Shopping for Ammaji’s in Germany – 19 May 16

We are back home.

In the morning we arrived in Delhi at the airport with all our huge luggage. I don’t know whether I already told you or not but we did a whole lot of shopping in Germany! We went to two wholesale markets to buy things for our restaurant which we don’t get in India or which are much better in Germany in terms of quality.

Additionally I had the idea to bring strawberries to India – for making strawberry ice cream out of original and fresh strawberries which we only find with difficulty in India. In Erkelenz I thus went to the supermarket together with Sonja to get some of those delicious red berries. When going in, we saw two stacks of strawberries at the entrance. We asked how much they were and the lady said they were to be thrown out and not for sale. After buying five kilogram of strawberries inside, we came out and saw the strawberries again. We now asked the lady why they would throw them away, as they looked perfectly fine. Sonja then started a conversation with her about how food should not be wasted – and in the end the lady gave us all the remaining strawberries for free! Nine more kilogram of strawberries!

Oh yes, and we brought them to Wiesbaden in the train, mashing only a few of them which were at the bottom of our bag! There we bought some sugar and spent yesterday the complete morning on cooking strawberries with sugar! Then there was a problem: which container could be the right one to take fourteen kilogram of strawberries plus sugar in the form of a sweet sauce in a plane to Germany?

So we took another trip! We ended up buying a canister which is normally used for transporting petrol! Stable, won’t break and will close tightly! We filled our delicious sweet sauce in there and packed it into a hard case suitcase! We laughed about the idea what might happen at the airport scans – because for sure, transporting petrol is not allowed and how would the scanner know it is strawberry sauce?

Having reached India, we opened our suitcase and here is the confirmation: a letter saying our suitcase was opened and inspected. Can you imagine the person who did the test and found it all to be strawberry sauce instead of petrol? I hope they had a good laugh, too!

And that, my dear readers, is how our guests will now get strawberry ice cream made from real German strawberries! This is something I can promise you no other restaurant here will provide!

Going back to India after a short Tour of Germany – 18 May 16

So today is the day: we are going to fly back to India! Oh wow, what a quick round through Germany, how many things did we do and how many friends did we meet!

After leaving Lüneburg, we went to Erkelenz for a stop over night. Another place where I have been so many times already over the course of the year! Our dear friends Sonja and Peter were happy to see us and we enjoyed catching up with them a lot! Apra had fun with the cats – and even Eva came from Coesfeld to see us!

Then an evening with Pizza and ice cream in Wiesbaden, another visit to our friend Pavan and finally now we are packed and ready to go. As always, we have lots of luggage and Thomas and Iris will bring us to the airport to help us with the things.

It was short, it was very intense and it was really nice, too. As expected, especially watching Apra and her experiences was amazing and rewarding. She has, even in these short two weeks, learnt so much new! Her German has gained incredibly much vocabulary and Germany has once more made an impression on her!

I am, however, looking forward to coming back to India now. The restaurant is waiting for us. I will write you tomorrow again – from Vrindavan!

How happy a Child can be about the Wipers of a Car! – 17 May 16

Sitting in the car in Augsburg, I saw another example of how Apra got happy at the small things. It started raining, something that people don’t usually get happy about. For Apra, it was the entertainment of the whole car rides from and to the shopping center!

She sat in her car seat and suddenly started laughing loudly, pointing at the windshield. Ramona asked and tried to look outside from her angle to understand what she had seen outside but couldn’t make it out. When Apra had calmed down a bit, she could finally explain, under giggles, what was so funny: her grandpa would wipe away the rain from the windshield but it would immediately all come back dripping onto it!

She looked at Ramona and said ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if every car window had this?’ Ramona told her that only the windshield and the rear window had wipers – which made her turn around and wait for the rear window to do the same!

Again, Apra turned to Ramona and said ‘It would be so funny if every car had those!’ We smiled at her: ‘Every car HAS those!’ and she was completely surprised: ‘Also in India?’ Upon confirming, that cars in India had that, too, and yes, also our car had wipers on the windshield and the rear window, she was overjoyed!

She spent the remaining time looking at the wipers in front and back and the raindrops on her own window. Again, it was so wonderfully exciting for her: ‘OH LOOK! This big raindrop is eating all the others! There! It vanished down here!’

Obviously, she had not seen rain while being in a car in Vrindavan. We don’t have a lot of rain and when it rains, we don’t often happen to be sitting in a car. The rain made this a great car ride and we were just happy to watch her joy over this simple thing.

Visiting Michael and Andrea – great Fun as always! – 15 May 16

We are in Lüneburg right now and, as always, I am overwhelmed with happiness to be here and meet my first German friend, Michael and his wife Andrea. In the past fifteen years, we have experienced a lot together!

I have visited them many times in Lüneburg and they have been at the Ashram several times, too. I have seen their son Ravael grow from the child he was to the tall young man he is now. They have seen my beginnings in Germany, all my change, have been among the first of my friends to meet my wife and were overjoyed with us when we got our little Apra. And now Apra loves reaching their home, too!

It was a beautiful welcome and we went to a great Pizzeria. As restaurant owners, we now obviously go out with another look for food and the atmosphere in a place to eat! Already in Augsburg we have been to a place with a wood fire oven for pizza and yesterday we were at another one. I have to say, food was really great and we loved telling Michael and Andrea everything about the restaurant! Andrea also had something to celebrate – she had just passed her examination for being an alternative practitioner! So we spent a really beautiful evening together.

When we were in Lüneburg half a year ago, we spent a rainy day at the local thermal bath and Apra remembered this very well. On top of that we had, as I had told you, already planned to go swimming in Lüneburg, too. That’s how we went to the swimming pool this morning – and had super much fun with Apra in the water! She enjoyed it so much and she is getting more and more confident in the water!

After our swimming trip, we visited Michael’s mother and for today’s dinner, Andrea’s parents were our guests.

Once more a beautiful time with my first German friends – and tomorrow we will leave towards Erkelenz!

Apra with her German grandparents in Augsburg – 13 May 16

So we are in Augsburg, already packing our suitcases for our journey to Lüneburg, to the North of Germany tomorrow. As expected, it was a short but intense and very nice time with Apra’s German grandparents!

We anyway talk over skype every week, so that Apra gets to see them. This helps – the initial shyness is normal and natural but after that, she can joke with them and be her jolly self. She enjoyed hearing them read books to her and her grandma even baked cookies together with her!

As I already told you, we also wanted to go swimming – especially because Ramona had told Apra that she had always gone for a swim together with Apra’s grandfather when she was a kid. So they walked over to the indoor pool that is really close – but it was closed! The winter season is over – but the summer season has not yet started! The outdoor pool is still closed. And apart from that, the weather was not really friendly or warm enough for going for a swim outside! So instead of searching for another swimming pool, Apra’s grandpa invited her to go into his own, in-house swimming pool – the bathtub! She loved it!

Apra didn’t really mind the weather, anyway. In fact, she really seemed to love the rain! And she very well remembered having built a snowman just a few months before together on her grandfather’s balcony!

Now we are getting ready for tomorrow’s trip and although it was a very short time again, we are happy that we could come!

Shortening our Time in Germany to only two Weeks! – 12 May 16

I already told you yesterday that there were some changes in our plans: usually, I would have needed to get back to the office for foreign registrations in Wiesbaden to pick up my residence card in a few weeks. Due to the big amount of refugees however, they changed their system again and I immediately received a sticker and stamp – which means that I actually don’t need to wait for a card to come!

You can imagine how impatient I have already been getting in the last days: I talk to Yashendu and Purnendu several times a day to get to know what is going on in the restaurant. Our newly opened business, so many things to do and I am in Germany, thousands of kilometers away!

Of course, as I told you before, we are having a great time! We have done shopping for the restaurant and it is the best of times for Apra – but at the same time I feel I could be doing so much more if I was in India!

That’s how, when it was clear that I didn’t need to go to another appointment, we immediately changed plans as well as tickets and dramatically shortened down our tour through Germany! Technically, we could already leave today but we did want to meet at least some friends, even if we couldn’t make it to see all of them, and we wanted Apra to experience Germany.

So instead of staying for a month or even longer, we will be back in India in one week from today! It will be a quick trip, we might get a bit tired in travelling but it is definitely worth it!

Apra and Thomas united again – never tired of having Fun together! – 11 May 16

Today we will leave Wiesbaden and go towards Augsburg, the area where Ramona grew up and where Apra’s German family lives. We had time to truly arrive in Germany – and of course we enjoyed being with Thomas and Iris a lot!

We all loved our time but I think it won’t be wrong to say that especially Apra had a blast! It was a wonderful reunion with our friends at what we call our ‘Wiesbaden Ashram’! Although we are constantly in touch and they know about our restaurant and everything going on there, it is a different feeling to be sitting together and telling it all face to face! To feel their enthusiasm about our venture, to share all our feelings as well – it was amazing!

We had not really made any plans this time but had very full days nevertheless. We talked, went shopping, played with Apra and cooked together. For Apra, it was also particularly great to be back! She has been to at least four different playgrounds in the past days and was overjoyed with all the possibilities there! Due to the fact that she now has a playground practically at home, she is less afraid than before and dares to go on a slide or swing. Nevertheless, there were a lot of new things to explore, to practice and to play with.

More than any equipment, it was the company that brought her joy. Our friend Thomas and Apra together – a team that never gets tired of playing lots of funny games, doing nonsense together and laughing until the belly hurts!

We went swimming together, something which is offered a lot in Germany but very little in India. Obviously, Apra loved it like crazy and we told her we would go to swim in every other city we visited, too.

On Sunday evening we were invited by Pavan and his family, the owners of the ‘Zimt & Koriander’ restaurant in Wiesbaden which has been supporting our children for many years now. They have just been in India and visited us there as well and so it was a very beautiful evening of sharing stories, exchanging experiences and more.

Finally, I had my official appointment for my residence permission – and it went even better than I thought, which now brings a new set of changes… but more about that tomorrow!

Going to Germany with mixed Feelings for the first Time – 5 May 16

I am writing these lines while sitting in an airplane from Delhi to Frankfurt! Of course you will get to read this only later but I already know I want to share our reasons for this journey as well as our feelings with you.

The reason is pretty simple: there is some official paperwork to do which requires my presence in Germany. I need to extend my residence permission. I can tell you, would that not be the case, I would most probably not take this trip right now. Nevertheless, I am happy about our journey, too!

The past weeks, if not months, have been very intense! The time leading up to the opening of our restaurant had been filled with ‘last-minute work’ which had to be done before the real start. Then there was the exciting time of opening, with Babbaji’s knee surgery at the same time and after that the overwhelming response I have been telling you about!

I also told you how much I enjoy this new work and I can seriously tell you that as much as we have been busy with it and as much work as it was, it was also as much fun! That's how we fixed our exact dates and bought our flight all relatively late. We tried to get as many things done beforehand as possible, preparing everything in a way that Purnendu and Yashendu will be able to handle the new and old business without us, too!

We however will have a break from our daily routine with this trip and that, too, I am looking forward, too. It will be so great to see friends and family again and tell everyone of Ammaji’s! Of course they all know and have seen pictures online, but Ramona, Apra and I are looking forward to tell all about it ourselves!

Especially Apra has been looking forward a lot and for several days now! She remembers really many things from the last visits and is excited to do some of them again. She already had friends promise to go swimming with her, planned which pets of friends she would play with and even what she would like to bring back to her Indian brothers!

I tell you, friends, life is great and something to enjoy – there is always something going on!

Our Yoga and Ayurveda Retreats now also for low Budget Travellers! – 3 May 16

With our restaurant in full swing, we have not only worked with all the things surrounding Ammaji’s, but we have also realized that this changes our current business with Yoga and Ayurveda Retreats at the Ashram! Not only because we can now offer our delicious food at Ammaji’s Ayurvedic Restaurant! No, because we can help people realize their dream of travelling to India – even if they are on a low budget!

Yes, obviously the start of our restaurant made us think about how we would like to keep it with our retreats. It was clear from the beginning that guests could eat at the restaurant and enjoy meals there. After all, we eat there as well – and would love to share that experience with new friends, too. At the same time however we thought of those who sometimes ask whether they could reduce the cost of being with us by excluding meals. While we had, until now, always said no, as we were all eating at our home and together, we thought it would now not be a problem to offer this possibility!

That’s how you can now book all our retreats either with or without all meals. Similarly, one can now decide to only stay with us and enjoy the atmosphere at the Ashram – and enjoy separate meals at Ammaji’s whenever one feels like it. Every in-house guest will receive a discount of 10% at our restaurant, too!

We felt really good with this decision and put these changes onto our website. Just a day later, we thought of another kind of inquiry we always use to get: there are a lot of young people travelling on a low budget who would love to join yoga classes or take a retreat with regular Ayurveda massages but could not afford it. We always had the offer for volunteers to work at the computer but now there is a whole new dimension of possible help: we could use a helping hand at the restaurant at all times!

That’s how we now offer a complete new possibility for young volunteers to come and stay: if you are travelling on a low budget, would like to do Yoga and Ayurveda and have thought of offering your work to reduce your cost, you can now take part in one of our retreats, work at the restaurant for six hours and pay only half of the price!

We are already getting the first inquiries for this special offer and I think it will be a great way to exchange help for each other! We are already looking forward to having new helpers here!

The global royal Interests: Money, Fights and Women! – 17 Jan 16

We have another full week behind us and I would like to tell you a little bit about our adventures today!

You probably already know that Apra’s German grandfather was here for a visit. He came at the beginning of the year and stayed until Thursday evening. In this way, he was able to be here for the birthday of his granddaughter, our little Apra. I already told you of that party in last week’s Sunday blog post.

After the whole party was over and we had come back to normal with all the gifts unwrapped and Apra dressed in the beautiful princess dresses she had got, we got ready for another event: we were going to go to Jaipur with my father-in-law! Until this time, he had come so often but had only ever seen some parts of Delhi, the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort in Agra and Vrindavan of course! This time, we wanted to take him out!

We had decided that it would be easiest and¬ best to take the car. It is a drive of four to five hours from Vrindavan to Jaipur and it takes about the same from Jaipur to Delhi where we wanted to drop him off on time for checking in for his flight.

So we started Wednesday morning from Vrindavan and reached Jaipur in midday. After a nice breakfast, we began exploring the city from above, starting with Amber Fort. It was nice to be there again. Ramona and I had spent a few days in Jaipur in 2008 when it is really quite hot. The weather this week was very pleasant and we could enjoy walking through the big Fort with its many beautiful gates, the view onto the surrounding and of course the separate flats for each of the king’s twelve wives! We were joking around, saying that all over the world kings had the same interests: money, fights and women!

For Apra, it was as though a part of the stories that she heard about kings, queens and princesses was becoming reality. She wanted to see where the royal family ate, slept and what they wore. In Amber Fort and in the City Palace of Jaipur, she got to see all of that.

For Ramona’s father, who knows the Bavarian castles of their area well, it was interesting to see how the high families reigned and lived in India – and I think what he liked best was the Jantar Mantar of Jaipur. That is an astronomy monument which uses the shadow that the sun throws on stone to show the exact current time, which zodiac sign a child born this moment belongs to and even the ascendant as well. It was quite interesting and actually much more impressive thinking that this all was built centuries ago!

We returned to Delhi on Thursday and, after a big dinner, dropped my father-in-law at the airport. We said our goodbyes knowing that it wouldn’t be for very long – and with modern technical instruments it is easy to feel much closer to each other!