Sunday, 22 July 2018

Built On Sand

...and of sand, too: The sculptures at the "International Sand Sculpture Festival" that is currently being held at Ludwigsburg's palace grounds.

I have showed you pictures of last year's sand sculptures here. This year, I came across them quite by chance when O.K. and I walked through the park last weekend (see previous post).

Not all of the sculptures meet my personal taste (and I took photos of only two sculptures), but they were all done with artistic talent and craftsmanship, something I always admire.

Have a look:

This sculpture has made 1st place in the festival. According to the information (picture below), it was made by Australian artist Kevin Crawford. He explains his sculpture as picking up on the 300th anniversary of Ludwigsburg as a town by opening up a story book at the chapter "Ludwigsburg". The buildings emerging from the pages are a (fictitious) combination of houses around the market square and the (real) palace. While I am not too fond of the little girl (?) with the huge eyes and almost non-existing nose, I love the open book and the buildings on it.


The following pictures are all of the same sculpture. They show Ludwigsburg's landmark buildings and are done so well and with much attention to detail. The sculpture was not made by one artist alone, but by most of the participating artists together. That in itself is an achievement!


I will try and show you the real building to compare with its sandy model. Above, you see the small palace by the lake, Monrepos (yes, Kay, it is the one with the hearts on the facade, as shown in my previous post). The real thing looks like this:


The church in the picture below is supposed to be the protestant church on Ludwigsburg's market square:


Not the best picture, but I think you can tell it is meant to be this building if you look at this post.

Next is, of course, the south view of Ludwigsburg's palace itself:


Compare it with the real palace:


The church in the picture below is the Catholic church on our market square. I have not found any photos of my own of it, so I am linking to the church's own website here instead of nicking their photo.


Did you love making sandcastles as a kid? I did, but mine never turned out to be as impressive as the ideas I had in my head!

The finished sculptures are sprayed with a mix of water and glue to maintain their form even if it should rain on them. Of course, they can withstand the weather (and visitors!) only for a while, but for now, they are there to be admired.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Another Park, Another Stroll

Last Saturday, my family met for a picnic by the lake. It was a beautiful day, not too hot, but warm enough to spend all day outside. My cousin and her youngest son were here from France for a short holiday, and the picnic was a good occasion for all of us to meet.

After the food and drink and a boat ride (you can rent rowing and pedal boats for half an hour or an hour), the party broke up. O.K. and I helped the others to carry their things to the cars, then we walked home - just not the direct way.
Instead, we took a long, pleasant detour through first the deer park and then the palace grounds.

This first picture is of the small palace by the lake. Sometimes concerts are held in there, and it can be rented for weddings. I spotted the hearts decoration on the wall, and although I am no fan of adding something like that to a historical building (it is beautiful enough on its own), I knew I wanted to show this to my friend Kay:
 

In the deer park. You've seen it before on my blog. The game keeper's is one of my sister's favourite houses in Ludwigsburg, so this picture is for her:
 

Stopping for a shandy. Well chilled and very refreshing!


Palace grounds again, but in a different part than what you saw in my previous post:




An (almost) naked lady on the roof? Well, it was all in the name of art, you know!
 


This last picture was taken while we were sitting in deck chairs that the kind people who look after the palace have set up in the inner courtyard. It was already 6:30 pm, and not many visitors were around anymore. There was a family with children playing football. I sat in that deck chair, resting for a few minutes, looking at the palace and watching the little boy running after his ball, and I was once more grateful for living today.
When the palace was built and for the next two-and-a-half centuries after, it would have been unthinkable for a common little boy to play ball in the inner courtyard, or for common people like O.K. and myself to rest in a deck chair, enjoying the beauty of the summer evening and of the building in front of us.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

A Leisurely Stroll

You already know that I visit Ludwigsburg's palace grounds often, and never find it boring. Earlier this week, I posted a review of a book (click two posts back if you want to know more) set right there in the park.

One of my longest-going friends (we've known each other from school since we were about ten years old) lives not far away from one of my clients' offices, and as I worked there on Thursday, we arranged for me to walk over to her place after work and then go for a walk in the palace grounds together.

It was a lovely evening, not too hot but still sunny and pleasantly warm. The soft late afternoon / evening light is so beautiful on the park, its flowers and buildings. We were the last visitors to the fairytale garden, which is inside the park but closes its gates earlier than the rest of the park. I apologize for not having taken any pictures of the fairytale scenes; In my opinion, they simply do not offer themselves very well for photos and would not come across as nice as they are in reality.





I was home just ater 7:00 pm; enough time to do the ironing and make myself something to eat to sit down with for the main evening news on TV.

My friend and I agreed that we should do this more often, as there is nothing like a leisurely stroll in the park and chat with a friend to clear your mind after an intense day at the office.

Read in 2018 - 10: Bubblegum Smoothie

Bubblegum Smoothie
A Blake Dent Mystery
by Ryan Casey

Another free ebook from Amazon's Kindle shop, this one could not be more different from my previous read (see one post back).

Not only because I was back for my usual reading language English after a brief German interlude, but also because of the whole setting, story, style - everything, really.

Blake Dent officially runs a smoothie stall in Preston, a not very attractive sounding town in England (I wonder if the real Preston in Lancashire is meant).
He comes up with overly creative concoctions, such as the name-giving Bugglegum Smoothie, which results not only in some of his customers developing severe allergic reactions but also in his smoothie stall being closed down by the authorities.

Good job then that just at that time, he has an offer to work again at his other, not official job as a bounty hunter for the police.

Only the lure of the large sum promised (inofficially, of course) makes him agree, and also the fact that he really does not have much of a choice because a dark spot in his past threatens to resurface.

With the help of his friend Martha (formerly Martin), Blake catches the sadistic murderer just before he can complete his plan of killing two more people after the five lives he has already taken.

Blake's methods are as unconventional as his life: in his mid-thirties (I think), people expect him to "settle down", when all he is interested in is buying more of the latest models of TVs, mobile phones, tablet PCs and other gadgets.

During the investigation (which puts Blake himself and Martha in danger, too) his priorities slowly start to shift. Since this is the first book of a series, I expect that some of the loose threads here will be picked up again and developed further in the next books.

I did not like Blake as a person all that much, but he had charm and I certainly wanted to know how and when he was going to solve the case. Also, the change of perspective (chapters written from Blake's point of view alternating with the murderer's) was well done, and the author managed to keep tension up until the end.

The sadistic murders are described without going into too much gorey detail - although they make for hard reading and I usually don't like this when I want to read just for entertainment on a train ride or at night. Still, with the characters well fleshed out and the story being interesting enough, I liked this book. Maybe not enough to actively look for more of the series, but certainly not minding if I should happen to come across another (free) one.

Learn more about the author and his books here, if you like.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Read in 2018 - 9: Nachts im Park ist alles anders

Nachts im Park ist alles anders
Mona Jeuk

This was an easy read, aimed at children from about 10, and one I really enjoyed - mainly because of where the story is set: The palace grounds of my hometown.

Ludwigsburg has extensive and beautiful palace grounds which I have regularly been visiting since I was a baby; you have seen them often featured on my blog.
(For more, you can click on the label "Ludwigsburg" in the upper part of this page, or put "palace grounds" in the search box in the top left corner.)
As I got older and started to walk and talk, of course the Märchengarten ("garden of fairytales") became the most attractive part for me.
There, as if by magic, the characters and places I knew from the story books read to me by my parents and grandparents came alive. By the time I went to school, I often dreamt of sneaking into the park  at night and checking on the fairytale scenes there.

The book I am actually trying to review here tells exactly that story: At night, the park comes alive.
Some of the fairytale characters, dummies during the day, are living, breathing, thinking creatures at night. They are a bit scary, like their story character demands.
In the end, a man (a real human being) loses his life, and others are in danger until an old puzzle can be solved and the figures turn into lifeless dummies again.

This is cleverly put against the background of a growing-up story: Young Ludwig and his little sister have lost their parents in a car accident. They live with their grandma, but the elderly woman has serious health problems which prevent her from taking proper care of the siblings.
Social Services threaten to separate them from grandma and each other, and to avoid this, Ludwig hatches a plan: One night, he manages to bring his small family into the park just
across the road from where they live. In an old gardener's house (the house really exists, like all the other places mentioned in the book), they set up their new living quarters, well hidden from the prying eyes of Social Services and nosy neighbours.

But as they become more and more aware of strange goings-on in the park at night, with each passing day and week they spend in hiding, the situation becomes more dangerous.
For the reader, tension remains until the end, even though quite a few developments are rather foreseeable (it is a children's book after all).
Who will "get to" Ludwig, Matti and their grandma first - Social Services, the police or the out-of-control fairytale characters?

As I said, I really enjoyed this book mainly because of its setting and because it picked up my own imagination as a child. Without the link to a place I have known so well all my life it probably would not have interested me at all.
But the author does a good job of keeping the story going, and telling dramatic events without them being too scary for children. This was (of course) a free download at the Kindle shop.


The author (who was completely unknown to me) is only one year older than I. She grew up in another town near Stuttgart and often came to visit Ludwigsburg and its fairytale garden during her childhood and youth. She now lives in a small town within walking distance and has written several children's books set at places of interest in our region.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Last Night and Last Weekend

If you know me only a little bit through my blog, you know at least one thing: I am not a big follower of sports events. In fact, I hardly ever watch any sports on TV - with one exception: A match here and there during football world championships such as the one currently underway. The only matches I watch (and definitely not each and every one of them) are when Germany or England play. Since Germany are out (and fully deserved it, too), I am cheering for England. Last Wednesday, watching the match was disappointing and boring. Last night, it was a different story - anything but boring! I watched together with my sister at her place:


Early on in the match, we became fed up with the goings-on: fouls left, right and center, each followed by endless "discussions" between players and the referree. Speaking of the latter, he seemed unable to establish the authority his role commands; the "boys" seemed to be doing as they pleased, like a very rumbunctious crowd of rowdy school boys at play time when they know exactly that the only teacher watching them is the one who never really carries out any punishment.

Anyway, the match went on, and finally, we had a goal. Then the other team scored, and with no more goals during the 2 x 15 minutes (I was so ready to go home and to bed, it was well past 10:00 pm by then), what we dreaded happened: Penalty shootout! Oh our nerves... I am not kidding you when I tell you that my sister had to leave the room when it was England's turn to make the decisive strike. Well, we all know how it ended, and I was finally on my way home and in bed about half an hour later.

Phew!

Now for the weekend, which was one of the most beautiful summer weekends we have had so far this year: Really warm (around 30 Celsius), but not muggy or humid, just clear blue skies. I was at O.K.'s and we had a family BBQ on his parents' allotment, with all delicious food and drink, and of course each other's company, to enjoy.

The evening light was beautiful, and shortly before 8:00 pm, I went for a little walk "around the block" (actually, around the patch of woods near the allotment, and back through vineyards and orchards). It is the same route O.K. and I often use for our Sunday morning runs, but this time, I was not running. Instead, I was taking photos:





Back at the allotment, we were sitting there for another half hour or so, watching the sunset. At some point, those of us with mobile phones got up to take pictures of the sunset. Mine are like a time line, taken within minutes of each other until it became too dark:







We packed up and went home, sated with good food and beautiful views. 

As we were standing there, admiring the sunset, it occurred to me how nice it is to know that nearly everyone appreciates those colours and the special light of a sunset; no matter how many we have seen in our lives, we can not seem to get enough of them. This is something we as humans have all in common. A comforting thought to return to when I despair of my fellow humans and their inexplicably mean actions.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Horse Market Parade: Special Moments

This is - I promise! - the last post about the Horse Market parade (at least for this year). Throughout the event, there were special moments which I have tried (more or less successfully) to capture on camera.
See what you make of them!

This first one is the symbol for the entire event "Pferdemarkt" (horse market), not just the parade. It involves a fairground with rides and stalls, a trader's market with everything from hair brushes to instant soup to aprons to novelty toys and kitchen devices, a show ground where various performances of horses and riders can be watched, prize-giving ceremonies for horses, pony riding for children, and - yes, actually - the possibility to buy and sell horses.

The painted horse statue stood in the courtyard of Ludwigsburg palace for a long time. It was stolen or damaged, I can't quite remember which, and a new one was made which you can see here; it looks exactly like the old one:



The next special moment  was one you could also call a typical special Meike moment... because I almost missed it completely simply because I was telling O.K. a story I had told him at least once before and stood with my back to the road... how daft can one be! Well, I can, and therefore I only caught the last of this pack of dogs that were part of a group of riders all dressed as if for a traditional fox chase. 
Until they arrived at the place close to where we were standing, the group had been marching along at the usual parade pace. Then they deliberately paused to create a gap between themselves and the previous group. When the gap was big enough, they made the horses and dogs run - it was pretty impressive, and I could really kick myself for having been so daft to almost miss it! 
(Don't get me wrong; I am absolutely against cruel "sports" like fox hunting and so on. But the sight of a group of neatly turned out riders, polished horses and well trained dogs is something else, and in this case, there was no poor animal involved as their prey.)



This Venetian gondola, complete with gondoliere and a couple in Venetian carnival costumes, was to emphasize the old tradition of Ludwigsburg having a "Venetian Fair" every two years, installed by our Duke Carl Eugen in 1768 - precisely 200 years before my birth :-)
What made this moment extra special was that the couple on board the gondola were singing opera arias at the top of their lungs - and they could sing!



Now here is another group representing a special link from Ludwigsburg's past - a group of "Russian" soldiers. I did talk a bit about our link to Russia here.



This carriage carried a sign informing us that it was an old English mail coach:



The old flag of Wuerttemberg, my home state:



A group wearing costumes based on uniforms from the late 1600s, carrying flags which they later threw in the air to the sound of the drums marching behind them; it looked a lot better in real life than what I can show here with static pictures:






The next special moment is one that I could have just as well placed in the "groups" post, among the "Ludwigsburg international" groups. These people are part of the parade every year; they represent the "Happy Sliders". There still exists a German-American Friendship Club, installed at the time when many Americans were living in Ludwigsburg (the years from just after WWII until the early 1990s, when the American Military base here was dissolved and the military people and their family living in our American suburb Pattonville all left and went back to the US). The group promote square dance and really dance along the route of the parade - no mean feat on such a hot day!







This horse sculpture was created entirely out of old horse shoes, by people who live and work at Ludwigsburg's village-sized facility for the mentally and physically handicapped:



The very last group to end the parade were of a more "artsy" nature than all the others:









Yep, that's it - the Horse Market parade done for another year! I hope you enjoyed these "special moments".