Sunday, April 25, 2010

Nothing can be so beautiful

Seems like volcanic ash has totally cleared off the skies in Europe as surprisingly we had a very clear and warm weekend. Spring has already set its eye in Germany for a while now after a long chilly winter, yet for all the time it was never a Spring climate thou. Despite, trees have turned green and flowers started blooming. I really love the Summer out here, it is quite colourful not only the nature but also people. Everybody seems to be so colourful, so happy and they all look just different people than to what they are in other seasons in Germany. Truly weather does play a greater role on the personalities of the people.
This weekend was quite warm out here, should say the first warm days of the Summer of this year. We did not miss the chance to hang out thou. We had been to Düsseldorf Benrath, a part of Düsseldorf city famous for its Schloß Benrath (Benrath Palace). Besides Castle, it has the most beautiful Gardens of Düsseldorf. The pink-colored Palace is beautified with a high fountain in the facade and amazingly beautiful Garden surrounding the Palace.

You might have guessed right, the Palace Garden is a heaven for nature lovers. I was totally lost admiring its beauty and trying every bit to capture it on my small camera.
Don’t you see glimpses of a “Photographer” in making? :-). Lovely aren’t they?
More info on Schloß Benrath at:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lost in Translation

Sometimes you think you may know everything, yet you end up in total mess you might have ever imagined. This is what has happened to us offlate. My hubby is a Consultant and he used to work for different clients in different cities. I used “used to” as now he is very choosy with his clients after we got married and started living together in Germany. Now we do live in Düsseldorf, and fortunately enough, he just works for clients in and around here, well, he does not mind traveling an hour or so thou as he is doing as of now.

So, in one of his past assignments, he had to work for a client in Oberhausen while he was living in Bremen. Therefore, he did just register himself in Oberhausen for Second – House (Zweitwohnung Haushalt) and he had a First – House (Hauptwohnung) in Bremen from May 2006 – February 2007.
The reason for keeping the house in Bremen was he used to quite often travel back to Bremen and one of his friends advised him to do so to save some bucks from tax returns. That was a good idea thou. Usually the great and the most German tax system allows you to have two houses one as your First-house and the other as second-house (the place of work, if it is not in the same city as you live). You can claim for the Daily-allowances for the first three months. You can claim for the traveling expenses to and fro from your First – House (Hauptwohnung) to Second-House (Nebenwohnung/Zweitwohnung). You can claim rent and maintenance costs of your Second-House. You can claim for the furnishing costs (Enrichtungkosten) for your Second-House. Well, not everything, yet most of it. Then why to miss it, and that’s what exactly my hubby did too. Ofcourse this all happened before our marriage.

Then in the beginning of 2007, he came to know he will have longer assignments with the same client he was working for. So then he decided to move permanently to Oberhausen and then by the end of February 2007, he gave up his apartment in Bremen and moved permanently to Oberhausen. He then went to Oberhausen Meldebehörde (House registration office) to change his registration status in Oberhausen from Second-House to the only Main-House, which he explained to the “typical Governmental Official”, who denied speaking in English, in the broken German he knew then. The Official has totally misunderstood him or did my husband, the ultimate “Lost in Translation” in making ……
He received a letter from Bremen Finance Office (Finanzamt) last year June, that he is still officially registered for second-house in Bremen. Well, that was a shock to him and then he realized the great misunderstanding and the possible “Lost in Translation”. Then he dropped them a letter that it was a mistake and actually he did not have any residence and address in Bremen during that period.

Well, we thought that was the end of it, as we have not heard anything from them until last week at our Düsseldorf address, when directly got a letter from my hubby’s bank that his account has been blocked by Finance Office, Bremen. Well, then he called his bank’s customer care only to know that Bremen’s Finance Office has suspended my accounts activity and bank has no right to free it until they get further notice from the Finance Office. He was told that only Finance Offices in Germany has the authority to suspend one’s bank accounts and block any further activity. This is called “Account Seizure” (Kontopfändung) in Financial Office. Thankfully the customer care agent was quite friendly which is very unusual thou and provided enough information about whom we should contact.
Thankfully, we have one more account, so things were not so bad thou. We have contacted the Finance Office authorities the next day and explained them the situation. Well, now my hubby manages to speak good German thou. After some 10 – 15  calls here and there to different officials in Bremen, atlast they agreed to free his account without having to pay anything.
The main reason for Account Seizure was there is something much debated “Zweitwohnsitzsteuer” or “ZWS” (Second House Tax). Well, not every City in Germany do have this kind of tax. Please find the list of cities which have ZWS at ZWS Cities. Since my hubby was unknowingly registered in Bremen as Zweitwohnsitz, he was entitled for this ZWS. So Bremen Finance Office waited for my hubby to make the ZWS declaration by himself. Since he was totally unaware that he was registered and he had the least knowledge about something called ZWS existing, he did not make any ZWS declarations. Then Finance Office, Bremen waited for a certain period, then they started sending notices to our address in Oberhausen, which we have vacated last year. But strange and unfortunately, the notices were sent from the beginning of this year. We had a mail forwarding service (Deutsche Post Nachsendeservice) till the beginning of this year. So we missed the mails. Neither the mails were sent back to Finance Office, Bremen, for unknown reasons or sheer irresponsibility of the Deutsche Post. Well, when shits has to happen, it will in all means.

Thankfully everything was sorted out without any penny being shelved out of our pockets, yet lot of stress thou. I advise all of you who are living in Germany to put a thought over this and re-check this ZWS as many of us are totally ignorant towards this.
For more details on ZWS, follow this link:
I appreciate to share your experiences if any in the comments.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cuckoo Clocks of Black Forest

I remember Cuckoo Clocks from my childhood when one of my uncles who works abroad at that time has installed one at his residence in India. As a kid, I never cared, how it works, only thing that enthused me was a wooden bird coming out of it every hour to make the sounds resembling a Cuckoo. Whenever I visit their house, I used to wait for this pleasing Cuckoo Hums.
Cuckoo clocks always have fascinated me a lot, and well, and after living in the country, Germany where the first modern cuckoo clocks have been made, I cannot stop my anxiety to get hold of one. Well, I am waiting to visit the Black Forest region of Germany, to experience myself to the grandiose of Cuckoo clocks and buy one adorable piece.
Offlate, I have been reading some good lot information about the Cuckoo clocks which I would like to share with you all, so that it can be a handy guide for many of you who would like to buy one or ask someone to get one from here or to gift for someone here.

Cuckoo Clocks, What are they?
Cuckoo clocks are traditionally wooden-carved with the wooden case of the clock decorated with carved leaves and animals. They are weight-driven, that strikes the hours, the sound resembling a cuckoo bird. Most clocks have an automated bird that peeks out through a small door while the clock is striking. The weights are made of cast iron in a “pine cone” shape and the cuckoo sound is created by two tiny pipes in the clock, with bellows attached to their tops. The clock movement activates the bellows to send a puff of air into each pipe alternately when the clock strikes.

Clock Movements
The original Cuckoo clocks from Black Forest have a mechanical clock movements usually classified as 1-Day Movement and 8-Day Movement which are regarded to be the standard clock movements. Quartz Movement Clocks are also available. The 1-Day Clock requires winding every 24 hours and an 8-Day clock requires winding every week. The recommended are mechanical as they are highly durable and reliable.

Clock Designs
Usually there are two most popular designs of Cuckoo Clocks. The “Traditionally Carved” usually represent Railway-House (Bahnhäusle) form with carvings of birds, deer, eagles, leaves and owls. The “Chalet” is a house usually a Black Forest House, Swiss House (Brienz and Emmental) and Bavarian House. Chalet clocks shows very fine details of often a scene from everyday life with handmade and hand laid shingles on the roof. Both the styles are amazing and have their own charm.
Nowadays cuckoo clocks are made in in contemporary decorative styles in different geometric shapes and flamboyant colors.

Melody and Music
In addition to Cuckoo sound, some clocks play music. Usually two different melodies are played by the clock alternatively and the most popular melodies are “The Happy Wanderer” and “Edelweiss”. Bavarian Chalets showing happy beer drinkers often play the songs “In München steht ein Hofbrauhaus” (There is a Brewery in Munich) and “Trink, Bruderlein Trink” (Drink Brothers Drink). One of the emphasized criteria here is the number of tones which usually varies between 18 and 36. For a better quality of Sound, the higher number of tones are recommended.

Moving Figurines
Many clocks have dancing figurines as a group of dancers or dancing couples usually below the cuckoo bird which dance when the music plays. Some clocks have children figurines, beer drinker figurines, wood choppers etc, which move when the music plays. Moving figurines are hand-made and hand-painted and they add the German flavor to the clocks, yet increases the price of the clocks too :-)

Night Shut-Off
Not all Cuckoo clocks are Night Shut-Off, therefore prefer to buy an automatic night shut-off cuckoo clocks as per your convenience though.

It is advised to buy a Cuckoo clock from much renowned Original Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks Manufacturers to name a few, Adolf Herr, Rombach und Hass, Robert Herr, Hönes, Hübert Herr, Anton Schneider, Hekas, Harzer, Lötscher, August Schwer.
Just a few tips for your Cuckoo Clock shopping. Definitely, I shall post some pictures of the cuckoo clock I bought once I get a hand on it. I just can’t wait to get one.
If anybody has got more tips and suggestions, please leave in comments.
You can also order online at