Minerals in rural France are MIND BLOWING – 1

Before we talk about the minerals, lets talk about the place.

Nestled deep in the most rural of rural regions in France sit two little villages, Saint-Marie-aux-Mines and Sainte-Croix-aux-Mines.

To visit, you need just two things.

First, you need a damn good GPS navigation system in your car – or you might not arrive. These villages are tiny, and they are remote, and the people who live here do their best to keep visitors away.

And second, you need a damn good measure of courage, because the rural French don’t take too kindly to foreigners – so you might not depart. I am not kidding when I say going here unaccompanied is something the French Gendarmerie do not recommend.

Even with Google maps it’s hard to find these places until you turn the magnification up to the highest levels:

And what of these places?  These were the places where, even long, long before the Middle Ages, the tough, fearless Romans risked their health and their lives to mine silver and precious metals from mines deep underground. And today the tough, fearless inhabitants of these villages are the descendants of those Romans – brutal, not afraid of pain, not afraid of hard work, and not suffering either fools or visitors lightly.


The great mystery of the Basel Bahnhof – SOLVED!

If you have ever been to the train station in Basel, and if you have a sharp and discerning set of peepers, then this view might drive you crazy:

Why? As you can see, there are train tracks 11, 12 . . . and 14 and 15  – but there is no track 13!

For a long time, I pondered this mystery. Was track 13 removed to avoid bad luck?  Other train stations have track 13, so I don’t think so.  Was track 13 removed for satanic pagan reasons?  Basel has one of the largest pagan celebrations in the free world – so this could be likely – but I never was able to connect this pagan ritual to the number 13. Was track 13 removed because the Swiss are sloppy guys that made a mistake and never bothered to correct it?  Hardly!

So then I got busy: I hit the rails and asked train conductors – lots and lots of them. Sadly, none of them knew the answer. I hit the Basel train station office and asked the counter staff – lots and lots of them. Sadly, none of them knew the answer.

Fast forward about THREE YEARS! Recently, I finally got lucky – while talking to a train conductor a train driver happened to overhear my question, and he jumped in and told me there was in fact a track 13. Turns out, he knew the track very well and drives on it regularly!

You see, the key to the mystery was, there is a track 13, but no platform 13.

And to their great credit, the Swiss Federal Railways did not lie or mislead about this. In German, the term used is “Gleis 13” which – translated – means “Track 13” and not “Platform 13.”

After three years of hard work – the great mystery of the Basel Bahnhof has been solved!

Train Storks

Storks. I’ve written about transformer storks, house storks, monument storks, and Bodensee storks. And now to add to my collection of storks, train storks!

This fellow set up shop at the Basel Bahnhof, and as you can see from this snap he looks rather proud of himself:

Technically, he is geolocated in Switzerland – but legally, he is residing in the French area of the Bahnhof.

Black Church – 2

Continuing the series, still not what you probably think when you hear the term black church:

My passion is blind exploration – not guided tourism. So for me, the French city of Claremont-Ferrand is one of those truly magnificent, unplanned, unexpected discoveries that keeps me going back to France, time and again, even though there are other countries close by with impressive things to see: it’s an amazing, mind-blowing city that almost no one outside of France has ever heard of, or likely ever will.

Robin Hood’s Bay

Robin Hood’s Bay is a fairly small bay containing a fairly small village of the same name, located a fairly small drive south of Whitby, frequented by a fairly small number of tourists but offering a magnificent view of the coast alongside the Yorkshire Moors,

The village itself is remarkable, having been built by smugglers over the centuries. The streets are lined with shops selling fossils (you can find them on the beach!) and a pitch black gemstone called jet, formed from compressed fossilized wood, that you could find on the beach but presumably all the good stuff has long since been scooped up.

Here’s another view:

Two AMAZING ways that old meets new!

This is the Münster, a Catholic cathedral in the Middle Age village of Villingen in Southern Germany:

It dates back to  the year 1130.  It is very, very old.

And this is one of the doors of the cathedral:

Created in the late twentieth century out of bronze by the artist Klaus Ringwald, it is very very new.

So you might think: old meets new.  And you’d be right.

But . . . you’d only be half right!

Because the scenes on the massive bronze door (twelve of them, no less) depict historic scenes from the Old Testament (left) and the New Testament (right).

So . . . this is two amazing ways that old meets new!

Dystopian, futuristic Winterthur

Continuing the series, this snap somehow reminds me of a dystopian, futuristic landscape:

It’s the year 2042. The outside temperature during the summer in Switzerland can be in excess of 60 C, so it‘s not possible to spend time outdoors unless in a chill-suit. Winterthur is a small industrial outpost with a population of less than 100. Here you can see the sun rising above the nuclear powered carbon extraction plant. In a network of nearly 1000 stations like this circling the globe at strategic points, carbon is extracted directly from the atmosphere, converted to a solid, and transported by computer controlled railways to Spain – a long dead country in the uninhabitable zone of Europe, where the average yearly temperature is above 60 C, and the peak summer temperatures approach the boiling point of water.

Climate scientists are in unanimous agreement that these decarbonification activities must continue unabated for another forty years before the year-over-year rise of the Earth‘s temperature will be stopped, and another century before the pre-2000 temperatures will be restored.  With Earth‘s population currently hovering at a little over 250 Million, it will be a tough challenge to keep this system in operation that long.

Black Forest Trees

These are some trees in the Schwarzwald of Southern Germany, just outside of Freundenstadt:

I read two interesting things, but I don’t know if they are true.

First, there are no original trees in the Black Forest. All of the original trees have long, long been harvested and re-planted.

Second, the current trees of the Black Forest are no longer optimal for the current climate conditions, so land management experts in Germany are considering replacing the trees with different species that are better suited to warm temperatures.

Channa Bhatura

I lived for years in India and I usually ate with my fingers, rather than with a fork and knife. And the Indians were quick to me that scientists have proven (somehow?) that by eating with your fingers you increase your food happiness, because the tactile sensations start before the food reaches your mouth.

Well, I never really believed that . . . until I tried a Punjabi dish, a huge empty doughball much bigger than a bowling ball or your head, channa bhatura:

And it is true!  There is something about tearing into the big, fluffy, glutinous ballon to tear off a piece to dip into the chickpeas that is really amazing!

London Clock Tower

Nothing special, just what I thought was a nice snap:

But if you are technically oriented, it does raise a good question: are the hands on the different faces mechanically or otherwise synchronized to each other?  In a normal mechanical clock, normally the mechanism keeps the hands turning – but the hands themselves can be slipped freely, for manual adjustment. But how is this handled on the London Clock Tower?

And that raises a very interesting point that a lot of people don’t know about: the topic of slips and fits. Have you ever noticed how some parts turn very freely, such as a bicycle wheel – whereas other parts turn with stiffer resistance, such as the hands of a clock.

Probably everyone knows that machinists work in machine shops, and they use blueprints and precision machines like lathes and CNC machines to fabricate highly precise metal parts. But very few people know there is a sub-branch of precision machining known as slips and fits – it is all about how to specify (with an international specification, no less!) and with extreme, mega-tolerance how two parts should behave when they are in mechanical contact with each other.

Storm over Bangkok

An afternoon thunderstorm is brewing over Bangkok,

Interestingly, I flew here from Bangalore on an airline that does not exist anymore. To encourage the wealthy Bangaloreans to spend their money in Bangkok, the Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok sponsored a low-cost airline to shuttle passengers between Bangalore and Bangkok. For around USD 100 you’d take a 5 hour red-eye flight, arrive early in the morning rested and relaxed, and they give you a free shopping bag filled with coupons, maps, and sightseeing guides.  I’m glad I took advantage of this while I could!

Half of the Apostles – and a Holy Grail Mystery!

I don’t know if they are or if they aren’t, but I took this snap in Paris at the famous Cathedral of Notre-Dame, and they have circles around their heads, so it is not unreasonable to think this:

As you can see, the second one from the right (oddly) sports no beard. Could this perhaps really be Mary Magdelena? After all, this figure is carrying a chalice . . .

Another mystery for me to clear up one day!