Yellow Snow

Fresh 5th December snow near our house, late evening. It had finally stopped snowing, thank god. We had done two shovelling sessions on this Sunday and my shoulders were hurting.

When I got out to take a look with the camera, the bushes and trees had turned into surrealist sculptures, lit up by the yellow street lamp. It was totally silent.

Dreamed I was an eskimo
Frozen wind began to blow
Under my boots and around my toes
The frost that bit the ground below
It was a hundred degrees below zero…

And my mama cried
And my mama cried
Nanook, a-no-no
Nanook, a-no-no
Don’t be a naughty eskimo
Save your money, don’t go to the show

Well I turned around and I said oh, oh oh
Well I turned around and I said oh, oh oh
Well I turned around and I said ho, ho
And the northern lights commenced to glow
And she said, with a tear in her eye
Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow
Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow

(Frank Zappa)

I Advance Masked

Sabine took a day off – we spent the afternoon visiting Cologne’s beautiful new ethnological museum, the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum that has moved into a spacious new building and opened a week ago. We liked the museum a lot. Some people still think that a museum about ethnology is a boring collection of dusty artifacts – this is certainly far from true here.

I liked the section about rituals and religion most – not so much because I’m fond of rituals or religion but because it features many beautiful sculptures and statues – and I loved the circular room with the world map and the many masks. What a wealth of ideas, colors, and shapes!

I liked this place a lot and will certainly come back.

Later, on the way to the Indian restaurant, we met this lady. In a way, she felt more alien to me than all the strange masks did.


Innocent Misunderstanding

That time of the year again – a Ridhwan retreat week in the Kloster Schöntal monastery, I’ve been blogging about these retreats before.

Sabine and me came directly here from our Lake Constance vacation. Since we spent a weekend here in June, she loves this wonderful place as much as I do, so she took the opportunity to take a nice walk (while I was busy setting up the recording for the talks) and spend another night in the monastery with me before taking the train home the next morning.

The weather was still warm and sunny although the nights got quite cold. Schöntal in autumn is full of beauty …

The week was wonderful again, it was a full week with very little time to take walks … but then, it often felt like we were taking inner walks. We were about 120 people, each of them somewhere in their inner process of finding themselves, but we did it together, so I sometimes thought of a large group of people climbing a high mountain together, each of them taking a different route, but feeling like a group nonetheless. I had several deep experiences that were completely new and unexpected – I surprised myself. How often does one surprise oneself?

„Because of an innocent misunderstanding you think that you are a human being in the relative world seeking the experience of oneness, but actually you are the One expressing itself as the experience of being a human being.“ Adyashanti

Above The Inland Sea VI – Fog

Last day of our 1-week vacation at Lake Constance, and the sky was all grey everywhere.

Everywhere? As we could see on the webcam image of the Säntis mountain …

… it was just the Lake area that was covered with high fog. We had been on top of the Säntis already so we decided to drive to Bregenz, the Austrian city on the east end of the lake, and take the cable car to the Pfänder mountain – this mountain is not as high but its top still looked out of the fog layer on this day.

View from the ground …

… (fruits of the season) …

… and the view from the top of the Pfänder over the lake and the fog layer towards the Säntis range on the other side.

The Vorarlberg area of western Austria is famous for its beautiful mountains, forests, and the cheese made of the cow milk.

It was as warm as in summer up here …

We walked for a few miles and met idyllic little villages inhabited by friendly people …

Eventually we took the cable car down into the fog again …

What a nice place – so many very different landscapes can be found around the Lake Constance area. We just had one week but we easily could have spent more time!

Above The Inland Sea V – Wine

Ravensburg is famous for a number of things, one of them being the publisher of games and children’s books that is named after the city. Ravensburger is very famous in Germany – all children probably know their logo, have played their games, have read their books. I am no exception. We went to see their beautiful new museum which shows how the company evolved and how games and books are made.

One game that is part of my childhood is the original Memory game from the late fifties. This is how it looked.

Another interesting museum, this one about the history of the town, is right across the street. I’ve never seen nor heard about these beautiful large medieval guild member wheels. They had the names of their members painted on them, complete with their emblems. This is a wheel for the wine grower’s guild.

On the next morning, the fog was very dense over the lake.

We took a round trip walk to a village called Baitenhausen. It was very warm, almost like summer (in October!). The orchards were full of apples, pears, and plums, and the leaves all around already wore their autumn colors.

Baitenhausen has a very nice pilgrimage church.

We always thought that the little angels sing all the time, but we found that some of them prefer to practise martial arts.

The view over the valley …

Back in Meersburg, we went to that wine restaurant with the terrace and the incredible view over the lake. We were reminded of Italy, maybe of Cinque Terre. Life was good.

When the evening came, the sky was burning …

Above The Inland Sea IV – Ice Cream

Many delights here. One was a beautifully clear night sky with the milky way overhead. Here is a 15 second exposure that gives an idea of the night view …

Next morning – it is warm enough to have a breakfast on the balcony. In early October!

A walk to a village east of Meersburg …

… where we found a really good ice cream place. Ice cream! in October!

We took the bus to Friedrichshafen, home of the Zeppelin (which could not fly today because there was too much wind) and to the very nice Zeppelin museum. We didn’t visit the museum this time because we had seen it the last time we were here, but we went to the cafe of the museum. They have Zeppelin cakes, a nice red-white striped canvas overhead which reflects nicely in the spoons, and beautiful 30s architecture.

A strange encounter at the bus stop …

Finishing the day with a visit to Überlingen …

We found a really good Pizza place in Überlingen. I actually took a photo of the Rucola-Parmigiano pizza (tasty and beautiful!) but I won’t show it here because you might think that we are busy eating all day. Which we are.

Above the Inland Sea III – Mountain

After seeing the mountain range across the lake from our appartement every day, we finally went there to take a closer look. The highest peak of this part of the Alps is the Säntis. We were conveniently taken up the mountain top by a cable car – the view was breathtaking. In the distance we could see Lake Constance …

Now and then, we could see mountain climbers in the snow, sometimes on top of dangerous looking cliffs. How happy I am that I don’t have to do that!

Sabine enjoying the view … (she had forgotten her sunglasses and had to wear old scratchy ones that we found in my car)

A trail was starting here … I took a few steps, imagining what it would be like … the snow was knee high, and very near that rope, there was the abyss … this kind of fun is clearly not for me.

Switzerland was the first country that invited refugees from Tibet when things got difficult there. Good to see a stupa here!

Going back down after a few hours in the sky …

oh, and on the way out we had this close encounter with an alternate reality …

Above the Inland Sea II – Water

I’ve been living near the Rhine for all my life but I never wondered where it came from. I learned now that the Rhine springs are located in several parts of Switzerland, that it is a large river already before it flows into Lake Constance, and that it flows through this lake and comes out at the other side. After that there are the famous Rhine falls near Schaffhausen in Switzerland. Both Sabine and me hadn’t seen this place yet although it is the second largest fall in Europe.

Lots of water, fast water. Visitors can stand on platforms very near the raging waters, or even on top of them, and there are boats that visit the rock in the middle of it. Standing near these amazing amounts of water is a humbling experience. The ground shakes.

Another tourist spot is a historic town called Stein am Rhein, not far from the falls. Lots of medieval houses here, and lots of tourists – I don’t want to know what this place is like in summer.

In tourist season, we would probably have queued to get a cake and a coffee like this. The cake was good, the coffee was so-so, but we sat near the Rhine and the view was wonderful.

A visit to a monastery …

Old keyboards … too bad I couldn’t try them …

Back home, waving up to our Zeppelin friend …

And a beautiful view of the alps – and to the Säntis, tomorrow’s travel destination.

Above The Inland Sea I – Zeppelin

We’re having a wonderful week at Lake Constance (Bodensee) in Southern Germany. The weather (after some very wet weeks) is unexpectedly wonderful, and the appartement that we rented is also quite wonderful – a large flat under the roof of an old villa. We like it so much we could easily move in. And it is not even expensive.

Day 1 – a little hike …

… seeing beautiful gardens – we have not nearly as many flowers in our garden at home because the climate there is much colder: We are hundreds of miles southwards of home here, and because of the large lake, winters are usually very mild, so mild that lots of wine grows around the lake.

After a few miles of hiking, a coffee is obligatory …

… feeding the hungry ghosts …

In the harbour, a very unusual combination of racing car, speedboat, and slide …

We saw our old friend Zeppi again. Since we were here in 2003, taking a wonderful (but unfortunately very expensive) flight with the Zeppelin around Lake Constance, this wonderful vehicle (we think of him being a very kind very large dog-like being for some reason) was asking when we would come back. Of course he spotted us beneath him, and waved down to us … of course he couldn’t really wave very wildly because he had to take care of his passengers.

Walking through colorful autumn forests …

Looking down on the lake through rows of wine …

Fruits from the huge cedar tree in front of our house …

and the view from our little balcony …

Inhabitants of the village trying to make the lives of us tourists even more colorful …

My God, It’s Full Of …


I can’t remember an August that has been this wet. July was sunny and hot, very hot, too hot too long, and August has been raining almost all the time.

The mushrooms seem to be the only ones who enjoy this. I’ve never seen the forest uphill of our house so full of them. I just took these photos during a 30 minute walk.

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.

One Of Those Weeks

a grey field under a grey sky with one single tree on the horizon – muddy shoes – slushy ice – a woman with a yellow jacket – a very old roof – the smell of fresh paint – a hundred and thirty old friends – the whole spectrum of human folly, stupidity, intelligence, and divinity – squeaking wooden floors – securing cables across a large room with gaffa tape – hanging transparent glass images from a baroque railing – floating on a field of love

feeling tired and sick – too much coffee – people going from tears of pain to tears of joy – the shouting of playing children reverberating in long monastery hallways – subtle intricacies of a moment – a pain that seems to be hundreds of years old – is that me? no – is that me? no – who are you? what are you? – a hundred people chanting hu for half an hour, a shimmering pure soft chord hanging in the air – polishing cutlery that is already clean – the sun shining directly into my face – coughing sneezing coughing

many people having breakfast in silence – gazing into each other’s eyes for minutes (nobody seems to have eyes that are even and symmetric) – telling the truth ruthlessly – there’s that large shimmering, vibrating ball of light between us – old weeds frozen and brown – a light snowfall – suffering that i created without even noticing

constructed identities held up by self objects – a bell in space – a warmth – a wondering – confusion and ecstasy – the simplicity of stopping – a roaring storm that shakes the forest and that makes my tears violently flow with its energy – my face is wet in the wind and ice cold but i enjoy it – an opportunity half missed – her understanding goes much deeper than i can grasp – a simple openness, everything coming and going freely without disturbance, without grasping, without rejecting, without wanting, evaluating, judging, objectifying

idealization transference – this cake is not made by the monastery bakery – business emails and a half-nice cd review – throwing away everything old, but then using something new in the old way – being dumbfounded, without ideas – „becoming the world’s leading expert on myself has nothing to do with being fully present“ – a break in the routine – talking over a coffee – little girls, cuteness overload – a meeting on a floor, a glance, a smile, a nod – an unexpected tender touch – what is overlooked vastly outweighs that what is noticed – faraway voices, a glance to the watch, twenty minutes left to the next appointment – breathing happens by itself, thinking happens by itself – understanding with an added „of course“, what is it like without the „of course“? – an anonymous chocolate donator (but I think I know her) – new dates for 2011

„I do not care what others have said or experienced – I do not care what I have experienced in the past“ – old stories, questions about horizontal and vertical development, fund raising committees – a cheese sandwich – recording, transferring, cutting, compressing, normalizing, naming, and tagging talks – a man who is passionately in love with life – talks about music and blogging – a look across the room – sensory overflow and boredom – just sitting without doing anything (not even thinking) – the ikea model of identity formation – thinking of my father – a hand touching my back – a survival fighter with tears – tulip petals of timeless beauty

a sunset behind old pear trees – an ancient jewish cemetary – talks about relationships while walking fast – very muddy shoes – cable problems – a brown river flowing fast – a downloaded Bach piece that refuses to play – a thin layer of fresh snow – hugs and waving goodbye – we won’t see each other for a whole year – a last plate with warm food – he is already gone – back on the highway – the real world seems unreal