The banks of the Rhine and Black Forest

June 4. I awoke in Bad Bellingen and wrote for a few hours.  I probably should have waited till reaching my friend’s the next day, but felt that my memories of the proceeding days were already fading.  I explored the town by foot as well as the lovely cemetery, wishing I could read German.  The Germans seem to highly value history and information about an area, and often write informative plaques about what had happened in a particular place.  Sadly I don’t read German.  I can guess a few words but that is the limit of my knowledge.  Around 1pm I headed off in the direction of Freiburg, a city I’d been told was at the gates of the Black Forest.  I’ve wanted to drive through the Black Forest all my life but have only skirted the border in Villingen when I headed north last summer from Lake Constance.  En route I saw a sign for Breisach am Rein and decided it would be nice to stop at a historical town on the banks of the Rhine.  It was my first German town to speak of.  As usual, I was drawn to the konditerei and bought a melange of pieces of German cakes (none of which I’ve eaten yet).  They were mouth watering to look at: coffee flavored frosting, meringue, cheesecake, chocolate cake.  It turned out that that bakery was famous and had been in the same building for over 100 years.  Sadly I didn’t end up eating any of the cakes before they went bad: all 7 of them.  And the bread I bought.  And the wonderful 10 percent fat yogurt made from Bavarian cows milk.  How sad!  This seemed to be the plight of all the pastries I bought on my trip, except the ones that were dry and kept for weeks.  Maybe that explains why I didn’t gain more weight on my trip.  Even more ironic, when I finally had access to a refrigerator during my 2 week stay near Budapest, I couldn’t find any decent pastries.  Not a one.  I actually threw out the chocolate cake I bought at a bakery. Tasted like cardboard.

One of the things I liked about Breisach was the informational signs (mostly in German) that gave some history of the building.   As was true in much of Germany, most of the buildings were destroyed during WWII.  There had been a tremendous number of writers, visual artists, and collectors of memorabilia in Breisach (including one man’s curiosity cabinet turned museum that had been located on the hill near the cathederal).  Many important people had stayed here, including one of the Roman emperors on his tour of Roman fortifications along the Rhine River.

I drove across the bridge to France and took some photos from the other side.  I had learned that my ssdi (federal disability) would be continued, which was a huge relief.  Just to mix the good with the bad, I also had just received the results from a DNA test with 23andme revealing a high propensity for alzheimer’s, depression, Type 2 diabetes, various cancers, hypothyroidism, cardiac problems, arterial hardening and strokes, cystic fibrosis, etc.  What a downer!  I suddenly couldn’t think about travel and wondered when the dementia would set in.  Perhaps that’s why I’d been traveling so furtively – maybe some part of me knew that I didn’t have long for this world.  Morbid thoughts.  I needed to temper them with something else, but wasn’t sure what.  I would need to evaluate what I could do to temper my genetic propensities.

Back in Breisach, I climbed the hill to the cathedral and admired the archaeological remains of the Roman buildings that had been built where the cathedral and square now stand.  In the cathedral are the relics of two brothers who were martyred for their faith.  The relics were en route to Berlin or some such when the ship docked for a few days in Breisach.  Somehow strings were pulled to leave the relics of one of the brothers in the village.  When the ship got ready to leave it couldn’t, and the town read it as an omen that both brothers must remain together. A silversmith from Freiburg had built a lovely urn to hold the remains, detailed with carvings of the town and the usual holy apparitions.l

After an hour or so I decided to head to Freiburg as I wanted to explore it and the Black Forest before heading to Landsberg am Lech that evening.  I drove through green fields of crops and rolling hills covered in trees.  What a picturesque place!  Freiburg was only 10 minutes up the road. The first impression I had was of all the graffiti, which is a shame because there are a lot of lovely buildings there.  I admired several town gates, an impressive Rathaus, many lovely medieval residences, huge monastery complexes built of large red stones, and a monumental cathedral with a megolithic tower under construction.  In the square a violinist played movingly, and later I heard him playing flute, a classical piece that Claudio, my former Chilean boyfriend, used to perform.  The university was a glass covered building which reflected the red stone monastery opposite in its panes.  As I walked I noticed a Bio ice cream place.  Not too surprising as Germany has really good dairy.  I probably shouldn’t have because I had woken up the next day with a sore throat which persisted for 1 1/2 weeks.  I was to get dental surgery in two days and should have been more careful.  But I was happy eating my chocolate orange, pistachio cone.

Maybe that’s the antidote to the scary genetic news I had just received.  Be happy while you’re here.  It reminded me of my Uncle Art, a great lawyer and judge who had a propensity for strong drink and cigars.  While in the hospital for some heart condition, he had his favorite things smuggled in by a nurse so he could at least enjoy his  remaining time.  His kids, my cousins, were trying to change his ways, but he was hell bent on enjoying his life while he was still on the planet.  I understand now better than I did then.  It’s easy to judge someone from a different vantage point as being lacking.  It requires seeing them in another way.  It started to rain as I wandered through the Alt Stadt or Centre Ville (old town).  It seems that much of the place had been destroyed in WWII, so that Freiburg was a mish mosh of buildings from the 1400s all the way to the late 1900s.  I prefer large swaths of medieval construction, though I saw the Swiss do some interesting things with a melange of medieval and modern in Basel.

A side note: I have half joked to many who have asked me about my travels that I am running away from Trump.  This is actually quite true, as I’d been getting so depressed listening to the news in the US and the daily horror show that was unfolding that I needed an out.  Plus I needed dental work, and had gotten the walk the plank from my previous dentist in the states who didn’t want to clean my teeth because he didn’t want to be liable.  Despite very good dental hygiene, I have serious teeth problems, many resulting from scleroderma.  I’ve currently had 5 extracted and will probably have 2 more in the short hall.  It’s frustrating to take good care of something and not have positive evidence to show for it.

Back to Freiburg.  It was bigger than I thought, as I found out when I wandered behind the cathedral and saw more buildings which were historical and had plaques with information.  I found out too late that I could have scanned them to get the translation in English.  Too late, plus my phone had run out of batteries.  I walked through yet another gate and noticed the forest near this part of town.  Freiburg really was at the edge of the Black Forest, a mythical dark wood where I imagined that wolves and other wild creatures still lived.  At least that had been my impression from all the folk tales I’d heard.  The Black Forest has always held a mystery for me.

I got in my car and headed into the Forest, hoping to see some old villages.  For all the hype about fast drivers in Germany, I seemed to end up behind the slowest ones.  Particulary in towns, German drivers are incredibly slow.  People will not drive over 25, and I found myself cursing and looking for short cuts.  Luckily, the slow pokes finally found their destinations and I mostly had the road to myself.  I saw places that I’d like to visit and spend time in.  Like a buffet, I got a taste but felt I needed to go back and really get to know a place.

Road weary, I finally reached the autobahn and continued north to Stuttgart and east towards Augsberg.  I arrived at Kaufering (a lovely small town near historic Landsberg on the Lech) around 10pm.  My friend Anne (whose parents were close family friends in the US) and her son Robin stayed up late talking. She had set up a giant air mattress but I detected a leak and ended up sleeping on mine.  Glad I did because when I awoke it was completely deflated. She had allowed me to ship some vitamins to her home.  Invariably I forget something.  I’m glad I had because I started taking Phytocillin as soon as I opened the package.  It has been my go to get rid of colds and flus remedy, and has worked like a charm.

June 5 I awoke and spent quite a bit of time with Anne and her ex husband Eddie and sons Justin and Robin.  It was Whitt Monday, the Pentacost, and a German holiday.  All stores were closed.  Luckily my cheese and salad materials supplemented Anne’s almost bare cupboards and we had a nice lunch.  It was nice to get to know Eddie a bit, though he is a very quiet person.  But the mention of politics got him talking.  Justin is writing an IDE (integrated development environment) for Scala, a programming languages for his company.  We talked a bit about IDEs and what he enjoyed about his job.  Robin is thinking about possibly developing computer games in the future, and might do so using Scala.  It’s nice to have a brother as a resource ;>  About 2:30pm I took my leave and borrowed Robin’s bike to head into Landsberg and visit the wild park and the town.  It’s a very picturesque place and I really enjoy it every time I come.  The wide part of the Lech above the dam has been made into a wild park, and I always feel revitalized when I go there.  I took some time there, then headed to town and had more ice cream.  Whoops – bad idea!  I sat under an umbrella while the rain came down chomping on my cone.  Normally I have more restraint and am not tempted when I’m borderline sick.  But I was acting without heed.  Ah well.  I looked at the Schmalz Turm.  It was called this (fat tower) due to the fact that merchants who sold meat and fat would keep their stalls under the cold stone tower on market day to keep their goods cool. I went to some of my usual haunts, the Rathaus hall and back area, the Salt huts, the water mill, the Lech side and Herkomer house and museum.  It had started raining in earnest as I headed back, reluctantly.  At home, I made a salad for dinner and we ate.  After dinner everyone went off to do their work and I wrote for a while.  I was wiped out at 10pm and went to bed.

June 6. I awoke late, at 10:30am.  Definitely suffering from a cold.  Anne gave me some grated horse radish and a tincture of some sort.  I gargled with hot water and salt and drank a lot of tea and stayed close to home.  It was raining hard and I’d planned to leave in the afternoon to get part way to Budapest, which was 8 hours away.  I had a dental appointment at 3pm the next day and didn’t want to drive from the wee hours.  I went shopping and bought provisions, vacuumed my car, and talked with Anne and Robin.  I headed out about 5pm after working on my blog.  I drove until 10pm or so, stopping near a corn field outside of a village 10 miles west of Vienna.  A girl stopped her car and asked in German if I was okay.  It’s interesting how one can understand something being asked even if the language is unknown.  I answered that I was but that I had to camp for the night and didn’t like the looks of the forest so decided to park here.  She said it should be okay and she was sorry she couldn’t help me but she was living with her parents.  She was very kind. She said to be careful (it was incredibly windy and had been raining hard earlier that night).  I thanked her and battened down the hatches.  I was getting used to living in my car.

June 7.  I’d set my alarm for 10am but awoke at 8:30 feeling fairly refreshed.  Despite cramped conditions, I’d been managing to sleep well in the back of a C3 Citroen.  Much smaller than my Mazda 3, for comparison.  I continued on the road and luckily my navigation application decided to work again.  It had stopped working the night before.  I was ahead of schedule and thought about stopping at some Hungarian towns, but then decided against it.  I’m glad I continued on.  The border crossing was a non-event.  I had expected someone to at least be there to wave me on.  But there was no one.  I bought a vignette for a month at 18 Euros and continued.  Stopped and got gas at an OMV.  A very friendly young man washed all my windows and I gave him a 200 HUF coin.  I’d seen someone else do this at the station and wanted to follow protocol and be kind.  Suddenly I was in the land of poor struggling people who were more resourceful, harder working and often more intelligent than most of the European countries I’ve been.

I found my way into Budapest.  I came in from the Buda side and marvelled at how much nicer Budapest looked from this vantage point.  Lovely buildings, statues, well maintained streets. It looked completely different from my experience of Budapest last summer.  Once I crossed the Danube into Pest, I entered a traffic nightmare.  I finally crossed the tracks and pulled a u turn and after 10 minutes of crawling, found a parking place.  Hallelujah.  I wouldn’t move for the next 2 days.  Parking places, especially so near my dentist and hostel, are gold.  I decided to make my way to the dentist, 2 hours early, and ask about getting a CT scan.  They wrote a prescription and I went to the clinic.  What an arduous wait!  I waited an hour and it was hot and I was feeling sick and sweaty.  I finally told them I’d be outside and that worked better.  Sitting in the hot office watching everyone else go in before me and knowing I had surgery at 3pm was unnerving.  Finally I got the scan and walked it back to the dentist.  It was 3:15pm but Dr. Windisch welcomed me and thanked me for getting the scan.

I was glad I did too.  We were able to look at it together and decide what to do next.  We settled on pulling tooth #13 which had been barely hanging on for years.  He was able to put an implant via a sinus lift, and I didn’t have pain.  Then I headed to Colors Hostel where I’d made a reservation a few days before.  I’m glad I did because it is just down the street from the dentist.  I met a nice French young man from Normandy and a medical student, Steve, from Scotland.  He had just come back from doing a medical residency of sorts in Nepal in a small clinic.  We talked about Scotland and the Brexit vote and the upcoming UK election on Friday, as well as the state of medical care in Scotland and Trump’s desire to can the Affordable Care Act.  Very nice young man.  Then I talked with a young woman from Colorado, who recommended a castle in Godollo.  I left th e hostel about 7:30pm wanting to see a bit of the town before dark.  But I was still weak and after crossing the bridge I decided not to walk up the hill to the citadel. I needed food.  So I headed down along the main drag next to the health spa on the Buda side and found a nice restaurant, Monarchy, which was televising the quarter finals of the French Open. I watched Djokovic play Thiem, an Austrian who I’d never heard of who’s ranked 6.   I hate watching someone crumble in a tennis match. As Thiem trounced Djokovic, that’s what happened.  I had soup and talked with a couple from Budapest who is now living in Zurich. They spoke German, Hungarian, and English. Talk about polyglots! A young man joined them. He is studying to be an opera singer and was accepted to Julliard in the fall. He invited me to a concert the next day but I wasn’t able to find it. I returned to the hostel and had a nice conversation with Steve from Scotland, a medical student who did his residency in Nepal working with residents. We talked about the upcoming UK election and what he thought about the conservative versus liberal parties. He was surprised at the outcome the next day when a larger percentage of Scots than expected supported the conservative party.

 

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