No Christmas in Germany (2017)

Join me this month for stories of our time here in a small German village where we’re visiting with my mom. This series of blogs is named after a post from 2015, when we spent nine months in Europe but had to leave over Christmastime. Thanks for reading, Bill 

Dawn and I lay in bed like two snakes wrapped around each other, taking what heat we could from each other. Forgot how cold it gets in my mom’s house this time of year. There are areas of heat but they’re confined to small spaces and in between you’re reminded it’s winter, and we’ve started wearing scarves inside. I tapped the big wooden beams walking downstairs with Charlotte and said look at that: it’s a 500-year-old house and just kind of leaks heat between the gaps in the walls and old windows. When we got on the plane in Seattle the pilot said the weather in Frankfurt was light snow but intensifying throughout the day, and for a moment I worried about the roads…but Eberhard was meeting us at the airport, a retired German cop and logistics expert, and he would have every last detail thought through, would be checking the conditions. He was living with his mom in the country now, sending me photos from his phone: the first snow of the season, right when we got here.

After we passed through security in Seattle we got on the train for the S terminal and hurried to my favorite restaurant, the one with the crab cakes, seafood, and good beers on tap. And thus began the airplane-hoarding mentality of travel, of airport-sized beers, eating everything they put in front of us whether or not it makes sense to and then going back to the galley for more: spotting the stewardess coming down the aisle offering refills and getting it down my neck to make room for more…feeling my hands and feet swell, my rings tighten…everyone leaning back, penned in on a plane with their monitors, our bearing with an arrow onscreen that cuts above Ottawa, across the north pole then down through Reykjavik, tilting the earth like a piece of fruit on a cutting board, counting down the miles and hours until we land.

And in the car at last with Eberhard getting on the A3, visibility is bad with the snow and clouds but it’s a Sunday and not much traffic, though we see up ahead of us smoke, a car on the shoulder on fire flipped over on its back reduced down to the frame, people on the sides huddled there watching it, and I wake Dawn and the kids to look, I’d never seen such a thing.

Mom has goulash for us and fresh bread (Eberhard squeezes it, asks is this from today?)—cold cuts, pastries, crudités—and when I wake a couple hours later it’s 4 o’clock in Germany, they’re just waking in Seattle; mom and I open a bottle of wine while Dawn and the kids sleep, and outside it’s snowing more, mom doesn’t have any details, says there’s just a snowflake symbol on the weather, and somehow it feels good not knowing any more than that.

Categories: Memoir, travel

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17 replies

  1. When you wrote of the earth like a piece of fruit, I flashed on those maps they used to show us in grade school, with the earth as a carefully dissected orange peel. At that age, it used to worry me a bit, the earth coming apart at the seams, etc.
    A very jolly Krampus illustration, they really knew how to run the bunny slopes in the old days. One of my grandmothers, from a German area of Pennsylvania, would always tell us stories of her childhood, being chased through the house by the Belsnickel, a less-demonic cousin of Krampus, played by a family friend, covered in rags and soot, and carrying birch switches. That fun custom died with her generation and I’ve always been glad about that.
    Looking forward to this series, prosit!


    • Hi Robert, thanks for playing…my mom/step-dad lived in a German part of PA, in “Heidelberg township,” fancy that. I was surprised when we first came to Germany how much the landscape resembles those farm-parts of PA where I’ve lived; you can really see why they settled there. And the influence in the salad dressings for example, with warm mustard/bacon on spinach, and so on. That just made me hungry. Belsnickel is someone I’ve never heard, how odd and intriguing! What a name, Belsnickel. No good can come from that. They had onomatopoetic instincts even then, didn’t they? Can you believe I just wrote that word on only a mouthful of coffee or so, here in the dark? Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m thinking there must be some splendid goose down comforters someplace in that old house …


    • You would think: last night we learned there are rats, and this morning I saw a mouse in the kitchen. Which is too bad, because mom recently got cats, two barn kittens, but she’s keeping them confined to the upstairs, because they’ll destroy all the frilly curtains and houseplants down where the rodents get in, where we eat.
      We got the bedding sorted, thank you for the positive thinking. It worked!


  3. Where is that horrible creature taking that barrel full of little Liz Taylors? And will you be going to see the Cadillac band while you’re there?


    • Hi, Walt. Funny you remember Cadillac: I understand he’s living here now with his girlfriend, though not sure if he’s playing. My mom’s keeping his dad’s guitar in her house, she told us the other night. And they have portraits of the band in the local hotel/restaurant we saw our first night here.
      I thought you’d like that scene with Krampus – you and Lynn, especially. You two go for the dark meat, don’t you? Good morning/evening, sir.


  4. Same question as Walt but I thought they were the Campbell Soup little chefs. I want more pics like that. Where did you find it?


    • I just did a search on Krampus (images). Lots of fun sights like that, but a fair amount of gore too. It’s 3:50 here in Germany and I just had breakfast, kind of strange. Going to a barbecue in 2 hours. Between bubbly wine and coffee, can’t decide which one. Reading that Sedaris compilation of diaries now, not sure I like it! How can that be?!


  5. It’s understandable. Diaries are a different animal. They’re not to everybody’s liking.

    You can’t do both coffee + bubbly? You are on a holiday, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, holiday. I just tried commenting on your post but WordPress made me reenter my credentials and I had to bail: sounds like you drank vinegar for breakfast I was saying, enjoyed it. And that Rothko…getting paid to do what you love, right?


  6. For some reason, I worry about planes flying over the poles, like it’s too high, too cold, too magnetic.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. But still, you’ll have a chance to sing “Oh Tanenbaum”, with the locals. Here, who would sing “Oh Douglas Fir”?


    • OK hat-trick for awesome, funny comments Dave. Thank you. Happy Friday night or Saturday morning, however this finds you. They’re setting up the Christmas market in the town and we’re excited to go down there this afternoon to check it out. Ah, Glühwein. It’s good for the first few gulps or so, and then it’s just kind of strange…but perfectly suits the mood.

      Liked by 1 person

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