South Africa: Part 3


Saturday & Sunday

We started out the day stopping in Addo Elephant Park to have lunch while on the way to Schotia for our safari.  We got lucky that there was an elephant drinking some water close to the restaurant! Morgan was adventurous and tried the Kudu -which turned out to be better than I imagined. I’m normally not a fan of game, but when in Africa-right?  When we finished lunch we headed to Schotia to get checked in and meet our guide, Peter. There were about 6 vehicles, most of them being open air Range Rovers (you could pay extra for a closed in car… which would have been nice once the sun went down because it got pretty chilly!). Peter was able to gives us tons of interesting information about the animals, which you don’t get if you drive through a park on your own.. so I highly suggesting paying a bit more for the guided safari. Plus this way Morgan could fully enjoy the animals rather than having to focus on driving. We saw: lions, elephants, giraffes, cape buffalo, zebras, kudu, springboks, rhinos, hedgehogs, hippos (only in the water, couldn’t find them when they got out to feed after dark), an alligator, horses and lots more birds and small animals.

Just two weeks before our safari, poachers had flown into Schotia at night in a helicopter, tranquilized Bonnie & Clyde the rhinos, and cut off their horns. Thankfully they did not kill them, which is what the poachers do more often so that they won’t waste their time hunting rhinos just to find they don’t have horns. Bonnie had been pregnant, but sadly after the attack she lost her baby.  Rhino horn poaching is a huge problem in SA and if the number or rhinos killed each year keeps doubling each year (as it has for the past 5 years), it will only take 10 years for poachers to kill all the rhinos in SA. In Asian countries, it is (incorrectly) believed that rhino horn cures illnesses, so there is a high demand for them (one horn selling on the black market for over $100k). Hopefully the government can put in more effective measures to discourage the poachers.

We ate dinner in an open air lapa (ring shaped structure where the middle has no roof (and a huge bon fire going to warm us all up), but around the edge is a thatch roof covering where the tables are. The staff had fixed springbok in gravy, broccoli and cheese casserole, potatoes, chicken, mashed sweet potatoes (though their sweet potatoes aren’t orange)… it was delicious!  My favorite part was dessert – Malva Pudding – a sweet pudding of Cape Dutch origin, usually served hot with custard and/or ice-cream. However the “pudding” isn’t the pudding we’re used to, it is closer to a cake consistency.

Sunday we walked to the beach so I could stick my feet in the Indian Ocean.. which was quite chilly! After getting packed up and checking out of the hotel we grabbed lunch by the water one last time.  Port Elizabeth was really beautiful and a great experience. The only thing I would change would be to have a few more days down there where Morgan wasn’t working so we could have driven along the Garden Route to Cape Town!

South Africa: Part 2

Wednesday – Friday

On Wednesday Natasha, a girl who works at the supplier Morgan was visiting, took me out for lunch and to two different game preserves- Seaview Predator Park and Kragga Kamma Game Park. On the drive to Seaview a group of monkeys (maybe 10 or so) ran across the road in front of us, sadly I wasn’t quick enough to get a picture!  We ate lunch at a restaurant right on the water called Barnacles. I tried Hake (a local fish) that was really good. Next we went to Seaview where we were able to check out the lions (white and regular), tigers, meerkats, servals, and caracals. Also, this is where I was able to pet the lion and tiger cubs! Honestly, when Natasha told me I could pet the lion/tiger cubs I was envisioning something a little smaller than these guys (they weigh almost as much as me and they are only 6 months old), but I figured I may only get the chance once so I still went for it. When it was my turn with them, Ice (the female white tiger cub) was playing in a pool of muddy water (and I didn’t really want to end up a mess) so I mainly tried to pet Igor (the white lion cub). When I first got in there he hopped up on my leg (which made me a little nervous), but the trainer just tapped his shoulder and told him no so he got down and didn’t do it again (thankfully!). Though Igor looks fluffy and soft, his fur was actually pretty course. In addition to the cats, you drive through the bush to get to the top of the hill (where the cats are) we got to see some Cape buffalo, giraffes, antelopes, warthogs, etc. We still had some time to kill before Morgan was out of work, so next we drove through Kragga Kamma. Here I got to see zebras, antelopes, ostriches, rhinos, warthogs, and cheetahs (who were having a snack themselves…). We stopped at the restaurant to have coffee and I tried milk tart (a South African dessert -kinda had the consistency of cheesecake but just tastes creamy and has cinnamon on top).  That evening Morgan picked up his Chinese colleagues from the airport and then we went to a local brewery for dinner.

Thursday and Friday Morgan worked hard and I stayed at the hotel, enjoying the sun and reading some more (I read War Brides and Inferno while we were there and I recommend both!). Thursday night after dinner we checked out the casino at the Boardwalk, never take us to Las Vegas.. we didn’t win anything. Friday night we met up with a group from the supplier for dinner and drinks. We tried out a shot called the Springbokkie (it is made of Amarula and crème de menthe)- it was delicious!

South Africa: Part 1

Sunday- Tuesday

It was just a short 10.5 hour flight from Germany down to Joburg (and I should add that on my flight, the inflight entertainment system wasn’t working.. so no movies or TV to watch- that was painful). So while I tried to sleep sitting up and had no TV, Morgan was on a different flight laying down in first class getting his beauty rest. 🙂 We were able to meet up in the Joburg airport and then headed down to PE together. Sunday after checking in we drove along the coast for a while and then drove about another hour to a little resort type town that has an old lighthouse. Right next door to the light house was a bird rehabilitation site so we got to see a bunch of African penguins (I didn’t know they had penguins!). The coast reminded us of California, lots of big boulders and cliffs going into the water. After that we headed back to PE and ate dinner at a Mediterranean place.

Monday turned out to be a holiday in SA (no one told Morgan that when he planned his trip down here) sooo he went in for half a day and then left to have lunch with me and check out Hobie beach before calling in to a conference call. The water was actually pretty clear and there were quite a few people swimming even though it is winter. It was in the high sixties/ low seventies during the day and totally sunny.. not a cloud in the sky, which is so nice after so many gloomy months in Germany. We ate lunch at a “afritalian” place right on the water- and got to sit on the porch.. it was so relaxing! That night we walked around the Boardwalk (a huge shopping center with lots if restaurants, shops, a movie theater and a casino). We grabbed dinner and then saw a movie (it was 43 rand per ticket., which is about $4.30).. much better than in London! Sadly it gets dark here around 6 this time of year… a big adjustment from Germany where it is staying light until almost 11pm! There were several “guard cats” here at the hotel… they mainly like to lie in the sun in front of our door and wait to be petted. We were lucky we got the only room with an ocean view!

Tuesday Morgan had to work all day, so after eating breakfast with Morgan I hung out at the hotel reading and sitting outside. Breakfast out our hotel was really good, they had fruit, yougurt, and cereals set out and then there was a list of 6 or 7 things the cook would make for you (French toast, English breakfast, omelet, etc). That night we went back to the Boardwalk and ate dinner at “Spurs” (a big chain restaurant in SA..kinda like their version of Applebee’s it turned out) and then saw another movie. We tended to go to the Boardwalk most evenings 1) it was only two blocks from our hotel, 2) it had lots of options, and 3) it was safe. They had lots of security guards and a well-lit and patrolled parking lot so you didn’t have to worry about going to your car, etc. During the day the area we were in was fine, but at night they don’t recommend you walk around by yourself/with just two people (I think this is the case for most/all of the bigger cities in SA).

Köln: day 2 (plus Schloss Nordkirchen & Münster)

Day 2:

–          We ended up back at Café Reichard for breakfast (we couldn’t find many places that were open for breakfast other than chains we have here in Osnabrück)… and I’m so glad we did! I had this amazing apple and cinnamon pancake I ate the whole thing (other than a few bites for Morgan) and felt sick afterwards, but it was totally worth it! 

–          Next we stopped at Groß St. Martin. It was founded for the Benedictine Order in the late 12th century. The church was badly damaged during WW II and restoration was completed until 1985. The inside was much more plain than the other churches we’ve looked at, but we did think it was interesting that the stained glass windows used dark colors/looked pretty foreboding.

–          Schloss Nordkirchen- When we left Cologne to head towards home we decided to stop at a castle along the way – Schloss Nordkirchen. It is a huge moated castle nicknamed the “Westphalian Versailles”, built in 1703-1734 for the Plettenberg family. We got to walk around the outside and see the gardens, but didn’t get to do the tour of the inside (they have just 3 tours today and preset times). So, we’ll just have to go back again when we have some visitors! We saw at least 4 brides having their pictures taken around the house and grounds plus one wedding ceremony had just finished up.

–          Back on the road home we stopped at a far to pick up some fresh spargel. I have never seen spargel being harvested so that was pretty cool. The spargel was planted in the tall mounded rows and when it starts to poke out of the ground they know it is time to harvest. It looks like they just stick their tool down in the mound and cut it from the base. We had ours with some Hollandaise sauce that Morgan whipped up.. it was delicious!

–          The last stop of the day a quick walk around Münster. It was really pretty and has lots of nice shops in the beautiful old buildings. I can’t wait to go back and do some clothes shopping!

Another Side Note– Muenster is a cheese from the United States, not to be confused with the French variety, Munster. AKA- there is no special cheese that comes from Münster, Germany (thankfully Morgan looked this up before we asked all over town for some authentic “Münster” cheese).

Köln: day 1

Last weekend was a long weekend for Morgan so we decided to do an overnight trip somewhere and Priceline ended up having a good deal on a hotel in Cologne.. so Cologne it was! We headed down there on Friday morning (it is about a 2 hour drive) and when we arrived we left our car in the parking deck at our hotel (the Maritim). Our hotel was right on the water, but since we did the cheapest room and booked through Priceline, we had a view of the atrium rather than the Rheine. We walked along the river towards our first stop, the Romano-Germanic Museum an archaeological museum in Cologne.

Day 1:

–       Romano-Germanic Museum- It has a large collection of Roman artifacts from the Roman settlement of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, on which modern Cologne is built. The museum protects the original site of a 3rd century Roman town villa, from which a large Dionysus mosaic remains in its original place in the basement (they found it in 1941 while building an air-raid shelter). They had lots of Roman and medieval glassware and jewelry.

Side note– They had a special exhibit set up for artifacts that have been found while digging for the extension of the U-Bahn (underground railway). What they didn’t mention (or maybe we just missed it) is that in 2009 the building of the City’s archive collapsed into the Stadtbahn’s tunnel under construction below it. Poor construction, the theft of necessary iron reinforcements and several ground water break-ins into the tunnel, which were not reported and not controlled properly by construction supervision, are among the alleged causes for this catastrophe. Given that they city had been achieving important documents since the Middle Ages, a substantial proportion of the written records of the city’s history is believed to have been destroyed. So sad! – If you had been incharge Bern, this wouldn’t have happened!

–       Kölner Dom (construction started 1248)- Catholic church and the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne. The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. It is Germany’s most visited landmark and after visiting I can see why! Between the stain glass windows, altar pieces, paintings, the Shrine of the Three Kings, and the relics held in the Treasury, we were completely amazed. The Treasury has a separate entrance and has an entry fee, but it is totally worth it.

–       Coffee and a snack sitting outside at Café Reichard. There was a nice view of the Dom from here.

–       Cologne Rathaus – Germany’s oldest city hall.

–       Farina Haus- The birthplace of cologne!  Italian perfumier Johann Maria Farina began producing Eau de Cologne in the cellar here. The Eau de Cologne composed by Farina was used only as a perfume and delivered to “nearly all royal houses in Europe”.  At the time, a single vial of this aqua mirabilis (Latin for miracle water) cost half the annual salary of a civil servant.Napoleon Bonaparte used an entire bottle of this stuff every day. We bought a 4oz bottle to try out and it has quite a strong smell. – I’m not sure how Napoleon didn’t get a head ache!

–       After checking into the hotel we headed out for dinner and on the way we checked out the colorful houses on Fischmarkt. We ate dinner at Peters Brauhaus, so we got to enjoy some typical Kölner Kölsch (the particular type beer they brew in Cologne). Kölsch comes in a fairly small glass (.2 liters), so until you put your coaster on top of your glass (to signify you are done drinking) they just keep bringing you glasses when you get low.  For dessert we tried out the rhubarb compote (other than the rhubarb liquor that is popular here I’ve never had rhubarb and I’d also never had a compote- so we had no clue what we were getting). It was kind of like a cold fruit soup, it had smashed up pieces of rhubarb and strawberries in it with ice cream and whipped cream.

–       After dinner we walked across Hohenzollernbrücke. Since 2008 people have placed love padlocks on the fence between the sidewalk and the tracks (and then thrown the key in the Rheine). As you can see from the pictures there are thousands of locks… almost the entire length of the fence is covered!

Hanging pictures and Afternoon coffee

     I will never take hanging pictures on drywall for granted again! Back home all you need is a nail, a hammer and maybe a level to hang a picture. Here, you need a hammer drill with a special drill bit for use on brick, screws, all-purpose fixings, and a vacuum to suck up all the brick dust as the hole is being drilled.  Yep, you have to get it placement right the first try because there are no re-do’s here (the screws with the fixings around them leave HUGE holes… thank goodness for caulking!). We are pretty close to being done hanging things for a while- which Morgan is really excited about!

     Last week one or Morgan’s colleagues invited us over for coffee with his wife at their house. When we first arrived we went on a walk around their village, Ostercappeln, with Jan and his son Jasper (who is about 15 months old.. just a couple weeks younger than Abbie!). There is a beautiful Catholic church there and a nice town square.. hopefully we can go back to look in the shops sometime.  In addition to coffee we had waffles (they were sweeter than waffles in the US) with whipped cream and warm cherry sauce on top. It was delicious! After eating we sat in their backyard to enjoy the sunshine (finally!) and let Jasper play on their new swing-set. They lived in Shanghai for 5 years, so they can relate to our predicaments of living in a country where you don’t speak the language!


When we got back from London, we were smack dab in the middle of Maiwoche (May 11th-19th). Maiwoche is an annual festival in Osnabrück that is supposed to let everyone celebrate the arrival of spring (but spring has yet to show up here in Germany- cold and near constant rain so far….). Anyway, they still had it – every night for a week there are several bands playing around the old part of town plus beer and food stands, rides, games, etc. We braved the rain one night to meet up with a group from Morgan’s work. My favorite part was the yummy srawberry drinks they were serving!

Sunday we took a drive to check out to see the Rapeseed -the bright yellow fields were beautiful!