Monday 27 November 2017

The Palace At Dark

The beautiful palace of my home town has featured many times on my blog already. For (outside and inside) pictures and information, simply click on the label "Ludwigsburg" (red arrow in the screenshot) or type "Ludwigsburg palace" (or just "palace", or "Ludwigsburg") in the search box (blue arrow).

I've known it well from early childhood, and when I was a little girl, I often fantasised about hiding somewhere during a guided tour (the state rooms are only accessible with tours, while some others have been turned into museums where one can wander more or less freely) and then come out at night to explore the palace on my own.
What never featured in my daydreams was that a) of course my parents would never allow me to lurk behind while on a guided tour, and b) the tour guides usually unlock and lock doors for their groups at regular intervals - so my radius of exploring would have been very limited anyway, if I had managed to stay behind in the first place, which is highly unlikely.

Still, the desire to be inside those wonderful rooms after regular hours remained, and last week, that is just what we did!

My parents, my sister and I joined a special "after dark" tour. The aim was to show people what it used to be like at the time when the palace was a busy place where up to 1,800 servants worked (and most of them lived), plus the duke (and later king) with his family and guests (and their servants).

Electricity arrived at the state rooms rather late, and until today, there is no proper heating except for in office or museum rooms.
Our tour guide was an elderly gentleman, a retired electrician. He told us that from Day One of his apprenticeship in April 1953, he worked at the palace, and it has not let him go even now in his retirement. You could tell there was a man who loved his subject, and was very well able to transmit this to the group.

We walked through 28 rooms, big and small ones, servants' quarters as well as the throne rooms, all by the dim light of yellowish bulbs mimicking candle light. (No real candles were lit - too dangerous!).

Our guide explained that they knew from old documents how many candles were used on average; household accounts were meticulously kept in places like this. For everyday use, tallow candles were standard. They did not burn very brightly but were comparatively cheap and easy to come by. For festive occasions, white candles were in order. Only in churches and palaces would you find white candles, and even then, only for special occasions. They were made of a substance gained from whales, and of course there are no whales anywhere near Ludwigsburg - whale hunting was dangerous, and its products had to travel far and were very expensive accordingly.

From the old documents, they knew just how many candles were lit in, say, the stately dining room for a big dinner, and how many were allowed in the servants' quarters. In closely controlled tests, they lit exactly the number of white or tallow candles, and measured the brightness of light in each instance. Now you all know that the measure for brightness is lux.

Wikipedia (and our tour guide) tells us how many lux the average living rooms have nowadays, with our electric lamps: around 70, and 80 in an average kitchen. Offices are more or less standardly lit at 500 lux, and sales rooms at 1,000 (I am not kidding you).
Now what do you think the festive lighting at the palace managed to produce, lux-wise?
20! No more than that. And in the servants' rooms and everywhere else apart from the most important rooms? 2 (in words: two!) lux.

He showed us how little light that is by turning off most of the bulbs (which, by the way, are kitchen oven bulbs - those were the only ones matching their criteria, and they found that out after extensively testing nearly 20 different light sources). Believe me, it was VERY little light. After dark in those days, anything that involved seeing properly, such as cleaning, mending, reading, writing or needlework, simply could not be done. No wonder people went to bed early, and rose early, too, to make use of as much daylight as possible!

It was a fascinating glimpse (!) into the "good old times" (which weren't all that good, as we all know), and we enjoyed the tour very much.

My sister took the photos with her mobile phone, and I have her kind permission to show them here.

Saturday 25 November 2017

Read in 2017 - 37: Sailing Alone Around the World

Joshua Slocum: Sailing Alone Around the World
In 2012 (is it really that long ago?!) my dear blogging friend Kay posted about this book. You can read her review here.

The topic of reading and books features regularly on my and many other blogs, and like most of my long-term readers, Kay knows that I really enjoy good non-fiction reading. Earlier this year, she sent me "Sailing Alone Around the World" by Joshua Slocum - and it took me until last week to finish it. Why so long? For one thing, it has a rather small print, and my eyes are struggling with that at night, so I often to do not read at all at night, even when I would like to. Also, I had several other books on my TBR pile before I started on "Sailing Alone". And last but not least, I found it a little challenging to get into the whole sailing jargon (remember: English is not my native tongue).

But I did read it all, and appreciated the humour Kay mentions in her review. I also found it interesting to learn a thing or two about how travelling was organised back in 1895, when Captain Joshua Slocum set off on his voyage around the world - all alone on a slope named Spray
He tells the reader about the places he visits, the way each harbour works just a little differently; some taking their rules stricter than others, for instance when it comes to giving a new arrival a clean bill of health before allowing them to go ashore. 
There are many accounts of the people he meets during the three years it took him to complete the voyage, sometimes staying for days, weeks or even months in one place. Some encounters are funny, others dangerous, but of course the reader already knows that Slocum survives, as he would not have been able to write the book otherwise.
The same is true for the storms and other severe weather conditions that are part of the voyage.

In one instance, he expresses his gratitude for having all the "mod cons" (of course he does not use those words) on board his ship and would not have wanted to travel the seas a century earlier - and for us, reading his book, it is the same: I would not want to swap with him, alone on a small wooden vessel with no electricity, no hot shower, toilet, or fridge - and no internet...!

So, thank you, Kay, for having me sent this book. It took me much longer to finish than I expected, but I am glad I stubbornly stuck with it :-)

Monday 20 November 2017

Some More Autumn Colours

November 1st is a holiday in Germany, All Saints. This year, it fell on a Wednesday, and the day was sunny and bright.
O.K. and I went for a short drive to Lahr, less than 15 km from the village. Lahr is a town with around 45,000 inhabitants. It has a picturesque historical old town centre and is well worth a visit. O.K. knows it well, but somehow we had not been there yet together.

We knew there was an event going on, the Chrysanthema. It is a festival dedicated to - you guessed it - the chrysanthemum. This beautiful flower comes in all colours and various sizes, and we enjoyed the beautiful (and sometimes funny) displays around town centre. I only took a few pictures with my phone, as there were so many people about.

In fact, it was so packed, we did not stay all that long, just had a quick stroll through the main streets in the centre before heading back home. But the colours were so beautiful that even those few pictures deserve sharing, I think:

It probably was especially packed because a) it was the 20th anniversary of the festival, b) it was a holiday so that everybody had time and c) the weather was gorgeous. You can see many more photos on the official website here if you like.

Later that afternoon, we went out for another walk near the village to catch the last rays of sun, now that sunset comes earlier and earlier every day. And we did, as you can see:

This was taken a few minutes before 5:00 pm. Three hours after that, O.K. took me to the train station and I was on my way home, reaching my flat at about 20 minutes to 11 pm. I'd been away since Saturday morning and had really enjoyed those 5 days at O.K.'s.

I know November is the least favourite month for many people, and I would have enough reason to feel the same, what with Steve's death having happened in that month. But November was off to such a beautiful start on its first day, and there have been other good and happy times in the first half, that there is no need (and it does not make sense anyway) for brooding over the past or "disliking" an entire month.

Friday 17 November 2017

Some Autumn Colours

October was mostly a good month here with plenty of sunshine and little rain. The pictures in this post were all taken with my phone, and therefore are a bit of a mix, not all from the same day or situation, but I still wanted to share them with you.

October 2, early afternoon near O.K.'s village:

October 12, 7:45 on my way to work, on the footbridge at Ludwigsburg's railway station. This beautiful sunrise was a lot more impressive in reality, but I guess you'll get the idea:

October 14, hiking with O.K. between vineyards and the Black Forest, starting at around 4:00 pm:

As you can tell, it was a long hike - a little longer than planned, but I enjoyed every minute of it! The next picture was taken just after 7:00 pm:

It was really dark by the time we reached the car again. This is the view towards Offenburg from where we were walking, at 8:00 pm:

 October 17, at around 6:30 pm, walking home from work across the fields:

October 30, just after lunch, back at O.K.'s:

You have already seen some of these (or very similar) views on my blog, but they are never exactly the same, and I just can't get enough of them.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Read in 2017 - 36: Agatha Raisin and the Witches' Tree

Agatha Raisin and the Witches' Tree
M.C. Beaton

My Mum and I are both fans of this series, and so its 28th volume was a "must" for us. As soon as my Mum had ordered and received the book, she gave it to me to read first; I put other books I was reading aside for it and made sure my Mum did not have to wait too long until I'd finish and she could read it, too.
With all that, I completely forgot to write a review and post it here!
So, actually, this is not in strict order of reading, but the total number is still correct.

Before this new book, our last literary encounter with Agatha Raisin took place in October 2016. What I wrote then was partly true once again:

It took me a while to get re-acquainted with M.C. Beaton's storytelling pace and unfrilly style. But soon I was fully immersed in Agatha's world again.
We meet Agatha mostly true to her old form: wondering about her relationship with Charles Fraith, dealing with the frustration of dead ends and red herrings in her murder investigation, and coming across a set of characters often turning out to be somewhat different from what she first thought (men including).
Of course, as in all her stories, she has a romantic interest, but unlike in the earlier books, she sees through him and loses interest rather quickly. In another new character, she makes a friend, and that was someone I really liked; I was afraid the new friend was going to turn out to be the culprit. I am not going to tell you any more about this, though, as I do not want to spoil it for you, in case you want to read the book yourself.

Something I noticed - and I wonder if other readers felt the same - was a slight shift in the way Agatha is portrayed.
Before, she always used to be reliably grumpy, and her looks were described consistently as having good legs and glossy brown hair, but fighting a constant battle against an expanding waistline, and trying very hard to please (by her looks) whoever she had a romantic interest in.
Now that Agatha Raisin has made the transition to a successful TV series, where she is very different from what I imagined her by reading the books, I find that maybe M.C. Beaton is trying to gradually adapt her literary heroine to the image of the TV character.
No mention of brown hair anymore (the TV actress is blonde), but instead we frequently read about her good figure and attractive curves (both true for the TV actress).
They are only very small instants and nuances; not much to really put my finger on, but I wonder whether we are slowly going to see a different Agatha Raisin emerge, one that is more like the TV character and less like the old familiar one from the pages.

Anyway, it was a fun read!

Monday 13 November 2017

Old and New Favourites

My last fashion post is a long time ago - the last time I posted anything clothes-related at all was more than four months ago! Does this mean I have all of a sudden become less shallow? I'm afraid not. I still really like clothes, and can not resist getting something new every now and then.

Have I bragged about the yellow dress (my third!) I bought earlier this year? I can not remember! Anyway, here it is; it was still warm enough for wearing it in September, and it is good enough to be worn at the office and elsewhere:

My latest acquisitions are two knit dresses*. I love knit dresses! These two only differ in colour, as you can see. They are a mix of cashmere, viscose and some other fibres; very, very suft and really lovely on the skin, cosily warm without making you sweat, and I love how simple they are. The fawn one I have already had in the washing machine; no problem at all. That's the advantage of the mix - a 100 % cashmere one would not have been so forgiving.

Winter has not yet fully begun, but it is already cold enough for me to wear gloves and a coat. Right now, I very much like my warm woolly things. But I know I will reach the point where I won't want to see any more woolly things - usually some time in February or early March. Until then- happy late autumn and early winter to all of you!

*Guess where I found them, and what I paid!

Saturday 11 November 2017

Read in 2017- 35: The Fairyland of Science

The Fairyland of Science 
Arabella Burton Buckley 

To summarise this book, let me quote you from its introduction: 
"Most of you probably look upon science as a bundle of dry facts, while fairy-land is all that is beautiful, and full of poetry and imagination. But I thoroughly believe myself, and hope to prove to you, that science is full of beautiful pictures, of real poetry, and of wonder-working fairies; and what is more, I promise you they shall be true fairies, whom you will love just as much when you are old and grayheaded as when you are young". 

I have mentioned before that I very much like to alternate my reading between fiction and non-fiction. Especially after an overly sweet romance, I need something more substantial, just as I do not want to live exclusively on chocolate, but enjoy a good bacon buttie or crackers with cheese very much. 

This book was a mixture of both - it was sweet in parts, but substantial enough. Aimed at a young audience and first published in 1879, it basically is a collection of lectures given by the author herself. 
There are 10 lectures, divided into "weeks", which makes me believe they were really held from one week to the next. The lectures seem to have taken place in London, and some of their contents are very England-centered. 

In the wikipedia entry about the author it says that the book "puts her views of science in a children's book setting, much like a mother educating her child." 
To give you an idea of the lectures, some of their titles are "Sunbeams, and the Work They Do", "A Drop of Water on its Travels" and "The Life of a Primrose". 
Experiments were part of most lectures and are described well enough to imagine them being performed in front of you by a Victorian lady in a classroom with wooden desks, equipped with quills and inkpots. 
I am not sure whether this is Arabella Buckley, but this picture came up when I googled her, and in relation with correspondentans of Charles Darwin.

Arabella Buckley lived from 1840 to 1929. She had an unusual life for a woman of those days; first, because she worked with a scientist as his secretary and assistant (by no means a typical occupation back then) and second, because she married at the age of 44 - which in those days was considered rather old. Through her work for Charles Lyell, she was also acquainted with Charles Darwin and exchanged many letters with him. 

I enjoyed reading this book, always keeping in mind the time it was written in, and who it was written for.

Thursday 9 November 2017

Wrapping Up

...our September holiday, that is. Yes, I know, it is November already, and October was a very busy month. Which is why I am somewhat behind with posting, but as I so often comment on other blogs when their owners apologise for long gaps, blogging should be a pleasure and not a burden. If you don't have the time or inclination, simply don't post - there will be another day when you have both.

Here are a few more pictures from Zurich and the Black Forest, plus a video which I hope you will be able to see. It sort of "stutters" when I try to play it, but maybe it is different on your computers. All pictures and the video are courtesy of O.K.

Zurich panoramas:

You have seen those rocky walls in my posts about Wutach gorge before, but now you can see how large those rocks were compared to a person:

Well, that's our September holiday finally wrapped up!