Capital Capitol Caput

Where was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, at least until the mid-1400s? Can you go visit the remains, see a museum about the place?

Well, yes and no. Because there are and were many places that served as the center of government of the early forms of the Holy Roman Empire, ranging from Aachen in the west to Goslar in the east, to Frankfurt and down into the Black Forest, into Italy, even Sicily. The empire traveled with the Emperor, and the administrative staff and records went with him. Continue reading


Mildly Exciting Moments – South German Edition

I hadn’t thought about it for decades, until I was text-chatting with Dorothy Grant and the memory bubbled up.

I had just left the Germany Army Research Bureau offices in Freiburg. I’d gone to introduce myself and see about trying to get research space, and had been informed that sooner was better. As a result, I changed plans and instead of hurrying back to campus that afternoon, I was hunting for a hotel for the next week. Boykin’s Law and all that.

I had not been to Freiburg im Breisgau before. I had a small map and two addresses of possible stay-places. In my meanderings, I’d wandered off the main tourist path and was in a rather odd neighborhood of house-hotels, an old palace-looking building, and something stone, imposing, and almost fortified. I stopped to get my bearings. The warm spring sun and lovely flowers softened the street scene. The fancy place on the other side of the street had a waist-high wrought-iron fence with a neatly trimmed hedge behind it. I stood with my back to the semi-fortified place, map in hand, trying to sort out where ‘here’ was and which direction I needed to go. And I heard shouting, not happy shouting. Continue reading

So Much for Avian Dignity…

I seem to have a talent for finding “noble birds” in awkward places, at least awkward for this human’s ideas about where one is supposed to see eagles and falcons.

Er, ah, not exactly…

I’d always wanted to see a bald eagle up close, as in “less than 100 feet away, perched 50 feet up in a tree.” This is where one commonly finds bald eagles in the central US – in trees, well away from where you are. The Feds tend to be touchy about letting you walk right up to eagle trees in federal nature reserves. So I assumed I’d have to go to Alaska or one of those other eagle-rich locations.

Wrong. Continue reading

Autobahn Adventures: The Prevention Of

Someone else drives in Germany. I can, and have when I was at university there, but I didn’t like it then and I like it less now. The rules of the road are not the same as the US, for all that things appear similar on the surface. The autobahn not having a speed limit (in good weather, when a limit is not posted, and there is not a wreck, and not in a construction zone) is just the start. So here are a few observations I’ve made over the years: Continue reading


On the trip this past summer, my group opted to go out onto an island to look at the Baltic. The island is rather large, and protects the city from the Baltic’s infamous winter storms. However, that day all was well, and we hoped that since tourist season had not officially started, things would be pretty quiet.

So peaceful, and quiet. It was about 75 degrees F, with a light breeze to keep the bugs away.

The island of Rugen, where we went, is a lumpy chunk of north Germany, rockier and with more variety of scenery than the mainland. We passed freshwater marshes, forests, nice farms, and lots of cars. Apparently we were not the only people trying to get ahead of the rush. Continue reading

Things I learned Downstate…

It is possible, nay probable, to have a headwind no matter which direction you are traveling.

Head colds are no respecter of season or event.

“We are NOT going to have too much food this time” never works out as planned. There was, once again, more food than anticipated, because everyone brought a “little extra just in case.” (Did I mention that my friends all believe in over-preparing?)

Unless the food is a magnificent pot roast, in which case there is never too much. We had just enough, and that was with one person out with the aforementioned head cold. Continue reading

Put Castle Here

When you do something regularly for a while, or when your final exam grade depends on learning how to see and evaluate certain terrain and aquatic features, you develop a bit of skill. If your survival depends on reading the landscape properly, the learning curve is a lot steeper. And if you are exposed to something, even though you are not trying to learn how to read the land, after a while you start doing it. I can’t not evaluate a stream as I walk past it. And I can’t go through rolling or mountainous countryside without mentally adding strong points, choke-points, and castles. Continue reading