I’ve driven across this bridge hundreds of times, but recently I stopped underneath to take some pictures.
This is the Neckar Viaduct up close:
And this is the Neckar Viaduct, somewhat further away:
What’s just amazing is that this viaduct has a height of 125 meters, or just over 400 feet. In comparison, the more famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco has a height of only 67 meters or around 200 feet. That means the Neckar Viaduct is almost twice as high as the Golden Gate Bridge!
Most non-Swiss people I know – including many who have made Switzerland their home – think of Switzerland as exclusively land of the rich. And indeed, it tops the charts as one of the world’s most expensive countries.
But people often overlook the fact that not everyone in Switzerland is as affluent as your typical Zürich resident or Geneve resident. In particular, there are still many rural areas, often isolated in tiny villages and hamlets in the Swiss Alps, where the income and standard of living is somewhat less.
In order to help these regions, the Swiss grocery store Coop operates a collection of donation stations, where people can donate old clothes and shoes, like this one:
Additionally, they have a terrific website that gives full details about the various projects they support to improve the lives of many people in these remote mountain villages.
I came across the following image, which (if true) is quite an interesting way to display the data:
I am no language expert, but it surprised me that I didn’t see Punjabi, which appears in most lists as part of the Top 10, such as the current list from Wikipedia:
Interestingly, I’d never heard of Lahnda before, and when I looked it up I learned it is a dialect of Punjabi.
I rarely do book reviews, but in this case I couldn’t help.
Back in 1975 I was 10 years old, and an IBM engineer, Fred Brooks, wrote a fabulous book entitled “The Mythical Man Month” containing his wisdom and advice for software engineering projects:
The title of the book comes from an important observation he made about software engineering: if you add more people to a late software project, you’re like to make it even later! But in addition there fabulous observations about other topics, like prototyping, the different between software development for projects and software development for products, and the like.
It’s just amazing: after nearly 45 years, hardly any of the most important core principles has changed. The author himself writes in his newest addition:
“In preparing my update, I was struck by how few of the propositions have been critiqued, proven, or disproven by ongoing software research and experience.“
Quite some time ago I blogged about the so-called Klek shops in Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia. Here is the photo I showed, dating back to 2008:
This week the New York Times has an article about these
I was worried that, as Sofia became more modern, these would soon disappear. I’m glad they found a way to preserve this unique shops!
This object caught my attention when I was visiting Southern Germany, not the least because of the way the concrete was depressed on one side and elevated on the other:
However, after walking around a bit I found this plaque on on the ground:
So, it appears to be work of art and not an actual meteorite!
When people think of Germany, not a lot of people think about volcanos. But in fact, Southern Germany has a region called Hegau that is dotted with dozens exposed and extinct volcanos. This snap shows just a few of them:
A few of them are topped with the ruins of medieval castles, and I’ll post further snaps as time permits.
Because it’s so impressive I’ve written several times about the Thyssen Krupp Test Tower in Southern Germany. Here is a snap of it I took from the autobahn, showing just how incredible it looks towering above the South German countryside.
You’ve heard of the great sandstorms of the Sahara Desert.
You’ve heard of the great windstorms in Oklahoma.
And if you like science fiction, you’ve read about the great firestorms of the Tesla Trees in the Flame Forests of Hyperion.
Here, then, is a storm you’ve probably never heard about: the Great Pollen Storms of Southern Germany. For just a few days each spring, when conditions in Germany are right, the wind can kick up enormous pollen storms:
How’s that for a blog title!
Here is an interesting fountain located in the Marktplatz in Stuttgart which, like most fountains in Germany but NO fountains in Switzerland, does not have drinkable water but which does, unlike most fountains in Germany, sports a jungle of algae:
But what a lot of people don’t know is that, deep under the Markplatz, there is a hotel, now closed, constructed from a World War II bunker.
I haven’t blogged about it yet, but France has commercialized their regional cultural subgroups for years. Shopping centers almost universally contain a store called “En Passant en Alsace” or “En Passant en Bourgogne” that sell the local products from regions such as Alsace and Bourgogne. The huge supermarkets (known as Hypermarchés) have an aisle that, at various times, sell the products of a different region of France than where the Hypermarché is located.
Now it seems the Schwabians in Germany are getting in on the action!
Here is a snap of a “Schwabian vending machine” located at the Stuttgart main train station,
As you can see from the display, you can order Schwabian specialities such as Maultaschen and schwabian potato salad:
I’ll refrain here from any jokes (such as, in order to save money there are real Schwabians behind the wall dispensing the products instead of expensive machines).
Stuttgart 21 is a long planned (10+ years), hotly debated (100+ police arrests and dozens of canisters of teargas, some of them used against elementary school students) improvement project to the German Railways (Deutsche Bahn), comprising 2 big pieces.
The first piece is a high speed rail line between Stuttgart and the very-large-but-still-too-far-for-easy-rail-commuting city of Ulm. Here’s a snap of a railroad viaduct leading to a mountain tunnel, towering above the village of Wiesenstieg,
And the second piece is transforming the Stuttgart main train station (Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof) into a massive underground shopping center,
For the record, I originally opposed this project when I first learned about it in 1998, for one reason alone: compared to all the other public toilets at train stations, the public toilets at the Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof were and still are today atrocious. For a culture in Germany known for its tidiness (e.g. Kehrwoche), if you can’t trust them to operate a toilet correctly, how could you trust them for a project this big?
These snaps are courtesy of my mother in San Antonio. Here is a baby possum on a fence:
And here is the Mama Possum
Anyone who’s spent anytime in the north of Switzerland quickly learns about the huge number of bunkers and fortifications erected to protect the border. Formally it’s known as the Swiss Redoubt, or the Réduit Suisse in French. But whereas many people believe this was motivated by World War II, in fact the efforts began somewhat earlier, in 1880.
Here is a rather ornate anti-tank fortification (Panzersperre),
I took this snap at Augusta Raurica in northern Switzerland, where it formed one side of a huge area for outdoor picnics and grill parties.
I really don’t know what it is called, architecturally – a cupula? Anyway, this is it, the top of the Bundeshaus and I thought it make a great snap in the fresh, Swiss spring air:
A skilift taking visitors to Piz Gloria, the top of the Schilthorn peak in the Bernese Oberland:
It’s near the end of the day, so instead of visitors the car is filled with supplies for the restaurant at the top.
This is an unretouched snap in color that reminds me a lot of the black and white photos of Ansel Adams,
If you get up close and personal with the beast, he looks a bit unkempt:
User Experience – sometimes referred to as UX – is defined as encompassing all aspects of an end-user’s interaction with e.g. an IT system or, for example, a company, its services, and its products. And although you might not think about it, museums can provide a wonderful insight into the field of UX.
I’ve recently blogged about a wonderful collection of Roman ruins scattered in the Swiss countryside, Augusta Raurica.
What’s really a nice touch is that many of the walking paths have markers that explain about the history of the site:
The displays are a combination of old ones dating back to just after World War II, and relatively new ones.
Now here comes the truly interesting part. The older displays are written in both German and French, and they contain extremely dry, extremely boring historical facts, as this example shows.
The newer displays are written in German, French, and English – and they use a very simple type of writing, and they contain topics that are interesting to a wide variety of people, especially including younger audiences:
It makes you stop and think about who designed the original displays and why. Were people many years ago more literate and interested in boring historical facts? Or is there simply more attention paid today to the user experience?
Augusta Raurica is an incredible archaeological site that’s well worth a visit to anyone in the Basel area of northern Switzerland. In a nutshell, Augusta Raurica is an ancient Roman town, together with a number of impressive roman artifacts – including even an amphitheater and coliseum – that was for the most part, amazingly, discovered after World War II.
Here are some cows grazing near a Roman temple:
The Mühle Tiefenbrunnen dates back to 1889 and it is a common sight for visitors to the Tiefenbrunnen train station in Zürich,
It has its own webpage, but still I have not been able to find out what the overhead passage was for. Could have been used for filling train cars with beer – or perhaps transferring grains from train into the factory?
I thought this snap of a construction crane in Winterthur was impressive from this perspective:
I’ve recently written about what I call “bubble architecture,” particularly in France, in which historical buildings are somehow encased in glass bubbles. When done right, it can be magnificent. When done wrong, it can be atrocious, as this example shown here.
Recently I stumbled across this example in the Alsacian village of Sélestat,
Many European buildings are under historical protection, and this means that modern changes to correct building problems (such as doors not sealing properly and hence leading to wasted energy costs) are often forbidden. Hence there is often a motive for encasing a building or a portal in glass.
When viewed as in this photograph, it doesn’t look that bad. But when viewed from the human perspective in the middle of the town square, it looks absolutely hideous.