An adventure waiting to happen

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Looking up at Burg Sooneck

It’s like a Renaissance Festival year-round. Ok, it’s only six months, but who wouldn’t want to live in a castle in the Middle Rhine Valley for as long as they could manage it? Back in the old days, if you found yourself set up in such style, you wouldn’t leave until some other knight came along and threw you out.

That’s far too much bodily injury for my taste. This is an entirely different scenario. Instead, the fine folks at the region’s Generaldirektion Kulturelles Erbe (GDKE), which in English translates as General Office for Cultural Heritage, have arranged it that one lucky blogger can live in their castle and wax philosophic about what it must really have been like to live in the Middle Ages. That is, if the Middle Ages had had wifi and modern lighting.

Even more importantly, please tell me they’ve got modern plumbing up there. I used to live in a cabin up in the mountains in Colorado, and there was only an outhouse – the thought of having to walk the hundreds of steps to get down to the valley just to use the toilet makes me wish I had a larger bladder.

Between Bingen and Bacharach, high above the River Rhine, is the Burg Sooneck. I’m sure that once I’ve moved into my future digs, there’ll be much more for me to tell you about this place and its surroundings. However, in the meantime, here are some fantastic photos of the place, as well as views from up above:

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Can’t you already see me there?

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A panorama shot of the Rhine

Here's a view looking down from above

Here’s a view looking down from above

 

Bragging up my bonafides

Why am I ideal for this opportunity? It’s not very Teutonic for one to brag, but that’s where having a Yankee like myself become the castle blogger becomes advantageous.

For example, I’ve written for all sorts of blogs over the years. Travel blogs are the most obvious. I’ve certainly written about Bavaria, as well as trips to Hamburg, Berlin or even the former West German capital Bonn, which is right down river from the Middle Rhine Valley.

Additionally, the main focus of my blog lahikmajoe is what it’s like being an outsider living in Germany. Over the years, I’ve written about such diverse topics as German history (both before and more importantly after the Second World War), cultural differences between English-speaking people and the modern day Germans, as well as funny misunderstandings that occur when an outsider doesn’t comprehend those cultural differences.

There’s nothing I like more when I arrive in a new German city or town than to map out the most interesting highlights of the area. Of course, I’m always on the lookout for some undiscovered gem of a story – some curiosity that the guidebooks simply don’t have the time or inclination to include.

Another one of my strengths? Not only do I speak German well, but I love interacting with people and discovering their stories. What more could you want from a castle blogger than someone who gets the essence of the regular folk, as well as their surroundings?

Last of all, there’s one more thing I bring to the table. Despite my rather simple camera, I enjoy taking photos. If you look through my blog, I take great care to find the ideal image that goes with a text. Look back at the photos above. You can almost imagine being there, can’t you?

Most importantly, I love a good adventure. My friend Patsy used to say, ‘Anytime you go out the door and you have no idea what’s going to happen that day, that’s an adventure.’ Can you imagine me waking up every morning in Burg Sooneck? That’s an adventure waiting to happen.

 

 

Ushering them out the door: don’t tell a Scot what to do

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Have been chatting with the Scots in my circle of friends, and it looks like they’re going to go with Independence. This has been building for a while…apparently the whole ‘We’d rather govern ourselves’ thing isn’t a new concept up north.

The curious thing is that not so long ago I agreed with the pundits who seemed to believe that at the last minute those more inclined to tradition would scurry back over to the side of staying in the UK. It seemed only practical.

What happened exactly? Between then and now?

Well, it seems the folk responsible for convincing the Scottish to vote to stay in the UK have chosen a rather curious tactic. The Better Together campaign are employing a mix of scare tactics and condescending rhetoric that’s supposed to freak out Scottish voters.

Just in the last few days, the news has been a mix of:

Well, if you vote for Independence, you can’t continue using the Pound Sterling as your currency.

Oh, and joining the EU isn’t going to be as easy as you think.

And anyway, hasn’t it always been better when we’ve all stayed together.

Behave now and vote for the security that we’ve been providing you all along.

With just the right amount of fear mongering and condescension, it seems the people who wanted to keep Scotland in the fold have instead ushered them out the door.

more daydreaming

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This sculpture is one I pass regularly as I walk my dogs Ella and Louis along the River Isar. Something about her staring off in the distance pleases me immeasurably.

Recently, I noticed that someone had spray painted some nonsense on her side, and I thought, ‘I’m glad I’ve got multiple photos of her without the new tag.’

At some point she’ll be cleaned up, but in the meantime this is what I’ll remember.

And for those of you nudging me and saying, ‘Hey, what’s that green stuff all around her right eye?’ I’m not sure. I’m trying to ignore it.

 

Another coffee, please…oh, and why are you so worried about people looking through your stuff?

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Mostly I write at home, but sometimes between appointments I find myself scratching something out in a café. Like this one.

There’s a column in one of the local papers where readers ask questions and one of the journalists answers in depth. Well, as in depth as is possible in a few paragraphs.

The question today was something like:

Why are Germans so obsessed with data protection?

If could probably do a better job of paraphrasing the answer, but it seemed to come down to a few major things. One was the populace encountering two data-collecting dictatorships in relatively recent memory. There’s no question that this is part of the story.

The other main point was that we are constantly reminded in the media, as well as by word of mouth, that our data is being collected and potentially used.

One factoid that I was a bit surprised at was that half of German Internet users are not just on Facebook, but regularly active on the platform.

If I’d had to guess based on a non scientific sampling of my friends and acquaintances, I’d assume that most Germans weren’t even using social media.

Truth be told, most of my friends here who are active online are using false names and constantly feeding false data to the monsters in the machine.

So, I’m curious. If you’re German and reading this, do you have an opinion on data protection/online anonymity? Obviously, you can contact me privately if you’re uncomfortable leaving a trace of your existence here.

Alternatively, if you’ve worked with Germans and/or lived among them, what do you think of this phenomenon? Are your German friends more cautious online?

I should warn you ahead of time that your answers could be used in an article I’m writing on the subject.

Bike Thief, Motherscratchers

 

 

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Stuck in a Dream

Ok, so here’s some news:

My friend Patrick White, who I knew as a guitarist, is now a bass player. And a good one. He plays in a band in Portland called Bike Thief, and they’ve got a new record.

Some of you are probably already scolding me, ‘Hey lahikmajoe, they don’t call them records anymore.‘ They do if it’s on vinyl. And Stuck in a Dream is on vinyl. Like a real band or something.

What if you don’t have a turntable?

Well, they’ve prepared for that eventuality.

Go to their Bandcamp website here:

Bike Thief’s Stuck in a Dream

You can load up on all the Bike Thief merchandise you’ve ever desired. Oh and most importantly, you can get the digital version of Stuck in a Dream there, as well.

Just in case I’ve been derelict in introducing the band properly, here’s the lineup:

Febian Perez: Lead vocals, Electric guitar, Acoustic guitar, Synthesizers
Greg Allen: Viola, Violin, Synthesizers, Backing vocals
Patrick White: Bass guitar
Steven Skolnik: Drums and Percussion
Thomas Paluck: Electric guitar, Backing vocals 

Purportedly, they’re on the radio in Prague. If there’s a tour, they might make it to Munich. Patrick has already been warned that even if they’re music is well received in Amsterdam, the band’s name won’t be embraced. As our mutual friend Jodi reminded him, stealing bikes ain’t cool with the Dutch.

loud, dirty and grey…just the way we like it

a bit of green in the courtyard

a bit of green in the courtyard

“Die Berliner sind unfreundlich und rücksichtslos, ruppig und rechthaberisch, Berlin ist abstoßend, laut, dreckig und grau, Baustellen und verstopfte Straßen, wo man geht und steht – aber mir tun alle Menschen leid, die nicht hier leben können!” (“The Berliners are unfriendly and inconsiderate, gruff and self-opinionated, Berlin is repulsive, loud, dirty and grey, construction works and blocked streets where you stop and go. But I feel sorry for those people who can not live here!”)
(Anneliese Bödecker, Berlin philanthropist and social worker, born in 1932)

There were people that were gruff and there was plenty that was loud, dirty and grey in Berlin last week, but this was the view that greeted us as we left the flat every morning. Gorgeous, eh?

The dogs had the time of their lives. There’s plenty to sniff on that stinky pavement. Unlike in Munich, where there are plenty of places for a dog to run free, there’s a leash law in Berlin. This means if you’re in the city proper, you’ve got to go to a Hundeauslaufgebiet (Dog Going Out Area) if your hounds are going to get any room to roam.

There are plenty of beautiful places in the German capital, but dog parks there are definitely not a tourist destination. Oo-whee. Talk about dystopian. If you want a set location for that apocalyptic film you’ve been working on, you should really consider the desolation row that is the Hundewiese (Dog Field) at the Mauerpark in the Prenzlauerberg district of what was formerly East Berlin.

Here’s a photo I found:

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your local dystopian dog park

That almost looks nice. Looks are deceiving.

Not that Ella and Louis were complaining. How many Bavarian dogs get to go holidaying in big, bad Berlin for a whole week? Not many, I can assure you.

blurry photo of two Bavarian dogs in Berlin

blurry photo of two Bavarian dogs in Berlin

Here they are waiting outside the Döner Kebab shop. Did they get a few scraps of that sweet succulent meat that comes from the Dönertier? Indeed, they did.

I should probably explain what a Dönertier is, but that’ll have to wait for another time.

Hanging out in my temporary Wohnzimmer

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As Joni sings in my thoughts, ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…’, I’ve spent this week in Berlin without wifi. It’s been more difficult than I imagined. Originally, I assumed I could make it work by just frequenting cafés that were wifi friendly. It hasn’t worked out that way exactly. Although there are plenty of places where you can connect, there are just as many that used to but haven’t altered their websites.

One place I’ve found myself going to again and again is Wohnzimmer in Prenzlauerberg. I could praise its virtues – it’s much more than just the wifi – but regular readers can look at the photo above and assume I feel right at home here. Art Deco entrance ways and comfy design couches. Weird and mismatched as some of the decor is, it’s definitely a great space.

Well, now my battery’s almost dead. Such is connectivity for me at the moment.