04 January 2009

In the wood

So I spent the Christmas in Germany, enfolded in the traditions, food, and family in southern Bavaria. It was a time of steely gray skies, all the better to enjoy the mulled wine in the famous Christmas Market, to enjoy the sausages, paired as gravely with specific types of mustard as a Frenchman would ponder his cheese and wine matching. It was a warm candle-lit chaos of German and English and music and museums and a dozen kinds of jam and a lot of books, all the things a holiday ought to be. I'd had the idea of being there the first time I saw the massive Medieval church where the Christmas eve service was held, and as we came out the doors onto the cobblestone square, surrounded by hugging people and pealing bells, I knew it had been the right choice in spite of the chaos that comes with three native languages and many branches of family. I do have to advise against the smoked beer if anyone gets curious though. It was probably the only fail on the food front from the entire week.

And during the downtimes, I bonded with my newest love in Germany, the forest. It's apparently quite a sacred part of German life, since every time I turned on to the paths in the dark wood near S's mom's house, I encountered all sorts of people, walking dogs, riding bikes, riding horses, or just meandering.

I should clarify that forests in Germany are not the riotous opportunistic jungles of New England. Rather, they are mysterious and orderly, and in this place laced with sandy paths and ancient moss-covered sandstone quarries, the source for much of the building material for nearby Nurnberg. This is the landscape that calls to mind all the spooky forested fairy tales of Grimms, tall slender pine trees, so densely packed that little more than blueberries grow at the foot of the trees. Along the way while running there, I came upon small shelters, many benches, and a network of carefully numbered birdhouses. The paths were all marked with a complexity beyond my American mind, to explain what type of transport was allowed (horses, bikes, people) and what tiny village would appear through the trees eventually.

All the running turned out to also be just the thing to counteract the deliciousness of all the food- the goose, the sausages and reindeer steaks, the cheese, the cookies and chocolates. Yes, it was all the things Christmas ought to be- family, food, and forest.


carmen said...

Hi E,
I just dropped in to see how things in Iceland and your exciting travels were doing and this post just took my breath away! I lived in Berlin and during both Christmases I was there, I returned home for the holiday, but not before squeezing every drop out of the German traditions, which I loved. I wished deeply at the time for a German family to adopt me so I could see it from the inside. I am jealous!

I hope that 2009 continues to bring you many wonderful things!

ECS said...

carmen: glad to see you here! I still think about you whenever I read or think about Amsterdam, and that delicious cafe you suggested there. Hope you're also having good adventures.

German family adoption has been pretty nice- it's been interesting to do all the ordinary things like go grocery shopping and trim the garden hedges, and they have been all so wonderfully hospitable. I haven't written the full story here but suffice it to say that I really hope to return to Germany this year as well!

SOe said...

Apart from family and friends, I miss most of all the forest in Iceland. I can assure you that not all the forests in Germany are this German like organised :-) Further apart from the cities it´s a bit wilder but still nearly impossible to get lost. Every now and than you can find a sign, a road, ... This is due to the extensive forestry in Germany. In the western part hugh parts of the forest are private property thereas in the eastern part most of it is government property.