Anyone else out there have a special childhood home-away-from home nestled deep in their hearts? Mine is southern Germany. Die Schwartzwald. The Black Forest. Because I am one of the luckiest creatures alive, I got to spend a large portion of my childhood there, inside what still feels like a fairy tale.
Here’s how that came about. My zoologist father had a zoologist counterpart at a German university, who came to North Carolina one summer to follow Monarch butterflies. He brought along his little daughter. She was eight, I was seven. I lived on a farm with horses. We’ve been pretty much sisters ever since.
From 1969 through 1975, we mostly alternated summers at my place and her place. Only where “my place” constituted a fairly rag-tag compound of pastures, horse stalls and goat pens, “her place” was…this:
Gotta admit, that’s not my photo–last time I was there was eight years ago, when I did not yet own a digital camera. My friend’s folks have passed on, and the mansion’s sold now. But, as you can tell, she was part of an old, wealthy family. Besides this “house,” there was an adjoining one for caretakers (once upon a time, servants), a formal rose garden, a botanical garden of rare trees, and acres and acres of fruit orchards and berry fields. Not to mention the deep, black forest surrounding the creek below the house, where she and I would play our days out by the barn she built for her (plastic) horses.
If that weren’t enough, a mile’s walk down the hill took us into this adorable Dorf, or village, where we bought the day’s wurst und brot, always saying “Guten Tag!” as we entered each shop:
When I first came to the Pacific Northwest, my soul instantly connected with its dark forests and bright fields, its mountains and berries and soft skies. I’m convinced some of that was my inner child happily calling out to its habitat–“Hallo! Wie geht’s?” (Well, and there’s also the ocean, and Mt. Rainier, and I like our political system better. And Germans don’t make good sushi.)
My friend still lives in Germany, and we’ve stayed in touch over the past decades. (I call her my “longest friend”–we’re not THAT old!) In these next two weeks, The Mate and I are journeying back to see her. Our plan is to kidnap her and take her traipsing through the Bavarian and Swiss Alps for a week or so. (You know, that civilized kind of European hiking where you walk a few miles up to a high mountain valley, then sit down to a terrific beer. Forget trail mix–I’ll have a schnitzel.)
So, I’ll be back in Wing’s World in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, picture me here, with my Mate and my Longest Friend:
But if you’d like to share the special place where YOUR heart resides, if it’s somewhere different than where your body is–I would love to know.
…. and you don’t want to see Vienna?
Not this trip, Monika. We have only a week, and our focus is mountain hiking, not cities. If we did come to Vienna, we’d have to stay with my friend’s son and meet his girlfriend, and I can’t figure out a way to do that quickly, without changing the whole nature of our trip.