Saturday, 19 August 2017

Read in 2017 - 27: 166 Tage im All

Back in March, I received some wonderful presents for my birthday (as is the case every year). My family and friends usually seem to know exactly what I want and/or need; sometimes because they have asked, or because I tell them. But often, they simply know me well enough to know what I like.

This book was one of my favourite presents this year. It came from my sister; she knows of my interest in human space travel and that I like Dr. Alexander Gerst.
He has, by the way, featured a few times on my blog already, for instance here.



"166 Tage im All" means "166 days in space", and that was the duration of Alexander Gerst's mission. The book was written by Lars Abromeit together with Dr. Gerst.

You could call this a classic coffeetable book, and this is exactly where I am keeping it: On the coffeetable in my living room.
It does not consist only of photographs, there is also plenty to read. But the book "lives" off its wonderful pictures, most of them taken by Dr. Gerst himself, during his stay aboard the ISS.

For months, I kept the book at hand for those times when I am watching TV and the adverts come up. You are probably all familiar with that situation; often, as soon as an advert break starts, we flick to another channel or leave the room in order to get a drink or snack from the kitchen, or go to the bathroom.
Well, I did (and still do) all that, but it is also how and when I read this book.
It made for slow progress, but that did not matter - it is not like a novel or crime fiction where you need to stick to the story.
On the contrary: That way, I had "more" (i.e. longer) of the book than I would have had if I had been reading it in one go.

Dr. Gerst gives the reader some very interesting insight into life aboard the ISS. But he also tells us how he came to be an astronaut in the first place, the intense time of preparation for his mission, and a little bit of what life was/is like for him afterwards.
Next year, he will return to the space station. I am going to be one of the millions of people who will follow his continuing real-life "story" with interest.

Friday, 18 August 2017

A Favourite Walk Revisited - Part I

Hard to believe, but true: All year, I had not been yet once to my parents' allotment! But on the 6th of August, I arranged to join them there in time for coffee and cake in the early afternoon.
Many times, I have done this with my Mum, but never on my own: Take the train from Ludwigsburg to Marbach and then walk for approximately an hour across a hill and up another, between vineyards, orchards and fields, to reach the allotment.

It was a pleasant walk and the weather warmer than expected. I took many pictures along the way. If you feel like it, you can compare this month's views with those from previous years, for instance on here.

Looking back towards where I've come from:

 
And now forward:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Nearly at the small town from where it is only about another 20 minutes uphill to the allotment:

 
 
Not as steep as this, though - these are just some of the vineyards I passed along the way:
 
 
 
 Nearly there now!
 

No pictures of the allotment itself this time, but after coffee and cake (which was delicious, as always when my Mum bakes) I went for another walk. I'll show you those pictures in one of my next posts.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Water Lilies and Sand Sculptures

Earlier this month, my Mum and I went to the palace grounds together. It was a day of mixed weather, and for about 10 minutes we stood huddled together under my Mum's tiny umbrella, seeking additional shelter under a large tree, until a rain shower stopped and we could continue our walk.

The first few pictures are from one of my favourite parts of Ludwigsburg's palace grounds:



The orangery (glass house/conservatory/greenhouse) shows various exhibitions during the season; I have showed you some before on my blog, such as on this post. When we were there on the 5th of August, the topic was water lilies. Have a look at the many varieties, all beautiful:





 
On we walked, stopping for a drink at one of the caf├ęs, before reaching an exhibition of sand sculptures. Now, don't get me wrong - I do understand it takes real artistic talent and skill to make such sculptures, I do not deny that. But almost all of those sculptures didn't "speak" to me, and some I didn't like outright. That's personal taste for you. But have a look yourselves.

This one is supposed to be modeled after the crown of Wuerttemberg, which can be seen in Stuttgart at the Altes Schloss (old palace) museum:


This one is supposed to show elements of Baroque art:


A bare-bosomed lady riding the waves on a large fish:



I really did not like this lady. To me, she looks like one of those surgically enhanced women you often see on US TV. Her hairdo would do Ivana Trump proud! But I liked the city underneath, with the winding stairs and domed buildings:


View from the terrace a bit more than half way up to the palace. The sand sculptures are positioned around this part of the park:


From the terrace,  King Friedrich of Wuerttemberg has a good view across his garden:

The next one was my favourite. It represents the smaller palace right opposite the big one here in Ludwigsburg. You have seen pictures of it on my blog before, such as here.


The dress and hairdo of this Baroque lady are very well made. From her face and rather strong neck and big hands, I suspect a male model stood in at the making of this sculpture.



Those were the sights at the palace grounds that day. We have season's tickets and so did not have to pay admission to either the water lilies or the sand sculptures exhibitions. And to be honest, if I had travelled to Ludwigsburg all the way, and paid to see the sculptures, I think I would have gone home slightly disappointed.


For us, it was a good day, and very nice to spend time with my Mum.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Read in 2017 - 26: Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management

Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management 
by Isabella Beeton 



This tome, originally published in 1861, contains nearly 2000 pages - a true door-stopper! I read it as a free ebook on my kindle, though, so it did not unduly weigh down my handbag. It accompanied me on my train trips for many weeks, and I did not read each and every word of it. 

The overall reading was interesting, fascinating, sometimes even funny - rarely deliberately so, I must admit. 
The book is neatly sorted into different parts dealing with subjects such as what each household member's tasks should be (the male head of household being conspicuously absent from the list of tasks), how each of these tasks should be done, general remarks about management of house, kitchen, gardens, stables, hen houses etc., plus a large part with recipes for all meals and all purposes. 
There is also a chapter dealing with illnesses and injuries, and another one about bringing up children. 

Throughout the book it is emphasized that most of the advice is suitable for households of a moderate size. When larger establishments are addressed, it is always specifically stated. 
In the recipe part, the various fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, eggs (and the respective animals they come from) are meticulously described, including their countries of origin, seasonal availability and how to choose the best of each on the market or from the grocer's. That part - the recipes - was the one I flicked through rather quickly, only stopping when a particular dish or description caught my attention (such as the one for Yorkshire pudding).. 
Most interesting was to note how everything was made from scratch in most households. For instance, if a recipe for a pudding required gelatine, that recipe pointed towards another one on how to make gelatine from bones, and so on. 

The chapters about servants' work were eye-opening - or they would have been, had I not been reading other books before about what life used to be like for maids and footmen. Frequently, the author refers to the fact that servants are human beings, too, and a lot on how they perform their work depends on how they are lead - on the mistress of the house. That, I am sure, was a novel idea to many readers at the time, who probably saw servants as an inferior class of sub-humans, not much better (if that) than animals. 

Victorians were obsessed with cleanliness, soemthing I find most interesting considering that the times immediately preceding the Victorian era were not exactly famous for high standards personal hygiene and progress in medicine. The number of tasks (and frequency with which they are advised to be performed) involving cleaning, scrubbing, washing, scouring etc. is astonishing - and of course most of it was supposed to be done by servants. 

To give you an idea of what the book is like, here is a quote: "I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife's badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways." 

The book has its own wikipedia-article here. According to the article, Isabella Beeton was only 21 when she started working on the book. She lived from 1836 to 1865 and, before her death at not yet 29 years old, she gave birth to four children. 
Also from the wikipedia article is the following information: It was probably found in more homes than any other cookery book, and was probably the most often consulted, in the years between 1875 and 1914. In 2012 the food economist for the British television period drama Downton Abbey described Beeton's book as an "important guide" for the food served in the series.

When I read that last sentence, I nodded inwardly, because while I was reading the book, I often thought how much this book would be useful to anyone who is writing a novel set in Victorian England, or researching the matter for other purposes. It is definitely one I am not going to delete from my kindle, now that I have read it, but will keep for further reference.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

An Evening to Remember

If you have gotten to know me a little over time through my blog, you probably know that I have a thing for wide open skies, and especially sunsets. I share this fascination probably with millions of people; all of us, I suppose, look up at the sky at least every now and then and stop for a moment, just looking, simply enjoying, maybe contemplating our past, present and future, maybe not thinking about anything in particular.

The weekend before last, thanks to O.K. I had the opportunity to view a particularly beautiful sunset. 

Not far from O.K.'s village is the town of Durbach. The place is completely dominated by wine - there does not seem to be a single house in town that has not, one way or other, something to do with wine, either producing, selling, offering tastings or anything else wine-related going on.

High above the town is Schloss Staufenberg. There has most likely been a castle there as early as the 12th century. A lot of what we see today is from the late 1600s. In 1832, the castle was acquired by the counts of Baden, and adapted in the romantic style of the time to be fit as a home. The family still own it, and the castle nowadays serves as a winery, restaurant and wedding venue.
You can find out a lot more about the place here.

O.K. and I had meant to go there for a while, and finally, we did not only have the time on that Friday evening, but also the weather was right.

We were lucky to find a table on the large terrace; it is a very popular spot, especially on balmy summer nights. Our drinks were refreshing and the view spectacular. It definitely was an evening to remember, made all the more so by being there with O.K.










I don't know the people in one of the pictures, but as they are with their backs to the camera and not very clearly visible at all, it should be alright for them to appear here on my blog. Nearly everybody on the terrace was taking pictures - as I said, I share the love of sunsets with many! Sorry for the last picture being blurry. 

We remained there until it was too dark to see much, and flying insects started to become interested.