Sunday, March 20, 2011


Eichstätt - a small town in Bavaria, famous in palaeontology circles for the lithographic limestone that is quarried in the region and has produced spectacular fossils, including Archaeopteryx.

Lithographic plates (of city maps)  made of polished limestone. The idea is that the mirror image of the item to be printed is etched in the polished rock, then inked, and transferred to paper.

Archaeopteryx and other beautiful finds are displayed in das Jura-Museum, overlooking the town.

View of the town from the Bishop's Palace, now das Jura-Museum
Eichstätt is far from normal. This is turning out to be a bit of a theme with the more remote locations in Germany. Our accommodations were in a Catholic seminary, where the conference attendees enjoyed a delightful breakfast every morning with the candidates for priesthood. The city jail is located directly across from the train station, less than 200 m from the city centre, presumably so the escapees will leave quickly. Eichstätt is also famous for the witch trials in the Middle Ages, that resulted in a spectacularly high loss of life - in this small city, close to 300 people were burned at the stake.

Market square: where the witches were executed. The pink building is the Rathaus (city hall)
See how sunny it was? Sadly, the seminary was cold and dark like a gigantic limestone cave, and this is where all the presentations took place.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


The last topic of my intense week of end-February tourism will be . . . . France. I've been fantasizing about it ever since I found out it was a mere 150 km due west from Stuttgart. The land of tasty coffee and a language I can understand. The coffee was just as tasty as I remembered, but my ability to speak French has been somewhat compromised by learning German. I still understood, but whenever I tried to answer the words were a bit of a German-French hash.

The closest French city to Stuttgart is Strasbourg. It is extremely quaint, with a very large old city centre. It is also flat as a pancake (hence the bicycles).
In terms of tourism, Strasbourg is most well-known for its cathedral. This is pretty standard, except for the truly enormous astrological clock which has only a weak link to any kind of Christian imagery. Not sure how it ended up in the cathedral.
Cathedral entrance, with crazy-intricate carvings
We also went to eat flamm, a specialty of the Alsace region that I got hooked on while living in Montreal. So tasty . . . 
Unfortunately the escape from Baden-Württemberg was just a bit too short. The novelty of eating Maultaschen has sadly not yet returned. I need to make more of an effort with the cooking.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Der Schwarzwald

So the impromptu visit of family provided some motivation to leave Stuttgart city limits, and what better way to spend a sick day than writing a blog post?

One of the more famous tourist attractions in Baden-Württemberg is the Black Forest (Schwarzwald). This region also has a delicious cake named after it, which obviously just makes it better. When I was initially planning the trip, I was immediately confronted with the problem that there was not too much to do in the Black Forest - it just seemed like something to drive through. I selected the "northern black forest" route, as per the guidebook, for logistical reasons as much as anything else. This route is a big circle from Stuttgart down to Freudenstadt, and up through the forest to Baden Baden. I don't know what I expected from the Black Forest, but it is really extremely hilly. Also there was far more snow than in Stuttgart, and the weather was also worse.

See the hills? I swear they're there, hiding in the clouds.
The hills and rivers and coniferous trees were vaguely reminiscent of Northern Alberta, only on an endearingly smaller scale. The highlight was the ruined abbey of Allerheiligen, a very Gothic spot at the bottom of a deep valley in the middle of nowhere. The monks, trying to exert some control over the natural environment, went to the trouble of paving the river bed in the immediate vicinity of the abbey. Apparently paved rivers were trendy in the region in days of yore: Baden Baden has one too, including paved waterfalls.

Allerheiligen: a waterfall. Unpaved.
Crocus lawn in Baden Baden - a dramatic contrast to the Black Forest just to the south
All in all, the Black Forest was better than expected. The whole region is full of hiking trails, and in the summer I'm sure it's a delightful escape from the city. As for the forest itself, it wasn't that special, but next time I'll take the valley route instead of the ridge road, and maybe get a better feeling for how this region managed to generate so many terrifying fairy tales.