Monday, May 26, 2008

Prima volta in Germania

This past week I was in Germany, which explains why I haven’t replied to any comment or posted anything. I went to Mainz, close to Frankfurt, for a conference, from Monday to Wednesday. Then, instead of coming back on Thursday night, I decided to take one day off and go back on Sunday instead. This turned out to be a very good idea: I had never been to Germany before, and I really enjoyed it. The conference was also interesting, and it allowed me to meet scientists from both the US and Europe, which was very good. In the next few posts I will show you pictures and write a few things about the trip - Warning: I wrote these posts offline when I was at the airport and had lots of time, so they're pretty long!

The trip started in Mainz, where the conference was, and which I toured around on Sunday with Vardha and a colleague of his, Daniel. Mainz is a small town, mostly a college town, with some quite nice squares and an extremely beautiful cathedral. Here you can see the exterior of it:

Mainz (Magonza, in Italiano) is famous because of Gutenberg, who was born here. There is a museum dedicated to him and to the invention of printing machines, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to visit it.
On the second day of the conference, the organizers brought us to do a wonderful trip on the Rhine. This was really memorable: I had never seen such sceneries before, with beautiful green hills surrounding a river, and small fairy-like towns on the borders.
It was amazing. Also, every other hill, we could see a castle, which in Medieval times was protecting the village below it.

Moving along, the hills became higher and higher. In the picture below, on the right side, you can see what’s apparently the most photographed rock in Germany. It’s actually just a big rock, but there is a legend about it! The rock's name is Loralie, because of a beautiful lady who committed suicide by throwing herself in the river, in despair because of her faithless lover. She was then transformed into a siren, and sing from this rock, thus causing all the sailors to shipwreck when they passed by! When the boat stopped, we climbed on a hill and went inside one of these castles. I have been in castles before, in Italy and France, but I had never seen such an old castle in such good conditions. There were still lots of parts, which survived the cannon balls of the French in the XIV century. This is an example of what you see from the main tower: the castle itself, surrounded by beautiful hills:
And wonderful scenery, with another castle on the opposite side of the river:
I will finish this part of the story with a picture of Vardha and of our tour guide.
The guide was a very interesting person, who sang a medieval German song at every stop of the trip. However, when we arrived on the top of the highest tower, he started singing a Gospel song, and asked us to sing and snap our fingers with him. So, you can understand what Vardha is doing with his hands.. It was a strange and beautiful experience: sing a Gospel song on top of a Medieval German castle, with a bunch of scientists from all over the world and a tour guide with a pirate-like bandage on one eye..
The conference ended on Wednesday early afternoon, and after saying goodbye to at least a few of the people that I wanted to say goodbye to, I took a train and went South, to Constance, to meet Michael, a friend of my friend Eleanor. Eleanor introduced me to Michael when I sent out a last-minute email asking if somebody wanted to join me in Germany for a few days. Michael nicely invited me to visit him in Constance, and so I did. The idea of being on a beautiful lake immersed in the nature was very appealing, and in fact Michael and I spent a very nice day together. We took a boat ride to the island of Reichenau. Here you can see a picture of me on the boat:
And here is Michael:
Unfortunately the weather was quite overcast. Still, the lake was very beautiful and had a particular charm, which I tried to capture for example in this picture:
This place is the paradise of birdwatchers. The singing of the birds is very loud in some places. Swans swim beautifully on the lake:
The island of Richenau is famous for three monasteries, built before the X century. The day we arrived was a particular holiday, and there were floral mosaics on the floor at the entrance of one of the sanctuaries. I particularly liked this:
Isn’t this amazing? It’s made only with flower petals.
Back from the island, we visited a little of Constance. Constance has a few really strange statues. One of them is the new symbol of the city, a gigantic statue that rotates and is situated on the border of the lake. It represents a courtesan, holding a king and a bishop on the palms of her hands.... Mm.. guess what it's referring to..
There are also some really weird statues in two fountains. These are strange mixtures of fish, rabbits and humans:
And here is a chimp staring at the butt of a huge naked young lady, who’s also surrounded by sleazily-looking old men with the body of pigs (I’ll spare you the pictures of them):
I’m not exactly sure why this artwork was in the streets of the town, but I must admit, it’s pretty impressive and provocative.. Before the day was over, Michael and I still had some time to relax on the river of the lake. The melancholic atmosphere given by the weather was particularly beautiful in the evening:
Our last adventure was entering the garden-island of Mainau after sunset (theoretically forbidden, but no one seemed to mind too much). Apparently this island is among the most renowned places to visit in all Europe, and Michael told me that during the day there are hundreds of tourists from all over the world going there. Given this description, I was expecting to see an impressive array of flowers. Instead, it was mostly like a beautiful park, with some beautiful flowers here and there. Unfortunately it was too dark to capture their gorgeous colors, but you can go to Wikipedia if you want to have an idea of what we have seen. This is it for this first post. In the next posts, I will talk about my visit to Cologne and of the food in Germany!


Katie Zeller said...

We did a Rhine cruise a few years ago. It was wonderful - and these pocs brought it all back.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Nice places! I'd love to visit Germany!



Simona Carini said...

Ich weiß nicht was soll es bedeuten
Daß ich so traurig bin;
Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten,
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
- Heinrich Heine, 1823

Sorry, Marta, but as a German major I had to quote the beginning of this beautiful poem. Too bad the weather was not cooperating, but it sounds like you had a great time nonetheless. Welcome back. I am looking forward to reading the other posts.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

You visited a lovely part of Germany, Next time you are here come here to Weimar - I'll show you around and we can really have fun in the kitchen.

PS. I got your package. Will have to contact you to see what I should do with the wonderful items you sent!

chemcookit said...

Katiez - I would love to do a cruise on the Rhine! It was such a wonderful place.

Rosa - thanks :) And yeah, it's so beautiful out there.

Simona - ehm, I need a translation there. :) For now we don't have internet at home :( - so I'll have to wait a little before I can post all the other stuff I wanted...

Meeta - thanks!!! That'd be great. I will let you know some information about how to make Pastiera. I'm hoping to make it this weekend, too!

Emigrante said...

Germany's towns are generally speaking really elegant.
My favourite one is Munich, not only fo the October fest (which is great!:-) ).
I was in Germany too last week, in Berlin. That's a different place indeed

Unknown said...

Martha,thanks for sharing ur intersting trip.very beautifully described and I enjoyed very much reading the article.

Nice to know about places.

chemcookit said...

Emigrante: how interesting that you were also in Germany last week! I'd love to see both Munich and Berlin.

Pearlsofeast: thank you so much for your comment! Reading it made me really happy.