Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Adventures in Germany: Wernigerode

(Okay, maybe not an entry every day. No internet at home for another week or so.)

Soon after Kelly arrived in Berlin we took a train (three trains, to be accurate) south-west to Wernigerode in the Harz mountains. It's a lovely little town full of half-timbered houses built at odd angles, and there was an terrifically festive street fair our first night at which we caught our first glimpse of a half-meter bratwurst. I told Kelly she should get one, you know, for the experience, but I think it would have taken her a week to finish the whole thing.

We wanted to try the coffee at Café Wien (Café Vienna), but we never did get there. Below: Krummelsches Haus, built in 1674, which features allegorical reliefs of various nations on its facade.

Here's a close-up of one panel. Lonely Planet thinks this naked lady (representing America, "reasonably enough") is riding an armadillo, though it looks more like a crocodile.

But Wernigerode's primary attraction is its castle on a hill wreathed in evergreens. I tried taking several shots at a distance, but I'll show you this one instead.

I don't want to tell you too much about this place, marvelous as it is, because I'm actually going to set a small part of my novel here. I'll just say there seemed to be gargoyles, demons, and other creepy things nearly everywhere we looked:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Adventures in Berlin, part 1

I flew into Berlin a few days before Kelly did, so that I could do some research-y things in the city before we took the train (er, trains) to the lovely little town of Wernigerode in the Harz mountains (about a 3-hour journey south-west of Berlin). Here are a few more random photos from the first few days...Wernigerode tomorrow!

Found outside a random flower shop.

The courtyard outside the German Resistance Memorial Center. It was in this courtyard that Claus von Stauffenberg and others involved in the plot to kill Hitler were summarily executed. (More information on the July 20th plot at Wikipedia.)

And on a much lighter note...

A giraffe made all of legos at the Sony Center, near Potsdamer Platz.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Back from Berlin

Huzzah! It was a great trip—I got plenty of inspiration for the book, and Kelly and I had a lot of fun. Seanan said he felt like he'd been looking at 'Present at a Hanging' since December, so I think I will treat him (and you) to a blog post full o' pics every day for...well, for awhile. I took hundreds, you know.

But for now, here's a random assortment. (I seem to have misplaced my laptop adapter and the battery's running low...)

The 13th-century Marienkirche against the GDR-era TV Tower.

Durty graffiti at the East Side Gallery (a 1.3km stretch of the Berlin Wall painted by an international group of artists in 1989-1990).

(Found on a bridge inside the Tiergarten.)

A view from inside the Schloss Wernigerode, in the Harz mountains.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Present at a Hanging

Ghost stories are my (not so guilty) pleasure, as you know, and I'm still sifting through the Librivox catalog looking for old goodies. Right now I'm listening to Present at a Hanging (Gutenberg text here), stories by the American journalist/satirist Ambrose Bierce. So far my favorite is "A Man With Two Lives." These stories are much shorter and sharper than the gothic tales I usually read, and I like that—sometimes a story goes on for thirty or forty pages, and the dénouement isn't as dramatic as all that narrative build-up would suggest. Make sure you read "A Man With Two Lives"—it'll only take you a few minutes.

And speaking of Ambrose Bierce: I've been thinking a lot about epigraphs lately, how they flavor and (hopefully) enhance the reader's experience of the story they're about to read, and I thought I would show you the epigraph that opens Petty Magic:
WITCH, n. 1, Any ugly and repulsive old woman, in a wicked league with the devil.
2, A beautiful and attractive young woman, in wickedness a league beyond the devil.
—Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
More thoughts on epigraphs in a future entry.