Thursday 24 February 2022

A Windy Walk

For many of you, last weekend was very windy, if not stormy. Here, the storm caused many a fallen tree, upturned dustbins and other stuff being blown about with train services suspended or at least interrupted. As far as I know, there have been two deaths further north in this country, but nothing as dramatic as that in the area where I live.

I spent the weekend at O.K.'s, and we decided on our Sunday walk not in the Blackforest, but in the vineyards, where there was less danger of being hit by a falling tree or branch.
After the previous weekend walk being a winey one, this was a very windy one!

Snowdrops at O.K.'s parents' house

We parked the car in Ortenberg and walked to a place called Wolfsgrube and back; about 15 km altogether. The path as such is not really demanding, but with the strong wind blowing against us every time we came round a bend made it quite exhausting, and by the time we arrived back home late afternoon, we were quite worn out, more than we normally would be after what is a fairly regular circuit for us.

We have come past this fountain a few times in the past. Doesn't it look like something out of Harry Potter?

These rocks are also a familiar sight for us, but the atmosphere there is very different on a sunny day:

Still, we managed to find a bench with a view where the wind did not reach, and enjoyed a rest with the sandwiches and water we brought (no wine this time).

View from the bench

To the naked eye, the strip of light on the horizon was much more golden than what the camera captured:

Strange creatures like this one can be spotted in the vineyards.

The rain that threatened throughout the day did not materialise until much later, when we were safe and warm at home. 
During the night and in the early hours of the morning, the storm gathered strength and brought thunder and lightning as well as hail. It was very noisy and we hardly slept. In combination with the early start in order to catch my train home (which was about 20 minutes late), Monday made for one of those very rare days when I did not go out for a walk at all.

Tuesday 22 February 2022

The Giant Wheel

In German, what you would probably call a Ferris wheel is a Riesenrad, literally "giant wheel". And it certainly fits the one that has been set up here in Ludwigsburg recently! At 70 m, it is the highest travelling one in the world (according to our local paper). Admittedly, there is one in Munich at 78 m, but although that one is mobile, meaning it could be moved, it never is, and therefore does not qualify as travelling.

Semantics aside, one could of course argue the reason and sense of it all. But does everything have to be useful or make sense? It is a much admired piece of engineering, and people love just looking at it, let alone ride on it and see the world around them from a perspective like never before or after. And that is exactly what's been happening here.

For the week it took the crew to set the wheel up (the City Star, as it is called, was in London before it came to Ludwigsburg), people of all ages have made it a point to direct their walks and strolls past the parking lot where the wheel is to remain for about three months. My sister and I, as well as O.K. and I, have been among those who liked to have a look, and see it coming together.

Sunday, Feb. 13 - the wheel is set up.

As you can see, the cabins are not all in place yet.

My next visit was on Tuesday, the 15th. The wheel is complete.

It was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for an after-work stroll in the palace grounds with my sister.

Yep - the wheel can be seen from there, too.

And from a few unexpected places in and around town.

Two days later (Thursday, Feb. 17) we were back.

The entrance area is now lit up.

Sunday night.

We keep being amazed at all the different points in town from where the wheel is visible. At night, it is lit up; my sister sent me this picture from Sunday evening, when I was not here to see it for myself.

With the storm(s) and gales blowing for several days, many people were concerned about safety. But our local paper keeps publishing articles about how apparently the wheel can not be blown over, and if necessary, some or all of the cabins can be taken down quickly. So far, that has not happened. With wind speeds surpassing what is known here as windforce 7, the wheel stops operating. Windspeed is constantly measured at two different points on the wheel.

Even on the opening day last Friday, people were queuing and enjoying their rides, and that was a rather stormy day. Our paper (again) featured an article about reactions to that first ride; people having huge smiles on their faces and telling the reporter that this made them forget all their day-to-day troubles and worries for a while. Of course, restrictions apply; each cabin can hold up to six, but only persons of the same household are allowed in together, and one has to produce proof of being vaccined or tested negative.

You know I will be on the City Star at least twice, don't you! I hope you can see these two short videos. The first one was made by my sister, the 2nd one is mine.

Thursday 17 February 2022

A Winey Walk

Is "winey" a real word? If not, I have just made it up for this post, and you'll shortly see why.

Last Saturday was beautiful, sunny and pleasant after a frosty start. O.K. had arrived at my place on the Friday evening, and we had the entire day to go out, until 6:00 pm when we were expected at my parents'.

View from my kitchen window on Saturday morning

There is a blog I regularly read, about walking and hiking paths in the Stuttgart region. It often comes up with attractive suggestions and offers all the information one needs to plan the outing.

For that day, I chose a "Wine Walk" as part of a network of such circuits created in the area near Ludwigsburg, along the rivers Neckar and Murr, covering the towns of Marbach, Benningen and others. 

I'd been to the bakery down the road earlier and prepared fresh snacks for us, plus an extra treat. We set off to Ludwigsburg's train station shortly after lunch time (which for us had been a late breakfast) and took the local train to Benningen. From there, the well sign-posted circuit started, taking us down into the Neckar valley, across the river on the footbridge and into Marbach's picturesque old town.

View from the footbridge between Benningen and Marbach. Can you spot the lone rower?

After doing the loop in the old town, the circuit lead past the beautiful old Alexander church (sorry, no pictures this time - I think I should go back there extra, preferably on a day when the church is open) and up the other side of the valley to the panoramic road winding along between vineyards, orchards and allotments.

A viewing platform has been built there not long ago, with stone seats and metal tables for all to enjoy the view. On this early Saturday afternoon, there was only one other person there, but I bet on a balmy evening it will be a very popular spot.

It was here that I opened my rucksack and brought out the treat I had packed, and we enjoyed a glass of white each in the sun along with the views:

The viaduct is the same one as in the previous photo. It is the railway line, and I regularly travel on it when I work in Marbach.

Benningen, where we've just come from.

Similar to my walk on Wednesday after work, there were many people working in their vineyards; it is the time of year when the vines need to be cut and everything is prepared to help them grow. Several times, we had to stand aside to let cars and tractors pass; the roads are good but rather narrow up there, with stone walls, hedges or fences limiting the possibilities for vehicles passing each other.

The circuit takes a loop to another viewing point above Marbach, called "Galgen" (gallows) - you can imagine where that name comes from. Nothing gruesome about the place nowadays; there is a playground and a stone table with markers as to what is where, in what direction and how far away. 

The plume of steam comes from the powerplant at Neckarwestheim. It is almost always visible in my area.

The benches were all wet and the ground around them very muddy, so we decided to make use of the stone table for our picnic.
After our short break, we walked on, following the signs for our circuit until at one point we weren't sure anymore. I still knew the general direction from what I had read in the description on the blog, and so it wasn't really a problem. Down the hill on the other side, towards the smaller river Murr, which we crossed to get into the town of Murr (yes, it is "Murr by the Murr"), and found the signs for our circuit again. 
Uphill again until we reached another panoramic path skirting Murr before it leads back to the vineyards above Benningen. The view here shows the small town of Steinheim, where my parents used to have their allotment (it has featured often on my blog) until a few years ago.

We crossed the river Neckar for the second time that day and made our way uphill through Benningen to the train station. As we were approaching the station, I heard the unmistakable sound of a train coming in, and we sprinted up the stairs, jumping through the open doors on the train at the very last moment!

It took me a while to catch my breath, and it was good that my rucksack was almost empty by now. Had we not caught that train, we would have had to wait half an hour for the next one; no problem really, but it was good to have made it.

We had enough time at home for a mug of coffee and a little rest before we walked to my parents', where we spent the evening eating the world's best lasagne, drinking more wine and generally having a good time.

Now you know why it was a winey walk!

Wednesday 16 February 2022

Read in 2022 - 4: Coppitts Green

How exactly I came across "Coppitts Green" by Nicola Thorne I can't remember - was it during one of my downloading spree of free ebooks with the search term "Yorkshire" on Amazon's Kindle shop, or did one of my blogging friends (maybe Monica) post a review on their blog? Anyway, I am really glad I found it, as it was a book I have greatly enjoyed.

The author has her own website here, where you can find out more about her. With so much published work under her belt, I was surprised that apparently I had never read anything by her before.

Coppitts Green is (surprise, surprise) set in Yorkshire, in a village in the Skipton area. The village itself and the surrounding dales landscape is beautifully portrayed, as are the story's cast; some in more detail than others, but my mental cinema was certainly working throughout.

A young woman comes to work as the new infants teacher at the village school, upon invitation of her boyfriend whose family own one of the large, old houses there. When she arrives at Leeds station where he is to meet her, he does not turn up, and neither does he meet her at the village. The house is empty but for the housekeeper, who tells her that the other two inhabitants, the boyfriend's cousins, are away for a few days.

During that first night on her own, Jocasta feels uneasy in the rambling old house but puts it all down to nerves. For the next weeks, her new job (which she loves) takes up all her attention and energy, but with her boyfriend having seemingly vanished and his cousins not providing credible answers, the young woman begins to investigate...

It is all very well written, and quite the page-turner! I did have an incling of what had happened, but not in detail, and certainly could not predict the events in the family's past that come to light, or how the romance part of the story was going to pan out.

Also, it was nice to read about the work at a village school back in the days (we are talking the early 1960s there, I think), and the foreword by the author, written when she re-published her long out of print book as an ebook, is interesting, too.

Monday 14 February 2022

A Celebration!

Here's me last Thursday after work at what is becoming our favourite wine bar in Ludwigsburg. The picture was taken by my sister. What was there to celebrate? Not my birthday - that's towards the end of March. Not me winning the lottery - I have never played in my life. Not me landing a huge new contract with a client, either - I am busy enough as it is.

Maybe you remember that I have mentioned before that "our" cottage, where my sister and I have been staying for many years when in Ripon, was sold last year. Although we understood the owner's reasons perfectly, we were still very sad. Our last stay had been in 2019; back then, we had no idea that the pandemic was going to hit us all and make our usual Yorkshire holiday impossible for two years.

This year, we really, really, really want to go. We miss family and friends there, and of course our favourite places - which included "our" cottage. My sister was looking at alternatives and found a few; we liked them well enough and were prepared to book something, even though none of it felt like "ours" immediately. As an afterthought, my sister checked AirBnB for accomodations in Ripon. And guess what...


It is still called Matchbox Cottage, and the new owners have not changed the general layout. Even my bed is still the same, and one of the armchairs in my room. The kitchen is largely the same, and the bathrooms are as they were (they were completely redone only a few years ago).

At first, we could hardly believe it and were checking, and checking again, to make sure it wasn't an old entry on AirBnB. No, it's all current, and up to date... and we are booked there for two weeks, the second half of July!

I have already notified our family and friends, and now we need to plan the actual journey. Also, we need to have passports made; our perfectly valid ID is not enough to enter the UK any more. But it's all going to work out, I am sure of that, and finally, we will be back in OUR cottage in Ripon!

It was slowly getting dark when we left the wine bar, but the palace grounds were still open, and so we crossed them and walked up the long tree-lined street that leads south in a straight line all the way to another, smaller palace in Stuttgart. Of course we did not go to Stuttgart, but went west at the top of the hill towards our respective homes.

Now, days later, I still have to pinch myself to make sure I have not dreamt it all!

Thursday 10 February 2022

Signs of Spring

It was the most beautiful day yesterday - rather mild at about 12 Celsius, with a cloudless blue sky after a grey morning. The evening before, even on the local news on TV they advised to take advantage of it, if possible, as it was expected to be something of a one-off before a return to grey skies and colder temperatures.

Yes, proper spring is still at least a month away, but yesterday was a wonderful preview. And I am so glad I had the opportunity to finish work early! I was sitting down to work emails as early as 6:30 that morning and was able to leave the house at 3:45 pm, with almost two hours before sunset, and about 2 1/2 hours before it was going to be really dark.

I had already made up my mind as to where I wanted to walk: To the castle ruins above Hoheneck, along the top of the vineyards parallel to the river and then into Benningen, where I was going to take the local train home.

For the first twenty minutes or so, my route took me across part of the town before I reached the fields. I have often walked past of a very messy house in that part of town (which is otherwise very nice, with some handsome houses and obviously well-off folks living there). There is the wreck of an old car in the overgrown drive, and the general look of the place is one of neglect. But I knew that two cats live there; occasionally, I have talked to one of them. They look well fed and clean, much better cared for than everything else about the house. Yesterday, they were sunbathing on the window sill:

On I went, skirting the deer park and walking down between the fields, crossing a busy road and then between more fields and allotments towards the ruins. I first showed you this place in this post in 2015 with some information about it; yesterday's walk was in large parts a repeat of that one.

It was as beautiful as it looks; the sun warming my back and making me take off my scarf until I walked in shadier parts again. Many others had the same idea and where out and about, walking or cycling, but the path was never so busy as to make it bothersome to walk.

You can tell how steep the almost sheer drop towards the river is in these vineyards. Not easy to work them, and they really are too steep for machines; most of the work is still done manually here.

People were working in their vineyards or on their allotments; it is a busy time of year for gardeners and farmers and whoever has a plot of land to look after.

It was almost 6:00 pm when I reached Benningen's small train station, and I was home at around 6:30. 

On Tuesday, I had been for an after-work walk with my sister. We passed the garden center on the fields where we usually buy our advent wreaths and other things during the year, and they had a pile of cut off branches and twigs with catkins at the side of the path. It was all going to be shredded, and so I took a few of the twigs within easy reach and put them in a vase, adding a tiny bit of early spring to my home.