Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wild Geese and Fairy Tales

We drove from Macon to see family who live between Annecy and Geneva. We drove up into the Alps in Haute-Savoie for a day of seeing goats, cross-country-skiers, and to eat in a small and friendly restaurant. It was very friendly, that is, until the table next to ours was set on fire (by the meats-over-coals dish the couple had ordered). The customers were not worried... as the waiter was putting out the fire, their only remark was “more sauce, please.”

After our two days there, we left for Freiburg, a city that was re-built (after WWII) according to its original city plan. The streets are narrow and lovely, the store- and hotel-fronts blend old with new, and there is a canal running down one side of all the walking and biking streets. Our hotel has been running on Oberlinden for (roughly) 700 years. Here was the view:

The city’s people are very friendly, and the shops very interesting      do you need an umbrella store?

or a lovely restaurant?

Moving north, farther into Germany, we noticed that the houses became more concerned with rooflines... that is, each house and barn seemed hugely roof, against the snow to come. And there seems to be some interest in trapping the sun through solar panels:

We had planned to visit more cities, but, on finding that our next hotel had lied to us (they were not in Heidelberg, so it was impossible to find them there), we decided to change our plans. The autobahn is awe-inspiring; if there are no work-stations or problems, the speed limit is up to the driver, who can go as fast as desired, as long as s/he maintains control of the car. We were also seeing that cities seem more alike, from one country to the next, than countryside, and we thought the German countryside utterly gorgeous, so, why not slow down and see the landscape?

As we drove, we saw geese and swans and hawks, and chased down hotels (that we sometimes could not find) and small and interesting villages. “It’s a wild goose chase!” my husband said, and, yes, that’s what we have begun.
Logs are being harvested and stacked for pick-up. These smaller roads are accompanied by walking and biking paths. It is late in December, but the fields are still green, or ploughed up for the next crop. Vineyards are stacked up on careful hillside shelving. We pass a glassblower’s huge compound, an Audi factory, a “polizei” speed trap (cars here blink their lights, too). Someone has died along this road and her family has left candles and a white marble angel. We stay in two hotels in a row run by families; one speaks English, the other does not.

We drive by the town of Speilberg. It is 7 degrees Celsius. We stay in another hotel and leave the window open. The church bells ring all night. When it is 2:00 in the morning, the louder bell rings four times for the hour, then a smaller bell rings twice, then the louder bell rings once to say it is the quarter hour, then twice for the half hour, then three times for three-quarters of the hour, then at 3:00 the whole cycle begins again.

A covered bridge: “Did you think they started in Vermont?” my husband asks. We are driving in and out of the Schwarzwald, the Black Forest. Woodpiles become very important:

Two shaggy cows. Muddy sheep by a beautiful stream. We drive higher into the mountains, and see snow, ravines, waterfalls, and our car tells us “Risque de verglas” (black ice). The woods are dark and deep... again, Robert Frost didn’t invent these forests... these are fairy-tale forests, thick with moss... and dragons. I start reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

We stop for a Renaissance castle, WasserSchloss Glatt, with moat and timbered buildings:

And a town, later, on the Bodensee, called Meersburg, with defensive walls:

This is a fairy tale. Charley looks at the orchards, bare branches now, with a few scattered apples left:

and he says the apples seem to have given way, over the years, to decorated shiny balls and the Christmas tree.

I start a drawing:

And we head for another lake-side town.

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