Reutlingen's inner city to this day shows all the telltale signs of a previously walled citadel with its massive guard towers and entries at the four cardinal directions surrounding a central market place and well from which all cobble-stone ways extend like the tentacles of a kraken. At times, modern residences are built into actual remains of the previous stone wall or take up pride of place in a bona fide tower. To think that I once lived here and didn't think twice about any of it...

Ivette couldn't get over the colorful offerings in the custom bakeries though hours of operation were limited to 8:30 - 11:00 on Saturdays and a nationwide retail holiday on every Sunday regardless of goods sold.

Though outright homelessness seemed rather contained -- but then, it was extremely cold to perhaps make that less visible than it otherwise would have been -- radio broadcasts estimated unemployment between 10-12%, suggesting a heavy burden on the government and its social programs.

The sight of full-blown cathedrals in even small towns, plus the ubiquitous castles and Herrenhäuser provided a counterpoint to such economic ruminations.
If these pictures suggest a rather healthy survival of historic buildings, Danzig in the new -- or former Eastern -- provinces is the real poster child. Bombed to ashes during the war, a forward-thinking city government has rebuilt the central city with the help of detailed plans and sketches which pre-war architectural students had fashioned to be rediscovered in various libraries across Germany. The typically narrow facades often accommodating merely one entry door and window have been retained while the modernized interiors now combine multiple such seemingly separate fronts into one standard-width home or business.

Naturally, the main part of our trip wasn't sightseeing but to visit family. Ivette and I caught up with my younger sister Sigrun in Stuttgart where her Doctorate in architectural gardening serves as background for her Editorial work with specialized books on plants, mushrooms and vegetables. Stuttgart's bad air and proximity to the picturesque towns of my student days had us trade the big city for the country atmosphere of the latter in three heartbeats. But the main purpose of today's column was neither sightseeing nor family. To segue into my visit to Lauterthal in the Odenwald where Avantgarde Acoustic makes its home, the sticker "Avantgarde" on the before-mentioned Mercedes mini snapped outside Ikea in Kiel should serve nicely - but not before my dad makes a brief appearance, clad in a fashionable snake shawl compliments of Ikea's kiddie department.