Here And There In America: The Haines Shoe House

There are two towns in southern Pennsylvania, about 25 miles from each other on either side of the Susquehanna River, named Lancaster and York, just like those Plantagenet towns in England. If you should find yourself on the York side of the river, you won’t be far from the town of Hallam, home of the Haines Shoe House. // Es gibt zwei Städte im südlichen Pennsylvania, etwa 25 Meilen von einander entfernt dies- und jenseits des Susquehanna River, Lancaster und York, gerade wie jene Städten des Hauses Plantagenet in England. Wenn man sich auf der Yorker Seite des Flusses befindet, ist man nicht weit von der Stadt Hallam, der Heimat des Haines Schuh-Hauses.


There are other shoe-shaped structures in the world, but this is, apparently, the only actual shoe-shaped house, or so its owner told us. The interior (photographs forbidden) proved a masterpiece in house design, with built in storage spaces and a curved kitchen bench to fit the curved wall (in the “heel”). On the ground floor is a small ice cream parlor/gift shop. // Es gibt andere schuhförmige Strukturen in der Welt, aber das ist offenbar das einzige tatsächliche schuhförmige Haus, wie sein Besitzer uns sagte. Der Innenraum (Fotos verboten) erwies sich als ein Meisterwerk der Raumgestaltung, mit Lagerflächen und einer gekrümmten Küchenbank gebaut, um in die gekrümmte Wand (in der “Ferse”) zu passen. Im Erdgeschoss befindet sich eine kleine Eisdiele / Geschenkeladen.


The shoe-as-abode theme extends to the property’s birdhouse…
Das Thema Schuh-als-Wohnung erstreckt sich auch auf das Vogelhaus der Unterkunft …


…and even the doghouse out back.
… und sogar die Hundehütte.

Note of warning: this place has no public restroom, period. If you’ve got to go, make a pit stop somewhere else before you arrive. // Achtung: Dieser Ort hat keine öffentliche Toilette. Wenn nötig, planen sie anderswo einen Boxenstopp, bevor sie das Haus besichtigen.


This was a delightful attraction to see, but alone hardly worth the long drive. We supplemented the afternoon with an informative and entertaining guided tour at the historic Ephrata Cloister. // Das war eine reizvolle Attraktion, aber die lange Fahrt für sich kaum wert. Wir ergänzten den Nachmittag mit einer informativen und unterhaltsamen Führung durch die historische Kloster Ephrata.

Update: More weird ways to live (in German, with photos).

Posted in America, culture, history, travel | 1 Comment

Here And There In America: Modern-Day Ruins.

Da und dort in Amerika: Ruinen von heute

A recent photoseries at the Suddeutsche Zeitung (g) featured images of abandoned, neglected shopping malls and referred to the genre as “ruin porn”.
Our neck of Pennsylvania has its own share of source material for that, from the old Pennhurst Asylum to the canal locks on the Schuylkill. //  Eine aktuelle Fotoserie in der Süddeutschen Zeitung zeigt Bilder von verlassenen, vernachlässigte Einkaufszentren und bezeichnet das Genre als “Ruinen Porno”. Unsere Ecke von Pennsylvania hat ihren eigenen Anteil an solchen Dingen vom alten Pennhurst Alterhseim  bis zu den Schleusen am Schuylkill.

St. Peters Village has gone through phases of ruin and renewal, depending on the economy and entrepreneurial interest, but one part of its development fell through a number of years ago and may join the list of local ruins before long, if it hasn’t already. This would be the planned townhouse settlement above the village. The roads were laid, an office and one row of model townhouses built, and that seems to have been the end, possibly due to a water dispute in late 2008. All the buildings are closed up and unoccupied, although someone is maintaining the grounds. //   St. Peters Dorf ging durch Phasen der Zerstörung und des Wiederaufbaus, abhängig von Wirtschaft und unternehmerisches Interesse. Aber ein Teil seiner Entwicklung ist vor Jahren gescheitert und dürfte bald in die Liste der örtlichen Ruinen kommen, wenn das nicht sogar bereits geschehen ist. Dies würde die geplante Stadthäusersiedlung oberhalb des Dorfes sein. Die Straßen wurden gebaut, ein Verlaufsbüro und eine Reihe von Modell-Stadthäusern gebaut, und damit war das Unternehmen beendet – möglicherweise aufgrund eines Streits um Wasserrechte Ende 2008. Alle Gebäude sind geschlossen und unbesetzt, obwohl jemand das Gelände pflegt.

IMG_1384We assume the area is now a popular place to “park” (the local term for making out in the car), drink, smoke weed, whatever teenagers need a secluded place to do. //  Wir vermuten, dass die Gegend heute ein beliebter Ort zum “Parken” ist (die lokale Bezeichnung für „im Auto rummachen“), um zu trinken, Gras zu rauchen, alles wofür Jugendliche eben einen abgelegnen Ort brauchen.

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Packing, cleaning, travel all keep me busy at the end of the season. As well as having many a celebratory drink with friends before we scatter across the globe.

After a recent storm. I don’t know what that flying object might be. Perhaps a plastic bag.


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The First Hours of the War of 1914

(The following is a chapter from Die Welt von gestern, or The World Of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig. It captures perfectly, even in translation — not mine, except for some minor changes — the feel of that time, that evening, the days ahead. By the end of the chapter you can almost smell the gunpowder being made.)
Hier das Kapitel in Originalsprache via Projekt Gutenberg.

“The summer of 1914 would have been memorable for us even without the doom which it spread over the European earth. I had rarely experienced one more luxuriant, more beautiful and, I am tempted to say, more summery. Throughout the days and nights the heavens were a silky blue, the air soft yet not sultry, the meadows fragrant and warm, the forests dark and profuse in their tender green; even today, when I use the word summer, I think involuntarily of those radiant July days which I spent in Baden bei Wien. In order that I might concentrate on my work I had retired for the month of July to this small romantic town where Beethoven loved to spend his summer holidays, planning to pass the remainder of the season with my honoured friend Verhaeren in his little country house in Belgium. In Baden one does not have to leave town to enjoy the country. The lovely, hilly forest insinuates itself between the low Biedermeier houses which have retained the simplicity and the charm of the Beethoven period. At all the cafés and restaurants one sat in the open, and could mingle at pleasure with the light-hearted visitors who strolled about the Kurpark, or slip into a solitary path.
Already in the evening of that twenty-ninth of June, which Catholic Austria celebrates as the feast day of Ss. Peter and Paul, many guests had arrived from Vienna. In light summer dress, gay and carefree, the crowds moved about to the music in the park. The day was mild; a cloudless sky lay over the broad chestnut trees; it was a day made to be happy. The vacation days would soon set in for families, and on this holiday they anticipated the entire summer, with its fresh air, its lush green, and the forgetting of all daily troubles. I was sitting at some distance from the crowd in the park, reading a book — I still remember that it was Merejkovsky’s Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky — and I read with interest and attention. Nevertheless, I was simultaneously aware of the wind in the trees, the twittering of the birds, and the music which wafted toward me from the park. I heard the melodies distinctly without being disturbed by them, for our ear is so capable of adapting itself that a continuous  din, or the noise of a street, or the rippling of a brook adjusts itself to our consciousness,and it is only an unexpected halt in the rhythm that startles us into listening.

“And so it was that I suddenly stopped reading when the music broke off abruptly. I did not know what piece the band was playing. I noticed only that the music had broken off. Instinctively I looked up from my book. The crowd which had strolled through the trees as a single, light, moving mass, also seemed to have undergone a change; it, too, had suddenly come to a halt. Something must have happened. I got up and saw that the musicians had left their pavilion. This too was strange, for the park concert usually lasted for an hour or more. What could have caused this brusque conclusion? Coming closer I noticed that the people had crowded excitedly around the bandstand because of an announcement which had evidently just been put up. It was, as I soon learned, the text of a telegram announcing that His Imperial Majesty, the successor to the crown, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, who had gone to the maneuvers in Bosnia, had fallen victims of a political assassination there.

“More and more people pressed toward the placard; the unexpected news was passed on from one to the other. But to be honest, there was no particular shock or dismay to be sen on their faces, for the heir-apparent was not at all well-liked. From the very earliest days of my youth I can recall another day when the Crown Prince Rudolf, the Emperor’s only son, had been found shot dead in Mayerling. Then the whole city was in a tumult of despair and excitement, tremendous crowds thronged to witness his lying-in-state, the expression of shock and sympathy for the Emperor was overwhelming, that his only son and heir, who had been looked upon as an unusually progressive and humane Hapsburg of whom much was expected, had passed on in the prime of life. But Franz Ferdinand lacked everything that counts for real popularity in Austria; amiability, personal charm and easygoingness. I had often seen him in the theater. There he sat in his box, broad and mighty, with cold, fixed gaze, never casting a single friendly glance towards the audience or encouraging the actors with hearty applause. He was never seen to smile, and no photographs showed him relaxed. He had no sense for music, and no sense of humor, and his wife was equally unfriendly. They both were surrounded by an icy air; one knew that they had no friends, and also that the old Emperor hated him with all his heart because he did not have sufficient tact to hide his impatience to succeed to the throne. My almost premonition that some misfortune would come from this man with his bulldog neck and his cold, staring eyes, was by no means a personal one but was shared by the entire nation; and so the news of his murder aroused no profound sympathy. Two hours later signs of genuine mourning were no longer to be seen. The throngs laughed and chattered and as the evening advanced music was resumed at public resorts. There were many on that day in Austria who secretly sighed with relief that this heir of the aged Emperor had been removed in favor of the much more beloved younger Archduke Karl.

“Of course the newspapers printed lengthy eulogies on the following day, giving fitting expression to their indignation over the assassination. But there was no indication that the event was to be used politically against Serbia. The immediate concern of the Imperial House was quite another one, namely the solemn obsequies. According to his rank as heir-apparent, and especially since he died in the service of the monarchy, his burial place would obviously have been the Capuchin vault, the historic place of interment of the Habsburgs. But Franz Ferdinand had married a Countess Chotek in the face of a long and bitter struggle on the part of the Imperial family. She was a high aristocrat, but according to the secret, ancient family laws of the Habsburgs, she was not considered of equal birth with her husband, and at all the great official functions the archduchess stubbornly clung to their precedence over the wife of the heir-apparent, whose children were not entitled to the succession. The court pride even followed them in death. What? — a Countess Chotek to be buried in the Imperial vault of the Habsburgs? Perish the thought!  A mighty intrigue set in; the archduchess stormed the old Emperor. Whereas official mourning was expected from the populace, within the palace there was a wild cross-play of bitterness and rancour and, as usual, the dead were in the wrong. The masters of ceremony invented the assertion that it had been the express desire of the deceased to be buried in Artstetten, a provincial hole; and with this pseudo-pious excuse, they were able cautiously to evade the public laying-in-state, the funeral cortege and all the disputed questions of precedence that went with it. The coffins of the murdered royalty were quietly taken to Artstetten and interred there. Vienna, whose perpetual fondness of a show was thus deprived of a great opportunity, had already begun to forget the tragic occurrence. After all, the violent death of Queen Elisabeth and of the Crown Prince, and the scandalous flight of all sorts of members of the Imperial house, had long since accustomed Vienna to the thought that the old Emperor would outlive his Tantalidean house in imperturbably solitude. Only a few weeks more and the name and the figure of Franz Ferdinand would have disappeared out of history for all time.

“In less than a week, however, attacks suddenly began to appear in the newspapers, and their constantly mounting crescendo was regulated too consistently for them to have been entirely accidental. The Serbian government was accused to collusion in the assassination, and there were veiled hints that Austria would not permit the murder of its supposedly beloved heir-apparent to go unavenged. One could not escape the impression that some sort of action was being prepared in the newspapers, but no one thought of war. Neither banks nor business houses nor private persons changed their plans. Why should we be concerned with these constant skirmishes with Serbia which, as all knew, arose out of some commercial treaties concerned with the export of Hungarian pork? My bags were packed so that I could go to Verhaeren in Belgium, my work was in full swing, what did the dead Archduke in his catafalque have to do with my life? The summer was beautiful as never before and promised to become even more beautiful — and we all looked out upon the world without a care. I can recall that on my last day in Baden I was walking through the vineyards with a friend, when an old winegrower said to us: ‘We haven’t had such a summer for a long time. If it stays this way, we’ll get better grapes than ever. Folks will remember this summer!’

He did no know, the old man in his blue cooper’s smock, how gruesomely true a word he had spoken.”

Posted in Austria, current events, history, literature, lives of others, memory, politics | 2 Comments

Garden Update

First potato harvest (out of one of two containers).


Posted in Austria, food, garden

Rooftop Blogging: June Garden

I have often said that mine is a “Darwinist” garden, in that only the fittest survive out there. Between the sun, the Föhn winds, the occasional bout of hail and the 2 months of neglect (when a neighbor only stops in to water now and then), my roof garden is no place for high-maintenance specimens. Ich habe oft gesagt, dass ich einen “darwinistischen” Garten habe, nachdem dort draußen nur die besten überleben. Unter Sonne, Föhn, gelegentlichem Hagelschlag und zwei Monaten Vernachlässigung (wenn ein Nachbar dann und wann zum Gießen kommt) ist in meinem Dachgarten kein Platz für pflegeintensive Arten.

That said, it’s looking pretty good right now. Below, a tomato patch (in three containers) and a butterfly bush (Buddeleia) in bloom. The tomatoes always end up being a bonus for the neighbor who waters, as they ripen while I’m gone. Während ich das sage, sieht es aber ziemlich nett aus. Unten sieht man einen Tomatenbeet (in drei Töpfen) und einen blühenden Sommerflieder. Die Tomaten enden immer als Prämie für den Nachbarn, der gießt, da sie erst reifen, wenn ich weg bin.



This year’s experiment: potatoes in containers. I can’t say yet if there will be any actual harvest, but as far as having something green and leafy outside my window, this was a success. Das Experiment dieses Jahres: Kartoffeln (Erdäpfel) im Topf. Ich weiß noch nicht, ob es wirklich eine Ernte geben wird, aber solange es grün und blättrig vor dem Fenster ist, ist es schon ein Erfolg.


Four Elefantenohren blooming at the same time — an uncommon occurrence. They don’t seem to flower on any sort of schedule, or at least none that I can decipher. They bloom when they bloom. Vier Elefantenohren blühen gleichzeitig – ein ungewöhnliches Ereignis. Sie scheinen nämlich nicht nach irgendeinem Zeitplan zu blühen, jedenfalls nicht nach einem, den ich entschlüsseln kann. Sie blühen, wenn sie Lust dazu haben.



Posted in Austria, environment, garden, Life Abroad, nature | 2 Comments

Best World Cup Logo Ever

fifa-world-cup-2014-UnoTellyYes, clearly what’s meant here is a trio of hands holding a ball  World Cup trophy. Unfortunately it also resembles a facepalm. Eigentlich sind mit diesem Logo drei Hände gemeint, die eine Weltcup Trophäe halten. Unglücklicherweise scheint es auch der Geste „sich an den Kopf fassen“ oder auch „Fremdschämen“.

face-palmIt may, in the end, be entirely appropriate, in an “I can’t watch, I just can’t” sort of way. Schließlich könnte es völlig passend als Symbol für „Ich kann einfach nicht zusehen“ sein.

This meme has been going around since the day the logo was first shown, but now that it’s everywhere, the “facepalm” in it is something you cannot unsee once you’ve seen it. Diese Idee kursiert zwar seit das Logo erstmals bekannt ist, aber nun da es allgegenwärtig ist, kann man über das „an den Kopf fassen“ nicht mehr hinwegsehen.

Second image found here.






Posted in current events, media, sport

Grave Mounds Near Pürgen

IMG_1317I recently stumbled across an interactive map at a site called, from which I learned that there are grave mounds not far from our sleepy little village, in the community of Pürgen (in Landkreis Landsberg am Lech, Bavaria).

From Pürgen’s own website:

Von den früher angeblich vorhandenen 200 Grabhügeln sind im Jahre 1908 nur noch 63 gezählt worden. Zum Gemeindegebiet gehören davon rund 15 Hügel im freien Wiesengelände nördlich der Hofstettener Straße, die, mit einzelnen Fichten bewachsen, ein eindrucksvolles Landschaftsbild bieten. In den Jahren nach dem ersten Weltkrieg wurden einige gefährdete Hügel untersucht und dabei Brand- und Skelettbestattungen mit geschmackvoll verzierten Hallstattgefäßen freigelegt. Einem Grab war ein altgriechisches Bronzebecken … mit kleinen Buckelperlen [die Blogauthorin vermutet Bügelperlen] beigegeben. In dem Becken befand sich eine prächtige kleine, runde Tonschale … mit Graphit glänzend gefärbt. Dieser selten schöne und wertvolle Gegenstand ist ca. 700 v. Chr. gefertigt worden und befindet sich im Landsberger Museum. Vermutlich kam er aus einer ostgriechischen Kulturstätte über Marseille (dem damaligen Massilia) als Importware in unsere Gegend… 2 römische Nachbestattungen in einem solchen Hallstattgrab und Münzfunde, sowie ein aus Ägypten hergebrachter Fund belegen die Anwesenheit der Römer. Gegenüber dem Wirtshaus in Pürgen wurde aus der Zeit 1ooo-9oo v. Chr. ein ägyptischer Eingeweidekrug gefunden, der jetzt im Münchener Antiquarium ausgestellt ist. Nach der Inschrift war der Krug zur Aufbewahrung der Eingeweide des Herrn Hui, eines »Obersten der Soldtruppen und Vorstehers der Fremdländer in Libyen« bestimmt.
Of the alleged 200 grave mounds at this site, only 63 were counted by 1908. In the years following the First World War some of the endangered mounds were inspected. Found along with both skeletal and burnt human remains were impressively ornate Hallstatt-period vessels. One grave contained an ancient Greek beaded bronze bowl. Inside the bowl was a smaller ceramic bowl painted with graphite. This rare and valuable object was made around 700 BCE and is currently in the Landsberg Museum. It most likely came here from eastern Greece by way of Marseille (then Massilia) as an imported ware. Two later Roman burials, inside a Hallstatt-period grave, document Roman presence as well does an early Egyptian vessel found in the village, dedicated (according to the inscription on it) to holding the organ remains of one “Hui, colonel of [mercenary?] troops and chief of foreign territories in Libya”.

Why and how Col. Hui’s innards came to Raetia is anyone’s guess.

Pürgen does not lie on either of the two main Roman roads which run north to Augsburg, but rather between them. The Roman military station at Abodiocum (now Epfach) turned into a civilian settlement by 50 AD, is only about 10 miles away. Interesting, to learn that there was already a bit of travel going on around the Mediterranean Sea and up to this little place right here.

Posted in archaeology, Germany, history, Life Abroad, lives of others, nature, travel | 2 Comments

Those Damn Socialist Roman Roads

Tafel_2_SchoengeisingJust poking around the internet for information on the Via Raetia (the Roman Road from northern Italy to Augsburg) and exactly where it would have joined the Via Julia (the Roman Road from Salzburg to Augsburg). I found this, and normally would not repost an image if I could otherwise manage to go there myself and take my own photo. But … can you find the reason I posted this?

Tafel_2_Schoengeising - Version 2
Agenda 21! The UN “plot to destroy private property rights and force upon us all a one-world government of ‘the elites’ through radical environmentalism“. Also, the plot to shut down all American golf courses. If you don’t understand me, be thankful you’ve been spared exposure to that nonsense.

Clearly Agenda 21 has plans to shut down the Autobahn and force us to ride bicycles to work on the Roman Roads. The horror.


Image found here.


Posted in America, archaeology, culture, environment, Germany, history, travel | 2 Comments

Why One Cannot Cycle The Roman Road in Bavaria


It’s the faint line running diagonally through the fields, between the villages of Wielenbach and Raisting.

Image from this informative collection of Via Raetia images from Mittenwald to the Ammersee. (In German, but the photos are nice.)

Posted in archaeology, Germany, history, travel | 3 Comments