hello hi happy new year nice to see you i’ve been away i hope you are well

Oh faithful gorillas! I wish I could have been there for you the last year. I write about books daily on Book Punks, but personal essays, published online, are just not possible right now.

But you still visit. You still come, by the dozens, to this site, every single day. When I see that I miss you, and I wish it was still possible for me to write about my living space, collective living, and tiny houses. It isn’t, ho hum, oh well. But I can offer you a small morsel, a keyhole, a window into my life in case you miss me: my instagram account bookpunksread. It is the closest I currently come to lifestyle blogging, and I share pictures of Frankfurt, books, cooking, and our tiny houses. I’d love for you to visit me there. Send me a message if you do, so I know who you are and can follow you back.

Fall morning. Now, just four point five hours of work and it’s the weekend!! #fall #bauwagen

Ein von Urban Gorilla (@bookpunksread) gepostetes Foto am

One tradition remains the same: The Year in Books. It went up on Book Punks today, and I’d love if you joined me once again to talk about your year in reading.

Uncertain about what to do with this space after such a long fallow period, I am considering a book. Click Clack Gorilla: condensed, revised, updated, expanded, and self-published. It would be a significant time committment, but a worthy tribute to the time we’ve spent here. What do you think? Would you read it? Would you want it? Would you buy it for 99 cents?

Until then, faithful gorillas, stay dirty, stay awesome, stay wild. xxx

sprout the seed

The air has changed; when my colleague opens the window in our shared office, it smells of budding plants and feels like an echo of sunshine. It can’t come soon enough. We’ve reached the part of winter when the tiny house starts feeling too tiny, when it feels like we are constantly bumping into each other and in each other’s way, when we long to expand our living space out into the backyard as we do the minute the sun returns its setting to spring.

I am comforted by the fact that the last two Aprils have had weather like summer. Is it April yet?  Is it spring?  Is it summer?  Can I forget about the cold and the icy rain and the grey sky and the disappointment of a winter without snow?  Will I remember how to turn off the computer and spend a day outside?  Of course.  Muscle memory, activated by warm light. No more wood to chop (though I have always enjoyed that part of winter), so more fires to light (a good wood stove takes the sting out of that task as well).

 

 

happy fucking valentine’s day

I almost forgot; Valentine’s Day isn’t something we celebrate ’round these parts.  But if you’re in the mood for something romantic, I spent the better part of last week filming and editing this adorable bi-national couple’s story into a short video:

If you are feeling as disgruntled as I was this morning, I hope those two manage to make you laugh.  If all else fails, drink more coffee.  Then listen to my bitter love songs playlist and drink even more coffee.  My day got much better once I reached maximum caffeination.

 

winter cleaning (daily life, january 2015)

Charlotte, Vermont. Photo copyright Nicolette Stewart

A light dusting of snow has covered the ground; after weeks of rain and mud, the weather has decided for winter afterall.

It is warm inside our sleeping Wagen, and I sit typing on Winter’s bed while the Beard sits typing on ours.  These days, Winter is at Kindergarten all day every day.  There is time to write, even time to miss her company.  But then she gets sick again and I get sick again and we all find ourselves swinging from a ragged, final thread of patience, snapping at each other, unable to rest and unable to cope.  My immune system is operating on standby, and it takes me weeks to get over a little cold.  At the doctor’s office I almost cry before she finally agrees to give me the hard stuff.

Winter is the time of year for cleaning.  Not spring.  In the spring everything outside is moving and changing.  I don’t want to sit inside sweeping up, but outside, soaking up the sun I’ve missed.  In the winter I am inside with all the things we’ve accumulated over the last year, and the need to make room presses in from every shelf.  The library Wagen has lost a bulky piece of furniture and will soon gain more bookshelves; the sleeping Wagen now has a loften bed and a space I think of as our living room.  Bag after bag of clothes and old sheets have gone into the donation bin.  I feel like we own so much, and yet with such a tiny living space, it is really almost nothing.  Still, the less the better.

Having finished cleaning our living space for now, I’m moving on to web spaces.  Click Clack Gorilla’s face will change again, and if anything goes horribly wrong, don’t worry, I’ll get it ironed out and back up soon.  I hope, once I’ve finished sweeping up and rearranging the furniture, I will come visit you here more often.  I’m feeling particularly ambitious this month, a spark with projects that so-help-me, I will finish by the end of the year.  At least.

Until then, I have been madly writing things for Book Punks and you can find me there daily.  Some recommendations:

Why I don’t like WWII fiction

Awesome SFF-inal dance music by Janelle Monae

Thoughts on reading poetry

Books having sex

I hope 2015 has found you all well…

The Year in Books 2014: A Long List and a Book Lover’s Blog Hop

It is time!  My favorite time of the year.  Ie the unveiling of my Year in Books.  As usual, I invite everybody to link up to their own year’s book posts using the linky below.  And to tell me if they’ve noticed anything on the list that they’ve especially loved or hated.  All links go to reviews I’ve written this year.  It has been a good one.

At the beginning of the week I handed out the 2014 awards on Book Punks.  I have never read this many books in one year in my entire life.  Well, ok, maybe when I was a kid and devouring the skimpy mysteries of R.L. Stein and Christopher Pike alongside The Saddle Club series and the like, but probably not since, and certainly not since I started keeping track.

I blame it on my daughter.  Yeah, yeah, all the stuff about having less time when you have a kid is true, but it has also made me extremely focused.  All the bullshit has fallen to the wayside, and I have really been concentrating on the things that make me ultra happy.  With Book Punks in full swing, reading has become a trifecta of my favorite things: reading, writing, and talking about both.

January is already lined up with books I want to read, far more than I can read in January.  If the books are the word, then 2015 is going to be another good year.  But, hey, wait, what did you read in 2014?  If you have a blog and a post something like this, link up using the linky tool at the bottom of this post.  Or tell me about some of your year’s favorites in the comments below.

January

1. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
2. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
3. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (reread)
4. Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (reread)
5. Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (reread)
6. Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
7. Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (cookbook)
8. City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments 1) by Cassandra Clare

February

9. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
10. The Silver Bough by Lisa Tuttle
11. City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) by Cassandra Clare
12. Nachtläufer by Reinhold Ziegler (first German read of the year!)
13. Arslan by M.J. Engh
14. How to Be German in 50 Easy Steps by Adam Fletcher
15. City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments 3) by Cassandra Clare
16. Wolves by Simon Ings
17. In the House of the Seven Librarians by Ellen Klages
18. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
19. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

March

20. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemison
21. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
22. To Write Like a Woman: Essays in Feminism and Science Fiction by Joanna Russ
23. How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard
24. Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness 1) by Tamora Pierce
25. In the Hand of the Goddess (Song of the Lioness 2) by Tamora Pierce
26. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (Song of the Lioness 3) by Tamora Pierce
27. Lioness Rampant (Song of the Lioness 4) by Tamora Pierce
28. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
29. The Circle by Dave Eggers
30. Among Others by Jo Walton

April

31. Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney
32. The Scarlet Plague by Jack London (novella)
33. Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
34. After Doomsday by Poul Anderson

May

35. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
36. Black Wine by Candas Jane Dorsey
37. Speculative Fiction 2013: The Best Online Reviews, Essays, and Commentary edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James
38. The Apology Chapbook by China Mieville
39. Necessary Ill by Deb Taber
40. The Ganymede Takeover by P.K. Dick and Ray Faraday Nelson
41. Paradigm by Ceri A. Lowe
42. Arrowhead by Paul Kane
43. Weight by Jeanette Winterson
44. Grimm Tales by Philip Pullman
45. Valiant by Holly Black

June

46. Die letzten Kinder von Schewenborn by Gudrun Pausewang
47. Tithe by Holly Black
48. Ironside by Holly Black
49. One Second After by Willian R. Fortschen
50. Speculative Fiction 2012 edited by Justin Landon and Jared Shurin

July

51. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
52. Habibi by Craig Thompson
53. Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
54. Wakulla Springs by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages
55. Authority by Jeff VanderMeer
56. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

August

57. Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig
58. The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig
59. The Wind Whispers Madness by Albert Nothlit (editing job)
60. Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky
61. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
62. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente
63. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut

September

64. Feed by Mira Grant
65. Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer
66. Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
67. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
68. The Little Book of Big Visions: How to Be an Artist and Revolutionize the World edited by Sandrine Micosse-Aikens and Sharon Dodua Otoo
69. Moxyland by Lauren Beukes
70. The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler
71. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
72. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

October

73. Finding Your Feet in Berlin by Giulia Pines
74. The End Is Nigh edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey

Did not finish: Catch Your Death by Lauren Child

75. Nightmare Magazine Issue 25: Women Destroy Horror! edited by Ellen Datlow
76. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
77. The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity Volume 1 by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
78. Fledgling by Octavia Butler
79. The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
80. The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Half by Catherynne M. Valente
81. the things i am thinking while smiling politely by Sharon Dodua Otoo
82. The End Is Now edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey
83. Saga Volume 1 by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan
84. Saga Volume 2 by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan
85. Saga Volume 3 by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan
86. The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship that Sank Twice by Peter Gross and Mike Carey

November

87. Patternmaster by Octavia Butler
88. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
89. The Unwritten Volume 2: Inside Man by Peter Gross and Mike Carey
90. The Unwritten Volume 3: Dead Man’s Knock by Peter Gross and Mike Carey
91. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
92. The Unwritten Volume 4: Leviathan by Peter Gross and Mike Carey
93. The Unwritten Volume 5: On to Genesis by Peter Gross and Mike Carey
94. Apocalypse: A History of the End of Time by John Michael Greer
95. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
96. Wilde Reise durch die Nacht by Walter Moers (audio book)
97. Journal of the Plague Year: A Post-Apocalyptic Omnibus containing Orbital Decay by Malcolm Cross, Dead Kelly by C.B. Harvey, and The Bloody Deluge by Adrian Tchaikovsky

December

98. The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen (audio)
99. Finnisches Feuer by Johanna Sinisalo
100. The Unwritten Volume 6: War of the Words by Peter Gross and Mike Carey
101. The Unwritten Volume 7: The Wound by Peter Gross and Mike Carey
102. The Unwritten Volume 8: Orpheus in the Underworld by Peter Gross and Mike Carey
103. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (audio, re-listen)
104. Gung Ho: Schwarze Schafe by Benjamin von Eckartsberg & Thomas von Kummant
105. Hot Head by Simon Ings
106. Art Objects by Jeanette Winterson
107. Headlong by Simon Ings
108. Slow Travel Berlin: 100 Favorite Places
109. The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord
110. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
111. Steam Noir Das Kupferherz 2 by Verena Klinke & Felix Mertikat
112. Steam Noir Das Kupferherz 3 by Verena Klinke & Felix Mertikat
113. Harry Potter and the Socerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (audio, relisten/read)
114. Mauerweg: Stories from the Berlin Wall Trail by Paul Scraton and Paul Sullivan
115. Hot Wire by Simon Ings

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daily life (november 2014)

There is a new bike route to take each morning; Winter has started kindergarten.  The only reason I have to not be excited about this is the fact that the orientation phase involves a parent sitting at the kindergarten for two or three hours every day, and then going home with the child.  So, for some amount of time we cannot pinpoint beforehand, we have no set daily child care.  I have been dreading it for months.

I don’t know how any one in Germany with children and “normal” jobs (as in 9-5, 40 hours a week, pressure, etc) manages to have children.

Otherwise: exciting!  Wee!  My little girl is growing up, glug glug, *wistful smile* etc or something.  I don’t feel sentimental about it, though it seems that people expect me to, just glad that she’ll be somewhere where she will be more challenged,  more stimulated.  She was getting bored at the pre-school-child-care-I-don’t-know-what-the-fuck-to-call-it-in-English, and she’s loving the new place.  I am occasionally astonished, looking at her, that she is so big and whole and smart and interesting, and I am excited for all she has to look forward to.

I’m feeling more informational than poetic today, sorry reading world.  It must be the fact that I had insomnia last night and instead of sleeping finished The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.  The Beard is in the middle of gutting half of our sleeping Wagen because there was mold.  A real monster under the bed situation.  Helloooo panic attack! Apparently being able to locate my physical possessions is one of the few weak tennants currently connecting me to wells of sanity and patience.

I was forced to take Winter’s treehouse bed apart and build her one lower to the ground because she refused to sleep in the tree house, though she liked to play there.  Now we only have a light case of slashing legs and flailing arms and screaming when its time to go to bed.  She still doesn’t sleep through the night.  At this point I no longer believe she ever will.  I mean shit, I don’t sleep through the night, even when I can. *weeps*  (No, this is not a plea for advice.)  Because of Beard’s gutting project, we won’t have a big bed anymore either, so, well, I’ll just hold my tongue and my breath and hope I can sleep again comfortably, with copius space, for many hours at a time, someday.

Hey, is that a coffee on your desk?  I’m going to need to take that. *reaches through screen* *runs off laughing* *runs into pole and is knocked unconscious*

Unconscious sounds good right now.  Only seven more hours until bedtime.

What has your life been like?

Meet the Cast

Having relaunched Click Clack Gorilla after such a lengthy fallow period, I feel inclined to re-explain, re-introduce, re-sow the seeds of the stories that I have been telling in this space for the last seven years (holy fuck, seven years?!).  So for the newbies, the frail of memory, and the people who just like pictures, I’d like to introduce the cast.  Also, I’ve changed a few nicknames and pseudonyms, and that’s worth mentioning whatever the state of either of our memories.

The Click Clack Gorilla: The Typing Hands

Writer, editor, singer, builder, scavenger, dumpster diver, geek, obsessive reader, time traveler, and the hands behind Click Clack Gorilla.  Hi my name is Nikki, and I need to take some new author photos.

Click Clack Gorilla on the Almost Iron Throne

Click Clack Gorilla on the Almost Iron Throne

.Winter: The Firstborn

You’ve known her as Peanut (in the womb), Pickles (fresh out of it), and forever after she’ll be known here as Winter.  Imagine the geeky potential for the pregnancy announcements if that had been her legal name: “Winter is coming…” SNORT.  But, behold! Peanut Pickles, I dub thee Winter for the purpose of internet hide-and-go-seek. Ta-da.

When I started using this name, a lot of you asked if I had suddenly gone mad and started using my daughter’s real name on the internet.  If you haven’t gone back and read my answers to those comments, then you heard it here first: nope!

Winter with a ukelele

The Beard: My Partner in Crime

We are that thing called married, but I can barely get my mouth around the word husband.  Partner fits.  He, however, prefers to remain anonymous and unphotographed.  You can wager that he probably has a Beard, but the rest is up to your imagination.

The Set

We live in Germany in an intentional community called a Wagenplatz.  This is what our house looks like.  In three parts.

Our sleeping and living room:

A seven-meter Bauwagen.

The kitchen:

A five-meter Bauwagen.

A five-meter Bauwagen.

The library and guest space:

Bauwagen: A tiny house in Germany

Oh dear.  We’ve gone and built a big porch that I don’t have any pictures of.  Well.  All in good time.  Thanks for reading, fellow gorillas.

A Shiny New Bike and the Usual Sexism

So we get this new bike, for Winter, a gift from a friend whose kids have outgrown the little, red, pedal-less thing.  I pick her up from the pre-school carrying it on my back.  She’s excited, circling it, trying to get on the seat even though it is still a little bit too big.  One of the male teachers comes over, asks if I want him to look it over.  Not really.  I know bikes.  I just got this one.  We’re likely to survive the trip home.  I politely decline.

While I’m getting Winter’s helmet and coat, he looks the bike over anyway.  One of those well-intentioned, overly helpful people.  OK.  That’s nice, I guess.  A couple of screws are maybe just a little loose, he tells me.

“Thanks.  I’ll look at them when I get home.”

“Yeah, maybe your husband can fix them.”

“My husband? What kind of sexist bullshit is that?  I’m the one who fixes the bikes at our house.”  For once in my life I have said exactly what I wanted to say exactly when I wanted to say it.  It still makes me feel a little shaky.  Calling someone out usually does.

He turns red and says he’s sorry.  He becomes very awkward, but is still very nice.  We end up tightening the screws together, right then and there.  My husband can fix it indeed.  As the Germans say: Am Arsch.

It was a small, quiet victory, but I felt so proud for refusing to let someone make sexist assumptions.  Like the female teacher there who kept calling me to pick Winter up in the middle of rather stressful, deadline-ridden work days.  Days when I would arrive to pick her up expecting disaster and could not convince her to come home with me because she was having so much fun.

When I explained to this teacher that this could not happen, and what was the point of paying them for child care to ensure I could work if they sent her home every day after a few hours, barely managing to hold back tears as I did so, she told me, “Oh, I didn’t know you worked.”  Right.  Because it is always the dad who works. And repairs the bikes.

Life Between

We are teetering on the edge between seasons, the fine line between End of Summer, Fall, and Winter Is Almost Here.  We light the wood stove, sometimes.  We prepare firewood and collect kindling from the surrounding forest.  We stack wood and briquettes, even though half of the shipment came in yellowing and moldy, and the Beard re-organizes the wood and tool shed.  I enjoy the light of the fire as is tumbles and turns, twitching behind the glass of the wood stove door, but I am not ready.  The laziness of summer is still upon me.  I just want to curl up and write, and read.  Not to do chores and stack wood and light wood stoves.

Winter is at preschool for most of the day.  Time is no longer such a rare commodity, but it still feels like such.  I frantically work on my computer all day, avoiding real-world activities because those, theoretically, are ones I could complete with a toddler at my side.  The most unexpected result of having a child has been the sharpening of my focus.  The bullshit has fallen to the gutter and been swept away, and for the first time in my life, I am interested in a series of events one might call “a career.”  It is strange, but exciting.  I should probably spend less time on the computer, but it will take me another few weeks (months? years?) to stop trying to hoard time.

It feels good to be writing, to have so much time to write.  Sometimes for clients—today I am writing a short guide to Hamburg for one—sometimes for pet projects, sometimes for myself.  I have thrown myself back into the creation of fiction and am enjoying the feeling of being swept away into a world of my own creation, bleak as those worlds tend to be.  When Winter gets home, I feel like it is the perfect time for a break; it is not an interruption.

Winter is becoming more interesting as she learns to talk, as she becomes more and more independent.  On the train she sits on a chair by my side and looks out the window.  Outside she bakes sand cakes that we pretend to eat, piles screws on the table as we build, takes her doll for a walk down the path that leads to our neighbors while we drink coffee on the porch.  I love listening to her talk, to her pretend to read books out loud (a few memorized words between a language she has invented), to speak German to her dolls and English to me.  We watch old movies and eat popcorn.  “I want you to cuddle me,” she tells me.  I should record more of what she says.  It is all wonderful, and so much of it is forgotten between the moment when she speaks and the moment when I sit down to write.

How are you?

Exploring Germany: Mühlenplatz (Or, Visit Every Important Building in Germany in Fifteen Minutes)

Mühlenplatz outside of Kassel. Photo copyright Nicolette Stewart

Mühlenplatz, Oberweser, Germany

We biked 60 kilometers that day.  It had rained as we set up our tent (after 14 km in the rain between train and camp, my phone falling repeatedly onto the concrete, the gps failing).  It had rained during the Trendelburg Mittelalterfest.  If the water from the overflowing creek beside our tent hadn’t been louder than raindrops, I would be able to tell you that it rained all night.  Our tent was missing pieces.  Our sleeping bags were too thin.  We spent the early mornings hiding in the heated laundry and wash room, drying our shoes on the radiator and drinking instant coffee out of a thin aluminum mug while Winter played in the sink.  It had been summer when we left home, but when we arrived in Trendelburg, it was fall, if only in spirit.

We had plans—castles to visit, places to bike—but the rain, the fucking rain.  When the sun came out on Friday, we lapped it up, hungry dogs.  We got onto our bikes—Winter and I on one, Tea on another—and took the Märchenstrasse (Fairy Tale Road) bike trail to the north.  Suddenly, our little weekend vacation felt perfect.  We should have been at home getting ready for the chickens we were planning on getting, but on a whim, we packed up our bikes, a borrowed tent, and nothing that would be remotely warm or waterproof enough, and took a train to a station outside of Kassel instead.  We still haven’t gotten those chickens.

The bike trail was gorgeous, first following the Diemal and then the Weser rivers through the type of German forests that remind me of Pennsylvania.  The beginning of our trip had been miserable.  Jovial, but cold and uncomfortable and damp.  Now the sun was shining, and its absence during the past two days made its warmth on our skin, the light on the river and the trees, our bikes, the existence of the path, the sun, the air, the sky, all of it, feel like magic.

I love German bike trails.  So well marked.  So well maintained.  You can get anywhere in this country by bike, absolutely anywhere.  There are over 200 bike trails covering something like 70,000 kilometers.  Want to bike from Frankfurt to Berlin?  It’ll take a while, but you can do it, possibly without ever having to get on a road with cars.  Don’t like hills?  Bike along a river.  The bike trails are one of the first things I think of when people ask me whether or not I ever plan on returning to America.  No, no, I say, couldn’t stand to say goodbye to those bike trails.

Bike path along the Weser. Germany

By chance, I had read about Mühlenplatz in a flier detailing the local sights and a circular bike trail that could bring a body to a number of sights along the Fairy Tale Road. Mühlenplatz is an outdoor museum containing miniature models of many of Germany’s most important castles, buildings, and mills. It sounded slightly weird—in that roadside stop, “See the Biggest Rubberband Ball in the World” kind of way—and looked like the kind of thing I would like taking pictures of and a two-year-old would like running around.  Correct on both counts.

Mühlenplatz, Oberweser, Germany

It was a strange and wonderful little place. Admission was an easy-to-part-with 2 euro for adults, nothing for kids under 5 years old.  The mills were fenced off, but the rest, well let’s just say that two year olds can’t read signs.

Mühlenplatz, Oberweser, Germany

And in Germany, isn’t there always a sign?  (Translation: Please don’t touch the models.) Ah well. She didn’t get us kicked out, even when she took off her shoes and threw them in the creek. Even when she tried to climb Neuschwanstein. Even when she tried to open the windows off all the little houses.

There is something magical about miniatures.  As a child, I loved to imagine the tiny villages that wood fairies might inhabit in the forest or to read about little people who could sleep in a match box and use a needle as a spear.  Beside its weirdness, layered around it, Mühlenplatz has some of that magic, the magic of looking in on another world, one frozen by your gaze, one that will spring back into life when you turn your back. Especially on a sunny day after a long bike ride, seen over the top of a quickly melting ice cream cone.

Mühlenplatz, Oberweser, Germany