Thursday 22 May 2014

The Tallest Church Spire in the World

After my first course week in Ulm, I told you about the Minster, which has - according to wikipedia and other sources - the tallest church spire in the world (something I still find hard to believe).

On my Tuesday evening walk during the second week at the course, I had a good view of the Minster. And finally, on the Saturday, I had enough time between the end of class and my train home to actually go there and climb the more than 700 steps to the very top, which lies at an impressive 161 m (or 530 ft).

I left my luggage in a locker at the station and walked across the busy pedestrian area (it was Saturday early afternoon, the busiest time of the week, with the market still going on) to the Minster.

There are occasions for a brief rest to catch one's breath from all the climbing (or to let people on their way down get past you), the first one being not that high up yet. I took the following picture from the first level above the ground.
Further up I went, coming round the tower to the other side with a first view across the roof.

 A bit further up, and I saw the roof in its entire length.

Higher and higher, and you meet some strange creatures on the way (apart from the tourists, who sometimes are quite strange in their own ways).

The river you see here is the Danube. It divides Ulm into two cities, Ulm and Neu-Ulm ("new Ulm"). One side of the river is Baden-W├╝rttemberg, the other side is Bavaria.

 More strange creatures:

 Nearly there now! From this level, there is only one further leg of the journey to the top.

To get there, you have to climb up inside this "needle". It is very narrow, and there is only a very small space for people to stand and look. I did not take any pictures from there but went down again to make room for the next person.

A last good look at some of the gargoyles, and a peek at the bells. It is difficult to tell how big they actually are with nothing to compare them to, but believe me, they are huge.

This was the first time I've been up on the spire in about 20 years, and I am really glad I took the opportunity. It was a great way to end the week.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Read in 2014 - 18: Invisible

Sometime last year, while I was on one of my frequent hunts for free ebooks on Amazon's kindle shop, I came across this book and downloaded it, getting around to reading it only now.

"Invisible" is listed as "A Christian Mystery" - something I was not aware of when I downloaded it -, but it is not too much "in your face" about religion as to put you off the whole thing. Instead, her faith is simply part of the heroine's life, and it is very credible how her going to church and having the occasional religious discussion with a friend are woven into the story.

Ivy Malone is an elderly widow who finds she has to do something about the vandalism at a nearby country cemetery, since nobody else seems to be able - or willing - to. She has recently discovered that, to most shop assistants, people on the street etc., she has become as good as invisible; nobody notices a little old lady in unassuming clothes. While this bothers her at first, she soon learns to use this "invisibility" to her advantage.

What starts out as her only trying to find out who the vandals are and handing their license plate numbers over to the police for further action, develops into a full-blown murder inquiry, during which several people lose their lives, and Ivy herself gets into mortal danger, too.

I enjoyed this mystery a lot - you can, if you are so inclined, read it without taking much note of the religious elements in it - because the characters are so well described, and the way they talk and act is rather realistic most of the time. 

Ivy herself is great, and the way she feels about getting older, her friendship with her closest neighbour, and the other people that are part of the cast for this story, is so well written. She is quirky enough (she sees faces in the oddly shaped vegetables she tries to grow in her garden) without being over the top. She is not "too good to be true", but not completely dysfunctional like so many modern detectives, either.

Less than half way through the book, I guessed at the true culprit behind the vandalism and how it was connected with the murder of a young woman, but the full extent of what had been going on is only uncovered as Ivy herself finds it all out.

There are tnree more Ivy Malone mysteries, according to the author's website, and I'll look for them on Amazon.

Monday 19 May 2014

Friday Evening Walk

Although I went for a walk every evening after class, I did not take any pictures on the Wednesday and Thursday. During the days, it was often raining and quite chilly, but thankfully, by the time class was over, the rain had stopped and I could go out.
On either Wednesday or Thursday I took a shortcut across a field to the supermarket to stock up on snacks, and frightened a hare that had been quietly sitting there. I had not seen the hare until it dashed across the grass from me, and of course it was way too fast for me to have a chance at a picture.

As mentioned in this post, Friday was the hardest day of the week, but also turned out to be the day with the most interesting walk of the week.

I started out in the opposite direction than usual and quickly arrived at a part of the woods where I had not been going any further until now than just the first line of trees. This time, I went straight ahead on the path.

After a short stretch, the path came out on the other side of the woods, leading to a sunny field framed by more woods. Not a single person was in sight.

 I had to step carefully to avoid treading on someone's house!

Past the rapeseed field in full bloom, the path led further on, back into the woods. I never knew what I was going to find behind the next bend, and all I could hear was birdsong and the faint noise of cars on the road that I had crossed at the start of my walk.

Someone had obviously been here before me!

From a distance, I could hear church bells and the bleating of sheep. I followed the sound and came across this sign on a tree. Do you know what it stands for?
It indicates that this path is part of El Camino de Santiago, or St. James's Way, Jakobsweg in German. In case you are not familiar with any of these terms, simply read what it's all about on wikipedia. I am not Catholic, or belong to any organized religion, but I liked the idea of walking, at least for a little bit, along a path that means so much to many people, and has been travelled on for centuries.

From the end of the woods, I could see the village where the sound of church bells had come from. I had already been walking for quite a while, and needed to go back to the  hotel the same way, preferably before darkness (no street lights in the woods!), so I decided not to walk over to the village. But I definitely want to go there next time I'll be here, which is scheduled for the end of June.
Zooming in (or trying to!) on the sheep. There were many lambs.

Returning, I took one last picture of the rapeseed field, and went straight back to the hotel. I was quite ready for something to eat now, and my head felt much better than when I had come out of class.

Friday 16 May 2014

Tuesday Evening Walk

After my walk on Monday evening last week (see two posts back), on Tuesday morning at breakfast I mentioned to my class mates (nearly all of us were staying at the same hotel, since it is so close to where the course takes places) that I intended to go for another walk after today's end of lessons. One of them asked whether he could come along, and of course I said yes; although I am quite happy on my own, it is also nice to have company. 

It was a warm, muggy day, with the light not being ideal for photos, but I took them all the same. We started out on a path through the woods, which I found very beautiful.

Then we decided to try a path I had seen during my regular walks but not yet followed. If you look at the Monday pictures, the last two of the first batch of photos show a meadow full of flowers and a line of trees at the back. That line of trees is where we walked on Tuesday.

It gave us a great view across Ulm, with the Minster taking centre stage.

We didn't walk into town, but turned round where the path began to lead downhill.

From there on, most of where we walked was between or behind the campus buildings of Ulm university, before we reached the semi-industrial estate with our hotel again. Even at this relatively late hour (around 8.00 pm), a surprising amount of people were still on campus. Because of the people and also because most of the buildings aren't very nice to look at, I didn't take any pictures during that last leg of our walk.

Altogether, we were out for about 2 hours. I was now ready for something to eat, and then going over today's lessons again.