Sunday 7 January 2024

chorioactis geaster (11. 251)

Appearing only in parts of Texas (recognised as the official state fungi since 2021), Oklahoma and Japan, this leathery star-shaped (usually seven-pointed) flower-like mushroom is delighting mycologists, professionals and amateurs alike. Nothing quite so uncommon, the Lone Star State mushroom also nicknamed the Devil’s Cigar as it is reported

to produce an audible hiss (quite a rare ability at least for the human range of hearing) before unfurling from a clylindrical shape to release spores, but after the thaw, we’ve been noticing quite a few winter funguses distinct from the autumnal ones that we are most accustomed to encountering,
like this formation of hair ice (Haareis) that we thought at first were patches of frost but is a phenomena that occurs when weather conditions are just right, damp and humid and just at the freezing point when ice forms on the substate of a specific kind of mould (Exidiopsis effusa, not identified as the catalyst until 2015) growing on dead wood. The resulting strands and curls, however, are not formed on this fungus but rather extruded, expressed in the shape of ephemeral fine hairs before they sublimate away, though a still unknown mechanism and chemistry.

Monday 25 December 2023

basaltwerk stengerts (11. 214)



For a grey but bright Christmas day, we ventured past the industrial section of Bischofsheim an der Rhรถn to explore the former basalt refinery and quarry (see previously here, here and here), active for decades but now abandoned and designated as a nature preserve. The wind was a bit fierce and the trees bare but the moss covering the stones was a vibrant green.  Once containing an active settlement for workers, the volcanic rock used for construction and the making of cobblestones as well as more recently insulation as stone wool and a possible repository for carbon sequestration, were taken to the freight yard with a cable car and distributed throughout the region.


Friday 2 June 2023

hinter den kulissen (10. 782)

H doesn’t recall watching but we rented Stanley Kubrick’s sumptuous 1975 period drama Barry Lyndon (based on the William Makepeace Thackeray novel about the gentleman gambler and social-climber) several years ago. 


Set in Ireland, England and Prussia in the 1750s during the Seven Years’ War, the title rogue travels across Europe calling in debts through various scams, scenes and establishing shots were filmed in Dublin, County Wicklow, Schloss Ludwigsburg outside of Stuttgart, Sanssouci in Potsdam and as we just learned, in between these two locations at around the fifty-three minute timestamp, Lyndon’s regiment on the march, in our very own little village on the Bavarian-Thรผringen border, uncredited but confirmed by Redditors

 
Not much has changed (the roads are paved now however) and we’ll need to do a re-watch soon.

Saturday 4 February 2023

gassi gehen (10. 522)


After a long walkies to the top of the Hohe Schuhe—previously, along the prehistoric trail that leads through the woods from an ensemble of ancient burial mounds and along the former border for a perspective from the promontory overlooking Bavaria and Thรผringen from the puppy was treated to another surprise with her first encounter with the neighbourhood peacock

 It went better than expected with both looking fairly enchanted but glad it happened through a barrier however.

Sunday 1 January 2023

oh don’t be stupid, darling—i’m sure they could send over a selection and i could pick one (10. 378)

There’s been a paucity of posts lately, but for a good reason: H and I adopted a New Year’s Baby from the animal shelter after a couple of weeks nearly daily visits to the Tierheim for walkies and a couple of day-excursions to get used to her new home. Animal welfare authorities in Germany take this business seriously and inspect future living arrangements to make sure they’re appropriate for the type of canine and decide by panel on prospective human parents.
She’s a rescue originally from Romania—my Mom made a reference to that episode of Absolutely Fabulous where Eddie threatens to adopt a Romanian baby to call Saffy’s bluff and forgets to stop proceedings—and we’re keeping the name the home gave her since it fits and she seems to respond to it, at least the cadence—but we’re not, in the interest of not having a future password breached, disclosing it other than to stay the staff picked a Street Fighter character as namesake.

Saturday 20 August 2022

erlebnis bergwerk (10. 073)

Decommissioned since 1993 but revitalised since as a living museum and working mine and venue, I had a chance to visit with H’s father the salt and potash (Kalisalz, used as an important agricultural fertiliser) extraction operation near the village of Merkers on the Werra river not far from Bad Salzungen.  

 Aside from the long history of mining and a comprehensive lesson on the enterprise and geology that bores under the Rhรถn mountains, the location is also the hiding spot for hundreds of tonnes of gold, silver and paper currency (amounting to around eighty percent of the holdings of the Reichsbank at the end of the war) and many priceless works of art looted by the Nazis, discovered per chance by the advancing United States army (tipped off by slave labour transporting treasures to the mine) who then worked quickly to clear it out of Soviet occupied territory before the borders were demarcated.

After being lowered in safety gear—like actual miners beginning their shift—in a hoisting cage that descended into the dark, and driven in flatbed transports from five to eight hundred metres below the surface through a network of tunnels that covers an area the size of Munich. 








Though the vehicles were only taking the dips, curves and ascents at under twenty kilometres an hour, the darkness, wind and narrowness of the shaft made it seem much faster, like a roller coaster ride stretched out for some two hours, with intermissions, lastly in the above Goldraum, a pair of excavated former bunkers that now serve as a machine exhibit, theatre and a concert hall with uncommonly good acoustics and unique crystal grotto with accompanying bar for refreshments—the deepest in the world.  

It was definitely worth the visit and would drag H along next time.
 

Thursday 18 August 2022

hawa h 1 vampyr (10. 070)

On this day in 1922, engineering and hang-gliding pioneer Arthur Martens—lieutenant and front-line pilot with the Red Baron’s fighter squadron—participating in the Rhรถner Gliding Competition (Segelflugwettbewerb) took to the air, launched from a rubber rope in a glider of his own design from the Hannoversche Waggonfabrik (HaWa—see also), on the Pferdskopf slope of the Wasserkuppe, the highest mountain in the range, and set three records for endurance, altitude and distance in an unpowered craft. Flying for over an hour, Martens flew a distance of just under nine kilometers circumnavigating the Wasserkuppe ten times, taking advantage of updrafts to glide in a figure-eight, demonstrating for the first time a technique that’s employed by all pilots a century later.

Monday 27 June 2022

macroglossum stellatarum

The butterflies have discovered our patch of lavender for sometime now and there’s always at least half a dozen of them swarming about but now it seems the community of hummingbird hawk moths (Taubenschรคnzchen) is enjoying nectaring a la cartรฉ as well. An example of convergent evolution, recognising the same quiver of behaviours and adaptations with its long proboscis to probe flowers works across species. Unlike other moths which are either diurnal or nocturnal, these hawk moths can be found active at all hours and display no visible sexual dimorphism—even in the antennal lobes size, serving a comparable role as the olfactory bulb in vertebrates and which is a prominent marker for most moths in distinguishing between male and female.

Saturday 18 June 2022

proboscis

We weren’t quite sure what attracted this Aglais io—Peacock butterfly a member of the anglewing tribe, see previously here and here, to our windowsill long enough to photograph (click to magnify) but this individual probed around for quite a few moments before flitting away, tolerating our curiosity on the other side of the glass pane. The eyespots are the most obvious defensive mechanisms for passerine predators—also see above—but they also apparently emit a hissing sound that deters hunters.

Saturday 11 June 2022

pfarrdorf, kirchdorf

H and I took a quick tour of Nordheim von der Rhรถn (previously) and snapped a few images and got an aerial perspective of the picturesque village on the Streu. Parking outside of the former Zehnthaus (tax, tithing authority), we took a moment to admire its decorative half-timbering and reliefs and inscriptions on the balustrade of the second storey dated to 1681. Several of the historic buildings feature figurative columns and corner posts. We climbed up through the fortified Kirchberg to the parish (pfarr-) seat (the outlying community of Neustรคdtles with the auxiliary place of worship is the Kirchdorf) dedicated to John the Baptist (Sankt Johannes der Tรคufer) from the fourteenth century. The exterior and forecourt were renovated in the mid 1970s but the overall structure and interior elements are true to the original with the high altar and pulpit crafted in the 1700 by artist and sculptor Benedikt Lux from Bad Neustadt an der Saale in Rococo style.

Sunday 29 May 2022

wasserfall eisgraben

Taking advantage of the fine weather and long weekend, H and I headed just south of the Schwarzes Moor and took a long hike through the Hochrhรถn to the cascading valley of pools that is the main drainage outlet of the marshy region, flowing into the Fulda river. Named for the cold winds that flow through the rift—and it was quite brisk for the end of May—this watershed courses over basalt boulders and goes deep underground after emerging from the forest. This area below the boglands is part of a larger nature preserve and criss-crossed with wooded paths and is a protected biome. Introduced spruces harvested for timber in the nineteenth century displaced much of the original forest but logging was stopped in most areas in 1971 and native sycamores and elms are returning. Discovering the waterfall at the end of the Wanderweg was especially rewarding and are eager for more exploration soon.


 

Saturday 21 May 2022

motacillidae

H snapped a very good picture of a avian pal who’s been visiting and running about on the deck lately, Bachstelze or more descriptively a pied wagtail (Motacilla alba—a mistranslation of the Latin term “little-mover” from the medieval notion that cilla meant tail). I had seen these passerine birds on the path that runs by the pond (= Bach) with their distinctive gait, swift but halting after a few paces to bounce their tail feathers, but they hadn’t before ventured to our backdoor—apparently they prefer the bare range of pavement for foraging where it can best see and pursue and the deck met these conditions too. This comical, constant tail wagging is observed in all related species but the behaviour is poorly understood—possibly a tactic to flush out prey or signal vigilance to potential predators.

Friday 6 May 2022

all-seeing or the eyes have it

Though apparently gregarious with most of the village as well, a young peacock—we thought it was a peahen but learned it was young one and the signature plumage and dimorphism does not develop until they reach three years of age—has adopted H and I and roams our yard and roosts in various spots on the balcony and the front stoop, friendly in guest territory but possibly territorial in his own backyard. He belongs to a neighbour and is called Charlie and often appears before the French doors and jarringly at times at the kitchen window sill. Apparently this behaviour in peafowl, congregating before glazed faรงades, is to examine themselves in the glass, like a mirror. I held up my cell phone display in front of Charlie to reflect back his image and he regarded it with interest, rather than destructive pecking at the screen and my hand. I remember the controversy a few years back over an airline passenger trying to board with their therapy peacock and at the time siding with those who condemned the act as performative and over-the-top but getting a sense of their calm demeanour and engagement, I have come around to the other side in thinking these are legitimate therapy animals, tail-feathers and all. We are looking into getting our own. The collective term for a group of peafowl is an ostentation.