20 New Friends

3 days in Switzerland, giving a ColdFusion training for three developers of a Zug based company. The training was a mixed affair – the participants weren’t beginners at all but a beginner course had been booked. On the 3rd day they were all researching on their own which is much more fun than being taught. Too bad I didn’t get most of their conversation – „Swiss German“ is very different from German.

Zug is not far from Zürich, a smaller town but also very rich and multicultural – I liked the place a lot. And then, they have the wonderful lake, the mountains … and the weather was just perfect. Too bad I only had two evenings for myself.

I spent the first evening walking through the old town and hanging out with the other tourists …

On the second evening, I took the cable car up the mountain right behind Zug, armed with a map for a 1-2 hour roundtrip hike that one of my ColdFusion colleagues had kindly given to me. I was rewarded with breathtaking vistas and a beautiful landscape to walk through. Wonderful!

On a meadow on top of the mountain I met a herd of twenty cows with bells – here’s what they sounded like:

The cows came towards me after a few minutes and surrounded me, clearly interested in my digital recorder. Or maybe they wanted to be close to me. I liked them and they liked me. When I turned around and continued my walk, they all followed me for a few minutes.

On the next evening, I got into a plane and flew home again … after a very nice mini vacation (although of course I had spent most of the day in an office building, looking at a computer screen and talking about programming). I’ll be back in July when I’ll do a second course.

Spätzle-Country 7: The Village That Disappeared

Two hikes today, on the last day of our Swabian Albs vacation. It was still very hot, and it is still quite warm now while I type this, sitting on the balcony of our temporary home at 9:30 in the evening. Wonderful! I love summer.

We first hiked in an area that used to be a military training ground for many years since the late 19th century. It was expanded in 1938 – and a complete village had to be abandoned, its inhabitants had to be relocated. Today, the area is a nature reserve but you are not allowed to leave the marked paths because explosive or other dangerous material might lie around.

The church and the little schoolhouse are the only buildings left of the abandoned village – all buildings were destroyed. The church was severely damaged and was later rebuilt by former villagers. An impressive place, and a monument to several different sides of what we humans are.

A painting shows how large the village was before it had to be abandoned, and got destroyed. Amazing what people do.

The little village church with a damaged roof … it looks new and shiny today.

Inhabitants of the village.

We left this area which had mostly paths with no shadow at all, and drove to a narrow valley with a little stream. Much cooler here, much better to walk.

At the end of our hike, we rested for a while beside the little stream. The sun was very very hot. The water looked very very clean. Very tempting to jump right in !! but as Sabine found out quickly, the water was extremely cold – too cold to take more than a short dip.

This is COLD !!!

Half an hour later we had a gorgeous strawberry milk shake and a coffee in the very good cafe that belongs to our hotel. These cookies looked so tempting that I gave in and bought a large box for us and another one for our dear neighbours who took care of our plants at home.

Spätzle-Country 6: Blue Velvet

The Grosse Lauter river valley was one of the most beautiful little valleys I’ve ever seen, mostly because of the apparently intact ecosystem and the variety of plants and animals. We walked along the river for a while but we couldn’t go very far because it was very hot and the path had almost no shadows …

The thing that mesmerized me most was the blue damselfly population. These beautiful insects lived along the shores of that little river, dancing in the sunlight, and apparently not afraid of us. We have never seen anything like this. There are various kinds of dragonflies even back home in our garden but not these ones, and not as many. I spent a considerable time trying to take photos of their dance. A difficult task. Sabine was very patient with me. Making a little video (see below) was somewhat easier.

We made a little detour and took a look at the Zwiefalten Abbey – we’ve been to the Schöntal Abbey a week ago, it is a place that I know well. I thought Schöntal was an excessively decorated baroque church, but it was dwarfed by what we saw in Zwiefalten. Incredible, and even though I don’t particularly like baroque churches, it was quite impressive. I made a couple of dozen photos from one position – maybe I can turn it into a 3D photo later.

Spätzle-Country 5: Two Conferences

We spent most of the day yesterday in Tübingen, a beautiful university town that we both hadn’t visited before … mostly walking around the old town, having a coffee or two and an icecream. (The icecream was especially good.)

Most of the Tübingen postcards show the romantic view from the Eberhard bridge, and this blog entry is no exception. Students sitting on the wall above the Neckar bridge, boats loaded with tourists being punted around like in Venice, the yellow Hölderlin tower where the famous poet lived in the early 19th century.

And then it began to rain (earlier than forecasted) and we had to sit under an umbrella of a street cafe. I had found a copy of Attar’s Conference of the Birds in a little bookshop, and read a little while we waited for the rain to stop.

Later in the evening, we met our friends Niele and Günther for dinner. We hadn’t met for six years and it was wonderful to see them again, in a restaurant overlooking many miles of the Swabian landscape. Here’s two photos of us and them – no, not the gorillas, we’re at the bottom of the page 🙂

Niele and Günther are currently busy preparing the logistics of a large Java Developer conference. After this they’ll return to their regular job of running a successful web design business. I might do a little Flex application for them – we’ll see. I want to learn Flex but it is difficult to learn something as complex as that without a project. This might be the chance.

Spätzle-Country 4: Cheese Mats

Today’s hike: a round trip of about 12 km through a beautiful summer landscape in the Swabian Alps, with forests, meadows, steep cliffs and spectacular views.

Our destination for the hiking round trip was the Hohenneuffen Castle, a fortress ruin on top of a mountain in the Swabian Alps, just a few miles north of our temporary home. We could see it from the first vista point, up on the hill, looking like a huge rock, still far away …

We found a couple of plants on the way that I had never seen before, such as these … our biologist friends Niele & Günther (who we will meet tomorrow) probably know them …

The castle is nearer already …

On top of a hillside, a surprise find: a small pond, a biotope, full of water lilies and other plants …

… more unknown plants, and lots of them! the meadows were full of flowers, but for some reason (the long cold winter, I guess) not many bees or butterflies.

Halfway to the castle, we found a little meadow with large rocks on the edge of a cliff … we could sit on a rock above the abyss, hundreds of meters above the valley … I did not exactly feel very comfortable there but the view was spectacular!

This small place is often used as a launch pad for paragliders … two young men with paraglider equipment were there, waiting for better wind conditions … the thought of jumping into that abyss, hanging just on a thin kite, makes me dizzy – I could never do that in a hundred years. But then, friends of mine do it and tell me how wonderful it is …

Half an hour later, we finally reached the castle. Usually, this place is full of tourists, but it was Monday, and we were almost the only visitors. The restaurant was closed but there was a little shop with a very friendly man who sold us coffee, and gave us some recommendations for more walks we could take.

The view from the castle was even more spectacular, and with a thick stone wall between us and the abyss, we felt a little more comfortable and could enjoy the view more …

Of course this castle has a long history of wars and cruelties … underneath the castle, the casemates (a word that in German sounds a bit like „cheese mats“) were dark, wet, and eerie caves … I don’t want to know how much suffering has taken place here …

Back towards where we had parked the car … a summer landscape.

We got sunburned and we came home quite exhausted … but this was a good day.

Spätzle-Country 3: The Blue Pot

On this quiet sunny Sunday morning we drove through a wonderful green summer landscape to the town of Blaubeuren. We wanted to take a look at the famous Blautopf, an unusual pond that is the spring for the Blau river. The pond is small but more than 20 metres deep, contains strikingly turquoise water, and leads to a large system of underground caves.

The beautiful old Blaubeuren Abbey is very near the Blautopf. Amazing buildings, but the weather was almost a little bit too good for us – it had gotten really hot by now …

… we decided to drive back to our temporary home in Bad Urach, get some food and coffee, and then take a walk there. That turned out to be a good idea. It was a little cooler in the forest, and the waterfall up the hill gave us some additional cooling. What a nice landscape, how lush! there are much more flowers in the meadows here than at home in the Bergisches Land …

Spätzle-Country 2: Golden Wein

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of Germany’s main tourist spots – most parts of the beautiful medieval town are well preserved, and walking its streets almost feels like being on a time travel … but of course there are many other tourists, most of them from the US and Japan. We were lucky to come here immediately before the main season hits the place and buses spill their tourist freight all over the streets, turning the quiet medieval atmosphere into a permanent rush hour. Sabine had been here as a girl and still remembers how terrible it was then … we were relieved to see that it was not quite as bad … and we could still enjoy the beautiful surroundings above the Tauber river, the quiet little side streets, and the amazing medieval houses.

One of the local specialities is called „snowballs“ – they look much tastier than they actually taste.

Looking down on a wet day from the city walls into the lush river valley …

Because it was rainy on the second day, and walking around the town wasn’t as much fun as it could have been, we drove to a historical building museum in the nearby Bad Windsheim, seeing how people used to live in various parts of Germany hundreds of years ago.

A beautiful medieval carved ceiling in a wine bar …

Rothenburg’s city hall on the next day. The sun was shining, finally! A good day for sightseeing, and climbing the spire … we really needed nerves of steel for this because it was very steep. But the view was breathtaking!

Most advertisements were in German, English, Japanese … or some mixture of the above.

Warmer Apfelstrudel mit Vanillesoße …

Albrecht Dürer lived not far from here …

Next stop was Dinkelsbühl, another medieval town, not quite as mass touristic but really nice too …

Spätzle-Country 1: back in Schöntal

A walk along the Jagst river …

Monastery garden

Beautiful old houses and castles

Strange creatures in pharmacy stores that look like a museum

Caves where strange folks are hanging out

Beautiful chapels

The monastery cathedral from one of the two walks we took today. Sabine knew this place only from my photos and is here for the first time. She quickly fell in love with the place, and already thinks about when to come back.

Through wonderful forests

and through fields … summer already

I loved this house

Light in another chapel

Corrosion and nice colors

Original inhabitants

One of the main ingredients of our holidays everytime

In the deep forest, beautiful flowers

Looking back

An apple a day

The monastery yards from outside