We are marking the first full day of winter today with a grin. Yesterday was the kick-off for this year’s Winter Solstice offering over on my photography site and it was a good day (thank you everyone!).
But if you’re following via social media sites, they do a fine job of squashing certain posts that contain certain words, especially words that are a single-word representation of an offering of anything at a reduced level of currency. Why? Because they want us to pay them to increase viewership of those specific posts to normal levels. Or pay even more to increase viewership even higher.
If you are looking for a holiday present, it is too late to get it this week, but if you’re looking for a different look on your wall, now is your chance! Please click on the picture above and you’ll see the code at the top of my website.
For some that means it’s now the the beginning of a long, dreary winter. A season to dread. But not us. Winter is another great season to get outside, explore and play.
This past Friday was opening day for our local ski mountain. Goddess and I were able to get more than a few runs in on uncrowded slopes before school let out for the holidays. And the rain today.
It’s currently raining up on the mountain, on top of the minimal snow. Hopefully it doesn’t melt the snow and start another rough winter for the mountain, which never opened last winter for the first time in its 50-year history.
As is tradition here on the solstices and equinoxes, I’m offering a sale on my photography.
All products are 20% off (does not apply to shipping costs). Just enter Winter14 in the coupon field when you are ready to check out. Just click on the coupon below to start browsing.
Thank you so much for your continued support. I do appreciate you!
It has been quiet around these parts for the past week or so.
Usually I apologize for that, but this time I don’t think that I will, even though I do appreciate my loyal readers.
I really do.
So where was the focus? My new web site, of which this blog is a part. Some of you might have even noticed some changes here.
It’s all part of taking my photography a bit more seriously, including delving more into portraiture.
So please click on the image above (which takes you to http://billandersphoto.com), take a look around, kick the tires and leave a comment. Perhaps buy a print or three.
I even dropped the prices 25% to mark the occasion.
Just click on that coupon and a new window will open. Browse and pick to your heart’s content, then enter that code upon checkout. And you’ll be in like Flynn.
If you had browsed my galleries before and think you have seen it all, please look again, especially in the Travel section of my Portfolio. There are new photos in there. And quite a few images that I have reworked for one reason or another.
So you might find something different.
As always, thank you for taking the time to stop by my littler corner of the sphere.
It’s very exciting to watch and see Tom Boonen pull off the victory that he did, even eight months later. The moment he gradually pulls away from an unbelieving peloton is just a few moments into the video above when he’s still 55km from the finish.
I’ve still got an hour left in the coverage. I’m keeping an eye out for a glimpse of Goddess, who’s standing on the outer edge of one of the corners immediately after the Le Carrefour de l’Arbre secteur, which won’t be for another 20 minutes or so.
And when he flew past us, his lead was commanding. Only disaster would have prevented him from winning.
And while it’s a great memory from 2012, I’ll tell you that it was all Goddess pulling off the financing and planning for what ended up being a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I know that every year I can watch the race coverage and remember what each secteur was like and what it felt like.
One of my favorite spots in Munich is one that few notice.
But that’s true of many cities. I do like the out of the way, the off the wall places.
But this one’s neither out of the way, nor is it off the wall.
But still, few notice.
It’s the Viscardigasse, otherwise known as “Shirker’s Alley”. Or, back in the day, Drueckebergergasse, as a drueckeberger is a hedger or quitter.
There is a lot of history in this alley.
But before I get into the history, I will preface by saying that my focus on German history, as a student of history, has not been the Holocaust. I do not think it should be, no matter how horrific those events were. The story of Germany and the worldwide contributions of the Germans is epic. But like any other society or nation, there are its low points. The 1930’s and 1940’s were Germany’s.
Spacially, Viscardigasse is a small alley (hence the -gasse suffix) that connects two significant parallel roads, Residenzstrasse and Theatinerstrasse, both of which head northward from Marienplatz. Viscardigasse stretches east to west, just south of Felderrnhalle, which faces the Odeonsplatz.
The importance of Viscardigasse reaches back to 9 November, 1923. On that day, an illegal march led by Adolf Hitler, with a goal of revolution, was confronted by Bavarian National Police along Residenzstrasse, next to the Felderrnhalle. The march became known as the Beer Hall Putsch.
During the confrontation, gunfire erupted, resulting in 16 marchers and 4 police killed. Hitler was arrested and sentenced to a prison term.
Jump forward several years, after Hitler gained power. He ordered a plaque to the 16 “martyr’s” be placed on the Feldernhalle. After that, passers-by were required to render a sieg heil as they passed the plaque. Compliance was monitored by Nazi supporters.
That’s where the story of Viscardigasse starts.
As Jews or anti-Nazi individuals would approach the Felderrnhalle, they would duck down Viscardigasse to avoid rendering the salute. Soon the Nazi’s caught on and started stopping individuals walking down Viscardigasse, demanding their reasons for avoiding the Felderrnhalle. Those that could not provide sufficient reason were often whisked away to camps.
Taking the Viscardigasse was a form of resistance.
And a way to become “disappeared”.
So when we are in Munich, I choose to stop and reflect between these walls, looking at the stones as a whole, but especially the bronzed stones forming a wavering, ever decreasing path, before disappearing midway down the alley.
While the reflection does include the events leading to the placement of the stone, reminiscent of stolperstein (example here), memorial in the alley, the reflection turns more introspective, wondering if that Viscardigasse would be the path that I would take in the face of such an oppressive regime.
Wondering if I could leave Goddess behind like that.
Wondering if Goddess would join me.
But I seriously doubt that I would go out so passively.
That is the result of reflection.
So why the title “Fleeting Memories”?
Because as we sit, observe and reflect, so many tourists pass by the alleyway, walking quickly down Residenzstrasse and Theatinerstrasse, enroute to either the Odeonsplatz or Marienplatz, oblivious to the significance of this small alley.
Or, as in the picture below, we see many tourists and locals walk right down the alley, hurrying to and fro.
And we wonder, how many are even aware of what they are walking over?
Why? Stage 1 of this year’s Tour de France was starting in Liège, Belgium, just south of Maastricht. But we had to make the side trip to pick up a few people who were going to join us as we criss-crossed eastern Belgium, chasing the peleton as they raced through the Ardennes.
And trust me, trying to keep up with the pro peleton in a car is not an easy task.
Our two fellow cheering fans were Ray Maker and his lovely bride, Bobbie, who had just moved to Paris the previous Tuesday. They certainly hit the ground running, catching a train from Paris up to Liège on Saturday so they could catch the Prologue, then stayed overnight to catch Stage 1.
I’ve “known” Ray for many years, virtually over the interwebs, mainly through his wildly popular triathlon and gear related website. Ray introduced us to Bobbie a couple of years ago while they were dating.
And while I’ve met several people in real life that I’ve met through the interwebs, those have all been mostly photography-centric. Although we certainly had the photography covered. He was even giving Nikon a test run that day.
Once we picked up Ray and Bobbie, we made our way down to Liège to the start. Along the way we got caught up in the traffic headed to the race, but so did the team busses. So we knew we were doing OK.
After a quick walk around the team area, a ring around the block where each team bus was parked and the bikes were set out, ready for their riders, we headed to the start line just a few moments before the start.
Goddess likes George. And she accuses me of having a man-crush.
I like George. Always the consummate professional teammate. A rider who’s been at it for the past 24 years, really mixing it up with the pros since 1994.
This year is his last year in the peleton. And he’s still schooling the young ‘uns. During his 17th Tour de France.
I like that.
At 39, George finished the prologue just 20 seconds off the lead, amongst racers a decade or more younger. On stage 1, he lost two minutes, but that was because he did what he does best, hammering like hell to pull his team captain, this year Cadel Evans, to the front just a few kilometers from the finish. After which the course got ugly, ramping up with some brutal short, steep climbs, some covered with cobblestones. He was spent, so he lost a fair chunk of time.
George knew that at the start.
I do love that Canon EF 200/2.8L. It can pick through a crowd and focus tightly on the subject. And provide some creamy out of focus areas.
Tom Boonen is solo, out ahead, going on to a record-equalling fourth victory at P-R.
They’re just exiting the feed zone in the short transition between the brutal Carrefour de l’Arbre and the (luckily) short Gruson cobblestone sections. Many of these cobblestone (pavé) sectors have been in existence since Roman times.
And many felt like they hadn’t been maintained since then, although that’s not true.
However, they are very, very rough and can make or break a race in seconds, either through a poorly chosen line, a line chosen by the bike and cobbles (because it’s best to just keep a loose hold of the handlebars and let the bike do most of the movement), or a catastrophic equipment failure, as we saw as the pack (no longer a peloton) race through the Arenberg Trench when a rider’s (very expensive) carbon wheel shattered under the stress right in front of us.
There’s a reason that the Dutch call the cobbles kinderkoppen (children’s heads). The stones are large and rounded on the top. Luckily (for the competitors) this year, there had been little rain so the dust had settled in and kept the gaps between the stones to a minimum (in most sections). However, a little bit of rain and the dirt washes out, leaving a muddy mess with large gaps between the stones. Dry or wet, there’s a reason that this race is called “The Hell of the North“.
And I think the look on the racers faces above captures that.
Just 20 minutes after this picture was taken, the rain started. That would have changed the face of the race significantly, especially amongst those that were in the lagging groups, as they dealt with the mud-slick cobbles.