Sunday, November 26, 2006

Travels in Germany: Badenland-- Frieburg is as like Home as I can imagine.
Austin is in a unique corner of the world, especially of Texas, an exceptional cultural and environmental crossroads, with the best of everything at everyone's fingertips. University town, people come for their education, fall in love and want to stay.

Unfortunately, as in my hometown, this leads to the foundational entities in the town taking their residents for granted and diminishing their returns for their work to the point that they cannot afford any more than poor emigrants quarters in the town they love. Certainly the market bears what it will, and those choosing to deal with it pay, but certainly there is a point of diminishing returns.

So in this beautiful rolling country, the toenails of the Vogesians (Vosges), urban sprawl interdigitates with plowed fields and terraced vinyards. Our friends live a few minutes walk from something called the Tuniberg, a cute little hill covered, at the moment, in slightly tired grapevines with individual fat, slightly dried clusters of dark Spatlese grapes. My friend Eva and I took turns nibbling these sticky, juicy, sweet and sour treats right off the vines. Our other friends don't quite regard the outdoors as the big snack bar that we do. I tend to wander around nibbling everything that looks vaguely edible, provided it isn't actively trying to get away from me at the time. Rose hips, leftover berries, half-frozen schlehen/sloes, mints, oregano, edible flowers and trees are all part of the buffet. In harvest season, apples always line my pockets, earlier, I always have a bag or basket for berries and mushrooms. The world is so rich, why let any of Mamma Natura's cooking go to waste? I feel that she gets her feelings hurt, when we do. Having grown up in such a ferocious environment, Texas, I find this soft bountiful bosom of Middle Europe positively intoxicating.

What also reminded me of home was that it was scarcely cold at all. I hadn't brought anything cool enough, and was sweating in my light silk turtleneck and jeans! Andy, of course, Northerner that he is, wore his usual black T-shirt and jeans. I think he would wear this in Alaska on a midwinter's day, and sweat through the icicles on his beard. Meanwhile, back in the Oberpfalz, we are still hovering within 5 degrees Centigrade of freezing most of the time.

Baden is warm, inviting, bounteous, and crowded. The nature of the land and the people has a deep French influence, and there, where German and French interdigitate is also hard to discern. Okay, the bathrooms are cleaner on the German side, and the food is better on the French side. Go to the French side for red wine and cheese, and the German side for meats and white wine. The Badischer white wine is just wicked good, and they tend not to export the goodies. The French are the same way. All I can say for wine is, buy it where it comes from. No one exports their *really* good stuff, and it's always worth the travel, to go to the source.

I love Badenland, but so does everyone else.

No comments: