Travelogue LXXIII: Spring

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Mount Belchen in the Black Forest in southern Germany, where I spent Easter.

Osterspaziergang

Vom Eise befreit sind Strom und Bäche
durch des Frühlings holden belebenden Blick,
im Tale grünet Hoffnungsglück;
der alte Winter, in seiner Schwäche,
zog sich in rauhe Berge zurück.
Von dort her sendet er, fliehend, nur
ohnmächtige Schauer körnigen Eises
in Streifen über die grünende Flur.
Aber die Sonne duldet kein Weißes,
überall regt sich Bildung und Streben,
alles will sie mit Farben beleben;
doch an Blumen fehlt’s im Revier,
sie nimmt geputzte Menschen dafür.

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A view into the Black Forest from the local castle ruins.

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Staufen

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKehre dich um, von diesen Höhen
nach der Stadt zurückzusehen!
Aus dem hohlen, finstern Tor
dringt ein buntes Gewimmel hervor.
Jeder sonnt sich heute so gern.
Sie feiern die Auferstehung des Herrn,
denn sie sind selber auferstanden:
aus niedriger Häuser dumpfen Gemächern,
aus Handwerks- und Gewerbesbanden,
aus dem Druck von Giebeln und Dächern,
aus den Straßen quetschender Enge,
aus der Kirchen ehrwürdiger Nacht
sind sie alle ans Licht gebracht.

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Dialect: Wein (wine) becomes Woi in Mainz, Wii in Staufen

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Brunch

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASieh nur, sieh! wie behend sich die Menge
durch die Gärten und Felder zerschlägt,
wie der Fluß in Breit und Länge
so manchen lustigen Nachen bewegt,
und, bis zum Sinken überladen,
entfernt sich dieser letzte Kahn.
Selbst von des Berges fernen Pfaden
blinken uns farbige Kleider an.
Ich höre schon des Dorfs Getümmel,
hier ist des Volkes wahrer Himmel,
zufrieden jauchzet groß und klein:
Hier bin ich Mensch, hier darf ich’s sein!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust I

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Spring

 

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Travelogue LXVI: Herr, es ist Zeit

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Herbsttag / Autumn Day

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Herr: Es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß. / Lord, it is time. The summer was immense.

Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren / Lay your shadow on the sundials

Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren / Lay your shadow on the sundials

und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los. / and let loose the wind in the fields.

und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los. / and let loose the wind in the fields.

Befiehl den letzten Früchten reif zu sein / gib Ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage / Bid the last fruits to be full; / give them two more southerly days

Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein / Bid the last fruits to be full

gib Ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage / give them two more southerly days,

gib Ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage / give them two more southerly days,

dräng sie zur Vollendung hin und jage / die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein. / press them to ripeness, and chase / the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

dräng sie zur Vollendung hin und jage / press them to ripeness, and chase

die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein. / the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein. / the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr / Whoever has no house now will not build one anymore

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr / Whoever has no house now will not build one anymore

wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben, / Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long time,

wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben, / Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long time,

wird lesen, wachen, lange Briefe schreiben / will stay up, read, write long letters

wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben / will stay up, read, write long letters

und wird auf den Alleen hin und her / and wander the avenues, up and down,

und wird in den Alleen hin und her / and wander the avenues, up and down,

unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben. / restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.

unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben. / restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.

Rainer Maria Rilke

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Travelogue LIII: Kulmbach

The courthouse on the town square, with the flags of Bavaria, Kulmbach, and Germany.

The courthouse on the town square, with the flags of Bavaria, Kulmbach, and Germany.

August 20, 2015 Before we head to Bayreuth, Katie and I are farm-sitting for friends in Kulmbach–sprawling stone farmhouse, beautiful views, pigs and gardens and physical labor and evenings in front of the fire. For me, it is a chance to get out of my head: I cook in the huge kitchen for hours every day, stack wood for the fire. There’s not much space to overthink things.

Today, we took a break from the work to spend a few hours downtown, along with the two other young ladies who are watching the farm with us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKulmbach, like almost every other tiny Dorf in northern Bavaria, is beautiful–not in a touristy, expensive way, but with the sort of effortless charm that reminds me of the villages in Vermont. We drank cappuccinos and then hiked up to the castle outside of town, in the rain, wearing wool sweaters. Autumn is almost here.

The inner courtyard of the Plassenburg, the local castle.

The inner courtyard of the Plassenburg, the local castle.

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Farmers' day off: we all stopped a the café for coffee and ice-cream, thanks to a generous tipp from the young farmer who bought two piglets from us yesterday.

We all stopped a the café for coffee and ice-cream, thanks to a generous tipp from the young farmer who bought two piglets from us yesterday.

The clock-tower at the Lutheran church.

The clock-tower at the Lutheran church.

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On the other side of the camera, for once. Thanks, Katie.

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Kulmbacher Bier. Kulmbach, village that it is, is renowned across Germany for their breweries.

Kulmbacher Bier. Kulmbach, village that it is, is renowned across Germany for its breweries.

And perhaps best of all, there are mountains.

And perhaps best of all, there are mountains in northern Bavaria.

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Travelogue XXXIV: Sonnenaufgang in Mainz

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March 24, 2015 I arrived back in Mainz at the crack of dawn this morning–street sweepers, crowds of pigeons at the train station, too early for church bells. I dragged my luggage down the cobblestone street and up two flights of stairs, waking up approximately the entire neighborhood in the process, threw it all in the apartment, and walked down to the Rhine for the sunrise.

It was wonderful being home, back in Vermont for the first time since last June. My family is amazing. I doted on the cats and lit fires in the fireplaces and ate my mother’s phenomenal cooking. I missed Germany, though, more than I miss Vermont when I am here.

I mean, there were actual swans on the effing Rhine River, and as the sun was rising all the bells in Wiesbaden started ringing. WHAT. 

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Guten Morgen, Mainz!

Also, spring came to Germany while I was gone. When I left Vermont yesterday morning, it was -3 degrees (-19 Celcius) without the windchill, hard-packed, dust-gray snow on the ground that hadn’t melted since it fell last November. Here in Mainz, the almond trees are blooming and there are daffodils everywhere. I went down to the water in a light jacket and scarf, and there was a real heat to the sun’s light. A pair of mourning doves have started making a nest above the gabled window across from mine.

As I walked back to my apartment, the bells in the Mainzer cathedral started ringing. It’s almost Easter. Sie feiern die Auferstehung des Herrn, denn sie sind selber auferstanden…

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I shall spy on Beauty as none has spied on it yet. Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire

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Travelogue XXIX: Und es war alles alles gut

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFebruary 22, 2015 Today it felt almost like spring–clear skies, and a warmth to the sunshine I haven’t felt since sometime in October. I decided to call a momentary halt to the paper-writing, and took the train an hour north up the Rhine to Koblenz. The trip is one of the most beautiful stretches in all of Germany, I think–steep vineyards all the way down to the water, tiny villages on the shores, a dozen 1,500-year-old castles at the top of the cliffs. It is the land of the Lorelei, of Rheinromantik, of all the poets and painters of German Romanticism who found in the area something sublime and exalted.

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Not Stolzenfels–another smaller castle halfway up the mountain.

I visited Castle Stolzenfels, a few minutes outside of Koblenz. It has a long and colorful history: the original fortress was built in the 13th century as a toll station on the Rhine River, was occupied by French and Swedish troops during the Thirty Years’ War, and was partially destroyed by the French army in 1689. In 1823, the ruins were gifted to Prussian Crownprince Frederick William IV, who had the entire structure rebuilt as a summer palace in the most fairy-tale-like of styles–New Gothic, Romanticism, full of gilded lanterns and tiny gardens and heavy silk tapestries.

First, though, there was the walk up to the castle, a good kilometer above the Rhine River valley.

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Footpath: To the Castle.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe feeling of space, of clear air, height and movement, far above the city and the trains and the noise–I was giddy. I love Mainz, but one is never really alone there. Here, on a Sunday afternoon in late February, I felt like I had the whole river valley to myself.

And the castle–I think it speaks for itself. One had the feeling of being in some hermetic universe of Romantic loveliness, inside of some charmed scene from an Eichendorf novel. How does Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts end? Birdsong and music, und es war alles, alles gut–all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well. It was that, exactly.

I was utterly enchanted.

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Inside the chapel–stained glass and red velvet and a gold ceiling.

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Gargoyles on the chapel spires.

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On to the gardens…

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Travelogue XXI: Mainz Spaziergang


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Sunday, 21 December. A walk through the Old City of Mainz, during the time between sunset and darkness when the sky turns such a peculiarly lovely shade of blue. Gloaming.

The city is full of lights because it’s almost Christmas. It’s not raining, for once. There’s a girl in a long wool coat singing carols on the corner, and people are sitting on the edge of the old fountain to listen.

Veni, veni, Emmanuel…

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Travelogue XIX: Würzburg Kreuzweg

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24. November, 2014 On the way back from the farm in Kulmbach, we stopped in Würzburg, the half-way point on the Autobahn between eastern Bavaria and Mainz. It’s still the city I know best in Germany–my first introduction to the country, and a place I will always feel a bit homesick for. On the last evening I spent there, I drank wine on the bridge and bid farewell to a dear friend–hot July night, street musicians playing klezmer, the castle all lit up on the hill behind us. It’s been four months since then. Tempus fugit. 

We only had a couple hours, so we decided to walk up the Kreuzweg (stations of the cross) to the beautiful Käppele, high above the vineyards outside of the city.  The path–247 steps!–dates from the 1760s and leads up to the chapel and a tiny cloister.

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The almost-bare branches, the stone steps, the clear light–it all had a fairy-tale-like feel to it. Märchenhaft. 

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Inside the chapel–baroque, one of the few buildings in Würzburg not destroyed during World War II. It’s never been restored, which means the interior has a hazy-dusty-dreamlike feel to it.

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Looking back into the city, and then across to the Festung Marienberg.

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The sky was the bluest of blues, for what seems like the first time in weeks. I love the Rhine, but living on its banks means that Nebel (fog) is an unavoidable fact of existence during the winter months. And sure enough, the clear skies in Bayern turned overcast as soon as we took the exit towards Mainz.

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I think, though, that the afternoon of sun in Würzburg will be enough to keep me going for awhile yet.

Travelogue XVIII: Back to the Farm

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23. November, 2014 I’ve just returned to Mainz after spending the weekend in Kulmbach, on the farm where I worked as a WWOOFer over the summer. Here in the city, I forget how wonderful perfectly silent, dark nights are. I forget how much I miss cooking for an entire family, what it’s like to structure one’s day around caring for livestock, and how splendid it is to sleep under down comforters in the freezing upper story of some drafty old house. A few years ago all I wanted to do was to escape that sort of life–but now, even a long weekend on the farm feels rather like going home.

I went out to see the sunrise on Saturday morning, before breakfast. In Vermont in November, everything is monotone–black branches, gray-brown fields, gray-white sky. Here, there’s still color, but it’s all pastels, pale blues and greens and golds. So different from the hyper-saturated vibrancy of last August, but perhaps even lovelier.

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IMG_0833The apple orchard. 

IMG_0818Above, the castle Plassenburg in the distance. 

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…And then back to the farmhouse, to make tea and get the breakfast on the table: German meat-cheese-homemade bread, American oatmeal and pumpkin pie. A most excellent start to the day.

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Travelogue XI: Rheinufer in Mainz

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 16. September, 2014 I’ve never been much of a water person, but living ten minutes from the bank of one of the most iconic rivers in the western world is pretty dang cool. Mainz is built at the confluence of the Main and Rhine rivers, and the banks of the Rhine are lined with parks, walking paths, and restaurants on the water. In the evenings when the weather is nice, it seems like half the city is out riding bikes, drinking wine, walking dogs, having picnics on the cement steps that go right down to the river’s edge.

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IMG_0566The high-rent district is on the other side of the street.

IMG_0568There’s cool statues….

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IMG_0580And my own tiny picnic, with Bergkäse and fresh bread from the farmers’ market and spacey German literature.

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