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Lachlan Rogers
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The thinking of a Gentoo Linux user: I'm back in a cold climate for a few weeks, so lets get compiling more than 500 packages to update my system!

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Miniatur Wunderland is often cited as one of Hamburg's top attractions, which is remarkable for something that is essentially a model railway. The numbers, however, highlight how special this model world really is: it has 15.4 km of model railway track in HO scale; the model occupies 1490 square metres of floor space (that's more than 10 times our apartment); there are 1040 trains made up of over 10,000 carriages; about 385,000 lights; 130,000 trees; and 260,000 human figurines.

We spent hours wandering around the exhibits - the longer you look the more detail you find to enjoy. Here are a few of the scenes and details that particularly caught my eye.
Miniatur Wunderland
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This is resonant with one of my personal soap-boxes, but it is particularly topical now that I'm moving from German Autobahnen back to Australian motorways...

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A glimpse of Köln

We needed a place to split a family drive north through Germany. For residents of Ulm, which has recently celebrated 125 years of having the tallest church in the world, a natural choice was to visit Köln and its slightly shorter (by a few metres) cathedral - the famous Kölner Dom.

Despite being shorter than the Ulmer Münster (157m vs 161.5m), the Kölner Dom is a twin-spire construction rather than Ulm's single spire. The result is the largest façade of any church in the world, and it really does feel impressive. As with all Gothic churches, the level of detail is beyond insane. The other thing that stands out at first glance is the crowd: this church is Germany's most visited landmark!

Inside, the church is large but not immediately exceptional. The choir (some walk from the front door) is more ornate and characterful, with detailed mosaic tile floors in the ambulatory. In the apse at the end of the choir is the Reliquary of the Three Kings. This golden box in the shape of a basilican church is believed to contain the remains of the three kings who travelled to honour the baby Jesus. The shrine was opened in 1864 and found to contain bones and garments, but today it is carefully protected by a thick glass security screen.

The south spire can be climbed, and the view from the "top" is vast and impressive. I was disappointed that the tapered conical section at the top of the spire cannot be climbed (it can on the Ulmer Münster, and I've grown accustomed to a viewing platform only metres below the tip of the spire). Uncertain weather had cleared by the time I reached the viewing platform, and I enjoyed a clear view over the Rhine and the city of Köln.

We also had time (just) to visit the Hohenzollern Bridge, which has recently become famous as a significant starting point for the habit of attaching "love locks" to public structures. Indeed, I've seen these all over Europe but never with the density at which they plaster the fence separating pedestrians from trains. In some places, elaborate "stalagmite" structures had formed where people resorted to attaching new locks to existing ones rather than the bridge itself. Clearly, there is a certain prestige to putting a lock in less accessible positions. I was amused to see a small band of teenage boys, who I am sure were practising lock-picking. The may not be a better place on earth to practise this skill!
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Source of the Danube

The Danube is a remarkable river, flowing through many countries and four national capital cities. Our home city of Ulm lies on the upper section of the Danube, and we've previously visited Regensburg (on the most northern point of the Danube) and Melk (fertile Austrian Danube) - and Budapest (majestic Imperial Danube). Now, finally, I can cross off another special Danube location: its source.

For such a large and famous river, the Danube has a remarkably mundane start defined at the confluence of the Brigach and the Breg. A small milestone marks the spot, which is overlooked by a marble statue. Apart from these small details, nothing stands out in the (admittedly beautiful) scenery to indicate the cartographic significance of the location.

We wandered around the riverbank for a while enjoying the spectacular weather. Then we drove a few kilometres into the town of Donaueschingen to see the Donauquelle, a far more romantic "source of the Danube".

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Wow! This is so fantastic that I can't believe I'm only just learning about it now. Was this big news at the time? How did I miss it?

+Luke Webster and +Cameron Rogers you have to check this out!

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The Hohentwiel fortress is the largest castle ruin in Germany. Hohentwiel is a volcanic plug that rises dramatically above the surrounding fields of the Hegau region in southern Germany. The steep rocky outcrop is an ideal vantage point for fortifications, and the first castle was built on top in 914. Views from the top extend over Lake Constance to the Alps.

Originally property of the Swabian Dukes, the Hohentwiel Castle had an exciting history. By the 16th century it had become an enclave of Württemberg, and it was an important fortification during the Thirty Years' War. Between 1634 and 1648 it resisted five Imperial sieges, resulting in Württemberg remaining Protestant even though most of the surrounding areas returned to catholicism in the Counterreformation.

The castle served as a Württemberg prison in the 18th century, but was destroyed in 1800 after being peacefully handed over by the French. Today the vast ruins still convey the impressive nature of this fortress.

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I saw this project on LEGO Ideas and encouraged people to support it. Now it is approved and on sale, but I'm not sure I can afford it after various other LEGO purchases this year...

Have you ordered one yet +Shannon Roy?

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"If we could move from an ownership society to an access society where having it now wasn’t important… [but] having it when you need it, it would really dramatically, magically, change the world." 
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