Friday, May 28, 2010

Fiel trip Friday: Mud Volcanoes

�bersicht über die Vulcanelli, das ganze Gebiet ist ca. 1 km² gro�
I visited Sicily a few years ago. My nature guidebook mentioned the Vulcanelli di Macalube, an area of mud volcanoes and so we decided to pay it a visit. It's right in the middle of nowhere and if you don't know it's there, you go right past it.
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The area changes all the time, but when we were there, the surface was hardened enough to walk everywhere, with cute little volcanoes spouting mud and water. The activity is caused by carbon dioxide escaping from the ground and the mud is quite cool to the touch.
Vulcalnelli di Macalubbe in der Nähe von Agrigento und Aragona - kleine Schlammvulkane, die Wasser und Kohlendioxyid an die Oberfläche befördern
The biggest of those volcanoes came up to my knee. I was reminded of the bonsai mountains Terry Pratchett invented for his Discworld series - it's a good thing they cannot be harvested or people would be taking them home ;)
It's off the beaten path and hard to get there unless you have a car or are prepared to walk a while, but it's a very cool place.
More surprises at Field Trip Friday

Monday, May 24, 2010

MyWorld Tuesday: Hafengeburtstag

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The port of Hamburg celebrated its 821st birthday of May 7th and as always, it was a huge party. Many ships from all over the world come as guests and a ton of people spend three days visiting and watching ships, eating and drinking and generally having a good time.
The weather was extremely foggy, so my photos didn't turn out that well...maybe next year. At least it didn't rain, but that wouldn't have stopped anyone from Hamburg from having fun, we're used to that.
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Here's the Fischauktionshalle, fresh fish used to be sold here. now it's a place for live music. The area around it is still a big open air market on Sunday mornings and if you have been partying on the Reeperbahn all night, you can walk down for a quick visit and maybe a Fischbroetchen (fish in a bun). It's always insanely crowded.
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some more ships, under sail and steam
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and the old Elbtunnel, you can use it to get to the other side of the Elbe quickly on foot, from there you have the view you can see in the first photo - which is actually nicer than the one from the city side of the Elbe I feel, especially in the evening
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and here are the Landungsbruecken, the domed building houses the entrance to the old Elbtunnel
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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Camera Critters: Insects

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a bumblebee, resting in the sun

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a flesh fly...flies are fascinating creatures. There are so many species, highly adapted and many are beautiful. The flesh fly probably won't be anyone's next topmodel, but look at the checkered markings on the body, I like that.

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a male Green Longhorn (Adela reaumurella) - females have much shorter antennae

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a female Broad-Bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa). Males are a bright blue, I saw one last year

A Camera Critters post

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Blogtrotting: Hamburg, meine Perle!

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Welcome! Cara from Blogtrotting has invited me to be your tour guide today (well, Friday, I'm a bit early, if you happen to see this on Thursday :) ) and I'm proud to present my chosen hometown Hamburg - to my eyes, the most beautiful city in the world. Above you see the Michel, Hamburg's largest church and it's most prominent landmark. You can see some more pictures of it I took and the view from the top here This is the view you get when you walk through the old Elbtunnel from the Landungsbruecken to the other side of the Elbe.
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The post of Hamburg is the third biggest worldwide and has just celebrated its 821st birthday. The birthday celebrations always draw a massive crowd and you get to see a lot of ships
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It's among my favourite parts of Hamburg and whenever I'm away, I take the subway line that drives above ground along the Landungsbruecken to get a view of the port. If you visit Hamburg, by all means take a round trip with one of the many port barges to see more of it, there's always a lot to discover.
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Hamburg still calls itself Freie und Hansestadt, Free and Hanseatic City. Many towns were part of the Hanse, but only very few were Free - this meant that the citizens could not be drafted by the Emperor or other sovereigns, that they didn't have to pay taxes except to the city itself - those cities more or less ruled themselves. This is still a very important part of Hamburg's culture - we're still a city state and citizens of Hamburg do not accept decorations and medal given by the state or anyone else, since that would be a (symbolic) pledge of allegiance to whoever gives the medal.
The traders of the Hanse used to be called Pfeffersaecke (pepper sacks) due to the money they made by buying and selling spices and pepper in particular. They were proud of what they had created, the city hall was built as a symbol, to show everyone that Hamburg was a prosperous city that ruled itself.
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This is Hans Hummel, a water carrier famous in Hamburg. You can read about why he's famous and why Hummel Hummel Mors Mors is not a friendly greeting in Hamburg in this post I made

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Hamburg has the only privately owned zoo in Germany. It developed from a couple of seals Carl Hagenbeck exhibited on the Reeperbahn into one of the most beautiful zoos in Germany and to this day, it's owned by the Hagenbeck family. Which is why people in Hamburg don't go to the zoo, they go to Hagenbeck. Take a tour with me!

Hamburg is a very green city, there are parks everywhere and many nature reserves within the city boundaries. The Alster is the second river to run through Hamburg and it branches up into many canals - you can reach many places in Hamburg by boat and it has more bridges than Venice. Here's the view from the Jungfernstieg over the Binnenalster, with the Alsterfountain, affectionately called the biggest burst pipe in Hamburg. It's right in the middle of the city and on sunny days, many people take their sailboat out on it.
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Much of Hamburg was destroyed during the second World War. On the 24/25 July 1943, the largest bombing occurred and the flames developed into a firestorm, killing 45.000 people. Here's a view of the Michel in 1945 - the spire survived the bombing. The Nikolaikirche was not rebuilt and now serves as a memorial.
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I could show you so much more - I always discover something new myself even after 11 years and it's one of the reasons I love this city so much. I'll leave you with a view over the Elbe and I hope that you enjoyed the tour. Goodbye, or as we say: Tschuess!
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Monday, May 10, 2010

MyWorld Tuesday: Treppenviertel

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Blankenese ist a part of Hamburg with many beautiful houses and a gorgeous view over the Elbe. It used to be a fisher village, existing since 1301 at least, and it stayed a closely knit community with its own traditions. The people of Blankenese not only fished, but also traded and sailed their ships all the way to South America.
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The most beautiful part of Blankenese is the Treppenviertel, so called because there is only one street winding its way down from the top of the hill and most of the houses can only be reached by stairs.
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Here's the oldest house in the Treppenviertel, built in 1698
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Some houses still have thatched roofs
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and most have lovely gardens
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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Camera Critters: Volksdorfer Teichwiesen

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The Volksdorfer Teichwiesen is a nature reserve in the northeast of Hamburg. It's an area with marsh meadows, a small lake and some sparse wood and it's home to many protected and rare plants and animals. The first photo shows a Kingcup (Caltha palustris), a flower that's getting rare in Germany since it needs marshes or wet soil to grow - not something often found along straightened rivers.
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It's early in the year, so the Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) is in full bloom. It will disappear once the trees have grown leaves since it won't be getting enough sun then.
a bee collecting pollen from a dandelion
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the flower of a currant bush, I think
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and a ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata) looking for aphids on the same plant
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alder leaf beetles (Agelastica alni)

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the lake, home to geese, ducks, Great Crested Grebes and a ton of other animals we didn't see. We saw some well-hidden critters, though:
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I don't know what those spiders are called, but they live among the leaf litter and it's very hard to get close enough for a photo. They will feel the vibrations of your steps when you are still several yards away and they can run and jump very quickly. They also hunt for their prey instead of building a net.
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a Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara) - right in the middle of the picture, in case it's too well camouflaged for you. I constantly lost it even though I knew it was there and if it hadn't moved when I was looking, I would never have seen it. They give birth to live youngs - the eggs are hatched inside the mother's belly or the babies hatch right after the eggs have been layed. In warmer climates, there are populations of Viviparous lizards that lay eggs that take some time to hatch, but being vivparous helps the species to conquer colder habitats as well.

Camera Critters: Mason Bee

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A femame Osmia cornuta, a European mason bee. They are solitary bees and will build their nest, one for each egg, in small crevices and holes. I know this is a female because she has those little horns on her head, the males don't have that.
She's dead, unfortunately, I don't know what killed her. Other females of her species are still visiting our balcony and I think we really need to get a nesting box for them, for example a block of wood with holes drilled into it. Solitary bees and wasp will accept such artificial nests gladly and it's an easy way to make your garden or balcony more insect friendly. They are also not at all aggressive, so there's no need to be afraid of them.
Here is a great website that shows how to make such bee homes.

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Go to Camera Critters for more animals pictures!