Family bonding

Meißen, 4th of February

standing on the iceThere is still a huge cultural gap between West and (more provincial) East Germany where for example you would be mistaken to assume that English is widely spoken. As we are here to learn a language through its culture, it is a benefit but you also feel more alienated when it's not easy to talk to other people.Without the Arbeit-Schule-Freunde-Nachbarn, work-school-friends-neighbours, social network enjoyed at home, we are, as a family, ever more inter-dependent, experiencing simultaneously the same Höhen und Tiefen, highs and lows, and relying on each other for linguistic and humoristic survival. At the same time, you are in each other's line of fire perhaps more often. You need a solid relationship as ein Paar, a couple, and eine Familie, a family, to embark on such an adventure, otherwise you may end having to break the ice ... on the Elbe river! That's exactly what we did. We even walked on it! As the temperatures plummet down to –25C, the river Elbe (which is at least as wide as the Trent) has turned into a polar ice cap with only a few yards in the middle where ducks surf on floating blocks of ice. We stay standing on the river in utter amusement until the cold gets too much for us and we rush to the nearest Tavern for a gorgeous heisse Schokolade, hot chocolate.

Winter fun

Bastei mounteinsWe may not be doing very well financially, but we are all the richer for the wealth of experiences and for the first time January does not feel dark and miserable but rather fun, healthy and simply brilliant.We get our first jaw dropping experience when we reach the top of the Bastei, a range of spectacular rock formations in the region south east of Dresden called Sächsische Schweiz, literally Saxonian Switzerland.

We've enjoyed winter sports in the Erzgebirge mountains, first in Altenberg, then Oberwiesenthal - the highest town in Germany, apparently. We've stayed in einer Pension, a small family run hotel, at the foot of the Fichtelberg, exactly on the German/Czech border. In fact, there is a little stream in front of our hotel which is the border! We find it hard to imagine that the houses on the other side are outside the EU.

sleighThere is so much Schnee, snow, that we sink with our Schlitten, sledges, into the soft, powdery layers, having such a fantastic time. We even see for the first time a real sleigh. Imogène thinks it's Santa who's come back. Back in Meissen, it's been snowing for the whole of January and we've reached one foot of snow. We treat ourselves to cheese fondues at lunchtime and hot chocolate after sledging. We all feel and look so healthy when we normally would be almost bed ridden with flu at this time of year in Nottingham.

Sent by: Frederic

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