In and Around Landsberg Am Lech

August 31 I had the next four days to recuperate and get the basics accomplished. Things that I couldn’t do on the road like taking a shower, washing my clothes, cleaning my car, catching up on my blog, buying some warm clothes, and going on some bike rides. It had turned cold when I got to Germany and I didn’t have many winter clothes with me. I went to my favorite Red Cross used clothes store and bought some Gore-tex boots, which unfortunately fell apart within 2 hours, and warm pants and tops. I even got a purple down vest, which looked like it had never been worn! Happy with my hoard, I spent the day walking in Wildpark along a wide bend in the Lech River where they have dammed the river. It’s a beautiful area. I spent much of my walk in the Wildpark crying. I had just learned of the death of a dear family friend, Rene Lynch, earlier that day. I tried to imagine Rene in front of me, and asked her to forgive me for not spending more time with her. Geordie had posted a very vibrant photo of her on Facebook, and looking at it made me cry harder. I’d been thinking about her nonstop for several weeks, and finally texted Frank to ask how she was. I found out she’d died on August 5, just about the time I’d started thinking about her.

She had fallen and broken her hip last October, and I’d hoped against hope that she’d make it out of bed and walk again. But she’d been declining from rheumatoid arthritis for many years and could barely walk before the fall. She and her husband Art had been some of my parents closest friends, and we used to go camping together, their 3 boys and me. We’d also have dinners togerher. I remember my parents laughing with them, and Rene showed me a film of my father dancing with my mom and me trying to get my dad’s attention in Tahoe. We also visited Carmel River, Gualala, Russian River, Mendocino, Big Basin, and Point Reyes with them. It felt like the end of an era, and I deeply regretted not spending more time with her. I’d meant to stop by her house and just talk. She lived in Los Altos and it was just a 10 minute drive from my house. But it seemed like I was always running, never had time to just talk. She was also good friends with the mother of a childhood playmate of mine. Katherine Smathers was a very bright woman, and her kids David and Katy had lived next door to my cousins the Jedds in Los Altos. We had spent many an afternoon playing together. Rene had been a stalwart friend to Katherine, and had visited her often in her last years after her diagnosis with ovarian cancer.

I’ve gone to the Lynch’s every Christmas Day evening for the past five years and have many memories of the boys sitting around with wrapping paper everywhere, and lots of books (Frank, Geordie, and Rene are big readers). Rene loved to watch the finches and other birds feeding on the seeds outside her window, and had an ongoing battle with the local squirrels. She finally discovered cayenne pepper-flavored birdseed, which seemed to hold those pesky squirrels at bay. She loved to listen to her oldest son Frank and his friends sing. Frank is a bass and has been in several choirs. I would sing with Frank’s friends at the Los Altos Democratic Club’s annual Christmas party, hosted by the gracious Thurbers (and a relation of the political cartoonist James Thurber). Art Lynch had been a long-time president of the Los Altos Democratic Club and was very involved in local politics. I finally headed back to the house about 9pm and met Robin’s friend who is a forestry expert. He told me about a farm on the Romanian/Ukrainian border where he worked. He and Robin had traveled to Georgia together and had been roommates in Marzing. I told Anne about Rene’s passing, and she empathized.

September 1. I slept in.  It was a rainy day and a relief to finally have cool temperatures.  I’d been overheated since early May when I’d first arrived in France.  Four months of sweating and heat isn’t exactly nice.  When I’m at home I can hide indoors when it gets really hot. But when I’m camping all summer, it’s more difficult. I think my energy gets zapped after months of hot weather. Global warming, here we come. Robin, Anne’s son, was going on a bike ride and I asked to join him. We rode out into Kaufering’s local forest, and I noticed that they’d clear cut a lot of the trees. Dam. I really liked that forest, and often took walks in it when I visited Anne in the past. Robin told me about Westenwalde, a forest on the other side of the Lech with big beech trees. I determined to take a look later that day. We had a nice ride. It was incredibly muddy from the rain, and we jumped in the stream to improve circulation. I’m not sure it really helps someone with Raynaud’s, which I have, but I did anyway. By the time we got back my feet were freezing. I went for a drive and explored Westenwalde, admiring the beeches and conifers there.  I also went to the old church in Kaufering on the other side of the Lech.  The house that Anne thought was going to be renovated was only half there.  There was a wrecking ball destroying the 200 plus year waddle and dob walls. Very sad.

I drove to the trout farm outside of Landsberg.  I had a hankering for fresh fish.  But a worker told me that they were on summer holiday.  Shoot.  I drove into Landsberg and parked at the top of the city wall, then wound my way through the narrow streets.  I took a lot of photos and explored the library and some other buildings.  The library had been a large salt storage warehouse when salt was being shipped here from Saltzburg.  The librarian told me there was a special scale in the attic that had been used to measure the salt.  I checked out the building and admired the sturdy building style.  Things aren’t made the way they used to.  I went for a walk in the Wildpark in Landsberg again and got a nice photo of 3 different color deer: white, gold, and dark brown.  I had some ice cream at my favorite place on the river, and walked around the nice historic town.  When it was dark, I headed back to Kaufering. Anne had made a special Persian meal of kofte and an apple cake in hopes that her friend would visit.  He was caring for his mother, who had recently been dropped in a nursing home and broken her hip.  Shades of my friend Rene.  Anne was disappointed at having exerted so much energy, but Robin and I were happy to have a delicious meal.  I considered it my birthday dinner.We watched a couple of episodes of an animated TV series like Ren and Stimpy, and it was nice to see TV. I literally hadn’t watched anything since April, so it was going on 5 months. And what I had watched was an opera. Not exactly frivolous entertainment.

September 2.  I needed a lazy day.  And that’s what I had.  I don’t remember what I did, except that I went into Landsberg, which was my favorite nearby place, and looked for the remains of the WWII Jewish munitions factory.  There was a memorial plaque next to the community gardens at the edge of town.  The Germans had destroyed all traces except this small patch of concrete flooring.  Truly erasing history. I bought some groceries and stocked up for my impending trip.  Monday I’d be heading north up the Romantic Road, some of the quaintest towns in Germany.  Robin and I had a nice chat, and I looked through Anne’s family photo albums.  I had been very close to her father John Thomas and wanted a photo of him to remember him by.  He was always taking photos of other people, and I didn’t have any of him.  It was a walk down memory lane.  I found photos of me in Anne and Les (her fiancee)’s apartment in San Jose, of Fran (John’s wife and Anne’s mom), and various friends and family members. I lived with John and Fran for a brief time (3 months or so) in my early 20s when I was working at EMCON and my mom asked me to move out of her house. She’d invited me to stay there a few months earlier, but I had gone through a bad break up and really broken up over it. My crying was too much for her, I guess, and it was really hard on me. She had asked me to leave just before my birthday on September 8, and said that if I didn’t she’d change the locks. Wow. What an insult.

I had been so hurt that I felt like packing up and leaving on the spot. But I had nowhere to go. John and Fran kindly took me in after I’d asked. Three months after I’d moved in, Fran’s sister Sally visited at Christmas and yelled the following during a dinner party at the Thomases: “How dare you sponge off my sister’s kindness. Get out.” I was hurt and shocked. I’d asked John and Fran to tell me when I’d worn out my welcome, and whether I could pay them for their kindness. I felt ashamed, and quickly scrambled to find another place to live. It pushed me into asking to live with a recent acquaintance and love-interest, Brian Selfridge, who changed his name soon after we’d met to Thyhagi Nagasiva. Now he’s nagasiva yronwode. All these memories came tumbling back as I paged through the photos. Photos are powerful memory aids. They’ve helped me have a good cry about losing someone when I couldn’t feel anything. I appreciated Anne letting me look at the albums. She’d been a meticulous chronicler of family history and goings on, like her father, John, who wrote lengthy letters with beautiful penmanship (calligraphy, actually). I miss John to this day. We used to have heated debates about the legitimacy of immigration. I think he enjoyed prodding my progressive idealism by posing as an extremely belligerent right-winger. He probably wasn’t as conservative as he led me to believe.

September 3.  I decided to go to some museums in Augsburg, as tomorrow was Monday and they would be closed.  It was a short hop from Kaufering, especially on the highway, and I made it in a matter of 25 minutes.  Parking was a different matter, but I found a place just behind the town hall, and as it was Sunday, there weren’t many cars.  I parked and walked to the main square, then headed to the Fugger and Welser Museum, which explores Augsburg’s golden age of the Fuggers and the Welsers, fabulously rich and incredibly successful Augsburg citizens. The Fuggers, one of the most important banking houses in Europe and, with their mining interests, the Krupps of their day. The Welsers were financiers on a similar scale, but also controlled an unrivalled trade network that stretched as far as South America. The Fuggers’ copper went to India and all points in between, while the Welsers went to the jungle in search of El Dorado. This chapter of German economic history is such a fascinating time that historians speak of the “Age of the Fuggers and the Welsers”. The museum is housed in an extensively renovated Renaissance building with display panels, film, audio, and a virtual conversation between Jakob Fugger “the Rich” and Bartholomäus Welser V.

From there I went to the Fuggerei, the oldest social housing complex still in use. It is a walled enclave which takes its name from the Fugger family who founded it in 1516.  Jakob Fugger the Younger (known as “Jakob Fugger the Rich”) built it as a place where the needy citizens of Augsburg could be housed. By 1523, 52 houses had been built, and in the coming years the area expanded with various streets, small squares and a church. The gates were locked at night, so the Fuggerei was, in its own right, very similar to a small independent medieval town. It is still inhabited today, affording it the status of being the oldest social housing project in the world. The museum displays the lifestyle of earlier times in three rooms found in an apartment which has been preserved in its original condition.  Next I walked to St. Anne’s church.  The burial chapel of the Fuggers in St. Anne’s Church, built in 1509, is the earliest example of Renaissance architecture in Germany. Unfortunately it was closed, and I decided to come back tomorrow to learn more about the Augsburg confession, written at the Diet of Augsburg in response to Luther’s refusal to back down from his criticism of the Catholic church.


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