Thursday, April 13, 2017

In My Dreams I Walk These Streets

Neckarfront with Stiftskirche and Alte Aula

It's been 16 years since I left Germany for California, exchanged the beautiful medieval town of Tübingen in the Southwest of the country for a non-descript and not in the least pretty city in gorgeous Sonoma County. Even though I enjoy living in this stunningly beautiful part of Northern California I sometimes miss the crooked alleys of Tübingen, the uneven pavement and the old buildings, some of which look like they won't make it another year (they will though; they have been there for 500 to 600 years).


I used to know every little alley, every street, every corner and every little nook in this town. On Saturday mornings I would walk down the Schloßberg (castle hill) where I lived and wander along the streets, go into some shops and sit in a street café drinking cappuccino and watching people.



Usually I had my camera with me because there was always something I found interesting or weird enough to photograph. The result is an abundance of Tübingen photos.

This is the castle, sitting high over the town. From up there we enjoyed great views over the terracotta roofs of the old buildings and beyond to the Schwäbische Alb (where I would often go to hike).

This is the path leading up to the castle from the far side of the town - the long back of castle hill at which end I lived.

Coming down from the castle there were so many little streets I could stroll along.




Some were very narrow and more like passages between buildings. You could easily get lost if you didn't know your way.



This is Münzgasse with the domineering Stiftskirche at the end of it.

The pavement in front of the church...

... and this is the side toward the river.

A glimpse of the town hall with its beautiful Renaissance facade, seen from Wienergäßle.

The German poet Friedrich Hölderlin (I wrote about him here) lived in this tower which is right on the river Neckar and is part of the famous Neckarfront which is the most photographed location in Tübingen.

The bigger picture - in summer... (if you want to know more about the punting boats, I wrote about them here)

... and in fall.

This place is beautiful in every season. Yes, I do miss it.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sweeten My Day

Apart from baking bread, I am not a frequent baker. However, sometimes there are days when I feel restless and not quite myself. Those are the days when I think I need to sweeten them up a little bit, and baking seems to be a good way.

I found this recipe for orange chocolate chip shortbread on Pinterest and thought it a good fit for that particular day. I had oranges, but no mini chocolate chips, so I substituted them with regular ones. The dough, when rolled out, is so thick that it easily holds the bigger chips.

Here's what you need:
1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
zest of 2 large oranges
 tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup semi-sweet (mini) chocolate chips

Start by combining flour and salt in a small bowl.
Place sugar on a rimmed plate and add the orange zest. Use the back of a spoon to mash zest and sugar together until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Put in a mixer bowl.

Add butter and vanilla, and mix on low for 1 minute.
Add the flour with the salt and mix until just combined.
Fold in chocolate chips.
Form dough into a flat disc and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Roll dough out until it has a thickness of about ½ inch.
Use any shape cookie cutter and cut cookies from the dough, putting them on a baking sheet.

Chill for another 10 minutes in the freezer.
Bake for 25-28 minutes or until bottom of cookies are golden brown.

Cool completely and enjoy.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Scene & Story - March 2017

March was a better photography month than February and all of the winter months. It's so much easier to get outside when the weather is nice and nature is coming back to life.

When I looked through the photos I took in March I realized that I had photographed a lot of meadows and particularly trees. But it was this one that stood out - and it's not even a very good one. Taken with my phone and zoomed in, even though I know that my zoom is crap and the pictures are mostly a big disappointment. However, this one captures a Black-crowned night heron, one of my most favorite birds and the first one this year I discovered at the lake.

I don't know what it is about these birds that draws me to them. They're pretty - white and very dark blue feathers, orange feet, stunningly red eyes, yellow-orange feet and two or three long white plumes at the back of the head. They are smaller and stockier than most herons and have shorter bills. It's the "small fat" cousin of the proud and elegant Great blue heron. However, they're not as shy as the Great blue and don't seem to be disturbed by people so much. I often could approach them pretty close without them moving an inch away from me. Most times they were far more interested in watching what was going on beneath the surface of the water and catching their food quickly with a short shot into the water.

Perhaps it is their stoic patience that attracts me. Their ability to remain in the same position forever without moving a single feather (so to speak). Their complete and utter disinterest in me. Sometimes I convince myself that they actually know me - "the crazy lady with the little black box that she points at us" - even though I know perfectly well that they simply don't care. They seem to be at utter peace with themselves.

Zen is the word that comes to mind.

I'm joining Sarah and León for Scene and Story again as I try to do every first Sunday of a month. You can find more stories here.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Red Umbrella

Exactly a year ago, we were on our spring college tour, visiting colleges in Oregon and Washington that Kaefer had applied to. After we were done walking around several campuses (or, if you're more inclined to the Latin plural of the word, campi) we drove down the Washington and Oregon Coast, one of my most favorite drives in the Western states.

We stopped in Newport to have breakfast in The Coffee House (if you ever happen to be in Newport, go there!) which is right down at the harbor. After the breakfast we were in need of some movement before sitting in the car again, so we visited the harbor and looked around a bit.

We first saw these guys who rested on the wall and played in the water.

I also met the harbor dog, who was very mellow and even let me pet him. I wonder whether he likes crab which seems to be the main fishing resource here.

And then I saw the red umbrella.

I loved how the red color popped on those gray rocks.

But this was not the only color on this gray day. While walking around the harbor I saw more popping color, from yellow to rich green.

Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Black Cows And Gorgeous Trees

Yesterday I met with my long time hiking buddy J. for a lovely walk in one of our regional parks, Crane Creek. The day started out overcast, but later in the morning the sun peeked through the clouds and eventually chased them away.

I love this park for its abundance of gorgeous trees. Most of them are oaks, but there are a number of other trees as well.

Many narrow trails crisscross the park and you can walk on some part of the land that is shared with black cows who spend the days grazing here. What a nice place to be! They are used to the hikers and walkers who share their space, but still prefer to keep some distance from any humans.

After J. and I had a lovely picnic in the shade of one of the old oaks, we made our way back to the parking lot and J. left. However, I didn't feel like going home just then and went back into the park, walking along a different path. Very soon I came to the creek that gave the park its name - and I was not alone here.

I do love cows. Very conveniently there was a bench where I could sit and watch these beauties. This was the first time that I actually saw water flowing in the creek, usually it is just a very dry creek bed. The cows obviously found quite some pleasure here as well.

When I finally arrived back in the parking lot, I noticed the geometry of the vineyard right across the park - and how very thoughtful of this red-winged blackbird to patiently sit on the fence post until I had taken this picture.