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Summer 2015

Note: Since I’ve already used my 3 gigs of data on this account, and it costs $99 to upgrade (!) the posts will be available at Nerd Unterwegs. I will update this post with links.

In June of last year, I went back to Germany. It was a trip that meant a lot to me on many levels, and I always vaguely intended to post about it, but spent the rest of that summer constantly changing gears and locations and spent most of last semester keeping my head above water with work and other pressures. But processing my 2011-12 experience into posts had been such an important part of my year there that I kept wanting to make some kind of travel diary (beyond my actual, paper, travel diary) to help me put my memories together and fit my checklist of historical sites into a somewhat more coherent historical context.

So: I begin!

I will go in order, as chronology is the spice of life.

My itinerary:

  • June 1: Departed Phoenix. Connected in Seattle.
  • June 2: Arrived in Frankfurt. Spent the night in Heidelberg.
  • June 3: Heidelberg
  • June 4: Worms and Speyer. Night in Munich.
  • June 5-9 – Munich
  • June 10 – Bamberg
  • June 11 – Koblenz
  • June 12 – Trier
  • June 13 – Aachen, night in Maastricht.
  • June 14 – Maastricht
  • June 15 – Mainz
  • June 16 – Mainz
  • June 17 – Flew out of Frankfurt, 10am.

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Almost nine months ago, I left Germany… and my nostalgia is reaching the point where I want to relive some of my time there by making at least one of the posts I never got around to.

By now, all of the mundane anxieties about reading maps and meeting trains have faded into the deep mist of the German forest* and all that’s left is golden, rosy memories of quaint medieval towns like…



*NOTE: I didn’t find German forests particularly misty; it’s just that I’ve been gone from Germany for so long now that when I try and picture it all I can see are Caspar David Friedrich paintings.


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this is the end

I feel I should post, because I finally have a few minutes. My last three or four weeks have been very busy… or at least riddled with anxiety, which, for me, amount to the same thing. I’m anxious because I’ve been really happy here in Germany and I’m afraid I might get culture shock back home, or just feel let down… not that it’s really much to be afraid of, but, anticipation is hard. I try to think of the things that make me excited about being home again:

  • my cat (yes, top of the list — just look what has happened to me since I got my first pet)
  • my BOOKS (and the pleasure of finding places for all the new ones which I have laboriously, with much worry and Euro, mailed home, or packed in my bags with mounting dread, hoping they won’t weigh too much)
  • driving a car (I know I’ll also miss European trains and public transit, but there is still something to relish about driving)
  • ice cold drinks (seriously though… this is unspeakably frustrating)
  • giving my presents to my family and grandparents, and showing off the stuff I bought for myself, cough cough
  • going back to work mid-September at my job from last year (seeing all the kids who drove me crazy, now two years older!)
  • being able to speak with anyone without having to worry about falling off the precipice of my language skill (though I think I might go crazy hearing English spoken everywhere in public… American English…)
  • Fred Meyer

And, of course, my family, and the wild and natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, etc etc. I’m sure there’s more that I’ll only remember once I get there. My list of things to miss in Germany could go on and on, but I’m keeping my chin up. I’ve had a great experience, more or less learned a language, eaten an unholy amount of bread and sausage, made some good friends to stay in contact with, visited at least ten castles and three palaces, innumerable churches, a concentration camp, Oxford, London, Warsaw, Paris, Vienna, Venice, Salzburg, Stuttgart, Regensburg, Augsburg, Nuremberg, lots of smaller towns and villages around Munich, and taken over 14,000 pictures (or roughly 23 gigs).

Unfortunately, only a fraction of those pictures have made it on this blog. I never posted about Regensburg, Augsburg, Nuremberg, or the many other things I planned posts on — and maybe I’ll still make them after I get home, just so I can remember. But we’ll see.

Meanwhile, I’ll fly out of Munich at 9pm Germany time on Tuesday — about noon in Bellingham time. Then I’ll fly one hour to Düsseldorf, and spend 12 hours in the airport, overnight, before getting on my flight to Vancouver, which should last about 11 hours. Then it will be midmorning Bellingham time… and I’ll be home. Crazy. Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to read my posts, I’ve appreciated the occasional “like” or comment, and I hope I can catch up with you in person soon.

P.S. OH, and one last thing. This blog was brought to you by Heidi’s camera, which she let me borrow this whole year because it is way better than my own. So a huge thank you to Heidi and her camera, even though it is pink.

And now for some parting shots:

Munich’s Alte Rathaus.

Christ in a village cemetery.

The center of the Marienplatz, the Patroness of Bavaria.

Ladies, this is reason enough to come to Bavaria. And naturally I’m talking about the girl’s outfit. Um, right.

The Schliersee, in the foothills of the Alps, seen from atop the ruins of a castle.

A medieval fresco.

Day before yesterday in Nuremberg.

And the other week, outside the Irish pub in Munich (long story).

Inside Schloss Nymphenburg, in Munich.

One of the garden palaces at Nymphenburg.

Our neighbor, my friend Ina, gave me a ticket to Nymphenburg as a birthday present. It was a wonderful present, because I’m not sure I would have gone on my own initiative — so it felt like a real gift, and I realized that I’d been to the Nymphenburg gardens my very first week in Munich. It was nice to go and see inside during my last week.

Yesterday, Language-Exchange-Friend Peter and I went on our final expedition, to Burghausen on the Salzach. It is a huge castle, but I didn’t get very many good pictures. I like this one, though.

The Marienplatz, one last time. Auf Wiedersehen, München.

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My local history research continues apace, but it was blown out of the water last [week] when I (FINALLY) discovered the interactive aerial satellite map that marks and describes all the archaeological sites in Bavaria. It’s called the BayernViewer-Denkmal.

It doesn’t contain very much specific information, though, and as I was reminded [the day I started writing this post], it lists everything (I think) that has ever been logged — not which sites are visible today. This is obvious when it comes to graves or settlements paved and built over with street grids and new houses. But not so obvious when it’s something in the middle of the woods or a field — and since the Google Satellite images seem to be significantly out of date, I often can’t tell whether something will be there or not when I show up. Theoretically, that is okay; it’s exciting just to be in a place where I know something was once upon a time. But in practice, when you’ve walked a couple miles out into a field and you find nothing, and aren’t sure if you are in the wrong place or just aren’t seeing something or whether there’s nothing left to see, and then have to turn around and walk back — it’s a bit deflating. That’s what happened to me [the day I started writing this post] — and then I got lost in the woods because of my dumb map — so to cheer myself up I’m going to post about some of my recent successful finds!

So, let’s see. Sometime in the spring I visited another three Keltenschanzen (Celtic ring forts), a different part of the Roman road, and my first ever BARROW MOUNDS or grave mounds with Peter-language-exchange-friend, but in a terrible stroke of unluck (as the Germans would say) I had forgotten to bring my camera that day. So I don’t have pictures of those first mounds — I might go back by myself in the two weeks before I leave, just because those schanzes and the road were more impressive than others that I’ve seen, and I’d like pictures of them. But in the meantime, I finally did my homework and found out (pre-BayernViewer) that I had some in my own backyard: in the woods near Allach, the village just to the north of my own.

Actually, as I mentioned on Facebook, I read through my books and found maps and located where I thought the grave mounds would be, and then as I was leaving the house, I took along the map of Munich that I bought on my first day in Germany. And it was marked: “Grabhügel.” So much for my research skills! And I still got lost, as you’ll see.


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I’ve started doing more research into local history and landscapes — the regions within roughly a 3-mile radius of where I live. I’ve concentrated on the districts or villages that I know the best — Unter- and Obermenzing, Allach, Pasing. My German is decent enough now that I can read up on stuff in the local library without having to rely on Google Translate for every little thing, and I take pictures of a lot of text so I can bring it home and spend more time on it. Hopefully I’ll have interesting stuff to show you soon! But not yet…

For now I’ll tell you about my trip to the “Birg,” a hill/former fortification just east of the town of Hohenschäftlarn. The German words “Berg” (hill) and “Burg” (fort/castle) were originally the same (a fortified area being usually built on a hill), and “Birg” is a later corruption of one or the other or both. Whatever fortification use to be built on the Birg has long since disappeared, but the remains of a large, very impressive system of earthwork trenches are still there, dating from the 9th or 10th century at the latest.

So two weekends ago I rode the S-Bahn to a little town about 20 km/12 miles up the Isar River from central Munich. (That is, south!) It’s associated with Kloster Schäftlarn, one of the historic abbeys between Munich and the Alps. The abbey is a Benedictine foundation from the Carolingian era, and the town Hohenschäftlarn was first mentioned in 778.

Here is someone else’s picture of the monastery perched above the Isar:

This picture is from the north, and I’m not sure if you can see the Birg hill. But you get the general idea. (more…)

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I am skipping all kinds of stuff just to show you what I did this past weekend! I saw my first actual CASTLE RUINS.

This is Castle Ehrenberg (in Reutte, Austria), which lies on the Via Claudia Augusta, the Roman road that stretched from Venice to Augsburg. It’s part of a complex of fortifications — this castle, from the 13th century with multiple additions to the 17th century; an 18th century fort on the hill just above it; a 13th-14th century “klause” or hermitage guarding the road (the Via Claudia Augusta) through the valley; and a smaller 16th century fort on the opposite hill across the valley. This gorge along the River Lech was a strategic point from the Romans on up, and the Romans actually had a fort down in the valley, in Breitenwang, just next to the town of Reutte.

If that’s a little confusing, no worries… just look at the pretty pictures. (more…)

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And now for something a bit different. Not completely different; it’s still a church. But it’s a late 19th century Lutheran church, the only one still preserved in central Munich.


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