Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hinterzarten, Lake Constance and Berlin (July 2005)

Hinterzarten turned out to be a charming small village nestled in the Black Forest of Germany. We were surprised to find that its origin dated back to 1148. During snowy winter months, skiers from all over the world come to enjoy skiing, watch the ski jumpers, enjoy cross-country skiing or just to marvel at the beauty of the area. During warmer summer months, the place is teeming with people clad in waking shorts with suspenders, alpine feathered felt caps and walking sticks. I was immediately reminded of the Shirley Temple movie "Heidi" that I'd seen as a small child and I half-way expected to see her walking up the slopes with her herd of goats! The hikers, this day, poured out of large buses near the train station and walked in large groups to "mustering stations" where they picked up maps and whatnot and began their journey for a day walk through the Alpine region. It was an amazing site.

Our lodge sat on a narrow country road at the edge of a working farm and we marveled at the farmer and his wife who were up before dawn and working together harvesting crops, milking cows, collecting eggs, and loading their huge milk canisters onto a trailer hitched to their tractor. We'd watch the farmer drive his tractor out of the driveway where he'd turn right onto the road and drive somewhere to deposit his canisters of milk and then return a short time later. These two storybook characters appeared to be in their 60's and they never stopped working all day. By sun down, we'd see a small smoke line begin to rise from their chimney and dim lighting that slowly turned brighter as the sun set and the black of night returned. They were no doubt inside eating and preparing for the next day's chores and the fireplace probably kept them warm during the cool nights. Their lights were nearly always off early in the evening.

Because we were inside the Black Forest, we saw deer grazing on the farmer's land in the wee morning hours as well as large birds soaring overhead (we think they may have been eagles) hunting for small animals. On our terrace, late at night the stars were bright and abundant. The air was fresh and brisk. We wondered how the elderly farmers faired during the heavy snows of winter when their land was covered in thick layers of snow and whether they drove their cattle to less snowy ground or kept them locked in the barn. We'd watch the farmer each morning as he opened the barn doors and led his cattle out into the field where they would graze all day until he returned to lead them back into the barn, milking and feeding them supplemental foods at days end. It was like clock work for him, the same schedule day in and day out and we wondered whether the couple ever took a vacation to rest.

The small village had a baker, several restaurants, a small grocery store and some nice boutiques. We bought supplies for our nicely appointed kitchenette, and stopped for some delicious fresh strudel and artisan bread at the bakery. We also had lunch at a small cafe in the village our second day and Doug had a delicious wiener schnitzel while I enjoyed the most delicious smoked trout I've ever had. Doug, of course, walked down memory lane with a nice stein of German beer while I enjoyed a Reisling. We looked around and most adults, including the elderly, had ordered very tall steins of German beer. It turns out that many Germans enjoy the beer as much as the French enjoy their wines. We even saw two nicely dressed petite German women enjoying a lunch out and both had large steins of beer! Unusual? I'd say, yes!

We enjoyed Hinterzarten but were able to see it in the short span of two days and then we begin to explore regions nearby. Our first trip was a nice drive to Lake Constance. We wound our way through the Black Forest and through many small villages to get there. It was the first sunny and warm day in nearly a week of rainy weather from Paris to Germany, so it was a weather-perfect day to enjoy a drive.

This lake abuts three countries, Austria, Germany (Bavarian Alps) and Switzerland and bears three huge bodies of water into which the Rhine River flows. In the Bavarian Alps region of Germany, the lake gives way to a rich riparian valley where neatly trimmed furrows of vineyards rest laden with heavy clusters of ripening green grapes that will ultimately be processed into the famous Mosel wines of Germany. The loamy soil and steep mountains, along with the cooler climate, make the region perfect for excellent grape/wine production.

We found a restaurant on the edge of Lake Constance, near a beach resort, that had a nice restaurant with outside dining (lakeside). Each table was elegantly set with white linens, nice china, silverware and crystal wine and water goblets, with large colorful umbrellas affording ample shade from the rare day of sunshine. The aroma of German food drifted through the air and was enough to stop us in our tracks. We were fortunate enough to arrive a bit late and a perfectly situated table was awaiting our arrival. We enjoyed the special of the day which was tender thin slices of veal in a beautiful wine and cream sauce served aside some freshly made spaetzel (tender little pillowy dumplings) and we cleansed our palate with each yummy bite by sipping on a white German table wine that was crisp and cold. For dessert we shared the most delicious warm apple strudel served with homemade real creamery ice cream and freshly whipped heavy cream while sipping some robust black coffee. We had a tough time removing ourselves after we were well sated because we felt drowsy and relaxed by the water and garden environment. Our servers all spoke excellent English, although Doug was delighted to demonstrate his ability to converse in German and always to the equal delight of our servers.

Giving ourselves some time to rest, we returned to our Mercedes and drove to the lake edge where large ferries were docking to carry cars and passengers across the lake to the Swiss or Austrian borders. We chose the Swiss ferry since it would drop us near the German/Swiss border. The ride across was gentle and warm, as we sat on the benches in the full sun and plotted a route for return to Hinterzarten. We were the last car to get on the ferry, which meant that we were first off as well. We turned left from the ferry road and were immediately at the German border. They checked our passports and we were on our way, but on a different road back to Hinterzarten. We saw many villages that had a beer fest in full swing. We were tempted to stop, but because it was difficult to find parking, we ventured onward. We did wonder, however, whether these fetes were impromptu, arising suddenly when the sun began to shine--something we had begun to realize was rare during the summer months, at least during our stay in Germany.

We spent the next day lounging and looking at the map, trying to decide where to stay in Berlin and what to see. We needed a day of rest, but we decided that it would also take us two days of travel getting to and from Berlin, so we were determined to leave early the next morning. Indeed it took us eight hours, even though we drove on the Autobahn at 90 mph, but we left early enough to get us into Berlin late afternoon while it was still daylight.

We had picked up deli items in Freiberg the day prior to our trip, so that we could stop at roadside rests when we were hungry or thirsty. The stops were always nice and the settings park-like and clean. After eight hours in the car, however, you can bet that we were happy to see the sign reading "9 kms" to Berlin! It was at this point that we worshiped our decision to rent the Mercedes and we couldn't even imagine what it would have been like to have toughed out such a long distance ride in the Ford Focus.

I should say that during the early 60's, following his stint in graduate school at Northwestern, Doug was an officer in the U.S. Army (he'd been one of those ROTC guys throughout high school) and he'd signed up for the intelligence corp. He was sent to Monterey, CA for language school (one of the world famous language institutes) where he became fluent in German. He was then sent to West Berlin at a time when the Berlin Wall still divided Eastern Germany from the West. It was a very exciting assignment for him and he had thought for many years to return and take his walk down memory lane. We were in Germany on the exchange and felt that the time couldn't be better, so we incorporated this side trip into our schedule.

As is typically Doug, he booked us into one of Berlin's premiere hotels, the Kempenski on the Kurfurstendamm, a famous upscale part of West Berlin. The hotel was elegant, with fresco paintings, crystal chandeliers, marble floors and heavy wooden antique pieces. The hotel clerks were smartly attired and spoke English without a German accent as easily as they reverted to German when necessary. We asked a gentleman what part of the U.S. he came from, and he promptly let us now he was born, raised and studied in Germany. Amazing.

Our hotel was located in a commercial center where we could walk, shop and eat without going too far. We enjoyed fabulous meals at the local restaurants during our two-night stay at the Kempenski. From there it was only a short drive to the old stomping grounds where Doug worked and lived. Doug's former duty base was stationed was no longer required once the barrier between East and West was removed (as most people know, America supported its ally West Germany), and the buildings had been gated, locked and abandoned, except for a small section for the American Consulate's office. We visited and tried to schedule a tour of the old facility, but they were not willing to allow us in. Oh well, it was worth asking. Instead we walked around and took pictures while I listened to interesting accounts of the days Doug was there. It must have been fun for him to relive the moment. At least it was exciting for me to imagine what it must have been like! Doug had no difficulty striking up a conversation with a German guard assigned to make sure the old compound was adequately protected.

The next day we spent at Checkpoint Charley, a museum that is worth visiting. The entire chapter of the era concerning the division between East and West is contained within the museum and the place was literally packed with people from all over the world who wanted to visualize the agony of that period suffered by the Germans--a period that was not so long ago! We spent about four hours inside, and the time moved quickly. Doug had taken a picture of Checkpoint Charley from a vantage point directly across from the museum, so I thought it wise to also attach it below. The contrast between then and now is a good one to note. Things have changed markedly at present. Now the East is wide open, with people freely walking from east to west and old buildings that survived bombings, now house designer shops like Prada, Gucci, Chanel and the rest. It's quite amazing. It's not unusual to see limos lined up waiting for their rich owners to return from a high-end boutique or fine dining restaurant. Doug said that in the "old days" it was blighted and void of anything remotely similar to the commercial village of today and that armed German soldiers carried high-powered rifles and were ordered to shoot anybody attempting to cross over the Wall. It was difficult for me to imagine, seeing the current situation.

An interesting point: The day we were leaving Berlin for our trek back to Hinterzarten, we had just began driving southwest on the Autobahn leaving the City Limits of Berlin. It was July 7, 2005 mid morning. Suddenly we saw a mass of police vehicles, lights and sirens activated, rushing northeasterly on the Autobahn. We had no idea what was up, but we were thankful to be heading in the other direction. We'd never seen so many emergency vehicles heading in one direction, not ever. We began seeking information on the radio and finally found an International Public Radio station which was broadcast from an American military base somewhere in Germany. The station was broadcasting information about a horrible bombing of the subway in London, in which 56 people (including the suicide bombers) had been killed and some 700 people injured. All major European cities were apparently taking measures in case it turned out to be the beginning of a massive terrorist incident. Berlin was under threat and emergency measures had been launched. The peace and quiet of Hinterzarten was beginning to look good to us as we put the pedal to the metal and beat a line toward it!

Enjoy some of our observations of this trip to Hinterzarten, Lake Constance and Berlin, below:

Hinterzarten, Germany

Summer In Hinterzarten, Busloads of Walkers Are Brought In To Hike The Mountains

View Below Our Apartment Looking Toward Hinterzarten

View From Room Looking East Toward Parking Lot

View Of Farmer's Fields And Forest From Our North Window

Our Charming Home For A Week, Hinterzarten, Germany

Our First Glimpse At A Ski Run In Hinterzarten, Germany

Farm Near The Edge of The Black Forest

We Followed This Farmer All Through Town, Streets too Narrow To Pass
We Enjoyed The Slow Pace

After The Ferry Ride Across Lake Constance, We Must Cross The Border To Get Back To Germany

Sail Boats On Lake Constance, Southeast Germany

Our Mercedes on the Last Row, Far Right--We Just Made It Aboard The Ferry
Going From Germany to Switzerland

A Small Harbor On The Swiss Side Of Lake Constance

A Small German Community At The Base of The Black Forest

A Freiberg Deli and a Roadside Rest Stop, Make Picnicing While Touring
The German Country Side, an Enjoyable Respite

Have You Ever Wondered What Authentic German Streudal is? Wonder No More!
By the Way, It was Warm and That's Real Creamery
Ice Cream and Real Chantilly Whipped Cream!

Lake Constance Shore, Vineyards and On the Other Side, Switzerland

An Ancient Vineyard and Home Abutting Lake Constance, Germany
Moselle Wine Country from Bavarian Alps to Lake Constance

A Drive Through Small German Villages With Narrow Streets

The Autobahn Snakes Around Canyons and Thru Mountains

The Black Forest Is Really Black, Thick and Gigantic,
Stretching For Miles Along the Highway

An Abandoned Castle Along The Autobahn, Germany

Our Last Stop Before Berlin

Contemporary Art in a Redeveloping City, a Stark Contrast to Older
Structures in the West, Near the Europa Center. We Think It
Stands for Unity Following the Removal of the Wall

Road Into Berlin From Potsdamm

A Room With A View, Hotel Kempenski, Berlin
Looking Down on Kurfurstendamm Boulevard

We Enjoy A Fabulous Meal Our First Night in Berlin
At a Lovely Restaurant Near our Hotel
(Hotel Kempinski--A Lovely West Berlin Hotel)

Here's the Italian Restaurant Owned by the Pole in a Picture Below.
The Wall Used to Encompass This Area As Shown in the Picture
The Proprietor is Holding Up For us (below)

Something For Tourists in the Posh New East Berlin
Commercial Area!

Yes, It's Still Raining! These are Designer Shops in East Berlin,
Who Would Have Ever Guessed?

Some Old Buildings Have Yet to be Restored, Although Many in
East Berlin Have Now Become Designer Shop Boutiques

Burned Out Hulk of Memorial Kaiser Wilhelm Church in Background
The Church is Deteriorating and is Now Controversial
Due to the Expense of Restoration

Massive New Modern Structures in Potsdam, a Major Change From
Earlier Days. It's becoming a Massive Commercial Area

Popular Museum at Checkpoint Charley With Remarkable
Artifacts, Pictures and Other Museum Pieces
Evidencing the Horror of a Country Split
Worth Spending Several Hours At

Don't Wait For the Characteristic "Walking Person" or You'll Be Waiting a
Very Long Time. In Berlin, it's the Bear Who issues a Warning
Not to Walk

Doug's Duty Post As Intelligence Officer
U.S. Army During 60's (Post is Now Abandoned)

Still Fluent in German, Doug Makes Friends With a
German Guard at the Old Office
Who Was Curious About Our Picture Taking

U.S. Intelligence Headquarters 60's Now Unused Facility
Except for One Building Where the U.S. Consulate Office
is Located (Doug's Office on Second Floor)
Picture Taken From Window in Early 60's Before Wall Removal, By Doug Carlson
Who Was U.S. Army Intelligence While Stationed in West Berlin
(Hence our Visit to Retrace His Tour of Duty)
Compare With Photo Below

Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin Currently. Actors Dress in U.S. and German Uniforms
The Station Has been Preserved and is a Big Tourist Attraction Today

Brandenburg Gate, Currently, With the Wall Dividing East/West Removed.
What a Difference a Day Makes. One Can Now Walk from East to West
Dine, Shop and Visit

A Mural Inside Checkpoint Charlie Dividing East/West Germany, Showing People on the West and East Side of The Wall at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

The Wall, once called "The Iron Curtain" With Iron Bars Showing Through
The Cement That Has Been Gradually Defaced. The Wall Leaves One
With a Chilling Effect

This Polish Immigrant Shows Us Where His Italian Restaurant Used
to be Located in an Old Picture of the Wall in Berlin
Before the Wall Was Dismantled

Next post: A farewell to Germany

No comments:

Post a Comment