Saturday, 1 January 2011

2010 - 2011

We were lucky to get out of the UK! In the days leading up to our Christmas departure, the weather turned miserable. The temperatures plummeted, snow arrived and the country’s (actually, the continent’s) transportation systems fell apart.

I monitored the Birmingham airport’s website, the BBC’s weather update for Leicester and the airline’s website for the 2 days leading up to our departure. Although it snowed for the 24 hours preceding our departure, the airport seemed to be operating and most flights were arriving and departing as usual.

While waiting to board the plane, we were standing in a corridor with a glass wall looking out over the tarmac. We were looking out at our plane which happened to be a Bombardier Q400 (100 seat twin-turbo propeller). An American was in line behind us who noticed the fact we were about to travel on a propeller plane with some amusement. He dialled his phone and we heard his side of the following conversation:
“The plane that’s taking us to Germany is a propeller plane”
“You know, like a helicopter.”
“No, not a helicopter, a plane with propellers.”
At this point we were laughing out loud and his call ended shortly after.

Nina overheard other passengers on the plane saying they had been trying to take this flight for a day or two. We were lucky; this was the first day flights were going from Birmingham to Düsseldorf and as soon as we arrived the heavy snow started again in Germany. In fact, I would hazard a guess we flew on the one and only day that week the flight made the trip. One of my favourite aspects of Christmas in Germany is attending the Christmas market and we arrived just in time for the last day of the market. Had our flight been cancelled, I would have had to go without my glühwein fix for a whole year!

An unprecedented amount of snow has falled in the Aachen region of Germany. There was also a good 10+ centimetres of snow when we arrived and in the three days that followed, more than a foot of the stuff fell. It guaranteed a beautiful setting and a traditional white Christmas. On Boxing Day Nina’s parents and I went for a walk around a lake in their town where some of these pictures were taken.

I have had some problems with Barclays bank in the past (like when I tried to cash a foreign cheque which took 2 months to clear and I was charged a £25 fee). Now, I have discovered a new anomaly in their system. Apparently Barclays is unaware of the concept of post-dating cheques. The date you write on the cheque, it turns out, is there as a reference for yourself and has no other significance. Once a cheque has passed hands, it can be cashed regardless what date is written on it. I was astounded when I looked into my account from Germany and discovered my landlord had cashed the post-dated cheque I gave him more than a week before it was meant to be used. When I called Barclays they informed me they do not recognize the post-dating system. I was astounded as I thought it was a universal banking feature. For the rest of 2011 I will now date my landlord’s rent cheques with arbitrary dates such as 1 February 2084, 1 March 2116, 1 April 2205, 1 May 3199 etc. I truly wonder if anyone will notice.

On New Year’s eve (or Silvester as it is called in Germany) we went to a small party at a friend’s flat in Aachen. This flat sat in the attic of a 5 story building in a residential part of downtown Aachen. With windows looking out over the north and south of the city, the view was spectacular. This was highlighted by the fact the majority of the buildings were of a similar height or lower, allowing us to see the other side of the city from both exposures.

What was so unique to me was the fact the city didn’t organize a fireworks display. Instead, all citizens have the ability to buy their own fireworks and in the final hours of 2010, they were being set off which culminated in an impromptu and uncoordinated fireworks display of an amazing magnitude. From 11:30pm until 12:30am we watched the city light up with fireworks of differing types, colours and sizes coming from all sides. Some were let off on the street directly below us and exploded with brilliant colour at eye level. Although we didn’t take any photos, I found some online which represent the type of experience we had. It was a great way to send out the previous year and welcome in the new.

On a final note, when I was looking through some pictures and I came across one we took when dad was here in November. It was a great picture which I wanted to share with you, if for no other reason than the fact he also hasn’t seen it yet.

Happy New Year!