Tuesday, 16 June 2020


As the scaffolding came down and realising that my workweek apartment (previously here and here) had after its latest exterior paint job also embraced the trend, we appreciated these monumental numbers on the housing estates of Singapore—albeit these are funkier and more personable—captured by photographer Peter Steinhauer, via the always excellent Present /&/ Correct (check out their sundries).
One’s address writ-large makes for an interesting contrast and we’re noticing all the new blocks going up in the city recently. Much more to explore at the links above.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020


Recently, H and I took a hike around a rock face (Felswand) at the foothills and steepening calved cliffs of the Maulkuppe, near the Milseburg.
A few climbers were out scaling the rocks—which are volcanic phonolite (Phonolith—sounding stone, named after the characteristic clink that this uncommon mineral makes when struck—we’ll have to be more attentive and listen next time) and not the more common basalt formations (see here, here and here) as we’d originally thought made up the mountain side. There are some one hundred climbing paths (Kletterrouten) on the Steinwand—which while it is on private property, is freely accessible for all.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

daytrip: milseburg

Bright through very windy, H and I took a trip to another of the nearby peaks of the Rhรถn highlands (Mittlegebirge, mountain ranges that tend to not rise above the treeline and are forested the entire way up) and hiked up the Milseburg with views of the Wasserkuppe and the valleys beyond. This trapezoidal massif and extinct volcano is most significant for the remains of its ancient Celtic settlement—oppodium, which was one of the first well researched and preserved sites of its kind in central Germany and led to the establishment of societies to maintain places of cultural heritage and accord them protected status, beginning nearly a century and a half ago.
Though now covered in moss, the basalt stones still in parts comprise the base of defensive walls (see also) and foundations of domiciles and the abrupt abandonment of the fortress, first in 1200 and then again in 400 BC, suggests that the site set the scene for a clash of cultures between the Celts and the Germanic tribes of the area. At the top of the mountain is a chapel dedicated to Saint Gangolf, a Burgundian knight and wealthy landowner under King Pippin the Short, whom was killed 11 May in 760 for his express wish to renounce his worldly possessions by his wife’s lover.
Prior to his martyrdom, however, Gangolf had several heroic exploits including, reportedly, no less than vanquishing the giant Mils, who in league with the devil was preventing people from taking the sacrament of baptism by a monopoly of water sources—and generally causing crops to fail by withholding irrigation access. They shall not pass—Gangolf fought valiantly but had no refreshment to regain his strength for the next attack, and a local farmer, himself desperate, refused the knight any relief unless he paid an exorbitant price, which for all his wealth Gangolf could not muster. Resigned to defeat, he removed his helmet and on the spot where he laid it down, a new spring broke forth, still flowing to this day, and gave the knight the resolve he needed to finish off the giant and furnish the locals with a new source of clean water.
The devil entombed the defeated Mils and hence the Milsburg. No recent excavations have been undertaken but the mountain is protected from an archaeological standpoint as well as a being a nature preserve that welcomes visitors and remains a popular destination. Being stormy, it wasn’t the best conditions to be exposed on a summit but it is one that we’ll be able to explore again soon.

Friday, 24 January 2020


Via the ever-excellent Maps Mania, we are introduced to the easy to use mapping tool City Roads that will generate a raster image of the traffic arteries of any conurbation around the world to download or even order up printed on a mug. From a civil engineering aspect, it’s notable how the negative spaces say as much or more about the character and charter of a city as the streets and roadways designed to navigate and negotiate around or past it and interesting to compare profiles of larger cities.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

unwort des jahres

Whilst the jury is still out on the national Unwort of the Year for 2019 (previously), the Landeshauptstadt of Hesse, Wiesbaden the arbiter of the actual Word of the Year—has made a few selections of its own, reflective of state and local culture and politics.
While we’ve encountered all three of the finalists and agree that the signage proclaiming the shopping corridors of the pedestrian mall downtown to be a weapons-free zone irksome and depressing and the winner in the form of an unending major construction project that has had Autobahn traffic in a snarl for years on end a frustrating if not befitting champion, we most enjoyed reconnecting, re-engaging with those awful E-Roller, electro-scooters abandoned, crowding the sidewalks. Do you have a nominee for Unwort of the Year for your area?

Thursday, 19 December 2019


The cynical, suspicious part of me that prone to insidious conspiracy and thoughts that immediately retreat to somewhere dark in every fun application that triangulates one’s whereabouts is just a cutely disguised ploy to harvest one’s data and commodify it is often vanquished (possibly an instinct that should be overcome) as it was with this non-proprietary mapping service that generates haikus based on the address (or coordinates if you choose to disclose them) we are referred to by Nag on the Lake and Maps Mania.
The poetry is a bit hit-or-miss but the element of serendipity is fun and keeps ones poking around. Nearby, I especially liked “The warm belly of the bus / High up in the trees / Branches of the tree” discovered while zeroing in on my actual spot.

Thursday, 3 October 2019


Since the inception of the holiday, the date of formal reunification rather than events leading up to it chosen in 1990, the chief celebrations have cycled through several host cities, usually state capitals.
Wiesbaden was the setting of 1999’s festivities and created the Compass Confederation, settlements that represent the geographical extremes (see also) of Germany:
the cardinal points being List on the Island of Sylt in the North, Selfkant in the West, Gรถrlitz in the East and Oberstdorf in the South, the towns honoured annually as co-celebrants. Though it took decades longer for the German map to have these extremes and present borders, the most westerly municipality of Nordrhein-Westfalen, Selfkant, was annexed by the Netherlands as war reparations in 1949. The allocation of this single district was the much diminished outcome of an original demand for Aachen, Kรถln, Mรผnster and Osnabrรผck, pared down significantly when the Dutch failed to garner support from the US for it. After three years of negotiations at the Hague, the territory was returned to West Germany (see also the Kleine Wiedervereinigung) in August 1963—with the exception of a hill and surrounding glade called Duivelsberg/Teufelsberg which the Netherlands retains and maintains as a nature reserve.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019


Though one could always question the decision of the UK government to refuse a bailout to the world’s oldest tour company, Thomas Cook collapsing after one hundred and seventy-eight years of operation and a victim of progress plus its own mismanagement—especially when repatriation costs are already approaching half of the requested funds to keep the company solvent, Germany has chosen to intervene in the case of its domestic affiliates with the state stepping in to offer a bridge loan to keep the company—headquartered in Oberursel (previously)—whilst it restructures.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

grube messel

On my way back to my workweek apartment, I finally took the opportunity to explore the Messel pit, a UNESCO World Heritage site though probably singular among that group for not yielding up its treasures and those that have been unearthed belong in collections spread across the globe. Though the outline of the caldera seems apparent now, the volcanic lake that gives to researchers on average a well preserved fossil specimen once every quarter hour would not exist as it does today, looking back and documenting in great detail a snap-shot of life circa forty-eight million years ago during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, if not for a series of accidents, beginning with quarry operations in 1859, when oil shale was discovered.
I happened to arrive just in time to take the last tour of the day, the only way to venture down into the pit. Miners back at the time were discovering fossils in this Lagerstรคtte but due the depositional characteristics of the formation (most remains discovered are not petrified or mummified but captured as fleetingly delicate impressions) but after a few hours’ dehydration, the fossils would disintegrate into a big fish tale. Demand and war drove digging which waxed and waned over the years, the quarry being used as a place to store the rubble of Darmstadt after its destruction during WWII, and during the early 1970s, the place was nearly turned into a permanent landfill (the war also created a make-work site to employ locals breaking bricks—and as amateur palรฆontologists while the economy recovered) until the decision was overturned by strong protests and the land was purchased by the state of Hesse. Hobby fossil-hunters developed a resin-transfer technique to preserve fossils once exposed outside of their containing matrix around this time and has been widely adopted as standard practise. Constant pumping keeps the ground water from welling up and universities continue slow and careful excavation.
We were able to inspect some recent discoveries, the slates kept from dehydrating in a water bath and were privileged to pass around a fish fossil (see also). Though the mascot of the Messel Pit is Ida, the singular Darwinius Masillรฆ—a transitional lemur-like creature that also had characteristics prefiguring the simians, primates being distinguished in the main by the wetness or dryness of their noses—the site was finally elevated in 1995 with UNESCO status not because of any individual find, including crocodiles, giant squirrels and nine pairs of copulating turtles caught in the act—far predating Pompeii, but rather because of the sheer volume and scientific rigour that it took to share what one uncovered, which underscores the problem of preservation.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

escalator to nowhere

Having gleaned no lessons learned from other municipalities like Berlin and Barcelona—not to mention the panoply of remorseful cities in the US—who count their decision to open up their thoroughfares among their biggest miscalculations, this week Wiesbaden allowed the installation of e-scooter stations that one can rent via a smartphone platform and abandon anywhere.  It’s not so much the question of liability and the potential for bodily harm to the operator and cross-traffic that bothers me so much but rather the gimmickry of it all, the luring away of people content to walk and take mass-transit otherwise and the greenwashing that belies the considerable infrastructure and how very smart people are lapping it up. “Well sir, there’s nothing on Earth like a genuine, bonafide, electrified six-car monorail. What’d I say?” That’s one way I suppose to get your town on the map.

Saturday, 3 August 2019


Having observed the centenary of the successor Bauhaus movement earlier in the year, it was a real treat to visit the Wiesbaden museum (previously) for a grand and circumspect tour of the age in art and design that came right before with an inspiring exhibition of Jugenstil and Art Deco that for the first time brought together the institution‘s complete endowment of period antiques from the collection of local patron Friedrich Wolfgang Neiss, supplemented with a few objects on loan from Paris and Vienna.

It was not only dazzling with fine and elegant craftsmanship on display—lamps and chandeliers from Louis Comfort Tiffany, ร‰mile Gallรฉ, and the Müller Fréres, porcelain, paintings and furnishings (the individual suites were sort of set up like IKEA showrooms) but also was curated in such a way to address the artists’ philosophy and outlook.  Thematically it was also interesting to note the subject matter being different and unexpected with lots of mushrooms, bats and even jellyfish and mermen appearing throughout the collection aside from mythological and religious allegories.  These images are just a small sampling of the items that caught my eye.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

freigegeben ohne altersbeschrรคnkung

Concerned that the Occupying Powers in post-war Germany had not prioritised censorship and protecting impressionable young minds from negative influences portrayed in film—also as a way to head off government- or military-mandated controls by demonstrating that the industry could police itself, those charged with rebuilding West Germany’s film industry (see also) with the consultation of the church and psychologists created a ratings scale—modeled off the US Hays Code and the standards that it imposed on cinema, finalised and submitted to the allied authorities for consideration on 18 July 1949, approved and granted autonomy on 28 September, one of the first prerogative that the country was entrusted with after the war.
The self-regulatory body (FSK, Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle der Filmwirtschaft) is based in Wiesbaden and since 2009 headquartered in the Deutsches Filmhaus, which also serves as a museum, theatre and broadcast studio, located near the Schlacthof Cultural Centre.

Monday, 10 June 2019


Though I am not sure why the commemoration didn’t take place last June when the Western powers tried to shore up Germany currency and head off inflation and continued economic recession precipitating a blockade on West Berlin, well behind Soviet lines of control, or when the blockade ended on after midnight 12 May 1949 or when deliveries officially stopped at the end of the fiscal year, the Wiesbaden Army Airfield, named in honour of General Lucius Clay, who thought up and commanded the operation, is celebrating the Berlin Airlift’s seventieth anniversary and remembering the lives of one hundred and one individuals who lost their lives in the breakneck execution of such a logistical feat.
Calculating out the ration of food and fuel (nearly two-thirds of the total cargo of some two million tonnes was coal) that each citizen and soldier required, thousands of missions—at their highest tempo, some fifteen hundred sorties per day, brought food, materiel and rotations of soldiers in and out of Tempelhof from a dozen sending aerodromes. It is estimated that the US heavy bombers repurposed as the largest capacity carriers travelled one Astronomical Unit in all during the course of the year—that is, the distance from the Earth to Sun, one hundred fifty million kilometres.

 The event included an air-show with formation flights of vintage aircraft and other military vehicles and equipment, reenactors, numerous exhibits on the history and context of post-war geopolitics and aid to rebuild Europe, including the Marshall Plan and the CARE programme.
 There was also a USO revue that in part recreated the 1948 troop show that Bob Hope hosted held in the same hangars for the pilots and crew in Wiesbaden, a Big Band performance plus special guests, including witnesses to history along with Colonel Gail “Hal” Halvorsen (*1920)—known as the Berlin Candy Bomber (der Rosinenbomber) for his Operation Little Vittles that parachuted chocolate parcels to the children of the divided city.

Thursday, 23 May 2019


For a couple of weeks, I had noticed the gap in the circle of stars on the hoodie (Pulli) donned by a candidate standing for a MEP slot and figured that it was a subtle/not-so-subtle reference to Brexit, but was not aware of the provenance or how the design by Berlin-based David Mallon was trending and very much in fashion among pro-EU, anti-extremist politicians. One of the twelve golden mullets was removed and affixed to the back of the sweater, this simple broken circle symbolising something beyond the UK’s departure and conveying volumes tacitly and inviting dialogue.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

night geese

Sunday, 14 April 2019


Sourced back as a tradition expanding outward from the Frรคnkische Schweiz (Franconian Switzerland) region in the early 1900s when public fountains started to lose a measure of their civil importance as more homes were being retrofitted with modern plumbing, decorating them and the village centre with eggs, ribbon and garlands for Eastertide has spread to other areas in Germany.
Though the ritual of well-dressing is a custom that goes back much further, communities have grown acutely aware and proud of their handiwork, since the 1950s generally put out on the day before Palm Sunday, that continues to evolve as a teachable and instagrammable lesson—plastic eggs having become the norm due to vandalism but many are returning to more authentic materials to celebrate the season and the rites of Spring.

Friday, 12 April 2019


On this day in 1934, forester William, Baron Sittich of Berlepsch, at the request of the animals’ keeper, poultry farmer Rolf Haag, released two pairs of raccoons into the nature reserve Edersee-Kellerwald, in what turned out to be the ideal environment for them—several earlier attempts to introduce the North American export to Europe having failed.
The forester’s effort to “enrich the native fauna” was not exactly sanctioned as official permission from the Prussian authorities came weeks later, and raccoons have seen a rise in population climbing to an estimated million across Germany presently. The extent that the successful, invasive species (Neozoon) threatens biodiversity is a point of contention, most regarding their uncontrolled spread as disastrous, endangering native birds and edging out competition from domestic carnivores by their strength in numbers.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

found sounds

Digging through the cast-offs at the Recycling Centre—which is often used as a disposal point for surplus office equipment as much as a place to trade up or declutter—I found a vintage Phillips  dictation machine that’s really robust and solidly-built.
I like especially how the microphone feels and can pretend that I’m recording a podcast. Once I figured out the controls, fortunately it was reboxed with the instruction manual, I started listening to the mini-cassettes, not wanting to inadvertently erase a bit of history. So far, I’ve only made it through one tape—it’s interesting to note how the emphasis was on storage and not necessarily fidelity—and so far encountered an interesting sonic collage of a German woman taping a phone conversation and a man intoning a lesson on Arab vocabulary. “Sadiq means friend.” We’ll see what the rest hold. As always, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.

Saturday, 23 February 2019


The foothill of the Taunus range just on the outskirts of Wiesbaden—going by the term Hausberg, home mountain owing to the sense of ownership and defining characteristic that the landform has for its neighbouring borough, that I took the opportunity to revisit was originally known as the Ersberg before taking on the more romanticised name in the title in the nineteenth century when an ensemble of structures were built at the summit—with more added over the decades, and a funicular train was put in service to ferry guests to the summit.
The little rail depot was yet closed for the winter—we’d taken it up from the valley beforehand—but walking was a pleasant option. After strolling through a folly-filled park that banked on either side of a small brook, one first encounters the gleaming gold domes and spires of the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Elizabeth, whose striking beauty, visible throughout Wiesbaden belies a sad story.
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailova (*1826 – †1845), niece of Emperor Nicholas I, married Adolf, Duke of Nassau (*1817 – †1905), and celebrated a brief but happy personal and political union—living in Schloss Biebrich, until Elizabeth died during the birth of their first child.
Grief-stricken and inconsolable, the Duke choose the spot on the hillside for a memorial church so he could always have a view of it from his residence.
Along with a parsonage and a cemetery, the church is one of the largest Russian Orthodox congregations in Europe outside of Russia—Wiesbaden already having garnered popularity with Russian tourists as a health spa and with a sizable emigre population that grew after the violence and revolution of 1917, and houses the Duchess’ sarcophagus.
A little further up on the hilltop lies an extensive Bergpark, the focal point being a temple, specifically a neoclassic monopteros—a circular colonnade supporting a dome roof, with views of the city below.
All that remains of former guest accommodations (the hotel that catered to guests of the nearby thermal baths burned down in 1989) is a single turret that towers over an amphitheatre. There was also a parkour set up in the forest—dashing through the treetops—but I thought maybe I had hiked enough already for the day but would consider coming back to see how the course is set up.