AUTUMN HAS ARRIVED!
October has brought darker mornings, colder weather, and plenty of opportunities to try out all the new rain gear. This also means second-guessing the weather each day since Mom can't understand radio reports auf Deutsch and the weather in Karlsruhe is very unpredictable, to say the least! Some mornings Xandie is overdressed in six layers of winterwear (and by 10 a.m. she's stripped down to only a long-sleeved shirt and jeans). Other days I find myself running back to the flat to get an umbrella, boots, and/or raincoat when drops of rain seemingly appear out of nowhere. I'm not sure I'll figure out any solution before the truly cold season is upon us, but at least we're now prepared for any and all possible combinations of clothing, weather-wise.
Our "back yard," the Schlosspark and forest, is particularly beautiful right now with the changing colors and falling leaves that colder weather brings. I'm beginning to navigate through the maze of paths and trails pretty well now (with Xandie's help) and yet there is still something new to discover each time we go on an outing. We really enjoy these peaceful escapes into the Wald, with cyclists politely dinging their little bells at you when coming up from behind, moms with baby strollers lined in sheepskin blankies, little old men with their alpine walking sticks and Bavarian feathered caps, and Dachshunds to Great Danes taking their owners for a brisk walk (dogs go everywhere here: restaurants, churches, and even in fancy department stores). This old remnant of Markgraf Karl Wilhelm's private hunting grounds has been a real psyche-saver for me, as the sounds of the city can seem unrelenting at times with the bells tolling, trams screeching, and people bustling through this mostly pedestrian-zoned part of the city.
Xandie's newest and most exciting activity is going to horseback riding lessons every Monday afternoon. (I still think this was a clever plot by Geoff to get me to drive on the German motorways, since you can only get to the riding school by car.) When we arrived on the first afternoon the owner said to Xandie in a thick German accent, "I will go to get you a small horse," and came back with Suse, who is the friendliest, cutest, fuzziest, smallest pony I've ever seen. The first lesson consisted of leading, mounting/dismounting, and sitting frontwards, backwards and sideways in the saddle. The kids even rode their trusty steeds around the ring sitting sideways. The beginners are partnered with another child of about the same age and size, and together they manage to catch, halter, groom, and saddle their mount (with some assistance, of course). Sometimes Suse has a mind of her own, but Xandie has learned to push with all her might to get her away from the tender grass and back on task. It's tremendous fun watching all these little people and ponies running around the barn and riding ring.
The violin lessons are going equally well, though we were not able to find a Suzuki teacher within a reasonable distance; we considered traveling to France or Britain once a week but the overnight lodging would have been a bit pricey. I was referred to a wonderful nearby teacher named, I kid you not, Frau Constanze Schubert. (We figured with a name like that, she'd have to be good, and as it turned out she is.) Xandie is learning nice little German folk songs on her violin (she likes to sing them auf Deutsch as well), in addition to continuing her Suzuki repertoire. Come to think of it, there are a lot of German pieces in her Suzuki book (like Bach, Handel, Mozart...well, technically he was Austrian); I guess it might have something to do with Dr. Suzuki studying the violin in Germany before developing his famous method.
Since Xandie has Deutsch lessons at school every day and both her riding and violin teachers use a lot of German in their instruction, I think she'll have a pretty good grasp of the language by the end of a year's time (she's already correcting my pronunciation). I am not doing as well, I'm afraid, as most of the language courses here are based on intensive models of 5 days a week for 4 hours each day, which just doesn't allow me to get all the other necessary stuff done. I do pretty well on my own and find that most people are really very accommodating. As travel writer Rick Steves always says, "If all else fails, gesticulate!"
Oktoberfest has come and gone and we went. I'll let "Daddy Geoff" tell you about that fiasco...it had to do with long train rides, serious rain, huge crowds, and sold-out beer halls. On a brighter note, we had a successful Halloween. As we're quickly learning, holidays are celebrated differently here. Xandie's class had a little party at school (there is a split of U.S. / U.K. kids in her class) but "trick or treating" does not seem to be the norm. Costumes in the stores are limited to witches, ghosts, goblins, skeletons, and devils but reasonably priced, which is a nice change from the typical $40 licensed character costumes in America. From what I can gather, costume parties are just as popular with young adults as with little kids. We sneaked a peek at the college students' party in the basement of our building before going upstairs to spend the evening reading Halloween tales from the American library by candlelight while Xandie sat very cutely in her little witch costume. Maybe it wasn't traditional in the U.S. sense, but we had fun none the less.
A new celebration for us will be Guy Fawkes Day, traditionally "the fifth of November" as the poem reminds us. However, since we're currently on autumn break, the celebration will be delayed by one week. And yes, in case you were wondering, this is not a traditional German holiday. The English parents at Xandie's school host this event, which begins by collecting wood from the forest all morning, after which steaming Glühwein (that's the German part) is ready to serve to all the hard-working parents. By late afternoon, families and children begin to arrive with their "Guys" (dummies stuffed with newspaper, leaves, and/or straw) to be judged by the school director before they are thrown onto the bonfire heap. At the appointed hour the bonfire is lit and there is much revelry, eating, drinking, and a finale of fireworks. The only drawback would be rain, but as in most northern climes, events seem to go on as scheduled regardless of the weather. We'll keep our fingers crossed.
Tschüss! (that's not a sneeze by the way; it means "Ciao!")
Love, Pat, Xandie and Geoff