A Weekend at a Work in Progress.

I sat down to write about a weekend in the country and it kind of went in a different direction. So I guess I’ll divide this into two parts. Part 1 gets personal and relationshippy, and Part 2 will talk about the actual weekend. It’s super long, but there are pictures! So read what you will, my discerning folk.

Part 1
This was an interesting weekend. Some things I expected as walking in the forest and watching Harry Potter were planned activities. Other things were a bit more surprising. 

I just spent the last half hour or so re-reading some things I’ve written in the last few months and perusing some e-mails that are in the “Do Not Open, Voldemort” folder buried deep under virtual Gmail layers. 

His face has been staring at me on Facebox for hours now. That’s normal. He’s always on my chat list, but today the green circle is there as well. I think he’s Face-stalking me, as I purposely haven’t looked at his profile in weeks. But it’s always there. 

But why am I putting myself through this? Why. Why. Why am I a glutton for punishment.

Inevitably a breakup leads to divisions. Friends, assets, gifts and tokens must be split. During our relationship I had gotten to know only one of his friends (granted, he doesn’t have many) and his girlfriend. We’ll call them the Villagers. I hadn’t gotten to know them all that well, but we had dinner a few times, and they had come by last year on Christmas Day with VillageGuy’s family from the States and we had a great time all together. Or at least it created a distraction/distance between ex-Freund and his family, since the whole visit was physically painful for him. 

So anyway, when ex-Freund and I split, VillageGirl wrote me as soon as she found out and offered her support. We met one afternoon in June and I told her everything. She admitted to never having really liked ex-Freund but had basically put up with him for VillageGuy’s sake, as they’re some of the only teachers of similar age at their school, have some stuff in common, etc. But I guess her heart was never really in it. And when she heard my side of the story, she was totally with me. Ex-Freund has always felt that she didn’t like him (which I didn’t believe until she told me so) and he even went so far as to try to defend himself to her and she wasn’t interested. She told him that he hurt me and so she didn’t care to hear from him. She told VillageGuy the same, but he had heard the other side of the story, and still wanted to try to be friends with ex-Freund. I can only assume that ex-Freund gave him an incomplete version of events. But VillageGuy is a supportive friend, and wanted to be there for him. For a few months anyway. 

Cut to August. Ex-Freund finally made me crazy and I cut contact with him. The Villagers were planning VillageGirl’s birthday party (and their surprise wedding), but ex-Freund made a lame excuse and told VillageGuy he couldn’t come to the party. VillageGuy got upset with him and they now have a rift. He’s still put forward a few necessary niceties because they do work together, but he told me that he’s pretty much done there. 

This weekend we finally got around to attempting our Harry Potter marathon that VillageGirl and I had been planning since early summer. And of course ex-Freund came up, and I had a few separate conversations regarding him with both of the Villagers. I know now that he’s still dating the German girl he was seeing when we split up, and that the week he made me crazy in August was apparently a “rough patch” in their relationship, and perhaps that’s why he stuck his nose back in with me. I also know that VillageGirl ran into him at school a few weeks ago and he immediately started chatting about his relationship. VillageGirl told him she couldn’t care less. She’s a good friend. 

VillageGuy really tried, and he did consider ex-Freund to be a friend. And yes, we all know Ex is busy and very important and so on, but you can only throw out an invitation so many times before you get tired of never being important enough to hang out with. Now, I kind of wonder if it’s something to do with jealousy. Because to be honest, ex-Freund said some unflattering things about VillageGuy sometimes. He said he was disorganized, didn’t follow through with things, he gets too political, blah blah blah. But VillageGuy has what ex-Freund claims to want. He’s got the German girl, they’ve started a family, he’s health-conscious/fit, they’ve bought a house and are trying to do things in an environmentally friendly way. He’s “in” with the Germans in the village, and is really building a life here. Ex-Freund had always wanted that German life. He wants a German girl, he wants his kids to grow up speaking German, and so on. So I wonder if his criticism of VillageGuy has always come from a jealous place. If so, that’s a sad state of affairs, and it’s unfortunate for him that that bridge may well be irreparable. 

So when we were sitting around the table at dinner on Saturday night and VillageGirl’s friend asked me how we all knew each other, and I said, “Well, VillageGuy works with my ex-boyfriend.” And VillageGirl said, “And we kept Heather,” we all laughed. I felt like I really got the better end of the deal. 

I’d like to think that he’s happy because regardless of what he did to me, no-one deserves to be miserable. But if he’s not (and that’s his normal state), then he lost me both as a friend and as a relationship, and he lost one of his few “friends” who was willing to try with him. And that’s sad. But he’ll just continue keeping people around on a superficial level. No one gets in. And that’s no way to live. 

Wow. I have no idea if any of that makes any sense. On to the next… 

Part 2

I had planned on going out there for a weekend. You know, show up Friday afternoon and take off Sunday afternoon. But I was there Friday morning until Monday night and it felt like a year. Maybe that’s what happens when you wake up before noon! We’ll start on Friday then…

I grabbed an 8:30 train out of Nürnberg and had a nice, hour-long ride north. The fog hung really low over the green fields for most of the ride, and the trees that line the country roads and the train tracks were all the best fall shades. Gradually the fog lifted and blue skies prevailed when I arrived at the station. VillageGirl and VillageBabe (actually, I think I’ll make the baby VillageMaus) picked me up, and we stopped at a few stores before driving the 25 kilometers to their home. Their village is tucked in a nook just outside the Steigerwald, a forest in the Franconian part of Bavaria. 

I had visited the village once before when the had just bought their house, but didn’t have the keys yet. So we did a quick tour of the house, barn and yard. We then decided that it was a good time for a morning walk, so off we went. We took the short route, just around the village. There are about 130 citizens, a museum the size of a garden shed, a Gasthaus, a cafe, and a church. That’s about it. 

On our walk, we managed to make friends with some adorable Kätzchen, who frolicked with us for a bit.  

They followed us up the street and we stopped in front of the cafe to let VillageMaus out of her stroller (she’s not a fan), so she could toddle around a bit and her mom and I could play with the kittens. 

I totally could have pocketed one of these guys. They were so friendly and all about letting us pick them up and pet them.

 VillageMaus makes friends. Note the destroyed leaf. Why have one leaf when you can have four leaves?

After our walk we took a tour of the garden and even managed to find a few remaining raspberries that were hidden on the undersides of the bushes. We also picked a last head of broccoli to throw in with our lunch. 

Lunch was served on the upstairs terrace with a great view across the fields. It was warm enough to be comfy without a jacket, so we brought out a blanket and toys for the Maus, and coffee and cookies for the adults. Ok, the baby got a couple cookies, too. We aren’t cruel.  

The afternoon brought a visit from a contractor that the Villagers have hired to install new heating elements in the upstairs rooms. I’m not sure about the details, but it sounds like these heaters will be more towards the “environmentally friendly” side of things. They have four big rooms upstairs and are hoping in the future to do something in the eco-tourism/bed-and-breakfast sort of realm. So VillageGirl tried to sort things out with Frank, and I tried to understand their German, keep the Maus away from exposed outlets, and pet Frank’s dog who was my best friend for that afternoon. This weekend was chock-full of animals (the Villagers have a cat as well), and I was super-happy. They have a lot of really interesting ideas for what they want to do in the future. They want to have some more animals, raise as much of their own food as they can, have people to stay, run movie nights in the barn, and the list goes on. It’ll be really interesting to see things as they come along. Plus I love renovations. This Old House, anyone??

Frank the Contractor then accompanied us on another walk to the cafe in the village to have some cake. VillageGirl also wanted to show him a few things in town. Like this house, where the owners have built their own tower. Sweet! The house itself was added onto twice, so it’s an interesting mix of stone and Fachwerk as well. 

 The village cafe was a unique something to see. In addition to selling delicious coffee and cakes, it’s a working pottery studio. I was just happy to be in there and taking pictures. I’m guessing that it’s set up to be deliberately cool  that way. I can’t choose one picture, so here are a bunch…

Yep, they make it purposely photogenic. 

After the walk it was time to head home and make some dinner. We whipped up some spicy shrimp stir-fry (very German, right?), and after VillageMaus went to bed, VillageGirl and I enjoyed dinner, wine and the first two Harry Potter movies. VillageGuy came home late from a school function and found me and VillageGirl comfortably sprawled on the living room floor’s shag rug, wine in hand and a huge plate of chocolate and cookies between us. Being a grown-up is fun!  

Somehow on Saturday I managed to sleep until 9 o’clock. Either the VillageMaus is the world’s quietest baby, or upstairs floor is shockingly soundproof. Considering my room was right above hers, I didn’t hear a peep. But I felt like a slacker for sleeping in. Over a fine breakfast spread we hatched our plan for the day. The walls in the two upstairs rooms that are getting the new heating elements need to be primed before the new wall covering is applied. I had offered my help if they would like it, as I love to paint and home repairs are good times, especially if they aren’t yours! The Villagers already stripped one room, but the other room had wallpaper that needed to come down. VillageGirl and I decided that we’d take a crack at it, and she estimated about two hours to do the job. Apparently the wallpaper in the VillageMaus’s room and the other spare room had come down pretty easily. Oh, if only.  

The room we were working in had been a kid’s room, so you would think that kid’s wallpaper would come off easily. Because the kid is going to change their mind at some point, right? Oooooh no. Nope. One wall had a sweet Tom-and-Jerry paper, and the other three walls had a red/yellow/blue paintbrush pattern. Both papers were equally evil. Evil. I will NEVER be wallpapering my house. The two hour job turned into several hours on Saturday, with 2-3 people working, and several hours on Sunday, with 3-4 people working. Even VillageMaus helped. She took particular joy in pulling small strips off for us. The Villagers are pretty relaxed parents and you won’t find too many restraining devices in their house (although we did purchase three cabinet locks on Friday), so between all of us we had one eye on the wallpaper, and one eye on the Maus as she crawled around the room. The nuk definitely kept wallpaper scraps out of her mouth, but she was pretty happy just to crawl around and visit us as we worked.  

In the afternoon, we gave up the ghost. VillageGuy went out to the barn to set up the projector for that evening’s movie. They have half of the barn set up for parties (couches, tables, giant beer glasses, etc.), and had a great plan to set up a sheet screen and show movies in there. VillageGirl and I strapped the Maus back into the stroller and headed up to take a walk around the village and a bit in the woods. Really this was probably the perfect weekend to go out there. My camera can’t even do the colors justice, but here are some shots….

A little excessive. But the color was so good!  

That night we were joined for dinner and the movie by another friend of VillageGirl. She isn’t a Harry Potter movie fan (books only!), so we decided on another flick for the test-run of the Barn Theater Experience. VillageGuy had gotten the barn all set up, with couches in place and comfy hay-bale footrests. We bundled into jackets and extra socks, grabbed some blankets from the extra bedrooms and settled into the barn. As this was a test, technical difficulties were inevitable. Despite VillageGuy’s efforts all afternoon, the projector kept turning off every minute or two. It came right back on when the computer mouse was clicked, but we didn’t even make it through half the movie before we’d all had enough. The movie was moved into the living room and the Barn Theater Experience is on hold until they get done troubleshooting.  

Breakfast on Sunday morning was followed by a few more hours of all of us scrape-scrape-scraping away at the accursed wallpaper. VillageGirl’s friend had also spent the night, so we had another set of hands, and it went a bit faster. But we had other plans as well. When break time came, the three of us girls and the Maus hopped into the car and drove a few kilometers down the road to take another walk. This walk goes into the Steigerwald, taking you past remnants of the area’s glass-making industry and to the site of an ancient castle/fortress. Today there is an observation tower and some remaining stonework. Also, in true German fashion, there’s a stand where a friendly couple sell you beer, Glühwein, (yes, water and juice too), bratwurst, cake, etc. The weather was a bit hazy so the view from the top of the tower wasn’t too great, but the walk through the woods was lovely.

Can you spot the squirrel??

Glühwein und Wurst ahead!

Remaining stone from the castle/fortress site. Human history on the site goes back to Celts around 550B.C. (At least, that’s what I remember from the informational sign). 

We had a small incident on the way back to the car… the Maus (who had just started walking that week), was toddling along. VillageGirl’s friend had hold of one hand, but the Maus managed to faceplant onto the paved pathway. Sadface ensued and she had a bit of a bloody nose. VillageGirl was almost happy to have the first bloody injury out of the way. Not happy about having a crying baby that far away from the car, but she quieted down with some cookies. Walking is pretty tricky… she had been doing pretty well in the kitchen with socks on, but boots, grass, the shag rug in the living room, they all added new elements to the adventure of walking. Minus the bleeding, it was pretty fun to watch. By Sunday and Monday, Maus was pretty much flinging herself across the room at you headlong.  
After our walk, VillageGirl’s friend headed out, and VillageGuy was put in charge of the Maus. VillageGirl and I headed back upstairs to continue the Epic Wallpaper Battle of 2011. We got some work done, and had a good chat. Ex-Freund was a popular topic and I can only hope that I am better off. Unfortunately the bad part of hanging out with them is that he does come up. But it’s like everything else I’ve done in Germany. Every time I do something new or different, or do something by myself or with new friends in a place I was with him, I make new memories that have nothing to do with him. I’m happy I can still be friends with them, and if they were friends with him, that would be fine. But he’s neglected his relationships, and so he loses out.  

We almost got the paper done by dinnertime, but decided not to go back to it that night. Harry Potter III just seemed like a better idea. I had originally planned on going back to Nürnberg on Sunday night, but since I don’t work on Mondays, VillageGirl said, “so you can just stay another day, right?” Well, ok then. I guess that’s what happens when you overplan for a short stay. You can’t hike, watch all the Harry Potter movies, strip wallpaper and bake cookies in a day and a half. So, we extended in the interest of making cookies. 

A quick trip to the store on Monday for supplies was in order before we started baking. The Edeka in a nearby village was an interesting reminder of the little grocery stores we used to go to when camping in Upper Michigan. Not only did it have groceries, but also a clothing section, a home decor section, a paper supply area, etc. Always prepared, hey? 

Back at home we decided to tackle a sugar cookie recipe, as VillageGirl had a jack-o-lantern cutout she wanted to use. We googled a recipe and got to work. It was the least scientific and most ADD baking experience of my life. Measurements were out the window and we just threw stuff in willy-nilly. We threw the dough in the fridge to set (after taste-testing it thoroughly), and were off on another walk. We opted for a new direction through the forest again. 

See that kids? The forest is not a garbage dump! Keep your empty bottles and your rock music out of here! 

We walked over to this carp pond, and tried to get a few pictures of the Maus in her Halloween costume to send to her Grandma. And yes, she was a mouse, complete with Swiss cheese bow-tie. Sehr süß. On the way home, we walked right on a road for at least twenty minutes and were passed by one car. Gotta love that village life. Take your stroller right on a main road, and have neighbors give you apples, fruit juice, and potatoes as you pass their house.

Back at the Cookie Experiment, we took a crack at making our Halloween cookies. Unfortunately the small parts of the jack-o-lantern cutout were a pain in the butt. So we had some pumpkins, and then some flowers and ducks as well, because those were the biggest cutouts we had and worked the best. In between cookie batches, we made some tasty crepes for lunch and revised our plan. We decided to just make circular cookies, and maybe decorate them with pumpkins somehow. For the final batch of dough, VillageGirl said, “Hey, let’s throw some chocolate chips in this one,” and so we ended up with three different kinds of cookies. It was baking for those with ADD. But funny. We then attempted to decorate our round cookies with powdered sugar pumpkin faces, which didn’t work very well. We had forgotten to pick up some food coloring, so the next experiment was to try to make orange frosting using orange juice, red jam and whatever else we could find. In the end the cookies remained plain, which is probably for the best. I ended up being sent home with a huge tin of assorted cookies, and another tin of walnuts. I now need to invest in a nutcracker. VillageGuy and the VillageMaus were tasked with handing out the rest of the cookies in a reverse trick-or-treat plan.

But the time finally came to head back to Nürnberg, so I packed up my nuts and cookies and headed to the station.  

Oof. So that was a lot. But it was a great weekend. Some days it’s just nice to get away and have a change of scenery. And the scenery was pretty nice there. Not to mention having fuzzy animals to pet and a cute kid to play with. We’re planning another weekend get-together, as VillageGirl loved my pink cookies last Christmas and I have to teach her how to make them. So I’m looking forward to that. And as soon as they’re all set up and ready to open the GreenEcoTourFarmStuffExperience, I’ll totally advertise for them.


4 thoughts on “A Weekend at a Work in Progress.

  1. Close, Cliff. The Steigerwald is west of the Pegnitz and Bamberg, and the Fränkische Schweiz is east of the Pegnitz. I guess it's up in the air right now if the forest is going to become an official national park or not. It was definitely a gorgeous weekend out there!

  2. What a lovely place to live. I want to live there just to be in the proximity to that pottery/cafe alone, and once they set up their movie nights etc, I bet it'll be fantastic. Your photos are lovely: it reminds me of how much I love that part of Germany.

  3. Thanks Fiona… I think my friends are pretty happy to be amongst the 'Country Mice.' And I think the Bavarian countryside is some of the most beautiful I've seen! The cafe is lovely and full of interesting things to look at. I hear the cake is pretty good too, unfortunately we had just eaten lunch!

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