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Staying Busy, As Much as I can

September 6 - 9
written September 8-10

Dear Friends and Families,

In the last diary, I explained that I was trying to keep Marianne informed about happenings back home in August while she was enjoying California.  This diary is more of the same, except we have moved on to September.  Her visit away is seeming longer and longer!

Mostly, my activity consists of cleaning the house and arranging the yard.  Now that the house is for sale and could be "shown" at any time, it needs constant tidying.  It's not hard work, just a new set of responsibilities.  Eventually, however, everything is clean and then what can I do?  Most things around home will just make things messier, so I resolved to get out of the house!

d130906_00_TourMap.jpgOn Friday the 6th, I was struggling with finding an excuse to go out for a drive.  The weather was nice, I had a Porsche convertible in the garage, and I needed inspiration.  I went to Google Earth and started looking in our area for museums and attractions, the vast majority of which we had been to many times before.  Finally, I saw the German Steam Locomotive Museum, up in Neuenmarkt, barely an hour away.  Perfect, a museum topic only guys would like and that's all we have right now.

d130906_01_TrainTown.jpgThe drive up was very pleasant, top-down on side roads and top-up on the autobahn (too noisy).  The museum parking lot was small, but plenty of space for the two or three visitors' cars.  The sign at the entrance to the museum property showed a whole town's worth of train memorabilia, but I want to focus on the heavy machinery: steam locomotives.

The steam engines are housed in an old roundhouse and are very professionally presented, with explanatory material in German, English, and Czech; the last is an indication of just how close we are to the border.  Inside, the dozen or so engines covered the heyday of the steam locomotive, up through the the WWII years and a bit beyond.  Once again, I got carried away with taking pictures, but that's just what I do.
Engines ran from the little roundhouse switching engine up through massive machines from the 1940's and early 1950s.
The technical details were presented, something the engineer in me particularly liked, from the "smoke box" to the elaborate gears, valves, and levers.
The engineer's cabins looked as good as new and one even had everything explained.   I'll bet I could run one of these things!  One passenger car was included, a special carriage that had carried high-ranking government officials from the 20s up through the early days of the post-war German Republic: Kaiser officers, ministers, one Fuerer, British generals, and the new Republic's prime ministers.  One car, lots of history.

On my way out of the Dampflokomotiv Museum, I picked up a pair of brochures from museums nearby in Kulmbach: a bakery museum and a brewery museum.  Sounded fun and the twenty-minute drive over was exceptionally pleasant, all top-down on side roads with perfect Boxster curves and brilliant sun, probably the last of the summer.

d130906_20_BreadBeer.jpgThe two museums share a part of an old factory area and were very nicely done, not too big and filled with professional, informative displays.  My first tour covered bread history, from Egypt to modern Germany, and bread making, from milling of the grain to the final product.  We will miss the bread of Germany, especially our local Bavarian types, when we return to California.  America just doesn't have the variety of flavorful breads that we have come to take for granted over here.
I was greeted by a sign that extolled the need to get on with making good bread.  Then I was reminded of the most common types of Bavarian bread, which is sometimes made in the museum's own kitchen, but not today.  The 1918 map had been prepared by the US Department of Agriculture to show where the American food aid was most needed at the time, with the famine area in black, covering a large part of Europe.

d130906_40_sign.jpgOK, bread is important in Bavaria, but beer is indispensable.  Kulmbach has been a brewing center for hundreds of years and the brewery museum covered that history, both the brewing history and the proper drinking history and culture one finds locally. Kulmbach's breweries were among the largest in Germany due to the combination of local grain fields, abundant water, and relatively good transportation routes.

Posters and pictures of the old days were on display.  I couldn't help but notice that all the guys wore the same kind of hats, back in the day.  Nowadays, no one wears hats.  Why?
German beer, while limited to just four ingredients, comes in a variety of colors and tastes. Each type must be served in its proper glass or stein.  Beer is serious around here, except perhaps for some recent advertisements.
Speaking of advertisements, this poster proclaims that water just isn't served.  At the end of my tour, I did get a small sample of beer and bread from the museum's own brewers and bakers.  Nice touch.
For my drive back from Kulmbach, I instructed the navigator to avoid the autobahns, and that's what Gertrude did.  For an hour-and-a-half, I shared the road mostly with farm tractors and motorcycles enjoying their last good ride of the summer.  Me too.

d130907_01_dawn.jpgd130907_02_Baloon.jpgThe next day started with our normal ritual: breakfast at Burkhard's Bakery for a Saturday-only special of a Winschgauer roll and butter.  I hadn't seen this recipe in the museum on Friday, but I'm sure it is one of the oldest formulas around.  It is certainly the chewiest bread we ever have!  On the way back, I heard, and then saw, a hot-air balloon just over our neighborhood palace.  Nice day for a flight.

After breakfast, I made the rounds in the backyard.  Apples and plums and pears are starting to ripen although it looks like we will have to share our crop with the normal assortment of bees, bugs, and mold.  That's the risk of our organic gardening.
Forsythia and zucchinis -- grow like weeds
Organic fruit trees, with bugs, bees, and mold.
Butterfly bush with humming-bug and butterfly
My afternoon goal was to see what was happening at the Ebrach "Kirchweih", an annual celebration of the founding of the local church.  These festivals occur in several local villages every weekend in summer, but Ebrach has one of the most historic churches so I hoped their celebration would be special.

It was and it wasn't.  On this Saturday afternoon, the attraction was centered around the erection of the Kirchweihbaum, the beanpole trees that sprout in Bavarian villages every year.  For almost two hours I watched as the 30 meter (100 foot) tree went from horizontal to vertical, thanks to the efforts of the young men of town, many of whom were fueled by local beer.  I always wonder about the wisdom of lifting heavy logs  overhead while drinking, but the Ebrach crew seemed to be guided by sober and serious leaders.  In fact, injury or even death are not unknown in this process.  Again, too many pictures, but for those hours it is all I had to do!
Ebrach church, famous but not the attraction today.
Crew and tools waiting.
The big parade from the forest into town.
Properly fueled, leaders, fans, and crew get a good start.
An hour or more later, the heavy lifting is almost done.
Wedged tightly in the deep hole, even the boss was happy.  Note the high-tech plumb.
I decided to leave once the Kirchweihbaum was solidly vertical.  I had a phone date with Marianne that I didn't want to miss.

As I write this, it is a rainy morning.  I am not looking forward to the return of gray skies, but this is Germany after all.  Maybe that's why I took so many pictures in yesterday's sun.  Today will be diaries, German taxes, Sunday news programs, and assorted move preparation.

Speaking of the move:  No adequate offer for the house here yet, but a couple of prospects we hope will pan out this coming week.  Keep your fingers crossed, because I can only keep up this house staging for so long.  Mostly, however, we just want to get on with our lives.  Meanwhile, Marianne seems to have found a nice house in Fresno, but we can't move forward there without getting our Bavarian house under contract.  Hopefully it will all work out.


Now, what will this new week bring?


John and, in absentia, Marianne


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