During our 3,5 months overseas, I have made many observations on different things which I thought would be of interest.
France has lots of tolls on its highways, especially in the South. They can be quite expensive for short distances. Germany has a beautiful network of highways, with no tolls. As Adu says the highways were all built during Hitler’s reign.
Speed on highways in Germany is amazing. When we were driven in a beautiful Audi Quattro from Gruenstadt to Trier it was almost unnoticeable that we were doing 170km. I love speed as you may know! Everyone drives fast and well, especially on the Autobahn.
We have been on many trains. Generally, they are on time. I was amazed at how things were handled, on the way to Luxembourg where we were 8 minutes late. There was a digital screen in each carriage detailing each stop and it had in red how late each stop would be. As the train then tried to catch up “the lateness” each stop number changed.
Toward the end of our time in Germany we noticed coloured eggs in a supermarket, just like Easter eggs. We didn’t try them but realised they are hard boiled eggs, and are sold for picnics, or use at home.
In the kitchen most houses have a loose connecting tap over the basin where you wash dishes (similar to that old fashioned “wash your hair” in the basin connection). Maybe homes in SA have this, but we have always had a rigid fixed one. This makes it easier to wash big pots & pans.
In the shower in Salies, France they had a tube like container built in the shower drain. This is so clever especially for hair that blocks the drain. It allows water to flow through but traps all the hair, you just open it and empty it.
I loved the humour of this property with construction on it in Gruenstadt.
We have now done 9 house sits and it’s surprising how many of them had vineyards nearby; Gruenstadt, Rafz, and Trier. We often took various dogs walking near the vineyards.
We have found the greatest attention was paid to Christmas in Belgium. I am so pleased that although we only arrived in January, we still got to see so many beautiful Christmas lights. In fact, even today (16th Jan) many lights are still up. In the little village we are staying in, each home is donated a tree to decorate outside, as long as they light it up!
From a cost viewpoint we find that our grocery and eating out bill is about the same each month as it is in SA. And eating and drinking out here is VERY expensive!! So that shows that actual groceries are not that expensive here. Perhaps in a further post I will list some items. But going to restaurants – beware! A glass of wine in a restaurant can cost 6 or 7 EUR. Yet we often buy a bottle of wine at a grocery store for 2 or 3 EUR. Most Europeans seem to buy wine at 5 or 6 EUR a bottle but we always look for cheaper ones.
In December we only went out once with all the restrictions but then we did buy more expensive food and we also got take-aways twice. If you were to only buy groceries and drink NO alcohol 😊 I think the costs are actually cheaper than SA. We have also found that France, was the cheapest, followed by Germany and then by Belgium for groceries. And everyone in France close to the Spanish border shops in Spain. Switzerland is meant to be about 25% more expensive than Germany. In France they have plat de jour (plate of the day) which is wonderful – this is normally about 10 or 12 EUR. In Germany & Belgium a meal costs around 17 or 20 EUR (no drink).
Snow is beautiful – its snowing again! But it can be very cold and muddy for days afterwards.
It is so easy crossing EU country borders by car.
I loved this beware of the dog sign in France 🙂
Germany was incredibly strict with their covid restrictions called “2G +” You needed antigen testing within 24 hours before you went to a restaurant as well as proof of being double vaccinated or proof of covid infection (Geimpfte und Genesene, the 2 G’s). The plus being the test. When we were in Trier we noticed at least four different little houses where you could quickly get a free antigen test. I tried one and it was very easy. You could either have the up your nose test, or the lollipop throat one.
Adu got his booster injection in Trier and this was easy to co-ordinate but there was about a 10 day wait. I could not get one in Belgium – they only allow residents, so I will get mine in France.
Interestingly when we were in Luxembourg, they also had a 2G+ type system. I went to the toilet and Adu was waiting outside. Two girls came up to him and asked him if he would have an antigen test for them. I do not understand why they would want this? Unless they knew they had covid and wanted to eat in a restaurant. He was shocked and said NO & saw them then approach someone else. Very strange!!!
We saw this funny picture at the Christmas market in Bernkasteel Kues. We often see small dogs being carried. Can you find the four dogs?
We have spent the most time in Germany so far of any country. I found that as a country, people were not particularly friendly. I always observe this by how many people greet you in the street. Nothing as unfriendly as Sweden (a different story) but still. One day near the cathedral in Trier, a family group walked past me. The teenage youngster said “Hello”. I was struck at how I myself have taken on the norm and stopped my usual greeting of everyone. I said hello back but was a bit saddened that I had changed. I have now reverted to my friendly self by saying “Hello” to everyone 😊
In Belgium there is a lot of calcium in the water so everyone fills up water bottles at the local stream. You then use this collected water in the kettle. You can drink the tap water, but the stream water tastes wonderful.
I have also come to realise that although we are used to lows like -5 or -7 from Nottingham Road winters, we then have much warmer winter days, often up to say 10 degrees Celsius, and often a blue sky! The blue sky, sunlight hours and the overall swing in temperature is very important to me. I don’t mind occasional cold but to have -3 low and then a high of 1, is tough (for me). You might say what did I expect? This is a European winter, maybe I just never quite realised what the weather would be like. I have got a new jacket which is awesome, but I find my back aches in the BIG cold.
Another two things that are awesome to do with the cold are heated car seats (so very warm) – we experienced this in an Audi and in a Volvo 😊 Heated towel rails, and Pellet heaters. The latter are so easy to use and clean – just a quick vacuum each day !
We have seen some really spectacular scenery. I especially love the forests. To end this post I show two photos taken a day apart here in Belgium near the forest where we walk the dogs. The first shows the wonderful reflection onto the lake. The second (the next day) shows that 2/3 of the lake has now frozen overnight and just a small portion of the lake has a reflection.