Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Instead of doing anything useful or productive this weekend, I went on a day trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This is a walled city, and is typically a big tourist destination but late October isn't exactly high season so town was pleasantly empty.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Famous street view: look, no people!
We went on a little tour of the city, and then had some free time. My friend told me that I had to go into the Christmas store. There are Christmas stores found everywhere in Germany and open all year round. I had no idea this holiday was such a national obsession. The store we went to was two stories, and full of ornaments and decorations. It was located right next door to the Christmas Museum. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed, which is too bad because they whole experience was a bit surreal. I'm not particularly fond of Christmas, personally, and on some level just don't get this cultural aspect of Germany.

In massive contrast, the Christmas store was followed up by the museum of Medieval crime and punishment (i.e. torture). This was fascinating, if a bit morbid. Unlike the any other German museum on any topic that I have ever been to, the displays were in German, Japanese and English which was much appreciated as I could actually understand what I was supposed to be looking at.
Back in Schwäbisch Hall for an undefined amount of time not exceeding 10 days. I wish I had a better plan.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bad Humour

I need a bit of escapism from the horror of apartment hunting - I've lapsed into the "I can move again in 6 months, how bad could this be?" mentality; always a bad sign. Only I still don't have anywhere to move from 6 months from now.
Most people won't get why I think these are funny, but I'm okay with that. If you don't get it, that means you're a normal, well-adjusted person. Congrats.

But do they serve chicken fingers? No.
I realize this word has many meanings, but the first one I learned is of course the most memorable.

So that's what happened to them . . . 
I finally saw a possibly wild Muscovy Duck - it's actually enormous. And check out those speedy Mallard * Domestic Duck hybrids in the background!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Solar power

Germany is not warmer than Canada. This is a myth I was clinging to with crazy optimism that turns out to be totally false. Don't know why I'm so surprised - Schwäbisch Hall is the same latitude as Thunder Bay, hardly a tropical destination. In late October, the forecasted lows are below 0ºC and the highs are well under 10ºC. Moral of the story: must bring my winter stuff from Ontario next time I'm home. So, in honour of cold drizzle, here are some pictures of solar panels - apparently heavily subsidized by the German government.

Solar farm outside of Schwäbisch Hall - it even had a tractor
I love the contrast of the old buildings with the solarized rooves

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Every city has its own little twists to the apartment rental process. For instance, in Montreal the fridge and stove, in a distressing number of instances, were not included in the rental agreement so you always had to remember to ask whether you had to provide your own appliances.

Stuttgart, likewise, has its quirks. They aren't so little. It turns out kitchen cabinetry is one of those bring-with-you items, like a couch but more awkward. If you're moving in with a roommate, you may have to buy out the departing tenant's investment in cupboards, which is obviously not cheap. Even weirder, many smaller apartments have a bathroom with a door that closes (as expected) but the shower is not in the bathroom - it is in the kitchen. No door. This is very common. Rental adds typically may something like "no direct sight line" to sell the concept, but it's still like bathing in public if you have a houseguest.

So much to figure out. I'm going to Stuttgart on Monday to assess the possibilities. Hopefully I'll only have to make the one trip, because it's a long train ride (1h 45min each way).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Objets d'Art

More on small-town southern Germany . . .
I got on a bicycle for the first time in about 5 years this week to do a little cycle tour in the neighbourhood of Schwäbisch Hall. This mostly involved flat bits and farmers' fields, but the destination was a small town called Vellberg.

Vellberg was cute, lots of half-timbering, stone towers, etc. but apparently the residents were not content to draw on its obvious historical charms. Rather, weird large art was the most notable feature of the town.

Large disembodied ear
Apple core dwarfing a tree
I suppose it worked - Vellberg was transformed from just another tiny town to something memorable. And there was a certain sense of self-mockery about it, which added to the fun (below)

Historical clock tower playing off the Rapunzel story
Ahh, feeling a bit overwhelmed by German language and culture by now in case anyone was wondering. I miss you Canada!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Quarry time

On the recommendation of a friend (not a paleontologist, I should point out), I went to visit a stone quarry / gravel pit outside of Schwäbisch Hall that is actively quarrying / crushing Muschelkalk. I apologize for yet another rock/fossil themed post, but I am who I am. I walked there, which was fairly time consuming but resulted in my seeing some countryside and getting minor sunburn

The Comburg from a different angle; I have no sense of the horizontal
with my camera
Quarry! All the dirt-looking layers are actually very soft shale
The quarry was great: the Muschelkalk is really heterogeneous; I didn't realize parts were extremely soft shale - Schwäbisch Hall gave me the opinion it was all blocky limestones. Obviously the blocky limestones are the financially viable part of the operation.
Business end of the quarry combined with pretty fall scenery.
Yes, I went all the way to Europe to look at a gravel pit
I didn't go into the quarry itself, but there was plenty of spoil around the outside - obviously just the softer layers, since the harder ones were crushed into gravel. There was a nice thin layer full of really small bones / scales / teeth (microsite), and there were also layers full of plant material and some with shells. Not wanting to burden myself with literal rocks (as opposed to just metaphorical ones) in my luggage, I left it all behind except for a lovely crystal that is now readjusting the flow of energy in my room, or waiting to be properly washed, depending on how you look at it.

What a beautiful day . . . and rocks!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, everyone! I'm very sad because it's really my favourite holiday, and I have no one to celebrate it with here. That and the fact that the residence does not have anything even remotely resembling an oven rules out almost 100% of the traditional food.

I decided that I was going to make pumpkin soup instead, since that seemed very seasonal. Remember that because everything is closed here on Sundays, I have to plan meals well ahead of time on weekends and then stockpile groceries. I went to the market to get a pumpkin. I found a pumpkin and went to purchase it, but the vendor wouldn't sell it to me because . . . pumpkins aren't edible. They are only for carving. Could someone please tell me if there is a special variety of German pumpkin that looks normal but tastes awful, or if it just isn't a vegetable eaten by Germans? Honestly, he looked at me as if I had suggested that I wanted to eat maple leaves.

As my German language skills weren't up for an argument, I bought the other kind of squash he recommended. I don't actually know what it is - I hope it tastes more like pumpkin than butternut squash, or the recipe won't work.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Knights in shining armour

One of the great things about touring around so many churches, monasteries and castles is that you get a good feeling for sculpture - and also see some funny ones because, especially in rural areas like Schwäbisch Hall / Hohenlohe, it seems like they couldn't always summon the best talent.

For instance, the Abbey Schöntal is the burial site of Götz von Berlichingen (the Knight with the Iron Fist - a very literal nickname stemming from his prosthetic arm) and his descendents. However, rather than sculpt armour fingers, there was a long period in the history of the Berlichingen clan where they were sculpted wearing metallic mittens. Whether this was the actual style at the time or a deficiency on the part of the artist, I can't say, but the results are entertaining.

Knight of the Berlichingen family. Wagon wheels are part of the Hohenlohe coat of arms

A later Berlichingen descendent
Although this later knight of the same family has fingers on his gloves, his head looks like it's trapped in a beer stein. The pointy toes on his shoes were all the rage in knightly fashion at the time, this got more extreme later on (below; Conquistador-style German knight).

Lastly, the goofiest one of them all, this one almost certainly of modern attribution from Schwäbisch Hall proper. The moustache/codpiece combination is really too much.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Last week was a bit crazy, which sadly affected my blogging ambitions, but now I'm back for round two (slightly-less-introductory German) at the Goethe-Institut, Schwäbisch Hall. Unfortunately my residence hall is being closed down for the winter, so I have to move again. By mid-November, I will have relocated four times in four months, which keeps my arms strong. I feel like a criminal who has to practice escape drills and be ready to leave any second to avoid being caught by the authorities. This is similar to the way I imagine that when I go to a crowded market or busy square I'm starring in a spy thriller like Mission Impossible or the Bourne Identity and have to make a drop or meet a contact. It's probably a good thing that I don't have a TV anymore.

In Germany, all the TV shows and movies are dubbed into German (rather than being subtitled) which, while promoting the Germany language, is much less entertaining for me. I will have to become a fan of dialog-minimal movies (e.g. films featuring natural disasters, large deadly animals) that don't really involve any emotional, humorous or intellectual components and can be understood without the benefit of words (Supercroc, anyone?).