Copyart by David M. Miller, USA, 1986
Great bustards have been already mentioned long time ago in older writings of Pliny the Elder as avis tarda, and in 1758 they were classified with their scientific name Otis tarda by Carl Linnaeus while the description tarda is Latin for slow and deliberate which is apt to describe the typical walking style of these possibly heaviest flying birds in the world who breed in southern and central Europe and across temperate Asia. European population are mainly resident, but Asian birds move further south in winter. Portugal and Spain now contain about 60 % of the world’s population (approx. 50,000 birds in total). The birds are often described as magnificent, stately birds because of the males’ great size, cocked tails and large white whiskers.
This species has suffered rapid population reductions across most of its range owing to the loss, degradation and fragmentation of its habitat, as well as hunting leading to a complete extinction in Great-Britain already in the midst of the 19th century. In Germany around 200 birds are now living again at three different locations in the eastern part what means an increase of 400 % in relation to the bad situation in 1997. This is only possible by heavy intervention of ornithologists and nature conservationists who for example achieved that the new railway trail from Berlin to Hannover had to be redirected several years ago in order not to disturb the birds – meanwhile fenced areas have additionally been constructed at suitable locations as a protection for the birds because unfortunately, the great bustards are also a bit stubborn and conservative in their behavior what may be quite dangerous for a vulnerable species.
Single great bustard – photo: Andrej Chudy CC BY-SA 2.0
So the flexible and intelligent fox could normally always very easily steal their eggs while the great bustards simply do not take enough care of it. But these reserved islands here in Germany seem to be also a little bit like an outdoor-zoo hosting ornithological observation towers for bird watchers of all kind (one good observation point is situated for example near the city of Märkisch-Luch, urban district Garlitz, in the federal state of Brandenburg) but observation is normally only possible in early spring during the courtship displays. So you need always binoculars as the birds can only be watched in a minium distance of ca. 300 m.
Their distant relative – the crane – instead could be a good teacher in this regard who overflies each year the continents of this world in order to find the best places for survival. But when you do not cross the red lines of being, hence you will never know what is lying there behind the horizon of singularity. Even if you subsequently discover only a half-filled glass of water this is definitely always much better than a dried-up big river in front of your door.
Beautiness means not gazing in a perfect mirror while these instants do often not last much longer than early fragile dewdrops sparkling also in curious minds.
All photos were made at the Algarve / Portugal in late October 2018.
After decades of a ruthless and deeply unsocial neo-liberalism on the back of the normal people making only the already rich still more richer, another malicious ghost is creeping again over the boulevards of Europe. It is the chauvinist spirit of simplified truths spread by self-proclaimed saviors of occident as a whole.
The nationalist ideologies of 19th and 20th century are now on the verge to a powerful revival in many countries and as well in European parliament after the coming 23-26 May elections. The globalization of this retrogressive zeitgeist has opened new battlefields covered by a gloomy twilight of prefascist idols. Subsequently news of unilateral steps and national solo-efforts by individual states of the European Union now hunt us regularly like greedy and creepy ghosts of a dark age and past times.
The radical nationalists in the diverse countries of Europe now want to put just back the clock finally while having already started a postmodern crucial witchhunt. Like unscrupulous pupils in magic they have lighted blazing totalitarian fires everywhere which need to be urgently extinguished again.
After the bloody fascism in the first half of 20th century we have enjoyed the longest period of peace in Europe without war and opened national borders of former enemies. This represents a real big progress and step in history which needs to be safeguarded and maintained for our common future.
You are crazy, my child.
You must go to Berlin.
Franz von Suppé, 1800
Especially in spring an irresistible desire for yet another unknown land emerges suddenly at dusk somewhere in the nowhere. Time for a small picture story of Berlin through enigmatic shallows and at multiple urban shores.
Word War II and the later division of Berlin have led to a lot of unused infrastructure, railways, empty factories and abandoned places till today. So there are really many possibilities getting lost in the labyrinth of the town.
The city is changing quickly every day, but the spirit used to be indeed much more rebellious here in former times. Some wild street art reflects these eternal inflammatory ambitions sprouting from undergrounds.
Large urban areas are covered with lakes and endless woods on sandy soil left by glaciers of the last ice age. Here the approaching predatory and brutal gentrification of many city districts does not play any role so far.
The journey is not yet over here – just a short excursion of my homeland today, thanks for reading.
“In the Norse tradition ‘crossing the Black Forest’
came to signify penetrating the barriers between
one world and another.” (Francis Gentry)
In the South-Western part of Germany you will find a wide mountainous area even called today Black Forest (Schwarzwald), and the name originates most probably from the Old Norse noun Myrkviðr (meaning mirky wood or black forest) as part of the Germanic-Scandinavian mythology Edda. In this context the woodlands were a holy place for magic rituals around the all-connecting world tree Yggdrasil. The German tales collected and published by Gebrüder Grimm in the 19th century tell us a lot of stories regarding these sometimes quite bizarre forest sites, while the author J. R. R. Tolkien adopted this dense and green place much more recently as the gloomy Mirkwood, a Northern jungle full of primeval mysteries.
Our much older ancestors, the monkeys, once did a new thing. Hitherto there had been the earth-bound animals with legs and the air-borne animals with wings. The monkeys left the ground without riding the air and made the trees their habitation, and this was incorporated in our genetic codes while human children do like normally very much climbing or housing on trees as a self-evident game. So the green trees and the wide forests mean certainly our original (mostly previous) homeland here on Earth. Therefore it is also not astonishing that Buddha has only attained enlightenment under a tree, the sacred fig named Bodhi. Such natural mythological places and symbols were destroyed everywhere in Europe as part of a violent missioning Christian crusade starting in the 6th century which completely ignored the fact that plants and trees are living much longer and obviously in greater diversity than our species on this planet and deserve our full respect.
Nowadays – as part of a recollection to nature as a value in itself which is not at all a romantic question – modern architecture discovers again trees as an integral part of constructing houses worldwide. This development gets most visible at the two Bosco Verticale towers at Milan where real trees and bushes have been set on its balconies with the aim to create one hectare of forest as part of a modern appartment building in the very centre of a densely populated big town. But here the basic materials of construction remain concrete and glass, so the trees and bushes resemble more or less just a green attachment, a planted facade. So I was really enthusiastic when I stumbled over the information some time ago that urban treehouses are existing not far away in my town, because in the concept of such buildings trees are standing in the centre of design and creation.
A treehouse in a big city like Berlin, that sounds quite strange first of all. But for the architects & builders of the Urban Treehouse-project this is the most relevant part of their conceptual design in order to connect nature and a modern kind of urban living on a high level. So they have built two of these small treehouses on a premise directly situated at Berlin’s great forest Grunewald and not far away from the nice lake Krumme Lanke at the district of Zehlendorf. If you intend to go somewhere in the city centre, the next subway station can be reached from there easily and in short-time. So both can be appreciated when living in these houses: the joys of nature and the diverse advantages of a European capital. Hence, this is a mere private project which can be only used by family members for a very delightful stay someday.
As a part of a more adventure focused tourism treehouse hotels in Europe are quite popular in Germany and France, few others can be also found in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Great Britain and Turkey – in total at least 50 rural sites all around in Europe. The accomodation prices are quite often comparable to a stay in a 5-star-hotel, as they definitely offer some kind of deluxe today, a place for dreaming like a bird. At Cabanes de la Grande Noe (being situated in the Normandy countryside of France) six different houses can be rented for 2 or more people on a family run domain. All of them are built merely with wood around or in the trees, such reflecting the traditional way of constructing these kind of houses. So here you have the possibility to experience the rural and puristic treehouse feeling, but with breakfast served and brought to the treehouse each morning – what a luxury wilderness.
If you possibly intend to build a treehouse sometimes lateron just for yourself, the following book will be in any case helpful and animating: Be in a Treehouse: Design / Construction / Inspiration by Pete Nelson also available in German Die wunderbare Welt der Baumhäuser: Design – Konstruktion – Inspiration, Pete Nelson.
Being in nature is sometimes a trip back to history, while in 1998 I used to climb on Mangart mountain in the Julian Alps of Slovenia together with my girl-friend. The trail at some parts is leading directly on the border between Italy and Slovenia (on the photo the white stone with numbers indicates the actual frontier).
Today this means a place of peace and challenge for those climbing on the mountains, but only 100 years ago this was a location of battles and war because this area used to be the Isonzo frontline in World War I, and here the armies of Italy and the Austrian Empire were executing fierce, endless fighting in the mountains up to altitudes of more than 2,000 m.
Relicts of this war without real winner (old military paths, ruins, tunnels) can still be found at diverse scattered locations in both countries. Today only the sky is the limit here fortunately.