Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Stuttgart souvenirs

Well, it's been forever since I posted. Arriving in Tucson after having had a great time at the GLOW/DGfS Summer School in Stuttgart, I landed in the middle of a semester that had already been underway for 2 weeks, and have been scrambling to get on top of it ever since (with no real prospect for a letup, sadly). But thanks to extremely generous colleagues without whose assistance my students would have been sitting looking at an empty whiteboard two weeks in a row, classes are progressing appropriately (I hope) and other things are settling down to a dull roar.

Stuttgart was really a blast -- we went biking, visited the wonderful Wilhelma botanical gardens/zoo, went to the farmer's market, ate spaetzle and maultaschen until we got fairly pasta-like ourselves--the beer probably didn't help with that--went to an amazing fireworks festival (aside: Fireworks usually don't do too much for me, but the stuff we saw at this event finally made me feel like I had some sense of what Gandalf's fireworks were supposed to be like, in Tolkein's description in The Fellowship of the Ring. They were synchronized with a very loud musical score, which helped a lot. On the last night, a part of the display was synchroanized with the Moonlight Sonata: just a very simple visual evocation of the keyboard of a piano playing the melody line -- flashes coordinated with the notes at a location along the horizon that was consistent with the relative position of the keys on a giant invisible keyboard. SO cool...); we went to the Limes ('limits'), the German equivalent of Hadrian's wall, the northernmost frontier of the Roman empire, marching impossibly straight across the landscape; and also to the Maulbronn monastery, a very beautiful monastery complex that shows the whole evolution of (Cistercian) monastic life and ideals from the 12th century to the Reformation (and where maultaschen are supposed to have been invented)—both the Limes and the Maulbronn monastery are UNESCO world heritage sites, which I've decided are going to be my personal touristic goals in life; more on this in furture posts, I imagine; we walked and biked in the woods at the top of a hill next to a tall TV tower, the first of its kind in Germany, and then went up in the tower and looked at the whole Neckar valley; went to the flea market, visited several museums my favorite of which was the anthropological one, free on Wed. afternoons, saw the Schiller Oak, walked on the Konigstr., went to the wine festival and the German Open Latin/Ballroom competition ... and we still missed a lot in the area -- Ludwigsburg, the Black Forest, the Tee House, the mineral baths... Anyway, Stuttgart was fun. We discovered that you can get hefeweizen mixed with banana juice. Nowhere else in the world, we thought, would you find 'bananenweizen' on the menu of any restaurant, nor would it occur to anyone else that that might be a good mix. (Probably not to a lot of Germans either, but Art says it's good, especially with Thai food, and he knows about these things. Googling it, I see that there's a pretty popular open source software developer with that handle...)

And of course there was really excellent linguistics too. This post is prompted because today I had occasion to remember one of the most interesting linguistic things I heard, which I want to post about, but felt like I had to give Stuttgart its review first, to set the stage. Coming up next: something language oriented.


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