Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Eclipse

July 27 saw the longest lunar eclipse in a hundred years. Although I hear the US wasn't able to see it, it was supposed to be well visible from Europe. Around the time it was supposed to start, I started wandering around looking for the moon. Between trees and buildings, I couldn't see anything. I checked in with friends and neighbors here in Frankfurt and for a good hour there was no news. Then someone mentioned it was visible. I ran out.

Not having a videocamera or a high quality camera of any kind, I had to capture it on my Smartphone. Although the photos were nothing at all, the videos at least caught the essence of what was going on. In the first video the moon is clearly reddish. By the end, the moon was passing out of our shadow and becoming much lighter, brighter and whiter.

Yes, the quality sucks. But it was cool to see it.

Which reminds me that back in November a friends mentioned that the International Space Station would be visible overhead in the DC area, and the kids and I went out to watch it pass.  Didn't capture that one at all, but it was pretty cool.

Around 11:15pm

Sunday, July 15, 2018


The food at the Burg Eltz cafe didn't appeal to me so I decided to stop somewhere on my way home. I had heard Idstein was a pretty city to visit so had it in mind. Hadn't really thought through that it's an hour away from Burg Eltz and I only left there close to 2pm ... suffice it to say I was hungry and grumpy when I got to town.

Most of the restaurants were closed in mid-afternoon but I found one that was open and not too far from where I parked and I tried a potato-and-bean-pancake (like a latke but with some kind of small white bean among the potato, presumably to protein it up). It was very tasty and the radler I had with it was refreshing so I was ready to hit the town after I ate.

The main sight in Idstein is the "Hexenturm" or Witch's Tower. Unless my German is way worse than I think it is, you can go to the tourist info center and ask for the key to go inside. When I wandered past the building there was a tour guide just closing up, but I plan to visit the town again so it wasn't a big deal not to get inside.
The town is filled well amazingly well preserved, colorfully painted half-timber housed. I may have mentioned this before but I am beyond charmed by half-timbered houses.
 It looks like it's falling down, because of the angle of the timbers.
That is not a real cat on the side of the house

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Burg Eltz

Nothing gets me moving like the recognition that things are soon changing. After essentially hibernating for a year, I'm going sightseeing. Burg Eltz was spectacular and beautiful but it was also a bit of schlepp to get to and I don't think Terry and the kids will care that much if they miss it.

Burg Eltz is still owned by the Eltz family - more than 850 years after the first part of the complex was built!  To get to the Burg*  from the parking lot you can take a shuttlebus or wander for about 15 minutes through the forest. Obviously, I walked.

The only way into the castle is with the tour, and they do tours about every 15 minutes. I probably missed or misunderstood some of what the tour guide was saying;  between impatience and wanting to use the German I've learned, I opted for the German language tour although there was an English speaking one 15 minutes later.

No photos are allowed inside the building, so 95% of what would be interesting to see is not captured. Although the first part of the burg was built in the 1100s, most of the items they had on display dated from no further back than the 1500s. There was a lot of original furniture, armament, and other household items ranging from about the 16th century up through the present day - in one room, along with 16th century portraits, is a photo of the family that could not have been taken more than 10 years ago. One portrait from an ancient patriarch noted that he lived to 94 years of age - in the 1500s! Another two rooms contain the hunting trophies, including antlers from deer, moose and elk, two enormous bear rugs with heads still attached, and pelts that had to have been wolves.
The inner courtyard, where we waited for the tour to begin

The admission ticket also includes entry to the "Treasure Room". One entire wall was covered in beautiful shotguns, many with the owner's name carved or engraved in metal and with other ornamental metalwork. There was a case of swords, and one of hunting implements. Another case held a variety of small clocks, and another held various objet d'art. I guess when one family holds the old homestead for more than 800 years, it isn't too hard to go searching for antiques in the attic.

The building is beautiful and well preserved

* I had to look this up and was fascinated by the explanation. "Schloss" is the commonly understood word for "castle" in German, and this was clearly a castle, so why "Burg"? Apparently, a "burg" is a castle wherein defense is a, if not the, purpose of the building - as opposed to a "schloss" where defense was less important and a nice, solid fancy building is sought. Learning new things every day.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sunday Hiking

On Sundays in Germany nearly all establishments are closed. Restaurants are largely open, museums of course, but little else. Many folks go to church. Nearly everyone (seemingly) goes hiking.

A friend found this fabulous-looking magazine last week that mapped out 60 hikes in the Frankfurt area. We chose one and set off. Just getting to the starting point was an adventure, as it had us traveling to a town about 40 minutes away where we had never been before. We drove through horse country and spent time on tiny roads where two cars could come nowhere near abreast each other. Happily there was just field to either side so nobody had to drive backwards for a half mile, as could happen on the Maltese goat roads.

The magazine rated each hike based on how much time was spent in forest vs. field vs. road, how long each hike was in terms of kilometers and expected length of time (at either relaxed or sporty paces). The descriptions were as detailed as "and then there are three wooden benches to your left...". It seemed we could not go wrong.

And yet.

My legendary lack-of-sense-of-direction did not fail. Within 5 minutes of our hike nothing matched the map or the written out description. We asked a fellow passing hiker for help. We learned we were looking at the wrong map - rather than have written directions on the page facing the map, the magazine set them on the same page as the map on the other side, the better to tear out the one perforated page and carry with you.

Turned out that didn't help us orient ourselves.

In the end, we picked a landmark located at a point around the far corner of the hike, used Google Maps to get there, then set the return course for our starting point. We hiked through very pretty woods, had a lovely conversation, then got wurst at the restaurant that was the starting point.
Terry needs to build one of these at the cabin.