Monday 31 May 2021

Half Time

It is half time for me - two weeks since I have been back from my May holiday at O.K.'s, and another two weeks to work before the first eye OP on June 15 (the second is four weeks later, on July 13).

As always, easing back into the daily routine of getting up early and spending the day at my desk with a more or less tight schedule of virtual meetings to work through, with tasks to work on before and after each meeting, was a mix of "it feels as if I've never been away" and "I want to keep the relaxed mindset from my holidays a while longer" - I am sure you all know that to some extent.

Right on my first day back at work (Monday, May 17), I was scheduled for an appointment with my eye doctor, which meant taking time out of work to get to Stuttgart and back on top of it all - not exactly convenient, but necessary. There is one more appointment waiting before my operation: meeting the anaesthesist. That is going to happen the week after next, a few days before the OP. 

I wish I could report that I have also an appointment for my first Covid jab, but the situation here is unchanged; far too little vaccine for far too many who want to be vaccinated. I keep trying, but there are others who really need it much more than I do, and I am not in a panic to get that jab at all cost.

During that first week back, I had something lined up after work three evenings in a row and was glad when Friday came round and I had the evening to myself. O.K. had a very busy week, too, and worked long on Friday so that he decided to come to my place on Saturday. That weekend was very pleasant with more sun than what we'd seen all week, several walks and a family meal at my parents' on Sunday evening.

Thursday (May 20), a quick and drizzly after-work walk with my sister

Saturday (May 22), on the fields just after 5:00 pm

Monday (May 24), at the former royal horse stables

Wednesday (May 26), Azalea spotted during an after-work walk

Thursday (May 27), just before sunset

Saturday (May 29), Castle Hohenasperg

Same time, same place, the view across Asperg towards Ludwigsburg

A few hours later, resting on the grass

Yesterday (May 30), a few minutes to sunset

The following week (we're talking about last week now) saw me visiting my biggest client at their office for the first time this year. I spent several hours there, some of the time on my own at "my" office, but the largest part of the afternoon with two others dotted around a very big meeting room and two more joining us online. While it was actually good to be at the office for a change, the train trips to and from work were as chaotic as ever. This made me once more glad that I can work from home most of the time! 

We had a sunny weekend at my place with good long walks both Satuday and Sunday. It is finally warmer, and of course everybody was out and about; too many cyclists fighting for space (and usually winning against pedestrians) on the paths around my town, but I understand their desire to enjoy fresh air and sunshine. After all, that is exactly what we wanted, too, only that I would avoid certain paths by bike on a sunny Sunday afternoon; it is not much fun riding your bike when you have to swerve around groups of people all the time. And with a bit of consideration from both sides, it should be possible for all to have a good time.

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Back Home

On Friday, the 14th of May, O.K. went back to work and I took the morning train home. It was the same train I usually take on a Monday morning after a weekend at O.K.'s, and so I had this "Monday morning" feeling for much of the day, even though I was not working. I am sure you all know what that is like - something you normally do on a certain day of the week happens on a different day, but you keep thinking (or it keeps feeling) like that usual certain day, and you have to remind yourself of what day it actually is.

Anyway, both trains were almost empty and punctual on the dot, so that I was home at 9:30 am. Before I started to unpack, I first checked on the mini garden my sister had planted for me as a birthday present. My downstairs neighbour had been taking care of my plants and my mail, and I was happy to see that the flowers were in great condition.

My sister knew I was coming home that day, and we had been talking about getting together for a longer walk than what we regularly do after work. So, 1 1/2 hours after I had arrived home, I was back at the train station, meeting up with her. We took a local train into Stuttgart and a tram to a part of the city where I had never been before. That is, by the way, not unusual for me - even though I have lived almost all my life close to Stuttgart, there are many areas where I would not find my way around without looking at a map, and where I have never been before.

Stuttgart is the capital of the federal state where I live (Baden-Württemberg). It is much bigger than my hometown; Ludwigsburg has about 90,000 inhabitants, while Stuttgart has around 635,000. As a teenager, I often went to the big city with my friends, doing what teenagers like to do - shopping (for clothes and music), hanging out with our friends, or at night for clubbing. Later, my trips there became few and far between, and now are mostly limited to seeing my eye doctor or (in pre-Covid times) for special occasions such as a concert, theatre, the opera or ballet. O.K. and I have a favourite shop where we like to browse and also stop for a meal, but of course it has been shut for months like everything else.

Anyway, on that day we were not looking for shops but wanted to walk a circuit I had come across on a blog I regularly read.

It is around a small nature reserve at the edge of the city, one of many green areas dotted around Stuttgart. Again, the weather was so unsettled we wore our rain jackets (and needed them!).

The first part of the circuit was through woodland, very beautiful and filled with birdsong against city traffic humming in the background.

We could never forget how close to the city (actually within the city's boundaries) we still were, but somehow that had its very own aesthetic quality.

It was not a very long walk, but we enjoyed it and it certainly was different! Also, the plan had never been to be out all day, as I had only just arrived back home and needed to get a few things done such as food shopping, washing etc. It was definitely a nice way to start the last weekend before going back to work.

Friday 21 May 2021

A Long Walk

At about 18 km, the longest walk or hike we went on during this year's May holiday was a lot shorter than the 30+-kilometer walk of last year. It took us to a place I first visited in June 2016, a few months after O.K. and I got to know each other. You can read about it here. It was also our first hike in 2020, and I could have sworn we've been back once more since then, but there was no entry about it in my diary and nothing on my blog, so I must have dreamt it!

Anyway, there we were on Wednesday, the 12th of May, starting from the same parking space O.K. likes to use for this particular walk.

The weather was no surprise and no different from what most of the previous few weeks had been like, a fast-changing mix of clouds and sunrays, with the odd shower to be expected (but not reaching us this time).

Even if it is not very steep, the long uphill stretch (5.5 km) from the parking lot to the tower (Moosturm) had me wanting a rest before climbing the steep spiral staircase inside the tower.

As it was a weekday, we met few other people along the way, and there was nobody around the tower when we arrived on top of the hill, giving us free choice of where we wanted to unpack our sandwiches. We chose the shelter you can see to the left in this top-down view from the tower.

The clouds made for some interesting shadow-and-light effects on the landscape around us. As before, my mobile phone thought we were in France and sent me a message "Welcome to France", when in fact it is about 25 km from there to the border.

Our next stop was the monument for storm Lothar. It is always a popular spot for cyclists and walkers, and today was no exception with a few small groups and single hikers there.

We decided on a different route back to the car, walking past a place with a shelter called Hilseneck (sometimes spelled Hylseneck) and the Kornebene, a guest house run by the Friends of Nature, a Germany-wide association. Of course, like all other places, both houses were shut. It felt strange walking around them, the atmosphere was a mix of feeling abandoned and anticipating their re-opening.

The "Ebener Weg", literally "flat (or even) path", was really that - very comfortable to walk, but seemingly never ending. Every time we expected to find the Kornebene around the next bend, another stretch followed - I didn't mind the length, but admittedly, it was still nice to get back to the car eventually.

After coffee and a brief rest at home, we paid a quick visit to a friend to hand over his birthday present. For our evening meal, we had delicious pasta with arrabiata sauce and pesto, both very nice. There was only one day left to our holiday together, as O.K. was working on Friday and I was going home that day.

Wednesday 19 May 2021

A Wilderness Walk

When I say wilderness walk, I refer more to the name of the circuit we walked on Monday, the 10th of May, than on us actually walking in the wilderness.

As I have mentioned before, the area where O.K. lives is framed by the river Rhine on one side and the Black Forest on the other. The region is called Ortenau and you can read a brief summary about it in English here on wikipedia.

While the majority of our walks and hikes take us to the Black Forest, on that Monday we wanted to try something different. Sunday, the 9th, had been an extremely hot and sunny day - 30 Celsius (86 F), with the days immediately before and after being much cooler and rainy. O.K.'s sister had told us about a "wilderness path" down by the river where she and her husband had been not long ago, and which could naturally be rather muddy. After the hot Sunday, we expected it to be dry, and so we drove the 20 minutes or so to where the circuit starts.

A one-way system is in place at the circuit, making sure people won't get in each other's way. At the entrance, this measuring board shows whether the path is walkable or not. As you can see, the water level was low enough that day to walk without getting wet feet.

There are a few spots like this, designed for people to take a rest, watch and listen and maybe have a picnic, dotted along the path. So much for it being a "wilderness"!

I liked the look of this little shelter! We didn't need it that day, and since the entire circuit is only about 2.5 km long, resting wasn't necessary and we had not brought our rucksacks with water bottles and sandwiches.

The whole idea of the circuit is to provide families with a mix of fun and information, make them learn about wildlife and what a (more or less) natural enviroment needs. To offer some fun for the kids (and older kids, too), there are a few adventure playground bits included, such as this rope swing which I had to try, of course!

As it was a Monday, and the weather as unsettled as it had been almost every day, there were not many other people about, but we did encounter a few families and other small groups of walkers. I know that I would have absolutely loved this place as a kid - my parents would have had a hard time making me leave!

The circuit being so short left us with enough time to so some food shopping and spend the rest of the day quietly at home, reading, resting, and later cooking a nice dinner of green asparagus and potatoes. It had started to rain again just as we were leaving anyway, so we were not missing out on any great walking opportunities.

What a difference to the day before - that hot Sunday had been like a dream of summer, with us having coffee on the balcony first thing in the morning for the first time this year, as well as our first barbeque of the year in the evening. I am sure we will have more hot days, but this May is untypically chilly and wet here.

Tuesday 18 May 2021

A Sunset Walk

At the end of my previous post, I said that we were not expecting a great sunset that evening; the late afternoon sky was mostly grey, and rain was more likely to be coming our way than sun.

But the 8th of May showed such beautiful evening light that we simply HAD to go out once more. We took a bottle of rosé wine and glasses along and walked up the hill behind the village to one of our favourite benches at the edge of the small communal woods, overlooking the village, the Rhine valley and all the way to the Vosges.

The pictures were taken between just before 8:00 pm until about ten past 9:00. That day, sunset officially was at 8:42, and we watched it minute per minute, with all the subtle changes of light, colours and clouds, accompanied by the evening song of blackbirds and others. Also, it was warmer than it had been all day, a preview of what the Sunday was going to be.

Walking from the bench after the sun had really set, down the hill back to the village:

Last photo stop before turning in, at the playground at the edge of the village:

What a wonderful way to end a Saturday! I could really get used to this :-)