The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

09 April 2014

In which G and H go hand in hand

G is for Germany, because I already made D be for Depeche Mode, so it couldn't be for Deutschland. And as it is the Home of my Heart, I shall make it count for H as well.

If only a blog could convey sounds and smells, and crawl right up into my mind, wrap itself up in my memories, and share them with you whole and entire.  I know my memories of my Heart-Land are tinged with the contented glow of childhood (I was 13 when we came back to Canada for the last time) and the Germany of today is very different - just as modern as North America, with the added influence of the EU. Who knows what remains of the Germany of  my happy youth?

Since I can't invite you into my brain, I'll try to convey something of what resides in my heart for this beautiful country.

It is rolling hills, tidy farm fields, and lush meadows, where in the distance may be seen a shepherd and his flock. The sound of their bells is soothing.  The forest - the Black Forest - makes its presence known as it seems to wear a cape of time, like the long years of history are settled on its shoulders. Within it, among the trees, are lingering whispers of gnomes and dwarves... the little people and other folk of the old tales.  Their presence, too, is felt, not just among the trees, but in the stories told to children, in the music of the people, their traditions, and their love of fables.  An efficient, obedient people, the Germans have poetic souls. I remember walking by a group of men doing road repairs, sitting on their lunch tins drinking a beer on their break, singing what must have been Wagner. A grown man will weep over the words of Rilke without shame.

Being efficient and obedient lends to great tidiness. It wasn't unusual to see outside door knobs, knockers and bell-pulls being polished, front sidewalks being swept, and stoops being scrubbed with wire brushes.  Window boxes overflowing with well-tended geraniums competed for space on washing days.  Every balcony flew the flag of fresh linens on Mondays. Farms were orderly, equipment well cared for, shops were clean and service was good.  People acknowledged each other when passing on the street with a nod of the head and a polite greeting, for there is tidiness in good manners as well.

Germany is medieval fortresses and castles, ancient churches and cathedrals, old market towns, and villages where even then, animals were kept within the village environs rather than beyond in the fields. It wasn't unusual to hear the rootling of a pig or two behind a wooden wall on your way to the bank.

There are narrow, windy, country roads wrapping around the hills, and roads for tractors that run beside main thoroughfares.  Town centres have old water troughs were cattle used to be watered, but are now decorated with flowers for the tourists to admire, though the water still flows.  On Saturdays there is a market, where stalls are set up on the cobble stone streets, or you can make your purchases from the shops around the square - including at the Konditorei where they sell tarts and torts and beautiful confections by the piece, and the coffee comes topped with unsweetened whipped cream. Plan ahead, because most are closed Saturday afternoons, on Sunday, and many on Monday as well. The Gasthof serves beer and meals (at set times) while the Gasthaus will also offer a room, where you lay under a feather bed as thick as a cloud.

Germany is the Kristkindl Markt in Advent, Fasching before Lent, and Oktoberfest where long tents are set up in the centre of town under which are equally long tables to thump a hefty bierstein on while music plays and everyone sings. This is the land of door-to-door beer delivery. When our landlord of years previous found out we were back in-country but living with the Canadians, he arranged to have his beer man make regular visits to us. This is also a land of vineyards and wine and schnapps.  Germans take their food and drink seriously, all as part of the necessities of life: feed your body well, your spirit well, your mind well.

There are way-side shrines on the side of houses in the country, or at the edge of a farm field - usually a cross with the Body of Christ on it, protected by a little pitched roof to protect it from the elements. Often someone will have left a token offering of flowers or a wreath. Faith was evident in the many churches, cemeteries, and cathedrals.

The Rhine is vast and wide, lending itself to both the industrial and pastoral aspects of the country. What it achieves on water economically for the country, the autobahn system achieves on land. That network is tidy and efficient, and it works because the obedient people trust it works. When the sign says 'stay right' they stay right. That mentality makes me very happy.

Germay is footfall-mad. I could hear the local club supporters cheer and groan from the pitch at the end of our street. They had as much enthusiasm as someone cheering on the national side during the World Cup (which they will win this summer).

There is so much more I want to tell you but I admit that words cannot come close to doing justice to either my memories or the fondness I have for this place.


  1. Oh my heavens, this is wonderful. It takes my imagination right there, and I find the rest of me wanting to go along as well. Your love is tangible. You don't merely tell us you love this beautiful land, you SHOW the land to us... so we can love it too.

  2. I'm glad! Really, really glad.

    It's impossible to encapsulate a country and its people in a few hundred words -- I wish I could take you there and actually show you! Wouldn't that be fun?