Wednesday, August 22, 2007

At the "Stuff-and-Cattle-Market"

What is this? A market for "Stuff and Cattle"? It's exactly that, a great yearly market where a lot of things are peddled and traded: cattle like horses and cows, and all sort of small and large stuff - from assorted knives up to expensive front doors, to name only a few examples. All this looks back on some hundred years of history: this year the "Stuff-and-Cattle-Market" in Bad Arolsen, Germany, was held for the 276th time!

Like a lot of yearly markets in Germany it's not only for trading - it's also the time for some fun. And to be honest: most of the around half a million people that visit the market each year go directly to the big funfair part of it - that one with the giant ferris wheel, the cotton candy and shooting booths, and with all those technically advanced amusement rides.

It's open day and night, for three and a half days. Here some glimpses of its attractions - simply click on the pics to see larger versions, especially of the landscape oriented ones:

The specialty of this roller coaster are its spinning cars - the cars not only race up and downward, but also do rotate during the ride. To show a bit more of the action at one glance I took the liberty to combine three single shots for this pic, BTW.

Nice to have a ride on a classical carousel in between. Not that it doesn't twirl with a remarkable velocity when at full speed! I had to hold my camera pretty tight, I can tell you ...

On to the shooting booth, where hard man shoot for cuddly stuffed animals.

A glimpse of the funfair in the evening - the ferris wheel dominating the scene.

Want to have a go at the can-throwing booth? Power and precision is needed here!

Even more power here, for the finale: you're looking at the "Power Tower 2", a free fall ride that reaches a whopping 66 meters in the air - the highest of its kind. The "free fall" you can experience here accelerates up to 54 kilometers per hour downwards. Of course it's completely computer controlled - so no need to fear anything; as long as this controlling computer doesn't run on Windows, of course ;-).

BTW: You're looking at a composite again, this time made out of four (big surprise!) single pics.

More funfair pics at my gallery!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A panoramic tour of Lake Garda, Italy

Today I want to invite you to a short panoramic tour around Lake Garda in Northern Italy. Six panoramas will offer lots to see! Don't forget to click on the links beneath each picture to get to the full size views.

To get in the right holiday mood lets start with a view of a hotel pool situated a short distance from Peschiera in the south of the Lake Garda - the mountains you can see in the background are those surrounding the lake:

Hotel pool, near Peschiera, Lake Garda - click here for large version

Now let's get down to Peschiera, a small city on the southern side of Lake Garda, situated at the river Mincio, the only river leaving the Lake Garda - all others flow into it. Pescheira has a nice picturesque Old Town - her a view of it in the evening:

Peschiera in the evening - click here for large version

After this relaxing evening we now get on the Gardesena Orientale, the route on the east side of the Lake Garda. Our first stop is Lazise, a small town with a beautiful promenade - grand for nursing a glass of red wine, maybe from nearby Bardolino - and watching the sunset on the lake at the same time. Also worth a look is the old harbour of Lazise:

Lazise harbour - click here for large version

Traveling further north our next stop is Bardolino. Here we visit a sort of "beach" (there are no sand beaches at Lake Garda, only pebble ones) for a swim in the lake. In fact we're a short distance north of Bardolino:

Bathing near Bardolino - click here for large version

Refreshed? Okay, for a very nice evening meal now let's go a few kilometers further north, to Costermano. There you can find a Ristorante named "Miralago" - and that offers a wonderful view of Lake Garda and the city of Garda (named exactly as the lake):

View of Garda from Costermano - click here for large version

Now for a last stop we go around the northern tip of Lake Garda and follow the Gardesena Occidentale, the wonderful route on the west side of the lake. Here the mountains are higher, and the villages at the lake's shore are fewer and due to the steep mountains don't have much space. Until said Gardesena Occidentale was opened in 1931/32 villages like Limone could be reached from the south and eastern shores of Lake Garda by ships only:

Limone - click here for large version

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Gelato - Italian Icecream

Icecream in Garda, Italy - July 13th, 2007

Gelato - icecream - sure is one of the most fascinating aspects of Italian culture. At least one of the most tasty ones ;-). It comes in a large variety of flavours, and has to be freshly produced and homemade - artigianale - to be considered a worthy dessert for Italians. Here only three of the maybe lesser known compositions available at the better parlors: Ricotta-Fig, Mascarpone-Caramel and Concertina (don't know the ingredients for sure of the latter one, but it's definitely marvelous!).

Like in the pictures shown above and below it's normal style to present the icecream in boxes that are not only full to the brim, but much beyond that. And those mounds of fresh icecream suggest a richness and opulence that's almost impossible to resist. At least once a day you just have to succumb to the temptation and buy some.

But beware: Servings of two different flavours generally are enough for one person, because their size usually is very generous.

In typical tourist areas the icecream shops of course abound, but it's interesting to know while many sources date the beginnings of modern icecream back to the Renaissance in Italy (check here for more information on this) that for a very long time it remained a delicacy reserved for the rich and famous. Only with the invention of freezing machines in the late 19th and early 20th century icecream became easy to produce and affordable for the masses - for us, that is.

Selling icecream in Lazise, Italy - July 15th, 2007

Another interesting cultural note: Icecream forms a strong bond between Italy and Germany. Italian icecream parlors became popular in Germany beginning with the 1920's, and at that time the Italian immigrants were the first to introduce the delights of international cuisine to the Germans on a broad scale.

Nowadays it's of course normal in Germany - as in every globalized country - to have restaurants offering food from all "four corners" of the world - you'll find e.g. Mexican, Korean, Indian, Thai food easily, and of course much more. But the Italian Icecream parlors named "Venezia", "Dolomiti", "San Marco" - to name only a few typical ones - were the very first to broaden the culinary knowledge and insights of Germans almost a century ago.

Iceream vendor in Lazise, Italy - July 15th, 2007

Friday, August 3, 2007

The future of plumbing

Seen in Valeggio, Italy, July 17th 2007

Isn't that a true work of art? The nameless plumber* is to be congratulated for his clear structured, straightforward and at the same time very dynamic composition. And as every real work of art it's not only compelling, it's also visionary: maybe it will soon be a "must have" for rich house owners in the future to have elegant plumbing structures on the outside - and more and more of those, even in the parts further up north in Europe, won't have any fears of freezing, thanks to the ongoing global warming effects!

Right now such beauty is confined to those lucky ones who live in a Mediterranean climate - winters without too much freezing are sure needed to avoid greater problems with your morning shower the year round. Valeggio in Italy - where this picture was taken - normally is too far north for this climate, but Lake Garda, only a few miles away, operates as a big temperature buffer in the winter, keeping temperatures higher then usual at this latitude.

By the way: Another unusual place for "outdoor" plumbing is Cornwall in Great Britain. This southernmost part of the Bristish Isles has subtropical vegetation - palm trees and wonderful colorful plants abound - and a very mild climate thanks to the Gulf Stream flowing alongside its coasts.

* For all I know these don't have to be water pipes, but could also be gas pipes or pipes for some electrical cords. I'm no plumbing expert, I admit. But for the sake of the story just let's assume we're looking at water pipes - and it's not unlikely that we really do. :-)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Madonna

Near the church San Benedetto in Limone sul Garda, Italy, July 12th 2007

Now, is that corny or simply typical for Catholic Italy? That the afternoon light illuminates the face of the Madonna as sent from a heavenly spotlight ... The woman hurrying away in the background no doubt has just watered the flowers and cleaned up some miniscule dirt to let the Madonna really shine!

Italy is very Catholic for sure. True, the Roman Catholic Italians are outnumbered for example by Brazilians and even US-Americans of the same faith - but in Italy around 90% of the population belongs to this denomination. No real surprise here - the pope doesn't reside that far away, does he?

Because of this the sheer number of churches you'll find in Italy is astounding. There are more than 25.000 parishes for the around 57 million believers - in comparison the 147 million Roman Catholics in Brazil only have around 9.000 parishes.*

Now unfortunately not all of the tens of thousand of Churches in Italy have a ceiling decorated by Michelangelo. But do remember that the Roman Catholics as a rule don't really shun vivid colors and works of art & splendor. So you can at least be reasonably sure of some nice displays of artistry in every church in Italy. Always worth a look!

* Source: Among others The CIA World Factbook and The data about the percentage of Italians belonging to the Roman Catholic faith varies from source to source - between 88 and 97 percent.

Inside of a church in Lazise, Italy - July 10th, 2007

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Neptunbad in Cologne

Click here for large version.

Seen yesterday in Cologne. Doesn't it look nice? The Neptunbad was a municipal indoor swimming pool, built in 1912 in the Art Nouveau style. It served the health and sports interests of the public up to 1994, when it had to be closed - the necessary costs for renovation and modernisation were too high for its owner, the city of Cologne.

In 2002 a private investor bought the heritage-protected building, and made a modern gym out of it. The original swimming pool with its high 13 meter ceiling is now converted to a place for workouts. But the also heritage-protected sauna can be used again in its original look and feel.

But if you feel cheated, because you really, really wanted to have a swim in a German Art Nouveau "Jugendstil" swimming pool - don't despair, you still have the chance to do so: visit either the Stadtbad Neuk├Âlln in Berlin (built in 1914), or the M├╝llersche Volksbad in Munich (built in 1901). Those two are still in operation and in very good condition. And both share something: Each has - of course! - two big swimming pools; the slightly smaller one was "women only" in former years.

So if you plan to visit Berlin or Munich: don't forget to pack you bathing suit!

An addendum: Do I hear someone complaining that the picture above looks a bit warped? No, it's not. It's just a curved panoramic projection - I had to take the photo really close to the front of the building and so had to resort to multiple exposures to be stitched later. Want to see really warped? This is what the stitching program thought it could get away with first: