Sunrise over the Alsacian refinery

As artistic a snap as I thought I could take of the sun rising above Germany’s Schwarzwald, shining down onto a refinery next to the Rhein River in Alsace,

Most times my photos are opportunistic – I see a sight I like and I take a snap. In this case I had the idea the sunrise might lead to a nice snap, so I arrived early with a thermos of hot tea, and waited for what I thought was the right moment.

It’s also at times like these when I think about what it must be like to own a multi-thousand-CHF digital camera with fancy lenses. If I had one, I am sure this shot could be 147 times better!

I don’t own one. I’ve got a little Canon point-and-shoot I bought for CHF 400 several years ago and is still top in its class today. I like the idea of having my camera with me – at all times – everywhere. I sacrifice quite a lot on photographic quality, but it is more than compensated by getting snaps of sights that I spontaneously see and appeal to me.

A real locomotive . . . at REAL

There is a chain of hypermarkets in Germany called Real – a tad smaller (well, considerably smaller) than Walmart or even Carrefour in France. OK, so let’s just call them “big supermarkets that sell other things, not just food.”

The Real located in Böblingen, Germany has – for reasons I do not know but are on my bucket list to find out – a steam locomotive in their parking lot.

Here’s what it looks like from the side:

The locomotive has been – every time that I have visited at least – been open to the public, so you can climb up and check it out from in the inside. I don’t have any snaps of the inside, but here is a close-up of the wheel assembly:

And I thought the boiler tank was quite interesting:

But to me the two most amazing things are the front of the train, which uses exactly the same bumper technology and connection technology that you find on trains today:

And the writing on the side of the train, just like you find on trains today:

Where Switzerland meets Germany

Well, this place isn’t anywhere close to where the border of Switzerland touches the border of Germany. But it is in the north central Swiss town of Schaffhausen, which is the largest village and natural embarkation and debarkation point for train travellers arriving from or travelling to Germany.

And you can see that in this magnificent train station, with the “Schweizerische Bundesbahnen” on the left, and the “Deutsche Bahn” on the right.

To me it is also a powerful reminder of the two very different cultures: literally translated Schweizerische Bundesbahnen means Swiss Federal Railroads – a collection of different companies united equally into a larger framework – and the Deutsche Bahn, just one company.

Stuttgart Fountain: Then and Now

I took this snap of a very unusual fountain in Stuttgart:

And recently I came across a wonder iPhone app called “Then and Now” that shows historical photographs:

Now that I have the app, next time I’m in Stuttgart I’ll try to do a better job of capturing exactly this frame. Here’s another view:

The careful observer will definitely notice some changes. These are most likely explained due to bombing damage from WWII. In the top snap you’ll see the upper part of the building in the foreground is new.

The historical name placques of Konstanz

I’ve written about a number items of Jewish historical interest in Switzerland, now here’s one from Germany. During WWII the Jewish population of the southern German city of Konstanz was mostly swept up in the holocaust.  Today, as you walk around the residential area, you can spot things on the ground just outside of the doorfronts that look like this:

If you look closely, these are placques that bear the names of the Jewish residents that met their fate in WWII:

Lest you think these are all memorials to victim of the holocaust, some of these markers show that while, yes, they were victims, they did not all perish in the pogroms.  Clockwise from top left, the translations read: fled to Yugoslavia 1935, survived; slandered and disenfranchised, died in 1934; fled to England 1939, survived; fled to England 1939, survived; deported to Auswitz, killed 1942. Since they all have the family name Haymann it is a further tragedy to see how this family unit was broken up in this way.

German sentinel

I don’t know for sure, but I am highly confident these traffic speed cameras in Germany were specifically designed to be intimidating. Here is a highly visible speed camera in a residential area of the southern German city of Konstanz:

I’d much prefer if Germany and Switzerland did what France did quite some time ago: abolish the speed cameras and, where speed is a real safety issue, add street bumps to the streets.

Maibaum – Maypole

I took this snap a while back while driving through South Germany, sometime just after May. It’s what the Germans call a Maibaum – roughly translated as maypole.

I would not even pretend to know the ins and outs of maypoles in Germany – I think the traditions change a bit depending on where you are in Germany. In general they are erected to celebrate the various trades (plumber, carpenter, etc.), they are erected by the local fire department (who else has a big ladder?), some people tell me the tree at the top must be higher than the highest point in the village – and in this snap, you can see a set of flags hanging from the tree, each flag corresponding to a trade.

Rheinfelden flowers

Type in Rheinfelden into Google, and you’ll be surprised. There is a Rheinfelden, Switzerland; and there is a Rheinfelden, Germany. The two cities of the same name in the two countries of different names are divided by the river Rhine.

Anyway, I took this snap in the downtown area of the German Rheinfelden: