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

The Perfect Fish?

Not for everyone, I know, and not really compared to what most people think of as piscatorial perfection. But herring has some advantages over salmon and trout, which helps explain why it is now the fish of the North Sea coast. Let’s just say you will find one or two salmon things at most on the breakfast buffet, and at least four different herring dishes, and entire fillets are very popular tinned fish.

I’ve had salmon since I was rather young and it came in cans. And trout I first met in Montana. I enjoy it, but it does not travel well, so you have to be in places where trout is raised, or go fishing with a friend in a trout stream that allows you to keep the fish.

I had not encountered herring in large quantities before this past summer. I’d walked past the cans of tinned herring at World Market (aka Temptation Market), and had tried Rollmops once or twice even though I was not suffering from a hangover at the time.*


And I’d collided with pike-perch and lost while in the Czech Republic. The problem wasn’t the fish, it was me. I was presented at dinner with a very large plate bearing a very large and bony fish (complete with eye), a fish knife, and a fork. What little I managed to de-bone before we had to leave for our next stop was not bad, albeit bland and a little dry.

Zander, or pike-perch.

Continue reading

Organic What?!?

The sign translates “Organic Book Store (Books on Paper)”

This was in the bookstore window in Rinteln, Germany. “Bio-” in German is the same as “organic” in US English. Biokartoffeln, for example, means organic potatoes. “Organisch-” is reserved for things like organic chemistry and other industrial and chemical meanings, which is as it should be (IMHO).

After all the hue-and-cry about paper books being so much better than e-books and e-books are just going to disappear like the fad they are, I just had to take a photo of the cartoon. I don’t know if it was a poster or if it was clipped from a magazine or newspaper.

It was a bit more subtle than the following:

“Who loves* books buys [them] in the bookstore.” The sign was outside an old-n-used book store and was on a sandwich-board, about a meter tall by sixty centimeters wide.

*For those of us who learned German a “few” years ago, using the verb lieben to mean “love of books” is a bit jarring. You were only supposed to use Ich liebe to refer to an individual or G-d. Otherwise you said “Das/Der/Die gefält mich sehr.” Saying “Ich liebe Eis!” [I romantic love ice-cream] got you either giggles or seriously concerned sideways glances.

Edited to add: Good morning, Instapunderati! Thanks for stopping by.

Wandering Around Ein Feste Burg

One of the places we used as a “home base” this past June was Bad Pyrmont. It is a town with fascinating geology, in the Weser River Valley, tucked away in some hills. It has limestone around it, and a great deal of natural faulting, probably related to the Rhine Graben, or rift-valley, not too far away. Because of the faulting, there are a number of mineral springs that bubble up, and some sinkholes of interest, and a CO2 cave where people used to go and “dry bathe” in CO2 up to their chins. In 1556-1562, it became a princely seat, and a Baroque hunting lodge was added in 1706, and then a spa developed. Goethe and a few other minor German cultural figures spent time there, as did Peter the Great of Russia, and today it is a very nice, quiet, city with good historical guides, lovely parks, and several spa hotels. And a water-castle. Continue reading

Show Museum or Teaching Museum?

You probably can tell without my saying much that I am a sucker for museums. Art museum, science museum, history museum, folk-life museum, botanical garden, I’ll probably at least poke my head in to see if it looks promising. I’ve been very, very fortunate to be able to visit, and re-visit, many of the great art and history museums north of the Alps, like the Kunsthistorischesmuseum [Art History Museum] in Vienna three times, the Gamäldegalarie [painting gallery] in Berlin twice, and a few others, like the Louvre (twice over two days. Don’t bother with the southern art section, IMHO). Continue reading