My first full day in Germany was just that; a full one! Maggie and I were out the door early so we could enjoy a quick treat at a German bakery before hitting the road to Rothenburg, a community reserved from the medieval ages.
The drive from here to there was beautiful. The German countryside was rich and green, full of curves and mountains and historical charm. Each small village we drove through was like a drive-through museum of German architecture. The streets were lined with multicolored houses and shops all close together in a picturesque fashion. I thoroughly enjoyed every part of this forty minute drive!
When we arrived in Rothenburg the enjoyment continued. Here in front of me stood an entire town complete with two barricade walls and a mote, just like every fairytale I'd ever read growing up. I told Maggie it was fun to actually see something from the medieval times because there is nothing similar in the states. I went on to explain that the only connection we have to the middle ages is through fairytales and reenactments and even those are scarce.
First we climbed the watchtower and got an excellent view of the entire city.
Next we walked a great length of the barricade wall. I loved the lookout holes and the view of the community below us.
Even the houses were grand and preserved. Maggie said they had very strict rules for remodeling these houses as they wanted to keep things as close to the original as possible. I could tell by looking that many of them were extremely fragile.
There were two old churches inside the community and a torture chamber as well, though we didn't pay the money to go in.
Next we found the shops all along the cobblestone streets. Christmas toys, traditional German dress, jewelry and food were all around us. Perhaps it was then that Maggie suggested I try a snowball.
I soon found out that a snowball is a German treat of deep-fried cookie dough covered in an icing and topping of your choice. I opted for the nougat filled variety and was pleasantly surprised with out delicious it was!
Soon after trying a snowball, we stumbled in to a shop that had a demonstration of how the treat was made. I loved watching a local make dozens of snowballs. He was quick and friendly and seemed to me very talented.
When we had our fill of strolling through the Middle Ages, we returned to the car and drove onward through more beautiful countryside to Maggie's parents' house. As we drove I couldn't help but notice the agriculture around me. I asked why the fields were so small and Maggie said it was to account for the quick change in terrain. Curves and hills made it difficult to design a huge flat field of one crop.
When Maggie pointed to a bright yellow crop and asked me what it was in English I said it was “Canola.” I had recently learned much about this crop as it was planted right up the road from my house this season. I previously knew little to nothing about it but the one thing I had learned was that other countries called this plant “Rapeseed.” I asked Maggie what they called it and she said “Raps” which gave me the connection to the alternative English form of the word.
When we arrived at Maggie's Parents' I was immediately greeted by a big wooly dog named Mia. Mia was very friendly and so was Maggie's mother, even though she couldn't speak a word of English.
Maggie, her mother and I enjoyed tea and cake and a great conversation via Maggie's translation skills. It was very interesting to listen to someone speak to me in a language I didn't understand. I immediately realized how much we rely on social cues and body language to fill our gaps. More times than once I knew what she was saying before Maggie translated, just out of the natural flow of conversation and demeanor.
The real surprise was when Maggie temporarily excused herself from the table. There sat her mother and I in complete isolation. She said something in German with hand motions that gave me the clue that she was very frustrated that she couldn't speak to me on her own. I nodded in agreement and said the same. Somehow, through verbal cues and hand motions, she asked me if I knew Spanish and if that helped me in Italy. I said it had because Italian and Spanish were similar but German seemed to be in it's own category. She explained that German and Polish were very much different from Spanish, Italian and French, which were often lumped together. Even Maggie was surprised when she walked in to us communicating without language!
Next we took a short walk around the property to keep Mia entertained. The view from the hilltop was gorgeous and the walk was excellent! I even got an up-close look at the wheat I had studied from the window all day.
When we returned to the house Maggie's mother showed me her artwork. I was in love! Her work was bright and bold with watercolor splashes but detailed and intricate with sketchings inside the color marks. I can't tell you how excited I was when she told me I could take one home with me and just as paintings often do, one spoke directly to me and I had to have it. She said it was one she didn't even care for. Oh, the irony!
When Maggie's father joined us downstairs I could instantly tell that she was an equal portion of both her mother and her father. Her social side most naturally came from her mother and her disciplined work-ethic seemed to descend from her father. Today was Father's Day or “Fatta's Tag” in Germany so we were all taking her father out to dinner in the village nearby.
Dinner was a divine experience all in its own. More translation exercises kept Maggie busy while her parents and I discussed the difference in American bread and German bread, my thoughts on Rothenberg and why I shouldn't go to the WWII museums in Berlin--(her father said it was a dark spot in German history.)
Again the menu was all German so Maggie took pleasure in ordering my meal for me. I had creamy asparagus soup for an appetizer and pork shoulder with dumplings for the main course, complete with a shandy beer to drink. The meal was so delectable I didn't want to stop eating even though I was way past full. Something told me I might be gaining lots of weight over my next two weeks in Deutschland.