these birches can be found in many places in Europe - the photos is from a short trip to Baden-Baden in 2007. the clouds in the background are the messengers of the storm Kyrill. here are some more moments of the trip: Baden-Baden.
“ast/ray” is a bilingual wordplay: “ast” means “twig” in German. and while “Baden-Baden” sounds like wordplay, too, it is the actual name of a rather well-know spa town that also dates back to Roman times. “Bad” is the German word for “bath”.