Category: Germany

Happy Birthday To Me…And My Blog #3

DSCN3830jki
St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Passau

So it’s my birthday…again! This time of the year seems to come around faster and faster every year. (It’s freaking me out, but more on that later.) It’s also the third anniversary of this blog, which means it’s time for the annual let’s-stop-and-see-where-my-life-is-at post.

The Big Move. I left my heart behind in my beloved Passau at the start of this year and made the big move back to New Zealand, after being overseas for more than two years. It was a devastating and triumphant homecoming in equal measure. Devastating because I was leaving my other half behind on the other side of the world, and triumphant because I was coming back to do something that I loved, something that I felt was in my very bones.

My bones turned out to be dead on: coming back to study was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I took to it like a duck to water. The only side effect was that I missed my Passau life so much, much more than I’d ever let on. Passau was where I lived in a place where I didn’t know the language or people and I built up my life there from scratch. I grieved that life for months after coming back, it took a while until I wasn’t crying every other week. But it did get better.

This time last year I was celebrating my birthday in Innsbruck, Austria. What a trip that was! I miss travelling around Europe too, the ease of it, the different countries at your fingertips. But I’m determined to go back very soon! Japan, Taiwan and Australia are on the cards for me this year and I’m especially excited about exploring Taiwan – a new realm for me.

Thank you as always to you, for reading this, for taking an interest and thanks to my family, friends and darling Schnucki for the constant love and support! I am truly blessed to the moon and back to have everyone that I know in my life. Let’s keep striving to be the best that we can be and keep chasing bigger dreams!

 

Love,

Amy ♥

 

 


Thank you again to everyone that has been following and supporting me so far!

Here’s to another epic year of travels, art and happiness!


par02innsbruck00buttonbday

 

Advertisements

Passau: Bavaria’s Most Charming Christmas Market And Meeting Adventurous Kate

pcm06
Passau Christmas Market

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful time with family, friends, amazing food and presents!

After spending a truly stunning Christmas with my family in the Swiss Alps last year, I enjoyed a much quieter celebration in Hamburg with my Schnucki’s family this time around.

We had a feast on Christmas Eve (this is when Germans celebrate Christmas) and we ate German style Raclette, which is where you prepare ingredients like vegetables and cheese and cook them yourself on tiny pans on a table top grill. The portion sizes are so small that you can potentially eat forever without realising how much you’ve actually eaten! (Our bellies afterwards told us otherwise).

pcm09
Handmade candle stalls

To honour my second Christmas in Europe, I wanted to show you my absolute favourite German Christmas market which of course is the one in Passau, where I live at the moment!

pcm03
Glühwein stalls with every flavour you can imagine

The Passau Christmas market is held every year for a month from the 24th November to 24th December. The whole city’s streets are decked out with fairy lights leading up to the event and real Christmas trees are put up on every street corner (and I mean literally every corner!)

pcm02-jpg
Laser cut wood decorations (I snagged a mini version of the Stephansdom one on the left)

Nobody does Christmas like the Germans – they are so good at making a magical atmosphere! Every stall is bursting with handmade wooden crafts, hand knitted scarves, gloves, hats and food…A LOT of food. (Nutella crêpes, German gingerbread and Chinese noodles included!)

pcm08
Cute little handmade snowfolk

And of course there is the Glühwein (hot mulled wine) and alcohol free Kinderpunsch (kid’s punch) in every flavour. My favourite was probably the berry Glühwein, but you can also get white Glühwein (which I still haven’t tried). Every stall has their own signature drink with different variations and spices, and it takes a few goes to find the best ones!

pcm05
The Simon stall – a famous confectionary shop and cafe in Passau

While the Christmas market was on in December, I also had the opportunity to meet and hang out with Adventurous Kate, who is a famous travel blogger on Instagram. She has been travelling the world as her job for over six years now, and she was one of the first travel bloggers to get really popular online and have a big following.

pcm04
Chocolate covered physalis, raspberries and other fruit

Kate was in Munich for a conference and then visiting Bavarian Christmas markets for German Tourism when she posted a photo of herself at the Passau Christmas market.

I was so surprised at seeing her in Passau (a lot of Germans don’t even know where Passau is, let alone American travel bloggers) that I commented on the photo half jokingly that we should have met up for a Glühwein, since I live in Passau right near St. Stephan’s Cathedral. And lo and behold, she commented back saying that she had free time the next day if we wanted to meet up!

pcm01-jpg
Residenzplatz and St. Stephan’s Cathedral

So I met up with her in front of St. Stephan’s the next day (it’s a strange feeling trying to spot someone that you’ve only ever seen in photos) and I took her to my favourite retro style café close by called Schöffberger. Kate was a super friendly and extroverted person, and we chatted about travels, her life in New York and even some American politics over cake and hot drinks.

pcm10
Schokokuss (Chocokiss) sweets with a sweet marshmellow like centre covered in chocolate

After afternoon tea, we perused the Christmas market together and Kate bought some souvenirs and Christmas presents for her family and friends. We walked back along the Ludwigstraße and finally had our promised Glühwein together before saying our good byes.

pcm12
Christmas trees in front of Neues Residenz

All in all it was a very spontaneous meeting, but a really fun one! It was great to hear about Kate’s amazing travels and what it’s really like to live a nomadic lifestyle. She also wrote a Bavarian Christmas Market post on her blog about the markets she visited, including the Passau one!

pcm11
The half metre Bratwurst – a famous Christmas market delicacy

One of the most famous Christmas market eats might just be the half metre Bratwurst, which is as you guessed, a 50cm long sausage in a bun lathered in mustard or tomato sauce. You may not want to get one of these when it’s really crowded though, because you’ll be prone to hitting someone with it! (Get your mind out of the gutter please).

pcm15
My blue Passau Glühwein mug

Another famous treat of the Christmas markets are the unique Glühwein mugs that have different shapes and designs in every town and city. You pay an extra Pfand (bond) whenever you buy a Glühwein or Kinderpunsch (usually 2 Euros) and you get the money back if you return the mug to the stall, or you can keep the mug and forgo the coins.

I’ve collected the different coloured designs of the Passau mugs over the last two years and I have six in total so far!

PCM14.jpg
The Passau Christmas market crowds at night

I’m always sad to see the Christmas markets go once we hit the new year, but I know that they’ll be back again before we know it!

 


So, did you love the Passau Christmas market as much as I did?

What are the Christmas markets like in your country?


Button01GOYO00D000001

Amy’s Art: Kimono Cat Collection – The Passau Kunstnacht Exhibition

kunstnacht06
Kimono Cat Collection

It was Kimono Day in Japan yesterday (November 15th), so I thought the perfect way to celebrate the occasion is by finally posting about my Kimono Cat Collection exhibition!

dscn0819
Fukunae, Tsubasa, Ageha and Tama

The Kunstnacht (Art Night) here in Passau is on in midsummer every year and it is arguably the biggest event on the social calender. Every art gallery and atelier in the Altstadt throws open their doors to the public and the majority of the townspeople turn up; crowding the streets, perusing art, wine-ing, dining and having a great time.

dscn0871
Fukunae and Tsubasa

I attended the event for the first time last year, and I was absolutely blown away with the lively atmosphere and the sheer number of galleries that were usually hidden behind closed doors and crooked alleyways lit up and shining like gems in the night.

dscn0873
Tsubasa and Ageha

The local schools were also open with music concerts and refreshment stations and the bars had ministands along the streets offering food and cocktails. I was so awestruck with this one night wonder that I vowed to be a part of it the next year if I still happened to be living in Passau.

dscn0875
Ageha and Tama

So fast forward to July of this year: I was still in Passau and I was still determined to be a part of the Kunstnacht. I sent the organisation messages to plead my case months beforehand, along with photos of my Kimono Cats but I received no answers in return. I was busy with work at the time and I hadn’t finished my latest Maiko cat anyway, so I eventually lost hope and left the matter alone.

kunstnacht09
My cute little gallery room (if you squint you can just see my cats!)

The day of Kunstnacht rolled around and I was at work about to finish my shift when my Schnucki came bursting in, saying that he had called one of the organisers for me and that they still had an empty space that they needed to fill. The meeting with the room owner was in an hour and he asked me if I wanted to take it: I said yes, of course!

kunstnacht07
My three goauche paintings – ‘Himawari’, ‘Haru’ and ‘Bouquet’

We promptly went to meet the owner and his room – it was a pretty little thing that had just finished its renovation that day. It was so new that the owner didn’t want to put holes in the walls by hanging the other artists’ paintings, so they were all propped up against the walls around the room. The centre of the room was empty, so we carried an old garden table up from the backyard to put in the middle of the room, as the centerpiece for my cats.

dscn0902
Watercolour and ink ‘Heian I’

After meeting with the owner I was in full panic mode – I had to get ready for this exhibiton within a few hours and I had no idea where to start. I rushed off to buy some much needed supplies like the matching white frames for my paintings which also happened to be on sale (lucky!).

kunstnacht11
‘Heian II’

Once I got home, I was on triple speed trying to get everything ready. I carefully wrapped up my cats up in white stuffing that I had just bought and loaded them into a box, praying that they wouldn’t break. Then I had to make and print out short explanations about the cats (that I never ended up using) and business cards. I left total destruction in my wake, my room looking like a bombsite afterwards.

dscn0821

After getting ready I headed off with my laptop (so I could put on some music in the gallery) and clutched my box of cats for dear life as I walked, knowing one wrong move could damage everything. I got to the gallery early and set everything up (my cats were safe and sound, thank goodness) and then I could finally breathe a sigh of relief, sit down and enjoy the night.

kunstnacht01

A lot of people came in throughout the night and my cats were a hit – making people laugh and there were comments about Pokémon more than once. To my delight, children were also enthralled with my cats and there were even some offers to buy them from the adults.

dscn0898

All in all it was a fantastic night and a real dream come true for me. I am eternally grateful to my Schnucki for making this opportunity for me possible and I hope that I can take part in another exhibition soon!

 


So, did you enjoy my impromptu exhibition? Which one was your favourite piece?

This night was a dream come true for me!


KC00FButtonbuttonag

Happy Birthday To Me…And My Blog #2

dscn3152a
Looking out over the Parthenon in Athens, Greece

Today is my birthday and it is also the second anniversary of this blog! Yippee!

I can’t believe how fast this past year has flown by, but I’ve managed to do a lot of amazing travelling and artistic projects in that time. Last year I vowed to put myself and my happiness first after a string of stressful and terrible jobs that left me empty and burned out. I’ve worked at two different jobs whilst here in Germany; one that was not so great again but another that was probably the best I’ve ever had.

Now that I’m another year older, I’ve been getting a bit of pressure from others to decide where I want to be next year and what I want to do with this blank canvas called life. I don’t yet know where I want to go next year, but I’ve known for a while now that all I want to keep doing is travelling and making art. These are my top priorities at the moment and if I could somehow spin a profession out of that, then that would be the dream.

My travel highlights of the past year would definitely include the magical white Christmas with my family in the Swiss Alps, our charming trip to Copenhagen, London and Innsbruck with my darling Schnucki and reuniting with my high school friends in the Greek Islands.

One of my greatest artistic moments this year was when I got to exhibit my Kimono Cat Collection at the Kunst Nacht or art night here in Passau, which is one of the biggest events on the social calender. My Schnucki set this opportunity up for me and I am eternally grateful to him – it really was a dream come true (read this post here!).

I am so thankful for all of these opportunities and amazing people in my life and I really do count my lucky stars every day. I hope the coming year will also be full of love and happiness and that I’ll be able to achieve the goals that I am striving for!

P.S. The biggest lesson that I have to keep reminding myself about this year is: stop giving so much of yourself away when you’re receiving nothing back. This applies to work, friends and basically anything else. If you keep putting so much effort and time into people and things when you’re getting nothing in return, it’s time to stop and let it go. Otherwise you’ll just drive yourself into a frustrated ruin. Remember to look after yourself and put your own oxygen mask on before helping others!

 


So, thank you to everyone that has been following and supporting me so far!

Here’s to another epic year of travels, art and happiness!


buttonbdaysant00GOYO00

Germany: One Year On

GOYO01
Nürnberg old town

It’s strange to think that I’ve been living in Germany for more than a year now. I feel like this time has flown by in the blink of an eye! But my initial reaction to the country still hasn’t changed – I really love living here and the Germans make life so easy.

Here are some German situations that I don’t even bat an eyelid at anymore:

GOYO02
Cologne Cathedral

Open invitations

Something that constantly surprised me at the start (and I admit, it still sometimes does) is that I got invited to everything. I must have been used to people being more exclusive and ‘invite only’ with their gatherings, because I found that Germans were the complete opposite – so warm and welcoming.

Dinners, barbecues, birthday parties of a friend-of-a-friend’s, it didn’t matter; I was invited along to them all. Even if the person that invited me was the only person I knew there and I felt like I was gate-crashing the event.

It didn’t even matter that I couldn’t speak German – time and time again I found that the whole group at the gathering would completely switch to English for me, even when talking amongst themselves. I was baffled. And totally charmed. Way to go Germany for making the Hobbit in the room feel completely welcome!

GOYO06
Lüneburg

Street harassment…or lack thereof

One of the very best things that I have experienced since being in Germany is the lack of street harassment.

The pure joy I feel every day at being able to walk the streets day or night and not be whistled at, honked at, catcalled out of car windows or shouted at by leering men passing by is so damn great. And literally all of these things are what I had to endure on a daily basis even just walking down my own street back home. But this surprises no woman – we have all been through this and continue to go through this public victimisation regularly.

Of course, bigger cities in Germany may be a different story, but this is from my personal experience living in a small Bavarian city. It’s so nice to know that in some places, everyone can be left alone to walk, run and bike in peace.

GOYO08
Old town of Heidelberg

Jeans are the uniform

If you don’t know what to wear, put on your jeans and you’ll fit right in. This is what I would have told myself a year ago when I was fretting about what to wear to a birthday party that I’d been invited to out of the blue.

In Germany, jeans are the uniform. I don’t think I’d ever seen so many people in jeans until I came here! I would say that everyone dresses in a very practical manner. If it’s winter, you wear jeans and a jacket and if it’s summer, you wear jeans and a T-shirt.

You’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you go out in shorts when it’s only (gasp) 20 degrees…this is from experience. (Although I’d be in shorts even at 15 degrees back in NZ).

I’ve also always been used to dressing up when going out, even just to have a drink at the bar, but here, there is no such unwritten social rule. So jeans and a T-shirt to the bar it is – and I ain’t complaining!

3
Oktoberfest in Munich

The customer service is so bad that it’s good

It’s always been said the Japanese and Germans get along well because they have some cultural norms in common, but boy, customer service is not one of them!

If you walk into a shop and get a greeting from the shop person, that’s a good sign, but the majority of the time you will be ignored, or grudgingly served like it is the last thing that they want to do. I’ve been in places where the shop assistants are openly chatting across the shop to each other and ignoring customers. A friend once said to me that his bank bluntly told him that there is no customer service there.

This would normally be regarded as a bad thing…but as an introvert, I absolutely love it.

I’ve always just really hated being spoken to in shops. The worst case scenario was when clothes shop assistants would follow me to the changing rooms and call through my door asking if they should bring another size…and I cringed every time. But here, I’m left totally alone to do my own thing, at my own pace, without the weird pressure they put on you to buy something. It’s a godsend, I tell you.

GOYO11
The old post tower in Hamburg

Supermarket Master Packer (SMP) status

I never realised that the bag packers at supermarket checkouts were a luxury…until I came here and saw that no such job description exists.

When you’re at a German supermarket, you have to have a plan of attack before you go to the checkout because this is war…a war between you and the checkout operator.

They zap your groceries through as fast as greased lightning and if you’re not ready to bag your items just as quickly on the other side, you lose the fight and hold all of the next customers up, your groceries mixing up with theirs. I know, I’ve been there. The horrors. So here’s what you do:

  1. Load your groceries onto the conveyor belt. Make sure your heavy items go first and your fragile, easily squished items like tomatoes and bread goes last.
  2. Get your fabric tote bags ready and open (come on, you’re not paying extra for plastic bags).
  3. Have your wallet at the ready. Preferably nestled under your armpit for quick access.
  4. Start bagging your items as soon as they get zapped, alternating items between your bags so they will each end up with an even load. (You’ll gain a few extra seconds every time the checkout operator has to weigh your vegetables/fruit and look up the price of the bread you’re getting).
  5. Pay quickly with cash (and not all with small change).
  6. Smile, wish them a good day and walk away with your finely packed groceries and know that the battle has been won. (A big explosion goes off behind you and you keep walking in slow motion without looking back).

 

D02
Europe’s largest Buddhist temple in Düsseldorf

What do I miss?

As I’ve mentioned before, the one thing I’ve really missed since living in Europe is good (and affordable) Japanese food. And Indian food. And Thai food. And Vietnamese and Korean and Chinese food.

I’ve found that a lot of Asian cuisines tend to get lumped together here, under the umbrella term of ‘Asian Fusion’.  And even then, it’s usually just low quality Chinese food with some Thai curry options and a side of suspicious sushi. If you’re lucky enough to find a proper Japanese restaurant with real Japanese cooks, it’s likely to be upmarket and very expensive. (Unless you go to Düsseldorf. Yes please!)

I just really, really miss these different cuisines! Of course bigger cities will have more authentic Asian restaurants with reasonable prices, but there’s not much hope out here in the smaller ones. It makes me realise how spoilt for choice we are in New Zealand with our melting pot of different eateries on every street corner!

 


So, did you like my post about some of my German experiences?

Any other expats got something to add to the list? Let me know!


 

 D00

0001

Passau00

Düsseldorf: Delicious ‘Japan Town’ And Europe’s Biggest Buddhist Temple

D01
EKO House of Japanese Culture

When I told people that after Switzerland, we were going to Hamburg via two nights in Düsseldorf, people scoffed: “Düsseldorf. What are you going to do in Düsseldorf?

They couldn’t believe we would use precious family holiday time in Germany to stay in Düsseldorf for two whole nights. But we knew something they didn’t. We had a hidden agenda with Düsseldorf…a hidden Japanese agenda.

D08
Gateway into the temple and gardens

Düsseldorf is located on the Düssel and the Rhine rivers and was a city long known as an international business and financial hub. Something that is less known about the city is that Düsseldorf has the biggest Japanese community in Germany (about 11,000 residents) which is also the third largest in Europe – after Paris and London.

D02

It is also home to the biggest Japanese Buddhist Temple in Europe, with an adjoining study and event centre called the EKŌ House of Japanese Culture. After getting a little lost in the sleepy suburb of Niederkassel, with some local help we finally found the front gates to the place…only to find them locked.

D05
Stone basin to wash your hands (the kanji says ‘pure water’)

My family were disappointed, to say the least, after coming all of this way and finding it closed. As they started walking away, I obnoxiously pushed all of the buttons on the gate intercom in frustration. A loud buzzing sound suddenly came from the gate and we blinked in surprise as the doors swung open. We were inside – with the whole place to ourselves!

D06
The temple gardens

The whole complex was built in 1993 and is well maintained as they host a number of Buddhist festivals, tea ceremonies and events every year.

D09

Düsseldorf also puts on a Japan Day every year around May or June and it is the largest festival of its kind in the world – attracting more than a million people. They have Japanese food stalls, kimono fittings, Japanese musicians, calligraphy and always finish off with a fireworks show. (I’m determined to go to this year’s one!)

D03

Since the 1950’s, Düsseldorf has housed more than five hundred Japanese companies and the workers and their families include both temporary and permanent residents.

D11
Lines of patrons waiting for Kushi-tei of Tokyo Grillhouse

The main Japanese quarter in the Düsseldorf city is called Immermannstraße, a long road lined with Japanese book stores, restaurants, bars, supermarkets, bakeries and even a Japanese hotel called Hotel Nikko. Before going there, I was envisioning a typical China Town sort of street overflowing with tourists, food stalls and noise but this ‘Japan Town’ was completely different. If you didn’t know about it, you wouldn’t even realise it was there.

D10
A shop dedicated to just Onigiri – I was in HEAVEN

This Japan street came alive out of necessity to the Japanese business workers, so everything was practical and functional – not a tourist trap at all. Walking the streets and hearing Japanese people go past made me feel like I was back in Japan. We had lunch at a ramen place called Takezo, which had the best ramen I’d had in a very, very long time.

D13
Japanese Consulate General on Immermannstraße

The problem with living in a tiny town like Passau is that there aren’t many Japanese people living here, which means I can’t get my hands on Japanese food or products – something I was used to getting easily in New Zealand. So I’ve craved for Japanese food since being in Germany. Like really, really badly. So badly that my mum has had to send me Japanese food products like udon and curry packs in the mail from NZ!

D12
Japanese kindergarten

Düsseldorf also has a Japanese school, supplementary school and even a kindergarten. I really wonder what it would have been like to grow up in the vibrant Japanese community of Düsseldorf. I went to Japanese supplementary school when I was younger too, but that was in Christchurch where we don’t have a fraction of the Japanese population!

D07

Even though people doubted our choice in going to Düsseldorf, we were so glad we did. We all had the best Japanese food and shop experiences that we’d had in ages and it was most definitely on our list of travel highlights! I want to go back just to eat there!

 


So, did you like Düsseldorf’s Japan Town?

Would you like to visit here too? 


A16

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

0001

Munich: Oktoberfest 2015

3
Inside the Ochsenbraterei tent

I went to Oktoberfest in Munich last week and it was spectacular! It was only a two hour train ride from Passau, so it was an easy day trip – no need to worry about accommodation and purchasing the Bavarian train ticket for the day meant limitless travel in Bavaria for only 15 Euros! Cheap as chips, really.

4
Inside the Hofbräu Tent

The Oktoberfest is the largest Volksfest in the world and runs for 16 days from mid-September to the first weekend of October. Volksfests are held all throughout Germany and is a beer festival and funfair rolled into one event.

5
The Hacker tent dubbed ‘Bavarian Heaven’

The Oktoberfest is held at the Theresienwiese every year, which is also known locally as the Wiesn. It was a short 15 minute walk from the Munich Hauptbahnhof (main train station) and I found the grounds easily by following the signs and people dressed in traditional costume.

6
Inside the Pschorr-Bräurosl tent

There were fourteen HUGE beer tents throughout the Wiesn which were each run by a different brewery and had different themes and decorations. I purposely went on a weekday afternoon so it wouldn’t be so crowded and although there were a lot of people there, it wasn’t a jam packed I-can’t-move-or-breathe sort of situation like it would be on weekends (which was fine by me!).

13

Entrance to the fair grounds and beer tents was free, but it you want to save a table for you and your friends in advance, you have to book them beforehand by contacting the respective beer tent, otherwise you will probably not get a table.

7

Seeing everyone dressed up in the traditional Bavarian costume of Dirndls and Lederhosen was awesome! It really added to the atmosphere of the event.

1

And of course, how can you go home without getting an iconic Lebkuchenherz or gingerbread heart for your sweetheart? (I bought a ‘Schnucki’ one, naturally).

2

Other than tasting beer, you can eat classic Bavarian meals in the tents and stalls like Weißwurst (white sausage), Sauerkraut (sour cabbage), Hendl (roast chicken),  Knödel (dumplings) and my personal favourite – Käsespätzle (cheese noodles).

8
Entrance to the Löwenbräu tent

Even though the Oktoberfest begins in September nowadays, it used to be held only in October, hence the name. The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 in honour of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. In recent years, the festival started to be held from September because the weather conditions were better and the nights were warmer.

11
Hofbräu horses

 

9
Marstall – the newest beer tent at Oktoberfest

 

12
Schnucki Lebkuchen

 

10
St. Paul’s Church near the Wiesn

 


So, did you enjoy my Oktoberfest post?

Were you or anyone you know able to go to this year’s one as well?


Tbutton

Col

PTGS

Cologne: The Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour Concert

Tay02

On Saturday 20th June we were in Cologne for the Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour Concert and it was SO MUCH FUN. As I said in an earlier post, I’ve been listening to Taylor’s music since she first started nearly ten years ago and this was the first time I got to see her live, which was awesome.

Tay04
The golden tickets

Since Taylor and I are around the same age, I sort of feel like I’ve grown up with her through the years. Well written lyrics are really important to me in music, and I’ve always admired the way she writes and how honest she is in her songwriting. It takes a certain kind of strength to show your own vulnerability like that to strangers but I think that is also why everyone can relate to her songs so well.

Tay03
Lanxess Arena

The concert took place at Lanxess Arena in Cologne and it was a totally sold out show with 15,000 people all together! The concert was supposed to start at 7:30 PM, so we got there about half an hour early. After our bags were checked at the doors, we were each given a white plastic wristband that we were told would come in handy later.

Tay05
The making of Shake It Off

The arena was huge but to my absolute delight, our seats were about 10 metres from the right side of the stage so we had a really good view. While we waited for the show to start, the big screens in the arena played different video clips about Taylor.

Most of them I had seen before, like the making of the Shake It Off and Blank Space music videos and some I hadn’t seen; mini interview clips with Taylor about random things like what subject she liked in school (English) and didn’t like (Maths). There was also trivia quiz questions about Taylor and videos about her 1989 Secret Sessions.

Tay06
Opening act – James Bay

Seven thirty came and went and suddenly Taylor’s opening act James Bay was on stage. James sang most of the songs from his debut album Chaos And The Calm and of course, he left his most famous song Hold Back The River until last. His voice was amazing live!

Tay21
Welcome To New York!

After James Bay had finished and left the stage, we waited for about ten minutes and then the plastic wristbands we’d been given at the door all simultaneously started flashing in time to the opening beats of Welcome To New York and suddenly – there she was!

Tay24
New Romantics

TAYLOR. In the flesh! Ten metres away! It’s a pretty weird feeling to see someone that you’d only seen on screens for so long suddenly right in front of you, in real life, but it was an awesome moment none the less.

Tay07
I Knew You Were Trouble
Tay01.jpg
My favourite photo I took of Taylor

I guess I missed the memo about sign making because so many people in the crowd had prepared huge signs that lit up in the dark and they looked so cool along with the 15,000 wristbands that flashed different colours in time with the music. It was literally a sea of lights.

Tay08
Taylor’s eye on screen

I think everyone appreciates the effort of someone trying to speak their language and Taylor used a couple of German words during the show. She said Köln instead of Cologne, she counted the audience down with eins zwei drei and I even heard her say wunderbar a couple of times.

Tay19
15,000 wristbands lit up in How You Get The Girl

I have to say my favourite stage performance was probably How You Get The Girl. The stage went dark and Taylor’s dress lit up in pink lights as all of her dancers did their dance sequence with umbrellas and suits that lit up in different colours. It looked so cool, I wish I had recorded that one!

Tay09
Acoustic version of Wonderland

For the next few songs, the runway part of the stage suddenly moved upwards and around so that Taylor was sailing 360 degrees over the crowd whilst singing. She made the audience sing the ‘eh eh eh’ background vocals as she sang an acoustic version of Wonderland on her guitar.

Tay10
Taylor on screen

In between songs, Taylor would just chat to the audience, first thanking everyone for travelling such long distances to get to the concert and giving up their Saturday night for her.

Then she went on to drop pearls of wisdom to her largely impressionable audience about being yourself and saying that making mistakes and failing does not make you damaged goods, but makes you a stronger and wiser person instead – much stronger than someone who didn’t make any mistakes at all.

Tay11

Tay12
Love Story remix

After introducing the song as her first international hit, Taylor sang a remixed version of Love Story. I really wonder how many times she has sung this song over the past nine years or so – do you think artists can get tired of singing their own songs?

Tay13
Style

Style is one of my favourites from 1989 and the live version did not disappoint! I actually recorded this one, so I will try and put up the video soon.

Tay17
Haim

In between songs, some interviews with Taylor’s friends would come on screen. The clips featured Abigail Anderson, Karlie Kloss, Lena Dunham, Jaime King, Selena Gomez, Lily Aldridge, Cara Delevinge and (my favourite) Haim. They talked about the first time they met Taylor, when they heard 1989 first, what they do when they all hang out and even some advice about love and relationships.

I really like this female celebrity friendship thing that Taylor promotes; all too often in our patriarchal society we’re taught to view other women as competition to tear down but it’s so refreshing to see famous and powerful women banding together as friends. We we are truly at our best when we build each other up.

Tay15
Enchanted/Wildest Dreams mash up

My favourite vocal performance was definitely when Taylor sang a mash up of Enchanted and Wildest Dreams on piano. These two are right up there in my all time favourites and the mash up of the two was just magic.

Tay14
Out Of The Woods

After the piano mash up, Taylor’s ball gown turned into a one piece sparkly tree branch patterned suit – so it was obviously time for Out Of The Woods. The video clip on screen featured two foxes running through the forest (naturally) and Taylor’s dancers were on stage waving about huge paper airplanes attached to poles.

Tay22
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

After Taylor sang Bad Blood, she suddenly got out an electric guitar and started playing an awesome rock version of We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. I really like how she changes the arrangements of her older songs to make them different for the concert, like with the Love Story remix and Enchanted mash up too.

Tay18
Paper confetti rain

Last but not least was of course Shake It Off, which ended the concert with a bang (literally, because fireworks went off). The show was basically a two and a half hour Taylor mass dance party and it was so much fun – there was never a dull moment! I would definitely go again if I had the chance…thanks for the memories Taylor!

Tay23
Auf Wiedersehen Köln!

 


So, did you enjoy my post about Taylor’s concert?

Have you already been to/planning to go to one of her 1989 Tour dates?


TSWT

Col

Cologne: The Famous Cologne Cathedral And The Schildergasse Shopping Street

Col01
Cologne Cathedral

On Saturday we took a six hour train ride from Passau to Cologne or Köln for the Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour Concert. Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany and is most famous for its massive Cologne Cathedral or Kölner Dom.

Col03
Love padlocks on the Hohenzollern Bridge

To get to the Cologne Cathedral, we had to cross the Rhine river by walking over the Hohenzollern Bridge, which is the most heavily used railway bridge in Germany with more than 1,200 trains crossing it daily. As you can see from the photo, the bridge is also popular for other reasons – mainly as a place for couples to attach their love locks.

Attaching padlocks to famous landmarks with lovers’ names inscribed on them is a popular trend around the world but it can also cause pretty big problems. Just earlier this month, love locks were taken down from the Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris because the weight of all of the padlocks made part of the bridge collapse.

In 2009 the bridge operator of the Hohenzollern Bridge also threatened to take down the love locks, but gave up after public opposition.

Col04

The Cologne Cathedral is the city’s most famous and popular landmark, drawing in an average of 20,000 tourists a day. The building is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and stands tall at a height of 157 metres. It is also classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Col05
Inside the Cologne Cathedral

This cathedral was huge but so, so busy. The amount of tourists milling around inside the building sort of ruined the whole church experience for me, but the architecture style and sheer size of it was awe inspiring, none the less.

Col06
Found my name amidst all of the graffiti!

And for some crazy reason we decided to pay money to climb more than 530 stone steps to the viewing platform of the Cologne Cathedral, which was 97 metres high. The spiral staircase was narrow and full of so many tourists going up and down that the 30 minute return walk quickly turned into more than an hour. (I don’t recommend doing this if you’re in a hurry or don’t have much time!)

When we got to the top, we had a 360 degree view of the city, which was pretty cool. What was not cool however, was the amount of graffiti over literally every surface of the old stone walls and stairwells. Was it really necessary for visitors to deface every possible surface of a historic landmark? (And bridges too, for that matter!)

Col02
Great St. Martin Church

Another famous Cologne landmark is the Great St. Martin Church, which is a Romanesque Catholic church.

Col07
Primark building with an ice cream sculpture on top

Now, what is a trip to a big city without having some shopping time, right? We got to go to the massive Primark store in the Neumarkt plaza, which is a huge clothing shop that is popular across Europe.

Col08
Schildergasse shopping street

The Schildergasse is the busiest shopping street in Europe, with more than 13,000 people passing through every hour. The street had all of the usual suspects like H & M, Mango, Vero Moda, C & A, Bijou Bridgette – just bigger versions of them. Every shopper’s paradise!

DSCN5642
Our hotel room number – perfect for the occasion!

Luckily for us, the hotel we booked was a five minute walk to the arena where the concert was on and the Cathedral, shopping precinct and railway and bus station were all in walking distance – which helped a lot. I really enjoyed our whirlwind trip to Cologne, besides the really cold weather, and the concert made it especially worth it – even the 9 hour bus ride home!

 


So, did you learn something new about Cologne?

Click the button below for my next post about the Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour Concert!


Tbutton

TSWT

Amy’s Art: My DIY Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour T-shirt

DSCN5633hjh

We’re off to Cologne tomorrow to see Taylor Swift live at Lanxess Arena for her 1989 World Tour and I am SO EXCITED. I’ve been listening to Taylor since I was a young whippersnapper in her Tim McGraw and Our Song days, which is nearly ten years ago now (man, she has done a lot in that time).

I missed her the last time she was in New Zealand for her Red Tour and the 1989 Tour isn’t even going there this time, so I was determined not to miss this opportunity while I was in Germany. Plus, my sweet Schnucki got me tickets last Christmas (thank you!). So in honour of this special occasion, I decided to paint a T-shirt for tomorrow night.

Now, in an ideal world where I would actually prepare things in advance, I would have drawn up a design weeks ago and then sent it away to get professionally printed onto a T-shirt. But this is the real world and I am a lazy person that only does things at the last minute and under pressure. So…here we go.

DSCN5620h

First, I went out and bought a basic white T-shirt at H & M. I think I got it for  just under five Euros.

DSCN5624h

I got a piece of cardboard and put it inside the top and stretched the fabric over it as tight as it would go, then pegged all of the corners down. This would make it easier to paint on and keep everything in its place.

DSCN5626h

Next, I got my trusty Acrylic Gesso out and painted a circle on my T-shirt board. The Gesso provides a nice foundation for the acrylic paint, which I was going to use afterwards. Again, in a perfect world, I would have used proper fabric paint so the top could be washed and worn again, but I was running out of time and resources, so acrylic paint was just going to have to do.

DSCN5628h

Now it was time to block out the main shapes and colours with acrylic.

DSCN5629h

Then it was time for some detail. I always liked the seagull imagery used on the 1989 CD cover, so I knew I wanted to incorporate that into my painting somehow.

DSCN5633jkh

And then a little more detail and…we’re done! Easy peasy. I still wish I had gotten onto this quicker and had a design professionally printed but maybe next time, huh.

 


So, did you like my T-shirt design?

Are you going to any of the Taylor Swift 1989 Tour dates too?


Tbutton

Col