Stuttgart’s Green Sides-Part 1

Renewed contact with relatives in Stuttgart in recent years has been enriching not only on a personal level, but has enabled me to combine family visits with those of natural enclaves. A few sites in particular have stolen my heart. Like a siren, they beckon me to return and like Odysseus, I am unable to resist their call. This past fall I sought them out again, following my first acquaintance the previous year.

Stuttgart’s Schlossgarten (Palace Garden) consists of three contiguous and connected parts. The Upper Schlossgarten nearest the center of the city has at its core the artificial reservoir Eckensee and is fringed by eye-catching edifices and monuments, most notably the New Palace, former residence of the kings of Württemberg. A bridge across the busy Schillerstraße near the Main Train Station leads north to the Middle Schlossgarten which merges with the Lower Schlossgarten. These two occupy a wider footprint and feel more removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. From one end of the Schlossgarten nearest downtown to the opposite end that abuts the Neckar River in Bad Cannstatt, the distance approximates two to three miles, depending on the directness of one’s chosen route. I like to meander, but still covered it in about two hours.

One corner of the Eckensee, with adjacent Königsbau on the right, and victory column on the left

Fountain of Fate (Schicksalsbrunnen) at the Upper Palace Garden

Mute Swan, not bothered by human activity

…nor are these sleeping Mallards near its edge


Black-headed Gull, unfazed by humans

…as is the squirrel













Urban natural oases might not offer the pristineness and solitude of more remote destinations, but they are welcome refuges and serve as reminders of nature’s adaptability and tendency to thrive when afforded the slightest opportunity. Surrounded by human habitations and incessant traffic, occupied by manicured lawns and choreographed trees, bushes, and flowers, the verdant lung of Baden-Württemberg’s capital nonetheless offers a home for many wild critters, though how wild they remain through constant contact with and frequent handouts by humans remains debatable.

Pond in the Middle Palace Garden

Vast meadow in the Lower Palace Garden

Autumn splendor

…with inviting trails

The Common Moorhen was very common

…as was the Eurasian Coot







Egyptian Geese, transplants from North Africa

The handsome Graylag Goose

The even more attractive Gray Heron

Despite a near-constant current of walkers, runners, and bikers, I encountered everywhere my favorite feathered friends whose presence perfected this picturesque panorama. As my visit to Stuttgart happened late in the year, autumn’s brush had dipped deeply into pots of gold and amber and burgundy, and had applied its strokes liberally to the local flora. On a day when the sun succeeded in counteracting the cloud cover that clung to the skies during the remainder of the week, those colors carried summer’s residual heat and warmed my heart and soul.

Click here for the German version/klicken Sie bitte hier für die deutsche Version:

A Much Celebrated Man

Not far from my childhood home in Germany’s region of Rhine Hesse, an epochal encounter sounded the final death knell of the Dark Ages: Martin Luther’s courageous, if foolhardy appearance before Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, in April 1521, at what was called the Diet of Worms. It had nothing to do with helminths, or their nourishment, but a diet referred to an assembly of all representatives of the Empire in what was then the Imperial Free City of Worms.

Luther, the Augustinian monk, who lived from 1483 until 1546, had been a thorn in the side of the Catholic Church since he affixed his 95 Theses to the church door of his diocese in Wittenberg in 1517, in which he questioned some of the basic tenets of the church, most famously indulgences. He was invited to Worms to recant his sacrilegious ideas. After he declared that he would do so only if proven wrong by the Bible, his benefactor, Prince Frederick III of Saxony, who had previously asked for a guarantee that Luther would be allowed to leave a free man, smuggled him out of town in disguise, as he feared for Luther’s life. The Edict of Worms from May 1521 proved him right, as it officially declared Luther a heretic and offered a bounty for his capture.

While Pope Leo X added insult to injury by excommunicating him, Martin Luther, secreted away at the Wartburg, did not waste any time and translated the New Testament from Ancient Greek into contemporary German in only ten weeks, in order to enable his fellow countrymen and -women to understand God’s word directly, without the interpretation of a cleric. Coincidentally, the recent introduction of moveable type by fellow German Johannes Gutenberg enabled the printing and widespread distribution of the bible, and resulted in the upheaval of the medieval world order: Reformation and the establishment of the Protestant Church ensued in the following years, leading to more turmoil and culminating in the devastating 30 Years’ War from 1618 to 1648.

Worms has long prided itself of the reformer. The famous Luther Monument erected in 1868 honors him and his preceding and fellow reformers, and I passed it often during my high school days in that city. I vaguely remember the festivities on occasion of the 500th anniversary of his birth in 1983. Last year, the city joined a number of German communities in commemorating 1517, the seminal year of the 95 Theses. It culminated in nationwide special proceedings on October 31, Reformation Day. As my stay in Germany started in the middle of November, I missed all celebrations, but I retraced some of Luther’s steps during his ten day sojourn in Worms.

As tradition has it, Luther arrived in the city through St. Martin’s Gate. The original was destroyed, but has been replaced. Modern buildings have supplanted the inn in which he spent what must have been restless nights. The site of the erstwhile episcopal palace in the shadow of the Romanesque Cathedral where Luther defied church leaders and Emperor alike by refusing to renounce his revolutionary concepts is now occupied by the beautiful park of the Museum Heylshof.

St. Martin’s Gate

Former site of the episcopal palace next to Cathedral of St. Peter

Commemorating the epochal encounter

Luther’s big shoes, a new bronze sculpture





One of the earliest, still surviving structures where sermons in Luther’s spirit were preached is St. Magnus Church. I did not make time to re-visit the former St. Andrew’s Collegiate Church which houses the local history museum and a copy of a Luther bible with his handwritten annotations. One obligatory stop during each trip to Worms is the 18th century Trinity Church at the central market place, as my paternal grandparents were joined in matrimony there. Following its near-destruction during World War II, the exterior walls were preserved, whereas the formerly Baroque interior was re-designed in a modern style. A mosaic depicting Martin Luther before Emperor Charles in 1521 graces the wall behind the organ.

St. Magnus Church

Trinity Church and Cathedral


New interior of Trinity Church

Wall mosaic









After almost an entire year of Luther festivities, a certain degree of Luther fatigue seemed to have descended upon Worms and the country, but I suspect they will recover, and conceive of another anniversary to commemorate the reformer in grand style. 2021 is not far off.

Click here for the German version/klicken Sie bitte hier für die deutsche Version:


While in Berlin last fall, I visited Wannsee, the town and lake on the western outskirts of the capital. The ditty, “Pack die Badehose ein, nimm dein kleines Schwesterlein, und dann nischt wie raus nach Wannsee” (“pack your bathing trunk, take your little sister, and let’s hurry to lake Wannsee”), a veritable earworm from 1951 was playing in my mind, and even though I had not heard it in decades, it might have had something to do with my decision. What was not at my mind’s forefront was the “Wannsee Conference”, the antithesis to this light, cheerful tune. The name jumped out at me when I studied the local town map upon my arrival at the S-Bahn (suburban train) station, and set the memory wheels in motion.

On an unseasonably mild early December day I made my way through the well-groomed streets of what has always been a wealthy resort town. When I reached the location of this infamous gathering I shivered, despite the warm sunshine. On January 20, 1942, fifteen high-ranking officials of Hitler’s administration convened here to make the eradication of all European Jews official policy. In this beautiful villa, built in 1915 by industrialist Ernst Marlier, and repurposed by the SS into a conference center and guest house between 1941 and 1945, these men resolved to kill millions of innocent people because of their ethnicity and religion – while they wined and dined in an opulent dining room with a view of the idyllic garden and lake.

I toured the exhibit of what became the “House of the Wannsee Conference Memorial and Educational Site” in 1992. I strolled through the sun-drenched grounds resounding with lovely birdsong. Directly across the lake from the property stretched the sandy beach of “Strandbad Wannsee” (public bathing beach Wannsee), the destination of the above-mentioned melody which might have brought me here – and also one of the sites of segregation in the early years of Hitler’s regime, when Jews were “merely” banned from public places, when Germany’s “philosophers” might have still prevented the worsening madness that was to engulf Europe and the world.

I kept stumbling over the same question: How could something like this ever happen in Germany – “Land der Dichter und Denker” (“nation of poets and philosophers”)? Because it was also the “Land der Richter und Henker” (“nation of judges and henchmen”). A German rhyme. How poetic. How absurd.

While the past can’t be altered or whitewashed, try as we might, I wonder what it takes to prevent new demagogues anywhere from misleading people, from spreading new lies, from painting new enemy images. What does it take for us to focus on our common humanity, instead of dehumanizing, suppressing, or even killing certain groups, be it for political, for religious, or for ethnic reasons?

Click here for the German version/klicken Sie bitte hier für die deutsche Version:


Who is silly enough to decide on a Tuesday in early December to journey to Berlin by train the following day, spend two nights in a hotel, and three days to sightsee? And to use a booklet from 1973 as one’s guide? At least it was the 8th improved version from 1983!

My youthful optimism and burning desire to re-visit Germany’s capital which I only knew from an organized tour some thirty-odd years ago made me choose this course of action. During all my previous sojourns in Europe, I did not have or make the time to plan such a trip, and, lacking the foresight again during this last one, I resorted to this whirlwind excursion. As I knew full-well before I left, three days (two and a half, to be exact) were not nearly enough, but only afforded a brief glimpse into a metropolis with a convoluted history. I am glad I had the opportunity to get this glimpse, but when a friend asked me afterward about my impressions, I responded that they were mixed. I am still in the process of digesting them.

I arrived at Berlin’s Main Train Station. The Reichstag Building can be seen behind the Christmas wreath.

Crossing the Spree River, looking east toward the Fernsehturm (TV tower) on Alexanderplatz

Reichstag building, former home of the equivalent of the German parliament

The new dome of the Reichstag (completed in 1999). The original dome burned down in the fire of 1933 which was used by Hitler as a pretext to suspend the Weimar Constitution.

Berlin became the capital of Germany in 1871, after Iron Chancellor Bismarck’s multi-pronged machinations united different German regions and interests. Immense growth at the turn of the 19th century was followed by intense bombardment in World War II, and the division of the city into four allied sectors after Germany’s capitulation. This separation culminated in the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, and the subsequent existence of two parallel universes that lasted for 27 years, until the Wall was torn down in 1989, Germany reunited, and Berlin resumed its original role as capital of a unified Germany. As I moved across the Atlantic from Europe in the mid-1990s, I followed subsequent events from a distance only, but was curious to see the changes since reunification for myself.

Brandenburg Gate

Quadriga atop Brandenburg Gate

I remembered vividly the concrete, steel, and barbed wire from my visit in the early 1980s that separated the city into two, and West Berlin from the surrounding German Democratic Republic, a bizarre reminder of a bizarre situation. If the Brandenburg Gate was previously the center of the divided city, today it embodies the new Berlin. This became evident when I was able to simply walk up to it, and through all of its five arches. Even though remnants of the Wall are scattered along streets and thoroughfares, and former checkpoints and museums continue to recall this chapter of German history, I had the impression that this is something the country has, largely, put behind.

What Germany has, and probably should not, put behind is its infamous role during WW I and WW II, especially its racist, elitist views that led to genocide and a bottomless pit of pain and death. While it is impossible to ever right the wrongs committed, Germany has tried to take responsibility for its past actions. Monuments have been erected to commemorate the murder of Jews, Sinti and Roma as well as homosexuals during the Third Reich. Even though it took three generations to reach this juncture, persistent undercurrents in German society continue to laud Hitler’s “accomplishments” and espouse his evil racial views. I have always had trouble with my German heritage, on account of my birth country’s horrendous history: two catastrophic wars which led to the demise of at least 16 million in the first, 60 million in the second. Unlike a former chancellor, I can’t lighten my conscience by claiming “the mercy of late birth”.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Memorial to the Murdered Homosexuals

I grapple with the tension of how this nation can take responsibility for its past, and continue to celebrate its achievements, institutions, and elites, without belittling other states and claiming, once again, supremacy. Germany – and Berlin  still struggle to find answers to yesterday’s troublesome questions, while trying to heal internal divisions, and solve today’s challenges.

Neue Wache (New Guardhouse) on boulevard “Unter den Linden”, commemorates victims of war and dictatorship

Click here for the German version/klicken Sie bitte hier für die deutsche Version:

The Year in Pictures/Das Jahr in Bildern

 As I did for my 2016 review, I am again reminding myself of the motto expressed on a historic clock in downtown Colorado Springs: Dum Vivimus Vivamus. While we live, let us live.

     The greater my disenchantment with political, religious, and familial strife, the more I seek refuge in nature, camera in tow. Next to books, it is the only place where I can live in the moment, and be utterly happy. The more time I spend outside, the more photos I take of birds and plants. I am sharing some that have not found a home in my previous posts. Unless otherwise noted, all originated in Colorado. 

     I hope 2017 was a good year for you – and that 2018 will be even better.


     Wie auch im Jahresrückblick 2016, erinnere ich mich wiederum an das Motto einer historischen Uhr im Zentrum von Colorado Springs: Dum Vivimus Vivamus. Während wir leben, laßt uns leben.

     Je größer meine Verdrossenheit über Politik, Religion, und Familienangelegenheiten, desto mehr suche ich Zuflucht in der Natur, mit meiner Kamera als Begleiterin. Neben Büchern ist sie der einzige Ort, wo ich im Hier und Jetzt leben, und mich völlig glücklich fühlen kann. Je mehr Zeit ich draußen verbringe, desto mehr Bilder mache ich von Vögeln und Pflanzen. Hier teile ich einige, die in meinen vorherigen Blogbeiträge noch kein Zuhause gefunden haben. Wenn nicht anders erwähnt, stammen alle aus Colorado. 

     Ich hoffe, 2017 war ein gutes Jahr für Dich, und 2018 wird noch besser.


American Kestrel/Buntfalke (Falco sparverius)

Russian Olive/Schmalblättrige Ölweide (Eleagnus angustifolia), invasive species, but the berries are much beloved by the birds/invasive Art, deren Beeren allerdings von den Vögeln geliebt werden


House finch/Hausgimpel (Carpodacus mexicanus)

Last year’s sunflowers, with Pikes Peak in the background/Sonnenblumen des letzten Sommers, mit Pikes Peak im Hintergrund


Spotted Towhee/Fleckengrundammer (Pipilo maculatus)

Cottonwood tree in the light of the setting sun/Pappel im Licht des Sonnenuntergangs


American Avocet/Amerikanischer Säbelschnäbler (Recurvirostra americana)

Pasqueflower/Echte Küchenschelle (Pulsatilla patens), one of Colorado’s earliest spring flowers/eine der ersten Frühlingsblumen Colorados


Osprey/Fischadler (Pandion haliaetus)

Crabapple/Holzapfel (Malus sp.)


Great-tailed Grackle/Dohlengrackel (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Prairie Spiderwort/Dreimasterblume (Tradescantia occidentalis)


Flammulated Owl/Ponderosa-Zwergohreule (Otus flammeolus), handled by Colorado College Professor Brian Linkhart who has been studying this species for decades/wird von Professor Brian Linkhart des Colorado College gehalten, der diese Art seit Jahrzehnten studiert

Green Gentian (Monument Plant, Elkweed)/Grüner Enzian (Frasera speciosa)


Northern Red-shafted Flicker/Kupferspecht (Colaptes auratus cafer), male in the back, female in the front/Männchen hinten, Weibchen vorne

Colorado’s State Flower, Colorado Blue Columbine/Kleinblütige Akelei (Aquilegia caerulea)


Great Blue Heron/Amerikanischer Graureiher (Ardea herodias)

Sunflower/Sonnenblume (Helianthus sp.)


Western Bluebird/Blaukehl-Hüttensänger (Sialia mexicana)

Fall landscape with signature aspen trees/Herbstlandschaft mit unverkennbaren Zitterpappeln


Cedar Waxwing/Zedernseidenschwanz (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Cottonwood tree in late fall foliage/Pappel in späten Herbstfarben


Hooded Crow/Nebelkrähe (Corvus corone cornix), Berlin, Germany

Christmas Rose/Christrose (Helleborus niger), Germany

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

I don’t consider myself a practicing Christian, yet continue to practice – and relish – Christmas, at least certain aspects. In a globalizing and homogenizing world, traditions have the power to ground and to offer a sense of belonging.

My recent journey to Europe coincided with the holiday season and re-exposed me to some of these cherished traditions. Opening one door of my advent calendar daily, from December 1 through the 24th, to discover a different piece of chocolate, used to be my favorite childhood activity, other than opening presents on Christmas Eve. It still is, even when I am content to find something other than candy behind each door.

I experienced two advent Sundays in Germany, and with them, the festive lighting of the first two candles of the advent wreath. For the illumination of the 3rd and 4th, I will be back in Colorado.

Towns and homes I visited were bedecked with seasonal decorations, with each family adding its own touches, thereby beautifying human habitations and gladdening the senses.

Christmas markets, famous beyond Germany’s borders, were in plain evidence. While I did not seek them out, I happened across them wherever I went. Berlin seemed to showcase one on each public plaza. As I am no lover of large crowds, I did not linger long after absorbing the atmosphere. What appeared to be a serious case of associated shopping frenzy acted as additional deterrent.

The new normal, pervasive police presence, in response to last year’s attack at Berlin’s Breitscheidplatz

Mainzelmännchen in the pyramid equals Mainz

     November and December weather tends to consist of cool, covered, or rainy skies in many regions of Germany, but I was surprised by a series of snowfalls, albeit short ones. A walk through the wintry woods with my father created one of my favorite memories for this trip. ❤ 

While the ways to interpret the meaning of Christmas are as manifold as ice crystals, my fervent hope against hope continues to be that, one day, we might all embrace one of its central tenets: Peace on Earth.

Click here for the German version/klicken Sie bitte hier für die deutsche Version:

Late Autumn in Germany

When in Germany for a late fall visit, I vacillated between simple admiration of the floral abundance, and concern about the effects of climate change. Having lived away from Europe for decades, I am ignorant of blooming cycles of most plants, but the quantity and variety of still-blossoming flowers at the end of November seemed unusual. Next to the expected or absent fall foliage, multiple blossoms I associate with summer continued to shimmer. Despite the problematic implications I could not help but smile at the poly-petaled plethora, and revel in its inherent beauty.

While I struggle with humankind’s destructive effects on our exceptional and exquisite Earth, I marvel at its vitality and wonderful resilience – in spite of us. May we fail in our best attempts to destroy the only known planet that affords us life.

Click here for the German version/klicken Sie bitte hier für die deutsche Version: