Sunday, January 30, 2011


Stuttgart has a fairly extensive park system. For some reason, I never ventured out of the central part, but today I explored what things are like to the west of the museum. Turns out it's really nice. The neighbourhood is nice too. Stuttgart names every little tiny segment of park something different, but generally we'll call the area in question Killesberg. While Schloßgarten/Rosensteinpark go for Greek and Roman statuary, Killesberg goes for weird modernist sculpture.

Pac-man emerges from his underground lair
I don't know why I found this landscaping attempt so inspiring. All the trees in one planter . . .
The Triassic: now with cross-bedding!
I probably just liked Killesberg so much because apparently it's a reclaimed quarry (no, I didn't know when I decided to walk there). The back half is a giant cliff made of Triassic-aged redbeds.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Recycling madness

I had heard so many stories about how seriously recycling was taken in Germany that I was expecting a magical and well-oiled system. The reality was . . . absurdly complicated.

The recycling program was first introduced to me when I was in Schwäbisch Hall – in the residence, there was a sign over the recycling bag explaining essentially that tetrapaks and items marked with the special recycling symbol could go in. Bottles were supposed to go back to the store for a refund. I was very literal, and didn't recycle anything because absolutely nothing I bought was marked with the symbol.

When I moved to Stuttgart, I was forced to switch grocery stores and therefore brands. I discovered that a few companies did indeed label packaging with the recycling symbol, and if I thought about it logically, almost everything could be recycled (if yogurt container A has a recycling symbol and B doesn't, they're probably both recyclable because they're made of the same kind of plastic. Are the lids recyclable? Still haven't figured that one out). It turned out the whole symbol system was totally misleading, because aside from failure to label most items that can be recycled, some of the items labeled with the symbol are not recyclable using the same system (e.g., glass, which has to be sorted by colour and dropped off separately at inconvenient and distant drop boxes scattered throughout the city). After I had lived in Stuttgart for almost two months, the city finally sent everyone a brochure explaining how recycling worked along with the pickup schedule. It is still a mystery to me where one might purchase the magical plastic bags recyclables are supposed to be put into. Not the grocery store, the convenience store or the drugstore – I spent a lot of time looking. Probably somewhere far away with very bad hours. Luckily I inherited a small supply when I moved in to my new place after Christmas.

Some questions that really puzzle me are A) why they don't give everyone the educational brochure and schedule when they first move in? All foreigners have to register with the city upon the first week of arrival anyways; it would be awesome to get some useful information at the same time. Possibly a stash of the Official Yellow bags too; B) it clearly is not law that all recyclable packaging has to be labeled with the symbol. Since Germany is quite enthusiastic about legislation, from what I've seen, this seems like a bit of a no-brainer.

Who knew household waste was so complicated?

View from my office before the snow melted

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Birds are great, but difficult to photograph, especially on the way to work when I don't have time to stand still and wait for them to come close. The nice part is that the birds that live in the park in Stuttgart don't seem to migrate anywhere. They disappear when the weather drops below zero, but are back as soon as it warms up so they couldn't go very far. Aside from the ever present pack of mallards and pigeons (boring city birds), there's a random cormorant, a great blue heron, a pair of storks,
The city must stock the pond, because the storks aren't eating bread crumbs all winter

"song birds" – by this point it should be clear I've failed to locate an English language guidebook to birds of southern Germany. The initial goal was to photograph said 'songbirds' and ask for help with the ids, but the photography stage has not met with unparalleled success.
Also 20 million crows. I don't know if they're the same species as in North America. German people call them ravens, but this might be a translation issue. From a North American perspective, they're certainly more crowlike than ravenlike. They're kind of cool because they hybridize with an eastern species, and so some of them have random white feathers in their wings and tails. It gives them a magpie-esque look.
Crow vs. raven? The mystery continues

And, staple of parks the world over, Mute Swans!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stuttgart TV tower

In an effort to participate in all of the tourist attractions the city of Stuttgart has to offer, I made a visit to the TV tower.

While this tower is definitely not the tallest TV tower out there, Stuttgart has gone for the 'oldest' prize, and claims this TV tower is the prototype after which all subsequent TV towers (e.g., the CN tower) were modeled. There were also some extremely retro looking army green rotary telephones in the ticket vending booth that reinforced this claim.

Supposedly on a clear day you can see the Alps from the observation deck, which sounded great to me. However, it turns out that air quality isn't a strong point of the region - even on a clear January day, it's blanketed in smog. The furthest I could see was the Schwäbische Alb, only 100km to the south. It was pretty though, and with the coffee and cake stop afterward, made for a delightful Sunday afternoon.

View towards the south, the hazy looking highland is the Schwäbische Alb. But the fields are still green in January!
Low angle winter sunlight