Outdoors, Always

If there’s one thing I love about Germans–besides their soft pretzels– is their enthusiasm for the outdoors.  Every restaurant and cafe has nice outdoor seating and the country is littered with hiking trails. My favorite restaurant so far is called Lodge and it overlooks the zoo.  Kind of a funny juxtaposition because Lodge is a steak house and here we are gazing at zebras and wildebeasts while eating hunks of meat. Fortunately the zoo keeper isn’t the meat supplier. Gary and I went for the first time last weekend and the setting is what I’d imagine a safari lodge in Kenya looks like–warm wood finishes, breezes floating through, candles, and a full, orange moon hanging in the sky.  We couldn’t have ordered up a more perfect evening.  And then we actually ran into people we know–a sure sign a place is starting to become home. 

The Germans take advantage of every ounce of good weather and even not-so-good weather.  They are prepared with every type of coat, hat and boots to ensure they can still get out and enjoy the fresh air.  If you take the hidden trail from our house and turn left, instead of right for the Schwimmbad, you are handed a series of decisions about which trail to follow–the back route to the castle and the Altstadt (old city) or along a stream, past a waterwheel, and near the train tracks.  I go for my runs down there and I’m an oddity in my running gear and listening to my iPod.  The Germans prefer to hike around with what looks like ski poles in their hands. Maybe it provides more of a workout.  The first time I noticed those things was a trip with Gary to Cinque Terre in Italy two years ago.  As we hiked the pathways carved along the steep Italian cliffs, we were amused by all the Germans and their hiking gear, as if they were climbing Everest. One evening during dinner with an Australian couple, we asked if they had noticed the ski poles.   In his best Melbournese, the guy shrugged and said, “Yeah, what’s up with the sticks?” So, here we are again, surrounded by hiking sticks.  

Our village even has Kindergarten in the Woods, which is exactly how it sounds.  There is no school building.  Parents drop their children in the woods every morning — rain, sun, sleet, or snow–and the teachers take over from there.  My neighbor’s eldest son attends that kindergarten and one cold, rainy morning I saw him leaving for school.  He was dressed head to toe in rubber, looking like he was about to trawl for lobsters in the North Atlantic. I think this sort of Kindergarten is a novel idea though and will consider it for Jack.

We’ve had several comfortable weather days lately but everyone warns us about winter.  Some new American friends had us over for dinner recently at their home in the Aldstadt of our village.  Their house sits right across a courtyard from the ancient cannonball forge that used to supply cannonballs to our castle.  They’ve lived here for three years and have had the best time.  However, they admitted the first winter was rough.  No sunshine and the daylight is scarce.  It got so bad that the husband decided to make a chart of actual daylight every day of the year.  He got the information from the internet and created a graph.  The results were clear. December had the shortest time of daylight in the year–one day around the 21st has only has 8.5 hours of daylight.  But, pointing to January, he said, “This month is total s***. Get a babysitter and plan a long weekend somewhere sunny,” he recommended.

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5 responses to “Outdoors, Always

  1. It is so much fun to read your blog. The house, pools, places, people…..it feels like you stepped in my shoes.
    The outdoor living is typically european, not only a german habit. This is what I missed so much when I lived in America. The oudoor seats at restaurants, icecream and coffee shops. I could not believe my eyes when I saw people walking for daily execises in the mall with complete sport outfits and weights.
    We BBQ ed in the garden and loved to eat outside, all my american neighbours cooked outside on the BBQ and ate inside the house. For us unbelieveble.
    My chidren loved to play with the leaves in the garden in the fall, my neighbours came one day and asked why I allowed my kids to play with dirt. Funny to read what you think as an american in europe.
    A restaurant you have to try is Wasserweibchen in Bad homburg, a very small german place. It is always full, you need to make a resevation.
    In August on Sunday morning is always jazz in the park. It is in Wiebaden at the kurpark and casino. This is nice for the children, you can go with the waterbike on the pond.
    I hope you have a mild winter, and bright days.

    • Ellen Willson Hoover

      Regine, yes, I have always wished America had more outdoor seating and that is why I’m loving this part so much! I do know that is a European trait (not so much Ireland and UK) but I guess I’m just so focused on Germany at this point. And, the whole walking in the shopping mall thing has always baffled me too. I imagine they must have looked like aliens to you. And, the “kids playing with dirt” query leaves me speechless! American kids probably stay inside too much these days but playing in the leaves is very normal for American kids so I don’t know what that person was talking about. Thank you for tipping me off about that restaurant and jazz in the park. I can’t wait to try them!

  2. El-
    It is clear that you are feeling more at home than you did just weeks ago: you now refer to the local landmark as “our castle” rather than “the castle” or the “village’s castle.” Me thinks this is a good place for you. Love your blog!
    xo Mol

  3. kate Voelker

    Ellen,
    I am behind in reading your posts. The winters in Germany sound vaguely familiar. I know there are months in a row in South Bend when the sun does not shine. It is due to lake effect clouds from lake Michigan. Very tough. I know you will do fine however. It is great that you are meeting so many new people and that everyone’s arms are so wide open to you.

    Love, Kate

  4. We used to joke that the walking sticks were to beat off the wild boar that roam the forests around there. 😉

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