Golfing in Manhattan

When I lived in New York during the 1980’s, a visitor to this area of Manhattan had a life expectancy that could be measured in minutes.  Today, this whole area on the west of the island is a park, and you can even find a driving range.

Sadly, a tragic side effect of transforming an impoverished, crime-ridden area into a wonderful tourist location was to drive up the cost-of-living so that only very wealthy people can afford to live here.

L’Albufera de València

Geologically speaking, these things are not uncommon. A river or estuary that empties into a saltwater sea will sometimes form a lagoon. Over time, the sediment causes the lagoon to become a closed lake, and the water changes from saltwater to freshwater.

That’s what happened here, just south of Valencia in Spain, not too long ago, in the 17th century, L’Albufera de València:

Today it is a wonderful, relaxing place to visit – especially in the warm Spanish evenings.


You can see a wonderful old map I discovered hanging in the local village bar.

The small villages are connected to the lake by a series of narrow canals:

By the way, the astute reader will notice that I wrote L’Albufera de València, which is the Valencian language version of the Spanish La Abufera de Valencia.  My Valencian friends tell me that Catalan, although somewhat more well known, is a dialect of Valencian.

A real Oktoberfest – no tourists allowed!

Every mid-September thousands if not zillions of tourists around the world descend on the Bavarian city of Munich to drink beer, dance on table tops, eat enormous quantities of pork – and generally enjoy the Oktoberfest.  From time to time, you can still see a native German at this festival, but with all the tourists it is getting increasingly more difficult to do so.

But what a lot of people don’t know: at about the same time the Oktoberfest is held in Munich, a real festival is held in Stuttgart: the Bad-Cannstatter-Volksfest. It’s the second largest outdoor festival in the world (next to the Oktoberfest) – but if you come, you’re likely to only see Germans and their south-German neighbors, Schwabians.

Austrian Cow

You just can’t take a bad picture of a good cow!

I took this photo in the foothills of the Austrian Alps:

I have no idea why her ears were sticking out like that, but it was an usually hot day – perhaps extended ears help the cow to keep cool?


Copenhagen is an incredible city – or so I’ve heard. I spent a whopping ten hours here, between flights – and I was so jetlagged I spent at least six hours sleeping in the sun on a park bench here in the Rådhuspladsen.

I have to give the city and its people a lot of credit. I slept on a park bench very enjoyably during the middle of the day, and nobody disturbed me!

Anyone else tried this?

A friend of mine from the U.K. gave me a jar of famous “Jelly Babies.”  Americans have probably never heard of them, but they are essentially fruit flavored glycerin candy, in the shape of little babies.

What I don’t understand: the container is made of a heavy, nearly indestructable plastic. Why?  Are jelly babies so dangerous they need to be imprisoned in thick plastic? Are they so sensitive they need to be protected?

Anyway, it seemed to me the container would make an ideal piggy bank:

However, the only way for me to cut a slot into the hard plastic was using my high speed abrasive grinder!

The central question remains: why would Brits over-engineer something like this?

When backs are better than fronts – 4

Continuing the series, European cathedrals seem really to be excellent candidates for having backs that are better than fronts.

This is Saint Étienne, also known in English as Saint Stephen:

And here’s the church Église Saint-Étienne in Mulhouse, Alsace. As with many churches, the front is really nothing special to see:

But walk around to the back of the cathedral, and you’ll find a real architectural wonder:


Where Einstein was born

Happenstance is amazing!  I’ve visited the Einstein Museum, in Bern. And I’ve visited Einstein’s apartment, in Bern.

I know that Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany, and for a long time it’s been on my bucket list to visit where he was born.

Unfortunately, that house no longer exists. But fortunately, and quite by accident, a stumbled across this strange looking monument on a recent trip to Ulm:

And you can see by the inscription, this is where his birth house originally stood:

What is most amazing are the cobblestones in the streets. As you can see in the first picture above, the statue itself is surrounded by the old pattern of cobblestones.  But those are up against a much newer (and easier to lay down, so presumably less expensive) set of cobblestones.

Were medieval cities planned?

It seems unreasonable to think that the streets in medieval cities were somehow planned. But when I travel through medieval cities, I can’t help but notice the large number of small streets that are optimally laid out to frame a view of the large, central cathedral.

This one is Santiago de Compostella, in Spain (from which you can see the Cathedral of St. XXX):

This one is Mulhouse, in Alsace, France (from which you can see the Cathedral of St. Etienne):


And this one is Paradeplatz, in Zurich, Switzerland (from which you can see both the Grossmünster and Frauenmünster cathedrals):

Is this just coincidence – or are these cathedrals and towers visible because they were designed to be visible?

Sheep, heath, gorse, moors – and high-tech radar!

Recently a friend took me on a tour of Yorkshire, England, including the famous Yorkshire Moors.   But the most stunning part of the landscape was a huge radar installation, operated as part of a giant system deployed in the Cold War to protect the U.S. against nuclear missles:

At first, it was a bit difficult for me to understand why a radar installation in northern England would be much use to safeguard the U.S.  But when you look at how the different systems overlap, it becomes quite clear:


Solothurn Seagull

A seagull cruises the Aare River in Solothurn. In the background you can see the the St.-Ursen-Kathedrale:

Solothurn is both a village AND a canton (national state) in Switzerland, and it’s name dates back to around the year 0 AD, where it was known by the Romans as Solodurum – so it is amazing how things like names can persist over thousands of years!  And you won’t find many German speakers here: like most areas in this part of Switzerland, the locals speak the Bernese version of Alemannic (a more advanced, evolved version of high German).