Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

Two thousand cows. Two thousand remarkable, milkable, touchable cows. A pretty sight, if you like the bovine business.

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Outside Dresden we had the great fortune to visit a cow co-op, as it were. The cows give their share, the farmers collect theirs. In a large indoor setting cows walk up a ramp, passing a little automatic hoof spray (a cross between a drive-through car wash and the airport’s 10-minute-manicure), and step on to a slowly revolving circular carousel which will eventually return them to the place they entered.

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A worker hooks up each cow to a milking machine which collects, weighs, chills and then sends the milk to a giant storage tank. When the udders are empty the milking machine detaches and the cow heads back to the field for lunch. The cows are milked twice a day.

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Younger calves, if female,  chow down on hay in one end of a pen. Young males in another.

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The calves are inquisitive and calm, and certainly distinguish who’s who in the barnyard. Our little troupe was a cause for curiosity.

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At this particular dairy co-op the farmers aim to have the operation self-sustaining by using methane produced by cow manure and rotting silage.

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With two thousand cows. there’s a fair supply of both.

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Now here’s a happy guy. Loves his job. Never calls in sick. Never complains. Oh yeah. Love my job, man.

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And, sigh, we know. Destined to child bearing for the rest of our lives. Milk and babies, babies and milk. A mother’s lot.

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In fact the cows are primarily artificially inseminated. For one thing, the farmer can control the genetics of the herd. However, if two separate attempts at insemination are unsuccessful, the bull is called in. Apparently it’s a solution with a high rate of success. El Toro is not employed more often because his rates are too expensive. Also it’s a waste of his millions of talents.

Gotta stop. Trying to keep this family-friendly, after all.

What’s a talent, Mummy?

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These little guys and gals, at a couple of weeks, are kept on their own in clean pens in a sunny locale. They jump and skip and twist and are extremely curious.

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And keen on salt!


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A different point of view

There’s more than one way to look at the world. Just hand over a camera to, say, a 10-year-old, and see what he deems snap-worthy.


Introducing the artist, from the Netherlands, no less.


That’s Usain Bolt crossing the finish line, sailing to a gold and a second world record in the 200 metre. We didn’t actually have finish-line seats — N scalped this image from the giant videotron. Clever lad.


The Berlin Olympic Stadium. Another lovely shot and a lovely structure. For 20 minutes every afternoon, around 6.45 p.m., the sun would arc around and glare straight into our eyes. The athletes’ events were structured so that they were never finishing into the sun. Forethought on everything.


N loved shooting the high jumpers at their leaping best and also the steepechasers as they splashed into the water following one of their hurdles.


Outside the stadium as we dashed around the perimeter to watch the discus thrower from a better vantage point. The we dashed back again to see the Canadian women take silver in the hurdles.


Not a dog, not a mop, not an Einsteinian hairpiece. Microphones like these were set up about the field and at every hurdle, catching every grunt and huff of ambient sound.


A variant of “Coke heeeer. Get yer ice cold Coke heeeer.”


At the discus throw.


Harting, as advertised above, a German, handily won a gold medal in the discus. Post-victorious throw, he roared, stripped off his shirt and then picked up the fellow in the bear mascot costume and carried said bear around the track on his (Hartig’s) back. The ensuing roar from the German crowd actually had N&L covering their ears.


Sister of the artist chumming with the camera men.


And finally, a portrait of the artist as he ponders the bratwurst and pretzel vendors.

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In vino veritas

Not a lot of rain falls on the hillsides between the towns of Meissen and Dresden, yet over the summer months there’s plenty of heat. Hence great conditions for certain types of wine grapes.

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Reisling comes to mind. White, dry, sweet, sparkling, blush — options both myriad and mouth-watering.

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From any angle the vineyard is a pretty sight with neat terraced rows, straw-hatted workers hoeing between the vines, guests dressed in their finest attending a wedding in the little house on the hill.

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Nice place for a party, nein?

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The vines are systematically pruned and tied for optimal grape production. Farmer Gordon informed us that there are various schools of thought on how best to shape the growing vine — whether the vine has a large central stem or divides off into multiple smaller ones. Not sure which strategy he’s employing on our massive grape operation at home. This year we may have enough fruit for a pie!

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What a great day!

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Riots of colour attract the bees.

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And the humans.

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And as we depart, we see we have mis-timed our visit for the formal wine tasting. Now that would have been fun, regardless of language limitations.

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But as great luck and forethought would have it, we did remember to visit the on-site boutique to pick up a few souvenirs.

And had a wee tasting of our own.


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Medieval Times in Meissen

Coming from Canada it is always magical to see physical structures which are as old as antiquity. The town of Meissen, about two hours south and slightly west of Berlin, was founded as a German town in 929.

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Its rulers have possessed intriguing monikers including Emperor Conrad, King Henry the Fowler and Boleslaw the Brave.

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Walking along the narrow walled passageways which lead to the Albrectsburg castle reminds the traveller of how quickly time passes. These streets were peddled and bartered and traded by folks of all ages and nationalities, in only slightly less raggedy garb.

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And as always, the juxtaposition of old and new.

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Meissen is mostly famous for its manufacture of porcelain, based on huge deposits of “china” clay and “potter’s” clay, both plastic and easy to yield into intricate shapes. Meissen porcelain was the first high quality porcelain to be produced outside of China.

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The first European porcelain was manufactured in Meissen in 1710. Porcelain is still manufactured there today.

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Variations in architecture circle the castle like rings of an onion — outer layers are most recent, getting older as one approaches the centre.

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In the courtyard’s centre, cobblestones are laid out like spokes of a wheel or perhaps the points of a compass. Didn’t manage to determine the significance.

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Every 15 minutes a series of bells ring out at the Frauenkirche — where we heard an organist practicing (and we mean *practicing;* good for N&L to hear someone else make beaucoup d’erreurs) — where the bells were made of porcelain. Quite a different sound from the classic cast-iron church bells.

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Meissen was a market town by 1000 and construction of the Meissen Cathedral in 1260 was started on the same hill as the Albrechtsburg castle. As space was tight, the cathedral ended up as one of the smallest in Europe. Didn’t seem especially modest to me.

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The church is also known as being one of the most pure examples of Gothic architecture.

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The closest our princess will get to a prince.

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Or maybe he’s a knight. In which case, I declare her a lady. In waiting. ‘Till she’s 35.

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Or perhaps he’s a monk.

Better yet.

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Stags, Strasses und Platzes

Despite my earnest attempts I’m not yet bilingual. However, German is startlingly easy to understand. Put -stag at the end of at word and you have a building. Use -strasse and you’ve got a street. Platz is place — like piazza. Hey! We get it!!

Thus the theme of our recent wanderings.

Built to house the German Parliament, the Reichstag was intended as a symbol of national unity and to showcase the aspirations of the German Empire, circa 1871.


The Neo-Renaissance design was intended to capture the prevailing spirit of German optimism.


In 1916 the inscription “Dem Deutschen Volke” — to the German people — was added. The day we visited the line to enter extended the length of a football field.


The Altes Museum is built in the Neo-Classical form and houses a large collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, including a mosaic from Hadrian’s villa, near Tivoli, on the outskirts of Rome!


A Greek hero, Pollux, slaying a lion.


Easy, boy.


About two dozen of these intricately carved gods and goddesses line the perimeter of an inner dome.


Time for a snack!


Around the corner Mel, using his Manitoba-dialect Ukrainian, befriended a Russian ex-pat who in turn sold us some Authentic! Russian Army! Hats!


Around the corner, in Alexanderplatz, a neo-millennial structure we comprehended immediately.


And another. Something for everyone in Berlin.

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These international games embrace all the glorious traits of the Olympics.


Citius, Altius, Fortius.


Faster, Higher, Stronger.


But there’s another element of competition going on here.


Competitors arrive from around the globe.


Participants are primarily male.


They’re highly focused, precisely trained, supremely gifted in their area of expertise.


Some bear injuries as testament to their years in competition.


Colour is no barrier.

Competition is fierce.


Gotta keep focussed.


A king’s ransom is tied up in gear.


And if you can’t be the best, maybe you can just be wacky.

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Trodel means “junk” in German. And, as one  man’s trash is another man’s treasure, it makes sense to get rid of your junk to benefit another.


If you want to benefit yourself as well, you sell your things. At a market. Hence, Trodelmarkt.


Belt buckles. Stones. Statuary. The usual Indian and Cambodian scarves and insence.


And lots of Cool Stuff. Should have picked up armloads of these.


Trash or treasure is always a matter of opinion.


It’s all about perspective.


I picked up one of these glories at a farm auction a couple of years ago. I kept it on the dining room table and as my two were just beginning to read, they could type little notes to me. Kind of a manual laptop — portable, excellent battery life, immediate feedback.


Lots of silver — cutlery, candlesticks, tea and coffee services, re-tooled creations — all lovely and speaking of a time gone by.


Buckets and buckets of coins from the days before the euro. Pfennigs, lira, paper and coin.


What would once have been hoarded is now just scrap metal. We humans are a curious lot.


Little hooks.


Of course I have no idea of how to assess the worth of these kinds of things. I’m sure the vendors are way up on what’s of value and what ain’t.


I was trying to take pics surreptitiously thus this one’s crooked. But I decided I liked it that way.


A few of these steins were raised in joy once upon a time.


Treasures for the home renovator, Mary?


And I completely fell in love with this irresistibly handsome prince. He’s made of stretched and twisted silver forks and spoons and blobs and beads of melted silver.

I’m hoping he’ll enjoy life in Canada.

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Faces at the races

We confess to not having gotten permission to publish these pics but hope the world is warm enough that they won’t mind.


Sitting in the (ahem) VIP section as we were (and just for your information, there happens to be a section labelled VVIP, ‘tho we have no idea what one gets with the extra V), we were surrounded by representatives from across the globe.


The highly official tags we non-athletes wear identify our country and also say we’re part of the IAAF “Family”  (international association of athletics federations).


At first I thought my credentials read “family” because I was travelling as someone’s spouse. Not sure I liked that.


Then I noticed there were a lot of us spousal “family” types walking around.


Wow! All these families travelling together to connect the world through athletics. What an amazing *sob* organization!


Then I saw that everyone else was wearing them.




Well, that’s okay because “We are fam-i-ly … ”


“I got all my sisters with me…”


“Get up everybody and sing…”


“Everyone can see we’re together…”


“Can we be that close…”


“We’re givin’ love in a family dose…”

“Have faith in you and the things you do.”

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World Record!

At Olympic Stadium yesterday evening. Beautiful place, open ceiling, sky bright and blue above us.


Dozens of countries represented.


Geographical knowledge is severely taxed as we realize we can name fewer than a third.


Maybe less.


Maybe a dozen.


Hmmmm. A crowd of yellow. Whomever could they be cheering for?? (hint: a certain runner’s home country’s flag’s colour.)


A few events happening simultaneously. The women’s heptathlon is at the javelin event. Spears sailling across the arena is a fairly impressive sight!

Bahrain is represented next to a German runner.


The women exit the track and the men effortlessly soar over a few hurdles.

Then the man of the hour approaches the blocks. Extremely personable, he hams it up for the cameras.


And the cameras are everywhere.

He runs.


He conquers.


He celebrates — surrounded by a hoard of cameras.

It was a fabulous moment.

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Medieval Times in Dresden

Beer is the order of the day. Every day. Big beer, little beer (as the locals mime to the tourists), wheat beer, fruit beer, beer with lemonade (called Biker’s Beer — because a cyclist can then drink and drive), black beer and others.


Frankie took us to a beer garden on the banks of the Elbe where we simply *had* to sample a few brews, along with a substantial home-style dinner that included fried potatoes, sauerkraut, and great whopping chunks of meat.


This particular weekend in Dresden celebrates life in the city with a festival to encourage people to re-explore their community.


In the shadow of the old stone walls, vendors set up stalls selling fresh fruit, roasted almonds, spun sugar, gingerbread, bratwurst and beer.


And the beer is consumed in the open (!) and out of glass mugs (!). No health and safety commissioner hovering here!


This woman was crooning a bit of Frank Sinatra.


And all these folks looked on.


Frankie told us the stalls were supposed to be in the style of the medieval times. Looking at this particular stall, where various carboys of  sweetened fruit wine bubbled and and brewed away under flickering wax candles, it was fairly easy to imagine a similar street scene transpiring 700 years ago.


This particular glass of black currant wine tasted just like the wine my aunt Inge used to brew in her basement.


Inge had left East Germany some time after the war but before the building of the Berlin Wall. She always had jellies, jams and wines working in a tiny space under the stairs that led to the basement. Magic for a little kid!


Not sure this particular structure was around 700 years ago.


All very pretty in the later hours of the evening.


Liliana noted on our walk back to the car, “I love Germany!”

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