Join me this month for stories of our time here in a small German village where we’re visiting with my mom. I’m experimenting with straight journal-style blogging as a ‘post-a-day’ challenge. Thanks for reading, Bill
December 16, 2017
We drove back to Germany through the Black Forest for a more scenic route, though the weather looked uncertain. The drive is only a few hours from Colmar to Besigheim, where my mom lives—and the plan was to return for a night and then head back to Colmar on Sunday with the rest of the family in the back seat. Dawn and I had such a good time we wanted the same for our kids and my mom.
But the skies and landscape were so bleak, it reminded me of the first time I drove across France, the gap between what the romantic mind perceives/expects and the reality, once discovered: here, the distant hills were mostly covered in dark clouds and rain squalls, and the farms stripped down to mud, bundles of hay wrapped like marshmallows—no real color to speak of, but for the green and brown. We settled in for a long drive, setting towns as waypoints in the navigator, heading in a NE direction starting at Freiburg im Breisgau.
But just outside of Freiburg the road began to climb, and quickly the rain changed to snow and started to stick, and the road narrowed with signs in German we didn’t understand but suggested “take caution,” and Dawn and I had to laugh, a nervous laugh: something was starting to smell, a burning smell, and I imagined the floorboards in the car were getting hot, and so we hurried to Freudenstadt, not far from the autobahn: there we could forgo all scenery and grab the 81 to Stuttgart.
By the time we got to Freudenstadt it was almost three hours and we both needed a toilet, and I was starting to hate Steely Dan. There was a Christmas market on; we found a restaurant in an old hotel where they seated us in the back, ordered lunch and sat back, said isn’t this nice. I got a maultaschen in beef broth, a glass of beer—Dawn, smoked cod on toast with horseradish—and we had playful exchanges with our waitress in broken, bumbling Deutsch.
The navigator said we had another hour and 45 minutes to Besigheim, and Dawn took the wheel: I tried to get art shots through the car window with my phone, how the snow/filtered sun looked over the farms, as the views opened north.
When we got home I left the box with gifts in the car to hide them: Dawn and I had a good run of gift-buying at the shops in Colmar that sell nice, handmade things like warm socks, table linens, candies and chocolates…a real mash-up of Viennese/French/German they call Alsatian. All the shop owners said Merry Christmas and smiled, wrapped our things in colored bags with ribbon.
On our last night in the apartment Dawn said it reminded her of our time in the UK, having to dry our laundry on the radiators—and the trickling sound they make as they heat. Many times I opened the window on our top floor and looked down over the streets, the tourists by the canals with their cameras—the distant hills where I imagined the rain turning to snow…half a croissant on the window ledge the cleaning lady left for a bird…and how the days run away like wild horses over the hills.