The Flat Part of Europe

Quick. When I mention Germany, what kind of landscape comes to mind? Mountains, the big rivers, castles on hills, Neuschwanstein (which falls into “all of the above”). And lots of trees, probably pines, pines on hills, that sort of thing. In other words, Bavaria, the Black Forest, Heidelberg, and similar sites. Actually, more of Germany is rather flat to rolling, while northwestern Germany is pancake flat. In part because it got pancaked by ice, and covered in river sediment after the ice ages ended. It is closer to Holland than to Bavaria in terms of topography, and can be forested, grassy, swampy, or all of the above at once. Continue reading

Posting over the Next Month

Howdy, your friendly neighborhood blogger here.

If things have been a bit sparse, it is because the End of the Semester is Nigh, with all that entails. You know, chaos, despair, the frantic rush for extra-credit, valiant fights to stay alert and paying attention, the clawing at the coffee maker to get that one last critical drop…

I have been writing posts and pre-loading them for June, as well as for May. I will be with spotty internet at best for several weeks, and so in addition to having posts pre-loaded, the comments will be closed because I might not have access in order to approve things. It will be a once-every-other-day schedule for the most part after Memorial Day until I’m back on solid ‘Net.

Thank you for your patience.

High German, Low German, English German?

I’ve been reading a lot of German recently, including modern works, not-so-modern (Tomas Mann, Theodore Storm), and Medieval, specifically Middle-Low-German. The contrasts are interesting, especially once I realized how easy it is to read Middle-Low-German… as long as I read it aloud.

Those of you who have read Chaucer and some Middle English are probably blinking at me, because the gap between modern English and Middle English is rather wide. Shouldn’t the gap between Middle-Low-German and modern German be similar? Well, sort if, ish, unless you speak English pretty well. Continue reading

Farm Fun!

There’s just something cool when you turn a bunch of history-minded people loose in a museum. I earned serious street creds from a group of professors in Oklahoma City by helping them identify which theme went to which Western TV series. I’ve heard interesting stories while lurking behind the next display, pretending not to be listening in. And this was no exception. After all, it is not often that you can spend time looking at something like this, and talking to people who grew up riding on them or working on them, or yes:

First came tanks, then tractors, then more tanks. You’ll still see large treaded tractors on the northern plains.

Continue reading

Broad History of a Flat Place

I’ve been on the road a great deal recently, traveling with friends or going to a regional history meeting. I’m following old routes, some of the time: rivers, chains of rainwater lakes, little swales in the landscape that catch water and gradually lead to canyons, then to the eastern low plains. Other routes belong to machines rather than ancient men, pathways laid in straight lines from city to city, diverting only to avoid the impossible, or to reach the occasional older market. No dramatic terrain meets the eye, no startling contrast other than that of sky and ground meeting somewhere far, far away. Continue reading