Cairns we decided to do a little loop over the tablelands west of Cairns.

p1120144 So we cycled from dry dry Townsville into Tully, the wettest place in Queensland. And what do you know – it rained! A lot. But since it was still warm we didn’t mind too much. And we passed some seriously stunning scenery and  fell in love with all the green around us.p1120156p1120200Some time after Tully we turned inland and thus the climbing up to the tablelands began. The first day was gentle and we found a nice camping spot next to a river.

The second day would bring over 1200m of climbing which is the most I have ever done on a loaded bicycle. Somehow most of it wasn’t that bad though. It was only in the end when I suddenly got ravenously hungry (cycling uphill burns a lot more energy than cycling on flat terrain) that it got a bit exhausting. And we must have searched at least an hour for a place to camp. A farmer turned us down and all the land around us was fenced off. So we settled for this:

p1120328A tiny clearing in a dense forest but it was good enough for a night. And we really needed to rest after today. Not only did we climb a lot, we also had  a very memorable encounter that took me a long time to write about. When we stopped at a small store to buy some fruit, the clerk who attended to us asked us where we are from and upon hearing that we are from Germany started a conversation about the horrible refugee situation in Germany and Europe. Initially I agreed but it turned out that we had quite different things in mind. He was convinced that refugees are basically bad cowardly people and should not be allowed to entry Europe. Or Australia for that matter. Once again we tried to argue, tried telling him about (australian) refugee camps in Papua and how refugees are treated there. I tried talking about reasons that force people to leave their home country. But once again this was not a conversation. This was about him expressing his point of view and honestly, I just can’t listen to that any more.

My heart aches when I read about refugees seeking a place to survive, to live. And not being able to do something as the situation worsens in Germany is really hard. And I’m grateful that I have friends who are active in supporting refugees wherever they live.

So, forgive me when I say that I’m sick of listening to some arguments which I have heard a thousand times before. When someone says that criminality is higher now with all the refugees around, why not have a look at the statistics? The media raved so much about that argument that the German police felt compelled to publish a statement that crime rates have NOT gone up.

When people talk about muslims not respecting women why not criticize that in our own (western) society? And why don’t people think about the fact that refugees are trying to flee from some extremists (not respecting women)?

When people complain about the government providing for refugees and not doing enough for you I want to scream. Really? These refugees had to leave their homes because there is a WAR going on. Sometimes I really doubt that people get what that means. Bombs falling, guns firing, kids being left so traumatized that they start to cry when they see a glue gun.

In the end I think it’s a lot about the feeling of security and stability. Things in the West seem seasonably good as they are so why change them? But things aren’t good for a lot of people on this world. When you buy a cheap shirt from H&M you are supporting incredibly inhumane working conditions and climate change is starting to show its impact. And then there is war.

So I urge you to think about the privilege of being born in places like Germany and Australia, the privilege of being white. It’s nothing you did, it just happened. So don’t pretend you’ve earned it.

In the end, I sincerely believe, we all want similar things. Marshall B. Rosenberg even based his theory of Nonviolent Communication on that assumption. And when I asked refugees in Germany during the research for my thesis what they really wanted, most listed a job/occupation, being able to provide for their family and just living a happy life. So why not think about feelings and needs we have in common instead of things that draw us apart!

But as uncomfortable as that conversation made me once again, I was glad that it ended differently this time. I managed to speak up and we did not buy any fruit from him. A small thing maybe but important nonetheless.

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Martin Luther King Jr.