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Snail’s Trail Disappears

Alas – the snail’s tale is at an end.

No dénouement.

Once was a schneckenreckoner!

No revelation about motive.

No apparent villain – although perhaps it was the wind while we were away which whirled the little wind machine so wildly the snail spun giddily off to the next adventure.

Whatever happened, the snail was gone when we returned from the Schwarzwald (of which more further down).

And that just when the wonderfully witty Mary Cresswell had suggested why it was there in the first place. To make sense of it, remember in German a snail is called a schnecken. Her comment:  This object is actually a widely underappreciated form of sundial called a Schneckenreckoner. It is nearly high noon where you are. Watch what happens next…

Strange though, the foolish questions that arise.   If we had not been away… would it have happened?  Is it about the slippery disappearance of unobserved phenomena?

Or is it the same self-delusion that makes me put some things into an earthquake-safe position when we’re overseas, as if  I’d be able to grab them and keep them safe so long as I was in the country?

And of course, there’s the same deep belief that the people you love are safer while you’re around.   My father  is not “bouncing back” from a fall and subsequent operation, and other effects of being 93.  The family in NZ are doing all and everything to support him.  My absence or presence makes no objective difference … yet…yet…

I remember waking from a bad dream, early in my partnership with Mani, to hear him saying “I’ll keep you safe” – and being deeply comforted.    Dream aside, I was in no way feeling in need of protection, yet that knowledge that someone was there to care, that security of “presence”, was something I’ve not forgotten.

It’s not just the snail prompting these thoughts. It’s people news too.  Today in the same email I got the news that a friend and neighbour has died, and that another friend and neighbour in his eighties has found a new love.      Stan has lost Middy after  a very long marriage.  Ron, who lost Gwen a couple of years ago, has found someone who is making his eyes shine again.

“Late love” is a wonderful thing. Older couples who’ve been together “forever” and still hold hands and smile and each other. And older couples who’ve recently found each other and delight in the renewal of emotions they’d wrapped in tissue paper and put away.

“An old man loved is winter with flowers.”  Edgar Z. Friedenberg

And that’s how – through more convolutions than a snail’s shell – we get to the travelogue!

Hans and Inge – in Gernsbach

Some of you have met Mani’s brother Hans and his partner Inge through previous blogs  – and a special few of you, even in “reality.”   They’re another late-life partnership – two very independent opinionated people whose arguments  set me back on my heels, but make their equally frequent mutual tendernesses lovely to see.

Neither  trusts the other’s distance driving much any more – so off  Mani drove us for a few days in the Black Forest, to revisit some places Hans and Inge had known separately and more recently together.

Rough Itinerary:

West along the Swiss shores of Bodensee (Lake Constance), across into Germany, and into the Schwarzwald – destination, an overnight revisit to Wolfach,

Wolfach on a windy market day

where we’d been but a few weeks before on the way  back from the Mosel.

Then eastwards for an overnight at Bad Urach, and south-west again, through the Donautal (upper Danube valley), back to Bodensee, and along the German shore to Friedrichshafen, and car-ferry across the lake home.

That negotiated – we set the Tomtom to avoid the motorways and take the scenic routes, and off we went “into the blue”.  I’d thought the expression was like our English idea of “into the wide blue yonder”  – but no.  Inge, who loves knowing the “why” behind language ( which is one of the reasons I love Inge), told me otherwise.  The countryside once was full of flax plants for  textile production  – and flax flowers are blue.  Going for a drive into the countryside was going “into the blue”.   These days the same fields are full of raps  (rape-seed) which in spring is a zinging acid yellow.  But the phrase has its own life now.

And anyway – we were going into the deep green of the Black Forest.  And, again according to my personal tour interpreter, it was called Schwarzwald not only because of the  darkness of the forest, but because in winter it used to be a bitter, hard, poor, “black” place to be, full of outlaws, robbers and Grimms characters.

We drove through here in 2005, just after the gale that cut swathes through high Schwarzwald. Regeneration is being left to nature, to reintroduce forest diversity. The original forest was cut into to build the Dutch fleet when closer forests had been felled. What was left went to rebuild Germany after the 30 years war. Then the regrowth went as war reparations to the French. It’s a forest with generations of history.



We drove past the bus-besieged places of One Thousand (mainly cuckoo) Clocks – but u-turned into a wood-art-studio-shop on the outskirts of Schiltach.

Wood art

A woodworker carving a rocking horse just visible through the wood-dusty window of a back room, another work-worker on his shop-front duty, and a place full of extraordinary work – fine wood filigree, relief carvings, dioramas, and fully sculpted works  – and yes, just a small wall of clocks, but great ones  –  and, a cellar, with so many kinds of schnapps to warm the bitterness of winter.   Mani is now planning how to replicate the Schwarzwald Honey Schnapps.

Schwarzwald farm house as wood-art


Christmas shop in the Glashütte at Wolfach

They’ve been making glass in the Schwarzwald for centuries. The Dorotheenhütte at Wolfach is a Glassmaking showcase – with demonstrations, a glass museum  – that something so fragile can still survive from Roman times! – and the most extraordinary rooms full of Christmas glass decorations and other glass for sale.  Somehow in this part of the world, where you can easily imagine the trees covered in real snow at Christmastime,  the glittering gorgeousness of fairy lights and glass angels and more baubles than you can imagine, wipes the “bah humbug” off your lips.

Antique Christmas baubles

The Hirschen, OberWolfach

Back at the Hirschen – our landlord with Hans and Inge

I wrote about the Hirschen a while back.  And there we were again….  So, what else to do but tell them to have a look at the blog.   Up it came on the computer in the “wait-station” – and great was the elation and dancing around and teasing of the waitress who’d given us such good service the time before.   And yes, it was all good again.

Bad Urach

This was nearly NOT a highlight.

Bad Urach – pedestrian-friendly…..

Since Inge had been there some 30 years back, the old town centre had become pedestrian friendly, which is a good thing, except when you’re trying to find a hotel in a car.

Finally in frustration,  we thought we’d head for an “easier” town.  Uh-huh – road closed for major re-work, and the alternative route would have us hungrily late arriving.

Back to Bad Urach. Hallelujah – an accessible hotel – with a carpark.  The meal was OK, and the after-dinner grappa  mood-restoringly gorgeous. We had a second glass, and the day suddenly resumed a rosy glow.

In the morning Inge and I took a pre-breakfast amble. I got my fill of 15th Century buildings, and Inge of her reminiscences.

Built in 1445, as accommodation for official visitors and staff of the Schloss over the road.

Some social commentary???

Alte Mühle – Dietfurt

Of course, there are Old Mills everywhere water and grain can come together.

But this one is a great example of entrepreneurial diversification.

It’s on the Upper Danube.

Outside, a garden restaurant. On the river-side, a beer-garden by a kayak-pull-ashore landing – but there are no kayaks just now, as the river is too low.  Inside – a modern plant and shop with their own products – from flour to finished pasta.  The “old” old mill was burned out a while ago – a common fate, because the explosive combustibility of flour dust defeats even the amount of water running by and through the mill.

Inside the Mill

And maybe that’s a good place to halt for a while …. A place built on history, making a living from something old – grain – and something newer – the passing trade of people enjoying the Schwarzwald.

Two ways of living in the  SchwaRzwald landscape…..

Schwarzwald homestead. Huge house/barn (many now have solar panels on their expansive roofs) and many also have their own little chapel. Pre-car, these were self-contained small “communities”.

“Focussed” land-use – wide rolling fields, and tightly packed villages.

“Focussed” land-use – wide rolling fields, and tightly packed villages.