The natural regions of Germany (5): The Southern German Scarplands

The scarplands extend on both sides of the Rhine valley. The part west of the Rhine valley is quite small and encompasses the mountain ranges lining the rivers Saar and Mosel and the Palatinate Forest, the northern spur of the Vosges in France. The Nahe valley is a wine growing region producing some of the finest Riesling wines in Germany. The Saar valley was one of the centers of German coal mining and steel production. The steel works in Völklingen were closed in 1986 and are now a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.

The scarplands east of the Rhine valley extend over a vast area, covering most of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria and extending into Southern Hesse.

The red sandstone hills of the Odenwald, Spessart and Southern Rhön are mainly forested land, dotted with small towns and villages enclosed in fields in the valleys. They are lined with picturesque historic towns and cities, such as Heidelberg, Freudenberg am Main, Wertheim am Main, Zwingenberg am Neckar, Neckarsteinach, Erbach, Amorbach, Miltenberg, Michelstadt, Beerfelden, and Buchen.

They are followed by the Gäulands, lower lands intensely used for agriculture. In the recent decades, they have become Germany’s economic powerhouse. The south-western region encompassing Stuttgart and Heilbronn in the Neckar valley is particularly strong. It is not only home to big companies like Daimer (Mercedes-Benz cars), Porsche (sports cars), Bosch (mixed technologies), but also to thousands of small and medium-sized businesses, which are highly specialized and often world market leaders in their field. A magnet for tourists is the historic town or Rothenburg ob der Tauber with its nearly undisturbed medieval city center.

The north-eastern parts are more rural with smaller and medium-sized cities located in the river valleys. Notable here is the city of Würzburg, former residence of a Prince-Bishop and home of a traditional university. It was here that Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen discovered the X-rays.

Another important metropolitan area is centered around the old trade city of Nuremberg. Nürnberg as it is spelled in German was the home of renaissance painter Albrecht Dürer. Severely destroyed in world war II, it was rebuilt along the historical layout but with modern facades. Its museums, the imperial castle, and the famous Christmas Market, the oldest one of its kind, are major tourist attractions. In the early 20th century, Nuremberg was a center of National Socialism in Germany, evidenced by the unfinished but still gigantic Nazi Party rally grounds. After the end of the ‘Third Reich’, the principal leaders of the Nazi party and the persons mainly responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity had to stand trial here.

The historic old town of Bamberg is a UNESCO world cultural heritage and popular with tourists from abroad. Its town hall, built within the river Regnitz to represent the two halves of the city, the civil and the episcopal half, is one of its landmarks, alongside with the cathedral and the palace.

The Black Forest is Germany’s highest and biggest upland and a major tourist destination. The specific architecture adds to the picturesque landscape to please the eye of hiking holiday makers looking for rest and relaxation. For centuries, its main product was wood, which was shipped down the river Rhine to the Netherlands to build the fleet that warranted the Dutch strong stance in worldwide trade. Precision engineering is another traditional business branch. Some well-known watchmakers and entertainment electronics businesses were located here, but most of them were unable to compete with the Asian competitors and went bankrupt or have changed their field of operation.

The Keuper-Lias-lands and the Swabian and Franconian Alb are limestone plateaus interrupted by deep valleys. There are some interesting karst formations, including deep and dangerous caves. New caves are discovered almost every year. The Nördlinger Ries is an almost perfectly circular valley and one of the biggest impact craters of the world. The upper reaches of the river Danube are in the process of becoming a tributary of the river Rhine. The waters disappear through cracks in the riverbed and make their way dozens of kilometers through underground cavities until they reappear in a karstic spring that drains to the river Rhine. The riverbed of the Danube below these sinkholes is meanwhile dry for 155 days per year, when it loses all its water to the Rhine. One of the most beautiful karstic springs is the Blautopf.

Hohenzollern Castle at the northern edge of the Swabian Alb is the origin of the House Hohenzollern, which has ruled Prussia for centuries.

A geographical oddity is the town of Büsingen am Hochrhein, which is a German municipality completely surrounded by the Swiss canton of Schaffhausen. It belongs to the Swiss customs area and is thus not part of the customs area of the European Union. Swiss laws are also in place. A set of complicated rules regulate the judicial status of the exclave. Swiss police may arrest people, but the number of Swiss police is restricted to 10 at any given time and must only act on issues that concern the Swiss laws that are in place in the exclave. German police forces must not exceed three police officials per 100 residents and must only act on issues concerning German law. There are strict transit restrictions for German police officers through Swiss territory. Most people of Büsingen earn their money in Swiss Francs, and many transactions are done in Swiss Francs although the official currency is the Euro. Pensions, however, are paid in Euro. The steep rise of the value of the Swiss Franc made the economic situation of the residents of Büsingen difficult. As a result, many German pensioneers have left Büsingen, while Swiss pensioneers have moved there. The town has two zip codes, a Swiss and a German one. Letters sent from there to Switzerland may be franked with either Swiss or German stamps; the latter option is cheaper. Büsingen has a German prefix number, but many residents have also a Swiss phone connection. In front of the post office, there are a Swiss and a German public phone. Both Swiss and German mobile phone networks work at the respective domestic tariffs. In the summer of 1980, Büsingen was in a different tine zone than the rest of Germany because Switzerland had not yet introduced the daylight saving time and Swiss time laws apply in Büsingen. The local football (soccer) club is part of the Swiss Football Association.

Photo of the Day – Halfway through Holliday Week! Today we bring you the Southern Red Bishop (Euplectes orix), a small passerine common in wetlands and grasslands south of the Equator in Africa. Look at it, it’s basically a flying highlighter!

This great picture was taken by Rich Lindie at Cedara Agricultural College in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it.
—  Lakota chief Red Cloud (1822 - 1909). He was a widely respected Lakota Sioux warrior who led a successful campaign in 1866–1868 known as Red Cloud’s War over control of the Powder River Country in northeastern Wyoming and southern Montana. Red Cloud also led his people in the transition to reservation life after the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868. He continued to advocate for his people’s interests, including traveling to DC to meet with President Grant and negotiating strongly with various Indian Agents.

On this day in 1937, Margaret Mitchell wins Pulitzer Prize for “Gone With the Wind”.

Margaret Mitchell was born on November 8, 1900, in Atlanta, Georgia, into an Irish-Catholic family. At an early age, even before she could write, Mitchell loved to make up stories, and she would later write her own adventure books, crafting their covers out of cardboard. She wrote hundreds of books as a child, but her literary endeavors weren’t limited to novels and stories: At the private Woodberry School, Mitchell took her creativity in new directions, directing and acting in plays she wrote.

In 1918, Mitchell enrolled at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Four months later, tragedy would strike when Mitchell’s mother died of influenza. Mitchell finished out her freshman year at Smith and then returned to Atlanta to prepare for the upcoming debutante season, during which she met Berrien Kinnard Upshaw. The couple was married in 1922, but it ended abruptly four months later when Upshaw left for the Midwest and never returned.

The same year she was married, Mitchell landed a job with the Atlanta Journal Sunday magazine, where she ended up writing nearly 130 articles. Mitchell would get married a second time during this period, wedding John Robert Marsh in 1925. As seemed to be the case in Mitchell’s life, though, yet another good thing was to come to an end too quickly, as her journalist career ended in 1926 due to complications from a broken ankle. With her broken ankle keeping Mitchell off her feet, however, in 1926 she began writing Gone With the Wind. Perched at an old sewing table, and writing the last chapter first and the other chapters randomly, she finished most of the book by 1929. A romantic novel about the Civil War and Reconstruction, Gone With the Wind is told from a Southern point of view, informed by Mitchell’s family and steeped in the history of the South and the tragedy of the war.

In July 1935, New York publisher Macmillan offered her a $500 advance and 10 percent royalty payments. Mitchell set to finalizing the manuscript, changing characters names (Scarlett was Pansy in earlier drafts), cutting and rearranging chapters and finally naming the book Gone With the Wind, a phrase from “Cynara!, a favorite Ernest Dowson poem. Gone With the Wind was published in 1936 to huge success and took home the 1937 Pulitzer. Mitchell became an overnight celebrity, and the landmark film based on her novel came out just three years later and went on to become a classic (winning eight Oscars and two special Oscars ).

During World War II (1941-45), Mitchell had no time to write, as she worked for the American Red Cross. And on August 11, 1949, she was struck by a car while crossing a street and died five days later. Mitchell was inducted into Georgia Women of Achievement in 1994 and into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2000. Gone With the Wind was her only novel.

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Red Velvet

Title: Red Velvet
Author: mrs_captain_rogers
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: None Apply
Completed: Yes
Word count: 1133
Summary: Jack has always had a sweet spot for red velvet cake so when he stumbles upon Little Bits, a new bakery in his neighborhood, he can’t help but inquire…

Most memorable line: “Oh yeah of course. What kind of southern baker doesn’t have red velvet on the menu?”