German Summer Dispatches Part II: Koblenz and Bonn

Like every year, we did a trip to see family in Germany at the end of August. This year, like so many before, I took a selection of bottles with me. On part I I told you of the dispatches from the Hull ferry and the dispatch of one bottle into the almost empty river Ems. The next stop on our tour brought us to a bigger stream: the river Rhine which has carried quite a lot of my bottles. Before this summer, I have (at different locations) trusted it with 20 bottles of which six were found. This summer I put another 7 into its arms. We’ll see…

August 23rd

Deutsches Eck, the point where the river Mosel feeds into the river Rhine, seen from the cliffs on the other river bank, taken from one of the cabins of the cable tram

On the 23rd (Friday) we made a day trip to Koblenz which is located where the Mosel joins the river Rhine. There’s a aerial cable tramway going across the river to allow easy access to castle Ehrenbreitstein. We had a great day, riding the cable tram and seeing the castle. And to finish the day of I went with the kiddos to dispatch from bottles into the river Rhine, right from that joining point there.

from left to right these are bottles numbered 113, 116, and 117 getting ready for their release

and that’s me getting ready

Right after throwing the bottles in, a cruise ship approached. I stood and watched: would its bow wave catapult the bottles onto the concrete rwalls? Throw it off course? Or transport it further into the middle of the stream?

The boat and my bottle (marked a little thinly, slightly to the centre left of the photo

the bottle and the boat, zoomed in for more drama

In the photos I now could make out just the one bottle, but there were all three visible to us while we were standing there. The one that is in the pictures is the one that was swimming furthest ahead, I believe. The ship passed behind the bottle when it drove past first. It didn’t seem to impact too much on the bottle’s path, just rocked it a little. But then it decided to turn, and I lost track of where the bottles were. I believe the ship must have gone over it. And it wasn’t your measly little boat either:

when I took the photo, I believed I could see the bottles bobbing alongside it – but now I can’t spot them anywhere

But I trust they survived this early ordeal, and I hope they’ll find their way downstream into the hands of happy finders.

August 28, Bonn

After another family visit, we then made our way to Cologne and then to Bonn at the river Rhine. This is where the project all started. The very first seven bottles were released in to the river Rhine from a ferry very close to the Kennedy Bridge from where I decided to put in the last couple of bottles I carried with me.

From left to right these are bottles numbers 119, 121, 112, and 114 waiting for their dispatch

Once again the kids were very eager to help. And so they took turns throwing in my messages in bottles.





I am looking forward to the day when they start asking about making their own bottle. But for now, I just shall be waiting for messages from finders of these ones. – Travel well, my bottles!

German Summer Dispatches Part I: The Ferry and Telgte

Like every year, we did a trip to see family in Germany at the end of August. This year, like so many before, I took a selection of bottles with me:

August 19th North Sea

My bottle number 107 and Peter’s “Do not Open!” looking out of our cabin’s window to watch the English coast go by

On Monday August 19th we boarded the “Pride of Rotterdam”, the ferry that goes between Kingston upon Hull in England to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. In my luggage I brought 9 of my own little bottles, and one of Peter’s.

Our schedule on the ferry is pretty much the same every time we go: We arrive at between 5 and 6 on the ship and “move in” to our cabin. The kids are given a chance to explore the ship (every time delighted that it hasn’t changed from last time). Then we eat dinner on board. If they feel like it, the twins can watch some of the entertainment program targeted at kids. And then, because we are all sleeping in the one cabin, all go to bed at 8.

What sounds awfully early from an adult perspective usually suits me quite well. We have to get up at 6 o’clock local time (i.e. 5 o’clock English time) for our breakfast the next day, so getting to bed early is a good idea anyway. And after several weeks of summer holidays and a day of packing, I am usually tired enough to fall to sleep immediately. The ship, however, doesn’t leave the harbour before 8.30 pm; something I often notice vaguely on the brink of sleep.

ferry route from Hull to Rotterdam

This time, I decided, I’d stay awake a little longer, and put the bottles into the North Sea. Since Peter’s bottle made its way from Germany to me, it made sense to put it in closer to the English coast.

So when Matthias and the kids all slipped into their beds I packed a book, the bottles, and a camera and headed out to find a place where I could wait. As you might imagine, the “board entertainment” was in full swing by then. Music and shows everywhere I went, and I found it hard to concentrate on my book. – And I got more tired by the minute.

last glimpse at the bottles before letting them go

I managed to hold out until shortly after 9. At least the ship was moving. The coast was still visible, but maybe we’d be lucky, I figured.
It was already dark, and taking photos was difficult. I thought had taken more images, but when I returned inside (without the bottles) it turned out I only had the one on the left. – Sorry!

Asking the ever wise internet, I read:

On Monday, 19th of August of 2019, the sun rose in Hull at 5:47 h and sunset was at 20:21 h. In the high tide and low tide chart, we can see that the first low tide was at 3:23 h and the next low tide at 15:48 h. The first high tide was at 9:04 h and the next high tide at 21:40 h.

We had 14 hours and 34 minutes of sun. The solar transit was at 13:04 h.

So apparently the water was still rushing toward the coast when I threw the two bottles overboard at about 9:10 pm. So far I have not heard anything from them. I hope their happy finders wait for them!

August 21st Telgte, Ems

Cardinal von Galen Platz, the plaza in front of the Clemens Church in Telgte

I have already dispatched a couple of bottles in Telgte, the famous little town near Münster in Westfalia. It has a proud past and a couple of proud buildings in its neat little old town centre. Apparentlz in recent years there has been a noticable rise in tourism there, and I was surprised to find the old market square lively and full of people in restaurants and outside seating areas.

I went to the river in the morning of the 21st (Wednesday). In the photo above you can see the plaza in front of Clemens Church, the big church where the mass related to the pilgrimage is held (although the goal of the processions is the chapel just beside it, and not visible in the photo). Just behind the cars you might be able to guess at a foot bridge across the Ems.

Bridge across the Ems

This is the bridge. At this location the Ems splits into two branches with a large island in the middle from where I put in my bottle – like I did on previous occasions.

See that little plaza there? Just imagine me standing there right in the corner to throw in the bottle. I compiled a little map for you to scroll in and out if you wish to have an idea where this is:

non-flowing river

I don’t remember seeing the river quite as empty. The weir was shut, and the river was not actually flowing (much). Just compare that to the images I took in 2014.

Well, one last look at the bottle, and then it went in. I figured, if it gets found right there, nothing is lost. If it stays there for a couple of weeks until it goes on – it doesn’t matter either.

That mentioned, it has to be said that I was not lucky with any bottles I left there. Over the years I put in 6 bottles, and never heard back from a single one.

there the bottle floats, right on top of a sunken bike

Looking downstream: the river is beautiful here, the shores overgrown and almost inaccessible. The best chance to find the bottle is probably from one of the paddling boats that can be seen quite often here

The view above is from that footbridge mentioned above, and when you look the other way…
This is one of Christel Lechner’s Alltagsmenschen (everyday people), part of an art installation. I must admit that I briefly startled when I saw it from the corner of my eye.

I returned tot he river by night. The photo was taken from the other shore, looking upon the dispatch location. It was too dark to actually spot the bottle, I suppose. In any case I couldn’t see it. The place from where I took this photo, by the way, would usually be on the river bed.


No. 74 “Small World – The Suitase”. Work in Progress

Small World - The Suitcase, making of

Contents of message in a bottle No. 74, H. Kurzke (a click on the image brings you to ipernity where there are “notes” in the image, explaining what is what)

O.k., now I am struggling a little bit with this one. This is the third bottle for which I am making a mini book complete with props to create a little scene inside the bottle. The first was given to Wollaton library, and as a bottle with a certain recipient not very representative to this series. And the second was number No. 72 named “Small World – The Bed” was finished just the other day. In both cases all elements of the installation were glued in place, only the book is removable from the scene.

For some reason, I am hesitant to glue the parts into place with this one. Isn’t it neat that all the part could come apart? There is the suitace, and cut from paper two pairs of trousers and three shirts. There are a little leather belt and a paper tie. I so would like to add something representing socks, but I failed to find something convincing. There is a piece of paper that looks like a newspaper page, and of course there is the central piece, the book (with content, of course, which I regards as the main content of the bottle, and thus won’t be revealed until someone finds it). But then, I don’t really know how to do this without glueing most of the parts into place. Just one tumble on the waves, and everything will just fly about in the bottle. I am considering tying it down somehow rather than glueing it. But that will be hard to do and unreliable.

Message in a Bottle No. 74 by H. Kurzke, putting in the letters

So my question to you today: If you found such a bottle. Would you be dissappointed if all these things were glued down inside the suitcase (the book would still come free and be usable, of course)?

All in all I must say, I am rather happy with how the suitcase turned out. My pride is the tiny buckle which I formed from half a staple, essentially bending it with my fingers.

Flasche Nummer 74 (yep, ich habe zwischendurch eine gemacht, die ich noch nicht vorgezeigt habe) soll den Titel “Small World – The Suitcase” also, “kleine Welt – der Koffer” tragen. Dies ist die dritte Flasche, in die ich ein kleines Büchlein in einer Mini-Installation hineinlege. Die erste war die Nr. 45 für Wollaton Library, die zweite Nr. 72 mit dem Titel Small World – The Bed ist erst vor kurzem fertig geworden. Die Bücher haben natürlich Text und sind voll funktionsfähig. Bislang habe ich immer alle Teile der Installation in der Flasche festgeklebt, und nur das Buch konnte herausgenommen werden.

Bei dieser Flasche hier kämpfe ich allerdings ein bisschen mit mir: Es wäre so hübsch, wenn all diese Dinge: 2 Hosen, 3 Hemden, ein Gürtel, ein Schlips, eine Zeitung und natürlich das Buch, beweglich blieben. Und auch den Koffer mag ich irgendwie nicht auf den Teppich kleben. Aber ich weiß auch nicht so recht, was ich sonst machen soll. Festbinden vielleicht, oder einfach locker lassen, und in Kauf nehmen, dass das eben alles durcheinanderwirbelt in der Flasche.

Deshalb heute ein Frage an alle (potentiellen) Flaschenpostfinder: Wärst du enttäuscht, wenn du so eine Flasche findest, und die Gegenstände alle festgeklebt sind?

Im Großen und Ganzen muss ich allerdings sagen, bin ich sehr zufrieden damit, wie der Koffer so geworden ist. Besonders stolz bin ich auf die winzige Schnalle, die ich aus eine halben Tackerklammer im wesentlichen mit den Fingern gebogen habe (und mich dabei mehr als einmal kräftig in die Finger gestochen habe. – Autsch!).

As you can see, I decided to create a little more stable underground for the suitcase: The accompaning letters are put into a base to which the carpet was glued.

Message in a Bottle No. 74 by Hilke Kurzke, making of. This is how the suitcase will sit inside the bottle.

To be quite honest: while writing up this post here, I acutally made up my mind about the question whether to glue or not to. But I would still love to hear what you think about it: Glue, tie, or let fly?

Ganz ehrlich: Während ich diesen Artikel hier geschrieben habe, habe ich eine Entscheidung getroffen. Aber ich würde trotzdem gerne deine Meinung hören: Festkleben, anders befestigen (binden) oder ganz loose lassen?

Another postal journey

???????????????????????????????This is the second time now, I dispatched some bottles with the postal system. It was not a “real” dispatch, of course, because they had a real address on them, and they reached their intended destination. I’ll let you know when they get dispatched for real, probably into the Baltic Sea.

But this whole thing got me wondering: Maybe I should dispatch one through the postal system once. Maybe without an address, a false address, a fantasy address, maybe addressed to “anyone who is curious enough to open this package”,… I wonder what would happen. What do you think?

#54, 55, 56, 58, Image by James Ismael Cook, used with permission

#54, 55, 56, 58 arrived savely, Image by James Ismael Cook, used with permission

Letztens habe ich mal wieder Flaschen auf eine andere Art Reise gebacht: Durchs Postsystem. Natürlich war das kein richtiger Abwurf: Es gab einen echten, beabsichtigten Empfänger, und der hat sie auch erhalten (wie das zweite Bild zeigt). Aber das hat mich auf einen Gedanken gebracht: Vielleicht werde ich mal eine Falsche dem Postsystem überlassen und schauen wo sie landed, vielleicht ohne Addressat, mit einem falschen Addressaten, mit einem Fantasie-Addressaten (wie” an den Weihnachtsmann”), an “jeden der neugierig genug ist, reinzuschauen”, …? Ob sowas funktioniert? Was meinst du?

New Stops, neue Korken

2014-01-29 11.12.48Der Umzug nach England bringt teilweise unerwartete Schwierigkeiten mit sich. So ist auch das Gestalten von Flaschenposten subtil schwieriger geworden. Konkret: der Versender, von dem ich bislang meine Korken bekommen habe, versendet nicht nach UK und der, bei dem ich meine erste Ladung gekauft habe, für ein horrendes Geld. Eine lokale Quelle zu finden ist natürlich sowieso eigentlich eine gute Idee. Die erste Schwierigkeit war auch relativ schnell überwunden: Die Dinger heißen “tapered corks”, “bungs” oder auch einfach nur “stops”, und so hat mich in der letzten Woche die erste Ladung erreicht.

Moving to a new country has surprising consequences. In my case i t makes closing my messages in bottles just that bit more difficult. Who would have thought that? The vendor of the corks that I used for the latest bottles and with which I was very happy doesn’t ship to the UK, and the other shop where I bought the first batch ask for a frightening sum to send them here. So I looked for ordering them locally which is a good idea in any case, I guess. And so the first batch of new corks reached me during the last week.

korkenOn the right you see a comparison between the old and new corks: the new ones are significantly taller and are composed of small bits of cork rather than large pieces. The old corks were composites, too, but mostly of a couple of larger chunks rather than the small shreds that makes the new cork. I don’t know whether that is good or bad, actually. While the old ones look nicer to me, they often had larger holes which are not present in the composite corks.

Auf diesem Bild oben seht ihr einen Vergleich des alten Korkens (links) mit dem neuen (rechts). Beide sind zusammengesetzt, allerdings sind meine alten Korken aus wenigen großen Stücken gemacht, während der neue aus vielen kleinen Teilen besteht. Ich finde das sieht weniger hübsch aus, allerdings bin ich nicht sicher, ob diese kleinen Teile wirklich ein Nachteil sind. Es ist ja nicht so, dass der Inhalt verdirbt, wenn beim Korkenzieher eindrehen ein Stückchen Korken in die Flasche fällt. Und immerhin sind die Lücken und Risse im Korken weniger ausgeprägt bei dem zusammengeklebten Monsterding. Monsterding weil der neue Korken schon wesentlich länger ist als zuvor.

2014-01-29 11.15.37Hier sieht man ihn mal auf einer Flasche. – Sieht ein bisschen komisch aus, wenn ihr mich fragt. Natürlich würde er noch ein wenig tiefer in der Flasche stecken, wenn ich die Flasche endgültig verschließe. Aber dennoch…. Vielleicht könnte ich auch oben ein Stück abschneiden. Das werde ich wohl mal ausprobieren.

Ich bin jedenfalls alles andere als sicher, dass ich hiermit schon die endgültige Lösung gefunden habe. Naja, jetzt werde ich wohl einfach mal zumindest eine neue Flasche füllen, und den neuen Korken ausprobieren!

In any case the large cork does look a little funny on the small bottles. Maybe I could simply cut some material off the top. Well, I am not sure yet, that I have found my ideal cork just yet. But now I’ll head off to make at least one new bottle and try the cork!

Endlich: Die Korken sind da!

korken blogFinally the new corks reached me. Not sure yet that they have indeed the optimal size but it was the best I could find for now, and I am optimistic that they will work all right. It will be better than no cork at all in any case. Now I am looking forward to sealing the next 10 bottles tomorrow. More to come…

Endlich haben mich die 10 Korken erreicht, die ich bestellt habe. Im Bild ist eine Flasche mit Korken zu sehen. Der liegt dort natürlich erstmal nur locker auf, ich denke, ich werde ihn fast ganz reindrücken. Das finde ich ein wenig unglücklich. Ich hätte es besser gefunden, wenn er einige Millimeter dicker wäre. Aber beim nächstgrößeren Korken, den ich bestellen könnte, bin ich mir nicht sicher, dass ich das untere Ende überhaupt in die Flasche gefriemelt bekomme. Naja, zusammen mit der Fassdichte, die ich eigentlich ja auch noch draufschmieren will, wird es sicher gut klappen. – Demnächst mehr dazu.

Floating Test

floating test kleinThe bottles all passed a floating test today. Thanks to James Ismael Kuck who made me think of this for the first time with his blog post featuring some hints, tips and instructions of creating a message in a bottle.

It turned out that one of them has a leak, though. I am not sure yet what to do about it. I guess I’ll open it up and let it stand in the sun for a while now, and then seal it better. I’ll have to think hard about whether to submit it to the river at all, though, and it will of course depend on how it looks like when it is dried.

In the image below the water looks more and worse than it is because the water stuck between the paper and the glass. However, the bottle was only briefly in calm water, so I have no doubts whatsoever, that it would more or less immediately sink the the ground when thrown into the river.

Heute bin ich auf die Idee gekommen, überhaupt mal zu testen, ob die Fläschchen eigentlich schwimmen. Glücklicherweise haben alle den Test bestanden. Auf dem Blog von James Ismael Kuck, habe ich Hinweise dazu gefunden, dass es Glasflaschen gibt, die vor allem mit Inhalt beladen, evtl. nicht mehr schwimmen. Das hat mir einen Schrecken eingejagt!

Es hat sich allerdings herausgestellt, dass die Versigelung einer Flasche ein Leck hat. Den Inhalt werde ich also erst einmal trocknen müssen, um dann das Fläschchen erneut zu versigeln. Je nachdem, wie es innen drin so aussieht, werde ich aber auch einfach ein neues machen oder es eben einfach weglassen.

Auf dem Bild hier sieht der Wasserschaden schlimmer aus als er ist, weil das Wasser sich zwischen das Papier und die Glaswand gehängt hat. Trotzdem besteht natürlich kein Zweifel, dass es sich im Rhein sofort mit Wasser fülllen würde.

water leakEin Bild vom Versigelungsprozess: Schritt 1: I nehme ein Stück Baumwollstoff für jedes Glas, lasse es sich mit Wax vollsaugen, lege es über das Glas und binde mit einem Stück Schnur so fest ich kann.

step 1 klein

Step 1: I take a piece of cotton cloth for each bottle, let it soak in hot wax and then bind it as thoroughly as I can over the opening.

Im zweiten Schritt schneide ich den Stoff und die Bänder kurz, und dippe nochmal die Kappe ins Wax, insbesondere auch die Unterseite des Stoffes, um dort eine Waxschicht hinzubekommen. Das war wohl in dem erwähnten Fall nicht gründlich genug geschehen. Nun ja, Lektion gelernt – hoffe ich!

step 2 klein

Step 2: I crop the cloth and then dip the glass once more into liquid wax. Here the bottles are waiting for the wax to melt and for their second dip. I do intent to make sure the underside of the cloth is covered and thus the bottle sealed. But I must have failed in this step with the leaking bottle. Well, lesson learned – I hope.