The migration route

This weekend I have been at FOSDEM in Brussels, to meet the usual immense crowd of open source software enthusiasts:

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… and to help with the management of the Geospatial devroom together with Johan Van de Vauw. I’ll write more about this in another post, because this one is dedicated to the way to and back from Brussels. The way back, especially, that took me and my friends back to Italy.

As I lived in Italy, my geeky friends and I used to rent a van and drive all the way up to FOSDEM. I taught them the route that my family travelled since I can remember, as I moved from Belgium to Italy at two years old. It felt like teaching them my migration route, and passing on our knowledge of the good rest spots, cheapest petrol stations and so on. I have moved to Germany four years ago and didn’t have the chance to travel that route anymore, therefore it was a special joy to drive back with my friends once again. I took pictures like mad, like a tourist, and I was moved to tears when I heard my friends talking about the places along the way with more confidence than myself.

We left FOSDEM on Sunday evening, headed south. We had dinner in Belgium and continued towards Luxembourg, surrounded by snow. Belgium’s highways are lit, an exception in Europe. We stopped at a hotel in Luxembourg for the night.

The next morning we were greeted by sun and cold.

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We quickly drove through tiny Luxembourg and entered France, following first the directions to Metz and Thionville, passing alongside the “highway cathedral”, the Église Saint-Joseph et Saint-Louis, then following the signs for Strasbourg:

Approaching Strasbourg there was snow again. We passed under the wildlife bridge (apparently used only by hikers, instead of deer and other large mammals), and through forests, white with frozen snow.

We didn’t drive through Strasbourg, and took the road for Karlsruhe instead; we exited the highway and crossed the border with Germany at Gambsheim, over the Rhine. We had booked a table at the Rhinkaechle, but arrived a bit too early, so we walked around the mighty hydroelectrical dam and its fish pass, one of the two largest passes in Europe:

After the meal and the required barge-spotting at the locks, we entered Germany and drove to Basel, where we would enter Switzerland:

The leitmotiv of Switzerland are the tunnels (the longest being Gotthard and Seelisberg) and the mountains:

We came out of the Gotthard tunnel to meet the blue twilight at Airolo, and drove uneventfully south until the border crossing at Stabio-Gaggiolo and finally Varese. The pictures came out increasingly blurred, and moreover it is a very familiar part of the road for me, so I didn’t take many.

Thanks to a comfortable car and change of drivers, we didn’t arrive too tired at our destination. It was great for the driver to have cruise-control, and for everyone a smooth ride at high speed.

I cherish this route and I’m happy to drive along it every now and then. For my friends it has become part of the FOSDEM experience, and the occasion for endless discoveries along the way (especially restaurants and industrial masterpieces). I thought about my affection for this route, that I felt stronger than the love of the places where I lived. And happier, too.

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Baking progress: breads #41 to #49

With a short break during the Christmas holidays, my baking streak continues, with mostly positive results 🙂

I’m learning a lot by baking regularly, and more importantly, by taking notes about how the different steps went (how long the dough was left leavening, how hot was the water, if I used a different flour, how was the texture of the dough after mixing, how did the baking phase go…). It helps me noticing what went well and bring it to attention for the next bread. I have my favourite recipe, the one I’m now sure of the result, but I like to pick up recipes with different flours, that require specific preparation steps (cooking part of the dough in a pot, make two or three pre-leavened doughs, adding lemon to enable the binding of gluten…) just to add interest to the process. One thing I have learned, thanks to a few burnt crusts, is that I can’t leave the loaf in the oven completely alone and keep track of the smell, because it will come too late for me to fix anything. So it’s better for me to stay near the oven for the first 10-15 minutes, when the crust becomes golden-brown, then lower the oven temperature and leave the bread complete the following 20-30 minutes baking phase on its own.

I’m considering to make it a small side job, but I’m unsure if making bread on a larger scale could be too time-consuming, or also difficult. Any ideas or tips about that? Thanks in advance!

Various updates

Last week has been quite busy, and I didn’t post as often as usual. To summarise a bit, I knitted a colourful hat (Twisp)…

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…then planned the colors and patterns for my next project, a Strange Brew sweater from Tin Can Knits:

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I kept taking pictures of the tree near my bus stop:

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I took the ferry in Köpenick for maybe the last time of the year (well, it depends when the river will freeze):

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I baked bread #44, that looked and tasted great:

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and right now, a batch of apple mini-muffins:

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That’s all for today! I wish you a good start of the week 🙂

Photobook #2: season and weather

I posted a while ago about my project of taking pictures of a particular tree, and I’m proud to have captured the change of colours during fall. Here are a few pictures from end September to end October. I was happy to capture different weather conditions, even fog (that I seldom see here) and a nice range of cloudiness and intensity of the sky. Stay tuned for the slow transformation into winter 🙂

Photobook: seasons and weather

I have started to take a picture of the large tree next to my usual bus stop, to track the colour of its leaves during fall, and the changing light. I make the pictures standing on the same manhole cover, so that the framing is quite consistent. I am not very regular in taking pictures, but I try to remind myself about it every time I walk there.

From the kitchen: bread #38

Yesterday I ran out of bread and decided to bake it myself, summoning my courage to overcome the bad experience of bread #37, which I had to throw away (it was underleavened and partially raw after one hour in the oven, and no further toasting could save it).

I followed precisely the steps of Weizenmischbrötchen recipe in the Brotbackbuch, took half a day from start to finish, and I obtained two light, fluffy loaves:

I am a bit sad that I used only dry yeast, but I’m so happy for such a nice result 🙂

Jumping: the landing

One more post about the show jumping event I attended a while ago (previous ones: jumps and take-offs): landings. After the flight phase, the horse and rider have to prepare the landing. The difficulty for the rider lies in keeping balance, while allowing the horse to use its front legs in a way that the combined weight doesn’t damage its front limbs. In the fourth picture you can see the angle of the pastern, absorbing the impact – it is the less blurred part of the picture, so the stillest one. Furthermore, horses have no collar bones, so the impact of landing is received by muscles and tendons, instead of more breakable joints.

The rider changes position, from staying close to the horse’s neck during the flight phase to leaning slightly backwards, ideally on a vertical line. The rider in the fifth picture is leaning forward, maybe the horse made a big jump that was hard to follow? It sure takes a lot of practice to properly ride your horse on such jumps (thanks Scottish Rider for sharing your experiences during training!), so I prefer to celebrate the moments of good coordination 🙂