Locations: Garage top level

This is one of the insiders’ tips in city guides. Not that it remains much of a secret then, but as it is on the top level of a public garage chances are tourists will find it even without the help of Frommer’s or Lonely Planet.

Just park your car and enjoy the panorama of the medieval old town and the castle!


Image taken with the pretty awesome Panorama™ – Wondershare Software Co., Ltd App for iPhone.


Book locations: Our new library

After a three year long renovation our new library opened its doors today. It was an old building that got completely redone inside and out. The new building is only meant for fiction, children’s literature, the musical library and the historical science library. The non-fiction books are still in the old building that is attached to the new one. So our lovely library café is still there for everyone to enjoy.

The new building is VERY modern, with lots of empty space, lots of concrete and stylish furniture. A lot of the books are still gone as patrons were encouraged to check out as many books as possible before the move.

They created a super nice children’s area with lots of seats and a little auditorium for readings etc. The employees were exceptionally helpful and nice today, we will see whether that will last or whether they will go back to their old behaviour. They have even extended their opening hours and – gasp – are now open on Wednesdays. Pure luxury! The most exciting feature is a drop box where we can now return our books after the library closes. I know, this is a standard service in a lot of places, but it is a true novelty here. No more late fees for me – hopefully.


History locations: Moat festival

We often have medieval festivals  in our area. There are tons of medieval castles around and most of them organize some annual festival or other. This time is was the Moat Festival in our local moat which is a park in daily life.

Moat Festival

There were lots of stalls with medieval goods, food and drink and performances. Knights fighting, musicians playing (I LOVE bagpipers, especially when they are half naked and tattooed) and acrobats doing their tricks, it was a lot of fun.

The vegetarian food selection was rather, um, limited, but if you are a carnivore you were all set. Quite educational for the children who all of a sudden realize that the yummy “Schnitzel” was a cute little piglet once.


Fun locations: Legoland (and some advice)


This is where I spent the last two days. Lots of fun and perfect weather. Legoland Germany (and I assume any other Legoland) is gigantic and there are so many rides and things to see and do that one day is not enough.

A word of advice:

If you ever go to a Legoland do buy the Express Pass! Believe me, I am not a spendthrift, but not getting that Pass is wrong economy. At Legoland Germany the Express Pass reserves spots to go an various (not all) rides without you having to wait in line. With waiting times of about an hour it saves you LOTS of time and whining. Reserve your spots for a ride with the device and show up at the given time. No standing in line at all. When you get there you just skip the queue and go to the front end of the line.

Even if it means that you won’t be able to afford a meal, do get that pass! Bring your sandwiches, if you have to. It will make your Legoland experience so much more enjoyable.

PS.: I am no Legoland affiliate. I just learned the hard way and want to spare you the same experience, :).


Book locations: Tintenherz (Ink Heart)

Buchhandlung Tintenherz

Isn’t that the nicest looking kids’ bookshop ever? Doesn’t it just invite you to come in and start reading? Well, it doesn’t invite my kids, as they are no readers (one can’t read yet, the other hates it), but generally speaking.

The shop is called “Tintenherz” (Ink heart)  and it also has a website and online store where you can have another look around. If you would like to go there and check the shop out in person, it is on the famous Krämerbrücke in Erfurt, Thuringia. The perfect location for this charming shop.


This is a picture of the bridge before the shops are open. During the day it it is a tiny bit more crowded, :).


The Paris myth

Don’t get me wrong. I like Paris, it is a great city that is well worth visiting.

However, reviews of "Paris in Love" made me realize that people have all sorts of ideas about Paris. Yes, Paris is lovely, it is wonderful, beautiful when the cherry trees are in bloom (if there are cherry trees, that is), the people are friendly, the food is gorgeous and the people have an unequalled sense of fashion. Yes, but this is so in every other city on the planet when you go to the right spot, the orchard, the right restaurant, when you are in the right frame of mind and when you are off (and preferably everybody else is, too).

I don’t know what it is about Paris that people seem to think that it is different from any other metropolitan area on Earth. I am sorry to say it is not. Not every Parisian ambles down the street to meet his friends for a Pernod and spends two minutes kissing before settling down to chat for hours. Not every Parisian gets up leisurely before slowly taking a stroll to his local boulangerie to get a delicious croissant and then go home again to enjoy his French pressed coffee and breakfast on his cast iron balcony looking over the roofs of Paris while the sun is slowly rising on the horizon, bathing the Eiffel tower in a soft light.

Instead people are just as pressed for time as in every other part of the world, they hurry to work, complain about rude waiters, get mugged and spend hours in a tunnel in a stinking subway squeezed in between cursing commuters during rush hour because some miserable sap has committed suicide on the tracks ahead. I am talking from experience.

So, yes, there are picturesque scenes in Paris, just like there are in New York, Copenhagen, Riga and Tokyo. Please, don’t give me all that stuff about Paris being the ultimate romantic lovers’ city with rose petals scattered in the streets.  It is perfectly fine to project your dreams about the perfect place into Paris and conjure it up in your head, but don’t make it sound as if this was reality. Because it is not.

Animum debes mutare, non caelum. ~Horace, and later Seneca

Just to counteract all that Paris glorification I am giving away a used copy of “A year in the merde” by Stephen Clarke today.

Sorry – the giveaway has ended.  


Paul West arrives in Paris to start a new job – and finds out what the French are really like.


History locations: St. Johannis cemetery

One of the most famous graves at St.Johannis cemetery is the grave of Albrecht Dürer, one of THE artists of theAlbrecht Dürer's monogram Renaissance in Northern Europe.

The plaque says “Quicquid Alberti Dureri mortale fuit, sub hoc conditur tumulo” (The mortal remains of Albreacht Dürer are resting under this grave). Albrecht Dürer died on April 6, 1528 from Malaria. The grave was neglected for a long time (he had no children) and only in 1681 it was renovated by the artist Joachim von Sandrart who was buried in the same cemetery only seven years later.

Dürer's hare

Apart from both these two artists a lot of celebrities are buried here, among them Veit Stoß, a sculptor,  Anton Koberger, one of the first typographers, publishers and booksellers who in the 15th century operated his business in a capitalist way (I wouldn’t be surprised if he even practiced hostile takeovers), Hans Sachs, a Meistersinger, and William Wilson, a railway pioneer who drove the first German locomotive “Adler” between Nürnberg and Fürth in 1835.



Albrecht Dürer grave


Book locations: Our library 2.0

If you are not living in the US (and maybe even if you are) you might have missed that National Library Week started yesterday. Not that we are participating but it is a good opportunity to show you the progress MY local library makes in terms of renovation. Remember, it had to move into temporary quarters a few years ago and it is a pain to go there (right now and/or in general).

My hopes are that once they moved into the new building it will be more modern and offer services that are just standard nowadays. They already changed the looks of their website, so maybe there is something positive going on after all.

Below are a few pics of the site

Library construction siteLibrary construction siteLibrary construction site

You won’t be able to see it probably, but on the last picture there is this low construction that looks like it might be some reading hall surrounded by glass walls. That would be a definite plus (but knowing those guys it will be the library director’s office).

Only a few more months, the opening is scheduled for fall 2012.


Locations: Unesco world heritage Bamberg

A few pictures from a short trip to the town of Bamberg, an UNESCO world heritage site. Bamberg is one of the loveliest town I know. Not only has it a great cathedral, medieval and Renaissance architecture galore, tons of restaurants (some of them tourist traps) and nice shops, it also offers a great variety of small cafes where you can sit outside and watch the world go by (one of my favourite pastimes).


The building at the top is a bakery now. The building with the green shutters is the “Schlenkerla”, a restaurant first mentioned in 1405.


We bought those “Hörnla” (Franconian dialect for “Hörnchen” (“small horn”, i.e. croissant) in a bakery that sells them since 1427.


The river here is the Regnitz. There is a row of lovely houses right at the river’s edge. People have their patios bordering the water and even have boats looking like gondolas in front so they can hop into their boat and go on the river.


At the top a store selling Bamberg lace in a small street with specialty shops. A few doors down is “Hemmingway’s Bodega”. As you can see, the owner either has noticed the small spelling mistake and crossed it out (or it was a joke to begin with or his own name is Hemmingway and he was sick of being asked what the second “m” was about). When you look inside you see a b/w image of Che Guevara in the back.

Have you been to any interesting places recently?

Credits: Blog photo templates from Pugly Pixel.


Paris in July: Pictures of Paris

It is more than appropriate to post a couple of pictures of Paris during our Paris in July event. Just so we can all see what we are missing while we are sitting at home blogging about it…




From Notre Dame. You can see the Eiffel Tower in the distance.


From Notre Dame again. I love those grotesques. In the background on the hill you can see Sacré-Coeur.


Book locations: Shakespeare memorial in Weimar

April 23, 1864 on Shakespeare’s 300th birthday the German Shakespeare society was founded. It is one of the oldest still active literary societies worldwide. In 1904, to celebrate its 40th anniversary, the society ordered a memorial which was done by sculptor Otto Lessing.


Shakespeare is sitting in front of an artificial ruin, at his feet is a skull wearing a fool’s cap.

Unfortunately at the time I was there I was not aware that Shakespeare’s face is showing two different emotions. From the right he is supposed to look serious and pensive, from the left smiling and cheerful. Missed that! You can see the two sides of his face here (smiling & serious).

The statue is the only statue of Shakespeare in Germany (some sources say in Europe, but I’m not sure that is so).



History and Book locations: Goethe’s & Schiller’s houses

A few pictures from a weekend trip to Weimar in Thuringia, Germany. Weimar has a vast cultural heritage. It was the home of two leading characters of the Weimar Classicism, the birthplace of the first German republic, the Weimar republic, and also the founding place of the Bauhaus school.


Goethe-and-Schiller-Monument in front of the German National Theatre Weimar.


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe lived in this house from 1788 to 1789 and then again from 1792 until his death in 1832.

It belongs, together with Goethe’s garden house, to Classical Weimar which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.




Friedrich von Schiller bought this house in 1802 and lived in it until his death in 1805.


Book locations: 9 reasons why our library sucks

Since quite a few people were impressed with the pictures of our library café, I felt it was necessary to bring you all back down to earth with this post. The café might be lovely and the courtyard the nicest bookish hangout you can imagine, however, the library itself sucks.

It is a large library, it serves a city of about 500.000 people and has various branches all over the city with one main library in the center. It also has so-called "book buses" that visit schools on a regular schedule to enable pupils to get books even if their parents don’t take them to the library.

The main library is being renovated at the moment so part of it had to be moved to various nearby buildings, but the transition seems to have gone smoothly and it does not seem to be some improvised arrangement, but it looks as if everything works fine (the renovation will be going on for another year or two, I think).

So, what is not so great about this bookish place?

  • The opening times. The library opens at 11am and closes at 6pm, except for Wednesdays when it doesn’t open at all. Saturdays it is open for 3 hours and Sunday – that goes without saying, because it is the Day of the Lord and we are in God fearing Bavaria – it is closed again. Oh, hold on, wait a minute, on Thursdays it’s open one hour longer, until 7pm. That’s when all the people who have to work for a living might make it there to rush through it.
  • The staff is not really that helpful and/or friendly. There are some people who could actually work in the free economy and succeed, but all in all they are as friendly as Rosa Klebb.
  • It offers no events to speak of. When it does they take place in some suburb branch.
  • The few English books on offer are about two decades old. I am aware it is a German library but you would think that nowadays they would make sure that they are a tiny bit multilingual.
  • The late fees are outrageous.
  • They charged me late fees for one of the boys even though they accumulated because the book bus returned to his school only after the due date.  Is that my fault?
  • At the moment there are two buildings and, of course, various departments, each with their own return desk. If you have three books, let’s say a children’s book, a novel and a non fiction book you have to go to three different return desks in two buildings to return three books.
  • They have about four different cashiers (to pay the late fee), but invariably if you want to pay at a desk they will say “You can pay just about anywhere but not with me.”
  • Their website is boring, bleak and uninformative, apart from the standard info like opening times etc. If you don’t know the library and think, “I’m going to check out their website to see whether it is worth joining” you will undoubtedly decide against becoming a member.

So you think a nice café compensates for that? I don’t.


Book locations: The library café

Our library is being renovated at the moment, however, one part of it is left alone. It used to be an old cloister and the library cafe is situated on the ground floor with view to an inner courtyard.

They serve homemade cakes, snacks and drinks and also offer a large variety of international daily newspapers. A great place to sit, relax and read…


Cafe interior




Courtyard and sculpture


Does your library have a café? What does it look like?


Reading corner at Thalia


In my post about Thalia, one of the big bookstores in the city, I never got around to showing you a nice little reading corner. I am not sure it was even there at the time, at least I never noticed it. Only today my son discovered this cozy little place. It is a bit hidden, so you can probably lie there and read for hours without being detected. German bookstores are really nice to their customers.


Book locations: Yet another bookstore

This is another one of our book stores, Hugendubel. Like Thalia, it is a chain, but much smaller. Hugendubel runs twenty odd shops and an online store as well. However, it is only one part of a bigger corporation.


Store front


Fiction and non fiction


Kids’ department


Top floor with esoteric department

The one thing that will always stick with me is the fact that Hugendubel was the first shop I ever saw that offered seats and sofas where people could read books in the shop without having to buy them first. That must have been at the end of the eighties in their shop in Munich (I suppose it was their first shop, too). When I went in there and saw those little reading spots I was stumped. A bookshop where you could actually sit down and read? Unheard of at the time! Nowadays this is common, at least in the big shops, but at the time, Hugendubel was cutting-edge.


Book locations: Our book shelves

Our book shelves are in a state of perpetual transition. We sort them out, arrange everything and by the time we are finished we need to re-arrange again. Unfortunately the space for books does not grow proportionally to the acquisition of books.

So this is the current state of some of our shelves. There are more opposite and in other rooms, but this is a large part. As you can see from the boxes and the general disorder we will never be done.


The books are three or four rows deep which makes it hard to find any specific book. This is the reason why I said in a former Weekly Geeks post that sometimes I can’t find a book I want to read. The books simply get sucked up in the maelstrom only to turn up again by chance. So far we haven’t found a solution to the problem. Just. Not. Enough. Space.


Book locations: The bookstore

At Leeswamme’s blog I put up a picture of our local (or rather one of our local) bookstores for the Book bloggers abroad event. Today I want to share some more pictures that didn’t appear in that blog post. Just because I love that shop.


Thalia storefront

The bookstore belongs to a chain called Thalia that runs over 230 bookstores in Germany and also has an online shop. It has 4 stories, a huge section of English books, tons of audio books and also sells all those nifty accessories around books, like pillows to place your book in your lap on, cook book holders, book stands, bookmarks, book covers with book quotes on them etc. When they have a theme week, like a specific country or topic, they put up lovely decorations revolving around that theme.


Main floor with some oriental decoration


Kids books and YA


Audio books for kids and playground in the back

In the esoteric book section they sell incense sticks, there is a little fountain in the middle of the area, you can sit on nice chairs looking outside, it’s all very cosy and makes it hard to leave the shop without buying anything.


Esoteric section

In the audio book department there are comfy leather sofas and a lot of devices to listen to the books. If you feel like having something to drink you can go to the coffee shop on the third floor and get yourself a drink to either take away or enjoy right there.


Audio book section



As you probably can imagine, going there is never boring.


Weekly Geeks 2010-12: Checking Out Libraries

National Library Week is coming up April 11-17, and April is School Libraries Month (2010 is the 25th anniversary). This got me wondering about the state of libraries around the globe.
What’s your earliest memory of a library? What was it like for you? Were you more likely to hang out in the gym or the library when you were in school?
How’s the health of the library system in your community? How do you support your local library? How often do you check out books from the library vs. buying books? Tell us what your favorite library is like and include some photos if you can.

I remember that when I was a little girl I went to the local library with my mother. We had our library booklet where the librarian used to fill out by hand what books we got and when they were due. Then she would fill out the card which stuck in the book with our reader number and due date. The cards she kept. I have no idea what system they used back in those days to keep track of which books were due and who had them. They must have been pretty efficient in organizing.

Then years later I went to another library where they had little punch cards that were punched with a machine, not a computer yet, but definitely technically more advanced than the older system.

I always loved libraries. There was a time when I didn’t go that often, but now, that the kids like to read or be read to, I go more often again. I don’t get that much fiction, which I tend to rather buy and keep, but I’m getting tons of non-fiction there. Our older son has his own library card which he also uses with the library bus that comes to his school every two months. Also both our boys are members of the local church library because the kindergarten goes there regularly. So, at least where I live, the kids automatically get used to libraries from a very early age.

Library courtyardThe library system seems to be pretty healthy over here. Our local library has several little branches in the various parts of town and a number of library buses that go to schools. That way most of the school kids have a library card – whether they all use it though, I don’t know. Our library is situated in an old building (not old enough to be beautiful, just old enough to be ugly, except for some parts), but is in the process of being renovated. Outside the library Some parts of the building are either torn down or cored, so that the library had to move into different other buildings. Quite inconvenient because for kids’ books you have to go here, for non-fiction you have to go to another place…In one of the buildings they have a small cafe with lots of international newspapers where you can hang out for hours reading and watching people. It has a courtyard where you can sit outside in summer. Very nice and quiet.

Whenever we go to the library it is packed. Not that this reflects whether the library makes good money. It is subsidized and only wants money from the readers when books are not returned in time.

You can see a lot of beautiful libraries at Curious Expeditions. But I want to draw your attention to a private library. It is Jay Walker’s library in his home in New England. If I had a library like that I don’t think I’d ever leave my house again. AMAZING!

I had a look around for famous libraries and came across some ancient ones of which only ruins remain.

Hadrian's library by agelakis

Library of Ephesus by ultimatejourneys

Library of Pergamon by Zsenya

Angkor Wat by stuck_in_customs


All four images above from flick’r.

To read what other weekly geeks have to say about libraries go here. Oh, and the library in the original weekly geeks post is the Library of Congress.


A very small library

Not only does Great Britain have very small houses, now they claim to have the smallest library in the world, too.

In a village in Somerset they purchased and transformed a red telephone booth into a library. From the description it sounds more like a BookCrossing location than a library. What a cool idea! I like the thought of not having to go all over the place but just go to the phone booth to drop off and pick up books.

And just because I can, I’m posting an image of the smallest house in Great Britain, located in Conwy, Wales.

Smallest house in GB