Walktober 2018

I first heard of this meme last autumn via Eliza, but I was too late to take any photos to join in. So this year I was prepared!

Hosted by Robin at Breezes at Dawn, this is a challenge to share a walk you have taken in the beautiful month of October. Since October is probably my favourite month of the year, and this October has been particularly beautiful in many ways, I am happy to share a walk with you that we have been taking regularly over the past few weeks with our dog, Gina. Once the heat of summer subsided in September we started exploring new territory to find a longer walk nearby and found this lovely loop that takes us about an hour. Unless we dawdle. Or meet someone to stop and chat with!

We start off by walking down from our house to the cycle path, but turn off as soon as we can to avoid ‘traffic’ and take this track parallel to the path…

 

It opens out onto this spectacular view…

We pass this oak that fell in the September storm. It has been partially removed, but the huge canopy remains, slowly drying up. So sad to see such an old tree uprooted. Perhaps the dry summer had weakened it.

We walk across the meadow with berries in the hedgerow…

… and look back across the path. We always walk this way late afternoon and the golden sunshine highlights the colours of the trees…

To our left, a small pond lies behind these trees. The sun is lower now…

Then we cross the path and encounter this wild bee garden that is clearly tended with loving care…

The bee house is home to several colonies of bees and is buzzing, even so late in the day and late in the season.

The next part of the walk is shady, and we speed up a bit to keep warm, but I stop to admire the wild asters…

… and the autumn leaves strewn across the footpath (do you see Gina’s ears?!)…

… as well as this large Euonymus tree/shrub…

… and this lovely old apple tree groaning under the weight of a bumper crop…

Passing an old farmhouse, this tree next to the outbuilding catches my eye.  A lovely old lime tree (Linden) with two smaller ones behind it…

We also see a lot of Sumac, an invasive species here but such gorgeous colour in autumn. The German name ‘Essigbaum’ – vinegar tree – refers to the apparent use of its fruit for making vinegar… I have never heard of anyone making it here though.

A brief steep climb away from the village we have passed brings us out on to the top of the world. Well, not quite, but it feels like it! I stop for a breather. Winter wheat has been planted here and is already making the fields look a little green again.

Now we are back down in the woods – dark fir trees to our left, but still some colour from beech and oak.

Did I mention what a great year it has been for acorns? We have been crunching them underfoot since August and they are still dropping from the trees.

Finally I spot this fungus and consider it worth a shot, although it is quite dark in these woods.

Then we cross the little brook that runs alongside the cycle path and we are almost back to where we started. Just one more short uphill stint and we are home and ready for our dinner!

I hope you enjoyed our walk. Why not share a picture or two of one you have taken this month and put a link on Robin’s page by the 28th. Thank you to Robin for hosting!

Snow fleas? Pull the other one!

(If you don’t like tiny creepy crawlies, I suggest you go and look at a different post!)

On our walks in the woods recently we have once again noticed little black specks on the snow. Until now we thought it must be dirt from the machinery used for forestry or from old tractors driving through the woods, but this year it was extreme and so we took a closer look…

Here we saw that where tracks are (from tractor tyres, deer, our footprints, skis etc) there is more of this ‘dirt’. Could it be soot? Is our air so bad? Here, in the middle of nowhere, with no industry for miles…

When we got home my Man of Many Talents googled for ages, trying to find something about it, and when he showed me what he had found I was AMAZED! He went back to get more photos so we could check the facts!

Look…

Now I’m going to get even closer…

They are SNOW FLEAS! Now, maybe we are the only people in the world who have never heard of snow fleas before, so I hope I am not showing my ignorance, but aren’t they simply incredible? Here are several hundred or even thousands of them gathering in the hollows of tracks.

Now a little information that we found in German, summarized:

Snow fleas come out of the ground in February/March when the temperature is just above freezing. They are often thought to be soot, as they cover the snow quite thickly in places. But these ‘specks of dirt’ are all the same size (around 1 millimetre long). They can crawl and jump (about 10cm high). However, they aren’t actually fleas, but springtails, so Wikipedia says they are technically not insects.

They emerge at temperatures of about -3°C, and live on fungi, pollen or algae which provide them with a special protein that functions as a kind of antifreeze. They prefer damp forests with evergreens. It is a real migration at this time of year, as they use the snow to move more easily and to search for food and for new ground where they can increase their population.

For scientific purposes my Man of Many Talents let some crawl across his hand, and we think they are actually smaller than 1 millimetre…

So, please let me know if you have ever encountered these fascinating little creatures and any extra information would be very welcome!

😀

Interesting links:

German:

http://www.flora-x.de/schneefloh%20ceratophysella.html

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schneefloh

English:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Springtail

https://www.bioethics.ac.uk/news/-snow-flea-antifreeze-protein–could-help-improve-organ-preservation.php

 

A Visit to the Christmas Markets

I mentioned Christmas markets in some comments last week and several people asked me to share some photos. I do find it hard to take photos that capture the atmosphere, but here are a few snapshots.

All over Germany the Christmas markets open throughout Advent attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world. Some are spectacular, nestled into candlelit hillsides or in the parks of great houses and castles. Some are world-famous, like Nuremburg with the angel (Christkind) opening it in an age-old ceremony. Others are simpler, offering just the traditional well-known specialities and crafts. Whichever type you visit, you will be caught up by the magic of a Christmas tradition going back centuries. Surrounded by the soft babble and chatter of other visitors, the smell of fried food and cinnamon sweets, the glitter of decorations for sale, and the cheerful faces around you, it is hard not to smile or be a little frivolous, splashing out on an extravagant candle, a glass of punch, a bag of roasted almonds or a huge jam-filled steamed dumpling covered in vanilla sauce!

I visited two markets this year – first of all Ingolstadt, which is about an hour’s drive north of Munich.

With the New Castle in the background, a sprinkling of snow, and good company, the market has all you can wish for… the traditional wooden decorations and crib figures, food and drink, jewellery, warm socks, cookie cutters, candles, more food, more drink, more decorations ….!

This man has been selling his wares on this market here for at least the past 25 years.

A smaller area nearby offered a quieter repose for another glass of punch (non-alcoholic, I assure you!) and a chat with my friends. But it was very cold that day, with a north wind.

Some of the stall-holders looked frozen to the bone, despite being well wrapped up…

On another day last week I took myself off to Regensburg, a beautiful city on the Danube, and not far from the Bavarian Forest. I always walk over to the old stone bridge if I visit, and the River Danube looked particlularly cold (but blue!) on this occasion…

Despite some bright sunshine it was a chilly day again, but the markets are so enticing and I did all my Christmas shopping there. Take a stroll with me around the markets in Regensburg and see the traditional goods they offer. (Click on any image for a slideshow…)

 

The markets take on a different atmosphere at night, which I have never managed to capture in photos as there are always SO many people and it is hard to move! The thing I love about them most of all is the cheer and friendliness which is definitely lacking in the shopping centres and supermarkets at this time of year. And the food of course. This year I had my favourite warm snack – potato noodles with sauerkraut – as well as some roasted chestnuts, roasted almonds and pumpkin seeds and some delicious non-alcoholic fruit punch. It was nice to go into a cafe afterwards to warm up properly though! 😉

What is your favourite tradition in the run-up to Christmas?