Friday, 28 June 2013

A Jena Wildflower

The calciferous hills amongst which Jena nestles are protected nature reserves that are packed with the most beautiful wild-flowers. None struck me more than the throngs of purple and yellow wood cow-wheat (Melampyrum nemorosum) clustering in the hedgerows.

The purple 'petals' are actually new leaves, that turn green as they mature.

In German these flowers are called Hain-Wachtelweizen in German, which sort of means grove quail wheat. I didn't see any quails around here though.


In Celebration of German Markets! Photos of Jena Marktplatz

I love German markets for their fresh, seasonal, locally-sourced products!

Many German towns have a Marktplatz that seems to be the centre of life there. Often the Rathaus ranges across one side of the market square, and there is often a fountain and maybe even a Roland statue.

On market day these places come alive, when stalls are set up and are full of succulent fruit, local cheeses, and fresh vegetables. OK, also naff wooden handicrafts and fashion items that weren't even in style in DDR times, but I can overlook them.

Here are a few photos from market day in Jena in late June to give you a taster!

"All berries are from Thüringen"

Lots of the most gorgeous cherries.

Cherries were very much in season today!

Wonderful, fresh, local vegetables.

Hanfried Statue of the Electoral Prince Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous looks on magnaminously

"Cheese world" by local cheese expert Birgit Jentsch.
I want to live in Käsewelt!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Wild Strawberries in Jena

I love strawberries! But. you know, sometimes the shop-bought ones might look large and scrumptious but can be a bit tasteless. It was a joy then to come across some wild strawberries, fragaria vesca, growing in the forested hills around Jena.

In Germany they are called Wald-Erdebeeren or 'strawberries of the forest'. There is a delightful Brothers Grimm fairytale (isn't there always?) called 'Die drei Männlein im Walde' (the Three Little Men in the Forest'). It is the typical tale of a wicked stepmother who spoilt her own daughter and abused her stepdaughter. So one day the stepmother sent the stepmother into the woods in Winter wearing only in a paper dress and with only a crust of hard bread. This was of course futile; I have taken this photo in late June, and you couldn't possibly find strawberries in Winter.

Or could you? Maybe you could if like her you came upon three dwarves who invited her back to their place. Oh yeah? Anyway, they asked her if they could share her bread, which she did because she of course had a kind heart, and then she offered to sweep their back steps. I don't think that is a euphemism, because surprise surprise she found the strawberries that she had been ordered to bring back to the stepmother.

The dwarves were do taken up with the girl's kindness that they each spoke a wish: that she would grow more beautiful every day, that whenever she spoke a gold coin would pop out of her mouth, and that she would one day marry the king.

When she returned home she was met with the envy of her step-sister at her good fortune, who also wanted a part of it. The stepmother wouldn't allow her natural-born daughter out into the forest in the cold of Winter, but the daughter insisted, so she was given lots of warm clothing and bundles of good food to take with her.

The step-sister met the three dwarves, but no way was she going to share her food, never mind sweeping any back steps. So the three dwarves each gave their wish upon her: that she would grow more ugly every day, that each time she spoke a toad would fall out of her mouth, and that she would die a horrible death.

And so it eventually came to pass after more fairy-tale nastiness that yup, the step-daughter did end up marrying the king, whereas her stepmother and stepsister were killed by being rolled down a hill in a barrel stuck through with nails into a lake where they were drowned.

I didn't see any little men in the woods, but I did pinch a strawberry, and my was it good!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Berlin bleibt doch Berlin!

Sometimes it seems like Berlin is just one big building site. No, not sometimes, always! But despite all the changes, as the old Lied goes 'Berlin bleibt doch Berlin! (Berlin always remains Berlin).

Here are some photos of work going on around Unter den Linden:

Visitors to Berlin are often mystified by what those blue or pink tubes are you see everywhere near building sites. Well, no real mystery. Berlin you see is built on a sandy swamp. The groundwater is very close to the surface, which is why Berlin's U-Bahn stations don't go down very deep. In fact, all of the old buildings in central Berlin - The Dom, the museums, the opera house, the Humbolt University etc - are supported on thick, ancient wood-piles driven down into the swampy soil, just like Venice. Dig a hole anywhere in Berlin and it very soon fills with water, and so the pipes are there to pump the water away. If you follow the length of these blue and pink pipes you will find that they go down to the Spree river or one of the canals to disgorge their watery load.

But why the pastel colours? The pipes have been supplied to Berlin construction firms for decades by the company Pollems GmbH. They consulted a psychologist about what are the colours that children like, and the colours pink and purple were suggested. So there you are!

And here is the song 'Berlin bleibt doch Berlin' itself, composed in 1949 by Will Meisel. I await the Rammstein version :)

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Greening the City

Don't leave your bike chained up for too long or this is what might happen!

Bike spotted near Alexanderplatz