Sunday, 26 April 2015

Where We Went Last Sunday - The Village

From the majestic pear tree (see last picture of last post) we walked up the hill on a path that wasn't exactly a road, but we wanted to enter the village from the back and not on its main road.

Here are our first glimpses:
A strange collection of wooden poles, old rooftiles and... an upturned tombstone, of all things. Very unexpected!

This friendly little fellow spent a few minutes with us, letting me stroke him or her (I didn't check) and getting my hands all dusty from the earth it kept itself rolling on. In Germany, three-coloured cats are called "Gl├╝ckskatze" ("Lucky Cat") not necessarily because they themselves are luckier than other cats, but because they are believed to bring luck. It's rubbish, of course, but I still like the term Gl├╝ckskatze.

This was the building the cat had come out of. It almost looks like a piece of art, as if the plant growing from its brick wall was put there deliberately. A fascinating example of how nature gets where nature wants, if left undisturbed.

It was now about 1:00 pm and we had been walking for about an hour. Breakfast was hours ago and so we had a short rest on this bench, eating our savoury biscuits and some chocolate and drinking water. Friendly people with bikes and dogs passed us, and as you do in such instances, greetings were exchanged (never happens in town, does it).

We were ready then to explore the village. There wasn't much to explore - it's a handful of houses, and I'm afraid we were rather disappointed - not by the size (because we'd of course seen its size from afar and knew it was really more a hamlet than a village), but by its looks and condition.

Really only a few buildings were as handsome as the ones you can see here; old, traditional barns with their timberwork, large gates and sturdy stone foundations.

There was a general air of shabbiness about the place, a bit sad to look at. Many houses had been either built or renovated during the 1960s and 70s, and it showed - the style of those decades simply does not look so good in the countryside, and you could tell that nothing had been done to those houses ever since. A select few houses had been built or renovated recently and looked new, neat and clean, with solar panels on the roofs and decoration around their front doors making it obvious that here was a young generation leaving their mark on the village, but even those houses somehow lacked character.

Does anyone know what this tree is? Not even my Mum was sure, and she is usually very good at trees' and flowers' names.

We were soon finished with our exploration of the place. Leaving the village, we both agreed on that we still wanted to walk on and not return to the allotment already. Instead, we walked down the hill again and on towards the woods.

Nearly at the same time last year, I posted about spring in the woods; there is something so wonderful about the atmosphere in the woods at that time of year.

But we weren't there yet. First, I had to be daft and have my Mum take pictures of me:

We entered the woods from this path, going slightly uphill. It was wonderful! The ground was covered in anemones, but they had their petals half closed, as if it were already evening, in spite of it being maybe 2:00 pm.

This one is for Kay :-)

The last stretch of road back to the allotment felt the longest... We had been walking for three hours, and were ready for coffee and home baked muffins with my Dad.

It was a good day, and I know more of the same (or similar) will follow.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Where We Went Last Sunday

Last Sunday, it wasn't overly warm (there was actually quite a chilly wind blowing), but it was sunny and dry, and so seemed ideal for a nice long walk with my Mum.

This time, instead of walking our familiar route from Marbach to my parents' allotment (you've seen that walk several times on my blog already), we joined my Dad when he drove there, and set off for our walk from the allotment.

You have seen some of the places where I took pictures before, and so have I; but the gardens, woods and fields never look the same. Weather, seasons, time of day, light, growth, people, animals - it is all in a continuous state of change, and therefore, never boring (at least not to me!).

First of all, here are some pictures I took at the allotment:

Just like in my recent post with pictures from the palace gardens, the forget-me-nots do not appear nearly as beautiful as they are in reality. Believe me, they were much bluer! I put this down to my lack of skill in taking professionally good pictures. Maybe I need a forget-me-not-filter on my camera :-)

The tadpoles are for you, Frances! They are toads, not frogs, by the way. I saw Mama (or Papa) Toad resting at the edge of the pond on my previous visit, but didn't take a picture.

Leaving the allotment, the first part of our route was very familiar:

See the village over there? So far, I've never walked there, only ever admired it from afar. There are several pictures of it on my blog, for instance here.

Now we were approaching my favourite spot, the grassy path I've been on about more than once. Much to my relief, it was still like I remembered it, and the strangely unfinished-looking construction work leading from the road towards the path remains as it was. It does not look as if there is anything more going to happen.

Once we arrived at the other end of the grassy path, instead of taking to the left, we took to the right - for the first time ever. This was our original plan, we wanted to see where that road leads, and how nice a walk we would find there.

It was at this point where we decided to turn right and walk to the village we've seen so often from the road leading away from the allotment.
If you've been following the number of right bends we've taken, you will have worked out that by this time, we were actually moving back towards starting point - only on a parallel route.

The edge of the forest visible on the picture below is where "my" grassy path is:

I could hardly believe it when I saw close-up how the rapeseed fiels are in bloom already! This was the 19th of April, after all.

Another week or two, and this plantation of apple trees will be all covered in beautiful white-pink blossoms:

Almost there! Behind these trees is the village. The beautiful tree in the picture on the right is a pear tree.

Well, I think this post has already become very long, and I suspect some of you have given up by now and gone to do other things. So, let me show you the village and where we went next in tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Read in 2015 - 15: Dr. Space

"Dr. Space" is a nickname that was given to Dr. Wernher von Braun, the German-born rocket scientist whose work was crucial in allowing the US to reach their goal of a manned moon landing within the decade of the 1960s, as set by President Kennedy in his memorable speech of 1962.

"Dr. Space" is also the title of a biography about von Braun; a book I very much wanted and received as a birthday gift back in March from my sister.

The author, Bob Ward, knew von Braun personally through work: he was a young journalist assigned to cover space flight topics for his newspaper, and von Braun took him under his wings, teaching him what he needed to know about the physics of space flight in order to get his facts right.

Wernher von Braun was/is a controversial figure, and I am aware of what has been said and written against him as well as for him. Therefore, what I really like about this biography is that the author does not take sides. Instead, he collects whatever information he can gather about his subject, presenting it chronologically and in a manner neutrally enough for the reader to form his or her own opinion - as good, professional journalism should do.

Bob Ward knew and interviewed personally many of the people who worked closely with von Braun, many of them being also close personal friends, not just colleagues. He does not quote or cite anyone without a reference; there is a long list of source material in the book.

Also, there are two appendixes: one "Letter on Goddard Patents" and the other "Letter on Moral Responsibility in Hitler's Germany".

Let me share two quotes from the book with you:
"[The Saturn V rocket was] a machine the size of a cathedarl built to the tolerances of a microscope."

"He preached individual responsibility and absolute perfection of product , having learned the hard way in the rocket and satellite business that near perfection is the equivalent of disaster."
I have read many books and seen many documentaries about von Braun, and as he died in 1977 (so that nothing "new" could have happened recently), I did not expect great surprises. But I did indeed learn several new facts about von Braun's life, his work and his family. This is a book that will go on the "space shelf" of the book case in my bedroom (see this post for details), and I am very probably going to read it again at some stage.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

A Bird In Love

During our walk last Sunday (see previous post for pictures), my sister and I came across a bird we were not able to identify instantly. It was about the size of a magpie:

The next day, Monday, I was working from home and spent my lunchbreak at my parents'. I told my Mum about the unknown bird, and she let me have a look for it in one of her reference books. After a few moments, it was obvious that what we had seen was a Wacholderdrossel (fieldfare; Turdus pilaris). A good example of how books are still very helpful in those instances where I wouldn't have known what to look for on the internet!

Still on that Sunday walk, we witnessed a love drama of the avian kind:

There is a large, walk-through aviary in the palace grounds. Among many other species of birds (such as ibis - once a sacred bird in Ancient Egypt -, flamingo and various exotic ducks), a small group of white storks (Ciconia ciconia) live there. 
For centuries, white storks were common in Germany, especially in rural areas. But along with the draining of wetlands, renovating old farm houses and generally destroying of natural habitat, they have become more and more rare, especially in our heavily industrialized part of the country.
Imagine our surprise when we suddenly saw a large bird fly above us - and it was definitely not a heron (we get to see those relatively often). My sister said it was a stork, and she was right. I was of course way too slow with the camera, but we hoped he'd be back.

And sure enough, as we kept walking, we saw him again. This time, we managed to follow where he was going, and spotted him high up on the roof of the aviary, where he had built a nest.
...he was on his own, and started the typical behaviour of a stork calling his or her partner to the nest. Only that his partner was unable to follow the alluring call of this attractive male, who had so nicely set up a nest for their future family: Miss Stork, the object of his love, lives inside the aviary. She can't get out and he can't get in.

I felt (and still do feel) so sorry for this unhappy couple, destined to never be together, always separated by the mesh of the aviary!

When I told RJ on the phone later that evening, he suggested I send the palace grounds administration an email. Maybe they could get the wild stork in somehow, or they could let Miss Stork out - she wouldn't go far, with the nest being right there on top of the aviary. 
But I guess the people who take care of the birds know of the drama already, and maybe they have been thinking about what can be done to solve the problem. Then again - maybe they won't do anything about it, hoping the stork in love will eventually give up and find another nice lady stork, one who is free to follow him to whereever he chooses to build his next home.

From what I have read about storks, I know they are monogamously, but not necessarily with the same partner for life. They do try, though, to stick to the same nesting place for many years. So, who knows how and if this drama will be solved.