Saturday, 4 February 2012

Reflections on Deutschland

It was great to settle down awhile in Germany. Eckard and Hedda were most accommodating and gracious hosts on our revisit.Their quiet country retreat, with few responsibilities,  gave us time to slowdown even further and allowed for explorations in the immediate vicinity.
 I recall it being cold; crisp days bundled up in our meager winter clothing, (thank goodness for long johns!) Visits to towns where I was continually enthralled by the old architecture, stone embellishments, faces and figures honouring some past individual or perhaps the sculptor himself.  The churches seemed understated, less light and colour,  with mostly more design than depiction in the glasswork. Some impressive bells though and lots of them.
I drove Eckard's van along narrow country roads into rural Saxony and spotted a wooden caravan parked off the road. Later I found out, it's a mobile beekeeping operation.
 We visited a thousand year old oak held together with strapping and guy wires. Watched trains go by with children going to school coming out of a roadless valley.
 I was happy to see so many folks bicycling around, young and old. Matrons and patrons with their baskets and cloth bags of groceries packed onto a bike and wheeled home. Students, parents with children,  a constant stream of riders on the cycle designated sidewalks in the cities.
 Hung out in Ahrensburg, the "burg"  denotes a castle or fortress where the "king/baron/landowner had ensconced himself and family.The Church would be (and was) somewhere close by due to his patronage and surrounded by the local peasantry who worked the fields to supply this individual with all he needed, mostly.
We took daytrips by train, convenient, quick and affordable into Hamburg. Then board the subway on the same fare taking us all over. Cobblestone roadways, pedestrian friendly walkways and the endless brand name clothing stores that seem to be taking over the world.

In the harbour, we took the official tour, viewing ships being loaded and unloaded simultaneously in one of the biggest  container ports imaginable. It's history stretches way back, the evidence on the buildings, the river tidelines visible on the bricks. These warehouses are now converted into offices and trendy addresses with pulleys above and big doors near the water level. The modern and the historic side by side.
 One evening a drive through the red light district, near the spot the Beatles worked out their licks, and to the fish market, anecdotes and observations peppering the tour.
 We walked some in Blumenthal, so flat and framed by the dike beside the river. I  correctly speculated on the history of the farmland, how the first people had filled in the marshland  built dikes and settled this fertile plain. Elke's brother-in-law Frank filled in the details, of how at one point most of the community picked up and moved a few Km away, taking their houses, animals, etc. to higher ground.
Another train ride to L√ľneburg an old guild town, remarkable brick work, an organ that Bach played in a well embellished baroque church. In the canal/river a sailboat between two bridges it's mast tall as the bridge.
Just before leaving the country we drove out to the mouth of the Elbe and the North Sea. There is something compelling about the ocean, I knew I wouldn't be close for a while.  I took a taste to hold in my heart till next time.
Overall I enjoyed my time in Germany: an efficient transportation system makes travel easy, the history was accessible, stimulating, and intriguing. The people out and about somewhat aloof, reserved. Like the minimalist advertising everywhere (except the city), they don't make it a big deal or a spectacle. Generally (always dangerous making generalizations!) people seemed not unfriendly but uninterested in strangers.
Elke's family and friends though, were most welcoming and wanting to practice their English. By the time we left, my ear had adjusted, and I was beginning to say a few words in German.

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