Friday, July 25, 2014

Bavaria, Germany: Farms and Villages

Written July 23rd, 2014

There is so much that has surprisingly familiar in Germany. The summer weather, the length of a summer sunset, the sounds of the bird calls, even the weeds are the same here. I can see why so many Germans ended up in Minnesota; when I am out in the garden weeding all morning, dogs barking at the neighbors, geese shouting and gossiping, thistles pricking my fingers, I could really be at any of my parent’s neighbor’s homes. Just miles from where I grew up.

But I am in the old country: every hour I’m snapped seven time zones ahead of my homeland when the town’s clock clangs over the hill in the nearest village.

There is also so much that I find unbearably romantic; the moments when the part of me which thought when I was a child that it would be such an adventure to be an orphan, or to sail to the new world in third class, comes alive. Gathering freshly-cut grass with a pitch fork and wheelbarrow and watching the windy sky as thunder raps its fingers at the horizon; spending the afternoon in the forest (pondering briefly all the Grim Brother’s heroines who meet some sort of adventure the moment they enter a German forest) picking wild blueberries then making marmalade late into the night with Silke.

Marmalde made with Silke
I remember many mornings in traffic in Pasadena, cleaning under my fingernails and pondering the coming months when I would not be able to get the dirt out from under my nails. Now I am here, and it’s as peaceful as I hoped. I never knew I’d be so good at being quiet for so long – really it’s been more than a month now, if I include the week alone in the car driving from California. I feel no anxiety to move beyond these simple tasks of busy work.

I’m the only WWOOFer on the farm, which adds to the quiet. I daydream a lot, think about the life I’m hoping to create when I get back home. It’s amazing the songs that will get stuck in your head in silence: the theme song from National American University, the songs the girls here run around singing (without a stitch of their German accents for a brief moment as they sing things like “I’ll give you all of me if you give me all of you” and “I hate these blurred lines!”) I don’t think much about the life I left behind or what’s to come in the next few weeks. There is something about your fingers being deep in the ground, tugging at the roots of a weed that keeps you centered and focused on the present.

Grounded is the word I’m looking for, I realize. I am grounded here.

The language barrier has become less and less of a problem as we’ve all gotten more comfortable. Martin and I talk while we work together, Silke and I swap stories and laugh after lunch. I feel I know them well enough to shake my head and exchange looks with Silke when Martin comes home with a brand new black bucket and she says “Every time Martin finds a new bucket he buys it! I don’t know why he loves buckets!” and Martin counters with “When civilization ends, we don’t need to worry about what to do with the milk, Silke!” The girls are friendly enough, though so many WWOOFers come through I think they could really care less about me. There was brief excitement when I said I lived in California, but I haven’t seen enough celebrities to keep their interest.  The eldest daughter in particular, at 14, obviously thinks anyone who would travel around the world and spend their time hanging out with her dad in the barn is crazy and not worth a stitch of her time. Vroni also speaks the best English, though she won’t say anything to me; she’s always correcting everyone else in the family under her breath when we are talking.

I’ve also gotten to see more of Bavaria, including UNESCO-recognized Regensburg. This city, along the Danube River (actually the first place a bridge was built across the river between 1135 and 1146) has been a hub of activity and trade for centuries. There are ancient Roman walls still standing, one of the oldest Gothic cathedrals in Bavaria, and a wurst restaurant that has been serving meat since 1135. With hundreds of tiny streets leading round and round brightly colored ancient buildings – now housing ritzy cafes and shiny clothing stores – it was easy to get lost over and over all day long. The closest town to us, Amberg, is one of the only cities in Europe to still have full city walls still standing and the old town is another Bavarian maze of colorful buildings and cobbled streets.

The 1000-year old hot dog stand, to be crass.
Bridge over the Danube
I so far have not lost the 10lbs I typically drop at the beginning of every trip abroad (though I know I have gained muscle in the last two weeks on the farm). This is probably a good thing, since I don’t have the Euros to buy all new clothes for the next 5 months! On the farm we have so many fresh vegetables (especially right now zucchini) that every meal has a great salad and always incorporates lots of the freshly picked garden fare – spaghetti sauce filled with vegies, eggs scrambled with vegies, pizza heavy with vegies, curry sautéed vegies. We’ve eaten delicious crepe-like pancakes for dinner, then dropped them into soup the next day at lunch.

There are also lots of wursts, made with meat from the farm, and ketchup with every meal; the kind I’m used to and curry ketchup. There is always goat cheese made here on the farm, as well as butter from the milk to put on the bread with every meal. The beers are twice the size of most American bottles, and good. There is wine, and as I mentioned in this post, Schnapps.  

I’ve been feeling great: sleeping long hours, working hard in the day, reading heavily in my hours off. As I near the end of my time here (three more working days as I write) I will also say I’m ready to move on, see some more cities and meet up with my dear friends in the next weeks. 

Some more views from the farm, below.

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