Neanderthal Descent and Rock-Crusher

Last weekend I took my GoPro on this fantastic mountain-bike tour (g) through the Neander Valley and nearby areas. The first bit is a fun descent down a hillside road (pardon the stabilizer artifacts, still working on the technology), the second is a panning shot of a 'rock-crusher'. Part of the bike tour goes through Grube 7 (g) (Quarry 7), a former chalk-quarry pit that was closed down in 1964 and allowed to return to nature. There are a few reminders of its former purpose, though, including this huge platform, which was the above-ground portion of a rock crusher, now left to be slowly reclaimed by ivy and mosses. 

Freiburg and the Black Forest

I spent the weekend in Freiburg courtesy of the German-American Lawyers' Association (thanks!) and got to enjoy that delightful city again. The people are friendly and laid-back (Freiburg gets more sun than any other place in Germany), the food is outstanding (Freiburg is right on the border with France), and the small old city is filled with artificial rectilinear 'brooks' (Baechle), about a half-meter wide and deep, through which cool, clear water courses rapidly. Kids float boats down them, people cool their feet on hot summer days, and the sound fills the narrow streets. These little brooks aren't covered, so one of the most amusing pastimes is listening for the agonized shrieks of tourists who, gawking at old buildings, have wrenched their ankle into one of these Baechle. You can't sue, because it's tradition. Besides, the locals say if you trip into one of the Baechle, you'll marry someone from Freiburg. I so far have managed to step over every one of these Baechle.

A hilly chunk of the Black Forest thrusts directly into Freiburg from the East like a giant arrow. This means that you can walk 10 minutes from the city center and literally be inside the Black Forest –especially if you take the mountainside railcar, which lifts you about 300 meters to the main hillside trail. In most other places in the world, this hillside would be covered with the mansions of the rich, but not in Freiburg. I hiked about 4 km into the Black Forest to the forest shrine of St. Odile of Alsace, a small baroque church housing a spring whose water is supposed to heal eye problems. According to this church website, the water has tons of radon in it, but that didn't stop a few pilgrims from washing their eyes with it (!) while I was there. Odile was born blind in the 7th century but her vision was restored through prayer, so one of her typical iconographies is a book with human eyeballs projecting from it, as in this Baroque sculpture from the church. There was also a group of young Germans who recited the Ave Maria in German in a monotone over and over, interspersed with some prayers sung in Latin. I wonder what this devotional exercise is called.

Here is St. Odila with her chalice-book-eyes! The some pictures of Freiburg, greenery and forest views, a panorama of the valley in which Freiburg is locaged, a foxglove plant (which is called Fingerhut — finger-hat! — in German), the interior of the St. Ottilien church. Oh, and a hideous, gigantic Brutalist building (housing a Breuninger department store) excreted like a steaming pile of shit right into the middle of Freiburg's Old City. 

Sculpture of St. Odila in St. Ottilien Church
View of Karlssteg in Stadtgarten
Brutalist Building in the Freiburger Altstadt

View of Path to St. Ottilien
Foxglove Plant on path to St. Ottilien
Panorama of Freiburg from the Burghaldering
Forest Clearing near Freiburg
Stand of Pine Trees on Path to St. Ottilien
View of Passionsweg near St. Ottilien
Interior of St. Ottilian Church

German Sequence of Letters of the Week: “mpfpfl”

Childhood immunizations are on the radar screen in Germany, thanks to a recent case in which a 14-year-old died of a brain inflammation pursuant to a childhood measles infection. I can't find any numbers spontaneously, but apparently a growing number of woo-influenced German parents are forgoing childhood immunizations. Some are calling for immunizations to be mandatory.

Which brings me to one of my favorite German words: compulsory immunization, or Impfpflicht (from Impf = root of 'impfen', 'to immunize' + Pflicht = duty). Believe it or not, every one of those consonants is pronounced, usually amid a gentle shower of aerosolized saliva. Six consonants in a row is unusual even by German standards.

There is, however, one widely-accepted English word which also has six consonants in a row. Answer after the jump.

*Girthstrap. Something horses wear, apparently.