A white stork established a nest on a roof in Hungary. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
A white stork established a nest on a roof in Hungary. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
I was pleased to be one of 34 journalists from around the world invited to Wetzlar, Germany, (the City of Optics) to test Zeiss binoculars that were made especially for birding.

I tested the binoculars by birding. Whenever a guy can go birding and pretend it's work, life is sublime.

Wetzlar is home to manufacturers of binoculars, microscopes, eyeglasses and cameras. Cutting-edge optics live in Wetzlar.

Wetzlar has been featured in classic literature. The city on the Lahn River was the setting for "The Sorrows of Young Werther," a famous novel by Goethe. Its narrow, winding streets, historic houses and an unfinished cathedral in the town's center are examples of the city's rich past.

I was over the moon to be a part of the ZEISS VICTORY SF Experience in Germany, Austria and Hungary.

I joined other journalists from France, Taiwan, U.K., India, Australia, Singapore, Germany, Netherlands and the United States. It was a case of the odd man in.

The Beatles sang, "You tell me that you've got everything you want. And your bird can sing. But you don't get me. You don't get me. You say you've seen the seven wonders. And your bird is green. But you can't see me. You can't see me."

When I first heard that song, I thought they were singing about Zeiss binoculars. You know The Beatles, there was always supposed to be a hidden meeting. Paul is dead, etc.

When I was a young whippersnapper birder, Zeiss binoculars were the Holy Grail of optics.

In those days and most of the days thereafter, I used binoculars with names that sounded as if they came in a box of Cracker Jacks. Zeiss was a legendary name. Zeiss optics were for when "not bad" just wasn't good enough.

I live just beyond Hope, a small town in Minnesota. I hoped to see a hoopoe on my trip. I gathered with a throng of ardent admirers of the hoopoe (the bird's scientific name is Upupa epops) to watch this amazing avian creature. Nice.

I still live just beyond Hope, but I'm not hoopoeless.

Common cuckoos called constantly as if I were visiting a shop filled with Black Forest cuckoo clocks. I was never quite sure what time it was, but, apparently, it was later than it had ever been.

Birds were like Russian nesting dolls. One opened up to another. I saw Syrian woodpecker, saker, short-toed eagle, imperial eagle, honey buzzard, white-tailed eagle, red-footed falcon, collared pratincole, little owl, great reed warbler, black redstart, lesser grey shrike, red-backed shrike, serin, greenfinch, linnet, corn bunting, golden oriole, roller, European bee-eater, and yellowhammer, to name more than a few.

Large nests were on rooftops. Some Hungarians consider it good luck to have a white stork nesting on their homes and put tires on their roofs as bases for stork nests.

The birding was so good, that the only complaint I heard was made by Diane Porter of Iowa who said jokingly, "OK, we've been birding for 25 minutes now without me seeing another live bird."

I hung around Wetzlar with binoculars hanging around my neck.

I made a brief stop at a knitting shop because my wife loves knitting and I love my wife.

I made another brief stop at a bookstore because I love books. Most of the books, as might be expected, were in German. I don't read German as well as I used to and I was never able to read German.

A fellow approached me. He had no binoculars hanging from his neck. Can you imagine not carrying binoculars into a bookstore? I guess it takes all kinds.

He smiled, pointed at my Zeiss binoculars (made in Wetzlar, of course) and gave me the thumbs up sign.

I wasn't sure if he liked Zeiss or binoculars or Zeiss binoculars. Or if he liked dorks who wore binoculars into bookstores so they could read books from a distance.

I like passing along good news. The binoculars tested well. They took my eyes to places where words fail. The Zeiss binoculars were so good, if I squinted like Clint Eastwood while using them in Hungary, I was able to catch a glimpse of Minnesota. I'm pretty sure.

Voltaire said, "Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too." I think that great binoculars plus great birding equals happy camper.

Zeiss has a slogan, "We make it visible." It's true.

The Beatles sang, "All you need is love."

That may be true, but great binoculars help.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

How was your vacation?

It was OK, but I spent half my time getting to the resort.

That so?

And the other half of my time wishing I were home.

Cafe chronicles

I sat in a coffee shop, using my cellphone to reply to emails that had accumulated like the national debt. I drank a cup of tea in the midst of loud cellphone conversations. It was difficult to keep from being swept up into the story lines of others. I couldn't help but try to fill in the missing half of each conversation.

Seeking a quieter atmosphere, I moved down the road to a cafe.

A stop at a small-town cafe is good on a day that might have come from IKEA because it needed to be assembled from confusing instructions.

A woman told me she'd been behind bars. And she had been. She'd worked behind the dessert table in the church basement at a potluck supper.

She's a good small-town person. She knows her place. Sometimes it's behind bars.

Someone has to be late

I left my bed early in the morning. I'd risen like dust after an all-night rain. I started off slowly and then tapered off.

Not much later, I was stalled in traffic. Someone had decided to drive zero miles per hour. I wanted to be elsewhere.

The guy in the car next to me looked as if he were a man on his way to the proctologist. Or maybe he was eating a Vaseline sandwich.

I wished I had my razor with me so I could have used my time to shave. I have one of those razors that have countless blades. One of the blades is a mulcher.

It had rained too much. Several roads were closed due to heavy rains. It added time to my trip to a meeting.

I hoped that I could make it there quick enough to get to the lifeboat.

I did.

A fellow attendee told me, "I had to get lost to get here."

My neighbor

His wife told him that in some cultures, the husband does things. He did something. He watched TV. He loved "Newhart." He loved it so much that he named his twins Darryl and Darrell. They were identical, but he could tell them apart by the way they spelled their names.

I thought about them recently when I hung around with some English guys. None of them were named Darryl or Darrell. They were great fellows with wonderful accents. They could say something incredibly stupid and still sound brilliant.

Thanks for stopping by

"We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong." -Wendell Berry

"Any one of us can be a rainbow in somebody's clouds." -Maya Angelou

Meeting adjourned

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." - Leo Buscaglia


© Al Batt 2014