Monday, June 20, 2016

escape from castle wolfstein

St. Michael's Church, Schwabisch
Our way back from Strasbourg wasn’t nearly as nice as the way there. After seeing all the villages of the Alsatian countryside, we were a bit spoiled on beautiful villages, so we didn’t care much for stopping for the Bavarian roadside attractions. But rest stops were in order for the 5-hour drive, so we did decide on a couple. The first stop was going to be Schwabisch Hall—neither of us had ever heard of it, but it certainly had a fun name to say and the visit would include a huge fortified monastery—and the next was to be Neumarkt in der Oberfalz, which we had passed on several occasions, so it had a something of a “why not?” quality to visiting there. The pictures of the town looked nice enough and if our visit to Nordlingen could be a judge of Bavarian towns, then there was sure to be at least some ice cream available. 


Thursday, June 16, 2016

The steel roads of Chiatura

Sign reading "Chiatura" in Georgian and Russian
This season always makes me nostalgic for Georgia. May and June are the perfect times to be there, when the weather is not sweltering, but good for shorts and beer gardens and traveling, the flowers are out, and the air is always fresh after a rain. The best time, of course, is the fall, when the grapes are out and the scent is so strong in the air that it makes you hungry just standing around. But that's a distraction, this is spring folks. And in spring, it's a good time to visit one of my favorite towns: Chiatura.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

the festival and the tramp

Loket, By Rejectwater,
Lying in the grass, looking up at the dwindling light of the Sun as pinpoints of light slowly turn on like their lights from a skyline, with music blazing out from one direction and the next, some girls laughing over near a grove of trees, dancing in a circle, some guys commenting about the girls while they sip drinks and nod their heads to the pulsing of the bass from the nearby stage – these are parts of the image of summer that I love, the festival life, the life of being outside, slightly so inebriated, feeling the earth pulse through me as it rocks and shakes with the footsteps of passing people. When I lived in the United States, I always enjoyed the idea of a festival, but in general the complexity and price of getting a beer makes it only mildly worth it. Here in Europe, especially in the Czech Republic, where the beer is cheaper than water and finer than champagne, festivals are fodder for fun. And it’s hard to go anywhere in Prague where you don’t run into a festival, in some park or some street corner, there is something that’s going to be going on with beer, sausages, potato pancakes, or all three.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Colmar and the end of architecture

Le Grand Rue, Colmar

Already tired from all the driving and sightseeing, we had one more destination to see: Colmar. Colmar is the Queen City of Alsace, a town with a bit of everything that each village of the region has, all put together in one beautiful conglomeration. It sits in the open plains, before the fields give away to the rolling hills and vineyards that crawl up the front range mountain slopes like a David Cerny statue. It considers itself the Capital of Alsatian Wine and is the largest of all the area fairy tale towns, still taking you back in time to what Paris might have been like before the destruction caused by Napoleon III. It’s full of squares of half-timbered houses, avenues lined with majestic Baroque fabrications, canals with boats gliding gently down them, medieval churches and monasteries, and pubs and restaurants everywhere, to spill over the spoils of the local wealth. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

goblin kings and Alsace

There seems to be no shortage of beautiful villages in the world and that’s certainly true for the Alsatian region of France. Snuggled between the Rhine River and the Vosges Mountains, Alsace is replete with vineyards and flecked with fairy-tale villages that are sure to leave your mind blown and send you to a time filled with knights, princesses, goblin kings, and dancing magic babies.

The Vosges themselves are a series of low lying mountains that are something of a spur off of the Alps, offering Southern France something of a defense line against Germany. They're lined with villages, vinyards, and castles and are one of the leading rivals in the most-romantic-places in the world category. They were of huge strategic importance, with France always pushing to the Rhine for its border control and Germany always pushing to the mountains, making the region a beautiful and unique mix of German and French culture, with Colmar and Strasbourg as the two main regional capitals.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

the morning mists of Strasbourg

Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Strasbourg
The autobahn seemed to be entirely under construction as we drove through Germany. Normally I enjoy cruising down the highway at maximum speed, zipping past cars as though I were piloting an X-wing making my way past TIE fighters and cannons as I narrow in to destroy the Death Star. But this time, our speed was kept to a minimum most of the time, which wasn't a problem as we had decided to veer off and hit many a country road. But it seems to me I now know the dark truth as to why Merkel wanted so many refugees: she was simply hungry to fix up Germany's highways with cheap labor. Americans should take note as our highways and bridges crumble into something resembling a scene from Mad Max.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

a longing and south Germany

The canal of Nordlingen
It was time to get out of the house again and this time – out of the country! We both had a longing to go do a road trip across southern Germany and to Alsace. Strasbourg has long been one of my favorite French cities, so much better than the overrated Paris. In Paris one finds all sorts of things to hate about France, but in Alsace – and I imagine in the other French regions – one finds all sorts of things to fall in love with the culture. France should hold some sort of special place in my heart – I see all these American and British expats here who have Czech blood and have been pulled back to their motherlands that their parents fled during Communism. I have mostly French blood, with my ancestors having left during the Wars of Religion and other periods, but haven’t really had any sort of feeling of longing to get back; no sense of connection. That, I have for Louisiana a bit, but still, it’s not home. Home really is wherever my sweet wife is and that’s all the longing I need.