Springtime in Upper Swabia

Same procedure as every year … Märzenbecher und Kelchbecherling in der Schwäbischen Alb (Brieltal, Lautertal, Wolfstal)

Ende März bei Briel (Brieltal) 

Ende März bei Briel (Brieltal)  Ende März bei Briel (Brieltal)

Im Brieltal: Frühlings-Knotenblume (Leucojum vernum), auch Märzenbecher, Märzbecher, Märzglöckchen oder Großes Schneeglöckchen genannt

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Brieltal: Scharlachroter Kelchbecherling (Sarcoscypha coccinea), auch Zinnoberroter Kelchbecherling oder Zinnoberroter Prachtbecherling genannt

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Sonnenuntergang im Brieltal

Sonnenuntergang im Brieltal

Im Lautertal:

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Im Wolfstal

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A town gathers to burn a witch

There are many reasons why a witch just has to be burnt, and yes, it still happens in our day and age. We were quite excited and did not want to miss this blazing opportunity so we brrr…braved the night cold and marched along with our neighbours and many other townspeople up to the fields near our house. We were heading for the tower, a very big and high pile of dead wood, which had taken a day or two to put together. The moon was full and the witch tied to the stake at the top of the wooden tower must have been casting her last spell. She was now ready to burn! The children from the voluntary fire brigade all fired up their torches and, as we all looked on, set the giant heap on fire.

There’s something mesmerising about flickering flames and it gets even more hypnotic as the fire grows, not so? This is one of the oldest annual traditions typical to our area and no, the witch is not a real live person. Duh-uh! In fact our witch looked more like a male scarecrow wanting to hug the moon hee…heee. It is also not celebrated everywhere in Germany and there are two versions of this custom, called the “Funkenfeuer”. The one that seems most popular is that it is a relict from an old Germanic-Pagan custom to drive the winter right outta here! Like, like, LIKE especially when standing in a cold field and feeling the heat eminating from the fire, hoping it stays this warm…like please…forever. Some-one does not like winter 🌞🌞 The others see it as a ritual between the ending of the Shrovetide (carnival) and the beginning of the long fasting period before Easter. This or that, it’s a lovely tradition which brings us all together even though we know that the winter can sometimes last longer than your Easter eggs. The “Funkenfeuer” in our area is also always on the first Saturday after Ash Wednesday. Other areas do this on the Sunday.

A fire this size takes very long to burn. L.O.N.G. We stay put, with our eyes on the witch scarecrow thingy. It is sort of goose-bumpy seeing it slowly tilt towards the ground and threatening to fall down in one whole piece. Nooo! Stay up! Stay up! Yeah, a couple of crazies around here. You see, it’s seen as a bad omen if the witch scarecrow thingy falls down before exploding or burning out completely. Plopps! Well, our one did fall but they pushed it right back into the fire. Burn, baby, burn! See, no problem. Bye-bye bad omen. Hello Spring. Phew! Give me a beer 🍺

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home Sweet Home

So there we were, in the middle of winter, taking ‘refreshing’ walks and purposely passing by the new red shiny sporty little car, almost covered in snow, and just waiting for us to buy it. Yes, we wanted to buy a new car, but somehow between looking at engines and wheels, we ended up signing on the dotted line to build a brand new abode instead. So, no gas guzzler, but lots and lots of building blocks…uhm bricks. Even though we’re not physically piling or erecting anything ourselves (leaning tower avoidance here) it still has been one of the most nerve-wracking yet exciting experiences so far. Our very first assignment was to choose a kitchen when there was only a hole in the ground, uhm cellar. Yep, try planning a kitchen from four black lines on a floor plan. Oh, and forget those free online kitchen planners, because, when you finally hand over your ‘this-is-my-dream-ta-daa’ design to the professional with the dazzling white teeth, he shatters your dreams into tiny little pieces by shaking his head and telling you that the big double-door refrigerator will not fit into the alcove. On the plan it did not look like an alcove. Whatever. Then after hours and hours spent deliberating with the dazzler, and reluctantly removing a cupboard or ten, you finally have it. A headache, and of course a new ‘clip-art’ kitchen! Arghhh! So hard to visualise something on paper, not so? We also spent a LOT of time choosing doors and floors, sockets from dockets, lights for nights, basins and baths, and yes, after all of that, we still love one another…wink wink…As all this was so time consuming, we’ve not had enough time to update our blog, but now there’s some breathing space, so here it is. Our story. Brick by brick. Storey by storey…

Construction - Cellar: March 2013Point. Point. That one over there! This is the beginning of our home sweet home. The cellar!

Construction - Cellar: March 2013    Construction - Ground Floor: March 2013

Next up, covering up the cellar…and soon after, the first floor being built over it. Progress!Construction - Ground Floor: March 2013    Construction - First Floor: April 2013

Snow, snow, go away! It’s brrrry cold, but the work goes on regardless. Preparation for floor two. From the same perspective (right), sans snow, but with beautiful dandelions!In der Nachbarschaft    View of new housing development area towards our house in May 2013

Cranes, cranes everywhere! The rest of the newly developed neighbourhood. Bring it on!

Construction - First Floor: May 2013Yep, that one over there is ours. As you can see, floor number two is now complete. Huhu!  Construction - Second Floor: May 2013    Construction - Second Floor: May 2013

FINALLY!!!! Floor number three. The Penthouse! And it is OURS! Whoop-whoop-hooray!

Construction - Second Floor: May 2013New neighbours (foreground). Houses springing up like mushrooms…absolutely amazing!Construction: First view into our flat from inside - Living Room    Construction: First view into our flat from inside - Living Room

Curiosity killed the cat, as they say. We just could not wait to get a look inside, despite all that dangerous looking scaffolding stuff. This view is of the inside of our living room. After seeing this we had another look at the floor plans. Why did it look so small?? It’s supposed to be at least forty square metres!! After lots of nail chewing, we were told that it is normal. Bare brickwork always appears to be smaller. Don’t worry. Yeah right! We worried. At the very first ‘free-from-danger’ opportunity, the tape measures were rolled out. Sure is sure.

Construction - Second Floor: May 2013    Construction - Second Floor, windows are in: June 2013

Here they are preparing and sealing the roof. The view on the left is of the front (main entrance) and the one on the right is from the side, showing some of the balconies. Construction: Our new flat from inside - Living Room    Construction: Our new flat from inside

Phew! Looking much better inside, and of course, bigger. Jumping for joy! This is the living room again, with very big windows. Oh let the sunshine in tra-la-laaa…Starting to ‘feel’ the place now, and also finally able to envisage where to place what, like a couch big enough to seat an army, or something ‘out of this world’ to store our millions of music cd’s…*grinning*

Construction - Second Floor, August 2013: View from our balcony    Construction - Second Floor, August 2013

This is the current view from our balcony (left). And hmmm yes, we are so lucky to have an almost 360 degree field of vision which stretches out over all the rooftops to a wonderful and amazing view of the fields and forest, which is only one or two hundred metres away.

Wohnzimmer - Fußbodenheizung ist bereits verlegt    Schlafzimmer - Fußbodenheizung ist bereits verlegt

Underfloor heating! Yay! Warm feet! Double Yay! The one on the left is the living room again, and the one on the right is our future bedroom. Even though much progress has been made so far, it will still be another few months before we can move in. Can’t wait!

Wohnzimmer Anfang Oktober - Estrich ist verlegt    Badezimmer und Duschecke Anfang Oktober - Estrich ist verlegt

It has been only one week, since they installed the underfloor heating, ONE WEEK, and abracadabra, covered and plastered already. Must be some kind of ‘just-add-water’ cement because the floor is already dry. Well, at least dry enough for two very ‘just-a-quick-look-see’  inquisitive and excited pair to trod on. That’s our living room on the left, and the bathroom is on the right. As one loves to shower and the other one loves a good old splish-splash, with lots of bubbles of course (uhm, no duckies), there’s enough room for a walk-in shower, a bathtub, his and hers basins…yay…and of course, no queues.   😀

Blick aus dem Schlafzimmer    Blick aus dem Arbeitsszimmer

“Someday I will fly over the rooftops, and I’ll have all that I’ve dreamed for…” are the words of a song by four lovely lads. On the left is the view from our study, and on the right is the view from our bedroom. Unfortunately it was very overcast…

Big Party in Neckarsteinach

We spent a few days of the festive season 2012/3 in Neckarsteinach, a lovely little town in the very south of Hesse, a province in Germany. While we were there we also arranged and hosted a party for family and friends. It was a lot of work, phew! 😰

EsmePlop! In the pan you go…Two or more kilos of minced meat, with lots of fiery spices, were cooked the night before…

…and EARLY the next morning…yawn…made into lots of delumptious samoosas…fold and fry…fold and fry…fold and fry!

    …and with another kilo or so of minced meat…Meat balls! Impressive drinks bar too  😋

BuffetThis is the final spread. Many hands did NOT spoil the broth. Oh, and the scrumptious finger-licking quiches were all made by the tall handsome one. Finger. Licking. Good.

Finished! and the kitchen did not burn down either   😂   A good team, ain’t we? At the end of the evening we were pleasantly…hic…surprised by some very slurp-sip-slurp-hmmmm appetizing Sgroppino cocktails, which were shaken and stirred by the yummy one wearing glasses. Cheers, honey!

Even though December was unusually mild (warm and no snow) it never stopped raining in the catchment areas. The result was a lot of flooding, as seen here on the river Neckar. By the time these pictures were taken, a lot of the water had subsided a bit already, but the river was still overflowing. Fascinating yet intimidating…shiver.

The sluice gates and the river power plant on the left, and a scary overflowing river on the right. The acrophobic one actually managed to cross the river on that very ‘scream-yelp-it-looks-dangerous’ bridge. Sniff!Neckarsteinach am Neckar mit Mittelburg (links) und Vorderburg (rechts)A lovely view of Neckarsteinach. The rolling hills and fields in the foreground, the river Neckar thereafter, the town after that, the famous castles behind, and more rolling hills to round off a picture perfect town.

Nilgänse (Alopochen aegyptiacus) auf dem Neckar (bei Neckarsteinach)A pair of Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiacus). There were many of them, and each one looked different to the other. The only distinction is that males are larger than females, and quieter. Wonder why! They only ‘quack-quack’ when aroused, so they say. The ladies however, are more vocal, and uhm, all the time. What else?   😌

These saw Mr. Camera, and what do you know, posed, preened and dare it be said, er…uhm “Smiled!” I’m so beautiful…do you like my quacky smile…tra…la…laaaaaaa!

Neckarsteinach is famous for it’s four castles. The oldest is thought to have been built around 1142, and is privately owned, so sadly no spontaneous public viewing of the inside is possible, unless pre-arranged and approved. The next oldest castle, built around 1200, is also privately owned, and the same ‘no-you-cannot-have-a-quick-look’ rules apply here too. Whatever, still great to see, after a steep and…gasp…breathless climb. The other two are ruins, so go ahead, feel free to explore! Once a year, in July, and at the onset of darkness, the castles are also lit up, followed by a fantastic display of fireworks.

Mittelburg in NeckarsteinachThis is the entrance to one of the private castles. Peek-a-boooooo!

Some of the flora clinging to the ancient walls. Now and again something with eyes…eeek! would peep through the crags, then immediately slither away. Snakes? Lizards? Bllrrrr!

Meander, meander. The Neckar river entering and passing Neckarsteinach (left) then off it snakes between wooded hills towards Heidelberg and beyond (right), until it finally enters the Rhine river, in the city of Mannheim. An interesting little tit-bit is that the river, at this point, is the border between two provinces, Hesse and Baden-Württemberg, which ends at the last curve on the picture on the right. In other words, each province has half a river…

The ruins of one of the castles. A wonderful view of the valley below can be seen from here. Those that are adventurous, and young and supple, can climb higher for a better view. Acrophobic’s might want to steer clear from the edges though…just saying

As mentioned before, one can climb higher (see those steps? ughh!) for an exceptionally fantastic view, like the one on the right. Of course, the one holding the camera is incredible too! Such a shot is just out of this world!

Statue of the Listening Man, Hinterburg, NeckarsteinachHi, howdy, tell me some more. A statue of the Listening Man, carved in wood. Yep, wood. Nope, uh-uh, there will be NO comments from this little peanut gallery. Wink-wink…

On the banks of the river (left) and a Neckarsteinach ‘Weather Station’ (right). The tips or instructions on the little board on how the weather is, is very funny. Examples: If you cannot see the stone, then it is foggy. If the stone swings, it is storming. If the stone is wet, then it is raining. If the stone is white, it is snowing. If the stone is dry, then the sun is shining. If the stone is laying on the ground, then there was an earthquake. If there is no stone, then it was stolen. Giggle. Giggle. Hee… Heeeeee..

In Neckarsteinach, vom Neckarufer ausThis wonderful view of a half-timbered house in the town centre was taken from the promenade directly on the Neckar river. An amazing and pretty picture, not so??? Very high and not-sure-how-old protecting walls, the beautiful house, a giant mistletoe hanging from above (yes, we kissed and kissed and kissed and…you know, kissed), and one left-over lighted Christmas star decoration hanging just behind that. The big round stone right in front just makes it oh so aahhh, and the mountain in the background finishes this off perfectly. Aaaaahh! Oh, okaaaay, go on. Print and frame it!  Neckar + Neckarsteinach + HinterburgThe town, the castle ruins, the rolling hills, the over-flowing river eeep! and young sturdy trees standing to attention. And there, right in the middle, a barge, chug-chugging its way towards the sluice gates.

All river traffic was prohibited for days due to the too high water levels. This was not so good for business, as a lot of the transport on the river are carriers, like this one. It was also very interesting to observe the ‘lifting’ process at the sluice gate.

Tankmotorschiff Kraichgau II in der Schleuse NeckarsteinachThe whole process did not take long, then it was ready to go on it’s way. A queue started building up in no time at all. The El Capitanos were quite anxious to catch up on lost time.

Here we have a man. A man on a cooking mission. Spices? Check. Pots? Check. Apron? Hell no! Assistant? Uhm…hello-hello-hello. Fire extinguisher? Too late. Smile? Check. BIG Smile? Check-check-CHECK. Then we have a…uhm…bloody fish. Carp? Check. Dead? Poke-poke…Yep…Check. Now let the fun begin! Ready, steady, GO!

After giving it a very good wash, so as to get rid of any slitherings, slimes, scales and any other leftovers from breakfast (pre-capture), you grab it by the posterior, turn it around and eeewwww! pucker-smack-smooch, declare it good enough for human consumption. The assistant abandoned ship.  🙀

There you go honey, take a nice hot bath…uhm…boil. The carp starts to get a blue-ish tint, and not because it is freezing hee…heeee…

Ahem. Aha. Ähm. Stare. It is still in there. Hmmm. Is something maybe missing? Okay, let me try this. Ohhmmmm! Hocus-Pocus! Boiling hot, boiling hot, what else shall go into the pot! Simsalabim, the salt is now in!

Ta-daaaaa! It worked! Our personal traditional meal for New Year’s Eve. The multitudes can now be fed. Happy New Year and Joy to the world!  🎉  He actually made two of these. Yes, TWO. Proud, satisfied and a medal deserving gourmet chef. Well done honey!

Phew! Glug-Glug-Glug. What a…glug-glug…thirsty job that was! Glug-glug-glug. It’s so hot in here! Giggle. Happy face. Red face. Oh okay, and ‘blushing’ ears too. And with all the oohs, aahs and yum-yums, there also was satisfaction all round. Clap-clap-clap. Bring on the fireworks and let the New Year roll in! (before there’s a ‘plop’ and some-one falls over hee heeee)

Day 16: Auf Wiedersehen…with tears and smiles…

Wakey-wakey, I’m here!! Your last day! Geez, it came faster than we wanted it to. We thought of all sort of reasons to stay another week, but unfortunately there were work commitments which could not be changed. Sigh. All good things come to an end. Like it or not.  😦  Yep, the holiday was now over, so we grudgingly had to pack our bonnie bags and head for home. After a somewhat long drawn out breakfast, we loaded the car, did all the necessary tidying and checks of the house, then locked the door. Believe it or not, but dropping the key into the safety box was not easy. That clink at the bottom of the metal box meant it was final. No getting back into the house anymore. Sob. Sniff. And to crown it all, it was the sunniest day we had experienced since we were there. Bright beautiful sunshine! Our gloom lasted for quite a while though, until we were well and truly on the very busy highway to Berlin. Yes, we were making another overnight stopover, to visit family again, and the thought of seeing them lifted our spirits. Yay!

Conclusion: Rügen was amazing. We had so much energy, probably due to the high quantity of iron in the water, hee…heee…fish, fish, and uhm fish, plus all the lovely fresh air. The house we lived in was well-equipped, big, quiet and good value for money…As it was surrounded by fields and farmland, we were lucky to always see the cranes flying overhead, mornings and evenings. Very early in the mornings….Noisy creatures! They also spent some days on one of the fields behind the house. Fantastic! We also walked nearly every day, taking in as much of the island as we could. It was not overly tiring to do so, just relaxing. It’s also better to know beforehand what kind of holiday you want, and when. We found the variety of accommodation facilities on offer quite overwhelming, as we’d never been to the island before. Whatever, in the end it was all good…after eeny-meeny-miny-moe…

Berlin - Brücke zum HauptbahnhofSome wonderful pictures of Berlin. This is the bridge over the river Spree, going towards the main station, and decorated with many finished and unfinished beer glasses. These were the leftovers from the previous night’s celebration of the Oktoberfest, a la Berlin…

Berlin - Kanzleramt    Berlin - Regierungsviertel

The building to the left, the ‘Kanzleramt’, is the official government office of Angie, the current Chancellor of Germany. In the forecourt is a rusted steel sculpture by a Spanish sculptor, and is simply called ‘Berlin’. Directly opposite (picture right) is another imposing government building, which is also called the washing machine. Hmmmm, wonder why….Probably because when cruising along the river Spree, one sees this big square concrete ‘cube’ with a big round hole in the middle. Inside are rows of windows, which looks like it was just plopped into the cube. This picture was taken of the front, and the cube is to the back somewhere…

Berlin - ReichstagThe Reichstag building, which was opened in 1894, severely damaged in a fire in 1933, and fully restored in 1999. The glass dome on the top has a 360 degree view over Berlin, and it is currently free to go up there. The queues are long though. L.O.N.G!

Berlin - Brandenburger Tor    Berlin - Brandenburger Tor

The Brandenburg Gate, a must-see in Berlin, was erected in the 1730’s, originally as a symbol of peace. It has been used for many different purposes, political or otherwise, from Napoleon to Kennedy, who, in 1963, proudly declared that he was a Berliner. In some areas in Germany, a Berliner is similar to a jam doughnut…just saying…This gate was also directly behind the then Berlin wall, on the former East German side. If you are facing the heads of the Quadriga (the horses on the top), then you’re in the former East Germany. If you’re facing the, dare it be mentioned, backsides, then you’re in the west.

Berlin - Jüdisches DenkmalThe Holocaust Memorial has about 2700 concrete slabs, in various sizes, and is situated near the Brandenburg Gate. There are no inscriptions on the slabs, but there is now a visitors centre erected underneath, for more information.

Berlin - Potsdamer PlatzPotsdamer Platz. A busy and bustling area, with traffic and more traffic. There are a lot of fancy hotels, various kinds of restaurants, business offices, entertainment and even a star walk of fame…Well, this is just a strip, or sort of an island, between two very very busy hooting and tooting roads. Yes, a star strip…uhm.

Berlin - Sony Centre                          Berlin - Sony Centre

The famous Sony Centre, with its conical roof which apparently represents Mount Fuji. The textile sails on the roof have these amazing light effects, seemingly changing its colours every few seconds or so, from reds to blues to other hues…Getting poetic now, not so???   😉  Sitting in one of the restaurants below, sipping juices or umbrella drinks, chatting or simply just people-watching, is a nice way to while away an hour or so…Try it!

Berlin - Sony Centre       Berlin - Sony Centre

Inside the centre. This cinema, picture left, is quite famous, and is used a lot for previews and presentations. Red carpet stuff. Yes, this is where the big and the not so well-known stars and starlets come to introduce their new movies.

Berliner Theater am Potsdamer PlatzTheatre. Dancing. Convening. And of course eating. Yum-yum-yummmm! At a restaurant a few short steps from here, we had the most divine, finger-licking lip-smacking spare-ribs ever. Okay, not ever, but in a long while. After eating fish for almost two weeks, it was positively hmmmm…

Day 15: Stones, Goats and Flying Men…

The weather forecast was not good today, and we were a little bit tired, but we nonetheless still decided to go on an itsy bitsy walking tour. We wanted to see the longest land bridge of the island, called Schaabe, with the town of Glowe on the one end, and Juliusruh on the other. The Schaabe is about twelve kilometres long, and only about one kilometre at it’s widest point, where we started our walk.

Schaabe, island of Rügen

On the one side of the Schaabe is this very wide beach with fine soft sand. Behind that are the dunes, which are stabilised and protected by the very resistant marram grass. Immediately behind that is the forest, cut through the middle of the whole length by a quite busy road.

Hiking at the Schaabe, island of Rügen

The forest is considerably dense and spreads right across to the other end of the land bridge. This path (above) is almost at the water’s edge. At this time of the year there are also a lot of mushrooms growing in the forest, which explained why so many people were walking around schlepping baskets and plastic packets. We thought that getting pricked by thorns, OUCH! would be better.  😄  Yes, we could not resist picking off big red and juicy, though a wee bit sour, berries from the thorny bushes. Oh, and we also discovered a few relics from the past. Oh alright, so it was only a rusted military water canister, but it was old-ish. No, we did not take it, but left it there. Hmmm…Why?  😉

Holiday complex/resort in Juliusruh, with the typical thatched roof houses

This is a holiday complex/resort in Juliusruh, with the typical thatched roof houses that are all over the island. This is what you encounter as soon as you exit the forest. Very peaceful, with only the sounds of the waves lapping against the shore.

The beach as seen from both ends. The left one is facing Glowe, somewhere down yonder, and the right one curving towards Juliusruh, far far away…This little boat was somewhere in the middle…

Skinny-dip - Nude at the Schaabe beach - Rügen

There were children playing, dogs barking, and one or two naked men dipping their titbits into the brrrrr water. Yep, part of this beach is also for nudists.

Schaabe beach - Rügen

Looking at this lovely picture, you’d never say that a storm was brewing, or that we nearly got lost, trying to find our car. Hey, the beach is very big! The heavens did open eventually, boom-splat-plop-plop, but we still went to visit the Karlsdorf farmers market (the tea-pot place in day 7). Here we bought lots of delicious stuff, yummy, for our loved ones and friends at home. Erhmmm, and for ourselves too…wink wink. Another ending to a lovely, but somewhat wet and soggy day. Hello fireplace!

Day 14: Mushrooms, thorns and thunderstorms…

The weather forecast was not good today, and we were a little bit tired, but we nonetheless still decided to go on an itsy bitsy walking tour. We wanted to see the longest land bridge of the island, called Schaabe, with the town of Glowe on the one end, and Juliusruh on the other. The Schaabe is about twelve kilometres long, and only about one kilometre at it’s widest point, where we started our walk.

Schaabe, island of Rügen

On the one side of the Schaabe is this very wide beach with fine soft sand. Behind that are the dunes, which are stabilised and protected by the very resistant marram grass. Immediately behind that is the forest, cut through the middle of the whole length by a quite busy road.

Hiking at the Schaabe, island of Rügen

The forest is considerably dense and spreads right across to the other end of the land bridge. This path (above) is almost at the water’s edge. At this time of the year there are also a lot of mushrooms growing in the forest, which explained why so many people were walking around schlepping baskets and plastic packets. We thought that getting pricked by thorns, OUCH! would be better.  😄  Yes, we could not resist picking off big red and juicy, though a wee bit sour, berries from the thorny bushes. Oh, and we also discovered a few relics from the past. Oh alright, so it was only a rusted military water canister, but it was old-ish. No, we did not take it, but left it there. Hmmm…Why?  😉

Holiday complex/resort in Juliusruh, with the typical thatched roof houses

This is a holiday complex/resort in Juliusruh, with the typical thatched roof houses that are all over the island. This is what you encounter as soon as you exit the forest. Very peaceful, with only the sounds of the waves lapping against the shore.

The beach as seen from both ends. The left one is facing Glowe, somewhere down yonder, and the right one curving towards Juliusruh, far far away…This little boat was somewhere in the middle…

Skinny-dip - Nude at the Schaabe beach - Rügen

There were children playing, dogs barking, and one or two naked men dipping their titbits into the brrrrr water. Yep, part of this beach is also for nudists.

Schaabe beach - Rügen

Looking at this lovely picture, you’d never say that a storm was brewing, or that we nearly got lost, trying to find our car. Hey, the beach is very big! The heavens did open eventually, boom-splat-plop-plop, but we still went to visit the Karlsdorf farmers market (the tea-pot place in day 7). Here we bought lots of delicious stuff, yummy, for our loved ones and friends at home. Erhmmm, and for ourselves too…wink wink. Another ending to a lovely, but somewhat wet and soggy day. Hello fireplace!

Day 13: Dykes and Divas in Darss

This tour was one of the most beautiful we’ve done so far. The area, a peninsula on the mainland, is called Darss (Darsser Ort). It has a wonderful National Park (Vorpommersche Boddenland), which, apparently, due to a very dynamic sedimentation process, grows by ten metres every year! Bet Holland would like this! Darss is also an old Slavic name roughly meaning ‘Briar’. Yep, thorns and other prickly things! The peninsula is also connected to the mainland by the two Meiningen bridges, situated next to one another, one older (ca. 1908), and the newer one, built in the 1980’s. The fascinating part is that the older one is a pivot bridge, and the other one a bascule bridge, or simply said, a drawbridge. As we approached the crossing, bells started ringing and red lights were flashing, which meant that a ship was on its way. Well, it was actually a boat, but nevertheless, we still had to stop. It was interesting though, to see the bridges moving, making way for the little man and his fishing boat.

Pier in Prerow - Peninsula DarssPier in Prerow. This little town was the starting point of our long walk to the nature reserve, and used to be known, long long looong ago, as the Majorca of East Germany. And sssshhhhh!…it also has one of the largest nude beaches in Germany.

Prerow Beach…there were quite a few children trying to fly their kites. It was very windy, but one or two managed to soar up in the air. Nooo, not the children…tsk…tsk… 😄  Whoosh! but the wind was really strong. The picture on the right is just amazing. Woman, man, dog. All lined up behind one another, with the boat adding a little oomph to this pic. A good eye, a better instinct, and snap! the right moment is captured. Priceless!

Birds…Birds…Busy birds! There were so many and they were all so tiny! The birdie amateur thought they were ‘aaah-oh-how-cute’ babies. The cameraman nearly dropped his jaw onto his zoom lens. They are Stints (Calidris minuta) and Dunlins (Calidris alpina), he patiently explained, looking at me over his glasses. Oh, and over there are Sandpipers. Okaaaay! Whateverrrrr. 😝  They were still cute. We were now on the northern coastal part of Darss.

   Dig. Dig. Nibble. Nibble. And what do you know, a seagull too! (right)

The Ruddy Turnstone. Yep, that’s what it’s called. Nope, this is not a biology lesson…

Nationalpark Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft - Nordstrand von Darß

That’s what’s so wonderful about nature. Even in the middle of nothing, flowers can grow.

The wonderful coastal area of the nature reserve. The weather was not so great, even raining a bit, but that did not spoil anything for us. It is a very quiet and almost serene area, and, as captured in these stunning pictures, sand and water as far as the eye can see. Almost like clouds meets land…

Ostseehalbinsel Darß - Hafen am Ottosee

The tiny little harbour of Ottersee, with a wooden bridge, which we had to cross. Shiver-shiver-shake! There were NO railings on either side, so it was almost like walking on a tightrope…Oooohhhrrrrrrrr…

…after safely ‘landing’ on the other side of the wooden bridge, we entered the protected area of the national park. This wooden ‘runway’ is one of many, and it serves as a secure walkway, because the ground is very soft and mostly mushy and wet. We also heard and saw quite a few deers. Some were also fighting! Like divas protecting their territory…  😌

Strand an der Ostseehalbinsel Darß

…another brilliant picture of the coast, with a washed up log, all by its lonesome self…We also looked for the famous amber stones, to no avail…again…

…here another example of how nature works. This tree is almost dead, yet a beautiful flower still manages to grow in it…All together now. Aaaahhhhh!Harzgewinnung zu DDR-Zeiten - Ostseehalbinsel Darß…and then comes man…Almost all the trees in the park have these ‘patterns’. During the East German (DDR) reign, they were periodically milked for their resin. What a shame…

Villa in Prerow - Ostseehalbinsel Darß

A lovely villa which we saw on our way back to Prerow. From here on we walked all the way on a paved dyke, with the tree-lined coast to the left, and lots of cute little houses on the right…

Boats and ….boats…We were driving back home, when we spontaneously decided to do the boat thing in Prerow…a boat tour specially to see the cranes…We were glad we did! It was quite chilly though, but that was solved by drinking HOT ‘Sanddorn’ juice, and a hot chocolate with lots of cream and something Russian…or was it Jamaican…Whichever. It was toasty!  ☺️  The one on the left was our boat, and the one on the right was a Mississippi steam boat which we encountered on the way…The boat sails on the Prerow river right up to the Meiningen Bridge, then anchors for an hour or more, until most of the cranes have flown by, or until the sun sets completely, whichever comes first…If you do not want to go by boat, parking near the bridge is possible. Get there early, as parking spaces are limited,  and it gets really full.

Graugänse bei Prerow vom Boot aus

…many many grey geese which we saw from the boat…

…and then the best part…Cranes, cranes everywhere. There must have been thousands of them flying over our heads, all returning to their resting ‘quarters’ for the night. Wow! Awesome. Incredible. Marvellous. If you look closer, you can see two of them bumping into one another. Crash bang birdies! No, they did not fall down, and with so many birds flying overhead, nor did any of their ‘droppings’ fall on our heads…or open-mouthed faces 😝

…see this breathtaking view of the starting nightfall, with the noisy cranes overhead…

“There’s never one sunrise the same, or one sunset the same” Carlos Santana

Our wish for you is that the sunsets in your life be always as beautiful as this. As the day comes to an end, the stars start to glisten brightly, and the moon shows its shiny face. Aah, how wondrous it is, knowing that the day has ended as colourful as the dawning of a new day promises to be. Yes, with new hopes and happy dreams. Smile. I know we are 😊

Day 12: Aufhübschen in Binz (primping and preening in Binz…)

Willkommen im Seebad Binz - Insel RügenWe did not hike today. Surprise. Surprise. The weather was so-la-la, so we decided to visit the largest of the four Baltic sea-side resorts, Binz. It has quite an unusual setting. It faces a lovely long beach with quite soft white sand on the Prorer Wiek (Prorer bay) and at the back there’s a big lake called the Schmachter See, which is quite shallow. Yes, Binz is sort of squeezed in-between two water bodies. The resort is also not too far away from Sellin (see our post on Day 6) and boasts a similar architecture of villas and houses. Although, personally, it lacked the charm of Sellin. Too touristy…

Bimmelbahn im Seebad Binz - Insel RügenAs is typical for most resorts, here is one of the many choo-choo shuttle services which starts at the pier and drives through the town. Don’t expect a steaming chimney or loud toot-toot whistling, as they are tourist trains, quiet, for weary legs, for snapshots, for excited kiddies, or just for fun. They also have rubber tyres. More vroom-vroom than choo-choo. There’s also one called the Hunting Lodge Express, which takes you right up to the historical Granitz Hunting Lodge (Jagdschloss Granitz) which is not far away. Alternatively, there’s also a blue Bäderbahn (Resort train, also with tyres!) for other destinations within the town. AND…for a REAL choo-choo experience, you can also hop onto the Rushing Roland (Rasender Roland) which has a stop in Binz.

Sandcastle in Binz - Island of Rügen                                    Sanddorn's im Seebad Binz - Insel Rügen

…a real sandcastle! For the third time now, the Rügen island is hosting a big international Sand Sculpure Festival (31.03-04.11), currently in Binz. This year’s festival theme is European fairy tales. On the right is a quaint little shop selling products made ONLY from Sanddorn berries. Amazing to see the variety of jams, drinks, cosmetic articles and and and…We bought a few stuff, but only those mixed with sugar and cream. As we’ve said before, Sanddorn is SOUR. Gurrrrhhrrr…

Seebrücke im Seebad Binz - Insel Rügen

The Pier. Here you can embark on a ship and take an excursion along the chalk coastline, to Kap Arkona (Cape Arkona), or to the other Baltic Seaside Resorts. We sat in a ‘rustic’ little hut right on the beach, and ate a delicious Currywurst (Curry Sausage) with fries, and enjoyed this view. Yummy!

Kurhaus (Hotel ) im Seebad Binz - Insel Rügen           Kurhaus (Hotel) im Seebad Binz - Insel Rügen

The Kurhaus (Spa house) situated directly on the promenade, and near the pier, was opened in July 1890. Unfortunately it burnt completely down in 1906. It was reconstructed a year later, but this time built with bricks! The original building was a Fachwerkhaus (half-timbered house). Lots of wood! It is now a hotel, but purposely with no star ratings. It used to hold a 5-star superior hotel rating, but they gave this up in 2012. Apparently the service will still remain top class, as always.

…a very elegant sea gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus), primped and preened… 😉

Aufhübschzone im Seebad Bin - Insel Rügen

…tantalizing titivation’s?? The sign roughly says that this shop is a  ‘primp and preen zone’ Uhmm! Oh okaaaay…we believe you!

Camera packed away…rucksacks stowed in the boot…

We left Binz then headed off towards the Jasmund National Park. Noooo, not to hike, but to go SWIMMING! Not the ‘oopsy-daisy-that-wave-got-me-wet-again’ shore-line adventure paddling, but dipping into a warm smallish indoor swimming pool. There’s also an outdoor pool, but at this time of the year you have to be really brrr-brave to want to swim in that. Well, we did!! After a few shivering minutes we rushed into the sauna. There are many types to choose from, dry heat, wet heat, cannot breathe heat.  We did a few sessions in some of them, the shortest stay being in a steaming hot ‘now-I-am-fried’ rose perfumed cabin. Understandably we jumped back into the pool, and decided that we had no need to test the fitness area, nor to get a massage. Too much oilies…So we plopped ourselves on the deck chairs, and promptly fell asleep, with our wet togs still clinging onto our ‘curves’. Not so comfy, but worth it for a short snoozle. This complex, by the way, is called the  Jasmar or Jasmunder SPA (Jasmar Therme).

Another highlight was that the passenger was FINALLY allowed to drive! After adjusting the seat from long legs to shorty legs, and stretching the neck so as to be able to see over the bonnet, we bunny hopped out of the parking lot and made our way home, and arrived safely too. A wonderful end to a wonderful day! Sigh. Contented sigh!

Day 11: “… ich hab’ die Haare schön” …hair, hair, my beautiful hair…

Marienkirche in Bergen - Insel Rügen                                    Marienkirche in Bergen auf Rügen - Romanische Wandmalereien

…another one of the wonderful churches on the island, St. Mary’s in Bergen, a town not too far from where we were staying. We made a short stop over here before we went to hike in the Lancken-Granitz. When we returned to our car, a neat wet little piece of paper stuck on the windscreen welcomed us to the town, and announced that we must pay a parking fine! Hrmph! Not nice, but thankfully it was only 5 euros. Oh well, at least it did not spoil our impressions of this church though. We were amazed at the Romanesque mural art on the walls and ceilings, depicting quite a few biblical motives. What makes it so interesting in these old churches, is the feeling of being transported back in time, and the wonder of how life must have been without modern day technology. A Gothic slide show!

Marienkirche in Bergen auf Rügen - Romanische WandmalereienHere the very high arched ceilings with fantastic murals. Don’t be shy, lie on your back, only if you are sure you can get up again, and admire the view! The floors are made of stone and are very cold, mmmm…so maybe not…

Neolithisches Megalithgrab bei Lancken-Granitz - Insel RügenAfter the parking fine shock, we drove over to our hiking starting point at Lancken-Granitz. There are no visible road signs on the main road leading to this little village, so can be difficult to find, but thanks to Capitano Columbus, the driver, we did not get lost. Not far from this village are the famous megalith tombs from the Neolithic era (new stone age). There are seven of these tombs in total.

"Ziegensteine" - Neolithisches Megalithgrab bei Lancken-Granitz - Insel RügenFurther along is the Ziegensteine tomb, or Sieges[steine] (Victory stones). Ziegen actually means goats, but I don’t think that these had anything to do with goats. Ehm…This tomb is also one of the largest megalithic tombs on the island, and erected by farmers and livestock breeders around 3500-1800BC. It is also situated in a very quiet and peaceful part of the forest.

Stresow Bay with the island of Vilm - Island of RügenThe Stresow Bay with the very remote island of Vilm in the background. It is a protected nature reserve, and strictly closed to constant human presence. Visits to the island are restricted to a maximum of thirty persons per day, so booking in advance is a must.

Weg nach Groß Stresow an der Stresower Bucht - Insel RügenThe entrance to the little village of Gross Stresow (big Stresow) at the bay, with a big welcome painted on the rock. Cute.

Thatched roof house in Groß Stresow - Island of RügenOne of the many lovely thatched roof houses in the village.

Wegweiser in Groß Stresow - Insel Rügen…what a novel idea for a red little buoy. As you see, from this point, Cape Town is ‘only’ 9781 kilometres away!

Haus in Groß Stresow - Insel RügenThis is a holiday house, with such a pretty garden, and the bay is only a few metres away.

Hafen von Groß Stresow - Insel RügenWe took a little break, and, sitting on an upside-down ‘hope-it-will-not-break’ boat, enjoyed the view while munching on our choc-chip cookies. The sun is struggling to peep through the clouds, and the wooden little pier looked a bit too rickety, so no walking on that. Amazing photo, not so??

Aaahh, beautiful! There were so many butterflies in this garden, more than anywhere else we’ve seen on the island. In fact, up to now we’d only seen one or three caterpillars, eeek, and maybe one or three butterflies. There were also quite a lot of hornets buzzing amongst them, all enjoying the rotting fruits of a pear tree. The amazing photographer braved the buzz-buzzing of those yellow-striped kamikazes, and managed to take this wonderful snapshot of Madame B., casting her shadow over the pole. It was not easy to get such an amazing snapshot! Awesome!

Briefkasten und Apfelbaum in Groß Stresow - Insel RügenDelicious red apples for the postman?? A mouth-watering apple tree with an overfull post box, still in Gross Stresow.

Groß Stresow an der Stresower Bucht - Insel RügenA view of the village of Gross Stresow in the background. We walked all the way from there, along this very narrow shoreline of the bay (this was probably the widest part!). We sank in the way too soft sand, we paddled in the water, we crawled and fought our way through the reeds, we climbed over rocks and stones. Another day in paradise? You bet!

Pony bei Neureddevitz - Insel Rügen            Pony bei Neureddevitz - Insel Rügen

Hair. Hair. My beautiful hair! …a home for fleas, yeah…a hive for bees, oh yeah…a nest for birds, well hmmm…there ain’t no words for the beauty, the splendor, the wonder of my…Hair. Hair. Hair…Is this baby cute or not??

                                    Pony bei Neureddevitz - Insel Rügen

…and I can talk too, but at the moment I’m a little hoarse…giggle…giggle…

Pony und Pferd bei Neureddevitz - Insel Rügen                                    Pony und Pferd bei Neureddevitz - Insel Rügen

…snuffle up my little one! What a lovely privilege to witness this tenderness between the two. There were other horses in the paddock, but only these two were inquisitive enough to stay with us. The others turned their backs on us when they realised that we had nothing yummy-yum for them to nibble on.

                                    

Excuse me Sir, but do you have a mint? Ace Venturarah canoodling with Brown Beauty. …baby…oh oh baby, my sweet baby…cootchie cootchie coo…

Hafen von Neureddevitz - Insel RügenAfter the fun with the loving horses, we reached the ‘only-has-one-street’ fishing village of Neu Reddevitz. It is surrounded on three sides by water, and is in the biosphere reserve of south eastern Rügen. It has a lovely little stony beach, all 5 metres of it. At the distance (top left of photo) is Gross Stresow, where we walked from. So far, far away. Impressive.

Hauptstraße in Neureddevitz - Insel RügenThe main and only street in the village. There are a lot of lovely little thatched roof houses, which are mainly used as holiday homes.

Erneuerung eines Reetdachs in Neureddevitz - Insel Rügen…here one of the houses getting a face-lift! Apparently it costs a lot of money to re-roof these houses, and it has to be repeated every ten to twenty years or so. Also not good if there’s a fire!

Blick vom Teschenberg auf die Stresower Bucht - Insel RügenOn our way back to Lancken-Granitz, over the Teschenberg, with the Stresow Bay in the background. Is this not a fantastic landscape photo? Spectacular!

Blick auf Lancken-Granitz - Insel RügenA view of the village of Lancken-Granitz. There’s a solid wooden bench over here where one can sit and admire the all-round view of the fields and the village in front, and listen to the chirping birds in the little forest at the back. We were almost at our destination. A wonderful end to another adventurous day. Hee-haw!