Tuesday 30 June 2020

Pictures of June

A beautiful month with a healthy mix of sun and rain, that was June for me. 
After-work walk on June 8, on the fields near Ludwigsburg
Near O.K.'s village, also on June 8

It was also the month when many of the lockdown rules in this country were lifted. For instance, we are now allowed to have private gatherings of up to 20 people, no matter from how many different households they come. As good as all shops and restaurants are open again, and many have returned to their work places after a period of furlough or working from home.
For my part, I have still been working exclusively from home, but tomorrow - July 1st - I have my first on-site appointment with a client since mid-March.

Ludwigsburg palace grounds, June 19
Deer park, Ludwigsburg, the same day

In town, things look and feel almost "normal". 
There are still markings on shop floors to show customers how far away from each other they have to queue at checkout, and wearing masks inside shops and on public transport is still mandatory. But the number of people going about their business in town is as high as "before", and road traffic is completely back to normal, if not more - some of those who were using public transport before prefer their own cars now.

Black Forest, June 20

From some of the blogs I regularly read I learn how different things are in other countries. I am still not sure whether lifting most of the restrictions here has been such a good idea; we have hot spots and massive outbreaks in some parts of the country, and it makes me feel uncomfortable when there are many people around, especially if they carelessly do not wear masks and walk past or stand closer than they should.

But away from the crowded areas, it is beautiful, and I really have enjoyed this month a lot - especially as there was some extra time with two Bank Holidays (on the 1st and on the 11th of this month). It would have also been the month of my annual Yorkshire holiday, but of course, travelling like that was (and still is) completely off the cards. 

After a period of quietness, with walks my only after-work-activity, I have begun meeting friends again; one to one as well as in small groups. Last week, I had some appointment or other every day after work - just like before. I am not sure I want this busy life back; at least not just yet. This week is quieter again, and I try not to allow my diary to fill up with as much "out and about" things as before.

What was June like for you?

Friday 26 June 2020

Read in 2020 - 14: Die Zwölf vom Dachboden

Die Zwölf vom Dachboden
Pauline Clarke

I remember having seen this book many times at the school library when I was a kid, but it never interested me enough to borrow and read it. What's different now?
Recently, I have been reading a biographical novel about the Bronte family and watched a matching DVD; my reviews for both are here. And in April, during this walk with my sister, I came across the book quite by chance, and of course couldn't leave it there.

It is the German translation of the book "The Twelve and the Genii" by Pauline Clarke, an English author who died in 2013. 
First published in 1962, it tells the story of the twelve toy soldiers the Bronte siblings owned and which sparked their literary efforts. The four children made up an entire fantasy world for their soldiers, giving them individual names and character traits, and wrote miniature books and magazines for them, detailing their history and adventures. 
For them, the soldiers were real people and very much alive, and that is what happens when 8-year-old Oliver* finds them in the attic of the old farmhouse in Yorkshire where he has just moved with his family.

At first, the tiny wooden men come alive only for Oliver. He does not know about their origin, but then he learns more and more about the Bronte family from nearby Haworth, and does not doubt that these are indeed the soldiers that once belonged to the siblings.

When an American professor offers a lot of money and wants to take them to the USA, Oliver knows he has to act - the soldiers' home is the parsonage in Haworth, and that's where they should be.

This is a children's book and the story was easy enough to guess at from the start, but it was a nice read although I was not too keen on the descriptions of the soldiers' parading up and down the attic and their aggressive thirst for military adventures. Still, I enjoyed it, and do not consider the 2 € I spent on the book a waste.

I guess this will be the last of my Bronte-related reading for a while; there are two new books on my TBR pile waiting for me, on very different subjects.

* Max in the English original - I wonder why his name was translated; Max is a perfeclty good name in German, too.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Hahn & Henne

Hahn & Henne is German for cock & hen, meaning really just that - the male and female of the species. It is also the brand name of a type of tableware originating from the small Black Forest town of Zell. The pattern is over 100 years old and still going strong. You can see pictures and learn more about it here. (The company have translated it as "Rooster and Hen" - I wonder why!) I remember we had a few pieces at home when I was a kid, and I think my parents still have the large coffee mug.

Zell is about half an hour's drive from O.K.'s village. On Friday, the 12th of May, we both had the day off; Thursday, the 11th (Ascension) was a Bank Holiday, and for us a good opportunity to turn it into a long weekend of four days that we could spend together.

The day was sunny and hot, 28 C (82 F), so a woodland walk/hike was a good idea. We decided to start from Zell and walk the Hahn & Henne route. Yes, there is a walk/hike/circuit named after the famous tableware, spanning about 14 km and taking in beautiful views across the Black Forest. Some bits are rather steep, but most of the time, the path is pleasant - and well signposted throughout!

There are many benches and other signs along the path to remind the walker that this is indeed the Hahn & Henne circuit:

Beautiful meadows, close to where we stopped to have our packed lunch:

The building below is called Vogt auf Mühlstein, a farm/guest house/restaurant that has been catering for the needs of walkers, hikers, cyclists and busloads of tourists for about a 100 years. In itself, the place is much older; first mention of a homestead here dates back to the year 712. Much of the building today is from around 1774.
A chapel (unfortunately behind the trees in my picture) was built next to the house in 1903. The door was open, and I took this picture of the sun painted on the ceiling and the words on the wall: Lobsinget dem Herrn ihr Berge und Täler, meaning "Praise the Lord, you mountains and valleys".

I was fascinated by the moss-covered old roof of one of the outbuildings:

The place was brimming with visitors, now that restaurants etc. are allowed to be open again - too many for our liking, and so we merely bought two bottles of shandy to drink on a bench in the shade and then walked on.

At one point, we spotted the castle we went to on our longest hike back in May; it is visible in the distance between the two trees:

You can see it better zoomed in:

As we were obviously not the only people to have taken that particular Friday off and had the idea to do the Hahn & Henne circuit, there were many other walkers and cyclists about. But there were still parts of the route where we were on our own and had only the sound of birdsong for company. 

Back home in time for coffee and cake on the balcony and later a delicious BBQ for just the two of us rounded up this perfect early summer's day.

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Closer To Home

On Sunday, the 7th of June, we chose a hike from a book my sister had given O.K. as a present two years or so ago. The book contains suggestions for beautiful tours around my area, but nearly all of them involve a car journey to get to the starting point. 
Most of the weekends that we spend at my place, I try to avoid us using O.K.'s car, as he already drives 300 km altogether to get here and back. But I longed for a nice walk/hike, and between two suggestions relatively close to home, we chose one that would take us through the Stromberg, an area of woodland and hills about half an hour's drive from Ludwigsburg.

With vineyards, woods and fields, the area looks similar to O.K.'s, but this is not the Black Forest, and the hills in the distance are not France - we are too far East to see our neighbouring country from here.

A "geological window" with information boards tells the visitor about the various layers of rock this area is formed of. It is not a former quarry but a landslide that happened naturally, a long time ago:

This small structure is called "Altertum". It was built of natural field stones, deliberately made to look rustic, in the early 1800s when the then King of Württemberg came to this area in the summer for hunting. He would sit inside this shelter, gun ready, while his servants would chase deer and other game in his direction - all he had to do was shoot. What a great sport hunting is, especially when it is done that way... :-(

Can you spot the church on the hill? This is Michaelsberg (Michael's Mount), the main attraction of the tour from the book: 

A little closer:

Steep steps leading up to it - I had to catch my breath at the top before we could walk the rest of the way to the church: 

Views from Michaelsberg across the town of Cleebronn and the area called Zabergäu: 

St. Michael's:

There were peregrine falcons in the tower window to the left; I couldn't get a decent picture of them, but we observed them for a while.

Back home, the view from my kitchen window (note the branches of the cherry tree!) was rather spectacular with the evening light against the grey backdrop: 

The description in the book was a little unclear at times, and the signposts not always where we would have needed them. After two wrong turns - eventually ending up on the originally intended path - we clocked up 22 km instead of the 15 described in the book! Not that the extra kilometers mattered; we always roughly knew where we were and how to get back to the car, but it certainly was more adventurous than expected :-)

Tuesday 16 June 2020

First Hike in June

Of course, after the last hike in May, a first hike in June had to follow, didn't it!

The 1st of June, a Monday, was a Bank Holiday here (Pentecost). It was a proper summer's day at 28 C (82 F), and we knew we wanted to go once more somewhere that would feel a little cooler: The Black Forest.

Quite by coincidence, we repeated in part the first hike of this year; this time, without getting up on the tower itself. There were simply too many people about, and we were lucky to find a place to sit on the plateau around the tower to eat our sandwiches. We had been prepared for lots of other walkers, hikers and cyclists, and I find I can handle crowds much better when I expect them AND have a chance to get away.

Luckily, the Black Forest is large enough to accomodate more than a few visitors, and since everyone walks or cycles at their own pace, we still had parts of our 11 km circuit where there were just the two of us.

By mid-afternoon, we were back at O.K.'s cottage, and after coffees and cake on the balcony there was still enough time for a steak and salad later before he took me to the station to catch my trains home.

The first week of June then turned out to be a rather mixed bag weather-wise: 
Tuesday was still warm and sunny; I went to see my parents after work and then for a walk with my sister. 
Wednesday started sunny, too, but then a thunderstorm brought temperatures down for the rest of the week. I finally rang and spoke to Mary, my mother-in-law in Yorkshire, after many weeks. She is 86 now and has been wisely self-isolating as recommended. As she is quite happy with her own company, her cat, her books and her garden, she's coping well. But of course it is a shame that we can not see each other this year; my sister and I were originally scheduled to be in Ripon from the 20th to the 30th of this month, but we won't attempt a trip to the UK before next year.

Picked straight from my kitchen window!
My sister-in-law's cat.
On Thursday, I woke up with a headache bad enough to keep me in bed all day. I drifted in and out of sleep and felt rather sorry for myself and only got up at around 6:00 pm. Good job such days are very, very rare for me. I blame the sudden change of weather combined with a very busy period at work.

By Friday, I was perfectly alright again, and able to finish work early enough to go for another walk with my sister, this time to the palace grounds.

O.K. arrived later that evening to spend the weekend here. After a chilly and wet Saturday, Sunday was great walking/hiking weather again - more about that in my next post.

I find June to be the most fragrant month in my area. Roses, privet hedges, elder flower,  freshly cut grass - it all combines to an intricately woven tapestry of scents. Simply wonderful.