"One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Germany on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878." Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad


I Spy

a pudgy hand,

two big, dark eyes
and a little mouth
why, it must be a little Penelope!
I see you!


Homo Erectus

It seems like over night our little girl has gone from crawler to walker!

Since we forgot our video camera cord back home in the U.S., I am unable to post a video of this amazing feat, but I had the Father snap away with his camera, which will have to do for now. Just scroll through the pictures really fast, and it's almost the same as a video.

(By the way, sticking out your tongue really helps you concentrate when you're learning new things like walking. If you haven't tried this before, you should really give it a shot.)

And she's off!

Oops! Look like she got a little overconfident that time. Let's give it another try...

"Hey guys! Did you see what I just did? That was awesome!"



This past weekend we took a day trip to the city of Speyer, which is situated on the Rhine River and only 25 km from Heidelberg. Speyer is a fairly quiet town these days, but during the Middle Ages it was a key player in the Holy Roman Empire.

Here is Maximilianstrasse, an unusually broad and straight road originally built with parades of Roman troops in mind. Most of the older buildings were destroyed in 1689 during the Thirty Year's War, so now it is lined with pastel Baroque buildings. No cars are allowed on this road, so it feels quite wide and open when you walk down it. The old gate to the city is at the end of it in the distance.

Turning around, the Kaiserdom (Imperial Cathedral) is at the other end of Maximilianstrasse.

The Dom is the reason most people come to visit Speyer. It is known as the world's best preserved Romanesque church, and it is HUGE!

The crazy thing is that construction was started in 1030, and it wasn't until 1858 that it was finished.

This side view of the Dom illustrates the patchwork-quilt of building styles and materials that were pieced together over the centuries.

One well known visitor to the Speyer Dom is French Abbot Bernard de Clairvaux. This is not Bernard below, but rather the other half of my family.

Here is a view of the other side of the Dom, where the choir and apse sections of the church are located. You can also get a glimpse of the huge octagonal cupola behind the two towers, under which sits the high altar.

The inside feels large and open, but there isn't much by way of stained glass or furnishings, except for these huge portraits protraying the events from the life of the Virgin Mary.

The Speyer Dom is also well known for its ancient Crypt. Here is a (terrible) picture of Penelope and I contemplating our baptism next to the oldest baptismal font north of the Alps.

It was cut from one stone.

In the other part of the crypt are the tombs of emperors from the 11th-14th centuries. This one is of Henry V, the last Salian Emperor.

In another part of the Dom is a room displaying several Christian relics. One of them is a part of St. Elizabeth of Hungary's shroud (celebrated saint of Marburg, where we were before Heidelberg). Another interesting one is this decorated bone from (?) "Seliger Paul Josef Nardin." No idea who that is, but must have been pretty special to get his bone on display.

After the Dom, we went to an exhibit at the Historisches Museum der Pfalz about the rise of witches within early modern Europe. After we were done browsing the "adult" part of the exhibit, we took Penelope to the "children's" part. Here is Penelope trying on her own witch costume. She looked at herself in the mirror for a few seconds, and then became scared and started wimpering.

In fact, she spent much of the time in the children's museum holding on to us and wimpering.

She did enjoy exploring the room with slanted floors and walls. She was quite perplexed.

And so ends our visit to the town of Speyer.


Fasnacht Day Parade

To continue the previous post, here are my favorite pictures from this past Tuesday's Fasnacht Day Parade. I know it seems like a ton of pictures, but the Father took a whopping 355 photos, and I thought I was doing well at narrowing it down to less than 30!

I don't know about you, but I have attended many a parade in my life, and all those parades were somewhere in the U.S. This parade, however, felt much different than any parade I've seen before. There were so many things in it that made it uniquely German and uniquely "Fasching."

The setting: Heidelberg Altstadt--beautiful historic buildings with the castle gardens in the background. (Definitely can't find that in the U.S.)

Penelope and I watching the parade (notice those blonde-wig-wearing male band members behind us)
Speaking of bands, every good parade has their share of marching bands. But the bands in this parade were a little different than the ones I'm used to. Not only did I not recognize any the of the songs they played, but they also had the strangest uniforms I've ever seen.

And just when you think this is a more typical marching band look, you spot the ginormous curly wigs.

This parade also had lots of huge flags. Most of them were flags from the local region.

There were also lots of 'floats." We couldn't figure out what group or organization they represented, but most of them were comprised of old guys with these funny hats and scarves.

Oh, and then there was the candy. Just like any good parade there was lots of lots of candy-throwing invovled. In fact, Penelope and I got pelted with the stuff on a few occasions. But some of the old men on the floats were terrible when it came to giving out candy. Just take a look at the scary guy on the left.

But this guy had the right idea. Just look at all that joy he's bringing to the world!

As soon as the candy was released, all the kids (and a fair number of adults) scrambled around on the ground to pick it up. Here's my favorite little guy, scavanging for any last remaining pieces.

But at this parade, it wasn't just candy being thrown out. This lady was handing out huge pretzels.
There was also a wagon giving out cups of hot soup, a float throwing out sprays of orchids wrapped in cellophane, and even a truck passing out cups of beer. Only in Germany, folks!

Not only was most of the music unfamiliar, but there were also several characters in the parade that seemed familiar to those around us, but utterly foreign to me. Like this group of "witches"...

and these creepy dudes...
There was one who I was very familiar with.
Yep, Obama came to the Heidelberg Fasnacht Day Parade!

There was a group dressed up like the different ingredients in a Doener (see my post from October if you don't know what I'm talking about). This lady was particularly good in her role as the onion.

And you've gotta love the cross-dressing angels.

This parade was also a bit more interactive with the crowds then I've seen before. For example, here, the angels decided to grab someone from the crowd and swing her around for a bit.

When the parade was over everyone swarmed onto the streets and mass chaos broke out.
And that was how we celebrated our first Fasching.