Monthly Archives: February 2014

A walk through the neighbourhood

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Whenever I move to a new place, I love to explore the new neighbourhood. To just stroll through the streets, never knowing what’s waiting around the next corner. It’s now been almost a month since we’ve moved to our new place (can you believe it!?), but since there’s still so much to do in our new home and I’ve been away on a few weekends, we didn’t really have the time to have a look around. Except for my daily walk to the train station which isn’t that exciting. So yesterday, we decided to finally go for a walk and see what the new place has to offer. Now our new neighbourhood definitely isn’t ordinary (as you’ll see from the pics I’ve taken). We’re located on a little peninsula in the river and we’re the only building that is finished so far. Everything else still has to be built and they’ve already started to. While you could see construction sites around your house as annoying, I personally find it pretty exciting. We’re getting to witness how a new residential area is being built. What’s not to find exciting about that!

We started our walk in the direction of the tip of the peninsula. But we didn’t get very far since the whole area is already under construction. We technically weren’t even allowed to walk where we did, but some people had already pulled the fences to the side and since it was a Sunday no construction was going on, so I think it was ok for us to have a walk around. To be honest, there wasn’t much to see except for huge piles of dirt and the river where 2 swans were going for a Sunday swim.

DSC02968DSC02969We then headed to the other side of the harbour basin, where a fairly new walk and bike lane is inviting people for a stroll (or a roll) along the river. You can basically walk all the way to Frankfurt if you like. I actually might try to cycle to work when it’s warmer. It’s around 5km which actually isn’t too bad. Around the top of the basin, there’s s little area whith benches where people can sit and have a nice view over the water. Every morning I walk past there to get to work, I can’t help but dream of having my first beer there with the boyfriend when it’s warmer. I’m sure we’re gonna enjoy this little place as oftern as we can. Or at least once we’re tired of sitting on our huge balcony. We even discovered a little kiosk down there which is going to open in April, so we can have ice cream or beer if we’ve run out of it at home.

DSC02970The area along the little promenade is also still under development. Right now there’s an interesting mix of industry, abandoned and recreational areas. I especially love this old crane which is still standing there despite not being used anymore. It just fits perfectly into the whole area.

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DSC02972Then there’s an empty space which is being used as a place for gardening for people who don’t have a garden of their own. Right now, it does look a little dead, but I’m sure in a few weeks time that place is gonna be a beautiful oasis in the middle of the city.

DSC02974DSC02975Further down, there’s a coal power station. From our balcony, I can see the coal being delivered by ship and carried inside the station by a crane. It certainly is one of the less beautiful things around here, but still I think it makes for an interesting scenery.

DSC02978At the end of the lane is my favourite spot of the whole area. I actually still need to check it out, but I’m sure we’re gonna be frequent visitors soon. It’s a mix between a cafe, club and concert venue with a huge green space outside where you can have drinks in summer. They even have a little zoo with sheep and geese. How adorable is that! I really hope we’re gonna have time soon to check it out because it just looks like one of these places I’m really going to dig.

DSC02980I hope you enjoyed my little tour around our neighbourhood. And if you like, let me know what’s your favourite thing about the area you live in.

I have never… been to Lille

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So, I’m back from my little concert trip to France. I’ve actually been back for a couple of days, but I needed time to process what happened before I felt like I was ready to write about it. I know I’m making this sound overly dramatic. Probably because it was for me at the time it happened. But I guess that’s what happens when you travel. You experience an adventure, the unexpected and it’s not always pleasant. Before you’re starting to speculate what exactly happened to me last weekend, here’s the story (and a little more on the city of Lille, of course):

I started off in Frankfurt last Friday with 2 friends. We got on the TGV, the French high-speed train, and made ourselves comfortable. The 4-hour-ride to Paris went smoothly even though I’d already spent more than 7 hours on a train the previous day for a business trip to Munich and I wasn’t really in the mood for another long ride. So anyway, everything went fine. Until we got off the train in Paris – and I couldn’t find my suitcase in the rack I’d put it in. At first I thought I was just confused and had put it somewhere else. Or that someone had moved it to get out his own suitcase. But one passenger after the other left the train and in the end there was just one other suitcase left. A black one. A Samsonite. Just like mine. There was no doubt that someone had taken my luggage and left me theirs. I had no idea if it had just happened, here, in Paris. Or somewhere on the way. At first I was hoping that person would realize their mistake and return my stuff while we were still there. But noone showed up when we were looking for the train staff (which took ages to even find someone, let alone someone who spoke English). Or when we were trying to explain our problem in our broken French (“You have a suitcase, where’s your problem?”). Or when we went to the information desk to ask for help. Or to the Lost & Found where they were not happy at all we were showing up so close to closing hours (not speaking French, how dare we! And trying to leave a German phone number which of course is impossible to dial in France!).

It was pretty clear my suitcase probably wasn’t going to show up soon. And we had a train to Lille to catch in a few minutes and still had to make our way to Paris North from the Paris East station. For a minute, I was considering to wait and just catch a different train. But I didn’t want to stay behind on my own. As long as I wasn’t alone I was able to fight the tears that were piling up behind my eyes. And I could still buy the bare necessities the next day, so it wasn’t the end of the world. Even if my suitcase would never show up again. And then it hit me. In the streets of Paris. My concert ticket was in the suitcase. And the concert was sold out. This was the only reason I went on that bloody trip and now I probably wouldn’t even be able to experience that freaking concert. I guess you can imagine my devastation. Now tears were literally knocking on my eyelids. But I didn’t cry. We made that train, I sat down and just wished for that whole nightmare to be over already. I just wanted to get to the hotel and sleep and hope for a brighter day. Then, on the way to the hotel, I noticed a missed phone call. And a message. Both from an unknown number. It was the people that had taken my suitcase! I called the number and we agreed to meet in Paris again the next day, so I could get my stuff back. I would’ve preferred to spend the day sight-seeing or just hanging around at the hotel, but I’d be able to go to the concert and that was all I wanted.

So the next day after breakfast, I bought a train ticket back to Paris and hopped on a train. I was a little shocked at the price of more than 80€ for a 2-hour return-ride. But I was hoping the person who took my luggage would have enough decency to offer to at least cover part of my costs since it absolutely wasn’t my fault. Boy, was I wrong! At first the guy seemed nice. An elderly French man. We chatted for a bit. He gave me my suitcase back (with the ticket in it, I checked). Then I told him about the hassle I’d had to come back to Paris just to pick up my suitcase someone else had mixed up. And how much money it had cost me. At first, he pretended he didn’t get what my problem was. Then he told me a stupid story how his 5-year-old nephew had taken my suitcase. And when I asked who was with the child, who’d actually taken my luggage since a young child certainly wouldn’t have been able to carry my suitcase and wasn’t travelling alone, he said he didn’t know. He also didn’t forget to tell me how he’d also had to make some effort to give me back my stuff. How he’d had to drive to Paris, to pay at the Lost & Found to get his suitcase back and how expensive it was to park his car at the station. That’s the point where I got really angry. I’m usually nice and polite to strangers, but when there’s one thing I absolutely hate it’s injustice. I was getting loud, trying to explain to the guy how absolutely he was in the wrong here. But if someone wants to be a dick, there’s no changing that. As a goodbye, he told me I should be happy about how lucky I’d been to get my suitcase back. And if I felt like he’d done me wrong I could go to the police. Merci beaucoup!

I just walked away while he was still talking to me. I sat down on a bench and suddenly, there was no holding back. I sat in the middle of a station in Paris with tears streaming down my face. And I didn’t care what the people around me were thinking. I just want to let it all out right there at that moment. I had to wait 2 hours until the next train would go back to Lille and all I did was sit there. That’s the moment I turned to my beloved “This is War” album from 30 Seconds to Mars (the band I was going to see that night) again. That album which had accompanied me for more than a year on an almost daily basis. Through some difficult moments (see my previous post for more on that). I actually can’t remember for how long I hadn’t listened to that album. Or to any Mars album. But in that moment, it was exactly what I needed. It instantly made me feel a little better. When I was back at the hotel, I wasn’t really feeling in the mood for a concert. But the people I was with quickly helped me to forget about all that shit that had happened. And when I stood in the back of the concert venue that night, I was hooked again. I jumped around like a maniac and sang my heart out. I let all my bad feelings go. The band was probably in the best mood I’d ever seen them. They had fun. They wanted to be there on that stage playing music. And while I still don’t dig the new songs, I had a great, great time that night and enjoyed every minute of it. So much so, that I’m actually looking into where I want to see them next. Some time in summer maybe.

The next day, there was finally time to have a look around the city. It was a beautiful day, sunny, blue sky. And while there isn’t that much sightseeing to do in Lille, I enjoyed walking around. My experiences with French people might not have been the best, but I love French cities. The old buildings, not one looking like the other. The whole atmosphere. The food. So, to end this post on a little more cheerful note, here are some impressions from Lille. This trip certainly wasn’t the usual. I could’ve done without some of the things that happened, but I’m still glad I came along for some fun time with my friends. I can’t wait for the next adventure, but this time I’ll make sure to keep an eye on my luggage.

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Musings on Music: When bands change

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Every once in a while I stumble over a band that I really love. Almost obsessively. When I do, I constantly need to listen to their music. I can go weeks with just one album on my iPod playlist without getting tired of it. This is basically my definition of good music. If I don’t get tired after a few days, it’s good in my book. Sometimes it’s bands I admire for their musical talent and genius. Muse and Biffy Clyro are such bands for me, for example. And then there are bands who impress me with their message, the deep meaning of their songs. Something that makes me feel really connected and understood. In that case music becomes much more than just that. It becomes a door to a whole new universe full of inspiration and things I can relate to.

I’ve actually only encountered one such band so far and this is 30 Seconds to Mars. Discovering them was almost like an epiphany to me. I was in a very crucial phase of my life back then and their music sparked something inside me. It was an inspiration to open my eyes to things which had already been there, but which I couldn’t quite grasp at the time. And after that initial experience (which actually brought me to making music myself in the end), of course, I wanted more. Back then the band had just finished touring for their 3rd album, so there was a lot to discover for a newbie like me. I listened to all their songs, I dug deep into the symbology that seemed to be present throughout their whole work. It was just amazing. I wanted to learn all about it, I wanted to become an expert. And I wanted to share my thoughts on the band and their work with like-minded people. Thanks to good old-fashioned message boards, I was able to find such people, online and later on even in real life. For the first time I felt like someone understood my fascination with this band and didn’t just think I was in it because the band members aren’t exactly ugly. And more importantly, they understood my view on life because they felt the same way.

Since I’d been pretty late to the party and I’d just gotten into the band before they went on tour hiatus to work on their fourth album, I felt like I’d missed out on a lot of things. But with that new album, I wanted to be in the forefront. I wanted to know all the news first and witness everything that happened with my own eyes and ears. I got extremely excited about every little tidbit the band was giving us, every little glimpse of the new music. And so did my friends. However, the more we got to hear, the more unsure I felt about the new stuff. It was quite different from the previous style which is kinda normal I guess. Repetition is usually never a good thing. I tried to like it real hard. I wanted to like it because it was Mars who’s music I loved. But there I was not really liking the new stuff. It was ok. I listened to it for a few weeks, but I quickly got bored. I basically listened to their previous album on an almost daily basis for  a year, so not feeling the same at all was a pretty big bummer. And what weighed even worse was that the deep meaning was missing this time. The reason I actually got so obsessed about this band in the first place was now almost completely missing in my opinion. Everything was now a tad more superficial and easier accessible. As stupid as it sounds, I did feel a little guilty about my opinion. But that’s the thing with music. It’s a question of taste and this particular album just didn’t float my boat.

Then another tour was announced and I thought, at least I’m going to get to hear some of the older songs and who knows maybe I’ll even like the live versions of some of the new stuff. So me and my friends planned out quite a few concert trips to such great places like Berlin and Nice. And I did have tons of fun. We’d all been waiting for this for a long time and now it was actually happening. And we who were mostly just conversing online got to experience it all together. How amazing was that! At the second show I went to I realized I knew exactly what was going to happen every single minute of the performance. I knew when the balloons were thrown into the crowd. I knew when we had to jump or to get down low. I knew when we had to say “Love, Lust, Faith & Dreams” in the respective language. I knew the setlist. There were a few changes here and there, but it was basically the same over and over again. At show No. 5 I had a hard time getting excited at all. I was still having fun, don’t get me wrong, but when a show is so predictable it does get boring after a while. At least for me. It was too much. It became a routine for me instead of something special.

And there were other obvious changes which bothered me, too. The band has always been very active on social media, always looking for ways to interact with fans. But over time, it all turned into a huge selling show. Buy this, buy that. And the occasional generic tweet in between. My timeline was flooded with stuff I wasn’t interested in. And it made me upset. Then I went to the Facebook fanpages I frequented and all people were discussing were the newest paparazzi pics, haircuts, hotness and alleged dates of the band members. It felt like being on a Justin Bieber or One Direction fanpage and truly I believe that the core fanbase nowadays can largely be found in that age group. I’m not sure what triggered what, but it is clear that the band is catering to that audience now. I’m not blaming them. Not anymore. It’s a business after all. And the music business surely is one of the toughest out there. But it took me quite a while to be ok with that. By the end of last year I got so upset about the whole way things were now that I was complaining all the time. I was only able to see the bad stuff. But that was exactly how I never wanted to be. I never wanted to be one of these fans who can’t let go and who glorify the olden days. I realized that I was too involved, too obsessed with everything that was happening. I needed to pull myself out for a while to put things into perspective. So I unfollowed all of the band’s accounts on social media. I avoided the fanpages. I even stayed away from my beloved forum for a while. And you  know what: It feels so much better! I don’t have to know everything that happens in the Mars universe anymore. But when something important  happens, I’ll still know because someone will tell me sooner or later. And that way I can choose to deal with the stuff I’m really interested in. The music, live shows and the artistic side of it all which can still be found somewhere under the superficial layers.

Tomorrow I’m off to France to see Mars again. I’m not as excited as I used to be. I’m excited to see my friends again and to have a fun time. But about the show itself I’m rather indifferent. I haven’t listened to the music in ages and I don’t think I will before the show. I think this is going to be my last show for a while. I’m kinda done for now. But I’m not ready to let go just yet. I’ll still follow what the band’s doing. I’ll still discuss these things with my friends. I’ll still support them when I feel like doing so.Things have definitely changed. And so have I and my attitude towards the band, my investment within this fanbase. I don’t have to buy everything and like everything they do. When I don’t like something I’ll just stay away from it. It’s really just as easy as that. And one thing certainly hasn’t changed: This band will always have a special place in my heart for inspiring me. No matter which path they’re going to take in the future. And what I’m most grateful for are the great people I got to know just because of the simple fact we like the same band. And the great thing is that our mutual interests don’t just end there. We have a lot more things in common to talk about. And this is something noone’s gonna take away from us. This is my 100th post on this blog and I wanna dedicate it to these amazing people. I can’t wait to rock with you this weekend! And many more times after that, hopefully!

I have never… been to Zurich

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Last weekend the boyfriend had a gig with the cover band he occasionally plays guitar for. In Zurich, Switzerland. And since one of my plans for this year is to travel more, I was absolutely keen on accompanying him. Despite the fact that we were still in the middle of our move and I’d just had an almost 50 hour work week behind me. Sure, I was pretty exhausted, but certainly a change of scenery would do me good. So we got up early on Saturday morning, packed a bag and off we went.

I really have a thing for road trips. I just love blasting loud music through the speakers while watching the world pass by. Seeing new people and places. It took us about 4,5 hours and a stop at Burger King (where I normally never ever eat) until we got to Zurich. We even saw some snow on the way which was pretty exciting since we didn’t have any here so far in Frankfurt this winter. We caught a first glimpse of Zurich on the way to the venue where we were supposed to meet the rest of the band and I immediately liked it. There was something very laid-back (well, the Swiss I guess) about the city. The venue the band was supposed to play at was located behind the station area. When we walked around later we saw that it was somewhat of a red-light district mixed with artistic kind of places. It reminded me a little of the main station area here in Frankfurt. The venue itself was located in an old barracks building which was just so cool! I wish we had venues like this here, I’d definitely be a regular there. After we had a brief look at the venue we went over to the hotel the organizer had booked for us (girlfriends included, yay!). Again I was pretty surprised. I’d expected some cheap accomodation and actually prepared myself for the risk of having to look for a hotel room myself, but the place was pretty ok. Spartan, yes, but clean and the bed was really comfy. I don’t need much, especially not when it’s paid for by someone else. As long as it’s clean I’m fine and this place definitely was.

After we had a little rest, we went back to the venue because the band had to prepare for soundcheck and then the gig. The whole gig was part of a 60s festival with several cover bands from The Doors to Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix performing (the boyfriend plays in a Doors band). I’m not a huge fan of this kind of music and I’ve probably had enough of The Doors for the rest of my life already, but I do find it exciting to watch the boyfriend play. I was really surprised at how young the crowd was there. Usually, people are in their 40s or 50s or maybe even older, but this time there were a lot of people who looked like they were barely 18. And they had fun. They danced and cheered and it was just an awesome atmosphere. While I couldn’t get myself to be enthusiastic about the music I really enjoyed watching people. And seeing the band getting applause for what they love doing. We didn’t stay too long after the show because we were both pretty tired from the past weeks and the long drive and all, so we called it an early night. And I slept so well which I usually never do the first night I’m sleeping somewhere else. Score!

Unfortunately, the next day it was raining, so we weren’t really in the mood to do sightseeing. I really would’ve loved to have a look around the city, but cold and rain aren’t the best companions in my opinion. But at least I wanted to have a look at the lake once before we left, so we went on a little drive through the city. Which was really pretty! I would love to come back again when it’s a little warmer and nicer to explore it. Because it just looks like a really interesting and fun place. I don’t know how else to describe it, but there’s a really artistic vibe about the whole city. Something I do miss here sometimes. There were lots of galleries, little bars and cafes and things that are just inviting people to explore them. So I really hope I’ll get the chance to do so some day. When I’ve saved the money for it that is. Because of course there’s also the expensive side of Zurich (we paid 25€ for 2 coffees and 2 sandwiches at Starbucks!). Looking back I really had a fun weekend in Zurich despite the short time we spent there. And it totally made me want to get our band thingy rolling again. Because what could be greater than combining travelling and making music, right!

We did it!

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Yay, I’m finally back online! I was planning to be back a week ago already, but thanks to German customer service which is anything but reliable I had to wait for another week to be connected again. The past 2 weeks have been busybusybusy. And suddenly we’re almost one week into February! Can you believe it? I couldn’t help but remember a post I wrote exactly a year ago in which I was surprised at how fast the first month of the year had passed – and I felt like I hadn’t accomplished anything at all. Again this year, I feel like time is racing at the speed of light. But unlike last year I’ve accomplished a lot during this first month of the year already.

First of all, there was the move to our new apartment = loads of work. But everything went surprisingly well. We managed to move all our stuff to the new place and to clean and refurbish the old one in just one weekend. Thanks to our amazing family who helped us where they could. We’re still pretty much living in chaos, but the boxes are getting less and less and this week our brand new kitchen arrived. We only had to live without a kitchen for a week which was bearable, but I’m so glad that from now on it won’t take us ages and 5 trips through the whole apartment to make coffee in the morning. We’re both madly in love with this new place and I can’t wait to see what it looks like when it’s finally finished in a few weeks. I might even share a few impressions soon.

As if a move wasn’t enough, I was also pretty busy at work. We had a presentation for a new client last week which had to be set up within a ridiculously short time frame. I was really keen on working on this project because it was a challenge and something different from the usual. But as an introvert I hate nothing more than speaking in front of people. I just hate it. I know it’s part of my job and I also know that nothing bad can happen. But just the mere thought of holding a presentation in front of strangers makes me feel really uncomfortable. This whole situation, with the move on the side, was a pretty big test for me. It was the first time I was thrown into a somewhat stressful situation at work after my breakdown. It was my time to prove that I’m capable of handling stressful situations again and that I’ve overcome that fear of failure which used to put so much pressure on me.

I have to say it wasn’t easy. Deep down I was a little scared I’d get back into that vicious cycle it took me so long to get out of. There were a few days where I could feel my stress level and the pressure on myself rising again. So much so that I wasn’t able to sleep very well. It worried me. But I knew what I had to do. I breathed, I calmed myself down and took care of myself. And in the end everything worked out fine. Heck, It worked out brilliantly because: We won!!! Of course, I was completely exhausted after the presentation was over. After all the tension had fallen off. But in a good way. I managed to handle this challenge in a healthy way. To face my fears and get over them. It might not look like something big to others. But it’s a big success for me. I’m very much looking forward to everything going back to a little less stressful level. But I’m sure the next challenge is right around the corner. And I won’t be scared of it.