Monday, 25 August 2014

Some More Birthday Pictures

Although these are not actually "of" my Mum's birthday (I would never get everybody's permission to post pictures of all of us enjoying the speeches, the meal, the champagne on the lawn and the conversation and laughter in between), I took them there and then and decided to show you a bit more of the atmosphere in the palace grounds that evening, after most visitors had gone and only our group was left (plus, of course, the staff at the Park-Café).

This part of the palace ground was of a more formal layout when it was originally designed. It once held what was back then claiming to be one of Europe's biggest opera houses, a wooden structure that was left neglected and eventually demolished when the court moved from Ludwigsburg back to Stuttgart in 1775. According to old maps and plans, it stood where the pond is today.

The way the gardens look nowadays in this part of the grounds is supposed to be more or less how it was done for Charlotte Mathilde, an English princess who married the German duke Friedrich who later became the first king of Wuerttemberg (thanks to a deal with Napoleon - I have written about this before). 

Anyway - the area around the Park-Café is beautiful, and even more so in the evening light when we normally don't get to see it. When the birthday party ended and people were beginning to leave, the only light in the park was the moon. Thankfully, it was nearly full, and no clouds stopped its silvery light from reaching the ground. Only in the shade underneath the trees it was so dark you could hardly see where you went. Most of our guests are not so familiar with the park and needed help in finding their way back to the gates and their cars parked outside, and so my sister and I walked along with some of them. It was a strange, wonderful and mysteriously romantic atmosphere, and my sister was right when she remarked that the two of us had walked these paths countless times all our lives but only now, in our mid-forties, did we see the park at night.

The palace at night. As you can see, everywhere else is pitch black dark.

For me, these moonlit walks just added to the overall effect of a very memorable week.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Guest Post By My Mum: A Great Surprise

The last guest post by my Mum was in February; you can read it here if you missed it. Half a year later, what better reason for a new guest post could there be than her 70th birthday, which we celebrated not just for the one night but for nearly a whole week!

Celebrities always get photographed when they make a speech.

How that festive week started is what my Mum wants to tell you about:

A Great Surprise

As you all learned from Meike's next-to-last post, I turned 70 last week. I really cannot believe this, where did time go so fast?

So we decided to invite friends and relations and celebrate it one evening long. But it was going to be different...

As we have relations in Southern France (Provence), and they don't of course make the journey here only for one night, they were supposed to arrive already on the Sunday afternoon (my birthday was the following Tuesday). I baked an apple-cake (of course with apples from our allotment), and my daughters were expected to join us for coffee and cake.

On that Sunday afternoon, the doorbell rang, I pushed the door-opener and up the stairs came a lady who looked quite familiar to me. I thought: She looks like Bernadette, probably she has come to the neighbour next door. Then she smiled at me, and another person came up the stairs, and it was, I could hardly believe it: Bernadette's  husband, Walter! I finally understood it was really them - my dear angels from down under!!! [The original guest post by my Mum about her friends from Australia is here.]
I called out for my husband, he hurried to the door because he thought something bad had happened, but by that time my daughters had also arrived at the top of the stairs and I finally welcomed everybody in.

What a surprise! I never, never thought they would come, all the long way from Australia (about 34 hours all in all), so I hugged and kissed them very intensively.

The relations from France arrived later, we opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate this great event. And so the whole week went on, meals, coffees, sightseeing, shopping, most of it with or by my dear daughters. Bernadette and Walter left on Saturday for another week in France, the Black Forest and at last Frankfurt Airport.

The photos of Tuesday evening from my birthday party at the Park-Café you can see here on Meike's post. We also had friends from Berlin and other far away places in Germany, but Bernie and Wal were top of the list!

I have to thank my girls for having organized everything, after this week of celebration I really felt like a celebrity! I also thank Meike's blog readers who sent congratulations and wishes for me as comments in her next-to-last post.

And last but not least, deeply out of my heart I thank all the good powers that be, which have been safe-guarding and protecting me for all my long and mostly wonderful life.

- - - End of guest post - - -

That really was something! My sister and I had known since November of Bernadette's and Walter's intention to be here for the birthday, and believe me - it wasn't easy to keep it a secret! The hotel where they took a room is a place we sometimes go to for family meals, and so we had to speak to them, too, so that nobody would accidentally mention the guests from Australia to my parents. Also, the Park-Café people needed telling, and I instructed them not to mention the two extra guests when my mother would be in touch about the food, the flowers or anything else.
The surprise worked out very well, and we spent a happy and eventful week with friends and family. I was sad to see them go but hope they will be here again in a few years' time.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Read in 2014 - 29: Midsomer Murders - The Making of an English Crime Classic

Written by Jeff Evans, a true fan of the series, this „Making of“ covers many different aspects of Midsomer Murders and includes a foreword by John Nettles as well as an episode guide for the first 23 episodes.

Although I have not (yet) read any of Caroline Graham’s Inspector Barnaby novels, I found it interesting to read about how – and why – the characters in the TV series partly differ from those in the books. Also, the way a story may work very well in paper but will require some tweaking for a successful transfer to a totally different medium (such as TV) is explained. The process of evolution from the first draft of a script to the finished episode is described, and if anyone has ever doubted the amount of work and effort going into each and every minute we later see on telly, they will understand a lot more after having read this book.

Details matter a lot; for instance, finding the right location can be a big challenge, and every little thing needs checking thoroughly. For example, the name of a fictitious surgeon in an episode must not correspond to any real-life counterpart of the same – or even just similar – name in the area.
While the episode guide will not be the most interesting read for everyone, it provides some background information about the impressive list of guest actors with little snippets of filming memories that I found quite entertaining.

Of course, since the book was published in 2002, long before some major changes occurred (Barnaby’s sergeant was replaced twice; eventually, Barnaby himself retired and was replaced by his “cousin”, who in turn has recently been assigned a new sergeant; Barnaby’s daughter marries, and so on), it seems strange now to read some of the statements that sound as if the main cast was set in stone. But that is natural with a series as long-going as Midsomer Murders, and does not take away from the pleasure of this book.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Have I got you humming that funky song now? (Kay, I just know you won't be able to get it out of your head now for a while, he he)
It fits the topic of this post so well, because we have had a great week of celebrating my Mum's 70th birthday. Yes, nearly a whole week! Us mere mortals usually have a party lasting a few hours at best, but my Mum is one very special lady and so she had a fully deserved week of it.
For the past years, we usually had her birthday party at the allotment, as you can see here. But for her 70th, my sister and I insisted on something a bit classier, with less work for her to do; something where she would be able to go nicely dressed up, and then just relax and enjoy her party. Two years ago, my Dad had his 70th birthday "do" in a restaurant (you can read about that here if you like), but we wanted something else this time, a place where we'd be able to enjoy the outdoors as well, weather permitting.

After much deliberation and comparing many different offers from various places, we settled on the café in the palace grounds. Have a look at the venue (fittingly called Parkcafé), isn't it beautiful?

Entrance to the Yellow Salon, which we had to ourselves:

 The beautiful fresco on the ceiling: 

Because the weather turned out to be the nicest it would be all week (how lucky we were!), champagne was served on the lawn in front of the building. Later, we went inside for two speeches - one by my Mum and one by her good friend, my Godmother - and our most delicious meal. Have you eaten yet? If not, how about some mouth-watering pictures:

Sorry - I forgot to take a picture of the first course, which was a huge mound of all kinds of summery goodness in the shape of a leafy salad, surrounded by shrimps. The desserts were Panna Cotta, Crème Brûlée, Mousse au Chocolat and the fruitiest of fruity sorbets I have ever tasted: the raspberry one was pure raspberry, the minty one pure spearmint, and so on. I went to the dessert table twice, although I had been full up already after the first and main course!

But let me get back to what happened during the days leading up to the big event. Or, better still: let me end this post here, and tell you more about it in my next post. Maybe I'll manage to talk my Mum into writing a guest post, there is plenty to tell!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Germany's Smallest Town

Many years ago (from 1986 to 1988, to be precise), along with about 50 other girls (and a handful boys) I attended Librarian School in a small town in the Black Forest, Calw. It was a great time; we learned lots and had even more fun, and I am still in touch with a few of my former class mates. Five years or so ago, three of us started to meet up again once or twice a year. We have been back to Calw and revisited some of our old haunts. The first time back there felt very strange; it was a mixture of nostalgia and relief. Now we’ve been back a few times, and focus more on the friendship we have now than on reminiscing. (I have written about last year's meeting here.) 

On the first Saturday in August, we met again. This time, we went a little further afield, to a village a few miles from Calw, where we had been on several afternoon trips during our time at Librarian School.

Zavelstein is only the size of a village, but it has been holding town rights for centuries by some quirk in history. It is very picturesque, as you will see from my photos.

Its main feature is the ruin of an old castle, crumbling walls of red sandstone and a high tower to climb up and enjoy spectacular views from. Originally built around the year 1200, the castle saw several changes of ownership and the political unrest of nearly five centuries before it was destroyed by French troops in 1692. It was left ruined and never again rebuilt. By now, the town wasn’t important enough anymore; there was no strategical need for a castle in that place any longer. Until the mid-1970s, when communal administration was widely reformed in Baden-Württemberg, Zavelstein was Germany’s smallest town – no other place with so few inhabitants had town rights.

The houses along the main road show the typical style of the area, and we were pleased to see everything so well cared for. Every house and garden was spic & span, and every person we spoke to was friendly. 
Still, we were unlucky in that the entire village (there are only about 700 inhabitants, so I rather call it a village than a town) was taken over by a wedding. One family in the village owns the hotel, a wine restaurant and a café, and it was their son and heir getting married on that Saturday. We hardly found a space for the car, and there were people in wedding party clothes everywhere, plus an entourage of photographers, caterers and other service people swarming around. It wasn’t easy to take pictures without dozens of people on them, but I succeeded in taking the ones you can see here.

More important than getting people-less pictures was finding something to eat and drink! It was way past lunchtime when we finally managed to find a venue where we could not only sit down, but also expect to be served – the hotel, café and restaurant “downtown” were bursting at the seams, and we were told (in a manner that could have been more polite) that there was no way they’d be able to serve anyone who was not part of the wedding party. 
A friendly elderly couple pointed us towards the “Wanderheim”, an inn a mile or so outside the village, at the rim of the forest. The plum cake I had was excellent, the way my Mum would make it, and a sizeable piece, too – not the tiny “model” portions you get in the inner-city cafés of Ludwigsburg! Only when we left the Wanderheim did we see the notice by the door that from 6.00 pm onwards, the house would be closed to anyone not part of the wedding party… And as we were walking back towards the car, the first guests were beginning to arrive, and the newlyweds passed us in an old sky-blue VW Beetle with a beautiful garland of roses strung across the front.

We drove the short distance to Calw, walked around the town as we usually do when we are there, and eventually sat down in a street café on the still sunny high street. It was busy, but there wasn’t anyone looking as if they had just been to a wedding! Altogether, it had been a lovely day, and we are already planning our next meeting – possibly in December, visiting the Christmas Market in one of the girls’ hometown.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

I'm Walking

Well, not today, not that much anyway. Today all I'll be doing on foot will be the short distance from my house to my parents' place, where the first guests for my Mum's upcoming birthday will be arriving this afternoon from the south of France.

But I did go on a good long walk on the first Sunday in July. I was on my own that weekend, it was very hot, and I knew I needn't ask anyone else whether they felt like joining me; at temperatures of 30 Celsius and more, most people are reasonable enough to keep cool somewhere at home or in their gardens.

I meant to walk all the way to the "Grüner Heiner", covering a distance of about 12 km (one way). Taking a bottle of water and something to eat with me (and of course, my mobile phone for emergencies, and my camera), I left at around 11.00 in the morning.

Part of my route pretty much covered the same route as "The Longest Walk", which you can find here for comparison. The hen was rustling about on her own along the path next to a farm; I am quite sure she wasn't meant to be there, but there did not seem to be any immediate danger coming her way, so I just stopped for a chat and a photo and then walked on.

The nursery never ceases to fascinate me with its strange "architecture" and unusual vistas:

Some wildflowers - not sure whether they are the result of the farmer not using as many chemicals on his fields anymore, or purposely sown there to give his farm and its produce a "greener" image, but they look very pretty; the pictures don't really do them justice. And the first pumpkins!

Isn't it strange how strong winds and thunderstorms affect fields? How come the fields are flattened at exactly that spot, and nowhere else?

From here, I had the first good view of the "Grüner Heiner", the hill with the windmill on top you can see in the distance:

The next stage of my walk was to take me through the woods. I'd been there before (by bike), but it was years ago, and while I knew the general direction I'd have to take, I had no idea which of the paths criss-crossing the wood was going to be the right one for me. So I simply walked in and let my feet decide which way they wanted to go.

I hardly met anybody; as I said, it was above 30 Celsius (and lunch time on a Sunday). There were only a few people walking their dogs, a family on bikes and an elderly couple walking in the woods hand in hand.

It was 1.00 o'clock by now, and I was ready for a break. Coming out of the woods at the other end, I found this bench where I rested a while and ate my sandwich and tomato.

From behind the fence along the path, I could see the "Grüner Heiner" again - and realized that it was still rather far, and I did not really know how to proceed from here.

With the contents of my water bottle rapidly dwindling and my food all gone, I dediced to be reasonable for once, and give up my original plan. Instead, I explored a slightly different route for my way back, one I had not walked before.

At this point, my new route joined the old route again; the wood in the background is the same one I walked through earlier:

Can you see the bus stop? This is about half way home now. It is the only spot during the entire walk where I have to cross a normal road open to all traffic:

Past the nursery again - I couldn't resist to take one more picture:

Nearly 4 hours and about 16 km later, I was back home. It had been a good walk, nothing too strenuous for this kind of weather, although I was slightly disappointed with myself for not having reached my original goal. I simply had under estimated the importance of preparing well; I had been sure of remembering the right path once I would be out there. I have not given up on my plan of walking all the way to the hill with the windmill, though, so - watch this space!