Germany – On the Trumpet Tree

Right. It’s a Trompetenbaum in German. In English it’s called Catalpa. Apparently poisonous. But never mind those trivialities. What’s important here is that said tree grows in the parental garden, I can see it clearly from the window, and it hosts the most marvellous visitors.

First of all, and always welcome, is the array of Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

Next, equally welcome by the photographers but not so much by the fish in the pond next to the tree, are the male and female kingfishers. This is the female – the lower part of the beak has an orange tinge.

Drumroll please.

Recently, said tree has been used as perch, much to the horror of all winged inhabitants of the garden, by a juvenile sparrowhawk and this one – an adult male.

WorldBookProject – Kazakhstan, Switzerland, San Marino and Togo

After a rather long break I’m back with an update from my project to read a book from each country and assorted territories. The choice for Switzerland lurked on a shelf and must have been there for a very long time – apparently it was first published in 1943. No idea how it ended up there between war and Iron curtain. The other books were presents from my parents. Thank you 🙂 .

178 Kazakhstan: Über Jahr und Tag – Muchtar Auesow

This quite long book deals with the last months in the life of Kazakhstan’s arguably favourite writer, Abai (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abai_Qunanbaiuly). In parts, I really enjoyed the descriptions of the bleak winter scenes and the interactions of the characters. On the other hand, I often had the feeling that things could have been shortened. Finishing this one was a bit of a chore, but I’m also glad I persevered.

179 Switzerland: Die lustigen Zipfelzwerge – Hedi Sutter

I was so glad when I rediscovered this gem. I read it as child and at some point I had to use a stapler to prevent it from falling apart. It’s a poem accompanied by lovely pictures. Fantastic to get small kids reading.

180 San Marino: Die Republik von San Marino – Giuseppe Rossi

Finding a book for San Marino was neither cheap nor easy, but a very good bookseller managed to do so. I’m fascinated by small countries and this one is no exception. The book is a thorough introduction, albeit from around 40 years ago. Here’s to a pandemic-free future and my travel plans!

181 Togo: An African in Greenland – Tété-Michel Kpomassie

I have a feeling that everybody who’s reading the world sees this book as the obvious option for Togo. It’s worth it – it feels very honest, it’s full of surprises and scares and quite horrifying experiences. A remarkable work; and I’d love to read more by this author.

Germany – Autumn Joys

I’ve always liked autumn. The changing colours, the passing flocks of geese on their migration, the smell of damp earth – it makes me feel alive. This autumn it’s a particularly strong feeling of joy because it’s my first proper one in three years and of course I’m trying to make the most out of it because nature certainly gives more joy than the news these days. So, enjoy with me 🙂 .

Germany – Autumn is coming

Well, actually it’s already here. But signs of summer still persist. I love the mixture of green and yellow and red on the trees.

In the gardens, lots of flowers are still offering a meal to the bees and other insects. Meanwhile, on the meadows, it looks a bit less so. Yet, not all is gone.

The shrubs are full of berries which will provide food for the winter.

And the birds, of course. The starlings are very audible and the occasional small or bigger flock can be seen changing trees. We usually don’t have big murmurations here. The black redstart was an unexpected sight, while the mallards have finished moulting and are back to glory. The neighbour’s garden is a paradise for green and great spotted woodpeckers.

China – The Little Potala

No, not in Tibet. The Little Potala or Putuo Zongcheng Temple is situated in Chengde, a few hours north of Beijing. It’s part of the Chengde Mountain Resort which I visited in the summer of 2007.

The temple is one of the biggest in China and if you want to see other parts of the mountains too, plan a few days. It was still an active place of worship when I visited but of course things might be much more touristy now.

Be prepared, too, for some steep staircases, especially if you want to see the lovely roof tiles and ornaments on top of the halls.

Although some parts were in disrepair back then, I loved the atmosphere and relative quiet. If you’ve been to China, you know this is something to appreciate.

Chinese Memories – Putuoshan

Putuoshan is an island near Ningbo and one of the holy mountains in Chinese Buddhism. I visited the place more than a dozen years ago and I’m pretty sure many things have changed since then. Back in the day I enjoyed a ride on the ferry and the fact that the island was very green, especially compared to Shanghai where I used to work.

On Putuoshan, I explored several of the temples. The views from the highest hill were quite lovely.

I must have picked a really lucky day too, because I don’t remember the place being swamped with tourists. Rather enjoyable. There were also no cars on the island.

Of course, no post without the local wildlife. Either there wasn’t much or, more likely, I hadn’t paid much attention. But anyway.

China – Wintry Days around Beijing

Beijing in winter is usually bone dry and flipping cold. It apparently rarely snows so when I was there more than a decade ago and everything was white even the smog didn’t matter that much.

I’ve been to the Forbidden City a few times, but this was quite likely the most peaceful ever.

For those who are interested, a four-star-rated toilet comes with heated seats. Or at least does so in my memory.

When visiting Beijing, the Great Wall is a must-see. On this occasion, I went to Si Ma Tai which is a bit further out and less touristy.

Of course, one should always follow the instructions given. I don’t recall a mini-train though.

Couples on their wedding shoot are great entertainment. Doing this in freezing temperatures – I just hope the marriage is still worth it.