Belated Springtime Posting

My life no longer allows much time for blogging, although I still enjoy reading works by others. Building up the new business keeps me busy in such a way that I can get to lunchtime before realizing that I haven’t even glanced at the news yet.

Spring out here in the country means lots of offspring.


Horses at Achselschwang near the Via Rhaetia



New addition on the farm.


This stork prefers a penthouse flat. Probably has the best views in town.

The storks are a special delight of this area. Here and there one sees buildings where special round platforms have been erected, to give the storks a little assistance when they are looking for a place to build their nests. They enjoy the protected wetlands and fields south of the lake through the summer, and then migrate to South Africa or somewhere. Years ago there was an interesting German documentary about stork migrations which featured an old man from Sachsen-Anhalt and a stork who always returned to his fields in the spring, and whom he’d fondly named “Prinzesschen”. Prinzesschen was outfitted with a  little transmitter so that the documentary team of scientists could follow her on her route (which was full of such hazards as high tension wires and the like). Now, when I see a stork, I always think of Prinzesschen.

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66 Hours in Berlin

Impressions of an all-too-short visit to Germany’s capital of everything. We begin with a pleasant surprise: Berlin may not offer city-wide wi-fi, but it’s public transport stations all have it, free. This means that while you may not be able to be online for your entire ride, you can get a signal every time you pull into one of the larger stations. The S-Bahn app didn’t even need wi-fi, just GPS services, to keep me informed as to which stations were coming up and where I was in relation to them. This was actually pretty handy, especially one’s first time on certain routes.

Trabis on display. I still find them charming. At least to look at. Maybe not to actually drive.


The leafy mid-day view from the großer Bunkerberg, aka “Mont Klamott”, immortalised by the East German rock band Silly. As indicated by the carving in the wall, Alexanderplatz lies straight ahead, as does the television tower (which you can just barely make out in the left side of the photo).


Berlin has a Ramone’s Museum. Actually it’s a private collection which, thanks to the collector’s wife, had to leave the house. It’s part of a small pub where you can get a discount off the (already low) admission if you buy a drink, and free admission if you buy a T-shirt.


The new Jewish Memorial, just a short walk away from the Brandenburg Gate. It was hard to find the right frame of mind to appreciate this, due to kids using the terrain for skateboarding and playing tag. I also didn’t want to get plowed into by one of them. Nevertheless impressive.


The Gedächtniskirche by evening light.


Posted in Germany, travel | 1 Comment

The MS Utting

The Ammersee in southern Bavaria has summer passenger boat service provided by two paddle steamers, the Dießen and the Herrsching, the smaller motor-powered MS Augsburg and, until recently, the MS Utting. Because we have connections to Utting, I was always especially pleased to see it in service (which didn’t seem very often, if at all, in the last year). Then in early March we were stunned read that it was being retired, and taken off to a new life as some kind of performing space shell in Munich. Ah well, that’s that, we thought.

Until just a few weeks ago, when it was announced that the new MS Utting was on its way to the docks on the northern shore, and so we stopped by to see the new addition.


By the time we arrived it had already been welded together (it had arrived in two pieces via the Autobahn during the wee morning hours) and was sitting in the water. Masts, upper deck facilities, windows and the interiors all had yet to be installed.


Those are some impressive cranes.

The new MS Utting is 50.80 meters long and 9.60 meters wide, and will hold up to 500 passengers. It will be barrier-free (with an elevator to the upper deck for wheelchair users) and have a slide for children. The Free State of Bavaria is investing a cool 5.4 million euros in the new vessel.

 The first test ride is planned for the end of June. If all goes well, the MS Utting will have its maiden voyage in the second half of July. Maybe we’ll be on it!


Posted in Bavaria, current events, Germany, tech, travel | 2 Comments

Weekend Mountain Rail Blogging


The Mittenwaldbahn meets the trail at the Seefelder Sattel. Photo shamelessly purloined from Martin Schönherr.

Tyrolean omniscient and Friend of the Blog Paschberg sends a photo of greeting from the Seefelder Sattel, a little pass over the most easily navigable part of the Karwendel Mountains, and known as a point along the alignment of the Via Raetia. What he may not remember is that I myself have a similar photo, previously posted here, from pretty much the same spot, but looking the other way — the thing is, I had indeed been looking for the Seefelder Sattel, but didn’t realize that I had been standing right on it until now.

In a somewhat related vein: the closed railway line which ran past my recent overnight accommodations in Passau’s Innstadt.
It turns out to be part of the former Passau-Hauzenberg Railway, now used primarily by dog walkers. (The Beau, charmingly sarcastic as ever, suggested that it had probably been left behind by the Romans.)

Posted in archaeology, Austria, Bavaria, blogs, Mountains, nature, Roman roads, travel | 1 Comment

In Via: Raisting


If one is interested, as I am, in the routes of the Roman roads in southern Bavaria, then one has probably heard of Raisting; the north-to-south road from the Brenner Pass to Augsburg (Via Raetia) and the southwest-to-northeast road from Bregenz to Gauting intersected here. Evidence of the latter road can be found further west, but the former has left traces in the land here which can be seen from the air. I wanted to find out what can be seen from the ground, and I wasn’t disappointed.


First one travels south of Raisting, to the field of giant satellite dishes belonging to the German Postal Service. Our starting point will be this church.


The old pilgrimage church St. Johann is supposedly the oldest church in the area, founded in the time of the first Christian community in Augsburg. This thesis is based on the fact that the old Roman Augsburg-Brenner road lay just 100 meters west of it.
According to legend it was built “on a holy place” by Tassilo III (748-788), the last Agilolfinger Duke. Tassilo, so the story goes, got lost on a hunt in the woods between the Lech and the Ammer rivers. He swore that when he figured out where he was, he’d build a church on the spot. Eventually he reached an open space from which he could make out the lake, and that is where Tassilo built his promised chapel. The altar was placed over a spring. (A church on a “holy place, built in the region’s earliest days of Christianity, with the alter over spring, near the Roman road? That sounds suspiciously like the former site of a roadside pagan temple.)


It was especially cold last week; the welcoming committee was surely happy to soak up the warm sunshine today. Our instructions were to follow the road past the church until the second ditch, and then look southeast into the field. And lo…


It’s difficult to see in this picture that the ribbon stretching before us is slightly raised, but it is easier to tell its presence by its lack of snow — underneath lies the pebble road bed. We left the marked road and trekked into the field.


And met up with a barbed wire fence. Which didn’t stop us, we slid over /under it and followed the track to the end of the field, observed only by a small herd of camera-shy deer. Here the road alignment is even clearer to the eye. There is supposed to be the remains of a peat cutting ditch in the strip of woods straight ahead, but we saw only a small border stone marker poking out of the deeper snow before turning back.


The satellite facility is surrounded by farmland and is easily accessible. It was impressive to see them up close. With the Via Raetia, St. Johann church and the satellite dishes, we had 2000 years of human achievement presented before us in one short walk.


And here the route of the Via Raetia is still in use, as the main road through Raisting and Diessen, after which it veers slightly westward on its way toward Augsburg. The next place to trace its route is in Achselschwang, which we documented back in May 2014. It has since become a regular walking route for us.

Posted in archaeology, Bavaria, Germany, history, lives of others, Mountains, nature, Roman roads, travel | 2 Comments

These Interesting Times


Andechs Abbey, image from Wikipedia

Lately I have been affected by a certain variety of writer’s block. It goes like this: I get an idea, find a few nice pictures, write up a few paragraphs to go with the pictures, and then read about the latest inconceivable thing to happen in Washington DC, after which I don’t feel like posting useless historical trivia anymore.

Or is this historical trivia useless? Everyone knows the saying, attributed to Churchill*, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But which — who’s — history?

Wandering through the earliest Bavarian history, both virtual and physical, takes one from  pre-Roman earthworks and archaeological finds to Antiquity to Very Late And Somewhat Chaotic Antiquity, which runs into what is known as the Dark Ages, where the main societal structures seem to be monasteries (sometimes building right on top of the last Roman foundations**) and family clans. And we mostly know about the latter because someone in the former wrote about them.

Seeing as we are having our own Saga unfolding in the homeland (or perhaps a Shakespearean play, suitably dumbed down for mainstream audiences raised on reality TV), it might be fitting to take a look at some of the Bavarian clans from the Early Middle Ages, whence they came, where they ruled, how they ended. Some of the names are still quite present in the local place names, others are found on the odd stone plaque or mural.

*Actually George Satayana said it first, but props to Churchill for repeating it.

**I used to think that churches being built atop the sites of old pagan temples was an ideological thing — lately I’ve come to believe that it was simply practical. The ground’s been leveled,  stone’s there, if it hadn’t been hauled off for some other purpose. In a time when resources (technical knowledge, organized manpower, food) must have been scarce, why wouldn’t they have built in a place already prepared for building?

Posted in America, Bavaria, culture, current events, Germany, history, lives of others, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Looking Back at 2016

I can only look back at 2016 along two different tracks, as it were.

One involves my personal situation, and turned out quite positive.
I finally, officially, disconnected myself from the Republic of Austria early in the year and got my residence permit for Germany. We got married in March (in a snowstorm, and in the most Romeo and Juliet of ways: bride, groom, and officiant. Which was planned that way. Not the snowstorm.) After a handful of unsuccessful auditions, I got a great offer to sing a great role in a production at a theater not so far away, allowing me to get home every weekend during rehearsals, and then, once the show opened, to live at home and travel there for performances. The role itself is something I once wasn’t sure I could sing, but — surprise! — I can. That involved a lot of work and no small amount of tears and doubt (omg I’m too old I never learned to sing right I should quit now) but I feel pretty good about it all now (and yes, I dearly wish I’d figured this all out 20 years ago, but that’s life).
In the same vein but on other fronts, I turned a side job in translation into something much more (also with hard work, persistence, and doubts — but not in the same, personal, way) and have now reached the point where I am turning down work. Christmas 2015, I was translating e-mails for some guy in India who most definitely underpaid me (and late at that), just grateful to get some work, and then spent the New Year translating power plant guidelines on unfamiliar software and an unfamiliar operating system, for some Dutch agency whose regular freelancers were all on vacation. But then I used that money to buy that software, and join a few associations, graduated out of the automated platform milieu and into the “agencies-with-actual-human-project-managers” milieu, and the work began to come in. Now, most months, my gross income from translation is higher than it was as a full-time theater employee, although the office work (invoices, taxes, e-mails) involves a lot more work spread out over the course of the day. Still, I continue to find it challenging and, dare I say it, fun, and it’s another thing I wish I had started years ago.
This new life in Germany also made it possible for me to fly home three times to see my family in 2016, something I had rarely been able to do before and which I want to take advantage of as much as possible. None of us are getting any younger, and I find it more and more important to make that trip when I can. That alone was worth the change in my employment status. I can now, finally, plan to do things outside of the summer!

The other look at 2016 involves the bigger picture, and it hasn’t been so pretty.

Politically, I can’t see where the political situations in the U.S. and Europe are heading. One tries to maintain hope that it won’t be so bad, but the main problem is that it’s very hard to guess what’s coming. Right now I feel very grateful to be in Germany and especially grateful that this country is able to downplay certain events, and keep them from spiraling into media angst-fests. But will this country, too, go further right at the next election?

We are, indeed, living in Interesting Times.

And the entertainment world has lost so very many lights this year. Maybe the Rapture did happen (and Harold Camping was off by four five and a half years), but not in the way any of us had understood it.

And with this bittersweet thought, I want to wish all my readers — those who’ve been around since 2007, those who visit, and perhaps comment, regularly (you know who you are!), to my 200+ (!) WordPress followers (I promise to try to write more travel-related posts!) and even to anyone who might be dropping in the for the first time — a very safe, healthy and happy 2017, all twelve months of it. Let’s keep looking out for each other, and give support and kindness, and not just when it is most needed. We may need each other now more than we know.

Posted in America, assimilation, Austria, blogs, christmas, comments, current events, Germany, health, holidays, Life Abroad, media, music, politics, singing, theater, travel | 4 Comments

Just Letting You Know, Austria

The US presidential election and its, um, aftermath has an Austrian connection. The president-elect has named one Betsy De Vos as Secretary of Education. Ms. De Vos, not a friend of public education, incidentally, has a brother named Erik Prince. He created Blackwater (now under new ownership and called Academi), the private mercenary army which had dealings in the Iraq War. In 2012 Prince had settled (temporarily, it seems) in Austria, ostensibly to avoid U.S. taxes, three years after David Duke did so. (I pictured them having beers together in some Carinthian beer hall, reminiscing about the good old days and how they dearly regret being born too late to have been Pimpfe.) Anway, dear Austrians,  we just thought you should know.

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First Class Gets The Red Carpet

I’m not actually a “train buff”, the kind that knows the arrival times of trains I’m not taking somewhere. I do ride them a lot, however, which means I am often in trains, stations, on platforms. Sometimes one sees interesting things.

For example, last month I was standing on a platform in Landshut, waiting for my train home, when a big steam locomotive with historic cars rolled in, courtesy of the Bavarian Railroad Museum. This is the sort of thing one is accustomed to seeing in Strasburg, PA, but at somewhat busy station of a small German city? I was impressed.

Then last weekend I again saw something I’d never seen before — in fact I hadn’t even known of it’s existence: the Majestic Emperator, the old imperial train of Austria-Hungary. It now takes tourists, much like the “Orient Express”; you can even rent it for special trips (just imagine).


Note the little red carpet

Note: if you want to impress as well as be impressed, should you ever book a ride on this thing, try to dress a little nattier, eh? The dozen tourists I saw board (taking each other’s photographs for their vacation pics), were just clad in your garden variety windbreakers-and-sneakers. All that wasted luxury!

Posted in Austria, Bavaria, Germany, history, Life Abroad, travel | 4 Comments

Soviodurum, and a Mysterious Stone Object


Roman knee and shin guards with intricate details

I had the chance to visit Straubing, a small town along the Danube in Lower Bavaria – basically I was there on business, but arrived a few hours earlier in order to see the Roman exhibit at the town museum. As Straubing (Soviodurum) was along the Limes and had a military station there, the museum had quite a bit to offer. Perhaps not as much as Passau or even Fliess in Tirol, but a nice exhibit nonetheless.


Head protection for Roman horses


Roman glassware found in Straubing, Bavaria

I had never considered whether the Romans used glass, since so often one sees only ceramics. The designs are downright modern.


A stash of coins hidden before the collapse

This found stash of coins, like many others discovered south of the Limes, reminds one of how it ended: things looked bad, treasures were buried, things indeed got very bad, and the owners never returned to the site to reclaim their property.

The photo below was made earlier and is not from Straubing. Knowing that I was going to be spending some time in Lower Bavaria, I had done a little advance research for any mention of early, pre-Roman history of the area, and stumbled across a fleeting reference to a schalenstein in the Passau Rathaus from 1899. ( I did wander a bit through the public areas of this town hall, but did not see anyone who looked like they might know what I was talking about if I should ask.) Later, however, I took a walk up to the fortress overlooking Passau and came across this.


What could this be?

Which is, well, technically, a schalenstein (it’s stone, and it has cup markings)
but to me looks more like something made much later. There are what appear to be charcoal markings inside. It is simply built into the wall in one of the towers, with no explanation.

Posted in archaeology, Bavaria, Germany, history, Roman roads, travel | 2 Comments
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