Friday 30 September 2022

Read in 2022 - 27: Rapunzelturm

Rapunzelturm by Mark Stichler is a crime mystery set in my hometown, Ludwigsburg - and that was the only reason for me reading this book, and sticking with it until the end.

A murdered woman is found hanging from Rapunzel's braid in the fairytale garden within the palace grounds. When the two young detectives begin to question witnesses, some of them quickly turn into suspects. But the most obvious is not always the truth, is it, and the couple need to cope with two more deaths - one of them similarly staged in the fairytale garden again - before they solve the crimes.

There is also a lot going on in their private lives, and at the same time Ludwigsburg's famous palace grounds and fairytale garden is under threat by plans of a big makeover, not appreciated by the majority of citizen but welcome by the municipal council because it means money coming in.

And what do the two ex GIs living in Ludwigsburg's former US military housing area of Pattonville have to do with it all?

The story had potential but didn't live up to it for me, I'm afraid. Much of that was due to the rather wooden dialogues between the protagonists, and the entire style of writing seemed more like something a hobby writer would produce than coming from an author who has been working as a journalist for many years.

Mark Stichler was born the same year as I, and with him writing a book set in my town, maybe I expected too much but was disappointed. 

Back in 2018, I had read another book set in the fairytale garden, and enjoyed that one very much. You can find my review here. You can see a picture of the real Rapunzelturm in this post.

Odenwald Break: Day 2

Sunday, Sept. 18, is quickly told: It rained for much of the afternoon and all evening, and so we spent the day quietly.

Unlike other mornings, Sundays at this hotel mean brunch instead of breakfast. Guests have time to help themselves with hot and cold food and drinks from the generous buffet until noon, and there is a cook at one table who fries eggs on order. We took advantage of this and enjoyed a long, leisurely breakfast. The place was busy with not just hotel guests but also visitors coming in specifically for brunch, but it was never so busy as to feel uncomfortable.

The forecast rain had not yet begun to fall by the time we finished, and so we donned our rain coats and set off on a walk around the village. We made a complete circuit of just over 7 km, and as always on such walks, enjoyed looking at people's houses and gardens. Neunkirchen sits at the bottom and the slopes of a valley, so there is a lot of uphill and downhill to cover; I can imagine it being a bit of a challenge in winter when the roads are slippery. 

Our walk gave us a good feeling for the village and the lay of the land, and from there were some wide open skies and great views - much better than what my two pictures can convey:

Back at the hotel, we rested in our room, reading and playing games on our ipads. The spa opened at 3:00 pm, and in spite of the weather it was not quite as busy as expected, and so we could take two turns in the sauna before it was time to shower and dress for another delicious dinner.

All in all, it was a day of Gemütlichkeit - welcome and by no means disappointing.

Thursday 29 September 2022

Odenwald Break: Day 1

The first full day of our Odenwald break was Saturday, Sept. 17. The weather forecast was not brilliant, but after a leisurely and delicious breakfast, it looked good enough for us to attempt a first venture into the woods right behind the hotel.

We had appointments for pedicure and massages in the early afternoon and so did not plan on staying out very long, but we managed to see quite a lot on that first walk, including what became my favourite view of the whole area.

A signpost "Prinzenstein" (prince's stone) caught our attention almost as soon as we entered the woods, and of course we followed that path, arriving at this monument a few minutes later:

It was erected in memory of Prince Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden, who according to the stone once took breakfast here during a hunt. It amused me to see a memorial for someone's breakfast, but I noted that the prince made it not even to his 23rd birthday. Reading up on him on wikipedia, I found that the official cause of death was given as pneumonia at the time, but there were other reports that he really died in or after duelling. In any case, he did not seem to have left a lasting legacy (apart from the "breakfast stone"), but I found the photo of him with his siblings and brother-in-law somehow touching.

Our next stop was a 400+ year old oak tree - grown high rather than broad, in fact so high that it was impossible to get the entire tree in one picture. It is a beautiful tree on a small, quiet clearing:

On we walked through the woods that looked much greener than expected, obviously refreshed from the recent rain falls we'd had:
We had no particular plan to go anywhere specific, but followed sign posts to "Reihersee" (heron lake):

This small lake was specifically created in 1971 to provide a local colony of herons with food and shelter. It has since evolved into a refuge for many kinds of birds (even kingfishers!), insects and plants struggling for habitat elsewhere, and it is protected - no fishing, swimming or dog bathing is allowed here.

The place was so quiet, it felt as if it was under a spell, especially when the sun broke through the clouds and gave it all a golden shine.

We walked further on and suddenly found ourselves at this wonderful view of the Neckar valley, with the river Neckar far below:

In the course of our stay here, we passed this spot (aptly called "Neckarblick", Neckar view) several times, and I really loved it no matter the weather.

It was time to return to the hotel for our appointments. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the hotel's own spa before getting dressed for dinner, which was as delicious as the evening before.

Tuesday 27 September 2022

Four Days in September

There is a lot I want to show you and tell you about, but I like to keep things in (chronological) order and therefore will just briefly summarize the four days after the beautiful walk of Monday two weeks ago, as described in my previous post.

Tuesday (September 13) was very warm and humid; the rain at the end of the sunny day came as no surprise as there were thunderstorms not all that far away from us. 

After a leisurely morning coffee, we walked in the vicinity of the village, covering only about 7 km. Because the air was so sticky with humid heat, it exhausted me much more than this kind of walk usually does. We took most of our meals that day on the balcony, and it felt much more like high summer than in early autumn.

near the village, around lunchtime on Sept. 13

O.K. drove us to my place on Wednesday, taking a detour because of heavy traffic and arriving rather later than planned. I had just about time to down a very quick coffee before going to the nearby Covid test centre and then on to hospital to visit my Dad. My Mum was of course there, too, and I went briefly home with her afterwards to admire her new bed. 

For our evening meal, O.K. and I went to Kullman's Diner, just across the road from the train station and less than 10 minutes on foot from my house. The food was delicious and the service very good.

Rainbow over Ludwigsburg as seen on the way home from my Mum's on Sept. 14

On Thursday, we got up early in order to be at my Mum's at 9:00. O.K. drove us to the IKEA store on the outskirts of Ludwigsburg. My Mum has been rearranging things at home so that now she sleeps upstairs and my Dad downstairs, and she needed a few things for the makeover of the upstairs bedroom and bathroom. We had breakfast at the IKEA restaurant before my Mum made her purchases, and back at my parents' flat, we dismantled the old wardrobe in what used to be my Dad's bedroom. 

After a cup of coffee with Mum, I went briefly home to freshen up a little, then once again to the test centre and on to hospital.

While I was there, O.K. walked into town and waited for me in the palace grounds (the hospital is right next to the gardens). We had fish & chips at "my" Irish pub and spent the rest of the evening resting at home.

The next day, Friday, saw us driving to our holiday destination: a hotel in a village in a woodland area called Odenwald, less than 80 km away (click the word Odenwald for the wikipedia entry in English). It took us about 1 1/4 h to get there, and we arrived just in time for coffee. 

our room (click to enlarge)

the hotel grounds from our balcony

After unpacking, we had a quick stroll down into the village (the hotel grounds back on to the forest), but a shower cut our walk short. 
View of the village (Neunkirchen) from near the hotel

Rainbow over Neunkirchen on Sept. 16

Dinner at the hotel was delicious, and we were looking forward to the next five days here. 

Looking back at that week, especially with the warm and sunny weather we still had, it seems like a long time ago. I have started work again yesterday, and already it feels like we're hurtling towards winter at great speed.

This is not only due to the chilly and rainy weather we've been having and it being still dark when I get up, but has a lot to do with the current situation with my Dad who is still in hospital. 

I am not going to go into detail here but things are not looking good. He won't really recover or get well, and in all likelihood is not going to return home. But he is looked after very well by friendly and caring staff, and of course we are at his side every day (except for me when I was at O.K.'s and then away for six nights). At the moment, there is no telling how long this daily routine of going for tests and then to hospital as soon as work permits will go on. We take each day as it comes right now, and support each other according to our own ways and possibilities.

Sunday 18 September 2022

A Beautiful Walk Repeated

This week and next, O.K. and I are on holiday. We started by me arriving at the village last week Saturday early afternoon, and an invitation to a barbecue at the neighbours‘ on Sunday.

Monday (the 12th of September) was sunny and warm after a chilly morning, and O.K. suggested we repeat a walk we‘ve been on in May 2021 and always wanted to do again: A panoramic circuit around the village of Sasbachwalden.

This time, the landscape had a different character; where the orchards were in bloom in May, now the trees are full of apples and pears, and harvesting in the vineyards is well underway. Also, the light on a September afternoon is very different from early May. Back then we experienced some extreme skyscapes and saw nearly all kinds of weather within a few hours.

This little cupboard-like shed was not there last year. We were not particularly thirsty but found the place so nice and appealing that we took two bottles of shandy from the fridge in exchange for a few coins.

As before, we enjoyed this walk very much, but still want to do it again, preferably further into autumn when the vineyards and woodland are at their most beautiful.

If you want to look at the pictures from May 2021, click here.

Wednesday 14 September 2022

Last Week

The week from September 5 to 11 was filled with plenty to do, and saw a mix of sun and rain. I worked both from home and at the office, went for two good after-work walks and one morning walk, spent time with my Mum and my sister and went to see my Dad in hospital before travelling to O.K. on the weekend.

Here are a few pictures I took during that week.

After work on Wednesday, walking across the fields to Benningen. I made it just in time to the small station there before the rain began to fall:

After working at the office on Thursday, I got off the train two stops before Ludwigsburg and walked the rest of the way:

And again, I was lucky in that I had only just arrived home when it started to rain. The result was this beautiful rainbow; in reality, it was much more brilliant and clear, and the double rainbow much better visible:

That was the day Queen Elizabeth died. No need to say more about that here, as nearly every blogger I regularly read has been writing about her, and I have left my comments there. 

No photos taken on Saturday; after my arrival at the village, O.K. and I had coffee and cake before setting out for a walk. That was cut short by more rain.
On Sunday, we completed the walk we had aborted the previous day and then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening at O.K.‘s neighbours‘, who had invited us for a barbecue.

Unlike most other weekends at O.K.‘s, there was no need for me to take the Monday morning train back home - we are off work for another two weeks. Maybe you remember from previous posts that we always take two weeks off in May and another two in September. This year, I also had a full two weeks in July - that makes six weeks off work this year for me, and it means I do not have a single day left for the time between Christmas and New Year. Of course, I will still have the actual holidays off, as these are due any employee in this country. For the first time ever since I have joined the working world (in 1986), I have used up ALL my holidays in the year they are due.

Saturday 10 September 2022

Read in 2022 - 26: Unlikely Soldiers

Unlikely Soldiers by Deb McEwan is the first of four books about young people getting into the British Army. On top of having to come to terms with the transition from teenager to adult, leaving school and finding their place in life, adapting to army life and all that entails is not easy.

The main characters are Michelle and Guy, two teenagers who grow up many miles apart but feel a special connection from the moment they first set eyes on each other. And yet, the book is not (or not just) about romance. It is also about making friends for life (and some enemies, too), growing up, seeing one's own parents in a different light, and so on - a true coming of age novel.

The author has served more than 30 years in the army and therefore knows what she is talking about. I don't think I would last more than a couple of days in that highly regulated environment, where the individual counts nothing and rank is everything. And yet, something about the regulated life appeals to me; knowing your rules and boundaries can also offer a certain comfort when everything else seems to be unsafe and uncertain.

Writing was not top notch, but well enough readable. There is much detail to remind you that the story is set in 1970s Britain - a different world from what it is now, and yet there are things I still recognise.

Not sure yet whether I shall be looking for the next three books; I did like the characters well enough but did not become particularly attached to them. (Needless to say, this was a free ebook at the Kindle shop.) 

The author's website is here.

Thursday 8 September 2022

Last Days of August, First Days of September

The week spanning August 29 to September 4 was busy, which explains why I did not go on many walks and only have a few photos to share.

My trip back from O.K.'s on Monday (August 29) morning involved a last-minute change, as my usual train was cancelled - luckily, O.K. heard about it on the radio while I was in the shower, and we made it to the train station in time for me to catch a connection half an hour earlier. Apart from work, I went on an errand for my parents which meant going to my parents' first to pick up medical documents, then to their GP, then to the pharmacy and then pack to them.

Like Monday, Tuesday was bright and sunny all day and rather warm. I managed a nice long after-work walk of 2 1/4 hours. The anticipated evening light was not quite as golden as I had expected, but the grey clouds building up in the west made for interesting skyscapes.

Wednesday was a mix of clouds and sun. My sister and I went to see our parents after work.

On Thursday (1st of September), I worked on site at my client's, now firmly installed in "my" "new" office (it is neither really mine nor is it really new, but you know what I mean). It was the hottest day of the week, and my client and I only went for a very short walk after lunch, sticking to tree-lined paths as we would not have been comfortable in the midday sun in our business clothes.

It was also the day my Dad was admitted to hospital again, this time for a planned operation that was going to take place the next day. 

On the way back from work, I got off the train one stop before Ludwigsburg and walked the rest of the way across the fields; it was cooler then and it only takes about 45 minutes to reach my parents' place. My sister had already been there for a few hours, and I joined her and my Mum in sorting and shifting things; my parents have now swapped bedrooms so that my Dad has everything on one level and my Mum sleeps upstairs. She can manage the in-flat stairs, my Dad not anymore.

Friday after work saw me and my sister back at Mum's to continue the work begun the day before. We learned from the hospital that Dad's operation had not quite gone as planned and had to be aborted half way through; the most important part had been done, though, and he was awake and breathing on his own. My Mum was allowed to visit the next day.

O.K. arrived at my place at around 8:00 pm. For our evening meal, I made a kind of Asian inspired stew of vegetables and wok noodles in a creamy coconut-oil based sauce with red curry paste and cashew nuts. Chilled rosé fitted it well.

We went out for breakfast on Saturday late morning (actually it was around lunch time for most people), sharing our table with up to 8 wasps at a time. They were particularly drawn to the apricot jam on my plate, and as long as they were feeding on that, I was fine. Still, it wasn't the most relaxed breakfast I ever had! Afterwards, we remained in town for a round through our favourite shops, stopping for an espresso in between, before returning home for a couple of hours. 

At 7:00 pm, we met with my Mum and my sister at the Indian restaurant round the corner from me. It was very busy and extremely noisy, but we had booked the table and were hungry enough to stay. The meal was excellent, as always, and after a while, the noise subsided somewhat; conversation was only really possible with the person directly in front of you. Still, it did our Mum good to be out for a meal and talk things through with us; she'd been to see our Dad in the afternoon.

On Sunday, my breakfast order of freshly baked croissants and rolls wasn't there - someone must have gotten to it before I did! It's been about two years now that I have been ordering with that service regularly; it was the first time this happened. Of course I didn't have anything else at home for breakfast, and so I had to get dressed and walk to the bakery (the same one where I order from) and buy everything again. 

We went for a round of slow jogging/quick walking of about 8.3 km on the fields, then after showering had our late breakfast. A bit of a rest was in order then, before we set off for an afternoon walk. For our evening meal, I pepared the Hokkaido pumpkin as described in my previous post. O.K. left just before 8:30 pm and was home about 1 1/2 hours later in spite of busy motorways.