On coming home

I flew home* on Saturday.

I landed, and was presented with two of my favourite things:

Chocolate

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(which they handed out on the plane as we got off)

and

Snow

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(which you can barely see in my blurry photo).

Isn’t that awesome?

It was even more awesome the next day.

Tthere was enough to make footprints in πŸ™‚

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And to admire

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And to brush off the van

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And it was at least 25 degreesΒ  (centigrade) colder than the day before…

 

* in this case “home” means Berlin, Germany. Often it means my parents’ house in Southern England.

On taking leave of the one armed sweeper

I moved into this flat almost exactly 3 years ago. In that time I have walked to and from my workshop/the train station something like a thousand times.

A one-armed man lives on route and seems to spend a large portion of his life outside sweeping. It doesn’t seem to matter much what he sweeps; snow, dust, leaves, cigarette stubs, he’s just always out there on the pavement. Unless that is, he’s kneeling in the garden planting rows of identical, perfect plants. Pansies in winter, primroses in summer. They’re the most evenly positioned plants I’ve ever seen, and the most regularly watered. I’m sure they bloom longer than anyone else’s too, though, so it must be working.

I don’t know when we started nodding as we passed, or greeting each other, but it was probably just after I moved in.

Anyway. I haven’t seen him in ages, being as how I’ve been in Berlin so often and working so much overtime. This morning he gave me the widest grin and said, “Good morning!! Where are you? So long no seeing!!” in his broken German. I explained that I’d been away and that I was moving soon. We shook hands and he wished me all the best.

As I walked the rest of the way to work, I thought about how I knew practically nothing about him, and yet he’d cheered me up on so many occasions, just by existing. There’s something ridiculous about feeling sorry for yourself when you see a smiling one-armed man clear a path through the snow more quickly than you can walk along it…

I hope he carries on with the sweeping and planting for a long time.

I’ll miss him.

Skiing, skiing, more skiing and the perils of saunas and after-skiing-parties

Yes.

I realise this post is months overdue. Naja, I suppose weeks is more accurate, but for some parts it’s enough weeks to be more than a month…

***

I can’t ski without hobbling about for days afterwards.

I asked my teacher back in February how long it takes to train your muscles to cope with walking after skiing. He said if I keep it up (ski every weekend) I’d be okay by about June.

Thanks buddy.

It’s not even as if it’s just my legs either. I would understand if it was. I mean, I ski with my legs.. Why my ribs, shoulders, bum, arms and hands of all things should join in the hurting party beats me.

***

I went skiing with D (my Ski-partner) and some of the luffly peeps from my Hauskreis on the 23rd Feb – another brilliant day πŸ™‚ – practised jumping some more, this time over much bigger ramps, and got more (occasionally unexpected) airtime. In case anyone’s interested, I’m getting better at it. By jumping I obviously still mean riding over big lumps of snow, Only these lumps were bigger and steeper and scarier. And sometimes there were several in a row. I only fell over a couple of times, and 2 of those were while getting off the lifts πŸ˜‰ We still haven’t quite got the hang of that yet.. But we’ll get there :).

I woke up more crippled (muscle ache due to skiing) than after any other ski-day this year.

The weekend after that I was ill, which was incredibly annoying, because the weather was beautiful, and cold enough for the snow to stay where it was.

Once I’d recovered, the snow was gone. Or at least too melted to ski on.

***

On the weekend of the 8th – 10th March I went as part of a group of 12 to some ‘real’ mountains – the Bavarian alps – for a couple more days of craziness πŸ™‚ Some of the crowd hadn’t ever skiied before, others had been once (last year), D and I had been practising lots, and the others were almost professionals ;). My teacher came too, which was very cool, even though he was too busy with the beginners to teach me much until the second day. A couple of snowboarders tagged along for the ride, but I didn’t see much of them over the weekend.

I practised jumping, and teaching, and skiing on one foot, and skiing backwards, and skiing with ‘bigfoots’ (which are very short, very fat skis, and pretty scary, but also good fun),Β  and skiing on ‘Neuschnee’ (virgin snow? the deep stuff no one’s prepared or skiied on yet) and riding on chair lifts.

= more brilliant days πŸ™‚

***

We were staying in chalets – very swish, makes the whole thing incredibly refined – with a sauna in the cellar. I’m not a big sauna-fan, but occasionally I give in to peer pressure πŸ˜‰ There was only one other girl (F) and she didn’t want to go by herself. Who am I to spoil her evening?? So I joined her and 5 or 6 of the others for an evening of being baked alive.

After roasting for 15 minutes or until golden brown (go with the 15 minutes, I don’t do brown, golden or otherwise, I go from white to red and back to white ;)) one is supposed to shower with cold water. That seemed like a very silly idea, but everyone was agreed it was the thing to do, and since I was doing the done thing, I figured I could at least try it out. I’m not thrilled at the idea of cold showers at the best of times, and after figuring out that the shower was directly in front of the sauna’s glass door I was even less taken by the idea. There’s something incredibly offputting about showering in full view of a group of guys you can neither see nor hear. While the others laughed at us, F and I made extensive plans for leaving the oven and showering without exposing ourselves: I’d leave the oven first, she’d follow directly behind me, one of us would hold a spare towel over the glass in the door while the other showered. Then we’d change roles. Only once we’d both finished, would we let the others out of the oven. They’d got in after us, so they were due a few minutes longer anyway. A perfect plan.

I’m not sure quite what it is about perfect plans that make them entirely useless and more open to sabotage than any other sort of plan, but there it is..

The door wasn’t very willing to be opened, despite me pushing as hard as possible. Admittedly, ‘as hard as possible’ wasn’t very hard, but what do you expect when I’m dizzy from standing up after spending 15 mins sitting in a box of 70 degree hot steam, and while holding my towel with the other hand? Honestly. Anyway, as unwilling to open as it had been seconds before, when it finally did agree to open, it sprung outwards, with me heading out faster than could be considered genteel. The floor outside, having been completely soaked by the previous showerers, was still wet. I slipped and went flying and landed on my back, losing my towel and stubbing my toe* on/under the wooden bathmat a couple of metres further into the room in the process.

YEAH.

That was exactly how I’d always wanted to get out of a sauna…

…not.

F followed me out and after we’d mopped up the blood, the rest of the plan went exaxctly as we’d planned it to.

The cold shower didn’t seem cold, and because we’re very strange people we went back for more baking once we’d stopped steaming and my head had stopped spinning.

We went out to look at the stars while trying to cool off the second time.

I didn’t even complain much when one of the guys trod on my stubbed toe and said it was my fault for putting my foot where he wanted to stand.

***

After the second full day of skiing, because it was a ‘proper’ (ish) ski-resort, we didn’t go inside to fall asleep with a hot chocolate and a cake like usual, we chose to jump about like mad things while someone sang, very loudly, with a microphone and a back-up CD but without knowing all the words. The someone wasn’t one of us, although I suppose I ought to admit we helped out… It’s rather amazing to dance about in a group of 12 people (amongst another 2 hundred or so) who are all high on mountain air and adrenalin and sing silly songs together, loudly, without anyone minding. Besides the singing there was tea, and gluehwein, and chocolate, and salami, and a lot of laughter.

At some point in the proceedings, it was decided that it would be remarkably cool to learn to spin people round 360 degrees and carry on dancing. I was ‘elected’ to be the willing victim (don’t ask why, I’m not sure either. I didn’t have any part in the discussion leading up to the decision and I think ‘willing’ is a little different, but it is true that I didn’t actually object very much).

The next thing I knew, I was flying through the air…

..until I wasn’t..

…and was lying on the ground instead.

Or more accurately, half on the ground.

The spinner had very kindly thrown himself underneath the other half of me, so I hadn’t actually broken anything. I also hadn’t been dropped on my head, which is apparently what most of the onlookers thought was going to happen halfway through.

His wrist and my elbow were bandaged up by the helpful fireman we’d brought with us, and once we’d driven back to the chalet, I was allowed (or forced, depending on how you look at these things) to lie on my back and rest while everyone else took it in turns to pack and tidy up or bring me grapes and sympathy ;).

In all, it was a great weekend, and I’m still mourning the end of the ski-season πŸ™

And as I said, I can’t ski without hobbling about for days afterwards…

 

*the kind of stubbing, which breaks the nail and makes a mess of the floor…

On ski-jumping

I’m learning to jump

πŸ™‚

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And by jumping I mean riding over foot high snow ramps with a 5-10 metre glide up..

(Oh yeah, and the 2 foot snowpile on the slopiest part of the slope…)

Didn’t break anything though πŸ™‚

I even got half a second or so of air time on the 5th or 6th attempt πŸ™‚

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On walking in the snow

If it’s snowing when you want to go home, remember to put your ‘real’ shoes back on before leaving the dance hall.

Especially if your dancing shoes have (on-purpose) holes in them.

Even more especially if you’re wearing floor-length trousers.

Skiing – part 2 – skiing

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Β πŸ™‚Β  πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Skiing is cool πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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As I said in part 1, the piste is less than half an hour from my Ski-partner’s house, and he lives just over an hour away (assuming you use public transport and it’s snowing. If you drove on a sunny day it’d actually be more like 45 mins total). We chose the third closest piste to my ski-partner’s house, the other 2 are smaller and/or easier.. Ours had one slope, divided into 3 by 2 sets of 2 T-bar lifts. They progressed [minimally] from easy to less easy, but none of them was too scary. The lifts ran until 10pm, with floodlights turned on as soon at dusk approached. It wasn’t a slope for super skiers, and I think even I would get bored after a while because they’re very short and you spend more time waiting for and riding the lift than actually skiing, but it was the perfect slope to start the season with πŸ™‚ Especially teacherless. I spoke to my teacher afterwards about how different it was skiing by myself, and how many bad habits I’ve probably got into, and he said it was good that I’d gone without him because I ask too many questions and need to play and figure things out for myself and not just do what he says. I will have to think about that.

Yesterday’s snow was ‘matschig’ – a great word which means something like slushy, except it wasn’t wet, just really really soft. Unfortunately there wasn’t very much snow, which meant that by the end of the evening there were bald patches, where the grass showed through and where turning wasn’t much fun.

It was about -5 degrees which is plenty warm enough if you’re dressed well πŸ™‚ Having stayed up longer than I’d planned to the evening before, washing my new thermal undies in the sink*, I was extremely pleased to register that it was well worth it. The only place I noticed the cold was my nose …… and my wrists when I hadn’t tucked my gloves into my sleeves properly ;). The gloves are brilliant. I bought them in Aldi for a fiver and was a little sceptical about whether they’d be any good when it got ‘properly’ cold. I borrowed some ‘tried and tested’ leather skiing gloves from my teacher, but left them in the car, so I could test mine first. I figured that since this was a very small ski ‘resort’ where you can practically see your car from any point on the slope, it was better to test them here than at one where it takes half an hour and a ride in a gondola to get back to the carpark. I was very pleasantly surprised – they’re fantastic πŸ™‚ Not only coldproof, but also waterproof and much more flexible than the leather ones πŸ™‚

They weren’t the only bit of kit I love. I also love having a helmet (keeps your ears warm as well as protecting your head from malicious T-Bar poles), a good jacket (also borrowed) and good socks (mine!). If it wasn’t such a hassle going to the loo, I would also love my salopets. *thinks* Na, I guess I love them anyway..Β  falling over wouldn’t be nearly as fun if it meant getting wet! And they’re well padded as a bonus. Then there’s the boots. they’re tight – a must if you want to have any control over your skis and to reduce the chance of breaking your ankles – but not [really] uncomfy; not til you’ve skied for a couple of hours anyway, and by that time you’re so high on mountain air and adrenalin you don’t really notice. I stuck [cheap] compeeds just above my heels prophylaxically (if that’s a word ;)) but I forgot my arches. It luckily wasn’t a problem, but I will try to remember to do them next time.

I have allround ‘carving’ skis (borrowed) which are just generally brilliant, but most ‘useful’ on harder snow where you can dig the edges in and go round corners on the curved ‘blades’. They’re almost as long as I am tall (= not very ;)) and shaped like a loosely drawn elongated sandtimer – thinner in the middle than at the ends. Putting your weight on one side of your foot tilts the ski slightly. The thinner middle part of the ski would be raised off the ground if the ski wasn’t flexible. Luckily they are, so they bend, allowing the middle to touch the ground too. The ski is curved, so having the entire length of the edge on the ground means the ski automatically forms part of the circumference of a circle. When you add motion, you carry on round the rest of the circle. If you increase the tilt (= the angle between the ski and the ground), you make the radius of the circle smaller, and if you keep the ski flat on the ground you go forwards and ignore the circles. Although you generally learn to ski by ploughing (toes turned inwards), as you progress you try to keep both skis parallel. If you put your weight on, say, the left side of each ski, you will [most probably] turn left. If you put your weight on the right side of each ski, you will [most probably] turn right. If you put your weight on the inner side of each ski, you will [most probably] start ploughing and slow down. If you decide to put weight on the outer edges of both skis you’re liable to land on the floor. In other words; the thinness [combined with flexibleness] makes the ski bend more easily, the curves make them turn more easily and you can steer by putting weight on different sides of your feet. Skiing in S-curves feels something like this: skies flat, weight to right, skis flat, weight to left, skis flat, weight to right, skis flat (etc etc etc).

On ‘hard’ or powdery snow, the ‘sharpened’/filed edges dig in like an iceskate so you don’t slither about. However. When the snow’s really soft you tend to sink in a bit and slither around corners regardless of sharpened and curved edges. I actually quite like it when it’s soft, but it does mean you have to work harder to get your skis to do what you tell them, OR, you ‘go with the flow’ and take it as it happens without being too decisive/bossy about where you want to turn.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I am probably talking rubbish here.. if you are a proper skier, please feel free to correct me, bearing in mind I’ve just been for the fourth time I can really remember and am basically happy when I get to the bottom of a slope with everything intact and without running anyone over)

When lots of people ski and snowboard down the same bit of slope for most of a day the snow gets pushed about and heaped into piles. Because it’s easier to go round them than over them, the piles get bigger. The piles are called moguls, and sometimes whole stretches of piste are prepared with them especially. There are loads of techniques for going round them, over them, turning on/before/after them and I’m not proficient in any of them πŸ™‚ Despite my lack of technique, I can generally make my way down a slope with them on it πŸ™‚

(Disclaimer: Again, I might be talking rubbish here, too. Fact is though, at the end of the day the slopes are always more lumpy than first thing in the morning when the snow’s been brushed into place by the piste-basher (They’re really called that – I looked it up!)).

I practiced ploughing, going from one side of the slope to the other in long, slow, meandering S-curves, turning while keeping my skis parallel, going backwards (not for long though, it’s too unnerving when there are small people whizzing about round you and also when it’s dark. And when you’re a scaredy cat like me ;)), catching and letting go of the T-Bar lift from the left and right hand sides, jumping (= more like being thrown) off ramps made by the piles of snow, skiing with and without poles, skiing round and over the moguls, something called “hoch und tief Entlastung” in German, and which I haven’t found a translation for yet,Β  skiing ‘schuss’ (straight down the hill without curves) in plough and parallel, and falling over.

I’m going to need a lot more practice – good thing my teacher doesn’t need my kit for a while, and my ski-partner’s willing to go again soon πŸ™‚

Facit:

Skiing’s very cool.

And made even better by it being doable as a day-trip. I think I was out of the house for 12 hours max including 5 hours on the slope and approximately half an hour in the car for lunch. If I hadn’t stopped at work to blow the skis and boots dry (I have an “air-gun” I use to blow bits of glass off my table), or if I’d hobbled faster, it would have been even less.. It’s not very expensive either if you have (or can borrow) your own kit. We bought 50 points on a plastic card – he already had some but we weren’t sure how many or how often we wanted to attempt to kill ourselves πŸ˜‰ – equivalent to 50 journeys on the lift. The card cost 4€ to borrow, which you get refunded when you give it back, the 50 points cost 17.50€ which we skied away (I think it was actually 26 or 27 runs each) over the course of the afternoon/early evening. We took our own lunch, and the train from here costs maybe 7€ each way. I’m not sure, because I have a seasonticket for 2 zones and buy any extra zones as 4-journey-tickets which cost less per journey. = 20-25€ for the whole day out, muscle ache thrown in gratis πŸ™‚

 

*I’d put off washing them because it meant taking 3o seconds to find a pair of scissors and cut the labels off.. and besides, there was no snow when I bought them πŸ˜‰