Monthly Archives: September 2006

“The domain name doesn’t exist.”

Ahem. It seems that my site was down today because I didn’t renew the registration. My e-mail app considered the reminders from my registrar as spam and apparently transferred them to my junk folder automatically. Only after I realized just now that the domain expired yesterday did I find the last reminder still in the junk folder.

I just renewed the domain and have to praise my registrar,, because showed up again less than five minutes after I paid the fee by credit card. Great service!

And I set up my e-mail app to not consider their messages as junk from now on. wink

Impressions from Tuscany

I’m back! The school trip went fine, without major problems. We didn’t lose any students, nobody got ill or injured, and we didn’t miss any trains. Even though I always was a little nervous in the back of my head (as you have to be as a teacher responsible for 23 students, even when they’re legally grown-ups) I had fun and enjoyed the trip myself. We landed in Cologne around five yesterday, but it was 8:30 pm when I finally made it home. One thing you don’t get to do much on such a trip as a teacher is sleep, so I had to catch up today before I return to school tomorrow.

Here are a few photos of some famous landmarks we visited on our trip:

I’m sure you know this one: It’s the leaning tower of Pisa (Wikipedia entry in English, auf Deutsch), la Torre Pendente, which we visited on Monday. It is not only leaning but also bent because it started to lean while still being built. It is moving with a rate of one millimetre per year even after having been stabilized a couple of years ago.

Pisa Torre Pendente

On Wednesday, we went to Firenze (Florence, Florenz) and saw the Cathedral (below), the Palazzo Vecchio, the Ponte Vecchio, and visited the Museum of the History of Science. (My favourite exhibit, by the way, was the replica of Lorenzo della Volpaia’s planetary clock.)

Firenze Duomo

On Thursday, we went to Lucca (English, deutsch), a beautiful city that has conserved a lot of its old charm within the original city walls. Here’s the former amphitheatre, which has been converted into houses.

Lucca Anfiteatro

And last but not least, here’s a photo of the Mediterranean Sea, taken at the beach near our hotel in Viareggio (English (deutsch).

Viareggio Mare

More pictures to come when/if I find the time…

Bella Italia

It’s the day before the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Tomorrow morning at 6:40 am, I’m boarding a plane that will take me to Pisa, Italy. I wonder if it’s more or less safe to fly on 9/11 than on another date…

By the way, this is not a trip for fun: In Germany it’s customary for students in their last year of the Gymnasium to take a study trip to another European country, and I’m going to chaperone them, together with another colleague who planned the trip. We’re flying to and from Pisa, but are going to stay in a smaller town on the coast, Viareggio, and are going to do some day trips from there by train. We are going to visit Florence (Firenze) and Lucca, and possibly other towns.

Thirteen years ago, I went on a study trip to Tuscany (Toscana) myself, and I’m looking very much forward to seeing some of the sights and cities again that I visited then. I’m sure that this trip is going to be somewhat stressful – after all, we have to look after a good two dozen students -, but I hope that it’s also going to be fun and exciting.

I’ll be back on Saturday afternoon.

Life in the countryside, part II

We try to go for a walk almost every evening and have started to explore our new surroundings in the past week or two. We used to do a little loop through the streets (“einmal um den Pudding”) when living in Bonn and Andernach, but the village we now live in is too small for that. Instead, we explore the country lanes and paths around the village. It’s always interesting, mostly thanks to two things: One, the landscape is very hilly, so you’re always able to see the next village over there, and isn’t that this other village we drove through before? Two, there’s a lot of wildlife around, and sometimes you’re lucky to see some of it.

On our walk last night we saw four deer – two pairs consisting of a mother and a fawn each. They were browsing near the forest in the evening sun, but fled when they saw us. We also saw lots of buzzards and maybe some falcons, too, but they were pretty common in the Eifel as well, so we’re used to seeing them.

The less romantic side of country life is that whenever you open a window or door just a crack, some of the lovely wildlife is eager to come into your house. So far, we’ve had lots of flies, spiders, a few wasps (there’s a nest under the roof), moths, daddy longlegs and grasshoppers – the latter live in our garden, there are literally dozens of them on each square metre of grass.

P.S.: A couple of days ago, a tiny bird flew into the teacher’s room at school through the open balcony door. I managed to catch it with a towel and brought it back outside. I didn’t know what kind of bird it was, so I looked it up later: It was a kinglet (Goldhähnchen), probably a goldcrest (Wintergoldhähnchen). Here are some more photos. Kinglets are the smallest native birds in Germany.

Life in the countryside

You know you really live in the countryside when you meet two tiny toads and a blindworm (Anguis fragilis, aka slowworm, Blindschleiche in German) a few hundred metres from home on your evening walk. Considering that I grew up in a village of less than 400, it’s surprising that it was the first blindworm I ever saw. (I have seen toads before, though. Really.)

Here’s a photo of the toad (Bufo bufo, Erdkröte in German) I found while working in the garden on Saturday. It was about the size of my palm.

toad in our garden

For the record, Saturday was the first day since our move that the weather was decent enough to work in the garden, mow the lawn and so on. Afterwards, we did what Americans do according to our cliché: We grilled burgers. It felt so stereotypical: On a Saturday you work in the garden, mow the lawn, have barbecue. We should also have had some beers to complete the picture. ;-)