It has been 4 weeks now since we arrived back in Munich after 52 weeks on a tour around the world. Needless to say, we have quite a few changes in our lives after so many experiences. But we do find a lot of comfort and joy in the things that are familiar to us. The things that are just like they always were. Our own bed and pillows are examples that we have previously written about. But there are other things. Like saying hello to the neighbors again. Walk along the river Isar, located just on the other side of the street where we live. The local Biergarten. To sit in one of the last rows in my beloved Theatinerkirche in the city center, to just feel the coolness from the building and the special peace that always inhabit giant cathedrals. A few of the local cafés have gotten a makeover and some new lounge chairs. A couple of restaurants are new. Others have closed down. Life has continued in our absence. Just like it should.
The week up to Easter we went on a field trip to Franconia in northern Bavaria. The Franconians like if you notice that there is a difference between them and the rest of Bavaria. But a part of Bavaria it is, nevertheless.
Alexandra’s friend from her studies, Martina, and her family own and run a middle-sized “Gasthof” with an associated “Weingut” - vineyard - in the small town of Sommerach, about a half hours drive from Würzburg. In Sommerach things have continued just like they were “before the world went mad”. One could easily get the feeling that you arrived in the mid 1700’s if it wasn’t for the modern cars and tractors. They are among the few things that reveal current time to be 2014. But behind the quiet facades Sommerach is in fact a very modern society, where the locals take a genuine interest in each other. And there is a healthy competition among the 15-20 local wine-producers. Just like in the old days you enter the town through the old gates, before you arrive in the small streets and alleyways. Surrounding the town you have miles and miles of vineyards. Both red and white wines are produced here, but white wines are by far the most dominant. Our hosts, the Strobel Family, also make excellent rosé wines. Even a sparkling one. Normally I am not into rosé wines, but here I was won over and can now say that producing a drinkable rosé wine IS actually possible! Click here to go to Gashof Zum Weissen Lamm!
My mother, who was to come to visit us in Munich over Easter, met us in Sommerach, and together with Anton’s Oma from Munich we all went to explore the area for a couple of days.
Würzburg is a great example of a city that most northern Europeans simply just pass by on their way south towards the sunny, Mediterranean beaches in the summer, or the alpine ski slopes with fresh powder snow in the winter. With a bit of luck they make a quick stop in one of the giant “Autobahn Haltestellen” (Highway service areas), but only very few of them ever take time to go to the city center and explore for a few hours. This is a pity, because Würzburg actually has quite a few attractions of significant interest.
With certainty the city can be dated back to around the year 600 AD, but is most likely much older than that. All the way back in the Bronze Age there was a fortress located on one of the hilltops above the city. Today this is where the Marienberg fortress is located. The church, Marienkirche, was erected around 704 AD. Marienberg is a huge complex built in several stages and various architectural styles. You can either walk up from the city center or drive. We drove up and parked the car outside the thick, solid walls surrounding the whole complex. Through giant gates we walked the remaining stretch towards the inner courtyards. In one of these the tower that was inspiration for the Grimm’s Brothers fairytale “Rapunzel” is located. Quite tall and without any windows all the way up. Only on the top floor you see small holes. This is allegedly where Rapunzel, according to the story, would sit in custody. And from where she could let her future prince and also the witch climb up to her by letting down her long hair.
In the inner courtyard of Marienberg you also find a museum. And along the outer walls of the complex there is a beautiful baroque garden with the most stunning view over Würzburg and a good deal of the surrounding area. This is, of course, a paradise for small boys, and Anton really enjoyed to be able to run around and climb on things. But not without adult supervision! There are so many places where things can really go terribly wrong and accidents can happen if you are not extremely careful. This is not a place for small daredevils! But apart from that, it was actually a very nice place to just walk around in the sunshine. There is a certain “calmness” resting over the old buildings. It is hard to explain. And I wouldn’t have thought much of it had we seen people walk around in medieval costumes or a knight in armor arriving on his horse. Like in Sommerach it was just like time had been standing still for centuries.
In the centre of Würzburg you find the Würzburg Residence. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It was built in 1720-1744 and today it is one of the finest baroque palaces in Germany. It took more than 40 years to restore and repair the complex after it was bombed during World War II. But today the Würzburg Residence is an important landmark and testimony of former glory. Outside the palace there is a well preserved and very impressive baroque garden, “Residenz Garten”, where you can easily walk around for a couple of hours, enjoying the shaped bushes and trees. Or you can just sit on a bench and observe the local life passing by.
Another day-trip was destined for Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Germany and can be dated back to 950 AD. Although apprx. 40% of the city was destroyed during World War II it has actually managed to keep its authenticity more or less intact. A market square (without any market when we were there), an old City Hall, some old churches and numerous small streets and alleys with cobblestones and souvenir stores. Many of the old houses are crooked and leaning disturbingly. Even a good joiner would get stressed should he make new windows to fit the old holes in the walls. Nothing is straight around here! When walking through the city you spot many small gardens. A few of them are open to the public. And Rothenburg is also the place where you find one of the largest (and wildest!) Christmas stores in Europe. In here it is Christmas 365 days a year! It is not exactly cheap though, and if you are really in the spirit you can even chose to pay the entrance fee to the Christmas Museum. We resisted!
Instead we found a nice garden restaurant. It is “Spargelzeit” - Asparagus Season - here in Bavaria. In our family this means that we eat as much asparagus as possible, as often as possible. White asparagus that is. The more dry, green ones that are ever so popular in Scandinavia are not considered “real” asparagus in the eyes of the Bavarians. They do taste ok, by all means, but it just isn’t “the real deal”! So we eat asparagus in many ways and as side dish to many things. Here in Rothenburg the menu card offered grilled sausages, ham, trout, smoked salmon and much more. When I first started living here I considered it strange to eat asparagus with almost anything, but by now I have gotten used to it, and I even applaud it. Not many restaurants with a proper kitchen are without a special “Asparagus Menu Card” when it is season. And for those wondering if they offer the classic , creamy “Asparagus Soup” I can set your mind at ease: Yes, it is almost always there!
Last week Anton turned 4. Amazing how time flies! When we left he was still using nappies, sat in the stroller and our luggage would clearly show signs of a family traveling with a small child. But as we got around the world it got easier to pack and carry all our stuff. Particularly during our time in the US it all went very fast. As we arrived in Seattle in early November he did not really want to sit in the stroller anymore. We kept it for a while, but mostly it just used up a lot of space in the trunk. Shortly before leaving the US we gave it to charity. He has not used nappies since we were in Las Vegas. As if he had made a New Years resolution, New Years Eve 2013-2014 became the point where he just started to use the toilet. We never really did any potty training or made any particular efforts to make him “dry” apart from small candy bribes or the promise of 30 minutes of TV. It just happened. At night he still uses a nappy, but mostly it is dry in the morning. We did expect this to be much more of a struggle because of the ever changing conditions surrounding us. But Anton seemed unfazed.
Many people have asked us what it is like to be back home again. To have the routines, write lists for grocery shopping, have a monthly commuter pass to the trams and subways and all that. So far it is great! Most of the time we have had visitors, so we have not really had much time completely on our own. The balcony has been prepared for the summer with fresh trees and flowers. Alexandra has started to go jogging in the morning. And we have once again started the weekly work patterns that we had before we left. Alexandra works two days, then I work two days and the weekends are long, from Friday to Sunday. Alexandra has started her hunt for a new job and I am currently working on a large update for our website.
So right now we are just a normal family. Albeit with quite a few cool experiences to reflect on!