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  See more from: London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Germany.

We started our visit to Germany by spending a day in Tübingen, a university town where one out of three people living there are students.


A popular and traditional recreational pursuit for Tübingen students is punting along the Nekar River. Ruben, son of our good friend from Mutterstadt, is a student there, and signed out the punt that is owned by his fraternity, and took us for a delightful trip down the Nekar.

Punts are propelled by long poles which are used both for propulsion, and also as a sort of rudder. It is a skilled task to direct a punt in a straight line.

Shortly after this last picture was taken, a powerful thunderstorm struck. We took shelter under some trees that overhung the river, and waited it out. The whole trip was a lovely experience, with God and Ruben working together to make it perfect.

Punting requires a river that is uniformly shallow, with a current that is not too strong. So this is a pursuit that is practiced only in Tubingen in all of Germany...but is hugely popular in Tubingen. Various student groups, fraternities and clubs will purchase punts, and have races against each other from time to time. Only one student can pole; the others can paddle with their hands.


There are small plaques mounted all over German indicating that "Hier war Goethe" (Goethe was here). They are referring not to Debbie or me, but to the other Goethe.

I regretted that it was only after leaving Tübingen that I learned that there was a cafe there that had a sign saying that "Goethe ate here." The building next door responded to this by posting a sign that said, "Goethe threw up here."


I quite enjoyed this fountain in Tübingen, where the local pigeons have learned that they can get drinks from the fountain in the square.


Tübingen Castle, on the highest point in the city, was once home to the local aristocracy, but now houses faculty offices for the university.


The bar attached to our hotel in Tubingen was so proud of their outstanding beef burgers that they said thaty tasted just like they had been "freshly squeezed through the wolf!"

I presume that this is a translation of an idiom or proverb in German that sounds just German. But for myself, rather than have a wolf-poop burger, I went with the pasta special.


From Tübingen, we went to Weil der Stadt to visit with my niece and her family. She took us to see Hohenzollern Castle, hereditary home of the Prussian Kings.


I felt I would have been unsurprised to see Rapunzel letting her hair down from one of the towers.


Surrounding the castle were bronze, larger-than-life statues of every Prussian king/ruler, going back to the 1500s.


Sarah and her three boys and we travelled up to the mountain top by vehicle, then walked down. The views of the surrounding countryside were striking.


This is the view that Sarah and her family have every morning from their patio.


Deb and I got a lot of enjoyment out of watching children in playgrounds. German liability law is obviously different from Canadian, since playgrounds were filled with all sorts of things you could injur yourself on, like swings, climbing walls, rope courses, slides, merry go rounds (the kind you ride until you get dizzy and then fall off into the sand) and flying foxes...just the sorts of things that have disappeared from Canadian playgrounds.

Canadian playgrounds are constructed from colorful plastic, but are empty of children...because they just aren't any FUN. You can't hurt yourself in a Canadian playground, but it doesn't matter because no kid wants to be there anyway.

I find it interesting that the Edmonton city fathers are agressively extending the time periods that apply to lowered speeds near playgrounds... but I never see any kids playing in them. These speed laws would have made terrific sense back in 1965, when kids still played outside.

We blame video games for kids staying indoors...but I think equal blame must be apportioned to helicopter moms who have sucked the very life away from outdoor playgrounds by eliminating every remote vestige of risk.

Above my head in this photo are the feet of one of my grand-newphews. Asuuming he doesn't die on a German playground, he will probably grow up better equipped to take risks (and to cope with the consequences when those risks go south) than his Canadian cousins.


Particularly after the visit to Hohenzollern, where statues of centuries worth of Prussian kings surrounded us, it was refreshing to get to Weil der Stadt and see a statue of a scientist. Johannes Kepler, who was born in Weil der Stadt, worked out the orbits of all the planets back in 1600 AD.

Copernicus had the beginnings of a good idea. He suggested that the earth circled the sun, rather than the other way about...but he held on to the medieval notion that the orbit had to be a perfect circle.

It was Kepler who worked out the laws of planetary motion that govern the motions of heavenly bodies, and that the planetary orbits were actually ellipses.


The other claim to fame that Weil der Stadt has is that in 1940, a German artist named Joseph Karl Huber made a stained glass window for the Catholic church there, portraying Jesus resisting Satan's temptation in the wilderness...and had Satan look remarkably like Adolph Hitler. A gutsy move for a German artist in 1940.


A curious thing we saw in Weil der Stadt, and nowhere else on our travels, was a gasoline station with a logo of a six-legged, fire breathing dog. Curious indeed!


Old Weil der Stadt was a walled city. Here is a horse trough, and a guard tower, along the outside wall.


Weil der Stadt has one fountain that is the oddest one I have ever seen...with characters from the carnival in Weil der Stadt. So these include a bear, a couple of gypsies, a rogue, a ballerina, and a witch. This fountain was just completed in year 2004.


From Weil der Stadt we proceeded to Mutterstadt, home of our friend Johanna, whom we trained - 30 years ago, when she was an exhange student in Edmonton- to do, and to teach others to do, inductive Bible study.


Johanna drove us to see the Worms Cathedral. (And try not to say an English "Worms" but rather a German Worms, where the "W" has a "V" sound and the "o" is like the o in "row".)

I was struck by this soldier at the foot of the cross. Today, of course, we know enough of first century Roman culture to make a Roman soldier look like a Roman. In this Medieval cathedral, however, they made the soldier look like a Medieval knight.


But the really striking thing about Worms for me is not the cathedral, but rather that this is the place where Martin Luther had his crucial showdown with the Catholic authorities.

When they demanded that he recant, Luther said:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.

Go Luther!!

This statue of Luther, and other Reformation characters, in Worms is built to remind you of a walled fortress...and indeed to call to mind Luther's hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God".


Worms is also home to Europe's oldest Jewish cemetery. The oldest still-legible tombstone dates from 1058 AD.


It is insufficiently appreciated the extent to which German Jews have been Star Trek fans. Indeed, it appears that Vulcans first came to Worms a century or more ago.


People leave stones on the markers of particularly revered rabbis to make it more likely their prayers will be heard. They even write prayers on slips of paper they leave behind. I felt a bit sad for the people leaving those stones...and at the same time grateful that Jesus hears my prayers and interceeds for me night and day, without regard for whether I leave rocks on an old gravestone or not.


Worms also plays a key role in German folklore, as it was an important place the the tales of the Nibelungen. These include Sigfried, the Valkyrie, and a ring that granted the wearer the ultimate power to dominate the world.

Ricard Wagner wrote a four-opera collection, known together as the "Ring Cycle", that explores that mythology.

Worms has an annual festival centered on the Nibelungen...and here is one of the posters for it.


It is not often that I make a point of photographing a bank branch someplace. But this branch in Worms has a wonderful fountain in front of it.


The day before we left Germany, we checked in at a Holiday Inn Express that is a 10 minute drive from the Frankfurt airport. Unsurprisingly, in front of the hotel is a 4-lane road. But very surprisingly, behind the hotel is a forested area, with a lovely little lake.

Along with the family of geese, it had a bunch of water lillies that were in bloom.

  See more from: London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Germany.